Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; 2011 Commercial Fishing Season and Adaptive Management Measures for the Atlantic Shark Fishery, 57240-57249 [2010-23443]

Download as PDF 57240 Federal Register / Vol. 75, No. 181 / Monday, September 20, 2010 / Proposed Rules and changing gear operation and deployment requirements. Regulatory changes of this nature tend to be reactive and result when current management measures need to be modified. Generally, the public is involved at the proposed rule stage for these types of regulatory changes. Annual specifications are another type of rulemaking action that NMFS uses to adjust the annual commercial shark quotas that are established in the FMP. The annual specifications take about 6 months to complete. Annual specifications adjust the quotas based on over- and underharvests in the previous year(s) and establish season opening dates for the Atlantic shark fishery. A recent example of an annual specification is the final rule that established quotas and season opening dates for the 2010 Atlantic shark commercial fishing season based on over- and underharvests in 2009 (75 FR 250, January 5, 2010). Depending on the outcome of this ANPR process, NMFS will consider rules or FMP amendments as appropriate. jdjones on DSK8KYBLC1PROD with PROPOSALS-1 IV. Summary This ANPR explains the Atlantic shark management history while also describing ongoing issues within the shark fishery, as well as many approaches to future management that NMFS could implement in order to address these issues in the future. Some of the ideas discussed are specific changes to the current quota and permit structures, which could potentially be implemented in the short-term through a regulatory action in one to two years. The other changes discussed include implementing a catch share or sector program for the Atlantic shark fishery, which could be implemented by amending the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP. It is NMFS’s goal to move forward with proactive management for the Atlantic shark fishery and implement a viable and flexible solution that will achieve specific shark fishery goals and objectives for the future of the Atlantic shark fishery. V. Submission of Public Comments The comment period for all topics discussed in this ANPR closes on January 14, 2011. Please see the ADDRESSES section of this ANPR for additional information regarding the submission of written comments. NMFS requests comments on the potential adjustment of regulations or an FMP amendment governing the Atlantic shark quota and permit structure as well as comments on the potential consideration of catch shares and sectors for the Atlantic shark fishery. VerDate Mar<15>2010 14:31 Sep 17, 2010 Jkt 220001 The preceding sections provide background information regarding these topics and ideas for potential changes. The public is encouraged to submit comments related to the specific ideas and questions asked in each of the preceding sections. NMFS is also seeking additional ideas/solutions for changes to the Atlantic shark fishery. All written comments received by the due date will be considered in drafting proposed changes to the Atlantic shark regulations. In developing any proposed regulations, NMFS must consider and analyze ecological, social, and economic impacts. Therefore, NMFS encourages comments that would contribute to the required analyses, and respond to the questions presented in this ANPR. VI. Public Meetings NMFS will hold six public meetings to receive comments from fishery participants and other members of the public regarding this ANPR. These meetings will be physically accessible to people with disabilities. Request for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to Karyl Brewster-Geisz or LeAnn Southward Hogan at 301–713–2347 (phone) or 301–713–19197 (fax), at least 7 days prior to the meeting. For individuals unable to attend a meeting, NMFS also solicits written comments on the ANPR (see DATES and ADDRESSES). The meeting dates, locations, and times follow. All meetings will begin with an opportunity for individuals to view information on the issues raised in this ANPR and ask questions followed by a presentation and opportunity for public comment. 1. September 21–23, 2010: HMS Advisory Panel Meeting, Crowne Plaza Hotel, 8777 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20910. 2. October, 21, 2010: Ocean County Library, Stafford Branch, 129 North Main Street, Manahawkin, New Jersey 08050, 6–9 p.m. 3. October 26, 2010: Manteo Town Hall, 407 Budleigh Street, Manteo, North Carolina 27954, 6–9 p.m. 4. November 8, 2010: Belle Chasse Auditorium, 8398 Highway 23, Belle Chasse, Louisiana 70037, 6–9 p.m. 5. December 15, 2010: West St. Petersburg Community Library, 6605 5th Avenue North, St. Petersburg, FL 33710, 6–9 p.m. 6. December 16, 2010: Fort Pierce Library, 101 Melody Lane, Fort Pierce, FL 34950, 5–8 p.m. Classification This action is not significant pursuant to Executive Order 12866. PO 00000 Frm 00047 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Authority: 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq. and 1801 et seq. Dated: September 14, 2010. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2010–23438 Filed 9–17–10; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 635 [Docket No. 100622276–0307–02] RIN 0648–AY98 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; 2011 Commercial Fishing Season and Adaptive Management Measures for the Atlantic Shark Fishery National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: This proposed rule would establish opening dates and adjust quotas for the 2011 fishing season for sandbar sharks, non-sandbar large coastal sharks (LCS), small coastal sharks (SCS), and pelagic sharks. Quotas will be adjusted based on the framework established in Amendment 2 to the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan, which requires adjustments for any over- and/ or underharvests experienced during the 2009 and 2010 Atlantic commercial shark fishing seasons. In addition to establishing opening dates and adjusting annual quotas, this proposed rule analyzes adaptive management measures, such as various opening dates for the fishing season as well as allowing adjustments through inseason actions in the allowable number of fish that can be taken via trip limits, to provide flexibility in management in furtherance of equitable fishing opportunities to the extent practicable for commercial shark fishermen in all regions and areas. The proposed measures could affect fishing opportunities for commercial shark fishermen in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. DATES: Written comments will be accepted until October 20, 2010. NMFS will hold four public hearings on this proposed rule on September 22, 2010, in Silver Spring, MD; September 27, 2010, SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\20SEP1.SGM 20SEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 75, No. 181 / Monday, September 20, 2010 / Proposed Rules jdjones on DSK8KYBLC1PROD with PROPOSALS-1 in Tequesta, FL; October 4, 2010, in Belle Chasse, LA; and a meeting on October 6, 2010, via conference call to receive comments from fishery participants and other members of the public regarding this proposed rule. ADDRESSES: The public hearings will be held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 8777 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20910; Tequesta Branch Library, 461 Old Dixie Highway North, Tequesta, FL 33469; Belle Chasse Auditorium, 8398 Highway 23, Belle Chasse, LA, 70037; and via conference call at 1–800–857– 3903; passcode: 2381782. You may submit comments, identified by 0648–AY98, by any one of the following methods: • Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http:// www.regulations.gov. • Fax: 301–713–1917, Attn: Karyl ´ Brewster-Geisz or Guy DuBeck, or Jackie Wilson at 404–806–9188. • Mail: 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910. Please mark the outside of the envelope ‘‘Comments on the Proposed Rule To Establish Quotas and Adaptive Management Measures for the 2011 Atlantic Shark Commercial Fishing Season.’’ • Instructions: No comments will be posted for public viewing until after the comment period has closed. All comments received are a part of the public record and generally will be posted to http://www.regulations.gov without change. All Personal Identifying Information (e.g., name, address) 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). You may submit attachments to electronic comments in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: ´ Karyl Brewster-Geisz or Guy DuBeck by phone: 301–713–2347 or fax: 301–713– 1917, or Jackie Wilson by phone: 240– 338–3936 or fax: 404–806–9188. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background The Atlantic shark fishery is managed under the authority of the MagnusonStevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). The 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments under the Magnuson-Stevens Act are implemented by regulations at 50 CFR part 635. VerDate Mar<15>2010 14:31 Sep 17, 2010 Jkt 220001 On June 24, 2008, NMFS published a final rule (73 FR 35778, corrected at 73 FR 40658, July 15, 2008) implementing Amendment 2 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP (Amendment 2). That final rule established the annual quotas for sandbar sharks, non-sandbar LCS, and pelagic sharks, and also reduced the annual base quotas for non-sandbar LCS and sandbar sharks through December 31, 2012, to account for large overharvests that occurred in 2007. The final rule also established a shark research fishery that allows for the commercial harvest of sandbar sharks; sandbar harvest is prohibited outside of the shark research fishery. In addition, that final rule established accounting measures for under- and overharvests and redefined the shark fishery regions. On June 1, 2010, NMFS published a final rule (75 FR 30484) implementing Amendment 3 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP. This rule established, among other things, new base quotas for blacknose shark and non-blacknose SCS fisheries. Under Amendments 2 and 3 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, the Atlantic shark annual quotas apply to all areas of the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea. NMFS has split the non-sandbar LCS quota outside the research fishery between two regions, the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. The boundary delineating these two regions is a line beginning on the east coast of Florida, at the mainland, at 25°20.4′ N. lat. and proceeding due east. Any water and land to the south and west of that boundary, including the Caribbean, is considered, for the purposes of quota monitoring and setting of quotas, to be within the Gulf of Mexico region. Any water and land to the north and east of that boundary, for the purposes of quota monitoring and setting of quotas, is considered to be within the Atlantic region. As described below, in addition to establishing the adjusted annual quotas, NMFS is also proposing several changes to the regulations regarding flexibility in season opening dates and retention limits. The following summarizes the current history of the program. In Amendment 2, NMFS decreased the number of fishing seasons from three seasons to one because of the reduced quotas that were implemented to rebuild overfished shark stocks, prevent overfishing, and meet the other objectives of Amendment 2. NMFS also reduced the commercial retention limits for non-sandbar LCS and prohibited the retention of sandbar sharks, except in a small shark research fishery. Historically, sandbar sharks accounted for majority of the sharks caught in the PO 00000 Frm 00048 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 57241 directed LCS fishery. As such, as described in Amendment 2, NMFS felt that prohibiting sandbar sharks in combination with low retention limits for non-sandbar LCS would reduce the LCS fishery to incidental levels. NMFS expected this incidental LCS fishery would last year-round and provide the mid-Atlantic fishery participants the opportunity to catch part of the nonsandbar LCS quota during the summer months when LCS migrate northward and for shark fishermen, who hold directed and incidental commercial shark permits, to be able to land LCS incidentally year-round as they targeted other species in other fisheries. However, this expectation did not happen in the 2009 or 2010 non-sandbar LCS fisheries as shark fishermen continued to direct on non-sandbar LCS, despite the low retention limits. In 2009, all the Atlantic commercial shark fisheries opened on January 23, 2009 (73 FR 79005, December 24, 2008). On June 6, 2009, the non-sandbar LCS fishery closed in the Gulf of Mexico region (74 FR 26803, June 4, 2009). In the Gulf of Mexico region, fishery participants had limited opportunities to harvest the 2009 Gulf of Mexico nonsandbar LCS quota due to the June 6, 2009 closure of the non-sandbar LCS fishery. State fishermen in Louisiana were further limited due to a state water closure from April 1–June 30. In 2009, the non-sandbar LCS fishery in the Atlantic region closed on July 1, 2009 (74 FR 30479, June 26, 2009). Due to this closure, and also because of the mid-Atlantic bottom longline (BLL) closure in federal waters from January 1–July 31; the state water closure in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey from May 15–July 15; and the limited availability of non-sandbar LCS in northern Atlantic waters at the beginning of the year due to migratory patterns, the fishery participants from North Carolina and northward did not have a non-sandbar LCS fishing season in 2009. In 2009, NMFS received requests to consider delaying the 2010 non-sandbar LCS fishing season until July in the Atlantic region to allow more shark fishing opportunities in the MidAtlantic. NMFS delayed the opening of the 2010 non-sandbar LCS in the Atlantic region until July 15, 2010, in order to allow for more equitably distributed shark fishing opportunities as intended by Amendment 2. It is too early to determine if the delay in the Atlantic region until July 15 provided more broadly distributed opportunities to all fishermen in that region. For the Gulf of Mexico region in 2010, the season opened on February 4, 2010 E:\FR\FM\20SEP1.SGM 20SEP1 57242 Federal Register / Vol. 75, No. 181 / Monday, September 20, 2010 / Proposed Rules (75 FR 250), and then closed six weeks later on March 17, 2010 (75 FR 12700), when the quota was taken. Because of the closure and inclement weather in the area, many fishery participants in the region did not have opportunities to participate in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico non-sandbar LCS fishery. Based on these experiences, NMFS is considering measures in a draft environmental assessment that would provide NMFS annual flexibility to extend all of the shark fishery seasons to provide participants from all areas expanded opportunities to harvest a portion of the available non-sandbar LCS shark quota in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions. These measures would consider criteria that could be used to delay the opening of the fishing season through the annual specifications process as well as to adjust trip limits via inseason actions to provide expanded access to the resource and to address ecological concerns. This flexibility would allow NMFS to consider unanticipated events including large scale issues (e.g., BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill) or small scale issues (e.g., inclement weather or slight shifts in migratory patterns due to colder or warmer water) in order to provide more equitable fishing opportunities across all regions to the extent practicable. Accounting for Under- and Overharvests Consistent with § 635.27(b)(1)(i)(A), if the available non-sandbar LCS quota in a particular region or in the research fishery is exceeded in any fishing season, NMFS will deduct an amount equivalent to the overharvest(s) from the quota in that region or in the research fishery for the following fishing season or, depending on the level of overharvest(s), NMFS may deduct an amount equivalent to the overharvest(s) spread over a number of subsequent fishing seasons to a maximum of five years, in the specific region or research fishery where the overharvest occurred. If the available quota for sandbar sharks, blacknose sharks, non-blacknose SCS, blue sharks, porbeagle sharks, and pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle or blue sharks) is exceeded in any fishing season, NMFS will deduct an amount equivalent to the overharvest(s) from the following fishing season quota or, depending on the level of overharvest(s), NMFS may deduct an amount equivalent to the overharvest(s) spread over a number of subsequent fishing seasons to a maximum of five years. If the blue shark quota is exceeded, NMFS will reduce the annual commercial quota for pelagic sharks by the amount that the blue shark quota is exceeded prior to the start of the next fishing year or, depending on the level of overharvest(s), deduct an amount equivalent to the overharvest(s) spread over a number of subsequent fishing years to a maximum of five years. Consistent with § 635.27(b)(1)(i)(B), if an annual quota for sandbar sharks, blacknose sharks, non-blacknose SCS, blue sharks, porbeagle sharks, or pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle or blue sharks) is not exceeded, NMFS may adjust the annual quota depending on the status of the stock or quota group. If the annual quota for non-sandbar LCS is not exceeded in either region or in the research fishery, NMFS may adjust the annual quota for that region or the research fishery depending on the status of the stock or quota group. If the stock/ complex (e.g., sandbar sharks, porbeagle sharks, non-sandbar LCS, blue sharks) or specific species within a quota group (e.g., blacktip sharks within the nonsandbar LCS complex) is declared to be overfished, to have overfishing occurring, or to have an unknown status, NMFS will not adjust the following fishing year’s quota for any underharvest, and the following fishing year’s quota will be equal to the base annual quota (or the adjusted base quota for sandbar sharks and non-sandbar LCS until December 31, 2012). Currently, blacknose sharks and sandbar sharks have been determined to be overfished with overfishing occurring. Porbeagle sharks have been determined to be overfished. Blue sharks and pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle or blue sharks) have an unknown stock status. Finally, blacktip sharks in the Gulf of Mexico region were determined to not be overfished with no overfishing occurring. However, blacktip sharks are included in the nonsandbar LCS complex for the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions, the status of which has been determined to be unknown. As a result, no underharvests from the 2010 Atlantic commercial shark fishing season would be applied to the 2011 annual quotas or adjusted base quotas of these complexes. Thus, the 2011 proposed quotas would be equal to the base annual quota for blacknose sharks, porbeagle sharks, blue sharks, and pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle or blue sharks) or the adjusted base annual quota for sandbar sharks and non-sandbar LCS, minus any potential overharvests that occurred in the 2009 and 2010 fishing seasons. The non-blacknose SCS complex has been determined to not be overfished and has no overfishing occurring; therefore, any underharvest from the 2010 Atlantic commercial shark fishing season would be applied to the 2011 annual quotas or adjusted base quotas. 2011 Proposed Quotas This rule proposes minor changes to the overall adjusted base and annual commercial quotas due to overharvests that occurred in 2009 and 2010. The proposed 2011 quotas by species and species group are summarized in Table 1. Based on dealer reports received as of July 31, 2010, the non-sandbar LCS quota in the Gulf of Mexico region was exceeded during the 2010 Atlantic commercial shark fishing season. In the final rule, NMFS will adjust the quotas based on dealer reports received as of October 31, 2010. Thus, all of the 2011 proposed quotas for the respective shark complexes/species are subject to change if any overharvests occur before the final rule for this action. All dealer reports that are received by NMFS after October 31, 2010, will be used to adjust the 2012 quotas, as appropriate. TABLE1—2011 PROPOSED QUOTAS AND OPENING DATES FOR THE ATLANTIC SHARK FISHERIES [All quotas and landings are dressed weight (dw), in metric tons (mt), unless specified otherwise] jdjones on DSK8KYBLC1PROD with PROPOSALS-1 2010 annual quota Region Non-Sandbar Large Coastal Sharks. Gulf of Mexico ....... Atlantic .................. Non-Sandbar LCS Research Quota. VerDate Mar<15>2010 No regional quotas 14:31 Sep 17, 2010 Preliminary 2010 landings1 Overharvest 2011 Base annual quota2 2011 Proposed quota (A) Species group (B) (C) (D) (D–C) 390.5 (860,896 lb dw). 169.7 (374,121 lb dw). 407.9 (899,896 lb dw). 22.2 (49,026 lb dw) .................... 37.5 (82,673 lb dw) 25.2 (55,487 lb dw) .................... Jkt 220001 PO 00000 Frm 00049 Fmt 4702 17.4 Sfmt 4702 390.5 (860,896 lb dw). 187.8 (414,024 lb dw). 373.1 (822,536 lb dw). 190.43 (419,756 lb dw). 37.5 (82,673 lb dw) 37.5 (82,673 lb dw). E:\FR\FM\20SEP1.SGM 20SEP1 Season opening dates On or about January 1, 2011. July 15, 2011. Federal Register / Vol. 75, No. 181 / Monday, September 20, 2010 / Proposed Rules 57243 TABLE1—2011 PROPOSED QUOTAS AND OPENING DATES FOR THE ATLANTIC SHARK FISHERIES—Continued [All quotas and landings are dressed weight (dw), in metric tons (mt), unless specified otherwise] 2010 annual quota Region No regional quotas Preliminary 2010 landings1 Overharvest 2011 Base annual quota2 2011 Proposed quota (A) Species group (B) (C) (D) (D–C) 42.6 (93,844 lb dw) .................... 40.0 (88,187 lb dw) Sandbar Research Quota. Non-Blacknose Small Coastal Sharks. Blacknose Sharks No regional quotas 87.9 (193,784 lb dw). 221.6 (488,539 lb dw). No regional quotas 19.9 (43,872 lb dw) Blue Sharks ........... No regional quotas Porbeagle Sharks Pelagic Sharks Other Than Porbeagle or Blue. No regional quotas No regional quotas 273 (601,856 lb dw). 1.5 (3,307 lb dw) ... 488 (1,075,856 lb dw). .................... 87.9 (193,784 lb dw). 221.6 (488,539 lb dw). 87.9 (193,784 lb dw). 221.6 (488,539 lb dw). 6.8 (15,082 lb dw) .................... 19.9 (43,872 lb dw) 3.4 (7,388 lb dw) ... .................... 1.3 (2,824 lb dw) ... 92.9 (204,750 lb dw). .................... .................... 273 (601,856 lb dw). 1.7 (3,748 lb dw) ... 488 (1,075,856 lb dw). Season opening dates 19.9 (43,872 lb dw). 273 (601,856 lb dw). 1.7 (3,748 lb dw). 488 (1,075,856 lb dw). On or about January 1, 2011. 1 Landings are from January 1, 2010, until July 31, 2010, and are subject to change. annual base quotas for sandbar and non-sandbar LCS are the annual adjusted base quotas that are effective from July 24, 2008, until December 31, 2012 (50 CFR 635.27(b)(1)(iii) and (iv)). 3 NMFS intends to adjust the 2011 quota for Atlantic non-sandbar LCS to account for the 2.6 mt dw that was over estimated in the landings report in 2010 after the final rule establishing the 2010 quota published. 2 2010 jdjones on DSK8KYBLC1PROD with PROPOSALS-1 1. Proposed 2011 Quotas for NonSandbar LCS and Sandbar Sharks Within the Shark Research Fishery The 2011 proposed commercial quotas within the shark research fishery are 37.5 mt dw (82,673 lb dw) for nonsandbar LCS and 87.9 mt dw (193,784 lb dw) for sandbar sharks. This proposed rule would not change any of the overall adjusted base commercial quotas. Within the shark research fishery, as of July 31, 2010, preliminary reported landings of non-sandbar LCS were at 67.1 percent (25.2 mt dw), and sandbar shark reported landings were at 48.4 percent (42.6 mt dw). Reported landings have not exceeded the 2010 quota to date. Therefore, based on preliminary estimates and consistent with the current regulations at § 635.27(b)(1)(vii), NMFS is not proposing to reduce 2011 quotas in the shark research fishery based on any overharvests. Under § 635.27(b)(1)(i)(A), because individual species, complexes, or species within a complex have been determined to be either overfished, have overfishing occurring, overfished with overfishing occurring, or have an unknown status, underharvests for these species and/or complexes would not be applied to the 2011 quotas. Therefore, NMFS proposes 2011 quotas for nonsandbar LCS and sandbar sharks within the shark research fishery would be 37.5 mt dw (82,673 lb dw) and 87.9 mt dw (193,784 lb dw), respectively. 2. Proposed 2011 Quotas for the NonSandbar LCS in the Gulf of Mexico Region The 2011 proposed quota for nonsandbar LCS in the Gulf of Mexico VerDate Mar<15>2010 14:31 Sep 17, 2010 Jkt 220001 region is 373.1 mt dw (822,536 lb dw). As of July 31, 2010, preliminary reported landings were at 104.5 percent (407.9 mt dw) for non-sandbar LCS in the Gulf of Mexico region. These reported landings exceed the 2010 quota by 17.4 mt dw. As such, NMFS’s proposal deducts the overharvest from the 2011 annual quota. Therefore, the 2011 proposed quota for non-sandbar LCS in the Gulf of Mexico region is 373.1 mt dw (822,536 lb dw) (390.5 mt dw annual base quota—17.4 mt dw of 2010 overage = 373.1 mt dw 2011 adjusted annual quota). 3. Proposed 2011 Quotas for the NonSandbar LCS in the Atlantic Region The 2011 proposed quota for nonsandbar LCS in the Atlantic region is 190.4 mt dw (419,756 lb dw). As of July 31, 2010, preliminary reported landings were at 13.1 percent (22.2 mt dw) for non-sandbar LCS in the Atlantic region as the commercial season opened on July 15, 2010. In the final rule establishing the 2010 quotas (75 FR 250, January 5, 2010), NMFS accounted for an overharvest of non-sandbar LCS of 18.1 mt dw (39,903 lb dw) using data that was reported as of October 31, 2009. Between that date and December 31, 2009, the reported landings dropped by 2.6 mt dw. This decline is due to normal quality control procedures that occur when updated data are supplied. As such, in accordance with § 635.27(b)(1)(i), the amount that was deducted from the 2010 annual quota, based on preliminary numbers that were later corrected, would be added to the proposed 2011 non-sandbar LCS quota in the Atlantic region. Thus, the 2011 proposed commercial non-sandbar LCS PO 00000 Frm 00050 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 quota would be 190.4 mt dw (419,756 lb dw) (187.8 mt dw annual base quota + 2.6 mt dw 2009 over estimated landings = 190.4 mt dw 2011 adjusted annual quota). 4. Proposed 2011 Quotas for SCS and Pelagic Sharks The 2011 proposed annual commercial quotas for non-blacknose SCS, blacknose sharks, blue sharks, porbeagle sharks, and pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle or blue sharks) are 221.6 mt dw (488,539 lb dw), 19.9 mt dw (43,872 lb dw), 273 mt dw (601,856 lb dw), 1.7 mt dw (3,748 lb dw), and 488 mt dw (1,075,856 lb dw), respectively. As of July 31, 2010, preliminary reported landings of non-blacknose SCS, blacknose sharks, blue sharks, porbeagle sharks, and pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle and blue sharks) were at 18 percent (40 mt dw), 34.4 percent (6.8 mt dw), 1.2 percent (3.4 mt dw), 85 percent (1.3 mt dw), and 19 percent (92.9 mt dw), respectively. These landings are within the available quotas at this time. As described above, while NMFS may adjust quotas for underharvests depending on stock status, NMFS will always adjust quotas for overharvests. Non-blacknose SCS have not been declared to be overfished, to have overfishing occurring, or to have an unknown status. As such, any underharvests for the non-blacknose SCS would be applied to the 2011 quotas. All the other SCS or pelagic species are considered overfished, to have overfishing occurring, or to have an unknown status. Therefore, the 2011 proposed quotas would be the base annual quotas for non-blacknose SCS, blacknose sharks, blue sharks, porbeagle E:\FR\FM\20SEP1.SGM 20SEP1 57244 Federal Register / Vol. 75, No. 181 / Monday, September 20, 2010 / Proposed Rules jdjones on DSK8KYBLC1PROD with PROPOSALS-1 sharks, and pelagic sharks (other than blue and porbeagle sharks) (221.6 mt dw (488,539 lb dw), 19.9 mt dw (43,872 lb dw), 273 mt dw (601,856 lb dw), 1.7 mt dw (3,748 lb dw), and 488 mt dw (1,075,856 lb dw), respectively). Proposed Adaptive Management Measures Under the current regulations, the Atlantic shark commercial fishing seasons for each species or species complex is anticipated to open on or about January 1 of each year, and continue year-round. In recent years, the quota for some of the shark species groups and regions has lasted only a short period of time instead lasting yearround as expected under Amendment 2. For example, in the Atlantic region in 2009, the non-sandbar LCS quota lasted for approximately six months, and in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, the nonsandbar LCS quota was taken within six weeks. One approach to the proposed adaptive management measures in the environmental assessment would be to maintain the status quo approach to establishing trip limits (33 non-sandbar LCS/trip) as well as consider alternatives to allow inseason flexibility regarding trip limits in order to extend fishing opportunities year-round. This approach would either maintain the current 33 non-sandbar LCS trip limits (sub-alternative 1A) or consider reductions in the trip limits to help ensure the fishing season extends throughout the year (sub-alternatives 1B and 1C). A second approach would be to allow flexibility in the opening of the season for Atlantic shark fisheries through the annual specifications process and inseason actions to adjust shark trip limits in either region to provide expanded opportunities for constituents across the fishery, as is the intent of Amendment 2. In addition, having such flexibility would help NMFS respond throughout the management region to any future unanticipated large and small scale events. This second approach was also analyzed in Amendment 2; however, as described in Amendment 2, NMFS did not select this approach at that time because NMFS felt that fishermen would fish for non-sandbar LCS in an incidental manner. As described earlier, after Amendment 2, fishermen continued to direct on non-sandbar LCS. Neither approach would alter the objectives in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP or its Amendments. Rather, these two approaches look at different ways of maintaining the shark fishery given rebuilding plans and other VerDate Mar<15>2010 14:31 Sep 17, 2010 Jkt 220001 management measures, such as time/ area closures, that were designed to rebuild overfished stocks, prevent overfishing, and provide opportunities to fish for some shark species, as appropriate. Neither approach would change the overall quota, the rebuilding plan, time/area closures, or other management measures. Only the opening dates and retention limits would change under these approaches. Thus, the main differences between the approaches are how fast and at what time of year the quota will be taken. In considering these approaches, NMFS analyzed several alternatives in the environmental assessment. Sub-alternative 1A, the no action alternative, would maintain the existing regulations for the current trip limits established in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments. The Atlantic shark commercial fishing season for each species or species complex would be anticipated to open on or about January 1 of each year and continue until the fishery is closed. Additionally, over- or underharvests in a given fishing year would be accounted for in the following year depending on the status of the species. Sub-alternative 1B would allow NMFS to modify the non-sandbar LCS trip limit through an inseason action, if needed, to extend the fishing season in the Gulf of Mexico region if the available quota is being harvested at a rate that would not ensure a reasonable season length. The trip limit could be reduced from the current trip limit established under Amendment 2 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP down to zero non-sandbar LCS per trip based on the amount of remaining quota and the time left in a given fishing season. NMFS’ decision to reduce the trip limit, and to what extent it would be reduced, would be based on the criteria discussed under sub-alternative 2B. Sub-alternative 1C would modify the non-sandbar LCS trip limit through an inseason action, as needed, to extend the fishing season in the Atlantic region if the available quota is being harvested at a rate that would not allow for a reasonable season length. Similar to sub-alternative 1B, the trip limit could be reduced and decisions to reduce the trip limit would be based on the criteria discussed under sub-alternative 2B. Alternative 2, the preferred alternative, considers multiple subalternatives that would revisit the current shark management structure. These proposed management measures would allow flexibility in setting the opening date of the Atlantic shark fisheries through the annual specifications process and allow for PO 00000 Frm 00051 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 more equitable fishing opportunities for constituents across all areas. Another proposed management measure would provide flexibility by allowing inseason actions to make adjustments to the nonsandbar LCS trip limits in either region to provide equitable opportunities for constituents across the fishery, as is the intent of Amendment 2. Sub-alternative 2A, a preferred alternative in the environmental assessment, would establish a process and criteria for selecting the opening dates of the shark fisheries through the annual specifications process in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions. This alternative presumes that the quotas for some fisheries, such as the non-sandbar LCS fisheries, would not last the entire fishing year given that the fishing behavior has changed since the implementation of Amendment 2. This alternative would provide additional flexibility to ensure the fisheries open at times beneficial for fishermen while also considering the ecological needs of the different species. Consistent with current practice, NMFS would establish the yearly shark quotas and announce the opening of the fishing season through annual rulemaking with notice and public comment at the beginning of each fishing season. Under this alternative, NMFS would consider the following criteria and other relevant factors in establishing the opening dates: 1. The available annual quotas for the current fishing season for the different species/complexes based on any overand/or underharvests experienced during the previous commercial shark fishing seasons; 2. Estimated season length based on available quota(s) and average weekly catch rates of different species/ complexes in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions from the previous years; 3. Length of the season for the different species/complexes in the previous years and whether fishermen were able to participate in the fishery in those years; 4. Variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migratory patterns of the different species/complexes based on scientific and fishery information; 5. Effects of catch rates in one part of a region precluding vessels in another part of that region from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the different species/ complexes quotas; 6. Effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments; and/or E:\FR\FM\20SEP1.SGM 20SEP1 jdjones on DSK8KYBLC1PROD with PROPOSALS-1 Federal Register / Vol. 75, No. 181 / Monday, September 20, 2010 / Proposed Rules 7. Effects of a delayed opening with regard to fishing opportunities in other fisheries. Sub-alternative 2B, a preferred alternative in the environmental assessment, would provide NMFS the ability to adjust the trip limits via inseason actions based on certain criteria. This alternative presumes that the quotas for some fisheries, such as the non-sandbar LCS fisheries, would not last the entire fishing year given that the fishing behavior has changed since the implementation of Amendment 2 and builds in flexibility to try to extend the availability of the quota. The goal of the alternative is to lengthen the season to provide, to the extent practicable, equitable opportunities across the fishing management region while also considering the ecological needs of the different species. The criteria NMFS would consider in making adjustments via inseason actions to trip limits in either the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico regions would be the following: 1. The amount of remaining shark quota in the relevant area or region, to date, based on dealer reports; 2. The catch rates of the relevant shark species/complexes, to date, based on dealer reports; 3. Estimated date of fishery closure based on when the landings are projected to reach 80 percent of the quota given the realized catch rates; 4. Effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments; 5. Variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migratory patterns of the relevant shark species based on scientific and fishery-based knowledge; and/or, 6. Effects of catch rates in one part of a region precluding vessels in another part of that region from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the relevant quota. For the 2011 Atlantic commercial shark fishing season, NMFS does not propose to change the trip limit when the season opens. Currently, the trip limits are 33 non-sandbar LCS per trip for shark directed permit holders and 3 non-sandbar LCS per trip for shark incidental permit holders. Under subalternative 2B, NMFS could later modify the trip limits through an inseason action with five days’ advance notice from filing of such a change. Proposed Fishing Season Notification for the 2011 Atlantic Commercial Shark Fishing Season Based on the proposed criteria and processes described above, NMFS proposes that the 2011 Atlantic VerDate Mar<15>2010 14:31 Sep 17, 2010 Jkt 220001 commercial shark fishing season for the shark research, non-sandbar LCS in the Gulf of Mexico region, non-blacknose SCS, blacknose sharks, blue sharks, porbeagle sharks, and pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle and blue sharks) in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, would open on the effective date of the final rule for this action. NMFS proposes to open the Atlantic non-sandbar LCS fishery on July 15, 2011. The delay in the Atlantic non-sandbar LCS fishery would provide, to the extent practicable, equitable opportunities across the fishing management region while also considering the ecological needs of the different species. Without delaying the opening date, based on catch rates from 2009, the south Atlantic fishermen would likely catch the regional quota before the sharks could migrate to the north Atlantic area. All of the shark fisheries would remain open until December 31, 2011, unless NMFS determines that the fishing season landings for sandbar shark, non-sandbar LCS, blacknose sharks, non-blacknose SCS, blue sharks, porbeagle sharks, or pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle or blue sharks) have reached, or are projected to reach, 80 percent of the available quota. At that time, consistent with § 635.28(b)(1), NMFS will file for publication with the Office of the Federal Register a notice of closure for that shark species group and/ or region that will be effective no fewer than 5 days from date of filing. From the effective date and time of the closure until NMFS announces, via a notice in the Federal Register, that additional quota is available, the fishery for the shark species group and, for nonsandbar LCS, region would remain closed, even across fishing years, consistent with § 635.28(b)(2). Request for Comments Comments on this proposed rule may be submitted via http:// www.regulations.gov, mail, or fax. Comments may also be submitted at a public hearing (see Public Hearings and Special Accommodations below). NMFS solicits comments on this proposed rule by October 20, 2010 (see DATES and ADDRESSES). NMFS will hold four public hearings for this proposed rule. These hearings will be physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids ´ should be directed to Guy DuBeck at (301) 713–2347 or Jackie Wilson at (240) 338–3936 at least 7 days prior to the hearing date. The public is reminded that NMFS expects participants at the PO 00000 Frm 00052 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 57245 public hearings to conduct themselves appropriately. At the beginning of each public hearing, a representative of NMFS will explain the ground rules (e.g., alcohol is prohibited from the hearing room; attendees will be called to give their comments in the order in which they registered to speak; each attendee will have an equal amount of time to speak; and attendees should not interrupt one another). The NMFS representative will attempt to structure the meeting so that all attending members of the public will be able to comment, if they so choose, regardless of the controversial nature of the subject(s). Attendees are expected to respect the ground rules, and, if they do not, they will be asked to leave the hearing. Classification Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that the proposed rule is consistent with the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments, other provisions of the MSA, and other applicable law, subject to further consideration after public comment. NMFS prepared an environmental assessment for this rule that discusses the impact on the environment as a result of this rule. In this proposed action, NMFS is considering adding flexibility to shark management measures by analyzing criteria that would allow for delays to the start of the different shark species/complex fishing seasons each year as well as allow for inseason adjustments to the shark trip limits, as appropriate, to extend the fishing season, as necessary. These measures are meant to provide, to the extent practicable, equitable opportunities across the fishing management region while also considering the ecological needs of the different species. A copy of the environmental assessment is available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. An initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA) was prepared, as required by section 603 of the RFA (RFA). The IRFA describes the economic impact this proposed rule, if adopted, would have on small entities. A description of the action, why it is being considered, and the legal basis for this action are contained at the beginning of this section in the preamble and in the SUMMARY section of the preamble. A summary of the analysis follows. A copy of this analysis E:\FR\FM\20SEP1.SGM 20SEP1 jdjones on DSK8KYBLC1PROD with PROPOSALS-1 57246 Federal Register / Vol. 75, No. 181 / Monday, September 20, 2010 / Proposed Rules is available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). In compliance with section 603(b)(1) of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, the purpose of this proposed rulemaking is, consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments, to adjust the 2011 proposed quotas for non-sandbar LCS, sandbar sharks, blacknose sharks, non-blacknose SCS, blue sharks, porbeagle sharks, or pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle or blue sharks) based on overharvests from the previous fishing year. An additional purpose is to provide flexibility in the regulations to allow for a delay in the opening of the fishing season, and allow inseason adjustments in the trip limits to slow the fishery down during the season, as necessary. This flexibility is intended to provide, to the extent practicable, equitable opportunities across the fishing management region while also considering the ecological needs of the different species. In compliance with section 603(b)(2) of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, the objectives of this proposed rulemaking are to: (1) Adjust the annual quotas for non-sandbar LCS in the Atlantic region due to overestimations in the final rule in 2010 and non-sandbar LCS in the Gulf of Mexico region due to minor overharvests in 2010; (2) create new criteria and a process for selecting the opening dates of the shark fisheries in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions; and (3) adjust the trip limits inseason for non-sandbar LCS based on certain criteria and processes. Section 603(b)(3) requires Federal agencies to provide an estimate of the number of small entities to which the rule would apply. NMFS considers all HMS permit holders to be small entities because they either had average annual receipts less than $4.0 million for fishharvesting, average annual receipts less than $6.5 million for charter/party boats, 100 or fewer employees for wholesale dealers, or 500 or fewer employees for seafood processors. These are the Small Business Administration (SBA) size standards for defining a small versus large business entity in this industry. The commercial shark fishery is comprised of fishermen who hold a shark directed or incidental limited access permits (LAP) and the related industries including processors, bait houses, and equipment suppliers, all of which NMFS considers to be small entities according to the size standards set by the SBA. The proposed rule would apply to the approximately 221 directed commercial shark permit holders, 2782 incidental commercial VerDate Mar<15>2010 14:31 Sep 17, 2010 Jkt 220001 shark permit holders, and 105 commercial shark dealers as of November 5, 2009. 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)). Fishermen, dealers, and managers in these fisheries must comply with a number of international agreements, domestic laws, and other FMPs. These include, but are not limited to, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act, the High Seas Fishing Compliance Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Paperwork Reduction Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act. NMFS does not believe that the new regulations proposed to be implemented would duplicate, overlap, or conflict with any relevant regulations, Federal or otherwise. Under section 603(c), agencies are required to describe any alternatives to the proposed rule which accomplish the stated objectives and which minimize any significant economic impacts. These impacts are discussed below and in the Environmental Assessment for the proposed action. Additionally, the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 603 (c) (1)–(4)) lists four general categories of significant alternatives that would assist an agency in the development of significant alternatives. These categories of alternatives 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 of the rule for small entities. In order to meet the objectives of this proposed rule, consistent with Magnuson-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 PO 00000 Frm 00053 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Magnuson-Stevens Act. As described below, NMFS analyzed two different main alternatives in this proposed rulemaking with 5 sub-alternatives and provides justification for selection of the preferred alternative to achieve the desired objective. NMFS considered two main alternatives for the shark fishery in the short term. One approach would be to maintain the status quo approach to establishing trip limits (33 non-sandbar LCS/trip) as well as consider alternatives to allow inseason flexibility regarding trip limits in order to extend fishing opportunities year-round (alternative 1 and its sub-alternatives). The other approach would be to allow flexibility in the opening of the season for Atlantic shark fisheries through the annual specifications process and allow adjustments via inseason actions to shark trip limits in either region to provide expanded opportunities for constituents across the fishery, as is the intent of Amendment 2 (alternative 2 and its sub-alternatives). Under alternative 1, NMFS considered three sub-alternatives. Subalternative 1A, the No Action alternative, would maintain the current vessel trip regulations for non-sandbar LCS. This would result in no additional impacts to small entities. Limited access directed shark permit holders would continue to be able to land up to 33 nonsandbar LCS per trip. On average, between 2008 and 2009, approximately 47 vessels with directed shark permits and 15 vessels with incidental shark permits had non-sandbar LCS landings. The estimated total trip revenue for a maximum trip of 33 sharks is estimated to be $1,920 in the Gulf of Mexico and $1,767 in the Atlantic. However, this trip limit as implemented has resulted in shortened fishing seasons in 2009 and 2010 due to regional non-sandbar LCS quotas being filled before the end of the fishing year. Fishermen in some areas, such as the north Atlantic, were not able to harvest a portion of the 2009 non-sandbar LCS quota as intended in Amendment 2 because the quota was harvested before sharks migrated to northern waters in the Atlantic in 2009. As such, sub-alternative 1A is not likely to meet the objective of this proposed rule to provide fishery participants an equal opportunity to the extent practicable to harvest the full shark quotas. Sub-alternative 1B would establish a new non-sandbar LCS trip limit that would extend the fishing season in the Gulf of Mexico region based on remaining quota and time left in the fishing season. On average between 2008 and 2009, approximately 20 E:\FR\FM\20SEP1.SGM 20SEP1 jdjones on DSK8KYBLC1PROD with PROPOSALS-1 Federal Register / Vol. 75, No. 181 / Monday, September 20, 2010 / Proposed Rules vessels with directed shark permits and 4 vessels with incidental shark permits had non-sandbar LCS landings in the Gulf of Mexico region. The direct economic impacts to shark fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico region would depend on the reduction in the trip limit. Approximately 81 percent of the Gulf of Mexico trips retained 29 or fewer nonsandbar LCS per trip. Therefore, for a majority of trips, NMFS anticipates that a reduction in the trip limit from 33 non-sandbar LCS to 29 non-sandbar LCS would have a neutral impact on fishermen as fishing and business practices are not anticipated to change due to such a reduction. Reducing the trip limit from 33 non-sandbar LCS to 29 non-sandbar LCS would potentially reduce the maximum revenue per trip by an average of $233 per trip in the Gulf of Mexico. This estimate is based on the average non-sandbar shark weight and 2009 median ex-vessel prices for non-sandbar LCS and shark fin in the Gulf of Mexico region. Approximately 18 percent may lose additional gross revenues on a per trip basis as they were landing more than 33 non-sandbar LCS according to Coastal Fisheries data. In addition, on average, vessels in the Gulf of Mexico region retained 21 non-sandbar LCS per trip; however, the average trip landing numbers of non-sandbar LCS varied by month. If the trip limit were reduced to 21 non-sandbar LCS per trip, this could reduce gross revenues per trip from $1,920 to $1,222. While, on average, fishermen may only retain 21 nonsandbar LCS, such a reduction would preclude fishermen from being able to keep additional sharks (up to 33 nonsandbar LCS per trip). Therefore, such a reduction may change how they fish. It may also result in additional trips within a day to make up for lost individual trip revenues, which could result in higher fuel costs, longer fishing days, and increased time away from home. All of these factors are expected to result in negative economic impacts in the short term. Reducing the trip limit to below 21 non-sandbar LCS per trip would be expected to result in economic impacts as it would further reduce gross revenues for shark fishermen on a trip basis. The reduction in gross revenues would range from $756 to $1,920 for a trip limit of 20 to 0 non-sandbar LCS, respectively. The lowest average number of non-sandbar LCS retained was 11 non-sandbar LCS per trip during the month of September, which equates to $640 in gross revenues per trip. Such reductions in the trip limits could translate into fishermen making VerDate Mar<15>2010 14:31 Sep 17, 2010 Jkt 220001 multiple trips within a day to make up for lost individual trip revenues, which could result in higher fuel costs, longer fishing days, and increased time away from home. However, NMFS anticipates that at some reduced trip limit level, directed shark fishermen would stop targeting sharks because it would no longer be economically viable. At this point, NMFS expects that shark fishermen would target other species and retain sharks incidentally as anticipated under Amendment 2 and, therefore, the economic impacts in terms of changes in fishing practices and diversifying fishing effort toward other species to make up for lost shark revenues would be the same as described in Amendment 2. Sub-alternative 1C would establish a new non-sandbar LCS trip limit that would extend the fishing season in the Atlantic region based on remaining quota and time left in the fishing season. On average between 2008 and 2009, approximately 27 vessels with directed shark permits and 11 vessels with incidental shark permits had nonsandbar LCS landings in the Atlantic region. The direct impacts to shark fishermen in the Atlantic region would depend on the reduction in the trip limit. As explained above, approximately 81 percent of the Atlantic trips retained 27 or fewer non-sandbar LCS per trip. Therefore, for a majority of the trips, NMFS anticipates that a reduction in the trip limit from the 33 non-sandbar LCS to 27 non-sandbar LCS would have minimal economic impacts on fishermen as fishing and business practices would not be anticipated to change with such a reduction. Approximately 11 percent may lose additional gross revenues on a trip basis as they were landing more than 33 nonsandbar LCS according to Coastal Fisheries data. In addition, on average, vessels in the Atlantic region retained 13 non-sandbar LCS per trip; however, the average trip landing numbers of non-sandbar LCS varied by month. If the trip limit was reduced to 13 nonsandbar LCS per trip, this could reduce potential gross revenues per trip from $1,767 to $696. However, on average, fishermen did not retain 33 non-sandbar LCS per trip during any month of the year. In addition, during 6 of the 12 months fishermen retained fewer than the overall monthly average retention of 13 non-sandbar LCS per trip. Therefore, such a reduction in the trip limit is only anticipated to have minor adverse direct economic impacts to fishermen in the short term; long term impacts are not anticipated as these reductions would not be permanent. PO 00000 Frm 00054 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 57247 Reducing the trip limit below 13 nonsandbar LCS per trip would be expected to result in moderate adverse direct economic impacts as it would most likely reduce gross revenues for shark fishermen in the short term. Fishermen would be expected to stop fishing for sharks as it would no longer be profitable. The reduction in gross revenues would range from $1,125 to $1,767 for 12 to 0 non-sandbar LCS per trip, respectively. The lowest average number of non-sandbar LCS retained was 8 non-sandbar LCS per trip during the month of June, which equates to $428 in gross revenues per trip. These reductions in the trip limits could translate into fishermen making multiple trips within a day to make up for lost individual trip revenues, which could result in higher fuel costs, longer fishing days, and increased time away from home. However, NMFS anticipates that at some reduced trip limit level, directed shark fishermen would stop targeting sharks because it would no longer be economically viable. At this point, NMFS expects that shark fishermen would target other species and retain sharks incidentally as anticipated under Amendment 2, and therefore, the socioeconomic impacts in terms of changes in fishing practices and diversifying fishing effort toward other species to make up for lost shark revenues would be the same as described in Amendment 2. Under alternative 2, the preferred alternative, NMFS considered two subalternatives. Sub-alternative 2A would establish new opening dates for the shark fisheries through the annual specifications process in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions based on certain criteria and processes. Subalternative 2A could potentially affect the 221 directed and 282 incidental shark permit holders along with the 105 shark dealers. NMFS plans to review the criteria on an annual basis to determine when to open each fishery at equitable and beneficial times for fishermen while also considering the ecological needs of the different species. The opening of the fishing season could vary based on the available annual quota, catch rates, and number of fishing participants during the year. For the 2011 fishing season, NMFS is proposing to open the shark research, non-sandbar LCS in the Gulf of Mexico region, blacknose shark, nonblacknose SCS, and pelagic shark fisheries on the effective date of the final rule for this action. The direct and indirect socioeconomic impacts would be neutral on a short and long-term basis, because NMFS is proposing not to change the opening dates of these E:\FR\FM\20SEP1.SGM 20SEP1 jdjones on DSK8KYBLC1PROD with PROPOSALS-1 57248 Federal Register / Vol. 75, No. 181 / Monday, September 20, 2010 / Proposed Rules fisheries from the status quo. NMFS is proposing to delay the opening of the non-sandbar LCS in the Atlantic region until July 15, 2011, which would be the same opening date as 2010 fishing season. The delay in the Atlantic nonsandbar LCS fishing season would result in short- and long-term, direct, minor, adverse socioeconomic impacts as fishermen would have to fish in other fisheries to make up for lost nonsandbar LCS revenues at the beginning of the 2011 fishing season. The short and long-term effects for delaying the season would cause indirect, minor, adverse socioeconomic impacts on shark dealers and other entities that deal with shark products as they may have to diversify during the beginning of the season when non-sandbar LCS shark products would not be available. This would be most prevalent in areas of the southeast Atlantic where non-sandbar LCS are available early in the fishing season. The delay in the non-sandbar LCS fishing season could cause changes in ex-vessel prices. In 2009, the median ex-vessel price of LCS meat in January was approximately $0.25 per pound dressed weight in the Gulf of Mexico and $0.45 in the South Atlantic region, while the median ex-vessel price in July of 2008 was $0.45 in the Gulf of Mexico and $0.75 in the South Atlantic. The median ex-vessel price for shark fins in January was $17.00 per pound in the Gulf of Mexico and $16.00 in the South Atlantic. When the LCS fishery opens in July, the average price for fins would be approximately $14.00 per pound in the Gulf of Mexico and $12.00 per pound in the South Atlantic based on 2008 prices. Since the north Atlantic had a very limited 2009 non-sandbar LCS fishing season, the ex-vessel prices for 2008 were used for the comparison. In the north Atlantic, the delayed opening for the non-sandbar LCS would have direct, minor, beneficial socioeconomic impacts in the short and long-term for fishermen as they would have access to the non-sandbar LCS quota in 2011. Fishermen in the North Atlantic did not have or had limited access to the non-sandbar LCS quota in 2009. There would be indirect, minor, beneficial socioeconomic impacts in the short and long-term for shark dealers and other entities that deal with shark products in this area as they would also have access to non-sandbar LCS products in 2011. Thus, delaying the non-sandbar LCS seasons under the preferred alternative would cause neutral cumulative socioeconomic impacts, since it would allow for a more equitable distribution of the quotas among constituents in this region, VerDate Mar<15>2010 14:31 Sep 17, 2010 Jkt 220001 which was the original intent of Amendment 2. Sub-alternative 2B would establish new inseason trip limit adjustment criteria for the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic regions. Sub-alternative 2B would allow NMFS to adjust the trip limit through inseason actions, but would not adjust the overall shark quotas for the GOM and Atlantic regions. This sub-alternative is anticipated to have direct and indirect, short-term, neutral socioeconomic impacts in the GOM and Atlantic regions, because changing the trip limits inseason would not limit the overall harvest of sharks, but would provide the mechanism to modify the harvest spatially and temporally to allow equitable access to the resource. Directed fishing on sharks would continue as long as the trip limit is high enough to make it economically viable. Since the implementation of Amendment 2 directed shark fishing trips land, on average, 21 non-sandbar LCS in the GOM region, and 13 nonsandbar LCS in the Atlantic region. NMFS has not been able to determine at what trip limit directed fishing for nonsandbar LCS would not be economically viable, as directed non-sandbar LCS fishing trips have continued at lower landings than the annual averages during certain months. Different trip limit levels have been further analyzed in alternatives 1B and 1C, and the socioeconomic impacts associated with the range of trip limits are described above under sub-alternatives 1B and 1C. Trip limits set at levels too low for fishermen to continue targeting nonsandbar LCS would likely lead to shifts in effort to other fisheries, similar to effort shifts experienced during closures of the non-sandbar LCS fishery in 2009 and 2010. The criteria for changing trip limits inseason takes into account opportunities for equitable access to fishermen throughout the respective regions and ecological considerations of the stocks, but would not restrict or reduce the current quota. If trip limits are set in a manner that is beneficial to the ecological needs of the different shark species their populations may increase in the long-term, which could allow for increased quota levels in the future. Therefore, minor, beneficial long-term direct, indirect, and cumulative socioeconomic impacts may occur. Dated: September 15, 2010. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 635 § 635.27 Fisheries, Fishing, Fishing vessels, Foreign relations, Imports, Penalties, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Treaties. PO 00000 Frm 00055 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 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. 971 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. 2. In § 635.24, paragraph (a)(8) is added to read as follows: § 635.24 Commercial retention limits for sharks and swordfish. * * * * * (a) * * * (8) Inseason trip limit adjustment criteria. NMFS will file with the Office of the Federal Register for publication notification of any inseason adjustments to trip limits. Before making any adjustment, NMFS will consider the following criteria and other relevant factors: (i) The amount of remaining shark quota in the relevant area or region, to date, based on dealer reports; (ii) The catch rates of the relevant shark species/complexes, to date, based on dealer reports; (iii) Estimated date of fishery closure based on when the landings are projected to reach 80 percent of the quota given the realized catch rates; (iv) Effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments; (v) Variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migratory patterns of the relevant shark species based on scientific and fishery-based knowledge; and/or, (vi) Effects of catch rates in one part of a region precluding vessels in another part of that region from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the relevant quota. * * * * * 3. In § 635.27: A. Paragraphs (b)(1)(ii) through (b)(1)(vi) are redesignated as paragraphs (b)(1)(iii) through (b)(1)(vii), respectively. B. Paragraph (b)(1)(ii) is added to read as follows: Quotas. * * * * * (b) * * * (1) * * * (ii) Opening fishing season criteria. NMFS will file with the Office of the E:\FR\FM\20SEP1.SGM 20SEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 75, No. 181 / Monday, September 20, 2010 / Proposed Rules Federal Register for publication notification of the opening dates of the shark fishery for each species/complex. Before making any decisions, NMFS would consider the following criteria and other relevant factors in establishing the opening dates: (A) The available annual quotas for the current fishing season for the different species/complexes based on any over- and/or underharvests experienced during the previous commercial shark fishing seasons; (B) Estimated season length based on available quota(s) and average weekly catch rates of different species/ complexes in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions from the previous years; (C) Length of the season for the different species/complexes in the previous years and whether fishermen were able to participate in the fishery in those years; (D) Variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migratory patterns of the different species/ complexes based on scientific and fishery information; (E) Effects of catch rates in one part of a region precluding vessels in another part of that region from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the different species/ complexes quotas; (F) Effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments; and/or, (G) Effects of a delayed opening with regard to fishing opportunities in other fisheries. * * * * * [FR Doc. 2010–23443 Filed 9–17–10; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 100830405–0405–02] RIN 0648–BA09 jdjones on DSK8KYBLC1PROD with PROPOSALS-1 Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast (NE) Multispecies Fishery; Charter/Party Fishery Control Date National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR). AGENCY: NMFS and the New England Fishery Management Council (Council) SUMMARY: VerDate Mar<15>2010 14:31 Sep 17, 2010 Jkt 220001 announce that they are seeking public comment on the reaffirmation of the current control date of March 30, 2006, in anticipation of developing a limited access program for the NE multispecies open access charter and party boat (charter/party) fishery. This component of the fishery includes vessels with open access charter/party permits, as well as limited access NE multispecies permits, while not on a NE multispecies day-at-sea (DAS) or fishing under the sector management program. The Council has not made a determination that limiting the number of participants in this fishery is necessary, but reaffirming the current control date keeps the stakeholders informed of possible future consideration of the issue and promotes awareness of potential eligibility criteria for future access so as to discourage speculative entry into the fishery, while the Council considers whether and how access to the charter/party fishery should be controlled. By this notification, NMFS reaffirms, on behalf of the Council, that March 30, 2006, may be used as a ‘‘control date’’ to establish eligibility criteria for determining levels of future access to the fishery. DATES: Written comments must be received by 5p.m., local time October 20, 2010. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by any of the following methods: Written comments (paper, disk, or CD ROM) should be sent to Paul J. Howard, Executive Director, New England Fishery Management Council, 50 Water Street, Mill 2, Newburyport, MA 01950. Mark the outside of the envelope, ‘‘Comments- Multispecies Charter/Party Control Date.’’ Comments also may be sent via facsimile (fax) to (978) 465 3116. Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. Instructions: No comments will be posted for public viewing until after the comment period has closed. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted to http://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). You may submit attachments to electronic comments in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only. PO 00000 Frm 00056 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 57249 FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Travis Ford, Fishery Management Specialist, (978) 281–9233; fax (978) 281–9135. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The charter/party industry targets the following species: Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua), pollock (Pollachius virens); haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus); and winter flounder (Pleuronectes americanus); and, to a lesser extent, white hake (Urophycis tenuis) and wolffish (Anarhichas lupus). In light of the restrictions imposed by Framework 42 to the FMP in 2006 and their impacts, members of the charter/party industry and the Council’s Recreational Advisory Panel recommended at that time that the Council restrict new entrants to the charter/party fishery to reduce the need for further restrictions on the recreational catch of cod and other groundfish. The Council did not take action to restrict entrants but, instead, established a control date of March 30, 2006. A ‘‘control date’’ is a time certain that may be used to limit access to a future limited access fishery by vessel owners who enter the fishery after the control date, versus those that entered the fishery before the control date. One of the purposes of the control date is to discourage speculative entry into the fishery by vessels hoping to qualify under any new limited access program, thereby ramping up fishing effort during the period the limited access program is being developed. The control date also serves as notice to any new entrants into the fishery that their financial investment to participate in the fishery may be jeopardized if they do not qualify to fully participate in any new limited access program that is adopted. With the implementation of Amendment 16, many participants in the recreational fishery have expressed concern that the number of party/ charter operators will increase due to low allocation of some stocks to the commercial fishery. The Council has decided to reaffirm the original control date in order to discourage further speculative entry while it takes time to develop appropriate measures for the recreational fishery. This notification reiterates that March 30, 2006, is the control date for potential use in determining historical or traditional participation in the NE multispecies charter/party fishery. Consideration of a control date does not commit the Council or NMFS to develop any particular management system or criteria for participation in this fishery. The Council may choose a different control date, or may choose a E:\FR\FM\20SEP1.SGM 20SEP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 75, Number 181 (Monday, September 20, 2010)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 57240-57249]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2010-23443]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

[Docket No. 100622276-0307-02]
RIN 0648-AY98


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; 2011 Commercial Fishing Season 
and Adaptive Management Measures for the Atlantic Shark Fishery

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 opening dates and adjust 
quotas for the 2011 fishing season for sandbar sharks, non-sandbar 
large coastal sharks (LCS), small coastal sharks (SCS), and pelagic 
sharks. Quotas will be adjusted based on the framework established in 
Amendment 2 to the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species Fishery 
Management Plan, which requires adjustments for any over- and/or 
underharvests experienced during the 2009 and 2010 Atlantic commercial 
shark fishing seasons. In addition to establishing opening dates and 
adjusting annual quotas, this proposed rule analyzes adaptive 
management measures, such as various opening dates for the fishing 
season as well as allowing adjustments through inseason actions in the 
allowable number of fish that can be taken via trip limits, to provide 
flexibility in management in furtherance of equitable fishing 
opportunities to the extent practicable for commercial shark fishermen 
in all regions and areas. The proposed measures could affect fishing 
opportunities for commercial shark fishermen in the Atlantic and Gulf 
of Mexico.

DATES: Written comments will be accepted until October 20, 2010. NMFS 
will hold four public hearings on this proposed rule on September 22, 
2010, in Silver Spring, MD; September 27, 2010,

[[Page 57241]]

in Tequesta, FL; October 4, 2010, in Belle Chasse, LA; and a meeting on 
October 6, 2010, via conference call to receive comments from fishery 
participants and other members of the public regarding this proposed 
rule.

ADDRESSES: The public hearings will be held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 
8777 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20910; Tequesta Branch Library, 
461 Old Dixie Highway North, Tequesta, FL 33469; Belle Chasse 
Auditorium, 8398 Highway 23, Belle Chasse, LA, 70037; and via 
conference call at 1-800-857-3903; passcode: 2381782.
    You may submit comments, identified by 0648-AY98, by any one of the 
following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov.
     Fax: 301-713-1917, Attn: Karyl Brewster-Geisz or 
Gu[yacute] DuBeck, or Jackie Wilson at 404-806-9188.
     Mail: 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910. 
Please mark the outside of the envelope ``Comments on the Proposed Rule 
To Establish Quotas and Adaptive Management Measures for the 2011 
Atlantic Shark Commercial Fishing Season.''
     Instructions: No comments will be posted for public 
viewing until after the comment period has closed. All comments 
received are a part of the public record and generally will be posted 
to http://www.regulations.gov without change. All Personal Identifying 
Information (e.g., name, address) 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). You may submit attachments to 
electronic comments in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF 
file formats only.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Karyl Brewster-Geisz or Gu[yacute] 
DuBeck by phone: 301-713-2347 or fax: 301-713-1917, or Jackie Wilson by 
phone: 240-338-3936 or fax: 404-806-9188.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The Atlantic shark fishery is managed under the authority of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-
Stevens Act). The 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments under 
the Magnuson-Stevens Act are implemented by regulations at 50 CFR part 
635.
    On June 24, 2008, NMFS published a final rule (73 FR 35778, 
corrected at 73 FR 40658, July 15, 2008) implementing Amendment 2 to 
the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP (Amendment 2). That final rule 
established the annual quotas for sandbar sharks, non-sandbar LCS, and 
pelagic sharks, and also reduced the annual base quotas for non-sandbar 
LCS and sandbar sharks through December 31, 2012, to account for large 
overharvests that occurred in 2007. The final rule also established a 
shark research fishery that allows for the commercial harvest of 
sandbar sharks; sandbar harvest is prohibited outside of the shark 
research fishery. In addition, that final rule established accounting 
measures for under- and overharvests and redefined the shark fishery 
regions.
    On June 1, 2010, NMFS published a final rule (75 FR 30484) 
implementing Amendment 3 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP. This rule 
established, among other things, new base quotas for blacknose shark 
and non-blacknose SCS fisheries.
    Under Amendments 2 and 3 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, the 
Atlantic shark annual quotas apply to all areas of the Atlantic Ocean, 
Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea. NMFS has split the non-sandbar LCS 
quota outside the research fishery between two regions, the Atlantic 
and Gulf of Mexico. The boundary delineating these two regions is a 
line beginning on the east coast of Florida, at the mainland, at 
25[deg]20.4' N. lat. and proceeding due east. Any water and land to the 
south and west of that boundary, including the Caribbean, is 
considered, for the purposes of quota monitoring and setting of quotas, 
to be within the Gulf of Mexico region. Any water and land to the north 
and east of that boundary, for the purposes of quota monitoring and 
setting of quotas, is considered to be within the Atlantic region.
    As described below, in addition to establishing the adjusted annual 
quotas, NMFS is also proposing several changes to the regulations 
regarding flexibility in season opening dates and retention limits. The 
following summarizes the current history of the program.
    In Amendment 2, NMFS decreased the number of fishing seasons from 
three seasons to one because of the reduced quotas that were 
implemented to rebuild overfished shark stocks, prevent overfishing, 
and meet the other objectives of Amendment 2. NMFS also reduced the 
commercial retention limits for non-sandbar LCS and prohibited the 
retention of sandbar sharks, except in a small shark research fishery. 
Historically, sandbar sharks accounted for majority of the sharks 
caught in the directed LCS fishery. As such, as described in Amendment 
2, NMFS felt that prohibiting sandbar sharks in combination with low 
retention limits for non-sandbar LCS would reduce the LCS fishery to 
incidental levels. NMFS expected this incidental LCS fishery would last 
year-round and provide the mid-Atlantic fishery participants the 
opportunity to catch part of the non-sandbar LCS quota during the 
summer months when LCS migrate northward and for shark fishermen, who 
hold directed and incidental commercial shark permits, to be able to 
land LCS incidentally year-round as they targeted other species in 
other fisheries. However, this expectation did not happen in the 2009 
or 2010 non-sandbar LCS fisheries as shark fishermen continued to 
direct on non-sandbar LCS, despite the low retention limits.
    In 2009, all the Atlantic commercial shark fisheries opened on 
January 23, 2009 (73 FR 79005, December 24, 2008). On June 6, 2009, the 
non-sandbar LCS fishery closed in the Gulf of Mexico region (74 FR 
26803, June 4, 2009). In the Gulf of Mexico region, fishery 
participants had limited opportunities to harvest the 2009 Gulf of 
Mexico non-sandbar LCS quota due to the June 6, 2009 closure of the 
non-sandbar LCS fishery. State fishermen in Louisiana were further 
limited due to a state water closure from April 1-June 30.
    In 2009, the non-sandbar LCS fishery in the Atlantic region closed 
on July 1, 2009 (74 FR 30479, June 26, 2009). Due to this closure, and 
also because of the mid-Atlantic bottom longline (BLL) closure in 
federal waters from January 1-July 31; the state water closure in 
Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey from May 15-July 15; and 
the limited availability of non-sandbar LCS in northern Atlantic waters 
at the beginning of the year due to migratory patterns, the fishery 
participants from North Carolina and northward did not have a non-
sandbar LCS fishing season in 2009.
    In 2009, NMFS received requests to consider delaying the 2010 non-
sandbar LCS fishing season until July in the Atlantic region to allow 
more shark fishing opportunities in the Mid-Atlantic. NMFS delayed the 
opening of the 2010 non-sandbar LCS in the Atlantic region until July 
15, 2010, in order to allow for more equitably distributed shark 
fishing opportunities as intended by Amendment 2. It is too early to 
determine if the delay in the Atlantic region until July 15 provided 
more broadly distributed opportunities to all fishermen in that region.
    For the Gulf of Mexico region in 2010, the season opened on 
February 4, 2010

[[Page 57242]]

(75 FR 250), and then closed six weeks later on March 17, 2010 (75 FR 
12700), when the quota was taken. Because of the closure and inclement 
weather in the area, many fishery participants in the region did not 
have opportunities to participate in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico non-
sandbar LCS fishery.
    Based on these experiences, NMFS is considering measures in a draft 
environmental assessment that would provide NMFS annual flexibility to 
extend all of the shark fishery seasons to provide participants from 
all areas expanded opportunities to harvest a portion of the available 
non-sandbar LCS shark quota in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions. 
These measures would consider criteria that could be used to delay the 
opening of the fishing season through the annual specifications process 
as well as to adjust trip limits via inseason actions to provide 
expanded access to the resource and to address ecological concerns. 
This flexibility would allow NMFS to consider unanticipated events 
including large scale issues (e.g., BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill) or 
small scale issues (e.g., inclement weather or slight shifts in 
migratory patterns due to colder or warmer water) in order to provide 
more equitable fishing opportunities across all regions to the extent 
practicable.

Accounting for Under- and Overharvests

    Consistent with Sec.  635.27(b)(1)(i)(A), if the available non-
sandbar LCS quota in a particular region or in the research fishery is 
exceeded in any fishing season, NMFS will deduct an amount equivalent 
to the overharvest(s) from the quota in that region or in the research 
fishery for the following fishing season or, depending on the level of 
overharvest(s), NMFS may deduct an amount equivalent to the 
overharvest(s) spread over a number of subsequent fishing seasons to a 
maximum of five years, in the specific region or research fishery where 
the overharvest occurred. If the available quota for sandbar sharks, 
blacknose sharks, non-blacknose SCS, blue sharks, porbeagle sharks, and 
pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle or blue sharks) is exceeded in any 
fishing season, NMFS will deduct an amount equivalent to the 
overharvest(s) from the following fishing season quota or, depending on 
the level of overharvest(s), NMFS may deduct an amount equivalent to 
the overharvest(s) spread over a number of subsequent fishing seasons 
to a maximum of five years. If the blue shark quota is exceeded, NMFS 
will reduce the annual commercial quota for pelagic sharks by the 
amount that the blue shark quota is exceeded prior to the start of the 
next fishing year or, depending on the level of overharvest(s), deduct 
an amount equivalent to the overharvest(s) spread over a number of 
subsequent fishing years to a maximum of five years.
    Consistent with Sec.  635.27(b)(1)(i)(B), if an annual quota for 
sandbar sharks, blacknose sharks, non-blacknose SCS, blue sharks, 
porbeagle sharks, or pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle or blue 
sharks) is not exceeded, NMFS may adjust the annual quota depending on 
the status of the stock or quota group. If the annual quota for non-
sandbar LCS is not exceeded in either region or in the research 
fishery, NMFS may adjust the annual quota for that region or the 
research fishery depending on the status of the stock or quota group. 
If the stock/complex (e.g., sandbar sharks, porbeagle sharks, non-
sandbar LCS, blue sharks) or specific species within a quota group 
(e.g., blacktip sharks within the non-sandbar LCS complex) is declared 
to be overfished, to have overfishing occurring, or to have an unknown 
status, NMFS will not adjust the following fishing year's quota for any 
underharvest, and the following fishing year's quota will be equal to 
the base annual quota (or the adjusted base quota for sandbar sharks 
and non-sandbar LCS until December 31, 2012).
    Currently, blacknose sharks and sandbar sharks have been determined 
to be overfished with overfishing occurring. Porbeagle sharks have been 
determined to be overfished. Blue sharks and pelagic sharks (other than 
porbeagle or blue sharks) have an unknown stock status. Finally, 
blacktip sharks in the Gulf of Mexico region were determined to not be 
overfished with no overfishing occurring. However, blacktip sharks are 
included in the non-sandbar LCS complex for the Atlantic and Gulf of 
Mexico regions, the status of which has been determined to be unknown. 
As a result, no underharvests from the 2010 Atlantic commercial shark 
fishing season would be applied to the 2011 annual quotas or adjusted 
base quotas of these complexes.
    Thus, the 2011 proposed quotas would be equal to the base annual 
quota for blacknose sharks, porbeagle sharks, blue sharks, and pelagic 
sharks (other than porbeagle or blue sharks) or the adjusted base 
annual quota for sandbar sharks and non-sandbar LCS, minus any 
potential overharvests that occurred in the 2009 and 2010 fishing 
seasons.
    The non-blacknose SCS complex has been determined to not be 
overfished and has no overfishing occurring; therefore, any 
underharvest from the 2010 Atlantic commercial shark fishing season 
would be applied to the 2011 annual quotas or adjusted base quotas.

2011 Proposed Quotas

    This rule proposes minor changes to the overall adjusted base and 
annual commercial quotas due to overharvests that occurred in 2009 and 
2010. The proposed 2011 quotas by species and species group are 
summarized in Table 1.
    Based on dealer reports received as of July 31, 2010, the non-
sandbar LCS quota in the Gulf of Mexico region was exceeded during the 
2010 Atlantic commercial shark fishing season. In the final rule, NMFS 
will adjust the quotas based on dealer reports received as of October 
31, 2010. Thus, all of the 2011 proposed quotas for the respective 
shark complexes/species are subject to change if any overharvests occur 
before the final rule for this action. All dealer reports that are 
received by NMFS after October 31, 2010, will be used to adjust the 
2012 quotas, as appropriate.

                                     Table1--2011 Proposed Quotas and Opening Dates for the Atlantic Shark Fisheries
                           [All quotas and landings are dressed weight (dw), in metric tons (mt), unless specified otherwise]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                      2010 annual    Preliminary 2010               2011 Base annual    2011 Proposed    Season opening
         Species group                Region             quota          landings\1\    Overharvest      quota\2\            quota             dates
                                .................  (A).............  (B).............          (C)  (D).............   (D-C)..........
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Non-Sandbar Large Coastal       Gulf of Mexico...  390.5 (860,896    407.9 (899,896           17.4  390.5 (860,896    373.1 (822,536    On or about
 Sharks.                                            lb dw).           lb dw).                        lb dw).           lb dw).           January 1,
                                                                                                                                         2011.
                                Atlantic.........  169.7 (374,121    22.2 (49,026 lb   ...........  187.8 (414,024    190.4\3\          July 15, 2011.
                                                    lb dw).           dw).                           lb dw).           (419,756 lb dw).
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Non-Sandbar LCS Research       No regional        37.5 (82,673 lb   25.2 (55,487 lb   ...........  37.5 (82,673 lb   37.5 (82,673 lb
 Quota.                          quotas.            dw).              dw).                           dw).              dw).

[[Page 57243]]

 
 Sandbar Research Quota.......  No regional        87.9 (193,784 lb  42.6 (93,844 lb   ...........  87.9 (193,784 lb  87.9 (193,784 lb
                                 quotas.            dw).              dw).                           dw).              dw).
 Non-Blacknose Small Coastal    No regional        221.6 (488,539    40.0 (88,187 lb   ...........  221.6 (488,539    221.6 (488,539    On or about
 Sharks.                         quotas.            lb dw).           dw).                           lb dw).           lb dw).           January 1,
                                                                                                                                         2011.
Blacknose Sharks..............  No regional        19.9 (43,872 lb   6.8 (15,082 lb    ...........  19.9 (43,872 lb   19.9 (43,872 lb
                                 quotas.            dw).              dw).                           dw).              dw).
Blue Sharks...................  No regional        273 (601,856 lb   3.4 (7,388 lb     ...........  273 (601,856 lb   273 (601,856 lb
                                 quotas.            dw).              dw).                           dw).              dw).
Porbeagle Sharks..............  No regional        1.5 (3,307 lb     1.3 (2,824 lb     ...........  1.7 (3,748 lb     1.7 (3,748 lb
                                 quotas.            dw).              dw).                           dw).              dw).
Pelagic Sharks Other Than       No regional        488 (1,075,856    92.9 (204,750 lb  ...........  488 (1,075,856    488 (1,075,856    ................
 Porbeagle or Blue.              quotas.            lb dw).           dw).                           lb dw).           lb dw).
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Landings are from January 1, 2010, until July 31, 2010, and are subject to change.
\2\ 2010 annual base quotas for sandbar and non-sandbar LCS are the annual adjusted base quotas that are effective from July 24, 2008, until December
  31, 2012 (50 CFR 635.27(b)(1)(iii) and (iv)).
\3\ NMFS intends to adjust the 2011 quota for Atlantic non-sandbar LCS to account for the 2.6 mt dw that was over estimated in the landings report in
  2010 after the final rule establishing the 2010 quota published.

1. Proposed 2011 Quotas for Non-Sandbar LCS and Sandbar Sharks Within 
the Shark Research Fishery
    The 2011 proposed commercial quotas within the shark research 
fishery are 37.5 mt dw (82,673 lb dw) for non-sandbar LCS and 87.9 mt 
dw (193,784 lb dw) for sandbar sharks. This proposed rule would not 
change any of the overall adjusted base commercial quotas.
    Within the shark research fishery, as of July 31, 2010, preliminary 
reported landings of non-sandbar LCS were at 67.1 percent (25.2 mt dw), 
and sandbar shark reported landings were at 48.4 percent (42.6 mt dw). 
Reported landings have not exceeded the 2010 quota to date. Therefore, 
based on preliminary estimates and consistent with the current 
regulations at Sec.  635.27(b)(1)(vii), NMFS is not proposing to reduce 
2011 quotas in the shark research fishery based on any overharvests.
    Under Sec.  635.27(b)(1)(i)(A), because individual species, 
complexes, or species within a complex have been determined to be 
either overfished, have overfishing occurring, overfished with 
overfishing occurring, or have an unknown status, underharvests for 
these species and/or complexes would not be applied to the 2011 quotas. 
Therefore, NMFS proposes 2011 quotas for non-sandbar LCS and sandbar 
sharks within the shark research fishery would be 37.5 mt dw (82,673 lb 
dw) and 87.9 mt dw (193,784 lb dw), respectively.
2. Proposed 2011 Quotas for the Non-Sandbar LCS in the Gulf of Mexico 
Region
    The 2011 proposed quota for non-sandbar LCS in the Gulf of Mexico 
region is 373.1 mt dw (822,536 lb dw). As of July 31, 2010, preliminary 
reported landings were at 104.5 percent (407.9 mt dw) for non-sandbar 
LCS in the Gulf of Mexico region. These reported landings exceed the 
2010 quota by 17.4 mt dw. As such, NMFS's proposal deducts the 
overharvest from the 2011 annual quota. Therefore, the 2011 proposed 
quota for non-sandbar LCS in the Gulf of Mexico region is 373.1 mt dw 
(822,536 lb dw) (390.5 mt dw annual base quota--17.4 mt dw of 2010 
overage = 373.1 mt dw 2011 adjusted annual quota).
3. Proposed 2011 Quotas for the Non-Sandbar LCS in the Atlantic Region
    The 2011 proposed quota for non-sandbar LCS in the Atlantic region 
is 190.4 mt dw (419,756 lb dw). As of July 31, 2010, preliminary 
reported landings were at 13.1 percent (22.2 mt dw) for non-sandbar LCS 
in the Atlantic region as the commercial season opened on July 15, 
2010. In the final rule establishing the 2010 quotas (75 FR 250, 
January 5, 2010), NMFS accounted for an overharvest of non-sandbar LCS 
of 18.1 mt dw (39,903 lb dw) using data that was reported as of October 
31, 2009. Between that date and December 31, 2009, the reported 
landings dropped by 2.6 mt dw. This decline is due to normal quality 
control procedures that occur when updated data are supplied. As such, 
in accordance with Sec.  635.27(b)(1)(i), the amount that was deducted 
from the 2010 annual quota, based on preliminary numbers that were 
later corrected, would be added to the proposed 2011 non-sandbar LCS 
quota in the Atlantic region. Thus, the 2011 proposed commercial non-
sandbar LCS quota would be 190.4 mt dw (419,756 lb dw) (187.8 mt dw 
annual base quota + 2.6 mt dw 2009 over estimated landings = 190.4 mt 
dw 2011 adjusted annual quota).
4. Proposed 2011 Quotas for SCS and Pelagic Sharks
    The 2011 proposed annual commercial quotas for non-blacknose SCS, 
blacknose sharks, blue sharks, porbeagle sharks, and pelagic sharks 
(other than porbeagle or blue sharks) are 221.6 mt dw (488,539 lb dw), 
19.9 mt dw (43,872 lb dw), 273 mt dw (601,856 lb dw), 1.7 mt dw (3,748 
lb dw), and 488 mt dw (1,075,856 lb dw), respectively.
    As of July 31, 2010, preliminary reported landings of non-blacknose 
SCS, blacknose sharks, blue sharks, porbeagle sharks, and pelagic 
sharks (other than porbeagle and blue sharks) were at 18 percent (40 mt 
dw), 34.4 percent (6.8 mt dw), 1.2 percent (3.4 mt dw), 85 percent (1.3 
mt dw), and 19 percent (92.9 mt dw), respectively. These landings are 
within the available quotas at this time. As described above, while 
NMFS may adjust quotas for underharvests depending on stock status, 
NMFS will always adjust quotas for overharvests.
    Non-blacknose SCS have not been declared to be overfished, to have 
overfishing occurring, or to have an unknown status. As such, any 
underharvests for the non-blacknose SCS would be applied to the 2011 
quotas.
    All the other SCS or pelagic species are considered overfished, to 
have overfishing occurring, or to have an unknown status. Therefore, 
the 2011 proposed quotas would be the base annual quotas for non-
blacknose SCS, blacknose sharks, blue sharks, porbeagle

[[Page 57244]]

sharks, and pelagic sharks (other than blue and porbeagle sharks) 
(221.6 mt dw (488,539 lb dw), 19.9 mt dw (43,872 lb dw), 273 mt dw 
(601,856 lb dw), 1.7 mt dw (3,748 lb dw), and 488 mt dw (1,075,856 lb 
dw), respectively).

Proposed Adaptive Management Measures

    Under the current regulations, the Atlantic shark commercial 
fishing seasons for each species or species complex is anticipated to 
open on or about January 1 of each year, and continue year-round. In 
recent years, the quota for some of the shark species groups and 
regions has lasted only a short period of time instead lasting year-
round as expected under Amendment 2. For example, in the Atlantic 
region in 2009, the non-sandbar LCS quota lasted for approximately six 
months, and in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, the non-sandbar LCS quota 
was taken within six weeks.
    One approach to the proposed adaptive management measures in the 
environmental assessment would be to maintain the status quo approach 
to establishing trip limits (33 non-sandbar LCS/trip) as well as 
consider alternatives to allow inseason flexibility regarding trip 
limits in order to extend fishing opportunities year-round. This 
approach would either maintain the current 33 non-sandbar LCS trip 
limits (sub-alternative 1A) or consider reductions in the trip limits 
to help ensure the fishing season extends throughout the year (sub-
alternatives 1B and 1C).
    A second approach would be to allow flexibility in the opening of 
the season for Atlantic shark fisheries through the annual 
specifications process and inseason actions to adjust shark trip limits 
in either region to provide expanded opportunities for constituents 
across the fishery, as is the intent of Amendment 2. In addition, 
having such flexibility would help NMFS respond throughout the 
management region to any future unanticipated large and small scale 
events.
    This second approach was also analyzed in Amendment 2; however, as 
described in Amendment 2, NMFS did not select this approach at that 
time because NMFS felt that fishermen would fish for non-sandbar LCS in 
an incidental manner. As described earlier, after Amendment 2, 
fishermen continued to direct on non-sandbar LCS. Neither approach 
would alter the objectives in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP or its 
Amendments. Rather, these two approaches look at different ways of 
maintaining the shark fishery given rebuilding plans and other 
management measures, such as time/area closures, that were designed to 
rebuild overfished stocks, prevent overfishing, and provide 
opportunities to fish for some shark species, as appropriate. Neither 
approach would change the overall quota, the rebuilding plan, time/area 
closures, or other management measures. Only the opening dates and 
retention limits would change under these approaches. Thus, the main 
differences between the approaches are how fast and at what time of 
year the quota will be taken. In considering these approaches, NMFS 
analyzed several alternatives in the environmental assessment.
    Sub-alternative 1A, the no action alternative, would maintain the 
existing regulations for the current trip limits established in the 
2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments. The Atlantic shark 
commercial fishing season for each species or species complex would be 
anticipated to open on or about January 1 of each year and continue 
until the fishery is closed. Additionally, over- or underharvests in a 
given fishing year would be accounted for in the following year 
depending on the status of the species.
    Sub-alternative 1B would allow NMFS to modify the non-sandbar LCS 
trip limit through an inseason action, if needed, to extend the fishing 
season in the Gulf of Mexico region if the available quota is being 
harvested at a rate that would not ensure a reasonable season length. 
The trip limit could be reduced from the current trip limit established 
under Amendment 2 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP down to zero non-
sandbar LCS per trip based on the amount of remaining quota and the 
time left in a given fishing season. NMFS' decision to reduce the trip 
limit, and to what extent it would be reduced, would be based on the 
criteria discussed under sub-alternative 2B.
    Sub-alternative 1C would modify the non-sandbar LCS trip limit 
through an inseason action, as needed, to extend the fishing season in 
the Atlantic region if the available quota is being harvested at a rate 
that would not allow for a reasonable season length. Similar to sub-
alternative 1B, the trip limit could be reduced and decisions to reduce 
the trip limit would be based on the criteria discussed under sub-
alternative 2B.
    Alternative 2, the preferred alternative, considers multiple sub-
alternatives that would revisit the current shark management structure. 
These proposed management measures would allow flexibility in setting 
the opening date of the Atlantic shark fisheries through the annual 
specifications process and allow for more equitable fishing 
opportunities for constituents across all areas. Another proposed 
management measure would provide flexibility by allowing inseason 
actions to make adjustments to the non-sandbar LCS trip limits in 
either region to provide equitable opportunities for constituents 
across the fishery, as is the intent of Amendment 2.
    Sub-alternative 2A, a preferred alternative in the environmental 
assessment, would establish a process and criteria for selecting the 
opening dates of the shark fisheries through the annual specifications 
process in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions. This alternative 
presumes that the quotas for some fisheries, such as the non-sandbar 
LCS fisheries, would not last the entire fishing year given that the 
fishing behavior has changed since the implementation of Amendment 2. 
This alternative would provide additional flexibility to ensure the 
fisheries open at times beneficial for fishermen while also considering 
the ecological needs of the different species. Consistent with current 
practice, NMFS would establish the yearly shark quotas and announce the 
opening of the fishing season through annual rulemaking with notice and 
public comment at the beginning of each fishing season. Under this 
alternative, NMFS would consider the following criteria and other 
relevant factors in establishing the opening dates:
    1. The available annual quotas for the current fishing season for 
the different species/complexes based on any over- and/or underharvests 
experienced during the previous commercial shark fishing seasons;
    2. Estimated season length based on available quota(s) and average 
weekly catch rates of different species/complexes in the Atlantic and 
Gulf of Mexico regions from the previous years;
    3. Length of the season for the different species/complexes in the 
previous years and whether fishermen were able to participate in the 
fishery in those years;
    4. Variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migratory 
patterns of the different species/complexes based on scientific and 
fishery information;
    5. Effects of catch rates in one part of a region precluding 
vessels in another part of that region from having a reasonable 
opportunity to harvest a portion of the different species/complexes 
quotas;
    6. Effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the 
2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments; and/or

[[Page 57245]]

    7. Effects of a delayed opening with regard to fishing 
opportunities in other fisheries.
    Sub-alternative 2B, a preferred alternative in the environmental 
assessment, would provide NMFS the ability to adjust the trip limits 
via inseason actions based on certain criteria. This alternative 
presumes that the quotas for some fisheries, such as the non-sandbar 
LCS fisheries, would not last the entire fishing year given that the 
fishing behavior has changed since the implementation of Amendment 2 
and builds in flexibility to try to extend the availability of the 
quota. The goal of the alternative is to lengthen the season to 
provide, to the extent practicable, equitable opportunities across the 
fishing management region while also considering the ecological needs 
of the different species. The criteria NMFS would consider in making 
adjustments via inseason actions to trip limits in either the Atlantic 
or Gulf of Mexico regions would be the following:
    1. The amount of remaining shark quota in the relevant area or 
region, to date, based on dealer reports;
    2. The catch rates of the relevant shark species/complexes, to 
date, based on dealer reports;
    3. Estimated date of fishery closure based on when the landings are 
projected to reach 80 percent of the quota given the realized catch 
rates;
    4. Effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the 
2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments;
    5. Variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migratory 
patterns of the relevant shark species based on scientific and fishery-
based knowledge; and/or,
    6. Effects of catch rates in one part of a region precluding 
vessels in another part of that region from having a reasonable 
opportunity to harvest a portion of the relevant quota.
    For the 2011 Atlantic commercial shark fishing season, NMFS does 
not propose to change the trip limit when the season opens. Currently, 
the trip limits are 33 non-sandbar LCS per trip for shark directed 
permit holders and 3 non-sandbar LCS per trip for shark incidental 
permit holders. Under sub-alternative 2B, NMFS could later modify the 
trip limits through an inseason action with five days' advance notice 
from filing of such a change.

Proposed Fishing Season Notification for the 2011 Atlantic Commercial 
Shark Fishing Season

    Based on the proposed criteria and processes described above, NMFS 
proposes that the 2011 Atlantic commercial shark fishing season for the 
shark research, non-sandbar LCS in the Gulf of Mexico region, non-
blacknose SCS, blacknose sharks, blue sharks, porbeagle sharks, and 
pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle and blue sharks) in the 
northwestern Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and the 
Caribbean Sea, would open on the effective date of the final rule for 
this action. NMFS proposes to open the Atlantic non-sandbar LCS fishery 
on July 15, 2011. The delay in the Atlantic non-sandbar LCS fishery 
would provide, to the extent practicable, equitable opportunities 
across the fishing management region while also considering the 
ecological needs of the different species. Without delaying the opening 
date, based on catch rates from 2009, the south Atlantic fishermen 
would likely catch the regional quota before the sharks could migrate 
to the north Atlantic area.
    All of the shark fisheries would remain open until December 31, 
2011, unless NMFS determines that the fishing season landings for 
sandbar shark, non-sandbar LCS, blacknose sharks, non-blacknose SCS, 
blue sharks, porbeagle sharks, or pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle 
or blue sharks) have reached, or are projected to reach, 80 percent of 
the available quota. At that time, consistent with Sec.  635.28(b)(1), 
NMFS will file for publication with the Office of the Federal Register 
a notice of closure for that shark species group and/or region that 
will be effective no fewer than 5 days from date of filing. From the 
effective date and time of the closure until NMFS announces, via a 
notice in the Federal Register, that additional quota is available, the 
fishery for the shark species group and, for non-sandbar LCS, region 
would remain closed, even across fishing years, consistent with Sec.  
635.28(b)(2).

Request for Comments

    Comments on this proposed rule may be submitted via http://www.regulations.gov, mail, or fax. Comments may also be submitted at a 
public hearing (see Public Hearings and Special Accommodations below). 
NMFS solicits comments on this proposed rule by October 20, 2010 (see 
DATES and ADDRESSES). NMFS will hold four public hearings for this 
proposed rule. These hearings will be physically accessible to people 
with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other 
auxiliary aids should be directed to Gu[yacute] DuBeck at (301) 713-
2347 or Jackie Wilson at (240) 338-3936 at least 7 days prior to the 
hearing date. The public is reminded that NMFS expects participants at 
the public hearings to conduct themselves appropriately. At the 
beginning of each public hearing, a representative of NMFS will explain 
the ground rules (e.g., alcohol is prohibited from the hearing room; 
attendees will be called to give their comments in the order in which 
they registered to speak; each attendee will have an equal amount of 
time to speak; and attendees should not interrupt one another). The 
NMFS representative will attempt to structure the meeting so that all 
attending members of the public will be able to comment, if they so 
choose, regardless of the controversial nature of the subject(s). 
Attendees are expected to respect the ground rules, and, if they do 
not, they will be asked to leave the hearing.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that the proposed rule is 
consistent with the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments, other 
provisions of the MSA, and other applicable law, subject to further 
consideration after public comment.
    NMFS prepared an environmental assessment for this rule that 
discusses the impact on the environment as a result of this rule. In 
this proposed action, NMFS is considering adding flexibility to shark 
management measures by analyzing criteria that would allow for delays 
to the start of the different shark species/complex fishing seasons 
each year as well as allow for inseason adjustments to the shark trip 
limits, as appropriate, to extend the fishing season, as necessary. 
These measures are meant to provide, to the extent practicable, 
equitable opportunities across the fishing management region while also 
considering the ecological needs of the different species. A copy of 
the environmental assessment is available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES).
    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    An initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA) was prepared, as 
required by section 603 of the RFA (RFA). The IRFA describes the 
economic impact this proposed rule, if adopted, would have on small 
entities. A description of the action, why it is being considered, and 
the legal basis for this action are contained at the beginning of this 
section in the preamble and in the SUMMARY section of the preamble. A 
summary of the analysis follows. A copy of this analysis

[[Page 57246]]

is available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES).
    In compliance with section 603(b)(1) of the Regulatory Flexibility 
Act, the purpose of this proposed rulemaking is, consistent with the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act and the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its 
amendments, to adjust the 2011 proposed quotas for non-sandbar LCS, 
sandbar sharks, blacknose sharks, non-blacknose SCS, blue sharks, 
porbeagle sharks, or pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle or blue 
sharks) based on overharvests from the previous fishing year. An 
additional purpose is to provide flexibility in the regulations to 
allow for a delay in the opening of the fishing season, and allow 
inseason adjustments in the trip limits to slow the fishery down during 
the season, as necessary. This flexibility is intended to provide, to 
the extent practicable, equitable opportunities across the fishing 
management region while also considering the ecological needs of the 
different species.
    In compliance with section 603(b)(2) of the Regulatory Flexibility 
Act, the objectives of this proposed rulemaking are to: (1) Adjust the 
annual quotas for non-sandbar LCS in the Atlantic region due to 
overestimations in the final rule in 2010 and non-sandbar LCS in the 
Gulf of Mexico region due to minor overharvests in 2010; (2) create new 
criteria and a process for selecting the opening dates of the shark 
fisheries in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions; and (3) adjust 
the trip limits inseason for non-sandbar LCS based on certain criteria 
and processes.
    Section 603(b)(3) requires Federal agencies to provide an estimate 
of the number of small entities to which the rule would apply. NMFS 
considers all HMS permit holders to be small entities because they 
either had average annual receipts less than $4.0 million for fish-
harvesting, average annual receipts less than $6.5 million for charter/
party boats, 100 or fewer employees for wholesale dealers, or 500 or 
fewer employees for seafood processors. These are the Small Business 
Administration (SBA) size standards for defining a small versus large 
business entity in this industry.
    The commercial shark fishery is comprised of fishermen who hold a 
shark directed or incidental limited access permits (LAP) and the 
related industries including processors, bait houses, and equipment 
suppliers, all of which NMFS considers to be small entities according 
to the size standards set by the SBA. The proposed rule would apply to 
the approximately 221 directed commercial shark permit holders, 2782 
incidental commercial shark permit holders, and 105 commercial shark 
dealers as of November 5, 2009.
    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)). Fishermen, 
dealers, and managers in these fisheries must comply with a number of 
international agreements, domestic laws, and other FMPs. These include, 
but are not limited to, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Atlantic Tunas 
Convention Act, the High Seas Fishing Compliance Act, the Marine Mammal 
Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental 
Policy Act, the Paperwork Reduction Act, and the Coastal Zone 
Management Act. NMFS does not believe that the new regulations proposed 
to be implemented would duplicate, overlap, or conflict with any 
relevant regulations, Federal or otherwise.
    Under section 603(c), agencies are required to describe any 
alternatives to the proposed rule which accomplish the stated 
objectives and which minimize any significant economic impacts. These 
impacts are discussed below and in the Environmental Assessment for the 
proposed action. Additionally, the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 
603 (c) (1)-(4)) lists four general categories of significant 
alternatives that would assist an agency in the development of 
significant alternatives. These categories of alternatives 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 of the rule for small entities.
    In order to meet the objectives of this proposed rule, consistent 
with Magnuson-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 two different main alternatives in this proposed rulemaking 
with 5 sub-alternatives and provides justification for selection of the 
preferred alternative to achieve the desired objective.
    NMFS considered two main alternatives for the shark fishery in the 
short term. One approach would be to maintain the status quo approach 
to establishing trip limits (33 non-sandbar LCS/trip) as well as 
consider alternatives to allow inseason flexibility regarding trip 
limits in order to extend fishing opportunities year-round (alternative 
1 and its sub-alternatives). The other approach would be to allow 
flexibility in the opening of the season for Atlantic shark fisheries 
through the annual specifications process and allow adjustments via 
inseason actions to shark trip limits in either region to provide 
expanded opportunities for constituents across the fishery, as is the 
intent of Amendment 2 (alternative 2 and its sub-alternatives).
    Under alternative 1, NMFS considered three sub-alternatives. Sub-
alternative 1A, the No Action alternative, would maintain the current 
vessel trip regulations for non-sandbar LCS. This would result in no 
additional impacts to small entities. Limited access directed shark 
permit holders would continue to be able to land up to 33 non-sandbar 
LCS per trip. On average, between 2008 and 2009, approximately 47 
vessels with directed shark permits and 15 vessels with incidental 
shark permits had non-sandbar LCS landings. The estimated total trip 
revenue for a maximum trip of 33 sharks is estimated to be $1,920 in 
the Gulf of Mexico and $1,767 in the Atlantic. However, this trip limit 
as implemented has resulted in shortened fishing seasons in 2009 and 
2010 due to regional non-sandbar LCS quotas being filled before the end 
of the fishing year. Fishermen in some areas, such as the north 
Atlantic, were not able to harvest a portion of the 2009 non-sandbar 
LCS quota as intended in Amendment 2 because the quota was harvested 
before sharks migrated to northern waters in the Atlantic in 2009. As 
such, sub-alternative 1A is not likely to meet the objective of this 
proposed rule to provide fishery participants an equal opportunity to 
the extent practicable to harvest the full shark quotas.
    Sub-alternative 1B would establish a new non-sandbar LCS trip limit 
that would extend the fishing season in the Gulf of Mexico region based 
on remaining quota and time left in the fishing season. On average 
between 2008 and 2009, approximately 20

[[Page 57247]]

vessels with directed shark permits and 4 vessels with incidental shark 
permits had non-sandbar LCS landings in the Gulf of Mexico region. The 
direct economic impacts to shark fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico region 
would depend on the reduction in the trip limit. Approximately 81 
percent of the Gulf of Mexico trips retained 29 or fewer non-sandbar 
LCS per trip. Therefore, for a majority of trips, NMFS anticipates that 
a reduction in the trip limit from 33 non-sandbar LCS to 29 non-sandbar 
LCS would have a neutral impact on fishermen as fishing and business 
practices are not anticipated to change due to such a reduction. 
Reducing the trip limit from 33 non-sandbar LCS to 29 non-sandbar LCS 
would potentially reduce the maximum revenue per trip by an average of 
$233 per trip in the Gulf of Mexico. This estimate is based on the 
average non-sandbar shark weight and 2009 median ex-vessel prices for 
non-sandbar LCS and shark fin in the Gulf of Mexico region. 
Approximately 18 percent may lose additional gross revenues on a per 
trip basis as they were landing more than 33 non-sandbar LCS according 
to Coastal Fisheries data. In addition, on average, vessels in the Gulf 
of Mexico region retained 21 non-sandbar LCS per trip; however, the 
average trip landing numbers of non-sandbar LCS varied by month. If the 
trip limit were reduced to 21 non-sandbar LCS per trip, this could 
reduce gross revenues per trip from $1,920 to $1,222. While, on 
average, fishermen may only retain 21 non-sandbar LCS, such a reduction 
would preclude fishermen from being able to keep additional sharks (up 
to 33 non-sandbar LCS per trip). Therefore, such a reduction may change 
how they fish. It may also result in additional trips within a day to 
make up for lost individual trip revenues, which could result in higher 
fuel costs, longer fishing days, and increased time away from home. All 
of these factors are expected to result in negative economic impacts in 
the short term.
    Reducing the trip limit to below 21 non-sandbar LCS per trip would 
be expected to result in economic impacts as it would further reduce 
gross revenues for shark fishermen on a trip basis. The reduction in 
gross revenues would range from $756 to $1,920 for a trip limit of 20 
to 0 non-sandbar LCS, respectively. The lowest average number of non-
sandbar LCS retained was 11 non-sandbar LCS per trip during the month 
of September, which equates to $640 in gross revenues per trip. Such 
reductions in the trip limits could translate into fishermen making 
multiple trips within a day to make up for lost individual trip 
revenues, which could result in higher fuel costs, longer fishing days, 
and increased time away from home. However, NMFS anticipates that at 
some reduced trip limit level, directed shark fishermen would stop 
targeting sharks because it would no longer be economically viable. At 
this point, NMFS expects that shark fishermen would target other 
species and retain sharks incidentally as anticipated under Amendment 2 
and, therefore, the economic impacts in terms of changes in fishing 
practices and diversifying fishing effort toward other species to make 
up for lost shark revenues would be the same as described in Amendment 
2.
    Sub-alternative 1C would establish a new non-sandbar LCS trip limit 
that would extend the fishing season in the Atlantic region based on 
remaining quota and time left in the fishing season. On average between 
2008 and 2009, approximately 27 vessels with directed shark permits and 
11 vessels with incidental shark permits had non-sandbar LCS landings 
in the Atlantic region. The direct impacts to shark fishermen in the 
Atlantic region would depend on the reduction in the trip limit. As 
explained above, approximately 81 percent of the Atlantic trips 
retained 27 or fewer non-sandbar LCS per trip. Therefore, for a 
majority of the trips, NMFS anticipates that a reduction in the trip 
limit from the 33 non-sandbar LCS to 27 non-sandbar LCS would have 
minimal economic impacts on fishermen as fishing and business practices 
would not be anticipated to change with such a reduction. Approximately 
11 percent may lose additional gross revenues on a trip basis as they 
were landing more than 33 non-sandbar LCS according to Coastal 
Fisheries data. In addition, on average, vessels in the Atlantic region 
retained 13 non-sandbar LCS per trip; however, the average trip landing 
numbers of non-sandbar LCS varied by month. If the trip limit was 
reduced to 13 non-sandbar LCS per trip, this could reduce potential 
gross revenues per trip from $1,767 to $696. However, on average, 
fishermen did not retain 33 non-sandbar LCS per trip during any month 
of the year. In addition, during 6 of the 12 months fishermen retained 
fewer than the overall monthly average retention of 13 non-sandbar LCS 
per trip. Therefore, such a reduction in the trip limit is only 
anticipated to have minor adverse direct economic impacts to fishermen 
in the short term; long term impacts are not anticipated as these 
reductions would not be permanent.
    Reducing the trip limit below 13 non-sandbar LCS per trip would be 
expected to result in moderate adverse direct economic impacts as it 
would most likely reduce gross revenues for shark fishermen in the 
short term. Fishermen would be expected to stop fishing for sharks as 
it would no longer be profitable. The reduction in gross revenues would 
range from $1,125 to $1,767 for 12 to 0 non-sandbar LCS per trip, 
respectively. The lowest average number of non-sandbar LCS retained was 
8 non-sandbar LCS per trip during the month of June, which equates to 
$428 in gross revenues per trip. These reductions in the trip limits 
could translate into fishermen making multiple trips within a day to 
make up for lost individual trip revenues, which could result in higher 
fuel costs, longer fishing days, and increased time away from home. 
However, NMFS anticipates that at some reduced trip limit level, 
directed shark fishermen would stop targeting sharks because it would 
no longer be economically viable. At this point, NMFS expects that 
shark fishermen would target other species and retain sharks 
incidentally as anticipated under Amendment 2, and therefore, the 
socioeconomic impacts in terms of changes in fishing practices and 
diversifying fishing effort toward other species to make up for lost 
shark revenues would be the same as described in Amendment 2.
    Under alternative 2, the preferred alternative, NMFS considered two 
sub-alternatives. Sub-alternative 2A would establish new opening dates 
for the shark fisheries through the annual specifications process in 
the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions based on certain criteria and 
processes. Sub-alternative 2A could potentially affect the 221 directed 
and 282 incidental shark permit holders along with the 105 shark 
dealers. NMFS plans to review the criteria on an annual basis to 
determine when to open each fishery at equitable and beneficial times 
for fishermen while also considering the ecological needs of the 
different species. The opening of the fishing season could vary based 
on the available annual quota, catch rates, and number of fishing 
participants during the year. For the 2011 fishing season, NMFS is 
proposing to open the shark research, non-sandbar LCS in the Gulf of 
Mexico region, blacknose shark, non-blacknose SCS, and pelagic shark 
fisheries on the effective date of the final rule for this action. The 
direct and indirect socioeconomic impacts would be neutral on a short 
and long-term basis, because NMFS is proposing not to change the 
opening dates of these

[[Page 57248]]

fisheries from the status quo. NMFS is proposing to delay the opening 
of the non-sandbar LCS in the Atlantic region until July 15, 2011, 
which would be the same opening date as 2010 fishing season. The delay 
in the Atlantic non-sandbar LCS fishing season would result in short- 
and long-term, direct, minor, adverse socioeconomic impacts as 
fishermen would have to fish in other fisheries to make up for lost 
non-sandbar LCS revenues at the beginning of the 2011 fishing season. 
The short and long-term effects for delaying the season would cause 
indirect, minor, adverse socioeconomic impacts on shark dealers and 
other entities that deal with shark products as they may have to 
diversify during the beginning of the season when non-sandbar LCS shark 
products would not be available. This would be most prevalent in areas 
of the southeast Atlantic where non-sandbar LCS are available early in 
the fishing season. The delay in the non-sandbar LCS fishing season 
could cause changes in ex-vessel prices. In 2009, the median ex-vessel 
price of LCS meat in January was approximately $0.25 per pound dressed 
weight in the Gulf of Mexico and $0.45 in the South Atlantic region, 
while the median ex-vessel price in July of 2008 was $0.45 in the Gulf 
of Mexico and $0.75 in the South Atlantic. The median ex-vessel price 
for shark fins in January was $17.00 per pound in the Gulf of Mexico 
and $16.00 in the South Atlantic. When the LCS fishery opens in July, 
the average price for fins would be approximately $14.00 per pound in 
the Gulf of Mexico and $12.00 per pound in the South Atlantic based on 
2008 prices. Since the north Atlantic had a very limited 2009 non-
sandbar LCS fishing season, the ex-vessel prices for 2008 were used for 
the comparison.
    In the north Atlantic, the delayed opening for the non-sandbar LCS 
would have direct, minor, beneficial socioeconomic impacts in the short 
and long-term for fishermen as they would have access to the non-
sandbar LCS quota in 2011. Fishermen in the North Atlantic did not have 
or had limited access to the non-sandbar LCS quota in 2009. There would 
be indirect, minor, beneficial socioeconomic impacts in the short and 
long-term for shark dealers and other entities that deal with shark 
products in this area as they would also have access to non-sandbar LCS 
products in 2011. Thus, delaying the non-sandbar LCS seasons under the 
preferred alternative would cause neutral cumulative socioeconomic 
impacts, since it would allow for a more equitable distribution of the 
quotas among constituents in this region, which was the original intent 
of Amendment 2.
    Sub-alternative 2B would establish new inseason trip limit 
adjustment criteria for the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic regions. Sub-
alternative 2B would allow NMFS to adjust the trip limit through 
inseason actions, but would not adjust the overall shark quotas for the 
GOM and Atlantic regions. This sub-alternative is anticipated to have 
direct and indirect, short-term, neutral socioeconomic impacts in the 
GOM and Atlantic regions, because changing the trip limits inseason 
would not limit the overall harvest of sharks, but would provide the 
mechanism to modify the harvest spatially and temporally to allow 
equitable access to the resource. Directed fishing on sharks would 
continue as long as the trip limit is high enough to make it 
economically viable. Since the implementation of Amendment 2 directed 
shark fishing trips land, on average, 21 non-sandbar LCS in the GOM 
region, and 13 non-sandbar LCS in the Atlantic region. NMFS has not 
been able to determine at what trip limit directed fishing for non-
sandbar LCS would not be economically viable, as directed non-sandbar 
LCS fishing trips have continued at lower landings than the annual 
averages during certain months. Different trip limit levels have been 
further analyzed in alternatives 1B and 1C, and the socioeconomic 
impacts associated with the range of trip limits are described above 
under sub-alternatives 1B and 1C. Trip limits set at levels too low for 
fishermen to continue targeting non-sandbar LCS would likely lead to 
shifts in effort to other fisheries, similar to effort shifts 
experienced during closures of the non-sandbar LCS fishery in 2009 and 
2010. The criteria for changing trip limits inseason takes into account 
opportunities for equitable access to fishermen throughout the 
respective regions and ecological considerations of the stocks, but 
would not restrict or reduce the current quota. If trip limits are set 
in a manner that is beneficial to the ecological needs of the different 
shark species their populations may increase in the long-term, which 
could allow for increased quota levels in the future. Therefore, minor, 
beneficial long-term direct, indirect, and cumulative socioeconomic 
impacts may occur.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 635

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

    Dated: September 15, 2010.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, 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. 971 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.

    2. In Sec.  635.24, paragraph (a)(8) is added to read as follows:


Sec.  635.24  Commercial retention limits for sharks and swordfish.

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (8) Inseason trip limit adjustment criteria. NMFS will file with 
the Office of the Federal Register for publication notification of any 
inseason adjustments to trip limits. Before making any adjustment, NMFS 
will consider the following criteria and other relevant factors:
    (i) The amount of remaining shark quota in the relevant area or 
region, to date, based on dealer reports;
    (ii) The catch rates of the relevant shark species/complexes, to 
date, based on dealer reports;
    (iii) Estimated date of fishery closure based on when the landings 
are projected to reach 80 percent of the quota given the realized catch 
rates;
    (iv) Effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of 
the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments;
    (v) Variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migratory 
patterns of the relevant shark species based on scientific and fishery-
based knowledge; and/or,
    (vi) Effects of catch rates in one part of a region precluding 
vessels in another part of that region from having a reasonable 
opportunity to harvest a portion of the relevant quota.
* * * * *
    3. In Sec.  635.27:
    A. Paragraphs (b)(1)(ii) through (b)(1)(vi) are redesignated as 
paragraphs (b)(1)(iii) through (b)(1)(vii), respectively.
    B. Paragraph (b)(1)(ii) is added to read as follows:


Sec.  635.27  Quotas.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (ii) Opening fishing season criteria. NMFS will file with the 
Office of the

[[Page 57249]]

Federal Register for publication notification of the opening dates of 
the shark fishery for each species/complex. Before making any 
decisions, NMFS would consider the following criteria and other 
relevant factors in establishing the opening dates:
    (A) The available annual quotas for the current fishing season for 
the different species/complexes based on any over- and/or underharvests 
experienced during the previous commercial shark fishing seasons;
    (B) Estimated season length based on available quota(s) and average 
weekly catch rates of different species/complexes in the Atlantic and 
Gulf of Mexico regions from the previous years;
    (C) Length of the season for the different species/complexes in the 
previous years and whether fishermen were able to participate in the 
fishery in those years;
    (D) Variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migratory 
patterns of the different species/complexes based on scientific and 
fishery information;
    (E) Effects of catch rates in one part of a region precluding 
vessels in another part of that region from having a reasonable 
opportunity to harvest a portion of the different species/complexes 
quotas;
    (F) Effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of 
the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments; and/or,
    (G) Effects of a delayed opening with regard to fishing 
opportunities in other fisheries.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2010-23443 Filed 9-17-10; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P