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Draft Action Plan Released to Reduce Atlantic Sturgeon Bycatch in Federal Large Mesh Gillnet Fisheries

May 26, 2022

NOAA Fisheries is releasing a draft Action Plan to reduce Atlantic sturgeon bycatch in gillnet fisheries by 2024. The Action Plan includes an information review and recommendations to the New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils.


The Biological Opinion on 10 Fishery Management Plans in the Greater Atlantic Region and the New England Fishery Management Council’s Omnibus Essential Fish Habitat Amendment 2 required NOAA Fisheries to convene a working group to address Atlantic sturgeon bycatch in the federal large mesh gillnet fisheries.  The working group was required to:

  1. Review all available information on Atlantic sturgeon bycatch in the federal large mesh gillnet (defined as greater than or equal to 7 inches).
  2. Develop an action plan by May 27, 2022, to reduce Atlantic sturgeon in these fisheries by 2024.
  3. Include in the action plan an evaluation of information available on post-release mortality, identification of data needed to better assess impacts, and a plan, including timeframes, for obtaining and using this information to evaluate impacts.

On November 22, 2021, NOAA Fisheries staff from the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office and Northeast Fisheries Science Center first convened the Atlantic Sturgeon Bycatch Working Group to address the requirements of the Biological Opinion.  On February 14, 2022, the working group was expanded to include experts from the state wildlife and marine resource agencies of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maine, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. 

Action Plan

Since its formation, the working group has worked collaboratively to produce a draft Action Plan with two primary components. 

The first is a literature review and analysis of data from the Northeast Fisheries Observer Program.  Through this review, the working group will use available data to make conclusions regarding bycatch of Atlantic sturgeon, including identification of the most relevant fisheries, summarization of gear research focused on bycatch mitigation, and observations about known sturgeon aggregation and migratory pathways.

The second is a suite of recommendations, based on the conclusions made in the literature review, to NOAA Fisheries, the New England Fishery Management Council, and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils that should be considered, refined, and implemented in order to reduce Atlantic sturgeon bycatch in subject fisheries by 2024.


May 26, 2022

Draft Action Plan is released online

June 7 - 9, 2022

Presentation at MAFMC Meeting

June 28 - 30, 2022

Presentation at NEFMC

August 1 - 4, 2022

Presentation at ASMFC Summer Meeting

September 19, 2022

Finalized Action Plan is released online

Have Questions or Comments?

Submit written questions or comments via email to Spencer Talmage at Spencer.Talmage@noaa.gov or through the Google Form.  There will also be presentations of the Action Plan at meetings of the New England Fishery Management Council, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

In September, NOAA Fisheries will release a final Action Plan incorporating public feedback and Council/ASFMC input.


Last updated by Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office on May 26, 2022