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Gulf Council Debating Triggerfish, Gag Seasons for 2013

Editor’s note: Recreational season for gray triggerfish in the Gulf of Mexico closed June 11, 2012, and will reopen January 1, 2013. The following notice from the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council pertains to new management measures which may implement a fixed closure and tighter bag limits. –Jeff Weakley

In August, the Council directed staff to take draft Reef Fish Amendment 37 out for public hearings.

The latest stock assessment update for gray triggerfish indicates that the stock is both overfished (population too low) and experiencing overfishing (rate of removal too high).  Because of this, the Council is working on an amendment that looks at modifying the rebuilding plan for gray triggerfish. The amendment also considers making changes to management measures that will allow the stock to rebuild as fishing continues.

The Council’s preferred alternatives so far are as follows:

• Modify the rebuilding plan – Preferred Alternative 3, which would rebuild the stock within 5 years, or by the end of 2016.

• Modify the sector Annual Catch Limit (ACL) and Annual Catch Target (ACT) – Preferred Alternative 4, which establishes a commercial ACL = 64,100 pounds whole weight and ACT = 60,900 pounds whole weight and a recreational ACL = 241,200 pounds whole weight and ACT = 217,100 pounds whole weight.

• Establish a commercial closed season – Preferred Alternative 2, which establishes a fixed closed season for gray triggerfish during peak spawning (June 1through July 31).

• Establish a commercial trip limit – Preferred Alternative 2, which sets a 50-pound whole weight trip limit.

• Establish a recreational closed season – Preferred Alternative 3, which establishes a fixed closed season for gray triggerfish during peak spawning (June 1 through July 31).

• Modify the recreational bag limit – Preferred Alternative 3, which establishes a 2-gray triggerfish bag limit within the 20-reef fish aggregate bag limit.

• Modify Recreational Accountability Measures – Preferred Alternative 2, which allows NOAA Fisheries to close the fishery if the Annual Catch Target is reached; and, Preferred Alternative 4 – Add an overage adjustment to the accountability measure, Option b – only if the ACL is exceeded and the stock is overfished.

For more information visit gulfcouncil.org.

 

Following are dates and locations for upcoming public hearings:

October 16, 2012

Sirata Hotel
5300 Gulf Boulevard
St. Petersburg, FL 33706
(727) 363-5100

Holiday Inn Express
160 W. Commerce Blvd.
Gulf Shores, AL 36542
(251) 948-6191

October 17, 2012 
Courtyard Marriott
11471 Cinema Drive
D’Iberville, MS 39540
(228) 392-1200

Hilton Galveston
5400 Seawall Blvd.
Galveston, TX 77551
(409) 744-5000

October 18, 2012
Harte Institute
6300 Ocean Dr, Rm 127
Corpus Christi, TX 78412
(361) 825-2000

Crowne Plaza Airport
2829 Williams Blvd.
Kenner, LA 70062
(504) 467-5611

Next Gulf Council Meeting will be Oct 29 – Nov 1, 2012 in Gulfport, Mississippi at the Marriott Courtyard

 

Also in the works:

Proposed Changes to 2013 Recreational Gag Season
The Council approved for public hearings a draft framework action that considers a split recreational gag season for 2013. Some fishermen have asked for a split season to allow for two or three fishing seasons during the year. Changing the season could reduce the total number of fishing days but would allow for fishing at more desirable times of the year; however, the Council has asked for an analysis of reducing the gag bag limit  from 2 to 1 fish per person, which could extend the recreational season.

The framework action also includes alternatives to modify or eliminate the annual February through March recreational shallow-water grouper closure. The closure was originally put in place primarily to protect gag spawning aggregations, which occur over shelf-edge reefs in depths of 25 to 70 fathoms. The closure was eventually applied to all shallow-water grouper to protect other groupers that may be spawning and to prevent bycatch of gag by anglers targeting other groupers. The commercial shallow-water grouper closure
was later replaced with a seasonal closed area known as The Edges to protect gag spawning aggregations over part of their primary spawning grounds.

There is concern that allowing harvest of other shallow-water grouper during the gag closure could result in increased bycatch and bycatch mortality of  gag; however, some fishermen have reported that when all shallow-water grouper are closed, they target other species that are often found in areas of  high gag abundance. One suggestion made by Council members is to eliminate the February through March shallow-water grouper closure inshore of 20 fathoms, but leave it in place in waters deeper than 20 fathoms.
Given the regional differences in the recreational harvest of gag, the Council also directed staff to begin developing an amendment for regional management of the recreational gag harvest.

Visit – http://gulfcouncil.org/fishery_management_plans/scoping-thruimplementation.php – to review the amendment