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 E. SWINGLE

COUNCIL TO CONSIDER RED SNAPPER TAC, TEXAS SHRIMP CLOSURE, MACKEREL AMENDMENT 9, AND STONE CRAB AMENDMENT 6

Tampa, Florida - December 24, 1997 - The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) will meet January 21-23, 1998 at the Marriott Grand Hotel, 1 Grand Boulevard, Point Clear, Alabama 36564. During the meeting, the Council will review the National Marine Fisheries Service's (NMFS) stock assessment for red snapper, a separate stock assessment by a private contractor, and a peer review report. The Council will consider this information, as well as comments from its Reef Fish Stock Assessment Panel (RFSAP) and Scientific Statistical Committee (SSC), in order to determine whether to modify the total allowable catch (TAC) for red snapper for the 1998 fishing year (currently 9.12 million pounds) and possibly other framework management measures. The Council will also consider whether to recommend changes to the areal extent of the cooperative closure of federal waters to shrimping with the state of Texas during the 1998 fishing season. The Council will also take final action on Amendment 6 to the Stone Crab Fishery Management Plan (FMP) which contains a provision for extending the moratorium on the registration of stone crab vessels by the Regional Administrator of NMFS. At the request of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC), the Gulf Council will consider resubmission of a management measure detailed in Amendment 8 to the Coastal Migratory Pelagics (Mackerel) FMP. The measure, which was previously rejected by NMFS, would allow the use of sink nets in waters north of Cape Lookout, North Carolina. Public testimony is scheduled on these four items beginning at 1:45 p.m. on Wednesday, January 21, 1998. Persons who will testify must turn in their registration cards before the start of the testimony period.

On Monday, January 19, 1998 beginning at 9:00 a.m., the Advisory Panel (AP) and SSC Selection Committees will meet jointly in closed session to consider appointments to the Billfish AP, the Standing SSC, and the consolidated Shark, Swordfish, and Tuna AP to be more consistent with the direction being taken by NMFS with regard to management of the Highly Migratory Species Complex. Afterwards, the Ad Hoc Vessel Monitoring Committee will meet to review the results of a NMFS/state of Florida pilot study on the use of transponders to monitor fishing vessels. The Committee will also review a policy with regard to a Vessel Monitoring System (VMS).

The Reef Fish Management Committee will meet beginning at 1:00 p.m. on Monday, January 19, 1998 to consider the status of the stocks of red snapper and a TAC for 1998. The Committee will consider the previously completed stock assessment by NMFS and a peer-group review of management of the red snapper fishery. This review was mandated by Congress through passage of the Sustainable Fisheries Act (SFA). In complying with this mandate, NMFS empaneled three groups of scientists from outside the Gulf region to conduct the peer-group review during July and August. The panels reviewed information provided by NMFS and by the commercial fishing industry related to: (1) the statistical information and analyses, (2) the economic information and analyses, and (3) management and science procedures and data. The Committee will also consider a separate stock assessment developed by Dr. Brian Rothschild of the University of Massachusetts. Based on these data and the recommendations of the RFSAP and SSC, the committee will develop recommendations to the Council on TAC and possibly other associated framework measures for red snapper in 1998. The committee will also review an Options Paper for Amendment 17 which includes alternatives for a commercial license limitation system for reef fish resources in the Gulf, other than red snapper.

On Tuesday, January 20, 1997 beginning at 8:00 a.m., the Shrimp Management Committee will review an analysis of the 1997 cooperative shrimp closure with the state of Texas and recommendations of the Shrimp AP with regard to possible changes in 1998. The Committee may also discuss Amendment 9 to the Shrimp FMP and make recommendations to the Council regarding its approval. At 9:00 a.m., the Deep Water Crab Management Committee will meet to review provisions of the SAFMC's FMP and a recommendation of the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission that the Gulf Council consider development of a Deep Water Crab FMP for the Gulf of Mexico. At 10:30 a.m., the Habitat Protection Committee will meet to review recommendations of the Texas and Florida/Alabama Habitat APs, as well as a report of the Technical Review Panel regarding the development of the Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) Generic Amendment. The Committee will also review the Interim Final Guidelines for EFH from NMFS. The Ad Hoc Marine Reserves Committee will meet at 1:00 p.m. to consider management measures for marine reserves previously included in an options paper for Amendment 16 to the Reef Fish FMP (but later removed) and recommendations of the RFSAP and SSC. The Committee will also initiate the development of an action plan for study of marine reserves. At 3:00 p.m., the Ad Hoc Sustainable Fisheries Committee will meet to discuss provisions of a Generic Sustainable Fisheries Act (SFA) Amendment. The Committee will also consider a schedule of actions for the development and submission of the amendment to NMFS in accordance with the SFA.

Beginning at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, January 21, 1998, the Mackerel Management Committee will review comments and recommendations from the SAFMC with regard to Amendment 9 to the Coastal Migratory Pelagics FMP and a revised draft (public hearing draft) of Amendment 9 that incorporates changes from the November 1997 Council meeting. The Committee will also review an Options Paper for Amendment 10 that includes provisions for a commercial license limitation system for king mackerel and resubmission of a sink net provision of Amendment 8, as previously discussed. The Committee may also consider a control date for the dolphin and wahoo fisheries in the Gulf. The Stone Crab Management Committee will meet at 11:00 a.m. to consider recommendations to the Council regarding final action on Amendment 6 (extending the moratorium on fishing permits). In deliberations, the Committee will consider public hearing comments, written comments, AP/SSC recommendations, NMFS comments, and minutes from workshops held by the Florida Marine Fisheries Commission (FMFC).

Under Other Business, the Gulf Council may also consider recommendations to NMFS regarding National Standard 1 to the Magnuson-Stevens Act based on the pending reopening of the comment period through January 28, 1998.

All of the meetings are open to the public except for a closed committee session scheduled for 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. on Monday, January 19, 1998 and a closed Council session from 5:15 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 22, 1998. These meetings will be closed to consider appointments to two APs and the SSC. A copy of the agenda and committee schedule can be obtained by calling 813-228-2815.

Although other issues not on the agenda may come before the Council for discussion, in accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, those issues may not be the subject of formal Council action during this meeting. Council action will be restricted to those issues specifically identified in the agenda listed as available by this notice.

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 January 12, 1998.

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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