NOAA Fisheries asks
for public comment
on possible "control date"
NMFS Northeast Region
N E W SNOAA Fisheries is looking for public comment on a possible plan to limit individual effort in the American lobster fishery based on past participation in the fishery. No specific criteria or rules are proposed at this time. But an interstate management authority responsible for lobster management in state waters recently began to consider limiting effort based on fishing history, and similar rules may be proposed soon for federal water.
In 1998, the American lobster fishery accounted for more than a quarter of the total “first-sale” revenue of commercial fish in the Northeast, making it the single most valuable northeastern stock. Lobster fishing in state waters is managed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), an interstate body. In federal waters, lobster fishing is managed by NOAA Fisheries.
NOAA Fisheries is alerting the interested public that it is possible that lobstering activity conducted after September 1, 1999 may not be considered as part of an operation’s historical participation in the fishery. This does not mean that NOAA Fisheries can not consider other, alternate "control dates" for determining fishing history.
The alert and request for comment were published September 1 in the Federal Register as an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR). The full text is available at the NOAA Fisheries Northeast Region website. The document is also available from the NOAA/NMFS Northeast Region Office in Gloucester (978 281-9327).
NOAA Fisheries will accept written comments until October 1, 1999. Send comments to: Lobster Control Date Comments, NOAA/NMFS, One Blackburn Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930.
The ANPR published September 1 is also intended to encourage interested parties to locate and preserve any records that would verify their typical lobster fishing operations up to that date, and to discourage changes in current operations owing to speculation about how effort may be limited in the future. This includes not only changes in area typically fished, but also shifts in the type of gear used.
Under a fishery management plan recently instituted by the ASMFC, U.S. waters from 0 to 200 miles from shore are divided into seven lobster management areas. One such area falls entirely within state waters (0 to 3 miles), one falls entirely within federal waters (3 to 200 miles) and the rest include both state and federal waters.
States have various qualification criteria for entering the fishery. There is a moratorium on new entry into the fishery in federal waters, and lobster operations must have a permit to fish in these waters. NOAA Fisheries is preparing final rules for federal permit holders that will complement the ASMFC plan.