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NOAA Fisheries Announces the Closure of the Commercial Blacktip Shark, Aggregated Large Coastal Shark (LCS), and Hammerhead Shark Fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico Region on May 3, 2015

Posted April 28, 2015

Commercial shark dealer reports indicate that the landings in the commercial fisheries for blacktip sharks are expected to exceed 80 percent of the available quota by May 1, 2015 and aggregated LCS have exceeded 80 percent of the available quota (see Table 1).  The quotas for aggregated LCS and the hammerhead shark management groups in the Gulf of Mexico region are linked (50 CFR 635.28(b)(3)(ii)).  The blacktip shark quota is not linked to the aggregated LCS or hammerhead shark quotas.  However, regulations at § 635.28(b)(1) and § 635.28(b)(4) authorize closure of the blacktip shark management group when landings have reached or are expected to reach 80 percent of the quota or before those situations occur.  Pursuant to the regulations at 50 CFR 635.28(b)(1) and 50 CFR 635.28(b)(2), the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is closing the commercial fisheries for blacktip sharks, aggregated LCS, and the linked hammerhead shark fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico region as of 11:30 p.m. local time May 3, 2015.  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, the management groups for those specified quotas will remain closed, even across fishing years.  

Table 1.  2015 Quotas, Landings, and Projected Landings for Blacktip, Aggregated LCS, and Hammerhead Sharks in the Gulf of Mexico Region

Gulf of Mexico Management Group

2015 Quota

Landings reported as of April 24, 2015

Projected Landings as of May 1, 2015

Closure Date

Blacktip Sharks

328.6 mt dw

261.1 mt dw (79% of quota)

264.9 mt dw

(81% of quota)

May 3, 2015

Aggregated LCS*

156.5 mt dw

128.6 mt dw (82% of quota)

--

Hammerhead Sharks*

25.3 mt dw

12.4 mt dw

(49% of quota)

--


* Management groups are linked and close at the same time

During the closure, retention of blacktip sharks, aggregated LCS, and/or 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 of blacktip sharks, 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 of blacktip sharks, aggregated LCS, and 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 of blacktip sharks, 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 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, 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 Alexis Jackson or Karyl Brewster-Geisz 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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