[Federal Register Volume 69, Number 148 (Tuesday, August 3, 2004)]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 04-17666]
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic;
Reef Fish Fishery of the Gulf of Mexico; Red Snapper Rebuilding Plan
AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.
ACTION: Notice of availability of Amendment 22 to the Fishery
Management Plan (FMP) for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico
(Amendment 22); request for comments.
SUMMARY: NMFS announces the availability of Amendment 22 prepared by
the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council). Amendment 22
would provide the regulatory authority to implement a mandatory
observer program for selected commercial and for-hire
(charter vessel/headboat) vessels in the Gulf of Mexico reef fish
fishery. This observer program would be an important component of a
standardized methodology to collect bycatch information in the fishery.
In addition, consistent with the requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens
Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act),
Amendment 22 would establish a stock rebuilding plan, biological
reference points, and stock status determination criteria for red
snapper in the Gulf of Mexico. The intended effect of these proposed
regulations is to end overfishing and rebuild the red snapper resource.
DATES: Written comments must be received no later than 5 p.m., eastern
time, on or before October 4, 2004.
ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by any of the following methods:
[bul] E-mail: 0648-AP02.NOA@noaa.gov. Include in the subject line
the following identifier: 0648-AP02.
[bul] Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov.
[bul] Mail: Peter Hood, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 9721
Executive Center Drive N., St. Petersburg, FL 33702.
Copies of Amendment 22, which includes a Regulatory Impact Review
(RIR), Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analyses (IRFA), and a
Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) may be obtained from
the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, The Commons at
Rivergate, 3018 U.S. Highway 301 North, Suite 1000, Tampa, FL 33619-
2266; telephone: 813-228-2815; fax: 813-225-7015; e-mail:
firstname.lastname@example.org. Copies of Amendment 22 can also be
downloaded from the Council's website at www.gulfcouncil.org.
Written comments regarding the burden-hour estimates or other
aspects of the collection-of-information requirements contained in this
rule must be submitted to Robert Sadler, Southeast Region, NMFS, at the
St. Petersburg mailing address stated above, and by e-mail to David--
Rostker@omb.eop.gov, or fax to 202-395-7285.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Peter Hood, telephone: 727-570-5305,
fax: 727-570-5583, e-mail: email@example.com.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The reef fish fishery in the exclusive
economic zone (EEZ) of the Gulf of Mexico is managed under the FMP. The
FMP was prepared by the Council and is implemented under the authority
of the Magnuson-Stevens Act by regulations at 50 CFR part 622.
In May 2001, the Council submitted to NMFS a regulatory amendment
to the FMP, based on NMFS's 1999 stock assessment, that proposed to
redefine biological reference points and status determination criteria
for the red snapper stock and proposed a plan to rebuild the red
snapper stock to the stock biomass capable of producing maximum
sustainable yield on a continuous basis (BMSY) by the year
2032. The rebuilding plan proposed in the regulatory amendment was
based on analyses provided by NMFS in 2000. Because the incidental
catch of juvenile (age 0-age 1) red snapper in the shrimp trawl fishery
comprises the vast majority of the total fishing mortality on red
snapper, the success of the rebuilding plan is primarily dependent upon
potential reductions in shrimp trawl bycatch.
According to NMFS's stock assessment, the number of juvenile red
snapper taken incidental to the shrimp trawl fisheries accounted for
about 90 percent of the total red snapper harvest prior to the
implementation of a April 14, 1998, rule (63 FR 1813) requiring the use
of bycatch reduction devices (BRDs), which are estimated to have
reduced shrimp trawl bycatch mortality of red snapper by 40 percent.
However, the Council's Reef Fish Stock Assessment Panel indicated even
greater reductions would be required to rebuild the red snapper stock
to BMSY within the maximum recommended 31-year time frame,
even if the directed red snapper fishery were eliminated.
NMFS returned the red snapper regulatory amendment to the Council
in July 2002, identifying the need to further explore alternative
rebuilding plans based on realistic expectations for further reductions
in shrimp trawl bycatch, and to more fully evaluate the impacts of
these alternatives in a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement
(SEIS). Additionally, NMFS suggested the need to better address the
bycatch provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Amendment 22 was
developed in response to NMFS's suggestions.
Biological Reference Points and Stock Status Determination Criteria
Proposed in Amendment 22
Consistent with the requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act,
Amendment 22 would establish the following biological reference points
and stock status criteria for Gulf of Mexico red snapper: maximum
sustainable yield (MSY); optimum yield (OY); maximum fishing mortality
threshold (MFMT) (the fishing mortality rate which, if exceeded, would
constitute overfishing); and minimum stock size threshold (MSST) (the
stock size below which the stock would be considered overfished).
MSY for red snapper would equal the yield associated with fishing
at FMSY (currently estimated at 0.092); thus, MSY would
equal 41.13 million lb (18.66 million kg) whole weight (wwt), assuming
low maximum recruitment and an initial steepness of 0.90 for the stock-
Until the red snapper stock recovers to the target level,
BMSY, the harvest for red snapper would be defined as
consistent with the rebuilding strategy proposed in Amendment 22. After
achieving BMSY, the OY for red snapper would correspond to a
fishing mortality rate (FOY) defined as FOY =
0.75*FMSY = 0.069.
Red snapper MSST would equal (1-M) *BMSY = 2.453 billion
lb (1.112 billion kg) wwt where BMSY = 2.726 billion lb
(1.237 billion kg) wwt and M (natural mortality) = 0.1.
Red snapper MFMT would be equal to FMSY which is
currently estimated at 0.092.
Stock Rebuilding Plan
The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires a rebuilding plan to establish a
schedule for rebuilding an overfished stock that is as short as
possible, and not to exceed 10 years, except in cases where the biology
of the stock, other environmental conditions, or management measures
under an international agreement dictate otherwise. The National
Standard Guidelines provide a formula for calculating the maximum
rebuilding schedule in situations where it would take 10 years or
longer to rebuild a stock to BMSY in the absence of fishing
mortality. Applied to the red snapper stock, this formula defines the
maximum recommended rebuilding schedule as 31 years (e.g., time it
would take to rebuild the stock to BMSY in the absence of
fishing mortality (12 years) plus one mean generation time (19.6
years)). Implicit to establishing a rebuilding plan for a stock is the
assumption that overfishing will end sometime during the rebuilding
period. When overfishing ends depends on the type of rebuilding
For Gulf of Mexico red snapper, the rebuilding plan would initially
maintain total allowable catch at 9.12 million lb (4.14 million kg)
wwt, end overfishing between 2009 and 2010, and rebuild the red snapper
stock by 2032. The status of the stock would be reviewed and management
measures would be adjusted, as necessary, based upon
periodic stock assessments. The next stock assessment is scheduled for
late 2004. Annual landings also would be monitored to ensure quotas are
Bycatch Reporting Methodology
The Council is required by the Magnuson-Stevens Act to establish a
standardized bycatch reporting methodology for Federal fisheries.
Current regulations require commercial and recreational for-hire
participants in the Gulf of Mexico reef fish fishery who are selected
by the Southeast Science and Research Director (SRD) to maintain and
submit a fishing record, including bycatch information, on forms
provided by the SRD.
To enhance current bycatch reporting, Amendment 22 would provide
for the establishment of a mandatory observer program for the reef fish
fishery. NMFS would develop a procedure for the random selection of
vessels for which a Federal commercial vessel permit or charter vessel/
headboat permit for Gulf of Mexico reef fish has been issued. A vessel
selected by NMFS would be required to carry a NMFS-approved observer.
The owner or operator of a vessel selected for observer coverage would
be required to provide food and accommodations for the observer and
provide the observer access to the vessel's equipment, personnel, and
physical space sufficient to carry out the observer's duties. The costs
associated with observer coverage, other than food and accommodations,
would be borne by NMFS. In selecting vessels, NMFS would consider the
suitability of the vessel for observer coverage and would ensure that
the universe of vessels included is representative of all statistical
sub-zones in the Gulf of Mexico. Vessel permits would not be renewed
for vessels that fail or refuse to carry observers in accordance with
this process. NMFS would initiate full implementation of the observer
program as soon as sufficient funding for the program is obtained.
In addition, to further improve bycatch reporting for the headboat
sector of the Gulf of Mexico reef fish fishery, NMFS's Marine
Recreational Fisheries Statistical Survey (MRFSS) would be enhanced by
including headboats, using the same sampling methodology as is
currently used for charter vessels. The existing MRFSS catch-and-effort
program would be continued to collect bycatch information from the
private recreational sector of the fishery.
A proposed rule that would implement measures outlined in Amendment
22 has been prepared. In accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS
is evaluating the proposed rule to determine whether it is consistent
with Amendment 22, the FMP, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other
applicable law. If that determination is affirmative, NMFS will publish
the proposed rule in the Federal Register for public review and
Written comments received by October 4, 2004, whether specifically
directed to the FMP or the proposed rule, will be considered by NMFS in
its decision to approve, disapprove, or partially approve Amendment 22.
Comments received after that date will not be considered by NMFS in
this decision. Written comments received by NMFS on Amendment 22 or the
proposed rule during their respective comment periods will be addressed
in the final rule.
Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.
Dated: July 27, 2004.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine
[FR Doc. 04-17666 Filed 8-2-04; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-S