Fishermen who regularly fish in South Florida, including the Florida Keys, and others interested in federal fishery management issues may want to tune in as federal fishery managers meet Tuesday through Thursday of next week in Key West, Florida. The South Atlantic Fishery Management Counciland the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council will convene a meeting of their Joint South Florida Committee beginning at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, January 13th at the Key West Marriott Beachside Hotel, 3841 N. Roosevelt Boulevard, Key West, Florida. The meeting is scheduled to continue until 12:00 noon on Thursday.
The Joint South Florida Committee first met in January 2014 to begin addressing fishery management needs specific to the South Florida area. Jurisdictional boundaries at both the federal and state level can sometimes result in conflicting and/or confusing regulations, making it difficult for fishermen to abide by different regulations in the South Florida area. This is particularly true in the Florida Keys where anglers can fish in multiple jurisdictions within one trip. The Joint South Florida Committee, working closely with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission The Joint South Florida Committee will continue its work on a generic amendment document during next week’s meeting. The draft amendment would modify both the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan for the South Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Fishery Management Plan. The draft amendment includes options to:
- Delegate management of black grouper, mutton snapper, and yellowtail snapper to the FWC;
- Specify allocations of mutton snapper and black grouper to the State of Florida (with a bycatch allowance for other Gulf and South Atlantic states);
- Modify the bag limit and commercial trip limits for mutton snapper in both the Gulf and South Atlantic;
- Modify the black grouper bag limit and implement a recreational spawning season closure;
- Specify accountability measures for South Florida species (yellowtail snapper, mutton snapper, and black grouper);
- Modify the shallow-water grouper species compositions and seasonal closures in the Gulf and South Atlantic; and
- Options to modify the current circle hook requirements.
In addition to working on the draft amendment, the Joint Committee will also discuss management boundaries and responsibilities for hogfish, and receive an update on management of speckled hind and warsaw grouper, as well as the status of a goliath grouper stock assessment being conducted by FWC and Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. The Joint South Florida Committee will continue to work on the draft amendment and reports will be provided to both the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council prior to a joint meeting of both councils scheduled for June 11-12, 2015 in Key West, Florida. The councils are scheduled to approve the amendment for public hearings during the June meeting, with hearings to be held in August 2015. Final approval is scheduled for December 2015 and January 2016.
Additional information about the January 13-15, 2015 Joint South Florida Committee meeting, including the agenda and briefing book materials, will be posted on the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s website at www.safmc.net and will also be available from the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council at www.gulfcouncil.org. Public comment will be accepted at the end of each meeting day. The meeting will be video streamed as it occurs. Registration is required. Registration information is available from each of the council websites.