NOAA Fisheries announces the final rule for the Comprehensive Acceptable Biological Catch Control Rule Amendment to the Fishery Management Plans for the Snapper-Grouper and Golden Crab Fisheries of the South Atlantic Region, and the Dolphin and Wahoo Fishery of the Atlantic.
The final rule will modify the acceptable biological catch control rules for the respective Fishery Management Plans, to allow phase-in of acceptable biological catch changes, allow carry-over of an unharvested portion of the annual catch limit, and modify framework procedures to implement carry-overs of annual catch limits when allowed. Current catch levels for species under the Snapper-Grouper, Golden Crab, and Dolphin and Wahoo Fishery Management Plans will not change under the Comprehensive Acceptable Biological Catch Control Rule Amendment and its final rule.
When Rule Will Take Effect:
Regulations will be effective February 2, 2024.
What This Means:
- Acceptable Biological Catch Control Rules
- The rules will categorize fish stocks based on assessment information and evaluation of scientific uncertainty.
- The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee will estimate the overfishing limit and its uncertainty based on available data, applicable methods, and expert judgement.
- For unassessed fish stocks, the modifications will expand the number of methods that could be considered for estimating the overfishing limit and acceptable biological catch.
- For overfished stocks, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council will specify a stock rebuilding plan, considering recommendations from the Scientific and Statistical Committee and fishery management plan advisory panel.
- When requested by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, the Scientific and Statistical Committee will recommend an acceptable biological catch for up to 5 years as both a constant value across years and as individual annual values for the same period of years.
- Phase-in of Acceptable Biological Catch changes
- Phase-in of increases to the acceptable biological catch will be allowed as specified by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council with advice from the Scientific and Statistical Committee and applicable advisory panel.
- Phase-in of decreases to the acceptable biological catch will be allowed when a new acceptable biological catch is less than 80% of the existing acceptable biological catch.
- Phase-in of decreases to the acceptable biological catch will be allowed over no more than 3 years, and phased-in catch limits cannot exceed the overfishing limit.
- Carry-over of Annual Catch Limits
- Carry-over of the unharvested portion of a sector’s annual catch limit could occur if:
- The stock status is known, and it is neither overfished nor undergoing overfishing.
- An overfishing limit for the stock is defined.
- Acceptable biological catch decreases are not being phased in.
- There are measures that restrict annual landings to the annual catch limit and post-season accountability measures that reduce the annual catch limit in the following year according to any landings overages in place for that stock and sector.
- The acceptable biological catch and the total annual catch limit may be temporarily increased to allow this carry-over. The temporary acceptable biological catch may not exceed the overfishing limit.
- If both sectors are eligible, both the commercial and recreational sectors may use carry-over in the same year.
- Sector-specific amounts being carried over will be allocated entirely to the sector from which they came unless the sum of the specified total annual catch limit and all sector-specific amounts that could be carried over exceeds the overfishing limit. If this happens, the temporary acceptable biological catch will be set equal to the overfishing limit and the difference between the temporary acceptable biological catch and the specified total annual catch limit will be allocated according to sector allocation percentages defined in the fishery management plan.
- Framework procedures
- Section I of the existing framework procedures in the Snapper-Grouper, Golden Crab, and Dolphin and Wahoo Fishery Management Plans will be modified to allow single-season adjustments to acceptable biological catch and annual catch limits.
- A plan amendment or framework amendment that specifies carry-over for a stock will include analyses of the relevant biological, economic, and social information necessary to meet the criteria and guidance of the acceptable biological catch control rule.
- Additional details of the framework procedures can be found in Section 2.4.1 of the Comprehensive Acceptable Biological Catch Control Rule Amendment.
Formal Federal Register Name/Number: 89 FR 271, published January 3, 2024
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why are the acceptable biological catch control rules for the Snapper-Grouper, Golden Crab, and Dolphin and Wahoo Fishery Management Plans being updated?
- Changes to acceptable biological catch control rules are being considered to clarify responsibilities of the Council and Scientific and Statistical Committee in developing risk and uncertainty components, revise methods for evaluating risk and uncertainty to develop acceptable biological catches (including the process used for unassessed stock acceptable biological catches), and clarify the use of rebuilding plans to develop acceptable biological catches for overfished stocks.
- The updated acceptable biological catch control rules will provide the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee the ability to adjust or derive uncertainty of stock assessment results (ultimately impacting projections of future catch) if they determine uncertainty is not adequately estimated through information used in the stock assessment.
- The existing acceptable biological catch control rules for the Snapper-Grouper, Golden Crab, and Dolphin and Wahoo Fishery Management Plans were implemented in 2012 and updated for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery Management Plan in 2015. The existing regulations do not allow phase-in and carry-over of catch limits and do not provide the additional flexibility and incorporation of uncertainty and risk tolerance compared with the proposed changes.
- In 2020, NOAA Fisheries provided best practices and recommendations on how to develop and apply phase-in and carry-over of catch limits.
- Economic factors have been added to the acceptable biological catch control rules to allow the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to better consider the long-term economic implications when examining management risk, which could lead to better economic outcomes and increase net economic benefits in a fishery for a given species.
- The inclusion of social factors to the acceptable biological catch control rules will allow the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to directly consider the importance of a given species to fishing communities and businesses when determining risk tolerance, providing long-term social benefits.
How does allowing phase-in of acceptable biological catch changes help manage our fisheries better?
- Phase-in of the acceptable biological catch is an option the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council could consider to address the social and economic effects of management changes.
- Adopting this flexibility will not require the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to phase in all acceptable biological catch changes, nor does adopting one approach prevent the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council from choosing a more restrictive schedule of acceptable biological catch phase-in (less than three years).
How does allowing carry-over of unharvested portions of the annual catch limit help manage our fisheries better?
- Allowing carry-over of unused annual catch limit will allow for increased harvest in the following year, which will increase associated economic benefits.
- For the recreational sector, increased harvest opportunities may lead to more enjoyable and rewarding trips for anglers and charter vessels and headboats may benefit from increased demand for trips.
- For the commercial sector, these increased harvest levels could result in improved net operating revenue and profits for commercial fishing vessels and dealers.
Why are the framework procedures for the Snapper-Grouper, Golden Crab, and Dolphin and Wahoo being modified?
- The current process to implement changes to catch levels is slow and time consuming. There is a need to implement changes to acceptable biological catch and annual catch limits within a fishing year based on unharvested landings from the previous year.
- The process will allow carry-over of the annual catch limits to occur more quickly than a plan amendment.
- A faster process is necessary due to the year-to-year nature of carry-overs. Under-harvest may only be carried over in the immediate next year.
Where can I find more information on Comprehensive Allowable Biological Catch Control Rule Amendment?
- The information may be found online at the NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office Website at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/comprehensive-acceptable-biological-catch-abc-control-rule-amendment-revisions-abc-control.
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.
Media Contact: Allison Garrett, 727-551-5750
Recreational Fishing Coordinator: Sean Meehan, 727-385-5202