NMFS News Release

Northeast Regional Office
One Blackburn Drive
Gloucester, MA 01930

Multispecies Framework 18 Regulations Approved

Date: March 2, 1998

Dear Permit Holder:

Framework Adjustment 18 to the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan has been approved and is effective immediately. This framework adjustment allows vessels which have been issued a Letter of Authorization to engage in midwater trawling for herring and mackerel in the multispecies closed areas and the regulated mesh areas, provided they comply with the conditions and requirements described below. These conditions and requirements are designed to ensure that bycatch of NE multispecies is minimal while midwater trawl vessels are fishing in the multispecies closed areas:

1) Vessels must obtain and have on board a Midwater Trawl Letter of Authorization issued by the Regional Administrator (RA), as currently required to use small mesh under the midwater trawl gear exemption in the Gulf of Maine/Georges Bank and Stellwagen Bank/Jeffries Ledge regulated mesh areas;

2) Midwater trawl gear must be used exclusively for the duration of the participation period specified in the Letter of Authorization. Midwater trawl gear is defined as trawl gear that is designed to fish for, is capable of fishing for, or is being used to fish for pelagic species, no portion of which is designed to be or is operated in contact with the bottom at any time. No other gear capable of catching multispecies may be on board the vessel.

3) Vessels may not fish for, possess, or land any other species of fish except for Atlantic herring, blueback herring and mackerel, except that, when fishing south of 4220' N. Lat. vessels may fish for, possess and land squid, provided that the vessel fishes outside Closed Area I, Closed Area II, and the Nantucket Lightship Closed Area, as defined in 50 CFR 648.81.

4) Vessels fishing under the midwater trawl gear exemption must carry a NMFS-approved sea sampler/observer, if requested by the Regional Administrator.

The Regional Administrator shall review information pertaining to the bycatch of regulated multispecies. On the basis of sea sampling data or other credible information, if the RA determines that the bycatch of regulated multispecies exceeds, or is likely to exceed, one percent of herring and mackerel harvested, by weight, in the fishery or by any individual fishing operation, the RA may place restrictions and conditions in the letter of authorization for any or all individual fishing operations or, after consulting with the Council, may suspend or prohibit any or all midwater trawl activities in the closed areas.

This letter is only a summary of the major provisions in Framework Adjustment 18, and has no legal force or effect. To read the requirements in their entirety, you may obtain a complete copy of the regulations by calling (978) 281-9315, or by accessing the Federal Register Online through the NMFS Northeast Regional Homepage at http://www.wh.whoi.edu/ro/doc/nero.html.

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