Blacktip Sharks

The National Marine Fisheries Service is considering the 

inclusion of Gulf of Mexico blacktip sharks in an amendment to the 2006 

Consolidated Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan that is 

currently under development. This amendment process began in October 

2011 to address the results of recent stock assessments for scalloped 

hammerhead, dusky, sandbar, and blacknose sharks. A new stock 

assessment is ongoing for Gulf of Mexico blacktip sharks, and is 

expected to be complete and available before the amendment process is 

completed. Therefore, we are considering including Gulf of Mexico 

blacktip sharks in the amendment to ensure any changes in the shark 

fisheries as a result of recent stock assessments are considered at the 

same time for public clarity and for administrative efficiency.

DATES: Comments must be received no later than 5 p.m., local time, on 

June 21, 2012.

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

NOAA-NMFS-2011-0229, by any of the following methods:

     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 

comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal www.regulations.gov. To 

submit comments via the eRulemaking Portal, first click the ``submit a 

comment'' icon, then enter NOAA-NMFS-2011-0229 in the keyword search. 

Locate the document you wish to comment on from the resulting list and 

click on the ``Submit a Comment'' icon on the right of that line.

     Mail: Submit written comments to Peter Cooper, 1315 East-

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

envelope ``Comments on including Gulf of Mexico blacktip sharks in 

Amendment 5 to the Consolidated HMS FMP.''

     Fax: (301) 713-1917. Attn: Peter Cooper.

    Comments must be submitted by one of the above methods to ensure 

that the comments are received, documented, and considered by the 

National Marine Fisheries Service. 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. All comments received are a part 

of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 

www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 

information (e.g., name, address, etc.) submitted voluntarily by the 

sender will be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential business 

information, or otherwise sensitive or protected information. We 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 or Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file 

formats only.

 

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

at (301) 427-8503, or online at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/ or 

http://www.sefsc.noaa.gov/sedar/Index.jsp.

 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Atlantic shark fisheries are managed 

under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and 

Management Act. The 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species Fishery 

Management Plan is implemented by regulations at 50 CFR part 635.

    The National Marine Fisheries Service published a notice of intent 

to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement as required by the 

National Environmental Policy Act to amend the fishery management plan 

on October 7, 2011(76 FR 62331). This amendment is designed to rebuild 

and/or end overfishing on several shark stocks that were determined to 

be overfished and/or have overfishing occurring. We anticipate 

completing this amendment and any related documents in April 2013.

    In December 2011, the Southeast Data, Assessment and Review 29 

stock assessment process for Gulf of Mexico blacktip sharks began. This 

process has included, among other things, a data and assessment 

workshop along with two assessment webinars that have been open to the 

public to attend. A third assessment webinar is expected in late May. 

According to the schedule of events for the assessment, the assessment 

should be completed in August 2012.

 

    Therefore, we are expecting the final assessment results in early 

Fall 2012. Because final results of the assessment would be available 

in the Fall before the amendment is finalized in April 2013, we are 

considering adding Gulf of Mexico blacktip sharks to the amendment. We 

believe that this addition would facilitate administrative efficiency 

by optimizing our resources, and would allow us to address new 

scientific information in the most timely manner. This addition would 

also provide better clarity to and understanding by the public 

regarding any possible impacts of the rulemaking on shark fisheries by 

combining potential management measures resulting from recent shark 

stock assessments into one rulemaking.

    Gulf of Mexico blacktip sharks are currently managed within the 

non-sandbar large coastal shark (LCS) complex and are caught in 

recreational and commercial fisheries targeting sharks. Commercial 

regulations for blacktip sharks include, but are not limited to, a trip 

limit of 33 non-sandbar LCS for directed shark permit holders and a 

trip limit of 3 non-sandbar LCS for incidental shark permit holders. 

Gulf of Mexico blacktip sharks are part of the non-sandbar LCS annual 

Gulf of Mexico quota of 390.5 mt dw, which is adjusted each year for 

any overharvest from past fishing years. Recreational regulations for 

blacktip sharks include, but are not limited to, retention limit of 1 

shark per vessel per trip with a 4.5-ft (54-in) fork length minimum 

size.

    We may consider adjusting or implementing management measures for 

Gulf of Mexico blacktip sharks in this amendment based on the results 

of the current stock assessment. These measures for Gulf of Mexico 

blacktip sharks could include, but are not limited to, implementing a 

specific commercial quota outside of the non-sandbar LCS quota, 

modifying commercial trip limits, and adjusting recreational retention 

limits.

    We request comments regarding the addition of Gulf of Mexico 

blacktip sharks to the amendment. These comments will help determine if 

we should move forward with adding Gulf of Mexico blacktip sharks to 

the amendment.