The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission approved the initiation of a new Interstate Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for the Atlantic Migratory Group of Cobia to complement fishery management efforts of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council). This action responds to a request by the Council for the Commission to consider joint or complementary management of the resource in light of the significant overage of the 2015 recreational annual catch limit (ACL), the impact of those overages to state management, and the observation that approximately 82% of reported recreational landings are harvested in state waters.
Widely distributed throughout the western Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, cobia are managed as two distinct groups – the Gulf Migratory Group and the Atlantic Migratory Group. The Atlantic Migratory Group, which ranges from New York to Georgia, is managed by the Council. Recreational landings of the Atlantic Migratory Group in 2015 were approximately 1.5 million pounds, 145% over the ACL, resulting in a June 20, 2016 closure of the fishery by NOAA Fisheries. Commercial cobia landings in 2015 were 83,148 pounds, 38% over the ACL. Late landings reports in 2015 precluded a timely closure of the commercial fishery.
Concerns were expressed by individual states whose recreational seasons were significantly reduced by the closure due to the overage of the 2015 quota. North Carolina and Virginia developed alternate management strategies to avoid the June 20, 2016 closure enacted by NOAA Fisheries for federal waters. South Carolina has recently implemented more restrictive measures that are consistent with the actions of NOAA Fisheries in some areas. A complementary Commission FMP for cobia will provide the states the flexibility to respond to changes in the fishery and stock that meet their state fisheries needs while staying within the ACL.
A Draft Public Information Document, the first step in the development of a Commission FMP, will be presented to the South Atlantic State/Federal Fisheries Management Board for its review and possible approval in October at the Commission’s Annual Meeting. For more information, please contact Louis Daniel at email@example.com or 252.342.1478.