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

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RELEASE: IMMEDIATELY
CONTACT: STEVEN ATRAN

REEF FISH ADVISORY PANEL AND SCIENTIFIC AND STATISTICAL COMMITTEE TO REVIEW RESULTS OF NEW YELLOWTAIL SNAPPER STOCK ASSESSMENT AND A REVISED REEF FISH SECRETARIAL AMENDMENT 1 (RED GROUPER REBUILDING PLAN)

Tampa, Florida - October 3, 2003 - 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) in Tampa, Florida on October 28-29, 2003 to review a yellowtail snapper stock assessment and a revised Reef Fish Secretarial Amendment 1 (red grouper rebuilding plan). The meetings will be held at the Hilton Tampa Airport Westshore Hotel, 2225 Lois Avenue, Tampa, Florida. They will convene at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 and will conclude by 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 29, 2003. The AP and SSC will meet jointly on Tuesday, October 28 to receive presentations on the issues and will convene separately on Wednesday, October 29 to discuss the issues and make recommendations.

A yellowtail snapper stock assessment was prepared by the Florida Marine Research Institute (FMRI) on behalf of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, and the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council. The assessment was conducted using a process known as Southeast Data Assessment and Review (SEDAR). Under this process, a SEDAR Data Workshop was held on March 3-7, 2003 to bring researchers, managers, fishermen and environmental organization representatives together to review the available scientific information on yellowtail snapper, goliath grouper and vermilion snapper. A SEDAR Assessment Workshop was then held on June 9-13, 2003 to again bring researchers, managers, fishermen and environmental representatives together to conduct the actual assessment. A draft stock assessment from that workshop was presented to a SEDAR Assessment Review Workshop held in Tampa July 28-31, 2003. The review workshop, in addition to convening researchers, managers, fishermen and environmental organization representatives, also included several assessment experts from outside of the Gulf region, including two provided by the University of Miamiís Center for Independent Experts. Based on the results of the Assessment Review Workshop, a final version of the yellowtail snapper stock assessment was prepared, along with recommendations of the Assessment Review Workshop on the status of the stock and selection of status determination criteria (maximum fishing mortality rate, minimum stock size threshold, and optimum yield). These recommendations were presented to the Gulf Councilís Socioeconomic Panel on September 10-12, 2003. The yellowtail snapper stock assessment, recommendations of the SEDAR Assessment Review Panel, and Socioeconomic Panel will be presented during the joint AP/SSC session on October 28. Afterwards, the AP and SSC will meet separately on October 29 to discuss the issues and make recommendations to the Gulf Council.

Red grouper were declared overfished by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in October 2000, based on a 1999 assessment plus additional analyses conducted in 2000. A 2002 stock assessment by NMFS found that the red grouper stock was back above its minimum stock size threshold, but it had been below the threshold in 1999, confirming the need for a rebuilding plan to restore the stock to a level capable of producing maximum sustainable yield on a continuing basis. In May 2003, the Council submitted Reef Fish Secretarial Amendment 1 to NMFS that called for approximately a 10 percent reduction in harvest, to be achieved through a reduction in the commercial shallow-water grouper quota, replacing the February 15 to March 15 commercial closed season on gag, red and black grouper with a shallow-water grouper trip limit, and a recreational bag limit of no more than two red grouper (out of the 5 aggregate grouper bag limit). The rebuilding plan also proposed a reduction in the deep-water grouper quota

and setting of a tilefish quota in order to discourage effort shifting to those stocks. NMFS has reviewed the plan as submitted by the Gulf Council and has made revisions to it. These revisions will be presented during the joint AP/SSC session on October 28. The AP and SSC will then meet separately on October 29 to discuss the issues and make recommendations to the Gulf Council.

Copies of the agenda of these meetings and the yellowtail snapper stock assessment and SEDAR Assessment Review report can be obtained by calling the Council office at 813-228-2815 (toll-free 888-833-1844). Additional materials, including the SEP report and the NMFS revised Secretarial Amendment 1 can also be obtained from the Council office but 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 October 17, 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 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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