Fisheries management is often very complicated. Different permits and different boats fish under different rules in different areas and the net of regulations that we drape over our oceans only works when everything fits together perfectly. Unfortunately, when not enough attention is paid to part of a fishery, loopholes are created that can rip apart that regulatory net like a shark in thin twine. When the current management structure for scallops was created in 2008, a Northern Gulf of Maine (NGOM) area was created to ensure access for northern New England boats. This area was designed to be managed through a total allowable catch and trip limit set by the best available science and tightly controlled to ensure sustainable harvest of the resource. As the Gulf of Maine was only a small portion of the fishery, not enough attention was put into the details of the plan. Recently the consequences of this oversight were felt as stocks rebuilt.
Last year, a stock assessment set the total harvest goal at a little over 400,000lbs of scallops. Unfortunately, regulatory loopholes allowed one set of permits to fish within the NGOM area with little constraint and over 1,000,000lbs of scallops were taken out of area. More than double what was recommended for harvest. After the assessment this past summer, it was determined that the area could only sustain a catch of 200,000lbs - a huge step in the wrong direction.
In response, fishermen from Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, asked the New England Fishery Management Council to put rules in place that closed the loophole and ensured once an allowable catch was set, it could not be exceeded by any permit.
Over the past year, a lot of hard work went into the development of the framework to not only cap the catch, but divide that catch between different permit types. Fishermen from Maine, working with Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association and Togue Brawn of Downeast Dayboat, attended several meetings, sent countless letters, and traveled throughout New England to ensure that this fishery was managed with a focus on science and building towards a strong future.
At the New England Fishery Management Council’s December meeting, a final vote was taken which split the fishery between permit types and put a cap in place to ensure our scientifically set limits are not exceeded. The details of the split are below.
This decision is a temporary fix, but a huge step in the right direction for sustainable management of this resource in the Gulf of Maine. With this new mend to our regulatory system, we have set the Maine scallop fishery up for future success and the ability to grow and rebuild this fishery for this and future generations of Maine fishermen.
HOW THE ALLOCATION WILL BE SPLIT
In 2018, the total allowable catch for the Gulf of Maine fishery has been set at 200,000 pounds of scallops. The rules put in place for how those pounds are divided between permit types is as follows:
· 70,000 pounds comes off the top and goes to the General Category fleet (the small boats)
· Anything that remains from the catch limit will be divided 50/50 between general category and limited access (large offshore fleet)
For the 2018 season:
· General Category (Including NGOM Permits) will receive 135,000 pounds of allocation to catch with a trip limit of 200lbs
· Limited Access will receive 65,000 pounds. They are going to place these pounds into the research set aside as it is not enough pounds for a fishery for their boats.
Photo Credit: Collin Howell http://collinhowell.com/