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Omnibus Amendment to Simplify Vessel Baselines

In August and September 2013, the Mid-Atlantic and New England Fishery Management Councils initiated an omnibus amendment to simplify vessel baseline regulations based on the recommendations of a Northeast Regional Coordinating Council (NRCC) Workgroup. 

Fishing vessel baseline specifications and upgrade restrictions have been used as a tool in Northeast limited access fisheries to promote conservation of fish species by limiting potential increases in the harvest capacity of the fleet. 

To reduce fishing mortality and fishing effort, the councils use various effort controls, such as limits on the amount of time (numbers of days-at-sea (DAS)) that can be fished, trip limits, state quota allocations, and moratoria on issuance of new permits. 

Vessel upgrade restrictions were intended to control the potential increase in effort and catch that could occur if an individual vessel increased in size or horsepower making possible to catch more fish for a given amount of effort.

However, since the time baseline specifications were adopted, many fisheries have implemented other effort controls and annual catch limits (ACLs), which restrict effort and put a cap on total harvest. Replacement and upgrade restrictions also can be a costly and time-consuming administrative burden for both the industry and NOAA Fisheries. 

The councils, with the assistance of NOAA Fisheries, developed the draft Omnibus Amendment to Simplify Vessel Baselines.  This amendment eliminates certain baseline restrictions, reducing some administrative and other costs, while maintaining the benefits to conservation and fleet diversity that baseline measures provide. 

The range of alternatives in this draft omnibus amendment has been approved by both councils.  The document is now available for public review and comment.  Following this comment period, NOAA Fisheries will finalize the Omnibus Amendment document for final review and consideration by the Councils.  Once both Councils approve the final amendment, NOAA Fisheries will conduct proposed and final rulemaking to implement the provisions contained in this amendment.

Anyone wishing to submit comments for consideration may do so through July 17, 2015.  E-Mail comments may be submitted, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2011-0213 via the Federal eRulemaking Portal http://www.regulations.gov

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