Notice of intent to prepare an EIS to fish longline gear in the U.S. EEZ under an exempted fishing permit
NMFS announces its intent to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS), in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, to analyze the potential short- and long-term impacts of the proposed action to issue an exempted fishing permit (EFP), on the human (biological, physical, social, and economic) environment.
In 2015, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (hereafter, the Council) recommended that NMFS issue an EFP authorizing the applicants to engage fish with longline gear within the U.S. West Coast exclusive economic zone (EEZ). When soliciting requests for EFP proposals, the Council’s objective was to test gear types or methods that could serve as an alternative to using drift gillnet (DGN) gear to catch swordfish in the EEZ, or to test different approaches to contemporary DGN fishing practices. DGN and harpoon are the only two gear types currently authorized under the Fishery Management Plan for U.S. West Coast Fisheries for Highly Migratory Species (HMS FMP); of the two, DGN contributes the majority of the landings to the West Coast.
Since 1985, U.S. West Coast swordfish catch has dramatically declined. Without other lawful, economically viable gear types, the U.S. West Coast swordfish fishery is unlikely to operate at optimum yield into the foreseeable future. This notice of intent to prepare an EIS invited interested parties to provide comments on alternatives to be considered in an EIS, potential terms and conditions to minimize adverse effects to the environment, and to identify potential issues, concerns, and any reasonable additional alternatives that members of the public wished to raise.