Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; 2013 Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Quota Specifications, 36685-36690 [2013-14661]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 118 / Wednesday, June 19, 2013 / Rules and Regulations National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 635 [Docket No. 130214139–3542–02] RIN 0648–XC513 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; 2013 Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Quota Specifications National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule; closure. AGENCY: SUMMARY: NMFS establishes 2013 quota specifications for the Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) fishery and closes the incidental Longline category northern and southern area fisheries for large medium and giant BFT for the remainder of 2013. These actions are necessary to implement binding recommendations of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), as required by the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA), and to achieve domestic management objectives under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). Under the closure, fishing for, retaining, possessing, or landing BFT in the Longline category northern and southern areas is prohibited for the remainder of 2013. The Longline fishery in the Northeast Distant gear restricted area (NED) remains open at this time. The closure is necessary to prevent overharvest of the adjusted Longline category subquotas as finalized in this action. The quota specifications are effective June 25, 2013 through December 31, 2013. The closure of the Longline category northern and southern area fisheries is effective 11:30 p.m., local time, June 25, 2013, through December 31, 2013. ADDRESSES: Supporting documents, including a Supplemental Environmental Assessment and the Fishery Management Plans described below may be downloaded from the HMS Web site at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/ sfa/hms/. These documents also are available by request to Sarah McLaughlin at the telephone number below. tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES DATES: FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sarah McLaughlin or Brad McHale, 978–281–9260. VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:08 Jun 18, 2013 Jkt 229001 Atlantic bluefin tuna, bigeye tuna, albacore tuna, yellowfin tuna, and skipjack tuna (hereafter referred to as ‘‘Atlantic tunas’’) are managed under the dual authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and ATCA. As an active member of ICCAT, the United States implements binding ICCAT recommendations to comply with this international treaty. ATCA authorizes the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) to promulgate regulations, as may be necessary and appropriate to carry out ICCAT recommendations. The authority to issue regulations under the MagnusonStevens Act and ATCA has been delegated from the Secretary to the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NMFS. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE Background NMFS annually implements BFT quota specifications to adjust the annual U.S. baseline BFT quota to account for any underharvest or overharvest of the adjusted U.S. BFT quota from the prior year. In May 2011, NMFS prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA)/ Regulatory Impact Review/Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis for a final rule that: (1) Implemented and allocated the U.S. BFT quota recommended by ICCAT for 2011 and for 2012 (ICCAT Recommendation 10– 03); (2) adjusted the 2011 U.S. quota and subquotas to account for unharvested 2010 quota allowed to be carried forward to 2011, and to account for a portion of the estimated 2011 dead discards up front; and (3) implemented several other BFT management measures (76 FR 39019, July 5, 2011). In that final rule, NMFS implemented the 923.7-mt baseline quota consistent with ICCAT Recommendation 10–03 and set the domestic BFT fishing category subquotas per the allocation percentages established in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and implementing regulations (71 FR 58058, October 2, 2006). The baseline quota and category subquotas are codified and remain effective until changed (for instance, if any new ICCAT BFT Total Allowable Catch (TAC) recommendation is adopted). At its 2012 annual meeting, ICCAT recommended a one-year rollover of the 1,750-mt TAC as part of ICCAT Recommendation 12–02—Supplemental Recommendation by ICCAT concerning the Western Atlantic Bluefin tuna Rebuilding Program. This amount is expected to allow for continued stock growth under both the low and high stock recruitment scenarios, considering the 2012 ICCAT BFT stock assessment PO 00000 Frm 00041 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 36685 results, which were not substantively different than those of an assessment that ICCAT conducted in 2010. The annual U.S. baseline quota for 2013 continues to be 923.7 mt, and the annual total U.S. quota, including 25 mt to account for bycatch related to pelagic longline fisheries in the NED, continues to be 948.7 mt. Although it is unnecessary to prepare an EA for quota specifications alone (in accordance with the approach described in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP), NMFS has prepared a Supplemental EA to present and analyze updated information regarding the affected environment, including information from a 2012 ICCAT stock assessment for BFT, among other things. Until the final specifications for 2013 are effective, the existing BFT base quotas continue to apply as codified. (See Table 1, second column.) Although the baseline quota is unchanged this year because the 2012 ICCAT recommendation included the same TAC as the prior recommendation, NMFS is carrying forward underharvest from 2012, consistent with the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP. Thus, this final action adjusts the quota as appropriate and allowable for the 2013 fishing year. Further background information, including the need for the 2013 BFT quota specifications, was provided in the preamble to the proposed rule (78 FR 21584, April 11, 2013) and is not repeated here. Changes From the Proposed Rule NMFS determines the amount of BFT quota actually available for the year by adjusting the ICCAT-recommended baseline BFT quota for overharvest or underharvest from the previous fishing year and any accounting for dead discards. For the proposed rule, NMFS used the 2011 estimate of 145.2 mt as a proxy for potential 2013 dead discards, because the BFT dead discard estimate for 2012 was not yet available. In late May 2013, the preliminary 2012 dead discard estimate of 239.5 mt became available from the NMFS Southeast Fisheries Science Center. As anticipated and explained to the public at the proposed rule stage, NMFS is using the more recent dead discard estimate in this final rule because it is the best available and most complete information NMFS has regarding dead discards. Based on preliminary data available as of May 31, 2013, BFT landings in 2012 totaled 713.2 mt. Adding the 2012 dead discard estimate (239.5 mt) results in a preliminary 2012 total catch of 952.7 mt, which is 90.9 mt less than the amount of quota (inclusive of dead E:\FR\FM\19JNR1.SGM 19JNR1 36686 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 118 / Wednesday, June 19, 2013 / Rules and Regulations tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES discards) allowed under ICCAT Recommendation 12–02 (948.7 mt plus 94.9 mt of 2011 underharvest carried forward to 2012, totaling 1,043.6 mt). Thus, the underharvest for 2012 is 90.9 mt. This amount is within the current ICCAT limit on the amount of underharvest that can be carried forward to 2013, which is 10 percent of a country’s total quota, and for the United States is 94.9 mt. As anticipated in the proposed rule, NMFS is accounting up front (i.e., at the beginning of the fishing year) for half of the expected dead discards for 2013, using the best available estimate of dead discards (now the 2012 estimate received as of May 31, 2013), and deducting that portion directly from the Longline category subquota. This is the same approach that NMFS took for the final 2011 and 2012 BFT quota specifications. Regarding the unharvested 2012 BFT quota, NMFS had proposed to carry 94.9 mt of available underharvest forward to 2013, and distribute half of that amount to the Longline category and half to the Reserve category. NMFS stated that any necessary adjustments to the 2013 specifications would be made in the final rule after considering updated 2012 landings information and the 2012 dead discard estimate. NMFS also stated that it could allocate the amount carried forward in another manner after considering domestic management needs for 2013. Considering the best available information regarding 2012 landings and dead discards—as well as actual 2013 Longline category BFT landings to date—NMFS is finalizing the 2013 BFT specifications as follows. As shown in the third column of Table 1, NMFS is accounting for half of the 2012 dead discard estimate of 239.5 mt (i.e., 119.75 mt) up front by deducting that portion of estimated longline discards directly from the baseline Longline category subquota of 74.8 mt. If NMFS deducts one half of the dead discard estimate from the Longline category subquota and provide half of the available underharvest, the result is a 2013 adjusted Longline category subquota of VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:08 Jun 18, 2013 Jkt 229001 less than 1 mt (74.8 mt ¥119.75 mt + 45.45 mt = 0.5 mt). Therefore, NMFS has decided in the final rule to add all of the 2012 underharvest that can be carried forward to 2013 (i.e., 90.9 mt) to the Longline category (fourth column). Thus, the adjusted Longline category subquota would be 74.8 mt ¥ 119.75 mt + 90.9 mt = 46 mt (not including the separate 25-mt allocation for the Northeast Distant gear restricted area). In these specifications, NMFS is balancing the need of the pelagic longline fishery to continue fishing for swordfish and Atlantic tunas with the need of directed bluefin fisheries participants to receive their base quota. In the proposed rule, NMFS stated that any necessary adjustments to the 2013 specifications would be made in the final rule after considering updated 2012 landings information and the dead discard estimate for 2012. NMFS requested public comment and consideration of the possibility that deduction of half of the final estimate of dead discards from the baseline Longline category subquota could result in little to no quota for the Longline category for 2013 prior to application of any available underharvest, as well as the possibility that NMFS may close the Longline category fishery to BFT retention based on codified quotas and account fully for landings to date in the final specifications, as occurred in 2012 (see 78 FR 21584). 2013 Quota Specifications In this final rule NMFS deducts half of the 2012 dead discard estimate of 239.5 mt directly from the baseline Longline category quota of 74.8 mt and applies the full 90.9 mt allowed to be carried forward to 2013 to the Longline category. This action results in a 46-mt adjusted Longline subquota, not including the 25-mt allocation set aside by ICCAT for the NED (i.e., 74.8 mt ¥ 119.75 mt + 90.9 mt = 46 mt). For the directed fishing categories (i.e., the Angling, General, Harpoon, Purse Seine categories), as well as the Trap and Reserve categories, NMFS maintains the codified baseline BFT quotas and subquotas that were established in July PO 00000 Frm 00042 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 2011 (76 FR 39019, July 5, 2011), as proposed. Thus, in accordance with ICCAT Recommendation 12–02, the domestic category allocations established in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, and regulations regarding annual adjustments at 50 CFR 635.27(a)(10), NMFS establishes BFT quota specifications for the 2013 fishing year as follows, and as shown in the fifth column of Table 1: General category— 435.1 mt; Harpoon category—36 mt; Purse Seine category—171.8 mt; Angling category—182 mt; Longline category—46 mt; and Trap category—0.9 mt. The Longline category quota of 46 mt is subdivided as follows: 18.4 mt to pelagic longline vessels landing BFT north of 31° N. latitude, and 27.6 mt to pelagic longline vessels landing BFT south of 31° N. latitude. NMFS accounts for landings under the 25-mt NED allocation separately from other Longline category landings. The amount allocated to the Reserve category for inseason adjustments, scientific research collection, potential overharvest in any category except the Purse Seine category, and potential quota transfers, is 23.1 mt. As described in the proposed rule, NMFS considers the deduction of half of the dead discard estimate from the Longline category as a transition from the method used for 2007 through 2010, as NMFS continues to develop Draft Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP. Draft Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP will explore related BFT fishery management issues consistent with the need to end overfishing and rebuild the stock. NMFS anticipates that measures in Draft Amendment 7 will address several of the long-standing challenges facing the fishery and will examine, among other things, revisiting quota allocations; reducing and accounting for dead discards; adding or modifying time/area closures or gear-restricted areas; and improving the reporting and monitoring of dead discards and landings in all categories. NMFS anticipates that Draft Amendment 7 will publish in 2013. E:\FR\FM\19JNR1.SGM 19JNR1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 118 / Wednesday, June 19, 2013 / Rules and Regulations 36687 TABLE 1—FINAL 2013 ATLANTIC BLUEFIN TUNA (BFT) QUOTAS AND QUOTA SPECIFICATIONS [In metric tons] 2013 Quota specifications Baseline allocation (per current ICCAT recommendation and 2006 consolidated HMS FMP allocations) Category (% share of baseline quota) Total (100) .................................... Angling (19.7) ............................... General (47.1) .............................. Harpoon (3.9) ............................... Purse Seine (18.6) ....................... Longline (8.1) ............................... Trap (0.1) ..................................... Reserve (2.5) ............................... Dead discard deduction (1⁄2 of 2012 estimate of 239.5 mt) 923.7* .......................................... 182.0 ........................................... SUBQUOTAS: School: 94.9 Reserve: 17.6 North: 36.5 South: 40.8 LS/SM: 82.9 North: 39.1 South: 43.8 Trophy: 4.2 North: 1.4 South: 2.8 435.1 ........................................... SUBQUOTAS: Jan: 23.1 .............................. Jun–Aug: 217.6 .................... Sept: 115.3 ........................... Oct–Nov: 56.6 ...................... Dec: 22.6 .............................. 36.0 ............................................. 171.8 ........................................... 74.8 ............................................. SUBQUOTAS: North (-NED): 29.9 ............... NED: 25.0* ........................... South: 44.9 ........................... 0.9 ............................................... 23.1 ............................................. 2012 Underharvest to carry forward to 2013 (90.9 mt total) ............................ ............................ ............................ ............................ ............................ ............................ ............................ ............................ ¥119.75 ............................ ............................ +90.9 ............................ ............................ ............................ ............................ Adjusted 2013 fishing year quota 894.9 182.0 SUBQUOTAS: School: 94.9 Reserve: 17.6 North: 36.5 South: 40.8 LS/SM: 82.9 North: 39.1 South: 43.8 Trophy: 4.2 North: 1.4 South: 2.8 435.1 SUBQUOTAS: Jan: 23.1 Jun:–Aug: 217.6 Sept: 115.3 Oct–Nov: 56.6 Dec: 22.6 36.0 171.8 46 SUBQUOTAS: North (-NED): 18.4 NED: 25.0* South: 27.6 0.9 23.1 * 25-mt ICCAT set-aside to account for bycatch of BFT in pelagic longline fisheries in the NED. Not included in totals at top of table. tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES Comments and Responses NMFS received a total of 13 written comments to the proposed rule. There were no participants at the two public hearings in Gloucester, MA, and Silver Spring, MD. Few of the comments NMFS received focused specifically on the proposed quota specifications, and those comments supported the proposed adjustment of the 2013 baseline BFT quota and subquotas. Below, NMFS summarizes and responds to all comments made specifically on the proposed rule during the comment period. Most of the comments received were outside the scope of this rule and are summarized under ‘‘Other Issues’’ below. Comment 1: Several commenters stated they support the proposed rule because it uses the same methodology as in the recent past and allows for continued participation by all user groups. Response: The approach used for these final 2013 quota specifications is an appropriate continuation of the VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:44 Jun 18, 2013 Jkt 229001 approach used in 2011 and 2012 as a transition from the method used from 2007 through 2010. Changes in ICCAT’s approach to western BFT management in 2006 (i.e., discontinuation of the dead discard allowance, and a new provision that the western BFT Total Allowable Catch include dead discards) have had implications for NMFS’ domestic management of the fishery, because landings and dead discards must be accounted for within the total U.S. quota (rather than an additional allocation for dead discards). This interim approach balances the needs of the pelagic longline fishery to continue fishing for swordfish and Atlantic tunas with the needs of directed BFT fisheries participants. Comment 2: The same commenters asked what NMFS would do if the dead discard estimate used to set the specifications is wrong, especially if it is too high and as a result the adjusted quotas are lower than needed. They asked if the difference would ever be PO 00000 Frm 00043 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 reallocated as quota, or if it would be lost. Response: NMFS notes that the situation posited has not and likely will not occur. Currently, including in these 2013 final specifications, NMFS deducts only half of the estimate of dead discards up front and accounts for the remainder at year-end. Thus, dead discards would have to be substantially higher than the estimate used for the final 2013 quota specifications for there to be a situation in which NMFS would set the final specifications lower than the level necessary for landings and dead discards to stay within the adjusted U.S. quota. The commenter’s more general concern seems to go beyond 2013 to ask whether NMFS would consider a prior-year quota adjustment if the preliminary dead discard estimate differed so radically from the later estimate. Given the variability of relevant factors (e.g., the ICCAT rules regarding quota levels and carryover may change, the status of the stock may change, etc.), NMFS cannot E:\FR\FM\19JNR1.SGM 19JNR1 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES 36688 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 118 / Wednesday, June 19, 2013 / Rules and Regulations speculate about the hypothetical posed because each situation must be addressed based on its unique set of facts. Comment 3: One commenter stated that NMFS should not carry unharvested quota forward and should instead set the U.S. quota at the level of the ICCAT-recommended quota reduced by the estimate of dead discards. Response: Carrying forward underharvest (limited to no more than 10 percent of the total U.S. quota) is consistent with the ICCAT recommendation, ATCA, and the BFT quota regulations that implement the western BFT rebuilding plan adopted at ICCAT and relevant measures in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP. The distribution of the 90.9-mt underharvest provides flexibility for existing management needs, particularly to account for dead discards and provide sufficient quota for pelagic longline operations as the fleet continues directed fishing operations for swordfish and other tunas. Comment 4: One commenter expressed concern that NMFS may, in order to stay within the ICCATrecommended U.S. quota, limit or close directed BFT fisheries in the event that unused quota, including the Reserve quota, is insufficient to account for Longline category landings overharvests and dead discards. Response: The United States must account for dead discards within its overall adjusted quota allocation, regardless of in which fishery they occur, to comply with ICCAT recommendations. BFT quota allocations in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP were based on historic landings and were established initially in 1992. Baseline quotas were modified in 1995 and 1997, but have remained the same since implementation of the 1999 FMP, when a separate discard allowance was provided for in the ICCAT BFT recommendation. Following ICCAT’s elimination of the dead discard allowance and change to include dead discards within TACs in 2006, NMFS has not modified the allocation scheme. For the last several years the United States has accounted for dead discard mortality as part of the domestic specification calculation process, and reported dead discard estimates to ICCAT annually. Regarding the concern about potential closure(s), NMFS manages each fishing category to its adjusted quota for a given year, and it is highly unlikely that NMFS would close a fishery prior to the available quota for that category being met. Through Amendment 7, NMFS is considering how best to reduce and VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:08 Jun 18, 2013 Jkt 229001 account for BFT dead discards, as well as methods to improve reporting and monitoring of discards and landings. Comment 5: One commenter suggested that NMFS anticipate both increased General activity overall in 2013, due to reduced quotas in the groundfish fishery, as well as increased General category participation during the December 2013 period given increased availability of commercialsized BFT in Hudson Canyon in December 2012. Response: NMFS recognizes that changes in other commercial fisheries in which BFT fishermen participate, as well as recent changes in BFT availability (as discussed in the Supplemental EA), may result in shifts in fishing effort in the General category. Overall, for 2012, 96 percent of the adjusted General category quota was used, including the 40-mt transfer from the Reserve effective December 15. NMFS will monitor landings closely and may take action to allocate a portion of the Reserve category quota for inseason or annual adjustments to any other quota category following consideration of the regulatory determination criteria regarding inseason adjustments at § 635.27(a)(8). These criteria include: the usefulness of information obtained from catches in the particular category for biological sampling and monitoring of the status of the stock; effects of the adjustment on BFT rebuilding and overfishing; effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the fishery management plan; variations in seasonal BFT distribution, abundance, or migration patterns; effects of catch rates in one area precluding vessels in another area from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the category’s quota; and review of dealer reports, daily landing trends, and the availability of BFT on the fishing grounds. Other Issues In addition to the few comments specifically on the content of the proposed rule, all 13 written comments raised issues beyond the scope of this rule, regarding HMS management measures generally and the quota allocations in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP. Specifically, commenters articulated: concern about the division of the U.S. baseline quota, and stated that priority allocation should be to fulltime commercial fish harvesters; concern that the volume of dead discards is negatively impacting directed BFT fishery participants; support for eliminating ‘‘regulatory’’ dead discards and increasing quota use within a fishing year, including year- PO 00000 Frm 00044 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 end transfer of unused quota to a ‘‘discard reserve’’ and more liberal target catch requirements in the NED; support for allocating sufficient quota to cover incidental discards first; concern about recreational landings estimates and fishery monitoring; support for greater opportunities to land trophy BFT; concern about the complexity of the exempted fishing permit process and its effect on biological sampling; and support for changes in U.S. policies regarding ICCAT, including BFT quota negotiations. NMFS anticipates that Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP in 2013 will address many of the issues raised in comments that were outside the scope of the 2013 BFT quota specifications. Closure of Longline Category Northern and Southern Area BFT Fisheries Under § 635.27(a)(3), the total amount of large medium and giant BFT (measuring 73 inches (185 cm) curved fork length (CFL) or greater) that may be caught incidentally and retained, possessed, or landed by vessels that possess Longline category Atlantic Tunas permits is 8.1 percent of the baseline annual U.S. BFT quota. NMFS may allocate no more than 60 percent of the Longline category incidental BFT quota for landing in the area south of 31°00′ N. lat. (i.e., the ‘‘southern area’’), with the remainder allocated for landing in the area north of 31°00′ N. lat. (i.e., the ‘‘northern area’’). As described above, this final action adjusts the Longline category baseline BFT quota to 46 mt, with 18.4 mt allocated to the northern area, and 27.6 mt allocated to the southern area. In addition to the Longline category quota of 46 mt, 25 mt are allocated, consistent with ICCAT Recommendation 12–02, for incidental catch of BFT by pelagic longline vessels fishing in the NED, an area far offshore the northeastern United States. The NED is the Atlantic Ocean area bounded by straight lines connecting the following coordinates in the order stated: 35°00′ N. lat., 60°00′ W. long.; 55°00′ N. lat., 60°00′ W. long.; 55°00′ N. lat., 20°00′ W. long.; 35°00′ N. lat., 20°00′ W. long.; 35°00′ N. lat., 60°00′ W. long. NMFS accounts for landings under the 25-mt NED allocation separately from other Longline category landings. Under § 635.28(a)(1), NMFS is required to file a closure notice with the Office of the Federal Register when a BFT quota is reached or is projected to be reached. On and after the effective date and time of such notification, for the remainder of the fishing year, or for a specified period as indicated in the notification, fishing for, retaining, E:\FR\FM\19JNR1.SGM 19JNR1 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 118 / Wednesday, June 19, 2013 / Rules and Regulations possessing, or landing BFT under that quota category is prohibited until the opening of the subsequent quota period or until such date as specified in the notice. In 2012, NMFS announced closure of the Longline category southern area BFT fishery and northern area BFT fishery, effective May 29, 2012 (77 FR 31546, May 29, 2012) and June 30, 2012 (77 FR 38011, June 26, 2012), respectively. Based on the best available landings information for the incidental Longline category BFT fishery (i.e., 16.2 mt in the northern area and 27.1 mt in the southern area as of May 31, 2013), NMFS projects that the Longline category northern and southern area BFT subquotas will be reached by the effective date of this action. Given the extended duration of longline fishing trips, NMFS has determined that a closure of the Longline category BFT northern area fishery (other than the NED) and the southern area fishery (including the Gulf of Mexico) is warranted at this time with 7 days’ advance notice. Therefore, fishing for, retaining, possessing, or landing large medium or giant BFT north and south of 31°00′ N. lat., including the Gulf of Mexico, and other than the NED, by vessels permitted in the Atlantic tunas Longline category must cease at 11:30 p.m. local time on June 25, 2013 and will be prohibited through December 31, 2013. While pelagic longline fishing for swordfish and other target species may continue in the northern and southern Longline areas, BFT may no longer be retained, possessed, or landed by longline vessels in those areas. The intent of this closure is to prevent overharvest of the Longline category northern and southern area BFT subquotas. The incidental Longline fishery for BFT in the NED, an area far offshore the northeastern United States, remains open at this time. NMFS will continue to monitor incidental Longline category BFT landings from the NED against the 25 mt allocated for that area and may take further action, if necessary. Any subsequent adjustments to the Longline category fishery for 2013 would be published in the Federal Register. In addition, fishermen may call (978) 281– 9260, or access www.hmspermit.noaa.gov, for fishery updates. NMFS will account for all 2013 U.S. landings at the end of the year, make further year-end adjustments if and as needed, and report total 2013 landings along with the preliminary 2013 estimate of dead discards to ICCAT in 2014. VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:08 Jun 18, 2013 Jkt 229001 Classification The NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this final rule is consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, ATCA, and other applicable law, and is necessary to achieve domestic management objectives under the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP. The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries (AA) finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. sec. 553(d)(3) to reduce the 30day delay in effective date for the 2013 BFT quota specifications and fishery closures in this action to seven days. A reduced, 7-day delay in effectiveness will allow NMFS to close a portion of the BFT fishery based the adjusted 2013 subquotas, while allowing time to notify pelagic longline vessels that are already on the water. This delay is contrary to the public’s interest, because without it, the codified BFT quota and subquotas would remain in effect, and the United States would very quickly exceed its available quota for the year in certain quota subcategories, which could create enforcement problems this year in the relevant international forum (ICCAT) and exacerbate management difficulties into next year. Regarding the closure notice, the AA finds that it is impracticable and contrary to the public interest to provide prior notice of, and an opportunity for public comment on, the closure portion of the action for the following reasons: Prohibiting further BFT landings against the Longline category northern and southern area subquotas is necessary to prevent overharvest of the Longline northern and southern area BFT subquotas in the final 2013 quota specifications. The 2012 dead discard estimate became available only at the end of May 2013. NMFS acted immediately following receipt of these data, in combination with the latest landings data for 2013, to determine whether additional action was needed to remain within the subcategory quotas this year, and it is only because of external circumstances (i.e., the availability of data), rather than any Agency delay, that the waiver is needed for this portion of the action. Given the extended duration of longline fishing trips, we have determined that a closure of the Longline category BFT northern area fishery (other than the NED) and the southern area fishery (including the Gulf of Mexico) is warranted at the time of the filing of the final specifications with 7 days’ advance notice. NMFS provides notification of closures by publishing the notice in the Federal Register, emailing individuals who have subscribed to the Atlantic HMS News electronic newsletter, and updating the PO 00000 Frm 00045 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 36689 information posted on the Atlantic Tunas Information Line and on www.hmspermits.noaa.gov. These fisheries are currently underway, and delaying this action would be contrary to the public interest as it could result in excessive BFT landings, which could have adverse effects on the stock and/or may result in future potential quota reductions for the Longline category. NMFS must close the Longline category northern and southern area fisheries to landings before large medium and giant BFT exceed the available subquotas for those areas. The quotas as adjusted in this action are consistent with HMS regulations, and are a logical outgrowth of the proposed action. The final rule distributes the available underharvest differently than proposed, but is within the range of actions we told the public was possible in the final rule and requested comment on that possibility. NMFS discussed at the proposed rule stage the possibility that NMFS may need to close the Longline category fishery to BFT retention based on codified quotas and account fully for landings to date in the final specifications, as occurred in 2012. Therefore, the regulated community reasonably could have anticipated both the resultant moderate changes in amounts and distribution and the Longline category closures. Therefore, the AA finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive prior notice and the opportunity for public comment regarding the closure portion of this action. For all of the above reasons, there is good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d) to reduce the 30-day delay in effectiveness of the final adjusted 2013 BFT quota specifications to 7 days. The rule to implement the final BFT quota specifications is exempt from the procedures of E.O. 12866. The action to close the Longline category northern and southern area fisheries is being taken under §§ 635.27(a)(3) and 635.28(a)(1), and is exempt from review under E.O. 12866. The Chief Council for Regulation of the Department of Commerce certified to the Chief Council for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration during the proposed rule stage that this action would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The factual basis for the certification was published in the proposed rule and is not repeated here. No comments were received regarding this certification. As a result, a regulatory flexibility analysis was not required and none was prepared. Section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of E:\FR\FM\19JNR1.SGM 19JNR1 36690 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 118 / Wednesday, June 19, 2013 / Rules and Regulations tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES 1996 states that, for each rule or group of related rules for which an agency is required to prepare a FRFA, the agency shall publish one or more guides to assist small entities in complying with the rule, and shall designate such publications as ‘‘small entity compliance guides.’’ The agency shall explain the actions a small entity is required to take to comply with a rule or group of rules. As part of this VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:08 Jun 18, 2013 Jkt 229001 rulemaking process, NMFS has prepared a brochure summarizing fishery information and regulations for Atlantic tuna fisheries for 2013. This brochure also serves as the small entity compliance guide. Copies of the compliance guide are available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). Dated: June 13, 2013. Alan D. Risenhoover, Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, performing the functions and duties of the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2013–14661 Filed 6–18–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P Authority: 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq. and 1801 et seq. PO 00000 Frm 00046 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 9990 E:\FR\FM\19JNR1.SGM 19JNR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 118 (Wednesday, June 19, 2013)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 36685-36690]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-14661]



[[Page 36685]]

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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

[Docket No. 130214139-3542-02]
RIN 0648-XC513


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; 2013 Atlantic Bluefin Tuna 
Quota Specifications

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

ACTION: Final rule; closure.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS establishes 2013 quota specifications for the Atlantic 
bluefin tuna (BFT) fishery and closes the incidental Longline category 
northern and southern area fisheries for large medium and giant BFT for 
the remainder of 2013. These actions are necessary to implement binding 
recommendations of the International Commission for the Conservation of 
Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), as required by the Atlantic Tunas Convention 
Act (ATCA), and to achieve domestic management objectives under the 
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-
Stevens Act). Under the closure, fishing for, retaining, possessing, or 
landing BFT in the Longline category northern and southern areas is 
prohibited for the remainder of 2013. The Longline fishery in the 
Northeast Distant gear restricted area (NED) remains open at this time. 
The closure is necessary to prevent overharvest of the adjusted 
Longline category subquotas as finalized in this action.

DATES: The quota specifications are effective June 25, 2013 through 
December 31, 2013. The closure of the Longline category northern and 
southern area fisheries is effective 11:30 p.m., local time, June 25, 
2013, through December 31, 2013.

ADDRESSES: Supporting documents, including a Supplemental Environmental 
Assessment and the Fishery Management Plans described below may be 
downloaded from the HMS Web site at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/. These 
documents also are available by request to Sarah McLaughlin at the 
telephone number below.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sarah McLaughlin or Brad McHale, 978-
281-9260.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Atlantic bluefin tuna, bigeye tuna, albacore 
tuna, yellowfin tuna, and skipjack tuna (hereafter referred to as 
``Atlantic tunas'') are managed under the dual authority of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act and ATCA. As an active member of ICCAT, the United 
States implements binding ICCAT recommendations to comply with this 
international treaty. ATCA authorizes the Secretary of Commerce 
(Secretary) to promulgate regulations, as may be necessary and 
appropriate to carry out ICCAT recommendations. The authority to issue 
regulations under the Magnuson-Stevens Act and ATCA has been delegated 
from the Secretary to the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NMFS.

Background

    NMFS annually implements BFT quota specifications to adjust the 
annual U.S. baseline BFT quota to account for any underharvest or 
overharvest of the adjusted U.S. BFT quota from the prior year.
    In May 2011, NMFS prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA)/
Regulatory Impact Review/Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis for a 
final rule that: (1) Implemented and allocated the U.S. BFT quota 
recommended by ICCAT for 2011 and for 2012 (ICCAT Recommendation 10-
03); (2) adjusted the 2011 U.S. quota and subquotas to account for 
unharvested 2010 quota allowed to be carried forward to 2011, and to 
account for a portion of the estimated 2011 dead discards up front; and 
(3) implemented several other BFT management measures (76 FR 39019, 
July 5, 2011). In that final rule, NMFS implemented the 923.7-mt 
baseline quota consistent with ICCAT Recommendation 10-03 and set the 
domestic BFT fishing category subquotas per the allocation percentages 
established in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and implementing 
regulations (71 FR 58058, October 2, 2006). The baseline quota and 
category subquotas are codified and remain effective until changed (for 
instance, if any new ICCAT BFT Total Allowable Catch (TAC) 
recommendation is adopted).
    At its 2012 annual meeting, ICCAT recommended a one-year rollover 
of the 1,750-mt TAC as part of ICCAT Recommendation 12-02--Supplemental 
Recommendation by ICCAT concerning the Western Atlantic Bluefin tuna 
Rebuilding Program. This amount is expected to allow for continued 
stock growth under both the low and high stock recruitment scenarios, 
considering the 2012 ICCAT BFT stock assessment results, which were not 
substantively different than those of an assessment that ICCAT 
conducted in 2010. The annual U.S. baseline quota for 2013 continues to 
be 923.7 mt, and the annual total U.S. quota, including 25 mt to 
account for bycatch related to pelagic longline fisheries in the NED, 
continues to be 948.7 mt.
    Although it is unnecessary to prepare an EA for quota 
specifications alone (in accordance with the approach described in the 
2006 Consolidated HMS FMP), NMFS has prepared a Supplemental EA to 
present and analyze updated information regarding the affected 
environment, including information from a 2012 ICCAT stock assessment 
for BFT, among other things.
    Until the final specifications for 2013 are effective, the existing 
BFT base quotas continue to apply as codified. (See Table 1, second 
column.) Although the baseline quota is unchanged this year because the 
2012 ICCAT recommendation included the same TAC as the prior 
recommendation, NMFS is carrying forward underharvest from 2012, 
consistent with the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP. Thus, this final action 
adjusts the quota as appropriate and allowable for the 2013 fishing 
year. Further background information, including the need for the 2013 
BFT quota specifications, was provided in the preamble to the proposed 
rule (78 FR 21584, April 11, 2013) and is not repeated here.

Changes From the Proposed Rule

    NMFS determines the amount of BFT quota actually available for the 
year by adjusting the ICCAT-recommended baseline BFT quota for 
overharvest or underharvest from the previous fishing year and any 
accounting for dead discards. For the proposed rule, NMFS used the 2011 
estimate of 145.2 mt as a proxy for potential 2013 dead discards, 
because the BFT dead discard estimate for 2012 was not yet available. 
In late May 2013, the preliminary 2012 dead discard estimate of 239.5 
mt became available from the NMFS Southeast Fisheries Science Center. 
As anticipated and explained to the public at the proposed rule stage, 
NMFS is using the more recent dead discard estimate in this final rule 
because it is the best available and most complete information NMFS has 
regarding dead discards.
    Based on preliminary data available as of May 31, 2013, BFT 
landings in 2012 totaled 713.2 mt. Adding the 2012 dead discard 
estimate (239.5 mt) results in a preliminary 2012 total catch of 952.7 
mt, which is 90.9 mt less than the amount of quota (inclusive of dead

[[Page 36686]]

discards) allowed under ICCAT Recommendation 12-02 (948.7 mt plus 94.9 
mt of 2011 underharvest carried forward to 2012, totaling 1,043.6 mt). 
Thus, the underharvest for 2012 is 90.9 mt. This amount is within the 
current ICCAT limit on the amount of underharvest that can be carried 
forward to 2013, which is 10 percent of a country's total quota, and 
for the United States is 94.9 mt.
    As anticipated in the proposed rule, NMFS is accounting up front 
(i.e., at the beginning of the fishing year) for half of the expected 
dead discards for 2013, using the best available estimate of dead 
discards (now the 2012 estimate received as of May 31, 2013), and 
deducting that portion directly from the Longline category subquota. 
This is the same approach that NMFS took for the final 2011 and 2012 
BFT quota specifications.
    Regarding the unharvested 2012 BFT quota, NMFS had proposed to 
carry 94.9 mt of available underharvest forward to 2013, and distribute 
half of that amount to the Longline category and half to the Reserve 
category. NMFS stated that any necessary adjustments to the 2013 
specifications would be made in the final rule after considering 
updated 2012 landings information and the 2012 dead discard estimate. 
NMFS also stated that it could allocate the amount carried forward in 
another manner after considering domestic management needs for 2013.
    Considering the best available information regarding 2012 landings 
and dead discards--as well as actual 2013 Longline category BFT 
landings to date--NMFS is finalizing the 2013 BFT specifications as 
follows. As shown in the third column of Table 1, NMFS is accounting 
for half of the 2012 dead discard estimate of 239.5 mt (i.e., 119.75 
mt) up front by deducting that portion of estimated longline discards 
directly from the baseline Longline category subquota of 74.8 mt. If 
NMFS deducts one half of the dead discard estimate from the Longline 
category subquota and provide half of the available underharvest, the 
result is a 2013 adjusted Longline category subquota of less than 1 mt 
(74.8 mt -119.75 mt + 45.45 mt = 0.5 mt). Therefore, NMFS has decided 
in the final rule to add all of the 2012 underharvest that can be 
carried forward to 2013 (i.e., 90.9 mt) to the Longline category 
(fourth column). Thus, the adjusted Longline category subquota would be 
74.8 mt - 119.75 mt + 90.9 mt = 46 mt (not including the separate 25-mt 
allocation for the Northeast Distant gear restricted area). In these 
specifications, NMFS is balancing the need of the pelagic longline 
fishery to continue fishing for swordfish and Atlantic tunas with the 
need of directed bluefin fisheries participants to receive their base 
quota.
    In the proposed rule, NMFS stated that any necessary adjustments to 
the 2013 specifications would be made in the final rule after 
considering updated 2012 landings information and the dead discard 
estimate for 2012. NMFS requested public comment and consideration of 
the possibility that deduction of half of the final estimate of dead 
discards from the baseline Longline category subquota could result in 
little to no quota for the Longline category for 2013 prior to 
application of any available underharvest, as well as the possibility 
that NMFS may close the Longline category fishery to BFT retention 
based on codified quotas and account fully for landings to date in the 
final specifications, as occurred in 2012 (see 78 FR 21584).

2013 Quota Specifications

    In this final rule NMFS deducts half of the 2012 dead discard 
estimate of 239.5 mt directly from the baseline Longline category quota 
of 74.8 mt and applies the full 90.9 mt allowed to be carried forward 
to 2013 to the Longline category. This action results in a 46-mt 
adjusted Longline subquota, not including the 25-mt allocation set 
aside by ICCAT for the NED (i.e., 74.8 mt - 119.75 mt + 90.9 mt = 46 
mt). For the directed fishing categories (i.e., the Angling, General, 
Harpoon, Purse Seine categories), as well as the Trap and Reserve 
categories, NMFS maintains the codified baseline BFT quotas and 
subquotas that were established in July 2011 (76 FR 39019, July 5, 
2011), as proposed.
    Thus, in accordance with ICCAT Recommendation 12-02, the domestic 
category allocations established in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, and 
regulations regarding annual adjustments at 50 CFR 635.27(a)(10), NMFS 
establishes BFT quota specifications for the 2013 fishing year as 
follows, and as shown in the fifth column of Table 1: General 
category--435.1 mt; Harpoon category--36 mt; Purse Seine category--
171.8 mt; Angling category--182 mt; Longline category--46 mt; and Trap 
category--0.9 mt. The Longline category quota of 46 mt is subdivided as 
follows: 18.4 mt to pelagic longline vessels landing BFT north of 
31[deg] N. latitude, and 27.6 mt to pelagic longline vessels landing 
BFT south of 31[deg] N. latitude. NMFS accounts for landings under the 
25-mt NED allocation separately from other Longline category landings. 
The amount allocated to the Reserve category for inseason adjustments, 
scientific research collection, potential overharvest in any category 
except the Purse Seine category, and potential quota transfers, is 23.1 
mt.
    As described in the proposed rule, NMFS considers the deduction of 
half of the dead discard estimate from the Longline category as a 
transition from the method used for 2007 through 2010, as NMFS 
continues to develop Draft Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS 
FMP. Draft Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP will explore 
related BFT fishery management issues consistent with the need to end 
overfishing and rebuild the stock. NMFS anticipates that measures in 
Draft Amendment 7 will address several of the long-standing challenges 
facing the fishery and will examine, among other things, revisiting 
quota allocations; reducing and accounting for dead discards; adding or 
modifying time/area closures or gear-restricted areas; and improving 
the reporting and monitoring of dead discards and landings in all 
categories. NMFS anticipates that Draft Amendment 7 will publish in 
2013.

[[Page 36687]]



                 Table 1--Final 2013 Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (BFT) Quotas and Quota Specifications
                                                [In metric tons]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                        2013 Quota specifications
                                   Baseline  allocation --------------------------------------------------------
                                    (per current ICCAT     Dead  discard         2012
  Category (% share of baseline     recommendation and   deduction (\1/2\  Underharvest  to
              quota)                 2006 consolidated       of  2012       carry  forward      Adjusted 2013
                                          HMS FMP           estimate of     to  2013 (90.9    fishing year quota
                                       allocations)          239.5 mt)         mt total)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Total (100)......................  923.7*..............  ................  ................  894.9
Angling (19.7)...................  182.0...............  ................  ................  182.0
                                   SUBQUOTAS:            ................  ................  SUBQUOTAS:
                                   School: 94.9          ................  ................  School: 94.9
                                   Reserve: 17.6         ................  ................     Reserve: 17.6
                                   North: 36.5           ................  ................     North: 36.5
                                   South: 40.8           ................  ................     South: 40.8
                                   LS/SM: 82.9           ................  ................  LS/SM: 82.9
                                   North: 39.1           ................  ................     North: 39.1
                                   South: 43.8           ................  ................     South: 43.8
                                   Trophy: 4.2           ................  ................  Trophy: 4.2
                                   North: 1.4            ................  ................     North: 1.4
                                   South: 2.8            ................  ................     South: 2.8
General (47.1)...................  435.1...............  ................  ................  435.1
                                   SUBQUOTAS:            ................  ................  SUBQUOTAS:
                                      Jan: 23.1........  ................  ................     Jan: 23.1
                                      Jun-Aug: 217.6...  ................  ................     Jun:-Aug: 217.6
                                      Sept: 115.3......  ................  ................     Sept: 115.3
                                      Oct-Nov: 56.6....  ................  ................     Oct-Nov: 56.6
                                      Dec: 22.6........  ................  ................     Dec: 22.6
Harpoon (3.9)....................  36.0................  ................  ................  36.0
Purse Seine (18.6)...............  171.8...............  ................  ................  171.8
Longline (8.1)...................  74.8................           -119.75             +90.9  46
                                   SUBQUOTAS:            ................  ................  SUBQUOTAS:
                                      North (-NED):      ................  ................     North (-NED):
                                       29.9.                                                     18.4
                                      NED: 25.0*.......  ................  ................     NED: 25.0*
                                      South: 44.9......  ................  ................     South: 27.6
Trap (0.1).......................  0.9.................  ................  ................  0.9
Reserve (2.5)....................  23.1................  ................  ................  23.1
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* 25-mt ICCAT set-aside to account for bycatch of BFT in pelagic longline fisheries in the NED. Not included in
  totals at top of table.

Comments and Responses

    NMFS received a total of 13 written comments to the proposed rule. 
There were no participants at the two public hearings in Gloucester, 
MA, and Silver Spring, MD. Few of the comments NMFS received focused 
specifically on the proposed quota specifications, and those comments 
supported the proposed adjustment of the 2013 baseline BFT quota and 
subquotas. Below, NMFS summarizes and responds to all comments made 
specifically on the proposed rule during the comment period. Most of 
the comments received were outside the scope of this rule and are 
summarized under ``Other Issues'' below.
    Comment 1: Several commenters stated they support the proposed rule 
because it uses the same methodology as in the recent past and allows 
for continued participation by all user groups.
    Response: The approach used for these final 2013 quota 
specifications is an appropriate continuation of the approach used in 
2011 and 2012 as a transition from the method used from 2007 through 
2010. Changes in ICCAT's approach to western BFT management in 2006 
(i.e., discontinuation of the dead discard allowance, and a new 
provision that the western BFT Total Allowable Catch include dead 
discards) have had implications for NMFS' domestic management of the 
fishery, because landings and dead discards must be accounted for 
within the total U.S. quota (rather than an additional allocation for 
dead discards). This interim approach balances the needs of the pelagic 
longline fishery to continue fishing for swordfish and Atlantic tunas 
with the needs of directed BFT fisheries participants.
    Comment 2: The same commenters asked what NMFS would do if the dead 
discard estimate used to set the specifications is wrong, especially if 
it is too high and as a result the adjusted quotas are lower than 
needed. They asked if the difference would ever be reallocated as 
quota, or if it would be lost.
    Response: NMFS notes that the situation posited has not and likely 
will not occur. Currently, including in these 2013 final 
specifications, NMFS deducts only half of the estimate of dead discards 
up front and accounts for the remainder at year-end. Thus, dead 
discards would have to be substantially higher than the estimate used 
for the final 2013 quota specifications for there to be a situation in 
which NMFS would set the final specifications lower than the level 
necessary for landings and dead discards to stay within the adjusted 
U.S. quota. The commenter's more general concern seems to go beyond 
2013 to ask whether NMFS would consider a prior-year quota adjustment 
if the preliminary dead discard estimate differed so radically from the 
later estimate. Given the variability of relevant factors (e.g., the 
ICCAT rules regarding quota levels and carryover may change, the status 
of the stock may change, etc.), NMFS cannot

[[Page 36688]]

speculate about the hypothetical posed because each situation must be 
addressed based on its unique set of facts.
    Comment 3: One commenter stated that NMFS should not carry 
unharvested quota forward and should instead set the U.S. quota at the 
level of the ICCAT-recommended quota reduced by the estimate of dead 
discards.
    Response: Carrying forward underharvest (limited to no more than 10 
percent of the total U.S. quota) is consistent with the ICCAT 
recommendation, ATCA, and the BFT quota regulations that implement the 
western BFT rebuilding plan adopted at ICCAT and relevant measures in 
the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP. The distribution of the 90.9-mt 
underharvest provides flexibility for existing management needs, 
particularly to account for dead discards and provide sufficient quota 
for pelagic longline operations as the fleet continues directed fishing 
operations for swordfish and other tunas.
    Comment 4: One commenter expressed concern that NMFS may, in order 
to stay within the ICCAT-recommended U.S. quota, limit or close 
directed BFT fisheries in the event that unused quota, including the 
Reserve quota, is insufficient to account for Longline category 
landings overharvests and dead discards.
    Response: The United States must account for dead discards within 
its overall adjusted quota allocation, regardless of in which fishery 
they occur, to comply with ICCAT recommendations. BFT quota allocations 
in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP were based on historic landings and 
were established initially in 1992. Baseline quotas were modified in 
1995 and 1997, but have remained the same since implementation of the 
1999 FMP, when a separate discard allowance was provided for in the 
ICCAT BFT recommendation. Following ICCAT's elimination of the dead 
discard allowance and change to include dead discards within TACs in 
2006, NMFS has not modified the allocation scheme. For the last several 
years the United States has accounted for dead discard mortality as 
part of the domestic specification calculation process, and reported 
dead discard estimates to ICCAT annually. Regarding the concern about 
potential closure(s), NMFS manages each fishing category to its 
adjusted quota for a given year, and it is highly unlikely that NMFS 
would close a fishery prior to the available quota for that category 
being met.
    Through Amendment 7, NMFS is considering how best to reduce and 
account for BFT dead discards, as well as methods to improve reporting 
and monitoring of discards and landings.
    Comment 5: One commenter suggested that NMFS anticipate both 
increased General activity overall in 2013, due to reduced quotas in 
the groundfish fishery, as well as increased General category 
participation during the December 2013 period given increased 
availability of commercial-sized BFT in Hudson Canyon in December 2012.
    Response: NMFS recognizes that changes in other commercial 
fisheries in which BFT fishermen participate, as well as recent changes 
in BFT availability (as discussed in the Supplemental EA), may result 
in shifts in fishing effort in the General category. Overall, for 2012, 
96 percent of the adjusted General category quota was used, including 
the 40-mt transfer from the Reserve effective December 15. NMFS will 
monitor landings closely and may take action to allocate a portion of 
the Reserve category quota for inseason or annual adjustments to any 
other quota category following consideration of the regulatory 
determination criteria regarding inseason adjustments at Sec.  
635.27(a)(8). These criteria include: the usefulness of information 
obtained from catches in the particular category for biological 
sampling and monitoring of the status of the stock; effects of the 
adjustment on BFT rebuilding and overfishing; effects of the adjustment 
on accomplishing the objectives of the fishery management plan; 
variations in seasonal BFT distribution, abundance, or migration 
patterns; effects of catch rates in one area precluding vessels in 
another area from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion 
of the category's quota; and review of dealer reports, daily landing 
trends, and the availability of BFT on the fishing grounds.

Other Issues

    In addition to the few comments specifically on the content of the 
proposed rule, all 13 written comments raised issues beyond the scope 
of this rule, regarding HMS management measures generally and the quota 
allocations in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP. Specifically, commenters 
articulated: concern about the division of the U.S. baseline quota, and 
stated that priority allocation should be to full-time commercial fish 
harvesters; concern that the volume of dead discards is negatively 
impacting directed BFT fishery participants; support for eliminating 
``regulatory'' dead discards and increasing quota use within a fishing 
year, including year-end transfer of unused quota to a ``discard 
reserve'' and more liberal target catch requirements in the NED; 
support for allocating sufficient quota to cover incidental discards 
first; concern about recreational landings estimates and fishery 
monitoring; support for greater opportunities to land trophy BFT; 
concern about the complexity of the exempted fishing permit process and 
its effect on biological sampling; and support for changes in U.S. 
policies regarding ICCAT, including BFT quota negotiations. NMFS 
anticipates that Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP in 2013 
will address many of the issues raised in comments that were outside 
the scope of the 2013 BFT quota specifications.

Closure of Longline Category Northern and Southern Area BFT Fisheries

    Under Sec.  635.27(a)(3), the total amount of large medium and 
giant BFT (measuring 73 inches (185 cm) curved fork length (CFL) or 
greater) that may be caught incidentally and retained, possessed, or 
landed by vessels that possess Longline category Atlantic Tunas permits 
is 8.1 percent of the baseline annual U.S. BFT quota. NMFS may allocate 
no more than 60 percent of the Longline category incidental BFT quota 
for landing in the area south of 31[deg]00' N. lat. (i.e., the 
``southern area''), with the remainder allocated for landing in the 
area north of 31[deg]00' N. lat. (i.e., the ``northern area''). As 
described above, this final action adjusts the Longline category 
baseline BFT quota to 46 mt, with 18.4 mt allocated to the northern 
area, and 27.6 mt allocated to the southern area.
    In addition to the Longline category quota of 46 mt, 25 mt are 
allocated, consistent with ICCAT Recommendation 12-02, for incidental 
catch of BFT by pelagic longline vessels fishing in the NED, an area 
far offshore the northeastern United States. The NED is the Atlantic 
Ocean area bounded by straight lines connecting the following 
coordinates in the order stated: 35[deg]00' N. lat., 60[deg]00' W. 
long.; 55[deg]00' N. lat., 60[deg]00' W. long.; 55[deg]00' N. lat., 
20[deg]00' W. long.; 35[deg]00' N. lat., 20[deg]00' W. long.; 
35[deg]00' N. lat., 60[deg]00' W. long. NMFS accounts for landings 
under the 25-mt NED allocation separately from other Longline category 
landings.
    Under Sec.  635.28(a)(1), NMFS is required to file a closure notice 
with the Office of the Federal Register when a BFT quota is reached or 
is projected to be reached. On and after the effective date and time of 
such notification, for the remainder of the fishing year, or for a 
specified period as indicated in the notification, fishing for, 
retaining,

[[Page 36689]]

possessing, or landing BFT under that quota category is prohibited 
until the opening of the subsequent quota period or until such date as 
specified in the notice. In 2012, NMFS announced closure of the 
Longline category southern area BFT fishery and northern area BFT 
fishery, effective May 29, 2012 (77 FR 31546, May 29, 2012) and June 
30, 2012 (77 FR 38011, June 26, 2012), respectively.
    Based on the best available landings information for the incidental 
Longline category BFT fishery (i.e., 16.2 mt in the northern area and 
27.1 mt in the southern area as of May 31, 2013), NMFS projects that 
the Longline category northern and southern area BFT subquotas will be 
reached by the effective date of this action. Given the extended 
duration of longline fishing trips, NMFS has determined that a closure 
of the Longline category BFT northern area fishery (other than the NED) 
and the southern area fishery (including the Gulf of Mexico) is 
warranted at this time with 7 days' advance notice. Therefore, fishing 
for, retaining, possessing, or landing large medium or giant BFT north 
and south of 31[deg]00' N. lat., including the Gulf of Mexico, and 
other than the NED, by vessels permitted in the Atlantic tunas Longline 
category must cease at 11:30 p.m. local time on June 25, 2013 and will 
be prohibited through December 31, 2013. While pelagic longline fishing 
for swordfish and other target species may continue in the northern and 
southern Longline areas, BFT may no longer be retained, possessed, or 
landed by longline vessels in those areas. The intent of this closure 
is to prevent overharvest of the Longline category northern and 
southern area BFT subquotas.
    The incidental Longline fishery for BFT in the NED, an area far 
offshore the northeastern United States, remains open at this time. 
NMFS will continue to monitor incidental Longline category BFT landings 
from the NED against the 25 mt allocated for that area and may take 
further action, if necessary. Any subsequent adjustments to the 
Longline category fishery for 2013 would be published in the Federal 
Register. In addition, fishermen may call (978) 281-9260, or access 
www.hmspermit.noaa.gov, for fishery updates. NMFS will account for all 
2013 U.S. landings at the end of the year, make further year-end 
adjustments if and as needed, and report total 2013 landings along with 
the preliminary 2013 estimate of dead discards to ICCAT in 2014.

Classification

    The NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this final 
rule is consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, ATCA, and other 
applicable law, and is necessary to achieve domestic management 
objectives under the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP.
    The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries (AA) finds good cause 
under 5 U.S.C. sec. 553(d)(3) to reduce the 30-day delay in effective 
date for the 2013 BFT quota specifications and fishery closures in this 
action to seven days. A reduced, 7-day delay in effectiveness will 
allow NMFS to close a portion of the BFT fishery based the adjusted 
2013 subquotas, while allowing time to notify pelagic longline vessels 
that are already on the water. This delay is contrary to the public's 
interest, because without it, the codified BFT quota and subquotas 
would remain in effect, and the United States would very quickly exceed 
its available quota for the year in certain quota subcategories, which 
could create enforcement problems this year in the relevant 
international forum (ICCAT) and exacerbate management difficulties into 
next year.
    Regarding the closure notice, the AA finds that it is impracticable 
and contrary to the public interest to provide prior notice of, and an 
opportunity for public comment on, the closure portion of the action 
for the following reasons:
    Prohibiting further BFT landings against the Longline category 
northern and southern area subquotas is necessary to prevent 
overharvest of the Longline northern and southern area BFT subquotas in 
the final 2013 quota specifications. The 2012 dead discard estimate 
became available only at the end of May 2013. NMFS acted immediately 
following receipt of these data, in combination with the latest 
landings data for 2013, to determine whether additional action was 
needed to remain within the subcategory quotas this year, and it is 
only because of external circumstances (i.e., the availability of 
data), rather than any Agency delay, that the waiver is needed for this 
portion of the action. Given the extended duration of longline fishing 
trips, we have determined that a closure of the Longline category BFT 
northern area fishery (other than the NED) and the southern area 
fishery (including the Gulf of Mexico) is warranted at the time of the 
filing of the final specifications with 7 days' advance notice. NMFS 
provides notification of closures by publishing the notice in the 
Federal Register, emailing individuals who have subscribed to the 
Atlantic HMS News electronic newsletter, and updating the information 
posted on the Atlantic Tunas Information Line and on 
www.hmspermits.noaa.gov.
    These fisheries are currently underway, and delaying this action 
would be contrary to the public interest as it could result in 
excessive BFT landings, which could have adverse effects on the stock 
and/or may result in future potential quota reductions for the Longline 
category. NMFS must close the Longline category northern and southern 
area fisheries to landings before large medium and giant BFT exceed the 
available subquotas for those areas. The quotas as adjusted in this 
action are consistent with HMS regulations, and are a logical outgrowth 
of the proposed action. The final rule distributes the available 
underharvest differently than proposed, but is within the range of 
actions we told the public was possible in the final rule and requested 
comment on that possibility. NMFS discussed at the proposed rule stage 
the possibility that NMFS may need to close the Longline category 
fishery to BFT retention based on codified quotas and account fully for 
landings to date in the final specifications, as occurred in 2012. 
Therefore, the regulated community reasonably could have anticipated 
both the resultant moderate changes in amounts and distribution and the 
Longline category closures.
    Therefore, the AA finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to 
waive prior notice and the opportunity for public comment regarding the 
closure portion of this action. For all of the above reasons, there is 
good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d) to reduce the 30-day delay in 
effectiveness of the final adjusted 2013 BFT quota specifications to 7 
days.
    The rule to implement the final BFT quota specifications is exempt 
from the procedures of E.O. 12866. The action to close the Longline 
category northern and southern area fisheries is being taken under 
Sec. Sec.  635.27(a)(3) and 635.28(a)(1), and is exempt from review 
under E.O. 12866.
    The Chief Council for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Council for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration during the proposed rule stage that this action would 
not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. The factual basis for the certification was published in the 
proposed rule and is not repeated here. No comments were received 
regarding this certification. As a result, a regulatory flexibility 
analysis was not required and none was prepared.
    Section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness 
Act of

[[Page 36690]]

1996 states that, for each rule or group of related rules for which an 
agency is required to prepare a FRFA, the agency shall publish one or 
more guides to assist small entities in complying with the rule, and 
shall designate such publications as ``small entity compliance 
guides.'' The agency shall explain the actions a small entity is 
required to take to comply with a rule or group of rules. As part of 
this rulemaking process, NMFS has prepared a brochure summarizing 
fishery information and regulations for Atlantic tuna fisheries for 
2013. This brochure also serves as the small entity compliance guide. 
Copies of the compliance guide are available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES).

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 971 et seq. and 1801 et seq.

    Dated: June 13, 2013.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, performing the functions and 
duties of the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, 
National Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-14661 Filed 6-18-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P