NOAA Announces Six Month Closure For Gulf of Mexico Gag Grouper


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service has announced a six month closure for gag grouper in Gulf of Mexico federal waters. The closure will begin on January 1, 2011 and could be extended for an additional six months if NOAA deems it necessary. This interim rule will be in effect for 180 days and it could be extended for another 186 days upon further review.

At this time the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will not extend this closure to state waters less than nine nautical miles from shore. This rule will also not affect the recreational catch of red or black grouper.

The FWC has updated the information at its grouper regulations page on its website. For more information see this link.

This is the official release from NOAA.

Contact: Kim Amendola (FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE)
727- 551-5707 November 30, 2010

NOAA Announces Fishing Rules to Protect Gulf of Mexico Gag and Red Grouper

NOAA’s Fisheries Service has announced a temporary rule that will prohibit recreational fishing for gag grouper in Gulf of Mexico federal waters. The six-month rule becomes effective on January 1, 2011, and can be extended an additional six months if necessary.

This rule will also reduce the commercial quota from 1.49 million pounds to 100,000 pounds and will prohibit the use of the red grouper multi-use individual fishing quota allocation for harvesting gag grouper. The quota will discourage commercial vessels from targeting gag or from fishing in areas with high accidental catch of gag, while still allowing the retention of some accidentally-caught gag that would otherwise be discarded dead at sea.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council requested the fisheries service implement this temporary rule while the council explores long-term measures to address the poor condition of the gag grouper population.

“This was a difficult decision, but a necessary action to protect the Gulf gag grouper population,” said Roy Crabtree, southeast regional administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service. “We hope this is a short term action and will look to increase the harvest of gag as soon as possible.”

The most recent scientific assessment update shows too many gag grouper are being removed from the population too quickly, indicating a need for protection under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

The council is expected to recommend long-term measures for gag grouper to the fisheries service sometime next year. NOAA’s Fisheries Service will provide public comment periods before implementing final long-term management measures.

Through a separate long-term rule, the council also requested the fisheries service to reduce the red grouper total allowable catch from 7.57 million pounds to 5.68 million pounds, due to a recent scientific assessment update that indicates the population has declined since 2005. This rule will also become effective on January 1, 2011.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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