January 10, 2017 — The following was released by the New England Fishery Managment Council:
The New England Fishery Management Council has scheduled six scoping hearings to gather public input on Amendment 5 to the Northeast Skate Complex Fishery Management Plan. This action could lead to the development of a limited access program for both the skate bait and skate non-bait/wing fisheries.
The hearings will be held Jan. 24 through Feb. 16 from Portsmouth, NH to Cape May, NJ. The deadline for written comments is March 6.
The skate fishery currently is “open access,” so any vessel may join at will. The Council is considering converting the fishery to “limited access” and establishing qualification criteria, permit categories, permit conditions, and other measures to better manage the fishery.
“In initiating this action, the Council is responding to calls from industry members who wish to see these fisheries maintained,” said Dr. Matt McKenzie, chairman of the Council’s Skate Committee.
Skate fishermen have expressed concern that increasingly strict measures in other fisheries – particularly groundfish – could lead to unrestrained increases in fishing effort on skates by new entrants into the fishery and: (1) cause quotas to be harvested more quickly; (2) trigger reduced skate trip limits; and (3) have negative economic impacts on current participants.
The scoping hearings mark the first opportunity for members of the public to make suggestions or raise concerns about the range of issues the Council should consider in a limited access program under Amendment 5.
“We welcome constructive public comments from all interested stakeholders – either in person or submitted in writing,” said McKenzie.
Qualification criteria may include factors such as: the time period vessels have participated in the fishery; historical levels of landings; and dependence on the fishery. The Council may develop different categories of limited access permits. If so, these categories may treat vessels differently and possibly differentiate between vessels that target skates and those that catch skates as bycatch in other fisheries.