NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comment on a draft environmental impact statement for Reef Fish Amendment 50A. The Environmental Protection Agency announced the availability of the draft environmental impact statement on December 21, 2018.
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) is considering action in Amendment 50A to allow the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) states some management authority for recreational red snapper in the Gulf. In addition, the Council is developing five environmental assessments, one for each state (Amendments 50B-F), that analyze actions specific to each state. The draft environmental impact statement analyzes the expected effects of Amendments 50A-F.
SUMMARY OF PROPOSED CHANGES:
Amendment 50A and the draft environmental impact statement proposes the following:
- Allow each Gulf state to manage either private anglers or both private anglers and federally permitted for-hire anglers fishing for red snapper in state and federal waters off their state,
- Establish a mechanism that would allow states to optionally manage federal for-hire vessels,
- Divide the recreational red snapper allocation among the states, and
- Develop a procedure to allow states to request closure of areas of federal waters adjacent to state waters.
Amendments 50B (Louisiana), 50C (Mississippi), 50D (Alabama), 50E (Texas), and 50F (Florida) to the Reef Fish FMP consider the following:
- The authority structure to allow each state management of recreational red snapper,
- Which recreational red snapper measures each state could set, including seasons, bag limits and size limits, and
- Post-season quota adjustments by state in the case of a quota overage or underage.
REQUEST FOR COMMENT:
NOAA Fisheries must receive comments on this draft environmental impact statement no later than February 4, 2019. You may obtain electronic copies of the draft amendments and environmental impact statement from the NOAA Fisheries Web site.
HOW TO COMMENT:
The comment period is open now through February 4, 2019. You may submit comments by electronic submission or by postal mail. Comments sent by any other method (such as e-mail), to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NOAA Fisheries.
FORMAL FEDERAL REGISTER NAME/NUMBER: 83 FR 65670, published December 21, 2018.
Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal.
1. Go to: https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=NOAA-NMFS-2017-0122.
2. Click the "Comment Now!" icon, complete the required fields.
3. Enter or attach your comments.
Mail: Submit written comments to Susan Gerhart, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)
What is an environmental impact statement?
- The National Environmental Policy Act requires an assessment of the environmental impacts associated with a regulatory action. An environmental impact statement is developed if there is the potential for the actions to significantly affect the natural or human environment.
- This draft environmental impact statement analyzes the impacts of a reasonable range of alternatives for proposed actions in Amendments 50A-F.
- Comments on the draft environmental impact statement will be used to improve the amendments and final environmental impact statement.
Why are there six documents?
- The Council requested an amendment to the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico to allow for state management of recreational fishing for red snapper, and individual state amendments that would outline actions specific to each state.
- Amendment 50A addresses actions that would affect all Gulf states and the overall federal management of red snapper, regardless of whether or not all states pursue a state management program.
- Amendments 50B-F include actions that each state can chose individually.
What are the next steps in establishing state management?
- The Council is holding public hearings in January. For dates and locations, visit the Council Web site.
- In late January, the Council will meet and review comments received to date. At this meeting, they are expected to take final action to submit the amendments to NOAA Fisheries for approval and implementation.
- NOAA Fisheries will publish a proposed rule and solicit more comments from the public before determining whether to approve the amendments and publish a final rule.
Where can I find more information on Reef Fish Amendment 50?
- Amendments 50A-F for the state management program and the individual state amendments may be found online at the NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office Web site.
- A public hearing guide and video can be found on the Council Web site.
- Contact NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office:
By Mail: Susan Gerhart
NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office
Sustainable Fisheries Division
263 13th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, Florida 33701-5505
By Phone: (727) 824-5305
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