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U.S. Fishery Returns to Grand Banks

NOAA Helps Re-establish a Viable Fishery on the Grand Banks for U.S. Vessels

Creating a Ready Supply of Sustainably Caught Fish for U.S. Businesses and Consumers

Full hold of yellowtail flounder from Grand Banks.  

Yellowtail flounder captured by Fishing Vessel Titan out of New Bedford, MA.

On June 27, the New England fishing vessel (F/V) Titan, completed its second trip to the Grand Banks to target groundfish.  So far this season, they have caught about 22% of their yellowtail flounder allocation.  In total they have caught around 831,000 lbs of yellowtail flounder and American plaice. Last year, the New Bedford-based fishing vessel had a very successful season, landing over 1.9 million lbs of yellowtail flounder, American plaice and other species on the Grand Banks. 

Although U.S. vessels have a long history of fishing for groundfish on the Grand Banks, the 2012 season was the first time a U.S. vessel has taken part in the fishery in nearly 20 years.  Interest  now appears to be growing in rekindling the U.S.' role in this historic groundfish fishery.

In 1996, the U.S. joined the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), an international fishing organization with representatives from 11 other countries, charged with setting management recommendations for fishery resources in northwest Atlantic international waters. This collaborative body develops annual quotas and other management measures for 11 groundfish species, including cod, redfish, yellowtail flounder, and skates and measures to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems like deep-sea coral habitats. 

Based on suggestions from New England fishermen, NOAA Fisheries helped to re-establish the U.S. Grand Banks’ fishery through years of diplomacy and negotiations.  The U.S. delegation worked directly with NAFO members, especially Canada, to establish a discrete U.S. allocation of yellowtail flounder and other species, which the Titan is now harvesting.

The U.S. allocation is part of a 10-year agreement with Canada. Through this agreement 2.2 million lbs of yellowtail flounder is transferred to the U.S. upon request. Since 2009 the U.S. has requested and received this transfer each year, but it wasn’t until last year that a U.S. vessel actually found it commercially feasible to take advantage of the opportunity.

The Titan is well on its way to achieving its 2013 authorized allocation of 2.5 million lbs of yellowtail flounder, 152,100 lbs of redfish, 998,700 lbs of Illex squid, and several other stocks available to NAFO members. The Titan can also keep catch of other abundant stocks found on the Grand Banks that are not currently managed by NAFO, such as haddock and pollock. 

All fish caught by the Titan are shipped to the U.S. for processing and marketing -- helping to sustain jobs for New England fishermen and shore-side businesses, and provide a safe and sustainable supply of seafood for U.S. consumers. Several other vessels have expressed interest in fishing for other species on the Grand Banks so there is potential for further revenues for U.S. fishermen and associated shore-side businesses and processors.   

When the U.S. joined NAFO in 1996, its goals were to promote responsible fisheries management in international waters and secure additional fishing opportunities for New England fishermen. These goals are now in sight with the reestablishment of this historic groundfish fishery on the Grand Banks.