The New England Fishery Management Council is asking the National Marine Fisheries Service to establish a control date that potentially could be used to determine eligibility criteria for switching between the types of scallop Limited Access General Category (LAGC) permits that can be used to access the Northern Gulf of Maine (NGOM) Management Area.
Control dates become effective the day NMFS publishes a notice in the Federal Register, which may not be until March for this particular request. The Council took this step as a precautionary move while it assesses a recent increase in fishing activity and permit switching in the Northern Gulf of Maine, especially between C and B permits.
Category C permits give vessels the opportunity to land 40 pounds of scallops as incidental catch on non-scallop trips, while B permits allow directed fishing on 200 pounds of scallops per day in the Northern Gulf of Maine area.
LAGC Category A permit holders with individual fishing quota (IFQ) can make a one-time transfer from a Category A IFQ permit to either a Category B 200-pound NGOM permit or a Category C 40-pound incidental catch permit.
The permit switching issue is not one of the Council’s 2023 scallop work priorities, so no action is forthcoming in 2023. But the control date will remain in place should the Council choose to address LAGC permit switching down the road. Scallop biomass in the Northern Gulf of Maine is increasing, which is one reason for the switches.
A control date by itself is not binding, and it does not commit the Council to taking any specific management action. The purpose of a control date is to discourage speculative entry or fishing activity while the council considers if and how participation in the fishery may be affected or controlled.
The council may choose to develop management measures that do not use a control date – or it may decide to select a different control date or take no action. The council has twice before voted on establishing a control date for the NGOM fishery – first in June 2017 and again in December 2019. Those motions failed.
But the council’s scallop committee voted in October 2022 to ask the full council to once again request a control date, in large part because of the recent shift from Category C incidental permits to Category B with a 200-pound daily limit, as well as one-time switches by Category A permit holders.