Highly Migratory Species; 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan; Amendment 8, 52011-52031 [2013-19975]

Download as PDF Vol. 78 Wednesday, No. 162 August 21, 2013 Part V Department of Commerce mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES4 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Parts 600 and 635 Highly Migratory Species; 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan; Amendments 7 and 8; Final Rule and Proposed Rule VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:20 Aug 20, 2013 Jkt 229001 PO 00000 Frm 00001 Fmt 4717 Sfmt 4717 E:\FR\FM\21AUR4.SGM 21AUR4 52012 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 162 / Wednesday, August 21, 2013 / Rules and Regulations DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Parts 600 and 635 [Docket No. 120627194–3657–02] RIN 0648–BC31 Highly Migratory Species; 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan; Amendment 8 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: This final rule implements Amendment 8 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Fishery Management Plan (FMP). Amendment 8 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP provides additional opportunities for U.S. fishermen to harvest swordfish using selective gears that are low in bycatch, given their rebuilt status and increased availability. This final rule creates new and modified commercial fishing vessel permits that allow permit holders to retain and sell a limited number of swordfish caught on rod and reel, handline, harpoon, green-stick, or bandit gear. Specific management measures under this final action include the establishment of a new open access commercial swordfish permit, modification of HMS Charter/ Headboat permit regulations to allow for the commercial retention of swordfish on non-for-hire trips, regional swordfish retention limits for the new and modified permits, gear authorizations, and reporting requirements. DATES: This rule is effective on September 20, 2013. ADDRESSES: Copies of the Final Amendment 8 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, including the Final Environmental Assessment and other documents relevant to this rule are available from the Highly Migratory Species Management Division Web site at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/ or upon request from the Atlantic HMS Management Division at 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Rick Pearson at 727–824–5399 or Jennifer Cudney at 301–427–8503. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Atlantic swordfish are managed under the dual authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) and the mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES4 SUMMARY: VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:20 Aug 20, 2013 Jkt 229001 Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA). The authority to issue regulations under the Magnuson-Stevens Act and ATCA has been delegated from the Secretary of Commerce to the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA (AA). On May 28, 1999, NMFS published in the Federal Register (64 FR 29090) regulations implementing the Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Tunas, Swordfish, and Sharks (1999 FMP). On October 2, 2006, NMFS published in the Federal Register (71 FR 58058) regulations implementing the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species (HMS) FMP, which details the management measures for Atlantic HMS fisheries, including the North Atlantic swordfish handgear fishery. The implementing regulations for Atlantic HMS are at 50 CFR part 635. Background A brief summary of the background of this final action is provided below. The details of what was proposed and the alternatives considered are described in Draft Amendment 8 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its proposed rule (78 FR 12273, February 22, 2013). Those documents are incorporated by reference, and their description of management and conservation measures considered in the Draft Amendment 8 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its proposed rule are not repeated here. Additional information regarding Atlantic HMS management can be found in the Final Environmental Assessment (Final EA) for Amendment 8 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments, the annual HMS Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation Reports, and online at http:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/. The comments received on Draft Amendment 8 and its proposed rule, and our responses to those comments, are summarized below in the section labeled ‘‘Response to Comments.’’ This rule finalizes some of the management measures, and modifies others, that were contained in the proposed rule for Amendment 8. The purpose of this final rule is to provide additional opportunities for U.S. fishermen to harvest swordfish using selective gears that result in low bycatch, given their rebuilt status and increased availability. This rule creates a new open access Swordfish General Commercial permit and modifies regulations for HMS Charter/Headboat vessel permit holders to allow commercial fishing for North Atlantic swordfish in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The new PO 00000 Frm 00002 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 Swordfish General Commercial permit allows fishermen to retain and sell a limited number of swordfish caught using only rod and reel, handline, harpoon, bandit gear, and green-stick gear. HMS Charter/Headboat vessel permit holders are also authorized to fish under open-access swordfish commercial permit regulations with rod and reel and handline only, when fishing commercially on a non-for-hire trip. The Swordfish General Commercial permit cannot be held on a vessel in combination with any other swordfish permits, an HMS Charter/Headboat permit, an HMS Angling category permit, an HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit, or any Atlantic Tunas permit except for the Atlantic Tunas General or Harpoon category permits. The Swordfish General Commercial permit can be held on a vessel in combination with a commercial shark permit or an Atlantic Tunas General or Harpoon category permit. All swordfish landed under the new/modified permit(s) must be reported in HMS logbooks, if selected, and all sales of swordfish must only be to federally permitted swordfish dealers. Swordfish General Commercial permit holders may participate in registered HMS tournaments. This final rule also establishes four separate swordfish management regions for the new and modified permits (Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, U.S. Caribbean, and Florida Swordfish Management Area) with a zero to six swordfish retention limit range within each region for the new or modified permit(s). As described in the response to comments below, the Florida Swordfish Management Area and the initial default retention limit for that area have been modified from the proposed rule. Initial default retention limits are set at three swordfish per vessel per trip for Northwest Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions; two swordfish per vessel per trip for the U.S. Caribbean; and zero swordfish per vessel per trip limit for the modified Florida Swordfish Management Area. The retention limit within each region may be adjusted in-season based upon pre-established criteria (i.e., dealer reports, landing trends, quota availability, availability of swordfish on fishing grounds, variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migration patterns, and other relevant factors) through the framework procedures codified at § 635.34. Response to Comments During the proposed rule stage, NMFS received approximately 210 written E:\FR\FM\21AUR4.SGM 21AUR4 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES4 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 162 / Wednesday, August 21, 2013 / Rules and Regulations comments from the public. NMFS also received comments from the Atlantic HMS Advisory Panel and from constituents who attended the five public hearings held in St. Petersburg, FL; Silver Spring, MD; Gloucester, MA; Ft. Lauderdale, FL; and Manahawkin, NJ. Comments were also received during three conference call/webinars held on March 11, 2013; April 18, 2013; and April 30, 2013. A summary of the comments received on the proposed rule during the public comment period is provided below with NMFS’s responses. All written comments submitted during the comment period can be found at http:// www.regulations.gov/ by searching for NOAA–NMFS–2013–0026. Comment 1: NMFS received comments both in support of, and opposed to, implementing a new openaccess Swordfish General Commercial permit that would authorize the use of rod and reel, handline, harpoon, bandit gear, and green-stick (preferred alternative 1.2.4) . Commenters supporting the proposed new permit stated that it would provide additional opportunities to fish for a fully rebuilt species using selective fishing gears which have little bycatch and few dead discards; create new opportunities to catch more of the U.S. swordfish quota; generate economic opportunities for commercial fishermen during difficult economic times; safely increase the number of available handgear permits without threatening the long-term sustainability of the stock; and maintain existing limited access permit valuation by establishing low retention limits. Opponents of a new commercial swordfish permit said the need to expand harvesting capacity in the U.S. North Atlantic swordfish fishery has steadily diminished and the U.S. swordfish quota is almost fully utilized; a new permit could prompt an early closure of the directed swordfish fishery; swordfish are not sufficiently abundant to open a new fishery or increase catches; commercial swordfish limited access permits are not scarce and the costs of the permits are not a barrier to entering the commercial fishery; a new open access permit would undermine full-time commercial fishermen by allowing quasicommercial fishermen to harvest swordfish; and an open-access commercial swordfish permit would lower limited access permit values and swordfish ex-vessel prices (due to an increased supply of low quality product). Many of the commenters opposed to the establishment of a new commercial swordfish permit VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:20 Aug 20, 2013 Jkt 229001 recommended the No Action alternative. Response: NMFS has determined that establishing and implementing new and modified commercial vessel permits to allow for a limited number (0–6) of swordfish caught on rod and reel, handline, harpoon gear, green-stick, or bandit gear to be retained and sold is warranted. This action will provide additional opportunities for U.S. fishermen to harvest swordfish using selective gears that result in low bycatch, given the rebuilt status of swordfish and their increased availability. The goal of this action is to more fully utilize the U.S. swordfish quota allocation, which is based upon the recommendation of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). Based upon the 2009 ICCAT SCRS swordfish stock assessment, the North Atlantic swordfish stock is fully rebuilt. The United States’ annual baseline quota for North Atlantic swordfish is derived from ICCAT Recommendation 10–02, and is published each year through rulemaking in the Federal Register. ICCAT Recommendation 10– 02 also authorizes the United States to carry forward up to 25 percent of the baseline U.S. quota to determine the annual adjusted U.S. quota. Both domestic landings and estimated dead discards are counted against each year’s adjusted quota to determine compliance with the quota. Since 1997, domestic landings and estimated dead discards of North Atlantic swordfish have been below both the baseline and adjusted U.S. quotas. Although the margin between landings and available quota has narrowed in recent years, there remains a large amount of unused North Atlantic swordfish quota. In 2011, the United States was 766.6 mt (dw) below its baseline swordfish quota. Implementing a new open-access swordfish handgear permit with low retention limits will provide additional opportunities to harvest this available quota, without exceeding it. Landings derived from the new permit will be closely monitored through dealer reports, and adjustments to regional retention limits could be implemented if necessary to reduce the likelihood of an early closure to the directed fishery. Swordfish limited access permits (LAPs), while available, can be difficult or expensive to obtain. Because no new swordfish permits have been issued since 1999, many HMS LAPs have increased in value. The cost of a swordfish handgear LAP ranges from $15,000 to $30,000, either of which amount constitutes a high percentage of an individual vessel owner’s profits in PO 00000 Frm 00003 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 52013 a given year. They are also governed by restrictions limiting the size and horsepower of the vessel to which the permits can be transferred. Implementing a new open-access swordfish handgear permit with low retention limits will remove barriers to obtaining a limited access permit, and allow other commercial fishermen to participate in the swordfish fishery on a small-scale, seasonal, or supplemental basis. Implementing a new open-access swordfish handgear permit is not anticipated to undermine the existing commercial swordfish fishery because landings under the new permit will be governed by low retention limits that could be adjusted in-season to reduce the likelihood of a directed fishery closure. The new permit is substantially different from existing swordfish limited access permits: There are very low retention limits (0–6 swordfish) associated with it, and only handgear usage is authorized. Because of these important differences, the values of existing swordfish limited access permits which have either no retention limits (directed and handgear) or a much higher retention limits (incidental), and which allow the use of pelagic longline gear (directed and incidental) and buoy gear (directed and handgear), are not expected to be greatly impacted. The new open access Swordfish General Commercial permit could affect swordfish ex-vessel prices in either direction, up or down; however, comments received from fishing industry participants regarding this issue were mixed. Some commenters stated that the additional volume and poor quality of product would result in lower ex-vessel prices. Other commenters indicated that prices would stabilize due to less fluctuation in domestic landings, or potentially increase due to the introduction of reliably high quality product into the U.S. market. NMFS does not anticipate that the projected low level of landings derived from new and modified swordfish permits will be large enough to greatly impact prices, either higher or lower, because ex-vessel prices are impacted by a number of factors, most notably the large volume of fresh and frozen swordfish imported into the U.S. market. Comment 2: NMFS should create a new limited access permit, not an open access permit. NMFS should require a minimum amount of income from commercial fishing in order to qualify for the new limited access permit. The number of new limited access permits should be very low, and there should be E:\FR\FM\21AUR4.SGM 21AUR4 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES4 52014 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 162 / Wednesday, August 21, 2013 / Rules and Regulations a sunset date for the new permits where they would be valid only for a prespecified number of years. Response: The open access commercial permit being implemented is substantially different from existing swordfish limited access permits. Very low retention limits (0–6 swordfish) are being implemented and only handgear usage is authorized. Pelagic longline gear and buoy gear are not authorized for the new Swordfish General Commercial permit. In contrast, there are no retention limits for current swordfish directed and handgear limited access permit holders, and swordfish incidental limited access permit holders have a 30-fish per trip retention limit. Pelagic longline gear is authorized for swordfish directed and incidental limited access permits, and buoy gear is authorized for swordfish directed and handgear limited access permits. Because of the large potential harvesting capacity associated with these permits, swordfish limited access permits are restricted in number and are also governed by transfer, renewal, training, and vessel upgrading regulations. These regulations have impacted the ability of some vessel owners to participate in the commercial swordfish fishery using handgears only. Because this rule implements a smallscale handgear fishery that is primarily governed by low retention limits and inseason adjustment criteria, a new swordfish limited access permit is not needed. Comment 3: NMFS should allow HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders to fish commercially for swordfish on non-forhire trips under the applicable regional retention limit. A charter boat operator is already a commercial fisherman whose income is derived principally from charter and commercial fishing. Response: NMFS agrees that HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders should be allowed to fish commercially for swordfish under the applicable commercial regional retention limits when they are not on a for-hire trip due to the dual commercial and recreational nature of the charter/headboat fishery. A similar allowance for charter/headboat vessels exists in the commercial Atlantic tunas fishery. This rule also specifies that swordfish captured on a for-hire trip may not be sold. NMFS defines a ‘‘for-hire’’ trip as a trip carrying a fee-paying passenger; having more than three persons for a vessel licensed to carry six or fewer; or having more persons aboard than the number of crew specified on the vessel’s Certificate of Inspection for U.S. Coast Guard inspected vessels. The number of VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:20 Aug 20, 2013 Jkt 229001 persons aboard includes the captain and crew. Comment 4: NMFS should implement a three-fish retention limit in the Florida Swordfish Management Area for HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders only. A percentage of income as a charter boat (b 50 percent) should be required to qualify for the higher retention limit so that only full-time charter operators could participate as commercial vessels. Part-time charter operators should only be allowed to obtain an HMS Angling category permit. Response: NMFS is not implementing a separate swordfish commercial permit or a higher retention limit for HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders meeting certain income requirements and operating in the Florida Swordfish Management Area. As described in the response to Comment 2 above, a limited access permit or the establishment of new permit qualification criteria (including an income threshold) are not needed due to the comparatively low swordfish retention limits being established. At this time, in order to facilitate public understanding and enforcement of the new regulations, NMFS is implementing a single regional swordfish retention limit to govern all handgear vessels fishing under the new open-access commercial swordfish regulations. Comment 5: NMFS should not establish a Florida Swordfish Management Area to include the East Florida Coast Pelagic Longline Closed Area through the northwestern boundary of Monroe County, FL, in the Gulf of Mexico. Instead, NMFS should establish the boundary to only include the Florida counties of St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, Dade, and Monroe. These counties require specific management due to the limited area for swordfish fishing and the number of fishers using the area. There could be some flexibility for the Florida Swordfish Management Area/Northwest Atlantic area boundary so that there could be more fishing effort in areas north of Palm Beach, FL. Under the proposed alternative, persons fishing beyond the Florida Swordfish Management Area and east of Ft. Pierce, FL, in the Northwest Atlantic region would have to transit to north of the Georgia border to land their three swordfish because they could not come straight into Ft. Pierce, FL, which would create a burden for some fishermen and also pose a potential safety issue. Response: In response to public comment, NMFS has modified the proposed Florida Swordfish Management Area by removing that portion of the area north of 28°17′10″ N. PO 00000 Frm 00004 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 lat. The new northern boundary line now intersects the U.S. mainland near Rockledge, FL, and the coastline between Cape Canaveral, FL, and Melbourne, FL, near Cocoa Beach, FL. The modified area is smaller in geographic area than the proposed area, but larger than the alternative that only included six counties. As described in the proposed rule and draft environmental assessment, the area off the southeastern coast of Florida, particularly the Florida Straits, contains oceanographic features that make the area biologically unique. It provides important juvenile swordfish habitat, and is essentially a narrow migratory corridor containing high concentrations of swordfish located in close proximity to high concentrations of people who may fish for them. The modified Florida Swordfish Management Area being implemented more closely encompasses the Florida Straits and the oceanographic features that make this area biologically unique, yet is large enough to provide an enforceable buffer area. Public comment indicated a concern about increased catches of juvenile swordfish, the potential for larger numbers of fishermen in the area, and the potential for crowding of fishermen, which could lead to potential fishing gear and user conflicts. Modifying the area to more closely correspond to the actual oceanographic features that make the area unique will improve future conservation and management of swordfish, while minimizing impacts on fishermen operating both in the relatively narrow area of the Florida Straits and fishermen operating north of this area where swordfish are less concentrated, consistent with the objectives of this action. This modification is within the range of alternatives considered for the Florida Swordfish Management Area in Draft Amendment 8 and is a logical outgrowth of further consideration of impacts of the Area boundary and public comment. Comment 6: NMFS received various comments indicating that the initial default retention limit within the Florida Swordfish Management Area should be set at a number ranging from zero to six fish. Comments in favor of increasing the proposed initial default limit of one swordfish indicated that a one-swordfish limit in the Area would not provide enough revenue to make a commercial fishing trip economically feasible, so there would be little incentive for people to obtain the new permit. Commenters in favor of a lower limit (i.e., zero fish) for the Area stated that there is not enough open water E:\FR\FM\21AUR4.SGM 21AUR4 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES4 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 162 / Wednesday, August 21, 2013 / Rules and Regulations available in South Florida to handle the added fishing pressure that the new commercial fishing effort would bring; that the very small area is already extremely congested with commerciallypermitted vessels and recreational fishermen; that a balance between recreational and commercial fishermen has developed in the Florida Straits where everybody is able to fish together; and that a large number of new entrants commercially targeting swordfish in the area would unsettle that balance and inevitably cause user conflicts that would negatively affect Southeast Florida’s recreational and commercial fishing industry. Several commenters also indicated that NMFS should not increase commercial fishing effort in an important swordfish spawning and juvenile habitat area. Response: Because this final rule establishes a new open-access commercial swordfish permit, NMFS will issue these permits in an orderly and cautious manner from the outset. This is particularly important off the southeast coast of Florida, due to the area’s unique oceanographic and biological characteristics that provide important juvenile swordfish habitat and swordfish fishing grounds within easy access to a large number of fishers. In consideration of public comments, including a comment from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, indicating a high potential for the rapid growth of a commercial fishery in the Florida Swordfish Management Area under the proposed retention limit of one swordfish per vessel per trip, NMFS has determined that an initial default retention limit of zero swordfish is appropriate in the modified Florida Swordfish Management Area for vessel owners issued a Swordfish General Commercial permit. A commercial retention limit of zero swordfish in the Florida Swordfish Management Area will also apply to HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels in the Area when they are not on a for-hire trip. Unless this commercial retention limit is modified in the future, HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels in the Florida Swordfish Management Area will not be allowed to sell swordfish unless the vessel also has a Swordfish Handgear limited access permit. HMS Charter/ Headboat permitted vessels may retain, but not sell swordfish, under recreational retention limits. HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels, when not on a for-hire trip and located outside the Florida Swordfish Management Area, may retain and sell swordfish within the applicable regional VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:20 Aug 20, 2013 Jkt 229001 retention limit. NMFS will continue to collect information to evaluate the appropriateness of this and other regional retention limits in the future using in-season adjustment authority. Comment 7: NMFS received various comments indicating that the initial default retention limits within the northwest Atlantic region and the Gulf of Mexico should be set at a level that is either higher or lower than the proposed limit of three swordfish per vessel per trip. Comments in favor of increasing the initial default limit indicated that a higher limit is needed to make commercial fishing trips economically feasible because of the long distance to swordfish fishing grounds in these areas. A higher retention limit of six to an unlimited number of fish would provide additional revenue and allow for profits while covering the high costs (fuel, crew, food, bait, etc.) associated with such trips. Comments in favor of decreasing the proposed initial default retention limit indicated that lower limits are needed to preserve the value of existing limited access permits, to conserve swordfish, to ensure that the U.S. swordfish quota is not exceeded, or to prevent an early closure of the directed fishery. Response: NMFS has determined that most Swordfish General Commercial permit holders will likely participate in the commercial swordfish fishery to supplement their primary fishing activities (i.e., tuna fishing and charter fishing). The three-fish initial default retention limit being implemented for the Northwest Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico areas is in the middle of the range of limits being considered, and is appropriate for the initial establishment of a new supplemental or seasonal open-access swordfish fishery. As additional fishery information becomes available—including the number of new permits issued, changes in landings, and impacts on the attainment of the U.S. North Atlantic swordfish quota—NMFS will continue to evaluate the appropriateness of modifying these limits using in-season adjustment authority. Comment 8: Establishing in-season adjustment criteria to quickly modify the regional retention limits would effectively control the proposed openaccess swordfish fishery, and provide NMFS with the ability to make timely adjustments to restrict or increase harvest as necessary. Conversely, inseason adjustment authority might discourage people from obtaining the proposed permit because they would be unsure of future retention limits. PO 00000 Frm 00005 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 52015 Response: NMFS agrees that establishing in-season adjustment authority to quickly modify the regional retention limits based upon preestablished criteria, in conjunction with effective monitoring of swordfish landings through the HMS e-Dealer system, provides the ability to effectively control the new open-access swordfish fishery. For example, if swordfish landings from newly permitted vessels are higher than projected, NMFS could reduce the retention limits to minimize the likelihood of an early closure of the directed fishery or to ensure that the U.S. swordfish quota is not exceeded. Conversely, if participation in the new fishery and resultant swordfish landings are low, limits could be increased. NMFS’ current projections indicate that adequate swordfish quota is available to accommodate the anticipated level of landings derived from the new permit. NMFS will publish in-season adjustments to retention limits in the Federal Register, as needed. Comment 9: The Gulf of Mexico region should be broken into two regions separated by the 29° N. lat. line (a line slightly north of a latitudinal line extending from Freeport, TX, to Crystal River, FL) because of differing transit times to productive grounds, and the need for differing retention limits to facilitate profitable trips. Response: Transit times to productive swordfish grounds in the Gulf of Mexico vary not only from the north and south, but also from the east and west. Implementing multiple fishing regions for the swordfish fishery in the Gulf of Mexico may potentially cause confusion among fishermen and complicate quota monitoring and enforcement. In addition, the Gulf of Mexico is managed as one large area for current swordfish limited access permit holders, thus NMFS prefers to implement a single regional commercial swordfish retention limit to govern all Swordfish General Commercial and HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. Retention limits within the Gulf of Mexico could be adjusted in the future using in-season authority based upon the attainment of pre-specified criteria (i.e., dealer reports, landing trends, quota availability, availability of swordfish on fishing grounds, variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migration patterns, and other relevant factors). NMFS will continue to consider other management measures to increase domestic swordfish landings and revenues, while minimizing bycatch, and may consider separating the Gulf of Mexico region into subregions in the future. E:\FR\FM\21AUR4.SGM 21AUR4 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES4 52016 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 162 / Wednesday, August 21, 2013 / Rules and Regulations Comment 10: The proposed allowance for Swordfish General Commercial permit holders to participate in registered HMS fishing tournaments might increase recreational HMS Angling category permit holder interest in obtaining the proposed permit. Response: NMFS agrees. NMFS expects that most new permit applicants will be current recreational swordfish fishermen with HMS Angling category permits or current commercial tuna fishermen with Atlantic Tunas General or Harpoon category permits resulting in a shift of effort from these fisheries to the commercial swordfish handgear fishery, but not a large increase in overall fishing effort. The allowance for fishing in registered HMS fishing tournaments is consistent with current Atlantic Tunas General category regulations, which allow permit holders to participate in registered HMS tournaments. Comment 11: NMFS received contrasting comments regarding the authorization of buoy gear for the proposed Swordfish General Commercial permit. Commenters opposed to the concept indicated that buoy gear should not be authorized for use with the proposed Swordfish General Commercial permit, and should remain authorized only for swordfish directed and handgear limited access permit holders. Other commenters said that NMFS should authorize buoy gear for the proposed Swordfish General Commercial permit and also for the Atlantic Tunas General category permit, except in the Florida Swordfish Management Area. Response: Authorization of buoy gear for the proposed Swordfish General Commercial permit is not within the range of alternatives analyzed in Amendment 8. Buoy gear is only authorized for persons with valid swordfish directed or handgear limited access permits. Comments from the HMS Advisory Panel in recent years have reflected public concern about user conflicts with buoy gear within the narrow geographic range of the current buoy gear fishery off the southeast coast of Florida. With this in mind, a potentially large number of applicants for a new Swordfish General Commercial permit could represent a potentially large increase in the amount of buoy gear fished, and might increase the potential for gear conflicts. Under Amendment 8, NMFS is authorizing fishing gears under the new Swordfish General Commercial permit that are consistent with the fishing gears authorized for the Atlantic Tunas General category permit. There is very little catch and bycatch information VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:20 Aug 20, 2013 Jkt 229001 available regarding buoy gear used to target swordfish outside of the Florida Straits, and there is no information available regarding buoy gear used to target tunas in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. Because of the potential for large increases in the amount of buoy gear fished, the potential for fishing gear conflicts, and the absence of information regarding buoy gear fishing to target tunas which limits the Agency’s ability to analyze the impacts of additional buoy gear usage under open access commercial permits on incidentally caught or bycatch species (such as billfish and bluefin tuna), NMFS is not authorizing additional buoy gear usage in this final rule. Comment 12: NMFS should implement an open-access swordfish harpoon category permit similar to the existing Atlantic Tunas Harpoon category permit and allow at least 15 swordfish per trip to be landed. Swordfish caught with harpoons are generally greater in size than swordfish caught by other methods, and there is no bycatch. A three-fish limit is not economically feasible because swordfish are not abundant in near-shore waters, and it often takes days or weeks to make a full trip. Response: The open access Swordfish General Commercial permit being implemented is intended to facilitate a small-scale supplemental or seasonal swordfish fishery that includes the harvest of swordfish with harpoons. NMFS anticipates that commercial fishermen may be interested in fishing with this new permit to supplement their primary commercial fishing activities. There is already a commercial Swordfish handgear limited access permit with unlimited swordfish retention that authorizes the use of harpoon gear. Under the new Swordfish General Commercial permit, the initial three-fish retention limit is purposefully conservative for the implementation of a new open-access swordfish permit. In the future, as additional fishery information becomes available, NMFS could consider increasing the retention limit based upon the in-season adjustment criteria. Comment 13: NMFS did not consider a reasonable range of alternatives in analyzing Amendment 8 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, and did not provide an explanation of why other reasonable alternatives, such as opening areas currently closed to pelagic longline gear, were not considered. Response: To provide additional opportunities for U.S. fishermen to harvest swordfish using selective gears that are low in bycatch, given their rebuilt status and increased availability, PO 00000 Frm 00006 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 NMFS prepared a Draft EA that analyzed a wide range of reasonable options. Specifically, the alternatives considered two main issues: (1) The implementation of new and modified commercial swordfish vessel permits and authorized gears to allow for a limited number of swordfish to be retained and sold; and, (2) the establishment of retention limits associated with the new and modified permits. With respect to vessel permitting and authorized gears, NMFS considered three alternatives and four subalternatives. These ranged from a noaction alternative, which maintains the current swordfish limited access permit structure, to creating a new or modified commercial swordfish permit(s) to allow for a limited number of swordfish caught on rod and reel, handline, harpoon gear, green-stick, or bandit gear to be retained and sold. With respect to swordfish retention limits, NMFS considered three main alternatives and five sub-alternatives. These ranged from establishing a fishery-wide zero-to-six fish retention limit range for the new or modified permits(s), and codifying a single limit within that range, to establishing separate regions with regional retention limits that could be adjusted in-season based upon preestablished criteria (i.e., dealer reports, landing trends, quota availability, availability of swordfish on the fishing grounds, variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migration patterns, and other relevant factors). Based upon the analysis in the Draft EA, NMFS determined that the preferred alternatives were unlikely to have any significant adverse environmental impacts, primarily because the authorized handgears are low in bycatch and bycatch mortality of protected and non-target species, and because of the rebuilt status of the North Atlantic swordfish stock. In the Draft EA, NMFS also considered several alternatives that were not further analyzed, such as implementing a swordfish tagging program to provide a higher level of reporting and to facilitate the enforcement of swordfish regulations. After consulting with the HMS Advisory Panel and other interested constituents, NMFS decided not to further analyze these alternatives due to concerns about the effectiveness of a tagging program to reliably identify swordfish bound for commerce. Furthermore, establishing an open-access commercial swordfish permit is expected to reduce the incentive for recreational anglers to illegally sell or transfer swordfish to commercial fishermen for later sale; the E:\FR\FM\21AUR4.SGM 21AUR4 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES4 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 162 / Wednesday, August 21, 2013 / Rules and Regulations response to Comment 34 has more information regarding swordfish tagging alternatives. The Draft EA analyzed a reasonable range of alternatives to meet the objectives of the action. Other alternatives such as re-opening pelagic longline closed areas do not meet the purpose of the proposed action due to the relatively higher bycatch of several species that are either overfished and/or subject to overfishing (e.g., bluefin tuna, marlins) or are listed under the Endangered Species Act (e.g., sea turtles); therefore, those alternatives were not considered in this action. Comment 14: NMFS should consider minor adjustments to the time/area closures of the East Florida Coast and Charleston Bump pelagic longline closures. A slight adjustment to the size, shape and duration of those closures could allow the United States to fill its North Atlantic swordfish quota. Experimental longline fishing conducted there has proven the viability of swordfish landings with minimum bycatch of small swordfish or billfish. NMFS could increase observer coverage on pelagic longline vessels in these areas to better monitor catch and bycatch. Any benefits of the north Atlantic swordfish recovery should be aimed at the current directed fisheries, because the recovery was realized by the sacrifice of these fishermen. Response: The scope of Amendment 8 is to create additional opportunities for the commercial harvest of swordfish using selective gears (rod and reel, handline, harpoon, bandit gear, and greenstick) that are low in bycatch, based upon the fact that the North Atlantic swordfish stock is fully rebuilt and the U.S. quota has been underutilized for over a decade. Since 2007, NMFS has implemented numerous other management measures to increase domestic swordfish landings, which are almost entirely by pelagic longline gear, and revenues while minimizing bycatch. As part of these regulations, NMFS increased the retention limit for pelagic longline vessels issued incidental swordfish limited access permits from two fish to 30 fish per vessel per trip; streamlined limited access permit issuance; implemented a change to the swordfish minimum size requirements from 29 inches to 25 inches cleithrum to caudal keel; and implemented a new HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit with a two swordfish per vessel per trip limit. Other alternatives, such as opening or modifying pelagic longline closed areas, do not meet the objectives of the action. Pelagic longline gear has higher bycatch levels of several species that are either VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:20 Aug 20, 2013 Jkt 229001 overfished and/or subject to overfishing (e.g., bluefin tuna, marlins) or are listed under the Endangered Species Act (e.g., sea turtles). Therefore, those alternatives were not considered in this action. NMFS will continue to consider additional measures that could be taken to increase swordfish landings and that would benefit the pelagic longline fishery, while also minimizing bycatch and bycatch mortality. Comment 15: NMFS should allow more buoys to be deployed for permit holders that are authorized to fish with buoy gear. This regulatory change would produce more swordfish. Response: Currently, vessels fishing with buoy gear are limited to possessing or deploying no more than 35 floatation devices. In the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, NMFS determined that 35 buoys was the maximum amount of buoy gear that a vessel could effectively deploy at one time without losing excessive amounts of unattended floating gear and increasing interactions with sea turtles or other protected resources. The authorization of additional buoy gear was not considered in Draft Amendment 8, and therefore is outside the scope of this final rule. NMFS will continue to consider additional measures that could be taken to increase swordfish landings as needed, while minimizing bycatch and bycatch mortality. Comment 16: NMFS should remove all of the restrictions requiring multiple permits aboard vessels that only intend to fish for swordfish with handgear, or otherwise have no longline gear on board. All directed or incidental swordfish limited access permits should be available for handgear usage, without needing to obtain shark and tuna longline limited access permits. There are many latent limited access permits in these categories that are restricted by an unnecessary link to pelagic longline gear usage. Response: NMFS recognizes that current HMS permit regulations have impacted the ability of some vessel owners to participate in the commercial swordfish fishery using handgear only. The regulations governing swordfish directed and incidental limited access permits and authorized gears were developed primarily to provide fishing opportunities for multiple fisheries, including tunas, swordfish, and sharks, because of the potential to catch any of these species groups when deploying pelagic longline gear. The possession of pelagic longline gear onboard a vessel also triggers several restrictions and requirements that are unique to that gear because of protected species and other bycatch concerns. Modification of these limited access permit requirements and PO 00000 Frm 00007 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 52017 fishing gear authorizations could indirectly affect HMS directed and incidental fisheries and bycatch species in myriad ways, and were not considered in this rulemaking. The existing regulatory structure of these permits facilitates reporting requirements and data collection, while still providing the flexibility to target several species using a variety of gears. In contrast, the existing Swordfish Handgear limited access permit is available for use without the need to be issued other limited access permits, and there is no swordfish retention limit associated with it. The new open-access Swordfish General Commercial permit will provide additional opportunities for U.S. fishermen to harvest swordfish using handgear as a supplemental or seasonal fishery. NMFS has previously considered modifications to, and streamlining of, the HMS limited access permit structure and will continue to do so; however, this subject was not analyzed in Draft Amendment 8 and is outside the scope of the final rule. Comment 17: NMFS should reactivate a small number of limited access swordfish permits that have been terminated. Response: Under current regulations, swordfish and shark limited access permits must be renewed annually, and are terminated if they are not renewed within 1 year of expiration. The purpose of permit termination is to remove unused, latent commercial permits from the swordfish and shark fisheries. In recent years, NMFS has implemented several management measures to increase domestic swordfish landings while minimizing bycatch, and may consider additional management measures in the future. Other alternatives, such as reactivating terminated limited access permits, do not meet the objectives of this action. Swordfish limited access permits authorize the use of pelagic longline gear and/or buoy gear. Pelagic longline gear has higher bycatch levels of several species that are either overfished and/or subject to overfishing (e.g., bluefin tuna, marlins) or are listed under the Endangered Species Act (e.g., sea turtles). With regard to buoy gear, as discussed in the response to comment 11, there is very little catch and bycatch information available to analyze the impacts of additional buoy gear usage outside of the Florida Straits, and there is no information available regarding buoy gear used to target tunas in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. Because of the potential for large increases in the amount of buoy gear fished, the potential for fishing gear conflicts, and the absence of other E:\FR\FM\21AUR4.SGM 21AUR4 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES4 52018 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 162 / Wednesday, August 21, 2013 / Rules and Regulations critical catch and bycatch information, NMFS did not analyze any alternatives to authorize additional buoy gear usage. Amendment 8 specifically creates additional opportunities for the commercial harvest of swordfish using selective gears (rod and reel, handline, harpoon, bandit gear, and greenstick) that have minimal bycatch and result in few discards. Comment 18: NMFS should increase access to the swordfish stock by providing more fishing opportunities for the recreational sector. Response: Access to the recreational swordfish fishery is currently provided through HMS Angling and HMS Charter/Headboat permits, which are both open-access permits. The retention limit under the HMS Angling permit is one swordfish per person up to four swordfish per vessel per trip. The retention limit for HMS Charter vessels is one swordfish per paying passenger up to six swordfish per vessel per trip. The retention limit for HMS Headboat vessels is one swordfish per paying passenger and up to 15 swordfish per vessel per trip. In this action, NMFS focused on increasing access for commercial handgear fishermen to the rebuilt swordfish stock due to the low bycatch associated with handgear and because the ICCAT-recommended U.S. swordfish quota allocation has been underutilized for over a decade. Therefore, since recreational access is already open access and subject to similar retention levels, Draft Amendment 8 did not analyze alternatives to modify HMS Angling category limits. Since this topic was not considered in Draft Amendment 8, this request is outside the scope of the final rule. Comment 19: NMFS should require all vessels issued a swordfish General Commercial Permit to abide by all of the same requirements that apply to pelagic longline vessels, including commercial fishing vessel safety requirements, logbook reporting, observers, bycatch mitigation, workshops, and vessel monitoring systems (VMS). The new commercial fishermen should be required to go to protected species workshops and to carry protected species safe handling and release gear. All new permit holders should also be required to comply with the protected species Careful Handling and Release Protocols. Response: All vessels that obtain the new Swordfish General Commercial permit will be required to comply with U.S. Coast Guard commercial fishing vessel safety requirements. Authorized fishing gears under the new Swordfish General Commercial permit include rod VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:20 Aug 20, 2013 Jkt 229001 and reel, handline, harpoon, bandit gear, and green-stick gear. On June 14, 2001, NMFS released a Biological Opinion (BiOp) under the Endangered Species Act, which stated that the continued operation of HMS handgear fisheries may adversely affect, but are not likely to jeopardize, the continued existence of any endangered or threatened species under NMFS jurisdiction. This BiOp indicated that the potential for takes in handgear fisheries is low, and anticipated that the continued operation of Atlantic HMS handgear fisheries would result in documented takes of no more than three ESA-listed sea turtles, of any species, in combination, per calendar year. In addition, Atlantic HMS handgear fisheries are classified as Category III under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) (76 FR 73912, November 29, 2011), meaning that these fisheries have a remote likelihood of incidental mortality or serious injury to marine mammals. In June 2004, NMFS released a BiOp for the Atlantic pelagic longline fishery. That BiOp concluded that the pelagic longline fishery was not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of loggerhead, green, hawksbill, Kemp’s ridley or olive ridley sea turtles, but was likely to jeopardize the continued existence of leatherback sea turtles. The 2004 BiOp established a reasonable and prudent measure and alternative, which subjected the Atlantic HMS pelagic longline fishery to time/area closures, VMS, observers, hook and bait restrictions, compliance with safe handling and release protocols, and mandatory protected species safe handling and release workshops. Additionally, the pelagic longline fishery has been designated as a Category I fishery under the MMPA because it has frequent incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals. Thus, many of the management measures required under the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act for the Atlantic HMS pelagic longline fishery do not apply to the new Swordfish General Commercial permit, because the potential for protected species interactions with the gears authorized under this permit is low. The suggested requirements for protected species bycatch mitigation measures, protected species release and disentanglement training workshops and VMS requirements are not warranted for the gears authorized in this final rule. These requirements were not analyzed in the Draft EA because they are outside the scope of this rulemaking. PO 00000 Frm 00008 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 Comment 20: Any interactions with protected species by new permit holders would be considered ‘‘takes,’’ and these would increase. NMFS also needs to consider the interactions with dusky sharks when there could potentially be 4,100 boats deploying J-hooks. Response: ESA-listed species taken with handgear would be counted against the Incidental Take Statement (ITS) established in the 2001 BiOp. NMFS expects that most new permit applicants will be current recreational swordfish fishermen with HMS Angling category permits or current commercial tuna fishermen with Atlantic Tunas General or Harpoon category permits, resulting in a shift of effort from these fisheries to the commercial swordfish handgear fishery, but not a large increase in overall fishing effort. In addition, the initial implementation of a zero-fish default retention limit in the Florida Swordfish Management Area will not change current fishing effort in an area with high concentrations of recreational anglers and commercial buoy gear fishermen. For these reasons, and because handgear has a remote likelihood of interactions with protected species, NMFS does not anticipate that interactions with protected species will increase in any way that has not been previously analyzed in the 2001 BiOp as a result of implementation of the new permit. Similarly, NMFS does not expect a large increase in interactions with other species, including dusky sharks. NMFS will consider conservation and management measures for dusky sharks separately in Amendment 5b to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP. Comment 21: Landings from the proposed new permit should not be deducted from the directed swordfish quota. NMFS should establish a separate quota category (two to five percent of the overall quota) for these landings to protect the pelagic longline fishery quota from a closure of the directed fishery. Response: The new swordfish general commercial permit is a directed swordfish permit; therefore, it is appropriate for landings from this new permit to be counted against the directed swordfish quota. Under ATCA and the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS is required to provide U.S. fishing vessels with a reasonable opportunity to harvest the U.S. ICCAT quota. However, the directed swordfish quota has been under-harvested for over a decade. NMFS has determined that additional swordfish landings derived from this new permit could be counted against the directed quota without fully reaching the U.S. ICCAT-recommended E:\FR\FM\21AUR4.SGM 21AUR4 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES4 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 162 / Wednesday, August 21, 2013 / Rules and Regulations quota. The ability to quickly adjust the regional swordfish retention limits using in-season authority and preestablished criteria gives NMFS the flexibility to manage the directed swordfish quota as necessary. Comment 22: A Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) is not justified. NMFS must provide a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on this proposed action, which has the potential to significantly increase the number of permit holders, alter traditional landing patterns, negatively impact current limited access permit holders in this fishery, and have significant economic and social impacts. Response: NMFS has determined that the new Swordfish General Commercial permit is not expected to result in cumulative effects that could have a significant effect on target species or non-target species or the human environment. The cumulative impacts of ongoing swordfish fishery management actions, including those in this proposed action, are expected to be positive from both an ecological and socio-economic perspective. If the United States is successful at increasing its North Atlantic swordfish landings and maintaining its international swordfish quota, it will realize increased gross revenues to U.S. fishermen who are participating in a well-managed, sustainable fishery. NMFS has determined that there would not be a significant increase in fishing effort under any of the proposed measures because most new Swordfish General Commercial permit holders are likely already participating in the recreational swordfish fishery, the Atlantic Tunas General or Harpoon category fisheries, or the HMS Charter/ Headboat fishery. These permit holders would likely participate in the commercial swordfish fishery to supplement their primary fishing activities (i.e., tuna fishing and charter fishing). All new commercial swordfish fishery participants will be restricted to using only authorized handgear (rod and reel, handline, harpoon, bandit gear, and green-stick), and must comply with the applicable regional swordfish retention limits. These traditional handgears are closely tended by fishermen. So while the likelihood of interactions with non-target or bycatch species is low, any incidentally-caught non-target species can usually be quickly and safely released. Under the proposed action, NMFS anticipates that fishermen using handgear will have no adverse impacts on ESA-listed species beyond those analyzed in the 2001 BiOp, which concluded that the HMS VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:20 Aug 20, 2013 Jkt 229001 handgear fishery will not jeopardize any ESA-listed species. Having solicited and reviewed public comment on the Draft EA, and in view of the information presented in the Final EA that was prepared to address proposed changes to the U.S. North Atlantic swordfish fishery, particularly the small-scale handgear fishery, NMFS has determined that this action will have no significant impact on the quality of the human environment as described above and in the proposed EA. In addition, all impacts to potentially affected areas, including national, regional, and local, have been mitigated to reach the conclusion of no significant impact. Accordingly, NMFS determined that preparation of an EIS for this action was not necessary. Comment 23: NMFS has not adequately assessed the potential ecological impacts on protected species and juvenile swordfish. Current guidance from the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) requires that agencies consider greenhouse gas emissions associated with any proposed actions and evaluate the carbon footprint associated with this new permit. Response: NMFS expects that most new permit applicants will be current recreational swordfish fishermen with HMS Angling category permits, current commercial tuna fishermen with Atlantic Tunas General or Harpoon category permits, or current HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders, resulting in a shift of effort from these fisheries to the commercial swordfish handgear fishery, but not a large increase in overall fishing effort. NMFS also determined that the new Swordfish General Commercial permit could cause a minor increase in rod and reel, handline, bandit gear, green-stick, and harpoon commercial fishing effort if previously inactive fishermen obtain the new and modified permit(s) and began fishing. This could result in a minor increase in swordfish discards and discard mortality if fishing effort increases substantially in areas with large concentrations of juvenile swordfish. However, the establishment of a zero-fish retention limit in the Florida Swordfish Management Area, where there are large concentrations of juvenile and adult swordfish, will decrease the likelihood that there are negative impacts to the swordfish stock due to the new permit. Moreover, because NMFS does not expect a large increase in overall fishing effort resulting from the new Swordfish General Commercial permit, a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions is not anticipated. PO 00000 Frm 00009 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 52019 Comment 24: NMFS received contrasting comments about potential impacts on swordfish ex-vessel prices resulting from changes in landings volume and product quality due to implementation of the proposed permit. Some commenters stated that the proposed action would greatly increase the number of vessels commercially fishing for swordfish, so the ex-vessel price would decrease due to an increased supply. Also, because newlypermitted handgear fishermen would not be familiar with proper seafood handling methods, commenters stated that swordfish quality and prices would decrease across the entire fishery. Other commenters stated that the proposed permit would help to achieve price stability by introducing a limited amount of high-quality, dayboat swordfish into the domestic market. This is the type of small-scale fishery that the seafood industry is looking to promote. Response: NMFS determined that establishing the new Swordfish General Commercial permit could have minor costs for U.S. fishermen associated with obtaining the new permit and complying with additional commercial fishing vessel safety requirements and fishery management regulations. NMFS also recognizes that the new and modified permits could affect ex-vessel swordfish prices and the values of existing swordfish limited access permits. However, the projected low level of landings derived from the new and modified swordfish permits is not expected to be large enough to greatly impact swordfish prices, either higher or lower, because ex-vessel prices are impacted by a number of factors, most notably the large volume of fresh and frozen swordfish imported into the U.S. market. Any other negative socioeconomic impacts on current swordfish limited access permit holders are expected to be mitigated by the establishment of low swordfish retention limits for the new and modified permits, including a zero-fish retention limit in the modified Florida Swordfish Management Area. A retention limit range of zero to six swordfish is anticipated to provide a seasonal, or supplementary, fishery for most participants. It is not likely to facilitate a full-time, year-round fishery. In contrast, there are no retention limits for swordfish directed and handgear limited access permit holders, and there is a 30-fish limit for incidental swordfish limited access permit holders. Positive economic benefits are expected if U.S. fishermen obtain this open-access swordfish permit. If a new entrant lands 10 swordfish per year with E:\FR\FM\21AUR4.SGM 21AUR4 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES4 52020 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 162 / Wednesday, August 21, 2013 / Rules and Regulations the new permit, they could realize an increase in annual gross revenues of approximately $4,320. If all the estimated 4,084 new entrants land 10 swordfish per year, total annual gross revenues from swordfish could increase by $ 17.6 million, but quota limitations would reduce this revenue to approximately $ 15.2 million. Economic benefits are also anticipated for fishing tackle manufacturers and suppliers, bait suppliers, fuel providers and swordfish dealers. In addition, this new permit would have long-term socio-economic benefits if it creates a situation where the U.S. swordfish quota is no longer at risk for being reallocated to other ICCAT Parties due to low U.S. swordfish landings. If the United States maintains its allocation of the total ICCATrecommended North Atlantic swordfish quota, then socio-economic benefits would be realized by all swordfish fishery participants. For these reasons, NMFS has determined that the net economic benefits of the establishment of the new swordfish general commercial permit outweigh the net economic costs to fishermen. Comment 25: Commenters stated that NMFS had both underestimated and overestimated the number of new permits that might be issued as a result of the proposed action. Commenters also stated that NMFS had both underestimated and overestimated the amount of additional landings that might occur as a result of the proposed action. Therefore, the potential environmental impacts associated with the proposed permit are misrepresented. Response: In developing the Final EA and final management measures, NMFS considered public comments received in response to the Draft EA and determined that the socio-economic and environmental analyses contained in the Final EA are based upon the best available information, and appropriately consider the potential impacts of this action. It is not possible to predict the exact number of applicants for a new open-access commercial fishing permit, because there are few eligibility requirements for the new permit. Therefore, NMFS used the total number of Atlantic Tunas General category permit holders (4,084) as a proxy for the total number of new swordfish permit applicants, because the Atlantic Tunas General category permit is most similar to the permit being implemented in this action. NMFS then calculated the number of successful Atlantic Tunas General category vessels (i.e., landed at least one bluefin tuna) in 2011 (583 successful vessels) and multiplied that number by 10 swordfish per vessel/year to derive an estimated catch of 5,830 VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:20 Aug 20, 2013 Jkt 229001 swordfish a year. The selection of 10 swordfish per year is an estimate and some fishermen could land more swordfish, while others could land less. The selection of 10 swordfish per year is a reasonable proxy, particularly if many new permit holders fish for swordfish on a part-time basis, similar to the practices of many Atlantic Tunas General and Harpoon category permit holders when fishing for bluefin tuna. With an average swordfish weight of 96 lb. dressed weight (dw) in 2011, this is estimated to yield 254 mt dw of additional swordfish landings. NMFS also multiplied the number of Atlantic Tunas Harpoon category vessels (24) by 10 swordfish per vessel/year to produce an estimated 240 additional swordfish caught per year. With an average swordfish weight of 96 lb. dw in 2011, harpoon landings are estimated to yield an additional 10.5 mt dw of U.S. swordfish landings. In total, by combining these two estimates, the new permit is predicted to yield 265 mt dw of additional U.S. swordfish landings. Under the new Swordfish General Commercial permit, NMFS estimated that total U.S. landings plus discards could approach 2,436 mt dw ((2,171 mt dw (2011 total U.S. landings reported to ICCAT) + 265 mt dw = 2, 436 mt dw)) if current fishing practices remain constant. As described in the response to Comment 24, NMFS recognizes that there may be minor socio-economic impacts to fishermen due to the establishment of the new Swordfish General Commercial permit. However, most negative socio-economic impacts on current swordfish limited access permit holders are expected to be mitigated by the establishment of low retention limits for the new Swordfish General Commercial permit, including a zero retention limit in the Florida Swordfish Management Area. A retention limit range of zero to six swordfish is anticipated to provide a seasonal, or supplemental, fishery for most participants. It is not likely to facilitate a full-time, year-round fishery. Comment 26: NMFS must consider the potential that ICCAT could reduce the U.S. quota allocation or the overall North Atlantic swordfish Total Allowable Catch (TAC). Recent swordfish landing trends indicate that the United States is moving closer towards full utilization of its swordfish quota by existing permit holders. The proposed new permit could lead to a large increase in landings, fill the quota quickly and, as a result, close the directed swordfish fishery. There is not enough swordfish quota available for the new permit. PO 00000 Frm 00010 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 Response: While NMFS recognizes that quota changes are possible at ICCAT, the ability to monitor swordfish landings in near real-time with the HMS e-Dealer system and to quickly adjust the regional swordfish retention limits using in-season authority and preestablished criteria gives NMFS the flexibility to manage the directed swordfish quota, regardless of what the U.S. allocation of the ICCATrecommended quota may be. NMFS estimates that the new permit will yield approximately 265 mt dw of additional U.S. swordfish landings. Under the new Swordfish General Commercial permit, NMFS estimates that total U.S. landings plus discards could approach 2,436 mt dw ((2,171 mt dw (2011 total U.S. landings reported to ICCAT) + 265 mt dw = 2,436 mt dw)) if current fishing practices remain constant. In terms of available and unutilized swordfish quota, there is a loss of potential income by fishermen that would like to fish commercially for swordfish, but who are not able to obtain limited access permits. Currently, these limited access swordfish handgear permits can cost upwards of $30,000. Because the North Atlantic swordfish stock is fully rebuilt and the United States has not attained its full ICCATrecommended swordfish quota for over a decade, overall gross revenues are lower than they could be if the U.S quota was fully harvested. For example, the total U.S. adjusted swordfish quota for 2012 was 3,559.2 mt dw (7,846,612 lbs. dw). Assuming an average ex-vessel price of $4.51 per pound dw and 100 percent quota utilization, total possible gross revenue across the domestic fishery could be $35.4 million, versus actual gross revenues of $20.2 million (2011), or a difference of $15.2 million in unrealized gross revenue due to the United States not fully attaining its adjusted North Atlantic swordfish quota. Under ATCA (16 U.S. C. 971 et. seq.) and the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS is required to provide U.S. fishing vessels with a reasonable opportunity to harvest the ICCATrecommended quota. Although there is sufficient quota to allow U.S. fishermen to catch more swordfish and remain within the ICCAT-recommended quota, current difficulties associated with obtaining a limited access permit may be a constraining factor. Therefore, the new Swordfish General Commercial permit with low retention limits and inseason adjustment authority to modify limits as needed is warranted. Comment 27: When NMFS is considering the impact of this new permit on the swordfish quota, the E:\FR\FM\21AUR4.SGM 21AUR4 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES4 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 162 / Wednesday, August 21, 2013 / Rules and Regulations Agency should reference the baseline quota. Response: The baseline quota is the amount of swordfish that is allocated to the United States by ICCAT without adjusting for quota transfers to other countries (if applicable) or previous year under- or over-harvest. The adjusted quota is the baseline quota as adjusted by transfers and previous year over- or under-harvest. If under-harvest of the previous year’s adjusted quota occurs, the United States may carry-forward its total under-harvest or 25% of the baseline quota, whichever is less. Both the baseline and adjusted quotas are important when considering the potential effects of swordfish landings under the new Swordfish General Commercial permit and commercial retention by HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels when not on a for-hire trip. Both were considered in developing the Draft and Final EA for Amendment 8. The adjusted quota is important because this number is what U.S. fishermen are limited to, on an annual basis, and what the United States must consider for long-term compliance with recommendations from ICCAT and consistency with ATCA. If the U.S. baseline or adjusted quota is repeatedly under-harvested, other countries wanting increased access to the North Atlantic swordfish stock may look to the United States as a source of quota that could be temporarily or permanently transferred. If the adjusted quota is exceeded in one year, the overage must be deducted from the following year’s baseline quota. In 2011, U.S. landings reported to ICCAT were 2,171 mt (dw). NMFS anticipates additional landings from the new permit of 265 mt (dw), which in 2011 would have produced 2,436 mt (dw) total landings plus discards. Therefore in 2011, under the new Swordfish General Commercial permit and modified HMS Charter/Headboat permit, U.S. landings (without discards) would have been 501.6 mt (dw) below the baseline quota of 2,937.6 mt (dw), and 1,970.4 mt (dw) below the adjusted quota of 4,406.4 mt (dw). In the future, potential additional landings under Amendment 8 could result in a directed swordfish semi-annual seasons closure. However, NMFS has the authority and ability to monitor landings and adjust retention limits in-season to slow or close the harvest of swordfish by Swordfish General Commercial and HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels, and thereby reduce the need to close the directed swordfish season early. Comment 28: Green stick and bandit gear should not be authorized because VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:20 Aug 20, 2013 Jkt 229001 of their potential ability to catch bluefin tuna. These gears are not traditional swordfish fishing gears. Green-stick gear was developed to catch tunas, particularly bluefin tuna, and it does not catch swordfish very well. Response: Greenstick and bandit gear are authorized under the Swordfish General Commercial permit to be consistent with the Atlantic Tunas General category permit under which these same gears are currently authorized for the harvest of bigeye, albacore, yellowfin and skipjack (BAYS) tunas and bluefin tunas. Under current regulations, swordfish may not be retained if unauthorized fishing gears are onboard the vessel. Atlantic Tunas General category permitted vessels that are fishing for tunas may want to fish for tunas with greenstick or bandit gear and may also have a Swordfish General Commercial permit and want to fish for swordfish on the same trip. NMFS does not anticipate that greenstick will be frequently used to harvest swordfish. However, by allowing the harvest of swordfish with greenstick, NMFS is facilitating the targeting of tunas and swordfish on the same trip. Under current regulations, bandit gear is authorized to harvest swordfish under Swordfish Handgear, Swordfish Directed, or Swordfish Incidental permits. Comment 29: NMFS must consider bluefin tuna catches by these handgears in the Gulf of Mexico bluefin tuna spawning area. Estimated discards must be deducted from the Atlantic Tunas General category bluefin tuna quota. This reinforces the need for mandatory logbooks and some level of observer coverage to provide statistically valid bluefin tuna estimates in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Bluefin tuna catches are not allowed because directed bluefin tuna fishing in the Gulf of Mexico is not allowed, but there will be catches. Response: Greenstick and bandit gear are currently authorized for the harvest of BAYS and bluefin tunas under the Atlantic Tunas General category and HMS Charter/Headboat open access permits and the Atlantic Tunas Longline limited access permits. The authorization of these gears under these permits is not affected by Amendment 8. In the Gulf of Mexico, it is illegal to target bluefin tuna. Available greenstick and bandit gear catch and bycatch data indicate that fish released from these gears, including bluefin tuna, have a high likelihood of survival because the gears are tended and fish may be retrieved relatively quickly and released. Bluefin tuna landings must be accounted for under the appropriate PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 52021 bluefin tuna sub-quota and dead discards must be accounted for against the overall U.S. quota. Atlantic Tunas General category and HMS Charter/ Headboat permitted vessels must report on logbooks if selected for reporting. At this time, NMFS does not select these vessels for reporting in order to obtain bluefin tuna dead discard data because these authorized fishing gears have a low bluefin tuna mortality rate. Comment 30: The preferred alternatives in Amendment 8 will make it easier for recreationally-caught swordfish to be illegally sold by increasing the number of commercial permit holders through which fish could be transferred and sold, especially in south Florida. NMFS will have no way to regulate the landings of all these swordfish in south Florida. Response: The establishment of an open-access commercial swordfish permit that is easy to apply for and obtain is expected to reduce the incentive for recreational anglers to illegally sell or transfer swordfish to commercial fishermen for later sale. Recreational HMS fishermen in Federal waters must possess an HMS Angling permit, may not sell their HMS, and must report all swordfish landings either online or by phone within 24hours of landing. In addition, commercially-caught swordfish may only be sold to a federally permitted swordfish dealer. In response to public comment and for other reasons explained above, at this time, NMFS is implementing a zero-fish retention limit in the Florida Swordfish Management Area for Swordfish General Commercial permit holders and prohibiting the sale of fish by vessels with HMS Charter/ Headboat permits in this area, even when they are not on a for hire trip. In south Florida, this zero-fish retention limit will not provide additional incentive for recreational fishermen to illegally sell or transfer swordfish to commercial fishermen for later sale. The retention limit in south Florida and other regions may be adjusted in-season, based upon the attainment of preestablished criteria contained in the final rule implementing Amendment 8. Comment 31: NMFS received comments opposed to the proposed regulation, which would allow a person to obtain an Angling category permit, and then relinquish that permit to obtain the Swordfish General Commercial permit during the 2013 fishing year. If a person relinquishes their Angling category permit to obtain the new commercial permit, the commenter stated that they should be prohibited from obtaining another E:\FR\FM\21AUR4.SGM 21AUR4 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES4 52022 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 162 / Wednesday, August 21, 2013 / Rules and Regulations Atlantic Tunas permit during the same fishing year. Response: NMFS agrees. A person may not change bluefin tuna quota categories within the same fishing year under current regulations. While this final rule will be effective prior to the issuance of 2014 Atlantic open access HMS and tunas permits, NMFS will not issue Swordfish General Commercial permits prior to the issuance of 2014 permits. Comment 32: NMFS received contrasting comments regarding the effective date of the final rule implementing Amendment 8 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP. Some commenters requested implementation as quickly as possible so they could benefit from increased commercial fishing opportunities for swordfish. Other commenters requested for NMFS to wait until ICCAT stock assessment results and quota recommendations are publicly available in the fall of 2013 before making any significant changes to current swordfish management measures. Response: The effective date of this final rule is 30 days after the date of its publication in the Federal Register; however, the new Swordfish General Commercial Permit and the allowance for HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels to sell swordfish on non-for hire trips will first become effective upon issuance of the 2014 fishing permit. NMFS is implementing this rule as quickly as possible in order to provide additional opportunities to more fully utilize the U.S. swordfish quota, while considering available information about North Atlantic swordfish stock status. Regardless of the U.S. quota allocation issued by ICCAT, NMFS has the ability to monitor swordfish landings in realtime and will also have the ability under Amendment 8 to adjust regional swordfish retention limits according to the in-season adjustment authority criteria established in this final rule. Comment 33: An open-access commercial swordfish permit will enable many people who have not been able to qualify, based on fishing income, for a Restricted Species Endorsement on the Florida Saltwater Products License to more easily qualify. Therefore, the proposed commercial swordfish permit will also create more fishing pressure on other species, including Spanish mackerel, pompano, and king mackerel. Response: The Restricted Species Endorsement is a Florida state requirement that may be modified by the State of Florida based on their determination of need. If the State of Florida maintains the status quo regarding the Florida Restricted Species VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:20 Aug 20, 2013 Jkt 229001 list, which does not currently include swordfish, then some fishermen that obtain the new Swordfish General Commercial permit could potentially land and sell swordfish which could allow them to qualify more easily for entry into restricted entry commercial fisheries in Florida. If the State of Florida adds swordfish to the Restricted Species list, then it would not become any easier for fishermen to qualify for entry into restricted commercial fisheries in Florida. Comment 34: NMFS should implement a swordfish tagging system to promote more swordfish quota usage. Commenters stated that some swordfish are being unreported and that the United States must ensure that all swordfish that are being caught are accounted for. Response: In the Draft EA for Amendment 8, NMFS thoroughly considered an alternative that would implement a swordfish tagging program to provide a higher level of reporting and to facilitate the enforcement of swordfish regulations. Four subalternatives were considered, including tagging: (1) Only swordfish landed by vessels issued the new or modified permit(s); (2) all swordfish landed by any gear other than PLL (i.e., rod and reel, handline, harpoon, bandit gear, green-stick, trawl gear, and buoy gear; (3) all commercially landed swordfish; and (4) all commercially-landed swordfish within, or from, specified region(s). Additionally, NMFS considered whether to provide tags to dealers and require that vessel operators tag swordfish prior to offloading, or whether to provide tags to swordfish vessel permit holders and require that swordfish be tagged immediately upon being brought onboard a vessel. NMFS extensively investigated different types of tags, program administration and costs, tag manufacturers, reporting requirements, and enforcement considerations. After consulting with the HMS Advisory Panel and other interested constituents, NMFS decided not to further analyze the alternative to implement a swordfish tagging program due to concerns about the effectiveness of a tagging program to reliably identify swordfish that are bound for commerce. Unless all commercial swordfish (both domestic and imported) are tagged, it would remain difficult to differentiate between legitimate commercial landings that needed to be tagged, commercial landings that did not need to be tagged, imported swordfish, and recreational landings illegally entering commerce. Furthermore, establishing an openaccess commercial swordfish permit is PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 expected to significantly reduce the incentive for recreational anglers to illegally sell or transfer swordfish to commercial fishermen for later sale, thereby reducing the need for a tagging program. Changes From the Proposed Rule (78 FR 12273, February 22, 2013) In this final rule and in response to public comment, NMFS has modified the definition of the ‘‘Florida Swordfish Management Area’’ at § 635.2 by removing that portion of the area north of 28°17′10″ N. lat. The new northern boundary line now intersects the U.S. mainland near Rockledge, FL, and the coastline between Cape Canaveral, FL, and Melbourne, FL, near Cocoa Beach, FL. The modified area is smaller in geographic size than the proposed area. The area off the southeastern coast of Florida, particularly the Florida Straits, contains oceanographic features that make the area biologically unique. It provides important juvenile swordfish habitat, and is essentially a narrow migratory corridor containing high concentrations of swordfish located in close proximity to high concentrations of people who may fish for them. The modified Florida Swordfish Management Area more closely encompasses the Florida Straits and the oceanographic features that make this area biologically unique. Public comment indicated a concern about increased catches of juvenile swordfish, the potential for larger numbers of fishermen in the area, and the potential for crowding of fishermen, which could lead to potential fishing gear and user conflicts. Modifying the area to more closely correspond to the actual oceanographic features that make the area unique will improve future conservation and management of swordfish, while minimizing impacts on fishermen operating both in the relatively narrow area of the Florida Straits and fishermen operating north of this area where swordfish are less concentrated. This modification is within the range of alternatives considered for the Florida Swordfish Management Area in Amendment 8. To account for the reduction in size of the Florida Swordfish Management Area, the Northwest Atlantic region has been increased in size by extending its southern boundary to 28°17′10″ N. lat. Also in response to public comment, NMFS has modified the initial default retention limit of the Florida Swordfish Management Area. In § 635.24(b)(4)(iii), the initial default swordfish retention limit for the modified Florida Swordfish Management Area has been changed from one swordfish per vessel per trip E:\FR\FM\21AUR4.SGM 21AUR4 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 162 / Wednesday, August 21, 2013 / Rules and Regulations mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES4 to zero swordfish per vessel per trip. An initial default retention limit of zero swordfish per vessel per trip in the modified Florida Swordfish Management Area better corresponds with NMFS’ intent to take a precautionary approach during the initial establishment of a new open access commercial swordfish permit in an area that is biologically unique and within the proximity of a large number of fishermen, while still providing increased opportunities for commercial swordfish handgear fisheries in other regions. Paragraphs § 635.4(f)(1) and (f)(2) have been changed to indicate that the provision allowing HMS Charter/ Headboat permitted vessels to commercially fish for swordfish under the new regulations will become effective on January 1, 2014. Similarly, in § 635.4(f)(5), a sentence has been removed that described how the new permit would have been issued during the 2013 fishing year. The new permit will be made available for the 2014 fishing year, so that sentence is no longer needed. Paragraph § 635.4(m)(2) has been reworded to improve clarity, but no substantive change to this paragraph has been made. A minor change has been made to § 635.24(b)(4)(i) to improve clarity and to reflect the changes made to the definition of the Florida Swordfish Management Area. A correction has been made at § 635.34(a) to indicate the proper crossreference to § 635.24 instead of § 635.23. There is no substantive change as a result of this correction. Lastly, a change has been made at § 635.71(e)(18) to improve clarity by incorporating a cross-reference to § 635.21(e)(4)(v). Classification The NMFS Assistant Administrator (AA) has determined that this final rule is consistent with the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments, other provisions of the MagnusonStevens Act, ATCA, and other applicable law. NMFS prepared an environmental assessment for this final rule that discusses the impact on the environment that would result from this rule. In this final action, we provide additional commercial swordfish fishing opportunities using selective fishing gears that have minimal bycatch and few discards to allow the United States to more fully utilize its domestic swordfish quota allocation. A copy of the environmental assessment is available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:20 Aug 20, 2013 Jkt 229001 This final rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. The Agency has consulted, to the extent practicable, with appropriate state and local officials to address the principles, criteria, and requirements of Executive Order 13132. A final regulatory flexibility analysis (FRFA) was prepared for this rule. The FRFA incorporates the Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA), a summary of the significant issues raised by the public comments in response to the IRFA, our responses to those comments, and a summary of the analyses completed to support the action. The full FRFA and analysis of economic and ecological impacts are available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). A summary of the FRFA follows. The purpose of this final rulemaking, consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments, is to enact HMS management measures that provide additional opportunities to harvest swordfish using selective gears that have low rates of bycatch, given the rebuilt status of the swordfish stock and resulting increased availability of swordfish and availability of U.S. quota. The goal is for the United States to more fully utilize its domestic swordfish quota allocation, which is based upon the recommendation of ICCAT, and provide economic benefits to U.S. fishermen with minimal adverse environmental impacts. Section 604(a)(2) of the RFA requires a summary of the significant issues raised by the public comments in response to the IRFA, a summary of the assessment of the Agency of such issues, and a statement of any changes made in the rule as a result of such comments. NMFS received many comments on the proposed rule and IRFA. A summary of these comments and the Agency’s responses, including changes as a result of public comment, are included above. In particular, comments 1, 5, 6, and 7 address the rule’s economic impacts. For the reasons discussed in the response to comments 5 and 6, NMFS has reduced the size of the Florida Swordfish Management Area in this final rule, increased the size of the Northwest Atlantic region, implemented a zero swordfish per vessel per trip initial default retention limit in the smaller modified Florida Swordfish Management Area, and implemented a three swordfish per vessel per trip initial default retention limit in the area north of Cocoa Beach, FL, to Jekyll Island, GA, that was originally proposed to be subject to a one swordfish per vessel per trip limit. Otherwise, there PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 52023 are no substantive changes from the proposed rule as a result of these economic comments. Section 604(a)(3) of the RFA requires a description and estimate of the number of small entities to which the final rule would apply. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has established size criteria for all major industry sectors in the United States, including fish harvesters. Previously, a business involved in fish harvesting was classified as a small business if it is independently owned and operated, is not dominant in its field of operation (including its affiliates), and has combined annual receipts not in excess of $4.0 million (NAICS code 114111, finfish fishing) for all its affiliated operations worldwide. In addition, SBA has defined a small charter/party boat entity (NAICS code 713990, recreational industries) as one with average annual receipts of less than $7.0 million. On June 20, 2013, SBA issued a final rule revising the small business size standards for several industries effective July 22, 2013. 78 FR 37398 (June 20, 2013). The rule increased the size standard for Finfish Fishing from $4.0 to 19.0 million, Shellfish Fishing from $4.0 to 5.0 million, and Other Marine Fishing from $4.0 to 7.0 million. Id. at 37400 (Table 1). NMFS has reviewed the analyses prepared for this action in light of the new size standards. Under the former, lower size standards, all entities subject to this action were considered small entities, thus they all would continue to be considered small under the new standards. This final rule would apply to smallscale handgear vessel owners that fish in the Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and the U.S. Caribbean, that do not currently hold a commercial swordfish limited access permit. NMFS estimates that the universe of fishermen who might purchase and fish under a new commercial swordfish permit would be approximately 4,084 individuals, with some potential shift of fishermen currently permitted in the recreational HMS Angling category. This estimate is based upon the number of persons currently issued an Atlantic tunas General category permit, which is the commercial permit most similar to the permit being implemented in this final action. This final action could also indirectly apply to current U.S. North Atlantic commercial swordfish fishery participants and the related industries of seafood dealers and processors, fishing gear manufacturers and distributors, marinas, bait houses, restaurants, and other equipment suppliers. The current U.S. North E:\FR\FM\21AUR4.SGM 21AUR4 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES4 52024 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 162 / Wednesday, August 21, 2013 / Rules and Regulations Atlantic commercial swordfish fishery is comprised of 334 fishing vessel owners who are issued either a limited access swordfish Handgear permit, or a limited access directed or incidental swordfish permit. Section 604(a)(4) of the RFA requires a description of the projected reporting, record-keeping, and other compliance requirements of the final rule, including an estimate of the classes of small entities which would be subject to the requirements of the report or record. This action contains new reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements. The new Federal openaccess Swordfish General Commercial permit allows NMFS to collect additional data regarding participants in the swordfish handgear fishery and landings through Federal dealer reports. The new permit requires an application similar to other current open-access HMS permits. The information collected on the application includes vessel information and owner identification and contact information. A modest fee to process the application and annual renewal fee of approximately $25 may be required. The final rule also adopts standard commercial HMS permit reporting requirements for this permit. Currently, in Atlantic HMS fisheries, all commercial fishing vessels and Charter/ Headboat vessels are required to submit logbooks for all HMS trips if they are selected for reporting. Selected permit holders are required to submit logbooks to NMFS postmarked no later than seven days after unloading a trip. If no fishing activity occurred during a calendar month, a ‘‘no fishing’’ report must be submitted to NMFS, and be postmarked within seven days after the end of the month. Currently, the permits most similar to the ones being implemented in this final action (HMS Charter/Headboat, Atlantic tunas General category, and Atlantic tunas Harpoon category permit) are not selected for submitting logbooks, although they may be selected in the future. Section 604(a)(5) of the RFA requires a description of the steps NMFS has taken to minimize the significant economic impact on small entities consistent with the stated objectives of applicable statutes, including a statement of the factual, policy, and legal reasons for selecting the alternative adopted in the final rule and the reason that each one of the other significant alternatives to the rule considered by the Agency which affect small entities was rejected. These impacts are discussed below and in the final environmental assessment for Amendment 8 to the 2006 Consolidated VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:20 Aug 20, 2013 Jkt 229001 HMS FMP. Additionally, the RFA (5 U.S.C. 603(c)(1)–(4)) lists four general categories of ‘‘significant’’ alternatives that could assist an agency in the development of significant alternatives. These categories of alternatives are: (1) Establishment of differing compliance or reporting requirements or timetables that take into account the resources available to small entities; (2) clarification, consolidation, or simplification of compliance and reporting requirements under the rule for such small entities; (3) use of performance rather than design standards; and (4) exemptions from coverage of the rule for small entities. In order to meet the objectives of this rule, consistent with the MagnusonStevens Act and ESA, NMFS cannot exempt small entities or change the reporting requirements only for small entities because all the entities affected are considered small entities. Thus, there are no alternatives discussed that fall under the first and fourth categories described above. We do not know of any performance or design standards that would satisfy the aforementioned objectives of this rulemaking while also complying with the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Thus, there are no alternatives considered under the third category. All of the permit alternatives being considered, except for the no-action alternative, could result in additional reporting requirements (category two above) due to the issuance of new permits if new permit holders are selected for reporting. These are standard reporting requirements required of all HMS commercial permit holders. Thus, there are no alternatives discussed that fall under the second category described above. The action will improve information collection by allowing NMFS to collect important fishery dependent data, if necessary, that could be used for quota monitoring and stock assessments. As described below, NMFS analyzed several different alternatives for this final rulemaking and provides rationale for selecting the alternatives adopted in the final rule and the reason that each one of the other significant alternatives to the rule considered by the Agency which affect small entities was rejected. In this rulemaking, NMFS considered two different categories of issues to address swordfish management measures where each issue had its own range of alternatives and subalternatives that would meet the objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP. The first category of alternatives (Alternatives 1.1–1.3 and subalternatives) addresses swordfish PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 permitting alternatives. The second category of alternatives (Alternatives 2.1–2.3 and sub-alternatives) addresses swordfish retention limits. The expected economic impacts these alternatives and sub-alternatives may have on small entities are summarized below. The full FRFA and all its analyses can be found in the final environmental assessment for Amendment 8. In total, NMFS analyzed 16 different alternatives and sub-alternatives, and provided rationales for identifying the preferred alternatives. The seven permit alternatives range from maintaining the status quo for U.S. North Atlantic swordfish fisheries to creating a new commercial swordfish handgear permit and modifying the HMS Charter/ Headboat permit to allow fishing for and sales of swordfish under specific limitations. NMFS analyzed nine alternatives that would allow NMFS to implement swordfish retention limits applicable to the new permit in a range from zero-to-six fish. Eight of these alternatives would allow NMFS to modify daily trip limits using in-season adjustment procedures. NMFS assessed the impacts of the retention limit alternatives on both a fishery-wide basis and utilizing an approach which could be tailored on a regional basis. Alternative 1.1, the no action alternative, maintains the existing swordfish limited access permit program and would not establish a new swordfish permit. Under Alternative 1.1, NMFS does not anticipate any substantive change in economic impacts as the U.S. swordfish fishery is already operating under the current regulations. Entry into the commercial swordfish fishery would remain difficult due to high limited access permit costs and the current scarcity of available permits. In terms of available and unutilized swordfish quota, this alternative could contribute to a loss of potential income for fishermen who would like to fish commercially for swordfish, but are not able to obtain limited access permits. Under ATCA (16 U.S.C. 971 et. seq.) and the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS is required to provide U.S. fishing vessels with a reasonable opportunity to harvest the ICCAT-recommended quota. Although there is sufficient quota to allow U.S. fishermen to catch more swordfish and remain within the ICCAT-recommended quota, current difficulties associated with obtaining a limited access permit may be a constraining factor. For this reason, the ‘‘no action’’ alternative is not preferred. Alternative 1.2, a preferred alternative, would establish a new openaccess commercial swordfish permit and modify existing open access HMS E:\FR\FM\21AUR4.SGM 21AUR4 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES4 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 162 / Wednesday, August 21, 2013 / Rules and Regulations permits to allow for the commercial retention of swordfish using handgears. NMFS anticipates positive economic impacts for some U.S. fishermen under alternative 1.2. It would allow smallscale U.S. fishermen to use handgear (rod and reel, handline, harpoon, bandit gear, and green-stick) to fish for and commercially sell a limited amount of swordfish (zero to six fish per vessel per trip) to permitted swordfish dealers. This alternative would reduce economic barriers to the commercial swordfish fishery, provide more opportunities to fish commercially for swordfish, and potentially provide economic benefits to some fishermen. For example, if a new entrant landed 10 swordfish per year under this alternative, they could realize an increase in annual gross revenues of approximately $4,329.60. One trip landing six swordfish could yield $2,598 in gross revenues. NMFS received comments from some current swordfish limited access permit holders during public meetings to discuss the 2009 ANPR (74 FR 26174, June 1, 2009) expressing concern that establishing a new swordfish permit could reduce ex-vessel swordfish prices and the value of existing limited access swordfish permits. It is not possible to precisely predict the number of new applicants for open access commercial swordfish permits, but NMFS expects that some current recreational fishermen with HMS Angling permits will remain recreational, rather than shift to commercial fishing. There are numerous commercial fishing vessel safety requirements and management regulations to comply with when operating a commercial fishing business that may discourage some recreational fishermen from obtaining a commercial permit. Under the proposed regulations, similar to the regulations that apply to the Atlantic tunas General category permit, fishermen issued a new Swordfish General Commercial permit would not be able to obtain an HMS Angling category permit. Therefore, a recreational fisherman who obtains a Swordfish General Commercial permit would forfeit the ability to fish for Atlantic billfishes, unless they are fishing in a registered HMS tournament, because fishing for these species is permissible only when issued an HMS Angling or Charter/Headboat permit. Additionally, the ability to fish recreationally for Atlantic tunas and sharks would be forfeited unless they are fishing in a registered HMS tournament or hold appropriate commercial tuna and/or shark permits. Negative impacts on current swordfish limited access permit holders are VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:20 Aug 20, 2013 Jkt 229001 expected to be mitigated by establishing lower retention limits for the new open access permit than the limits that currently exist for limited access permits. NMFS prefers Alternative 1.2 because it would increase access to the commercial swordfish fishery, would have positive socio-economic impacts for fishermen who are currently unable to obtain a swordfish limited access permit, and would have neutral to minor ecological impacts. Additionally, this alternative would provide increased opportunities to more fully utilize the ICCAT-recommended domestic North Atlantic swordfish quota allocation and thus could have long-term benefits to all swordfish fisherman by improving the United States’ position with regard to maintaining its quota share at ICCAT. Sub-alternative 1.2.1 would modify the existing open-access Atlantic tunas General category permit to allow vessels using handgears (rod and reel, handline, harpoon, bandit gear, and green-stick) to retain swordfish commercially, and rename the modified permit as, potentially, the Atlantic tunas and swordfish General category permit. It would result in many of the same socioeconomic impacts as Alternative 1.2. In addition, sub-alternative l.2.1 would minimize the costs associated with obtaining the new swordfish permit for persons that have already been issued the Atlantic Tunas General category permit, because they would only need to obtain one permit rather than two. Sub-Alternative 1.2.1 is not preferred because it would not provide the ability to differentiate between the numbers of commercial fishermen issued an Atlantic Tunas General category permit and those issued an open-access commercial swordfish permit. This distinction helps to analyze the socioeconomic impacts of potential management measures for both tunas and swordfish. Sub-alternative 1.2.2 would modify the existing open-access Atlantic tunas Harpoon category permit to allow for the commercial retention of swordfish using harpoon gear. This alternative would result in many of the same impacts as Alternative 1.2. Additionally, it would minimize the costs associated with obtaining the new permit for persons that have already been issued the Atlantic Tunas Harpoon category permit, because they would only need to obtain one permit rather than two. Specifically, it would provide economic benefits to current Atlantic tunas Harpoon category permit holders that want to both harpoon swordfish and fish for tunas under Atlantic tunas Harpoon category regulations. SubAlternative 1.2.2 is not preferred PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 52025 because it would not provide the ability to differentiate between the numbers of commercial fishermen issued an Atlantic Tunas Harpoon category permit and those issued an open-access commercial swordfish permit. Sub-alternative 1.2.3, a preferred alternative, would allow HMS Charter/ Headboat permit holders to fish under open access commercial swordfish regulations, using only rod and reel and handlines, when not on a for-hire trip with paying passengers. It would result in many of the same impacts as Alternative 1.2 and provide economic benefits to CHB permit holders when fishing commercially (i.e., not on a forhire trip). It would also streamline permit issuance because CHB vessels would not need to obtain another permit. Sub-Alternative 1.2.3 is preferred because it achieves the goal of providing additional opportunities to commercially harvest the U.S. swordfish quota using handgears that are low in bycatch. A similar regulatory provision exists which allows HMS Charter/ Headboat permit holders to sell Atlantic tunas under certain conditions because of the quasi-commercial nature of the HMS Charter/Headboat permit. Sub-alternative 1.2.4, a preferred alternative, would create a separate open access commercial swordfish permit to allow landings using handgear. This alternative would have similar impacts as Alternative 1.2, above. However, it would increase the costs associated with obtaining the permit for persons that have already been issued an Atlantic Tunas General or Harpoon category permit. This alternative would not streamline permit issuance for persons that want to commercially fish for both tunas and swordfish, because they would need to obtain two different permits to conduct these activities. NMFS prefers subalternative 1.2.4 because it would increase access to the commercial swordfish fishery, would have positive socio-economic impacts for fishermen who are currently unable to obtain a swordfish limited access permit, and would have only neutral to minor ecological impacts. Additionally, subalternative 1.2.4 would better enable NMFS to differentiate between tuna and swordfish handgear fishermen in order to better monitor and assess these fisheries. Alternative 1.3 would allow for an unspecified number of new swordfish limited access permits to be issued. Depending upon the qualification criteria, this alternative could improve access to the fishery and provide economic benefits to some fishermen that qualify for the new limited access E:\FR\FM\21AUR4.SGM 21AUR4 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES4 52026 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 162 / Wednesday, August 21, 2013 / Rules and Regulations permit. However, it could also adversely affect some fishermen who do not qualify for a limited access permit. This alternative could limit any negative economic and social impacts on current commercial swordfish limited access permit holders by limiting the number of new swordfish permits issued. Selection of this alternative may require, among other things, establishing qualification criteria, control dates, application deadlines, application procedures, and grievance/appeals procedures for persons who have initially been determined as not eligible to qualify for a limited access permit. These aspects could increase administrative costs for NMFS and increase the reporting burden for the public to demonstrate that they meet qualifying criteria. Alternative 1.3 is not preferred because a new commercial swordfish limited-access permit is not needed at this time. Under the preferred alternatives, fishing effort in the openaccess commercial swordfish fishery will be managed using low regional retention limits that can be adjusted using in-season authority to ensure that landings remain within the U.S. quota. Alternative 2.1 would establish a fishery-wide zero-to-six swordfish retention limit range for the new and modified permits, and codify a specific retention limit within that range. This alternative could provide some fishermen with the ability to commercially land swordfish, thereby resulting in positive economic benefits if the limit were set above zero. Additionally, economic benefits are anticipated for swordfish dealers and processors, fishing tackle manufacturers and suppliers, bait suppliers, restaurants, marinas, and fuel providers. NMFS anticipates a retention limit range of zero-to-six swordfish would provide a seasonal, or secondary, fishery for most participants. This alternative is not expected to facilitate a year-round fishery in most areas, with the possible exception of south Florida, where swordfish can be available year-round. There is a notable difference in the exvessel revenue produced by a one swordfish/trip limit versus a six swordfish/trip limit. A single swordfish is estimated to be worth $432.96 exvessel, on average, whereas six swordfish would produce $2,597.76 exvessel. For a vessel making 10 trips per year and retaining the maximum allowable number of swordfish on each trip, annual gross revenue derived from swordfish would range from $4,329.60 under a one-fish limit to $25,977.60 under a six-fish limit. Codifying a single coast-wide swordfish retention limit VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:20 Aug 20, 2013 Jkt 229001 would provide certainty to both fishermen and law enforcement regarding the swordfish retention limit for the new open access permit. However, this alternative would not provide in-season adjustment authority to quickly modify the swordfish retention limit regionally by using preestablished criteria and thus would limit NMFS’ management flexibility. Alternative 2.1 is not preferred because it does not provide the flexibility to manage the new swordfish open access permit on a regional basis or to adjust regional retention limits using in-season authority. Alternative 2.2 would establish a coast-wide zero-to-six swordfish retention limit range for the new and modified permits and codify a specific retention limit within that range. In addition, it would provide in-season adjustment authority for NMFS to modify the swordfish retention limit within the range (zero to six) using inseason adjustment procedures similar to those codified at § 635.27(a)(8). This alternative would have the same social and economic impacts as Alternative 2.1, but would provide less certainty to fishermen and law enforcement regarding possible in-season changes to the swordfish retention limit. Positive economic benefits could occur if the retention limit was increased during the fishing season based upon information indicating that sufficient quota was available, or upon other pre-established criteria. Alternative 2.2 is not preferred because it does not provide the flexibility to manage the new swordfish open access permit on a regional basis. Alternative 2.3, a preferred alternative, would establish swordfish management regions and a zero-to-six swordfish retention limit range within each region for the new and modified permits and codify specific regional limits within that range with authority to adjust the regional limits in-season based on pre-established criteria. This alternative would have similar social and economic impacts as Alternative 2.1. If a regional retention limit is set at zero, NMFS expects no change in socioeconomic impacts. If a regional limit is set at any level above zero, this alternative could provide economic benefits to some commercial handgear fishermen if they were previously inactive and obtain the new and modified permits and begin fishing. NMFS prefers Alternative 2.3 at this time, because it would allow swordfish retention limits to be quickly modified using in-season adjustment authority and provide additional flexibility to manage swordfish regionally. PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 Sub-Alternative 2.3.1 would establish regions based upon existing major U.S. domestic fishing areas as reported to ICCAT (Northeast Distant area, Northeast Coastal area, Mid-Atlantic Bight area, South Atlantic Bight area, Florida East Coast area, Gulf of Mexico area, Caribbean area, and the Sargasso Sea area). Socio-economic impacts would be the same as Alternative 2.3 above. If this sub-alternative were implemented, NMFS considered an initial swordfish retention limit of one swordfish per vessel per trip for the Florida East Coast area, two swordfish per vessel per trip for the Caribbean area, and a limit of three swordfish per vessel per trip for the Northwest Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions. If a regional retention limit is set at zero, NMFS expects no change in socioeconomic impacts. If a regional limit is set at any level above zero, this alternative could provide economic benefits to some commercial handgear fishermen if they were previously inactive and obtain the new and modified permits and begin fishing. For vessels making 10 trips per year and retaining the maximum allowable limit on each trip, annual gross revenue derived from swordfish would range from $4,329.60 under a one-fish limit, $8,659.20 under a two-fish limit, and $12,988.80 under a three-fish limit. SubAlternative 2.3.1 is not preferred because the small-scale handgear fishery is somewhat similar across the entire Northwest Atlantic area and Gulf of Mexico, so establishing several smaller areas is not needed at this time. Sub-Alternative 2.3.2, a preferred alternative, would establish larger regions than sub-alternative 2.3.1, with the addition of a separate Florida Swordfish Management Area (the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and a Florida Swordfish Management Area as defined below). Under this sub-alternative, swordfish management measures could still be tailored geographically to the biological factors affecting a particular region; however, the regions would be larger (with the possible exception of the separate Florida Swordfish Management Area). In the draft EA and proposed rule, NMFS considered an initial swordfish retention limit of one swordfish per vessel per trip for the Florida Swordfish Management Area, two swordfish per vessel per trip for the Caribbean area, and a limit of three swordfish per vessel per trip for the Northwest Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions. These retention limits fell within the range discussed under Alternative 2.3 above, and could be E:\FR\FM\21AUR4.SGM 21AUR4 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES4 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 162 / Wednesday, August 21, 2013 / Rules and Regulations modified in the future using in-season adjustment procedures. In this action, NMFS establishes an initial default retention limit of zero swordfish per vessel per trip for the Florida Swordfish Management Area due to concerns about the rapid growth of a commercial fishery in an important swordfish habitat area that is in close proximity to many fishermen. Under a regional retention limit set at zero for the Florida Swordfish Management Area, no change in socio-economic impacts is anticipated. In other regions, vessels making 10 trips per year and retaining the maximum allowable limit on each trip would derive annual gross revenue from swordfish ranging from $4,329.60 under a one-fish limit, $8,659.20 under a two-fish limit, and $12,988.80 under a three-fish limit. Sub-Alternative 2.3.2 is preferred because it establishes larger regions which can be consistently and effectively managed, yet it still provides for the ability to manage the unique swordfish habitat area off southeastern Florida To estimate the number of entities affected by a special Florida Swordfish Management Area, NMFS first determined the number of Atlantic tunas General category permits issued. In 2011, there were 4,084 Atlantic tunas General category permits issued. This number was used as a proxy to estimate the total number of new Swordfish General Commercial permits that could be issued fishery-wide. In 2011, 44 percent of all Directed and Incidental swordfish limited access permits were issued in Florida. Additionally, in 2011, 63 percent of all swordfish Handgear limited access permits were issued in Florida. Taking the average of these two numbers provided an estimate of 53.5 percent, which NMFS used to estimate the percent of new swordfish permits that could be issued in Florida. Using an estimated rate of 53.5 percent of 4,084 potential new permits provides an estimate of 2,185 potential new commercial swordfish handgear permits that could be issued in Florida. Assuming that two-thirds of these permits are issued to vessels on the east coast of Florida, as is the case currently, then potentially 1,455 new open-access swordfish permits could be issued on the east coast of Florida (0.666 * 2,185 = 1,455). Sub-Alternative 2.3.2.1 would establish a Florida Swordfish Management Area that includes the East Florida Coast pelagic longline closed area through the northwestern boundary of Monroe County, FL, in the Gulf of Mexico (see § 635.2 for bounding coordinates). Under a regional retention limit set at zero for the Florida VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:20 Aug 20, 2013 Jkt 229001 Swordfish Management Area, no change in socio-economic impacts is anticipated. Approximately 1,455 new permit holders could derive up to $4,329.60 annually under a one-fish limit, assuming they each took 10 trips per year and landed one fish on each trip. Sub-Alternative 2.3.2.1 was preferred in the draft EA and proposed rule because it corresponded to the well-known boundaries of the existing East Florida Coast pelagic longline closed area, and also provided an enforceable buffer by including areas where there is not as much swordfishing activity. It is no longer preferred because a new hybrid alternative has been developed that better corresponds to the unique biological and oceanographic features that make the area a migratory corridor containing a high concentration of swordfish and providing important juvenile swordfish habitat. The hybrid area also closely corresponds to locations containing large numbers of fishermen, while still providing an enforceable buffer area to the north and south of the prime swordfishing areas off St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, Dade, and Monroe counties in Florida. Sub-Alternative 2.3.2.2 would establish a Florida Swordfish Management Area that extends from the Georgia/Florida border to Key West, FL. This area is larger than, and includes, the East Florida Coast pelagic longline closed area. Therefore, the economic impacts described for sub-alternative 2.3.2.1 would also occur within this area. Under a regional retention limit set at zero for the Florida Swordfish Management Area, no change in socioeconomic impacts is anticipated. Additionally, because this special management area would be larger than sub-alternative 2.3.2.1, slightly more than 1,455 vessels could potentially be affected by a one-fish retention limit. Sub-Alternative 2.3.2.2 is not preferred because a new hybrid alternative has been developed that better corresponds to the unique biological and oceanographic features that make the area a migratory corridor containing a high concentration of swordfish and providing important juvenile swordfish habitat. Sub-Alternative 2.3.2.3 would establish a Florida Swordfish Management Area that includes the Florida counties of St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, Dade, and Monroe. This area is smaller than the previous two sub-alternatives, but specifically includes oceanic areas with concentrations of swordfish that are readily accessible to many anglers. Under a regional retention limit set at PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 52027 zero for the Florida Swordfish Management Area, no change in socioeconomic impacts is anticipated. Because this special management area would be smaller than the areas in subalternative 2.3.2.1, slightly fewer than 1,455 vessels would potentially be affected by the one-swordfish per vessel per trip retention limit. Sub-Alternative 2.3.2.3 is not preferred because this management area would provide a smaller, and less enforceable, buffer area around the prime swordfishing areas. A new hybrid alternative has been developed that better corresponds to the unique biological and oceanographic features that make the area a migratory corridor containing a high concentration of swordfish and providing important juvenile swordfish habitat. Sub-Alternative 2.3.2.4, a preferred alternative, would establish a Florida Swordfish Management Area extending shoreward from near Rockledge, FL, and Cocoa Beach, FL, to the outer boundary of the EEZ through the northwestern boundary of Monroe County, FL, in the Gulf of Mexico. This area is geographically smaller than SubAlternatives 2.3.2.1 and 2.3.2.2, but larger than Sub-Alternative 2.3.2.3. This sub-alternative, in combination with a zero-fish retention limit, balances the need to prevent the rapid growth of a commercial fishery in a biologically unique area with the objective of providing additional opportunities to harvest swordfish. The preferred alternative in the draft EA (SubAlternative 2.3.2.1) would have implemented a one-fish retention limit in a larger area. This alternative would implement a zero-fish retention limit in a smaller area, and a three-fish retention limit in the area north of Cocoa Beach, FL, that was previously proposed to be subject to a one-fish retention limit. Thus, in the smaller, modified Florida Swordfish Management Area (SubAlternative 2.3.2.4) with an initial default retention limit of zero, no change in socio-economic impacts is anticipated. In the larger Northwest Atlantic region, annual gross revenue derived from swordfish would be approximately $12,988.80 under a threefish limit for a vessel making ten trips per year and retaining the maximum allowable limit on each trip. SubAlternative 2.3.2.4 is preferred because it more closely corresponds to the unique biological and oceanographic features that make the area a migratory corridor containing a high concentration of swordfish and providing important juvenile swordfish habitat. This area also more closely corresponds to locations containing large numbers of E:\FR\FM\21AUR4.SGM 21AUR4 52028 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 162 / Wednesday, August 21, 2013 / Rules and Regulations fishermen with comparatively easy access to the swordfish resource, while still providing an enforceable buffer area to the north and south of the prime swordfishing areas off St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, Dade, and Monroe counties in Florida. This final rule does not conflict, duplicate, or overlap with other relevant Federal rules (5 U.S.C. 603(b)(5)). Fishermen, dealers, and managers in these fisheries must comply with a number of international agreements, domestic laws, and other FMPs. These include, but are not limited to, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the ACTA, the High Seas Fishing Compliance Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Paperwork Reduction Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act. We do not believe that the new regulations duplicate, overlap, or conflict with any relevant regulations, Federal or otherwise. This final rule contains a collectionof-information requirement subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) and which has been approved by OMB under control number 0648–0327. Public reporting burden for a new Swordfish General Commercial permit is estimated to average 30 minutes per application. This burden estimate includes the time for reviewing instructions, gathering and maintaining the data needed, submitting the permit application, and completing and reviewing the collection information. On an annual basis, the new Swordfish General Commercial permit would increase the existing collection by 4,084 respondents/responses, 2,042 hours, and costs by $81,706. In total, 0648– 0327 would include 41,261 responses/ respondents, 11,843 hours, and cost $738,917 per year. Send comments on these burden estimated or any other aspects of this data collection, including suggestions for reducing the burden or any other aspects of the collection of information to NMFS (see ADDRESSES) and by email to OIRA_submission@ omb.eop.gov, or fax to (202) 395–7285. Notwithstanding any other provision of the law, no person is required to respond to, and no person shall be subject to penalty for failure to comply with, a collection of information subject to the requirements of the PRA, unless that collection of information displays a currently valid OMB control number. Section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 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. Copies of this final rule and the compliance guide are available upon request from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). Copies of the compliance guide will also be available from the Highly Migratory Species Management Division Web site at http:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/. Fishery List of Subjects 50 CFR Part 600 Administrative practice and procedure, Confidential business information, Fisheries, Fishing, Fishing vessels, Foreign relations, Intergovernmental relations, Penalties, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Statistics. 50 CFR Part 635 Fisheries, Fishing, Fishing vessels, Penalties, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Retention limits. Dated: August 13, 2013. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, performing the functions and duties of the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR parts 600 and 635 are amended as follows: PART 600—MAGNUSON-STEVENS ACT PROVISIONS 1. The authority citation for part 600 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 5 U.S.C. 561 and 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. 2. In § 600.725, in the table in paragraph (v), under the heading ‘‘IX. Secretary of Commerce,’’ entry 1, revise A to read as follows: ■ § 600.725 * General prohibitions. * * (v) * * * * * Authorized gear types * * * * * * * A. Swordfish handgear fishery ................................................................. A. Rod and reel, harpoon, handline, bandit gear, buoy gear, greenstick gear. * * * * * * * § 635.2 * 3. The authority citation for part 635 continues to read as follows: mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES4 ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. 4. In § 635.2, revise the definition for ‘‘Division Chief’’ and add the definition for ‘‘Florida Swordfish Management Area’’ in alphabetical order to read as follows: ■ 17:20 Aug 20, 2013 Jkt 229001 * Definitions. * PART 635—ATLANTIC HIGHLY MIGRATORY SPECIES VerDate Mar<15>2010 * * * * * Division Chief means the Chief, Highly Migratory Species Management Division, NMFS (F/SF1), 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD, 20910; (301) 427–8503. * * * * * Florida Swordfish Management Area means the Atlantic Ocean area shoreward of the outer boundary of the U.S. EEZ from a point where latitude 28°17′10″ N. lat. intersects the U.S. mainland near Rockledge, Florida and proceeding due east across the barrier island near Cocoa Beach, Florida to PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 * * connect by straight lines the following coordinates in the order stated: 28°17′10″ N. lat., 79°11′24″ W. long.; then proceeding along the outer boundary of the EEZ to the intersection of the EEZ with 24°00′ N. lat.; then proceeding due west to 24°00′ N. lat., 82°0′ W. long, then proceeding due north to 25°48′’ N. lat., 82°0′ W. long., then proceeding due east to the shore near Chokoloskee, Florida). * * * * * ■ 5. In § 635.4: ■ a. Revise paragraphs (b)(1), (c)(1), and (c)(2); ■ b. Add paragraph (c)(4); E:\FR\FM\21AUR4.SGM 21AUR4 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 162 / Wednesday, August 21, 2013 / Rules and Regulations c. Revise paragraphs (f) introductory text, (f)(1), (f)(2), and (f)(4); ■ d. Add paragraph (f)(5); and ■ e. Revise paragraphs (h)(1) introductory text, (j)(3), and (m)(2). The revisions and additions read as follows: ■ § 635.4 Permits and fees. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES4 * * * * * (b) * * * (1) The owner of a charter boat or headboat used to fish for, take, retain, or possess any Atlantic HMS must obtain an HMS Charter/Headboat permit. A vessel issued an HMS Charter/Headboat permit for a fishing year shall not be issued an HMS Angling permit, a Swordfish General Commercial permit, or an Atlantic Tunas permit in any category for that same fishing year, regardless of a change in the vessel’s ownership. * * * * * (c) * * * (1) The owner of any vessel used to fish recreationally for Atlantic HMS or on which Atlantic HMS are retained or possessed recreationally, must obtain an HMS Angling permit, except as provided in § 635.4(c)(2). Atlantic HMS caught, retained, possessed, or landed by persons on board vessels with an HMS Angling permit may not be sold or transferred to any person for a commercial purpose. A vessel issued an HMS Angling permit for a fishing year shall not be issued an HMS Charter/ Headboat permit, a Swordfish General Commercial permit, or an Atlantic Tunas permit in any category for that same fishing year, regardless of a change in the vessel’s ownership. (2) A vessel with a valid Atlantic Tunas General category permit issued under paragraph (d) of this section or with a valid Swordfish General Commercial permit issued under paragraph (f) of this section, may fish in a recreational HMS fishing tournament if the vessel has registered for, paid an entry fee to, and is fishing under the rules of a tournament that has registered with NMFS’ HMS Management Division as required under § 635.5(d). When a vessel issued a valid Atlantic Tunas General category permit or a valid Swordfish General Commercial permit is fishing in such a tournament, such vessel must comply with HMS Angling category regulations, except as provided in paragraphs (c)(3) and (c)(4) of this section. * * * * * (4) A vessel issued a Swordfish General Commercial permit fishing in a tournament, as authorized under § 635.4(c)(2), shall comply with VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:20 Aug 20, 2013 Jkt 229001 Swordfish General Commercial permit regulations when fishing for, retaining, possessing, or landing Atlantic swordfish. * * * * * (f) Swordfish vessel permits. The Swordfish General Commercial permit and the HMS Charter/Headboat permit provisions in paragraphs (f)(1) and (2) of this section will first become effective beginning with issuance of the 2014 fishing permit. (1) Except as specified in paragraphs (n) and (o) of this section, the owner of a vessel of the United States used to fish for or take swordfish commercially from the management unit, or on which swordfish from the management unit are retained or possessed with an intention to sell, or sold must obtain, an HMS Charter/Headboat permit issued under paragraph (b) of this section, or one of the following swordfish permits: A swordfish directed limited access permit, swordfish incidental limited access permit, swordfish handgear limited access permit, or a Swordfish General Commercial permit. These permits cannot be held in combination with each other on the same vessel, except that an HMS Charter/Headboat permit may be held in combination with a swordfish handgear limited access permit on the same vessel. It is a rebuttable presumption that the owner or operator of a vessel on which swordfish are possessed in excess of the recreational retention limits intends to sell the swordfish. (2) The only valid commercial Federal vessel permits for swordfish are the HMS Charter/Headboat permit issued under paragraph (b) of this section (and only when on a non for-hire trip), the Swordfish General Commercial permit issued under paragraph (f) of this section, a swordfish limited access permit issued consistent with paragraphs (l) and (m) of this section, or permits issued under paragraphs (n) and (o) of this section. * * * * * (4) A directed or incidental limited access permit for swordfish is valid only when the vessel has on board a valid limited access permit for shark and a valid Atlantic Tunas Longline category permit issued for such vessel. (5) A Swordfish General Commercial permit may not be held on a vessel in conjunction with an HMS Charter/ Headboat permit issued under paragraph (b) of this section, an HMS Angling category permit issued under paragraph (c), a swordfish limited access permit issued consistent with paragraphs (l) and (m), an Incidental HMS Squid Trawl permit issued under PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 52029 paragraph (n), or an HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit issued under paragraph (o). A vessel issued a Swordfish General Commercial open access permit for a fishing year shall not be issued an HMS Angling permit or an HMS Charter/Headboat permit for that same fishing year, regardless of a change in the vessel’s ownership. * * * * * (h) * * * (1) Atlantic Tunas, HMS Angling, HMS Charter/Headboat, Swordfish General Commercial, Incidental HMS Squid Trawl, and HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat vessel permits. * * * * * (j) * * * (3) A vessel owner issued an Atlantic tunas permit in the General, Harpoon, or Trap category or an Atlantic HMS permit in the Angling or Charter/ Headboat category under paragraph (b), (c), or (d) of this section may change the category of the vessel permit once within 10 calendar days of the date of issuance of the permit. After 10 calendar days from the date of issuance of the permit, the vessel owner may not change the permit category until the following fishing season. * * * * * (m) * * * (2) Shark and swordfish permits. A vessel owner must obtain the applicable limited access permit(s) issued pursuant to the requirements in paragraphs (e) and (f) of this section or an HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit issued under paragraph (o) of this section if: the vessel is used to fish for or take sharks commercially from the management unit; sharks from the management unit are retained or possessed on the vessel with an intention to sell; or sharks from the management unit are sold from the vessel. A vessel owner must obtain the applicable limited access permit(s) issued pursuant to the requirements in paragraphs (e) and (f) of this section, a Swordfish General Commercial permit issued under paragraph (f) of this section, an Incidental HMS Squid Trawl permit issued under paragraph (n) of this section, an HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit issued under paragraph (o) of this section, or an HMS Charter/Headboat permit issued under paragraph (b) of this section which authorizes a Charter/Headboat to fish commercially for swordfish on a non for-hire trip subject to the retention limits at§ 635.24(b)(4) if: the vessel is used to fish for or take swordfish commercially from the management unit; swordfish from the management unit are retained or possessed on the E:\FR\FM\21AUR4.SGM 21AUR4 52030 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 162 / Wednesday, August 21, 2013 / Rules and Regulations vessel with an intention to sell; or swordfish from the management unit are sold from the vessel. The commercial retention and sale of swordfish from vessels issued an HMS Charter/ Headboat permit is permissible only when the vessel is on a non for-hire trip. Only persons holding non-expired shark and swordfish limited access permit(s) in the preceding year are eligible to renew those limited access permit(s). Transferors may not renew limited access permits that have been transferred according to the procedures in paragraph (l) of this section. * * * * * 6. In § 635.21, revise paragraphs (e)(2)(i) and (ii) and (e)(4)(i) and (iv), add paragraph (e)(4)(v), and revise paragraph (g) to read as follows: ■ § 635.21 Gear operation and deployment restrictions. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES4 * * * * * (e) * * * (2) * * * (i) Only persons who have been issued a valid HMS Angling or valid Charter/Headboat permit, or who have been issued a valid Atlantic Tunas General category or Swordfish General Commercial permit and are participating in a tournament as provided in 635.4(c) of this part, may possess a blue marlin, white marlin, or roundscale spearfish in, or take a blue marlin, white marlin, or roundscale spearfish from, its management unit. Blue marlin, white marlin, or roundscale spearfish may only be harvested by rod and reel. (ii) Only persons who have been issued a valid HMS Angling or valid Charter/Headboat permit, or who have been issued a valid Atlantic Tunas General category or Swordfish General Commercial permit and are participating in a tournament as provided in § 635.4(c) of this part, may possess or take a sailfish shoreward of the outer boundary of the Atlantic EEZ. Sailfish may only be harvested by rod and reel. * * * * * (4) * * * (i) No person may possess north Atlantic swordfish taken from its management unit by any gear other than handgear, green-stick, or longline, except that such swordfish taken incidentally while fishing with a squid trawl may be retained by a vessel issued a valid Incidental HMS squid trawl permit, subject to restrictions specified in § 635.24(b)(2). No person may possess south Atlantic swordfish taken from its VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:20 Aug 20, 2013 Jkt 229001 management unit by any gear other than longline. * * * * * (iv) Except for persons aboard a vessel that has been issued a directed, incidental, or handgear limited access swordfish permit, a Swordfish General Commercial permit, an Incidental HMS squid trawl permit, or an HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit under § 635.4, no person may fish for North Atlantic swordfish with, or possess a North Atlantic swordfish taken by, any gear other than handline or rod and reel. (v) A person aboard a vessel issued or required to be issued a valid Swordfish General Commercial permit may only possess North Atlantic swordfish taken from its management unit by rod and reel, handline, bandit gear, green-stick, or harpoon gear. * * * * * (g) Green-stick gear. Green-stick gear may only be utilized when fishing from vessels issued a valid Atlantic Tunas General, Swordfish General Commercial, HMS Charter/Headboat, or Atlantic Tunas Longline category permit. The gear must be attached to the vessel, actively trolled with the mainline at or above the water’s surface, and may not be deployed with more than 10 hooks or gangions attached. ■ 7. In § 635.22, paragraphs (f) introductory text and (f)(1) and (2) are revised to read as follows: § 635.22 Recreational retention limits. * * * * * (f) North Atlantic swordfish. The recreational retention limits for North Atlantic swordfish apply to persons who fish in any manner, except to persons aboard a vessel that has been issued an HMS Charter/Headboat permit under § 635.4(b) and only when on a non for-hire trip, a directed, incidental or handgear limited access swordfish permit under § 635.4(e) and (f), a Swordfish General Commercial permit under § 635.4(f), an Incidental HMS Squid Trawl permit under § 635.4(n), or an HMS Commercial Caribbean Small boat permit under § 635.4(o). (1) When on a for-hire trip as defined at § 635.2, vessels issued an HMS Charter/Headboat permit under § 635.4(b), that are charter boats as defined under § 600.10 of this chapter, may retain, possess, or land no more than one North Atlantic swordfish per paying passenger and up to six North Atlantic swordfish per vessel per trip. When such vessels are on a non for-hire trip, they must comply with the commercial retention limits for swordfish specified at § 635.24(b)(4). PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4700 (2) When on a for-hire trip as defined at § 635.2, vessels issued an HMS Charter/Headboat permit under § 635.4(b), that are headboats as defined under § 600.10 of this chapter, may retain, possess, or land no more than one North Atlantic swordfish per paying passenger and up to 15 North Atlantic swordfish per vessel per trip. When such vessels are on a non for-hire trip, they may land no more than the commercial retention limits for swordfish specified at § 635.24(b)(4). * * * * * ■ 8. In § 635.24, paragraph (b)(4) is added to read as follows: § 635.24 Commercial retention limits for sharks, swordfish, and BAYS tunas. * * * * * (b) * * * (4) Persons aboard a vessel that has been issued a Swordfish General Commercial permit or an HMS Charter/ Headboat permit (and only when on a non for-hire trip) are subject to the regional swordfish retention limits specified at paragraph (b)(4)(iii), which may be adjusted during the fishing year based upon the inseason regional retention limit adjustment criteria identified in paragraph (b)(4)(iv) below. (i) Regions. Regional retention limits for swordfish apply in four regions. For purposes of this section, these regions are: the Florida Swordfish Management Area as defined in § 635.2; the Northwest Atlantic region (federal waters along the entire Atlantic coast of the United States north of 28°17′10″ N. latitude); the Gulf of Mexico region (any water located in the EEZ in the entire Gulf of Mexico west of 82° W. longitude); and the Caribbean region (the U.S. territorial waters within the Caribbean as defined in § 622.2 of this chapter). (ii) Possession, retention, and landing restrictions. Vessels that have been issued a Swordfish General Commercial permit or an HMS Charter/Headboat permit (and only when on a non for-hire trip), as a condition of these permits, may not possess, retain, or land any more swordfish than is specified for the region in which the vessel is located. (iii) Regional retention limits. The swordfish regional retention limits for each region will range between zero to six swordfish per vessel per trip. At the start of each fishing year, the default regional retention limits will apply. During the fishing year, NMFS may adjust the default retention limits per the inseason regional retention limit adjustment criteria listed in § 635.24(b)(4)(iv), if necessary. The default retention limits for the regions E:\FR\FM\21AUR4.SGM 21AUR4 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 162 / Wednesday, August 21, 2013 / Rules and Regulations set forth under paragraph (b)(4)(i) of this section are: (A) Zero swordfish per vessel per trip for the Florida Swordfish Management Area. (B) Two swordfish per vessel per trip for the Caribbean region. (C) Three swordfish per vessel per trip for the Northwest Atlantic region. (D) Three swordfish per vessel per trip for the Gulf of Mexico region. (iv) Inseason regional retention limit adjustment criteria. NMFS will file with the Office of the Federal Register for publication notification of any inseason adjustments to the regional retention limits. Before making any inseason adjustments to regional retention limits, NMFS will consider the following criteria and other relevant factors: (A) The usefulness of information obtained from biological sampling and monitoring of the North Atlantic swordfish stock; (B) The estimated ability of vessels participating in the fishery to land the amount of swordfish quota available before the end of the fishing year; (C) The estimated amounts by which quotas for other categories of the fishery might be exceeded; (D) Effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the fishery management plan and its amendments; (E) Variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migration patterns of swordfish; (F) Effects of catch rates in one region precluding vessels in another region from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the overall swordfish quota; and (G) Review of dealer reports, landing trends, and the availability of swordfish on the fishing grounds. * * * * * ■ 9. In § 635.27, paragraphs (c)(1)(i)(A) and (B) are revised to read as follows: § 635.27 Quotas. * * * * (c) * * * (1) * * * (i) * * * (A) A swordfish from the North Atlantic stock caught prior to the directed fishery closure by a vessel for which a directed swordfish limited mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES4 * VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:20 Aug 20, 2013 Jkt 229001 access permit, a swordfish handgear limited access permit, a HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit, a Swordfish General Commercial open access permit, or an HMS Charter/Headboat permit (and only when on a non for-hire trip) has been issued or is required to have been issued is counted against the directed fishery quota. The total baseline annual fishery quota, before any adjustments, is 2,937.6 mt dw for each fishing year. Consistent with applicable ICCAT recommendations, a portion of the total baseline annual fishery quota may be used for transfers to another ICCAT contracting party. The annual directed category quota is calculated by adjusting for over- or under harvests, dead discards, any applicable transfers, the incidental category quota, the reserve quota and other adjustments as needed, and is subdivided into two equal semiannual periods: one for January 1 through June 30, and the other for July 1 through December 31. (B) A swordfish from the North Atlantic swordfish stock landed by a vessel for which an incidental swordfish limited access permit, an incidental HMS Squid Trawl permit, an HMS Angling permit, or an HMS Charter/ Headboat permit (and only when on a for-hire trip) has been issued, or a swordfish from the North Atlantic stock caught after the effective date of a closure of the directed fishery from a vessel for which a swordfish directed limited access permit, a swordfish handgear limited access permit, a HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit, a Swordfish General Commercial open access permit, or an HMS Charter/Headboat permit (when on a non for-hire trip) has been issued, is counted against the incidental category quota. The annual incidental category quota is 300 mt dw for each fishing year. * * * * * ■ 10. In § 635.28, paragraphs (c)(1)(i)(C) and (D) are added to read as follows: § 635.28 Fishery closures. * * * * * (c) * * * (1) * * * (i) * * * (C) No swordfish may be possessed, landed, or sold by vessels issued a PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 9990 52031 Swordfish General Commercial open access permit. (D) No swordfish may be sold by vessels issued an HMS Charter/ Headboat permit. ■ 11. In § 635.34, paragraph (a) is revised to read as follows: § 635.34 Adjustment of management measures. (a) NMFS may adjust the catch limits for BFT, as specified in § 635.23; the quotas for BFT, shark and swordfish, as specified in § 635.27; the regional retention limits for Swordfish General Commercial permit holders, as specified at § 635.24; the marlin landing limit, as specified in § 635.27(d); and the minimum sizes for Atlantic blue marlin, white marlin, and roundscale spearfish as specified in § 635.20. * * * * * ■ 12. In § 635.71, paragraphs (e)(8) and (15) are revised and paragraph (e)(18) is added to read as follows: § 635.71 Prohibitions. * * * * * (e) * * * (8) Fish for North Atlantic swordfish from, possess North Atlantic swordfish on board, or land North Atlantic swordfish from a vessel using or having on board gear other than pelagic longline, green-stick gear, or handgear, except as specified at § 635.21(e)(4)(i). * * * * * (15) As the owner of a vessel permitted, or required to be permitted, in the Atlantic HMS Angling or the Atlantic HMS Charter/Headboat category (and only when on a for-hire trip), fail to report a North Atlantic swordfish, as specified in § 635.5(c)(2) or (c)(3). * * * * * (18) As the owner of a vessel permitted, or required to be permitted, in the Swordfish General Commercial permit category, possess North Atlantic swordfish taken from its management unit by any gear other than rod and reel, handline, bandit gear, green-stick, or harpoon gear, as specified in § 635.21(e)(4)(v). [FR Doc. 2013–19975 Filed 8–20–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\21AUR4.SGM 21AUR4

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 162 (Wednesday, August 21, 2013)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 52011-52031]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-19975]



[[Page 52011]]

Vol. 78

Wednesday,

No. 162

August 21, 2013

Part V





Department of Commerce





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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration





50 CFR Parts 600 and 635





Highly Migratory Species; 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory 
Species Fishery Management Plan; Amendments 7 and 8; Final Rule and 
Proposed Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 78 , No. 162 / Wednesday, August 21, 2013 / 
Rules and Regulations

[[Page 52012]]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Parts 600 and 635

[Docket No. 120627194-3657-02]
RIN 0648-BC31


Highly Migratory Species; 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly 
Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan; Amendment 8

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: This final rule implements Amendment 8 to the 2006 
Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Fishery Management 
Plan (FMP). Amendment 8 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP provides 
additional opportunities for U.S. fishermen to harvest swordfish using 
selective gears that are low in bycatch, given their rebuilt status and 
increased availability. This final rule creates new and modified 
commercial fishing vessel permits that allow permit holders to retain 
and sell a limited number of swordfish caught on rod and reel, 
handline, harpoon, green-stick, or bandit gear. Specific management 
measures under this final action include the establishment of a new 
open access commercial swordfish permit, modification of HMS Charter/
Headboat permit regulations to allow for the commercial retention of 
swordfish on non-for-hire trips, regional swordfish retention limits 
for the new and modified permits, gear authorizations, and reporting 
requirements.

DATES: This rule is effective on September 20, 2013.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the Final Amendment 8 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS 
FMP, including the Final Environmental Assessment and other documents 
relevant to this rule are available from the Highly Migratory Species 
Management Division Web site at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/ or 
upon request from the Atlantic HMS Management Division at 1315 East-
West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Rick Pearson at 727-824-5399 or 
Jennifer Cudney at 301-427-8503.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Atlantic swordfish are managed under the 
dual authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and 
Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) and the Atlantic Tunas Convention 
Act (ATCA). The authority to issue regulations under the Magnuson-
Stevens Act and ATCA has been delegated from the Secretary of Commerce 
to the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA (AA). On May 28, 
1999, NMFS published in the Federal Register (64 FR 29090) regulations 
implementing the Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Tunas, Swordfish, 
and Sharks (1999 FMP). On October 2, 2006, NMFS published in the 
Federal Register (71 FR 58058) regulations implementing the 2006 
Consolidated Highly Migratory Species (HMS) FMP, which details the 
management measures for Atlantic HMS fisheries, including the North 
Atlantic swordfish handgear fishery. The implementing regulations for 
Atlantic HMS are at 50 CFR part 635.

Background

    A brief summary of the background of this final action is provided 
below. The details of what was proposed and the alternatives considered 
are described in Draft Amendment 8 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and 
its proposed rule (78 FR 12273, February 22, 2013). Those documents are 
incorporated by reference, and their description of management and 
conservation measures considered in the Draft Amendment 8 to the 2006 
Consolidated HMS FMP and its proposed rule are not repeated here. 
Additional information regarding Atlantic HMS management can be found 
in the Final Environmental Assessment (Final EA) for Amendment 8 to the 
2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its 
amendments, the annual HMS Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation 
Reports, and online at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/.
    The comments received on Draft Amendment 8 and its proposed rule, 
and our responses to those comments, are summarized below in the 
section labeled ``Response to Comments.''
    This rule finalizes some of the management measures, and modifies 
others, that were contained in the proposed rule for Amendment 8. The 
purpose of this final rule is to provide additional opportunities for 
U.S. fishermen to harvest swordfish using selective gears that result 
in low bycatch, given their rebuilt status and increased availability.
    This rule creates a new open access Swordfish General Commercial 
permit and modifies regulations for HMS Charter/Headboat vessel permit 
holders to allow commercial fishing for North Atlantic swordfish in the 
U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The new Swordfish General 
Commercial permit allows fishermen to retain and sell a limited number 
of swordfish caught using only rod and reel, handline, harpoon, bandit 
gear, and green-stick gear. HMS Charter/Headboat vessel permit holders 
are also authorized to fish under open-access swordfish commercial 
permit regulations with rod and reel and handline only, when fishing 
commercially on a non-for-hire trip.
    The Swordfish General Commercial permit cannot be held on a vessel 
in combination with any other swordfish permits, an HMS Charter/
Headboat permit, an HMS Angling category permit, an HMS Commercial 
Caribbean Small Boat permit, or any Atlantic Tunas permit except for 
the Atlantic Tunas General or Harpoon category permits. The Swordfish 
General Commercial permit can be held on a vessel in combination with a 
commercial shark permit or an Atlantic Tunas General or Harpoon 
category permit. All swordfish landed under the new/modified permit(s) 
must be reported in HMS logbooks, if selected, and all sales of 
swordfish must only be to federally permitted swordfish dealers. 
Swordfish General Commercial permit holders may participate in 
registered HMS tournaments.
    This final rule also establishes four separate swordfish management 
regions for the new and modified permits (Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of 
Mexico, U.S. Caribbean, and Florida Swordfish Management Area) with a 
zero to six swordfish retention limit range within each region for the 
new or modified permit(s). As described in the response to comments 
below, the Florida Swordfish Management Area and the initial default 
retention limit for that area have been modified from the proposed 
rule. Initial default retention limits are set at three swordfish per 
vessel per trip for Northwest Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions; two 
swordfish per vessel per trip for the U.S. Caribbean; and zero 
swordfish per vessel per trip limit for the modified Florida Swordfish 
Management Area. The retention limit within each region may be adjusted 
in-season based upon pre-established criteria (i.e., dealer reports, 
landing trends, quota availability, availability of swordfish on 
fishing grounds, variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or 
migration patterns, and other relevant factors) through the framework 
procedures codified at Sec.  635.34.

Response to Comments

    During the proposed rule stage, NMFS received approximately 210 
written

[[Page 52013]]

comments from the public. NMFS also received comments from the Atlantic 
HMS Advisory Panel and from constituents who attended the five public 
hearings held in St. Petersburg, FL; Silver Spring, MD; Gloucester, MA; 
Ft. Lauderdale, FL; and Manahawkin, NJ. Comments were also received 
during three conference call/webinars held on March 11, 2013; April 18, 
2013; and April 30, 2013. A summary of the comments received on the 
proposed rule during the public comment period is provided below with 
NMFS's responses. All written comments submitted during the comment 
period can be found at http://www.regulations.gov/ by searching for 
NOAA-NMFS-2013-0026.
    Comment 1: NMFS received comments both in support of, and opposed 
to, implementing a new open-access Swordfish General Commercial permit 
that would authorize the use of rod and reel, handline, harpoon, bandit 
gear, and green-stick (preferred alternative 1.2.4) . Commenters 
supporting the proposed new permit stated that it would provide 
additional opportunities to fish for a fully rebuilt species using 
selective fishing gears which have little bycatch and few dead 
discards; create new opportunities to catch more of the U.S. swordfish 
quota; generate economic opportunities for commercial fishermen during 
difficult economic times; safely increase the number of available 
handgear permits without threatening the long-term sustainability of 
the stock; and maintain existing limited access permit valuation by 
establishing low retention limits.
    Opponents of a new commercial swordfish permit said the need to 
expand harvesting capacity in the U.S. North Atlantic swordfish fishery 
has steadily diminished and the U.S. swordfish quota is almost fully 
utilized; a new permit could prompt an early closure of the directed 
swordfish fishery; swordfish are not sufficiently abundant to open a 
new fishery or increase catches; commercial swordfish limited access 
permits are not scarce and the costs of the permits are not a barrier 
to entering the commercial fishery; a new open access permit would 
undermine full-time commercial fishermen by allowing quasi-commercial 
fishermen to harvest swordfish; and an open-access commercial swordfish 
permit would lower limited access permit values and swordfish ex-vessel 
prices (due to an increased supply of low quality product). Many of the 
commenters opposed to the establishment of a new commercial swordfish 
permit recommended the No Action alternative.
    Response: NMFS has determined that establishing and implementing 
new and modified commercial vessel permits to allow for a limited 
number (0-6) of swordfish caught on rod and reel, handline, harpoon 
gear, green-stick, or bandit gear to be retained and sold is warranted. 
This action will provide additional opportunities for U.S. fishermen to 
harvest swordfish using selective gears that result in low bycatch, 
given the rebuilt status of swordfish and their increased availability. 
The goal of this action is to more fully utilize the U.S. swordfish 
quota allocation, which is based upon the recommendation of the 
International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas 
(ICCAT).
    Based upon the 2009 ICCAT SCRS swordfish stock assessment, the 
North Atlantic swordfish stock is fully rebuilt. The United States' 
annual baseline quota for North Atlantic swordfish is derived from 
ICCAT Recommendation 10-02, and is published each year through 
rulemaking in the Federal Register. ICCAT Recommendation 10-02 also 
authorizes the United States to carry forward up to 25 percent of the 
baseline U.S. quota to determine the annual adjusted U.S. quota. Both 
domestic landings and estimated dead discards are counted against each 
year's adjusted quota to determine compliance with the quota. Since 
1997, domestic landings and estimated dead discards of North Atlantic 
swordfish have been below both the baseline and adjusted U.S. quotas. 
Although the margin between landings and available quota has narrowed 
in recent years, there remains a large amount of unused North Atlantic 
swordfish quota. In 2011, the United States was 766.6 mt (dw) below its 
baseline swordfish quota. Implementing a new open-access swordfish 
handgear permit with low retention limits will provide additional 
opportunities to harvest this available quota, without exceeding it. 
Landings derived from the new permit will be closely monitored through 
dealer reports, and adjustments to regional retention limits could be 
implemented if necessary to reduce the likelihood of an early closure 
to the directed fishery.
    Swordfish limited access permits (LAPs), while available, can be 
difficult or expensive to obtain. Because no new swordfish permits have 
been issued since 1999, many HMS LAPs have increased in value. The cost 
of a swordfish handgear LAP ranges from $15,000 to $30,000, either of 
which amount constitutes a high percentage of an individual vessel 
owner's profits in a given year. They are also governed by restrictions 
limiting the size and horsepower of the vessel to which the permits can 
be transferred. Implementing a new open-access swordfish handgear 
permit with low retention limits will remove barriers to obtaining a 
limited access permit, and allow other commercial fishermen to 
participate in the swordfish fishery on a small-scale, seasonal, or 
supplemental basis.
    Implementing a new open-access swordfish handgear permit is not 
anticipated to undermine the existing commercial swordfish fishery 
because landings under the new permit will be governed by low retention 
limits that could be adjusted in-season to reduce the likelihood of a 
directed fishery closure. The new permit is substantially different 
from existing swordfish limited access permits: There are very low 
retention limits (0-6 swordfish) associated with it, and only handgear 
usage is authorized. Because of these important differences, the values 
of existing swordfish limited access permits which have either no 
retention limits (directed and handgear) or a much higher retention 
limits (incidental), and which allow the use of pelagic longline gear 
(directed and incidental) and buoy gear (directed and handgear), are 
not expected to be greatly impacted.
    The new open access Swordfish General Commercial permit could 
affect swordfish ex-vessel prices in either direction, up or down; 
however, comments received from fishing industry participants regarding 
this issue were mixed. Some commenters stated that the additional 
volume and poor quality of product would result in lower ex-vessel 
prices. Other commenters indicated that prices would stabilize due to 
less fluctuation in domestic landings, or potentially increase due to 
the introduction of reliably high quality product into the U.S. market. 
NMFS does not anticipate that the projected low level of landings 
derived from new and modified swordfish permits will be large enough to 
greatly impact prices, either higher or lower, because ex-vessel prices 
are impacted by a number of factors, most notably the large volume of 
fresh and frozen swordfish imported into the U.S. market.
    Comment 2: NMFS should create a new limited access permit, not an 
open access permit. NMFS should require a minimum amount of income from 
commercial fishing in order to qualify for the new limited access 
permit. The number of new limited access permits should be very low, 
and there should be

[[Page 52014]]

a sunset date for the new permits where they would be valid only for a 
pre-specified number of years.
    Response: The open access commercial permit being implemented is 
substantially different from existing swordfish limited access permits. 
Very low retention limits (0-6 swordfish) are being implemented and 
only handgear usage is authorized. Pelagic longline gear and buoy gear 
are not authorized for the new Swordfish General Commercial permit. In 
contrast, there are no retention limits for current swordfish directed 
and handgear limited access permit holders, and swordfish incidental 
limited access permit holders have a 30-fish per trip retention limit. 
Pelagic longline gear is authorized for swordfish directed and 
incidental limited access permits, and buoy gear is authorized for 
swordfish directed and handgear limited access permits. Because of the 
large potential harvesting capacity associated with these permits, 
swordfish limited access permits are restricted in number and are also 
governed by transfer, renewal, training, and vessel upgrading 
regulations. These regulations have impacted the ability of some vessel 
owners to participate in the commercial swordfish fishery using 
handgears only. Because this rule implements a small-scale handgear 
fishery that is primarily governed by low retention limits and in-
season adjustment criteria, a new swordfish limited access permit is 
not needed.
    Comment 3: NMFS should allow HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders to 
fish commercially for swordfish on non-for-hire trips under the 
applicable regional retention limit. A charter boat operator is already 
a commercial fisherman whose income is derived principally from charter 
and commercial fishing.
    Response: NMFS agrees that HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders 
should be allowed to fish commercially for swordfish under the 
applicable commercial regional retention limits when they are not on a 
for-hire trip due to the dual commercial and recreational nature of the 
charter/headboat fishery. A similar allowance for charter/headboat 
vessels exists in the commercial Atlantic tunas fishery. This rule also 
specifies that swordfish captured on a for-hire trip may not be sold. 
NMFS defines a ``for-hire'' trip as a trip carrying a fee-paying 
passenger; having more than three persons for a vessel licensed to 
carry six or fewer; or having more persons aboard than the number of 
crew specified on the vessel's Certificate of Inspection for U.S. Coast 
Guard inspected vessels. The number of persons aboard includes the 
captain and crew.
    Comment 4: NMFS should implement a three-fish retention limit in 
the Florida Swordfish Management Area for HMS Charter/Headboat permit 
holders only. A percentage of income as a charter boat ([square] 50 
percent) should be required to qualify for the higher retention limit 
so that only full-time charter operators could participate as 
commercial vessels. Part-time charter operators should only be allowed 
to obtain an HMS Angling category permit.
    Response: NMFS is not implementing a separate swordfish commercial 
permit or a higher retention limit for HMS Charter/Headboat permit 
holders meeting certain income requirements and operating in the 
Florida Swordfish Management Area. As described in the response to 
Comment 2 above, a limited access permit or the establishment of new 
permit qualification criteria (including an income threshold) are not 
needed due to the comparatively low swordfish retention limits being 
established. At this time, in order to facilitate public understanding 
and enforcement of the new regulations, NMFS is implementing a single 
regional swordfish retention limit to govern all handgear vessels 
fishing under the new open-access commercial swordfish regulations.
    Comment 5: NMFS should not establish a Florida Swordfish Management 
Area to include the East Florida Coast Pelagic Longline Closed Area 
through the northwestern boundary of Monroe County, FL, in the Gulf of 
Mexico. Instead, NMFS should establish the boundary to only include the 
Florida counties of St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, Dade, and 
Monroe. These counties require specific management due to the limited 
area for swordfish fishing and the number of fishers using the area. 
There could be some flexibility for the Florida Swordfish Management 
Area/Northwest Atlantic area boundary so that there could be more 
fishing effort in areas north of Palm Beach, FL. Under the proposed 
alternative, persons fishing beyond the Florida Swordfish Management 
Area and east of Ft. Pierce, FL, in the Northwest Atlantic region would 
have to transit to north of the Georgia border to land their three 
swordfish because they could not come straight into Ft. Pierce, FL, 
which would create a burden for some fishermen and also pose a 
potential safety issue.
    Response: In response to public comment, NMFS has modified the 
proposed Florida Swordfish Management Area by removing that portion of 
the area north of 28[deg]17'10'' N. lat. The new northern boundary line 
now intersects the U.S. mainland near Rockledge, FL, and the coastline 
between Cape Canaveral, FL, and Melbourne, FL, near Cocoa Beach, FL. 
The modified area is smaller in geographic area than the proposed area, 
but larger than the alternative that only included six counties. As 
described in the proposed rule and draft environmental assessment, the 
area off the southeastern coast of Florida, particularly the Florida 
Straits, contains oceanographic features that make the area 
biologically unique. It provides important juvenile swordfish habitat, 
and is essentially a narrow migratory corridor containing high 
concentrations of swordfish located in close proximity to high 
concentrations of people who may fish for them. The modified Florida 
Swordfish Management Area being implemented more closely encompasses 
the Florida Straits and the oceanographic features that make this area 
biologically unique, yet is large enough to provide an enforceable 
buffer area. Public comment indicated a concern about increased catches 
of juvenile swordfish, the potential for larger numbers of fishermen in 
the area, and the potential for crowding of fishermen, which could lead 
to potential fishing gear and user conflicts. Modifying the area to 
more closely correspond to the actual oceanographic features that make 
the area unique will improve future conservation and management of 
swordfish, while minimizing impacts on fishermen operating both in the 
relatively narrow area of the Florida Straits and fishermen operating 
north of this area where swordfish are less concentrated, consistent 
with the objectives of this action. This modification is within the 
range of alternatives considered for the Florida Swordfish Management 
Area in Draft Amendment 8 and is a logical outgrowth of further 
consideration of impacts of the Area boundary and public comment.
    Comment 6: NMFS received various comments indicating that the 
initial default retention limit within the Florida Swordfish Management 
Area should be set at a number ranging from zero to six fish. Comments 
in favor of increasing the proposed initial default limit of one 
swordfish indicated that a one-swordfish limit in the Area would not 
provide enough revenue to make a commercial fishing trip economically 
feasible, so there would be little incentive for people to obtain the 
new permit. Commenters in favor of a lower limit (i.e., zero fish) for 
the Area stated that there is not enough open water

[[Page 52015]]

available in South Florida to handle the added fishing pressure that 
the new commercial fishing effort would bring; that the very small area 
is already extremely congested with commercially-permitted vessels and 
recreational fishermen; that a balance between recreational and 
commercial fishermen has developed in the Florida Straits where 
everybody is able to fish together; and that a large number of new 
entrants commercially targeting swordfish in the area would unsettle 
that balance and inevitably cause user conflicts that would negatively 
affect Southeast Florida's recreational and commercial fishing 
industry. Several commenters also indicated that NMFS should not 
increase commercial fishing effort in an important swordfish spawning 
and juvenile habitat area.
    Response: Because this final rule establishes a new open-access 
commercial swordfish permit, NMFS will issue these permits in an 
orderly and cautious manner from the outset. This is particularly 
important off the southeast coast of Florida, due to the area's unique 
oceanographic and biological characteristics that provide important 
juvenile swordfish habitat and swordfish fishing grounds within easy 
access to a large number of fishers. In consideration of public 
comments, including a comment from the Florida Fish and Wildlife 
Conservation Commission, indicating a high potential for the rapid 
growth of a commercial fishery in the Florida Swordfish Management Area 
under the proposed retention limit of one swordfish per vessel per 
trip, NMFS has determined that an initial default retention limit of 
zero swordfish is appropriate in the modified Florida Swordfish 
Management Area for vessel owners issued a Swordfish General Commercial 
permit. A commercial retention limit of zero swordfish in the Florida 
Swordfish Management Area will also apply to HMS Charter/Headboat 
permitted vessels in the Area when they are not on a for-hire trip. 
Unless this commercial retention limit is modified in the future, HMS 
Charter/Headboat permitted vessels in the Florida Swordfish Management 
Area will not be allowed to sell swordfish unless the vessel also has a 
Swordfish Handgear limited access permit. HMS Charter/Headboat 
permitted vessels may retain, but not sell swordfish, under 
recreational retention limits. HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels, 
when not on a for-hire trip and located outside the Florida Swordfish 
Management Area, may retain and sell swordfish within the applicable 
regional retention limit. NMFS will continue to collect information to 
evaluate the appropriateness of this and other regional retention 
limits in the future using in-season adjustment authority.
    Comment 7: NMFS received various comments indicating that the 
initial default retention limits within the northwest Atlantic region 
and the Gulf of Mexico should be set at a level that is either higher 
or lower than the proposed limit of three swordfish per vessel per 
trip. Comments in favor of increasing the initial default limit 
indicated that a higher limit is needed to make commercial fishing 
trips economically feasible because of the long distance to swordfish 
fishing grounds in these areas. A higher retention limit of six to an 
unlimited number of fish would provide additional revenue and allow for 
profits while covering the high costs (fuel, crew, food, bait, etc.) 
associated with such trips. Comments in favor of decreasing the 
proposed initial default retention limit indicated that lower limits 
are needed to preserve the value of existing limited access permits, to 
conserve swordfish, to ensure that the U.S. swordfish quota is not 
exceeded, or to prevent an early closure of the directed fishery.
    Response: NMFS has determined that most Swordfish General 
Commercial permit holders will likely participate in the commercial 
swordfish fishery to supplement their primary fishing activities (i.e., 
tuna fishing and charter fishing). The three-fish initial default 
retention limit being implemented for the Northwest Atlantic and Gulf 
of Mexico areas is in the middle of the range of limits being 
considered, and is appropriate for the initial establishment of a new 
supplemental or seasonal open-access swordfish fishery. As additional 
fishery information becomes available--including the number of new 
permits issued, changes in landings, and impacts on the attainment of 
the U.S. North Atlantic swordfish quota--NMFS will continue to evaluate 
the appropriateness of modifying these limits using in-season 
adjustment authority.
    Comment 8: Establishing in-season adjustment criteria to quickly 
modify the regional retention limits would effectively control the 
proposed open-access swordfish fishery, and provide NMFS with the 
ability to make timely adjustments to restrict or increase harvest as 
necessary. Conversely, in-season adjustment authority might discourage 
people from obtaining the proposed permit because they would be unsure 
of future retention limits.
    Response: NMFS agrees that establishing in-season adjustment 
authority to quickly modify the regional retention limits based upon 
pre-established criteria, in conjunction with effective monitoring of 
swordfish landings through the HMS e-Dealer system, provides the 
ability to effectively control the new open-access swordfish fishery. 
For example, if swordfish landings from newly permitted vessels are 
higher than projected, NMFS could reduce the retention limits to 
minimize the likelihood of an early closure of the directed fishery or 
to ensure that the U.S. swordfish quota is not exceeded. Conversely, if 
participation in the new fishery and resultant swordfish landings are 
low, limits could be increased. NMFS' current projections indicate that 
adequate swordfish quota is available to accommodate the anticipated 
level of landings derived from the new permit. NMFS will publish in-
season adjustments to retention limits in the Federal Register, as 
needed.
    Comment 9: The Gulf of Mexico region should be broken into two 
regions separated by the 29[deg] N. lat. line (a line slightly north of 
a latitudinal line extending from Freeport, TX, to Crystal River, FL) 
because of differing transit times to productive grounds, and the need 
for differing retention limits to facilitate profitable trips.
    Response: Transit times to productive swordfish grounds in the Gulf 
of Mexico vary not only from the north and south, but also from the 
east and west. Implementing multiple fishing regions for the swordfish 
fishery in the Gulf of Mexico may potentially cause confusion among 
fishermen and complicate quota monitoring and enforcement. In addition, 
the Gulf of Mexico is managed as one large area for current swordfish 
limited access permit holders, thus NMFS prefers to implement a single 
regional commercial swordfish retention limit to govern all Swordfish 
General Commercial and HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels fishing 
in the Gulf of Mexico. Retention limits within the Gulf of Mexico could 
be adjusted in the future using in-season authority based upon the 
attainment of pre-specified criteria (i.e., dealer reports, landing 
trends, quota availability, availability of swordfish on fishing 
grounds, variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migration 
patterns, and other relevant factors). NMFS will continue to consider 
other management measures to increase domestic swordfish landings and 
revenues, while minimizing bycatch, and may consider separating the 
Gulf of Mexico region into sub-regions in the future.

[[Page 52016]]

    Comment 10: The proposed allowance for Swordfish General Commercial 
permit holders to participate in registered HMS fishing tournaments 
might increase recreational HMS Angling category permit holder interest 
in obtaining the proposed permit.
    Response: NMFS agrees. NMFS expects that most new permit applicants 
will be current recreational swordfish fishermen with HMS Angling 
category permits or current commercial tuna fishermen with Atlantic 
Tunas General or Harpoon category permits resulting in a shift of 
effort from these fisheries to the commercial swordfish handgear 
fishery, but not a large increase in overall fishing effort. The 
allowance for fishing in registered HMS fishing tournaments is 
consistent with current Atlantic Tunas General category regulations, 
which allow permit holders to participate in registered HMS 
tournaments.
    Comment 11: NMFS received contrasting comments regarding the 
authorization of buoy gear for the proposed Swordfish General 
Commercial permit. Commenters opposed to the concept indicated that 
buoy gear should not be authorized for use with the proposed Swordfish 
General Commercial permit, and should remain authorized only for 
swordfish directed and handgear limited access permit holders. Other 
commenters said that NMFS should authorize buoy gear for the proposed 
Swordfish General Commercial permit and also for the Atlantic Tunas 
General category permit, except in the Florida Swordfish Management 
Area.
    Response: Authorization of buoy gear for the proposed Swordfish 
General Commercial permit is not within the range of alternatives 
analyzed in Amendment 8. Buoy gear is only authorized for persons with 
valid swordfish directed or handgear limited access permits. Comments 
from the HMS Advisory Panel in recent years have reflected public 
concern about user conflicts with buoy gear within the narrow 
geographic range of the current buoy gear fishery off the southeast 
coast of Florida. With this in mind, a potentially large number of 
applicants for a new Swordfish General Commercial permit could 
represent a potentially large increase in the amount of buoy gear 
fished, and might increase the potential for gear conflicts. Under 
Amendment 8, NMFS is authorizing fishing gears under the new Swordfish 
General Commercial permit that are consistent with the fishing gears 
authorized for the Atlantic Tunas General category permit. There is 
very little catch and bycatch information available regarding buoy gear 
used to target swordfish outside of the Florida Straits, and there is 
no information available regarding buoy gear used to target tunas in 
the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. Because of the potential for 
large increases in the amount of buoy gear fished, the potential for 
fishing gear conflicts, and the absence of information regarding buoy 
gear fishing to target tunas which limits the Agency's ability to 
analyze the impacts of additional buoy gear usage under open access 
commercial permits on incidentally caught or bycatch species (such as 
billfish and bluefin tuna), NMFS is not authorizing additional buoy 
gear usage in this final rule.
    Comment 12: NMFS should implement an open-access swordfish harpoon 
category permit similar to the existing Atlantic Tunas Harpoon category 
permit and allow at least 15 swordfish per trip to be landed. Swordfish 
caught with harpoons are generally greater in size than swordfish 
caught by other methods, and there is no bycatch. A three-fish limit is 
not economically feasible because swordfish are not abundant in near-
shore waters, and it often takes days or weeks to make a full trip.
    Response: The open access Swordfish General Commercial permit being 
implemented is intended to facilitate a small-scale supplemental or 
seasonal swordfish fishery that includes the harvest of swordfish with 
harpoons. NMFS anticipates that commercial fishermen may be interested 
in fishing with this new permit to supplement their primary commercial 
fishing activities. There is already a commercial Swordfish handgear 
limited access permit with unlimited swordfish retention that 
authorizes the use of harpoon gear. Under the new Swordfish General 
Commercial permit, the initial three-fish retention limit is 
purposefully conservative for the implementation of a new open-access 
swordfish permit. In the future, as additional fishery information 
becomes available, NMFS could consider increasing the retention limit 
based upon the in-season adjustment criteria.
    Comment 13: NMFS did not consider a reasonable range of 
alternatives in analyzing Amendment 8 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, 
and did not provide an explanation of why other reasonable 
alternatives, such as opening areas currently closed to pelagic 
longline gear, were not considered.
    Response: To provide additional opportunities for U.S. fishermen to 
harvest swordfish using selective gears that are low in bycatch, given 
their rebuilt status and increased availability, NMFS prepared a Draft 
EA that analyzed a wide range of reasonable options. Specifically, the 
alternatives considered two main issues: (1) The implementation of new 
and modified commercial swordfish vessel permits and authorized gears 
to allow for a limited number of swordfish to be retained and sold; 
and, (2) the establishment of retention limits associated with the new 
and modified permits.
    With respect to vessel permitting and authorized gears, NMFS 
considered three alternatives and four sub-alternatives. These ranged 
from a no-action alternative, which maintains the current swordfish 
limited access permit structure, to creating a new or modified 
commercial swordfish permit(s) to allow for a limited number of 
swordfish caught on rod and reel, handline, harpoon gear, green-stick, 
or bandit gear to be retained and sold. With respect to swordfish 
retention limits, NMFS considered three main alternatives and five sub-
alternatives. These ranged from establishing a fishery-wide zero-to-six 
fish retention limit range for the new or modified permits(s), and 
codifying a single limit within that range, to establishing separate 
regions with regional retention limits that could be adjusted in-season 
based upon pre-established criteria (i.e., dealer reports, landing 
trends, quota availability, availability of swordfish on the fishing 
grounds, variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migration 
patterns, and other relevant factors).
    Based upon the analysis in the Draft EA, NMFS determined that the 
preferred alternatives were unlikely to have any significant adverse 
environmental impacts, primarily because the authorized handgears are 
low in bycatch and bycatch mortality of protected and non-target 
species, and because of the rebuilt status of the North Atlantic 
swordfish stock.
    In the Draft EA, NMFS also considered several alternatives that 
were not further analyzed, such as implementing a swordfish tagging 
program to provide a higher level of reporting and to facilitate the 
enforcement of swordfish regulations. After consulting with the HMS 
Advisory Panel and other interested constituents, NMFS decided not to 
further analyze these alternatives due to concerns about the 
effectiveness of a tagging program to reliably identify swordfish bound 
for commerce. Furthermore, establishing an open-access commercial 
swordfish permit is expected to reduce the incentive for recreational 
anglers to illegally sell or transfer swordfish to commercial fishermen 
for later sale; the

[[Page 52017]]

response to Comment 34 has more information regarding swordfish tagging 
alternatives. The Draft EA analyzed a reasonable range of alternatives 
to meet the objectives of the action. Other alternatives such as re-
opening pelagic longline closed areas do not meet the purpose of the 
proposed action due to the relatively higher bycatch of several species 
that are either overfished and/or subject to overfishing (e.g., bluefin 
tuna, marlins) or are listed under the Endangered Species Act (e.g., 
sea turtles); therefore, those alternatives were not considered in this 
action.
    Comment 14: NMFS should consider minor adjustments to the time/area 
closures of the East Florida Coast and Charleston Bump pelagic longline 
closures. A slight adjustment to the size, shape and duration of those 
closures could allow the United States to fill its North Atlantic 
swordfish quota. Experimental longline fishing conducted there has 
proven the viability of swordfish landings with minimum bycatch of 
small swordfish or billfish. NMFS could increase observer coverage on 
pelagic longline vessels in these areas to better monitor catch and 
bycatch. Any benefits of the north Atlantic swordfish recovery should 
be aimed at the current directed fisheries, because the recovery was 
realized by the sacrifice of these fishermen.
    Response: The scope of Amendment 8 is to create additional 
opportunities for the commercial harvest of swordfish using selective 
gears (rod and reel, handline, harpoon, bandit gear, and greenstick) 
that are low in bycatch, based upon the fact that the North Atlantic 
swordfish stock is fully rebuilt and the U.S. quota has been 
underutilized for over a decade. Since 2007, NMFS has implemented 
numerous other management measures to increase domestic swordfish 
landings, which are almost entirely by pelagic longline gear, and 
revenues while minimizing bycatch. As part of these regulations, NMFS 
increased the retention limit for pelagic longline vessels issued 
incidental swordfish limited access permits from two fish to 30 fish 
per vessel per trip; streamlined limited access permit issuance; 
implemented a change to the swordfish minimum size requirements from 29 
inches to 25 inches cleithrum to caudal keel; and implemented a new HMS 
Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit with a two swordfish per vessel 
per trip limit.
    Other alternatives, such as opening or modifying pelagic longline 
closed areas, do not meet the objectives of the action. Pelagic 
longline gear has higher bycatch levels of several species that are 
either overfished and/or subject to overfishing (e.g., bluefin tuna, 
marlins) or are listed under the Endangered Species Act (e.g., sea 
turtles). Therefore, those alternatives were not considered in this 
action. NMFS will continue to consider additional measures that could 
be taken to increase swordfish landings and that would benefit the 
pelagic longline fishery, while also minimizing bycatch and bycatch 
mortality.
    Comment 15: NMFS should allow more buoys to be deployed for permit 
holders that are authorized to fish with buoy gear. This regulatory 
change would produce more swordfish.
    Response: Currently, vessels fishing with buoy gear are limited to 
possessing or deploying no more than 35 floatation devices. In the 2006 
Consolidated HMS FMP, NMFS determined that 35 buoys was the maximum 
amount of buoy gear that a vessel could effectively deploy at one time 
without losing excessive amounts of unattended floating gear and 
increasing interactions with sea turtles or other protected resources. 
The authorization of additional buoy gear was not considered in Draft 
Amendment 8, and therefore is outside the scope of this final rule. 
NMFS will continue to consider additional measures that could be taken 
to increase swordfish landings as needed, while minimizing bycatch and 
bycatch mortality.
    Comment 16: NMFS should remove all of the restrictions requiring 
multiple permits aboard vessels that only intend to fish for swordfish 
with handgear, or otherwise have no longline gear on board. All 
directed or incidental swordfish limited access permits should be 
available for handgear usage, without needing to obtain shark and tuna 
longline limited access permits. There are many latent limited access 
permits in these categories that are restricted by an unnecessary link 
to pelagic longline gear usage.
    Response: NMFS recognizes that current HMS permit regulations have 
impacted the ability of some vessel owners to participate in the 
commercial swordfish fishery using handgear only. The regulations 
governing swordfish directed and incidental limited access permits and 
authorized gears were developed primarily to provide fishing 
opportunities for multiple fisheries, including tunas, swordfish, and 
sharks, because of the potential to catch any of these species groups 
when deploying pelagic longline gear. The possession of pelagic 
longline gear onboard a vessel also triggers several restrictions and 
requirements that are unique to that gear because of protected species 
and other bycatch concerns. Modification of these limited access permit 
requirements and fishing gear authorizations could indirectly affect 
HMS directed and incidental fisheries and bycatch species in myriad 
ways, and were not considered in this rulemaking. The existing 
regulatory structure of these permits facilitates reporting 
requirements and data collection, while still providing the flexibility 
to target several species using a variety of gears. In contrast, the 
existing Swordfish Handgear limited access permit is available for use 
without the need to be issued other limited access permits, and there 
is no swordfish retention limit associated with it. The new open-access 
Swordfish General Commercial permit will provide additional 
opportunities for U.S. fishermen to harvest swordfish using handgear as 
a supplemental or seasonal fishery. NMFS has previously considered 
modifications to, and streamlining of, the HMS limited access permit 
structure and will continue to do so; however, this subject was not 
analyzed in Draft Amendment 8 and is outside the scope of the final 
rule.
    Comment 17: NMFS should reactivate a small number of limited access 
swordfish permits that have been terminated.
    Response: Under current regulations, swordfish and shark limited 
access permits must be renewed annually, and are terminated if they are 
not renewed within 1 year of expiration. The purpose of permit 
termination is to remove unused, latent commercial permits from the 
swordfish and shark fisheries. In recent years, NMFS has implemented 
several management measures to increase domestic swordfish landings 
while minimizing bycatch, and may consider additional management 
measures in the future. Other alternatives, such as reactivating 
terminated limited access permits, do not meet the objectives of this 
action. Swordfish limited access permits authorize the use of pelagic 
longline gear and/or buoy gear. Pelagic longline gear has higher 
bycatch levels of several species that are either overfished and/or 
subject to overfishing (e.g., bluefin tuna, marlins) or are listed 
under the Endangered Species Act (e.g., sea turtles). With regard to 
buoy gear, as discussed in the response to comment 11, there is very 
little catch and bycatch information available to analyze the impacts 
of additional buoy gear usage outside of the Florida Straits, and there 
is no information available regarding buoy gear used to target tunas in 
the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. Because of the potential for 
large increases in the amount of buoy gear fished, the potential for 
fishing gear conflicts, and the absence of other

[[Page 52018]]

critical catch and bycatch information, NMFS did not analyze any 
alternatives to authorize additional buoy gear usage. Amendment 8 
specifically creates additional opportunities for the commercial 
harvest of swordfish using selective gears (rod and reel, handline, 
harpoon, bandit gear, and greenstick) that have minimal bycatch and 
result in few discards.
    Comment 18: NMFS should increase access to the swordfish stock by 
providing more fishing opportunities for the recreational sector.
    Response: Access to the recreational swordfish fishery is currently 
provided through HMS Angling and HMS Charter/Headboat permits, which 
are both open-access permits. The retention limit under the HMS Angling 
permit is one swordfish per person up to four swordfish per vessel per 
trip. The retention limit for HMS Charter vessels is one swordfish per 
paying passenger up to six swordfish per vessel per trip. The retention 
limit for HMS Headboat vessels is one swordfish per paying passenger 
and up to 15 swordfish per vessel per trip. In this action, NMFS 
focused on increasing access for commercial handgear fishermen to the 
rebuilt swordfish stock due to the low bycatch associated with handgear 
and because the ICCAT-recommended U.S. swordfish quota allocation has 
been underutilized for over a decade. Therefore, since recreational 
access is already open access and subject to similar retention levels, 
Draft Amendment 8 did not analyze alternatives to modify HMS Angling 
category limits. Since this topic was not considered in Draft Amendment 
8, this request is outside the scope of the final rule.
    Comment 19: NMFS should require all vessels issued a swordfish 
General Commercial Permit to abide by all of the same requirements that 
apply to pelagic longline vessels, including commercial fishing vessel 
safety requirements, logbook reporting, observers, bycatch mitigation, 
workshops, and vessel monitoring systems (VMS). The new commercial 
fishermen should be required to go to protected species workshops and 
to carry protected species safe handling and release gear. All new 
permit holders should also be required to comply with the protected 
species Careful Handling and Release Protocols.
    Response: All vessels that obtain the new Swordfish General 
Commercial permit will be required to comply with U.S. Coast Guard 
commercial fishing vessel safety requirements. Authorized fishing gears 
under the new Swordfish General Commercial permit include rod and reel, 
handline, harpoon, bandit gear, and green-stick gear. On June 14, 2001, 
NMFS released a Biological Opinion (BiOp) under the Endangered Species 
Act, which stated that the continued operation of HMS handgear 
fisheries may adversely affect, but are not likely to jeopardize, the 
continued existence of any endangered or threatened species under NMFS 
jurisdiction. This BiOp indicated that the potential for takes in 
handgear fisheries is low, and anticipated that the continued operation 
of Atlantic HMS handgear fisheries would result in documented takes of 
no more than three ESA-listed sea turtles, of any species, in 
combination, per calendar year. In addition, Atlantic HMS handgear 
fisheries are classified as Category III under the Marine Mammal 
Protection Act (MMPA) (76 FR 73912, November 29, 2011), meaning that 
these fisheries have a remote likelihood of incidental mortality or 
serious injury to marine mammals.
    In June 2004, NMFS released a BiOp for the Atlantic pelagic 
longline fishery. That BiOp concluded that the pelagic longline fishery 
was not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of loggerhead, 
green, hawksbill, Kemp's ridley or olive ridley sea turtles, but was 
likely to jeopardize the continued existence of leatherback sea 
turtles. The 2004 BiOp established a reasonable and prudent measure and 
alternative, which subjected the Atlantic HMS pelagic longline fishery 
to time/area closures, VMS, observers, hook and bait restrictions, 
compliance with safe handling and release protocols, and mandatory 
protected species safe handling and release workshops. Additionally, 
the pelagic longline fishery has been designated as a Category I 
fishery under the MMPA because it has frequent incidental mortality and 
serious injury of marine mammals.
    Thus, many of the management measures required under the Endangered 
Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act for the Atlantic HMS 
pelagic longline fishery do not apply to the new Swordfish General 
Commercial permit, because the potential for protected species 
interactions with the gears authorized under this permit is low. The 
suggested requirements for protected species bycatch mitigation 
measures, protected species release and disentanglement training 
workshops and VMS requirements are not warranted for the gears 
authorized in this final rule. These requirements were not analyzed in 
the Draft EA because they are outside the scope of this rulemaking.
    Comment 20: Any interactions with protected species by new permit 
holders would be considered ``takes,'' and these would increase. NMFS 
also needs to consider the interactions with dusky sharks when there 
could potentially be 4,100 boats deploying J-hooks.
    Response: ESA-listed species taken with handgear would be counted 
against the Incidental Take Statement (ITS) established in the 2001 
BiOp. NMFS expects that most new permit applicants will be current 
recreational swordfish fishermen with HMS Angling category permits or 
current commercial tuna fishermen with Atlantic Tunas General or 
Harpoon category permits, resulting in a shift of effort from these 
fisheries to the commercial swordfish handgear fishery, but not a large 
increase in overall fishing effort. In addition, the initial 
implementation of a zero-fish default retention limit in the Florida 
Swordfish Management Area will not change current fishing effort in an 
area with high concentrations of recreational anglers and commercial 
buoy gear fishermen. For these reasons, and because handgear has a 
remote likelihood of interactions with protected species, NMFS does not 
anticipate that interactions with protected species will increase in 
any way that has not been previously analyzed in the 2001 BiOp as a 
result of implementation of the new permit. Similarly, NMFS does not 
expect a large increase in interactions with other species, including 
dusky sharks. NMFS will consider conservation and management measures 
for dusky sharks separately in Amendment 5b to the 2006 Consolidated 
Atlantic HMS FMP.
    Comment 21: Landings from the proposed new permit should not be 
deducted from the directed swordfish quota. NMFS should establish a 
separate quota category (two to five percent of the overall quota) for 
these landings to protect the pelagic longline fishery quota from a 
closure of the directed fishery.
    Response: The new swordfish general commercial permit is a directed 
swordfish permit; therefore, it is appropriate for landings from this 
new permit to be counted against the directed swordfish quota. Under 
ATCA and the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS is required to provide U.S. 
fishing vessels with a reasonable opportunity to harvest the U.S. ICCAT 
quota. However, the directed swordfish quota has been under-harvested 
for over a decade. NMFS has determined that additional swordfish 
landings derived from this new permit could be counted against the 
directed quota without fully reaching the U.S. ICCAT-recommended

[[Page 52019]]

quota. The ability to quickly adjust the regional swordfish retention 
limits using in-season authority and pre-established criteria gives 
NMFS the flexibility to manage the directed swordfish quota as 
necessary.
    Comment 22: A Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) is not 
justified. NMFS must provide a full Environmental Impact Statement 
(EIS) on this proposed action, which has the potential to significantly 
increase the number of permit holders, alter traditional landing 
patterns, negatively impact current limited access permit holders in 
this fishery, and have significant economic and social impacts.
    Response: NMFS has determined that the new Swordfish General 
Commercial permit is not expected to result in cumulative effects that 
could have a significant effect on target species or non-target species 
or the human environment. The cumulative impacts of ongoing swordfish 
fishery management actions, including those in this proposed action, 
are expected to be positive from both an ecological and socio-economic 
perspective. If the United States is successful at increasing its North 
Atlantic swordfish landings and maintaining its international swordfish 
quota, it will realize increased gross revenues to U.S. fishermen who 
are participating in a well-managed, sustainable fishery. NMFS has 
determined that there would not be a significant increase in fishing 
effort under any of the proposed measures because most new Swordfish 
General Commercial permit holders are likely already participating in 
the recreational swordfish fishery, the Atlantic Tunas General or 
Harpoon category fisheries, or the HMS Charter/Headboat fishery. These 
permit holders would likely participate in the commercial swordfish 
fishery to supplement their primary fishing activities (i.e., tuna 
fishing and charter fishing). All new commercial swordfish fishery 
participants will be restricted to using only authorized handgear (rod 
and reel, handline, harpoon, bandit gear, and green-stick), and must 
comply with the applicable regional swordfish retention limits. These 
traditional handgears are closely tended by fishermen. So while the 
likelihood of interactions with non-target or bycatch species is low, 
any incidentally-caught non-target species can usually be quickly and 
safely released. Under the proposed action, NMFS anticipates that 
fishermen using handgear will have no adverse impacts on ESA-listed 
species beyond those analyzed in the 2001 BiOp, which concluded that 
the HMS handgear fishery will not jeopardize any ESA-listed species.
    Having solicited and reviewed public comment on the Draft EA, and 
in view of the information presented in the Final EA that was prepared 
to address proposed changes to the U.S. North Atlantic swordfish 
fishery, particularly the small-scale handgear fishery, NMFS has 
determined that this action will have no significant impact on the 
quality of the human environment as described above and in the proposed 
EA. In addition, all impacts to potentially affected areas, including 
national, regional, and local, have been mitigated to reach the 
conclusion of no significant impact. Accordingly, NMFS determined that 
preparation of an EIS for this action was not necessary.
    Comment 23: NMFS has not adequately assessed the potential 
ecological impacts on protected species and juvenile swordfish. Current 
guidance from the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) requires that 
agencies consider greenhouse gas emissions associated with any proposed 
actions and evaluate the carbon footprint associated with this new 
permit.
    Response: NMFS expects that most new permit applicants will be 
current recreational swordfish fishermen with HMS Angling category 
permits, current commercial tuna fishermen with Atlantic Tunas General 
or Harpoon category permits, or current HMS Charter/Headboat permit 
holders, resulting in a shift of effort from these fisheries to the 
commercial swordfish handgear fishery, but not a large increase in 
overall fishing effort. NMFS also determined that the new Swordfish 
General Commercial permit could cause a minor increase in rod and reel, 
handline, bandit gear, green-stick, and harpoon commercial fishing 
effort if previously inactive fishermen obtain the new and modified 
permit(s) and began fishing. This could result in a minor increase in 
swordfish discards and discard mortality if fishing effort increases 
substantially in areas with large concentrations of juvenile swordfish. 
However, the establishment of a zero-fish retention limit in the 
Florida Swordfish Management Area, where there are large concentrations 
of juvenile and adult swordfish, will decrease the likelihood that 
there are negative impacts to the swordfish stock due to the new 
permit. Moreover, because NMFS does not expect a large increase in 
overall fishing effort resulting from the new Swordfish General 
Commercial permit, a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions 
is not anticipated.
    Comment 24: NMFS received contrasting comments about potential 
impacts on swordfish ex-vessel prices resulting from changes in 
landings volume and product quality due to implementation of the 
proposed permit. Some commenters stated that the proposed action would 
greatly increase the number of vessels commercially fishing for 
swordfish, so the ex-vessel price would decrease due to an increased 
supply. Also, because newly-permitted handgear fishermen would not be 
familiar with proper seafood handling methods, commenters stated that 
swordfish quality and prices would decrease across the entire fishery. 
Other commenters stated that the proposed permit would help to achieve 
price stability by introducing a limited amount of high-quality, 
dayboat swordfish into the domestic market. This is the type of small-
scale fishery that the seafood industry is looking to promote.
    Response: NMFS determined that establishing the new Swordfish 
General Commercial permit could have minor costs for U.S. fishermen 
associated with obtaining the new permit and complying with additional 
commercial fishing vessel safety requirements and fishery management 
regulations. NMFS also recognizes that the new and modified permits 
could affect ex-vessel swordfish prices and the values of existing 
swordfish limited access permits. However, the projected low level of 
landings derived from the new and modified swordfish permits is not 
expected to be large enough to greatly impact swordfish prices, either 
higher or lower, because ex-vessel prices are impacted by a number of 
factors, most notably the large volume of fresh and frozen swordfish 
imported into the U.S. market. Any other negative socio-economic 
impacts on current swordfish limited access permit holders are expected 
to be mitigated by the establishment of low swordfish retention limits 
for the new and modified permits, including a zero-fish retention limit 
in the modified Florida Swordfish Management Area. A retention limit 
range of zero to six swordfish is anticipated to provide a seasonal, or 
supplementary, fishery for most participants. It is not likely to 
facilitate a full-time, year-round fishery. In contrast, there are no 
retention limits for swordfish directed and handgear limited access 
permit holders, and there is a 30-fish limit for incidental swordfish 
limited access permit holders.
    Positive economic benefits are expected if U.S. fishermen obtain 
this open-access swordfish permit. If a new entrant lands 10 swordfish 
per year with

[[Page 52020]]

the new permit, they could realize an increase in annual gross revenues 
of approximately $4,320. If all the estimated 4,084 new entrants land 
10 swordfish per year, total annual gross revenues from swordfish could 
increase by $ 17.6 million, but quota limitations would reduce this 
revenue to approximately $ 15.2 million. Economic benefits are also 
anticipated for fishing tackle manufacturers and suppliers, bait 
suppliers, fuel providers and swordfish dealers. In addition, this new 
permit would have long-term socio-economic benefits if it creates a 
situation where the U.S. swordfish quota is no longer at risk for being 
reallocated to other ICCAT Parties due to low U.S. swordfish landings. 
If the United States maintains its allocation of the total ICCAT-
recommended North Atlantic swordfish quota, then socio-economic 
benefits would be realized by all swordfish fishery participants. For 
these reasons, NMFS has determined that the net economic benefits of 
the establishment of the new swordfish general commercial permit 
outweigh the net economic costs to fishermen.
    Comment 25: Commenters stated that NMFS had both underestimated and 
overestimated the number of new permits that might be issued as a 
result of the proposed action. Commenters also stated that NMFS had 
both underestimated and overestimated the amount of additional landings 
that might occur as a result of the proposed action. Therefore, the 
potential environmental impacts associated with the proposed permit are 
misrepresented.
    Response: In developing the Final EA and final management measures, 
NMFS considered public comments received in response to the Draft EA 
and determined that the socio-economic and environmental analyses 
contained in the Final EA are based upon the best available 
information, and appropriately consider the potential impacts of this 
action. It is not possible to predict the exact number of applicants 
for a new open-access commercial fishing permit, because there are few 
eligibility requirements for the new permit. Therefore, NMFS used the 
total number of Atlantic Tunas General category permit holders (4,084) 
as a proxy for the total number of new swordfish permit applicants, 
because the Atlantic Tunas General category permit is most similar to 
the permit being implemented in this action. NMFS then calculated the 
number of successful Atlantic Tunas General category vessels (i.e., 
landed at least one bluefin tuna) in 2011 (583 successful vessels) and 
multiplied that number by 10 swordfish per vessel/year to derive an 
estimated catch of 5,830 swordfish a year. The selection of 10 
swordfish per year is an estimate and some fishermen could land more 
swordfish, while others could land less. The selection of 10 swordfish 
per year is a reasonable proxy, particularly if many new permit holders 
fish for swordfish on a part-time basis, similar to the practices of 
many Atlantic Tunas General and Harpoon category permit holders when 
fishing for bluefin tuna. With an average swordfish weight of 96 lb. 
dressed weight (dw) in 2011, this is estimated to yield 254 mt dw of 
additional swordfish landings. NMFS also multiplied the number of 
Atlantic Tunas Harpoon category vessels (24) by 10 swordfish per 
vessel/year to produce an estimated 240 additional swordfish caught per 
year. With an average swordfish weight of 96 lb. dw in 2011, harpoon 
landings are estimated to yield an additional 10.5 mt dw of U.S. 
swordfish landings. In total, by combining these two estimates, the new 
permit is predicted to yield 265 mt dw of additional U.S. swordfish 
landings. Under the new Swordfish General Commercial permit, NMFS 
estimated that total U.S. landings plus discards could approach 2,436 
mt dw ((2,171 mt dw (2011 total U.S. landings reported to ICCAT) + 265 
mt dw = 2, 436 mt dw)) if current fishing practices remain constant.
    As described in the response to Comment 24, NMFS recognizes that 
there may be minor socio-economic impacts to fishermen due to the 
establishment of the new Swordfish General Commercial permit. However, 
most negative socio-economic impacts on current swordfish limited 
access permit holders are expected to be mitigated by the establishment 
of low retention limits for the new Swordfish General Commercial 
permit, including a zero retention limit in the Florida Swordfish 
Management Area. A retention limit range of zero to six swordfish is 
anticipated to provide a seasonal, or supplemental, fishery for most 
participants. It is not likely to facilitate a full-time, year-round 
fishery.
    Comment 26: NMFS must consider the potential that ICCAT could 
reduce the U.S. quota allocation or the overall North Atlantic 
swordfish Total Allowable Catch (TAC). Recent swordfish landing trends 
indicate that the United States is moving closer towards full 
utilization of its swordfish quota by existing permit holders. The 
proposed new permit could lead to a large increase in landings, fill 
the quota quickly and, as a result, close the directed swordfish 
fishery. There is not enough swordfish quota available for the new 
permit.
    Response: While NMFS recognizes that quota changes are possible at 
ICCAT, the ability to monitor swordfish landings in near real-time with 
the HMS e-Dealer system and to quickly adjust the regional swordfish 
retention limits using in-season authority and pre-established criteria 
gives NMFS the flexibility to manage the directed swordfish quota, 
regardless of what the U.S. allocation of the ICCAT-recommended quota 
may be.
    NMFS estimates that the new permit will yield approximately 265 mt 
dw of additional U.S. swordfish landings. Under the new Swordfish 
General Commercial permit, NMFS estimates that total U.S. landings plus 
discards could approach 2,436 mt dw ((2,171 mt dw (2011 total U.S. 
landings reported to ICCAT) + 265 mt dw = 2,436 mt dw)) if current 
fishing practices remain constant. In terms of available and unutilized 
swordfish quota, there is a loss of potential income by fishermen that 
would like to fish commercially for swordfish, but who are not able to 
obtain limited access permits. Currently, these limited access 
swordfish handgear permits can cost upwards of $30,000. Because the 
North Atlantic swordfish stock is fully rebuilt and the United States 
has not attained its full ICCAT-recommended swordfish quota for over a 
decade, overall gross revenues are lower than they could be if the U.S 
quota was fully harvested. For example, the total U.S. adjusted 
swordfish quota for 2012 was 3,559.2 mt dw (7,846,612 lbs. dw). 
Assuming an average ex-vessel price of $4.51 per pound dw and 100 
percent quota utilization, total possible gross revenue across the 
domestic fishery could be $35.4 million, versus actual gross revenues 
of $20.2 million (2011), or a difference of $15.2 million in unrealized 
gross revenue due to the United States not fully attaining its adjusted 
North Atlantic swordfish quota. Under ATCA (16 U.S. C. 971 et. seq.) 
and the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS is required to provide U.S. fishing 
vessels with a reasonable opportunity to harvest the ICCAT-recommended 
quota. Although there is sufficient quota to allow U.S. fishermen to 
catch more swordfish and remain within the ICCAT-recommended quota, 
current difficulties associated with obtaining a limited access permit 
may be a constraining factor. Therefore, the new Swordfish General 
Commercial permit with low retention limits and in-season adjustment 
authority to modify limits as needed is warranted.
    Comment 27: When NMFS is considering the impact of this new permit 
on the swordfish quota, the

[[Page 52021]]

Agency should reference the baseline quota.
    Response: The baseline quota is the amount of swordfish that is 
allocated to the United States by ICCAT without adjusting for quota 
transfers to other countries (if applicable) or previous year under- or 
over-harvest. The adjusted quota is the baseline quota as adjusted by 
transfers and previous year over- or under-harvest. If under-harvest of 
the previous year's adjusted quota occurs, the United States may carry-
forward its total under-harvest or 25% of the baseline quota, whichever 
is less. Both the baseline and adjusted quotas are important when 
considering the potential effects of swordfish landings under the new 
Swordfish General Commercial permit and commercial retention by HMS 
Charter/Headboat permitted vessels when not on a for-hire trip. Both 
were considered in developing the Draft and Final EA for Amendment 8. 
The adjusted quota is important because this number is what U.S. 
fishermen are limited to, on an annual basis, and what the United 
States must consider for long-term compliance with recommendations from 
ICCAT and consistency with ATCA. If the U.S. baseline or adjusted quota 
is repeatedly under-harvested, other countries wanting increased access 
to the North Atlantic swordfish stock may look to the United States as 
a source of quota that could be temporarily or permanently transferred. 
If the adjusted quota is exceeded in one year, the overage must be 
deducted from the following year's baseline quota.
    In 2011, U.S. landings reported to ICCAT were 2,171 mt (dw). NMFS 
anticipates additional landings from the new permit of 265 mt (dw), 
which in 2011 would have produced 2,436 mt (dw) total landings plus 
discards. Therefore in 2011, under the new Swordfish General Commercial 
permit and modified HMS Charter/Headboat permit, U.S. landings (without 
discards) would have been 501.6 mt (dw) below the baseline quota of 
2,937.6 mt (dw), and 1,970.4 mt (dw) below the adjusted quota of 
4,406.4 mt (dw). In the future, potential additional landings under 
Amendment 8 could result in a directed swordfish semi-annual seasons 
closure. However, NMFS has the authority and ability to monitor 
landings and adjust retention limits in-season to slow or close the 
harvest of swordfish by Swordfish General Commercial and HMS Charter/
Headboat permitted vessels, and thereby reduce the need to close the 
directed swordfish season early.
    Comment 28: Green stick and bandit gear should not be authorized 
because of their potential ability to catch bluefin tuna. These gears 
are not traditional swordfish fishing gears. Green-stick gear was 
developed to catch tunas, particularly bluefin tuna, and it does not 
catch swordfish very well.
    Response: Greenstick and bandit gear are authorized under the 
Swordfish General Commercial permit to be consistent with the Atlantic 
Tunas General category permit under which these same gears are 
currently authorized for the harvest of bigeye, albacore, yellowfin and 
skipjack (BAYS) tunas and bluefin tunas. Under current regulations, 
swordfish may not be retained if unauthorized fishing gears are onboard 
the vessel. Atlantic Tunas General category permitted vessels that are 
fishing for tunas may want to fish for tunas with greenstick or bandit 
gear and may also have a Swordfish General Commercial permit and want 
to fish for swordfish on the same trip. NMFS does not anticipate that 
greenstick will be frequently used to harvest swordfish. However, by 
allowing the harvest of swordfish with greenstick, NMFS is facilitating 
the targeting of tunas and swordfish on the same trip. Under current 
regulations, bandit gear is authorized to harvest swordfish under 
Swordfish Handgear, Swordfish Directed, or Swordfish Incidental 
permits.
    Comment 29: NMFS must consider bluefin tuna catches by these 
handgears in the Gulf of Mexico bluefin tuna spawning area. Estimated 
discards must be deducted from the Atlantic Tunas General category 
bluefin tuna quota. This reinforces the need for mandatory logbooks and 
some level of observer coverage to provide statistically valid bluefin 
tuna estimates in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Bluefin 
tuna catches are not allowed because directed bluefin tuna fishing in 
the Gulf of Mexico is not allowed, but there will be catches.
    Response: Greenstick and bandit gear are currently authorized for 
the harvest of BAYS and bluefin tunas under the Atlantic Tunas General 
category and HMS Charter/Headboat open access permits and the Atlantic 
Tunas Longline limited access permits. The authorization of these gears 
under these permits is not affected by Amendment 8. In the Gulf of 
Mexico, it is illegal to target bluefin tuna. Available greenstick and 
bandit gear catch and bycatch data indicate that fish released from 
these gears, including bluefin tuna, have a high likelihood of survival 
because the gears are tended and fish may be retrieved relatively 
quickly and released. Bluefin tuna landings must be accounted for under 
the appropriate bluefin tuna sub-quota and dead discards must be 
accounted for against the overall U.S. quota. Atlantic Tunas General 
category and HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels must report on 
logbooks if selected for reporting. At this time, NMFS does not select 
these vessels for reporting in order to obtain bluefin tuna dead 
discard data because these authorized fishing gears have a low bluefin 
tuna mortality rate.
    Comment 30: The preferred alternatives in Amendment 8 will make it 
easier for recreationally-caught swordfish to be illegally sold by 
increasing the number of commercial permit holders through which fish 
could be transferred and sold, especially in south Florida. NMFS will 
have no way to regulate the landings of all these swordfish in south 
Florida.
    Response: The establishment of an open-access commercial swordfish 
permit that is easy to apply for and obtain is expected to reduce the 
incentive for recreational anglers to illegally sell or transfer 
swordfish to commercial fishermen for later sale. Recreational HMS 
fishermen in Federal waters must possess an HMS Angling permit, may not 
sell their HMS, and must report all swordfish landings either online or 
by phone within 24-hours of landing. In addition, commercially-caught 
swordfish may only be sold to a federally permitted swordfish dealer. 
In response to public comment and for other reasons explained above, at 
this time, NMFS is implementing a zero-fish retention limit in the 
Florida Swordfish Management Area for Swordfish General Commercial 
permit holders and prohibiting the sale of fish by vessels with HMS 
Charter/Headboat permits in this area, even when they are not on a for 
hire trip. In south Florida, this zero-fish retention limit will not 
provide additional incentive for recreational fishermen to illegally 
sell or transfer swordfish to commercial fishermen for later sale. The 
retention limit in south Florida and other regions may be adjusted in-
season, based upon the attainment of pre-established criteria contained 
in the final rule implementing Amendment 8.
    Comment 31: NMFS received comments opposed to the proposed 
regulation, which would allow a person to obtain an Angling category 
permit, and then relinquish that permit to obtain the Swordfish General 
Commercial permit during the 2013 fishing year. If a person 
relinquishes their Angling category permit to obtain the new commercial 
permit, the commenter stated that they should be prohibited from 
obtaining another

[[Page 52022]]

Atlantic Tunas permit during the same fishing year.
    Response: NMFS agrees. A person may not change bluefin tuna quota 
categories within the same fishing year under current regulations. 
While this final rule will be effective prior to the issuance of 2014 
Atlantic open access HMS and tunas permits, NMFS will not issue 
Swordfish General Commercial permits prior to the issuance of 2014 
permits.
    Comment 32: NMFS received contrasting comments regarding the 
effective date of the final rule implementing Amendment 8 to the 2006 
Consolidated HMS FMP. Some commenters requested implementation as 
quickly as possible so they could benefit from increased commercial 
fishing opportunities for swordfish. Other commenters requested for 
NMFS to wait until ICCAT stock assessment results and quota 
recommendations are publicly available in the fall of 2013 before 
making any significant changes to current swordfish management 
measures.
    Response: The effective date of this final rule is 30 days after 
the date of its publication in the Federal Register; however, the new 
Swordfish General Commercial Permit and the allowance for HMS Charter/
Headboat permitted vessels to sell swordfish on non-for hire trips will 
first become effective upon issuance of the 2014 fishing permit. NMFS 
is implementing this rule as quickly as possible in order to provide 
additional opportunities to more fully utilize the U.S. swordfish 
quota, while considering available information about North Atlantic 
swordfish stock status. Regardless of the U.S. quota allocation issued 
by ICCAT, NMFS has the ability to monitor swordfish landings in real-
time and will also have the ability under Amendment 8 to adjust 
regional swordfish retention limits according to the in-season 
adjustment authority criteria established in this final rule.
    Comment 33: An open-access commercial swordfish permit will enable 
many people who have not been able to qualify, based on fishing income, 
for a Restricted Species Endorsement on the Florida Saltwater Products 
License to more easily qualify. Therefore, the proposed commercial 
swordfish permit will also create more fishing pressure on other 
species, including Spanish mackerel, pompano, and king mackerel.
    Response: The Restricted Species Endorsement is a Florida state 
requirement that may be modified by the State of Florida based on their 
determination of need. If the State of Florida maintains the status quo 
regarding the Florida Restricted Species list, which does not currently 
include swordfish, then some fishermen that obtain the new Swordfish 
General Commercial permit could potentially land and sell swordfish 
which could allow them to qualify more easily for entry into restricted 
entry commercial fisheries in Florida. If the State of Florida adds 
swordfish to the Restricted Species list, then it would not become any 
easier for fishermen to qualify for entry into restricted commercial 
fisheries in Florida.
    Comment 34: NMFS should implement a swordfish tagging system to 
promote more swordfish quota usage. Commenters stated that some 
swordfish are being unreported and that the United States must ensure 
that all swordfish that are being caught are accounted for.
    Response: In the Draft EA for Amendment 8, NMFS thoroughly 
considered an alternative that would implement a swordfish tagging 
program to provide a higher level of reporting and to facilitate the 
enforcement of swordfish regulations. Four sub-alternatives were 
considered, including tagging: (1) Only swordfish landed by vessels 
issued the new or modified permit(s); (2) all swordfish landed by any 
gear other than PLL (i.e., rod and reel, handline, harpoon, bandit 
gear, green-stick, trawl gear, and buoy gear; (3) all commercially 
landed swordfish; and (4) all commercially-landed swordfish within, or 
from, specified region(s). Additionally, NMFS considered whether to 
provide tags to dealers and require that vessel operators tag swordfish 
prior to offloading, or whether to provide tags to swordfish vessel 
permit holders and require that swordfish be tagged immediately upon 
being brought onboard a vessel. NMFS extensively investigated different 
types of tags, program administration and costs, tag manufacturers, 
reporting requirements, and enforcement considerations.
    After consulting with the HMS Advisory Panel and other interested 
constituents, NMFS decided not to further analyze the alternative to 
implement a swordfish tagging program due to concerns about the 
effectiveness of a tagging program to reliably identify swordfish that 
are bound for commerce. Unless all commercial swordfish (both domestic 
and imported) are tagged, it would remain difficult to differentiate 
between legitimate commercial landings that needed to be tagged, 
commercial landings that did not need to be tagged, imported swordfish, 
and recreational landings illegally entering commerce. Furthermore, 
establishing an open-access commercial swordfish permit is expected to 
significantly reduce the incentive for recreational anglers to 
illegally sell or transfer swordfish to commercial fishermen for later 
sale, thereby reducing the need for a tagging program.

Changes From the Proposed Rule (78 FR 12273, February 22, 2013)

    In this final rule and in response to public comment, NMFS has 
modified the definition of the ``Florida Swordfish Management Area'' at 
Sec.  635.2 by removing that portion of the area north of 
28[deg]17'10'' N. lat. The new northern boundary line now intersects 
the U.S. mainland near Rockledge, FL, and the coastline between Cape 
Canaveral, FL, and Melbourne, FL, near Cocoa Beach, FL. The modified 
area is smaller in geographic size than the proposed area. The area off 
the southeastern coast of Florida, particularly the Florida Straits, 
contains oceanographic features that make the area biologically unique. 
It provides important juvenile swordfish habitat, and is essentially a 
narrow migratory corridor containing high concentrations of swordfish 
located in close proximity to high concentrations of people who may 
fish for them. The modified Florida Swordfish Management Area more 
closely encompasses the Florida Straits and the oceanographic features 
that make this area biologically unique. Public comment indicated a 
concern about increased catches of juvenile swordfish, the potential 
for larger numbers of fishermen in the area, and the potential for 
crowding of fishermen, which could lead to potential fishing gear and 
user conflicts. Modifying the area to more closely correspond to the 
actual oceanographic features that make the area unique will improve 
future conservation and management of swordfish, while minimizing 
impacts on fishermen operating both in the relatively narrow area of 
the Florida Straits and fishermen operating north of this area where 
swordfish are less concentrated. This modification is within the range 
of alternatives considered for the Florida Swordfish Management Area in 
Amendment 8. To account for the reduction in size of the Florida 
Swordfish Management Area, the Northwest Atlantic region has been 
increased in size by extending its southern boundary to 28[deg]17'10'' 
N. lat.
    Also in response to public comment, NMFS has modified the initial 
default retention limit of the Florida Swordfish Management Area. In 
Sec.  635.24(b)(4)(iii), the initial default swordfish retention limit 
for the modified Florida Swordfish Management Area has been changed 
from one swordfish per vessel per trip

[[Page 52023]]

to zero swordfish per vessel per trip. An initial default retention 
limit of zero swordfish per vessel per trip in the modified Florida 
Swordfish Management Area better corresponds with NMFS' intent to take 
a precautionary approach during the initial establishment of a new open 
access commercial swordfish permit in an area that is biologically 
unique and within the proximity of a large number of fishermen, while 
still providing increased opportunities for commercial swordfish 
handgear fisheries in other regions.
    Paragraphs Sec.  635.4(f)(1) and (f)(2) have been changed to 
indicate that the provision allowing HMS Charter/Headboat permitted 
vessels to commercially fish for swordfish under the new regulations 
will become effective on January 1, 2014. Similarly, in Sec.  
635.4(f)(5), a sentence has been removed that described how the new 
permit would have been issued during the 2013 fishing year. The new 
permit will be made available for the 2014 fishing year, so that 
sentence is no longer needed.
    Paragraph Sec.  635.4(m)(2) has been reworded to improve clarity, 
but no substantive change to this paragraph has been made.
    A minor change has been made to Sec.  635.24(b)(4)(i) to improve 
clarity and to reflect the changes made to the definition of the 
Florida Swordfish Management Area.
    A correction has been made at Sec.  635.34(a) to indicate the 
proper cross-reference to Sec.  635.24 instead of Sec.  635.23. There 
is no substantive change as a result of this correction.
    Lastly, a change has been made at Sec.  635.71(e)(18) to improve 
clarity by incorporating a cross-reference to Sec.  635.21(e)(4)(v).

Classification

    The NMFS Assistant Administrator (AA) has determined that this 
final rule is consistent with the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP 
and its amendments, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, ATCA, 
and other applicable law.
    NMFS prepared an environmental assessment for this final rule that 
discusses the impact on the environment that would result from this 
rule. In this final action, we provide additional commercial swordfish 
fishing opportunities using selective fishing gears that have minimal 
bycatch and few discards to allow the United States to more fully 
utilize its domestic swordfish quota allocation. A copy of the 
environmental assessment is available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES).
    This final rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    The Agency has consulted, to the extent practicable, with 
appropriate state and local officials to address the principles, 
criteria, and requirements of Executive Order 13132.
    A final regulatory flexibility analysis (FRFA) was prepared for 
this rule. The FRFA incorporates the Initial Regulatory Flexibility 
Analysis (IRFA), a summary of the significant issues raised by the 
public comments in response to the IRFA, our responses to those 
comments, and a summary of the analyses completed to support the 
action. The full FRFA and analysis of economic and ecological impacts 
are available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). A summary of the FRFA follows.
    The purpose of this final rulemaking, consistent with the Magnuson-
Stevens Act, and the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments, is 
to enact HMS management measures that provide additional opportunities 
to harvest swordfish using selective gears that have low rates of 
bycatch, given the rebuilt status of the swordfish stock and resulting 
increased availability of swordfish and availability of U.S. quota. The 
goal is for the United States to more fully utilize its domestic 
swordfish quota allocation, which is based upon the recommendation of 
ICCAT, and provide economic benefits to U.S. fishermen with minimal 
adverse environmental impacts.
    Section 604(a)(2) of the RFA requires a summary of the significant 
issues raised by the public comments in response to the IRFA, a summary 
of the assessment of the Agency of such issues, and a statement of any 
changes made in the rule as a result of such comments. NMFS received 
many comments on the proposed rule and IRFA. A summary of these 
comments and the Agency's responses, including changes as a result of 
public comment, are included above. In particular, comments 1, 5, 6, 
and 7 address the rule's economic impacts. For the reasons discussed in 
the response to comments 5 and 6, NMFS has reduced the size of the 
Florida Swordfish Management Area in this final rule, increased the 
size of the Northwest Atlantic region, implemented a zero swordfish per 
vessel per trip initial default retention limit in the smaller modified 
Florida Swordfish Management Area, and implemented a three swordfish 
per vessel per trip initial default retention limit in the area north 
of Cocoa Beach, FL, to Jekyll Island, GA, that was originally proposed 
to be subject to a one swordfish per vessel per trip limit. Otherwise, 
there are no substantive changes from the proposed rule as a result of 
these economic comments.
    Section 604(a)(3) of the RFA requires a description and estimate of 
the number of small entities to which the final rule would apply. The 
Small Business Administration (SBA) has established size criteria for 
all major industry sectors in the United States, including fish 
harvesters. Previously, a business involved in fish harvesting was 
classified as a small business if it is independently owned and 
operated, is not dominant in its field of operation (including its 
affiliates), and has combined annual receipts not in excess of $4.0 
million (NAICS code 114111, finfish fishing) for all its affiliated 
operations worldwide. In addition, SBA has defined a small charter/
party boat entity (NAICS code 713990, recreational industries) as one 
with average annual receipts of less than $7.0 million. On June 20, 
2013, SBA issued a final rule revising the small business size 
standards for several industries effective July 22, 2013. 78 FR 37398 
(June 20, 2013). The rule increased the size standard for Finfish 
Fishing from $4.0 to 19.0 million, Shellfish Fishing from $4.0 to 5.0 
million, and Other Marine Fishing from $4.0 to 7.0 million. Id. at 
37400 (Table 1).
    NMFS has reviewed the analyses prepared for this action in light of 
the new size standards. Under the former, lower size standards, all 
entities subject to this action were considered small entities, thus 
they all would continue to be considered small under the new standards.
    This final rule would apply to small-scale handgear vessel owners 
that fish in the Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and the 
U.S. Caribbean, that do not currently hold a commercial swordfish 
limited access permit. NMFS estimates that the universe of fishermen 
who might purchase and fish under a new commercial swordfish permit 
would be approximately 4,084 individuals, with some potential shift of 
fishermen currently permitted in the recreational HMS Angling category. 
This estimate is based upon the number of persons currently issued an 
Atlantic tunas General category permit, which is the commercial permit 
most similar to the permit being implemented in this final action. This 
final action could also indirectly apply to current U.S. North Atlantic 
commercial swordfish fishery participants and the related industries of 
seafood dealers and processors, fishing gear manufacturers and 
distributors, marinas, bait houses, restaurants, and other equipment 
suppliers. The current U.S. North

[[Page 52024]]

Atlantic commercial swordfish fishery is comprised of 334 fishing 
vessel owners who are issued either a limited access swordfish Handgear 
permit, or a limited access directed or incidental swordfish permit.
    Section 604(a)(4) of the RFA requires a description of the 
projected reporting, record-keeping, and other compliance requirements 
of the final rule, including an estimate of the classes of small 
entities which would be subject to the requirements of the report or 
record.
    This action contains new reporting, recordkeeping, or other 
compliance requirements. The new Federal open-access Swordfish General 
Commercial permit allows NMFS to collect additional data regarding 
participants in the swordfish handgear fishery and landings through 
Federal dealer reports. The new permit requires an application similar 
to other current open-access HMS permits. The information collected on 
the application includes vessel information and owner identification 
and contact information. A modest fee to process the application and 
annual renewal fee of approximately $25 may be required. The final rule 
also adopts standard commercial HMS permit reporting requirements for 
this permit. Currently, in Atlantic HMS fisheries, all commercial 
fishing vessels and Charter/Headboat vessels are required to submit 
logbooks for all HMS trips if they are selected for reporting. Selected 
permit holders are required to submit logbooks to NMFS postmarked no 
later than seven days after unloading a trip. If no fishing activity 
occurred during a calendar month, a ``no fishing'' report must be 
submitted to NMFS, and be postmarked within seven days after the end of 
the month. Currently, the permits most similar to the ones being 
implemented in this final action (HMS Charter/Headboat, Atlantic tunas 
General category, and Atlantic tunas Harpoon category permit) are not 
selected for submitting logbooks, although they may be selected in the 
future.
    Section 604(a)(5) of the RFA requires a description of the steps 
NMFS has taken to minimize the significant economic impact on small 
entities consistent with the stated objectives of applicable statutes, 
including a statement of the factual, policy, and legal reasons for 
selecting the alternative adopted in the final rule and the reason that 
each one of the other significant alternatives to the rule considered 
by the Agency which affect small entities was rejected. These impacts 
are discussed below and in the final environmental assessment for 
Amendment 8 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP. Additionally, the RFA (5 
U.S.C. 603(c)(1)-(4)) lists four general categories of ``significant'' 
alternatives that could assist an agency in the development of 
significant alternatives. These categories of alternatives are: (1) 
Establishment of differing compliance or reporting requirements or 
timetables that take into account the resources available to small 
entities; (2) clarification, consolidation, or simplification of 
compliance and reporting requirements under the rule for such small 
entities; (3) use of performance rather than design standards; and (4) 
exemptions from coverage of the rule for small entities.
    In order to meet the objectives of this rule, consistent with the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act and ESA, NMFS cannot exempt small entities or 
change the reporting requirements only for small entities because all 
the entities affected are considered small entities. Thus, there are no 
alternatives discussed that fall under the first and fourth categories 
described above. We do not know of any performance or design standards 
that would satisfy the aforementioned objectives of this rulemaking 
while also complying with the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Thus, there are no 
alternatives considered under the third category. All of the permit 
alternatives being considered, except for the no-action alternative, 
could result in additional reporting requirements (category two above) 
due to the issuance of new permits if new permit holders are selected 
for reporting. These are standard reporting requirements required of 
all HMS commercial permit holders. Thus, there are no alternatives 
discussed that fall under the second category described above. The 
action will improve information collection by allowing NMFS to collect 
important fishery dependent data, if necessary, that could be used for 
quota monitoring and stock assessments. As described below, NMFS 
analyzed several different alternatives for this final rulemaking and 
provides rationale for selecting the alternatives adopted in the final 
rule and the reason that each one of the other significant alternatives 
to the rule considered by the Agency which affect small entities was 
rejected.
    In this rulemaking, NMFS considered two different categories of 
issues to address swordfish management measures where each issue had 
its own range of alternatives and sub-alternatives that would meet the 
objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the 2006 Consolidated HMS 
FMP. The first category of alternatives (Alternatives 1.1-1.3 and sub-
alternatives) addresses swordfish permitting alternatives. The second 
category of alternatives (Alternatives 2.1-2.3 and sub-alternatives) 
addresses swordfish retention limits. The expected economic impacts 
these alternatives and sub-alternatives may have on small entities are 
summarized below. The full FRFA and all its analyses can be found in 
the final environmental assessment for Amendment 8. In total, NMFS 
analyzed 16 different alternatives and sub-alternatives, and provided 
rationales for identifying the preferred alternatives. The seven permit 
alternatives range from maintaining the status quo for U.S. North 
Atlantic swordfish fisheries to creating a new commercial swordfish 
handgear permit and modifying the HMS Charter/Headboat permit to allow 
fishing for and sales of swordfish under specific limitations. NMFS 
analyzed nine alternatives that would allow NMFS to implement swordfish 
retention limits applicable to the new permit in a range from zero-to-
six fish. Eight of these alternatives would allow NMFS to modify daily 
trip limits using in-season adjustment procedures. NMFS assessed the 
impacts of the retention limit alternatives on both a fishery-wide 
basis and utilizing an approach which could be tailored on a regional 
basis.
    Alternative 1.1, the no action alternative, maintains the existing 
swordfish limited access permit program and would not establish a new 
swordfish permit. Under Alternative 1.1, NMFS does not anticipate any 
substantive change in economic impacts as the U.S. swordfish fishery is 
already operating under the current regulations. Entry into the 
commercial swordfish fishery would remain difficult due to high limited 
access permit costs and the current scarcity of available permits. In 
terms of available and unutilized swordfish quota, this alternative 
could contribute to a loss of potential income for fishermen who would 
like to fish commercially for swordfish, but are not able to obtain 
limited access permits. Under ATCA (16 U.S.C. 971 et. seq.) and the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS is required to provide U.S. fishing vessels 
with a reasonable opportunity to harvest the ICCAT-recommended quota. 
Although there is sufficient quota to allow U.S. fishermen to catch 
more swordfish and remain within the ICCAT-recommended quota, current 
difficulties associated with obtaining a limited access permit may be a 
constraining factor. For this reason, the ``no action'' alternative is 
not preferred.
    Alternative 1.2, a preferred alternative, would establish a new 
open-access commercial swordfish permit and modify existing open access 
HMS

[[Page 52025]]

permits to allow for the commercial retention of swordfish using 
handgears. NMFS anticipates positive economic impacts for some U.S. 
fishermen under alternative 1.2. It would allow small-scale U.S. 
fishermen to use handgear (rod and reel, handline, harpoon, bandit 
gear, and green-stick) to fish for and commercially sell a limited 
amount of swordfish (zero to six fish per vessel per trip) to permitted 
swordfish dealers. This alternative would reduce economic barriers to 
the commercial swordfish fishery, provide more opportunities to fish 
commercially for swordfish, and potentially provide economic benefits 
to some fishermen. For example, if a new entrant landed 10 swordfish 
per year under this alternative, they could realize an increase in 
annual gross revenues of approximately $4,329.60. One trip landing six 
swordfish could yield $2,598 in gross revenues.
    NMFS received comments from some current swordfish limited access 
permit holders during public meetings to discuss the 2009 ANPR (74 FR 
26174, June 1, 2009) expressing concern that establishing a new 
swordfish permit could reduce ex-vessel swordfish prices and the value 
of existing limited access swordfish permits. It is not possible to 
precisely predict the number of new applicants for open access 
commercial swordfish permits, but NMFS expects that some current 
recreational fishermen with HMS Angling permits will remain 
recreational, rather than shift to commercial fishing. There are 
numerous commercial fishing vessel safety requirements and management 
regulations to comply with when operating a commercial fishing business 
that may discourage some recreational fishermen from obtaining a 
commercial permit. Under the proposed regulations, similar to the 
regulations that apply to the Atlantic tunas General category permit, 
fishermen issued a new Swordfish General Commercial permit would not be 
able to obtain an HMS Angling category permit. Therefore, a 
recreational fisherman who obtains a Swordfish General Commercial 
permit would forfeit the ability to fish for Atlantic billfishes, 
unless they are fishing in a registered HMS tournament, because fishing 
for these species is permissible only when issued an HMS Angling or 
Charter/Headboat permit. Additionally, the ability to fish 
recreationally for Atlantic tunas and sharks would be forfeited unless 
they are fishing in a registered HMS tournament or hold appropriate 
commercial tuna and/or shark permits. Negative impacts on current 
swordfish limited access permit holders are expected to be mitigated by 
establishing lower retention limits for the new open access permit than 
the limits that currently exist for limited access permits. NMFS 
prefers Alternative 1.2 because it would increase access to the 
commercial swordfish fishery, would have positive socio-economic 
impacts for fishermen who are currently unable to obtain a swordfish 
limited access permit, and would have neutral to minor ecological 
impacts. Additionally, this alternative would provide increased 
opportunities to more fully utilize the ICCAT-recommended domestic 
North Atlantic swordfish quota allocation and thus could have long-term 
benefits to all swordfish fisherman by improving the United States' 
position with regard to maintaining its quota share at ICCAT.
    Sub-alternative 1.2.1 would modify the existing open-access 
Atlantic tunas General category permit to allow vessels using handgears 
(rod and reel, handline, harpoon, bandit gear, and green-stick) to 
retain swordfish commercially, and rename the modified permit as, 
potentially, the Atlantic tunas and swordfish General category permit. 
It would result in many of the same socio-economic impacts as 
Alternative 1.2. In addition, sub-alternative l.2.1 would minimize the 
costs associated with obtaining the new swordfish permit for persons 
that have already been issued the Atlantic Tunas General category 
permit, because they would only need to obtain one permit rather than 
two. Sub-Alternative 1.2.1 is not preferred because it would not 
provide the ability to differentiate between the numbers of commercial 
fishermen issued an Atlantic Tunas General category permit and those 
issued an open-access commercial swordfish permit. This distinction 
helps to analyze the socio-economic impacts of potential management 
measures for both tunas and swordfish.
    Sub-alternative 1.2.2 would modify the existing open-access 
Atlantic tunas Harpoon category permit to allow for the commercial 
retention of swordfish using harpoon gear. This alternative would 
result in many of the same impacts as Alternative 1.2. Additionally, it 
would minimize the costs associated with obtaining the new permit for 
persons that have already been issued the Atlantic Tunas Harpoon 
category permit, because they would only need to obtain one permit 
rather than two. Specifically, it would provide economic benefits to 
current Atlantic tunas Harpoon category permit holders that want to 
both harpoon swordfish and fish for tunas under Atlantic tunas Harpoon 
category regulations. Sub-Alternative 1.2.2 is not preferred because it 
would not provide the ability to differentiate between the numbers of 
commercial fishermen issued an Atlantic Tunas Harpoon category permit 
and those issued an open-access commercial swordfish permit.
    Sub-alternative 1.2.3, a preferred alternative, would allow HMS 
Charter/Headboat permit holders to fish under open access commercial 
swordfish regulations, using only rod and reel and handlines, when not 
on a for-hire trip with paying passengers. It would result in many of 
the same impacts as Alternative 1.2 and provide economic benefits to 
CHB permit holders when fishing commercially (i.e., not on a for-hire 
trip). It would also streamline permit issuance because CHB vessels 
would not need to obtain another permit. Sub-Alternative 1.2.3 is 
preferred because it achieves the goal of providing additional 
opportunities to commercially harvest the U.S. swordfish quota using 
handgears that are low in bycatch. A similar regulatory provision 
exists which allows HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders to sell 
Atlantic tunas under certain conditions because of the quasi-commercial 
nature of the HMS Charter/Headboat permit.
    Sub-alternative 1.2.4, a preferred alternative, would create a 
separate open access commercial swordfish permit to allow landings 
using handgear. This alternative would have similar impacts as 
Alternative 1.2, above. However, it would increase the costs associated 
with obtaining the permit for persons that have already been issued an 
Atlantic Tunas General or Harpoon category permit. This alternative 
would not streamline permit issuance for persons that want to 
commercially fish for both tunas and swordfish, because they would need 
to obtain two different permits to conduct these activities. NMFS 
prefers sub-alternative 1.2.4 because it would increase access to the 
commercial swordfish fishery, would have positive socio-economic 
impacts for fishermen who are currently unable to obtain a swordfish 
limited access permit, and would have only neutral to minor ecological 
impacts. Additionally, sub-alternative 1.2.4 would better enable NMFS 
to differentiate between tuna and swordfish handgear fishermen in order 
to better monitor and assess these fisheries.
    Alternative 1.3 would allow for an unspecified number of new 
swordfish limited access permits to be issued. Depending upon the 
qualification criteria, this alternative could improve access to the 
fishery and provide economic benefits to some fishermen that qualify 
for the new limited access

[[Page 52026]]

permit. However, it could also adversely affect some fishermen who do 
not qualify for a limited access permit. This alternative could limit 
any negative economic and social impacts on current commercial 
swordfish limited access permit holders by limiting the number of new 
swordfish permits issued. Selection of this alternative may require, 
among other things, establishing qualification criteria, control dates, 
application deadlines, application procedures, and grievance/appeals 
procedures for persons who have initially been determined as not 
eligible to qualify for a limited access permit. These aspects could 
increase administrative costs for NMFS and increase the reporting 
burden for the public to demonstrate that they meet qualifying 
criteria. Alternative 1.3 is not preferred because a new commercial 
swordfish limited-access permit is not needed at this time. Under the 
preferred alternatives, fishing effort in the open-access commercial 
swordfish fishery will be managed using low regional retention limits 
that can be adjusted using in-season authority to ensure that landings 
remain within the U.S. quota.
    Alternative 2.1 would establish a fishery-wide zero-to-six 
swordfish retention limit range for the new and modified permits, and 
codify a specific retention limit within that range. This alternative 
could provide some fishermen with the ability to commercially land 
swordfish, thereby resulting in positive economic benefits if the limit 
were set above zero. Additionally, economic benefits are anticipated 
for swordfish dealers and processors, fishing tackle manufacturers and 
suppliers, bait suppliers, restaurants, marinas, and fuel providers. 
NMFS anticipates a retention limit range of zero-to-six swordfish would 
provide a seasonal, or secondary, fishery for most participants. This 
alternative is not expected to facilitate a year-round fishery in most 
areas, with the possible exception of south Florida, where swordfish 
can be available year-round. There is a notable difference in the ex-
vessel revenue produced by a one swordfish/trip limit versus a six 
swordfish/trip limit. A single swordfish is estimated to be worth 
$432.96 ex-vessel, on average, whereas six swordfish would produce 
$2,597.76 ex-vessel. For a vessel making 10 trips per year and 
retaining the maximum allowable number of swordfish on each trip, 
annual gross revenue derived from swordfish would range from $4,329.60 
under a one-fish limit to $25,977.60 under a six-fish limit. Codifying 
a single coast-wide swordfish retention limit would provide certainty 
to both fishermen and law enforcement regarding the swordfish retention 
limit for the new open access permit. However, this alternative would 
not provide in-season adjustment authority to quickly modify the 
swordfish retention limit regionally by using pre-established criteria 
and thus would limit NMFS' management flexibility. Alternative 2.1 is 
not preferred because it does not provide the flexibility to manage the 
new swordfish open access permit on a regional basis or to adjust 
regional retention limits using in-season authority.
    Alternative 2.2 would establish a coast-wide zero-to-six swordfish 
retention limit range for the new and modified permits and codify a 
specific retention limit within that range. In addition, it would 
provide in-season adjustment authority for NMFS to modify the swordfish 
retention limit within the range (zero to six) using in-season 
adjustment procedures similar to those codified at Sec.  635.27(a)(8). 
This alternative would have the same social and economic impacts as 
Alternative 2.1, but would provide less certainty to fishermen and law 
enforcement regarding possible in-season changes to the swordfish 
retention limit. Positive economic benefits could occur if the 
retention limit was increased during the fishing season based upon 
information indicating that sufficient quota was available, or upon 
other pre-established criteria. Alternative 2.2 is not preferred 
because it does not provide the flexibility to manage the new swordfish 
open access permit on a regional basis.
    Alternative 2.3, a preferred alternative, would establish swordfish 
management regions and a zero-to-six swordfish retention limit range 
within each region for the new and modified permits and codify specific 
regional limits within that range with authority to adjust the regional 
limits in-season based on pre-established criteria. This alternative 
would have similar social and economic impacts as Alternative 2.1. If a 
regional retention limit is set at zero, NMFS expects no change in 
socio-economic impacts. If a regional limit is set at any level above 
zero, this alternative could provide economic benefits to some 
commercial handgear fishermen if they were previously inactive and 
obtain the new and modified permits and begin fishing. NMFS prefers 
Alternative 2.3 at this time, because it would allow swordfish 
retention limits to be quickly modified using in-season adjustment 
authority and provide additional flexibility to manage swordfish 
regionally.
    Sub-Alternative 2.3.1 would establish regions based upon existing 
major U.S. domestic fishing areas as reported to ICCAT (Northeast 
Distant area, Northeast Coastal area, Mid-Atlantic Bight area, South 
Atlantic Bight area, Florida East Coast area, Gulf of Mexico area, 
Caribbean area, and the Sargasso Sea area). Socio-economic impacts 
would be the same as Alternative 2.3 above. If this sub-alternative 
were implemented, NMFS considered an initial swordfish retention limit 
of one swordfish per vessel per trip for the Florida East Coast area, 
two swordfish per vessel per trip for the Caribbean area, and a limit 
of three swordfish per vessel per trip for the Northwest Atlantic and 
Gulf of Mexico regions. If a regional retention limit is set at zero, 
NMFS expects no change in socio-economic impacts. If a regional limit 
is set at any level above zero, this alternative could provide economic 
benefits to some commercial handgear fishermen if they were previously 
inactive and obtain the new and modified permits and begin fishing. For 
vessels making 10 trips per year and retaining the maximum allowable 
limit on each trip, annual gross revenue derived from swordfish would 
range from $4,329.60 under a one-fish limit, $8,659.20 under a two-fish 
limit, and $12,988.80 under a three-fish limit. Sub-Alternative 2.3.1 
is not preferred because the small-scale handgear fishery is somewhat 
similar across the entire Northwest Atlantic area and Gulf of Mexico, 
so establishing several smaller areas is not needed at this time.
    Sub-Alternative 2.3.2, a preferred alternative, would establish 
larger regions than sub-alternative 2.3.1, with the addition of a 
separate Florida Swordfish Management Area (the Northwest Atlantic, 
Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and a Florida Swordfish Management Area as 
defined below). Under this sub-alternative, swordfish management 
measures could still be tailored geographically to the biological 
factors affecting a particular region; however, the regions would be 
larger (with the possible exception of the separate Florida Swordfish 
Management Area). In the draft EA and proposed rule, NMFS considered an 
initial swordfish retention limit of one swordfish per vessel per trip 
for the Florida Swordfish Management Area, two swordfish per vessel per 
trip for the Caribbean area, and a limit of three swordfish per vessel 
per trip for the Northwest Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions. These 
retention limits fell within the range discussed under Alternative 2.3 
above, and could be

[[Page 52027]]

modified in the future using in-season adjustment procedures. In this 
action, NMFS establishes an initial default retention limit of zero 
swordfish per vessel per trip for the Florida Swordfish Management Area 
due to concerns about the rapid growth of a commercial fishery in an 
important swordfish habitat area that is in close proximity to many 
fishermen. Under a regional retention limit set at zero for the Florida 
Swordfish Management Area, no change in socio-economic impacts is 
anticipated. In other regions, vessels making 10 trips per year and 
retaining the maximum allowable limit on each trip would derive annual 
gross revenue from swordfish ranging from $4,329.60 under a one-fish 
limit, $8,659.20 under a two-fish limit, and $12,988.80 under a three-
fish limit. Sub-Alternative 2.3.2 is preferred because it establishes 
larger regions which can be consistently and effectively managed, yet 
it still provides for the ability to manage the unique swordfish 
habitat area off southeastern Florida
    To estimate the number of entities affected by a special Florida 
Swordfish Management Area, NMFS first determined the number of Atlantic 
tunas General category permits issued. In 2011, there were 4,084 
Atlantic tunas General category permits issued. This number was used as 
a proxy to estimate the total number of new Swordfish General 
Commercial permits that could be issued fishery-wide. In 2011, 44 
percent of all Directed and Incidental swordfish limited access permits 
were issued in Florida. Additionally, in 2011, 63 percent of all 
swordfish Handgear limited access permits were issued in Florida. 
Taking the average of these two numbers provided an estimate of 53.5 
percent, which NMFS used to estimate the percent of new swordfish 
permits that could be issued in Florida. Using an estimated rate of 
53.5 percent of 4,084 potential new permits provides an estimate of 
2,185 potential new commercial swordfish handgear permits that could be 
issued in Florida. Assuming that two-thirds of these permits are issued 
to vessels on the east coast of Florida, as is the case currently, then 
potentially 1,455 new open-access swordfish permits could be issued on 
the east coast of Florida (0.666 * 2,185 = 1,455).
    Sub-Alternative 2.3.2.1 would establish a Florida Swordfish 
Management Area that includes the East Florida Coast pelagic longline 
closed area through the northwestern boundary of Monroe County, FL, in 
the Gulf of Mexico (see Sec.  635.2 for bounding coordinates). Under a 
regional retention limit set at zero for the Florida Swordfish 
Management Area, no change in socio-economic impacts is anticipated. 
Approximately 1,455 new permit holders could derive up to $4,329.60 
annually under a one-fish limit, assuming they each took 10 trips per 
year and landed one fish on each trip. Sub-Alternative 2.3.2.1 was 
preferred in the draft EA and proposed rule because it corresponded to 
the well-known boundaries of the existing East Florida Coast pelagic 
longline closed area, and also provided an enforceable buffer by 
including areas where there is not as much swordfishing activity. It is 
no longer preferred because a new hybrid alternative has been developed 
that better corresponds to the unique biological and oceanographic 
features that make the area a migratory corridor containing a high 
concentration of swordfish and providing important juvenile swordfish 
habitat. The hybrid area also closely corresponds to locations 
containing large numbers of fishermen, while still providing an 
enforceable buffer area to the north and south of the prime 
swordfishing areas off St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, Dade, 
and Monroe counties in Florida.
    Sub-Alternative 2.3.2.2 would establish a Florida Swordfish 
Management Area that extends from the Georgia/Florida border to Key 
West, FL. This area is larger than, and includes, the East Florida 
Coast pelagic longline closed area. Therefore, the economic impacts 
described for sub-alternative 2.3.2.1 would also occur within this 
area. Under a regional retention limit set at zero for the Florida 
Swordfish Management Area, no change in socio-economic impacts is 
anticipated. Additionally, because this special management area would 
be larger than sub-alternative 2.3.2.1, slightly more than 1,455 
vessels could potentially be affected by a one-fish retention limit. 
Sub-Alternative 2.3.2.2 is not preferred because a new hybrid 
alternative has been developed that better corresponds to the unique 
biological and oceanographic features that make the area a migratory 
corridor containing a high concentration of swordfish and providing 
important juvenile swordfish habitat.
    Sub-Alternative 2.3.2.3 would establish a Florida Swordfish 
Management Area that includes the Florida counties of St. Lucie, 
Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, Dade, and Monroe. This area is smaller 
than the previous two sub-alternatives, but specifically includes 
oceanic areas with concentrations of swordfish that are readily 
accessible to many anglers. Under a regional retention limit set at 
zero for the Florida Swordfish Management Area, no change in socio-
economic impacts is anticipated. Because this special management area 
would be smaller than the areas in sub-alternative 2.3.2.1, slightly 
fewer than 1,455 vessels would potentially be affected by the one-
swordfish per vessel per trip retention limit. Sub-Alternative 2.3.2.3 
is not preferred because this management area would provide a smaller, 
and less enforceable, buffer area around the prime swordfishing areas. 
A new hybrid alternative has been developed that better corresponds to 
the unique biological and oceanographic features that make the area a 
migratory corridor containing a high concentration of swordfish and 
providing important juvenile swordfish habitat.
    Sub-Alternative 2.3.2.4, a preferred alternative, would establish a 
Florida Swordfish Management Area extending shoreward from near 
Rockledge, FL, and Cocoa Beach, FL, to the outer boundary of the EEZ 
through the northwestern boundary of Monroe County, FL, in the Gulf of 
Mexico. This area is geographically smaller than Sub-Alternatives 
2.3.2.1 and 2.3.2.2, but larger than Sub-Alternative 2.3.2.3. This sub-
alternative, in combination with a zero-fish retention limit, balances 
the need to prevent the rapid growth of a commercial fishery in a 
biologically unique area with the objective of providing additional 
opportunities to harvest swordfish. The preferred alternative in the 
draft EA (Sub-Alternative 2.3.2.1) would have implemented a one-fish 
retention limit in a larger area. This alternative would implement a 
zero-fish retention limit in a smaller area, and a three-fish retention 
limit in the area north of Cocoa Beach, FL, that was previously 
proposed to be subject to a one-fish retention limit. Thus, in the 
smaller, modified Florida Swordfish Management Area (Sub-Alternative 
2.3.2.4) with an initial default retention limit of zero, no change in 
socio-economic impacts is anticipated. In the larger Northwest Atlantic 
region, annual gross revenue derived from swordfish would be 
approximately $12,988.80 under a three-fish limit for a vessel making 
ten trips per year and retaining the maximum allowable limit on each 
trip. Sub-Alternative 2.3.2.4 is preferred because it more closely 
corresponds to the unique biological and oceanographic features that 
make the area a migratory corridor containing a high concentration of 
swordfish and providing important juvenile swordfish habitat. This area 
also more closely corresponds to locations containing large numbers of

[[Page 52028]]

fishermen with comparatively easy access to the swordfish resource, 
while still providing an enforceable buffer area to the north and south 
of the prime swordfishing areas off St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, 
Broward, Dade, and Monroe counties in Florida.
    This final rule does not conflict, duplicate, or overlap with other 
relevant Federal rules (5 U.S.C. 603(b)(5)). Fishermen, dealers, and 
managers in these fisheries must comply with a number of international 
agreements, domestic laws, and other FMPs. These include, but are not 
limited to, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the ACTA, the High Seas Fishing 
Compliance Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered 
Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Paperwork 
Reduction Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act. We do not believe 
that the new regulations duplicate, overlap, or conflict with any 
relevant regulations, Federal or otherwise.
    This final rule contains a collection-of-information requirement 
subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) and which has been 
approved by OMB under control number 0648-0327. Public reporting burden 
for a new Swordfish General Commercial permit is estimated to average 
30 minutes per application. This burden estimate includes the time for 
reviewing instructions, gathering and maintaining the data needed, 
submitting the permit application, and completing and reviewing the 
collection information. On an annual basis, the new Swordfish General 
Commercial permit would increase the existing collection by 4,084 
respondents/responses, 2,042 hours, and costs by $81,706. In total, 
0648-0327 would include 41,261 responses/respondents, 11,843 hours, and 
cost $738,917 per year. Send comments on these burden estimated or any 
other aspects of this data collection, including suggestions for 
reducing the burden or any other aspects of the collection of 
information to NMFS (see ADDRESSES) and by email to OIRA_submission@omb.eop.gov, or fax to (202) 395-7285.
    Notwithstanding any other provision of the law, no person is 
required to respond to, and no person shall be subject to penalty for 
failure to comply with, a collection of information subject to the 
requirements of the PRA, unless that collection of information displays 
a currently valid OMB control number.
    Section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness 
Act of 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. Copies of 
this final rule and the compliance guide are available upon request 
from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). Copies of the compliance guide will also be 
available from the Highly Migratory Species Management Division Web 
site at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/.

List of Subjects

50 CFR Part 600

    Administrative practice and procedure, Confidential business 
information, Fisheries, Fishing, Fishing vessels, Foreign relations, 
Intergovernmental relations, Penalties, Reporting and recordkeeping 
requirements, Statistics.

50 CFR Part 635

    Fisheries, Fishing, Fishing vessels, Penalties, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Retention limits.

    Dated: August 13, 2013.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, performing the 
functions and duties of the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, 
National Marine Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR parts 600 and 635 
are amended as follows:

PART 600--MAGNUSON-STEVENS ACT PROVISIONS

0
1. The authority citation for part 600 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  5 U.S.C. 561 and 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.


0
2. In Sec.  600.725, in the table in paragraph (v), under the heading 
``IX. Secretary of Commerce,'' entry 1, revise A to read as follows:


Sec.  600.725  General prohibitions.

* * * * *
    (v) * * *

------------------------------------------------------------------------
                Fishery                       Authorized gear types
------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
                              * * * * * * *
A. Swordfish handgear fishery..........  A. Rod and reel, harpoon,
                                          handline, bandit gear, buoy
                                          gear, green-stick gear.
 
                              * * * * * * *
------------------------------------------------------------------------

* * * * *

PART 635--ATLANTIC HIGHLY MIGRATORY SPECIES

0
3. The authority citation for part 635 continues to read as follows:

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


0
4. In Sec.  635.2, revise the definition for ``Division Chief'' and add 
the definition for ``Florida Swordfish Management Area'' in 
alphabetical order to read as follows:


Sec.  635.2  Definitions.

* * * * *
    Division Chief means the Chief, Highly Migratory Species Management 
Division, NMFS (F/SF1), 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD, 
20910; (301) 427-8503.
* * * * *
    Florida Swordfish Management Area means the Atlantic Ocean area 
shoreward of the outer boundary of the U.S. EEZ from a point where 
latitude 28[deg]17'10'' N. lat. intersects the U.S. mainland near 
Rockledge, Florida and proceeding due east across the barrier island 
near Cocoa Beach, Florida to connect by straight lines the following 
coordinates in the order stated: 28[deg]17'10'' N. lat., 79[deg]11'24'' 
W. long.; then proceeding along the outer boundary of the EEZ to the 
intersection of the EEZ with 24[deg]00' N. lat.; then proceeding due 
west to 24[deg]00' N. lat., 82[deg]0' W. long, then proceeding due 
north to 25[deg]48'' N. lat., 82[deg]0' W. long., then proceeding due 
east to the shore near Chokoloskee, Florida).
* * * * *

0
5. In Sec.  635.4:
0
a. Revise paragraphs (b)(1), (c)(1), and (c)(2);
0
b. Add paragraph (c)(4);

[[Page 52029]]

0
c. Revise paragraphs (f) introductory text, (f)(1), (f)(2), and (f)(4);
0
d. Add paragraph (f)(5); and
0
e. Revise paragraphs (h)(1) introductory text, (j)(3), and (m)(2).
    The revisions and additions read as follows:


Sec.  635.4  Permits and fees.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (1) The owner of a charter boat or headboat used to fish for, take, 
retain, or possess any Atlantic HMS must obtain an HMS Charter/Headboat 
permit. A vessel issued an HMS Charter/Headboat permit for a fishing 
year shall not be issued an HMS Angling permit, a Swordfish General 
Commercial permit, or an Atlantic Tunas permit in any category for that 
same fishing year, regardless of a change in the vessel's ownership.
* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (1) The owner of any vessel used to fish recreationally for 
Atlantic HMS or on which Atlantic HMS are retained or possessed 
recreationally, must obtain an HMS Angling permit, except as provided 
in Sec.  635.4(c)(2). Atlantic HMS caught, retained, possessed, or 
landed by persons on board vessels with an HMS Angling permit may not 
be sold or transferred to any person for a commercial purpose. A vessel 
issued an HMS Angling permit for a fishing year shall not be issued an 
HMS Charter/Headboat permit, a Swordfish General Commercial permit, or 
an Atlantic Tunas permit in any category for that same fishing year, 
regardless of a change in the vessel's ownership.
    (2) A vessel with a valid Atlantic Tunas General category permit 
issued under paragraph (d) of this section or with a valid Swordfish 
General Commercial permit issued under paragraph (f) of this section, 
may fish in a recreational HMS fishing tournament if the vessel has 
registered for, paid an entry fee to, and is fishing under the rules of 
a tournament that has registered with NMFS' HMS Management Division as 
required under Sec.  635.5(d). When a vessel issued a valid Atlantic 
Tunas General category permit or a valid Swordfish General Commercial 
permit is fishing in such a tournament, such vessel must comply with 
HMS Angling category regulations, except as provided in paragraphs 
(c)(3) and (c)(4) of this section.
* * * * *
    (4) A vessel issued a Swordfish General Commercial permit fishing 
in a tournament, as authorized under Sec.  635.4(c)(2), shall comply 
with Swordfish General Commercial permit regulations when fishing for, 
retaining, possessing, or landing Atlantic swordfish.
* * * * *
    (f) Swordfish vessel permits. The Swordfish General Commercial 
permit and the HMS Charter/Headboat permit provisions in paragraphs 
(f)(1) and (2) of this section will first become effective beginning 
with issuance of the 2014 fishing permit.
    (1) Except as specified in paragraphs (n) and (o) of this section, 
the owner of a vessel of the United States used to fish for or take 
swordfish commercially from the management unit, or on which swordfish 
from the management unit are retained or possessed with an intention to 
sell, or sold must obtain, an HMS Charter/Headboat permit issued under 
paragraph (b) of this section, or one of the following swordfish 
permits: A swordfish directed limited access permit, swordfish 
incidental limited access permit, swordfish handgear limited access 
permit, or a Swordfish General Commercial permit. These permits cannot 
be held in combination with each other on the same vessel, except that 
an HMS Charter/Headboat permit may be held in combination with a 
swordfish handgear limited access permit on the same vessel. It is a 
rebuttable presumption that the owner or operator of a vessel on which 
swordfish are possessed in excess of the recreational retention limits 
intends to sell the swordfish.
    (2) The only valid commercial Federal vessel permits for swordfish 
are the HMS Charter/Headboat permit issued under paragraph (b) of this 
section (and only when on a non for-hire trip), the Swordfish General 
Commercial permit issued under paragraph (f) of this section, a 
swordfish limited access permit issued consistent with paragraphs (l) 
and (m) of this section, or permits issued under paragraphs (n) and (o) 
of this section.
* * * * *
    (4) A directed or incidental limited access permit for swordfish is 
valid only when the vessel has on board a valid limited access permit 
for shark and a valid Atlantic Tunas Longline category permit issued 
for such vessel.
    (5) A Swordfish General Commercial permit may not be held on a 
vessel in conjunction with an HMS Charter/Headboat permit issued under 
paragraph (b) of this section, an HMS Angling category permit issued 
under paragraph (c), a swordfish limited access permit issued 
consistent with paragraphs (l) and (m), an Incidental HMS Squid Trawl 
permit issued under paragraph (n), or an HMS Commercial Caribbean Small 
Boat permit issued under paragraph (o). A vessel issued a Swordfish 
General Commercial open access permit for a fishing year shall not be 
issued an HMS Angling permit or an HMS Charter/Headboat permit for that 
same fishing year, regardless of a change in the vessel's ownership.
* * * * *
    (h) * * *
    (1) Atlantic Tunas, HMS Angling, HMS Charter/Headboat, Swordfish 
General Commercial, Incidental HMS Squid Trawl, and HMS Commercial 
Caribbean Small Boat vessel permits.
* * * * *
    (j) * * *
    (3) A vessel owner issued an Atlantic tunas permit in the General, 
Harpoon, or Trap category or an Atlantic HMS permit in the Angling or 
Charter/Headboat category under paragraph (b), (c), or (d) of this 
section may change the category of the vessel permit once within 10 
calendar days of the date of issuance of the permit. After 10 calendar 
days from the date of issuance of the permit, the vessel owner may not 
change the permit category until the following fishing season.
* * * * *
    (m) * * *
    (2) Shark and swordfish permits. A vessel owner must obtain the 
applicable limited access permit(s) issued pursuant to the requirements 
in paragraphs (e) and (f) of this section or an HMS Commercial 
Caribbean Small Boat permit issued under paragraph (o) of this section 
if: the vessel is used to fish for or take sharks commercially from the 
management unit; sharks from the management unit are retained or 
possessed on the vessel with an intention to sell; or sharks from the 
management unit are sold from the vessel. A vessel owner must obtain 
the applicable limited access permit(s) issued pursuant to the 
requirements in paragraphs (e) and (f) of this section, a Swordfish 
General Commercial permit issued under paragraph (f) of this section, 
an Incidental HMS Squid Trawl permit issued under paragraph (n) of this 
section, an HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit issued under 
paragraph (o) of this section, or an HMS Charter/Headboat permit issued 
under paragraph (b) of this section which authorizes a Charter/Headboat 
to fish commercially for swordfish on a non for-hire trip subject to 
the retention limits atSec.  635.24(b)(4) if: the vessel is used to 
fish for or take swordfish commercially from the management unit; 
swordfish from the management unit are retained or possessed on the

[[Page 52030]]

vessel with an intention to sell; or swordfish from the management unit 
are sold from the vessel. The commercial retention and sale of 
swordfish from vessels issued an HMS Charter/Headboat permit is 
permissible only when the vessel is on a non for-hire trip. Only 
persons holding non-expired shark and swordfish limited access 
permit(s) in the preceding year are eligible to renew those limited 
access permit(s). Transferors may not renew limited access permits that 
have been transferred according to the procedures in paragraph (l) of 
this section.
* * * * *

0
6. In Sec.  635.21, revise paragraphs (e)(2)(i) and (ii) and (e)(4)(i) 
and (iv), add paragraph (e)(4)(v), and revise paragraph (g) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  635.21  Gear operation and deployment restrictions.

* * * * *
    (e) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (i) Only persons who have been issued a valid HMS Angling or valid 
Charter/Headboat permit, or who have been issued a valid Atlantic Tunas 
General category or Swordfish General Commercial permit and are 
participating in a tournament as provided in 635.4(c) of this part, may 
possess a blue marlin, white marlin, or roundscale spearfish in, or 
take a blue marlin, white marlin, or roundscale spearfish from, its 
management unit. Blue marlin, white marlin, or roundscale spearfish may 
only be harvested by rod and reel.
    (ii) Only persons who have been issued a valid HMS Angling or valid 
Charter/Headboat permit, or who have been issued a valid Atlantic Tunas 
General category or Swordfish General Commercial permit and are 
participating in a tournament as provided in Sec.  635.4(c) of this 
part, may possess or take a sailfish shoreward of the outer boundary of 
the Atlantic EEZ. Sailfish may only be harvested by rod and reel.
* * * * *
    (4) * * *
    (i) No person may possess north Atlantic swordfish taken from its 
management unit by any gear other than handgear, green-stick, or 
longline, except that such swordfish taken incidentally while fishing 
with a squid trawl may be retained by a vessel issued a valid 
Incidental HMS squid trawl permit, subject to restrictions specified in 
Sec.  635.24(b)(2). No person may possess south Atlantic swordfish 
taken from its management unit by any gear other than longline.
* * * * *
    (iv) Except for persons aboard a vessel that has been issued a 
directed, incidental, or handgear limited access swordfish permit, a 
Swordfish General Commercial permit, an Incidental HMS squid trawl 
permit, or an HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit under Sec.  
635.4, no person may fish for North Atlantic swordfish with, or possess 
a North Atlantic swordfish taken by, any gear other than handline or 
rod and reel.
    (v) A person aboard a vessel issued or required to be issued a 
valid Swordfish General Commercial permit may only possess North 
Atlantic swordfish taken from its management unit by rod and reel, 
handline, bandit gear, green-stick, or harpoon gear.
* * * * *
    (g) Green-stick gear. Green-stick gear may only be utilized when 
fishing from vessels issued a valid Atlantic Tunas General, Swordfish 
General Commercial, HMS Charter/Headboat, or Atlantic Tunas Longline 
category permit. The gear must be attached to the vessel, actively 
trolled with the mainline at or above the water's surface, and may not 
be deployed with more than 10 hooks or gangions attached.

0
7. In Sec.  635.22, paragraphs (f) introductory text and (f)(1) and (2) 
are revised to read as follows:


Sec.  635.22  Recreational retention limits.

* * * * *
    (f) North Atlantic swordfish. The recreational retention limits for 
North Atlantic swordfish apply to persons who fish in any manner, 
except to persons aboard a vessel that has been issued an HMS Charter/
Headboat permit under Sec.  635.4(b) and only when on a non for-hire 
trip, a directed, incidental or handgear limited access swordfish 
permit under Sec.  635.4(e) and (f), a Swordfish General Commercial 
permit under Sec.  635.4(f), an Incidental HMS Squid Trawl permit under 
Sec.  635.4(n), or an HMS Commercial Caribbean Small boat permit under 
Sec.  635.4(o).
    (1) When on a for-hire trip as defined at Sec.  635.2, vessels 
issued an HMS Charter/Headboat permit under Sec.  635.4(b), that are 
charter boats as defined under Sec.  600.10 of this chapter, may 
retain, possess, or land no more than one North Atlantic swordfish per 
paying passenger and up to six North Atlantic swordfish per vessel per 
trip. When such vessels are on a non for-hire trip, they must comply 
with the commercial retention limits for swordfish specified at Sec.  
635.24(b)(4).
    (2) When on a for-hire trip as defined at Sec.  635.2, vessels 
issued an HMS Charter/Headboat permit under Sec.  635.4(b), that are 
headboats as defined under Sec.  600.10 of this chapter, may retain, 
possess, or land no more than one North Atlantic swordfish per paying 
passenger and up to 15 North Atlantic swordfish per vessel per trip. 
When such vessels are on a non for-hire trip, they may land no more 
than the commercial retention limits for swordfish specified at Sec.  
635.24(b)(4).
* * * * *
0
8. In Sec.  635.24, paragraph (b)(4) is added to read as follows:


Sec.  635.24  Commercial retention limits for sharks, swordfish, and 
BAYS tunas.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (4) Persons aboard a vessel that has been issued a Swordfish 
General Commercial permit or an HMS Charter/Headboat permit (and only 
when on a non for-hire trip) are subject to the regional swordfish 
retention limits specified at paragraph (b)(4)(iii), which may be 
adjusted during the fishing year based upon the inseason regional 
retention limit adjustment criteria identified in paragraph (b)(4)(iv) 
below.
    (i) Regions. Regional retention limits for swordfish apply in four 
regions. For purposes of this section, these regions are: the Florida 
Swordfish Management Area as defined in Sec.  635.2; the Northwest 
Atlantic region (federal waters along the entire Atlantic coast of the 
United States north of 28[deg]17'10'' N. latitude); the Gulf of Mexico 
region (any water located in the EEZ in the entire Gulf of Mexico west 
of 82[deg] W. longitude); and the Caribbean region (the U.S. 
territorial waters within the Caribbean as defined in Sec.  622.2 of 
this chapter).
    (ii) Possession, retention, and landing restrictions. Vessels that 
have been issued a Swordfish General Commercial permit or an HMS 
Charter/Headboat permit (and only when on a non for-hire trip), as a 
condition of these permits, may not possess, retain, or land any more 
swordfish than is specified for the region in which the vessel is 
located.
    (iii) Regional retention limits. The swordfish regional retention 
limits for each region will range between zero to six swordfish per 
vessel per trip. At the start of each fishing year, the default 
regional retention limits will apply. During the fishing year, NMFS may 
adjust the default retention limits per the inseason regional retention 
limit adjustment criteria listed in Sec.  635.24(b)(4)(iv), if 
necessary. The default retention limits for the regions

[[Page 52031]]

set forth under paragraph (b)(4)(i) of this section are:
    (A) Zero swordfish per vessel per trip for the Florida Swordfish 
Management Area.
    (B) Two swordfish per vessel per trip for the Caribbean region.
    (C) Three swordfish per vessel per trip for the Northwest Atlantic 
region.
    (D) Three swordfish per vessel per trip for the Gulf of Mexico 
region.
    (iv) Inseason regional retention limit adjustment criteria. NMFS 
will file with the Office of the Federal Register for publication 
notification of any inseason adjustments to the regional retention 
limits. Before making any inseason adjustments to regional retention 
limits, NMFS will consider the following criteria and other relevant 
factors:
    (A) The usefulness of information obtained from biological sampling 
and monitoring of the North Atlantic swordfish stock;
    (B) The estimated ability of vessels participating in the fishery 
to land the amount of swordfish quota available before the end of the 
fishing year;
    (C) The estimated amounts by which quotas for other categories of 
the fishery might be exceeded;
    (D) Effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of 
the fishery management plan and its amendments;
    (E) Variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migration 
patterns of swordfish;
    (F) Effects of catch rates in one region precluding vessels in 
another region from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a 
portion of the overall swordfish quota; and
    (G) Review of dealer reports, landing trends, and the availability 
of swordfish on the fishing grounds.
* * * * *

0
9. In Sec.  635.27, paragraphs (c)(1)(i)(A) and (B) are revised to read 
as follows:


Sec.  635.27  Quotas.

* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) A swordfish from the North Atlantic stock caught prior to the 
directed fishery closure by a vessel for which a directed swordfish 
limited access permit, a swordfish handgear limited access permit, a 
HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit, a Swordfish General 
Commercial open access permit, or an HMS Charter/Headboat permit (and 
only when on a non for-hire trip) has been issued or is required to 
have been issued is counted against the directed fishery quota. The 
total baseline annual fishery quota, before any adjustments, is 2,937.6 
mt dw for each fishing year. Consistent with applicable ICCAT 
recommendations, a portion of the total baseline annual fishery quota 
may be used for transfers to another ICCAT contracting party. The 
annual directed category quota is calculated by adjusting for over- or 
under harvests, dead discards, any applicable transfers, the incidental 
category quota, the reserve quota and other adjustments as needed, and 
is subdivided into two equal semi-annual periods: one for January 1 
through June 30, and the other for July 1 through December 31.
    (B) A swordfish from the North Atlantic swordfish stock landed by a 
vessel for which an incidental swordfish limited access permit, an 
incidental HMS Squid Trawl permit, an HMS Angling permit, or an HMS 
Charter/Headboat permit (and only when on a for-hire trip) has been 
issued, or a swordfish from the North Atlantic stock caught after the 
effective date of a closure of the directed fishery from a vessel for 
which a swordfish directed limited access permit, a swordfish handgear 
limited access permit, a HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit, a 
Swordfish General Commercial open access permit, or an HMS Charter/
Headboat permit (when on a non for-hire trip) has been issued, is 
counted against the incidental category quota. The annual incidental 
category quota is 300 mt dw for each fishing year.
* * * * *

0
10. In Sec.  635.28, paragraphs (c)(1)(i)(C) and (D) are added to read 
as follows:


Sec.  635.28  Fishery closures.

* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (C) No swordfish may be possessed, landed, or sold by vessels 
issued a Swordfish General Commercial open access permit.
    (D) No swordfish may be sold by vessels issued an HMS Charter/
Headboat permit.

0
11. In Sec.  635.34, paragraph (a) is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  635.34  Adjustment of management measures.

    (a) NMFS may adjust the catch limits for BFT, as specified in Sec.  
635.23; the quotas for BFT, shark and swordfish, as specified in Sec.  
635.27; the regional retention limits for Swordfish General Commercial 
permit holders, as specified at Sec.  635.24; the marlin landing limit, 
as specified in Sec.  635.27(d); and the minimum sizes for Atlantic 
blue marlin, white marlin, and roundscale spearfish as specified in 
Sec.  635.20.
* * * * *

0
12. In Sec.  635.71, paragraphs (e)(8) and (15) are revised and 
paragraph (e)(18) is added to read as follows:


Sec.  635.71  Prohibitions.

* * * * *
    (e) * * *
    (8) Fish for North Atlantic swordfish from, possess North Atlantic 
swordfish on board, or land North Atlantic swordfish from a vessel 
using or having on board gear other than pelagic longline, green-stick 
gear, or handgear, except as specified at Sec.  635.21(e)(4)(i).
* * * * *
    (15) As the owner of a vessel permitted, or required to be 
permitted, in the Atlantic HMS Angling or the Atlantic HMS Charter/
Headboat category (and only when on a for-hire trip), fail to report a 
North Atlantic swordfish, as specified in Sec.  635.5(c)(2) or (c)(3).
* * * * *
    (18) As the owner of a vessel permitted, or required to be 
permitted, in the Swordfish General Commercial permit category, possess 
North Atlantic swordfish taken from its management unit by any gear 
other than rod and reel, handline, bandit gear, green-stick, or harpoon 
gear, as specified in Sec.  635.21(e)(4)(v).

[FR Doc. 2013-19975 Filed 8-20-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P