NOAA Fisheries Announces Closure of the Commercial Blacktip Shark Fishery in the Gulf of Mexico Region
Posted May 28, 2014
Commercial shark dealer reports indicate that the landings for commercial Gulf of Mexico blacktip sharks are expected to exceed 80 percent of the available quota by June 3, 2014. As required by the regulations at 50 CFR 635.28(b)(2), the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is closing the commercial Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark fishery as of 11:30 p.m. local time June 2, 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, this species group 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 HMS FMP, which, among other things, established a new quota for aggregated large coastal sharks (LCS), hammerhead sharks, and blacktip sharks in the Gulf of Mexico region and linked the Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS and Gulf of Mexico hammerhead shark management groups. Because the blacktip shark quota is not linked to either the aggregated LCS or hammerhead shark quotas, it was not closed along with the aggregated LCS and hammerhead management groups on May 20, 2014 (79 FR 28849; May 20, 2014). On November 26, 2013 (78 FR 70500), NMFS announced that the commercial Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota for 2014 was 274.3 metric tons (mt) dressed weight (604,626 lb dw).
Dealer reports recently received through May 20, 2014, indicate that 180.5 mt dw or 66 percent of the available Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota has been landed. Based on projections, NMFS estimates that the 80-percent limit could be exceeded by June 3, 2014, or earlier.
During the closure, retention of blacktip 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 blacktip 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 blacktip 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 blacktip 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 harvested 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 blacktip 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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