Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Reef Fish Fishery of the Gulf of Mexico; Exempted Fishing Permit, 19649-19651 [2013-07630]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 63 / Tuesday, April 2, 2013 / Notices trip ticket program issued by the NMFS or through a NMF- approved proprietary mechanism, a private industry program which has met NMFS requirements in being able to enter data and submit files in accordance to NMFS regulations. III. Data OMB Control Number: 0648–0229. Form Number: None. Type of Review: Regular submission (extension of a current information collection). Affected Public: Business or other for profit organizations. Estimated Number of Respondents: 781. Estimated Time Per Response: 4 minutes per fishing trip. Estimated Total Annual Burden Hours: 2,643. Estimated Total Annual Cost to Public: $460,200 in recordkeeping/ reporting costs. IV. Request for Comments Comments are invited on: (a) Whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information shall have practical utility; (b) the accuracy of the agency’s estimate of the burden (including hours and cost) of the proposed collection of information; (c) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (d) ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology. Comments submitted in response to this notice will be summarized and/or included in the request for OMB approval of this information collection; they also will become a matter of public record. Dated: March 28, 2013. Gwellnar Banks, Management Analyst, Office of the Chief Information Officer. [FR Doc. 2013–07624 Filed 4–1–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P ACTION: Notice. The Department of Commerce, as part of its continuing effort to reduce paperwork and respondent burden, invites the general public and other Federal agencies to take this opportunity to comment on proposed and/or continuing information collections, as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995. DATES: Written comments must be submitted on or before June 3, 2013. ADDRESSES: Direct all written comments to Jennifer Jessup, Departmental Paperwork Clearance Officer, Department of Commerce, Room 6616, 14th and Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20230 (or via the Internet at JJessup@doc.gov). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Requests for additional information or copies of the information collection instrument and instructions should be directed to Craig D’Angelo, (562) 980– 4024 or Craig.Dangelo@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: SUMMARY: I. Abstract This request is for revision and extension of a current information collection. Under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq., permits are required for persons to participate in Federally-managed fisheries off the West Coast. There are three types of permits: Basic fishery permits for Highly Migratory Species (HMS), limited entry permits for Coastal Pelagic Species (CPS) and experimental fishing permits (EFPs). Appeals and certain waiver requests may also be submitted. Transfer applications may also be required. The permit application forms provide basic information about permit holders and the vessels and gear being used. This information is important for understanding the nature of the fisheries and provides a link to participants. It also aids in enforcement of regulations. Minor modifications of the current HMS permit application will occur to simplify application questions. II. Method of Collection srobinson on DSK4SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Proposed Information Collection; Comment Request; Southwest Region Permit Family of Forms National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. AGENCY: VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:35 Apr 01, 2013 Jkt 229001 Forms are available on the internet; paper applications are also available and may be submitted by mail or FAX. In addition, an online submission option is expected to be available for Highly Migratory Species permits by April 30, 2013. III. Data PO 00000 OMB Control Number: 0648–0204. Form Number: None. Frm 00013 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 19649 Type of Review: Regular submission (revision and extension of a current information collection). Affected Public: Business or other forprofit organizations. Estimated Number of Respondents: 1,695 (HMS), 65 (CPS). Estimated Time per Response: HMS permit renewal applications, 6 minutes; CPS transfers, 15 minutes; new HMS permits, 60 minutes; additional information (when requested) for the CPS fishery, 1 hour; appeals, 2 hours. Estimated Total Annual Burden Hours: 170. Estimated Total Annual Cost to Public: $25,855. IV. Request for Comments Comments are invited on: (a) Whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information shall have practical utility; (b) the accuracy of the agency’s estimate of the burden (including hours and cost) of the proposed collection of information; (c) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (d) ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology. Comments submitted in response to this notice will be summarized and/or included in the request for OMB approval of this information collection; they also will become a matter of public record. Dated: March 27, 2013. Gwellnar Banks, Management Analyst, Office of the Chief Information Officer. [FR Doc. 2013–07575 Filed 4–1–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XC528 Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Reef Fish Fishery of the Gulf of Mexico; Exempted Fishing Permit National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of receipt of an application for an exempted fishing permit; request for comments. AGENCY: E:\FR\FM\02APN1.SGM 02APN1 19650 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 63 / Tuesday, April 2, 2013 / Notices NMFS announces the receipt of an application for an exempted fishing permit (EFP) from the Gulf Headboat Cooperative (Cooperative). The Cooperative proposes to evaluate the efficacy of an allocation-based management system, using a limited number of headboats in a 2-year pilot study. This study, to be conducted in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf), is intended to assess whether such a system can better achieve conservation goals established in the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico; evaluate the effectiveness of a more timely electronic data reporting system; and evaluate the potential social and economic benefits of an alternative management strategy for the headboat segment of the recreational fishing sector within the Gulf reef fish fishery. DATES: Comments must be received no later than 5 p.m., eastern time, on May 2, 2013. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the application, identified by RIN 0648–XC528, by any of the following methods: • Email: 0648– XC528.Headboat.IFQ.EFP@noaa.gov. Include in the subject line of the email comment the following document identifier: ‘‘Headboat IFQ’’. • Mail: Steve Branstetter, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701. The application and related documents are available for review upon written request to any of the above addresses. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Branstetter, 727–824–5305; email: Steve.Branstetter@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The EFP is requested under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) (Magnuson-Stevens Act), and regulations at 50 CFR 600.745(b) concerning exempted fishing. srobinson on DSK4SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: Overall Program Concept The described research program is being proposed by a sub-set of the headboat fleet in the Gulf reef fish fishery. A headboat is a for-hire vessel that charges a fee on an individual angler (per head) basis. These headboats have formed a Cooperative to conduct a pilot study to evaluate the efficacy of an allocation-based management strategy, which if proven successful, could potentially be implemented by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) for the entire reef fish headboat fleet in the Gulf. VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:35 Apr 01, 2013 Jkt 229001 Currently, headboats operate under a common set of management measures, such as recreational bag limits, size limits, and open fishing seasons. According to the Cooperative, regulatory responses to overharvesting of reef fish in the recreational sector and the need for more timely harvest data have resulted in shorter fishing seasons, reduced bag limits, and other factors that make it difficult to operate successful headboat businesses. Because headboat operators can now only fish for certain species during brief seasons in each year, there are increased regulatory discards during the closed seasons, and boats often lose out on potential customers during periods of high tourist traffic along the Gulf coast that do not coincide with those open fishing seasons. In addition, even longtime customers are losing confidence that if they book a headboat trip in advance, the fishing seasons for their target reef fish species will be open when their fishing trip occurs. This lack of certainty makes customers reluctant to book headboat fishing trips. The Cooperative is requesting that they be issued an EFP authorizing their members to harvest a specific amount of red snapper and gag anytime during the 2014 and 2015 fishing years. The amount of fish that would be authorized for harvest by the Cooperative would be based on the Cooperative participants’ 2011 aggregate landings of red snapper and gag reported through the Southeast Regional Headboat Survey (SRHS) program relative to the total recreational landings of red snapper and gag in 2011. That percentage would then be applied to the 2014 and 2015 red snapper recreational quota and gag recreational allocation to determine the amount of fish authorized under the EFP to be harvested by the Cooperative. The Cooperative would be responsible for distributing the allotted fish to individual headboats in the program. Final distribution would be in numbers of fish, calculated from the proportional landings data, which are reported in weight. The Cooperative would then be responsible for reporting their landings electronically to the NMFS Southeast Regional Office. NMFS would establish an electronic account for the Cooperative manager before the start of the 2014 fishing season. Vessel accounts would also be established by NMFS for each vessel participating in the EFP. NMFS would provide the Cooperative Manager and participating Gulf charter-headboat for reef fish permit holders each with a unique UserID and Personal Identification Number (PIN) to log-in to their accounts. The amount of fish PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 authorized for harvest under the EFP would be deposited in the Cooperative manager’s electronic account on January 1, each year. The Cooperative manager would then transfer fish to and from headboat vessel accounts. The number of fish each vessel receives would be determined by the Cooperative and not NMFS. Vessel account holders would be able to view the number of fish available for harvest at any point in time through their account. Landed fish would be deducted from the vessel account after each recorded trip. After all fish have been harvested, the vessel would either need to obtain additional fish from the Cooperative manager to continue landing fish or no longer harvest red snapper and gag for the remainder of the fishing year. Data Collection and Reporting The Cooperative has proposed to provide a transparent real-time monitoring system. All vessels in the program would be required to purchase, install, activate, and maintain a Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) unit in accordance with NMFS Office of Law Enforcement procedures. A participating captain would ‘‘hail out’’ using the VMS device or by telephone as the vessel leaves the dock, notifying NMFS of the fishing trip. In return, the captain would receive a confirmation number for that particular trip. When returning to port, the vessel would be required to ‘‘hail in’’ using the VMS or by telephone at least 1 hour prior to landing, alerting law enforcement and port agents to his/her return. This would provide sufficient notice to allow a dockside intercept if deemed necessary by enforcement and headboat port samplers. Landings would be reported at the end of the trip using a software application (iSnapper) developed by Texas A&M University’s Harte Research Institute. The software application was pilot-tested by the for-hire fleet in the Gulf during 2011 and 2012. Before returning to the dock, the headboat captain would enter the species and number of fish retained during the trip, approximate GPS location to identify fishing zones, and social and economic information regarding the customers on each trip. At the end of the trip, the captain would use the iSnapper data to print out a receipt for each individual customer, which would include summary information such as species and number of fish landed, the date of the trip, and the name of the vessel. This receipt would be used at the dock to track the fish that had been landed on the Cooperative vessel participating in the EFP. E:\FR\FM\02APN1.SGM 02APN1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 63 / Tuesday, April 2, 2013 / Notices srobinson on DSK4SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES By using this electronic reporting methodology, the Cooperative would maintain a real-time, internet-based tracking system to ensure accounting of each fish landed. The data would be collected on remote servers and sent to NMFS. The Cooperative would maintain an electronic account with NMFS, specifying the numbers of red snapper and gag grouper that could be landed. As fish are landed, they would be deducted from the headboat’s vessel account. Finally, headboat captains would continue submitting completed NMFS SRHS logbook data for each trip in compliance with 50 CFR 622.5. Socio-Economic Study The pilot project, if approved, offers an opportunity to evaluate the impacts of an alternative management system on the economic performance of the Gulf reef fish headboat industry. It also provides a valuable opportunity to customize data collection to maximize usefulness of the data for answering important management questions. Academic researchers, in collaboration with the Cooperative, would conduct a socio-economic study of the anticipated effects of the change in headboat cooperative management using currently available data sources. Simultaneously, the academic researchers and the Cooperative would develop additional survey instruments to gather economic data for a post-EFP analysis of the effects of the pilot project on Cooperative vessels after its first and second years. Data collection would emphasize post-EFP impacts of the pilot project. A partial list of impacts to assess in the study includes: 1. How has the pilot project changed the temporal and spatial distributions of fishing by Cooperative members? 2. How has the number of anglers/ customers changed as a result of Cooperative members being able to better target their trips to the seasonality of demand specific to red snapper and gag? 3. Do headboat owners utilize increased flexibility to provide a more differentiated recreational product to customers? 4. How has the pilot project affected the cost and net revenue associated with a representative trip? Data collection would include triplevel catch and effort characteristics (e.g., retained and discarded catch, spatial location, and number of customers), trip and season-level variable revenues and costs (e.g., trip pricing, gear, bait, ice, fuel, and maintenance expenditures), and labor employment and compensation information. Many trip-level data would VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:35 Apr 01, 2013 Jkt 229001 be collected using the iSnapper application, whereas seasonal data would be collected through supplementary survey instruments. The public and the Council questioned if the establishment of an allocation-based system for the Cooperative could be considered the establishment of an individual fishing quota (IFQ) program, which would require approval via a referendum. Section 303A(c)(6)(D), 16 U.S.C. 1853a(c)(6)(D), of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, requires a referendum to approve or implement a fishery management plan or plan amendment that creates an IFQ program for any species in the Gulf. Although the allocation-based system requested by the Cooperative might reasonably be considered to create such an IFQ program, the mere issuance of an EFP to test the program on a limited basis does not trigger the referendum requirement. The statutory language is explicit that the referendum is only required to approve a fishery management plan or plan amendment that would implement such a program. An EFP is neither a fishery management plan nor a plan amendment, and does not implement any new requirements for all or a portion of recreational participants. If issued, the EFP would only establish specific requirements for the members of the voluntary Cooperative who have requested the EFP. Therefore, NMFS has determined that no referendum is required. Currently, the recreational red snapper fishing season begins on June 1 of each year, and is closed when NMFS projects the recreational quota will be landed. As noted above, the recreational seasons have become shorter each year, impacting the ability of headboats to operate in an efficient and economically viable manner. If this EFP is authorized, identified Gulf reef fish headboats in the Cooperative would be able to use their allocation to fish during the open recreational season, but also would be able to select days outside the designated season where they could use their red snapper allocation to meet specific customer demands. Nevertheless, in accordance with section 407(d)(1) (16 U.S.C. 1883(d)) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, when NMFS determines the recreational red snapper fishing quota is reached, NMFS is required to prohibit the retention of red snapper caught during the rest of the fishing year. Should NMFS determine that the recreational red snapper quota is reached prior to the end of the 2014 or 2015 fishing year, including consideration of fish already harvested by the Cooperative, headboats participating under the EFP would have PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 19651 to cease retaining red snapper, even if the Cooperative still has allocation of red snapper available. The Council reviewed the Cooperative’s initial application at its April 2012 meeting, and recommended that NMFS approve the application. NMFS finds this application does warrant further consideration. Possible conditions the agency may impose on this permit, if it is indeed granted, include but are not limited to, a prohibition of conducting research within marine protected areas, marine sanctuaries, or special management zones, without additional authorization. A report on the research would be due at the end of the collection period, to be submitted to NMFS and reviewed by the Council. A final decision on issuance of the EFP will depend on NMFS’s review of public comments received on the application, the Council’s recommendation, consultations with the affected states, and the U.S. Coast Guard, as well as a determination that it is consistent with all applicable laws. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: March 28, 2013. Kara Meckley, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2013–07630 Filed 4–1–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XC594 New England Fishery Management Council; Public Meeting; Correction National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of correction of a public meeting. AGENCY: The New England Fishery Management Council’s (Council) Groundfish Oversight Committee will meet to consider actions affecting New England fisheries in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ). DATES: The two-day meeting will be held on Tuesday, April 16, 2013 beginning at 12 p.m. and Wednesday, April 17, 2013 beginning at 8:30 a.m. ADDRESSES: The meeting will be held at the Holiday Inn, 31 Hampshire Street, Mansfield, MA 02048; telephone: (508) 339–2200; fax: (508) 339–1040. SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\02APN1.SGM 02APN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 63 (Tuesday, April 2, 2013)]
[Notices]
[Pages 19649-19651]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-07630]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XC528


Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 
Reef Fish Fishery of the Gulf of Mexico; Exempted Fishing Permit

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

ACTION: Notice of receipt of an application for an exempted fishing 
permit; request for comments.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

[[Page 19650]]

SUMMARY: NMFS announces the receipt of an application for an exempted 
fishing permit (EFP) from the Gulf Headboat Cooperative (Cooperative). 
The Cooperative proposes to evaluate the efficacy of an allocation-
based management system, using a limited number of headboats in a 2-
year pilot study. This study, to be conducted in the exclusive economic 
zone (EEZ) of the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf), is intended to assess whether 
such a system can better achieve conservation goals established in the 
Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of 
Mexico; evaluate the effectiveness of a more timely electronic data 
reporting system; and evaluate the potential social and economic 
benefits of an alternative management strategy for the headboat segment 
of the recreational fishing sector within the Gulf reef fish fishery.

DATES: Comments must be received no later than 5 p.m., eastern time, on 
May 2, 2013.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the application, identified by 
RIN 0648-XC528, by any of the following methods:
     Email: 0648-XC528.Headboat.IFQ.EFP@noaa.gov. Include in 
the subject line of the email comment the following document 
identifier: ``Headboat IFQ''.
     Mail: Steve Branstetter, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 
263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.
    The application and related documents are available for review upon 
written request to any of the above addresses.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Branstetter, 727-824-5305; 
email: Steve.Branstetter@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The EFP is requested under the authority of 
the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (16 U.S.C. 
1801 et seq.) (Magnuson-Stevens Act), and regulations at 50 CFR 
600.745(b) concerning exempted fishing.

Overall Program Concept

    The described research program is being proposed by a sub-set of 
the headboat fleet in the Gulf reef fish fishery. A headboat is a for-
hire vessel that charges a fee on an individual angler (per head) 
basis. These headboats have formed a Cooperative to conduct a pilot 
study to evaluate the efficacy of an allocation-based management 
strategy, which if proven successful, could potentially be implemented 
by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) for the 
entire reef fish headboat fleet in the Gulf.
    Currently, headboats operate under a common set of management 
measures, such as recreational bag limits, size limits, and open 
fishing seasons. According to the Cooperative, regulatory responses to 
overharvesting of reef fish in the recreational sector and the need for 
more timely harvest data have resulted in shorter fishing seasons, 
reduced bag limits, and other factors that make it difficult to operate 
successful headboat businesses. Because headboat operators can now only 
fish for certain species during brief seasons in each year, there are 
increased regulatory discards during the closed seasons, and boats 
often lose out on potential customers during periods of high tourist 
traffic along the Gulf coast that do not coincide with those open 
fishing seasons. In addition, even long-time customers are losing 
confidence that if they book a headboat trip in advance, the fishing 
seasons for their target reef fish species will be open when their 
fishing trip occurs. This lack of certainty makes customers reluctant 
to book headboat fishing trips.
    The Cooperative is requesting that they be issued an EFP 
authorizing their members to harvest a specific amount of red snapper 
and gag anytime during the 2014 and 2015 fishing years. The amount of 
fish that would be authorized for harvest by the Cooperative would be 
based on the Cooperative participants' 2011 aggregate landings of red 
snapper and gag reported through the Southeast Regional Headboat Survey 
(SRHS) program relative to the total recreational landings of red 
snapper and gag in 2011. That percentage would then be applied to the 
2014 and 2015 red snapper recreational quota and gag recreational 
allocation to determine the amount of fish authorized under the EFP to 
be harvested by the Cooperative.
    The Cooperative would be responsible for distributing the allotted 
fish to individual headboats in the program. Final distribution would 
be in numbers of fish, calculated from the proportional landings data, 
which are reported in weight. The Cooperative would then be responsible 
for reporting their landings electronically to the NMFS Southeast 
Regional Office.
    NMFS would establish an electronic account for the Cooperative 
manager before the start of the 2014 fishing season. Vessel accounts 
would also be established by NMFS for each vessel participating in the 
EFP. NMFS would provide the Cooperative Manager and participating Gulf 
charter-headboat for reef fish permit holders each with a unique UserID 
and Personal Identification Number (PIN) to log-in to their accounts. 
The amount of fish authorized for harvest under the EFP would be 
deposited in the Cooperative manager's electronic account on January 1, 
each year. The Cooperative manager would then transfer fish to and from 
headboat vessel accounts. The number of fish each vessel receives would 
be determined by the Cooperative and not NMFS. Vessel account holders 
would be able to view the number of fish available for harvest at any 
point in time through their account. Landed fish would be deducted from 
the vessel account after each recorded trip. After all fish have been 
harvested, the vessel would either need to obtain additional fish from 
the Cooperative manager to continue landing fish or no longer harvest 
red snapper and gag for the remainder of the fishing year.

Data Collection and Reporting

    The Cooperative has proposed to provide a transparent real-time 
monitoring system. All vessels in the program would be required to 
purchase, install, activate, and maintain a Vessel Monitoring System 
(VMS) unit in accordance with NMFS Office of Law Enforcement 
procedures. A participating captain would ``hail out'' using the VMS 
device or by telephone as the vessel leaves the dock, notifying NMFS of 
the fishing trip. In return, the captain would receive a confirmation 
number for that particular trip. When returning to port, the vessel 
would be required to ``hail in'' using the VMS or by telephone at least 
1 hour prior to landing, alerting law enforcement and port agents to 
his/her return. This would provide sufficient notice to allow a 
dockside intercept if deemed necessary by enforcement and headboat port 
samplers.
    Landings would be reported at the end of the trip using a software 
application (iSnapper) developed by Texas A&M University's Harte 
Research Institute. The software application was pilot-tested by the 
for-hire fleet in the Gulf during 2011 and 2012. Before returning to 
the dock, the headboat captain would enter the species and number of 
fish retained during the trip, approximate GPS location to identify 
fishing zones, and social and economic information regarding the 
customers on each trip. At the end of the trip, the captain would use 
the iSnapper data to print out a receipt for each individual customer, 
which would include summary information such as species and number of 
fish landed, the date of the trip, and the name of the vessel. This 
receipt would be used at the dock to track the fish that had been 
landed on the Cooperative vessel participating in the EFP.

[[Page 19651]]

    By using this electronic reporting methodology, the Cooperative 
would maintain a real-time, internet-based tracking system to ensure 
accounting of each fish landed. The data would be collected on remote 
servers and sent to NMFS. The Cooperative would maintain an electronic 
account with NMFS, specifying the numbers of red snapper and gag 
grouper that could be landed. As fish are landed, they would be 
deducted from the headboat's vessel account. Finally, headboat captains 
would continue submitting completed NMFS SRHS logbook data for each 
trip in compliance with 50 CFR 622.5.

Socio-Economic Study

    The pilot project, if approved, offers an opportunity to evaluate 
the impacts of an alternative management system on the economic 
performance of the Gulf reef fish headboat industry. It also provides a 
valuable opportunity to customize data collection to maximize 
usefulness of the data for answering important management questions. 
Academic researchers, in collaboration with the Cooperative, would 
conduct a socio-economic study of the anticipated effects of the change 
in headboat cooperative management using currently available data 
sources. Simultaneously, the academic researchers and the Cooperative 
would develop additional survey instruments to gather economic data for 
a post-EFP analysis of the effects of the pilot project on Cooperative 
vessels after its first and second years. Data collection would 
emphasize post-EFP impacts of the pilot project. A partial list of 
impacts to assess in the study includes:
    1. How has the pilot project changed the temporal and spatial 
distributions of fishing by Cooperative members?
    2. How has the number of anglers/customers changed as a result of 
Cooperative members being able to better target their trips to the 
seasonality of demand specific to red snapper and gag?
    3. Do headboat owners utilize increased flexibility to provide a 
more differentiated recreational product to customers?
    4. How has the pilot project affected the cost and net revenue 
associated with a representative trip?
    Data collection would include trip-level catch and effort 
characteristics (e.g., retained and discarded catch, spatial location, 
and number of customers), trip and season-level variable revenues and 
costs (e.g., trip pricing, gear, bait, ice, fuel, and maintenance 
expenditures), and labor employment and compensation information. Many 
trip-level data would be collected using the iSnapper application, 
whereas seasonal data would be collected through supplementary survey 
instruments.
    The public and the Council questioned if the establishment of an 
allocation-based system for the Cooperative could be considered the 
establishment of an individual fishing quota (IFQ) program, which would 
require approval via a referendum. Section 303A(c)(6)(D), 16 U.S.C. 
1853a(c)(6)(D), of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, requires a referendum to 
approve or implement a fishery management plan or plan amendment that 
creates an IFQ program for any species in the Gulf. Although the 
allocation-based system requested by the Cooperative might reasonably 
be considered to create such an IFQ program, the mere issuance of an 
EFP to test the program on a limited basis does not trigger the 
referendum requirement. The statutory language is explicit that the 
referendum is only required to approve a fishery management plan or 
plan amendment that would implement such a program. An EFP is neither a 
fishery management plan nor a plan amendment, and does not implement 
any new requirements for all or a portion of recreational participants. 
If issued, the EFP would only establish specific requirements for the 
members of the voluntary Cooperative who have requested the EFP. 
Therefore, NMFS has determined that no referendum is required.
    Currently, the recreational red snapper fishing season begins on 
June 1 of each year, and is closed when NMFS projects the recreational 
quota will be landed. As noted above, the recreational seasons have 
become shorter each year, impacting the ability of headboats to operate 
in an efficient and economically viable manner. If this EFP is 
authorized, identified Gulf reef fish headboats in the Cooperative 
would be able to use their allocation to fish during the open 
recreational season, but also would be able to select days outside the 
designated season where they could use their red snapper allocation to 
meet specific customer demands. Nevertheless, in accordance with 
section 407(d)(1) (16 U.S.C. 1883(d)) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, when 
NMFS determines the recreational red snapper fishing quota is reached, 
NMFS is required to prohibit the retention of red snapper caught during 
the rest of the fishing year. Should NMFS determine that the 
recreational red snapper quota is reached prior to the end of the 2014 
or 2015 fishing year, including consideration of fish already harvested 
by the Cooperative, headboats participating under the EFP would have to 
cease retaining red snapper, even if the Cooperative still has 
allocation of red snapper available.
    The Council reviewed the Cooperative's initial application at its 
April 2012 meeting, and recommended that NMFS approve the application. 
NMFS finds this application does warrant further consideration. 
Possible conditions the agency may impose on this permit, if it is 
indeed granted, include but are not limited to, a prohibition of 
conducting research within marine protected areas, marine sanctuaries, 
or special management zones, without additional authorization. A report 
on the research would be due at the end of the collection period, to be 
submitted to NMFS and reviewed by the Council.
    A final decision on issuance of the EFP will depend on NMFS's 
review of public comments received on the application, the Council's 
recommendation, consultations with the affected states, and the U.S. 
Coast Guard, as well as a determination that it is consistent with all 
applicable laws.

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

    Dated: March 28, 2013.
Kara Meckley,
Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National 
Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-07630 Filed 4-1-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P