§ 229.36Atlantic Pelagic Longline Take Reduction Plan (PLTRP).
(a)Purpose and scope. The purpose of this section is to implement the PLTRP to reduce incidental mortality and serious injury of long-finned and short-finned pilot whales and Risso's dolphins in the Atlantic pelagic longline fishery off the U.S. east coast, a component of the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico large pelagics longline fishery.
(1)Persons subject to this section. The regulations in this section apply to the owner and operator of any vessel that has been issued or is required to be issued an Atlantic HMS tunas, swordfish, or shark permit under § 635.4 of this title and that has pelagic longline gear onboard as described under § 635.21(c) of this title.
(2)Geographic scope. The geographic scope of the PLTRP is the Atlantic Federal EEZ off the U.S. East Coast. The regulations specified in paragraphs (b) through (d) of this section apply throughout the Atlantic Federal EEZ off the U.S. East Coast. The regulation specified in paragraph (e) of this section applies to all U.S. Atlantic pelagic longline vessels operating in the EEZ portion of the Mid-Atlantic Bight.
(b) Definitions. In addition to the definitions contained in the MMPA and §§ 216.3 and 229.2 of this chapter, the following definitions apply.
(1)Cape Hatteras Special Research Area (CHSRA) means all waters inside and including the rectangular boundary described by the following lines: 35° N. lat., 75° W. long., 36° 25' N. lat., and 74° 35' W. long.
(2)Mid-Atlantic Bight means the area bounded by straight lines connecting the mid-Atlantic states' internal waters and extending to 71° W. long. between 35° N. lat. and 43° N. lat.
(3)Observer means an individual authorized by NMFS, or a designated contractor, placed aboard a commercial fishing vessel to record information on marine mammal interactions, fishing operations, marine mammal life history information, and other scientific data; to collect biological specimens; and to perform other scientific investigations.
(4)Pelagic longline has the same meaning as in § 635.2 of this title.
(c)Marine Mammal Handling and Release Placard. The placard, “Marine Mammal Handling/Release Guidelines: A Quick Reference for Atlantic Pelagic Longline Gear,” must be kept posted inside the wheelhouse and on the working deck. You may contact the NMFS Southeast Regional Office at (727) 824-5312 to request additional copies of the placard.
(1)Special observer requirements. If you deploy or fish with pelagic longline gear in the CHSRA, or intend to do so, you must call NMFS Southeast Fisheries Science Center (SEFSC), 1-888-254-2558, at least 48 hours, but no more than 96 hours, prior to embarking on your fishing trip. This requirement is in addition to any existing selection and notification requirement for observer coverage by the Pelagic Observer Program. If, upon calling in, you are informed by the NMFS SEFSC that no observer will be assigned and that no special research requirements will apply for that trip, then you need not wait until your stated date and time of departure and may depart on your fishing trip immediately. If you are assigned an observer, you must take the observer during that fishing trip. If you do not take the observer, you are prohibited from deploying or fishing with pelagic longline gear in the CHSRA for that fishing trip. You must comply with all provisions of § 229.7, Monitoring of incidental mortalities and serious injuries. In addition, all provisions of 50 CFR 600.746, Observers, apply. No waivers will be granted under § 229.7(c)(3) or § 600.746(f). A vessel that would otherwise be required to carry an observer, but is inadequate or unsafe for purposes of carrying an observer and for allowing operation of normal observer functions, is prohibited from deploying or fishing with pelagic longline gear in the CHSRA.
(2)Special research requirements. In addition to observing normal fishing activities, observers may conduct additional scientific investigations aboard your vessel designed to support the goals of the PLTRP. The observer will inform you of the specific additional investigations that may be conducted during your trip. An observer may direct you to modify your fishing behavior, gear, or both. Instead of carrying an observer, you may be required to carry and deploy gear provided by NMFS or an observer or modify your fishing practices. By calling in per § 229.36(d)(1), you are agreeing to take an observer. You are also acknowledging you are both willing and able to participate in research, as per this paragraph, in the CHSRA consistent with the PLTRP without any compensation. If you are assigned any special research requirements, you must participate in the research for the duration of the assignment. If you do not participate in the research, you are prohibited from deploying or fishing with pelagic longline gear in the CHSRA for that fishing trip.
(3)Exception for transit. If pelagic longline gear is appropriately stowed, a vessel may transit through the CHSRA without meeting the observer and research requirements specified in § 229.36(d)(1) and § 229.36(d)(2). For the purpose of this paragraph, transit means non-stop progression through the area. Pelagic longline gear is appropriately stowed if all gangions, hooks, and buoys are disconnected from the mainline; hooks are not baited; longline left on the drum is covered with a tarp; and all other gear components are either stowed below deck or secured on deck and covered with a tarp.
(e)Gear restrictions. No person may deploy a pelagic longline that exceeds 20 nautical miles (nm) (37.04 km) in length in the Mid-Atlantic Bight, including in the CHSRA, unless they have a written letter of authorization from the Director, NMFS Southeast Fishery Science Center to use a pelagic longline exceeding 20 nm (37.04 km) in the CHSRA in support research for reducing bycatch of marine mammals in the pelagic longline fishery.