[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 244 (Wednesday, December 19, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 75093-75101]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-30566]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

[Docket No. 120404257-2692-01]
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: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: NMFS proposes regulations to implement Amendment 18B to the 
Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the 
South Atlantic Region (Amendment 18B), as prepared and submitted by the 
South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council). If implemented, 
this rule 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 the 
commercial golden tilefish annual catch limit (ACL) 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. The intent of this rule is to reduce overcapacity in the 
commercial golden tilefish component of the snapper-grouper fishery.

DATES: Written comments must be received on or before January 18, 2013.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the proposed rule identified by 
``NOAA-NMFS-2012-0177'' 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: 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.)

[[Page 75094]]

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-2012-0177'' in the search field 
and click on ``search.'' After you locate the proposed rule, 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 10 MB) in Microsoft Word, 
Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only.
    Comments received through means not specified in this rule 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 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 (IRFA), a Regulatory Impact Review, and a Fishery Impact 
Statement.
    Comments regarding the burden-hour estimates or other aspects of 
the collection-of-information requirements contained in this proposed 
rule may be submitted in writing to Anik Clemens, Southeast Regional 
Office, NMFS, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701; and OMB, 
by email at OIRA Submission@omb.eop.gov, or by fax to 202-395-7285.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The snapper-grouper fishery off the southern 
Atlantic states includes golden tilefish and is managed under the FMP 
for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region. The FMP 
was prepared by the Council and is implemented under the authority of 
the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-
Stevens Act) by regulations at 50 CFR part 622.

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 derby fishing, or 
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.

Management Measures Contained in This Proposed Rule

    This proposed rule 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 
the commercial golden tilefish ACL 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. 
These actions are further addressed below.

Longline Endorsement Program for Golden Tilefish

    This rule proposes to establish a longline endorsement program for 
the commercial golden tilefish component of the snapper-grouper 
fishery. The endorsement program would limit participation and reduce 
excess capacity in the fishery. This rule would establish eligibility 
criteria for the endorsement program based on an individual's golden 
tilefish landings using longline gear averaging at least 5,000 lb 
(2,268 kg), gutted weight, for the best 3 years within the period 2006 
through 2011. In 2011, there were 753 Snapper-Grouper Unlimited Permits 
and trip-limited permits combined, and 28 vessels fished for golden 
tilefish using longline gear. Establishment of this endorsement program 
would reduce the number of potential longline participants from 753 to 
23.

Establish an Appeals Process

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

Allocate Commercial Golden Tilefish ACL Among Gear Groups

    This rule proposes an allocation of the golden tilefish commercial 
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 Transfer of Golden Tilefish Endorsements

    This rule would establish a procedure to transfer a golden tilefish 
endorsement to an individual or entity that holds or simultaneously 
obtains a South Atlantic Unlimited Snapper-Grouper Permit. To be 
transferred, a golden tilefish endorsement must be valid or renewable. 
Golden tilefish endorsements may be transferred independently from the 
South Atlantic Unlimited Snapper-Grouper Permit with which it is 
associated. Landings history would not be transferred with the 
endorsement. NMFS would attribute golden tilefish landings to the 
associated South Atlantic Unlimited Snapper-Grouper Permit regardless 
of whether the landings occurred before or after the endorsement was 
issued. Golden tilefish endorsements would not be renewed automatically 
with the South Atlantic Unlimited Snapper-Grouper Permit with which it 
is associated. The endorsement would be renewed separately from the 
permit on the Federal Permit Application for Vessels Fishing in the 
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The provision to allow the transfer of 
an endorsement would be effective upon the effective date of the final 
rule.

Modify the Golden Tilefish Trip Limits

    Based on current regulations, at the start of the fishing year 
(January 1), the trip limit is 4,000 lb (1,814 kg), gutted

[[Page 75095]]

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 its intended 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 a Trip Limit for Commercial Fishermen Who Do Not Receive a 
Golden Tilefish Longline Endorsement

    This rule proposes to 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. A vessel with a golden tilefish longline endorsement would 
not be eligible to fish under this trip limit with other gear (i.e., 
hook-and-line).

Other Changes Proposed in This Rule That Are Not Contained in Amendment 
18B

    Amendment 17B was approved by the Secretary of Commerce on December 
21, 2010. The final rule for Amendment 17B to the FMP (75 FR 82280, 
December 30, 2012), implemented ACLs and accountability measures (AMs) 
for eight snapper-grouper species in the FMP that are undergoing 
overfishing, and for black grouper, which was recently assessed and 
determined to not be undergoing overfishing or overfished; modified 
management measures to limit total mortality of those species to the 
ACL; and added ACLs, annual catch targets (ACTs), and AMs to the list 
of management measures that may be amended via the framework process. 
In that final rule for Amendment 17B, NMFS inadvertently neglected to 
list all of the framework revisions from Amendment 17B in the 
regulatory text. NMFS did not include, in paragraph (f) of 50 CFR part 
622.48, the entire list of the items that may be established or 
modified in accordance with the FMP's updated framework procedure. The 
addition of these items to the FMP's framework procedure has already 
been subject to public comment during the public comment period for 
Amendment 17B. The Notice of Availability for Amendment 17B published 
on September 22, 2010 (75 FR 57734). These changes to paragraph (f) of 
50 CFR part 622.48, were not included in the proposed or final rule for 
Amendment 17B, however, they were included in Amendment 17B. Thus, NMFS 
proposes to amend 50 CFR part 622.48, paragraph (f), to include the 
missing items from the list of the items that may be established or 
modified in accordance with the framework procedures in the FMP. This 
rule proposes to add the maximum sustainable yield proxy, optimum 
yield, a quota of zero, ACTs, maximum fishing mortality threshold, 
minimum stock size threshold, size limits, fishing year, and rebuilding 
plans to the list of items that can be established or modified in 
accordance with the framework procedure.
    Additionally, on March 16, 2012, NMFS published the final rule to 
implement the Comprehensive Annual Catch Limit Amendment (Comprehensive 
ACL Amendment) to the Snapper-Grouper FMP, the Golden Crab Fishery of 
the South Atlantic Region FMP, the Dolphin and Wahoo Fishery off the 
Atlantic States FMP, and the Pelagic Sargassum Habitat of the South 
Atlantic Region FMP (77 FR 15916, March 16, 2012). In part, the 
Comprehensive ACL Amendment revised commercial AMs for many snapper-
grouper species. During that revision, NMFS inadvertently failed to use 
language in the revised AMs similar to that contained in the quota 
closure provisions for South Atlantic snapper-grouper species. The 
South Atlantic snapper-grouper closure provisions regarding bag and 
possession limits, specified at 622.43(a)(5), contain both commercial 
and charter vessel/headboats in this provision. NMFS included charter 
vessel/headboats in regulatory text implementing the affected 
commercial AMs; however, NMFS inadvertently did not also include the 
term ``commercial'' at the time. Therefore, NMFS proposes to revise the 
phrase ``Federal charter vessel/headboat permit'' to read ``Federal 
commercial or charter vessel/headboat permit'', specifically in 50 CFR 
622.49, paragraphs (b)(4)(i)(A), (b)(7)(i)(A), (b)(8)(i)(A), 
(b)(9)(i)(A), (b)(10)(i)(A), (b)(13)(i)(A), (b)(14)(i)(A), 
(b)(15)(i)(A), (b)(16)(i)(A), (b)(17)(i)(A), (b)(19)(i)(A), 
(b)(20)(i)(A), (b)(21)(i)(A), (b)(23)(i)(A), (b)(24)(i)(A), (e)(1), 
(f)(1).

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is 
consistent with Amendment 18B, the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other 
applicable law, subject to further consideration after public comment.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    NMFS prepared an IRFA for this rule, as required by section 603 of 
the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 603. The IRFA describes the 
economic impact that this proposed rule, if adopted, would have on 
small entities. A description of the action, why it is being 
considered, and the objectives of and legal basis for this action are 
contained at the beginning of this section in the preamble and in the 
SUMMARY section of the preamble. A copy of the full analysis is 
available from the NMFS (see ADDRESSES). A summary of the IRFA follows.
    The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides the statutory basis for this 
rule. No duplicative, overlapping, or conflicting Federal rules have 
been identified.
    The only new reporting, record-keeping, or other compliance 
requirements that would result from this proposed rule would be the 
requirement to have a commercial golden tilefish longline endorsement 
to fish for golden tilefish in the South Atlantic EEZ using longline 
gear or possess golden tilefish on a vessel in the South Atlantic EEZ 
with longline gear aboard. The initial endorsement will be sent 
directly to those qualifying for the endorsement. Renewals and 
transfers of endorsements are subject to the same fees as permits. 
Because the endorsement would be received through completion of the 
normal permitting process, no special professional skills would be 
required to satisfy this new compliance requirement.
    NMFS expects the proposed rule to directly affect commercial 
fishermen in the South Atlantic snapper-grouper fishery. The Small 
Business Administration established size criteria for all major 
industry sectors in the U.S. including fish harvesters. A business 
involved in fish harvesting is classified as a small business if 
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.

[[Page 75096]]

    During 2005-2011, a total of 142 hook-and-line vessels with valid 
permits to operate in the commercial snapper-grouper fishery landed 
golden tilefish. These vessels generated annual average dockside 
revenues of approximately $69,000 (2010 dollars) from golden tilefish, 
or $603,000 (2010 dollars) from all species, inclusive of golden 
tilefish, caught in the same trips as golden tilefish. On average, each 
of these vessels generated about $4,246 (2010 dollars) in gross 
revenues. During the same period, a total of 43 longline vessels with 
valid permits to operate in the commercial snapper-grouper fishery 
landed golden tilefish. Their annual average revenues were about 
$835,000 (2010 dollars) from golden tilefish, or $1,218,000 (2010 
dollars) from all species, inclusive of golden tilefish, caught in the 
same trips as golden tilefish. Each of these vessels, therefore, 
generated an average of approximately $28,330 (2010 dollars) in gross 
revenues.
    Based on revenue information, all commercial vessels affected by 
this proposed rule can be considered small entities.
    NMFS expects the proposed rule to directly affect all federally 
permitted commercial vessels harvesting golden tilefish and for-hire 
vessels that operate in the South Atlantic snapper-grouper fishery. All 
directly affected entities have been determined, for the purpose of 
this analysis, to be small entities. Therefore, NMFS determined that 
the proposed action would affect a substantial number of small 
entities.
    Because NMFS determined all entities expected to be affected by the 
actions in this proposed rule are small entities, the issue of 
disproportional effects on small versus large entities does not arise 
in the present case.
    Establishing a longline endorsement system would limit the 
expansion of capital and effort in the longline component of the 
commercial sector for golden tilefish. Because this component is by far 
the dominant component in the commercial harvest of golden tilefish, an 
endorsement system could extend the commercial fishing season, thereby 
providing the industry opportunities to remain profitable. However, 
unlike the case with a management system that assigns harvesting 
privileges to fishermen, an endorsement system would not eliminate the 
underlying incentive to ``race to fish.'' With this incentive remaining 
intact, effort and capital stuffing (increasing vessel capacity, speed 
or fishing accessories) would continue to increase over time and 
eventually shorten the fishing season.
    Under the proposed criteria, 24 vessels that used longline gear 
during 2006-2011 would qualify for a longline endorsement; 19 vessels 
that used longline gear during the time period would not qualify for an 
endorsement. Qualifying vessels generated revenues of about $788,000 
(2010 dollars) annually from golden tilefish while non-qualifying 
vessels generated an average of about $47,000 (2010 dollars) in annual 
revenues from golden tilefish. The decrease in revenues to non-
qualifying vessels would be about 17 percent of their total revenues. 
Non-qualifying vessels could switch gear and recoup part of their 
losses; nonetheless, their short-term profits would still likely 
suffer. However, relative to the total profits of commercial vessels in 
the snapper-grouper fishery, revenue and profit reductions to non-
qualifying vessels would not be significant. In terms of revenues, a 
loss of $47,000 (2010 dollars) would be about 3 percent of total 
revenues by vessels landing golden tilefish and less than 1 percent of 
total revenues by all commercial vessels in the South Atlantic. 
Moreover, revenue and profit losses to non-qualifying vessels would 
likely be gained by qualifying vessels. Considering the fishing season 
closures in recent years, qualifying vessels would most likely harvest 
whatever is forgone by non-qualifying vessels. This would increase the 
revenues and possibly the profits of qualifying vessels, and would 
decrease the profits of non-qualifying vessels. Whether this would 
increase overall industry profits cannot be ascertained based on 
available information. It is possible that short-term industry profits 
would increase or at least not dissipate quickly. With fewer 
participants in the longline component, and noting that the longline 
component is by far the dominant component in the commercial harvest of 
golden tilefish, the fishing season for the longline component could 
lengthen and thereby qualifying vessels could command better prices. 
These effects, however, would be transitory. The incentive to ``race to 
fish'' is still intact so that effort from qualifying vessels could 
increase in the medium- and long-term, eventually erasing any profit 
gains from establishing the endorsement.
    Establishing an appeals process for fishermen initially excluded 
from the golden tilefish longline endorsement would provide 
opportunities for those legitimately qualified to receive their 
endorsement. Given the narrow basis for appeals (e.g., landings 
reported on NMFS logbook records or state landing records), only a 
limited number of appeals would likely be successful.
    Establishing a 75-percent longline and 25-percent hook-and-line 
allocation of the golden tilefish commercial ACL would ensure the 
continued presence of the hook-and-line component in the commercial 
harvest of golden tilefish. Relative to the baseline, this allocation 
ratio would redistribute the harvest of golden tilefish from the 
longline component to the hook-and-line component. This, in theory, 
would result in negative effects on the longline component and positive 
effects on the hook-and-line component. However, because the commercial 
quota is increased well above the baseline landings of both components, 
this allocation ratio would yield positive revenue effects to both 
components. Revenue gains would be $302,000 (2010 dollars) to the 
entire hook-and-line component and $271,000 (2010 dollars) to the 
entire longline component, or total revenue effects of about $573,000 
(2010 dollars) for the whole commercial sector. NMFS expects that these 
positive revenue effects would translate to positive profit effects on 
both components.
    Allowing the transfer of golden tilefish longline endorsements 
between individuals or entities with South Atlantic Unlimited Snapper-
Grouper Permits would open opportunities for increasing the value of 
the endorsement asset and for the more efficient operators to engage in 
the fishery. Such opportunities, however, would still be limited by the 
requirement that transfers of endorsements be made between individuals/
entities possessing South Atlantic Snapper-Grouper Unlimited Permits. 
These permits are under a limited entry program.
    Eliminating the 300-lb (136-kg), gutted weight, commercial trip 
limit when 75 percent of the commercial ACL is taken would benefit 
longline vessels. This ratcheting down of the trip limit was intended 
to preserve the presence of the hook-and-line component, but is now 
unnecessary because the hook-and-line component has a separate 
allocation. Thus, this alternative would allow the longline component, 
whose trips would likely be unprofitable under a trip limit of 300 lb 
(136 kg), gutted weight, to efficiently use its capacity and maximize 
its revenues and likely profits as well.
    Establishing a 500-lb (223-kg), gutted weight, trip limit for 
commercial fishermen who would not receive a longline endorsement would 
affect 14 out of 249 trips based on average 2005-2011 data. This trip 
limit would reduce per trip landings, and it is also expected

[[Page 75097]]

to reduce total landings at least in its first year of implementation. 
Total landings would be reduced by about 24,000 lb (10,886 kg), gutted 
weight, worth $69,000 (2010 dollars). The effects of a trip limit are 
generally temporary; vessels incurring revenue reductions due to a trip 
limit could recoup their losses by taking more trips so long as those 
trips remain profitable. Considering the relatively few trips that 
would be affected, this trip limit would likely not be too constraining 
as to reduce the sector's overall profits.
    The following discussion analyzes the alternatives that were not 
chosen as preferred by the Council.
    Two alternatives, including the preferred alternative that would 
establish an endorsement system, were considered for limiting 
participation in the golden tilefish component of the snapper-grouper 
fishery through an endorsement system. The only other alternative is 
the no action alternative. This would not limit effort in the 
commercial harvest of golden tilefish and thus would not address the 
evolving derby (race to fish) in the commercial sector.
    Two alternatives were considered for establishing eligibility 
requirements for the longline endorsement. The first alternative, the 
no action alternative, would make the endorsement system ineffective in 
addressing increasing effort in the commercial sector because everyone 
with valid permits could receive an endorsement. The second alternative 
consists of 9 sub-alternatives, including the preferred sub-
alternative, with each providing for an endorsement eligibility based 
on minimum amount of golden tilefish landings using longline gear 
during a given period. The first sub-alternative would require a 
minimum of 2,000 lb (907 kg), gutted weight, total longline landings 
during 2006-2008. The second sub-alternative would require a minimum of 
5,000 lb (2,268 kg), gutted weight, total longline landings during 
2006-2008. The third sub-alternative would require a minimum of 5,000 
lb (2,268 kg), gutted weight, average longline landings during 2006-
2008. The fourth sub-alternative would require a minimum of 5,000 lb 
(2,268 kg), gutted weight, average longline landings during 2007-2009. 
The fifth sub-alternative would require a minimum of 10,000 lb (4,536 
kg), gutted weight, average longline landings during 2007-2009. The 
sixth sub-alternative would require a minimum of 5,000 lb (2,268 kg), 
gutted weight, average longline landings for the best 3 years during 
2006-2010. The seventh sub-alternative would require a minimum of 5,000 
lb (2,268 kg), gutted weight, average longline landings for the best 3 
years during 2006-2011. The eighth sub-alternative would require a 
minimum of 10,000 lb (4,536 kg), gutted weight, average longline 
landings for the best 3 years during 2006-2011. Each of these sub-
alternatives would qualify fewer entities for the endorsement and thus 
would result in greater forgone revenues than the preferred sub-
alternative.
    Three alternatives, including the preferred alternative, were 
considered for establishing an appeals process for fishermen initially 
excluded from the endorsement program. The first alternative, the no 
action alternative, would not establish an appeals process. This 
alternative has the potential to unduly penalize participants, mainly 
due to errors in data reporting or recording. The second alternative is 
the same as the preferred alternative, except it would additionally 
establish a special board composed of state directors/designees that 
would review, evaluate, and make individual recommendations to the RA. 
This alternative would introduce an additional administrative burden 
that may not improve the appeals process considering that the only 
major issue subject to appeals is the landings record.
    Four alternatives, including the preferred alternative, were 
considered for allocating the commercial golden tilefish ACL among gear 
groups. The first alternative, the no action alternative, would not 
specify an allocation among gear groups. With this alternative, the 
already diminished share of the hook-and-line component in the harvest 
of golden tilefish could further decline. Consequently, further 
reductions in the component's revenues and profits could occur, 
negating the Council's intent to minimize negative economic impacts on 
this component. The second alternative would establish an 85 percent 
longline and 15 percent hook-and-line allocation, and the third 
alternative, a 90 percent longline and 10 percent hook-and-line 
allocation. These two other alternatives would favor the longline 
component, but would allow the hook-and-line component to continue its 
operations. Similar to the preferred alternative, the effects of these 
alternatives on overall industry profits cannot be determined based on 
available information.
    Two alternatives, including the preferred alternative, were 
considered for allowing transferability of longline endorsements. The 
first alternative, the no action alternative, would not allow transfers 
of endorsements. This alternative would limit the value of the 
endorsement asset and hinder the participation of potentially more 
efficient operators. The second alternative (preferred) includes two 
sub-alternatives, of which one is the preferred sub-alternative that 
would allow transfers of endorsements upon implementation of the 
program. The other sub-alternative would not allow transfers of 
endorsements during the first 2 years of the program. This sub-
alternative would mainly delay the entrance of more efficient operators 
and the generation of higher-valued endorsement assets.
    Three alternatives, including the preferred alternative, were 
considered for modifying the golden tilefish trip limit. The first 
alternative, the no action alternative, would retain the 4,000-lb 
(1,814-kg), gutted weight, trip limit that would be reduced to 300 lb 
(136 kg), gutted weight, if 75 percent of the commercial ACL is reached 
by September 1. The trip limit reduction to 300 lb (136 kg), gutted 
weight, which was partly established to preserve the presence of the 
hook-and-line component, is no longer necessary with the establishment 
of a separate allocation for each gear group. The second alternative 
would prohibit longline fishing for golden tilefish when 75 percent of 
the commercial ACL is reached. This alternative is not necessary with 
the establishment of a separate allocation for each gear group. In 
addition, this would constrain the profits longline vessels could 
derive from the harvest of golden tilefish.
    Six alternatives, including the preferred alternative, were 
considered for establishing a trip limit for commercial fishermen who 
do not receive a longline endorsement. The first alternative, the no 
action alternative, would retain the 4,000-lb (1,814-kg), gutted 
weight, trip limit that would be reduced to 300 lb (136 kg), gutted 
weight, when 75 percent of the commercial ACL is reached. The second 
alternative would establish a 300-lb (136-kg), gutted weight, trip 
limit; the third alternative, a 400-lb (181-kg), gutted weight, trip 
limit; the fourth, a 100-lb (45-kg), gutted weight, trip limit; and, 
the fifth alternative, a 200-lb (91-kg), gutted weight, trip limit. 
Relative to the preferred alternative, all these other trip limits 
would be more restrictive and thus would likely result in larger 
reductions in vessel revenues and profits per trip.
    In addition to the actions considered in Amendment 18B included in 
this proposed rule, this proposed rule would make additional changes to 
the regulatory text in 50 CFR parts 622.48 and 622.49. These proposed 
changes are described under the heading ``Other

[[Page 75098]]

Changes Proposed in this Rule that are not Contained in Amendment 18B'' 
in the preamble of this proposed rule. These changes are either 
clerical or simply clarify language associated with prior regulatory 
action. As a result, none of these proposed changes in the regulatory 
text would be expected to result in any reduction in profits to any 
small entities.
    Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no person is required 
to respond to, nor shall a person be subject to a penalty for failure 
to comply with, a collection-of-information subject to the requirements 
of the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), unless that collection-of-
information displays a currently valid Office of Management and Budget 
(OMB) control number.
    This proposed rule contains collection-of-information requirements 
subject to the PRA. NMFS estimates the requirement for South Atlantic 
Unlimited Snapper-Grouper Permit holders to submit their logbook 
information if they are appealing their landings data for a golden 
tilefish longline endorsement to average 2 hours per response. NMFS 
estimates the requirement to check boxes on the Federal Permit 
Application Form for a new endorsement, renewal, or transfer of the 
golden tilefish endorsement to average 1 minute per response. These 
estimates of the public reporting burden include the time for reviewing 
instructions, gathering and maintaining the data needed, and completing 
and reviewing the collection-of-information.
    These requirements have been submitted to OMB for approval. NMFS 
seeks public comment regarding: Whether this proposed collection-of-
information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of 
the agency, including whether the information will have practical 
utility; the accuracy of the burden estimate; ways to enhance the 
quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and 
ways to minimize the burden of the collection-of-information, including 
through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of 
information technology. Send comments regarding the burden estimate or 
any other aspect of the collection-of-information requirement, 
including suggestions for reducing the burden, to NMFS and to OMB (see 
ADDRESSES).

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622

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

    Dated: December 13, 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 
proposed to be amended as follows:

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

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

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

    2. In Sec.  622.4, paragraph (a)(2)(vi) is revised, paragraph 
(a)(2)(xvi) is added, and the first sentence in paragraph (g)(1) is 
revised to read as follows:


Sec.  622.4  Permits and fees.

    (a) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (vi) South Atlantic snapper-grouper. For a person aboard a vessel 
to be eligible for exemption from the bag limits for South Atlantic 
snapper-grouper in or from the South Atlantic EEZ, to sell South 
Atlantic snapper-grouper in or from the South Atlantic EEZ, to engage 
in the directed fishery for golden tilefish in the South Atlantic EEZ, 
to use a longline to fish for South Atlantic snapper-grouper in the 
South Atlantic EEZ, or to use a sea bass pot in the South Atlantic EEZ 
between 35[deg]15.19' N. lat. (due east of Cape Hatteras Light, NC) and 
28[deg]35.1' N. lat. (due east of the NASA Vehicle Assembly Building, 
Cape Canaveral, FL), either a commercial vessel permit for South 
Atlantic Unlimited Snapper-Grouper Permit or a trip-limited permit for 
South Atlantic snapper-grouper must have been issued to the vessel and 
must be on board. A vessel with a trip-limited commercial permit is 
limited on any trip to 225 lb (102.1 kg) of snapper-grouper. See Sec.  
622.18 for limitations on the use, transfer, and renewal of a 
commercial vessel permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper.
* * * * *
    (xvi) South Atlantic golden tilefish longline endorsement. For a 
person aboard a vessel, for which a valid commercial vessel permit for 
South Atlantic snapper-grouper unlimited has been issued, to fish for 
or possess golden tilefish in the South Atlantic EEZ using longline 
gear, a South Atlantic golden tilefish longline endorsement must have 
been issued to the vessel and 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.
    (A) Initial eligibility. To be eligible for an initial South 
Atlantic golden tilefish longline endorsement, a person must have been 
issued and must possess a valid or renewable commercial vessel permit 
for South Atlantic snapper-grouper unlimited that has golden tilefish 
landings using longline gear averaging at least 5,000 lb (2,268 kg), 
gutted weight, over the best 3 years within the period 2006-2011. 
Excluded from this eligibility, are trip-limited permits (South 
Atlantic snapper-grouper permits that have a 225-lb (102.1-kg) limit of 
snapper-grouper). NMFS will attribute all applicable golden tilefish 
landings associated with a current South Atlantic snapper-grouper 
unlimited permit for the applicable landings history, to the current 
permit owner, including golden tilefish landings reported by a 
person(s) who held the permit prior to the current permit owner. Only 
legal landings reported in compliance with applicable state and Federal 
regulations are acceptable.
    (B) Initial issuance. On or about [date of publication of final 
rule in the Federal Register], the RA will mail each eligible permittee 
a golden tilefish longline endorsement via certified mail, return 
receipt requested, to the permittee's address of record as listed in 
NMFS' permit files. An eligible permittee who does not receive an 
endorsement from the RA, must contact the RA no later than [date 30 
days after date of publication of final rule in the Federal Register], 
to clarify his/her endorsement status. A permittee who is denied an 
endorsement based on the RA's initial determination of eligibility and 
who disagrees with that determination may appeal to the RA.
    (C) Procedure for appealing golden tilefish longline endorsement 
eligibility and/or landings information. The only items subject to 
appeal are initial eligibility for a golden tilefish longline 
endorsement based on ownership of a qualifying snapper-grouper permit, 
the accuracy of the amount of landings, and the correct assignment of 
landings to the permittee. Appeals based on hardship factors will not 
be considered. Appeals

[[Page 75099]]

must be submitted to the RA postmarked no later than [date 120 days 
after publication of final rule in the Federal Register], and must 
contain documentation supporting the basis for the appeal. The National 
Appeals Office will review, evaluate, and render recommendations on 
appeals to the RA. The RA will then review each appeal, render a final 
decision on each appeal, and advise the appellant of the final NMFS 
decision.
    (1) Eligibility appeals. NMFS' records of snapper-grouper permits 
are the sole basis for determining ownership of such permits. A person 
who believes he/she meets the permit eligibility criteria based on 
ownership of a vessel under a different name, for example, as a result 
of ownership changes from individual to corporate or vice versa, must 
document his or her continuity of ownership and must submit that 
information with their appeal.
    (2) Landings appeals. Determinations of appeals regarding landings 
data for 2006 through 2011 will be based on NMFS' logbook records, 
submitted on or before October 31, 2012. If NMFS' logbooks are not 
available, the RA may use state landings records or data for the period 
2006 through 2011 that were submitted in compliance with applicable 
Federal and state regulations on or before October 31, 2012.
    (D) Transferability. A valid or renewable golden tilefish 
endorsement may be transferred between any two entities that hold, or 
simultaneously obtain, a valid South Atlantic snapper-grouper unlimited 
permit. An endorsement may be transferred independently from the South 
Atlantic snapper-grouper unlimited permit. NMFS will attribute golden 
tilefish landings to the associated South Atlantic Unlimited Snapper-
Grouper 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.
    (E) Fees. No fee applies to the initial issuance of a golden 
tilefish longline endorsement. NMFS charges a fee for each renewal or 
replacement or transfer of such endorsement and calculates the amount 
of each fee in accordance with the procedures of the NOAA Finance 
Handbook for determining the administrative costs of each special 
product or service. The handbook is available from the RA. The 
appropriate fee must accompany each application for renewal or 
replacement or transfer.
* * * * *
    (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, in Sec.  622.4(a)(2)(xv)(D) 
for a South Atlantic black sea bass pot endorsement, in Sec.  
622.4(a)(2)(xvi)(D) for a South Atlantic golden tilefish longline 
endorsement. * * *
* * * * *
    3. In Sec.  622.41, paragraph (d)(6) is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  622.41  Species specific limitations.

* * * * *
    (d) * * *
    (6) Longline species limitation. A vessel that has on board a valid 
Federal commercial permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper, excluding 
wreckfish, that fishes in the EEZ on a trip with a longline on board, 
may possess only the following South Atlantic snapper-grouper: snowy 
grouper, yellowedge grouper, misty grouper, golden tilefish, blueline 
tilefish, and sand tilefish. See Sec.  622.4(a)(2)(xvi) for the 
requirement to possess a valid South Atlantic golden tilefish longline 
endorsement to fish for golden tilefish in the South Atlantic EEZ using 
longline gear. For the purpose of this paragraph, a vessel is 
considered to have a longline on board when a power-operated longline 
hauler, a cable of diameter suitable for use in the longline fishery on 
any reel, and gangions are on board. Removal of any one of these three 
elements constitutes removal of a longline.
* * * * *
    4. In Sec.  622.42, paragraph (e)(2) is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  622.42  Quotas.

* * * * *
    (e) * * *
    (2) Golden tilefish. (i) Longline and hook-and-line components 
combined--541,295 lb (245,527 kg).
    (ii) Hook-and-line component--135,324 lb (61,382 kg).
    (iii) Longline component--405,971 lb (184,145 kg).
* * * * *
    5. In Sec.  622.44, paragraph (c)(2) is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  622.44  Commercial trip limits.

* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (2) Golden tilefish--(i) South Atlantic snapper-grouper unlimited 
permit holders, with a longline endorsement, using longline gear. Until 
the quota specified in Sec.  622.42(e)(2)(iii) is reached, 4,000 lb 
(1,814 kg), gutted weight; 4,480 lb (2,032 kg), round weight.
    (ii) South Atlantic snapper-grouper unlimited permit holders, 
without a longline endorsement, using hook-and-line gear. Until the 
quota specified in Sec.  622.42(e)(2)(ii) is reached, the trip limit 
for golden tilefish is 500 lb (227 kg), gutted weight; 560 lb (254 kg), 
round weight. Vessels with golden tilefish longline endorsements are 
not eligible to fish for golden tilefish using hook-and-line gear under 
this 500-lb (227-kg) trip limit.
    (iii) See Sec.  622.43(a)(5) for the limitations regarding golden 
tilefish after the applicable commercial quota is reached.
* * * * *
    6. In Sec.  622.48, paragraph (f) is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  622.48  Adjustment of management measures.

* * * * *
    (f) South Atlantic snapper-grouper and wreckfish. Biomass levels, 
age-structured analyses, target dates for rebuilding overfished 
species, MSY (or proxy), OY, ABC, TAC, quotas (including a quota of 
zero), annual catch limits (ACLs), annual catch targets (ACTs), AMs, 
maximum fishing mortality threshold (MFMT), minimum stock size 
threshold (MSST), trip limits, bag limits, size limits, gear 
restrictions (ranging from regulation to complete prohibition), 
seasonal or area closures, fishing year, rebuilding plans, definitions 
of essential fish habitat, essential fish habitat, essential fish 
habitat HAPCs or Coral HAPCs, and restrictions on gear and fishing 
activities applicable in essential fish habitat and essential fish 
habitat HAPCs.
* * * * *
    7. In Sec.  622.49, paragraph (b)(1)(i) is revised and the last 
sentence of paragraphs (b)(4)(i)(A), (b)(7)(i)(A), (b)(8)(i)(A), 
(b)(9)(i)(A), (b)(10)(i)(A), (b)(13)(i)(A), (b)(14)(i)(A), 
(b)(15)(i)(A), (b)(16)(i)(A), (b)(17)(i)(A), (b)(19)(i)(A),

[[Page 75100]]

(b)(20)(i)(A), (b)(21)(i)(A), (b)(23)(i)(A), (b)(24)(i)(A), (e)(1), 
(f)(1) are revised to read as follows:


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

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (i) Commercial sector--(A) Hook-and-line component. If commercial 
landings, as estimated by the SRD, reach or are projected to reach the 
commercial ACL (commercial quota) specified in Sec.  622.42(e)(2)(ii), 
the AA will file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register 
to close the hook-and-line component of the commercial sector for the 
remainder of the fishing year.
    (B) Longline component. If commercial landings, as estimated by the 
SRD, reach or are projected to reach the commercial ACL (commercial 
quota) specified in Sec.  622.42(e)(2)(iii), the AA will file a 
notification with the Office of the Federal Register to close the 
longline component of the commercial sector for the remainder of the 
fishing year. After the commercial ACL for the longline component is 
reached or projected to be reached, golden tilefish may not be fished 
for or possessed by a vessel with a golden tilefish longline 
endorsement.
* * * * *
    (4) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) * * * This bag and possession limit applies in the South 
Atlantic on board a vessel for which a valid Federal commercial or 
charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has 
been issued, without regard to where such species were harvested, i.e., 
in state or Federal waters.
* * * * *
    (6) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) * * * This bag and possession limit applies in the South 
Atlantic on board a vessel for which a valid Federal commercial or 
charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has 
been issued, without regard to where such species were harvested, i.e., 
in state or Federal waters.
* * * * *
    (7) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) * * * This bag and possession limit applies in the South 
Atlantic on board a vessel for which a valid Federal commercial or 
charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has 
been issued, without regard to where such species were harvested, i.e., 
in state or Federal waters.
* * * * *
    (8) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) * * * This bag and possession limit applies in the South 
Atlantic on board a vessel for which a valid Federal commercial or 
charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has 
been issued, without regard to where such species were harvested, i.e., 
in state or Federal waters.
* * * * *
    (9) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) * * * This bag and possession limit applies in the South 
Atlantic on board a vessel for which a valid Federal commercial or 
charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has 
been issued, without regard to where such species were harvested, i.e., 
in state or Federal waters.
* * * * *
    (10) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) * * * This bag and possession limit applies in the South 
Atlantic on board a vessel for which a valid Federal commercial or 
charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has 
been issued, without regard to where such species were harvested, i.e., 
in state or Federal waters.
* * * * *
    (12) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) * * * This bag and possession limit applies in the South 
Atlantic on board a vessel for which a valid Federal commercial or 
charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has 
been issued, without regard to where such species were harvested, i.e., 
in state or Federal waters.
* * * * *
    (13) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) * * * This bag and possession limit applies in the South 
Atlantic on board a vessel for which a valid Federal commercial or 
charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has 
been issued, without regard to where such species were harvested, i.e., 
in state or Federal waters.
* * * * *
    (14) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) * * * This bag and possession limit applies in the South 
Atlantic on board a vessel for which a valid Federal commercial or 
charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has 
been issued, without regard to where such species were harvested, i.e., 
in state or Federal waters.
* * * * *
    (15) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) * * * This bag and possession limit applies in the South 
Atlantic on board a vessel for which a valid Federal commercial or 
charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has 
been issued, without regard to where such species were harvested, i.e., 
in state or Federal waters.
* * * * *
    (16) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) * * * This bag and possession limit applies in the South 
Atlantic on board a vessel for which a valid Federal commercial or 
charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has 
been issued, without regard to where such species were harvested, i.e., 
in state or Federal waters.
* * * * *
    (17) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) * * * This bag and possession limit applies in the South 
Atlantic on board a vessel for which a valid Federal commercial or 
charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has 
been issued, without regard to where such species were harvested, i.e., 
in state or Federal waters.
* * * * *
    (19) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) * * * This bag and possession limit applies in the South 
Atlantic on board a vessel for which a valid Federal commercial or 
charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has 
been issued, without regard to where such species were harvested, i.e., 
in state or Federal waters.
* * * * *
    (20) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) * * * This bag and possession limit applies in the South 
Atlantic on board a vessel for which a valid Federal commercial or 
charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has 
been issued, without regard to where such species were harvested, i.e., 
in state or Federal waters.
* * * * *
    (21) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) * * * This bag and possession limit applies in the South 
Atlantic on board a vessel for which a valid Federal commercial or 
charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has 
been issued, without regard to where such species were harvested, i.e., 
in state or Federal waters.
* * * * *
    (23) * * *
    (i) * * *

[[Page 75101]]

    (A) * * * This bag and possession limit applies in the South 
Atlantic on board a vessel for which a valid Federal commercial or 
charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has 
been issued, without regard to where such species were harvested, i.e., 
in state or Federal waters.
* * * * *
    (24) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) * * * This bag and possession limit applies in the South 
Atlantic on board a vessel for which a valid Federal commercial or 
charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has 
been issued, without regard to where such species were harvested, i.e., 
in state or Federal waters.
* * * * *
    (e) * * *
    (1) * * * This bag and possession limit applies in the South 
Atlantic on board a vessel for which a valid Federal commercial or 
charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has 
been issued, without regard to where such species were harvested, i.e., 
in state or Federal waters.
* * * * *
    (f) * * *
    (1) * * * This bag and possession limit applies in the South 
Atlantic on board a vessel for which a valid Federal commercial or 
charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has 
been issued, without regard to where such species were harvested, i.e., 
in state or Federal waters.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2012-30566 Filed 12-18-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P