This is a publication of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council pursuant to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Award No. NA17FC1052.

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RELEASE: AS APPROPRIATE
CONTACT: WAYNE E. SWINGLE

GULF COUNCIL MEETING ADJOURNED EARLY DUE TO NATIONAL EMERGENCY

Tampa, Florida -September 19, 2001 - During its second day of a scheduled September 10-13, 2001 meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Gulf Council along with the rest of America were shocked to learn of the terrorist attacks on the New York World Trade Center and on the Pentagon. As a consequence of these attacks, the FAA ordered a halt to all flight operations at U.S. airports and the hotel where the Council was meeting went into its highest level of security.

In discussion of these developments, the Council felt that it would be impossible to proceed with the meeting. The Council depends on the publicís input in its decision making process. With airline activity halted and hotel security measures in place, it would be difficult to hold an open, public meeting, as required by law. In addition, several Council members expressed that they could not give their full attention to the business at hand with the unfolding events of the day. Consequently, the Council decided to conduct only items that were essential to the functioning of the Council: the swearing in of two new Council members (David Saucier of Pascagoula, Mississippi, and Julie Morris of Sarasota, Florida); the election of a new Chairman (Roy Williams of Tallahassee, Florida) and Vice-chairman (Jim Fensom of Panama City, Florida); and the approval of a Council budget for the 2002 calendar year. Following those actions, the Council cancelled the remainder of the meeting with the following motion:

"The Council terminates the meeting based on the national emergency situation. In closing this meeting the Council extends its full support to the President and Congress to deal with the terrorist activities, and expresses its sympathy to the victims and their families."

As a result of the early adjournment of the meeting, actions that the Council planned to take at this meeting were delayed. These include taking final action on Amendment 10 to the Shrimp Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and the review of the revised draft of Amendment 18 to the Reef Fish FMP and Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS).

Final action on Shrimp Amendment 10 has been deferred until the December 10-14, 2001 Council meeting in Biloxi, Mississippi. This amendment addresses the need for reducing bycatch from the shrimp trawl fishery in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off the west coast of Florida, specifically in the Gulf EEZ south and east of Cape San Blas (85 30' W. Longitude). Amendment 9 to the Shrimp FMP addressed bycatch reduction of red snapper in the Gulf EEZ west of Cape San Blas, Florida; and the method that was approved was the requirement of bycatch reduction devices (BRDs) that would reduce the mortality from shrimp trawls on age 0 and age 1 red snapper by at least 44% from the average level of mortality during the period 1984-89. Because Amendment 9 did not address bycatch reduction on the west coast of Florida (east of Cape San Blas), this amendment considers the need and practicability of various alternatives for reducing bycatch from shrimp trawling in this area such as time closures, area closures, and the requirement of BRDs.

The Council had anticipated reviewing Reef Fish Amendment 18 and SEIS at its September meeting in the hopes of taking final action at the December meeting. However, this review has been postponed to the December meeting with final action anticipated to be taken at the Councilís March 11-14, 2002 meeting in Mobile, Alabama. The Council could have planned to take final action at the January 21-24, 2002 meeting; however, this meeting is scheduled to take place in Brownsville, Texas. Because most of the reef fish fishery affected by Amendment 18 is located in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, the Council felt that it would be easier for fishery participants and interested parties to attend a meeting in Alabama than in South Texas. Reef Fish Amendment 18 contains alternatives to address the following issues: longline/buoy gear limited entry system, longline/buoy gear boundary line, longline/buoy gear phase-out, use of reef fish for bait, vessel monitoring system (VMS) on reef fish vessels, tilefish and deep-water grouper quotas and closed seasons, additions to the management unit, and modifications to the framework procedure for setting total allowable catch (TAC). In addition, Amendment 18 contains alternatives to implement a red grouper stock rebuilding plan, including options for commercial closed seasons, recreational closed seasons, commercial trip limits, recreational bag limits, and closed areas. The SEIS contains alternatives that define reef fish essential fish habitat (EFH), define reef fish habitats of particular concern (HAPC), and alternatives that could regulate fishing activities impacting reef fish EFH and HAPCs.

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 Councilís 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.

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