News

News Regulatory Updates

6/23/2022
  • Division of Marine Fisheries

During the period of January 1, 2022 through June 30, 2022 the following regulatory changes were enacted by DMF after public hearings and Marine Fisheries Advisory Commission approval, or by the Director under his declaratory and emergency authorities. 

April Commercial Groundfish Closure (322 CMR 8.05). The conditional commercial groundfish closure during the month of April between 42°00’ and 42°30’N latitude west of 70°30’ W longitude was rescinded and replaced with an April 15–April 30 commercial groundfish closure within all state waters from 42°00’N latitude north to the Massachusetts/New Hampshire maritime border. This old conditional groundfish closure was a mortality closure designed to prevent the state waters groundfish fishery from exceeding federally set harvest targets for certain stocks. The new commercial groundfish closure is designed to enhance spawning cod protections.

Atlantic Sea Herring Effort Controls for Management Area 1A (322 CMR 9.00). To start the 2022 Season I (June 1–September 30) in Management Area 1A, DMF adopted effort controls consistent with those approved by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Atlantic Herring Management Board. The directed fishery will start on July 10, 2022 at 6:00PM. Federal Category A permit holders who have declared into the directed fishery may retain sea herring harvested from Management Area 1A from 6PM on Sundays to 6PM on Fridays and may not land in excess of 240,000 pounds per week. Federal Category C and D permit holders who have declared into the differential small mesh bottom trawl days out program may retain sea herring harvested from Management Area 1A beginning on Sundays at 6PM to Saturdays at 6PM. Landings by these vessels are subject to federal trip limits. Non-federal permit holders or vessels who have not declared into the directed fishery are prohibited from retaining more than 2,000 pounds per trip.

Buoy Line Marking Rules (322 CMR 4.13). DMF modified its buoy line marking rules enacted in 2021 for 2022 to clarify that buoy lines fished by Massachusetts trap fishermen in federal waters were to have a green mark next to all adjacent red marks and that buoy lines fished by Massachusetts trap fishermen in state waters were to have only red marks in the buoy line. This was done to maintain the integrity of the jurisdiction-specific buoy line marking requirements for the trap fisheries. 

Commercial Bluefish Minimum Size (322 CMR 6.18). DMF established a 16” minimum size for the commercial bluefish fishery. This was done to prevent the commercial permit from being misused to allow anglers to retain snapper bluefish in excess of the recreational bag limit for personal use. 

Commercial Black Sea Bass (322 CMR 6.28). In response to increases in the commercial quota and fishery performance in recent years, DMF adjusted the directed commercial black sea bass season, trip limits, and open fishing days. The directed commercial fishery now opens a week earlier on the first open fishing day on or after July 1; the previous season start date was July 8. During the period of July 1–September 14, potters may land up to 500 pounds of black sea bass; other directed fishing gears (e.g., hook and line) may land up to 250 pounds of black sea bass. Open fishing days during this directed fishing period are Sundays–Thursdays. On September 15, the Friday and Saturday closed fishing days are rescinded allowing directed fishing seven days per week, and if on that date more than 15% of the overall annual quote remains, trip limits will also be increased to 600 pounds for potters and 300 pounds for other directed gears. Consistent with the changes in the open fishing days for the directed commercial summer flounder trawl fishery, trawlers may retain a 100-pound bycatch of black sea bass beginning on April 23 with no closed days.

Commercial Horseshoe Crab limits (322 CMR 6.34). Consistent with the changes in the open fishing days for the directed commercial summer flounder trawl fishery, trawlers may retain their lawful bycatch of horseshoe crabs beginning on April 23 with no closed fishing days. The lunar closures still apply to the trawl fishery. The bycatch limit remains 300 crabs for limited entry permit holders and 75 crabs for non-permit holders. 

Commercial Menhaden Season (322 CMR 6.43). DMF has established a June 1 start date for the limited entry commercial menhaden fishery. Accordingly, all permit holders are prohibited from possessing, retaining, or landing more than 6,000 pounds of menhaden prior to the June 1 start date. Exempt from this are weir fishermen who may opportunistically encounter menhaden in their multi-species gear during the spring. This was done to better align the harvest of the menhaden quota with local bait demand from the state’s commercial lobster trap fishery.

Commercial Spiny Dogfish Trip Limit (322 CMR 6.35). Effective May 1, the spiny dogfish trip limit was increased from 6,000 pounds to 7,500 pounds consistent with changes to the federal trip limit. 

Commercial Summer Flounder Limits (322 CMR 6.22). In response to increases in the commercial quota and fishery performance in recent years, DMF adjusted the commercial summer flounder seasons, trip limits, and fishing days. During Period I (January 1–April 22), the trip limit will be 3,000 pounds and commercial fishing and landing allowed seven days per week. Should 30% of the overall annual quota be taken, the trip limit is reduced to 100 pounds for the remainder of the period. During Period II, the spring bycatch season (April 23–June 9) was eliminated and the directed fishery will now start on April 23. From April 23–August 31, the trip limit for trawlers using large mesh is 500 pounds and the trip limit for hook and line fishermen is 300 pounds; closed fishing days on Fridays and Saturdays were eliminated thereby allowing commercial fishing seven days per week. From September 1–September 30, the trip limit is increased to 800 pounds for all gear types if greater than 20% of the quota remains on September 1; if 20% of the quota or less remains on September 1, the trip limits remain unchanged from the April 23–August 31 period. From October 1–December 31, the trip limit increases to 3,000 pounds for all gear types if greater than 5% of the quota remains on October 1; if 5% of the quota or less remains on October 1, the trip limit is 800 pounds for all gear types. Throughout Period II, if a trawl vessel is fishing with net meshes less than 5.5” diamond or 6” square throughout the cod end or is in possession of more than 250 pounds of squid, then the summer flounder limit is 100 pounds.

Control Date for Striped Bass Permit Endorsement (322 CMR 7.04). DMF refreshed the control date for the commercial striped bass permit endorsement. The new control date is June 14, 2022 and it replaces the prior, near decade old September 13, 2013 control date. This control date may be used to limit future access and allowable harvest in the commercial striped bass fishery. 

Gillnet Closure to Protect Right Whales (322 CMR 12.04). The January 1–May 15 gillnet closure in Cape Cod Bay was extended throughout all state waters to further protect right whales. Additionally, the closure may now be extended past May 15 or rescinded after April 30 based on the observed presence or absence of right whales.

Lobster Trap Tag Installation Deadline (322 CMR 6.31). The deadline whereby any lobster traps being fished must have a current year trap tag installed in the trap was set at May 1 for all Lobster Conservation Management Areas. Previously, this was a March 16 deadline for the Outer Cape Cod Lobster Conservation Management Area and a June 1 deadline for all other Lobster Conservation Management Areas. 

Owner-Operator Clarification (322 CMR 7.03 and 7.06). DMF clarified that the owner-operator requirement in certain fisheries does not require the individual named on the permit be present when fish is sold to a primary buyer or when fish is transported overland for sale to a primary buyer. 

Recreational Lobster and Crab Trap Clarification (322 CMR 6.19). DMF clarified that recreational fishermen may only use traps to catch Cancer crabs and that all traps used must comply with recreational lobster trap restrictions.

Regulated Multi-Species Groundfish Trip Limits (322 CMR 6.03). DMF increased the commercial cod trip limit for the Gulf of Maine Management Area from 200 pounds to 400 pounds and the state waters yellowtail flounder trip limit from 250 pounds to 350 pounds. 

Recreational Black Sea Bass Limits (322 CMR 6.28). The recreational black sea bass limits were amended by emergency regulation. The emergency regulations establish a May 21–September 4 open season, 4-fish bag limit, and 16” minimum size. This replaces the May 18–September 8 open season, 5-fish bag limit, and 15” minimum size. These changes were necessary to reduce projected recreational harvest by 20.7% as required by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

Recreational Scup Limits (322 CMR 6.27). The recreational scup minimum size was increased from 9” to 10” by emergency regulation. This change was required by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to achieve a projected 33% reduction in harvest coastwide.

Recreational Summer Flounder Limits (322 CMR 6.22). The recreational summer flounder limits were amended by emergency regulation. The emergency regulations establish a May 21–September 29 open season, 5-fish bag limit, and 16.5” minimum size. This replaces the May 23–October 9 open season, 5-fish bag limit, and 17” minimum size. These changes were enacted to meet an allowed 16.5% liberalization in projected recreational harvest in 2022, accomplished principally through the minimum size decrease, and to align the start of the season with the recreational black sea bass season.
 

Division of Marine Fisheries 

The Division of Marine Fisheries manages the state’s commercial and recreational saltwater fisheries and oversees other services that support the marine environment and fishing communities.
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