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Environmental assessment for the issuance of a special fishing permit to authorize the use of an anchored pod to culture and harvest a coral reef ecosystem management unit species, Seriola rivoliana, in Federal waters west of Hawaii Island (RIN 0648-XC791)
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  • Alternative Title:
    Issuance of a special fishing permit to authorize the use of an anchored pod to culture and harvest a coral reef ecosystem management unit species, Seriola rivoliana, in Federal waters west of Hawaii Island (RIN 0648-XC791)
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  • Description:
    The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is proposing to issue a Special Coral Reef Ecosystem Fishing Permit (SCREFP) to Kampachi Farms, LLC, in accordance with the Hawaii Fishery Ecosystem Plan (FEP) and consistent with federal regulations for Hawaii fisheries at 50 CFR 665.224 pertaining to management of coral reef ecosystem fisheries. The SCREFP is required because the gear proposed to be used for the harvest of the coral reef ecosystem management unit species (MUS) kampachi (Almaco jack or Seriola rivoliana) is not currently an approved gear under the Hawaii FEP and fishing regulations. The permit would authorize Kampachi Farms to harvest kampachi using a 132-mĀ³ (approximately 21 ft in diameter) brass-link mesh aquapod (CuPod) tethered to a moored feed vessel (a 28-ft long sportfisher). The feed vessel would be connected to a singlepoint mooring established at around 6,000 ft deep approximately 5.5 nautical miles (nm) west of Keauhou Bay, Hawaii. The Velella array (CuPod and vessel) would be located in Federal waters with the exact position depending on wind and currents. It would not be closer than 3 nm from shore. If the permit is issued, the applicant would use the Velella array to grow and harvest 2,000 fingerlings/juveniles. The stock would be first generation offspring of the native coral reef species, kampachi, (marketed as 'Kona KampachiĀ®') obtained from a local hatchery. The permit duration is for a one-year period. To implement its project, the applicant must also obtain a Department of the Army (DA) permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). NMFS prepared this Environmental Assessment (EA) with input and review by the USACE. The EA will serve as the basis for a determination by NMFS whether or not issuing the SCREFP permit would be a major federal action with the potential for significant environmental impacts, in which case there would be a need to prepare an environmental impact statement. The document will also inform NMFS in its decision about whether to issue a permit. The USACE will be using this document to inform its environmental evaluations in accordance with USACE NEPA Implementation Procedures for the Regulatory Program (33 CFR 325, Appendix B). The small size of the CuPod, and limited number of fish, established procedures for the careful application of feed, and near constant water flow are expected to minimize impacts on water quality. The strong brass mesh net material is resistant to biofouling, tearing, and leaching. The strong mesh material and the use of a mesh entry panel during routine maintenance work would prevent fish escapes. The CuPod and vessel would each have a global positioning system (GPS) transponder to provide ongoing location information and to allow retrieval of the CuPod in the unlikely case of separation from the mooring. In addition to the applicant monitoring the CuPod and feed vessel remotely, NMFS permit conditions would include requirements for avoiding and reporting protected resources interactions and fish escapes, and collecting and discarding dead fish, filing harvest and transshipment reports, and accommodating an observer upon request. These operational features together with the limited scale and duration of the project help to ensure that the project would have a very limited impact on the environment. It is expected that the array (feed vessel and CuPod) would aggregate pelagic fish. Fishermen would be able to fish around the array. The small size of the array is not expected to have a substantial adverse effect on other fishermen off of west Hawaii. NMFS published a Notice of Availability of a draft EA on August 13, 2013, and provided the public with an opportunity to review and comment on the draft EA. NMFS considered all comments and either made no change to the document or improved information in the baseline and the clarity of the document. None of the comments resulted in substantial changes to the analysis about the significance of impacts of the proposed action on the human environment.
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