Request for Comments: Proposed Modifications to Spiny Lobster Gear Requirements and Cooperative Management Procedure

April 02, 2019

FB19-019: Gulf of Mexico Fishery Bulletin; For more information, contact: Kelli O’Donnell, 727-824-5305, kelli.odonnell@noaa.gov

Caribbean spiny lobster

Caribbean Spiny Lobster

 

KEY MESSAGE:

NOAA Fisheries requests your comments on Spiny Lobster Amendment 13, which if implemented, would modify federal regulations for the harvest of spiny lobster that apply in federal waters off Florida.  Comments are due by June 3, 2019.

 

SUMMARY OF PROPOSED CHANGES:

  • Align federal regulations to be consistent with Florida state regulations for:
    • spiny lobster commercial harvesters using bully net gear, particularly permit and gear requirements.
    • commercial daily vessel harvest and possession limits:
      • 250 per day/vessel for spiny lobsters harvested by bully net in or from all federal waters off Florida.
      • 250 per day/vessel for spiny lobsters harvested by diving in or from federal waters only off Broward, Dade, Monroe, Collier, and Lee Counties, Florida.
  • Establish an enhanced cooperative management procedure that allows Florida to request changes to spiny lobster federal regulations or for NOAA Fisheries to update incorporate by reference dates relative to Florida regulations through NOAA Fisheries rulemaking. 
  • Update existing language in spiny lobster federal regulations that incorporate by reference Florida regulations.

 

HOW TO COMMENT ON AMENDMENT 13:

The comment period on Amendment 13 is open now through June 3, 2019.  The comment period on the proposed rule is expected to fall within this same time, and comments on both the amendment and proposed rule will be considered in the final rule.  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.

 

FORMAL FEDERAL REGISTER NAME/NUMBER: FR 2019-05969, published April 2, 2019

 

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

1. Go to https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=NOAA-NMFS-2018-0088    

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

3. Enter or attach your comments.

 

Mail: Submit written comments to Kelli O’Donnell, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)
 

Why is NOAA Fisheries aligning federal regulations with the Florida regulations for harvest of spiny lobster from federal waters off Florida?

  • The original Spiny Lobster Fishery Management Plan (Spiny Lobster FMP), implemented in 1982, adopted many of Florida’s spiny lobster management measures because the fishery is conducted almost entirely in waters off Florida.  However, incompatibilities remained because Florida’s system could adjust management measures more quickly than the federal system. 
  • Amendment 13 would re-establish the procedure for an enhanced cooperative management system to provide Florida a mechanism to propose new regulations or update federal regulations concerning spiny lobster directly to NOAA Fisheries for implementation, without formal action by the Council.    

 

Federal regulations already refer to certain Florida state regulations for spiny lobster. Why do these incorporations by reference need to be updated?

  • Florida has recently updated sections in their Florida Administrative Code that the Code of Federal Regulations incorporates by reference, resulting in dates in the Code of Federal Regulations referring to old regulations that are no longer accurate. 
  • Rulemaking from Amendment 13 would clarify any outdated language in the spiny lobster federal regulations and update these incorporate by reference dates to match the Florida Administrative Code. 

 

What commercial bully net gear requirements in Florida’s state regulations would Amendment 13 align federal regulations with?

  • Commercial bully net vessels:
    • are required to have a bully net permit from Florida.
    • must be marked with the harvester’s Florida bully net permit number using reflective paint or other reflective material.
    • are prohibited from having trap pullers onboard.
    • are prohibited from the simultaneous possession of a bully net and any underwater breathing apparatus (not including dive masks or snorkels) onboard a vessel used to harvest or transport spiny lobster for commercial purposes.

 

What commercial spiny lobster bully net and dive harvest bag limits in Florida’s regulations would Amendment 13 align federal regulations with?

  • Commercial daily vessel harvest and possession limit of 250 per day/vessel for spiny lobsters harvested by bully net in or from all state waters off Florida.
  • Commercial daily vessel harvest and possession limit of 250 per day/vessel for spiny lobsters harvested by diving in or from state waters only off Broward, Dade, Monroe, Collier, and Lee Counties, Florida.

 

Florida recently increased the soak period (time in the water) for commercial spiny lobster traps before the season begins and after it ends.  Will the same soak time be in place in federal waters by the end of the 2018/2019 fishing season?

  • Rulemaking from Amendment 13 would update existing language in spiny lobster federal regulations that incorporate by reference Florida regulations for season length; however, these regulations would not be in place in federal waters until the final rule publishes and is effective.
  • Once implemented:
    • Commercial spiny lobster traps may be baited and placed in the water beginning on the Saturday immediately following the recreational mini season each year, but cannot be pulled for harvest until after the season opens.
    • All commercial spiny lobster traps shall be removed by April 10 of each year.
    • Harvest or sale of spiny lobster from such traps during the “soak” period prior to the beginning of the season or after the end of the season during the trap retrieval period is prohibited.
    • The season length for commercial harvest and sale of spiny lobster will remain August 6-March 31.

 

Where can I find more information on Spiny Lobster Amendment 13?

  • Contact NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office 

By Mail: Kelli O’Donnell

NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office

Sustainable Fisheries Division

263 13th Avenue South

St. Petersburg, Florida 33701-5505

By FAX: (727) 824-5308

By Phone: (727) 824-5305

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Last updated by Southeast Regional Office on April 02, 2019