Members of the South AtlanticThe South Atlantic Fishery Management Council will hold a series of seven public hearings beginning November 14, 2011 to solicit public input on management measures impacting federal fisheries for black sea bass, red grouper, and wreckfish.
In Brevard County, the hearing will be held Wednesday November 16, 2011 from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM at the Radisson Resort at the Port located at 8701 Astronaut Boulevard in Cape Canaveral.
Council staff will provide an overview of each amendment and be on hand to answer questions. Local Council representatives will take formal comments on the public hearing documents any time between those hours. The Council is accepting written and email comments from October 21, 2011 until 5:00 p.m. on November 21, 2011. Copies of the public hearing documents with details on how to submit written comments will be posted on the Council’s web site at www.safmc.net and available by contacting the Council office at 843/571-4366 or Toll Free 866/SAFMC-10.
Amendments are being developed to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan in order to: address overcapacity in the commercial black sea bass pot fishery and reduce the rate of harvest for both commercial and recreational sectors; end overfishing and rebuild the red grouper stock; and address the current Individual Transferable Quota (ITQ) program for wreckfish.
Black Sea Bass Restrictions: Amendment 18A Annual Catch Limits (in numbers of pounds) have been established by the Council for black sea bass as mandated in the Magnuson-Stevens Conservation and Management Act to end overfishing and help rebuild the stock. Increased restrictions on the harvest of other species in the snapper grouper complex have led to an increase in fishing effort for black sea bass. As a result, the catch limits have been reached earlier by both commercial and recreational fishermen, resulting in closures. The fishing year for black sea bass begins June 1st. For the 2011/2012 fishing season, the commercial fishery met its ACL in just 45 days and the fishery was closed. After NOAA Fisheries Service accounted for overages in landings by the recreational sector for the 2010/2011 season, it was announced the recreational fishery had met its adjusted ACL of 341,747 pounds for this fishing year. The recreational black sea bass fishery will close on October 17, 2011 and reopen June 1, 2012. Amendment 18A is being developed to limit the commercial black sea bass pot fishery and reduce harvest rates for both commercial and recreational sectors. A new stock assessment for black sea bass is currently underway. The Council will receive the results of the assessment during its December 5-9, 2011 meeting in Raleigh, NC.
Measures Included in Amendment 18A:
• For the commercial black sea bass pot fishery: limit participation through an endorsement program, limit the number of pots used during a permit year, and other measures to limit harvest and reduce bycatch
• Establish commercial trip limits (all gear types)
• Increase size limits (commercial and recreational)
• Establish a spawning season closure (for both commercial and recreational sectors)
• Modify the current rebuilding strategy to allow for an increase in the Annual Catch Limit as the stock continues to rebuild, based on the results of the most recent stock assessment.
• Improve commercial and for-hire data reporting requirements
Ending Overfishing and Rebuilding Red Grouper: Amendment 24A stock assessment conducted in 2010 identified the red grouper stock in the South Atlantic region as overfished and undergoing overfishing. Amendment 24 will set Annual Catch Limits and Accountability Measures, establish a rebuilding plan, and revise certain population parameters for red grouper to end overfishing and rebuild the stock. The amendment also establishes allocations between recreational and commercial sectors.
Wreckfish ITQs: Amendment 20A
Wreckfish, a deepwater species in the snapper grouper management complex, is currently harvested through an Individual Transferable Quota (ITQ) program. With an anticipated reduction in the Annual Catch Limit for wreckfish, the Council is considering measures to adjust the distribution of wreckfish shares in order to remove inactive effort and allow the commercial sector’s ACL to be harvested effectively.