[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 87 (Tuesday, May 6, 2014)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 25707-25709]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-10222]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

[Docket No. 130214139-3542-02]
RIN 0648-XD251


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 Angling category retention limit 
adjustment.

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SUMMARY: NMFS has determined that the Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) daily 
retention limit that applies to vessels permitted in the Highly 
Migratory Species (HMS) Angling category and the HMS Charter/Headboat 
category (when fishing recreationally for BFT) should be adjusted for 
the remainder of 2014, based on consideration of the regulatory 
determination criteria regarding inseason adjustments. The adjusted 
limit for private vessels (i.e., those with HMS Angling category 
permits) is one school BFT and one large school/small medium BFT per 
vessel per day/trip (i.e., one BFT measuring 27 to less than 47 inches, 
and one BFT measuring 47 to less than 73 inches). The adjusted limit 
for charter vessels (i.e., those with HMS Charter/Headboat permits) is 
two school BFT and one large school/small medium

[[Page 25708]]

BFT per vessel per day/trip (i.e., two BFT measuring 27 to less than 47 
inches, and one BFT measuring 47 to less than 73 inches). These 
retention limits are effective in all areas, except for the Gulf of 
Mexico, where NMFS prohibits targeted fishing for BFT.

DATES: Effective May 8, 2014, through December 31, 2014.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sarah McLaughlin 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 Atlantic Highly 
Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan (2006 Consolidated HMS FMP) 
and in accordance with implementing regulations (71 FR 58058, October 
2, 2006). NMFS is required under ATCA and the Magnuson-Stevens Act to 
provide U.S. fishing vessels with a reasonable opportunity to harvest 
the ICCAT-recommended quota.
    The 2014 BFT fishing year, which is managed on a calendar-year 
basis and subject to an annual calendar-year quota, began January 1, 
2014. The Angling category season opened January 1, 2014, and continues 
through December 31, 2014. The size classes of BFT are summarized in 
Table 1. Please note that large school and small medium BFT 
traditionally have been managed as one size class, as described below, 
i.e., a limit of one large school/small medium BFT (measuring 47 to 
less than 73 inches).

                        Table 1--BFT Size Classes
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Size class                       Curved fork length
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School..............................  27 to less than 47 inches (68.5 to
                                       less than 119 cm).
Large school........................  47 to less than 59 inches (119 to
                                       less than 150 cm).
Small medium........................  59 to less than 73 inches (150 to
                                       less than 185 cm).
Large medium........................  73 to less than 81 inches (185 to
                                       less than 206 cm).
Giant...............................  81 inches or greater (206 cm or
                                       greater).
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Currently, the default Angling category daily retention limit of 
one school, large school, or small medium BFT applies (Sec.  
635.23(b)(2)). These retention limits apply to HMS Angling and to HMS 
Charter/Headboat category permitted vessels (when fishing 
recreationally for BFT). The currently codified Angling category quota 
is 182 mt (94.9 mt for school BFT, 82.9 mt for large school/small 
medium BFT, and 4.2 mt for large medium/giant BFT).

Adjustment of Angling Category Daily Retention Limit

    Under Sec.  635.23(b)(3), NMFS may increase or decrease the 
retention limit for any size class of BFT based on consideration of the 
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 (Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(i)); effects of the adjustment on BFT 
rebuilding and overfishing (Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(v)); effects of the 
adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS 
FMP (Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(vi)); variations in seasonal BFT distribution, 
abundance, or migration patterns (Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(vii)); 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 
(Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(viii)); and a review of daily landing trends and 
availability of the BFT on the fishing grounds (Sec.  
635.27(a)(8)(ix)). Retention limits may be adjusted separately for 
specific vessel type, such as private vessels, headboats, or 
charterboats.
    NMFS has considered the set of criteria at Sec.  635.27(a)(8) and 
their applicability to the Angling category BFT retention limit for the 
2014 Angling category fishery. These considerations include, but are 
not limited to, the following: This action, which is taken consistent 
with the quotas previously established and analyzed in the 2011 BFT 
quota final rule (76 FR 39019, July 5, 2011) and consistent with 
objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, is not expected to 
negatively impact stock health. Biological samples collected from BFT 
landed by recreational fishermen continue to provide NMFS with valuable 
parts and data for ongoing scientific studies of BFT age and growth, 
migration, and reproductive status. A principal consideration is the 
objective of providing opportunities to harvest the Angling category 
quota without exceeding it based upon the 2006 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.'' It is also important that NMFS constrain landings to BFT 
subquotas both to adhere to the current FMP quota allocations and to 
ensure that landings are as consistent as possible with the pattern of 
fishing mortality (e.g., fish caught at each age) that was assumed in 
the projections of stock rebuilding.
    Given the considerations above, NMFS has determined that the 
Angling category retention limit applicable to participants on HMS 
Angling and HMS Charter/Headboat category permitted vessels should be 
adjusted from the default level, and that implementation of separate 
limits for private and charter/headboat vessels is appropriate, 
recognizing the different nature, socio-economic needs, and recent 
landings results of the two components of the recreational BFT fishery. 
For example, charter operators historically have indicated that a 
multi-fish retention limit is vital to their ability to attract 
customers. In addition, Large Pelagics Survey estimates indicate that 
charter/headboat BFT landings averaged approximately 30 percent of 
recent recreational landings for 2011 through 2013, with the remaining 
70 percent landed by private vessels.
    Therefore, for private vessels (i.e., those with HMS Angling 
category permits), the limit is one school BFT and one large school/
small medium BFT per vessel per day/trip (i.e., one BFT measuring 27 to 
less than 47 inches, and one BFT measuring 47 to less than 73 inches). 
For charter vessels (i.e., those with HMS Charter/Headboat permits), 
the limit is two school BFT and one large school/small medium BFT per 
vessel per day/trip when fishing recreationally for BFT (i.e., two BFT 
measuring 27 to less than 47 inches, and one BFT measuring 47 to less 
than 73 inches). These retention limits are effective in all areas, 
except for the Gulf of Mexico, where NMFS prohibits targeted fishing 
for BFT. Regardless of the duration of a fishing trip, the daily 
retention limit applies upon landing.
    NMFS anticipates that the BFT daily retention limits in this action 
will result in landings during 2014 that would not exceed the available 
subquotas as codified in 2011. Lower retention limits could result in 
substantial underharvest of the codified Angling category subquota, and 
increasing the daily limits further may risk exceeding the available 
quota, contrary to the

[[Page 25709]]

objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP. NMFS will monitor 2014 
landings closely and will make further adjustments, including closure, 
with an inseason action if warranted.
    This Angling category action is intended to provide a reasonable 
opportunity to harvest the U.S. quota of BFT without exceeding it, 
while maintaining an equitable distribution of fishing opportunities; 
and to be consistent with the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS 
FMP.
    HMS Angling and HMS Charter/Headboat category permit holders may 
catch and release (or tag and release) BFT of all sizes, subject to the 
requirements of the catch-and-release and tag-and-release programs at 
Sec.  635.26. Anglers are also reminded that all BFT that are released 
must be handled in a manner that will maximize survival, and without 
removing the fish from the water, consistent with requirements at Sec.  
635.21(a)(1). For additional information on safe handling, see the 
``Careful Catch and Release'' brochure available at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/.
    If needed, subsequent Angling category adjustments 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 hmspermits.noaa.gov, for updates.

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 2006 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. Based on available BFT quotas, fishery performance in 
recent years, the availability of BFT on the fishing grounds, among 
other considerations, an adjustment to the recreational BFT daily 
retention limit from the default level is warranted. Analysis of 
available data shows that adjustment to the BFT daily retention limit 
from the default level would result in minimal risks of exceeding the 
ICCAT-allocated quota. NMFS provides notification of retention limit 
adjustments by publishing the notice in the Federal Register, emailing 
individuals who have subscribed to the Atlantic HMS News electronic 
newsletter, and updating the information posted on the Atlantic Tunas 
Information Line and on hmspermits.noaa.gov.
    These fisheries are currently underway and delaying this action 
would be contrary to the public interest. Delays in increasing the 
daily recreational BFT retention limit would adversely affect those HMS 
Angling and Charter/Headboat category vessels that would otherwise have 
an opportunity to harvest more than the default retention limit of one 
school, large school, or small medium BFT per day/trip and may 
exacerbate the problem of low catch rates and quota rollovers. 
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 all of the 
above 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(b)(3), and is exempt 
from review under Executive Order 12866.

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

    Dated: April 30, 2014.
Emily H. Menashes,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-10222 Filed 5-5-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P