NOAA Fisheries Approves New Criteria for GOM Reef Fish and Red Drum Management


Man holding mutton snapper on boat
NOAA Fisheries approved new criteria to inform Gulf of Mexico reef fish and red drum management. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council recommended these criteria changes for two amendments, Amendment 48 to the Fishery Management Plan for Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico and Amendment 5 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Red Drum Fishery of the Gulf of Mexico (Amendments 48/5).
Summary of Criteria Changes:
  • The amendments change maximum sustainable yield values or proxies used to determine if overfishing has occurred, or if the stock or stock complex is overfished.
  • Overfishing means too many fish are being harvested from a population.
  • Overfished means that the population is too low.
  • Gulf of Mexico reef fish stocks and stock complexes affected by this action are: cubera snapper, lane snapper, mutton snapper, yellowtail snapper, hogfish, black grouper, goliath grouper, shallow-water grouper complex, deep-water grouper complex, tilefish complex, jacks complex, and mid-water snapper complex.
A Notice of Agency Decision published on June 8, 2022.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the maximum sustainable yield or MSY?
  • It is the largest long-term average catch that can be taken from a fish population under prevailing environmental and fishery conditions.
What is the optimum yield or OY?
  • It is the amount of fish that will provide the greatest overall benefit to the Nation, particularly with respect to food production and recreational opportunities, and taking into account protection of marine ecosystems.
  • It is reduced from MSY as qualified by any relevant economic, social, or ecological factors.
  • In the case of an overfished population, it allows for population rebuilding to a level that produces the MSY for the population.
What is the maximum fishing mortality rate or MFMT?
  • A population is considered undergoing overfishing (too many fish are being removed from the population) if the fishing mortality rate (F) is above MFMT.
  • MFMT may not exceed FMSY or FMSY Proxy.
  • FMSY or FMSY Proxy is the rate of fishing mortality that, if applied over the long term, would result in catching the MSY or MSY proxy.
What is the minimum stock size threshold or MSST?
  • A fish species is considered overfished if the population size falls below the minimum stock size.
  • MSST cannot be less than 50% of the population size.
What are MSY proxies?
  • In stock assessments, sometimes MSY cannot be calculated and so a proxy is used instead.
  • The most common proxy used is some percent of the spawning potential ratio (SPR).
  • SPR assumes that a certain amount of fish must survive and spawn in order to replenish the stock.
  • It is calculated as the average number of eggs per fish over its lifetime when the stock is fished compared to the average number of eggs per fish over its lifetime when the stock is not fished.
  • For most reef fish species, 30% SPR is used for the MSY proxy.
  • For goliath grouper, a more conservative SPR of 50% is used since this species is vulnerable to overfishing because of its long life-span and slow growth rate.
Helpful links
For more information on Amendment 48/5, please visit:
For more information on what status determination criteria are: