Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Shark Management Measures; 2017 Research Fishery, 83206-83208 [2016-27904]

Download as PDF 83206 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 224 / Monday, November 21, 2016 / Notices Thomas A. Nies, Executive Director, at (978) 465–0492, at least 5 days prior to the meeting date. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: November 16, 2016. Tracey L. Thompson, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2016–27974 Filed 11–18–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XE931 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Shark Management Measures; 2017 Research Fishery National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of intent; request for applications. AGENCY: NMFS announces its request for applications for the 2017 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), smoothhound sharks, 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 December 21, 2016. ADDRESSES: Please submit completed applications to the HMS Management Division at: ´ • Mail: Attn: Guy 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– asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:09 Nov 18, 2016 Jkt 241001 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/ compliance/efp/index.html. Additionally, please be advised that your application may be released under the Freedom of Information Act. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: ´ Karyl Brewster-Geisz, Guy DuBeck, Larry Redd, at (301) 427–8503 (phone) or (301) 713–1917 (fax), or Delisse Ortiz at 240–681–9037 (phone). SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Atlantic shark fisheries are managed under the authority of the MagnusonStevens 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) per year, 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, smoothhound sharks, and pelagic sharks per any restrictions established on their shark research PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 fishery permit. Generally, the shark research fishery permits are valid only for the calendar year for which they are issued. The specific 2017 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 changes each year. In 2016, five fishermen were chosen to participate. From 2008 through 2016, 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 2016 fishing season, NMFS split the sandbar and LCS research fishery quotas equally among selected participants, with each vessel allocated 14.5 mt dw of sandbar shark research fishery quota and 8.0 mt dw of other LCS research fishery quota. NMFS also established a regional dusky bycatch limit where once three or more dusky sharks were brought to the vessel dead in any of five 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, smoothhound 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 E:\FR\FM\21NON1.SGM 21NON1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 224 / Monday, November 21, 2016 / Notices asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES management groups (i.e., SCS, smoothhound, 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 2017 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, as well as recent stock assessments for the U.S. South Atlantic blacknose, U.S Gulf of Mexico blacknose, U.S. Gulf of Mexico blacktip, sandbar, and dusky sharks (all these stock assessments can be found at http://sedarweb.org/). The 2017 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 VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:09 Nov 18, 2016 Jkt 241001 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 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 PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 83207 willing and available to fish year-round and who affirmatively state that they 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 2017 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 2017. 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 E:\FR\FM\21NON1.SGM 21NON1 asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 83208 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 224 / Monday, November 21, 2016 / Notices 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 2017. 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 since 2013 and expects to hold one again in late 2016 or early 2017. Once the fishery starts, the shark research fishery permit holders must contact the NMFS observer coordinator to arrange the placement of a NMFSapproved observer for each shark research trip. Additionally, selected applicants are expected to allow observers the opportunity to perform their duties as required and assist observers as necessary. 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 2017 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, smoothhound sharks, 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/ compliance/efp/index.html or by calling (301) 427–8503. Final decisions on the VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:09 Nov 18, 2016 Jkt 241001 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 2017 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 15, 2016. Emily H. Menashes, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2016–27904 Filed 11–18–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XF047 Fisheries of the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic; Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR); Stock Identification (ID) Webinar for Gray Snapper National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of SEDAR 51 Stock ID Webinar for Gray Snapper. AGENCY: The SEDAR 51 assessment of the Gray Snapper will consist of a data workshop, a review workshop, and a series of assessment Webinars, DATES: The SEDAR 51 Stock ID Webinar will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on December 7, 2016, to view the agenda see SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION. ADDRESSES: Meeting address: The meeting will be held via Webinar. The Webinar is open to members of the public. Those interested in participating should contact Julie A. Neer, at SEDAR (see Contact Information Below) to request an invitation providing Webinar access information. Please request webinar invitations at least 24 hours in advance of each Webinar. SEDAR address: 4055 Faber Place Drive, Suite 201, North Charleston, SC 29405. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Julie A. Neer, SEDAR Coordinator; (843) 571– 4366. Email: Julie.neer@safmc.net SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: SUMMARY: Agenda The Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic, and Caribbean Fishery Management Councils, in conjunction with NOAA PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Fisheries and the Atlantic and Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commissions have implemented the Southeast Data, Assessment and Review (SEDAR) process, a multi-step method for determining the status of fish stocks in the Southeast Region. SEDAR is a multistep process including: (1) Data Workshop; (2) Assessment Process utilizing webinars; and (3) Review Workshop. The product of the Data Workshop is a data report that compiles and evaluates potential datasets and recommends which datasets are appropriate for assessment analyses. The product of the Assessment Process is a stock assessment report that describes the fisheries, evaluates the status of the stock, estimates biological benchmarks, projects future population conditions, and recommends research and monitoring needs. The assessment is independently peer reviewed at the Review Workshop. The product of the Review Workshop is a Summary documenting panel opinions regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the stock assessment and input data. Participants for SEDAR Workshops are appointed by the Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic, and Caribbean Fishery Management Councils and NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office, HMS Management Division, and Southeast Fisheries Science Center. Participants include data collectors and database managers; stock assessment scientists, biologists, and researchers; constituency representatives including fishermen, environmentalists, and NGO’s; International experts; and staff of Councils, Commissions, and state and federal agencies. The items of discussion in the Stock ID Webinars are as follows: 1. Participants will use review genetic studies, growth patterns, existing stock definitions, prior SEDAR stock ID recommendations, and any other relevant information on Gray Snapper stock structure. 2. Participants will make recommendations on biological stock structure and define the unit stock or stocks to be addressed through this assessment. 3. Participants will provide recommendations to address Council management jurisdictions, to support management of the stock or stocks, and specification of management benchmarks and fishing levels by Council jurisdiction in a manner consistent with the productivity measures of the stock. 4. Participants will document work group discussion and recommendations through a Data Workshop working paper for SEDAR 51.Although non-emergency E:\FR\FM\21NON1.SGM 21NON1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 224 (Monday, November 21, 2016)]
[Notices]
[Pages 83206-83208]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-27904]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XE931


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Shark Management 
Measures; 2017 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 2017 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), smoothhound sharks, 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 
December 21, 2016.

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/compliance/efp/index.html. 
Additionally, please be advised that your application may be released 
under the Freedom of Information Act.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Karyl Brewster-Geisz, Gu[yacute] 
DuBeck, Larry Redd, at (301) 427-8503 (phone) or (301) 713-1917 (fax), 
or Delisse Ortiz at 240-681-9037 (phone).

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) per year, 
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, smoothhound sharks, 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 2017 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 changes 
each year. In 2016, five fishermen were chosen to participate. From 
2008 through 2016, 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 2016 fishing season, NMFS split the sandbar and LCS research 
fishery quotas equally among selected participants, with each vessel 
allocated 14.5 mt dw of sandbar shark research fishery quota and 8.0 mt 
dw of other LCS research fishery quota. NMFS also established a 
regional dusky bycatch limit where once three or more dusky sharks were 
brought to the vessel dead in any of five 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, smoothhound 
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

[[Page 83207]]

management groups (i.e., SCS, smoothhound, 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 2017 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, as well as recent stock 
assessments for the U.S. South Atlantic blacknose, U.S Gulf of Mexico 
blacknose, U.S. Gulf of Mexico blacktip, sandbar, and dusky sharks (all 
these stock assessments can be found at http://sedarweb.org/). The 2017 
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 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 2017 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 2017. 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

[[Page 83208]]

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 
2017. 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 since 2013 and expects to hold one 
again in late 2016 or early 2017. 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. Additionally, selected applicants are 
expected to allow observers the opportunity to perform their duties as 
required and assist observers as necessary.
    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 2017 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, smoothhound 
sharks, 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/compliance/efp/index.html 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 2017 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 15, 2016.
Emily H. Menashes,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2016-27904 Filed 11-18-16; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P