Atlantic Surfclam Permit Holders: NOAA Fisheries announces the creation of three exemption areas within the Great South Channel Habitat Management Area

May 19, 2020

Effective Date: June 18, 2020

NOAA Fisheries announces the creation of three exemption areas within the Great South Channel Habitat Management Area (HMA) where vessels may fish for Atlantic surfclams or blue mussels with dredge gear.

This is part of the New England Fishery Management Council’s Habitat Clam Dredge Exemption Framework Adjustment.

The exemption areas are known as McBlair, Old South, and Fishing Rip. Coordinates for each area are below.

Fishermen that intend to fish in the exemption areas must obtain a Letter of Authorization (LOA) from the NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office. Participating vessels must hold a federal commercial surfclam permit and have a NOAA Fisheries-approved vessel monitoring system (VMS) unit that is capable of transmitting the vessel’s location every 5 minutes while within the HMA.  Each trip into the exemption areas must use the appropriate VMS trip declaration code. See our list of approved VMS units, or contact the VMS Team, Northeast Division, Office of Law Enforcement at 978-281-9213 for more information. 

Vessels fishing for surfclams within the new exemption areas are still subject to the requirements of the individual transferable quota system. This includes restrictions on retaining other species of fish caught incidentally while using hydraulic clam dredge gear, which may depend on what other federal fishing permits the vessel holds. Vessels may not retain scallops from the HMA.

To fish for blue mussels in the new exemption areas, a vessel must hold a surfclam vessel permit. By holding a surfclam permit, the vessel owner and operator will be subject to reporting and monitoring requirements that would not normally apply to vessels fishing for blue mussels in federal waters. Mussel fishing vessels also need to obtain the new LOA and use the appropriate VMS trip declaration code for all fishing trips. Mussel vessels must use a non-hydraulic mussel dredge (also called a dry dredge), which cannot exceed 8 ft in width. These vessels cannot fish for, harvest, or land any species of fish other than blue mussels on trips into the HMA, but these vessels are still required to report all discards. 

The new exemption areas are defined by the following points connected in the order listed by straight lines:

Old South Dredge Exemption Area

Open May 1 – October 1

Point

Longitude

Latitude

1

69° 47' W

41° 15' N

2

69° 44' W

41° 15' N

3

69° 44.22' W

41° 10.432' N

4

69° 45' W

41° 7' N

5

69° 47' W

41° 7' N

6

69° 47' W

41° 11' N

7

69° 49.101' W

41° 11' N

8

69° 49.116' W

41° 12.5' N

9

69° 47' W

41° 12.5' N

1

69° 47' W

41° 15' N

 

McBlair Dredge Exemption Area

Open Year Round

Point

Longitude

Latitude

1

69° 49.255' W

41° 25.878' N

2

69° 46.951' W

41° 25.878' N

3

69° 46.951' W

41° 19.34' N

4

69° 49.187' W

41° 19.34' N

1

69° 49.255' W

41° 25.878' N

 

Fishing Rip Dredge Exemption Area

Open Year Round

Point

Longitude

Latitude

1

69° 28.829' W

41° 10.963' N

2

69° 27.106' W

41° 10.485' N

3

69° 29.311' W

41° 6.699' N

4

69° 27.034' W

41° 6.609' N

5

69° 27.376' W

41° 3.198' N

6

69° 29.905' W

41° 1.297' N

7

69° 32.579' W

41° 5.368' N

8

69° 31.193' W

41° 7.356' N

1

69° 28.829' W

41° 10.963' N

 

Map of Exemption Areas

Dredge Exemption Areas.jpg

 

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I get the new LOA and/or surfclam permit?

Forms are available online for the new Letter of Authorization (LOA) or vessel and operator permits. Our Permits Office is available to help at (978) 282-8438 or NMFS.GAR.Permits@noaa.gov.

Why did the Council choose these areas for exemption?

The exemption areas minimizes to the extent practicable the adverse effects on complex habitat within the HMA after considering access to historic surfclam fishing grounds with relatively less vulnerable habitat and increased VMS reporting.

Can my VMS unit automatically change polling rate as required?

All VMS units currently approved for use in the Greater Atlantic Region are capable of automatically changing the polling rate. When you apply for the new LOA, we will notify your VMS vendor to make any needed adjustment to your VMS software.

Can the new LOA be revoked?

Any violation of permit, reporting, monitoring, or LOA requirements for fishing in the HMA exemption areas may result in NOAA Fisheries revoking the LOA, which would prevent further fishing by that vessel in the HMA.

Please visit the Atlantic surfclam species page for more information on this fishery.  If you have any questions, please contact Sustainable Fisheries at 978-281-9315.

Last updated by Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office on May 19, 2020