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Limits on Atlantic fishing boat upgrades to be dropped under new proposal

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Rules for determining fishing vessel baselines in the Atlantic Ocean may get simplified. The Mid-Atlantic and New England fishery management councils and the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office proposed a new rule that would limit changes in the size and horsepower specifications of limited access fleets. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce proposed the new rule in the Federal Register of Thursday, August 21, 2014.

You can comment on the proposal until Sept. 22. Send your thoughts by email to tnmfs.gar.baseline@noaa.gov. Use as a subject line ``Comments on draft Baseline Amendment.'' Or send by U.S. Mail to John K. Bullard, regional administrator, NMFS, Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, 55 Great Republic Dr., Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the envelope ``Comments on draft Baseline Amendment.'' You can also fax to (978) 281-9135.

You can get a copy of the amendment at www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov. If you have any questions, call Fishery Policy Analyst Melissa Hooper at (978) 281-9166.

NMFS uses upgrade capacity and baseline specifications to limit the size of fleets to protect species and prevent overfishing. Simply put, if vessels are too big or contain too much horsepower, they can catch too much fish. Upgrade restrictions can be costly and a big burden on both NMFS and boat operators. And management councils have developed other ways to limit fishing, such as annual catch limits.

So the proposal would simplify the rules for the following fishery management plans: Atlantic herring, Atlantic sea scallops, Atlantic deep-sea red crabs, mackerel, squid, butterfish, monkfish, northeast multispecies, summer flounder, scup, black sea bass, surfclams, ocean quahogs and tilefish.

The proposal would end the the one-time limit on boat upgrades and tonnage specifications. NMFS says it is considering further changes in the future.

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