Title: Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Mid-Atlantic Unmanaged Forage Fish Omnibus Amendment

Docket ID: NOAA-NMFS-2017-0013

Agency: NOAA, National Marine Fisheries Service,

Comments Close: May 30, 2017



The purpose of this action is to prevent the development of new, and the expansion of existing, commercial fisheries on certain forage species until the Council has adequate opportunity and information to evaluate the potential impacts of forage fish harvest on existing fisheries, fishing communities, and the marine ecosystem. 



Mid-Atlantic Council stakeholders identified managing forage species as a key concern for future action during a 2011 strategic planning and visioning process. The Council recognized that although it already manages several forage species that are the target of directed commercial fisheries (Atlantic mackerel, longfin and Illex squid, and butterfish), there are other unmanaged species that serve as prey for species important to commercial and recreational fisheries managed within the Mid-Atlantic. Due to the importance of forage fish species to the marine ecosystem and the health of important commercial and recreational fisheries, the Council sought to prevent the further expansion of commercial fishing effort on forage species.

Since introducing an action in December of 2014, the Council has held scoping meetings (2015) and public hearings (2016). The Council submitted the final forage amendment on March 20, 2017, and deemed the regulatory actions in the amendment to be necessary and appropriate under the Magnuson-Stevens Act.



 The amendment prevents the development of new, and the expansion of existing, commercial fisheries on certain Mid-Atlantic forage species until the Council can collect the information necessary to more fully evaluate the potential impacts of forage species harvests on existing fisheries, fishing communities, and the marine ecosystem. In order to accomplish this, the Council will do the following, in addition to several other actions that can be found in the main text:

  1. Designate 15 species and species groups as ecosystem component species of Fishery Managemet Plans under the Council’s jurisdiction. Under the Magnusen-Stevens Act, this means that the Council is expected to consider measures to mitigate and minimize bycatch of these species and to track the species over time. The Council will periodically evaluate their status to assess whether any management is needed under the fisheries management plan, at which point the ecosystem component species could be reclassified as a management unit species. 
  2. Introduce regulations specific for the existing Atlantic chub mackerel fishery, including a temporary annual catch limit and possession limit in federal waters that will last for 3 years. 
  3. Require an exempted fishery permit and sufficient Council review before further development of any fishery for the fish in (1) above. 
  4. Set the stage for adaptive management by expanding framework provisions in the all of the Council's Fishery Management Plans to allow future changes to annual landing limits and possession limits for Mid-Atlantic forage species.

Contributor: M.S. Student, Aquatic & Fishery Sciences


Proposed Rule


Title: Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic: Coastal Migratory Pelagic Resources in Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Region; Framework Amendment 4

Docket ID: NOAA-NMFS-2016-0167

Agency: NOAA, National Marine Fisheries Service

Comments Close: March 23, 2017


This proposed rule is designed to slow the harvest rate of Atlantic cobia and reduce the likelihood that landings will exceed the commercial and recreational annual catch limits (ACL). The primary goal of this rule is to provide equitable access for all recreational participants of the coastal Atlantic cobia fishery.


In 2015, recreational landings for Atlantic cobia exceeded the 2015 recreational ACL. Therefore, the 2016 recreational season for Atlantic cobia in Federal waters closed on June 20, 2016. Because the recreational closure occurred during months of high recreational effort for cobia, the early closure had negative social and economic impacts on recreational anglers, charter vessel and headboat (for-hire) businesses, for-hire clients, and associated businesses such as tackle shops. This regulation falls under NMFS' jurisdiction according to the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

Regulation Actions

All actions in the proposed rule apply to the commercial and recreational harvest of Atlantic cobia in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the United States from Georgia through New York.

Recreational Fishery: The following modifications would result in a recreational harvest reduction, and are expected to slow the rate of recreational harvest and thereby reduce the likelihood of exceeding the annual catch limits for cobia.

(1) increase the recreational minimum size limit for the Atlantic cobia recreational sector to 36 inches (91.4 cm), fork length.

(2) establish a recreational bag limit of one fish per person per day or six fish per vessel, whichever is more restrictive.

(3) The proposed recreational accountability measures would require that if the recreational ACL and the stock ACL are exceeded, then during the following fishing year, recreational landings will be monitored for a persistence in increased landings, and, if necessary, the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, will file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register to reduce the recreational vessel limit, to no less than 2 fish per vessel to ensure recreational landings achieve the recreational annual catch targets, but do not exceed the recreational ACL in that fishing year. Any reduction to the proposed recreational vessel limit would only apply for the fishing year in which it is implemented. Additionally, if the reduction to the vessel limit is insufficient to ensure that recreational landings will not exceed the recreational ACL, then the length of the recreational fishing season would also be reduced to ensure recreational landings do not exceed the recreational ACL in that fishing year

Commercial Fishery: The proposed rule would establish a commercial trip limit for Atlantic cobia of two fish per person per day or six fish per vessel per day, whichever is more restrictive.


Contributor: PhD. Candidate, Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences




Title: Notice of intent to prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement and hold public meetings for Deep-Set Tuna Longline Fisheries in the U.S. Pacific Islands

Docket ID: NOAA-NMFS-2017-0010

Agency: NOAA, National Marine Fisheries Service

Comments Close: April 14, 2017



The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), in coordination with the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council, intends to prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) to analyze the environmental impacts of the continued authorization and management of U.S. Pacific Island deep-set tuna longline fisheries. 

This is the second Notice of Intent regarding this PEIS, to let the public know that NMFS will be preparing a PEIS and to inform the public of a series of public scoping meetings to describe the management of deep-set longline fisheries. The original Notice of Intent can be found here.

The purpose of the PEIS is to maintain viable domestic deep-set tuna longline fisheries, while ensuring the long-term sustainability of fishery resources, and the conservation of protected species and their habitats. NMFS plans to do so by managing deep-set tuna longline fisheries under an adaptive management framework that allows for timely management responses to changing environmental conditions, consistent with domestic and international conservation and management measures. 



Publication of this notice begins the public scoping process to determine the scope of the environmental issues for consideration in the PEIS and allowing interested parties to suggest fishery management issues to be considered. For more on Environmental Impact Statements, visit our summary of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The National Marine Fisheries Service and the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council manage domestic longline fisheries in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone around the U.S. Pacific Islands and on the high seas, as authorized by the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

Spatial extent of the Environment Impact Statement: The analysis would include certain longline fisheries based in Hawaii, the U.S. west coast, American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The primary deep-set longline fisheries are in Hawaii and American Samoa. 

Fisheries Management Considerations: Access to the Hawaii longline fisheries is limited to 164 vessels, of which about 140 are typically active. Most vessels with Hawaii longline permits are based in Hawaii, and about 10 operate from ports on the U.S. west coast. Access to the American Samoa deep-set tuna fishery is also limited, with a maximum of 60 permits. 



In the current PEIS, NMFS and the Council will evaluate the direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental impacts of U.S. Pacific Island deep-set longline fisheries. 

Management provisions governing deep-set tuna longline fisheries include, but are not limited to the following requirements: (1) Limited entry/ access programs, (2) Vessel size limits, (3) Mandatory permits and reporting of catch and effort, (4) Areas where fishing is prohibited, (5) Monitoring by on-board observers, (6) Satellite-based vessel monitoring system, (6) Catch limits or prohibitions for some fish species, (7) Gear configuration requirements, and (8) Specific methods for handling and releasing bycatch. 

NMFS is specifically requesting comment on:

  1. catch of target species (e.g., tunas) and non-target species (e.g., sharks)
  2. interactions with protected species
  3. impacts on the pelagic ecosystem. 

The progress of the PEIS and more information about the deep-set tuna longline fisheries can be found on the NOAA website.

See Title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations Part 665 for most of the regulations. There are additional requirements under other authorities, including the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, marine sanctuaries and monuments, international requirements, and other laws regulating shipping, pollution, etc.

Contributor: PhD Candidate, Aquatic & Fishery Sciences