Recreational Closure of Red Grouper Harvest in Federal Waters of the Gulf of Mexico


red grouper swimming along sea bottom

NOAA Fisheries Bulletin


    • Recreational harvest of red grouper in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) will close at 12:01 am, local time, on July 21, 2023.
    • Red grouper recreational harvest will be closed until the 2024 fishing year begins on January 1, 2024.


Why The Red Grouper Closure Is Happening:

    • Landings information received from the Southeast Fisheries Science Center and Southeast Regional Office indicates the 2023 recreational annual catch target (ACT) of 1,840,000 pounds gutted weight (lb gw) is projected to be met on July 20, 2023.
    • In accordance with the regulations, NOAA Fisheries must close harvest when the recreational ACT has been met or is projected to be met.  Therefore, this closure will begin on July 21, 2023.


During The Closure:

    • During the recreational closure, the bag and possession limit are zero for red grouper in or from federal waters of the Gulf.


The prohibition on possession of Gulf red grouper also applies in Gulf state waters for a vessel issued a valid federal charter vessel/headboat permit for Gulf reef fish.


Frequently Asked Questions

How was the date for this closure chosen?

    • NOAA Fisheries receives recreational data from a variety of sources including the Marine Recreational Information Program, the Southeast Region Headboat Survey, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
    • There is a delay between when these data are collected and when these data are available for use by scientists and managers.
    • NOAA Fisheries used average landings per two-month intervals (waves) from 2021-2022 to project the date for the recreational red grouper closure.
    • Projections indicate that the ACT of 1,840,000 lb gw will be met as of July 20, 2023.  Therefore, NOAA Fisheries will close recreational harvest of red grouper as of 12:01 a.m., July 21, 2023.


Why is NOAA Fisheries closing recreational red grouper when the ACT is projected to be met?

    • If red grouper recreational landings exceed the annual catch limit (ACL) in a given year, the length of that following year’s recreational fishing season will be reduced to ensure that the recreational ACT is not exceeded in that following year.


In 2022, recreational red grouper landings exceeded the ACL.  Because the recreational ACL was exceeded last year, regulations require NOAA Fisheries to close the recreational sector in 2022 if the ACT is met or projected to be met.  NOAA Fisheries has projected that the ACT of 1.84 million pounds gutted weight will be met as of July 20, 2023, and is closing harvest for the remainder of the year.