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Skate fish abundance increased in the northeast region of US. (Photo: Stock File)

NOAA proposes upping skate quota by 56 pc

  (UNITED STATES, 9/6/2011)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is proposing a 56 per cent or 17 million lb-hike in the 2011 Northeast skate quota based on updated scientific data. The emergency action would boost regional fishers’ quota from 31 million lb to 48 million lb for the season that runs from May 2011 until 30 April 2012.

”We made a commitment to respond as quickly as possible when new scientific information affects management decisions,” said Eric Schwaab, assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service (NMFS). “The proposed quota increase will result in considerable increases in revenues for fishermen and positive economic effects to the businesses that support the fishery, while maintaining important conservation objectives.”

The move came after the New England Fishery Management Council determined that skate abundance has been blooming, which led it to request that NOAA run emergency measures to increase the quota.

Smaller catch limits had led to a closing of skate landings last year.

Most of the skate is caught by fishers as bycatch from the groundfish, monkfish and scallop fisheries.

Skate wings are typically kept and sold as food, and largely exported to France, as well as used as bait for the country’s lobster fishery. The skate wing fishery gets 66.5 percent of the annual allocation and would have its quota enlarged from 20 million lb to 32 million lb this season.

The skate bait fishery, which gets 33.5 per cent, would keep 16 million lb, or 6 million lb more than it was originally given when the season started. The current possession limits on the amount of skates that can be kept per fishing trip would stay the same.

"Increasing the quota, while maintaining skate possession limits at current levels, will lengthen the fishing season, preserve fishing opportunities throughout the 2011 fishing year and allow fishermen to retain more skates when both price and demand for skate wings are better later in the season,” said Patricia Kurkul, northeast regional administrator, NOAA’s Fisheries Service.

Emily Keiley, a research assistant at the School of Marine Science and Technology of University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, said the move would benefit the region, Gloucester Times reports.

"This will help the industry. The increased landings limit is likely to extend the season, consistency of availability is important because they go and get international contracts (and when supplies stop) they lose cargo space," she commented.

The proposed "emergency" action cannot become rule until the public comment period ends on 14 September.

While seven species of skate are managed as part of the skate complex, including barndoor, thorny, smooth, winter, little, clearnose and rosette, it remains prohibited to possess barndoor, thorny, and smooth skates.

By Natalia Real
[email protected]
www.fis.com


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