NOAA Fisheries is accepting comments on an application for an exempted fishing permit (EFP) from Sustainable Seas Technology, Inc. The applicant proposes to deploy modified black sea bass pots with Acoustic Subsea Buoy Retrieval Systems in federal waters off North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and northeastern Florida.
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 marine mammals and sea turtles.
How to Comment On The Application:
The comment period is open now through February 2, 2022. 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.
Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal.
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.
- 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 fishermen 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 southeastern U.S. coast 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.
- 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. Virtual gear marking (marking of gear deployment location with chart plotters, GPS, and manufacturer-provided software) would be utilized and evaluated, with analysis of the interoperability of systems being shared with fishery management partners.
- The proposed testing area would occur in offshore federal waters of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Sampling would occur from November 15 through April 30 of each year in water depths of 20 to 65 m. Deployments would be limited to 35 total pots with an average soak time of 90 minutes per configuration.
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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