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NOAA Fisheries Requests Comment On An Exempted Fishing Permit Application From The Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance

Posted July 14, 2017

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) received an application for an exempted fishing permit (EFP) from the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance (CCCFA).  The application asks for an exemption from the regulation that prohibits having unauthorized gear on board while fishing for, retaining, or possessing a bluefin tuna as outlined at 50 CFR 635.19(b).  The applicants suggest that with the use of Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office (GARFO)-required electronic monitoring (EM) and through issuance of an Atlantic highly migratory species (HMS) EFP, there would be sufficient at-sea monitoring to verify that the catch of bluefin tuna occurred on authorized gear (e.g., rod and reel and harpoon gear).  NMFS has determined that the application warrants additional consideration and an opportunity for public comment.  The regulation not only allows enforcement to verify that only the authorized gear type was used to catch the bluefin tuna, but also serves as an effort control for bluefin tuna as it limits the number of vessels that can actively pursue bluefin tuna to those with only authorized gear.

The CCCFA would like to test the effectiveness of EM for confirming authorized gear is used to catch Atlantic tunas, while unauthorized gear (for tunas) is onboard.  Fishermen would be targeting groundfish with benthic longline, jigging machines, handgear, demersal gillnet (6.5” groundfish, 10-12” tie-down monkfish gillnet), or otter trawl.  The applicants would commit to 100 percent of the trips being recorded and 100 percent of the footage being reviewed. Also, vessels using harpoon gear would have EM camera views that would allow for viewing all fishing operations to ensure compliance, including adding necessary cameras to cover the pulpit and harpoon throw.  If granted, this EFP would expire on December 31, 2017.

NMFS requests public comment on the information provided in the Federal Register notice and the application submitted.  Comments must be received by August 1, 2017, and NMFS will consider these comments before issuing any such EFP.

Comments may be submitted via email at NMFS.EMEFP.2017@noaa.gov or by mail to: Craig Cockrell, Highly Migratory Species Management Division (F/SF1), NMFS, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910.  If submitting comments via email please put 0648-XF513 in the subject line of your comments.  Please mark the outside of the envelope “Comments on 2017 CCCFA EM EFP application.”

For further information please see the Federal Register notice and the submitted application which can be found the following website http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/compliance/efp/index.html; or by contacting Craig Cockrell, Highly Migratory Species Management Division, NMFS, (301) 427-8503.

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