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Thursday, November 16, 2017
by Larry Jock

Correction: Date corrected in bold below.

NOAA Fisheries announces that we are implementing regulations for Amendment 6 to the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council's Tilefish Fishery Management Plan. This action sets commercial and recreational management measures for the blueline tilefish fishery in the Mid-Atlantic. Blueline tilefish (Caulolatilus microps) is also known as grey tilefish.

This rule goes into effect on December 15, 2017.

Blueline tilefish have been managed for many years under the South Atlantic Council's Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan, whose measures only apply south of the Virginia/North Carolina border. The fishery in the Mid-Atlantic was considered very small and remained unregulated until recently.

Recreational and commercial blueline tilefish catch has been increasing steadily in the Greater Atlantic Region (Virginia to Maine) since 2011. In 2014, commercial landings increased more than 20-fold from the previous several years' average. This rapid increase in unregulated harvest represented a risk to the long-term sustainability of the stock, and triggered the Mid-Atlantic Council to request emergency management measures in 2015. Interim management measures took effect in June 2016, while the Council developed this proposed amendment.

Amendment 6 to the Tilefish Fishery Management Plan manages the federal waters blueline tilefish fishery north of the Virginia/North Carolina border, as part of the Tilefish Fishery Management Plan. The rule requires fishermen to hold a valid Greater Atlantic Region open access tilefish commercial or charter/party permit to ensure adequate reporting and monitoring of blueline tilefish fishing activity.

Through this action, we are implementing a commercial possession limit of 300 pounds per trip.

The recreational season will run from May 1-October 31, and will close as of December 15, 2017, when this rule becomes effective. When the fishery re-opens in May, recreational fishermen will have limits of:

7 fish per person on Coast Guard inspected for-hire vessels (party boats)
5 fish per person on uninspected for-hire vessels (charter boats), and
3 fish per person on private recreational vessels.
Amendment 6 also calls for new permitting and reporting requirements for private recreational vessels. These measures are not being implemented at this time. Because they require additional development and outreach, they will be implemented later through a separate rule, and will not be in effect for the 2018 fishing season that starts on May 1, 2018.

More information is available in the final rule as filed in the Federal Register notice today, and in the permit holder bulletin on our website.

Questions? Contact Jennifer Goebel, Regional Office, at 978-281-9175


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