This is a publication of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council pursuant to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Award No. NA87FC0003.

NEWS RELEASE
RELEASE: IMMEDIATELY
CONTACT: WAYNE SWINGLE

PUBLIC HEARINGS SCHEDULED ON PROPOSED FEDERAL RULES REGULATING KING AND SPANISH MACKEREL AND VARIOUS REEF FISH RESOURCES IN THE GULF OF MEXICO

Tampa, Florida - January 16, 1998 - The Gulf and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils will hold public hearings on Draft Amendment 9 to the Coastal Migratory Pelagics (Mackerel) Fishery Management Plan (FMP) that includes proposed federal rules for fisheries for king and Spanish mackerel, and Draft Amendment 16 to the Reef Fish FMP that includes proposed federal rules for various reef fish species. Draft Mackerel Amendment 9 includes proposed rules that apply only to the Gulf Council's area of jurisdiction. Some of the hearings in the Gulf region will be joint hearings to receive comments on both Mackerel Amendment 9 and Reef Fish Amendment 16. In addition, one hearing in Key West, Florida will be a joint hearing of the Gulf and South Atlantic Council on Mackerel Amendment 9. The following is a summary of the issues addressed by the amendments:

Amendment 9 to the Coastal Migratory Pelagics (Mackerel) FMP

  1. Possible changes to the fishing year for Gulf group king mackerel - currently July 1.
  2. Possible prohibitions of sale of mackerel caught under the recreational allocation.
  3. Possible reallocations of total allowable catch (TAC) for the commercial fishery for Gulf group king mackerel in the Eastern Zone (Florida east coast and Florida west coast) to 45 percent for the east coast and 55 percent for the west coast - currently 50/50 split.
  4. Possible reallocations of TAC for Gulf group king mackerel between the recreational and commercial sectors to 70 percent recreational and 30 percent commercial - currently 68 percent and 32 percent, respectively.
  5. Possible establishment of two (2) subdivisions of TAC for the commercial, hook-and-line allocation of Gulf group king mackerel by area for the Florida west coast and base allocations on historical catches from the 1992-93 fishing year through the 1996-97 fishing year, excepting the 1994-95 fishing year.
  6. Possible subdivisions of TAC for Gulf group king mackerel in the Western Zone (Alabama through Texas) by area, season, or a combination of area and season.
  7. Possible trip limits for vessels fishing for Gulf group king mackerel in the Western Zone.
  8. Possible additional restrictions on the use of net gear to harvest Gulf group king mackerel off the Florida west coast; including a phase-out, a moratorium on additional net endorsements with requirements for continuing existing net endorsements, restrictions on the transferability of net endorsements, and restriction of the use of nets to primarily the waters off Monroe and Collier Counties.
  9. Possible increase in the minimum size limit for Gulf group king mackerel to 24 or 26 inches fork length - currently 20 inches fork length.
  10. Possible re-establishment of an annual allocation or a TAC percentage of Gulf group Spanish mackerel for the purse seine fishery with consideration of trip limits and area restrictions.
  11. Possible retention and sale of cut-off (damaged) legal-sized king and Spanish mackerel within established trip limits.

Amendment 16 to the Reef Fish FMP

  1. Possible shortening of the phase-out of the use of fish trap to two (2) years after implementation of this amendment (traps would become prohibited about the year 2000) - currently under a 10-year phase out that began February 7, 1997 (traps prohibited after February 7, 2007).
  2. Possible restrictions on the commercial harvest of reef fish by boats and vessels tending spiny lobster and stone crab traps.
  3. Possible implementation of a remote vessel monitoring system for fish trap vessels.
  4. Possible additional reporting requirements for fish trap vessels.
  5. Possible establishment of minimum and maximum size limits, i.e., a slot, of 14 inches fork length and 20 (or 22) inches fork length, respectively for banded rudderfish and lesser amberjack; and possible prohibition on the sale of minor amberjack species that are smaller than the commercial size limit for greater amberjack - currently 36 inches fork length.
  6. Possible establishment of a 5-fish bag limit for the recreational fishery for lesser amberjack and banded rudderfish.
  7. Possible removal from the FMP or reclassification of sand perch, dwarf sand perch, Queen triggerfish, and hogfish. These species are currently classified as in the reef fish fishery but not the management unit, and are not subject to the prohibition on the use of powerheads to harvest reef fish in the stressed area.
  8. Possible minimum size limits of 20 inches for scamp and yellowmouth grouper; 16 inches for mutton snapper; and 12 inches for blackfin snapper, cubera snapper, dog snapper, mahogany snapper, schoolmaster, silk snapper, mutton snapper, queen snapper, gray triggerfish, and hogfish to be more consistent with size regulations in state waters of Florida.
  9. Possible inclusion of the 5-fish red snapper bag limit as part of the 10-snapper aggregate snapper limit, possible establishment of a 5-fish bag limit for hogfish, and possible allowance of 2 fish per vessel of cubera snapper over 30 inches total length in addition to the 10-snapper aggregate limit.
  10. Possible establishment of a 1-fish bag limit and commercial quotas for speckled hind and warsaw grouper, or a prohibition on harvest of these species, in response to those species having been added to the candidate list of species for possible listing as threatened or endangered.

Public hearings will be held from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. at all of the following locations, except Gulf Shores, Alabama where the hearing for Mackerel Amendment 9 will be from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., and the hearing on Reef Fish Amendment 16 will be from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

*Monday, February 9, 1998
Holiday Inn Beachside
3841 North Roosevelt Boulevard
Key West, Florida 33040
*Tuesday, February 10, 1998
Hampton Inn
13000 North Cleveland
North Fort Myers, Florida 33903
*Wednesday, February 11, 1998
Radisson Bay Harbor Inn
7700 Courtney Campbell Causeway
Tampa, FL 33607
*Thursday, February 12, 1998
Plantation Inn and Golf Resort
9301 West Fort Island Trail
Crystal River, Florida 34429
*Thursday, February 19, 1998
Old Post Office Building
102 East Green Street
Perry, Florida 32347
**Tuesday, February 17,1998
Holiday Inn Beachside
3841 North Roosevelt Boulevard
Key West, Florida 33040
**Wednesday, February 18, 1998
Hampton Inn
13000 North Cleveland
North Ft. Myers, Florida 33903
**Thursday, February 19, 1998
Radisson Bay Harbor Inn
7700 Courtney Campbell Causeway
Tampa, Florida 33607
***Monday, February 23, 1998
National Marine Fisheries Service
Panama City Laboratory
3500 Delwood Beach Road
Panama City, Florida 324408
***Tuesday, February 24, 1998
Holiday Inn on the Beach
365 East Beach Boulevard
Gulf Shores, Alabama 36547
***Wednesday, February 25, 1998
J. L. Scott Marine Education Center
115 East Beach Boulevard (Hwy 90)
Biloxi, Mississippi 39530
***Wednesday, February 25, 1998
Texas A&M Auditorium
200 Seawolf Parkway
Galveston, Texas 77553
***Thursday, February 26, 1998
Larose Regional Park
2001 East 5th Street
Larose, Louisiana 70373
***Thursday, February 26, 1998
Ellis Memorial Library
700 West Avenue A
Port Aransas, Texas 78373
* Hearings on only Amendment 16 to the Reef Fish FMP

**Joint hearing of Gulf and South Atlantic Councils on Amendment 9 to the Coastal Migratory Pelagics FMP

***Hearings on both Amendment 9 to the Coastal Migratory Pelagics FMP and Amendment 16 to the Reef Fish FMP

Copies of the amendments can be obtained by calling 813-228-2815.

The meetings are 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 February 2, 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.