Sargassum is a type brown macroalgae (seaweed) that is found free-floating offshore in mats throughout the South Atlantic region. These mats of vegetation provide crucial habitat for a wide variety of marine organisms in the open ocean, including economically important pelagic species such as tuna, dolphin, wahoo and billfish as well as sea turtles and marine birds. A North Carolina company had been harvesting Sargassum for use in the feed supplement industry.
The final Fishery Management Plan for Pelagic Sargassum Habitat in the South Atlantic Region was approved in 2003 and implemented strict restrictions on commercial harvest of this important fish habitat.
The approved plan includes strong limitations on future commercial harvest. Restrictions include:
- Prohibition of harvest south of the NC/SC state boundary;
- A total allowable catch (TAC) of 5,000 pounds wet weight per year;
- Harvest is limited to November through June to protect turtles;
- Requirement for observers onboard any vessel harvesting Sargassum;
- Prohibition of harvest within 100 miles of shore; and
- Harvesting gear specifications.
Fishery Management Plan / Amendments
Amendment 1 (2012)
This amendment was included under the Comprehensive Ecosystem-Based Amendment 2 (CE-BA 2) and designated or modified EFH and EFH-HAPCs, including the FMP for Pelagic Sargassum Habitat.
CE-BA 2 Appendices Notice of Availability Proposed Rule Final Rule