ASMFC Approves Atlantic Cobia Amendment 1

Before you ask, no Delaware has not set our limit for cobia, yet. I have heard of the options but they are not official. …

Arlington, VA – The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission approved Amendment 1 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Atlantic Migratory Group Cobia (Atlantic cobia). Amendment 1 establishes management measures that transition the FMP from complementary management with the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Councils to sole management by the Commission. Amendment 1 to the FMP was initiated in anticipation of the Councils’ Regulatory Amendment 31 to the Coastal Migratory Pelagics (CMP) FMP, which was approved earlier this year and removed Atlantic cobia from the Councils’ oversight.

Amendment 1 changes several portions of the Commission’s FMP that were previously dependent on the CMP FMP and institutes a long-term strategy for managing in the absence of a federal plan. Several of these changes establish processes for the Commission to carry out management responsibilities previously performed by the South Atlantic Council, including setting of harvest quotas and sector allocations, defining stock status criteria, and recommending management measures to be implemented by NOAA Fisheries in federal waters. Additionally, Amendment 1 transitions responsibilities of monitoring and closing (if necessary) commercial harvest to the Commission.

Moving forward, the Commission will recommend to NOAA Fisheries that fishing in federal waters be regulated according to the state of landing. If a vessel has licenses for multiple states with open seasons, they must follow the most restrictive license’s regulations. If a vessel has licenses for multiple states, only one of which has an open season, they may fish under the regulations of the open state. Regulations resulting from this recommendation would only apply in federal waters. Fishermen would still be required to follow state possession or landing limits in state waters.

Amendment 1 establishes a harvest specification process, which allows the Board to specify a limited set of management measures for up to 3 years. One of the measures that may be set through this process is a coastwide harvest quota. However, until the first specification process occurs, after completion of the ongoing stock in 2020, the current coastwide quota (670,000 pounds) remains in effect.

The Amendment also changes the units used to measure and evaluate the recreational fishery from pounds numbers of fish. To accommodate this change, the recreational harvest quota in pounds (620,000) is converted to numbers (22,142 fish) and allocated among the states, resulting in the following state recreational harvest targets:

·        Virginia: 8,724 fish

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·        North Carolina: 8,436 fish

·        South Carolina: 2,679 fish

·        Georgia: 2,081 fish

·        1% De Minimis Set Aside: 222 fish

States still may set their own seasons and vessel limits to achieve their respective targets.

Finally, Amendment 1 establishes a de minimis status for the commercial sector that exempts states with small commercial harvests from in-season monitoring requirements. States are required to implement measures of Amendment 1 by July 1, 2020. Amendment 1 will be available on the Commission’s website, http://www.asmfc.org/species/cobia, by the end of August.

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