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NOAA’s Fisheries Service Raises Butterfish Catch to Help Prevent Premature Closure of Squid Fishery
A new emergency increase to the butterfish fishing limit will enable squid fishermen off the northeast, who often catch butterfish unintentionally while fishing for squid, to continue working, while still protecting the butterfish stock.
March 14, 2011 - NOAA’s Fisheries Service today
put in place the emergency measures, which would increase the butterfish
catch by 17 percent to almost four million pounds for the 2011 fishing
year, an increase of about 686,000 pounds. The increase is effective
immediately. The fishery is based off New York, New Jersey, Rhode
Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
The majority of butterfish are caught incidentally in the Loligo
squid fishery during the first part of the fishing year from January to
April, which played a part in NOAA’s swift action. The entire increase
will be allocated to squid fishermen to help prevent closing the fishery
prematurely due to the unintended bycatch of butterfish before the
squid allocation is caught. NOAA’s Fisheries Service recently
implemented a cap on the amount of butterfish that can be caught in the
Loligo squid fishery.
“We’re taking swift action to raise fishing limits and to address
the economic challenges faced by fishermen,” said Eric Schwaab,
assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service. “Working with
the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the fishing industry we
are taking advantage of the flexibility in the Magnuson-Stevens Act to
allow more fishing while still continuing programs to rebuild fish
stocks for the long-term benefits they provide.”
The butterfish increase was recommended to NOAA by the Mid-Atlantic
Fishery Management Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee based
on scientific surveys and catch information. NOAA used its emergency
rule authority to take this action.
Commercial landings of butterfish are minimal; most are discarded,
with the remainder sold in U.S. fish markets and exported to Japan and
other countries. The Loligo squid fishery is an important fishery for
the Atlantic coast, bringing in 20 million pounds in 2009 with a
dockside value to fishermen of $18.3 million. Squid is sold domestically
Butterfish catches in fishery survey data from 2002-2008 appear
relatively stable. However, there has been a long-term decline in the
abundance of the butterfish stock, resulting in some uncertainty about
its overall condition. Based on the 2010 survey and recent landings
data, the council recommended that a modest increase in the 2011 catch
level was warranted.
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