Option b. Establish time/area closures to shrimping in the EEZ
: Current bycatch reduction requirements for the penaeid shrimp fishery in the EEZ include the use of approved bycatch reduction devices (BRD). In past considerations, the requirement of BRDs was determined to provide the greatest benefit in terms of bycatch reduction and the least burdensome alternative for the shrimp industry. However, they do not appear to be achieving the level of bycatch reduction needed to recover the red snapper stock under the current rebuilding plan. Recent evidence of BRD performance indicates that the primary BRD in use (Fisheye) is not performing at a level that would allow the red snapper stock in the Gulf to recover from its overfished state. Consequently, additional measures are being considered. In Joint Reef Fish Amendment 27/Shrimp Amendment 14, currently under development, the Council is evaluating a change in the bycatch reduction criterion for BRDs in order to certify BRDs with better performance than the Fisheye. The Council has also appointed a special Ad Hoc Shrimp Effort Work Group to evaluate the existing and foreseeable level of effort, considering the effects of economic factors and the damage from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and to attempt to determine the optimal level of effort for the shrimp fishery. These analyses of effort will then be considered in conjunction with better performing BRDs to determine if additional measures are needed to further reduce bycatch and effort.
Further reducing bycatch through the implementation of additional seasonal closures (Option a) as opposed to BRDs was discussed at length in Amendments 9 and 10 to the Shrimp FMP. The analysis showed that in essence there were already a large amount of potentially trawlable area that was closed either permanently or seasonally by regulations. Additionally, it was noted that there are a large number of hard-bottom areas, offshore oil and gas structures, artificial reefs, etc. that preclude the use of trawl gear. Furthermore, Hendrickson and Griffin (1993) simulated the effect of seasonal closures for 5 periods and found them all to be ineffective in reducing juvenile snapper bycatch. Time closures (Option b) have not been evaluated; however, since the majority of brown shrimping effort occurs at night, and this fishery is the primary one that has juvenile red snapper bycatch, this alternative would probably have minimal affects on bycatch of juvenile red snapper, unless nighttime closures are implemented. Nighttime closures would have significant negative effects on brown shrimp catches, possibly to the point that offshore operations would cease due to the reduction in CPUE, skyrocketing fuel costs, and continued competition with foreign imports. On the other hand, if additional areas can be located that: (1) consistently contain large numbers of juvenile red snapper, and (2) have been known to be utilized by the shrimp fleet, then closure of such areas (Option b) should help reduce bycatch of juvenile red snapper.
Alternative 3. Further reduce bycatch by setting limits on the amount of trawling gear that can be used aboard each vessel fishing in the EEZ
Option a. For vessels 60 feet in length and larger no more than 4 trawls, excluding a single try net not exceeding 20 feet in head rope length, may be in use while trawling for shrimp in the EEZ inside of 100 fathoms, and each such net shall not exceed:
SubOption a. 60 feet in head rope length
SubOption b. 50 feet in head rope length
SubOption c. 40 feet in head rope length