NOAA opens public comment period for 2019-2020 groundfish harvest and management

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Federal officials are seeking to enact a final rule for harvest specifications and management measures of the 2019-2020 groundfish season. Public comment on the proposed final rule will be accepted through Oct. 19.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, introduced the proposed final rule in hopes of limiting the groundfish catch to harvest specifications, helping the species rebuild its population.

Yelloweye rockfish and cowcod are the two overfished species covered under the proposed final rule. The yelloweye rockfish fishery’s rebuilding plan, according to NOAA, reflects its improving stock rebuild outlook and “changes to the needs of fishing communities.”

The cowcod species, however, “continues to have a positive rebuilding outlook, and no changes to its rebuilding plan are proposed,” NOAA stated in its proposed final rule.

“The proposed measures are intended to help prevent overfishing, rebuild overfished stocks, achieve optimum yield, and ensure that management measures are based on the best scientific information available,” NOAA’s proposed final rule stated.

Federal officials hope the proposed final rule would establish harvest specifications through overfishing limits, acceptable biological catches and annual catch limits. Another provision of the proposed final rule aims to establish management measures “to keep fishing mortality with the [annual catch limits].”

NOAA hopes the cowcod and yelloweye rockfish fisheries achieve rebuilt status, similar to three other recently rebuilt stocks.

“Three stocks have been declared rebuilt [since 2017-18]: Darkblotched rockfish, bocaccio rockfish (bocaccio) and Pacific ocean perch,” NOAA’s proposed final rule stated. “The harvest control rules for these stocks revert back to those established prior to the stock being declared overfished.”

Comments can be submitted online at regulations.gov/​#!docketDetail;​D=​NOAA-NMFS-2018-0056 and clicking the “Comment Now!” icon.

Written comments can be sent to Barry Thom, Regional Administrator, West Coast Region, NMFS, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, Washington 98115-0070.

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