NMFS issues this final rule to implement management measures for gray triggerfish described in Amendment 37 to the Fishery
Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico (FMP), prepared by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council). This final rule revises the commercial and recreational annual catch limits (ACLs) and annual catch targets (ACTs) for gray triggerfish; revises the recreational accountability measures (AMs) for gray triggerfish; revises the gray triggerfish recreational bag limit; establishes a commercial trip limit for gray triggerfish; and establishes a fixed closed season for the gray triggerfish commercial and recreational sectors. Additionally, Amendment 37 modifies the gray triggerfish rebuilding plan. The purpose of Amendment 37 and this final rule is to end overfishing of gray triggerfish and help achieve optimum yield (OY) for the gray triggerfish resource in accordance with the requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act).
Seasonal Closure of the Commercial and Recreational Sectors
This final rule establishes a seasonal closure of the gray triggerfish commercial and recreational sectors in the Gulf from June through July, each year. This fixed seasonal closure assists the rebuilding of the gray triggerfish stock by prohibiting harvest during the gray triggerfish peak spawning season. Additionally, June and July are the months that have the highest percentage of recreational landings.
Recreational Bag Limit
Gray triggerfish currently have a recreational bag limit that is part of the 20-fish aggregate reef fish bag limit. However, the aggregate recreational bag limit has no specific limit for recreational gray triggerfish landings, meaning all 20 fish harvested under the bag limit could be gray triggerfish. This final rule establishes a 2-fish gray triggerfish recreational bag limit within the 20-fish aggregate reef fish bag limit. This bag limit would apply until the recreational ACT is reached or projected to be reached during a fishing year and the recreational sector is closed.
This rule is effective June 10, 2013 except for the amendments to Sec. Sec. 622.39(a)(1)(vi) and 622.41(b) which are effective May 9, 2013.