Northeast Multispecies (Groundfish); Fishing Year 2018 Regulations

Effective Date: May 1, 2018

We approved Framework Adjustment 57 to the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan and are announcing fishing year 2018 management measures for the groundfish fishery.  To see which regulations apply to you, this Bulletin is divided into three sections:

  • Framework 57 Measures
  • Common Pool Measures for 2018
  • Sector Measures for 2018

Framework Adjustment 57

This letter briefly summarizes the Framework 57 measures that become effective on May 1, 2018.  More detailed information can be found in the Framework 57 final rule at:  www.regulations.gov and on our Multispecies page

Fishing Year 2018 Catch Limits 

We set fishing year 2018 annual catch limits (ACL) for all 20 groundfish stocks based on 2017 operational groundfish assessments.  The 2018 catch limits are listed in Table 1.  Framework 57 increases quotas for 11 stocks compared to 2017, including: Georges Bank cod (139%), Gulf of Maine cod (41%), and Gulf of Maine haddock (190%).  Quotas are decreasing for 9 stocks, including Southern New England yellowtail flounder (-75%) and Gulf of Maine winter flounder (-45%).  The U.S./Canada quotas are shown in Table 2

Because vessels may drop from sector rosters and join the common pool through April 30, 2018, the sector and common pool allocations included in this Bulletin may change.  Also, after we finalize fishing year 2017 catch information, we will subtract any sector or common pool overages.  Potential adjustments to the 2018 catch limits will be made in a future management action as close to May 1 as possible.

Table 1.  Fishing Year 2018 Catch Limits (mt, live weight)

Stock

Total ACL

Groundfish sub-ACL

Preliminary Sector
sub-ACL1

Preliminary Common Pool sub-ACL1

Recreational sub-ACL

Midwater Trawl Fishery

Scallop Fishery

Small-Mesh Fisheries

State Waters
sub-component

Other
sub-component

GB Cod

1,519

1,360

1,335

25

 

 

 

 

16

143

GOM Cod

666

610

377

13

220

 

 

 

47

9

GB Haddock

46,312

44,659

44,348

311

 

680

 

 

487

487

GOM Haddock

12,409

12,097

8,643

95

3,358

122

 

 

95

95

GB Yellowtail Flounder

206

169

167

3

 

 

33.1

4.0

0

0

SNE/MA Yellowtail Flounder

66

42

34

8

 

 

4

 

2

17

CC/GOM Yellowtail Flounder

490

398

381

18

 

 

 

 

51

41

American Plaice

1,649

1,580

1,550

29

 

 

 

 

35

35

Witch Flounder

948

849

830

19

 

 

 

 

40

60

GB Winter Flounder

787

731

725

6

 

 

 

 

0

57

GOM Winter Flounder

428

357

339

18

 

 

 

 

67

4

SNE/MA Winter Flounder

700

518

456

62

 

 

 

 

73

109

Redfish

10,986

10,755

10,696

59

 

 

 

 

116

116

White Hake

2,794

2,735

2,713

22

 

 

 

 

29

29

Pollock

38,204

37,400

37,163

237

 

 

 

 

402

402

N. Windowpane Flounder

86

63

na

63

 

 

18

 

2

3

S. Windowpane Flounder

457

53

na

53

 

 

158

 

28

218

Ocean Pout

120

94

na

94

 

 

 

 

3

23

Atlantic Halibut

100

77

na

77

 

 

 

 

21

2

Atlantic Wolffish

84

82

na

82

 

 

 

 

1

1

1Updated catch limits based on final sector rosters and 2017 catch information will be announced as soon as possible in the 2018 fishing year.

GB = Georges Bank, GOM = Gulf of Maine, SNE/MA = southern New England/mid-Atlantic, CC/GOM = Cape Cod/Gulf of Maine, N = northern, S = southern.

Table 2.  2018 Fishing Year U.S./Canada Quotas (mt, live weight) and Percent of Quota Allocated to Each Country

Quota

Eastern GB Cod

Eastern GB Haddock

GB Yellowtail Flounder

 
 

Total Shared

951

40,000

300

 

U.S.

257 (27%)

15,600 (39%)

213 (71%)

 

Canada

694 (73%)

24,400 (61%)

87 (29%)

 

 Adjustments Due to Fishing Year 2016 Overages 

In fishing year 2016, the ACLs were exceeded for witch flounder, Georges Bank cod, and Gulf of Maine cod.  A combination of catch from recreational vessels and state commercial vessels contributed to the overages for Georges Bank cod and Gulf of Maine cod.  Catch from state commercial vessels contributed to the overage of witch flounder.  The overage amounts for these stocks are shown in Table 3.  The recreational fishery does not payback overages on a pound-for-pound basis, but recreational management measures were revised to address the overage.  Revised 2018 commercial allocations, incorporating these payback amounts, are shown in Table 4.  These revised allocations are the quotas set for 2018 as shown in Table 1.

Table 3. 2016 Overage Amounts (mt, live weight)

Stock

 Total

 Sector

 Common Pool

 Recreational

GB Cod

402.1

 162.57

3.40 

 n/a

GOM Cod

160.7

 21.05

0.00

16.61 

Witch Flounder

19.3

 19.15

0.05

n/a 

Note:  "n/a" indicates that the stock is not allocated to that sub-component of the fishery. 

A value of 0.00 indicates that no payback is required.

Table 4. Revised 2018 Allocations (mt, live weight)

Stock

Initial Preliminary Sector
sub-ACL

Revised Preliminary Sector
sub-ACL

Initial Preliminary Common Pool sub-ACL

Revised Preliminary Common Pool sub-ACL

GB Cod

1,335.17

1,172.61

25.13

21.73

GOM Cod

376.92

355.87

12.73

unchanged

Witch Flounder

830.09

810.94

18.93

18.88

 Revisions to Common Pool Trimester Allocations 

Framework 57 adjusts the way common pool quotas are split among the trimesters for stocks that have had early closures in either Trimester 1 or Trimester 2.  The Trimester 1 portion of the quota for each of these stocks is increased, with the exception of southern New England/mid-Atlantic yellowtail flounder, which remains unchanged.  The Trimester 2 portion of the quota for each of these stocks is reduced.  The Trimester 3 portion of the quota is unchanged for Georges Band cod; increased for southern New England yellowtail flounder; and decreased for Gulf of Maine cod, Cape Cod/Gulf of Maine yellowtail flounder, American plaice, and witch flounder.  The new trimester quota percentages for these stocks are shown in Table 5 and were used to calculate the trimester quotas for 2018 (see Table 8 on page 9).

Table 5.  Revised Trimester Quota Percentages

Stock

Trimester 1

Trimester 2

Trimester 3

GB Cod

28%

34%

38%

GOM Cod

49%

33%

18%

SNE/MA Yellowtail

21%

28%

51%

CC/GOM Yellowtail

57%

26%

17%

American Plaice

74%

8%

18%

Witch Flounder

55%

20%

25%

 Revisions to Atlantic Halibut Accountability Measures

No Atlantic halibut accountability measures (AM) are in effect for 2018.  However, Framework 57 revises the AMs that would be in place if they are triggered in the future.  First, the zero-possession AM will apply to all Federal permit holders (including federally-permitted scallop, lobster, and highly migratory species general category vessels).  Vessels issued only a charter/party permit for any species, an Atlantic highly migratory species angling permit, and/or an Atlantic highly migratory species charter/headboat permit are exempt from the zero-possession AM.  For example, a vessel issued a northeast multispecies charter/party permit and a bluefish charter/party permit would be exempt from the AM, but a vessel issued a northeast multispecies charter/party permit and a commercial bluefish permit would not be exempt from the AM.  The intent of expanding the AM is to facilitate enforcement of Federal fishery limits and reduce the catch of halibut by federally permitted vessels not currently subject to the AM. 

Second, Framework 57 also modifies the gear-restricted AM areas for Federal groundfish vessels.  Based on an updated evaluation of Atlantic halibut encounter rates, the existing AM areas have been changed to allow groundfish trawl and fixed gear vessels additional flexibility while continuing to reduce catch of halibut when the AMs are triggered (see Figure 1).  This action eliminates the Fixed Gear AM Area 1 on Stellwagen Bank; exempts longline gear from Fixed Gear AM Area 2 (renamed Gillnet Gear AM Area) on Platts Bank; allows gillnet gear in Fixed Gear AM Area 2 from November through February; and allows standard trawl gear in the Trawl Gear AM Area between 41 degrees 40 minutes N. latitude and 42 degrees N. latitude from April through July (see dashed line in Figure 1).  These modifications are expected to continue to protect the Atlantic halibut stock due to the low encounter rates and low catch rates in the seasons and areas accessible for fishing, and will preserve fishing opportunities for vessels targeting other species.

Figure 1. Revised Atlantic Halibut AM Areas.

Note:  Click here for information on the groundfish closed areas, dedicated habitat research areas, and habitat management areas

Revisions to Southern Windowpane Flounder Accountability Measures for Non-Groundfish Trawl Vessels 

No southern windowpane flounder AMs are in effect for 2018.  However, Framework 57 revises the AMs that would be in place, if they are triggered in the future, for non-groundfish vessels fishing with trawl gear with codend mesh size of 5 inches or greater.

Reducing the Size of the AM

Similar to the reduction in AM size allowed for groundfish vessels, Framework 57 will scale the size of the AM areas based on the condition of the stock and catch in the year after the overage.  Similar to the AM for the groundfish fishery, when the stock is rebuilt and the specified biomass criterion is greater than the fishing year catch, the small AM areas may be implemented in place of the large AM areas.  This change is expected to minimize the economic impacts of the AM for a rebuilt stock, while still correcting for operational issues contributing to the overage and mitigating potential biological consequences. 

Reducing the Duration of the AM

Framework 57 grants the Regional Administrator authority to remove the southern windowpane flounder AM early for non-groundfish trawl vessels if certain criteria are met.  If an overage in year 1 triggers the AM for year 3, and we determine that the applicable windowpane flounder ACL was not exceeded in year 2, then the Regional Administrator would be authorized to remove the AM on or after September 1.  This provision is already in place for groundfish vessels, Framework 57 extends it to non-groundfish vessels.

Modification of the Gear-Restricted Areas

Framework 57 revises the area and season of the AM areas for non-groundfish trawl vessels based on recent data (see Figure 2).  The geographic area of the small AM area remains unchanged, but the AM will be in effect from September through April, rather than the entire fishing year.  The large AM area south of Long Island also remains unchanged, but the large AM area east of Long Island is reduced to a smaller geographic area made up of the small AM area and the eastern most 10-minute square of the current large AM area.  Both large AM areas will be closed year-round when triggered.  The revised areas are intended to provide additional opportunities for the non-groundfish fleet to pursue target stocks, while still maintaining the necessary conservation benefits of the AMs.

Figure 2.  Revised Southern Windowpane AM Areas for Large Mesh Non-Groundfish Fisheries

Revisions to the Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic Yellowtail Flounder Accountability Measures for Scallop Vessels 

No groundfish AMs for the scallop fishery are in effect for 2018.  The scallop fishery is allocated quotas for four stocks:  Georges Bank yellowtail flounder; southern New England/mid-Atlantic yellowtail flounder; northern windowpane flounder; and southern windowpane flounder.  If the scallop fishery exceeds its quotas for these stocks, it is subject to AMs that restrict the scallop fishery.  In 2017, Framework 56 changed the AM triggers for Georges Bank yellowtail flounder and northern windowpane flounder for the 2017 and 2018 fishing years.  This action expands that change to apply to the southern New England/mid-Atlantic yellowtail flounder stock for the 2018 fishing year.  For fishing year 2018, the AM for the scallop fishery’s quota will be triggered only if the scallop fishery’s quota and the overall ACL for the stock is exceeded.  This change is intended to provide flexibility for the scallop fishery to better achieve optimal yield, despite a reduction in the ACL, while continuing to prevent overfishing. 

Authority to Adjust Recreational Measures for Georges Bank Cod 

In response to increasing recreational catch in recent years, and an unusually high recreational catch estimate in 2016 that contributed to an ACL overage, the New England Fishery Management Council set an annual recreational catch target for Georges Bank cod of 138 mt for 2018-2020.  To facilitate preventing future overages of the Georges Bank cod ACL, Framework 57 gives the Regional Administrator authority to set recreational measures for fishing years 2018 and 2019 to prevent the recreational catch target from being exceeded. 

New recreational measures for 2018 are discussed in a separate bulletin.  For information about recreational measures for 2018 please see our website.

Common Pool Measures and Trip Limits

Tables 6 and 7 show the trip limits that will apply to common pool vessels beginning on May 1, 2018.  We may increase or decrease these limits during the fishing year to ensure that the common pool catch limits are fully used, but not exceeded.  We will announce any necessary changes in a future management action.

Any landings prior to midnight on April 30, 2018, are subject to the fishing year 2017 landing limits.  All landings after 0001 hours on May 1, 2018, are restricted to the fishing year 2018 limits in this Bulletin.

Table 6Initial Fishing Year 2018 Common Pool Possession and Trip Limits

Stock

2018 Trip Limit

Georges Bank Cod (outside Eastern U.S./Canada Area)

100 lb per DAS, up to 200 lb per trip

Georges Bank Cod (inside Eastern U.S./Canada Area)

100 lb per DAS, up to 500 lb per trip

Gulf of Maine Cod

50 lb per DAS, up to 100 lb per trip

Georges Bank Haddock

100,000 lb per trip

Gulf of Maine Haddock

1,000 lb per DAS, up to 2,000 lb per trip

Georges Bank Yellowtail Flounder

100 lb per trip

Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic Yellowtail Flounder

100 lb per DAS, up to 200 lb per trip

Cape Cod/Gulf of Maine Yellowtail Flounder

750 lb per DAS, up to 1,500 l per trip

American plaice

750 lb per DAS, up to 1,500 lb per trip

Witch Flounder

400 lb per trip

Georges Bank Winter Flounder

250 lb per trip

Gulf of Maine Winter Flounder

1,000 lb per trip

Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic Winter Flounder

2,000 lb per DAS, up to 4,000 lb per trip

Redfish

Unlimited

White hake

1,500 lb per trip

Pollock

Unlimited

Atlantic Halibut

1 fish per trip

Windowpane Flounder

Possession Prohibited

Ocean Pout

Possession Prohibited

Atlantic Wolffish

Possession Prohibited

DAS = day-at-sea          

Table 7.  Initial Fishing Year 2018 Trip Limits for Handgear and Small Vessel Category Permits

Permit

2018 Trip Limit

Handgear A Gulf of Maine Cod

50 lb per trip

 

 

Handgear A Georges Bank Cod

100 lb per trip

Handgear B Gulf of Maine Cod

25 lb per trip

Handgear B Georges Bank Cod

25 lb per trip

Small Vessel Category

300 lb of cod, haddock, and yellowtail flounder combined; additionally, vessels may not possess more than the common pool possession limit for one DAS.

 

Common Pool Trimester Total Allowable Catches

The common pool catch limit for each stock is divided into trimester total allowable catches (TACs):  Trimester 1 (May 1-August 31); Trimester 2 (September 1-Decemeber 31); and Trimester 3 (January 1-April 30).  Fishing Year 2018 trimester TACs, as revised by Framework 57, are listed in Table 8 below.

         Table 8.  FY 2016 Trimester TACs (mt)

Stock

2018

Trimester 1

Trimester 2

Trimester 3

GB Cod

7.0

8.5

9.6

GOM Cod

6.2

4.2

2.3

GB Haddock

84.0

102.6

124.4

GOM Haddock

25.6

24.7

44.6

GB Yellowtail Flounder

0.5

0.8

1.3

SNE/MA Yellowtail Flounder

1.7

2.3

4.2

CC/GOM Yellowtail Flounder

10.0

4.6

3.0

American Plaice

21.8

2.4

5.3

Witch Flounder

10.4

3.8

4.7

GB Winter Flounder

0.5

1.4

4.1

GOM Winter Flounder

6.5

6.7

4.4

Redfish

14.8

18.4

26.1

White Hake

8.3

6.8

6.8

Pollock

66.4

83.0

87.7

        * SNE Winter Flounder is not managed under a trimester quota

Area Closures

Once we project that 90 percent of a trimester TAC for a stock is caught, we will close that Trimester TAC Area to common pool vessels fishing with gears capable of catching that stock.  The area will remain closed until the end of that trimester and will re-open at the start of the next trimester.  The areas that will close for each stock, and the gears that the closure will apply to, are listed in Table 9 on page 10. 

During the fishing year, we will post weekly quota monitoring reports on our monitoring page.

Table 9.  Common Pool Trimester TAC Area Closures

Stock

Statistical Area

Gear

GOM cod

513, 514

Trawl, gillnet, longline/hook

GB cod

521, 522, 525, 561

Trawl, gillnet, longline/hook

GOM haddock

513, 514, 515

Trawl, gillnet, longline/hook

GB haddock

521, 522, 525, 561, 562

Trawl, gillnet, longline/hook

CC/GOM yellowtail flounder

514, 521

Trawl, gillnet

GB yellowtail flounder

522, 525, 561, 562

Trawl, gillnet

SNE/MA yellowtail flounder

537, 539, 538, 613

Trawl, gillnet

GOM winter flounder

514

Trawl, gillnet

GB winter flounder

522, 525, 561, 562

Trawl

Witch flounder

512, 513, 514, 515, 521, 522, 525

Trawl

American plaice

512, 513, 514, 515, 521, 522, 525

Trawl

Pollock

513, 514, 515, 521, 522

Gillnet, trawl, longline/hook

Redfish

513, 514, 515, 521, 522

Trawl

White hake

513, 514, 515, 521, 522

Gillnet, trawl

 Closed Area II Yellowtail Flounder/Haddock Special Access Program

Common pool vessels may not target yellowtail flounder within the Closed Area II Yellowtail Flounder/Haddock Special Access Program (SAP) in fishing year 2018.  Vessels are not allowed to fish in this SAP using flounder trawl nets. 

Common pool vessels may fish in this SAP in 2018 to target haddock, but they must fish with a haddock separator trawl, a Ruhle trawl, or hook gear.  This SAP is open from August 1, 2018, through January 31, 2019.

Eastern U.S./Canada Area

Starting on May 1, 2018, common pool vessels using trawl gear may fish in the Eastern U.S/Canada Area.  Common pool vessels must use a haddock separator trawl, a Ruhle trawl, or a flounder trawl in this area.

Sector Measures

Approved Sectors

All approved sectors receive “universal” exemptions from trip limits for allocated stocks, the Georges Bank Seasonal Closure Area, and the requirement to use groundfish DAS to land groundfish.  All sector vessels may use a 6-inch mesh codend on haddock separator trawls, rope trawls, and Ruhle trawls when fishing on Georges Bank.  We previously approved 20 additional exemptions for fishing years 2017 and 2018.  Additional information on these previously approved sector exemptions can be found in the sector operations plan final rule .

New Sector Exemption

We have also approved a new sector exemption that allows vessels to fish up to 150 gillnets in the Gulf of Maine regulated mesh area if at least 50 nets are 10-inch or larger mesh and those nets are fished east of 70 degrees West longitude.  The intent of the exemption is to increase opportunities for sector vessels to harvest monkfish, a healthy non-groundfish stock, while fishing on a groundfish trip. 

This new exemption is a variation of an exemption we formerly approved for day gillnet vessels fishing in the Gulf of Maine, which allowed the use of 150 gillnets.  This exemption is more restrictive than previously approved and requires the use of larger mesh nets in a smaller geographic area.  These restrictions of this exemption are intended to reduce additional catch and discards of Gulf of Maine cod.

We will grant this exemption to any sectors that modify their operations plans to include this exemption.  Any sector may submit a written request to amend its approved operations plan to the Regional Administrator.

For small entity compliance guides, this bulletin complies with section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement and Fairness Act of 1996.  This notice is authorized by the Regional Administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service, Greater Atlantic Region.

Last updated by Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office on May 20, 2018