A proposal by the New England Fishery Management Council could open up portions of protected, closed areas of the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank to commercial fishing to compensate for dramatic cuts in catch limits for groundfish.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is reviewing the proposal from the New England Fishery Management Council, a quasi-governmental agency responsible for management of federal fisheries. The plan could result in restoring some commercial fishing in portions of the ocean that have been off-limits, some for nearly 20 years.
NOAA is expected to act on the proposal before June.
The plan is facing stiff opposition from parts of the fishing industry, environmentalists and conservationists.
The closed areas cover nearly 8,500 square miles of New England's seafloor, but proposed changes would reduce this by more than half. More than 5,000 square miles could be reopened, including parts of Cache's Ledge and the Western Gulf of Maine -- the two areas that affect most coastal fishermen in the state.
Also changed would be two areas off Massachusetts and Rhode Island and Nantucket Lightship to the southeast. All were established in the 1990s to protect juvenile fish, spawning areas and seafloor habitat. They also provide benefits to critically endangered North Atlantic right whales and harbor porpoises.
If approved, the proposal would not automatically open all parts of the specific closed areas to anyone who wished to do commercial fishing there, said Maggie Mooney-Sues, communications officer for NOAA. It would give fishing cooperatives, known as sectors, the opportunity to ask for permission to go into those closed areas, and review of the requests would be handled on a case-by-case basis.
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National Fisherman Live: 1/27/15
In this episode:
Assessment: Atlantic menhaden is not overfished
Bering Sea pollock fishery casts off
Dock to Dish opens Florida’s first CSF
Second wave of disaster funds for Alaska
Fisherman lands N.C.’s largest bluefin ever
The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute is still seeking public review and comment on the Alaska Responsible Fisheries Management Conformance Criteria (Version 1.2, September 2011). The public review and comment period, which opened on Dec. 3, 2014, runs through Monday, Feb. 3.
NOAA, in consultation with the Department of the Interior, has appointed 10 new members to the Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee. The 20-member committee is composed of individuals with diverse backgrounds and experience who advise the departments of commerce and the interior on ways to strengthen and connect the nation's MPA programs. The new members join the 10 continuing members appointed in 2012.