Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Atlantic Bluefish Fishery; 2012 Atlantic Bluefish Specifications, 8776-8779 [2012-3563]

Download as PDF 8776 Federal Register / Vol. 77, No. 31 / Wednesday, February 15, 2012 / Proposed Rules • Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. To submit comments via the e-Rulemaking Portal, first click the ‘‘Submit a Comment’’ icon, then enter NOAA–NMFS–2012– 0003 in the keyword search. Locate the document you wish to comment on from the resulting list and click on the ‘‘Submit a Comment’’ icon on the right of that line. • Fax: (978) 281–9135, Attn: Comments on 2012 Proposed Bluefish Specifications, NOAA–NMFS–2012– 0003. • Mail and Hand Delivery: Dan Morris, Acting Regional Administrator, NMFS, Northeast Regional Office, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the envelope: ‘‘Comments on 2012 Bluefish Specifications.’’ Instructions: Comments must be submitted by one of the above methods to ensure that the comments are received, documented, and considered [FR Doc. 2012–3546 Filed 2–14–12; 8:45 am] by NMFS. Comments sent by any other BILLING CODE 3510–22–P method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE considered. All comments received are a part of the public record and will National Oceanic and Atmospheric generally be posted to http:// Administration www.regulations.gov without change. All Personal Identifying Information (for 50 CFR Part 648 example, name, address, etc.) [Docket No. 120201086–2085–01] voluntarily submitted by the commenter RIN 0648–XA904 may be publicly accessible. Do not submit Confidential Business Fisheries of the Northeastern United Information or otherwise sensitive or States; Atlantic Bluefish Fishery; 2012 protected information. Atlantic Bluefish Specifications NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter N/A in the required AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries fields, if you wish to remain Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and anonymous). You may submit Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), attachments to electronic comments in Commerce. ACTION: Proposed specifications; request Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only. for comments. Copies of the specifications SUMMARY: NMFS proposes specifications document, including the Environmental for the 2012 Atlantic bluefish fishery, Assessment and Initial Regulatory including an annual catch limit, total Flexibility Analysis (EA/IRFA) and allowable landings, a commercial quota other supporting documents for the and recreational harvest limit, and a specifications, are available from Dr. recreational possession limit. The intent Christopher M. Moore, Executive of this action is to establish the Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery allowable 2012 harvest levels and other Management Council, Suite 201, 800 N. management measures to achieve the State Street, Dover, DE 19901. The target fishing mortality rate, consistent specifications document is also with the Atlantic Bluefish Fishery accessible via the Internet at: http:// Management Plan. www.nero.noaa.gov. DATES: Comments must be received on FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: or before March 1, 2012. Carly Bari, Fishery Management ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by NOAA–NMFS–2012–0003, Specialist, (978) 281–9224. tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS by the Pacific Islands Regional Administrator by fax or email no later than six hours prior to exiting the Eastern High Seas Special Management Area. The notices must be submitted in the format specified by the Pacific Island Regional Administrator and must include the following information: (1) The vessel identification markings located on the hull or superstructure of the vessel. (2) Date and time (in UTC) of anticipated point of exit. (3) Latitude and longitude, to nearest tenth of a degree, of anticipated point of exit. (4) Amount of fish product on board at the time of the notice, in kilograms, in total and for each of the following species or species groups: yellowfin tuna, bigeye tuna, albacore, skipjack tuna, swordfish, shark, other; and (5) An indication of whether the vessel has engaged in or will engage in any transshipments prior to exiting the Eastern High Seas Special Management Area. by any one of the following methods: VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:33 Feb 14, 2012 Jkt 226001 SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Background The Atlantic bluefish fishery is managed cooperatively by the MidAtlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (Commission). The management unit for bluefish specified in the Atlantic Bluefish Fishery Management Plan (FMP) is U.S. waters of the western Atlantic Ocean. Regulations implementing the FMP appear at 50 CFR part 648, subparts A and J. The regulations requiring annual specifications are found at § 648.16. The FMP requires the Council to recommend, on an annual basis, annual catch limit (ACL), annual catch target (ACT), and total allowable landings (TAL) that will control fishing mortality (F). An estimate of annual discards is deducted from the ACT to calculate the TALs that can be harvested during the year by the commercial and recreational fishing sectors. The FMP requires that 17 percent of the ACT be allocated to the commercial fishery, with the remaining 83 percent allocated to the recreational fishery. The Council may also recommend a research set-aside (RSA) quota, which is deducted from the bluefish TALs (after any applicable transfer) in an amount proportional to the percentage of the overall TAL as allocated to the commercial and recreational sectors. The annual review process for bluefish requires that the Council’s Bluefish Monitoring Committee and Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) review and make recommendations based on the best available data, including, but not limited to, commercial and recreational catch/landing statistics, current estimates of fishing mortality, stock abundance, discards for the recreational fishery, and juvenile recruitment. Based on the recommendations of the Monitoring Committee and SSC, the Council makes a recommendation to the NMFS Northeast Regional Administrator. Because this FMP is a joint plan, the Commission also meets during the annual specification process to adopt complementary measures. The Council’s recommendations must include supporting documentation concerning the environmental, economic, and social impacts of the recommendations. NMFS is responsible for reviewing these recommendations to ensure that they achieve the FMP objectives, and may modify them if they do not. NMFS then publishes proposed specifications in the Federal Register, and after considering public comment, NMFS will publish final specifications in the Federal Register. E:\FR\FM\15FEP1.SGM 15FEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 77, No. 31 / Wednesday, February 15, 2012 / Proposed Rules Proposed Specifications Updated Model Estimates According to Amendment 1 to the FMP, overfishing for bluefish occurs when F exceeds the fishing mortality rate that allows maximum sustainable yield (FMSY), or the maximum F threshold to be achieved. The stock is considered overfished if the biomass (B) falls below the minimum biomass threshold, which is defined as 1⁄2 BMSY. Amendment 1 also established that the long-term target F is 90 percent of FMSY (FMSY = 0.19, therefore Ftarget = 90 percent of FMSY, or 0.17), and the longterm target B is BMSY = 324 million lb (147,052 mt). An age-structured assessment program (ASAP) model for bluefish was approved by the 41st Stock Assessment Review Committee (SARC 41) in 2005 to estimate F and annual biomass. In June 2011, the ASAP model was updated in order to estimate the current status of the bluefish stock (i.e., 2010 biomass and F estimates) and enable the Monitoring Committee and SSC to recommend 2012 specifications using landings information and survey indices through the 2010 fishing year. The results of the assessment update were as follows: (1) An estimated stock biomass for 2010, B2010 = 309.301 million lb (140,297 mt); and (2) an estimated fishing mortality rate for 2010, F2010 = 0.14. Based on the updated 2010 estimate of bluefish stock biomass, the bluefish stock is not considered overfished: B2010 is slightly less than BMSY, but well above the minimum biomass threshold, 1⁄2 BMSY = 162 million lb (73,526 mt). Estimates of F have declined from 0.41 in 1991 to 0.14 in 2010. The updated model results also conclude that the Atlantic bluefish stock is not experiencing overfishing; i.e., the most recent F (F2010 = 0.14) is less than the maximum F overfishing threshold specified by SARC 41 (FMSY = 0.19). Bluefish was declared rebuilt in 2009. 2012 Catch Limits Following the framework implemented by the Council’s ACL Omnibus Amendment, the Council recommended that ACL be set to acceptable biological catch (ABC) (32.044 million lb, 14,535 mt). No deductions were recommended to account for management uncertainty, therefore ABC = ACL = ACT. The ACT is initially allocated between the recreational fishery (83 percent = 26.597 million lb, 12,064 mt) and the commercial fishery (17 percent = 5.448 million lb, 2,471 mt). After deducting an estimate of recreational discards (commercial discards are considered negligible), the recreational TAL would be 22.247 million lb (10,091 mt) and the commercial TAL would be 5.448 million lb (2,471 mt). The FMP specifies that, if 17 percent of the ACT is less than 10.5 million lb, and recreational fishery is not projected to land its harvest limit for the upcoming year, the commercial fishery may be allocated up to 10.5 million lb as its quota, provided that the combination of the projected recreational landings and the commercial quota does not exceed the ACT. The recreational harvest limit (RHL) would then be adjusted downward so that the ACT would be unchanged. The Council postponed projections of estimated recreational harvest for 2012 until Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MRFSS) landings data through Wave 5 of 2011 became available. In the interim, the 3-year average of recreational landings from 2008 through 2010 (16.216 million lb, 7,355 mt) was applied as the estimated 8777 recreational harvest for 2012. As such, it was expected that a transfer of up to 5.052 million lb (2,291 mt) from the recreational sector to the commercial sector could be approved. This option represents the preferred alternative recommended by the Council in its specifications document. The actual transfer amount in the final rule, if any, will depend on the 2011 recreational landings data. RSA Three research projects that would utilize bluefish RSA quota have been preliminarily approved and forwarded to NOAA’s Grants Management Division. An 847,997-lb (385-mt) RSA quota is preliminarily approved for use by these projects during 2012. Proportional adjustments of this amount to the commercial and recreational allocations would result in a final commercial quota of 10.185 million lb (4,620 mt) and a final RHL of 17.234 million lb (7,817 mt). NMFS staff will update the commercial and recreational allocations based on the final 2012 RSA awards as part of the final rule for the 2012 specifications. Proposed Recreational Possession Limit The Council recommended, and NMFS proposes, to maintain the current recreational possession limit of up to 15 fish per person to achieve the RHL. Proposed State Commercial Allocations The proposed state commercial allocations for the recommended 2012 commercial quota are shown in Table 1, based on the percentages specified in the FMP. These quotas do not reflect any adjustments for quota overages that may have occurred in some states in 2011. Any potential deductions for states that exceeded their quota in 2011 will be accounted for in the final rule. TABLE 1—PROPOSED BLUEFISH COMMERCIAL STATE-BY-STATE ALLOCATIONS FOR 2012 [Including RSA deductions] tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS State Percent share ME .............................................................................................................................. NH .............................................................................................................................. MA .............................................................................................................................. RI ............................................................................................................................... CT .............................................................................................................................. NY .............................................................................................................................. NJ ............................................................................................................................... DE .............................................................................................................................. MD ............................................................................................................................. VA .............................................................................................................................. NC .............................................................................................................................. SC .............................................................................................................................. GA .............................................................................................................................. VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:33 Feb 14, 2012 Jkt 226001 PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 2012 Council-proposed commercial quota (lb) 2012 Council-proposed commercial quota (kg) 68,087 42,217 684,096 693,405 128,973 1,057,722 1,509,030 191,295 305,733 1,209,927 3,265,392 3,585 968 30,884 19,149 310,301 314,523 58,501 479,775 684,485 86,770 138,678 548,814 1,481,158 1,626 439 0.6685 0.4145 6.7167 6.8081 1.2663 10.3851 14.8162 1.8782 3.0018 11.8795 32.0608 0.0352 0.0095 E:\FR\FM\15FEP1.SGM 15FEP1 8778 Federal Register / Vol. 77, No. 31 / Wednesday, February 15, 2012 / Proposed Rules TABLE 1—PROPOSED BLUEFISH COMMERCIAL STATE-BY-STATE ALLOCATIONS FOR 2012—Continued [Including RSA deductions] State Percent share 2012 Council-proposed commercial quota (lb) 2012 Council-proposed commercial quota (kg) 10.0597 1,024,580 464,742 Total .................................................................................................................... tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS FL ............................................................................................................................... 100.0001 10,185,000 4,619,840 Classification Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), the NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is consistent with the Atlantic Bluefish FMP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, subject to further consideration after public comment. These proposed specifications are exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. An IRFA was prepared, as required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), which describes the economic impact this proposed rule, if adopted, would have on small entities. A description of the action, why it is being considered, and the legal basis for this action are contained at the beginning of this preamble and in the SUMMARY. A summary of the analysis follows. A copy of this analysis is available from the Council (see ADDRESSES). Small businesses operating in commercial and recreational (i.e., party and charter vessel operations) fisheries have been defined by the Small Business Administration as firms with gross revenues of up to $4.0 and $6.5 million, respectively. The categories of small entities likely to be affected by this action include commercial and charter/party vessel owners holding an active Federal permit for Atlantic bluefish, as well as owners of vessels that fish for Atlantic bluefish in state waters. All federally permitted vessels fall into the definition of small businesses; thus, there would be no disproportionate impacts between large and small entities as a result of the proposed rule. An active participant in the commercial sector was defined as any vessel that reported having landed 1 or more lb (0.45 kg) in the Atlantic bluefish fishery in 2010 (the most recent year for which there are complete data). The active participants in the commercial sector were defined using two sets of data. The Northeast seafood dealer reports were used to identify 718 vessels that landed bluefish in states from Maine through North Carolina in 2010. However, the Northeast dealer database does not provide information about fishery participation in South Carolina, Georgia, or Florida. South Atlantic Trip Ticket reports were used to identify 732 vessels 1 that landed bluefish in North Carolina and 827 vessels that landed bluefish on Florida’s east coast. Bluefish landings in South Carolina and Georgia were near zero in 2010, representing a negligible proportion of the total bluefish landings along the Atlantic Coast. Therefore, this analysis assumed that no vessel activity for these two states took place in 2010. In recent years, approximately 2,063 party/charter vessels may have been active in the bluefish fishery and/or have caught bluefish. There are no new reporting or recordkeeping requirements contained in any of the alternatives considered for this action. In addition, NMFS is not aware of any relevant Federal rules that may duplicate, overlap, or conflict with this proposed rule. The IRFA in the Draft EA addressed three alternatives (including a no action/status quo alternative) for the 2012 Atlantic bluefish fishery. All quota alternatives considered in this analysis are based on various commercial harvest levels for bluefish (a low, medium, and high level of harvest). For analysis of impacts of Alternatives 1 and 2, the maximum potential RSA quota of 3 percent of the TAL (847,997 lb, 384 mt) was used. For analysis of impacts of Alternative 3, the status quo RSA quota of 105,000 lb (48 mt) was used. For analysis of impacts of Alternative 1, the recommended transfer of 5.052 million lb (2,291 mt) from the recreational sector to the commercial sector was used. For analysis of impacts of Alternative 3, the transfer of 4.770 million lb (2,164 mt) from the recreational sector to the commercial sector was used, which is the same as the 2011 transfer amount. Under Alternative 2, no transfer of bluefish would be made from the recreational sector to the commercial sector, and the allocation of the TAL would be based strictly on the percentages specified in the FMP (17 percent commercial, 83 percent recreational). Alternatives 1 and 2 would implement a TAL of 27.694 million lb (12,562 mt). Alternative 3 would implement status quo management measures for 2012, which would result in a TAL identical to the 2011 TAL, or 27.293 million lb (12,380 mt). The proposed 2012 Atlantic bluefish specification alternatives are shown in Table 2, along with the resulting commercial quota and RHL after any applicable transfer described earlier in the preamble and after deduction of the RSA quota. Alternative 1 (Council’s preferred) would allocate 10.185 million lb (4,620 mt) to the commercial sector and 17.234 million lb (7,817 mt) to the recreational sector. Alternative 2 would result in the most restrictive commercial quota and would allocate 5.284 million lb (2,397 mt) to the commercial sector and leave 22.134 million lb (10,040 mt) available to the recreational sector. Alternative 3 (status quo) would allocate 9.375 million lb (4,252 mt) to the commercial sector and 17.813 million lb (8,080 mt) to the recreational sector. This alternative would also implement the status quo RSA level, which is currently approved for 105,000 lb (48 mt). 1 Some of these vessels were also identified in the Northeast dealer data; therefore, double counting is possible. VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:33 Feb 14, 2012 Jkt 226001 PO 00000 Frm 00028 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\15FEP1.SGM 15FEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 77, No. 31 / Wednesday, February 15, 2012 / Proposed Rules 8779 TABLE 2—PROPOSED 2012 ATLANTIC BLUEFISH SPECIFICATION ALTERNATIVES FOR TAL, COMMERCIAL QUOTA, AND RHL (MILLION LB) TAL Alternative 1 ................................... Alternative 2 ................................... Alternative 3 ................................... Commercial quota 27.694 (12,562 mt) ....................... 27.694 (12,562 mt) ....................... 27.293 (12,380 mt) ....................... 10.185 (4,620 mt) ......................... 5.284 (2,397 mt) ........................... 9.375 (4,252 mt) ........................... tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Commercial Fishery Impacts To assess the impact of the alternatives on commercial fisheries, the Council conducted a threshold analysis and analysis of potential changes in exvessel gross revenue that would result from each alternative, using Northeast dealer reports and South Atlantic Trip Ticket reports. Under Alternative 1, the recommended commercial quota for 2012 is approximately 40 percent higher than 2010 commercial landings. When this commercial quota is distributed to the states from Maine to Florida (based on the percentages specified in the FMP), each state’s 2012 quota is higher than its 2010 landings. Results of the threshold analysis from dealer data estimated that there would be no revenue change relative to 2010 for vessels that reported landings of bluefish in 2010. If commercial quota is transferred from a state or states that do not land their entire bluefish quota for 2012, as was done in 2011 and frequently in previous years, the number of affected entities could change, thus changing the adverse economic impact on vessels landing in the state(s) receiving quota transfers. Alternative 2 would result in a commercial quota 28 percent below the 2010 commercial landings. Although the overall commercial quota is lower than 2010 commercial landings, when distributed to the states, each state’s 2012 quota is higher than its 2010 landings, except for Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and North Carolina. For these states, 2012 commercial landings would be constrained by the 2012 commercial quota under Alternative 2. The threshold analysis projected that 464 vessels could incur revenue losses of less than 5 percent and 62 vessels could incur revenue losses of 5 percent or more. Of the vessels likely to be impacted with revenue reductions of 5 percent or more, 34 percent had gross sales of $1,000 or less and 55 percent had gross sales of $10,000 or less, which may indicate that the dependence on fishing for some of these vessels is small. Under Alternative 3, the 2011 commercial quota is approximately 29 percent higher than the 2010 VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:33 Feb 14, 2012 Jkt 226001 commercial landings. Most states show a similar increase in fishing opportunities under this alternative; however, North Carolina’s 2012 commercial quota would be lower than its 2010 commercial landings. Analysis of Alternative 3 concluded that 644 vessels would likely have no change in revenue relative to 2010, and 74 vessels were projected to incur revenue losses of less than 5 percent. No revenue reduction would be expected for vessels that land bluefish in North Carolina or Florida under Alternative 3. If commercial quota is transferred from a state or states that do not land their entire bluefish quota for 2012, as was done in 2011 and frequently in previous years, the number of affected entities described above could decrease, thus decreasing the adverse economic impact on vessels landing in the state(s) receiving quota transfers. Recreational Fishery Impacts For Alternative 1, the recommended RHL for the recreational sector (17.234 million lb, 7,817 mt) is approximately 7 percent above the recreational landings for 2010 (16.166 million lb, 7,333 mt) and 3 percent below the RHL implemented for 2011 (17.813 million lb, 8,080 mt). It is not anticipated that the recommend RHL will result in decreased in the demand for party/ charter boat trips or affect angler participation in a negative manner. At the present time, there are neither behavioral or demand data available to estimate how sensitive party/charter boat anglers might be to proposed fishing regulations. However, given the level of the adjusted recreational harvest limit for 2012 and recreational landings in recent years, it is possible that given the proposed recreational harvest limits under Alternative 1, the demand for party/charter boat trips may not be negatively impacted. The impacts under Alternative 2 and 3 are expected to be similar to the recreational impacts under Alternative 1. The IRFA analyzed the maximum transfer amount from the recreational sector to the commercial sector, but future updates of recreational harvest projections could result in a smaller transfer amount, resulting in a high RHL. PO 00000 Frm 00029 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 RHL 17.234 (7,817 mt). 22.134 (10,040 mt). 17.813 (8,080 mt). The 2012 RHL under Alternative 2 would be 37 percent higher than the recreational landings in 2010 and 49 percent higher than the 2011 RHL. Under Alternative 3, the 2012 RHL would be 37 percent higher than 2010 recreational landings and less than 1 percent lower than the 2011 RHL. Thus, Alternatives 2 and 3 are not expected to have any negative effects on recreational fishermen or the demand for party/ charter boat trips. In addition, neither of these alternatives are expected to result in recreational landings in excess of the RHL. RSA Quota Impacts For analysis of each alternative, the maximum RSA quota amount (3 percent of the TAL) was deducted from the initial overall TAL for 2012 to derive the adjusted 2012 commercial quota and RHL under each alternative. Thus, the threshold analyses for each alternative accounted for overall reductions in fishing opportunities due to RSA. Specification of RSA quota for 2012 is expected to benefit all participants in the fishery as a result of improved data and information for management or stock assessment purposes. Summary The Council recommended Alternative 1 over Alternatives 2 and 3 because it is projected to achieve the target F in 2012, while providing the second least restrictive commercial quota among the alternatives analyzed. Alternative 2 was not recommended by the Council because it would yield the lowest commercial fishing opportunities among the alternatives due to an absence of a quota transfer under this alternative. Alternative 3 was not selected because it would more restrictive than necessary given the advice of the SSC and Monitoring Committee. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: February 9, 2012. Alan D. Risenhoover, Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2012–3563 Filed 2–14–12; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\15FEP1.SGM 15FEP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 31 (Wednesday, February 15, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 8776-8779]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-3563]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 120201086-2085-01]
RIN 0648-XA904


Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Atlantic Bluefish 
Fishery; 2012 Atlantic Bluefish Specifications

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

ACTION: Proposed specifications; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: NMFS proposes specifications for the 2012 Atlantic bluefish 
fishery, including an annual catch limit, total allowable landings, a 
commercial quota and recreational harvest limit, and a recreational 
possession limit. The intent of this action is to establish the 
allowable 2012 harvest levels and other management measures to achieve 
the target fishing mortality rate, consistent with the Atlantic 
Bluefish Fishery Management Plan.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before March 1, 2012.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2012-0003, 
by any one of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking portal: http://www.regulations.gov. To submit comments via the e-Rulemaking Portal, 
first click the ``Submit a Comment'' icon, then enter NOAA-NMFS-2012-
0003 in the keyword search. Locate the document you wish to comment on 
from the resulting list and click on the ``Submit a Comment'' icon on 
the right of that line.
     Fax: (978) 281-9135, Attn: Comments on 2012 Proposed 
Bluefish Specifications, NOAA-NMFS-2012-0003.
     Mail and Hand Delivery: Dan Morris, Acting Regional 
Administrator, NMFS, Northeast Regional Office, 55 Great Republic 
Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the envelope: 
``Comments on 2012 Bluefish Specifications.''
    Instructions: Comments must be submitted by one of the above 
methods to ensure that the comments are received, documented, and 
considered by NMFS. Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered. All comments received are a part of the public 
record and will generally be posted to http://www.regulations.gov 
without change. All Personal Identifying Information (for example, 
name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be 
publicly accessible. Do not submit Confidential Business Information or 
otherwise sensitive or protected information.
    NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter N/A in the required 
fields, if you wish to remain anonymous). You may submit attachments to 
electronic comments in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF 
file formats only.
    Copies of the specifications document, including the Environmental 
Assessment and Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (EA/IRFA) and 
other supporting documents for the specifications, are available from 
Dr. Christopher M. Moore, Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery 
Management Council, Suite 201, 800 N. State Street, Dover, DE 19901. 
The specifications document is also accessible via the Internet at: 
http://www.nero.noaa.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Carly Bari, Fishery Management 
Specialist, (978) 281-9224.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The Atlantic bluefish fishery is managed cooperatively by the Mid-
Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) and the Atlantic States 
Marine Fisheries Commission (Commission). The management unit for 
bluefish specified in the Atlantic Bluefish Fishery Management Plan 
(FMP) is U.S. waters of the western Atlantic Ocean. Regulations 
implementing the FMP appear at 50 CFR part 648, subparts A and J. The 
regulations requiring annual specifications are found at Sec.  648.16.
    The FMP requires the Council to recommend, on an annual basis, 
annual catch limit (ACL), annual catch target (ACT), and total 
allowable landings (TAL) that will control fishing mortality (F). An 
estimate of annual discards is deducted from the ACT to calculate the 
TALs that can be harvested during the year by the commercial and 
recreational fishing sectors. The FMP requires that 17 percent of the 
ACT be allocated to the commercial fishery, with the remaining 83 
percent allocated to the recreational fishery. The Council may also 
recommend a research set-aside (RSA) quota, which is deducted from the 
bluefish TALs (after any applicable transfer) in an amount proportional 
to the percentage of the overall TAL as allocated to the commercial and 
recreational sectors.
    The annual review process for bluefish requires that the Council's 
Bluefish Monitoring Committee and Scientific and Statistical Committee 
(SSC) review and make recommendations based on the best available data, 
including, but not limited to, commercial and recreational catch/
landing statistics, current estimates of fishing mortality, stock 
abundance, discards for the recreational fishery, and juvenile 
recruitment. Based on the recommendations of the Monitoring Committee 
and SSC, the Council makes a recommendation to the NMFS Northeast 
Regional Administrator. Because this FMP is a joint plan, the 
Commission also meets during the annual specification process to adopt 
complementary measures.
    The Council's recommendations must include supporting documentation 
concerning the environmental, economic, and social impacts of the 
recommendations. NMFS is responsible for reviewing these 
recommendations to ensure that they achieve the FMP objectives, and may 
modify them if they do not. NMFS then publishes proposed specifications 
in the Federal Register, and after considering public comment, NMFS 
will publish final specifications in the Federal Register.

[[Page 8777]]

Proposed Specifications

Updated Model Estimates

    According to Amendment 1 to the FMP, overfishing for bluefish 
occurs when F exceeds the fishing mortality rate that allows maximum 
sustainable yield (FMSY), or the maximum F threshold to be 
achieved. The stock is considered overfished if the biomass (B) falls 
below the minimum biomass threshold, which is defined as \1/2\ 
BMSY. Amendment 1 also established that the long-term target 
F is 90 percent of FMSY (FMSY = 0.19, therefore 
Ftarget = 90 percent of FMSY, or 0.17), and the 
long-term target B is BMSY = 324 million lb (147,052 mt).
    An age-structured assessment program (ASAP) model for bluefish was 
approved by the 41st Stock Assessment Review Committee (SARC 41) in 
2005 to estimate F and annual biomass. In June 2011, the ASAP model was 
updated in order to estimate the current status of the bluefish stock 
(i.e., 2010 biomass and F estimates) and enable the Monitoring 
Committee and SSC to recommend 2012 specifications using landings 
information and survey indices through the 2010 fishing year. The 
results of the assessment update were as follows: (1) An estimated 
stock biomass for 2010, B2010 = 309.301 million lb (140,297 
mt); and (2) an estimated fishing mortality rate for 2010, 
F2010 = 0.14. Based on the updated 2010 estimate of bluefish 
stock biomass, the bluefish stock is not considered overfished: 
B2010 is slightly less than BMSY, but well above 
the minimum biomass threshold, \1/2\ BMSY = 162 million lb 
(73,526 mt). Estimates of F have declined from 0.41 in 1991 to 0.14 in 
2010. The updated model results also conclude that the Atlantic 
bluefish stock is not experiencing overfishing; i.e., the most recent F 
(F2010 = 0.14) is less than the maximum F overfishing 
threshold specified by SARC 41 (FMSY = 0.19). Bluefish was 
declared rebuilt in 2009.

2012 Catch Limits

    Following the framework implemented by the Council's ACL Omnibus 
Amendment, the Council recommended that ACL be set to acceptable 
biological catch (ABC) (32.044 million lb, 14,535 mt). No deductions 
were recommended to account for management uncertainty, therefore ABC = 
ACL = ACT. The ACT is initially allocated between the recreational 
fishery (83 percent = 26.597 million lb, 12,064 mt) and the commercial 
fishery (17 percent = 5.448 million lb, 2,471 mt). After deducting an 
estimate of recreational discards (commercial discards are considered 
negligible), the recreational TAL would be 22.247 million lb (10,091 
mt) and the commercial TAL would be 5.448 million lb (2,471 mt).
    The FMP specifies that, if 17 percent of the ACT is less than 10.5 
million lb, and recreational fishery is not projected to land its 
harvest limit for the upcoming year, the commercial fishery may be 
allocated up to 10.5 million lb as its quota, provided that the 
combination of the projected recreational landings and the commercial 
quota does not exceed the ACT. The recreational harvest limit (RHL) 
would then be adjusted downward so that the ACT would be unchanged.
    The Council postponed projections of estimated recreational harvest 
for 2012 until Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MRFSS) 
landings data through Wave 5 of 2011 became available. In the interim, 
the 3-year average of recreational landings from 2008 through 2010 
(16.216 million lb, 7,355 mt) was applied as the estimated recreational 
harvest for 2012. As such, it was expected that a transfer of up to 
5.052 million lb (2,291 mt) from the recreational sector to the 
commercial sector could be approved. This option represents the 
preferred alternative recommended by the Council in its specifications 
document. The actual transfer amount in the final rule, if any, will 
depend on the 2011 recreational landings data.

RSA

    Three research projects that would utilize bluefish RSA quota have 
been preliminarily approved and forwarded to NOAA's Grants Management 
Division. An 847,997-lb (385-mt) RSA quota is preliminarily approved 
for use by these projects during 2012. Proportional adjustments of this 
amount to the commercial and recreational allocations would result in a 
final commercial quota of 10.185 million lb (4,620 mt) and a final RHL 
of 17.234 million lb (7,817 mt). NMFS staff will update the commercial 
and recreational allocations based on the final 2012 RSA awards as part 
of the final rule for the 2012 specifications.

Proposed Recreational Possession Limit

    The Council recommended, and NMFS proposes, to maintain the current 
recreational possession limit of up to 15 fish per person to achieve 
the RHL.

Proposed State Commercial Allocations

    The proposed state commercial allocations for the recommended 2012 
commercial quota are shown in Table 1, based on the percentages 
specified in the FMP. These quotas do not reflect any adjustments for 
quota overages that may have occurred in some states in 2011. Any 
potential deductions for states that exceeded their quota in 2011 will 
be accounted for in the final rule.

                    Table 1--Proposed Bluefish Commercial State-by-State Allocations for 2012
                                           [Including RSA deductions]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                              2012 Council-      2012 Council-
                                                                                 proposed           proposed
                         State                             Percent share     commercial quota   commercial quota
                                                                                   (lb)               (kg)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
ME.....................................................             0.6685             68,087             30,884
NH.....................................................             0.4145             42,217             19,149
MA.....................................................             6.7167            684,096            310,301
RI.....................................................             6.8081            693,405            314,523
CT.....................................................             1.2663            128,973             58,501
NY.....................................................            10.3851          1,057,722            479,775
NJ.....................................................            14.8162          1,509,030            684,485
DE.....................................................             1.8782            191,295             86,770
MD.....................................................             3.0018            305,733            138,678
VA.....................................................            11.8795          1,209,927            548,814
NC.....................................................            32.0608          3,265,392          1,481,158
SC.....................................................             0.0352              3,585              1,626
GA.....................................................             0.0095                968                439

[[Page 8778]]

 
FL.....................................................            10.0597          1,024,580            464,742
                                                        --------------------------------------------------------
    Total..............................................           100.0001         10,185,000          4,619,840
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), the NMFS 
Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is 
consistent with the Atlantic Bluefish FMP, other provisions of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, subject to further 
consideration after public comment.
    These proposed specifications are exempt from review under 
Executive Order 12866.
    An IRFA was prepared, as required by section 603 of the Regulatory 
Flexibility Act (RFA), which describes the economic impact this 
proposed rule, if adopted, would have on small entities. A description 
of the action, why it is being considered, and the legal basis for this 
action are contained at the beginning of this preamble and in the 
SUMMARY. A summary of the analysis follows. A copy of this analysis is 
available from the Council (see ADDRESSES).
    Small businesses operating in commercial and recreational (i.e., 
party and charter vessel operations) fisheries have been defined by the 
Small Business Administration as firms with gross revenues of up to 
$4.0 and $6.5 million, respectively. The categories of small entities 
likely to be affected by this action include commercial and charter/
party vessel owners holding an active Federal permit for Atlantic 
bluefish, as well as owners of vessels that fish for Atlantic bluefish 
in state waters. All federally permitted vessels fall into the 
definition of small businesses; thus, there would be no 
disproportionate impacts between large and small entities as a result 
of the proposed rule.
    An active participant in the commercial sector was defined as any 
vessel that reported having landed 1 or more lb (0.45 kg) in the 
Atlantic bluefish fishery in 2010 (the most recent year for which there 
are complete data). The active participants in the commercial sector 
were defined using two sets of data. The Northeast seafood dealer 
reports were used to identify 718 vessels that landed bluefish in 
states from Maine through North Carolina in 2010. However, the 
Northeast dealer database does not provide information about fishery 
participation in South Carolina, Georgia, or Florida. South Atlantic 
Trip Ticket reports were used to identify 732 vessels \1\ that landed 
bluefish in North Carolina and 827 vessels that landed bluefish on 
Florida's east coast. Bluefish landings in South Carolina and Georgia 
were near zero in 2010, representing a negligible proportion of the 
total bluefish landings along the Atlantic Coast. Therefore, this 
analysis assumed that no vessel activity for these two states took 
place in 2010. In recent years, approximately 2,063 party/charter 
vessels may have been active in the bluefish fishery and/or have caught 
bluefish.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ Some of these vessels were also identified in the Northeast 
dealer data; therefore, double counting is possible.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    There are no new reporting or recordkeeping requirements contained 
in any of the alternatives considered for this action. In addition, 
NMFS is not aware of any relevant Federal rules that may duplicate, 
overlap, or conflict with this proposed rule.
    The IRFA in the Draft EA addressed three alternatives (including a 
no action/status quo alternative) for the 2012 Atlantic bluefish 
fishery. All quota alternatives considered in this analysis are based 
on various commercial harvest levels for bluefish (a low, medium, and 
high level of harvest). For analysis of impacts of Alternatives 1 and 
2, the maximum potential RSA quota of 3 percent of the TAL (847,997 lb, 
384 mt) was used. For analysis of impacts of Alternative 3, the status 
quo RSA quota of 105,000 lb (48 mt) was used. For analysis of impacts 
of Alternative 1, the recommended transfer of 5.052 million lb (2,291 
mt) from the recreational sector to the commercial sector was used. For 
analysis of impacts of Alternative 3, the transfer of 4.770 million lb 
(2,164 mt) from the recreational sector to the commercial sector was 
used, which is the same as the 2011 transfer amount. Under Alternative 
2, no transfer of bluefish would be made from the recreational sector 
to the commercial sector, and the allocation of the TAL would be based 
strictly on the percentages specified in the FMP (17 percent 
commercial, 83 percent recreational).
    Alternatives 1 and 2 would implement a TAL of 27.694 million lb 
(12,562 mt). Alternative 3 would implement status quo management 
measures for 2012, which would result in a TAL identical to the 2011 
TAL, or 27.293 million lb (12,380 mt). The proposed 2012 Atlantic 
bluefish specification alternatives are shown in Table 2, along with 
the resulting commercial quota and RHL after any applicable transfer 
described earlier in the preamble and after deduction of the RSA quota. 
Alternative 1 (Council's preferred) would allocate 10.185 million lb 
(4,620 mt) to the commercial sector and 17.234 million lb (7,817 mt) to 
the recreational sector. Alternative 2 would result in the most 
restrictive commercial quota and would allocate 5.284 million lb (2,397 
mt) to the commercial sector and leave 22.134 million lb (10,040 mt) 
available to the recreational sector. Alternative 3 (status quo) would 
allocate 9.375 million lb (4,252 mt) to the commercial sector and 
17.813 million lb (8,080 mt) to the recreational sector. This 
alternative would also implement the status quo RSA level, which is 
currently approved for 105,000 lb (48 mt).

[[Page 8779]]



 Table 2--Proposed 2012 Atlantic Bluefish Specification Alternatives for TAL, Commercial Quota, and RHL (Million
                                                       lb)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                 TAL                Commercial quota               RHL
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Alternative 1........................  27.694 (12,562 mt).....  10.185 (4,620 mt)......  17.234 (7,817 mt).
Alternative 2........................  27.694 (12,562 mt).....  5.284 (2,397 mt).......  22.134 (10,040 mt).
Alternative 3........................  27.293 (12,380 mt).....  9.375 (4,252 mt).......  17.813 (8,080 mt).
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Commercial Fishery Impacts

    To assess the impact of the alternatives on commercial fisheries, 
the Council conducted a threshold analysis and analysis of potential 
changes in ex-vessel gross revenue that would result from each 
alternative, using Northeast dealer reports and South Atlantic Trip 
Ticket reports.
    Under Alternative 1, the recommended commercial quota for 2012 is 
approximately 40 percent higher than 2010 commercial landings. When 
this commercial quota is distributed to the states from Maine to 
Florida (based on the percentages specified in the FMP), each state's 
2012 quota is higher than its 2010 landings. Results of the threshold 
analysis from dealer data estimated that there would be no revenue 
change relative to 2010 for vessels that reported landings of bluefish 
in 2010. If commercial quota is transferred from a state or states that 
do not land their entire bluefish quota for 2012, as was done in 2011 
and frequently in previous years, the number of affected entities could 
change, thus changing the adverse economic impact on vessels landing in 
the state(s) receiving quota transfers.
    Alternative 2 would result in a commercial quota 28 percent below 
the 2010 commercial landings. Although the overall commercial quota is 
lower than 2010 commercial landings, when distributed to the states, 
each state's 2012 quota is higher than its 2010 landings, except for 
Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and North Carolina. For these 
states, 2012 commercial landings would be constrained by the 2012 
commercial quota under Alternative 2. The threshold analysis projected 
that 464 vessels could incur revenue losses of less than 5 percent and 
62 vessels could incur revenue losses of 5 percent or more. Of the 
vessels likely to be impacted with revenue reductions of 5 percent or 
more, 34 percent had gross sales of $1,000 or less and 55 percent had 
gross sales of $10,000 or less, which may indicate that the dependence 
on fishing for some of these vessels is small.
    Under Alternative 3, the 2011 commercial quota is approximately 29 
percent higher than the 2010 commercial landings. Most states show a 
similar increase in fishing opportunities under this alternative; 
however, North Carolina's 2012 commercial quota would be lower than its 
2010 commercial landings. Analysis of Alternative 3 concluded that 644 
vessels would likely have no change in revenue relative to 2010, and 74 
vessels were projected to incur revenue losses of less than 5 percent. 
No revenue reduction would be expected for vessels that land bluefish 
in North Carolina or Florida under Alternative 3. If commercial quota 
is transferred from a state or states that do not land their entire 
bluefish quota for 2012, as was done in 2011 and frequently in previous 
years, the number of affected entities described above could decrease, 
thus decreasing the adverse economic impact on vessels landing in the 
state(s) receiving quota transfers.

Recreational Fishery Impacts

    For Alternative 1, the recommended RHL for the recreational sector 
(17.234 million lb, 7,817 mt) is approximately 7 percent above the 
recreational landings for 2010 (16.166 million lb, 7,333 mt) and 3 
percent below the RHL implemented for 2011 (17.813 million lb, 8,080 
mt). It is not anticipated that the recommend RHL will result in 
decreased in the demand for party/charter boat trips or affect angler 
participation in a negative manner. At the present time, there are 
neither behavioral or demand data available to estimate how sensitive 
party/charter boat anglers might be to proposed fishing regulations. 
However, given the level of the adjusted recreational harvest limit for 
2012 and recreational landings in recent years, it is possible that 
given the proposed recreational harvest limits under Alternative 1, the 
demand for party/charter boat trips may not be negatively impacted. The 
impacts under Alternative 2 and 3 are expected to be similar to the 
recreational impacts under Alternative 1. The IRFA analyzed the maximum 
transfer amount from the recreational sector to the commercial sector, 
but future updates of recreational harvest projections could result in 
a smaller transfer amount, resulting in a high RHL.
    The 2012 RHL under Alternative 2 would be 37 percent higher than 
the recreational landings in 2010 and 49 percent higher than the 2011 
RHL. Under Alternative 3, the 2012 RHL would be 37 percent higher than 
2010 recreational landings and less than 1 percent lower than the 2011 
RHL. Thus, Alternatives 2 and 3 are not expected to have any negative 
effects on recreational fishermen or the demand for party/charter boat 
trips. In addition, neither of these alternatives are expected to 
result in recreational landings in excess of the RHL.

RSA Quota Impacts

    For analysis of each alternative, the maximum RSA quota amount (3 
percent of the TAL) was deducted from the initial overall TAL for 2012 
to derive the adjusted 2012 commercial quota and RHL under each 
alternative. Thus, the threshold analyses for each alternative 
accounted for overall reductions in fishing opportunities due to RSA. 
Specification of RSA quota for 2012 is expected to benefit all 
participants in the fishery as a result of improved data and 
information for management or stock assessment purposes.

Summary

    The Council recommended Alternative 1 over Alternatives 2 and 3 
because it is projected to achieve the target F in 2012, while 
providing the second least restrictive commercial quota among the 
alternatives analyzed. Alternative 2 was not recommended by the Council 
because it would yield the lowest commercial fishing opportunities 
among the alternatives due to an absence of a quota transfer under this 
alternative. Alternative 3 was not selected because it would more 
restrictive than necessary given the advice of the SSC and Monitoring 
Committee.

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

    Dated: February 9, 2012.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National 
Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-3563 Filed 2-14-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P