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More information sought on surfclam and ocean quahog fishermen

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is giving the public a month to comment on its proposed rules for Atlantic surfclam and ocean quahog fishing. NMFS announced new proposed rules in the Federal Register of Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. NMFS wants to gather more info about who is fishing for these species. The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) needs this information to set quotas.

Send comments by Sept. 8 electronically at www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail. Go to the “Comment Now!” section and refer to D=NOAA-NMFS-2014-0088. Or you can fax comments to (978) 281-9135, Attn: Douglas Potts. 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 on the envelope: ``Comments on Surfclam/Ocean Quahog Information Collection.''

Comments on the information collection aspects of the proposed rule, including the amount of time it would take, can also be sent to OIRA_Submission@omb.eop.gov, fax (202) 395-5806. If you have any questions, call Fishery Policy Analyst Douglas Potts at 978-281-9341.

MAFMC's Surfclam and Ocean Quahog Data Collection Fishery Management Action Team wrote a paper entitled Data Collection Recommendations for the Surfclam & Ocean Quahog Fisheries. The document outlines the need to know more about who ha received individual transfer quotas (ITQs) so it can set share caps. NMFS has governed these fisheries under ITQs since 1990. While managed together, fisheries for the two species differ. Boats are not supposed to land both on the same trip.

Currently, NMFS only collects information about quota holders when they first apply. It wants to update the info as needed. So permit holders would have to update, sign and send in the forms every year, under the proposal. Holders would also have to show they are eligible to operate a vessel.

The proposal would also make minor technical changes in the rules to clarify them. It would drop outdated cross-references, for instance.