Summer Flounder Commercial Issues Amendment


In March 2019, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC or Council) and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC or Commission) Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Board (Board) approved an amendment to the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass to modify the commercial quota allocation for summer flounder, as well as revise the FMP objectives for summer flounder. The Council and Commission also considered, but did not approve, modifications to federal permit qualifying criteria, and adding landings flexibility as a frameworkable policy issue in the Council’s FMP. This action is pending final submission to, and approval by, the National Marine Fisheries Service. The full ASMFC will also consider final amendment approval at their Spring 2019 meeting. Scroll down for more information about the issues considered in this action.


Issues Considered and Summary of Preferred Alternatives

The issues considered, and a summary of preferred alternatives identified by the Council and Commission in March 2019, are summarized below: 

  1. Requalifying criteria for federal commercial moratorium permits to address latent effort in the fishery – The Council and Board approved the no action/status quo alternative for commercial federal moratorium permit qualification criteria, meaning no changes are proposed to the number of eligible federal permits.

  2. Modifying commercial quota allocation – The Council and Board agreed to modify the state-by-state commercial quota allocations such that annual coastwide quotas of up to 9.55 million pounds would be distributed according to the current allocations. In years when the coastwide quota exceeds 9.55 million pounds, additional quota beyond this trigger would be distributed in equal shares to all states except Maine, Delaware, and New Hampshire, which would split 1% of the additional quota. This is a modified version of Alternative 2C considered through the amendment. If approved by NMFS, these revised allocations may be effective as early as January 1, 2020, but would more likely be effective January 1, 2021. See this fact sheet for more information about proposed allocation changes.

  3. Adding commercial landings flexibility as a framework issue in the Council's FMP – The Council considered, but did not approve, adding landings flexibility as an issue that could be addressed through a framework action instead of an amendment. Landings flexibility policies can currently be developed at the state level by state agreements through the ASMFC process. Any future consideration of coastwide landings flexibility policies will likely require an FMP amendment.

  4. Revising the FMP objectives for summer flounder – The Council and Board approved revisions to the current FMP objectives for summer flounder management, as described in section 4.2 of the public hearing document, to provide more meaningful and up to date guidance to managers.

Public Hearing Documents

The Council and Commission held public hearings on this amendment in September 2018 and collected written comments through October 12, 2018. A summary of public comments on this amendment is available here. The three documents made available to inform public input include:

  1. Summer Flounder Amendment Public Hearing Document - An abbreviated version of the Draft Amendment, developed jointly by the Council and Commission, summarizing potential management changes and their impacts.

  2. MAFMC Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) - The Council's version of the full amendment document, which includes more detail regarding the basis for and the impacts of the proposed measures. (Document appendices are available here.)

  3. ASMFC Draft Amendment - The Commission's version of the full amendment, which summarizes all portions of the Commission's FMP, including management history, stock status, habitat considerations, and proposed revisions to management measures.

Amendment Status

The Council and Board took final action at their March 2019 meeting, as described above. A Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) will be developed and submitted to the National Marine Fisheries Service later in 2019. Implementation of FMP modifications is expected January 1, 2020 at the earliest, with changes more likely to be effective January 1, 2021.

Recent Documents

Allocation Revisions Fact Sheet

Public Hearing Comments

Action Plan

Committee Meeting Summaries

Recent Council/Board Meeting Materials

Older Documents

Commercial/Recreational Allocation Model 

Advisory Panel Documents

FMP Goals and Objectives Workshop (December 2015)

Past Council/Board Meeting Materials, Presentations, and Recordings

Scoping Documents

Federal Register Notices

Amendment Background

Summer flounder are managed cooperatively by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission in state waters (0-3 miles), and by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and NOAA Fisheries in Federal waters (3-200 miles). 

A number of issues and concerns relative to summer flounder management have been raised by Council and Commission members, advisors, and other stakeholders. The Council received significant input on summer flounder management during the Council's Visioning and Strategic Planning process, conducted from 2011-2013. During this process, input gathered from surveys, port meetings, and other comment opportunities indicated that there was significant stakeholder interest in re-examining and updating many of the management strategies and measures currently in place for the summer flounder fishery.

In addition, this action was proposed to evaluate the need for management response to changing conditions in the summer flounder fishery. This includes addressing apparent shifts in the distribution and center of biomass for the summer flounder stock (possibly related to the effects of rebuilding and/or climate change), as well as changing social and economic drivers for these fisheries.

The Council conducted fourteen scoping hearings and solicited comments from the public in September and October of 2014. Comments were compiled and presented at the Council’s December 2014 meeting. Based on these comments, the Council and Board identified four general categories of issues to be addressed in the amendment:

  1. Fishery Management Plan (FMP) goals and objectives,

  2. Quota allocation between the commercial and recreational sectors,

  3. Commercial management measures and strategies, and

  4. Recreational management measures and strategies.

As indicated above, these issues have since been split into separate actions to expedite addressing commercial issues and FMP goals and objectives revisions while revised time series of recreational data are being developed by NMFS.

Additional Resources

Summer Flounder Stock Assessment Documents

  More Information on Summer Flounder Management