Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Snapper-Grouper Fishery off the Southern Atlantic States; Amendment 15B, 26827-26829 [E9-13089]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 106 / Thursday, June 4, 2009 / Proposed Rules recording, and Braille), send an e-mail to fcc504@fcc.gov or call the Commission’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau at (202) 418–0530 (voice), (202) 418–0432 (TTY). This document does not contain proposed information collection requirements subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, Public Law 104– 13. In addition, therefore, it does not contain any proposed information collection burden ‘‘for small business concerns with fewer than 25 employees,’’ pursuant to the Small Business Paperwork Relief Act of 2002, Public Law 107–198, see 44 U.S.C. 3506(c)(4). Provisions of the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 do not apply to this proceeding. Members of the public should note that from the time a Notice of Proposed Rule Making is issued until the matter is no longer subject to Commission consideration or court review, all ex parte contacts are prohibited in Commission proceedings, such as this one, which involve channel allotments. See 47 CFR 1.1204(b) for rules governing permissible ex parte contacts. For information regarding proper filing procedures for comments, see 47 CFR 1.415 and 1.420. List of Subjects in 47 CFR Part 73 Television, Television broadcasting. For the reasons discussed in the preamble, the Federal Communications Commission proposes to amend 47 CFR part 73 as follows: PART 73—RADIO BROADCAST SERVICES 1. The authority citation for part 73 continues to read as follows: Authority: 47 U.S.C. 154, 303, 334, 336. § 73.622(i) [Amended] 2. Section 73.622(i), the PostTransition Table of DTV Allotments under Minnesota, is amended by adding DTV channel *23 and removing DTV channel *26 at St. Paul. Federal Communications Commission. Clay C. Pendarvis, Associate Chief, Video Division, Media Bureau. [FR Doc. E9–13056 Filed 6–3–09; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6712–01–P VerDate Nov<24>2008 14:50 Jun 03, 2009 Jkt 217001 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 622 RIN 0648–AW12 Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; SnapperGrouper Fishery off the Southern Atlantic States; Amendment 15B AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of availability of fishery management plan amendment; request for comments. SUMMARY: The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) has submitted Amendment 15B to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region (FMP) for review, approval, and implementation by NMFS. Amendment 15B proposes actions to require a private recreational vessel that fishes in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), if selected by NMFS, to maintain and submit fishing records; require a vessel that fishes in the EEZ, if selected by NMFS, to carry an observer and install an electronic logbook (ELB) and/or video monitor provided by NMFS; prohibit the sale of snapper-grouper harvested under the bag limits by a vessel for which a Federal charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has been issued, regardless of where the snapper-grouper were harvested; require an owner and operator of a vessel for which a commercial or charter vessel/ headboat permit has been issued and that has on board any hook-and-line gear to comply with sea turtle and smalltooth sawfish release protocols, possess on board specific gear to ensure proper release of such species that are incidentally caught; expand the allowable transfer of a commercial vessel permit under the limited access program and extend the allowable period for renewal of such a permit. Amendment 15B also proposes to revise the stock status determination criteria for golden tilefish and specify commercial/recreational allocations for snowy grouper and red porgy. The intended effects of this amendment are to provide additional information for, and otherwise improve the effective management of, the South Atlantic snapper-grouper fishery; minimize the impacts on incidentally caught PO 00000 Frm 00022 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 26827 threatened and endangered sea turtles and smalltooth sawfish. DATES: Comments must be received no later than 5 p.m., eastern time, on August 3, 2009. ADDRESSES: You many submit comments, identified by ‘‘0648–AW12’’, by any of the following methods: • Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal https:// www.regulations.gov. • Fax: 727–824–5308, Attn: Kate Michie. • Mail: Kate Michie, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701. Instructions: All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted to https:// www.regulations.gov without change. All Personal Identifying Information (for example, name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit Confidential Business Information or otherwise sensitive or protected information. NMFS will accept anonymous comments. Enter ‘‘N/A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous. Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only. Requests for copies of Amendment 15B, which includes an environmental impact statement, a regulatory impact review, a regulatory flexibility analysis, and a fishery impact statement, should be sent to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 4055 Faber Place, Suite 201, North Charleston, SC 29405; telephone 843–571–4366; fax 843–769– 4520; e-mail safmc@safmc.net. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kate Michie, telephone: 727–824–5305; fax: 727–824–5308. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background The South Atlantic snapper-grouper fishery is managed under the FMP. The FMP was prepared by the Council and implemented by NMFS under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) by regulations at 50 CFR part 622. Specifying Allocations for Snowy Grouper and Red Porgy In order to ensure the adverse socioeconomic impacts of ending overfishing and rebuilding overfished stocks are fairly and equitably distributed, the Council is specifying allocations between the commercial and E:\FR\FM\04JNP1.SGM 04JNP1 26828 Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 106 / Thursday, June 4, 2009 / Proposed Rules recreational sectors for snowy grouper and red porgy. An allocation for snowy grouper and red porgy is needed to divide the future allowable harvest as designated by the rebuilding trajectory between commercial and recreational sectors. Without the designation of an allocation, the Council is unable to identify the allowable catch in either sector. Updating Management Reference Points for Golden Tilefish A recent stock assessment of golden tilefish has provided numerical values for benchmarks, including optimum yield (OY) and minimum stock size threshold (MSST). The OY redefinition is more consistent with National Standard 1 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which states conservation and management measures shall prevent overfishing while achieving, on a continuing basis, the OY for each fishery for the United States fishing industry. The MSST redefinition for golden tilefish is set at a level that establishes a more appropriate difference between an overfished condition and the rebuilding goal. Modification of Snapper-grouper Sale Provisions Through Amendment 15B the Council would prohibit bag limit sales of snapper-grouper in the South Atlantic in order to address socioeconomic, data quality, and enforcement concerns. Current regulations allow the sale of snapper-grouper taken from the South Atlantic EEZ, up to the allowed bag limit, to be sold to a licensed dealer if the seller possesses a state-issued license to sell fish, whether or not the seller has a commercial vessel permit. Fish harvested and marketed in this manner, whether harvested by for-hire vessels or private anglers, are counted against the commercial quotas, resulting in accelerated quota closure and reducing the amount and value of harvests allocated to the commercial sector. Accelerated closures impose additional economic losses through market disruption and forced alteration of fishing practices, including transfer of effort other resources that may be less valuable and/or more expensive to catch. The effects of this situation are exacerbated by the current reduced commercial quotas. In addition, such fish are also counted against the recreational allocations, thus complicating fishery assessments. Accordingly, this rule would prohibit the sale of South Atlantic snappergrouper harvested in the EEZ and possessed under the bag limits. The prohibition would apply not only to a VerDate Nov<24>2008 14:50 Jun 03, 2009 Jkt 217001 person fishing from a private recreational vessel but also to a person fishing from a vessel operating as a charter vessel or headboat even if such charter vessel/headboat has a commercial vessel permit. In addition, this rule would prohibit the sale of snapper-grouper harvested under the bag limits by a vessel for which a Federal charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has been issued, regardless of where the snapper-grouper were harvested, i.e., in state or Federal waters. Improvements to Bycatch Monitoring The Council also addresses bycatch issues in the snapper-grouper fishery in Amendment 15B. A significant number of snapper-grouper are released by fishermen, often resulting in incidental mortality of bycatch. Biologically, such bycatch mortality may constitute a significant portion of the mortality for many species and cause ecological changes to the environment in the form of altered predator-prey relationships. Therefore, the Council is seeking to implement a long-term, standardized monitoring and assessment program through the expansion of the existing requirement for fishing reports to include such private recreational vessels as are selected by the Science and Research Director, Southeast Fisheries Science Center, NMFS (SRD). Other actions aimed at improving bycatch monitoring include a requirement for an owner and operator of a vessel with a commercial vessel or charter vessel/ headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper and an owner and operator of a private recreational vessel in that fishery, if selected by the SRD, to carry a NMFS-approved observer on trips selected by the SRD and/or participate in a NMFS sponsored ELB video monitoring reporting program as directed by the SRD. Video monitoring hardware and software could provide a cost-effective and reliable system of monitoring bycatch, release mortality, handling of fish, and other shipboard practices. Pertinent data collected by a video electronic monitoring system would include species caught, number of hooks, location, depth, date, time, and disposition of released organisms. NMFS would also rely on state corporation, specifically funded projects, and the Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program’s Release, Discard, and Protected Species Module, as the module is implemented. Reduce Bycatch Mortality of ESA Listed Species On June 7, 2006, NMFS completed a formal Section 7 consultation under the PO 00000 Frm 00023 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Endangered Species Act on the South Atlantic snapper-grouper fishery. The biological opinion stated the vertical line and bottom longline gear used in the snapper-grouper fishery were likely to adversely affect threatened and endangered sea turtles and smalltooth sawfish, via entanglement, hooking, and/or forced submergence. One of the terms and conditions to implement a reasonable and prudent measure established under the biological opinion, requires NMFS, in cooperation with the Council, to implement sea turtle bycatch release equipment requirements, and sea turtle and smalltooth sawfish handling protocols and/or guidelines in the permitted commercial and for-hire snappergrouper fishery. Therefore, this amendment would require a vessel for which a commercial or charter vessel/ headboat permit has been issued for South Atlantic snapper-grouper to possess a document provided by NMFS titled, ‘‘Careful Release Protocols for Sea Turtle Release With Minimal Injury;’’ post the sea turtle handling and release guidelines placard provided by NMFS on the vessel; have sea turtle release gear on board; and follow specified release handling measures for a sea turtle or smalltooth sawfish that is caught incidentally. Permit Renewal and Transferability Requirement Modifications In Amendment 15B the Council has also included measures to address permit renewal and transferability issues. Currently, South Atlantic commercial snapper-grouper permits must be renewed within 60 days of the date they expire. The Council believes the 60-day requirement is overly restrictive and presents an unnecessary hardship to fishery participants. As a result, the Council is considering extending the commercial snappergrouper permit renewal deadline to one year. Additionally, current regulations state that a transferable commercial vessel permit issued under the limited access program may be transferred only to an immediate family member of the holder. An ‘‘immediate family member’’ is specified as a husband, wife, son, daughter, brother, sister, mother, or father. This restriction has precluded owners of individually owned vessels from changing to corporate ownership and the realization of the associated benefits. Accordingly, Amendment 15B proposes to allow transfer to a corporation, provided the shareholders of the corporation are limited to the original permit holder and/or his/her immediate family members. Subsequent E:\FR\FM\04JNP1.SGM 04JNP1 Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 106 / Thursday, June 4, 2009 / Proposed Rules additional shareholders would be limited to immediate family members. The Council has submitted Amendment 15B for Secretarial review, approval, and implementation. NMFS’ decision to approve, partially approve, or disapprove Amendment 15B will be based, in part, on consideration of comments, recommendations, and information received during the comment period on this notice of availability. After consideration of these factors, and consistency with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable laws, NMFS will publish a final rule in the Federal Register announcing the Agency’s decision to approve, partially approve, or disapprove Amendment 15B, and the associated rationale. If approved, the provisions of Amendment 15B would be specified in regulations. Public comments received by 5 p.m. eastern time, on August 3, 2009, will be considered by NMFS in the approval/ disapproval decision regarding Amendment 15B. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: May 29, 2009. Kristen C. Koch, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. E9–13089 Filed 6–3–09; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–S DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 622 RIN 0648–AS65 Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Aquaculture AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of Availability of the Fishery Management Plan for Regulating Offshore Marine Aquaculture in the Gulf of Mexico (FMP); request for comments. SUMMARY: The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) has submitted the FMP for review, approval, and implementation by NMFS. The FMP is intended to establish a comprehensive permitting and regulatory framework to manage the development of an environmentally sound and economically sustainable aquaculture industry in the Gulf of VerDate Nov<24>2008 14:50 Jun 03, 2009 Jkt 217001 Mexico exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The FMP would establish application and permit requirements, aquaculture operational requirements and restrictions, siting requirements and conditions, and recordkeeping and reporting requirements; specify allowable aquaculture species; provide for evaluation and approval/disapproval of proposed aquaculture systems (e.g., cages or net pens); establish restricted access zones around aquaculture facilities; and establish a regulatory framework for modifying certain aquaculture-related management measures consistent with the provisions of the FMP. In addition, the FMP would establish biological reference points and status determination criteria specific to aquaculture in the EEZ. DATES: Comments must be received no later than 5 p.m., eastern time, on August 3, 2009. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the proposed rule, identified by ‘‘0648–AS65’’, by any one of the following methods: • Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal https:// www.regulations.gov. • Mail: Jess Beck, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701. Instructions: All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted to https:// www.regulations.gov without change. All Personal Identifying Information (for example, name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential business information or otherwise sensitive or protected information. To submit comments through the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: https:// www.regulations.gov, enter ‘‘NOAANMFS–2008–0233’’ in the keyword search, then check the box labeled ‘‘Select to find documents accepting comments or submissions’’, then select ‘‘Send a Comment or Submission.’’ NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter N/A in the required fields, if you wish to remain anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only. Copies of the FMP may be obtained from the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, 2203 North Lois Avenue, Suite 1100, Tampa, FL 33607; telephone 813–348–1630; fax 813–348– 1711; e-mail: gulfcouncil@gulfcouncil.org; or may be downloaded from the Council’s website PO 00000 Frm 00024 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 26829 at https://www.gulfcouncil.org/. The FMP includes a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis, a Regulatory Impact Review, and a Social Impact Assessment/Fishery Impact Statement. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jess Beck, telephone: 727–824–5301; fax: 727–824–5320; e-mail: Jess.Beck@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The FMP was prepared by the Council and is implemented through regulations at 50 CFR part 622 under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). Background Demand for protein is increasing in the United States. Today imports account for over 80 percent of the U.S. seafood consumption. As demand for seafood as protein continues to increase many commercial wild-capture fisheries are being fished at or above sustainable levels and are likely unable to meet such growing demand. Aquaculture of commercially and recreationally important species has been suggested as one method to meet the current and future demands for seafood. Currently, there is no process for accommodating commercial scale offshore aquaculture in Gulf of Mexico exclusive economic zone, other than live rock aquaculture which is authorized under Amendments 2 and 3 to the Coral and Coral Reefs FMP. NOAA Fisheries Service may issue an exempted fishing permit (EFP) to conduct offshore aquaculture in federal waters; however, an EFP is of limited duration and is not intended for commercial production of fish and shellfish. The Council has submitted the FMP to NMFS for agency review under procedures of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The purpose of this FMP is to establish a comprehensive permitting and regulatory framework to manage the development of an environmentally sound and economically sustainable aquaculture industry in the EEZ. The Council chose alternatives that would: establish application and permit requirements, aquaculture operational requirements and restrictions, siting requirements and conditions, and recordkeeping and reporting requirements; specify allowable aquaculture species; provide for evaluation and approval/disapproval of proposed aquaculture systems (e.g., cages or net pens); establish restricted access zones around aquaculture facilities; establish a regulatory E:\FR\FM\04JNP1.SGM 04JNP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 74, Number 106 (Thursday, June 4, 2009)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 26827-26829]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E9-13089]


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

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

RIN 0648-AW12


Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 
Snapper-Grouper Fishery off the Southern Atlantic States; Amendment 15B

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

ACTION: Notice of availability of fishery management plan amendment; 
request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) has 
submitted Amendment 15B to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-
Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region (FMP) for review, 
approval, and implementation by NMFS. Amendment 15B proposes actions to 
require a private recreational vessel that fishes in the exclusive 
economic zone (EEZ), if selected by NMFS, to maintain and submit 
fishing records; require a vessel that fishes in the EEZ, if selected 
by NMFS, to carry an observer and install an electronic logbook (ELB) 
and/or video monitor provided by NMFS; prohibit the sale of snapper-
grouper harvested under the bag limits by a vessel for which a Federal 
charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has 
been issued, regardless of where the snapper-grouper were harvested; 
require an owner and operator of a vessel for which a commercial or 
charter vessel/headboat permit has been issued and that has on board 
any hook-and-line gear to comply with sea turtle and smalltooth sawfish 
release protocols, possess on board specific gear to ensure proper 
release of such species that are incidentally caught; expand the 
allowable transfer of a commercial vessel permit under the limited 
access program and extend the allowable period for renewal of such a 
permit. Amendment 15B also proposes to revise the stock status 
determination criteria for golden tilefish and specify commercial/
recreational allocations for snowy grouper and red porgy. The intended 
effects of this amendment are to provide additional information for, 
and otherwise improve the effective management of, the South Atlantic 
snapper-grouper fishery; minimize the impacts on incidentally caught 
threatened and endangered sea turtles and smalltooth sawfish.

DATES: Comments must be received no later than 5 p.m., eastern time, on 
August 3, 2009.

ADDRESSES: You many submit comments, identified by ``0648-AW12'', by 
any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal https://www.regulations.gov.
     Fax: 727-824-5308, Attn: Kate Michie.
     Mail: Kate Michie, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 263 
13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.
    Instructions: All comments received are a part of the public record 
and will generally be posted to https://www.regulations.gov without 
change. All Personal Identifying Information (for example, name, 
address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly 
accessible. Do not submit Confidential Business Information or 
otherwise sensitive or protected information.
    NMFS will accept anonymous comments. Enter ``N/A'' in the required 
fields if you wish to remain anonymous. Attachments to electronic 
comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or 
Adobe PDF file formats only.
    Requests for copies of Amendment 15B, which includes an 
environmental impact statement, a regulatory impact review, a 
regulatory flexibility analysis, and a fishery impact statement, should 
be sent to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 4055 Faber 
Place, Suite 201, North Charleston, SC 29405; telephone 843-571-4366; 
fax 843-769-4520; e-mail safmc@safmc.net.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kate Michie, telephone: 727-824-5305; 
fax: 727-824-5308.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    The South Atlantic snapper-grouper fishery is managed under the 
FMP. The FMP was prepared by the Council and implemented by NMFS under 
the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and 
Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) by regulations at 50 CFR part 
622.

Specifying Allocations for Snowy Grouper and Red Porgy

    In order to ensure the adverse socioeconomic impacts of ending 
overfishing and rebuilding overfished stocks are fairly and equitably 
distributed, the Council is specifying allocations between the 
commercial and

[[Page 26828]]

recreational sectors for snowy grouper and red porgy. An allocation for 
snowy grouper and red porgy is needed to divide the future allowable 
harvest as designated by the rebuilding trajectory between commercial 
and recreational sectors. Without the designation of an allocation, the 
Council is unable to identify the allowable catch in either sector.

Updating Management Reference Points for Golden Tilefish

    A recent stock assessment of golden tilefish has provided numerical 
values for benchmarks, including optimum yield (OY) and minimum stock 
size threshold (MSST). The OY redefinition is more consistent with 
National Standard 1 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which states 
conservation and management measures shall prevent overfishing while 
achieving, on a continuing basis, the OY for each fishery for the 
United States fishing industry. The MSST redefinition for golden 
tilefish is set at a level that establishes a more appropriate 
difference between an overfished condition and the rebuilding goal.

Modification of Snapper-grouper Sale Provisions

    Through Amendment 15B the Council would prohibit bag limit sales of 
snapper-grouper in the South Atlantic in order to address 
socioeconomic, data quality, and enforcement concerns. Current 
regulations allow the sale of snapper-grouper taken from the South 
Atlantic EEZ, up to the allowed bag limit, to be sold to a licensed 
dealer if the seller possesses a state-issued license to sell fish, 
whether or not the seller has a commercial vessel permit. Fish 
harvested and marketed in this manner, whether harvested by for-hire 
vessels or private anglers, are counted against the commercial quotas, 
resulting in accelerated quota closure and reducing the amount and 
value of harvests allocated to the commercial sector. Accelerated 
closures impose additional economic losses through market disruption 
and forced alteration of fishing practices, including transfer of 
effort other resources that may be less valuable and/or more expensive 
to catch. The effects of this situation are exacerbated by the current 
reduced commercial quotas. In addition, such fish are also counted 
against the recreational allocations, thus complicating fishery 
assessments. Accordingly, this rule would prohibit the sale of South 
Atlantic snapper-grouper harvested in the EEZ and possessed under the 
bag limits. The prohibition would apply not only to a person fishing 
from a private recreational vessel but also to a person fishing from a 
vessel operating as a charter vessel or headboat even if such charter 
vessel/headboat has a commercial vessel permit. In addition, this rule 
would prohibit the sale of snapper-grouper harvested under the bag 
limits by a vessel for which a Federal charter vessel/headboat permit 
for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has been issued, regardless of where 
the snapper-grouper were harvested, i.e., in state or Federal waters.

Improvements to Bycatch Monitoring

    The Council also addresses bycatch issues in the snapper-grouper 
fishery in Amendment 15B. A significant number of snapper-grouper are 
released by fishermen, often resulting in incidental mortality of 
bycatch. Biologically, such bycatch mortality may constitute a 
significant portion of the mortality for many species and cause 
ecological changes to the environment in the form of altered predator-
prey relationships. Therefore, the Council is seeking to implement a 
long-term, standardized monitoring and assessment program through the 
expansion of the existing requirement for fishing reports to include 
such private recreational vessels as are selected by the Science and 
Research Director, Southeast Fisheries Science Center, NMFS (SRD). 
Other actions aimed at improving bycatch monitoring include a 
requirement for an owner and operator of a vessel with a commercial 
vessel or charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-
grouper and an owner and operator of a private recreational vessel in 
that fishery, if selected by the SRD, to carry a NMFS-approved observer 
on trips selected by the SRD and/or participate in a NMFS sponsored ELB 
video monitoring reporting program as directed by the SRD. Video 
monitoring hardware and software could provide a cost-effective and 
reliable system of monitoring bycatch, release mortality, handling of 
fish, and other shipboard practices. Pertinent data collected by a 
video electronic monitoring system would include species caught, number 
of hooks, location, depth, date, time, and disposition of released 
organisms. NMFS would also rely on state corporation, specifically 
funded projects, and the Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics 
Program's Release, Discard, and Protected Species Module, as the module 
is implemented.

Reduce Bycatch Mortality of ESA Listed Species

    On June 7, 2006, NMFS completed a formal Section 7 consultation 
under the Endangered Species Act on the South Atlantic snapper-grouper 
fishery. The biological opinion stated the vertical line and bottom 
longline gear used in the snapper-grouper fishery were likely to 
adversely affect threatened and endangered sea turtles and smalltooth 
sawfish, via entanglement, hooking, and/or forced submergence. One of 
the terms and conditions to implement a reasonable and prudent measure 
established under the biological opinion, requires NMFS, in cooperation 
with the Council, to implement sea turtle bycatch release equipment 
requirements, and sea turtle and smalltooth sawfish handling protocols 
and/or guidelines in the permitted commercial and for-hire snapper-
grouper fishery. Therefore, this amendment would require a vessel for 
which a commercial or charter vessel/headboat permit has been issued 
for South Atlantic snapper-grouper to possess a document provided by 
NMFS titled, ``Careful Release Protocols for Sea Turtle Release With 
Minimal Injury;'' post the sea turtle handling and release guidelines 
placard provided by NMFS on the vessel; have sea turtle release gear on 
board; and follow specified release handling measures for a sea turtle 
or smalltooth sawfish that is caught incidentally.

Permit Renewal and Transferability Requirement Modifications

    In Amendment 15B the Council has also included measures to address 
permit renewal and transferability issues. Currently, South Atlantic 
commercial snapper-grouper permits must be renewed within 60 days of 
the date they expire. The Council believes the 60-day requirement is 
overly restrictive and presents an unnecessary hardship to fishery 
participants. As a result, the Council is considering extending the 
commercial snapper-grouper permit renewal deadline to one year. 
Additionally, current regulations state that a transferable commercial 
vessel permit issued under the limited access program may be 
transferred only to an immediate family member of the holder. An 
``immediate family member'' is specified as a husband, wife, son, 
daughter, brother, sister, mother, or father. This restriction has 
precluded owners of individually owned vessels from changing to 
corporate ownership and the realization of the associated benefits. 
Accordingly, Amendment 15B proposes to allow transfer to a corporation, 
provided the shareholders of the corporation are limited to the 
original permit holder and/or his/her immediate family members. 
Subsequent

[[Page 26829]]

additional shareholders would be limited to immediate family members.
    The Council has submitted Amendment 15B for Secretarial review, 
approval, and implementation. NMFS' decision to approve, partially 
approve, or disapprove Amendment 15B will be based, in part, on 
consideration of comments, recommendations, and information received 
during the comment period on this notice of availability. After 
consideration of these factors, and consistency with the Magnuson-
Stevens Act and other applicable laws, NMFS will publish a final rule 
in the Federal Register announcing the Agency's decision to approve, 
partially approve, or disapprove Amendment 15B, and the associated 
rationale. If approved, the provisions of Amendment 15B would be 
specified in regulations.
    Public comments received by 5 p.m. eastern time, on August 3, 2009, 
will be considered by NMFS in the approval/disapproval decision 
regarding Amendment 15B.

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

    Dated: May 29, 2009.
Kristen C. Koch,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. E9-13089 Filed 6-3-09; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-S