This is a publication of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council pursuant to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Award No. NA04NMF4410020.

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CONTACT: STEVEN ATRAN

SHARK AND OCEANIC MIGRATORY SPECIES SCIENTIFIC AND STATISTICAL COMMITTEES AND HIGHLY MIGRATORY SPECIES AND BILLFISH ADVISORY PANELS TO REVIEW POTENTIAL ISSUES FOR NOAA FISHERIES HIGHLY MIGRATORY SPECIES DIVISION ACTION

Tampa, Florida - July 30, 2004 - The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) will convene a joint meeting of its Special Shark Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) and Special Oceanic Migratory Species SSC and a joint meeting of its Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Advisory Panel (AP) and Billfish AP. The meetings will be held at the Hilton Tampa Airport Westshore Hotel, 2225 Lois Avenue, Tampa, Florida 33607. The joint Shark/ Oceanic Migratory Species SSC meeting is scheduled on Monday, August 23, 2004 from 9:00 a.m until 5:00 p.m. and the joint HMS/Billfish AP meeting is scheduled on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 from 9:00 a.m until 5:00 p.m.

At each of these meetings, a representative from the NOAA Fisheries Highly Migratory Species Division will present a summary of issues and options for Amendment 2 to the HMS and Billfish Fishery Management Plans, which is currently in its initial scoping phase. The issues and options include a wide range of potential management measures that could affect fishermen, dealers, or equipment suppliers for the Atlantic tuna, swordfish, shark, or billfish fisheries. Some of the issues and potential options for which NOAA Fisheries is requesting comment include, but are not limited to: modifying the General category allocation of Bluefin tuna; filleting Atlantic tuna at sea; modifying the swordfish bag limit for anglers; changing the large coastal shark trip limit for directed permit holders; streamlining the limited access permit program; simplifying the quota and permitting administrative processes for exempted fishing permits; modifying non-tournament reporting of billfish harvest; establishing outreach workshops; implementing the bycatch reduction plan; green stick and or spearfishing as allowable gears for HMS fisheries; and updating essential fish habitat identifications and data for all HMS.

The joint Shark/Oceanic Migratory Species SSC and the joint HMS/Billfish AP will provide recommendations to the Council on issues and alternatives that should be included in the amendment. The Council will review the SSC and AP recommendations at its September 13-17, 2004 meeting in Panama City Beach, Florida, at which time it will make its recommendations to the NOAA Fisheries HMS Division.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is one of eight 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. Although the Council does not manage highly migratory species, it does provide recommendations to the NMFS HMS Division on management measures that affect fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. 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 August 13, 2004.

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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