A milestone will be marked in November when we reach the 30th anniversary of the implementation of the original Fishery Management Plan for reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council produced the plan, which was designed to identify important reef fish species and to protect them by controlling their harvest by commercial and recreational fishermen. The original plan identified 33 species for management, including just about all the groupers, snappers and sea bass that are caught in the Gulf.
Much has happened in the three decades that have passed since the 1984 implementation of that original Fishery Management Plan. The plan has been amended more than 50 times — sometimes via a formal and lengthy plan amendment procedure overseen by the Gulf Council, which takes approximately two years from start to end — and sometimes by staff through a regulatory amendment process that is somewhat quicker and is designed to accomplish relatively simple changes in seasons and catch limits. Twice — once in 2003 and once in 2004 — the Fishery Management Plan was amended by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce when it was judged that the Gulf Council was acting too slowly to protect the stocks of amberjack and red grouper.
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