[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 236 (Friday, December 7, 2012)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 72991-72993]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-29625]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

[Docket No. 120718253-2644-02]
RIN 0648-BC30


Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 
Snapper-Grouper Fishery Off the Southern Atlantic States; 
Transferability of Black Sea Bass Pot Endorsements

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 a revision of a 
disapproved action from Amendment 18A (the Resubmittal) to the Fishery 
Management Plan (FMP) for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South 
Atlantic Region (Amendment 18A), as prepared and submitted by the South 
Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council). This final rule allows 
black sea bass pot endorsements to be transferred under specific 
conditions. The intent of this rule is to implement the transferability 
action originally submitted in Amendment 18A, as clarified in the 
Resubmittal.

DATES: This rule is effective January 7, 2013.

ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of Amendment 18A and the Resubmittal may 
be obtained from the Southeast Regional Office Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sf/SASnapperGrouperHomepage.htm. Amendment 18A 
includes an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), a Regulatory 
Flexibility Act Analysis (RFA), a Regulatory Impact Review, and a 
Fishery Impact Statement. The Resubmittal includes a Regulatory Impact 
Review and a Fishery Impact Statement.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kate Michie, 727-824-5305.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The snapper-grouper fishery of the South 
Atlantic 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 Fishery Conservation and Management 
Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act).
    On August 22, 2012, NMFS published a notice of availability for the 
Rebsubmittal and requested public

[[Page 72992]]

comments (77 FR 50672). On September 10, 2012, NMFS published a 
proposed rule and requested public comments (77 FR 55448). The 
rationale for the actions in this final rule can be found in the 
proposed rule, Amendment 18A, and the Resubmittal, and are not repeated 
here. The Resubmittal was approved by the Secretary on November 20, 
2012.
    This rule allows transfer of a black sea bass pot endorsement to an 
individual or entity that holds or simultaneously obtains a valid South 
Atlantic Unlimited Snapper-Grouper Permit. In order to be transferred, 
a black sea bass pot endorsement must be valid or renewable. Black sea 
bass pot endorsements may be transferred independently from the South 
Atlantic Unlimited Snapper-Grouper Permit with which it is associated. 
Landings history will not be transferred with the endorsement. NMFS 
will attribute black sea bass landings to the associated South Atlantic 
Unlimited Snapper-Grouper Permit regardless of whether the landings 
occurred before or after the endorsement was issued. Black sea bass pot 
endorsements will not be renewed automatically with the South Atlantic 
Snapper-Grouper Unlimited Permit with which it is associated. The 
endorsement must be renewed separately from the permit on the Federal 
Permit Application for Vessels Fishing in the Exclusive Economic Zone 
(EEZ).
    This rule also revises codified text in Sec.  622.40, regarding 
issuance of the identification tags for black sea bass pots. 
Endorsement holders order identification tags through NMFS and a 
supplier issues the identification tags. Endorsement holders must apply 
for new tags each permit year at the same time they renew their permit 
and endorsement. Finally, this rule removes and reserves paragraph 
(a)(2) in Sec.  622.43, thereby removing obsolete quota closure 
provisions for South Atlantic octocorals.

Comments and Responses

    NMFS received four comments on the Resubmittal and the proposed 
rule, from three snapper-grouper fishery participants. One commenter 
opposed allowing the transfer of black sea bass pot endorsements and 
two commenters supported the action.
    Comment 1: One commenter preferred that black sea bass pot 
endorsements retire with fishermen, or that black sea bass pots be 
phased out by not allowing black sea bass pot endorsements to be 
transferred, which could slowly shift the entire commercial sector to a 
strictly hook-and-line fishery.
    Response: The Council considered not allowing black sea bass pot 
endorsements to be transferred, which would have allowed the 
endorsement to retire with the fisherman. However, the Council chose to 
allow black sea bass pot endorsements to be transferred in order to 
maintain a consistent level of participation in the black sea bass pot 
segment of the snapper-grouper fishery and promote the harvest of black 
sea bass at optimum yield.
    Comment 2: Two commenters suggested allowing fishermen who did not 
qualify for an endorsement to reenter the black sea bass pot segment of 
the snapper-grouper fishery as the quota (ACL) increases.
    Response: This issue is outside the scope of this rulemaking, which 
implements a transferability provision for black sea bass pot 
endorsements. The Council did not consider and this rule does not 
address allowing increased participation in the black sea bass pot 
segment of the snapper-grouper fishery.
    Comment 3: One commenter recommended removing the black sea bass 
size limits, or reverting the size limit back to 8 inches (20.3 cm) in 
order to reduce regulatory discards and give poor people access to 
lower priced small black sea bass while allowing fishermen to harvest 
more of the ACL.
    Response: The Council considered the issue of minimum size limits 
for black sea bass in Amendment 18A; however, minimum size limits were 
not considered in the Resubmittal, and are outside the scope of this 
rulemaking.
    Comment 4: Two commenters supported allowing black sea bass pot 
endorsements to be transferred.
    Response: NMFS agrees. Allowing black sea bass pot endorsements to 
be transferred will maintain a consistent level of participation in the 
black sea bass pot segment of the snapper-grouper fishery and promote 
the harvest of black sea bass at optimum yield.

Changes From the Proposed Rule

    The proposed rule made editorial changes to the first sentence in 
the codified text at 50 CFR 622.4(a)(2)(xv). After further 
consideration, NMFS has determined that these changes are unnecessary. 
The codified text at Sec.  622.4(a)(2)(xv), which established the South 
Atlantic black sea bass pot endorsement, should remain consistent with 
the codified text at 50 CFR Sec.  622.4(a)(2)(xiv), which established 
the Eastern Gulf reef fish bottom longline endorsement. Thus, the 
proposed changes to the first sentence of Sec.  622.4(a)(2)(xv) will 
not be implemented in the final rule.

Classification

    The Regional Administrator, Southeast Region, NMFS has determined 
that the actions contained in this final rule are necessary for the 
conservation and management of the snapper-grouper fishery in the South 
Atlantic and that they are consistent with the FMP, the Resubmittal, 
other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law.
    This final rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration during the proposed rule stage that this action would 
not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. NMFS did not receive any comments or other new information 
concerning this certification. As a result, no Final Regulatory 
Flexibility Analysis is required and none has been prepared.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622

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

    Dated: December 3, 2012.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, performing the functions and 
duties of the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, 
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.  622.4, the introductory text of paragraph (a)(2)(xv) is 
revised, paragraph (a)(2)(xv)(D) is added, and the first sentence in 
paragraph (g)(1) is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  622.4  Permits and fees.

    (a) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (xv) South Atlantic black sea bass pot endorsement. For a person 
aboard a vessel, for which a valid commercial vessel permit for South 
Atlantic snapper-grouper unlimited has been issued, to use a black sea 
bass pot in the South Atlantic EEZ, a valid South Atlantic black sea 
bass pot endorsement must have been issued to the vessel and

[[Page 72993]]

must be on board. A permit or endorsement that has expired is not 
valid. This endorsement must be renewed annually and may only be 
renewed if the associated vessel has a valid commercial vessel permit 
for South Atlantic snapper-grouper unlimited or if the endorsement and 
associated permit are being concurrently renewed. The RA will not 
reissue this endorsement if the endorsement is revoked or if the RA 
does not receive a complete application for renewal of the endorsement 
within 1 year after the endorsement's expiration date.
* * * * *
    (D) Transferability. A valid or renewable black sea bass pot 
endorsement may be transferred between any two entities that hold, or 
simultaneously obtain, a valid South Atlantic snapper-grouper unlimited 
permit. Endorsements may be transferred independently from the South 
Atlantic snapper-grouper unlimited permit. NMFS will attribute black 
sea bass landings to the associated South Atlantic snapper-grouper 
unlimited permit regardless of whether the landings occurred before or 
after the endorsement was issued. Only legal landings reported in 
compliance with applicable state and Federal regulations are 
acceptable.
* * * * *
    (g) * * *
    (1) * * * A vessel permit, license, or endorsement or a dealer 
permit or endorsement issued under this section is not transferable or 
assignable, except as provided in paragraph (m) of this section for a 
commercial vessel permit for Gulf reef fish, in paragraph (o) of this 
section for a king mackerel gillnet permit, in paragraph (q) of this 
section for a commercial vessel permit for king mackerel, in paragraph 
(r) of this section for a charter vessel/headboat permit for Gulf 
coastal migratory pelagic fish or Gulf reef fish, in paragraph (s) of 
this section for a commercial vessel moratorium permit for Gulf shrimp, 
in Sec.  622.17(c) for a commercial vessel permit for golden crab, in 
Sec.  622.18(b) for a commercial vessel permit for South Atlantic 
snapper-grouper, in Sec.  622.19(b) for a commercial vessel permit for 
South Atlantic rock shrimp, in Sec.  622.4(a)(2)(xiv)(D) for an eastern 
Gulf reef fish bottom longline endorsement, and in Sec.  
622.4(a)(2)(xv)(D) for a South Atlantic black sea bass pot endorsement. 
* * *
* * * * *

0
3. In Sec.  622.40, paragraph (d)(1)(i)(D) is revised to read as 
follows:


Sec.  622.40  Limitations on traps and pots.

* * * * *
    (d) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (D) A vessel that has on board a valid Federal commercial permit 
for South Atlantic snapper-grouper and a South Atlantic black sea bass 
pot endorsement that fishes in the South Atlantic EEZ on a trip with 
black sea bass pots, may possess only 35 black sea bass pots per vessel 
per permit year. Each black sea bass pot in the water or onboard a 
vessel in the South Atlantic EEZ, must have a valid identification tag 
attached. Endorsement holders must apply for new tags each permit year 
through NMFS to replace the tags from the previous year.
* * * * *


Sec.  622.43  [Amended]

0
4. In Sec.  622.43, paragraph (a)(2) is removed and reserved.

[FR Doc. 2012-29625 Filed 12-6-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P