NOAA seeks comments on proposed reduced harvest of gag

19 Oct 2010

NOAA Fisheries Service is seeking public comment on a proposed rule that would decrease the commercial quota of gag, suspend the use of red grouper multi-use individual fishing quota (IFQ) commercial allocation, and temporarily set the gag bag limit to zero.

The proposed temporary rule publishes in the Federal Register on 18 October 2010, with the comment period ending 2 November 2010.

Gag is considered overfished and undergoing overfishing (rate of removal too high). The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act requires that overfished stocks be rebuilt and that overfishing be halted.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) requested NOAA Fisheries Service implement this temporary rule to address overfishing while they developed a long-term plan through Amendment 32 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico.

The proposed rule would establish a quota of 100,000 pounds. The 2009 population assessment update for gag indicated the commercial quota should be reduced from 1.49 million pounds to 390,000 pounds.

However, because of some recently discovered issues regarding the way the assessment model estimated dead discards (fish that die after they are released), the Council has asked NOAA Fisheries Service to re-examine the results of the assessment.

Until those results are known, the Council wanted to be conservative in its actions to harvest gag. The Council did not set the quota to zero because the commercial fleet generally harvests fish in deeper waters where the fish are likely to die from barotrauma. Therefore, the Council asked for this minimal 100,000-pound quota to allow such incidentally caught gag to be landed and counted against the quota instead of being discarded.

The rule would also suspend the use of red grouper IFQ multi-use allocation, which is used to harvest gag. Currently, 4% of an IFQ participant’s red grouper allocation is converted to multi-use allocation.

If the multi-use allocation is used to harvest gag, these additional gag landings would allow the harvest to exceed the reduced gag quota. Note that this part of the rule would not reduce an IFQ participant’s red grouper allocation. The rule would simply not allow 4% of the total allocation to be converted to multi-use allocation.

Comments may be submitted comments by either of the following methods:

  • Electronic Submissions: Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Enter the following docket number into the “Search” box: NOAA-NMFS-2010-0168. All comments received are part of the public record and will generally be posted to http://www.regulations.gov without change. Comments will be posted for public viewing after the comment period has closed. All personal identifying information (for example, name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter, may be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential business information or otherwise sensitive or protected information. NOAA Fisheries Service will accept anonymous comments. Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only.
  • Mail: Peter Hood, NOAA Fisheries Service, Southeast Regional Office, Sustainable Fisheries Division, 263 13th Avenue South, St Petersburg, Florida 33701-5505

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