The New England Fisheries Management Council will meet for three days next week in Danvers in deliberations that ultimately will lead to new policies for the Northeast multispecies fishery, including which specific areas will be open to fishing beginning around the winter of 2015.
The council, one of the eight regional councils created by the Magnuson Stevens Fishery and Conservation Act, is scheduled to spend much of Monday discussing its management priorities for the next year before delving into issues related to the region’s scallop fishery.
That discussion on management priorities is expected to include a recommendation by the Northeast Seafood Coalition that the council adopt alternative management strategies beyond the existing stock assessment models the coalition believes contribute to the instability and difficulties in managing the fishery through the industry’s current economic disaster.
“In some cases, the stock assessments have been really poor,” said Jackie Odell, executive director of the Northeast Seafood Coalition. “We have been recommending that they think about how they can come up with alternative procedures for setting catch advice and think about procedures to create stability in the annual catch limits so we don’t have these huge swings.”
The real heavy lifting comes Tuesday and Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the council is scheduled to take final action on the groundfish committee report, with heavy emphasis on Framework 51, which could include revisions to the Gulf of Maine cod and American plaice rebuilding plans; setting catch limits for white hake, yellowtail flounder, haddock and cod; small-mesh fishery accountability for Georges Bank yellowtail flounder; and other issues.
“And on Wednesday, it will be habitat,” Odell said.
The council is scheduled to spend the final day of the meeting sifting through the dozens of proposals for shaping the Omnibus Essential Fish Habitat Amendment to determine the “preferred alternatives” for habitat openings and closures in the Northeast multispecies fishery.
Odell said the council will pick a suite of alternatives by specific area, such as the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank, and then those alternatives and other options in the full habitat document will be presented at public hearings expected to be held in late spring of 2014.
“The council is thinking they’ll make the final vote on habitat at the June council meeting,” Odell said.
That would set implementation of the new rules for sometime in the fall of 2014 if the process unfolds normally.
Sean Horgan may be contacted at 978-675-2714, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT