NOAA Fisheries has approved Amendment 38 to the Fishery Management Plan for Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico. The amendment modifies accountability measures for shallow-water grouper and changes the framework procedure for the reef fish fishery management plan. The amendment takes effect on March 1, 2013.
According to NOAA, "accountability measures help keep landings within the catch limits or catch targets, or make adjustments if those levels are exceeded." Many times, accountability measures means shortened seasons for anglers. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and NOAA Fisheries developed Amendment 38 to have more control of in-season closures of shallow-water groupers.
Specifically, the rule will:
- Allow NOAA Fisheries to shorten the season for gag or red grouper if landings exceeded the catch limit in the previous year. Currently, if recreational landings exceed the catch limit for either gag or red grouper in a year, the recreational season for all shallow-water groupers is shortened the following year.
- Change the trigger method for recreational accountability measures to one that compares one year of landings to the annual catch limit. The current method for triggering accountability measures uses a three-year moving average of landings compared to the annual catch limit.
- Allow establishment or modification of accountability measures much quicker through a framework procedure. Currently, a change to accountability measures requires an amendment to the fishery management plan.