Request for Comments: Proposed Changes to Management of Red Grouper in Federal Waters of the South Atlantic Region

October 29, 2019

FB19-067: South Atlantic Fishery Bulletin; For more information contact: Mary Vara, (727) 824-5305, mary.vara@noaa.gov

KEY MESSAGE:

NOAA Fisheries requests your comments on the proposed rule for Regulatory Amendment 30 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region (Regulatory Amendment 30).  The proposed actions would revise the rebuilding schedule for red grouper based on the most recent stock assessment, extend protections to red grouper in federal waters off North Carolina and South Carolina, and establish a commercial trip limit.

Comments are due by November 29, 2019

 

SUMMARY OF PROPOSED CHANGES FOR RED GROUPER:

  • Revise the rebuilding schedule for red grouper to 10 years, which is equal the maximum time period allowed to rebuild.  The rebuilding schedule would begin in 2019 and end in 2028. 
  • Extend both the commercial and recreational red grouper spawning season closure (January through April) through the month of May, in federal waters off North Carolina and South Carolina.
  • Establish a commercial trip limit for red grouper harvested in the South Atlantic federal waters of 200 pounds gutted weight.

Please see the Frequently Asked Questions below for more information on these actions.

 

HOW TO SUBMIT COMMENTS:

The comment period is open now through November 29, 2019.  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 57840, published October 29, 2019

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

1. Go to https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=NOAA-NMFS-2019-0117.

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

3. Enter or attach your comments.

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

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)

 

Why are changes for red grouper being proposed?

  • In February 2017, a population assessment for red grouper in the South Atlantic determined that the population is overfished (the number of fish in the water is too low), undergoing overfishing (fish are being removed too quickly from the population), and not making adequate rebuilding progress.
  • Abbreviated Framework Amendment 1 reduced the total, commercial, and recreational annual catch limits, on August 27, 2018, to end overfishing of red grouper.
  • The rebuilding plan must be revised as the population assessment determined that the population will not be rebuilt by 2020, which is the end of the current plan.

 

Why is the seasonal prohibition on recreational and commercial harvest of red grouper only being extended off North Carolina and South Carolina?

  • Fishermen reported that, in North Carolina and South Carolina waters, red grouper are often found in spawning condition past the January through April shallow-water grouper spawning season closure.
  • The closure was not extended through May in federal waters off Georgia and Florida as some fishermen stated that red grouper spawn earlier in the year in the southern part of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s jurisdiction.
  • Additionally, there are minimal landings of red grouper in Georgia, which would preclude the need to extend the closure in federal waters off that state.

 

Why is a commercial trip limit of 200 pounds gutted weight being implemented for red grouper?

  • A commercial trip limit would constrain harvest to help rebuild the population by discouraging direct fishing for the species, but would be large enough to allow fishermen for whom red grouper are an important species (such as those in South Florida and the Florida Keys) to maintain some trip profitability.
  • Additionally, the trip limit would minimize adverse socio-economic effects by allowing fishermen to retain some red grouper caught incidentally when fishing for other snapper-grouper species.

 

Where can I find more information on Regulatory Amendment 30?

  • Contact NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office 

By Mail: Mary Vara

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 October 29, 2019