Council to hold public hearing/scoping meeting series in May

SAFMC logo South Atlantic Fishery Management Council  
News Release  
April 14, 2008 CONTACT: Kim Iverson
Public Information Officer
(843) 571-4366

Council to Hold Public Hearing/Scoping Meeting Series in May

Public input solicited on measures to end overfishing for gag, vermilion snapper, and red snapper; Also Ecosystem-based management and the protection of deepwater corals 

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council will hold a series of public meetings May 7 -15, 2008 to solicit input on fishery management alternatives designed to end overfishing for gag grouper, vermilion snapper, and red snapper, three economically important species in the snapper grouper management complex. The Council is also seeking input on the Fishery Ecosystem Plan and the Comprehensive Ecosystem Amendment, an ecosystem-based approach to fishery management. The Comprehensive Ecosystem Amendment would provide protection to large areas of deepwater coral habitat in the South Atlantic region. The public hearings and scoping meetings will utilize a format that allows the public to receive presentations, hold informal discussions with Council staff, and provide public comment to the area Council representative in attendance at each meeting between 3:00 PM until 7:00 PM.

Overview
During its June 2007 meeting, the Council received updated stock assessment information indicating that overfishing was occurring for gag grouper and vermilion snapper. To end this overfishing within one year, as specified in the Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization Act, the Council began developing Amendment 16 to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan. Input received during public scoping meetings held in September 2007 has been incorporated into management alternatives to reduce harvest of gag and vermilion snapper to end overfishing, address bycatch, establish interim allocations between recreational and commercial fishermen, and update management reference points such as Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY).

Alternatives under consideration in Amendment 16 include a January – April gag grouper spawning season closure for the both commercial and recreational sectors. In addition, during the closure fishing for and/or possession of the following species would be prohibited: black grouper, red grouper, scamp, red hind, rock hind, yellowmouth grouper, tiger grouper, yellowfin grouper, graysby, and coney. Other measures being considered include dividing the commercial quota for gag grouper between two regions, establishing a directed commercial quota for vermilion snapper, adjusting the recreational bag and size limits, and a recreational seasonal closure for vermilion snapper. Amendment 16 also includes measures to reduce bycatch mortality by requiring fishermen fishing for snapper grouper species to use venting and dehooking tools as well as circle hooks. Alternatives are also included for interim allocations between recreational and commercial fishermen.

The Council will conduct a public hearing regarding its Fishery Ecosystem Plan and the Comprehensive Ecosystem Amendment as part of the meeting series. The Fishery Ecosystem Plan will act as a "source document" for subsequent Comprehensive Amendments addressing issues across existing fishery management plans and allow for an ecosystem-based approach to management. The first Comprehensive Ecosystem Amendment includes alternatives to establish deepwater coral Habitat Areas of Particular Concern (HAPCs) to provide protection for these ecologically important and unique deepwater coral habitats.

Public scoping will also be conducted for Amendment 18 to the Snapper Grouper FMP to get input on reductions needed to address overfishing for red snapper. Recent stock assessments show red snapper stocks are experiencing overfishing and are overfished, conditions that will require appropriate reductions in harvest.

The Council is also accepting written comments on these issues until 5:00 p.m. on May 16, 2008. Copies of the public hearing and scoping documents with details on how to submit written comments on each topic are available by contacting the Council office and will be posted on the Public Hearing Documents page as they become available.

Public Hearing/ Scoping Meeting Dates and Locations
3:00 PM – 7:00 PM (attend any time between these hours)

May 7, 2008
Key Largo Grande
97000 S. Overseas Highway
Key Largo, Florida 3307
Phone: 866-597-5397

May 9, 2008
Radisson Resort at the Port
8701 Astronaut Boulevard
Cape Canaveral, Florida 32920
Phone: 321-784-0000

May 12, 2008
Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum
175 Bourne Avenue
Pooler, Georgia 31322
Phone: 912-748-8888

May 13, 2008
Town & Country Inn
2008 Savannah Highway
Charleston, South Carolina 29407
Phone: 843-571-1000

May 15, 2008
Sheraton New Bern
100 Middle Street
New Bern, North Carolina 28560
Phone: 252-638-3585

Council to Hold Public Hearing/Scoping Meeting Series in May