U.S. Northeast fishing regs eased

By

SeafoodSource staff

Published on
April 6, 2009

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Monday released interim fishing measures to protect Northeast groundfish stocks.
 
The rules, which take effect 1 May, are in addition to the 18 percent days-at-sea (DAS) reduction slated to go into effect at the same time, and retention of the existing area in the Gulf of Maine where every day fished is counted as two days.
 
The new measures will:
 
• Allow commercial fishermen to target healthy stocks such as haddock on Georges Bank and in the Gulf of Maine
 
• Expand the size of the area where hook gear fishermen have special access to haddock and lengthen the fishing period in it from three months (October to December) to nine months (May to January).
 
• Decrease minimum legal size for haddock by 1 inch.
 
• Allow roll-over of unused bycatch allocations during the first three quarters of the fishing year, and ease transfer of groundfish permits and leasing of DAS.
 
• Enlarge the fishing area in southern New England waters where each fishing DAS is counted as two days against an individual vessel's total DAS allotment to give greater protection to winter flounder.
 
• Prohibit vessels from keeping southern New England winter flounder, northern windowpane flounder and ocean pout.
 
• Limit witch flounder landings to 1,000 pounds per DAS, or up to 5,000 pounds per trip.
 
NOAA is also conducting a review of its budget to mitigate costs to the industry during the transition.
 
"Based on the public input and further economic analyses, the final interim measure better balance economic and conservation concerns than NOAA's January proposal," said Patricia Kurkul, northeast regional administrator for NOAA's Fisheries Service. "Today's final rule starts with the council's proposal for an interim action and adds important conservation protections for stocks of particular concern."
 
The measures will result in a 9 percent reduction in fishing revenues, compared to 20 percent in NOAA's January proposal and nearly matching the New England Fishery Management Council's 8 percent proposal.
 
The council and NOAA are also working together to develop new groundfish management measures that will include an expanded number of fishing sectors. The catch shares system will replace the current method of limiting fishing through DAS for those vessels that join a sector.
 
Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe welcomed NOAA's announcement.
 
"As initially proposed, the interim regulations would, in all likelihood, have spelled the end of the groundfishery in Maine," said Snowe. "I am pleased that NMFS recognized the inherent flaws of its proposed rule and made revisions that will allow the industry to at least have a fighting chance at survival until regulators can implement a new management system in 2010.
 
"This regulation is not perfect, and I acknowledge that it still contains troubling provisions, particularly for fishermen who work in southern New England waters," she added. "Still, the final rule is a clear statement that NMFS's initial proposal was patently unworkable, unfair and ill-considered. Today's decision provides a glimmer of hope for this beleaguered industry."

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