Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Request an Exempted Fishing Permit; Request for Comments

 

NMFS announces the receipt of an application for an exempted fishing permit (EFP) from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF). If granted, the EFP would authorize the applicant to collect and retain red snapper that would otherwise be prohibited from possession and retention. This study, to be conducted in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf), is intended to better document the age structure and life history of fish associated with offshore platforms and artificial reefs in Louisiana coastal waters.

Comments must be received no later than 5 p.m., eastern time, on June 22, 2012.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the application by any of the 

following methods:

     Email: 0648-XA847.LDWF@noaa.gov. Include in the subject 

line of the email comment the following document identifier: ALDWF--

EFP@.

     Mail: Steve Branstetter, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 

263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.

    The application and related documents are available for review upon 

written request to any of the above addresses.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Branstetter, 727-824-5305; 

email: Steve.Branstetter@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The EFP is requested under the authority of 

the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (16 U.S.C. 

1801 et seq.), and regulations at 50 CFR 600.745(b) concerning exempted 

fishing.

    The described research is part of a new research program by LDWF. 

The research is intended to involve recreational fishermen in the 

collection of fundamental biological information of Gulf red snapper. 

The proposed collection for scientific research involves activities 

that could otherwise be prohibited by regulations at 50 CFR part 622, 

as they pertain to reef fish managed by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery 

Management Council (Council). The applicant requires authorization 

through the EFP to collect these Council-managed species that may be 

taken as part of the normal fishing activities of the recreational 

sector of the Gulf reef fish fishery. LDWF has requested an EFP from 

July through October 2012, to monitor red snapper caught during 

recreational fishing tournaments held in Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and 

Florida subsequent to the closure of the 2012 recreational red snapper 

season. LDWF is requesting that selected participants, in as many as 

seven recreational fishing tournaments, be allowed to retain and tag 

the first red snapper caught during a fishing trip. Participants would 

also complete and submit a data sheet regarding other red snapper 

caught and released during the fishing trip. Fish collected under this 

EFP would be surrendered to LDWF personnel or other state fishery 

biologists, and sampled for length, weight, otoliths, and gonads. LDWF 

would be responsible for providing all data collected under the EFP to 

NMFS for use in the next stock assessment. The intent is to better 

document the age structure and life history of red snapper in the Gulf 

of Mexico. If approved, the EFP would authorize the take of 

approximately 1,600 red snapper during the five-month period. Such fish 

collected as biological samples would not be subject to seasonal 

closures or size limits.

    NMFS finds this application warrants further consideration. 

Possible conditions the agency may impose on this permit, if it is 

indeed granted, include but are not limited to, a prohibition of 

conducting research within marine protected areas, marine sanctuaries, 

or special management zones, without additional authorization. A report 

on the research would be due at the end of the collection period, to be 

submitted to NMFS and reviewed by the Council.

    A final decision on issuance of the EFP will depend on NMFS's 

review of public comments received on the application, consultations 

with the affected states, the Council, and the U.S. Coast Guard, as 

well as a determination that it is consistent with all applicable laws.