[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 219 (Tuesday, November 13, 2012)]
[Notices]
[Pages 67631-67633]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-27542]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XC280


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Shark Management 
Measures; 2013 Research Fishery

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Notice of intent; request for applications.

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SUMMARY: NMFS announces its request for applications for the 2013 shark 
research fishery from commercial shark fishermen with directed or 
incidental shark limited access permits. The shark research fishery 
allows for the collection of fishery-dependent data for future stock 
assessments to meet the shark research objectives of the Agency. The 
only commercial vessels authorized to land sandbar sharks are those 
participating in the shark research fishery. Shark research fishery 
permittees may also land non-sandbar large coastal sharks (LCS), small 
coastal sharks (SCS), and pelagic sharks. Commercial shark fishermen 
who are interested in participating in the shark research fishery need 
to submit a completed Shark Research Fishery Permit Application in 
order to be considered.

DATES: Shark Research Fishery Applications must be received no later 
than 5 p.m., local time, on December 13, 2012.

ADDRESSES: Please submit completed applications to the HMS Management 
Division at:
     Mail: Attn: Delisse Ortiz, HMS Management Division (F/
SF1), NMFS, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910.
     Fax: (301) 427-8503
    For copies of the Shark Research Fishery Permit Application, please 
write to the HMS Management Division at the address listed above, call 
(301) 427-8503 (phone), or fax a request to (301) 713-1917. Copies of 
the Shark Research Fishery Application are also available at the HMS 
Web site at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/index.htm. Additionally, 
please be advised that your application may be released under the 
Freedom of Information Act.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Karyl Brewster-Geisz or Delisse Ortiz, 
at (301) 427-8503 (phone) or (301) 713-1917 (fax).

[[Page 67632]]


SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Atlantic shark fisheries are managed 
under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and 
Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). The Consolidated HMS Fishery 
Management Plan (FMP) is implemented by regulations at 50 CFR part 635.
    The final rule for Amendment 2 to the Consolidated HMS FMP 
(Amendment 2) (73 FR 35778, June 24, 2008, corrected at 73 FR 40658, 
July 15, 2008) established, among other things, a shark research 
fishery to maintain time series data for stock assessments and to meet 
NMFS' research objectives. The shark research fishery also allows 
selected commercial fishermen the opportunity to earn revenue from 
selling additional sharks, including sandbar sharks. Only the 
commercial shark fishermen selected to participate in the shark 
research fishery are authorized to land sandbar sharks subject to the 
sandbar quota available each year. The selected shark research fishery 
permittees will also have access to the non-sandbar LCS, SCS, and 
pelagic shark quotas. Generally, the shark research fishery permits are 
valid only for the calendar year for which they are issued. Commercial 
fishermen not participating in the shark research fishery may land non-
sandbar LCS, SCS, and pelagic sharks subject to retention limits and 
quotas per Sec. Sec.  635.24 and 635.27, respectively.
    As established in Amendment 2, since 2008, the base quotas for the 
sandbar and non-sandbar LCS research fisheries have been reduced to 
account for earlier overharvests in the non-sandbar LCS and sandbar 
shark fisheries. These 5-year quota reductions end on December 31, 
2012. Given the end of the 5-year reduction period on December 31, 
2012, and because the fishery did not exceed its quota in 2012 and thus 
no further reductions are required, in the 2013 shark specifications 
(77 FR 61562) the sandbar research fishery quota reverts to the initial 
base quota (i.e., prior to the overharvest deduction) of 116.6 mt dw 
and the 2013 non-sandbar LCS research fishery quota reverts to 50 mt 
dw.
    The specific 2013 trip limits and number of trips per month will 
depend on the number of selected vessels, the availability of 
observers, the available quota, and the objectives of the research 
fishery and will be included in the permit terms at time of issuance. 
The trip limits and the number of trips taken per month have changed 
each year the research fishery has been active. Participants may also 
be limited on the amount of gear they can deploy on a given set (e.g., 
number of hooks and sets, soak times, length of longline). In 2012, we 
split the sandbar and non-sandbar LCS research fishery quotas equally 
among selected participants, with each vessel allocated 14 metric tons 
(mt) dressed weight (dw) of sandbar shark research fishery quota and 6 
mt dw of non-sandbar large coastal shark research fishery quota. 
Participants were also required to keep any dead sharks, unless they 
were a prohibited species, in which case they were required to release 
them, and were restricted by the number of longline sets as well as the 
number of hooks they could deploy and have on board the vessel. The 
vessels participating in the shark research fishery fished an average 
of one trip per month.
    In order to participate in the shark research fishery, commercial 
shark fishermen need to submit a completed Shark Research Fishery 
Application by the deadline noted above (see DATES) showing that the 
vessel and owner(s) meet the specific criteria outlined below.

Research Objectives

    Each year, the research objectives are developed by a shark board, 
which is comprised of representatives within NMFS, including 
representatives from the Southeast Fisheries Science Center (SEFSC) 
Panama City Laboratory, Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) 
Narragansett Laboratory, the Southeast Regional Office, Protected 
Species Division (SERO\PSD), and the HMS Management Division. The 
research objectives for 2013 are based on the 2008 Biological Opinion 
for Continued Authorization of Shark Fisheries in Amendment 2 to the 
Consolidated HMS FMP, the 2008 Southeast Data, Assessment and Review 
(SEDAR) 11, 2005/2006 LCS stock assessment and SEDAR 21, 2010/2011 U.S. 
South Atlantic blacknose, U.S Gulf of Mexico blacknose, sandbar, and 
dusky sharks stock assessment and SEDAR 29, 2012 U.S. Gulf of Mexico 
blacktip shark stock assessment. The 2013 research objectives are:
     Collect reproductive, length, sex, and age data from 
sandbar and other sharks throughout the calendar year for species-
specific stock assessments;
     Monitor the size distribution of sandbar sharks and other 
species captured in the fishery;
     Continue on-going tagging shark programs for 
identification of migration corridors and stock structure using dart 
and/or spaghetti tags;
     Maintain time-series of abundance from previously derived 
indices for the shark BLL observer program;
     Acquire fin-clip samples of all shark and other species 
for genetic analysis;
     Attach satellite archival tags to endangered smalltooth 
sawfish to provide information on critical habitat and preferred depth, 
consistent with ESA requirements for such tagging under the SEFSC 
observer program take permit obtained through the 2008 Section 7 
Consultation and Biological Opinion for the Continued Authorization of 
Shark Fisheries (Commercial Shark Bottom Longline, Commercial Shark 
Gillnet and Recreational Shark Handgear Fisheries) as Managed under the 
Consolidated Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Tunas, Swordfish, and 
Sharks (Consolidated HMS FMP), including Amendment 2 to the 
Consolidated HMS FMP (F/SER/2007/05044);
     Attach satellite archival tags to prohibited dusky and 
other sharks, as needed, to provide information on daily and seasonal 
movement patterns, and preferred depth;
     Evaluate hooking mortality and post-release survivorship 
of dusky, hammerhead, blacktip, and other sharks using hook timers and 
temperature-depth recorders;
     Evaluate the effects of controlled gear experiments in 
order to determine the effects of potential hook changes to prohibited 
species interactions and fishery yields; and
     Examine the size distribution of sandbar and other sharks 
captured in the Mid-Atlantic shark time/area closure off the coast of 
North Carolina from January 1 through July 31.

Selection Criteria

    Shark Research Fishery Permit Applications will be accepted only 
from commercial shark fishermen who hold a current directed or 
incidental shark limited access permit. While incidental permit holders 
are welcome to submit an application, to ensure that an appropriate 
number of sharks are landed to meet the research objectives for this 
year, we will give priority to directed permit holders as recommended 
by the shark board. As such, qualified incidental permit holders will 
be selected only if there are not enough qualified directed permit 
holders to meet research objectives.
    The Shark Research Fishery Permit Application includes, but is not 
limited to, a request for the following information: type of commercial 
shark permit possessed; past participation in the commercial shark 
fishery (not including sharks caught for display); past involvement and 
compliance with HMS observer programs per Sec.  635.7;

[[Page 67633]]

past compliance with HMS regulations at 50 CFR part 635; availability 
to participate in the shark research fishery; ability to fish in the 
regions and season requested; ability to attend necessary meetings 
regarding the objectives and research protocols of the shark research 
fishery; and ability to carry out the research objectives of the 
Agency. An applicant who has been charged criminally or civilly (e.g., 
issued a Notice of Violation and Assessment (NOVA) or Notice of Permit 
Sanction) for any HMS-related violation will not be considered for 
participation in the shark research fishery. In addition, applicants 
who were selected to carry an observer in the previous 2 years for any 
HMS fishery, but failed to contact NMFS to arrange the placement of an 
observer as required per Sec.  635.7, will not be considered for 
participation in the 2013 shark research fishery. Applicants who were 
selected to carry an observer in the previous 2 years for any HMS 
fishery and failed to comply with all the observer regulations per 
Sec.  635.7 will also not be considered. Exceptions will be made for 
vessels that were selected for HMS observer coverage but did not fish 
in the quarter when selected and thus did not require an observer. 
Applicants who do not possess a valid USCG safety inspection decal when 
the application is submitted will not be considered. Applicants who 
have been non-compliant with any of the HMS observer program 
regulations in the previous 2 years, as described above, may be 
eligible for future participation in shark research fishery activities 
by demonstrating 2 subsequent years of compliance with observer 
regulations at Sec.  635.7.

Selection Process

    The HMS Management Division will review all submitted applications 
and develop a list of qualified applicants from those applications that 
are deemed complete. A qualified applicant is an applicant that has 
submitted a complete application by the deadline (see DATES) and has 
met the selection criteria listed above. Qualified applicants are 
eligible to be selected to participate in the shark research fishery 
for 2013. The HMS Management Division will provide the list of 
qualified applicants without identificating information to the SEFSC. 
The SEFSC will then evaluate the list of qualified applicants and, 
based on the temporal and spatial needs of the research objectives, the 
availability of observers, the availability of qualified applicants, 
and the available quota for a given year, will randomly select 
approximately 10 qualified applicants to conduct the prescribed 
research. Where there are multiple qualified applicants that meet the 
criteria, permittees will be randomly selected through a lottery 
system. If a public meeting is deemed necessary, NMFS will announce 
details of a public selection meeting in a subsequent Federal Register 
notice.
    Once the selection process is complete, we will notify the selected 
applicants and issue the shark research fishery permits. The shark 
research fishery permits will be valid only in calendar year 2013. If 
needed, we will communicate with the shark research fishery permit 
holders to arrange a captain's meeting to discuss the research 
objectives and protocols. The shark research fishery permit holders 
must contact the NMFS observer coordinator to arrange the placement of 
a NMFS-approved observer for each shark research trip.
    A shark research fishery permit will only be valid for the vessel 
and owner(s) and terms and conditions listed on the permit, and, thus, 
cannot be transferred to another vessel or owner(s). Issuance of a 
shark research permit does not guarantee that the permit holder will be 
assigned a NMFS-approved observer on any particular trip. Rather, 
issuance indicates that a vessel may be issued a NMFS-approved observer 
for a particular trip, and on such trips, may be allowed to harvest 
Atlantic sharks, including sandbar sharks, in excess of the retention 
limits described in Sec.  635.24(a). These retention limits will be 
based on available quota, number of vessels participating in the 2013 
shark research fishery, the research objectives set forth by the shark 
board, the extent of other restrictions placed on the vessel, and may 
vary by vessel and/or location. When not operating under the auspices 
of the shark research fishery, the vessel would still be able to land 
non-sandbar LCS, SCS, and pelagic sharks subject to existing retention 
limits on trips without a NMFS-approved observer. The shark research 
permit may be revoked or modified at any time and does not confer the 
right to engage in activities beyond those listed on the shark research 
fishery permit.
    NMFS annually invites commercial shark permit holders (directed and 
incidental) to submit an application to participate in the shark 
research fishery. Permit applications can be found on the HMS 
Management Division's Web site at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/index.htm or by calling (301) 427-8503. Final decisions on the issuance 
of a shark research fishery permit will depend on the submission of all 
required information by the deadline (see DATES), and NMFS' review of 
applicant information as outlined above. The 2013 shark research 
fishery will start after the opening of the shark fishery and under 
available quotas as published in a separate Federal Register final 
rule.

    Dated: November 7, 2012.
Lindsay Fullenkamp,
Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National 
Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-27542 Filed 11-9-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P