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Butterfish plentiful: Mid-Atlantic council green lights 22,530-mt directed fishery

FREEHOLD, NJ – At its June 10-12 meeting, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council approved specifications for the butterfish fishery that will increase allowable landings by more than 500% for the 2015-2017 fishing years and allow for the

re-establishment of a substantial directed fishery.

The specifications, which were in line with those recommended by the council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC), give the industry full benefit of a new stock assessment that determined butterfish is not overfished – and has not been overfished all along.

“The butterfish stock size is above the size that produces maximum sustainable yield (MSY) and has been for the entire time series of the assessment – 1989-2012,” stated a summary document provided by the council staff.

After some discussion, the council adopted an annual acceptable biological catch (ABC) of 33,278 metric tons (mt), 31,422 mt, and 30,922 mt respectively for 2015-2017.  Compared to the 2013 ABC of 2,489 mt and the 2014 ABC of 9,100 mt, this represents a sizable increase.

In addition, the council adopted directed annual harvest (DAH) levels of 22,530 mt, 21,014 mt, and 20,652 mt respectively for 2015-2017.  The DAH is the landings target for each year and is less than the ABC to account for discards and management uncertainties, council staffer Jason Didden explained.

The council opted not to increase the butterfish cap of 3,884 mt for 2015-2017, though.

In the recent past, butterfish was a choke species for the longfin squid fishery.  In April 2012, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) closed the longfin squid fishery when it approached its butterfish catch cap, which, at the time, was 1,436 mt.

“The cap has worked for the past several years without causing closures and, at the current cap level, it should not close the longfin squid fishery if the fishery can continue to minimize butterfish discards,” said Didden.

Follow the science

The five-fold increase in DAH was worrisome for some council members but strongly supported by others based on the SSC’s recommendations…

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Read the rest and much, much more in the September issue of Commercial Fisheries News.

Read online immediately and download for future reference.

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