6/18/14 – SAFMC News Release: Council Approves Several Measures for Public Hearing/Scoping Meetings in August

South Atlantic Fishery Management Council:

News Release

June 18, 2014
PDF version

CONTACT:  Kim Iverson
Public Information Officer
Toll Free 866/SAFMC-10 or 843/571-4366

Council Approves Several Measures for Public Hearing/Scoping Meetings in August    

Federal fishery managers faced a full agenda during their meeting last week in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, addressing issues ranging from the transportation of dolphin fillets from the Bahamas into U. S. waters to protection of deepwater corals.  Members of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council reviewed draft amendments to fishery management plans and approved several to take out to public hearing and scoping meetings in August of this year.  After reviewing recommendations from its Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC), advisory panels, and public comment, the Council approved the following amendments for public hearings:

  • Dolphin Wahoo Amendment 7/ Snapper Grouper Amendment 33 (fillets) – The Council is considering actions to allow fillets of dolphin (mahi mahi) and wahoo to be transported by recreational fishermen traveling from The Bahamas into U.S. federal waters.  Fillets of the two species are currently prohibited from transport within the U.S. EEZ.  Amendment 33 would also modify current regulations that allow transport of fillets of species within the snapper grouper management complex.
  • Snapper Grouper Amendment 32 (blueline tilefish) – The amendment would adjust the Acceptable Biological Catch, Annual Catch Limit (ACL), and other management parameters. Following a 2013 stock assessment for blueline tilefish, the Council requested an emergency action to reduce the ACL until Amendment 32 could be implemented to end overfishing. The emergency rule implemented an ACL of 224,100 pounds (whole weight) beginning April 17, 2014.  In 2012, blueline tilefish landings totaled 477,125 pounds (ww). The amendment would further reduce the ACL based on recommendations from the SSC.  Amendment 32 would also modify Accountability Measures, establish a commercial trip limit, and modify the current recreational bag limit. Because of concerns about data used in the 2013 stock assessment, the Council requested a new standard stock assessment be conducted for blueline tilefish through the Southeast Data, Assessment and Review (SEDAR) program as soon as possible. The commercial fishery will close effective June 23, 2014.
  • Snapper Grouper Regulatory Amendment 20 (snowy grouper) – The amendment includes alternatives to adjust the current rebuilding strategy and Annual Catch Limit for snowy grouper based on the 2013 stock assessment.  Other alternatives include updating allocations between commercial and recreational sectors, changes to the current recreational bag limit of 1 fish per vessel per day, dividing the commercial fishing year, and modifying the commercial trip limit.
  • Generic Accountability Measures and Dolphin Allocation Amendment – The amendment would modify Accountability Measures for the golden crab fishery as well as several snapper grouper species to provide consistency.  Alternatives for modifying allocations between commercial and recreational sectors for dolphin are also included.
  • Coastal Migratory Pelagic Framework Amendment 2 (Atlantic Spanish Mackerel) – The amendment includes alternatives to modify Atlantic Spanish mackerel commercial trip limits off of SC, GA and FL.

The Council will also conduct public scoping during the August meetings on proposed amendments to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan.  Amendment 35 proposes the removal of some species from the management unit and Amendment 36 proposes a process to establish Special Management Zones for spawning areas.

The public hearing and scoping meetings will be held August 6 –14, 2014.  Additional details, including specific meeting dates and locations are available from the Public Hearing and Scoping Meeting page of the Council’s website at safmc.net/cms.  Copies of the public hearing and scoping documents will be posted as they become available.

Other Actions

After considering recommendations from its Scientific and Statistical Committee, the Council deferred approval of Snapper Grouper Amendment 29 for submission to the Secretary of Commerce. The amendment would establish Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC) levels for species that have not been assessed but for which there are reliable catch data.  The amendment also proposes management measures for gray triggerfish, including changes to minimum size limits, a split season for the commercial fishery, and commercial trip limits.  The Council made a change to the proposed ABC and ACLs for some species and will review the amendment again at September 2014 Council meeting.

Work continued on Snapper Grouper Regulatory Amendment 16 to reconsider the annual November 1 to April 30 prohibition on the use of black sea bass pot gear in the commercial fishery.  The Council is considering the modifications that would increase socio-economic benefits to fishermen while maintaining protection of whales in the South Atlantic region.  The Council is currently scheduled to approve the amendment for public hearings to be held in early 2015.

Council members also received a report on public input received as part of the Council’s Visioning Project for the snapper grouper fishery. A total of 26 port meetings were held throughout the region from February through April with a total of 360 participants. Comments are also still being accepted online through the port meeting discussion form. (See: https://safmc.net/resoure-library/port-meeting-discussion) Key issues identified by stakeholders included data collection and reporting, science and stock assessments, management flexibility, reducing discards, allocations, time/area management, cooperative research, and other management concerns. The Council will hold a special Visioning Council Meeting October 14-16, 2014 in N. Charleston, S.C. Additional information about the Visioning Project, including individual meeting and state-by-state summaries from the port meetings, is available from the Visioning Project page on the Council’s website at safmc.net/cms or by contacting Amber Von Harten at 843/571-4366 or amber.vonharten@safmc.net.

Committee reports for the June 2014 meeting are now available at safmc.net/cms.  The next meeting of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is scheduled for September 15-19, 2014 in Charleston, SC.  Details for the meeting and meeting materials will be posted online as they become available.