Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Shark Management Measures; 2016 Research Fishery, 68513-68515 [2015-28257]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 214 / Thursday, November 5, 2015 / Notices these devices has the potential to result in Level B harassment of marine mammals. Level B harassment of pinnipeds hauled out on ice may also occur, in the Antarctic only, as a result of visual disturbance from vessels conducting SWFSC research. The SWFSC conducts fisheries research surveys in the California Current Ecosystem (CCE), the Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP), and the Antarctic Marine Living Resources Ecosystem (AMLR). As required by the MMPA, SWFSC’s request was considered separately for each specified geographical region, and three separate LOAs have been issued. In the CCE, SWFSC is authorized to take individuals of seventeen species by Level A harassment, serious injury, or mortality (M/SI + Level A) and of 34 species by Level B harassment. In the ETP, SWFSC is authorized to take individuals of eleven species by M/SI + Level A and of 31 species by Level B harassment. In the AMLR, SWFSC is authorized to take individuals of seventeen species by Level B harassment. No takes by M/SI + Level A are anticipated in the AMLR. jstallworth on DSK7TPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Authorization We have issued LOAs to SWFSC authorizing the take of marine mammals incidental to fishery research activities, as described above. Take of marine mammals will be minimized through implementation of the following mitigation measures: (1) Implementation of a ‘‘move-on’’ rule in certain circumstances that is expected to reduce the potential for physical interaction with marine mammals; (2) use of a marine mammal excluder device in certain trawl nets; and (3) use of acoustic deterrent devices on certain trawl nets. Additionally, the rule includes an adaptive management component that allows for timely modification of mitigation or monitoring measures based on new information, when appropriate. The SWFSC will submit reports as required. Based on these findings and the information discussed in the preamble to the final rule, the activities described under these LOAs will have a negligible impact on marine mammal stocks and will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the affected marine mammal stock for subsistence uses. Dated: November 2, 2015. Perry F. Gayaldo, Deputy Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2015–28221 Filed 11–4–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:06 Nov 04, 2015 Jkt 238001 68513 1917 (fax) or Delisse Ortiz at 240–681– 9037. National Oceanic and Atmospheric SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Administration Atlantic shark fisheries are managed under the authority of the MagnusonRIN 0648–XE244 Stevens Fishery Conservation and Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Atlantic Shark Management Measures; Act). The Consolidated HMS Fishery 2016 Research Fishery Management Plan (FMP) is implemented by regulations at 50 CFR AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries part 635. Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and The shark research fishery was Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), established, in part, to maintain time Commerce. series data for stock assessments and to ACTION: Notice of intent; request for meet NMFS’ research objectives. Since applications. the shark research fishery was established in 2008, the research fishery SUMMARY: NMFS announces its request has allowed for: The collection of for applications for the 2016 shark fishery-dependent data for current and research fishery from commercial shark future stock assessments; the operation fishermen with directed or incidental of cooperative research to meet NMFS’ shark limited access permits. The shark research fishery allows for the collection ongoing research objectives; the of fishery-dependent and biological data collection of updated life-history for future stock assessments and to meet information used in the sandbar shark (and other species) stock assessment; the research objectives of the Agency. The only commercial vessels authorized the collection of data on habitat preferences that might help reduce to land sandbar sharks are those fishery interactions through bycatch participating in the shark research mitigation; evaluation of the utility of fishery. Shark research fishery the mid-Atlantic closed area on the permittees may also land other large recovery of dusky sharks and collection coastal sharks (LCS), small coastal of hook-timer and pop-up satellite sharks (SCS), and pelagic sharks. archival tag (PSAT) information to Commercial shark fishermen who are determine at-vessel and post-release interested in participating in the shark mortality of dusky sharks; and research fishery need to submit a collection of sharks to determine the completed Shark Research Fishery weight conversion factor from dressed Permit Application in order to be weight to whole weight. considered. The shark research fishery allows DATES: Shark Research Fishery selected commercial fishermen the Applications must be received no later opportunity to earn revenue from selling than 5 p.m., local time, on December 7, additional sharks, including sandbar 2015. sharks. Only the commercial shark ADDRESSES: Please submit completed fishermen selected to participate in the applications to the HMS Management shark research fishery are authorized to Division at: land sandbar sharks subject to the ´ • Mail: Attn: Guy DuBeck, HMS sandbar quota available each year. The Management Division (F/SF1), NMFS, base quota is 90.7 metric tons (mt) 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, dressed weight (dw), although this MD 20910. number may be reduced in the event of • Fax: (301) 713–1917. overharvests, if any. The selected shark • Email: NMFS.Research.Fishery@ research fishery permittees will also be noaa.gov. allowed to land other LCS, SCS, and For copies of the Shark Research pelagic sharks per any restrictions Fishery Permit Application, please write established on their shark research to the HMS Management Division at the fishery permit. Generally, the shark address listed above, call (301) 427– research fishery permits are valid only 8503 (phone), or fax a request to (301) for the calendar year for which they are 713–1917. Copies of the Shark Research issued. Fishery Application are also available at The specific 2016 trip limits and the HMS Web site at http:// number of trips per month will depend www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/index.htm. on the availability of funding, number of Additionally, please be advised that selected vessels, the availability of your application may be released under observers, the available quota, and the the Freedom of Information Act. objectives of the research fishery and will be included in the permit terms at FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: ´ Karyl Brewster-Geisz or Guy DuBeck, at time of issuance. The number of participants in the research fishery (301) 427–8503 (phone) or (301) 713– DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE PO 00000 Frm 00022 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\05NON1.SGM 05NON1 jstallworth on DSK7TPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 68514 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 214 / Thursday, November 5, 2015 / Notices changes each year. In 2015, seven fishermen were chosen to participate. From 2008 through 2015, there has been an average of seven participants each year with the range from five to eleven. 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 the beginning of the 2015 fishing season, NMFS split the sandbar and LCS research fishery quotas equally among selected participants, with each vessel allocated 13.3 mt dw of sandbar shark research fishery quota and 5.7 mt dw of other LCS research fishery quota. On August 18, 2015, NMFS implemented Amendment 6 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP (80 FR 50074; Amendment 6) which, among other things, established a new base annual quota for the sandbar shark research fishery as 90.7 mt dw (199,943 lb dw). To account for the lower sandbar shark quota, NMFS revised the equal allocation of every participating vessel in the shark research fishery to 80 percent of their current allocation minus their landings up until Amendment 6 was implemented. NMFS also established a regional dusky bycatch limit where once three or more dusky sharks were caught dead in any of five designated regions across the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic through the entire year, any shark research fishery permit holder in that region was not able to soak their gear for longer than 3 hours. If, after the change in soak time, there were three or more additional dusky shark interactions (alive or dead) observed, shark research fishery permit holders were not able to make a trip in that region for the remainder of the year, unless otherwise permitted by NMFS. There were slightly different measures established for shark research fishery participants in the midAtlantic shark closed area in order to allow NMFS observers to place satellite archival tags on dusky sharks and collect other scientific information on dusky sharks while also minimizing any dusky shark mortality. Participants were also required to keep any dead sharks, unless they were a prohibited species, in which case they were required to release them. If the regional non-blacknose SCS, blacknose, and/or pelagic shark management group quotas were closed, then the shark research fishery permit holder fishing in the closed region had to discard all of the species from the closed management groups regardless of condition. Any sharks, except prohibited species or closed management groups (i.e., SCS or VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:06 Nov 04, 2015 Jkt 238001 pelagic sharks), caught and brought to the vessel alive could have been released alive or landed. In addition, participants 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 Narragansett Laboratory, the Southeast Regional Office Protected Resources Division, and the HMS Management Division. The research objectives for 2016 are based on various documents, including the 2012 Biological Opinion for the Continued Authorization of the Atlantic Shark Fisheries and the Federal Authorization of a Smoothhound Fishery, the 2010/2011 U.S. South Atlantic blacknose, U.S Gulf of Mexico blacknose, sandbar, and dusky sharks stock assessments, and the 2012 U.S. Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark stock assessment. The 2016 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 bottom longline observer program; • Sample fin sets (e.g., dorsal, pectoral) from prioritized species to further develop fin identification guides; • 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 the requirements listed in the take permit PO 00000 Frm 00023 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 issued under Section 10 of the Endangered Species Act to the SEFSC observer program; • 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 temperaturedepth 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; • Examine the size distribution of sandbar and other sharks captured throughout the fishery including in the Mid-Atlantic shark time/area closure off the coast of North Carolina from January 1 through July 31; and • Develop allometric and weight relationships of selected species of sharks (e.g., hammerhead, sandbar, blacktip shark). 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, NMFS 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 and availability in the commercial shark fishery (not including sharks caught for display); past involvement and compliance with HMS observer programs per 50 CFR 635.7; past compliance with HMS regulations at 50 CFR part 635; past and present availability to participate in the shark research fishery year-round; 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. Preference will be given to those applicants who are willing and available to fish year-round and who affirmatively state that they E:\FR\FM\05NON1.SGM 05NON1 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 214 / Thursday, November 5, 2015 / Notices jstallworth on DSK7TPTVN1PROD with NOTICES intend to do so, in order to ensure the timely and accurate data collection NMFS needs to meet this year’s research objectives. 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 50 CFR 635.7, will not be considered for participation in the 2016 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 50 CFR 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 noncompliant 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 50 CFR 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 2016. The HMS Management Division will provide the list of qualified applicants without identifying 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 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 VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:06 Nov 04, 2015 Jkt 238001 selection meeting in a subsequent Federal Register notice. Once the selection process is complete, NMFS will notify the selected applicants and issue the shark research fishery permits. The shark research fishery permits will be valid only in calendar year 2016. If needed, NMFS will communicate with the shark research fishery permit holders to arrange a captain’s meeting to discuss the research objectives and protocols. NMFS held mandatory captain’s meetings before observers were placed on vessels in 2013 (78 FR 14515; March 6, 2013), 2014 (79 FR 12155; March 4, 2014), and 2015 (80 FR 3221; January 22, 2015) and expects to hold one again in 2016. Once the fishery starts, 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). Shark research fishery permit holders must carry a NMFS-approved observer in order to land sandbar sharks. 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 50 CFR 635.24(a). These retention limits will be based on available quota, number of vessels participating in the 2016 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 LCS, SCS, and pelagic sharks subject to existing retention limits on trips without a NMFS-approved observer. 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. PO 00000 Frm 00024 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 68515 The 2016 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 2, 2015. Emily H. Menashes, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2015–28257 Filed 11–4–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XE299 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Advisory Panel National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; solicitation of nominations. AGENCY: NMFS solicits nominations for the Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Advisory Panel (AP). NMFS consults with and considers the comments and views of the HMS AP when preparing and implementing Fishery Management Plans (FMPs) or FMP amendments for Atlantic tunas, swordfish, sharks, and billfish. Nominations are being sought to fill approximately one-third (11) of the seats on the HMS AP for a 3-year appointment. Individuals with definable interests in the recreational and commercial fishing and related industries, environmental community, academia, and non-governmental organizations are considered for membership on the HMS AP. DATES: Nominations must be received on or before December 7, 2015. ADDRESSES: You may submit nominations and requests for the Advisory Panel Statement of Organization, Practices, and Procedures by any of the following methods: • Email: HMSAP.Nominations@ noaa.gov. Include in the subject line the following identifier: ‘‘HMS AP Nominations.’’ • Mail: Margo Schulze-Haugen, Highly Migratory Species Management Division, NMFS SF1, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Craig Cockrell at (301) 427–8503. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\05NON1.SGM 05NON1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 214 (Thursday, November 5, 2015)]
[Notices]
[Pages 68513-68515]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-28257]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XE244


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Shark Management 
Measures; 2016 Research Fishery

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

ACTION: Notice of intent; request for applications.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: NMFS announces its request for applications for the 2016 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 and biological data for 
future stock assessments and to meet the 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 other 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 7, 2015.

ADDRESSES: Please submit completed applications to the HMS Management 
Division at:
     Mail: Attn: Gu[yacute] DuBeck, HMS Management Division (F/
SF1), NMFS, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910.
     Fax: (301) 713-1917.
     Email: NMFS.Research.Fishery@noaa.gov.
    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 Gu[yacute] 
DuBeck, at (301) 427-8503 (phone) or (301) 713-1917 (fax) or Delisse 
Ortiz at 240-681-9037.

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 shark research fishery was established, in part, to maintain 
time series data for stock assessments and to meet NMFS' research 
objectives. Since the shark research fishery was established in 2008, 
the research fishery has allowed for: The collection of fishery-
dependent data for current and future stock assessments; the operation 
of cooperative research to meet NMFS' ongoing research objectives; the 
collection of updated life-history information used in the sandbar 
shark (and other species) stock assessment; the collection of data on 
habitat preferences that might help reduce fishery interactions through 
bycatch mitigation; evaluation of the utility of the mid-Atlantic 
closed area on the recovery of dusky sharks and collection of hook-
timer and pop-up satellite archival tag (PSAT) information to determine 
at-vessel and post-release mortality of dusky sharks; and collection of 
sharks to determine the weight conversion factor from dressed weight to 
whole weight.
    The shark research fishery 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 
base quota is 90.7 metric tons (mt) dressed weight (dw), although this 
number may be reduced in the event of overharvests, if any. The 
selected shark research fishery permittees will also be allowed to land 
other LCS, SCS, and pelagic sharks per any restrictions established on 
their shark research fishery permit. Generally, the shark research 
fishery permits are valid only for the calendar year for which they are 
issued.
    The specific 2016 trip limits and number of trips per month will 
depend on the availability of funding, 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 number of participants in the research fishery

[[Page 68514]]

changes each year. In 2015, seven fishermen were chosen to participate. 
From 2008 through 2015, there has been an average of seven participants 
each year with the range from five to eleven. 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 the beginning of the 2015 fishing season, NMFS split the sandbar 
and LCS research fishery quotas equally among selected participants, 
with each vessel allocated 13.3 mt dw of sandbar shark research fishery 
quota and 5.7 mt dw of other LCS research fishery quota. On August 18, 
2015, NMFS implemented Amendment 6 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP (80 
FR 50074; Amendment 6) which, among other things, established a new 
base annual quota for the sandbar shark research fishery as 90.7 mt dw 
(199,943 lb dw). To account for the lower sandbar shark quota, NMFS 
revised the equal allocation of every participating vessel in the shark 
research fishery to 80 percent of their current allocation minus their 
landings up until Amendment 6 was implemented. NMFS also established a 
regional dusky bycatch limit where once three or more dusky sharks were 
caught dead in any of five designated regions across the Gulf of Mexico 
and Atlantic through the entire year, any shark research fishery permit 
holder in that region was not able to soak their gear for longer than 3 
hours. If, after the change in soak time, there were three or more 
additional dusky shark interactions (alive or dead) observed, shark 
research fishery permit holders were not able to make a trip in that 
region for the remainder of the year, unless otherwise permitted by 
NMFS. There were slightly different measures established for shark 
research fishery participants in the mid-Atlantic shark closed area in 
order to allow NMFS observers to place satellite archival tags on dusky 
sharks and collect other scientific information on dusky sharks while 
also minimizing any dusky shark mortality.
    Participants were also required to keep any dead sharks, unless 
they were a prohibited species, in which case they were required to 
release them. If the regional non-blacknose SCS, blacknose, and/or 
pelagic shark management group quotas were closed, then the shark 
research fishery permit holder fishing in the closed region had to 
discard all of the species from the closed management groups regardless 
of condition. Any sharks, except prohibited species or closed 
management groups (i.e., SCS or pelagic sharks), caught and brought to 
the vessel alive could have been released alive or landed. In addition, 
participants 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 Narragansett 
Laboratory, the Southeast Regional Office Protected Resources Division, 
and the HMS Management Division. The research objectives for 2016 are 
based on various documents, including the 2012 Biological Opinion for 
the Continued Authorization of the Atlantic Shark Fisheries and the 
Federal Authorization of a Smoothhound Fishery, the 2010/2011 U.S. 
South Atlantic blacknose, U.S Gulf of Mexico blacknose, sandbar, and 
dusky sharks stock assessments, and the 2012 U.S. Gulf of Mexico 
blacktip shark stock assessment. The 2016 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 bottom longline observer program;
     Sample fin sets (e.g., dorsal, pectoral) from prioritized 
species to further develop fin identification guides;
     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 the requirements listed in the take permit issued under 
Section 10 of the Endangered Species Act to the SEFSC observer program;
     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;
     Examine the size distribution of sandbar and other sharks 
captured throughout the fishery including in the Mid-Atlantic shark 
time/area closure off the coast of North Carolina from January 1 
through July 31; and
     Develop allometric and weight relationships of selected 
species of sharks (e.g., hammerhead, sandbar, blacktip shark).

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, NMFS 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 and availability in the 
commercial shark fishery (not including sharks caught for display); 
past involvement and compliance with HMS observer programs per 50 CFR 
635.7; past compliance with HMS regulations at 50 CFR part 635; past 
and present availability to participate in the shark research fishery 
year-round; 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. Preference will be given to 
those applicants who are willing and available to fish year-round and 
who affirmatively state that they

[[Page 68515]]

intend to do so, in order to ensure the timely and accurate data 
collection NMFS needs to meet this year's research objectives. 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 50 CFR 635.7, will not be considered for 
participation in the 2016 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 50 
CFR 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 50 CFR 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 2016. The HMS Management Division will provide the list of 
qualified applicants without identifying 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 
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, NMFS will notify the 
selected applicants and issue the shark research fishery permits. The 
shark research fishery permits will be valid only in calendar year 
2016. If needed, NMFS will communicate with the shark research fishery 
permit holders to arrange a captain's meeting to discuss the research 
objectives and protocols. NMFS held mandatory captain's meetings before 
observers were placed on vessels in 2013 (78 FR 14515; March 6, 2013), 
2014 (79 FR 12155; March 4, 2014), and 2015 (80 FR 3221; January 22, 
2015) and expects to hold one again in 2016. Once the fishery starts, 
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). Shark research 
fishery permit holders must carry a NMFS-approved observer in order to 
land sandbar sharks. 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 50 CFR 
635.24(a). These retention limits will be based on available quota, 
number of vessels participating in the 2016 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 LCS, SCS, and pelagic 
sharks subject to existing retention limits on trips without a NMFS-
approved observer.
    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 2016 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 2, 2015.
Emily H. Menashes,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2015-28257 Filed 11-4-15; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P