MAFMC and NEFMC Launch Northeast Offshore Wind Webpage

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On July 11, 2018, the New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils launched a new webpage that’s designed to serve as a repository for information relevant to offshore wind development activities in the Northeast Region.  The Councils worked closely with NOAA Fisheries on this collaborative effort.  The easy-to-navigate webpage provides one-stop-shopping for fishermen and other stakeholders who are searching for essential resources associated with offshore wind energy production.  The page provides direct links to government agencies, offshore wind developers, fishery liaisons, Council-developed comments, and more.

Take a look at Offshore Wind in the Northeast

Fishermen in the region are highly interested in better understanding the impacts of offshore wind development on both commercial and recreational fisheries.  The New England and Mid-Atlantic Councils want to ensure that any potential impacts on Council-managed species and the marine environment are fully considered.  In light of these factors, the Councils developed the offshore wind webpage as a tool to: (1) help facilitate the exchange of information; and (2) provide quick access to available resources.

Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf Renewable Energy Projects in New England and Mid-Atlantic waters. – BOEM graphic (click map to expand)

Here’s the Webpage Address:
http://www.mafmc.org/northeast-offshore-wind

Webpage Information Includes Links to:

  • The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), along with BOEM’s Fishing Industry Communication and Engagement page, BOEM’s State Activities page, and BOEM’s email updates registry;
  • Northeast offshore wind developers;
  • Mid-Atlantic and New England Council policies and comment letters on offshore wind issues;
  • Project-specific information on fisheries and the marine environment relative to wind activities and other ocean uses;
  • Mappers for Essential Fish Habitat and Endangered and Protected Resources, Regional Ocean Data Portals; and more.

Key Fishery Management Council and NOAA Fisheries Contacts for More Information

  • Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council:  Jessica Coakley, jcoakley@mafmc.org, (302) 526-5252
  • New England Fishery Management Council:  Michelle Bachman, mbachman@nefmc.org, (978) 465-0492 ext. 120
  • NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office:  Sue Tuxbury,  susan.tuxbury@noaa.gov, (978) 281-9176
  • NOAA Fisheries Northeast Fisheries Science Center: Andy Lipsky, andrew.lipsky@noaa.gov, (401) 829-8286

View PDF version of this announcement

NOAA Fisheries Releases Revised MRIP Recreational Catch and Effort Estimates

July 8, 2018 - The following was released by NOAA Fisheries:

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Today, NOAA Fisheries released revised Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) catch and effort estimates (1981-2017) as part of its recent transition from the Coastal Household Telephone Survey (CHTS) to the new, mail-based Fishing Effort Survey (FES). The agency also released preliminary estimates based on the FES for 2018 wave 1 (Jan. – Feb.). The release of the revised estimates marks an important milestone in our scientific program’s efforts to improve recreational catch and effort data. 

Implemented in 2018, the FES is a more accurate method of collecting saltwater recreational fishing effort data from shore and private boat anglers on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. As a result of the improved survey, FES estimates are several times higher than telephone survey estimates and vary by state, type of fishing, and reporting period. However, analyses indicate that the increase in effort estimates is because the FES does a better job of estimating fishing activity, not a sudden rise in fishing.  The improved accuracy of recreational catch and effort estimates generated by the FES will provide better information for understanding the health of marine ecosystems and making decisions that ensure the future of our fisheries resources and the lives and livelihoods they support.

Implications of the revised estimates on all managed species will not be fully understood until they are incorporated into the stock assessment process over the next several years. NOAA Fisheries is working with the councils and commissions to prioritize assessments and the new estimates will start to be incorporated into stock assessments in the second half of 2018.  Because not all assessments can be conducted simultaneously, additional assessments using the new data will be conducted in 2019 and beyond.  In the meantime, the new FES data can be back calculated into “CHTS estimates” to allow for an apples-to-apples comparison of catch estimates with management benchmarks, such as ACLs, that were based on the CHTS.  Once stock assessments are completed using the new data, the councils and commissions will review the outcomes and adjust management measures as appropriate.

All revised catch and effort estimates are now available on the MRIP website at the data downloads page. The estimates are also available via the data query tool, which will allow comparisons of the time series of legacy and calibrated estimates.  This process is the culmination of our detailed Transition Plan developed by the Transition Team representing federal, regional, and state partners. NOAA Fisheries will continue to work closely with our partners throughout this multi-year, rigorous, and transparent process to improve fisheries science and management.

For more details on this this major milestone, please visit the MRIP website.

June 2018 Council Meeting Summary

The following summary highlights actions taken and issues considered at the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s June 2018 meeting in Philadelphia, PA. Presentations, briefing materials, and webinar recordings are available on the Council website at www.mafmc.org/briefing/june-2018

View the June 2018 Council Meeting Summary >

MAFMC and ASMFC to Hold Scoping Hearings for Bluefish Allocation Amendment

The Mid-Atlantic Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission have scheduled scoping hearings to gather public input on the range of issues and information to be considered in the Bluefish Allocation Amendment. Hearings will be held June 20 – July 16 in nine coastal states from Massachusetts to Florida. Written comments will be accepted until July 30, 2018.

NOAA Fisheries Announces 2018 Recreational Rules for Summer Flounder, Black Sea Bass, and Scup

May 31, 2018 – The following was released by NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office:

NOAA Fisheries announces management measures for the 2018 summer flounder, black sea bass, and scup recreational fisheries.

Summer Flounder 2018 Recreational Measures

We are continuing “conservation equivalency” for the summer flounder fishery. This means we have waived the federal recreational bag limit, minimum fish size, and fishing season, and fishermen are subject to regulations in the state where they land. Please contact your state for information on summer flounder rules.

Black Sea Bass 2018 Recreational Measures

We are implementing the following recreational black sea bass measures in federal waters:

  • 12.5-inch total length minimum fish size
  • Possession limit of 15 fish per person per trip
  • Open season from May 15-December 31 (please note: there is no longer a closure period from September 22-October 21).

Scup 2018 Recreational Measures

The scup recreational fishery measures are the same as 2017:

  • 9-inch total length minimum size
  • Possession limit of 50 fish per person per trip
  • Open all year

Please keep in mind that if the federal minimum size, possession limit, and/or season differ from the regulations for the state in which you will landing, you must follow the more restrictive regulations.

Read the final rule as filed in the Federal Register today, and the permit holder bulletin available on our website.

Questions? 

 

Click here to view the Environmental Assessment for this action

Recreational Black Sea Bass Fact Sheet: Management Challenges for an Abundant Stock

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Summary

The black sea bass stock from Maine through Cape Hatteras, North Carolina is not overfished and overfishing is not occurring. Abundance has increased and is currently very high, particularly off southern New England. As a result, recreational catches have been relatively high, even under restrictive regulations.

Fishery managers are required to set catch and landings limits to prevent overfishing. Current stock assessment information and catch estimates indicate that catch can’t increase beyond recent levels without an increased risk of overfishing. The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (Commission) are working to improve black sea bass management.

Stock Status

The most recent stock status information comes from the 2016 stock assessment. Spawning stock biomass (i.e. the abundance of mature females and males) was estimated to be 48.9 million pounds in 2015, which is 2.3 times the target spawning stock biomass level. A recent increase in spawning stock biomass was driven by the 2011 “year class” (i.e. the fish spawned in 2011), which was nearly three times the 1989-2015 average.

Recreational Management 

Figure 1. Recreational black sea bass harvest and recreational harvest limits, 2008 to 2018 (click image to expand)

The Council and the Commission cooperatively develop fishery regulations for black sea bass. Annual recreational harvest limits (RHLs) are set based on projections of abundance in future years and are intended to prevent overfishing. Recreational bag limits, fishing seasons, and minimum fish sizes are used to help ensure that recreational harvest does not exceed the RHL each year. Despite best efforts to set appropriate management measures, recreational harvest exceeded the RHL for much of the last decade (Figure 1).

The 2016 stock assessment allowed for a substantial increase in the 2017 and 2018 RHLs, compared to 2016, and brought the RHLs more in line with recent harvest levels (Figure 1). However, the 2018 RHL (3.66 million pounds) is about 15% lower than the 2017 RHL. Biomass projections based on the best available science indicated that spawning stock biomass would decline from 2017 to 2018 due to the declining influence of the large 2011 year class - over time many of those fish died of natural causes (e.g. predation) or were harvested by fishermen. Given this projected decline in abundance, catch and harvest limits must also decrease to prevent overfishing.

Managers use the prior year’s harvest to determine whether regulations should be changed. Recreational fishermen harvested 4.16 million pounds of black sea bass in 2017 – about 14% above the 2018 RHL of 3.66 million pounds. As a result, any increase in harvest in 2018 compared to 2017 would cause the 2018 RHL to be exceeded and would increase the risk of overfishing. Recreational bag limits, fishing seasons, and minimum fish sizes in state and federal waters were modified to allow coastwide recreational harvest to achieve, but not exceed, the 2018 RHL.

Next Steps

  • The Council and Commission are working on several ways to improve fishing opportunities for recreational fishermen while continuing to ensure that overfishing does not occur.
  • Stock Assessment Update: An update to the stock assessment is planned for early 2019. This new information will be used to set catch and landings limits for 2019-2021.
  • February Fishery: The Council and Commission provided states the opportunity to open their recreational black sea bass fisheries in February 2018 and will consider doing so for 2019.
  • Eliminating the Fall Closure: Starting in 2018, there will be no recreational black sea bass fall closure in federal waters for the first time since 2008.
  • Alternative Management Strategies: The Council and Commission are considering the use of conservation equivalency for black sea bass,2 the potential use of slot limits, and recreational transit provisions in Block Island Sound.
  • New Analysis Approaches: The Council and Commission’s Monitoring and Technical Committees continue to improve the way recreational harvest and fishery performance are analyzed and evaluated when developing management measures.

NOAA Fisheries Approves Monkfish Quota for 2018

May 3, 2018 - The following was released by NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Regional Office:

NOAA Fisheries is implementing monkfish quotas for the 2018 fishing year that we announced on July 12, 2017. There have been no overages in 2017, and there is no new biological information, so we are now finalizing the 2018 quotas that were previously announced.  The quotas are the same relative to 2017. Read more...

Paperwork Reduction Act Request for Comments: Sea turtles in Virginia pound nets data collection

NMFS published a notice in the Federal Register on April 16, 2018 (83 FR 16329) requesting comments on a renewal for collection of information requirements under the Paperwork Reduction Act. This collection of information involves the requirement for Virginia pound net fishermen to report interactions with endangered and threatened sea turtles, found both live and dead, in their pound net operations to NMFS and if necessary, the appropriate rehabilitation and stranding network. The comment period closes June 15, 2018. For additional information please contact Carrie Upite at (978) 282-8475 or email at Carrie.Upite@noaa.gov.  

Click here to read the full notice in the federal register.

NOAA Fisheries Seeks Comments on Proposed 2018 Recreational Rules for Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass

NOAA Fisheries seeks comments on proposed recreational fishery management measures for the 2018 summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries. 

NOAA Fisheries Announces the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council Acceptable Biological Catch Omnibus Framework Adjustment

April 10, 2018 – The following was released by NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Regional Office:

NOAA Fisheries announces three administrative changes to the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s processes in setting catch limits though the Acceptable Biological Catch Omnibus Framework Adjustment:

  1. The Council may now recommend multi-year Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC) limits for Mid-Atlantic fisheries, which may bring greater stability and predictability to the fishing industry;
  2. The Atlantic Bluefish, Tilefish, and Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish Fishery Management Plans will now automatically incorporate the best available scientific information in calculating ABCs (as all other Mid-Atlantic management plans do) rather than requiring a separate management action to adopt them; and
  3. New language clarifies the process for setting ABCs for each of the four types of ABC control rules.

To get all the details on these management changes, read the final rule as filed in the Federal Register today. 

Questions? 

  • Fishing Industry Contact: Erin Wilkinson, Headquarters Office, 301-427-8561
  • Media: Jennifer Goebel, Regional Office, 978-281-9175

National Fish Habitat Partnership Releases "Our Story" Video Reflecting on 10 Years of Habitat Protection

The National Fish Habitat Action Plan was established in 2006 and has supported 679 projects benefiting fish habitat in all 50 states. The partnership leverages federal, state, tribal, and private funding resources to achieve the greatest impact on fish populations meeting the priorities of our 20 regionally-based Fish Habitat Partnerships.