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Request for Comments on an Amendment to Set Gulf of Mexico Gray Snapper Status Determination Criteria and Annual Catch Limits

February 28, 2020

FB20-016: Gulf of Mexico Fishery Bulletin; For more information, contact: Peter Hood, 727-824-5305, peter.hood@noaa.gov


  • The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) developed Amendment 51 to the Fishery Management Plan for Reef Fish Resources in the Gulf of Mexico (Reef Fish FMP) to set or revise criteria for determining the status of the gray snapper stock.
  • Amendment 51 would also reduce the annual catch limit for Gulf of Mexico gray snapper. 
  • The Council has transmitted this amendment to NOAA Fisheries for approval.
  • NOAA Fisheries requests your comments regarding the changes this amendment would make to Gulf of Mexico gray snapper management in federal waters.  Comments are due by April 28, 2020.
  • NOAA Fisheries will also publish a proposed rule to implement the annual catch limit and will send another Fishery Bulletin to request comments at that time.  Comments on both the amendment and proposed rule will be considered in the final rule. 



  • Establish a maximum sustainable yield and optimum yield.
  • Revise the overfishing threshold and establish an overfished threshold.
  • Reduce the annual catch limit from 2.42 million pounds whole weight (mp ww) to 2.24 mp ww for the 2020 fishing year and 2.23 mp ww in 2021 and subsequent fishing years.   



NOAA Fisheries must receive comments on the amendments no later than April 28, 2020.  You may obtain electronic copies of the draft amendments and environmental assessment from the NOAA Fisheries Web site at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/amendment-51-establish-gray-snapper-status-determination-criteria-and-modify-annual-catch



The comment period for the notice of availability of the amendments is open now through April 28, 2020.  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:  85 FR 11937, published February 28, 2020.

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

1. Go to: www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D= NOAA-NMFS-2019-0116.

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.



Why is the annual catch limit being reduced?

  • The current gray snapper annual catch limit of 2.42 mp ww was initially set in 2012 using landings data from 1999-2008.
  • In 2018, a gray snapper stock assessment was completed that showed that although the stock was not overfished, the stock had been going overfishing.
  • After accounting for scientific and management uncertainty, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council recommended the annual catch limit be set at 2.24 mp ww for 2020 and 2.23 mp ww for 2021 and subsequent years to end overfishing.


What are status determination criteria?

  • National standard guidelines for the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act require that each fishery management plan specify a maximum sustainable yield and optimum yield for each fish stock.
    • The maximum sustainable yield is the maximum level at which a natural resource can be routinely exploited without long-term depletion.
    • Optimum yield is the amount of fish that will provide the greatest overall benefit to the Nation, particularly with respect to food production and recreational opportunities and taking into account the protection of marine ecosystems.
  • National standard guidelines require an overfishing threshold.  If the rate of harvest exceeds this level (too many fish are being caught), the stock is considered undergoing overfishing and action needs to be taken to reduce the number of fish being caught per year.
  • National standard guidelines require an overfished threshold.  If the population size falls below this level, then a rebuilding plan is needed to let the population recover to a level that allows the optimum number of fish being caught.  


Where can I find more information on Amendment 51?

  • 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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  • Gulf of Mexico Recreational Fisheries Related Alerts
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Other contacts:

Media: Kim Amendola, 727-551-5707

            Allison Garrett, 727-551-5750

Last updated by Southeast Regional Office on February 28, 2020