Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Fisheries
NMFS is transferring 80 metric tons (mt) of Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) quota from the Reserve category to the General category for the remainder of the 2015 fishing year. This transfer results in an adjusted 2015 General category quota of 646.7 mt. NMFS also is adjusting the Atlantic tunas General category BFT daily retention limit from four large medium or giant BFT per vessel per day/trip to three large medium or giant BFT per vessel per day/trip for the remainder of the 2015 fishing year. This action is based on consideration of the regulatory determination criteria regarding inseason adjustments and applies to Atlantic tunas General category (commercial) permitted vessels and Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Charter/Headboat category permitted vessels when fishing commercially for BFT.
Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Atlantic Bluefish Fishery; Quota Transfer
NMFS announces that the State of North Carolina is transferring a portion of its 2015 commercial Atlantic bluefish quota to the State of New York. These quota adjustments are necessary to comply with the Bluefish Fishery Management Plan quota transfer provision. This announcement is intended to inform the public of the revised commercial quota for each state involved.
Notice of Delay of Discharge Requirements for U.S. Coast Guard Activities in Greater Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) expanded the boundaries of Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (now renamed Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary or GFNMS) and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary (CBNMS) to an area north and west of their previous boundaries with a final rule published on March 12, 2015. The Final Rule entered into effect on June 9, 2015. At that time, NOAA postponed the effectiveness of the discharge requirements in both sanctuaries' regulations with regard to U.S. Coast Guard activities for 6 months. This document extends the postponement of the discharge requirements for these activities for another 6 months to provide adequate time for completion of an environmental assessment, and subsequent rulemaking, as appropriate.
New England Fishery Management Council; Public Meeting
The New England Fishery Management Council (Council) is scheduling a public meeting of its Observer Policy Committee meeting on Thursday, December 17, 2015 to consider actions affecting New England fisheries in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Recommendations from this group will be brought to the full Council for formal consideration and action, if appropriate.
Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council; Public Meetings
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) will hold a public hearing to solicit public comments on Electronic Reporting for For-Hire Vessels via webinar.
Endangered and Threatened Species; Recovery Plans
NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announces the extension of the comment period for the notice of availability of the public draft of the Endangered Species Act Coastal Multispecies Recovery Plan for the California Coastal Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) Evolutionarily Significant Unit (ESU), the Northern California steelhead (O. mykiss) Distinct Population Segment (DPS), and the Central California Coast steelhead (O. mykiss) DPS, which published on October 5, 2015. These species spawn and rear in streams and rivers along the central and northern California coast, and in tributaries to San Francisco Bay. NMFS is soliciting review and comment from the public and all interested parties on the Public Draft Recovery Plan, and will consider all substantive comments received during the review period before submitting the Recovery Plan for final approval. The comment period is being extendedfrom December 4, 2015, to January 18, 2016to provide additional opportunity for public comment.
Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Marine Geophysical Survey in the South Atlantic Ocean, January to March 2016
NMFS has received an application from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (Lamont-Doherty) in collaboration with the National Science Foundation (NSF), for an Incidental Harassment Authorization (Authorization) to take marine mammals, by harassment only, incidental to conducting a marine geophysical (seismic) survey in the South Atlantic Ocean, January through March 2016. The proposed dates for this action would be early January 2016 through March 31, 2016, to account for minor deviations due to logistics and weather. Per the Marine Mammal Protection Act, we are requesting comments on our proposal to issue an Authorization to Lamont-Doherty to incidentally take, by Level B harassment, 38 species of marine mammals during the specified activity and to incidentally take, by Level A harassment, 16 species of marine mammals. Although considered unlikely, any Level A harassment potentially incurred would be expected to be in the form of some smaller degree of permanent hearing loss due in part to the required monitoring measures for detecting marine mammals and required mitigation measures for power downs or shut downs of the airgun array if any animal is likely to enter the Level A exclusion zone. NMFS does not expect mortality or complete deafness of marine mammals to result from this survey.
Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; 2016 Atlantic Shark Commercial Fishing Season
This final rule establishes an opening date of January 1, 2016, for all Atlantic shark fisheries, including the fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. This final rule also establishes the quotas for the 2016 fishing season based on over- and/or underharvests experienced during 2015 and previous fishing seasons. The large coastal shark (LCS) retention limit for directed shark limited access permit holders will start at 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per trip in the Gulf of Mexico region and at 36 LCS other than sandbar sharks per trip in the Atlantic region. These retention limits for directed shark limited access permit holders may decrease or increase during the year to provide, to the extent practicable, fishing opportunities for commercial shark fishermen in all regions and areas. NMFS anticipates that the retention limit in the Atlantic region will likely increase to the default limit of 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per trip around July 15, 2016, subject to NMFS' evaluation of the inseason trip limit adjustment criteria. These actions could affect fishing opportunities for commercial shark fishermen in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea.