Yellowtail flounder giveaway will not harm scallopers this year

The scallop fleet heaved a collective sigh of relief Friday when NOAA Fisheries announced the industry would not suffer for a good deed. Every year, groundfishermen and scallopers share the allowable catch of yellowtail flounder on Georges Bank. In June, to help groundfishermen struggling with low catch limits, the scallopers gave the dragger fleet 150 metric tons of yellowtail quota, half of their 2102 allocation. That equals more than 800,000 pounds of fish. Alarm bells began to ring when figures emerged showing the scallop fleet had taken about 136 metric tons of its remaining 150-ton allotment as of Wednesday — more than 90 percent — with five months remaining in the current fishing year. However, a NOAA Fisheries release Thursday eased fishermen’s concerns. The scallop fishery is exempted “from accountability measures for any Georges Bank yellowtail flounder catch below their initially allocated 2012 catch limit of 307.5 metric tons,” the press release said. Scallop boat captain Tom Quintin on the Patience said the news came as a relief to him. “I was just telling my boss we shouldn’t have given the yellowtail away when I heard we’d caught almost all of the quota,” he said. Boat owner Dan Eilertsen said the news was reassuring. “I have 13 trips left that I could have lost if they had shut us down. So I am glad to hear that,” he said. But Eilertsen, who owns the Liberty, Justice and Freedom, said scallopers would not have agreed to the transfer initially without assurances that it would not hurt them. “That’s what eased the deal,” he said.

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