[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 47 (Monday, March 11, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 15338-15340]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-05538]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

[Docket No. 120510052-3174-01]
RIN 0648-BC20


Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 
Reef Fish Fishery of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; 
Parrotfish Management Measures in St. Croix

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 management measures 
described in Regulatory Amendment 4 to the Fishery Management Plan for 
the Reef Fish Fishery of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (FMP), 
as prepared by the Caribbean Fishery Management Council (Council). If 
implemented, this rule would establish minimum size limits for 
parrotfish in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off St. Croix in the 
U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI). The intent of this proposed rule is to 
provide additional protection from harvest to maturing parrotfish and 
to assist the stock in achieving optimum yield (OY).

DATES: Written comments must be received on or before April 10, 2013.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
``NOAA-NMFS-2013-0009'', 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-2013-0009, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Britni Tokotch, Southeast 
Regional Office, NMFS, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.
    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.
    Electronic copies of the regulatory amendment, which includes an 
environmental assessment and 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/CaribbeanReefFish.htm.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The reef fish fishery of Puerto Rico and the 
USVI is managed under the FMP, which was prepared by the Council and 
implemented through regulations at 50 CFR part 622 under the authority 
of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act 
(Magnuson-Stevens Act).

[[Page 15339]]

Background

    In the 2011 Status of U.S. Fisheries Report to Congress, Caribbean 
parrotfish were classified as undergoing overfishing. Parrotfish 
perform an important ecological function on U.S. Caribbean coral reefs: 
They graze on algae, which competes for space with a variety of coral 
species. This ecological role has become more relevant in the past 30 
years as the longspine sea urchin, another important coral reef grazer, 
has declined in population throughout the Caribbean. Additionally, 
parrotfish are considered a cultural component of the U.S. Caribbean 
diet, particularly in St. Croix, where they are a targeted species.
    To maintain the viability of the parrotfish stock, an adequate 
number of juvenile parrotfish must achieve maturity and spawn prior to 
being harvested. In the absence of minimum size limits, substantial 
numbers of immature parrotfish will likely be harvested, eliminating 
the potential of those fish to reach maturity and spawn.
    Within the Caribbean reef fish fishery, the parrotfish fishery 
management unit is composed of 10 species: blue, midnight, rainbow, 
princess, queen, redfin, redtail, stoplight, striped, and redband 
parrotfish. Amendment 5 to the FMP (Amendment 5)(76 FR 82404, December 
30, 2011), prohibited the harvest of midnight, blue, and rainbow 
parrotfish, and established recreational bag and possession limits for 
the other parrotfish species. Additionally, Amendment 5 set annual 
catch limits (ACLs) and accountability measures (AMs) for three island 
management areas: Puerto Rico, St. Thomas/St. John (USVI), and St. 
Croix (USVI).

Management Measure Contained in this Proposed Rule

    This proposed rule would establish minimum size limits for 
parrotfish species in the EEZ off St. Croix. These limits would apply 
to both the commercial and recreational sectors. This rule would 
establish a minimum size limit of 8 inches (20.3 cm), fork length, for 
redband parrotfish and 9 inches (22.9 cm), fork length, for all other 
parrotfish. The current harvest prohibition for midnight, blue, and 
rainbow parrotfish would remain in effect.
    The Council and NMFS are proposing a minimum size limit of 9 inches 
(22.9 cm) for all but one of the parrotfish species for which harvest 
is allowed, because this size limit best captures the range of sizes at 
maturity for these species. The Council and NMFS are proposing a 
minimum size limit of 8 inches (20.3 cm) for redband parrotfish because 
they are relatively smaller fish and they reach maturity at a smaller 
size than the other managed parrotfish species. A minimum size limit 
would reduce reduce mortality of smaller (generally female) parrotfish, 
thereby enhancing spawning biomass and the supply of gametes 
(especially eggs), and ultimately increasing yield-per-recruit from the 
stock (assuming discard mortality is low). Parrotfish discard mortality 
is assumed to be low because spears are the predominant gear used to 
harvest parrotfish and therefore the fish are individually targeted. In 
addition, discard mortality of parrotfish harvested by trap is expected 
to be low because parrotfish are harvested in relatively shallow 
waters, thus reducing the threat of barotrauma related mortality. A 
minimum size limit also reduces the likelihood of recruitment 
overfishing that might otherwise lead to a stock biomass level below 
maximum sustainable yield. Therefore, this proposed rule would set a 
size limit to increase the number of juvenile parrotfish that can reach 
sexual maturity and assist the stock in achieving OY.
    The Council chose not to establish minimum size limits for Puerto 
Rico and St. Thomas/St. John island management areas in the U.S. 
Caribbean because parrotfish harvest in those areas is substantially 
lower than in St. Croix. St. Croix parrotfish harvest represents 36.4 
percent of the total combined St. Croix commercial ACL (all St. Croix 
commercial ACLs), in pounds. The recreational harvest of parrotfish in 
St. Croix and in St. Thomas/St. John is unknown. In Puerto Rico, 
parrotfish comprise 3.5 percent and 2.3 percent total combined of the 
Puerto Rico recreational and commercial ACLs, in pounds, respectively. 
In St. Thomas/St. John, parrotfish comprise 7.2 percent of the total 
combined commercial ACL, in pounds.

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 the FMP, the regulatory amendment, 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, as required by section 603 of the Regulatory 
Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 603, for this rule. The IRFA describes the 
economic impact that this proposed rule, if adopted, would have on 
small entities. A description of the proposed rule, why it is being 
considered, the objectives of, and legal basis for the rule 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 NMFS (see ADDRESSES). A summary of the IRFA follows.
    The purpose of this rule is to provide protection from harvest to 
maturing parrotfish in the EEZ off St. Croix. The parrotfish management 
unit in the U.S. Caribbean is composed of multiple species. Together, 
these species represent an ecologically, culturally, and economically 
important group, particularly on the island of St. Croix where they 
support a targeted fishery for both the commercial and recreational 
sectors, in both the EEZ and territorial waters. The commercial and 
recreational minimum size limits are necessary for the St. Croix island 
management unit because without minimum size limits, substantial 
numbers of immature parrotfish may be harvested, thus eliminating 
individuals before they have a chance to reproduce.
    The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides the statutory basis for the 
proposed action. No duplicative, overlapping, or conflicting Federal 
rules have been identified.
    The rule would apply directly to licensed commercial fishermen in 
the Finfish Fishing Industry (NAICS 114111) and indirectly to for-hire 
operations in the Charter Fishing Industry (NAICS 487210) that harvest 
seven parrotfish species (princess, queen, redfin, redtail, redband, 
stoplight, and striped) within the EEZ off St. Croix, USVI.
    An estimated 142 of St. Croix's 177 small businesses in the Finfish 
Fishing Industry are expected to be affected by this proposed rule. 
None of the three small businesses in the Charter Fishing Industry are 
expected to be affected because for-hire fishing boats in the U.S. 
Caribbean tend to target pelagic species and other sport fish, not 
parrotfish.
    This rule would not establish any new reporting or record-keeping 
requirements. This rule would require small businesses in the Finfish 
Fishing Industry to measure parrotfish and discard those that are under 
their respective minimum size limit. Three scenarios are presented to 
illustrate the range of adverse economic impacts on these small 
businesses.
    In the first scenario, small businesses are assumed to be currently 
catching and landing larger parrotfish in reaction to the ACL 
established for parrotfish off St. Croix (76 FR 82404, December 30, 
2011), and rarely, if at all, catching

[[Page 15340]]

parrotfish less than the proposed minimum size limits. If true, the 
establishment of an 8 inch (20.3 cm) minimum size limit for redband 
parrotfish and a 9 inch (22.9 cm) minimum size limit for all other 
allowable parrotfish would have little to no adverse economic impact 
beyond the estimated $5 to $10 cost of acquiring a measuring tool and 
an additional small amount of time (estimated 4-5 seconds) to measure a 
smaller sized parrotfish.
    The second scenario assumes small businesses have not changed their 
catch patterns because of the St. Croix parrotfish ACL and cannot 
mitigate for losses of landings due to discarded and not speared 
undersized parrotfish. If true, the proposed implementation of 
parrotfish minimum size limits for St. Croix would result in an 
estimated annual loss of parrotfish landings between 960 lb (435 kg) 
and 13,920 lb (6,314 kg). If the average ex-vessel price of a 
parrotfish is estimated as high as $5 per pound, then annual revenue 
losses to all small businesses would be between $4,800 and $69,600. 
Added to these revenue losses would be the additional time needed to 
measure every parrotfish that was caught in traps, nets or lines, which 
would increase trip time and trip-associated costs. Also, there would 
be the additional time for divers to visually measure every parrotfish 
that could be speared, which would increase trip time and trip-
associated costs. These combined losses of revenue and added time and 
trip costs would not be distributed equally. Because pot-and-trap 
fishermen have landed the greatest percent of smaller parrotfish, small 
businesses that use pots and traps would experience the greatest 
percent losses of revenues and greatest increase in fishing time and 
trip costs.
    A third and final scenario expects small businesses would act to 
mitigate for losses of commercial landings caused by the establishment 
of parrotfish minimum size limits in St. Croix by increasing fishing 
time to catch enough legally sized parrotfish, or other species, to 
offset pounds discarded in undersized parrotfish. It is expected that 
the ability of small businesses to increase their time on, or in the 
water, and associated costs of that time varies significantly, 
depending on the commercial fisher's personal and family 
responsibilities, including if they are engaged in full-time or part-
time wage labor or not. It is unknown if such a disproportionate 
adverse impact on pot-and-trap fishermen could also represent a 
disproportionate adverse impact on St. Croix's small businesses of a 
specific geographic area or business size or by the ethnicity, age, or 
race of the owner of the business.
    The status quo alternative (no setting of a parrotfish minimum size 
limit) was considered but rejected by the Council because it would 
allow for continued harvest of juvenile parrotfish in St. Croix before 
they can reach sexual maturity, which increases the risk of an inferior 
(less productive) stock and reduced revenues from parrotfish landings 
in the long term.
    In summary, the proposed rule, if implemented, would likely have a 
significantly larger adverse economic impact on St. Croix pot-and-trap 
and other non-diving fishermen because a larger percentage of their 
historical catches are composed of smaller parrotfish. The proposed 
action may drive pot-and-trap and other non-diving commercial fishermen 
out of the parrotfish component of the reef fish fishery. Moreover, the 
economic impact of this rule cannot be considered in isolation. It 
would add to the adverse economic impacts of the recently implemented 
St. Croix Parrotfish ACL (76 FR 82404, December 30, 2011), which is 
expected to reduce non-diving fishermen's historical shares of annual 
landings of parrotfish.
    This proposed rule would not be expected to directly affect any 
other small entities.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622

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

    Dated: March 5, 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.
    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

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.  622.37, paragraph (a) is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  622.37  Size limits.

* * * * *
    (a) Caribbean reef fish: (1) Yellowtail snapper--12 inches (30.5 
cm), TL.
    (2) Parrotfishes, except redband parrotfish, in the St. Croix 
Management Area only (as defined in Table 2 of Appendix E to Part 
622)--9 inches (22.9 cm), fork length. See Sec.  622.32(b)(1)(v) for 
the current prohibition on the harvest and possession of midnight 
parrotfish, blue parrotfish, or rainbow parrotfish.
    (3) Redband parrotfish, in the St. Croix Management Area only (as 
defined in Table 2 of Appendix E to Part 622)--8 inches (20.3 cm), fork 
length.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2013-05538 Filed 3-8-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P