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

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RELEASE: IMMEDIATELY
CONTACT: WAYNE E. SWINGLE

REVISED - COUNCIL TO HOLD PUBLIC HEARINGS ON AN AMENDMENT ADDRESSING THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE SUSTAINABLE FISHERIES ACT (SFA)

Tampa, Florida - November 13, 1998 - In 1996, Congress passed the Sustainable Fisheries Act (SFA). The SFA implemented new requirements for marine fisheries managed by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) and other regional councils. The Council has responded to this by developing the SFA Amendment which includes alternative management measures for reporting of bycatch by Gulf fishermen, for minimizing bycatch or bycatch mortality, for specifying higher standards for overfishing criteria that will restore fishery stocks to maximum sustainable yield (MSY), for rebuilding periods for overfished stocks (e.g., red snapper, king mackerel, and red drum) and a section identifying communities economically dependent on fishing.

Under the section on Reporting of Bycatch, five alternatives related to submission of data by fishermen and vessel observers are considered. The Council proposes that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have authority to collect bycatch information by the most appropriate methods, but to use mandatory observers only when the Council agrees.

Under the section on measures to minimize bycatch or bycatch mortality, the Council proposes that stone crab traps used in federal waters be constructed according to Florida law.

Under the section on Overfishing Criteria and Rebuilding Period for Stocks, the Council has proposed that MSY, Optimum Yield (OY), and the Overfishing Thresholds be set at higher standards as follows:

The rebuilding periods proposed for overfished stocks are as follows:

Similarly, the amendment does not contain overfished thresholds for any of the finfish stocks because there was insufficient information to compute these parameters in terms of biomass (weight).

Under the section on Overfishing Criteria and Rebuilding Period for Stocks for the crustacean fisheries, the Council has proposed that MSY, OY, and the overfishing thresholds be set as follows:

Overfished thresholds are specified as one-half of MSY or slightly higher for the crustacean stocks, none of which are overfished.

The effect of specifying overfishing criteria at a higher level for the finfish stocks is that additional stocks may be classified as overfished when National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) approves the SFA amendment in 1999. The amendment also identified Gulf fishing communities dependent on fishing so that eventually the impact of fishery management measures on these communities can be assessed.

The public hearings are scheduled for 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. as follows:

Monday, December 7, 1998
Holiday Inn-Fort Brown
1900 E. Elizabeth Street
Brownsville, TX 78520

Tuesday, December 8, 1998
Port Aransas Civic Center Auditorium
710 West Avenue A
Port Aransas, TX 78373

Tuesday, December 8, 1998
Pier House
One Duval Street
Key West, FL 33040

Wednesday, December 9, 1998
Texas A&M Auditorium
200 Seawolf Parkway
Galveston, TX 77553

Thursday, December 10, 1998
New Orleans Airport Hilton & Conference Center
901 Airline Highway
Kenner, LA 70063

Thursday, December 10, 1998
Ramada Airport Inn & Conference Center
5303 West Kennedy Boulevard
Tampa, Florida 33609

Monday, December 14, 1998
National Marine Fisheries Service
Panama City Laboratory
3500 Delwood Beach Road
Panama City, FL 32408

Tuesday, December 15, 1998
Orange Beach Community Center
27235 Canal Road
Orange Beach, AL 36561

Wednesday, December 16, 1998
J. L. Scott Marine Education Center & Aquarium
115 East Beach Boulevard, US Highway 90
Biloxi, MS 39530

Thursday, December 17, 1998
Larose Regional Park
2001 East 5th Street
Larose, LA 70373

Copies of the amendment can be obtained by calling 813-228-2815. All written comments on the amendment must be received at the Council office by January 4, 1999.

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 November 30, 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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