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Gillnet Fishing During the Right Whale Calving Season
Saturday, November 18, 2006 @ 07:57:24 EST

Gillnet Fishing During the Right Whale Calving Season

This is a notice that NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) published in the Federal Register on November 15, 2006, two rules addressing gillnet fishing in the Southeast U.S. during the right whale calving season: a proposed rule, consisting of permanent measures, and an emergency rule, consisting of temporary measures. Both rules were filed with the Office of the Federal Register on Thursday, November 9, 2006.

In the proposed (permanent) rule, NMFS proposes to prohibit gillnet fishing or gillnet possession during annual restricted periods associated with the right whale calving season in the southeast U.S. restricted area and in waters within 35 nmi of the South Carolina coast. Exemptions to the fishing prohibitions are proposed for strikenet fishing for sharks and gillnet fishing for Spanish mackerel south of 29º00' 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), and 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.

NMFS is taking this action based on its determination that a right whale mortality, documented on January 22, 2006, was the result of an entanglement by gillnet gear within the Southeast U.S. Restricted Area. This action is consistent with the ALTWRP regulations at 50 CFR 229.32(g) and is necessary to protect North Atlantic right whales from further serious injury or mortality in the southeast U.S. restricted area from entanglement in gillnet gear.

Under the ESA emergency (temporary) rule, NMFS is prohibiting gillnet fishing or gillnet possession in Atlantic Ocean waters west of 80º00' W. long. between 29º00' N. lat. (just south of New Smyrna Beach, Fla.) and 32º00' 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.

The emergency rule will be effective November 15, 2006, through April 15, 2007, or until the proposed rule is made final and becomes effective or is withdrawn. In the notice of proposed rulemaking published in the FR on November 15, 2006, NMFS will be soliciting and considering public comment on the proposed rule before implementing a final rule. NMFS is implementing the emergency rule 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, while the permanent rulemaking process is underway.

NMFS will notify the public and fishermen about these rules by working through appropriate media as well as other means. As an ALWTRT member or interested party, NMFS appreciates your assistance in spreading the word about the proposed rule and gillnet closure in the Southeast U.S.

To obtain a copy of the proposed or emergency rule related to gillnet fishing in the Southeast U.S. during the right whale calving season, please call 727-551-5607 or 904-321-2806. In addition, when these actions publish on November 15, 2006, they will be available under "What's New" on the ALWTRP web page (http://www.nero.nmfs.gov/whaletrp/) or under Breaking News on the HMS webpage http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/breaking_news.htm. If you have any questions, please call 727-551-5607 or 904-321-2806 or the ALWTRP Coordinator at the number below.

--
Diane Borggaard
Large Whale Coordinator
NOAA/NMFS/NERO Protected Resources Division
1 Blackburn Dr.
Gloucester, MA 01930
Ph: 978-281-9300 ext. 6503
Fax: 978-281-9394
e-mail:
diane.borggaard@noaa.gov

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