[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 78 (Monday, April 23, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 24161-24163]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-9756]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

RIN 0648-BC09


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Amendment 7 to the 2006 
Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Notice of intent (NOI) to hold public scoping meetings and to 
prepare a draft environmental impact statement (EIS); request for 
comments.

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SUMMARY: NMFS announces its intent to hold public scoping meetings to 
determine the scope and significance of issues to be analyzed in a 
draft environmental impact statement (EIS) on management measures for 
Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) and a potential proposed amendment to the 
2006 Consolidated HMS FMP based on that process. The public process 
will help NMFS determine if existing measures are the best means of 
achieving certain management objectives for Atlantic BFT and providing 
flexibility for future management, consistent with the Consolidated HMS 
FMP, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act 
(Magnuson-Stevens Act), the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA), and 
other relevant Federal laws. NMFS is also announcing the availability 
of a scoping document describing measures for potential inclusion in a 
proposed Amendment. Table 1, below, under SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION, 
provides details for seven scoping meetings to discuss and collect 
comments on the scoping document and certain management objectives for 
BFT. NMFS is requesting comments on this NOI, and the management of 
BFT, including, but not limited to, those described in the scoping 
document.

DATES: Written comments on this NOI and the scoping document must be 
received on or before July 15, 2012.

ADDRESSES: Scoping meetings will be held at the locations listed below 
in Table 1 in SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION. You may submit comments, 
identified by ``NOAA-NMFS-2012-0082'', by any one of the following 
methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal http://www.regulations.gov. 
To submit comments via the e-Rulemaking Portal, first click the 
``submit a comment'' icon, then enter ``NOAA-NMFS-2012-0082'' in the 
keyword search. Locate the document you wish to comment on from the 
resulting list and click on the ``Submit a Comment'' icon on the right 
of that line.
     Fax: 978-281-9340, Attn: Tom Warren.
     Mail: Tom Warren, Highly Migratory Species Management 
Division, Office of Sustainable Fisheries (F/SF1), NMFS, 55 Great 
Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930.
     Instructions: Comments must be submitted by one of the 
above methods to ensure that the comments are received, documented, and 
considered by NMFS. Comments sent by any other method, or to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered. All comments received are a part of the public 
record and will generally be posted to http://www.regulations.gov 
without change. All Personal Identifying Information (for example, 
name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be 
publicly accessible. Do not submit Confidential Business Information or 
otherwise sensitive or protected information. NMFS will accept 
anonymous comments (enter N/A in the required fields, if you wish to 
remain anonymous). You may submit attachments to electronic comments in 
Microsoft Word or Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only. 
To be considered, electronic comments must be submitted via the Federal 
eRulemaking Portal http://www.regulations.gov. Do not submit electronic 
comments to individual NMFS staff.
    The scoping document is available by sending your request to Tom 
Warren at the mailing address specified above, or by calling the phone 
number indicated below. The scoping document or the Consolidated HMS 
FMP also may be

[[Page 24162]]

downloaded from the HMS Web site at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Tom Warren or Brad McHale, 978-281-
9260, or online at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    Atlantic HMS, including BFT, are managed under the dual authority 
of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and ATCA. The Consolidated HMS FMP is 
implemented by regulations at 50 CFR part 635. Copies of the 
Consolidated HMS FMP are available upon request. The 1999 FMP allocated 
the annual U.S. BFT quota recommended by ICCAT to BFT fishing 
categories based on landings from 1983-1991. Landings were the only 
portion of catch (i.e., ``catch'' includes both landings and dead 
discards) that were factored into the 1999 FMP percentage allocation 
analysis for the various BFT fisheries at that time, as dead discards 
were accounted for under a separate ICCAT allocation. The fishing 
category percentage allocations continued unchanged in the 2006 
Consolidated HMS FMP. The ICCAT provision for a separate dead discard 
allowance has since been eliminated, and dead discards must now be 
accounted for within annual quota allocations, along with landings. 
Furthermore, pursuant to ICCAT Recommendation 10-03, the amount of 
underharvest that is allowed to be carried forward from one year to the 
next recently has decreased. During the 2011 BFT quota and Atlantic 
tuna management measures rulemaking (2011 Quota Rule)(March 14, 2011; 
76 FR 13583) process, the adjusted quota for 2011 was insufficient to 
account for anticipated 2011 dead discards up front, while also 
providing base allocations for the categories per the percentages 
outlined in the Consolidated HMS FMP. The proposed 2012 specifications 
rule (77 FR 15712; March 16, 2012) anticipates a similar situation for 
the 2012 fishing year.
    The range of comments received on the 2011 Quota Rule and during 
recent HMS Advisory Panel (AP) meetings has demonstrated the need for a 
comprehensive review of BFT management measures. Many comments raised 
issues that were outside of the scope of that rulemaking and would 
require more significant analyses because of the potential impacts on 
the environment, fisheries, and fishery participants. Some of the 
issues raised include, but are not limited to: Holding each quota 
category accountable for dead discards; changing domestic allocations 
among fishing categories; reducing BFT bycatch; modifying the permit 
structure for the fisheries; improved monitoring of catch in all BFT 
fisheries; providing incentives to the Longline category to reduce 
interactions with BFT; and reducing dead discards in the pelagic 
longline (PLL) fishery.

Management Options and Request for Comments

    NMFS requests comments on management options, including, but not 
limited to, the following: Deduction of estimated dead discards from 
quotas at the beginning of the fishing year for all permit categories; 
revision of baseline quota allocations; methods to improve reporting 
and monitoring of dead discards and landings in all categories; 
elimination of target catch requirements for Longline category 
(pelagic); reduction of minimum BFT size restrictions; modification of 
BFT retention tolerances for Purse seine and Harpoon categories; 
specification of maximum catch limit for Angling category; mandatory 
retention of BFT in the Longline category; regional or individual BFT 
catch caps for the Longline category; modification to existing pelagic 
longline gear closed areas; creation of new pelagic longline gear 
closed area(s); modifications to sub-quota rules (e.g., how the General 
or Angling category subquota is divided up among seasons or areas); 
establishment of an annual quota and rollover provisions for Northern 
albacore tuna; and other administrative measures (such as regulations 
about permit issuance). NMFS also requests comment on any other fishery 
management issue pertaining to BFT fisheries, which the public believes 
should be further examined by NMFS. These comments will be used to 
assist in the development of a proposed Amendment 7. The types of 
management measures under consideration for Amendment 7 will include 
those described in the scoping document, as well as alternative 
measures that may be suggested during the scoping process.

Scoping Process

    It is NMFS's intent to encourage all persons affected by or 
otherwise interested in the management of BFT or other HMS species to 
participate in the process to determine the scope and significance of 
issues to be analyzed in the draft EIS and Amendment 7. All such 
persons are encouraged to submit written comments (see ADDRESSES) or 
comment at one of the scoping meetings. Persons submitting comments may 
wish to address the specific measures in the scoping document.
    NMFS intends to hold scoping meetings in the geographic areas that 
may be affected by these measures, including locations on the Atlantic 
and Gulf of Mexico coasts, and will consult with the Atlantic regional 
fishery management councils (Table 1). After scoping has been completed 
and public comment gathered and analyzed, NMFS will proceed with 
preparation of a draft EIS and proposed rule, which will include 
additional opportunities for public comment. The scope of the draft EIS 
will consist of the range of actions, alternatives, and impacts to be 
considered. Alternatives may include, but are not limited to, the 
following: not amending the Consolidated HMS FMP (taking no action); 
developing an amendment that contains management measure such as those 
described in this notice and in the scoping document; or other 
reasonable courses of action. Impacts may be direct, indirect, or 
cumulative. NMFS expects to present relevant draft documents at the 
fall 2012 HMS AP meeting.

                           Table 1--Dates, Times and Locations of the Scoping Meetings
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              Date                       Time                 Meeting locations                  Address
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May 8, 2012.....................  6:15-8:45 p.m.....  Toms River Library (Mancini        101 Washington Street,
                                                       Hall), Toms River, NJ.             Toms River, NJ 08753.
May 16, 2012....................  6:00-9:00 p.m.....  National Marine Fisheries          55 Great Republic
                                                       Service, Northeast Regional        Drive, Gloucester, MA
                                                       Office, Gloucester, MA.            01930.
May 21, 2012....................  6:00-9:00 p.m.....  Plaquemines Parish Government      8398 Hwy 23, Belle
                                                       Community Center, (Belle Chasse    Chasse, LA 70037.
                                                       Auditorium), Belle Chasse, LA.
May 23, 2012....................  6:00-9:00 p.m.....  Dare County Administration Bldg.,  954 Marshall C. Collins
                                                       Manteo, NC.                        Dr., Manteo, NC 27954.

[[Page 24163]]

 
* Week of June 10, (specific      * To be announced   Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management    Hilton New York, 1335
 date to be determined).           (MAFMC.org).        Council Meeting, New York, NY.     Avenue of the
                                                                                          Americas, New York, NY
                                                                                          10019.
* Week of June 10, (specific      * To be announced   South Atlantic Fishery Management  Renaissance Orlando
 date to be determined).           (SAFMC.net).        Council Meeting, Orlando, FL.      Airport Hotel, 5445
                                                                                          Forbes Place, Orlando,
                                                                                          FL 32812.
* Week of June 17, (specific      * To be announced   New England Fishery Management     Holiday Inn by the Bay,
 date to be determined).           (NEFMC.org).        Council Meeting, Portland, ME.     88 Spring Street,
                                                                                          Portland, ME 04101.
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* The public will be notified when the Council agendas are finalized, and the precise date and time of scoping
  have been scheduled. For updated information please go to www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/breakingnews.htm or visit
  the Council Web sites indicated above.

    The process of developing an FMP Amendment is expected to take 
approximately 2 years. In addition to future HMS AP input, public 
comment and future analyses, there are other relevant events 
anticipated that may impact the development of Amendment 7, including a 
BFT stock assessment during the fall of 2012, a meeting of the 
Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) in 
the spring of 2013, revisiting the ``species of concern'' designation 
under the Endangered Species Act in 2013, and the annual meetings of 
ICCAT in November 2012 and 2013.

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.

    Dated: April 18, 2012.
Emily H. Menashes,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-9756 Filed 4-20-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P