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NOAA Fisheries Service has announced new measures intended to end overfishing and continue the rebuilding of Northeast groundfish such as cod and flounder. The approved measures, which will be effective May 1, establish new catch limits and also include a major change in how the fishery will be managed.

These strong and innovative management measures were developed by the New England Fishery Management Council, with NOAA support.

For the first time, there will be a cap on the amount of all groundfish of any species that are permitted to be caught. In addition, there will be measures to mitigate if the catch limits are exceeded. These measures provide some of the strongest safeguards to date for recovering groundfish stocks, the majority of which are overfished, and are required to meet the mandates of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. With these measures in place, overfishing will end and the groundfish stocks should begin to rebuild.

In addition to the new caps, these measures will fundamentally change the way this fishery will be managed. Fishing vessels may now fish with others as a group, or “sector.” Sectors, which are voluntary for fishing vessels, are formed each year and given a portion of the total available groundfish catch based on the combined fishing history of their member vessels. About half of the vessels, representing about 98 percent of the groundfish landings in recent years, that were eligible to join a sector have done so. If they don't opt into a sector, fishermen will continue to fish, but must comply with strict limits on the number of fishing days, trip limits for some species, and seasonal and area closures.

Fishermen who participate in a fishing sector have more control over where and how they want to fish in order to target healthy fish stocks and avoid the stocks in the worst condition. Sector vessels are exempt from many area and gear restrictions, but must agree to stop fishing once the sector catches its allotment of fish. Both sector- and non-sector vessels can also increase that allotment by leasing and trading shares of catch or fishing days.

For more information please see the NOAA News Release.

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