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Examination of proposed additional closed areas on the West Florida Shelf a report to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council
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  • Alternative Title:
    Report to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council
  • Description:
    "The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (GMFMC) implemented two marine reserves (Madison-Swanson and Steamboat Lumps) in June 2000 to increase stock size of gag grouper (Mycteroperca microlepis) by protecting spawning aggregation sites. In 2008, the Council selected five areas as candidates for additional reserves (see Figure 1). These areas would provide further protection for the local gag grouper populations in addition to the two reserves already established. Early in 2009, a preferred option was selected, an area known as The Edges which lies along the outer continental shelf between Madison-Swanson and Steamboat Lumps. While Madison-Swanson and Steamboat Lumps are closed to bottom fishing year round, The Edges would only be closed for four months each year, 1 January - 30 April. This period encompasses the peak spawning season for gag, however resident males would be vulnerable to fishing during the remaining eight months of the year. During April 2008, the NOAA Fisheries Laboratory in Panama City, FL completed a research cruise with the objective of characterizing habitat and examining densities of economically valuable reef fish (e.g. snapper and grouper species) both inside the Madison-Swanson reserve and in four of the five newly selected additional reserve options. Vermilion and red snapper were the most abundant snapper species and were observed in their highest densities in The Edges and Extended Madison-Swanson, respectively (both proposed closed areas outside the Madison-Swanson reserve). Scamp was the most abundant grouper species and found in all areas surveyed. Grouper densities, in general, were highest at a bathymetric feature known as the Mounds inside the Madison-Swanson reserve; however, gag densities (the species of interest) were most abundant in Extended Madison-Swanson followed closely by The Edges. From the perspective of snapper-grouper densities and percentage of complex habitat, Extended Madison-Swanson and The Edges proved to be the most productive areas examined"--Abstract.
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