New Dogfish Management Rules Proposed

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Earlier this week some new rules were proposed for spiny dogfish management on the east coast.  The changes affect three key parts of the fishery management plan for spiny dogfish: quota set aside for research, essential fish habitat, and the allocation of the quota.  While the first two changes are noteworthy for opening up new opportunities for dogfish research, the changes to quota allocation may dramatically alter the way dogfish are fished in Atlantic waters.

The proposed amendments include two programs that drive a lot of fishery research (and hopefully open up more research opportunities for scientists studying dogfish sharks).  The first is the research set aside program, which doesn’t directly fund fishery research, but allocates money made by selling a certain amount of a species’ fishery quota to research on that species.  The proposed amendments to the dogfish management plan would allocate funds from the sale of 3% of the dogfish quota to scientific research.  While every little bit of extra funding helps, it remains to be seen just how much this 3% will end up being since U.S. fishermen have had a hard time selling their dogfish.  The amendment to update the essential fish habitat document for spiny dogfish is also welcome, especially since spiny dogfish have a habit of surprising us by showing up where they’re not expected.

The proposed changes to quota allocation are where things get interesting.  Previously, spiny dogfish quota was split between northern and southern states based on when dogfish were thought to migrate in and out of those regions.  Currently, the northern states are allowed to land up to 57.9% of the quota between May and October, while the southern states get 42.1 % of the quota from November through April.  However, in state waters (as managed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission) individual states are allowed to manage their quotas somewhat independently.  This amendment would replace this split quota with one quota allocation for the entire Atlantic coast, and essentially divide that quota up between the states as determined by the states.  This will put more responsibility on the ASMFC to make sure the states allocate quota among themselves and keep from hitting the limit (and closing the fishery) before all the states get to participate.

Public comments on these proposed changes can be made until May 12th, and the portal to submit them can be found here.  As always, make sure your comments are informed and well-reasoned.