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DOC/NOAA RIN: 0648-BK91 Publication ID: Fall 2021 
Title: ●Reduce Mortality of Sea Turtles in Northeast and Mid-Atlantic U.S. Trawl Fisheries 

NMFS is considering requiring gear and/or operational modifications in U.S. Atlantic croaker/weakfish, longfin squid, and summer flounder trawl fisheries and intends to collect advanced public input on the potential measures to reduce the incidental capture of sea turtles in fisheries (bycatch). The proposed rule is promulgated under the authority of the Endangered Species Act and its purpose is to aid in the protection and recovery of listed sea turtle populations by reducing incidental bycatch and mortality of sea turtles in Northeast and Mid-Atlantic U.S. trawl fisheries. Incidental bycatch is a primary factor hampering the recovery of sea turtles worldwide. In the Greater Atlantic Region, the highest level of sea turtle trawl bycatch occurs in the Atlantic croaker, longfin squid, and summer flounder fisheries. NMFS is considering requiring turtle excluder devices (TEDs) in trawls that fish for Atlantic croaker, weakfish, and longfin squid, moving the current northern boundary of the Summer Flounder Fishery-Sea Turtle Protection Area off Cape Charles, Virginia to a point further north, amending the TED requirements for the summer flounder fishery to require a larger escape opening, and adding an option allowing documented limited tow durations in lieu of TEDs for trawl vessels that fish for summer flounder. NMFS has been evaluating, researching, and addressing the bycatch of sea turtles in trawl gear since the late 1980s, through developing bycatch estimates, implementing regulations in certain fisheries (e.g., TEDs in shrimp and summer flounder trawls), hosting workshops in 2007 and 2010 with the fishing industry and other interested parties (which led to the gear measures in this proposed rule), and conducting gear research toward bycatch and mortality reduction. While much work has been done, bycatch is still the highest threat to sea turtles in U.S. Northeast and Mid-Atlantic waters and work to address the threat continues. While final operational feasibility studies are ongoing, bycatch reduction measures tested in the croaker, longfin squid, and summer flounder trawl fisheries are effective at excluding sea turtles from trawl gear while retaining the target catch. Data loggers that document tow times have also been developed and would allow fishermen to demonstrate compliance with limited tow times. Tows of less than one hour reduce mortality of incidentally captured sea turtles. Those likely to be affected by the eventual rulemaking include fishermen using trawls to catch croaker, weakfish, longfin squid, and summer flounder. Analysis of the specific economic benefits and costs has yet to be conducted, but some anticipated costs may include purchasing the TEDs, different nets, and data loggers (which monitor tow durations), and related expenses. There may also be costs associated with potential reduction of landed catch (due to some of the TEDs not being as efficient at retaining target catch compared to nets without TEDs) or costs of compliance time such as the need to conduct additional tows to make up for catch reduction caused by using a TED (compared to a net without a TED) or reduced tow times. These costs will depend on the scope of the action and cannot be calculated at this time.  NMFS has considered this action under E.O. 12866. Based on that review, this action is not expected to have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more, or have an adverse effect in a material way on the economy. Furthermore, this action would not create a serious inconsistency or otherwise interfere with an action taken or planned by another agency; or materially alter the budgetary impact of entitlements, grants, user fees, or loan programs or the rights and obligations of recipients thereof; or raise novel or policy issues arising out of legal mandates, the President’s priorities, or the principles set forth in this E.O.

Agency: Department of Commerce(DOC)  Priority: Substantive, Nonsignificant 
RIN Status: First time published in the Unified Agenda Agenda Stage of Rulemaking: Proposed Rule Stage 
Major: No  Unfunded Mandates: No 
CFR Citation: Not Yet Determined     (To search for a specific CFR, visit the Code of Federal Regulations.)
Legal Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.   
Legal Deadline:  None
Action Date FR Cite
NPRM  01/00/2022 
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis Required: No  Government Levels Affected: None 
Federalism: No 
Included in the Regulatory Plan: No 
RIN Data Printed in the FR: No 
Agency Contact:
Kim Damon-Randall
Director, Office of Protected Resources
Department of Commerce
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
1315 East-West Highway,
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Phone:301 427-8400