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NOAA Fisheries is accepting comments on an application for an exempted fishing permit from NOAA Fisheries’ Southeast Fisheries Science Center Panama City, Florida Laboratory. The objectives of this project are to (1) use underwater video to collect size and abundance data and describe benthic habitats of deep-water reef fish species off the western, northeastern, and southeastern coasts of Puerto Rico and (2) collect biological samples to determine reproductive cycles, growth estimates, and the age and size at sexual maturation of commercially important deep-water snapper species.
The Caribbean Fishery Management Council has ranked investigations into deep-water snapper fishing at the highest priority level for deep-water research in their region. The applicant is currently authorized to conduct similar deep-water snapper research under an exempted fishing permit issued on July 30, 2020, which is valid through August 1, 2021.
- Under this exempted fishing permit, Science Center staff and contracted commercial fishers would deploy four vertical lines per site: one to collect a water sample at depth, one with an underwater video camera to record deep-water species and habitats at depth, and two fishing lines with 9 hooks each to catch the targeted deep-water snappers (vertical fishing line).
- Targeted species include black, blackfin, cardinal, queen, silk, and wenchman snappers. Non-targeted species expected to be incidentally caught include vermilion snapper and black, red, tiger, yellowfin, misty, yellowedge, and red hind groupers.
- Project activities would be conducted from August 1, 2021 through August 1, 2023.
- Sampling would occur along the western, northeastern, and southeastern coasts of Puerto Rico at depths of 328 – 2,133 feet (100 – 650 meters).
- A maximum of 45 fishing trips would be conducted per coast, per year. Approximately, 40 of the trips each year would be in federal waters and the remaining 95 trips in state waters.
NOAA Fisheries finds this application warrants further consideration, and is seeking public comment on the application. A final decision on issuance of the permit will depend on NOAA Fisheries' review of public comments received, the Caribbean Fishery Management Council’s recommendations, consultations with the affected states and the U.S. Coast Guard, as well as a determination that it is consistent with all applicable laws.
How To Comment On The Application:
The comment period is open now through July 30, 2021. You may submit comments by electronic submission or by postal mail. Comments sent by any other method (such as e-mail), to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NOAA Fisheries.
Application information: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/southeast/commercial-fishing/noaa-nmfs-panama-city-lab-2021
Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the e-Rulemaking portal.
1. Go to https://www.regulations.gov and enter "NOAA-NMFS-2021-0058" in the Search box.
2. Click the "Comment" icon, complete the required fields.
3. Enter or attach your comments.
Mail: Submit written comments to Sarah Stephenson, NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.
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