Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; North Atlantic Swordfish Fishery, 38966-38969 [2016-14068]

Download as PDF ehiers on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with RULES 38966 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 115 / Wednesday, June 15, 2016 / Rules and Regulations The total annual reporting burdens and costs for the respondents are as follows: OMB Approval Date: May 11, 2016. OMB Expiration Date: May 31, 2019. Title: Sections 15.713, 15.714, 15.715, 15.717 and 27.1320, TV White Space Broadcast Bands. Form Number: Not applicable. Respondents: Business or other forprofit entities. Number of Respondents and Responses: 2,010 respondents; 4,000 responses. Estimated Time per Response: 2 hours. Frequency of Response: On-occasion reporting requirements; recordkeeping requirements; and third party disclosure. Obligation to Respond: Required to obtain or retain benefits. The statutory authority for this information collection is contained in 47 U.S.C. Sections 154(i), 302, 303(c), 303(f), and 307. Total Annual Burden: 8,000 hours. Total Annual Cost: $200,000. Nature and Extent of Confidentiality: The Commission is not requesting respondents to submit confidential information to the Commission. Respondents may request confidential treatment of such information under 47 CFR 0.459 of the Commission’s rules. Privacy Impact Assessment: No impact(s). Needs and Uses: On August 11, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission adopted a Report and Order (R&O), ET Docket No. 14–165 and GN Docket No. 12–268, FCC 15–99. This R&O made certain changes to the rules for unlicensed device operations in the frequency bands that are now and will continue to be allocated and assigned to broadcast television services (TV bands), including fixed and personal/ portable white space devices and unlicensed wireless microphones. It also adopted rules for fixed and personal/portable white space devices and wireless microphones in the 600 MHz guard bands, including the duplex gap, and the 600 MHz band that will be repurposed for new wireless services, and for fixed and personal/portable white space devices on channel 37. Federal Communications Commission. Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary. Office of the Secretary. [FR Doc. 2016–14178 Filed 6–14–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6712–01–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:36 Jun 14, 2016 Jkt 238001 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 635 [Docket No. 120627194–3657–02] RIN 0648–XE567 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 the 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 July through December of the 2016 fishing year, unless otherwise later noticed. The SWO General Commercial permit retention limit in each of these regions is increased from the regulatory default limits to six swordfish 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 swordfish 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 July 1, 2016, through December 31, 2016. SUMMARY: 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 swordfish by persons and vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction are found at 50 CFR part 635. Section 635.27 subdivides the U.S. North FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: PO 00000 Frm 00086 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 Atlantic swordfish 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 swordfish recreationally, and a reserve category, according to 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 ICCATrecommended quota. The 2016 adjusted North Atlantic swordfish 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 swordfish 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 swordfish fishing year, which is managed on a calendar-year basis and divided into two equal semi-annual quotas, began 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 Atlantic region—three swordfish per vessel per trip; (2) Gulf of Mexico region—three swordfish per vessel per trip; (3) U.S. Caribbean region—two swordfish per vessel per trip; and, (4) Florida SWO Management Area—zero swordfish 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 E:\FR\FM\15JNR1.SGM 15JNR1 ehiers on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 115 / Wednesday, June 15, 2016 / Rules and Regulations trips. As a condition of these permits, vessels may not possess, retain, or land any more swordfish 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 swordfish 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 swordfish stock; the estimated ability of vessels participating in the fishery to land the amount of swordfish 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 swordfish; 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, review of dealer reports, landing trends, and the availability of swordfish 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 July through December of the 2016 North Atlantic swordfish fishing year. Last year, through June 30, 2015, with application of the default retention limits, directed swordfish landings were 493 mt dw (32.8 percent of the 1,505 mt dw January 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 swordfish per vessel per trip (80 FR 44884). Through December 31, 2015, directed swordfish landings for the July through December semiannual period were approximately 659.9 mt dw (43.9 percent of the adjusted directed sub-quota). Preliminary total annual directed swordfish landings, through December 31, 2015, were approximately 1,152.9 mt dw, or 38.3 percent of the 3,010 mt dw annual adjusted directed swordfish quota. A six swordfish per vessel trip limit for SWO General Commercial permit holders was maintained for the period January 1, 2016, through June 30, 2016, in the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:36 Jun 14, 2016 Jkt 238001 U.S. Caribbean regions (80 FR 81770). As of April 30, 2016, directed swordfish landings were 268.2 mt dw (or 17.8% of the anticipated 1,504.7 mt dw adjusted directed sub-quota). Given that directed swordfish landings in 2015 fell well below the adjusted 2015 annual quota, and that 2016 directed landings continue to be below the anticipated 2016 annual swordfish quota, and considering the regulatory criteria, NMFS has determined that the SWO General Commercial permit vessel retention limits 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 July 1, 2016. A principal consideration is the objective of providing opportunities to harvest the full North Atlantic directed swordfish quota without exceeding it based upon the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP goal to, consistent with other objectives of this FMP, ‘‘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 swordfish 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 swordfish stock is useful. Recently implemented electronic dealer reporting provides accurate and timely monitoring of landings. This information indicates that sufficient directed swordfish quota will be available from July 1 through December 31, 2016, at the higher retention levels, if recent swordfish landing trends continue. Regarding the regulatory criterion that NMFS consider ‘‘the estimated ability of vessels participating in the fishery to land the amount of swordfish quota available before the end of the fishing year,’’ the directed swordfish quota has not been harvested for several years and, based upon current landing trends, is not likely to PO 00000 Frm 00087 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 38967 be harvested or exceeded during the remainder of 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 swordfish quota, NMFS expects there to be sufficient swordfish 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 swordfish quota. Landings by vessels issued this permit (and Charter/ Headboat permitted vessels on a non for-hire trip) are counted against the adjusted directed swordfish quota. As indicated above, this quota has not been exceeded for several years and, based upon current landing trends, is not likely to be exceeded during the remainder of 2016. With regard to swordfish abundance, the 2015 report by ICCAT’s Standing Committee on Research and Statistics indicated that the North Atlantic swordfish stock is not overfished (B2011/ Bmsy = 1.14), and overfishing is not occurring (F2011/Fmsy = 0.82). Increasing the retention limits for this U.S. handgear fishery is not expected to affect the swordfish stock status determination because any additional landings would be in compliance with the ICCAT recommended U.S. North Atlantic swordfish quota allocation. Based upon landings over the last several years, including 2016, it is highly unlikely that either of the two semi-annual directed swordfish subquotas would be harvested with the default retention limits of three swordfish per vessel per trip (Northwest Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico), and two swordfish per vessel per trip (U.S. Caribbean). For the entire 2015 fishing year, 38.3 percent of the total adjusted directed swordfish quota was harvested. Thus far, swordfish landings in 2016 have been less than landings during the same period in 2015. Increasing the swordfish General Commercial permit retention limits to six fish per vessel per trip will increase the likelihood that directed swordfish landings will approach, but not exceed, the total annual directed swordfish quota. Increasing opportunity beginning on July 1, 2016, is also important E:\FR\FM\15JNR1.SGM 15JNR1 ehiers on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with RULES 38968 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 115 / Wednesday, June 15, 2016 / Rules and Regulations because of the migratory nature and seasonal distribution of swordfish, one of the regulatory criteria to be considered when changing the retention limit inseason (variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migration patterns of swordfish). In a particular geographic region, or waters accessible from a particular port, the amount of fishing opportunity for swordfish may be constrained by the short amount of time the swordfish are present as they migrate. Dealer reports for Swordfish General Commercial permitted vessels indicate that swordfish are available from July through December in the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions. Based upon these considerations, NMFS has determined that a six-fish per vessel per trip swordfish General Commercial permit retention limit is warranted in the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions from July 1, 2016 through December 31, 2016, for swordfish 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 swordfish without exceeding it, while maintaining an equitable distribution of fishing opportunities; help achieve optimum yield in the swordfish 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 swordfish fishing opportunities without exceeding the available quota. It helps to preserve a traditional swordfish handgear fishery (rod and reel, handline, harpoon, bandit gear, and greenstick) which, in New England, dates back to the 1880s. 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 swordfish 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 swordfish General Commercial permit retention limits from the default levels to six swordfish per vessel per trip in these three regions, effective from July 1, 2016 through VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:36 Jun 14, 2016 Jkt 238001 December 31, 2016, unless otherwise noticed. NMFS has determined that the retention limit will remain at zero swordfish 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 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. 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 swordfish, 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 swordfish fishery closely during 2016 through mandatory landings and catch reports. Dealers are required to submit landing reports and negative reports (if no swordfish were purchased) on a weekly basis. Depending upon the level of fishing effort and catch rates of swordfish, 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 PO 00000 Frm 00088 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 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 swordfish landings, the availability of swordfish on the fishing grounds, the migratory nature of this species, and regional variations in the fishery. Based on available swordfish quota, stock abundance, fishery performance in recent years, and the availability of swordfish on the fishing grounds, among other considerations, adjustment to the swordfish General Commercial permit retention limits from the default levels is warranted. Analysis of available data shows that adjustment to the swordfish daily retention limit from the default levels would result in minimal risks of exceeding the ICCATallocated 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 swordfish per vessel per trip in the Northwest Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions, and two swordfish per vessel per trip in the U.S. Caribbean region. Further, any delay beyond July 1, 2016, the start of the second semiannual directed fishing period, could exacerbate the problem of low swordfish landings and subsequent quota rollovers. Limited opportunities to harvest the directed swordfish quota may have negative social and economic impacts for U.S. fishermen. Adjustment of the retention limits needs to be effective on July 1, 2016, to allow all of the affected 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 because of seasonal fish migration. Therefore, the AA finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive prior notice and the opportunity for public E:\FR\FM\15JNR1.SGM 15JNR1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 115 / Wednesday, June 15, 2016 / Rules and Regulations 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. Dated: June 9, 2016. Alan D. Risenhoover, Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2016–14068 Filed 6–14–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 150902808–6451–02] RIN 0648–BF04 Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Amendment 17 to the Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog Fishery Management Plan National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: This final rule approves and implements management measures contained in Amendment 17 to the Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog Fishery Management Plan. Amendment 17 management measures were developed by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council to: Add cost recovery provisions for the Individual Transferable Quota component of the fishery; modify how biological reference points are incorporated into the fishery management plan; and remove the plan’s optimum yield range. These changes are intended to make the management plan consistent with requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and to improve the management of these fisheries. DATES: This rule is effective July 15, 2016. SUMMARY: Copies of Amendment 17 and the Environmental Assessment (EA), with its associated Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) and the Regulatory Impact Review (RIR), are available from the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 800 North State Street, Suite 201, Dover, DE 19901. The Amendment 17 EA/FONSI/RIR is also ehiers on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with RULES ADDRESSES: VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:36 Jun 14, 2016 Jkt 238001 accessible online at: www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Douglas Potts, Fishery Policy Analyst, 978–281–9341. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background This final rule concurrently approves Amendment 17 to the Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog Fishery Management Plan (FMP) on behalf of the Secretary of Commerce and finalizes implementing regulations. The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council developed this amendment to establish a program to recover the costs of managing the surfclam and ocean quahog individual transferable quota (ITQ) fisheries, as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), and to make administrative changes to improve the efficiency of the FMP. We published a notice of availability on February 24, 2016 (81 FR 9159), announcing a 60-day period for the public to review and provide written comments on whether we, acting on behalf of the Secretary of Commerce, should approve Amendment 17. This comment period ended on April 25, 2016. On March 16, 2016, we published a proposed rule (81 FR 14072) to implement the amendment, and solicited written comments on the proposed rule for a 30-day period, which ended on April 15, 2016. We reviewed all comments received during these comment periods, whether directed at our approval decision or the proposed regulations. See Comments and Responses section for more information. Now, on behalf of the Secretary of Commerce, we are approving and implementing Amendment 17, consistent with the review and approval process outlined in section 304 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act (16 U.S.C. 1854). Cost Recovery Program The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires each limited access privilege program (LAPP), such as the surfclam/ocean quahog ITQ program, to include measures to recover the costs of management, data collection and analysis, and enforcement activities involved with the program. This action implements a cost recovery program for the surfclam and ocean quahog ITQ fisheries modeled on the Council’s existing cost recovery program for the Tilefish Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) Program. Under the program, any surfclam or ocean quahog ITQ permit holder who has quota share (i.e., receives an initial PO 00000 Frm 00089 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 38969 allocation of cage tags each year) will be responsible for paying a fee at the end of the year. The fee will be based on the number of the ITQ permit holder’s cage tags that were used to land clams that year. In the first quarter of each year, the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office (GARFO) will announce the fee percentage and the associated per-tag fee for that year, and distribute this announcement widely, and distribution will include posting the announcement online and sending it to each ITQ permit holder. Annual fee information will not be published in the Federal Register. The fee percentage will be based on the total recoverable costs from the prior fiscal year, adjusted for any prior over- or under-collection, divided by the total ex-vessel value of the fishery. The resulting percentage cannot exceed the 3-percent statutory maximum. Then NMFS will calculate a per-tag fee based on the total number of cage tags used to land surfclams or ocean quahogs in the previous year. This tag fee will be separate from, and in addition to, the price ITQ permit holders currently pay to the tag vendor to obtain the physical cage tags each year. If an ITQ permit holder transfers some or all of his or her cage tags or quota share after the start of the fishing year, they will still be liable for any cost recovery fee based on landings of the initial allocation of cage tags. This process includes an inherent assumption that a similar number of cage tags will be used each year. While the fishery has been largely stable over time, many factors (e.g., weather events, market demand, etc.) may result in the use of more or fewer tags in any given year. As a result, we fully anticipate that, in some years, we will collect more or less money than is necessary to recover our costs. Refunding overcollections and issuing supplemental bills to make up for shortfalls would increase the cost of administering the fishery, which would increase the amount charged in bills the following year. To avoid these additional costs, we will apply any over- or under-collection to our calculation of recoverable costs and per-tag fees for the following year. Our communications with ITQ permit holders each year will make clear that any prior over- or under-collection adjustments will be incorporated into the following year’s cost-recovery billing. Under the cost recovery program established by this final rule, at the start of the 2017 calendar year, we will use the total recoverable costs from the 2016 fiscal year (October 1, 2015, through September 30, 2016) and the total value of the fisheries in the 2016 calendar year E:\FR\FM\15JNR1.SGM 15JNR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 115 (Wednesday, June 15, 2016)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 38966-38969]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-14068]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

[Docket No. 120627194-3657-02]
RIN 0648-XE567


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 the 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 July through December of the 2016 fishing 
year, unless otherwise later noticed. The SWO General Commercial permit 
retention limit in each of these regions is increased from the 
regulatory default limits to six swordfish 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 swordfish 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 July 1, 2016, through December 31, 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 swordfish 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 swordfish 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 swordfish recreationally, 
and a reserve category, according to 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 swordfish 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 swordfish 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 swordfish fishing year, which is managed on 
a calendar-year basis and divided into two equal semi-annual quotas, 
began 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 Atlantic region--three 
swordfish per vessel per trip; (2) Gulf of Mexico region--three 
swordfish per vessel per trip; (3) U.S. Caribbean region--two swordfish 
per vessel per trip; and, (4) Florida SWO Management Area--zero 
swordfish 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

[[Page 38967]]

trips. As a condition of these permits, vessels may not possess, 
retain, or land any more swordfish 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 swordfish 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 swordfish 
stock; the estimated ability of vessels participating in the fishery to 
land the amount of swordfish 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 swordfish; 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, 
review of dealer reports, landing trends, and the availability of 
swordfish 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 July through December of the 2016 North Atlantic 
swordfish fishing year. Last year, through June 30, 2015, with 
application of the default retention limits, directed swordfish 
landings were 493 mt dw (32.8 percent of the 1,505 mt dw January 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 swordfish per vessel per trip (80 FR 44884). 
Through December 31, 2015, directed swordfish landings for the July 
through December semi-annual period were approximately 659.9 mt dw 
(43.9 percent of the adjusted directed sub-quota). Preliminary total 
annual directed swordfish landings, through December 31, 2015, were 
approximately 1,152.9 mt dw, or 38.3 percent of the 3,010 mt dw annual 
adjusted directed swordfish quota. A six swordfish per vessel trip 
limit for SWO General Commercial permit holders was maintained for the 
period January 1, 2016, through June 30, 2016, in the Northwest 
Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions (80 FR 81770). As 
of April 30, 2016, directed swordfish landings were 268.2 mt dw (or 
17.8% of the anticipated 1,504.7 mt dw adjusted directed sub-quota).
    Given that directed swordfish landings in 2015 fell well below the 
adjusted 2015 annual quota, and that 2016 directed landings continue to 
be below the anticipated 2016 annual swordfish quota, and considering 
the regulatory criteria, NMFS has determined that the SWO General 
Commercial permit vessel retention limits 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 July 1, 2016.
    A principal consideration is the objective of providing 
opportunities to harvest the full North Atlantic directed swordfish 
quota without exceeding it based upon the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP 
goal to, consistent with other objectives of this FMP, ``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 swordfish 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 swordfish stock is 
useful. Recently implemented electronic dealer reporting provides 
accurate and timely monitoring of landings. This information indicates 
that sufficient directed swordfish quota will be available from July 1 
through December 31, 2016, at the higher retention levels, if recent 
swordfish landing trends continue. Regarding the regulatory criterion 
that NMFS consider ``the estimated ability of vessels participating in 
the fishery to land the amount of swordfish quota available before the 
end of the fishing year,'' the directed swordfish quota has not been 
harvested for several years and, based upon current landing trends, is 
not likely to be harvested or exceeded during the remainder of 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 swordfish quota, NMFS 
expects there to be sufficient swordfish 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 swordfish quota. 
Landings by vessels issued this permit (and Charter/Headboat permitted 
vessels on a non for-hire trip) are counted against the adjusted 
directed swordfish quota. As indicated above, this quota has not been 
exceeded for several years and, based upon current landing trends, is 
not likely to be exceeded during the remainder of 2016.
    With regard to swordfish abundance, the 2015 report by ICCAT's 
Standing Committee on Research and Statistics indicated that the North 
Atlantic swordfish stock is not overfished (B2011/
Bmsy = 1.14), and overfishing is not occurring 
(F2011/Fmsy = 0.82). Increasing the retention 
limits for this U.S. handgear fishery is not expected to affect the 
swordfish stock status determination because any additional landings 
would be in compliance with the ICCAT recommended U.S. North Atlantic 
swordfish quota allocation.
    Based upon landings over the last several years, including 2016, it 
is highly unlikely that either of the two semi-annual directed 
swordfish subquotas would be harvested with the default retention 
limits of three swordfish per vessel per trip (Northwest Atlantic and 
Gulf of Mexico), and two swordfish per vessel per trip (U.S. 
Caribbean). For the entire 2015 fishing year, 38.3 percent of the total 
adjusted directed swordfish quota was harvested. Thus far, swordfish 
landings in 2016 have been less than landings during the same period in 
2015.
    Increasing the swordfish General Commercial permit retention limits 
to six fish per vessel per trip will increase the likelihood that 
directed swordfish landings will approach, but not exceed, the total 
annual directed swordfish quota. Increasing opportunity beginning on 
July 1, 2016, is also important

[[Page 38968]]

because of the migratory nature and seasonal distribution of swordfish, 
one of the regulatory criteria to be considered when changing the 
retention limit inseason (variations in seasonal distribution, 
abundance, or migration patterns of swordfish). In a particular 
geographic region, or waters accessible from a particular port, the 
amount of fishing opportunity for swordfish may be constrained by the 
short amount of time the swordfish are present as they migrate. Dealer 
reports for Swordfish General Commercial permitted vessels indicate 
that swordfish are available from July through December in the 
Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions.
    Based upon these considerations, NMFS has determined that a six-
fish per vessel per trip swordfish General Commercial permit retention 
limit is warranted in the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. 
Caribbean regions from July 1, 2016 through December 31, 2016, for 
swordfish 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 swordfish without 
exceeding it, while maintaining an equitable distribution of fishing 
opportunities; help achieve optimum yield in the swordfish 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 swordfish fishing 
opportunities without exceeding the available quota. It helps to 
preserve a traditional swordfish handgear fishery (rod and reel, 
handline, harpoon, bandit gear, and greenstick) which, in New England, 
dates back to the 1880s. 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 swordfish 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 swordfish 
General Commercial permit retention limits from the default levels to 
six swordfish per vessel per trip in these three regions, effective 
from July 1, 2016 through December 31, 2016, unless otherwise noticed.
    NMFS has determined that the retention limit will remain at zero 
swordfish 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 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. 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 swordfish, 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 swordfish fishery closely during 
2016 through mandatory landings and catch reports. Dealers are required 
to submit landing reports and negative reports (if no swordfish were 
purchased) on a weekly basis.
    Depending upon the level of fishing effort and catch rates of 
swordfish, 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 swordfish landings, the availability of swordfish on the 
fishing grounds, the migratory nature of this species, and regional 
variations in the fishery. Based on available swordfish quota, stock 
abundance, fishery performance in recent years, and the availability of 
swordfish on the fishing grounds, among other considerations, 
adjustment to the swordfish General Commercial permit retention limits 
from the default levels is warranted. Analysis of available data shows 
that adjustment to the swordfish daily retention limit from the default 
levels 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 
swordfish per vessel per trip in the Northwest Atlantic and Gulf of 
Mexico regions, and two swordfish per vessel per trip in the U.S. 
Caribbean region. Further, any delay beyond July 1, 2016, the start of 
the second semi-annual directed fishing period, could exacerbate the 
problem of low swordfish landings and subsequent quota rollovers. 
Limited opportunities to harvest the directed swordfish quota may have 
negative social and economic impacts for U.S. fishermen. Adjustment of 
the retention limits needs to be effective on July 1, 2016, to allow 
all of the affected 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 because of seasonal fish migration. 
Therefore, the AA finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive 
prior notice and the opportunity for public

[[Page 38969]]

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.

    Dated: June 9, 2016.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2016-14068 Filed 6-14-16; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P