[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 249 (Friday, December 28, 2012)]
[Notices]
[Pages 76458-76459]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-31324]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XC331


Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 
Spiny Lobster Fishery of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; 
Exempted Fishing Permit

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

ACTION: Notice of receipt of an application for an exempted fishing 
permit; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: NMFS announces the receipt of an application for an exempted 
fishing permit (EFP) from Dr. David Olsen (St. Thomas Fisherman's 
Association). If granted, the EFP would authorize contracted commercial 
fishermen to temporarily possess undersized and berried Caribbean spiny 
lobster for non-lethal sampling (tagging) during the course of their 
normal fishing activities. This non-lethal sampling would include 
implanting a tag on each spiny lobster before releasing the lobster 
with minimal harm. Data will be collected and analyzed to determine 
spiny lobster growth and movement patterns, and an attempt will be made 
to estimate the spiny lobster population size in the U.S. Virgin 
Islands. Currently, data on U.S. Caribbean spiny lobster life history 
are limited, particularly growth rates and abundance patterns. 
Additional life history information would provide the Caribbean Fishery 
Management Council (Council) and NMFS valuable data that may be used 
for future management of spiny lobster. The EFP would also seek to 
temporarily retain a sample number of spiny lobsters at a designated 
facility for a study to assess tag mortality and retention.

DATES: Comments must be received no later than 5 p.m., eastern time, on 
January 28, 2013.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the application by any of the 
following methods:
     Email: Britni.Tokotch@noaa.gov. Include in the subject 
line of the email comment the following document identifier: ``Olsen 
EFP 2012''.
     Mail: Britni Tokotch, 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: Britni Tokotch, 727-824-5305; email: 
Britni.Tokotch@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 life history study of Caribbean 
spiny lobster and intends to collect data on growth and movement 
patterns and to estimate the spiny lobster population abundance in the 
Federal waters of the Caribbean. The study also intends to conduct 
research on tag mortality and retention on spiny lobsters. Lobsters 
will be collected using commercial fishing vessels as part of the 
vessels normal fishing trips in the Federal waters of St. Croix and St. 
Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Spiny lobsters would be collected within 
the 100-fathom (183-m) depth contour of these areas using commercial 
lobster trap gear. The study would take place from the date of 
effectiveness of the EFP through August 31, 2013, or until the 
requested number of lobsters have been tagged.
    The proposed collection for scientific research involves activities 
that would otherwise be prohibited by regulations at 50 CFR part 622, 
as they pertain to Caribbean spiny lobster managed by the Council. The 
EFP would exempt this research activity from Federal regulations at 
Sec.  622.32(b)(1)(iii) (Prohibited and limited harvest species) and 
Sec.  622.37(b) (Size limits).
    If granted, the EFP would authorize the tagging of 5,000 spiny 
lobsters (3,000 from St. Thomas Federal waters and 2,000 from St. Croix 
Federal waters). Floy spaghetti tags would be attached to the lobster 
in the gap between the tail and carapace. Tagging would include both 
legal size lobsters as

[[Page 76459]]

well as undersized and egg-bearing lobsters. Data to be recorded during 
the tagging process will include carapace length, sex, reproductive 
state, and the vessel's position. Specimens to be tagged will be 
randomly selected from a designated vessel's lobster trap during normal 
fishing trips. A total of 15 commercial vessels will be allowed to 
participate in the study. The 15 vessels would be contracted through 
the St. Thomas Fisherman's Association, which obtained funding for this 
study through the Council. All vessels participating in the EFP have 
home ports in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
    Following tagging, lobsters will be released where they were 
collected. When these tagged lobsters are recaptured, the same data 
would be collected that were recorded during initial tagging 
operations. Tagged lobsters may be recaptured by both commercial and 
recreational fishers from St. Thomas and St. Croix during their normal 
fishing practices. Posters have been distributed in local dive shops 
and marinas to alert fishers and the public to the tagging program and 
to encourage their participation in collecting and submitting data on 
recaptured tagged lobsters.
    Tag and recapture data will be analyzed for growth and movement 
patterns, and an attempt will be made to estimate Caribbean spiny 
lobster population abundance. During recapture, local fishers would 
only be allowed to retain lobsters of legal size that were not egg-
bearing. Undersized and egg-bearing lobsters would be returned to the 
water with a minimum of harm.
    This EFP, if granted, would also authorize the collection of an 
additional 20 undersized lobsters to serve as a control study to the 
commercial vessels tagging efforts. The undersized lobsters, less than 
3.5 inch (8.9 cm) carapace length, would be tagged and held in 
captivity at the Coral World facility on St. Thomas for up to 3 months. 
Undersized lobsters would be used for this study to increase the 
likelihood for tagged individuals to molt, thereby increasing the 
opportunity to assess the tag's performance. These lobsters would be 
temporarily retained at the facility to assess tag mortality and the 
retention of tags through the molting process. At the conclusion of the 
3-month study, these lobsters would be released back into the water in 
the vicinity from which they were collected.
    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 councils.
    A final decision on issuance of the EFP will depend on NMFS' review 
of public comments received on the application, consultations with 
appropriate fishery management agencies of the affected states, the 
Council, and the U.S. Coast Guard, as well as a determination that it 
is consistent with all applicable laws.

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.

    Dated: December 21, 2012.
Emily H. Menashes,
Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-31324 Filed 12-27-12; 8:45 am]
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