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New Atlantic and smoothbound shark regulations proposed by NMFS

New rules for managing smoothbound and Atlantic sharks are being proposed by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). In the Federal Register of Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014, NMFS proposes a variety of measures, including setting dates for previously delayed regulations and increasing the quota for smoothbound sharks.

NMFS is taking comments until Nov. 14. It plans to schedule public hearings but has not decided when or where. Refer to NOAA-NMFS-2014-0100 and send your thoughts via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2014-0100 or use U.S. Mail and send to Margo Schulze-Haugen, NMFS/SF1, 1315 East-West Hwy., NMFS, SSMC3, Silver Spring, MD 20910. If you have any questions, call LeAnn Hogan or Karyl Brewster-Geisz at (301) 427-8503, fax : (301) 713-1917.

NMFS did not protect smoothbound sharks until 2010, except for finning restrictions. But it delayed implementing rules because of a lack of data. The fish live in a vast segment of the Atlantic Ocean and consist of several different species and there is some lack of certainty as to exactly how many subspecies exist. It is difficult at times to identify which is which.

NMFS is proposing as a “preferred alternative” a smoothbound quota of 1,739.9 mt dw, about equal to what was caught annually over the last decade. It would not, therefore, change the fishery in the short term.

NMFS also proposes a measure to protect other species that may get caught in nets, including sea turtles, sturgeon, sawfish and some other sharks. It would set a 24-hour limit for fishermen using sink gillnet gear and a requirement that gillnet users check their nets every two hours. NMFS says this is standard practice anyway.

The rules would require permits for recreational fishing for the sharks but would not set a size limit for recreational catch of smoothbounds. And they would alter the way fishermen are notified by science centers that they want to place an observer on board.