Cuba Drilling for Oil Near Florida Keys

In Cuba’s North Basin, the Spanish company Repsol has begun risky exploration for oil and natural gas on a semi-submersible rig, now just 77 nautical miles from Key West and even closer to the ecologically sensitive Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Despite the proximity of the Keys to the Cuban rig site, the statistical probability of significant oil reaching Keys shorelines is low, even in the event of a massive spill in Cuban waters, according to three scientists for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.They say geography is in all of Florida’s favor because of the powerful Gulf Stream, which flows between northern Cuba and the Keys, several miles from any land, before heading north.

Recreational Yellowfin Tuna Data for Future Quotas

At its 2011 meeting, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) actively considered country-specific yellowfin tuna allocations as well as the potential landings histories that could be the basis for those allocations. While the final recommendation did not establish any country-specific allocations, some members of the Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Advisory Panel and the public have expressed an interest in discussing historical and future data collection in the U.S. recreational yellowfin tuna fishery, in case this issue comes up at the 2012 ICCAT meeting. 

To participate in this conference call 

Webinar to Discuss Stock Assessment Schedule for 2014-18

This federal register notice announces a webinar meeting to establish the Stock assessment schedule for 2014-18 and a rule that reduces the current Greater Amberjack commercial sector quota of 1,169,931 lb, gutted weight, to 769,388 lb, gutted weight.

The SEDAR Steering Committee will meet on Friday, May 18, 2012, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Atlantic Bluefin Tuna; HMS Amendment

ACTION: Notice of intent (NOI) to hold public scoping meetings and to prepare a draft environmental impact statement (EIS); request for comments.

SUMMARY: NMFS announces its intent to hold public scoping meetings to determine the scope and significance of issues to be analyzed in a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) on management measures for Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) and a potential proposed amendment to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP based on that process. The public process will help NMFS determine if existing measures are the best means of achieving certain management objectives for Atlantic BFT and providing flexibility for future management, consistent with the Consolidated HMS FMP, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA), and other relevant Federal laws. NMFS is also announcing the availability of a scoping document describing measures for potential inclusion in a proposed Amendment. Table 1, below, provides details for seven scoping meetings to discuss and collect comments on the scoping document and certain management objectives for BFT. NMFS is requesting comments on this NOI, and the management of BFT, including, but not limited to, those described in the scoping document.

Phase 1 Early Restoration Plan Will Begin Soon

An estimated $60 million in early restoration projects soon will begin along the Gulf Coast following the nation's largest oil spill, the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) Trustee Council announced recently. 

The projects provide for marsh creation, coastal dune habitat improvements, nearshore artificial reef creation, and oyster cultch restoration, as well as the construction and enhancement of boat ramps to compensate for lost human use of resources.

With finalization of the "Deepwater Horizon Phase I Early Restoration Plan & Environmental Assessment", the trustees will implement eight restoration projects. The ERP/EA is the first early restoration plan under the unprecedented April 2011 agreement with BP to fund $1 billion in early restoration projects. The funding enables the trustees to begin restoration before the completion of damage assessment activities. 

Plaintiffs' Steering Committee and BP Finalize Settlement

Joint Motions Seek Preliminary Court Approval

The Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee (PSC) leading the litigation surrounding the 2010 BP Gulf Oil Spill announced that it has finalized its settlement with BP.

The PSC has filed for Class certification, and the Parties have jointly filed for preliminary Court approval for two separate Class settlement agreements – one resolving certain economic and property damage claims; the other resolving certain medical claims stemming from the response effort. 

Generally, there is no cap on the amount BP will pay to the proposed economic and property damages Class. As a result, all eligible proposed Class members will be fully and fairly compensated for their losses. In addition, the PSC has obtained a commitment from BP to pay $2.3 billion to participants in the seafood industry including Seafood Crew, Commercial Fishermen, Oyster Leaseholders and Seafood Vessel Owners.

Recreational For Hire Survey Results Are In

The lack of recent economic data for the Gulf Recreational For Hire (RFH) fishing industry limits the ability to fully determine the economic and social impacts associated with any regulation that may influence business operations.  This lag in updated economic and policy data prevents fulfillment of Magnuson-Stevens Act mandates which require use of this data.  Specifically, the Act states: 

Conservation and management measures shall… take into account the importance of fishery resources to fishing communities by utilizing economic and social data… in order to (A) provide for the sustained participation of such communities, and (B) to the extent practicable, minimize adverse economic impacts on such communities.

A total of 689 captains participated in the survey, providing information on trip and vessel characteristics, financial data, fishing effort, hurricane impacts and opinions on policy issues relevant to their industry. The report compiles and analyzes this data at the state and Gulf level for three vessel classes: head boats, charter boats and guide boats.

“We found that RFH licenses have been generally trending upward for the past decade and that the average business is profitable,” said Rex Caffey, project leader and professor of natural resource economics at Louisiana State University and Louisiana Sea Grant. “Some interesting differences emerge, however, when you look at the data by vessel class.” 

One of the more notable findings is the high number of guide boats operating in Gulf coastal waters. Though relatively small in length – averaging only 22 feet compared to 33 feet for charter boats and 55 feet for head boats – guide boats were found to account for 70 percent of the 3,315 for-hire operators in the region and more than half of the industry’s estimated $215 million in annual dockside revenue. 

Differences by vessel class were also evident in regard to current and pending management policies. Head boat operations were found to be more tolerant of regulations requiring federal observers, mandatory reporting, limited entry and electronic vessel monitoring. Catch share management, however, was generally opposed by operators of all vessel classes. 

This first chapter provides the project’s background and objectives.  Chapter 2 details the methodology employed in the creation and administration of the third Gulf-wide comprehensive economic RFH survey, as well as the process used for data analysis. Results of the study are discussed through descriptive analyses in Chapter 3.  And finally, Chapter 4 summarizes the project and entails conclusions and any future work anticipated.

To view results and report click here:


Revisions of Boundaries, Regulations and Zoning for Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

A federal register notice was published to announce the Intent to Conduct Scoping Meetings for the Revision of Boundaries, Regulations and Zoning Scheme for Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Key West and Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuges; and to Prepare an Environmental Assessment or Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

Scheme for Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Key West and Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuges; and to Prepare an Environmental Assessment or Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

FWC to Meet May 2-3 in Crystal River

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will meet May 2-3 at The Plantation Inn, Crystal River, to discuss several fish-and-wildlife conservation issues, including red snapper and roundscale spearfish management, anchoring and mooring, wild hog management and manatee zones. The May 2-3 dates reflect a change of schedule, but the location is the same.

On the first day, following recognition of individual FWC employees for their marine fisheries conservation efforts, the focus shifts to the consent agenda, a report by FWC Executive Director Nick Wiley and staff updates on the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council.

Items on the marine fisheries agenda include final approval of amendments that would set the 2012 Gulf of Mexico recreational red snapper season, and three of the consent agenda items: the management of roundscale spearfish and language updates to reef fish recreational bag limits and to the Spiny Lobster Trap Certificate Program.

NOAA Wants to Expand Bottlenose Dolphin Surveys

The Department of Commerce, as part of its continuing effort to reduce paperwork and respondent burden, invites the general public and other Federal agencies to take this opportunity to comment on proposed and/or continuing information collections, as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995.

DATES: Written comments must be submitted on or before June 18, 2012.