NOAA Fisheries is accepting comments on an application for an exempted fishing permit (EFP) that would authorize the deployment of golden crab traps to commercially fish for golden crab on a limited basis in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf). The project seeks to collect information on the catch efficiency of four different golden crab trap designs and the possibility of a commercial golden crab fishery in the Gulf. Information collected would include harvest rates, trap soak time, bycatch levels, and crab quality for each of the four trap designs. Information collected might also be useful in providing data on the status of the golden crab population in the Gulf. Only golden crab, red crab, and large isopods would be harvested under this EFP.
HOW TO COMMENT ON THE APPLICATIONS:
The comment period is open now through October 31, 2018. 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 Karla Gore, NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.
- The applicants would use two vessels to test the catch efficiency of four different golden crab trap designs. Each vessel would deploy a maximum of two strings of 6 to 40 traps per trip.
- The traps would be baited with fish carcasses and trap soak times would range from overnight up to 17 days, depending on trap type and location. At any time, there would be no more than 100 golden crab traps deployed on the seafloor.
- Sampling would occur year-round and the applicants expect to set and haul the traps a maximum of 60 times over the course of the 2-year project. Setting and hauling of the traps would occur during all hours.
- The golden crab traps would be deployed in the southeastern Gulf, on mud bottom. From south to north, the gear would be set between 25Ã‚Â° and 28Ã‚Â° north latitude with the western gear boundary ranging from 84.20Ã‚Â° to 85.40Ã‚Â° west longitude, in depths ranging from 1,800 to 2,600 feet. This location is west of southwest Florida and outside the range of any other known directed-fishery operating in the Gulf, including the deep-water shrimp fishery.
- Only golden crab, red crab, and giant isopods would be harvested.
- The EFP would be valid for two years.
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 Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council 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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