New call for outside review of NOAA assessments

Gloucester, Mass. — May 26, 2015 — The battle over the validity of NOAA fish stock assessments that continually have led to slashed groundfish quotas has reached a higher pitch, with mounting calls for a third-party assessment of the manner the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration assesses fish stocks.

Under questioning by U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., on Wednesday, NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan defended the accuracy of the agency’s fish stock assessments and said she would welcome a third-party review of the agency’s methods and performance in arriving at the science that serves as the basis for the federal government’s fishery management policies.

Ayotte’s questioning stemmed largely from the Northeast Seafood Coalition-sponsored petition proclaiming no confidence “in the stock status reported by recent assessments for many groundfish stocks” and seeking a third-party review of NOAA’s methods and results.

The petition urged the formation of a “blue ribbon panel of assessment scientists” that would include government, academic and industry leaders and be coordinated by either the National Research Council or the U.S. Government Accountability Office “to determine the underlying causes of assessment failures.”

The petition also seeks binding recommendations from the blue ribbon panel “to correct those causes in a transparent and collaborative manner and in time for the updated review scheduled for all groundfish stocks this coming September.”

The petition, signed by almost 150 fishermen from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Virginia, was sent to 14 U.S. senators and 20 members of the House of Representatives.

 

Read the full story and watch the Youtube video at Gloucester Times

 

ASMFC American Lobster Board Releases Draft Jonah Crab FMP for Public Comment: States Schedule Hearings

May 22, 2015 — The following was released by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC):

The states of Maine through Rhode Island and Maryland have scheduled their public hearings to gather input on the Draft Interstate Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Jonah Crab. The details of those hearings follow.

Maine Department of Marine Resources
July 6, 2015; 6-8 PM
Casco Bay Lines Conference Room
56 Commercial Street
Portland, Maine
Contact: Terry Stockwell at 207.624.6024
 
New Hampshire Fish and Game Department
July 7, 2015; 7:30 PM
Urban Forestry Center
45 Elwin Road
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Contact: Doug Grout at 603.868.1095

Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries
July 8, 2015; 5 – 9 PM
Fairfield Inn and Suites
185 MacArthur Boulevard
New Bedford, Massachusetts
Contact: Dan McKiernan at 617.626.1536

Rhode Island Dept. of Environmental Management
July 9, 2015; 5:30 – 9 PM
University of Rhode Island Bay Campus

Corliss Auditorium

South Ferry Road
Narragansett, Rhode Island
Contact: Mark Gibson at 401.423.1935

Maryland Department of Natural Resources
June 30, 2015; 4:30 – 7 PM
Ocean Pines Library
1106 Cathell Road
Ocean Pines, Maryland
Contact: Craig Weedon at 410.643.4601 ext. 2113

The Jonah Crab FMP was initiated in response to concern about increasing targeted fishing pressure for Jonah crab, which has long been considered a bycatch in the lobster fishery. However, growing market demand has increased landings by 6.48 fold since the early 2000s. The majority of crab are harvested by lobstermen using lobster traps.  With the increase in demand for crab, a mixed crustacean fishery has emerged that can target both lobster or crab or both at different times of year based on slight legal modifications to the gear and small shifts in the areas in which traps are fished. The mixed nature of the fishery makes it difficult to manage a Jonah crab fishery completely separate from the American lobster fishery without impacting the number of vertical lines and traps capable of catching lobster in state and federal waters. A complete picture of the Jonah crab fishery in federal and state waters is difficult to ascertain due to the mixed nature of the fishery. In the absence of a comprehensive management plan and stock assessment, increased harvest of Jonah crab may compromise the sustainability of the resource.
The Draft Jonah Crab FMP presents management objectives, proposed regulations to the commercial and recreational fisheries, monitoring requirements, and recommendations for federal waters fisheries. The proposed options seek to address the following issues:

· The crab resource is not directly regulated in federal waters but is rather regulated incidentally by the American lobster regulations. There are no crab specific regulations in federal waters or permit/license requirements.There are no minimum size protections for Jonah crab, nor are there regulations to protect spawning biomass, including restrictions on the harvest of females or egg carrying females.
· Supermarkets and other major buyers are positioning to discontinue selling processed and whole Jonah crab unless it is managed sustainably which would impact the ex-vessel price.
· A lack of universal permit and reporting requirements makes it difficult to characterize catch and effort to the full extent in order to manage the fishery
· A Jonah crab trap is not distinguishable from a lobster trap making it difficult to independently manage crab and lobster fisheries.
· Because crab traps are similar in design and function to lobster traps, but are not specifically regulated, there may be implications with the lobster fishery and marine mammal interactions compromising the effectiveness of the Large Whale Take Reduction and Lobster plans.

Fishermen and other interested groups are encouraged to provide input on the Draft FMP either by attending public hearings or providing written comments. The Draft FMP can be obtained at http://www.asmfc.org/files/PublicInput/DraftJonahCrabFMP_PublicComment.pdf or via the Commission’s website, www.asmfc.org, under Public Input. Public comment will be accepted until 5:00 PM (EST) on July 24, 2015 and should be forwarded to Megan Ware, FMP Coordinator, 1050 N. Highland St, Suite A-N, Arlington, VA 22201; 703.842.0741 (FAX) or at comments@asmfc.org (Subject line: Jonah Crab FMP). For more information, please contact Megan Ware at mware@asmfc.org or 703.842.0740.

ASMFC Atlantic Herring Section Releases Draft Amendment 3 for Public Comment States to Conduct Hearings this Summer

May 22, 2015 — The following was released by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission:

Arlington, VA – The Atlantic Herring Section has released Draft Amendment 3 to the Interstate Atlantic Herring Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for public comment. Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, and possibly the states of Rhode Island through New Jersey, will be conducting public hearings on the Draft Amendment this summer. The details of these hearings will be released as soon as they become finalized.

Draft Amendment 3 was initiated to strengthen spawning sea herring protections in Area 1A (inshore Gulf of Maine) and address concerns raised by the commercial Atlantic herring industry. The Draft Amendment proposes (1) changing the spawning monitoring program (default start dates, area boundaries, and length of the closure period); (2) removing the fixed gear set-aside rollover provision, and (3) requiring a vessel’s fish hold to be emptied before leaving on a fishing trip. The empty fish hold provision is also being addressed by the New England Fishery Management Council under Framework Adjustment 4 to the Federal Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Herring.

The Commission’s Plan Development Team conducted a review of the current spawning monitoring program and recommended new tools and adjustments to improve protection for spawning fish. The review revealed spawning events occur at different times each year and typically last six weeks. Therefore, a modification to the spawning protection program would be appropriate to protect the herring resource. The suite of options include a new forecast system to allow fisheries biologists to pool samples of herring from Maine and Massachusetts and project the date of peak spawning. A range of options for adjusting the default closure start dates are based on analysis of spawning data from the past decade, and provides flexibility in the proportion of spawning fish protected. The Draft Amendment proposes merging the Western Maine (WM) and Massachusetts-New Hampshire (MA-NH) spawning areas because there have been no significant differences in the starting dates of spawning events. Lastly, an option proposes to extend the closure period in MA-NH (or WM-MA-NH) to six weeks reflecting the current characteristics of the rebuilt herring population, which is characterized by a broader age class structure and longer overall spawning season since the current spawning program was developed.

At the request of the fishing industry, the Draft Amendment also includes options to remove the fixed gear set-aside provision and establish a requirement for empty fish holds. Currently, 295 mt is set-aside for the fixed gear fishery in Area 1A until November 1, after which the remaining set-aside is made available to all Area 1A gear types. Maine fixed gear fishermen have requested access to the set-aside until the overall total allowable landings limit has been harvested.  Draft Amendment 3 also includes a proposal to establish a requirement for fish holds to be empty of fish prior to trip departures. Members of industry initiated the empty fish hold provision because it would prevent mixing of catch from multiple trips, which can improve accounting of catch and bycatch. In addition, the provision could encourage less wasteful fishing practices by creating an incentive to catch amounts of herring as demanded by markets.

Fishermen and other interested groups are encouraged to provide input on the Draft Amendment either by attending state public hearings or providing written comment. The Draft Amendment can be obtained at http://www.asmfc.org/files/PublicInput/DraftAtlanticHerring_Amendment3_PublicComment.pdf or via the Commission website, www.asmfc.org, on the Public Input page.  Public comment will be accepted until 5:00 PM (EST) on July 24, 2015 and should be forwarded to Toni Kerns, ISFMP Director, 1050 N. Highland St, Suite A-N, Arlington, VA 22201; 703.842.0741 (FAX) or at comments@asmfc.org (Subject line: Draft Amendment 3). For more information, please contact Toni Kerns, ISFMP Director, at tkerns@asmfc.org or 703.842.0740.

 

 

ASMFC Begins Preparations for 2016 Black Sea Bass Benchmark Stock Assessment

May 21, 2015 — The following was released by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC):

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has begun work on a black sea bass benchmark stock assessment. The assessment will evaluate the health of the black sea bass population (north of Cape Hatteras) and inform the management of the species. The Commission’s stock assessment process and meetings are open to the public (with the exception of discussion of confidential data).

The Commission welcomes the submission of data sets that will improve the accuracy of the assessment. These include, but are not limited to data on growth, maturation, migration, genetics, tagging, recruitment, natural mortality, and abundance/biomass. An essential need is information on the adult component of the stock, specifically with regards to spatial extent. For data sets to be considered, the data must be sent in the required format, with accompanying methods description, to the Commission by June 19, 2015. For those interested in submitting data, including the appropriate format, and/or attending the Black Sea Bass Data Workshop, please contact Kirby Rootes-Murdy, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, at krootes-murdy@asmfc.org or 703.842.0740. The deadline for data submission is June 19, 2015. All available data will be reviewed and vetted by the Commission’s Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Technical Committee and Stock Assessment Working Group for possible use in the assessment.

The Data Workshop will be conducted June 29 – July 2, 2015 at the Hilton Garden Inn Providence Airport/Warwick, 1 Thurber Street, Warwick, RI.  The first Assessment Workshop will be conducted in the early fall, with the possibility of additional assessment workshops to follow. The peer review will be conducted in 2016.  For more information on the black sea bass stock assessment process, please contact Kirby Rootes-Murdy at krootes-murdy@asmfc.org or 703.842.0740.

Filing burdens on Altantic fishing boat operators to be slashed

May 19, 2015 —  Atlantic boat documentation may become simpler. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announced a proposed Omnibus Amendment To Simplify Vessel Baselines. The Mid-Atlantic and New England Fishery Management councils jointly submitted an Omnibus Amendment to the Fishery Management Plans for public comment in the Federal Register of Monday, May 18, 2015.

The proposal calls for ending both the one-time limit on vessel upgrades and the gross and net tonnages from specifications considered when determining baseline for replacement purposes. NMFS says the move would cut work for both permit holders and the agency without any major effects. NMFS is also proposing to end the “negative fishing reports,” so boaters would not have to file reports when they don’t go fishing.

Read the full story at The Examiner

 

NOAA Fisheries Seeks Comments on Proposed Consequence Measures for Slippage Events in the Atlantic Mackerel Fishery

May 19, 2015 — The following was released by NOAA:

NOAA Fisheries is proposing to implement measures to enhance catch monitoring and address slippage (catch that is discarded before it has been sampled by observers) in the Atlantic mackerel fishery.

The proposed slippage consequence measures for limited access (Tier 1, 2, and 3) mackerel vessels are:

  • Slippage that occurs due to safety, mechanical failure, or excess catch of spiny dogfish would require that vessels have to move and remain at least 15 nautical miles from the location of slippage; and
  • If slippage occurs for any other reason, the vessel must terminate its trip and return to port.

We are also proposing that all slippage events that occur on observed trips be reported via the vessel monitoring system daily catch report.

Read the complete proposed rule and the supporting documents, and submit your comments through the Federal eRulemaking portal online by June 18, 2015. Comments may also be submitted in writing to:

John K. Bullard, Regional Administrator

NMFS, Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office

55 Great Republic Drive

Gloucester, MA 01930.

Please mark your envelope with “Comments on Framework Adjustment 9.”

Questions? Contact Jennifer Goebel, Regional Office, at 978-281-9175 or email Jennifer.Goebel@noaa.gov.

Atlantic mackerel. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/DOC

Atlantic mackerel. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/DOC

VTR: Who’s Answering the Phone?

May 19, 2015 — The following was released by NOAA Fisheries:

If you are calling about a vessel trip report (VTR), you could be speaking with Bethany Brosnan.

Bethany works in our Analysis and Program Support Division and is responsible for processing fishing vessel trip reports.The APSD office handles 500 to 1,000 trip reports per day, the majority of which are received by mail. If VTRs are not filled out correctly and submitted on time, it can impact important aspects of your fishing business.

To read more about common reporting errors, click here:  VTR reporting

Questions? Contact Olivia Rugo, Regional Office, at 978-675-2167 or email Olivia.rugo@noaa.gov.

West 65/30 Scallop Quota Group Association seeking judicial review of fisheries management

May 18, 2015 — The West 65/30 Scallop Quota Group Association has made application to the Federal Court of Canada for a judicial review of the federal fisheries minister’s management of the inshore scallop fishery in Nova Scotia.
At issue is the fact Scallop Fishing Area (SFA) 28 licence holders (Full Bay Fleet) are being granted access to SFA 29 through a condition of licence. The practice has been ongoing since 2002, says Brian Giroux, executive director of the West 65/30 Scallop Quota Group Association and an SFA 29 licence holder.

“We’re asking a simple question,” Giroux says. “Is this fishery being operated legally? Has the minister exceeded the scope of the Fisheries Regulations?

“In the Nova Scotia scallop fishery, the minister has granted to license holders in SFA 28, access to SFA 29 simply by adding that SFA 29 access as a condition to existing SFA 28 licenses,” Giroux continues. “This process effectively destroys the essential protections provided by a limited entry fishery. It completely ignores any legal or scientific basis for the establishment of fishing areas or quotas. It also will reduce the values of area-specific fishing licenses. Why buy when a condition can be issued?”

SFA 29 as defined by the Atlantic Fisheries Regulations extends from Cape North, Cape Breton to the Yarmouth Ledge. SFA 28 encompasses the Bay of Fundy.

Read the full story from Atlantic Fisherman

Fate of blueline fishery uncertain

May 15, 2015 — The fate of the blueline tilefishery is now in the hands of the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The service is considering two requests for emergency action: one that will effectively close the fishery for recreational anglers, while the other offers an interim solution that will allow fishing to continue on a more limited basis.

The species grabbed anglers’ attention in February when the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council requested that NMFS take emergency action on bluelines when it learned commercial fishing boats out of North Carolina planned on landing tilefish in New Jersey to take advantage of a no-limit loophole.

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) had already reduced catch limits on bluelines to a 100-pound commercial limit and a recreational limit of one fish per boat per trip because a recent stock assessment, SEDAR 32, indicated the stock was overfished.

While it has no stock assessment of its own, the MAFMC was also concerned for bluelines as it is a data-poor stock and easily susceptible to overfishing.

In its request for emergency action, the MAFMC called for a 300-pound commercial catch limit and a recreational harvest of seven fish, per boat, per trip — a far cry from a no-limit fishery.

Read the full story at the Asbury Park Press

 

Menhaden harvest limit raised coastwide

May 7, 2015 — The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission on Tuesday agreed to increase the allowable catch for menhaden by 10 percent after recent data suggested the population might not be as bad off as once thought.

Menhaden are managed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which also manages East Coast fishery species. A benchmark stock assessment from 2009 to 2011 led the ASMFC to order East Coast states to impose a 20 percent reduction on the menhaden fishery, and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources put that reduction into place in 2013.

Watermen say there are plenty of menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay.

Read the full story from The Star Democrat