To help meet the goal of species recovery, the ESA requires the development and implementation of recovery plans for all listed species. Recovery plans are considered guidance documents that do not have the effect of law. In order to uphold the ESA's goal of species recovery, fishery management councils need to consider the conservation actions identified in a recovery plan while developing fishery management measures.
Recovery plans are available for several species that occur in the southeast Atlantic including the green, leatherback, and hawksbill sea turtles; blue, humpback and North Atlantic right whales; the shortnose sturgeon; Johnson seagrass and the roseate tern.
Plans for the loggerheadand Kemp's ridleysea turtles are being revised. A draft joint plan exists for fin and sei whales and plans for the sperm whale and the smalltooth sawfish are under development.
Take Reduction Plans
One immediate goal of the 1994 amendments to the MMPA is to reduce the incidental mortality or serious injury of marine mammals that occur in the course of commercial fishing operations. To aid in achieving this goal, MMPA section 118 specifies that NOAA Fisheries develop and implement take reduction plans for marine mammal stocks that are defined as "strategic stocks". A stock is considered "strategic" if:
- direct human-caused mortality exceeds the Potential Biological Removal (PBR) level (PBR is an estimate of the maximum number of animals, not including natural mortalities that may be removed from a marine mammal stock while allowing that stock to reach or maintain its optimum sustainable population);
- the stock is listed under the ESA;
- the stock is declining and likely to be listed under the ESA; or
- the stock is listed as depleted under the MMPA.
NOAA Fisheries convenes take reduction teams to develop take reduction plans. Take reduction teams are composed of fishermen, scientists, conservationists, and state and federal managers and recommend methods of reducing the incidental mortality or serious injury of marine mammals due to commercial fishing operations. The process takes into consideration the economics of the fishery, the availability of existing technology and existing measures in state or regional fishery management plans. The immediate goal of a take reduction plan is to reduce, within six months of its implementation, the incidental take of marine mammals to below each marine mammal stock's PBR level. Commercial fisheries classified as Category I and II fisheries (those in which incidental injury or death of marine mammals is frequent or occasional) must comply with regulatory measures implemented through take reduction plans.
TRPs involving fisheries within the South Atlantic Council's area of jurisdiction include the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Planand the Bottlenose Dolphin Take Reduction Plan. Fishery management efforts should coordinate with conservation and take reduction efforts outlined in take reduction plans. Downloadable Guide to the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan.
Section 7 under the ESA, states that federal agencies must ensure that any activity they authorize, fund or carry out is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of listed species or result in destruction of designated critical habitat. To ensure that listed species and designated critical habitat are not jeopardized by actions proposed in a fishery management plan, the action agency initiates a consultation with an "expert" agency. For SAFMC fisheries-related actions, NOAA Fisheries' Southeast Regional Division of Protected Resourcesconsults on sea turtles, most marine mammals, marine and anadromous fish, and marine plants and invertebrates. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Serviceis the consulting agency for manatees and seabirds.
Consultations are concluded informally when proposed actions are "not likely to adversely affect" endangered or threatened species or designated critical habitat. Formal consultations are required when proposed actions are "likely to adversely affect". A formal consultation requires preparation of a biological opinion. Included in a biological opinion is a determination of the extent of anticipated incidental take and any reasonable or prudent measures or alternatives the fishery must observe to lessen or avoid risk to listed species or critical habitat.
Recent formal consultations on SAFMC fishery management actions include the shrimp trawl fishery, 2002 and 2005; the mackerel fishery and the snapper grouper fishery.