- NOAA Fisheries requests your comments on changes to regulations for the Gulf of Mexico commercial shrimp fishery.
- The changes would:
- increase the allowable amount of commercial shrimp trawl fishing effort in certain federal waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico.
- revise the Gulf of Mexico shrimp fishery management plan framework procedure to allow changes to allowable fishing effort through an expedited process.
- Comments are due by September 30, 2019.
HOW TO COMMENT:
The comment period for the notice of availability of an amendment that establishes these changes is open now through September 30, 2019. The comment period on the proposed rule is expected to fall within this same time frame, and comments on both the amendment and proposed rule will be considered in the final rule. 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: 84 FR 37611, August 1, 2019
Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal.
1. Go to http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2019-0045.
2. Click the "Comment Now!" icon, complete the required fields.
3. Enter or attach your comments.
Mail: Submit written comments to Frank Helies, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)
Why is the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council considering a change in the allowable fishing effort for the federal Gulf of Mexico commercial shrimp trawl fishery?
- In 2005, a population assessment identified bycatch of red snapper by the Gulf of Mexico shrimp fishery as a primary factor affecting the recovery of Gulf of Mexico red snapper.
- The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council instituted a reduction in shrimp fishing effort in statistical zones 10-21 (map below) from 10-30 fathom water depths to help end overfishing (i.e., harvesting more fish than is sustainable) of red snapper and rebuild the population.
- The Gulf of Mexico red snapper population has improved and is rebuilding consistent with the rebuilding plan.
- A recent analysis by the NOAA Fisheries Southeast Fisheries Science Center indicated that increasing shrimp trawling effort in statistical zones 10-21 from 10-30 fathom water depths is unlikely to affect the rebuilding timeline of red snapper, and would have little impact on yearly red snapper annual catch limit projections.
- The Council wanted to allow the Gulf of Mexico commercial shrimp trawl fishery to also experience some of the positive impacts of the improving red snapper stock.
What impact would changing the allowable shrimp trawl fishing effort have on red snapper?
- The analysis concluded that red snapper mortality due to discards during the closed red snapper recreational season is much higher than was thought at the time the shrimp effort reduction was put in place, and the natural mortality values in previous assessments assumed for juvenile red snapper has changed. Therefore, mortality due to shrimp trawl bycatch has a smaller influence on the red snapper population than previously thought.
- The analysis also found that moderate changes in red snapper bycatch levels from increased shrimp fishing effort are unlikely to alter the red snapper rebuilding schedule.
- An increase in shrimp fishing effort would reduce the red snapper acceptable biological catch levels in the short term (next 3 years) by no more than 100,000 pounds and, in the long term, by no more than 300,000 pounds.
What does this mean for the Gulf of Mexico commercial shrimp trawl fishery?
- To date, the Gulf of Mexico shrimp trawl fishery has not exceeded the allowable effort level in the area monitored for juvenile red snapper since the implementation of the effort reduction, though it did come within two percentage points in 2014, 2016, and 2017.
- The proposed rule would allow Gulf of Mexico commercial shrimp fishermen to trawl in statistical zones 10-21 of the northern Gulf in 10-30 fathom water depths for about an additional 5,800 24-hour days. This represents a relative increase in Gulf-wide effort of 21 percent.
- The number of federally permitted Gulf of Mexico commercial shrimp vessels has been declining since the implementation of a permit moratorium in 2006 because of non-renewal. There is no expectation this action would result in a significant increase in effort in that area. However, if effort does increase, the potential for time-area closures would decline.
Why is the Shrimp Fishery Management Plan framework procedure being modified?
- The management measures framework procedure provides standardized procedures for implementing routine management changes to the Shrimp Fishery Management Plan.
- This proposed rule would modify the framework procedure to allow changes to the allowable shrimp fishing effort through the standard open framework documentation process. This process includes developing a document that is subject to public comment and approval by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.
- Allowing changes to the allowable fishing effort through the framework procedure would ensure a more timely response to new information, such as red snapper population assessments. If a change in the target reduction goal is warranted based on the new information, a more timely response could offer greater long-term benefits to the Gulf of Mexico.
Where can I find more information on Amendment 18?
- Amendment 18 may be found online at the NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office Website: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/amendment-18-modifying-shrimp-effort-threshold.
- Contact NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office
By Mail: Frank Helies
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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