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Final Rule to Revise the Gulf of Mexico Red Grouper Catch Limits and Catch Targets

May 02, 2022

FB22-024: Gulf of Mexico Fishery Bulletin; For more information, contact: Peter Hood: 727-824-5305, Peter.Hood@noaa.gov

Key Messages:

  • NOAA Fisheries announces a final rule for Gulf of Mexico red grouper.  This rule puts in place management measures from Amendment 53 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources in the Gulf of Mexico to revise the Gulf of Mexico red grouper sector annual catch limits and sector annual catch targets.
  • Amendment 53:
    • Modifies the allocation of Gulf of Mexico red grouper catch between the commercial and recreational sectors; and
    • Specifies a new overfishing limit and acceptable biological catch.
  • Although the most recent red grouper population assessment did not show red grouper was undergoing overfishing (too many fish being caught) or being overfished (the populations is too low), the assessment did find the population was below a level that could support the optimal harvest. 
  • Additionally, there is evidence the red grouper population was impacted by recent red tide events along the west Florida shelf.

 

When Rule Will Take Effect:

The reductions in the annual catch limits and catch targets will be effective on June 1, 2022.

 

Summary of Changes from the Final Rule and Amendment 53:

  • Revise the Gulf of Mexico red grouper allocation from 76% commercial and 24% recreational, to 59.3% commercial and 40.7% recreational.
  • Revise the recreational annual catch target buffer from 8% to 9%.
  • Revise the overfishing limit, acceptable biological catch, sector annual catch limits, and sector annual catch targets as indicated in Table 1 below.

Table 1.  Current and new overfishing limit (OFL), acceptable biological catch (ABC), annual catch limit (ACL), sector ACLs, and sector annual catch targets (ACT) in million pounds gutted weight. 

Note that current recreational ACLs and ACTs are in Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) Coastal Household Telephone Survey (CHTS) units and the newly implemented recreational ACLs and ACTs are in MRIP Fishing Effort Survey (MRIP-FES) units. 

The reduction shows the percent change in the new commercial and recreational ACLs and ACTs (recreational percentages are calculated using MRIP-FES values). 

 

OFL

ABC

Total ACL

Comm. ACL

Rec.

ACL

Comm.

ACT (quota)

Rec.

ACT

Current

14.16

13.92

4.16

3.16

1.00*

3.00

0.92*

MRIP-FES equivalent

 

 

(5.26)

 

(2.10)

 

(1.93)

New

4.66

4.26

4.26

2.53

1.73**

2.40

1.57**

Reduction

 

 

19%

20%

18%

20%

19%

* In MRIP-CHTS units

** In MRIP-FES units

 

Formal Federal Register Name/Number: 87 FR 25573, published May 2, 2022.

 

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

What is NOAA Fisheries announcing today?

  • NOAA Fisheries is announcing a final rule to revise the Gulf of Mexico red grouper annual catch limits and annual catch targets.
  • Amendment 53 and this action set the Gulf of Mexico red grouper allocation between the commercial and recreational sectors, as well as sector specific annual catch limits and annual catch targets consistent with the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee’s overfishing limit and acceptable biological catch recommendations. 

 

What are the new sector catch limits and catch targets and how were they determined?

  • The sector annual catch limits were determined by applying the new allocation of 59.3% commercial and 40.7% recreational to the total annual catch limit.
  • For the commercial sector, the annual catch target was maintained at 5% below the commercial annual catch limit to allow for red grouper and gag multi-use shares to be used in the individual fishing quota program.
  • For the recreational sector, the buffer between the annual catch target and annual catch limit was determined by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s annual catch limit and annual catch target control rule.
    • The control rule uses a number of factors about recreational harvest to develop an appropriate buffer between the annual catch limit and annual catch target.  
    • The control rule recommended the buffer be changed from 8% to 9%.

 

Why did the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council recommend changing the allocation between the commercial and recreational sectors?

  • The most recent Gulf of Mexico red grouper population assessment used the new Marine Recreational Information Program Fishing Effort Survey, which estimates higher recreational landings than the previous survey.
  • The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council decided to change the allocation to account for the recent changes in recreational landings data. 
  • The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council recommended using the same time series used for the initial allocation to account for historical participation, but updated the recreational landings in the time series to account for the increase in landing estimates from the new survey.
  • Because the recreational landings estimates are greater using the new survey than the previous estimates of recreational landings, the commercial-recreational allocation would shift from 76 percent and 24 percent, respectively, to 59.3 percent and 40.7 percent, respectively.

 

What is the difference between the Marine Recreational Information Program Coastal Household Telephone Survey and the Fishing Effort Survey?

  • In 2008, Marine Recreational Information Program replaced an earlier recreational survey to meet increasing demand for more precise, accurate, and timely recreational catch estimates. 
  • The Marine Recreational Information Program included: telephone surveys of households and for-hire vessel operators that collected information about recreational fishing activity; and an angler intercept survey that collected information about the fish that were caught. 
  • In 2013, the Marine Recreational Information Program began using the Access Point Angler Intercept Survey, which was designed to address concerns that trips recorded during a given time period are representative of recreational fishing trips for a full day. 
  • Beginning in 2015, Marine Recreational Information Program Coastal Household Telephone Survey moved to the new Marine Recreational Information Program Fishing Effort Survey mail survey to overcome issues that arose from shifts in phone usage as cellular telephones became more popular.
  • The mail-based Fishing Effort Survey uses angler license and registration information to identify and contact anglers.
  • Because the Fishing Effort Survey and the Coastal Household Telephone Survey are so different, NOAA Fisheries conducted side-by-side testing of the two methods from 2015 to 2017 to develop a calibration model. 
  • In general, total recreational fishing effort estimates generated from the Fishing Effort Survey are higher — and in some cases substantially higher — than the Coastal Household Telephone Survey estimates because the Fishing Effort Survey is designed to more accurately measure fishing activity than the Coastal Household Telephone Survey, not because there was a sudden rise in fishing effort. 
  • More information on recreational survey methods can be found at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/topic/recreational-fishing-data

 

Where can I find more information on Amendment 53?

  • Contact NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office

     By Mail: Peter Hood

     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


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