WEST COAST — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will be accepting public comment on a proposed plan to eliminate restrictions on groundfish bottom and midwater trawl gear; the current restriction currently applies to vessels fishing in the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery’s Trawl Rationalization Program.
NOAA will be accepting public comment on the move to end the trawl gear regulation through Oct. 9.
“These revisions are possible because the program, first implemented in 2011, has achieved a substantial reduction in fish discards and the rebuilding of five previously overfished species,” NOAA staff said in a distributed statement about the proposed federal rule.
The proposed federal rule stated the trawl gear restrictions have achieved their intended purpose.
“The gear restrictions were originally implemented to limit discarding and protect overfished rockfish species,” NOAA’s proposed final federal rule stated, in continuation of the distributed statement quoted above. “These restrictions are no longer necessary because of changes to the fishery, including implementation of the Trawl Rationalization Program in 2011, and improved status of a number of overfished rockfish stocks.”
NOAA officials added the removal of trawl gear restrictions for vessels fishing in the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery would experience increased flexibility in vessel use and configuration.
“By eliminating these regulations, the proposed action could increase flexibility in how vessels can use and configure gear to increase access to target stocks and efficiency of fishing practices, while still limiting the catch of target and non-target discards to meet the conservation objectives of the Trawl Rationalization Program,” the proposed final rule stated.
The Trawl Rationalization Program aimed to rebuild seven overfished rockfish species, of which five have indeed been rebuilt.
An updated Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery could adjust certain restrictions on how nets are configured. Minimum mesh size restrictions would be eliminated and the definition of mesh size would be changed, if the final rule were ultimately adopted.
Other proposed changes include:
- Removing chafing gear placement restrictions
- Removing restrictions on double-walled codends use
- Removing requirement to use selective flatfish trawl gear north of 40° 10′ N lat. and shoreward of the trawl.
Visit www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2018-0081 and click the “Comment Now!” icon to submit your comment online. Comments can also be submitted via mail to Barry Thom, Regional Administrator, West Coast Region, NMFS, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115-0070.
Questions about the public comment process can be directed to Karen Palmigiano, NOAA’s Fishery Management Specialist, at 206-526-4491 or firstname.lastname@example.org.