ASMFC Approves Interstate FMP for the Atlantic Migratory Group Cobia
Linthicum, MD – The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission approved the Interstate Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Atlantic Migratory Group (AMG). The FMP complements many of the aspects of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s (SAFMC) cobia regulations for federal waters extending from Georgia through New York. The FMP was initiated in response to recent overages of the federal annual catch limit (ACL) for AMG Cobia. Managing the recreational ACL on a coastwide basis has resulted in federal closures and significant overages in 2015 and 2016, disrupting fishing opportunities and jeopardizing the health of the stock.
Under the Interstate FMP, the recreational fishery will be managed with a one fish bag limit and minimum size limit of 36” fork length (FL) or total length equivalent. Vessel limits will be determined once individual states set their seasonal restrictions, but may not exceed six fish per vessel.
State‐specific allocations of a coastwide recreational harvest limit that is equivalent to the federal AMG cobia ACL of 620,000 pounds result in the following state‐specific soft targets:
Georgia: 58,311 pounds
South Carolina: 74,885 pounds
North Carolina: 236,316 pounds
Virginia: 244,292 pounds
Recreational harvest overages of specific‐state allocations will be evaluated over a three‐year time period. If overages occur, states will be required to adjust management measures to reduce harvest in the subsequent three‐year period. The commercial fishery will maintain the current management measures as implemented through the SAFMC FMP and continue to be managed with a 33” FL minimum size limit and two fish limit per person, with a six fish maximum vessel limit.
The federal ACL of 50,000 pounds is allocated to the entire commercial fishery from Georgia through New York. The commercial AMG cobia fishery will close once the ACL is projected to be reached. The FMP provides the opportunity for states to declare de minimis status for their recreational fishery if landings constitute less than 1% of the recreational AMG cobia harvest. States must submit implementation plans to the Commission by January 1, 2018 for Technical Committee review and Board approval at the February 2018 meeting in Alexandria, Virginia. Approved plans must be implemented by April 1, 2018.