- NOAA Fisheries will withhold distribution of red grouper and gag multi-use IFQ commercial allocation on January 1, 2022, in the amount necessary to implement the proposed reductions in the red grouper commercial annual catch limit and annual catch target in Amendment 53 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico (Reef Fish Amendment 53).
- NOAA Fisheries is currently reviewing Reef Fish Amendment 53 and developing rulemaking; however, these processes will not be complete until sometime in 2022, after the initial IFQ allocation is made to IFQ shareholders.
What This Means:
- This action will withhold the distribution of red grouper and gag multi-use individual fishing quota allocation on January 1, 2022, in the amount equal to the proposed reduction in the allocation for shareholders in the groupers and tilefishes IFQ quota program.
- The current red grouper commercial annual catch limit of 3.16 million pound gutted weight and annual catch target of 3.00 million pounds gutted weight is proposed to be reduced to 2.53 million pounds gutted weight and 2.40 million pounds gutted weight, respectively, through Reef Fish Amendment 53.
- The commercial annual catch target is 5% below the commercial annual catch limit to allow for red grouper and gag multi-use shares to be used in the IFQ program.
- If NOAA Fisheries disapproves Reef Fish Amendment 53 or a final rule implementing the amendment is not effective by June 1, 2022, then the withheld allocation will be distributed back to the current shareholders, as determined on the date the withheld IFQ allocation is distributed.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why is the Quota Reduction Occurring?
- A Gulf of Mexico red grouper population assessment was completed in late 2019 through the Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review process.
- Although the assessment did not show red grouper was undergoing overfishing (too many fish being caught) or 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 has been hurt by recent red tide events along the west Florida shelf.
- Reef Fish Amendment 53 also proposes to reduce the red grouper commercial allocation from 76% to 59.3% due to the transition to Marine Recreational Information Program Fishing Effort Survey units, which estimates higher recreational effort and landings than previous surveys.
Will I be Able to Comment on the Proposed Reduction in Harvest?
- Yes, NOAA Fisheries will be publishing a proposed rule for Reef Fish Amendment 53.
- The public will be able to comment on the proposed rule after it publishes.
- The public can also comment on the Notice of Availability for Reef Fish Amendment 53, which is open from December 9, 2021, through February 8, 2022, at https://www.regulations.gov/document/NOAA-NMFS-2021-0098-0002.
- Comments on the Notice of Availability and the proposed rule will be used in making a determination on the final rule.
Where can I find more information on Reef Fish 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
- Reef Fish Amendment 53 and the Notice of Availability may be found online at the NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office Web site at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/amendment-53-red-grouper-allocations-and-catch-levels.
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