Changes to management of golden, blueline tilefish proposed; comments sought

Published 8:55 am Sunday, August 13, 2023

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NOAA Fisheries is requesting comments on the notice of availability and proposed rule for Amendment 52 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region.

The notice was published in the Federal Register Citation: 88 FR 51255 on August 3, 2023.

The latest population assessment determined south Atlantic golden tilefish is not undergoing overfishing and is not overfished.

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If implemented, Amendment 52 and the proposed rule would modify management of south Atlantic golden tilefish through revising the acceptable biological catch, annual catch limits, sector allocations, recreational accountability measures and fishing season for the longline component.

Amendment 52 and the proposed rule would also change the recreational bag and possession limits, and the accountability measures for blueline tilefish due to recreational landings exceeding the recreational catch limits in recent years.

Comments are due by Oct. 2, 2023.

Summary of Proposed Changes:

Catch Levels and Sector Allocations for Golden Tilefish – The proposed total annual catch limit would be equal to the acceptable biological catch of 435,000 pounds gutted weight (lbs gw) for 2023; 448,000 lbs gw for 2024; 458,000 lbs gw for 2025; and 466,000 lbs gw for 2026 and subsequent fishing years.

The proposed golden tilefish sector annual catch limits would be based on a revised commercial and recreational allocation of 96.70% and 3.30%, respectively.

The commercial annual catch limits would be 420,645 lbs gw for 2023; 433,216 lbs gw for 2024; 442,886 lbs gw for 2025; and 450,622 lbs gw for 2026 and subsequent fishing years.

Amendment 52 does not modify the allocation formula between the commercial hook-and-line and longline components but does revise the hook-and-line and longline component annual catch limits (quotas) based on the revised commercial sector annual catch limit.

The commercial hook-and-line component annual catch limits would be 105,161 lbs gw for 2023; 108,304 lbs gw for 2024; 110,722 lbs gw for 2025; and 112,656 lbs gw for 2026 and subsequent fishing years.

The commercial longline component annual catch limits would be 315,484 lbs gw for 2023; 324,912 lbs gw for 2024; 332,165 lbs gw for 2025; and 337,967 lbs gw for 2026 and subsequent fishing years.

The recreational annual catch limits would be 2,559 fish for 2023; 2,635 fish for 2024; 2,694 fish for 2025; and 2,741 fish for 2026 and subsequent fishing years.

Commercial Longline Component Fishing Season – The proposed rule would change the start date for the fishing season for the commercial longline component from January 1 to January 15.

Blueline Tilefish Recreational Bag and Possession Limits – The proposed rule would reduce the recreational bag limit for blueline tilefish from three fish to two fish per person per day and prohibit retention of the bag limit by captain and crew.

Recreational Accountability Measures for Golden Tilefish and Blueline Tilefish – The current in-season closure and stock status based post-season accountability measures would be removed.

Under the revised recreational accountability measures, NOAA Fisheries would project the length of the recreational season based on when the recreational annual catch limit would be expected to be met using catch rates from the previous fishing year. NOAA Fisheries would announce the recreational season end date annually in the Federal Register.

The comment period for the notice of availability is open now through October 2, 2023. The comment period on the proposed rule is expected to fall within this same timeframe, and comments on both the amendment and proposed rule will be considered in the final rule. Comments may submit be submitted by electronic submission or by U.S. mail. Comments received after the end of the comment period may not be considered by NOAA Fisheries.

Electronic submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal, Click the comment icon, complete the required fields and enter or attach comments.

Mail: Submit written comments to Karla Gore, Southeast Regional Office, NOAA Fisheries, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701.