Friday, March 25, 2011

Public Hearings Scheduled for Federal Mackerel, Cobia and Spiny Lobster Fisheries

News Release from SAFMC. Note the Monday April 18th council meeting in Cape Canaveral:

Federal fishery managers are soliciting public input on measures proposed for species managed jointly by the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Councils, including king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, and cobia.  Measures are also being proposed for the lobster fishery, also managed jointly.  Annual Catch Limits (in pounds or numbers of fish) and accountability measures (AMs) must be set for these species by the end of 2011, as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Act to prevent overfishing.  The measures will impact both commercial and recreational fishermen who fish in federal waters along the Atlantic coast and Gulf of Mexico.  A series of 7 public hearings are scheduled regarding the following:

·         Amendment 18 to the Coastal Migratory Pelagics Fishery Management Plan
Because of their migratory nature, king mackerel and Spanish mackerel are currently managed between the two councils using separate migratory groups.  Amendment 18 includes alternatives for setting ACLs for both Gulf and South Atlantic migratory group king mackerel and Spanish mackerel, as well as options for establishing a similar approach to management for cobia.  The hearings will only address Atlantic Migratory Groups of king and Spanish mackerel and cobia; the Gulf Council will conduct hearings prior to June on Gulf Migratory Groups.

Under the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s preferred management alternatives for king mackerel, the ACL for the Atlantic Migratory Group would be set at 10.46 million pounds, and no additional restrictions would be necessary.  The stock is not overfished nor undergoing overfishing.  The current commercial ACL (quota) for Atlantic Migratory Group king mackerel is 3.71 million pounds.  The allocation for king mackerel would stay the same, with 62.9% of the ACL allocated to recreational anglers and 37.1% to commercial fishermen.  The current bag limit for king mackerel is 3 per person/day from Georgia through New York and 2 per person/day off the east coast of Florida.  The minimum size limit for both commercial and recreational fishermen is 24 inches (fork-length).

Fishermen targeting Spanish mackerel in the South Atlantic could see a reduction in harvest with an ACL of 5.29 million pounds as proposed in Amendment 18.  The current allocation of 45% recreational and 55% commercial would remain the same, but in order to avoid exceeding the ACL, the amendment contains a proposal to reduce the recreational bag limit from 15 to 10 fish per person/day.  The annual commercial quota would be reduced from 3.87 million pounds to 2.91 million pounds. The stock is not undergoing overfishing, but a 2008 stock assessment could not determine if the stock was overfished.  For cobia, the Council’s preferred ACL alternative would keep current management measures in place with a 2 per person/day bag limit and a 33 inch fork-length minimum size limit. The commercial fishery operates under the same restrictions.  The amendment contains alternatives to establish new sector allocations for cobia and possible spawning season closures. 

·         Spiny Lobster Amendment 10
Amendment 10 to the Spiny Lobster Fishery Management Plan will meet the requirements to set ACLs and AMs to prevent overfishing of Caribbean spiny lobster in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. The amendment also considers possible sector allocations for spiny lobster in state and federal waters from North Carolina through Texas.  The amendment contains management alternatives for several other issues regarding the lobster fishery, including: removal of some species of lobster from the Fishery Management Unit; limiting fishing areas to protect threatened staghorn and elkhorn corals; updating framework procedures and protocol for enhanced cooperative management; modifying regulations regarding the use of “shorts” or undersized lobster as attractants; modifying tailing requirements for vessels that obtain a tailing permit; requirements for gear markings on trap lines to help identify any entanglements with endangered species; and provisions to allow public removal of derelict traps.

Public hearings for the amendments will take place from 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM.  Council staff will provide an overview of each amendment and be on hand to answer questions.  Local Council representatives will take formal comments on the public hearing documents any time between those hours. 

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is also accepting written and email comments from March 25, 2011 until 5:00 p.m. on April 29, 2011.  Copies of the public hearing documents with details on how to submit written comments will be posted on the Council’s web site at and available by contacting the Council office at 843/571-4366 or Toll Free 866/SAFMC-10.

Public Hearing/Scoping Meeting Schedule

Monday, April 11
Hilton New Bern Riverfront
100 Middle Street
New Bern, NC 28562
Phone: 252/638-3585

Tuesday, April 12
Hilton Garden Inn
5265 International Blvd.
N. Charleston, SC 29418
Phone: 843/308-9330

Wednesday, April 13
Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum
175 Bourne Avenue
Pooler, GA 31322
Phone: 912/748-8888

Thursday, April 14                  
Crowne Plaza Riverfront           
1201 Riverplace Blvd.              
Jacksonville, FL 32207
Phone: 904/398-8800               

Monday, April 18                                
Radisson Resort at the Port     
8701 Astronaut Blvd.                
Cape Canaveral, FL 32920       
Phone: 321/784-0000

*Tuesday, April 19
Hawks Cay Resort
61 Hawks Cay Blvd.
Duck Key, FL 33050
Phone: 305/743-7000

*Wednesday, April 20
Doubletree Grand Key
3990 S. Roosevelt Blvd.
Key West, FL 33040
Phone: 305/293-1818

*Denotes joint hearing with the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

SAFMC News Release: Council Proposes Reduction in Black Sea Bass Limits

March 14th News Release from the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council:

Council Proposes Reduction in Black Sea Bass Limits
Bag limit reductions aimed at expanding recreational fishing year season

     In an effort to keep recreational fishermen from exceeding annual catch limits (ACLs) set for black sea bass in the coming fishing year, members of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council approved an amendment that, if approved by the Secretary of Commerce, will reduce the recreational bag limit for black sea bass from 15 per person/day to 5 per person/day beginning June 1, 2011.  The recreational fishery for black sea bass closed on February 12th of this year after NOAA Fisheries Service projected the recreational allocation of 409,000 pounds had been met.  The fishing year for black sea bass in the South Atlantic region is from June 1st through May 31st.  The recreational allocation includes both private anglers and for-hire (charter and headboat) landings and represents 57% of the total ACL. 
     The Council approved Regulatory Amendment 9 to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan during its meeting last week in St. Simons Island, GA.  In addition to decreasing the bag limit for black sea bass, the amendment also allows that in the future, any unused portion of the ACL may be carried over from one fishing year to the next.  However, under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, for stocks listed as overfished, any overages of the current ACL must be deducted from the next fishing year’s ACL.  The black sea bass stock is currently listed as overfished and recreational anglers may have exceeded the ACL this past season.  NOAA Fisheries Service is responsible for providing the final catch numbers and will do so prior to June 1st.
     A new benchmark stock assessment for black sea bass will be completed later this year and the results presented to the Council during its December 5-9, 2011 meeting in Raleigh, NC.  The stock is currently in year 5 of a 10 year rebuilding program, and the Council may develop additional management measures based on the updated stock assessment.  Fishermen have repeatedly provided comments to the Council regarding the negative economic impacts of the recreational closure that began in February.  Charter and headboat operators rely on black sea bass for their fishing trips during the shallow-water grouper spawning season closure from January through April, an annual recreational vermilion snapper closed season November through March, and the current year-round prohibition on the harvest of red snapper for both commercial and recreational fishermen.  Approximately 65 fishermen attended the public comment period held during last week’s meeting.
     In addition to measures affecting black sea bass, Regulatory Amendment 9 would also create commercial trip limits of 1500 pounds gutted weight (gw) for vermilion snapper and 1000 pounds (gw) for gag, both measures designed to help extend the fishing season.  The proposed trip limit for greater amberjack would increase slightly from 1,000 to 1,200 pounds (gw).
     The Council’s intent is to have the amendment approved by the Secretary of Commerce in time to implement the management measures, including the bag limit reductions for black sea bass, by June 1, 2011.
Other Actions:
     The Council reviewed public comments received regarding development of the Comprehensive ACL Amendment and continued to choose preferred management measures.  The amendment sets ACLs and accountability measures for snapper grouper species not listed as overfished and undergoing overfishing, as well as dolphin (fish) and wahoo.  Preferred measures for wahoo would keep the current management measures in place.  Measures for dolphin would keep current recreational bag limits, prohibit bag limit sales by the for-hire sector (bag limit sale is currently prohibited by private anglers), and establish a 20” size limit off the coast of SC.  The Council is scheduled to approve the amendment during its June 2011 meeting for review by the Secretary of Commerce.
     The Council also reviewed public comments relative to the use of catch shares in commercial fisheries and approved a motion to terminate all work relative to catch share development as currently outlined in draft Amendment 21 to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan (excluding catch share development for the golden crab and wreckfish fisheries). 
     Work continues on the development of an amendment to consider options for addressing overfishing of speckled hind and warsaw grouper.  Recent regulations restrict fishing for or retention of deepwater species (snowy grouper, blueline tilefish, yellowedge grouper, misty grouper, queen snapper, and silk snapper) in waters greater than 240 feet deep.  The intent is to eliminate bycatch mortality when speckled hind and warsaw grouper are caught while fishermen are targeting other deepwater species.  The Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee will review the draft amendment when it meets April 5-7, 2010 and the Council will review the SSC recommendations during its June meeting in Key West, FL.
     The Council approved Amendment 18 to the Coastal Migratory Pelagics Fishery Management Plan for public hearings.  The amendment establishes ACLs and accountability measures for king mackerel, Spanish mackerel and cobia.  Public hearings are scheduled for April 2011.  Details regarding the hearings, including the Amendment 18 Public Hearing Document, will be posted on the Council’s website at  as they become available.
     The next meeting of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is scheduled for June 12-17, 2011 in Key West, FL.  Details, including the meeting agenda and briefing book materials will be posted as they become available at