Extension of Emergency Measures Modify the Greater Amberjack Recreational Fixed Closed Season
NOAA Fisheries announces the extension of regulations to reduce the recreational harvest of greater amberjack. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council agreed NOAA Fisheries should extend emergency action while they develop long-term management measures to rebuild the greater amberjack population.
How Long is the Emergency Rule Effective:
The extension of the emergency rule will be effective through July 28, 2023, or until the final rule from Amendment 54 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico (Amendment 54) is effective, whichever comes first.
What This Means:
This extension of the emergency rule continues the modification to the greater amberjack recreational fishing season to be closed August 1-31, and November 1-July 31.
The recreational fishing season will not be open in May 2023.
The recreational fishing season will reopen August 1, 2023 to recreational harvest of greater amberjack unless future management measures change this.
2022/2023 Recreational Fishing Year and Fixed Closed Season
Formal Federal Register Name/Number: 87 FR 77526, published December 19, 2023.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is the greater amberjack recreational fixed closed season changing?
The most recent South East Data Assessment and Review population assessment for Gulf of Mexico greater amberjack, known as the SEDAR 70, showed the population was overfished (too few fish) and was undergoing overfishing (too many fish are being caught).
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee recommended a reduction in annual catch limits to address the overfishing status of the Gulf of Mexico greater amberjack.
NOAA Fisheries notified the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council of the greater amberjack population status and the need to address the overfishing and overfished condition in April 2021 as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is currently developing long-term measures in Amendment 54 to address the overfished and overfishing status by reducing catch limits. However, Amendment 54 is not expected to be implemented until the first half of 2023.
The current recreational fishing year starts on August 1. If Amendment 54 is implemented before July 31, 2023, proposed recreational catch limits for 2023 would be assigned to the 2022/2023 recreational fishing year. Any landings that occur during this time will be associated with this fishing year.
The current recreational fixed closed season is November 1-April 30 and June 1-July 31.
An emergency rule modified the greater amberjack recreational fixed closed season to be August 1 through August 31 and November 1 through July 31 (open September 1 through October 31).
The emergency rule expires on January 23, 2023. The emergency rule is being extended to limit the 2022/2023 recreational fishing season for greater amberjack to September 1 through October 31, 2022. Recreational harvest for greater amberjack will not be open in May 2023.
Historic average landings analysis projects the recreational sector would have met the proposed annual catch target in Amendment 54 under the current allocation by August 23, 2022. If the season had remained as is, the recreational sector is projected to have exceeded the proposed Amendment 54 catch limit by more than double.
NOAA Fisheries can only close a sector based on the current annual catch target specified in the regulations. Since Amendment 54 is still being finalized, modification to the fixed closed season would reduce overfishing and prevent serious conservation issues to the population until its implementation.
The new recreational fixed closed season of August 1 – 31 and November 1 – July 31 specified in the emergency action and its extension is expected to reduce overfishing and the possibility of a recreational annual catch limit overage as well as subsequent payback in the following fishing year.
The projected 2022/2023 recreational overage is more than the proposed 2023/2024 recreational annual catch limit. If the fixed closed season had not been modified through emergency action, there is a strong possibility the recreational sector would not open in 2023/2024. Further, the additional overage would not be able to be fully accounted for, which could have repercussions on the population meeting its rebuilding timeline.
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is also developing a Framework Action to address the overfished and overfishing status of Gulf of Mexico greater amberjack by considering modifications to recreational and commercial management measures. This Framework Action is not expected to be implemented until later in 2023.
Why are management measures not changing for the commercial sector?
Historical average landings analysis did not project the commercial sector meeting their catch target and being subject to a closure under the timeline for this emergency rule, even if this emergency rule was extended past the original 180 days.
These projection results are in part due to the commercial sector being subject to a step down trip limit of 250 pounds once 75 percent of their catch target is caught, which reduces sector effort.
However, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is developing a Framework that will consider modifications to commercial management measures.
Where can I find more information on the Greater Amberjack Emergency Rule?