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NOAA Fisheries Announces A Final Rule To Remove Upgrade Restrictions For Vessels Issued Swordfish Directed And Atlantic Tuna Longline Category Limited Access Permits

Posted November 22, 2016

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has published a final rule that removes upgrade restrictions for vessels issued swordfish directed and Atlantic tunas Longline category limited access permits (LAPs).  Please note that this change becomes effective on December 23, 2016.  If you are currently considering transferring your swordfish directed or Atlantic tunas Longline category permit to a vessel that exceeds the current upgrade limits assigned to the permit, please submit your transfer application after December 22, 2016.

When first issued in 1999, swordfish directed LAPs included restrictions on vessel upgrading (e.g., increasing vessel size or horsepower) and on permit transfers.    The restrictions were put into place to limit capacity in the pelagic longline fishery because the fleet was overcapitalized at the time, and the swordfish stock was overfished.  In 2007, vessel upgrade restrictions were implemented for Atlantic tunas Longline category permits.

However, since 1999, several important things have changed.  Management measures to reduce bycatch (e.g., closed areas, bait requirements, individual bluefin tuna quotas, and gear restrictions) have constrained fishing effort and reduced overall capacity in the fishery.  The stock status of north Atlantic swordfish has also significantly improved, and is no longer overfished.  The overall reduction in fleet capacity that has occurred, in combination with the totality of effort controls implemented since 1999, sufficiently limits the fishery’s capacity today.  NMFS has also heard from permit holders that the vessel upgrading regulations restrict their ability to transfer permits to newer vessels, which could have greater capacity, to address safety issues that exist with older vessels.  For these reasons, NMFS is removing upgrade restrictions for vessels issued swordfish directed and Atlantic tunas Longline category LAPs.  

This notice is a courtesy to Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (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 final rule, contact Rick Pearson at 727-824-5399 or Steve Durkee at 202-670-6637.  Copies of the final rule are available upon request from the HMS Management Division, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 20910. 

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