NOAA seeks comment on Atlantic sea scallop fishery chain mat rule designed to protect sea turtles
74 Fed. Reg. 20667 / Vol. 74, No. 85 / Tuesday, May 5, 2009 / DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE / National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration / 50 CFR Parts 222 and 223 / Endangered and Threatened Wildlife; Sea Turtle Conservation
ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.
SUMMARY: The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) currently requires the use of chain-mat modified dredge gear in the Atlantic sea scallop fishery south of 41°9.0′ North latitude from May 1 through November 30 each year. This gear is necessary to help reduce mortality and injury to endangered and threatened sea turtles captured in this fishery and to conserve sea turtles listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This proposed action would make minor modifications to the current requirements by clarifying where on the dredge the chain mat should be hung; by excluding the sweep from the requirement that the side of each opening in the chain mat be less than or equal to 14 inches (35.5 cm); and by adding definitions of the sweep and the diamonds, which are terms used to describe parts of the scallop dredge gear. Any incidental take of threatened sea turtles in Atlantic sea scallop dredge gear in compliance with the gear modification requirements and all other applicable requirements will be exempted from the ESA prohibition against takes. NMFS is requesting public comment on this action, the focus of which is the minor modifications described here. NMFS is not accepting public comment on the existing chain mat requirements through this proposed rule. DATES: Comments on the proposed rule must be received by 5 p.m. EST on June 4, 2009.