Today the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council voted to move forward with development of measures for the long-term management of blueline tilefish in the Mid-Atlantic. The Council will consider several approaches, including creation of a new fishery management plan (FMP) and development of an amendment to add blueline tilefish to the existing Golden Tilefish FMP.
This decision follows the Council’s request earlier this year for an emergency rule to restrict commercial and recreational catch of blueline tilefish in the Mid-Atlantic. The Council recommended emergency action given recent evidence that commercial and recreational landings of blueline tilefish in the Mid-Atlantic are increasing rapidly and the species’ biological characteristics make it highly susceptible to depletion. Regulations have been established in the South Atlantic to restrict commercial and recreational landings of the fish, and the states of Virginia and Maryland have regulations in place, but there are currently no federal regulations for the stock in the Mid-Atlantic.
In February, the Council requested an emergency rule to include a 300 pound commercial catch limit and a seven fish per-person recreational trip limit. If approved by NMFS, it will remain in place for 180 days and can be extended for an additional 180 days. Management measures beyond 360 days for blueline tilefish north of the North Carolina/Virginia border will require a separate action by the Council.
The Council discussed the advantages and disadvantages of different long-term management approaches during its meeting this week in Long Branch, New Jersey. One option is for the Council to develop a new FMP for blueline tilefish and possibly for other species in the deepwater complex such as blackbelly rosefish, wreckfish, and snowy grouper. Another option is to add blueline tilefish to the existing FMP for golden tilefish.
During the Council’s discussion, Regional Administrator John Bullard stated that the “development of a new FMP is going to take more than a year, and we need to plan for what will happen when the emergency rule expires. In order for NMFS to implement an interim rule at that point, the Council should be well on the way to addressing this issue.”
After extensive discussion, the Council decided to gather public input during scoping hearings before deciding whether to develop an amendment or a new FMP.
Information about the scoping process for this action will be posted on the Council’s website at www.mafmc.org in the coming weeks.