A rule change long sought by the southern New England dragger fleet will allow crew to offload their summer flounder catch in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut all in one trip.

The pilot program announced by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries will permit boats to call at ports in all three states during flounder seasons, without the longstanding requirement that they first land their Massachusetts trip limit and then head out for another trip.

Provided boats hold flounder permits in all three states, the reciprocal can let them land three 1,000-pound increments – one in each state – on a single trip. Industry advocates say it will lead to less waste and better safety, particularly during the winter months.

“This allowance is contingent on the vessel not exceeding the aggregate trip limit for the participating states where they are permitted and not offloading more than the state’s 1,000 pound landing limit,” according to the DMF notice. To participate, vessel operators must hold a summer flounder permit endorsement in Massachusetts and a similar permit in Connecticut and Rhode Island, be equipped with a NOAA approved Vessel Monitoring System, and get a letter of authorization from DMF.

The other good news for Massachusetts fishermen is a doubling of the Period 1 possession and landing limit to 1,000 pounds from Jan. 1 to April 22, and opening the month of January under the revised limit. The 1,000 pound trip limit will be in place until 25 percent of the Period 1 allocation is taken, then reduced to 100 pounds.

Associate Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for more than 30 years and a 25-year field editor for National Fisherman before joining our Commercial Marine editorial staff in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.

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