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NOAA Seeks Comments on Proposed Groundfish Catch Limits and Modifications to the At-Sea Monitoring Program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
March 22, 2016

We are seeking public comment on a proposed rule that would set 2016-2018 catch limits for all 20 groundfish stocks, adjust the groundfish at-sea monitoring program, and adopt several sector measures.

Catch Limits

The new catch limits proposed for all 20 groundfish stocks are based on stock assessments conducted in late 2015.

The proposed allocations for Gulf of Maine cod, Georges Bank cod, Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic yellowtail flounder, and witch flounder could limit the operation of the groundfish fishery. However, these reductions are necessary to prevent overfishing for these stocks, which are all at historically low levels.

Based on the proposed allocation increases for Gulf of Maine haddock (150 percent) and Gulf of Maine cod (30 percent), we are proposing trip limit increases and season extensions for the recreational groundfish fishery in a separate action.

At-Sea Monitoring

The 2016 fishing year (May 1, 2016, through April 30, 2017) is the first full year that sectors will be responsible for the costs of at-sea monitoring. We worked with the New England Fishery Management Council to develop a set of reasonable modifications to the at-sea monitoring program to make the program more cost-effective while still reliably meeting monitoring groundfish catch.

The proposed changes include:

  • Elimination of the coverage requirement for certain sector trips with low groundfish bycatch;
  • Adjustment of method  NOAA Fisheries uses to set the annual coverage level to use more years of discard information and stock health to predict coverage levels; and
  • Reduction of the target at-sea monitoring coverage level of 14 percent for the 2016 fishing year (down from 24 percent for 2015).

Read the proposed rule and background documents on our website, and submit your comments through the Regulations.gov portal, or by mailing comments to:

John K. Bullard, Regional Administrator
National Marine Fisheries Service
55 Great Republic Drive
Gloucester, MA 01930

Please mark the outside of the envelope, "Comments on the Proposed Rule for Groundfish Framework Adjustment 55."

Comments are due on April 5.

Questions? Contact Jennifer Goebel at 978-281-9175 or email jennifer.goebel@noaa.gov.