[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 198 (Friday, October 12, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 62209-62210]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-25129]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

RIN 0648-BC37


Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 
Reef Fish Fishery of the Gulf of Mexico; Amendment 38

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

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: NMFS announces that the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) Fishery 
Management Council (Council) has submitted Amendment 38 to the Fishery 
Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico (FMP) 
for review, approval, and implementation by NMFS. Amendment 38 proposes 
to modify post-season accountability measures (AMs) that affect 
shallow-water grouper species (SWG), change the trigger for AMs, and 
revise the Gulf reef fish framework procedure.

DATES: Written comments must be received on or before December 11, 
2012.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the amendment identified by 
``NOAA-NMFS-2012-0149'' by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit electronic comments via the 
Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the 
``Instructions'' for submitting comments.
     Mail: Steve Branstetter, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 
263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.
    Instructions: 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 field if you wish to 
remain anonymous).
    To submit comments through the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov, enter ``NOAA-NMFS-2012-0149'' in the search field 
and click on ``search.'' After you locate the document ``Gulf of Mexico 
Reef Fish Amendment 38,'' click the ``Submit a Comment'' link in that 
row. This will display the comment web form. You can then enter your 
submitter information (unless you prefer to remain anonymous), and type 
your comment on the web form. You can also attach additional files (up 
to 10MB) in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file 
formats only.
    Comments received through means not specified in this notice will 
not be considered.
    For further assistance with submitting a comment, see the 
``Commenting'' section at http://www.regulations.gov/#!faqs or the Help 
section at http://www.regulations.gov.
    Electronic copies of Amendment 38 may be obtained from the 
Southeast Regional Office Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sf.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Branstetter, telephone: 727-824-
5305, or email: Steve.Branstetter@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The reef fish fishery of the Gulf is managed 
under the FMP. The FMP was prepared by the Council and implemented 
through regulations at 50 CFR part 622 under the authority of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-
Stevens Act).

Background

    Accountability measures were established for gag and red grouper in 
2009 through Amendment 30B to the FMP (74 FR 17603, April 16, 2009). 
These AMs included the following provision: if the recreational sector 
annual catch limit (ACL) for gag or red grouper is exceeded in the 
current year, the recreational season for all SWG is shortened the 
following year to ensure that the gag or red grouper recreational ACL 
is not exceeded again. Regulations implemented through Amendment 32 to 
the FMP (77 FR 6988, February 10, 2012) added more AMs, including in-
season closures for gag and red grouper, and overage adjustments for 
gag and red grouper if they are overfished. Amendment 38 would modify 
the post-season AMs for gag and red grouper so that the shortening of 
the season following a season with an ACL overage applies only to the 
species with landings that exceeded the ACL the prior year. Modifying 
the AMs would improve the likelihood of achieving optimum yield for red 
grouper and avoid unnecessary closures of all SWG species (i.e., gag, 
red grouper, black

[[Page 62210]]

grouper, scamp, yellowfin grouper, and yellowmouth grouper).
    The current method for determining if post-season AMs have been 
triggered for red grouper or gag is to compute a one to 3-year moving 
average of recreational landings, and to compare that moving average of 
landings to the ACL. However, the use of a moving average has not been 
practicable due to the frequent changes that have occurred in the ACLs. 
In addition, the use of moving averages could potentially delay the 
implementation of AMs by unduly masking sizeable harvest overages and 
potentially slowing down the recovery of stocks under rebuilding. 
Amendment 38 would remove the 3-year moving average, allowing AMs to be 
based on comparison of the ACL to the current year's landings. A simple 
comparison of the current year's landings to the ACL could provide 
greater protection to the gag and red grouper stocks, be easier for 
fishermen to understand, and be less burdensome to administer.
    Amendment 38 would revise the list of management measures that may 
be established or modified by the framework procedure specified in the 
FMP. Specifically, Amendment 38 would add a list of the AMs that may be 
revised through the Gulf reef fish framework process. Typically, 
framework actions take less than a year to implement and are effective 
until amended. Changes to AMs through the framework may result in 
faster implementation of measures beneficial to fish stocks and fishery 
participants. Additionally, Amendment 38 would update the language in 
the framework procedure related to Council advisory panels and 
committees. More general language in reference to Council committees 
and advisory panels would replace specific references that are no 
longer accurate.
    A proposed rule that would implement measures outlined in Amendment 
38 has been drafted. In accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS 
is evaluating the proposed rule to determine whether it is consistent 
with 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 comment.

Consideration of Public Comments

    The Council submitted Amendment 38 for Secretarial review, 
approval, and implementation on September 10, 2012. NMFS' decision to 
approve, partially approve, or disapprove Amendment 38 will be based, 
in part, on consideration of comments, recommendations, and information 
received during the comment period on this notice of availability.
    Public comments received on or before December 11, 2012, will be 
considered by NMFS in its decision to approve, partially approve, or 
disapprove Amendment 38. All comments received by NMFS on Amendment 38 
or the proposed rule for Amendment 38 during their respective comment 
periods will be addressed in a final rule.

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

    Dated: October 9, 2012.
Lindsay Fullenkamp,
Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National 
Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-25129 Filed 10-11-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P