I was checking emails, and out of the blue, I received an alert from www.savingseafood.org
NOAA adjusts U.S. Georges Bank yellowtail flounder allocation
The following was released by NOAA Fisheries:
WASHINGTON, D.C. - July 13, 2012 -- NOAA today announced that it will adjust the 2012 Georges Bank yellowtail flounder quotas for both commercial scallop and groundfish fisheries to preserve fishing opportunities for both industries.
This action - supported by both groups - transfers approximately 332,016 pounds of yellowtail quota from the scallop industry to the groundfish industry. As a result, this year's yellowtail quota for the groundfish fishery will increase by 69 percent to just over 811,301 pounds, allowing additional opportunities to harvest other groundfish stocks. The yellowtail quota for the Atlantic sea scallop fishery will decrease by 49 percent to approximately 346,126 pounds.
This is great news for the ground fish fleet which was facing an iminent shut down costing more fishermen their jobs, while still protecting a resource that has been cut due to inadequate stock assessments as exposed at the Georges Bank Yellowtail Flounder Working Group Meeting May 23, 2012 in New Bedford, Ma.
"The scallop and groundfish industries and NOAA's Fisheries Service have worked together to find an effective solution to a very difficult situation," said Samuel Rauch, deputy assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA's Fisheries Service. "This transfer would not be possible without cooperation between the two industries. It enables both fisheries to continue to operate, while still protecting the yellowtail resource."
Then came a second alert.
Fisheries Survival Fund, Northeast Seafood Coalition respond to NOAA action on Georges Bank Yellowtail Flounder
WASHINGTON - July 13, 2012 - The Fisheries Survival Fund and the Northeast Seafood Coalition, the primary industry groups representing the northeastern scallop and groundfish industries, respectively, have responded to NOAA's announcement that 332,016 pounds of yellowtail quota will be transferred from the scallop industry to the groundfish industry.
The Fisheries Survival Fund stated:
Today, NOAA announced that it will adjust the Georges Bank yellowtail flounder quotas for the scallop and groundfish industries, "to preserve fishing opportunities for both industries." The adjustment will move 332,016 pounds of allowable yellowtail from the commercial scallop industry to the groundfish fishery. As Samuel Rauch, deputy assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA's Fisheries Service stated in today's press release, both the scallop and groundfish industries worked together "to find an effective solution to a very difficult situation."
Yesterday, the Fisheries Survival Fund, whose participants include the majority of full-time, limited-access scallop permit holders, wrote to Mr. Rauch to express appreciation for his efforts regarding Georges Bank yellowtail flounder annual catch limit issues, to outline remaining concerns, and to reaffirm their position on the transfer. Read the letter here.
The Northeast Seafood Coalition stated:
The Northeast Seafood Coalition ("NSC")-a membership organization that represents 254 small-business entities with 514 permits that operate in the commercial groundfish fishery from Maine to New Jersey-supports today's announcement from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service ("NMFS") to initiate a transfer of approximately 332,016 pounds Georges Bank yellowtail flounder to the commercial groundfish fishery. This action will help to alleviate the severe economic hardship being faced by many NSC members that need yellowtail in order to fish on Georges Bank.
NSC board member and multiple vessel owner Thomas Williams praises the NMFS for recognizing the need for immediate action. "I think it saved the hides of a lot of people. Had [this action] not been made, I don't know that many fishermen could have survived. We know there's an abundance of yellowtail out there, so many that we wouldn't have been able to fish for winter flounder or any flat fish without catching yellowtail. I'm very happy they made this decision. It's critical to our operation," Williams said.
Based on results of a NEFMC requested Georges Bank Yellowtail Working Group and a joint Groundfish and Scallop Committee meeting held in June, it was recommended by the New England Fishery Management Council ("NEFMC") that NMFS utilize existing authority provided in groundfish management plan Framework 47 to immediately transfer 156.9 metric tons ("MT") or 90 percent of the 174.3 MT of GB YT from the Atlantic scallop fishery sub-annual catch limit (ACL) to the groundfish sub-ACL based on revised projections of 2012 GB YT bycatch by the Atlantic scallop fleet. Furthermore, any unused GB YT should be transferred to the groundfish fleet by January 15, as outlined in the existing regulations and based on actual catch from the scallop fleet in fishing year 2012.
The NEFMC motion addressed the oversight made in Framework 47 where the updated projection of GB YT bycatch by the Atlantic scallop fleet did not make it into the final number approved by the Council for the current fishing year 2012.
Furthermore, the Council's motion also requested NMFS initiate an Emergency Action to temporarily relieve the Atlantic scallop fishery from any AM triggered by catch less than 307 MT of yellowtail flounder catch by the scallop fishery that under the current scallop regulations would be required if the sub-ACL is exceeded in 2012. Instead, the pound-for-pound repayment provision of the U.S./Canada agreement could be utilized should the total allowable catch be exceeded for FY 2012.
The NSC appreciates the leadership provided by Council and NOAA leadership to address this crisis. NSC strongly thanks NMFS for their quick action, which will enable groundfish fishermen to make reasonable plans for how to make the best use of what is an extremely small overall ACL for the United States fishery in 2012.
On two separate occasions, in September 2011 and May 2012, the Northeast Seafood Coalition wrote to the NEFMC and NOAA Fisheries Service respectively, urging the reevaluation of estimated Georges Bank yellowtail flounder by-catch in the Atlantic scallop fishery and to adjust sub-allocations of the scallop and groundfish fleets accordingly. NSC staff and leadership have been heavily focused on this critical issue with participation on the Georges Bank Yellowtail Working Group and exchanges with NOAA leadership and the NEFMC to assist in the drafting of the transfer mechanism in FW 47 utilized today.
And yet, another email alert!
NOAA Completes New Biological Opinion for Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery to Assess Interactions with Sea Turtles and Atlantic Sturgeon
WASHINGTON - July 13, 2012 - NOAA today announced that is has completed a new biological opinion for the Atlantic sea scallop fishery that includes updated information about the fishery's interactions with sea turtles and Atlantic sturgeon. The Fisheries Survival Fund, which represents scallop vessels, issued a statement in response.
The following was released by NOAA:
Based on new scientific information on sea turtle interactions with scallop dredge and trawl gear and the passage of new management measures to reduce bycatch and associated mortality of sea turtles in this fishery, restrictions on fishing in the Mid-Atlantic from May through November will be eliminated in a future management action and replaced with effort monitoring and testing and evaluation of fishing gear modifications. Research into and implementation of gear modifications appears more effective than effort restrictions in the Mid-Atlantic not only in terms of benefits to sea turtles, but also for minimizing bycatch of non-target fish species such as yellowtail flounder.
NOAA finds no risk to the continued existence of Atlantic sturgeon due to Atlantic scallop fishing activity. No changes in the scallop fishery will be required for Atlantic sturgeon, other than required monitoring and reporting of any interactions that may occur during hauls.
We intend to work with the New England Fishery Management Council to include these revised measures in Framework 24 to the Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery Management Plan for implementation in 2013. In the meantime, for the remainder of the 2012 fishing year, full-time and part-time scallop vessels with remaining Mid-Atlantic access area trips must still adhere to the current Mid-Atlantic access area trip limitation (i.e., one full trip from June 15 through October 31).
The following statement was issued by the Fisheries Survival Fund:
The Fisheries Survival Fund (FSF) appreciates NOAA's recognition of the proactive efforts its participants have undertaken to effectively eliminate any remaining impacts scallop dredges might have on sea turtles. FSF's participants include the majority of full-time, limited-access scallop permit holders.
FSF participants worked for nearly a decade with Ron Smolowitz of the nonprofit Coonamessett Farm Foundation in East Falmouth, Massachusetts, who led the research and development of the the new turtle-safe scallop dredge with funding from the scallop industry's Research Set Aside Program.
In its written comments, FSF has supported the new regulations requiring use of this dredge, which has been praised by both industry and the environmental community. "It does a great job of pushing the turtle up and out of harm's way," Gib Brogan of Oceana told the Asbury Park Press. "This is a great example of the fishing industry stepping up and doing the right thing for the turtles and for themselves."
They say good news comes in three's.
Special thanks to Samuel Rauch, deputy assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA's Fisheries Service.