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: IMMEDIATELY
CONTACT: STU KENNEDY - 813.228.2815 

PUBLIC HEARINGS SCHEDULED ON THE CHARTERBOAT PERMIT MORATORIUM, REEF FISH AMENDMENT 18A, AND WORKSHOPS ON RED GROUPER

Tampa, Florida - May 24, 2005 - The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) will hold a series of public hearings to solicit comments on two issues in the following order:

1. Draft Amendment to the FMPs for Reef Fish (Amendment 25) and Coastal Migratory Pelagics (Amendment 17) for extending the Charter Vessel/Headboat Permit Moratorium. Amendments establishing the charter vessel/headboat permit moratorium for the CMP fishery and the Reef Fish fishery that were approved by NOAA Fisheries on May 6, 2003, and implemented on June 16, 2003 (68 FR 26280). The intended effect of these Amendments was to cap the number of for-hire vessels operating in these two fisheries at the current level (as of March 29, 2001) while the Council evaluated whether limited access programs were needed to constrain effort. In this amendment, the Council is considering allowing the permit to expire on June 16, 2006 or extending the moratorium on for-hire Reef Fish and CMP permits for a finite period of time or indefinitely.

2. Draft Amendment 18A to the Reef Fish Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico: Reef Fish Amendment 18A deals with enforcement and monitoring issues, including simultaneous commercial and recreational harvest on a vessel (to improve enforceability of prohibition on sale of recreationally caught reef fish), maximum crew size on a Coast Guard inspected vessel when fishing commercially (to resolve a conflict between NMFS maximum crew size and USCG minimum crew size regulations), use of reef fish for bait, and vessel monitoring system (VMS) requirements on commercial reef fish vessels. Amendment 18A also addresses administrative changes to the framework procedure for setting total allowable catch (TAC) of reef fish, and measures to reduce bycatch and bycatch mortality of endangered sea turtles and smalltooth sawfish taken inadvertently in the commercial and charter/headboat reef fish fishery.

After the public hearings, workshops will be held to address potential interim measures to reduce recreational red grouper harvest in the Gulf of Mexico, with associated impacts on gag and other groupers: Secretarial Amendment 1 to the Reef Fish Fishery Management Plan of the Gulf of Mexico established a rebuilding plan and 6.56 mp GW allowable biological catch for red grouper. During 2003 and 2004, recreational red grouper landings exceeded the 1.25 mp GW recreational allocation. In March 2005, the Gulf Council requested NMFS implement an interim rule to reduce the 2005 recreational red grouper harvest to levels in Secretarial Amendment 1. The purpose of this action is to establish interim regulations that reduce the likelihood overfishing for red grouper will occur in 2005. Possible measures include changes to the red grouper and aggregate grouper bag limits, changes in size limit, and a closed season for all groupers.

The public hearings will be held beginning at 6:00 p.m. and concluding no later that 10:00 p.m. at the following locations and dates:

Monday, June 13, 2005 
New Orleans Airport Ramada Inn and Suites
110 James Drive East
St. Rose, Louisiana 70087
504-466-1355
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
University of Texas Marine Science Institute Auditorium
750 Channel View Drive
Port Aransas, Texas 78373
361-749-6711
Tuesday, June 14, 2005 
Mississippi Department of Marine Resources
1141 Bayview Drive
Biloxi, Mississippi 39530,
228-374-5000
Thursday, June 23, 2005
Port Isabel Community Center
213 Yturria
Port Isabel, Texas 78578
956-943-2682
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Orange Beach Community Center
4849 Wilson Boulevard
Orange Beach, Alabama 36561
251-981-6028
Monday, June 27, 2005
DoubleTree Grand Key Resort
3990 S. Roosevelt Boulevard
Key West, Florida 33040
888-310-1540
Thursday, June 16, 2005
Destin Community Center
101 Stahlman Avenue
Destin, Florida 32541
850-654-5184
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Hilton
5111 Tamiami Trail North
Naples, Florida 34103
239-430-4900
Monday, June 20, 2005
The San Luis Resort
5222 Seawall Boulevard
Galveston Island, Texas 77551
409-744-1500
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
City of Madeira Beach
300 Municipal Drive
Madeira Beach, Florida 33708
727-391-9951

A copy of the Amendments and related materials can be obtained by calling the Council office at 813.228.2815. These meetings are physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to Dawn Aring at the Council by June 6, 2005.

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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