Larry Alade releases tagged monkfish
NOAA researcher Larry Alade prepares to release a tagged monkfish.
Credit: NOAA

Research Set-Aside Programs

Research Set-Aside programs are unique to federal fisheries in the northeast. Although the Northeast Cooperative Research Program manages them, no federal funds are provided to support the research. Instead, funding is provided annually by the sale of Set-Aside allocations for quota managed or days-at-sea (DAS) managed fisheries. Current RSAs include programs for Atlantic sea scallops, Atlantic herring, monkfish, and mid-Atlantic multi species which includes Atlantic mackerel, black sea bass, bluefish, butterfish, Illex squid, Loligo squid, scup, summer flounder, and tilefish.

Landings that pay for RSA research are allocated by the New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils (NEFMC and MAFMC, respectively). This can be a fixed poundage or a percentage of the annual quota or a number of the year's total allowed fishing days. Money generated by the sale of the awarded RSA quota funds the proposed research, and compensation is provided for vessels harvesting the quota in the form of direct fish sales in the commercial fishing industry or in the form of additional fishing opportunities in the for-hire and charter recreational fishing industry. While using set-aside days or quota, vessels are often allowed to do so in more opportune ways than the general fleet, for example, with exemptions from trip limits, some seasonal closures, or other restrictions that would otherwise apply.

RSA projects are selected through a competitive grants process, with priorities established through the MAFMC Research Set-Aside committee, RSA species oversight committees, and the NEFMC Research Steering committee. Solicitations for RSA proposals are posted at, published through the Federal Register, and distributed widely through e-mail distribution lists, partners' websites, and announcements through Councils' and other NMFS public relations channels.

From 2000 through 2011, roughly $67.7 million worth of RSA allocations provided support for 119 research projects valued at approximately $19 million, and an estimated $47 million in RSA harvesting vessel compensation.

Current Research Focus
  • Atlantic Herring: research to reduce bycatch of river herring, development of port side sampling to better characterize catch, exploration of ways to passively monitor net performance for a variety of purposes, investigation of video monitoring to document fishing and catch processing.
  • Sea scallop: industry-based surveys of access areas, bycatch reduction, loggerhead sea turtle population information and bycatch avoidance
  • Monkfish: life history, stock definition, ecological significance, bycatch and discard, trawl and gillnet gear technologies to improve selectivity and reduce discard
  • Mid-Atlantic: fishery independent surveys, mesh selectivity and gear modifications, improving observer sampling of butterfish and river herring, size and sex of summer flounder in the recreational fishery, age sampling of scup and black sea bass

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(File Modified Apr. 07 2016)