The goal of our Gulf Wild™ Conservation Covenants is to ensure ongoing conservation improvement in the grouper, tilefish, and red snapper fisheries. Gulf Wild™ fishermen believe even more can be done in the reef fish fishery to improve accountability and data collection, reduce discards, and meet stock rebuilding timelines in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.
To that end, we seek to highlight the advances in management that are already fostering the rebuilding and maintenance of healthy fish populations, and we commit to provide “above and beyond” leadership on stewardship issues in the Gulf. Our Conservation Covenants reflect the additional, voluntary steps that the fishermen and vessel owners participating in the Gulf Wild campaign are willing to take in pursuit of that accountability.
Specifically, our multi-pronged Conservation Covenants include two tracks:
Compliance with all current national and international statutes and regulations governing the capture, landing, reporting and monitoring of reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico, including:
• The Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Management Plan and amendments
• Science-based quota
• Gear restrictions and area closures to reduce sea turtle interactions
• Compliance with federal observer program
• Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) requirements including active IFQ accounts to catch, hold, land, and sell and/or transport fish;
• Monitoring/enforcement including fishing call-in/call-out to federal authorities, 24/7 vessel monitoring, random checks by enforcement officers
“Above and Beyond” Accountability:
As part of our Fishery Improvement Projects (FIP), we are working to address other sustainability issues in the fishery. The Alliance commissioned a formal pre-assessment of groupers, tilefish and red snapper against the Marine Stewardship Council’s standards and developed work plans to address the issues identified in the pre-assessment reports.
Included in these work plans are efforts to reduce the amount of non-target fish thrown back (discards) by requiring fishermen to be accountable for those fish against their quotas. To further the work necessary in the FIP work plans, our 100% accountability commitments for the commercial reef fish fishing industry in the Gulf of Mexico include:
• Participating Gulf Wild™ vessels will not intentionally discard low value fish for higher value fish
• Participating fishermen will not discard any target fish, except where required by regulations such as minimum size limits
• Participants will implement the Gulf Wild™ voluntary video monitoring program (where available) with full on-board video monitoring to ensure compliance with all conservation covenants and fishing regulations. By being the first to implement video monitoring in the Gulf, we intend to demonstrate to fishery managers that the system can and should be implemented fleetwide.
• Engaged vessels must also participate in Alliance research projects with NOAA and other industry and academic partners to establish better data collection for reef fish stock assessments, including discarding and mortality rates.
The Gulf Wild™ at-sea monitoring program ensures that all catch, including discards, are counted towards individual quotas. This is intended to provide ongoing reduction of discards, assurance of compliance with other state and federal regulations, and to contribute to accurately collect the data necessary to improve stock assessments and other future-focused management efforts.
All Gulf Wild™ participants (fishermen, vessels, owners, fish houses) will also agree to periodic audits to verify adherence to the conservation covenants, verification requirements, and food safety testing protocols. To maintain the integrity of the Gulf Wild™ program, supply chain partners who wish to participate in the program must agree to an annual review and periodic audits to ensure all standards and practices are met.