NMFS News Release

Northeast Regional Office
One Blackburn Drive
Gloucester, MA 01930

Surf Clam & Ocean Quahog - Dredge Gear, Cage Tags, and Permit Requirements

Date: January 16, 1997

Dear Atlantic Surf Clam and Ocean Quahog Permit Holder and Allocation Owner:

This letter is to inform you of the approval of Framework Adjustment 17 to the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan (FMP). This rule contains language to correct an oversight in the regulations implementing Amendment 7 to the FMP, by adding surf clam and ocean quahog dredge gear to the list of multispecies exempted gear in the Gulf of Maine/Georges Bank (GOM/GB) and Southern New England (SNE) regulated mesh areas. This action clarifies that the use of such gear is permissible in the surf clam and ocean quahog fisheries prosecuted in these areas. You are reminded the vessels must continue to comply with all other regulations promulgated under the Atlantic Surf Clam and Ocean Quahog FMP, and that Georges Bank east of 69 W longitude and south of 4220' N latitude remains closed due to the presence of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP).

I am also taking this opportunity to clarify an existing provision of the regulations. This provision, 648.4(b), states that federally-permitted surf clam or ocean quahog vessels are not subject to the federal tagging requirement when fishing within state waters if the state requires cage tags. If there is no state cage tagging requirement, the vessel must continue to comply with the more restrictive federal cage tagging requirement while fishing in state waters. Despite the fact that many states require shellfish sanitation tags on landed cages, these tags have been found insufficient as evidence that fishing activities have been conducted exclusively in state waters and such tags are NOT deemed an acceptable substitute for federal cage tagging.

If you wish to fish exclusively in state waters, the federal cage tagging requirement may be suspended if you surrender the vessel's federal surf clam or ocean quahog permit by sending it to the Regional Office (Attn: FMO/Permit Surrender). You must then submit a written request for reissuance of the federal permit prior to resumption of fishing activities in federal waters. Permit reissuance takes approximately 30 days from receipt of the request. If you have questions about this provision, contact Myles Raizin or David Gouveia at 508-281-9278.

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