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NOAA Fisheries Requests Comments on the Issuance of Exempted Fishing Permits and Related Permits for Atlantic Highly Migratory Species During 2016

Posted November 3, 2015

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announces its intent to issue Exempted Fishing Permits (EFPs), Scientific Research Permits (SRPs), Display Permits, Letters of Acknowledgement (LOAs), Shark Research Fishery Permits, and Chartering Permits for the research and collection of Atlantic highly migratory species (HMS) in 2016.  In general, EFPs and related permits would authorize collection of a limited number of tunas, swordfish, billfishes, and sharks from Federal waters in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico for the purposes of scientific data collection, bycatch research, and public display.  Chartering permits allow the collection of HMS on the high seas or in the Exclusive Economic Zone of other nations under certain conditions.

Every year, NMFS receives applications to collect Atlantic HMS for fishery independent surveys, public display, and scientific research.  The majority of EFPs and related permits described in this annual notice relate to scientific sampling and tagging of Atlantic HMS, and the impacts of the activities conducted have been previously analyzed in various environmental assessments and environmental impact statements for Atlantic HMS.  NMFS intends to issue these types of permits without additional opportunity for public comment beyond what is provided in this notice.  Occasionally, NMFS receives applications for research activities that were not anticipated, for research that is outside the scope of general scientific sampling and tagging of Atlantic HMS, or rarely, for an activity of a particularly controversial nature.  Should NMFS receive such applications, NMFS will provide additional opportunity for the public to comment, consistent with regulations in 50 CFR 600.745.

In 2014 and 2015, NMFS received applications for EFPs from the owner of an Atlantic bluefin tuna purse seine vessel that requested an exemption from the annual incidental purse seine retention limit on the harvest of large medium Atlantic bluefin tuna.  After providing for public comment, NMFS issued an EFP to the vessel owner on June 5, 2015.  For a list of terms and conditions in the 2015 permit, please see the Federal Register notice associated with this listserv.  While fishing with the EFP in 2014 and 2015, the overall reduction in dead discards under the EFPs was 69 percent and 64 percent respectively, compared to the dead discards that occurred in 2013.  NMFS expects to receive a similar request for an EFP in 2016 and requests comments, via this notice, on the continuation of such an EFP with similar terms and conditions.

NMFS issued a total of 37 EFPs, SRPs, Display Permits, and LOAs in 2014 for the collection of HMS and a total of 5 shark research fishery permits.  As of November 3, 2015, NMFS has issued a total of 36 EFPs, SRPs, Display Permits, and LOAs  and a total of 7 shark research fishery permits.  These permits were issued to NMFS and non-NMFS scientists, commercial fishermen, educational institutions, public aquaria, and public display collectors acquiring HMS.

Written comments on the collection, research, and fishing activities will be considered when issuing EFPs, SRPs, Display Permits, and Chartering Permits if received on or before 5 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, December 4, 2015.  Please send comments to Craig Cockrell, Highly Migratory Species Management Division (F/SF1), NMFS, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910.  Permit applications and copies of the regulations pertaining to EFPs, SRPs, LOAs, Display Permits, and Chartering Permits may also be requested from this address.  Comments may also be sent via e-mail to nmfs.hms.efp2016@noaa.gov.

This notice is a courtesy to individuals interested in HMS fisheries activities to keep you informed about the fishery.  Official notice of Federal fishery actions is made through filing such notice with the Office of the Federal Register.  For further information, contact Craig Cockrell at (301) 427-8503.

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