Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Exempted Fishing, Scientific Research, Display, and Shark Research Fishery Permits; Letters of Acknowledgment, 76030-76033 [2020-26193]

Download as PDF 76030 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 229 / Friday, November 27, 2020 / Notices Dated: November 20, 2020. Rey Israel Marquez, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2020–26142 Filed 11–25–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [RTID 0648–XA630] Fisheries of the South Atlantic; Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR); Public Meeting National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of SEDAR 73 post workshop webinar for South Atlantic Red Snapper. AGENCY: The SEDAR 73 assessment of the South Atlantic stock of red snapper will consist of a data scoping webinar, a workshop, and a series of assessment webinars. See SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION. DATES: The SEDAR 73 post workshop webinar will be held via webinar December 16, 2020, from 9 a.m. until 12 p.m. EST. The established times may be adjusted as necessary to accommodate the timely completion of discussion relevant to the assessment process. Such adjustments may result in the meeting being extended from or completed prior to the time established by this notice. Additional SEDAR 73 workshops and webinar dates and times will publish in a subsequent issue in the Federal Register. ADDRESSES: The SEDAR 73 post workshop webinar will be held via webinar. The webinar is open to members of the public. Registration is available online at: https:// attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/ 5228135319828971790. SEDAR address: South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 4055 Faber Place Drive, Suite 201, N Charleston, SC 29405; www.sedarweb.org. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kathleen Howington, SEDAR Coordinator, 4055 Faber Place Drive, Suite 201, North Charleston, SC 29405; phone: (843) 571–4373; email: Kathleen.howington@safmc.net. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic, and Caribbean Fishery Management Councils, in conjunction with NOAA jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Nov 25, 2020 Jkt 253001 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 threestep process including: (1) Data Workshop; (2) Assessment Process utilizing webinars; and (3) Review Workshop. The product of the Data Workshop is a data report which 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 which 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, Highly Migratory Species 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 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); international experts; and staff of Councils, Commissions, and state and federal agencies. The items of discussion at the post workshop webinar are as follows: • Review any data issues remaining. • Finalize any data decisions remaining. • Continue discussion on modelling issues and decisions. Although non-emergency issues not contained in this agenda may come before this group for discussion, those issues may not be the subject of formal action during this meeting. Action will be restricted to those issues specifically identified in this notice and any issues arising after publication of this notice that require emergency action under section 305(c) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, provided the public has been notified of the intent to take final action to address the emergency. PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Special Accommodations This meeting is accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for auxiliary aids should be directed to the SAFMC office (see ADDRESSES) at least 10 business days prior to the meeting. Note: The times and sequence specified in this agenda are subject to change. (Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) Dated: November 23, 2020. Diane M. DeJames-Daly, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2020–26240 Filed 11–25–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [RTID 0648–XA619] Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Exempted Fishing, Scientific Research, Display, and Shark Research Fishery Permits; 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 2021. EFPs and related permits would authorize collection of a limited number of Atlantic HMS, including tunas, swordfish, billfishes, and sharks, from Federal waters in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico for the purposes of scientific research, data collection, the investigation of bycatch, and public display, among other things. LOAs 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, 2021, unless otherwise specified in the permit, subject to the terms and conditions of individual permits. DATES: Written comments received in response to this notice will be considered by NMFS when issuing EFPs and related permits, and must be received on or before December 28, 2020. SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\27NON1.SGM 27NON1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 229 / Friday, November 27, 2020 / Notices Comments may be submitted electronically via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20200145, click the ‘‘Comment Now’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Craig Cockrell, phone: (301) 427–8503, email: craig.cockrell@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS issues EFPs and related permits where Atlantic 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 activities that NMFS has an interest in permitting or acknowledging. Pursuant to 50 CFR parts 600 and 635, 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 a fishery management plan (FMP) or fishery regulations that would otherwise be prohibited. These permits exempt permit holders from the specific portions of the regulations that may otherwise prohibit the collection of Atlantic HMS for public education, public display, or scientific research. Collection of Atlantic HMS under EFPs, SRPs, display permits, and shark research fishery permits represents a small portion of the overall fishing mortality for Atlantic HMS, and this mortality is counted against the relevant quota, 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 Atlantic 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 specifically authorized activities, including scientific research activity, exempted fishing, and exempted public display and educational activities with respect jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES ADDRESSES: VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Nov 25, 2020 Jkt 253001 to Atlantic HMS. The MagnusonStevens Act exempts scientific research conducted by a scientific research vessel from the definition of ‘‘fishing.’’ NMFS issues LOAs acknowledging such bona fide research activities involving species that are only regulated under the Magnuson-Stevens Act (e.g., most species of sharks) and not 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. For such activities, NMFS reviews scientific research plans and may issue an LOA acknowledging that the proposed activity is scientific research for purposes of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Examples of research acknowledged by LOAs include tagging and releasing 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 not defined as ‘‘fishing’’ subject to the 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, and billfish). One example of research conducted under SRPs consists of scientific surveys of tunas, swordfish, and billfish conducted from NOAA research vessels. EFPs are issued for activities conducted from commercial or recreational fishing vessels. Examples of activities conducted under EFPs include collection of young-of-the-year bluefin tuna for genetic research from recreational fishing vessels; conducting billfish larval tows from private vessels to determine billfish habitat use, life history, and population structure; and tagging sharks caught on commercial or recreational fishing gear to determine post-release mortality rates. NMFS also intends to issue display permits for the collection of sharks and other HMS for public display in 2021. Collection of sharks and other HMS sought for public display in aquaria PO 00000 Frm 00028 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 76031 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 FMP, 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 to be conducted usually have been previously analyzed in various environmental assessments and environmental impact statements for Atlantic HMS management. In most such cases, 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 600.745. On December 4, 2019, NMFS received an application for an EFP requesting an exemption from the regulations that prohibit the retention of bluefin tuna with unauthorized gear onboard. See 50 CFR 635.19(b). This application was submitted by the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance (CCCFA). The applicants suggested that, with the use of electronic monitoring and through issuance of an EFP, there would be sufficient at-sea monitoring to verify that the catch of bluefin tuna occurred with authorized gear (i.e., rod and reel and harpoon gear) and not with the unauthorized gear onboard the vessel (i.e., benthic longline, jigging machines, handgear, demersal gillnet, or otter trawl). An EFP was issued to the CCCFA on April 28, 2020 that exempted 10 vessels from regulations at 50 CFR 635.19(b). Since issuance of the permit, nine trips have been taken from July through August in New England, four bluefin tuna were retained, and four bluefin tuna were lost at the boat. Harpoon gear was not used for any of the nine trips. There were no shark interactions that occurred during fishing activities in 2020. Comments are invited specifically on these issues related to potential issuance of a similar permit to the CCCFA in 2021. In addition, this notice invites comments on the shark research fishery E:\FR\FM\27NON1.SGM 27NON1 76032 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 229 / Friday, November 27, 2020 / Notices first implemented through Amendment 2 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP. This research fishery is conducted under the auspices of the EFP 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; the collection of hook-timer and pop-up satellite archival tag information to determine atvessel and post-release mortality of dusky sharks; and the collection of sharks to update the weight conversion factor from dressed weight to whole weight. In 2021, NMFS intends to examine the feasibility of using electronic monitoring to accurately measure soak times of bottom longline sets. Fishermen who wish to participate must fill out an application for a shark research fishery permit under the EFP program. Shark research fishery participants are subject to 100-percent observer coverage. In recent years, all non-prohibited shark species brought back to the vessel dead have been required to be retained and were counted against the appropriate quotas of the shark research fishery participant. Additionally, in recent years, all participants of the shark research fishery were limited to a very small number of dusky shark mortalities on a regional basis. Once the designated number of dusky shark mortalities occurs in a specific region, certain terms and conditions are applied (e.g., soak time limits). If subsequent interactions occur in the region all shark research fishery activities must stop within that region. Participants would continue to be limited in the number of sets allowed on each trip and the number of hooks allowed on each set. All participants are also limited to a maximum of 500 hooks onboard the vessel while on a shark research fishery trip. A Federal Register notice describing the specific objectives for the shark research fishery in 2021 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 2021 during the comment period of this notice. The number of specimens that have been authorized thus far under EFPs and other related permits for 2020, as well as the number of specimens collected in 2019, is summarized in Table 1. The total amount of collections in 2019 were within the analyzed quotas for all quota managed Atlantic HMS species. The number of specimens collected in 2020 will be available when all 2020 interim and annual reports are submitted to NMFS. In all cases, mortalities associated with EFPs, SRPs, or display permits (except for larvae) are counted against the appropriate quota. NMFS issued a total of 40 EFPs, SRPs, display permits, and LOAs in 2019 for the collection of HMS and 5 shark research fishery permits. As of October 20, 2020, NMFS has issued a total of 31 EFPs, SRPs, display permits, and LOAs and 8 shark research fishery permits. TABLE 1—SUMMARY OF HMS EXEMPTED FISHING PERMITS ISSUED IN 2019 AND 2020, OTHER THAN SHARK RESEARCH FISHERY PERMITS [‘‘HMS’’ refers to multiple species being collected under a given permit type] 2019 Permit type 2020 Fish kept/ discarded dead (num) Authorized fish (num) ** Permits issued** Authorized fish (num) ** Permits issued ** EFP HMS .............................................................................. Shark ............................................................................. Tuna .............................................................................. SRP HMS .............................................................................. Shark ............................................................................. Display HMS .............................................................................. Shark ............................................................................. Total ....................................................................... LOA * Shark ............................................................................. 7 4 2 120 20 750 0 6 0 10 3 2 550 0 750 4 1 549 486 0 145 1 2 50 1,325 2 5 82 193 0 56 2 6 82 321 25 2,200 716 28 3,078 15 0 839 5 0 jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES * LOAs acknowledge, but do not authorize, scientific research activity. Thus, the number of sharks in the authorized fish column are in part estimates of harvest under LOAs. LOA holders are either required or encouraged to report all fishing activities in a timely manner. ** Some shark EFPs, SRPs, and LOAs were issued for the purposes of tagging and the opportunistic sampling of sharks and were not expected to result in large amounts of mortality, thus no limits on sampling were set. Some mortality may occur throughout 2020, and will be accounted for under the 60 metric ton shark research and display quota. 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 VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Nov 25, 2020 Jkt 253001 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 PO 00000 Frm 00029 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 resource laws administered by NOAA, consistency with relevant National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documents, and any consultations with appropriate Regional Fishery E:\FR\FM\27NON1.SGM 27NON1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 229 / Friday, November 27, 2020 / Notices Management Councils, states, or Federal agencies. NMFS does not anticipate any significant environmental impacts from the issuance of these EFPs, consistent with the assessment of such activities within the environmental impacts analyses in existing HMS actions, including the 1999 FMP, the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments, Amendment 2 to the Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP, 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: November 23, 2020. Jennifer M. Wallace, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2020–26193 Filed 11–25–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [RTID 0648–XA665] Fisheries of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic; Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR); Public Meeting National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of SEDAR 68 Assessment Webinar I for Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic scamp grouper. AGENCY: The SEDAR 68 assessment process of Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic scamp will consist of a series of data and assessment webinars, and a Review Workshop. See SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION. SUMMARY: The SEDAR 68 Assessment Webinar I will be held December 14, 2020, from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m., Eastern Time. ADDRESSES: 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 FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT) 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. jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES DATES: VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:29 Nov 25, 2020 Jkt 253001 Julie A. Neer, SEDAR Coordinator; (843) 571– 4366; email: Julie.neer@safmc.net. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic, and Caribbean Fishery Management Councils, in conjunction with NOAA 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) a series of assessment webinars, and (3) A Review Workshop. The product of the Data Workshop is a report that compiles and evaluates potential datasets and recommends which datasets are appropriate for assessment analyses. The assessment webinars produce a 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 product of the Review Workshop is an Assessment 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 during the Assessment Webinar are as follows: • Using datasets and initial assessment analysis recommended from the data webinars, panelists will employ assessment models to evaluate stock status, estimate population benchmarks and management criteria, and project future conditions. • Participants will recommend the most appropriate methods and configurations for determining stock status and estimating population parameters. Although non-emergency issues not contained in this agenda may come before this group for discussion, those issues may not be the subject of formal action during this meeting. Action will be restricted to those issues specifically identified in this notice and any issues FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: PO 00000 Frm 00030 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 76033 arising after publication of this notice that require emergency action under section 305(c) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, provided the public has been notified of the intent to take final action to address the emergency. Special Accommodations The meeting is physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to the Council office (see ADDRESSES) at least 3 business days prior to each webinar. Note: The times and sequence specified in this agenda are subject to change. Authority: 16 U.S.C 1801 et seq. Dated: November 23, 2020. Diane M. DeJames-Daly, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2020–26241 Filed 11–25–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P COMMITTEE FOR PURCHASE FROM PEOPLE WHO ARE BLIND OR SEVERELY DISABLED Procurement List; Proposed Additions Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled. ACTION: Proposed Additions to the Procurement List. AGENCY: The Committee is proposing to add product(s) and service(s) to the Procurement List that will be furnished by nonprofit agencies employing persons who are blind or have other severe disabilities. DATES: Comments must be received on or before: December 27, 2020. ADDRESSES: Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled, 1401 S. Clark Street, Suite 715, Arlington, Virginia 22202–4149. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For further information or to submit comments contact: Michael R. Jurkowski, Telephone: (703) 603–2117, Fax: (703) 603–0655, or email CMTEFedReg@AbilityOne.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This notice is published pursuant to 41 U.S.C. 8503 (a)(2) and 41 CFR 51–2.3. Its purpose is to provide interested persons an opportunity to submit comments on the proposed actions. SUMMARY: Additions If the Committee approves the proposed additions, the entities of the Federal Government identified in this E:\FR\FM\27NON1.SGM 27NON1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 229 (Friday, November 27, 2020)]
[Notices]
[Pages 76030-76033]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-26193]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

[RTID 0648-XA619]


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Exempted Fishing, Scientific 
Research, Display, and Shark Research Fishery Permits; 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 2021. EFPs and related permits would 
authorize collection of a limited number of Atlantic HMS, including 
tunas, swordfish, billfishes, and sharks, from Federal waters in the 
Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico for the purposes of 
scientific research, data collection, the investigation of bycatch, and 
public display, among other things. LOAs 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, 2021, unless otherwise specified 
in the permit, subject to the terms and conditions of individual 
permits.

DATES: Written comments received in response to this notice will be 
considered by NMFS when issuing EFPs and related permits, and must be 
received on or before December 28, 2020.

[[Page 76031]]


ADDRESSES: Comments may be submitted electronically via the Federal e-
Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-
NMFS-2020-0145, click the ``Comment Now'' icon, complete the required 
fields, and enter or attach your comments.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Craig Cockrell, phone: (301) 427-8503, 
email: [email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS issues EFPs and related permits where 
Atlantic 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 activities that NMFS has an interest in permitting or 
acknowledging. Pursuant to 50 CFR parts 600 and 635, 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 a fishery management plan (FMP) or 
fishery regulations that would otherwise be prohibited. These permits 
exempt permit holders from the specific portions of the regulations 
that may otherwise prohibit the collection of Atlantic HMS for public 
education, public display, or scientific research. Collection of 
Atlantic HMS under EFPs, SRPs, display permits, and shark research 
fishery permits represents a small portion of the overall fishing 
mortality for Atlantic HMS, and this mortality is counted against the 
relevant quota, 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 Atlantic 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 specifically authorized activities, 
including scientific research activity, exempted fishing, and exempted 
public display and educational activities with respect to Atlantic HMS. 
The Magnuson-Stevens Act exempts scientific research conducted by a 
scientific research vessel from the definition of ``fishing.'' NMFS 
issues LOAs acknowledging such bona fide research activities involving 
species that are only regulated under the Magnuson-Stevens Act (e.g., 
most species of sharks) and not 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. For such activities, NMFS reviews scientific 
research plans and may issue an LOA acknowledging that the proposed 
activity is scientific research for purposes of the Magnuson-Stevens 
Act. Examples of research acknowledged by LOAs include tagging and 
releasing 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 not defined as ``fishing'' subject to 
the 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, and billfish). One example of 
research conducted under SRPs consists of scientific surveys of tunas, 
swordfish, and billfish conducted from NOAA research vessels.
    EFPs are issued for activities conducted from commercial or 
recreational fishing vessels. Examples of activities conducted under 
EFPs include collection of young-of-the-year bluefin tuna for genetic 
research from recreational fishing vessels; conducting billfish larval 
tows from private vessels to determine billfish habitat use, life 
history, and population structure; and tagging sharks caught on 
commercial or recreational fishing gear to determine post-release 
mortality rates.
    NMFS also intends to issue display permits for the collection of 
sharks and other HMS for public display in 2021. 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 FMP, 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 to be conducted 
usually have been previously analyzed in various environmental 
assessments and environmental impact statements for Atlantic HMS 
management. In most such cases, 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 600.745.
    On December 4, 2019, NMFS received an application for an EFP 
requesting an exemption from the regulations that prohibit the 
retention of bluefin tuna with unauthorized gear onboard. See 50 CFR 
635.19(b). This application was submitted by the Cape Cod Commercial 
Fishermen's Alliance (CCCFA). The applicants suggested that, with the 
use of electronic monitoring and through issuance of an EFP, there 
would be sufficient at-sea monitoring to verify that the catch of 
bluefin tuna occurred with authorized gear (i.e., rod and reel and 
harpoon gear) and not with the unauthorized gear onboard the vessel 
(i.e., benthic longline, jigging machines, handgear, demersal gillnet, 
or otter trawl). An EFP was issued to the CCCFA on April 28, 2020 that 
exempted 10 vessels from regulations at 50 CFR 635.19(b). Since 
issuance of the permit, nine trips have been taken from July through 
August in New England, four bluefin tuna were retained, and four 
bluefin tuna were lost at the boat. Harpoon gear was not used for any 
of the nine trips. There were no shark interactions that occurred 
during fishing activities in 2020. Comments are invited specifically on 
these issues related to potential issuance of a similar permit to the 
CCCFA in 2021.
    In addition, this notice invites comments on the shark research 
fishery

[[Page 76032]]

first implemented through Amendment 2 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic 
HMS FMP. This research fishery is conducted under the auspices of the 
EFP 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; the collection of hook-timer and pop-up 
satellite archival tag information to determine at-vessel and post-
release mortality of dusky sharks; and the collection of sharks to 
update the weight conversion factor from dressed weight to whole 
weight. In 2021, NMFS intends to examine the feasibility of using 
electronic monitoring to accurately measure soak times of bottom 
longline sets. Fishermen who wish to participate must fill out an 
application for a shark research fishery permit under the EFP program. 
Shark research fishery participants are subject to 100-percent observer 
coverage. In recent years, all non-prohibited shark species brought 
back to the vessel dead have been required to be retained and were 
counted against the appropriate quotas of the shark research fishery 
participant. Additionally, in recent years, all participants of the 
shark research fishery were limited to a very small number of dusky 
shark mortalities on a regional basis. Once the designated number of 
dusky shark mortalities occurs in a specific region, certain terms and 
conditions are applied (e.g., soak time limits). If subsequent 
interactions occur in the region all shark research fishery activities 
must stop within that region. Participants would continue to be limited 
in the number of sets allowed on each trip and the number of hooks 
allowed on each set. All participants are also limited to a maximum of 
500 hooks onboard the vessel while on a shark research fishery trip. A 
Federal Register notice describing the specific objectives for the 
shark research fishery in 2021 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 2021 during the comment period 
of this notice.
    The number of specimens that have been authorized thus far under 
EFPs and other related permits for 2020, as well as the number of 
specimens collected in 2019, is summarized in Table 1. The total amount 
of collections in 2019 were within the analyzed quotas for all quota 
managed Atlantic HMS species. The number of specimens collected in 2020 
will be available when all 2020 interim and annual reports are 
submitted to NMFS.
    In all cases, mortalities associated with EFPs, SRPs, or display 
permits (except for larvae) are counted against the appropriate quota. 
NMFS issued a total of 40 EFPs, SRPs, display permits, and LOAs in 2019 
for the collection of HMS and 5 shark research fishery permits. As of 
October 20, 2020, NMFS has issued a total of 31 EFPs, SRPs, display 
permits, and LOAs and 8 shark research fishery permits.

   Table 1--Summary of HMS Exempted Fishing Permits Issued in 2019 and 2020, Other Than Shark Research Fishery
                                                     Permits
                 [``HMS'' refers to multiple species being collected under a given permit type]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                       2019                                    2020
                                 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
           Permit type                                              Fish kept/
                                      Permits       Authorized    discarded dead  Permits issued    Authorized
                                     issued**      fish (num) **       (num)            **         fish (num) **
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
EFP
    HMS.........................               7             120               0              10             550
    Shark.......................               4              20               6               3               0
    Tuna........................               2             750               0               2             750
SRP
    HMS.........................               4             549               0               1              50
    Shark.......................               1             486             145               2           1,325
Display
    HMS.........................               2              82               0               2              82
    Shark.......................               5             193              56               6             321
                                 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Total...................              25           2,200             716              28           3,078
LOA *
    Shark.......................              15               0             839               5               0
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* LOAs acknowledge, but do not authorize, scientific research activity. Thus, the number of sharks in the
  authorized fish column are in part estimates of harvest under LOAs. LOA holders are either required or
  encouraged to report all fishing activities in a timely manner.
** Some shark EFPs, SRPs, and LOAs were issued for the purposes of tagging and the opportunistic sampling of
  sharks and were not expected to result in large amounts of mortality, thus no limits on sampling were set.
  Some mortality may occur throughout 2020, and will be accounted for under the 60 metric ton shark research and
  display quota.

    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 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documents, and 
any consultations with appropriate Regional Fishery

[[Page 76033]]

Management Councils, states, or Federal agencies. NMFS does not 
anticipate any significant environmental impacts from the issuance of 
these EFPs, consistent with the assessment of such activities within 
the environmental impacts analyses in existing HMS actions, including 
the 1999 FMP, the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its 
amendments, Amendment 2 to the Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP, 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: November 23, 2020.
Jennifer M. Wallace,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2020-26193 Filed 11-25-20; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P