Temporary rule to reset gag quota

Industry Database

NOAA has announced a temporary rule to reset the commercial quota of gag, continue the suspension of the use of red grouper multi-use IFQ commercial allocation, and set a gag recreational season.

Gag is considered overfished. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) recommended NOAA Fisheries Service implement this temporary rule to revise 2011 commercial and recreational measures in light of the rerun of the gag update stock assessment. The Council is developing a long-term plan address gag stock rebuilding.

The rule proposes to increase the 2011 quota from 100,000 pounds to 430,000 pounds. The rerun of the 2009 population assessment update for gag indicated the commercial quota should be reduced from 1.49 million pounds to 500,000 pounds. However, setting the quota at this level assumes equal reductions in both landings and dead discards. Testimony from industry indicated that although gag can be avoided when targeting the capture of other species, gag cannot be completely excluded from the catch and there will be some gag bycatch and associated dead discards. Therefore, the Council recommended the quota be set at 430,000 pounds to account for discards.

The rule also proposes to continue the suspension of the use of red grouper IFQ multi-use allocation, which could be used to harvest gag. If the suspension is not in place, 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 likely allow the harvest to exceed the gag quota.

For the recreational sector, the rule proposes a 2011 recreational season from 16 September-15 November. The current bag limit of two gag within the four fish aggregate grouper bag limit and the minimum size of 22-inches total length would be in effect during the fishing season.

Written comments on any portion of the proposed rule must be received no later than 6 May 2011 and can be made through the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Enter the following docket number into the Search box: NOAA-NMFS-2011-0072.

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