Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Exempted Fishing, Scientific Research, Display, and Shark Research Fishery; Letters of Acknowledgment, 49596-49598 [2017-23312]

Download as PDF ethrower on DSK3G9T082PROD with NOTICES 49596 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 206 / Thursday, October 26, 2017 / Notices exceptional circumstances exist. It is imperative that the Judges Panel will meet on Sunday, November 5, 2017 through Thursday, November 9, 2017, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time each day to accommodate the scheduling priorities of the key participants, who must maintain a strict schedule to review recommendations from site visits, and recommend 2017 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award recipients. The Judges Panel is composed of twelve members, appointed by the Secretary of Commerce, with balanced representation from U.S. service, manufacturing, nonprofit, education, and health care industries. Members are selected for their familiarity with quality improvement operations and competitiveness issues of manufacturing companies, service companies, small businesses, health care providers, and educational institutions. Members are also chosen who have broad experience in for-profit and nonprofit areas. The purpose of this meeting is to review recommendations from site visits and recommend 2017 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award (Award) recipients. The meeting is closed to the public in order to protect the proprietary data to be examined and discussed at the meeting. The Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Secretary for Administration, with the concurrence of the Assistant General Counsel for Administration and Transactions, formally determined on March 21, 2017, pursuant to Section 10(d) of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, in accordance with Section 5(c) of the Government in Sunshine Act, Public Law 94–409, that the meeting of the Judges Panel may be closed to the public in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 552b(c)(4), because the meeting is likely to disclose trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person which is privileged or confidential; and 5 U.S.C. 552b(c)(9)(B) because the meeting is likely to disclose information the premature disclosure of which would, in the case of any agency, be likely to significantly frustrate implementation of a proposed agency action. The meeting, which involves examination of current Award applicant data from U.S. organizations and a discussion of these data as compared to the Award criteria in order to recommend Award recipients, will be closed to the public. Kevin Kimball, NIST Chief of Staff. [FR Doc. 2017–23273 Filed 10–25–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–13–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:29 Oct 25, 2017 Jkt 244001 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XF750 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Exempted Fishing, Scientific Research, Display, and Shark Research Fishery; Letters of Acknowledgment National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of intent; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS announces its intent to issue exempted fishing permits (EFPs), scientific research permits (SRPs), display permits, letters of acknowledgment (LOAs), and shark research fishery permits for Atlantic highly migratory species (HMS) in 2018. EFPs and related permits would authorize collection of a limited number of tunas, swordfish, billfishes, and sharks (collectively known as HMS) from Federal waters in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico for the purposes of scientific data collection, bycatch research, public display, and to evaluate the efficacy of environmental clean-up efforts, among other things. Letters of acknowledgement acknowledge that scientific research activity aboard a scientific research vessel is being conducted. Generally, EFPs and related permits would be valid from the date of issuance through December 31, 2018, unless otherwise specified, subject to the terms and conditions of individual permits. DATES: Written comments on these activities received in response to this notice will be considered by NMFS when issuing EFPs and related permits and must be received on or before November 27, 2017. ADDRESSES: Comments may be submitted by any of the following methods: • Email: nmfs.hms.efp2018@ noaa.gov. Include in the subject line the following identifier: 0648–XF750 • Mail: Craig Cockrell, Highly Migratory Species Management Division (F/SF1), NMFS, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Craig Cockrell, phone: (301) 427–8503 SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Issuance of EFPs and related permits are necessary because HMS regulations (e.g., fishing seasons, prohibited species, authorized gear, closed areas, and SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 minimum sizes) may otherwise prohibit the collection of live animals and/or biological samples for data collection and public display purposes or may otherwise prohibit certain fishing activity. Pursuant to 50 CFR 600 and 635, a NMFS Regional Administrator or Director may authorize, for limited testing, public display, data collection, exploratory fishing, compensation fishing, conservation engineering, health and safety surveys, environmental cleanup, and/or hazard removal purposes, the target or incidental harvest of species managed under an FMP or fishery regulations that would otherwise be prohibited. These permits exempt permit holders from the specific portions of the regulations (e.g., fishing seasons, prohibited species, authorized gear, closed areas, and minimum sizes) that may otherwise prohibit the collection of HMS for public education, public display, or scientific research. Permit holders are not exempted from the regulations in entirety. Collection of HMS under EFPs, SRPs, LOAs, display, and shark research fishery permits represents a small portion of the overall fishing mortality for HMS, and this mortality is counted against the quota of the species harvested, as appropriate and applicable. The terms and conditions of individual permits are unique; however, all permits will include reporting requirements, limit the number and/or species of HMS to be collected, and only authorize collection in Federal waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea. EFPs and related permits are issued under the authority of the MagnusonStevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) (16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) and/or the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA) (16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.). Regulations at 50 CFR 600.745 and 635.32 govern scientific research activity, exempted fishing, and exempted public display and educational activities with respect to Atlantic HMS. Before issuing LOAs, EFPs, or SRPs, NMFS requests, among other things, copies of scientific research plans. Because the MagnusonStevens Act states that scientific research activity which is conducted on a scientific research vessel is not fishing, NMFS issues LOAs and not EFPs for bona fide research activities (e.g., scientific research being conducted from a research vessel and not a commercial or recreational fishing vessel) involving species that are only regulated under the Magnuson-Stevens Act (e.g., most species of sharks) and not E:\FR\FM\26OCN1.SGM 26OCN1 ethrower on DSK3G9T082PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 206 / Thursday, October 26, 2017 / Notices under ATCA. NMFS generally does not consider recreational or commercial vessels to be bona fide research vessels. However, if the vessels have been contracted only to conduct research and not participate in any commercial or recreational fishing activities during that research, NMFS may consider those vessels as bona fide research platforms while conducting the specified research. For example, in the past, NMFS has determined that commercial pelagic longline vessels assisting with population surveys for sharks may be considered ‘‘bona fide research vessels’’ while engaged only in the specified research. NMFS acknowledges that the proposed activity meets the definition of scientific research under the MagnusonStevens Act and not ATCA by issuing an LOA to researchers. Examples of research conducted under LOAs include tagging and releasing of sharks during bottom longline surveys to understand the distribution and seasonal abundance of different shark species, and collecting and sampling sharks caught during trawl surveys for life history and bycatch studies. While scientific research is exempt under MSA, scientific research is not exempt from regulation under ATCA. Therefore, NMFS issues SRPs that authorize researchers to collect HMS from bona fide research vessels for collection of species managed under this statute (e.g., tunas, swordfish, billfish, and some species of sharks). One example of research conducted under SRPs consists of scientific surveys of HMS conducted from NOAA research vessels. EFPs are issued to researchers collecting ATCA and Magnuson-Stevens Act-managed species while conducting research from commercial or recreational fishing vessels. Examples of research conducted under EFPs include collection of young-of-the-year bluefin tuna for genetic research; conducting billfish larval tows from private vessels to determine billfish habitat use, life history, and population structure; determining catch rates and gear characteristics of the swordfish buoy gear fishery and the green-stick tuna fishery; and tagging sharks caught on commercial or recreational fishing gear to determining post-release mortality rates. NMFS is also seeking public comment on its intent to issue display permits for the collection of sharks and other HMS for public display in 2017. Collection of sharks and other HMS sought for public display in aquaria often involves collection when the commercial fishing seasons are closed, collection of otherwise prohibited species (e.g., sand VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:29 Oct 25, 2017 Jkt 244001 tiger sharks), and collection of fish below the regulatory minimum size. Under Amendment 2 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS Fishery Management Plan, NMFS determined that dusky sharks cannot be collected for public display. The majority of EFPs and related permits described in this annual notice relate to scientific sampling and tagging of Atlantic HMS within existing quotas and the impacts of the activities have been previously analyzed in various environmental assessments and environmental impact statements for Atlantic HMS. NMFS intends to issue these permits without additional opportunity for public comment beyond what is provided in this notice. Occasionally, NMFS receives applications for research activities that were not anticipated, or for research that is outside the scope of general scientific sampling and tagging of Atlantic HMS, or rarely, for research that is particularly controversial. Should NMFS receive such applications, NMFS will provide additional opportunity for public comment, consistent with the regulations at 50 CFR part 600.745. During the comment period for the November 2016 notice of intent to issue EFPs (81 FR 80646), NMFS received numerous comments regarding previous years’ white shark research in Federal waters, focusing primarily on concerns about the need for coordination among researchers regarding the potential effects of one project on another. The volume of these comments indicated that any EFPs or SRP applications involving white sharks in 2017 should be considered ‘‘controversial’’ and warranted additional opportunity for public comment. Subsequently, NMFS published a notice in the Federal Register (March 1, 2017, 82 FR 12340) requesting public comment on applications for exempted fishing permits and related permits for white shark research, particularly on two applications involving white shark research that had been received at that time. During the comment period, NMFS received 722 comments related to white shark research and the applications described in the notice. The majority of the comments were in support of continuing white shark research. Other comments that were received commented on a range of issues related to white shark research including concern regarding the proper handling of white sharks and the type of gear being used for research and concern regarding tagging operations on charter and private vessels due to long fight times on light tackle rods and reels. PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 49597 Some of the comments also stated that NMFS should approve EFP applications for white shark research on a case-bycase basis or that NMFS should stop issuing EFPs or related permits for research on sharks. After reviewing these comments, NMFS decided to issue EFPs and related permits for white shark research as appropriate in 2017. During 2018, NMFS anticipates permits for white shark research would be undertaken with substantially the same terms and conditions and scope as last year, with no additional anticipated effects. Comments are invited specifically on these issues related to issuance of white shark permits this year. In addition, Amendment 2 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS Fishery Management Plan (FMP) implemented a shark research fishery. This research fishery is conducted under the auspices of the exempted fishing permit program. Shark research fishery permit holders assist NMFS in collecting valuable shark life history and other scientific data required in shark stock assessments. 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; the evaluation of the utility of the mid-Atlantic closed area on the recovery of dusky sharks; and the collection of hook-timer and pop-up satellite archival tag information to determine at-vessel and post-release mortality of dusky sharks. Fishermen who wish to participate must fill out an application for a shark research permit under the exempted fishing program. Shark research fishery participants are subject to 100-percent observer coverage. All non-prohibited shark species brought back to the vessel dead must be retained and will count against the appropriate quotas of the shark research fishery participant. During the 2017 shark research fishery, all participants were limited to a very small number of dusky shark mortalities on a regional basis. Once the number of mortalities occurs in a specific region all shark research fishery activities must stop within that region. Also, participants are limited to two sets per trip with, one set limited to 150 hooks and the second set limited to 300 hooks. E:\FR\FM\26OCN1.SGM 26OCN1 49598 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 206 / Thursday, October 26, 2017 / Notices All participants are also limited to a maximum of 500 hooks onboard the vessel with on a shark research fishery trip. A Federal Register notice describing the specific objectives for the shark research fishery in 2018 and requesting applications from interested and eligible shark fishermen is expected to publish in the near future. NMFS requests public comment regarding NMFS’ intent to issue shark research fishery permits in 2018 during the comment period of this notice. The authorized number of species for 2017, as well as the number of specimens collected in 2016, is summarized in Table 1. The number of specimens collected in 2017 will be available when all 2017 interim and annual reports are submitted to NMFS. In 2016, the number of specimens collected was less than the number of authorized specimens for all permit types, other than SRPs issued for shark research. In all cases, mortality associated with an EFPs, SRPs, or display permits (except for larvae) is counted against the appropriate quota. NMFS issued a total of 39 EFPs, SRPs, display permits, and LOAs in 2016 for the collection of HMS and a total of 5 shark research fishery permits. As of October 3, 2017, NMFS has issued a total of 33 EFPs, SRPs, display permits, and LOAs and a total of 5 shark research fishery permits. TABLE 1—SUMMARY OF HMS EXEMPTED FISHING PERMITS ISSUED IN 2016 AND 2017, OTHER THAN SHARK RESEARCH FISHERY PERMITS [‘‘HMS’’ refers to multiple species being collected under a given permit type.] 2016 Permit type Permits issued** 2017 Authorized larvae (num) Authorized fish (num) Fish kept/discarded dead (num) Larvae kept (num) Permits issued** Authorized fish (Num)** EFP HMS ...................... Shark ..................... Tuna ...................... SRP HMS ...................... Shark ..................... Tuna ...................... Display HMS ...................... Shark ..................... 4 12 4 247 721 530 0 0 0 17 85 0 0 0 0 4 4 2 357 57 350 1 5 1 42 1,165 60 0 0 0 0 310 0 0 0 0 3 1 0 260 720 0 0 3 0 109 0 0 0 26 0 0 2 5 88 109 Total ............... LOA* Shark ..................... 30 2,874 0 0 21 1,941 9 2,906 0 0 12 2,275 618 ethrower on DSK3G9T082PROD with NOTICES *LOAs are issued for bona fide scientific research activities involving non-ATCA managed species (e.g., most species of sharks). Collections made under an LOA are not authorized; rather this estimated harvest for research is acknowledged by NMFS. Permittees are encouraged to report all fishing activities in a timely manner. **Atlantic HMS larvae were authorized for collection but no limit on the number of larvae were set. Final decisions on the issuance of any EFPs, SRPs, display permits, and shark research fishery permits will depend on the submission of all required information about the proposed activities, NMFS’ review of public comments received on this notice, an applicant’s reporting history on past permits, if vessels or applicants were issued any prior violations of marine resource laws administered by NOAA, consistency with relevant NEPA documents, and any consultations with appropriate Regional Fishery Management Councils, states, or Federal agencies. NMFS does not anticipate any significant environmental impacts from the issuance of these EFPs as assessed in the 1999 FMP, the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments, the Environmental Assessment for the 2012 Swordfish Specifications, and the Environmental Assessment for the 2015 Final Bluefin Tuna Quota and Atlantic Tuna Fisheries Management Measures. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:29 Oct 25, 2017 Jkt 244001 Authority: 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq. and 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. DATES: Dated: October 23, 2017. Emily H. Menashes, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: [FR Doc. 2017–23312 Filed 10–25–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE Department of the Air Force Names of Members of the Performance Review Board for the Department of the Air Force AGENCY: Department of the Air Force, DOD. ACTION: Notice. Notice is given of the names of members of the 2017 Performance Review Board for the Department of the Air Force. SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 These appointments are effective as of November 13, 2017. Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 4314(c) (1–5), the Department of the Air Force (AF) announces the appointment of members to the AF’s Senior Executive Service (SES) Performance Review Board (PRB). Appointments are made by the authorizing official. Each board member shall review and evaluate performance scores provided by the SES’ immediate supervisor. Performance standards must be applied consistently across the AF. The board will make final recommendations to the authorizing official relative to the performance of the executive. The members of the 2017 Performance Review Board for the Air Force are: 1. Board President—Gen Ellen M. Pawlikowski, Commander, Air Force Material Command 2. Honorable Matthew P. Donovan, Under Secretary of the Air Force E:\FR\FM\26OCN1.SGM 26OCN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 206 (Thursday, October 26, 2017)]
[Notices]
[Pages 49596-49598]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-23312]


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

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XF750


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Exempted Fishing, Scientific 
Research, Display, and Shark Research Fishery; Letters of 
Acknowledgment

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

ACTION: Notice of intent; request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS announces its intent to issue exempted fishing permits 
(EFPs), scientific research permits (SRPs), display permits, letters of 
acknowledgment (LOAs), and shark research fishery permits for Atlantic 
highly migratory species (HMS) in 2018. EFPs and related permits would 
authorize collection of a limited number of tunas, swordfish, 
billfishes, and sharks (collectively known as HMS) from Federal waters 
in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico for the 
purposes of scientific data collection, bycatch research, public 
display, and to evaluate the efficacy of environmental clean-up 
efforts, among other things. Letters of acknowledgement acknowledge 
that scientific research activity aboard a scientific research vessel 
is being conducted. Generally, EFPs and related permits would be valid 
from the date of issuance through December 31, 2018, unless otherwise 
specified, subject to the terms and conditions of individual permits.

DATES: Written comments on these activities received in response to 
this notice will be considered by NMFS when issuing EFPs and related 
permits and must be received on or before November 27, 2017.

ADDRESSES: Comments may be submitted by any of the following methods:
     Email: [email protected]. Include in the subject 
line the following identifier: 0648-XF750
     Mail: Craig Cockrell, Highly Migratory Species Management 
Division (F/SF1), NMFS, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 
20910.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Craig Cockrell, phone: (301) 427-8503

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Issuance of EFPs and related permits are 
necessary because HMS regulations (e.g., fishing seasons, prohibited 
species, authorized gear, closed areas, and minimum sizes) may 
otherwise prohibit the collection of live animals and/or biological 
samples for data collection and public display purposes or may 
otherwise prohibit certain fishing activity. Pursuant to 50 CFR 600 and 
635, a NMFS Regional Administrator or Director may authorize, for 
limited testing, public display, data collection, exploratory fishing, 
compensation fishing, conservation engineering, health and safety 
surveys, environmental cleanup, and/or hazard removal purposes, the 
target or incidental harvest of species managed under an FMP or fishery 
regulations that would otherwise be prohibited. These permits exempt 
permit holders from the specific portions of the regulations (e.g., 
fishing seasons, prohibited species, authorized gear, closed areas, and 
minimum sizes) that may otherwise prohibit the collection of HMS for 
public education, public display, or scientific research. Permit 
holders are not exempted from the regulations in entirety. Collection 
of HMS under EFPs, SRPs, LOAs, display, and shark research fishery 
permits represents a small portion of the overall fishing mortality for 
HMS, and this mortality is counted against the quota of the species 
harvested, as appropriate and applicable. The terms and conditions of 
individual permits are unique; however, all permits will include 
reporting requirements, limit the number and/or species of HMS to be 
collected, and only authorize collection in Federal waters of the 
Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea.
    EFPs and related permits are issued under the authority of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization 
Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) (16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) and/or the Atlantic 
Tunas Convention Act (ATCA) (16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.). Regulations at 50 
CFR 600.745 and 635.32 govern scientific research activity, exempted 
fishing, and exempted public display and educational activities with 
respect to Atlantic HMS. Before issuing LOAs, EFPs, or SRPs, NMFS 
requests, among other things, copies of scientific research plans. 
Because the Magnuson-Stevens Act states that scientific research 
activity which is conducted on a scientific research vessel is not 
fishing, NMFS issues LOAs and not EFPs for bona fide research 
activities (e.g., scientific research being conducted from a research 
vessel and not a commercial or recreational fishing vessel) involving 
species that are only regulated under the Magnuson-Stevens Act (e.g., 
most species of sharks) and not

[[Page 49597]]

under ATCA. NMFS generally does not consider recreational or commercial 
vessels to be bona fide research vessels. However, if the vessels have 
been contracted only to conduct research and not participate in any 
commercial or recreational fishing activities during that research, 
NMFS may consider those vessels as bona fide research platforms while 
conducting the specified research. For example, in the past, NMFS has 
determined that commercial pelagic longline vessels assisting with 
population surveys for sharks may be considered ``bona fide research 
vessels'' while engaged only in the specified research. NMFS 
acknowledges that the proposed activity meets the definition of 
scientific research under the Magnuson-Stevens Act and not ATCA by 
issuing an LOA to researchers. Examples of research conducted under 
LOAs include tagging and releasing of sharks during bottom longline 
surveys to understand the distribution and seasonal abundance of 
different shark species, and collecting and sampling sharks caught 
during trawl surveys for life history and bycatch studies.
    While scientific research is exempt under MSA, scientific research 
is not exempt from regulation under ATCA. Therefore, NMFS issues SRPs 
that authorize researchers to collect HMS from bona fide research 
vessels for collection of species managed under this statute (e.g., 
tunas, swordfish, billfish, and some species of sharks). One example of 
research conducted under SRPs consists of scientific surveys of HMS 
conducted from NOAA research vessels.
    EFPs are issued to researchers collecting ATCA and Magnuson-Stevens 
Act-managed species while conducting research from commercial or 
recreational fishing vessels. Examples of research conducted under EFPs 
include collection of young-of-the-year bluefin tuna for genetic 
research; conducting billfish larval tows from private vessels to 
determine billfish habitat use, life history, and population structure; 
determining catch rates and gear characteristics of the swordfish buoy 
gear fishery and the green-stick tuna fishery; and tagging sharks 
caught on commercial or recreational fishing gear to determining post-
release mortality rates.
    NMFS is also seeking public comment on its intent to issue display 
permits for the collection of sharks and other HMS for public display 
in 2017. Collection of sharks and other HMS sought for public display 
in aquaria often involves collection when the commercial fishing 
seasons are closed, collection of otherwise prohibited species (e.g., 
sand tiger sharks), and collection of fish below the regulatory minimum 
size. Under Amendment 2 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS Fishery 
Management Plan, NMFS determined that dusky sharks cannot be collected 
for public display.
    The majority of EFPs and related permits described in this annual 
notice relate to scientific sampling and tagging of Atlantic HMS within 
existing quotas and the impacts of the activities have been previously 
analyzed in various environmental assessments and environmental impact 
statements for Atlantic HMS. NMFS intends to issue these permits 
without additional opportunity for public comment beyond what is 
provided in this notice. Occasionally, NMFS receives applications for 
research activities that were not anticipated, or for research that is 
outside the scope of general scientific sampling and tagging of 
Atlantic HMS, or rarely, for research that is particularly 
controversial. Should NMFS receive such applications, NMFS will provide 
additional opportunity for public comment, consistent with the 
regulations at 50 CFR part 600.745.
    During the comment period for the November 2016 notice of intent to 
issue EFPs (81 FR 80646), NMFS received numerous comments regarding 
previous years' white shark research in Federal waters, focusing 
primarily on concerns about the need for coordination among researchers 
regarding the potential effects of one project on another. The volume 
of these comments indicated that any EFPs or SRP applications involving 
white sharks in 2017 should be considered ``controversial'' and 
warranted additional opportunity for public comment. Subsequently, NMFS 
published a notice in the Federal Register (March 1, 2017, 82 FR 12340) 
requesting public comment on applications for exempted fishing permits 
and related permits for white shark research, particularly on two 
applications involving white shark research that had been received at 
that time.
    During the comment period, NMFS received 722 comments related to 
white shark research and the applications described in the notice. The 
majority of the comments were in support of continuing white shark 
research. Other comments that were received commented on a range of 
issues related to white shark research including concern regarding the 
proper handling of white sharks and the type of gear being used for 
research and concern regarding tagging operations on charter and 
private vessels due to long fight times on light tackle rods and reels. 
Some of the comments also stated that NMFS should approve EFP 
applications for white shark research on a case-by-case basis or that 
NMFS should stop issuing EFPs or related permits for research on 
sharks. After reviewing these comments, NMFS decided to issue EFPs and 
related permits for white shark research as appropriate in 2017. During 
2018, NMFS anticipates permits for white shark research would be 
undertaken with substantially the same terms and conditions and scope 
as last year, with no additional anticipated effects. Comments are 
invited specifically on these issues related to issuance of white shark 
permits this year.
    In addition, Amendment 2 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS Fishery 
Management Plan (FMP) implemented a shark research fishery. This 
research fishery is conducted under the auspices of the exempted 
fishing permit program. Shark research fishery permit holders assist 
NMFS in collecting valuable shark life history and other scientific 
data required in shark stock assessments. 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; the 
evaluation of the utility of the mid-Atlantic closed area on the 
recovery of dusky sharks; and the collection of hook-timer and pop-up 
satellite archival tag information to determine at-vessel and post-
release mortality of dusky sharks. Fishermen who wish to participate 
must fill out an application for a shark research permit under the 
exempted fishing program. Shark research fishery participants are 
subject to 100-percent observer coverage. All non-prohibited shark 
species brought back to the vessel dead must be retained and will count 
against the appropriate quotas of the shark research fishery 
participant. During the 2017 shark research fishery, all participants 
were limited to a very small number of dusky shark mortalities on a 
regional basis. Once the number of mortalities occurs in a specific 
region all shark research fishery activities must stop within that 
region. Also, participants are limited to two sets per trip with, one 
set limited to 150 hooks and the second set limited to 300 hooks.

[[Page 49598]]

All participants are also limited to a maximum of 500 hooks onboard the 
vessel with on a shark research fishery trip. A Federal Register notice 
describing the specific objectives for the shark research fishery in 
2018 and requesting applications from interested and eligible shark 
fishermen is expected to publish in the near future. NMFS requests 
public comment regarding NMFS' intent to issue shark research fishery 
permits in 2018 during the comment period of this notice.
    The authorized number of species for 2017, as well as the number of 
specimens collected in 2016, is summarized in Table 1. The number of 
specimens collected in 2017 will be available when all 2017 interim and 
annual reports are submitted to NMFS. In 2016, the number of specimens 
collected was less than the number of authorized specimens for all 
permit types, other than SRPs issued for shark research.
    In all cases, mortality associated with an EFPs, SRPs, or display 
permits (except for larvae) is counted against the appropriate quota. 
NMFS issued a total of 39 EFPs, SRPs, display permits, and LOAs in 2016 
for the collection of HMS and a total of 5 shark research fishery 
permits. As of October 3, 2017, NMFS has issued a total of 33 EFPs, 
SRPs, display permits, and LOAs and a total of 5 shark research fishery 
permits.

                   Table 1--Summary of HMS Exempted Fishing Permits Issued in 2016 and 2017, Other Than Shark Research Fishery Permits
                                     [``HMS'' refers to multiple species being collected under a given permit type.]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                               2016                                                    2017
                                         ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
               Permit type                                                                  Fish kept/
                                              Permits       Authorized      Authorized    discarded dead    Larvae kept       Permits       Authorized
                                             issued**       fish  (num)    larvae  (num)       (num)           (num)         issued**      fish  (Num)**
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
EFP
    HMS.................................               4             247               0              17               0               4             357
    Shark...............................              12             721               0              85               0               4              57
    Tuna................................               4             530               0               0               0               2             350
SRP
    HMS.................................               1              42               0               0               0               3             260
    Shark...............................               5           1,165               0             310               0               1             720
    Tuna................................               1              60               0               0               0               0               0
Display
    HMS.................................               0               0               0               0               0               2              88
    Shark...............................               3             109               0              26               0               5             109
                                         ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Total...........................              30           2,874               0  ..............               0              21           1,941
LOA*
    Shark...............................               9           2,906               0             618               0              12           2,275
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
*LOAs are issued for bona fide scientific research activities involving non-ATCA managed species (e.g., most species of sharks). Collections made under
  an LOA are not authorized; rather this estimated harvest for research is acknowledged by NMFS. Permittees are encouraged to report all fishing
  activities in a timely manner.
**Atlantic HMS larvae were authorized for collection but no limit on the number of larvae were set.

    Final decisions on the issuance of any EFPs, SRPs, display permits, 
and shark research fishery permits will depend on the submission of all 
required information about the proposed activities, NMFS' review of 
public comments received on this notice, an applicant's reporting 
history on past permits, if vessels or applicants were issued any prior 
violations of marine resource laws administered by NOAA, consistency 
with relevant NEPA documents, and any consultations with appropriate 
Regional Fishery Management Councils, states, or Federal agencies. NMFS 
does not anticipate any significant environmental impacts from the 
issuance of these EFPs as assessed in the 1999 FMP, the 2006 
Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments, the Environmental Assessment 
for the 2012 Swordfish Specifications, and the Environmental Assessment 
for the 2015 Final Bluefin Tuna Quota and Atlantic Tuna Fisheries 
Management Measures.

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 971 et seq. and 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.

    Dated: October 23, 2017.
Emily H. Menashes,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2017-23312 Filed 10-25-17; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P