Hearings begin Monday on changes to federal cobia regulations

By on January 20, 2018

 Members of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council are seeking comments as they consider revisions to the management system for Atlantic cobia.

Public hearings will be held via webinars that start Monday. A public listening station will be available in Hatteras village Tuesday beginning at 6 p.m.

View a video presentation on what is being considered, register for webinars, submit written
comments, and access additional materials by visiting the Council’s website at: http://safmc.net/safmcmeetings/public-hearings-scoping-meetings/.

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is considering the change to allow more flexibility and fair access to Atlantic cobia throughout the stock’s range, according to a news release.

Cobia in federal waters off the east coast of Florida are considered part of the Gulf of Mexico migratory stock. The management boundary for the two stocks was modified following a 2013 stock assessment and annual catch limits for each stock were set.

NOAA Fisheries determined the recreational catch limit for Atlantic cobia was exceeded in 2015, leading to a shortened season in 2016.

Cobia harvested in both state and federal waters count toward the annual catch limit. Subsequent overages occurred during 2016 and the recreational fishery was closed in federal waters on January 24, 2017.

To provide for effective management and  equitable access to the Atlantic cobia fishery without reducing protection to the stock, the Council is considering a range of alternatives, from complementary management with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to removal of Atlantic cobia from the federal management unit.

The ASMFC recently approved an Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic cobia that will be implemented in April 2018.

Should the Council choose to remove Atlantic cobia from the current federal management unit, the ASMFC Interstate Plan would be applied to both state and federal waters, allowing for additional management flexibility.

During the public hearings, Council staff will present an overview of the amendment and will be available to answer questions via webinar. Area Council members or state agency representatives will be present at each of the listening stations.

Members of the public will have an opportunity to go on record via webinar or at the listening stations to record their comments for consideration by the Council.

Listening stations for Monday’s webinar will be held in Okatie, South Carolina and Brunswick, Georgia, and the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries Central District Office in Morehead City.

The listening station will be at the Hatteras Community Center on Tuesday starting a 6 p.m.

Stations on Wednesday Jan. 24 will be located in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. and The Maritime Building in Newport News, Va.

Registration for each webinar is required. Registration information, along with public hearing documents, video presentations, and other materials is now available from the Council’s website at: http://safmc.net/safmc-meetings/public-hearings-scoping-meetings/.

An online public comment form for written comments is also available. Comments must be received by 5 p.m. February 9, 2018 to be included in the briefing book materials for the Council’s March 5-9, 2018 meeting in Jekyll Island, Ga.

The Council is also asking for public input on the timing of measures proposed in Amendment 31.

A Stock Identification Workshop for Cobia is scheduled to begin in April 2018 as part of a benchmark stock assessment Atlantic cobia. For additional information, contact Christina Wiegand, Fishery Social Scientist at Christina.Wiegand@safmc.net or contact the Council office at 843/571-4366.

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