Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Commercial Shark Management Measures, 58778-58783 [E6-16408]

Download as PDF 58778 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 193 / Thursday, October 5, 2006 / Proposed Rules § 117.239 Technical Standards The National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (NTTAA) (15 U.S.C. 272 note) directs agencies to use voluntary consensus standards in their regulatory activities unless the agency provides Congress, through the Office of Management and Budget, with an explanation of why using these standards would be inconsistent with applicable law or otherwise impractical. Voluntary consensus standards are technical standards (e.g., specifications of materials, performance, design, or operation; test methods; sampling procedures; and related management systems practices) that are developed or adopted by voluntary consensus standards bodies. This proposed rule does not use technical standards. Therefore, we did not consider the use of voluntary consensus standards. Environment We have analyzed this proposed rule under Commandant Instruction M16475.lD, and Department of Homeland Security Management Directive 5100.1, which guides the Coast Guard in complying with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321–4370f), and have made a preliminary determination that there are no factors in this case that would limit the use of a categorical exclusion under section 2.B.2 of the Instruction. Therefore, we believe that this rule should be categorically excluded, under figure 2–1, paragraph (32)(e) of the Instruction, from further environmental documentation. Under figure 2–1, paragraph (32)(e), of the Instruction, an ‘‘Environmental Analysis Check List’’ and a ‘‘Categorical Exclusion Determination’’ are not required for this rule. List of Subjects in 33 CFR Part 117 Bridges. For the reasons discussed in the preamble, the Coast Guard proposes to amend 33 CFR part 117 as follows: PART 117—DRAWBRIDGE OPERATION REGULATIONS ycherry on PROD1PC64 with PROPOSALS 1. The authority citation for part 117 continues to read as follows: Authority: 33 U.S.C. 499; Department of Homeland Security Delegation No. 0170.1; 33 CFR 1.05–1(g); section 117.255 also issued under the authority of Pub. L. 102–587, 106 Stat. 5039. 2. Revise § 117.239 to read as follows: VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:51 Oct 04, 2006 Jkt 211001 Lewes and Rehoboth Canal. (a) The draw of the Savannah Road/ SR 18 Bridge, at mile 1.7, in Lewes shall open on signal if at least 24 hours notice is given. (b) The draw of the SR 14A Bridge, at mile 6.7, in Rehoboth shall open on signal if at least 24 hours notice is given. 3. Revise § 117.241 to read as follows: § 117.241 Mispillion River. The draw of the S14 Bridge, at mile 11.0, at Milford shall open on signal if at least 24 hours notice is given. Dated: September 18, 2006. L.L. Hereth, Rear Admiral, U.S. Coast Guard, Commander, Fifth Coast Guard District. [FR Doc. E6–16427 Filed 10–4–06; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910–15–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 635 [Docket No. 060925247–6247–01; I.D. 091106B] RIN 0648–AU84 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Commercial Shark Management Measures Michael Clark, Highly Migratory Species Management Division via: • E-mail: SF1.091106B@noaa.gov. • Mail: 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910. Please mark on the outside of the envelope ‘‘Comments on Proposed Rule for 2007 1st Trimester Season Lengths and Quotas.’’ • Fax: 301–713–1917. • Federal e-Rulemaking portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. Include in the subject line the following identifier: I.D. 091106B. The hearing locations are: 1. October 19, 2006 from 6–8 p.m. City of Madeira Beach, 300 Municipal Drive, Madeira Beach, FL 33708. 2. October 23, 2006 from 6–8 p.m. Town Hall, 407 Budleigh Street, Manteo, NC 27954. 3. October 25, 2006 from 6–8 p.m. Comfort Inn and Suites Port Canaveral Area, 3901 N. Atlantic Avenue, Cocoa Beach, FL 32931. Copies of the draft Environmental Assessment (EA) and other relevant document are available from the HMS website (http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/ hms/), or by contacting Michael Clark (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Michael Clark or Karyl Brewster-Geisz by phone: 301–713–2347 or by fax: 301– 713–1917. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: AGENCY: Background SUMMARY: This proposed rule would establish the 2007 first trimester season quotas for large coastal sharks (LCS), small coastal sharks (SCS), and pelagic sharks. The proposed rule also would modify the existing mid-Atlantic shark closed area in 2007. In addition, this rule proposes the opening and closing dates for the LCS fishery based on adjustments to the trimester quotas. The intended effect of these proposed actions is to provide advance notice of quotas and season dates for the Atlantic commercial shark fishery and address over- and underharvests that occurred in the Atlantic shark fishery in the first trimester of 2006. DATES: Written comments will be accepted until November 1, 2006. Public hearings will be held from 6– 8 p.m. on each of the following dates: October 19, 23, and 25. ADDRESSES: Written comments on the proposed rule may be submitted to The Atlantic shark fishery is managed under the authority of the MagnusonStevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). NMFS recently finalized a Consolidated Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan (HMS FMP) that consolidated and replaced previous FMPs for Atlantic Billfish and Atlantic Tunas, Swordfish, and Sharks. The HMS FMP is implemented by regulations at 50 CFR part 635. Currently, the Atlantic shark annual quotas, with the exception of pelagic sharks, are split among three regions based on historic landings (1999 - 2003). Consistent with 50 CFR 635.27(b)(1)(iii) and (iv), the annual LCS quota (1,017 mt dw) is split among the three regions as follows: 52 percent to the Gulf of Mexico, 41 percent to the South Atlantic, and 7 percent to the North Atlantic. The annual SCS quota (454 mt dw) is split among the three regions as follows: 10 percent to the Gulf of Mexico, 87 percent to the South Atlantic, and 3 percent to the North Atlantic. The regional quotas for LCS and SCS were divided equally between the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. PO 00000 Frm 00024 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\05OCP1.SGM 05OCP1 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 193 / Thursday, October 5, 2006 / Proposed Rules trimester seasons in the South Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, and according to historical landings of 4, 88, and 8 percent for LCS, and 1, 9, and 90 percent for SCS in the first, second, and third trimester seasons, respectively, in the North Atlantic. The quotas were divided in this manner because sharks are available throughout much of the year in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic regions, but primarily during the summer months in the North Atlantic region. Dividing the quotas equally among the three trimester seasons in the South Atlantic also result in a greater proportion of the quota being made available during August and September when the mid-Atlantic shark closure is no longer in effect. Consistent with 50 CFR 635.27(b)(1)(iii) and (vi), any over- or underharvest in a given region from the 2006 first trimester season will be carried over to the 2007 first trimester season in that region. ycherry on PROD1PC64 with PROPOSALS First Trimester 2006 Landings Shark landings data for the first trimester of 2006 are provided in Table 1. As a result of the over- and underharvests that occurred in the first trimester season of 2006, NMFS analyzed alternatives to adjust the 2007 first trimester seasons and quotas for the LCS fishery. Quota Adjustments in the LCS Fishery The Agency conducted an Environmental Assessment (EA) to analyze five alternatives for adjusting regional trimester LCS quotas and other management measures based on the over- and underharvests that occurred in the LCS fisheries in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions, respectively, during the 2006 first trimester season. These measures are necessary to ensure that over- and underharvests from 2006 are accounted for and any impacts are analyzed. The base quotas established in Amendment 1 to the FMP for Atlantic Tunas, Swordfish, and Sharks and maintained in the Consolidated HMS FMP would not be affected by this rulemaking. Rather, the base quotas would be changed via an amendment to the FMP. These measures are necessary to ensure that over- and underharvests from 2006 are accounted for and any impacts are analyzed. The Agency is preparing, in a separate action, an amendment to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP to implement management measures that address the results of recent stock assessments, including the need for rebuilding plans and other modifications to the management program. Therefore, the VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:51 Oct 04, 2006 Jkt 211001 Agency is not proposing any modifications to fishing seasons or quotas beyond the first trimester of 2007, at this time. The current regulations (status quo, alternative 1) state that NMFS will adjust the next year’s fishing season (2007) and quotas for LCS to reflect actual landings during the previous fishing season (2006) in any particular region. Due to the excessive landings (230 percent of quota) of LCS reported in the South Atlantic region during the first trimester of 2006, the status quo alternative would not allow for any available quota in that region for LCS in the first trimester of 2007. This alternative would not modify the regional quotas or the mid-Atlantic shark closed area. Quotas and season lengths are provided in Table 1. The current regulations at 50 CFR 635.27(b)(1)(vi)(A) and (b)(2) allow for the transfer of up to 10 percent of a region’s annual quota between two regions that have a corresponding under- and overharvest. Thus, NMFS also considered alternative 2, which would transfer up to 10 percent of the Gulf of Mexico region’s annual quota to the South Atlantic region. This amount of quota would not be sufficient to account for the overharvest experienced by the South Atlantic region during the first trimester of 2006. The preferred alternative (alternative 3) would close the South Atlantic region to LCS fishing during the first trimester of 2007 and open the mid-Atlantic shark closed area in July 2007, subject to availability of quota for the second trimester of 2007. This alternative would result in a closure of the South Atlantic region for approximately six months (January-June 2007). Negative ecological impacts of re-opening the closed area are not expected to be significant because the re-opening would be allowed for only one month during one year. Unless action were taken to open the closure in the upcoming amendment to the HMS FMP, the area would be closed from January 1 to July 31, in 2008 and subsequent years. Economic and social impacts of re-opening the mid-Atlantic shark closed area would likely be positive relative to the status quo as fishermen in this area would have additional fishing opportunities during the month of July. Alternative 4 would open the midAtlantic shark closed area from January 1, 2007, through July 31, 2007. The opportunity to land LCS in this area during this time period would be contingent on the availability of quota for the first and second trimesters of 2007. This alternative was not selected PO 00000 Frm 00025 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 58779 because LCS quota would not likely be available for the first trimester of 2007, therefore, the closed area would not be opened until the second trimester (July 2007), similar to the preferred alternative. Furthermore, if quota were made available by combining this alternative with alternative 5, negative ecological impacts may be more extensive because the overharvest that occurred in 2006 would not be addressed. A permanent removal of the closure was not analyzed because such an action would require an FMP amendment to ensure consistency with the current rebuilding plan for sandbar sharks. An upcoming FMP amendment will implement measures to address the 2006 stock assessments for the LCS complex and dusky, sandbar, and blacktip sharks and will also review the mid-Atlantic shark closed area, among other measures, in light of more recent information. Lastly, alternative 5 would transfer the entire underharvest from the Gulf of Mexico region (119.7 mt dw) to the South Atlantic region. Once overharvests from 2006 are addressed, this alternative would provide a quota of 74.3 mt dw, resulting in a three-week fishing season for the South Atlantic region during the first trimester of 2007. A season of three weeks would be estimated to harvest 85 percent of the quota, including 33 percent that is harvested after the seasonal closure. Keeping the season open for four weeks would result in a 2 percent overharvest during the first trimester. Transferring this quota to the South Atlantic region results in 176.1 mt dw of LCS quota and a proposed seasonal closure of April 15, 2007, for the Gulf of Mexico region. Keeping the season open until April 30, 2007, would result in a 9 percent overharvest, including 0.85 percent being harvested after the seasonal closure. The North Atlantic region would have the same fishing seasons and quotas as the preferred alternative. Combining alternative 5, which would transfer the Gulf of Mexico region’s underharvest to the South Atlantic region with alternative 4, which would open the mid Atlantic shark fishery closure in January 2007, would result in negative ecological impacts and positive social and economic benefits. The preferred alternative (alternative 3) was selected to account for the overharvest experienced by the South Atlantic region during the first trimester of 2006, while providing participants in this region with a one-time additional fishing opportunity in the month of July 2007. The ability to fish during the month of July 2007, depending on E:\FR\FM\05OCP1.SGM 05OCP1 58780 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 193 / Thursday, October 5, 2006 / Proposed Rules available quota, should not result in significant negative ecological impacts due to the limited nature of the opening (one month in one year). In addition, this alternative may offset some of the negative economic impacts of not being able to target LCS for the first six months of 2007 as a result of the first trimester closure. Furthermore, this opening may address perceived inequity between fishery participants in the vicinity of the mid-Atlantic shark closed area with those in other portions of the South Atlantic region. Proposed Quotas for First Trimester 2007 Pursuant to Amendment 1 to the FMP for Atlantic Tunas, Swordfish, and Sharks, and the Final Consolidated HMS FMP, the 2007 annual base landings quotas are 1,017 mt dw (2,242,078 lb dw) for LCS and 454 mt dw (1,000,888.4 lb dw) for SCS. The 2007 quota levels for pelagic, blue, and porbeagle sharks are 488 mt dw (1,075,844.8 lb dw), 273 mt dw (601,855.8 lb dw), and 92 mt dw (202,823.2 lb dw), respectively. This proposed rule does not propose any changes to these overall base landings quotas. Table 1 describes the proposed quotas for LCS, SCS, and pelagic sharks for the various regions (if applicable) for the first trimester of 2007 adjusted for over- and underharvests that occurred during the first trimester of 2006. Existing regulations do not allow underharvests of pelagic sharks to be carried forward to the next fishing management period. As of August 2006, approximately 20.3 mt dw had been reported landed in the 2006 first trimester fishing season in total for pelagic, blue, and porbeagle sharks combined. Thus, the pelagic shark quota does not need to be reduced consistent with the current regulations 50 CFR 635.27(b)(1)(iv). The 2007 first trimester season quotas for pelagic, blue, and porbeagle sharks are proposed to be 162.7 mt dw (358,688 lb dw), 91 mt dw (200,619 lb dw), and 30.7 mt dw (67,681 lb dw), respectively. Proposed Fishing Season Notification and Quotas for the First Trimester Season 2007 Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, is proposed to open on January 1, 2007 (Table 1). When quotas are projected to be reached for the SCS, pelagic, blue, or porbeagle sharks, the Assistant Administrator (AA) will file notification of closures at the Office of the Federal Register at least 14 days before the effective date, consistent with 50 CFR 635.28(b)(2). Pursuant to 50 CFR 635.5(b)(1), shark dealers must report any sharks received twice a month. More specifically, sharks received between the first and 15th of every month must be reported to NMFS by the 25th of that same month and those received between the 16th and the end of the month must be reported to NMFS by the 10th of the following month. Thus, in order to provide consistency and predictability in managing the fishery, NMFS proposes to close the Federal LCS fishery on either the 15th or the end of any given month. Proposed Opening and Closing Dates and Quotas Proposed opening and closing dates for the 2007 first trimester season, by region and species group, are provided in Table 1. The first trimester fishing season of the 2007 fishing year for SCS, pelagic sharks, blue sharks, and porbeagle sharks in the northwestern Atlantic TABLE 1. PROPOSED SEASONS AND QUOTAS FOR LCS, SCS, AND PELAGIC SHARKS FOR THE FIRST TRIMESTER OF 2007. All quotas and landings are dressed weight, in metric tons, unless specified otherwise. 2006 1st Tri. Quota 2006 1st Tri. Landings 2007 1st Tri. Quota +/¥ Under/ Over Harvest Gulf of Mexico (52 %) 176.1 103.1 176.1 +119.7 295.8 (692,157 lb dw) Jan. 1 - April 30, 2007 South Atlantic (41 %) 141.3 326.1 137.6 ¥184.3 ¥46.7 (¥102,955 lb dw) Closed North Atlantic (7 %) 5.3 0.3 2.8 +5.0 7.8 (17,196 lb dw) Jan. 1 - April 30, 2007 Gulf of Mexico (10 %) 14.8 5.0 15.1 +9.8 24.9 (54,894 lb dw) Jan. 1, 2007 - To be determined South Atlantic (87 %) 284.6 42.1 131.5 +242.5 374.0 (824,520 lb dw) North Atlantic (3 %) 18.7 0.1 0.1 +18.6 18.7 (41,226 lb dw) No regional quotas 91.0 20.3 91.0 Not applicable 91.0 (200,618 lb dw) Species Group (Annual Quota) Large Coastal Sharks (1,017) Small Coastal Sharks (454) Blue Sharks (273) Region (Allocation) 2007 Proposed Quota 30.7 30.7 162.7 162.7 Jan. 1, 2007 - To be determined 30.7 (67,681 lb dw) Pelagic Sharks other than Porbeagle or blue (488) ycherry on PROD1PC64 with PROPOSALS Porbeagle sharks (92) Proposed Season 162.7 (358,688 lb dw) Request for Comments Comments on this proposed rule may be submitted at public hearings, via email, mail, or fax. NMFS will hold VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:51 Oct 04, 2006 Jkt 211001 three public hearings to receive comments from fishery participants and other members of the public regarding these proposed alternatives. These PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 hearings will be physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to E:\FR\FM\05OCP1.SGM 05OCP1 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 193 / Thursday, October 5, 2006 / Proposed Rules ycherry on PROD1PC64 with PROPOSALS Michael Clark at (301) 713–2347 at least 5 days prior to the hearing date. For individuals unable to attend a hearing, NMFS also solicits written comments on this proposed rule (see DATES and ADDRESSES). Classification NMFS has preliminarily determined that this action is consistent with section 304(b)(1) of the MagnusonStevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, including the National Standards, and other applicable law. An EA has been prepared that describes the impact on the human environment that would result from implementation of alternative management measures that may adjust LCS quotas in the first trimester of 2007 based on over- and underharvests in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions, respectively. Based on the EA, Regulatory Impact Review (RIR), and Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) under the Regulatory Flexibility Act, and review of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) criteria for significant effects (40 CFR Part 1508.27) and NMFS criteria for significance evaluated above (NAO 216– 6 Section 6.02), no significant effect on the quality of the human environment is anticipated from this action. This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. In compliance with Section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis was prepared for this rule. The IRFA analyzes the anticipated economic impacts of the preferred actions and any significant alternatives to the proposed rule that could minimize economic impacts on small entities. A summary of the IRFA is below. The full IRFA and analysis of economic and ecological impacts, are available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). In compliance with Section 603 (b)(1) and (2) of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, the purpose of this proposed rulemaking is, consistent with the MagnusonStevens Act, to adjust the LCS and SCS regional and trimester quotas and propose season lengths for LCS, SCS, and pelagic sharks for the first trimester of 2007 based on under- and overharvests that occurred during the first trimester of 2006. This rule does not change the overall base quotas. Section 603 (b)(3) requires Agencies to provide an estimate of the number of small entities to which the rule would apply. This rule could directly affect commercial shark fishermen and dealers on the Atlantic Ocean in the United VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:51 Oct 04, 2006 Jkt 211001 States. There are approximately 552 (240 directed and 312 incidental) shark permit holders and 336 commercial shark dealers that would be affected by this proposed rule. All of these permit holders and dealers are considered small entities according to the Small Business Administration’s standard for defining a small entity. Other small entities involved in HMS fisheries such as processors, bait houses, and gear manufacturers might be indirectly affected by the proposed regulations. This proposed rule does not contain any new reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements (5 U.S.C. 603 (b)(4)). Similarly, this proposed rule would not conflict, duplicate, or overlap with other relevant Federal rules (5 U.S.C. 603(b)(5)). One of the requirements of an IRFA, under Section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, is to describe any alternatives to the proposed rule that accomplish the stated objectives and that minimize any significant economic impacts (5 U.S.C. 603 (c)). Additionally, the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 603 (c)(1)-(4)) lists four categories for alternatives that must be considered. These categories are: (1) establishment of differing compliance or reporting requirements or timetables that take into account the resources available to small entities; (2) clarification, consolidation, or simplification of compliance and reporting requirements under the rule for such small entities; (3) use of performance rather than design standards; and (4) exemptions from coverage for small entities. In order to meet the objectives of this proposed rule, consistent with Magunson-Stevens Act and the Endangered Species Act (ESA), NMFS cannot exempt small entities or change the reporting requirements only for small entities. Thus, there are no alternatives discussed that fall under the first and fourth categories described above. In addition, none of the alternatives considered would result in additional reporting or compliance requirements (category two above). NMFS does not know of any performance or design standards that would satisfy the aforementioned objectives of this rulemaking while, concurrently, complying with the Magnuson-Stevens Act. As described below, NMFS analyzed five different alternatives in this proposed rulemaking and provides justification for selection of the preferred alternative to achieve the desired objective. The alternatives included: status quo (alternative 1), transferring 10 percent of the Gulf of Mexico region annual quota to the South Atlantic (alternative 2), PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 58781 closing the South Atlantic region during the first trimester of 2007 and opening the mid Atlantic shark closed area in July 2007 (alternative 3), removing the mid-Atlantic shark closed area (alternative 4), and transferring the entire Gulf of Mexico region underharvest to the South Atlantic region (alternative 5). Closing the South Atlantic region during the first trimester and opening the mid Atlantic shark closed area in July is the preferred alternative (alternative 3). Alternative 1 is considered the status quo alternative since it would maintain existing procedures for addressing regional trimester over- and underharvests when establishing the regional quotas and seasons for the first trimester of 2007 and it would also maintain the existing mid-Atlantic shark closure. The Gulf of Mexico and North Atlantic regions would maintain similar economic levels as previous years because those regions are proposed to be open, with ample quota, throughout the entire first trimester 2007. This alternative is not preferred, as it would result in negative economic impacts for the South Atlantic region, compared to the preferred alternative. By itself, the status quo alternative does not create any new economic burdens on the shark commercial industry. Regardless, the unexpected magnitude of the 2006 first trimester overharvest would result in no commercial fishing for LCS in the entire South Atlantic region from January 1 to July 31, 2007, and there would be no fishing with bottom longline (BLL) gear permitted in the Mid-Atlantic shark closure until August 1, 2007. If not for the overharvest in 2006, the first trimester quota available would have been 137.6 mt of LCS. Using a median ex-vessel price of $0.51 for LCS and $12.61 for shark fin reported HMS Dealer reports from 2002 to 2005 for the South Atlantic and adjusted for inflation, the value of this harvest would have been approximately $146,976 for LCS fresh (95 percent of the quota weight) and $191,266 for shark fins (based on the 5 percent shark fin to carcass regulation). Therefore, the 2006 overharvest is estimated to have an estimated direct revenue impact on South Atlantic commercial shark fishing activity of approximately $338,242. There will also be continued economic hardship compared to the preferred alternative for fishing operations using BLL gear that are dependant on LCS in the vicinity of the Mid-Atlantic shark closure since they would not be permitted to fish until August 1, 2007. However, it should be noted that fishermen received revenue sooner E:\FR\FM\05OCP1.SGM 05OCP1 ycherry on PROD1PC64 with PROPOSALS 58782 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 193 / Thursday, October 5, 2006 / Proposed Rules under the 2006 first trimester overharvest than they normally would have received. However, a closure during the first trimester of 2007 would result in disrupted revenue flows and negative economic impacts. Using the median ex-vessel prices for the first trimester of 2006 of $0.45 and $14.00 for LCS flesh and shark fins, respectively, the estimated revenue for the first trimester in 2006 from the 184.3 mt in overharvest was $458,116. Maintaining the Mid-Atlantic shark closed area would result in no fishing with BLL gear permitted in the midAtlantic shark closure until August 1, 2007. This could impact some of the vessels dependant on fishing with BLL gear in this region. Alternative 2 would adjust the South Atlantic regional LCS quota for the first trimester by transferring up to 10 percent of the 2006 first trimester quota from the Gulf of Mexico. This would likely result in the same economic effects as the status quo alternative, since the transferred amount is not likely to be sufficient to allow for an LCS season in the first trimester in the South Atlantic region while still allowing for a full season in the Gulf of Mexico region. Before implementing this alternative, it would be necessary to review the annual regional landings for 2006 for both regions before determining whether the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions have corresponding annual over- and underharvests, respectively. This alternative is not preferred, as it would result in negative economic impacts for the South Atlantic region, similar to alternative 1 (status quo), compared to the preferred alternative. Alternative 3, the preferred alternative, would close the entire South Atlantic region for LCS during the first trimester of 2007 and open the entire area including the mid-Atlantic shark closed area region in July 2007, pending availability of quota. This alternative could minimize the economic costs associated with the South Atlantic overharvest. As described above for Alternative 1, the 2006 overharvest is estimated to have an estimated direct revenue impact on South Atlantic commercial shark fishing activity of approximately $338,242. In 2005, 46 vessels reported landings in the South Atlantic region, indicating that the LCS closure could result in a loss of revenue of approximately $7,353/vessel. However, this alternative might provide an additional month of fishing opportunities for vessels that may not be able to participate in the South Atlantic fishery during the first six months of 2007. Compared to pre-closure landings VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:51 Oct 04, 2006 Jkt 211001 (2002–2004), landings in 2005 of LCS decreased by 13.9 mt dw which may have been a result of the closed area. This additional month of access to the mid-Atlantic shark closed area region during the month of July is estimated to potentially result in an additional $34,188 in gross shark revenues based on the difference in landings that may occur as a result of reopening the midAtlantic shark closed area. Alternative 4 would open the midAtlantic shark closed area on January 1, 2007, through July 31, 2007, dependant on available quota for LCS during the first and second trimester seasons of 2007. Given the preliminary landings data as of August 24, 2006, it is likely quota will not be available. Therefore, it is likely that this alternative would result in economic impacts identical to Alternative 3. The impacts of this alternative would be similar to the preferred alternative or the status quo alternative as lack of available quota would prevent fishing in the South Atlantic region during the first trimester. This alternative is not preferred because the preferred alternative achieves similar objectives, yet ensures that the ecological benefits of maintaining the mid-Atlantic shark closed area are maintained through June of 2007. Furthermore, if fishing were allowed in the first trimester of 2007 by transferring quota from the Gulf of Mexico region (alternative 5) this alternative would result in negative ecological impacts because it does not account for the overharvest that occurred in 2006. Alternative 5 would distribute a portion of the LCS underharvest from the Gulf of Mexico’s landings from the first trimester of 2006 to the South Atlantic first trimester of 2007 thus providing a first trimester season for 2007 in the South Atlantic. Transferring all of the Gulf of Mexico region’s under harvest to the South Atlantic could provide for 74.3 mt dw of quota that would provide for an approximately 3week long season. This 3-week season would generate approximately $182,641 (95 percent at $0.51/lb dw LCS and 5 percent at $12.61/lb dw shark fins) in revenue in the South Atlantic region. However, the estimated revenue generated during the 3-week season would still be about $155,601 less than the potential revenue associated with the annual quota allocation. This alternative was not selected as it would not account for the overharvest experienced in the South Atlantic region during the first trimester of 2006, resulting in additional fishing mortality in 2007 and negative ecological impacts as a consequence. Furthermore, the PO 00000 Frm 00028 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 potential exists for the South Atlantic region to exceed its 2007 first trimester quota, exacerbating future potential economic and ecological impacts as a result. Overall, underharvests from 2006 that would be transferred to the first trimester season quota for 2007 under this alternative may result in economic benefits for the Gulf of Mexico that may potentially offset some of the negative economic impacts to the South Atlantic region. Increases in possible revenue as a result of transferring the underharvests are only potential amounts that may or may not be realized. If revenues are not realized then there would be no economic impact because the fishermen did not receive any benefit from the transfer of underharvests. If revenues are realized, it may result in a positive economic impacts. These proposed regulations are not expected to increase endangered species or marine mammal interaction rates. A Biological Opinion (BiOp) issued October 29, 2003, concluded that the continued operation of the Atlantic shark fisheries was not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any listed species under NMFS purview. An analysis of the anticipated incidental takes of sea turtles (primarily loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles) and smalltooth sawfish resulted in a ‘‘non-jeopardy’’ determination in the BiOp. This proposed rule would adjust LCS quotas for the first trimester of 2007 based on over- and underharvests that occurred in the first trimester of 2006. Furthermore, this proposed rule would not alter fishing practices or fishing effort significantly and therefore should not have any further impacts on endangered species or marine mammals beyond those considered in the October 29, 2003, BiOp for Atlantic shark fisheries. Between 1994–2004, there have been 5 loggerhead sea turtles observed caught on BLL gear in the midAtlantic shark closed area, two of which were released alive. Only one of these interactions occurred during the moth of July (1998). Re-opening the mid-Atlantic shark closure in July would likely have slightly negative ecological impacts because the likelihood of interactions with protected resources and other bycatch would be increased due to the displacement of fishing effort to an area that had been previously closed. The modification to the mid-Atlantic shark closure area is not expected to significantly impact interactions with protected resources, because the South Atlantic region would be closed to targeted LCS fishing from January through June of 2007. E:\FR\FM\05OCP1.SGM 05OCP1 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 193 / Thursday, October 5, 2006 / Proposed Rules ycherry on PROD1PC64 with PROPOSALS The preferred alternative of opening the mid-Atlantic shark closed area in July 2007, dependent upon available quota, would likely increase fishing mortality of juvenile sandbar sharks. This area is considered an Habitat Area of Particular Concern (HAPC) for sandbar sharks. However, the impacts on Essential Fish Habitat (EFH), and specifically, the HAPC are considered to be negligible because of the short duration of the opening. A status quo alternative was considered that would have reduced ecological impacts on the HAPC and EFH in general, however, that alternative would result in more extensive negative social and economic impacts because the South Atlantic region will be closed for the first seven months of 2007, rather than six months as preferred. VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:51 Oct 04, 2006 Jkt 211001 List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 635 Fisheries, Fishing, Fishing vessels, Foreign relations, Imports, Penalties, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Treaties. Dated: September 28, 2006. William T. Hogarth, Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. For reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 635 is proposed to be amended as follows: PART 635—ATLANTIC HIGHLY MIGRATORY SPECIES 1. The authority citation for part 635 continues to read as follows: Authority: 16 U.S.C. et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. PO 00000 Frm 00029 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 58783 2. In § 635.21, paragraph (d)(1) is revised to read asfollows: § 635.21 Gear operation and deployment restrictions. * * * * * (d) * * * (1) If bottom longline gear is on board a vessel issued a permit under this part, persons on board that vessel may not fish or deploy any type of fishing gear in the mid-Atlantic shark closed area from January 1 through July 31 each calendar year, except that in 2007 the mid-Atlantic shark closed area will be closed from January 1 through June 30 and may open in July, contingent upon available quota. * * * * * [FR Doc. E6–16408 Filed 10–4–06; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–S E:\FR\FM\05OCP1.SGM 05OCP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 71, Number 193 (Thursday, October 5, 2006)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 58778-58783]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E6-16408]


=======================================================================
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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

[Docket No. 060925247-6247-01; I.D. 091106B]
RIN 0648-AU84


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Commercial Shark 
Management Measures

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: This proposed rule would establish the 2007 first trimester 
season quotas for large coastal sharks (LCS), small coastal sharks 
(SCS), and pelagic sharks. The proposed rule also would modify the 
existing mid-Atlantic shark closed area in 2007. In addition, this rule 
proposes the opening and closing dates for the LCS fishery based on 
adjustments to the trimester quotas. The intended effect of these 
proposed actions is to provide advance notice of quotas and season 
dates for the Atlantic commercial shark fishery and address over- and 
underharvests that occurred in the Atlantic shark fishery in the first 
trimester of 2006.

DATES: Written comments will be accepted until November 1, 2006.
    Public hearings will be held from 6-8 p.m. on each of the following 
dates: October 19, 23, and 25.

ADDRESSES: Written comments on the proposed rule may be submitted to 
Michael Clark, Highly Migratory Species Management Division via:
     E-mail: SF1.091106B@noaa.gov.
     Mail: 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910. 
Please mark on the outside of the envelope ``Comments on Proposed Rule 
for 2007 1st Trimester Season Lengths and Quotas.''
     Fax: 301-713-1917.
     Federal e-Rulemaking portal: http://www.regulations.gov. 
Include in the subject line the following identifier: I.D. 091106B.
    The hearing locations are:
    1. October 19, 2006 from 6-8 p.m. City of Madeira Beach, 300 
Municipal Drive, Madeira Beach, FL 33708.
    2. October 23, 2006 from 6-8 p.m. Town Hall, 407 Budleigh Street, 
Manteo, NC 27954.
    3. October 25, 2006 from 6-8 p.m. Comfort Inn and Suites Port 
Canaveral Area, 3901 N. Atlantic Avenue, Cocoa Beach, FL 32931.
    Copies of the draft Environmental Assessment (EA) and other 
relevant document are available from the HMS website (http://
www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/), or by contacting Michael Clark (see FOR 
FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Michael Clark or Karyl Brewster-Geisz 
by phone: 301-713-2347 or by fax: 301-713-1917.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The Atlantic shark fishery is managed under the authority of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-
Stevens Act). NMFS recently finalized a Consolidated Highly Migratory 
Species Fishery Management Plan (HMS FMP) that consolidated and 
replaced previous FMPs for Atlantic Billfish and Atlantic Tunas, 
Swordfish, and Sharks. The HMS FMP is implemented by regulations at 50 
CFR part 635.
    Currently, the Atlantic shark annual quotas, with the exception of 
pelagic sharks, are split among three regions based on historic 
landings (1999 - 2003). Consistent with 50 CFR 635.27(b)(1)(iii) and 
(iv), the annual LCS quota (1,017 mt dw) is split among the three 
regions as follows: 52 percent to the Gulf of Mexico, 41 percent to the 
South Atlantic, and 7 percent to the North Atlantic. The annual SCS 
quota (454 mt dw) is split among the three regions as follows: 10 
percent to the Gulf of Mexico, 87 percent to the South Atlantic, and 3 
percent to the North Atlantic.
    The regional quotas for LCS and SCS were divided equally between 
the

[[Page 58779]]

trimester seasons in the South Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, and 
according to historical landings of 4, 88, and 8 percent for LCS, and 
1, 9, and 90 percent for SCS in the first, second, and third trimester 
seasons, respectively, in the North Atlantic. The quotas were divided 
in this manner because sharks are available throughout much of the year 
in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic regions, but primarily during 
the summer months in the North Atlantic region. Dividing the quotas 
equally among the three trimester seasons in the South Atlantic also 
result in a greater proportion of the quota being made available during 
August and September when the mid-Atlantic shark closure is no longer 
in effect.
    Consistent with 50 CFR 635.27(b)(1)(iii) and (vi), any over- or 
underharvest in a given region from the 2006 first trimester season 
will be carried over to the 2007 first trimester season in that region.

First Trimester 2006 Landings

    Shark landings data for the first trimester of 2006 are provided in 
Table 1. As a result of the over- and underharvests that occurred in 
the first trimester season of 2006, NMFS analyzed alternatives to 
adjust the 2007 first trimester seasons and quotas for the LCS fishery.

Quota Adjustments in the LCS Fishery

    The Agency conducted an Environmental Assessment (EA) to analyze 
five alternatives for adjusting regional trimester LCS quotas and other 
management measures based on the over- and underharvests that occurred 
in the LCS fisheries in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions, 
respectively, during the 2006 first trimester season.
    These measures are necessary to ensure that over- and underharvests 
from 2006 are accounted for and any impacts are analyzed. The base 
quotas established in Amendment 1 to the FMP for Atlantic Tunas, 
Swordfish, and Sharks and maintained in the Consolidated HMS FMP would 
not be affected by this rulemaking. Rather, the base quotas would be 
changed via an amendment to the FMP. These measures are necessary to 
ensure that over- and underharvests from 2006 are accounted for and any 
impacts are analyzed. The Agency is preparing, in a separate action, an 
amendment to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP to implement management 
measures that address the results of recent stock assessments, 
including the need for rebuilding plans and other modifications to the 
management program. Therefore, the Agency is not proposing any 
modifications to fishing seasons or quotas beyond the first trimester 
of 2007, at this time.
    The current regulations (status quo, alternative 1) state that NMFS 
will adjust the next year's fishing season (2007) and quotas for LCS to 
reflect actual landings during the previous fishing season (2006) in 
any particular region. Due to the excessive landings (230 percent of 
quota) of LCS reported in the South Atlantic region during the first 
trimester of 2006, the status quo alternative would not allow for any 
available quota in that region for LCS in the first trimester of 2007. 
This alternative would not modify the regional quotas or the mid-
Atlantic shark closed area. Quotas and season lengths are provided in 
Table 1.
    The current regulations at 50 CFR 635.27(b)(1)(vi)(A) and (b)(2) 
allow for the transfer of up to 10 percent of a region's annual quota 
between two regions that have a corresponding under- and overharvest. 
Thus, NMFS also considered alternative 2, which would transfer up to 10 
percent of the Gulf of Mexico region's annual quota to the South 
Atlantic region. This amount of quota would not be sufficient to 
account for the overharvest experienced by the South Atlantic region 
during the first trimester of 2006.
    The preferred alternative (alternative 3) would close the South 
Atlantic region to LCS fishing during the first trimester of 2007 and 
open the mid-Atlantic shark closed area in July 2007, subject to 
availability of quota for the second trimester of 2007. This 
alternative would result in a closure of the South Atlantic region for 
approximately six months (January-June 2007). Negative ecological 
impacts of re-opening the closed area are not expected to be 
significant because the re-opening would be allowed for only one month 
during one year. Unless action were taken to open the closure in the 
upcoming amendment to the HMS FMP, the area would be closed from 
January 1 to July 31, in 2008 and subsequent years. Economic and social 
impacts of re-opening the mid-Atlantic shark closed area would likely 
be positive relative to the status quo as fishermen in this area would 
have additional fishing opportunities during the month of July.
    Alternative 4 would open the mid-Atlantic shark closed area from 
January 1, 2007, through July 31, 2007. The opportunity to land LCS in 
this area during this time period would be contingent on the 
availability of quota for the first and second trimesters of 2007. This 
alternative was not selected because LCS quota would not likely be 
available for the first trimester of 2007, therefore, the closed area 
would not be opened until the second trimester (July 2007), similar to 
the preferred alternative. Furthermore, if quota were made available by 
combining this alternative with alternative 5, negative ecological 
impacts may be more extensive because the overharvest that occurred in 
2006 would not be addressed. A permanent removal of the closure was not 
analyzed because such an action would require an FMP amendment to 
ensure consistency with the current rebuilding plan for sandbar sharks. 
An upcoming FMP amendment will implement measures to address the 2006 
stock assessments for the LCS complex and dusky, sandbar, and blacktip 
sharks and will also review the mid-Atlantic shark closed area, among 
other measures, in light of more recent information.
    Lastly, alternative 5 would transfer the entire underharvest from 
the Gulf of Mexico region (119.7 mt dw) to the South Atlantic region. 
Once overharvests from 2006 are addressed, this alternative would 
provide a quota of 74.3 mt dw, resulting in a three-week fishing season 
for the South Atlantic region during the first trimester of 2007. A 
season of three weeks would be estimated to harvest 85 percent of the 
quota, including 33 percent that is harvested after the seasonal 
closure. Keeping the season open for four weeks would result in a 2 
percent overharvest during the first trimester. Transferring this quota 
to the South Atlantic region results in 176.1 mt dw of LCS quota and a 
proposed seasonal closure of April 15, 2007, for the Gulf of Mexico 
region. Keeping the season open until April 30, 2007, would result in a 
9 percent overharvest, including 0.85 percent being harvested after the 
seasonal closure. The North Atlantic region would have the same fishing 
seasons and quotas as the preferred alternative.
    Combining alternative 5, which would transfer the Gulf of Mexico 
region's underharvest to the South Atlantic region with alternative 4, 
which would open the mid Atlantic shark fishery closure in January 
2007, would result in negative ecological impacts and positive social 
and economic benefits.
    The preferred alternative (alternative 3) was selected to account 
for the overharvest experienced by the South Atlantic region during the 
first trimester of 2006, while providing participants in this region 
with a one-time additional fishing opportunity in the month of July 
2007. The ability to fish during the month of July 2007, depending on

[[Page 58780]]

available quota, should not result in significant negative ecological 
impacts due to the limited nature of the opening (one month in one 
year). In addition, this alternative may offset some of the negative 
economic impacts of not being able to target LCS for the first six 
months of 2007 as a result of the first trimester closure. Furthermore, 
this opening may address perceived inequity between fishery 
participants in the vicinity of the mid-Atlantic shark closed area with 
those in other portions of the South Atlantic region.

Proposed Quotas for First Trimester 2007

    Pursuant to Amendment 1 to the FMP for Atlantic Tunas, Swordfish, 
and Sharks, and the Final Consolidated HMS FMP, the 2007 annual base 
landings quotas are 1,017 mt dw (2,242,078 lb dw) for LCS and 454 mt dw 
(1,000,888.4 lb dw) for SCS. The 2007 quota levels for pelagic, blue, 
and porbeagle sharks are 488 mt dw (1,075,844.8 lb dw), 273 mt dw 
(601,855.8 lb dw), and 92 mt dw (202,823.2 lb dw), respectively. This 
proposed rule does not propose any changes to these overall base 
landings quotas. Table 1 describes the proposed quotas for LCS, SCS, 
and pelagic sharks for the various regions (if applicable) for the 
first trimester of 2007 adjusted for over- and underharvests that 
occurred during the first trimester of 2006.
    Existing regulations do not allow underharvests of pelagic sharks 
to be carried forward to the next fishing management period. As of 
August 2006, approximately 20.3 mt dw had been reported landed in the 
2006 first trimester fishing season in total for pelagic, blue, and 
porbeagle sharks combined. Thus, the pelagic shark quota does not need 
to be reduced consistent with the current regulations 50 CFR 
635.27(b)(1)(iv). The 2007 first trimester season quotas for pelagic, 
blue, and porbeagle sharks are proposed to be 162.7 mt dw (358,688 lb 
dw), 91 mt dw (200,619 lb dw), and 30.7 mt dw (67,681 lb dw), 
respectively.

Proposed Fishing Season Notification and Quotas for the First Trimester 
Season 2007

    The first trimester fishing season of the 2007 fishing year for 
SCS, pelagic sharks, blue sharks, and porbeagle sharks in the 
northwestern Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and the 
Caribbean Sea, is proposed to open on January 1, 2007 (Table 1). When 
quotas are projected to be reached for the SCS, pelagic, blue, or 
porbeagle sharks, the Assistant Administrator (AA) will file 
notification of closures at the Office of the Federal Register at least 
14 days before the effective date, consistent with 50 CFR 635.28(b)(2).
    Pursuant to 50 CFR 635.5(b)(1), shark dealers must report any 
sharks received twice a month. More specifically, sharks received 
between the first and 15th of every month must be reported to NMFS by 
the 25th of that same month and those received between the 16th and the 
end of the month must be reported to NMFS by the 10th of the following 
month. Thus, in order to provide consistency and predictability in 
managing the fishery, NMFS proposes to close the Federal LCS fishery on 
either the 15th or the end of any given month.

Proposed Opening and Closing Dates and Quotas

    Proposed opening and closing dates for the 2007 first trimester 
season, by region and species group, are provided in Table 1.

     Table 1. Proposed Seasons and Quotas for LCS, SCS, and Pelagic Sharks for the First Trimester of 2007.
             All quotas and landings are dressed weight, in metric tons, unless specified otherwise.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                   2006                 2007
                                     Region       1\st\   2006 1\st\   1\st\   +/- Under/    2007      Proposed
  Species Group (Annual Quota)    (Allocation)     Tri.      Tri.       Tri.      Over     Proposed     Season
                                                  Quota    Landings    Quota    Harvest      Quota
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Large Coastal Sharks (1,017)     Gulf of Mexico  176.1    103.1       176.1    +119.7     295.8       Jan. 1 -
                                  (52 %).                                                  (692,157    April 30,
                                                                                           lb dw).     2007
                                --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                 South Atlantic  141.3    326.1       137.6    -184.3     -46.7 (-    Closed
                                  (41 %).                                                  102,955
                                                                                           lb dw).
                                --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                 North Atlantic  5.3      0.3         2.8      +5.0       7.8         Jan. 1 -
                                  (7 %).                                                   (17,196     April 30,
                                                                                           lb dw).     2007
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Small Coastal Sharks (454)       Gulf of Mexico  14.8     5.0         15.1     +9.8       24.9        Jan. 1,
                                  (10 %).                                                  (54,894     2007 - To
                                                                                           lb dw).     be
                                                                                                       determine
                                                                                                       d
                                ---------------------------------------------------------------------
                                 South Atlantic  284.6    42.1        131.5    +242.5     374.0       ..........
                                  (87 %).                                                  (824,520
                                                                                           lb dw).
                                ---------------------------------------------------------------------
                                 North Atlantic  18.7     0.1         0.1      +18.6      18.7        ..........
                                  (3 %).                                                   (41,226
                                                                                           lb dw).
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Blue Sharks (273)                No regional     91.0     20.3        91.0     Not        91.0        Jan. 1,
                                  quotas.                                       applicab   (200,618    2007 - To
                                                                                le         lb dw).     be
                                                                                                       determine
                                                                                                       d
--------------------------------                ---------            ---------           ------------
Porbeagle sharks (92)            ..............  30.7     ..........  30.7     .........  30.7        ..........
                                                                                           (67,681
                                                                                           lb dw).
--------------------------------                ---------            ---------           ------------
Pelagic Sharks other than        ..............  162.7    ..........  162.7    .........  162.7       ..........
 Porbeagle or blue (488)                                                                   (358,688
                                                                                           lb dw).
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Request for Comments

    Comments on this proposed rule may be submitted at public hearings, 
via email, mail, or fax. NMFS will hold three public hearings to 
receive comments from fishery participants and other members of the 
public regarding these proposed alternatives. These hearings will be 
physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign 
language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to

[[Page 58781]]

Michael Clark at (301) 713-2347 at least 5 days prior to the hearing 
date. For individuals unable to attend a hearing, NMFS also solicits 
written comments on this proposed rule (see DATES and ADDRESSES).

Classification

    NMFS has preliminarily determined that this action is consistent 
with section 304(b)(1) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and 
Management Act, including the National Standards, and other applicable 
law.
    An EA has been prepared that describes the impact on the human 
environment that would result from implementation of alternative 
management measures that may adjust LCS quotas in the first trimester 
of 2007 based on over- and underharvests in the South Atlantic and Gulf 
of Mexico regions, respectively. Based on the EA, Regulatory Impact 
Review (RIR), and Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) under 
the Regulatory Flexibility Act, and review of the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) criteria for significant effects (40 
CFR Part 1508.27) and NMFS criteria for significance evaluated above 
(NAO 216-6 Section 6.02), no significant effect on the quality of the 
human environment is anticipated from this action.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    In compliance with Section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 
an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis was prepared for this rule. 
The IRFA analyzes the anticipated economic impacts of the preferred 
actions and any significant alternatives to the proposed rule that 
could minimize economic impacts on small entities. A summary of the 
IRFA is below. The full IRFA and analysis of economic and ecological 
impacts, are available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES).
    In compliance with Section 603 (b)(1) and (2) of the Regulatory 
Flexibility Act, the purpose of this proposed rulemaking is, consistent 
with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, to adjust the LCS and SCS regional and 
trimester quotas and propose season lengths for LCS, SCS, and pelagic 
sharks for the first trimester of 2007 based on under- and overharvests 
that occurred during the first trimester of 2006. This rule does not 
change the overall base quotas.
    Section 603 (b)(3) requires Agencies to provide an estimate of the 
number of small entities to which the rule would apply. This rule could 
directly affect commercial shark fishermen and dealers on the Atlantic 
Ocean in the United States. There are approximately 552 (240 directed 
and 312 incidental) shark permit holders and 336 commercial shark 
dealers that would be affected by this proposed rule. All of these 
permit holders and dealers are considered small entities according to 
the Small Business Administration's standard for defining a small 
entity. Other small entities involved in HMS fisheries such as 
processors, bait houses, and gear manufacturers might be indirectly 
affected by the proposed regulations.
    This proposed rule does not contain any new reporting, 
recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements (5 U.S.C. 603 (b)(4)). 
Similarly, this proposed rule would not conflict, duplicate, or overlap 
with other relevant Federal rules (5 U.S.C. 603(b)(5)).
    One of the requirements of an IRFA, under Section 603 of the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act, is to describe any alternatives to the 
proposed rule that accomplish the stated objectives and that minimize 
any significant economic impacts (5 U.S.C. 603 (c)). Additionally, the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 603 (c)(1)-(4)) lists four 
categories for alternatives that must be considered. These categories 
are: (1) establishment of differing compliance or reporting 
requirements or timetables that take into account the resources 
available to small entities; (2) clarification, consolidation, or 
simplification of compliance and reporting requirements under the rule 
for such small entities; (3) use of performance rather than design 
standards; and (4) exemptions from coverage for small entities.
    In order to meet the objectives of this proposed rule, consistent 
with Magunson-Stevens Act and the Endangered Species Act (ESA), NMFS 
cannot exempt small entities or change the reporting requirements only 
for small entities. Thus, there are no alternatives discussed that fall 
under the first and fourth categories described above. In addition, 
none of the alternatives considered would result in additional 
reporting or compliance requirements (category two above). NMFS does 
not know of any performance or design standards that would satisfy the 
aforementioned objectives of this rulemaking while, concurrently, 
complying with the Magnuson-Stevens Act. As described below, NMFS 
analyzed five different alternatives in this proposed rulemaking and 
provides justification for selection of the preferred alternative to 
achieve the desired objective.
    The alternatives included: status quo (alternative 1), transferring 
10 percent of the Gulf of Mexico region annual quota to the South 
Atlantic (alternative 2), closing the South Atlantic region during the 
first trimester of 2007 and opening the mid Atlantic shark closed area 
in July 2007 (alternative 3), removing the mid-Atlantic shark closed 
area (alternative 4), and transferring the entire Gulf of Mexico region 
underharvest to the South Atlantic region (alternative 5). Closing the 
South Atlantic region during the first trimester and opening the mid 
Atlantic shark closed area in July is the preferred alternative 
(alternative 3).
    Alternative 1 is considered the status quo alternative since it 
would maintain existing procedures for addressing regional trimester 
over- and underharvests when establishing the regional quotas and 
seasons for the first trimester of 2007 and it would also maintain the 
existing mid-Atlantic shark closure. The Gulf of Mexico and North 
Atlantic regions would maintain similar economic levels as previous 
years because those regions are proposed to be open, with ample quota, 
throughout the entire first trimester 2007. This alternative is not 
preferred, as it would result in negative economic impacts for the 
South Atlantic region, compared to the preferred alternative.
    By itself, the status quo alternative does not create any new 
economic burdens on the shark commercial industry. Regardless, the 
unexpected magnitude of the 2006 first trimester overharvest would 
result in no commercial fishing for LCS in the entire South Atlantic 
region from January 1 to July 31, 2007, and there would be no fishing 
with bottom longline (BLL) gear permitted in the Mid-Atlantic shark 
closure until August 1, 2007.
    If not for the overharvest in 2006, the first trimester quota 
available would have been 137.6 mt of LCS. Using a median ex-vessel 
price of $0.51 for LCS and $12.61 for shark fin reported HMS Dealer 
reports from 2002 to 2005 for the South Atlantic and adjusted for 
inflation, the value of this harvest would have been approximately 
$146,976 for LCS fresh (95 percent of the quota weight) and $191,266 
for shark fins (based on the 5 percent shark fin to carcass 
regulation). Therefore, the 2006 overharvest is estimated to have an 
estimated direct revenue impact on South Atlantic commercial shark 
fishing activity of approximately $338,242. There will also be 
continued economic hardship compared to the preferred alternative for 
fishing operations using BLL gear that are dependant on LCS in the 
vicinity of the Mid-Atlantic shark closure since they would not be 
permitted to fish until August 1, 2007. However, it should be noted 
that fishermen received revenue sooner

[[Page 58782]]

under the 2006 first trimester overharvest than they normally would 
have received. However, a closure during the first trimester of 2007 
would result in disrupted revenue flows and negative economic impacts. 
Using the median ex-vessel prices for the first trimester of 2006 of 
$0.45 and $14.00 for LCS flesh and shark fins, respectively, the 
estimated revenue for the first trimester in 2006 from the 184.3 mt in 
overharvest was $458,116.
    Maintaining the Mid-Atlantic shark closed area would result in no 
fishing with BLL gear permitted in the mid-Atlantic shark closure until 
August 1, 2007. This could impact some of the vessels dependant on 
fishing with BLL gear in this region.
    Alternative 2 would adjust the South Atlantic regional LCS quota 
for the first trimester by transferring up to 10 percent of the 2006 
first trimester quota from the Gulf of Mexico. This would likely result 
in the same economic effects as the status quo alternative, since the 
transferred amount is not likely to be sufficient to allow for an LCS 
season in the first trimester in the South Atlantic region while still 
allowing for a full season in the Gulf of Mexico region. Before 
implementing this alternative, it would be necessary to review the 
annual regional landings for 2006 for both regions before determining 
whether the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions have 
corresponding annual over- and underharvests, respectively. This 
alternative is not preferred, as it would result in negative economic 
impacts for the South Atlantic region, similar to alternative 1 (status 
quo), compared to the preferred alternative.
    Alternative 3, the preferred alternative, would close the entire 
South Atlantic region for LCS during the first trimester of 2007 and 
open the entire area including the mid-Atlantic shark closed area 
region in July 2007, pending availability of quota. This alternative 
could minimize the economic costs associated with the South Atlantic 
overharvest. As described above for Alternative 1, the 2006 overharvest 
is estimated to have an estimated direct revenue impact on South 
Atlantic commercial shark fishing activity of approximately $338,242. 
In 2005, 46 vessels reported landings in the South Atlantic region, 
indicating that the LCS closure could result in a loss of revenue of 
approximately $7,353/vessel. However, this alternative might provide an 
additional month of fishing opportunities for vessels that may not be 
able to participate in the South Atlantic fishery during the first six 
months of 2007. Compared to pre-closure landings (2002-2004), landings 
in 2005 of LCS decreased by 13.9 mt dw which may have been a result of 
the closed area. This additional month of access to the mid-Atlantic 
shark closed area region during the month of July is estimated to 
potentially result in an additional $34,188 in gross shark revenues 
based on the difference in landings that may occur as a result of 
reopening the mid-Atlantic shark closed area.
    Alternative 4 would open the mid-Atlantic shark closed area on 
January 1, 2007, through July 31, 2007, dependant on available quota 
for LCS during the first and second trimester seasons of 2007. Given 
the preliminary landings data as of August 24, 2006, it is likely quota 
will not be available. Therefore, it is likely that this alternative 
would result in economic impacts identical to Alternative 3. The 
impacts of this alternative would be similar to the preferred 
alternative or the status quo alternative as lack of available quota 
would prevent fishing in the South Atlantic region during the first 
trimester. This alternative is not preferred because the preferred 
alternative achieves similar objectives, yet ensures that the 
ecological benefits of maintaining the mid-Atlantic shark closed area 
are maintained through June of 2007. Furthermore, if fishing were 
allowed in the first trimester of 2007 by transferring quota from the 
Gulf of Mexico region (alternative 5) this alternative would result in 
negative ecological impacts because it does not account for the 
overharvest that occurred in 2006.
    Alternative 5 would distribute a portion of the LCS underharvest 
from the Gulf of Mexico's landings from the first trimester of 2006 to 
the South Atlantic first trimester of 2007 thus providing a first 
trimester season for 2007 in the South Atlantic. Transferring all of 
the Gulf of Mexico region's under harvest to the South Atlantic could 
provide for 74.3 mt dw of quota that would provide for an approximately 
3-week long season. This 3-week season would generate approximately 
$182,641 (95 percent at $0.51/lb dw LCS and 5 percent at $12.61/lb dw 
shark fins) in revenue in the South Atlantic region. However, the 
estimated revenue generated during the 3-week season would still be 
about $155,601 less than the potential revenue associated with the 
annual quota allocation. This alternative was not selected as it would 
not account for the overharvest experienced in the South Atlantic 
region during the first trimester of 2006, resulting in additional 
fishing mortality in 2007 and negative ecological impacts as a 
consequence. Furthermore, the potential exists for the South Atlantic 
region to exceed its 2007 first trimester quota, exacerbating future 
potential economic and ecological impacts as a result.
    Overall, underharvests from 2006 that would be transferred to the 
first trimester season quota for 2007 under this alternative may result 
in economic benefits for the Gulf of Mexico that may potentially offset 
some of the negative economic impacts to the South Atlantic region. 
Increases in possible revenue as a result of transferring the 
underharvests are only potential amounts that may or may not be 
realized. If revenues are not realized then there would be no economic 
impact because the fishermen did not receive any benefit from the 
transfer of underharvests. If revenues are realized, it may result in a 
positive economic impacts.
    These proposed regulations are not expected to increase endangered 
species or marine mammal interaction rates. A Biological Opinion (BiOp) 
issued October 29, 2003, concluded that the continued operation of the 
Atlantic shark fisheries was not likely to jeopardize the continued 
existence of any listed species under NMFS purview. An analysis of the 
anticipated incidental takes of sea turtles (primarily loggerhead and 
leatherback sea turtles) and smalltooth sawfish resulted in a ``non-
jeopardy'' determination in the BiOp. This proposed rule would adjust 
LCS quotas for the first trimester of 2007 based on over- and 
underharvests that occurred in the first trimester of 2006. 
Furthermore, this proposed rule would not alter fishing practices or 
fishing effort significantly and therefore should not have any further 
impacts on endangered species or marine mammals beyond those considered 
in the October 29, 2003, BiOp for Atlantic shark fisheries. Between 
1994-2004, there have been 5 loggerhead sea turtles observed caught on 
BLL gear in the mid-Atlantic shark closed area, two of which were 
released alive. Only one of these interactions occurred during the moth 
of July (1998). Re-opening the mid-Atlantic shark closure in July would 
likely have slightly negative ecological impacts because the likelihood 
of interactions with protected resources and other bycatch would be 
increased due to the displacement of fishing effort to an area that had 
been previously closed. The modification to the mid-Atlantic shark 
closure area is not expected to significantly impact interactions with 
protected resources, because the South Atlantic region would be closed 
to targeted LCS fishing from January through June of 2007.

[[Page 58783]]

    The preferred alternative of opening the mid-Atlantic shark closed 
area in July 2007, dependent upon available quota, would likely 
increase fishing mortality of juvenile sandbar sharks. This area is 
considered an Habitat Area of Particular Concern (HAPC) for sandbar 
sharks. However, the impacts on Essential Fish Habitat (EFH), and 
specifically, the HAPC are considered to be negligible because of the 
short duration of the opening. A status quo alternative was considered 
that would have reduced ecological impacts on the HAPC and EFH in 
general, however, that alternative would result in more extensive 
negative social and economic impacts because the South Atlantic region 
will be closed for the first seven months of 2007, rather than six 
months as preferred.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 635

    Fisheries, Fishing, Fishing vessels, Foreign relations, Imports, 
Penalties, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Treaties.

    Dated: September 28, 2006.
William T. Hogarth,
Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
    For reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 635 is proposed to 
be amended as follows:

PART 635--ATLANTIC HIGHLY MIGRATORY SPECIES

    1. The authority citation for part 635 continues to read as 
follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.
    2. In Sec.  635.21, paragraph (d)(1) is revised to read asfollows:


Sec.  635.21  Gear operation and deployment restrictions.

* * * * *
    (d) * * *
    (1) If bottom longline gear is on board a vessel issued a permit 
under this part, persons on board that vessel may not fish or deploy 
any type of fishing gear in the mid-Atlantic shark closed area from 
January 1 through July 31 each calendar year, except that in 2007 the 
mid-Atlantic shark closed area will be closed from January 1 through 
June 30 and may open in July, contingent upon available quota.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. E6-16408 Filed 10-4-06; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-S