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NOAA Fisheries Announces the Availability of the Final EIS for Amendment 5b to the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan

Posted February 17, 2017

The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for Amendment 5b to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Fishery Management Plan (FMP) is now available.  Amendment 5b implements management measures to end overfishing and rebuild dusky sharks, following a 2016 dusky shark stock assessment update and determination that dusky sharks are overfished and experiencing overfishing.  Several modifications were made after considering public comments on the proposed rule and Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and incorporating updated data and information, and are described below.

Who is affected?

Amendment 5b could affect:

 

What will it do?

Amendment 5b is designed to meet the objective of ending overfishing and rebuilding the dusky sharks, building on measures adopted in 2008 as a dusky shark rebuilding plan.  NMFS considered a full range of alternatives in the FEIS, which can be found in Chapter 2 of the FEIS.  After considering comments on the proposed rule and DEIS, NMFS revised or modified some of the preferred alternatives in the FEIS, as follows:

 

The preferred alternatives, consistent with recent stock assessments, are summarized below and include: 

Recreational Measures

Preferred Alternatives in FEIS

Permit Requirements and Outreach

Alternative A2            

Require HMS permit holders fishing for sharks recreationally to obtain a shark endorsement, which requires completion of an online shark identification and fishing regulation training course, plus additional recreational fisheries outreach.

Circle Hook Requirement

Alternative A6d          

Require the use of non-offset, non-stainless steel circle hooks by all HMS permit holders with a shark endorsement when fishing for sharks recreationally south of 41° 43’ N latitude, except when fishing with flies or artificial lures.

Reason for Changes: The circle hook Preferred Alternative 6d in the FEIS is a new alternative similar to the previously preferred Alternative A6a in the DEIS.  This alternative responds to public comments indicating that, as worded,  Alternative A6a’s application to shark fishing defined by a specified bait/gear combination would have impacted fishing for non-shark species, including tunas, billfishes, dolphin, wahoo, bluefish, and others, where J-hooks are often used in conjunction with natural bait and wire/heavy leaders.  The new alternative applies to all recreational fishing for sharks but exempts from the circle hook requirement recreational fishing in U.S. waters north of the dusky shark’s range (41°43’N) as conservation and management measures are intended to manage the dusky shark stock throughout its range, but not beyond, and fishing with flies or artificial lures.

Commercial Measures

Preferred Alternatives in FEIS

Shark Release Protocol

Alternative B3            

Fishermen with an Atlantic shark limited access permit with pelagic longline gear onboard must release all sharks not being retained using a dehooker or cutting the gangion less than three feet from the hook as safely as practicable.

Reason for Changes: The shark release protocol has been modified from that in the DEIS based on comments received from commercial fishermen suggesting that requiring gangions to be cut less than three feet from the hook could result in safety issues.  The modified language in Alternative B3 acknowledges those safety concerns expressed and encourages vessels to comply with the requirement in as safe a manner as practicable.
Additional Training Requirements

Alternative B5            

Require completion of a shark identification and fishing regulation training course as a new part of all Safe Handling and Release Workshops for HMS pelagic longline, bottom longline, and shark gillnet vessel owners and operators.

Outreach and Fleet Communication Protocol

Alternative B6            

Increase dusky shark outreach and awareness through development of additional outreach materials, and require HMS pelagic longline, bottom longline, and shark gillnet vessels to abide by a dusky shark fleet communication and relocation protocol.

Circle Hook Requirement

Alternative B9

Require the use of circle hooks by all HMS directed shark permit holders using bottom longline gear.

 

This notice is a courtesy to Atlantic 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 and draft environmental impact statement, contact Tobey Curtis at 978-281-9273 or Karyl Brewster-Geisz at 301-427-8503.

 

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