NOAA Fisheries Service will not implement the proposed snapper-grouper area closure in the South Atlantic. The snapper-grouper area closure is 4,827 square miles and extends from southern Georgia to northern Florida where harvest and possession of all snapper-grouper species would have been prohibited (except when fishing with black sea bass pots or spearfishing gear for species other than red snapper if implemented). The snapper-grouper area closure was previously approved through Amendment 17A to the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region (Amendment 17A). The final rule publishes in the Federal Register on April 28, 2011.
An emergency rule was published on December 9, 2010, to delay the effective date of the snapper-grouper area closure specified in Amendment 17A to June 1, 2011. Temporarily delaying the effective date of the snapper-grouper area closure to June 1, 2011, was intended to allow the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) time to respond to new stock assessment information through Regulatory Amendment 10 to the FMP for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region (Regulatory Amendment 10). The new assessment shows red snapper to be overfished (population too low) and undergoing overfishing (rate of removal too high); however, the current rate of overfishing is less than the rate of overfishing found in the previous stock assessment. This prompted the Council to review the assessment and other scientific information and propose eliminating the snapper-grouper area closure.
The decision to eliminate the snapper-grouper area closure through Regulatory Amendment 10 does not affect the prohibition on harvest and possession of red snapper. As of December 3, 2010, Amendment 17A extended the prohibition of commercial and recreational fishing for red snapper in all federal waters of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and the Atlantic coast of Florida. It is illegal to fish for, possess, or harvest red snapper from these waters.
More information, including Frequently Asked Questions for Regulatory Amendment 10 can be found online at: http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov.