NACO

National Association of Charterboat Operators

EIS Notice for Atlantic Shark Management Measures

Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS); request for comments

On October 7, 2011, we published an NOI to prepare an EIS for Amendment 5 to the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Fishery Management Plan (FMP) to address the results of recent shark stock assessments for several shark species, including dusky sharks. In that notice, based on the 2010/2011 Southeast Data, Assessment and Review (SEDAR) assessments for sandbar, dusky, and blacknose sharks, we declared that the status of the dusky shark stock is still overfished and still experiencing overfishing (i.e., their stock status has not changed). On November 26, 2012, we published a proposed rule for draft Amendment 5 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP. After fully considering the public comments received on draft Amendment 5 and its proposed rule, we decided that further analysis and consideration of management approaches, data sources, and available information are needed for dusky sharks beyond those considered in the proposed rule. Thus, we announce our intent to prepare a separate EIS under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to conduct further analyses and explore management options specific to rebuilding and ending overfishing of dusky sharks. This EIS would assess the potential effects on the human environment of action to rebuild and end overfishing of the dusky shark stock, consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). Through the rulemaking process, we would amend the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and examine management alternatives available to rebuild dusky sharks and end overfishing, as necessary.

Comments must be received no later than 5 p.m., local time, on May 24, 2013.

 

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 

 

NOAA-NMFS-2013-0070, by any of the following methods:

     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 

comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 

www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=[NOAA-NMFS-2013-0070], click the 

``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 

attach your comments.

     Mail: Submit written comments to Highly Migratory Species 

Management Division, NMFS Office of Sustainable Fisheries, 1315 East-

West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910. Please mark on the outside of 

the envelope ``Comments on Amendment 5b NOI to the HMS FMP.''

     Fax: 301-713-1917; Attn: Peter Cooper.

    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 

address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 

may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the 

public record and generally will be posted for public viewing on 

www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 

information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 

information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 

by the sender will be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential 

business information, or otherwise sensitive or protected information. 

NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required 

fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Attachments to electronic 

comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, or Adobe PDF file 

formats only.

    For a copy of the stock assessments,please contact Peter Cooper 

(301) 427-8503 or download them online at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/ or http://www.sefsc.noaa.gov/sedar/Index.jsp.

 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Karyl Brewster-Geisz or Peter Cooper 

at (301) 427-8503.

 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Atlantic shark fisheries are managed 

under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. 

Management of these species is described in the 2006 Consolidated HMS 

FMP and its amendments, which are implemented by regulations at 50 CFR 

part 635. Copies of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and amendments are 

available from NMFS on request (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

    On October 7, 2011 (76 FR 62331), we published an NOI that 

announced the stock status determinations for various sharks, including 

dusky sharks. In that notice, based on the 2010/2011 SEDAR assessments 

for sandbar, dusky, and blacknose sharks, we declared that the status 

of the dusky shark stock is still overfished and still experiencing 

overfishing (i.e., their stock status has not changed). In the notice, 

we also announced our intent to prepare an EIS to assess the potential 

effects on the human environment of action to rebuild and end 

overfishing on various species of sharks, including dusky sharks, 

consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

    On November 26, 2012, we published a proposed rule (77 FR 70552) 

for draft Amendment 5 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP based on several 

shark stock assessments that were completed from 2009 to 2012. As 

described in the proposed rule, we proposed measures that were designed 

to reduce fishing mortality and effort in order to rebuild various 

overfished Atlantic shark species, including dusky sharks, while 

ensuring that a limited sustainable shark fishery for certain species 

could be maintained consistent with our legal obligations and the 2006 

Consolidated HMS FMP. The proposed measures included changing 

commercial quotas and species groups, establishing several new time/

area closures, changing an existing time/area closure, increasing the 

recreational minimum size for sharks, and establishing recreational 

reporting for certain species of sharks.

    The comment period for the proposed rule closed on February 12, 

2013. After reviewing all of the comments received, we decided to 

conduct further analyses on measures pertaining to dusky sharks in an 

FMP amendment, EIS, and proposed rule separate from but related to the 

FMP amendment, EIS, and rule for the other species of sharks. Thus, we 

announce our intent to prepare a separate EIS under NEPA to conduct 

further analyses and explore management options specific to rebuilding 

and ending overfishing of dusky sharks. This EIS would assess the 

potential effects on the human environment of the process of rebuilding 

and ending overfishing of the dusky shark stock, consistent with the 

Magnuson-Stevens Act. Through the rulemaking process, we would amend 

the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and examine management alternatives 

available to rebuild dusky sharks and end overfishing, as necessary. 

Moving forward, the ongoing FMP amendment for the other species of 

sharks included in draft Amendment 5, specifically scalloped 

hammerhead, sandbar, blacknose, and Gulf of Mexico blacktip

 

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sharks, will be called ``Amendment 5a.'' The FMP amendment for dusky 

sharks will be called ``Amendment 5b.''

    In Amendment 5b, we will explore a variety of alternatives to 

rebuild dusky sharks. We will likely continue to consider alternatives 

similar to those considered in draft Amendment 5 while also considering 

the comments received on draft Amendment 5, and additional alternatives 

as appropriate. Some of the comments on the proposed rulemaking for 

Amendment 5 requested that we consider approaches to dusky shark 

fishery management significantly different from those we analyzed in 

the proposed rulemaking for Amendment 5. For example, draft Amendment 5 

proposed to increase the recreational size limit for all sharks based 

on the dusky shark age at maturity and many recreational fishermen 

asked for specific exemptions to, or different approaches to allow 

landings of other sharks such as blacktip sharks or ``blue'' sharks 

such as shortfin mako or thresher sharks. As another example, pelagic 

longline fishermen asked us to consider closing areas based on depth or 

other characteristics that may better define dusky shark habitats or to 

implement gear restrictions, such as limiting gangions to 300-pound 

test monofilament or requiring smaller circle hooks that might reduce 

interactions or allow any caught dusky sharks to escape with minimal 

harm.

    In addition, we received numerous comments on the proposed dusky 

shark measures regarding the data sources used and the analyses of 

these data. Many commenters stated that they believed that economic 

analyses of the time/area closures underestimated the potential impacts 

either because the analyses did not fully consider regional impacts and 

the effects on vessels that could not move to other fishing areas or 

because the analyses did not fully consider that the proposed closures 

would effectively close a much larger area due to Gulf Stream currents 

causing longlines to drift into the proposed closed areas. Commenters 

asked for new summaries of the data used and additional data analyses, 

including incorporating more observer data into the analysis of the 

alternatives. We plan to conduct additional analyses in the new EIS for 

Amendment 5b.

    Addressing dusky shark management measures in a subsequent and 

separate rulemaking via Amendment 5b will allow us to fully consider 

and address public comments on those measures, to consider other 

measures beyond the scope of those proposed and analyzed in draft 

Amendment 5, and to conduct additional analyses based on the best 

scientific information available. Comments received on the dusky 

measures of the draft Amendment 5 will be considered during the 

development of the new rule and Amendment 5b.

 

 

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