[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 40 (Friday, February 28, 2014)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 11383-11384]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-04457]

[[Page 11383]]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

RIN 0648-BD08

Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 
Dolphin and Wahoo Fishery Off the Atlantic States; Amendment 5

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

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.


SUMMARY: The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) has 
submitted Amendment 5 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Dolphin 
and Wahoo Fishery off the Atlantic States (FMP) for review, approval, 
and implementation by NMFS. Amendment 5 proposes actions to revise the 
acceptable biological catch (ABC), annual catch limits (ACLs) and 
accountability measures (AMs) for the commercial and recreational 
sectors for dolphin and wahoo, and update the framework procedures for 
the FMP. The purpose of Amendment 5 is to help achieve optimum yield 
(OY) within the dolphin and wahoo fishery and to minimize socio-
economic impacts in accordance with the requirements of the Magnuson-
Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act).

DATES: Written comments must be received on or before April 29, 2014.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on Amendment 5 identified by ``NOAA-
NMFS-2013-0170'' by any of the following methods:
     Electronic submissions: Submit electronic comments via the 
Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0170, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Nikhil Mehta, 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 5, which includes an environmental 
assessment, a Regulatory Flexibility Act analysis, and a regulatory 
impact review, may be obtained from the Southeast Regional Office Web 
site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/s_atl/dw/2013/am5/index.html.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Nikhil Mehta, Southeast Regional 
Office, telephone: 727-824-5305, or email: [email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The dolphin and wahoo fishery off the 
Atlantic states is managed under the 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 Act. 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.


    The final rule for the Comprehensive ACL Amendment included 
Amendment 3 to the FMP, which established ACLs (including ACL 
allocations to both the recreational and commercial sectors), 
acceptable biological catches (ABCs), recreational annual catch targets 
(ACTs), and accountability measures (AMs) for dolphin and wahoo (77 FR 
15916, March 16, 2012). Recreational catch estimates used in the 
Comprehensive ACL Amendment were determined with data collected by the 
Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MRFSS), which was the 
best scientific information available at that time. NMFS has made 
significant improvements in the data collection and catch estimation 
methodologies that are used to collect and analyze the recreational 
data for the computation of ABCs, as well as ACLs and ACTs. NMFS now 
estimates recreational landings using the Marine Recreational 
Information Program (MRIP).
    The MRIP collects recreational data on a more frequent basis and 
provides more accurate recreational catch estimates by accounting for 
potential biases such as possible differences in catch rates at high-
activity and low-activity fishing sites, as well as variation in 
fishing effort throughout the day. As described in Amendment 5, the 
MRIP values used to estimate recreational landings, along with updates 
to headboat and commercial landings, are now the best scientific 
information available to revise the ABC catch estimates, ACLs, 
recreational ACTs, and AMs for dolphin and wahoo. Updates to the 
commercial and headboat landings were included in the revisions to the 
ACLs and ACTs, because the ABC control rule and subsequent ABCs and 
ACLs established in the Comprehensive ACL Amendment used data from both 
the recreational and commercial sectors (77 FR 15916, March 16, 2012). 
The headboat and commercial data updates reflect NMFS's ongoing data 
quality assurance and quality control protocols and reflect the the 
best available scientific information.
    These revisions are necessary because if the ABC, ACL, and ACT 
values are not updated using the new MRIP estimates, the recreational 
ACLs would be based on MRFSS data while the landings information being 
used to track the recreational ACLs would be estimated using MRIP data. 
This would result in inconsistencies in how the ACLs are calculated 
versus how the ACLs are monitored.

Actions Contained in Amendment 5

    Amendment 5 would revise the ABCs, ACLs, and AMs for the commercial 
and recreational sectors for dolphin and wahoo, revise the recreational 
ACTs for dolphin and wahoo, and update the framework procedures for the 

Dolphin and Wahoo ABCs

    Amendment 5 would revise the ABCs for dolphin and wahoo. The ABC 
for dolphin would increase from 14,596,216 lb (6,620,732 kg) to 
15,344,846 lb (6,960,305 kg). The ABC for wahoo would increase from 
1,491,785 lb (676,662 kg) to 1,794,960 lb (814,180 kg). The revised 
ABCs would be established using MRIP data as opposed to the current 
ABCs that were established using MRFSS data.

Dolphin Commercial and Recreational ACLs

    Amendment 5 would revise the dolphin commercial and recreational 
ACLs. The current dolphin commercial ACL of 1,065,524 lb (483,314 kg) 
would be increased to 1,157,001 lb (524,807

[[Page 11384]]

kg). The current dolphin recreational ACL of 13,530,692 lb (6,137,419 
kg) would be increased to 14,187,845 lb (6,435,498 kg). The increases 
in the ACLs for dolphin are not large, and negligible effects are 
expected to the stock and the human environment.

Wahoo Commercial and Recreational ACLs

    Amendment 5 would revise the wahoo commercial and recreational 
ACLs. The wahoo commercial ACL would be increased from 64,147 lb 
(29,097 kg) to 70,542 lb (31,997 kg). The wahoo recreational ACL would 
be increased from 1,427,638 lb (647,566 kg) to 1,724,418 lb (782,183 
kg). The effects of the small increases in ACLs for wahoo are expected 
to be negligible to the stock and the human environment.

Dolphin and Wahoo Commercial AMs

    The current commercial AMs for dolphin and wahoo close the 
commercial sector for the respective species for the remainder of the 
fishing year, if commercial landings as estimated by the Science and 
Research Director (SRD), reach or are projected to reach the commercial 
ACL (in-season closure).
    Amendment 5 would also provide that if the commercial ACL is met or 
projected to be met, then the commercial ACL for the respective species 
in the following fishing year would be reduced by the amount of the 
commercial ACL overage. However, the commercial ACL overage adjustment 
would only be applied if the species is overfished and the total ACL 
(combined commercial and recreational ACLs) is exceeded. The Council 
determined the commercial ACL overage adjustment, combined with the in-
season AM closure, would offer greater protection to the stocks and 
provided the best management strategy for the commercial sector based 
on the biology and recent catch levels of dolphin and wahoo.

Dolphin and Wahoo Recreational AMs

    The current recreational AMs for dolphin and wahoo provide that if 
recreational landings, as estimated by the SRD, exceed the recreational 
ACL, then during the following fishing year, recreational landings will 
be monitored for a persistence in increased landings and, if necessary, 
the length of the following recreational fishing season will be reduced 
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 not be reduced during the following 
fishing year if the NMFS Southeast Regional Administrator (RA) 
determines, using the best scientific information available, that a 
reduction in the length of the following fishing season is unnecessary.
    Amendment 5 would modify the recreational AM to reduce the length 
of the fishing season and the recreational ACL in the fishing year 
following any recreational ACL overage, if the stock is overfished and 
the total ACL (commercial and recreational ACLs combined) is exceeded. 
However, the recreational ACL overage adjustment and fishing season 
reduction would not be applied if the RA determines, using the best 
scientific information available, that such a reduction is unnecessary. 
The ability to reduce the recreational ACL when an overage of the 
respective ACL occurs would provide additional protection to the 
dolphin and wahoo stocks.

Dolphin and Wahoo Recreational ACTs

    Amendment 5 would increase the current dolphin recreational ACT of 
11,595,803 lb (5,259,768 kg) to 12,769,061 (5,791,949 kg) and increase 
the current wahoo recreational ACT of 1,164,953 lb (528,414 kg) to 
1,258,825 lb (570,993 kg). The current recreational ACTs for dolphin 
and wahoo function as performance standards, and do not have management 
measures associated with them, such as triggering AMs.

Dolphin and Wahoo FMP Framework Procedures

    The current framework procedures for dolphin and wahoo were 
implemented in 2004 through the FMP (69 FR 30235, May 27, 2004). 
Amendment 5 would revise the framework procedures for the FMP. These 
revisions would include adding an ABC control rule, ACLs, ACTs, and AMs 
to the measures that could be revised via the framework amendment 
process. Additionally, Amendment 5 would allow an ABC, ACL, and ACT to 
be modified using an abbreviated framework procedure, whereby after the 
Council has taken final action to change an ABC, ACL, and/or ACT, the 
Council would submit a letter containing an analysis of the relevant 
biological, economic, social, and administrative information necessary 
to support the action to the NMFS RA. Based on the information provided 
by the Council, the RA would determine whether or not the requested 
modifications are warranted. If the requested modifications may be 
warranted, NMFS would develop the appropriate documentation to comply 
with the National Environmental Policy Act and other applicable law, 
and propose the action through rulemaking. NMFS anticipates this 
expedited process will shorten the time it would take to make routine 
changes to harvest limits in response to new scientific information, 
while allowing the public adequate time to comment on any change.

Dolphin Trip Limit

    Amendment 5 also contained an action to establish a commercial trip 
limit for dolphin in the Atlantic exclusive economic zone. However, the 
Council chose to take no action on that issue at this time because a 
commercial trip limit would have very little effect on constraining 
harvest of dolphin as most commercial trips harvest 1,000 lb (454 kg) 
or less of dolphin and the ACL had not been met. The Council has not 
historically imposed trip limits on fishers in the commercial sector if 
an ACL has not been met.
    A proposed rule that would implement measures outlined in Amendment 
5 has been drafted. In accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS 
is evaluating Amendment 5 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 Council submitted Amendment 5 for Secretarial review, approval, 
and implementation. NMFS' decision to approve, partially approve, or 
disapprove Amendment 5 will be based, in part, on consideration of 
comments, recommendations, and information received during the comment 
period on this notice of availability.
    Public comments received on or before April 29, 2014, will be 
considered by NMFS in the approval, partial approval, or disapproval 
decision regarding Amendment 5. 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: February 25, 2014.
James P. Burgess,
Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National 
Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-04457 Filed 2-27-14; 8:45 am]