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The final rule on Amendment 11 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP has been set regarding the size limit on shortfin makos.

By The National Marine Fisheries Service  |  March 4, 2019
The final ruling on Amendment 11 to the Consolidated HMS FMP resulted in the minimum size limit for male shortfin makos being reduced from 83 inches to 71 inches fork length. The minimum size limit on females remains 83 inches.

Effective this month, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has amended the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Fishery Management Plan (FMP) based on the results of the 2017 stock assessment and a subsequent binding recommendation by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) for North Atlantic shortfin mako sharks.

The ruling establishes a minimum size limit of 71 inches fork length (FL) for male and 83 inches FL for female shortfin mako sharks, regardless of where and when recreational anglers target them. This final rule went into effect on March 3, 2019.

In developing the final measures, NMFS considered the commercial retention restrictions and the 83-inch FL recreational minimum size limit temporarily put in place through the emergency interim final rule, public comments received on that rule, other conservation and management measures that have been implemented in the HMS fisheries since 2008 that have affected shark fisheries or shark bycatch in other fisheries, and public comments received on the proposed rule and DEIS, including comments provided at the September 2018 HMS Advisory Panel meeting.

In response to public comment on the proposed rule and the DEIS, NMFS made three changes from the proposed rule in the final rule. The first change adopts a new commercial measure that is a modified version of the previously preferred measure. The second change resulted in the new recreational size limit measure, which was not preferred in the proposed rule. A third change clarifies the application of retention restrictions for the few permit holders who hold a commercial shark permit and a permit that also allows recreational landings of sharks. All other proposed conservation measures, as well as the proposed clarification of the definition of “fork length,” did not change between the proposed and final rules.

The North Atlantic shortfin mako shark stock is overfished and is experiencing overfishing. Consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) and the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA), NMFS is implementing management measures that will reduce fishing mortality on shortfin mako sharks and establish a foundation for rebuilding the shortfin mako shark population consistent with legal requirements. The final measures could affect U.S. commercial and recreational fishermen who target and harvest shortfin mako sharks in the Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, by increasing live releases and reducing landings. NMFS is also clarifying the definition of fork length (FL) in the definitions section of the HMS regulations.

Copies of the Final Amendment 11 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, including the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) containing a list of references used in this document, the dusky shark stock assessments, and other documents relevant to this rule are available from the HMS Management Division website.

For more information, contact Guý DuBeck or Karyl Brewster-Geisz at 301-427-8503.

Images courtesy of NOAA Fisheries.

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