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NMFS changes is mind about Atlantic shark management

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The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has changed its mind about how it will handle the Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan. NMFS announced in the Federal Register of Tuesday, May 27, 2014 that it will prepare an environmental assessment for Amendment 6 of the plan. It had previously planned to publish an environmental impact statement, as announced on Sept. 16, 2011.

In other words, NMFS will look at possible effects of what people may do to sharks and the environment under possible alternatives instead of worrying about catch shares. NMFS says it plans to release the assessment this September. If you have questions, contact LeAnn Hogan, 1315 East-West Hwy., Silver Spring, Md. 20910, (301) 427-8503, fax: (727) 824-5398.

NMFS says it received may public comments in response to its 2011 announcement suggesting catch shares and an impact statement. Commenters opposed the idea of catch shares for Atlantic sharks. Also, shark fishing has changed and so has fishery management since then. So NMFS decided to reconsider the idea of catch shares as a management tool, which it had planned to do in an environmental impact statement. (It will not rule out the possibility of using them at some future date, though.) But for now, it wants to consider short-term management tactics instead.

NMFS figures its alternative strategy will better help the Atlantic fishing industry. So it plans to develop a short-term strategy to manage the fisheries that allow as much catch as possible while simultaneously rebuilding overfished stocks and ending overfishing. It will propose its ideas for public comment before implementing them.

The agency says it does not think its plans will alter the environment too much. Therefore, it determined that a simpler environmental assessment of its possible actions, instead of a more complected environmental impact statement, will do the trick. Some sort of environmental analysis is required under the National Environmental Policy Act. The fisheries are managed under the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

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