CHANGES PROPOSED TO REGULATIONS FOR HARVEST OF REEF FISHES

Release Date: 01/04/2007

At its Jan. 4, 2007 meeting, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission issued a Notice of Intent to modify several parts of the rules for harvest of reef fish including daily take, possession, and size limits. 


The commission also issued a Declaration of Emergency to institute most aspects of these rules immediately. 


The recreational bag limit on grouper would be modified, so that no more than one red grouper could be contained within the five grouper bag limit.  The captain and crew members of a charter vessel or headboat shall not harvest or possess grouper of any species while operating as a charter vessel or headboat as defined in Federal Regulations 50 CFR Part 622.2- their bag limit is zero for all of these species.


Commercial red snapper regulation changes include several changes to reflect requirements for Individual Fishing Quota regulations in Federal waters off of Louisiana. These include a requirement for a federal commercial vessel permit for Gulf reef fish, in order to fish for, possess, or land Gulf red snapper, regardless of where harvested or possessed.  Also, a federal Gulf red snapper IFQ vessel endorsement must have been issued to the vessel and be on board.  No person shall commercially harvest or land red snapper without holding or being assigned federal IFQ allocation at least equal to the pounds of red snapper landed /docked at a shore side location or off loaded.  On the last fishing trip of the year a vessel may exceed by 10 % the remaining IFQ allocation.  No person shall purchase, sell, exchange, barter or attempt to purchase, sell, exchange, or barter any red snapper in excess of any possession limit for which federal commercial license, permit and appropriate allocation were issued.


In addition to the requirement for a federal dealer permit for Gulf reef fish, for a dealer to receive Gulf red snapper from a commercial fishing vessel he must have a federal Gulf red snapper IFQ dealer endorsement.  For a person aboard a vessel with a federal Gulf red snapper IFQ vessel endorsement to sell to anyone other than a permitted dealer, such person must also have a federal Gulf red snapper IFQ dealer endorsement.   


The owner or operator of a vessel landing red snapper is responsible for calling National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Office of Law Enforcement at least three hours, but no more than 12 hours, in advance of landing to report the time and location of landing and the name of the IFQ dealer where the red snapper are to be received.  Failure to comply with this advance notice of landing requirement will preclude authorization to complete the required NMFS landing transaction report and, thus, will preclude issuance of the required NMFS-issued transaction approval code.  Possession of commercial red snapper from the time of transfer from a vessel through possession by a dealer is prohibited unless the red snapper are accompanied by a transaction approval code verifying a legal transaction of the amount of red snapper in possession.  No person shall offload from a vessel or receive from a vessel commercially harvested red snapper during the hours from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m., local time.  No person who is in charge of a commercial red snapper fishing vessel shall offload red snapper from the vessel prior to three hours after proper notification is made to NOAA Fisheries.  At-sea or dockside transfer of commercial red snapper from one vessel to another vessel is prohibited.


The proposed rule also provides that no person shall commercially harvest red snapper from a vessel unless that vessel is equipped with a fully operational and federally approved Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) device.  Approved devices are those devices approved by National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries and operating under the requirements mandated by NOAA Fisheries.  This provision of the proposed rule is not scheduled to become effective until similar provisions become effective in the federal waters off of Louisiana, and the secretary of the Department is authorized to implement compatible regulations in Louisiana state waters when requested by NOAA Fisheries.


The proposed rule modifies the current closed commercial season for the harvest of gag, black and red grouper from Feb. 15 through March 15 to Feb. 15 through March 14, to be compatible with the time frame in Federal waters.


The proposed rule also establishes a recreational closed season for the harvest of gag, black and red grouper from Feb. 15 through March 14.


Commercial harvest of grouper species is limited to those persons possessing a federal commercial vessel permit issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service under the Federal Fishery Management Plan for the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish resources, and are limited to a commercial trip limit of 6,000 pounds gutted weight of deep-water and shallow-water grouper combined per vessel, during the open seasons for each of those species groups. 


When the commercial season for each species or species groups of grouper is closed, the commercial trip limit for that species or species group is zero.  Effective with any commercial trip or possession limit under this rule, no person shall commercially harvest, possess, purchase, exchange, barter, trade, sell, or attempt to purchase, exchange, barter, trade or sell the affected species or species group, whether taken from within or without Louisiana territorial waters in excess of such established commercial trip or possession limit. 


Wholesale dealers are required to comply with the provisions of 56:306.5 and 56:306.6 when acquiring, purchasing, possessing and selling reef fish.  Wholesale dealers shall maintain approval codes issued by NOAA Fisheries associated with all transactions of red snapper on purchases and sales on records.


Public comments on the Notice of Intent will be accepted prior to March 5 2007.  Comments should be submitted to Harry Blanchet, Marine Fisheries Division, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, P.O. Box 98000, Baton Rouge, LA  70898-9000.


For more information, contact Harry Blanchet at 225-765-2889 or hblanchet@wlf.louisiana.gov.
2007-007