The New England Fishery Management Council met in Portland Maine Between June 20 & 22.
The agenda for the week had two items that would be of special interest to many Fissues.org readers.
First; the Groundfish Committee agenda included a discussion about Amendment 23 which deals with monitoring of the commercial groundfish fleet. Considering Carlos “The Codfather” Raphael recently pled guilty to more than a decade of cheating the current monitoring system many eyes were on this discussion.
Also on the agenda was an action to protect deep sea corals. The Mid Atlantic council has already enacted protection for important deep sea habitats. Considering the NEFMC tends to be behind the national trend when it comes to habitat protection and frequently does a poor job at protecting anything except industrial commercial fishing; a lot of the public interested in reasonable habitat protection were sitting on pins and needles waiting for this final round of decisions on deep water coral protections.
The following are some quick notes recapping the major portions of the meeting followed by a link to the formal post meeting press release for that action item.
The NEFMC continued development of Amendment 23 to the Groundfish FMP. There was significant discussion surrounding the purpose and need of the action. A motion was passed and without getting into legal terminology; it appears the NEFMC has clarified the document to focus on the original point of collecting better data to assess stock status. NEFMC also advanced Amendment 23 by approving a range of alternatives for monitoring which includes both electronic & dockside monitoring. These will be developed and presented in September. Many are asking of approved range of alternatives will prevent the type of fraud exposed via the Carlos Raphael “Codfather” case. More will be revealed when the draft alternatives are brought back to the council, possibly in September.
NEFMC also initiated Framework 57 to the Groundfish FMP which will include, stock specifications for US & Canada, management modifications for Atlantic halibut, revisions to recreational management measures & revisions to management of southern windowpane flounder. Framework 57 is scheduled to be presented at the December NEFMC meeting.
The NEFMC was scheduled to take final action on its Omnibus Deep Sea Coral Amendment. It did not complete that task. The NEFMC approved some limited coral protections in the Gulf of Maine including Mt. Desert Rock but postponed final decisions for areas such as Georges Bank in order to do some analysis of a last-minute alternative.
NEFMC approved the Limited Access General Category IFQ program review for 2010-2015, approved priorities for the Research Set Aside Program and voted to send a letter to the NMFS Regional Administrator requesting expansion of the Great South Chanel Dredge Area.
NEFMC approved Framework Adjustment 4 which gives the “bait” fishery incidental limits.NEFMC also initiated Framework Adjustment 5 which considers allowing landings of barndoor skates and considers feasibility of separating “bait” and “wing” fisheries.