I know there has been a lot of press of late regarding the groundfish regulations, most of it negative. The fish are coming back due to the last few years of restrictions. In my opinion, the regulation changes are long past due, especially the size increase, BUT I feel it must go hand in hand with the closed areas to produce the needed effect of increasing spawning biomass.
The commercial regs are detailed and I won't go into them much but to say there are mesh size increases on the gillnet and dragger nets, reductions in the number of hooks a longliner can lay out daily, 20 % reductions in days at sea for all commercial boats and limits to the percentage of days that a commercial vessel can use during times of the year when the fish are the most bunched up. Lastly, the observer coverage has been significantly upped to I believe 20%, a huge increase.
As for the recreational and charter party vessels the regulations are different depending on where you go in the ocean. As I interpret the Small Entity Commpliance Guide put out by NMFS, the rules are delineated into the Gulf of Maine (GOM) and the Georges Bank (GB) regulated mesh areas (RMA). All areas and all boats, recreational and charter/party will have a increase in the size limit from 21 inches to 23 inches. A possession limit of 10 fish per angler applies to recreational boats in the EEZ. A possession limit of 10 fish per angler applies to CHARTER/PARTY VESSELS in the Gulf of Maine. The 10 fish limit per man on charter/party vessels does NOT apply in the GEORGES BANK area.
LOOPHOLE ALERT: It states further, that in order to fish in the GOM areas THAT ARE CLOSED TO COMMERCIAL BOATS, a charter/party boat must have on board a letter of authorization good for 3 months issued by the Regional Administrator. This allows a charterboat to fish in an area that is closed to all other commercial vessels. Previously, these vessel were under NO LIMIT to what numbers of groundfish they could take for their customers.
It is my opinion that greed is equally distributed among user groups. For the stocks to recover, there must be a unified effort to seek protection to CLOSED AREAS, require habitat protection from MOBILE GEAR (draggers on hard bottom), and realistic expectations of access to the fishing areas.
A complete copy of these regulations can be had by calling 978-281-9278 or go to: www.wh.whoi.edu/ro/doc/nero.html