NOAA Fisheries announces the final rule implementing Amendment 9 to the Fishery Management Plan for Coral and Coral Reef Resources in Gulf of Mexico U.S. waters (Amendment 9). The final rule will be effective November 16, 2020.
The rule establishes 13 new habitat areas of particular concern with fishing regulations, designates 8 new areas without fishing regulations, and modifies the regulations in 3 existing areas. These areas have been identified as having sufficient numbers and diversity of deep-water corals to be considered essential fish habitat.
Fishing regulations apply to fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, including fishing for highly migratory species.
SUMMARY OF CHANGES:
For the changes below, except where otherwise stated, bottom-tending gear is defined as: bottom longline, bottom trawl, buoy gear, dredge, pot or trap, and bottom anchoring by fishing vessels. Buoy gear does not refer to highly migratory species buoy gear, which is not a bottom-tending gear.
- Establishes the following areas as habitat areas of particular concern with regulations prohibiting fishing with bottom tending gear: West Florida Wall, Alabama Alps, L&W Pinnacles, Scamp Reef, Mississippi Canyon 118, Roughtongue Reef, Viosca Knoll 826, Green Canyon 852, AT 047, AT 357, Harte Bank, and Southern Bank.
- Establishes Viosca Knoll 862/906 as a habitat area of particular concern with regulations prohibiting fishing with bottom-tending gear, but allows royal red shrimp fisherman to keep their nets in the water, but off the bottom, in this area.
- Within the current Pulley Ridge habitat area of particular concern, establishes a new habitat area of particular concern with fishing regulations prohibiting all fishing with bottom-tending gear, except for longline gear.
- Establishes the following areas as habitat areas of particular concern without fishing regulation: South Reed; Garden Banks 299 and 535; Green Canyon 140/272,234, and 354; Mississippi Canyon 751 and 885.
An interactive web application visualizing new HAPC areas, with detailed bounding coordinates, fishing regulations, and a shapefile download option, can be accessed online from here.
More details of the rule could be found on the final rule page.
Additionally, the final rule modifies the prohibitions on “fishing with bottom-tending gear” to “deployment of bottom-tending gear” for habitat areas of particular concern in the Gulf of Mexico, including those established in Amendment 9. “Deploy” is defined for the purpose of these prohibitions to mean that the gear is in contact with the water.
FORMAL FEDERAL REGISTER NAME/NUMBER: 85 FR 65740, published October 16, 2020.