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2013 Groundfish Measures

CONTACT:     Maggie Mooney-Seus                                                                                    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

                        978-281-9175/774-392-4865                                                                        April 30, 2013

NOAA Fisheries announces catch limits for 2013-2014 Northeast groundfish stocks; remains committed to mitigating effects on New England fishermen

Based largely on advice from the New England Fishery Management Council, NOAA Fisheries announced today  final management measures for the Northeast groundfish fishery, including much lower quotas for some key groundfish stocks, and actions that will help fishermen better manage and adjust to these quotas.  In anticipation of these cuts, the Department of Commerce pre-emptively declared a fishery disaster in the fall of 2012 and continues to work with Congress to help mitigate impacts to the region and maintain the long-standing culture of fishing in these communities.

“We know that for some fishing communities that have relied heavily on cod, haddock and flounder, the next several years are going to be a struggle,” said John Bullard, NOAA Fisheries northeast regional administrator. “We’ve done everything we can to include measures that may help soften the blow of quota cuts, but it’s going to take a collective effort to find more ways to keep both the fishery and the businesses that support it viable while these stocks recover.”           

Quotas will be reduced on nine stocks of cod, haddock, and flounder. For nearly half of these stocks however, the 2013 quotas are higher than what fishermen actually caught in the last fishing year. The majority of these management measures are in line with recommendations from the council, a body comprising federal and state members, fishermen and other industry representatives. NOAA Fisheries is also pursuing one additional measure by using its emergency authority to set a lower quota for Georges Bank yellowtail flounder to prevent overfishing on this stock for 2013.  This limit is in line with the recommended catch limit provided by a joint U.S. and Canadian working group.

NOAA Fisheries is taking a series of steps to help fishermen adjust to these measures, including:

“In considering requests from fishing vessels to access year-round groundfish closed areas, we also want to address public concerns,” said Bullard. “That’s why we’ve been clear that areas defined as essential to protect fish spawning, feeding and breeding will remain closed and that access to other sensitive areas such as the western Gulf of Maine closure and Cashes Ledge probably won’t be viable. If we do grant access to any portion of these closed areas, we want to do it in a way that is both responsible and sustainable, so spawning fish, vulnerable groundfish stocks, habitat, and protected species are not put at risk.”

The mitigation measures approved today build on a suite of management measures NOAA previously developed in coordination with the council and fishermen to help the industry adjust to lower catch limits. For instance, NOAA intends to continue to cover at-sea monitoring costs in 2013 for the groundfish fishery as the budget allows. Through cooperation with the council, NOAA Fisheries also is working to increase access to spiny dogfish and redfish – both healthy stocks and another source of revenue for the industry.

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