[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 94 (Thursday, May 15, 2014)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 27768-27771]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-11335]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

[Docket No. 140416344-4344-01]
RIN 0648-BE18


Emergency Rule To Revise the Recreational Accountability Measures 
and Revise the 2014 Recreational Fishing Season for Red Snapper in the 
Gulf of Mexico

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

ACTION: Emergency rule.

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SUMMARY: NMFS issues this emergency rule to revise the recreational 
accountability measures (AMs) by establishing a recreational annual 
catch target (ACT), and revise the 2014 recreational fishing season for 
red snapper in the exclusive economic zone

[[Page 27769]]

(EEZ) of the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf), as requested by the Gulf of Mexico 
Fishery Management Council (Council). At its April 2014 meeting, the 
Council requested an emergency rule to revise the recreational AMs for 
red snapper by applying a 20-percent buffer to the recreational quota, 
which results in a recreational ACT of 4.312 million lb (1.956 million 
kg), round weight. The Council's decision to request an emergency rule 
was made following the decision of the U.S. District Court for the 
District of Columbia (Court) in Guindon v. Pritzker, 2014 WL 1274076 
(D.D.C. Mar. 26, 2014). After recalculating the season length based on 
the ACT and using the 2013 Marine Recreational Information Program 
(MRIP) landings estimates, NMFS is setting a 9-day fishing season. The 
purpose of this rulemaking is to better ensure red snapper recreational 
landings do not exceed the recreational quota established in the 
rebuilding plan, in accordance with sections 303(a)(15) and 407(d) of 
the Magnuson-Stevens Act (16 U.S.C. 1853(a)(15); 16 U.S.C. 1883(d)) and 
the Court's ruling.

DATES: This emergency rule is effective May 15, 2014, through November 
11, 2014. The red snapper recreational fishing season will open at 
12:01 a.m., local time, on June 1, 2014, and close at 12:01 a.m., local 
time, on June 10, 2014.

ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of the documents in support of this 
emergency rule, which include an environmental assessment (EA), may be 
obtained from the Southeast Regional Office Web site at http://sero.nfms.noaa.gov.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Gulf reef fish fishery is managed under 
the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of 
Mexico (FMP). The FMP was prepared by the Council and is implemented 
through regulations at 50 CFR part 622 under the authority of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (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 2007 reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act established 
new requirements to end and prevent overfishing through the use of 
annual catch limits (ACLs) and AMs. For red snapper, NMFS determined 
the existing commercial and recreational quotas are functionally 
equivalent to sector ACLs, and the sum of the quotas is functionally 
equivalent to the stock ACL. Additionally, the commercial individual 
fishing quota (IFQ) program serves as an AM for the commercial sector 
and the recreational in-season closure based on annual projections of 
the season length serves as an AM for the recreational sector.
    The current recreational quota, implemented through a 2013 
framework amendment (78 FR 57318, September 18, 2013), is 5.390 million 
lb (2.445 million kg), round weight. The red snapper recreational 
fishing season begins on June 1, each year, and closes when NMFS 
projects the recreational quota will be met. NMFS determines the length 
of the red snapper recreational fishing season in advance and announces 
the closure date in the Federal Register before June 1, each year.
    From 2010 to present, the season has become progressively shorter 
despite annual increases in the quota. In 2011, the season was 48 days, 
and in 2012, 46 days. In 2013, the season was open for a total of 42 
days. It opened on June 1 for 28 days (78 FR 34586, June 10, 2013), and 
then re-opened on October 1 for an additional 14 days (78 FR 57313, 
September 18, 2013). For the 2014 recreational fishing season, NMFS 
published a temporary rule on December 19, 2013, to implement a 40-day 
season beginning June 1, 2014 (78 FR 76758).
Guindon v. Pritzker
    In September 2013, individual commercial fishermen and two 
commercial fishing interest groups filed a lawsuit challenging the 
rules that implemented the red snapper quotas for the 2013 fishing year 
and set the 2013 recreational red snapper fishing season. In March 
2014, the Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, finding, in pertinent 
part, that NMFS failed to require adequate AMs for the recreational 
sector, failed to prohibit the retention of fish after the recreational 
quota had been harvested, and failed to use the best scientific 
information available when determining whether there should be a fall 
fishing season. See Guindon v. Pritzker, 2014 WL 1274076 (D.D.C. Mar. 
26, 2014).

2014 Recreational Red Snapper Fishing Season

    For the 2014 recreational red snapper fishing season, this rule 
reduces the probability that the recreational sector will exceed its 
quota by revising the projected season length for the 2014 fishing 
season to incorporate the 2013 MRIP landings data. Additionally, based 
on the Council's request, NMFS is implementing additional recreational 
AMs for red snapper to better constrain harvest to the recreational 
quota. The Council voted to apply a 20-percent buffer to the 
recreational quota, resulting in a recreational ACT of 4.312 million lb 
(1.956 million kg), round weight. NMFS is using the ACT to set the 2014 
recreational fishing season. Based on the estimated landings data from 
the 2013 fishing season (from MRIP, the Southeast Headboat Survey, and 
the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD)), average fish size, the 
length of the 2014 recreational fishing seasons in state waters off 
each Gulf state, and estimated catch rates in state waters, NMFS has 
determined the 2014 Federal recreational fishing season needs to be 
reduced from 40 to 15 days. The Federal season is further reduced to 9 
days when it is based on the recreational ACT. The reduction in the 
Federal fishing season length (15 to 9 days) is not proportional to the 
buffer applied (20 percent) because NMFS needs to account for the 
landings that will continue to occur from state waters when Federal 
waters are closed. Therefore, the recreational fishing season will open 
at 12:01 a.m., local time, on June 1, 2014, and close at 12:01 a.m., 
local time, on June 10, 2014. The method for calculating the closure 
date can be found in Appendix B of the EA.
    The Council is currently considering permanent measures to revise 
the recreational AMs for red snapper in Amendment 28 to the FMP. The 
actions in Amendment 28 consider establishing an ACT and using paybacks 
to address any quota overages that may occur. The Council may also 
consider other long-term measures to address accountability in the 
recreational sector. For example, the Council has started work on a 
scoping document to develop a red snapper IFQ-type program for for-hire 
vessels.

Need for This Emergency Rule

    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.


[[Page 27770]]


    NMFS is promulgating these emergency regulations under the 
authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, consistent with these three 
criteria. For the first criterion for an emergency rule, the recent 
unforeseen event is the decision in Guindon v. Pritzker, which was 
issued on March 26, 2014. In that decision, the Court found, in 
pertinent part, that NMFS failed to require adequate recreational AMs 
and to prohibit the retention of fish after the recreational quota had 
been harvested, and failed to use the best scientific information 
available by not using the 2013 MRIP landings data to determine whether 
the harvest during the June 2013 fishing season exceeded the 
recreational quota. Therefore, based on the Council's request, NMFS is 
implementing additional recreational AMs for red snapper to better 
constrain harvest to the recreational quota during the 2014 fishing 
season, which opens on June 1, 2014. In addition, NMFS is including the 
2013 MRIP landings data in the projections used to set the 2014 fishing 
season.
    The second emergency criterion is that the situation presents 
serious conservation or management problems in the fishery. The 2014 
recreational fishing season was previously projected to be 40 days. 
This presents serious conservation and management problems because the 
40-day season could perpetuate continued overages of the recreational 
quota. This emergency rule is expected to help NMFS constrain 
recreational red snapper harvest within the quota, as required by 
sections 303(a)(15) and 407(d) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act (16 U.S.C. 
1853(a)(15); 16 U.S.C. 1883(d)). Section 303(a)(15) requires that the 
councils establish ACLs for each stock and AMs to ensure these catch 
limits are not exceeded, and section 407(d) requires a separate quota 
for the recreational sector that, when reached, results in a 
prohibition on the retention of fish caught during recreational 
fishing. The recreational ACT and the in-season closure serve as the 
recreational AMs for red snapper. The in-season closure also results in 
a prohibition on the retention of fish caught during recreational 
fishing.
    Under the third criterion for an emergency rule, the immediate 
benefit of implementing the emergency rule must outweigh the value of 
advance notice and public comment. NMFS previously announced the 
Federal red snapper recreational fishing season would be 40 days. 
However, the need to incorporate the 2013 MRIP landings data into the 
season length projections and to establish additional AMs to ensure 
that the recreational harvest is constrained to the recreational quota 
has resulted in a 9-day Federal fishing season. The Federal red snapper 
recreational fishing season opens June 1, 2014. Delaying announcement 
of this emergency rule to accommodate prior public notice and comment 
would result in less advance notice of the revised Federal red snapper 
recreational fishing season and could be very disruptive to the 
fishery. Such a delay would decrease the time available for for-hire 
businesses to adjust their business plans and private anglers to change 
their fishing plans, especially if they are visiting from out-of-state. 
For-hire operators booked trips with clients for the previously 
announced 40-day season and private anglers may have booked hotel rooms 
or rented boats in anticipation of a 40-day season. Because the season 
implemented through this emergency rule is now 9 days, for-hire 
operators will need to change their business plans and cancel or re-
arrange many of those trips, and clients who booked the for-hire trips 
and private anglers may need to cancel reservations or reschedule their 
trips. NMFS must implement this rule immediately to announce the change 
in the fishing season.

Measures Contained in This Emergency Rule

    This emergency rule revises the recreational AM by establishing a 
recreational ACT, and revises the 2014 recreational fishing season for 
red snapper in the Gulf EEZ. NMFS has determined the length of the red 
snapper recreational fishing season in Federal waters to be 9 days, 
which is based on when the recreational ACT of 4.312 million lb (1.956 
million kg), round weight, is projected to be met. Therefore, the 
Federal recreational fishing season will open at 12:01 a.m., local 
time, on June 1, 2014, and close at 12:01 a.m., local time, on July 10, 
2014. On and after the effective date of the recreational closure 
notification, the bag and possession limit for red snapper are zero. In 
addition, if Federal regulations for Gulf reef fish are more 
restrictive than state regulations, a person aboard a charter vessel or 
headboat for which a charter vessel/headboat permit for Gulf reef fish 
has been issued must comply with such Federal regulations regardless of 
where the fish are harvested, as specified in Sec.  622.4(a)(1)(iv). 
Relative to this emergency rule, that means if the EEZ is closed to 
recreational red snapper harvest, vessels with a Federal charter 
vessel/headboat permit for Gulf reef fish may not harvest red snapper 
in state waters.

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 emergency rule is 
necessary for the conservation and management of the recreational red 
snapper component of the Gulf reef fish fishery and is consistent with 
the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable laws.
    This emergency 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. Many of those affected 
by the red snapper recreational fishing season closure have planned 
their trips several months in advance. For-hire operators booked trips 
with clients for the previously announced 40-day season and private 
anglers may have booked hotel rooms or rented boats in anticipation of 
a 40-day season. Because the season implemented through this emergency 
rule has eliminated 31 fishing days, for-hire operators will need to 
change their business plans and cancel or re-arrange trips that are 
scheduled to occur after June 9, 2014, and clients who booked the for-
hire trips and private anglers may need to cancel reservations or 
reschedule their trips for a date when the season is open. Delaying 
announcement of this emergency rule to accommodate prior public notice 
and comment would be contrary to the public interest because it would 
result in less advance notice to the public of the change in the length 
of the red snapper recreational fishing season.

    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

    Fisheries, Fishing, Gulf of Mexico, Red snapper.


[[Page 27771]]


    Dated: May 13, 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:

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.  622.41, paragraph (q) is added to read as follows:


Sec.  622.41  Annual catch limits (ACLs), annual catch targets (ACTs), 
and accountability measures (AMs).

* * * * *
    (q) Red snapper--(1) Commercial sector. [Reserved]
    (2) Recreational sector. (i) The AA will determine the length of 
the red snapper recreational fishing season based on when recreational 
landings are projected to reach the recreational ACT specified in 
paragraph (q)(2)(ii) of this section, and announce the closure date in 
the Federal Register. This will serve as an in-season accountability 
measure. On and after the effective date of the recreational closure 
notification, the bag and possession limit for red snapper are zero.
    (ii) The recreational ACT for red snapper is 4.312 million lb 
(1.956 million kg), round weight.

[FR Doc. 2014-11335 Filed 5-14-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P