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<P class=BodyBold><A name=Atlantic>Atlantic</A> Ocean (updated December 10, 2009)<P class=Body>NOAA Fisheries Service has announced that effective January 4, 2010, all recreational and commercial harvest of red snapper in Atlantic federal waters is prohibited. This interim rule will be effective until June 2, 2010 and could be extended for another 186-day period. Red snapper in the Atlantic Ocean have been shown to be overfished (low population abundance) and undergoing overfishing (excessive fishing rate) according to the recent stock assessment completed in early 2008. Federal regulations mandate that these conditions require action to substantially reduce the level of harvest. The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is also in the process of developing its Amendment 17 to the Snapper-Grouper Fishery Management Plan which includes permanent management measures for red snapper and 9 other reef fish species. <P class=BodyCenterBold>FWC approves Atlantic grouper and reef fish protections<P class=Body>December 10, 2009
Contact: Lee Schlesinger, 850-487-0554 <P class=Body>The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) on Thursday approved rules consistent with federal regulations to address overfishing of grouper in the Atlantic Ocean and to encourage anglers to help protect Atlantic reef fish when releasing them to the water. <P class=Body>Stock assessments indicate Atlantic gag, red and black grouper are undergoing overfishing, which means fishing pressure is too high to be sustainable. Measures have been implemented already in Atlantic federal waters (beyond 3 miles from shore) to reduce the harvest of these species. Nine other kinds of shallow-water groupers also were included in this action to reduce the incidental catch and discard mortality of gag, red and black grouper. <P class=Body>The new FWC rules for Atlantic grouper in state waters are consistent with the federal rules. They establish a three-fish-per-person aggregate daily recreational bag limit for all grouper in Atlantic and Monroe County state waters, prohibit the captain and crew of for-hire vessels from retaining any species in the aggregate grouper bag limit, and allow anglers to keep no more than one gag or black grouper combined in Atlantic and Monroe County state waters. <P class=Body>In addition, the rules prohibit all harvest of shallow-water groupers (including gag, black grouper, red grouper, scamp, red hind, rock hind, coney, grasby, yellowfin grouper, yellowmouth grouper and tiger grouper) from Jan. 1 - April 30 in Atlantic and Monroe County state waters. This spawning season closure applies to all recreational shallow-water grouper harvest and lengthens the previous two-month closure to commercial grouper fishing in the Atlantic. <P class=Body>"These rules are intended to help speed the recovery and rebuilding process for Atlantic grouper and reduce the likelihood of harvest overruns and possible additional fishing restrictions in federal waters," said Rodney Barreto, FWC Chairman. <P class=Body>The Commission also approved a federal consistency rule that requires dehooking tools to be aboard commercial and recreational vessels for anglers to use as needed to remove hooks from Atlantic reef fish. <P class=Body>"Dehooking tools are a proven way to limit the handling of fish and help increase the odds that fish will survive when they are released," Barreto said. <P class=Body>These rules take effect in mid-January. The presentations on grouper and dehooking tools used at the Commission meeting are available online.<P style="PAGE-BREAK-AFTER: avoid; TEXT-JUSTIFY: inter-ideograph; TEXT-ALIGN: justify; LINE-HEIGHT: 13pt; TEXT-INDENT: 0.25in; MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt; VERTICAL-ALIGN: baseline; mso-pagination: none; tab-stops: .25in .25in .25in .25in; mso-layout-grid-align: none; punctuation-wrap: simple" class=MsoNormal><B style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal"><U><SPAN style="mso-ansi-font-size: 10.0pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt">68B-14.0038</U>[/B] <B style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal"><SPAN style="COLOR: black; FONT-SIZE: 10pt; mso-fareast-font-family: 'Times New Roman'; mso-no-proof: yes">Recreational Red Snapper Season.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>[/B]<P style="PAGE-BREAK-AFTER: avoid; TEXT-JUSTIFY: inter-ideograph; TEXT-ALIGN: justify; LINE-HEIGHT: 13pt; MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt; VERTICAL-ALIGN: baseline; mso-pagination: none; mso-layout-grid-align: none; punctuation-wrap: simple" class=MsoNormal><SPAN style="COLOR: black; FONT-SIZE: 10pt; mso-fareast-font-family: 'Times New Roman'; mso-no-proof: yes">In all state waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the season for the recreational harvest and possession of red snapper shall be from June 1 through August 14, each year (consistent with the Federal Standard established in 74 Fed. Reg. 21.558). Except for persons harvesting red snapper for commercial purposes pursuant to Rule 68B-14.0045, F.A.C., from August 15 through May 31, no person shall harvest in or from state waters of the Gulf of Mexico, nor possess while in or on state waters of the Gulf of Mexico, any red snapper. <o:p></o:p><P class=Body><P class=Body>Unless the Florida State law is amended this looks like what 2010 Red Snapper season and bag limits will be. They will match the Rederal Regulations.<P class=Body>Some good news in all of this. I was finally able to talk to a person at the National Fisheries Service Permit Office and found out that Frderal Permits are area specific, so the SE Atlantic Federal Permits are not valid for the Florida Gulf coast. So we won't see any East coast commercial boats here unless they buy permits from soneone that has them for the Gulf of Mexico.<P class=Body>I also found a guy at the FWC who was pretty much up to date on whats happening with all this. Aaron Podey (850)487-0580 ext 211, who filled me in on the State Permit situation. The State Permits that East coast charter boat operators have are valid within state waters on the Gulf coast. All they would need to buy here would be an Occupational License to be legal.<P class=Body>FWC hasn't been able to determine what is going to happen with all of this, but they have set up a new department whose job it will be to try and determine what the economic impact will be on the East coast and what if any impact it will have on the Gulf coast.<P class=Body>I think it's a safe bet to count on more charter boat customer business this coming year because of the closures and restrictions imposed on the SE Atlantic Region. We <U>may see some</U> charter boats make a transition from East coast to West coast because our bag limits aren't as restrictive as theirs and here they would have an extra two months of Grouper fishing between 1 January and 30 April 2010. I guess the only thing to do is wait and see what happens.<P class=Body><P class=Body><P class=Body>
 

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Kim (12/15/2009)<P class=BodyBold> We may see some charter boats make a transition from East coast to West coast because our bag limits aren't as restrictive as theirs and here they would have an extra two months of Grouper fishing between 1 January and 30 April 2010. I guess the only thing to do is wait and see what happens.
<P class=BodyBold>Thanks for the update Kim. I would have to guess, and this is only a guess, that instead of moving their families, business and boats over here, that most of the charter captains will try and adapt and change their target species where they are now. I imagine that a few might move their business here to see how it works out for them the first year, but as I said, my guess is that most captains will try to adapt and target other species.....
 

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I don't know anything about the fishing over there, but it still sounds scary the closing them down all together. It could be a start of a real strong push for Game Fish Status. Just thinking out loud.
 
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