[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 57 (Monday, March 25, 2013)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 17882-17884]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-06772]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

[Docket No. 130213132-3132-01]
RIN 0648-BD00


Recreational Closure Authority Specific to Federal Waters Off 
Individual States for the Recreational Red Snapper Component of the 
Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Fishery

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

ACTION: Emergency rule.

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SUMMARY: NMFS issues this emergency rule to authorize NMFS to set the 
closure date of the recreational red snapper fishing season in the 
exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off individual Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) 
states. At its February 2013 meeting, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery 
Management Council (Council) requested an emergency rule to give NMFS 
this authority. The intent of this rulemaking is to constrain 
recreational red snapper harvest within the quota while ensuring a fair 
and equitable distribution of fishing privileges among participants in 
all the Gulf states.

DATES: This emergency rule is effective March 25, 2013, through 
September 23, 2013.

ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of the documents in support of this 
emergency rule, which include an environmental assessment, may be 
obtained from the Southeast Regional Office Web site at http://sero.nfms.noaa.gov.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Gulf reef fish fishery is managed under 
the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of 
Mexico (FMP). The FMP was prepared by the Council and is implemented 
through regulations at 50 CFR part 622 under the authority of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-
Stevens Act). The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides the legal authority for 
the promulgation of emergency regulations under section 305(c) (16 
U.S.C. 1855(c)).

Background

    The recreational fishing season for Gulf red snapper begins June 1 
each year with a two-fish bag limit. The length of the season is 
determined by the amount of the quota, the average weight of fish 
landed, and the estimated catch rates over time. NMFS is responsible 
for ensuring the entire recreational Gulf harvest does not exceed the 
recreational quota, including harvest in state waters. Therefore, if 
states establish a longer season or a larger bag limit for state waters 
than the Federal regulations allow in the EEZ, the Federal season must 
be reduced to account for the additional expected harvest in state 
waters.
    Since 2008, the red snapper recreational season has been shortened 
each year (except in 2010) in an attempt to constrain harvest to the 
quota; however, the quota continues to be exceeded because of 
increasing fish size and catch rates (with the exception of 2010). The 
2013 recreational fishing season has been estimated to be 27 days, 
assuming all states have consistent regulations except Texas (Texas has 
a year-round season and a four-fish bag limit) and the recreational 
quota will be increased to 4.145 million lb (1.880 million kg), round 
weight, through separate rule making (currently under development). 
However, both Louisiana and Florida have recently indicated they will 
implement inconsistent recreational red snapper regulations for their 
state waters, as Texas has done in the past. Louisiana has proposed an 
88-day season with a 3-fish bag limit and Florida has proposed a 44-day 
season with a 2-fish bag limit. Based on the regulations Louisiana and 
Florida have proposed and estimated catch rates in those state waters, 
without this emergency rule, the Federal recreational red snapper 
fishing season in the entire Gulf EEZ would need to be shortened to 22 
days, to account for the additional harvest expected from state waters. 
Therefore, without this emergency rule, the closure date for all 
Federal waters would be June 22, 2013. Even further reductions would be 
needed if other Gulf states (Mississippi and Alabama) also implement 
inconsistent regulations in their state waters.
    Through this emergency rule, if a Gulf state sets red snapper 
regulations that are inconsistent with Federal regulations, NMFS would 
calculate the recreational red snapper fishing season

[[Page 17883]]

in the EEZ off that state using an adjusted catch rate, to account for 
a longer season or larger bag limit in state waters. In some cases, 
this could allow the EEZ off states with consistent regulations to have 
a longer season than if the season for the entire Gulf was adjusted. 
However, if increased catch from a state with inconsistent regulations 
is too high, even allowing no season in the EEZ adjacent to that state 
may not be enough to prevent a reduction of the season in the rest of 
the Gulf. NMFS must continue to adjust the Federal season off other 
states so that harvest remains within the quota.
    Based on the expected regulations for Texas, Louisiana, and 
Florida, and assuming the recreational quota is increased to 4.145 
million lb (1.880 million kg), the closure dates for each state have 
been tentatively projected as follows: Texas, June 12, 2013; Louisiana, 
June 9, 2013; Mississippi, June 28, 2013; Alabama, June 28, 2013; and 
Florida, June 21, 2013. These dates were projected using estimated 
catch rates in state waters, assuming the proposed inconsistent 
regulations would take effect. The method for calculating these dates 
can be found in SERO-LAPP-2013-02 at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/gulf_fisheries/red_snapper/documents/pdfs/2013_red_snapper_emergency_regs.pdf. When NMFS has calculated final 
season dates for the EEZ off each Gulf state, NMFS will officially 
announce these closure dates in the Federal Register.
    The Council has discussed other potential actions to address the 
current situation, including possible preemption of inconsistent state 
management pursuant to section 306(b) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act (16 
U.S.C. 1856(b)). The Council is continuing to discuss this and other 
potential long-term actions to address the recreational harvest of red 
snapper.

Need for This Emergency Rule

    The ``Policy Guidelines for the Use of Emergency Rules'' (62 FR 
44421, August 21, 1997) list three criteria for determining whether an 
emergency exists.
    (1) Results from recent, unforeseen events or recently discovered 
circumstances; and
    (2) Presents serious conservation or management problems in the 
fishery; and
    (3) Can be addressed through emergency regulations for which the 
immediate benefits outweigh the value of advance notice, public 
comment, and deliberative consideration of the impacts to the same 
extent as would be expected under the normal rulemaking process.
    NMFS is promulgating these emergency regulations under the 
authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, consistent with these three 
criteria. For the first criteria for an emergency rule, the recently 
discovered circumstance is that states other than Texas intend to 
implement recreational red snapper regulations in state waters that are 
less restrictive than Federal regulations.
    States setting less restrictive regulations presents serious 
conservation problems because, in the absence of new rules, those 
actions are likely to lead to red snapper harvest overages in violation 
of the Magnuson-Steven Act. This emergency rule will help NMFS to 
constrain recreational red snapper harvest within the quota, as 
required by section 407(d) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act (16 U.S.C. 
1883(d)), which requires the councils to establish annual catch limits 
for each stock and accountability measures to ensure these catch limits 
are not exceeded. The in-season closures are the accountability 
measures for the recreational red snapper sector. This rule will also 
help ensure a fair and equitable distribution of fishing privileges 
among participants in all the Gulf states, in accordance with National 
Standard 4 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.
    The immediate benefit of implementing the emergency rule outweighs 
the value of advance notice and public comment. The recreational red 
snapper fishing season opens June 1, 2013. This emergency rule provides 
the authority to establish state by state closure dates, and announces 
preliminary closure dates for each area of the EEZ and therefore, gives 
the public preliminary notice of how long the fishing season will 
likely be off their respective state. Delaying announcement of this 
emergency rule to accommodate prior public notice and comment would 
result in significantly less advance notice of the EEZ closure dates 
off each Gulf state. This would decrease the time available for for-
hire businesses to adjust their business plans and private anglers to 
plan their fishing seasons, which would be very disruptive to 
businesses dependent on the red snapper component of the Gulf reef fish 
fishery for revenue.

Measures Contained in This Emergency Rule

    This emergency rule will allow NMFS to set different closure dates 
for the recreational red snapper fishing season in the EEZ adjacent to 
each Gulf state. The boundaries between the EEZ off each state were 
specifically identified by the Council during deliberations.
    All other Federal regulations for recreational red snapper remain 
in effect. In particular, Sec.  622.4(a)(1)(iv) states if Federal 
regulations for Gulf reef fish are more restrictive than state 
regulations, a person aboard a charter vessel or headboat for which a 
charter vessel/headboat permit for Gulf reef fish has been issued must 
comply with such Federal regulations regardless of where the fish are 
harvested. Relative to this emergency rule, that means if the EEZ off a 
particular state is closed to recreational red snapper harvest, then 
vessels with a Federal charter vessel/headboat permit may not harvest 
red snapper in those state waters.

Classification

    This action is issued pursuant to section 305(c) of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act, 16 U.S.C. 1855(c). The Assistant Administrator for 
Fisheries, NOAA (AA), has determined that this emergency rule is 
necessary for the conservation and management of the recreational red 
snapper component of the Gulf reef fish fishery and is consistent with 
the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable laws.
    This emergency rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    The AA finds good cause to waive the requirements to provide prior 
notice and opportunity for public comment pursuant to the authority set 
forth in 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B).
    Providing prior notice and opportunity for public comment on this 
action would be contrary to the public interest. Many of those affected 
by these closures, particularly charter vessel and headboat operations, 
book trips for clients months in advance and many times these anglers 
are visiting from out-of-state and are also in need of as much advance 
notice as the for-hire operations they are hiring. Private anglers plan 
their fishing season sometimes months in advance as well, especially if 
they are visiting from out-of-state. They may be planning on renting a 
boat for their own use, thus advance notice is needed to know when to 
rent the boat. Therefore, both for-hire businesses and private anglers 
need as much time as possible to adjust their business plans and plan 
their fishing seasons to account for these closures. Delaying 
announcement of this emergency rule to accommodate prior public notice 
and comment would result in significantly less advance notice of the 
EEZ closure dates off each Gulf state. This would decrease the time 
available for affected participants to adjust their business plans and 
plan

[[Page 17884]]

their fishing seasons, and be very disruptive.
    For the reasons listed above, the AA also finds good cause to waive 
the 30-day delay in effectiveness of the action under 5 U.S.C. 
553(d)(3).
    Because prior notice and opportunity for public comment are not 
required for this rule by 5 U.S.C. 553 or any other law, the analytical 
requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 601 et seq. 
are inapplicable. Accordingly, no Regulatory Flexibility Analysis is 
required and none has been prepared.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622

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

    Dated: March 19, 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 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.  622.2, the definitions for ``Off Louisiana'', ``Off 
Mississippi'' and ``Off Alabama'' are added in alphabetical order to 
read as follows:


Sec.  622.2  Definitions and acronyms.

* * * * *
    Off Alabama means the waters in the Gulf west of a rhumb line at 
87[deg]31.1' W. long., which is a line directly south from the Alabama/
Florida boundary, to a rhumb line at 88[deg]23.1' W. long., which is a 
line directly south from the Mississippi/Alabama boundary.
    Off Louisiana means the waters in the Gulf west of a rhumb line at 
89[deg]10.0' W. long., which is a line extending directly south from 
South Pass Light, to a rhumb line beginning at 29[deg]32.1' N. lat., 
93[deg]47.7' W. long. and extending to 26[deg]11.4' N. lat., 
92[deg]53.0' W. long., which line is an extension of the boundary 
between Louisiana and Texas.
* * * * *
    Off Mississippi means the waters in the Gulf west of a rhumb line 
at 88[deg]23.1' W. long., which is a line directly south from the 
Mississippi/Alabama boundary, to a rhumb line at 89[deg]10.0' W. long., 
which is a line extending directly south from South Pass Light.
* * * * *

0
3. In Sec.  622.43, paragraph (a)(1)(ii) is suspended and paragraph 
(a)(1)(iv) is added to read as follows:


Sec.  622.43  Closures.

    (a) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (iv) Recreational quota for red snapper. The bag and possession 
limit for red snapper in or from the Gulf EEZ is zero, off specified 
Gulf states and on specified dates as determined by NMFS and announced 
in the Federal Register. If one or more Gulf states establish less 
restrictive red snapper regulations than Federal regulations, NMFS may 
reduce the recreational red snapper season in the Gulf EEZ off those 
states (including a zero-day season) by the amount necessary to 
compensate for the additional harvest that would occur in state waters 
as a result of those inconsistent state regulations.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2013-06772 Filed 3-22-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P