January 7, 2013
NEW REGULATIONS FOR GULF OF MEXICO GREATER AMBERJACK
On October 4, 2012, NOAA Fisheries approved Amendment 35 to the Fishery Management Plan for Reef Fish Resources in the Gulf of Mexico. This rule adjusts the annual catch limits and annual catch targets for the greater amberjack population in the Gulf of Mexico and establishes a 2,000-pound commercial trip limit. A final rule implementing these regulations published in the Federal Register with an effective date of December 13, 2012.
The rule establishes a commercial trip limit of 2,000 pounds throughout the fishing year. The trip limit will allow for a longer fishing season for the commercial sector. The commercial fishing season re-opened on January 1, 2013. The 2013 commercial closed season will be March 1 through May 31, and will re-open on June 1st, as long as the annual catch target has not been exceeded or is projected to be exceeded. No changes were implemented for the 2013 recreational fishing season that opens on January 1, 2013, and will remain open through May 31, 2013. The annual recreational fishing season closure will occur as scheduled from June 1, 2013, through July 31, 2013, and the fishing season will re-open on August 1st, as long as the annual catch target has not been exceed.
In response to a 2010 update stock assessment, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) recommended a new annual catch limit equal to the acceptable biological catch at 1,780,000 pounds, which is less than the current annual catch limit of 1,830,000 pounds whole weight (pounds). The Council established annual catch targets, which act as quotas for the commercial and recreational sectors. The catch target provides a buffer for management uncertainty, intended to keep landings less than the annual catch limits. The commercial allocation is 27 percent and the recreational allocation is 73 percent of the allowable catch. Until a future stock assessment is completed, or the annual catch limit is exceeded, the commercial quota will be 409,000 pounds, and the recreational quota will be 1,130,000 pounds. The 2013 commercial quota will be reduced by the 2012 landing overage after those numbers have been finalized.
TEDS FOR SKIMMERS POSTPONED
Based on new data collected this summer, NOAA is withdrawing a proposed rule to
require turtle excluder devices (TEDs) for skimmer trawls, pusher-head trawls, and wing-net
trawls in the southeast shrimp fisheries. NOAA observers collected data that showed the
devices may not prevent small sea turtles from being caught in nets as previous data
suggested. The proposed rule would have affected 2,600 fishermen, and had not yet taken
TEDs are very effective at allowing turtles to escape from otter trawl nets operating
offshore, but the device may need to be modified to work effectively for the inshore trawl
fisheries. Typically, skimmer trawls fish in shallow areas where they tend to encounter smaller,
young turtles, while otter trawls fish in both shallow and deeper waters so on average they tend
to encounter larger turtles. NOAA fishery observers found that turtles captured in skimmer trawls are so small that they are not necessarily able to escape through the TED door. Instead, the smaller turtles can pass through the bars of the TED and get caught inside the end of the net, potentially causing them to drown rather than allowing them to escape as intended. During the observed period, all of the turtles were released alive with one turtle assumed dead following release due to its behavior on the boat.
“We’re not abandoning this issue, there’s just more work that needs to be done to get it
right,” said Dr. Roy Crabtree, southeast regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries. “This is the
first time we’ve required observers on skimmer trawls and the information we now have
suggests the conservation benefit does not justify the burden this rule would place on the
industry. We need more research looking at different options.” While TEDs have been required in otter trawls for more than 20 years, fishermen using skimmer trawls, pusher-head trawls, and wing-net trawls are authorized to use tow time limits instead to help prevent incidental catch of turtles. Limiting the amount of time a net is pulled underwater is one way to reduce impacts of shrimp trawls on sea turtles, as most turtles can survive for up to an hour or more underwater. Historically though, compliance with tow times may be low and is hard to enforce--which was one of the reasons for the proposed rule. As part of adopting future science-based management measures, fishery managers will continue to research turtles captured in skimmer trawls and increase outreach to the shrimp industry, focusing on education and compliance with tow times.
PENDING FLOOD INSURANCE RATE INCREASES
After approval by Congress and the President’s signature, the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act took effect on July 1, 2012. The Act make makes numerous changes in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) that will increase the cost of insurance to offset the high losses incurred by the program, primarily due to Hurricane Katrina. Many of the increases will be relatively moderate or affect specific high-risk groups such as repetitive loss properties. However, the Act also removes two longstanding “grandfather”clauses that are likely to be very expensive for property owners in or even near the respective 100-year flood plain shown on flood maps.
The first grandfather clause applied to buildings that were constructed before Dec.
31, 1974, or the initial Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) for each local community, whichever is later. The buildings are called pre-FIRM. Since NFIP was developed in the 1970s, various groups recognized that in order to get communities to join the program and adopt the local flood ordinances, the program must offer subsidized or lower than actuarial rates for the existing, noncompliant buildings. The NFIP offered flood insurance for all buildings in the community, at subsidized rates, if they were willing to adopt higher flood standards on new construction after the maps were implemented. There have been regular calls for removing the subsidized rates since they were implemented. The Reform Act leaves the subsidized rates in place for primary residences except for houses: 1) newly purchased; 2) not previously insured; 3) with temporary policy lapses; or 4) substantially damaged or with improvements more than a cumulative 30% of the fair market value. The Act deletes all subsidies for second homes, rental houses, businesses and severe repetitive loss properties. The present subsidized rates will be increased 25% each year until the actuarial rates are reached.
Previously, premiums could be calculated using the latest flood map requirements
or the map in place at the time of construction, whichever was in the owner’s advantage. Once rated by zone and elevation, those map conditions could be used to calculate future premiums, even if the zone or base flood elevation was changed in a later map. The Reform Act removes the grandfather provisions for buildings originally constructed in full compliance with the NFIP at the time of construction. All buildings will now be rated using the latest maps. When the maps change, the rate increases will be phased in at each policy renewal, over the next 5 years (20% per year). For specific changes, building owners should contact their insurance agent.
RED SNAPPER UPDATE
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has determined that the 2012 allowable red snapper catch has been exceeded. Therefore, NMFS is maintaining the 2012 commercial and recreational quotas in the 2013 fishing year. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is currently developing a 2013 red snapper regulatory amendment, which could revise the commercial and recreational quotas for red snapper. Any increase in the commercial and recreational quotas would be released during the 2013 fishing year. This means that if the commercial quota is increased, additional pounds of allocation would be released to participants in the Gulf red snapper individual fishing quota (IFQ) program. If the recreational quota is increased, recreational fishermen could see an increase in the length of the 2013 recreational fishing season. If the 2013 regulatory amendment results in a decrease to the commercial and recreational quotas for red snapper, the decrease wouldn’t become effective until the 2014 fishing year.
The Gulf Council has scheduled scoping workshops around the Gulf of Mexico to get public input on a proposed amendment that examines regional management of recreational red snapper. Scoping workshops are the first and best opportunity for you to make suggestions or raise issues and concerns before the Council begins developing an amendment. Regional management of recreational red snapper would enable areas of the Gulf to propose management measures tailored to specific regions. This round of scoping workshops will address regional management issues, including locally optimal management measures, regional boundaries, allocation, and other components for the design of regional management proposals. Seven scoping workshops are scheduled around the Gulf. All workshops begin at 6pm and conclude at the end of public comment, but no later than 9pm. The workshop schedule for Mississippi and Alabama is as follows:
January 15, 2013
Four Points by Sheraton
940 Beach Boulevard
Biloxi, MS 39530
January 16, 2013
Hilton Garden Inn
23092 Perdido Beach Blvd
Orange Beach, AL 36561
Copies of the scoping document and other related materials can be obtained by calling 813-348-1630 or can be downloaded from the Council's ftp site, ftp.gulfcouncil.org. These meetings are physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to Kathy Pereira at least five working days prior to the meeting.
FISHING VESSEL DISCHARGE PERMIT EXEMPTION EXTENDED
On December 20, 2012, the President signed into law HR 2838; the 2012 Coast Guard authorization bill which includes a provision (section 703) to extend the current exemption for fishing vessels from the requirement for an EPA NPDES discharge permit. The current exemption (moratorium) was due to expire on December 18, 2013, and will now be extended to December 18, 2014.
This information was compiled by Dave Burrage, Chris Boyd, Peter Nguyen and Benedict Posadas. For more information, visit our office at 1815 Popps Ferry Road, Biloxi, MS 39532 or telephone (228) 388-4710.
MSU Coastal Research and