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Final Rule to Implement Amendment 54, Revisions to Gulf of Mexico Greater Amberjack Catch Limits, Allocation, and Rebuilding Plan

June 15, 2023

FB23-037: Gulf of Mexico Fishery Bulletin. For more information, contact: Kelli O'Donnell; (727) 824-5305, Kelli.ODonnell@noaa.gov.

Key Messages:

NOAA Fisheries announces implementation of the final rule for Amendment 54 to the Fishery Management Plan for Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico. 


When Rule Will Take Effect:

  • Regulations for the commercial sector catch limits become effective June 15, 2023.
  • Regulations for the recreational sector catch limits become effective July 17, 2023.


What This Means:

  • Amendment 54:
    • Modifies the units used to monitor the recreational portion of the Gulf of Mexico greater amberjack to the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) Fishing Effort Survey (FES),
    • Reduces the overfishing limit (OFL) and acceptable biological catch (ABC) as indicated in Table 1 below,
    • Modifies the sector allocation of the Gulf of Mexico greater amberjack annual catch limit to 20% commercial and 80% recreational,
    • Retains the recreational sector annual catch target (ACT) buffer of 17%, and
    • Reduces the commercial sector ACT buffer to 7%.
  • The rule:
    • Reduces the sector annual catch limits (ACL) and ACTs for 2023 and subsequent years as indicated in Table 1 below.


Table 1. 2023+ OFL, ABC, stock ACL, sector ACLs, and sector ACTs.  







Total ACL





Rec. ACL



2023+ (rec. 2022/2023+)








Note:  The recreational portion of the values are in MRIP FES units. All numbers are in pounds whole weight. 


Formal Federal Register Name/Number: 88 FR 39193, published June 15, 2023


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)


Why are the catch limits being reduced?

  • Gulf of Mexico greater amberjack has been in a rebuilding plan since 2002.
  • The most recent Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review population assessment for Gulf of Mexico greater amberjack, known as SEDAR 70, showed the stock continued to be overfished (the population is too low) and was now subject to overfishing (too many fish being caught). 
  • SEDAR 70 used updated recreational catch and effort data from Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) Fishing Effort Survey (FES), which estimated larger than previously calculated catch and effort for the recreational sector. 
  • Because the MRIP FES data were used, estimates of historic recreational landings were greater than in previous assessments.
  • To meet the current stock rebuilding timeline of 2027, catch limits had to be substantially reduced.
  • Had the MRIP FES data been available when the SEDAR 33 Update was conducted in 2016, the acceptable biological catch (ABC) recommended by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) and total annual catch limit (ACL) preferred in Amendment 54 represents an approximate 83% reduction.
  • The SSC recommended a reduction in the ABC to address the overfishing status of the Gulf of Mexico greater amberjack stock.


Why are the sector allocations for Gulf of Mexico greater amberjack changing and how were they determined?

  • The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council determined the sector allocation between the commercial and recreational sectors by using an updated time series (1993-2019) of average MRIP FES landings. This time series incorporated all years of available data where greater amberjack was identified to species (1993 to present) and when the sector allocation and other management measures had been effective (2008 to present).
  • This results in a greater amberjack sector allocation of 20% commercial and 80% recreational.


How were sector annual catch limits and annual catch targets determined?

  • The sector ACLs were determined by applying the new allocation of 20% commercial and 80% recreational to the stock ACL, which is equal to the ABC determined by SEDAR 70.
  • For each sector, the buffer between the ACL and annual catch target (ACT) was determined by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s ACL/ACT Control Rule.
    • The control rule uses a number of factors about harvest for each sector.  
    • The control rule recommended the commercial buffer be reduced from 13% to 7%.
    • The control rule recommended the recreational buffer remain at 17%.
  • The sector ACTs were determined by applying the new sector allocation to the total ACL and using the updated calculated ACT buffers.


Why are the commercial sector catch limits effective immediately?

  • The commercial catch limits are effective on the date of publication of the final rule because landings data indicate that commercial harvest of greater amberjack has exceeded the new ACT of 93,930 pounds and the ACL of 101,000 pounds.  
  • The commercial accountability measures (AM) require NOAA Fisheries to prohibit harvest of greater amberjack when commercial landings reach or are projected to reach the commercial ACT and if commercial landings exceed the commercial ACL, then during the following fishing year, both the commercial ACT and the commercial ACL must be reduced by the amount of any commercial ACL overage.  
  • NOAA Fisheries is unable to prohibit further commercial harvest under the AMs unless the reduced catch limits are effective. To prevent commercial landings from further exceeding the new ACL, NOAA Fisheries is implementing the commercial catch limits immediately so that the sector can be closed as soon as possible.
  • The commercial closure will be published in the Federal Register and will be effective until the 2024 fishing year begins on January 1, 2024.
  • The recreational sector is already closed for the 2022/2023 fishing year, and will reopen on August 1, 2023, the start of the 2023/2024 fishing year.       


Where can I find more information on Amendment 54?

  • Contact NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office

     By Mail: Kelli O’Donnell

     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 June 15, 2023