[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 65 (Thursday, April 4, 2013)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 20258-20260]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-07845]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

[Docket No. 120306154-2241-02]
RIN 0648-XC593


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna 
Fisheries

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

ACTION: Temporary rule; inseason Angling category retention limit 
adjustment; southern area trophy fishery closure.

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SUMMARY: NMFS has determined that the Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) daily 
retention limit that applies to vessels permitted in the Highly 
Migratory Species (HMS) Charter/Headboat category (when fishing 
recreationally for BFT) should be adjusted for the remainder of 2013, 
based on consideration of the regulatory determination criteria 
regarding inseason adjustments and based on preliminary 2013 landings 
data. The adjusted limit for HMS Charter/Headboat vessels is one school 
BFT and one large school/small medium BFT per vessel per day/trip when 
fishing recreationally for BFT (i.e., one BFT measuring 27 to less than 
47 inches, and one BFT measuring 47 to less than 73 inches). This 
retention limit is effective in all areas, except for the Gulf of 
Mexico, where NMFS prohibits targeted fishing for BFT. NMFS also closes 
the southern area Angling category fishery for large medium and giant 
(``trophy'') BFT. These actions are being taken consistent with the BFT 
fishery management objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS Fishery 
Management Plan (Consolidated HMS FMP) and to prevent overharvest of 
the 2013 Angling category quota.

DATES: Effective April 4, 2013, through December 31, 2013.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sarah McLaughlin or Brad McHale, 978-
281-9260.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Regulations implemented under the authority 
of the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA; 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.) and 
the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-
Stevens Act; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) governing the harvest of BFT by 
persons and vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction are found at 50 CFR 
part 635. Section 635.27 subdivides the U.S. BFT quota recommended by 
the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas 
(ICCAT) among the various domestic fishing categories, per the 
allocations established in the Consolidated HMS FMP (71 FR 58058, 
October 2, 2006) and in accordance with implementing regulations. NMFS 
is required under ATCA and the Magnuson-Stevens Act to provide U.S. 
fishing vessels with a reasonable opportunity to harvest the ICCAT-
recommended quota.
    The 2013 BFT fishing year, which is managed on a calendar-year 
basis and subject to an annual calendar-year quota, began January 1, 
2013. The Angling category season opened January 1, 2013, and continues 
through December 31, 2013. Currently, the default Angling category 
daily retention limit of one school, large school, or small medium BFT 
(measuring 27 to less than 73 inches (68.5 to less than 185 cm)) 
applies (50 CFR 635.23(b)(2)). An annual limit of one large medium or 
giant BFT (73 inches or greater) per vessel also applies (Sec.  
635.23(b)(1)). These retention limits apply to HMS Angling and HMS 
Charter/Headboat category permitted vessels (when fishing 
recreationally for BFT).
    The currently codified Angling category quota is 182 mt (94.9 mt 
for school BFT, 82.9 mt for large school/small medium BFT, and 4.2 mt 
for large medium/giant BFT).

Adjustment of Angling Category Daily Retention Limit

    Under Sec.  635.23(b)(3), NMFS may increase or decrease the 
retention limit for any size class of BFT based on consideration of the 
criteria provided under Sec.  635.27(a)(8), which include: the 
usefulness of information obtained from catches in the particular 
category for biological sampling and monitoring of the status of the 
stock (Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(i)); effects of the adjustment on BFT 
rebuilding and overfishing (Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(v)); effects of the 
adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the Consolidated HMS FMP 
(Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(vi)); variations in seasonal BFT distribution, 
abundance, or migration patterns (Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(vii)); effects of 
catch rates in one area precluding vessels in another area from having 
a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the category's quota 
(Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(viii)); and a review of daily landing trends and 
availability of the BFT on the fishing grounds (Sec.  
635.27(a)(8)(ix)). Retention limits may be adjusted separately for 
specific vessel type, such as private vessels, headboats, or 
charterboats.
    NMFS has considered the set of criteria at Sec.  635.27(a)(8) and 
their applicability to the Angling category BFT retention limit for the 
2013 Angling category fishery. These considerations include, but are 
not limited to, the following: This action, which is taken consistent 
with the quotas previously established and analyzed in the 2011 BFT 
quotas final rule (76 FR 39019, July 5, 2011) and consistent with 
objectives of the Consolidated HMS FMP, is not expected to negatively 
impact stock health. Biological samples collected

[[Page 20259]]

from BFT landed by recreational fishermen continue to provide NMFS with 
valuable parts and data for ongoing scientific studies of BFT age and 
growth, migration, and reproductive status. A principal consideration 
is the objective of providing opportunities to harvest the Angling 
category quota without exceeding it based upon the Consolidated HMS FMP 
goal: ``Consistent with other objectives of this FMP, to manage 
Atlantic HMS fisheries for continuing optimum yield so as to provide 
the greatest overall benefit to the Nation, particularly with respect 
to food production, providing recreational opportunities, preserving 
traditional fisheries, and taking into account the protection of marine 
ecosystems.'' It is important that NMFS constrain landings to BFT 
subquotas both to adhere to the current FMP quota allocations and to 
ensure that landings are as consistent as possible with the pattern of 
fishing mortality (e.g., fish caught at each age) that was assumed in 
the projections of stock rebuilding.
    NMFS examined the results of the 2009 through 2012 fishing seasons 
under the applicable daily retention limits, as well as the observed 
trend in the recreational fishery over that time period (i.e., a shift 
in availability from primarily large school BFT, which measure 47 to 
less than 59 inches (119 to less than 150 cm) in 2008 to small medium 
BFT (59 to less than 73 inches) in 2009 through 2011). Large school and 
small medium BFT traditionally have been managed as one size class (47 
to less than 73 inches). In 2010 and 2011, based on considerations of 
the available quota, fishery performance in recent years, and the 
availability of BFT on the fishing grounds, NMFS adjusted the Angling 
category retention limit from the default level to prohibit the 
retention of small medium BFT for the remainder of the respective 
fishing years (75 FR 33531, June 14, 2010, and 76 FR 18416, April 4, 
2011). Recognizing the different nature, socio-economic needs, and 
recent landings results of private and charter/headboat vessels, NMFS 
implemented separate limits for each. Effective June 12 through 
December 31, 2010, and effective April 2 through December 31, 2011, the 
limit was one school or large school BFT per vessel per day/trip for 
private vessels (i.e., those with HMS Angling category permits), and 
was one school BFT and one large school BFT per vessel per day/trip for 
charter vessels (i.e., those with HMS Charter/Headboat permits, when 
fishing recreationally for BFT).
    In 2012, based on the annual BFT growth rate and preliminary 
recreational catch information, NMFS found it was reasonable to assume 
that the cohort of fish described above largely had grown to greater 
than 73 inches (i.e., had moved through the recreational large school/
small medium size class), and adjusted the retention limit for HMS 
Charter/Headboat vessels from the default level to one school and one 
large school/small medium BFT per vessel per day/trip.
    Given the considerations above, NMFS has determined that the 
Angling category retention limit applicable to HMS Charter/Headboat 
category participants (when fishing recreationally) should be adjusted 
from the default level, and that implementation of separate limits for 
private and charter/headboat vessels is appropriate, recognizing the 
different nature, socio-economic needs, and recent landings results of 
the two components of the recreational BFT fishery. For example, 
charter operators historically have indicated that a multi-fish 
retention limit is vital to their ability to attract customers. In 
addition, 2012 Large Pelagics Survey estimates indicate that charter/
headboat BFT landings constitute approximately 30 percent of recent 
recreational landings, with the remaining 70 percent landed by private 
vessels.
    Therefore, for private vessels (i.e., those with HMS Angling 
category permits), the limit is maintained at one school, large school, 
or small medium BFT per vessel per day/trip (i.e., one BFT measuring 27 
to less than 73 inches). For charter vessels (i.e., those with HMS 
Charter/Headboat permits), the limit is one school BFT and one large 
school/small medium BFT per vessel per day/trip when fishing 
recreationally for BFT (i.e., one BFT measuring 27 to less than 47 
inches, and one BFT measuring 47 to less than 73 inches). These 
retention limits are effective in all areas, except for the Gulf of 
Mexico, where NMFS prohibits targeted fishing for BFT. Regardless of 
the duration of a fishing trip, the daily retention limit applies upon 
landing.
    NMFS anticipates that the BFT daily retention limits in this action 
will result in landings during 2013 that would not exceed the available 
subquotas as codified in 2011. A lower retention limit could result in 
substantial underharvest of the codified Angling category subquota, and 
increasing the daily limit further may risk exceeding the available 
quota, contrary to the objectives of the Consolidated HMS FMP. NMFS 
will monitor 2013 landings closely and will make further adjustments, 
including closure, with an inseason action if warranted.

Angling Category Large Medium and Giant Southern ``Trophy'' Fishery 
Closure

    The codified BFT quotas provide for 4.2 mt of large medium and 
giant (trophy) BFT (measuring greater than 73 inches) to be harvested 
from the regulatory area by vessels fishing under the Angling category 
quota, with 1.4 mt for the area north of 39[deg]18' N. lat. (off Great 
Egg Inlet, NJ) and 2.8 mt for the area south of 39[deg]18' N. lat.
    Based on information from the NMFS Automated Landings Reporting 
System and the North Carolina Tagging Program, NMFS has determined that 
the codified Angling category trophy BFT subquota has been taken and 
that a closure of the southern area trophy BFT fishery is warranted at 
this time. Therefore, retaining, possessing, or landing large medium or 
giant (``trophy'') BFT south of 39[deg]18' N. lat. by persons aboard 
vessels permitted in the HMS Angling category and the HMS Charter/
Headboat category (when fishing recreationally) must cease at 11:30 
p.m. local time on April 4, 2013. This action is taken consistent with 
the regulations at Sec.  635.28(a)(1).
    These Angling category actions are intended to provide a reasonable 
opportunity to harvest the U.S. quota of BFT without exceeding it, 
while maintaining an equitable distribution of fishing opportunities; 
and to be consistent with the objectives of the Consolidated HMS FMP.
    HMS Angling and HMS Charter/Headboat category permit holders may 
catch and release (or tag and release) BFT of all sizes, subject to the 
requirements of the catch-and-release and tag-and-release programs at 
Sec.  635.26. Anglers are also reminded that all BFT that are released 
must be handled in a manner that will maximize survivability, and 
without removing the fish from the water, consistent with requirements 
at Sec.  635.21(a)(1). For additional information on safe handling, see 
the ``Careful Catch and Release'' brochure available at 
www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/.
    If needed, subsequent Angling category adjustments will be 
published in the Federal Register. In addition, fishermen may call the 
Atlantic Tunas Information Line at (888) 872-8862 or (978) 281-9260, or 
access www.hmspermits.noaa.gov, for updates.

Classification

    The Assistant Administrator for NMFS (AA) finds that it is 
impracticable and contrary to the public interest to provide prior 
notice of, and an opportunity for public comment on, this action for 
the following reasons:

[[Page 20260]]

    The regulations implementing the Consolidated HMS FMP provide for 
inseason retention limit adjustments to respond to the unpredictable 
nature of BFT availability on the fishing grounds, the migratory nature 
of this species, and the regional variations in the BFT fishery. Based 
on available BFT quotas, fishery performance in recent years, the 
availability of BFT on the fishing grounds, among other considerations, 
an adjustment to the recreational BFT daily retention limit is 
warranted. Analysis of available data shows that adjustment to the BFT 
daily retention limit from the default level would result in minimal 
risks of exceeding the ICCAT-allocated quota. Further, closure of the 
southern area Angling category trophy fishery is necessary to ensure 
sufficient quota remains available to ensure overall 2013 fishing year 
landings are consistent with ICCAT recommendations and the Consolidated 
HMS FMP. NMFS provides notification of closures and retention limit 
adjustments by publishing the notice in the Federal Register, emailing 
individuals who have subscribed to the Atlantic HMS News electronic 
newsletter, and updating the information posted on the Atlantic Tunas 
Information Line and on www.hmspermits.noaa.gov.
    These fisheries are currently underway and delaying this action 
would be contrary to the public interest as it could result in 
excessive trophy BFT landings that may result in future potential quota 
reductions for the Angling category and potentially other BFT quota 
categories, depending on the magnitude of a potential Angling category 
overharvest. NMFS must close the southern area trophy BFT fishery 
before additional landings of these sizes of BFT accumulate. Delays in 
increasing the daily recreational BFT retention limits would adversely 
affect those Charter/Headboat category vessels that would otherwise 
have an opportunity to harvest more than the default retention limit of 
one school, large school, or small medium BFT per day/trip and may 
exacerbate the problem of low catch rates and quota rollovers. 
Therefore, the AA finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive 
prior notice and the opportunity for public comment. For all of the 
above reasons, there is good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d) to waive the 
30-day delay in effectiveness.
    This action is being taken under 50 CFR 635.23(b)(3) and 
635.28(a)(1), and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq. and 1801 et seq.

    Dated: April 1, 2013.
Kara Meckley,
Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National 
Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-07845 Filed 4-1-13; 4:15 pm]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P