New York Atlantic Ocean Surfclam Fishery Regulations

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In July, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced the adoption of regulations for the Atlantic Ocean surf clam fishery to ensure consistency with the harvest management measures of the State’s Atlantic Ocean Surf clam Fishery Management Plan (FMP). The regulations take effect immediately.

“These regulations will help promote the sustainability of the surfclam fishery and economic viability of its traditional New York-based fishing interests by ensuring that the distribution of fishing quota is fair for all participants,” Commissioner Seggos said.

The commercial harvest of surf clams in the Atlantic Ocean is a closed, limited entry fishery with only 17 vessels currently eligible to participate. The fishery operates under an Individual Fishing Quota system (IFQ), authorizing the distribution of surf clam fishing quota to be equally allocated to the eligible vessels each year.

The IFQ assigned to each vessel is nontransferable and each vessel can only be used to catch one quota allocation. The FMP established these harvest management controls to protect the economic viability of traditional surf clam fishing businesses and minimize the potential for an inequitable allocation of the state’s surfclam quota to be controlled by any vessel.

An apparent loophole in the surf clam vessel replacement regulations has allowed one or more vessels to catch more than one IFQ in a year. This regulation closes this regulatory loophole that has allowed multiple individual fishing quotas to be fished by one or more vessels which has negatively impacted fishing businesses with vessels limited to one individual fishing quota.

The Atlantic surf clam is a commercially important bivalve mollusk that is harvested by dredge along the Atlantic coast. In 2015, 132,000 bushels of surf clams were harvested from the New York State waters of the Atlantic Ocean with an estimated dockside value of $1.5 million.

Surf clams harvested for food consumption are usually shipped out-of-state for processing and sold to consumers as canned clam meats, frozen baked stuffed clams and clam strips, and in canned sauces and chowders. Surf clams are also harvested for use as bait and are sold locally in New York.

Other provisions of the regulations have been amended to provide a temporary exemption for a vessel to take surf clams without cage tags while the vessel’s cage tag order is being processed by an authorized vendor. This temporary exemption is intended to minimize any unnecessary hardship and lost fishing time to the surf clam industry while complying with the cage tagging and notification requirements of the regulations.

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source: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation