Larger catch limits for yellowtail flounder proposed for New England

Posted Feb. 09, 2011, at 9:19 p.m.

BOSTON — Regulators have proposed a substantial increase in the catch limit of a key New England fish species, yellowtail flounder.

The recommendation announced Wednesday comes from regulators of a section of Georges Bank jointly managed by the U.S. and Canada.

Their proposed yellowtail increase is 18 percent more than last year’s catch limit and 44 percent more than what was proposed for the 2011 fishing year, which starts in May.

The change, which needs final approval, follows a new law that exempts U.S. negotiators from considering a 10-year timeline to rebuild fish stocks when dealing with Canada.

Fishermen also argued they needed a higher yellowtail limit because if they exceed their limit on one species, they must stop fishing on all stocks.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, said Wednesday the ruling also affects other valuable fish species. She explained that because haddock, scallop and other species are typically caught at the same time as yellowtail flounder, a limit on flounder was effectively a limit on those species, as well.

“Allowing New England fishermen to catch more fish will provide a critical boost when they really need it,” Pingree said in a release. “I’m pleased the Obama administration negotiated these higher limits with Canada.”

Lawmakers — including Pingree and U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine — had said the tight timeline and lower limits have put U.S. fishermen at a disadvantage when compared to Canadian fishermen, who have higher catch limits.

“For too long, our fishery managers have been placed at a competitive disadvantage in negotiating catch limits with their Canadian counterparts because of an erroneous interpretation of the law,” said Snowe, who initiated the legislation that led to Wednesday’s agreement.

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