Gulf Council and Reef Fish Committee Recent Actions

These are actions of the Reef Fish Committee of the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council that will have definite and direct effect on the red snapper fishery in the Gulf. Especially note the capitalized paragraph about charter captains and Individual Fishing Quotas (IFQ), as this is a change from the previous rulings to have a category for “Historical Captains” who could prove employment on a Federally permitted charter vessel to obtain quota for themselves when/if they purchased their own vessel in the future.

This information was provided to me by Captain Bob Zales of Panama City, Florida, who keeps me up to date on Council actions. Bob was formerly the long-time president of the National Charterboat Owners Association, and has served on numerous Advisory Positions to the Gulf Council.

Below you see the committee actions from yesterday. The full council will make final decisions tomorrow. The reef fish committee is made up of all 17 council members so essentially the council made these decisions.

YOU ALSO SEE A VERY IMPORTANT ISSUE LEFT OUT OF THE IFQ/PFQ/ALLOCATION ISSUES, ANY HIRED CAPTAIN, ONE WHO DOES NOT OWN THE BOAT BUT WORKS FOR AN OWNER, WILL BE COMPLETELY LEFT OUT OF ANY ALLOCATION DISCUSSION. NO ALLOCATION WILL BE PROVIDED TO A HIRED CAPTAIN SO ANY HIRED CAPTAIN WITH PLANS TO BUY HIS/HER OWN BOAT IN THE FUTURE WILL HAVE NO RED SNAPPER ALLOCATION. ALL HIRED CAPTAINS NEED TO SERIOUSLY CONSIDER THIS ISSUE.

Without opposition, the Committee recommends, and I so move, that the Council
select Alternative 4 as a Preferred Alternative.
Alternative 4: Use the constant catch OFL and ABC recommended by the SSC but set the
ACL and ACT below the constant catch OFL and ABC. Base the ACL and ACT on the
minimum ABC of 10,770,000 lb gw from the declining yield stream. Use the current
allocations on the minimum ABC to establish ACLs. Set ACTs for each sector where the
commercial ACT (quota) is set at 95% of the commercial ACL and the recreational ACT is
92% of the recreational ACL.
The Committee then moved to recommend approval of the framework action and associated
codified regulations.
Without opposition, the Committee recommends, and I so move, that the Council
approve the Framework Action to Modify Red Grouper ACL and that it be
forwarded to the Secretary of Commerce for review and implementation, and deem
the codified text as necessary and appropriate, giving staff editorial license to make
the necessary changes in the document. The Council Chair is given the authority to
deem any changes to the codified text as necessary and appropriate.

Without opposition, the Committee recommends, and I so move, that the Council add
an alternative 4 to Action 3: To add a recreational closed season starting January 1
through Feb 28, open March 1st, and keep June 1 through July 31 a closed season.

With one in opposition, the Committee recommends and I so move, that in Action 2,
add a new Alternative 5:
Alternative 5: Establish a red snapper management program for charter vessels. The
program would include only charter vessels with a valid or renewable federal for-hire
permit for reef fish who elected to join the red snapper management program for charter
vessels. An endorsement to the federal for-hire permit for reef fish would be issued to
those charter operators who elected to join the red snapper management program for
charter vessels. Opportunities to opt in to the red snapper management program for
charter vessels are offered every year.
Without opposition, the Committee recommends and I so move, that in Alternatives
2-4 in Action 2, to add a sentence in each one that any vessel opting out from the
federally permitted red snapper charter for-hire program will not be able to harvest
red snapper.

2
Options Paper for Amendment 46 – Modify Gray Triggerfish Rebuilding Plan (Tab B, No.
5)
Staff reviewed the background information and draft options paper. The document is in the
initial stages of development and staff is looking for feedback on the range of options currently
in the document. This range of options will be used for the analyses request and review at the
June SSC meeting. After discussion the Committee passed the following motion.
Without opposition, the Committee recommends, and I so move, that the Council add
an alternative 4 to Action 3: To add a recreational closed season starting January 1
through Feb 28, open March 1st, and keep June 1 through July 31 a closed season.

With one in opposition, the Committee recommends and I so move, that in Action 2,
add a new Alternative 5:
Alternative 5: Establish a red snapper management program for charter vessels. The
program would include only charter vessels with a valid or renewable federal for-hire
permit for reef fish who elected to join the red snapper management program for charter
vessels. An endorsement to the federal for-hire permit for reef fish would be issued to
those charter operators who elected to join the red snapper management program for
charter vessels. Opportunities to opt in to the red snapper management program for
charter vessels are offered every year.
Without opposition, the Committee recommends and I so move, that in Alternatives
2-4 in Action 2, to add a sentence in each one that any vessel opting out from the
federally permitted red snapper charter for-hire program will not be able to harvest
red snapper.

A Committeemember expressed concern with using regional landings to distribute quota, noting that
Mississippi has no charter landings for some years due to low sampling. The Committee passed
the following motions.
With one in opposition, the Committee recommends and I so move, that in Action 3,
to adopt the Advisory Panel’s recommendation to add a new alternative to distribute
quota using the parameters in Alternatives 2, 3 and 5:
– Distribute quota equally among charter permit holders (Alt 2)
– Based on the lesser of the COI of the vessel or permit capacity (Alt 3)
– Distribute quota based on historical/regional landings (Alt 5)
Options for the previous motion’s new alternative:
Option A Option B Option C Option D Option E
Alt 2 (equal) 25% 20% 30% 40% 75%
Alt 5 (regional history) 50% 50% 40% 30% 12.5%
Alt 3 (passenger capacity) 25% 30% 30% 30% 12.5%
Without opposition, the Committee recommends and I so move, that in Action 3, to
add 2 new options to Alternative 5:
Option 5d: use average landings for years 2003 to 2012, excluding landings in 2010.
Option 5e: establish a timeline as found in Amendment 40:
50% 1986-2013 plus 50% 2006-2013, excluding landings from 2010.

Without opposition, the Committee recommends and I so move, that in Action 1, add
an alternative to establish a PFQ program that uses annual allocation but not shares.
Without opposition, the Committee recommends and I so move, that staff time
permitting, to reconvene the Charter For-hire Advisory Panel, prior to the June
Council meeting, in order to continue their work on recommendations for
Amendment 41.

Without opposition, the Committee recommends and I so move, that the AP take up
the harvest tag program that provides recreational participants with annual
allocation distributed in the form of harvest tags and specifically evaluate this
Alternative 5.

With a vote of 9 to 4, the Committee recommends and I so move, to have staff
examine the following traditional measures and report back to the Council how
these measures impact season length for the charter for hire sector.
1) 1-fish bag limit
2) Split seasons
3) A range of size limits

Without opposition, the Committee recommends and I so move, to ask NMFS to
publish a control date of December 31, 2015 for participation in the reef fish
headboat program.

By a voice vote of 9 to 6, the Committee recommends and I so move to select
Alternative 2 with Option 2a as the Preferred Alternative and Preferred Option.
Alternative 2: Extend the separate management of the federal for-hire and private
angling components (sector separation) for an additional:
Option 2a: 3 calendar years (to be effective through the end of the 2020 fishing year).

About MikeH

Texas hunter and fisherman for 50 years, published outdoor writer since 1979, licensed charter boat operator from 1982 to 2013. Past Member, Board of Directors, National Association of Charterboat Operators, current member Environmental Advisory Committee to the DOE and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Married to Dorothy since 2000, one son, Michael who is recently married and living in Nederland, Texas. My wife and I live in Oyster Creek, Texas, near Freeport, and have a hunting property outside of Brazoria, Texas.
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