Comment is being accepted through Jan. 24 on a proposed exempted fishing permit program to monitor and minimize salmon bycatch when Pacific Coast vessels target rockfish in the shore-based individual fishing quota fishery.
National Marine Fisheries Service officials served notice in the Federal Register on Dec. 30 of receipt of an exempted fishing permit application from the West Coast Seafood Processors Association, Environmental Defense Fund, Oregon Trawl Commission and Pacific Seafoods for an EFP Program.
NMFS officials said the assistant regional administrator for Sustainable Fisheries now proposes to recommend that EFPs be issued under an EFP program that would allow as many as 50 commercial fishing vessels to conduct fishing operations that are otherwise restricted by regulations governing west coast fisheries.
If awarded, the EFP program would exempt participating limited entry bottom trawl vessels from the requirement to use selective flatfish trawl gear shoreward of the trawl rockfish conservation area north of 40 degrees 10’ N. latitude in waters off the west coast. The EFP program would also allow participating bottom trawl vessels that fish any place along the west coast an exemption to the minimum mesh size requirement of 4.5 inches.
NMFS officials said the program is intended to provide additional flexibility in the configuration and use of bottom trawl gear for the vessels, as well as additional information on potential impacts to protected resources, particularly Chinook salmon bycatch, resulting from this added flexibility. The additional information would be used to enhance the management of the groundfish fishery and promote objectives of the Pacific Coast groundfish fishery management plan.
The EFP would be effective for 2017, expiring no later than Dec. 31, 2017, but could be terminated earlier under terms and conditions of the EFP and other applicable laws. NMFS could also extend the EFP beyond 2017, if appropriate.
Comments should be identified by 0648-XF068 and transmitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to Barry Thom, regional administrator, West Coast Region, NMFS, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115-0070, Attn. Melissa Hooper. For further information reach Hooper at 1-206-562-4357, or Melissa.email@example.com