This is a publication of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council pursuant to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Award No. NA17FC2203.



Tampa, Florida - January 25, 2002 - The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) will hold public hearings on a draft regulatory amendment to the Reef Fish Fishery Management Plan to establish a rebuilding plan for red grouper in the Gulf of Mexico. Red grouper were declared to be overfished and undergoing overfishing by the Acting Southeast Regional Administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service in October 2000. The Council originally began developing a rebuilding plan as part of Draft Reef Fish Amendment 18, which addressed a number of other reef fish issues. However, due to delays in the development of Amendment 18, the Council chose to separate out the rebuilding plan and proceed with it through a separate regulatory amendment.

In conjunction with each public hearing on the Red Grouper Regulatory Amendment, a scoping meeting will also be held to obtain comments on whether the Council should begin to develop a regulatory amendment under the Coastal Migratory Pelagics Fishery Management Plan to address prohibitions on the use of pelagic longlines to harvest dolphin (fish) in the Gulf of Mexico. A scoping meeting is part of the initial process of determining whether development of a management action should proceed.

The red grouper regulatory amendment contains alternatives for determining the sustainable fishing parameters on which a rebuilding plan is based. These include maximum sustainable yield (MSY), the fishing mortality rate that produces MSY (FMSY), the biomass or biomass proxy that supports MSY (BMSY), the minimum stock size threshold below which a stock is considered to be overfished (MSST), the maximum fishing mortality threshold above which a stock is considered to be undergoing overfishing (MFMT), and optimum yield (OY). The regulatory amendment also contains alternatives for selecting a rebuilding strategy and rebuilding scenarios (combinations of management measures) to achieve rebuilding. In addition to the pre-constructed scenarios, the regulatory amendment contains individual alternatives to adjust the shallow-water grouper quota, implement or adjust closed seasons, implement commercial trip limits, adjust recreational bag limits, establish closed areas, move the longline/buoy gear boundary, phase out the use of longlines and buoy gear for reef fish fishing, set a boundary line for the commercial use of bandit gear or other vertical hook and line gear, alternate months in which longline/buoy gear and bandit/vertical line gear can be used in the commercial reef fish fishery, add/remove drift style and bottom style buoy gear from the list of allowable reef fish fishing gear, change the starting date of the commercial reef fish fishing year, and clarify the allowance or prohibition of recreational bag limits of reef fish on a commercial reef fish vessel.

A copy of the draft Red Grouper Regulatory Amendment can be obtained by calling the Council office at 813-228-2815 (toll-free 888-833-1844).

The public hearings/scoping meetings will be held beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the following locations and dates:

Monday, February 18, 2002
Edison Community College
Lee County Campus
Corbin Auditorium, Bldg. J-103
8099 College Parkway
Fort Myers, FL  33919
(Park in Lot #8)
Tuesday, February 19, 2002
Tampa Airport Hilton
2225 Lois Avenue
Tampa, FL  33607
Tuesday, February 19, 2002
MS Dept. of Marine Resources
1141 Bayview Drive
Biloxi, MS  39530
Wednesday, February 20, 2002
Plantation Inn
9301 West Fort Island Trail
Crystal River, FL  34429
Wednesday, February 20, 2002
New Orleans Airport Hilton
901 Airline Drive
Kenner, LA  70062
Thursday, February 21, 2002
National Marine Fisheries Service
3500 Delwood Beach Road
Panama City, FL  32408
Thursday, February 21, 2002
Texas A&M University
200 Seawolf Parkway
Galveston, TX  77553

In addition to the above hearings, public testimony will be accepted on the Red Grouper Regulatory Amendment at the Gulf Council meeting where final action will be taken, either in Mobile, Alabama on March 13, 2002 or at a location to be determined in the Florida Panhandle (Ft. Walton Beach or Panama City) on May 15, 2002. Written comments will be accepted if received at the Council office by March 1, 2002 (if final action is in March) or by May 3, 2002 (if final action is in May). The final action date and location will be announced in a later news release.

The meetings are open to the public and physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to the Council office by August 7, 2001.

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 Council prepares fishery management plans that are designed to manage fishery resources in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

This news release, and other Council news releases, can be viewed at the Councilís web site at In addition, Council press releases may be received via e-mail by sending a blank e-mail message to with SUBSCRIBE as the subject.