[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 45 (Tuesday, March 8, 2011)]
[Pages 12715-12716]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-5236]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; General Provisions for Domestic 
Fisheries; Application for Exempted Fishing Permit

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

ACTION: Notice; request for comments.


SUMMARY: The Assistant Regional Administrator for Sustainable 
Fisheries, Northeast Region, NMFS, has made a preliminary determination 
that the subject exempted fishing permit (EFP) application contains all 
the required information and warrants further consideration. The 
subject EFP would allow commercial fishing vessels to conduct fishing 
operations that are otherwise restricted by the regulations governing 
the fisheries of the Northeastern United States. Regulations under the 
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act require 
publication of this notification to provide interested parties the 
opportunity to comment on applications for proposed EFPs.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before March 23, 2011.

ADDRESSES: Comments may be submitted by e-mail to NERO.EFP@noaa.gov. 
Written comments should be sent to Patricia A. Kurkul, Regional 
Administrator, NMFS, Northeast Regional Office, 55 Great Republic 
Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the envelope 
``Comments on the REDNET EFP.'' Comments may also be sent via facsimile 
(fax) to (978) 281-9135.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Travis Ford, Fishery Management 
Specialist, (978) 281-9233, fax (978) 281-9135.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Maine Department of Marine Resources 
(DMR) has submitted an EFP application for five vessels participating 
in a study titled, ``REDNET: A Network to Redevelop a Sustainable 
Redfish (Sebastes fasciatus) Trawl Fishery in the Gulf of Maine 
(GOM)''. This project is funded by the Northeast Fisheries Science 
Center's (NEFSC) Cooperative Research Program. The primary objective of 
this study is to devise strategies and means to efficiently harvest the 
redfish resource in the Gulf of Maine (GOM) while avoiding non-

[[Page 12716]]

target catch. The proposed work is to meet the following objectives: 
Catch and bycatch assessment of a targeted redfish fishery; bottom 
trawl mesh size evaluation and optimization for targeted redfish catch 
retention and reduction of juvenile redfish and other bycatch; redfish 
processing and marketing evaluation and strategies; and outreach and 
implementation of the project results. The anticipated results of the 
project are defined gear type(s) and/or time/area combinations that 
maximize the long-term benefit from the redfish resource while 
minimizing negative impacts, thereby providing a means to achieve the 
Acceptable Catch Limit (ACL) for a rebuilt, but largely inaccessible, 
redfish resource.
    The EFP would exempt the vessels from the following regulations 
implementing the Northeast (NE) Multispecies Fishery Management Plan 
(FMP): NE multispecies minimum fish size for redfish, specified at 50 
CFR 648.83(a); and minimum mesh size of 6.5 inches (16.5 cm) for 
multispecies vessels fishing in the GOM specified at 50 CFR 
648.80(a)(3)(i). In addition, vessels would be exempt from the 
following regulations for other groundfish species for sampling 
purposes only: Other minimum fish size restrictions; fish possession 
limits; species quota closures; prohibited fish species, not including 
species protected under the Endangered Species Act; and gear-specific 
fish possession restrictions. All non-compliant fish would be discarded 
as soon as practicable following data collection. These exemptions 
would allow investigators to evaluate the optimal mesh size to harvest 
legal-sized redfish (22.9 cm; 9 inches) while minimizing bycatch, and 
to selectively harvest redfish.
    Baseline data would be collected by means of 10 days of 
experimental redfish fishing under this EFP using 10.16-cm (4-inch) 
mesh in the codend of a standard groundfish trawl. Based on initial 
sampling, investigators intend to refine sampling levels, times, and 
areas as the project progresses. Investigators will review potential 
sources of variability and evaluate them in terms of their potential 
effects on results. Sources of variability include: Area fished; 
seasonal availability; life stage; time of day; gear; and towing speed. 
Catches of all legal-sized species (target and non-target) will count 
against the appropriate groundfish sector allocation. No fish below the 
minimum fish size will be landed.
    During the initial experimental fishing, fishermen will be asked to 
fish in a commercial manner using groundfish trawl nets equipped with a 
10.16-cm (4-inch) mesh codend to maximize their legal-sized redfish 
catches and minimize discards. The fishermen will attempt to identify 
schools of redfish, set the net, catch the school, and haul back. This 
protocol will reduce the likelihood of towing between schools and 
thereby reduce bycatch based on historical experience.
    Project investigators and/or technicians will be on board every 
experimental fishing trip and will document all catch and bycatch 
encountered following NE Fishery Observer Program protocols. Project 
personnel will estimate, when necessary, the total catch of legal and 
sublegal redfish per tow (separately), and then identify and weigh all 
other species. If there is a very large catch, the observers will 
follow NMFS sub-sampling protocols. Lengths of 100 individuals will be 
collected for redfish and other regulated species, with sub-sampling if 
necessary. Up to six tows will be made per trip. Tows will last between 
approximately 30 minutes and 1 hour, at a speed of between 3-3.5 knots, 
which conforms to normal fishing operations.
    Bycatch and non-target species will be quantified using the 
``Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology'' developed as part of the 
national bycatch initiative. Selectivity by size will be estimated 
using the ratios of cumulative size distributions from the baseline 
observer samples to the cumulative size distribution of redfish in 
NEFSC trawl surveys during the same period. Data will be entered into 
Excel and uploaded into the DMR biological database (MARVIN) and then 
transferred to NMFS and other project partners.
    The initial experimental fishing activity is scheduled to start in 
March 2011. Ten experimental fishing days are planned over two trips of 
5 days each. This initial phase will be completed by the end of April 
2011. Based on the data gathered through this effort, the next 30 
experimental fishing days would be allocated among the remaining three 
quarters of the year. It is possible that, after the initial 10 days, 
the project partners will decide 4-inch mesh is not ideal, and a larger 
mesh might be selected for the remaining trials. All experimental 
fishing activity is scheduled to be complete by April 2012.
    If approved, the applicants may request minor modifications and 
extensions to the EFP throughout the course of research. EFP 
modifications and extensions may be granted without further public 
notice if they are deemed essential to facilitate completion of the 
proposed research and result in only a minimal change in the scope or 
impacts of the initially approved EFP request.
    In accordance with NAO Administrative Order 216-6, a Categorical 
Exclusion or other appropriate National Environmental Policy Act 
document would be completed prior to the issuance of the EFP. Further 
review and consultation may be necessary before a final determination 
is made to issue the EFP. After publication of this document in the 
Federal Register, the EFP, if approved, may become effective following 
the public comment period.

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

    Dated: March 3, 2011.
Emily H. Menashes,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2011-5236 Filed 3-7-11; 8:45 am]