NOAA Fisheries Requests Comments on the Issuance of Exempted Fishing Permits and Related Permits for Atlantic Highly Migratory Species During 2018

October 25, 2017

NOAA Fisheries intends to issue exempted fishing permits, scientific research permits, display permits, letters of acknowledgment, and shark research fishery permits for the research and collection of Atlantic highly migratory species in 2018. In general, exempted fishing permits and related permits would authorize collection of a limited number of tunas, swordfish, billfishes, and sharks from federal waters in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico for the purposes of scientific data collection, bycatch research, public display, and to evaluate the efficacy of environmental clean-up efforts, among other things. Letters of acknowledgment recognize that scientific research activity aboard a scientific research vessel is being conducted. 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 HMS for fishery-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 a total of 39 exempted fishing permits, scientific research permits, display permits, and letters of acknowledgment in 2016 for the collection of HMS and a total of 5 shark research fishery permits. As of October 3, 2017, NOAA Fisheries has issued a total of 33 exempted fishing permits, scientific research permits, display permits, and letters of acknowledgment and a total of 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.

During the comment period for the November 2016 notice of intent to issue exempted fishing permits (81 FR 80646), NOAA Fisheries received numerous comments regarding previous years’ white shark research in federal waters, focusing primarily on concerns about the need for coordination among researchers regarding the potential effects of one project on another. The volume of these comments indicated that any exempted fishing permits or SRP applications involving white sharks in 2017 should be considered “controversial” and warranted additional opportunity for public comment. Subsequently, NOAA Fisheries published a notice in the Federal Register (March 1, 2017, 82 FR 12340) requesting public comment on applications for exempted fishing permits and related permits for white shark research, particularly on two applications involving white shark research that had been received at that time.

During the comment period, NOAA Fisheries received 722 comments related to white shark research and the applications described in the notice. After reviewing these comments, NOAA Fisheries decided to issue exempted fishing permits and related permits for white shark research as appropriate in 2017. During 2018, NOAA Fisheries anticipates permits for white shark research would be undertaken with substantially the same terms and conditions and scope as last year, with no additional anticipated effects. Comments are invited specifically on these issues related to the issuance of white shark permits this year.

Occasionally, NOAA Fisheries receives applications for research activities that were not anticipated, for research that is outside the scope of general scientific sampling and tagging of Atlantic HMS, or rarely, for an activity of a, particularly controversial nature. Should NOAA Fisheries receive such applications, NOAA Fisheries will provide additional opportunity for the public to comment, consistent with regulations at 50 CFR 600.745.

Written comments on the collection, research, and fishing activities will be considered when issuing exempted fishing permits, scientific research permits, display permits, letters of acknowledgment, 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. Permit applications and copies of the regulations pertaining to exempted fishing permits, SRPs, LOAs, display permits, and chartering permits may also be requested from this address. Shark research fishery permit applications can be received via information found in the request for applications, expected to publish shortly. Comments on the issuance of any of these permits may also be sent via e-mail to nmfs.hms.efp2018@noaa.gov.

Official notice of federal fishery actions is made through filing notice with the Office of the Federal Register. For further information, contact Craig Cockrell at (301) 427-8503.

Last updated by Office of Sustainable Fisheries on July 30, 2018