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Meeting Roundup: March 2012

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission meeting The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission American Lobster Board met on February 7 and approved Addendum XVII to Amendment 3 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for American Lobster. The Addendum establishes management measures for Lobster Conservation Management Areas 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 (LCMAs) as the first step toward rebuilding the southern New England stock. The measures are intended to reduce fishing exploitation by 10% starting in July 2013. Pertinent to Maine lobstermen, LCMA 3, the offshore federal waters from Maine to North Carolina, will have a minimum size of 3-17/32” effective January 1, 2013. The most restrictive rule will apply to lobstermen who fish in multiple LCMAs, meaning that lobstermen fishing in multiple areas will be held to the most restrictive management measures of the areas identified on their permits. The Board also reviewed a working draft of Addendum XVIII, which is intended to scale the size of the southern New England lobster fishery to the size of the lobster resource. The board established a working group to clarify the goal of the document, possible trap banking, methods to measure trap reductions, and other issues. The draft Addendum will be presented to the board at the May meeting. ASMFC’s Shad and River Herring Board approved Sustainable Fishing Plans from the Delaware River Basin Fish and Wildlife Cooperative, the Potomac River Fisheries Commission, and Georgia. The Board approved Recovery Plans from New Hampshire, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. The Board was briefed on Amendments under development by the New England Fisheries Management Council (NEFMC) and the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council that address shad and river herring bycatch in federal fisheries, among other issues. A working group will review and develop comments on NEFMC’s draft Amendment 5 when it becomes available in February. The board also elected Terry Stockwell of Maine Department of Marine Resources as board Vice-Chair. The Atlantic Herring Section met and discussed proposed federal adjustments to the 2012 Atlantic herring annual catch limits based on catch from the 2010 fishing season. The proposed quota adjustments would reduce the Area 1A and 1B Sub-ACL by 1,878 and 1,639 metric tons respectively based on overages from the 2010 fishing season. Total catch was calculated by comparing vessel trip reports with dealer landings and includes discards from other fisheries. NEFMC staff gave an overview of the Council’s draft Amendment 5 which proposes regulatory changes in four main areas—the fishery management program, catch monitoring at sea, measures to address river herring bycatch, and mid-water trawl access to groundfish closed areas. The public comment period on the draft amendmentis expected to be open through March and April, with the NEFMC selecting final measures at its April meeting. The Commission’s Atlantic Menhaden Management Board approved the Public Information Document (PID) for Amendment 2 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden for public comment and review. The PID’s primary focus is to initiate discussion on achieving the new fishing mortality threshold for menhaden. The goal of the new reference points is to increase abundance, spawning stock biomass, and menhaden availability as a forage species. The PID also seeks public input on improvements to the catch reporting system and options for managing the commercial bait and reduction fisheries as well as the recreational fishery. Hearings will be held this spring to solicit public comments. The board then will meet in May to review submitted comments and identify measures to be included in the Draft Amendment. In August the board will meet to incorporate the results of the 2012 stock assessment update and to consider approving the Draft Amendment for public comment. Final amendment approval is anticipated for October, with plan implementation scheduled for 2013.

Maine Lobster Promotion Council Board of Directors January 27 via teleconference and February 3 in Hallowell – MLPC executive director, Dane Somers, presented an update on recent programs conducted by the MLPC. This included an overview of the MLPC’s primary initiatives over the past five years. In 2006, MLPC focused on branding Maine lobster and the Certified Maine Lobster Program. The following year was marked by the resignation of former director Kristan Miller and the hiring of Somers while programs focused on updating the MLPC website to reach an international audience. The price crash of 2008 lead the MLPC to reevaluate its programs and focus efforts on increasing demand, which continues as the Council’s primary strategy. Examples of programs geared to increase demand include the Fall Harvest Campaign which featured the “Get Cracking” television ad and retail promotions and a retail pilot program in Maine and parts of New England with Hannaford’s and Shaws. MLPC staff credit an increase in the boat price paid to fishermen during the fall period over the past few years to these promotions. The MLPC will have an expanded presence at the Boston Seafood Show in March 2012, with several companies sharing space with MLPC in its booth which it is callling the Maine Pavilion, and will include chef demonstrations and samples of Maine product. A Maine Lobster Reception is being organized to showcase Maine lobster products and provide a networking opportunity for Maine wholesalers to connect with buyers. The MLPC reviewed financials. The 2011 budget was $527,692 of which $375,692 was generated from industrylicense fees. The Council received an excellent independent accounting audit conducted by the firm of Purdy Powers and Company. Dane Somers informed the Board that a company doing business in Panama was using the MLPC logo as their own, and sought recommendations for law firms that could help MLPC with this copyright infringement. MLPC Chair Emily Lane proposed that the MLPC Board form 3 committees — Strategic Planning, Programs and Finance — as a means to more fully engage the board in strategic and programmatic initiatives, and provide greater guidance to MLPC staff. These committees will meet to discuss business in advance of the next board meeting and will serve to bring recommendations and issues to the full board. The MLPC Board held executive sessions to address industry concerns over the lack of confidence in the MLPC by the lobster industry.

Scientific Review Group (SRG) Sarasota, FL – The Scientific Review Group for Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico (SRG) marine mammal stocks met February 8-10 to review and provide advice on the status of right whales, 52 marine mammal Stock Assessment Reports, and NMFS marine mammal research, fieldwork and budget plans. The first day focused on right whales. It included presentations from NMFS on development the right whale vertical line rule development and monitoring strategy, ship speed rules, critical habitat petition and gear research. NMFS also presented updates on the status of right whale research including aerial surveys, acoustic surveys, population metrics to determine right whale abundance and survival, serious injury and mortality estimates and research priorities. NMFS reported that several proposals are being assessed to address vertical line risk reduction. The draft rule is expected in 2013 and the final rule is scheduled for 2014. SRG members expressed concern that the right whale plan focuses too much on gear modifications and too little on strategic closures. NMFS is implementing a monitoring plan to assess the effectiveness of the North Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan. The primary metric is a review of the five year average of serious injuries and mortalities due to fishing. Secondary metrics include the frequency of observed entanglements, the proportion of entanglements resulting in serious injury or mortality, the rate of entanglements based on scarring, and a review of stranding and disentanglement data. NMFS is in the process of rulemaking to revise the North Atlantic Right Whale critical habitat and anticipates that the rule will be published by mid-summer 2012 with an opportunity for public comment before the rule is finalized. NMFS is facing serious cuts in its aerial survey program to detect right whales due to funding constraints. The agency reports that approximately 80% of entanglements are detected from aerial surveys, and that entanglement and mortality are likely significantly under-reported. Aerial survey protocols will be adjusted to produce the best scientific data on the status of the stock. A review of the 2011 disentanglement program revealed that of the 11 right whales observed entangled, 4 shed gear, 1 was disentangled, 2 had minor injuries and 1 died. More research is needed to understand the spike in entanglements compared to previous years. NMFS has implemented new guidelines to assess the rate of serious injury and mortality in entanglement cases for which the fate of the whale cannot be determined (CBD). These confirmed entanglements will be pro-rated as mortalities (at 0.75) to account for the probability that an entanglement would result in mortality. These will be included in NMFS Annual serious injury and mortality determinations for each marine mammal species. Animals that are disentangled are not counted as serious injuries. NMFS is also exploring development of a methodology to assess the number of whales that likely die from entanglement but are never observed. This will require a modeling approach to assess the minimum number of whales alive, the likelihood of survival and the rate of serious injury and mortality. This will produce an estimate of the annual takes of whales due to fishery entanglements. The SRG discussed prioritizing research to make the best use of reduced federal funding and recognized the importance of maintaining a consistent survey presence, the right whale catalog, mortality investigations and acoustic monitoring. The second day included a review of NMFS’ recommendations to update the guidelines for assessing marine mammal stocks (GAMMS III) to ensure consistency across all regions. The recommendations provide guidance on an array of issues such as dealing with out-dated data and assessing transboundary stocks. During days two and three, the SRG reviewed 52 marine mammal stock assessment reports (SAR’s). The reports were divided amongst the SRG members who provided substantive comments or questions which need to be addressed in each report. Several of the SAR’s will be revised based on input from the SRG, including the PBR (potential biological removal) calculation for right whales. The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) specifies that the SRGs provide advice to federal managers on 1) the draft Marine Mammal Stock Assessment Reports before the reports are released for public comment; 2) abundance estimates, status, and trends of marine mammal stocks; 3) uncertainties in identifying stocks, assessing the status or trends of stocks, and evaluating factors affecting the distribution, abundance, or productivity of the stocks; 4) research to address these uncertainties regarding marine mammals and to reduce incidental mortality of marine mammals incidental to fishing operations; 5) issues related to habitats for marine mammals and the effects of natural or anthropogenic (human-caused) change to habitats; and 6) other issues that the groups or agencies deem appropriate. There are three regional Scientific Review Groups (SRGs): 1) Alaskan waters; 2) Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico; and 3) Pacific Ocean, including Hawaii. To review meeting summaries and other information on the SRG, visit: www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/group.htm

New England Fisheries Management Council The New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) will be conducting public hearings to solicit comments on Draft Amendment 5 to the Atlantic Herring Fishery Management Plan (FMP). Following these hearings, additional opportunities for review and comment on Amendment 5 and its Draft Environmental Impact Statement may be provided. Meetings are being held in Maine on March 2 at the Maine Fishermen’s Forum, and March 21 in Portland at the Holiday In by the Bay.

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