Request for Comments on a Proposed Rule to Revise Gulf of Mexico Greater Amberjack

NOAA Fisheries requests your comments on the proposed rule for implementing regulations for Amendment 54 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico (Amendment 54).  The most recent population assessment showed that Gulf of Mexico greater amberjack continued to be overfished (the population is too low), and was now subject to overfishing (too many fish being caught).

Comments are due by April 10, 2023

Summary Of Proposed Changes:

  • Amendment 54 would:
    • Modify the units used to monitor Gulf of Mexico greater amberjack from the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) Coastal Household Telephone Survey (CHTS) to the MRIP Fishing Effort Survey (FES),
    • Reduce the overfishing limit (OFL) and acceptable biological catch (ABC) as indicated in Table 1 below,
    • Modify the sector allocation of the Gulf of Mexico greater amberjack annual catch limit from 27% for the commercial sector and 73% for the recreational sector to be 20% commercial and 80% recreational,
    • Retain the recreational sector annual catch target buffer of 17%,
    • Reduce the commercial sector annual catch target buffer from 13% to 7%.
  • The proposed rule would:
    • Reduce the sector annual catch limits (ACL) and annual catch targets (ACT) for 2023 and subsequent years as indicated in Table 1 below.

Table 1. Current and proposed OFLs, ABCs, sector ACLs, and sector ACTs in pounds  whole weight.  Note that current recreational portion of the OFL, ABC, ACLs and ACTs are in MRIP-CHTS units,  and the proposed recreational portion of the OFL, ABC, ACLs and ACTs are in MRIP-FES units.

  

OFL

 

ABC

Total ACLComm.

ACL

Comm.

 ACT

Rec. ACLRec.  ACT
Current2,167,000 1,794,000 1,794,000 484,380 421,411 1,309,620 1,086,985
MRIP-FES

equivalent

(3,480,000)(2,930,000)(2,930,000) N/A N/A N/A N/A
Proposed 2023+ (rec. 2022/2023+)2,033,000505,000505,000101,00093,930404,000335,320

Note:  The recreational portion of the 2020+ OFL, ABC, total ACL are based on MRIP-CHTS data.  The MRIP-FES equivalent OFL, ABC, and total ACL are provided for comparison purposes only.  MRIP-FES equivalents of the recreational ACL and commercial ACL were not determined as this was beyond the scope of the analysis.  A discussion about this analysis and the limitations of this approach is provided in the discussion of Chapter 2 Action 1 in Amendment 54, which can be found at the regulations.gov link below.

How To Comment On The Proposed Rule:

The comment period for the Proposed Rule is open now through April 10, 2023. You may submit comments by electronic submission or by postal mail.  Comments sent by any other method (such as e-mail), to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NOAA Fisheries.

Formal Federal Register Name/Number: 88 FR 14964, published March 10, 2023

Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal.

  1. Go to: https://www.regulations.gov/document/NOAA-NMFS-2023-0007-0007.
  2. Click the “Comment” icon, complete the required fields.
  3. Enter or attach your comments.

Mail: Submit written comments to Kelli O’Donnell, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is NOAA Fisheries announcing today?

  • NOAA Fisheries is announcing a public comment period for the proposed rule for Amendment 54 to revise the Gulf of Mexico greater amberjack catch limits, sector allocation, and rebuilding plan.
  • NOAA Fisheries is also requesting comments on the notice of availability for Amendment 54. Comments on both the proposed rule and Amendment 54 will be considered in the final rule.
  • The comment period on the proposed rule is open from March 10, 2023, through April 10, 2023.
  • This action sets the Gulf of Mexico greater amberjack stock OFL and ABC consistent with the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee’s (SSC) recommendations and the sector allocation, ACLs, and ACTs consistent with the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s recommendations.

Why are the catch limits being reduced?

  • Gulf of Mexico greater amberjack has been in a rebuilding plan since 2002.
  • The most recent Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review population assessment for Gulf of Mexico greater amberjack, known as the SEDAR 70, showed the stock continued to be overfished and was now subject to overfishing.
  • SEDAR 70 used updated recreational catch and effort data from MRIP FES, which estimated larger than previously calculated catch and effort for the recreational sector.
  • Because the MRIP FES data were used, estimates of historic recreational landings were greater than in previous assessments.
  • To meet the current stock rebuilding timeline of 2027, catch limits had to be substantially reduced.
  • Had the MRIP FES data been available when the SEDAR 33 Update was conducted in 2016, the ABC recommended by the SSC and total ACL proposed in Amendment 54 represents an approximate 83% reduction.
  • The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s SSC recommended a reduction in the ABC to address the overfishing status of the Gulf of Mexico greater amberjack stock.

What are the proposed sector allocations for Gulf of Mexico greater amberjack and how were they determined?

  • The proposed Gulf of Mexico greater amberjack sector allocations are 80% recreational and 20% commercial.
  • The sector allocations were originally determined by using average MRIP CHTS landings from the years 1981 through 2004. This resulted in the current sector allocation of 73% recreational and 27% commercial.  However, this included years where greater amberjack was not identified to species (1981-1992) and years prior to the sector allocation and other management measures being implemented in 2008.
  • The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council decided to determine the sector allocation between the commercial and recreational sectors by using an updated time series (1993-2019) of average MRIP FES landings that incorporated all years of available data where greater amberjack was identified to species (1993 to present) and the sector allocation and other management measures had been effective (2008 to present).

What are the proposed sector ACLs and ACTs and how were they determined?

  • Proposed sector ACLs and ACTs are based on SEDAR 70 that was completed in 2020.
  • Landings from 1993 through 2019 were used to allocate the proposed catch limits between the commercial and recreational sectors.
  • The sector ACLs were determined by applying the new allocation of 20% commercial and 80% recreational to the stock catch limit.
  • For each sector, the buffer between the annual catch target and annual catch limit was determined by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s ACL/ACT Control Rule.
    • The control rule uses a number of factors about harvest per sector.
    • The control rule recommended the commercial buffer be reduced from 13% to 7%.
    • The control rule recommended the recreational buffer remain at 17%.
  • The sector ACTs were determined by applying the new sector allocation and ACT buffers.

Where can I find more information on Amendment 54?

  • Contact NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office

           By Mail: Kelli O’Donnell

NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office

Sustainable Fisheries Division

263 13th Avenue South

St. Petersburg, Florida 33701-5505

           By FAX: (727) 824-5308

           By Phone: (727) 824-5305

Amendment 54 may be found online at the NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office Web site at:  https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/amendment-54-modifications-greater-amberjack-catch-limits-sector-allocation-and-rebuilding.

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