NOAA cuts scallop quota in northern Gulf of Maine

Agency set measures for 2016 Atlantic sea scallop fishery.

NOAA Fisheries announced this week final rules to set management measures for the Atlantic sea scallop fishery for the 2016 fishing year.

The rule sets annual catch limits for both the Limited Access and Limited Access General Category fleets, days at sea and allocations for the sea scallop access area.

It also created a new rotational closed area south of Closed Area II to protect small scallops as well as opened the northern portion of the Nantucket Lightship Access Area to the Limited Access General Category fleet and 485 Limited Access General Category access area trips from the Mid-Atlantic Access Area to this area.

The rule also cut the 2016 northern Gulf of Maine total allowable catch (TAC) to 67,454 pounds to account for over-harvesting in 2015.

The scallop catch limits for 2016 and 2017 are:

  • 36,884 metric tons for the fishery's annual catch limit
  • 34,855 metric tons for the limited access fleet's annual catch limit

This deducts 1.25 million pounds, or 567 metric tons, of scallops annually for 2016 and 2017 from the acceptable biological catch and sets it aside for scallop research.

The rule also set vessel-specific Days at Sea (DAS) allocations for 2016 and 2017 for the three limited access scallop DAS permit categories:

  • 34.55 DAS for full-time
  • 13.82 DAS for part-time
  • 2.88 DAS for occasional

For fishing year 2016 and the start of 2017, the rule keeps all three Georges Bank Access Areas (i.e., Nantucket Lightship, Closed Area 1, and Closed Area 2 Access Areas) closed and keeps the  Mid-Atlantic Access Area (MAAA) open to the limited access fleet.

This action closes a new area, the Closed Area 2 Extension, to protect small scallops located south of the current Closed Area 2 boundary. The council will reconsider opening this closure area to scallop fishing in a future framework action when the scallops are larger and ready for harvest.

The rule set 2016 and 2017 poundage allocations and trip possession limits for scallop access area limited access vessels:

  • Full-time: 17,000 pound possession limit; 51,000 pounds for 2016 vessel allocation; 17,000 pounds for 2017 vessel allocation
  • Part-time: 10,200 pound possession limit; 20,400 pounds for 2016 vessel allocation; 10,200 pounds for 2017 vessel allocation
  • Occasional: 1,420 pound possession limit; 4,250 pounds for 2016 vessel allocation;  1,420 pounds for 2017 vessel allocation

The New England Fishery Management Council adopted these rules in December. 

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