This adjustment is intended to promote equitable fishing opportunities in the Atlantic region, while still allowing the majority of quota to be harvested later in the year. All other retention limits and shark management groups remain unchanged in the Atlantic region.
NOAA Fisheries takes this action after considering the regulatory criteria at 50 CFR 635.24(a)(8) and other relevant factors. On November 22, 2017 (82 FR 55512), NOAA Fisheries announced that the aggregated large coastal shark and hammerhead shark management groups for the Atlantic region would open on January 1 with a quota of 168.9 metric tons dressed weight (372,552 pounds dressed weight) and 27.1 metric tons dressed weight (59,736 pounds dressed weight), respectively.
Dealer reports through May 4, 2018, indicate that 32.7 mt dw or 19 percent of the available quota for the aggregated large coastal shark has been harvested. If the average catch rate for the aggregated large coastal shark management group continues, landings could reach 80 percent of the quota by the beginning of July. Once the aggregated large coastal shark landings reach 80 percent of the quota, NOAA Fisheries would close both the aggregated large coastal shark and hammerhead management groups because they are linked under the regulations (§ 635.28(b)(3)). Closure at that time would not allow fishermen throughout the Atlantic region an opportunity to fish for sharks for the rest of the year.
Accordingly, as of 11:30 p.m. local time May 12, 2018, NOAA Fisheries is reducing the retention limit for the commercial aggregated large coastal shark and hammerhead shark management groups in the Atlantic region for directed shark limited access permit holders from 25 large coastal sharks—other than sandbar sharks—per vessel, per trip to 3 large coastal sharks—other than sandbar sharks—per vessel, per trip. As noted in the November 22, 2017 final rule (82 FR 55512), NOAA Fisheries will consider increasing the commercial retention limit around July 15, 2018, as this was the date used for recent prior season opening dates. However, any future change in the retention limit will not be made unless deemed appropriate after considering the in-season trip limit adjustment criteria (§ 635.24(a)(8)).
This notice is a courtesy to the HMS fishery participants to help keep you informed about the fishery. For more information, please contact Lauren Latchford, Guý DuBeck, or Karyl Brewster-Geisz at 301-427-8503.