NOAA Regional Director John Bullard, in a letter to the New England Fishery Management Council, indicated the federal agency will not stand with fishing advocates in their preference for opening up a greater portion of Stellwagen Bank as part of the new rules being drafted to determine where commercial fishermen will be allowed to fish beginning in the winter of 2015-16.
The fishing advocates have voiced a preference for the alternative that would reduce the current closed habitat management area known as “Stellwagen Large” by half, in effect opening up a much greater portion of the fishing area to commercial fishing.
“We are concerned about opening vulnerable habitat on Jeffreys Ledge to mobile gear fishing because it would compromise years of recovery in this important and sensitive area,” Bullard wrote to NEFMC chairman Terry Stockwell. “We are also concerned that this alternative may reduce protection on critical juvenile groundfish habitat, including habitat for Gulf of Maine cod, so much that it could not be compensated for elsewhere in the Gulf of Maine, regardless of what alternatives are selected in Central and Eastern Gulf of Maine.”
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