Potential Red Snapper Changes in the Gulf

Stephanie Hunter, of Tallahassee, caught this red snapper aboard the Sails Pitch out of Destin on a live cigar minnow.

NOAA Fisheries Service is seeking comments on a proposed rule for Gulf of Mexico red snapper.

The rule, if implemented, would set the 2012 and 2013 quotas for commercial and recreational red snapper takes. The quotas can be increased because recent population assessments show that overfishing has ended. The red snapper allowable catch would be increased from 7.185 million pounds whole weight in 2011 to the following:

2012

2013

Overall Quota

8.080

8.690

Commercial Allocation (51%)

4.121

4.432

Recreational Allocation (49%)

3.959

4.258

If the 2012 overall quota is exceeded, the 2013 quota increase would require further scientific review and potential modification by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. In addition, if implemented, the rule would eliminate the fixed recreational red snapper closed season of October 1 – December 31. By eliminating the October 1 fishing season closure date, NOAA Fisheries Service would be able to re-open the recreational harvest for red snapper if any remaining quota is available, without the delay of additional rulemaking.

Recreational Season

The recreational fishing season opens June 1, 2012. If these new quotas are implemented, the recreational season would be 40 days and would close on July 10, 2012. Recreational landings exceeded the 2011 quota by 730,000 pounds. These landings also exceed the 2012 newly proposed quota, therefore, NOAA Fisheries Service has projected the 40 day season to prevent landings from going over the 2012 quota.

The population of red snapper is growing and the fish are getting bigger, so more large fish are being caught more quickly, which fills the recreational quota faster. Without the proposed quota increases for 2012, the 2011 recreational quotas would remain in effect, and the 2012 recreational season would be even less days than are projected.

A copy of the 2012 Recreational Red Snapper Quota Closure Analysis is available online.

NOAA Fisheries Service will announce a final decision on the recreational and commercial quota increases and the recreational fishing season after reviewing all public comments from this proposed rule. The agency will issue a Fishery Bulletin and will post the bulletin on the Southeast Regional Office’s Web site: www.sero.noaa.gov in May.

Request for Comments

The proposed rule published in the Federal Register on April 12, 2012. Written comments on this proposed rule must be received no later than April 27, 2012, to be considered by NOAA Fisheries Service. All comments received by NOAA Fisheries Service will be addressed in the final rule. Electronic copies of the proposed rule or the regulatory amendment may be obtained from the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal, and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s Web site, and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s Web site.

How to Submit Comments

You may submit comments by either of the following methods. Comments received through other means may not be considered.

Electronic Submissions: Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: www.regulations.gov

· Enter the following docket number into the “Search” box: NOAA-NMFS-2012-0024.

· Select the appropriate title, and click “Submit a Comment.” This will display the comment webform.

· Attachments to electronic comments (up to 10 MB) will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only.

Mail: Cynthia Meyer, NOAA Fisheries Service, Southeast Regional Office, Sustainable Fisheries Division, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701-5505.