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Approval of Fishing Years 2021-2022 Sector Operations Plans, 2021 Annual Catch Entitlements, and Electronic Monitoring Regulatory Changes for Sectors

April 29, 2021

This final rule approves fishing years 2021-22 operations plans for 16 groundfish sectors, grants 19 regulatory exemptions, allocates preliminary fishing year 2021 annual catch entitlements, and amends the regulations to administer electronic monitoring.

Approved Groundfish Sectors

We are approving 16 groundfish sectors to operate in fishing year 2021:

  • Georges Bank Cod Fixed Gear Sector
  • Maine Coast Community Sector
  • Mooncusser Sector
  • Northeast Fishery Sector 2
  • Northeast Fishery Sector 4
  • Northeast Fishery Sector 5
  • Northeast Fishery Sector 6
  • Northeast Fishery Sector 7
  • Northeast Fishery Sector 8
  • Northeast Fishery Sector 10
  • Northeast Fishery Sector11
  • Northeast Fishery Sector 12
  • Northeast Fishery Sector 13
  • Sustainable Harvest Sector 1
  • Sustainable Harvest Sector 2
  • Sustainable Harvest Sector 3

Preliminary Annual Catch Entitlements for Sectors

This rule allocates preliminary annual catch entitlements (ACE) to these 16 approved sectors based on 2021 catch limits in Framework Adjustment 59 to the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan. Framework 59 did not specify 2021 catch limits for seven stocks:  Gulf of Maine winter flounder, Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic winter flounder, redfish, ocean pout, Atlantic wolffish, Eastern Georges Bank cod, and Eastern Georges Bank haddock.  Default specifications will be in place for these stocks from May 1 through July 31, or until Framework 61 is implemented, if approved.  See the final sector rule for sector-specific ACE allocation information.

Regulatory Exemptions for Sectors

We are also approving 19 regulatory exemptions to provide increased operational flexibility for sector vessels. All 19 exemptions were previously approved for fishing year 2020:

(1) 120-day block out of the fishery required for Day gillnet vessels

(2) 20-day spawning block out of the fishery required for all vessels

(3) Limits on the number of gillnets for Day gillnet vessels outside the Gulf of Maine

(4) Prohibition on a vessel hauling another vessel’s gillnet gear

(5) Limitation on the number of gillnets that may be hauled on Georges Bank when fishing under a groundfish/monkfish Days-at-Sea (DAS)

(6) Limits on the number of hooks that may be fished

(7) DAS Leasing Program length and horsepower restrictions

(8) Prohibition on discarding (for unmarketable catch only)

(9) Gear requirements in the Eastern U.S./Canada Management Area

(10) Prohibition on a vessel hauling another vessel’s hook gear

(11) The requirement to declare intent to fish in the Eastern U.S./Canada Special Access Program and the Closed Area II Yellowtail Flounder/ Haddock SAP prior to leaving the dock

(12) Seasonal restrictions for the Eastern U.S./Canada Haddock SAP

(13) Seasonal restrictions for the Closed Area II Yellowtail Flounder/Haddock SAP

(14) Sampling exemption

(15) Minimum mesh size requirement for trawl nets on targeted redfish trips

(16) Prohibition on a vessel fishing in a small-mesh exempted fishery and in the large-mesh groundfish fishery on the same trip

(17) Extra-large mesh requirement to target dogfish on trips excluded from at-sea monitoring in Southern New England and Inshore Georges Bank

(18) Requirement that Handgear A vessels carry a Vessel Monitoring System unit when fishing in a single broad stock area

(19) Limits on the number of gillnets for Day gillnet vessels in the Gulf of Maine

Electronic Monitoring

Finally, this rule clarifies regulations for electronic monitoring. In the proposed rule for this action, we announced our determination that the electronic monitoring audit model is sufficient for use in place of at-sea monitors for catch accounting. Sector vessels may now choose to use either at-sea monitoring or electronic monitoring to meet monitoring requirements, provided that the vessels’ sector has a corresponding monitoring program approved as part of its fishing years 2021-22 operations plan.

Additional Information for Fishing Year 2021

This bulletin also announces fishing year 2021 measures for the Closed Area II Yellowtail Flounder/Haddock Special Access Program (SAP) and the Regular B Days-At-Sea (DAS) program. These measures are independent of the rulemaking to approve fishing years 2021-22 sector operations plans:

  • Northeast multispecies vessels may not target yellowtail flounder within the Closed Area II Yellowtail Flounder/Haddock SAP in fishing year 2021. Northeast multispecies vessels are not allowed to fish in this SAP using flounder trawl nets, but may fish in this SAP to target haddock with a haddock separator trawl, a Ruhle trawl, or hook gear. This SAP is open from August 1, 2021, through January 31, 2022. The SAP is open from May 1, 2021, through January 31, 2022, for sector vessels fishing under the Seasonal Restriction for the Closed Area II Yellowtail Flounder/Haddock SAP Exemption.
  • The Regular B Days-at-Sea (DAS) program is closed for fishing year 2021. During this closure, Northeast multispecies vessels may not declare or use regular B DAS. 

Last updated by Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office on April 29, 2021