Tuesday, 5 December is the final day for the public to submit comments on a series of proposed changes to essential fish habitats and areas within the New England Fishery Management Council’s jurisdiction.
The new regulations were designed to keep the council in compliance with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which calls on the councils to review designated habitat areas and protect those areas as much as possible to allow fish to mature and spawn.
The proposed changes include opening the northern portion of Georges Bank, a shallow plateau located between Cape Cod and Nova Scotia, to scallop fishermen.
The council said the potential economic benefits outweigh the benefits of keeping the area closed. The scallop fishery have averaged nearly USD 500 million (EUR 421.2 million) in revenue over the past five years. By allowing fishermen in Georges Bank, it could increase their revenue by almost USD 190 million (EUR 160 million).
In addition, other changes within the proposal include designating two dedicated habitat research areas and establishing 16 canyons and two seamounts as “Habitat Areas of Particular Concern.”
According to the Associated Press, officials have been working on these proposals for longer than a decade. The regulations would affect fishing for cod, flounder, and haddock.
“(I)t has been thoroughly vetted, there has been a great deal of scientific study," Robert Vanesse, executive director of industry advocacy group Saving Seafood, told the AP. "It represents arguably the best compromise."
NOAA Fisheries will take the comments received through Tuesday night into consideration as it considers approving the proposed changes. NOAA Fisheries must make a decision no later than 4 January.
“We will review the comments and base our decision on what to approve based on the comments and all of the other information in the record,” said Jennifer Goebel, a public information officer for NOAA Fisheries.
Comments can be accepted online through the Federal Register’s portal until 11:59 p.m.