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

Gulf Council logoNEWS RELEASE
RELEASE: AS APPROPRIATE
CONTACT: STEVEN ATRAN

STANDING AND SPECIAL REEF FISH SCIENTIFIC AND STATISTICAL COMMITTEE TO REVIEW SOCIOECONOMIC INFORMATION IN SECRETARIAL AMENDMENT 1, RED GROUPER REBUILDING PLAN AND DEEP-WATER REEF FISH QUOTAS

 Tampa, Florida - November 21, 2003 - The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) will convene its Standing and Special Reef Fish Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) by conference call to evaluate the socioeconomic information contained in Reef Fish Secretarial Amendment 1, red grouper rebuilding plan and deep-water grouper quotas. The SSC will be asked specifically to provide the Council with guidance on the economic impacts of trip limits vs. closed seasons.

The conference call is scheduled for December 12, 2003 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. EST. Listening stations will be available at the following locations for members of the public that wish to monitor the SSC session: National Marine Fisheries Service Panama City Laboratory, 3500 Delwood Beach Road, Panama City, Florida. National Marine Fisheries Service Southeast Regional Office, 9721 North Executive Center Drive, St. Petersburg, Florida.

Red grouper were declared overfished by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in October 2000. Following additional analyses and a subsequent stock assessment in 2002, the Council, in May 2003, submitted Reef Fish Secretarial Amendment 1 to NMFS. This amendment contained a rebuilding plan 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. Because more than one year had passed since the designation of red grouper as overfished, the amendment was submitted as a Secretarial Amendment rather than as a Council Plan Amendment.

NMFS reviewed the plan as submitted by the Gulf Council and made revisions to it. The revisions included retaining the February 15-March 15 commercial closed season, implementing a hard quota on red grouper so that the commercial shallow-water grouper fishery will close when either the red grouper or shallow-water grouper quota is met, whichever comes first, and not implementing a trip limit.

A draft of the revised Secretarial Amendment was reviewed by the SSC at a meeting held October 28-29, 2003. However, the NMFS revisions were not provided to the SSC until just prior to the meeting, and the SSC was unable to review the socioeconomic information contained in the amendmentís regulatory impact review section. At the November 9-12, 2003 Council meeting in Biloxi, Mississippi, Council members debated whether it would be less economically disruptive to the commercial shallow-water grouper fishery to have a potential quota closure or a shallow-water grouper trip limit set low enough to prevent a quota closure. Since the Council will have another opportunity to review and comment on Secretarial Amendment 1 at its January 12-16, 2004 meeting in Austin, Texas, the Council decided to ask the SSC to reconvene by conference call to evaluate the socioeconomic information in the amendment, with particular emphasis on the economic impacts of trip limits vs. closed seasons.

To obtain a copy of Reef Fish Secretarial Amendment 1, contact Phil Steele, National Marine Fisheries Service, Southeast Regional Office, 9721 Executive Center Drive, North, St. Petersburg, Florida 33702, telephone 727-570-5305, fax 727-570-5583, e-mail Phil.Steele@noaa.gov. 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 (813-228-2815) by December 5, 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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