In response to the most recent stock assessment for Gulf of Maine (GOM) cod, which indicated that the stock is at historically low abundance levels, a group of environmental organizations have requested that NMFS initiate rulemaking to make the following changes: prohibit commercial and recreational fishing for Gulf of Maine cod until the incidental fishing mortality does not exceed the acceptable biological catch limit; and limit catch, including discards, to the level that achieves the fishing mortality that meets rebuilding requirements, in accordance with Amendment 16 to the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan.
(From Federal Register) — After reviewing the petition and considering recent management measures NMFS implemented to prevent overfishing of Gulf of Maine cod and promote Gulf of Maine cod rebuilding efforts, NMFs denied the Petition for Rulemaking request.
NMFS carefully considered the available information and determined that all of the management measures implemented in the Framework 53 final rule, along with corresponding recreational measures, and the continued close monitoring of the stock’s condition, will provide sufficient protection for GOM cod to prevent overfishing and contribute to rebuilding consistent with the requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. These measures balance Magnuson-Stevens Act objectives, including achieving optimum yield and taking into account the needs of fishing communities, without compromising conservation objectives to prevent overfishing and rebuild the stock. In effect, therefore, Framework 53, combined with the other recreational measures, achieves exactly what the petition for rulemaking seeks. Moreover, Framework 53 was developed and implemented through the preferred Regional Fishery Management Council process as intended by the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Accordingly, as described in more detail below, neither a Secretarial amendment nor an emergency action is necessary or warranted to further limit GOM cod mortality at this time.