[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 88 (Tuesday, May 7, 2013)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 26523-26526]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-10805]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 130104009-3416-02]
RIN 0648-XC432


Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Atlantic Bluefish 
Fishery; 2013 and 2014 Atlantic Bluefish Specifications

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: NMFS issues final specifications for the 2013 and 2014 
Atlantic bluefish fishery, including annual catch limits, total 
allowable landings, commercial quotas and recreational harvest limits, 
and a recreational possession limit. This action establishes the 
allowable 2013 and 2014 harvest levels and other management measures to 
achieve the target fishing mortality rate, consistent with the Atlantic 
Bluefish Fishery Management Plan and the recommendations of the Mid-
Atlantic Fishery Management Council.

DATES: The final specifications for the 2013 and 2014 Atlantic bluefish 
fishery

[[Page 26524]]

are effective June 6, 2013, through December 31, 2014.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the specifications document, including the 
Environmental Assessment and Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis 
(EA/IRFA) and other supporting documents for the specifications, are 
available from Dr. Christopher M. Moore, Executive Director, Mid-
Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Suite 201, 800 N. State Street, 
Dover, DE 19901. The specifications document is also accessible via the 
Internet at: http://www.nero.noaa.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Carly Bari, Fishery Management 
Specialist, (978) 281-9224.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The Atlantic bluefish fishery is managed cooperatively by the Mid-
Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) and the Atlantic States 
Marine Fisheries Commission (Commission). The management unit for 
bluefish specified in the Atlantic Bluefish Fishery Management Plan 
(FMP) is U.S. waters of the western Atlantic Ocean. Regulations 
implementing the FMP appear at 50 CFR part 648, subparts A and J. The 
regulations requiring annual specifications are found at Sec.  648.162.
    The FMP requires the Council to recommend, on an annual basis, an 
annual catch limit (ACL), annual catch target (ACT), and total 
allowable landings (TAL) that will control fishing mortality (F). The 
Council may also recommend a research set-aside (RSA) quota, which is 
deducted from the bluefish TALs (after any applicable transfer) in an 
amount proportional to the percentage of the overall TAL as allocated 
to the commercial and recreational sectors.
    Pursuant to Sec.  648.162, the annual review process for bluefish 
requires that the Council's Bluefish Monitoring Committee and 
Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) review and make 
recommendations based on the best available data. Based on the 
recommendations of the Monitoring Committee and SSC, the Council makes 
a recommendation to the NMFS Northeast Regional Administrator. Because 
this FMP is a joint plan, the Commission also meets during the annual 
specification process to adopt complementary measures.
    The Council's recommendations must include supporting documentation 
concerning the environmental, economic, and social impacts of the 
recommendations. NMFS is responsible for reviewing these 
recommendations to assure that they achieve the FMP objectives, and may 
modify them if they do not. NMFS then publishes proposed specifications 
based on the recommendations in the Federal Register, and after 
considering public comment, NMFS publishes final specifications in the 
Federal Register. A proposed rule for this action published in the 
Federal Register on February 20, 2013 (78 FR 11809), and comments were 
accepted through March 7, 2013.

Final 2013 Specifications

    A description of the process used to estimate bluefish stock status 
and fishing mortality, as well as the process for deriving the ACL and 
associated quotas and harvest limits, is provided in the proposed rule 
and in the bluefish regulations at Sec. Sec.  648.160 through 648.162. 
The stock is not overfished or experiencing overfishing, and the catch 
limits described below reflect the best available scientific 
information on bluefish. The final 2013 bluefish ABC, ACL, and ACT are 
specified at 27.472 million lb (12,461 mt).
    The ACT is initially allocated between the recreational fishery (83 
percent = 22.801 million lb, 10,342 mt) and the commercial fishery (17 
percent = 4.670 million lb, 2,118 mt). After deducting an estimate of 
recreational discards (commercial discards are considered negligible), 
the recreational TAL would be 19.190 million lb (8,704 mt) and the 
commercial TAL would be 4.670 million lb (2,118 mt).
    However, the FMP specifies that, if 17 percent of the ACT is less 
than 10.5 million lb, and the recreational fishery is not projected to 
land its harvest limit for the upcoming year, the commercial fishery 
may be allocated up to 10.5 million lb as its quota, provided that the 
combination of the projected recreational landings and the commercial 
quota does not exceed the ACT. The recreational harvest limit (RHL) 
would then be adjusted downward so that the ACT would be unchanged. 
Based on updated data, the recreational fishery landed 11,184,173 lb 
(5,073 mt) of bluefish in 2012. Assuming recreational landings in 2013 
are consistent with those from 2012, the Council's proposed transfer of 
4.686 million lb (2,126 mt) from the recreational sector to the 
commercial sector can be approved. This transfer results in an adjusted 
commercial quota of 9.357 million lb (4,244 mt), and an adjusted RHL of 
14.504 million lb (6,579 mt).

Final 2013 RSA, Commercial Quota, and RHL

    Two projects that will utilize bluefish RSA were approved by NOAA's 
Grants Management Division. A total RSA quota of 715,819 lb (325 mt) 
was approved for use by these projects during 2013. Proportional 
adjustments of this amount to the commercial and recreational 
allocations result in a final commercial quota of 9.076 million lb 
(4,117 mt) and a final RHL of 14.069 million lb (6,382 mt).

Final 2014 Specifications

    The final 2014 bluefish ABC, ACL, and ACT are specified at 27.057 
million lb (12,273 mt). The ACT is initially allocated between the 
recreational fishery (83 percent = 22.458 million lb, 10,187 mt) and 
the commercial fishery (17 percent = 4.600 million lb, 2,087 mt). After 
deducting an estimate of recreational discards (commercial discards are 
considered negligible), the recreational TAL would be 18.846 million lb 
(8,548 mt) and the commercial TAL would be 4.600 million lb (2,087 mt).
    Assuming recreational landings in 2014 are consistent with those 
from 2012, the Council's proposed transfer of 4.342 million lb (1,969 
mt) from the recreational sector to the commercial sector can be 
approved. This transfer results in an adjusted commercial quota of 
8.942 million lb (4,056 mt), and an adjusted RHL of 14.504 million lb 
(6,579 mt).

Final 2014 RSA, Commercial Quota, and RHL

    The Council preliminarily approved 703,385 lb (319 mt) of RSA quota 
for future research projects. Proportional adjustments of this amount 
to the commercial and recreational allocations results in a final 
commercial quota of 8.674 million lb (3,934 mt) and a final RHL of 
14.069 million lb (6,382 mt).

Final Recreational Possession Limit

    The current recreational possession limit of up to 15 fish per 
person is maintained to achieve the RHL for both 2013 and 2014.

Final State Commercial Allocations

    The final state commercial quotas for 2013 and the preliminary 2014 
commercial quotas are shown in Table 1, based on the percentages 
specified in the FMP. If any state overages occur in 2013 that alter 
the 2014 quotas, NMFS will publish a rule to implement the revised 2014 
quotas.

[[Page 26525]]



                                     Table 1--Final Bluefish Commercial State-by-State Allocations for 2013 and 2014
                                                               [Including RSA deductions]
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                                                                               2013 Commercial    2013 Commercial    2014 Commercial    2014 Commercial
                          State                              Percent share        quota (lb)         quota (kg)         quota (lb)         quota (kg)
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ME.......................................................             0.6685             60,673             27,521             57,985             26,302
NH.......................................................             0.4145             37,620             17,064             35,953             16,308
MA.......................................................             6.7167            609,606            276,513            582,603            264,264
RI.......................................................             6.8081            617,902            280,275            590,531            267,860
CT.......................................................             1.2663            114,929             52,131            109,838             49,822
NY.......................................................            10.3851            942,548            427,533            900,796            408,595
NJ.......................................................            14.8162          1,344,713            609,952          1,285,146            582,933
DE.......................................................             1.8782            170,465             77,322            162,914             73,897
MD.......................................................             3.0018            272,443            123,578            260,374            118,104
VA.......................................................            11.8795          1,078,179            489,054          1,030,419            467,390
NC.......................................................            32.0608          2,909,829          1,319,876          2,780,933          1,261,410
SC.......................................................             0.0352              3,195              1,449              3,053              1,385
GA.......................................................             0.0095                862                391                824                374
FL.......................................................            10.0597            913,014            414,136            872,570            395,792
                                                          ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total................................................           100.0001          9,075,976          4,116,795          8,673,941          3,934,435
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Comments and Responses

    The public comment period for the proposed rule ended on March 7, 
2013. Two comments were received from individuals on the proposed rule. 
A summary and response to the concerns raised by the commenters are 
included below.
    Comment 1: One commenter generally criticized NMFS and the data 
used to set catch limits, but had no clear evidence to support their 
claims.
    Response: Atlantic bluefish are not overfished, nor are they 
subject to overfishing; therefore, there is no scientific basis for 
making changes to the quotas based on this comment. NMFS used the best 
scientific information available and is approving specifications for 
the bluefish fishery that are consistent with the FMP and 
recommendations of the Council.
    Comment 2: A charter/party boat operator in the Atlantic bluefish 
fishery in Massachusetts opposed the recreational possession limit of 
15 fish due to increased fishing pressure and recommended reducing the 
possession limit.
    Response: Atlantic bluefish are not overfished; nor are they 
subject to overfishing. There is no scientific basis for reducing the 
recreational possession limit. The RHL has not been exceeded in recent 
years with a possession limit of 15 fish, so it appears that a 
reduction in the possession limit would unnecessarily reduce 
recreational landings. NMFS used the best scientific information 
available and is approving specifications for the bluefish fishery that 
are consistent with the FMP and the recommendations of the Council.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), the NMFS 
Assistant Administrator has determined that this final rule is 
consistent with the Atlantic Bluefish FMP, other provisions of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law.
    This final rule is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.
    This final rule does not duplicate, conflict, or overlap with any 
existing Federal rules.
    The FRFA included in this final rule was prepared pursuant to 5 
U.S.C. 604(a), and incorporates the IRFA and a summary of analyses 
completed to support the action. A public copy of the EA/RIR/IRFA is 
available from the Council (see ADDRESSES).
    The preamble to the proposed rule included a detailed summary of 
the analyses contained in the IRFA, and that discussion is not repeated 
here.

Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

Statement of Objective and Need

    A description of the reasons why this action is being taken, and 
the objectives of and legal basis for this final rule are contained in 
the preambles to the proposed rule and this final rule and are not 
repeated here.

Summary of Significant Issues Raised in Public Comments

    Two comments were submitted on the proposed rule. However, none 
were specific to the IRFA or to the economic impacts of the proposed 
rule more generally.

Description and Estimate of Number of Small Entities to Which the Rule 
Will Apply

    Small businesses operating in commercial and recreational (i.e., 
party and charter vessel operations) fisheries have been defined by the 
Small Business Administration as firms with gross revenues of up to 
$4.0 and $6.5 million, respectively. The categories of small entities 
likely to be affected by this action include commercial and charter/
party vessel owners holding an active Federal permit for Atlantic 
bluefish, as well as owners of vessels that fish for Atlantic bluefish 
in state waters. All federally permitted vessels fall into the 
definition of small businesses; thus, there would be no 
disproportionate impacts between large and small entities as a result 
of the final rule.
    An active participant in the commercial sector was defined as any 
vessel that reported having landed 1 or more lb (0.45 kg) in the 
Atlantic bluefish fishery in 2011 (the last year for which there are 
complete data). The active participants in the commercial sector were 
defined using two sets of data. The Northeast seafood dealer reports 
were used to identify 742 vessels that landed bluefish in states from 
Maine through North Carolina in 2011. However, the Northeast dealer 
database does not provide information about fishery participation in 
South Carolina, Georgia, or Florida. South Atlantic Trip Ticket reports 
were used to identify 768 vessels that landed bluefish in North 
Carolina, and 791 vessels that landed bluefish on Florida's east coast. 
Some of these vessels were also identified in the Northeast dealer 
data; therefore, double counting is possible. Bluefish landings

[[Page 26526]]

in South Carolina and Georgia were near zero in 2011, representing a 
negligible proportion of the total bluefish landings along the Atlantic 
Coast. Therefore, this analysis assumed that no vessel activity for 
these two states took place in 2011. In recent years, approximately 
2,000 party/charter vessels may have been active in the bluefish 
fishery and/or have caught bluefish.

Description of Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other Compliance 
Requirements

    No additional reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance 
requirements are included in this final rule.

Description of the Steps Taken To Minimize Economic Impact on Small 
Entities

    Specification of commercial quota, recreational harvest levels, and 
possession limits is constrained by the conservation objectives of the 
FMP, under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The 2013 
commercial quota contained in this final rule is 12 percent lower than 
the 2012 quota, but significantly higher than actual 2012 bluefish 
landings. All affected states will receive decreases in their 
individual commercial quota allocation in comparison to their 
respective 2012 individual state allocations. However, the magnitude of 
the increase varies depending on the state's relative percent share in 
the total commercial quota, as specified in the FMP. The 2014 
commercial quota contained in this final rule is 4 percent lower than 
the 2013 quota.
    The 2013 and 2014 RHL contained in this final rule is approximately 
19 percent lower than the RHL in 2012. The 2013 and 2014 RHL is the 
same as the total estimated recreational bluefish harvest for 2013 and 
2014, and therefore it does not constrain recreational bluefish harvest 
below a level that the fishery is anticipated to achieve. The 
possession limit for bluefish will remain at 15 fish per person, so 
there should be no impact on demand for party/charter vessel fishing 
and, therefore, no impact on revenues earned by party/charter vessels. 
No negative economic impacts on the recreational fishery are 
anticipated.
    The impacts on revenues associated with the proposed RSA quota were 
analyzed and are expected to be minimal. Assuming that the full RSA 
quota 715,819 lb (325 mt) for 2013 and 703,385 lb (319 mt) for 2014 is 
landed and sold to support the proposed research projects, then all of 
the participants in the fishery would benefit from the improved 
fisheries data yielded from each project.

Small Entity Compliance Guide

    Section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness 
Act of 1996 states that, for each rule or group of related rules for 
which an agency is required to prepare a FRFA, the agency shall publish 
one or more guides to assist small entities in complying with the rule, 
and shall designate such publications as ``small entity compliance 
guides.'' The agency shall explain the actions a small entity is 
required to take to comply with a rule or group of rules. As part of 
this rulemaking process, a small entity compliance guide will be sent 
to all holders of Federal permits issued for the Atlantic bluefish 
fishery.
    In addition, copies of this final rule and guide (i.e., permit 
holder letter) are available upon request, and posted on the Northeast 
Regional Office's Web site at www.nero.noaa.gov.

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

    Dated: May 2, 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. 2013-10805 Filed 5-6-13; 8:45 am]
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