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May 13, 2013

Proposed Snapper Changes Could Affect Gulf Anglers

NOAA wants your comments concerning vermilion and yellowtail snapper regulations.

NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comments on a proposed rules that would affect Gulf of Mexico anglers. New proposals would set a bag limit of 10 vermilion snapper per trip, increase the annual catch limit for yellowtail snapper to 901,125 pounds, and eliminate the venting tool requirement. 

The proposed rules were published on May 7, 2013, and the comment period ends on June 6, 2013.

Vermilion Snapper

The proposed rule would set a 10-vermilion snapper bag limit within the 20-fish aggregate reef fish bag limit. Vermilion snapper is not overfished or undergoing overfishing. However, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) received testimony from some fishermen that the vermilion snapper stock may be declining. In addition, recreational landings have been increasing in recent years and could contribute to the vermilion snapper annual catch limit being met before the end of the fishing year. This would result in a closure of vermilion snapper fishing. To minimize the risk this could occur, the Council recommended a 10-fish vermilion snapper bag limit within the 20-fish aggregate reef fish bag limit. 

Yellowtail Snapper

The proposed rule would also increase the Gulf of Mexico yellowtail snapper annual catch limit from 725,000 pounds to 901,125 pounds. A recent stock assessment determined the yellowtail snapper stock is considered to be healthy and well above the biomass needed to harvest the maximum sustainable yield. Therefore, the Council recommended the annual catch limit be increased. 

Venting Tool Requirement

The proposed rule would eliminate the requirement to use venting tools when fishing for reef fish. Some scientific studies have questioned the usefulness of venting tools in preventing barotrauma in fish, particularly those caught in deep waters. In addition, some fish caught in shallow waters may not need to be vented, and attempts at venting may cause damage to fish by improper venting and increased handling times. Finally, the current requirement interferes with using other devices such as fish descenders. These devices can be used by fishermen to return fish back to depth. Because of these factors, the Council recommended the venting tool requirement be rescinded.

Comments

NOAA Fisheries must receive comments on this proposed rule no later than June 6, 2013. Obtain electronic copies of the proposed rule and the amendment from the NOAA Fisheries Web site.

Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Click the "Comment Now!" icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.