At the recommendation of the Atlantic State Marine Fisheries Commission, we are implementing new measures for the federal American lobster fishery. Measures include:
- Mandatory harvester electronic Vessel Trip Reporting (eVTR), including five additional lobster-specific data elements, for all federal lobster permit holders using a Great Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office (GARFO) approved eVTR application. Implementation of eVTRs will begin on April 1, 2024 with the requirement that all eVTRs must be completed prior to landing and submitted to GARFO within 48 hours of the conclusion of a fishing trip.
- Area 2 ownership cap that would restrict most entities to 800 traps, effective one fishing years after the final rule is effective (May 1, 2025). An entity with an allocation that exceeded this limit as of the proposed rule would be capped at their current number of traps and may not purchase additional traps.
- Area 3 maximum trap cap reductions and a new, aggregate ownership cap with proportionate reductions that would allow entities to own five times the number of the maximum trap cap. An entity with an allocation that exceeds this limit would be capped at their current number of traps and may not purchase additional traps.
|Trap Reduction Year||Maximum Trap Cap||Aggregate Ownership Cap|
|May 1, 2025||1,805||9,025|
|May 1, 2026||1,629||8,145|
|May 1, 2027||1,548||7,740|
Based on comments received, we are requesting additional comment on the maximum trap cap reductions for Area 3 and the aggregate ownership caps for Areas 2 and 3. We will publish a final rule prior to May 2025 to finalize these measures and implement any necessary changes based on additional comments we receive on this interim final rule.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is this action being taken?
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission adopted new measures in Addenda XXI, XXII, and XXVI to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for American Lobster. After finalizing measures for states, the Commission formally recommended that we issue complementary regulations for Federal waters.
What is this action trying to achieve?
These actions recommend measures to reduce latent effort and limit future consolidation in the Southern New England fishery and improve the spatial resolution and collection of harvester data.
Does this action implement Area 2 and 3 measures exactly as envisioned by the Commission?
No. The Commission approved these measures in 2013 and they were intended to be implemented in conjunction with trap reductions, which began in 2016 and ended in 2020 and 2021. These addenda would have allowed permit holders to make use of the trap transfer program and to transfer in traps in excess of the trap caps, effectively ‘banking’ excess traps. These banked traps could then be activated as the trap-reduction schedule progressed, rather than having permit holders engage in annual trap transfers. Given that trap banking was designed to streamline the trap-transfer process while trap reductions were ongoing and trap reductions are scheduled to conclude, banking is no longer necessary.
Are the Area 2 and 3 measures assessed on entities or permits?
The Area 2 and 3 ownership caps will be implemented at the entity level and will only regulate the number of traps owned, not permits. The Area 3 maximum trap cap reductions reduce the number of traps that each permit may fish. Thus, permits in excess of these levels may lose trap allocation, but would be free to use the trap transfer program to adjust their trap allocation.
What are the next steps with the Area 2 and 3 measures?
We are implementing the Area 2 and 3 measures beginning on May 1, 2025 and will accept additional comment on these measures. We received several comments on the proposed rule that additional time to understand the proposed measures, consider them in the current context of the fishery, and provide adequate comment. We are accepting additional comments through December 1, 2023 and intend to publish a subsequent final rule to either finalize or modify these measures.
Does this action implement reporting requirements exactly as envisioned by the Commission?
No. This action is slightly delayed from the Commission’s recommended implementation date. This delay is necessary to provide sufficient time to complete regional and Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program database and programming modifications. In addition, the Commission recommended the collection of several data elements that are easily derived from data already collected on the eVTR. To reduce burden on the industry, we will not directly collect this information, but will derive this information.
How will these additional data elements be helpful?
The Commission requested we collect this information so that accurate, consistent, and spatially-explicit data is available for lobster management, stock assessments, and to assess overlap with other ocean uses and mandates, including offshore wind and Atlantic large whale take reduction decisions.
How do I learn more about Federal eVTRs?
Will you be providing training to use eVTRs?
Yes. Our port agents will hold larger training sessions to assist industry in complying with this requirement. We will send out future announcements on these training opportunities. In addition, port agents will be available to answer individual questions. To find the port agent nearest you, please visit our Port Agent webpage.
Do I have options for how to comply with this reporting requirement?
Yes. There are a variety of applications available for Android, Apple and Windows 10 devices. For more information, please visit our eVTR Software Options webpage.
This bulletin serves as a Small Entity Compliance Guide, complying with section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996.