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

REEF FISH ADVISORY PANEL AND SCIENTIFIC AND STATISTICAL COMMITTEE TO REVIEW RESULTS OF NEW RED GROUPER AND YELLOWEDGE GROUPER STOCK ASSESSMENTS

Tampa, Florida - December 4, 2002 - The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) will convene its Reef Fish Advisory Panel (AP) and the Standing and Special Reef Fish Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) to review reports of the Councilís Reef Fish Stock Assessment Panel (RFSAP) and Socioeconomic Panel (SEP) on the stock assessments and status of the red grouper and yellowedge grouper stocks in the Gulf of Mexico. These stock assessments were prepared by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and were presented to the RFSAP during their September 17-19, 2002 meeting. Red grouper assessments were previously conducted in 1991, 1993, and 1999. This is the first time that a stock assessment has been conducted on yellowedge grouper.

In October 2000, NMFS declared red grouper to be overfished, based on the 1999 assessment plus additional analyses conducted at the request of the RFSAP. In September 2002, the Council submitted a red grouper rebuilding plan to NMFS (Secretarial Amendment 1 to the Reef Fish Fishery Management Plan), which is currently being reviewed by NMFS. Based on the results of the 2002 red grouper stock assessment and the recommendations of the RFSAP, SEP, AP, and SSC, the Council may choose to modify its proposals for rebuilding the red grouper stock. The AP and SSC will provide recommendations to the Council on both red grouper and yellowedge grouper regulations.

The AP will be convened at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, January 6, 2003 and will conclude by 4:00 p.m., Tuesday, January 7, 2003. The SSC will convene at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, January 8, 2003 and will conclude by 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 9, 2003. Both meetings will be held at the Hilton Tampa Airport Westshore Hotel, 2225 Lois Avenue, Tampa, Florida.

Copies of the agendas of these meetings and the stock assessments can be obtained by calling the Council office at 813-228-2815 (toll-free 888-833-1844). Additional materials, including the Reef Fish SAP report and the SEP report, can also be obtained from the Council office or downloaded from the Council website (http://www.gulfcouncil.org) but the SEP report may not be available until just prior to the meetings. Although other non-emergency issues not on the agendas may come before the AP and SSC for discussion, in accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery

Conservation and Management Act, those issues may not be the subject of formal action during these meetings. Actions of the AP and SSC will be restricted to those issues specifically identified in the agendas and any issues arising after publication of this notice that require emergency action under Section 305(c) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, provided the public has been notified of the Council's intent to take action to address the emergency.

The 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 December 27, 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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