June 1, 2014
MISSISSIPPI AND ALABAMA BEGIN SNAPPER REPORTING PROGRAMS
On May 14, NOAA Fisheries announced that red snapper season would be nine days, beginning at 12:01 a.m. June 1 and closing at 12:01 a.m. June 10. Before that the season was set at 11 days. The number of days allowed for red snapper has decreased over the past few years. All five Gulf states have implemented their own landings reporting programs. Following is a summary of the Mississippi and Alabama programs.
The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR) will begin a voluntary red snapper reporting program for recreational fishermen on June 1. This program will allow agency officials to better track how many red snapper are being harvested and landed in Mississippi. The program received unanimous approval by the Commission on Marine Resources at its meeting on May 20. The idea for a reporting program came from the MDMR Red Snapper Summit that the agency hosted May 6. More than 100 recreational and for-hire (charter boat) fishermen attended and shared their ideas for improving data collection. Recreational and for-hire (charter boat) fishermen will be able to go to dmr.ms.gov to submit their information about red snapper. The agency also will soon release a mobile phone app that fishermen can use to submit information.
At the MDMR Red Snapper Summit, anglers said they would support development and implementation of sampling that would directly affect accuracy of red snapper stock assessment. The participants also supported mandatory reporting for all for-hire (charter) vessels, harvest of multiple species during red snapper season, federal legislation that would allow all Gulf states to manage red snapper out nine nautical miles, and state authority to manage red snapper throughout the Gulf of Mexico. Based on the input at the summit, MDMR officials will develop formal recommendations for the Gulf Council to consider; continue to work with congressional delegates on granting authority to manage selected fisheries out to the proposed nine-mile state boundary; develop a comprehensive report from the summit that can be reviewed and considered by those at the federal level who are developing management alternatives. "We are working at the council level and the agency level," said Jamie Miller, executive director of the MDMR. "We're looking at all options. We're having open and constant conversation about what we can do."
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) has also established a new data program designed to more accurately count red snapper harvested among Alabama’s anglers. The new system requires only one report per vessel trip, which can be filled out via smartphone app, online, by telephone, or by paper form. “This new red snapper data collection program is a critical element in our fight to show that the State of Alabama has the ability to properly manage this vitally important fishery,” said Chris Blankenship, Director of the Alabama Marine Resources Division. In order to make available better data to manage this important fishery, ADCNR’s Commissioner, via emergency regulation, established the new program on May 13, 2014. The new regulation requires the captain or owner of a charter or private vessel with red snapper on board to report all red snapper kept and discarded dead prior to landing in Alabama regardless of where fish are caught. Additional information required to be reported includes:
- Vessel registration
- Type of vessel (private or charter)
- County of landing (when seafood is transferred from a vessel to land or to a pier, dock, bulkhead attached to land or when a vessel is hauled onto land via a trailer)
- Number of anglers
Only one report is required per vessel trip, and anglers can provide details via a smartphone app available under “Outdoor Alabama” in the iTunes or Google Play app stores; online at outdooralabama.com; by telephone at 1-844-REDSNAP (1-844-733-7627), or by paper forms available at select coastal public boat launches. For more information, contact Chris Blankenship at 251-861-2882.
MARINE RECREATIONAL FISHING SPENDING SURVEY
This year, NOAA Fisheries will initiate the next round of the National Marine Recreational Fishing Expenditure Survey that is conducted every 3 to 5 years to estimate the amount of money spent by anglers on saltwater fishing trips and fishing-related equipment. Starting in May, NOAA Fisheries began mailing paper surveys to randomly selected license-holding saltwater anglers in coastal states across the nation.
COMMISSION ANNOUNCES NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
The Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission (Commission) is pleased to announce that they have selected David M. Donaldson as their new Executive Director. Mr. Donaldson has been working for the Commission for almost 25 years, serving as Assistant Director since 2007. During his tenure, he has dealt with a variety of fisheries issues including both fishery-independent [via the Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program (SEAMAP)] and fishery-dependent [via the Fisheries Information Network (GulfFIN)] data collection and management tasks as well as administrative and management duties. He received his Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology from Texas A&M University at Galveston in 1986 and his Master of Agriculture in Recreation and Resource Development from Texas A&M University in 1990. Mr. Donaldson is looking forward to working with the Gulf States and guiding the Commission into the future.
MARINE FISHERIES ADVISORY COMMITTEE
Nominations are being sought for appointment by the Secretary of Commerce to fill vacancies on the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee (MAFAC or Committee) beginning in the fall of 2014. MAFAC is the only Federal advisory committee with the responsibility to advise the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) on all matters concerning living marine resources that are the responsibility of the Department of Commerce. The Committee makes recommendations to the Secretary to assist in the development and implementation of Departmental regulations, policies, and programs critical to the mission and goals of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Nominations are encouraged from all interested parties involved with or representing interests affected by NMFS actions in managing living marine resources.
Nominees should possess demonstrable expertise in a field related to the management of living marine resources and be able to fulfill the time commitments required for two annual meetings and subcommittee work. Individuals serve for a term of three years for no more than two consecutive terms if re-appointed. NMFS is seeking qualified nominees to fill upcoming vacancies being created by term limits. Nominations must be postmarked or have an email date stamp on or before July 7, 2014. Nominations should be sent to Heidi Lovett, Executive Director (Acting), MAFAC, Office of Policy, NMFS F-14438, 1315 East-West Highway; phone: (301) 427-8004; email: email@example.com.
TRANSFERRING GULF OF MEXICO CHARTER/HEADBOAT REEF FISH PERMITS
NOAA Fisheries wants to remind for-hire owners and operators about the procedures for transferring a federal Gulf of Mexico charter/headboat reef fish permit between vessels. To initiate a permit transfer, the permit holder must sign the back of the original permit, remove the decal from the permitted vessel, and mail the original signed permit along with a complete application to NOAA Fisheries for processing. Applications are processed in the order in which they are received.
After the permit transfer application is mailed, there will be a time period where the vessel will not be able to fish for reef fish in either federal or state waters. The vessel cannot fish for reef fish in federal waters without a valid permit onboard, and it cannot fish for reef fish in state waters until NOAA Fisheries' Permits Office receives and processes the transfer application. Vessel owners or operators can track the status of their permit transfer request by checking the list of valid "Gulf of Mexico Charter / Headboat for Reef Fish" permits on the Web site at go.usa.gov/kqa4. For more information, contact the Permits Office at 1-877-376-4877 or by visiting the Web site sero.nmfs.noaa.gov.
SPOTTED SEATROUT RELEASES IN MISSISSIPPI
The Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL) has released 5,000 tagged juvenile spotted seatrout as part of their ongoing stock enhancement program. The first fish were released into the Ocean Springs Harbor on May 19. A second release went into Davis Bayou on May 22. The Seatrout Population Enhancement Cooperative is conducted by GCRL and the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources with the support of the Coastal Conservation Association.
2013 BOATING SAFETY STATISTICS
In 2013, the Coast Guard counted 4,062 accidents that involved 560 deaths, 2,620 injuries, and approximately $39 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents. The fatality rate was 4.7 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels. This rate represents a 13% decrease from last year’s fatality rate of 5.4 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels. Compared to 2012, the number of accidents decreased 10%, the number of deaths decreased 14%, and the number of injuries decreased 12.7%. Where cause of death was known, 77% percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those drowning victims, 84% were not wearing a life jacket. Twenty percent of deaths occurred on boats where the operator had received boating safety instruction. Only 13% of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had received boating safety instruction from a course provider offering a course meeting the U.S. Coast Guard recognized national standards. Eight out of every ten boaters who drowned were using vessels less than 21 feet in length. Operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed, and machinery failure rank as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.
Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; where the primary cause was known, it was listed as the leading factor in 16% of deaths. Twenty-two children under age thirteen lost their lives while boating in 2013. Eight children or approximately 36% of the children who died in 2013 died from drowning. Five children or 62.5% of those who drowned were not wearing a life jacket as required by state and federal law. The most common types of vessels involved in reported accidents were open motorboats (46%), personal watercraft (18%), and cabin motorboats (17%). The 11,993,067 recreational vessels registered by the states in 2013 represent a 0.9% decrease from last year when 12,101,936 recreational vessels were registered.