BRUNSWICK — Interested in redfish, speckled seatrout, Spanish mackerel, spot or weakfish? If so, plan to attend a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 14, at Holton’s Restaurant in Midway.
Staff from the Coastal Resources Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources will present information about recent activities of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and how those activities will affect management of the aforementioned fish species in Georgia. Staff will also present a report on the results of the Peach State Reds Initiative.
At the November 2009 annual ASMFC meeting, addendum four to the interstate fishery management plan for weakfish was approved in response to a recent peer-reviewed stock assessment that shows Atlantic Coast populations are extremely low. Georgia has no directed commercial fishery for weakfish and recreational anglers rarely target the species.
In 2008, the estimated harvest of weakfish in Georgia was just under 6,000 fish. However, in an effort to support the coast-wide recovery of weakfish, Georgia is required to change the weakfish maximum daily creel/possession limit from six fish to one fish. The creel/possession limit is set in law, so it will take action by the Georgia legislature to make this change.
Also during the November meeting, the ASMFC South Atlantic State-Federal Fisheries Management Board approved the public information document for an omnibus amendment to the interstate fishery management plans for Spanish mackerel, spot and spotted seatrout.
The PID and subsequent amendment are being developed to update the three management plans to include compliance measures and other standards since all three plans are voluntary. This action, if approved, will not result in any changes to state fishing regulations for these three species in the foreseeable future.
The Atlantic Coast red drum population is divided into a north region and a south region for interstate management purposes. During 2009, a peer-reviewed stock assessment of Atlantic Coast red drum was conducted through the Southeast data assessment and review process. The results were presented to ASMFC in November.
The stock assessment team and independent reviewers concluded that sufficient numbers of young fish are surviving to move offshore and join the adult spawning population, indicating that overfishing is likely not occurring. However, they advised that given the uncertainty of the results, management measures not be liberalized.
Spud Woodward, Coastal Resources Division director said, "The results of the recent Atlantic Coast red drum stock assessment leave Georgia in an interesting position. We have scientific advice that says we are not overfishing in the southern region, but we also know that the stock assessment used as the basis for this advice was greatly influenced by inputs from South Carolina and Florida, both of which have more restrictive management than Georgia. We hope that anglers will share their thoughts and ideas about the status of our red drum population so we can take appropriate action going forward."