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NOAA Fisheries Announces the Receipt of an Application for an Exempted Fishing Permit and the Availability of an Environmental Assessment

Posted January 13, 2017

NMFS announces the receipt of an application for an exempted fishing permit (EFP) from Dr. David Kerstetter of Nova Southeastern University to conduct research in the northern portion of the East Florida Coast (EFC) Pelagic Longline (PLL) Closed Area and the availability of a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) analyzing the potential impacts of granting the application to conduct the research using commercial PLL vessels.  The research project would occur within the northern portion of the EFC PLL Closed Area and in an area currently open to fishing with PLL gear.  The overall purpose of the research project would be to evaluate PLL catches and catch rates of target and non-target species within a portion of the EFC PLL Closed Area to evaluate the effectiveness of existing area closures at meeting conservation and management goals under current conditions using standardized PLL gear on a specified number of commercial vessels. 

The research conducted within the EFC PLL Closed Area and in the open area would be carried out by no more than six PLL vessels at any one time.  An additional seven “backup” vessels could conduct research if any mechanical or technical issues arise on the other six vessels.  The project would be authorized for 12 months and, pending annual review of any changed environmental conditions or impacts and of catches and catch rates of all species, as well as individual vessel performance, could be re-authorized for two additional 12- month periods.  A maximum of 1,080 sets per year (12 months) would be authorized to occur between the six vessels and sets would be distributed evenly between two sub-areas of the EFC PLL Closed Area and one open area.  Each set would consist of a maximum of 750 16/0 or larger circle hooks.

NMFS invites comment on the potential issuance of an EFP and a number of terms and conditions that NMFS has identified to be appropriate for inclusion on the EFP, if issued.  NMFS is also announcing the availability of a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) that analyzes the potential impacts to the human environment of granting this EFP.  The EA notes that the vessels participating in the research project are already otherwise permitted to fish with PLL gear through their existing permits (tunas, swordfish, sharks).  Regulatory relief would be from the Closed Area regulatory provisions and associated prohibitions, but all other requirements (e.g., size limits, IBQ requirements, etc.) would continue to apply to the participating vessels.

Comments may be submitted on either the EFP application or the Draft EA at: nmfs.hms.pllefp@noaa.govPlease include “0648-XF086” in the subject line as an identifier.  You may also submit comments via mail to: Margo Schulze-Haugen, Highly Migratory Species Management Division (F/SF1), NMFS, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910.  Comments must be received by February 16, 2017.

For more information contact either Craig Cockrell at (301) 427-8503 or Rick Pearson at (727) 824-5399.  The draft EA and the EFP application may be found on the HMS Management Division’s website at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/compliance/efp/index.html.

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