[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 37 (Monday, February 25, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 12705-12708]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-04156]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

[Docket No. 121101598-3124-01]
RIN 0648-XC334


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; North and South Atlantic 2013 
Commercial Swordfish Quotas

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: This proposed rule would adjust the 2013 fishing season quotas 
for North and South Atlantic swordfish based upon 2012 commercial quota 
underharvests and international quota transfers consistent with the 
International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) 
Recommendations 11-02 and 12-01. This proposed rule could affect 
commercial and recreational fishing for swordfish in the Atlantic 
Ocean, including the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. This action 
implements ICCAT recommendations, consistent with the Atlantic Tunas 
Convention Act (ATCA), and furthers domestic management objectives 
under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act 
(Magnuson-Stevens Act).

DATES: Written comments must be received by 5 p.m., local time, on 
March 27, 2013.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NMFS-2013-0030, by any of the following methods:
    Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via 
the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D= NOAA-NMFS-2013-0030, click the ``Comment Now!'' icon, 
complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
    Mail: Submit written comments to Margo Schulze-Haugen, NMFS/SF1, 
1315 East West Highway, National Marine Fisheries Service, SSMC3, 
Silver Spring, MD 20910.
    Fax: 301-713-1917, Phone: 301-427-8503; Attn: Margo Schulze-Haugen.
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in 
Microsoft Word, Excel, or Adobe PDF file formats only.
    NMFS will hold one public hearing on this proposed rule on March 
14, 2013. The public hearing will be held in Silver Spring, MD and may 
be combined with a hearing for another relevant action. For specific 
location, date, and time, see the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of 
this document.
    Copies of the supporting documents--including the 2012 
Environmental Assessment (EA), Regulatory Impact Review (RIR), and 
Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) for North Atlantic 
swordfish, the 2007 EA, RIR, and IRFA for South Atlantic swordfish, and 
the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery 
Management Plan--are available from the HMS Management Division Web 
site at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/ or by contacting Jennifer 
Cudney by phone at 301-427-8503 or Steve Durkee by phone at 202-670-
6637.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jennifer Cudney by phone at 301-427-
8503 or Steve Durkee by phone at 202-670-6637, or by fax: 301-713-1917.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    The U.S. Atlantic swordfish fishery is managed under the 2006 
Consolidated Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Fishery Management Plan 
(FMP). Implementing regulations at 50 CFR part 635 are issued under the 
authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq., and 
ATCA, 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq. The United States implements ICCAT 
recommendations under ATCA, through regulations as may be necessary and 
appropriate.

North Atlantic Swordfish Quota

    At the 2011 ICCAT meeting, Recommendation 11-02 was adopted, 
maintaining the North Atlantic swordfish total allowable catch (TAC) of 
10,301 metric tons (mt) dressed weight (dw) (13,700 mt whole weight 
(ww)) through 2013. Of this TAC, the United States baseline quota is 
2,937.6 mt dw (3,907 mt ww) per year. ICCAT Recommendation 11-02 also 
includes a 112.8 mt dw (150 mt ww) annual quota transfer from the 
United States to Morocco and limits allowable underharvest carryover to 
25 percent of a contracting party's baseline quotas. Therefore, the 
United States may carry over a maximum of 734.4 mt dw (976.8 mt ww) of 
underharvest from the previous year (2012) to be added to the 2013 
baseline quota. This proposed rule would adjust the U.S. baseline quota 
for the 2013 fishing year to account for the annual quota transfer to 
Morocco and the 2012 underharvest.
    The 2013 North Atlantic swordfish baseline quota is 2,937.6 mt dw 
(3,907 mt ww). The preliminary North Atlantic swordfish underharvest 
for 2012 was 1,209.4 mt dw (1,608.5 mt ww) as of December 31, 2012, 
which exceeds the

[[Page 12706]]

maximum carryover cap of 734.4 mt dw (976.8 mt ww). Therefore, NMFS is 
proposing to carry forward the maximum amount allowed per ICCAT 
Recommendation 11-02. The 2,937.6 mt dw (3,907 mt ww) baseline quota 
would be reduced by the 112.8 mt dw (150 mt ww) annual quota transfer 
to Morocco and increased by the underharvest carryover maximum of 734.4 
mt dw (976.8 mt ww), resulting in 3,559.2 mt dw (4733.7 mt ww), which 
is the proposed adjusted North Atlantic swordfish quota for the 2013 
fishing year. From that proposed adjusted quota, the directed category 
would be allocated 3,209.2 mt dw (4,268.2 mt ww), which would be split 
equally into two seasons in 2013 (January through June, and July 
through December). Fifty mt dw (66.5 mt ww) would be allocated to the 
reserve category for inseason adjustments and research, and 300 mt dw 
(399 mt ww) would be allocated to the incidental category, which 
includes recreational landings and catch by incidental swordfish permit 
holders, for the 2013 fishing season, per Sec.  635.27(c)(1)(i)(B) 
(Table 1).
    The landings and proposed quota for North Atlantic swordfish are 
based on commercial dealer reports and reports by anglers in the HMS 
Non-Tournament Recreational Swordfish and Billfish Landings Database 
and the Recreational Billfish Survey received as of December 31, 2012, 
and do not include dead discards. We will adjust the quotas in the 
final rule based on updated data, including dead discard data, if 
available. Thus, while the 2013 proposed North Atlantic swordfish quota 
is subject to further adjustments and we are notifying the public of 
that potential change, we do not expect the final quota to change from 
the proposed quota. The United States has carried over the full amount 
of underharvest allowed under ICCAT recommendations for the past 
several years, and we do not expect fishing activity to vary 
significantly from these past years. For the final quota to deviate 
from the proposed quota, the sum of updated landings data (from late 
reports) and dead discard estimates would need to reach or exceed 475 
mt dw. In 2011, dead discards were estimated to equal 101.5 mt dw and 
late reports equaled 108.4 mt dw. Consequently, we do not believe 
updated data and dead discard estimates will change the adjusted quota.

South Atlantic Swordfish Quota

    In 2006, ICCAT Recommendation 06-03 established the South Atlantic 
swordfish TAC at 17,000 mt ww for 2007, 2008, and 2009. Of this, the 
United States received 75.2 mt dw (100 mt ww). As with the North 
Atlantic swordfish recommendation, ICCAT Recommendation 06-03 limited 
the amount of underharvest that can be carried forward. For South 
Atlantic swordfish, the United States may carry forward up to 100 
percent of the base quota (75.2 mt dw). In 2009, Recommendation 09-03 
reduced the South Atlantic swordfish TAC to 15,000 mt ww but maintained 
the U.S. quota share of 75.2 mt dw (100 mt ww) and underharvest 
carryover limit through 2012. Recommendation 09-03 also included a 
total of 75.2 mt dw (100 mt ww) of quota transfers from the U.S. to 
other countries. These transfers were 37.6 mt dw (50 mt ww) to Namibia, 
18.8 mt dw (25 mt ww) to C[ocirc]te d'Ivore, and 18.8 mt dw (25 mt ww) 
to Belize. In November 2012, ICCAT Recommendation 12-01 extended the 
U.S. baseline quota, underharvest carryover limit, and international 
quota transfer amounts and provisions through 2013.
    In 2012, U.S. fishermen did not land any South Atlantic swordfish 
as of December 31, 2012. Therefore, 75.2 mt dw (100 mt ww) of 
underharvest is available to carry over to 2013 and can cover the 
entire 75.2 mt dw (100 mt ww) of annual international quota transfers 
outlined above. As a result, the 2013 adjusted quota for South Atlantic 
swordfish is 75.2 mt dw (100 mt ww) (Table 1).
    The landings and proposed quota for South Atlantic swordfish are 
based on dealer reports received as of December 31, 2012, and do not 
include dead discards. We will adjust the quotas in the final rule 
based on updated data, including dead discard data, if available. Thus, 
the 2013 proposed South Atlantic swordfish quota is subject to further 
adjustments. However, the United States has only landed South Atlantic 
swordfish once in the past several years (0.2 mt dw in April 2010) and 
is unlikely to do so during the remainder of 2012. For this reason, we 
do not expect the final quota to change from the proposed quota.

Impacts

    Impacts resulting from the 2013 North Atlantic swordfish 
specifications are analyzed in the EA, RIR, and IRFA that were prepared 
for the 2012 Swordfish Quota Specifications Final Rule (July 31, 2012; 
77 FR 45273). The impacts resulting from the 2013 South Atlantic 
swordfish specifications were analyzed in the EA, RIR, and IRFA that 
were prepared for the 2007 Swordfish Quota Specification Final Rule 
(October 5, 2007; 72 FR 56929). The proposed quota adjustments would 
not increase overall quotas and are not expected to increase fishing 
effort, protected species interactions, or environmental effects beyond 
those considered in the 2012 and 2007 EAs. Therefore, because there 
would be no changes to the North or South Atlantic swordfish management 
measures in this proposed rule, or the affected environment or any 
environmental effects that have not been previously analyzed, NMFS has 
determined that the North and South Atlantic swordfish specifications 
and impacts to the human environment as a result of the proposed quota 
adjustments do not require additional NEPA analysis beyond that 
discussed in the 2012 and 2007 EAs.

         Table 1--2013 North and South Atlantic Swordfish Quotas
------------------------------------------------------------------------
  North Atlantic Swordfish Quota  (mt
                  dw)                         2012             2013
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Baseline Quota........................          2,937.6          2,937.6
Quota Transfer to Morocco.............         (-)112.8         (-)112.8
Total Underharvest from Previous Year           1,388.5          1,209.4
 \+\..................................
Underharvest Carryover from Previous           (+)734.4         (+)734.4
 Year \+\.............................
                                       ---------------------------------
    Adjusted Quota....................          3,559.2          3,559.2
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Quota Allocation:
    Directed Category.................          3,209.2          3,209.2
    Incidental Category...............            300              300
    Reserve Category..................             50               50
------------------------------------------------------------------------


[[Page 12707]]


 
  South Atlantic Swordfish Quota  (mt
                  dw)                         2012             2013
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Baseline Quota........................             75.2             75.2
International Quota Transfers *.......          (-)75.2          (-)75.2
Total Underharvest from Previous Year              75.2             75.2
 \+\..................................
Underharvest Carryover from Previous               75.2             75.2
 Year \+\.............................
Adjusted quota........................             75.2             75.2
------------------------------------------------------------------------
+ Underharvest carryover is capped at 25 percent of the baseline quota
  allocation for the North Atlantic and 75.2 dw (100 mt ww) for the
  South Atlantic. 2012 underharvest current as of December 31, 2012;
  does not include dead discards.
* Under Recommendation 12-01, 100 mt ww of the U.S. underharvest and
  base quota, as necessary, was transferred to Namibia (37.6 mt dw, 50
  mt ww), Cote d'Ivore (18.8 mt dw, 25 mt ww), and Belize (18.8 mt dw,
  25 mt ww).

    NMFS determined that the proposed rules to implement the North 
Atlantic swordfish quota framework (77 FR 25669, May 1, 2012) and South 
Atlantic swordfish quota framework (75 FR 35432, June 22, 2010) are 
consistent to the maximum extent practicable with the enforceable 
policies of the approved coastal management program of coastal states 
on the Atlantic including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. 
Pursuant to 15 CFR 930.41(a), NMFS provided the Coastal Zone Management 
Program of each coastal state a 60-day period to review the consistency 
determination and to advise the Agency of their concurrence. NMFS 
received concurrence with the consistency determinations from several 
states and inferred consistency from those states that did not respond 
within the 60-day time period. This proposed action to establish the 
2013 North and South Atlantic swordfish quotas does not change the 
framework previously consulted upon; therefore, no additional 
consultation is required.

Public Hearings

    Comments on this proposed rule may be submitted via http://www.regulations.gov, mail, or fax; comments may also be submitted at 
the public hearing. NMFS solicits comments on this proposed rule by 
March 27, 2013. During the comment period, NMFS will hold one public 
hearing for this proposed rule. The public hearing will be held at the 
NMFS Science Center at 1301 East-West Highway, Silver Spring MD on 
March 14, 2013, from 1:00-4:00 p.m. This hearing may be combined with a 
hearing for another relevant action. The hearing location will be 
physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign 
language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to 
Steve Durkee at 202-670-6637, at least 7 days prior to the meeting.
    The public is reminded that NMFS expects participants at the public 
hearings to conduct themselves appropriately. At the beginning of each 
public hearing, a representative of NMFS will explain the ground rules 
(e.g., alcohol is prohibited from the hearing room; attendees will be 
called to give their comments in the order in which they registered to 
speak; each attendee will have an equal amount of time to speak; and 
attendees should not interrupt one another). The NMFS representative 
will attempt to structure the meeting so that all attending members of 
the public will be able to comment, if they so choose, regardless of 
the controversial nature of the subject(s). Attendees are expected to 
respect the ground rules, and, if they do not, they will be asked to 
leave the hearing.

Classification

    Pursuant to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS Assistant 
Administrator has determined that the proposed rule is consistent with 
the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments, other provisions of 
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.
    The Chief Council for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Council for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration that this proposed rule, if adopted, would not have a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities 
because the proposed quota adjustments are the same as in 2012 and the 
United States is not expected to catch its entire quota in 2013.
    This proposed rule would adjust the 2013 baseline quota for North 
Atlantic swordfish (January 1, 2013, through December 31, 2013) to 
account for 2012 underharvests and international quota transfers per 
Sec.  635.27(c)(1)(i) based on ICCAT recommendation 11-02. The United 
States can carry over 2012 underharvest at a level not to exceed 25 
percent of the baseline quota. Additionally, ICCAT Recommendation 11-02 
stipulates that the United States transfer 112.8 mt dw (150 mt ww) of 
quota to Morocco.
    In 2012, U.S. fishermen landed 2,349.8 mt dw (3,125.2 mt ww) of 
North Atlantic swordfish as of December 31, 2012, leaving 1,209.4 mt dw 
(1,608.5 mt ww) of quota underharvest. This underharvest amount exceeds 
the maximum underharvest carryover of 734.4 mt dw (976.8 mt ww), 
therefore, 734.4 mt dw (976.8 mt ww) of 2012 underharvest would be 
carried over and added to the 2013 baseline quota. The quota transfer 
of 112.8 mt dw (150 mt ww) to Morocco would be deducted, leaving a 
proposed 2013 North Atlantic swordfish adjusted quota of 3,559.2 mt dw 
(4733.7 mt ww) (Table 1).
    This proposed rule would also adjust the 2013 baseline quota for 
South Atlantic swordfish (January 1, 2013, through December 31, 2013) 
to account for 2012 underharvests and international quota transfers per 
Sec.  635.27(c)(1)(ii) based on ICCAT recommendation 12-01. The United 
States can carry over 2012 underharvest at a level not to exceed 100 
percent of the baseline quota. Additionally, ICCAT Recommendation 12-01 
stipulates that the United States transfer the following quota amounts 
to other countries: 37.6 mt dw (50 mt ww) to Namibia; 18.8 mt dw (25 mt 
ww) to C[ocirc]te d'Ivore; and 18.8 mt dw (25 mt ww) to Belize.
    In 2012, U.S. fishermen did not land any South Atlantic swordfish 
as of December 31, 2012. Therefore, 75.2 mt dw (100 mt ww) of 
underharvest is available to carry over to 2013 and can cover the 
entire 75.2 mt dw (100 mt ww) of annual international quota transfers 
outlined above. As a result, the 2013 adjusted quota for South Atlantic 
swordfish is 75.2 mt dw (100 mt ww) (Table 1).
    The commercial swordfish fishery is comprised of fishermen who hold 
one of three swordfish limited access permits (LAP) (i.e., directed, 
incidental, or handgear), fishermen who hold an HMS incidental squid 
trawl permit, and the related industries including processors, bait 
houses, and equipment suppliers. NMFS considers all participants in the 
commercial swordfish fishery to be small entities, based on the 
relevant NAICS codes and size standards set by

[[Page 12708]]

the Small Business Administration. As of November 2012, there were 
approximately 180 vessels with a directed swordfish LAP, 75 vessels 
with an incidental swordfish LAP, and 77 vessels with a handgear LAP 
for swordfish. Additionally, there were approximately 71 HMS incidental 
squid trawl permit holders, which allow vessels in the Illex squid 
fishery to retain up to 15 incidentally-caught swordfish while trawling 
for squid. Based on the 2011 swordfish ex-vessel price of $4.44/lb, the 
2013 North and South Atlantic swordfish baseline quotas could result in 
gross revenues of $28,754,470 (2937.6 mt dw (6,476,232 lbs dw) * $4.44/
lb) and $734,132 (75.2 mt dw (165,345 lbs dw) * $4.44), respectively, 
if the quotas were fully utilized. Under the adjusted quotas of 3,559.2 
mt dw (7,846,612 lbs dw) for North Atlantic swordfish and 75.2 mt dw 
(165,345 lbs dw) for South Atlantic swordfish, the gross revenues could 
be $34,838,957 and $734,132, respectively, for fully utilized quotas.
    Potential revenues per vessel resulting from full utilization of 
the adjusted quotas, could be $86,449 for the North Atlantic swordfish 
fishery and $1,821 for the South Atlantic swordfish fishery, 
considering a total of 403 swordfish permit holders. These estimates, 
however, represent an average across all permit types, despite permit 
differences in retention limits, target species, and geographical 
range. For North Atlantic swordfish, directed swordfish permit holders 
would likely experience higher than average per-vessel revenue due to 
the use of pelagic longlines and the lack of a retention limit per 
trip. At the other extreme, HMS incidental squid trawl permit holders 
would likely experience per vessel revenue well below the average due 
to the low retention limit per trip (15 swordfish) and because these 
vessels do not target swordfish and only catch them incidentally. For 
South Atlantic swordfish, only directed swordfish permit holders would 
be likely to interact with this stock; therefore, potential revenue is 
higher than the average for these directed swordfish permit holders, 
and near zero for the other permit types. Additionally, U.S. fishermen 
rarely catch South Atlantic swordfish. Over the past 5 years, only 0.2 
mt dw of South Atlantic swordfish catch has been reported.
    Because the United States' commercial swordfish fishery is not 
expected to catch its entire quota in 2013, these adjustments will not 
have a significant impact on a substantial number of small entities. As 
a result, no initial regulatory flexibility analysis is required, and 
none has been prepared.

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.

    Dated: February 15, 2013.
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.
[FR Doc. 2013-04156 Filed 2-22-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P