NMFS News Release

Northeast Regional Office
One Blackburn Drive
Gloucester, MA 01930

Raised Footrope Whiting Trawl Experimental Fishery Re-Authorized

Date: August 25, 1999

Dear Multispecies Permit Holder:

This is to announce that the Raised Footrope Whiting Trawl Experimental Fishery is being re-authorized in Cape Cod Bay, its adjacent waters, and east of Cape Cod Bay (Areas 2B, 3 and 4). Unlike last year's experiment, this year's experimental fishery is not authorized to operate in areas west or north of Stellwagen Bank (Areas 1, 2A and 2C). The Massachusetts Division of Maine Fisheries (MADMF) did not request that the fishery be prosecuted in these areas because of documented high rates of cod bycatch or lack of fishing effort over the last two years. Participants are prohibited from entering the scheduled Gulf of Maine (GOM) Closure Area (Rolling Closure Area V) during October and November 1999. Therefore, the fishery season will include the end of August, September and December in Areas 2B, 3 and 4 and only those areas or portions of areas not encompassed by the closed area in October and November (the western portion of Area 4 and the majority of Area 3; see map). The MADMF will select up to 40 participating vessels and give first priority to those who have demonstrated experience with whiting experimental fisheries in the GOM. As with the previous two years' experiments, the 1999 experimental fishery requires that the participating vessel use a small mesh raised footrope trawl configuration that conforms to MADMF-approved specifications.

The purpose of this experiment is to gather catch data from the participating vessels to help identify trends in the fishery and the ability of this fishery (gear, area and season) to meet the bycatch standard established for approval of an exempted fishery. In addition, the information gained from this experiment will be used to support future whiting management measures and monitoring considerations.

The MADMF will also conduct the gear modification trials they began on a smaller scale last year, through their design of a "sweepless trawl". Their intent is to design a trawl that will cause minimal impact to the bottom habitat, as well as to develop a gear configuration that can be identified "at-a-glance" by at-sea enforcement agents. Upon request, participants will be required to modify their trawl (under the supervision of a MADMF observer) and make comparative tows with the standard raised footrope trawl.

A participant's compliance with the logbook reporting requirements and other stated permit conditions is imperative for maintaining a "real time" pulse on the activity in this fishery. The onus is on each and every participant to provide accurate and timely reporting of the fishery. If one vessel fails to meet this responsibility, the whole fishery suffers. Furthermore, reliance on the accuracy of this data is critical, as funding sources for sea sampling coverage become increasingly more difficult to secure. As a condition of holding the permit, participants in this year's experiment are required to take a sea sampler on board their vessel when requested to do so. This year, the level of sea sampling coverage will be increased in Area 3 (outer Cape Cod) to ensure that any identified regulated multispecies bycatch problems are quickly addressed.

Participants judged to have been out of logbook reporting compliance during the 1998 experimental fishery will not be allowed to participate in the 1999 experiment. In addition, vessels who participate in this year's experimental fishery, but do not comply with all reporting requirements (submit logbooks within 15 days after the end of the month in which the vessel is authorized to participate in this fishery), will be removed from participation for the rest of this year.

Vessel owners who previously participated may enroll by calling (978) 281-9370. Federally permitted multispecies vessel owners who have not participated in this fishery in the past must contact the MADMF (617) 727-3193 for further information. Vessel owners must indicate the vessel name, Federal permit number, State Registration or Official Coast Guard Documentation number and desired participation period. Provided no outstanding fines or violations and/or pending investigations or reporting compliance issues are associated with the vessel, the vessel may begin to fish when the vessel owner has received the Exempted Fishing Permit and has it aboard the vessel.

For further information, interested parties may call the Northeast Regional Office Information Line at (978)281-9278.

This notice is authorized by the Regional Administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service

Approved 1999 Raised Footrope Whiting Experimental Fishery Areas (RFR Area 2B, RFR Area 4, and RFR Area 3) and the boundary of Multispecies Rolling Closure Area V. The Raised Footrope Experimental Fishery is not allowed in RFR Area 2B, most of RFR Area 4 and a small portion of RFR Area 3 while Multispecies Rolling Closure V is in effect from October 1 through November 30, 1999.

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