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Groundfish catch limits for the 2024 Northeast fishing year were approved by the New England Fishery Management Council at its December meeting in Newport, R.I.

Framework Adjustment 66 to the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan would take effect with the start of the fishing season May 1, once approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Some provisions will apply to the 2025 and 2026 fishing years as well. The framework includes:

·       Fishing year 2024 and 2025 total allowable catches for three shared U.S./Canada resources – Eastern Georges Bank cod, Eastern Georges Bank haddock, and Georges Bank yellowtail flounder.

·       Fishing year 2024 and 2025 specifications for Georges Bank yellowtail flounder, white hake, and Gulf of Maine haddock.

·       Fishing year 2024, 2025, and 2026 specifications for Acadian redfish, northern windowpane flounder, and southern windowpane flounder.

·       A subcomponent analysis that led to adjustments in groundfish quotas for Gulf of Maine cod, Gulfof Maine haddock, white hake, northern windowpane flounder, southern windowpane flounder, and Atlantic halibut based on accounting for catches in state waters and other federal fisheries.

·       Removal of the management uncertainty buffer sectors for white hake and Gulf of Maine haddock, until the next specifications cycles and assessments for these stocks in 2025 and 2024, respectively, if the at-sea monitoring target coverage rate is set at 90 percent or greater.

·       Atlantic halibut management revisions to address the impacts of large swings in Canadian halibut catch  on U.S. management actions.

·       Temporary modification of the trigger for the Atlantic sea scallop accountability measures implementation policy for Georges Bank yellowtail flounder. 

On three shared U.S.-Canada groundfish stocks, the 2024 total allowable catch for U.S. boats will include151 metric tons of Eastern Georges Bank cod, an 11.9 percent increase from the 2023 fishing year.  There will be 3,100 metric tons available for Eastern Georges Bank haddock, a 104 percent increase from last year; and 71 metric tons for Georges Bank yellowtail flounder, a decrease of 33 percent.

The U.S. commercial groundfish sub-annual catch limit for Georges Bank haddock was set for 6,570.9 metric tons, a 41 percent decrease.  For Georges Bank yellowtail flounder, the sub-ACL will go down 33 percent to 56.1 tons.

The Framework 66 adjustment revisits the Gulf of Maine haddock quota, setting the 2024 catch limit to 1,435.1 metric tons. That will be down 9 percent from 1,559 tons during 2023 – a number that was actually a boost from the original Gulf of Maine limit of 1,208 tons.

The council requested an emergency quota increase, heading off worries that a too-low sub-ACL would shut down Gulf of Maine fishing well before the season’s end. NMFS granted that request Aug. 18.

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