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NOAA Fisheries Seeks Comments on Proposed Rule

NOAA Fisheries is seeking comments on proposed 2022 summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass recreational fishery management measures. To achieve, but not exceed, 2022 recreational harvest limits, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass Board determined that a summer flounder harvest could be increased up to 16.5 percent, scup harvest must be reduced by 56 percent, and black sea bass harvest must be reduced by 20.7 percent.

The reductions proposed for scup and black sea bass, and the increase for summer flounder, are based on the current regulatory requirements that we must propose recreational management measures that are expected to achieve, but not exceed the recreational harvest limits. These regulations implement the specification setting process set forth in the Mid-Atlantic Council’s Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan. Until the Council takes action to change the Fishery Management Plan’s underlying requirements relating to setting recreational measures, we are required to propose additional management measures that are expected to achieve the recreational catch limits.

Summer Flounder and Black Sea Bass

We propose the conservation equivalency approach for the summer flounder and black sea bass recreational fisheries. Under conservation equivalency, states or regions develop minimum sizes, possession limits, and fishing seasons that will achieve the necessary level of conservation. Both the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission recommended conservation equivalency, for both species, in 2022.

The proposed rule contains additional details on conservation equivalency, including what measures would be put in place if the Commission does not ultimately recommend conservation equivalency.

Scup

We are proposing a closure of the federal recreational scup fishery. The Council and Commission recommended a 1-inch increase in the minimum size; however, this was not sufficient to constrain harvest, as required by the scup regulations. This closure would apply to all recreational vessels fishing in federal waters and all federally permitted for-hire vessels fishing in either state or federal waters. Given the anticipated social and economic impacts of this closure we are seeking comments on alternative approaches that would achieve the objective of reducing scup catch and preventing overfishing while also minimizing, to the extent possible, social and economic impacts.

More Information

Read the proposed rule as published in the Federal Register today.

The comment period is open through May 3, 2022.

Submit your comments through the e-rulemaking portal.

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