Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Fisheries, 19-21 [2015-32288]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 1 / Monday, January 4, 2016 / Rules and Regulations Protection of Human Health (2000). EPA 822–B–00–004. USEPA. 2006. Reregistration Eligibility Decision for Terbufos. Office of Pesticide Programs. Available on the Internet at: http://archive.epa.gov/pesticides/ reregistration/web/pdf/terbufos_red.pdf. Accessed Oct 2015. USEPA. 2007. Revised Interim Reregistration Decision for Dimethoate. Available on the Internet at: http://archive.epa.gov/ pesticides/reregistration/web/pdf/ dimethoate_ired_revised.pdf. Accessed October 2015. USEPA. 2008. The Analysis of Occurrence Data from the First Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Regulation (UCMR 1) in Support of Regulatory Determinations for the Second Drinking Water Contaminant Candidate List. EPA 815–R–08–012. June 2008. USEPA. 2009. Drinking Water Contaminant Candidate List 3—Final. Federal Register. Vol. 74, No. 194, p. 51850. October 8, 2009. USEPA. 2012. Storage and Retrieval (STORET) Data Warehouse. Available on the Internet at: http://www.epa.gov/ storet/index.html. Data Warehouse. Accessed March 2012. USEPA. 2014a. Protocol for the Regulatory Determinations 3. Including Appendices A–F. EPA 815–R14–005. April 2014. USEPA. 2014b. Regulatory Determinations 3 Support Document. EPA 815–R14–003. April 2014. USEPA. 2014c. Announcement of the Preliminary Regulatory Determinations for Contaminants on the Third Drinking Water Contaminant Candidate List; Proposed Rule. Federal Register. Vol. 79, No. 202, p. 62716. October 20, 2014. USEPA. 2015a. Drinking Water Contaminant Candidate List 4—Draft. Federal Register. Vol. 80, No. 23, p. 6076. February 4, 2015. USEPA. 2015b. Regulatory Determinations 3 Support Document (Final). EPA 815– R15–014. December 2015. USEPA. 2015c. Occurrence Data from the Second Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Regulation (UCMR 2). EPA 815–R15–013. December 2015. Dated: December 22, 2015. Gina McCarthy, Administrator. [FR Doc. 2015–32760 Filed 12–31–15; 8:45 am] tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES BILLING CODE 6560–50–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:36 Dec 31, 2015 Jkt 238001 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 635 [Docket Nos. 120328229–4949–02 and 150121066–5717–02] RIN 0648–XE346 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Fisheries National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Temporary rule; annual adjustment of Atlantic bluefin tuna Purse Seine and Reserve category quotas; inseason quota transfer from the Reserve category to the Longline category. AGENCY: NMFS is adjusting the Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) Purse Seine and Reserve category quotas for 2016, based on regulations implementing Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan. NMFS also is transferring inseason 34 metric tons (mt) of BFT quota from the Reserve category to the Longline category. This action is based on consideration of the regulatory determination criteria regarding inseason adjustments. The transfer to the Longline category is applied to eligible Atlantic Tunas Longline category permitted vessels with Individual Bluefin Quota (IBQ) shares, and as a result of this transfer, current IBQ vessel accounts will be distributed 0.25 mt of IBQ allocation each. DATES: Effective January 1, 2016, through December 31, 2016. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sarah McLaughlin, Tom Warren, or Brad McHale, 978–281–9260. 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 BFT by persons and vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction are found at 50 CFR part 635. Section 635.27 subdivides the U.S. BFT quota recommended by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) among the various domestic fishing categories, per the allocations established in the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan (2006 Consolidated SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 19 HMS FMP) (71 FR 58058, October 2, 2006), as amended by Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP (Amendment 7) (79 FR 71510, December 2, 2014). 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. Annual Adjustment of the BFT Purse Seine and Reserve Category Quotas In 2015, NMFS implemented a final rule that increased the U.S. BFT quota and subquotas per ICCAT Recommendation 14–05 (80 FR 52198, August 28, 2015). As a result, based on the currently codified U.S. quota of 1,058.79 mt (not including the 25 mt allocated by ICCAT to the United States to account for bycatch of BFT in pelagic longline fisheries in the Northeast Distant Gear Restricted Area), the baseline Purse Seine, Longline, and Reserve category quotas are codified as 184.3 mt, 148.3 mt, and 24.8 mt, respectively. See § 635.27(a). Pursuant to § 635.27(a)(4), NMFS has determined the amount of quota available to individual Atlantic Tunas Purse Seine category participants in 2016, based on their BFT catch (landings and dead discards) in 2015. Specifically, NMFS is making available to each Purse Seine category participant 100 percent, 75 percent, 50 percent, or 25 percent of the individual baseline quota allocations based on 2015 catch, as described in § 635.27(a)(4)(ii), and is reallocating the remainder to the Reserve category for 2016. NMFS has calculated the amounts of quota available to individual Purse Seine fishery participants based on their individual catch levels in 2015 and the codified process adopted in Amendment 7. Total Purse Seine category BFT catches were 38.8 mt (33.9 mt of landings and 4.9 mt of dead discards) in 2015. Consistent with § 635.27(a)(4)(v)(C), NMFS will notify Atlantic Tunas Purse Seine fishery participants of the amount of quota available for their use this year through the Individual Bluefin Quota electronic system established under § 635.15 and in writing. Based on the procedures described above and by summing the individual available allocations, NMFS has determined the 2016 Purse Seine category quota available to Purse Seine fishery participants is 82.9 mt. Thus, the amount of Purse Seine category quota to be reallocated to the Reserve category is 101.4 mt. This reallocation would result in a 2016 Reserve category quota of 126.2 mt (24.8 mt + 101.4 mt). However, NMFS also is taking action, as described E:\FR\FM\04JAR1.SGM 04JAR1 20 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 1 / Monday, January 4, 2016 / Rules and Regulations tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES in the Quota Transfer section below, to transfer 34 mt from the Reserve category to the Longline category such that the 2016 Reserve category quota as adjusted by this action as a whole would be 92.2 mt. Consistent with the quota regulations, NMFS may allocate any portion of the Reserve category quota for inseason or annual adjustments to any fishing category quota pursuant to regulatory determination criteria described at 50 CFR 635.27(a)(8), in addition to using the Reserve category quota for scientific research collection of BFT. NMFS anticipates that it will announce additional BFT quota adjustments during 2016. For example, when complete 2015 BFT catch information is available and finalized, NMFS may augment the Reserve further by carrying forward underharvest, if any, from 2015, consistent with ICCAT limits. Subsequent notices will be published in the Federal Register. In addition, fishermen may call the Atlantic Tunas Information Line at (978) 281–9260, or access hmspermits.noaa.gov, for updates. Quota Transfer Under § 635.15(b)(5)(ii), as implemented through Amendment 7, additional IBQ may be allocated to eligible vessels with IBQ shares, after the initial annual allocations if the U.S. baseline quota increases as a result of an ICCAT recommendation or as a result of a transfer of quota from the Reserve category to the Longline category, pursuant to criteria for quota adjustments. Under § 635.27(a)(9), NMFS has the authority to transfer quota among fishing categories or subcategories, after considering determination criteria provided under § 635.27(a)(8), which are: The usefulness of information obtained from catches in the particular category for biological sampling and monitoring of the status of the stock; the catches of the particular category quota to date and the likelihood of closure of that segment of the fishery if no adjustment is made; the projected ability of the vessels fishing under the particular category quota to harvest the additional amount of BFT before the end of the fishing year; the estimated amounts by which quotas for other gear categories of the fishery might be exceeded; effects of the adjustment on BFT rebuilding and overfishing; effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the fishery management plan; variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migration patterns of BFT; effects of catch rates in one area precluding vessels in another area from VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:36 Dec 31, 2015 Jkt 238001 having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the category’s quota; review of dealer reports, daily landing trends, and the availability of the BFT on the fishing grounds; optimizing fishing opportunity; accounting for dead discards, facilitating quota monitoring, supporting other fishing monitoring programs through quota allocations and/ or generation of revenue; and support of research through quota allocations and/ or generation of revenue. NMFS has considered the determination criteria regarding inseason adjustments and their applicability to the Longline category fishery and have determined that a quota transfer is warranted, as explained below. Consistent with the criteria for quota adjustments, this transfer is intended to increase the amount of quota available to pelagic longline permitted vessels with IBQ, and therefore help vessel owners account for BFT landings and dead discards while fostering conditions in which permit holders become more willing to lease IBQ. As described below, the amount of quota available to individual pelagic longline vessels will be particularly important beginning in 2016. The revised Longline category quota would support the broader objectives of Amendment 7, which include reducing BFT interactions and dead discards while maintaining an economically viable swordfish and yellowfin tuna directed fishery. Under Amendment 7, a vessel must have IBQ to account for its BFT landings and dead discards. If a vessel has insufficient IBQ to account for such landings and dead discards, it goes into ‘‘quota debt.’’ Starting in 2016, a Longline category permitted vessel will not be allowed to fish with pelagic longline gear if it has outstanding quota debt or does not have the minimum amount of quota to fish (i.e., 0.125 mt (276 lb) to depart on a fishing trip in the Atlantic and 0.25 mt (551 lb) to depart on a fishing trip in the Gulf of Mexico. Furthermore, vessels that had a quota debt remaining at the end of 2015 will be responsible for accounting for that quota debt using 2016 IBQ allocation before they may fish in 2016. Approximately one-fifth of active pelagic longline vessels had outstanding quota debt late in 2015, and quota leasing among fishery participants was limited. NMFS believes the reason for the limited quota leasing was due to the leasing program being so new, and shareholders may have been unwilling to lease quota to other shareholders because they did not know if they would have sufficient quota to account for any BFT they may catch. PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 With respect to the effects of the adjustment on BFT rebuilding and overfishing and accomplishing the objectives of the fishery management plan, this action would be taken consistent with the previously implemented and analyzed quotas, and it is not expected to negatively impact stock health or otherwise affect the stock in ways not previously analyzed. The transfer of 34 mt of BFT quota from the Reserve category to the Longline category will result in an adjusted Longline quota of 182.3 mt, which remains within the ICCAT quota and is less than the historical average of landings and dead discards in the fishery (239 mt). This action is consistent with the rebuilding goals of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP as amended because NMFS does not anticipate that the overall U.S. BFT quota will be exceeded. Regarding the determination criteria ‘‘optimizing fishing opportunity,’’ the ability of pelagic longline vessel owners to account for BFT with allocated quota or lease IBQ at an affordable price is key to the success of the IBQ program. An inseason transfer of quota to the Longline category would facilitate accomplishing the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP by optimizing fishing opportunity, contributing to full accounting for landings and dead discards, and reducing uncertainty in the fishery as a whole. Additional quota should reduce situations where fishing opportunity for target species is constrained by BFT quota debt or a low IBQ balance. It will also reduce vessel owner uncertainty about whether a vessel owner will have sufficient quota to account for BFT they may catch in the future. Without this inseason quota transfer, it is more likely that permit holders will have difficulty leasing quota to account for BFT catch or reduce quota debt, permit holders may have a reduced ability to make business plans for the future, and a higher number of permitted vessels may be prohibited from fishing during 2016 as a result of quota debt accrued during 2015. Regarding the determination criteria about accounting for dead discards and variations in seasonal distribution or abundance, a quota transfer from the Reserve category to the Longline category would contribute toward full accounting of BFT catch by vessels that have quota debt (i.e., reduce quota debt), enhance the likelihood that shareholders will make the decision to lease IBQ to others, and reduce the uncertainty in the fishery as a whole. A quota transfer effective in early January 2016 helps to address the diversity of E:\FR\FM\04JAR1.SGM 04JAR1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 1 / Monday, January 4, 2016 / Rules and Regulations the fishery with respect to the timing of fishing activities in different geographic areas. A quota transfer later in the year may disadvantage those fishing early in the year. Based on the considerations above, NMFS is transferring 34 mt of Reserve category quota, which is adjusted through the annual reallocation from the Purse Seine category to the Reserve category described above, to the Longline category. As a result of this quota transfer, the adjusted 2016 Reserve category quota is 92.2 mt, and the adjusted 2016 Longline category quota is 182.3 mt. This inseason quota transfer does not preclude future inseason quota transfers to any of the quota categories. As a result of this quota transfer, 0.25 mt (551 lb) of IBQ is being distributed to each of the 136 permit holders with IBQ shares, provided the permit is associated with a vessel. For those permits that qualified for IBQ shares and are not associated with a vessel at the time of the quota transfer, the IBQ will not be usable by the permit holder (i.e., may not be leased or used to account for BFT) unless and until the eligible permit is associated with a vessel. Eligible permits will be allocated either Gulf of Mexico (GOM) IBQ, Atlantic (ATL) IBQ, or both GOM and ATL IBQ, according to the eligible permit initial share’s regional designations (and totaling 0.25 mt). This action is supported by the Amendment 7 Final Environmental Impact Statement and final rule, which analyzed and anticipated such an action. Monitoring and Reporting tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES NMFS will continue to monitor the BFT fisheries, including the pelagic longline fishery, closely through the mandatory landings and catch reports. Dealers are required to submit landing reports within 24 hours of a dealer receiving BFT. Pelagic longline vessels are required to report BFT catch through Vessel Monitoring System, as well as through the online IBQ system. Longline category permit holders are reminded that all BFT discarded dead must be reported through the Vessel Monitoring System, and accounted for VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:36 Dec 31, 2015 Jkt 238001 in the on-line IBQ system, consistent with requirements at § 635.15(a). If needed, subsequent adjustments will be published in the Federal Register. In addition, fishermen may call the Atlantic Tunas Information Line at (978) 281–9260, or access hmspermits.noaa.gov for updates on quota monitoring and inseason adjustments. 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, the transfer from the Reserve category to the Longline category for the following reasons: The regulations implementing the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, as amended, provide for inseason adjustments to quotas and other aspects of BFT fishery management, to respond to the diverse range of factors which may affect BFT fisheries, including ecological (e.g., rebuilding, or the migratory nature of HMS) and commercial (e.g., optimizing fishing opportunity, or reducing bycatch). Specifically, Amendment 7 stated that NMFS may need to consider providing additional quota to the Longline category as a whole in order to increase the amount of quota available to eligible permitted vessels via the IBQ program, and balance the need to have an operational directed pelagic longline fishery with the need to reduce BFT bycatch. NMFS has determined that adjustments to the Reserve and Longline category BFT quotas are warranted. Analysis of available data shows that adjustment to the Longline category quota from the initial level would result in minimal risks of exceeding the ICCAT-allocated quota. The regulations implementing the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, as amended, provide the flexibility to provide additional quota to the Longline category in order to optimize fishing opportunity, account for dead discards, and accomplish the objectives of the fishery management plan. A quota transfer effective in early PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 9990 21 January 2016 helps to address the diversity of the fishery with respect to the timing of fishing activities in different geographic areas. A quota transfer later in the year may disadvantage those fishing early in the year. Affording prior notice and opportunity for public comment to implement the quota transfer is impracticable, as NMFS needed to consider and respond to updated data and information from the 2015 fishery in deciding to transfer 34 mt of quota from the Reserve category to the Longline category. If NMFS were to offer a public comment period now, after having appropriately considered that data, it may unnecessarily preclude fishing opportunities for some vessel operators, particularly those that fish early in the fishing season. Delays in adjusting the Reserve and Longline category quotas would adversely affect those Longline category vessels that would otherwise have an opportunity to reduce or resolve quota debt, lease quota to other vessels, as well as delay potential beneficial effects on the ability for vessel operators to make business plans for their future. NMFS is trying to balance providing opportunity to the pelagic longline fishery, with the reduction of BFT bycatch, and delaying this action would be contrary to the public interest. 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 good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d) to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness. This action is being taken under §§ 635.15(b)(5)(ii), 635.15(f), 635.27(a)(8) and (9), and 635.27(a)(4) and (a)(7), and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq. and 1801 et seq. Dated: December 18, 2015. Alan D. Risenhoover, Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2015–32288 Filed 12–31–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\04JAR1.SGM 04JAR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 1 (Monday, January 4, 2016)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 19-21]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-32288]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

[Docket Nos. 120328229-4949-02 and 150121066-5717-02]
RIN 0648-XE346


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna 
Fisheries

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

ACTION: Temporary rule; annual adjustment of Atlantic bluefin tuna 
Purse Seine and Reserve category quotas; inseason quota transfer from 
the Reserve category to the Longline category.

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SUMMARY: NMFS is adjusting the Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) Purse Seine 
and Reserve category quotas for 2016, based on regulations implementing 
Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species Fishery 
Management Plan. NMFS also is transferring inseason 34 metric tons (mt) 
of BFT quota from the Reserve category to the Longline category. This 
action is based on consideration of the regulatory determination 
criteria regarding inseason adjustments. The transfer to the Longline 
category is applied to eligible Atlantic Tunas Longline category 
permitted vessels with Individual Bluefin Quota (IBQ) shares, and as a 
result of this transfer, current IBQ vessel accounts will be 
distributed 0.25 mt of IBQ allocation each.

DATES: Effective January 1, 2016, through December 31, 2016.

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

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 BFT by 
persons and vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction are found at 50 CFR 
part 635. Section 635.27 subdivides the U.S. BFT quota recommended by 
the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas 
(ICCAT) among the various domestic fishing categories, 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 by Amendment 7 to the 2006 
Consolidated HMS FMP (Amendment 7) (79 FR 71510, December 2, 2014). 
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.

Annual Adjustment of the BFT Purse Seine and Reserve Category Quotas

    In 2015, NMFS implemented a final rule that increased the U.S. BFT 
quota and subquotas per ICCAT Recommendation 14-05 (80 FR 52198, August 
28, 2015). As a result, based on the currently codified U.S. quota of 
1,058.79 mt (not including the 25 mt allocated by ICCAT to the United 
States to account for bycatch of BFT in pelagic longline fisheries in 
the Northeast Distant Gear Restricted Area), the baseline Purse Seine, 
Longline, and Reserve category quotas are codified as 184.3 mt, 148.3 
mt, and 24.8 mt, respectively. See Sec.  635.27(a).
    Pursuant to Sec.  635.27(a)(4), NMFS has determined the amount of 
quota available to individual Atlantic Tunas Purse Seine category 
participants in 2016, based on their BFT catch (landings and dead 
discards) in 2015. Specifically, NMFS is making available to each Purse 
Seine category participant 100 percent, 75 percent, 50 percent, or 25 
percent of the individual baseline quota allocations based on 2015 
catch, as described in Sec.  635.27(a)(4)(ii), and is reallocating the 
remainder to the Reserve category for 2016. NMFS has calculated the 
amounts of quota available to individual Purse Seine fishery 
participants based on their individual catch levels in 2015 and the 
codified process adopted in Amendment 7. Total Purse Seine category BFT 
catches were 38.8 mt (33.9 mt of landings and 4.9 mt of dead discards) 
in 2015. Consistent with Sec.  635.27(a)(4)(v)(C), NMFS will notify 
Atlantic Tunas Purse Seine fishery participants of the amount of quota 
available for their use this year through the Individual Bluefin Quota 
electronic system established under Sec.  635.15 and in writing.
    Based on the procedures described above and by summing the 
individual available allocations, NMFS has determined the 2016 Purse 
Seine category quota available to Purse Seine fishery participants is 
82.9 mt. Thus, the amount of Purse Seine category quota to be 
reallocated to the Reserve category is 101.4 mt. This reallocation 
would result in a 2016 Reserve category quota of 126.2 mt (24.8 mt + 
101.4 mt). However, NMFS also is taking action, as described

[[Page 20]]

in the Quota Transfer section below, to transfer 34 mt from the Reserve 
category to the Longline category such that the 2016 Reserve category 
quota as adjusted by this action as a whole would be 92.2 mt. 
Consistent with the quota regulations, NMFS may allocate any portion of 
the Reserve category quota for inseason or annual adjustments to any 
fishing category quota pursuant to regulatory determination criteria 
described at 50 CFR 635.27(a)(8), in addition to using the Reserve 
category quota for scientific research collection of BFT.
    NMFS anticipates that it will announce additional BFT quota 
adjustments during 2016. For example, when complete 2015 BFT catch 
information is available and finalized, NMFS may augment the Reserve 
further by carrying forward underharvest, if any, from 2015, consistent 
with ICCAT limits. Subsequent notices will be published in the Federal 
Register. In addition, fishermen may call the Atlantic Tunas 
Information Line at (978) 281-9260, or access hmspermits.noaa.gov, for 
updates.

Quota Transfer

    Under Sec.  635.15(b)(5)(ii), as implemented through Amendment 7, 
additional IBQ may be allocated to eligible vessels with IBQ shares, 
after the initial annual allocations if the U.S. baseline quota 
increases as a result of an ICCAT recommendation or as a result of a 
transfer of quota from the Reserve category to the Longline category, 
pursuant to criteria for quota adjustments.
    Under Sec.  635.27(a)(9), NMFS has the authority to transfer quota 
among fishing categories or subcategories, after considering 
determination criteria provided under Sec.  635.27(a)(8), which are: 
The usefulness of information obtained from catches in the particular 
category for biological sampling and monitoring of the status of the 
stock; the catches of the particular category quota to date and the 
likelihood of closure of that segment of the fishery if no adjustment 
is made; the projected ability of the vessels fishing under the 
particular category quota to harvest the additional amount of BFT 
before the end of the fishing year; the estimated amounts by which 
quotas for other gear categories of the fishery might be exceeded; 
effects of the adjustment on BFT rebuilding and overfishing; effects of 
the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the fishery 
management plan; variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or 
migration patterns of BFT; effects of catch rates in one area 
precluding vessels in another area from having a reasonable opportunity 
to harvest a portion of the category's quota; review of dealer reports, 
daily landing trends, and the availability of the BFT on the fishing 
grounds; optimizing fishing opportunity; accounting for dead discards, 
facilitating quota monitoring, supporting other fishing monitoring 
programs through quota allocations and/or generation of revenue; and 
support of research through quota allocations and/or generation of 
revenue.
    NMFS has considered the determination criteria regarding inseason 
adjustments and their applicability to the Longline category fishery 
and have determined that a quota transfer is warranted, as explained 
below. Consistent with the criteria for quota adjustments, this 
transfer is intended to increase the amount of quota available to 
pelagic longline permitted vessels with IBQ, and therefore help vessel 
owners account for BFT landings and dead discards while fostering 
conditions in which permit holders become more willing to lease IBQ. As 
described below, the amount of quota available to individual pelagic 
longline vessels will be particularly important beginning in 2016. The 
revised Longline category quota would support the broader objectives of 
Amendment 7, which include reducing BFT interactions and dead discards 
while maintaining an economically viable swordfish and yellowfin tuna 
directed fishery.
    Under Amendment 7, a vessel must have IBQ to account for its BFT 
landings and dead discards. If a vessel has insufficient IBQ to account 
for such landings and dead discards, it goes into ``quota debt.'' 
Starting in 2016, a Longline category permitted vessel will not be 
allowed to fish with pelagic longline gear if it has outstanding quota 
debt or does not have the minimum amount of quota to fish (i.e., 0.125 
mt (276 lb) to depart on a fishing trip in the Atlantic and 0.25 mt 
(551 lb) to depart on a fishing trip in the Gulf of Mexico. 
Furthermore, vessels that had a quota debt remaining at the end of 2015 
will be responsible for accounting for that quota debt using 2016 IBQ 
allocation before they may fish in 2016.
    Approximately one-fifth of active pelagic longline vessels had 
outstanding quota debt late in 2015, and quota leasing among fishery 
participants was limited. NMFS believes the reason for the limited 
quota leasing was due to the leasing program being so new, and 
shareholders may have been unwilling to lease quota to other 
shareholders because they did not know if they would have sufficient 
quota to account for any BFT they may catch.
    With respect to the effects of the adjustment on BFT rebuilding and 
overfishing and accomplishing the objectives of the fishery management 
plan, this action would be taken consistent with the previously 
implemented and analyzed quotas, and it is not expected to negatively 
impact stock health or otherwise affect the stock in ways not 
previously analyzed. The transfer of 34 mt of BFT quota from the 
Reserve category to the Longline category will result in an adjusted 
Longline quota of 182.3 mt, which remains within the ICCAT quota and is 
less than the historical average of landings and dead discards in the 
fishery (239 mt). This action is consistent with the rebuilding goals 
of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP as amended because NMFS does not 
anticipate that the overall U.S. BFT quota will be exceeded.
    Regarding the determination criteria ``optimizing fishing 
opportunity,'' the ability of pelagic longline vessel owners to account 
for BFT with allocated quota or lease IBQ at an affordable price is key 
to the success of the IBQ program. An inseason transfer of quota to the 
Longline category would facilitate accomplishing the objectives of the 
2006 Consolidated HMS FMP by optimizing fishing opportunity, 
contributing to full accounting for landings and dead discards, and 
reducing uncertainty in the fishery as a whole. Additional quota should 
reduce situations where fishing opportunity for target species is 
constrained by BFT quota debt or a low IBQ balance. It will also reduce 
vessel owner uncertainty about whether a vessel owner will have 
sufficient quota to account for BFT they may catch in the future. 
Without this inseason quota transfer, it is more likely that permit 
holders will have difficulty leasing quota to account for BFT catch or 
reduce quota debt, permit holders may have a reduced ability to make 
business plans for the future, and a higher number of permitted vessels 
may be prohibited from fishing during 2016 as a result of quota debt 
accrued during 2015.
    Regarding the determination criteria about accounting for dead 
discards and variations in seasonal distribution or abundance, a quota 
transfer from the Reserve category to the Longline category would 
contribute toward full accounting of BFT catch by vessels that have 
quota debt (i.e., reduce quota debt), enhance the likelihood that 
shareholders will make the decision to lease IBQ to others, and reduce 
the uncertainty in the fishery as a whole. A quota transfer effective 
in early January 2016 helps to address the diversity of

[[Page 21]]

the fishery with respect to the timing of fishing activities in 
different geographic areas. A quota transfer later in the year may 
disadvantage those fishing early in the year.
    Based on the considerations above, NMFS is transferring 34 mt of 
Reserve category quota, which is adjusted through the annual 
reallocation from the Purse Seine category to the Reserve category 
described above, to the Longline category. As a result of this quota 
transfer, the adjusted 2016 Reserve category quota is 92.2 mt, and the 
adjusted 2016 Longline category quota is 182.3 mt. This inseason quota 
transfer does not preclude future inseason quota transfers to any of 
the quota categories. As a result of this quota transfer, 0.25 mt (551 
lb) of IBQ is being distributed to each of the 136 permit holders with 
IBQ shares, provided the permit is associated with a vessel. For those 
permits that qualified for IBQ shares and are not associated with a 
vessel at the time of the quota transfer, the IBQ will not be usable by 
the permit holder (i.e., may not be leased or used to account for BFT) 
unless and until the eligible permit is associated with a vessel. 
Eligible permits will be allocated either Gulf of Mexico (GOM) IBQ, 
Atlantic (ATL) IBQ, or both GOM and ATL IBQ, according to the eligible 
permit initial share's regional designations (and totaling 0.25 mt). 
This action is supported by the Amendment 7 Final Environmental Impact 
Statement and final rule, which analyzed and anticipated such an 
action.

Monitoring and Reporting

    NMFS will continue to monitor the BFT fisheries, including the 
pelagic longline fishery, closely through the mandatory landings and 
catch reports. Dealers are required to submit landing reports within 24 
hours of a dealer receiving BFT. Pelagic longline vessels are required 
to report BFT catch through Vessel Monitoring System, as well as 
through the online IBQ system.
    Longline category permit holders are reminded that all BFT 
discarded dead must be reported through the Vessel Monitoring System, 
and accounted for in the on-line IBQ system, consistent with 
requirements at Sec.  635.15(a).
    If needed, subsequent adjustments will be published in the Federal 
Register. In addition, fishermen may call the Atlantic Tunas 
Information Line at (978) 281-9260, or access hmspermits.noaa.gov for 
updates on quota monitoring and inseason adjustments.

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, the transfer from 
the Reserve category to the Longline category for the following 
reasons:
    The regulations implementing the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, as 
amended, provide for inseason adjustments to quotas and other aspects 
of BFT fishery management, to respond to the diverse range of factors 
which may affect BFT fisheries, including ecological (e.g., rebuilding, 
or the migratory nature of HMS) and commercial (e.g., optimizing 
fishing opportunity, or reducing bycatch). Specifically, Amendment 7 
stated that NMFS may need to consider providing additional quota to the 
Longline category as a whole in order to increase the amount of quota 
available to eligible permitted vessels via the IBQ program, and 
balance the need to have an operational directed pelagic longline 
fishery with the need to reduce BFT bycatch.
    NMFS has determined that adjustments to the Reserve and Longline 
category BFT quotas are warranted. Analysis of available data shows 
that adjustment to the Longline category quota from the initial level 
would result in minimal risks of exceeding the ICCAT-allocated quota. 
The regulations implementing the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, as amended, 
provide the flexibility to provide additional quota to the Longline 
category in order to optimize fishing opportunity, account for dead 
discards, and accomplish the objectives of the fishery management plan. 
A quota transfer effective in early January 2016 helps to address the 
diversity of the fishery with respect to the timing of fishing 
activities in different geographic areas. A quota transfer later in the 
year may disadvantage those fishing early in the year.
    Affording prior notice and opportunity for public comment to 
implement the quota transfer is impracticable, as NMFS needed to 
consider and respond to updated data and information from the 2015 
fishery in deciding to transfer 34 mt of quota from the Reserve 
category to the Longline category. If NMFS were to offer a public 
comment period now, after having appropriately considered that data, it 
may unnecessarily preclude fishing opportunities for some vessel 
operators, particularly those that fish early in the fishing season.
    Delays in adjusting the Reserve and Longline category quotas would 
adversely affect those Longline category vessels that would otherwise 
have an opportunity to reduce or resolve quota debt, lease quota to 
other vessels, as well as delay potential beneficial effects on the 
ability for vessel operators to make business plans for their future. 
NMFS is trying to balance providing opportunity to the pelagic longline 
fishery, with the reduction of BFT bycatch, and delaying this action 
would be contrary to the public interest. 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 
good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d) to waive the 30-day delay in 
effectiveness.
    This action is being taken under Sec. Sec.  635.15(b)(5)(ii), 
635.15(f), 635.27(a)(8) and (9), and 635.27(a)(4) and (a)(7), and is 
exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.

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

    Dated: December 18, 2015.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2015-32288 Filed 12-31-15; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P