Last week, NOAA Fisheries announced a change to management of South Atlantic gag and black grouper. These regulations went into effect starting Oct. 23, 2023. For gag, the changes include establishing a rebuilding plan by revising the acceptable biological catch, annual catch limits, annual optimum yield, sector allocations, accountability measures, and management measures for the commercial and recreational sectors.
The rebuilding gag plan, Amendment 53, establishes a 10-year plan beginning in 2023. The annual catch limit will equal the acceptable biological catch of 175,632 lbs, gutted weight (gw) for 2023, increasing yearly throughout the rebuilding timeframe. The annual catch limit for 2032 and subsequent fishing years will be 948,911 lbs gw.
The annual catch limits are based on a revised commercial and recreational allocation of 49 percent commercial and 51 percent recreational for 2023 through 2026. According to NOAA Fisheries, each year after that will be 50 percent commercial and 50 percent recreational.
The measures will also reduce the commercial trip limit for gag and implement recreational vessel limits for gag and black grouper. This final rule modified recreational management measures for black grouper.
The commercial trip limits for gag will be reduced to 300 lbs. gw. The rule will establish private recreational vessel limits for gag and black grouper of two fish per vessel per day and not exceed the daily bag limit of one fish per person per day. Fishermen are asked to follow whichever is more restrictive.
Adjustments to the commercial and recreational sector allocations are based on a split reduction method that accounts for revisions to calibrated recreational landings estimates from the Marine Recreational Information Programs (MRIP) Fishing Effort Survey (FES). More information is available on the NOAA Fisheries website.