In January, the New England Fisheries Management Council(Council) got a head start on 2012 priorities by holding ten scoping meetings for Amendment 18, from Maine to New Jersey. While Amendment 18 has broad objectives (i.e., to consider the establishment of accumulation caps for the groundfish fishery, and to consider issues associated with fleet diversity in the multispecies fishery), the Council has requested comment on more specific proposed alternatives.
At the Portland meeting, several fishermen asked the Council to give sectors more time to work before changing the regulations.In Portsmouth, a few industry members asked the Council to define excessive consolidation and expressed concern about the loss of access to traditional inshore Gulf of Maine fishing grounds for New Hampshire dayboats. Opportunities for new entry emerged as a theme across several meetings. While some segments of industry suggested the Council create set-asides for new entry, others argued that the transferability of permits constitutes opportunity for entry. In Gloucester, fishermen spoke to the impact they believe federally funded, state-run permit banks are having on fleet diversity and consolidation.Irrespective of location, it is apparent that stakeholders are thinking outside of the box to find alternative approaches to fleet diversity and business viability.
Based on comments received during the scoping process, the Council will draw up a range of alternatives to be considered a draft environmental impact statement. If there are no significant delays in the rulemaking process, the Council expects the new regulations to be implemented in 2014.
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