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Feds mandate circle hooks for shark fishing in 2018
Monday, April 3, 2017

NOAA Fisheries Announces the Final Rule for
Amendment 5b to the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announces the final rule to implement Amendment 5b to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Fishery Management Plan (FMP). Amendment 5b implements a range of management measures to prevent overfishing and rebuild overfished dusky sharks. These measures are based on the 2016 dusky shark stock assessment update that determined dusky sharks are overfished and experiencing overfishing.

Who is affected?

Amendment 5b could affect:
Any commercial fishermen with HMS permits.
Any recreational fishermen who catch sharks of any species.
Any dealers who buy or sell sharks or shark products.

What will it do?

The final rule, which will publish in the Federal Register on April 4, 2017, and related documents, including the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) may be found at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/.

The management measures implemented by this final rule (which were analyzed in the Amendment 5b FEIS) are listed in the table below. Amendment 5b is designed to meet the objective of ending overfishing and rebuilding the dusky sharks, building on measures adopted in 2008 as a dusky shark rebuilding plan. NMFS considered a full range of alternatives in the FEIS, which can be found in Chapter 2 of the FEIS. After considering comments on the proposed rule and DEIS, NMFS is implementing final measures, as follows:

NMFS has added and preferred Alternative A6d, which would require the use of non-offset, non-stainless steel circle hooks by all HMS permit holders with a shark endorsement when fishing for sharks recreationally south of 41° 43' N latitude, except when fishing with flies or artificial lures. This alternative is preferred instead of Alternative 6a in the DEIS, which would have required the use of circle hooks by all HMS permit holders with a shark endorsement when fishing for sharks recreationally, defined as when deploying natural bait while using a wire or heavy (200 lb test or greater) monofilament or fluorocarbon leader;
Preferred Alternative B3 has been modified based on public comment to recognize safety concerns, specifying that fishermen with an Atlantic shark limited access permit with pelagic longline gear onboard must release all sharks not being retained using a dehooker or cutting the gangion less than three feet from the hook as safely as practicable.

The final management measures, consistent with recent stock assessment update, are summarized below and include:

Permit Requirements and Outreach

Alternative A2 - Effective January 1, 2018
Require HMS permit holders fishing for sharks recreationally to obtain a shark endorsement, which requires completion of an online shark identification and fishing regulation training course, plus additional recreational fisheries outreach.

Circle Hook Requirement

Alternative A6d - Effective January 1, 2018
Require the use of non-offset, non-stainless steel circle hooks by all HMS permit holders with a shark endorsement when fishing for sharks recreationally south of 41° 43' N latitude (near Chatham, Massachusetts - the northern extent of the dusky shark's U.S. Atlantic range), except when fishing with flies or artificial lures.

Reason for Changes: The circle hook final measure is a new alternative similar to the previously preferred Alternative A6a in the proposed rule and DEIS. Alternative A6d was formulated based in response to numerous comments received during the public comment period which indicated, as worded, that Alternative A6a would impact fishing for numerous non-shark species, including tunas, billfishes, dolphin, wahoo, bluefish, and others, where J-hooks are often used in conjunction with natural bait and wire/heavy leaders. The final alternative applies to all recreational fishing for sharks but exempts from the circle hook requirement recreational fishing in U.S. waters north of the dusky shark's range (41°43'N) as conservation and management measures are intended to manage the dusky shark stock throughout its range, but not beyond, and fishing with flies or artificial lures.

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