Amendments to the Reef Fish, Spiny Lobster, Queen Conch and Coral and Reef Associated Plants and Invertebrates Fishery Management Plans of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, 68711-68716 [2011-28761]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 215 / Monday, November 7, 2011 / Proposed Rules prd_critical_habitat.html or by submitting a request to the Regulatory Branch Chief, Protected Resources Division, National Marine Fisheries Service, Pacific Islands Regional Office, 1601 Kapiolani Blvd., Suite 1110, Honolulu, HI 96814, Attn: Hawaiian monk seal proposed critical habitat. Background documents on the biology of the Hawaiian monk seal, the July 2, 2008, petition requesting revision of its critical habitat, and documents explaining the critical habitat designation process, can be downloaded from http://www.fpir.noaa.gov/PRD/ prd_critical_habitat.html, or requested by phone or email from the NMFS staff in Honolulu (area code 808) listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. Jean Higgins, NMFS, Pacific Islands Regional Office, (808) 944–2157; Lance Smith, NMFS, Pacific Islands Regional Office, (808) 944–2258; or Marta Nammack, NMFS, Office of Protected Resources (301) 427–8469. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: srobinson on DSK4SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Background On June 2, 2011, we published a proposed rule to revise the current critical habitat for the Hawaiian monk seal (Monachus schauinslandi) by extending the current designation in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) out to the 500-meter (m) depth contour and including Sand Island at Midway Islands; and by designating six new areas in the main Hawaiian Islands (MHI), pursuant to section 4 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The proposed rule allowed for a 90-day public comment period, which ended on August 31, 2011. NMFS subsequently received requests to extend the public comment period. These requests identified that additional time was needed to more fully consider the proposed rulemaking and provide comments on the proposed designation. In response to these requests, we are reopening the public comment period until January 6, 2012, to receive additional local and public information and comments that may be relevant to any aspect of the proposal. We will consider additional information received prior to making a final decision on critical habitat designation. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq. Dated: November 2, 2011. James H. Lecky, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2011–28784 Filed 11–4–11; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:46 Nov 04, 2011 Jkt 226001 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 622 [Docket No. 101217620–1654–02] RIN 0648–BA62 Amendments to the Reef Fish, Spiny Lobster, Queen Conch and Coral and Reef Associated Plants and Invertebrates Fishery Management Plans of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands 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 Amendment 6 to the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for the Reef Fish Fishery of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Amendment 5 to the FMP for the Spiny Lobster Fishery of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Amendment 3 to the FMP for the Queen Conch Resources of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Amendment 3 to the FMP for Corals and Reef Associated Plants and Invertebrates of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (2011 Caribbean ACL Amendment) prepared by the Caribbean Fishery Management Council (Council). This proposed rule would: Establish annual catch limits (ACLs) and accountability measures (AMs) for reef fish, spiny lobster, and aquarium trade species which are not determined to be undergoing overfishing; allocate ACLs among island management areas and, in Puerto Rico only, among commercial and recreational sectors; establish recreational bag limits for reef fish and spiny lobster; remove eight conch species from the queen conch FMP; and establish framework procedures for the spiny lobster and Caribbean corals and reef associated plants and invertebrates FMPs. The 2011 Caribbean ACL Amendment would also revise management reference points and status determination criteria for selected reef fish, spiny lobster, and aquarium trade species. The intended effect of the rule is to prevent overfishing of reef fish, spiny lobster, and aquarium trade species while maintaining catch levels consistent with achieving optimum yield (OY). DATES: Written comments must be received on or before November 22, 2011. SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00052 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 68711 You may submit comments on the proposed rule identified by ‘‘NOAA–NMFS–2011–0017’’, by any of the following methods: • Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments. • Mail: Miguel Lugo or Maria Lopez, 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–2011–0017’’ in the keyword search and click on ‘‘search.’’ To view posted comments during the comment period, enter ‘‘NOAA–NMFS– 2011–0017’’ in the keyword search and click on ‘‘search’’. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter N/A in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). You may submit attachments to electronic comments in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only. Comments received through means not specified in this rule will not be considered. Electronic copies of the 2011 Caribbean ACL Amendment, which includes an environmental impact statement (EIS), an initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA), a regulatory impact review, and a fishery impact statement may be obtained from the Southeast Regional Office Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sf/pdfs/2011_ ACL_Amendment_FEIS_102511.pdf. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Miguel Lugo or Maria Lopez, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, telephone: (727) 824–5305, or email: Miguel.Lugo@noaa.gov or Maria.Lopez@noaa.gov. ADDRESSES: In the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the U.S. Caribbean, the reef fish fishery is managed under the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for the Reef Fish Fishery of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, spiny lobster is managed under the FMP for the Spiny Lobster Fishery of Puerto Rico and the U.S. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: E:\FR\FM\07NOP1.SGM 07NOP1 68712 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 215 / Monday, November 7, 2011 / Proposed Rules Virgin Islands, conch is managed under the FMP for the Queen Conch Resources of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and aquarium trade species fisheries are managed under the FMP for Reef Fish and the FMP for Coral and Reef Associated Plants and Invertebrates of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. These FMPs were prepared by the Council and are implemented through regulations at 50 CFR part 622 under the authority of the MagnusonStevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). Background The 2006 reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act requires that for the fisheries determined by the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) to be not subject to overfishing, ACLs and AMs must be established in 2011 at a level that prevents overfishing and helps to achieve OY. 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. NMFS’ 2011 Report on the Status of U.S. Fisheries classifies Caribbean spiny lobster, angelfishes, boxfishes, goatfishes, grunts, wrasses, jacks, scups and porgies, squirrelfishes, surgeonfishes, triggerfishes and filefishes, tilefishes, and aquarium trade species as unknown with respect to their status regarding overfishing. The eight species of conch proposed to be removed from the Queen Conch FMP are currently in the FMP as data collection only species and were not assessed through this report. Provisions Contained in This Proposed Rule srobinson on DSK4SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Revise Management Reference Points The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires that FMPs specify a number of reference points for managed fish stocks, including maximum sustainable yield (MSY), OY, and stock status determination criteria that can be used to determine when a fishery is overfished and/or undergoing overfishing. These reference points are intended to provide the means to measure the status and performance of fisheries relative to established goals. Proxies have been established for these reference points because available data in the U.S. Caribbean are not sufficient to support direct estimation of these parameters. The FMP Amendments would revise three of those proxies. First, they would use either the median VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:46 Nov 04, 2011 Jkt 226001 or average of landings data for a determined year sequence as a proxy for MSY for all units or complexes. The time period during which average catch is calculated for those species is 1988– 2009 for the commercial sector of Puerto Rico, 2000–2009 for the recreational sector of Puerto Rico, 1999–2008 for the commercial sector St. Croix, and 2000– 2008 for the commercial sector of St. Thomas/St. John. These year sequences represent the longest year sequence of reliable landings data that the Council considers to be consistently reliable across the islands of the U.S. Caribbean. The MSY proxy for these species in Puerto Rico would be set by the median of the annual landings in the year sequence above. For St. Croix and St. Thomas/St. John, the MSY equals the average of annual landings for the year sequence described above. The MSY for surgeonfish and angelfish was defined as three times the single year maximum of recreational landings for Puerto Rico. The FMP amendments would also define the overfishing threshold of all species as the overfishing limit (OFL), which would equal the MSY proxy. For the majority of species units or complexes, OY would equal the MSY proxy multiplied by a reduction factor to account for any uncertainty in the scientific and management process. The reduction factor would be 10 percent for all species, except a 25 percent reduction would be applied for surgeonfish, angelfish and aquarium trade species to account for greater uncertainty for those species. Removal of Stocks From the Queen Conch FMP Currently, the conch complex within the Queen Conch FMP is composed of nine species. This rule would remove eight conch species from that FMP. These species are milk conch (Strombus costatus), West Indian fighting conch (Strombus pugilis), roostertail conch (Strombus gallus), hawkwing conch (Strombus raninus), true tulip (Fasciolaria tulipa), Atlantic triton’s trumpet (Charonia variegata), cameo helmet (Cassis madagascarensis), and green star shell (Astrea tuber). After implementation of this rule, only the queen conch (Strombus gigas), would remain as a managed species in the conch FMP. The eight species of conch proposed to be removed from the Queen Conch FMP are currently in the FMP as data collection only species and were not assessed in the NMFS 2011 Report on the Status of U.S. Fisheries. These species were classified as data collection only species because the Council determined there was not enough information available to specify PO 00000 Frm 00053 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 biological reference points and/or management measures for that species (50 CFR 600.320(d)(2)). Under the new National Standard 1 Guidelines, the Council was required to either remove these species from the FMP, re-classify them as Ecosystem Component Species, or specify status determination criteria for them (50 CFR 600.310(d)). These eight species are not generally targeted for harvest. No landings data are available for these species and the Council believes that any landings are minimal. Accordingly, the Council determined that there was no need for Federal conservation and management of these species, and decided to remove them from the FMP. Island Specific Management This rule would also implement island-specific management to enable application of AMs in response to harvesting activities on a single island (Puerto Rico, St. Croix) or island group (St. Thomas/St. John) without necessarily affecting fishing activities on the other islands or island groups. For example, if the ACL for the jacks complex is divided among Puerto Rico, St. Croix and St. Thomas/St. John and the St. Croix fishery exceeds its ACL for jacks, then an AM can be applied in the Federal waters surrounding St. Croix without necessarily affecting harvest of jacks in Federal waters surrounding Puerto Rico or St. Thomas/St. John. This rule proposes geographic boundaries between islands/island groups based upon an equidistant approach that uses a mid-point to divide the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) among islands. The three island management areas are: Puerto Rico, St. Croix, and St. Thomas/ St. John. Establish Annual Catch Limits and Accountability Measures This proposed rule would establish ACLs and AMs for angelfish, boxfish, goatfishes, grunts, wrasses, jacks, scups and porgies, squirrelfishes, surgeonfish, triggerfish and filefish, tilefish, spiny lobster, and aquarium trade species units or complexes in the Caribbean Reef Fish, Spiny Lobster, and Coral and Reef Associated Plants and Invertebrates FMPs. The harvest of Caribbean prohibited coral that are contained within the FMP for Coral and Reef Associated Plant and Invertebrates, and that are not described as aquarium trade species, is prohibited by Federal regulations. Therefore, a functional ACL of zero will be considered for these prohibited species. Additionally, the harvest prohibition serves as a functional AM to manage the ACL. E:\FR\FM\07NOP1.SGM 07NOP1 srobinson on DSK4SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 215 / Monday, November 7, 2011 / Proposed Rules Each ACL would be sub-divided among the three islands/island groups except that the ACL for tilefish and aquarium trade species would be applicable for the entire Caribbean EEZ. Landings data records do not exist for tilefish and aquarium trade species in the U.S. Virgin Islands. For this reason, a Caribbean-wide ACL would be established for tilefish and aquarium trade species based on the Puerto Rico median landings for these species. Separate commercial and recreational sector ACLs would be established for the Puerto Rico management area where landings data are available for both sectors. For the other island management areas (St. Croix and St. Thomas/St. John), only commercial data are available, therefore, ACLs would be established for the St. Croix and St. Thomas/St. John management areas based on commercial landings data only. Commercial data used to monitor those ACLs would be derived from trip ticket reports collected from territorial governments and recreational data used to monitor the Puerto Rico recreational ACLs would be derived from the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey, or its successor, the Marine Recreational Information Program. U.S. Caribbean landings data generally do not provide useful information at the species level for the species addressed in the 2011 Caribbean ACL Amendment. Aggregate ACLs would be established at the complex level for species in each island management area. The allowable biological catch (ABC) proposed for these units or complexes are derived from the OFL (MSY proxy)(or SSC-recommended OFL). In most cases, the ABC is equal to the OFL, and then reduced by 10 percent to specify ACL and OY to buffer for scientific and management uncertainty, reducing the probability that overfishing will occur. The surgeonfish and angelfish ABCs are reduced by 25 percent to specify ACL and OY to further reduce the impacts of surgeonfish and angelfish harvest on Acropora species in U.S. Caribbean waters. The aquarium trade species ABC is reduced by 25 percent due to the level of uncertainty about the fishery in the EEZ and most of the harvest occurs in territorial waters. If implemented, the accountability measures in this rule are designed to prevent fishermen from exceeding the ACLs. Two components are considered, the first identifies the conditions under which AMs would be triggered and the second describes the action(s) that would occur if AMs are triggered. This VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:16 Nov 04, 2011 Jkt 226001 rule would trigger AMs if an ACL has been exceeded based on a moving multiyear average of landings as described in the FMP. Both commercial and recreational landings of a species, unit, or complex vary substantially from year to year; applying a multi-year average is intended to dampen that variability. The rule would reduce the length of the fishing season for the affected species, unit or complex the year following the year it is determined that the ACL was exceeded by the amount needed to prevent such an overage from occurring again. The AM is triggered unless NMFS’ SEFSC, in consultation with the Council and its SSC, determines the overage occurred because data collection and monitoring improved rather than because catches actually increased. General Management Measures This rule would establish an aggregate bag limit for the recreational harvest of angelfishes, boxfishes, goatfishes, grunts, wrasses, jacks, scups and porgies, squirrelfishes, surgeonfishes, triggerfishes and filefishes, and tilefishes. The daily recreational bag limit for the described reef fish species would be five fish per person per day, with no more than one surgeonfish per person per day allowed within the aggregate. This rule would also establish a vessel limit of 15 fish per vessel per day, including no more than 4 surgeonfish per vessel per day. The rule would also set a bag limit of 3 spiny lobster per person per day with a vessel limit of 10 spiny lobster per vessel per day. Framework Measures This rule proposes framework measures for both the Spiny Lobster and the Coral and Reef Associated Plants and Invertebrates FMPs. Management measures proposed to be adjusted through framework procedures include but are not limited to quotas, closures, trip limits, bag limits, size limits, gear restrictions, fishing years, and reference points. The purpose of these framework measures is to allow the Council to more expeditiously adjust management in response to changing fishery conditions. Classification Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this rule is consistent with Caribbean 2011 ACL Amendment, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, subject to further consideration after public comment. PO 00000 Frm 00054 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 68713 This rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. However, ACLs are a controversial issue in the U.S. Caribbean, which is a region with populations characterized by large percents of racial/ethnic minorities, high poverty rates, and low median household incomes. Moreover, commercial fishermen of St. Croix and St. Thomas/St. John would experience a substantially disproportionate adverse economic impact relative to their counterparts in Puerto Rico. NMFS prepared an IRFA, as required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, for this rule. The IRFA describes the economic impact that this 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 rule, which consists of several actions, would: Establish recreational bag limits for spiny lobster and specified reef fish species; specify ACLs and AMs for Caribbean spiny lobster, reef fish, and aquarium trade species not determined to be undergoing overfishing; and establish framework measures to facilitate regulatory modifications. The Magnuson Stevens Act provides the statutory basis for the rule. No duplicative, overlapping, or conflicting Federal rules have been identified; however, Federal regulations that impose seasonal or year-round prohibitions on fishing in Federal waters of the U.S. Caribbean that may affect fishing for these Units are identified in the IRFA. The rule would not alter existing reporting or recordkeeping requirements. The rule would establish recreational bag limits for Caribbean spiny lobster and reef fish and provide NMFS the authority to restrict harvest in areas of the EEZ where annual or average annual landings of a stock, complex or unit exceed the relevant ACL. This rule is expected to directly affect businesses that harvest spiny lobster, reef fish, and aquarium trade species from Federal waters off Puerto Rico and the USVI. These businesses are in the finfish fishing (NAICS 114111), shellfish fishing (NAICS 114112) and charter fishing industries (NAICS 487210). A business 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 E:\FR\FM\07NOP1.SGM 07NOP1 srobinson on DSK4SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS 68714 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 215 / Monday, November 7, 2011 / Proposed Rules has combined annual receipts or number of employees not in excess of the Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) size standards. The finfish and shellfish fishing industries have an SBA size standard of $4.0 million in annual receipts, and the charter fishing industry’s size standard is $7.0 million in annual receipts. The IRFA assumes all commercial (finfish and shellfish) and charter fishing businesses that operate in the U.S. Caribbean have annual receipts less than these size standards and are small businesses. In 2008, there were from 868 to 874 active commercial fishermen in Puerto Rico; 74 percent of these fishermen were captains and the remaining 26 percent were crew members. The IRFA assumes each captain represents a small business in the finfish fishing and shellfish fishing industries and each member of the crew an employee of one of those businesses. Therefore, it is concluded that there are 642 to 644 small businesses in the finfish fishing and shellfish fishing industries in Puerto Rico and potentially all of these businesses could be directly affected by the rule. In 2008, there were 223 licensed commercial fishermen in St. Croix and 160 in St.Thomas/St. John. There is a moratorium on the number of U.S. Virgin Islands commercial fishing licenses, so the IRFA assumes the 223 commercial fishermen in St. Croix and 160 commercial fishermen in St. Thomas/St. John represent 383 small businesses in the finfish fishing and shellfish fishing industries in the U.S. Virgin Islands who could be directly affected by the rule. There are an estimated 9 small businesses in the charter fishing industry in Puerto Rico, 12 such businesses in St. Thomas/St. John and 1 in St. Croix. The rule would apply to all of these small businesses. The rule would apply to all small businesses in Puerto Rico, St. Croix and St. Thomas/St. John within the finfish fishing, shellfish fishing, and charter fishing industries. Therefore, the rule applies to a substantial number of small entities in the U.S. Caribbean in these industries. Charter fishing operations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands target pelagic species and tend not to target spiny lobster or reef fish species in Federal waters. Consequently, it is expected that small businesses in the charter fishing industry in Puerto Rico, St. Croix or St. Thomas/St. John would experience little to no adverse economic impact because of the rule. A comparison of the proposed Puerto Rico commercial ACLs for aquarium trade species, angelfish, boxfish, VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:46 Nov 04, 2011 Jkt 226001 goatfish, grunts, jacks, scups and porgies, spiny lobster, surgeonfish, tilefish, squirrelfish and triggerfish/ filefish, to average annual commercial landings from 2006 to 2007 suggests the proposed commercial ACLs for these complexes would not require reductions in the lengths of the Federal commercial fishing seasons for these complexes in the Puerto Rico EEZ. Therefore, there would be no adverse economic impact on small businesses in Puerto Rico that harvest these species. The proposed Puerto Rico commercial hogfish/wrasses ACL is less than the average of annual landings of hogfish/ wrasses from 2006 to 2009, which suggests there would be an overage of hogfish/wrasses landings in 2011, assuming the ACL is implemented by early 2012, that would require a shortened Federal fishing season in the Puerto Rico EEZ in 2012 by approximately 7 days and similarly thereafter. Puerto Rico’s commercial fishermen could mitigate for the potentially shortened hogfish/wrasses fishing season in the Puerto Rico EEZ by targeting other species during the time that the Federal hogfish/wrasses fishing season is closed or they could move into territorial waters to harvest hogfish/ wrasses species during the time the Federal season is closed. Approximately 95 percent of fishable area off Puerto Rico is in territorial waters. It is expected that small businesses would mitigate for the potential loss of 1,076 lb (488 kg) of hogfish/wrasses by relocating into territorial waters during the approximately 7 days the hogfish/ wrasses fishing season is closed in the Puerto Rico EEZ with little to no displacement costs. This rule is expected to have a substantially greater adverse economic impact on small businesses in the finfish fishing and shellfish fishing industries in St. Croix and St. Thomas/ St. John than in Puerto Pico. St. Croix small businesses would incur annual losses of landings of up to 24.3 percent of their average annual landings of all species that are the subject of this action. St. Thomas/St. John small businesses would incur annual losses of landings of up to 12.6 percent of their average annual landings of all species that are the subject of this action. Assuming ACLs are implemented early in 2012, St. Croix commercial fisherman are expected to lose 21 day of boxfish, 68 days of grunts, 253 days of hogfish/ wrasses, 54 days of scups and porgies, 112 days of spiny lobster, 242 days of squirrelfish, 101 days of surgeonfish, and 50 days of triggerfish fishing in the EEZ in 2012, and thereafter. Additionally, assuming the ACLs are PO 00000 Frm 00055 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 implemented in 2012 and there are shortened commercial seasons beginning in 2012, St. Thomas/St. John commercial fisherman would lose 93.5 days of angelfish, 90.8 days of boxfish, 20 days of grunts, 193 days of hogfish/ wrasses, 56 days of jacks, 25 days of scups and porgies, 52 days of spiny lobster, 84 days of surgeonfish, and 5.5 days of triggerfish fishing in the EEZ in 2012, and thereafter. The percent of fishable area in the U.S. Virgin Islands’ territorial waters is significantly less than the percent of fishable area in Puerto Rico’s territorial waters. Thirty-eight percent of fishable area off the U.S. Virgin Islands lies within the U.S. Caribbean EEZ, and a larger share of landings in St. Croix and St. Thomas/St. John derive from fishing in the EEZ than in Puerto Rico. Hence, it is more difficult for U.S. Virgin Islands fishermen to substitute fishing in territorial waters for fishing in Federal waters. Among the considered but rejected significant alternatives for the action to establish the triggering mechanism for AMs were two alternatives which would use a single year’s landings to trigger the AMs. Also considered but rejected were alternatives that would use a single year’s landings in 2011 and then use a 2-year annual average starting in 2012 and continuing thereafter to trigger the AMs. The preferred alternative would use a 3-year average starting in 2013 and continuing thereafter. The adverse economic impact of the preferred alternative is less than the adverse economic impacts of the rejected alternatives. This adverse economic impact is less because a 3-year average allows for yearly or 2-year averages to exceed the ACL without triggering a shortened fishing season when the 3year average may be equal to or less than the ACL. An alternative that would include an ACL overage payback as part of the action applying an AM when an ACL is exceeded was considered but rejected because it would require a larger reduction in the Federal fishing season, and thus a larger adverse economic impact, than the preferred alternative to not implement an ACL overage payback. The Council’s preferred alternative for Action 1(b) setting the ABC for reef fish sets the ABC equal to the OFL. This alternative would have a smaller indirect adverse economic impact than considered but rejected alternatives that would set lower ABCs, and in turn establish lower ACLs. The preferred alternatives 2(p) (setting ACLs for all reef fish FMUs, except for angelfish and surgeonfish) and 2(n)(setting ACLs for angelfish and surgeonfish), would have E:\FR\FM\07NOP1.SGM 07NOP1 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 215 / Monday, November 7, 2011 / Proposed Rules smaller indirect adverse economic impact than the considered but rejected alternatives that would establish lower ABCs and ACLs. The preferred alternative for Action 2(b) that sets ABC equal to OFL for spiny lobster (alternative 2(g)) would have a smaller indirect adverse economic impact than considered but rejected alternatives that would set lower ABCs, which in turn could lead to lower ACLs. Preferred alternative 2(o) would have a smaller indirect adverse economic impact than the considered but rejected alternatives that would establish lower ACLs. The preferred alternative for Action 3(b) that sets the ABC equal to the OFL for aquarium trade species (alternative 2(e)) would have a smaller adverse economic impact than considered but rejected alternatives that would establish lower ABCs and likely lower ACLs. Preferred alternative 2(k) that would set the ACL would have a smaller indirect adverse economic impact than the considered but rejected alternative that would establish a lower ACL. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622 Fisheries, Fishing, Puerto Rico, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Virgin Islands. Dated: November 2, 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, as proposed to be amended at 76 FR 66675, October 27, 2011, is proposed to be further 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. Bag and possession limits. srobinson on DSK4SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS * * * * * (g) * * * (2) Bag limits. (i) Groupers, snappers, and parrotfishes combined—5 per person per day or, if 3 or more persons are aboard, 15 per vessel per day; but not to exceed 2 parrotfish per person per day or 6 parrotfish per vessel per day. (ii) Other reef fish species combined— 5 per person per day or, if 3 or more persons are aboard, 15 per vessel per day, but not to exceed 1 surgeonfish per VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:46 Nov 04, 2011 Jkt 226001 § 622.48 Adjustment of management measures. * * * * * (n) Caribbean spiny lobster. Fishery management unit (FMU), quotas, trip limits, bag limits, size limits, closed seasons or areas, gear restrictions, fishing years, MSY, OY, TAC, maximum fishing mortality threshold (MFMT), minimum stock size threshold (MSST), overfishing limit (OFL), acceptable biological catch (ABC) control rules, ACLs, AMs, ACTs, and actions to minimize the interaction of fishing gear with endangered species or marine mammals. (o) Caribbean corals and reef associated plants and invertebrates. Fishery management units (FMUs), quotas, trip limits, bag limits, size limits, closed seasons or areas, gear restrictions, fishing years, MSY, OY, TAC, MFMT, MSST, OFL, ABC control rules, ACLs, AMs, ACTs, and actions to minimize the interaction of fishing gear with endangered species or marine mammals. 4. In § 622.49, introductory paragraph (c) is revised and paragraphs (c)(1)(i)(H) through (R), (c)(1)(ii)(H) through (Q), (c)(2)(i)(E) through (O), (c)(3)(i)(E) through (O), and (c)(4) are added to read as follows: § 622.49 Annual catch limits (ACLs) and accountability measures (AMs). * 2. In § 622.39, paragraph (g)(2) is revised and paragraph (h) is added to read as follows: § 622.39 person per day or 4 surgeonfish per vessel per day. (h) Caribbean spiny lobster—(1) Applicability. Paragraph (a)(1) of this section notwithstanding, the bag limit of paragraph (h)(2) of this section does not apply to a fisherman who has a valid commercial fishing license issued by Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands. (2) Bag limit. The bag limit for spiny lobster in or from the Caribbean EEZ is 3 per person per day, not to exceed 10 per vessel per day, whichever is less. 3. In § 622.48, paragraphs (n) and (o) are added to read as follows: * * * * (c) Caribbean island management areas/Caribbean EEZ. If landings from a Caribbean island management area, as specified in Appendix E to part 622, except for landings of queen conch (see § 622.33(d)), or landings from the Caribbean EEZ for tilefish and aquarium trade species, are estimated by the SRD to have exceeded the applicable ACL, as specified in paragraph (c)(1) for Puerto Rico management area species or species groups, paragraph (c)(2) for St. Croix management area species or species groups, paragraph (c)(3) for St. Thomas/St. John management area species or species groups, or paragraph PO 00000 Frm 00056 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 68715 (c)(4) for the Caribbean EEZ, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register, at or near the beginning of the following fishing year, to reduce the length of the fishing season for the applicable species or species groups that year by the amount necessary to ensure landings do not exceed the applicable ACL. If NMFS determines the ACL for a particular species or species group was exceeded because of enhanced data collection and monitoring efforts instead of an increase in total catch of the species or species group, NMFS will not reduce the length of the fishing season for the applicable species or species group the following fishing year. Landings will be evaluated relative to the applicable ACL based on a moving multi-year average of landings, as described in the FMP. With the exceptions of Caribbean queen conch in Puerto Rico and St. Thomas/St. John management areas, goliath grouper, Nassau grouper, midnight parrotfish, blue parrotfish, and rainbow parrotfish, ACLs are based on the combined Caribbean EEZ and territorial landings for each management area. The ACLs specified in paragraphs (c)(1), (c)(2), (c)(3), and (c)(4) of this section are given in round weight. (See § 622.32 for limitations on taking prohibited and limited harvest species. The limitations in § 622.32 apply without regard to whether the species is harvested by a vessel operating under a valid commercial fishing license issued by Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands or by a person subject to the bag limits.) (1) * * * (i) * * * (H) Angelfish—8,984 lb (4,075 kg). (I) Boxfish—86,115 lb (39,061 kg). (J) Goatfishes—17,565 lb (7,967 kg). (K) Grunts—182,396 lb (82,733 kg). (L) Wrasses—54,147 lb (24,561 kg). (M) Jacks—86,059 lb (39,036 kg). (N) Scups and porgies, combined— 24,739 lb (11,221 kg). (O) Squirrelfish—16,663 lb (7,558 kg). (P) Surgeonfish—7,179 lb (3,256 kg). (Q) Triggerfish and filefish, combined—58,475 lb (26,524 kg). (R) Spiny lobster—327,920 lb (148,742 kg). (ii) * * * (H) Angelfish—4,492 lb (2,038 kg). (I) Boxfish—4,616 lb (2,094 kg). (J) Goatfishes—362 lb (164 kg). (K) Grunts—5,028 lb (2,281 kg). (L) Wrasses—5,050 lb (2,291 kg). (M) Jacks—51,001 lb (23,134 kg). (N) Scups and porgies, combined— 2,577 lb (1,169 kg). (O) Squirrelfish—3,891 lb (1,765 kg). (P) Surgeonfish—3,590 lb (1,628 kg). (Q) Triggerfish and filefish, combined—21,929 lb (9,947 kg). E:\FR\FM\07NOP1.SGM 07NOP1 68716 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 215 / Monday, November 7, 2011 / Proposed Rules srobinson on DSK4SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS (2) * * * (i) * * * (E) Angelfish—305 lb (138 kg). (F) Boxfish—8,433 lb (3,825 kg). (G) Goatfishes—3,766 lb (1,708 kg). (H) Grunts—36,881 lb (16,729 kg). (I) Wrasses—7 lb (3 kg). (J) Jacks—15,489 lb (7,076 kg). (K) Scups and porgies, combined— 4,638 lb (2,104 kg). (L) Squirrelfish—121 lb (55 kg). (M) Surgeonfish—33,603 lb (15,242 kg). (N) Triggerfish and filefish, combined—24,980 lb (11,331 kg). (O) Spiny lobster—107,307 lb (48,674 kg). (3) * * * (i) * * * VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:46 Nov 04, 2011 Jkt 226001 (E) Angelfish—7,897 lb (3,582 kg). (F) Boxfish—27,880 lb (12,646 kg). (G) Goatfishes—320 lb (145 kg). (H) Grunts—37,617 lb (17,063 kg). (I) Wrasses—585 lb (265 kg). (J) Jacks—52,907 lb (23,998 kg). (K) Scups and porgies, combined— 21,819 lb (9,897 kg). (L) Squirrelfish—4,241 lb (1,924 kg). (M) Surgeonfish—29,249 lb (13,267 kg). (N) Triggerfish and filefish, combined—74,447 lb (33,769 kg). (O) Spiny lobster—104,199 lb (47,264 kg). (4) Caribbean EEZ. (i) ACLs. The following ACLs apply to landings of species or species groups throughout the Caribbean EEZ. PO 00000 Frm 00057 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 (A) Tilefish—14,642 lb (6,641 kg). (B) Aquarium trade species—8,155 lb (3,699 kg). (ii) [Reserved] 5. Table 5 of Appendix A to part 622 is revised to read as follows: Appendix A to Part 622—Species Tables * * * * * Table 5 of Appendix A to Part 622— Caribbean Conch Resources Queen conch, Strombus gigas. [FR Doc. 2011–28761 Filed 11–4–11; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\07NOP1.SGM 07NOP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 215 (Monday, November 7, 2011)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 68711-68716]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-28761]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

[Docket No. 101217620-1654-02]
RIN 0648-BA62


Amendments to the Reef Fish, Spiny Lobster, Queen Conch and Coral 
and Reef Associated Plants and Invertebrates Fishery Management Plans 
of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands

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 Amendment 6 to the 
Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for the Reef Fish Fishery of Puerto Rico 
and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Amendment 5 to the FMP for the Spiny 
Lobster Fishery of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Amendment 3 
to the FMP for the Queen Conch Resources of Puerto Rico and the U.S. 
Virgin Islands, and Amendment 3 to the FMP for Corals and Reef 
Associated Plants and Invertebrates of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin 
Islands (2011 Caribbean ACL Amendment) prepared by the Caribbean 
Fishery Management Council (Council). This proposed rule would: 
Establish annual catch limits (ACLs) and accountability measures (AMs) 
for reef fish, spiny lobster, and aquarium trade species which are not 
determined to be undergoing overfishing; allocate ACLs among island 
management areas and, in Puerto Rico only, among commercial and 
recreational sectors; establish recreational bag limits for reef fish 
and spiny lobster; remove eight conch species from the queen conch FMP; 
and establish framework procedures for the spiny lobster and Caribbean 
corals and reef associated plants and invertebrates FMPs. The 2011 
Caribbean ACL Amendment would also revise management reference points 
and status determination criteria for selected reef fish, spiny 
lobster, and aquarium trade species. The intended effect of the rule is 
to prevent overfishing of reef fish, spiny lobster, and aquarium trade 
species while maintaining catch levels consistent with achieving 
optimum yield (OY).

DATES: Written comments must be received on or before November 22, 
2011.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the proposed rule identified by 
``NOAA-NMFS-2011-0017'', by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
     Mail: Miguel Lugo or Maria Lopez, 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-2011-0017'' in the keyword search and click on ``search.'' 
To view posted comments during the comment period, enter ``NOAA-NMFS-
2011-0017'' in the keyword search and click on ``search''. NMFS will 
accept anonymous comments (enter N/A in the required fields if you wish 
to remain anonymous). You may submit attachments to electronic comments 
in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only.
    Comments received through means not specified in this rule will not 
be considered.
    Electronic copies of the 2011 Caribbean ACL Amendment, which 
includes an environmental impact statement (EIS), an initial regulatory 
flexibility analysis (IRFA), a regulatory impact review, and a fishery 
impact statement may be obtained from the Southeast Regional Office Web 
site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sf/pdfs/2011_ACL_Amendment_FEIS_102511.pdf.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Miguel Lugo or Maria Lopez, Southeast 
Regional Office, NMFS, telephone: (727) 824-5305, or email: 
Miguel.Lugo@noaa.gov or Maria.Lopez@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: In the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the 
U.S. Caribbean, the reef fish fishery is managed under the Fishery 
Management Plan (FMP) for the Reef Fish Fishery of Puerto Rico and the 
U.S. Virgin Islands, spiny lobster is managed under the FMP for the 
Spiny Lobster Fishery of Puerto Rico and the U.S.

[[Page 68712]]

Virgin Islands, conch is managed under the FMP for the Queen Conch 
Resources of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and aquarium 
trade species fisheries are managed under the FMP for Reef Fish and the 
FMP for Coral and Reef Associated Plants and Invertebrates of Puerto 
Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. These FMPs were prepared by the 
Council and are 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 2006 reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act requires that 
for the fisheries determined by the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) 
to be not subject to overfishing, ACLs and AMs must be established in 
2011 at a level that prevents overfishing and helps to achieve OY. 
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.
    NMFS' 2011 Report on the Status of U.S. Fisheries classifies 
Caribbean spiny lobster, angelfishes, boxfishes, goatfishes, grunts, 
wrasses, jacks, scups and porgies, squirrelfishes, surgeonfishes, 
triggerfishes and filefishes, tilefishes, and aquarium trade species as 
unknown with respect to their status regarding overfishing. The eight 
species of conch proposed to be removed from the Queen Conch FMP are 
currently in the FMP as data collection only species and were not 
assessed through this report.

Provisions Contained in This Proposed Rule

Revise Management Reference Points

    The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires that FMPs specify a number of 
reference points for managed fish stocks, including maximum sustainable 
yield (MSY), OY, and stock status determination criteria that can be 
used to determine when a fishery is overfished and/or undergoing 
overfishing. These reference points are intended to provide the means 
to measure the status and performance of fisheries relative to 
established goals. Proxies have been established for these reference 
points because available data in the U.S. Caribbean are not sufficient 
to support direct estimation of these parameters. The FMP Amendments 
would revise three of those proxies. First, they would use either the 
median or average of landings data for a determined year sequence as a 
proxy for MSY for all units or complexes. The time period during which 
average catch is calculated for those species is 1988-2009 for the 
commercial sector of Puerto Rico, 2000-2009 for the recreational sector 
of Puerto Rico, 1999-2008 for the commercial sector St. Croix, and 
2000-2008 for the commercial sector of St. Thomas/St. John. These year 
sequences represent the longest year sequence of reliable landings data 
that the Council considers to be consistently reliable across the 
islands of the U.S. Caribbean. The MSY proxy for these species in 
Puerto Rico would be set by the median of the annual landings in the 
year sequence above. For St. Croix and St. Thomas/St. John, the MSY 
equals the average of annual landings for the year sequence described 
above. The MSY for surgeonfish and angelfish was defined as three times 
the single year maximum of recreational landings for Puerto Rico. The 
FMP amendments would also define the overfishing threshold of all 
species as the overfishing limit (OFL), which would equal the MSY 
proxy. For the majority of species units or complexes, OY would equal 
the MSY proxy multiplied by a reduction factor to account for any 
uncertainty in the scientific and management process. The reduction 
factor would be 10 percent for all species, except a 25 percent 
reduction would be applied for surgeonfish, angelfish and aquarium 
trade species to account for greater uncertainty for those species.

Removal of Stocks From the Queen Conch FMP

    Currently, the conch complex within the Queen Conch FMP is composed 
of nine species. This rule would remove eight conch species from that 
FMP. These species are milk conch (Strombus costatus), West Indian 
fighting conch (Strombus pugilis), roostertail conch (Strombus gallus), 
hawkwing conch (Strombus raninus), true tulip (Fasciolaria tulipa), 
Atlantic triton's trumpet (Charonia variegata), cameo helmet (Cassis 
madagascarensis), and green star shell (Astrea tuber). After 
implementation of this rule, only the queen conch (Strombus gigas), 
would remain as a managed species in the conch FMP. The eight species 
of conch proposed to be removed from the Queen Conch FMP are currently 
in the FMP as data collection only species and were not assessed in the 
NMFS 2011 Report on the Status of U.S. Fisheries. These species were 
classified as data collection only species because the Council 
determined there was not enough information available to specify 
biological reference points and/or management measures for that species 
(50 CFR 600.320(d)(2)). Under the new National Standard 1 Guidelines, 
the Council was required to either remove these species from the FMP, 
re-classify them as Ecosystem Component Species, or specify status 
determination criteria for them (50 CFR 600.310(d)). These eight 
species are not generally targeted for harvest. No landings data are 
available for these species and the Council believes that any landings 
are minimal. Accordingly, the Council determined that there was no need 
for Federal conservation and management of these species, and decided 
to remove them from the FMP.

Island Specific Management

    This rule would also implement island-specific management to enable 
application of AMs in response to harvesting activities on a single 
island (Puerto Rico, St. Croix) or island group (St. Thomas/St. John) 
without necessarily affecting fishing activities on the other islands 
or island groups. For example, if the ACL for the jacks complex is 
divided among Puerto Rico, St. Croix and St. Thomas/St. John and the 
St. Croix fishery exceeds its ACL for jacks, then an AM can be applied 
in the Federal waters surrounding St. Croix without necessarily 
affecting harvest of jacks in Federal waters surrounding Puerto Rico or 
St. Thomas/St. John. This rule proposes geographic boundaries between 
islands/island groups based upon an equidistant approach that uses a 
mid-point to divide the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) among islands. 
The three island management areas are: Puerto Rico, St. Croix, and St. 
Thomas/St. John.

Establish Annual Catch Limits and Accountability Measures

    This proposed rule would establish ACLs and AMs for angelfish, 
boxfish, goatfishes, grunts, wrasses, jacks, scups and porgies, 
squirrelfishes, surgeonfish, triggerfish and filefish, tilefish, spiny 
lobster, and aquarium trade species units or complexes in the Caribbean 
Reef Fish, Spiny Lobster, and Coral and Reef Associated Plants and 
Invertebrates FMPs. The harvest of Caribbean prohibited coral that are 
contained within the FMP for Coral and Reef Associated Plant and 
Invertebrates, and that are not described as aquarium trade species, is 
prohibited by Federal regulations. Therefore, a functional ACL of zero 
will be considered for these prohibited species. Additionally, the 
harvest prohibition serves as a functional AM to manage the ACL.

[[Page 68713]]

    Each ACL would be sub-divided among the three islands/island groups 
except that the ACL for tilefish and aquarium trade species would be 
applicable for the entire Caribbean EEZ. Landings data records do not 
exist for tilefish and aquarium trade species in the U.S. Virgin 
Islands. For this reason, a Caribbean-wide ACL would be established for 
tilefish and aquarium trade species based on the Puerto Rico median 
landings for these species. Separate commercial and recreational sector 
ACLs would be established for the Puerto Rico management area where 
landings data are available for both sectors. For the other island 
management areas (St. Croix and St. Thomas/St. John), only commercial 
data are available, therefore, ACLs would be established for the St. 
Croix and St. Thomas/St. John management areas based on commercial 
landings data only. Commercial data used to monitor those ACLs would be 
derived from trip ticket reports collected from territorial governments 
and recreational data used to monitor the Puerto Rico recreational ACLs 
would be derived from the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics 
Survey, or its successor, the Marine Recreational Information Program.
    U.S. Caribbean landings data generally do not provide useful 
information at the species level for the species addressed in the 2011 
Caribbean ACL Amendment. Aggregate ACLs would be established at the 
complex level for species in each island management area.
    The allowable biological catch (ABC) proposed for these units or 
complexes are derived from the OFL (MSY proxy)(or SSC-recommended OFL). 
In most cases, the ABC is equal to the OFL, and then reduced by 10 
percent to specify ACL and OY to buffer for scientific and management 
uncertainty, reducing the probability that overfishing will occur. The 
surgeonfish and angelfish ABCs are reduced by 25 percent to specify ACL 
and OY to further reduce the impacts of surgeonfish and angelfish 
harvest on Acropora species in U.S. Caribbean waters. The aquarium 
trade species ABC is reduced by 25 percent due to the level of 
uncertainty about the fishery in the EEZ and most of the harvest occurs 
in territorial waters.
    If implemented, the accountability measures in this rule are 
designed to prevent fishermen from exceeding the ACLs. Two components 
are considered, the first identifies the conditions under which AMs 
would be triggered and the second describes the action(s) that would 
occur if AMs are triggered. This rule would trigger AMs if an ACL has 
been exceeded based on a moving multi-year average of landings as 
described in the FMP. Both commercial and recreational landings of a 
species, unit, or complex vary substantially from year to year; 
applying a multi-year average is intended to dampen that variability. 
The rule would reduce the length of the fishing season for the affected 
species, unit or complex the year following the year it is determined 
that the ACL was exceeded by the amount needed to prevent such an 
overage from occurring again. The AM is triggered unless NMFS' SEFSC, 
in consultation with the Council and its SSC, determines the overage 
occurred because data collection and monitoring improved rather than 
because catches actually increased.

General Management Measures

    This rule would establish an aggregate bag limit for the 
recreational harvest of angelfishes, boxfishes, goatfishes, grunts, 
wrasses, jacks, scups and porgies, squirrelfishes, surgeonfishes, 
triggerfishes and filefishes, and tilefishes. The daily recreational 
bag limit for the described reef fish species would be five fish per 
person per day, with no more than one surgeonfish per person per day 
allowed within the aggregate. This rule would also establish a vessel 
limit of 15 fish per vessel per day, including no more than 4 
surgeonfish per vessel per day. The rule would also set a bag limit of 
3 spiny lobster per person per day with a vessel limit of 10 spiny 
lobster per vessel per day.

Framework Measures

    This rule proposes framework measures for both the Spiny Lobster 
and the Coral and Reef Associated Plants and Invertebrates FMPs. 
Management measures proposed to be adjusted through framework 
procedures include but are not limited to quotas, closures, trip 
limits, bag limits, size limits, gear restrictions, fishing years, and 
reference points. The purpose of these framework measures is to allow 
the Council to more expeditiously adjust management in response to 
changing fishery conditions.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this rule is 
consistent with Caribbean 2011 ACL Amendment, other provisions of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, subject to further 
consideration after public comment.
    This rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of 
Executive Order 12866. However, ACLs are a controversial issue in the 
U.S. Caribbean, which is a region with populations characterized by 
large percents of racial/ethnic minorities, high poverty rates, and low 
median household incomes. Moreover, commercial fishermen of St. Croix 
and St. Thomas/St. John would experience a substantially 
disproportionate adverse economic impact relative to their counterparts 
in Puerto Rico.
    NMFS prepared an IRFA, as required by section 603 of the Regulatory 
Flexibility Act, for this rule. The IRFA describes the economic impact 
that this 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 rule, which consists of several actions, would: Establish 
recreational bag limits for spiny lobster and specified reef fish 
species; specify ACLs and AMs for Caribbean spiny lobster, reef fish, 
and aquarium trade species not determined to be undergoing overfishing; 
and establish framework measures to facilitate regulatory 
modifications.
    The Magnuson Stevens Act provides the statutory basis for the rule.
    No duplicative, overlapping, or conflicting Federal rules have been 
identified; however, Federal regulations that impose seasonal or year-
round prohibitions on fishing in Federal waters of the U.S. Caribbean 
that may affect fishing for these Units are identified in the IRFA. The 
rule would not alter existing reporting or record-keeping requirements. 
The rule would establish recreational bag limits for Caribbean spiny 
lobster and reef fish and provide NMFS the authority to restrict 
harvest in areas of the EEZ where annual or average annual landings of 
a stock, complex or unit exceed the relevant ACL.
    This rule is expected to directly affect businesses that harvest 
spiny lobster, reef fish, and aquarium trade species from Federal 
waters off Puerto Rico and the USVI. These businesses are in the 
finfish fishing (NAICS 114111), shellfish fishing (NAICS 114112) and 
charter fishing industries (NAICS 487210). A business 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

[[Page 68714]]

has combined annual receipts or number of employees not in excess of 
the Small Business Administration's (SBA's) size standards. The finfish 
and shellfish fishing industries have an SBA size standard of $4.0 
million in annual receipts, and the charter fishing industry's size 
standard is $7.0 million in annual receipts. The IRFA assumes all 
commercial (finfish and shellfish) and charter fishing businesses that 
operate in the U.S. Caribbean have annual receipts less than these size 
standards and are small businesses.
    In 2008, there were from 868 to 874 active commercial fishermen in 
Puerto Rico; 74 percent of these fishermen were captains and the 
remaining 26 percent were crew members. The IRFA assumes each captain 
represents a small business in the finfish fishing and shellfish 
fishing industries and each member of the crew an employee of one of 
those businesses. Therefore, it is concluded that there are 642 to 644 
small businesses in the finfish fishing and shellfish fishing 
industries in Puerto Rico and potentially all of these businesses could 
be directly affected by the rule. In 2008, there were 223 licensed 
commercial fishermen in St. Croix and 160 in St.Thomas/St. John. There 
is a moratorium on the number of U.S. Virgin Islands commercial fishing 
licenses, so the IRFA assumes the 223 commercial fishermen in St. Croix 
and 160 commercial fishermen in St. Thomas/St. John represent 383 small 
businesses in the finfish fishing and shellfish fishing industries in 
the U.S. Virgin Islands who could be directly affected by the rule.
    There are an estimated 9 small businesses in the charter fishing 
industry in Puerto Rico, 12 such businesses in St. Thomas/St. John and 
1 in St. Croix. The rule would apply to all of these small businesses.
    The rule would apply to all small businesses in Puerto Rico, St. 
Croix and St. Thomas/St. John within the finfish fishing, shellfish 
fishing, and charter fishing industries. Therefore, the rule applies to 
a substantial number of small entities in the U.S. Caribbean in these 
industries.
    Charter fishing operations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin 
Islands target pelagic species and tend not to target spiny lobster or 
reef fish species in Federal waters. Consequently, it is expected that 
small businesses in the charter fishing industry in Puerto Rico, St. 
Croix or St. Thomas/St. John would experience little to no adverse 
economic impact because of the rule.
    A comparison of the proposed Puerto Rico commercial ACLs for 
aquarium trade species, angelfish, boxfish, goatfish, grunts, jacks, 
scups and porgies, spiny lobster, surgeonfish, tilefish, squirrelfish 
and triggerfish/filefish, to average annual commercial landings from 
2006 to 2007 suggests the proposed commercial ACLs for these complexes 
would not require reductions in the lengths of the Federal commercial 
fishing seasons for these complexes in the Puerto Rico EEZ. Therefore, 
there would be no adverse economic impact on small businesses in Puerto 
Rico that harvest these species.
    The proposed Puerto Rico commercial hogfish/wrasses ACL is less 
than the average of annual landings of hogfish/wrasses from 2006 to 
2009, which suggests there would be an overage of hogfish/wrasses 
landings in 2011, assuming the ACL is implemented by early 2012, that 
would require a shortened Federal fishing season in the Puerto Rico EEZ 
in 2012 by approximately 7 days and similarly thereafter. Puerto Rico's 
commercial fishermen could mitigate for the potentially shortened 
hogfish/wrasses fishing season in the Puerto Rico EEZ by targeting 
other species during the time that the Federal hogfish/wrasses fishing 
season is closed or they could move into territorial waters to harvest 
hogfish/wrasses species during the time the Federal season is closed. 
Approximately 95 percent of fishable area off Puerto Rico is in 
territorial waters. It is expected that small businesses would mitigate 
for the potential loss of 1,076 lb (488 kg) of hogfish/wrasses by 
relocating into territorial waters during the approximately 7 days the 
hogfish/wrasses fishing season is closed in the Puerto Rico EEZ with 
little to no displacement costs.
    This rule is expected to have a substantially greater adverse 
economic impact on small businesses in the finfish fishing and 
shellfish fishing industries in St. Croix and St. Thomas/St. John than 
in Puerto Pico. St. Croix small businesses would incur annual losses of 
landings of up to 24.3 percent of their average annual landings of all 
species that are the subject of this action. St. Thomas/St. John small 
businesses would incur annual losses of landings of up to 12.6 percent 
of their average annual landings of all species that are the subject of 
this action. Assuming ACLs are implemented early in 2012, St. Croix 
commercial fisherman are expected to lose 21 day of boxfish, 68 days of 
grunts, 253 days of hogfish/wrasses, 54 days of scups and porgies, 112 
days of spiny lobster, 242 days of squirrelfish, 101 days of 
surgeonfish, and 50 days of triggerfish fishing in the EEZ in 2012, and 
thereafter. Additionally, assuming the ACLs are implemented in 2012 and 
there are shortened commercial seasons beginning in 2012, St. Thomas/
St. John commercial fisherman would lose 93.5 days of angelfish, 90.8 
days of boxfish, 20 days of grunts, 193 days of hogfish/wrasses, 56 
days of jacks, 25 days of scups and porgies, 52 days of spiny lobster, 
84 days of surgeonfish, and 5.5 days of triggerfish fishing in the EEZ 
in 2012, and thereafter.
    The percent of fishable area in the U.S. Virgin Islands' 
territorial waters is significantly less than the percent of fishable 
area in Puerto Rico's territorial waters. Thirty-eight percent of 
fishable area off the U.S. Virgin Islands lies within the U.S. 
Caribbean EEZ, and a larger share of landings in St. Croix and St. 
Thomas/St. John derive from fishing in the EEZ than in Puerto Rico. 
Hence, it is more difficult for U.S. Virgin Islands fishermen to 
substitute fishing in territorial waters for fishing in Federal waters.
    Among the considered but rejected significant alternatives for the 
action to establish the triggering mechanism for AMs were two 
alternatives which would use a single year's landings to trigger the 
AMs. Also considered but rejected were alternatives that would use a 
single year's landings in 2011 and then use a 2-year annual average 
starting in 2012 and continuing thereafter to trigger the AMs. The 
preferred alternative would use a 3-year average starting in 2013 and 
continuing thereafter. The adverse economic impact of the preferred 
alternative is less than the adverse economic impacts of the rejected 
alternatives. This adverse economic impact is less because a 3-year 
average allows for yearly or 2-year averages to exceed the ACL without 
triggering a shortened fishing season when the 3-year average may be 
equal to or less than the ACL.
    An alternative that would include an ACL overage payback as part of 
the action applying an AM when an ACL is exceeded was considered but 
rejected because it would require a larger reduction in the Federal 
fishing season, and thus a larger adverse economic impact, than the 
preferred alternative to not implement an ACL overage payback.
    The Council's preferred alternative for Action 1(b) setting the ABC 
for reef fish sets the ABC equal to the OFL. This alternative would 
have a smaller indirect adverse economic impact than considered but 
rejected alternatives that would set lower ABCs, and in turn establish 
lower ACLs. The preferred alternatives 2(p) (setting ACLs for all reef 
fish FMUs, except for angelfish and surgeonfish) and 2(n)(setting ACLs 
for angelfish and surgeonfish), would have

[[Page 68715]]

smaller indirect adverse economic impact than the considered but 
rejected alternatives that would establish lower ABCs and ACLs.
    The preferred alternative for Action 2(b) that sets ABC equal to 
OFL for spiny lobster (alternative 2(g)) would have a smaller indirect 
adverse economic impact than considered but rejected alternatives that 
would set lower ABCs, which in turn could lead to lower ACLs. Preferred 
alternative 2(o) would have a smaller indirect adverse economic impact 
than the considered but rejected alternatives that would establish 
lower ACLs.
    The preferred alternative for Action 3(b) that sets the ABC equal 
to the OFL for aquarium trade species (alternative 2(e)) would have a 
smaller adverse economic impact than considered but rejected 
alternatives that would establish lower ABCs and likely lower ACLs. 
Preferred alternative 2(k) that would set the ACL would have a smaller 
indirect adverse economic impact than the considered but rejected 
alternative that would establish a lower ACL.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622

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

    Dated: November 2, 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, as 
proposed to be amended at 76 FR 66675, October 27, 2011, is proposed to 
be further 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, paragraph (g)(2) is revised and paragraph (h) 
is added to read as follows:


Sec.  622.39  Bag and possession limits.

* * * * *
    (g) * * *
    (2) Bag limits. (i) Groupers, snappers, and parrotfishes combined--
5 per person per day or, if 3 or more persons are aboard, 15 per vessel 
per day; but not to exceed 2 parrotfish per person per day or 6 
parrotfish per vessel per day.
    (ii) Other reef fish species combined--5 per person per day or, if 
3 or more persons are aboard, 15 per vessel per day, but not to exceed 
1 surgeonfish per person per day or 4 surgeonfish per vessel per day.
    (h) Caribbean spiny lobster--(1) Applicability. Paragraph (a)(1) of 
this section notwithstanding, the bag limit of paragraph (h)(2) of this 
section does not apply to a fisherman who has a valid commercial 
fishing license issued by Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands.
    (2) Bag limit. The bag limit for spiny lobster in or from the 
Caribbean EEZ is 3 per person per day, not to exceed 10 per vessel per 
day, whichever is less.
    3. In Sec.  622.48, paragraphs (n) and (o) are added to read as 
follows:


Sec.  622.48  Adjustment of management measures.

* * * * *
    (n) Caribbean spiny lobster. Fishery management unit (FMU), quotas, 
trip limits, bag limits, size limits, closed seasons or areas, gear 
restrictions, fishing years, MSY, OY, TAC, maximum fishing mortality 
threshold (MFMT), minimum stock size threshold (MSST), overfishing 
limit (OFL), acceptable biological catch (ABC) control rules, ACLs, 
AMs, ACTs, and actions to minimize the interaction of fishing gear with 
endangered species or marine mammals.
    (o) Caribbean corals and reef associated plants and invertebrates. 
Fishery management units (FMUs), quotas, trip limits, bag limits, size 
limits, closed seasons or areas, gear restrictions, fishing years, MSY, 
OY, TAC, MFMT, MSST, OFL, ABC control rules, ACLs, AMs, ACTs, and 
actions to minimize the interaction of fishing gear with endangered 
species or marine mammals.
    4. In Sec.  622.49, introductory paragraph (c) is revised and 
paragraphs (c)(1)(i)(H) through (R), (c)(1)(ii)(H) through (Q), 
(c)(2)(i)(E) through (O), (c)(3)(i)(E) through (O), and (c)(4) are 
added to read as follows:


Sec.  622.49  Annual catch limits (ACLs) and accountability measures 
(AMs).

* * * * *
    (c) Caribbean island management areas/Caribbean EEZ. If landings 
from a Caribbean island management area, as specified in Appendix E to 
part 622, except for landings of queen conch (see Sec.  622.33(d)), or 
landings from the Caribbean EEZ for tilefish and aquarium trade 
species, are estimated by the SRD to have exceeded the applicable ACL, 
as specified in paragraph (c)(1) for Puerto Rico management area 
species or species groups, paragraph (c)(2) for St. Croix management 
area species or species groups, paragraph (c)(3) for St. Thomas/St. 
John management area species or species groups, or paragraph (c)(4) for 
the Caribbean EEZ, the AA will file a notification with the Office of 
the Federal Register, at or near the beginning of the following fishing 
year, to reduce the length of the fishing season for the applicable 
species or species groups that year by the amount necessary to ensure 
landings do not exceed the applicable ACL. If NMFS determines the ACL 
for a particular species or species group was exceeded because of 
enhanced data collection and monitoring efforts instead of an increase 
in total catch of the species or species group, NMFS will not reduce 
the length of the fishing season for the applicable species or species 
group the following fishing year. Landings will be evaluated relative 
to the applicable ACL based on a moving multi-year average of landings, 
as described in the FMP. With the exceptions of Caribbean queen conch 
in Puerto Rico and St. Thomas/St. John management areas, goliath 
grouper, Nassau grouper, midnight parrotfish, blue parrotfish, and 
rainbow parrotfish, ACLs are based on the combined Caribbean EEZ and 
territorial landings for each management area. The ACLs specified in 
paragraphs (c)(1), (c)(2), (c)(3), and (c)(4) of this section are given 
in round weight. (See Sec.  622.32 for limitations on taking prohibited 
and limited harvest species. The limitations in Sec.  622.32 apply 
without regard to whether the species is harvested by a vessel 
operating under a valid commercial fishing license issued by Puerto 
Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands or by a person subject to the bag 
limits.)
    (1) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (H) Angelfish--8,984 lb (4,075 kg).
    (I) Boxfish--86,115 lb (39,061 kg).
    (J) Goatfishes--17,565 lb (7,967 kg).
    (K) Grunts--182,396 lb (82,733 kg).
    (L) Wrasses--54,147 lb (24,561 kg).
    (M) Jacks--86,059 lb (39,036 kg).
    (N) Scups and porgies, combined--24,739 lb (11,221 kg).
    (O) Squirrelfish--16,663 lb (7,558 kg).
    (P) Surgeonfish--7,179 lb (3,256 kg).
    (Q) Triggerfish and filefish, combined--58,475 lb (26,524 kg).
    (R) Spiny lobster--327,920 lb (148,742 kg).
    (ii) * * *
    (H) Angelfish--4,492 lb (2,038 kg).
    (I) Boxfish--4,616 lb (2,094 kg).
    (J) Goatfishes--362 lb (164 kg).
    (K) Grunts--5,028 lb (2,281 kg).
    (L) Wrasses--5,050 lb (2,291 kg).
    (M) Jacks--51,001 lb (23,134 kg).
    (N) Scups and porgies, combined--2,577 lb (1,169 kg).
    (O) Squirrelfish--3,891 lb (1,765 kg).
    (P) Surgeonfish--3,590 lb (1,628 kg).
    (Q) Triggerfish and filefish, combined--21,929 lb (9,947 kg).

[[Page 68716]]

    (2) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (E) Angelfish--305 lb (138 kg).
    (F) Boxfish--8,433 lb (3,825 kg).
    (G) Goatfishes--3,766 lb (1,708 kg).
    (H) Grunts--36,881 lb (16,729 kg).
    (I) Wrasses--7 lb (3 kg).
    (J) Jacks--15,489 lb (7,076 kg).
    (K) Scups and porgies, combined--4,638 lb (2,104 kg).
    (L) Squirrelfish--121 lb (55 kg).
    (M) Surgeonfish--33,603 lb (15,242 kg).
    (N) Triggerfish and filefish, combined--24,980 lb (11,331 kg).
    (O) Spiny lobster--107,307 lb (48,674 kg).
    (3) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (E) Angelfish--7,897 lb (3,582 kg).
    (F) Boxfish--27,880 lb (12,646 kg).
    (G) Goatfishes--320 lb (145 kg).
    (H) Grunts--37,617 lb (17,063 kg).
    (I) Wrasses--585 lb (265 kg).
    (J) Jacks--52,907 lb (23,998 kg).
    (K) Scups and porgies, combined--21,819 lb (9,897 kg).
    (L) Squirrelfish--4,241 lb (1,924 kg).
    (M) Surgeonfish--29,249 lb (13,267 kg).
    (N) Triggerfish and filefish, combined--74,447 lb (33,769 kg).
    (O) Spiny lobster--104,199 lb (47,264 kg).
    (4) Caribbean EEZ. (i) ACLs. The following ACLs apply to landings 
of species or species groups throughout the Caribbean EEZ.
    (A) Tilefish--14,642 lb (6,641 kg).
    (B) Aquarium trade species--8,155 lb (3,699 kg).
    (ii) [Reserved]
    5. Table 5 of Appendix A to part 622 is revised to read as follows:

Appendix A to Part 622--Species Tables

* * * * *

Table 5 of Appendix A to Part 622--Caribbean Conch Resources

    Queen conch, Strombus gigas.

[FR Doc. 2011-28761 Filed 11-4-11; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P