6/18/15 – SAFMC News Release: Federal Fishery Managers from South Atlantic and Gulf Address Shared Issues

South Atlantic Fishery Management Council

News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                 

June 18, 2015  

Download PDF version here

CONTACT:  Kim Iverson

Public Information Officer

Toll Free 866/SAFMC-10 or 843/571-4366


Federal Fishery Managers from South Atlantic and Gulf Address Shared Issues

Federal fishery managers faced a full agenda during their meetings last week in Key West, Florida as the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council and Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council met in joint session on Thursday.  Each council also met separately during the week. The regional fishery management councils are responsible for managing species in federal waters ranging from three to 200 miles in the South Atlantic and greater than nine miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Agenda items included the following management issues:

  • Joint Charterboat Reporting Amendment – The councils are considering actions to improve data used for management from the for-hire sector by requiring charterboats with federal permits from the South Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico to submit logbooks via electronic reporting within a specific time, ranging from daily to weekly reports. Council members discussed the need to increase the accuracy and timeliness of information such as landings, discards, effort, and socio-economic data for the for-hire sector, while reducing duplicate reporting. The amendment also includes alternatives for modifying current electronic reporting requirements for headboats. Council members representing the for-hire sector discussed concerns about the charterboat reporting requirements and the two councils agreed to include sample forms for data elements that may be required as part of the draft amendment.  A requirement for Vessel Monitoring Systems for for-hire vessels is being considered for the Gulf but is not being considered in the South Atlantic. Both councils will continue to work on the amendment and public hearings will be scheduled following the South Atlantic Council’s September 2015 meeting.
  • Mackerel Issues – Coastal Migratory Species (king mackerel, Spanish mackerel and cobia) are managed jointly by the two councils along with the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, and two amendments were discussed at the meeting. Amendment 26 addresses measures for king mackerel and includes actions to modify the stock boundary and revise annual catch limits for both Gulf and South Atlantic migratory groups of king mackerel, modify zone quotas and allocations for Gulf group king mackerel, and other measures.  Council members approved actions and alternatives in the amendment and public hearings will be scheduled later this year.  A separate amendment to divide the management of Coastal Migratory Pelagics between the two councils with separate permits is being developed by the Gulf Council but was not supported by the South Atlantic.
  • South Florida Issues Amendment – In an effort to help simplify regulations for fishermen fishing in South Florida and the Florida Keys, the two councils have been developing management alternatives focusing on three commonly encountered species that occur in overlapping jurisdictions: yellowtail snapper, mutton snapper, and black grouper.  After much discussion, the two councils agreed to move forward with development of the joint amendment that includes alternatives for delegating a limited amount of management authority to the State of Florida (bag limits, size limits, seasons and trip limits). Each council will continue to work on the amendment and coordinate on its development. 
  • Hogfish – The Gulf Council agreed to have the South Atlantic Council manage the Florida/South Florida hogfish stock and to support a recommendation from the Council’s advisory panel to consider a boundary line from an area known as “Shark Point” off the southwestern coast of Florida as the stock boundary. A recent stock assessment identified three individual stocks of hogfish in the South Atlantic Region, with the Florida/South Florida stock overfished and undergoing overfishing. The South Atlantic Council will move forward to develop management measures to end overfishing and rebuild the stock through Amendment 37 to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan.

Other Actions

      During its week long meeting, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council approved Amendment 35 to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan for review by the Secretary of Commerce.  The amendment would remove four species (black snapper, dog snapper, mahogany snapper, and schoolmaster) from the fishery management unit and also clarify regulations for commercial golden tilefish endorsements. 

    Two amendments were approved by the Council for public hearings to be held in August. Snapper Grouper Regulatory Amendment 16 includes alternatives to modify 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 modifications that would increase socio-economic benefits to fishermen while maintaining protection of whales in the South Atlantic.

     The Council is considering establishing Spawning Special Management Zones through Snapper Grouper Amendment 36 to provide additional protection to snapper grouper species, including speckled hind and warsaw grouper.  The Council considered input from its Snapper Grouper and Law Enforcement Advisory Panels and public input received during an initial round of public hearings held in April, and narrowed alternatives for sites to be considered.  The designation would prohibit fishing for or possession of snapper grouper species in the areas, but allow trolling for species such as dolphin, tuna and billfish. A total of 11 sites are being considered, ranging in size from 1 square miles to 27 square miles. The Council added a new action to the amendment to include a sunset provision, specifying that any designated sites must be monitored and the SMZ designation removed if no proof of spawning is found within a 10-year period.  Public hearings for both amendments will be held in August.  Details will be posted on the Council’s website at safmc.net/cms as they become available.

     The Council will also hold a series of public input meetings via webinar and webinar/comment stations July 7-30, 2015 for its Draft Vision Blueprint for the snapper grouper fishery. The Draft Vision Blueprint addresses long-term goals, objectives and actions for managing the fishery. Additional information about the Visioning Project 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 2015 meeting are now available at safmc.net/cms.  The next meeting of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is scheduled for September 14-18, 2015 in Hilton Head Island, SC.  Details for the meeting and meeting materials will be posted online as they become available.