NMFS Publishes Draft 7 Consultation on the Continued Implementation of Seven Northeast Fisheries

May 20, 2013

Action Agency:  National Marine Fisheries Service, Northeast Region, through its Sustainable Fisheries Division

Activity: Draft Endangered Species Act Section 7 Consultation on the Continued Implementation of Management Measures for the Northeast Multispecies, Monkfish, Spiny Dogfish, Atlantic Bluefish, Northeast Skate Complex, Mackerel/Squid/Butterfish, and Summer Flounder/Scup/Black Sea Bass Fisheries.

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Section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) requires that each Federal agency shall ensure that any action authorized, funded, or carried out by such agency is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat of such species. When the action of a Federal agency may affect species listed as threatened or endangered, that agency is required to consult with either the NOAA Fisheries Service (NMFS) or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), depending upon the species that may be affected. In instances where NMFS or FWS are themselves proposing an action that may affect listed species, the agency must conduct intra- service consultation. Since the action described in this document is authorized by the NMFS Northeast Region (NERO) Sustainable Fisheries Division (SFD), this office has requested formal intra-service section 7 consultation with the NMFS NERO Protected Resources Division (PRD).

The NMFS NERO SFD has reinitiated formal intra-service consultation on the continued operation of seven fisheries as authorized by NMFS under their respective Fishery Management Plans (FMPs) issued under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation Act (MSA) and implementing regulations. Fisheries considered here are the: (1) Northeast multispecies (multispecies), (2) monkfish, (3) spiny dogfish, (4) Atlantic bluefish (bluefish), (5) Northeast skate complex (skate), (6) Atlantic mackerel/squid/butterfish (MSB), and (7) summer flounder/scup/black sea bass (FSB) fisheries (collectively referred to as “the seven fisheries” hereinafter). As described fully in section 2.2 below, reinitiation of these consultations is necessary as these fisheries may affect five distinct population segments (DPS) of Atlantic sturgeon that were listed as threatened or endangered on February 6, 2012 (77 FR 5880-5912; 77 FR 5914-5982). This document represents our biological opinion (Opinion) on the continued operation of these fisheries and the effects of their continued operation on ESA-listed species and designated critical habitat under our jurisdiction in accordance with section 7 of the ESA. See Section 3.0, Description of the Proposed Action, for a discussion on the rationale for the inclusion of these seven fisheries in a single consultation.

Formal intra-service section 7 consultation on the continued operation of the seven fisheries was reinitiated on February 9, 2012 [Consultation No. F/NER/2012/01956]. This Opinion is based on the information developed by NMFS NERO and other sources of information, as cited in the Literature Cited section of this document.