Actions to Implement Spawning Special Management Zones in Federal Waters of the South Atlantic Region

June 30, 2017

FB17-035 South Atlantic Fishery Bulletin; For More Information, Contact: Frank Helies (727)-824-5305, Frank.Helies@noaa.gov

Key Message:

NOAA Fisheries announces a final rule for Amendment 36 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region (Amendment 36).  The actions in Amendment 36 and the final rule will implement spawning special management zones (SMZ) to protect spawning, or reproducing, fish and their habitat.

When Rule Will Take Effect:

  • Regulations will be effective July 31, 2017. 

What This Means:

The final rule for Amendment 36 will implement the following management measures:

  • Implement five spawning SMZs in federal waters of the South Atlantic region off North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida (see map and coordinates below).
  • Inside of the spawning SMZs, fishing for, retention, and possession of fish species in the snapper-grouper complex will be prohibited year-round by all fishers.
  • Anchoring inside all the spawning SMZs, except Area 51 and Area 53 off South Carolina, will be prohibited.
  • Transit through the spawning SMZs with snapper-grouper species onboard will be allowed if gear is properly stowed.
  • Most spawning SMZs would automatically go away in 10 years unless they are reauthorized.
  • Modify the SMZ procedure in the fishery management plan to allow for the designation of spawning SMZs.  In addition, modify the framework procedure to allow spawning SMZs to be established or modified through the framework process, rather than through plan amendments.
  • Move the existing Charleston Deep Artificial Reef Marine Protected Area to match the boundaries of the permitted site.

Figure 1: Spawning SMZs implemented through Amendment 36.

map-SA-amd36-SERO.jpg

North Carolina

South Cape Lookout (Corner Coordinates)

North Latitude

West Longitude

 

33° 53.040’

76° 28.617’

(5.10 sq mile)

33° 52.019’

76° 27.798’

 

33° 49.946’

76° 30.627’

 

33° 51.041’

76° 31.424’

  • South Carolina

Devil’s Hole / Georgetown Hole

North Latitude

West Longitude

 

32° 34.311’

78° 34.996’

(3.03 sq mile)

32° 34.311’

78° 33.220’

 

32° 32.748’

78° 33.220’

 

32° 32.748’

78° 34.996’

Area 51

32° 35.250’

79° 28.600’

 

32° 35.250’

79° 27.000’

(2.99 sq mile)

32° 33.750’

79° 27.000’

 

32° 33.750’

79° 28.600’

Area 53

32° 22.650’

79° 22.250’

 

32° 22.650’

79° 20.500’

(2.99 sq mile)

32° 21.150’

79° 20.500’

 

32° 21.150’

79° 22.250’

  • Florida

Warsaw Hole

North Latitude

West Longitude

 

24° 22.277’

82° 20.417’

(3.60 sq mile)

24° 22.277’

82° 18.215’

 

24° 20.932’

82° 18.215’

 

24° 20.932’

82° 20.417’

Formal Federal Register Name/Number: 82 FR 29772, published June 30, 2017.

This bulletin serves as a Small Entity Compliance Guide, complying with section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996. 


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

 

What are the fishing regulations associated with the spawning special management zones (SMZs)?

  • All fishing for, retention, and possession of snapper-grouper species in the spawning SMZs will be prohibited. Trolling for pelagic species, such as dolphin, wahoo, tuna, and coastal migratory pelagic species will be allowed.
  • In the spawning SMZs, transit with snapper-grouper species aboard a vessel will be allowed when fishing gear is appropriately stowed.
  • Anchoring by fishing vessels in the spawning SMZs will be prohibited, except in Area 51 and Area 53.

 What species are considered “snapper-grouper”?

  • The snapper-grouper complex consists of 55 species including snappers (red, vermilion, yellowtail, etc.), groupers (gag, scamp, snowy, etc.), sea bass, jacks, triggerfish, and others.
  • Snapper-grouper species are primarily associated with reef and high relief bottom habitat in both shallow and deep water.

 What is the definition of “fishing gear appropriately stowed”?

  • Terminal gear (e., hook, leader, sinker, flasher, or bait) used with an automatic reel, bandit gear, buoy gear, handline, or rod and reel must be disconnected and stowed separately from such fishing gear. Sinkers must be disconnected from the downrigger and stowed separately.

 Why is protection of these areas necessary?

  • Closing areas to bottom fishing has the potential to reduce bycatch and bycatch mortality of reproducing snapper-grouper species, including speckled hind and warsaw grouper. The spawning SMZs implemented by this final rule are expected to result in positive economic effects by increasing future stock size and sustainability.

When implemented, how long would the spawning SMZs be in effect?

  • All the spawning SMZs, except for Area 51 and Area 53, will sunset/expire 10 years after implementation, if not reauthorized.
  • There are no sunset/expiration dates for Area 51 and 53.

How would the spawning SMZs be monitored and evaluated in the future?

  • The spawning SMZs may be monitored by methods such as citizen science and fishery independent surveys.
  • Citizen science is scientific research conducted, in whole or in part, by amateur or non-professional scientists and fishery-independent data are collected by non-fishermen such as scientists. 
  • Monitoring efforts will help evaluate the effectiveness of the spawning SMZs.  Information collected may include spawning activity and changes to fish abundance.
  • Monitoring details are specified in a document called a System Management Plan (SMP).  The SMP can be found online at the NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office Website.

What are the coordinates of the Charleston Deep Artificial Reef Marine Protected Area (MPA) and why are the boundaries being moved?

  • The Charleston Deep Artificial Reef MPA was created in 2009.
  • The goal of the MPA is to protect fish attracted to artificial reef material placed in the area by prohibiting fishing for snapper-grouper species.
  • The Corps of Engineers, working with the State of South Carolina, modified the boundary of the permitted site to include some additional material that was recently sunk in the area.  The State of South Carolina requested the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council shift the boundary of the MPA 1.4 miles to the northwest to match the revised boundary of the permitted site. 

Charleston Deep Artificial Reef

North Latitude

West Longitude

NW

32° 9.65’

79° 9.2’

NE

32° 7.155’

79° 5.595’

SW

32° 2.36’

79° 9.975’

SE

32° 5.04’

79° 13.575’

Where can I find more information on Amendment 36?

  •  Contact NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office
    By Mail: Frank Helies
    NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office, Sustainable Fisheries Division
    263 13th Avenue South
    St. Petersburg, Florida 33701-5505
    By FAX: (727) 824-5308
    By Phone: (727) 824-5305
  • Amendment 36 may be found online at the NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office Website.

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Last updated by Southeast Regional Office on March 14, 2019

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