Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Exempted Fishing, Scientific Research, Display, and Shark Research Fishery Permits; Letters of Acknowledgment, 64188-64190 [2021-25096]

Download as PDF 64188 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 219 / Wednesday, November 17, 2021 / Notices TABLE 1—CURRENT REPRESENTATION ON THE HMS AP BY SECTOR, REGION, AND SPECIES—Continued Sector Fishing region Species Recreational .............. Recreational .............. Mid-Atlantic ................................................... Southeast ..................................................... HMS .......................... HMS/Billfish ............... Date appointed 1/1/2019 1/1/2019 Date term expires 12/31/2021 12/31/2021 Member status Expiring. Expiring. Note: Terms that are expiring or associated with current members stepping down are identified in bold and marked as ‘‘Expiring’’. * Designates term shift to the HMS AP seat designated for the ICCAT Advisory Committee Chair. Five additional members on the HMS AP include one member representing each of the following Councils: New England Fishery Management Council, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, and the Caribbean Fishery Management Council. The HMS AP also includes 22 ex-officio participants: 20 representatives of the coastal states and 2 representatives of the interstate commissions (the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission). NMFS will provide the necessary administrative support, including technical assistance, for the HMS AP. However, NMFS will not compensate participants with monetary support of any kind. Depending on availability of funds, members may be reimbursed for travel costs related to the HMS AP meetings. C. Meeting Schedule Meetings of the HMS AP will be held as frequently as necessary but are routinely held twice each year. In recent years, meetings have been held once in the spring, and once in the fall. The meetings may be held in conjunction with public hearings. Dated: November 12, 2021. Michael Ruccio, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2021–25097 Filed 11–16–21; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with NOTICES [RTID 0648–XB535] 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. AGENCY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:11 Nov 16, 2021 Jkt 256001 Notice of intent; request for comments. ACTION: 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 2022. 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, 2022, 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 17, 2021. SUMMARY: Comments may be submitted electronically via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to https:// www.regulations.gov and enter NOAA– NMFS–2021–0108 in the Search box. Click on the ‘‘Comment’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/ ADDRESSES: PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Craig Cockrell, phone: (301) 427–8503, email: craig.cockrell@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Atlantic HMS fisheries are managed under the dual authority of both the MagnusonStevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) and the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA; 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.). The 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS Fishery Management Plan (2006 Consolidated HMS FMP) and its amendments are implemented by regulations at 50 CFR part 635. The regulations specific to HMS EFPs and related permits can be found at § 635.32. 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. Consistent with 50 CFR 600.745 and 635.32, the 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 E:\FR\FM\17NON1.SGM 17NON1 khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 219 / Wednesday, November 17, 2021 / Notices 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. 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 MagnusonStevens 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 Magnuson-Stevens Act, 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 (i.e., 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 VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:11 Nov 16, 2021 Jkt 256001 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 2022. 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. NMFS published the final rule for Amendment 2 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP (73 FR 35778; June 24, 2008; corrected version published July 15, 2008; 73 FR 40658) which included, among other things, 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. NMFS will provide additional opportunity for public comment, consistent with the regulations at 50 CFR 600.745, should such applications be received by NMFS. In addition, this notice invites comments on the shark research fishery first implemented through Amendment 2 to the 2006 Consolidated 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 PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 64189 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. 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). While the specific terms and conditions of the 2022 SRF permit have yet to be decided, NMFS expects that participants would continue to be limited in the number of sets allowed on each trip and the number of hooks allowed on each set and on the vessel itself. A Federal Register notice describing the specific objectives for the shark research fishery in 2022 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 2022 during the comment period of this notice. The number of specimens that have been authorized thus far under EFPs and other related permits for 2021, as well as the number of specimens collected in 2020, is summarized in Table 1. The total amount of collections in 2020 were within the analyzed quotas for all quota managed Atlantic HMS species. The number of specimens collected in 2021 will be available when all 2021 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 31 EFPs, SRPs, display permits, and LOAs in 2020 for the collection of HMS and 8 shark research fishery permits. As of October 13, 2021, NMFS has issued a total of 38 EFPs, SRPs, display permits, and LOAs and 4 shark research fishery permits. E:\FR\FM\17NON1.SGM 17NON1 64190 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 219 / Wednesday, November 17, 2021 / Notices TABLE 1—SUMMARY OF HMS EXEMPTED FISHING PERMITS ISSUED IN 2020 AND 2021, OTHER THAN SHARK RESEARCH FISHERY PERMITS 2020 Fish kept/ discarded dead (numbers) Permit type Species EFP ..................................... HMS ................................... Shark .................................. Tuna ................................... Swordfish ............................ HMS ................................... Shark .................................. HMS ................................... Shark .................................. 10 3 2 0 1 2 2 6 550 0 750 0 50 1,325 82 321 0 2 0 0 0 3 0 22 5 3 1 1 3 1 1 5 0 770 1,010 55 287 ............................................. Shark .................................. 28 5 3,078 0 27 427 20 18 2,122 0 SRP ..................................... Display ................................ Total ............................. LOA 3 ................................... Authorized fish (numbers) 1 2021 Permits issued Authorized fish (numbers) 1 Permits issued 2 N/A 0 2 N/A khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with NOTICES Note: ‘‘HMS’’ refers to multiple species being collected under a given permit type. 1 Some shark EFPs, SRPs, and LOAs were issued for the purposes of tagging and the opportunistic sampling of sharks or other Atlantic HMS and were not expected to result in large amounts of mortality, thus no limits on sampling were set. Some mortality may occur throughout 2021, and will be accounted for under the 60 metric ton shark research and display quota. 2 These permits are issued to commercial fishermen and the number of species retained are governed by commercial retention limits. 3 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. 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, consistent with the assessment of such activities within the environmental impacts analyses in existing HMS actions, including the 1999 FMP, the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments, Amendment 2 to the Consolidated 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 12, 2021. Michael Ruccio, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2021–25096 Filed 11–16–21; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:11 Nov 16, 2021 Jkt 256001 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Review of Nomination for St. George Unangan Heritage National Marine Sanctuary Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS), National Ocean Service (NOS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Department of Commerce (DOC). ACTION: Notice; request for written comments. AGENCY: The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is requesting written comments to facilitate ONMS’ review of the nomination for St. George Unangan Heritage National Marine Sanctuary (NMS) at the five-year interval. In particular, NOAA is requesting relevant information as it pertains to its 11 evaluation criteria for inclusion in the inventory. In this fiveyear review, NOAA will pay particular attention to any new information about the significance of the area’s natural or cultural resources, changes to any threats to these resources, and any updates to the management framework of the area. NOAA has provided the original nominating party, the City of St. George, an opportunity to share its views on these same questions. Following this information gathering and internal analysis, NOAA will make a final determination on whether or not SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 the St. George Unangan Heritage NMS nomination will remain in the inventory for another five year period. Written comments must be received by December 17, 2021. DATES: Comments may be submitted by one of the following methods: • Federal eRulemaking Portal: https://www.regulations.gov. Submit electronic comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal and search for Docket Number NOAA–NOS–2021– 0094. • Mail: Paul E. Michel, Regional Policy Coordinator, NOAA Sanctuaries West Coast Region, 99 Pacific Street, Bldg. 100F, Monterey, CA 93940. • Email: Paul.Michel@noaa.gov. • Phone: 831–241–4217. Instructions: All comments received are a part of the public record. All personal identifying information (for example, name and address) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential business information or otherwise sensitive or protected information. NOAA will accept anonymous comments (enter N/A in the required fields to remain anonymous). ADDRESSES: Paul Michel, Regional Policy Coordinator, NOAA Sanctuaries West Coast Region, 99 Pacific Street, Bldg. 100F, Monterey, CA 93940, or at Paul.Michel@noaa.gov, or 831–241–4217. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: E:\FR\FM\17NON1.SGM 17NON1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 86, Number 219 (Wednesday, November 17, 2021)]
[Notices]
[Pages 64188-64190]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2021-25096]


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

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

[RTID 0648-XB535]


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 2022. 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, 2022, 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 17, 2021.

ADDRESSES: Comments may be submitted electronically via the Federal e-
Rulemaking Portal. Go to https://www.regulations.gov and enter NOAA-
NMFS-2021-0108 in the Search box. Click on the ``Comment'' icon, 
complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous).

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Atlantic HMS fisheries are managed under the 
dual authority of both the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and 
Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) and the 
Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA; 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.). The 2006 
Consolidated Atlantic HMS Fishery Management Plan (2006 Consolidated 
HMS FMP) and its amendments are implemented by regulations at 50 CFR 
part 635. The regulations specific to HMS EFPs and related permits can 
be found at Sec.  635.32.
    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. Consistent 
with 50 CFR 600.745 and 635.32, the 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

[[Page 64189]]

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.
    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 Magnuson-Stevens Act, 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 (i.e., 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 2022. 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. NMFS published 
the final rule for Amendment 2 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP (73 FR 
35778; June 24, 2008; corrected version published July 15, 2008; 73 FR 
40658) which included, among other things, 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. NMFS will provide additional opportunity for public 
comment, consistent with the regulations at 50 CFR 600.745, should such 
applications be received by NMFS.
    In addition, this notice invites comments on the shark research 
fishery first implemented through Amendment 2 to the 2006 Consolidated 
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. 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). While the specific 
terms and conditions of the 2022 SRF permit have yet to be decided, 
NMFS expects that participants would continue to be limited in the 
number of sets allowed on each trip and the number of hooks allowed on 
each set and on the vessel itself. A Federal Register notice describing 
the specific objectives for the shark research fishery in 2022 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 2022 
during the comment period of this notice.
    The number of specimens that have been authorized thus far under 
EFPs and other related permits for 2021, as well as the number of 
specimens collected in 2020, is summarized in Table 1. The total amount 
of collections in 2020 were within the analyzed quotas for all quota 
managed Atlantic HMS species. The number of specimens collected in 2021 
will be available when all 2021 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 31 EFPs, SRPs, display permits, and LOAs in 2020 
for the collection of HMS and 8 shark research fishery permits. As of 
October 13, 2021, NMFS has issued a total of 38 EFPs, SRPs, display 
permits, and LOAs and 4 shark research fishery permits.

[[Page 64190]]



                   Table 1--Summary of HMS Exempted Fishing Permits Issued in 2020 and 2021, Other Than Shark Research Fishery Permits
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                               2020                                    2021
                                                                         -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                Permit type                            Species                              Authorized      Fish kept/                      Authorized
                                                                          Permits issued  fish (numbers)  discarded dead  Permits issued  fish (numbers)
                                                                                                \1\          (numbers)                          \1\
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
EFP.......................................  HMS.........................              10             550               0               5         \2\ N/A
                                            Shark.......................               3               0               2               3               0
                                            Tuna........................               2             750               0               1         \2\ N/A
                                            Swordfish...................               0               0               0               1               0
SRP.......................................  HMS.........................               1              50               0               3             770
                                            Shark.......................               2           1,325               3               1           1,010
Display...................................  HMS.........................               2              82               0               1              55
                                            Shark.......................               6             321              22               5             287
                                                                         -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total.................................  ............................              28           3,078              27              20           2,122
LOA \3\...................................  Shark.......................               5               0             427              18               0
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note: ``HMS'' refers to multiple species being collected under a given permit type.
\1\ Some shark EFPs, SRPs, and LOAs were issued for the purposes of tagging and the opportunistic sampling of sharks or other Atlantic HMS and were not
  expected to result in large amounts of mortality, thus no limits on sampling were set. Some mortality may occur throughout 2021, and will be accounted
  for under the 60 metric ton shark research and display quota.
\2\ These permits are issued to commercial fishermen and the number of species retained are governed by commercial retention limits.
\3\ 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.

    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, consistent with the assessment of such 
activities within the environmental impacts analyses in existing HMS 
actions, including the 1999 FMP, the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its 
amendments, Amendment 2 to the Consolidated 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 12, 2021.
Michael Ruccio,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2021-25096 Filed 11-16-21; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P