October 2015 Council Meeting Summary

The following summary highlights actions taken and issues considered at the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s meeting on October 6 – 8, 2015 in Philadelphia, PA. Presentations, briefing materials, and audio recordings are available on the October 2015 Council Meeting page.

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Spiny Dogfish – 2016 Specifications

The Council adopted an Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC) of 37.0 million pounds for spiny dogfish in 2016. After accounting for management uncertainty, projected discards, Canadian landings, and recreational landings, this ABC translates to a commercial quota of 25.3 million pounds. These specifications are consistent with the advice from the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC). Because the spiny dogfish fishery is managed jointly, the New England Fishery Management Council must also make recommendations for spiny dogfish specifications at its upcoming meeting in December. If approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service, the new measure will go into effect May 1, 2016.

The recommended commercial quota is a 50% reduction from the 2015 commercial quota of 50.6 million pounds. This reduction was driven by the recent spiny dogfish stock assessment update, which estimated the stock’s biomass to be at 87% of the rebuilt target in 2015. Although the stock was found to be neither overfished nor subject to overfishing, the new estimate of stock biomass was a marked decrease from the 2013 update, which indicated that the stock’s biomass was at 135% of the target. Given that the survey data from 2014 was not included in the 2015 update due to a mechanical breakdown in the NEFSC trawl survey, the Council also requested that the SSC determine an overfishing limit (OFL) and ABC for 2016 using averaged data to fill in the missing 2014 data point. The SSC will meet later this year to consider this request.

Press Release: Mid-Atlantic Council Votes to Reduce Spiny Dogfish Quota for 2016

Black Sea Bass Acceptable Biological Catch

The Council revisited its previous black sea bass ABC recommendations for 2016-2017. Based on updated advice from the SSC, the Council voted to increase the ABC to 6.67 million pounds for 2016 and 2017, resulting in a commercial quota of 2.71 million pounds and a recreational harvest limit of 2.82 million pounds. This represents a 21% increase from the previously-recommended 5.50 million pound ABC, which has been in place since 2010 under a “constant catch” approach. The SSC’s revised ABC recommendation was informed by a white paper by Jason McNamee (RI F&W), Gavin Fay (UMass Dartmouth), and Steve Cadrin (UMass Dartmouth), which analyzed a range of data limited methods for black sea bass.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Board will consider the revised ABC recommendations at the Commission’s Annual Meeting in November. The SSC will revisit the 2017 ABC next summer based on updated analysis.  

Research Plan

Comprehensive Research Plan
Staff presented a draft Comprehensive Five Year (2016-2020) Research Plan for Council review and discussion. Developed in consultation with the SSC, the plan includes general and species-specific research needs that have been identified in stock assessments, amendment and framework documents, and by the SSC. The Council is scheduled to review and approve a revised research plan at its upcoming meeting in December.

Collaborative Research Priorities
The Council reviewed and provided feedback on a draft list of research priorities for the Council’s upcoming short-term collaborative research funding opportunity. Staff will revise the list of priorities for further development and completion by the Collaborative Research Committee later this year.

Note: At the recommendation of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC), the Council has agreed to use the term “Collaborative Research” instead of “Cooperative Research” to avoid confusion with the NEFSC’s Cooperative Research Program.

Blueline Tilefish

The Council reviewed a preliminary set of alternatives for blueline tilefish management and endorsed development of a range of alternatives in a full Environmental Assessment to be reviewed at a future Council meeting.

Although the range of alternatives in this action does not include limited access, the Council passed a motion requesting that NMFS publish a control date notice for all sectors (commercial and recreational) of the blueline tilefish fishery. Publication of a control date does not affect participants at this time, but the Council could use it as a reference point if it considers ways to limit the number of participants in the blueline tilefish fishery in the future. The intent of a control date to discourage speculative entry and investment into the blueline tilefish fishery. Participants are advised to find and keep all documents associated with blueline tilefish fishing, including dealer slips/receipts and logbook pages. Vessels (commercial and recreational) are also reminded that northeast/GARFO golden tilefish federal permits are currently required to retain blueline tilefish north of North Carolina, and any vessel with any Federal northeast/GARFO commercial or party/charter permit should be documenting all landings and discards of any species that they catch.

>> See the Blueline Tilefish Action page for more information about this action. 

NEFMC Clam Dredge Framework

Michelle Bachman, from the New England Fishery Management Council staff, gave a presentation on a framework under development by the New England Council to allow hydraulic clam dredge access within two habitat management areas approved in the Omnibus Essential Fish Habitat Amendment 2. The NEFMC intends through this action to identify areas within the Great South Channel and Georges Shoal Habitat Management Areas that are currently fished or contain high energy sand and gravel that could be suitable for a hydraulic clam dredging exemption. The Mid-Atlantic Council expressed its support and passed a motion requesting that the NEFMC prioritize the framework.

Unmanaged Forage

Staff presented a summary of scoping comments on an action to address unmanaged forage species in the Mid-Atlantic. After considering recommendations from the Fishery Management Action Team (FMAT), the Council voted to initiate an omnibus amendment to add unmanaged forage species as Ecosystem Component (EC) species to the relevant Fishery Management Plans (FMPs) for Council-managed stocks. The amendment will consider options to prohibit the development of new, and expansion of existing, directed commercial and recreational fisheries for unmanaged forage species in Mid-Atlantic federal waters. The Council has not yet determined which forage species will be addressed through this action or which FMPs will be affected. Although a motion was proposed to include state waters in the amendment, the Council voted to limit the amendment’s geographic scope to federal waters.

>> See the Unmanaged Forage Action page for more information about this action.

Joint Industry Funded Monitoring (IFM) Omnibus Amendment

The Council received an update on New England Council activities relative to the joint Industry-Funded Monitoring (IFM) Omnibus Amendment. After reviewing analyses of the economic impacts of additional monitoring coverage for the Atlantic mackerel fishery, the Council voted to task the amendment development team with refinement of the electronic monitoring cost assumptions and economic analysis of mackerel coverage target alternatives. The Council also requested the development of provisions for a monitoring set-aside.  The Council expects to review a revised amendment again at its February meeting.

Habitat Workshop

On the first day of the meeting, the Council hosted a workshop on Ecosystem-Level Habitat Considerations. This was the fourth in a series of workshops that the Council has held to support the development of an Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM) guidance document. The workshop focused on three overarching themes: (1) habitat science and research; (2) using habitat information to improve fisheries management; and (3) integrating habitat considerations into EAFM. Presentations and recordings from the workshop are available here

Other Business

Safety and Law Enforcement: LCDR Patricia Bennett noted that the Coast Guard continues chasing false alerts from Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBS), which draws resources away from other critical search and rescue (SAR) and enforcement efforts, as well as putting SAR responders in harm’s way unnecessarily. Proper registration, battery maintenance, and decommissioning help to ensure effective operation and to avoid false alerts – details are available here. NOAA Office of Law Enforcement Officer Wynn Carney also noted that there will be an enforcement push in Mid-Atlantic federal waters this fall for several fishery compliance issues.

NMFS Ecosystem-Based Fishery Management Policy: Heather Sagar, from NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, presented NMFS’ Draft Ecosystem-Based Fishery Management Policy. Click here to view the policy and submit comments (due Dec. 16, 2015)

BOEM Update: Brian Hooker, from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), provided an update on offshore renewable energy activities in the Atlantic and presented the results of a recent socio-economic project conducted with NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center. Their research utilized data from Vessel Trip Reports (VTR) and seafood dealer reports to develop “revenue maps” that characterize the range of socio-economic impacts that offshore wind development could have on different fisheries within each wind energy area.

Summer Flounder Sex-Specific Model: Dr. Patrick Sullivan, from Cornell University, presented an overview of his ongoing work to develop a sex-specific model for summer flounder. 

Next Meeting

December 7 – 10, 2015: Annapolis, MD

Westin Annapolis Hotel
100 Westgate Circle, Annapolis, MD 21401
Telephone: 410-972-4300