CONTACT:
Doug Grout, NHFG, 603-868-1095
Tina Berger, ASMFC, 202-289-6400
September 22, 2008     

Commercial Fisheries:
October 15 Hearing in New Hampshire on Spiny Dogfish, American Eel 

       
DURHAM, N.H. -- Atlantic coastal states have scheduled hearings to gather public comment on proposed changes to fisheries management plans affecting commercial fishing for spiny dogfish and American eel. The hearing in New Hampshire is being hosted by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department's Marine Fisheries Division on October 15, 2008, at 7:00 p.m. at Urban Forestry Center, 45 Elwyn Road in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  The public hearing will address:

1. Draft Addenda II & III to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Spiny Dogfish.  Both addenda propose management options that reflect the historic regional distribution of the spiny dogfish landings among the states. The proposed action responds to the concern of some states that the current seasonal allocation program is not providing their commercial fishermen the opportunity to harvest the available quota as was intended by the Atlantic States Fisheries Commission's Interstate Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Spiny Dogfish.

Currently, the interstate spiny dogfish management program allocates the annual commercial quota seasonally, while Board action distributes the quota regionally within the seasonal allocation.  The seasonal allocation system divides the quota into two periods, with 57.9 percent of the quota available for harvest from May 1 to October 31 and 42.1 percent available for harvest from November 1 to April 30. Through Board action, states agreed upon a regional allocation system dividing the quota between two regions, with 58 percent allocated to the northern states (ME - CT) and 42 percent allocated to the southern states (NY-NC).  The 58/42 percent allocation was designed to preserve the historical distribution of landings. In recent years, however, the seasonal allocation strategy, which is influenced by dogfish migratory patterns, has resulted in overages of the northern quota share and reduced access to the resource by the southern states.

Draft Addendum II proposes to eliminate the current seasonal allocation system and to formalize the regional allocation system. To ensure a fair allocation of the annual quota between regions and maintain the conservation goals of the plan, the Draft Addendum proposes that each region be accountable for any overharvest that might occur through quota reductions the following year. Under the current system, overages in one region have resulted in a reduced quota to the other region. The Board may choose to implement this Addendum for the 2008/2009 fishing season.  If approved and implemented for the 2008/2009 fishing season, a quota will be assigned retroactively accounting for landings from earlier in the fishing season.

Draft Addendum III proposes a suite of options for the establishment of a state-by-state allocation system including quota transfer between states. Options include a minimum threshold (fixed percentage of the annual quota to be distributed to all states independent of historical landings) and percent allocations based on a variety of base years. Addendum III also includes an option for state payback of overages.

Commercial fishermen and other interested groups are encouraged to provide input on the Draft Addenda, either through attending public hearings or providing written comments.  Copies can be obtained by contacting the Commission at (202) 289-6400 or via the Commission's website at www.asmfc.org under "Breaking News."  Public comment will be accepted until 5:00 PM on October 16, 2008, and should be forwarded to Christopher Vonderweidt, Fisheries Management Plan Coordinator, 1444 'Eye' Street, NW, Sixth Floor, Washington, DC 20005; (202) 289-6051 (FAX) or at comments@asmfc.org (Subject line: Spiny Dogfish).  For more information, please contact Christopher Vonderweidt at (202) 289-6400.

2. American Eel Draft Addendum II:  The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's (ASMFC) American Eel Management Board has approved the release of Draft Addendum II to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for American Eel for public comment. The Draft Addendum proposes a number of management options to facilitate an increase in the number of adult American eel (also known as silver eel) that are able to out-migrate to the ocean and spawn. Specific options include gear and size restrictions, seasonal closures, and recommendations to protect the upstream and downstream migration of American eel.

The Board initiated the Addendum due to continued concern for the American eel population. While the status of the stock is uncertain, the latest stock assessment information indicates the abundance of yellow eel (a juvenile life-stage of the American eel) has declined in the last two decades and the stock is at or near historically low levels. Further, relative abundance is likely to continue to decline unless mortality decreases and/or recruitment (spawning success) increases. As such, the primary management objective of the Draft Addendum is to facilitate silver eel's spawning migration, with the intent of halting any further declines in juvenile recruitment and eel abundance.

Commercial fishermen and other interested groups are encouraged to provide input on the Draft Addendum, either through attending public hearings or providing written comments.  Copies of the Draft Addendum can be obtained by contacting ASMFC at (202) 289-6400 or via the Commission's website at www.asmfc.org under "Breaking News." Public comment will be accepted until 5:00 p.m. on October 16, 2008, and should be forwarded to Kate Taylor, American Eel FMP Coordinator, 1444 'Eye' Street, NW, Sixth Floor, Washington, DC 20005; (202) 289-6051 (FAX) or at comments@asmfc.org (Subject line: American Eel).  For more information, please contact Kate Taylor at (202) 289-6400 or ktaylor@asmfc.org.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission coordinates the conservation and management of the 15 Atlantic coast states' shared near-shore fishery resources - marine, shell and anadromous - for sustainable use. Its vision: Healthy, self-sustaining populations of all Atlantic coast fish species or successful restoration well in progress by the year 2015.  Visit www.asmfc.org.

The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is the guardian of the state's fish, wildlife and marine resources and their habitats.  The Department's Marine Fisheries Division is located in Durham, N.H.  Visit www.WildNH.com/marine.

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