South Atlantic Fishery Management Council

The South Atlantic Bite

King mackerel swims close to the surface.

Newsworthy Notes – May 11, 2023

New Regulations for Atlantic King and Spanish Mackerel Effective June 8th

Recreational fishermen allowed to keep “cut-off” fish; King Mackerel bag limit increases off of Florida’s east coast

NOAA Fisheries recently announced the final rule for Amendment 34 to the Fishery Management Plan for Coastal Migratory Pelagics (mackerels). Beginning June 8, 2023, the amendment will:

  • Increase the acceptable biological catch, annual catch limits, annual optimum yield, and recreational annual catch targets for Atlantic King Mackerel;
  • Increase the recreational bag limit for Atlantic King Mackerel in federal waters off the east coast of Florida from 2 to 3 fish per person; and
  • Allow the recreational sector to keep cut-off (damaged) Atlantic King Mackerel and Atlantic Spanish Mackerel caught under the recreational bag limit that complies with the minimum size limits.

See the complete Fishery Bulletin issued from NOAA Fisheries for additional details, including catch levels, sector and regional allocations, commercial seasonal quotas, and an FAQ regarding the regulatory changes.

Making Sense of Mackerel

Mackerel management is a bit complicated. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council regulate King and Spanish Mackerel through the joint Coastal Migratory Pelagics Fishery Management Plan. Two migratory groups, Gulf and Atlantic, are recognized for each species and regulated separately.

The area of the Gulf migratory group extends from the southern border of Texas through the Gulf to the Miami-Dade/Monroe county border on the east coast of Florida (encompassing the Keys). The area for the Atlantic migratory group extends from the Miami-Dade/Monroe County border on the east coast of Florida to the intersection of NY, NJ, and CT. Additional information is available from NOAA Fisheries at: Making Sense of Mackerel.

Mackerel Maps and More

Detailed maps are available for the King Mackerel Migratory Group Zones and for the Spanish Mackerel Migratory Group Zones. Get the latest regulations from the Council’s website at: or by downloading the Fish Rules mobile apps

Habitat Protection and Ecosystem-Based Management Advisory Panel Meeting

May 16-18, 2023 | Town and Country Inn, Charleston SC | Webinar registration

Effective fisheries management involves the protection of essential fish habitat or EFH. Defined as “waters and substrates necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding, or growth to maturity”, regional fishery management councils are responsible for designating EFH for species managed under federal fishery management plans. The South Atlantic Council’s Habitat Protection and Ecosystem-Based Management Advisory Panel provides input and recommendations for Council consideration on a broad range of topics relative to EFH and ecosystem-based management. The AP meets next week in Charleston, SC.

Agenda items include a presentation from NOAA fisheries on the South Atlantic Climate Vulnerability Assessment, helping managers better understand which species are at the highest risk for climate change and informing the Council’s efforts as part of the East Coast Climate Scenario Planning.

Photo: Don DeMaria

The Habitat AP will also review and update EFH policies involving Beach Dredging and Filling, Beach Renourishment, and Large-Scale Coastal Engineering as well as Energy Exploration and Development. Offshore wind activities in the South Atlantic region will also be discussed following a presentation from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. The agenda includes presentations and demonstrations on the latest research and mapping relative to EFH, with AP members providing input on habitat research needs for the Council’s consideration during its June 2023 meeting.

The meeting is available via webinar each day as it occurs. Meeting materials, registration information, and an online public comment form are available from the Council’s meeting page.

SAFMC Citizen Science Program Annual Report is Now Available

2022 was a busy year for the Council’s Citizen Science Program! The 2022 Citizen Science Program Annual Report is now available and highlights key activities and accomplishments during the past year. The report includes contributions to publications, symposia, and conferences focused on citizen science as well as updates on the program’s projects – SAFMC Release, FISHstory, and the new SMILE project added in 2022. Check out the report for details!

Other CitSci News

A shout out to Chris Burrows and his column in the recent issue of Carolina Sportsman online magazine encouraging best fishing practices. The column includes the Council’s Citizen Science Program’s SAFMC Release project that allows fishermen to provide information on released grouper and Red Snapper via the SciFish mobile app.

Last month, NOAA Fisheries released their Citizen Science Action Plan which provides a roadmap for NOAA to advance public participation in their research and monitoring actions. The Action Plan notes the Council’s Citizen Science Program as an example of a program “that provides high-quality citizen science data in support of management.”

Additional Snippets:

NOAA Fisheries: Encouraging Commercial Seafood Harvesters to Participate in Survey on National Seafood Marketing Practices

Commercial harvesters can help increase the visibility of the domestic seafood sector and the role seafood harvesters play in supporting the nation’s food system. NOAA Fisheries, the University of Maine, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are trying to better understand how commercial seafood harvesters in the United States market their catch. The survey is open from March to June 2023. See the feature story from NOAA Fisheries for details.

Black Carolinians in Fishing Industry Heart of New Exhibit

“We’re all familiar with the image: the lone, white fisherman donning the yellow slicker. Think Gorton’s Seafood, ‘Trusted since 1849.’ You know the one. For some reason that image is etched in people’s minds, but that hides a lot of diversity in this fishery, in any fishery,” explains Barbara Garrity-Blake, Duke University Marine Lab cultural anthropologist and president of NC Catch. A recent article in Coastal Review, a publication of the NC Coastal Federation provides a closer look at the African Americans involved in the fishing industry and their historical contributions.

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!

May 15, 2023

Snapper Grouper Recreational Permitting and Reporting Tech AP Meeting

Webinar only

Meeting information

May 16-18, 2023

Habitat Protection and Ecosystem-Based Management Advisory Panel Meeting

Town and Country Inn

Charleston, SC

Webinar registration

May 23-25, 2023

Council Coordinating Committee Meeting

Key West, FL

June 12-16, 2023

Council Meeting

St. Augustine, FL

Meeting information