This is a publication of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council pursuant to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Award No. NA07FC0015.

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GULF COUNCIL APPROVES THE GENERIC AMENDMENT ADDRESSING THE ESTABLISHMENT OF TORTUGAS MARINE RESERVES

Tampa, Florida - July 19, 2000 -The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) at its July meeting held in Key Largo, Florida voted to approve the Generic Amendment Addressing the Establishment of Tortugas Marine Reserves. The amendment proposes to establish two marine reserves (see map below). The Tortugas South marine reserve will encompass approximately 60 square nautical miles and will include the Riley’s Hump mutton snapper spawning aggregation site established by the Council in 1994. The amendment also proposes to create the Tortugas North marine reserve cooperatively with the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS) program, the state of Florida, and the National Park system. This area will encompass approximately 120 square nautical miles, of which the portion proposed to be established by the Council is 13 square nautical miles.

The Council recommended that the reserves be established for a period of at least 10 years and be evaluated at the same intervals the state of Florida evaluates the FKNMS (i.e., every 5 years starting in 2002, 2007, etc.). During these periods, the future status of the marine reserves will be considered by the Council and FKNMS. Additional preferred alternatives recommended by the Council included the prohibition of fishing for any species in the marine reserves and the prohibition of all fishing vessels to anchor in the marine reserves (except in emergencies).

After final revisions of the amendment by the Council, it will be forwarded to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for approval by the Secretary of Commerce. Once received, NMFS will announce an additional period for further public comment.

Because non-consumptive diving can damage corals through either deliberate or unintentional touching of corals, the Council also moved to send a comment to the National Oceans Service objecting to non-consumptive diving in the reserves within the Council’s jurisdiction under the Essential Fish Habitat authority given the Council under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is one of eight regional Fishery Management Councils which were established by the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council prepares fishery management plans which are designed to manage fishery resources in the 200-mile limit in the Gulf of Mexico.

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