[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 219 (Tuesday, November 13, 2012)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 67574-67579]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-27540]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

[Docket No. 1206013412-2517-02]
RIN 0648-BB97


Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 
Reef Fish Fishery of the Gulf of Mexico; Amendment 35

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: NMFS issues this final rule to implement management measures 
described in Amendment 35 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef 
Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico (FMP) prepared by the Gulf of 
Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council). This final rule 
establishes sector annual catch limits (ACLs) and sector annual catch 
targets (ACTs) for greater amberjack; revises the sector accountability 
measures (AMs) for greater amberjack; and establishes a commercial trip 
limit for greater amberjack. Additionally, Amendment 35 modifies the 
greater amberjack rebuilding plan. The intent of Amendment 35 is to end 
overfishing of greater amberjack, modify the greater amberjack 
rebuilding plan and help achieve optimum yield (OY) for the greater 
amberjack resource in accordance with the requirements of the Magnuson-
Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act).

DATES: This rule is effective December 13, 2012.

ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of Amendment 35, which includes an 
environmental assessment, an initial regulatory flexibility analysis 
(IRFA), and a regulatory impact review, may be obtained from the 
Southeast Regional Office Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sf/GrouperSnapperandReefFish.htm.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Rich Malinowski, Southeast Regional 
Office, telephone 727-824-5305, email rich.malinowski@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The reef fish fishery of the Gulf is managed 
under the FMP. The FMP was prepared by the Council and is implemented 
through regulations at 50 CFR part 622 under the authority of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act. All greater amberjack weights discussed in this 
rule are in round weight.
    On July 3, 2012, NMFS published a notice of availability for 
Amendment 35 and requested public comment (77 FR 39460). On July 19, 
2012, NMFS published a proposed rule for Amendment 35 and requested 
public comment (77 FR 42476). The proposed rule and Amendment 35 
outline the rationale for the actions contained in this final rule. A 
summary of the actions implemented by this final rule is provided 
below.

Management Measures Contained in This Final Rule

ACLs and ACTs

    Amendment 35 establishes the greater amberjack stock ACL equal to 
the greater amberjack stock allowable biological catch (ABC) at 
1,780,000 lb (807,394 kg), and sets the greater amberjack stock ACT at 
1,539,000 lb (698,079 kg) based on the ACT Control Rule developed in 
the Generic Annual Catch Limits/Accountability Measures Amendment 
(Generic ACL Amendment) (76 FR 82044, December 29, 2011).
    Sector allocations were established in Amendment 30A to the FMP and 
remain unchanged at 27 percent of the ACL allocated to the commercial 
sector and 73 percent of the ACL allocated to the recreational sector. 
Based on these allocations, this final rule establishes specific ACLs 
for the greater amberjack commercial and recreational sectors. This 
final rule also establishes ACTs (expressed as quotas in the regulatory 
text) for both sectors.
    This final rule establishes the greater amberjack commercial sector 
ACL at 481,000 lb (218,178 kg). The commercial ACT, which is equivalent 
to the greater amberjack commercial quota, is reduced from 503,000 lb 
(228,157 kg), to 409,000 lb (185,519 kg). The commercial ACT is set 15 
percent below the ACL to account for management uncertainty.
    This final rule establishes the greater amberjack recreational ACL 
at 1,299,000 lb (589,116 kg). The recreational ACT, which is equivalent 
to the greater amberjack recreational quota, is reduced from 1,368,000 
lb (620,514 kg), to 1,130,000 lb (512,559 kg). The recreational ACT is 
set 13 percent below the ACL to account for management uncertainty.

AMs

    This final rule revises the AMs for both the greater amberjack 
commercial and recreational sectors. The current in-season AM for the 
greater amberjack commercial sector requires the sector be closed when 
commercial landings reach or are projected to reach the applicable 
quota (currently equal to the commercial ACL). In addition, if despite 
such closure the commercial landings exceed the quota, the following 
year's quota is reduced by the amount of the quota overage in the prior 
fishing year (post-season AM). This final rule implements an ACT that 
is less than the ACL, creating a buffer between the two. The commercial 
ACT will now be equivalent to the commercial quota and this final rule 
requires that the commercial sector be closed when the commercial ACT 
is reached or projected to be reached. By closing the sector when the 
commercial ACT is reached or projected to be reached, there is less 
probability of exceeding the commercial ACL. In addition to this 
revision of the in-season AM, this rule revises the post-season AM as 
follows: If commercial landings exceed the commercial ACL, then during 
the following fishing year, both the commercial ACT (commercial quota) 
and the commercial ACL will be reduced by the amount of the prior 
year's commercial ACL overage.
    The current in-season AM for the greater amberjack recreational 
sector closes the sector when recreational landings reach or are 
projected to reach the recreational quota (currently equal to the 
recreational ACL). In addition, if despite such closure the 
recreational landings exceed the recreational quota, the following 
year's recreational quota is reduced by the amount of the recreational 
quota overage in the prior fishing year, and the recreational fishing 
season is reduced by the amount necessary to recover the overage from 
the prior fishing year (post-season AMs). This final rule implements a 
recreational ACT, which will now be equivalent to the recreational 
quota, and requires that the recreational sector close when the 
recreational ACT is reached or projected to be reached. In addition to 
this revision of the in-season AM, this final rule revises the post-
season AMs as follows: If recreational landings exceed the recreational 
ACL, then during the following fishing year,

[[Page 67575]]

both the recreational ACT (recreational quota) and the recreational ACL 
will be reduced by the amount of the prior year's recreational ACL 
overage.

Commercial Trip Limit

    This final rule establishes a commercial trip limit for greater 
amberjack of 2,000 lb (907 kg). This trip limit is applicable until the 
commercial ACT (commercial quota) is reached or projected to be reached 
during a fishing year and the commercial sector is closed.

Other Action Contained in Amendment 35

    Amendment 35 revises the rebuilding plan for greater amberjack. The 
greater amberjack stock is currently in its last year of a 10-year 
rebuilding plan that began in 2003 and ends in 2012. Amendment 35 
modifies the rebuilding plan in response to the results from the 2011 
Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review stock assessment (SEDAR 9 
Update) and subsequent SSC review and recommendations for the greater 
amberjack ABC. The Council agreed with the SSC application of the ABC 
Control Rule developed in the Generic ACL Amendment for setting the 
greater amberjack ABC. The SSC applied the ABC Control Rule to the most 
recent 10 years (2000-2009) of landings and established the revised ACL 
25 percent below the ABC.

Comments and Responses

    NMFS received seven comment letters from individuals, two from non-
governmental organizations, and one from a Federal agency on Amendment 
35 and the proposed rule. The Federal agency indicated they had no 
objection to Amendment 35 or the proposed rule. Specific comments 
related to the actions contained in Amendment 35 and the proposed rule 
are summarized and responded to below.
    Comment 1: All species should have a closed season during their 
respective spawning seasons, including greater amberjack. If spawning 
season closures were implemented for all fisheries, then these species 
would not be targeted, bycatch would be reduced, and species would not 
become overfished.
    Response: Amendment 35 does not address closed seasons for all 
species. The intent of Amendment 35 is to end overfishing of greater 
amberjack, modify the greater amberjack rebuilding plan and help 
achieve OY. The commercial harvest of greater amberjack is closed 
during the months of March, April, and May for the greater amberjack 
spawning season. On April 29, 2011, NMFS published a final rule to 
implement a recreational seasonal closure during June and July (76 FR 
23904). In Amendment 35, the Council considered alternatives that would 
modify the recreational season closure, including a recreational season 
closure mirroring the commercial season closure. However, the Council 
decided to leave the current recreational season closure in place to 
determine if this will adequately restrain harvest. In addition, the 
Council determined that a recreational season closure during peak 
harvest (June-July) reduced harvest and mortality to a greater extent 
than a closure during the spawning season (March-May) because there is 
less recreational fishing effort early in the year compared to mid-
summer.
    Comment 2: The lack of a trip limit has resulted in a derby 
fishery, where the quota is harvested early in the year. However, a 
1,500-lb (680 kg) or 1,000-lb (453 kg) commercial trip limit is more 
appropriate than what has been selected, and would be less likely to 
result in the quota being exceeded during the fishing year.
    Response: In addition to preferred 2000-lb (907 kg) trip limit, the 
Council considered a 1,500-lb (680 kg), 1,000-lb (453 kg), and 500-lb 
(227 kg) trip limit. The trip limit is intended to extend the fishing 
season, not ensure that the quota is not exceeded during the fishing 
year. The Council decided that the current commercial sector seasonal 
closure (March 1-May 31) and establishment of a commercial 2,000-lb 
(907 kg) trip limit would provide the best balance between a longer 
commercial fishing season and revenue reductions per trip, and is not 
anticipated to shift any commercial fishing effort or methods because 
less than 5 percent of commercial trips exclusively target greater 
amberjack.
    Comment 3: Amendment 35 and the proposed rule should establish a 
4,000-lb (1,814 kg) commercial trip limit because of costs associated 
with maintaining the profitability of a small fishing business.
    Response: The Council considered several commercial trip limit 
alternatives in Amendment 35 that would keep the commercial fishing 
season open as long as possible without exceeding the ACL. Landings 
data indicate that on average approximately 8 percent of vessels that 
landed greater amberjack landed more than 2,000 lb (907 kg) in a single 
trip. Thus, of the reasonable alternatives considered, a 2,000-lb (907 
kg) trip limit was the largest trip limit considered. All commercial 
trip limit alternatives were estimated to result in revenue reductions, 
but a 2,000-lb (907 kg) trip limit was considered to achieve the best 
balance between a longer commercial season and reduced economic impacts 
on commercial fishermen. With the 2,000-lb trip limit, the commercial 
sector is expected to remain open until mid-September or October. A 
4,000-lb (1,814 kg) trip limit would likely result in a more 
abbreviated commercial fishing season that would cause additional 
negative economic impacts to the entire greater amberjack commercial 
sector.
    Comment 4: NMFS should approve and implement the management 
measures in Amendment 35. However, the lack of rebuilding analyses on 
which to base the management decisions causes concern. Hopefully, the 
benchmark stock assessment scheduled for 2013 will produce stock 
projections deemed sufficient for management advice, and the Council 
will be able, at that time, to revise the ACLs and set new target 
rebuilding dates. Until the assessment is completed in 2013, the 
measures proposed by the Council in Amendment 35 are consistent with 
the management advice the Council received from its Scientific and 
Statistical Committee (SSC) and the ABC Control Rule previously 
approved by NMFS.
    Response: NMFS agrees that the management measures contained in 
Amendment 35 should be implemented. The reliability of the yield/stock 
projections in the SEDAR 9 Update was questioned by the Council's SSC 
because of the large sensitivity to small changes in the assessment 
model initial conditions, fishing mortality rates, and catch. The 
Council's SSC determined the initial conditions of sample sizes from 
the observer studies were low, the spatial representation of the 
observer trips to the entire fishery was not complete, the observer 
study did not span a long time series, and there was uncertainty in the 
ability of the observers to accurately differentiate greater amberjack 
from other commonly caught jacks (Almaco jack, banded rudderfish, 
lesser amberjack).
    Therefore, the SSC did not use the stock assessment to set the 
overfishing limit (OFL) or the acceptable biological catch (ABC) but 
instead used the ABC control rule that the Council was developing in 
the Generic Annual Catch Limit/Accountability Measure Amendment 
(Generic ACL Amendment) and was subsequently approved by NMFS. NMFS 
believes that the SSC's ABC recommendation (i.e., 75 percent of the 
OFL) and the management measures implemented by the Council (setting 
the ACT approximately 15 percent below the ACL) will, more likely than 
not, provide the reduction in

[[Page 67576]]

greater amberjack fishing mortality necessary to end overfishing and 
rebuild the greater amberjack stock.
    A new benchmark assessment for greater amberjack is scheduled to be 
undertaken in 2013. The SSC recommended that the next stock assessment 
include aging studies and fishery-independent data for the Gulf. When 
the new assessment is completed, NMFS and the Council will be able to 
confirm that greater amberjack has met its rebuilding schedule.
    Comment 5: Greater amberjack are overfished in the Gulf and both 
the recreational and commercials sectors should have more restrictions 
implemented than those proposed through Amendment 35. Recent landings 
by both the recreational and commercial sectors have exceeded the 
existing ACL by more than the reductions implemented through this rule. 
Restrictions in this rule may not restrict either sector to their 
quotas.
    Response: In Amendment 35, the Council analyzed and reviewed ACLs 
and ACTs, minimum size limits, recreational bag limits, seasonal 
closures, and commercial trip limits. The Council's SSC recommended 
that the ABC be set at 1,780,000 lb (807,394 kg), which is a decrease 
from the previously established ACL. The Council then set the ACL equal 
to the ABC, and set the ACT approximately 15 percent below the ACL. 
NMFS and the Council expect that the management measures implemented in 
this final rule will lengthen the fishing season, restrain catch to the 
ACT, and end overfishing of greater amberjack. Both the commercial and 
recreational sector AMs require that the sectors close for the 
remainder of the fishing year when landings reach or are projected to 
reach the applicable ACT (quota). This in-season closure authority is 
intended to restrict each sector to its ACT to the extent possible. The 
buffer between the ACL and the ACT (quota) is intended to ensure that 
the ACL is not exceeded due to management uncertainty in determining 
when the sector should close.
    Comment 6: The management measures in Amendment 35 are not 
sufficient to successfully rebuild the greater amberjack population. 
Specifically, Amendment 35 maintains the status quo for the 
recreational minimum size limit of 30 inches (76 cm). Without other 
management actions to significantly reduce overall mortality, not 
enough of the population will reach the size at which they become 
reproductively mature. This inhibits the ability of this population to 
rebuild to a healthy level. The commenters strongly recommend raising 
the minimum allowable size from the current 30 inches (76 cm) fork 
length (FL) to 34 or 36 inches (86 or 91 cm) FL. This would increase 
the number of mature females capable of spawning that are left in the 
water and make it far more likely that the rebuilding plan will 
successfully restore this population.
    Response: The Council considered increasing the minimum size limit 
to as much as 36 inches (91 cm), FL. Based on a theoretical analysis 
comparing yield-per-recruit and spawning potential ratio, Amendment 35 
estimated that increasing the minimum size limit would provide greater 
spawning potential but maintaining the 30 inch (76 cm) FL minimum size 
limit would result in a higher yield. Although larger size limit 
alternatives are estimated to provide greater biological benefits to 
greater amberjack than the preferred alternative of maintaining the 
current minimum size limit of 30 inches (76 cm), public testimony at 
Council meetings indicated that release mortality likely increases as 
fish size increases, because larger greater amberjack fight harder, it 
takes longer amounts of time to reel in the fish, and the fish take 
longer to recover after release. Thus, the benefits of increasing the 
minimum size limit would be lower than estimated because more fish 
would die from release mortality and not contribute to the fishery 
yield or spawning potential. The preferred alternative would provide 
the greatest benefits to the resource by reducing the number of dead 
discards when compared to having a larger size limit.
    Comment 7: The use of overage deductions that adjust both the ACL 
and the ACT as part of the AMs is appropriate. However, overage 
adjustments for any given fishing year will be subtracted from the ACL 
and ACT for the following year. A more appropriate method would be to 
set the adjusted ACT using the ACT control rule adopted in the Generic 
ACL Amendment so that adjustments to the ACT correspond to changes in 
the amount of management uncertainty associated with this fishery.
    Response: In Amendment 35, the Council revised both the ACT and ACL 
based on the ACL/ACT control rule developed in the Generic ACL 
Amendment (76 FR 82044, December 29, 2011). The Council established the 
procedure for an overage adjustment when it established the rebuilding 
plan through Amendment 30A to the Reef Fish FMP, and did not consider 
alternative ACT and ACL calculation methods in Amendment 35. However, 
in the future the Council may consider alternative methods of adjusting 
the ACT when the ACL is exceeded, such as that suggested in the 
comment.

Classification

    The Regional Administrator, Southeast Region, NMFS has determined 
that this final rule is necessary for the conservation and management 
of the species within Amendment 35 and is consistent with the FMP, the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law.
    This final rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    A final regulatory flexibility analysis (FRFA) was prepared for 
this rule. The FRFA incorporates the IRFA, a summary of the significant 
economic issues raised by public comments, NMFS' responses to those 
comments, and a summary of the analyses completed to support the 
action. The FRFA follows.
    While none of the comments specifically addressed the IRFA, two of 
the ten comments received on Amendment 35 and the proposed rule 
concerned direct socio-economic implications of this rule on small 
commercial entities, and both relate to the proposed 2,000-lb (907 kg) 
commercial trip limit. One suggested a 1,500-lb (680 kg) commercial 
trip limit as a longer fishing season is necessary to maintain 
profitability. The other suggested a 4,000-lb (1,814 kg) commercial 
trip limit as a lower trip limit would result in lower net operating 
income per trip for distribution between the boat and its crew. As 
noted in the comments and responses section, the Council considered 
several trip limit alternatives that would lengthen the fishing season 
but not exceed the ACL/ACT. The economic analysis conducted for 
Amendment 35 determined that all trip limits would result in revenue 
reductions to commercial vessels. Some vessels would experience more 
revenue reductions than others. A 4,000-lb (1,814 kg) commercial trip 
limit would likely result in an abbreviated fishing season that would 
bring about more negative economic impacts on small entities. The 
2,000-lb (907 kg) commercial trip limit was determined to achieve the 
best balance between a longer fishing season and revenue reductions per 
trip without exceeding the ACL/ACT. No changes to the final rule were 
made in response to public comments.
    NMFS agrees that the Council's choice of preferred alternatives 
would best achieve the Council's objectives while minimizing, to the 
extent practicable, the adverse effects on

[[Page 67577]]

fishers, support industries, and associated communities. The preamble 
to the final rule provides a statement and need for, and the objectives 
of this rule, and is not repeated here.
    The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides the statutory basis for this 
rule. No duplicative, overlapping, or conflicting Federal rules have 
been identified. This final rule would not introduce any changes to 
current reporting, recordkeeping, and other compliance requirements.
    NMFS expects the rule to directly affect commercial fishers and 
for-hire operators. The Small Business Administration established size 
criteria for all major industry sectors in the U.S. including fish 
harvesters and for-hire operations. A business involved in fish 
harvesting is classified as a small business if it is independently 
owned and operated, is not dominant in its field of operation 
(including its affiliates), and its combined annual receipts are not in 
excess of $4.0 million (NAICS code 114111, finfish fishing) for all of 
its affiliated operations worldwide. For for-hire vessels, other 
qualifiers apply and the annual receipts threshold is $7.0 million 
(NAICS code 713990, recreational industries).
    From 2005-2010, an average of 1,096 vessels had Federal commercial 
Gulf reef fish permits. Based on home port states reported in their 
permit applications, these vessels were distributed as follows: 897 
vessels in Florida, 34 vessels in Alabama, 19 vessels in Mississippi, 
58 vessels in Louisiana, 79 vessels in Texas, and 9 vessels in other 
states. Of the total number of federally permitted reef fish commercial 
vessels, 750 vessels reported landings of at least 1 lb (0.6 kg) of 
reef fish. These vessels generated total dockside revenues of 
approximately $41.5 million dollars (2010 dollars), or an average of 
$55,000 per vessel. An average of 325 vessels reported landings of at 
least 1 lb (0.6 kg) of greater amberjack, with these vessels 
distributed as follows: 259 vessels in Florida, 15 vessels in Alabama/
Mississippi, 32 in Louisiana, 32 in Texas, and 2 in other states. 
Dockside revenues from greater amberjack were approximately $600,000 
(2010 dollars). Based on this information, all commercial fishing 
vessels expected to be directly affected by this final rule are 
determined for the purpose of this analysis to be small business 
entities.
    The for-hire fleet is comprised of charterboats, which charge a fee 
on a vessel basis, and headboats, which charge a fee on an individual 
angler (head) basis. From 2005-2010, an average of 1,493 vessels had 
Federal Gulf reef fish charter/headboat permits, and based on homeport 
states reported in their permit applications these vessels were 
distributed as follows: 921 vessels in Florida, 147 vessels in Alabama, 
61 vessels in Mississippi, 104 vessels in Louisiana, 238 vessels in 
Texas, and 22 in other states. There is no information available as to 
how many for-hire vessels harvested or targeted greater amberjack. The 
Federal Gulf charter/headboat permit does not distinguish between 
headboats and charterboats, but in 2010, the headboat survey program 
included 79 headboats. The majority of headboats were located in 
Florida (43), followed by Texas (19), Alabama (8), and Louisiana (4). 
The average charterboat is estimated to earn approximately $89,000 
(2010 dollars) in annual revenues, while the average headboat is 
estimated to earn approximately $466,000 (2010 dollars). Based on these 
average annual revenue figures, all for-hire vessels expected to be 
directly affected by this rule are determined for the purpose of this 
analysis to be small business entities.
    Some fleet activity, i.e., multiple vessels owned by a single 
entity, may exist in both the commercial sector and the for-hire 
component of the recreational sector by an unknown extent, and NMFS 
treats all vessels as independent entities in this analysis.
    NMFS expects the final rule to directly affect all federally 
permitted commercial vessels harvesting greater amberjack and for-hire 
vessels that operate in the Gulf reef fish fishery. All directly 
affected entities have been determined, for the purpose of this 
analysis, to be small entities. Therefore, NMFS determined that this 
final rule would affect a substantial number of small entities.
    NMFS considers all entities expected to be affected by this final 
rule as small entities, so the issue of disproportional effects on 
small versus large entities does not arise in the present case.
    Modifying the greater amberjack rebuilding plan by establishing 
sector ACLs and ACTs would result in a total annual revenue reduction 
of $99,000 (part of which would be profits) for the entire reef fish 
commercial sector's vessel operations because the commercial ACT is 
less than the historical average commercial landings. This revenue 
reduction takes into account the AM revision that would close the 
commercial sector if the ACT is reached or projected to be reached 
during the fishing year. However, it does not account for the effects 
of the post-season AM that would reduce the applicable sector's ACT and 
ACL if the ACL were exceeded in the previous fishing year. This post-
season AM would be expected to reduce vessel revenues and profits by an 
unknown amount. The for-hire component of the recreational sector would 
largely remain unaffected by the ACL/ACT and AM revisions, at least in 
the short term. Based on the projection model used in the analysis, the 
recreational sector, which includes the for-hire component, is not 
expected to reach its ACL/ACT, implying that there would be no trip 
cancellations that would lead to for-hire profit reductions.
    Establishing a 2,000-lb (907 kg) trip limit on commercial vessels 
that harvest greater amberjack would result in an annual revenue 
reduction (part of which would be profits) of $96,000 for the entire 
commercial harvesting operation. Because this estimated revenue 
reduction for the selected trip limit alternative presupposed the 
adoption of the ACLs/ACTs revised through this final rule, it should 
not be considered in addition to the revenue reduction due to the ACL/
ACT revision. The smaller reduction appears to show that because the 
trip limit may allow for an extension of the commercial season it would 
slightly mitigate the adverse effects of a lower ACL/ACT.
    The negative effects of this final rule on the profits of 
commercial vessels are minimal when compared to the overall industry 
profits from harvesting reef fish. It is possible that some vessels may 
rely on greater amberjack for a sizeable portion of their overall 
harvesting operations so their profit reductions may be relatively 
large, but the number of vessels in this category in the reef fish 
fishery cannot be ascertained.
    Four alternatives, including the preferred alternative, and two 
sub-options, of which one is the preferred option, were considered for 
modifying the greater amberjack rebuilding plan. The first alternative, 
the no action alternative, would retain the greater amberjack stock 
ACL. This is not a viable alternative because the current stock ACL is 
higher than the ABC being set for greater amberjack.
    Like the preferred alternative, the second alternative would set a 
stock ACL equal to the ABC, which is about 5 percent lower than the 
current stock ACL. However, this alternative would not set an ACT below 
the level of the ACL. Among the alternatives, this would provide the 
best scenario for short-term profitability of small entities. Without 
an ACT, however, this ACL level may be exceeded, particularly since the 
stock ACL has been exceeded in the last 3 years (2009, 2010, and 2011). 
Exceeding this ACL would lower the probability of protecting and

[[Page 67578]]

rebuilding the overfished stock. The sub-option that was not selected 
would set the stock ACL 18 percent less than the current ACL. This 
would have the same impacts on profits as the preferred option for a 
current fishing year, but it would potentially result in a worse profit 
condition in a following fishing year because it would require post-
season overage adjustments if the ACTs were exceeded and AMs were 
enacted. The third alternative, which would establish a stock ACL of 
zero, would result in the largest profit reductions to both the 
commercial sector and for-hire component of the recreational sector.
    Two alternatives, including the preferred alternative, were 
considered for revising the commercial AM. The only alternative to the 
preferred alternative is the no action alternative which would retain 
the current commercial AM. This would result in lesser short-term 
profit reductions than the preferred alternative. The downside of the 
no action alternative is that it would subject the commercial sector to 
a greater likelihood of facing a post-season AM the following fishing 
year that would reduce the following year's ACL and ACT and therefore 
commercial vessel profits as well would be reduced. In the long-term, 
it appears that the preferred alternative would have a greater 
potential of rebuilding the stock within the rebuilding timeframe so as 
to eventually allow for a higher ACT and ACL.
    Two alternatives, including the preferred alternative, were 
considered for revising the recreational AM. The only alternative to 
the preferred alternative is the no action alternative. The no action 
alternative would result in greater short-term profits than the 
preferred alternative. Its downside is that it would subject the sector 
to a greater likelihood of facing a post-season AM that would reduce 
the following year's ACL and ACT and therefore for-hire vessel profits 
as well in the following fishing year. In the long-term, it appears 
that the preferred alternative would have a greater potential of 
rebuilding the stock within the rebuilding timeframe so as to 
eventually allow for a higher ACT and ACL.
    Three alternatives, including the preferred alternative, were 
considered for commercial management measures. The first alternative is 
the no action alternative and would have no effects on vessel profits. 
The second alternative, which would establish a commercial vessel trip 
limit, while maintaining the March 1-May 31 seasonal closure, includes 
four options. The preferred option would establish a commercial trip 
limit of 2,000 lb (907 kg), which as noted above would result in an 
annual revenue reduction of $96,000. The other options would establish 
a commercial trip limit of 1,500 lb (680 kg), 1,000 lb (454 kg), or 500 
lb (227 kg). Given the preferred ACL/ACT alternative, these other 
options would result in annual revenue reductions of $95,000, $97,000, 
and $198,000, respectively. These other trip limit options would result 
in a longer fishing season than the preferred option. The commercial 
trip limit of 1,500 lb (680 kg) would result in a slightly longer 
season and lower revenue reduction than the preferred option because 
revenue gains from a longer fishing season would outweigh revenue 
losses from a lower trip limit. For the other two trip limit options 
however, the trip limits are so low that revenue gains from a longer 
fishing season would not outweigh revenue losses from a lower trip 
limit. Profit reductions would also likely occur with these other 
options.
    The third alternative, which would eliminate the March 1-May 31 
seasonal closure, includes four trip limit options. The trip limit 
options are 2,000 lb (907 kg), 1,500 lb (680 kg), 1,000 lb (454 kg), or 
500 lb (227 kg). Given the preferred ACL/ACT alternative, these options 
would result in annual revenue reductions of $123,000, $120,000, 
$115,000, and $110,000 respectively for the trip limit alternatives. 
These revenue reductions for trip limits not linked with a seasonal 
closure are greater when compared to trip limits linked with a seasonal 
closure because they would result in a longer quota closure during the 
fishing year. Profit reductions would also likely occur with these 
options.
    In Amendment 35, the Council considered several actions for which 
the no-action alternative was the preferred alternative.
    Four alternatives were considered for modifying the recreational 
minimum size limit for greater amberjack. The first alternative is the 
no action alternative, which would not affect the profits of for-hire 
vessels. The other alternatives would raise the recreational minimum 
size limit to 32 in (81 cm), 34 in (86 cm), or 36 in (91 cm), fork 
length. These other alternatives would possibly result in for-hire 
vessel profit reductions to the extent that some trips would be 
cancelled.
    Five alternatives were considered for modifying the recreational 
closed season for greater amberjack. The preferred alternative is the 
no action alternative which would not affect the profits of for-hire 
vessels. The second alternative would remove the fixed closed season so 
that the recreational sector would open on January 1 and would remain 
open until the recreational ACT (recreational quota) is reached. This 
alternative would result in a short-term profit increase of $75,000 
annually to charterboats and an unknown profit increase to headboats 
under the preferred ACL/ACT alternative. These profit increases hinge 
on the assumption that displaced effort due to a quota closure would 
not shift to the open season. Any effort shift would likely negate such 
profit increases.
    The third alternative would modify the recreational sector's 
seasonal closure to March 1-May 31. This alternative would result in a 
profit loss of approximately $300,000 annually to charterboats and an 
unknown profit loss to headboats. Profit losses would be less if 
displaced effort from the closed months shifted to the open months. The 
fourth alternative would modify the recreational seasonal closure to 
January 1-May 31. This alternative would result in a profit loss of 
approximately $400,000 to charterboats and an unknown profit loss to 
headboats. Profit losses would be less if displaced effort from the 
closed months shifted to the open months. The fifth alternative would 
modify the recreational seasonal closure to June 1-July 23. In the 
absence of effort shifting, this alternative would result in a short-
term profit increase of approximately $80,000 annually to charterboats 
and an unknown profit increase to headboats. Any effort shift would 
tend to negate these profit increases.
    Section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness 
Act of 1996 states that, for each rule or group of related rules for 
which an agency is required to prepare a FRFA, the agency shall publish 
one or more guides to assist small entities in complying with the rule, 
and shall designate such publications as small entity compliance 
guides. As part of the rulemaking process, NMFS prepared a fishery 
bulletin, which also serves as a small entity compliance guide. The 
fishery bulletin will be sent to all vessel permit holders in the Gulf 
reef fish fishery.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622

    Fisheries, Fishing, Puerto Rico, Reporting and recordkeeping 
requirements, Virgin Islands.


[[Page 67579]]


    Dated: November 7, 2012.
Samuel D. Rauch, III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, performing the 
functions and duties of the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, 
National Marine Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 622 is amended 
as follows:

PART 622--FISHERIES OF THE CARIBBEAN, GULF, AND SOUTH ATLANTIC

0
1. The authority citation for part 622 continues to read as follows:


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


0
2. In Sec.  622.42, paragraphs (a)(1)(v) and (a)(2)(ii) are revised to 
read as follows:


Sec.  622.42  Quotas.

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (v) Greater amberjack--409,000 lb (185,519 kg), round weight.
* * * * *
    (2) * * *
    (ii) Recreational quota for greater amberjack. The recreational 
quota for greater amberjack is 1,130,000 lb (512,559 kg), round weight.
* * * * *

0
3. In Sec.  622.44, paragraph (d) is added to read as follows:


Sec.  622.44  Commercial trip limits.

* * * * *
    (d) Gulf greater amberjack. Until the quota specified in Sec.  
622.42 (a)(1)(v) is reached, 2,000 lb (907 kg), round weight. See Sec.  
622.43 (a)(1)(i) for the limitations regarding greater amberjack after 
the quota is reached.
* * * * *

0
4. In Sec.  622.49, paragraph (a)(1) is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  622.49  Annual catch limits (ACLs), annual catch targets (ACTs), 
and accountability measures (AMs).

    (a) * * *
    (1) Greater amberjack. (i) Commercial sector--(A) If commercial 
landings, as estimated by the SRD, reach or are projected to reach the 
annual catch target (ACT) specified in Sec.  622.42(a)(1)(v) 
(commercial quota), the AA will file a notification with the Office of 
the Federal Register to close the commercial sector for the remainder 
of the fishing year.
    (B) In addition to the measures specified in paragraph (a)(1)(i)(A) 
of this section, if commercial landings, as estimated by the SRD, 
exceed the commercial ACL, as specified in paragraph (a)(1)(i)(C) of 
this section, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the 
Federal Register, at or near the beginning of the following fishing 
year to reduce the commercial ACT (commercial quota) and the commercial 
ACL for that following year by the amount of any commercial ACL overage 
in the prior fishing year.
    (C) The commercial ACL for greater amberjack is 481,000 lb (218,178 
kg), round weight.
    (ii) Recreational sector--(A) If recreational landings, as 
estimated by the SRD, reach or are projected to reach the ACT specified 
in Sec.  622.42 (a)(2)(ii) (recreational quota), the AA will file a 
notification with the Office of the Federal Register to close the 
recreational sector for the remainder of the fishing year.
    (B) In addition to the measures specified in paragraph 
(a)(1)(ii)(A) of this section, if recreational landings, as estimated 
by the SRD, exceed the recreational ACL, as specified in paragraph 
(a)(1)(ii)(C) of this section, the AA will file a notification with the 
Office of the Federal Register, at or near the beginning of the 
following fishing year to reduce the recreational ACT (recreational 
quota) and the recreational ACL for that following year by the amount 
of any recreational ACL overage in the prior fishing year.
    (C) The recreational ACL for greater amberjack is 1,299,000 lb 
(589,216 kg), round weight.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2012-27540 Filed 11-9-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P