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NOAA Fisheries Announces Closure of the Commercial Fisheries for Blacknose Sharks and Non-Blacknose Small Coastal Sharks in the Gulf of Mexico Region

Posted: September 4, 2014

Commercial shark dealer reports indicate that landings for commercial Gulf of Mexico non-blacknose small coastal sharks (SCS) are expected to exceed 80 percent of the available quota by September 5, 2014.  In the Gulf of Mexico region, the quota for blacknose sharks is linked to the quota for non-blacknose SCS.   Therefore, as required by the regulations at 50 CFR 635.28(b)(2), the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is closing the commercial fisheries for both  blacknose sharks and non-blacknose SCS in the Gulf of Mexico region as of 11:30 p.m. local time September 9, 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 species groups will remain closed, even across fishing years. 

Dealer reports recently received through August 29, 2014, indicate that 0.8 mt dw or 42 percent of the available Gulf of Mexico blacknose shark quota has been landed and 51.7 mt dw or 76 percent of the available Gulf of Mexico non-blacknose SCS quota has been landed. 

Current regulations specify that “[i]nseason and/or annual quota transfers of regional quotas between regions may be conducted only for species or management groups where the species are the same between regions and the quota is split between regions for management purposes and not as a result of a stock assessment.”  Although the non-blacknose SCS quota currently is split between regions for management purposes, transferring quota between the two regions would be inconsistent with accomplishing the objectives of the fishery management plan now that sharpnose and bonnethead have been split into separate stocks as a result of the most recent stock assessment. The Federal Register notice for the status determination can be found at: https://federalregister.gov/a/2014-21278   

During the closure, retention of blacknose sharks and non-blacknose SCS in the Gulf of Mexico region is prohibited for persons fishing aboard vessels issued a commercial shark limited access permit under 50 CFR 635.4.  However, persons aboard a commercially permitted vessel that is also properly permitted to operate as a charter vessel or headboat for HMS and is engaged in a for-hire trip could fish under the recreational retention limits for sharks and “no sale” provisions (50 CFR 635.22(a) and (c)).  During this closure, a shark dealer issued a permit pursuant to 50 CFR 635.4 may not purchase or receive blacknose sharks or non-blacknose SCS in the Gulf of Mexico region from a vessel issued a shark limited access permit (LAP), except that a permitted shark dealer or processor may possess blacknose sharks and/or non-blacknose SCS 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).  Similarly, a shark dealer issued a permit pursuant to 50 CFR 635.4 may, in accordance with relevant state regulations, purchase or receive blacknose sharks and/or non-blacknose SCS 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 a 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 Alexis Jackson or Karyl Brewster-Geisz at 301-427-8503.  The Federal Register notice for this closure can be viewed at: https://federalregister.gov/a/2014-21376