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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - News Release Archives - April 2012

Marine Fisheries


Release: Immediate
Contact: Steve Branstetter
Phone: 727-824-5305; FAX 727-824-5308
Email: Steve.Branstetter@noaa.gov
Date: April 12, 2012

New Bycatch Reduction Devices Certified for the Gulf of Mexico
and South Atlantic Shrimp Fisheries and Shrimp Effort
Restrictions Relaxed in the Gulf of Mexico

Small Entity Compliance Guide


On April 11, 2012, NOAA Fisheries Service published a final rule changing shrimp regulations. One action certifies two new bycatch reduction devices (BRDs) for use in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic region. Another action relaxes a restriction regarding the level of allowable shrimp effort in the Gulf of Mexico. The rule is effective beginning May 11, 2012.

Both new devices are modifications to the Composite Panel BRD, which is provisionally certified through May 24, 2012. These two new devices will be legal for use as of May 11, 2012. One version adds a square mesh panel in the cod-end; the other version adds a “spooker” cone inside the cod-end behind the BRD.

Illustrations of both devices are included in this bulletin. To receive information on how to construct and install these BRDs please contact:

NOAA Fisheries Service
Engineering and Harvesting Branch
Harvesting Systems Unit
Pascagoula Laboratory
P.O. Drawer 1207
Pascagoula, MS 39568
228-549-1600

The rule also relaxes a shrimp effort restriction for the Gulf of Mexico shrimp fishery. To reduce red snapper bycatch, shrimp fishing effort between 10-30 fathoms west of Mobile Bay, Alabama, has to be at least 74 percent less than effort levels documented in 2001 through 2003. Because the red snapper population is rebuilding, the restriction is being relaxed to a 67 percent reduction in effort in this depth range compared to the baseline years. This will allow shrimpers to fish an additional 5,800 days in this area.

The intended effect of this rule is to: 1) Improve bycatch reduction in the shrimp fishery; 2) provide greater flexibility to the industry; 3) reduce social and economic impacts to fishing communities; and 4) better meet the requirements of National Standard 9 of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

Background
NOAA Fisheries Service provisionally certified the Composite Panel BRD for use in federal waters throughout the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic, and provisionally certified the Expanded Mesh BRD in the Gulf of Mexico. A provisional certification means the BRD reduces finfish in a shrimp trawl by more than 25 percent, but not as much as 30 percent, which is the minimum reduction rate for full certification. Provisional certifications are for a 2-year period, and allow industry and researchers time to make modifications that would fully certify the BRDs. Such testing occurred on the Composite Panel BRD, resulting in the two modified versions being certified by this rule. No additional testing occurred on the Expanded Mesh BRD.

Therefore, as of May 25, 2012, the original Composite Panel BRD will be decertified for use in both the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic federal waters, and the Extended Funnel BRD will be decertified for use in Gulf of Mexico federal waters. Shrimp fishers in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic who use the original Composite Panel BRD have until May 25, 2012, to make the modifications to their Composite Panel BRDs to meet the new construction specifications.

This bulletin serves as a Small Entity Compliance Guide, complying with section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996. This bulletin provides only a summary of the information pertinent to the rule. Any discrepancies between this bulletin and the rule as published in the Federal Register will be resolved in favor of the Federal Register. If you would like to receive these fishery bulletins via e-mail as soon as they are published, please email: sero.communications.comments@noaa.gov.


Release: Immediate
Contact: Patricia Smith
Phone: 252-726-7021
Date: April 3, 2012

Fishermen Should Take Note that Atlantic Sturgeon Will be
Listed as an Endangered Species

MOREHEAD CITY — North Carolina fishermen should be aware that Atlantic sturgeon will be listed as a federally endangered species effective April 6.

The National Marine Fisheries Service has published a final rule in the Federal Register listing four distinct population segments of Atlantic sturgeon as endangered and another as threatened. To read the final rule, go to: http://www.nero.noaa.gov/nero/regs/frdoc/12/12AtlSturgeonFR_SER.pdf.

The Carolina and South Atlantic population segments, both of which are prevalent in North Carolina waters, will be listed as endangered.

It has been illegal to harvest Atlantic sturgeon in North Carolina coastal waters since 1991, so the immediate implications of the listing are unclear. However, the potential exists for the listing to impact both commercial and recreational fisheries.

The Endangered Species Act prohibits the take of listed species. The term “take” includes harassing, harming, pursuing, wounding, killing, trapping, capturing, or collecting the listed species. Fishermen should avoid interactions with these fish.

A National Marine Fisheries Service Status Review of Atlantic Sturgeon concluded that Atlantic sturgeon are caught as bycatch in various commercial fisheries along the entire U.S. Atlantic Coast within inland, coastal and federal waters. The final listing decision stated that based on available bycatch data, sturgeon are primarily caught in waters less than 50 meters deep by commercial and recreational fisheries using trawl and gill net gear.

The division, along with most other East Coast states, opposed this listing as unnecessary based on its review of available scientific data. These data show that Atlantic sturgeon stocks are improving coast-wide, partially as a result of the moratorium on harvest. However, once the listing takes effect, it will have the force of law and fishermen will be subject to federal fines and penalties if they interact with the fish.

The division is exploring all avenues to address this issue, and plans to draft a request for an incidental take permit under Section 10 of the Endangered Species Act. These permits allow for takes of endangered species that occur incidentally to an otherwise lawful activity under limitations specified in each permit.

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