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NOAA Seeks Public Comment on the Proposed Rule for the Aquaculture Plan of the Gulf of Mexico

02 September 2014

US - NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comment on a proposed rule for the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council's Fishery Management Plan for Regulating Offshore Marine Aquaculture in the Gulf of Mexico (Aquaculture Plan).

The proposed rule published in the Federal Register on August 28, 2014 (79 FR 51424). The public comment period ends on October 27, 2014.

Prior to the Aquaculture Plan, an exempted fishing permit was required to conduct aquaculture in federal waters. Since exempted fishing permits are of limited duration, they are not the best option for commercial aquaculture operations. The purpose of this rulemaking is to establish a regional permitting process to manage the development of an environmentally-sound and economically-sustainable aquaculture industry in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf). A maximum of twenty Gulf aquaculture permits over a period of 10 years could be issued under this proposed rule.

The proposed rule would:

  • Establish Gulf aquaculture permit requirements, eligibility, and transferability.
  • Establish application requirements, operational requirements, and restrictions for Gulf Aquaculture permits.
  • Establish Gulf aquaculture permit duration and renewal periods.
  • Specify allowable species for aquaculture purposes.
  • Evaluate proposed aquaculture systems on a case-by-case basis.
  • Establish marine aquaculture siting requirements and conditions.
  • Create a restricted access zone around each aquaculture facility where no fishing may occur and no fishing vessels may operate in or transit through (unless they possess a copy of the facilities' aquaculture permit onboard).
  • Establish recordkeeping and reporting requirements.
  • Establish biological reference points (e.g., maximum sustainable yield which is the total yield harvested by all aquaculture operations in a given year), annual catch limit and accountability measures, and status determination criteria (e.g., overfishing and overfished status) for aquaculture operations.
  • Specify procedures for modifying biological reference points and management measures for offshore marine aquaculture in the Gulf.

Other information on the Gulf aquaculture permit is also discussed in the Aquaculture Plan. If this rulemaking is implemented, the administrative functions associated with it (e.g., registration and account setup, landing transactions, and most reporting requirements) are intended to be accomplished online via the aquaculture Web site. A participant must have access to a computer and Internet access and must set up an appropriate online aquaculture account to participate.

Request for Comments

You may submit comments on the proposed rule, identified by "NOAA-NMFS-2008-0233" by any of the following methods:

Electronic Submissions: Submit electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2008-0233, click the "Comment Now!" icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.

Mail: Submit written comments to Jess Beck-Stimpert, Southeast Regional Office, NOAA Fisheries, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.

Electronic copies of the Aquaculture Plan, which includes a final programmatic environmental impact statement, an initial regulatory flexibility analysis, and a regulatory impact review may be obtained from the Southeast Regional Office Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/gulf_fisheries/aquaculture/index.html.

Comments must be received by October 27, 2014, to be considered by NOAA Fisheries in its decision on the final rule. All comments received by NOAA Fisheries specific to the proposed rule will be addressed in the final rule.

 

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