Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Queen Conch Fishery of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; Queen Conch Management Measures, 23907-23909 [2011-10446]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 83 / Friday, April 29, 2011 / Rules and Regulations DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 622 [Docket No. 0907151138–1235–03] RIN 0648–AY03 Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Queen Conch Fishery of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; Queen Conch Management Measures National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: This final rule implements measures to address overfishing of Caribbean queen conch in the U.S. Caribbean. This rule extends the queen conch seasonal closure from 3 months to 5 months, and prohibits fishing for and possession of queen conch in or from the Caribbean exclusive economic zone (EEZ) east of 64°34′ W. longitude, which includes Lang Bank east of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), when harvest and possession of queen conch is prohibited in St. Croix territorial waters as a result of a territorial quota closure. The intended effects of this final rule are to prevent additional fishing pressure on queen conch in the U.S. Caribbean, and to improve enforcement of regulations affecting the queen conch resource by improving compatibility among Federal and territorial regulations. DATES: This rule is effective May 31, 2011. SUMMARY: Copies of the regulatory amendment, which includes an Environmental Assessment (EA), and the final regulatory flexibility analysis (FRFA) may be obtained from Britni Tokotch, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701 or may be downloaded from the Southeast Regional Office Web site at http:// sero.nmfs.noaa.gov. ADDRESSES: FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Britni Tokotch, 727–824–5305. The Caribbean queen conch fishery is managed under the Fishery Management Plan for Queen Conch Resources of Puerto Rico and the USVI (FMP). The FMP was prepared by the Caribbean Fishery Management Council (Council), and is implemented through regulations at 50 CFR part 622 under the srobinson on DSKHWCL6B1PROD with RULES SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:27 Apr 28, 2011 Jkt 223001 authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). This final rule extends the current 3-month (July 1 through September 30) closure in Federal waters in the area east of 64°34′ W. longitude, which includes Lang Bank east of St. Croix, USVI (Lang Bank), to a 5-month closure, from June 1 through October 31 each year. This final rule also implements a compatible queen conch harvest quota closure for Federal waters. Under this rule, when the USVI closes territorial waters off St. Croix to the harvest and possession of queen conch, NMFS will concurrently close the queen conch harvest in Lang Bank. NMFS will notify the public of the closure by filing a notice with the Office of the Federal Register. During the closure, fishing for or possession of Caribbean queen conch on board a fishing vessel, in or from Lang Bank is prohibited. Closure of Lang Bank is in effect until the next fishing season for territorial waters opens November 1, each year. Comments and Responses The following is a summary of the comments NMFS received on the proposed rule and the queen conch regulatory amendment, and NMFS’ respective responses. During the comment period, NMFS received four comments on the proposed rule. The submissions included one letter from a Federal agency, which was in agreement with the actions in this proposed rule. The remaining submissions were unique letters from individuals, one of which is unrelated to the actions contained in the regulatory amendment and, therefore, is not addressed; the other two comments are addressed below. Comment 1: One commenter questioned why a 4-month seasonal closure was not considered as an alternative to the existing 3-month closure and the proposed 5-month closure. Response: The intent of the regulatory amendment and this proposed rule is to establish consistent regulations between the USVI and U.S. Federal waters. The USVI territorial government requested the Council and NMFS implement compatible regulations, including a compatible seasonal closure and a compatible quota closure, to simplify enforcement efforts. The lack of compatible regulations makes enforcement difficult, which inhibits resource protection. A 4-month closure was not considered because it would not be consistent with USVI regulations, and would not alleviate the concerns about enforcement that prompted this action. PO 00000 Frm 00047 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 23907 Comment 2: One commenter expressed concern regarding Federal consistency with the 50,000-lb (28,680kg) quota set by the USVI. Specifically, the commenter expressed concern regarding the possibility the USVI territorial government could increase the queen conch quota in the future. Response: The queen conch regulatory amendment and this proposed rule do not address a Federal quota for queen conch. This proposed rule recognizes the quota already established by the USVI. The intent of this proposed rule is to establish consistency between Federal regulations and those already established by the USVI territorial government to prevent additional fishing pressure when the USVI quota is met and to enhance enforcement efforts. In Amendment 2 to the Fishery Management Plan for Queen Resources of Puerto Rico and the USVI and Amendment 5 to the Reef Fish Fishery Management Plan of Puerto Rico and the USVI (2010 Caribbean ACL Amendment), the Council is considering actions that establish annual catch limits (ACLs) and accountability measures (AMs) to ensure the ACLs are not exceeded. The Council’s preferred alternative is to set the ACL for queen conch at 50,000 lb (28,680 kg). Once the ACL is reached or projected to be reached, Lang Bank would be closed to the harvest and possession of queen conch. The 2010 Caribbean ACL Amendment is expected to be implemented in the near future. When this amendment is implemented, the ACLs and AMs will apply even if the USVI territorial government increases the territorial quota in the future. Classification The Regional Administrator, Southeast Region, NMFS, determined that the regulatory amendment is necessary for the conservation and management of the queen conch fishery and that it is consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable laws. This final rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. NMFS prepared an FRFA, as required by section 604 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act. The FRFA describes the economic impact this final rule is expected to have on small entities. A description of the action implemented through this final rule, the need for and objectives of this final rule, and the legal basis for this final rule are contained in the preamble of the proposed rule, and are not repeated here. A copy of this analysis is available from the Council E:\FR\FM\29APR1.SGM 29APR1 srobinson on DSKHWCL6B1PROD with RULES 23908 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 83 / Friday, April 29, 2011 / Rules and Regulations (see ADDRESSES). A summary of the analysis follows. No significant issues associated with the economic analysis contained in the proposed rule were raised through public comment. A summary of the comments received is provided in the previous section of this preamble. No changes were made in this final rule as a result of these comments. No duplicative, overlapping, or conflicting Federal rules have been identified. Additionally, this final rule would not establish any new reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements. This final rule will directly apply to and may directly affect commercial fishermen and for-hire vessels in St. Croix that harvest queen conch. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has established size criteria for all major industry sectors in the U.S., including commercial fish harvesters and for-hire operations. A business involved in fish harvesting is classified as a small business if it is independently owned and operated, is not dominant in its field of operation (including its affiliates), and has combined annual receipts not in excess of $4.0 million (NAICS code 114111, finfish fishing) for all its affiliated operations worldwide. For for-hire vessels, the other qualifiers apply and the revenues threshold is $7.0 million (NAICS code 713990, recreational industries). All commercial fishermen who may be affected by this final rule are determined, for the purpose of this analysis, to be small entities. Federal permits are not required to fish in the U.S. Caribbean. The USVI, however, requires a commercial fishing permit to harvest marine species for commercial purposes. In 2008, there were 383 permitted fishermen in the USVI, of which 223 were in St. Croix and 160 were in St. Thomas and St. John. The ex-vessel value of total harvests by USVI fishermen in 2008 was approximately $8.8 million, or approximately $23,000 per fisherman. This estimate is substantially lower than the SBA small entity threshold. Comparable values for St. Croix fishermen are not available. However, if all revenues from marine species for the USVI are attributed to St. Croix fishermen, the appropriate average revenue per entity would be only approximately $39,000. Even this value, as an extreme upper bound for average revenues for St. Croix fishermen, is significantly lower than the SBA threshold. The number of for-hire dive operations in the USVI is unknown. However, 27 for-hire vessels were identified in the USVI in 2000. VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:27 Apr 28, 2011 Jkt 223001 Information on the economic profile of these vessels is not available. However, for-hire vessels have been determined to be small business entities in all Federal fishery-related regulatory actions to date in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic. Therefore, all for-hire businesses that may be affected by this final rule are determined, for the purpose of this analysis, to be small business entities. It is unknown whether this final rule will have any direct adverse economic effects on any small entities. Available queen conch harvest data do not distinguish between queen conch harvested from territorial waters and from Lang Bank. Incompatible Federal and St. Croix territorial water seasonal closures only began in 2008, and the first quota closure of St. Croix territorial waters occurred in 2009. It is unknown whether landings originating from Lang Bank continued after closure of the territorial waters in these years, or whether the territorial closure resulted in fishermen ceasing harvest activity in Lang Bank. If the territorial possession prohibition resulted in fishermen stopping all harvest activity, including activity that historically occurred in the Lang Bank, then this final rule will not have any direct effect on harvest activity or associated revenues from Lang Bank, because no such harvest activity would be expected to continue to occur. As a result, the only direct effect of this action on fishery participants will be the benefits of regulatory simplicity. If, however, queen conch has traditionally continued to be harvested in Lang Bank during the period when the territorial waters closed, this final rule will result in a reduction in the revenues associated with these harvests. As previously stated, available data do not allow quantification of any harvests from Lang Bank that may be affected. In general, however, because queen conch are distributed in habitats where water depth is less than 100 fathoms (183 m), and the majority of the benthos at that depth around St. Croix is located in territorial waters, it is assumed that the majority of queen conch in the USVI are harvested from territorial waters. As a result, any reduction in harvests, and associated revenues, from Lang Bank that might occur as a result of compatible closures is expected to be minimal. Because of the absence of locationspecific harvest data and the inability to assess with certainty the economic effects of compatible quota and seasonal closures, public comment on the economic analysis was solicited in the proposed rule. No comments on the economic analysis were received and, as PO 00000 Frm 00048 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 a result, no information was provided to either confirm or refute the conclusion in the economic analysis that any reduction in revenues as a result of compatible closures would be minimal. Only one alternative to the proposed rule was considered. This alternative, the no action alternative (status quo), would not implement compatible closures and would not achieve the Council’s objectives. Therefore, NMFS did not adopt this alternative. Section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 states that, for each rule or group of related rules for which an agency is required to prepare an FRFA, the agency shall publish one or more guides to assist small entities in complying with the rule, and shall designate such publications as ‘‘small entity compliance guides.’’ As part of the rulemaking process, NMFS prepared a fishery bulletin, which also serves as a small entity compliance guide. The fishery bulletin will be distributed to interested parties in the Caribbean. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622 Fisheries, Fishing, Puerto Rico, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Virgin Islands. Dated: April 26, 2011. John Oliver, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Operations, National Marine Fisheries Service. For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 622 is amended as follows: PART 622—FISHERIES OF THE CARIBBEAN, GULF, AND SOUTH ATLANTIC 1. The authority citation for part 622 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. 2. In § 622.32, paragraph (b)(1)(iv) is revised to read as follows: ■ § 622.32 Prohibited and limited harvest species. * * * * * (b) * * * (1) * * * (iv) No person may fish for or possess on board a fishing vessel a Caribbean queen conch in or from the Caribbean EEZ, in the area east of 64E34’ W. longitude which includes Lang Bank east of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, except during November 1 through May 31. * * * * * ■ 3. In § 622.33, paragraph (d) is added to read as follows: E:\FR\FM\29APR1.SGM 29APR1 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 83 / Friday, April 29, 2011 / Rules and Regulations § 622.33 Caribbean EEZ seasonal and/or area closures. * * * * * (d) Queen conch closure in the Caribbean EEZ. (1) Pursuant to the procedures and criteria established in the FMP for Queen Conch Resources of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, when the U.S. Virgin Islands closes territorial waters off St. Croix to the harvest and possession of queen conch, the Regional Administrator will concurrently close the Caribbean EEZ, in the area east of 64°34′ W. longitude which includes Lang Bank, east of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, by filing a notification of closure with the Office of the Federal Register. Closure of the adjacent EEZ will be effective until the next fishing season for territorial waters opens November 1. (2) During the closure, as specified in paragraph (d)(1) of this section, no person may fish for or possess on board a fishing vessel, a Caribbean queen conch, in or from the Caribbean EEZ, in the area east of 64°34′ W. longitude which includes Lang Bank, east of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. [FR Doc. 2011–10446 Filed 4–28–11; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 622 [Docket Nos. 100610255–0257–01 and 040205043–4043–01] RIN 0648–XA353 Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Fishery; 2011 Accountability Measures for Greater Amberjack and Closure of the 2011 Gulf of Mexico Commercial Sector for Greater Amberjack National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Temporary rule; closure. AGENCY: NMFS implements accountability measures (AMs) for commercial and recreational greater amberjack in the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) for the 2011 fishing year through this temporary final rule, announces the closure date for the 2011 commercial sector for greater amberjack of the Gulf reef fish fishery, and provides an estimated season length for the 2011 recreational greater amberjack sector of srobinson on DSKHWCL6B1PROD with RULES SUMMARY: VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:27 Apr 28, 2011 Jkt 223001 the Gulf reef fish fishery. This rule reduces the 2011 commercial and recreational quotas for greater amberjack based on the 2010 quota overages. Additionally, NMFS has determined that the 2011 adjusted commercial quota for Gulf greater amberjack will have been reached by June 18, 2011. These actions are necessary to reduce overfishing of the Gulf greater amberjack resource. DATES: This rule is effective April 29, 2011 through December 31, 2011, except for the greater amberjack commercial sector closure provision. The closure of the commercial sector for Gulf greater amberjack is effective 12:01 a.m., local time, June 18, 2011, until 12:01 a.m., local time, on January 1, 2012. ADDRESSES: Copies of the final rule for Amendment 30A, the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS) for Amendment 30A, and other supporting documentation may be obtained from Rich Malinowski, NMFS, Southeast Regional Office, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701; telephone: 727–824–5305. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Rich Malinowski, telephone: 727–824–5305, e-mail Rich.Malinowski@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The reef fish fishery of the Gulf is managed under the Fishery Management Plan for Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico (FMP). The FMP was prepared by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) and is implemented under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) by regulations at 50 CFR part 622. Background The 2006 reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act implemented new requirements that annual catch limits (ACLs) and AMs be established to end overfishing and prevent overfishing from occurring. AMs are management controls to prevent ACLs from being exceeded, and correct or mitigate overages of the ACL if they occur. Section 303(a)(15) of the MagnusonStevens Act mandates the establishment of ACLs at a level such that overfishing does not occur in the fishery, including measures to ensure accountability. On July 3, 2008, NMFS issued a final rule (73 FR 38139) to implement Amendment 30A to the FMP (Amendment 30A). Amendment 30A established commercial and recreational quotas for Gulf greater amberjack and AMs that would go into effect if the commercial and recreational quotas for greater amberjack are exceeded. In PO 00000 Frm 00049 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 23909 accordance with regulations at 50 CFR 622.49(a)(1)(i), when the applicable commercial quota is reached, or projected to be reached, the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, (AA), will file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register to close the commercial sector for the remainder of the fishing year. If despite such closure, commercial landings exceed the quota, the AA will reduce the quota the year following an overage by the amount of the overage of the prior fishing year. Amendment 30A also implemented AMs for the Gulf greater amberjack recreational sector of the reef fish fishery. As described at 50 CFR 622.40(a)(1)(ii), if recreational landings are met or projected to be met, the AA will close the recreational sector for the remainder of the fishing year. In addition, if recreational landings exceed the quota, the AA will reduce the length of the recreational fishing season the year following an overage by the amount necessary to recover the overage of the prior fishing year. Also, if necessary, the reduced fishing season may be adjusted during the fishing year to ensure the recreational harvest achieves, but does not exceed the intended harvest level. Management Measures Contained in This Temporary Rule In 2009, the commercial sector of greater amberjack was closed on November 7, when the commercial quota of 503,000 lb (228,157 kg) was determined to be reached. Finalized 2009 commercial landings data indicated the commercial quota was exceeded by 25.8 percent, or 129,928 lb (58,934 kg). The reduced 2010 commercial quota for Gulf greater amberjack was 373,072 lb (169,222 kg). NMFS closed the commercial sector for Gulf greater amberjack on October 28, 2010 (75 FR 64171), when NMFS projected that the 373,072 lb (169,222 kg) quota had been reached. Finalized 2010 commercial landings data indicate the commercial quota was exceeded by 50.7 percent, or 189,100 lb (85,774 kg). Therefore, the reduced 2011 commercial quota for Gulf greater amberjack is 313,900 lb (142,383 kg). The NMFS Southeast Fisheries Science Center (SEFSC) estimates that 189,618 lb (86,009 kg) of greater amberjack were landed by the commercial sector during the months of January and February of 2011. Commercial harvest of greater amberjack is prohibited during the months of March through May each year to protect spawning aggregations. The fishing season for commercial greater amberjack re-opens on June 1, 2011 at which time the remaining 124,282 lb (56,373 kg) of E:\FR\FM\29APR1.SGM 29APR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 83 (Friday, April 29, 2011)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 23907-23909]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-10446]



[[Page 23907]]

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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

[Docket No. 0907151138-1235-03]
RIN 0648-AY03


Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 
Queen Conch Fishery of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; Queen 
Conch Management Measures

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: This final rule implements measures to address overfishing of 
Caribbean queen conch in the U.S. Caribbean. This rule extends the 
queen conch seasonal closure from 3 months to 5 months, and prohibits 
fishing for and possession of queen conch in or from the Caribbean 
exclusive economic zone (EEZ) east of 64[deg]34' W. longitude, which 
includes Lang Bank east of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), when 
harvest and possession of queen conch is prohibited in St. Croix 
territorial waters as a result of a territorial quota closure. The 
intended effects of this final rule are to prevent additional fishing 
pressure on queen conch in the U.S. Caribbean, and to improve 
enforcement of regulations affecting the queen conch resource by 
improving compatibility among Federal and territorial regulations.

DATES: This rule is effective May 31, 2011.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the regulatory amendment, which includes an 
Environmental Assessment (EA), and the final regulatory flexibility 
analysis (FRFA) may be obtained from Britni Tokotch, Southeast Regional 
Office, NMFS, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701 or may be 
downloaded from the Southeast Regional Office Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Britni Tokotch, 727-824-5305.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Caribbean queen conch fishery is managed 
under the Fishery Management Plan for Queen Conch Resources of Puerto 
Rico and the USVI (FMP). The FMP was prepared by the Caribbean Fishery 
Management Council (Council), and is implemented through regulations at 
50 CFR part 622 under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act).
    This final rule extends the current 3-month (July 1 through 
September 30) closure in Federal waters in the area east of 64[deg]34' 
W. longitude, which includes Lang Bank east of St. Croix, USVI (Lang 
Bank), to a 5-month closure, from June 1 through October 31 each year. 
This final rule also implements a compatible queen conch harvest quota 
closure for Federal waters. Under this rule, when the USVI closes 
territorial waters off St. Croix to the harvest and possession of queen 
conch, NMFS will concurrently close the queen conch harvest in Lang 
Bank. NMFS will notify the public of the closure by filing a notice 
with the Office of the Federal Register. During the closure, fishing 
for or possession of Caribbean queen conch on board a fishing vessel, 
in or from Lang Bank is prohibited. Closure of Lang Bank is in effect 
until the next fishing season for territorial waters opens November 1, 
each year.

Comments and Responses

    The following is a summary of the comments NMFS received on the 
proposed rule and the queen conch regulatory amendment, and NMFS' 
respective responses. During the comment period, NMFS received four 
comments on the proposed rule. The submissions included one letter from 
a Federal agency, which was in agreement with the actions in this 
proposed rule. The remaining submissions were unique letters from 
individuals, one of which is unrelated to the actions contained in the 
regulatory amendment and, therefore, is not addressed; the other two 
comments are addressed below.
    Comment 1: One commenter questioned why a 4-month seasonal closure 
was not considered as an alternative to the existing 3-month closure 
and the proposed 5-month closure.
    Response: The intent of the regulatory amendment and this proposed 
rule is to establish consistent regulations between the USVI and U.S. 
Federal waters. The USVI territorial government requested the Council 
and NMFS implement compatible regulations, including a compatible 
seasonal closure and a compatible quota closure, to simplify 
enforcement efforts. The lack of compatible regulations makes 
enforcement difficult, which inhibits resource protection. A 4-month 
closure was not considered because it would not be consistent with USVI 
regulations, and would not alleviate the concerns about enforcement 
that prompted this action.
    Comment 2: One commenter expressed concern regarding Federal 
consistency with the 50,000-lb (28,680-kg) quota set by the USVI. 
Specifically, the commenter expressed concern regarding the possibility 
the USVI territorial government could increase the queen conch quota in 
the future.
    Response: The queen conch regulatory amendment and this proposed 
rule do not address a Federal quota for queen conch. This proposed rule 
recognizes the quota already established by the USVI. The intent of 
this proposed rule is to establish consistency between Federal 
regulations and those already established by the USVI territorial 
government to prevent additional fishing pressure when the USVI quota 
is met and to enhance enforcement efforts.
    In Amendment 2 to the Fishery Management Plan for Queen Resources 
of Puerto Rico and the USVI and Amendment 5 to the Reef Fish Fishery 
Management Plan of Puerto Rico and the USVI (2010 Caribbean ACL 
Amendment), the Council is considering actions that establish annual 
catch limits (ACLs) and accountability measures (AMs) to ensure the 
ACLs are not exceeded. The Council's preferred alternative is to set 
the ACL for queen conch at 50,000 lb (28,680 kg). Once the ACL is 
reached or projected to be reached, Lang Bank would be closed to the 
harvest and possession of queen conch. The 2010 Caribbean ACL Amendment 
is expected to be implemented in the near future. When this amendment 
is implemented, the ACLs and AMs will apply even if the USVI 
territorial government increases the territorial quota in the future.

Classification

    The Regional Administrator, Southeast Region, NMFS, determined that 
the regulatory amendment is necessary for the conservation and 
management of the queen conch fishery and that it is consistent with 
the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable laws.
    This final rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    NMFS prepared an FRFA, as required by section 604 of the Regulatory 
Flexibility Act. The FRFA describes the economic impact this final rule 
is expected to have on small entities. A description of the action 
implemented through this final rule, the need for and objectives of 
this final rule, and the legal basis for this final rule are contained 
in the preamble of the proposed rule, and are not repeated here. A copy 
of this analysis is available from the Council

[[Page 23908]]

(see ADDRESSES). A summary of the analysis follows.
    No significant issues associated with the economic analysis 
contained in the proposed rule were raised through public comment. A 
summary of the comments received is provided in the previous section of 
this preamble. No changes were made in this final rule as a result of 
these comments.
    No duplicative, overlapping, or conflicting Federal rules have been 
identified. Additionally, this final rule would not establish any new 
reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements.
    This final rule will directly apply to and may directly affect 
commercial fishermen and for-hire vessels in St. Croix that harvest 
queen conch. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has established 
size criteria for all major industry sectors in the U.S., including 
commercial fish harvesters and for-hire operations. A business involved 
in fish harvesting is classified as a small business if it is 
independently owned and operated, is not dominant in its field of 
operation (including its affiliates), and has combined annual receipts 
not in excess of $4.0 million (NAICS code 114111, finfish fishing) for 
all its affiliated operations worldwide. For for-hire vessels, the 
other qualifiers apply and the revenues threshold is $7.0 million 
(NAICS code 713990, recreational industries).
    All commercial fishermen who may be affected by this final rule are 
determined, for the purpose of this analysis, to be small entities. 
Federal permits are not required to fish in the U.S. Caribbean. The 
USVI, however, requires a commercial fishing permit to harvest marine 
species for commercial purposes. In 2008, there were 383 permitted 
fishermen in the USVI, of which 223 were in St. Croix and 160 were in 
St. Thomas and St. John. The ex-vessel value of total harvests by USVI 
fishermen in 2008 was approximately $8.8 million, or approximately 
$23,000 per fisherman. This estimate is substantially lower than the 
SBA small entity threshold. Comparable values for St. Croix fishermen 
are not available. However, if all revenues from marine species for the 
USVI are attributed to St. Croix fishermen, the appropriate average 
revenue per entity would be only approximately $39,000. Even this 
value, as an extreme upper bound for average revenues for St. Croix 
fishermen, is significantly lower than the SBA threshold.
    The number of for-hire dive operations in the USVI is unknown. 
However, 27 for-hire vessels were identified in the USVI in 2000. 
Information on the economic profile of these vessels is not available. 
However, for-hire vessels have been determined to be small business 
entities in all Federal fishery-related regulatory actions to date in 
the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic. Therefore, all for-hire 
businesses that may be affected by this final rule are determined, for 
the purpose of this analysis, to be small business entities.
    It is unknown whether this final rule will have any direct adverse 
economic effects on any small entities. Available queen conch harvest 
data do not distinguish between queen conch harvested from territorial 
waters and from Lang Bank. Incompatible Federal and St. Croix 
territorial water seasonal closures only began in 2008, and the first 
quota closure of St. Croix territorial waters occurred in 2009. It is 
unknown whether landings originating from Lang Bank continued after 
closure of the territorial waters in these years, or whether the 
territorial closure resulted in fishermen ceasing harvest activity in 
Lang Bank. If the territorial possession prohibition resulted in 
fishermen stopping all harvest activity, including activity that 
historically occurred in the Lang Bank, then this final rule will not 
have any direct effect on harvest activity or associated revenues from 
Lang Bank, because no such harvest activity would be expected to 
continue to occur. As a result, the only direct effect of this action 
on fishery participants will be the benefits of regulatory simplicity.
    If, however, queen conch has traditionally continued to be 
harvested in Lang Bank during the period when the territorial waters 
closed, this final rule will result in a reduction in the revenues 
associated with these harvests. As previously stated, available data do 
not allow quantification of any harvests from Lang Bank that may be 
affected. In general, however, because queen conch are distributed in 
habitats where water depth is less than 100 fathoms (183 m), and the 
majority of the benthos at that depth around St. Croix is located in 
territorial waters, it is assumed that the majority of queen conch in 
the USVI are harvested from territorial waters. As a result, any 
reduction in harvests, and associated revenues, from Lang Bank that 
might occur as a result of compatible closures is expected to be 
minimal.
    Because of the absence of location-specific harvest data and the 
inability to assess with certainty the economic effects of compatible 
quota and seasonal closures, public comment on the economic analysis 
was solicited in the proposed rule. No comments on the economic 
analysis were received and, as a result, no information was provided to 
either confirm or refute the conclusion in the economic analysis that 
any reduction in revenues as a result of compatible closures would be 
minimal.
    Only one alternative to the proposed rule was considered. This 
alternative, the no action alternative (status quo), would not 
implement compatible closures and would not achieve the Council's 
objectives. Therefore, NMFS did not adopt this alternative.
    Section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness 
Act of 1996 states that, for each rule or group of related rules for 
which an agency is required to prepare an FRFA, the agency shall 
publish one or more guides to assist small entities in complying with 
the rule, and shall designate such publications as ``small entity 
compliance guides.'' As part of the rulemaking process, NMFS prepared a 
fishery bulletin, which also serves as a small entity compliance guide. 
The fishery bulletin will be distributed to interested parties in the 
Caribbean.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622

    Fisheries, Fishing, Puerto Rico, Reporting and recordkeeping 
requirements, Virgin Islands.

    Dated: April 26, 2011.
John Oliver,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Operations, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 622 is amended 
as follows:

PART 622--FISHERIES OF THE CARIBBEAN, GULF, AND SOUTH ATLANTIC

0
1. The authority citation for part 622 continues to read as follows:

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



0
2. In Sec.  622.32, paragraph (b)(1)(iv) is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  622.32   Prohibited and limited harvest species.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (iv) No person may fish for or possess on board a fishing vessel a 
Caribbean queen conch in or from the Caribbean EEZ, in the area east of 
64E34' W. longitude which includes Lang Bank east of St. Croix, U.S. 
Virgin Islands, except during November 1 through May 31.
* * * * *

0
3. In Sec.  622.33, paragraph (d) is added to read as follows:

[[Page 23909]]

Sec.  622.33   Caribbean EEZ seasonal and/or area closures.

* * * * *
    (d) Queen conch closure in the Caribbean EEZ. (1) Pursuant to the 
procedures and criteria established in the FMP for Queen Conch 
Resources of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, when the U.S. 
Virgin Islands closes territorial waters off St. Croix to the harvest 
and possession of queen conch, the Regional Administrator will 
concurrently close the Caribbean EEZ, in the area east of 64[deg]34' W. 
longitude which includes Lang Bank, east of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin 
Islands, by filing a notification of closure with the Office of the 
Federal Register. Closure of the adjacent EEZ will be effective until 
the next fishing season for territorial waters opens November 1.
    (2) During the closure, as specified in paragraph (d)(1) of this 
section, no person may fish for or possess on board a fishing vessel, a 
Caribbean queen conch, in or from the Caribbean EEZ, in the area east 
of 64[deg]34' W. longitude which includes Lang Bank, east of St. Croix, 
U.S. Virgin Islands.

[FR Doc. 2011-10446 Filed 4-28-11; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P