NOAA Fisheries and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced last week that gray triggerfish recreational harvest will remain closed in the Gulf of Mexico state and federal waters for 2017, or until further notice.
The season was open for the first five months of 2016, but did not reopen in state or federal waters after the predetermined June and July closed season.
Florida state waters in the Gulf of Mexico are from shore to nine nautical miles out and are managed by the FWC. Federal waters extend from where state waters end, out to about two hundred nautical miles and are managed by NOAA Fisheries.
NOAA Fisheries published a temporary rule modifying the gray triggerfish recreational annual catch target to zero pounds, and the annual catch limit to 19,987 pounds whole weight for 2017, due to an estimated 221,213-pound harvest overage during the 2016 recreational fishing season.
Gray triggerfish have an accountability measure associated with its harvest that requires the sector to payback any harvest overage during the next fishing season.
In 2016, the Gulf of Mexico gray triggerfish recreational landings are estimated to be 422,436 pounds and the annual catch limit was set at 201,223. Harvest overages also occurred in 2013, 2014 and 2015 in the Gulf of Mexico.
The 2017 annual catch limit and annual catch target were scheduled to be 241,200 pounds and 217,100 pounds, respectively. NOAA Fisheries is required to close the recreational sector when landings reach or are projected to reach the annual catch target.
Per NOAA Fisheries gray triggerfish are currently overfished (population is to low), and under a rebuilding plan which expires at the end of 2017 in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Gulf of Mexico of Mexico Fishery Management Council is currently working on Amendment 46 to the Reef Fish Fishery Management Plan to establish a new gray triggerfish rebuilding plan, and modify management measures.
The size and bag limit have both been modified in the past few of years trying to prevent these overages. Currently, the bag limit is two per person per day with a size limit of 14 inches fork length.