Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; North Atlantic Swordfish Fishery, 81770-81773 [2015-32826]

Download as PDF tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES 81770 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 251 / Thursday, December 31, 2015 / Rules and Regulations Nature and Extent of Confidentiality: The Commission will take all reasonable steps to protect the confidentiality of all Commission-held data of a reverse auction applicant consistent with the confidentiality requirements of the Spectrum Act and the Commission’s rules. See 47 U.S.C. 1452(a)(3); 47 CFR 1.2206. In addition, to the extent necessary, a full power or Class A television broadcast licensee may request confidential treatment of any report of a prohibited communication submitted to the Commission that is not already being treated as confidential pursuant to section 0.459 of the Commission’s rules. See 47 CFR 0.459. Forward auction applicants are entitled to request confidentiality in accordance with section 0.459 of the Commission’s rules, 47 CFR 0.459. Needs and Uses: In the Broadcast Incentive Auction Report and Order, the Commission adopted new requirements for parties that might participate in the reverse auction component of the television broadcast incentive auction (BIA) prohibiting certain communications and requiring a covered party that makes or receives a prohibited communication to file a report of such a communication with the Commission, along with procedures for reporting potentially prohibited communications. See 47 CFR 1.2205(b), (c), (d). The Commission’s rules prohibiting certain communications in Commission auctions are designed to reinforce existing antitrust laws, facilitate detection of collusive conduct, and deter anticompetitive behavior, without being so strict as to discourage procompetitive arrangements between auction participants. They also help assure participants that the auction process will be fair and objective, and not subject to collusion. The revised information collection implements the new BIA-specific rules in sections 1.2205(c) and 1.2205(d) by making clear the responsibility of parties who receive information that potentially violates the rules to promptly submit a report notifying the Commission, thereby helping the Commission enforce the prohibition on covered parties in the BIA, and further assuring incentive auction participants that the auction process will be fair and competitive. The prohibited communication reporting requirement required of covered parties will enable the Commission to ensure that no bidder gains an unfair advantage over other bidders in its auctions and thus enhances the competitiveness and fairness of Commission’s auctions. The information collected will be reviewed VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:05 Dec 30, 2015 Jkt 238001 and, if warranted, referred to the Commission’s Enforcement Bureau for possible investigation and administrative action. The Commission may also refer allegations of anticompetitive auction conduct to the Department of Justice for investigation. Federal Communications Commission. Gloria J. Miles, Federal Register Liaison Officer. Office of the Secretary. [FR Doc. 2015–32824 Filed 12–30–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6712–01–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 635 [Docket No. 120627194–3657–02] RIN 0648–XE295 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; North Atlantic Swordfish Fishery National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Temporary rule; Swordfish General Commercial permit retention limit inseason adjustment for Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions. AGENCY: NMFS is adjusting the Swordfish (SWO) General Commercial permit retention limits for the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions for January through June of the 2016 fishing year, unless otherwise noticed. The SWO General Commercial permit retention limits in each of these regions are increased from the default limits to six SWO per vessel per trip. The SWO General Commercial permit retention limit in the Florida SWO Management Area will remain unchanged at the default limit of zero SWO per vessel per trip. This adjustment applies to SWO General Commercial permitted vessels and Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Charter/Headboat permitted vessels when on a non for-hire trip. This action is based upon consideration of the applicable inseason regional retention limit adjustment criteria. DATES: The adjusted SWO General Commercial permit retention limits in the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions are effective January 1, 2016, through June 30, 2016. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Rick Pearson or Randy Blankinship, 727– 824–5399. SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00034 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Regulations implemented under the authority of the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA; 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.) and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) governing the harvest of North Atlantic SWO by persons and vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction are found at 50 CFR part 635. Section 635.27 subdivides the U.S. North Atlantic SWO quota recommended by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) into two equal semi-annual directed fishery quotas, an annual incidental catch quota for fishermen targeting other species or taking SWO recreationally, and a reserve category, per the allocations established in the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan (2006 Consolidated HMS FMP) (71 FR 58058, October 2, 2006), as amended, and in accordance with implementing regulations. NMFS is required under ATCA and the Magnuson-Stevens Act to provide U.S. fishing vessels with a reasonable opportunity to harvest the ICCAT-recommended quota. The 2016 adjusted North Atlantic SWO quota is expected to be 3,359.4 mt dw (equivalent to the 2015 adjusted quota). From the adjusted quota, 50 mt dw would be allocated to the reserve category for inseason adjustments and research, and 300 mt dw would be allocated to the incidental category, which includes recreational landings and landings by incidental SWO permit holders, per § 635.27(c)(1)(i). This would result in an allocation of 3,009.4 mt dw for the directed fishery, which would be split equally (1,504.7 mt dw) between two seasons in 2016 (January through June, and July through December). Adjustment of SWO General Commercial Permit Vessel Retention Limits The 2016 North Atlantic SWO fishing year, which is managed on a calendaryear basis and divided into two equal semi-annual quotas, will begin on January 1, 2016. Landings attributable to the SWO General Commercial permit are counted against the applicable semiannual directed fishery quota. Regional default retention limits for this permit have been established and are automatically effective from January 1 through December 31 each year, unless changed based on the inseason regional retention limit adjustment criteria at § 635.24(b)(4)(iv). The default retention limits established for the SWO General Commercial permit are: (1) Northwest E:\FR\FM\31DER1.SGM 31DER1 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 251 / Thursday, December 31, 2015 / Rules and Regulations Atlantic region—three SWO per vessel per trip; (2) Gulf of Mexico region— three SWO per vessel per trip; (3) U.S. Caribbean region—2 SWO per vessel per trip; and, (4) Florida SWO Management Area—zero SWO per vessel per trip. The default retention limits apply to SWO General Commercial permitted vessels and to HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels when fishing on non for-hire trips. As a condition of these permits, vessels may not possess, retain, or land any more SWO than is specified for the region in which the vessel is located. Under § 635.24(b)(4)(iii), NMFS may increase or decrease the SWO General Commercial permit vessel retention limit in any region within a range from zero to a maximum of six SWO per vessel per trip. Any adjustments to the retention limits must be based upon a consideration of the relevant criteria provided in § 635.24(b)(4)(iv), which include: The usefulness of information obtained from biological sampling and monitoring of the North Atlantic SWO stock; the estimated ability of vessels participating in the fishery to land the amount of SWO quota available before the end of the fishing year; the estimated amounts by which quotas for other categories of the fishery might be exceeded; effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the fishery management plan and its amendments; variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migration patterns of SWO; effects of catch rates in one region precluding vessels in another region from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the overall SWO quota; and, review of dealer reports, landing trends, and the availability of SWO on the fishing grounds. NMFS has considered these criteria as discussed below and their applicability to the SWO General Commercial permit retention limit in all regions for January through June of the 2016 North Atlantic SWO fishing year. During 2014, with application of the default SWO General Commercial permit retention limits, total annual directed SWO fishery landings were approximately 1,303 mt dw (39 percent of the 3,303-mt dw total annual adjusted directed fishery quota). This year, through June 30, 2015, with application of the default retention limits, directed SWO landings were 493 mt dw (32.8 percent of the 1,505 mt dw Jan. to June semi-annual adjusted directed sub-quota). On July 28, 2015, NMFS adjusted SWO General Commercial permit retention limits in the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions from default levels to six SWO per vessel per trip (80 FR 44884). Through November 30, 2015, VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:05 Dec 30, 2015 Jkt 238001 directed SWO landings for the July through December semi-annual period were approximately 541.5 mt dw (36.0 percent of the adjusted directed subquota). Total annual directed SWO landings, through November 30, 2015, were approximately 1,034.5 mt dw, or 34 percent of the 3,010 mt dw annual adjusted directed SWO quota. Given that SWO directed landings fell well below the available 2014 annual quota, and that 2015 landings continue to be below the available 2015 directed SWO quota, and considering the regulatory criteria, NMFS has determined that the SWO General Commercial permit vessel retention limit in the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions applicable to persons issued a SWO General Commercial permit or HMS Charter/Headboat permit (when on a non for-hire trip) should be increased from the default levels that would otherwise automatically become effective on January 1, 2016. A principal consideration is the objective of providing opportunities to harvest the full North Atlantic directed SWO quota without exceeding it based upon the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP goal: ‘‘Consistent with other objectives of this FMP, to manage Atlantic HMS fisheries for continuing optimum yield so as to provide the greatest overall benefit to the Nation, particularly with respect to food production, providing recreational opportunities, preserving traditional fisheries, and taking into account the protection of marine ecosystems.’’ At the same time, it is also important for NMFS to continue to provide protection to important SWO juvenile areas and migratory corridors. After considering all of the relevant criteria, NMFS has determined that increases from the default limits are warranted. With respect to the regulatory criteria, NMFS has examined dealer reports and landing trends, and determined that the information obtained from biological sampling and monitoring of the North Atlantic SWO stock is useful. Recently implemented electronic dealer reporting provides accurate and timely monitoring of landings. This information indicates that sufficient directed SWO quota will be available during 2016 if recent SWO landing trends continue. Regarding the regulatory criterion that NMFS consider ‘‘the estimated ability of vessels participating in the fishery to land the amount of SWO quota available before the end of the fishing year,’’ the directed SWO quota has not been harvested for several years and, based upon these landing trends, is not likely to be harvested or exceeded in 2016. Based PO 00000 Frm 00035 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 81771 upon recent landings rates from dealer reports, an increase in the vessel retention limit for SWO General Commercial permit holders is not likely to cause quotas for other categories of the fishery to be exceeded. Similarly, regarding the criteria that NMFS consider the estimated amounts by which quotas for other categories of the fishery might be exceeded and the effects of catch rates in one region precluding vessels in another region from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the overall SWO quota, NMFS expects there to be sufficient SWO quota for 2016, and thus increased catch rates in these three regions are not expected to preclude vessels in any of the other regions from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the overall SWO quota. Landings by vessels issued this permit (and Charter/Headboat permitted vessels on a non for-hire trip) are counted against the adjusted directed SWO quota. As indicated above, this quota has not been exceeded for several years and, based upon recent landing trends, is not likely to be exceeded in 2016. With regard to SWO abundance, the 2015 report by ICCAT’s Standing Committee on Research and Statistics indicated that the North Atlantic SWO stock is not overfished (B2011/Bmsy = 1.14), and overfishing is not occurring (F2011/Fmsy = 0.82). Increasing the retention limit for this U.S. handgear fishery is not expected to affect the SWO stock status determination because any additional landings would be in compliance with the ICCAT recommended U.S. North Atlantic SWO quota allocation. Based upon landings over the last several years, it is highly unlikely that either of the two semi-annual directed SWO subquotas will be filled with the default retention limits of three SWO per vessel per trip (Northwest Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico), and two SWO per vessel per trip (U.S. Caribbean). For the entire 2014 fishing year, 39 percent of the total adjusted directed SWO quota was filled. Landings of SWO in 2015 are expected to be lower than in 2014. Increasing the SWO General Commercial permit retention limit to six fish per vessel per trip will increase the likelihood that directed SWO landings will approach, but not exceed, the total annual directed SWO quota. Increasing opportunity beginning on January 1, 2016, is also important because of the migratory nature and seasonal distribution of SWO, one of the regulatory criteria to be considered when changing the retention limit inseason (variations in seasonal E:\FR\FM\31DER1.SGM 31DER1 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES 81772 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 251 / Thursday, December 31, 2015 / Rules and Regulations distribution, abundance, or migration patterns of SWO). In a particular geographic region, or waters accessible from a particular port, the amount of fishing opportunity for SWO may be constrained by the short amount of time the SWO are present as they migrate. Dealer reports for Swordfish General Commercial permitted vessels indicate that swordfish are available from January through June in both the Northwest Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions and are likely to be available in the U.S. Caribbean region during January. Based upon these considerations, NMFS has determined that a six-fish per vessel per trip SWO General Commercial permit retention limit is warranted in the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions from January 1, 2016 through June 30, 2016, for SWO General Commercial permitted vessels and HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels when on a non for-hire trip. This will provide a reasonable opportunity to harvest the U.S. quota of SWO without exceeding it, while maintaining an equitable distribution of fishing opportunities; help achieve optimum yield in the SWO fishery; allow for the collection of data for stock monitoring purposes; and be consistent with the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, as amended. With regard to the objectives of the FMP, this adjustment provides the greatest overall benefit to the Nation, particularly with respect to food production, by increasing commercial SWO fishing opportunities without exceeding the available quota. It helps to preserve a very traditional SWO handgear fishery (rod and reel, handline, harpoon, bandit gear, and greenstick) which, in New England, dates back to the 1880’s. Although this action does not specifically provide recreational fishing opportunities, it will have a minimal impact on this sector because recreational landings are counted against a separate incidental SWO quota. Finally, as discussed in the next paragraph, this action takes into account the protection of marine ecosystems by maintaining a zero-fish retention limit in the Florida Swordfish Management Area. Therefore, NMFS increases the SWO General Commercial permit retention limits from the default levels to six SWO per vessel per trip in these three regions, effective from January 1, 2016 through June 30, 2016, unless otherwise noticed. NMFS has determined that the retention limit will remain at zero SWO per vessel per trip in the Florida SWO Management Area at this time. As VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:05 Dec 30, 2015 Jkt 238001 described in Amendment 8 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, 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 SWO habitat, and is essentially a narrow migratory corridor containing high concentrations of SWO located in close proximity to high concentrations of people who may fish for them. Public comment on Amendment 8, including from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, indicated concern about the resultant high potential for the improper rapid growth of a commercial fishery, increased catches of undersized SWO, the potential for larger numbers of fishermen in the area, and the potential for crowding of fishermen, which could lead to gear and user conflicts. These concerns remain valid. NMFS will continue to collect information to evaluate the appropriateness of the retention limit in the Florida SWO Management Area and other regional retention limits. These adjustments are consistent with the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP as amended, ATCA, and the MagnusonStevens Act, and are not expected to negatively impact stock health. Monitoring and Reporting NMFS will continue to monitor the SWO fishery closely in 2016 through mandatory landings and catch reports. Dealers are required to submit landing reports and negative reports (if no SWO were purchased) on a weekly basis. Depending upon the level of fishing effort and catch rates of SWO, NMFS may determine that additional retention limit adjustments or closures are necessary to ensure that available quota is not exceeded or to enhance fishing opportunities. Subsequent actions, if any, will be published in the Federal Register. In addition, fishermen may access http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/ hms/species/swordfish/landings/ index.html for updates on quota monitoring. Classification The Assistant Administrator for NMFS (AA) finds that it is impracticable and contrary to the public interest to provide prior notice of, and an opportunity for public comment on, this action for the following reasons: The regulations implementing the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, as amended, provide for inseason retention limit adjustments to respond to changes in SWO landings, the availability of SWO on the fishing grounds, the migratory nature of this species, and PO 00000 Frm 00036 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 regional variations in the fishery. Based on available SWO quota, stock abundance, fishery performance in recent years, and the availability of SWO on the fishing grounds, among other considerations, adjustment to the SWO General Commercial permit retention limits from the default levels is warranted. Analysis of available data shows that adjustment to the SWO daily retention limit from the default level would result in minimal risks of exceeding the ICCAT-allocated quota. NMFS provides notification of retention limit adjustments by publishing the notice in the Federal Register, emailing individuals who have subscribed to the Atlantic HMS News electronic newsletter, and updating the information posted on the ‘‘Atlantic HMS Breaking News’’ Web site at http:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/news/ breaking_news.html. Delays in temporarily increasing these retention limits caused by the time required to publish a proposed rule and accept public comment would adversely affect those SWO General Commercial permit holders and HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders that would otherwise have an opportunity to harvest more than the default retention limits of three SWO per vessel per trip in the Northwest Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions, and two SWO per vessel per trip in the U.S. Caribbean region. Further, any delay beyond January 1, 2016, could exacerbate the problem of low SWO landings and subsequent quota rollovers. Limited opportunities to harvest the directed SWO quota may have negative social and economic impacts for U.S. fishermen. Adjustment of the retention limits needs to be effective on January 1, 2016, to allow the impacted sectors to benefit from the adjustment during the relevant time period, which could pass by for some fishermen if the action is delayed for notice and public comment, and to not preclude fishing opportunities for fishermen who have access to the fishery during a short time period. Therefore, the AA finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive prior notice and the opportunity for public comment. For all of the above reasons, there is also good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d) to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness. This action is being taken under 50 CFR 635.24(b)(4) and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq. and 1801 et seq. E:\FR\FM\31DER1.SGM 31DER1 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 251 / Thursday, December 31, 2015 / Rules and Regulations Dated: December 23, 2015. Alan D. Risenhoover, Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. 6147, fax: 206–526–6736, or email: gretchen.hanshew@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: [FR Doc. 2015–32826 Filed 12–30–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 660 [Docket No. 140904754–5188–02] RIN 0648–BF63 Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; Fisheries Off West Coast States; Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery; 2015–2016 Biennial Specifications and Management Measures; Inseason Adjustments National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule; inseason adjustments to biennial groundfish management measures. AGENCY: This final rule announces inseason changes to management measures in the Pacific Coast groundfish fisheries. This action, which is authorized by the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan (PCGFMP), is intended to allow fisheries to access more abundant groundfish stocks while protecting overfished and depleted stocks. This document also announces a prohibition on the use of midwater trawl gear in the Shorebased Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) Program shoreward of the boundary line approximating the 150 fm (274 m) depth contour via automatic action, with actual notice (by phone and email) to participants, at noon local time, November 26, 2015 in order to reduce the risk of exceeding the canary rockfish annual catch limit (ACL). DATES: This final rule is effective January 1, 2016. The depth restrictions for midwater trawl gear were made through automatic action, and are published in the Federal Register as soon as practicable after they are issued. The depth restriction for vessels using midwater trawl gear, which was announced by actual notice (by phone and email) prior to implementation, is applicable from noon local time, November 26, 2015 through midnight local time, December 31, 2015. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Gretchen Hanshew, phone: 206–526– tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:05 Dec 30, 2015 Jkt 238001 Electronic Access This rule is accessible via the Internet at the Office of the Federal Register Web site at https://www.federalregister.gov. Background information and documents are available at the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s Web site at http://www.pcouncil.org/. Copies of the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) for the Groundfish Specifications and Management Measures for 2015– 2016 and Biennial Periods Thereafter are available from Donald McIsaac, Executive Director, Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council), 7700 NE Ambassador Place, Portland, OR 97220, phone: 503–820–2280. Background The Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council)—in coordination with Pacific Coast Treaty Indian Tribes and the States of Washington, Oregon, and California—recommended changes to groundfish management measures at its November 13–19, 2015, meeting. Specifically, the Council recommended a revised schedule of trip limits for big skate in the Shorebased IFQ Program for 2016. This rule revises big skate trip limits consistent with the Council’s November recommendations. Before 2015, big skate was managed as a component stock within the Other Fish complex. The big skate overfishing limit (OFL) estimate, along with the estimated OFLs for the other species in the complex, contributed to the OFL specified in regulation for the Other Fish complex. Species managed in complexes do not have OFLs specified in regulation. The Council recommended, and NMFS approved, the designation of big skate as an ecosystem component species, beginning in 2015 (80 FR 12567, March 10, 2015). As described in the inseason action that implemented trip limits for big skate in 2015 (80 FR 31858, June 4, 2015), new information available during 2015 indicated that harvest of big skate was much higher than anticipated and was approaching or exceeding the 2014 estimated OFL contribution. The Council recommended, and NMFS implemented, trip limits on June 1, 2015, to reduce impacts to big skate in the Shorebased IFQ Program. Trip limits for big skate were further adjusted on August 14, 2015, after review of updated fishery information and best available information regarding discard mortality of big skate (80 FR 50212, August 19, 2015). As part of the ongoing development of the 2017–2018 PO 00000 Frm 00037 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 81773 specifications, the Council is reconsidering whether big skate should be reclassified because the species may not be appropriate as an ecosystem component species. At its November meeting, the Council considered updated fishery information and further refined big skate trip limits for the second year of the biennial cycle. The Council’s Groundfish Management Team (GMT) continued analysis of available fishery data to estimate and project catch of big skate in the Shorebased IFQ Program under different trip limit scenarios. The Council considered an apparent seasonal fluctuation in both frequency and magnitude of big skate landings, with higher catch in the summer and lower catch in the winter. The Council also considered feedback from individuals in the Shorebased IFQ Program regarding catch patterns and targeting practices. The Council recommended, and NMFS is implementing, the following big skate trip limits in the Shorebased IFQ Program, beginning January 1, 2016: 5,000 lbs/2 months (2,268 kg/2 months) for Period 1; 25,000 pounds/2 months (11,340 kg/2 months) for Period 2; 30,000 pounds/2 months (13,608 kg/2 months) for Period 3; 35,000 pounds/2 months (15,876 kg/2 months) for Period 4; 10,000 pounds/2 months (4,536 kg/2 months) for Period 5; and 5,000 pounds/ 2 months (2,268 kg/2 months) for Period 6. Best estimates indicate that total mortality of big skate through the end of 2016 under this trip limit structure would be 450 mt, 91 mt lower than the estimated 2016 OFL of 541 mt and 44 mt lower than the estimated 2016 ABC of 494 mt. Depth Restriction via Actual Notice in the Shorebased IFQ Program Subsequent to the November Council meeting, higher than anticipated catch of canary rockfish occurred in the Shorebased IFQ Program. NMFS took automatic action to impose a depth restriction for vessels using midwater trawl gear in the Shorebased IFQ Program, applicable at noon local time, November 26, 2015. This rule serves as notification of the November 26, 2015 automatic action. The Shorebased IFQ Program may be restricted or closed, as determined necessary by the Regional Administrator, as a result of projected overages within the Shorebased IFQ Program, the Mothership Coop Program, or the Catcher/Processor Coop Program. As of November 24, 2015, the Shorebased IFQ Program was projected to exceed the total quota pounds available to the sector (2015 allocation, plus surplus carryover from 2014) if E:\FR\FM\31DER1.SGM 31DER1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 251 (Thursday, December 31, 2015)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 81770-81773]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-32826]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

[Docket No. 120627194-3657-02]
RIN 0648-XE295


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; North Atlantic Swordfish 
Fishery

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

ACTION: Temporary rule; Swordfish General Commercial permit retention 
limit inseason adjustment for Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and 
U.S. Caribbean regions.

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SUMMARY: NMFS is adjusting the Swordfish (SWO) General Commercial 
permit retention limits for the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and 
U.S. Caribbean regions for January through June of the 2016 fishing 
year, unless otherwise noticed. The SWO General Commercial permit 
retention limits in each of these regions are increased from the 
default limits to six SWO per vessel per trip. The SWO General 
Commercial permit retention limit in the Florida SWO Management Area 
will remain unchanged at the default limit of zero SWO per vessel per 
trip. This adjustment applies to SWO General Commercial permitted 
vessels and Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Charter/Headboat permitted 
vessels when on a non for-hire trip. This action is based upon 
consideration of the applicable inseason regional retention limit 
adjustment criteria.

DATES: The adjusted SWO General Commercial permit retention limits in 
the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions are 
effective January 1, 2016, through June 30, 2016.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Rick Pearson or Randy Blankinship, 
727-824-5399.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Regulations implemented under the authority 
of the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA; 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.) and 
the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-
Stevens Act; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) governing the harvest of North 
Atlantic SWO by persons and vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction are 
found at 50 CFR part 635. Section 635.27 subdivides the U.S. North 
Atlantic SWO quota recommended by the International Commission for the 
Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) into two equal semi-annual 
directed fishery quotas, an annual incidental catch quota for fishermen 
targeting other species or taking SWO recreationally, and a reserve 
category, per the allocations established in the 2006 Consolidated 
Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan (2006 Consolidated HMS 
FMP) (71 FR 58058, October 2, 2006), as amended, and in accordance with 
implementing regulations. NMFS is required under ATCA and the Magnuson-
Stevens Act to provide U.S. fishing vessels with a reasonable 
opportunity to harvest the ICCAT-recommended quota.
    The 2016 adjusted North Atlantic SWO quota is expected to be 
3,359.4 mt dw (equivalent to the 2015 adjusted quota). From the 
adjusted quota, 50 mt dw would be allocated to the reserve category for 
inseason adjustments and research, and 300 mt dw would be allocated to 
the incidental category, which includes recreational landings and 
landings by incidental SWO permit holders, per Sec.  635.27(c)(1)(i). 
This would result in an allocation of 3,009.4 mt dw for the directed 
fishery, which would be split equally (1,504.7 mt dw) between two 
seasons in 2016 (January through June, and July through December).

Adjustment of SWO General Commercial Permit Vessel Retention Limits

    The 2016 North Atlantic SWO fishing year, which is managed on a 
calendar-year basis and divided into two equal semi-annual quotas, will 
begin on January 1, 2016. Landings attributable to the SWO General 
Commercial permit are counted against the applicable semi-annual 
directed fishery quota. Regional default retention limits for this 
permit have been established and are automatically effective from 
January 1 through December 31 each year, unless changed based on the 
inseason regional retention limit adjustment criteria at Sec.  
635.24(b)(4)(iv). The default retention limits established for the SWO 
General Commercial permit are: (1) Northwest

[[Page 81771]]

Atlantic region--three SWO per vessel per trip; (2) Gulf of Mexico 
region--three SWO per vessel per trip; (3) U.S. Caribbean region--2 SWO 
per vessel per trip; and, (4) Florida SWO Management Area--zero SWO per 
vessel per trip. The default retention limits apply to SWO General 
Commercial permitted vessels and to HMS Charter/Headboat permitted 
vessels when fishing on non for-hire trips. As a condition of these 
permits, vessels may not possess, retain, or land any more SWO than is 
specified for the region in which the vessel is located.
    Under Sec.  635.24(b)(4)(iii), NMFS may increase or decrease the 
SWO General Commercial permit vessel retention limit in any region 
within a range from zero to a maximum of six SWO per vessel per trip. 
Any adjustments to the retention limits must be based upon a 
consideration of the relevant criteria provided in Sec.  
635.24(b)(4)(iv), which include: The usefulness of information obtained 
from biological sampling and monitoring of the North Atlantic SWO 
stock; the estimated ability of vessels participating in the fishery to 
land the amount of SWO quota available before the end of the fishing 
year; the estimated amounts by which quotas for other categories of the 
fishery might be exceeded; effects of the adjustment on accomplishing 
the objectives of the fishery management plan and its amendments; 
variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migration patterns 
of SWO; effects of catch rates in one region precluding vessels in 
another region from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a 
portion of the overall SWO quota; and, review of dealer reports, 
landing trends, and the availability of SWO on the fishing grounds.
    NMFS has considered these criteria as discussed below and their 
applicability to the SWO General Commercial permit retention limit in 
all regions for January through June of the 2016 North Atlantic SWO 
fishing year. During 2014, with application of the default SWO General 
Commercial permit retention limits, total annual directed SWO fishery 
landings were approximately 1,303 mt dw (39 percent of the 3,303-mt dw 
total annual adjusted directed fishery quota). This year, through June 
30, 2015, with application of the default retention limits, directed 
SWO landings were 493 mt dw (32.8 percent of the 1,505 mt dw Jan. to 
June semi-annual adjusted directed sub-quota). On July 28, 2015, NMFS 
adjusted SWO General Commercial permit retention limits in the 
Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions from 
default levels to six SWO per vessel per trip (80 FR 44884). Through 
November 30, 2015, directed SWO landings for the July through December 
semi-annual period were approximately 541.5 mt dw (36.0 percent of the 
adjusted directed sub-quota). Total annual directed SWO landings, 
through November 30, 2015, were approximately 1,034.5 mt dw, or 34 
percent of the 3,010 mt dw annual adjusted directed SWO quota.
    Given that SWO directed landings fell well below the available 2014 
annual quota, and that 2015 landings continue to be below the available 
2015 directed SWO quota, and considering the regulatory criteria, NMFS 
has determined that the SWO General Commercial permit vessel retention 
limit in the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean 
regions applicable to persons issued a SWO General Commercial permit or 
HMS Charter/Headboat permit (when on a non for-hire trip) should be 
increased from the default levels that would otherwise automatically 
become effective on January 1, 2016.
    A principal consideration is the objective of providing 
opportunities to harvest the full North Atlantic directed SWO quota 
without exceeding it based upon the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP goal: 
``Consistent with other objectives of this FMP, to manage Atlantic HMS 
fisheries for continuing optimum yield so as to provide the greatest 
overall benefit to the Nation, particularly with respect to food 
production, providing recreational opportunities, preserving 
traditional fisheries, and taking into account the protection of marine 
ecosystems.'' At the same time, it is also important for NMFS to 
continue to provide protection to important SWO juvenile areas and 
migratory corridors.
    After considering all of the relevant criteria, NMFS has determined 
that increases from the default limits are warranted. With respect to 
the regulatory criteria, NMFS has examined dealer reports and landing 
trends, and determined that the information obtained from biological 
sampling and monitoring of the North Atlantic SWO stock is useful. 
Recently implemented electronic dealer reporting provides accurate and 
timely monitoring of landings. This information indicates that 
sufficient directed SWO quota will be available during 2016 if recent 
SWO landing trends continue. Regarding the regulatory criterion that 
NMFS consider ``the estimated ability of vessels participating in the 
fishery to land the amount of SWO quota available before the end of the 
fishing year,'' the directed SWO quota has not been harvested for 
several years and, based upon these landing trends, is not likely to be 
harvested or exceeded in 2016. Based upon recent landings rates from 
dealer reports, an increase in the vessel retention limit for SWO 
General Commercial permit holders is not likely to cause quotas for 
other categories of the fishery to be exceeded. Similarly, regarding 
the criteria that NMFS consider the estimated amounts by which quotas 
for other categories of the fishery might be exceeded and the effects 
of catch rates in one region precluding vessels in another region from 
having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the overall SWO 
quota, NMFS expects there to be sufficient SWO quota for 2016, and thus 
increased catch rates in these three regions are not expected to 
preclude vessels in any of the other regions from having a reasonable 
opportunity to harvest a portion of the overall SWO quota. Landings by 
vessels issued this permit (and Charter/Headboat permitted vessels on a 
non for-hire trip) are counted against the adjusted directed SWO quota. 
As indicated above, this quota has not been exceeded for several years 
and, based upon recent landing trends, is not likely to be exceeded in 
2016.
    With regard to SWO abundance, the 2015 report by ICCAT's Standing 
Committee on Research and Statistics indicated that the North Atlantic 
SWO stock is not overfished (B2011/Bmsy = 1.14), 
and overfishing is not occurring (F2011/Fmsy = 
0.82). Increasing the retention limit for this U.S. handgear fishery is 
not expected to affect the SWO stock status determination because any 
additional landings would be in compliance with the ICCAT recommended 
U.S. North Atlantic SWO quota allocation.
    Based upon landings over the last several years, it is highly 
unlikely that either of the two semi-annual directed SWO subquotas will 
be filled with the default retention limits of three SWO per vessel per 
trip (Northwest Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico), and two SWO per vessel 
per trip (U.S. Caribbean). For the entire 2014 fishing year, 39 percent 
of the total adjusted directed SWO quota was filled. Landings of SWO in 
2015 are expected to be lower than in 2014.
    Increasing the SWO General Commercial permit retention limit to six 
fish per vessel per trip will increase the likelihood that directed SWO 
landings will approach, but not exceed, the total annual directed SWO 
quota. Increasing opportunity beginning on January 1, 2016, is also 
important because of the migratory nature and seasonal distribution of 
SWO, one of the regulatory criteria to be considered when changing the 
retention limit inseason (variations in seasonal

[[Page 81772]]

distribution, abundance, or migration patterns of SWO). In a particular 
geographic region, or waters accessible from a particular port, the 
amount of fishing opportunity for SWO may be constrained by the short 
amount of time the SWO are present as they migrate. Dealer reports for 
Swordfish General Commercial permitted vessels indicate that swordfish 
are available from January through June in both the Northwest Atlantic 
and Gulf of Mexico regions and are likely to be available in the U.S. 
Caribbean region during January.
    Based upon these considerations, NMFS has determined that a six-
fish per vessel per trip SWO General Commercial permit retention limit 
is warranted in the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. 
Caribbean regions from January 1, 2016 through June 30, 2016, for SWO 
General Commercial permitted vessels and HMS Charter/Headboat permitted 
vessels when on a non for-hire trip. This will provide a reasonable 
opportunity to harvest the U.S. quota of SWO without exceeding it, 
while maintaining an equitable distribution of fishing opportunities; 
help achieve optimum yield in the SWO fishery; allow for the collection 
of data for stock monitoring purposes; and be consistent with the 
objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, as amended. With regard to 
the objectives of the FMP, this adjustment provides the greatest 
overall benefit to the Nation, particularly with respect to food 
production, by increasing commercial SWO fishing opportunities without 
exceeding the available quota. It helps to preserve a very traditional 
SWO handgear fishery (rod and reel, handline, harpoon, bandit gear, and 
greenstick) which, in New England, dates back to the 1880's. Although 
this action does not specifically provide recreational fishing 
opportunities, it will have a minimal impact on this sector because 
recreational landings are counted against a separate incidental SWO 
quota. Finally, as discussed in the next paragraph, this action takes 
into account the protection of marine ecosystems by maintaining a zero-
fish retention limit in the Florida Swordfish Management Area. 
Therefore, NMFS increases the SWO General Commercial permit retention 
limits from the default levels to six SWO per vessel per trip in these 
three regions, effective from January 1, 2016 through June 30, 2016, 
unless otherwise noticed.
    NMFS has determined that the retention limit will remain at zero 
SWO per vessel per trip in the Florida SWO Management Area at this 
time. As described in Amendment 8 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, 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 SWO habitat, and is 
essentially a narrow migratory corridor containing high concentrations 
of SWO located in close proximity to high concentrations of people who 
may fish for them. Public comment on Amendment 8, including from the 
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, indicated concern 
about the resultant high potential for the improper rapid growth of a 
commercial fishery, increased catches of undersized SWO, the potential 
for larger numbers of fishermen in the area, and the potential for 
crowding of fishermen, which could lead to gear and user conflicts. 
These concerns remain valid. NMFS will continue to collect information 
to evaluate the appropriateness of the retention limit in the Florida 
SWO Management Area and other regional retention limits.
    These adjustments are consistent with the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP 
as amended, ATCA, and the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and are not expected to 
negatively impact stock health.

Monitoring and Reporting

    NMFS will continue to monitor the SWO fishery closely in 2016 
through mandatory landings and catch reports. Dealers are required to 
submit landing reports and negative reports (if no SWO were purchased) 
on a weekly basis.
    Depending upon the level of fishing effort and catch rates of SWO, 
NMFS may determine that additional retention limit adjustments or 
closures are necessary to ensure that available quota is not exceeded 
or to enhance fishing opportunities. Subsequent actions, if any, will 
be published in the Federal Register. In addition, fishermen may access 
http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/species/swordfish/landings/index.html 
for updates on quota monitoring.

Classification

    The Assistant Administrator for NMFS (AA) finds that it is 
impracticable and contrary to the public interest to provide prior 
notice of, and an opportunity for public comment on, this action for 
the following reasons:
    The regulations implementing the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, as 
amended, provide for inseason retention limit adjustments to respond to 
changes in SWO landings, the availability of SWO on the fishing 
grounds, the migratory nature of this species, and regional variations 
in the fishery. Based on available SWO quota, stock abundance, fishery 
performance in recent years, and the availability of SWO on the fishing 
grounds, among other considerations, adjustment to the SWO General 
Commercial permit retention limits from the default levels is 
warranted. Analysis of available data shows that adjustment to the SWO 
daily retention limit from the default level would result in minimal 
risks of exceeding the ICCAT-allocated quota. NMFS provides 
notification of retention limit adjustments by publishing the notice in 
the Federal Register, emailing individuals who have subscribed to the 
Atlantic HMS News electronic newsletter, and updating the information 
posted on the ``Atlantic HMS Breaking News'' Web site at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/news/breaking_news.html. Delays in 
temporarily increasing these retention limits caused by the time 
required to publish a proposed rule and accept public comment would 
adversely affect those SWO General Commercial permit holders and HMS 
Charter/Headboat permit holders that would otherwise have an 
opportunity to harvest more than the default retention limits of three 
SWO per vessel per trip in the Northwest Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico 
regions, and two SWO per vessel per trip in the U.S. Caribbean region. 
Further, any delay beyond January 1, 2016, could exacerbate the problem 
of low SWO landings and subsequent quota rollovers. Limited 
opportunities to harvest the directed SWO quota may have negative 
social and economic impacts for U.S. fishermen. Adjustment of the 
retention limits needs to be effective on January 1, 2016, to allow the 
impacted sectors to benefit from the adjustment during the relevant 
time period, which could pass by for some fishermen if the action is 
delayed for notice and public comment, and to not preclude fishing 
opportunities for fishermen who have access to the fishery during a 
short time period. Therefore, the AA finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 
553(b)(B) to waive prior notice and the opportunity for public comment. 
For all of the above reasons, there is also good cause under 5 U.S.C. 
553(d) to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness.
    This action is being taken under 50 CFR 635.24(b)(4) and is exempt 
from review under Executive Order 12866.

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


[[Page 81773]]


    Dated: December 23, 2015.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2015-32826 Filed 12-30-15; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P