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December 7, 2012

NOAA eyes easing redfish, dogfish rules

NOAA Regional Administrator John Bullard has announced a suite of measures designed to give groundfishermen options as they continue to grapple with reductions in limits on their preferred target species.

The proposals, not yet cast as policy and subject to sign-off by the acting commerce secretary, feature the opening of certain waters for taking dogfish without having to use their limited groundfish fishing days. Dogfish are not managed under Amendment 16, the catch share system for members of fishing cooperatives or sectors.

”Several of the new measures were conceived by fishermen, and others are the product of collaboration between fishermen, researchers and our staff,” Bullard, based in the Gloucester office in Blackburn Industrial Park, said in a prepared statement. “By working together and thinking creatively, we can find fishing opportunities even in these challenging times.”

The proposals were posted on the NOAA’s Northeast region website earlier this week.

The greater access to spiny dogfish “will provide fishermen with better access to this abundant fish stock with little risk to groundfish stocks,” Bullard’s statement said. “Fishermen catch very few groundfish when fishing in these areas for dogfish.”

Bullard’s proposal was praised by Nils Stolpe, a fisheries analyst, researcher and columnist who has long advocated allowing fishermen to take more dogfish, a predator whose protection by NOAA for years was suspected to a cause of declines in the status of prized stocks such as cod and other groundfish.

Another industry-generated request being considered by NOAA Fisheries would allow groundfish fishermen to use smaller mesh size in their fishing nets in certain areas to target the healthy stocks of Acadian redfish. To protect vulnerable groundfish, NOAA Fisheries is limiting the amount of other fish that can be caught and requiring that fishing vessels carry an observer to monitor catches during redfish fishing trips.

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