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

NOAA logoNEWS RELEASE
RELEASE: IMMEDIATELY
CONTACT: STEVEN ATRAN

SCOPING MEETINGS SCHEDULED ON CONTINUATION OF MADISON/SWANSON AND STEAMBOAT LUMPS MARINE RESERVES

Tampa, Florida - May 29, 2002 - The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) will hold two scoping meetings on the issue of whether the Council should begin developing an amendment to the Reef Fish Fishery Management Plan to extend the time period for the Madison/Swanson and Steamboat Lumps marine reserves. A scoping meeting is part of the initial process of determining whether development of a management action should proceed.

The Madison/Swanson and Steamboat Lumps marine reserves were implemented on June 19, 2000 with a 4-year sunset provision, and will expire on June 16, 2004. The Madison/Swanson site is approximately 115 square nautical miles in size and is located about 40 nautical miles southwest of Apalachicola, City, Florida. Steamboat Lumps is approximately 104 square nautical miles in size and is located about 95 nautical miles west of Tarpon Springs, Florida. Within each area, fishing is prohibited for all species except for highly migratory species, i.e., tunas, marlin, oceanic sharks, sailfishes, and swordfish.

These marine reserves were created primarily to protect a portion of the gag spawning aggregations and to protect a portion of the offshore population of male gag. However, the areas are also suitable habitat and may provide protection for many other species, such as scamp, red grouper, warsaw grouper, speckled hind, red snapper, red porgy and others. A 4-year period was established to give the Council time to evaluate the utility of marine reserves. If the Council chooses to continue the Madison/Swanson and Steamboat Lumps marine reserves beyond June 2004, it must do so through a reef fish plan amendment. Non-action will result in the two reserves expiring on June 16, 2004, and the areas re-opening to all fishing.

During the scoping meetings, Dr. Chris Koenig, Florida State University, who is one of the researchers studying the marine reserves, will give a presentation on his research to date. Public input will then be solicited as to whether management action should be initiated to continue the reserves beyond June 2004, and if so, what the scope of issues should be for consideration.

The scoping meetings will be held from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. at the following locations and dates:

Wednesday, June 19, 2002
National Marine Fisheries Service
Panama City Laboratory
3500 Delwood Beach Road
Panama City, Florida
850-234-6541
Thursday, June 20, 2002
Tampa Airport Hilton
2225 Lois Avenue
Tampa, Florida 
813-877-6688

Copies of the scoping document for these meetings can be obtained by calling the Council office at 813-228-2815 (toll-free 888-833-1844), or can be downloaded from the Council website (http://www.gulfcouncil.org).

These meetings are open to the public and are physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to the Council office by June 12, 2002.

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 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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