Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Shark Management Measures; 2021 Research Fishery, 76533-76535 [2020-26325]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 230 / Monday, November 30, 2020 / Notices DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [RTID 0648–XA622] Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Shark Management Measures; 2021 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 2021 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, 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 to be considered. DATES: Shark Research Fishery Applications must be received no later than December 30, 2020. ADDRESSES: Please submit completed applications via email to NMFS.Research.Fishery@noaa.gov. For copies of the Shark Research Fishery Permit Application, please email a request to NMFS.Research.Fishery@noaa.gov. Copies of the Shark Research Fishery Application are also available at the HMS website at https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/atlantic-highlymigratory-species/atlantic-highlymigratory-species-exempted-fishingpermits. Additionally, please be advised that your application may be released under the Freedom of Information Act. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Karyl Brewster-Geisz, Lauren Latchford at (301) 427–8503 (phone) or Delisse Ortiz at (240) 681–9037 or email NMFS.research.fishery@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Atlantic shark fisheries are managed under the authority of the MagnusonStevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens TKELLEY on DSKBCP9HB2PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:03 Nov 27, 2020 Jkt 253001 Act). The 2006 Consolidated HMS Fishery Management Plan (FMP), as amended, 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 information to determine atvessel 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. The selected shark research fishery permittees will also be allowed to land other LCS, SCS, smoothhound, and pelagic sharks consistent with 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 2021 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 2020, five fishermen were initially chosen to participate. Due to various issues, midway through 2020, three of the initial five fishermen were replaced with three other qualified fishermen. From 2008 through 2020, there has been an average of seven participants each PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 76533 year with the range from five to eleven. The number of trips allowed per month can change, but in the last few years this number has remained constant with partipating vessels on average been able to take one trip per month. The number of trips taken per month are limited by the scientific and research needs of the Agency and the number of NMFSapproved observers available. 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). These limits may change both between years and during the year depending on research goals and bycatch limits. In the 2020 fishing season, NMFS split 90 percent of the sandbar and LCS research fishery quotas equally among selected participants, with each vessel allocated 16.3 mt dw (35,992 lb dw) of sandbar shark research fishery quota and 9.0 mt dw (19,841 lb dw) of other LCS research fishery quota. The remaining quota was held in reserve to ensure the overall sandbar and LCS research fishery quotas were not exceeded. NMFS also established a regional dusky bycatch limit, which was implemented in 2013, specific to this research fishery, where once three or more dusky sharks were brought to the vessel dead in any of four 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 two 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 land any dead sharks, unless they were a prohibited species, in which case they were required to discard them. All prohibited species must be released, unless the observer requests that the shark be retained for research purposes. If the regional non-blacknose SCS, blacknose, and/or pelagic shark commercial management group quotas were closed, then any shark research fishery permit holder fishing in the region was required to discard all of the species from the closed management groups regardless of condition. Any E:\FR\FM\30NON1.SGM 30NON1 76534 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 230 / Monday, November 30, 2020 / Notices sharks, except prohibited species or species from closed commercial management groups, caught and brought to the vessel alive could be released alive or landed. The vessels participating in the shark research fishery averaged four trips in 2020, but the timing, and number of the trips varied based on seasonal availability of certain species and individual allocated quotas. 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. TKELLEY on DSKBCP9HB2PROD with NOTICES 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, the Southeast Regional Office Protected Resources Division, and the HMS Management Division. The research objectives for 2021 are based on various documents, including the 2020 Biological Opinion of the Atlantic Shark Fisheries Except Pelagic Longline, 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 https://sedarweb.org/). The 2021 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 VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:03 Nov 27, 2020 Jkt 253001 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 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; • Develop allometric and weight relationships of selected species of sharks (e.g., hammerhead, sandbar, blacktip shark); • Collect samples such as liver and muscle plugs for stable isotope analysis as a part of a trophic level-based ecosystem study; and • Examine the feasibility of using electronic monitoring to accurately measure soak times of bottom longline sets. This specific research objective will require participating vessels to have an electronic monitoring system (EM) sensors installed for the duration of the 2021 research fishery. During each research trip, the EM sensors must be operating. The sensors will be removed after the end of the 2021 research fishery. Selection Criteria Shark Research Fishery Permit Applications will only be accepted 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 PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 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 seasons 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, including the new research objective that will require vessels to have a specific EM sensors installed. 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, 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 2021 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 two years, as described above, may be eligible for future participation in shark research fishery activities by demonstrating two 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 2021 E:\FR\FM\30NON1.SGM 30NON1 TKELLEY on DSKBCP9HB2PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 230 / Monday, November 30, 2020 / Notices shark research fishery. The HMS Management Division will provide the list of qualified applicants without identifying information to the SEFSC. The SEFSC will then evaluate the list of qualified applicants and, based on the temporal and spatial needs of the research objectives, the availability of observers, the availability of qualified applicants, and the available quota for a given year, will randomly select qualified applicants to conduct the prescribed research. Where there are multiple qualified applicants that meet the criteria, permittees will be randomly selected through a lottery system. If a public meeting is deemed necessary, NMFS will announce details of a public selection meeting in a subsequent Federal Register notice. Once the selection process is complete, NMFS will notify the selected applicants and issue the shark research fishery permits. The shark research fishery permits will be valid through December 31, 2021, unless otherwise specified. 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 usually holds mandatory captain’s meetings before observers are placed on vessels and may hold one for the 2021 shark research fishery in early 2021. Once the fishery starts, the shark research fishery permit holders must contact the NMFS or designee to arrange the placement of a NMFS-approved observer for each shark research trip, and in the beginning, to arrange the installation of the specific EM sensors. Additionally, selected applicants are expected to allow observers the opportunity to perform their duties as required and assist observers as necessary. At the end of the fishery, shark research fishery permit holders must contact NMFS or a designee to arrange for the removal of the EM sensors. 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 VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:03 Nov 27, 2020 Jkt 253001 635.24(a). These retention limits will be based on available quota, number of vessels participating in the 2021 shark research fishery, the research objectives set forth by the shark board, the extent of other restrictions placed on the vessel, and may vary by vessel and/or location. When not operating under the auspices of the shark research fishery, the vessel would still be able to land LCS, SCS, and pelagic sharks subject to existing retention limits on trips without a NMFS-approved observer. Additionally, during those times, the vessel would not need to operate the EM sensors. 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 website at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/atlantichighly-migratory-species/atlantichighly-migratory-species-permits-andreporting-forms 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 2021 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 24, 2020. Jennifer M. Wallace, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2020–26325 Filed 11–27–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [RTID 0648–XA678] Western Pacific Fishery Management Council; Pacific Island Fisheries; Public Meeting National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; public meeting. AGENCY: NMFS and the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) will convene a Western Pacific Stock Assessment Review (WPSAR) of a 2020 stock assessment update for seven deep-water bottomfish species (‘‘Deep 7’’ bottomfish complex) in the Main Hawaiian Islands. SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00022 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 76535 The WPSAR panel will meet on December 16–17, 2020. For specific times and agenda, see SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION. DATES: The meeting will be held by web conference via WebEx. Audio and visual portions for all of the web conferences can be accessed at: https:// wprfmc.webex.com/join/ info.wpcouncilnoaa.gov. Web conference access information and instructions for providing public comments will be posted on the Council website at www.wpcouncil.org. For assistance with the web conference connection, contact the Council office at (808) 552–8220. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kitty Simonds, Executive Director, Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council; telephone: (808) 522–8220. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The NMFS Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) conducted a stock assessment update for the Main Hawaiian Island Deep 7 bottomfish complex. PIFSC previously conducted a Benchmark stock assessment for the Deep 7 bottomfish in 2018 using a Bayesian surplus production model fit to commercial catch and effort data and independent survey biomass estimates. This assessment update used the methodology of the 2018 benchmark assessment and updated it with data through 2019. PIFSC used this assessment update to estimate biomass and stock status of the Deep 7 bottomfish complex through time, and evaluated stock status against the maximum sustainable yield based reference points described in the Council’s Fishery Ecosystem Plan for the Hawaii Archipelago. The 2020 assessment update provides projections to inform setting of acceptable biological catch and annual catch limits for 2021– 24. The WPSAR panel will meet virtually beginning at 9 a.m., Hawaii Standard Time (HST), each day. A public comment period will be provided at the end of the first day. The agenda order may change and the meeting will run as late as necessary to complete scheduled business. ADDRESSES: Meeting Agenda Wednesday, December 16, 2020, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. HST 1. Introduction 2. Review objectives and terms of reference 3. Review of stock assessment updates 4. Summary of comments and analysis during desktop phase 5. Questions to presenters 6. Public comment E:\FR\FM\30NON1.SGM 30NON1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 230 (Monday, November 30, 2020)]
[Notices]
[Pages 76533-76535]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-26325]



[[Page 76533]]

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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

[RTID 0648-XA622]


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Shark Management 
Measures; 2021 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 2021 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, 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 to be considered.

DATES: Shark Research Fishery Applications must be received no later 
than December 30, 2020.

ADDRESSES: Please submit completed applications via email to 
[email protected].
    For copies of the Shark Research Fishery Permit Application, please 
email a request to [email protected]. Copies of the Shark 
Research Fishery Application are also available at the HMS website at 
https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/atlantic-highly-migratory-species/atlantic-highly-migratory-species-exempted-fishing-permits. 
Additionally, please be advised that your application may be released 
under the Freedom of Information Act.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Karyl Brewster-Geisz, Lauren Latchford 
at (301) 427-8503 (phone) or Delisse Ortiz at (240) 681-9037 or email 
[email protected]

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Atlantic shark fisheries are managed 
under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and 
Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). The 2006 Consolidated HMS 
Fishery Management Plan (FMP), as amended, 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 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. The 
selected shark research fishery permittees will also be allowed to land 
other LCS, SCS, smoothhound, and pelagic sharks consistent with 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 2021 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 2020, five fishermen were initially chosen to 
participate. Due to various issues, midway through 2020, three of the 
initial five fishermen were replaced with three other qualified 
fishermen. From 2008 through 2020, there has been an average of seven 
participants each year with the range from five to eleven. The number 
of trips allowed per month can change, but in the last few years this 
number has remained constant with partipating vessels on average been 
able to take one trip per month. The number of trips taken per month 
are limited by the scientific and research needs of the Agency and the 
number of NMFS-approved observers available. 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). These limits 
may change both between years and during the year depending on research 
goals and bycatch limits.
    In the 2020 fishing season, NMFS split 90 percent of the sandbar 
and LCS research fishery quotas equally among selected participants, 
with each vessel allocated 16.3 mt dw (35,992 lb dw) of sandbar shark 
research fishery quota and 9.0 mt dw (19,841 lb dw) of other LCS 
research fishery quota. The remaining quota was held in reserve to 
ensure the overall sandbar and LCS research fishery quotas were not 
exceeded. NMFS also established a regional dusky bycatch limit, which 
was implemented in 2013, specific to this research fishery, where once 
three or more dusky sharks were brought to the vessel dead in any of 
four 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 two 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 land any dead sharks, unless 
they were a prohibited species, in which case they were required to 
discard them. All prohibited species must be released, unless the 
observer requests that the shark be retained for research purposes. If 
the regional non-blacknose SCS, blacknose, and/or pelagic shark 
commercial management group quotas were closed, then any shark research 
fishery permit holder fishing in the region was required to discard all 
of the species from the closed management groups regardless of 
condition. Any

[[Page 76534]]

sharks, except prohibited species or species from closed commercial 
management groups, caught and brought to the vessel alive could be 
released alive or landed. The vessels participating in the shark 
research fishery averaged four trips in 2020, but the timing, and 
number of the trips varied based on seasonal availability of certain 
species and individual allocated quotas.
    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, the Southeast Regional Office Protected 
Resources Division, and the HMS Management Division. The research 
objectives for 2021 are based on various documents, including the 2020 
Biological Opinion of the Atlantic Shark Fisheries Except Pelagic 
Longline, 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 https://sedarweb.org/). The 2021 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 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;
     Develop allometric and weight relationships of selected 
species of sharks (e.g., hammerhead, sandbar, blacktip shark);
     Collect samples such as liver and muscle plugs for stable 
isotope analysis as a part of a trophic level-based ecosystem study; 
and
     Examine the feasibility of using electronic monitoring to 
accurately measure soak times of bottom longline sets. This specific 
research objective will require participating vessels to have an 
electronic monitoring system (EM) sensors installed for the duration of 
the 2021 research fishery. During each research trip, the EM sensors 
must be operating. The sensors will be removed after the end of the 
2021 research fishery.

Selection Criteria

    Shark Research Fishery Permit Applications will only be accepted 
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 seasons 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, including the new research 
objective that will require vessels to have a specific EM sensors 
installed. 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, 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 2021 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 two years, as described 
above, may be eligible for future participation in shark research 
fishery activities by demonstrating two 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 2021

[[Page 76535]]

shark research fishery. The HMS Management Division will provide the 
list of qualified applicants without identifying information to the 
SEFSC. The SEFSC will then evaluate the list of qualified applicants 
and, based on the temporal and spatial needs of the research 
objectives, the availability of observers, the availability of 
qualified applicants, and the available quota for a given year, will 
randomly select qualified applicants to conduct the prescribed 
research. Where there are multiple qualified applicants that meet the 
criteria, permittees will be randomly selected through a lottery 
system. If a public meeting is deemed necessary, NMFS will announce 
details of a public selection meeting in a subsequent Federal Register 
notice.
    Once the selection process is complete, NMFS will notify the 
selected applicants and issue the shark research fishery permits. The 
shark research fishery permits will be valid through December 31, 2021, 
unless otherwise specified. 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 usually holds 
mandatory captain's meetings before observers are placed on vessels and 
may hold one for the 2021 shark research fishery in early 2021. Once 
the fishery starts, the shark research fishery permit holders must 
contact the NMFS or designee to arrange the placement of a NMFS-
approved observer for each shark research trip, and in the beginning, 
to arrange the installation of the specific EM sensors. Additionally, 
selected applicants are expected to allow observers the opportunity to 
perform their duties as required and assist observers as necessary. At 
the end of the fishery, shark research fishery permit holders must 
contact NMFS or a designee to arrange for the removal of the EM 
sensors.
    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 2021 shark research fishery, the 
research objectives set forth by the shark board, the extent of other 
restrictions placed on the vessel, and may vary by vessel and/or 
location. When not operating under the auspices of the shark research 
fishery, the vessel would still be able to land LCS, SCS, and pelagic 
sharks subject to existing retention limits on trips without a NMFS-
approved observer. Additionally, during those times, the vessel would 
not need to operate the EM sensors.
    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 website at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/atlantic-highly-migratory-species/atlantic-highly-migratory-species-permits-and-reporting-forms 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 2021 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 24, 2020.
Jennifer M. Wallace,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2020-26325 Filed 11-27-20; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P