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NOAA announces new management measures for Gulf of Maine Cod for 2012

Maggie  Mooney-Seus
(206) 526-4348
(774) 392-4865 (Cell)
Christine  Patrick
(301) 427-8003
April 2, 2012

    NOAA announced today that fishermen will be allowed to catch up to 6,700 metric tons
of Gulf of Maine cod in 2012. This is the end result of collaborative work with the fishing industry to
find a solution that prevented a much larger cut to the allowable catch for the 2012 fishing year.

    In late 2011, a new stock assessment for Gulf of Maine cod found the stock declined
unexpectedly, making major reductions in catch limits necessary for the 2012 fishing year, as
required under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. NOAA and
the New England Fishery Management Council, which includes state officials and fishermen,
worked with the fishing industry to identify flexibility within federal fisheries law that could both
protect cod and provide sustained fishing opportunities. As a result, the quota for 2012 will be
set at 6,700 metric tons, which is within the range recommended by the New England Fishery
Management Council. Without this collaborative approach, the catch limit for this fishing year
would have been set below 1,500 metric tons.

    “This extraordinary partnership among fishermen, members of the non-governmental
organization community, federal regulators and scientists has provided us with some discretion
to set higher catch limits in 2012 and a little more time for fishermen to plan and for all of us to
work together to address the change in stock condition,” said Sam Rauch, acting assistant
NOAA administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service. “We are committed to continued evaluation
of the current cod status and to working with our partners to develop a long-term rebuilding
program that includes setting catch limits in 2013 that end overfishing.”

    NOAA is granting commercial groundfish sectors (a group of fishing vessels that share
an annual allocation) a carry-over of up to 10 percent of the 2011 allocation into the 2012 fishing
year. The fishing industry requested this carry-over, which is part of the 6,700 metric ton catch
limit. In addition, recreational fishermen who once had to discard cod smaller than 24 inches
can now keep cod as small as 19 inches, decreasing the amount of fish discarded at sea. The
daily bag limit will decrease from ten fish to nine.

    NOAA will also conduct a new assessment of Gulf of Maine cod in 2012, in time to set
fishing year 2013 catch limits. NOAA is exploring key science issues prioritized by the Council’s
scientific committee, including the appropriateness of currently defined stock boundaries (stock
structure), survival rates of discarded fish, and use of new recreational survey data.

    “We are looking for ways to work cooperatively with fishermen in the groundfish fleet to
conduct this research and, in particular, to better estimate the long-term survival of discarded
cod in commercial and recreational fisheries,” said Richard Merrick, chief science advisor for
NOAA’s Fisheries Service. “Fishermen’s on-the-water experience is invaluable, and we hope
that closer ties with them will improve our science and our understanding.”

    The Gulf of Maine Research Institute has agreed to coordinate a comprehensive look at
stock structure, an effort that will involve a variety of partners to evaluate what is known about
the number and distribution of various cod stocks. NOAA is also developing new methodology
to incorporate new marine recreational fishing data into the cod stock assessment.

    NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from
the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and
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