The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council agreed Thursday to request an emergency rule to raise the annual commercial catch limit for yellowtail snapper.
The council's Scientific and Statistical Committee, which operates in conjunction with the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, will conduct an emergency meeting Oct. 10 to come up with a new catch limit. The committee also will review and certify a recent stock assessment that shows the yellowtail snapper fishery is healthy.
Currently, commercial fishermen can harvest 1.1 million pounds a year. The National Marine Fisheries Service must sign off on the committee's proposal.
South Atlantic officials have not yet proposed a specific annual catch limit.
The proposed changes follow a National Marine Fisheries Service announcement last month that the annual commercial yellowtail quota in the Atlantic had nearly been reached, and that the fishery would be closed Sept. 11 through Jan. 1.
However, the Fisheries Service's Southeastern Science Center in Miami reviewed commercial landings data earlier this month and found that there are more yellowtail than previously believed, and that commercial fishing can continue, said Roy Crabtree of the National Marine Fisheries Service.
The recreational harvest was never in jeopardy of closing.
"We are continuing to monitor the existing quota," Crabtree said Friday. "I think there is enough existing quota to make it until early October. There still could be a closure. We don't know what the new quota will be yet, or if it will be enough to make it until the end of the year."
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Florida Marine Research Institute released a stock assessment for yellowtail three weeks ago that found the stocks are healthy and not in jeopardy of being overfished.
The fishery is in "good shape, not being overfished and is still at a sustainable level," said Luiz Barbieri, a senior research scientist who oversaw the review.
A contingent of Florida Keys commercial yellow fishermen attended this week's South Atlantic meeting and made recommendations on changing some of the yellowtail rules. This is the first year the council set an annual catch limit on yellowtail. The fishermen recommended the council switch the fishing season dates to run from Aug. 1 to July 31. That way, if a closure became necessary at the end of the season, it would coincide with the yellowtail spawn in June.