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Changes to Catch Levels, Sector Allocations, Recreational Accountability Measures, Recreational Fishing Season, and the Rebuilding Plan for Gulf of Mexico Gag

May 10, 2024

FB24-028: Gulf of Mexico Fishery Bulletin. For more information contact Daniel Luers: 727-824-5305; Daniel.Luers@noaa.gov

Key Message:

NOAA Fisheries is publishing the final rule to implement Amendment 56 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico and a final rule that implements regulations for Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) gag. The most recent population assessment showed that Gulf gag is overfished (the population is too low) and is subject to overfishing (too many fish being caught).  Amendment 56 was approved by the Secretary of Commerce on January 17, 2024. 


When Rule Will Take Effect:

Regulations will be effective June 1, 2024.


Summary of Changes:

  • Amendment 56:
    • Revised the status determination criteria that determines if overfishing has occurred and revises the optimum yield; 
    • Modified the units used to monitor Gulf gag from the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) Coastal Household Telephone Survey (CHTS) to the Florida State Reef Fish Survey (SRFS);
    • Revised the overfishing limit (OFL) and acceptable biological catch (ABC) as in Table 1 below, and established an 18-year rebuilding plan for Gulf gag; and
    • Modified the sector allocations of the Gulf gag annual catch limit (ACL) from 39% for the commercial sector and 61% for the recreational sector to be 35% commercial and 65% recreational.


  • This final rule:
    • Revises the commercial and recreational sector ACLs for 2024-2028 (Table 1);
    • Revises the annual catch targets (ACT) for both the commercial and recreational sectors;
    • Revises the accountability measures in the recreational sector; and
    • Modifies the federal recreational fishing season for Gulf gag such that it begins on September 1 and closes when NOAA Fisheries projects that the ACT has been harvested.


Table 1: Catch limits in million pounds gutted weight in Amendment 56.



Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


What is NOAA Fisheries announcing today?

  • NOAA Fisheries is announcing a final rule for Amendment 56. The final rule can be found Here.
  • Amendment 56, which was approved by the Secretary of Commerce on January 17, 2024, specified a rebuilding plan, sector allocations, an OFL, and an ABC for Gulf gag.
  • Amendment 56 and the final rule set the Gulf gag OFL and ABC consistent with the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s (Council) Scientific and Statistical Committee recommendations; and the sector allocation, ACLs, ACTs, and recreational fishing season consistent with the Council’s recommendations. 


What is a rebuilding plan and how does it apply to Gulf of Mexico gag?

  • A rebuilding plan is a suite of measures that enable a stock of fish to rebuild within a given time period.  The plan generally includes a timeline for rebuilding the stock, a reduction in catch limits, and can include other management measures that constrain harvest.
  • A rebuilding timeline is calculated based on the amount of time it will take for the stock to rebuild considering the magnitude of reductions to catch limits, as well as other management measures.
  • Amendment 56 set an 18-year rebuilding plan for Gulf gag.


Why are the catch limits being reduced by so much (~86%)?

  • The most recent population assessment for Gulf gag, known as the SEDAR 72 (2021), showed the stock is overfished and is subject to overfishing.
  • SEDAR 72 was initially run using recreational data collected from MRIP-Fishing Effort Survey (FES).
  • However, SEDAR 72 was re-run in 2022 upon recommendations from the Council using historical recreational catch and effort data adjusted to be consistent with Florida’s SRFS for private recreational fishing vessel data, the Southeast Region Headboat Survey for headboat data, and MRIP-FES for charter vessel and shore-based data.
  • The SSC recommended a reduction in the OFL and ABC to address the overfishing status of the Gulf gag stock.
  • Catch limits and other revisions in Amendment 56 and the final rule are intended to allow for the gag stock to rebuild within the 18-year timeline selected by the Council.


How will recreational catch of Gulf of Mexico gag be monitored into the future?

  • Prior to SEDAR 72, Gulf gag recreational catch was monitored through MRIP-CHTS.
  • The SEDAR 72 assessment incorporated updated recreational landings data from MRIP-FES rather than data from MRIP-CHTS that were used in the previous assessment for the recreational component.
  • This final rule will modify the units used to monitor Gulf gag for the private recreational component from the MRIP-CHTS to the Florida SRFS.
  • The Southeast Region Headboat Survey will continue to be used for headboat data, and MRIP-FES will be used for charter vessel and shore-based data.
  • This should reduce some of the uncertainty around recreational catch estimates for Gulf gag.


Why are the sector allocations changing?

  • The SEDAR 72 stock assessment was re-run using slightly different data streams for the separate components of the recreational sector.
  • This rule will adjust the sector allocations to reflect the historical landings (1985 – 2006 data) calibrated to SRFS units, which result in slightly higher landings than those estimated by MRIP-CHTS, but much lower estimates than those estimated by MRIP-FES. 
  • The rule will result in a slightly higher allocation of the stock ACL to the recreational sector, but a comparatively smaller increase than if MRIP-FES landings were used.


What are the changes to the recreational fishing season?

  • Beginning in 2024, the recreational fishing season will begin on September 1 and will close when NOAA Fisheries projects that the recreational ACT has been harvested.  This change is projected to increase the length of the fishing season compared to a June 1 opening date, as fishing pressure is expected to be lower with a September 1 start date for the season.


What were the concerns with the 2023 MRIP-FES estimates for Gulf of Mexico gag?

  • An interim rule was implemented in 2023 to reduce the gag recreational ACL and ACT, while long term measures were developed in Amendment 56. 
  • The interim rule also considerably shortened the recreational fishing season, which was open from September 1 through October 18. 
  • MRIP-FES estimated landings for 2023 Wave 5 (September and October) substantially exceeded the interim rule ACL and ACT as well as what was proposed in Amendment 56. 
  • However, there was considerable uncertainty with the MRIP-FES landings estimate given that the Wave 5 estimate was 6 times higher than the average Wave 5 landings estimates from 2017-2022. 
  • Additionally, the MRIP-FES landings estimate for the private angler component was 7 times greater than Florida’s SRFS estimate.


Where can I find more information on Amendment 56?

  • Contact NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office


By Mail: Daniel Luers

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

Sign Up For Text Message Alerts - Find Out About Immediate Openings and Closures

NOAA's Text Message Alert Program allows you to receive important fishery related alerts via text message (SMS).  Standard message & data rates may apply.  You may opt-out at any time.


Text alerts you may receive include:

  • Immediate fishery openings and closures
  • Any significant changes to fishing regulations that happen quickly


Sign up for one or more of the following groups:

  • Gulf of Mexico Recreational Fisheries Related Alerts
    • Text GULFRECFISH to 888777
  • Gulf of Mexico Commercial Fisheries Related Alerts
    • Text GULFCOMMFISH to 888777
  • South Atlantic Recreational Fisheries Related Alerts
    • Text SATLRECFISH to 888777
  • South Atlantic Commercial Fisheries Related Alerts
    • Text SATLCOMMFISH to 888777
  • Caribbean Fisheries Related Alerts
    • Text CARIBFISH to 888777


Quick Glance Contact List for the NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office

Permits Mailbox: The Permits Office in St. Petersburg, Florida, now has a Permits mailbox in the front lobby (263 13th Ave. South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701).  You can now drop off original permits for permit transfers.  Envelopes with information labels will be provided so that your documents can be attached to the correct application.  The mailbox will be checked daily.  For more information contact the Permits Office at 877-376-4877.

Other contacts:

Media: Allison Garrett, 727-551-5750 

Recreational Fishing Coordinator: Sean Meehan (727) 385-5202

Last updated by Southeast Regional Office on May 14, 2024