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 influencing 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 is 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.
4.2.3 Protected Species
Species in the Gulf of Mexico protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) include: Six marine mammal species (blue, sei, fin, humpback, sperm, and North Atlantic right whales); five sea turtles (Kemp’s Ridley, loggerhead, green, leatherback, and hawksbill); and two fish species (Gulf sturgeon and smalltooth sawfish). Twelve species of fish in the GOM are currently on the candidate list, two of which are reef fish [note: the goliath grouper was removed from the list of species of special concern in 2006 (NMFS 2006)]. For more complete descriptions, refer to the final EIS to the Council’s Generic EFH amendment (GMFMC, 2004a) and the recently completed a biological opinion for Reef Fish Amendment 23 (NMFS, 2005b). These reports contain the most updated information on GOM protected species at this time.
The biological opinion prepared for Reef Fish Amendment 23 (NMFS, 2005b) evaluated the effects of all fishing activity authorized under the FMP on threatened and endangered species, in accordance with section 7 of the ESA. The biological opinion, which was based on the best available commercial and scientific data, concluded the continued operation of the GOM reef fish fishery is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of threatened or endangered species. This fishery is also classified in the 2005 List of Fisheries as a Category III fishery (71 FR 247). This classification indicates the annual mortality and serious injury of a marine mammal stock resulting from any fishery is less than or equal to 1% of the maximum number of animals, not including natural mortalities, that may be removed from a marine mammal stock while allowing that stock to reach or maintain its optimum sustainable population. However, an incidental take statement was issued specifying the amount and extent of anticipated take, along with reasonable and prudent measures deemed necessary and appropriate to minimize the impact of these takes. Terms and conditions to address reporting requirements identified as reasonable and prudent measures will not require any additional regulatory action because existing NMFS monitoring and reporting programs and associated regulations are adequate. However, measures are needed to ensure any caught sea turtle or smalltooth sawfish incidentally caught by the fishery is handled in such a way as to minimize stress to the animal and increase its survival rate. The Council addressed these measures in Reef Fish Amendment 18A.
For the shrimp fishery, the most recent opinion on the Shrimp FMP was completed on December 2, 2002 (NMFS 2002). This non-jeopardy opinion analyzed the effects of all shrimp trawling in the southeastern United States. The incidental take specified in that opinion has not been