Gulf - Gulf Council recommends reduction in cobia limits

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Gulf Council) voted to reduce the daily bag limit last week. It imposed a per vessel limit on cobia, a coastal migratory pelagic species that northern Gulf Coast anglers have landed infrequently in recent years.

As they migrated from south Florida to the western Gulf, the annual spring run of cobia was a treat Alabama’s anglers once enjoyed, but it is now more of a memory.

At its meeting last week in Orange Beach, the Gulf Council voted to reduce the daily possession limit to one fish per person and create a two fish per vessel limit for recreational and commercial sectors.

The Gulf Group cobia stock is divided into the Gulf Zone and the Florida East Coast Zone, where Gulf and South Atlantic cobia mix. The Gulf Council approved a stock apportionment of 63 percent to the Gulf Zone and 37 percent to the Florida East Coast Zone (Previously, it was 64 percent and 36 percent to the Gulf and Florida East Coast zones, respectively). The minimum size of 36 inches fork length was not changed for the Gulf Zone, but the minimum size limit for the Florida East Coast Zone was increased from 33 to 36 inches fork length. The Florida East Coast Zone daily possession and vessel limits will be the same as the Gulf Zone.

The cobia stock is managed jointly by the Gulf Council and the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, which will need to agree to the management changes before submitting them to the Secretary of Commerce for approval.

Kevin Anson, Chief Biologist with the Alabama Marine Resources Division (MRD) and Alabama’s representative on the Gulf Council, said a recent update on a cobia stock assessment prompted the action. The assessment said the stock is undergoing overfishing but is not overfished.

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