At its June meeting, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council voted on a suite of alternatives that would change the way the Council manages recreational fisheries.
The measures were part of the Omnibus Recreational Accountability Measure Amendment initiated by the Council in December 2012 in response to concerns that the current system of accountability measures (AMs) did not adequately consider the inherent uncertainty in recreational fishery catch estimates.
If approved by the Secretary of Commerce, the Council’s recommendations would adapt the system of AMs to the realities of uncertain catch estimates and management controls associated with recreational fisheries.
“An overage in the black sea bass fishery may have triggered this Council action, but it led to a comprehensive re-examination of how we can improve the management of all our recreational fisheries,” said Council Chairman Rick Robins.
AMs are required for all federally managed fisheries as a way of either preventing catch overages or responding to them when they occur. Current accountability measures for the Council’s commercial and recreational fisheries require overages to be paid back, pound-for-pound, as a deduction from the catch limit in a subsequent year.
Under the new amendment, a management response (i.e. reactive AM) would be invoked when the lower confidence limit, rather than the point estimate, of recreational catch exceeds the Annual Catch Limit (ACL).
If this condition is met, paybacks would only be required in certain cases, such as when the stock is overfished or when both the overfishing limit has been exceeded and the stock has fallen below a certain level.
If those conditions are not met, accountability measures would consist of adjustments to the bag limit, size limit, and season to prevent future overages.
The Council also voted to eliminate the exercise of in-season closure authority. According to the MAFMC. the decision reflects the Council’s preference for addressing recreational overages in subsequent years instead of through closures, which can have regionally disproportionate impacts on the recreational fishing industry.
source: Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council