This is a publication of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council pursuant to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Award No. NA03NMF4410028.

NOAA logoNEWS RELEASE
RELEASE: IMMEDIATELY
CONTACT: RICHARD L. LEARD 

COUNCIL TO CONVENE PANELS TO REVIEW THE FINAL DRAFT OF ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT (EIS) FOR THE GENERIC ESSENTIAL FISH HABITAT (EFH) AMENDMENT, AND TO REVIEW REEF FISH AMENDMENT 21

Tampa, Florida - April 11, 2003 - The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) will convene its Technical Review Panel, User Review Panel, and Standing Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) to review the final draft of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Generic Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) Amendment in three separate meetings to be held at the DoubleTree Hotel Tampa Westshore, 4500 West Cypress Street, Tampa, Florida 33607. The SSC will also review Reef Fish Amendment 21, continuation of the Madison-Swanson and Steamboat Lumps marine reserves. All three meetings will begin at 1:00 p.m. on Monday, May 5, 2003 and will conclude by 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 7, 2003.

The Technical Review Panel will review the final draft of the EFH EIS and provide the Council and contractor with suggestions for technical revisions. In addition the Technical Review Panel members serve as contract monitors.

The User Review Panel will review the final draft of the EFH EIS and provide the Council and contractor with suggestions for revisions. In addition the User Review Panel members are asked to provide their comments on whether the documents properly address the issues of each user group represented. The User Review Panel is comprised of representatives from the following sectors: recreational, charter, commercial, environmental, oil and gas industry, and wetlands owners.

The Standing Scientific and Statistical Committee will review the final draft of the EFH EIS and provide the Council and contractor with an evaluation of the scientific completeness and possible suggestions for revisions. The SSC will also review and comment on a proposed Amendment 21 to the Reef Fish Fishery Management Plan to extend the time period for the Madison/Swanson and Steamboat Lumps marine reserves beyond their June 16, 2004 expiration date.

The Council will review these panels comments at a special Council meeting scheduled for June 5-6, 2003 at the New Orleans Airport Plaza Hotel and Conference Center. Final action to approve the EFH EIS is scheduled at the Councilís July 14-18, 2003 meeting in Naples, Florida. Final action on Reef Fish Amendment 18 is scheduled at the Councilís May 12-15, 2003 meeting in Panama City Beach, Florida.

Although non-emergency issues not contained in the agendas may come before the Technical and User Review Panels and SSC for discussion, in accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA), those issues may not be the subject of formal action during these meetings. Action will be restricted to those issues specifically identified in this notice and any issues arising after publication of this notice that require emergency action under section 305 (c) of the MSFCMA, provided the public has been notified of the Councilís intent to take final action to address the emergency. A copy of the agendas can be obtained by calling (813) 228-2815.

The meeting is open to the public and is physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to the Council office by April 28, 2003.

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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