South Atlantic Fishery Management Council

The South Atlantic Bite

Newsworthy Notes – January 5th, 2024

Reminder! SAFMC Seminar Series: Wind Energy Development in the South Atlantic Region

Tuesday, January 9 | 1 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. via webinar

The Council’s Seminar Series continues in 2024 with a presentation on wind energy development in the South Atlantic region. The presentation will provide information on three wind energy projects planned in the region and the potential impacts. A question-and-answer session will follow the presentation during which members of the public will have the opportunity to participate in discussions.

The SAFMC Seminar Series features presentations on scientific studies relevant to fisheries in federal waters of the South Atlantic. The seminars are conducted via webinar and are open to members of the public. The presentations are also recorded and past presentations available from the Council’s website.

January 1st Brings Annual Fishing Regulation Changes

Using best practices is key to survival when releasing fish

Fishermen are reminded of regulation changes for shallow water grouper in federal waters that are effective on January 1st each year. The annual Shallow Water Grouper Spawning Season Closure from January 1 through April 30th is designated to help protect spawning stocks of the following species: Black, Gag, Yellowfin, Scamp, Yellowmouth, Red, Coney, Graysby, Red Hind, and Rock Hind. Note: harvest of Red Grouper in federal waters off of North Carolina and South Carolina remains closed until June 1st. The Shallow Water Grouper Spawning Season Closure applies to both commercial and recreational fisheries.

Some of the shallow water grouper species can be tricky to identify. Check out the Shallow Water Species ID Guide, available through the Council’s SAFMC Release Citizen Science project. The helpful guide includes photos and tips to identify these species.

Best Fishing Practices

Using best fishing practices is a habit to use year round to help ensure released fish live to fight another day. Regulations are in place requiring descending devices, dehookers, and the use of specific hooks when targeting snapper grouper species in federal waters. Descending devices are used for fish experiencing baroutrauma, or the expansion of gases after being rapidly pulled up from depth. This condition makes it difficult for a fish to swim back down on its own.

Learn more about barotrauma, how to recognize the symptoms, and the correct use of the descending device onboard. Visit the Council’s Best Fishing Practices webpage for video demonstrations, regulation requirements, and other ways you can help ensure released fish survive!

SAFMC Release

Collecting information on fish that are released is a challenge, but the Council’s Citizen Science project SAFMC Release provides fishermen the opportunity to log crucial information on their released shallow water grouper species as well as Red Snapper.

The SAFMC Release project partners with commercial, for-hire, and private recreational fishermen to collect information using the mobile app, SciFish. Data collected include length, depth released, optional location, observations of shark predation, and use of barotrauma reduction techniques – like descending devices. Learn more and sign up today!

Keep Up with the Latest Regulations

Download the free Fish Rules App

Have the latest fishing regulations available from your smartphone at any time by downloading the free Fish Rules mobile app. With a glance, know if a fish is in season, how many you can keep, and how big they have to be. There are photos and illustrations to help with fish ID and other helpful information for individual species.

Offshore without a signal? No worries. Check for updates before leaving the dock and manually select your fishing location offshore to see relevant regulations. There’s even a version of the app specifically for commercial fishermen.

Both recreational and commercial federal regulations are also available from the Council’s website: The website includes images and descriptions of individual species, information on life history, in addition to the latest regulations.

2024 Sea Grant Reef Fish Webinar Series

Tuesday, January 30th, February 13th, and February 27th at 6 p.m.

Tune in to an upcoming three-part Sea Grant webinar series focusing on ongoing reef fish research efforts in the South Atlantic.This biweekly series will include guest presentations on Reef Fish Surveying, The South Atlantic Red Snapper Research Program, and the Greater Amberjack Count, respectively. All presentations will be followed by a question-and-answer session.

January 30th – Reef Fish Surveying

Dr. Walter Bubley, SC Department of Natural Resources

February 13th – South Atlantic Red Snapper Research Program

Dr. Will Patterson, University of Florida

February 27th – Greater Amberjack Count

Dr. Sean Powers and Dr. Mark Albins, University of South Alabama

Click HERE to register for these webinars. All webinars begin at 6:00 p.m.

Additional Snippets:

Final Rule to Implement Changes to ABC Control Rules for the Snapper Grouper and Golden Crab Fisheries in the South Atlantic and Dolphin Wahoo Fishery in the Atlantic

NOAA Fisheries recently announced the implementation of a final rule to modify the Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC) control rules for the fishery management plans noted above. Effective February 2, 2024, the rule will allow phase-in of ABC changes, allow carry-over of an unharvested portion of the annual catch limit, and modify framework procedures to implement carry-overs when allowed. Note that current catch levels for species managed under these fishery management plans will not change under the Comprehensive ABC Control Rule Amendment and the final rule. See the Fishery Bulletin for additional details.

NOAA Fisheries Completes Designation of Critical Habitat for Nassau Grouper

NOAA Fisheries announced a final rule on January 2, 2024 designating critical habitat for the threatened Nassau grouper. The designated areas include habitat features that are essential to the conservation of Nassau grouper, including areas for spawning and for recruitment and development. The final designation includes 20 different geographic units, located in waters off the coasts of southeastern Florida and the Florida Keys, Puerto Rico, Navassa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Mark Your Calendar

Keep track of meetings scheduled by the Council from the Meetings page of the website and register for meeting webinars as information becomes available. Register early and receive email reminders as the meeting date(s) approach!

January 29-20, 2024

Law Enforcement Advisory Panel Meeting

Charleston, SC

Meeting information

February 8, 2024

SAFMC Wreckfish Sub-Committee Meeting

Via webinar

Meeting information

March 4-8, 2024

Council Meeting

Jekyll Island, GA

Council Meetings