Updated: Aug 16, 2019
New England Fishery Management Council Meeting met Tuesday - Thursday, June 11-13, 2019 DoubleTree by Hilton, in So. Portland, ME. The following are council updates from the Maine Coast Fishermen's Association.
For Maine fishermen, the update on habitat is that the NEFMC is trying to figure out how to deal with all the offshore wind proposals that are moving into the New England Area. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has issued 15 commercial wind energy leases in the Northeast Region. Construction and Operations Plans for four projects – Vineyard Wind, Bay State Wind, South Fork, and Skipjack – are under various stages of review and implementation. Seven additional projects are expected to advance within the next 12 months. More proposed projects are likely. Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts asked BOEM to form a Gulf of Maine Task Force which will restart the discussion about wind energy in the Gulf of Maine.
The New England Fishery Management Council approved Framework Adjustment 6 to the Atlantic Herring Fishery Management Plan (FMP), which contains 2019-2021 specifications for the fishery and a new overfishing definition for herring that is more consistent with the 2018 benchmark stock assessment The framework contains catch limits for both the 2020 and 2021 fishing years. However, the 2021 specifications likely will be revisited following a new stock assessment that is scheduled to take place in 2020. Although provisions are in place to allow for the carryover of unharvested catch from one year to the next by up to 10% of an area’s sub-ACL, the Council voted to “temporarily prohibit carryovers” for 2020 and 2021 given the current condition of the resource, which is resulting in the low quotas.
The council reviewed public comments on the upcoming Amendment 21 to the scallop fishery management plan. This plan will directly impact the Northern Gulf of Maine fishery.
There was little discussion about the range of alternatives within the document. That will be a focus of the next few committee meetings. One area of discussion was the inclusion of an exemption that would allow General Category IFQ boats to fish in state waters WITHOUT using their quota. While Maine has good information about catch and landings, there was some concern about the impact this may have on other state water scallop fisheries. It will be included for analysis, but there is a chance it will be removed.
Report on Amendment 21 public comment.
Amendment 23: Amendment 23 was initiated to implement measures to improve reliability and accountability of catch reporting and to ensure a precise and accurate representation of catch (both landings and discards). After hearing from fishermen, scientists, and managers the Council determined that there were potential inaccuracies in the data stream that is currently used to manage the groundfish fishery. Accurate catch data are necessary to ensure that catch limits are set at levels that prevent overfishing and to determine when catch limits are exceeded. Additionally, the council wanted to ensure that New England had fair and equitable catch reporting requirements for all commercial groundfish fishermen, while maximizing the value of collected catch data and minimizing costs for the fishing industry and the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Currently, observers and monitors are put on a small subset of trips and that data is extrapolated out to the unobserved trips to determine catch. Though significant analysis, it was determined that the trips with human observers are not an accurate representation of trips without observers and that the data stream may be inaccurate because of these differences.
In response, the council has put together Amendment 23 and at the meeting in June voted out a suite of alternatives to address and fix these issues. Within those alternatives are options for dockside monitoring for landings, establishing a set rate for observer coverage at 25, 50, 75, or 100 percent of trips, allowing the use of electronic camera monitoring through a maximized retention program, audit model, or at whatever set rate is established by observers, or an increase in the uncertainty buffer to make up for the difference in the data being collected.
This amendment will be analyzed over the summer and sent out for public comment sometime in the fall.
Framework 59: The Council initiate Framework Adjustment 59 to include (1) 2020 total allowable catches (TACs) for US/Canada stocks of Eastern Georges Bank (GB) cod, Eastern GB haddock, and GB yellowtail flounder, (2) 2020-2022 specifications for fifteen groundfish stocks.
-It is anticipated that there will probably be some more bad news about some of the stocks, like Gulf of Maine cod because of the poor catch in the trawl survey.