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FWC Addresses Gulf Red Grouper Management Issues
The FWC agreed to support reducing the red grouper recreational bag limit to one fish daily per person

Articles published about deer hunting, turkey hunting and more... Nice shot as this hunter takes down a white tail deer.

By Florida Fish and Wildlife
Posted Sunday, June 19, 2005

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CONTACT: Lee Schlesinger (850) 487-0554

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) discussed the Gulf of Mexico recreational red grouper fishery during its meeting in Daytona Beach Thursday. The Gulf red grouper population is considered to be over-fished and is under a federal rebuilding plan to restore the spawning stock.

Most of the red grouper harvested in the Gulf are landed in Florida, however, the majority of these fish are caught in federal waters beyond the state’s 9-nautical-mile jurisdiction.

Federal regulations in place since July 2004 are intended to keep the commercial and recreational red grouper fishery within specific harvest allocations to prevent over-fishing and rebuild the stock. The FWC has enacted complementary red grouper regulations for state waters.

The recreational fishery is regulated with a 20-inch size minimum limit and a 2-fish daily bag limit. The commercial fishery is regulated with a 20-inch size minimum limit, a Feb. 15 to March 15 harvest closure, vessel trip limits, and an annual quota requiring the fishery to close when that quota is met. The shallow-water grouper commercial quota was reached last year, and the fishery closed from Nov. 15 until Jan. 1.

In March, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) learned that the recreational red grouper fishery had taken more than 3 million pounds during 2004, greatly exceeding its allocation of 1.25 million pounds.

NMFS has notified the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council that over-fishing is occurring, and federal law requires the council to take action within one year to stop over-fishing. The council has in turn authorized NMFS to implement an interim rule to stop over-fishing in the near term.

This interim rule would be effective for 180 days, and it could be extended for another 180 days. Actions being considered by NMFS include lowering the recreational daily bag limit to one red grouper, reducing the aggregate recreational bag limit on all groupers from five fish to three, and an October-through-December closure to all recreational harvest of grouper.

NMFS Southeast Region director Dr. Roy Crabtree addressed the FWC at its meeting Thursday to explain the situation and actions that NMFS is contemplating. The Commission also received public input on this issue.

The FWC agreed to support reducing the red grouper recreational bag limit to one fish daily per person. However, Commissioners opposed the proposed three-month grouper closure.

NMFS has scheduled several public hearings on its red grouper management proposals, including a hearing Thursday in Destin, and others scheduled on June 27 in Key West, June 28 in Naples and June 29 in Madeira Beach.

NMFS will consider the input it receives at these public hearings before making a final decision in July on interim management for red grouper


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