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Page 12. MAINE COASTAL NEWS January 2013

Innovations and partnerships provide opportunities to Northeast Groundfi sh Industry


Working closely with Northeast fi sh-

ermen, NOAA Fisheries is proposing new measures to help fi shermen better target healthy fi sh stocks using selective gear,

more easily report their fi shing location, and allow them more consistency when fi shing for some stocks through the duration of the year.

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conceived by fi shermen, and others are the product of collaboration between fi shermen, researchers and our staff,” said John Bull- ard, regional administrator for the NOAA Fisheries Northeast region. “By working together and thinking creatively, we can fi nd fi shing opportunities even in these challeng- ing times.”

At the request of members of the Northeast groundfi sh industry, the agency is proposing that groundfi shermen be able to fi sh for spiny dogfi sh in certain areas without having to use one of their limited groundfi sh fi shing days. This will provide fi shermen with better access to this abundant fi sh stock with little risk to groundfi sh stocks. Fisher- men catch very few groundfi sh when fi shing in these areas for dogfi sh.

Another industry generated request, which NOAA Fisheries is considering, would allow groundfi sh fi shermen to use smaller mesh size in their fi shing nets in cer- tain areas to target healthy Acadian redfi sh stocks. To protect vulnerable groundfi sh, NOAA Fisheries is limiting the amount of other fi sh that can be caught and requiring that fi shing vessels carry an observer to monitor catches during redfi sh fi shing trips. For fi shing vessels that use small mesh



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fi shing gear to catch hake, the agency has proposed adopting trip limits.The fi shery is currently managed primarily through a combination of mesh size restrictions in fi shing nets and limits on the number of fi sh they can keep. The New England Fishery Management Council recommended the use of trip limits, or a limit of catch per trip, as a way to maintain a more steady supply of fi sh throughout the fi shing year and extend fi shing opportunity for fi shermen. NOAA Fisheries is also redesigning its most frequently visited Northeast Region webpages so fi shermen and others can more quickly fi nd the information they need. Through refi nements to its electronic vessel monitoring software, the agency is working to improve the quality of data collected on the fi shery by making it easier for fi shermen to provide information on their fi shing lo- cation. In 2013, NOAA Fisheries will also provide seafood dealers the option to receive all communications on regulatory changes and other agency news electronically rather than by U.S. mail or fax. “We are always looking for ways to simplify regulatory requirements and build support for our regulations, improve how we communicate, and promote innovative ways for fi shermen, seafood dealers and other support businesses to make a viable living

while protecting the resources they all rely on,” said Bullard.

Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Shark Management Measures NMFS is amending the 2006 Consol-

idated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan based on several shark stock assessments that were complet- ed from 2009 to 2012. The assessments for Atlantic blacknose, dusky, and scalloped hammerhead sharks indicated that these species are overfi shed and experiencing overfi shing. The assessment for sandbar sharks indicated that this species is over- fi shed, but not experiencing overfi shing. The assessment for Gulf of Mexico blacktip sharks, adopted in this rulemaking, indicat- ed that the stock is not overfi shed and not experiencing overfi shing. The assessment for Gulf of Mexico blacknose sharks was not accepted; therefore, the overfi shed and overfi shing statuses have been determined to be unknown. The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) requires the Agency to implement man- agement measures that prevent overfi shing and rebuild overfi shed stocks, as necessary. Based on the new stock assessments, and after considering public comments received during scoping and on a predraft document, we are proposing measures that would reduce fi shing mortality and effort in order to rebuild overfi shed Atlantic shark species while ensuring that a limited sustainable shark fi shery can be maintained consistent with our legal obligations. The proposed measures include changes to commercial quotas and species groups, the creation of several time/area closures, a change to an existing time/area closure, an increase in the recreational minimum size restrictions, and the establishment of recreational reporting for certain species of sharks. The proposed measures could affect U.S. commercial or recreational fi shermen who harvest sharks within the Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea.

Gillnet Fishermen Committed to Reduce Harbor Porpoise Interaction

Preliminary data shows a low number of takes in October

GLOUCESTER -- Gillnet fi shermen in the Northeast region of the U.S. are making strident efforts to reduce harbor porpoise interactions and preliminary data shows a low number of takes in the month of October. A closure for gillnet fi shermen that was set to take place in a large portion of inshore Gulf of Maine fi shing grounds during Oc- tober and November 2012 was changed to February and March 2013 due to analysis conducted by NOAA Fisheries based on an

industry proposal submitted by the North- east Seafood Coalition (NSC). This proposal showed more harbor porpoise would be protected by the closing the winter months rather than maintaining a fall closure. Gill- net fi shers have been and are continuing to make concerted, proactive choices to benefi t harbor porpoise and their industry. In October, fi shing cooperatives, com- monly referred to as “sectors,” with active gillnet vessels that operate in the inshore Gulf of Maine are moving forward with their commitment to minimize harbor porpoise interactions.

Northeast Fishery Sectors with active gill- net fi shermen have urged their members to deploy twice the amount of required “pinger” coverage in all management areas during October, with the intent of making sure the correct number of working pingers are deployed on the gear. Harbor porpoise pingers are acoustic alarm devices that emit a 10 kHz frequency to deter the marine mammals from swimming into gillnets. Many fi shermen are working together to ensure they have more than enough pingers deployed. In New Hampshire, for example, fi shermen who are not currently gillnetting offered their pingers to fi shermen who needed extras.

In addition to urging fi shermen to use more than the required amount of pingers, under the leadership of the Gloucester Fishing Community Preservation Fund (GFCPF), industry is also coordinating to replace current technology pingers with new light emitting diode (LED) pinger technology. The LED will enable fi shermen and regulatory authorities who test pinger functionality to easily confi rm if the devices are operating correctly simply by observ- ing if the pingers are “blinking”. GFCPF received the fi rst wave of LED pingers last week and fi shermen began testing the new pingers over the weekend with the intent of providing feedback to the GFCPF and the manufacturer. Anticipating positive results from the testing, GFCPF is prepared to or- ganize an all-out effort to swap out existing pingers throughout the Northeast Fishing Sectors with the new technology. GFCPF will seek fi nancial partners to complete the regional program.

Furthermore, multiple Northeast Fish- ery Sectors are collaborating with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and the Northeast Cooperative Research Program to develop an industry-based “hotspot” reporting tool that will help provide fi shermen with re- al-time information about harbor porpoise sightings and interactions. This tool will al- low the gillnet fl eet the ability to effectively share information in order to infl uence deci- sions about fi shing behavior. Industry began working on this tool earlier this year, and it will be available for wide-spread industry use beginning in early 2013.

NSC and its members share a full com- mitment with scientists, environmentalists and concerned citizens to conserve harbor porpoise. Gillnet fishermen are acutely aware of the need to protect harbor porpoise and other marine mammals and continually make rigorous efforts to do so. Now, more than ever, gillnet fi shermen are collaborating to reduce harbor porpoise interactions-as is already evident from the low number of takes in October.

NSC looks forward to partnering with

individual fi shermen, Northeast Fishery Sectors, the Northeast Sector Service Net- work, NOAA Fisheries, the Harbor Por- poise Take Reduction Team, the Gloucester Fishing Community Preservation Fund, Future Oceans, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, and all vested parties to ensure the gillnet industry achieves an unprecedented

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