[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 53 (Wednesday, March 19, 2014)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 15293-15296]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-06062]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

[Docket No. 130805680-4200-01]
RIN 0648-BD58


Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 
Coastal Migratory Pelagic Resources in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic 
Region; Framework Action

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 to implement management measures described in a 
framework action to the Fishery Management Plan for the Coastal 
Migratory Pelagic Resources in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Region 
(FMP) (Framework Action), as prepared and submitted by the South 
Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Councils (Councils). If 
implemented, this rule would allow transfer of Atlantic migratory group 
Spanish mackerel caught in excess of the trip limit with gillnet gear 
from one vessel with a Federal Spanish mackerel commercial permit to 
another vessel with a Federal Spanish mackerel commercial permit that 
has not yet harvested the trip limit; allow the receiving vessel 
involved in a Spanish mackerel transfer-at-sea to have three gillnets 
onboard instead of two; and modify the commercial trip limits for king 
mackerel in the Florida east coast subzone. This rule also proposes an 
administrative change to correct an inadvertent error in a prior 
rulemaking unrelated to this Framework Action. The purpose of this rule 
is to modify the restrictions on transfer-at-sea and gillnet allowances 
for Atlantic migratory group Spanish mackerel to minimize dead discards 
of Spanish mackerel and modify the king mackerel trip limit in the 
Florida east coast subzone to optimize utilization of the resource.

DATES: Written comments must be received on or before April 18, 2014.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the proposed rule, identified by 
``NOAA-NMFS-2013-0162'' by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/

[[Page 15294]]

!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0162, 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 Framework Action, which includes an 
environmental assessment, an initial regulatory flexibility analysis 
(IRFA) and a regulatory impact review, 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 coastal migratory pelagic (CMP) fishery 
of the South Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) is managed under 
the FMP. The FMP was prepared by the Councils and implemented through 
regulations at 50 CFR part 622 under the authority of the Magnuson-
Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act).

Background

    The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires that NMFS and regional fishery 
management councils prevent overfishing and achieve, on a continuing 
basis, the optimum yield 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 minimize bycatch and bycatch 
mortality to the extent practicable.

Management Measures Contained in This Proposed Rule

    This rulemaking would allow transfer-at-sea of Spanish mackerel in 
gillnets between vessels with Federal Spanish mackerel commercial 
permits that are using gillnet gear and allow vessels engaged in this 
transfer activity to have three gillnets onboard. This rulemaking would 
also modify the Atlantic king mackerel Florida east coast subzone trip 
limit so that during March 1 through March 31, if 70 percent or more of 
the quota has been harvested, the trip limit would remain at 50 fish 
per vessel per trip; however, if less than 70 percent of the quota has 
been harvested during that time, the trip limit would increase to 75 
fish per vessel per trip until March 31. The purpose of this rulemaking 
is to modify the restrictions on transfer-at-sea and gillnet allowances 
for Atlantic migratory group Spanish mackerel to minimize dead discards 
of Spanish mackerel and modify the king mackerel trip limit in the 
Florida east coast subzone to optimize utilization of the resource.

Transfer-at-Sea and Gillnet Gear Restriction Modifications

    Currently in the South Atlantic, transfer-at-sea of harvested fish 
is prohibited for any species under a commercial trip limit, and only 
two gillnets are allowed on a federally permitted Spanish mackerel 
vessel at one time. In some instances, the Spanish mackerel trip limit 
may be exceeded with just one gillnet set, and the excess fish must be 
discarded. Many Spanish mackerel caught in gillnet gear die due to 
trauma experienced during capture. This proposed rule would allow a 
portion of a gillnet and the Spanish mackerel within the gillnet to be 
transferred from a federally permitted Spanish mackerel vessel that has 
reached the Spanish mackerel trip limit to another federally permitted 
Spanish mackerel vessel that has not yet reached the trip limit. 
Allowing transfer of Spanish mackerel in gillnets between vessels with 
Federal Spanish mackerel commercial permits that are using gillnet gear 
may reduce dead discards and minimize waste.
    The transfer-at-sea of harvested fish would only be allowed if all 
the following conditions are met: (1) The owner or operator of both 
vessels involved in the transfer must report the transfer by telephone 
to the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement in Port Orange, Florida, prior to 
the transfer; (2) harvesting gear must be allowable gillnet gear, as 
specified in Sec.  622.377(b); (3) transfer can only take place in 
Federal waters between two vessels with valid commercial permits for 
Spanish mackerel; (4) the receiving vessel must possess no more than 
three gillnets after the transfer is completed; (5) all Spanish 
mackerel exceeding the applicable daily vessel limit shall remain in 
the gillnet until transferred; (6) the quantity of Spanish mackerel 
transferred to any single vessel shall not exceed the applicable daily 
trip limit; and (7) transfers of Spanish mackerel may only occur once 
per vessel per trip.
    Currently, only two gillnets with different mesh sizes are allowed 
to be possessed and used on federally permitted Spanish mackerel 
vessels. This proposed rule would also modify the two gillnet 
possession restriction in order to account for the portion of a third 
net that would be present onboard a vessel that receives Spanish 
mackerel transferred at sea. Only vessels engaged in this transfer 
activity would be allowed to have three gillnets onboard.

Atlantic King Mackerel Trip Limit Modification in the Florida East 
Coast Subzone

    This proposed rule would modify the commercial trip limits for 
Atlantic king mackerel in the Florida east coast subzone, which, from 
November 1 through March 31, is located in the area south of 29[deg]25' 
N. lat. (a line directly east from the Flagler/Volusia County, Florida, 
boundary) and north of 25[deg]20.4' N. lat. (a line directly east from 
the Miami-Dade/Monroe County, Florida, boundary). The current system of 
trip limits allows for an increase in the rate of landings, which at 
times can cause the commercial sector to close before the religious 
Lenten season ends, when demand for fish is typically substantially 
greater.
    This rule proposes to extend the period of time the current 50-fish 
trip limit is in place each year from November through January to 
November through February. The rule also proposes to lower the 
threshold harvest level from 75 percent of the quota to 70 percent of 
the quota to determine whether or not the trip limit would increase 
during the month of March. Therefore, if implemented, during March 1 
through March 31, if 70 percent or more of the quota has been 
harvested, the trip limit would remain at 50 fish per vessel per trip; 
however, if less than 70 percent of the quota has been harvested, the 
trip limit would increase to 75 fish per vessel per trip until March 
31. From April 1 through October 31, the Florida east coast subzone is 
no longer part of the Gulf migratory group king mackerel area; it is 
part of the Atlantic migratory group king mackerel

[[Page 15295]]

area. Therefore, during this period, the provisions proposed in this 
rule would not apply. The trip limit modifications proposed through 
this rule are expected to help minimize lost fishing opportunities and 
optimize revenues of the coastal migratory pelagics fishery.

Additional Changes Contained in This Proposed Rule

    Drift gillnets for all coastal migratory pelagic species and run-
around gillnets for king mackerel were prohibited in the South Atlantic 
exclusive economic zone (EEZ) through the final rule implementing 
Amendment 3 to the FMP (54 FR 29561, July 13, 1989). However, the 
regulations currently at Sec.  622.387, which address prevention of 
gear conflicts between hook-and-line and gillnet vessels in the South 
Atlantic EEZ, were inadvertently not removed at the time when the final 
rule for Amendment 3 was implemented. This rule proposes to correct 
this mistake by removing the regulations at Sec.  622.387. This 
revision is unrelated to the Framework Action.

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 the Framework Action, the FMP, the 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 implemented, 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 in the preamble. A copy of the full analysis is available 
from the NMFS (see ADDRESSES). A summary of the IRFA follows.
    The purpose of this rulemaking is twofold: (1) To eliminate the 
current prohibition on the transfer of Spanish mackerel by gillnet and 
(2) to modify trip limits for king mackerel that may extend the length 
of the open fishing season. This rule proposes to eliminate the current 
prohibition on the transfer of Spanish mackerel by gillnet to reduce 
dead discards and minimize waste. This proposed rule would modify trip 
limits for king mackerel to extend the length of the open fishing 
season, especially into the Lenten season when market demand is 
greater. The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides the statutory basis for 
these two proposed actions.
    No duplicative, overlapping, or conflicting Federal rules have been 
identified.
    The rule would apply directly to businesses in the finfish fishing 
industry (NAICS 114111) that harvest Atlantic migratory group Spanish 
mackerel by gillnet and king mackerel in the Florida east coast 
subzone. On June 20, 2013, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) 
issued a final rule revising the small business size standards for 
several industries effective July 22, 2013 (78 FR 37398). That rule 
increased the size standard for commercial finfish harvesters from $4.0 
million to $19.0 million in annual receipts. The average ex-vessel 
revenue from Spanish mackerel harvested from Federal waters is 
estimated to be $31,000, which is substantially less than the $19 
million SBA size standard. Consequently, all of the businesses that 
hold at least one of the 1,736 commercial vessel permits for Spanish 
mackerel (as of November 5, 2013) are presumed to be small businesses. 
The average ex-vessel revenue from king mackerel harvested in Federal 
waters is estimated to be $35,000. Therefore, it is presumed that all 
of the businesses that hold at least one of the 1,658 valid and 
renewable/transferrable king mackerel permits (a commercial vessel 
permit for king mackerel plus a commercial king mackerel gillnet 
permits as of September 30, 2013) are small businesses.
    This rule would end the prohibition on transfers of Spanish 
mackerel by gillnet in the EEZ. Presently, if a vessel catches a 
quantity of Spanish mackerel in gillnets in the EEZ that exceeds the 
trip limit, the excess catch cannot be transferred to another vessel. 
Instead the excess catch has to be discarded back into the water, 
although many to most of the Spanish mackerel are dead. If implemented, 
the proposed rule would allow that transfer under certain conditions 
and would require the operator(s) of the two vessels engaged in a 
transfer to report the transfer by telephone to the NOAA Office of Law 
Enforcement in Port Orange, Florida, prior to the transfer. Any 
transfer would be voluntary, and a small business would participate in 
a transfer if it has a net economic benefit, and would not, if it has a 
net economic cost. It is unknown how many small businesses may 
participate in a transfer; however, the ability to transfer could 
generate a net economic benefit to small businesses.
    NMFS considered one alternative, the no action alternative, to the 
proposed action of eliminating the prohibition on the transfer of 
Spanish mackerel by gillnet. The status quo alternative was rejected 
because it would not provide the potential economic benefit to small 
businesses as described above.
    This rule would also change the commercial trip limit for king 
mackerel in the Florida east coast subzone, which could act to increase 
the length of the open fishing season. The proposed modified trip limit 
could potentially decrease the rate of landings in January, February 
and March; increase the average length of the open fishing season; 
reduce total landings for the season, and increase ex-vessel revenues 
from higher landings during the Lenten season. The magnitudes of these 
potential economic benefits and costs are unknown.
    NMFS considered one status quo alternative and two non-status quo 
alternatives to the proposed action to modify the trip limit for king 
mackerel in the Florida east coast subzone. The status quo commercial 
trip limit is 50 fish from November 1 through January 31 each year; and 
then, beginning on February 1 and continuing through March 31, if 75 
percent or more of the Gulf group Florida east coast subzone quota has 
been taken by January 31, the trip limit remains 50 fish. However, if 
less than 75 percent of the quota has been taken by January 31, the 
trip limit increases to 75 fish. The first of the rejected non-status 
quo alternatives would fix the trip limit to 50 fish for the entire 
fishing season. The adverse impact of this alternative is that it would 
not provide the flexibility to allow small businesses to increase 
landings of king mackerel when demand is greater during the Lenten 
season. The second of the non-status quo alternatives would fix the 
trip limit to 75 fish. This second alternative would likely reduce 
landings of king mackerel and associated dockside revenues when demand 
is greater during the religious Lenten season because its fixed trip 
limit of 75 fish would likely result in earlier closures, potentially 
before or at the beginning of the period of heightened demand. The 
status quo alternative would maintain the current trip limits and could 
result in an open fishing season that closes before the season of 
greater demand ends.
    Finally, this rule also removes language in the codified text 
regarding prevention of gear conflicts between hook-and-line and 
gillnet vessels in the South Atlantic EEZ. This change corrects an 
inadvertent error in the text, as discussed in the preamble. The 
regulation contained in Sec.  622.387 was necessary before separate 
quotas, trip

[[Page 15296]]

limits, and gillnet permits were implemented for the harvest of king 
mackerel off Florida. Since implementation of those management 
measures, the impact and relevance of Sec.  622.387 have been zero. 
Consequently, its removal would have no impact on small businesses.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622

    Fisheries, Fishing, Gillnet, Mackerel, Reporting and recordkeeping 
requirements, South Atlantic, Trip limits.

    Dated: March 13, 2014.
Eileen Sobeck,
Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, 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.

0
2. In Sec.  622.377, paragraph (b)(2)(iii) is revised and paragraph 
(b)(2)(vi) is added to read as follows:


Sec.  622.377  Gillnet restrictions.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (iii) No more than two gillnets, including any net in use, may be 
possessed at any one time, except for a vessel with a valid commercial 
vessel permit for Spanish mackerel engaged in a transfer as specified 
in paragraph (b)(2)(vi) of this section. If two gillnets, including any 
net in use, are possessed at any one time, they must have stretched 
mesh sizes (as allowed under the regulations) that differ by at least 
.25 inch (.64 cm), except for a vessel with a valid commercial vessel 
permit for Spanish mackerel engaged in a transfer as specified in 
paragraph (b)(2)(vi) of this section, in which case the vessel may 
possess two gillnets of the same mesh size provided that one of the 
nets is transferred to that vessel.
* * * * *
    (vi) A portion of a gillnet may be transferred at sea only in the 
EEZ and only from a vessel with a valid commercial vessel permit for 
Spanish mackerel that has exceeded a trip limit specified in Sec.  
622.385 (b) to another vessel with a valid commercial vessel permit for 
Spanish mackerel that has not yet reached the trip limit (the receiving 
vessel). Only one such transfer is allowed per vessel per day. In 
addition, to complete a legal transfer at sea, all of the following 
must apply:
    (A) All fish exceeding the applicable commercial trip limit may not 
be removed from the gillnet until the transfer is complete (i.e., the 
gillnet is onboard the receiving vessel). The fish transferred to the 
receiving vessel may not exceed the applicable commercial trip limit.
    (B) The receiving vessel may possess no more than three gillnets on 
board after the transfer is complete.
    (C) Prior to cutting the gillnet and prior to any transfer of 
Spanish mackerel from one vessel to another, the owner or operator of 
both vessels must contact NMFS Office for Law Enforcement, Port Orange, 
Florida, phone: 1-386-492-6686.

0
3. In Sec.  622.385, the third sentence in the introductory text and 
paragraphs (a)(2)(i)(A) and (B) are revised to read as follows:


Sec.  622.385  Commercial trip limits.

    * * * Except for Atlantic migratory group Spanish mackerel 
harvested by gillnet, as specified in Sec.  622.377 (b)(2)(vi), a 
species subject to a trip limit specified in this section taken in the 
EEZ may not be transferred at sea, regardless of where such transfer 
takes place, and such species may not be transferred in the EEZ. * * *
* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) From November 1 through the end of February--not to exceed 50 
fish.
    (B) Beginning on March 1 and continuing through March 31--
    (1) If 70 percent or more of the Florida east coast subzone quota 
as specified in Sec.  622.384(b)(1)(i)(A) has been taken--not to exceed 
50 fish.
    (2) If less than 70 percent of the Florida east coast subzone quota 
as specified in Sec.  622.384(b)(1)(i)(A) has been taken--not to exceed 
75 fish.
* * * * *


Sec.  622.387  [Removed and Reserved]

0
4. Remove and reserve Sec.  622.387.

[FR Doc. 2014-06062 Filed 3-18-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P