GMRI to help NOAA, groundfish industry with catch-share transition

 The Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) in Portland, Maine, today was awarded two grants totaling more than USD 2.4 million (EUR 1.7 million) for projects that will help the northeast groundfishery transition to a new way of managing fish harvests based on allocating catch rather than time spent fishing.

The projects are funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service, through the Cooperative Institute for the North Atlantic Region, of which GMRI is a member.

"We are pleased to be able to provide support to the fishing industry and to help cover these initial costs," said Pat Kurkul, NOAA Fisheries Service northeast region administrator. "We are grateful to GMRI for stepping into this role and making it possible to keep administrative costs low to provide this service to the industry, and to assist us with developing the infrastructure we need to manage under this new system."   

GMRI will distribute USD 1.5 million (EUR 1 million) directly to the groundfish industry to offset organizational development and monitoring costs for managing fishing sectors. A sector is a group of vessel permit holders who voluntarily agree to fishing restrictions and procedures in exchange for a share of the total catch allocated to the industry as a whole. A total of 17 sectors are proposed for the upcoming fishing year.

The majority of funds distributed to the industry will be used to cover development of dockside monitoring programs and finalize contracts with third-party vendors. Smaller awards, approximately USD 15,000 (EUR 10,315) per sector, will be available for needs such as hiring sector managers, setting up offices, purchasing equipment and establishing systems and procedures to facilitate the exchange of data with NOAA.

GMRI will also use approximately USD 300,000 (EUR 206,309) to administer the funding program and to assess the overall effectiveness and efficiency of dockside monitoring in the upcoming fishing year. Under the newly proposed management system, fish removals — both retained and discarded — count against a sector's allocation. When sectors begin operating in May 2010, 50 percent of landings will be monitored at the dock by a certified third party. In 2011, monitoring coverage is expected to be reduced to 20 percent.

In a second project, costing just over USD 600,000 (EUR 412,643), GMRI will test several electronic systems for reporting the commercial fishing trip data now recorded and submitted on paper. About two dozen groundfish vessels will be involved in the pilot program, which starts in October and will run for about a year. Study managers are recruiting a variety of boats in an effort to reflect the fleet in fishing power, gear type and areas fished.

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