[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 74 (Thursday, April 17, 2014)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 21636-21639]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-08724]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

[Docket No. 131231999-4319-01]
RIN 0648-BD87


Temporary Rule To Establish Separate Annual Catch Limits and 
Accountability Measures for Blueline Tilefish in the South Atlantic 
Region

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

ACTION: Temporary rule; emergency action.

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SUMMARY: NMFS issues this temporary rule to reduce the amount of 
blueline tilefish that may be harvested in the exclusive economic zone 
(EEZ) of the South Atlantic by removing the blueline tilefish portion 
from the deep-water complex annual catch limit (ACL) and establishing 
separate commercial and recreational ACLs and accountability measures 
(AMs) for blueline tilefish. At its December 2013 meeting, the South 
Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) requested emergency 
action regarding blueline tilefish given new stock assessment results 
that indicate the blueline tilefish stock is overfished and undergoing 
overfishing in the South Atlantic. This temporary rule is based upon 
the best scientific information available, and will be effective for 
180 days, unless superseded by subsequent rulemaking. NMFS may extend 
the rule's effectiveness for an additional 186 days pursuant to the 
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-
Stevens Act). The intent of this rulemaking is to reduce overfishing of 
blueline tilefish in the South Atlantic.

DATES: This temporary rule is effective April 17, 2014, through October 
14, 2014. Comments may be submitted through May 19, 2014.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the temporary rule, identified by 
``NOAA-NMFS-2014-0027'', by any 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-2014-0027, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Rick DeVictor, 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 documents in support of this temporary 
rule may be obtained from the Southeast Regional Office Web site at 
http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/s_atl/sg/2014/acl_er/index.html.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Rick DeVictor, Southeast Regional 
Office, NMFS, telephone: 727-824-5305, email: Rick.DeVictor@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS and the Council manage South Atlantic 
snapper-grouper species, including blueline tilefish, under the Fishery 
Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic 
Region (FMP). The Council prepared the FMP and NMFS implements the FMP 
through regulations at 50 CFR part 622 under the authority of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act. The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides the legal 
authority for the promulgation of emergency regulations under section 
305(c) (16 U.S.C. 1855(c)).

Background

    The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires NMFS and regional fishery 
management councils to 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 end overfishing of stocks and 
to minimize bycatch and bycatch mortality to the extent practicable.
    On March 16, 2012, NMFS published a final rule for the 
Comprehensive ACL Amendment (77 FR 15916) which established a deep-
water complex ACL for yellowedge grouper, blueline tilefish, silk 
snapper, misty grouper, sand tilefish, queen snapper, black snapper, 
and blackfin snapper. The commercial ACL for the deep-water complex is 
376,469 lb (170,763 kg), round weight, and the recreational ACL for the 
deep-water complex is 334,556 lb (151,752 kg), round weight, for a 
total

[[Page 21637]]

deep-water complex ACL of 711,025 lb (322,516 kg), round weight. Within 
the deep-water complex commercial ACL, the blueline tilefish portion is 
316,098 lb (143,380 kg), round weight, and within deepwater complex 
recreational ACL, the blueline tilefish portion is 315,243 lb (142,992 
kg), round weight. The blueline tilefish portion of the total deep-
water complex ACL is 631,341 lb (286,371 kg), round weight.
    The blueline tilefish stock in the South Atlantic was assessed 
through the Southeast, Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR) process in 
2013. The assessment indicates that the stock is experiencing 
overfishing and is overfished according to the current definition for 
the minimum stock size threshold (MSST). NMFS notified the Council of 
the blueline tilefish stock status on December 6, 2013. The Magnuson-
Stevens Act specifies that measures to end overfishing and rebuild the 
stock must be implemented within 2 years of such notification.
    At its December 2013 meeting, the Council initiated the development 
of Amendment 32 to the FMP to address this issue. The Council and NMFS, 
through actions in Amendment 32, plan to develop and propose management 
actions that would end overfishing immediately and rebuild the blueline 
tilefish stock. However, Amendment 32 and associated rulemaking is not 
likely to be completed until 2015.
    Therefore, at its December 2013 meeting, the Council requested 
emergency action to begin in 2014 to reduce overfishing of blueline 
tilefish while permanent management measures and regulations are being 
developed through Amendment 32. The need for this emergency action is 
to minimize adverse biological effects to the blueline tilefish stock 
and adverse socio-economic effects to fishermen and fishing communities 
that utilize the blueline tilefish portion of the snapper-grouper 
fishery. Although the actions in this temporary rule, if implemented, 
would likely have adverse, socio-economic effects beginning in 2014, 
the Council and NMFS have determined that the short-term effects would 
be justified to minimize long-term reductions in harvest that may be 
required if the current levels of unsustainable harvest continue to 
reduce the biomass of the blueline tilefish stock. The blueline 
tilefish landings in 2012 of 477,126 lb (216,421 kg), round weight, 
were much greater than the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) at 
equilibrium (226,500 lb (102,739 kg), round weight), as determined by 
the SEDAR 32 stock assessment. Continued exploitation at levels similar 
to the 2012 landings would negatively affect the health of the blueline 
tilefish stock by allowing overfishing to continue.

Need for This Temporary Rule; Emergency Action

    The ``Policy Guidelines for the Use of Emergency Rules'' (62 FR 
44421, August 21, 1997) list three criteria for determining whether an 
emergency exists.
    (1) Results from recent, unforeseen events or recently discovered 
circumstances; and
    (2) Presents serious conservation or management problems in the 
fishery; and
    (3) Can be addressed through emergency regulations for which the 
immediate benefits outweigh the value of advance notice, public 
comment, and deliberative consideration of the impacts to the same 
extent as would be expected under the normal rulemaking process.
    NMFS is promulgating these emergency regulations under the 
authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, consistent with these three 
criteria. To address the first criterion, the recently discovered 
circumstance is the new stock assessment (SEDAR 32) results indicating 
that the blueline tilefish stock in the South Atlantic is experiencing 
overfishing and is overfished according to the current definition for 
the MSST.
    To address the second criterion, the measures in this temporary 
rule are necessary to reduce the current level of overfishing of 
blueline tilefish in the South Atlantic EEZ while permanent measures 
are being developed, in order to address the serious conservation 
concern. If this temporary rule is not implemented, the current rate of 
fishing mortality would continue to negatively affect the health of the 
blueline tilefish stock by allowing fishing at unsustainable levels. 
The actions in the temporary rule are expected to minimize the long-
term adverse socio-economic effects from future management measures in 
Amendment 32 that will be required to end overfishing.
    To address the third criterion, NMFS has determined that the 
immediate benefit of implementing the temporary rule, and thus the 
immediate minimization of adverse biological effects of significant 
overharvest and reduction of blueline tilefish biomass outweighs the 
value of advance notice, public comment, and deliberative consideration 
of the impacts to the same extent as would be expected under the normal 
rulemaking process. Continued harvest at levels similar to the 2012 
landings would negatively affect the health of the blueline tilefish 
stock and likely require greater long-term reductions in harvest. This 
emergency action will minimize adverse biological effects described 
above and minimize long-term adverse socio-economic effects to 
fishermen and fishing communities that utilize the blueline tilefish 
resource. This temporary rule implements a blueline tilefish total ACL 
of 224,100 lb (101,650 kg), round weight; in contrast, the current 
total blueline tilefish portion of the deep-water complex ACL is 
631,341 lb (286,371 kg), round weight. This temporary rule also 
establishes in-season commercial and recreational AMs for blueline 
tilefish to prevent these catch limits from being exceeded. Commercial 
and recreational fishing activities are already underway for the 2014 
fishing season that began on January 1, 2014. By foregoing prior notice 
and public comment, NMFS can ensure that the overfishing of blueline 
tilefish is reduced during this fishing season.

Measures Contained in This Temporary Rule

    This temporary rule removes the blueline tilefish from the deep-
water complex and establishes separate commercial and recreational ACLs 
and AMs for blueline tilefish in the EEZ of the South Atlantic. The 
commercial and recreational ACLs for blueline tilefish will be based 
upon the equilibrium yield at 75 percent of the fishing mortality to 
achieve MSY and existing sector allocations (50.07 percent commercial 
and 49.93 percent recreational) that were established in the 
Comprehensive ACL Amendment. This temporary rule implements a blueline 
tilefish total (commercial and recreational) ACL of 224,100 lb (101,650 
kg), round weight; the current total (commercial and recreational) 
blueline tilefish portion of the deep-water complex ACL is 631,341 lb 
(286,371 kg), round weight. The commercial ACL for blueline tilefish in 
the South Atlantic implemented through this temporary rule is 112,207 
lb (50,896 kg), round weight. The recreational ACL for blueline 
tilefish in the South Atlantic implemented through this temporary rule 
is 111,893 lb (50,754 kg), round weight. The deep-water complex 
(composed of yellowedge grouper, silk snapper, misty grouper, queen 
snapper, sand tilefish, black snapper, and blackfin snapper) ACL would 
remain at current levels, except with the current blueline tilefish 
portion of 631,341 lb (286,371 kg), round weight, removed.

[[Page 21638]]

Thus, for the deep-water complex without blueline tilefish, the 
commercial ACL implemented through this temporary rule is 60,371 lb 
(27,384 kg), round weight, and the recreational ACL is 19,313 lb (8,760 
kg), round weight.
    This temporary rule establishes in-season AMs for blueline tilefish 
to prevent these catch limits from being exceeded. If commercial 
landings for blueline tilefish reach or are projected to reach the 
commercial ACL, NMFS will file a notification with the Office of the 
Federal Register to close the commercial sector for blueline tilefish 
for the remainder of the fishing year. On and after the effective date 
of such a notification, all sale or purchase of blueline tilefish would 
be prohibited and harvest or possession of blueline tilefish in or from 
the South Atlantic EEZ would be limited to the bag and possession 
limit. This bag and possession limit applies in the South Atlantic on 
board a vessel for which a valid Federal commercial or charter vessel/
headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has been issued, 
without regard to where such species were harvested, i.e., in state or 
Federal waters. If recreational landings for blueline tilefish reach or 
are projected to reach the recreational ACL, NMFS will file a 
notification with the Office of the Federal Register to close the 
recreational sector for blueline tilefish for the remainder of the 
fishing year. On and after the effective date of such notification, the 
bag and possession limit of blueline tilefish in or from the South 
Atlantic EEZ would be zero. This bag and possession limit would also 
apply in the South Atlantic on board a vessel for which a valid Federal 
commercial or charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic 
snapper-grouper has been issued, without regard to where such species 
were harvested, i.e., in state or Federal waters. This temporary rule 
does not establish post-season AMs for blueline tilefish as post-season 
AMs are ineffective for temporary actions as any changes to the 
regulations can only be in effect for a limited time.
    The current complex-level in-season and post-season commercial and 
recreational AMs remain in place for the remaining species within the 
deep-water complex (composed of yellowedge grouper, silk snapper, misty 
grouper, queen snapper, sand tilefish, black snapper, and blackfin 
snapper). If commercial landings for the deep-water complex, as 
estimated by the SRD, reach or are projected to reach the commercial 
ACL, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the Federal 
Register to close the commercial sector for this complex for the 
remainder of the fishing year. On and after the effective date of such 
a notification, all sale or purchase of deep-water complex species is 
prohibited and harvest or possession of these species in or from the 
South Atlantic EEZ would be limited to the bag and possession limit. 
This bag and possession limit would apply in the South Atlantic on 
board a vessel for which a valid Federal commercial or charter vessel/
headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has been issued, 
without regard to where such species were harvested, i.e., in state or 
Federal waters. Additionally, if commercial landings for the deep-water 
complex exceed the ACL, and at least one of the species in the deep-
water complex is overfished, based on the most recent Status of U.S. 
Fisheries Report to Congress, the AA will file a notification with the 
Office of the Federal Register, at or near the beginning of the 
following fishing year to reduce the ACL for that following year by the 
amount of the overage in the prior fishing year. For the recreational 
sector, if recreational landings for the deep-water complex exceed the 
recreational ACL then during the following fishing year, recreational 
landings would be monitored for a persistence in increased landings 
and, if necessary, NMFS would reduce the length of the following 
recreational fishing season by the amount necessary to ensure 
recreational landings do not exceed the recreational ACL in the 
following fishing year.

Classification

    This action is issued pursuant to section 305(c) of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act, 16 U.S.C. 1855(c). The Assistant Administrator for 
Fisheries, NOAA (AA), has determined that this temporary rule is based 
upon the best scientific information available, is necessary for the 
conservation and management of the blueline tilefish component of the 
snapper-grouper fishery and is consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act 
and other applicable laws, subject to further consideration after 
public comment.
    This temporary rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    The AA finds good cause to waive the requirements to provide prior 
notice and opportunity for public comment pursuant to the authority set 
forth in 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B). Providing prior notice and opportunity for 
public comment on this action would be contrary to the public interest. 
The blueline tilefish stock in the South Atlantic was assessed through 
SEDAR 32 in 2013. The assessment indicates that the stock is overfished 
and is undergoing overfishing. NMFS is implementing this emergency 
action to reduce overfishing of blueline tilefish while permanent 
management measures and regulations are being developed. The reduced 
ACLs for blueline tilefish and in-season AMs must be implemented 
immediately to minimize adverse biological effects to the blueline 
tilefish stock and long-term adverse socio-economic effects to 
fishermen and fishing communities that utilize the blueline tilefish 
portion of the snapper-grouper fishery. Continued harvest at levels 
similar to the 2012 landings would negatively affect the health of the 
blueline tilefish stock. More severe long-term reductions in harvest 
may be required if emergency action is not taken and the unsustainable 
harvest continues to reduce the blueline tilefish biomass. The fishing 
season opened January 1, 2014. In order to have an impact on reducing 
overfishing of blueline tilefish during the current fishing season, the 
new commercial and recreational ACLs and AMs for blueline tilefish must 
become effective immediately.
    For the reasons listed above, the AA also finds good cause to waive 
the 30-day delay in effectiveness of the action under 5 U.S.C. 
553(d)(3).
    Because prior notice and opportunity for public comment are not 
required for this rule by 5 U.S.C. 553 or any other law, the analytical 
requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 601 et seq. 
are inapplicable. Accordingly, no Regulatory Flexibility Analysis is 
required and none has been prepared.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622

    Blueline tilefish, Deep-water complex, Emergency action, Fisheries, 
Fishing, South Atlantic.

    Dated: April 11, 2014.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 622 is amended 
as follows:

[[Page 21639]]

PART 622--FISHERIES OF THE CARIBBEAN, GULF, 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.  622.193, paragraph (h) is suspended and paragraphs (z) and 
(aa) are added to read as follows:


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

* * * * *
    (z) Deep-water complex (including yellowedge grouper, silk snapper, 
misty grouper, queen snapper, sand tilefish, black snapper, and 
blackfin snapper)--(1) Commercial sector--(i) If commercial landings 
for the deep-water complex, as estimated by the SRD, reach or are 
projected to reach the commercial ACL of 60,371 lb (27,384 kg), round 
weight, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the Federal 
Register to close the commercial sector for this complex for the 
remainder of the fishing year. On and after the effective date of such 
a notification, all sale or purchase of deep-water complex species is 
prohibited and harvest or possession of these species in or from the 
South Atlantic EEZ is limited to the bag and possession limit. This bag 
and possession limit applies in the South Atlantic on board a vessel 
for which a valid Federal commercial or charter vessel/headboat permit 
for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has been issued, without regard to 
where such species were harvested, i.e., in state or Federal waters.
    (ii) If commercial landings exceed the ACL, and at least one of the 
species in the deep-water complex is overfished, based on the most 
recent Status of U.S. Fisheries Report to Congress, the AA will file a 
notification with the Office of the Federal Register, at or near the 
beginning of the following fishing year to reduce the ACL for that 
following year by the amount of the overage in the prior fishing year.
    (2) Recreational sector. If recreational landings for the deep-
water complex, as estimated by the SRD, exceed the recreational ACL of 
19,313 lb (8,760 kg), round weight, then during the following fishing 
year, recreational landings will be monitored for a persistence in 
increased landings and, if necessary, the AA will file a notification 
with the Office of the Federal Register, to reduce the length of the 
following recreational fishing season by the amount necessary to ensure 
recreational landings do not exceed the recreational ACL in the 
following fishing year. However, the length of the recreational season 
will also not be reduced during the following fishing year if the RA 
determines, using the best scientific information available, that a 
reduction in the length of the following fishing season is unnecessary.
    (aa) Blueline tilefish--(1) Commercial sector. If commercial 
landings for the blueline tilefish, as estimated by the SRD, reach or 
are projected to reach the commercial ACL of 112,207 lb (50,896 kg), 
round weight, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the 
Federal Register to close the commercial sector for the remainder of 
the fishing year. On and after the effective date of such a 
notification, all sale or purchase of blueline tilefish is prohibited 
and harvest or possession of blueline tilefish in or from the South 
Atlantic EEZ is limited to the bag and possession limit. This bag and 
possession limit applies in the South Atlantic on board a vessel for 
which a valid Federal commercial or charter vessel/headboat permit for 
South Atlantic snapper-grouper has been issued, without regard to where 
such species were harvested, i.e., in state or Federal waters.
    (2) Recreational sector. If recreational landings of blueline 
tilefish, as estimated by the SRD, reach or are projected to reach the 
recreational ACL of 111,893 lb (50,754 kg), round weight, then the AA 
will file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register to 
close the recreational sector for blueline tilefish for the remainder 
of the fishing year. On and after the effective date of such 
notification, the bag and possession limit of blueline tilefish in or 
from the South Atlantic EEZ is zero. This bag and possession limit also 
applies in the South Atlantic on board a vessel for which a valid 
Federal commercial or charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic 
snapper-grouper has been issued, without regard to where such species 
were harvested, i.e., in state or Federal waters.

[FR Doc. 2014-08724 Filed 4-16-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P