New England fishing regulators recently approved new specifications for witch flounder that will nearly double the annual catch limit for the species in 2017.


The New England Fishery Management Council approved an annual catch limit of 839 metric tons for 2017 for witch flounder, also called grey sole — up from 441 metric tons in 2016.


“I think the council was compelled by the industry’s own observation that we have a pretty strong witch flounder stock,” Vito Giacalone, policy director for the Gloucester-based Northeast Seafood Coalition, told the Gloucester Times.

Giacalone said the increase will be a boon for the inshore dayboat fleet that is almost entirely dependent on the stock. Now those fishermen will have more fish available to them and leasing additional fish will be less costly.

In December, NMFS scientists admitted that the model used to develop the stock assessment for witch flounder was flawed, stating that it “tended to underestimate fishing mortality and overestimate biomass.”

Fleets in the region hope a shift toward using an empirical approach in stock assessments and better communication between scientists and the industry will lead to more accurate data.

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Samuel Hill is the former associate editor for National Fisherman. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine where he got his start in journalism at the campus’ newspaper, the Free Press. He has also written for the Bangor Daily News, the Outline, Motherboard and other publications about technology and culture.

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