NOAA 2002-NR02062
Contact: Chris Smith
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The National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries), an agency of the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), will implement seasonally-adjusted closures, based on historic sea surface temperatures, of the Mid-Atlantic Exclusive Economic Zone (federal waters) to fishing with gillnets with a mesh size larger than 8 inch (20.3 cm) stretched mesh, to protect migrating sea turtles. The closures will take effect on January 2, 2003.

Large-mesh gillnet fisheries, particularly the spring monkfish gillnet fishery off North Carolina and Virginia, pose a major threat to migrating sea turtles, especially if gear is set in or near temperature fronts where turtles may congregate. An interim final rule was enacted for the 2002 season and was shown to be effective in protecting migrating sea turtles. Therefore, NOAA Fisheries is implementing a final rule with the same restrictions as the interim final rule. Annual closures will occur as follows:

  • Waters north of 33° 51.0' N (North Carolina/South Carolina border at the coast) and south of 35° 46.0' N (Oregon Inlet) are closed at all times.
  • Waters north of 35° 46.0' N (Oregon Inlet) and south of 36° 22.5' N (Currituck Beach Light, N.C.) are closed from March 16 through January 14.
  • Waters north of 36° 22.5' N (Currituck Beach Light, N.C.) and south of 37° 34.6' N (Wachapreague Inlet, Va.) are closed from April 1 through January 14.
  • Waters north of 37° 34.6' N (Wachapreague Inlet, Va.) and south of 37° 56.0' N (Chincoteague, Va.) are closed from April 16 through January 14.
  • Waters north of 37° 56.0' N (Chincoteague, Va.) will not be affected by this final rule.

The total cost to the monkfish fishery is expected to be minimal. The primary effect of this final rule will be to establish restrictions in an area which is not heavily utilized by the fishery and to set required dates for the northward movement of the fishery up through 37° 56.0' N (Chincoteague, VA) in order to avoid sea turtle interactions.

Based on vessel trip reporting data from May 1998 through April 2001, the Virginia and North Carolina trips make up a small part of the total effort in the monkfish sink gillnet fishery. Together they represent 5.1 percent of the monkfish tail weight, 0.9 percent of the liver weight, and 4.1 percent of the total gillnet trips. The fishery normally migrates northward anyway as it follows the monkfish movements. This rule does not at any time prevent or limit fishermen from moving north of 37° 56.0' N (Chincoteague, VA) to prosecute the fishery.

Copies of the Environmental Assessment prepared for this rule are available from NOAA Fisheries at the above address or by calling (301) 713-2332.

NOAA Fisheries is dedicated to protecting and preserving our nation’s living marine resources through scientific research, management, enforcement, and the conservation of marine mammals and other protected marine species and their habitat.

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