NOAA Fisheries announces issuance of an exempted fishing permit (EFP) to the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen's Alliance (CCCFA) to use electronic monitoring (EM) to verify authorized gear use when fishing for, retaining, and possessing bluefin tuna during a fishing trip on which unauthorized gear is also onboard. The CCCFA is comprised of New England fishermen who typically target groundfish under the management authority of the NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Regional Office (GARFO). NOAA Fisheries published a notice in the Federal Register (82 FR 32684, July 17, 2017) requesting public comment on the application; that comment period closed on August 1, 2017. NOAA Fisheries received 13 comments related to the EFP application.
NOAA Fisheries received comments opposing issuance of this EFP that stated applicants should be held to current Highly Migratory Species regulations regarding authorized gear types. Other comments that opposed issuance of the EFP noted concerns about possible increases in effort. NOAA Fisheries does not agree that these vessels with EM onboard should be held to current regulations, because NOAA Fisheries is confident that EM can confirm bluefin tuna would be caught on authorized gear. NOAA Fisheries does not agree with these comments due to the limited scope of this EFP, and authorized vessels being held to current Atlantic tunas general category regulations, which should not cause an increase in effort. NOAA Fisheries also received comments in support of granting the EFP stating that the EFP would allow for more diversified trips and incentives to carry EM.
After reviewing public comments, NOAA Fisheries has decided to issue the EFP to CCCFA. Specifically, the EFP exempts five CCCFA vessels that are also permitted in the Atlantic tunas general category fishery from the HMS regulations that prohibit a person fishing for, possessing or retaining an Atlantic bluefin tuna with gear other than the gear authorized for the Atlantic tunas general category on board the vessel. All other regulations applicable to general category vessels fishing for Atlantic bluefin tuna will continue to apply (e.g., retention limits, closures, reporting, etc). The EM on these vessels will be turned on and recording for the entire duration of the trip. The video will be reviewed and tagged by Ecotrust Canada for Atlantic HMS interactions, in addition to groundfish species interactions. The tagged footage will be audited by Northeast Fisheries Science Center and provided to GARFO staff for review. The tagged video will also be provided upon request to the Atlantic HMS Management Division for review of bluefin tuna interactions.
This EFP will be valid from January 1, 2018 until December 31, 2018 to allow for a full year of fishing for data collection and to prevent an increase in effort on the limited bluefin quota in 2017.
For further information, visit the Atlantic HMS Management Division’s EFP program web page or contact Craig Cockrell at (301) 427-8503.