U.S. ups 12 New England groundfish quotas
U.S. fishery officials on Monday increased catch limits for 12 out of 20 groundfish stocks in New England when the season begins on 1 May.
One year after implementing a controversial new regulatory system called sector management, Eric Schwaab, director of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), said the results were encouraging. For instance, the number of fishermen participating in sector management this year has grown 10 percent, to 836 permits.
“The preliminary information from this past fishing year shows promising signs; however, even with the higher catch limits in this new fishing year we understand these are still difficult times for many in the industry," he said. “At [the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration], we continue to be committed to helping all fishermen during this period of transition.”
This year, higher catch limits were set for 11 stocks: Georges Bank cod, Gulf of Maine cod, Georges Bank yellowtail flounder, Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic yellowtail flounder, Cape Cod/Gulf of Maine yellowtail flounder, American plaice, witch flounder, Georges Bank winter flounder, Southern New England winter flounder, redfish, white hake and halibut. Higher limits on the 12th, Georges Bank yellowtail flounder, were negotiated with Canada.
Sector management has garnered mixed reviews. The system is intended to allow fishermen to more effectively target healthy fish stocks like haddock, but some say it’s too complex.
Previously, the entire fishery was governed through a days-at-sea plan, with fishermen allowed to fish only a set number of days and in certain areas. Now, fishermen have a choice: This year, about half of New England's commercial fishermen will use the sector system, while the remainder will face restrictions on the number of days at sea.
For the new season, NMFS approved two new fishing sectors for Maine, bringing the total number of sector management plans to 19. It also delayed for two years the requirement for the fishing industry to cover the costs of dockside monitoring in those sector management areas.