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

Posted April 3, 2017

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announces the final rule to implement Amendment 5b to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Fishery Management Plan (FMP).  Amendment 5b implements a range of management measures to prevent overfishing and rebuild overfished dusky sharks.  These measures are based on the 2016 dusky shark stock assessment update that determined dusky sharks are overfished and experiencing overfishing. 

Who is affected?

Amendment 5b could affect:


What will it do?

The final rule, which will publish in the Federal Register on April 4, 2017, and related documents, including the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) may be found here.

 The management measures implemented by this final rule (which were analyzed in the Amendment 5b FEIS) are listed in the table below.  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 is implementing final measures, as follows:  


The final management measures, consistent with recent stock assessment update, are summarized below and include: 

Recreational Measures

Final Management Measures

Permit Requirements and Outreach

Alternative A2 – Effective January 1, 2018               

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 – Effective January 1, 2018             

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 (near Chatham, Massachusetts - the northern extent of the dusky shark’s U.S. Atlantic range), except when fishing with flies or artificial lures.
Reason for Changes: The circle hook final measure is a new alternative similar to the previously preferred Alternative A6a in the proposed rule and DEIS.  Alternative A6d was formulated based in response to numerous comments received during the public comment period which indicated, as worded, that Alternative A6a would impact fishing for numerous 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 final 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 – Effective June 5, 2017       

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 proposed rule 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 – Effective June 5, 2017                    

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 – Effective June 5, 2017                    

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 – Effective January 1, 2018       

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


Figure 1           Chart of the northern extent of dusky shark distribution (points) and the regulatory line at 41° 43’ N latitude, north of which HMS anglers would be exempt from the circle hook requirements included in Alternative A6d because it is outside the dusky shark’s U.S. Atlantic range. Data sources: NMFS Pelagic Observer Program, NMFS EFP database, NEFSC Observer Program, NEFSC Cooperative Shark Tagging Program.

This notice is a courtesy to Atlantic HMS fishery participants to help keep you informed about the fisheries.  Official notice of Federal fishery actions is made through filing such notice with the Office of the Federal Register.  For further information on this final rule and FEIS, contact Tobey Curtis at (978) 281-9273.  Copies of the final rule and supporting documents are available upon request from the HMS Management Division at (301) 427-8503. 


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