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Discussion:  The requirement of Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) has been shown to be an effective management tool for enforcement in policing closed fishing areas in the EEZ of other regions of the U.S.  Currently, there are numerous closed areas to shrimping in state waters and the EEZ of the Gulf of Mexico.  In the EEZ, primary areas include the Tortugas Shrimp Sanctuary, FKNMS, Florida Middle Grounds, Pulley’s Ridge, East and West Flower Garden Banks, McGrail and Stetson Banks, as well as the cooperative Texas Closure, which is seasonal, and seasonal closures off the west coast of Florida.  The requirement of VMS for shrimp vessels would provide an important addition to enforcement capabilities for these closed areas.  On the other hand, if the shrimp industry is required to pay for and maintain these VMS, it would create an additional financial burden to an industry that is currently experiencing severely reduced profits due to price reductions from competition with foreign imports and high fuel costs, as well as impacts from recent hurricanes. Finally, VMS or 100% coverage using electronic logbooks would be needed to enforce a trip/days fished IFQ system.

3.0DESCRIPTION OF THE FISHERY

3.1  Description of the Shrimp Fishery

3.1.1  General Features

The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the original Shrimp FMP and the FMP as revised in 1981 contain a description of the Gulf shrimp fishery.  In its appendix, the FEIS of February 1981 includes the Habitats, Distribution, and Incidental Capture of Sea Turtles.  This material is incorporated by reference and is not repeated here in detail.  Amendment 9 (GMFMC 1997) with SEIS updated this information.  

As an overview, the management unit of this FMP consists of brown, white, pink, and royal red shrimp.  Seabobs and rock shrimp occur as incidental catch in the fishery.

Brown shrimp is the most important species in the U.S. Gulf fishery with principal catches made from June through October.  Annual commercial landings in recent years range from approximately 61 to 103 million pounds of tails depending on environmental factors that influence natural mortality.  The fishery extends offshore to about 40 fathoms.

White shrimp, second in value, are found in near shore waters to about 20 fathoms from Texas through Alabama.  There is a small spring and summer fishery for overwintering individuals, but the majority are taken from August through December.  Recent annual commercial landings range from approximately 36 to 71 million pounds of tails.

Pink shrimp are found off all Gulf states but are most abundant off Florida's west coast and particularly in the Tortugas grounds off the Florida Keys.  Most landings are made from October through May with annual commercial landings range from approximately 6 to 19 million pounds of tails.  In the northern and western Gulf states, pink shrimp are landed mixed with brown shrimp and are usually counted as browns.  Most catches are made within 30 fathoms.

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