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Draft Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology Omnibus Amendment

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act requires all fishery management plans (FMP) to “establish a standardized reporting methodology to assess the amount and type of bycatch occurring in the fishery.”  In 2007, the New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils, in coordination with NOAA Fisheries, developed a standardized bycatch reporting methodology (SBRM) for all FMPs in the Northeast Region through an overarching amendment to these FMPs, known as the SBRM Omnibus Amendment.  After this amendment was implemented, a legal challenge was filed (Oceana v Locke) in Federal court.  The U.S. District Court initially found in favor of the Government on all counts.  However, that ruling was appealed by the plaintiffs, and the U.S. Court of Appeals issued an opinion that found fault with one element of the amendment—called the prioritization process--and ordered that the amendment be vacated and remanded to the agency for further proceedings.  This meant that the amendment was no longer in effect, and would need to be revised and re-adopted by the Councils.

In response to the Court’s order, the Councils formed a new fishery management action team (FMAT) consisting of staff from the New England Fishery Management Council, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, and NOAA Fisheries’ Northeast Regional Office and Northeast Fisheries Science Center, to developed alternatives that would address the deficiencies identified by the Court.  The FMAT developed new alternatives for the prioritization process, and incorporated some of the suggested improvements that were identified in a 2011 review of the SBRM process.  The range of alternatives in this draft omnibus amendment has been approved by the New England and Mid-Atlantic Councils and the document is now available for public review and comment.  Following this comment period, the FMAT will finalize the SBRM Omnibus Amendment document for final review and consideration by the Councils.  Once both Councils select preferred alternatives and approve the final amendment , NOAA Fisheries will conduct proposed and final rulemaking to implement the provisions contained in this amendment, including the SBRM.

Anyone wishing to submit comments for consideration may do so through December 19, 2013, by

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