Removal of Mandatory V-notching of American Lobster and Modification of American Lobster
Season and Commercial Trip Limits for Black Sea Bass and Summer Flounder
N.J.AC. 7:25-14.15 and N.J.A.C. 7:25-18.12
Take Notice that, pursuant to N.J.A.C. 7:25-14.19 and N.J.A.C 7:25-18.12(o), the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, with approval of the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council (Council) at its November 6, 2014 meeting, has removed mandatory vnotching of American Lobster, modified the American lobster season, modified the commercial trip limit for black sea bass and modified the commercial trip limit for summer flounder. These actions have been taken to comply with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) management plans for American lobster, black sea bass and summer flounder, as well as for the optimal utilization of available quotas while at the same time constraining landings to prevent harvest that exceeds available quotas.
The ASMFC approved Addendum XVII to the American Lobster Fishery Management Plan during their November 2011 proceedings requiring states in the Southern New England Stock Management Area to implement conservation management measures that would achieve an overall 10 percent reduction in harvest. At its February 2012 meeting, the ASMFC approved New Jersey’s proposal to achieve the required reduction by implementing a conservation equivalency option, published in the New Jersey Register on July 16, 2012, that combined a mandatory v-notching program of egg-bearing females along with a seasonal closure from February 1 - March 31. The changes approved at that time by ASMFC included provisions designed to allow for seasonal closure and opening compliance to be achieved in as undisruptive a manner as possible by allowing lobster fishermen a two-week period to remove traps after the season is closed and allowing them to begin placing traps back in the water during the week prior to the season reopening. The provisions specify that no lobsters may be harvested during these periods. Amendments reflecting these changes were codified at N.J.A.C. 7:25-14.15(b) and (c) (see 44 N.J.R. 1973(a)). After evaluation of these management measures for New Jersey by the ASMFC American Lobster Technical Committee, it was determined that New Jersey did not meet the 10 percent reduction as required under the American Lobster Addendum XVII; therefore, revisions to the New Jersey regulations for American lobster were required. In October 2014, the ASMFC American Lobster Management Board (Board) approved revised options for New Jersey in order to achieve the required 10 percent reduction. The Board approved changing the closed season to April 30 through May 31, a period of much higher commercial participation and harvest, and removing the mandatory v-notching of egg bearing females that did not achieve the desired reduction. Also, due to shorter closed season (one month versus two months) the Board decided to remove the provision that allowed a licensee to have a two-week period from when the season closes to accomplish removal of all lobster traps and added a provision that, consistent with the prohibition on harvest of lobster during the closed season, only allows unbaited lobster traps to be set one week prior to the season reopening. Therefore, the Council approved removing the mandatory v-notching of egg bearing females specified at N.J.A.C. 7:25-14.15(b) and modifying the closed period from February 1 through March 31 to a closed period of April 30 through May 31 as well as modifying provisions related to traps being in the water after the season closes and before the season reopens. The season and trap limitations had been specified at N.J.A.C. 7:25-14.15(c), which is now recodified to N.J.A.C. 7:25-14.15(b) as a result of removal of the v-notch requirements.