ELLSWORTH — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Monday that it was cutting the allowable catch of cod to zero for “common pool” vessels fishing in the Gulf of Maine. The limit will remain in effect through April 30, 2016.
According to NOAA Fisheries, the ban on catching Gulf of Maine cod was implemented to allow common pool boats to continue to fish for other groundfish such as haddock and redfish off the New England coast.
Data collected through May 25 indicates that common pool vessels have already caught 44.5 percent of their total allowable catch for the four month period beginning May 1 and ending Aug. 31 and 12 percent of the total allowable catch of Maine cod for the fishing year that ends next April 30.
“If we do not take action now, and the common pool reaches 90 percent of its trimester allowable catch, we would be required to close the Gulf of Maine to all common pool vessels,” NOAA Fisheries said in a statement announcing the fishing ban.
“Taking this action now allows common pool vessels to continue to harvest other stocks in the Gulf of Maine.”
The fishery for Gulf of Maine cod, like many others, is controlled by the New England Fishery Management Council and NOAA Fisheries under the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan. Vessels may elect either to join a “sector,” which shares a total allowable catch allocation for a regulated species among its members,” or to fish as part of the “common pool.”
Those vessels are regulated primarily through limits on the number of days they are allowed to fish (“days at sea”). They may also face restrictions on the kind of gear they may use and where they are may fish.
In a similar vein, on Monday the Department of Marine Resources announced that it was taking steps to make emergency rules limiting recreational fishing for cod and haddock in Maine waters permanent.
Earlier this spring, DMR adopted an emergency rule effective May 1 for charter, party and recreational vessels fishing for cod and haddock in state waters.
The emergency action closed the cod fishery to recreational fishermen and reduced the minimum size for haddock caught in the recreational fishery to 17 inches.
Public comments on the proposed rule must reach DMR by July 10. The text of the rule, and procedure for submitting comments, are available on the department’s website, maine.gov/dmr.