Any review of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s recent meeting in New Orleans begins with the discussion of state recreational red snapper management, and its review of the five Gulf states’ application for exempted fishing permits for 2018 and 2019.

The GMFMC’s first step was to come up with a way to, as the council’s report stated, “to estimate red snapper biomass off each state, which will be used in one of the alternatives for allocating the red snapper quota among the states.”

Briefly, Louisiana has estimated its allocation in the neighborhood of 15 percent of the annual total allowable catch for the recreational sector, a figure state managers have set at slightly more than 1 million pounds.

The council voted to exclude the 2010 landings, the year of the BP-Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, a move which could help Louisiana, since most of the spill affected our offshore waters (and nearshore, too.)

There was debate about how to handle headboats and charterboats under this EFP. From reports, Louisiana’s delegation supports retaining these operations in the recreational sector. It appears two other states want to remove these operations from the recreational umbrella.

In the end, the GMFMC gave its approval for each state's EFP, “with the condition that if federal for-hire vessels are included in any state's EFP, it would not shorten the length of the federal for-hire season.”

The council also recommended National Marine Fisheries Service advance the Florida Keys Commercial Fishing Association’s Lionfish EFP request, which modified the sampling area for this invasive species.

Other GMFMC action included:

  • Directing its staff draft a letter to NMFS listing its concerns with an aquaculture EFP;
  • Reviewing a draft about the “proper use of venting tools,” the devices used when releasing any and all species showing barotraumas when taken from certain depths. Usually the fish’s swim bladder protrudes from its mouth, and the venting tool allows the fish to recover and swim after being released.
  • The draft outlines an outreach program that would help more anglers more effectively use these tools, and added language for follow-up research to determine the fish survival.
  • Reviewing an options paper for spiny lobster and the use of commercial nets in Amendment 13, a move that could help the increasing numbers of recreational divers who head to Florida for its lobster season. Florida recently voted in new regulations for net use and the council wants Florida to be able to submit those changes directly to NMFS.
  • Receiving a draft from its committee of scientists for what it calls the “Carryover of Unharvested Quota,” mostly involving commercial fishing for considering provisions to allow a sector to “carryover uncaught annual catch limits” to the next year.

Considered alternatives for federally permitted charterboats under two different amendments;

In the Sunshine State

Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Committee voted in a proposal to improve data collection on certain reef fish by it’s massive for-hire/charter operations. Only Monroe County in the far southwest corner of the state (including the Florida Keys) is excluded from the move.

It’s part of Florida’s Gulf Reef Fish Survey, a program similar to Louisiana’s highly regarded LA Creel Program for more real-time estimates of catches of more than dozen species — red snapper tops the list — during recreational seasons. Florida’s program included 10 species.

The FWC also discussed a 24-day recreational red snapper season state and federal waters to get its 2018 EFP started.

Bistineau’s structure

The control structure on Lake Bistineau has been closed to allow the lake’s spillway outflow area to dry and repair work to begin.