Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Reef Fish Fishery of the Gulf of Mexico; Red Grouper Management Measures, 58455-58459 [2011-24251]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 183 / Wednesday, September 21, 2011 / Proposed Rules * * * * www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any personal information you provide us (see the Public Comments section at the end of SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION for further information about submitting comments). * Dated: September 12, 2011. Rachel Jacobson, Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. [FR Doc. 2011–24045 Filed 9–20–11; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–55–C FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service 50 CFR Part 17 [Docket No. FWS–R9–IA–2011–0027; 96300– 1671–0000–R4] RIN 1018–AW81 Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; U.S. Captive-Bred Intersubspecific Crossed or Generic Tigers AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. Proposed rule; extension of comment period. ACTION: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the extension of the public comment period on the proposed rule to amend the regulations that implement the Endangered Species Act (Act) by removing inter-subspecific crossed or generic tigers (i.e., specimens not identified or identifiable as members of the Bengal, Sumatran, Siberian, or Indochinese subspecies) from the list of species that are exempt from registration under the captive-bred wildlife regulations. We are extending the comment period by 30 days to allow all interested parties an opportunity to comment on the proposed rule. DATES: We will consider comments received on or before October 21, 2011. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by one of the following methods: Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. In the Enter Keyword or ID box, enter FWS–R9–IA– 2011–0027, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then, in the Search panel at the top of the screen, under the Document Type heading, check the box next to Proposed Rules to locate this document. You may submit a comment by clicking on ‘‘Send a Comment.’’ By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R9–IA–2011– 0027; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042–PDM; Arlington, VA 22203. We will not accept e-mails or faxes. We will post all comments on http:// mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS SUMMARY: VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:46 Sep 20, 2011 Jkt 223001 Timothy J. Van Norman, Chief, Branch of Permits, Division of Management Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 212, Arlington, VA 22203; telephone 703–358–21040; fax 703–358–2281. If you use a telecommunications devise for the deaf (TDD), call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800–877–8339. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background On August 22, 2011, we published a proposed rule (76 FR 52297) to amend the Captive-bred Wildlife (CBW) regulations that implement the Act by removing inter-subspecific crossed or generic tiger (Panthera tigris) (i.e., specimens not identified or identifiable as members of Bengal, Sumatran, Siberian, or Indochinese subspecies (Panthera tigris tigris, P. t. sumatrae, P. t. altaica, and P. t. corbetti, respectively) from paragraph (g)(6) of 50 CFR 17.21. This action would eliminate the exemption from registering and reporting under the CBW regulations by persons who want to conduct otherwiseprohibited activities under the Act with live inter-subspecific crossed or generic tigers born in the United States. Intersubspecific crossed or generic tigers remain listed as endangered under the Act, and a person would need to qualify for an exemption or obtain an authorization under the remaining statutory and regulatory requirements to conduct any prohibited activities. The comment period was opened for 30 days from August 22, 2011, to September 21, 2011. We have received several requests to extend the comment period in order to give all interested parties an increased opportunity to fully research this issue and provide more substantial comments. Accordingly, we are extending the comment period by 30 days. Our August 22, 2011, proposed rule (79 FR 52297) specifies the information that we seek from the public. If you submitted comments previously, you do not need to resubmit them because we have already incorporated them into the public record and will fully consider them in preparation of the final rule. PO 00000 Frm 00040 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 58455 Public Comments You may submit your comments and materials concerning this proposed rule by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. We will not accept comments sent by e-mail or fax or to an address not listed in ADDRESSES. We will post your entire comment— including your personal identifying information—on http:// www.regulations.gov. If you provide personal identifying information in your written comments, you may request at the top of your document that we withhold this information from public review. However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting documentation we used in preparing this proposed rule, will be available for public inspection on http://www.regulations.gov, or by appointment, during normal business hours, at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Division of Management Authority; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 212; Arlington, VA 22203; telephone, (703) 358–2093. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361–1407; 16 U.S.C. 1531–1544; 16 U.S.C. 4201–4245; Pub. L. 99– 625, 100 Stat. 3500; unless otherwise noted. Dated: September 15, 2011. Rachel Jacobson, Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. [FR Doc. 2011–24339 Filed 9–20–11; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–55–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 622 [Docket No. 110819519–1560–01] RIN 0648–BB22 Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Reef Fish Fishery of the Gulf of Mexico; Red Grouper Management Measures National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS proposes to implement management actions described in a regulatory amendment to the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico (FMP) prepared by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council). If SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\21SEP1.SGM 21SEP1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS 58456 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 183 / Wednesday, September 21, 2011 / Proposed Rules implemented, this rule would increase the 2011 commercial quota for red grouper, and thereby increase the 2011 commercial quota for shallow-water grouper (SWG), set the commercial quota for red grouper and SWG from 2012 to 2015 and subsequent fishing years, and increase the red grouper bag limit to four fish within the current four-fish aggregate bag limit. The increase in the recreational bag limit will allow the recreational sector to harvest the increase in the recreational allocation established in the regulatory amendment. The intended effect of this proposed rule is to help prevent overfishing of red grouper while achieving optimum yield (OY) by increasing the red grouper harvest consistent with the findings of the recent rerun of the stock assessment for this species using updated information. DATES: Written comments must be received on or before October 6, 2011. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the proposed rule identified by ‘‘NOAA–NMFS–2011–0199’’ by any of the following methods: • Electronic submissions: Submit electronic comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments. • Mail: Peter Hood, 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, click on ‘‘submit a comment,’’ then enter ‘‘NOAA–NMFS– 2011–0199’’ in the keyword search and click on ‘‘search.’’ To view posted comments during the comment period, enter ‘‘NOAA–NMFS–2011–0199’’ in the keyword search and click on ‘‘search.’’ 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 through means not specified in this rule will not be accepted. Electronic copies of the regulatory amendment, which includes an VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:46 Sep 20, 2011 Jkt 223001 environmental assessment and a regulatory impact review, may be obtained from the Southeast Regional Office Web Site at http:// sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sf/ GrouperSnapperandReefFish.htm. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Peter Hood, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, telephone: 727–824–5305, email: Peter.Hood@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The reef fish fishery of the Gulf of Mexico 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), 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. 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. Status of Stock Red grouper was declared overfished and placed under a rebuilding plan in 2004. A 2007 Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR) stock assessment determined that overfishing had ended and stock biomass had increased to near its OY spawning stock biomass. With this update in stock status, new regulations were implemented in 2009 (74 FR 17603, April 16, 2009) through Amendment 30B to the FMP, that increased the commercial red grouper quota from 5.31 million lb (2.41 million kg) to 5.75 million lb (2.61 million kg) and increased the red grouper bag limit from one fish to two fish (within the four-fish grouper aggregate bag limit). The 2007 SEDAR red grouper assessment was updated in 2009. The assessment update indicated that the stock continues to be neither overfished nor undergoing overfishing. However, the assessment update indicated the stock had declined since 2005. A large part of the decline was attributed to an episodic mortality event in 2005 (most PO 00000 Frm 00041 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 likely associated with red tide) that resulted in an approximate 20 percent mortality of the red grouper stock, in addition to mortalities resulting from fishing and other natural causes. As a result of the findings of the assessment update, the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) recommended an acceptable biological catch (ABC) level of 6.31 million lb (2.86 million kg). This amount is equal to 85 percent of the yield at FMSY (fishing mortality at maximum sustainable yield), which is expected to result in a less than 50-percent (15- to 45-percent) probability of overfishing. To reduce this probability of overfishing even further, the Council voted to set the total allowable catch (TAC) at the yield associated with FOY, which is consistent with the method used to set TAC in Amendment 30B to the FMP. Therefore, TAC was reduced through a 2010 regulatory amendment (75 FR 74656, December 1, 2010) from 7.57 million lb (3.43 million kg) to 5.68 million lb (2.58 million kg), which is the yield associated with FOY (fishing mortality at optimum yield). Fishing at FOY should allow the stock to recover to a biomass that can support harvesting at equilibrium OY levels. The 2009 assessment update was rerun in late 2010 to incorporate new information on red grouper harvest. Specifically, the assessment used revised estimates of historical discards in the commercial sector based on newly available observer data from the years 2006–2008 and updated projections taking into account the reduction in the commercial size limit from 20 inches to 18 inches. Given these changes, the rerun resulted in a slightly improved estimate of the stock status for the last year of the assessment (2008) and indicated the TAC in the near term could be substantially increased. After reviewing the rerun of the assessment update, the SSC recommended that the overfishing limit for red grouper be set at 8.10 million lb (3.67 million kg) (the equilibrium yield at FMSY) and the ABC be set at 7.93 million lb (3.60 million kg) (the equilibrium yield at FOY). At the request of the Council, NMFS ran a new projection in 2011 that incorporated revised 2010 landings. Actual landings from 2010 were lower than projected, likely due to new longline restrictions implemented through Amendment 31 to the FMP (75 FR 21512, April 26, 2010) and disruptions in the fishery associated with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that occurred in April 2010. The yield streams from this rerun showed that TAC could be increased in 2011. Because many commercial red grouper E:\FR\FM\21SEP1.SGM 21SEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 183 / Wednesday, September 21, 2011 / Proposed Rules fishermen will likely catch their IFQ allocation before the end of 2011, based on the current rate of harvest, the Council proposed the adoption of the revised yield stream to help alleviate market disruptions that might occur should most IFQ allocations be caught well before the end of the year. Red Grouper Total Allowable Catch (TAC) The current red grouper TAC of 5.68 million lb (3.43 million kg) was implemented in 2010 through a 2010 red grouper regulatory amendment (75 FR 74656, December 1, 2010). The TAC proposed for 2011 through the 2011 red grouper regulatory amendment is 6.88 million lb (3.12 million kg). Subsequent increases in TAC from 2012 to 2015 would be 7.07 million lb (3.21 million kg) for 2012, 7.27 million lb (3.30 million kg) for 2013, 7.41 (3.36 million kg) for 2014, and 7.52 million lb (3.41 million kg) for 2015 and subsequent fishing years. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Allocation The recreational and commercial allocations for red grouper included in the 2011 red grouper regulatory amendment are proposed to remain consistent with those established in Amendment 30B to the FMP. Therefore, 76 percent of the TAC would be allocated to the commercial sector and 24 percent of the TAC would be allocated to the recreational sector. Management Measures Contained in This Proposed Rule Based on the current commercial and recreational allocations, the TAC would be implemented through this rule by increasing the commercial quota in 2011 for Gulf red grouper from 4.32 million lb (1.96 million kg) to 5.23 million lb (2.82 million kg). The rule would also set the commercial quotas for 2012 to 2015 at 5.37 million lb (2.37 million kg) for 2012, 5.53 million lb (2.44 million kg) for 2013, 5.63 million lb (2.51 million kg) for 2014, and 5.72 million lb (2.59 million kg) for 2015 and subsequent fishing years. However, these increases in the red grouper commercial quota are contingent on the TAC not being exceeded in the previous fishing year (regardless of which sector is responsible for any overage). The increase in the 2011 red grouper quota by 0.91 million lb (0.41 million kg) would, therefore, increase the 2011 combined SWG quota by 0.91 million lb (0.41 million kg) to 6.07 million lb (2.75 million kg). Increases in the red grouper quotas from 2012 to 2015 would increase the SWG quota to 6.21 million lb (2.82 million kg) for 2012, 6.37 VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:46 Sep 20, 2011 Jkt 223001 million lb (2.89 million kg) for 2013, 6.47 million lb (2.93 million kg) for 2014, and 6.56 million lb (2.98 million kg) for 2015 and subsequent fishing years. Increases in the SWG quota would be contingent on the red grouper TAC or gag TAC not being exceeded in the previous fishing year. The proposed increase in the TAC would also increase the recreational allocation. For 2011, the increase in the recreational allocation would be from 1.36 million lb (0.62 million kg) to 1.65 million lb (0.75 million kg). The recreational allocation for 2012 to 2015 would be 1.70 million lb (0.78 million kg) for 2012, 1.74 million lb (0.79 million kg) for 2013, 1.78 million lb (0.81 million kg) for 2014, and 1.80 million lb (0.82 million kg) for 2015 and subsequent fishing years. However, recreational management measures have held the annual recreational harvest to approximately 1 million lb (0.45 million kg) since 2006, well below the recreational allocation of the TAC. Therefore, relaxing the recreational management measures is warranted to allow the recreational sector to harvest its allocation. Based on a bag limit analysis conducted for Amendment 30B to the FMP, the proposed bag limit increase from two to four fish could result in a 13.2 percent increase in recreational harvest. This increase is less than the proposed increase in the recreational allocation (approximately 18 percent), and so should not result in the recreational sector exceeding its catch target or annual catch limit, particularly for 2011. As stated elsewhere, there is a great deal of uncertainty in estimating increased catch levels. These estimates of catch levels for increased bag limits are uncertain because of a lack of recent catch data at higher bag limits. Consequently, it is not considered prudent to further relax restrictions and further increase harvest beyond the estimated 13.2 percent. Because accountability measures cannot currently be implemented through a framework action, the 2011 red grouper regulatory amendment does not contain revisions to the red grouper accountability measures; however, proposed measures in Amendment 32 to the FMP would add an accountability measure for the recreational sector for this bag limit increase. If the recreational ACL were exceeded, the proposed measure would reduce the bag limit in the subsequent year by one fish (with a two-fish bag limit as the lowest bag limit allowable under this accountability measure). PO 00000 Frm 00042 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 58457 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. The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration that this rule, if adopted, would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The factual basis for this determination is as follows. The purposes of the regulatory amendment are to establish the red grouper total allowable catch, and thus the red grouper commercial quota and recreational allocation, and to set the red grouper recreational bag limit consistent with the goals and objectives of the Council’s red grouper rebuilding plan and the mandates of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The objective of this specific rule is to support rebuilding of the red grouper resource in the Gulf of Mexico and to allow harvest of that resource at optimum yield. The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides the statutory basis for this proposed rule. The management measures contained in this proposed rule are described in the preamble of this rule and are not repeated here. This rule is expected to directly affect commercial fishing vessels whose owners possess commercial red grouper fishing quota shares. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has established size criteria for all major industry sectors in the U.S. including fish harvesters. 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. As of October 1, 2009, 970 entities owned a valid commercial Gulf reef fish permit and thus were eligible for initial shares and allocation in the grouper/ tilefish IFQ program. Of these 970 entities, 908 entities initially received shares and allocation of grouper or tilefish in 2010. More importantly, with respect to the proposed action, 815 entities specifically received red E:\FR\FM\21SEP1.SGM 21SEP1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS 58458 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 183 / Wednesday, September 21, 2011 / Proposed Rules grouper shares and an initial allocation of the commercial sector’s red grouper quota in 2010. These 815 entities are expected to be directly affected by the action to increase the red grouper commercial quota. Of the 815 entities that initially received red grouper shares, 191 were not commercially fishing in 2008 or 2009 and thus had no commercial fishing revenue during these years. On average, these 191 entities received an initial allocation of 6,459 lb (2,936 kg) of red grouper in 2010. Eight of these 191 entities also received a bottom longline endorsement in 2010. These 8 entities received a much higher initial allocation of red grouper in 2010, with an average of approximately 44,000 lb (20,000 kg). The other 624 entities that received red grouper shares and initial allocations in 2010 were active in commercial fisheries in 2008 or 2009. These 624 entities are expected to be most affected by the proposed action to increase the red grouper commercial quota. Of the 624 commercial fishing vessels with commercial landings in 2008 or 2009, 126 vessels did not have any red grouper landings in 2008 or 2009. Their average annual gross revenue in these 2 years was approximately $55,800 (2008 dollars). The vast majority of these vessels’ commercial fishing revenue is from a combination of landings of snapper, mackerel, dolphin, and wahoo. However, as described in the regulatory amendment, in 2009, they did become relatively more dependent on landings of highly migratory species (HMS) species and relatively less dependent on landings of deep-water grouper species. On average, in 2010, these vessels received an initial allocation of 2,524 lb (1,147 kg) of red grouper quota. Five of these vessels also received a bottom longline endorsement in 2010. The remaining 498 commercially active fishing vessels did have landings of red grouper in 2008 or 2009. Their average annual gross revenue from commercial fishing was approximately $66,000 (2008 dollars) between the 2 years. On average, these vessels had 9,425 lb (4,284 kg) and 6,734 lb (3,061 kg) of red grouper landings in 2008 and 2009 respectively, or 8,053 lb (3,660 kg) between the 2 years. Red grouper landings accounted for approximately 35 percent of these vessels’ annual average gross revenue, and thus they are relatively dependent on revenue from red grouper landings. These vessels’ average initial red grouper allocation in 2010 was 8,404 lb (3,820 kg). Therefore, on average, their 2008 and 2009 red grouper landings are very near their 2010 red grouper allocation, though VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:46 Sep 20, 2011 Jkt 223001 their red grouper landings differed considerably between 2008 and 2009. Of these 498 vessels, 49 vessels also received a bottom longline endorsement in 2010. These particular vessels’ average annual revenue was approximately $156,000 (2008 dollars) in 2008 and 2009. Revenue from red grouper landings decreased from approximately $104,000 to $65,000 in 2009. Nonetheless, these vessels remain highly dependent on revenue from red grouper landings, which averaged approximately 36,000 lb (13,364 kg) in 2008 and 23,000 lb (10,455 kg) in 2009. Their average initial 2010 allocation of red grouper was approximately 42,000 lb (19,091 kg), and thus their recent years’ harvests have been within that 2010 average allocation, particularly in 2009. The maximum annual commercial fishing revenue in 2008 or 2009 by an individual vessel whose owner possessed red grouper fishing quota shares was approximately $606,000 (2008 dollars). Based on this figure, all commercial fishing vessels expected to be directly affected by this rule are determined for the purpose of this analysis to be small business entities. As a result of the expected increase in commercial red grouper harvests due to the increase in the commercial red grouper quota, this rule would be expected to increase commercial exvessel revenue by approximately $2.76 million from 2011 through 2015, or approximately $551,268 annually, relative to the status quo. Thus, the expected annual increase in each affected entity’s annual ex-vessel revenue is estimated to be approximately $676. As a result, no reduction in profits for a substantial number of small entities would be expected. No duplicative, overlapping, or conflicting Federal rules have been identified. This proposed rule would not establish any new reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements. This rule would not be expected to significantly reduce the profits of any small entities. Because this rule, if implemented, is not expected to have significant economic impact on any small entities, an initial regulatory flexibility analysis is not required and none has been prepared. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622 Fisheries, Fishing, Puerto Rico, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Virgin Islands. PO 00000 Frm 00043 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Dated: September 16, 2011. Samuel D. Rauch, III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 622 is proposed to be 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 § 622.39, the first sentence in paragraph (b)(1)(ii) is revised to read as follows: § 622.39 Bag and possession limits. * * * * * (b) * * * (1) * * * (ii) Groupers, combined, excluding goliath grouper and Nassau grouper—4 per person per day, but not to exceed 1 speckled hind or 1 warsaw grouper per vessel per day, or 2 gag per person per day. * * * * * * * * 3. In § 622.42, two sentences are added after the first sentence in the introductory paragraph and paragraphs (a)(1)(iii)(A) and (C) are revised to read as follows: § 622.42 Quotas. * * * * * (a) * * * Annual quota increases are contingent on the total allowable catch for the applicable species not being exceeded in the previous fishing year. If the total allowable catch is exceeded in the previous fishing year, the RA will file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register to maintain the quota for the applicable species from the previous fishing year for following fishing years, unless the best scientific information available determines maintaining the quota from the previous year is unnecessary. * * * (1) * * * (iii) * * * (A) SWG combined. (1) For fishing year 2011—6.07 million lb (2.75 million kg). (2) For fishing year 2012—6.21 million lb (2.82 million kg). (3) For fishing year 2013—6.37 million lb (2.89 million kg). (4) For fishing year 2014—6.47 million lb (2.93 million kg). (5) For fishing year 2015 and subsequent fishing years—6.56 million lb (2.98 million kg). * * * * * E:\FR\FM\21SEP1.SGM 21SEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 183 / Wednesday, September 21, 2011 / Proposed Rules (C) Red grouper. (1) For fishing year 2011—5.23 million lb (2.82 million kg). (2) For fishing year 2012—5.37 million lb (2.37 million kg). (3) For fishing year 2013—5.53 million lb (2.44 million kg). (4) For fishing year 2014—5.63 million lb (2.51 million kg). (5) For fishing year 2015 and subsequent fishing years—5.72 million lb (2.59 million kg). * * * * * [FR Doc. 2011–24251 Filed 9–20–11; 8:45 am] mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS BILLING CODE 3510–22–P VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:46 Sep 20, 2011 Jkt 223001 PO 00000 Frm 00044 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 58459 E:\FR\FM\21SEP1.SGM 21SEP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 183 (Wednesday, September 21, 2011)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 58455-58459]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-24251]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

[Docket No. 110819519-1560-01]
RIN 0648-BB22


Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 
Reef Fish Fishery of the Gulf of Mexico; Red 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 proposes to implement management actions described in a 
regulatory amendment to the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish 
Resources of the Gulf of Mexico (FMP) prepared by the Gulf of Mexico 
Fishery Management Council (Council). If

[[Page 58456]]

implemented, this rule would increase the 2011 commercial quota for red 
grouper, and thereby increase the 2011 commercial quota for shallow-
water grouper (SWG), set the commercial quota for red grouper and SWG 
from 2012 to 2015 and subsequent fishing years, and increase the red 
grouper bag limit to four fish within the current four-fish aggregate 
bag limit. The increase in the recreational bag limit will allow the 
recreational sector to harvest the increase in the recreational 
allocation established in the regulatory amendment. The intended effect 
of this proposed rule is to help prevent overfishing of red grouper 
while achieving optimum yield (OY) by increasing the red grouper 
harvest consistent with the findings of the recent rerun of the stock 
assessment for this species using updated information.

DATES: Written comments must be received on or before October 6, 2011.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the proposed rule identified by 
``NOAA-NMFS-2011-0199'' 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: Peter Hood, 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, click on ``submit a comment,'' then enter ``NOAA-
NMFS-2011-0199'' in the keyword search and click on ``search.'' To view 
posted comments during the comment period, enter ``NOAA-NMFS-2011-
0199'' in the keyword search and click on ``search.'' 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 through means not specified in this rule will not be 
accepted.
    Electronic copies of the regulatory amendment, which includes an 
environmental assessment and a regulatory impact review, may be 
obtained from the Southeast Regional Office Web Site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sf/GrouperSnapperandReefFish.htm.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Peter Hood, Southeast Regional Office, 
NMFS, telephone: 727-824-5305, e-mail: Peter.Hood@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The reef fish fishery of the Gulf of Mexico 
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), 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.

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.

Status of Stock

    Red grouper was declared overfished and placed under a rebuilding 
plan in 2004. A 2007 Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR) 
stock assessment determined that overfishing had ended and stock 
biomass had increased to near its OY spawning stock biomass. With this 
update in stock status, new regulations were implemented in 2009 (74 FR 
17603, April 16, 2009) through Amendment 30B to the FMP, that increased 
the commercial red grouper quota from 5.31 million lb (2.41 million kg) 
to 5.75 million lb (2.61 million kg) and increased the red grouper bag 
limit from one fish to two fish (within the four-fish grouper aggregate 
bag limit).
    The 2007 SEDAR red grouper assessment was updated in 2009. The 
assessment update indicated that the stock continues to be neither 
overfished nor undergoing overfishing. However, the assessment update 
indicated the stock had declined since 2005. A large part of the 
decline was attributed to an episodic mortality event in 2005 (most 
likely associated with red tide) that resulted in an approximate 20 
percent mortality of the red grouper stock, in addition to mortalities 
resulting from fishing and other natural causes. As a result of the 
findings of the assessment update, the Council's Scientific and 
Statistical Committee (SSC) recommended an acceptable biological catch 
(ABC) level of 6.31 million lb (2.86 million kg). This amount is equal 
to 85 percent of the yield at FMSY (fishing mortality at 
maximum sustainable yield), which is expected to result in a 
less than 50-percent (15- to 45-percent) probability of overfishing. To 
reduce this probability of overfishing even further, the Council voted 
to set the total allowable catch (TAC) at the yield associated with 
FOY, which is consistent with the method used to set TAC in 
Amendment 30B to the FMP. Therefore, TAC was reduced through a 2010 
regulatory amendment (75 FR 74656, December 1, 2010) from 7.57 million 
lb (3.43 million kg) to 5.68 million lb (2.58 million kg), which is the 
yield associated with FOY (fishing mortality at optimum 
yield). Fishing at FOY should allow the stock to recover to 
a biomass that can support harvesting at equilibrium OY levels.
    The 2009 assessment update was rerun in late 2010 to incorporate 
new information on red grouper harvest. Specifically, the assessment 
used revised estimates of historical discards in the commercial sector 
based on newly available observer data from the years 2006-2008 and 
updated projections taking into account the reduction in the commercial 
size limit from 20 inches to 18 inches. Given these changes, the rerun 
resulted in a slightly improved estimate of the stock status for the 
last year of the assessment (2008) and indicated the TAC in the near 
term could be substantially increased. After reviewing the rerun of the 
assessment update, the SSC recommended that the overfishing limit for 
red grouper be set at 8.10 million lb (3.67 million kg) (the 
equilibrium yield at FMSY) and the ABC be set at 7.93 
million lb (3.60 million kg) (the equilibrium yield at FOY).
    At the request of the Council, NMFS ran a new projection in 2011 
that incorporated revised 2010 landings. Actual landings from 2010 were 
lower than projected, likely due to new longline restrictions 
implemented through Amendment 31 to the FMP (75 FR 21512, April 26, 
2010) and disruptions in the fishery associated with the Deepwater 
Horizon oil spill that occurred in April 2010. The yield streams from 
this rerun showed that TAC could be increased in 2011. Because many 
commercial red grouper

[[Page 58457]]

fishermen will likely catch their IFQ allocation before the end of 
2011, based on the current rate of harvest, the Council proposed the 
adoption of the revised yield stream to help alleviate market 
disruptions that might occur should most IFQ allocations be caught well 
before the end of the year.

Red Grouper Total Allowable Catch (TAC)

    The current red grouper TAC of 5.68 million lb (3.43 million kg) 
was implemented in 2010 through a 2010 red grouper regulatory amendment 
(75 FR 74656, December 1, 2010). The TAC proposed for 2011 through the 
2011 red grouper regulatory amendment is 6.88 million lb (3.12 million 
kg). Subsequent increases in TAC from 2012 to 2015 would be 7.07 
million lb (3.21 million kg) for 2012, 7.27 million lb (3.30 million 
kg) for 2013, 7.41 (3.36 million kg) for 2014, and 7.52 million lb 
(3.41 million kg) for 2015 and subsequent fishing years.

Allocation

    The recreational and commercial allocations for red grouper 
included in the 2011 red grouper regulatory amendment are proposed to 
remain consistent with those established in Amendment 30B to the FMP. 
Therefore, 76 percent of the TAC would be allocated to the commercial 
sector and 24 percent of the TAC would be allocated to the recreational 
sector.
Management Measures Contained in This Proposed Rule
    Based on the current commercial and recreational allocations, the 
TAC would be implemented through this rule by increasing the commercial 
quota in 2011 for Gulf red grouper from 4.32 million lb (1.96 million 
kg) to 5.23 million lb (2.82 million kg). The rule would also set the 
commercial quotas for 2012 to 2015 at 5.37 million lb (2.37 million kg) 
for 2012, 5.53 million lb (2.44 million kg) for 2013, 5.63 million lb 
(2.51 million kg) for 2014, and 5.72 million lb (2.59 million kg) for 
2015 and subsequent fishing years. However, these increases in the red 
grouper commercial quota are contingent on the TAC not being exceeded 
in the previous fishing year (regardless of which sector is responsible 
for any overage). The increase in the 2011 red grouper quota by 0.91 
million lb (0.41 million kg) would, therefore, increase the 2011 
combined SWG quota by 0.91 million lb (0.41 million kg) to 6.07 million 
lb (2.75 million kg). Increases in the red grouper quotas from 2012 to 
2015 would increase the SWG quota to 6.21 million lb (2.82 million kg) 
for 2012, 6.37 million lb (2.89 million kg) for 2013, 6.47 million lb 
(2.93 million kg) for 2014, and 6.56 million lb (2.98 million kg) for 
2015 and subsequent fishing years. Increases in the SWG quota would be 
contingent on the red grouper TAC or gag TAC not being exceeded in the 
previous fishing year.
    The proposed increase in the TAC would also increase the 
recreational allocation. For 2011, the increase in the recreational 
allocation would be from 1.36 million lb (0.62 million kg) to 1.65 
million lb (0.75 million kg). The recreational allocation for 2012 to 
2015 would be 1.70 million lb (0.78 million kg) for 2012, 1.74 million 
lb (0.79 million kg) for 2013, 1.78 million lb (0.81 million kg) for 
2014, and 1.80 million lb (0.82 million kg) for 2015 and subsequent 
fishing years. However, recreational management measures have held the 
annual recreational harvest to approximately 1 million lb (0.45 million 
kg) since 2006, well below the recreational allocation of the TAC. 
Therefore, relaxing the recreational management measures is warranted 
to allow the recreational sector to harvest its allocation.
    Based on a bag limit analysis conducted for Amendment 30B to the 
FMP, the proposed bag limit increase from two to four fish could result 
in a 13.2 percent increase in recreational harvest. This increase is 
less than the proposed increase in the recreational allocation 
(approximately 18 percent), and so should not result in the 
recreational sector exceeding its catch target or annual catch limit, 
particularly for 2011. As stated elsewhere, there is a great deal of 
uncertainty in estimating increased catch levels. These estimates of 
catch levels for increased bag limits are uncertain because of a lack 
of recent catch data at higher bag limits. Consequently, it is not 
considered prudent to further relax restrictions and further increase 
harvest beyond the estimated 13.2 percent. Because accountability 
measures cannot currently be implemented through a framework action, 
the 2011 red grouper regulatory amendment does not contain revisions to 
the red grouper accountability measures; however, proposed measures in 
Amendment 32 to the FMP would add an accountability measure for the 
recreational sector for this bag limit increase. If the recreational 
ACL were exceeded, the proposed measure would reduce the bag limit in 
the subsequent year by one fish (with a two-fish bag limit as the 
lowest bag limit allowable under this accountability measure).

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.
    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration that this rule, if adopted, would not have a significant 
economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The factual 
basis for this determination is as follows.
    The purposes of the regulatory amendment are to establish the red 
grouper total allowable catch, and thus the red grouper commercial 
quota and recreational allocation, and to set the red grouper 
recreational bag limit consistent with the goals and objectives of the 
Council's red grouper rebuilding plan and the mandates of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act. The objective of this specific rule is to support 
rebuilding of the red grouper resource in the Gulf of Mexico and to 
allow harvest of that resource at optimum yield. The Magnuson-Stevens 
Act provides the statutory basis for this proposed rule. The management 
measures contained in this proposed rule are described in the preamble 
of this rule and are not repeated here.
    This rule is expected to directly affect commercial fishing vessels 
whose owners possess commercial red grouper fishing quota shares. The 
Small Business Administration (SBA) has established size criteria for 
all major industry sectors in the U.S. including fish harvesters. 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.
    As of October 1, 2009, 970 entities owned a valid commercial Gulf 
reef fish permit and thus were eligible for initial shares and 
allocation in the grouper/tilefish IFQ program. Of these 970 entities, 
908 entities initially received shares and allocation of grouper or 
tilefish in 2010. More importantly, with respect to the proposed 
action, 815 entities specifically received red

[[Page 58458]]

grouper shares and an initial allocation of the commercial sector's red 
grouper quota in 2010. These 815 entities are expected to be directly 
affected by the action to increase the red grouper commercial quota.
    Of the 815 entities that initially received red grouper shares, 191 
were not commercially fishing in 2008 or 2009 and thus had no 
commercial fishing revenue during these years. On average, these 191 
entities received an initial allocation of 6,459 lb (2,936 kg) of red 
grouper in 2010. Eight of these 191 entities also received a bottom 
longline endorsement in 2010. These 8 entities received a much higher 
initial allocation of red grouper in 2010, with an average of 
approximately 44,000 lb (20,000 kg). The other 624 entities that 
received red grouper shares and initial allocations in 2010 were active 
in commercial fisheries in 2008 or 2009. These 624 entities are 
expected to be most affected by the proposed action to increase the red 
grouper commercial quota.
    Of the 624 commercial fishing vessels with commercial landings in 
2008 or 2009, 126 vessels did not have any red grouper landings in 2008 
or 2009. Their average annual gross revenue in these 2 years was 
approximately $55,800 (2008 dollars). The vast majority of these 
vessels' commercial fishing revenue is from a combination of landings 
of snapper, mackerel, dolphin, and wahoo. However, as described in the 
regulatory amendment, in 2009, they did become relatively more 
dependent on landings of highly migratory species (HMS) species and 
relatively less dependent on landings of deep-water grouper species. On 
average, in 2010, these vessels received an initial allocation of 2,524 
lb (1,147 kg) of red grouper quota. Five of these vessels also received 
a bottom longline endorsement in 2010.
    The remaining 498 commercially active fishing vessels did have 
landings of red grouper in 2008 or 2009. Their average annual gross 
revenue from commercial fishing was approximately $66,000 (2008 
dollars) between the 2 years. On average, these vessels had 9,425 lb 
(4,284 kg) and 6,734 lb (3,061 kg) of red grouper landings in 2008 and 
2009 respectively, or 8,053 lb (3,660 kg) between the 2 years. Red 
grouper landings accounted for approximately 35 percent of these 
vessels' annual average gross revenue, and thus they are relatively 
dependent on revenue from red grouper landings. These vessels' average 
initial red grouper allocation in 2010 was 8,404 lb (3,820 kg). 
Therefore, on average, their 2008 and 2009 red grouper landings are 
very near their 2010 red grouper allocation, though their red grouper 
landings differed considerably between 2008 and 2009.
    Of these 498 vessels, 49 vessels also received a bottom longline 
endorsement in 2010. These particular vessels' average annual revenue 
was approximately $156,000 (2008 dollars) in 2008 and 2009. Revenue 
from red grouper landings decreased from approximately $104,000 to 
$65,000 in 2009. Nonetheless, these vessels remain highly dependent on 
revenue from red grouper landings, which averaged approximately 36,000 
lb (13,364 kg) in 2008 and 23,000 lb (10,455 kg) in 2009. Their average 
initial 2010 allocation of red grouper was approximately 42,000 lb 
(19,091 kg), and thus their recent years' harvests have been within 
that 2010 average allocation, particularly in 2009.
    The maximum annual commercial fishing revenue in 2008 or 2009 by an 
individual vessel whose owner possessed red grouper fishing quota 
shares was approximately $606,000 (2008 dollars). Based on this figure, 
all commercial fishing vessels expected to be directly affected by this 
rule are determined for the purpose of this analysis to be small 
business entities.
    As a result of the expected increase in commercial red grouper 
harvests due to the increase in the commercial red grouper quota, this 
rule would be expected to increase commercial ex-vessel revenue by 
approximately $2.76 million from 2011 through 2015, or approximately 
$551,268 annually, relative to the status quo. Thus, the expected 
annual increase in each affected entity's annual ex-vessel revenue is 
estimated to be approximately $676. As a result, no reduction in 
profits for a substantial number of small entities would be expected.
    No duplicative, overlapping, or conflicting Federal rules have been 
identified. This proposed rule would not establish any new reporting, 
record-keeping, or other compliance requirements.
    This rule would not be expected to significantly reduce the profits 
of any small entities. Because this rule, if implemented, is not 
expected to have significant economic impact on any small entities, an 
initial regulatory flexibility analysis is not required and none has 
been prepared.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622

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

    Dated: September 16, 2011.
Samuel D. Rauch, III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 622 is 
proposed to be 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 Sec.  622.39, the first sentence in paragraph (b)(1)(ii) is 
revised to read as follows:


Sec.  622.39  Bag and possession limits.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (ii) Groupers, combined, excluding goliath grouper and Nassau 
grouper--4 per person per day, but not to exceed 1 speckled hind or 1 
warsaw grouper per vessel per day, or 2 gag per person per day. * * *
* * * * *
    3. In Sec.  622.42, two sentences are added after the first 
sentence in the introductory paragraph and paragraphs (a)(1)(iii)(A) 
and (C) are revised to read as follows:


Sec.  622.42  Quotas.

* * * * *
    (a) * * * Annual quota increases are contingent on the total 
allowable catch for the applicable species not being exceeded in the 
previous fishing year. If the total allowable catch is exceeded in the 
previous fishing year, the RA will file a notification with the Office 
of the Federal Register to maintain the quota for the applicable 
species from the previous fishing year for following fishing years, 
unless the best scientific information available determines maintaining 
the quota from the previous year is unnecessary. * * *
    (1) * * *
    (iii) * * *
    (A) SWG combined. (1) For fishing year 2011--6.07 million lb (2.75 
million kg).
    (2) For fishing year 2012--6.21 million lb (2.82 million kg).
    (3) For fishing year 2013--6.37 million lb (2.89 million kg).
    (4) For fishing year 2014--6.47 million lb (2.93 million kg).
    (5) For fishing year 2015 and subsequent fishing years--6.56 
million lb (2.98 million kg).
* * * * *

[[Page 58459]]

    (C) Red grouper. (1) For fishing year 2011--5.23 million lb (2.82 
million kg).
    (2) For fishing year 2012--5.37 million lb (2.37 million kg).
    (3) For fishing year 2013--5.53 million lb (2.44 million kg).
    (4) For fishing year 2014--5.63 million lb (2.51 million kg).
    (5) For fishing year 2015 and subsequent fishing years--5.72 
million lb (2.59 million kg).
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2011-24251 Filed 9-20-11; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P