NOAA Fisheries Announces Closure of the Commercial Aggregated Large Coastal Shark and Hammerhead Shark Management Groups in the Gulf of Mexico Region
Posted May 16, 2014
Commercial shark dealer reports indicate that the landings for the commercial Gulf of Mexico aggregated large coastal shark (LCS) management group have exceeded 80 percent of the available quota. As required by the regulations at 50 CFR 635.28(b)(2), we are closing the commercial Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS and the Gulf of Mexico hammerhead shark management group, which is linked by regulation to the aggregated LCS management group, as of 11:30 p.m. local time May 20, 2014. From the effective date and time of the closure until and if NMFS announces via a notice in the Federal Register that additional quota is available and the season is reopened, these management groups will remain closed, even across fishing years.
On July 3, 2013 (78 FR 40318), NMFS announced the final rule for Amendment 5a to the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan, which, among other things, established new quotas for aggregated LCS and hammerhead sharks in the Gulf of Mexico region and linked the Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS and Gulf of Mexico hammerhead shark management groups. As a result of the quota linkage, when the quota for one management group is reached and is closed, the other management group closes at the same time. On November 26, 2013 (78 FR 70500), NMFS announced that the commercial Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS management group quota for 2014 was 151.2 metric tons (mt) dressed weight (dw) (333,828 lb dw), and the Gulf of Mexico hammerhead shark management group quota was 25.3 mt dw (55,722 lb dw).
Dealer reports recently received through May 13, 2014, indicate that 124.0 mt dw or 82 percent of the available Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS quota has been landed, and that 10.7 mt dw or 42 percent of the available Gulf of Mexico hammerhead shark quota has been landed. Based on these dealer reports, NMFS estimates that the 80-percent limit specified for a closure notice in the regulations has been exceeded for the Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS management group.
During the closure, retention of aggregated LCS and hammerhead sharks in the Gulf of Mexico region is prohibited for persons fishing aboard vessels issued an Atlantic Shark Limited Access Permit (LAP) under 50 CFR 635.4, unless the vessel is properly permitted to operate as a charter vessel or headboat for HMS and is engaged in a for-hire trip, in which case the recreational retention limits for sharks and “no sale” provisions apply (50 CFR 635.22(a) and (c)), or if the vessel possesses a valid shark research permit under 50 CFR 635.32 and a NMFS-approved observer is onboard. During this closure, a shark dealer issued a permit pursuant to 50 CFR 635.4 may not purchase or receive aggregated LCS and/or hammerhead sharks in the Gulf of Mexico region from a vessel issued an Atlantic Shark LAP, except that a permitted shark dealer or processor may possess aggregated LCS and/or hammerhead sharks in the Gulf of Mexico region that were harvested, off-loaded, and sold, traded, or bartered, prior to the effective date of the closure and were held in storage consistent with 50 CFR 635.28(b)(5). Additionally, a permitted shark dealer or processor may possess aggregated LCS and/or hammerhead sharks in the Gulf of Mexico region that were harvested by a vessel issued a valid shark research fishery permit per 50 CFR 635.32 with a NMFS-approved observer onboard during the trip the sharks were taken on as long as the LCS research fishery quota remains open. Similarly, a shark dealer issued a permit pursuant to 50 CFR 635.4 may, in accordance with state regulations, purchase or receive aggregated LCS and/or hammerhead sharks in the Gulf of Mexico region if the sharks were harvested, off-loaded, and sold, traded, or bartered from a vessel that fishes only in state waters and that has not been issued an Atlantic Shark LAP, HMS Angling permit, or HMS Charter/Headboat permit pursuant to 50 CFR 635.4.
This notice is a courtesy to the HMS fishery participants to help keep you informed about the fishery. For further information on this landings update or the closure, contact Karyl Brewster-Geisz or Alexis Jackson at 301-427-8503. The information will also be posted on the HMS website at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/.
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