Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic; Snapper-Grouper Management Measures, 23930-23934 [2011-10488]

Download as PDF 23930 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 83 / Friday, April 29, 2011 / Proposed Rules DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Parts 600 and 622 [Docket No. 110422261–1261–01] RIN 0648–BA70 Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; SnapperGrouper Fishery of the South Atlantic; Snapper-Grouper Management Measures National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS issues this proposed rule to implement actions identified in a regulatory amendment (Regulatory Amendment 9) to the Fishery Management Plan for the SnapperGrouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region (FMP) prepared by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council). This proposed rule would reduce the recreational bag limit for black sea bass, establish a split season for the black sea bass commercial quota, increase the commercial trip limit for greater amberjack, and establish commercial trip limits for vermilion snapper and gag. This rule also proposes a minor revision to the mailing address for the NMFS Southeast Regional Administrator (RA). The intended effect of this proposed rule is to help prevent overfishing of black sea bass, gag, and vermilion snapper while achieving optimum yield (OY) by reducing the rate of harvest of these three species, to achieve OY for greater amberjack, and to implement a technical correction to the regulations. DATES: Written comments must be received on or before May 16, 2011. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the proposed rule identified by 0648–BA07 by any of the following methods: • Electronic submissions: Submit electronic comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments. • Mail: Kate Michie, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701. Instructions: All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted to http:// www.regulations.gov without change. All Personal Identifying Information (for emcdonald on DSK2BSOYB1PROD with PROPOSALS SUMMARY: VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:52 Apr 28, 2011 Jkt 223001 example, name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit Confidential Business Information or otherwise sensitive or protected information. To submit comments through the Federal e-rulemaking portal: http:// www.regulations.gov, enter ’’ NOAA– NMFS–2011–0107 ’’ in the keyword search, then check the box labeled ‘‘Select to find documents accepting comments or submissions’’, the select ‘‘Send a comment or submission’’. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter N/A in the required field if you wish to remain anonymous). You may submit attachments to electronic comments in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only. Comments received through means not specified in this rule will not be considered. Copies of the regulatory amendment, which includes an environmental assessment and a regulatory impact review, may be obtained from the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 4055 Faber Place Drive, Suite 201, North Charleston, SC 29405; telephone 843– 571–4366; fax 843–769–4520; e-mail safmc@safmc.net; or may be downloaded from the Council’s Web site at http://www.safmc.net/. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kate Michie, 727–824–5305. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The snapper-grouper fishery of the South Atlantic is managed under the FMP. The FMP was prepared by the Council and is implemented through regulations at 50 CFR part 622 under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). Background The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires NMFS and regional fishery management councils to prevent overfishing and achieve, on a continuing basis, the OY from federally managed fish stocks. These mandates are intended to ensure fishery resources are managed for the greatest overall benefit to the nation, particularly with respect to providing food production and recreational opportunities, and protecting marine ecosystems. To further this goal, the Magnuson-Stevens Act requires fishery managers to end overfishing of stocks while achieving OY from the fishery, and to minimize bycatch and bycatch mortality to the extent practicable. The snapper-grouper fishery in the South Atlantic is managed through a variety of measures to achieve OY for PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 many species, including black sea bass, gag, and vermilion snapper. These measures include restrictions on the total harvest, recreational and commercial allocations, recreational and commercial annual catch limits (ACLs), and accountability measures (AMs). As overfishing is ended for an overfished stock, and biomass increases, a species specific ACL is likely to be met earlier each fishing season as a result of the increased availability of the stock for harvest. This can lead to an increased likelihood of derby-style harvesting, which is undesirable from economic, vessel safety, and social perspectives. Derby-style harvesting, also termed as ‘‘the race for fish’’, consists of a short duration of increased effort where harvest is maximized prior to reaching an ACL. Additionally, since the commercial quota for greater amberjack is not being met on an annual basis, OY for this species is not being achieved. To address these issues, the Council requested the development of Regulatory Amendment 9, at its March 2010 meeting. An increasingly restrictive regulatory environment has resulted in a shift of fishing effort from other more restricted snapper-grouper species to the commercial and recreational sectors for black sea bass and vermilion snapper, which results in reaching their respective quotas relatively early in their fishing seasons. In order to prevent the progressive shortening of fishing seasons for black sea bass, gag, and vermilion snapper, and to maximize the probability of achieving OY for greater amberjack, the Council voted to approve Regulatory Amendment 9 at its March 2011 meeting. Management Measures Contained in this Proposed Rule This proposed rule would reduce the black sea bass recreational bag limit; establish a split season commercial quota for black sea bass; revise the commercial trip limit for greater amberjack; and establish commercial trip limits for vermilion snapper and gag. Additionally, this proposed rule would make a minor revision to the codified text to correct an address for the RA. Black Sea Bass Recreational Bag Limit Black sea bass is overfished and undergoing overfishing and is managed under a rebuilding plan. Recreational management measures to rebuild the stock are currently in place and include a recreational ACL of 409,000 lb (185,519 kg), a 15-fish per person daily bag limit, and a size limit. The recreational sector for black sea bass E:\FR\FM\29APP1.SGM 29APP1 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 83 / Friday, April 29, 2011 / Proposed Rules emcdonald on DSK2BSOYB1PROD with PROPOSALS also has AMs in place to monitor the ACL with respect to average landings, to prohibit recreational harvest if the ACL is exceeded, and to require an ACL reduction the fishing year following an ACL overage. The Council voted to address the progressive shortening of the black sea bass recreational fishing season by implementing management measures intended to slow the rate of harvest to allow for a longer fishing season. For the recreational sector, this proposed rule would reduce the bag limit from 15-fish per person per day to 5-fish per person per day. This bag limit reduction is projected to lengthen the recreational fishing season by approximately 1 month or more. Black Sea Bass Commercial Quota In an effort to end overfishing, the black sea bass commercial quota has been reduced in recent years. Effort shifts from other snapper-grouper species to the black sea bass component of the snapper-grouper fishery, as well as the reduced commercial quota of 309,000 lb (140,160 kg), have resulted in the commercial quota being met earlier in the fishing year. For example, during the June 2009 through May 2010 fishing year, the commercial sector was closed on December 20, 2009. For the June 2010 through May 2011 fishing year, the commercial sector was closed on October 7, 2010, but reopened for 14 days beginning on December 1, 2010, when subsequent landings data indicated that the quota had not been reached by October 7, 2010. To address the progressive shortening of the black sea bass commercial fishing season, the Council voted to implement management measures that are intended to slow the rate of harvest to lengthen the fishing season. This proposed rule would split the commercial quota into two 6-month seasons, from June– November and from December–May each year. The commercial quota for the June–November season would be 128,547 lb (58,308 kg), and the commercial quota for the December– May season would be 180,453 lb (81,852 kg). These split season quotas are based on average commercial landings for June through November and December though May for the 2006 through 2009 fishing years. If a portion of the June– November commercial quota remains unharvested by the end of November each year, the unharvested commercial quota will be added to the quota for the December–May season. If a portion of the December–May seasonal commercial quota remains unharvested, the unharvested amount will not be added to either split season commercial quotas for the following fishing year. VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:52 Apr 28, 2011 Jkt 223001 Greater Amberjack Commercial Trip Limit Greater amberjack is not overfished and is not undergoing overfishing. The annual commercial quota for greater amberjack has never been met under the trip limit of 1,000 lb (454 kg) which has been in effect since October of 2000. To increase the probability of achieving OY while maintaining commercial restrictions to prevent quota overages, this proposed rule would increase the current commercial trip limit for greater amberjack from 1,000 lb (454 kg) to 1,200 lb (544 kg). It is expected that increasing the commercial trip limit by 200 lb (91 kg) will increase harvest opportunities within the commercial sector without resulting in significantly reduced market prices. Vermilion Snapper and Gag Commercial Trip Limits Amendment 17B to the FMP (75 FR 82280, December 30, 2010), recently implemented management measures for eight South Atlantic snapper-grouper species and is expected to result in fishing effort shifts from other species within the snapper-grouper complex to the black sea bass, vermilion snapper, and gag commercial components of the snapper-grouper fishery. In order to reduce the likelihood of the commercial quotas for vermilion snapper and gag being met early in the fishing year, this proposed rule would establish a trip limit of 1,500 lb (680 kg) for vermilion snapper, and a trip limit of 1,000 lb (454 kg) for gag. These trip limits are expected to slow the rate of harvest of these species, and therefore extend commercial harvest opportunities during the fishing year for vermilion snapper and gag while reducing the risk of commercial quota closures early in the fishing year. Revision To Update Address for NMFS Regional Administrator The mailing address for the RA, as listed in Table 1 in § 600.502, is outdated. This rule proposes to revise that section to reflect the current address. This additional measure is unrelated to the actions contained in Regulatory Amendment 9. Classification Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is consistent with the regulatory amendment, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, subject to further consideration after public comment. PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 23931 This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. NMFS prepared an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA), as required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, for this proposed rule. The IRFA describes the economic impact that this proposed rule, if adopted, would have on small entities. A description of the action, why it is being considered, and the objectives of, and 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 copy of the full analysis is available from the Council (see ADDRESSES). A summary of the IRFA follows. The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides the statutory basis for the proposed rule. No duplicative, overlapping, or conflicting Federal rules have been identified. The proposed rule would not establish any new reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements. The proposed rule is expected to directly affect commercial harvesting and for-hire fishing operations. The Small Business Administration has established size criteria for all major industry sectors in the U.S. including 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 same qualifiers that apply to fish harvesting would apply, but the annual receipts threshold is $7.0 million (NAICS code 713990, recreational industries). From 2007–2009, an average of 895 vessels-per-year had valid permits to operate in the commercial sector of the snapper-grouper fishery. Of these 895 vessels, 751 held transferable permits and 144 held non-transferable permits. On average, 797 vessels landed snappergrouper species, generating dockside revenues of approximately $14.514 million (2008 dollars). Each vessel, therefore, generated an average of approximately $18,000 annually in gross revenues from snapper-grouper commercial landings. Gross dockside revenues by state are distributed as follows: $4.054 million in North Carolina, $2.563 million in South Carolina, $1.738 million in Georgia/ Northeast Florida, $3.461 million in central and southeast Florida, and $2.695 million in the Florida Keys. E:\FR\FM\29APP1.SGM 29APP1 emcdonald on DSK2BSOYB1PROD with PROPOSALS 23932 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 83 / Friday, April 29, 2011 / Proposed Rules Vessels that operate in the snappergrouper commercial sector may also operate in other fisheries; the revenues from the other fisheries cannot be determined with available data and thus are not reflected in these totals. Based on revenue information, all commercial vessels affected by the proposed rule can be considered small entities. From 2007–2009, an average of 1,797 vessels had valid permits to operate in the for-hire component of the snappergrouper fishery. Of the 1,797 vessels, 82 are estimated to have operated as headboats. The for-hire fleet is comprised of charterboats, which charge a fee on a vessel basis, and headboats, which charge a fee on an individual angler (head) basis. The charterboat annual average gross revenue is estimated to range from approximately $62,000–$84,000 for Florida vessels, $73,000–$89,000 for North Carolina vessels, $68,000–$83,000 for Georgia vessels, and $32,000–$39,000 for South Carolina vessels. For headboats, the corresponding estimates are $170,000– $362,000 for Florida vessels, and $149,000–$317,000 for vessels in the other states. Based on these average revenue figures, all for-hire operations that would be affected by the proposed rule can be considered small entities. Some fleet activity, i.e., multiple vessels owned by a single entity, may exist in both the commercial and forhire snapper-grouper sectors but its extent is unknown, and therefore all vessels are treated as independent entities in this analysis. The proposed rule is expected to directly affect all federally permitted commercial and for-hire vessels that operate in the South Atlantic snappergrouper fishery. All directly affected entities have been determined, for the purpose of this analysis, to be small entities. Therefore, it is determined that the proposed action would affect a substantial number of small entities. Because all entities that are expected to be affected by the proposed rule are considered small entities, the issue of disproportional effects on small versus large entities does not arise in the present case. A qualitative discussion of the effects of splitting the black sea bass commercial quota between the June– November and December–May subseasons indicates that profits to the commercial fishing fleet would not deteriorate, as would occur under the no action alternative of maintaining a single quota for the entire fishing year, because the split season quota would break up any derby-style harvesting and VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:52 Apr 28, 2011 Jkt 223001 thus potentially maintain relatively higher dockside prices via a longer fishing season. Relative to the no action alternative, the proposed action to reduce the recreational bag limit to five black sea bass per person-per-day is expected to increase short-term for-hire vessel profits (net operating revenues (NOR)) annually from approximately $78,000 to $164,000 assuming no trip cancellation during the open season, or from approximately $45,000 to $131,000 assuming some trip cancellations during the open season. This expected increase in short-term profits would come from a reduced recreational quota closure duration relative to the no action alternative. The proposed action to establish a 1,500-lb (680-kg) commercial trip limit for vermilion snapper is expected to reduce the gross revenues of commercial vessels by approximately $306,000 annually. Profits would be reduced accordingly. Among the trip limit alternatives, however, the proposed action is expected to result in the lowest revenue losses. Commercial fishing vessels in North Carolina and Georgia/ Northeast Florida would experience the largest revenue losses compared to those of other states/areas in the South Atlantic. The proposed action to establish a 1,000-lb (454-kg) commercial trip limit for gag is expected to reduce the shortterm gross revenues of the commercial fishing fleet by approximately $102,000 annually. Short-term fleet profits are also expected to decrease. However, relative to the no action alternative, the proposed action is expected to lengthen the commercial season so that revenues and profits could increase over time. The largest short-term revenue (and profit) reductions would fall on vessels in South Carolina and Georgia/ Northeast Florida. The proposed action to increase the commercial trip limit for greater amberjack to 1,200 lb (544 kg) is expected to increase short-term gross revenues of commercial vessels. Shortterm profits are also expected to increase. Over time, the net result on vessel revenues and profits would depend on the resulting fishing season length under the higher trip limit. Thirteen alternatives, including two alternatives for the proposed action, were considered for the harvest management of black sea bass. The first alternative to the proposed action is the no action alternative. This alternative would not address the derby concern in the commercial sector of the black sea bass segment of the snapper-grouper fishery. The second alternative to the PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 proposed action would establish a commercial trip limit, with 8 subalternatives. The first sub-alternative would be a 500-lb (227-kg) trip limit; the second, a 750-lb (340-kg) trip limit; the third, a 1,000-lb (454-kg) trip limit; the fourth, a 1,250-lb (567-kg) trip limit; the fifth, a 1,000-lb (454-kg) trip limit but reduced to 500-lb (227-kg) when 75 percent of the quota is met; the sixth, a 2,000-lb (907-kg) trip limit; the seventh, a 2,500-lb (1,134-kg) trip limit; and, the eighth, a 340-lb (154-kg) trip limit. Based on the input received during public hearings, from the Council’s Advisory Panel, from the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee, and the fact that the stock is undergoing an assessment through the Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR 25), the results of which will be available by the end of 2011, the Council chose not to implement trip limits for the black sea bass commercial sector at this time. The Council concluded the preferred alternative best meets the purpose and need to prevent the progressive shortening of the fishing season while ensuring equity in harvest opportunities, promoting safety at sea, and minimizing adverse socioeconomic impacts. The third alternative to the proposed action would retain the fishing year (June 1 through May 31) and specify separate commercial quotas for the June–December and the January–May sub-seasons based on 2006–2009 landings. This is similar to the proposed action, except that the first sub-season ends in December, with January being the starting month of the second subseason. The effects of this alternative on small entities are comparatively the same as those of the proposed action, except that the proposed action would allow the second sub-season to start, with available quota, at the time when the traditional winter pot component of the commercial sector takes place in December. The fourth alternative to the proposed action would change the black sea bass fishing year to November-October and specify separate commercial quotas for November-April and May-October. The Council recognized the distributional effects of changing the fishing year, and decided to address this issue, together with a regional approach to management of black sea bass, after the SEDAR 25 assessment is completed in late 2011. The fifth alternative to the proposed action would change the black sea bass fishing year to January-December and specify separate commercial quotas for January-June and July-December. This alternative raises the same issue as the E:\FR\FM\29APP1.SGM 29APP1 emcdonald on DSK2BSOYB1PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 83 / Friday, April 29, 2011 / Proposed Rules fourth alternative to the proposed action for which the Council decided to consider the fishing year issue, together with regional approach to management, in the future. The sixth alternative would add to alternatives two through five of the proposed action, a measure that would allow a carry-over of unused portion of the quota from the second part of the fishing year to the next fishing year. This alternative has the potential to result in exceeding the commercial quota for the next year that would trigger application of AMs, resulting in revenue and profit losses to the commercial fishing fleet. In addition, this alternative could result in exceeding other fishery benchmarks and the stock could be considered to experience overfishing. More restrictive regulations could result that would only increase revenue and profit losses to the fishing fleet. The seventh alternative to the proposed action would add to alternatives two through five a measure that would close the black sea bass commercial pot gear component, but not other allowable gear types, when all but 100,000 lb (45,359 kg) of the commercial quota for the sub-season is harvested and would allow all allowable gear types to operate in the next sub-season. The Council decided not to impose specific gear restriction at this time partly due to the problem of monitoring catches by gear type on a timely basis. The eighth alternative to the proposed action is similar to the seventh alternative to the proposed action, except that 50,000 lb (22,680 kg) would be the amount of quota remaining to trigger the closure of the black sea bass commercial pot component. The Council decided not to impose specific gear restriction at this time partly due to the problem of monitoring catches by gear type on a timely basis. The ninth alternative to the proposed action would close the black sea bass commercial pot component when 90 percent of the commercial quota is met. The Council decided not to impose specific gear restrictions at this time partly due to the problem of monitoring catches by gear type on a timely basis. The tenth alternative to the proposed action would establish a spawning season closure, with four subalternatives. The first sub-alternative would implement a March-April closure applicable to both the commercial and recreational sectors; the second, an April-May closure; the third, a MarchMay closure; and, the fourth, a May closure. A spawning season closure for black sea bass that would affect both the commercial and recreational sectors was VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:52 Apr 28, 2011 Jkt 223001 considered as a possible tool to extend the fishing season and benefit the stock. However, there was strong opposition from the public toward such a measure given other additional proposed measures within Regulatory Amendment 9. While many fishermen are in favor of curbing harvest during the spawning season, they stated that curbing harvest would be best accomplished with a modification to the fishing year. Moreover, the black sea bass stock is under a rebuilding schedule, there are indications that the stock is rebuilding, and a stock assessment is currently underway. The eleventh alternative to the proposed action for black sea bass management would modify the current recreational bag limit of 15-fish per person per day for black sea bass, with 5 sub-alternatives, one of which is the proposed action. The first subalternative would reduce the bag limit to 7-fish per person per day; the second, 5-fish per person per day; the third, 3fish per person per day; the fourth, 2fish per person per day; and the fifth, 1fish per person per day. Relative to the 15-fish bag limit and depending on the baseline year used, the bag limit alternatives would have varying effects on the annual NOR of the for-hire fleet. The first sub-alternative would result in increased NOR from approximately $19,000 to $129,000 annually; the second sub-alternative would increase NOR from negative $62,000 to positive $48,000 annually; the third subalternative would result in a decreased NOR of $97,000 annually; and, the fourth sub-alternative would result in a decreased NOR of $226,000 annually. These effects are less than the positive effects of the proposed action. The Council’s decision to recommend the proposed action of a 5-fish bag limit per person per day was based on public support and the fact that a large percentage of recreational trips result in approximately 5 black sea bass landed per person. Moreover, the Council considered this proposed action as an interim measure until results of SEDAR 25 are available. Seven alternatives, including the proposed action, were considered for commercial vermilion snapper trip limit. The first alternative to the proposed action is the no action alternative. This alternative would not address concerns regarding derby fishing practices in the commercial sector of the vermilion snapper segment of the snapper-grouper fishery. The second alternative to the proposed action would establish a 1,000-lb (454kg) commercial trip limit, with one subalternative that would reduce the trip PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 23933 limit to 500 lb (227 kg) when 75 percent of the commercial quota is met. This alternative would lengthen the commercial fishing season relative to the no action alternative, but it would bring about a reduction in short-term revenues of approximately $611,000 annually without the sub-alternative, or $752,000 annually with the subalternative. These reductions are larger than those that would occur under the proposed action. The third alternative to the proposed action would establish a 1,500-lb (680-kg) trip limit, and reduce the trip limit to 500 lb (227 kg) when 75 percent of the commercial quota is met. This alternative would bring about a reduction in short-term revenues of approximately $505,000. This revenue reduction is larger than what would occur under the proposed action. The fourth alternative to the proposed action would establish a 750-lb (340-kg) commercial trip limit, with one subalternative that would reduce the commercial trip limit to 400 lb (181 kg) when 75 percent of the commercial quota is met. Compared to the proposed action, this alternative would result in short-term revenue reductions of approximately $880,000 annually without the sub-alternative, or $1,013,000 annually with the subalternative. The fifth alternative to the proposed action would establish a 500lb (227-kg) commercial trip limit. This alternative would result in short-term revenue reductions of approximately $1,302,000 annually, which is much larger than those resulting under the proposed action. The sixth alternative to the proposed action would establish a 400-lb (181-kg) commercial trip limit. Compared to the proposed action, this alternative would result in larger revenue reductions of approximately $1,528,000 annually. Five alternatives, including the proposed action, were considered for gag commercial trip limit. The first alternative to the proposed action is the no action alternative. This alternative would not address the derby concern in the gag commercial sector the snappergrouper fishery. The second alternative to the proposed action would establish a 1,000-lb (454-kg) commercial trip limit that would be reduced to a 100-lb (45kg) trip limit when 75 percent of the commercial quota is projected to be met. This alternative would result in shortterm revenue reductions of approximately $392,000 annually when based on 2007 landings, or $204,000 annually when based on 2009 landings. The third alternative to the proposed action would establish a 750-lb (340-kg) commercial trip limit, with one subalternative that would reduce the E:\FR\FM\29APP1.SGM 29APP1 23934 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 83 / Friday, April 29, 2011 / Proposed Rules commercial trip limit to 100 lb (45 kg) when 75 percent of the commercial quota is projected to be met. This alternative would result in short-term revenue reductions of approximately $194,000 annually without the subalternative, or from $467,000 annually (based on 2007 landings) to $228,000 (based on 2009 landings) with the subalternative. The fourth alternative to the proposed action would establish a 1,000-lb (454-kg) commercial trip limit, with a season starting on May 1, and reduce the trip limit to 100 lb (45 kg) when 90 percent of the gag commercial quota is projected to be met. This alternative would result in revenue reductions greater than $102,000 annually but less than $392,000 annually. All of these alternatives to the proposed action are expected to result in larger short-term revenue reductions than the proposed action. Two alternatives, including the proposed action, were considered for the greater amberjack commercial trip limit. The first alternative to the proposed action is the no action alternative, which specifies a 1,000-lb (454-kg) commercial trip limit. Under this trip limit alternative, it was considered that the commercial quota for greater amberjack has not been fully taken. A trip limit increase was considered to allow the fishing fleet to harvest the entire commercial quota for greater amberjack in order to mitigate the adverse effects of increased restrictions applied in other fisheries prosecuted by the same fishermen. The second alternative consists of three subalternatives, one of which is the proposed action. The first subalternative would increase the greater amberjack commercial trip limit to 2,000 lb (907 kg) while the second subalternative would increase the greater amberjack commercial trip limit to 1,500 lb (680 kg). Each of these two trip limit alternatives would result in larger short-term revenue increases than the proposed action. However, they pose a higher risk that the commercial quota for greater amberjack would be met prior to the end of the fishing season, resulting in potentially larger revenue and profit reductions to the fishing fleet. List of Subjects 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 parts 600 and 622 are proposed to be amended as follows: PART 600—MAGNUSON-STEVENS ACT PROVISIONS 1. The authority citation for part 600 continues to read as follows: Authority: 5 U.S.C. 561 and 16 U.S.C. et seq. 2. In § 600.502, revise Table 1 entry ‘‘Administrator, Southeast Region’’ to read as follows: § 600.502 Vessel reports. * 50 CFR Part 600 * * * * Fisheries and Fishing vessels. TABLE 1 TO § 600.502—ADDRESSES NMFS regional administrators NMFS science and research directors U.S. Coast Guard commanders * * Administrator, Southeast Region, National Marine Fisheries Service, 263 13th Ave., South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701. * * * Director, Southeast Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA, 75 Virginia Beach Drive, Miami, FL 33701. * * Commander, Atlantic Area, U.S. Coast Guard, Governor’s Island, New York 10004. * * * * * * * 3. The authority citation for part 622 continues to read as follows: Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. 4. In § 622.39, paragraph (d)(1)(vii) is revised to read as follows: Bag and possession limits. emcdonald on DSK2BSOYB1PROD with PROPOSALS * * * * * (d) * * * (1) * * * (vii) Black sea bass—5. * * * * * 5. In § 622.42, paragraph (e)(5) is revised to read as follows: § 622.42 * Quotas. * * (e) * * * VerDate Mar<15>2010 * * 16:52 Apr 28, 2011 Jkt 223001 * * * (5) Black sea bass. (i) For the period June through November each year— 128,547 lb (58,308 kg). * PART 622—FISHERIES OF THE CARIBBEAN, GULF, AND SOUTH ATLANTIC § 622.39 * § 622.44 (ii) For the period December through May each year—180,453 lb (81,852 kg). (5) Greater amberjack. Until the quota specified in § 622.42(e)(3) is reached— 1,200 lb (544 kg). * * * (iii) Any unused portion of the quota specified in paragraph (e)(5)(i) of this section will be added to the quota specified in paragraph (e)(5)(ii) of this section. Any unused portion of the quota specified in paragraph (e)(5)(ii) of this section, including any addition of quota specified in paragraph (e)(5)(i) of this section that was unused, will become void and will not be added to any subsequent quota. * * * * * 6. In § 622.44, the first sentence of paragraph (c)(5) is revised and paragraphs (c)(6) and (c)(7) are added to read as follows: PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 * * Commercial trip limits. * * * (c) * * * (6) Vermilion snapper. Until either quota specified in § 622.42(e)(4)(i) or (ii) is reached—1,500 lb (680 kg). See § 622.43(a)(5) for the limitations regarding vermilion snapper after either quota is reached. (7) Gag. Until the quota specified in § 622.42(e)(7) is reached—1,000 lb (454 kg). See § 622.43(a)(5) for the limitations regarding gag after the quota is reached. * * * * * [FR Doc. 2011–10488 Filed 4–28–11; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\29APP1.SGM 29APP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 83 (Friday, April 29, 2011)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 23930-23934]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-10488]



[[Page 23930]]

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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Parts 600 and 622

[Docket No. 110422261-1261-01]
RIN 0648-BA70


Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 
Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic; Snapper-Grouper 
Management Measures

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: NMFS issues this proposed rule to implement actions identified 
in a regulatory amendment (Regulatory Amendment 9) to the Fishery 
Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic 
Region (FMP) prepared by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council 
(Council). This proposed rule would reduce the recreational bag limit 
for black sea bass, establish a split season for the black sea bass 
commercial quota, increase the commercial trip limit for greater 
amberjack, and establish commercial trip limits for vermilion snapper 
and gag. This rule also proposes a minor revision to the mailing 
address for the NMFS Southeast Regional Administrator (RA). The 
intended effect of this proposed rule is to help prevent overfishing of 
black sea bass, gag, and vermilion snapper while achieving optimum 
yield (OY) by reducing the rate of harvest of these three species, to 
achieve OY for greater amberjack, and to implement a technical 
correction to the regulations.

DATES: Written comments must be received on or before May 16, 2011.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the proposed rule identified by 
0648-BA07 by any of the following methods:
     Electronic submissions: Submit electronic comments via the 
Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the 
instructions for submitting comments.
     Mail: Kate Michie, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 263 
13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.
    Instructions: All comments received are a part of the public record 
and will generally be posted to 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.
    To submit comments through the Federal e-rulemaking portal: http://www.regulations.gov, enter '' NOAA-NMFS-2011-0107 '' in the keyword 
search, then check the box labeled ``Select to find documents accepting 
comments or submissions'', the select ``Send a comment or submission''. 
NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter N/A in the required field if 
you wish to remain anonymous). You may submit attachments to electronic 
comments in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file 
formats only.
    Comments received through means not specified in this rule will not 
be considered.
    Copies of the regulatory amendment, which includes an environmental 
assessment and a regulatory impact review, may be obtained from the 
South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 4055 Faber Place Drive, 
Suite 201, North Charleston, SC 29405; telephone 843-571-4366; fax 843-
769-4520; e-mail safmc@safmc.net; or may be downloaded from the 
Council's Web site at http://www.safmc.net/.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kate Michie, 727-824-5305.

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

Background

    The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires NMFS and regional fishery 
management councils to prevent overfishing and achieve, on a continuing 
basis, the OY from federally managed fish stocks. These mandates are 
intended to ensure fishery resources are managed for the greatest 
overall benefit to the nation, particularly with respect to providing 
food production and recreational opportunities, and protecting marine 
ecosystems. To further this goal, the Magnuson-Stevens Act requires 
fishery managers to end overfishing of stocks while achieving OY from 
the fishery, and to minimize bycatch and bycatch mortality to the 
extent practicable.
    The snapper-grouper fishery in the South Atlantic is managed 
through a variety of measures to achieve OY for many species, including 
black sea bass, gag, and vermilion snapper. These measures include 
restrictions on the total harvest, recreational and commercial 
allocations, recreational and commercial annual catch limits (ACLs), 
and accountability measures (AMs). As overfishing is ended for an 
overfished stock, and biomass increases, a species specific ACL is 
likely to be met earlier each fishing season as a result of the 
increased availability of the stock for harvest. This can lead to an 
increased likelihood of derby-style harvesting, which is undesirable 
from economic, vessel safety, and social perspectives. Derby-style 
harvesting, also termed as ``the race for fish'', consists of a short 
duration of increased effort where harvest is maximized prior to 
reaching an ACL. Additionally, since the commercial quota for greater 
amberjack is not being met on an annual basis, OY for this species is 
not being achieved. To address these issues, the Council requested the 
development of Regulatory Amendment 9, at its March 2010 meeting.
    An increasingly restrictive regulatory environment has resulted in 
a shift of fishing effort from other more restricted snapper-grouper 
species to the commercial and recreational sectors for black sea bass 
and vermilion snapper, which results in reaching their respective 
quotas relatively early in their fishing seasons. In order to prevent 
the progressive shortening of fishing seasons for black sea bass, gag, 
and vermilion snapper, and to maximize the probability of achieving OY 
for greater amberjack, the Council voted to approve Regulatory 
Amendment 9 at its March 2011 meeting.

Management Measures Contained in this Proposed Rule

    This proposed rule would reduce the black sea bass recreational bag 
limit; establish a split season commercial quota for black sea bass; 
revise the commercial trip limit for greater amberjack; and establish 
commercial trip limits for vermilion snapper and gag. Additionally, 
this proposed rule would make a minor revision to the codified text to 
correct an address for the RA.

Black Sea Bass Recreational Bag Limit

    Black sea bass is overfished and undergoing overfishing and is 
managed under a rebuilding plan. Recreational management measures to 
rebuild the stock are currently in place and include a recreational ACL 
of 409,000 lb (185,519 kg), a 15-fish per person daily bag limit, and a 
size limit. The recreational sector for black sea bass

[[Page 23931]]

also has AMs in place to monitor the ACL with respect to average 
landings, to prohibit recreational harvest if the ACL is exceeded, and 
to require an ACL reduction the fishing year following an ACL overage. 
The Council voted to address the progressive shortening of the black 
sea bass recreational fishing season by implementing management 
measures intended to slow the rate of harvest to allow for a longer 
fishing season. For the recreational sector, this proposed rule would 
reduce the bag limit from 15-fish per person per day to 5-fish per 
person per day. This bag limit reduction is projected to lengthen the 
recreational fishing season by approximately 1 month or more.

Black Sea Bass Commercial Quota

    In an effort to end overfishing, the black sea bass commercial 
quota has been reduced in recent years. Effort shifts from other 
snapper-grouper species to the black sea bass component of the snapper-
grouper fishery, as well as the reduced commercial quota of 309,000 lb 
(140,160 kg), have resulted in the commercial quota being met earlier 
in the fishing year. For example, during the June 2009 through May 2010 
fishing year, the commercial sector was closed on December 20, 2009. 
For the June 2010 through May 2011 fishing year, the commercial sector 
was closed on October 7, 2010, but reopened for 14 days beginning on 
December 1, 2010, when subsequent landings data indicated that the 
quota had not been reached by October 7, 2010.
    To address the progressive shortening of the black sea bass 
commercial fishing season, the Council voted to implement management 
measures that are intended to slow the rate of harvest to lengthen the 
fishing season. This proposed rule would split the commercial quota 
into two 6-month seasons, from June-November and from December-May each 
year. The commercial quota for the June-November season would be 
128,547 lb (58,308 kg), and the commercial quota for the December-May 
season would be 180,453 lb (81,852 kg). These split season quotas are 
based on average commercial landings for June through November and 
December though May for the 2006 through 2009 fishing years. If a 
portion of the June-November commercial quota remains unharvested by 
the end of November each year, the unharvested commercial quota will be 
added to the quota for the December-May season. If a portion of the 
December-May seasonal commercial quota remains unharvested, the 
unharvested amount will not be added to either split season commercial 
quotas for the following fishing year.

Greater Amberjack Commercial Trip Limit

    Greater amberjack is not overfished and is not undergoing 
overfishing. The annual commercial quota for greater amberjack has 
never been met under the trip limit of 1,000 lb (454 kg) which has been 
in effect since October of 2000. To increase the probability of 
achieving OY while maintaining commercial restrictions to prevent quota 
overages, this proposed rule would increase the current commercial trip 
limit for greater amberjack from 1,000 lb (454 kg) to 1,200 lb (544 
kg). It is expected that increasing the commercial trip limit by 200 lb 
(91 kg) will increase harvest opportunities within the commercial 
sector without resulting in significantly reduced market prices.

Vermilion Snapper and Gag Commercial Trip Limits

    Amendment 17B to the FMP (75 FR 82280, December 30, 2010), recently 
implemented management measures for eight South Atlantic snapper-
grouper species and is expected to result in fishing effort shifts from 
other species within the snapper-grouper complex to the black sea bass, 
vermilion snapper, and gag commercial components of the snapper-grouper 
fishery. In order to reduce the likelihood of the commercial quotas for 
vermilion snapper and gag being met early in the fishing year, this 
proposed rule would establish a trip limit of 1,500 lb (680 kg) for 
vermilion snapper, and a trip limit of 1,000 lb (454 kg) for gag. These 
trip limits are expected to slow the rate of harvest of these species, 
and therefore extend commercial harvest opportunities during the 
fishing year for vermilion snapper and gag while reducing the risk of 
commercial quota closures early in the fishing year.

Revision To Update Address for NMFS Regional Administrator

    The mailing address for the RA, as listed in Table 1 in Sec.  
600.502, is outdated. This rule proposes to revise that section to 
reflect the current address. This additional measure is unrelated to 
the actions contained in Regulatory Amendment 9.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is 
consistent with the regulatory amendment, other provisions of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, subject to further 
consideration after public comment.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    NMFS prepared an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA), as 
required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, for this 
proposed rule. The IRFA describes the economic impact that this 
proposed rule, if adopted, would have on small entities. A description 
of the action, why it is being considered, and the objectives of, and 
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 
copy of the full analysis is available from the Council (see 
ADDRESSES). A summary of the IRFA follows.
    The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides the statutory basis for the 
proposed rule. No duplicative, overlapping, or conflicting Federal 
rules have been identified. The proposed rule would not establish any 
new reporting, record-keeping, or other compliance requirements.
    The proposed rule is expected to directly affect commercial 
harvesting and for-hire fishing operations. The Small Business 
Administration has established size criteria for all major industry 
sectors in the U.S. including 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 same qualifiers that apply to fish harvesting would 
apply, but the annual receipts threshold is $7.0 million (NAICS code 
713990, recreational industries).
    From 2007-2009, an average of 895 vessels-per-year had valid 
permits to operate in the commercial sector of the snapper-grouper 
fishery. Of these 895 vessels, 751 held transferable permits and 144 
held non-transferable permits. On average, 797 vessels landed snapper-
grouper species, generating dockside revenues of approximately $14.514 
million (2008 dollars). Each vessel, therefore, generated an average of 
approximately $18,000 annually in gross revenues from snapper-grouper 
commercial landings. Gross dockside revenues by state are distributed 
as follows: $4.054 million in North Carolina, $2.563 million in South 
Carolina, $1.738 million in Georgia/Northeast Florida, $3.461 million 
in central and southeast Florida, and $2.695 million in the Florida 
Keys.

[[Page 23932]]

Vessels that operate in the snapper-grouper commercial sector may also 
operate in other fisheries; the revenues from the other fisheries 
cannot be determined with available data and thus are not reflected in 
these totals.
    Based on revenue information, all commercial vessels affected by 
the proposed rule can be considered small entities.
    From 2007-2009, an average of 1,797 vessels had valid permits to 
operate in the for-hire component of the snapper-grouper fishery. Of 
the 1,797 vessels, 82 are estimated to have operated as headboats. The 
for-hire fleet is comprised of charterboats, which charge a fee on a 
vessel basis, and headboats, which charge a fee on an individual angler 
(head) basis. The charterboat annual average gross revenue is estimated 
to range from approximately $62,000-$84,000 for Florida vessels, 
$73,000-$89,000 for North Carolina vessels, $68,000-$83,000 for Georgia 
vessels, and $32,000-$39,000 for South Carolina vessels. For headboats, 
the corresponding estimates are $170,000-$362,000 for Florida vessels, 
and $149,000-$317,000 for vessels in the other states.
    Based on these average revenue figures, all for-hire operations 
that would be affected by the proposed rule can be considered small 
entities.
    Some fleet activity, i.e., multiple vessels owned by a single 
entity, may exist in both the commercial and for-hire snapper-grouper 
sectors but its extent is unknown, and therefore all vessels are 
treated as independent entities in this analysis.
    The proposed rule is expected to directly affect all federally 
permitted commercial and for-hire vessels that operate in the South 
Atlantic snapper-grouper fishery. All directly affected entities have 
been determined, for the purpose of this analysis, to be small 
entities. Therefore, it is determined that the proposed action would 
affect a substantial number of small entities.
    Because all entities that are expected to be affected by the 
proposed rule are considered small entities, the issue of 
disproportional effects on small versus large entities does not arise 
in the present case.
    A qualitative discussion of the effects of splitting the black sea 
bass commercial quota between the June-November and December-May sub-
seasons indicates that profits to the commercial fishing fleet would 
not deteriorate, as would occur under the no action alternative of 
maintaining a single quota for the entire fishing year, because the 
split season quota would break up any derby-style harvesting and thus 
potentially maintain relatively higher dockside prices via a longer 
fishing season.
    Relative to the no action alternative, the proposed action to 
reduce the recreational bag limit to five black sea bass per person-
per-day is expected to increase short-term for-hire vessel profits (net 
operating revenues (NOR)) annually from approximately $78,000 to 
$164,000 assuming no trip cancellation during the open season, or from 
approximately $45,000 to $131,000 assuming some trip cancellations 
during the open season. This expected increase in short-term profits 
would come from a reduced recreational quota closure duration relative 
to the no action alternative.
    The proposed action to establish a 1,500-lb (680-kg) commercial 
trip limit for vermilion snapper is expected to reduce the gross 
revenues of commercial vessels by approximately $306,000 annually. 
Profits would be reduced accordingly. Among the trip limit 
alternatives, however, the proposed action is expected to result in the 
lowest revenue losses. Commercial fishing vessels in North Carolina and 
Georgia/Northeast Florida would experience the largest revenue losses 
compared to those of other states/areas in the South Atlantic.
    The proposed action to establish a 1,000-lb (454-kg) commercial 
trip limit for gag is expected to reduce the short-term gross revenues 
of the commercial fishing fleet by approximately $102,000 annually. 
Short-term fleet profits are also expected to decrease. However, 
relative to the no action alternative, the proposed action is expected 
to lengthen the commercial season so that revenues and profits could 
increase over time. The largest short-term revenue (and profit) 
reductions would fall on vessels in South Carolina and Georgia/
Northeast Florida.
    The proposed action to increase the commercial trip limit for 
greater amberjack to 1,200 lb (544 kg) is expected to increase short-
term gross revenues of commercial vessels. Short-term profits are also 
expected to increase. Over time, the net result on vessel revenues and 
profits would depend on the resulting fishing season length under the 
higher trip limit.
    Thirteen alternatives, including two alternatives for the proposed 
action, were considered for the harvest management of black sea bass. 
The first alternative to the proposed action is the no action 
alternative. This alternative would not address the derby concern in 
the commercial sector of the black sea bass segment of the snapper-
grouper fishery. The second alternative to the proposed action would 
establish a commercial trip limit, with 8 sub-alternatives. The first 
sub-alternative would be a 500-lb (227-kg) trip limit; the second, a 
750-lb (340-kg) trip limit; the third, a 1,000-lb (454-kg) trip limit; 
the fourth, a 1,250-lb (567-kg) trip limit; the fifth, a 1,000-lb (454-
kg) trip limit but reduced to 500-lb (227-kg) when 75 percent of the 
quota is met; the sixth, a 2,000-lb (907-kg) trip limit; the seventh, a 
2,500-lb (1,134-kg) trip limit; and, the eighth, a 340-lb (154-kg) trip 
limit. Based on the input received during public hearings, from the 
Council's Advisory Panel, from the Council's Scientific and Statistical 
Committee, and the fact that the stock is undergoing an assessment 
through the Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR 25), the 
results of which will be available by the end of 2011, the Council 
chose not to implement trip limits for the black sea bass commercial 
sector at this time. The Council concluded the preferred alternative 
best meets the purpose and need to prevent the progressive shortening 
of the fishing season while ensuring equity in harvest opportunities, 
promoting safety at sea, and minimizing adverse socioeconomic impacts.
    The third alternative to the proposed action would retain the 
fishing year (June 1 through May 31) and specify separate commercial 
quotas for the June-December and the January-May sub-seasons based on 
2006-2009 landings. This is similar to the proposed action, except that 
the first sub-season ends in December, with January being the starting 
month of the second sub-season. The effects of this alternative on 
small entities are comparatively the same as those of the proposed 
action, except that the proposed action would allow the second sub-
season to start, with available quota, at the time when the traditional 
winter pot component of the commercial sector takes place in December.
    The fourth alternative to the proposed action would change the 
black sea bass fishing year to November-October and specify separate 
commercial quotas for November-April and May-October. The Council 
recognized the distributional effects of changing the fishing year, and 
decided to address this issue, together with a regional approach to 
management of black sea bass, after the SEDAR 25 assessment is 
completed in late 2011.
    The fifth alternative to the proposed action would change the black 
sea bass fishing year to January-December and specify separate 
commercial quotas for January-June and July-December. This alternative 
raises the same issue as the

[[Page 23933]]

fourth alternative to the proposed action for which the Council decided 
to consider the fishing year issue, together with regional approach to 
management, in the future.
    The sixth alternative would add to alternatives two through five of 
the proposed action, a measure that would allow a carry-over of unused 
portion of the quota from the second part of the fishing year to the 
next fishing year. This alternative has the potential to result in 
exceeding the commercial quota for the next year that would trigger 
application of AMs, resulting in revenue and profit losses to the 
commercial fishing fleet. In addition, this alternative could result in 
exceeding other fishery benchmarks and the stock could be considered to 
experience overfishing. More restrictive regulations could result that 
would only increase revenue and profit losses to the fishing fleet.
    The seventh alternative to the proposed action would add to 
alternatives two through five a measure that would close the black sea 
bass commercial pot gear component, but not other allowable gear types, 
when all but 100,000 lb (45,359 kg) of the commercial quota for the 
sub-season is harvested and would allow all allowable gear types to 
operate in the next sub-season. The Council decided not to impose 
specific gear restriction at this time partly due to the problem of 
monitoring catches by gear type on a timely basis.
    The eighth alternative to the proposed action is similar to the 
seventh alternative to the proposed action, except that 50,000 lb 
(22,680 kg) would be the amount of quota remaining to trigger the 
closure of the black sea bass commercial pot component. The Council 
decided not to impose specific gear restriction at this time partly due 
to the problem of monitoring catches by gear type on a timely basis.
    The ninth alternative to the proposed action would close the black 
sea bass commercial pot component when 90 percent of the commercial 
quota is met. The Council decided not to impose specific gear 
restrictions at this time partly due to the problem of monitoring 
catches by gear type on a timely basis.
    The tenth alternative to the proposed action would establish a 
spawning season closure, with four sub-alternatives. The first sub-
alternative would implement a March-April closure applicable to both 
the commercial and recreational sectors; the second, an April-May 
closure; the third, a March-May closure; and, the fourth, a May 
closure. A spawning season closure for black sea bass that would affect 
both the commercial and recreational sectors was considered as a 
possible tool to extend the fishing season and benefit the stock. 
However, there was strong opposition from the public toward such a 
measure given other additional proposed measures within Regulatory 
Amendment 9. While many fishermen are in favor of curbing harvest 
during the spawning season, they stated that curbing harvest would be 
best accomplished with a modification to the fishing year. Moreover, 
the black sea bass stock is under a rebuilding schedule, there are 
indications that the stock is rebuilding, and a stock assessment is 
currently underway.
    The eleventh alternative to the proposed action for black sea bass 
management would modify the current recreational bag limit of 15-fish 
per person per day for black sea bass, with 5 sub-alternatives, one of 
which is the proposed action. The first sub-alternative would reduce 
the bag limit to 7-fish per person per day; the second, 5-fish per 
person per day; the third, 3-fish per person per day; the fourth, 2-
fish per person per day; and the fifth, 1-fish per person per day. 
Relative to the 15-fish bag limit and depending on the baseline year 
used, the bag limit alternatives would have varying effects on the 
annual NOR of the for-hire fleet. The first sub-alternative would 
result in increased NOR from approximately $19,000 to $129,000 
annually; the second sub-alternative would increase NOR from negative 
$62,000 to positive $48,000 annually; the third sub-alternative would 
result in a decreased NOR of $97,000 annually; and, the fourth sub-
alternative would result in a decreased NOR of $226,000 annually. These 
effects are less than the positive effects of the proposed action. The 
Council's decision to recommend the proposed action of a 5-fish bag 
limit per person per day was based on public support and the fact that 
a large percentage of recreational trips result in approximately 5 
black sea bass landed per person. Moreover, the Council considered this 
proposed action as an interim measure until results of SEDAR 25 are 
available.
    Seven alternatives, including the proposed action, were considered 
for commercial vermilion snapper trip limit. The first alternative to 
the proposed action is the no action alternative. This alternative 
would not address concerns regarding derby fishing practices in the 
commercial sector of the vermilion snapper segment of the snapper-
grouper fishery. The second alternative to the proposed action would 
establish a 1,000-lb (454-kg) commercial trip limit, with one sub-
alternative that would reduce the trip limit to 500 lb (227 kg) when 75 
percent of the commercial quota is met. This alternative would lengthen 
the commercial fishing season relative to the no action alternative, 
but it would bring about a reduction in short-term revenues of 
approximately $611,000 annually without the sub-alternative, or 
$752,000 annually with the sub-alternative. These reductions are larger 
than those that would occur under the proposed action. The third 
alternative to the proposed action would establish a 1,500-lb (680-kg) 
trip limit, and reduce the trip limit to 500 lb (227 kg) when 75 
percent of the commercial quota is met. This alternative would bring 
about a reduction in short-term revenues of approximately $505,000. 
This revenue reduction is larger than what would occur under the 
proposed action. The fourth alternative to the proposed action would 
establish a 750-lb (340-kg) commercial trip limit, with one sub-
alternative that would reduce the commercial trip limit to 400 lb (181 
kg) when 75 percent of the commercial quota is met. Compared to the 
proposed action, this alternative would result in short-term revenue 
reductions of approximately $880,000 annually without the sub-
alternative, or $1,013,000 annually with the sub-alternative. The fifth 
alternative to the proposed action would establish a 500-lb (227-kg) 
commercial trip limit. This alternative would result in short-term 
revenue reductions of approximately $1,302,000 annually, which is much 
larger than those resulting under the proposed action. The sixth 
alternative to the proposed action would establish a 400-lb (181-kg) 
commercial trip limit. Compared to the proposed action, this 
alternative would result in larger revenue reductions of approximately 
$1,528,000 annually.
    Five alternatives, including the proposed action, were considered 
for gag commercial trip limit. The first alternative to the proposed 
action is the no action alternative. This alternative would not address 
the derby concern in the gag commercial sector the snapper-grouper 
fishery. The second alternative to the proposed action would establish 
a 1,000-lb (454-kg) commercial trip limit that would be reduced to a 
100-lb (45-kg) trip limit when 75 percent of the commercial quota is 
projected to be met. This alternative would result in short-term 
revenue reductions of approximately $392,000 annually when based on 
2007 landings, or $204,000 annually when based on 2009 landings.
    The third alternative to the proposed action would establish a 750-
lb (340-kg) commercial trip limit, with one sub-alternative that would 
reduce the

[[Page 23934]]

commercial trip limit to 100 lb (45 kg) when 75 percent of the 
commercial quota is projected to be met. This alternative would result 
in short-term revenue reductions of approximately $194,000 annually 
without the sub-alternative, or from $467,000 annually (based on 2007 
landings) to $228,000 (based on 2009 landings) with the sub-
alternative. The fourth alternative to the proposed action would 
establish a 1,000-lb (454-kg) commercial trip limit, with a season 
starting on May 1, and reduce the trip limit to 100 lb (45 kg) when 90 
percent of the gag commercial quota is projected to be met. This 
alternative would result in revenue reductions greater than $102,000 
annually but less than $392,000 annually. All of these alternatives to 
the proposed action are expected to result in larger short-term revenue 
reductions than the proposed action.
    Two alternatives, including the proposed action, were considered 
for the greater amberjack commercial trip limit. The first alternative 
to the proposed action is the no action alternative, which specifies a 
1,000-lb (454-kg) commercial trip limit. Under this trip limit 
alternative, it was considered that the commercial quota for greater 
amberjack has not been fully taken. A trip limit increase was 
considered to allow the fishing fleet to harvest the entire commercial 
quota for greater amberjack in order to mitigate the adverse effects of 
increased restrictions applied in other fisheries prosecuted by the 
same fishermen. The second alternative consists of three sub-
alternatives, one of which is the proposed action. The first sub-
alternative would increase the greater amberjack commercial trip limit 
to 2,000 lb (907 kg) while the second sub-alternative would increase 
the greater amberjack commercial trip limit to 1,500 lb (680 kg). Each 
of these two trip limit alternatives would result in larger short-term 
revenue increases than the proposed action. However, they pose a higher 
risk that the commercial quota for greater amberjack would be met prior 
to the end of the fishing season, resulting in potentially larger 
revenue and profit reductions to the fishing fleet.

List of Subjects

50 CFR Part 600

    Fisheries and Fishing vessels.

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 parts 600 and 622 
are proposed to be amended as follows:

PART 600--MAGNUSON-STEVENS ACT PROVISIONS

    1. The authority citation for part 600 continues to read as 
follows:

    Authority:  5 U.S.C. 561 and 16 U.S.C. et seq.

    2. In Sec.  600.502, revise Table 1 entry ``Administrator, 
Southeast Region'' to read as follows:


Sec.  600.502  Vessel reports.

* * * * *

                  Table 1 to Sec.   600.502--Addresses
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                NMFS science and      U.S. Coast Guard
NMFS regional administrators   research directors        commanders
------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
                              * * * * * * *
Administrator, Southeast      Director, Southeast   Commander, Atlantic
 Region, National Marine       Fisheries Science     Area, U.S. Coast
 Fisheries Service, 263 13th   Center, National      Guard, Governor's
 Ave., South, St.              Marine Fisheries      Island, New York
 Petersburg, FL 33701.         Service, NOAA, 75     10004.
                               Virginia Beach
                               Drive, Miami, FL
                               33701.
 
                              * * * * * * *
------------------------------------------------------------------------

* * * * *

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

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

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

    4. In Sec.  622.39, paragraph (d)(1)(vii) is revised to read as 
follows:


Sec.  622.39  Bag and possession limits.

* * * * *
    (d) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (vii) Black sea bass--5.
* * * * *
    5. In Sec.  622.42, paragraph (e)(5) is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  622.42  Quotas.

* * * * *
    (e) * * *
    (5) Black sea bass. (i) For the period June through November each 
year--128,547 lb (58,308 kg).
    (ii) For the period December through May each year--180,453 lb 
(81,852 kg).
    (iii) Any unused portion of the quota specified in paragraph 
(e)(5)(i) of this section will be added to the quota specified in 
paragraph (e)(5)(ii) of this section. Any unused portion of the quota 
specified in paragraph (e)(5)(ii) of this section, including any 
addition of quota specified in paragraph (e)(5)(i) of this section that 
was unused, will become void and will not be added to any subsequent 
quota.
* * * * *
    6. In Sec.  622.44, the first sentence of paragraph (c)(5) is 
revised and paragraphs (c)(6) and (c)(7) are added to read as follows:


Sec.  622.44  Commercial trip limits.

* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (5) Greater amberjack. Until the quota specified in Sec.  
622.42(e)(3) is reached--1,200 lb (544 kg). * * *
    (6) Vermilion snapper. Until either quota specified in Sec.  
622.42(e)(4)(i) or (ii) is reached--1,500 lb (680 kg). See Sec.  
622.43(a)(5) for the limitations regarding vermilion snapper after 
either quota is reached.
    (7) Gag. Until the quota specified in Sec.  622.42(e)(7) is 
reached--1,000 lb (454 kg). See Sec.  622.43(a)(5) for the limitations 
regarding gag after the quota is reached.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2011-10488 Filed 4-28-11; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P