[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 228 (Tuesday, November 26, 2013)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 70500-70509]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-28340]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

[Docket No. 130402317-3966-02]
RIN 0648-XC611


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; 2014 Atlantic Shark Commercial 
Fishing Seasons

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

ACTION: Final rule; fishing season notification.

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SUMMARY: This final rule establishes opening dates and adjusts quotas 
for the 2014 fishing season for the Atlantic commercial shark 
fisheries. The quota adjustments are based on over- and/or 
underharvests experienced during 2013 and previous fishing seasons. In 
addition, NMFS establishes season opening dates based on adaptive 
management measures to provide, to the extent practicable, fishing 
opportunities for commercial shark fishermen in all regions and areas. 
These actions could affect fishing opportunities for commercial shark 
fishermen in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of 
Mexico and Caribbean Sea.

DATES: This rule is effective on January 1, 2014. The 2014 Atlantic 
commercial shark fishing season opening dates and quotas are provided 
in Table 1 under SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION.

ADDRESSES: Highly Migratory Species Management Division, 1315 East-West 
Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Gu[yacute] DuBeck or Karyl Brewster-
Geisz at 301-427-8503.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    The Atlantic commercial shark fisheries are managed under the 
authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management 
Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). The 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory 
Species (HMS) Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and its amendments are 
implemented by regulations at 50 CFR part 635. For the Atlantic 
commercial shark fisheries, the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its 
amendments established, among other things, commercial quotas for 
species and management groups, accounting measures for under- and 
overharvests for the shark fisheries, and adaptive management measures 
such as flexible opening dates for the fishing season and inseason 
adjustments to shark trip limits, which provide management flexibility 
in furtherance of equitable fishing opportunities, to the extent 
practicable, for commercial shark fishermen in all regions and areas.
    On August 23, 2013 (78 FR 52487), NMFS published a rule proposing 
the 2014 opening dates for the Atlantic commercial shark fisheries and 
quotas based on shark landings information as of July 16, 2013. The 
proposed rule also considered using adaptive management measures such 
as flexible opening dates for the fishing seasons (Sec.  635.27(b)(3)) 
and inseason adjustments to shark trip limits (Sec.  635.24(a)(8)) to 
provide flexibility in furtherance of equitable fishing opportunities, 
to the extent practicable, for commercial shark fishermen in all 
regions and areas. The August 2013 proposed rule contains details 
regarding the proposal and how the quotas were calculated that are not 
repeated here. The comment period on the proposed rule ended on 
September 23, 2013.
    During the comment period, NMFS received more than 500 written and 
oral comments on the proposed rule. Those comments, along with the 
Agency's responses, are summarized below. As further detailed in the 
Response to Comments section, after considering all the comments, NMFS 
is opening the fishing seasons for all shark management groups except 
the aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark management groups in the 
Atlantic region on January 1, 2014, as proposed in the August 23, 2013, 
proposed rule. The aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark management 
groups in the Atlantic region will open on June 1, 2014, which is a 
change from the proposed rule. Also, some of the quotas have changed 
since the proposed rule based on updated landings information as of 
October 18, 2013.
    This final rule serves as notification of the 2014 opening dates of 
the Atlantic commercial shark fisheries and 2014 quotas, based on shark 
landings updates as of October 18, 2013, pursuant to Sec.  
635.27(b)(1)(i) through (b)(1)(x). This action does not change the 
annual base commercial quotas established under Amendments 2, 3, and 5a 
to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP for any shark management group. Any 
such changes would be performed through a separate action. Rather, this 
action adjusts the annual base commercial quotas based on over- and/or 
underharvests that occurred in 2013 and previous fishing seasons, 
consistent with existing regulations.

[[Page 70501]]

Response to Comments

    NMFS received comments from more than 500 fishermen, dealers, and 
other interested parties on the proposed rule. All written comments can 
be found at http://www.regulations.gov/ and by searching for RIN 0648-
XC611.

A. LCS Management Group Comments

    Comment 1: NMFS received more than 350 comments regarding the 
proposed opening date for the aggregated LCS and hammerhead management 
groups in the Atlantic region. Some fishermen from the southern portion 
of the Atlantic region requested an opening date from May 1 through May 
31. These commenters stated that NMFS should delay the opening date to 
help protect the pupping of sharks off the coast of Florida. These 
commenters generally would prefer the opportunity to fish for sharks in 
October through December because they participate in other fisheries at 
the beginning of the year, and prefer to save the shark quota for later 
in the year when there are no other fisheries open in Florida. Other 
constituents requested that the proposed aggregated LCS opening date in 
the Atlantic region be changed to July 1 to reduce fishing pressure on 
the lemon shark aggregation in southern Florida. These commenters 
stated that: NMFS should protect this area from December through April 
due to lemon shark pupping; NMFS has not fully considered all of the 
information when choosing the opening dates since the proposed opening 
date would have negative effects on the lemon shark aggregation; 
tagging data and scuba diving observations suggested the aggregated 
lemon shark population is experiencing a decline since regulations 
implemented to protect sandbar sharks have increased fishing pressure 
on this species and other sharks; commercial fishermen targeted the 
lemon shark aggregation in 2013; Enric Cortes, a NOAA scientist, stated 
in a publication that lemon sharks are the most vulnerable of all LCS 
species, based on several standard criteria; and NMFS needs to consider 
the socioeconomic benefit of the shark aggregation to eco-tourists 
beyond the benefits to commercial fishermen only. The Atlantic States 
Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) expressed concerns that the 
proposed January 1 opening date could result in closing the fishery 
earlier in the year due to the quota linkages and would not provide 
equitable fishing opportunities for fishermen located in the northern 
portion of the Atlantic region. The Commonwealth of Virginia also 
expressed their concerns about the proposed opening date of January 1 
and the potential impacts on the mid-Atlantic commercial shark 
fishermen should the quotas be reached prematurely in the year.
    Response: NMFS evaluates a range of criteria (Sec.  635.27(b)(3)) 
before choosing an opening date. These include: (1) The available 
annual quotas for the current fishing season for the different species/
management groups based on any over- and/or underharvests experienced 
during the previous commercial shark fishing seasons; (2) estimated 
season length based on available quota(s) and average weekly catch 
rates of different species and/or management group from the previous 
years; (3) length of the season for the different species and/or 
management group in the previous years and whether fishermen were able 
to participate in the fishery in those years; (4) variations in 
seasonal distribution, abundance, or migratory patterns of the 
different species/management groups based on scientific and fishery 
information; (5) effects of catch rates in one part of a region 
precluding vessels in another part of that region from having a 
reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the different species 
and/or management quotas; (6) effects of the adjustment on 
accomplishing the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its 
amendments; and/or, (7) effects of a delayed opening with regard to 
fishing opportunities in other fisheries. After evaluating the opening 
fishing season criteria and reviewing the public comments, NMFS has 
determined that changing the opening date to June 1 would promote 
equitable fishing opportunities in the Atlantic region. This date 
should allow fishermen in the northern portion of the Atlantic region 
the opportunity to fish starting in June while still providing fishing 
opportunities for fishermen in the southern portion of the Atlantic 
region later in the year. NMFS responds to the concerns as articulated 
in Comment 1 in further detail below.
    Regarding the comments from some fishermen from the southern 
portion of the Atlantic region--who preferred a delayed opening for the 
Atlantic aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark fisheries since that would 
likely avoid the shark pupping season and ensure potential fishing 
opportunities later in the year (October through December) based on 
fishing rates from 2013--NMFS agrees that a delay would provide 
potential fishing opportunities later in the year.
    Many commenters indicated that NMFS should delay the opening to 
protect shark pupping. While delaying the fishing season might overlap 
with the lemon shark pupping off of southern Florida--because most 
sharks pup in shallow waters (which are found in state waters, not 
Federal waters) and the potential nursery area mentioned by commenters 
is found in Florida state waters (which are already closed to the two 
primary commercial shark gears--bottom longline and gillnet)--the 
opening dates for Federal shark fishing seasons has little impact on 
shark pupping seasons in most areas. NMFS has worked and will continue 
to work with Atlantic coastal states and Regional Fishery Management 
Councils and Interstate Marine Fisheries Commissions to protect shark 
nursery and pupping areas.
    Regarding the comment that lemon sharks were experiencing 
overfishing in a certain area off of Florida, NMFS cannot determine if 
the lemon shark population has declined in recent years based on the 
study and data submitted in the public comments and is not aware of a 
complete stock assessment showing a decline in the stock. The data 
provided by commenters did not include information on a number of 
relevant biological (e.g., water temperature, water quality due to rain 
run-off, migration patterns) and other (e.g., number of sharks tagged 
each year, the battery life of tags, location of all of the receivers) 
factors. These factors could have contributed to the decline in lemon 
sharks that was observed in the data and by scuba divers in the south 
Florida area. NMFS cannot make a determination using the data provided. 
Nonetheless, NMFS reviewed current data regarding lemon sharks to 
examine the concerns raised in the comments. Based on 2013 dealer data, 
lemon sharks were not targeted in or around Florida waters by 
commercial fishermen. Dealers reported that Florida-based fishermen 
landed approximately 3.5 mt dw (7,619 lb dw) of lemon sharks in 2013. 
The total landings of lemon sharks reported landed in 2013 accounted 
for approximately 4 percent of the total landings of aggregated LCS in 
the Atlantic region, which is comparable to past fishing years.
    Regarding the comment that Dr. Enric Cort[eacute]s published a 
paper indicating lemon sharks were declining: Dr. Cort[eacute]s and 
colleagues gave a presentation at the 2008 annual meeting of the 
American Elasmobranch Society entitled ``Productivity and 
Susceptibility Analysis of Atlantic sharks'' where lemon sharks had the 
highest vulnerability score (a combination of stock productivity and 
susceptibility to fisheries) of all Atlantic

[[Page 70502]]

shark species included in the analysis. However, it was noted that the 
analysis was preliminary and that the high score for the lemon shark 
was mostly driven by a very high susceptibility score (the product of 
four components: Availability, encounterability, selectivity, and post-
capture mortality), which in turn was a result of assuming the maximum 
value of 100% for the encounterability, selectivity, and post-capture 
mortality components. The study was never published and should thus be 
interpreted with caution and not considered final.
    Some commenters felt that NMFS should consider the benefits of eco-
tourism when proposing shark fishing season opening dates. While shark 
aggregations may benefit eco-tourism, this factor is not one of the 
specific criteria NMFS uses to establish opening dates. Rather, NMFS 
establishes commercial fishing quotas based on the best available 
science in order to rebuild overfished fisheries, prevent overfishing, 
and achieve optimum yield. NMFS may consider ecotourism benefits when 
setting fishing season opening dates in the future.
    Regarding the requests by ASMFC and the Commonwealth of Virginia to 
delay the opening of the aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark management 
groups in the Atlantic region to allow equitable fishing opportunities 
given the migration of sharks along the coast throughout the year, NMFS 
agrees that opening the fisheries later in the year could provide more 
equitable fishing opportunities without negative ecological impacts on 
shark stocks.
    Comment 2: Regarding the proposed opening date for the blacktip 
shark, aggregated LCS, and hammerhead shark management groups in the 
Gulf of Mexico region, one commenter requested an opening date of March 
5 to coincide with the religious holiday of Lent and a closure for the 
fishery on July 1 before the State of Louisiana re-opens their state-
waters for these sharks. Another commenter requested opening dates 
ranging from May 15 through May 31 each year to protect the pupping of 
various LCS stocks.
    Response: Taking into consideration the opening criteria (Sec.  
635.27(b)(3)), NMFS has determined that keeping the proposed opening 
date of January 1 for the blacktip shark, aggregated LCS, and 
hammerhead shark management groups in the Gulf of Mexico region 
promotes equitable fishing opportunities throughout this region. NMFS 
considered the length of the season for the different species and/or 
management groups in 2012 and 2013, and whether fishermen were able to 
participate in the fishery in those years (Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(iii)). 
Since the State of Louisiana has a state-water closure from April 1 
through June 30 (pupping season) and opens and closes with the Federal 
shark fisheries, opening the season in March might not give all 
fishermen in the region an equitable opportunity to harvest the quota. 
NMFS agrees that management measures to protect nursery areas of the 
various LCS stocks are important, but does not believe that closing the 
entire region until May is warranted at this time. Sharks are broadly 
distributed as adults, but have been found to utilize specific 
estuaries as pupping and nursery areas in state-waters during pupping 
seasons and throughout their neonate (newborn) and young-of-the-year 
life stages. As described above, the State of Louisiana closes state-
waters for this reason and the State of Florida has already closed its 
waters to the two primary commercial shark gears. Given the limited 
degree of nursery and pupping areas in Federal waters, NMFS will 
continue to work with Gulf coastal states and Regional Fishery 
Management Councils and Interstate Marine Fisheries Commissions. In 
regard to closing on July 1, under Sec.  635.28(b)(2), NMFS closes each 
management group or linked management groups when landings have reached 
or are projected to reach 80 percent of the quota. NMFS does not decide 
upon the closure date before the fishery opens.
    Comment 3: NMFS received comments from the ASMFC in opposition of 
more restrictive retention limits throughout the season to address 
unequal quota distribution stating that fishermen use non-sandbar LCS 
to supplement the total trip landings; therefore, any adjustment to the 
trip limit could reduce their economic success.
    Response: As described in the proposed rule for this action, NMFS 
plans to implement the adaptive management measures that were finalized 
in the 2011 shark season rule (75 FR 76302; December 8, 2010) to 
adjust, via inseason actions, the retention limit for non-sandbar LCS. 
Specifically, if the quota is being harvested quickly and NMFS 
calculates that the fishermen in the northern portion of the region 
have not yet had an opportunity to fish for aggregated LCS and 
hammerhead sharks because the sharks have not migrated to that area, 
NMFS may reduce the trip limit to slow fishing (e.g., change the trip 
limit from 36 sharks to 15 sharks or even 0 sharks) and then increase 
the limit again when NMFS estimates that the sharks have migrated 
north. Similarly, under the opening date in this final rule, if the 
quota is being landed quickly and NMFS calculates the fishermen in the 
southern portion of the region have not yet had an opportunity to fish 
because the sharks remain north, NMFS may reduce the trip limit to slow 
fishing until the sharks migrate further south. This process should 
ensure equitable fishing opportunities for all fishermen along the 
Atlantic coast while accommodating fishermen's requests from both the 
southern and northern portions of the Atlantic region. NMFS did not 
need to use these measures in 2013, when the fishery opened on January 
1, but may in the future depending on catch rates. Given real-time 
quota monitoring, along with the inseason trip limit adjustment, NMFS 
has flexibility to further opportunities for all fishermen in all 
regions, to the extent practicable, while also ensuring that quotas are 
not exceeded.

B. SCS Management Group Comments

    Comment 4: NMFS received comments on the proposed opening date for 
the non-blacknose SCS and blacknose shark management groups. Some 
commenters supported the January 1 opening date, while ASMFC expressed 
concerns with the January 1 opening date as it could impact fishermen 
in the northern portion of the Atlantic region and cause the entire 
fishery to close earlier in the year due to the blacknose shark quota 
linkage.
    Response: NMFS has determined that opening the SCS fishery on 
January 1, 2014, promotes equitable fishing opportunities throughout 
the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions by allowing fishermen 
throughout the regions an opportunity to fish on non-blacknose SCS. 
NMFS made this decision after considering the opening criteria, 
particularly the length of the season for the different species and/or 
management groups in 2012 and 2013, and whether fishermen were able to 
participate in the fishery in those years (Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(iii)). 
The non-blacknose SCS and blacknose shark management groups have 
remained open all year in previous fishing seasons, except for in 2010 
and 2013. In 2010, these fisheries closed on November 2 (75 FR 67251), 
and in 2013, the management groups in the Atlantic region closed on 
September 30, 2013 (78 FR 59878). Both times were in the first year of 
new management measures of Amendment 3 and 5a to the 2006 Consolidated 
HMS FMP and both times were in the later part of the year after all 
fishermen throughout the Atlantic had had an opportunity to fish for 
SCS. NMFS linked these quotas due

[[Page 70503]]

to concerns regarding the incidental harvest of blacknose sharks, which 
is overfished, while fishermen were targeting non-blacknose SCS. During 
the Amendment 3 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP rulemaking process, 
fishermen indicated that they could avoid catching blacknose sharks 
when fishing for non-blacknose sharks. NMFS agreed with that comment. 
As such, as long as fishermen avoid catching blacknose sharks, which 
NMFS has encouraged, the non-blacknose shark fishery should remain 
open. For more information on these comments and NMFS's response, see 
the Amendment 3 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP final rule (75 FR 
30484; June 1, 2010).
    Comment 5: NMFS received several comments supporting the proposal 
to split the blacknose shark overharvest over 5 years.
    Response: Based on public comment, NMFS has decided to spread the 
overharvest over 5 years to reduce the impacts to commercial fishermen 
due to the blacknose-SCS quota linkage. In the proposed rule, NMFS 
explained that late dealer reports indicated the 2012 blacknose shark 
quota was exceeded by 18 percent, or 3.5 mt dw, after the final rule 
establishing quotas for the 2013 shark season was published (77 FR 
75896; December 26, 2012). Amendment 5a to the 2006 Consolidated HMS 
FMP (78 FR 40318; July 3, 2013), among other things, established 
Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regional quotas for blacknose sharks, and 
in this final rule, NMFS split the total overharvest between the 
Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions based on the percent of landings of 
blacknose sharks reported in each region and spread the overharvest 
over 5 years. Therefore, NMFS will adjust the annual Atlantic non-
blacknose shark management group by 0.5 mt dw to 17.5 mt dw, and the 
annual Gulf of Mexico blacknose shark management group by 0.2 mt dw to 
1.8 mt dw, for the next 5 years (e.g., 2014-2018, inclusive). If the 
adjusted quotas continue to be overharvested, the overharvested amount 
will be further reduced from the adjusted annual quotas in future 
fishing seasons.

C. General Comments

    Comment 6: Commenters supported the conservation aspects of this 
rule (e.g., monitoring quotas, restricting fishing, etc.).
    Response: Management of the Atlantic shark fisheries is based on 
the best available science to rebuild or maintain overfished or 
maintain shark stocks and prevent overfishing. The 2014 shark season 
rule establishes commercial quotas based on over- and underharvest in 
2013 and previous fishing seasons, and sets the opening dates for each 
management group. This rulemaking implements previously adopted 
measures with adjustments, as specified in the 2006 Consolidated HMS 
FMP and its amendments and the Environmental Assessment (EA) that 
accompanied the 2011 shark quota specifications rule (75 FR 76302; 
December 8, 2010).
    Comment 7: NMFS received comments to implement more regulations in 
Federal waters to protect lemon sharks and stop all shark fishing.
    Response: This comment is outside the scope of this rulemaking. The 
purpose of this rulemaking is to adjust quotas based on over- and 
underharvests from the previous year and opening dates for the 2014 
shark season. Management of the Atlantic shark fisheries is based on 
the best available science to maintain or rebuild overfished shark 
stocks. The final rule does not reanalyze the overall management 
measures for sharks, which were analyzed in Amendments 2, 3, and 5a to 
the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, nor does this rule review the stock 
status of lemon sharks and consider measures for lemon sharks to 
implement rebuilding or prevent overfishing, if needed. NMFS is 
considering shark management measures, including those to rebuild shark 
stocks or prevent overfishing, in other upcoming rulemakings such as 
Amendments 5b and 6 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP. As stated above, 
NMFS needs more information regarding lemon shark status before 
considering management measures that are specifically designed to 
either prevent overfishing and/or rebuild that stock.
    Comment 8: NMFS received comments about the underharvest of sandbar 
shark quota. These constituents would prefer NMFS to allow commercial 
landings of sandbar sharks from outside of the shark research fishery.
    Response: This comment is outside the scope of this rulemaking. In 
Amendment 5a to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, NMFS stated that sandbar 
sharks are still overfished, but overfishing is no longer occurring. 
Because of the positive results from the stock assessment, NMFS decided 
to maintain the current sandbar shark rebuilding plan, including 
regulations prohibiting possession of sandbar sharks in commercial and 
recreational shark fisheries. NMFS may re-analyze the sandbar shark 
regulations as part of the upcoming Amendment 6 to the 2006 
Consolidated HMS FMP or could decide to review this issue in a separate 
rulemaking.
    Comment 9: NMFS received several comments regarding quota linkage 
and blacknose shark trip limits. Commenters requested that NMFS remove 
the non-blacknose SCS and blacknose shark quota linkage, implement no 
more linkages between shark management groups in any future actions, 
and establish a trip limit for blacknose sharks.
    Response: This comment is outside the scope of this rulemaking. As 
described above, quota linkages are designed to prevent incidental 
mortality of one species from occurring in another shark fishery after 
its management group has closed. Also, as described above, in the case 
of the blacknose and non-blacknose SCS quota linkage, NMFS finalized 
the linkage as part of Amendment 3 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP 
specifically because fishermen indicated, and NMFS agreed, that 
fishermen could target non-blacknose SCS without catching blacknose 
sharks. In Amendment 5a to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, NMFS split 
the blacknose and non-blacknose quotas into two regions. In each 
region, the blacknose shark quota is linked to the non-blacknose SCS 
quota. If blacknose shark landings in one region trigger a quota 
closure, the non-blacknose SCS management group in that region would 
close as well. The quota linkage prevents blacknose shark mortality in 
the directed non-blacknose SCS fishery from occurring after the 
blacknose shark quota has been filled. Preventing this mortality is an 
important part of the rebuilding plan for blacknose sharks. The quota 
linkage between blacknose sharks and non-blacknose SCS management 
groups, which has been in effect since 2010, has only caused the entire 
SCS fishery to close twice. Both times were in the first year of new 
management measures of Amendment 3 and 5a to the 2006 Consolidated HMS 
FMP and both times were in the later part of the year after all 
fishermen throughout the Atlantic had had an opportunity to fish for 
SCS. In Amendment 5a to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, NMFS re-examined 
the quota linkage issue and determined that quota linkages are still 
needed and are a useful tool in rebuilding overfished stocks. If 
needed, in future rulemaking actions, NMFS could decide to re-evaluate 
the benefit of linkages and non-linkages for the management groups and 
fishery.
    Comment 10: NMFS received a request to replace ``underfishing'' 
with the concept of the optimum yield as per National Standard 1 to 
protect the fishing communities and businesses.

[[Page 70504]]

    Response: This comment is outside the scope of this rulemaking. As 
part of all rulemakings, NMFS analyzes the consistency with the 
National Standards and determined that this final rule meets all of the 
National Standards and other legal requirements. This rulemaking is 
consistent with National Standard 1 because it implements adjustments 
to mortality levels based on over- and underharvest, which is 
consistent with the stock assessments. The shark management group 
quotas allow fishermen to harvest optimum yield for the shark 
management groups and allows for rebuilding and preventing overfishing. 
As an example, this rule reduces the Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS, 
blacknose shark and porbeagle shark quotas due to previous overharvests 
to prevent overfishing, while also providing underharvest opportunities 
to harvest the healthy Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark and non-blacknose 
SCS stocks.

Changes From the Proposed Rule

    NMFS made 2 types of changes to the proposed rule as described 
below.
    1. NMFS changed the final Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark (274.3 mt 
dw), Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS (151.2 mt dw), and porbeagle shark 
(1.2 mt dw) quotas based on updated landings through October 18, 2013. 
In the proposed rule, which was based on data available through July 
16, 2013, the 2014 adjusted annual quota for Gulf of Mexico blacktip 
shark was proposed to be 281.9 mt dw (621,416 lb dw). Based on updated 
landings data through October 18, 2013, the Gulf of Mexico blacktip 
shark management group was underharvested by 17.7 mt dw. Therefore, the 
2014 adjusted annual quota for Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark is 274.3 
mt dw (604,626 lb dw) (256.6 mt dw annual base quota + 17.7 mt dw 2013 
underharvest = 274.3 mt dw 2014 adjusted annual quota). The Gulf of 
Mexico aggregated LCS management group was overharvested by 6.2 mt dw 
based on landings data through October 18, 2013. Therefore, the 2014 
adjusted annual quota for Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS is 151.2 mt dw 
(333,828 lb dw) (157.5 mt dw annual base quota-6.2 mt dw 2013 
overharvest = 151.2 mt dw 2014 adjusted annual quota). In the proposed 
rule, the 2014 adjusted annual quota for porbeagle sharks was proposed 
to be 1.3 mt dw (2,874 lb dw). Landings data through October 18, 2013, 
indicate 54 lb dw of landings during a closure. Therefore, the 2014 
adjusted annual quota for porbeagle shark is 1.2 mt dw (2,820 lb dw) 
(1.7 mt dw annual base quota-0.4 mt dw 2011 and 2012 overharvest-54 lb 
dw 2013 landings during closure = 1.2 mt dw 2014 adjusted annual 
quota). Landings information beyond October 18, 2013, was not available 
while NMFS was writing this rule. This final rule used the most recent 
available information to allow NMFS to properly analyze the fishery and 
open the fishery as proposed on January 1, 2014. Any landings between 
October 18 and December 31, 2013, will be accounted for in the 2015 
shark fisheries quotas, as appropriate.
    2. NMFS changed the opening date that was proposed for the 
aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark management groups in the Atlantic 
region from January 1, 2014 to June 1, 2014. As noted above, NMFS 
changed the opening date after considering public comment in order to 
promote more equitable fishing opportunities in the Atlantic region.

2014 Annual Quotas

    This final rule adjusts the commercial quotas due to over- and/or 
underharvests in 2013 and previous fishing seasons, based on landings 
data through October 18, 2013. The 2014 annual quotas by species and 
species group are summarized in Table 1. All dealer reports that are 
received by NMFS after October 18, 2013, will be used to adjust the 
2015 quotas, if necessary. A description of the quota calculations is 
provided in the proposed rule and is not repeated here. Any changes are 
described in the ``Changes from the Proposed Rule'' section.
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Fishing Season Notification for the 2014 Atlantic Commercial Shark 
Fishing Seasons

    Based on the seven ``Opening Fishing Season'' criteria listed in 
Sec.  635.27(b)(3), the 2014 Atlantic commercial shark fishing season 
for the sandbar shark, Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark, Gulf of Mexico 
aggregated LCS, Gulf of Mexico hammerhead shark, non-blacknose shark 
SCS, blacknose shark, blue shark, porbeagle shark, and pelagic shark 
(other than porbeagle or blue sharks) management groups in the 
northwestern Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and the 
Caribbean Sea, will open on January 1, 2014. The aggregated LCS and 
hammerhead shark management groups in the Atlantic region will open on 
June 1, 2014.
    All of the shark management groups would remain open until December 
31, 2014, or until NMFS determines that the fishing season landings for 
any shark management group has reached, or is projected to reach, 80 
percent of the available quota. Additionally, NMFS has established non-
linked and linked quotas; linked quotas are explicitly designed to 
concurrently close multiple shark management groups that are caught 
together to prevent incidental catch mortality from exceeding the total 
allowable catch. At this time, Gulf of Mexico blacktip and pelagic 
sharks have non-linked quotas and can close without affecting any other 
management groups. Consistent with Sec.  635.28(b)(4), NMFS may close 
the Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group before landings 
reach, or are expected to reach, 80 percent of the quota. The linked 
quotas of the species and/or management groups are Atlantic hammerhead 
sharks and Atlantic aggregated LCS; Gulf of Mexico hammerhead sharks 
and Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS; Atlantic blacknose and Atlantic non-
blacknose SCS; and Gulf of Mexico blacknose and Gulf of Mexico non-
blacknose SCS. NMFS will file for publication with the Office of the 
Federal Register a notice of closure for that shark species, shark 
management group including any linked quotas, and/or region that will 
be effective no fewer than 5 days from date of filing. From the 
effective date and time of the closure until NMFS announces, via the 
publication of a notice in the Federal Register, that additional quota 
is available and the season is reopened, the fisheries for the shark 
species or management group are closed, even across fishing years. 
Before taking any inseason action, NMFS would consider the criteria 
listed at Sec.  635.28(b)(4).

Classification

    The NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that the final rule 
is consistent with the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments, 
other provisions of the MSA, and other applicable law.
    This final rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    In compliance with section 604 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act 
(RFA), NMFS prepared a Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (FRFA) for 
this final rule, which analyzed the adjustments to the Gulf of Mexico 
blacktip shark, non-blacknose SCS, blacknose shark, and porbeagle shark 
management group quotas based on over- and/or underharvests from the 
previous fishing season(s). The FRFA analyzes the anticipated economic 
impacts of the final actions and any significant economic impacts on 
small entities. The FRFA is below.
    In compliance with section 604(a)(1) of the Regulatory Flexibility 
Act, the purpose of this final rulemaking is, consistent with the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act, to adjust the 2014 annual quotas for all Atlantic 
and Gulf of Mexico shark management groups based on over- and/or 
underharvests from the previous fishing year, where allowable. These 
adjustments are being implemented according to the regulations 
implemented for the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments.
    In this rulemaking, NMFS expects few, if any, economic impacts to 
fishermen other than those already analyzed in the 2006 Consolidated 
HMS FMP and its amendments. While there may be some direct negative 
economic impacts associated with the opening dates for fishermen in 
certain areas, there could also be positive effects for other fishermen 
in the region. The opening dates were chosen to allow for an equitable 
distribution of the available quotas among all fishermen across regions 
and states, to the extent practicable.
    Section 604(a)(2) of the Regulatory Flexibility Act requires NMFS 
to summarize significant issues raised by the public in response to the 
Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA), a summary of NMFS' 
assessment of such issues, and a statement of any changes made as a 
result of the comments. The IRFA was done as part of the proposed rule 
for the 2014 Atlantic Commercial Shark Season Specifications. NMFS did 
not receive any comments specific to the IRFA. However, NMFS received 
comments related to the overall economic impacts of the proposed rule 
(see Comments 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 10 above). As described in the 
response to those comments relating to the season opening dates and 
consistent with Sec.  635.27(b)(3), the opening date for the Gulf of 
Mexico blacktip shark, Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS, Gulf of Mexico 
hammerhead shark, non-blacknose shark SCS, and blacknose shark 
management groups will be implemented as proposed, while the opening 
date for the aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark management groups in 
the Atlantic region will be delayed until June 1, 2014.
    Section 604(a)(3) requires NMFS to provide an estimate of the 
number of small entities to which the rule would apply. The Small 
Business Administration (SBA) has established size criteria for all 
major industry sectors in the United States, including fish harvesters. 
Prior to June 20, 2013, a business involved in fish harvesting was 
classified as a small business if it is independently owned and 
operated, is not dominant in its field of operation (including its 
affiliates), and has combined annual receipts not in excess of $4.0 
million (NAICS code 114111, finfish fishing) for all its affiliated 
operations worldwide. In addition, SBA defined a small charter/party 
boat entity (NAICS code 713990, recreational industries) as one with 
average annual receipts of less than $7.0 million. On June 20, 2013, 
SBA issued a final rule revising the small business size standards for 
several industries effective July 22, 2013 (78 FR 37398; June 20, 
2013). The rule increased the size standard for Finfish Fishing from 
$4.0 to 19.0 million, Shellfish Fishing from $4.0 to 5.0 million, and 
Other Marine Fishing from $4.0 to 7.0 million. NMFS has reviewed the 
analyses prepared for this action in light of the new size standards. 
Under the former, lower size standards, all entities subject to this 
action were considered small entities, thus they all would continue to 
be considered small under the new standards. NMFS does not believe that 
the new size standards affect analyses prepared for this action. The 
final rule would apply to the approximately 221 directed commercial 
shark permit holders (133 in the Atlantic and 88 in the Gulf of Mexico 
regions), 265 incidental commercial shark permit holders (162 in the 
Atlantic and 103 in the Gulf of Mexico regions), and 97 commercial 
shark dealers (65 in the Atlantic and 32 in the Gulf of Mexico regions) 
as of October 2013.
    Section 604(a)(4) of the Regulatory Flexibility Act requires NMFS 
to describe the projected reporting, recordkeeping, and other 
compliance

[[Page 70508]]

requirements of the final rule, including an estimate of the classes of 
small entities which would be subject to the requirements of the report 
or record. None of the actions in this final rule would result in 
additional reporting, recordkeeping, or compliance requirements beyond 
those already analyzed in Amendments 2, 3, and 5a to the 2006 
Consolidated HMS FMP.
    Section 604(a)(5) of the Regulatory Flexibility Act requires NMFS 
to describe the steps taken to minimize the economic impact on small 
entities consistent with the stated objectives of applicable statutes. 
Additionally, the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 603(c)(1)-(4)) 
lists four general categories of ``significant'' alternatives that 
would assist an agency in the development of significant alternatives. 
These categories of alternatives are: (1) Establishment of differing 
compliance or reporting requirements or timetables that take into 
account the resources available to small entities; (2) clarification, 
consolidation, or simplification of compliance and reporting 
requirements under the rule for such small entities; (3) use of 
performance rather than design standards; and (4) exemptions from 
coverage of the rule for small entities.
    In order to meet the objectives of this rule consistent with the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS cannot exempt small entities or change the 
reporting requirements only for small entities. This rulemaking does 
not establish management measures to be implemented, but rather 
implements previously adopted and analyzed measures as adjustments, as 
specified in Amendment 2, Amendment 3, and Amendment 5a to the 2006 
Consolidated HMS FMP and the EA for the 2011 quota specifications rule. 
Thus, in this rulemaking, NMFS adjusted the base quotas established and 
analyzed in Amendment 2, Amendment 3, and Amendment 5a to the 2006 
Consolidated HMS FMP by subtracting the underharvest or adding the 
overharvest as allowable, as specified and allowable in existing 
regulations. The adaptive management measures such as flexible opening 
dates for the fishing season and inseason adjustments to shark trip 
limits implemented in this rule are within a range previously analyzed 
in the EA with the 2011 quota specifications rule. Under current 
regulations (Sec.  635.27(b)(2), all shark fisheries close on December 
31 of each year and do not open until NMFS takes action, such as this 
rulemaking to re-open the fisheries. Thus, not implementing these 
management measures would negatively affect shark fishermen and related 
small entities such as dealers and would also not provide management 
the flexibility in furtherance of equitable fishing opportunities, to 
the extent practicable, for commercial shark fishermen in all regions 
and areas. NMFS has limited flexibility to exercise in carrying out the 
measures and quotas in this rule.
    Based on the 2013 ex-vessel price, fully harvesting the unadjusted 
2014 Atlantic shark commercial baseline quotas could result in total 
fleet revenues of $4,892,722 (see Table 2). For the Gulf of Mexico 
blacktip shark management group, there would be a $37,778 gain to the 
regional fleet in revenues due to underharvest in 2013. The non-
blacknose SCS management group would also have a gain in revenue due to 
underharvest in 2013. There would be a $44,165 gain to the Gulf of 
Mexico non-blacknose SCS management group, while the Atlantic non-
blacknose SCS management group could see a $171,109 gain in revenue. 
The adjustment due to the overharvests in 2013 would result in a 
$13,900 loss to the regional fleet in revenues in the Gulf of Mexico 
aggregated LCS quota. The adjustment due to the overharvests in 2012 
would result in a 5-year quota reduction for the blacknose shark 
management group. There would be a $599 loss to the Gulf of Mexico 
blacknose shark management group, while there would a $1,124 loss to 
the Atlantic blacknose shark management group. The adjustment due to 
the overharvests in 2012 and 2013 would result in a $1,407 loss to the 
fleet in revenues in the porbeagle shark quota.

               Table 2--Average EX-Vessel Prices per LB DW for Each Shark Management Group, 2013 *
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  Year                              Species                     Region                 Price
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2013....................................  Aggregated LCS............  Gulf of Mexico............           $0.47
                                                                      Atlantic..................            0.81
                                          Blacktip Shark............  Gulf of Mexico............            0.41
                                          Hammerhead Shark..........  Gulf of Mexico............            0.32
                                                                      Atlantic..................            0.64
                                          LCS Research..............  Both......................            0.64
                                          Sandbar Research..........  Both......................            0.77
                                          Non-Blacknose SCS.........  Gulf of Mexico............            0.32
                                                                      Atlantic..................            0.70
                                          Blacknose Shark...........  Gulf of Mexico............            0.81
                                                                      Atlantic..................            0.83
                                          Blue shark................  Both......................            0.28
                                          Porbeagle shark...........  Both......................         ** 1.15
                                          Other Pelagic sharks......  Both......................            1.71
                                          Shark Fins................  Gulf of Mexico............           11.21
                                                                      Atlantic..................            3.63
                                                                      Both......................            7.42
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* The ex-vessel prices are based on 2013 dealer reports through October 25, 2013.
** Since the porbeagle shark management group was closed for 2013, there was no 2013 price data. Thus, NMFS used
  price data from 2012.

    All of these changes in gross revenues are similar to the changes 
in gross revenues analyzed in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its 
amendments. The FRFAs for those amendments concluded that the economic 
impacts on these small entities, resulting from rules such as this one 
that delay the season openings via proposed and final rulemaking, were 
expected to be minimal. The 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its 
amendments, and the EA for the 2011 quota specifications rule, assumed 
NMFS would be preparing annual rulemakings and considered the FRFAs in 
the economic and other analyses at the time.
    For this final rule, NMFS reviewed the criteria at Sec.  
635.27(b)(3)(i) through (b)(3)(vii) to determine when opening

[[Page 70509]]

each fishery will provide equitable opportunities for fishermen while 
also considering the ecological needs of the different species. Over- 
and/or underharvests of 2013 and previous fishing season quotas were 
examined for the different species/complexes to determine the effects 
of the 2014 final quotas on fishermen across regional fishing areas. 
The potential season lengths and previous catch rates were examined to 
ensure that equitable fishing opportunities would be provided to 
fishermen. Lastly, NMFS examined the seasonal variation of the 
different species/complex and the effects on fishing opportunities. In 
addition to these criteria, NMFS also considered other relevant 
factors, such as public comments before arriving at the final opening 
dates for the 2014 Atlantic shark management groups. For the 2014 
fishing season, NMFS is opening the fisheries for sandbar shark, Gulf 
of Mexico blacktip shark, Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS, Gulf of Mexico 
hammerhead shark, non-blacknose shark SCS, blacknose shark, blue shark, 
porbeagle shark, and pelagic shark (other than porbeagle or blue 
sharks) management groups on January 1, 2014. The direct and indirect 
economic impacts will be neutral on a short- and long-term basis, 
because NMFS did not change the opening dates of these fisheries from 
the status quo.
    NMFS is delaying the opening of the aggregated LCS and hammerhead 
shark management groups in the Atlantic region until June 1, 2014. This 
delay could result in short-term, direct, minor, adverse economic 
impacts as fishermen and dealers in the southern portion of the 
Atlantic region would not be able to fish for aggregated LCS and 
hammerhead sharks starting in January, but would still be able to fish 
earlier in the 2014 fishing season compared to the 2010 through 2012 
fishing seasons, which did not start until July 15. Based on public 
comment, Atlantic fishermen in the southern portion of the region 
prefer a delayed opening for the potential to be fishing for aggregated 
LCS and hammerhead sharks from October through December. Therefore, the 
delayed opening could have direct, minor, beneficial economic impacts 
for fishermen since there are limited opportunities for fishermen to 
fish for non-HMS in the southern portion of the Atlantic region later 
in the year. In the northern portion of the Atlantic region, a delayed 
opening for the aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark management groups 
would have direct, minor, beneficial economic impacts in the short-term 
for fishermen as they would have access to the aggregated LCS and 
hammerhead shark quotas in 2014. Overall, delaying the opening until 
June 1 would cause beneficial cumulative economic impacts across the 
region, since it would allow for a more equitable distribution of the 
quotas among constituents in this region. In addition, delaying the 
opening until June 1 would have minor, beneficial ecological impacts in 
the short-term for the Atlantic aggregated LCS and hammerhead 
management groups since it would reduce fishing pressure on these 
species in 2013. The economic impacts would be neutral on long-term 
basis, because this delayed opening would be for only the 2013 fishing 
season.

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

    Dated: November 20, 2013.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, performing the 
functions and duties of the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, 
National Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-28340 Filed 11-25-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P