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Lobster Zone Council Meetings

The Department of Marine Resources (DMR) held seven Lobster Zone Council meetings in the month of April, during which DMR staff covered a lot of ground, but the primary focus of conversation was Addendum XXVII to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) Interstate Management Plan for American Lobster.

Some of you have seen Commissioner Keliher’s notices explaining the addendum, both of which are available on the DMR website (here and here). Because of the impact on industry, this information bears repeating, so here is a summary of information for LMA1 harvesters.

The Addendum is intended to protect the Gulf of Maine/Georges Bank (GOM/GBK) spawning stock biomass. It establishes a trigger that implements management measures if the abundance of sub-legal (71-80mm) lobsters declines by a specific percentage.

The data on sub-legal lobster abundance, known as the recruit abundance, comes from the ventless trap survey and the trawl survey. The management measures include gauge and escape vent size changes. ASMFC’s Lobster Management Board was considering a range of triggers from a 32% decline in the recruit abundance to a 45% decline.

At each zone council meeting Commissioner Keliher discussed the draft addendum and sought feedback from industry before participating as a member of the Lobster Management Board during its meeting in May. Harvesters shared strong concerns about the change, but also acknowledged the need to take action that prevents a collapse of the stock.

Many industry members at the meetings pushed for the management changes to only be triggered when the decline reached 45%. But when it was explained that that approach would result in a 60-million-pound fishery before a trigger was pulled, industry advice to the Commissioner focused on a trigger in the mid-thirties. Commissioner Keliher proposed a 38% trigger during Board deliberations, however, the Board voted for a 35% trigger.

The ASMFC Lobster Management Board will review the data each October, and if a 35% decline is observed, the change would not take place until June of the following year. We are currently at a 23% decline in the recruit abundance, and at this point we can’t predict when the 35% decline will be reached. Also, if the trigger is tripped, the changes won’t happen all at once, but will be implemented over several years.

Changes to LMA1

  1. 1st Gauge Increase - The first 1/16th of an inch gauge increase will take effect June 1 of the year after a determination by the Board that a 35% decline in recruit abundance has occurred.

  2. 2nd Gauge Increase - On June 1, three years after the Board’s determination, the second 1/16th of an inch gauge increase for LMA1 harvesters will take effect.

  3. Escape Vent Increase - On June 1, four years after the Board’s determination, lobster trap escape vent size increases will take effect.

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