On September 29, NOAA Fisheries approved federal management measures for the lobster fishery that complement the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Interstate Fishery Management Plan for American lobster. These measures include:
- In Area 2, ownership caps would restrict most entities to 800 traps, effective May 1, 2025. An entity with an allocation that exceeded this limit as of May 1, 2022, would be capped at their 2022 trap allocation and may not purchase additional traps.
- In Area 3, a maximum trap cap reduction and a new aggregate ownership cap with proportionate reductions would allow entities to own five times the number of the maximum trap cap. An entity with an allocation that exceeded this limit as of May 1, 2022, would be capped at their 2022 trap allocation and may not purchase additional traps. NOAA is implementing these measures with a one-year delay.
- Beginning April 1, 2024, mandatory electronic harvester reporting using the federal electronic vessel trip report (eVTR) for all federal lobster permit holders begins April 1, 2024. This reporting requirement will include five additional lobster-specific data elements.
Many organizations within these areas have written letters to regional administrator Michael Pentony, who approved these new regulations. The Atlantic Offshore Lobstermen's Association (AOLA) wrote on behalf of their members, suggesting an adjustment of the trap reduction schedule, extending it by one or two years.
On August 10, AOLA stated on behalf of stakeholders regarding the trap cap, "Given the delay in implementing these regulations, many operations accumulated allocations above 1548 in intervening years." They further said permit holders should be allowed a trap transfer application period after the final rule to make adjustments ahead of the first reduction.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission stated in their letter to NMFS, "The addendum provisions were not adopted in federal waters following the Commission's approval in 2013. Over the last decade, the industry and fishery have changed dramatically."
They also agreed with AOLA that the initial comment period needed to be improved for LCMA 2 and 3 industry members to consider these issues and make meaningful comments.
NOAA requests additional comment on the maximum trap cap reductions for Area 3 and the ownership caps for Areas 2 and 3. Submit comments through this link by December 1, 2023.