NOAA Fisheries Seeks Public Comment on Proposed Lobster Rules -- January 3, 2002 2002/01/03 Comment Sought on Proposed Lobster Rules

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Proposed Rules To Be

More Consistent with

ASMFC Lobster Plan

Teri Frady
(508) 495-2239


NMFS Northeast Region

N         E         W         S

Gloucester, Mass. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries), an agency of the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is considering changes to rules governing lobster fishing in federal waters off the Northeastern United States. The changes would make federal rules more consistent with the Interstate Lobster Management Plan, developed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Written public comments will be accepted through February 19, 2002.

Fishing for American lobsters occurs primarily in state-regulated waters, so the commission has the lead on developing fishery management measures. One of the seven management areas used to govern the fishery is entirely within federal waters, and five of the remaining six areas contain both state and federal waters. For this reason, federal rules are required to fully implement interstate recommendations for lobster management.

The most significant change under consideration would restrict access to lobster management areas 3, 4, and 5 (see map) to those operators who fished in the areas prior to September 1, 1999. Access to these areas is already restricted to permit-holders, but fishermen are not required to demonstrate a record of fishing in an area as part of that restriction.

The proposal would require fishermen to demonstrate a history of fishing in Areas 3, 4, and/or 5 before September 1, 1999, and choose a qualifying year between March 25, 1991 and September 1, 1999. Fishermen would then document their participation during, and number of traps used in, the qualifying year.

For Areas 4 and 5 a trap "cap," or limit, is also proposed. Those operations that used more than 1440 traps in their qualifying year would be capped at 1440. Operations that show use of fewer than 1440 traps would be capped at the number they can document for the qualifying year.

Area 3 operations would follow a similar qualification process to retain access, but fishermen would also have to document landings of at least 25,000 pounds of lobster from any area in their qualifying year. These operations would experience a gradual reduction in their initial trap allocation (based on the number of traps fished during their qualifying year) beginning in year one of the plan measures and continuing over a four-year period.

Area 3 is the Offshore Management Area, the largest of the seven, comprised entirely of federal waters roughly from the Hague Line to the seaward boundaries of the inshore management areas. Area 4 is the Inshore Northern Mid-Atlantic, comprising state and federal waters roughly from Long Island and off the northern Jersey Shore to the shoreward boundary of the Offshore Management Area. Area 5 is Inshore Southern Mid-Atlantic, comprising state and federal waters roughly off the southern Jersey Shore and south to North Carolina, to the shoreward boundary of the Offshore Management Area.

Other measures under consideration include clarification of some lobster management area boundaries, and modifications to trap limits for some New Hampshire lobstermen who hold both state and federal permits.

The full proposal and the permit holder letter summarizing the alternatives will be available January 7 on the NOAA Fisheries Northeast Region web site. A summary of the proposed alternative can also be found here.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission develops interstate fishery management plan measures and recommends changes to regulations governing the lobster fishery in federal waters. As the responsible agency for fishery management in federal waters, NOAA Fisheries responds to these recommendations, acting to make federal rules consistent with the interstate plan objectives and applicable federal law.

NOAA Fisheries is dedicated to protecting and preserving our nation's living marine resources through scientific research, management, enforcement, and the conservation of marine mammals and other protected marine species and their habitat. To learn more about NOAA Fisheries, please visit the NOAA Fisheries web site.

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