The following Fisheries Bulletin is provided as a courtesy:
ISSUE DATE: July 22, 2022
CONTACT: Kelli O’Donnell, 727-824-5305, [email protected]
- NOAA Fisheries announces new regulations to reduce the recreational harvest of greater amberjack. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council requested NOAA Fisheries take emergency action while they develop long-term management measures to rebuild the greater amberjack population.
- The most recent population assessment indicates Gulf of Mexico greater amberjack is overfished (the population is too low) and is undergoing overfishing (too many fish being caught).
- This emergency rule modifies the recreational fishing season to be open only the months of September and October in 2022.
- The month of August is closed to recreational harvest of greater amberjack.
- These changes are being made to reduce overfishing and avoid a large overage of the recreational catch limit in the 2022/2023 fishing year.
NOAA Fisheries requests your comments on this emergency action. Comments are due by August 24, 2022.
Summary of Change:
- The recreational fishing year begins on August 1. The emergency rule modifies the greater amberjack recreational fixed closed season to August 1-31 and November 1-July 31.
- Recreational fishing for greater amberjack will only be open for the months of September and October, and will be closed in August 2022.
- This emergency rule will be effective for 180 days. NOAA Fisheries may extend the rule, and is allowing the public to comment on the rule before an extension takes place.
- The modification to the recreational fixed closed season is necessary to reduce the chances of recreational overharvest in the 2022/2023 fishing year and subsequent paybacks in the 2023/2024 recreational fishing year that could prevent a recreational fishing season from occurring and delay rebuilding.
Recreational Fishing Year and Fixed Closed Season
How to Comment on the Emergency Rule:
The comment period is open now through August 24, 2022. You may submit comments by electronic submission or by postal mail. Comments sent by any other method (such as e-mail), to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NOAA Fisheries.
The temporary rule is effective for 180 days after it is published. It can be extended for another 186 days provided the public has a chance to comment on the rule. It is unlikely the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and NOAA Fisheries will be able to complete and implement long-term measures within the 180 day period. Therefore, NOAA Fisheries invites the public to comment on the rule and whether it should be extended. This will help the agency determine if a rule extension is needed or some other type of action is required.
Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal.
- Go to: https://www.regulations.gov/
- In the search bar, type NOAA-NMFS-2022-0070
- Click the “Comment” icon, complete the required fields.
- Enter or attach your comments.
*Note: The comment period will not be available/open until the rule publishes on July 25, 2022
Mail: Submit written comments to Kelli O’Donnell, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is NOAA Fisheries announcing today?
- The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council asked NOAA Fisheries to put in place temporary emergency regulations to modify the recreational greater amberjack fixed closed season while they work on long-term measures to end overfishing and let the population increase in size.
- NOAA Fisheries is announcing emergency modifications to the recreational greater amberjack fixed closed season.
- This action modifies the recreational greater amberjack fixed closed season to be August 1 – 31, 2022 and November 1, 2022 through July 31, 2023 (open September 1 – October 31, 2022).
- The comment period on the emergency rule is open from July 25, 2022, through August 24, 2022.
What is the status of the greater amberjack population?
- A 2016 Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR) population assessment of Gulf of Mexico greater amberjack indicated it was being overfished (too few fish in the population) and was undergoing overfishing (too many fish were being caught).
- In 2017, NOAA Fisheries and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council put in place a ten-year rebuilding plan.
- In 2020, NOAA Fisheries completed an updated population assessment for greater amberjack.
- The updated assessment indicated:
- The catch limits needed to be drastically reduced in order for the population to meet the rebuilding timeline.
- Too many greater amberjack were still being caught (overfishing).
- The greater amberjack population was still too small (overfished).
Why is the recreational fixed closed season changing?
- The most recent SEDAR population assessment for Gulf of Mexico greater amberjack, known as the SEDAR 70, showed the population was overfished and was undergoing overfishing.
- The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee recommended a reduction in annual catch limits (ACL) to address the overfishing status of the Gulf of Mexico greater amberjack.
- NOAA Fisheries notified the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council of the greater amberjack population status and the need to address the overfishing and overfished condition in April 2021 as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
- The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is currently developing Reef Fish Amendment 54 to address the overfished and overfishing status by reducing catch limits. However, Reef Fish Amendment 54 is not expected to be implemented until the first half of 2023.
- The current recreational fishing year starts on August 1. If Reef Fish Amendment 54 is implemented before July 31, 2023, proposed recreational catch limits for 2023 will be assigned to the 2022/2023 recreational fishing year. Any landings that occur during this time will be associated with this fishing year.
- The current recreational fixed closed season is November 1 – April 30 and June 1 – July 31.
- Historic average landings analysis projects the recreational sector will meet the proposed annual catch target (ACT) in Reef Fish Amendment 54 under the current allocation by August 23. If the season remains as is, the recreational sector is projected to exceed the proposed Reef Fish Amendment 54 ACL by more than double.
- NOAA Fisheries can only close a sector based on the current regulatory ACT. Since Reef Fish Amendment 54 is still in development, modification to the fixed closed season would reduce overfishing and prevent serious conservation issues to the population until its implementation.
- The new recreational fixed closed season of August 1 – 31 and November 1 – July 31 would reduce overfishing and the possibility of a recreational ACL overage and subsequent payback in the following fishing year.
- The projected 2022/2023 recreational overage is more than the proposed 2023/2024 recreational ACL. If the fixed closed season is not modified, there is a strong possibility the recreational sector would not open in 2023/2024. Further, the additional overage would not be able to be fully accounted for, which could have repercussions on the population meeting its rebuilding timeline.
Why aren’t management measures changing for the commercial sector?
- Historical average landings analysis did not project the commercial sector meeting their ACT and being subject to a closure under the timeline for this emergency rule.
- Furthermore, historical average landings analysis did not project the commercial sector meeting their ACT and being subject to a closure if this emergency rule was extended past the original 180 days.
Why are the new management measures temporary?
- The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is working on a long-term plan to reduce greater amberjack harvest with Reef Fish Amendment 54.
- This long-term plan will not be in effect until the first half of 2023.
- At the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s request, NOAA Fisheries put in place temporary regulations until the long-term plan is ready.
What are the next steps?
- The public comment period for the emergency rule is open for 30 days, from July 25, 2022, through August 24, 2022.
- NOAA Fisheries will address comments received during the emergency rule if the decision is made to extend the emergency rule.
- NOAA Fisheries will issue another fishery bulletin alerting constituents to any regulatory changes being implemented if this emergency rule is to be extended past 180 days.
Where can I find more information on the Greater Amberjack Emergency Rule?
- Contact NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office
By Mail: Kelli O’Donnell
NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office
Sustainable Fisheries Division
263 13th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, Florida 33701-5505
By FAX: (727) 824-5308
By Phone: (727) 824-5305
The Emergency Rule to Modify the Greater Amberjack Fixed Closed Season Environmental Assessment may be found online at the NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office Website at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/emergency-action-modification-greater-amberjack-recreational-fixed-closed-season.