NOAA Fisheries Will Withhold a Portion of the 2024 Gag Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) Allocation in Anticipation of a Quota Reduction
NOAA Fisheries will withhold distribution of gag IFQ commercial allocation on January 1, 2024, in the amount necessary to implement the proposed gag rebuilding plan and the reductions in the gag commercial annual catch limit and annual catch target proposed in Amendment 56 to the Fishery Management Plan for Reef Fish Resources in the Gulf of Mexico.
NOAA Fisheries has issued the proposed rule for Amendment 56; however, if Amendment 56 is approved, the rule would not be implemented until sometime in 2024, after the initial IFQ allocation is made to shareholders.
What This Means:
This action will withhold the distribution of gag IFQ allocation on January 1, 2024, in the amount equal to the proposed reduction in the allocation for shareholders in the Grouper- Tilefish IFQ quota program.
This action would also set the red grouper multi-use allocation to zero, as required if gag is in a rebuilding plan.
The current gag commercial annual catch limit set in a 2023 Interim Action is 258,000 pounds (lb) gutted weight and the annual catch target is 199,000 lb gutted weight. Amendment 56 would reduce these catch limits to 155,000 lb gutted weight and 147,000 lb gutted weight, respectively.
If NOAA Fisheries does not issue a final rule for Amendment 56 that is effective by June 1, 2023, then the withheld allocation will be distributed back to the current shareholders, as determined on the date the withheld IFQ allocation is distributed.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why is the Quota Reduction Occurring?
A 2021 stock assessment of Gulf of Mexico gag (SEDAR 72) indicated there were too few fish (overfished) and that too many fish were being caught (overfishing taking place).
In January 2022, NOAA Fisheries sent a letter to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council stating that gag were overfished, and that a plan to rebuild the gag stock needed to be developed and implemented within two years of the notification.
Amendment 56 was developed to address overfishing and rebuild the Gulf of Mexico gag stock. An Interim Action was implemented in 2023 to reduce overfishing until Amendment 56 could be implemented (expected in early 2024).
Will I be Able to Comment on the Proposed Reduction in Harvest?