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Governor Signs Thiele Legislation That Will Reduce Clamming Industry Costs

Originally Posted: July 29, 2011

Sag Harbor - Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Fred Thiele that will make the harvesting of surf clams and ocean quahogs more economical and sustainable into the future.

The legislation will permit the cooperative harvesting of surf clams and ocean quahogs and the consolidation of the individual fishing quotas from more than one Atlantic Ocean surf clam-ocean quahog permit into a single permit.

There currently are 22 Atlantic Ocean surf clam-ocean quahog permits issued by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) that allow the taking of surf clams and ocean quahogs. Each of those permits is identified with a specific vessel with a specific "Individual Fishing Quota" (IFQ). The IFQ is the maximum amount of surf clams and ocean quahogs that may be harvested by a vessel in any calendar year.

All clams harvested under a surf clam/ocean quahog permit can only be harvested on the vessel identified on that permit. In cases where a harvester holds more than one permit, they must have a separate vessel for each permit. However, in many cases each individual quota is insufficient to support the operation of a separate, individual vessel on a consistent weekly basis.

Consolidating more than one IFQ onto one vessel will enable harvesters to operate fewer vessels more safely and productively, thereby avoiding the enormous overhead associated with maintaining a separate vessel for each IFQ. From an environmental standpoint, reducing the number of vessels in the fishery would better protect the surf clam and ocean quahog resource from the effects of inefficient dredging by older dredges. This will ensure the sustainability of one of New York's - and one of the country's - most economically viable marine fishery resources.

This legislation would also provide for "cooperative harvesting," whereby each harvester can decide whether to harvest his catch quota from his own vessel or from another IFQ holder's vessel. Cage tags that are issued by the DEC would be provided by the IFQ holder to the captain of the harvesting vessel. The catch brought in by cooperative harvesting would be identified on both the IFQ holder's vessel and the harvesting vessel on their weekly trip reports in order to ensure that daily catch limits established by DEC would not be exceeded.

Thiele stated, "Enactment of this legislation providing for cooperative harvesting and consolidation of individual fishing quotas will make harvesting of the surf clam and ocean quahog fishery more economical, safer and sustainable into the future, all without any detrimental impact to or increased harvesting of the resource."

The program will be in effect until December 31, 2013, providing policymakers with an opportunity to assess the effectiveness cooperative harvesting and consolidation of quotas.

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