[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 65 (Thursday, April 4, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 20291-20292]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-07866]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 600

[Docket No. 121227743-3275-01]
RIN 0648-BC86


Fisheries of the United States; Billfish Conservation Act of 2012 
Implementing Regulations

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

ACTION: Advance notice of proposed rulemaking; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: NMFS issues this advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) 
to provide background information and request public comment on 
potential issues related to the implementation of the Billfish 
Conservation Act of 2012.

DATES: Written comments regarding the issues in this ANPR must be 
received by 5 p.m., local time, on July 3, 2013.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NMFS-2013-0004, 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-2013-0004, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Kim Marshall, 1315 East-
West Highway, SSMC3, Silver Spring, MD 20910.
     Fax: 301-713-1193; Attn: Kim Marshall.
    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.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kim Marshall, Fishery Policy Analyst, 
National Marine Fisheries Service, 301-427-8556.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The Billfish Conservation Act of 2012 (BCA), Public Law 112-183, 16 
U.S.C. 1827a, was signed into law on October 5, 2012. The BCA defines 
``billfish'' as any of the following: (1) Blue marlin; (2) striped 
marlin; (3) black marlin; (4) sailfish; (5) shortbill spearfish; (6) 
white marlin; (7) roundscale spearfish; (8) Mediterranean spearfish; or 
(9) longbill spearfish. It exempts swordfish from the definition of 
billfish.
    Section 4(a) of the BCA prohibits any person from offering billfish 
or billfish products for sale, selling them, or having custody, 
control, or possession of them for purposes of offering them for sale. 
It treats a violation of the BCA as an act prohibited by section 307 of 
the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA; 16 
U.S.C. 1857). Individuals, including recreational fishermen may 
possess, but not sell billfish or billfish products or have custody, 
control, or possession for the purposes of offering them for sale, 
subject to limits imposed by existing state and federal regulations.
    Section 4(c) of the BCA exempts billfish caught by U.S. fishing 
vessels and landed in Hawaii or Pacific Insular Areas (as defined under 
the MSA) from the general prohibitions on sale and custody with the 
intent to sell in section 4(a). It also exempts billfish landed by 
foreign vessels in the Pacific Insular Areas and exported to markets 
outside the U.S. or retained within Hawaii and the Pacific Insular 
Areas for local consumption.
    In passing the BCA, Congress recognized the conservation challenges 
facing billfish populations in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. 
Congress found that, despite careful management of domestic billfish 
fisheries, global billfish populations have declined significantly 
because of overfishing primarily through retention of bycatch by non-
U.S. fishing fleets. See 16 U.S.C. 1827a note. In 2011, the 
International Union for the Conservation of Nature classified blue and 
white marlin as vulnerable to extinction and striped marlin as near 
threatened. The over harvest and export of billfish from foreign 
nations threatens the survival of billfish populations and the 
sustainability of the U.S. recreational billfish fishery. A report on 
trade of billfish published by the International Game Fish Association 
(IGFA) in June, 2007 found that the legal sale of billfish caught in 
the Pacific Ocean may create a market that allows billfish caught in 
the Atlantic Ocean to enter illegitimately into U.S. markets.
    Existing federal regulations require the release of all Atlantic 
billfish caught by commercial fishing operations in the U.S. Exclusive 
Economic Zone (EEZ), prohibit the possession of billfish onboard 
commercial fishing vessels inside the U.S. EEZ, and prohibit the sale 
of Atlantic billfish. 50 CFR 635.21(a) and (e)(2), 635.31(b). The BCA 
increases the protection for Atlantic billfish by prohibiting the 
import and sale of all billfish in the U.S., no matter where harvested, 
unless exempted pursuant to section 4(c) of the BCA.
    The only U.S. commercial fishery for billfish occurs in Hawaii and 
surrounding Pacific island areas. Section 4(c)(1) of the BCA exempts 
billfish caught by U.S. vessels and landed in Hawaii or Pacific Insular 
Areas from the general prohibition on sale of billfish. Under existing 
regulations, seafood dealers and processors are required to use the 
Billfish Certificate of Eligibility (COE) to document that billfish 
possessed or offered for sale were not harvested from the Atlantic 
Ocean. See 50 CFR 635.31(b). NMFS is considering adapting the billfish 
COE requirements to implement the BCA by requiring that seafood dealers 
and processors document that billfish offered for sale

[[Page 20292]]

qualifies for exemption from the general prohibition on the sale of 
billfish.
    The U.S. West Coast Highly Migratory Fishery Management Plan (Plan) 
includes the striped marlin as a management unit species and prohibits 
sale of the species. As stated in the Pacific Fishery Management 
Council's Plan, striped marlin is considered to have far greater value 
as a recreational rather than commercial target species. The Plan is 
not the only measure addressing striped marlin. California has 
prohibited sale and importation of Pacific striped marlin since 1937, 
and with a limited exception for black marlin, marlin meat, whether 
fresh, smoked, canned, or preserved by any means, may not be bought or 
sold, or possessed or transported for the purpose of sale in the state.

Public Comments

    NMFS is considering issuing regulations to implement the BCA. 
Rulemaking is needed to provide notice to the regulated community, 
increase public understanding of the elements of the billfish 
prohibitions, facilitate enforcement, and ensure consistent 
implementation of the BCA nationally. Through this ANPR, NMFS seeks the 
public's views on the potential scope of any future regulations to 
implement the BCA, including the scope of the exemption in section 4(c) 
of the BCA and the possible use of a modified version of the current 
billfish COE to document that billfish offered for sale qualifies for 
exemption from the general prohibition on sale. Also, what, if any, 
restrictions can NMFS impose on the transportation and sale of billfish 
caught by U.S. vessels and landed in Hawaii or the Pacific Insular 
Areas?
    To help determine the scope of issues to be addressed and to 
identify significant issues related to this action, NMFS is soliciting 
written comments on this ANPR. The public is encouraged to submit 
comments related to the specific ideas mentioned in this ANPR, as well 
as any additional ideas to improve implementation of the Billfish 
Conservation Act of 2012.

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1827a.

    Dated: March 29, 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.
[FR Doc. 2013-07866 Filed 4-3-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P