New NOAA rules governing bycatch in Atlantic herring fishery start May 4

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has approved adjustments to its Atlantic herring fishery management plan that aim to minimize bycatch.

The new rules require vessels to report slippage – catch discarded prior to official sampling by an approved observer – to be reported in each ship’s daily herring catch report.

In addition, vessels must either return to port or move 15 nautical miles away from the location where the slippage occurred, depending on whether the event is deemed a precautionary measure performed for reasons of safety or whether it is considered an avoidable accident. If the latter is the case, the vessel at fault must return to port, and if the slippage is deemed accidental, the vessel still must move and may not fish in that area for the duration of its journey.

NOAA expects the requirement for vessels to move following slippage events will provide incentive for herring vessels to minimize such events, according to the amended rules, known as Framework Adjustment 4 to the Atlantic Herring Fishery Management Plan, which was published Monday, 4 April in the Federal Register.

The new rules are also designed to enhance the fishery’s previously approved catch monitoring program, according to NOAA.

“The herring fishery is a relatively high-volume fishery capable of catching large quantities of fish in a single tow. Therefore, even a few slippage events have the potential to substantially affect species composition data, especially extrapolations of incidental catch,” the organization said in its written comments in the Federal Register. “Additionally, slippage is a significant concern for many stakeholders because they believe it undermines the ability to collect unbiased estimates of herring catch, as well as other species, in the herring fishery.”

The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council recommended the same rules governing slippage consequences in the Atlantic mackerel fishery, and because many vessels participate in both fisheries, according to NOAA, the organization expects that implementing consistent slippage consequences across these fisheries will improve compliance and enforcement of slippage requirements.


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