50 CFR § 622.183 - Area and seasonal closures.

§ 622.183 Area and seasonal closures.

(a) Area closures -

(1) Marine protected areas (MPAs).

(i) No person may fish for a South Atlantic snapper-grouper in an MPA, and no person may possess a South Atlantic snapper-grouper in an MPA. However, the prohibition on possession does not apply to a person aboard a vessel that is in transit with fishing gear appropriately stowed as specified in paragraph (a)(1)(ii) of this section. In addition to these restrictions, see § 635.21(d)(1)(iii) of this chapter regarding restrictions applicable within these MPAs for any vessel issued a permit under part 635 of this chapter that has longline gear on board. MPAs consist of deepwater areas as follows:

(A) Snowy Grouper Wreck MPA is bounded by rhumb lines connecting, in order, the following points:

Point North lat. West long.
A 33°25′ 77°04.75′
B 33°34.75′ 76°51.3′
C 33°25.5′ 76°46.5′
D 33°15.75′ 77°00.0′
A 33°25′ 77°04.75′

(B) Northern South Carolina MPA is bounded on the north by 32°53.5′ N. lat.; on the south by 32°48.5′ N. lat.; on the east by 78°04.75′ W. long.; and on the west by 78°16.75′ W. long.

(C) Edisto MPA is bounded on the north by 32°24′ N. lat.; on the south by 32°18.5′ N. lat.; on the east by 78°54.0′ W. long.; and on the west by 79°06.0′ W. long.

(D) Charleston Deep Artificial Reef MPA is bounded by rhumb lines connecting, in order, the following points:

Point North lat. West long.
A 32°05.04′ 79°13.575′
B 32°09.65′ 79°09.2′
C 32°07.155′ 79°05.595′
D 32°02.36′ 79°09.975′
A 32°05.04′ 79°13.575′

(E) Georgia MPA is bounded by rhumb lines connecting, in order, the following points:

Point North lat. West long.
A 31°43′ 79°31′
B 31°43′ 79°21′
C 31°34′ 79°29′
D 31°34′ 79°39′
A 31°43′ 79°31′

(F) North Florida MPA is bounded on the north by 30°29′ N. lat.; on the south by 30°19′ N. lat.; on the east by 80°02′ W. long.; and on the west by 80°14′ W. long.

(G) St. Lucie Hump MPA is bounded on the north by 27°08′ N. lat.; on the south by 27°04′ N. lat.; on the east by 79°58′ W. long.; and on the west by 80°00′ W. long.

(H) East Hump MPA is bounded by rhumb lines connecting, in order, the following points:

Point North lat. West long.
A 24°36.5′ 80°45.5′
B 24°32′ 80°36′
C 24°27.5′ 80°38.5′
D 24°32.5′ 80°48′
A 24°36.5′ 80°45.5′

(ii) For the purpose of paragraph (a)(1)(i) of this section, transit means direct, non-stop progression through the MPA. Fishing gear appropriately stowed means -

(A) A longline may be left on the drum if all gangions and hooks are disconnected and stowed below deck. Hooks cannot be baited. All buoys must be disconnected from the gear; however, buoys may remain on deck.

(B) A trawl or try net may remain on deck, but trawl doors must be disconnected from such net and must be secured.

(C) A gillnet, stab net, or trammel net must be left on the drum. Any additional such nets not attached to the drum must be stowed below deck.

(D) Terminal gear (i.e., hook, leader, sinker, flasher, or bait) used with an automatic reel, bandit gear, buoy gear, handline, or rod and reel must be disconnected and stowed separately from such fishing gear. A rod and reel must be removed from the rod holder and stowed securely on or below deck.

(E) A crustacean trap, golden crab trap, or sea bass pot cannot be baited. All buoys must be disconnected from the gear; however, buoys may remain on deck.

(2) Spawning SMZs.

(i) Any fishing vessel in a spawning SMZ is prohibited to fish for or harvest species in the snapper-grouper fishery management unit year-round. For a fishing vessel to possess snapper-grouper species on board while in a spawning SMZ, the vessel must be in transit and fishing gear must be appropriately stowed, as specified in paragraph (a)(2)(vii) of this section. Except for spawning SMZs of Area 51 and Area 53, the spawning SMZs in this paragraph are effective until August 2, 2027. A person on board a fishing vessel may not anchor, use an anchor and chain, or use a grapple and chain while in the spawning SMZs specified in paragraph (a)(2) of this section. The anchoring prohibition does not apply to fishing vessels in the spawning SMZs of Area 51 and Area 53.

(ii) South Cape Lookout Spawning SMZ is bounded by rhumb lines connecting, in order, the following points:

Point North lat. West long.
A 33°53.040′ 76°28.617′
B 33°52.019′ 76°27.798′
C 33°49.946′ 76°30.627′
D 33°51.041′ 76°31.424′
A 33°53.040′ 76°28.617′

(iii) Devil's Hole/Georgetown Hole Spawning SMZ is bounded by rhumb lines connecting, in order, the following points:

Point North lat. West long.
A 32°34.311′ 78°34.996′
B 32°34.311′ 78°33.220′
C 32°32.748′ 78°33.220′
D 32°32.748′ 78°34.996′
A 32°34.311′ 78°34.996′

(iv) Area 51 Spawning SMZ is bounded by rhumb lines connecting, in order, the following points:

Point North lat. West long.
A 32°35.25′ 79°28.6′
B 32°35.25′ 79°27′
C 32°33.75′ 79°27′
D 32°33.75′ 79°28.6′
A 32°35.25′ 79°28.6′

(v) Area 53 Spawning SMZ is bounded by rhumb lines connecting, in order, the following points:

Point North lat. West long.
A 32°22.65′ 79°22.25′
B 32°22.65′ 79°20.5′
C 32°21.15′ 79°20.5′
D 32°21.15′ 79°22.25′
A 32°22.65′ 79°22.25′

(vi) Warsaw Hole/50 Fathom Hole Spawning SMZ is bounded by rhumb lines connecting, in order, the following points:

Point North lat. West long.
A 24°22.277′ 82°20.417′
B 24°22.277′ 82°18.215′
C 24°20.932′ 82°18.215′
D 24°20.932′ 82°20.417′
A 24°22.277′ 82°20.417′

(vii) For the purpose of paragraph (a)(2)(i) of this section, transit means direct, non-stop progression through the spawning SMZ. Fishing gear appropriately stowed means -

(A) A longline may be left on the drum if all gangions and hooks are disconnected and stowed below deck. Hooks cannot be baited. All buoys must be disconnected from the gear; however, buoys may remain on deck.

(B) Trawl doors and nets must be out of the water, but the doors are not required to be on deck or secured on or below deck.

(C) A gillnet, stab net, or trammel net must be left on the drum. Any additional such nets not attached to the drum must be stowed below deck.

(D) Terminal gear (i.e., hook, leader, sinker, flasher, or bait) used with an automatic reel, bandit gear, buoy gear, handline, or rod and reel must be disconnected and stowed separately from such fishing gear. Sinkers must be disconnected from the down rigger and stowed separately.

(E) A crustacean trap, golden crab trap, or sea bass pot cannot be baited. All buoys must be disconnected from the gear; however, buoys may remain on deck.

(b) Seasonal closures -

(1) Seasonal closure of the commercial and recreational sectors for gag and associated grouper species. During January through April each year, no person may fish for, harvest, or possess in or from the South Atlantic EEZ any South Atlantic shallow-water grouper (SASWG): Gag, black grouper, red grouper, scamp, red hind, rock hind, yellowmouth grouper, yellowfin grouper, graysby, and coney. For a person on board a vessel for which a valid Federal commercial or charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has been issued, these prohibitions against fishing, harvesting, or possessing apply in the South Atlantic, i.e., in state or Federal waters. Additionally, in the month of May, no person may fish for, harvest, or possess any South Atlantic red grouper in or from the South Atlantic EEZ off North Carolina or off South Carolina. For a person on board a vessel for which a valid Federal commercial or charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has been issued, these prohibitions against fishing, harvesting, or possessing red grouper in May apply in state waters off North Carolina and off South Carolina.

(2) Wreckfish spawning-season closure. From January 15 through April 15, each year, no person may harvest or possess on a fishing vessel wreckfish in or from the EEZ; offload wreckfish from the EEZ; or sell or purchase wreckfish in or from the EEZ. The prohibition on sale or purchase of wreckfish does not apply to trade in wreckfish that were harvested, offloaded, and sold or purchased prior to January 15 and were held in cold storage by a dealer or processor.

(3) Wreckfish recreational sector closures. The recreational sector for wreckfish in or from the South Atlantic EEZ is closed from January 1 through June 30, and September 1 through December 31, each year. During a closure, the bag and possession limit for wreckfish in or from the South Atlantic EEZ is zero.

(4) Hogfish recreational sector off the Florida Keys and east coast of Florida. From January through April and from November through December each year, the recreational harvest or possession of hogfish in or from the South Atlantic EEZ off the Florida Keys and east coast of Florida, and in the Gulf EEZ south of 25°09′ N. lat. off the west coast of Florida is prohibited, and the bag and possession limits are zero.

(5) Closures of the commercial and recreational sectors for red snapper - (i) The commercial and recreational sectors for red snapper are closed (i.e., red snapper may not be harvested or possessed, or sold or purchased) in or from the South Atlantic EEZ, except as specified in § 622.193(y). Each year, NMFS will announce the season opening dates in the Federal Register. The commercial season will begin on the second Monday in July, unless otherwise specified. The recreational season, which consists of weekends only (Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays) begins on the second Friday in July, unless otherwise specified. NMFS will project the length of the recreational fishing season and announce the recreational fishing season end date in the Federal Register. See § 622.193(y), for establishing the end date of the commercial fishing season.

(ii) If the RA determines tropical storm or hurricane conditions exist, or are projected to exist, in the South Atlantic, during a commercial or recreational fishing season, the RA may modify the opening and closing dates of the fishing season by filing a notification to that effect with the Office of the Federal Register, and announcing via NOAA Weather Radio and a Fishery Bulletin any change in the dates of the red snapper commercial or recreational fishing season.

(6) Seasonal closure of the commercial black sea bass pot component of the snapper-grouper fishery. The closed area is that area and time period described in paragraphs (b)(6)(i) and (b)(6)(ii) of this section, respectively. During the applicable closure, no person may harvest or possess black sea bass in or from the closed area within the South Atlantic EEZ either with sea bass pots or from a vessel with sea bass pots on board, except that a vessel with a valid commercial permit for snapper-grouper with a sea bass pot endorsement that is in transit and with black sea bass pot gear appropriately stowed as described in paragraph (b)(6)(iii) of this section may possess black sea bass. In addition, sea bass pots must be removed from the water in the applicable closed area within the South Atlantic EEZ before the applicable time period, and may not be on board a vessel in the closed area within the South Atlantic EEZ during the applicable closure, except for such sea bass pot gear appropriately stowed on board a vessel in transit through the closed area. See paragraph (b)(6)(iii) of this section for black sea bass pot transit and gear stowage requirements through the closed areas.

(i) From November 1 through November 30 and from April 1 through April 30, no person may harvest or possess black sea bass in or from the closed area within the South Atlantic EEZ either with sea bass pots or from a vessel with sea bass pots on board in the South Atlantic EEZ inshore of the rhumb lines connecting, in order, the following points:

Point North lat. West long.
1 35°15′ State/EEZ boundary.
2 35°15′ 75°09′.
3 35°06′ 75°22′.
4 35°06′ 75°39′.
5 35°01′ 75°47′.
6 34°54′ 75°46′.
7 34°52′ 76°04′.
8 34°33′ 76°22′.
9 34°23′ 76°18′.
10 34°21′ 76°27′.
11 34°25′ 76°51′.
12 34°09′ 77°19′.
13 33°44′ 77°38′.
14 33°25′ 77°27′.
15 33°22′ 77°40′.
16 33°28′ 77°41′.
17 33°32′ 77°53′.
18 33°22′ 78°26′.
19 33°06′ 78°31′.
20 33°05′ 78°40′.
21 33°01′ 78°43′.
22 32°56′ 78°57′.
23 32°44′ 79°04′.
24 32°42′ 79°13′.
25 32°34′ 79°23′.
26 32°25′ 79°25′.
27 32°23′ 79°37′.
28 31°53′ 80°09′.
29 31°31′ 80°33′.
30 30°43′ 80°49′.
31 30°30′ 81°01′.
32 29°45′ 81°01′.
33 29°31′ 80°58′.
34 29°13′ 80°52′.
35 29°13′ State/EEZ boundary.

(ii) From December 1 through March 31, no person may harvest or possess black sea bass in or from the closed area within the South Atlantic EEZ either with sea bass pots or from a vessel with sea bass pots on board in the South Atlantic EEZ inshore of the rhumb lines connecting, in order, the following points:

Point North lat. West long.
1 35°15′ State/EEZ boundary.
2 35°15′ 75°08′.
3 34°58′ 75°41′.
4 34°49′ 75°50′.
5 34°47′ 76°05′.
6 34°31′ 76°18′.
7 34°20′ 76°13′.
8 34°12′ 77°00′.
9 33°43′ 77°30′.
10 33°21′ 77°21′.
11 33°18′ 77°41′.
12 33°22′ 77°56′.
13 33°12′ 78°20′.
14 33°05′ 78°22′.
15 33°01′ 78°38′.
16 32°40′ 79°01′.
17 32°36′ 79°18′.
18 32°19′ 79°22′.
19 32°16′ 79°37′.
20 32°03′ 79°48′.
21 31°39′ 80°27′.
22 30°58′ 80°47′.
23 30°13′ 81°01′.
24 29°32′ 80°39′.
25 29°22′ 80°44′.
26 28°50′ 80°22′.
27 28°21′ 80°18′.
28 28°21′ State/EEZ boundary.

(iii) For the purpose of paragraph (b)(6) of this section, transit means non-stop progression through the area; fishing gear appropriately stowed means all black sea bass pot gear must be out of the water and on board the deck of the vessel. All buoys must either be disconnected from the gear or stowed within the sea bass pot. Disconnected buoys may remain on deck.

(7) Blueline tilefish recreational sector closure. The recreational sector for blueline tilefish in or from the South Atlantic EEZ is closed from January 1 through April 30, and September 1 through December 31, each year. During a closure, the bag and possession limit for blueline tilefish in or from the South Atlantic EEZ is zero.

(8) Snowy grouper recreational sector closure. The recreational sector for snowy grouper in or from the South Atlantic EEZ is closed from January 1 through April 30, and September 1 through December 31, each year. During a closure, the bag and possession limit for snowy grouper in or from the South Atlantic EEZ is zero.

[78 FR 22952, Apr. 17, 2013, as amended at 78 FR 44464, July 24, 2013; 78 FR 47579, Aug. 6, 2013; 78 FR 49184, Aug. 13, 2013; 78 FR 58253, Sept. 23, 2013; 80 FR 16587, Mar. 30, 2015; 80 FR 43038, July 21, 2015; 81 FR 95902, Dec. 29, 2016; 82 FR 29775, June 30, 2017; 82 FR 34594, July 25, 2017; 83 FR 35435, July 26, 2018; 85 FR 6827, Feb. 6, 2020; 85 FR 64980, Oct. 14, 2020]