Changes proposed for harvest of groupers, other reef fishes - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Changes proposed for harvest of groupers, other reef fishes

The following is a news release from the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission:

At its March 4, 2010, meeting, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission issued a Notice of Intent to modify several parts of the rules for commercial harvest of reef fish including groupers, tilefishes, and red snapper.  The purpose of these proposed rules is to provide regulations that are more consistent with regulations in place in federal waters offshore of Louisiana.

The regulations would modify those currently in place for commercial harvest of red snapper, requiring a federal Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) vessel account and allocation shares for commercial harvest and landing.  These IFQ requirements would also be extended to the commercial harvest of any species of grouper and any tilefish species.  

Commercial 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 IFQ vessel account to have been issued to the vessel and be on board in order to fish for, possess, or land Gulf red snapper, any species of grouper or any tilefish species, regardless of where harvested or possessed. No person shall commercially harvest or land red snapper, any species of grouper or any tilefish species without holding or being assigned the appropriate federal IFQ allocation at least equal to the pounds of that fish landed /docked at a shore side location or off loaded.  No person shall purchase, sell, exchange, barter or attempt to purchase, sell, exchange, or barter any red snapper, any species of grouper or any tilefish species in excess of any possession limit for which federal commercial license, permit and appropriate allocation and account were issued.

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

The owner or operator of a vessel landing red snapper, any species of grouper or any tilefish species, 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 fish 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, any species of grouper or any tilefish species, from the time of transfer from a vessel through possession by a dealer is prohibited unless the fish are accompanied by a transaction approval code verifying a legal transaction of the amount of red snapper, grouper or tilefish species 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 shall offload red snapper, grouper or tilefish at a location which is not an offloading site approved by NOAA Fisheries and accessible to the public.  At-sea or dockside transfer of commercial red snapper, any species of grouper or any tilefish species, from one vessel to another vessel is prohibited.

The proposed rule also provides that no person shall commercially harvest red snapper, groupers or tilefish species 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.  

The proposed rule eliminates the current closed commercial season for the harvest of gag, black and red grouper, to be compatible with the time frame in Federal waters.  It reduces the minimum size for commercial red grouper to 18 inches total length.

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, groupers and tilefish species on purchases and sales on records.

Public comments on the Notice of Intent will be accepted prior to 4:30 p.m. June 3, 2010.  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 or by e-mail to hblanchet@wlf.louisiana.gov, with "Proposed Reef Fish Rule" in the subject line.

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