NOAA Fisheries Announces New Modifications to Gear Requirements and Commercial Management Measures for the Gulf of Mexico and the South Atlantic Spiny Lobster Fishery

July 26, 2019

FB19-040 Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic Fishery Bulletin. For more information contact: Kelli O'Donnell, 727-824-5305, Kelli.ODonnell@noaa.gov

KEY MESSAGE:

These requirements are for federal waters off Florida and address bully net gear requirements, commercial daily possession limits when using bully nets or diving for the harvest of spiny lobster, and the soak period for spiny lobster traps.

WHEN RULE WILL TAKE EFFECT:

  • Regulations for commercial trap soak period are effective July 26, 2019For the 2019/2020 fishing season, commercial spiny lobster traps may be baited and placed in Federal waters beginning Saturday, July 27, 2019. 
  • Regulations for the rest of the rule will be effective August 30, 2019.

 SUMMARY OF CHANGES:

  • Spiny lobster commercial harvesters using bully net gear:
    • must have a bully net permit from Florida,
    • must mark boats with the harvester’s Florida bully net permit number using reflective paint or other reflective material,
    • are prohibited from having trap pullers onboard,
    • are prohibited from the simultaneous possession of a bully net and any underwater breathing apparatus (not including dive masks or snorkels) onboard a vessel used to harvest or transport spiny lobster for commercial purposes.
  • Commercial spiny lobster daily vessel harvest and possession limits:
    • 250 per day/vessel for spiny lobsters harvested by bully net in or from all federal waters off Florida,
    • 250 per day/vessel for spiny lobsters harvested by diving in or from federal waters only off Broward, Dade, Monroe, Collier, and Lee Counties, Florida.
  • Existing language in spiny lobster federal regulations that incorporates Florida regulations by reference has been updated, which includes a new commercial trap soak start time.
    • Commercial spiny lobster traps may be baited and placed in the water beginning on the Saturday immediately following the recreational mini season.

FORMAL FEDERAL REGISTER NAME/NUMBER: FR 2019-16265, will publish on July 31, 2019.

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 is NOAA Fisheries aligning federal regulations with the Florida regulations for harvest of spiny lobster from federal waters off Florida?

  • The original Spiny Lobster Fishery Management Plan (Spiny Lobster FMP), implemented in 1982, adopted many of Florida’s spiny lobster management measures because the fishery is conducted almost entirely in waters off Florida.  However, incompatibilities remained because Florida’s system could adjust management measures more quickly than the federal system.
  • Amendment 2 to the Spiny Lobster FMP was implemented in 1992 to resolve incompatibilities with Florida regulations and establish a procedure to allow Florida to propose its spiny lobster regulations for implementation in federal waters directly to NOAA Fisheries.  
  • The cooperative management procedure established in Amendment 2 was inadvertently removed in 2012 with the implementation of Amendment 10 to the Spiny Lobster FMP; therefore, Florida could not propose rules directly to NOAA Fisheries for implementation. 
  • The changes listed in the final rule re-establishes the procedure for an enhanced cooperative management system to provide Florida a mechanism to propose new regulations or update federal regulations concerning spiny lobster directly to NOAA Fisheries for implementation, without formal action by the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic Councils.    

Federal regulations already refer to certain Florida state regulations for spiny lobster.  Why do these incorporations by reference need to be updated?

  • Florida has recently updated sections in their Florida Administrative Code that the Code of Federal Regulations incorporates by reference, resulting in dates in the Code of Federal Regulations referring to old regulations that are no longer accurate. 
  • The changes listed in the final rule will clarify any outdated language in the spiny lobster federal regulations and update these incorporate by reference dates to match the Florida Administrative Code. 

Florida recently increased the soak period (time in the water) for commercial spiny lobster traps before the season begins and after it ends.  Will the same soak time be in place in federal waters by the start of the 2019/2020 fishing season?

  • Yes, for the 2019/2020 fishing season, commercial spiny lobster traps may be baited and placed in Federal waters beginning Saturday, July 27, 2019.
  • The changes listed in the final rule update existing language in spiny lobster federal regulations that incorporate by reference Florida regulations for season length.
  • Therefore, in federal waters off Florida for the start of the 2019/2020 fishing season:
    • Commercial spiny lobster traps may be baited and placed in the water beginning on the Saturday immediately following the recreational mini season, but cannot be pulled for harvest until after the season opens,
    • All commercial spiny lobster traps shall be removed by April 10 of each year,
    • Harvest or sale of spiny lobster from such traps during the “soak” period prior to the beginning of the season or after the end of the season during the trap retrieval period is prohibited,
    • The season length for commercial harvest and sale of spiny lobster will remain August 6-March 31.

Where can I find more information on Spiny Lobster Amendment 13?

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


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Last updated by Southeast Regional Office on August 05, 2019

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