The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council met on August 7-10 in San Antonio, Texas. Chris Oliver, the newly appointed Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries, attended the meeting to see firsthand the many challenges facing fisheries management in the Gulf of Mexico.
“It was refreshing to have the head of NOAA Fisheries join us at the Council meeting, especially so soon after taking office,” said Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) Fisheries Program Director Chris Horton. “After spending a few minutes speaking with Mr. Oliver, it was clear he genuinely wants to find solutions for red snapper anglers.”
As one of the most contentious fisheries currently under the federal fisheries management system, it was no surprise that red snapper management measures dominated much of the agenda. Among the issues discussed was whether to proceed on establishing eligibility criteria for charter and head boat captains who can vote on whether they will be managed under a catch share system, like the commercial sector of the red snapper fishery. The Council decided to delay the vote on the referendum criteria until the October meeting.
Also of note was discussion on a draft amendment that would allow the states to manage the recreational fisheries off their shores. While they would still be held to the Gulf-wide quota established by NOAA Fisheries, they would have the opportunity to have seasons out to 200 nautical miles, with the option of including the charter/for-hire fishery as well. However, as in previous attempts to shift to regional management, the states will need to agree on how to allocate the Gulf-wide recreational quota between states.
Greater amberjack, another popular reef fish in the Gulf, only had a three-month season in 2017, from January through March, due to a smaller quota as a result of the recreational sector exceeding their quota in 2016. Many charter/for-hire businesses depend on amberjack fishing when other seasons are closed. Several options for the 2018 season were presented that should provide more fishing opportunities for both the charter/for-hire component and private recreational anglers. The Council is expected to take final action on greater amberjack management options at the October meeting.
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