[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 208 (Friday, October 26, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 65356-65357]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-26418]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

RIN 0648-BB58


Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic; 
Snapper-Grouper Fishery Off the Southern Atlantic States; Amendment 18B

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

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (South Atlantic 
Council) has submitted Amendment 18B to the Fishery Management Plan 
(FMP) for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic (Amendment 
18B) for review, approval, and implementation by NMFS. Management 
actions in Amendment 18B would: establish a longline endorsement 
program for the commercial golden tilefish component of the snapper-
grouper fishery; establish initial eligibility requirements for a 
golden tilefish longline endorsement; establish an appeals process; 
allocate commercial golden tilefish quota among gear groups; establish 
a procedure for the transfer of golden tilefish endorsements; modify 
the golden tilefish trip limits; and establish a trip limit for 
commercial fishermen who do not receive a golden tilefish longline 
endorsement.

DATES: Written comments must be received no later than 5 p.m., Eastern 
Time, on December 26, 2012.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by ``NOAA-NMFS-2012-
0177'', by any one of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
     Mail: Karla Gore, 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.
    To submit comments through the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov, enter ``NOAA-NMFS-2012-0177'' in the search field 
and click on ``search''. After you have located the notice of 
availability, click on ``Submit a Comment'' link in that row. This will 
display the comment web form. You can 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 10 MB) in 
Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only.
    Comments received through means not specified in this notice will 
not be accepted.
    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 18B may be obtained from the 
Southeast Regional Office Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sf/SASnapperGrouperHomepage.htm. Amendment 18B includes a draft 
environmental assessment, an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Act 
Analysis, a Regulatory Impact Review, and a Fishery Impact Statement.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Karla Gore, telephone: 727-824-5305; 
email: Karla.Gore@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation 
and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) requires each regional 
fishery management council to submit any fishery management plan or

[[Page 65357]]

amendment to NMFS for review and approval, partial approval, or 
disapproval. The Magnuson-Stevens Act also requires that NMFS, upon 
receiving a plan or amendment, publish an announcement in the Federal 
Register notifying the public that the plan or amendment is available 
for review and comment.

Background

    Recent amendments to the FMP have imposed more restrictive harvest 
limitations on snapper-grouper fishermen. In an effort to identify 
other species to harvest, more fishermen may target golden tilefish. 
Increased effort for golden tilefish would intensify the ``race to 
fish'' that already exists, which has resulted in a shortened fishing 
season for the last 6 years. The longline endorsement program would 
limit participation and reduce overcapacity in the commercial golden 
tilefish component of the snapper-grouper fishery; thereby easing derby 
conditions, which have occurred in recent years.
    The South Atlantic Council has submitted Amendment 18B to NMFS for 
agency review under procedures of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The South 
Atlantic Council approved the amendment during its June 2012 meeting.

Management Measures Contained in This Amendment

Longline Endorsement Program for Golden Tilefish

    This amendment would establish a longline endorsement program for 
the commercial golden tilefish component of the snapper-grouper 
fishery. The endorsement program is expected to limit participation to 
achieve optimum yield and reduce excess capacity in the fishery. 
Amendment 18B would establish eligibility criteria for the endorsement 
program based on golden tilefish landings using longline gear averaging 
at least 5,000 lb (2,268 kg), gutted weight, for an individual's best 3 
fishing years within the period 2006 through 2011. This would reduce 
the number of potential participants who would qualify for an 
endorsement to 23.

Establish an Appeals Process

    The amendment would establish an appeals process for fishermen who 
might have been incorrectly excluded from receiving a golden tilefish 
longline endorsement. The appeals process would set aside a period of 
90 days to accept appeals to the golden tilefish endorsement program 
starting on the effective date of the final rule. The National Appeals 
Office would review, evaluate, and render recommendations on appeals to 
the Regional Administrator (RA). The RA would review, evaluate, and 
render a decision on each appeal. Hardship arguments would not be 
considered. The outcome of appeals would be based on NMFS' logbooks. If 
NMFS' logbooks are not available, state landings records would be used. 
Appellants would have to submit NMFS' logbooks or state landings 
records to support their appeal.

Allocate Commercial Golden Tilefish Quota Among Gear Groups

    The amendment would allocate the golden tilefish commercial annual 
catch limit (ACL) between the longline and hook-and-line components. 
Seventy-five percent of the ACL, or 405,971 lb (184,145 kg), gutted 
weight, would be allocated to the longline component and 25 percent of 
the ACL, or 135,324 lb (61,382 kg), gutted weight, would be allocated 
to the hook-and-line component.

Allow for Transferability of Golden Tilefish Endorsements

    The amendment would establish a procedure to transfer golden 
tilefish endorsements. A valid (not expired) golden tilefish 
endorsement or a renewable (expired but renewable) golden tilefish 
endorsement would be able to be transferred between any two individuals 
or entities that hold, or simultaneously obtain, a South Atlantic 
Unlimited Snapper-Grouper Permit.

Modify the Golden Tilefish Trip Limits

    Currently, the trip limit is 4,000 lb (1,814 kg), gutted weight, 
for the commercial sector. If 75 percent of the ACL is reached before 
September 1 of the fishing year, the trip limit is reduced to 300 lb 
(136 kg), gutted weight. The step-down trip limit was originally 
intended to allow hook-and-line fishermen access to golden tilefish in 
the fall. In recent years, a derby fishery has developed for golden 
tilefish and the ACL has been met so rapidly that the 300-lb (136-kg), 
gutted weight, trip limit has not been triggered. Therefore, the 300-lb 
(136-kg), gutted weight, trip limit is not having the expected effect 
of extending the fishing season. Moreover, having separate allocations 
and ACLs for longline and hook-and-line gear makes the 300-lb (136-kg), 
gutted weight, trip limit unnecessary. The amendment would eliminate 
the step-down trip limit and the commercial trip limit of 4,000 lb 
(1,814 kg), gutted weight, would remain. Hook-and-line fishermen would 
still be able to harvest golden tilefish under the hook-and-line ACL.

Establish Trip Limits for Fishermen who do not Receive a Golden 
Tilefish Longline Endorsement

    The amendment would establish a trip limit of 500 lb (227 kg), 
gutted weight, for the golden tilefish component of the snapper-grouper 
fishery for commercial fishermen who do not receive a longline 
endorsement. Vessels with golden tilefish longline endorsements would 
not be eligible to fish under this trip limit with other gear (i.e., 
hook-and-line). Proposed Rule for Amendment 18B
    NMFS proposes a rule that would implement management measures 
outlined in the Amendment 18B. 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
    Comments received by December 26, 2012, whether specifically 
directed to the amendment or the proposed rule, will be considered by 
NMFS in its decision to approve, disapprove, or partially approve the 
amendment. Comments received after that date will not be considered by 
NMFS in this decision. All comments received by NMFS on the amendment 
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: October 23, 2012.
James P. Burgess,
Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National 
Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-26418 Filed 10-25-12; 8:45 am]
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