NOAA Fisheries announces the final rule for Regulatory Amendment 30 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region (Regulatory Amendment 30). This final rule revises the rebuilding schedule for red grouper based on the most recent population assessment, extends protections to red grouper during spawning season in federal waters off North Carolina and South Carolina, and establishes a commercial trip limit.
WHEN RULE WILL TAKE EFFECT:
Regulations will be effective March 9, 2020.
SUMMARY OF CHANGES FOR RED GROUPER:
- The final rule revises the rebuilding schedule for red grouper to 10 years, which is equal the maximum time period allowed to rebuild. The rebuilding schedule begins in 2019 and ends in 2028.
- The final rule extends both the commercial and recreational red grouper spawning season closures (January through April) through the month of May, in federal waters off North Carolina and South Carolina.
- The final rule establishes a commercial trip limit for red grouper harvested in the South Atlantic federal waters of 200 pounds gutted weight.
Please see the Frequently Asked Questions below for more information on these actions.
FORMAL FEDERAL REGISTER NAME/NUMBER: 85 FR 6825, published February 6, 2020.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)
Why are changes for red grouper being implemented?
- In February 2017, a population assessment for red grouper in the South Atlantic determined that the population is overfished (the number of fish in the water is too low), undergoing overfishing (fish are being removed too quickly from the population), and not making adequate rebuilding progress.
- Abbreviated Framework Amendment 1 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region reduced the total, commercial, and recreational annual catch limits, on August 27, 2018, to end overfishing of red grouper.
- The rebuilding plan must be revised as the population assessment determined that the population will not be rebuilt by 2020, which is the end of the current plan.
Why is the seasonal prohibition on recreational and commercial harvest of red grouper only being extended off North Carolina and South Carolina?
- Fishermen reported that, in North Carolina and South Carolina waters, red grouper are often found in spawning condition past the January through April shallow-water grouper spawning season closure.
- The closure was not extended through May in federal waters off Georgia and Florida as some fishermen stated that red grouper spawn earlier in the year in the southern part of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s jurisdiction.
- Additionally, there are minimal landings of red grouper in Georgia, which would preclude the need to extend the closure in federal waters off that state.
Why is a commercial trip limit of 200 pounds gutted weight being implemented for red grouper?
- A commercial trip limit would constrain harvest to help rebuild the population by discouraging direct fishing for the species, but would be large enough to allow fishermen for whom red grouper are an important species (such as those in South Florida and the Florida Keys) to maintain some trip profitability.
- Additionally, the trip limit would minimize adverse socio-economic effects by allowing fishermen to retain some red grouper caught incidentally when fishing for other snapper-grouper species.
Where can I find more information on Regulatory Amendment 30?
- Contact NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office
By Mail: Mary Vara
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
- Regulatory Amendment 30 may be found online at the NOAA Fisheries Web site: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/regulatory-amendment-30-red-grouper-rebuilding-plan.
- Or at https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=NOAA-NMFS-2019-0117.
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