NOAA Fisheries Service is reopening the public comment period for a proposed rule to create a seasonal closure to recreational fishing for greater amberjack in the Gulf of Mexico. This proposed closure, during June and July of each year, is expected to allow the recreational season to be open for the other ten months of the year, without exceeding the recreational quota. NOAA Fisheries Service originally requested comments on the subject proposed rule from January 24 through February 23, 2011. However, based on several comments received, the intent of the proposed action was not completely understood by the public. It appears many commenters interpreted the proposed closure as a way to reduce harvest. The intent of the proposed rulemaking is not to reduce harvest, but to avoid exceeding the quota in-season. At the request of the for-hire industry, the comment period is being reopened for 15 days to allow interested constituents additional time to comment on this proposal.
Background: The recreational sector has demonstrated the ability to catch its quota well before the end of the fishing year. In 2009, the recreational sector met its greater amberjack quota in August. Even with the extensive fishery closures during 2010 because of the Deepwater Horizon MC252 oil spill, preliminary recreational landings data for 2010 indicate the quota was met. NOAA Fisheries Service has projected that the 2011 quota could be met by August.
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) recognized that lengthy and early in-season closures could cause economic and social disruption to for-hire businesses, private anglers, and shoreside support facilities, such as marinas, bait shops, hotels, and restaurants.
The Council considered several closure options, including spring and fall closures, but determined the closed periods were too long, and would create an economic burden to the recreational sector. Thus, they selected a shorter closure period during the peak of fishing effort. During the Council's deliberations, many for-hire operators indicated a June-July closure was a better option, allowing them to market greater amberjack as a trophy fish during the months the preferred target of red snapper was unavailable.
Dates: Comments must be received no later than 5 p.m., eastern time, on March 25, 2011.
Addresses: You may submit comments, identified by
"0648-BA48", by any one of the following methods:
Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal http://www.regulations.gov. See instructions below.
Mail: Steve Branstetter, Southeast Regional Office, NOAA Fisheries Service, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701.
Instructions for electronic submissions: All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted to http://www.regulations.gov without change. All Personal Identifying Information (for example, name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit Confidential Business Information or otherwise sensitive or protected information.
To submit comments through the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov, enter "NOAANMFS- 2010-0281" in the keyword search, then check the box labeled "Select to find documents accepting comments or submissions," then select "Send a Comment or Submission." NOAA Fisheries Service will accept anonymous comments (enter N/A in the required fields, if you wish to remain anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only.
Comments received by March 25, 2011, will be considered by NOAA Fisheries Service in its decision to approve, disapprove, or partially approve the proposed action. Comments received after that date will not be considered by NOAA Fisheries Service in this decision. All comments received by NOAA Fisheries Service will be addressed in the final rule.
Copies of the regulatory amendment, which includes an environmental assessment, an initial regulatory flexibility analysis, and a regulatory impact review, may be obtained from the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, 2203 North Lois Avenue, Suite 100, Tampa, Florida 33607; telephone 813-348-1630; fax 813-348-1711; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; or may be downloaded from the Council's Web site at http://www.gulfcouncil.org/.