The following summary highlights Council actions and issues considered at the Council's meeting on August 11-14, 2014 in Washington, D.C. Presentations, briefing materials, and audio recordings are linked from the relevant sections below. Additional information about the meeting is available on the August 2014 Council Meeting Page.
Deep Sea Coral Amendment
Public Hearing Document Review
The Council reviewed a range of alternatives recommended by the Fishery Management Action Team for the Deep Sea Coral Amendment and approved the public hearing document with the addition of updated economic analysis and addition of options for haulback zones. A final public hearing document and a schedule of hearings will be posted on the Deep Sea Corals page as they become available.
The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council voted to suspend the Research Set-Aside (RSA) program in 2015 to allow for a thorough review. The Council’s decision followed an extensive discussion of the program’s costs and benefits as well as consideration of public comments. The Council’s decision was partially based on concerns that the current design of the RSA program makes it vulnerable to abuse through under-reporting and non-reporting of catch, as illustrated by two recent investigations in New York which revealed that significant quantities of summer flounder were being taken illegally under the cover of quota acquired through the RSA program. In addition, a number of RSA-funded project have failed scientific review after completion, raising concerns about the process for vetting proposals and overseeing project implementation. The Council will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the program over the next year to determine whether the program should be resumed in 2016
The Council met jointly with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Bluefish Board to establish specifications and management measures for the bluefish fishery in 2015. The Council adopted an Annual Catch Limit of 21.544 million pounds, consistent with the Acceptable Biological Catch recommended by the Scientific and Statistical Committee. The resulting commercial quota is 5.12 million pounds and the recreational harvest limit is 13.07 million pounds. The Council also recommended a bag limit of 15 fish.
Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass
Review of 2015 Specifications
The Council met jointly with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Board to review 2015 harvest levels and associated management measures for summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass, which were established last year as part of multi-year specifications for 2014 and 2015. Based on the recommendations of the SSC, Monitoring Committee, and Advisory Panel, the Council recommended no changes to the previously-implemented specifications. However, the previously specified 2015 harvest limits will increase as a result of the RSA program suspension in 2015.
Summer Flounder: The 2015 summer flounder commercial quota is 11.07 million pounds and the recreational harvest limit is 7.38 million pounds.
Scup: The commercial quota for the 2015 scup fishery is 21.23 million pounds, with a recreational harvest limit of 6.8 million pounds.
Black Sea Bass: The 2015 black sea bass commercial quota is 2.24 million pound and the recreational harvest limit is 2.33 million pounds.
Comprehensive Summer Flounder Amendment
The Commission and Council moved forward with the development of a Scoping Document for the Comprehensive Summer Flounder Amendment. The amendment will involve a review and update of the FMP’s goals and objectives and will consider changes to summer flounder management in both state and federal waters. A revised scoping document and additional details on the scoping schedule, will be posted on the Summer Flounder Amendment Page within the next few weeks.
Black Sea Bass Wave 1/May 1 Framework
The Council voted to open the black sea bass fishery next year on May 15. The framework was initiated at the December 2013 Council meeting to consider several issues related to the timing of black sea bass seasons. The Council evaluated several options, including opening the fishery during Wave 1 to approved for-hire operators and opening the season to all recreational fishermen on May 1. The Council also considered alternative possession limits, mandatory retention, and additional reporting requirements. The Council chose to not open the Wave 1 fishery or open earlier in May primarily due to potential impacts later in the season (additional summer/fall closures) and concerns about data collection.
Special Management Zones
The Council reviewed proposed regulations for special management zones (SMZs) around five artificial reefs in Delaware and recommended several changes. At the request of the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), the Council voted to eliminate the proposed 500 yard buffers. These buffers were originally recommended by the Coast Guard to help ensure effective enforcement of the SMZs, but in May 2014 the DFW requested that the buffer zones be removed, noting that their addition increased the total area of closure by more than 50%. After discussing these concerns and considering options to maintain, reduce, or remove the buffers, the Council recommended that they be removed. The Council also recommended the removal of an SMZ at reef site 14 to avoid adverse impacts on the commercial scallop fishery.
Omnibus Amendment to Simplify Vessel Baselines
The Council received a presentation from Melissa Hooper (National Marine Fisheries Service) on the Omnibus Amendment to Simplify Vessel Baselines. The amendment considers eliminating certain baseline restrictions to reduce the administrative and cost burden to industry and NMFS without adversely affecting conservation. The Council voted to recommend Alternative 4 as the preferred alternative and to move the public hearing document forward for public hearings. Under Alternative 4, gross and net tonnage would be eliminated from baseline specifications and the one-time limit on vessel upgrades would also be eliminated.
Listening Session: Federal Data-Dependent Visioning Project
The topic of the listening session was NOAA Fisheries’ Fishery-Dependent Data Visioning Project—a coordinated effort to improve the quality, usefulness, timeliness, and delivery of data collected from the fishing industry. Following an overview of the project from Dan Morris, Doug Christel, and Holly McBride, Council members and members of the public provided input on how fishery-dependent data collection systems can be improved to better meet the needs of Mid-Atlantic stakeholders
- Swearing in of New and Reappointed Council Members: Four reappointed Council members were sworn in: G. Warren Elliott (Pennsylvania), Francis “Dewey” Hemilright, Jr. (North Carolina), Howard J. King, III (Maryland), and John G. McMurray (New York). (Details)
- Advisory Panels: In response to public comments regarding composition of the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass advisory panel, the Council moved to advertise for new advisory panel members.
- Scientific and Statistical Committee: Sarah Gaichas was nominated for appointment to the Council’s SSC (Details)
- Groundfish Disaster Funds: The Council voted to write to the Regional Administrator requesting that active federal multispecies permit holders residing in the states of NJ, NC, and VA be considered for qualifying for groundfish disaster funds.
October 7-9, 2014
Visit www.mafmc.org/briefing-books to view the full 2014 and 2015 meeting schedules.