Higher catch limits for New England

19 Apr 2011
The Gloucester, Massachusetts fishing port at sunset. Credit: NOAA/Caleb Gilbert

The Gloucester, Massachusetts fishing port at sunset. Credit: NOAA/Caleb Gilbert

From 1 May, groundfish fishermen will have more opportunity to fish in the Northeast, small-vessel owners will get a boost through permit banks, and stocks will continue on the path to rebuilding.

This year’s higher catch limits will affect 12 groundfish stocks. These stocks include: 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.

Beginning last year, much of the Northeast fishery moved voluntarily to a sector management system, which gives fishermen a specific allotment of fish to catch when they choose and in more areas.

Beginning 1 May, 19 sectors, including two new sectors, will be operational. Approximately 10% more fishermen, representing 836 permits, signed up for sectors this year compared to fishing year 2010. The current number of fishermen signed on to sectors for fishing year 2011 represents approximately 99% of the fishing history associated with the Northeast multispecies fishery.

Catch limit increases for 11 of the stocks are due to successful rebuilding efforts, while the Georges Bank yellowtail flounder increase comes as a result of rebuilding and negotiations with Canada. As a result of those negotiations, US fishermen will receive an additional 2.5 million pounds, a 44% increase in catch allocation than the level previously agreed to for 2011.

In addition to higher catch limits NOAA has approved four new permit bank sectors that provide small-scale fishermen from coastal communities with a source of more affordable catch allocation or fishing days.

NOAA has also approved a two-year delay, until 2013, in the requirement for the fishing industry to cover the costs of dockside monitoring. The delay will reduce operating costs for the industry while it adjusts to the new management system.

A small area in the southern Gulf of Maine will be closed to groundfishing from April through June, intended to boost the recovery of the Gulf of Maine cod stock.

Fishermen who practice a traditional form of fishing by using a hand-held line to catch groundfish will be allowed to fish closer to shore in areas previously closed to them, and will be exempted from the requirement to pay for dockside monitoring.

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