Deadline extended to October 2 for public comment on NOAA Fisheries’ proposed Amendment 15

The deadline to voice concerns and express opposition to Draft Amendment 15 to NOAA Fisheries’ “2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan: Spatial Fisheries Management and Electronic Monitoring Cost Allocation”—a proposed federal fisheries amendment that could adversely affect the commercial fishing industry Dare County—has been extended to Monday, October 2, 2023.

Understanding Draft Amendment 15:

In May 2023, NOAA Fisheries released Amendment 15 to the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan: Spatial FIsheries Management and Electronic Monitoring Cost Allocation, in which Section F, “Electronic Monitoring Program,” Subsection F2 would transfer all costs of the existing Electronic Monitoring Program from NOAA Fisheries to the commercial fishing industry.

Under this proposed amendment, pelagic longline vessel owners would be forced to bear the full financial responsibility for all aspects of the electronic monitoring that is required on their vessels, including equipment, services, sampling and data storage of footage (of which only 10 percent of a set would be viewed). This transfer of costs from NOAA Fisheries to commercial fishermen would impose a devastating financial burden on local fishermen, many of whom are already struggling to sustain their operations due to the ever-increasing number of regulations that are being placed on the industry.

Draft Amendment 15 also establishes a cost of $280 per set, resulting in an estimated additional cost per trip of $1,700 on average—and accounting for approximately 19 percent of a commercial fisherman’s net profits per trip. If Draft Amendment 15 is adopted, this additional financial burden will likely put many local fishermen out of business, which ultimately threatens the overall sustainability of the commercial fishing industry that has served as an essential economic engine for Dare County for centuries.

Dare County Board of Commissioners Passes Resolution Opposing Draft Amendment 15

The Dare County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to pass a resolution opposing Draft Amendment 15 to NOAA Fisheries 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan: Spatial Fisheries Management and Electronic Monitoring Cost Allocation during the board’s meeting that was held at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, September 6, 2023.

During their discussion, the commissioners noted that, since the requirement for cameras to be installed on longline pelagic vessels was implemented in 2015, the number of North Atlantic pelagic longliners has fallen from approximately 135 to less than 80 vessels.

This decline in the number of operating pelagic longline vessels has resulted in an overall cost to NOAA for its electronic monitoring program that is currently significantly lower than before, leading the board to note in the resolution that “it would therefore appear that the purpose and effect of Amendment 15 is purely punitive rather than an economic necessity.”

The Dare County Board of Commissioners strongly opposes Amendment 15, “as this would add an overwhelming and unsustainable financial burden on our already overregulated commercial watermen and seafood industry in Dare County specifically and on the pelagic longline fishing industry of the East Coast of the United States in general.” To view a PDF of the full resolution that was passed by the Dare County Board of Commissioners, please click here.

Individuals who are opposed to Draft Amendment 15 are encouraged to express their concerns to NOAA Fisheries by submitting a public comment before the October 2, 2023 deadline. To submit a public comment to NOAA Fisheries, click here.