Endangered and Threatened Wildlife; Sea Turtle Conservation; Correction
On August 25, 2006, NMFS issued a final rule to require the use of chain mats on sea scallop dredges in the mid-Atlantic sea scallop fishery in order to help protect sea turtles. The regulation became effective on September 25, 2006. Shortly after the rule's effective date, NMFS became aware of a discrepancy between the two options in the regulation for configuring the chain mat. This emergency final rule corrects the existing regulation to ensure that the protection to sea turtles expected from the August 25, 2006 rule is achieved. This emergency final rule requires that any vessel with a sea scallop dredge and required to have a Federal Atlantic sea scallop fishery permit, regardless of dredge size or vessel permit category, present in waters south of 41[deg] 9.0' N. lat., from the shoreline to the outer boundary of the Exclusive Economic Zone must have on each dredge a chain mat composed of horizontal (tickler) and vertical (``up- and-down'') chains for the duration of the trip. The chains must be configured such that the length of each side of the square or rectangle formed by the intersecting chains is less than or equal to 14 inches (35.5 cm). Any incidental take of threatened sea turtles in sea scallop dredge gear in compliance with this gear modification requirement and all other applicable requirements will be exempted from the Endangered Species Act's prohibition against takes.
New England Fishery Management Council; Public Meeting
The New England Fishery Management Council's (Council) Vessel Monitoring System (VMS)/Enforcement Committee will meet to consider actions affecting New England fisheries in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Taking of Marine Mammals Incidental to Commercial Fishing Operations; Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan
NMFS proposes to revise the regulations implementing the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan (ALWTRP) by expanding the southeast U.S. restricted area and modifying regulations pertaining to gillnetting within the southeast U.S. restricted area. NMFS proposes to prohibit gillnet fishing or gillnet possession during annual restricted periods associated with the right whale calving season. Exemptions to the fishing prohibitions are proposed for strikenet fishing for sharks and gillnet fishing for Spanish mackerel south of 29[deg]00' N. lat. An exemption to the possession prohibition is proposed for transiting through the area if gear is stowed in accordance with this rule. This action is required to meet the goals of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This action is necessary to protect northern right whales from serious injury or mortality from entanglement in gillnet gear in their calving area in Atlantic ocean waters off the Southeast U.S.
Right Whale Protection; Southeast U.S. Gillnet Closure
NMFS is prohibiting gillnet fishing or gillnet possession in Atlantic Ocean waters west of 80[deg]00' W. long. between 29[deg]00' N. lat. (just south of New Smyrna Beach, Fla.) and 32[deg]00' N. lat. (the approximate state boundary between Georgia and South Carolina) and within 35 nautical miles of the South Carolina coast. An exemption to the prohibition on the possession of gillnet gear is provided for transiting through this area if gear is stowed in accordance with this rule. NMFS is taking this action to prevent a significant risk to the well being of endangered right whales from entanglement in gillnet gear in the core right whale calving area during the calving season.