NOAA Fisheries will issue exempted fishing permits, scientific research permits, display permits, letters of acknowledgment, and shark research fishery permits in 2018. Exempted fishing permits and related permits would allow the collection of a limited number of tunas, swordfish, billfishes, and sharks from federal waters in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico. The collections are for the purposes of scientific data collection, bycatch research, public display, and to evaluate environmental clean-up efforts. The shark research fishery assists NOAA Fisheries in collecting valuable shark life history and other scientific data required in shark stock assessments.
Every year, NOAA Fisheries receives applications to collect Atlantic Highly Migratory Species for independent surveys, public display, and scientific research. The majority of exempted fishing permits and related permits described in this annual notice relate to scientific sampling and tagging of Atlantic HMS, and the impacts of the activities conducted have been previously analyzed in various environmental assessments and environmental impact statements for Atlantic HMS fisheries management. NOAA Fisheries intends to issue these types of permits without additional opportunity for public comment beyond what is provided in this notice.
NOAA Fisheries issued 39 exempted fishing permits, scientific research permits, display permits, and letters of acknowledgment and 5 shark research fishery permits in 2016. As of October 3, 2017, NOAA Fisheries has issued 33 exempted fishing permits, scientific research permits, display permits, and letters of acknowledgment and 5 shark research fishery permits. These permits were issued to NOAA Fisheries and non-NOAA Fisheries scientists, commercial fishermen, educational institutions, public aquaria, and public display collectors acquiring Atlantic HMS.
NOAA Fisheries previously received numerous comments about previous years’ white shark research in federal waters. Many are concerned with lack of coordination among researchers. Due to the volume of these comments, exempted fishing permits or applications involving white sharks are considered “controversial” and additional public comment was gathered.
After review, NOAA Fisheries decided to issue exempted fishing permits and related permits for white shark research as appropriate in 2017. Comments are invited specifically on these issues related to the issuance of white shark permits in 2018.
Written comments on the collection, research, and fishing activities will be considered when issuing exempted fishing permits, scientific research permits, display permits, shark research fishery permits, and chartering permits if received on or before November 27, 2017. Please send comments to Craig Cockrell, Highly Migratory Species Management Division, NOAA Fisheries, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910.