[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 89 (Wednesday, May 8, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 26740-26746]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-10804]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

[Docket No. 130312235-3235-01]
RIN 0648-BD04


Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 
Snapper-Grouper Fishery Off the Southern Atlantic States; Regulatory 
Amendment 18

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 regulations to implement Regulatory Amendment 18 
(Regulatory Amendment 18) to the Fishery Management Plan for the 
Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region (FMP), as prepared 
and submitted by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council 
(Council). If implemented, this rule would update the annual catch 
limits (ACLs) for vermilion snapper and red porgy, modify the vermilion 
snapper commercial trip limit, and remove the recreational 5-month 
seasonal closure for vermilion snapper. The purpose of this rule is to 
help achieve optimum yield (OY) for snapper-grouper resources in 
accordance with the requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act).

DATES: Written comments must be received on or before June 7, 2013.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the proposed rule, identified by 
``NOAA-NMFS-2013-0049'' 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-2013-0049, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Kate Michie, 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 regulatory amendment, which includes an 
environmental assessment and an initial regulatory flexibility analysis 
(IRFA), may be obtained from the Southeast Regional Office Web site at 
http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kate Michie, telephone: 727-824-5305, 
or email: kate.michie@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The snapper-grouper fishery of the South 
Atlantic is managed under the FMP. The FMP was prepared by the Council 
and is implemented through regulations at 50 CFR part 622 under the 
authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

Background

    The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires NMFS and regional fishery 
management councils to prevent overfishing and achieve, on a continuing 
basis, the OY from federally managed fish stocks. These mandates are 
intended to ensure that fishery resources are managed for the greatest 
overall benefit to the nation, particularly with respect to providing 
food production and recreational opportunities, and protecting marine 
ecosystems. To further this goal, the Magnuson-Stevens Act requires 
fishery managers to end overfishing of stocks and to minimize bycatch 
and bycatch mortality to the extent practicable.

Vermilion Snapper Stock Status

    A Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR) stock assessment 
update for South Atlantic vermilion snapper was completed in October 
2012 (SEDAR 17 update). SEDAR is organized

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around three workshops. First is the data workshop, during which 
fisheries, monitoring, and life history data are reviewed and compiled. 
Second is the assessment workshop, where assessment models are 
developed and population parameters are estimated using the information 
provided from the data workshop. Third is the review workshop, where 
independent experts review the input data, assessment methods, and 
assessment products.
    The SEDAR 17 update indicates vermilion snapper is not undergoing 
overfishing and is not overfished. Additionally, the SEDAR 17 update 
indicates the vermilion snapper biomass exceeds the target equilibrium 
biomass. This means that the acceptable biological catch (ABC) level 
and the ACL may be increased to allow for harvest of that excess 
biomass without jeopardizing the sustainability of the stock. Prior to 
the SEDAR 17 update, the last benchmark assessment for South Atlantic 
vermilion snapper was SEDAR 17 (2008), which indicated the stock was 
not overfished but was subject to overfishing as of 2007. SEDAR 17 
included data through 2007 which was then updated in 2012 to include 
harvest information collected through 2011 (SEDAR 17 update).
    The Comprehensive ACL Amendment (77 FR 15916, March 16, 2012) 
established an ABC control rule for assessed snapper-grouper species. 
In accordance with Magnuson-Stevens Act National Standard 1 guidelines, 
the ABC control rule takes into account scientific and data uncertainty 
that may exist for certain species managed within the snapper-grouper 
fishery management unit (FMU). The Comprehensive ACL Amendment 
established an ABC for vermilion snapper of 1,109,000 lb (503,034 kg), 
round weight. Using the ABC control rule and the results of the SEDAR 
17 update, the Council's Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) 
recommended increasing the ABC for vermilion snapper to 1,372,000 lb 
(622,329 kg), round weight, for 2013; then decreasing the ABC to 
1,312,000 lb (595,113 kg), round weight, for 2014; 1,289,000 lb 
(584,681 kg), round weight, for 2015; and 1,269,000 lb (575,609 kg), 
round weight, for 2016 and subsequent years. The ABC is gradually 
decreased over 3 years to allow for the harvest of excess biomass and 
is then held at a constant level when the population size reaches the 
equilibrium target level. The Council accepted the SSC's recommendation 
and, as discussed below, proposes to update the ACLs based on the new 
ABCs.

Red Porgy Stock Status

    A SEDAR stock assessment update was completed for red porgy in 
October 2012 (2012 SEDAR 1 update). The objective of the 2012 SEDAR 1 
update was to update the 2002 SEDAR 1 benchmark assessment and the 2006 
SEDAR 1 update for red porgy.
    The 2012 SEDAR 1 update includes additional data obtained since the 
2006 SEDAR 1 update, and is based on information collected through 
2011. The 2012 SEDAR 1 update indicates the red porgy stock is not 
undergoing overfishing but is still overfished; however, the 2012 SEDAR 
1 update also indicates the stock is no longer rebuilding. All 
rebuilding projections performed in the 2012 SEDAR 1 update indicate 
that red porgy will not be rebuilt by the end of its rebuilding 
timeframe (2018). Therefore, the Council has requested a new benchmark 
assessment for the stock to be completed in 2014. After the new 
benchmark assessment is conducted, the Council may reconsider the 
rebuilding plan and modifications to management measures as necessary. 
However, until the new benchmark assessment is completed, Regulatory 
Amendment 18 would update the ABC, ACLs, annual catch targets (ACTs), 
maximum sustainable yield (MSY), and OY for red porgy based on the 
outcome of the 2012 SEDAR 1 update.
    The National Standard 1 guidelines state that, for overfished 
stocks and stock complexes, a rebuilding ABC must be set to reflect the 
annual catch that is consistent with the schedule of fishing mortality 
rates in the rebuilding plan. Based on this guidance, the outcome of 
the 2012 SEDAR 1 update, and the ABC control rule established in the 
Comprehensive ACL Amendment, the SSC recommended a new ABC for red 
porgy that is lower than the current ABC of 395,304 lb (179,307 kg), 
round weight (landed catch). The ABC for red porgy would decrease to 
306,000 lb (138,799 kg), round weight, for 2013; then increase to 
309,000 lb (140,160 kg), round weight for 2014; and increase to 328,000 
lb (148,778 kg), round weight for 2015. These ABC values are based on 
the yield at 75 percent of FMSY. The Council accepted the 
SSC's recommendation and, as discussed below, proposes to update the 
ACLs based on the new ABCs.

Management Measures Contained in This Proposed Rule

    This proposed rule would revise the commercial and recreational 
ACLs for vermilion snapper and red porgy, revise the vermilion snapper 
commercial trip limit, and remove the recreational closed season for 
vermilion snapper.

Vermilion Snapper ACLs

    This proposed rule would increase the vermilion snapper ACLs based 
on the revised ABC values. Amendment 16 to the FMP (Amendment 16) 
established sector allocations for vermilion snapper of 68 percent for 
the commercial sector and 32 percent for the recreational sector (74 FR 
30964, June 29, 2009). Additionally, Amendment 16 established two 
commercial fishing seasons for vermilion snapper. The first season is 
January through June, and the second is July through December.
    Using on the SSC's ABC recommendation, the ACL formula established 
in the Comprehensive ACL Amendment where ABC = ACL = OY, and the 
allocation formula established through Amendment 16, the Council is 
proposing revised commercial and recreational ACLs for vermilion 
snapper. The commercial ACLs in round weight would be 932,960 lb 
(423,200 kg) in 2013; 892,160 lb (404,700 kg) in 2014; 876,520 lb 
(397,600 kg) in 2015; and 862,920 lb (391,400 kg) in 2016 and 
subsequent fishing years. The commercial ACLs would be further divided 
equally between the first and second commercial fishing seasons. The 
January through June and the July through December commercial ACLs 
would be 466,480 lb (211,592 kg), round weight (or 420,252 lb (190,623 
kg), gutted weight) in 2013; 446,080 lb (202,338 kg), round weight (or 
401,874 lb (182,287 kg), gutted weight) in 2014; 438,260 lb (198,791 
kg), round weight (or 394,829 lb (179,091 kg), gutted weight) in 2015; 
and 431,460 lb (195,707 kg), round weight (or 388,703 lb (176,313 kg), 
gutted weight) in 2016 and subsequent fishing years.
    The recreational ACLs, in round weight, would be 439,040 lb 
(199,145 kg) in 2013; 419,840 lb (190,436 kg) in 2014; 412,480 lb 
(187,098 kg) in 2015; and 406,080 lb (184,195 kg) in 2016 and 
subsequent fishing years. Any unused portion of the commercial ACL from 
the first part of the fishing year will be added to the commercial ACL 
for the second part of the fishing year.

Vermilion Snapper Commercial Trip Limit

    Increasing the vermilion snapper ACLs would allow for increased 
harvest and increase the probability the commercial split seasons would 
be extended. However, even with a larger commercial ACL, in-season 
commercial closures are still expected. Therefore, this proposed rule 
would reduce the

[[Page 26742]]

commercial trip limit for vermilion snapper from 1,500 lb (680 kg), 
gutted weight, to 1,000 lb (454 kg), gutted weight (or 1,100 lb (503 
kg), round weight). This rule proposes to reduce the commercial trip 
limit to 500 lb (227 kg), gutted weight (or 555 lb (252 kg), round 
weight) after 75 percent of the commercial ACL is reached or projected 
to be reached. Reducing the commercial trip limit and implementing a 
trip limit step down should help control the rate of commercial harvest 
and reduce the probability that either split season commercial ACL is 
exceeded.

Vermilion Snapper Recreational Seasonal Closure

    This rule would remove the 5-month November through March 
recreational seasonal closure for vermilion snapper that was 
established in Amendment 16. This seasonal closure was implemented to 
address overfishing of the species (74 FR 30964, June 29, 2009). 
However, the SEDAR 17 update indicated that vermilion snapper is not 
overfished and is no longer undergoing overfishing. Further, an 
analysis conducted by NMFS indicates the recreational sector would 
likely harvest between 64 percent and 75 percent of the 2013 
recreational ACL. Although the ACL would decrease slightly each year 
for the next several years, it is unlikely that the recreational 
vermilion snapper ACL would be met or exceeded in any given year in the 
near future. If the ACL is exceeded, Amendment 17B to the FMP 
implemented recreational AMs for vermilion snapper that would mitigate 
any ACL overage by reducing the recreational ACL for the following 
fishing year (75 FR 82280, December 30, 2010). Thus, no adverse 
biological impacts to the vermilion snapper resource are anticipated as 
a result of removing the seasonal closure.
    In addition, in early 2013, the Southeast Fisheries Science Center 
(SEFSC) implemented a new electronic reporting system for headboats 
operating in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf of Mexico 
Fishery Management Council and South Atlantic Council are currently 
developing amendments that would require federally permitted headboats 
to report all landings electronically at an increased frequency to the 
SEFSC. The SEFSC is also developing a similar program for charterboats. 
These improvements to the recreational harvest monitoring program are 
expected to increase the accuracy and timeliness of landings 
information, and help reduce the likelihood of recreational ACL 
overages.

Red Porgy ACLs

    This proposed rule would reduce the commercial and recreational 
ACLs for red porgy. Currently, the red porgy stock ACL is equal to the 
ABC and is divided equally between the commercial and recreational 
sectors according to the formula established in the Comprehensive ACL 
Amendment. Based on the proposed stock ACL of 306,000 lb (138,799 kg), 
round weight, the commercial and recreational ACLs for red porgy, would 
be 153,000 lb (69,400 kg), round weight (or 147,115 lb (66,730 kg), 
gutted weight) in 2013; 154,500 lb (70,080 kg), round weight (or 
148,558 lb (67,385 kg), gutted weight) in 2014; and 164,000 lb (74,389 
kg), round weight, (or 157,692 lb (71,528 kg), gutted weight) in 2015 
and subsequent fishing years.

Additional Management Measures Contained in Regulatory Amendment 18

    Regulatory Amendment 18 also includes several actions that are not 
contained in this proposed rule. Based on the new ABCs, Regulatory 
Amendment 18 specifies a new maximum sustainable yield (MSY) and OY for 
vermilion snapper. Using the SEDAR 17 update results, the values for 
MSY and OY would be updated to incorporate the most recent harvest 
information for the stock. Regulatory Amendment 18 would also revise 
the OY to equal the ABC based on the SEDAR 17 update.
    Additionally, Regulatory Amendment 18 would modify the current MSY 
and OY values for red porgy according to the new ABCs. The OY for red 
porgy would be equal to the ABC and the ACL as specified in the ACL 
formula established in the Comprehensive ACL Amendment. Regulatory 
Amendment 18 would also update the recreational ACT for red porgy based 
on the revised ABC using the ACT control rule established in the 
Comprehensive ACL Amendment. However, the recreational ACT is not 
included in the regulatory text, because it is a performance measure 
and not an actual limit on harvest.
    The Council has requested that a new benchmark stock assessment for 
red porgy be conducted in 2014. Based on the outcome of the new 
benchmark assessment, the Council may decide to revise the rebuilding 
strategy and implement new management measures for the red porgy stock.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is 
consistent with Regulatory Amendment 18, the FMP, 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.
    NMFS prepared an IRFA for this rule, as required by section 603 of 
the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 603. The IRFA describes the 
economic impact that this proposed rule, if adopted, would have on 
small entities. A description of the action, why it is being 
considered, and the objectives of and legal basis for this action are 
contained at the beginning of this section in the preamble and in the 
SUMMARY section of the preamble. A copy of the full analysis is 
available from the NMFS (see ADDRESSES). A summary of the IRFA follows.
    The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides the statutory basis for this 
rule. No duplicative, overlapping, or conflicting Federal rules have 
been identified. In addition, no new reporting, record-keeping, or 
other compliance requirements are introduced by this proposed rule.
    NMFS expects the proposed rule to directly affect commercial 
fishermen and for-hire vessel operators in the South Atlantic snapper-
grouper fishery. The Small Business Administration established small 
entity 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 independently owned and operated, is 
not dominant in its field of operation (including its affiliates), and 
its combined annual receipts are not in excess of $4.0 million (NAICS 
code 114111, finfish fishing) for all of its affiliated operations 
worldwide. For for-hire vessels, all qualifiers apply except that the 
annual receipts threshold is $7.0 million (NAICS code 713990, 
recreational industries).
    From 2007-2011, an annual average of 249 vessels with valid Federal 
permits to operate in the commercial snapper-grouper fishery landed at 
least 1 lb (0.4 kg) of vermilion snapper. These vessels generated 
dockside revenues of approximately $7.5 million (2011 dollars) from all 
South Atlantic species caught in the same trips as vermilion snapper, 
of which $3.1 million (2011 dollars) were from vermilion snapper. Each 
vessel, therefore, generated an average of approximately $30,000 in 
gross revenues, of which $12,000 were from vermilion snapper. For the 
same period, an annual average of 190 vessels

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with valid Federal permits to operate in the commercial snapper-grouper 
fishery landed at least 1 lb (0.4 kg) of red porgy. These vessels 
generated dockside revenues of approximately $6.2 million (2011 
dollars) from all species caught in the same trips as red porgy, of 
which $226,000 (2011 dollars) were from red porgy. Each vessel, 
therefore, generated an average of approximately $32,000 in gross 
revenues, of which $1,000 were from red porgy. Commercial vessels that 
operate in the vermilion snapper or red porgy components of the 
snapper-grouper fishery may also operate in other fisheries, the 
revenues of which are not reflected in these totals. Based on revenue 
information, all commercial vessels affected by the rule can be 
considered small entities.
    From 2005-2010, an annual average of 1,985 vessels had valid 
Federal permits to operate in the for-hire component of the 
recreational sector of the snapper-grouper fishery. As of January 22, 
2013, 1,462 vessels held South Atlantic for-hire snapper grouper 
Federal permits, and about 75 are estimated to have operated as 
headboats in 2013. The for-hire fleet consists of charter boats, which 
charge a fee on a vessel basis, and headboats, which charge a fee on an 
individual angler (head) basis. Average annual revenues (2011 dollars) 
per vessel for charter boats are estimated to be $126,032 for Florida 
vessels, $53,443 for Georgia vessels, $100,823 for South Carolina 
vessels, and $101,959 for North Carolina vessels. For headboats, the 
corresponding estimates are $209,507 for Florida vessels and $153,848 
for vessels in the other South Atlantic states. Based on these average 
revenue figures, all for-hire operations that would be affected by the 
rule can be considered small entities.
    NMFS expects the proposed rule will directly affect all federally 
permitted commercial vessels harvesting vermilion snapper or red porgy 
and for-hire vessels that operate in the South Atlantic snapper-grouper 
fishery. All directly affected entities have been determined, for the 
purpose of this analysis, to be small entities. Therefore, NMFS 
determined that the proposed action would affect a substantial number 
of small entities.
    Because NMFS determined that all entities expected to be affected 
by the actions in this proposed rule are small entities, the issue of 
disproportional effects on small versus large entities does not arise 
in the present case.
    The proposed vermilion snapper commercial and recreational ACLs 
would be set higher over the period 2013 through 2016, and in 
subsequent years, relative to the 2012 ACLs. This action would likely 
provide the commercial sector a longer fishing season that could result 
in higher industry revenues and possibly profits to commercial vessels. 
Relative to the 2012 commercial ACL, the proposed commercial ACL 
increases would generate additional ex-vessel revenues to commercial 
vessels. Based on past ex-vessel data applied to the increased ACLs, 
these additional revenues would be about $817,974 (2011 dollars) in 
2013, and as the commercial ACL decreases to its lowest level in 2016 
and subsequent years, the additional revenues would also be reduced to 
about $586,000 (2011 dollars).
    The possibility of increased profits for commercial vessels from an 
increase in revenues would have to be balanced with the proposed lower 
vermilion snapper commercial trip limit. The trip limit, in conjunction 
with the increased commercial ACLs, is expected to extend the first 
commercial season by about 3\1/2\ weeks beyond the 2012 closure date, 
and the second season by about 3 weeks beyond the 2012 closure date. 
Before reaching 75 percent of the commercial ACL, the trip limit would 
benefit those who presently are harvesting less than 1,000 lb (454 kg), 
gutted weight, per trip, because it would allow them to continue to 
harvest that same amount per trip for an extended period and therefore 
generate more revenues and likely more profits for the entire fishing 
year. On the other hand, the trip limit would effectively increase the 
cost to the vessel per harvested fish of those already harvesting more 
than 1,000 lb (454 kg), gutted weight, per trip, although these 
fishermen could still take advantage of an extended season. A similar 
situation would occur once the trip limit is reduced to 500 lb (227 
kg), gutted weight, but in this case the scaled down trip limit would 
be the reference point. If the extended season could bring in 
relatively higher ex-vessel prices, those not adversely affected by the 
commercial trip limit would very likely experience profit increases and 
those adversely affected by the trip limit would not necessarily 
experience profit reductions. Given this condition, it would appear 
that the net effects on vessel profits would be positive. However, many 
more vessels would be adversely affected once the trip limit of 500 lb 
(227 kg), gutted weight, takes effect. This limit could result in 
greater profit reductions to adversely affected vessels. The overall 
net effects of the commercial ACL increases and commercial trip limit 
reductions on vessel profits cannot be ascertained.
    In principle, the proposed increase in vermilion snapper 
recreational ACL would benefit the for-hire vessels, but this result is 
highly dependent on whether the seasonal closure is eliminated. In 
recent years, the recreational sector has not fully reached its ACL, 
and this could be due to the November through March closure of the 
vermilion snapper recreational sector. Eliminating this seasonal 
closure would very likely increase the trips of for-hire vessels 
targeting vermilion snapper so that net operating revenues, or profits, 
of these vessels would also likely increase. An in-season recreational 
sector quota closure, however, would constrain any increases in the 
profits of for-hire vessels, but projections indicate that the 
recreational ACT are unlikely to be reached during the fishing year, at 
least in the short-term. It is, therefore, likely that the recreational 
ACL increases, in conjunction with the elimination of the seasonal 
closure, would result in profit increases for the for-hire vessels. 
Assuming that the recreational ACL would not be reached, and that there 
would not be an in-season quota closure, eliminating the recreational 
seasonal closure for vermilion snapper would increase the net operating 
revenues of charter boats by about $47,000 (2011 dollars) annually, and 
those of headboats by about $158,000 (2011 dollars) annually.
    The proposed red porgy commercial and recreational ACLs for 2013 
through 2015 would be lower than the current ACL so that, in principle, 
both commercial and for-hire vessels would be negatively affected. 
Since increasing the commercial ACL in 2009, the red porgy commercial 
sector has exceeded its ACL only once (in 2011), and in other years red 
porgy commercial landings were substantially lower than the sector's 
ACL. Based on a running average of commercial landings as a proxy for 
future landings, the proposed red porgy commercial ACLs for 2013 
through 2015 are unlikely to be exceeded and therefore trigger an in-
season closure of the commercial sector. Thus, unless there is a 
significant increase in commercial landings through a substantial 
increase in the stock size or fishing effort, the proposed commercial 
ACLs would likely not reduce the landings, revenues, and profits of 
commercial vessels. In the event the commercial ACLs are reached but 
not exceeded, commercial vessels could generate additional revenues 
from the proposed commercial ACLs. Relative to the landings and 
revenues in 2012 and assuming the commercial ACLs are reached, 
additional revenues

[[Page 26744]]

(2011 dollars) to commercial vessels would be approximately $259,000 in 
2013, $261,000 in 2014, and $277,000 in 2015 and thereafter.
    Recreational landings of red porgy have remained at very low 
levels, averaging approximately 110,000 lb (49,941 kg), round weight, 
annually from 2007 through 2011. In 2012, recreational landings of 
approximately 137,000 lb (62,199 kg), round weight, were less than 30 
percent of the recreational sector's ACL. Therefore, the proposed 
recreational ACL would most likely have no effects on the profits of 
for-hire vessels, at least in the short-term. The long-term effects on 
profits depend on whether for-hire vessel trips targeting red porgy 
substantially increase. If such an increase in for-hire vessel trips 
did occur, for-hire profits would also increase.
    The following discussion analyzes the alternatives that were not 
preferred by the Council, or alternatives for which the Council chose 
the no action alternative.
    Two alternatives, including the preferred alternative, were 
considered for revising the vermilion snapper commercial and 
recreational ACLs. The only other alternative is the no action 
alternative, which would maintain the ACLs at a lower level than the 
proposed sector ACLs. Selecting the no action alternative would lead to 
forgone profit increases for commercial and for-hire vessels that would 
otherwise be realized under the preferred alternative.
    Three alternatives, including the preferred alternative, were 
considered for revising the commercial trip limit for vermilion 
snapper. The first alternative, the no action alternative, would 
maintain the trip limit at 1,500 lb (680 kg), gutted weight, which 
would be higher than that in the preferred alternative. Although, in 
principle, this alternative would have no effects on commercial vessel 
profits, there would be a higher probability of an ever-shortening 
commercial season, thereby adversely affecting the profits of many 
commercial vessels. The second alternative is a trip limit of 1,000 lb 
(454 kg), gutted weight, the same as the preferred alternative, but 
without the step down to a to 500 lb (227 kg), gutted weight, trip 
limit when 75 percent of the commercial ACL has been met or is 
projected to be met. This alternative would result in a shorter first 
and second commercial fishing seasons than the preferred alternative. 
As with the preferred alternative, it would increase the cost per 
landed fish of those already harvesting above the trip limit, although 
those vessels could increase their overall revenues by taking more 
fishing trips during the extended commercial season. The net effect on 
their profits would be positive only if ex-vessel prices substantially 
improved during the extended season. However, those vessels currently 
landing below the commercial trip limit would likely experience 
increased revenues and likely profits due to the extended season. As 
with the preferred alternative, this alternative's overall net effects 
on the profits of commercial vessels cannot be ascertained. It is only 
noted that this alternative would adversely affect fewer vessels than 
the preferred alternative. Considering, however, that the commercial 
sector has been reaching its ACL in recent years, this alternative 
would have a higher probability of allowing overages to occur than the 
preferred alternative. Overages of the commercial ACL could lead to 
overfishing of vermilion snapper which would necessitate more 
restrictive measures that could, in turn, reduce the future revenues 
and profits of commercial vessels.
    Two alternatives, including the preferred alternative, were 
considered for modifying the recreational closed season for vermilion 
snapper. The only other alternative is the no action alternative, which 
would maintain the November through March closure of the recreational 
sector for vermilion snapper. This alternative would lead to forgone 
for-hire vessel profits that would otherwise be realized with the 
preferred alternative.
    Three alternatives, including the preferred alternative, were 
considered for revising the commercial and recreational ACLs for red 
porgy. The first alternative, the no action alternative, would retain 
the current ACL, which would be higher than the ACLs under the 
preferred alternative. Although this alternative would, in principle, 
provide for better profitability prospects for both the commercial and 
for-hire vessels, its effects in the short-term would be equivalent to 
those of the preferred alternative because, based on historical 
landings through 2012, the commercial and recreational landings would 
likely be lower than the proposed commercial and recreational ACLs. The 
second alternative is similar to the preferred alternative, except that 
it would set the sector ACLs for 2013 through 2018 and subsequent years 
until modified. The effects of this alternative on commercial and for-
hire vessels would be identical to those of the preferred alternative 
for 2013 through 2015. In 2016 through 2018, this alternative would 
provide for higher sector ACLs and thus, in principle, would provide 
commercial vessels a better environment for generating higher revenues 
and profits. Assuming the commercial sector fully reaches its annual 
ACL in 2016 through 2018, this alternative would allow for additional 
revenues of about $127,000 (2011 dollars) over the preferred 
alternative for the three-year period (2016-2018). However, using a 
running average of commercial landings through 2012 as a proxy for 
future landings, the commercial ACLs under this alternative would 
likely not be reached. Therefore, the effects of this alternative on 
commercial vessels are virtually identical to those of the preferred 
alternative for the 3-year period (2016-2018). This alternative and the 
preferred alternative would most likely have identical effects on for-
hire vessels in 2016 through 2018. Recreational landings of red porgy 
have stayed at very low levels, making it unlikely that the 
recreational ACLs under this alternative or the preferred alternative 
would be reached. The Council will receive a new benchmark stock 
assessment for red porgy in 2014. As described in Regulatory Amendment 
18, these assessment results will be considered by the Council in 2015, 
and any necessary changes to the ACLs or other and management measures 
will be developed during 2015 with possible implementation in 2016. 
Hence the ACLs for 2016 and beyond may be revised based on the best 
scientific information available at that time.
    The Council also considered two alternatives to modify the 
commercial fishing season for vermilion snapper, from which they 
selected the no action alternative. The no action alternative would 
maintain the split of the commercial fishing year, with January through 
June as the first season and July through December as the second 
season. This alternative would split the commercial ACL between the two 
seasons.
    The second alternative consists of two sub-alternatives. The first 
sub-alternative would split the commercial fishing year into January 
through May as the first season and June through December as the second 
season. The second sub-alternative would split the commercial fishing 
year into January through April as the first season and May through 
December as the second season. In both sub-alternatives, the commercial 
ACL would be split equally between the two seasons. The Council noted 
the complexity of this action and decided to move it to Regulatory 
Amendment 14 to the FMP for consideration with possible additional 
alternatives. The timing of the opening and closure of the season for 
vermilion

[[Page 26745]]

snapper can impact the seasons for other snapper-grouper species, 
particularly the shallow-water grouper complex and black sea bass. The 
Council decided that a different amendment that would jointly consider 
the fishing season for vermilion snapper and black sea bass was the 
better approach. As a result of that decision, completion of Regulatory 
Amendment 18 would not be delayed by the consideration of a broader set 
of actions within the amendment, thus allowing the realization of more 
socioeconomic benefits from increased ACLs for vermilion snapper.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622

    Fisheries, Fishing, Puerto Rico, Reporting and recordkeeping 
requirements, Virgin Islands.

    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.

    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 OF MEXICO, AND SOUTH 
ATLANTIC

0
1. The authority citation for part 622 continues to read as follows:

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


Sec.  622.183  [Amended]

0
2. In Sec.  622.183, paragraph (b)(4) is removed and reserved.
0
3. In Sec.  622.190, introductory paragraph (a), and paragraphs (a)(4) 
and (a)(6) are revised to read as follows:


Sec.  622.190  Quotas.

* * * * *
    (a) South Atlantic snapper-grouper, excluding wreckfish. The quotas 
apply to persons who are not subject to the bag limits. (See Sec.  
622.11 for applicability of the bag limits.) The quotas are in gutted 
weight, that is eviscerated but otherwise whole, except for the quotas 
in paragraphs (a)(4), (a)(5), and (a)(6) of this section which are in 
both gutted weight and round weight.
* * * * *
    (4) Vermilion snapper--(i) For the period January through June each 
year.
    (A) For the 2013 fishing year--420,252 lb (190,623 kg), gutted 
weight; 466,480 lb (211,592 kg), round weight.
    (B) For the 2014 fishing year--401,874 lb (182,287 kg), gutted 
weight; 446,080 lb (202,338 kg), round weight.
    (C) For the 2015 fishing year--394,829 lb (179,091 kg), gutted 
weight; 438,260 lb (198,791 kg), round weight.
    (D) For the 2016 and subsequent fishing years--388,703 lb (176,313 
kg), gutted weight; 431,460 lb (195,707 kg), round weight.
    (ii) For the period July through December each year. (A) For the 
2013 fishing year--420,252 lb (190,623 kg), gutted weight; 466,480 lb 
(211,592 kg), round weight.
    (B) For the 2014 fishing year--401,874 lb (182,287 kg), gutted 
weight; 446,080 lb (202,338 kg), round weight.
    (C) For the 2015 fishing year--394,829 lb (179,091 kg), gutted 
weight; 438,260 lb (198,791 kg), round weight.
    (D) For the 2016 and subsequent fishing years--388,703 lb (176,313 
kg), gutted weight; 431,460 lb (195,707 kg), round weight.
* * * * *
    (6) Red porgy--(i) For the 2013 fishing year--147,115 lb (66,730 
kg), gutted weight; 153,000 lb (69,400 kg), round weight.
    (ii) For the 2014 fishing year--148,558 lb (67,385 kg), gutted 
weight; 154,500 lb (70,080 kg), round weight.
    (iii) For the 2015 and subsequent fishing years--157,692 lb (71,528 
kg), gutted weight; 164,000 lb (74,389 kg), round weight.
* * * * *
0
4. In Sec.  622.191, paragraph (a)(6) is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  622.191  Commercial trip limits.

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (6) Vermilion snapper. (i) Until 75 percent of either quota 
specified in Sec.  622.190(a)(4)(i) or (ii) is reached or projected to 
be reached, 1,000 lb (454 kg), gutted weight; 1,110 lb (503 kg), round 
weight.
    (ii) After 75 percent of either quota specified in Sec.  
622.190(a)(4)(i) or (ii) is reached or projected to be reached, 500 lb 
(227 kg), gutted weight; 555 lb (252 kg), round weight. The Assistant 
Administrator, by filing a notification with the Office of the Federal 
Register, will effect a trip limit change specified in this paragraph, 
(a)(6)(ii), when the applicable conditions have been reached.
    (iii) See Sec.  622.190(c)(1) for the limitations regarding 
vermilion snapper after either quota is reached.
* * * * *
0
5. In Sec.  622.193, paragraphs (f) and (v) are revised to read as 
follows:


Sec.  622.193  Annual catch limits (ACLs), annual catch targets (ACTs), 
and accountability measures (AMs).

* * * * *
    (f) Vermilion snapper--(1) Commercial sector. If commercial 
landings, as estimated by the SRD, reach or are projected to reach the 
applicable commercial ACL (commercial quota) specified in Sec.  
622.190(a)(4)(i) or (ii), the AA will file a notification with the 
Office of the Federal Register to close the commercial sector for that 
portion of the fishing year applicable to the respective quota.
    (2) Recreational sector. (i) If recreational landings, as estimated 
by the SRD, reach or are projected to reach the applicable recreational 
ACL specified in paragraph (f)(2)(iv) of this section and vermilion 
snapper are overfished, based on the most recent Status of U.S. 
Fisheries Report to Congress, the AA will file a notification with the 
Office of the Federal Register to close the recreational sector for 
vermilion snapper for the remainder of the fishing year. On and after 
the effective date of such notification, the bag and possession limit 
of vermilion snapper in or from the South Atlantic EEZ is zero. This 
bag and possession limit also applies in the South Atlantic on board a 
vessel for which a valid Federal commercial or charter vessel/headboat 
permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has been issued, without 
regard to where such species were harvested, i.e., in state or Federal 
waters.
    (ii) Without regard to overfished status, if vermilion snapper 
recreational landings exceed the applicable recreational ACL, the AA 
will file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register, at or 
near the beginning of the following fishing year, to reduce the ACL for 
that fishing year by the amount of the overage.
    (iii) Recreational landings will be evaluated relative to the ACL 
based on a moving multi-year average of landings, as described in the 
FMP.
    (iv) The recreational ACL for vermilion snapper is 395,532 lb 
(179,410 kg), gutted weight, 439,040 lb (199,145 kg), round weight, for 
2013; 378,234 lb (171,564 kg), gutted weight, 419,840 lb (190,436 kg), 
round weight, for 2014; 371,604 lb (168,557 kg), gutted weight, 412,480 
lb (187,098 kg), round weight, for 2015; and 365,838 lb (165,941 kg), 
gutted weight, 406,080 lb (184,195 kg), round weight, for 2016 and 
subsequent fishing years.
* * * * *
    (v) Red porgy--(1) Commercial sector. (i) If commercial landings 
for red porgy, as estimated by the SRD, reach or are projected to reach 
the applicable commercial ACL (commercial quota) specified in Sec.  
622.190(a)(6), the AA will

[[Page 26746]]

file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register to close 
the commercial sector for the remainder of the fishing year.
    (ii) If commercial landings exceed the applicable commercial ACL, 
and red porgy are overfished, based on the most recent Status of U.S. 
Fisheries Report to Congress, the AA will file a notification with the 
Office of the Federal Register, at or near the beginning of the fishing 
year to reduce the ACL for that following year by the amount of the 
overage in the prior fishing year.
    (2) Recreational sector. (i) If recreational landings for red 
porgy, as estimated by the SRD, exceed the applicable recreational ACL 
specified in paragraph (v)(2)(ii) of this section then during the 
following fishing year, recreational landings will be monitored for a 
persistence in increased landings and, if necessary, the AA will file a 
notification with the Office of the Federal Register, to reduce the 
length of the following recreational fishing season by the amount 
necessary to ensure recreational landings do not exceed the 
recreational ACL in the following fishing year. However, the length of 
the recreational fishing season will not be reduced during the 
following fishing year if recreational landings do not exceed the 
applicable ACL or if the RA determines, using the best scientific 
information available, that a reduction in the length of the following 
fishing season is unnecessary.
    (ii) The recreational ACL for red porgy is 147,115 lb (66,730 kg), 
gutted weight, 153,000 lb (69,400 kg), round weight, for 2013; 148,558 
lb (67,385 kg), gutted weight, 154,500 lb (70,080 kg), round weight, 
for 2014; 157,692 lb (71,528 kg), gutted weight, 164,000 lb (74,389 
kg), round weight, for 2015 and subsequent fishing years.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2013-10804 Filed 5-7-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P