NOAA has announced that quotas will be reduced on 9 stocks of cod, haddock, and flounder. For nearly half of these stocks however, the 2013 quotas are higher than what fishermen actually caught in the last fishing year. The majority of these management measures are in line with recommendations from the council, a body comprising federal and state members, fishermen and other industry representatives. NOAA Fisheries is also pursuing one additional measure by using its emergency authority to set a lower quota for Georges Bank yellowtail flounder to prevent overfishing on this stock for 2013. This limit is in line with the recommended catch limit provided by a joint U.S. and Canadian working group.
NOAA Fisheries is taking a series of steps to help fishermen adjust to these measures, including:
- Implementing an increase in quota for healthier stocks such as redfish, white hake, and pollock. Knowing the challenges facing groundfish fishermen, NOAA Fisheries adjusted the 2013 white hake quota upward by about 15 percent over the proposed level, because recent analysis shows the stock condition has improved.
- Revising the rebuilding program for southern New England/Mid-Atlantic winter flounder, at the request of the council. As a result, the catch limit for this stock will be increased by more than 150 percent over 2012, and generate an estimated $5.4 million in additional ex-vessel revenue for the fishery.
- Allowing some uncaught quota from last year to be carried forward into this year, reducing minimum legal sizes to allow more of the fish that are caught to be landed, and reducing some requirements for reporting, monitoring, and on small handgear operations.
- Allowing sector vessels to submit requests to NOAA Fisheries to fish in portions of areas that otherwise have been closed to fishing.
“In considering requests from fishing vessels to access year-round groundfish closed areas, we also want to address public concerns,” said John Bullard, NOAA Fisheries northeast regional administrator. “That’s why we’ve been clear that areas defined as essential to protect fish spawning, feeding and breeding will remain closed and that access to other sensitive areas such as the western Gulf of Maine closure and Cashes Ledge probably won’t be viable. If we do grant access to any portion of these closed areas, we want to do it in a way that is both responsible and sustainable, so spawning fish, vulnerable groundfish stocks, habitat, and protected species are not put at risk.”
The mitigation measures approved today build on a suite of management measures NOAA previously developed in coordination with the council and fishermen to help the industry adjust to lower catch limits. For instance, NOAA intends to continue to cover at-sea monitoring costs in 2013 for the groundfish fishery as the budget allows. Through cooperation with the council, NOAA Fisheries also is working to increase access to spiny dogfish and redfish – both healthy stocks and another source of revenue for the industry.
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