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: DR. RICHARD L. LEARD 

SCOPING MEETINGS SCHEDULED TO RECEIVE COMMENTS ON A SUPPLEMENTAL ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT (SEIS) FOR SHRIMP AMENDMENT 13 AND FOR THE REBUILDING PROGRAM FOR RED SNAPPER

Tampa, Florida - August 30, 2002 - The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) will hold scoping meetings to receive comments on a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) for Shrimp Amendment 13 and for the rebuilding program for red snapper

A series of scoping meetings will be held to determine the scope of issues to be included and to identify the significant issues related to the considered actions. During the development of Amendment 13, the Council will consider additional issues and management measures to deal with any problems identified during the scoping process.

The SEIS will also include an assessment of the impacts on the biological, physical, and human environment, as well as the shrimp fishery and other fisheries. The potential that impacts on endangered or threatened species and marine mammals within the Gulf of Mexico will also be analyzed.

The purpose of Amendment 13 is to establish definitions of maximum sustainable yield (MSY), optimum yield (OY), the overfishing threshold, and the overfished condition for managed shrimp stocks in the Gulf. Amendment 13 may also include alternatives to require vessel monitoring systems (VMS) on shrimp vessels fishing in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Gulf, as well as alternatives to improve bycatch reporting and to further reduce bycatch in the shrimp fishery.

The Council will develop a SEIS to assess the impacts of possible actions as discussed herein; however, the scope of the alternatives to be developed will not necessarily be limited to the following issues. The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (M-SFCMA) requires the Council to establish definitions for MSY, OY, the overfishing threshold, and the overfished condition for the stocks that are managed. The Council submitted proxy definitions for these parameters as part of its Generic Sustainable Fisheries Act Amendment in 1999; however, only the definitions of the overfished conditions were approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Consequently, revised definitions are being developed. The Council has also established some relatively large permanently and seasonally closed areas to shrimp trawling, namely the Tortugas Shrimp Sanctuary and the cooperative Texas Closure. To enhance enforcement of these closures and to potentially collect better effort data from the shrimp fishery, the Council is

considering requiring VMS on shrimp vessels in at least some portion of the EEZ during some closure period. Section 303 (a)(11) of the M-SFCMA requires the Council to establish a standardize bycatch reporting methodology to determine the type and amount of bycatch occurring in the shrimp fishery. The Council has proposed such a methodology under Amendment 10 to the Shrimp FMP. The Council is now considering ways to improve this reporting methodology. Section 303 (a)(11) of the M-SFCMA also requires the Council to reduce bycatch to the extent practicable and to reduce the mortality of bycatch that cannot be avoided. Consequently, the Council is considering additional measures to reduce bycatch in the shrimp fishery.

The results of several analyses indicate that the red snapper resource in the Gulf of Mexico is overfished such that the stock biomass is below the level needed to sustain a harvest at the maximum sustainable yield (MSY). Therefore, the stock needs to be rebuilt based on the 1998 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) National Standard Guidelines. In May 2001, the Council submitted to NMFS a regulatory amendment to the Reef Fish Fishery Management Plan (FMP) that modified the current rebuilding plan and was consistent with NMFS guidelines. NMFS has consequently determined that the actions taken by the Council have an environmental impact sufficient to warrant a SEIS rather than the environmental assessment that accompanied the initial regulatory amendment

In order to develop a SEIS, scoping meetings are needed to solicit public input on the environmental impacts of the rebuilding plan. Alternatives to the plan for which input is being sought include definitions for maximum sustainable yield (MSY), optimum yield (OY), the minimum stock size threshold (MSST) (below which a stock is considered to be overfished), and the maximum fishing mortality threshold (MFMT) (above which a stock is considered to be undergoing overfishing). The proposed SEIS also considers alternative rebuilding plans that will rebuild the stock within 31 years or less and are based on various rebuilding strategies. The SEIS will also include an assessment of the impacts on the biological, physical, and human environment, as well as impacts to the red snapper fishery and other fisheries. The potential impacts on endangered or threatened species and marine mammals within the Gulf of Mexico will also be analyzed.

Because juvenile red snapper are a component of the shrimp trawl bycatch and through Shrimp Amendment 13 the Council will consider further bycatch reduction measures, the scoping meetings for red snapper will be held immediately following the scoping hearings previously notice for Shrimp Amendment 13 to the Shrimp Fishery Management Plan (FMP). The Shrimp Amendment 13 scoping meetings will begin at 6:00 p.m. at the following locations and dates and the red snapper scoping meetings will start immediately following their conclusion:

Monday, August 26, 2002
Four Points Sheraton Hotel
3777 North Expressway
Brownsville, Texas
956-547-1550
Tuesday, August 27, 2002
Palacios Recreation Center
2401 Perryman
Palacios, Texas
361-972-2387
Wednesday, August 28, 2002
San Luis Resort Hotel
5222 Seawall Boulevard
Galveston Island, Texas
409-744-1500

Copies of the scoping documents 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 August 19, 2002.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is 1 of 8 Regional Fishery Management Councils that were established by the MSFCMA of 1976, as amended. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council prepares fishery management plans and amendments that are designed to manage fishery resources to the 200-mile limit 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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