FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 6, 2019
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Federal Fishery Managers Approve Measures for Red Snapper, Mackerel, Blueline Tilefish
Council addresses red snapper season requirements, mackerel trip limits, tilefish catch level increase
Wilmington, NC - Members of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council met this week in Wilmington, North Carolina and approved management measures, that if approved by the Secretary of Commerce, will provide flexibility for red snapper seasons, increase trip limits for the commercial king mackerel fishery, and allow additional harvest of blueline tilefish.
Each year, NOAA Fisheries determines if a season for red snapper can occur in federal waters in the South Atlantic. Under current regulations, if the number of days is less than three, the fishery will not open. This applies to both recreational and commercial sectors. The Council approved Regulatory Amendment 33 to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan for formal review by the Secretary of Commerce that would eliminate that requirement, providing more flexibility should a shortened season be allowed. After much discussion, the Council decided not to move forward with an action to change the opening date of the commercial red snapper season within the regulatory amendment.
While Council members are well-aware that fishermen are anxious to have additional days added to the red snapper season as the stock continues to rebuild, the Council must abide by annual catch limits until a stock assessment is completed. The Council has approved measures that will help shorten the time required for a new red snapper stock assessment through the Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR) stock assessment program. The new assessment is scheduled to begin in 2021.
The Council also approved measures to increase the commercial king mackerel trip limit in the Atlantic Southern Zone, south of the Flagler/Volusia County line in Florida during season two. Framework Amendment 8 to the Coastal Migratory Pelagic Fishery Management Plan would set the trip limit at 100 fish throughout season two, with no step-up during the month of February. Earlier this year, the Council requested NOAA Fisheries increase the trip limit from 50-fish to 75-fish after hearing concerns from fishermen that they were not able to harvest the full commercial annual catch limit due to the more restrictive trip limits. The 75-fish increase was approved by NOAA Fisheries through emergency rule for the 2019/2020 season beginning October 1st. The Council’s intent is to have the new regulations in place for the 2020/2021 season. Measures for the Spanish mackerel commercial fishery were also discussed. The Council is considering reducing the current trip limit of 3,500 pounds in the Northern Zone (NC/SC line through NY) to help extend the season, with alternatives ranging from 1,500 to 2,500 pounds and a preferred trip limit of 2,000 pounds. Public hearings will be held via webinar in late January or early February.
The most recent stock assessment for blueline tilefish was conducted in 2017 as a joint assessment between the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council. The deep water fishery primarily occurs in the South Atlantic, but landings have increased north of North Carolina. Following the stock assessment, the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee provided recommendations for catch level increases. The Council considered options for implementing the increases and moved forward with final approval of Abbreviated Framework Amendment 3 during its meeting this week. If approved by the Secretary of Commerce, the amendment will increase the annual catch limit for blueline tilefish from 174,798 pounds (whole weight) to 233,968 pounds (whole weight).
Additional information about the December Council meeting, including an interactive story map, committee reports, and summary motions is available from the Council’s website at: https://safmc.net/safmc-meetings/council-meetings/. The next meeting of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is scheduled for March 2-6, 2020 in Jekyll Island, GA.