The Northeast Seafood Coalition submitted public comments on the Proposed Rule to allow Northeast Multispecies sector vessels access to year-round closed areas.
In short, NSC made the following points:
- NSC largely disagrees with the NMFS recommendation to place conditions by which exemptions will or will not be allowed for access to the mortality portions of existing year-round closures in Fishing Year 2013. Many conditions recommended by the Agency in this proposed rule were not put forth by the New England Fishery Management Council and were strongly advised otherwise by industry groups that understand the fragility of the fishing industry and need to develop real options to mitigate reductions in 2013 Annual Catch Limits. These conditions hinder potential mitigating opportunities.
- NSC is confused by the reluctance of NMFS to embrace the fact that the fishery is now controlled and managed under a hard TAC. Many measures implemented under the old effort controlled management regime have yet to be changed.
- NSC supports the proposed areas for exemption in the proposed rule as “Closed Area I, Closed Area II, and Nantucket Lightship Exemption Areas” because it is consistent with the recommendations of the Council.
- NSC strongly opposes the Agency’s condition to place 100% industry funded at-sea monitoring requirement in order to access the groundfish mortality closures.
- Condition Proposed for Time/Seasonality Restrictions for Exemption Areas: NSC does not support the Agency’s proposal to restrict exemption requests to December 31. NSC advises the Agency to adopt the seasonal restrictions specified by the Council for Closed Area I, until February 15.
- Impacts to the Offshore Lobster Industry and Sector Trawl Vessels Rotational Agreement in Closed Area II Exemption Area:NSC strongly advises the Agency to revise the seasonal restrictions modified under this proposed rule. NSC strongly supports the seasonal restriction as supported by the Council and industry agreement.
- Nantucket Lightship Closed Area Exemption: NSC supports the proposal to require pingers on gillnet gear when fishing in the Nantucket Lightship Closed Area — Western Exemption Area between December 1 and May 31.
- Cashes Ledge & portion of the Western Gulf of Maine Closure: NSC stressed mortality closures in the Gulf of Maine are hindering access to stocks, including pollock.