NOAA Fisheries will not issue an exempted fishing permit to a fisherman's association to longline for swordfish in two areas off the Southeast coast that have been closed to pelagic longlining since 2001. However, NOAA Fisheries is exploring options to conduct rigorous scientific research in the closed areas on how recent gear changes in the pelagic longline fishery will affect catch and bycatch rates.
"In order for NOAA Fisheries to evaluate the closed areas, we must have a well-designed scientific study that helps us determine whether pelagic longlining can resume in a way that does not jeopardize the successful rebuilding of swordfish, lead to the excessive discard of juvenile swordfish or contribute to the bycatch of sea turtles," said William T. Hogarth, director of NOAA Fisheries.
Blue Water Fishermen's Association applied in February 2007 for an exempted fishing permit to collect fisheries data as well as harvest swordfish using 13 pelagic longline vessels in and around the Charleston Bump and Florida-East Coast pelagic longline closed areas.
NOAA Fisheries received many comments on the permit application. Most of those comments were opposed to granting the exempted fishing permit and a number of comments expressed concern about the scientific aspects of the proposal.
The decision is available in the Federal Register at: http://www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/index.html