The New England Fishery Management Council selected final measures for Framework Adjustment 65 to the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan when it met December 5-8, 2022 in Newport, RI. The Council also voted to submit the framework to NOAA Fisheries for approval and implementation. The framework will guide the 2023 fishing year for groundfish, which begins on May 1. Several provisions and specifications in this action will apply to fishing years 2024, 2025, and beyond.
Gulf of Maine Cod
Gulf of Maine cod is overfished and experiencing overfishing. Framework 65 contains a new 10-year rebuilding plan, which has a 70% probability of rebuilding this stock by 2033. The strategy: (1) utilizes a fishing mortality rate set at 60% of what the rate is that would produce maximum sustainable yield; and (2) produces a fishing mortality rate of 0.104, which is very low and will continue to result in low catch limits during the 10-year rebuilding period.
The Council initially considered a higher fishing mortality rate of 0.121 for Gulf of Maine cod as recommended by its Groundfish Committee. However, the higher rate, while still extremely restrictive, resulted in a lower probability of stock rebuilding during the 10-year period and led to higher catch limits.
After fully debating the best course forward, the Council agreed by consensus to adopt the lower fishing mortality rate to offer more protection for Gulf of Maine cod and give the stock a better chance of rebuilding.
This new rebuilding plan will not change the 551 metric ton (mt) acceptable biological catch (ABC) that the Council adopted for fishing years 2023 and 2024. Allocations to the fishery will be based on these existing ABC values, which the Council supported in part because of uncertainty over stock projections. Also, the 551 mt ABCs will promote stock rebuilding since they are lower than they would be if calculated under the new fishing mortality rate in the rebuilding plan.
The rebuilding plan will begin in 2024 and remain in place for 10 years unless the Council is notified by NOAA Fisheries that Gulf of Maine cod is rebuilt or the plan is modified.
Read the complete press release HERE.