NOAA Fisheries Seeks Public Comment on King and Spanish Mackerel Permit Conditions

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KEY MESSAGE:
NOAA Fisheries requests your comments on a proposed rule to remove the restriction on fishing for and retaining the recreational bag limit of king and Spanish mackerel in the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf), South Atlantic, and Mid-Atlantic on a vessel with a federal commercial permit for king or Spanish mackerel when the vessel is on a recreational trip and commercial harvest of king or Spanish mackerel in that zone or region is closed.

SUMMARY OF PROPOSED CHANGES:
Current regulations state that a person aboard a vessel with a federal commercial permit for king or Spanish mackerel may not fish for or retain king or Spanish mackerel in or from federal waters under the bag limit if commercial harvest for the species is closed (i.e., the species, migratory group, zone, subzone, or gear is closed).

This regulation prevents commercial fishermen with a federal commercial permit for king or Spanish mackerel from recreationally fishing on their commercial vessel outside of the commercial season for those species. Such a restriction does not exist under any other vessel or permit condition for other species in the Gulf or South Atlantic.

The proposed rule would remove the restriction on fishing for and retaining the recreational bag limit of king and Spanish mackerel in the Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic, and Mid-Atlantic on a vessel with a federal commercial permit for king or Spanish mackerel when the vessel is on a recreational trip and commercial harvest of king or Spanish mackerel in that zone or region is closed.

HOW TO COMMENT ON THE FRAMEWORK AMENDMENT AND PROPOSED RULE:
The comment period is open now through March 31, 2017.  You may submit comments by electronic submission or by postal mail.  Comments sent by any other method (such as e-mail), to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NOAA Fisheries.  Relevant comments on both the framework amendment and proposed rule will be addressed in the final rule.

FORMAL FEDERAL REGISTER NAME/NUMBER: 82 FR 12187, published March 1, 2017.

Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal.
1. Go to: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=NOAA_FRDOC_0001-4232
2. Click the “Comment Now!” icon, complete the required fields.
3. Enter or attach your comments.

Mail: Submit written comments to Rich Malinowski, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)
 
Why was the prohibition to restrict commercial vessels from retaining recreational bag limits originally implemented?

The regulations were originally considered necessary when the Gulf migratory group of king mackerel (Gulf king mackerel) was thought to be overfished (the population is too low) in the early 1990s, as a means of controlling fishing effort.

Why is the prohibition changing?

The current restriction prevents fishermen from recreationally targeting king or Spanish mackerel on their commercially permitted vessels when the commercial season is closed.
The restriction does not exist under any other vessel permit for other species in the Gulf or South Atlantic.
The most recent population assessment of king mackerel indicated that both Gulf and Atlantic migratory groups of king mackerel are not overfished or experiencing overfishing (too many are being caught each year).

Where can I find more information on Framework Amendment 5?

Contact NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office
By Mail: Rich Malinowski
NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office
Sustainable Fisheries Division
263 13th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, Florida 33701-5505
By FAX: (727) 824-5308
By Phone: (727) 824-5305

Framework Action 5 may be found online at the NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office Web site at:
http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/gulf_sa/cmp/2017/framework_am5/index.html
Additional information on management of king and Spanish Mackerel can be found at:
http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/gulf_sa/cmp/index.html

About Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is one of eight regional Fishery Management Councils established by the Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976. The Council prepares fishery management plans, which are designed to manage fishery resources within the 200-mile limit of the Gulf of Mexico.