[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 65 (Friday, April 4, 2014)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 18870-18876]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-07549]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

[Docket No. 140115049-4273-01]
RIN 0648-XD092


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; 2014 Atlantic Bluefin Tuna 
Quota Specifications

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments; notice of public hearing.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: NMFS proposes 2014 quota specifications for the Atlantic 
bluefin tuna (BFT) fisheries and seeks comments from the public on the 
allocation of available underharvest among the fishing categories under 
certain circumstances. This action is necessary to implement binding 
recommendations of the International Commission for the Conservation of 
Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), as required by the Atlantic Tunas Convention 
Act (ATCA), and to achieve domestic management objectives under the 
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-
Stevens Act).

DATES: Written comments must be received on or before May 5, 2014. NMFS 
will host an operator-assisted public hearing conference call and 
webinar on April 16, 2014, from 2 to 4 p.m. EDT, providing an 
opportunity for individuals from all geographic areas to participate. 
See SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION for further details.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
``NOAA-NMFS-2014-0008,'' by either of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2014-0008, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Sarah McLaughlin, Highly 
Migratory Species (HMS) Management Division, Office of Sustainable 
Fisheries (F/SF1), NMFS, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930.
     Instructions: Comments must be submitted by one of the 
above methods to ensure that the comments are received, documented, and 
considered by NMFS. 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 generally will 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.
    The public hearing conference call information is phone number 1-
800-619-7481; participant passcode 5246202. Participants are strongly 
encouraged to log/dial in 15 minutes prior to the meeting. NMFS will 
show a brief presentation via webinar followed by public comment. To 
join the webinar, go to: https://noaa-meets.webex.com/noaa-meets/j.php?MTID=m1c122efdcf020f0807ff335b43858362, enter your name and email 
address, and click the ``JOIN'' button. Participants that have not used 
WebEx before will be prompted to download and run a plug-in program 
that will enable them to view the webinar.
    Supporting documents such as the Environmental Assessments and 
Fishery Management Plans described below may be downloaded from the HMS 
Web site at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/. These documents also are 
available by sending your request to Sarah McLaughlin at the mailing 
address specified above.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sarah McLaughlin or Brad McHale, 978-
281-9260.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Atlantic bluefin tuna, bigeye tuna, albacore 
tuna, yellowfin tuna, and skipjack tuna (hereafter referred to as 
``Atlantic tunas'') are managed under the dual authority of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act and ATCA. As an active member of ICCAT, the United 
States implements binding ICCAT recommendations. ATCA authorizes the 
Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) to promulgate regulations, as may be 
necessary and appropriate to carry out ICCAT recommendations. The 
authority to issue regulations under the Magnuson-Stevens Act and ATCA 
has been delegated from the Secretary to the Assistant Administrator 
for Fisheries, NMFS.

Background

    On May 28, 1999, NMFS published in the Federal Register (64 FR 
29090) final regulations, effective July 1, 1999, implementing the 
Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Tunas, Swordfish, and Sharks (1999 
FMP). The 1999 FMP included a framework process to promulgate annual 
specifications for the BFT fishery, in accordance with ATCA and the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act, and to implement the annual recommendations of 
ICCAT. Since 1982, ICCAT has recommended a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) 
of western Atlantic BFT, and since 1991 ICCAT has recommended specific 
limits (quotas) for the United States and other Contracting Parties 
with BFT fisheries.
    On October 2, 2006, NMFS published a final rule in the Federal 
Register (71 FR 58058), effective November 1, 2006, implementing the 
2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management 
Plan (Consolidated HMS FMP), which consolidated management of all 
Atlantic HMS (i.e., sharks, swordfish, tunas, and billfish) into one 
comprehensive FMP. The implementing regulations for Atlantic HMS are at 
50 CFR part 635. Among other things, the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP 
maintained an allocation scheme, established in the 1999 FMP, for 
dividing the baseline annual U.S. BFT quota among several domestic 
quota categories based on gear type (i.e., Harpoon, Purse Seine, 
Angling, General, Longline, and Trap categories).
    The baseline quota has remained unchanged from 2013, and the 2014 
BFT quota specifications are necessary to adjust the annual U.S. 
baseline BFT quota to account for any underharvest or overharvest of 
the adjusted 2013 U.S. BFT quota. Preliminary information

[[Page 18871]]

indicates an underharvest of the 2013 adjusted BFT quota. Final 2013 
landings and the preliminary 2013 pelagic longline dead discard 
estimate will be available in late spring 2014.
    In May 2011, NMFS prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA)/
Regulatory Impact Review and Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis for 
a final rule that: (1) Implemented and allocated the U.S. BFT quota for 
2011 and for 2012, (2) adjusted the 2011 U.S. quota and subquotas to 
account for unharvested 2010 quota allowed to be carried forward to 
2011 and to account for a portion of the estimated 2011 dead discards 
up front, and (3) implemented several other BFT management measures (76 
FR 39019, July 5, 2011). Although it is not necessary to prepare an EA 
for quota specifications alone (in accordance with the approach 
described in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP), NMFS prepared a 
Supplemental EA for the 2013 BFT Quota Specifications (78 FR 36685, 
June 19, 2013) to present updated information regarding the affected 
environment, including information from a 2012 ICCAT stock assessment 
for BFT, among other things. ICCAT conducted a stock assessment update 
in 2013, although the results were not substantively different than 
those of the 2010 and 2012 assessments, which were analyzed in the May 
2011 EA and June 2013 Supplemental EA.
    NMFS is developing the 2014 specifications in accordance with the 
annual framework procedures set forth in the Environmental Impact 
Statement/Regulatory Impact Review (RIR)/Final Regulatory Flexibility 
Analysis (FRFA) prepared for the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP. These 
specifications are supported by the EA/RIR/FRFA for the Atlantic 
Bluefin Tuna Quotas and Atlantic Tuna Fisheries Management Measures 
(May 2011), and the 2013 Supplemental EA, as the ICCAT-recommended 
baseline quota has not changed from the 2011 level and there was no new 
information presented in 2013 that indicates changes in BFT stock 
status with respect to 2011 or changes in the effects of harvesting 
that quota on the environment.

2010 ICCAT Recommendation and 2011 Implementing Rule

    At its 2010 annual meeting, ICCAT recommended a Total Allowable 
Catch (TAC) of 1,750 mt annually for 2011 and for 2012, inclusive of 
dead discards (ICCAT Recommendation 10-03--Supplemental Recommendation 
by ICCAT concerning the Western Atlantic BFT Rebuilding Program). This 
amount of catch was expected to allow for continued stock growth under 
low and high stock recruitment scenarios developed by ICCAT's 
scientific body at the 2010 BFT stock assessment. The U.S. share of the 
TAC for 2011 and 2012, adjusted for two specific bycatch allocations, 
was 54.02 percent, which resulted in a baseline quota of 923.7 mt. The 
total annual U.S. quota, including an additional 25 mt to account for 
bycatch related to pelagic longline fisheries in the Northeast Distant 
gear restricted area (NED), was 948.7 mt. ICCAT limits the amount of 
underharvest that may be carried forward from one year to the next to 
no more than 10 percent of a country's quota.
    Through the 2011 final rule implementing the BFT quotas and 
Atlantic tuna fisheries management measures (76 FR 39019, July 5, 
2011), NMFS implemented the 923.7-mt baseline quota consistent with 
ICCAT Recommendation 10-03 and set the domestic BFT fishing category 
subquotas per the allocation percentages established in the 2006 
Consolidated HMS FMP and implementing regulations (71 FR 58058, October 
2, 2006). The baseline quota and category subquotas are codified and 
remain effective until changed (for instance, if any new ICCAT BFT TAC 
recommendation is adopted).

2012 and 2013 ICCAT Recommendations

    In both its 2012 recommendation (Recommendation 12-02--Supplemental 
Recommendation by ICCAT concerning the Western Atlantic BFT Rebuilding 
Program) and its 2013 recommendation (Recommendation 13-09--
Recommendation by ICCAT Amending the Supplemental Recommendation by 
ICCAT concerning the Western Atlantic BFT Rebuilding Program), ICCAT 
recommended a one-year rollover of the 1,750-mt TAC. This amount is 
expected to allow for continued stock growth under both the low and 
high stock recruitment scenarios, considering the results of the 2013 
ICCAT BFT stock assessment update. The annual U.S. baseline quota for 
2014 continues to be 923.7 mt, and the annual total U.S. quota, 
including 25 mt to account for bycatch related to pelagic longline 
fisheries in the NED, continues to be 948.7 mt.
    Although the baseline quota is unchanged this year because the 2013 
ICCAT recommendation included the same TAC as the prior recommendation, 
NMFS is proposing underharvest adjustments as necessary for the 2014 
fishing year through quota specifications, consistent with the 2006 
Consolidated HMS FMP. Until the final specifications for 2014 are 
effective, the existing BFT base quotas continue to apply as codified. 
(See Table 1, second column.) As mentioned above, ICCAT limits the 
amount of underharvest that may be carried forward from one year to the 
next to no more than 10 percent of a country's quota. Applied to the 
2013 catch figures, this provision limits the amount of U.S. 
underharvest that may be carried forward this year to 94.9 mt (10 
percent of the 948.7-mt total U.S. quota).
    Recommendation 13-09 also calls on the United States, Canada, and 
Japan to prepare research plans to develop fishery-independent indices 
of abundance for BFT and share them by April 30, 2014, for scientific 
review and comments. ICCAT scientists from the western BFT Contracting 
Parties will exchange views on the plans prior to the second meeting of 
the Working Group of Fisheries Managers and Scientists in Support of 
the Western Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Stock Assessment (``Working Group''), 
planned for summer 2014, for their earliest implementation. NMFS does 
not currently have information about the amount of U.S. quota that may 
be needed for related research activity in 2014, but would likely 
account for any such landings within the Reserve category. NMFS will 
provide further details, as appropriate, when available.

Accounting for Dead Discards

    All ICCAT parties, including the United States, must report BFT 
landings data and BFT dead discard estimates to ICCAT annually. 
Currently, the best available annual estimate of U.S. dead discards 
that could be expected in 2014 is based on the 2012 estimate of 205.8 
mt for the pelagic longline fishery and the observed 2013 dead discards 
of 13.7 mt for the purse seine fishery, totaling 219.5 mt. The purse 
seine observer data were gathered pursuant to ATCA to meet the 
requirements of an ICCAT recommendation. Using this amount as a proxy 
for estimated 2014 dead discards for the proposed action is appropriate 
because it is the best available and most complete information that 
NMFS currently has regarding dead discards and is consistent with the 
established protocol for dead discard accounting in the regulations. 
When the 2013 BFT pelagic longline dead discard estimate becomes 
available (late spring 2014), NMFS will use that estimate along with 
other available information about discards, including observed 
discards, in the final specifications and will report it to ICCAT along 
with total 2013 BFT landings.

[[Page 18872]]

    Data regarding U.S. BFT dead discards are available only for the 
pelagic longline and purse seine fisheries for 2013. Estimates are not 
available for other gear types and fishing sectors that are not 
observed at sufficient levels for category-wide estimation and direct 
data are not available for trips that are not observed or for fisheries 
that do not report via a logbook. However, bycatch and bycatch 
mortality of BFT by vessels using handgear are considered to be 
relatively low because the gear is actively tended and fish can be 
released alive.

2011 Through 2013 Quota Specifications

    In the annual specifications for 2011 through 2013, NMFS took the 
proactive measure of accounting for half of the dead discard estimate 
``up front'' (i.e., at the beginning of the fishing year). For those 
years, dead discard information was available only from the pelagic 
longline fishery. Thus, NMFS deducted that portion of the dead discard 
estimate directly from the Longline category quota. In the 2011 
specifications, NMFS applied half of the 2010 underharvest that was 
allowed to be carried forward to the Longline category and maintained 
the other half in the Reserve category. This was intended to provide 
maximum flexibility in accounting for 2011 landings and dead discards.
    In 2012 and 2013, NMFS proposed the same method of distributing the 
underharvest that was allowed to be carried forward to the following 
year. However, in both 2012 and 2013, NMFS closed the pelagic longline 
fishery to BFT retention by the time that the specifications were 
finalized and, therefore, ultimately provided a larger portion to the 
Longline category in the final rule to account for actual BFT landings. 
Specifically, in 2012, NMFS closed the Longline category fishery to BFT 
retention in the southern area on May 29 (77 FR 31546, May 29, 2012), 
and in the northern area on June 30 (77 FR 38011, June 26, 2012), for 
the remainder of 2012, because landings had met the codified subquotas 
for those areas. Given that the incidental Longline fishery for BFT was 
closed, NMFS accounted fully for those landings in the final rule by 
applying 76.2 of the available 94.9-mt underharvest to the Longline 
category (resulting in an adjusted Longline category subquota of 78.4 
mt, not including the separate 25-mt allocation for the Northeast 
Distant gear restricted area) and maintaining the remaining 
underharvest (18.7 mt) in the Reserve category (77 FR 44161, July 27, 
2012). Providing this amount to the Longline category allowed NMFS to 
adjust the Longline South and Longline North subquotas to the amounts 
actually taken in those areas at the time of the closure, and to 
provide greater transparency than year-end accounting would.
    In 2013, NMFS closed the southern and northern areas effective June 
25 and applied all of the 2012 underharvest that could be carried 
forward to 2013 (i.e., 90.9 mt) to the Longline category, resulting in 
an adjusted Longline category subquota of 46 mt (74.8 mt-119.75 mt + 
90.9 mt = 46 mt), not including the separate 25-mt allocation for the 
Northeast Distant gear restricted area (78 FR 36685, June 19, 2013). 
For the last 3 years, NMFS has maintained all of the directed fishing 
categories at their baseline quotas.

2014 Quota Specifications

    The 2014 BFT quota specifications NMFS proposes here are necessary 
to adjust the current annual U.S. baseline BFT quota to account for 
underharvest of the adjusted 2013 U.S. BFT quota. Based on preliminary 
data available as of February 10, 2014, BFT landings in 2013 totaled 
approximately 518 mt. Adding the 219.5-mt estimate of dead discards 
results in a preliminary 2013 total catch of 737.5 mt, which is 306.1 
mt less than the amount of quota (inclusive of dead discards) allowed 
under ICCAT Recommendation 12-02, which applied in 2013 (i.e., 948.7 mt 
plus 94.9 mt of 2012 underharvest carried forward to 2013, totaling 
1,043.6 mt). ICCAT limits the amount of underharvest that may be 
carried forward from one year to the next to no more than 10 percent of 
a country's quota, which limits the amount of 2013 U.S. underharvest 
that may be carried forward to 2014 to 94.9 mt.
    For 2014, NMFS proposes to account up front (i.e., at the beginning 
of the fishing year) for half of the expected dead discards for 2014, 
using the best estimate of dead discards, from the Longline and Purse 
Seine category subquotas, as applicable. NMFS proposes to apply the 
full amount of underharvest that is allowed to be carried forward to 
2014 to the Longline category. In contemplating how to account for dead 
discards and allocate the underharvest that is allowed to be carried 
forward in these 2014 proposed specifications, NMFS has considered the 
operational issues facing the pelagic longline fishery as the fleet 
continues directed fishing operations for swordfish and other tunas. 
This includes the possibility that deducting half of the estimate of 
dead discards from the baseline Longline category subquota would result 
in little to no quota for that category for 2014 prior to application 
of any available underharvest. Another consideration is the possibility 
that NMFS may need to close the Longline category fishery to BFT 
retention based on codified quotas, as was the case in 2012 and 2013, 
prior to or concurrent with finalizing the quota specifications. In 
preparing the quota specifications for the last few years, NMFS has 
balanced the need of the pelagic longline fishery to continue fishing 
for swordfish and Atlantic tunas with the need of directed BFT 
fisheries participants to receive their base quota.
    Specifically, NMFS would deduct half of the pelagic longline dead 
discard estimate of 205.8 mt (i.e., 102.9 mt) from the 2014 baseline 
Longline category subquota of 74.8 mt and apply the 94.9 mt allowed to 
be carried forward to 2014 to the Longline category, for an adjusted 
Longline subquota of 66.8 mt (i.e., 74.8-102.9 + 94.9 = 66.8 mt), not 
including the 25-mt allocation set aside by ICCAT for the NED. For the 
Purse Seine category, NMFS would deduct half of the category's dead 
discard estimate from the baseline Purse Seine category subquota of 
171.8 mt for an adjusted quota of 164.9 mt (i.e., 171.8 mt-6.9 mt = 
164.9 mt). The adjusted Longline category subquota of 66.8 mt would be 
further subdivided in accordance with the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP 
(i.e., allocation of no more than 60 percent to the south of 31[deg] N. 
latitude) as follows: 26.7 mt to pelagic longline vessels landing BFT 
north of 31[deg] N. latitude, and 40.1 mt to pelagic longline vessels 
landing BFT south of 31[deg] N. latitude. NMFS would account for 
landings under the 25-mt NED allocation separately from other Longline 
category landings.
    For the handgear categories, as well as the Trap category (in which 
BFT may be caught incidentally), NMFS is proposing the baseline BFT 
subquotas (i.e., the allocations that result from applying the scheme 
established in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP to the baseline U.S. BFT 
quota).
    Thus, in accordance with ICCAT Recommendation 13-09, the 2006 
Consolidated HMS FMP allocation scheme for the domestic categories, and 
regulations regarding annual adjustments at Sec.  635.27(a)(10), NMFS 
proposes quota specifications for the 2014 fishing year as follows: 
General category--435.1 mt; Harpoon category--36 mt; Purse Seine 
category--164.9 mt; Angling category--182 mt; Longline category--66.8 
mt; and Trap category--0.9 mt. The amount allocated to the Reserve 
category for inseason adjustments, scientific research collection, 
potential overharvest in any

[[Page 18873]]

category except the Purse Seine category, and potential quota transfers 
would be 23.1 mt. These allocations are shown in Table 1.
    NMFS will make any necessary adjustments to the 2014 specifications 
in the final rule after considering updated 2013 landings and dead 
discard information, as well as public comment. It is important to note 
that NMFS and ICCAT have separate schedules and approaches for 
accounting for landings and dead discards. At the beginning of the 
year, NMFS accounts proactively for half of the best estimate of dead 
discards, whereas total 2014 U.S. landings and dead discards will be 
accounted for at the end of the year and reported to ICCAT in 2015. 
ICCAT usually assesses quota compliance at its annual meeting in 
November by comparing the prior year's landings and reported dead 
discards against the adjusted U.S. quota. At the 2014 ICCAT annual 
meeting, ICCAT will compare actual U.S. 2013 landings and dead discards 
against the total 2013 adjusted U.S. quota of 1,043.6 mt (i.e., the 
948.7-mt base quota for 2013, plus a maximum of 94.9 mt allowed to be 
carried forward from 2012 to 2013, if available), to determine the 
United States' compliance with 2013 ICCAT recommendations.

Relation to Other Rulemaking

    From 2007 through 2010, there were substantial underharvests of 
some of the commercial BFT subquotas. Consistent with the 2006 
Consolidated HMS FMP and its implementing regulations, NMFS provided 
the Longline category a substantial portion of the prior year's U.S. 
underharvest that was allowed to be carried forward (limited to 50 
percent of the total U.S. quota at that time) during the annual 
specifications process at the beginning of the fishing year. This 
provided quota sufficient for the pelagic longline fleet to operate for 
the entire fishing year while also accounting for dead discards ``up 
front,'' using the best available estimate of anticipated dead 
discards. NMFS was also able to increase the directed categories' 
quotas and the Reserve category quota using available underharvest. 
Starting in 2011, ICCAT reduced the amount of underharvest that could 
be carried forward to 10 percent of a country's total quota, which 
resulted in insufficient quota available to maintain this approach.
    NMFS considers the specifications approaches taken in 2011 through 
2013 and proposed here as a transition from the method used for 2007 
through 2010, as NMFS continues to develop Amendment 7 to the 2006 
Consolidated HMS FMP. Among other things, Amendment 7 would reallocate 
BFT quota among categories in a way to more accurately reflect annual 
fishery operations and needs while decreasing bycatch in the non-
directed fisheries. This amendment will address related BFT fishery 
management issues consistent with the need to end overfishing and 
rebuild the stock, including revisiting quota allocations; reducing and 
accounting for dead discards; adding or modifying time/area closures or 
gear-restricted areas; and improving the reporting and monitoring of 
dead discards and landings in all categories. NMFS published the 
proposed rule for Amendment 7 on August 21, 2013 (78 FR 52032). 
Depending on the management measures implemented in the Amendment 7 
final rule, the quota specifications process may be substantially 
different in upcoming years. The extended comment period for the 
proposed rule ended January 10, 2014. NMFS anticipates publishing a 
final rule to implement Amendment 7 in mid-2014, with implementation 
dates varying by topic.
    In the meantime, management of the BFT fishery continues under the 
current Consolidated HMS FMP, implementing regulations, and ICCAT 
Recommendations. In November 2014, ICCAT will renegotiate the western 
Atlantic bluefin tuna recommendation for 2015.

                  Table 1--Proposed 2014 Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Quotas and Quota Specifications
                                                [In metric tons]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                  Baseline allocation                  2014 Quota specifications
                                   (per current ICCAT ----------------------------------------------------------
  Category (% share of baseline    recommendation and                     2013 Underharvest
             quota)                     the 2006          Dead discard    to carry  forward     Adjusted 2014
                                    consolidated HMS       deduction       to 2014 (94.9 mt   fishing year quota
                                    FMP allocations)                            total)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Total (100).....................   \1\ 923.7           .................  .................   908.8
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Angling (19.7)..................   182.0               .................  .................   182.0
                                  SUBQUOTAS:           .................  .................  SUBQUOTAS:
                                  School 94.9          .................  .................  School 94.9
                                    Reserve 17.6       .................  .................    Reserve 17.6
                                    North 36.5         .................  .................    North 36.5
                                    South 40.8         .................  .................    South 40.8
                                  LS/SM 82.9           .................  .................  LS/SM 82.9
                                    North 39.1         .................  .................    North 39.1
                                    South 43.8         .................  .................    South 43.8
                                  Trophy 4.2           .................  .................  Trophy 4.2
                                    North 1.4          .................  .................    North 1.4
                                    South 2.8          .................  .................    South 2.8
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
General (47.1)..................   435.1               .................  .................   435.1
                                  SUBQUOTAS:           .................  .................  SUBQUOTAS:
                                  Jan 23.1             .................  .................  Jan 23.1
                                  Jun-Aug 217.6        .................  .................  Jun-Aug 217.6
                                  Sept 115.3           .................  .................  Sept 115.3
                                  Oct-Nov 56.6         .................  .................  Oct-Nov 56.6
                                  Dec 22.6             .................  .................  Dec 22.6
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Harpoon (3.9)...................   36.0                .................  .................   36.0
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[[Page 18874]]

 
Purse Seine (18.6)..............   171.8                        \2\ -6.9  .................   164.9
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Longline (8.1)..................   74.8                       \3\ -102.9              +94.9   66.8
                                  SUBQUOTAS:           .................  .................  SUBQUOTAS:
                                  North (-NED) 29.9    .................  .................  North (-NED) 26.7
                                  NED 25.0 *           .................  .................  NED 25.0
                                  South 44.9           .................  .................  South 40.1
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Trap (0.1)......................   0.9                 .................  .................   0.9
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Reserve (2.5)...................   23.1                .................  .................   23.1
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ 25-mt ICCAT set-aside to account for bycatch of BFT in pelagic longline fisheries in the NED. Not included
  in totals at top of table.
\2\ (1/2 of 2013 observed purse seine dead discards of 13.7 mt as estimate for 2014).
\3\ (1/2 of 2012 pelagic longline dead discard estimate of 205.8 mt).

Request for Comments

    NMFS solicits comments on this proposed rule through May 5, 2014. 
See instructions in ADDRESSES section above. NMFS specifically invites 
public comment on the proposed allocation of the anticipated 
underharvest (currently estimated to be limited to the maximum of 94.9 
mt), as well as possible allocation approaches should the amount that 
can be carried forward need to be reduced. If the final 2013 landings 
and dead discard information for 2013 result in a total of greater than 
948.7 mt, but less than the adjusted 2013 U.S. BFT quota of 1,043.6 mt, 
then the amount of 2013 underharvest that the United States may carry 
forward to 2014 would need to be reduced from 94.9 mt accordingly. 
Given the amount of dead discards the United States has reported to 
ICCAT in the last few years (ranging from 122 to 206 mt), NMFS 
considers this potential situation to be unlikely, as the dead discard 
estimate would need to be approximately 430 mt. At this point, NMFS 
does not envision needing to adjust the baseline subquotas for the 
directed handgear fishing categories and Trap category.
    If the complete 2013 landings and dead discard information exceed 
1,043.6 mt, NMFS may need to take further action, consistent with the 
BFT quota adjustment regulations and ICCAT recommendations, and the 
United States may be subject to adjustment of the U.S. BFT quota. NMFS 
considers this potential situation to be very unlikely, as the dead 
discard estimate would need to be approximately 525 mt. To address the 
possibility of overharvest of the adjusted U.S. quota, NMFS requests 
public comment on potential regulatory options to consider for the 
final 2014 quota and subquotas. For example, the Reserve category quota 
could be reduced as necessary, or the overall 2014 BFT quota could be 
reduced, which would affect all category subquotas.

Public Hearing Conference Call

    NMFS will hold a public hearing conference call and webinar on 
April 16, 2014, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. EDT, to allow for an additional 
opportunity for interested members of the public from all geographic 
areas to submit verbal comments on the proposed quota specifications.
    The public is reminded that NMFS expects participants at public 
hearings and on conference calls to conduct themselves appropriately. 
At the beginning of the conference call, a representative of NMFS will 
explain the ground rules (all comments are to be directed to the agency 
on the proposed action; attendees will be called to give their comments 
in the order in which they registered to speak; each attendee will have 
an equal amount of time to speak; and attendees should not interrupt 
one another). The NMFS representative will attempt to structure the 
meeting so that all attending members of the public will be able to 
comment, if they so choose, regardless of the controversial nature of 
the subject(s). Attendees are expected to respect the ground rules, 
and, if they do not, they will be asked to leave the meeting.

Classification

    The NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that the proposed 
rule is consistent with the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, the Magnuson-
Stevens Act, ATCA, and other applicable law, subject to further 
consideration after public comment.
    This proposed rule is exempt from the procedures of E.O. 12866 
because this action contains no implementing regulations.
    Pursuant to the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), 5 U.S.C. 601 et 
seq., the Chief Council for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Council for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration (SBA) that this proposed rule, if adopted, would not 
have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. The reasoning for this certification is as follows:
    These annual BFT quota specifications (effective January 1 through 
December 31, 2014) are necessary to implement ICCAT recommendations, as 
required by ATCA, and to achieve domestic management objectives under 
the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Under ATCA, the United States must promulgate 
regulations as necessary and appropriate to implement binding 
recommendations of ICCAT.
    On July 5, 2011, NMFS published a final rule (76 FR 39019) that 
modified the U.S. baseline quota to 923.7 mt to implement ICCAT 
Recommendation 10-03 (Supplemental Recommendation by ICCAT concerning 
the Western Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Rebuilding Program) and set the 
category subquotas per the allocation percentages established in the 
2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management 
Plan (Consolidated HMS FMP, 71 FR 58058, October 2, 2006). At its 2013 
annual meeting, ICCAT recommended a

[[Page 18875]]

1-year rollover of the annual Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of 1,750 mt 
that was set for 2011, 2012, and 2013 (ICCAT Recommendation 13-09).
    Although the baseline quota is unchanged this year because the 2013 
ICCAT recommendation included the same TAC as the prior recommendation, 
NMFS will make underharvest and overharvest adjustments as allowable 
for the 2014 fishing year through quota specifications, consistent with 
the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and the current ICCAT recommendation that 
carryover not exceed 10 percent of a country's baseline quota (94.9 mt 
for the United States). Initial estimates indicate that the actual 
underharvest of the 2013 U.S. quota exceeds 94.9 mt, although no more 
than that amount would be available to carry forward. The proposed 
quota specifications were developed in accordance with the framework 
process set forth in the Environmental Impact Statement/Regulatory 
Impact Review (RIR)/Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (FRFA) 
prepared for the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and is supported by the 
Environmental Analysis/RIR/FRFA for the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Quotas 
and Atlantic Tuna Fisheries Management Measures (May 2011), and 
Supplemental EA (June 2013) (see ADDRESSES).
    As summarized in the 2013 Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation 
Report for Atlantic Highly Migratory Species, there were approximately 
8,029 commercial Atlantic tunas or Atlantic HMS permits in 2013, as 
follows: 3,783 in the Atlantic Tunas General category; 14 in the 
Atlantic Tunas Harpoon category; 5 in the Atlantic Tunas Purse Seine 
category; 252 in the Atlantic Tunas Longline category; 7 in the 
Atlantic Tunas Trap category; and 3,968 in the HMS Charter/Headboat 
category. This constitutes the best available information regarding the 
universe of permits and permit holders recently analyzed.
    This proposed rule is expected to directly affect commercial and 
for-hire fishing vessels that possess an Atlantic Tunas permit or 
Atlantic HMS Charter/Headboat permit. In general, the HMS Charter/
Headboat category permit holders can be regarded as small businesses, 
while HMS Angling category permit holders are typically obtained by 
individuals who are not considered small entities for purposes of the 
RFA. The SBA has established size criteria for all major industry 
sectors in the United States, including fish harvesters. Previously, 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 
has 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. Id. at 37400 (Table 1). 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. The new size standards do not 
affect analyses prepared for this action.
    The current ICCAT recommendation requires dead discards to be 
included within countries' allocations. Category-wide data regarding 
U.S. BFT dead discards are available only for the pelagic longline and 
purse seine fisheries for 2013. Estimates are not available from other 
gear types and fishing sectors that are not observed at sufficient 
levels for category-wide estimation and direct data are not available 
for trips that are not observed or for fisheries that do not report via 
a logbook. The United States is not required by ICCAT or current 
regulations to account for the total amount of dead discards until the 
end of the fishing season. However, in the annual specifications for 
2011 through 2013, NMFS took the proactive measure of accounting for 
half of the dead discard estimate ``up front,'' (i.e., at the beginning 
of the fishing year) and deducting that portion directly from the 
Longline category quota.
    The current ICCAT recommendation limits the amount of underharvest 
that may be carried forward from one year to the next to no more than 
10 percent of a country's quota. This restriction limits the amount of 
underharvest that may be carried forward to 94.9 mt (10 percent of the 
948.7-mt total U.S. quota). In the 2011 specifications, NMFS applied 
half of the 2010 underharvest that was allowed to be carried forward to 
the Longline category and maintained the other half in the Reserve 
category. This was intended to provide maximum flexibility in 
accounting for 2011 landings and dead discards. In 2012 and 2013, NMFS 
proposed the same method of distributing the underharvest that was 
allowed to be carried forward to the following year. However, in both 
2012 and 2013, NMFS closed the pelagic longline fishery to BFT 
retention by the time the specifications were finalized and, therefore, 
ultimately provided a larger portion to the Longline category in the 
final rule to account for actual BFT landings (placing the remainder in 
the Reserve category in 2012). For the last 3 years, NMFS has 
maintained the directed fishing categories at their baseline quotas.
    For the 2014 quota specifications, NMFS similarly proposes to 
deduct half of the dead discards up front from both the Longline 
category and Purse Seine category, to carry the 94.9 mt forward to 
2014, and to apply that amount in the same manner as finalized in 2013, 
i.e., to the Longline category. This would provide the Longline 
category a reasonable amount of quota for 2014 and would reduce 
potential ``regulatory discards'' that may otherwise result if closure 
of the Longline category fishery to BFT retention is necessary mid-
year. The directed handgear fishing categories and the Trap category 
(in which BFT may be caught incidentally) would continue to receive 
their baseline subquotas. NMFS will make any necessary adjustments to 
the 2014 specifications in the final rule after considering updated 
2013 landings information and the dead discard estimate for 2013, which 
should be available in late spring 2014.
    The most recent ex-vessel average price per pound information for 
each commercial quota category is used to estimate potential ex-vessel 
gross revenues under the proposed 2014 subquotas (i.e., 2013 prices for 
the General, Harpoon, and Longline/Trap, and Purse Seine categories). 
The 2014 subquotas could result in estimated gross revenues for each 
category, if finalized and fully utilized, as follows: General 
category: $6.9 million (435.1 mt * $7.19/lb); Harpoon category: 
$535,700 (36 mt * $6.75/lb); Purse Seine category: $2.3 million (164.9 
mt * $6.20/lb); Trap category: $11,700 (0.9 mt * $5.92/lb); and 
Longline category: $872,000 (66.8 mt * $5.92/lb). Estimated potential 
2014 revenues on a per vessel basis, considering the number of permit 
holders listed above and the proposed subquotas, could be $1,824 for 
the General category; $38,264 for the Harpoon category; $3,460 for the 
Longline category; $460,000 for the Purse Seine category; and $1,671 
for the Trap category. Thus, all of the entities affected by this rule 
are considered to be

[[Page 18876]]

small entities for the purposes of the RFA.
    This proposed rule would not change the U.S. Atlantic BFT baseline 
quota, amount of carryover, or implement any new management measures 
not previously considered. The baseline quota and category subquotas 
are codified and remain effective until changed (for instance, if any 
new ICCAT western Atlantic bluefin tuna TAC recommendation is adopted). 
Thus, the affected entities will not experience any negative, direct 
economic impacts as a result of this rule.
    The annual specification process that this proposed rule follows, 
including application of underharvests and overharvests, is described 
in detail in Chapters 2 and 4 of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP. Because 
the economic impacts of carrying forward the allowable unharvested 
quota are expected to be generally positive, this rule, if adopted, 
would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of 
small entities. Accordingly, no initial regulatory flexibility analysis 
is required, and none has been prepared.

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

    Dated: April 1, 2014.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-07549 Filed 4-1-14; 4:15 pm]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P