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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CONTACT: WAYNE E. SWINGLE

COUNCIL ADVISORY GROUPS TO REVIEW SUSTAINABLE FISHERIES ACT AMENDMENT

Tampa, Florida - December 11, 1998 - The Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) and an Ad Hoc Industry Advisory Panel (AP), consisting of recreational and commercial fishery representatives, will review the Sustainable Fisheries Act (SFA) Amendment. Public testimony is scheduled beginning at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 13. The AP meeting will be on January 5 and the SSC meeting on January 6, 1999. Both meetings will be held at the Doubletree Hotel, 300 Canal Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, and will begin at 8:00 a.m. and conclude by 4:00 p.m. each day.

In 1996, Congress passed the 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 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 proposed overfished thresholds for any of the finfish stocks because there was insufficient information to compute these parameters in terms of biomass (weight). Alternatives for overfished thresholds in terms of SPR are included.

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 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.

Although other issues not on the agenda may come before the AP/SSC for discussion, in accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, those issues may not be the subject of formal AP/SSC action during this meeting. AP/SSC 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 December 29, 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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