Last month, while most of the government affairs team attended the ASA Summit in New Orleans, Ken Haddad represented ASA at the Gulf Council’s meeting in Biloxi, MS.

Ken is a former state fish and wildlife director and has been working with ASA as a consultant for years.  We appreciate his insight on fisheries issues as well as his help and support, especially at the Gulf Council.

Here are items of interest for the recreational fishery that were discussed by the Gulf Council at their October meeting:

King Mackerel: The Council decided to stop working on Coastal Migratory Pelagics (CMP) Amendment 33, under which the Council was considering revising sector allocations for king mackerel.  ASA, the Coastal Conservation Association, and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation submitted a letter to the Council prior to the meeting outlining our concerns and opposition to CMP Amendment 33.

King mackerel is both an important harvest and catch-and-release fishery for recreational anglers in the Gulf of Mexico.  Therefore, it is a fishery where leaving fish in the water is important for increasing the likelihood of encounters for recreational fishermen.  For years, we have encouraged the Council to consider the social and economic benefits of leaving fish in the water, rather than managing to maximize pounds caught, as they consider setting optimum yield and allocations for this fishery.  Adding to our concerns about pursuing reallocation are fishermen seeing fewer king mackerel and reduced recruitment, especially considering the recreational fishery is routinely under their catch limit.

Greater Amberjack:  The Council took final action to set a new rebuilding plan for greater amberjack. Despite past actions by the Council to limit harvest, the species is overfished and has been undergoing overfishing for years.  The rebuilding plan lowers catch limits by 83% and sets sector allocations using the Marine Recreational Information Program Fishing Effort Survey’s (MRIP FES’s) recreational and commercial landings data from 1993 through 2019. Rebuilding is scheduled to occur by 2027.

ASA has advocated for using MRIP FES in existing allocation formulas to recalculate allocations when MRIP FES has been deemed the best scientific information available and will be used for assessment and management going forward.  The Council’s decision uses MRIP FES, but also makes a change to the years used for historical landings to allocate between the commercial and recreational sectors, resulting in a 4% reduction in allocation to the recreational fishery.

Red Snapper Calibration Ratios: Staff from NOAA’s Office of Science and Technology is working with Gulf states on updated calibration ratios for red snapper.  These ratios would allow for “apples to apples” comparisons of landings from state surveys by converting them to MRIP currency.  Ratios that were previously approved by the Council and are pending implementation in 2023 have been controversial for several reasons, which are outlined in ASA’s blog entry, “New Issues Facing Gulf Red Snapper”. Updated calibration ratios for Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi will be presented to the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee for review at their January meeting, as directed by the Council.

The Gulf Council meets next January 30 – February 2, 2023 in Baton Rouge, LA.

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John Chambers