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NOAA Fisheries Announces a Proposed Rule to Establish the Quotas and Opening Dates for the 2016 Atlantic Shark Commercial Fishing Season

Posted August 17, 2015

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announces a proposed rule that would establish quota levels and opening dates for the 2016 Atlantic commercial shark fisheries.

The proposed 2016 quotas, adjusted as appropriate to account for over- and underharvests, are summarized in Table 1 by management group.  Adjustments based on over- and underharvests depend on stock status.  The proposed rule uses landings data received as of June 19, 2015.  The final rule will be based on updated data received in dealer reports as of October or November 2015 based on the timing of the final rule.  Thus, the quotas in the proposed rule are subject to change in the final rule.  All dealer reports that are received after the date of the final rule will be used to adjust the 2017 quotas, as appropriate.

Specifically, NMFS proposes to:
• Open all shark management groups on the effective date for this action (i.e., on or about January 1, 2016).  
• Start the 2016 commercial shark fishing season with a retention limit of 45 large coastal sharks (LCS) other than sandbar sharks per    vessel per trip.
• Adjust the commercial shark retention limit inseason to allow more equitable fishing opportunities across the fishery.
• Increase the Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group sub-regional quotas based on underharvests in 2014 and 2015.
• Decrease the Gulf of Mexico non-blacknose small coastal shark management group quota based on an overharvest in 2014.
• Decrease the Atlantic blacknose shark management group quota over a five-year timeframe based on an overharvest in 2012 and further decrease the quota over a three-year timeframe based on an additional overharvest in 2015.

Public hearings are currently not scheduled.  If you are interested in public hearings for the proposed rule, please contact Karyl Brewster-Geisz or Guý DuBeck by phone 301-427-8503.

The comment period for this proposed rule is open until September 17, 2015.  Written comments, identified by “NOAA-NMFS-2015-0068”, may be submitted electronically via the Federal eRulemaking Portal http://www.regulations.gov, or sent by fax or mail to the contact information included below.   All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted to http://www.regulations.gov without change.  All Personal Identifying Information (for example, name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible.  Do not submit Confidential Business Information or otherwise sensitive or protected information.  NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter N/A in the required fields, if you wish to remain anonymous).  You may submit attachments to electronic comments in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only.

This notice is a courtesy to the HMS fishery participants to help keep you informed about the fishery.  Official notice of Federal actions is made through filing such notice with the Office of Federal Register. For further information on this proposed rule, contact Karyl Brewster-Geisz or Guý DuBeck at 301-427-8503.  Copies of the proposed rule are available upon request from the Highly Migratory Species Management Division, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910 (phone: 301-427-8503, fax: 301-713-1917). The information will also be posted on the HMS website at:  http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/news/news_list/index.html.
 

Table 1.  2016 Proposed Quotas and Opening Dates for the Atlantic Shark Management Groups.  All quotas and landings are dressed weight (dw), in metric tons (mt), unless specified otherwise. Table includes landings data as of July 17, 2015; final quotas are subject to change based on landings as of October or November 2015.  1 mt = 2,204.6 lb.

Region or Sub-region

Management Group

2015
Annual Quota
(A)

Preliminary
2015
Landings
1
(B)

Adjustments(C)

2016
Base Annual
Quota
(D)

2016
Proposed Annual Quota
(D+C)

Season Opening
Dates

Eastern

Gulf of Mexico

Blacktip Sharks

25.1 mt dw
(55,439 lb dw)

21.4 mt dw
(47,351 lb dw) 2

3.8 mt dw(8,396 lb dw) 3

25.1 mt dw
(55,439 lb dw)

28.9 mt dw
(63,835 lb dw)

January 1, 2016

Aggregated Large Coastal Sharks

85.5 mt dw
(188,593 lb dw)

82.2 mt dw
(181,262 lb dw) 2

-

85.5 mt dw
(188,593 lb dw)

85.5 mt dw
(188,593 lb dw)

Hammerhead Sharks

13.4 mt dw
(29,421 lb dw)

7.3 mt dw
(16,012 lb dw) 2

-

13.4 mt dw
(29,421 lb dw)

13.4 mt dw
(29,421 lb dw)

Western

Gulf of Mexico

Blacktip Sharks

231.5 mt dw
(510,261 lb dw)

197.4 mt dw
(435,818 lb dw) 2

35.1 mt dw
(77,277 lb dw) 3

231.5 mt dw
(510,261 lb dw)

266.6 mt dw
(587,538 lb dw)

Aggregated Large Coastal Sharks

72.0 mt dw
(158,724 lb dw)

69.2 mt dw
(152,554 lb dw) 2

-

72.0 mt dw
(158,724 lb dw)

72.0 mt dw
(158,724 lb dw)

Hammerhead Sharks

11.9 mt dw
(23,301 lb dw)

6.5 mt dw
(11,314 lb dw) 2

-

11.9 mt dw
(23,301 lb dw)

11.9 mt dw
(23,301 lb dw)

Gulf of Mexico

Non-Blacknose Small Coastal Sharks

45.5mt dw
(100,317 lb dw)

46.2 mt dw
(101,948 lb dw)

-5.3 mt dw
(-11,612 lb dw) 4

112.6 mt dw
(248,215 lb dw)

107.3 mt dw
(236,603 lb dw)

Blacknose Sharks

1.8 mt dw
(4,076 lb dw)

1.0 mt dw
(2,096 lb dw)

-

0.0 mt dw
(0 lb dw)

0.0 mt dw
(0 lb dw)

Atlantic

Aggregated Large Coastal Sharks

168.9 mt dw 
(372,552 lb dw)

12.3 mt dw
(27,100 lb dw)

-

168.9 mt dw 
(372,552 lb dw)

168.9 mt dw 
(372,552 lb dw)

January 1, 2016

Hammerhead Sharks

27.1 mt dw 
(59,736  lb dw)

0.7 mt dw
(1,476 lb dw)

-

27.1 mt dw
(59,736  lb dw)

27.1 mt dw 
(59,736  lb dw)

Non-Blacknose Small Coastal Sharks

176.1 mt dw
(388,222 lb dw)

98.6 mt dw
(217,360 lb dw)

-

264.1 mt dw
(582,333 lb dw)

264.1 mt dw
(582,333 lb dw)

Blacknose Sharks

(South of 34° N. lat. only)

17.5 mt dw
(38,638 lb dw)

20.4 mt dw
(44,966 lb dw)

-1.5 mt dw
(-3,221 lb dw) 5

17.2 mt dw
(37,921 lb dw)

15.7 mt dw
(34,700 lb dw)

No

regional

quotas

Non-Sandbar LCS Research

50.0 mt dw
(110,230 lb dw)

14.8 mt dw
(32,593 lb dw)

-

50.0 mt dw
(110,230 lb dw)

50.0 mt dw
(110,230 lb dw)

January 1, 2016

Sandbar Shark Research

116.6 mt dw
(257,056 lb dw)

60.6 mt dw
(133,496 lb dw)

-

90.7 mt dw
(199,943 lb dw)

90.7 mt dw
(199,943 lb dw)

Blue Sharks

273.0 mt dw
(601,856 lb dw)

0.5 mt dw
(1,114 lb dw)

-

273.0 mt dw
(601,856 lb dw)

273.0 mt dw
(601,856 lb dw)

Porbeagle Sharks

0 mt dw
(0 lb dw)

0 mt dw
(0 lb dw)

-

1.7 mt dw
(3,748 lb dw)

1.7 mt dw
(3,748 lb dw)

Pelagic Sharks Other Than Porbeagle or Blue

488.0 mt dw
(1,075,856 lb dw)

50.7 mt dw
(111,701 lb dw)

-

488.0 mt dw
(1,075,856 lb dw)

488.0 mt dw
(1,075,856 lb dw)



1Landings are from January 1, 2015, through July 17, 2015, and are subject to change.
2 The blacktip, aggregated LCS, and hammerhead shark management group preliminary 2015 landings were split based on the sub-regional quota percentage splits established in Amendment 6 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP.
3 This adjustment accounts for underharvest in 2014 and 2015.  In the final rule establishing the 2015 quotas (79 FR 71331; December 2, 2014), the 2014 Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota was underharvested by 72.0 mt dw (158,602 lb dw).  After the final rule establishing the 2015 quotas published, late dealer reports indicated the  quota was underharvested by an additional 1.4 mt dw (3,142 lb dw), for a total underharvest of 73.4 mt dw (161,744 lb dw).  In 2015, the Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota was underharvested by 37.5 mt (82,531 lb dw).  Therefore, this proposed rule would increase the Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota by 38.9 mt dw (37.5 mt dw underharvest in 2015 + 1.4 mt dw underharvest from 2014).  Recently, NMFS implemented Amendment 6 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP which, among other things, established sub-regional quotas for the Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group.  NMFS would account for underharvest based on the sub-regional quota percentage split.  Thus, the eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota would be increased by 3.8 mt dw, or 9.8 percent of the underharvest, while the western Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota would be increased by 35.1 mt dw, or 90.2 percent of the underharvest.    
4 This adjustment accounts for overharvests from 2014.  In the final rule establishing the 2015 quotas (79 FR 71331; December 2, 2014), the 2014 Gulf of Mexico non-blacknose SCS quota was not overharvested.  After the final rule establishing the 2015 quotas published, late dealer reports indicated the  quota was overharvested by 5.3 mt dw (11,612 lb dw) due  to landings by state-water fishermen fishing in state-waters after the federal closure.  NMFS will decrease the 2016 base annual quota based on the overharvest estimate of 5.3 mt from 2014.  Based on the original 2015 annual commercial quota, the 2015 annual quota was overharvested by 0.7 mt dw (1,631 lb dw) as of July 17, 2015.  In Amendment 6 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, NMFS increased the commercial Gulf of Mexico non-blacknose SCS quota to 112.6 mt dw (248,215 lb dw) and re-opened the fishery.  Based on the revised annual commercial quota, reported landings have not exceeded the revised 2015 base quota to date.
5 This adjustment accounts for overharvest in 2012 and 2015.  After the final rule establishing the 2012 quotas published, late dealer reports indicated the blacknose shark quota was overharvested by 3.5 mt dw (7,742 lb dw).  In the final rule establishing the 2014 quotas, NMFS implemented a 5-year adjustment of the overharvest amount by the percentage of landings in 2012.  Thus, NMFS will reduce the Atlantic blacknose sharks by 0.5 mt dw (1,111 lb dw) each year for 5 years from 2014-2018.  In 2015, the Atlantic blacknose shark quota was overharvested by 2.9 (6,328 lb dw).  NMFS is proposing an additional 3-year adjustment of the overharvest amount in 2015.  NMFS would reduce the quota by 1.0 mt dw (2,110 lb dw) each year for 2016 and 2017 and 0.9 mt dw (2,108 lb dw) for 2018.  Therefore, this proposed rule would decrease the Atlantic blacknose shark quota by 1.5 mt dw (1.0 mt dw overharvest in 2015 + 0.5 mt dw overharvest from 2012. 
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