To aid rebuilding efforts of Atlantic swordfish and billfish, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) proposed in December year-round and seasonal closuresof waters totaling approximately 196,370 square miles. The proposalwould establish a year-round closed area in the southeastern Atlantic,and a seasonal closure in the western Gulf of Mexico from March1 through September 30. Fishery managers believe closing theseareas will reduce the bycatch of unwanted and undersized fish,while helping to rebuild other overfished species.
The proposed Atlanticclosed area encompasses waters from Wilmington Beach, North Carolina,to Key West, Florida. The proposed Gulf of Mexico area includesfederal waters from Isabel, Texas, to Grand Isle, Louisiana.
The proposed time/areaclosures are similar to those in recently proposed federal legislation,with the exception of a larger area around Charleston, South Carolina.Fisheries managers are requesting public comment, specificallyon whether the boundary and size of the various closed areas willaccomplish the bycatch reduction goals. NMFS will hold a seriesof hearings on the proposal from New Jersey to Texas. For detailson the time and location of these hearings, contact Jill Stevensat (301) 713-2347, or log onto the web at www.nmfs.gov/sfa.