[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 97 (Tuesday, May 20, 2014)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 28880-28881]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-11622]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

RIN 0648-BD81


Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic; 
Amendment 8 to the Fishery Management Plan for Coral, Coral Reefs, and 
Live/Hardbottom Habitats of the South Atlantic Region

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

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) has 
submitted Amendment 8 to the Fishery Management Plan for Coral, Coral 
Reefs, and Live/Hardbottom Habitats of the South Atlantic Region (FMP) 
(Amendment 8) for review approval, and implementation by NMFS. 
Amendment 8 proposes actions to expand portions of the northern and 
western boundaries of the Oculina Bank habitat area of particular 
concern (HAPC) (Oculina Bank HAPC) and allow transit through the 
Oculina Bank HAPC by fishing vessels with rock shrimp onboard; modify 
vessel monitoring systems (VMS) requirements for rock shrimp fishermen 
transiting through the Oculina Bank HAPC; expand a portion of the 
western boundary of the Stetson Reefs, Savannah and East Florida 
Lithotherms, and Miami Terrace Deepwater Coral HAPC (CHAPC) (Stetson-
Miami Terrace CHAPC), including modifications to the shrimp fishery 
access area 1; and expand a portion of the northern boundary of the 
Cape Lookout Lophelia Banks Deepwater CHAPC (Cape Lookout CHAPC).

DATES: Written comments must be received on or before July 21, 2014.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by ``NOAA-NMFS-2014-
0065'', by any one 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-2014-0065, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Karla Gore, 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 Amendment 8 may be obtained from the Southeast 
Regional Office Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov. Amendment 8 
includes a draft environmental assessment, a Regulatory Flexibility Act 
analysis, a Regulatory Impact Review, and a Fishery Impact Statement.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Karla Gore, telephone: 727-824-5305.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation 
and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) requires each regional 
fishery management council to submit any fishery management plan or 
amendment to NMFS for review and approval, partial approval, or 
disapproval. The Magnuson-Stevens Act also requires that NMFS, upon 
receiving a plan or amendment, publish an announcement in the Federal 
Register notifying the public that the plan or amendment is available 
for review and comment.

Background

    Recent scientific exploration has identified areas of high relief 
features and hard bottom habitat outside the boundaries of the existing 
HAPCs and CHAPCs. During its 2011 October meeting, the Council's Coral 
Advisory Panel (AP) (Coral AP) recommended the Council revisit the 
boundaries of the Oculina Bank HAPC, Stetson-Miami Terrace CHAPC, and 
the Cape Lookout CHAPC to incorporate areas of additional deepwater 
coral habitat that were previously uncharacterized. The Council 
reviewed the Coral AP recommendations for expansion of these areas and 
associated VMS analyses of rock shrimp fishing activity, and approved 
the measures for public scoping through Comprehensive

[[Page 28881]]

Ecosystem-Based Amendment 3. The Council subsequently moved these 
measures into Amendment 8. The Council's Coral, Habitat, Deepwater 
Shrimp, and Law Enforcement APs worked collectively to refine the Coral 
AP recommendations and provided input to the Council on expanding the 
boundaries of the HAPC and CHAPCs and establishing a transit provision 
in the Oculina Bank HAPC.
    The Council approved the amendment during its September 2013 
meeting and submitted Amendment 8 to NMFS for agency review under 
procedures of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

Management Measures Contained in Amendment 8

    Amendment 8 would expand the boundaries of the Oculina Bank HAPC, 
the Stetson-Miami Terrace CHAPC, and the Cape Lookout CHAPC to protect 
deepwater coral ecosystems. The amendment would also allow transit 
through the Oculina HAPC by fishing vessels with rock shrimp onboard. 
In addition, Amendment 8 would modify the VMS requirements for rock 
shrimp fishermen.

Expansion of Oculina Bank HAPC

    The Oculina Bank HAPC was first established in 1984, with 
implementation of the FMP (49 FR 29607, August 22, 1984). Within the 
Oculina Bank HAPC, it is unlawful to use a bottom longline, bottom 
trawl, dredge, pot or trap, and if aboard a fishing vessel, it is 
unlawful to anchor, use an anchor and chain, or use a grapple and 
chain. Additionally, it is unlawful to fish for or possess rock shrimp 
in or from the Oculina Bank HAPC on board a fishing vessel. Currently, 
the Oculina Bank HAPC is a 289-square mile (749-square km) area. If 
implemented, Amendment 8 would increase the size of the Oculina HAPC by 
405.42 square miles (1,050 square km), for a total area of 694.42 
square miles (1,798.5 square km) and would extend these prohibitions to 
the larger area (except for a limited transit provision described 
below) and increase the protection of coral.

Transit Provision Through Oculina Bank

    Amendment 8 proposes a transit provision to allow fishing vessels 
with rock shrimp onboard to transit the Oculina Bank HAPC under limited 
circumstances. To be considered to be in transit, vessels would be 
required to maintain a minimum speed of 5 knots, maintain a VMS ping 
(signal) rate of 1 ping per 5 minutes, and a vessel's gear would be 
required to be appropriately stowed (i.e., doors and nets would be 
required to be out of water and onboard the deck or below the deck of 
the vessel). This transit provision would allow rock shrimp fishermen 
with rock shrimp onboard their vessel to access additional fishing 
grounds in less time using less fuel than if the fishermen were 
required to travel around the Oculina Bank HAPC.

Expansion of the Stetson-Miami Terrace CHAPC and the Cape Lookout CHAPC

    The Stetson-Miami Terrace CHAPC and the Cape Lookout CHAPC were 
established in 2010 through the Comprehensive Ecosystem-Based Amendment 
1 to protect deepwater coral ecosystems (75 FR 35330, June 22, 2010). 
Within the CHAPCs, including the Stetson-Miami Terrace and Cape Lookout 
CHAPCs, it is unlawful to use a bottom longline, trawl (mid-water or 
bottom), dredge, pot or trap, and if aboard a fishing vessel, it is 
unlawful to anchor, use an anchor and chain, or use a grapple and 
chain. Additionally, it is unlawful to fish for or possess coral in or 
from the CHAPCs on board a fishing vessel. Amendment 8 would increase 
the size of the Stetson-Miami Terrace CHAPC by 490 square mile (1,269 
square km), for a total area of 24,018 square miles (62,206 square km), 
and increase the size of the Cape Lookout CHAPC by 10 square miles (26 
square km), for a total area of 326 square miles (844 square km), and 
would extend the gear prohibitions to the larger area to increase 
protection of deepwater coral ecosystems. The expansion of the Stetson-
Miami Terrace CHAPC would also provide royal red shrimp fishermen a new 
zone adjacent to the existing shrimp access area A (proposed to be 
renamed in the rulemaking associated with Amendment 8 to be shrimp 
access area 1) within which they can haul back fishing gear without 
drifting into an area where their gear is prohibited. Thus, this shrimp 
fishery access area would be expanded to include the new haul-back zone 
if this rule is implemented.
    A proposed rule that would implement measures outlined in Amendment 
8 has been drafted. In accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS 
is evaluating Amendment 8 to determine whether it is consistent with 
the FMP, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law. If the 
determination is affirmative, NMFS will publish the proposed rule in 
the Federal Register for public review and comment.

Consideration of Public Comments

    The Councils submitted Amendment 8 for Secretarial review, 
approval, and implementation. Comments received by July 21, 2014, 
whether specifically directed to the amendment or the proposed rule, 
will be considered by NMFS in its decision to approve, disapprove, or 
partially approve the amendment. Comments received after that date will 
not be considered by NMFS in this decision. All comments received by 
NMFS on the amendment or the proposed rule during their respective 
comment periods will be addressed in the final rule.

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

    Dated: May 15, 2014.
Emily H. Menashes,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-11622 Filed 5-19-14; 8:45 am]
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