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
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
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
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
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.