[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 232 (Tuesday, December 3, 2013)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 72584-72585]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-28903]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

[Docket No. 120306154-2241-02]
RIN 0648-XD009


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna 
Fisheries

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

ACTION: Temporary rule; inseason General category retention limit 
adjustment.

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SUMMARY: NMFS is adjusting the Atlantic tunas General category daily 
Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) retention limit from three large medium or 
giant BFT per vessel per day/trip to five large medium or giant BFT per 
vessel per day/trip for the remainder of the October-November time 
period and the December time period of the 2013 fishing year, based on 
consideration of the regulatory determination criteria regarding 
inseason adjustments. This action applies to Atlantic tunas General 
category permitted vessels and to Highly Migratory Species Charter/
Headboat category permitted vessels when fishing commercially for BFT.

DATES: Effective November 27, 2013 through December 31, 2013.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Tom Warren or Brad McHale, 978-281-
9260.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Regulations implemented under the authority 
of the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA; 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.) and 
the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-
Stevens Act; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) governing the harvest of BFT by 
persons and vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction are found at 50 CFR 
part 635. Section 635.27 subdivides the U.S. BFT quota recommended by 
the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas 
(ICCAT) among the various domestic fishing categories, per the 
allocations established in the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory 
Species Fishery Management Plan (2006 Consolidated HMS FMP) (71 FR 
58058, October 2, 2006) and in accordance with implementing 
regulations.
    The 2013 BFT fishing year, which is managed on a calendar-year 
basis and subject to an annual calendar-year quota, began January 1, 
2013. The General category season, which was open January 1 through 
February 15, 2013, resumed on June 1, 2013, and continues through 
December 31, 2013. The General category daily retention limit is 
currently three large medium or giant BFT (measuring 73 inches (185 cm) 
curved fork length (CFL) or greater) per vessel per day/trip (78 FR 
50346, August 19, 2013). This retention limit applies to General 
category permitted vessels and to HMS Charter/Headboat category 
permitted vessels when fishing commercially for BFT. Each of the 
General category time periods (January, June-August, September, 
October-November, and December) is allocated a portion of the annual 
General category quota.
    For the 2013 fishing year, NMFS first adjusted the General category 
limit from the default level of one large medium or giant BFT for the 
2013 January subquota period to two large medium or giant BFT (77 FR 
74612, December 17, 2012). That retention limit was effective from 
January 1, 2013, until February 15, 2013, when NMFS closed the fishery 
because the January subquota had been met (78 FR 11788, February 20, 
2013). NMFS then adjusted the General category limit from the default 
level of one large medium or giant for the June through December period 
to three large medium or giant BFT (78 FR 26709, May 8, 2013; and 78 FR 
50346, August 19, 2013).
    The 2012 ICCAT recommendation regarding western BFT management 
resulted in baseline U.S. quota for 2013 of 923.7 mt (not including the 
25 mt ICCAT allocated to the United States to account for bycatch of 
BFT in pelagic longline fisheries in the Northeast Distant Gear 
Restricted Area). Consistent with the allocation scheme established in 
the Consolidated HMS FMP and implementing regulations, the 2013 General 
category share is 435.1 mt (baseline and adjusted), and the October 
through November, and December General category subquotas are 56.6 mt 
and 22.6 mt, respectively (78 FR 36685; June 19, 2013). NMFS is 
required under the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act and the Magnuson-
Stevens Act to provide U.S. fishing vessels with a reasonable 
opportunity to harvest the ICCAT-recommended quota.

Adjustment of General Category Daily Retention Limit

    Under Sec.  635.23(a)(4), NMFS may increase or decrease the daily 
retention limit of large medium and giant BFT over a range of zero to a 
maximum of five per vessel based on consideration of the relevant 
criteria provided under Sec.  635.27(a)(8), which include: the 
usefulness of information obtained from catches in the particular 
category for biological sampling and monitoring of the status of the 
stock; effects of the adjustment on BFT rebuilding and overfishing; 
effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the 
fishery management plan; variations in seasonal BFT distribution, 
abundance, or migration patterns; effects of catch rates in one area 
precluding vessels in another area from having a reasonable opportunity 
to harvest a portion of the category's quota; and review of dealer 
reports, daily landing trends, and the availability of the BFT on the 
fishing grounds.
    NMFS has considered these criteria and their applicability to the 
General category BFT retention limit for the remainder of October-
November, and December 2013 General category fishery. These 
considerations include, but are not limited to, the following: NMFS 
continues to obtain valuable parts and data for ongoing scientific 
studies of BFT age and growth, migration, and reproductive status from 
the catches of the General category to date; the projected ability of 
the vessels fishing under the General category quota to harvest the 
quota before the end of the fishing year; and biological samples 
collected from BFT landed by General category fishermen and provided by 
BFT dealers. As this action would be taken consistent with the quotas 
previously established and analyzed in the 2013 BFT quotas final rule 
(78 FR 36685, June 19, 2013), and consistent with objectives of the 
Consolidated HMS FMP, it is not expected to negatively impact stock 
health. A principal consideration is the objective of providing 
opportunities to harvest the

[[Page 72585]]

full General category quota without exceeding it based upon the 
Consolidated HMS FMP goal: ``Consistent with other objectives of this 
FMP, to manage Atlantic HMS fisheries for continuing optimum yield so 
as to provide the greatest overall benefit to the Nation, particularly 
with respect to food production, providing recreational opportunities, 
preserving traditional fisheries, and taking into account the 
protection of marine ecosystems.''
    NMFS' preliminary estimate of landings for the General category, as 
of November 26, 2013, was 210.9 mt, out of a total General category 
quota of 435.1 mt. Based on General category landings rates during the 
October through December time-period over the last several years, it is 
highly unlikely that the quota will be filled under the current daily 
retention limit of three BFT per vessel. Therefore, maintenance of the 
current limit of three fish would increase the likelihood of under 
harvesting the General category quota. Increasing the daily retention 
limit from three to five will increase the likelihood that the General 
category catch of BFT will approach, but not exceed, the annual quota, 
as well as maximize the opportunity for catching BFT harvest during the 
October-November and December subquota periods. Maximizing opportunity 
within each subquota period is also important because of the migratory 
nature and seasonal distribution of BFT. In a particular geographic 
region, or waters accessible from a particular port, the amount of 
fishing opportunity for BFT may be constrained by the short amount of 
time the BFT are present.
    Based on these considerations, NMFS has determined that a five-fish 
General category retention limit is warranted. It would provide a 
reasonable opportunity to harvest the U.S. quota of BFT without 
exceeding it, while maintaining an equitable distribution of fishing 
opportunities, to help achieve optimum yield in the General category 
BFT fishery, to collect a broad range of data for stock monitoring 
purposes, and to be consistent with the objectives of the Consolidated 
HMS FMP. Therefore, NMFS increases the General category retention limit 
from the current limit of three large medium or giant BFT per vessel 
per day/trip, to five large medium or giant BFT per vessel per day/
trip. This retention limit will be in effect through December 31, 2013, 
unless the unlikely circumstance arises that additional inseason action 
is required to prevent catch from exceeding the quota.
    Regardless of the duration of a fishing trip, the daily retention 
limit applies upon landing. For example, whether a vessel fishing under 
the General category limit takes a two-day trip or makes two trips in 
one day, the daily limit of five fish may not be exceeded upon landing. 
This General category retention limit is effective in all areas, except 
for the Gulf of Mexico, and applies to those vessels permitted in the 
General category, as well as to those HMS Charter/Headboat permitted 
vessels fishing commercially for BFT.

Monitoring and Reporting

    NMFS will continue to monitor the BFT fishery closely through the 
mandatory dealer landing reports, which NMFS requires to be submitted 
within 24 hours of a dealer receiving BFT. Depending on the level of 
fishing effort and catch rates of BFT, NMFS may determine that 
additional retention limit adjustments are necessary to ensure 
available quota is not exceeded or to enhance scientific data 
collection from, and fishing opportunities in, all geographic areas.
    Closures or subsequent adjustments to the daily retention limits, 
if any, will be published in the Federal Register. In addition, 
fishermen may call the Atlantic Tunas Information Line at (888) 872-
8862 or (978) 281-9260, or access www.hmspermits.gov, for updates on 
quota monitoring and retention limit adjustments.

Classification

    The Assistant Administrator for NMFS (AA) finds that it is 
impracticable and contrary to the public interest to provide prior 
notice of, and an opportunity for public comment on, this action for 
the following reasons:
    The regulations implementing the Consolidated HMS FMP provide for 
inseason retention limit adjustments to respond to the unpredictable 
nature of BFT availability on the fishing grounds, the migratory nature 
of this species, and the regional variations in the BFT fishery. 
Affording prior notice and opportunity for public comment to implement 
these retention limits is impracticable as NMFS needs to wait until it 
has necessary data and information about the fishery before it can 
select the appropriate retention limit for a time period prescribed by 
regulation. By the time NMFS has the needed data, implementing the 
retention limit following a public comment period would preclude 
fishermen from harvesting BFT that are legally available consistent 
with all of the regulatory criteria. Analysis of available data shows 
that the General category BFT retention limits may be increased with 
minimal risks of exceeding the ICCAT-allocated quota.
    Delays in increasing these retention limits would adversely affect 
those General and Charter/Headboat category vessels that would 
otherwise have an opportunity to harvest more than the current 
retention limit of three BFT per day/trip and may perpetuate under 
harvest of the General category quota, or disadvantage a particular 
geographic region. Limited opportunities to harvest the respective 
quotas may have negative social and economic impacts for U.S. fishermen 
that depend upon catching the available quota within the time periods 
designated in the Consolidated HMS FMP. Adjustment of the retention 
limit needs to be effective as soon as possible, to allow the impacted 
sectors to benefit from the adjustment, and to not preclude fishing 
opportunities for fishermen who have access to the fishery only during 
this time period (due to the seasonality of BFT distribution). 
Therefore, the AA finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive 
prior notice and the opportunity for public comment. For these reasons, 
there is good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d) to waive the 30-day delay in 
effectiveness.
    This action is being taken under Sec.  635.23(a)(4) and is exempt 
from review under Executive Order 12866.

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

    Dated: November 27, 2013.
Emily H. Menashes,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-28903 Filed 11-27-13; 4:15 pm]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P