[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 79 (Wednesday, April 24, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 24148-24149]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-09671]



[[Page 24148]]

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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

RIN 0648-BD22


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Shark Management 
Measures

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

ACTION: Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an Environmental Impact 
Statement (EIS); request for comments.

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SUMMARY: 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.

DATES: 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 
formats only.
    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

[[Page 24149]]

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 
harm.
    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 
Amendment 5b.
    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.

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

    Dated: April 18, 2013.
Kara Meckley,
Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National 
Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-09671 Filed 4-23-13; 8:45 am]
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