TAMPA, Fla. — The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council will host a public meeting in Texas later this month, seeking input from commercial fishermen, sport anglers and others on proposed regulations designed to better protect reef fish such as red snapper and better manage shrimp stocks and control shrimp bycatch.

A recent stock assessment showed that red snapper continues to be overfished and is undergoing overfishing. A large portion of the fishing mortality comes from the shrimp trawl bycatch of juvenile age 0 and age 1 fish.

Shrimp trawl bycatch, combined with bycatch of red snapper from the directed commercial and recreational fisheries, could jeopardize the success of the recovery plan for these species.

The proposed amendments may change current management practices to help achieve an appropriate level and rate of rebuilding of the red snapper fishery. Other actions could further reduce bycatch and increase profitability in the shrimp fishery.

The Council has made available for review and comment draft scoping documents for Joint Reef Fish Amendment 27/Shrimp 14 and Amendment 15 to the Shrimp Fishery Management Plan (FMP).

The first document, Joint Reef Fish Amendment 27/Shrimp 14, proposes actions that deal with adjustments to the total allowable catch (TAC) for red snapper, size limits, bag limits, recreational season dates, and the certification of new shrimp bycatch reduction devices (BRDs). The amendment will also look at directed fishery gear restrictions and depth restrictions on the commercial fishery, as well as effort reduction in the shrimp fishery.

The second document, Amendment 15 to the Shrimp FMP, will consider such issues as shrimp trawl gear limits, limitations of shrimp vessel permit transferability, further reducing bycatch, shrimp fishery bycatch quota and quota monitoring, shrimp effort reduction, latent permits and enforcement actions.

Bycatch is the accidental catch of non-target species, such as catching sea turtles or fish in trawls designed to catch shrimp. Documents are now available and can be obtained online at www.gulfcouncil.org/downloads.htm, or by contacting the Council at 813-348-1630. Interested parties are encouraged to participate in the process by attending meetings or providing written comments. Written comments should be no later than March 6, 2006.

Scoping meetings have been scheduled throughout the gulf coast to give the public an opportunity to provide input on the types of management changes the Council should consider.

A total of ten scoping meetings will be held, from Brownsville, Texas, to Key West, Florida, to receive comments on the draft documents, as well as other comments that may help address the goals of the amendments. Public input will be used by the Council to further develop the amendments.

All scoping meetings begin at 7:00 p.m. and will conclude when public testimony is completed, but no later than 10:00 p.m. The Texas meeting dates and locations are:

  • Monday, January 23, 2006 — Four Points by Sheraton, 3777 North Expressway, Brownsville, Texas 78520, 956-547-1500
  • Tuesday, January 24, 2006 — University of Texas Marine Science Institute, 750 Channel View Drive, Port Aransas, Texas 78373, 361-749-6711
  • Wednesday, January 25, 2006 — Holiday Inn on the Beach, 5002 Seawall Boulevard, Galveston, Texas 77551, 409-740-3581

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is one of eight regional fishery management councils established by the Magnuson—Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council prepares fishery management plans designed to manage fishery resources in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

– Texas Saltwater Fishing Guide