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

Gulf Council logoNEWS RELEASE
RELEASE: AS APPROPRIATE
CONTACT: WAYNE E. SWINGLE - 813.228.2815

COUNCIL TO TAKE FINAL ACTION ON ESSENTIAL FISH HABITAT (EFH) AMENDMENT AND LIMITED ACCESS AMENDMENTS FOR COMMERCIAL KING MACKEREL AND REEF FISH FISHERIES

Tampa, Florida - December 10, 2004 - The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) will meet January 10-13, 2005 at the Sheraton Baton Rouge, 102 France Street, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The Councilís Committees will meet Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning. The Council session will begin at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday with public testimony on (1) Final Reef Fish Amendment 24, (2) Final Coastal Migratory Pelagics (CMP) Amendment 15, (3) Final Generic EFH Amendment, (4) the Texas Shrimp Closure, and (5) Exempted fishing permits (if any). Persons who will testify before the Council must register before the start of the testimony period. Reef Fish Amendment 24 and CMP Amendment 15 create permanent limited access systems for commercial reef fish and commercial king mackerel fisheries, respectively. The EFH Amendment would prohibit bottom tending gear, bottom anchoring and heavy fishing weights in coral reef areas within areas designated a Habitat Area of Particular Concern (HAPCs). Copies of these documents, and that for the Texas Shrimp Closure, are available by calling or emailing the Council.

The meeting will begin on Monday, January 10, 2005 with the Shrimp Management Committee at 9:30 a.m. This committee will review the public hearing draft of Shrimp Amendment 13 which addresses limited access in the shrimp fishery and develops their recommendations to the Council. The committee will also review scientific analyses of the effect of the cooperative shrimp closure with the state of Texas and determine whether the closure should be implemented in 2005.

The Reef Fish Management Committee will meet from 1:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Monday and from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday. The committee will take final action on Reef Fish Amendment 24. The Committee will then discuss a proposed vessel buy-out program for the Gulf commercial grouper fishery based on funding provided by Congress. The committee will also review a biological opinion on the effect of the Gulf reef fish fishery, proposed by NMFS, under the Endangered Species Act. The Committee will also review a draft of Reef Fish Amendment 18A addressing the grouper fishery and a preliminary draft of a red grouper regulatory amendment providing for commercial vessel trip limits.

On Tuesday morning at 10:30 a.m., the Mackerel Management Committee will meet to take final action on CMP Amendment 15. At 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, a joint meeting of the Artificial Reef and Reef Fish Management Committees will be held to review a request by the Mississippi Fishing Banks, Inc. to designate their artificial reefs as special management zones (SMZs) where fishing would be limited to use of no more than 3 hooks per line. The Data Collection Committee meeting at 2:00 p.m. will hear an update by the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission (GSMFC) on its Fisheries Information Network (FIN) program. Under this program, fisheries information is collected from vessels and independently by trawls and other gear. At 3:00 p.m., a joint meeting of the Reef Fish and Mackerel Management Committees will be held to review an options paper for an amendment that would extend the charter vessel permit moratorium. At 4:30 p.m., the Administrative Policy Committee will meet to review feasibility studies for distribution of Council mail via email and video/teleconferencing of public hearings or meetings.

Beginning at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, the Habitat Protection Committee will take final action on the EFH Amendment by developing their recommendations to Council. Beginning at 9:30 a.m., the Sustainable Fisheries/Ecosystem Committee

will meet to review NMFS actions on developing social survey documents. The Committee will also address developing a Request for Proposal (RFP) for soliciting contractual support in carrying out social ecosystem surveys. They will also discuss the role of the Ecosystem SSC.

The Council will act on the Committee recommendations on Wednesday afternoon and all Thursday morning.

Although other non-emergency issues not on the agendas may come before the Council and Committees 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 Council and Committees 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 established times for addressing items on the agenda may be adjusted as necessary to accommodate the untimely completion of discussion relevant to other agenda items. In order to further allow for such adjustments and completion of all items on the agenda, the meeting may be extended from or completed prior to the date established in this notice. A copy of the committee schedule and Council 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 December 29, 2004.

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. 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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