A point about the lead in articles on the home page of FS regarding comments on Exempt Fisheries Permits comment period.
This is not a blanket permit to go after longline "research" in the closed zones. This notice is a yearly notice that allows NMFS to issue non-controversial exempt fisher permits which include a lot os minor permitting which can be done without a draft EIS. These include things like allowing Aquariums to take a few sharks, allow specific EFP for scientific research, etc. This is done every year and most of us at the AP level have quite commenting on this specific permit.
i can assure you that any EFP issued for any large scale longline research in closed zones or other areas would require a draft EIS or at least update a draft EIS before issuing the permit and public hearings would be required.
This is simply a yearly administrative notice to allow very small and specific scientific sampling only. For instance a full EIS would be expected if anyone tried to fish in conflict with the rules during Bluefin Tuna spawning season in the Gulf. Also, NMFS know there would be a riot in South Florida if anyone tried to move forward with additional research fishing in the closed zone. I am regularly in contact with the Longline Lobbying group, Bluewater Fishermans and I consider Terry Bideman, president, a friend. They would discuss with me if they planned an attempt to fish our closed zones.
It is not the procedure to be used for longline "research fishing" like was proposed, but scaled down a few years ago. It was done but was a fiasco in the Florida Straits closed zone. Vessels would not fish there, and the bycatch and juvenile discards were way beyond that predicted by the initial EIS. Vessels preferred to fish the Tuna schools north of the Bahamas rather than fish the closed zone full of rat swords.
Trust me, all I really do at HMS and ICCAT is look out for the recreational Sword fishery and watch longlines. No way I would let this slip by without a full public hearing by NMFS.
Feel free to comment on the rule, but do not be concerned that this is a back door attempt to change the procedure from what has been done at NMFS in the last 10 years while I have been on the HMS AP panel.
The above was my original comment.
Lesson to me? Do Not Trust NOAA even HMS they do not have your interests at heart. This is what NOAA/NMFS has come to , back door approaches to changing things and making it look like everyone is going along with the flow.
Dave Kerstetter is the lead researcher and his head is so far up the longline industries butt, that he can't even recognize real science when he sees it.
The last time he did this, he presented a plan with 13 longline boats and I don't even remember how many total hook sets. He said at the time this was the minimum effort to have statistical accuracy. Then he modifies it to two vessels and a fraction of the original sets, with a new statistical analysis on the number required for accuracy. Then in practice, he cant' ge the vessels to fish the closed zone (nothing but smaller than market fish and no tuna), so he cuts the effort to about 50% of original proposal on second round. By the time he writes his report, they have had a small fraction of the effort he stated was minimum for statistical purposes, and ignores that reduction in his report. The report results??? They had more bycatch and juvenile interaction than the EIS proposed for a much higher volume of hook set. Darn, talk about massaging the science to make your points. And the funny thing is if you ask him, he will tell you the results were great and we shlould be fishing in the closed zone with renewed longline effort.