[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 65 (Thursday, April 4, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 20292-20294]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-07774]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

[Docket No. 130212129-3284-01]
RIN 0648-BC98


Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 
Reef Fish Fishery of the Gulf of Mexico; Red Snapper 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 to implement management measures described in a 
framework action to the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish 
Resources of the Gulf of Mexico (FMP) prepared by the Gulf of Mexico 
Fishery Management Council (Council). If implemented, this rule would 
increase the commercial and recreational quotas for red snapper in the 
Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) reef fish fishery for the 2013 fishing year. This 
proposed rule is intended to help achieve optimum yield (OY) for the 
Gulf red snapper resource without increasing the risk of red snapper 
experiencing overfishing.

DATES: Written comments must be received on or before April 19, 2013.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the proposed rule, identified by 
``NOAA-NMFS-2013-0055'' 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-2013-0055, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Cynthia Meyer, 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 framework action, which includes an 
environmental assessment and a regulatory impact review, may be 
obtained from the Southeast Regional Office Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sf/GrouperSnapperandReefFish.htm.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS and the Council manage the Gulf reef 
fish fishery under the FMP. The Council prepared the FMP and NMFS 
implements the FMP through regulations at 50 CFR part 622 under the 
authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management 
Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act).

Background

    The Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR) update 
assessment for Gulf red snapper, conducted in August 2009 (SEDAR 9), 
determined that overfishing had ended for the red snapper stock, and 
that the acceptable biological catch (ABC) may be increased. The stock, 
however, is still overfished and is under a rebuilding plan through 
2032. The next SEDAR benchmark stock assessment currently scheduled for 
Gulf red snapper will be conducted in 2013.
    The Council's Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) met in 
November 2012, to review the updated landings data and recommended a 
new ABC for the 2013 fishing year. For 2013, the SSC recommended an ABC 
of 8.46 million lb (3.83 million kg). The Council met in February 2013, 
and voted to implement this new ABC through the 2013 Gulf red snapper 
framework action.

Management Measures Contained in This Proposed Rule

    This rule would set the 2013 commercial and recreational quotas for 
red snapper based on the ABC recommended by the SSC and on the current 
commercial and recreational allocations (51-percent commercial and 49-
percent recreational). Therefore, the 2013 commercial quota would be 
set at 4.315 million lb (1.957 million kg), round weight, and the 2013 
recreational

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quota would be set at 4.145 million lb (1.880 million kg), round 
weight.
    The Council also considered modifying the red snapper recreational 
bag limit, but decided to maintain the current 2-fish per angler bag 
limit.
    The red snapper management measures contained in this proposed rule 
would achieve the goal set by National Standard 1 of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act, which states that conservation and management measures 
shall prevent overfishing while achieving, on a continuing basis, the 
OY for the fishery.

Red Snapper Recreational Fishing Season

    Under 50 CFR 622.34 (m), the red snapper recreational fishing 
season opens each year on June 1 and closes when the recreational quota 
is projected to be reached. Prior to June 1 each year, NOAA projects 
the closing date based on the previous year's data, and notifies the 
public of the closing date for the upcoming season. If subsequent data 
indicate that the quota has not been reached by that closing date, NMFS 
may reopen the season.
    After finalized 2012 recreational landings data are available and 
before the season opens on June 1, 2013, NMFS will announce when the 
2013 quota is projected to be harvested. NMFS may announce when the 
2013 quota is projected to be harvested in the final rule associated 
with this action. The 2013 season would be shorter than the 2012 season 
as a result of an increase in the average size of the red snapper 
harvested, and the increase in catch rates. Because the red snapper 
population is in a rebuilding plan, population abundance is expected to 
increase, which is expected to lead to increased quotas and higher 
catch rates.
    NMFS implemented an emergency rule to authorize NMFS to set the 
closure date of the red snapper recreational fishing season in the 
exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off individual states (78 FR 17882, March 
25, 2013). The closure dates off each Gulf state would be based on the 
recreational quota increase contained in this proposed rule and any 
state's inconsistent regulations. The extent to which NMFS would adjust 
a state's Federal season is contingent upon the estimated landings from 
states with any inconsistent regulations. The more a state exceeds its 
apportionment of the annual quota, the greater the Federal season off 
that state is likely to be reduced to compensate for any quota overage.
    The emergency rule contains tentative closure dates in the EEZ off 
each Gulf state. These tentative closure dates are based on a 
recreational quota of 4.145 million lb (1.880 million kg), round 
weight, and inconsistent state regulations in Texas, Louisiana, and 
Florida. The tentative closure dates contained in the emergency rule 
are 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 could change if states change their regulations 
in state waters or additional states (Mississippi and Alabama) 
implement inconsistent regulations in their state waters. To determine 
these closure dates, NMFS analyzed the catch rates for each state. The 
amount each state's Federal season would be shortened is contingent on 
estimates of landings when the Federal season is closed. The more a 
state exceeds its apportionment of the annual quota, the more the 
Federal season must be reduced off that state to compensate for the 
overage. NMFS estimates catch rates on the order of 1.5 to 3 times 
greater than the current state water catch rates due to factors such as 
increasing catch rates and fish size, higher bag limits, weekend 
fishing, peak season fishing, increases in stock abundance, potentially 
significant levels of deliberate or accidental non-compliance by 
constituents with state/Federal boundaries during incompatible 
regulatory periods, and the fact that some for-hire vessels are not 
federally permitted and would contribute to landings when the Federal 
season is closed. For the season projections, NMFS used 2 times the 
catch rate because using 1.5 times the catch rate would potentially be 
an underestimate and using 3 times the catch rate could be too 
conservative. Final official closure dates will be announced prior to 
the start of the season on June 1, 2013, and may be announced in the 
final rule for this action.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is 
consistent with the FMP, 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 Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration that this proposed 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 proposed rule is to set 2013 quotas for the 
commercial and recreational harvest of red snapper in the Gulf EEZ that 
are consistent with the red snapper rebuilding plan in order to achieve 
OY. The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides the statutory basis for this 
proposed rule. No duplicative, overlapping, or conflicting Federal 
rules have been identified. This proposed rule would not introduce any 
changes to current reporting, record-keeping, or other compliance 
requirements.
    This rule, if implemented, would be expected to directly affect all 
commercial and for-hire vessels that harvest red snapper. In addition 
to needing red snapper allocation, a commercial reef fish permit is 
required to harvest red snapper in the Gulf EEZ in excess of the bag 
limit and to sell red snapper. An estimated 890 vessels possess a valid 
(non-expired) or renewable commercial reef fish permit. A renewable 
permit is an expired permit that may not be actively fished, but is 
renewable for up to 1 year after permit expiration. However, over the 
period 2007-2011, an average of only 333 vessels per year recorded 
commercial red snapper harvests. As a result, for the purpose of this 
assessment, the number of potentially affected commercial vessels is 
estimated to range from 333-890. The average commercial vessel in the 
Gulf reef fish fishery is estimated to earn approximately $50,000 (2011 
dollars) in annual gross revenue, while the average vessel with red 
snapper landings is estimated to earn approximately $96,000.
    A Federal reef fish for-hire vessel permit is required for for-hire 
vessels to harvest red snapper in the Gulf EEZ. On November 21, 2012, 
1,364 vessels had valid or renewable reef fish for-hire permits. The 
for-hire fleet is comprised of charterboats, which charge a fee on a 
vessel basis, and headboats, which charge a fee on an individual angler 
(head) basis. Although the for-hire permit does not distinguish between 
headboats and charterboats, an estimated 69 headboats operate in the 
Gulf. As a result, 1,295 of the vessels with valid or renewable reef 
fish for-hire permits are expected to operate as charterboats. The 
average charterboat is estimated to earn approximately $80,000 (2011 
dollars) in gross annual revenue, while the average headboat is 
estimated to earn approximately $242,000.
    NMFS has not identified any other small entities that would be 
expected to

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be directly affected by this proposed rule.
    The Small Business Administration has established size criteria for 
all major industry sectors in the U.S., including fish harvesters. A 
business involved in fish harvesting is classified as a small business 
if it is independently owned and operated, is not dominant in its field 
of operation (including its affiliates), and has combined annual 
receipts not in excess of $4.0 million (NAICS code 114111, finfish 
fishing) for all its affiliated operations worldwide. The revenue 
threshold for a business involved in the for-hire fishing industry is 
$7.0 million (NAICS code 713990, recreational industries). All 
commercial and for-hire vessels expected to be directly affected by 
this proposed rule are believed to be small business entities.
    This rule, if implemented, would increase the 2013 red snapper 
commercial quota by 194,000 lb (87,997 kg), round weight, and the 2013 
red snapper recreational quota by 186,000 lb (84,368 kg), round weight. 
The proposed increase in the commercial quota would be expected to 
result in an increase in gross revenue (ex-vessel revenue minus the 3-
percent cost recovery fee) for commercial vessels that harvest red 
snapper of approximately $721,000 (2011 dollars), or approximately 
$810-$2,165 per vessel ($721,000/890 vessels = $810 per vessel; 
$721,000/333 vessels = $2,165 per vessel). The expected range in the 
increase in gross revenue per vessel would be equal to approximately 
1.6 percent ($810/$50,000) and 2.3 percent ($2,165/$96,000) increases 
in the average annual revenue per vessel, respectively.
    The proposed increase in the recreational quota would be expected 
to result in an increase in net operating revenue (gross revenue minus 
operating costs except for labor) for for-hire businesses of 
approximately $502,000 (2011 dollars) for charterboats and 
approximately $562,000 for headboats. The projected increase in net 
operating revenue for charterboats would be equal to approximately $388 
per vessel ($502,000/1,295 vessels), or approximately 0.5 percent 
($388/$80,000) of average annual revenue per vessel. For headboats, the 
projected increase in net operating revenue would be equal to 
approximately $8,152 per vessel ($562,000/69 vessels), or approximately 
3.4 percent ($8,152/$242,000) of average annual revenue per vessel.
    In summary, the proposed rule, if implemented, would not be 
expected to have a significant impact on a substantial number of small 
entities and, as a result, an initial regulatory flexibility analysis 
is not 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 28, 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.  622.42, paragraphs (a)(1)(i) and (a)(2)(i) are revised to 
read as follows:


Sec.  622.42  Quotas.

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (i) Red snapper--4.315 million lb (1.957 million kg), round weight.
* * * * *
    (2) * * *
    (i) Recreational quota for red snapper--4.145 million lb (1.880 
million kg), round weight.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2013-07774 Filed 4-3-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P