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Request for Comments: Changes to Catch Levels, Sector Allocations, Recreational Accountability Measures, Recreational Fishing Season, and the Rebuilding Plan for Gulf of Mexico Gag

November 09, 2023

FB23-082: Gulf of Mexico Fishery Bulletin. For more information, contact: Dan Luers: (727) 824-5305; Daniel.Luers@noaa.gov

Key Message:

NOAA Fisheries requests your comments on Amendment 56 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico and the proposed rule that would implement regulations for Gulf of Mexico gag.  The most recent population assessment showed that Gulf of Mexico gag is overfished (the population is too low) and is subject to overfishing (too many fish being caught).    


Comments are due by December 11, 2023


Summary of Proposed Changes:

  • Amendment 56 would:
    • Revise the status determination criteria that determines if overfishing has occurred and revise the optimum yield;
    • Modify the units used to monitor Gulf gag from the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) Coastal Household Telephone Survey (CHTS) to the State of Florida’s State Reef Fish Survey (SRFS);
    • Revise the overfishing limit (OFL) and acceptable biological catch (ABC) as in Table 1 below, and establish an 18-year rebuilding plan for Gulf gag; and 
    • Modify the sector allocations of the Gulf gag annual catch limit (ACL) from 39% for the commercial sector and 61% for the recreational sector to be 35% commercial and 65% recreational.


  • The proposed rule would:
    • Revise the commercial and recreational sector ACLs for 2024-2028 (Table 1);
    • Revise the annual catch targets (ACT) for both the commercial and recreational sectors;
    • Revise the accountability measures in the recreational sector; and
    • Modify the federal recreational fishing season for Gulf gag such that it begins on September 1 and closes when NOAA Fisheries projects that the ACT has been harvested.


Table 1:  Catch limits in million pounds gutted weight proposed in Amendment 56.
































How to Comment on the Proposed Rule:

The comment period for the Proposed Rule is open now through December 11, 2023.  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: 88 FR 77246, published November 9, 2023


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

1. Go to: https://www.regulations.gov/document/NOAA-NMFS-2023-0103-0002.

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

3. Enter or attach your comments.


Mail: Submit written comments to Daniel Luers, Southeast Regional Office, NOAA Fisheries, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


What is NOAA Fisheries announcing today?

  • NOAA Fisheries is announcing a public comment period for the proposed rule for Amendment 56.  The proposed rule would revise the ACLs, ACTs, recreational accountability measures, and recreational fishing season. 
  • NOAA Fisheries is also requesting comments on the notice of availability for Amendment 56.  Amendment 56 would specify a rebuilding plan, sector allocations, an OFL, and an ABC for Gulf gag.  Comments on both the proposed rule and Amendment 56 will be considered in the final rule.
  • The comment period on the proposed rule is open from November 9, 2023, through December 11, 2023.
  • The comment period on Amendment 56 opened on October 18, 2023, and is open through December 18, 2023. 
  • Amendment 56 and the proposed rule would set the Gulf gag OFL and ABC consistent with the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee’s recommendations and the sector allocations.    


Why are the catch limits being reduced?

  • The population assessment for Gulf gag, known as the SEDAR 72, showed the stock is overfished and is subject to overfishing, and that a reduction in catch limits was necessary to allow the stock to rebuild. 


What is a rebuilding plan and how does it apply to Gulf of Mexico gag?

  • A rebuilding plan is a suite of measures that enable a stock of fish to rebuild within a given time period.  The plan generally includes a timeline for rebuilding the stock and a reduction in catch limits, and can include other management measures that constrain harvest.
  • A rebuilding timeline is calculated based on the amount of time it will take for the stock to rebuild considering the magnitude of reductions to catch limits, as well as the effect other management measures will have.
  • Amendment 56 would establish an 18-year rebuilding plan for Gulf gag.


What are the proposed sector allocations for Gulf of Mexico gag and how were they determined?

  • The proposed Gulf gag sector allocations are 35% commercial and 65% recreational.
  • The sector allocations were originally determined by using average Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MRFSS) and MRIP CHTS landings from 1986 through 2005.  This resulted in the current sector allocation of 61% recreational and 39% commercial. 
  • The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council decided using same time series (1986-2005) but calibrating historical landings to SRFS data units would best represent the historic landings for each sector while accounting for the change from MRFSS and MRIP-CHTS data to SRFS data.  This resulted in the proposed allocation of 35 percent commercial and 65 percent recreational.


What are the proposed sector ACLs and ACTs and how were they determined?

  • Proposed sector ACLs and ACTs are based on the SEDAR 72 2022 stock assessment run using Florida’s SRFS data.
  • Sector allocations are based on landings from 1986 through 2005.  
  • The sector ACLs were determined by applying the new allocation of 35% commercial and 65% recreational to the stock ACL.
  • For each sector, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council recommended the following for the ACTs and recreational accountability measures:
    • The commercial buffer between the ACT and ACL would be reduced from about 23% to 5%.
    • The recreational buffer between the ACT and ACL would be increased from 10.25% to 20%.
    • The sector ACTs would be determined by applying the new sector allocation and ACT buffers.
    •  The recreational accountability measures would be revised as follows:
      • The recreational season would be closed upon projection that the ACT (rather than the ACL) has been reached.
      • The proposed rule would remove the provision requiring NOAA Fisheries to maintain the prior year’s ACT if the ACL is exceeded in the previous year.


What are the proposed changes to the recreational fishing season?

  • Beginning in 2024, the recreational fishing season would begin on September 1 and would close when NOAA Fisheries projects that the recreational ACT has been harvested.
  • This change would be implemented to increase the length of the fishing season compared to a June 1 opening date, as fishing pressure is expected to be lower during a September season.


Where can I find more information on Amendment 54?

  • Contact NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office

By Mail: Daniel Luers

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

Sign Up For Text Message Alerts - Find Out About Immediate Openings and Closures

NOAA's Text Message Alert Program allows you to receive important fishery related alerts via text message (SMS).  Standard message & data rates may apply.  You may opt-out at any time.


Text alerts you may receive include:

  • Immediate fishery openings and closures
  • Any significant changes to fishing regulations that happen quickly


Sign up for one or more of the following groups:

  • Gulf of Mexico Recreational Fisheries Related Alerts
    • Text GULFRECFISH to 888777
  • Gulf of Mexico Commercial Fisheries Related Alerts
    • Text GULFCOMMFISH to 888777
  • South Atlantic Recreational Fisheries Related Alerts
    • Text SATLRECFISH to 888777
  • South Atlantic Commercial Fisheries Related Alerts
    • Text SATLCOMMFISH to 888777
  • Caribbean Fisheries Related Alerts
    • Text CARIBFISH to 888777


Quick Glance Contact List for the NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office

Permits Mailbox: The Permits Office in St. Petersburg, Florida, now has a Permits mailbox in the front lobby (263 13th Ave. South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701).  You can now drop off original permits for permit transfers.  Envelopes with information labels will be provided so that your documents can be attached to the correct application.  The mailbox will be checked daily.  For more information contact the Permits Office at 877-376-4877.

Other contacts:

Media: Allison Garrett, 727-551-5750 

Recreational Fishing Coordinator: Sean Meehan (727) 385-5202

Last updated by Southeast Regional Office on November 09, 2023