This is a publication of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council pursuant to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Award No. NA77FC0001.

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CONTACT: WAYNE SWINGLE

HEARINGS SCHEDULED ON PROPOSED EXTENSION OF MORATORIUM ON REGISTRATION OF STONE CRAB VESSELS

Tampa, Florida December 12, 1997 - The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) will hold public hearings on Draft Stone Crab Amendment 6. The amendment includes a proposal to extend a moratorium on the registration of stone crab vessels by the Regional Administrator (RA) of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The original fishery management plan (FMP) provided that persons could fish commercially in the federal waters (EEZ) if they had either a state stone crab permit or registered their vessel with the RA of NMFS. No one has ever registered a vessel with NMFS.

In 1995, by amendment (5), the Council placed a moratorium on registration of vessels by NMFS, and the state of Florida, by legislative act, placed a moratorium on the issuance of any additional stone crab permits. The purpose of both actions was to provide time for the stone crab industry to consider whether a limited access system was needed for the fishery and to develop such a system for implementation by the Florida Legislature. The purpose of the Council action proposed in Draft Amendment 6 is to prohibit registration of vessels for up to an additional four years so that the industry, state, and Council have adequate time to develop and implement a limited access system.

A total of three public hearings will be held to obtain public comments on this plan amendment with one additional final hearing held during the Gulf Council meeting in Point Clear, Alabama on January 21, 1998. The public comment period for this amendment ends on January 15, 1998.

Public hearings are scheduled as follows from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

January 6, 1998
Regional Service Center
County Building
2796 Overseas Highway
(U.S. Highway 1)
Marathon, Florida

January 7, 1998
Naples Depot Civic-Cultural Center
1051 5th Avenue South 9301
Naples, Florida

January 8, 1998
Plantation Inn & Gulf Resort
West Fort Island Trail
Crystal River, Florida

A copy of the amendment can be obtained by calling 813-228-2815.

The meeting is open to the public and is physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to the Council office by December 30, 1997.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is 1 of 8 regional fishery management councils that were established by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council prepares fishery management plans that are designed to manage fishery resources in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

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