[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 55 (Thursday, March 21, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 17336-17340]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-06417]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

[Docket No. 120815345-3223-01]
RIN 0648-BC41


Snapper-Grouper Fishery off the Southern Atlantic States; 
Snapper-Grouper Management Measures

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 a regulatory amendment 
(Regulatory Amendment 13) to the Fishery Management Plan for the 
Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region (FMP), as prepared 
by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council). If 
implemented, this rule would revise the annual catch limits (ACLs) 
(including sector ACLs) for 37 species in the snapper-grouper fishery 
management unit (FMU). The intent of this rule is to ensure that the 
ACLs are based on the best scientific information available, and to 
prevent unnecessary negative socio-economic impacts to participants in 
the snapper-grouper fishery and fishing community that could occur if 
the ACLs are not revised, in accordance with the provisions set forth 
in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act 
(Magnuson-Stevens Act).

DATES: Written comments must be received on or before April 22, 2013.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
``NOAA-NMFS-2012-0245'', 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-2012-0245, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Nikhil Mehta, 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 documents supporting this proposed rule 
including an environmental assessment, initial regulatory flexibility 
analysis (IRFA), regulatory impact review, and fishery impact statement 
may be obtained from the Southeast Regional Office Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sf/SASnapperGrouperHomepage.htm.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Nikhil Mehta, telephone: 727-824-5305, 
or email: Nikhil.Mehta@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The snapper-grouper fishery of the South 
Atlantic is managed under the FMP and includes the 37 snapper-grouper 
species addressed in Regulatory Amendment 13 and this proposed rule. 
These 37 snapper-grouper species do not have stock assessments; their 
acceptable biological catch estimates (ABCs) are greater than zero; and 
their ABCs were specified using a formula established in the 
Comprehensive ACL Amendment. Species in the FMU with stock assessments 
and species with an ABC equal to zero are not addressed in Regulatory 
Amendment 13. However, they will be considered in future amendments. 
The FMP was prepared by the Council and implemented through regulations 
at 50 CFR parts 622 under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

Background

    The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires NMFS and regional fishery 
management councils to prevent overfishing of federally managed fish 
stocks, to the extent practicable. This mandate is intended to ensure 
that fishery resources are managed for the greatest overall benefit to 
the nation, particularly with respect to providing food production and 
recreational opportunities, and protecting marine ecosystems. National 
Standard 2 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act states that the conservation and 
management measures of fishery management plans and any regulations 
promulgated to implement any such plan shall be based upon the best 
scientific information available.

[[Page 17337]]

    To address this mandate of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS published 
the final rule to implement the Comprehensive ACL Amendment on March 
16, 2012 (77 FR 15916). That final rule established ACLs (including 
sector-specific ACL allocations) and accountability measures (AMs) for 
select species in the snapper-grouper FMU. Additionally, the 
Comprehensive ACL Amendment established ABCs and annual catch targets 
(ACTs) for these select species in the snapper-grouper FMU. These ABCs 
and ACTs are not codified in the regulatory text. Recreational catch 
estimates in the Comprehensive ACL Amendment were determined by using 
data generated by the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey 
(MRFSS), which was the best scientific information available at that 
time.
    The MRFSS is made up of an integrated system of surveys, each 
targeted toward particular segments of the fishing community (one for 
for-hire vessels, one for anglers pursuing highly migratory species, 
and one for all other anglers). It usually takes a couple of months to 
compile information from both surveys, perform quality control, and 
tabulate the results from each 2-month wave of data. As a result, in 
most places, total estimates of catch and effort are produced on an 
annual basis. These annual estimates are then used by NMFS and the 
Council to make informed decisions about the health and sustainability 
of the fishery and how many fish can be harvested the following year.
    Since the implementation of the Comprehensive ACL Amendment on 
April 16, 2012, there have been substantial improvements in the data 
collection and catch estimation methodologies that are used to generate 
the data for the computation of ABCs and recreational and commercial 
ACLs and ACTs. NMFS no longer uses the MRFSS and now estimates landings 
using the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP).
    The MRIP collects data on a more frequent basis and provides more 
accurate recreational catch estimates by accounting for potential 
biases such as possible differences in catch rates at high-activity and 
low-activity fishing sites, as well as variation in fishing effort 
throughout the day. As described in Regulatory Amendment 13, the NMFS 
Office of Science and Technology released MRIP data from 2004-2011. 
MRFSS data from 2004-2011 were compared with MRIP data (2004-2011) and 
ratio estimators were generated. These ratio estimators were used to 
recalibrate MRFSS data from 1986-2003 to MRIP data (from 1986-2003). 
These calculations provided a complete MRIP data set from 1986-2011. To 
determine the ABCs for these species in the Comprehensive ACL 
Amendment, the Council's SSC used data from 1999-2008 for 36 out of the 
37 species (1986-2008 for blueline tilefish). The same years of MRIP 
data were used to determine revised ABC values for the 37 species in 
Regulatory Amendment 13. The revised ABC values also include updated 
commercial and for-hire landings data. Using those revised ABC values, 
the same procedures used in the Comprehensive ACL Amendment for 
calculating ACL and ACT values were also used in Regulatory Amendment 
13.
    The revisions are necessary because if the ABC, ACL, and ACT values 
are not updated with the new MRIP estimates, ACLs would be set using 
MRFSS data while the landings being used to track the ACLs would be 
estimated using MRIP data. This would result in a disconnect in how 
ACLs are calculated versus how they are monitored. The changes in data 
impact the allocations to the commercial and recreational sectors 
because the formula used to establish the allocations remains unchanged 
from what was implemented previously in the Comprehensive ACL 
Amendment.
    Using MRIP values to estimate recreational landings, and using 
updated headboat and commercial landings, ensures that the ABCs, ACLs, 
and ACTs are based on the best scientific information available in 
accordance with National Standard 2 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

Management Measures Contained in This Proposed Rule

    This proposed rule would revise ACLs for the following species and 
species complexes: deep-water complex species (yellowedge grouper, 
blueline tilefish, silk snapper, misty grouper, sand tilefish, queen 
snapper, black snapper, and blackfin snapper); shallow-water groupers 
(red hind, rock hind, yellowmouth grouper, yellowfin grouper, coney, 
and graysby); snappers (gray snapper, lane snapper, cubera snapper, dog 
snapper, and mahogany snapper), jacks (almaco jack, banded rudderfish, 
and lesser amberjack), grunts (white grunt, sailor's choice, tomtate, 
and margate); porgies (jolthead porgy, knobbed porgy, saucereye porgy, 
scup, and whitebone porgy); Atlantic spadefish; blue runner; bar jack; 
gray triggerfish; scamp; and hogfish. The ACLs are used to monitor 
landings throughout a fishing season. The potential disconnect between 
how the ACLs are calculated and how they are monitored is important 
because the ACLs trigger the AMs that were established in the 
Comprehensive ACL Amendment.
    The AMs for the commercial sector for the species and species 
complexes in this proposed rule specify that if the commercial ACL for 
a species or species complex is reached or projected to be reached 
during a fishing year, the sector will close for the remainder of that 
fishing year for that species or species complex. If a complex is 
closed, sale and purchase of any species in that complex is prohibited. 
If a species, or a single member of a species complex, is designated as 
overfished and the commercial ACL is exceeded, then during the 
following fishing year the commercial sector ACL would be reduced by 
the amount of the commercial ACL overage in the prior fishing year.
    For the recreational sector, the AMs for the species and species 
complexes are as follows: if the recreational ACL is exceeded for a 
species or species complex in a fishing year, then during the next 
fishing year the NMFS Regional Administrator monitors the recreational 
landings for a persistence in increased landings, and using the best 
scientific information available, reduces the length of the 
recreational fishing season as necessary to ensure the recreational 
landings do not exceed the recreational ACL.
    This proposed rule would ensure that the methodology used to 
calculate the ACLs is consistent with the methodology used to monitor 
landings and determine when it is necessary to trigger the established 
AMs.

Additional Measures Contained in Regulatory Amendment 13

    In addition to the ACL revisions in this proposed rule, Regulatory 
Amendment 13 would revise the ABCs, and ACTs for the 37 un-assessed 
species in the snapper-grouper FMU, using the improved data methods as 
previously described.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, (AA) has determined that 
this proposed rule is consistent with Regulatory Amendment 13, the FMP, 
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 Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified

[[Page 17338]]

to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration 
that this rule, if implemented, would not have a significant economic 
impact on a substantial number of small entities. The factual basis for 
this determination is as follows:
    The purpose of this rule and Regulatory Amendment 13 is to revise 
the ABCs, ACLs (including sector ACLs) and ACTs implemented by the 
Comprehensive ACL Amendment with improved data. The revisions are 
necessary because if the ABCs, ACLs (including sector ACLs), and ACTs 
are not updated using the new data, there could be a disconnect between 
the ACLs and the landings used to determine if ACLs are met and AMs are 
triggered. 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) that harvest six stock 
complexes and six individual stocks of the South Atlantic snapper-
grouper fishery. An estimated 890 to 944 small businesses in the 
Finfish Fishing Industry may be affected.
    This proposed rule would not establish any new reporting or record-
keeping requirements. If the measures contained in this proposed rule 
are implemented, they are expected to increase the lengths of 
commercial fishing seasons for the deep-water and porgies stock 
complexes and collectively increase annual landings by 33,821 lb 
(15,341 kg) and $78,259. These proposed measures are also expected to 
decrease the lengths of commercial fishing seasons for the jacks 
complex, blue runner and gray triggerfish, and collectively decrease 
annual landings by 46,527 lb (21,104 kg) and $74,520. The collective 
net change to small businesses in the Finfish Fishing Industry would be 
a loss of annual landings of 12,706 lb (5,763 kg), but a gain of $3,739 
because the deep-water and porgies stock complexes are more valued 
species. With an estimated 890 to 944 small businesses potentially 
affected, the average annual gain per small business would be $3.96 to 
$4.20.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622

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

    Dated: March 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.

    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.  622.49, the first sentence of paragraphs (b)(8)(i)(A), 
(b)(8)(ii), (b)(9)(i)(A), (b)(9)(ii), (b)(10)(i)(A), (b)(10)(ii), 
(b)(12)(i)(A), (b)(12)(ii), (b)(13)(i)(A), (b)(13)(ii), (b)(16)(i)(A), 
(b)(16)(ii), (b)(17)(i)(A), (b)(17)(ii), (b)(19)(i)(A), (b)(19)(ii), 
(b)(20)(i)(A), (b)(20)(ii), (b)(21)(i)(A), (b)(21)(ii), (b)(23)(i)(A), 
(b)(23)(ii), (b)(24)(i)(A), and (b)(24)(ii) are revised, to read as 
follows:


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

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (8) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) If commercial landings for the deep-water complex, as estimated 
by the SRD, reach or are projected to reach the commercial ACL of 
376,469 lb (170,763 kg), round weight, the AA will file a notification 
with the Office of the Federal Register to close the commercial sector 
for this complex for the remainder of the fishing year. * * *
* * * * *
    (ii) * * * If recreational landings for the deep-water complex, as 
estimated by the SRD, exceed the recreational ACL of 334,556 lb 
(151,752 kg), round weight, then during the following fishing year, 
recreational landings will be monitored for a persistence in increased 
landings and, if necessary, the AA will file a notification with the 
Office of the Federal Register, to reduce the length of the following 
recreational fishing season by the amount necessary to ensure 
recreational landings do not exceed the recreational ACL in the 
following fishing year. * * *
    (9) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) If commercial landings for scamp, as estimated by the SRD, 
reach or are projected to reach the commercial ACL of 333,100 lb 
(151,092 kg), round weight, the AA will file a notification with the 
Office of the Federal Register to close the commercial sector for the 
remainder of the fishing year. * * *
* * * * *
    (ii) * * * If recreational landings for scamp, as estimated by the 
SRD, exceed the recreational ACL of 176,688 lb (80,144 kg), round 
weight, then during the following fishing year, recreational landings 
will be monitored for a persistence in increased landings and, if 
necessary, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the 
Federal Register, to reduce the length of the following recreational 
fishing season by the amount necessary to ensure recreational landings 
do not exceed the recreational ACL in the following fishing year. * * *
    (10) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) If commercial landings for other SASWG, as estimated by the 
SRD, reach or are projected to reach the commercial ACL of 49,776 lb 
(22,578 kg), round weight, the AA will file a notification with the 
Office of the Federal Register to close the commercial sector for this 
complex for the remainder of the fishing year. * * *
* * * * *
    (ii) * * * If recreational landings for other SASWG, as estimated 
by the SRD, exceed the recreational ACL of 46,656 lb (21,163 kg), round 
weight, then during the following fishing year, recreational landings 
will be monitored for a persistence in increased landings and, if 
necessary, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the 
Federal Register, to reduce the length of the following recreational 
fishing season by the amount necessary to ensure recreational landings 
do not exceed the recreational ACL in the following fishing year. * * *
* * * * *
    (12) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) If commercial landings for lesser amberjack, almaco jack, and 
banded rudderfish, combined, as estimated by the SRD, reach or are 
projected to reach their combined commercial ACL of 189,422 lb (85,920 
kg), round weight, the AA will file a notification with the Office of 
the Federal Register to close the commercial sector for this complex 
for the remainder of the fishing year. * * *
* * * * *
    (ii) * * * If recreational landings for the complex (lesser 
amberjack, almaco jack, and banded rudderfish), combined, as estimated 
by the SRD, exceed the recreational ACL of 267,799 lb (121,472 kg), 
round weight, then during the following fishing year, recreational 
landings will be monitored for a persistence in increased landings and, 
if

[[Page 17339]]

necessary, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the 
Federal Register, to reduce the length of the following recreational 
fishing season by the amount necessary to ensure recreational landings 
do not exceed the recreational ACL in the following fishing year. * * *
    (13) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) If commercial landings for bar jack, as estimated by the SRD, 
reach or are projected to reach the commercial ACL of 5,265 lb (2,388 
kg), round weight, the AA will file a notification with the Office of 
the Federal Register to close the commercial sector for the remainder 
of the fishing year. * * *
* * * * *
    (ii) * * * If recreational landings for bar jack, as estimated by 
the SRD, exceed the recreational ACL of 19,515 lb (8,852 kg), round 
weight, then during the following fishing year, recreational landings 
will be monitored for a persistence in increased landings and, if 
necessary, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the 
Federal Register, to reduce the length of the following recreational 
fishing season by the amount necessary to ensure recreational landings 
do not exceed the recreational ACL in the following fishing year. * * *
* * * * *
    (16) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) If commercial landings combined for this other snappers 
complex, as estimated by the SRD, reach or are projected to reach the 
combined complex commercial ACL of 215,662 lb (97,823 kg), round 
weight, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the Federal 
Register to close the commercial sector for this complex for the 
remainder of the fishing year. * * *
* * * * *
    (ii) * * * If the combined recreational landings for this snappers 
complex, as estimated by the SRD, exceed the recreational ACL of 
728,577 lb (330,477 kg), round weight, then during the following 
fishing year, recreational landings will be monitored for a persistence 
in increased landings and, if necessary, the AA will file a 
notification with the Office of the Federal Register, to reduce the 
length of the following recreational fishing season by the amount 
necessary to ensure recreational landings do not exceed the 
recreational ACL for this complex in the following fishing year. * * *
    (17) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) If commercial landings for gray triggerfish, as estimated by 
the SRD, reach or are projected to reach the commercial ACL of 272,880 
lb (123,776 kg), round weight, the AA will file a notification with the 
Office of the Federal Register to close the commercial sector for the 
remainder of the fishing year. * * *
* * * * *
    (ii) * * * If recreational landings for gray triggerfish, as 
estimated by the SRD, exceed the recreational ACL of 353,638 lb 
(160,407 kg), round weight, then during the following fishing year, 
recreational landings will be monitored for a persistence in increased 
landings and, if necessary, the AA will file a notification with the 
Office of the Federal Register, to reduce the length of the following 
recreational fishing season by the amount necessary to ensure 
recreational landings do not exceed the recreational ACL in the 
following fishing year. * * *
* * * * *
    (19) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) If commercial landings for blue runner, as estimated by the 
SRD, reach or are projected to reach the commercial ACL of 177,506 lb 
(80,515 kg), round weight, the AA will file a notification with the 
Office of the Federal Register to close the commercial sector for the 
remainder of the fishing year. * * *
* * * * *
    (ii) * * * If recreational landings for blue runner, as estimated 
by the SRD, exceed the recreational ACL of 948,223 lb (430,107 kg), 
round weight, then during the following fishing year, recreational 
landings will be monitored for a persistence in increased landings and, 
if necessary, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the 
Federal Register, to reduce the length of the following recreational 
fishing season by the amount necessary to ensure recreational landings 
do not exceed the recreational ACL in the following fishing year. * * *
* * * * *
    (20) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) If commercial landings for Atlantic spadefish, as estimated by 
the SRD, reach or are projected to reach the commercial ACL of 35,108 
lb (15,925 kg), round weight, the AA will file a notification with the 
Office of the Federal Register to close the commercial sector for the 
remainder of the fishing year. * * *
* * * * *
    (ii) * * * If recreational landings for Atlantic spadefish, as 
estimated by the SRD, exceed the recreational ACL of 154,352 lb (70,013 
kg), round weight, then during the following fishing year, recreational 
landings will be monitored for a persistence in increased landings and, 
if necessary, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the 
Federal Register, to reduce the length of the following recreational 
fishing season by the amount necessary to ensure recreational landings 
do not exceed the recreational ACL in the following fishing year. * * *
    (21) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) If commercial landings for hogfish, as estimated by the SRD, 
reach or are projected to reach the commercial ACL of 49,469 lb (22,439 
kg), round weight, the AA will file a notification with the Office of 
the Federal Register to close the commercial sector for the remainder 
of the fishing year. * * *
* * * * *
    (ii) * * * If recreational landings for hogfish, as estimated by 
the SRD, exceed the recreational ACL of 85,355 lb (38,716 kg), round 
weight, then during the following fishing year, recreational landings 
will be monitored for a persistence in increased landings and, if 
necessary, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the 
Federal Register, to reduce the length of the following recreational 
fishing season by the amount necessary to ensure recreational landings 
do not exceed the recreational ACL in the following fishing year. * * *
* * * * *
    (23) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) If commercial landings for jolthead porgy, knobbed porgy, 
whitebone porgy, scup, and saucereye porgy, combined, as estimated by 
the SRD, reach or are projected to reach the commercial complex ACL of 
36,348 lb (16,487 kg), round weight, the AA will file a notification 
with the Office of the Federal Register to close the commercial sector 
for this complex for the remainder of the fishing year. * * *
* * * * *
    (ii) * * * If recreational landings for jolthead porgy, knobbed 
porgy, whitebone porgy, scup, and saucereye porgy, combined, as 
estimated by the SRD, exceed the recreational ACL of 106,914 lb (48,495 
kg), round weight, then during the following fishing year, recreational 
landings will be monitored for a persistence in increased landings and, 
if necessary, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the 
Federal Register, to reduce the length of the following recreational 
fishing season for this complex by the amount necessary to ensure 
recreational landings do not exceed the recreational ACL in the 
following fishing year. * * *
    (24) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) If commercial landings for white grunt, sailor's choice, 
tomtate, and

[[Page 17340]]

margate, combined, as estimated by the SRD, reach or are projected to 
reach the commercial complex ACL of 218,539 lb (99,128 kg), round 
weight, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the Federal 
Register to close the commercial sector for this complex for the 
remainder of the fishing year. * * *
* * * * *
    (ii) * * * If recreational landings for white grunt, sailor's 
choice, tomtate, and margate, as estimated by the SRD, exceed the 
recreational ACL of 588,113 lb (266,764 kg), round weight, then during 
the following fishing year, recreational landings will be monitored for 
a persistence in increased landings and, if necessary, the AA will file 
a notification with the Office of the Federal Register, to reduce the 
length of the following recreational fishing season for this complex by 
the amount necessary to ensure recreational landings do not exceed the 
recreational ACL in the following fishing year. * * *
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2013-06417 Filed 3-20-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P