Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Fisheries, 56595-56598 [05-19370]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 70, No. 187 / Wednesday, September 28, 2005 / Rules and Regulations Alternative to Required Use of TEDs; Termination The AA, at any time, may withdraw or modify this temporary authorization to use tow time restrictions in lieu of TEDs through publication of a notice in the Federal Register, if necessary to ensure adequate protection of endangered and threatened sea turtles. Under this procedure, the AA may modify the affected area or impose any necessary additional or more stringent measures, including more restrictive tow times, synchronized tow times, or withdrawal of the authorization if the AA determines that the alternative authorized by this rule is not sufficiently protecting turtles or no longer needed. The AA may also terminate this authorization if information from enforcement, state authorities, or NMFS indicates compliance cannot be monitored effectively. This authorization will expire automatically on October 24, 2005, unless it is explicitly extended through another notification published in the Federal Register. Classification This action has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. The AA has determined that this action is necessary to respond to an environmental situation to allow more efficient fishing for shrimp, while providing adequate protection for endangered and threatened sea turtles pursuant to the ESA and applicable regulations. Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B), the AA finds that there is good cause to waive prior notice and opportunity to comment on this rule. The AA finds that unusually high amounts of debris are creating special environmental conditions that make trawling with TED-equipped nets impracticable. Prior notice and opportunity to comment are impracticable and contrary to the public interest in this instance because providing notice and comment would prevent the agency from providing the affected industry relief from the effects of Hurricane Katrina in a timely manner. The AA finds that unusually high amounts of debris are creating special environmental conditions that make trawling with TED-equipped nets impracticable. Many fishermen may be unable to operate under these conditions without an alternative to the use of TEDs. Therefore, The AA finds that there is good cause to waive the 30– day delay in effective date pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3) to provide alternatives to comply with the sea turtle regulations in a timely manner. For the reasons above, the AA finds that this temporary rule should not be subject to a 30–day delay in effective date, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(1). Since prior notice and an opportunity for public comment are not required to be provided for this action by 5 U.S.C. 553, or by any other law, the analytical requirements of 5 U.S.C. 601 et seq. are inapplicable. The AA prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) for this rule. Copies of the EA are available (see ADDRESSES). Dated: September 23, 2005. James W. Balsiger, Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 05–19373 Filed 9–23–05; 2:14 pm] BILLING CODE 3510–22–S DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 635 [I.D. 091405F] Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Fisheries National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Temporary rule; inseason catch limit adjustment. AGENCY: SUMMARY: NMFS has determined that the daily retention limit for Atlantic 56595 bluefin tuna (BFT) in the General category should be adjusted to allow maximum utilization of the General category October-January time period. In addition, NMFS is prohibiting the retention of school BFT less than 47 inches (119 cm) in the recreational fishery for the remainder of the fishing year to ensure that U.S. BFT harvest is consistent with recommendations of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) pursuant to the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA). Effective dates for BFT daily retention limits are provided in Table 1 under SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION. DATES: FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dianne Stephan or Brad McHale, 978– 281–9260. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Regulations implemented under the authority of ATCA and the MagnusonStevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act governing the harvest of BFT by persons and vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction are found at 50 CFR part 635. The 2005 BFT fishing year began on June 1, 2005, and ends May 31, 2006. During the rulemaking for the final initial 2005 BFT specifications and General category effort controls that were published on June 7, 2005 (70 FR 33033), NMFS specifically requested comment on options related to a recommendation of ICCAT regarding a four-consecutive-year average 8 percent landings limit for harvest of school BFT. Numerous comments were received on this issue as well as a wide range of topics, including inseason management measures for the Atlantic tunas General, Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Charter/Headboat, and HMS Angling categories throughout the 2005 fishing year. Daily Retention Limits Pursuant to this temporary action and the final initial 2005 BFT specifications, noted above, the daily BFT retention limits for Atlantic Tunas General, HMS Charter/Headboat, and HMS Angling categories are as follows: TABLE 1. EFFECTIVE DATES FOR RETENTION LIMIT ADJUSTMENTS Permit Category General VerDate Aug<31>2005 Effective Dates Areas October 1, 2005, through January 31, 2006, inclusive 15:14 Sep 27, 2005 Jkt 205001 PO 00000 Frm 00035 Fmt 4700 All Sfmt 4700 BFT Size Class Limit Two BFT per vessel per day/trip, measuring 73 inches (185 cm) CFL or larger E:\FR\FM\28SER1.SGM 28SER1 56596 Federal Register / Vol. 70, No. 187 / Wednesday, September 28, 2005 / Rules and Regulations TABLE 1. EFFECTIVE DATES FOR RETENTION LIMIT ADJUSTMENTS—Continued Permit Category Effective Dates Areas BFT Size Class Limit Charter/Headboat October 1, 2005, through May 31, 2006, inclusive All One BFT per vessel per day/trip, measuring 47 to less than 73 inches (119 to less than 185 cm) CFL Angling October 1, 2005, through May 31, 2006, inclusive All One BFT per vessel per day/trip, measuring 47 to less than 73 inches (119 to less than 185 cm) CFL Adjustment of General Category Daily Retention Limits Under 50 CFR 635.23(a)(4), NMFS may increase or decrease the General category daily retention limit of large medium and giant BFT over a range from zero (on Restricted Fishing Days (RFDs)) to a maximum of three per vessel to allow for maximum utilization of the quota for BFT. On June 7, 2005 (70 FR 33039), NMFS adjusted the commercial daily BFT retention limit, in all areas, for those vessels fishing under the General category quota, to two large medium or giant BFT, measuring 73 inches (185 cm) or greater curved fork length (CFL), per vessel per day/trip. This retention limit remained in effect through August 31, 2005, inclusive. Because of low catch rates during the previous time-period, on August 18, 2005 (70 FR 48490), NMFS again adjusted the General category retention limit to two large medium or giant BFT per vessel per day/trip for the month of September. On October 1, 2005, the General category retention limit is scheduled to revert to the default limit of one large medium or giant BFT per vessel per day/trip. Catch rates have remained low through August and early September 2005. The total quota allocated to the June-August and September timeperiods for the 2005 fishing year was 808.5 metric tons (mt). As of September 1, 2005, 59.9 mt have been landed in the General category, which equates to an estimated catch rate of approximately 0.5 mt per day. In combination with the previous subquota rollover from the June-August time-period and current catch rates, NMFS anticipates the full adjusted September time-period subquota of 748.6 mt will not be harvested, which would result in a large rollover of quota into the October through January time-period. The initial subquota for the October through January time-period was established in the initial 2005 BFT fishery specifications as 89.8 mt. Therefore, based on a review of dealer reports, daily landing trends, available VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:14 Sep 27, 2005 Jkt 205001 quota, and the availability of BFT on the fishing grounds, NMFS has determined that an increase in the General category daily BFT retention limit effective from October 1, 2005, through January 31, 2006, inclusive, is warranted. Thus, the General category daily retention limit of two large medium or giant BFT per vessel per day/trip (see Table 1) will be extended through January 31, 2006. It is highly likely that the combination of the amount of General category quota available and the RFDs scheduled to begin in November will allow the coastwide General category season to extend into January, and allow for a southern Atlantic fishery to take place on an order of magnitude of prior years. The intent of this adjustment is to allow for maximum utilization of the U.S. landings quota of BFT while maintaining an equitable distribution of fishing opportunities to help achieve optimum yield in the General category BFT fishery, to collect a broad range of data for stock monitoring purposes, and to be consistent with the objectives of the 1999 Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Tunas, Swordfish, and Sharks (1999 FMP). Adjustment of HMS Charter/Headboat and Angling Category Daily Retention Limits A recommendation of ICCAT requires that NMFS limit the catch of school BFT, measuring 27 to less than 47 inches (69 to less than 119 cm) CFL, to no more than 8 percent by weight of the total domestic landings quota over each four-consecutive-year period. NMFS is implementing this ICCAT recommendation through annual and inseason adjustments to the school BFT retention limits, as necessary, and through the establishment of a school BFT reserve (64 FR 29090, May 28, 1999; 64 FR 29806, June 3, 1999). The ICCAT recommendation allows for interannual adjustments for overharvests and underharvests, provided that the 8 percent landings limit is not exceeded over the applicable four-consecutive-year period. The 2005 PO 00000 Frm 00036 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 fishing year is the third year in the current accounting period. This multiyear block quota approach provides NMFS with the flexibility to enhance fishing opportunities and to collect information on a broad range of BFT size classes while minimizing the risk of overharvest of the school size class. Implementing regulations for the Atlantic tuna fisheries at 50 CFR 635.23 set the daily recreational retention limits for BFT and allow for adjustments of the retention limits to use/extend the Angling category quota over the longest possible period of time. NMFS may increase or decrease the retention limit for any size class BFT or change a vessel trip limit to an angler limit or vice versa. Such adjustments to the retention limits may be applied separately for persons aboard a specific vessel type, such as private vessels, headboats, and charter boats. On June 7, 2005 (70 FR 33039), NMFS adjusted the daily recreational retention limit, in all areas, for vessels permitted in the HMS Charter/Headboat category, to three BFT per vessel per day/trip, consisting of BFT measuring 27 to less than 73 inches (69 to less than 185 cm) CFL in the school, large school, or small medium size classes. Of the three BFT, a maximum of two school BFT were allowed per vessel per day/trip, measuring 27 to less than 47 inches (69 to less than 119 cm) CFL. This retention limit remained in effect through July 31, 2005, inclusive. Starting on August 1, 2005, inclusive, the daily retention limit for vessels permitted in the HMS Charter/Headboat category reverted back to one school, large school, or small medium BFT, per vessel per day/trip. On August 18, 2005 (70 FR 48490), NMFS announced an increase in the Charter/Headboat retention limit beginning on September 1, 2005, through September 30, 2005, to three BFT per vessel per day/trip, consisting of BFT measuring 27 to less than 73 inches (69 to less than 185 cm) CFL in the school, large school, or small medium size classes. Of the three BFT, a maximum of two school BFT were E:\FR\FM\28SER1.SGM 28SER1 Federal Register / Vol. 70, No. 187 / Wednesday, September 28, 2005 / Rules and Regulations allowed per vessel per day/trip, measuring 27 to less than 47 inches (69 to less than 119 cm) CFL. Starting on October 1, 2005, the Charter/Headboat category daily retention limit is scheduled to revert to the default of one BFT per vessel per day/trip, measuring 27 to less than 73 inches (69 to less than 185 cm) CFL in the school, large school, or small medium size classes. The default Angling category retention limit of one BFT per vessel per day/trip, measuring 27 to less than 73 inches (69 to less than 185 cm) CFL in the school, large school, or small medium size classes, as established at 50 CFR 635.23(b)(2)(ii), has been in effect for private vessels since the season began on June 1, 2005. NMFS has received recent information indicating high catches and catch rates of school BFT. As indicated in the proposed initial BFT 2005 fishing year specifications (March 23, 2005; 70 FR 14630), school BFT landings were approximately 9.3 percent of the base quota for 2003 and preliminary estimates for 2004 appear to be approximately 12.5 percent. Since 2005 is the third year in the accounting for the ICCAT recommended fourconsecutive-year average 8 percent landings limit of school BFT, NMFS has determined it is necessary to take action to avoid exceeding the ICCAT 8 percent landings limit. Thus, based on available quota, BFT availability on the fishing grounds, current recreational BFT catch information derived from the Maryland BFT tagging program and Automated Landing Reporting System (ALRS), and historical information regarding fish migration patterns, NMFS has determined that a prohibition on the retention of school fish sized 27 inches to less than 47 inches CFL (69 to less than 119 cm) for both HMS Charter/ Headboat and Angling category permitted vessels is warranted. NMFS adjusts the daily BFT retention limit, in all areas, for vessels permitted in the HMS Charter/Headboat and HMS Angling categories, effective October 1, 2005, through May 31, 2006, inclusive, to one BFT per vessel per day/trip measuring 47 to less than 73 inches (119 to less than 185 cm) CFL in the large school or small medium size classes. Monitoring and Reporting NMFS selected the daily retention limits and their duration after examining current and previous fishing year catch and effort rates, analyzing the available quota for the 2005 fishing year, and taking into consideration public comment on the options to achieve the ICCAT recommended four-consecutive- VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:14 Sep 27, 2005 Jkt 205001 year average 8 percent tolerance on harvest of school BFT, and inseason management measures for the General and HMS Charter/Headboat categories received during the 2005 BFT quota specifications rulemaking process. NMFS will continue to monitor the BFT fishery closely through dealer landing reports, the ALRS, state harvest tagging programs in North Carolina and Maryland, and the Large Pelagics Survey. Depending on the level of fishing effort and catch rates of BFT, NMFS may determine that additional retention limit adjustments are necessary to ensure available quota is not exceeded or to enhance scientific data collection from, and fishing opportunities in, all geographic areas. Additionally, NMFS may determine that an allocation from the school BFT reserve is warranted to further fishery management objectives. Closures or subsequent adjustments to the daily retention limits, if any, 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 for updates on quota monitoring and retention limit adjustments. All BFT landed under the Angling category quota must be reported within 24 hours of landing to the NMFS ALRS via toll-free phone at (888) 872– 8862; or the Internet www.nmfspermits.com; or, if landed in the states of North Carolina or Maryland, to a reporting station prior to offloading. Information about these state harvest tagging programs, including reporting station locations, can be obtained in North Carolina by calling (800) 338–7804, and in Maryland by calling (410) 213–1531. Classification The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA (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. NMFS has recently become aware of increased availability of large medium and giant BFT on the fishing grounds. This increase in abundance provides the potential to increase General category landings rates if participants are authorized to harvest two large medium or giant BFT per day. The regulations implementing the 1999 FMP provide for inseason retention limit adjustments in order 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. Adjustment of retention limits is also necessary to allow maximum utilization of the U.S. PO 00000 Frm 00037 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 56597 domestic bluefin tuna quota as required by ATCA. Delays in increasing the General category retention limits would be contrary to the public interest. Such delays would adversely affect those General and HMS Charter/Headboat category vessels that would otherwise have an opportunity to harvest more than one BFT per day and could hinder full utilization of the U.S. domestic BFT quota. Limited opportunities to access the General category quota may have negative social and economic impacts to U.S. fishermen that either depend on catching the available quota or depend on multiple BFT retention limits to attract individuals to book charters. For both the General and the HMS Charter/ Headboat sectors, the retention limits should be adjusted as expeditiously as possible for the affected sectors to benefit from the adjustment. In order to avoid exceeding the ICCAT school size category landings limit, NMFS needs to act promptly to prohibit retention of school BFT by HMS Angling and HMS Charter/Headboat category fishermen. Recent information available to NMFS indicates high catches and catch rates of school BFT occurring on the fishing grounds. A prohibition on harvest of school fish, with continued access to a school catchand-release fishery and harvest of large school and small medium size categories for the HMS Angling and Charter/Headboat categories, will balance concerns regarding continued utilization of available quota in the HMS Angling category, while reducing the risk of exceeding the ICCAT school size category landings limit recommendation. A delay in prohibiting the landing of school BFT could result in school landings in excess of the 2005 school quota, which could ultimately risk exceeding the ICCAT recommendation on the four-consecutive-year average 8 percent landings limit of school BFT. 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, and because a portion of this action relieves a restriction (i.e., General category default retention limit of one fish per vessel/trip is relaxed to allow retention of two fish), there is also good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d) to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness. This action is being taken under 50 CFR 635.23(a)(4) and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq. and 1801 et seq. E:\FR\FM\28SER1.SGM 28SER1 56598 Federal Register / Vol. 70, No. 187 / Wednesday, September 28, 2005 / Rules and Regulations Dated: September 22, 2005. Alan D. Risenhoover, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 05–19370 Filed 9–23–05; 2:14 pm] BILLING CODE 3510–22–S VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:14 Sep 27, 2005 Jkt 205001 PO 00000 Frm 00038 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 E:\FR\FM\28SER1.SGM 28SER1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 70, Number 187 (Wednesday, September 28, 2005)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 56595-56598]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 05-19370]


-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

[I.D. 091405F]


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 catch limit adjustment.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: NMFS has determined that the daily retention limit for 
Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) in the General category should be adjusted 
to allow maximum utilization of the General category October-January 
time period. In addition, NMFS is prohibiting the retention of school 
BFT less than 47 inches (119 cm) in the recreational fishery for the 
remainder of the fishing year to ensure that U.S. BFT harvest is 
consistent with recommendations of the International Commission for the 
Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) pursuant to the Atlantic Tunas 
Convention Act (ATCA).

DATES: Effective dates for BFT daily retention limits are provided in 
Table 1 under SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dianne Stephan or Brad McHale, 978-
281-9260.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Regulations implemented under the authority 
of ATCA and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management 
Act governing the harvest of BFT by persons and vessels subject to U.S. 
jurisdiction are found at 50 CFR part 635. The 2005 BFT fishing year 
began on June 1, 2005, and ends May 31, 2006. During the rulemaking for 
the final initial 2005 BFT specifications and General category effort 
controls that were published on June 7, 2005 (70 FR 33033), NMFS 
specifically requested comment on options related to a recommendation 
of ICCAT regarding a four-consecutive-year average 8 percent landings 
limit for harvest of school BFT. Numerous comments were received on 
this issue as well as a wide range of topics, including inseason 
management measures for the Atlantic tunas General, Highly Migratory 
Species (HMS) Charter/Headboat, and HMS Angling categories throughout 
the 2005 fishing year.

Daily Retention Limits

    Pursuant to this temporary action and the final initial 2005 BFT 
specifications, noted above, the daily BFT retention limits for 
Atlantic Tunas General, HMS Charter/Headboat, and HMS Angling 
categories are as follows:

        Table 1. Effective dates for retention limit adjustments
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                         BFT Size Class
 Permit Category    Effective Dates         Areas             Limit
------------------------------------------------------------------------
General            October 1, 2005,   All               Two BFT per
                    through January                      vessel per day/
                    31, 2006,                            trip, measuring
                    inclusive                            73 inches (185
                                                         cm) CFL or
                                                         larger
------------------------------------------------------------------------

[[Page 56596]]

 
Charter/Headboat   October 1, 2005,   All               One BFT per
                    through May 31,                      vessel per day/
                    2006, inclusive                      trip, measuring
                                                         47 to less than
                                                         73 inches (119
                                                         to less than
                                                         185 cm) CFL
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Angling            October 1, 2005,   All               One BFT per
                    through May 31,                      vessel per day/
                    2006, inclusive                      trip, measuring
                                                         47 to less than
                                                         73 inches (119
                                                         to less than
                                                         185 cm) CFL
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Adjustment of General Category Daily Retention Limits

    Under 50 CFR 635.23(a)(4), NMFS may increase or decrease the 
General category daily retention limit of large medium and giant BFT 
over a range from zero (on Restricted Fishing Days (RFDs)) to a maximum 
of three per vessel to allow for maximum utilization of the quota for 
BFT. On June 7, 2005 (70 FR 33039), NMFS adjusted the commercial daily 
BFT retention limit, in all areas, for those vessels fishing under the 
General category quota, to two large medium or giant BFT, measuring 73 
inches (185 cm) or greater curved fork length (CFL), per vessel per 
day/trip. This retention limit remained in effect through August 31, 
2005, inclusive. Because of low catch rates during the previous time-
period, on August 18, 2005 (70 FR 48490), NMFS again adjusted the 
General category retention limit to two large medium or giant BFT per 
vessel per day/trip for the month of September. On October 1, 2005, the 
General category retention limit is scheduled to revert to the default 
limit of one large medium or giant BFT per vessel per day/trip.
    Catch rates have remained low through August and early September 
2005. The total quota allocated to the June-August and September time-
periods for the 2005 fishing year was 808.5 metric tons (mt). As of 
September 1, 2005, 59.9 mt have been landed in the General category, 
which equates to an estimated catch rate of approximately 0.5 mt per 
day. In combination with the previous subquota rollover from the June-
August time-period and current catch rates, NMFS anticipates the full 
adjusted September time-period subquota of 748.6 mt will not be 
harvested, which would result in a large rollover of quota into the 
October through January time-period. The initial subquota for the 
October through January time-period was established in the initial 2005 
BFT fishery specifications as 89.8 mt.
    Therefore, based on a review of dealer reports, daily landing 
trends, available quota, and the availability of BFT on the fishing 
grounds, NMFS has determined that an increase in the General category 
daily BFT retention limit effective from October 1, 2005, through 
January 31, 2006, inclusive, is warranted. Thus, the General category 
daily retention limit of two large medium or giant BFT per vessel per 
day/trip (see Table 1) will be extended through January 31, 2006. It is 
highly likely that the combination of the amount of General category 
quota available and the RFDs scheduled to begin in November will allow 
the coastwide General category season to extend into January, and allow 
for a southern Atlantic fishery to take place on an order of magnitude 
of prior years.
    The intent of this adjustment is to allow for maximum utilization 
of the U.S. landings quota of BFT while maintaining an equitable 
distribution of fishing opportunities to help achieve optimum yield in 
the General category BFT fishery, to collect a broad range of data for 
stock monitoring purposes, and to be consistent with the objectives of 
the 1999 Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Tunas, Swordfish, and 
Sharks (1999 FMP).

Adjustment of HMS Charter/Headboat and Angling Category Daily Retention 
Limits

    A recommendation of ICCAT requires that NMFS limit the catch of 
school BFT, measuring 27 to less than 47 inches (69 to less than 119 
cm) CFL, to no more than 8 percent by weight of the total domestic 
landings quota over each four-consecutive-year period. NMFS is 
implementing this ICCAT recommendation through annual and inseason 
adjustments to the school BFT retention limits, as necessary, and 
through the establishment of a school BFT reserve (64 FR 29090, May 28, 
1999; 64 FR 29806, June 3, 1999). The ICCAT recommendation allows for 
interannual adjustments for overharvests and underharvests, provided 
that the 8 percent landings limit is not exceeded over the applicable 
four-consecutive-year period. The 2005 fishing year is the third year 
in the current accounting period. This multi-year block quota approach 
provides NMFS with the flexibility to enhance fishing opportunities and 
to collect information on a broad range of BFT size classes while 
minimizing the risk of overharvest of the school size class.
    Implementing regulations for the Atlantic tuna fisheries at 50 CFR 
635.23 set the daily recreational retention limits for BFT and allow 
for adjustments of the retention limits to use/extend the Angling 
category quota over the longest possible period of time. NMFS may 
increase or decrease the retention limit for any size class BFT or 
change a vessel trip limit to an angler limit or vice versa. Such 
adjustments to the retention limits may be applied separately for 
persons aboard a specific vessel type, such as private vessels, 
headboats, and charter boats.
    On June 7, 2005 (70 FR 33039), NMFS adjusted the daily recreational 
retention limit, in all areas, for vessels permitted in the HMS 
Charter/Headboat category, to three BFT per vessel per day/trip, 
consisting of BFT measuring 27 to less than 73 inches (69 to less than 
185 cm) CFL in the school, large school, or small medium size classes. 
Of the three BFT, a maximum of two school BFT were allowed per vessel 
per day/trip, measuring 27 to less than 47 inches (69 to less than 119 
cm) CFL. This retention limit remained in effect through July 31, 2005, 
inclusive. Starting on August 1, 2005, inclusive, the daily retention 
limit for vessels permitted in the HMS Charter/Headboat category 
reverted back to one school, large school, or small medium BFT, per 
vessel per day/trip. On August 18, 2005 (70 FR 48490), NMFS announced 
an increase in the Charter/Headboat retention limit beginning on 
September 1, 2005, through September 30, 2005, to three BFT per vessel 
per day/trip, consisting of BFT measuring 27 to less than 73 inches (69 
to less than 185 cm) CFL in the school, large school, or small medium 
size classes. Of the three BFT, a maximum of two school BFT were

[[Page 56597]]

allowed per vessel per day/trip, measuring 27 to less than 47 inches 
(69 to less than 119 cm) CFL. Starting on October 1, 2005, the Charter/
Headboat category daily retention limit is scheduled to revert to the 
default of one BFT per vessel per day/trip, measuring 27 to less than 
73 inches (69 to less than 185 cm) CFL in the school, large school, or 
small medium size classes.
    The default Angling category retention limit of one BFT per vessel 
per day/trip, measuring 27 to less than 73 inches (69 to less than 185 
cm) CFL in the school, large school, or small medium size classes, as 
established at 50 CFR 635.23(b)(2)(ii), has been in effect for private 
vessels since the season began on June 1, 2005.
    NMFS has received recent information indicating high catches and 
catch rates of school BFT. As indicated in the proposed initial BFT 
2005 fishing year specifications (March 23, 2005; 70 FR 14630), school 
BFT landings were approximately 9.3 percent of the base quota for 2003 
and preliminary estimates for 2004 appear to be approximately 12.5 
percent. Since 2005 is the third year in the accounting for the ICCAT 
recommended four-consecutive-year average 8 percent landings limit of 
school BFT, NMFS has determined it is necessary to take action to avoid 
exceeding the ICCAT 8 percent landings limit.
    Thus, based on available quota, BFT availability on the fishing 
grounds, current recreational BFT catch information derived from the 
Maryland BFT tagging program and Automated Landing Reporting System 
(ALRS), and historical information regarding fish migration patterns, 
NMFS has determined that a prohibition on the retention of school fish 
sized 27 inches to less than 47 inches CFL (69 to less than 119 cm) for 
both HMS Charter/Headboat and Angling category permitted vessels is 
warranted. NMFS adjusts the daily BFT retention limit, in all areas, 
for vessels permitted in the HMS Charter/Headboat and HMS Angling 
categories, effective October 1, 2005, through May 31, 2006, inclusive, 
to one BFT per vessel per day/trip measuring 47 to less than 73 inches 
(119 to less than 185 cm) CFL in the large school or small medium size 
classes.

Monitoring and Reporting

    NMFS selected the daily retention limits and their duration after 
examining current and previous fishing year catch and effort rates, 
analyzing the available quota for the 2005 fishing year, and taking 
into consideration public comment on the options to achieve the ICCAT 
recommended four-consecutive-year average 8 percent tolerance on 
harvest of school BFT, and inseason management measures for the General 
and HMS Charter/Headboat categories received during the 2005 BFT quota 
specifications rulemaking process. NMFS will continue to monitor the 
BFT fishery closely through dealer landing reports, the ALRS, state 
harvest tagging programs in North Carolina and Maryland, and the Large 
Pelagics Survey. Depending on the level of fishing effort and catch 
rates of BFT, NMFS may determine that additional retention limit 
adjustments are necessary to ensure available quota is not exceeded or 
to enhance scientific data collection from, and fishing opportunities 
in, all geographic areas. Additionally, NMFS may determine that an 
allocation from the school BFT reserve is warranted to further fishery 
management objectives.
    Closures or subsequent adjustments to the daily retention limits, 
if any, 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 for updates on quota monitoring and retention 
limit adjustments. All BFT landed under the Angling category quota must 
be reported within 24 hours of landing to the NMFS ALRS via toll-free 
phone at (888) 872-8862; or the Internet www.nmfspermits.com; or, if 
landed in the states of North Carolina or Maryland, to a reporting 
station prior to offloading. Information about these state harvest 
tagging programs, including reporting station locations, can be 
obtained in North Carolina by calling (800) 338-7804, and in Maryland 
by calling (410) 213-1531.

Classification

    The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA (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.
    NMFS has recently become aware of increased availability of large 
medium and giant BFT on the fishing grounds. This increase in abundance 
provides the potential to increase General category landings rates if 
participants are authorized to harvest two large medium or giant BFT 
per day. The regulations implementing the 1999 FMP provide for inseason 
retention limit adjustments in order 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. 
Adjustment of retention limits is also necessary to allow maximum 
utilization of the U.S. domestic bluefin tuna quota as required by 
ATCA.
    Delays in increasing the General category retention limits would be 
contrary to the public interest. Such delays would adversely affect 
those General and HMS Charter/Headboat category vessels that would 
otherwise have an opportunity to harvest more than one BFT per day and 
could hinder full utilization of the U.S. domestic BFT quota. Limited 
opportunities to access the General category quota may have negative 
social and economic impacts to U.S. fishermen that either depend on 
catching the available quota or depend on multiple BFT retention limits 
to attract individuals to book charters. For both the General and the 
HMS Charter/Headboat sectors, the retention limits should be adjusted 
as expeditiously as possible for the affected sectors to benefit from 
the adjustment.
    In order to avoid exceeding the ICCAT school size category landings 
limit, NMFS needs to act promptly to prohibit retention of school BFT 
by HMS Angling and HMS Charter/Headboat category fishermen. Recent 
information available to NMFS indicates high catches and catch rates of 
school BFT occurring on the fishing grounds. A prohibition on harvest 
of school fish, with continued access to a school catch-and-release 
fishery and harvest of large school and small medium size categories 
for the HMS Angling and Charter/Headboat categories, will balance 
concerns regarding continued utilization of available quota in the HMS 
Angling category, while reducing the risk of exceeding the ICCAT school 
size category landings limit recommendation.
    A delay in prohibiting the landing of school BFT could result in 
school landings in excess of the 2005 school quota, which could 
ultimately risk exceeding the ICCAT recommendation on the four-
consecutive-year average 8 percent landings limit of school BFT.
    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, and because a portion of this action relieves a 
restriction (i.e., General category default retention limit of one fish 
per vessel/trip is relaxed to allow retention of two fish), there is 
also good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d) to waive the 30-day delay in 
effectiveness.
    This action is being taken under 50 CFR 635.23(a)(4) and is exempt 
from review under Executive Order 12866.

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


[[Page 56598]]


    Dated: September 22, 2005.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 05-19370 Filed 9-23-05; 2:14 pm]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-S