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: AS APPROPRIATE
CONTACT: WAYNE E. SWINGLE

COUNCIL TO TAKE FINAL ACTION ON A DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT (EIS) FOR THE GENERIC ESSENTIAL FISH HABITAT (EFH) AMENDMENT AND REEF FISH AMENDMENT 21

Tampa, Florida - June 20, 2003 - The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) will hold its July 14-17, 2003 meeting at the Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club, 851 Gulf Shore Boulevard, North, Naples, Florida, and will take public testimony on the Reef Fish Amendment 21 and a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Generic Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) Amendment. Reef Fish Amendment 21 contains a proposal to extend the time period for the Madison/Swanson and Steamboat Lumps marine reserves beyond their June 16, 2004 expiration date. The Draft EIS for the Generic EFH Amendment contains alternatives for specifying EFH, habitat areas of particular concern (HAPCs), and impacts of fishing on EFH. Final action to approve Reef Fish Amendment 21 and the Draft EIS for the Generic EFH Amendment will be taken at on Thursday during the Council meeting. Public testimony is scheduled from 2:15 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 16, 2003. Persons testifying must register before the start of the testimony period.

The meeting will begin on Monday morning with a closed session of the Joint Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) and the Advisory Panel (AP) Selection Committees. They will meet to make recommendations for appointments to the Standing SSC and the Shrimp AP. There will be a joint meeting of the Personnel/Administrative Policy/Budget Committees from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. This session will be partially closed.1

The Reef Fish Management Committee will meet on Monday afternoon from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and on Tuesday morning from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. to hear recommendations of the SSC and Reef Fish Stock Assessment Panel (RFSAP) on the SEDAR process. They will hear a presentation by National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) on the final results of a trolling study conducted in the Madison-Swanson Marine Reserve. They will discuss an options paper for a vermilion snapper regulatory amendment to arrest overfishing, discuss alternatives for the red snapper rebuilding plan, and review the draft Reef Fish Amendment 18 Options Paper. The committee will make recommendations to be considered by the full Council on Thursday afternoon.

There will be a joint meeting of the Reef Fish, Mackerel, and Red Drum Management Committees on Tuesday morning from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. to discuss the proposed scoping document on a generic aquaculture amendment. The Shrimp Management Committee will meet from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. to review and hear a presentation by NMFS on the status of shrimp stocks. They will also discuss a revised

Amendment 13/Environmental Assessment (EA) Options Paper that includes alternatives for status criteria and benchmarks as well as a revised standardized bycatch reporting methodology.

On Tuesday afternoon the NOAA Fisheries 2003 Regional Constituent Session will be held in conjunction with the Gulf of Mexico Council meeting from 2:00 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. This will be one of eight regional constituent sessions to be held in conjunction with Fishery Management Council meetings from June through September 2003. The sessions are intended to gather public input on ways to improve the effectiveness of NOAA Fisheries. The regional sessions will be a collaborative effort involving all major marine fisheries interests - councils, commercial and recreational fishermen, tribal representatives, environmental organizations, and federal and state government. The primary objective is to assemble and provide a comprehensive analysis of the diverse opinions, attitudes, and perspectives of marine resource stakeholders as they relate to broad themes in management and daily operations. The secondary objective is to identify performance measures for fishery management. Persons attending these sessions can direct their questions to the Director of NOAA Fisheries, the Regional Administrator of NOAA Fisheries, the Director of the Southeast Fisheries Science Center and the Agent in Charge of NOAA Fisheries Enforcement. For more information, contact Patricia Lawson 301-713-2239 or particia.lawson@noaa.gov. Visit the NOAA Fisheries website for periodic updates on the regional sessions and to submit e-comments http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/constit_sessions_2003.html.

On Wednesday morning, the Mackerel Management Committee will meet from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. to review additional information on potential alternatives in the Amendment 15 Options Paper to increase the minimum size limit and/or reduce the bag limit on cobia in the Gulf of Mexico. From 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, the Migratory Species Management Committee will meet to discuss a proposed rule for Amendment 1 for the Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Fishery Management Plan (FMP). At 1:45 p.m. on Wednesday there will be a report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the dispersal of wastewater from the Piney Point Phosphate Plant.

On Thursday morning there will be a presentation by the U.S. Geological Services on the Pulleyís Ridge Coral Study at 8:30 a.m., followed by a presentation by NMFS at 9:00 a.m. on the designation of sawfish as an endangered species. MRAG Americas, Inc. will review the draft EIS for EFH Amendment beginning at 9:30 a.m. followed by Council review and approval of the amendment. The Council will act on the remainder of committee recommendations on Thursday followed by agency reports. Under Other Business the Council may reconsider its intent on when distribution of an IFQ profile for red snapper should occur.

Although non-emergency issues not contained in the agenda may come before the Council for discussion, in accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA), those issues may not be the subject of formal Council action during this meeting. Council 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 Committee schedule and agenda 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 July 7, 2003.

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 Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council prepares fishery management plans that are designed to manage fishery resources in 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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