NOAA Fisheries Seeks Comments for an Application for an Exempted Fishing Permit to Test Experimental Retrieval Devices for Black Sea Bass Pots in South Atlantic Federal Waters

July 15, 2020

FB20-044: South Atlantic Fishery Bulletin; For more information, contact: Frank Helies, 727-824-5305, frank.helies@noaa.gov

KEY MESSAGE:

NOAA Fisheries is accepting comments on an application for an exempted fishing permit (EFP) from the University of Georgia Marine Extension, Georgia Sea Grant.  The applicant proposes to deploy modified black sea bass pots with Acoustic Subsea Buoy Retrieval Systems in federal waters off Georgia.  The project would examine the potential usefulness of the devices for use in the black sea bass pot component for the commercial sector of the snapper-grouper fishery while minimizing impacts to protected species.

 

HOW TO COMMENT ON THE APPLICATION:

The comment period is open now through August 14, 2020.  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/black-sea-bass-pot-pilot-project-exempted-fishing-permit-application/

 

Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. 

1. Go to https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=NOAA-NMFS-2020-0090.

2. Click the "Comment Now!" icon, complete the required fields.

3. Enter or attach your comments.

Mail:  Submit written comments to Frank Helies, NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.

 

Program Concepts

  • Acoustic Subsea Buoy Retrieval Systems are an example of gear that store buoys and their retrieval devices at depth.  These systems exist in the water column for minutes instead of hours or days as they are activated via acoustic releases only when fishers are present.  Currently, vertical end lines and buoys, such as those utilized for black sea bass pots, present an entanglement risk to the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, a species that migrates and calves off the coast of Georgia in the winter months.
  • Adaptation of “ropeless” systems for this style of pot fishing could reduce risk to these whales and other marine animals that suffer entanglements.  Up to six different designs would be tested during this study.
  • Black sea bass pots would be fished as singles with a traditional configuration and as experimental configurations of black sea bass pots (four regulation-sized pots connected together with wire connecting clips) without vertical buoy lines on live bottom during August and September 2020.  Virtual gear marking (marking of gear deployment location with chartplotters, GPS, and manufacturer-provided software) would be utilized and evaluated, with analysis of the interoperability of systems being shared with fishery management partners.
  • Testing would occur in depths from 10-30 meters in federal waters 10 to 32 nautical miles off Townsend, Georgia.  Deployments would be limited to 35 total pots, up to 300 gear hauls, with an average soak time of 90-120 minutes per configuration.  The applicant intends to collect data from 90 traditional gear deployments and 270 ASBRS gear deployments.

 

NOAA Fisheries finds this application warrants further consideration, and is seeking public comment on the application.  A final decision on issuance of the EFP will depend on NOAA Fisheries' review of public comments received, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils’ 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.


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Other contacts:

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            Allison Garrett, 727-551-5750 

Last updated by Southeast Regional Office on July 15, 2020