[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 70 (Thursday, April 11, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 21584-21589]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-08492]



[[Page 21584]]

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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

[Docket No. 130214139-3315-01]
RIN 0648-XC513


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; 2013 Atlantic Bluefin Tuna 
Quota Specifications

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments; notice of public hearings.

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SUMMARY: NMFS proposes 2013 quota specifications for the Atlantic 
bluefin tuna (BFT) fishery, and seeks comments from the public on the 
allocation of available underharvest among the fishery categories under 
certain circumstances. This action is necessary to implement binding 
recommendations of the International Commission for the Conservation of 
Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), as required by the Atlantic Tunas Convention 
Act (ATCA), and to achieve domestic management objectives under the 
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-
Stevens Act).

DATES: Written comments must be received on or before May 13, 2013. 
Public hearings will be held on April 29, 2013, from 2 to 4 p.m., and 
on May 3, 2013, from 1 to 3 p.m. See SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION for 
further details.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
``NOAA-NMFS-2013-0042,'' by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0042, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Sarah McLaughlin, Highly 
Migratory Species Management Division, Office of Sustainable Fisheries 
(F/SF1), NMFS, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930
     Fax: 978-281-9340, Attn: Sarah McLaughlin
     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 generally will 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.
    The public hearing locations are:
    1. Gloucester, MA--NMFS, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 
01930.
    2. Silver Spring, MD--NMFS Science Center, 1301 East-West Highway, 
Silver Spring, MD 20910.
    Supporting documents, including the Supplemental Environmental 
Assessment, as well as others, such as the Fishery Management Plans 
described below may be downloaded from the HMS Web site at 
www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/. These documents also are available by 
sending your request to Sarah McLaughlin at the mailing address 
specified above.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Atlantic bluefin tuna, bigeye tuna, albacore 
tuna, yellowfin tuna, and skipjack tuna (hereafter referred to as 
``Atlantic tunas'') are managed under the dual authority of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act and ATCA. As an active member of ICCAT, the United 
States implements binding ICCAT recommendations to comply with this 
international treaty. ATCA authorizes the Secretary of Commerce 
(Secretary) to promulgate regulations, as may be necessary and 
appropriate to carry out ICCAT recommendations. The authority to issue 
regulations under the Magnuson-Stevens Act and ATCA has been delegated 
from the Secretary to the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NMFS.

Background

    On May 28, 1999, NMFS published in the Federal Register (64 FR 
29090) final regulations, effective July 1, 1999, implementing the 
Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Tunas, Swordfish, and Sharks (1999 
FMP). The 1999 FMP included a framework process to promulgate annual 
specifications for the BFT fishery, in accordance with ATCA and the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act, and to implement the annual recommendations of 
ICCAT. Since 1982, ICCAT has recommended a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) 
of western Atlantic BFT, and since 1991, ICCAT has recommended specific 
limits (quotas) for the United States and other Contracting Parties 
with BFT fisheries.
    On October 2, 2006, NMFS published a final rule in the Federal 
Register (71 FR 58058), effective November 1, 2006, implementing the 
2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management 
Plan (Consolidated HMS FMP), which consolidated management of all 
Atlantic HMS (i.e., sharks, swordfish, tunas, and billfish) into one 
comprehensive FMP. The implementing regulations for Atlantic HMS are at 
50 CFR part 635. Among other things, the Consolidated HMS FMP 
maintained an allocation scheme, established in the 1999 FMP, for 
dividing the baseline annual U.S. BFT quota among several domestic 
quota categories based on gear type (i.e., Harpoon, Purse Seine, 
Angling, General, Longline, and Trap categories).
    The baseline quota has remained unchanged from 2012, and the 2013 
BFT quota specifications are necessary to adjust the annual U.S. 
baseline BFT quota to account for any underharvest or overharvest of 
the adjusted 2012 U.S. BFT quota. Preliminary information indicates an 
underharvest of the 2012 adjusted BFT quota. Final 2012 landings and 
dead discard information will be available in late spring 2013.
    In May 2011, NMFS prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA)/
Regulatory Impact Review and Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis for 
a final rule that: (1) implemented and allocated the U.S. BFT quota for 
2011 and for 2012, (2) adjusted the 2011 U.S. quota and subquotas to 
account for unharvested 2010 quota allowed to be carried forward to 
2011, and to account for a portion of the estimated 2011 dead discards 
up front, and implemented several other BFT management measures (76 FR 
39019, July 5, 2011). Although it is not necessary to prepare an EA for 
quota specifications alone (in accordance with the approach described 
in the Consolidated HMS FMP), NMFS has prepared a Supplemental EA to 
present updated information regarding the affected environment, 
including information from a 2012 ICCAT stock assessment for BFT, among 
other things. The results of the 2012 stock assessment update were not 
substantively different than those of an assessment that ICCAT 
conducted in 2010.

2010 ICCAT Recommendation and 2011 Implementing Rule

    At its 2010 annual meeting, ICCAT recommended a TAC of 1,750 mt

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annually for 2011 and for 2012, inclusive of dead discards (ICCAT 
Recommendation 10-03--Supplemental Recommendation by ICCAT concerning 
the Western Atlantic BFT Rebuilding Program). This amount was expected 
to allow for continued stock growth under low and high stock 
recruitment scenarios developed by ICCAT's scientific body at the 2010 
BFT stock assessment. The U.S. share of the TAC for 2011 and 2012, 
adjusted for two specific bycatch allocations, was 54.02 percent, which 
resulted in a baseline quota of 923.7 mt. The total annual U.S. quota, 
including an additional 25 mt to account for bycatch related to pelagic 
longline fisheries in the Northeast Distant gear restricted area (NED), 
was 948.7 mt. ICCAT limits the amount of underharvest that may be 
carried forward from one year to the next to no more than 10 percent of 
a country's quota.
    Through the final rule implementing the BFT quotas and Atlantic 
tuna fisheries management measures (76 FR 39019, July 5, 2011), NMFS 
implemented the 923.7-mt baseline quota consistent with ICCAT 
Recommendation 10-03 and set the domestic BFT fishing category 
subquotas per the allocation percentages established in the 
Consolidated HMS FMP and implementing regulations (71 FR 58058, October 
2, 2006). The baseline quota and category subquotas are codified and 
remain effective until changed (for instance, if any new ICCAT BFT TAC 
recommendation is adopted).

2012 ICCAT Recommendation

    At its 2012 annual meeting, ICCAT recommended a one-year rollover 
of the 1,750-mt TAC as part of ICCAT Recommendation 12-02--Supplemental 
Recommendation by ICCAT concerning the Western Atlantic BFT Rebuilding 
Program. This amount is expected to allow for continued stock growth 
under the both the low and high stock recruitment scenarios, 
considering the 2012 ICCAT BFT stock assessment results. The annual 
U.S. baseline quota for 2013 continues to be 923.7 mt, and the annual 
total U.S. quota, including 25 mt to account for bycatch related to 
pelagic longline fisheries in the NED, continues to be 948.7 mt.
    Although the baseline quota is unchanged this year because the 2012 
ICCAT recommendation included the same TAC as the prior recommendation, 
NMFS is proposing underharvest or overharvest adjustments as necessary 
for the 2013 fishing year through quota specifications, consistent with 
the Consolidated HMS FMP. Until the final specifications for 2013 are 
effective, the existing BFT base quotas continue to apply as codified. 
See Table 1, second column. As mentioned above, ICCAT limits the amount 
of underharvest that may be carried forward from one year to the next 
to no more than 10 percent of a country's quota. Applied to the 2012 
catch figures, this provision limits the amount of U.S. underharvest 
that may be carried forward this year to 94.9 mt (10 percent of the 
948.7-mt total U.S. quota).

Accounting for Dead Discards

    The United States must report BFT landings data and BFT dead 
discard estimates to ICCAT annually. Currently, the best available 
annual estimate of dead discards is the 2011 estimate of 145.2 mt. 
Using the 2011 estimate as a proxy for estimated 2013 dead discards for 
the proposed action is appropriate because it is the best available and 
most complete information that NMFS currently has regarding dead 
discards and follows the established protocol in the regulations. When 
the 2012 BFT dead discard estimate becomes available (late spring 
2013), it will be used to prepare the final specifications and will be 
reported to ICCAT along with total 2012 BFT landings. Only pelagic 
longline dead discard estimates are available at this time. Estimates 
from other gear types and fishing sectors that are not observed at 
sufficient levels for estimation and that do not report via a logbook 
are not included in this calculation. However, bycatch and bycatch 
mortality of BFT by vessels using handgear and purse seine gear is 
considered to be relatively low.

2013 Quota Specifications

    The 2013 BFT quota specifications NMFS proposes here are necessary 
to adjust the current annual U.S. baseline BFT quota to account for 
underharvest or overharvest of the adjusted 2012 U.S. BFT quota. Based 
on preliminary data available as of February 26, 2013, BFT landings in 
2012 totaled 713.2 mt. Adding the 145.2-mt estimate of dead discards 
results in a preliminary 2012 total catch of 858.4 mt, which is 185.2 
mt less than the amount of quota (inclusive of dead discards) allowed 
under ICCAT Recommendation 10-03, which applied in 2012 (i.e., 948.7 mt 
plus 94.9 mt of 2011 underharvest carried forward to 2012, totaling 
1,043.6 mt). ICCAT limits the amount of underharvest that may be 
carried forward from one year to the next to no more than 10 percent of 
a country's quota, which limits the amount of 2012 U.S. underharvest 
that may be carried forward to 2013 to 94.9 mt.
    NMFS proposes to account up front (i.e., at the beginning of the 
fishing year) for half of the expected dead discards for 2013, using 
the best available estimate of dead discards, and deducting that 
portion directly from the Longline category subquota. This is the same 
approach that NMFS took for the 2011 and 2012 BFT quota specifications. 
Accounting for dead discards in the Longline category in this way may 
provide further incentive for pelagic longline fishermen to reduce 
those interactions that may result in dead discards. NMFS would apply 
half of the amount of underharvest that is allowed to be carried 
forward to 2013 to the Longline category, and maintain the other half 
in the Reserve category. Maintaining this portion of the underharvest 
in the Reserve category until later in the fishing year would provide 
maximum flexibility in accounting for 2013 landings and dead discards. 
Consistent with determination criteria at 50 CFR Sec.  635.27(a)(8), 
NMFS may allocate any portion of the Reserve category quota for 
inseason or annual adjustments to any other quota category.
    Specifically, NMFS would deduct half of the dead discard estimate 
of 145.2 mt (i.e., 72.6 mt) from the 2013 baseline Longline category 
subquota of 74.8 mt and apply half of the 94.9 mt allowed to be carried 
forward to 2013 to the Longline category (i.e., 74.8 - 72.6 + 47.5 = 
49.7 mt adjusted Longline subquota, not including the 25-mt allocation 
set aside by ICCAT for the NED). NMFS would add the remainder of the 
2012 underharvest that can be carried forward to 2013 (47.4 mt) to the 
Reserve category's baseline allocation of 23.1 mt, for an adjusted 
Reserve category quota of 70.5 mt. The adjusted Longline category 
subquota (49.7 mt) would be further subdivided in accordance with the 
Consolidated HMS FMP (i.e., allocation of no more than 60 percent to 
the south of 31[deg] N. latitude) as follows: 19.9 mt to pelagic 
longline vessels landing BFT north of 31[deg] N. latitude, and 29.8 mt 
to pelagic longline vessels landing BFT south of 31[deg] N. latitude. 
NMFS would account for landings under the 25-mt NED allocation 
separately from other Longline category landings.
    For the directed fishing categories (i.e., the Angling, General, 
Harpoon, Purse Seine categories) as well as the Trap category, in which 
BFT may be caught incidentally, NMFS is not proposing adjustments to 
the baseline BFT subquotas (i.e., the allocations that result from 
applying the scheme established in the Consolidated HMS FMP to the 
baseline U.S. BFT quota).

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    Thus, in accordance with the ICCAT Recommendation 12-02, the 
Consolidated HMS FMP allocation scheme for the domestic categories, and 
regulations regarding annual adjustments at Sec.  635.27(a)(10), NMFS 
proposes quota specifications for the 2013 fishing year as follows: 
General category--435.1 mt; Harpoon category--36 mt; Purse Seine 
category--171.8 mt; Angling category--182 mt; Longline category--49.7 
mt; and Trap category--0.9 mt. The amount allocated to the Reserve 
category for inseason adjustments, scientific research collection, 
potential overharvest in any category except the Purse Seine category, 
and potential quota transfers would be 70.5 mt. These allocations are 
shown in Table 1.
    NMFS will make any necessary adjustments to the 2013 specifications 
in the final rule after considering updated 2012 landings information 
and the final dead discard estimate for 2012. It is important to note 
that NMFS and ICCAT have separate schedules and approaches for 
accounting for landings and dead discards. At the beginning of the 
year, NMFS accounts proactively for half of the best estimate of dead 
discards, whereas total 2013 U.S. landings and dead discards will be 
accounted for at the end of the year and reported to ICCAT in 2014. 
ICCAT usually assesses quota compliance at its annual meeting in 
November by comparing the prior year's landings and reported dead 
discards against the adjusted U.S. quota. At the 2013 ICCAT annual 
meeting, ICCAT will compare actual U.S. 2012 landings and dead discards 
against the total 2012 adjusted U.S. quota of 1,043.6 mt (i.e., the 
948.7-mt base quota for 2012, plus the 94.9 mt allowed to be carried 
forward from 2011 to 2012), to determine the United States' compliance 
with 2012 ICCAT recommendations.

Request for Public Comments

    If the final 2012 landings and dead discards information result in 
a total of greater than 948.7 mt, but less than 1,043.6 mt, then the 
amount of 2012 underharvest that the United States may carry forward to 
2013 would need to be reduced from 94.9 mt accordingly. NMFS invites 
public comment on possible allocation approaches should the carry 
forward amount be reduced. One option might be to provide half of the 
carry forward amount to the Longline category and the other half to the 
Reserve category. For example, if the 2012 landings and the final dead 
discard estimate total 963.6 mt, 80 mt would be available to carry 
forward and NMFS could provide 40 mt to each of these two categories). 
Another option might be to provide the entire amount to the Longline or 
Reserve category, particularly if the amount is small (e.g., 20 mt) or 
to allocate the amount other ways after considering domestic management 
needs for 2013. As described below, NMFS took this approach in the 2012 
final BFT specifications (77 FR 44161, July 27, 2012). In any event, 
the baseline subquotas for the directed fishing categories and Trap 
category would not be changed.
    In exploring options, one consideration is the possibility that 
deducting of half of the final estimate of dead discards from the 
baseline Longline category subquota would result in little to no quota 
for that category for 2013 prior to application of any available 
underharvest. Another consideration is the possibility that NMFS may, 
in the final specifications, need to close the Longline category 
fishery to BFT retention based on codified quotas. This was the case in 
2012. NMFS closed the Longline category fishery to BFT retention in the 
southern area on May 29, 2012 (77 FR 31546), and in the northern area 
on June 30, 2012 (77 FR 38011), for the remainder of the year, because 
landings had met the codified subquotas for those areas. Given that the 
incidental Longline fishery for BFT was closed, NMFS accounted fully 
for those landings in the final rule by applying 76.2 of the available 
94.9-mt underharvest to the Longline category and maintaining the 
remaining underharvest (18.7 mt) in the Reserve category. Providing 
this amount to the Longline category allowed NMFS to adjust the 
Longline South and Longline North subquotas to the amounts actually 
taken in those areas at the time of the closure, and to provide greater 
transparency than year-end accounting would.
    If the complete 2012 landings information and final dead discard 
estimate exceed the adjusted 2012 U.S. BFT quota of 1,043.6 mt, NMFS 
may need to take further action, consistent with the BFT quota 
adjustment regulations and with ICCAT Recommendation 10-03. Also, the 
United States may be subject to adjustment of the U.S. BFT quota, 
consistent with ICCAT recommendations. Given the amount of dead 
discards the United States has reported to ICCAT in the last few years 
(ranging from 122 to 204 mt), NMFS considers this potential situation 
to be unlikely, as the dead discard estimate would need to be 
approximately 330 mt. To address the possibility of overharvest of the 
adjusted U.S. quota, NMFS requests public comment on potential 
regulatory options to consider for the final 2013 quota and subquotas. 
For example, the Longline and/or the Reserve category quotas could be 
reduced as necessary, or the overall 2013 BFT quota could be reduced, 
which would affect all category subquotas.
    NMFS considers the proposed specifications approach as a transition 
from the method used for 2007 through 2010, as NMFS continues to 
develop draft Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP. From 2007 
through 2010, there were substantial underharvests of some of the 
commercial BFT subquotas. Consistent with the Consolidated HMS FMP and 
its implementing regulations, NMFS provided the Longline category a 
substantial portion of prior year U.S. underharvest that was allowed to 
be carried forward (limited to 50 percent of the total U.S. quota at 
that time) during the annual specification process at the beginning of 
the fishing year. This provided quota sufficient for the pelagic 
longline fleet to operate for the entire fishing year while also 
accounting for dead discards ``up front,'' using the best available 
estimate of anticipated dead discards. NMFS was also able to increase 
the directed categories' quotas and the Reserve category quota using 
available underharvest.
    Draft Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP will explore 
related BFT fishery management issues consistent with the need to end 
overfishing and rebuild the stock. NMFS anticipates that measures in 
draft Amendment 7 would address several of the long-standing challenges 
facing the fishery and will examine, among other things, revisiting 
quota allocations; reducing and accounting for dead discards; adding or 
modifying time/area closures or gear-restricted areas; and improving 
the reporting and monitoring of dead discards and landings in all 
categories. NMFS anticipates that draft Amendment 7 will publish in 
mid-2013.
    In the meantime, management of the BFT fishery continues under the 
current Consolidated HMS FMP, implementing regulations, and ICCAT 
Recommendations. In contemplating how to account for dead discards 
within the BFT quota and allocate the underharvest that is allowed to 
be carried forward, NMFS believes that the operational issues facing 
the pelagic longline fishery as the fleet continues directed fishing 
operations for swordfish and other tunas should be considered. NMFS 
anticipates that dead discards in the pelagic longline fishery may be 
reduced due to continued

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implementation of the weak hook requirement in the Gulf of Mexico in 
2011 (76 FR 18653, April 5, 2011).
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP11AP13.002

Request for Comments

    NMFS solicits comments on this proposed rule through May 13, 2013. 
See instructions in ADDRESSES section above.

Public Hearing Dates and Locations

    1. April 29, 2013, 2 to 4 p.m., Gloucester, MA--NMFS, 55 Great 
Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930

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    2. May 3, 2013, 1 to 3 p.m., Silver Spring, MD--NMFS Science 
Center, 1301 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910
    The public hearing locations will be physically accessible to 
people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or 
other auxiliary aids should be directed to Sarah McLaughlin at (978) 
281-9279, at least 7 days prior to the meeting. The public is reminded 
that NMFS expects participants at the public hearings to conduct 
themselves appropriately. At the beginning of each public hearing, a 
representative of NMFS will explain the ground rules (e.g., alcohol is 
prohibited from the hearing room; attendees will be called to give 
their comments in the order in which they registered to speak; each 
attendee will have an equal amount of time to speak; and attendees 
should not interrupt one another). The NMFS representative will attempt 
to structure the meeting so that all attending members of the public 
will be able to comment, if they so choose, regardless of the 
controversial nature of the subject(s). Attendees are expected to 
respect the ground rules, and, if they do not, they will be asked to 
leave the hearing.

Classification

    The NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that the proposed 
rule is consistent with the Consolidated HMS FMP, the Magnuson-Stevens 
Act, ATCA, and other applicable law, subject to further consideration 
after public comment.
    This proposed rule is exempt from the procedures of E.O. 12866 
because this action contains no implementing regulations.
    Pursuant to the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), 5 U.S.C. 601 et 
seq., the Chief Council for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Council for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration (SBA) that this proposed rule, if adopted, would not 
have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. The reasoning for this certification is as follows:
    These annual BFT quota specifications (effective January 1 through 
December 31, 2013) are necessary to implement ICCAT recommendations, as 
required by ATCA, and to achieve domestic management objectives under 
the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Under ATCA, the United States must promulgate 
regulations as necessary and appropriate to implement binding 
recommendations of ICCAT.
    The proposed rule would adjust the annual U.S. baseline BFT quota 
to account for any underharvest or overharvest of the adjusted 2012 
U.S. BFT quota. Preliminary information indicates an underharvest of 
the 2012 adjusted BFT quota. This proposed action was developed in 
accordance with the framework process set forth in the Consolidated HMS 
FMP, and is supported by the Environmental Impact Statement/Regulatory 
Impact Review/Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis prepared for the 
Consolidated HMS FMP, the Environmental Assessment/Regulatory Impact 
Review/Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis prepared for the 2011 
final rule implementing BFT quotas and Atlantic tuna fisheries 
management, and the Supplemental Environmental Assessment prepared for 
these 2013 quota specifications (see ADDRESSES).
    On July 5, 2011, NMFS published a final rule (76 FR 39019) that 
modified the U.S. baseline quota to 923.7 mt to implement ICCAT 
Recommendation 10-03 (Supplemental Recommendation by ICCAT concerning 
the Western Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Rebuilding Program) and set the 
category subquotas per the allocation percentages established in the 
2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management 
Plan (Consolidated HMS FMP, 71 FR 58058, October 2, 2006). At its 2012 
annual meeting, ICCAT recommended a one-year rollover of the annual 
Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of 1,750 mt that was set in 2010 for 2011 
and 2012 (ICCAT Recommendation 12-02).
    Although the baseline quota is unchanged this year because the 2012 
ICCAT recommendation included the same TAC as the prior recommendation, 
NMFS will make underharvest and overharvest adjustments as necessary 
for the 2013 fishing year through quota specifications, consistent with 
the Consolidated HMS FMP. Preliminary information indicates an 
underharvest of the 2012 adjusted bluefin tuna quota. The proposed 
quota specifications were developed in accordance with the framework 
process set forth in the Consolidated HMS FMP, and is supported by the 
Environmental Impact Statement/Regulatory Impact Review/Final 
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis prepared for the Consolidated HMS FMP 
and the Supplemental Environmental Assessment prepared for this action.
    As summarized in the 2012 Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation 
Report for Atlantic Highly Migratory Species, there were approximately 
8,492 commercial Atlantic tunas or Atlantic HMS permits in 2012, as 
follows: 4,084 in the Atlantic Tunas General category; 13 in the 
Atlantic Tunas Harpoon category; 5 in the Atlantic Tunas Purse Seine 
category; 253 in the Atlantic Tunas Longline category; 8 in the 
Atlantic Tunas Trap category; and 4,129 in the HMS Charter/Headboat 
category. This constitutes the best available information regarding the 
universe of permits and permit holders recently analyzed.
    Under the Small Business Administration's (SBA) regulations 
implementing the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), 5 U.S.C. 601 et 
seq., a small fishing entity is one that has less than $4 million in 
annual revenue ($6.5 million for charter/party boats). This action 
would apply to all participants in the Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery, 
all of which are considered small entities.
    The U.S. Atlantic bluefin tuna quota includes dead discards. 
Although the United States is not required by ICCAT or current 
regulations to account for the total amount of dead discards until the 
end of the fishing season, in both the 2011 and 2012 proposed 
specifications, NMFS took the proactive measure of accounting for half 
of the dead discard estimate ``up front,'' (i.e., at the beginning of 
the fishing year) and deducting that portion directly from the Longline 
category quota.
    The current ICCAT recommendation limits the amount of underharvest 
that may be carried forward from one year to the next to no more than 
10 percent of a country's quota. This restriction limits the amount of 
underharvest that may be carried forward to 94.9 mt (10 percent of the 
948.7-mt total U.S. quota). In both 2011 and 2012, NMFS proposed 
allocating half of the amount of underharvest that was allowed to be 
carried forward to the Longline category and maintaining the other half 
in the Reserve category. This recommendation was intended to provide 
maximum flexibility in accounting for landings and dead discards at the 
end of the year. In 2012, when the pelagic longline fishery reached the 
incidental Longline bluefin tuna subquota, NMFS prohibited further 
retention of bluefin tuna in that fishery for the remainder of the year 
before finalizing the quota specifications. Therefore, NMFS provided a 
slightly larger portion to the Longline category in the final rule to 
account for actual bluefin tuna landings, and placed the remainder in 
the Reserve category. For the last two years, NMFS has maintained the 
directed fishing categories at their baseline quotas.
    NMFS proposes to carry 94.9 mt forward to 2013 and distribute that 
amount in the same manner as proposed for 2011 and 2012, i.e., half to 
the

[[Page 21589]]

Longline category quota and half to the Reserve category quota. The 
directed fishing categories would continue to receive their baseline 
subquotas. This would result in the same subquotas as were finalized in 
2011. NMFS will make any necessary adjustments to the 2013 
specifications in the final rule after considering updated 2012 
landings information and the final dead discard estimate for 2012, 
which should be available in late spring.
    The most recent ex-vessel average price per pound information for 
each commercial quota category is used to estimate potential ex-vessel 
gross revenues under the proposed 2013 subquotas (i.e., 2012 prices for 
the General, Harpoon, and Longline/Trap, and Purse Seine categories). 
The 2013 subquotas could result in estimated gross revenues for each 
category, if finalized and fully utilized, as follows: General 
category: $8.8 million (435.1 mt * $9.13/lb); Harpoon category: 
$724,600 (36 mt * $9.13/lb); Purse Seine category: $4.7 million (171.8 
mt * $12.46/lb); Trap category: $12,300 (0.9 mt * $6.19/lb); and 
Longline category: $678,000 (49.7 mt * $6.19/lb). Estimated potential 
2013 revenues on a per vessel basis, considering the number of permit 
holders listed above and the proposed subquotas, could be $2,144 for 
the General category; $55,739 for the Harpoon category; $2,681 for the 
Longline category; $943,845 for the Purse Seine category; and $1,535 
for the Trap category. Thus, all of the entities affected by this rule 
are considered to be small entities for the purposes of the RFA.
    This proposed rule would not change the U.S. Atlantic bluefin tuna 
baseline quota, amount of carryover, or implement any new management 
measures not previously considered. The baseline quota and category 
subquotas are codified and remain effective until changed (for 
instance, if any new ICCAT bluefin tuna TAC recommendation is adopted). 
Thus, the affected entities will not experience any negative, direct 
economic impacts as a result of this rule.
    The annual specification process that this proposed rule follows, 
including application of underharvests and overharvests, is described 
in detail in Chapters 2 and 4 of the Consolidated HMS FMP. Because the 
economic impacts of the carryover of underharvest, to the extent that 
there are any, are expected to be generally positive, this rule, if 
adopted, would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial 
number of small entities. Accordingly, no initial regulatory 
flexibility analysis is required, and none has been prepared.

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

    Dated: April 8, 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. 2013-08492 Filed 4-10-13; 8:45 am]
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