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

NOAA logoNEWS RELEASE
RELEASE: IMMEDIATELY
CONTACT: STEVEN ATRAN

REEF FISH STOCK ASSESSMENT PANEL TO MEET

Tampa, Florida - November 09, 2000 - The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) will convene a meeting of the Reef Fish Stock Assessment Panel (RFSAP) at the Miami Laboratory of the Southeast Fisheries Science Center (SEFSC) of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), 75 Virginia Beach Drive, Miami, Florida 33149. The meeting will begin at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, December 4, 2000 and will conclude by 12:00 noon on Friday, December 8, 2000.

The RFSAP will review a sensitivity analyses of the 1999 red grouper stock assessment which was conducted by the NMFS at the request of the RFSAP, and recommend a range of allowable biological catch (ABC) for 2001. This analyses was requested by the RFSAP at its previous meeting in August to examine the sensitivity of the stock assessment results to the inclusion or exclusion of older and possibly questionable landings data provided by Cuba for years prior to 1976, the assumed level of release mortality of undersized fish, and the shape of the red grouper stock-recruitment relationship. NMFS has completed the analyses and has declared the Gulf of Mexico stock of red grouper to be overfished based on the 1999 stock assessment and the results of the additional analyses. However, a peer review of the analyses has not yet been conducted by the RFSAP, and the severity of the overfished condition, and the ABC range needed to effect a recovery have yet to be determined.

Pending completion by NMFS of additional analyses requested by the RFSAP of the 1998 vermilion snapper assessment and 2000 assessment update, the RFSAP will review these analyses and may recommend a range of ABC for 2001 to stop overfishing from occurring in the vermilion snapper fishery. Some model scenarios from the 1998 stock assessment suggested that the stock was being fished at a rate that could result in it becoming overfished. It was, therefore, classified by NMFS as not overfished but approaching an overfished condition. The analyses requested by the RFSAP were to examine the robustness and relationship of the vermilion snapper assessment tuning indices to changes in the directed fishery for red snapper. The NMFS has indicated that, due to a heavy workload and attrition of personnel from the SEFSC, these analyses might not be completed.

The RFSAP may also review the results of additional red snapper recovery projections conducted by NMFS at the request of the Council. These additional projections are based on assumptions of juvenile red snapper shrimp trawl bycatch mortality and natural mortality suggested by an outside biologist which differ from the assumptions used by NMFS. The outside biologist has proposed that the shrimp trawl bycatch mortality is lower, and the natural mortality is higher, than those used in the NMFS red snapper stock assessments. The results of these analyses will initially be presented by NMFS at the November 13-17, 2000 Council meeting in Biloxi, Mississippi, and may subsequently be reviewed by the RFSAP if requested by the Council. The analyses must be peer reviewed by the RFSAP before they can be used as a basis for changing the red snapper total allowable catch.

A copy of the agenda for the RFSAP meeting can be obtained by calling 813-228-2815. Although non-emergency issues not contained in the agenda may come before the RFSAP for discussion, in accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA), those issues may not be the subject of formal RFSAP action during this meeting. RFSAP action will be restricted to those issues specifically identified in this notice and any issues arising after publication of this notice that require emergency action under section 305 (c) of the MSFCMA, provided the public has been notified of the Council’s intent to take final action to address the emergency.

The RFSAP 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 November 27, 2000.

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.

This news release, and other Council news releases, can be viewed at the Council’s web site, http://www.gulfcouncil.org. In addition, Council press releases may be received via e-mail by sending a blank e-mail message to pressreleases@gulfcouncil.org with SUBSCRIBE as the subject.

X X X