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NOAA Requests Comments on a Proposed Rule to Revise the Gulf of Mexico Red Grouper Catch Limits and Catch Targets

January 19, 2022

FB22-004: Gulf of Mexico Fishery Bulletin; For more information, contact: Peter Hood: 727-824-5305, Peter.Hood@noaa.gov

Key Messages:

  • NOAA Fisheries is requesting public comments on a proposed rule for Amendment 53 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources in the Gulf of Mexico (Amendment 53) to revise the Gulf of Mexico red grouper sector annual catch limits and sector annual catch targets.
  • Amendment 53 would also:
    • Modify the allocation of Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) red grouper catch between the commercial and recreational sectors,
    • Specify a new overfishing limit and acceptable biological catch.
  • NOAA Fisheries requests your comments regarding the changes the proposed rule would make to Gulf red grouper management in federal waters.  Comments are due by February 18, 2022.
  • NOAA Fisheries also published a notice of availability for Amendment 53 and is requesting comments on the amendment.  
  • Comments on both the proposed rule and amendment will be considered in the final rule. 
  • 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 hurt by recent red tide events along the west Florida shelf.


Summary of Proposed Changes in Proposed Rule and Amendment 53:

  • Revise the Gulf 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 proposed overfishing limit (OFL), acceptable biological catch (ABC), population 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 proposed recreational ACLs and ACTs are in MRIP Fishing Effort Survey (MRIP-FES) units.  The reduction shows the percent change in the proposed commercial and recreational ACLs and ACTs (recreational values are in MRIP-FES units). 




Population ACL

Commercial ACL

Recreational ACL

Commercial ACT (quota)

Recreational ACT









MRIP-FES equivalent

























How to Comment On the Proposed Rule:

The comment period for the proposed rule is open now through February 18, 2022.  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:  87 FR 2737, published January 19, 2022.

Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. 

1. Go to: https://www.regulations.gov/document/NOAA-NMFS-2021-0098-0037.

2. Click the "Comment Now!" icon, complete the required fields.

3. Enter or attach your comments.

Mail: Submit written comments to Peter Hood, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is NOAA Fisheries announcing today?

  • NOAA Fisheries is announcing a public comment period for a proposed rule to revise the Gulf red grouper sector annual catch limits and annual catch targets.
  • The comment period is open from January 19, 2021, through February 18, 2022.
  • This action sets the red grouper sector specific annual catch limits and annual catch targets consistent with the Gulf Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee’s recommendations. 


What are the proposed 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 population 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 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 does this action propose that the recreational sector should have a higher percentage of the annual catch limit?

  • The Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR) population assessment for red grouper used updated recreational catch and effort data from the MRIP Access Point Angler Intercept Survey (APAIS) and FES, which collectively estimate larger than previously calculated catch and effort for the recreational sector. 
  • Because MRIP-FES was used in the red grouper SEDAR population assessment, estimates of historic recreational landings were greater than in previous assessments.
  • Therefore, when comparing recreational and commercial landings, recreational landings were proportionately larger than past comparisons.


Why did the Gulf Council recommend changing the allocation between the commercial and recreational sectors?

  • A Gulf red grouper population assessment was completed in late 2019 through the SEDAR process.
  • The Gulf Council decided to use landings from1986 through 2005 to set the new sector allocations.  These are the same years of landings used to set the current allocation of 76% commercial and 24% recreational and represent historic participation in the reef fish fishery.  
  • The Gulf Council used a new recreational survey to estimate 1986 through 2005 landings (see question above).
  • This new survey was used in the population assessment and estimates higher recreational effort and landings than previous surveys.
  • Using the new survey led to proportionally more red grouper being caught by the recreational sector.
  • The resulting allocation is 59.3% commercial and 40.7% recreational.


What are the next steps?

  • The public comment period for the proposed rule is open for 30 days, from January 19, 2022, through February 18, 2022.
    • NOAA Fisheries is also soliciting public comment on Amendment 53 through a notice of availability.  This comment period is open for 60 days, from December 9, 2021, through February 7, 2022.
  • NOAA Fisheries will prepare the final rule and address comments received during the proposed rule and notice of availability comment periods.
  • NOAA Fisheries will issue a fishery bulletin alerting constituents to any regulatory changes being implemented and advising of a 30-day cooling off period providing time to prepare for the new regulations.


What is the difference between the recreational surveys used to estimate recreational landings?

  • NOAA Fisheries created Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistical Survey (MRFSS) in 1979 to estimate recreational landings and MRFSS collected recreational data on catch and effort, including red grouper, beginning in 1981.
  • MRFSS included both telephone surveys and interviews at marinas and other points where recreational anglers fish. 
  • In 2008, MRIP replaced MRFSS to meet increasing demand for more precise, accurate, and timely recreational catch estimates.  MRIP 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, MRIP began using APAIS, which was designed to address concerns that trips recorded during a given time period are representative of trips for a full day.  
  • Beginning in 2015, MRIP-CHTS moved to a new mail survey, MRIP-FES, to overcome issues that arose from shifts in phone usage as cellular telephones became more popular.
  • The mail-based FES uses angler license and registration information to identify and contact anglers
  • Because FES and CHTS 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 FES are higher — and in some cases substantially higher — than CHTS estimates because FES is designed to more accurately measure fishing activity than CHTS, not because there was a sudden rise in fishing effort. 
  • NOAA Fisheries developed a calibration model to adjust historic effort estimates so that they can be accurately compared to new estimates from FES.
  • 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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Last updated by Southeast Regional Office on January 19, 2022