Control dates for king and Spanish mackerel fisheries of the Gulf of Mexico

16 Mar 2010

On 15 March, NOAA Fisheries Service published an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking revising control dates for the Gulf group king and Spanish mackerel components of the coastal migratory pelagic fishery.

This notice informs participants in the fishery of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s (Council) intention to consider further limiting access within the commercial sector of this fishery.

Specifically, the Council may consider creating a catch share program. To discourage accelerated effort to develop a catch history before the program is implemented, the Council may establish eligibility criteria based on catch histories from and before the most recent full fishing season. For king mackerel the date would be 30 June 2009, and for Spanish mackerel the date would be 31 March 2010. Thus, landings of the respective species after these dates may not count toward eligibility under future management programs. The previous control date for both components of the fishery was 16 October 1995. The current notice moves the control dates to the end of the most recent full fishing year to allow incorporation of more recent, as well as historical, fishing activity.

The revision of control dates does not commit the Council or NOAA Fisheries Service to any particular management regime. The Council may or may not make use of these control dates as part of the qualifying criteria for participation in any future catch share or other management program for Gulf group mackerel. Fishermen are not guaranteed future participation in the fishery, regardless of their entry date or intensity of participation in the fishery before or after the control dates under consideration. The Council may give variably weighted consideration to fishermen active in the fishery before and after the control dates. The Council also may choose to take no further action to control entry or access to the fishery, and rescind the control dates.

Publication of the control dates informs the commercial fishing sector that the Council is considering management measures in its jurisdictional area that could limit eligibility in the commercial mackerel fishery. Implementation of any program would require preparation of an amendment to the fishery management plan and publication of a notice of availability and proposed rule with pertinent public comment periods.

Comments on the establishment of control dates for this fishery must be submitted by 14 April 2010. Comments can be submitted at http://www.regulations.gov

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