NOAA announces grouper management changes

Published 1:20 pm Monday, October 23, 2023

NOAA Fisheries has announced changes to management of south Atlantic gag and black grouper.

For gag, these changes include establishing a rebuilding plan and revising the acceptable biological catch, annual catch limits, annual optimum yield, sector allocations, accountability measures and management measures for the commercial and recreational sectors. The final rule also modifies recreational management measures for black grouper.

The management measures will reduce the commercial trip limit for gag, and implement recreational vessel limits for gag and black grouper.

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Regulations will be effective October 23, 2023.

Gag Rebuilding Plan. Amendment 53 establishes a rebuilding plan schedule equal to 10 years starting in 2023 and ending in 2032.

Gag Catch Levels and Sector Allocations. The total annual catch limit will be equal to the acceptable biological catch of 175,632 pounds gutted weight, for 2023, and will increase each year throughout the rebuilding timeframe. The total annual catch limit will be 948,911 pounds gutted weight, for 2032 and subsequent fishing years.

The gag sector annual catch limits are based on a revised commercial and recreational allocation of 49% commercial and 51% recreational for 2023 through 2026. Each year thereafter will be a 50% commercial and 50% recreational allocation.

The commercial annual catch limit will be 85,326 pounds gutted weight, for 2023, and will increase each year throughout the rebuilding timeframe. The commercial annual catch limit will be 471,966 pounds gutted weight, for 2032 and subsequent fishing years.

The recreational annual catch limit will be 90,306 pounds gutted weight for 2023 and will increase each year throughout the rebuilding timeframe. The recreational annual catch limit will be 476,945 pounds gutted weight, for 2032 and subsequent fishing years.

Management Measures for Gag and Black Grouper:

The commercial trip limits for gag will be reduced to 300 pounds gutted weight.

The rule will establish private recreational vessel limits for gag and black grouper of two fish per vessel per day not to exceed the daily bag limit of one fish per person per day, whichever is more restrictive.

The rule will establish a charter vessel/headboat (for-hire) recreational vessel limit for gag and black grouper of two fish per vessel per trip not to exceed the daily bag limit of one fish per person per day, whichever is more restrictive.

The rule will set the gag and black grouper bag limit for captain and crew on a for-hire vessel with a federal for-hire snapper-grouper permit at zero.

Recreational Accountability Measures – Gag:

The current in-season closure will be retained.

The post-season recreational accountability measure will be revised and triggered in the following fishing year if the recreational annual catch limit is exceeded. If recreational landings exceed the recreational annual catch limit, the length of the following year’s recreational fishing season will be reduced by the amount necessary to prevent the recreational annual catch limit from being exceeded in the following year.

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