February 21, 2017 — The following was released by the New England Fishery Management Council:
The New England Fishery Management Council has scheduled a series of public scoping hearings from Maine to Connecticut to solicit ideas for potentially changing the region’s groundfish monitoring and reporting system. The purpose of this initiative is to improve reliability and accountability of the monitoring program since successful management of the fishery depends on accurate and timely catch reporting.
The changes are being considered under Amendment 23 to the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan. The Council is encouraging fishermen and other stakeholders to participate in this very early stage of the amendment development process.
“The Council, fishermen, and the public recognize the groundfish monitoring program needs improvement,” said Council Executive Director Tom Nies. “This is the first and best opportunity for people to suggest ways to create a program that will give the accurate, reliable information needed to manage this fishery.”
At present, two types of at-sea observers are used in the groundfish fishery: (1)Federally funded Northeast Fishery Observer Program (NEFOP) observers who follow the Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology (SBRM) and implement federal programs; and (2) At-sea monitors who are responsible for groundfish sector monitoring. As of May 1, at-sea monitors will be fully funded by industry.
Amendment 23 will not impact NEFOP or SBRM coverage. However, the amendment could modify or even remove the at-sea monitoring program if an alternative holistic monitoring and reporting program is developed and implemented for the groundfish fishery.
As part of Amendment 23, the Council also may consider changes to the way landings information is provided by both dealers and vessel operators and how it is assigned to stock areas.