Emergency Rule to Implement Reduced Commercial Trip Limits for Gulf of Mexico Greater Amberjack
At their October 2023 meeting, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council voted to request that the National Marine Fishery Service (NMFS) develop and implement an emergency rule to modify the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) greater amberjack commercial trip limit. The Emergency Rule would reduce the Gulf greater amberjack commercial trip limit to 7 fish from the current trip limit of 1,000 pounds gutted weight with a step down to 250 pounds gutted weight when 75% of the annual catch target (or quota) has been harvested. NMFS received the Council’s request via letter dated November 3, 2023. This Emergency Rule would be in effect from January 1, 2024, through June 29, 2024 (180 days), or until it was superseded by other regulations. The Emergency Rule would not be extended.
The Emergency Rule, in combination with the commercial fixed closed season from March 1 through May 31 , is projected to allow commercial fishing until mid-June before the ACT is fully harvested, and closure is required. This action is expected to make commercial trips targeting Gulf greater amberjack economically unfeasible, and thus eliminate trips targeting Gulf greater amberjack, which prevents a race-to-fish (“derby-like fishing”) and lessens the rate of harvest. The reduced rate of harvest would reduce the likelihood of exceeding the 2024 commercial annual catch limit and is additionally expected to reduce discards by reducing the number of fishing days where regulatory discards are required. Failure to reduce the trip limit may result in negative impacts on the stock and unsafe fishing practices during the limited open season.