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Request for Comments: Notice of Availability for Amendment 56 and the Rebuilding Plan for Gulf of Mexico Gag

October 18, 2023

FB23-075: Gulf of Mexico Fishery Bulletin. For more information, contact: Daniel 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.  The most recent population assessment showed that Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) gag is overfished (the population is too low) and is subject to overfishing (too many fish being caught).  A comment period will also be available for a subsequent proposed rule to implement regulations from Amendment 56.


Comments are due by December 18, 2023


Summary of Proposed Changes:

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


  • The subsequent proposed rule would:
    • Revise the commercial and recreational sector ACL 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 (mp) gutted weight (gw) proposed in Amendment 56.

F = F40%SPR


Stock ACL




mp gw

mp gw

mp gw

mp gw































*Catch limits prior to implementation of interim measures for 2023 fishing season

**Based on previous allocation (61% recreational, 39% commercial)


How to Comment on Amendment 56:

The comment period for Amendment 56 is open now through December 18, 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 71812, published October 18, 2023


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

1. Go to: https://www.regulations.gov/document/NOAA-NMFS-2023-0103-0001.

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, NMFS, 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 Amendment 56 to implement the Gulf gag rebuilding plan, including revising the catch limits, sector allocation, and recreational fishing season. 
  • NOAA Fisheries will also be requesting comments on proposed rule for Amendment 56.  Comments on both Amendment 56 and the proposed rule will be considered in the final rule.
  • The comment period on Amendment 56 is open from October 18, 2023, through December 18, 2023.
  • The comment period on the proposed rule will follow.
  • Amendment 56 and the proposed rule would set the Gulf gag OFL and ABC consistent with the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s (Gulf Council) Scientific and Statistical Committee’s (SSC) recommendations and the sector allocation, ACLs, ACTs, and recreational fishing season consistent with the Gulf Council’s recommendations. 


Why are the catch limits being reduced?

  • A 2021 population assessment for Gulf gag showed the stock was overfished and was subject to overfishing. 
  • The population assessment was initially run using recreational data collected from MRIP-FES. 
  • However, the population assessment was re-run in 2022 upon recommendations from the Gulf Council using historical recreational catch and effort data adjusted to be consistent with SRFS for private recreational fishing vessel data, the Southeast Regional Headboat Survey for headboat data, and MRIP-FES for charter boat and shore-based data.
  • The SSC recommended a reduction in the OFL and ABC to address the overfishing status of the Gulf gag stock.
  • Catch limits and other revisions in Amendment 56 and the proposed rule are intended to allow for the gag stock to rebuild within the 18-year timeline selected by the Gulf Council.


What is a rebuilding plan and how does it apply to Gulf 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, 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 on the magnitude of reductions to catch limits, as well as the effect of other management measures.
  • Amendment 56 would set an 18-year rebuilding plan for Gulf gag.  


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

  • The proposed Gulf gag sector allocations are 65% recreational and 35% commercial.
  • The sector allocations were originally determined by using average Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MRFSS) and MRIP-CHTS landings from the years 1986 through 2005.  This resulted in the current sector allocation of 61% recreational and 39% commercial.  
  • The Gulf 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 population assessment completed in 2022.
  • Landings from 1986 through 2005 were used to allocate the proposed catch limits between the commercial and recreational sectors.  
  • The sector ACLs were determined by applying the new allocation of 35% commercial and 65% recreational to the stock catch limit.
  • For each sector, the Gulf Council recommended the following for the ACTs and AMs:
    • The commercial buffer between the ACT and ACL would be reduced from 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 AMs 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 56?

  • 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:

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Sign up for one or more of the following groups:

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  • South Atlantic Recreational Fisheries Related Alerts
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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 October 18, 2023