Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Snapper-Grouper Fishery Off the Southern Atlantic States; Regulatory Amendment 25, 45245-45248 [2016-16510]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 134 / Wednesday, July 13, 2016 / Rules and Regulations FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: [FR Doc. 2016–16451 Filed 7–12–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6560–50–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 622 [Docket No. 160225143–6583–02] RIN 0648–BF61 Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; SnapperGrouper Fishery Off the Southern Atlantic States; Regulatory Amendment 25 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: NMFS issues regulations to implement Regulatory Amendment 25 for the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region (Regulatory Amendment 25) as prepared and submitted by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council). This final rule revises the commercial and recreational annual catch limits (ACLs), the commercial trip limit, and the recreational bag limit for blueline tilefish. Additionally, this final rule revises the black sea bass recreational bag limit and the commercial and recreational fishing years for yellowtail snapper. The purpose of this final rule for blueline tilefish is to increase the optimum yield (OY) and ACLs based on a revised acceptable biological catch (ABC) recommendation from the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC). The purpose of this final rule is also to achieve OY for black sea bass, and adjust the fishing year for yellowtail snapper to better protect these species and allow for increased economic benefits to fishers. DATES: This rule is effective August 12, 2016, except for the amendments to § 622.187(b)(2), § 622.191(a)(10), and § 622.193(z) that are effective July 13, 2016. ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of Regulatory Amendment 25, which includes an environmental assessment, a Regulatory Flexibility Act analysis, and a regulatory impact review may be obtained from www.regulations.gov or the Southeast Regional Office (SERO) Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/ sustainable_fisheries/s_atl/sg/2015/reg_ am25/index.html. jstallworth on DSK7TPTVN1PROD with RULES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 12:54 Jul 12, 2016 Jkt 238001 Mary Janine Vara, NMFS SERO, telephone: 727–824–5305, or email: mary.vara@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The snapper-grouper fishery of the South Atlantic Region is managed under the FMP and includes blueline tilefish, black sea bass, and yellowtail snapper. The FMP was prepared by the Council and is implemented by NMFS through regulations at 50 CFR part 622 under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). On June 1, 2016, NMFS published a proposed rule for Regulatory Amendment 25 and requested public comment (81 FR 34944). The proposed rule and Regulatory Amendment 25 outline the rationale for the actions contained in this final rule. A summary of the actions implemented by Regulatory Amendment 25 and this final rule is provided below. Management Measures Contained in This Final Rule This final rule revises the commercial and recreational ACLs, commercial trip limit, and recreational bag limit for blueline tilefish; revises the recreational bag limit for black sea bass; and revises the fishing year for the yellowtail snapper commercial and recreational sectors. All ABC and ACL weights in this final rule are expressed in round weight. Blueline Tilefish ACLs This final rule revises the commercial and recreational ACLs for blueline tilefish. The current commercial ACLs are 26,766 lb (12,141 kg) for 2016, 35,785 lb (16,232 kg) for 2017, and 44,048 lb (19,980 kg) for 2018 and subsequent fishing years. The current recreational ACLs are 26,691 lb (12,107 kg) for 2016, 35,685 lb (16,186 kg) for 2017, and 43,925 lb (19,924 kg) for 2018 and subsequent fishing years. These ACLs were implemented through the final rule to implement Amendment 32 to the FMP (80 FR 16583, March 30, 2015). This final rule increases both the commercial and recreational ACLs for blueline tilefish in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the South Atlantic. The commercial ACL will be set at 87,521 lb (39,699 kg) and the recreational ACL will be set at 87,277 lb (39,588 kg). In Regulatory Amendment 25, the Council is revising the blueline tilefish total ACL (combined commercial and recreational ACL) based on a new ABC recommendation from the Council’s SSC. The SSC provided their blueline tilefish ABC recommendation to set the PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 45245 ABC at the equilibrium yield at 75 percent of the fishing mortality that produces the maximum sustainable yield (224,100 lb (101,650 kg)). The Council accepted the SSC’s ABC recommendation and determined that this revised ABC is sufficient to prevent the overfishing of blueline tilefish. The Council is also revising the total ACL to increase the buffer between the blueline tilefish ABC and ACL from 2 percent to 22 percent. The increase in the buffer is to account for management uncertainty, such as increased blueline tilefish landings north of the Council’s area of jurisdiction. In Amendment 32, the Council set the total blueline tilefish ACL for the South Atlantic at 98 percent of the recommended ABC for the entire Atlantic region to account for management uncertainty because the stock assessment was coast-wide and the Council was aware that landings of blueline tilefish occurred north of North Carolina. In Regulatory Amendment 25, the Council set the total ACL at 78 percent of the ABC. This decision is based on a comparison of the landings between the South Atlantic and Greater Atlantic Regions (Maine through Virginia), which indicate that 22 percent of the landings from 2011–2014 are from the Greater Atlantic Region. Blueline Tilefish Commercial Trip Limit The current commercial trip limit for blueline tilefish is 100 lb (45 kg), gutted weight; 112 lb (51 kg), round weight, and was implemented in Amendment 32. The Council selected that trip limit as a way to slow the commercial harvest of blueline tilefish, potentially lengthen the commercial fishing season, and reduce the risk of the commercial ACL being exceeded. This final rule increases the blueline tilefish commercial trip limit to 300 lb (136 kg) gutted weight; 336 lb (152 kg), round weight. The Council decided that an appropriate response to the increase in ABC and total ACL is to increase the commercial trip limit. The increase in the commercial trip limit will increase the socioeconomic benefits to commercial fishermen. In addition, the increase in the commercial trip limit is not expected to result in an in-season closure of blueline tilefish. Blueline Tilefish and Black Sea Bass Recreational Bag Limits This final rule revises the recreational bag limits for both blueline tilefish and black sea bass. The current blueline tilefish bag limit is one fish per vessel per day for the months of May through August and is part of the aggregate bag limit for grouper and tilefish. There is no recreational retention of blueline E:\FR\FM\13JYR1.SGM 13JYR1 45246 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 134 / Wednesday, July 13, 2016 / Rules and Regulations tilefish during the rest of the fishing year. This bag limit was implemented in Amendment 32. In conjunction with the increase in the recreational ACL in Regulatory Amendment 25, this final rule increases the recreational bag limit to three fish per person per day for the months of May through August and the bag limit remains part of the aggregate bag limit for grouper and tilefish. There will continue to be no recreational retention of blueline tilefish during the months of January through April and September through December, each year. The current bag limit for black sea bass is five fish per person per day and was implemented through the final rule for Regulatory Amendment 9 to the FMP (76 FR 34892, June 15, 2011). This final rule increases the recreational bag limit for black sea bass to seven fish per person per day. The Council decided to increase the bag limit to help achieve OY because the recreational ACL has not been met in recent years. Additionally, increasing the daily bag limit to seven fish per person per day is not expected to result in exceeding the recreational ACL or require an inseason closure of the recreational sector. jstallworth on DSK7TPTVN1PROD with RULES Yellowtail Snapper Fishing Year The current fishing year for the yellowtail snapper commercial and recreational sectors in the South Atlantic is January 1 through December 31. The in-season accountability measure for the commercial sector is to close yellowtail snapper when the commercial ACL is met or projected to be met. This final rule revises the fishing year for both the commercial and recreational sectors to be August 1 through July 31, each year. Changing the start of the fishing year to August 1 will benefit both sectors because it will help ensure that harvest is allowed during the winter months when yellowtail snapper obtain a higher price per pound commercially and during peak tourist season in south Florida, where the majority of recreational yellowtail snapper harvest occurs. Additionally, if an in-season closure for the commercial sector were to occur as a result of the ACL being met, that such a closure would likely occur later in the fishing year. With a fishing year start date of August 1, any such closure would likely coincide with the yellowtail snapper peak spawning period of May through July, thereby possibly providing additional biological benefits to the stock. VerDate Sep<11>2014 12:54 Jul 12, 2016 Jkt 238001 Comments and Responses NMFS received 23 comment submissions from individuals on the proposed rule and Regulatory Amendment 25. Some of the comments were outside the scope of the proposed rule and Regulatory Amendment 25, and 11 comments agreed with the actions contained in Regulatory Amendment 25. These comments are not addressed in this final rule. The comments that relate to one or more of the management actions in the proposed rule and Regulatory Amendment 25 are summarized and responded to below. Comment 1: The recreational bag limit for blueline tilefish should be seven fish per person per day during May through October. Response: NMFS disagrees. The Council selected their preferred alternative of a recreational bag limit of three fish per person per day during May through August, and no harvest and retention for the remainder of the year to ensure the fishing season remains open. The accountability measure for the recreational sector is to prohibit harvest if the recreational ACL is met. A greater bag limit and longer season would increase both the rate and time period that blueline tilefish are caught and increases the likelihood that the recreational ACL would be met and an in-season closure would occur. Additionally, because blueline tilefish and snowy grouper co-occur and are frequently caught together, the Council chose to maintain the current May through August recreational fishing season for these two species to reduce regulatory discards and associated release mortality. Comment 2: Several commenters did not agree with the proposed increase in the black sea bass bag limit from 5 to 7 fish per person per day, and suggested maintaining the current bag limit, or increasing the bag limit to 6 or 10 fish per person per day. One commenter stated that a bag limit of six fish per person per day would allow for increased harvest of black sea bass without meeting the recreational ACL, rather than a seven fish bag limit, which could result in a seasonal closure. Response: NMFS disagrees. In 2011, Regulatory Amendment 9 to the FMP reduced the recreational bag limit for black sea bass from 15 to 5 fish per person per day to reduce the rate of harvest and extend the length of the recreational fishing season (76 FR 34892, June 15, 2011). Additionally, in 2013, Regulatory Amendment 19 increased the recreational ACL for black sea bass from 482,620 lb (218,913 kg), to 1,033,980 lb (469,005 kg), in response to PO 00000 Frm 00022 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 the Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR) 25 Update Assessment, which indicated the stock was rebuilt, was not undergoing overfishing, and was not overfished (78 FR 58249, September 23, 2013). The recreational ACL has not been met in recent years under a bag limit of five fish. The Council determined that an increase in the recreational bag limit to seven black sea bass per person per day is appropriate, and is expected to allow the recreational season to remain open year-round. Comment 3: Changing the fishing year start date for yellowtail snapper from January 1 to August 1 for the commercial and recreational sectors will negatively impact commercial and recreational fishermen. Response: NMFS disagrees. At their December 2015 meeting, the Council recognized that a change in the fishing year start date for the commercial sector, if implemented, would not reduce the probability of another commercial inseason closure due to the commercial ACL being met (as occurred in 2015). Rather, Council members stated that changing the start date of the fishing year would only shift the time period of when a commercial closure would occur. The Council’s intent is to increase the probability that a commercial closure would occur during a time of year that would impact fishermen the least and would benefit the stock the most. The Council chose to begin the yellowtail snapper commercial fishing year on August 1 because this alternative is expected to generate the highest dockside revenue since harvest would be open during the winter months when yellowtail snapper obtain a higher price per pound. Beginning the fishing year in the summer will also likely provide biological benefits to the stock because if the commercial ACL is met, the closure would coincide during the yellowtail snapper spawning season. The Council chose to begin the yellowtail snapper recreational fishing year on August 1 because that should yield the highest recreational average landings and provide the most socioeconomic benefits. Although the Council was aware that this alternative could result in a shortened season, limiting recreational harvest in the early summer months, the Council sought to ensure that harvest is open during the peak winter tourist season in south Florida, where the majority of the yellowtail snapper harvest takes place. The August 1 fishing year start date for yellowtail snapper commercial and recreational sectors would also promote consistency in regulations between E:\FR\FM\13JYR1.SGM 13JYR1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 134 / Wednesday, July 13, 2016 / Rules and Regulations jstallworth on DSK7TPTVN1PROD with RULES sectors. Additionally, at their April 2016 meeting, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council approved a measure to begin the yellowtail snapper fishing year in the Gulf of Mexico on August 1 for the commercial and recreational sectors, compatible with the South Atlantic measures implemented through this final rule. Comment 4: A yellowtail snapper closure for the commercial and recreational sectors during the summer months will negatively affect business. Response: NMFS agrees that a yellowtail snapper closure during any time of the fishing year may negatively affect a business. However, the yellowtail snapper fishing year change in this final rule is intended to lessen the economic hardships associated with an in-season closure. The commercial ACL for yellowtail snapper was met in October 2015, and an in-season accountability measure to close the commercial sector through December 31, 2015, was implemented (80 FR 65970, October 28, 2015). The Council and NMFS expect that commercial landings in future years will be similar to those in 2015, making another inseason commercial closure likely to occur. However, changing the fishing year to August 1 through July 31 provides the benefit of allowing harvest during the winter months when yellowtail snapper obtain a higher price per pound. Additionally, recreational landings of yellowtail snapper tend to increase in the spring and remain high during the summer months. Based on landings from 2010–2015, it is unlikely that the recreational sector ACL would be met during the August 1 through July 31 fishing year. However, prohibiting harvest during the late spring to early summer months after the recreational ACL is met coincides with the yellowtail snapper spawning season, biologically benefiting the stock. Classification The Regional Administrator, Southeast Region, NMFS, has determined that this final rule is consistent with Regulatory Amendment 25, the FMP, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable laws. This final rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides the statutory basis for this rule. The proposed rule and the preamble to this final rule provide a statement of the need for and objectives of this rule. No duplicative, overlapping, or conflicting Federal rules have been identified. In addition, no new reporting, record- VerDate Sep<11>2014 12:54 Jul 12, 2016 Jkt 238001 keeping, or other compliance requirements are introduced by this final rule. The Chief Council for Regulation of the Department of Commerce certified to the Chief Council for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration during the proposed rule stage that this action would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The factual basis for the certification was published in the proposed rule and is not repeated here. No comments were received regarding this certification. Comments and responses on the general economic effects of the proposed alternatives, or economic effects that fall outside the scope of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, are addressed in the Comments and Responses section. No changes were made in the final rule in response to such comments. The factual basis for the certification published in the proposed rule determined that certain commercial fishing businesses would be directly affected by the proposed rule and concluded that all such businesses were small. On December 29, 2015, NMFS issued a final rule establishing a small business size standard of $11 million in annual gross receipts for all businesses primarily engaged in the commercial fishing industry (NAICS 11411) for Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) compliance purposes only (80 FR 81194, December 29, 2015). The $11 million standard became effective on July 1, 2016, and is to be used in place of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s previous standard of $20.5 million in all NMFS rules subject to the RFA after July 1, 2016. Id. at 81194. NMFS has determined that the new size standard does not affect its decision to certify this regulatory action. As a result, a final regulatory flexibility analysis is not required and none has been prepared. Three provisions in this final rule are exempt from the requirement to delay the effectiveness of a final rule by 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(1). Specifically, the following provisions relieve restrictions on the regulated community: The increased blueline tilefish recreational bag limit set forth at § 622.187(b)(2), the increased blueline tilefish commercial trip limit set forth at § 622.191(a)(10), and the increased blueline tilefish commercial and recreational catch limits set forth at § 622.193(z). NMFS finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3) to waive the delay in the effective date for the measures pertaining to blueline tilefish in this rule, because these measures PO 00000 Frm 00023 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 45247 relieve restrictions by increasing ACLs and harvest limits for the commercial and recreational sectors for blueline tilefish in the South Atlantic EEZ. As described in Regulatory Amendment 25, increases in the blueline tilefish recreational bag limit, the commercial trip limit, and the sector ACLs are intended to be used in combination to achieve OY for the stock. Delaying implementation of these measures for blueline tilefish could result in snappergrouper fishermen not having the opportunity to achieve OY from this stock, because the sectors would have insufficient time to harvest the ACL increases before the fishing year’s end. Even though this final rule will increase the commercial trip limit and recreational bag limit, NMFS does not expect increased commercial and recreational harvest to result in inseason closures for blueline tilefish. This final rule does not change the period of allowable recreational harvest for blueline tilefish, and the recreational sector closes on September 1, 2016 (50 CFR 622.183(b)(7)). Additionally, for the reasons stated above, not waiving the 30-day delay of effectiveness for these blueline tilefish provisions is unnecessary and contrary to the public interest as a delay in implementation may negatively impact fishers and minimize the purpose of this final rule. Therefore, a delay in effectiveness would diminish the social and economic benefits for deep-water snapper-grouper fishermen this final rule provides, which is part of the purpose of the rule itself. Finally, this final rule creates no new duties, obligations, or requirements for the regulated community that would necessitate delaying this rule’s effectiveness to allow them to come into compliance with it. Thus, the measures applicable to blueline tilefish in this final rule are effective upon publication. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622 Black sea bass, Blueline tilefish, Commercial, Fisheries, Fishing, Recreational, South Atlantic, Yellowtail snapper. Dated: July 7, 2016. Eileen Sobeck, Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 622 is amended as follows: E:\FR\FM\13JYR1.SGM 13JYR1 45248 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 134 / Wednesday, July 13, 2016 / Rules and Regulations PART 622—FISHERIES OF THE CARIBBEAN, GULF OF MEXICO, AND SOUTH ATLANTIC 1. The authority citation for part 622 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. 2. In § 622.7, add paragraph (f) to read as follows: ■ § 622.7 Fishing years. * * * * * (f) South Atlantic yellowtail snapper—August 1 through July 31. ■ 3. In § 622.187: ■ A. Revise paragraph (b)(2)(iii); ■ B. Remove and reserve paragraph (b)(2)(iv); and ■ C. Revise paragraph (b)(7). The revisions read as follows: § 622.187 Bag and possession limits. * * * * * (b) * * * (2) * * * (iii) No more than one fish may be a golden tilefish; and * * * * * (7) Black sea bass—7. * * * * * ■ 4. In § 622.191, revise paragraph (a)(10) to read as follows: § 622.191 Commercial trip limits. * * * * (a) * * * (10) Blueline tilefish. Until the ACL specified in § 622.193(z)(1)(i) is reached or projected to be reached, 300 lb (136 kg), gutted weight; 336 lb (152 kg), round weight. See § 622.193(z)(1)(i) for the limitations regarding blueline tilefish after the commercial ACL is reached. * * * * * jstallworth on DSK7TPTVN1PROD with RULES * VerDate Sep<11>2014 12:54 Jul 12, 2016 Jkt 238001 5. In § 622.193, revise paragraph (z) to read as follows: ■ § 622.193 Annual catch limits (ACLs), annual catch targets (ACTs), and accountability measures (AMs). * * * * * (z) Blueline tilefish—(1) Commercial sector. (i) If commercial landings for blueline tilefish, as estimated by the SRD, reach or are projected to reach the commercial ACL of 87,521 lb (39,699 kg), round weight, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register to close the commercial sector for the remainder of the fishing year. On and after the effective date of such a notification, all sale or purchase of blueline tilefish is prohibited and harvest or possession of blueline tilefish in or from the South Atlantic EEZ is limited to the bag and possession limits. These bag and possession limits apply in the South Atlantic on board a vessel for which a valid Federal commercial or charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has been issued, without regard to where such species were harvested, i.e., in state or Federal waters. (ii) If commercial landings exceed the ACL, and the combined commercial and recreational ACL (total ACL) specified in paragraph (z)(3) of this section, is exceeded, and blueline tilefish is overfished, based on the most recent Status of U.S. Fisheries Report to Congress, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register, at or near the beginning of the following fishing year to reduce the commercial ACL for that following year by the amount of the commercial ACL overage in the prior fishing year. (2) Recreational sector. (i) If recreational landings for blueline tilefish, as estimated by the SRD, are PO 00000 Frm 00024 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 9990 projected to reach the recreational ACL of 87,277 lb (39,588 kg), round weight, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register to close the recreational sector for the remainder of the fishing year, unless the RA determines that no closure is necessary based on the best scientific information available. On and after the effective date of such a notification, the bag and possession limits are zero. (ii) If recreational landings for blueline tilefish, exceed the applicable recreational ACL, and the combined commercial and recreational ACL (total ACL) specified in paragraph (z)(3) of this section is exceeded, and blueline tilefish is overfished, based on the most recent Status of U.S. Fisheries Report to Congress, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register, to reduce the length of the recreational fishing season in the following fishing year to ensure recreational landings do not exceed the recreational ACL the following fishing year. When NMFS reduces the length of the following recreational fishing season and closes the recreational sector, the following closure provisions apply: The bag and possession limits for blueline tilefish in or from the South Atlantic EEZ are zero. Additionally, the recreational ACL will be reduced by the amount of the recreational ACL overage in the prior fishing year. The fishing season and recreational ACL will not be reduced if the RA determines, using the best scientific information available, that no reduction is necessary. (3) The combined commercial and recreational sector ACL (total ACL) is 174,798 lb (79,287 kg), round weight. [FR Doc. 2016–16510 Filed 7–12–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\13JYR1.SGM 13JYR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 134 (Wednesday, July 13, 2016)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 45245-45248]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-16510]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

[Docket No. 160225143-6583-02]
RIN 0648-BF61


Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 
Snapper-Grouper Fishery Off the Southern Atlantic States; Regulatory 
Amendment 25

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: NMFS issues regulations to implement Regulatory Amendment 25 
for the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery 
of the South Atlantic Region (Regulatory Amendment 25) as prepared and 
submitted by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council). 
This final rule revises the commercial and recreational annual catch 
limits (ACLs), the commercial trip limit, and the recreational bag 
limit for blueline tilefish. Additionally, this final rule revises the 
black sea bass recreational bag limit and the commercial and 
recreational fishing years for yellowtail snapper. The purpose of this 
final rule for blueline tilefish is to increase the optimum yield (OY) 
and ACLs based on a revised acceptable biological catch (ABC) 
recommendation from the Council's Scientific and Statistical Committee 
(SSC). The purpose of this final rule is also to achieve OY for black 
sea bass, and adjust the fishing year for yellowtail snapper to better 
protect these species and allow for increased economic benefits to 
fishers.

DATES: This rule is effective August 12, 2016, except for the 
amendments to Sec.  622.187(b)(2), Sec.  622.191(a)(10), and Sec.  
622.193(z) that are effective July 13, 2016.

ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of Regulatory Amendment 25, which includes 
an environmental assessment, a Regulatory Flexibility Act analysis, and 
a regulatory impact review may be obtained from www.regulations.gov or 
the Southeast Regional Office (SERO) Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/s_atl/sg/2015/reg_am25/index.html.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mary Janine Vara, NMFS SERO, 
telephone: 727-824-5305, or email: mary.vara@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The snapper-grouper fishery of the South 
Atlantic Region is managed under the FMP and includes blueline 
tilefish, black sea bass, and yellowtail snapper. The FMP was prepared 
by the Council and is implemented by NMFS through regulations at 50 CFR 
part 622 under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act).
    On June 1, 2016, NMFS published a proposed rule for Regulatory 
Amendment 25 and requested public comment (81 FR 34944). The proposed 
rule and Regulatory Amendment 25 outline the rationale for the actions 
contained in this final rule. A summary of the actions implemented by 
Regulatory Amendment 25 and this final rule is provided below.

Management Measures Contained in This Final Rule

    This final rule revises the commercial and recreational ACLs, 
commercial trip limit, and recreational bag limit for blueline 
tilefish; revises the recreational bag limit for black sea bass; and 
revises the fishing year for the yellowtail snapper commercial and 
recreational sectors. All ABC and ACL weights in this final rule are 
expressed in round weight.

Blueline Tilefish ACLs

    This final rule revises the commercial and recreational ACLs for 
blueline tilefish. The current commercial ACLs are 26,766 lb (12,141 
kg) for 2016, 35,785 lb (16,232 kg) for 2017, and 44,048 lb (19,980 kg) 
for 2018 and subsequent fishing years. The current recreational ACLs 
are 26,691 lb (12,107 kg) for 2016, 35,685 lb (16,186 kg) for 2017, and 
43,925 lb (19,924 kg) for 2018 and subsequent fishing years. These ACLs 
were implemented through the final rule to implement Amendment 32 to 
the FMP (80 FR 16583, March 30, 2015). This final rule increases both 
the commercial and recreational ACLs for blueline tilefish in the 
exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the South Atlantic. The commercial ACL 
will be set at 87,521 lb (39,699 kg) and the recreational ACL will be 
set at 87,277 lb (39,588 kg).
    In Regulatory Amendment 25, the Council is revising the blueline 
tilefish total ACL (combined commercial and recreational ACL) based on 
a new ABC recommendation from the Council's SSC. The SSC provided their 
blueline tilefish ABC recommendation to set the ABC at the equilibrium 
yield at 75 percent of the fishing mortality that produces the maximum 
sustainable yield (224,100 lb (101,650 kg)). The Council accepted the 
SSC's ABC recommendation and determined that this revised ABC is 
sufficient to prevent the overfishing of blueline tilefish.
    The Council is also revising the total ACL to increase the buffer 
between the blueline tilefish ABC and ACL from 2 percent to 22 percent. 
The increase in the buffer is to account for management uncertainty, 
such as increased blueline tilefish landings north of the Council's 
area of jurisdiction. In Amendment 32, the Council set the total 
blueline tilefish ACL for the South Atlantic at 98 percent of the 
recommended ABC for the entire Atlantic region to account for 
management uncertainty because the stock assessment was coast-wide and 
the Council was aware that landings of blueline tilefish occurred north 
of North Carolina. In Regulatory Amendment 25, the Council set the 
total ACL at 78 percent of the ABC. This decision is based on a 
comparison of the landings between the South Atlantic and Greater 
Atlantic Regions (Maine through Virginia), which indicate that 22 
percent of the landings from 2011-2014 are from the Greater Atlantic 
Region.

Blueline Tilefish Commercial Trip Limit

    The current commercial trip limit for blueline tilefish is 100 lb 
(45 kg), gutted weight; 112 lb (51 kg), round weight, and was 
implemented in Amendment 32. The Council selected that trip limit as a 
way to slow the commercial harvest of blueline tilefish, potentially 
lengthen the commercial fishing season, and reduce the risk of the 
commercial ACL being exceeded. This final rule increases the blueline 
tilefish commercial trip limit to 300 lb (136 kg) gutted weight; 336 lb 
(152 kg), round weight. The Council decided that an appropriate 
response to the increase in ABC and total ACL is to increase the 
commercial trip limit. The increase in the commercial trip limit will 
increase the socioeconomic benefits to commercial fishermen. In 
addition, the increase in the commercial trip limit is not expected to 
result in an in-season closure of blueline tilefish.

Blueline Tilefish and Black Sea Bass Recreational Bag Limits

    This final rule revises the recreational bag limits for both 
blueline tilefish and black sea bass. The current blueline tilefish bag 
limit is one fish per vessel per day for the months of May through 
August and is part of the aggregate bag limit for grouper and tilefish. 
There is no recreational retention of blueline

[[Page 45246]]

tilefish during the rest of the fishing year. This bag limit was 
implemented in Amendment 32. In conjunction with the increase in the 
recreational ACL in Regulatory Amendment 25, this final rule increases 
the recreational bag limit to three fish per person per day for the 
months of May through August and the bag limit remains part of the 
aggregate bag limit for grouper and tilefish. There will continue to be 
no recreational retention of blueline tilefish during the months of 
January through April and September through December, each year.
    The current bag limit for black sea bass is five fish per person 
per day and was implemented through the final rule for Regulatory 
Amendment 9 to the FMP (76 FR 34892, June 15, 2011). This final rule 
increases the recreational bag limit for black sea bass to seven fish 
per person per day. The Council decided to increase the bag limit to 
help achieve OY because the recreational ACL has not been met in recent 
years. Additionally, increasing the daily bag limit to seven fish per 
person per day is not expected to result in exceeding the recreational 
ACL or require an in-season closure of the recreational sector.

Yellowtail Snapper Fishing Year

    The current fishing year for the yellowtail snapper commercial and 
recreational sectors in the South Atlantic is January 1 through 
December 31. The in-season accountability measure for the commercial 
sector is to close yellowtail snapper when the commercial ACL is met or 
projected to be met.
    This final rule revises the fishing year for both the commercial 
and recreational sectors to be August 1 through July 31, each year. 
Changing the start of the fishing year to August 1 will benefit both 
sectors because it will help ensure that harvest is allowed during the 
winter months when yellowtail snapper obtain a higher price per pound 
commercially and during peak tourist season in south Florida, where the 
majority of recreational yellowtail snapper harvest occurs. 
Additionally, if an in-season closure for the commercial sector were to 
occur as a result of the ACL being met, that such a closure would 
likely occur later in the fishing year. With a fishing year start date 
of August 1, any such closure would likely coincide with the yellowtail 
snapper peak spawning period of May through July, thereby possibly 
providing additional biological benefits to the stock.

Comments and Responses

    NMFS received 23 comment submissions from individuals on the 
proposed rule and Regulatory Amendment 25. Some of the comments were 
outside the scope of the proposed rule and Regulatory Amendment 25, and 
11 comments agreed with the actions contained in Regulatory Amendment 
25. These comments are not addressed in this final rule. The comments 
that relate to one or more of the management actions in the proposed 
rule and Regulatory Amendment 25 are summarized and responded to below.
    Comment 1: The recreational bag limit for blueline tilefish should 
be seven fish per person per day during May through October.
    Response: NMFS disagrees. The Council selected their preferred 
alternative of a recreational bag limit of three fish per person per 
day during May through August, and no harvest and retention for the 
remainder of the year to ensure the fishing season remains open. The 
accountability measure for the recreational sector is to prohibit 
harvest if the recreational ACL is met. A greater bag limit and longer 
season would increase both the rate and time period that blueline 
tilefish are caught and increases the likelihood that the recreational 
ACL would be met and an in-season closure would occur. Additionally, 
because blueline tilefish and snowy grouper co-occur and are frequently 
caught together, the Council chose to maintain the current May through 
August recreational fishing season for these two species to reduce 
regulatory discards and associated release mortality.
    Comment 2: Several commenters did not agree with the proposed 
increase in the black sea bass bag limit from 5 to 7 fish per person 
per day, and suggested maintaining the current bag limit, or increasing 
the bag limit to 6 or 10 fish per person per day. One commenter stated 
that a bag limit of six fish per person per day would allow for 
increased harvest of black sea bass without meeting the recreational 
ACL, rather than a seven fish bag limit, which could result in a 
seasonal closure.
    Response: NMFS disagrees. In 2011, Regulatory Amendment 9 to the 
FMP reduced the recreational bag limit for black sea bass from 15 to 5 
fish per person per day to reduce the rate of harvest and extend the 
length of the recreational fishing season (76 FR 34892, June 15, 2011). 
Additionally, in 2013, Regulatory Amendment 19 increased the 
recreational ACL for black sea bass from 482,620 lb (218,913 kg), to 
1,033,980 lb (469,005 kg), in response to the Southeast Data, 
Assessment, and Review (SEDAR) 25 Update Assessment, which indicated 
the stock was rebuilt, was not undergoing overfishing, and was not 
overfished (78 FR 58249, September 23, 2013). The recreational ACL has 
not been met in recent years under a bag limit of five fish. The 
Council determined that an increase in the recreational bag limit to 
seven black sea bass per person per day is appropriate, and is expected 
to allow the recreational season to remain open year-round.
    Comment 3: Changing the fishing year start date for yellowtail 
snapper from January 1 to August 1 for the commercial and recreational 
sectors will negatively impact commercial and recreational fishermen.
    Response: NMFS disagrees. At their December 2015 meeting, the 
Council recognized that a change in the fishing year start date for the 
commercial sector, if implemented, would not reduce the probability of 
another commercial in-season closure due to the commercial ACL being 
met (as occurred in 2015). Rather, Council members stated that changing 
the start date of the fishing year would only shift the time period of 
when a commercial closure would occur. The Council's intent is to 
increase the probability that a commercial closure would occur during a 
time of year that would impact fishermen the least and would benefit 
the stock the most. The Council chose to begin the yellowtail snapper 
commercial fishing year on August 1 because this alternative is 
expected to generate the highest dockside revenue since harvest would 
be open during the winter months when yellowtail snapper obtain a 
higher price per pound. Beginning the fishing year in the summer will 
also likely provide biological benefits to the stock because if the 
commercial ACL is met, the closure would coincide during the yellowtail 
snapper spawning season. The Council chose to begin the yellowtail 
snapper recreational fishing year on August 1 because that should yield 
the highest recreational average landings and provide the most socio-
economic benefits. Although the Council was aware that this alternative 
could result in a shortened season, limiting recreational harvest in 
the early summer months, the Council sought to ensure that harvest is 
open during the peak winter tourist season in south Florida, where the 
majority of the yellowtail snapper harvest takes place. The August 1 
fishing year start date for yellowtail snapper commercial and 
recreational sectors would also promote consistency in regulations 
between

[[Page 45247]]

sectors. Additionally, at their April 2016 meeting, the Gulf of Mexico 
Fishery Management Council approved a measure to begin the yellowtail 
snapper fishing year in the Gulf of Mexico on August 1 for the 
commercial and recreational sectors, compatible with the South Atlantic 
measures implemented through this final rule.
    Comment 4: A yellowtail snapper closure for the commercial and 
recreational sectors during the summer months will negatively affect 
business.
    Response: NMFS agrees that a yellowtail snapper closure during any 
time of the fishing year may negatively affect a business. However, the 
yellowtail snapper fishing year change in this final rule is intended 
to lessen the economic hardships associated with an in-season closure. 
The commercial ACL for yellowtail snapper was met in October 2015, and 
an in-season accountability measure to close the commercial sector 
through December 31, 2015, was implemented (80 FR 65970, October 28, 
2015). The Council and NMFS expect that commercial landings in future 
years will be similar to those in 2015, making another in-season 
commercial closure likely to occur. However, changing the fishing year 
to August 1 through July 31 provides the benefit of allowing harvest 
during the winter months when yellowtail snapper obtain a higher price 
per pound.
    Additionally, recreational landings of yellowtail snapper tend to 
increase in the spring and remain high during the summer months. Based 
on landings from 2010-2015, it is unlikely that the recreational sector 
ACL would be met during the August 1 through July 31 fishing year. 
However, prohibiting harvest during the late spring to early summer 
months after the recreational ACL is met coincides with the yellowtail 
snapper spawning season, biologically benefiting the stock.

Classification

    The Regional Administrator, Southeast Region, NMFS, has determined 
that this final rule is consistent with Regulatory Amendment 25, the 
FMP, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable laws.
    This final rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides the statutory basis for this 
rule. The proposed rule and the preamble to this final rule provide a 
statement of the need for and objectives of this rule. No duplicative, 
overlapping, or conflicting Federal rules have been identified. In 
addition, no new reporting, record-keeping, or other compliance 
requirements are introduced by this final rule.
    The Chief Council for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Council for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration during the proposed rule stage that this action would 
not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. The factual basis for the certification was published in the 
proposed rule and is not repeated here. No comments were received 
regarding this certification. Comments and responses on the general 
economic effects of the proposed alternatives, or economic effects that 
fall outside the scope of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, are addressed 
in the Comments and Responses section. No changes were made in the 
final rule in response to such comments.
    The factual basis for the certification published in the proposed 
rule determined that certain commercial fishing businesses would be 
directly affected by the proposed rule and concluded that all such 
businesses were small. On December 29, 2015, NMFS issued a final rule 
establishing a small business size standard of $11 million in annual 
gross receipts for all businesses primarily engaged in the commercial 
fishing industry (NAICS 11411) for Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) 
compliance purposes only (80 FR 81194, December 29, 2015). The $11 
million standard became effective on July 1, 2016, and is to be used in 
place of the U.S. Small Business Administration's previous standard of 
$20.5 million in all NMFS rules subject to the RFA after July 1, 2016. 
Id. at 81194. NMFS has determined that the new size standard does not 
affect its decision to certify this regulatory action. As a result, a 
final regulatory flexibility analysis is not required and none has been 
prepared.
    Three provisions in this final rule are exempt from the requirement 
to delay the effectiveness of a final rule by 30 days after publication 
in the Federal Register, under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(1). Specifically, the 
following provisions relieve restrictions on the regulated community: 
The increased blueline tilefish recreational bag limit set forth at 
Sec.  622.187(b)(2), the increased blueline tilefish commercial trip 
limit set forth at Sec.  622.191(a)(10), and the increased blueline 
tilefish commercial and recreational catch limits set forth at Sec.  
622.193(z). NMFS finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3) to waive the 
delay in the effective date for the measures pertaining to blueline 
tilefish in this rule, because these measures relieve restrictions by 
increasing ACLs and harvest limits for the commercial and recreational 
sectors for blueline tilefish in the South Atlantic EEZ. As described 
in Regulatory Amendment 25, increases in the blueline tilefish 
recreational bag limit, the commercial trip limit, and the sector ACLs 
are intended to be used in combination to achieve OY for the stock. 
Delaying implementation of these measures for blueline tilefish could 
result in snapper-grouper fishermen not having the opportunity to 
achieve OY from this stock, because the sectors would have insufficient 
time to harvest the ACL increases before the fishing year's end. Even 
though this final rule will increase the commercial trip limit and 
recreational bag limit, NMFS does not expect increased commercial and 
recreational harvest to result in in-season closures for blueline 
tilefish. This final rule does not change the period of allowable 
recreational harvest for blueline tilefish, and the recreational sector 
closes on September 1, 2016 (50 CFR 622.183(b)(7)). Additionally, for 
the reasons stated above, not waiving the 30-day delay of effectiveness 
for these blueline tilefish provisions is unnecessary and contrary to 
the public interest as a delay in implementation may negatively impact 
fishers and minimize the purpose of this final rule. Therefore, a delay 
in effectiveness would diminish the social and economic benefits for 
deep-water snapper-grouper fishermen this final rule provides, which is 
part of the purpose of the rule itself. Finally, this final rule 
creates no new duties, obligations, or requirements for the regulated 
community that would necessitate delaying this rule's effectiveness to 
allow them to come into compliance with it. Thus, the measures 
applicable to blueline tilefish in this final rule are effective upon 
publication.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622

    Black sea bass, Blueline tilefish, Commercial, Fisheries, Fishing, 
Recreational, South Atlantic, Yellowtail snapper.

    Dated: July 7, 2016.
Eileen Sobeck,
Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 622 is amended 
as follows:

[[Page 45248]]

PART 622--FISHERIES OF THE CARIBBEAN, GULF OF MEXICO, AND SOUTH 
ATLANTIC

0
1. The authority citation for part 622 continues to read as follows:

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


0
2. In Sec.  622.7, add paragraph (f) to read as follows:


Sec.  622.7  Fishing years.

* * * * *
    (f) South Atlantic yellowtail snapper--August 1 through July 31.

0
3. In Sec.  622.187:
0
A. Revise paragraph (b)(2)(iii);
0
B. Remove and reserve paragraph (b)(2)(iv); and
0
C. Revise paragraph (b)(7).
    The revisions read as follows:


Sec.  622.187  Bag and possession limits.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (iii) No more than one fish may be a golden tilefish; and
* * * * *
    (7) Black sea bass--7.
* * * * *

0
4. In Sec.  622.191, revise paragraph (a)(10) to read as follows:


Sec.  622.191  Commercial trip limits.

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (10) Blueline tilefish. Until the ACL specified in Sec.  
622.193(z)(1)(i) is reached or projected to be reached, 300 lb (136 
kg), gutted weight; 336 lb (152 kg), round weight. See Sec.  
622.193(z)(1)(i) for the limitations regarding blueline tilefish after 
the commercial ACL is reached.
* * * * *

0
5. In Sec.  622.193, revise paragraph (z) to read as follows:


Sec.  622.193  Annual catch limits (ACLs), annual catch targets (ACTs), 
and accountability measures (AMs).

* * * * *
    (z) Blueline tilefish--(1) Commercial sector. (i) If commercial 
landings for blueline tilefish, as estimated by the SRD, reach or are 
projected to reach the commercial ACL of 87,521 lb (39,699 kg), round 
weight, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the Federal 
Register to close the commercial sector for the remainder of the 
fishing year. On and after the effective date of such a notification, 
all sale or purchase of blueline tilefish is prohibited and harvest or 
possession of blueline tilefish in or from the South Atlantic EEZ is 
limited to the bag and possession limits. These bag and possession 
limits apply in the South Atlantic on board a vessel for which a valid 
Federal commercial or charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic 
snapper-grouper has been issued, without regard to where such species 
were harvested, i.e., in state or Federal waters.
    (ii) If commercial landings exceed the ACL, and the combined 
commercial and recreational ACL (total ACL) specified in paragraph 
(z)(3) of this section, is exceeded, and blueline tilefish is 
overfished, based on the most recent Status of U.S. Fisheries Report to 
Congress, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the 
Federal Register, at or near the beginning of the following fishing 
year to reduce the commercial ACL for that following year by the amount 
of the commercial ACL overage in the prior fishing year.
    (2) Recreational sector. (i) If recreational landings for blueline 
tilefish, as estimated by the SRD, are projected to reach the 
recreational ACL of 87,277 lb (39,588 kg), round weight, the AA will 
file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register to close 
the recreational sector for the remainder of the fishing year, unless 
the RA determines that no closure is necessary based on the best 
scientific information available. On and after the effective date of 
such a notification, the bag and possession limits are zero.
    (ii) If recreational landings for blueline tilefish, exceed the 
applicable recreational ACL, and the combined commercial and 
recreational ACL (total ACL) specified in paragraph (z)(3) of this 
section is exceeded, and blueline tilefish is overfished, based on the 
most recent Status of U.S. Fisheries Report to Congress, the AA will 
file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register, to reduce 
the length of the recreational fishing season in the following fishing 
year to ensure recreational landings do not exceed the recreational ACL 
the following fishing year. When NMFS reduces the length of the 
following recreational fishing season and closes the recreational 
sector, the following closure provisions apply: The bag and possession 
limits for blueline tilefish in or from the South Atlantic EEZ are 
zero. Additionally, the recreational ACL will be reduced by the amount 
of the recreational ACL overage in the prior fishing year. The fishing 
season and recreational ACL will not be reduced if the RA determines, 
using the best scientific information available, that no reduction is 
necessary.
    (3) The combined commercial and recreational sector ACL (total ACL) 
is 174,798 lb (79,287 kg), round weight.

[FR Doc. 2016-16510 Filed 7-12-16; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P