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Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Exempted Fishing Permits for Testing Fishing Practices to Target Swordfish and Other Marketable Highly Migratory Species (HMS) in Federal Waters off the United States’ West Coast

February 09, 2024

Availability of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for public review and comment

NOAA Fisheries announces the release of a draft environmental impact statement (EIS), in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which includes an analysis of the potential impacts on the human (biological, physical, social, and economic) environment of a proposed action to issue exempted fishing permits (EFPs) for testing alternative fishing practices to target swordfish and other marketable highly migratory species in Federal waters off the U.S. West Coast. The purpose of the Proposed Action is to allow fishing trials and to gather data to inform decision-making in support of statutory objectives of the MSA, including achieving optimum yield (i.e., National Standard 1) and minimizing bycatch (i.e., National Standard 9). The Proposed Action is needed to permit alternative fishing practices that are otherwise prohibited by existing regulations at 50 CFR part 660, subpart K.

Following the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s (Council) solicitation in 2014 for EFP applications to test alternative fishing practices, NMFS received several applications to trial fishing configurations that would deploy hooks from horizontal mainlines, which the Council recommended NMFS approve and issue under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA). In 2022, the MSA was amended by the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act, which prohibits the use of large mesh drift gillnets in Federal waters off the U.S. West Coast after 2027 and calls for a transition program to facilitate the phase-out of the gear and adoption of alternative fishing practices that minimize the incidental catch of living marine resources. 

The notice of availability invites interested parties to provide comments on the Draft EIS (comment period closes April 9, 2024). Comments may be submitted to NOAA Fisheries via email to wcr.hms@noaa.gov or via mail to the address below. 

National Marine Fisheries Service, West Coast Region
Sustainable Fisheries Division
501 West Ocean Boulevard, Suite 4200
Long Beach, CA 90802

Last updated by West Coast Regional Office on February 09, 2024

Exempted Fishing Permit