Message from DMR Commissioner Regarding Addendum XXVII

At yesterday’s Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Lobster Management Board meeting, there was a significant amount of comment from harvesters, processors, dealers, and members of the public expressing concerns about Addendum XXVII and raising issues that may not have thoroughly considered.

As a reminder, the Addendum is intended as a proactive measure to support resiliency in the lobster resource by providing additional protection of the spawning stock biomass. It initiates management measures when sub-legal lobster abundance, as measured by a combination of data from the Maine/New Hampshire Trawl Survey and the ventless trap survey (referred to as the recruit indices) falls below an agreed-upon trigger.

Many of you know that the Addendum trigger was hit much sooner than anticipated, resulting in a 1/16th inch minimum gauge increase that was originally set to be implemented in June of 2024.  At a prior meeting I was able to delay this increase by 7 months, until January of 2025, while we worked on ensuring new gauges were ready and to continue our dialogue with Canada.

In my statement to the board yesterday, I reiterated that the goal of the Addendum was to ensure the lobster stock is resilient in the face of a changing climate and to avoid the collapse experienced in Southern New England.  That said, based on comments from industry and the public, it is clear to me that the Board hasn’t fully considered the ramifications of lost revenue by US harvesters and loss of market share to Canadian harvesters, as well as lost supply and revenue by dealers.

As a result of the significant concerns heard from industry today, I urged the Board to take, and the Board agreed to take, the following steps to gather additional information to determine if we need to alter our course:

  • The Board will take the time to fully consider the comments received yesterday.
  • The Board will continue to engage with Canada. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has begun extensive discussions with harvesters, dealer/processors. Canada has areas within their fishery that are considering gauge changes. A motion was put forward yesterday that calls for the Board to draft a formal letter to Canada DFO and relevant industry associations that requests that Canada increase the minimum size for lobster in the Gulf of Maine on the same schedule or as soon as possible as indicated in Addendum XXVII. I believe it is vital that we take the time to see if this happens.
  • The Board also needs to compile the public comments for Addendum XXX, which would recommend to NOAA that the smallest minimum size for foreign imports of lobster into the US should match the smallest minimum size in effect for the US industry. The Board should better understand how that action relates to or complicates the decision on Addendum XXVII.
  • ASMFC’s Technical Committee should compile and combine the data for our 2023 recruit indices to see how it changes the 3-year running average.
  • With this information we need to consider holding a special Board meeting to determine if we should modify our actions.

This is not a simple ask of the Board and I don’t want to suggest that the measures outlined in Addendum XXVII are guaranteed to be modified. As Chair of the ASMFC Lobster Management Board I firmly believe we need some kind of resiliency measures and I do not support delaying action indefinitely. However, we need to fully understand the potential consequences of this action to markets and lobster businesses. I will continue to work with the Board to ensure that we have the information we need to avoid unintended consequences of these well-intended actions.

We will keep you updated as this conversation progresses. 

 - Pat -