Gulf Council Makes Move On Amberjacks

NOAA Fisheries is implementing an emergency regulation to reduce the commercial harvest rate of Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) greater amberjack. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) requested NOAA Fisheries take emergency action while a Framework Action to modify commercial trip limits is being reviewed and considered for implementation.

    • The most recent population assessment indicates Gulf greater amberjack is overfished (the population is too low) and is undergoing overfishing (too many fish being caught).
    • This Emergency Rule reduces the commercial trip limit to 7 greater amberjack from the current trip limit of 1,000 pounds gutted weight with a step-down to 250 pounds gutted weight when 75% of the commercial annual catch target (or commercial quota) has been harvested.
  • This change is being made to reduce the catch rate of greater amberjack by the commercial sector and extend the commercial fishing season.  

Summary of Change:

  • The Gulf greater amberjack commercial fishing year begins on January 1. The Emergency Rule reduces the commercial trip limit to 7 fish.
  • This Emergency Rule will be effective for 180 days, or until it is superseded by a final rule implementing the Framework Action that is currently under review by NOAA Fisheries. This Emergency Rule will not be extended.
  • The modification to the commercial trip limit is necessary to reduce the harvest rate of Gulf greater amberjack and extend the fishing season. The Emergency Rule is expected to extend the commercial greater amberjack fishing season into June 2024 when it is estimated that the commercial quota will be met and a closure of the commercial harvest will occur.

What will the Emergency Rule for Gulf greater amberjack do?

  • The Emergency Rule will reduce the Gulf greater amberjack commercial trip limit to 7 fish (estimated 210 pounds gutted weight) from the current trip limit of 1,000 pounds gutted weight with a step down to 250 pounds gutted weight when 75% of the commercial quota has been harvested.

Why did the Council request the Emergency Rule? 

  • The final rule for Amendment 54 to Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources in the Gulf of Mexico, which was implemented in June 2023, drastically reduced the catch levels for Gulf greater amberjack.
  • The commercial fishing season for Gulf greater amberjack, which begins on January 1, is expected to be very short each year under the current trip limit; therefore, the Council developed a Framework Action to reduce the trip limit to extend the fishing season.
  • Commercial landings exceeded the commercial annual catch limit in 2023, requiring NOAA Fisheries to further reduce the 2024 catch limits by the amount of the overage.
  • The Council approved the Framework Action at their October 2023 meeting; however, if implemented, the new trip limit of 7 fish is not expected to be effective until spring 2024.
  • Thus, the Council requested an Emergency Rule that would be effective on January 1, 2024, to reduce the trip limit to 7 fish in accordance with what would be specified in the Framework Action to reduce harvest rates and extend the 2024 fishing season.

When will the Emergency Rule go into effect? 

  • This Emergency Rule will be in effect from January 1, 2024, through June 29, 2024, or until it is superseded by a final rule implementing the Framework Action.
  • The Emergency Rule will not be extended.

Where can I find more information on the Emergency Rule?

  • Contact NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office.

By Mail: Dan Luers

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

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