[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 138 (Friday, July 18, 2014)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 41879-41881]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-16632]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

15 CFR Part 922

[Docket No. 130813710-4485-02]
RIN 0648-BD60


Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary Regulations and Management 
Plan

AGENCY: Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS), National Ocean 
Service (NOS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 
Department of Commerce (DOC).

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: NOAA is updating the regulations and management plan for 
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary (GRNMS or Sanctuary). The 
regulations are revised to clarify the prohibition on anchoring and add 
an exemption to allow the use of weighted marker buoys that are 
continuously tended by vessel operators during otherwise lawful fishing 
or diving activities, not attached to a vessel, and not capable of 
holding a boat at anchor. An environmental assessment has been prepared 
that includes analysis of the consequences of this action. A revised 
management plan outlining management priorities for GRNMS for the next 
5-10 years has also been prepared. No changes were made from the 
proposed to final rule.

DATES: Effective August 18, 2014.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the environmental assessment and final management 
plan described in this rule are available upon request to Gray's Reef 
National Marine Sanctuary, 10 Ocean Science Circle, Savannah, GA 31411, 
Attn: Becky Shortland, Resource Protection Coordinator. These documents 
can also be viewed on the Web and downloaded at http://graysreef.noaa.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Becky Shortland at (912) 598-2381 or 
becky.shortland@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Background

A. Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary

    Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary (GRNMS or sanctuary) off the 
coast of Georgia contains one of the largest nearshore, live-bottom 
reefs of the southeastern United States. Located 16 miles offshore from 
Sapelo Island, GRNMS is currently the only protected natural reef on 
the continental shelf off the Georgia coast and one of only a few 
marine protected areas in the ocean

[[Page 41880]]

between Cape Hatteras, North Carolina and Cape Canaveral, Florida. NOAA 
designated GRNMS as the nation's fourth national marine sanctuary in 
1981 for the purposes of: Protecting the quality of this unique and 
fragile ecological community; promoting scientific understanding of 
this live bottom ecosystem; and enhancing public awareness and wise use 
of this significant regional resource. GRNMS protects 22 square miles 
of open ocean and submerged lands of particularly dense and nearshore 
patches of productive live bottom habitat. The sanctuary is influenced 
by complex ocean currents and serves as a mixing zone for temperate 
(colder water) and sub-tropical species. The series of rock ledges and 
sand expanses provide a solid base upon which temperate and tropical 
marine flora and fauna attach and flourish.

B. Need for action

    The National Marine Sanctuaries Act of 1972 (NMSA; 16 U.S.C. 1431 
et seq.) section 304(e) requires that NOAA review and evaluate, among 
other things, the site-specific management techniques and strategies to 
ensure that each sanctuary continues to fulfill the purposes and 
policies of the NMSA. Emerging issues, such as the effects of invasive 
lionfish on sanctuary resources, were not adequately addressed in the 
2006 GRNMS plan. The new management plan reflects some of these 
emerging issues and presents management priorities for GRNMS for the 
next 5-10 years. The regulatory changes will, in the case of the 
anchoring prohibition, clarify that attempting to anchor is also 
prohibited because deployment of anchors, even if the anchors do not 
set on the bottom, can result in negative impacts to the submerged 
lands. The regulatory changes will also allow the placement of weighted 
marker buoys used during otherwise lawful fishing or diving activities. 
The weighted marker buoys will be used for diving safety (markers 
provide a stationary point for divers to more accurately locate a site 
and for boat operators to find divers on their ascent), and to assist 
recreational fishers for marking and relocating a fishing spot as their 
boat drifts. Therefore, the purpose of deployment of a weight on the 
bottom is for safety or convenience while conducting diving and 
recreational fishing activities, since anchoring is not allowed.

II. Summary of the Revisions to GRNMS Regulations

    The regulatory action will clarify a prohibition and add an 
exemption.
    a. Clarification of anchoring prohibition: NOAA is clarifying the 
prohibition on anchoring in the sanctuary (15 CFR 922.92(a)(10)) by 
adding ``. . . or attempting to anchor'' to GRNMS's existing anchoring 
regulation. This will facilitate law enforcement efforts and protect 
sanctuary resources by allowing authorized officers to enforce the 
anchoring prohibition even when an anchor has not yet been set in the 
submerged lands of the sanctuary. Enforcement officials have 
experienced occasions where sanctuary users were ``attempting'' to 
anchor in GRNMS despite the prohibition, but because the anchor had not 
yet been ``set,'' the prohibition did not apply. This amendment will 
better align the regulation with its original intent.
    b. Exemption for marker buoys: Current GRNMS regulations prohibit 
placing any material on the submerged lands of the sanctuary, including 
weights for marker buoys that sit on the seafloor to mark locations 
during recreational diving or fishing (15 CFR 922.92(a)(2)). NOAA is 
adding an exemption to this regulation for bottom placement of weighted 
marker buoys that are continuously tended and used during otherwise 
lawful fishing or diving activities, are not attached to a vessel, and 
are not capable of holding a boat at anchor. Weights used with a marker 
buoy must not have a combined weight of more than 10 pounds, must be 
attached with not greater than one-fourth inch (\1/4\'') line and must 
be removed from the sanctuary within twelve (12) hours of deployment. 
NOAA (or any authorized officer) could remove any weighted marker buoy 
that is not continuously tended, without notice. By ``continuously 
tended'', NOAA means that the buoy is in use by fishers or divers at 
the time it is observed and that the fishers' or divers' boat is in 
some proximity to the buoy.
    The weighted marker buoys will be used for diving safety (markers 
provide a stationary point for divers to more accurately locate a site 
and for boat operators to find divers on their ascent), and to assist 
recreational fishers for marking and relocating a fishing spot as their 
boat drifts. Because anchoring in GRNMS is currently prohibited, 
recreational diving must be conducted by ``live-boat'' (non-anchored 
vessels), and recreational fishing by trolling or drifting with a 
vessel. Public comment and Sanctuary Advisory Council discussion during 
scoping for the management plan review indicated strong support for 
regulatory exemption of weighted marker buoys. Although the use of 
marker buoys for recreational fishing is more a matter of convenience 
than safety, the impact of weighted marker buoys from diving or fishing 
on sanctuary resources is negligible and therefore, NOAA will allow 
this practice for both of these activities.

III. Responses to Public Comments

    During the public comment period, four (4) written comments were 
received through the electronic rulemaking portal http://www.regulations.gov. Three (3) public hearings were also held to 
receive comment, but no members of the public attended any of the 
three. The written comments were grouped into two (2) general topics 
that are summarized below, followed by NOAA's response.
    Comment 1: NOAA should move forward with the proposed rule, 
specifically the exemption for weighted marker buoys.
    Response: Comment noted.
    Comment 2: Although weighted marker buoys are proposed with certain 
limitations to reduce impacts to the submerged lands, impacts are still 
possible. Therefore, the exemption should be allowed only for a set, 
temporary period of time to benefit diving safety and to document 
actual effects, if any, on GRNMS resources. Once documented, a decision 
could be made to eliminate or continue the exemption to allow the use 
of weighted marker buoys in GRNMS.
    Response: NOAA agrees that the proposed rule to allow the use of 
weighted marker buoys will contribute to diving safety in GRNMS. NOAA 
also determined that the expected effects on sanctuary resources from 
weights of ten (10) pounds or less placed temporarily on the submerged 
lands will be minimal.
    In addition, NOAA is committed to managing the resources of GRNMS 
in an adaptive manner, as demonstrated by the deliberate and 
transparent management plan review process that takes place every 5-10 
years. Any impacts of weighted markers on sanctuary resources would be 
brought to NOAA's attention during the next management plan review, 
which is open to public participation. Instead of an automatic end date 
for the regulation on weighted marker buoys, the next management plan 
review would be the appropriate mechanism for modifying this 
regulation, if appropriate.

IV. Changes From the Proposed Rule

    No changes were made from the proposed to final rule.

[[Page 41881]]

V. Classification

A. National Environmental Policy Act

    NOAA has prepared an environmental assessment to evaluate the 
impacts of the rulemaking. Copies are available at the address and Web 
site listed in the ADDRESSES section of this final rule.

B. Executive Order 12866: Regulatory Impact

    This final rule has been determined to be not significant as that 
term is defined in Executive Order 12866.

C. Executive Order 13132: Federalism Assessment

    NOAA has concluded this regulatory action does not have federalism 
implications sufficient to warrant preparation of a federalism 
assessment under Executive Order 13132.

D. Regulatory Flexibility Act

    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration (SBA) at the proposed rule stage that this final rule 
would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of 
small entities. The factual basis for the certification was published 
with the proposed rule. No comments were received regarding this 
certification. Accordingly, no regulatory flexibility analysis is 
required and none has been prepared.

E. Paperwork Reduction Act

    This proposed rule would not require any additional collection of 
information, and therefore no paperwork reduction act action is 
required. Notwithstanding any other provision of the law, no person is 
required to respond to, nor shall any person be subject to a penalty 
for failure to comply with, a collection of information subject to the 
requirements of the PRA, unless that collection of information displays 
a currently valid OMB Control Number.

VI. References

    A complete list of all references cited herein is available upon 
request (see ADDRESSES section).

List of Subjects in 15 CFR Part 922

    Administrative practice and procedure, Coastal zone, Fishing gear, 
Marine resources, Natural resources, Penalties, Recreation and 
recreation areas, Wildlife.

(Federal Domestic Assistance Catalog Number 11.429 Marine Sanctuary 
Program)


    Dated: July 9, 2014.
Christopher Cartwright,
Chief Financial Officer, National Ocean Service, National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration.
    Accordingly, for the reasons set forth above, NOAA is amending part 
922, title 15 of the Code of Federal Regulations as follows:

PART 922--NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY PROGRAM REGULATIONS

0
1. The authority citation for part 922 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1431 et seq.

0
2. In Sec.  922.92, revise paragraphs (a)(2) and (10) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  922.92  Prohibited or otherwise regulated activities--Sanctuary-
wide.

    (a) * * *
    (2) Constructing any structure other than a navigation aid, or 
constructing, placing, or abandoning any structure, material, or other 
matter on the submerged lands of the Sanctuary except weighted marker 
buoys that are continuously tended and used during otherwise lawful 
fishing or diving activities and that are not attached to a vessel and 
not capable of holding a boat at anchor. Weights used with a marker 
buoy shall not have a combined weight of more than 10 pounds, shall be 
attached with not greater than one-fourth inch (\1/4\'') line and shall 
be removed from the Sanctuary within twelve (12) hours of deployment. 
Any weighted marker buoy that is not continuously tended may be removed 
by the Assistant Administrator or designee or an authorized officer, 
without notice.
* * * * *
    (10) Anchoring, or attempting to anchor, any vessel in the 
Sanctuary, except as provided in paragraph (d) of this section when 
responding to an emergency threatening life, property, or the 
environment.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2014-16632 Filed 7-17-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-NK-P