The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) on Wednesday approved a rule amendment regarding open and closed recreational harvest seasons in 2011 for gag grouper in Gulf of Mexico state waters that would be consistent with anticipated interim rules in Gulf federal waters.
Gulf gag grouper are considered to be overfished and undergoing overfishing, and federal fisheries managers are preparing a plan to help rebuild populations of these fish in Gulf waters. In the meantime, interim federal rules are in effect that prohibit the recreational harvest of gag grouper in Gulf federal waters (beyond nine nautical miles from shore). This federal prohibition is expected to be in effect through the end of 2011, except for a planned Sept. 16 through Nov. 15 open recreational harvest season for gag grouper in the Gulf.
The FWC believes that applying the same recreational open and closed harvest seasons for gag grouper in Gulf state waters (inside nine nautical miles from shore) as in federal offshore waters would maximize fishing opportunities for anglers and charter boat operators along Florida's Gulf coast and provide economic benefits to this region.
The FWC's rule for Gulf state waters, except Monroe County waters, would establish a closed gag grouper recreational harvest season of June 1 through the end of 2011, except for an open gag grouper recreational harvest season of Sept. 16 through Nov. 15. These seasons would apply this year only, and they are contingent upon approval of the same gag grouper harvest seasons in Gulf federal waters.
More information regarding the FWC's Gulf gag grouper approved rule amendment is available online at MyFWC.com/Commission, linked from the April 6-7 meeting agenda. This rule takes effect on June 1, contingent upon approval of the federal Gulf gag grouper recreational seasons.