Both areas were originally scheduled to sunset after four years, or on June 16. In March, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) approved the six-year extension after reviewing testimony from fishermen and scientists who argued in favor of the extensions last year.
"The backing from fishermen on the reserves is the real coup. Without their participation, we might still be searching for spawning sites in the Gulf of Mexico," said Florida State University marine biologist Felicia Coleman.
Throughout the 1990s, Coleman and her FSU colleague and husband Chris Koenig, also a marine biologist, led research into grouper biology that led to the creation of the two marine reserves. They documented the existence of a deepwater (180- to 300-feet) area in the Northeastern Gulf that is used each winter and early spring by gag grouper for spawning. For recreational anglers throughout the Gulf, the gag grouper is the most important grouper species.
The two reserves, named the Madison/Swanson and Steamboat Lumps, are roughly 55 to 75 miles south-southeast of Apalachicola in the Florida Panhandle, or roughly 95 miles west of Tarpon Springs. Madison/Swanson covers about 115 square nautical miles while Steamboat Lumps is somewhat smaller at 104 square nautical miles.
Last year, members of The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council - the federal ruling authority in the Gulf charged with recommending policy to NMFS - analyzed findings produced by Coleman, Koenig and other marine scientists that showed the reserves were working as designed. Larger fish with greater egg-producing potential were found within the protected sites than outside them, and an increase in the numb
Contact: Frank Stephenson
Florida State University