[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 48 (Tuesday, March 12, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 15672-15674]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-05644]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

RIN 0648-BC63


Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 
Snapper-Grouper Fishery Off the Southern Atlantic States; Amendment 28

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

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) has 
submitted Amendment 28 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-
Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region (FMP) for review, 
approval, and implementation by NMFS. Amendment 28 proposes actions to 
establish a process for determining whether the limited harvest and 
possession of red snapper in or from the South Atlantic exclusive 
economic zone (EEZ) could occur during a given fishing year. Amendment 
28 specifies the process and formula for setting commercial and 
recreational annual catch limits (ACLs) for red snapper if a limited 
fishing season may occur and specifies accountability measures (AMs). 
Amendment 28 also proposes during a limited fishing season to eliminate 
the current red snapper minimum size limit, establish a recreational 
bag limit and a commercial trip limit for red snapper, and establish a 
process for setting commercial and recreational fishing seasons for red 
snapper beginning in 2013. The intent of Amendment 28 is to continue 
the rebuilding of the red snapper stock and to provide socio-economic 
benefits to snapper-grouper fishermen and communities that utilize the 
red snapper resource.

DATES: Written comments must be received on or before May 13, 2013.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on Amendment 28 identified by 
``NOAA-NMFS-2013-0040'' by any of the following methods:
     Electronic submissions: Submit electronic comments via the 
Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0040, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.

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     Mail: Submit written comments to Rick DeVictor, 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 Amendment 28, which includes an environmental 
assessment, a regulatory flexibility analysis, and a regulatory impact 
review, may be obtained from the Southeast Regional Office Web site at 
http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sf/pdfs/SGAmend28.pdf.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Rick DeVictor, Southeast Regional 
Office, telephone: 727-824-5305, or email: rick.devictor@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The snapper-grouper fishery of the South 
Atlantic, which includes red snapper, is managed under the FMP. The FMP 
was prepared by the Council and is implemented through regulations at 
50 CFR part 622 under the authority of Magnuson-Stevens Act. The 
Magnuson-Stevens Act also requires that NMFS, upon receiving a plan or 
amendment, publish an announcement in the Federal Register notifying 
the public that the plan or amendment is available for review and 
comment.

Background

    Red snapper are overfished and undergoing overfishing. The harvest 
and possession of red snapper has been prohibited since January 4, 
2010, initially through temporary rules (74 FR 63673, December 4, 2009 
and 75 FR 27658, May 18, 2010), and then through the final rule to 
implement Amendment 17A to the FMP (75 FR 76874, December 9, 2010). 
Amendment 17A continued the prohibition on a permanent basis by 
implementing an ACL for red snapper of zero (landings only). Amendment 
17A also implemented a rebuilding plan for red snapper, which specifies 
that red snapper biomass must increase to the target rebuilt level in 
35 years, starting from 2010. The final rule implementing Amendment 17A 
also included a large area closure for most snapper-grouper species, 
however, this area closure did not become effective because it was 
determined not to be necessary to end the overfishing of red snapper 
(76 FR 23728, April 28, 2011). At its June 2012 meeting, the Council 
received new information from NMFS regarding discard estimates for red 
snapper. Using these data, the Council and NMFS determined that a 
limited season for red snapper was possible in 2012. At the Council's 
request, NMFS implemented emergency rulemaking to allow for the limited 
harvest and possession of red snapper in or from the South Atlantic EEZ 
in 2012 (77 FR 51939, August 28, 2012).

Status of the Stock

    The most recent Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR) 
benchmark stock assessment for red snapper, SEDAR 24, was completed in 
October 2010. Much like the stock assessment completed in 2008, this 
assessment showed red snapper to be overfished and undergoing 
overfishing, but also showed that red snapper were undergoing 
overfishing at a lower rate than found in the 2008 stock assessment. 
The next benchmark stock assessment for red snapper is scheduled for 
2014.

Actions Contained in Amendment 28

    Amendment 28 would implement several management measures to allow 
for the limited harvest and possession of red snapper in or from the 
South Atlantic EEZ. When the Council approved, and NMFS implemented, 
the temporary rule through emergency action in 2012, they determined 
that retention of a limited number of red snapper (13,097 fish) would 
not jeopardize the rebuilding of the red snapper stock if the 
acceptable biological catch (ABC) was not exceeded in the previous 
year. In Amendment 28, the Council has made a similar determination 
depending on certain conditions, beginning in 2013.

Process for Determining the Annual Red Snapper Harvest

    Amendment 28 describes the annual process developed by the Council 
for determining whether a limited fishing season for red snapper will 
occur and how much red snapper may be harvested. The ABC is determined 
through the Council's ABC control rule and the rebuilding projections 
from the most recent stock assessment. Estimated landings and dead 
discards of red snapper from the previous year should be available 
around March of each year, and NMFS would use that information in 
formulas approved by the Council in Amendment 28. If NMFS determines 
that the estimated landings and dead discards that occurred in the 
previous year are equal to or greater than the ABC for the current 
year, no harvest would be allowed and the ACL would remain equal to 
zero. However, if NMFS determines that the previous year's estimated 
landings and dead discards are less than the ABC, then the ACL would be 
set to the amount of harvest that may be allowed for the current year.

Setting the Commercial and Recreational Red Snapper Fishing Seasons

    If NMFS determines commercial and recreational fishing seasons are 
allowed for that fishing year, NMFS would announce the commercial and 
recreational fishing season start dates in the Federal Register and by 
other methods, as deemed appropriate. The commercial fishing season 
would begin on the second Monday in July, and the recreational fishing 
season would begin on the second Friday in July. NMFS would project 
when the recreational ACL would be reached and announce the fishing 
season end date in the Federal Register. The recreational season length 
would be based on an evaluation of historical harvest levels and 
fishing effort. The recreational fishing season would consist of 
weekends only (Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays). NMFS would not 
announce the season end date for the commercial sector before the 
season starts, but would close the commercial sector when the 
commercial ACL has been reached or projected to be reached by filing an 
in-season closure notification with the Office of the Federal Register. 
After the commercial sector closes, sale and purchase of red snapper is 
prohibited and harvest and possession of red snapper is limited to the 
bag and possession limit.
    If the NMFS Regional Administrator (RA) determines tropical storm 
or hurricane conditions exist, or are projected to exist, in the South 
Atlantic during the commercial or recreational fishing season, 
Amendment 28 would allow the RA to modify the opening and closing dates 
by filing a notification to that effect with the Office of the Federal 
Register, and announcing via NOAA Weather Radio and Fishery Bulletin 
any change in the red snapper commercial or recreational fishing 
seasons. If the projected commercial and/or recreational fishing 
seasons are determined by NMFS to be 3 days or

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less, then the commercial and/or recreational fishing seasons would not 
open for that fishing year.

Formula for Setting the ACLs

    Amendment 28 includes a formula for determining the commercial and 
recreational ACLs on an annual basis. The formula is based on total 
removals (landings plus discards) from prior fishing years. The formula 
would provide the total ACL for a limited fishing season. Then using 
the current allocation ratio for red snapper (28.07 percent commercial 
and 71.93 percent recreational), NMFS would determine the commercial 
and recreational ACLs. When finalized data from the prior fishing years 
are available, NMFS would publish a notification with the Office of the 
Federal Register to announce the commercial and recreational ACLs for a 
limited fishing season for that fishing year.

AMs

    The Council and NMFS would establish in-season AMs during a limited 
fishing season to prevent these ACLs from being exceeded. If red 
snapper harvest is allowed in a given fishing year, the commercial in-
season AM requires that if commercial landings reach or are projected 
to reach the commercial ACL, then NMFS would close the commercial 
sector for red snapper for the remainder of the fishing year. After the 
commercial sector closes, sale and purchase of red snapper is 
prohibited and harvest and possession of red snapper is limited to the 
bag and possession limit. The recreational in-season AM is the length 
of the recreational fishing season as determined by NMFS and announced 
in the Federal Register.

Other Management Measures

    In order to reduce the probability of an overage of the commercial 
and recreational ACLs during the limited open seasons, Amendment 28 
would implement a 75-lb (34-kg) commercial trip limit and a 1-fish per 
person recreational bag limit. Amendment 28 would also remove the 20-
inch (51-cm), total length (TL), minimum size limit for both the 
commercial and recreational sectors to decrease regulatory discards of 
red snapper (fish returned to the water because they are below the 
minimum size limit).
    A proposed rule that would implement measures outlined in Amendment 
28 has been drafted. In accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS 
is evaluating Amendment 28 to determine whether it is consistent with 
the FMP, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law. If the 
determination is affirmative, NMFS will publish the proposed rule in 
the Federal Register for public review and comment.

Consideration of Public Comments

    The Councils submitted Amendment 28 for Secretarial review, 
approval, and implementation. NMFS' decision to approve, partially 
approve, or disapprove Amendment 28 will be based, in part, on 
consideration of comments, recommendations, and information received 
during the comment period on this notice of availability.
    Public comments received by 5 p.m. eastern time, on May 13, 2013, 
will be considered by NMFS in the approval/disapproval decision 
regarding Amendment 28.

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

    Dated: March 7, 2013.
Kara Meckley,
Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National 
Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-05644 Filed 3-11-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P