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Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; General Provisions for Domestic Fisheries; Application for Exempted Fishing Permits (EFPs)

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National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Department of Commerce.


Notification of a proposal for EFPs to conduct experimental fishing; request for comments.


The Assistant Regional Administrator for Sustainable Fisheries, Northeast Region, NMFS (Assistant Regional Administrator) has made a preliminary determination that the subject EFP application contains all the required information and warrants further consideration. The Assistant Regional Administrator has also made a preliminary determination that the activities authorized under the EFP would be consistent with the goals and objectives of the Northeast (NE) Multispecies Fishery Management Plan (FMP). However, further review and consultation may be necessary before a final determination is made to issue the EFP. Therefore, NMFS announces that the Assistant Regional Administrator proposes to recommend that an EFP be issued that would allow up to 60 commercial fishing vessels to conduct fishing operations that are otherwise restricted by the regulations governing the fisheries of the Northeastern United States. The EFP would allow for exemptions from the FMP as follows: The Georges Bank (GB) seasonal closure area; the Days-at-Sea (DAS) notification requirements; the effort-control program (DAS); and minimum fish size restrictions for the temporary retention of undersized fish for data collection purposes.

Regulations under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act require publication of this notification to provide interested parties the opportunity to comment on applications for proposed EFPs.


Comments on this document must be received on or before December 19, 2003.


Written comments should be sent to Patricia A. Kurkul, Regional Administrator, NMFS, Northeast Regional Office, 1 Blackburn Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the envelope “Comments on Cod Tagging Study.” Comments may also be sent via facsimile (fax) to (978) 281-9135.

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Brian Hooker, Fishery Management Specialist, phone (978) 281-9220.

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The Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen's Association submitted an application for an EFP to NMFS on November 13, 2003. The application was complete as received. The experimental fishing application requests authorization to Start Printed Page 67840allow the catch, tag, and release of Atlantic cod using rod and reel only. The primary goal of the study is to provide high quality scientific data on the current distribution and movement patterns of Atlantic cod on GB. In the long term, it is hoped that the improved understanding of the cod stock that may result from this study would enable better and more effective management of the cod fishery.

The study proposes to catch, tag, and release 30,000 individual cod during 300 dedicated tagging trips, using up to 60 commercial fishing vessels. The participating vessels would catch cod using rod and reel, with treble hooks eliminated from the jigs, temporarily hold caught cod live in tanks aboard the vessel while processing and tagging the fish, and return the fish alive to the sea. Any other species caught would be released as soon as practicable. During the study, no fish of any species would be landed or retained for commercial sale. Cod would be tagged on dedicated tagging trips in four main areas: The Cape Cod/Chatham area; the Great South Channel area; the Nantucket Shoals area; and the Coxes Ledge area. The study would likely have minimal impacts to the target species in the area due to the use of rod and reel as the catch method and efforts to minimize trauma and release all specimens alive. Tagging program staff would be on board the vessel for training purposes and to observe 20 percent of the dedicated trips to assist with tagging operations.

The research study would occur between December 1, 2003, and June 15, 2004, in the area defined by straight lines connecting the points 42°00′ N. lat. 70°00′ W. long., the northern border of the Nantucket Lightship Closed Area at 70°00′ W. long., the northern border of the Nantucket Lightship Closed Area at 69°00′ W. long., the western border of Closed Area I at 69°00′ W. long., 42°00′ N. lat. at Loran C 13700, and then back to 42°00′ N. lat. 70°00′ W. long. This area excludes the NE multispecies year-round closed areas but includes the GB Seasonal Closure Area (May 1-May 31). The rationale for needing to access this seasonal closure area is to capture and tag fish from aggregating schools of spawning cod prior to their post-spawning migration.

Therefore, the EFP would allow for exemptions from the FMP as follows: the Georges Bank (GB) seasonal closure area specified at 50 CFR 648.81(n); the DAS notification requirements specified at § 648.10; the effort-control program (DAS) as specified at § 648.82(a); and minimum fish-size restrictions specified at § 648.83(a) for the temporary retention of undersized fish for data collection purposes.

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Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.

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Dated: November 28, 2003.

Bruce C. Morehead,

Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service.

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[FR Doc. 03-30177 Filed 12-3-03; 8:45 am]