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Draft Addendum XXVII to Amendment 3 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for American Lobster is available for public comment. The Draft Addendum was initiated in response to signs of reduced juvenile settlement and the combining of the Gulf of Maine (GOM) and Georges Bank (GBK) stocks following the 2015 Stock Assessment Its proposed goal is to increase the protection of the GOM/GBK spawning stock. The Draft Addendum XXVII includes options that considers use of a trigger mechanism that would automatically implemented measures to increase the overall protection of the GOM/GBK spawning stock when a defined trigger level is reached. The Draft Addendum also considers the standardization of management measures across Lobster Conservation Management Areas with the goal of providing a consistent conservation strategy and simplifying enforcement across management areas and interstate commerce.
The American Lobster Management Board (Board) initiated Draft Addendum XXVII as a proactive measure to improve the resiliency of the GOM/GBK stock. Since the early 2000s, landings in the GOM/GBK stock have exponentially increased. In Maine alone, landings have increased three-fold from 57 million pounds in 2000 to a record high of 132.6 million pounds in 2016. Maine landings have declined slightly but were still near time-series highs at 97.9 million and 108.9 million in 2020 and 2021, respectively. However, since 2012, lobster juvenile settlement surveys throughout the GOM have generally been below the time series averages in all areas. These surveys, which measure trends in the abundance of newly-settled lobster, can be used to track populations and potentially forecast future landings. Consequently, persistent lower densities of settlement could foreshadow decline in recruitment and landings. In the most recent years of the time series, declines in other recruit indices have already been observed.
Given the American lobster fishery is one of the largest and most valuable fisheries along the Atlantic coast, potential decreases in abundance and landings could result in vast economic and social consequences. With peak values in 2016 and 2021, the at-the-dock value of the American lobster fishery has averaged $660 million dollars from 2016-2021, representing the highest ex-vessel value of any species landed along the Atlantic coast during peak years. Ex-vessel value declined slightly from 2017 to 2020, but not proportionally to declines in landings. The vast majority of the overall landings value (>90%) comes from the GOM/GBK stock, and more specifically from the states of Maine through Rhode Island. As a result, the lobster fishery is an important source of jobs (catch, dock side commerce, tourism, etc.) and income for many New England coastal communities. The lack of other economic opportunities, both in terms of species to fish and employment outside the fishing industry, compounds the economic reliance of some coastal communities on GOM/GBK lobster – particularly in Maine.
Draft Addendum XXVII responds to signs of reduced juvenile settlement and the combination of the GOM and GBK stocks following the 2015 Stock Assessment. The American Lobster Management Board specified the following objective statement for Draft Addendum XXVII:
Given persistent low settlement indices and recent decreases in recruit indices, the addendum should consider a trigger mechanism such that, upon reaching the trigger, measures would be automatically implemented to increase the overall protection of spawning stock biomass of the GOM/GBK stock.
Draft Addendum XXVII considers implementing management measures—specifically gauge and vent sizes—that are expected to add an additional biological buffer through the protection of spawning stock biomass (SSB). The addendum also considers immediate action upon final approval to standardize some management measures within and across LCMAs in the GOM/GBK stock. The purpose of considering more consistency in measures is to resolve discrepancies between the regulations for state and federal permit-holders, to provide a consistent conservation strategy, and simplify enforcement across management areas and interstate commerce.
Comments received during a public comment period on a proposed management action play an important role in the Commission’s fisheries management process. All comments, whether they are individually submitted or as part of a larger, coordinated stakeholder response, are considered equally by a species management board when it determines final management action. When staff compiles all comments received, they use a categorization process to help the board effectively and efficiently navigate submitted public comment, whether it is 50 or 300,000 comments. Three or more comments that have the same language or state support for an organization’s comments are considered form letters. However, if the commenter provides additional comments/rationale related to a potential management action beyond the organization’s or letter’s comments, then it is considered an individual comment.
All those interested in the management of American lobster are encouraged to provide input either by participating in public hearings, which may be conducted via webinar, or providing written comment. Public comment will be accepted until 11:59 PM (EDT) on April 8 and should be sent to:
Senior FMP Coordinator
1050 N. Highland Street
Suite 200 A-N
Arlington, Virginia 22201
email@example.com (Subject line: Lobster Draft Addendum XXVII)