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Request for Comments: Proposed Rule for Two Framework Actions for Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper

June 28, 2022

FB22-037: Gulf of Mexico Fishery Bulletin; For more information, contact: Rich Malinowski or Daniel Luers, 727-824-5305; Rich.Malinowski@noaa.gov, Daniel.Luers@noaa.gov

Key Message:

NOAA Fisheries requests your comments on a proposed rule to implement two framework actions under the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico; Recreational Data Calibration (Data Calibration Framework) and Annual Catch Limits (Catch Limits Framework) for Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) Red Snapper.  Comments are due by July 28, 2022.

 

Summary of Proposed Changes:

The Catch Limits Framework and this proposed rule would increase the catch limits as indicated in Table 1.    

Table 1.  The current and proposed red snapper overfishing limit (OFL), acceptable biological catch (ABC), annual catch limits (ACL), and recreational annual catch targets (ACT).

Catch Limit Type

Current 

Proposed

Calculation

OFL

15,500,000

25,600,000

N/A 

ABC

15,100,000

15,400,000

2.581% & 60.1% less than OFL

Total ACL

15,100,000

15,400,000

ACL = ABC

Commercial ACL

7,701,000

7,854,000

51% of ABC

Recreational ACL

7,399,000

7,546,000

49% of ABC

Federal For-Hire ACL

3,130,000

3,191,958

42.3% of Recreational ACL

Federal For-Hire ACT

2,848,000

2,904,682

9% less than For-Hire ACL 

Private Angling ACL

4,269,000

4,354,042

57.7% of Recreational ACL

Private Angling ACT*

3,415,200

3,483,234

20% below Private Angling ACL

*Under federal regulations, the private angling ACT would increase with implementation of the new catch limits, but it is not currently used in management of the fishery.

  • The Data Calibration Framework and this proposed rule would apply calibration ratios developed by NOAA Fisheries Office of Science and Technology and the Gulf States to state specific ACLs to adjust those ACLs into the same currency in which each state monitors landings (Table 2).  If the proposed rule is implemented, the private recreational red snapper ACLs for each state would be as follows.

Table 2: State ACLs that would be implemented with this proposed rule.  The “Federal Equivalent” is multiplied by the calibration ratio to get the “State Annual Catch Limit.”  Catch limits are in whole weight.

State

Federal Equivalent

Calibration Ratio

State Annual Catch Limit

Alabama

1,145,026

0.4875

558,200

Florida

1,951,569

1.0602

2,069,053

Louisiana

832,493

1.06

882,443

Mississippi

154,568

0.3840

59,354

Texas

270,386

1.00

270,386

 

How to Comment On the Proposed Rule:

The comment period is open now through July 28, 2022.  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: 87 FR 38366, published June 28, 2022

 

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

  1. Go to https://www.regulations.gov/docket/NOAA-NMFS-2022-0028.
  2. Click the "Comment Now!" 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, FL 33701.

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
 

Why would the Gulf red snapper catch limits increase?

  • Two red snapper interim analyses, completed in 2021, indicated that catch levels could be increased.
  • One of the analyses used the results from the Great Red Snapper Count in 2021, which estimated stock biomass of Gulf red snapper was approximately three times the previous estimate.  The other analysis used information from the NOAA Fisheries’ Bottom Longline survey. 
  • The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee reviewed results of both of these analyses at its March 30 - April 2, 2021, meeting.
  • Based on this information, the Scientific and Statistical Committee recommended an increase in the red snapper annual catch limits.

 

Why would the OFL increase by so much (10.1 million pounds) but the ABC only has a small (0.3 million pounds) increase?

  • During its March - April 2021 meeting, the Gulf Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee reviewed the Great Red Snapper Count project report, supporting documentation, and findings of independent consultants.  
  • The Great Red Snapper Count indicated that the number of red snapper was estimated to be approximately three times greater than estimated in the most recent stock assessment, SEDAR 52.
  • The Committee discussed that the estimates of red snapper from the Great Red Snapper Count and SEDAR 52 were similar for hard bottom and artificial reef habitat where most fishing occurs for the species.
  • The Great Red Snapper indicated that red snapper also inhabit uncharacterized bottom, which was largely not considered in previous stock assessments for red snapper.  This represents the primary driver in the difference in abundance estimates between the SEDAR 52 stock assessment and the Great Red Snapper Count.  
  • The Committee noted that because red snapper occur at relatively low densities over uncharacterized bottom compared to known hard bottom (including artificial reefs, etc.), they are unlikely to be targeted in these areas. 
  • Because red snapper occupying uncharacterized bottom have historically faced lower fishing mortality than hard bottom, basing harvest levels on the entire population may lead to localized depletion on reefs as the overwhelming majority of harvest would be expected to occur on this habitat. 
  • The Committee used results of the interim analysis that incorporated the abundance estimates from the Great Red Snapper Count to provide an OFL recommendation of 25.6 million pounds (mp) whole weight (ww).  This was based on the abundance of all red snapper over structure (artificial reef, natural reef, and pipeline) and 13% of the abundance from the uncharacterized bottom.  
  • However, the Committee made its ABC recommendation of 15.4 mp using the results of the interim analysis that incorporated information from NOAA Fisheries’ Bottom Longline survey, with data from 2000 - 2020.  The survey index showed that the highest Gulf-wide abundance of red snapper was in 2016 and has declined since.  
  • The Committee concluded that the red snapper ABC should be considerably more conservative than the OFL due to the uncertainties in the Great Red Snapper Count.

 

Why would the calibration ratios be implemented for the Gulf states?

  • For the private angling component, each Gulf state is allocated a portion of the component’s ACL, and is responsible for constraining landings to its ACL. 
  • However, the current state ACLs are not all set in the same units, or currency, in which each state estimates landings.
  • Because the state-specific landings are in a different currency than the current state ACLs, calibration is necessary to convert the state ACLs into the currency in which each state monitors landings. This would reduce the likelihood of exceeding red snapper catch limits including the private angling component ACL, total recreational ACL, and the OFL.
  • Allowing each state to manage state landings using its own data collection system has allowed the total private recreational ACL, which is set in Federal units, to be exceeded in 2018 and 2019, and the OFL to be exceeded in 2019.  When catch limits are exceeded in this manner, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act requires the Council and NOAA Fisheries take action to prevent exceeding these limits in the future.

 

When would this proposed rule be implemented?

  • The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council chose an implementation date for the calibration ratios of January 1, 2023.  Thus, the target implementation date for the proposed changes in this rule would be January 1, 2023.

 

Where can I find more information on the Red Snapper Catch Limits Framework?

  • Contact NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office

     By Mail: Daniel Luers or Rich Malinowski

                    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 June 28, 2022

Catch Limits