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Atlantic MackerelAtlantic Mackerel (Scomber scombrus)

Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish

The Atlantic mackerel, squid, and butterfish fisheries in the Greater Atlantic Region operate primarily in the Mid-Atlantic region of the eastern coast of the U.S, from Massachusetts to North Carolina.  These fisheries use predominantly single and paired mid-water trawl, bottom trawl, purse seine, and to a lesser extent, gillnet gear throughout the entire range.  Atlantic mackerel, squid, and butterfish are jointly managed in federal waters by NOAA Fisheries in conjunction with the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council.  Information last updated on July 21, 2015.

2015 Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish Federal Register Actions

06/26/2015
Final Rule; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology Omnibus Amendment
06/05/2015
Notice; Vessel Monitoring System; Enhanced Mobile Transceiver Unit Type-Approvals; Three VMS Units No longer Approved For Use
06/02/2015
Proposed Rule; Request For Comments; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Omnibus Amendment To Simplify Vessel Baselines
05/19/2015
Proposed Rule, Request For Comments; Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish Fisheries; Framework Adjustment 9
05/18/2015
Notice Of Availability Of Fishery Management Plan Amendment; Request For Comments; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Omnibus Amendment To Simplify Vessel Baselines
04/13/2015
Proposed Rule; Request For Comments; International Affairs; High Seas Fishing Compliance Act; Permitting and Monitoring of U.S. High Seas Fishing Vessels
03/26/2015
Notice Of Intent To Prepare An Environmental Impact Statement; Notice Of Initiation Of Scoping Process; Notice Of Public Scoping Meetings; Request For Comments; Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish; Squid Capacity Amendment
03/23/2015
Notice Of Public Scoping Meetings; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish Scoping Process
03/20/2015
Final Rule; 2015 Atlantic Mackerel, 2015-2017 Squid, and 2015-2017 Butterfish Fisheries; Specifications and Management Measures
03/19/2015
Final Rule; 2015 Annual Determination To Implement the Sea Turtle Observer Requirement
02/02/2015
Notification Of U.S. Fishing Opportunities; Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) Regulatory Area
01/21/2015
Proposed Rule; Request For Comments; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology Omnibus Amendment
01/15/2015
Proposed Revisions to National Standard Guidelines

 


 Click Below for Past Federal Register Actions & Public Comments:

2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000

What are other common names for Atlantic mackerel, longfin and Illex squid, and butterfish? 

Atlantic mackerel:  Common mackerel, Boston mackerel, Caballa, tinker

Illex squid:  Shortfin squid

Longfin squid (formerly known as Loligo squid):  Boston squid/calamari, Loligo

Butterfish:  American butterfish, dollarfish, shiner, skipjack, sheepshead, harvestfish

What time of year are these fish most commonly found?  

Atlantic mackerel: The bulk of commercial landings occur Jan – Apr when stocks are in shallower water.  

Illex squid:  The bulk of commercial landings occur May – Oct.  The temporal pattern is primarily determined by the feeding migration onto and spawning migration off of the continental shelf.  Market conditions also affect the temporal extent.

Longfin squid: Landings occur in all months.  Commercial harvests generally peak in the spring and fall.

Butterfish: Landings are spread throughout the year (likely due to lack of directed effort).

What is the geographic extent of the fishery?

Atlantic mackerel: Mackerel are a pelagic, schooling species distributed between Labrador and North Carolina.  The harvest is widely distributed between Maine and North Carolina. Concentrations of catch occur on the continental shelf southeast of Long Island, NY and east of the Delmarva Peninsula.

Illex squid: The largest contribution to total landings occurs along the continental shelf break in depths between 128 and 366 m.

Longfin squid: Landings early in the year occur near the shelf break (102-183 m), while summer and fall landings are harvested predominately nearshore.

Butterfish: Harvest is widespread with concentrations of landings from southern New England shelf break areas near 40° N and in/near Long Island Sound.

At what depths are mackerel, squid, and butterfish found?  See geographic extent

Are other species caught when fishing for mackerel, squid, and butterfish?  

Atlantic mackerel: Yes, spiny dogfish, Atlantic herring, scup, blueback herring, striped bass, hickory shad, silver hake, American shad, unclassified dogfish, and butterfish are the primary bycatch/discard species in the mackerel fishery.

Illex squid: Yes, other fish species caught on Illex trips include:  longfin squid, butterfish, spotted hake, john dory, herring, and chub mackerel.

Longfin squid:  Yes, other fish species caught on longfin squid trips include: Illex, butterfish, spiny dogfish, silver, spotted, and red hake, scup, and little skate.

Butterfish: Butterfish itself is primarily a bycaught/discarded species.  However, other fish species caught in the small butterfish directed fishery include: red hake, silver hake, spiny dogfish, scup, unclassified skate, fourspot flounder, longfin squid, Atlantic mackerel, and little skate.

What gear types are authorized and what gears are primarily used?

Trawls, gillnet, longline, handline, rod and reel, purse seine, pot/trap, dredges, and dip nets are authorized for commercial use while rod and reel, squid jigs, handlines, pots, and spears are authorized for recreational use.  The Atlantic mackerel fishery uses primarily midwater otter trawls, paired midwater otter trawls, and bottom trawls, while gillnet gear accounts for a very small amount of the landings.  The longfin and Illex squid fisheries, as well as the butterfish fishery use primarily bottom otter trawl gear.

How is the fishery managed?  The mackerel, squid, and butterfish fisheries are each managed by hard quotas, but the mackerel and butterfish fisheries are subject to a stock-wide annual catch limits and accountability measures. 

Who manages this fishery?  Mackerel, squid, and butterfish are managed in Federal waters under a single fishery management plan by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and NOAA's Fisheries Service. 

What is the fishing year for this fishery?  January 1 – December 31

What are the different management areas for the mackerel, squid, and butterfish fisheries?   The management unit for these species is the Atlantic Coast, but these species are predominately prosecuted from Maine to North Carolina.

1978 – Fishery management plan (FMP) for Atlantic mackerel is completed and approved

1978 – FMP for Butterfish is completed and approved

1978 – FMP for Loligo and Illex squid is completed and approved

1979 – Atlantic mackerel Amendment 1 implemented

1979 – Squid Amendment 1 implemented

1980 – Atlantic butterfish Amendment 1 implemented

1980 – Atlantic mackerel Amendment 2 implemented

1980 – Atlantic butterfish Amendment 2 implemented

1983 – Management of Atlantic mackerel, squid, and butterfish fisheries is consolidated under a single FMP 

1984 – Amendment 1 to the Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish FMP implemented a squid optimum yield adjustment mechanism and revised the Atlantic mackerel mortality rate

1986 – Amendment 2 equates the fishing year with the calendar year, implements the framework adjustment process, and converts the expiration of fishing permits from indefinite to annual 

1991 – Amendment 3 establishes overfishing definition for all four species 

1991 – Amendment 4 limits the activity of directed foreign fishing and joint venture transfers to foreign vessels and allows for specification of OY for Atlantic mackerel for up to three years

1996 – Amendment 5 (Federal Register (FR) Notice) institutes a dealer and vessel reporting system and an operator permitting system; expands management plan to include all Atlantic mackerel, Loligo and Illex squid, and butterfish under U.S. jurisdiction; prohibits directed foreign fishing for squid, implements a limited access system for Loligo, Illex, and butterfish; institutes a dealer and vessel reporting system and an operator permitting system; and adjusts the maximum sustainable yield for squid 

1997 – Amendment 6 (FR Notice) revised the overfishing definition for Loligo, Illex, and butterfish, established a directed fishery closure at 95% of DAH for Loligo, Illex and butterfish and a seasonal management of the Illex fishery to improve the yield-per recruit

1997 – Amendment 7 (FR Notice) implemented consistent regulations for all New England and Mid-Atlantic FMPs regarding vessel upgrades and replacements

1998 – Amendment 8 (FR Notice) brought the FMP into compliance with new and revised National Standards and other required provisions of the Sustainable Fisheries Act and added a framework adjustment procedure

2001 – Framework 1 (FR Notice) created a quota set-aside for the purpose of conducting scientific research

2002Framework 2 (FR Notice) established that previous year specifications apply to the next year if new specifications are not finalized before the start of the fishing year; allowed for 3-year specifications for Loligo squid; and extended the moratorium on entry to the Illex fishery for an additional year

2003Framework 3 (FR Notice) extended the moratorium on entry to the Illex fishery for an additional year

2004 – Framework 4 (FR Notice) extended the moratorium on entry to the Illex fishery for an additional five years

2007 – Amendment 12 (FR Notice) implemented the standardized bycatch reporting methodology for the mackerel, squid, and butterfish fisheries

2008 – Amendment 9 (Volume 1, Volume 2, FR Notice) prohibits bottom trawling by permitted vessels in Lydonia and Oceanographer Canyons; updates Loligo biological reference points and designates essential fish habitat for Loligo eggs

2010 Amendment 10 (FR Notice) is implemented to reduce bycatch of butterfish and other species in the squid fishery

2010 Amendment 13 (FR Notice) implemented annual catch limits and accountability measures

2011 Amendment 11 (FR Notice) implemented a limited access program for Atlantic mackerel

2012Framework 5 (FR Notice) broadened the scope of individuals who can perform hold measurements for limited access mackerel vessels

2012Framework 6 (FR Notice) clarified the Council risk policy and describes the limited circumstances under which acceptable biological catch can be increased for stocks without status determination criteria on overfishing

2013 – Framework 7 (FR Notice) converted the butterfish mortality cap from a catch cap to a discard cap

2013Amendment 17 (FR Notice) modified accountability measures for recreational fisheries including Atlantic mackerel

2014Amendment 14 (FR Notice) implemented a river herring and shad catch cap for the Atlantic mackerel fishery, implemented a variety of reporting and monitoring requirements for Atlantic mackerel and longfin squid fisheries

2014Framework 8 (FR Notice) implements changes to improve operation of the butterfish discard cap in the longfin squid fishery and the directed butterfish fishery

2015Amendment 15 (FR Notice) implements Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology

What are the primary markets for the Atlantic mackerel, squid, and butterfish fisheries?

Atlantic mackerel: Whole round fish, or headed and gutted fish sold frozen. Limited sale of fresh mackerel for bait and human consumption, recreational fishery.

Illex squid: Human consumption (calamari) and bait

Longfin squid: Human consumption (calamari) and bait

Butterfish: Human consumption (primarily exported to Japan), bait

What are the recent landings and value of the fishery?

Atlantic mackerel: In 2013, 4,372 mt of mackerel was landed with an ex-vessel value of $1.9 million ($436/mt).  In 2010, US exports of all mackerel products (fresh, frozen, and prepared/preserved) totaled 10,340 mt, valued at $11.6 million. The leading markets for US exports of mackerel in 2009 (greater than 1,000 mt) were Egypt (5,032 mt), Bulgaria (2,253 mt), Canada (1,529 mt), and Georgia (1,060 mt)

Illex squid: In 2010, 15,825 mt of Illex squid was landed with a value of $10,758,235 ($680/mt)

Longfin squid: In 2010, 6,855 mt of longfin squid was landed with a value of $15,675,661 ($2,287/mt)

Butterfish: In 2010, 603 mt of butterfish was landed with a value of $865,703 ($1435/mt)

What are the top Atlantic mackerel, squid, and butterfish landing ports?

Atlantic mackerel: North Kingstown, RI, Cape May, NJ, New Bedford, MA, Gloucester, MA

Illex squid: New Jersey, Rhode Island, North Carolina

Longfin squid: Point Judith, RI, Montauk, NY, Cape May, NJ, North Kingstown, RI, Hampton Bays, NY

Butterfish: Point Judith, RI, Montauk, RI, New Bedford, RI, North Kingstown, RI

Check out more information on Atlantic mackerel here
Stock Atlantic Mackerel
Overfishing? Unknown
Overfishing Definition Overfishing occurs when F > F(threshold)
Overfished? Unknown
Overfished Definition The stock is overfished when B < ½ BMSY
Rebuilding Program Progress No rebuilding program
F/FMSY Not defined
Fishing Mortality Rate Not defined
B/BMSY or B/BMSY Proxy Not defined
Biomass Not defined

Other stock status information:  The mackerel stock was most recently assessed via a Transboundary Resource Assessment Committee in 2010 (TRAC 2010), which analyzed data through 2008. A number of different models and model formulations were evaluated. Given the uncertainty in the assessment results, the TRAC agreed that short term projections and characterization of stock status relative to estimated reference points would not be an appropriate basis for management advice at this time. Given current indications of reduced productivity and lack of older fish in the survey and catch, the TRAC recommended that annual total catches not exceed the average total landings (80,000 mt) over the last three years (2006-2008) until such time that new information suggests that a different amount is appropriate.

Most Recent Environmental Impact Statement (EIS):  Amendment 14; 2013 (Appendices)

Most Recent Biological Opinion:  2013

Most Recent Stock Assessment:  2010   

Next Stock Assessment: Not yet scheduled

Check out more information on longfin squid here.
Stock Longfin Squid
Overfishing? Unknown
Overfishing Definition Overfishing occurs when F > 75% F(threshold)
Overfished? No
Overfished Definition The stock is overfished when B < ½ BMSY
Rebuilding Program No rebuilding program
F/FMSY Not defined
Fishing Mortality Rate Not defined
B/BMSY or B/BMSY Proxy 42,405 mt
Biomass 54,442 mt

Other stock status information:  The 2010 longfin squid assessment (NEFSC 2010) essentially found that the longfin squid stock appears to have successfully supported the range of observed catches (9,600 mt - 26,100 mt) during 1976-2009, as well as relatively high levels of finfish predation during 1977-1984 and 1999-2009. Catch divided by biomass was used to evaluate exploitation and the highest exploitation index occurred related to a catch of 23,400 mt which was the basis for the 2012-2014 ABC and has remained the same for the 2015-2017 ABC.

Most Recent Environmental Impact Statement (EIS):  Amendment 14; 2013 (Appendices)

Most Recent Biological Opinion:  2013

Most Recent Stock Assessment:  2010  

Next Stock Assessment:  Not yet scheduled

Stock Illex Squid
Overfishing? No
Overfishing Definition Overfishing occurs when F > 75% F(threshold)
Overfished? Unknown
Overfished Definition The stock is overfished when B < ½ BMSY
Rebuilding Program No rebuilding program
F/FMSY Not defined
Fishing Mortality Rate Not defined
B/BMSY or B/BMSY Proxy Not defined
Biomass Not defined

Other stock status information:  The short lifespan of Illex greatly complicates assessing the stock with the available survey and assessment resources.

Most Recent Environmental Impact Statement (EIS):  Amendment 14; 2013 (Appendices)

Most Recent Biological Opinion:   2013

Most Recent Stock Assessment:  2005

Next Stock Assessment:  Not yet scheduled

Stock Butterfish
Overfishing? No
Overfishing Definition Overfishing occurs when F > F(threshold)
Overfished? No
Overfished Definition The stock is overfished when B < ½ BMSY
Rebuilding Program No rebuilding program
F/FMSY 0.81
Fishing Mortality Rate 0.02 (2012)
B/BMSY or B/BMSY Proxy 45,616 mt
Biomass 72,451 mt (2012)

Other stock status information:  Butterfish was previously considered overfished, until the most recent stock assessment in March 2014 concluded that the stock is above target stock size and experiencing low fishing mortality.  The butterfish ABC of 33,278 mt for fishing year 2015 is a significant increase from the 2014 ABC of 9,100 mt.

Most Recent Environmental Impact Statement (EIS):  Amendment 14; 2013 (Appendices)

Most Recent Biological Opinion:   2013

Most Recent Stock Assessment:  2014

Next Stock Assessment:  Not yet scheduled

Quota Monitoring – click here

2015 Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish Specifications (mt)

Stock Mackerel Butterfish Illex Longfin
Overfishing Limit (OFL) Unknown 41,092 Unknown Unknown
Allowable Biological Catch (ABC) 40,165 33,278 24,000 23,400
Annual Catch Limit (ACL) 25,039 33,278 N/A N/A
Commercial Annual Catch Target (ACT) 21,138 29,950 N/A N/A
Recreational ACT/Recreational Harvest Limit 1,397 N/A N/A N/A
Domestic Annual Harvest (DAH/quota) 20,872 22,530 22,915 22,445
Tier 3 Mackerel Allocation (7% of DAH) 1,461 N/A N/A N/A
Butterfish Mortality Cap in the longfin squid fishery 3,884

The longfin squid and butterfish catch cap are allocated into three trimesters each year as described in the table below.  See information on inseason adjustments below. 

Trimester Percent Longfin Squid (mt) Butterfish (mt)
I (Jan-Apr) 43 9,651 1,670
II (May-Aug) 17 3,816 660
III (Sept-Dec) 40 8,978 1,554
Total 100 22,445 3,884

Research Set-Aside:  No quota for any species was set-aside for research this year.

How often do the quotas change for this fishery?  Specifications for Atlantic mackerel, squid, and butterfish fisheries are set from 1-3 years, depending on the species.  The longfin and Illex squid specifications have been set for 2015-2017, the mackerel specifications are set for 2015, and the butterfish specifications are set for 2015-2017.

What if specifications are not in place at the start of fishing year?  The specifications from the previous year roll over if specifications are not in place at the start of the fishing year. 

Are there inseason adjustments (changes mid-fishing year) in this fishery?  Yes.  The quota allocated between trimesters for longfin squid and the butterfish catch cap can be reallocated in the following manner:

  • Trimester I underages:  If there is an underharvest in Trimester I of 25 percent or more, then the amount of the underharvest will be reallocated to Trimester II and Trimester III.  The Trimester II quota may be increased by a maximum of 50 percent, so any remaining portion of the underage will be reallocated to Trimester III. Any underages for Trimester I that are less than 25 percent of the Trimester I quota will be applied to Trimester III of the same year.
  • Trimester I overages:  Any overages of commercial quota for Trimesters I and II will be subtracted from Trimester III of the same year.

Additionally, if any of the trimester or annual quotas are projected to harvest a certain portion of the quota, the directed fishery will be closed.  See the summary of closure thresholds in the table below.  Fishery closures will be published in the Federal Register, and announced via USCG and National Weather Service Radio.

  When this percent of the quota is reached… The possession limit will be reduced to this amount for the remainder of the fishing year or Trimester…
Mackerel 95% 20,000 lb per trip
Tier 3 Mackerel Allocation 90% 20,000 lb per trip (for Tier 3 vessels only)
Mackerel 100% 0 lb (possession prohibited)
Longfin Squid 90% in Trimesters I and II; 95% after
April 15 and August 15
2,500 lb per trip
Longfin Squid 95% in Trimester III 2,500 lb per trip
Butterfish Mortality Cap* 95% in each Trimester 2,500 lb of longfin squid per trip
Illex Squid 95% 10,000 lb per trip
Butterfish 1,411 mt less than 100% 5,000 lb per trip
Butterfish 100% 600 lb per trip

*Vessels using jigging gear to target longfin squid when the directed fishery is closed due to the butterfish mortality cap will not be subject to the reduced possession limit and will be allowed to possess more than 2,500 lb of longfin squid, provided that all trawl gear is properly stowed. 

Accountability Measures:

Mackerel

  • Commercial overage repayment:  If the mackerel ACL is exceeded by the commercial fishery, then the exact amount of the overage will be deducted from the commercial DAH as a single year adjustment between March 31 and May 1 of the following year. 
  • Recreational overage repayment:  If the recreational fishery landings are responsible for the overage, then landings in overage the RHL will be deducted from the RHL in the following year.
  • Non-landings overage repayment:  If the mackerel ACL is exceeded, and the overage has not been accommodated through other landing-based accountability measures, but is attributable to either the commercial or recreational sector (such as research quota overages, dead discards in excess of those otherwise accounted for in management uncertainty, or other non-landing overages), then the exact amount, in pounds, by which the sector ACT was exceeded will be deducted from the following year.

Butterfish

  • If the butterfish ACL is exceeded, then the exact amount of the overage will be deducted from the butterfish ACL by March 31 of the following year as a single-year adjustment.

Longfin and Illex squid

  • Longfin and Illex squid are exempt from the ACL/AM requirements because they are not overfished and have annual life cycles. 

Other:  Not Applicable

Click Below for Past Quota Information:

2013

Permit Categories

Permit Category Type Description Permits Issued in 2014 Number of Permits in Confirmation of Permit History*
Category 1 Limited Access Longfin Squid/Butterfish Moratorium 298 88
Category 2 Open Access Squid/Mackerel/Butterfish Charter Party 703 Not Applicable
Category 3 Open Access Squid/Butterfish Incidental Catch 1,608 Not Applicable
Category 4 Open Access Atlantic Mackerel 1,761 Not Applicable
Category 5 Limited Access Illex Squid Moratorium 69 10
Category T1 Limited Access Mackerel Tier 1 32 3
Category T2 Limited Access Mackerel Tier 2 24 3
Category T3 Limited Access Mackerel Tier 3 82 12

*A Confirmation of Permit History (CPH) allows a vessel owner to retain permit eligibility in the event the vessel has been destroyed or sold but the owner retains the permit eligibility.  The permit in Confirmation of Permit History may then be placed on a vessel at a later date.

Control Date: 

Mackerel:  March 21, 2007 

Longfin Squid:  May 16, 2013

Illex Squid:  August 2, 2013

Butterfish:  May 16, 2013

Other Permit Information:  Vessels fishing for mackerel that are less than 165 feet in length overall, less than 750 gross registered tons, or with a shaft horsepower less than 3,000 shp may receive one of the mackerel permits listed above.  Mackerel vessels larger than any of these measurements, contact the Permits Office for more information on how to get an at-sea processing permit.

Commercial Operator Permit:  Operator cards are required for any operator of a charter/party boat or a commercial vessel (including carrier and processor vessels) issued a vessel permit from the Greater Atlantic Region and fishing for or in possession of fish.

Commercial Dealer/Processor Permit:  Atlantic mackerel, squid, and/or butterfish may be sold only to persons possessing a valid Federal Atlantic mackerel, squid, and/or butterfish dealer permit. 

How to obtain a Federal fishing permit:  Anyone with a valid vessel operator’s permit can obtain a Federal open access Atlantic mackerel, squid, or butterfish permit by submitting a permit application and supporting documentation to the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office Permit Division.

Commercial (moratorium) permits have been managed under a limited entry system for longfin, Illex, and butterfish since 1996, and since 2012 for Atlantic mackerel; no new moratorium permits for these species are being issued.  

More information can be found here.

Trip Limits:

Permit Category Trip Limits (can only be landed once per day)
Mackerel Illex Squid Longfin Squid Butterfish
SMB 2 Charter Party Unlimited while carrying passengers for hire
SMB 3 Squid/Butterfish Incidental - 10,000 lb 2,500 lb 600 lb
SMB 4 Atlantic Mackerel Open Access 20,000 lb - - -
SMB 1 Longfin/Butterfish Moratorium - - Unlimited Unlimited/2,500 lb*
SMB 5 Illex Moratorium - Unlimited - -
SMB T1 Tier 1 Mackerel Unlimited - - -
SMB T2 Tier 2 Mackerel 135,000 lb - - -
SMB T3 Tier 3 Mackerel 100,000 lb - - -

*See gear restrictions under the Gear tab of this website.

Fish Size Limits

Minimum fish size: Not applicable

Maximum fish size: Not applicable

Minimum mesh size:

Mackerel:  Not applicable.  

Butterfish:  Vessels fishing with otter trawl gear that possess 2,500 lb or more of butterfish, must use nets that have a minimum codend mesh of 3 inches (76 mm) diamond mesh, inside stretch measure, applied throughout the codend for at least 100 continuous meshes forward of the end of the net.  For codends with less than 100 meshes, one-third of the net must have a minimum mesh of 3 inches, measured from the back of the codend to the headrope.

Longfin squid:

Trimester Minimum Mesh Size
Trimester I 2 1/8 inches (54 mm)
Trimester II 1 7/8 inches (48 mm)
Trimester III 2 1/8 inches (54 mm)
Net strengtheners must be greater than 5 inches diamond mesh

 

Illex squid:

Illex Squid Trawl Exemption Area: 

Vessels fishing for Illex squid with otter trawl gear that possess longfin squid during June, July, August, and September seaward of the following coordinates (listed at bottom of page) are exempt from the longfin minimum mesh sizes, provided they do not have any net or piece of net with a mesh size less than 1 7/8 inches (48 mm) diamond mesh available for immediate use, when the vessel is landward of the exemption area boundary.

Other Gear Restrictions:

Mid-water trawl gear

Vessels with a mackerel or squid permit must obtain a Letter of Authorization (LOA) to fish with mid-water trawl gear in the Gulf of Maine/George’s Bank (GOM/GB) Regulated Mesh Area, including Closed Area I, Closed Area II, the Nantucket Lightship Closed Area, and other areas closed for NE multispecies conservation.

When fishing north of 42°20' N. Latitude, the vessel may only fish for, possess, or land Atlantic herring, blueback herring, or Atlantic mackerel.  When fishing south of 42°20' N. Latitude, the vessel may only fish for, possess, or land Atlantic herring, blueback herring, Atlantic mackerel, or squid.

Purse seine gear

Vessels with a mackerel permit must obtain an LOA to fish with purses seine gear in the GOM/GB Regulated Mesh Area.  The vessel may only fish for, possess, or land Atlantic mackerel, Atlantic herring, blueback herring, or menhaden.  

To request an LOA from the Regional Administrator, contact the Greater Atlantic Region Permit Office at (978) 281-9370.

Illex squid exemption area coordinates: 

N. Lat. W. Long.
43°58.0' 67°22.0'
43°50.0' 68°35.0'
43°30.0' 69°40.0'
43°20.0' 70°00.0'
42°45.0' 70°10.0'
42°13.0' 69°55.0'
41°00.0' 69°00.0'
41°45.0' 68°15.0'
42°10.0' 67°10.0'
41°18.6' 66°24.8'
40°55.5' 66°38.0'
40°45.5' 68°00.0'
40°37.0' 68°00.0'
40°30.0' 69°00.0'
40°22.7' 69°00.0'
40°18.7' 69°40.0'
40°21.0' 71°03.0'
39°41.0' 72°32.0'
38°47.0' 73°11.0'
38°04.0' 74°06.0'
37°08.0' 74°46.0'
36°00.0' 74°52.0'
35°45.0' 74°53.0'
35°28.0' 74°52.0'

Regulated, Closed, and Access Areas

Restricted Areas:

Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish Fishery Restricted Areas

Oceanographer Canyon Lydonia Canyon Northern Scup Gear Restricted Area (GRA) Southern Scup Gear Restricted Area (GRA)
January 1 – December 31 January 1 – December 31 November 1 – December 31 January 1 – March 15
Bottom trawl gear prohibited Bottom trawl gear prohibited Minimum mesh size of 5.0 inch diamond mesh Minimum mesh size of 5.0 inch diamond mesh
Transit allowed if bottom trawl gear is stowed and not available for immediate use. Transit allowed if bottom trawl gear is stowed and not available for immediate use. Transit allowed if codends less than 5.0 inches are stowed and not available for immediate use. Transit allowed if codends less than 5.0 inches are stowed and not available for immediate use.

*Coordinates for each area are listed below.

  • Vessels targeting Illex squid should also refer to the Gear tab in the Commercial section of this website.

Oceanographer Canyon Coordinates:

N. Lat. W. Long.
40°10.0' 68°12.0'
40°24.0' 68°09.0'
40°24.0' 68°08.0'
40°10.0' 67°59.0'
40°10.0' 68°12.0'

Lydonia Canyon Coordinates:

N. Lat. W. Long.
40°16.0' 67°34.0'
40°16.0' 67°42.0'
40°20.0' 67°43.0'
40°27.0' 67°40.0'
40°27.0' 67°38.0'
40°16.0' 67°34.0'

Scup Gear Restricted Areas (GRA):

Scup Gear Restricted Areas

Southern GRA   Northern GRA
N. lat. W. long. N. lat. W. long.
39°20' 72°53' 41°00' 71°00'
39°20' 72°28' 41°00' 71°30'
38°00' 73°58' 40°00' 72°40'
37°00' 74°43' 40°00' 72°05'
36°30' 74°43' 41°00' 71°00'
36°30' 75°03'    
37°00' 75°03'    
38°00' 74°23'    
39°20' 72°53'    

Days-At-Sea (DAS) Requirements:

The Atlantic mackerel, squid, and butterfish fisheries are not managed by a DAS system.  Please see the ‘Fishery Quota’ and ‘Trip Limit’ section of this webpage for more information on effort control in the these fisheries. 

Exempted Fisheries

Exempted fisheries allow fishing vessels to fish for specific species without being subject to certain Northeast (NE) multispecies regulations, including days-at-sea, provided the bycatch of regulated species is minimal. To be approved and implemented, exemption programs must have demonstrated that incidental catch of NE multispecies is less than 5 percent of the total catch, by weight, and that the exemption will not jeopardize fishing mortality objectives.

How to Request Fishery Exemptions

An exempted fishery may be added, deleted, or modified pursuant to the procedure described below:

  1. Applicants must submit a written request to the Regional Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930-2298. The request should describe the area in which the fishery would operate, the period in which it would operate, the gear it would use, the approximate number of vessels likely to participate, and the species it would target, retain, and land.
  2. Those proposing that a fishery should be exempt should describe the fishery and present all information possible that helps determine that the fishery meets the bycatch standard. The Regional Administrator will investigate NMFS data sources, but proposals for exemptions should be complete and clear to facilitate the process. State agencies and universities, for example, may have additional data available and applicants may contact them for assistance.
  3. When a request for an exempted fishery is submitted, the request and any accompanying data are reviewed by the Regional Administrator to determine whether such a fishery would meet the exemption qualifying criteria, which are described in the first paragraph of this information sheet. The Regional Administrator will also consult with the New England Fishery Management Council on any exemptions requested. This process may take several months to complete.

 NE multispecies regulations include four regulated mesh areas (RMAs) that regulate which gear can be used in each of the following areas:  Gulf of Maine (GOM); Georges Bank (GB); Southern New England (SNE); and Mid-Atlantic (MA).

Exemption Areas (EAs) and Fisheries Where Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish Fisheries Can Be Retained

Exempted Areas within the GOM/GB RMAs Exempted Areas within the SNE RMA Exempted Areas within the MA RMA
Cultivator Shoal Whiting Fishery EA*† SNE Exemption Area (includes part of GB RMA) Mid-Atlantic EA (includes part of SNE RMA)  
Small Mesh Areas 1 & 2† SNE Little Tunny Gillnet Exemption Area Mid-water trawl gear Exempted Fishery
Raised Footrope Trawl Exempted Whiting Fishing Area*† * Requires a Letter of Authorization (LOA) to participate.  LOAs can be obtained from the Greater Atlantic Region Permit Office at (978) 281-9370.
† Atlantic mackerel, squid, and/or butterfish species are considered an incidentally caught species in these EAs.  These EAs require the use of small mesh to target whiting.
GOM Grate Raised Footrope Trawl Whiting Fishery EA†

See the small mesh exemption information sheet for more information on retaining Atlantic mackerel, squid, and butterfish in exempted fisheries. 

A vessel fishing for mackerel, squid, and/or butterfish in Federal waters must also comply with closed areas for other fisheries, including NE multispecies, unless using gear defined as not capable of catching NE multispecies.  Exempted gear includes the following:  Pelagic hook and line, pelagic longline, spears, rakes, diving gear, cast nets, tong, harpoons, weirs, dipnets, stop nets, pound nets, pelagic gillnets, pots and traps, shrimp trawls (with properly configured grates), and surfclam/ocean quahog dredges.

These include seasonal and year-round closures, Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) closures, and transiting/gear stowage requirements.

More information regarding multispecies regulations is available on the Northeast Multispecies page.

Transfers at Sea

A vessel with a valid longfin squid, Illex squid, and/or butterfish permit must apply for an LOA from the Regional Administrator to transfer and receive longfin squid, Illex squid, and/or butterfish at sea.  If the vessel has been issued a valid incidental squid and butterfish permit, it may transfer these species at sea, consistent with the applicable possession limits, but may not receive them.  Current valid incidental possession limits are:  2,500 lb of longfin, 600 lb of butterfish, and 10,000 lb of Illex per trip. 

Possession Limits:

There are no recreational possession limits or fish size requirements in Atlantic mackerel, squid, and butterfish fisheries.

Fish Size Limits:

Minimum Fish Size: None

Maximum Fish Size: None

For information on fishing in state waters (0-3 nautical miles), click on the relevant state below.

Maine

New Hampshire

Massachusetts

Rhode Island

Connecticut

New York

New Jersey

Delaware

Maryland

Virginia

North Carolina

Gear Requirements

Not Applicable

Regulated, Closed, and Access Areas

Not Applicable

Days-At-Sea (DAS) Requirements:

The Atlantic mackerel, squid, and butterfish fisheries are not managed by a DAS system.  Please see the ‘Fishery Quota’ and ‘Trip Limit’ section of this webpage for more information on effort control in the these fisheries. 

Exempted Fisheries

Not Applicable

Protected Resource and Marine Mammal Regulations

Not applicable.

Commercial Reporting

Catch Reporting and Vessel Trip Reports (VTR):  VTRs must be submitted with record of all fishing activity for each month.  All Atlantic mackerel, squid, and butterfish vessels  must have VTRs submitted to NMFS or postmarked within 15 days after the end of the reporting month.  Tier 3 mackerel vessels must have VTRs submitted to NMFS or postmarked by Tuesday at midnight for the previous weeks catch.  Reports can also be submitted electronically here.  If no fishing activity took place during a fishing month or week, then a VTR must be submitted stating that no fishing trips were taken. 

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) System Requirements:  The Atlantic mackerel, squid, and butterfish fisheries do not have any IVR requirements.  However, if you are participating in a research program such as research set-aside (RSA) or fishing with an exempted fishing permit (EFP), there are IVR requirements.  Please refer to your RSA or EFP paperwork for instruction on using IVR.

Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) Requirements:  All limited access Atlantic mackerel and limited access longfin squid/butterfish permits must have a VMS.  Vessels with a limited access Atlantic mackerel permit must declare into the mackerel fishery through VMS prior to leaving port.  Additionally, if these vessels intend to land more than 20,000 lb of mackerel, you must notify NMFS through VMS 6 hours prior to arrival in port or immediately upon leaving fishing grounds if fishing ends less than 6 hours before arrival in port.  Vessels with a limited access longfin squid/butterfish moratorium permit must declare into the longfin squid fishery through VMS prior to leaving port.

Observer Requirements: 

Pre-Trip Observer Notification:

Vessels with longfin squid permits that land greater than 2,500 lb of longfin squid must request an observer at least 48 hours before the start of a trip.  Vessels must provide the following information to the observer program:  vessel name, vessel permit number, contact name for coordination of observer deployment, telephone number for contact; and the date, time, port of departure, and approximate trip duration.

There are three different options on how to request an observer:

  1. Use the Pre-Trip Notification System (PTNS) by going to this website.  The username is your permit number and the password is the same as used for Fish-On-Line.
  2. Email the following information to nefsc.ptns@noaa.gov:
    • Vessel permit number
    • Planned sail date and time
    • Fishery: Longfin squid
    • Estimated trip duration in whole days
    • Port of sail
    • Phone number, if new to using PTNS
  3. Call the NMFS Pre-Trip Notification System at 1-855-FISHES1 at least 48 hours prior to departing on a trip.  The line is staffed from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm on business days.  Outside of these hours, the line is staffed by an answering service that is qualified to accept requests for observers and answer questions.  

Charter/Party and Recreational Reporting

Catch Reporting and Vessel Trip Reports (VTR):  If the owner of a party or charter boat is issued only a charter/party permit, and is carrying passengers for hire, then they must complete a VTR for each trip on which they land any fish.

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) System Requirements:  The Atlantic mackerel, squid, and butterfish fisheries do not have any IVR requirements. However, if you are participating in a research program such as research set-aside (RSA) or fishing with an exempted fishing permit (EFP), there are IVR requirements.  Please refer to your RSA or EFP paperwork for instruction on using IVR.

Additionally, the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) is a system of coordinated voluntary data collection programs designed to estimate recreational catch and effort.