UPDATE: On June 27, 2024, the New England Fishery Management Council voted to “discontinue development” of the Northern Edge framework, citing the following rationale.

“Information presented in the June Plan Development Team (PDT) memo and the draft framework document highlights the importance of the Habitat Management Area to a variety of species, including Atlantic cod, American lobster, Atlantic herring, and to the long-term productivity of the Georges Bank scallop resource. Identifying an appropriate time for an access program is challenging because scallop meat yields peak in June and July during an important season for juvenile cod settlement and egg-bearing lobsters on the bank. Additionally, all access season alternatives developed by the PDT overlap with peak cod spawning period (March-May). Identifying appropriate areas for an access program is difficult because of concerns regarding enforceability and the presence of juvenile cod habitat in Alternative 3 and the limited amount of fishable bottom available to accommodate hundreds of scallop vessels in the area encompassed in Alternative 2. Allowing access to the Northern Edge Area could undermine long-term attainment of optimum yield in the scallop fishery because the large, high-density scallop aggregations on the Northern Edge are likely an important larval source for scallop beds on the Southern Flank of Georges, the Great South Channel, and Nantucket Lightship. Outcomes from the recent Joint Habitat/Scallop Committee meeting revealed a lack of agreement regarding appropriate rotational intervals and access seasons after over a year of work on this action, highlighting the fundamental conflict between the optimal timing for scallop yield and the importance of the Northern Edge to other fishery resources.”

This action would establish a scallop rotational harvest program within and/or around the Closed Area II Habitat Closure Area (i.e., “habitat management area” or “HMA”) that avoids habitats important to juvenile cod, minimizes adverse effects to essential fish habitats, minimizes adverse biological and economic impacts to other managed fisheries, and contributes to optimum yield for the scallop fishery.

The fishing gear restrictions associated with the Habitat Management Area on the Northern Edge are intended to minimize the impacts of fishing on essential fish habitats (EFH) for numerous species. As such, this framework would amend each of the New England Council’s fishery management plans (FMPs) that have a connection to the Habitat Management Area in terms of designated EFH. The affiliated FMPs include scallops, groundfish, herring, monkfish, and skates.