Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Removal of Vessel Upgrade Restrictions for Swordfish Directed Limited Access and Atlantic Tunas Longline Category Permits, 48731-48735 [2016-17646]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 143 / Tuesday, July 26, 2016 / Proposed Rules commercial quota would be less than under the second alternative but greater than under the preferred alternative, it would be expected to fall somewhere in between those alternatives in terms of potential landings and likelihood of negative price effects for 2016 and 2017. In the long-term, this alternative would result in the greatest commercial quota and greatest potential landings. Because there is insufficient data to estimate the total expected change in landings and revenue, it is not possible to definitively state which alternative would be expected to result in the greatest economic benefits to the commercial sector. This alternative was not selected for the same reasons the Council did not select the second alternative. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622 Annual catch limits, Annual catch targets, Fisheries, Fishing, Gulf, Recreational, Red grouper, Reef fish, Quotas. 1. The authority citation for part 622 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. 2. In § 622.39, revise paragraph (a)(1)(iii)(C) to read as follows: ■ Quotas. * * * * * (a) * * * (1) * * * (iii) * * * (C) Red grouper—7,780,000 lb (3,528,949 kg). * * * * * ■ 3. In § 622.41, revise the last sentence of paragraph (e)(1) and paragraph (e)(2)(iv) to read as follows: rmajette on DSK2TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS § 622.41 Annual catch limits (ACLs), annual catch targets (ACTs), and accountability measures (AMs). * * * * (e) * * * (1) * * * The applicable commercial ACL for red grouper, in gutted weight, is 8,190,000 lb (3,714,922 kg). (2) * * * (iv) The recreational ACL for red grouper, in gutted weight, is 2,580,000 lb (1,170,268 kg). The recreational ACT 13:47 Jul 25, 2016 Jkt 238001 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 635 [Docket No. 160531477–6477–01] RIN 0648–BG10 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Removal of Vessel Upgrade Restrictions for Swordfish Directed Limited Access and Atlantic Tunas Longline Category Permits This proposed rule would remove vessel upgrading restrictions for vessels issued swordfish directed and Atlantic tunas Longline category limited access permits (LAPs). Currently, regulations allow for upgrading vessels or transferring permits to another vessel only if the vessel upgrade or permit transfer results in an increase of no more than 35 percent in length overall, gross registered tonnage, and net tonnage, as measured relative to the baseline vessel specifications (i.e., the specifications of the vessel first issued an HMS LAP). The proposed rule eliminates these restrictions on upgrades and permit transfers. This action could affect vessel owners issued swordfish directed and Atlantic tunas Longline category LAPs and fishing in the Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. Swordfish handgear LAP upgrade restrictions are not being addressed in this proposed rule. DATES: Written comments must be received by September 26, 2016. An operator-assisted, public conference call and webinar will be held on August 23, 2016, from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., EST. ADDRESSES: The conference call information is phone number 888–843– 6165; participant passcode 6512640. Participants are strongly encouraged to log/dial in 15 minutes prior to the meeting. NMFS will show a brief presentation via webinar followed by public comment. To join the webinar go to: https://noaaevents2.webex.com/ SUMMARY: PART 622—FISHERIES OF THE CARIBBEAN, GULF OF MEXICO, AND SOUTH ATLANTIC VerDate Sep<11>2014 BILLING CODE 3510–22–P National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 622 is proposed to be amended as follows: * [FR Doc. 2016–17518 Filed 7–25–16; 8:45 am] AGENCY: Dated: July 15, 2016. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. § 622.39 for red grouper, in gutted weight, is 2,370,000 lb (1,075,014 kg). * * * * * PO 00000 Frm 00008 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 48731 noaaevents2/onstage/g.php? MTID=e7bad02475e6061ff9227fb 0842ccf332; meeting number: 998 920 078; event password: NOAA. Participants that have not used WebEx before will be prompted to download and run a plug-in program that will enable them to view the webinar. You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA–NMFS– 2016–0087, by any of the following methods: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docket Detail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2016-0087, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Submit written comments to Margo Schulze-Haugen, NMFS/SF1, 1315 East–West Highway, SSMC3, Silver Spring, MD 20910. Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Presentation materials and copies of the supporting documents are available from the HMS Management Division Web site at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/ sfa/hms/ or by contacting Steve Durkee by phone at 202–670–6637 or Rick Pearson by phone at 727–824–5399. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Durkee by phone at 202–670–6637 or Rick Pearson by phone at 727–824– 5399. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background The U.S. Atlantic swordfish and tuna fisheries are managed under the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and its amendments. Implementing regulations at 50 CFR part 635 are issued under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq., and the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA), 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq. ATCA authorizes the Secretary of E:\FR\FM\26JYP1.SGM 26JYP1 rmajette on DSK2TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS 48732 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 143 / Tuesday, July 26, 2016 / Proposed Rules Commerce (Secretary) to promulgate regulations, as may be necessary and appropriate, to implement recommendations of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). In 1999, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued initial LAPs in the Atlantic swordfish and shark fisheries (64 FR 29090, March 28, 1999). To be eligible to fish with pelagic longline gear, a vessel had to be issued a swordfish directed or incidental LAP, a shark directed or incidental LAP, and an Atlantic tunas Longline category permit. After initial issuance of these permits, no new permits were issued by NMFS, but permits could be transferred to other vessels. Swordfish and shark directed LAPs included restrictions on vessel upgrading and permit transfers. Vessel upgrades and permit transfers were allowed only if the upgrade or permit transfer to another vessel did not result in an increase in horsepower of more than 20 percent or an increase of more than 10 percent in length overall, gross registered tonnage, or net tonnage relative to the respective specifications of the first vessel issued the initial LAP (the baseline vessel). Additionally, vessels could only be upgraded one time. These vessel upgrading restrictions were put into place to limit capacity in the swordfish fishery and to be consistent with the New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s permit policies at the time. Incidental LAPs for these species did not have vessel upgrading restrictions. Upgrading restrictions for Atlantic tunas Longline category LAPs were not explicitly implemented in the 1999 rule. As a practical effect, Atlantic tunas Longline category LAPs were limited by the same upgrading restrictions as the swordfish and shark directed permits due to the requirement to hold all three permits when fishing with pelagic longline gear. On June 7, 2007 (72 FR 31688), NMFS issued a final rule amending the highly migratory species (HMS) fishery regulations to provide additional opportunities for U.S. vessels to more fully utilize the North Atlantic swordfish quota, recognizing the improved status of the species. The ICCAT Standing Committee on Research and Statistics (SCRS) had completed a stock assessment for North Atlantic swordfish in October 2006 indicating that the North Atlantic swordfish biomass had improved, possibly due to strong recruitment in the late 1990s combined with reductions in reported catch since then. The SCRS estimated that the stock biomass at the beginning of 2006 (B2006) was at 99 percent of the VerDate Sep<11>2014 13:47 Jul 25, 2016 Jkt 238001 biomass necessary to produce maximum sustainable yield (Bmsy), and the 2005 fishing mortality rate (F2005) was estimated to be 0.86 times the fishing mortality rate at maximum sustainable yield (Fmsy). The 2007 action modified limited access vessel upgrading and permit transfer restrictions for vessels that were concurrently issued, or were eligible to renew, directed or incidental swordfish, directed or incidental shark, and Atlantic tunas Longline category LAPs (i.e., vessels that were eligible to fish with pelagic longline gear). The rule also clarified that Atlantic tunas Longline category LAPs were subject to the same vessel upgrade restrictions as swordfish and shark directed LAPs. These measures allowed eligible vessel owners to upgrade their vessels by 35 percent in size (length overall, gross registered tonnage, and net tonnage) relative to the specifications of the baseline vessel, and removed upgrade limits on horsepower. Additionally, these permits could be upgraded more than once, provided that the new maximum upgrade limits were not exceeded. NMFS now is considering removing these vessel upgrading restrictions for vessels issued swordfish directed and Atlantic tunas Longline category LAPs. Under the current regulatory framework and given the now rebuilt status of the North Atlantic swordfish stock, these restrictions have the effect of reducing flexibility in the pelagic longline fishery for persons interested in entering the fishery, purchasing a new vessel, or upgrading their existing vessel. Currently, a new entrant to the fishery must obtain an available permit with an associated maximum upgrade limit that accommodates his vessel size. This can limit and complicate the permit transfer as the owner searches for a permit suitable to the vessel. For a vessel owner who is already issued a swordfish directed and/or Atlantic tunas Longline category LAP that wants to purchase a new vessel or enlarge an existing vessel, the new or upgraded vessel may not exceed the permit’s maximum vessel upgrading limit. This can limit and complicate the permit holder’s purchasing options. Because there are usually only a small number of swordfish directed and Atlantic tunas Longline permits available, it is often difficult to find a permit that accommodates the target vessel size. NMFS also has heard from swordfish and tuna LAP permit holders that the vessel upgrading restrictions restrict their ability to transfer permits to newer vessels, which could have greater capacity, and address safety issues that PO 00000 Frm 00009 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 exist with older vessels. For these reasons, and those discussed below, NMFS is proposing to remove vessel upgrading restrictions for swordfish directed and Atlantic tunas Longline LAPs. Since implementing the vessel upgrade requirements in 1999 and modifying them in 2007, several important things have changed in the Atlantic HMS pelagic longline fishery. First, there are fewer swordfish permit holders. From the mid-to-late 1990s, more than 2,000 commercial open access swordfish permits were issued annually, and the pelagic longline fleet had become overcapitalized. The directed swordfish fishery was closed temporarily in 1995, and again in 1997, due to quota overages, and the swordfish stock was overfished (B/Bmsy = 0.715) with overfishing occurring (F/ Fmsy = 1.169). Also in 1999, ICCAT adopted an international rebuilding plan for North Atlantic swordfish (ICCAT Recommendation 99–02) and passed a resolution to examine time/ area closures and gear modification measures to reduce catches of undersized swordfish (Res. 99–04). Thus, in 1999, NMFS was particularly concerned about ensuring that pelagic longline fishing effort and fleet capacity were commensurate with the available swordfish quota, and the vessel upgrading restrictions were part of NMFS’ management strategy to reduce capacity. That situation does not exist today. Fleet capacity has been reduced through the successful application of the initial LAP qualification criteria and attrition over time. In 1998, prior to the implementation of upgrade restrictions, 233 pelagic longline vessels among the 2,000 permit holders landed swordfish and thus were considered ‘‘active.’’ The number of such vessels dropped to a low of 102 in 2006 and has remained between 109 and 122 vessels since then. Similarly, as of December 30, 1999, approximately 451 directed and incidental swordfish LAPs had been issued. By 2015, permit numbers had been reduced to 260 directed and incidental swordfish LAPs. Permit numbers are expected to remain at approximately these levels because no new LAPs are being issued. Second, other requirements implemented since 1999, such as those designed to reduce bycatch in the pelagic longline fishery (e.g., closed areas, bait requirements, individual bluefin tuna quotas, and gear restrictions), have also limited fishing effort. The directed North Atlantic swordfish quota has not been exceeded in almost 20 years and, in fact, has been underharvested for a number of years. E:\FR\FM\26JYP1.SGM 26JYP1 rmajette on DSK2TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 143 / Tuesday, July 26, 2016 / Proposed Rules Third, during this same time period, the stock status of north Atlantic swordfish has significantly improved. In 2009, ICCAT declared that the stock has been fully rebuilt. Using domestic stock status thresholds, NMFS has also declared that the north Atlantic swordfish stock is not overfished and that overfishing is not occurring. In addition to limiting capacity in the HMS pelagic longline fishery, a secondary goal for implementing the specific swordfish directed and Atlantic tunas Longline vessel upgrade limits adopted in 1999 was to be consistent with similar regulations previously established by the New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils (Councils). In August 2015, the Councils removed gross registered and net tonnage limits (80 FR 51754) so that only length and horsepower limits remain in effect. Because this HMS action would remove all upgrade restrictions for vessels issued swordfish directed and Atlantic tunas Longline category LAPs, only the Council regulations would limit vessel upgrading for vessels issued LAPs for both Council-managed species and HMS. Thus, there would be no conflict between Council and HMS vessel upgrade restrictions. This action would simplify compliance for dually permitted vessels and provide greater flexibility for HMS permitted vessels. The overall reduction in pelagic longline fleet capacity, in combination with the totality of effort controls implemented since 1999, sufficiently limits the fishery’s capacity. Vessel upgrading and related permit transfer restrictions are no longer necessary or relevant for the Atlantic HMS pelagic longline fishery at this time. Thus, this proposed rule would remove all upgrading restrictions for vessels issued swordfish directed and Atlantic tunas Longline category LAPs. Although limited in scope, this action would ease a barrier to entry in the pelagic longline fishery, facilitate limited access permit transfers, provide increased business flexibility, and help vessel owners address safety issues. The proposed action would provide more flexibility for current permit holders by eliminating the upgrading restrictions for swordfish directed and Atlantic tunas Longline category LAP permit holders. Eliminating vessel upgrading restrictions would have short- and long-term minor beneficial socioeconomic impacts, since it would allow fishermen to buy, sell, or transfer swordfish directed and Atlantic tunas Longline category LAPs without concerns about exceeding the maximum upgrade limit for the permits. VerDate Sep<11>2014 13:47 Jul 25, 2016 Jkt 238001 Removing the upgrading restrictions is not expected to affect the number of swordfish and tunas being landed by vessels, as these amounts are determined by established quotas and effort controls (including, for example, individual vessel quotas for bluefin tuna) not the size of the vessel. Thus, this action is expected to have no ecological impacts and would not result in additional interactions with protected resources, given the other restrictions on the Atlantic HMS pelagic longline fishery. Request for Comments NMFS is requesting comments on any of the measures or analyses described in this proposed rule. NMFS is specifically requesting comments on its decision to certify that the proposed rule would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities and on the analysis below that supports that decision and on our assessment that relieving the restrictions would have no ecological impacts. During the comment period, NMFS will hold one conference call and webinar for this proposed rule. The conference call and webinar will be held on August 23, 2016, from 2:30–4:30 p.m. EST. Please see the DATES and ADDRESSES headings for more information. The public is reminded that NMFS expects participants on phone conferences to conduct themselves appropriately. At the beginning of the conference call, a representative of NMFS will explain the ground rules (e.g., all comments are to be directed to the agency on the proposed action; attendees will be called to give their comments in the order in which they registered to speak; each attendee will have an equal amount of time to speak; attendees may not interrupt one another; etc.). NMFS representative(s) will structure the meeting so that all attending members of the public will be able to comment, if they so choose, regardless of the controversial nature of the subject(s). Attendees are expected to respect the ground rules, and those that do not may be removed from the conference call. Classification Pursuant to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is consistent with the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Atlantic Tuna Convention Act, and other applicable law, subject to further consideration after public comment. PO 00000 Frm 00010 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 48733 This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. NMFS has made a preliminary determination that this action qualifies to be categorically excluded from the requirement to prepare an environmental assessment in accordance with NMFS’ Environmental Review Procedures for Implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NOAA Administrative Order 216–6), subject to further consideration after public comment. This action falls within the scope of effects already analyzed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prepared for the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP, the 2012 Environmental Assessment prepared for the rulemaking on North and South Atlantic Swordfish Quotas and Management Measures (77 FR 45273, July 31, 2012), and the Final EIS for Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP. Section 6.03a.3.(b)(2) of NOAA Administrative Order 216–6 specifies that certain actions may be categorically excluded from further NEPA analysis including minor changes to a management plan when those effects have already been analyzed and additional effects are not expected. This action will have no additional effects that were not already analyzed, and the action is not precedent-setting or controversial. It would not affect the number of swordfish and tunas being landed by vessels and would not result in additional interactions with protected resources, as these amounts are determined by the established quotas and effort controls, not the size of the vessel, and the effects of those established quotas and effort controls have already been analyzed. NMFS has determined that this proposed rule will have no effects on any coastal use or resource, and a negative determination pursuant to 15 CFR 930.35 is not required. Therefore, pursuant to 15 CFR 930.33(a)(2), coordination with appropriate state agencies under section 307 of the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) is not required. No changes to the human environment are anticipated because removing the vessel upgrading restrictions would not affect the number of swordfish and tunas being landed by vessels, as these amounts are determined by the established quotas and effort controls, not the size of the vessel. The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration that this proposed rule, if adopted, would not E:\FR\FM\26JYP1.SGM 26JYP1 rmajette on DSK2TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS 48734 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 143 / Tuesday, July 26, 2016 / Proposed Rules have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities under section 605(b) of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). The U.S. Atlantic swordfish and tuna fisheries are managed under the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan (2006 Consolidated HMS FMP) and its amendments. Implementing regulations at 50 CFR part 635 are issued under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq., and ATCA, 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq. ATCA authorizes the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) to promulgate regulations, as may be necessary and appropriate, to implement ICCAT recommendations. As discussed above, the purpose of this proposed rule is to remove vessel upgrading restrictions for vessels issued swordfish directed and Atlantic tunas Longline category LAPs to ease a barrier to entry in the pelagic longline fishery, facilitate limited access permit transfers, provide increased business flexibility, and help vessel owners address safety issues. Section 603(b)(3) of the Regulatory Flexibility Act requires Agencies to provide an estimate of the number of small entities to which the rule would apply. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has established size criteria for all major industry sectors in the United States, including fish harvesters. Under SBA’s regulations, an agency may develop its own industry-specific size standards after consultation with the SBA Office of Advocacy and an opportunity for public comment (see 13 CFR 121.903(c)). Under this provision, NMFS may establish size standards that differ from those established by the SBA Office of Size Standards, but only for use by NMFS and only for the purpose of conducting an analysis of economic effects in fulfillment of the agency’s obligations under the RFA. 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 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 SBA’s current standards of $20.5 million, $5.5 million, and $7.5 million for the finfish (NAICS 114111), shellfish (NAICS 114112), and other marine fishing (NAICS 114119) sectors of the U.S. commercial fishing industry in all NMFS rules subject to the RFA after July 1, 2016. Id. at 81194. VerDate Sep<11>2014 13:47 Jul 25, 2016 Jkt 238001 NMFS considers all HMS pelagic longline permit holders to be small entities because these vessels have reported annual gross receipts of less than $11 million for commercial fishing. NMFS has determined that this proposed rule would apply to the 280 permit holders that were issued Atlantic tunas Longline category LAPs in 2015, since these permit holders also already possess the required swordfish directed or incidental permits to fish with pelagic longline gear. The economic effects of this proposed rule to remove vessel upgrading restrictions for vessels issued swordfish directed and Atlantic tunas Longline category LAPs would likely not result in any significant adverse impacts on the 280 permit holders. The removal of vessel upgrading restrictions would reduce a regulatory burden that prevents fishermen from upgrading their vessels beyond established limits due to an outdated restriction. It would not result in any short-term costs to these small entities. This proposed rule would allow these permit holders to freely upgrade their vessels without being constrained by the length overall, gross registered tonnage, and net tonnage limits currently specified on their permits. In the short-term, it is likely that only a few permit holders will opt to invest in new vessels or vessel upgrades based on past experience with these kinds of requests. Those who invest in new vessels or upgrades in the short-term would potentially face lower transaction costs, since they would not have to potentially search for and acquire permits with higher upgrade capabilities. In addition, new entrants in the fishery would have more options in acquiring permits, since they would not be limited by vessel size. Current permit holders with permits with high length overall, gross registered tonnage, and net tonnage baselines might face slightly lower demand for their permits, and thus reduced value of their permits under this proposed rule because these permits can currently be transferred to more, and larger, vessels than permits with lower baseline specifications. However, since the implementation of Individual Bluefin Quota (IBQ) program under Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, much of the economic value of the swordfish directed and Atlantic tunas Longline category permit value has shifted from these permits to the actual IBQ shares bundled with those permits, because IBQ allocation is now required to fish with pelagic longline gear. Therefore, the likely economic impact on permit values of this proposed rule to remove PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 vessel upgrade restrictions is likely very limited. In the long-term, removing the upgrading restrictions would allow greater flexibility for permit holders to upgrade their vessels and address safety issues. The removal of upgrading restrictions is not expected to result in disproportionate adverse effects on pelagic longline fishing operations of different sizes, and is actually likely to help smaller vessel owners slightly more than owners of larger vessels because they are more likely to have lower vessel upgrade limits associated with their permits. Overall, this proposed rule would likely only result in some minor positive impacts on small entity profitability. This action is not expected to result in a significant economic impact on the small entities currently subject to the vessel upgrading restrictions. Although limited in scope, this action would ease a barrier to entry in the pelagic longline fishery, facilitate limited access permit transfers, provide increased business flexibility, and help vessel owners address safety issues. Therefore, removing vessel upgrading restrictions for vessels issued swordfish directed and Atlantic tunas Longline category LAPs will not have a significant impact on a substantial number of small entities. As a result, no initial regulatory flexibility analysis is required, and none has been prepared. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 635 Fisheries, Fishing, Fishing vessels, Foreign relations, Imports, Penalties, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Treaties. Dated: July 21, 2016. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. For reasons set out in the preamble, NMFS proposes to amend 50 CFR part 635 as follows: PART 635—ATLANTIC HIGHLY MIGRATORY SPECIES 1. The authority citation for part 635 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. 2. In § 635.4, revise paragraphs (l)(2)(i), (l)(2)(ii) introductory text, (l)(2)(ii)(B), and (l)(2)(ii)(C) to read as follows: ■ § 635.4 * Permits and fees. * * (l) * * * (2) * * * E:\FR\FM\26JYP1.SGM 26JYP1 * * Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 143 / Tuesday, July 26, 2016 / Proposed Rules rmajette on DSK2TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS (i) Subject to the restrictions on upgrading the harvesting capacity of permitted vessels in paragraph (l)(2)(ii) of this section, as applicable, and to the limitations on ownership of permitted vessels in paragraph (l)(2)(iii) of this section, an owner may transfer a shark or swordfish LAP or an Atlantic Tunas Longline category permit to another vessel that he or she owns or to another person. Directed handgear LAPs for swordfish may be transferred to another vessel or to another person but only for use with handgear and subject to the upgrading restrictions in paragraph (l)(2)(ii) of this section and the limitations on ownership of permitted vessels in paragraph (l)(2)(iii) of this section. Shark directed and incidental LAPs, swordfish directed and incidental LAPs, and Atlantic Tunas Longline category permits are not subject to the upgrading requirements specified in VerDate Sep<11>2014 13:47 Jul 25, 2016 Jkt 238001 paragraph (l)(2)(ii) of this section. Shark and swordfish incidental LAPs are not subject to the ownership requirements specified in paragraph (l)(2)(iii) of this section. (ii) An owner may upgrade a vessel with a swordfish handgear LAP, or transfer such permit to another vessel or to another person, and be eligible to retain or renew such permit only if the upgrade or transfer does not result in an increase in horsepower of more than 20 percent or an increase of more than 10 percent in length overall, gross registered tonnage, or net tonnage from the vessel baseline specifications. * * * * * (B) Subsequent to the issuance of a swordfish handgear limited access permit, the vessel’s horsepower may be increased, relative to the baseline specifications of the vessel initially issued the LAP, through refitting, PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 48735 replacement, or transfer. Such an increase may not exceed 20 percent of the baseline specifications of the vessel initially issued the LAP. (C) Subsequent to the issuance of a swordfish handgear limited access permit, the vessel’s length overall, gross registered tonnage, and net tonnage may be increased, relative to the baseline specifications of the vessel initially issued the LAP, through refitting, replacement, or transfer. An increase in any of these three specifications of vessel size may not exceed 10 percent of the baseline specifications of the vessel initially issued the LAP. This type of upgrade may be done separately from an engine horsepower upgrade. * * * * * [FR Doc. 2016–17646 Filed 7–25–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\26JYP1.SGM 26JYP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 143 (Tuesday, July 26, 2016)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 48731-48735]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-17646]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

[Docket No. 160531477-6477-01]
RIN 0648-BG10


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Removal of Vessel Upgrade 
Restrictions for Swordfish Directed Limited Access and Atlantic Tunas 
Longline Category Permits

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: This proposed rule would remove vessel upgrading restrictions 
for vessels issued swordfish directed and Atlantic tunas Longline 
category limited access permits (LAPs). Currently, regulations allow 
for upgrading vessels or transferring permits to another vessel only if 
the vessel upgrade or permit transfer results in an increase of no more 
than 35 percent in length overall, gross registered tonnage, and net 
tonnage, as measured relative to the baseline vessel specifications 
(i.e., the specifications of the vessel first issued an HMS LAP). The 
proposed rule eliminates these restrictions on upgrades and permit 
transfers. This action could affect vessel owners issued swordfish 
directed and Atlantic tunas Longline category LAPs and fishing in the 
Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. 
Swordfish handgear LAP upgrade restrictions are not being addressed in 
this proposed rule.

DATES: Written comments must be received by September 26, 2016. An 
operator-assisted, public conference call and webinar will be held on 
August 23, 2016, from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., EST.

ADDRESSES: The conference call information is phone number 888-843-
6165; participant passcode 6512640. Participants are strongly 
encouraged to log/dial in 15 minutes prior to the meeting. NMFS will 
show a brief presentation via webinar followed by public comment. To 
join the webinar go to: https://noaaevents2.webex.com/noaaevents2/onstage/g.php?MTID=e7bad02475e6061ff9227fb0842ccf332; meeting number: 
998 920 078; event password: NOAA. Participants that have not used 
WebEx before will be prompted to download and run a plug-in program 
that will enable them to view the webinar.
    You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA-NMFS-
2016-0087, by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2016-0087, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Margo Schulze-Haugen, 
NMFS/SF1, 1315 East-West Highway, SSMC3, Silver Spring, MD 20910.
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous).
    Presentation materials and copies of the supporting documents are 
available from the HMS Management Division Web site at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/ or by contacting Steve Durkee by phone at 
202-670-6637 or Rick Pearson by phone at 727-824-5399.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Durkee by phone at 202-670-6637 
or Rick Pearson by phone at 727-824-5399.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    The U.S. Atlantic swordfish and tuna fisheries are managed under 
the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Fishery Management 
Plan (FMP) and its amendments. Implementing regulations at 50 CFR part 
635 are issued under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), 16 U.S.C. 1801 
et seq., and the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA), 16 U.S.C. 971 et 
seq. ATCA authorizes the Secretary of

[[Page 48732]]

Commerce (Secretary) to promulgate regulations, as may be necessary and 
appropriate, to implement recommendations of the International 
Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT).
    In 1999, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued 
initial LAPs in the Atlantic swordfish and shark fisheries (64 FR 
29090, March 28, 1999). To be eligible to fish with pelagic longline 
gear, a vessel had to be issued a swordfish directed or incidental LAP, 
a shark directed or incidental LAP, and an Atlantic tunas Longline 
category permit. After initial issuance of these permits, no new 
permits were issued by NMFS, but permits could be transferred to other 
vessels. Swordfish and shark directed LAPs included restrictions on 
vessel upgrading and permit transfers. Vessel upgrades and permit 
transfers were allowed only if the upgrade or permit transfer to 
another vessel did not result in an increase in horsepower of more than 
20 percent or an increase of more than 10 percent in length overall, 
gross registered tonnage, or net tonnage relative to the respective 
specifications of the first vessel issued the initial LAP (the baseline 
vessel). Additionally, vessels could only be upgraded one time. These 
vessel upgrading restrictions were put into place to limit capacity in 
the swordfish fishery and to be consistent with the New England and 
Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council's permit policies at the time. 
Incidental LAPs for these species did not have vessel upgrading 
restrictions. Upgrading restrictions for Atlantic tunas Longline 
category LAPs were not explicitly implemented in the 1999 rule. As a 
practical effect, Atlantic tunas Longline category LAPs were limited by 
the same upgrading restrictions as the swordfish and shark directed 
permits due to the requirement to hold all three permits when fishing 
with pelagic longline gear.
    On June 7, 2007 (72 FR 31688), NMFS issued a final rule amending 
the highly migratory species (HMS) fishery regulations to provide 
additional opportunities for U.S. vessels to more fully utilize the 
North Atlantic swordfish quota, recognizing the improved status of the 
species. The ICCAT Standing Committee on Research and Statistics (SCRS) 
had completed a stock assessment for North Atlantic swordfish in 
October 2006 indicating that the North Atlantic swordfish biomass had 
improved, possibly due to strong recruitment in the late 1990s combined 
with reductions in reported catch since then. The SCRS estimated that 
the stock biomass at the beginning of 2006 (B2006) was at 99 
percent of the biomass necessary to produce maximum sustainable yield 
(Bmsy), and the 2005 fishing mortality rate (F2005) was 
estimated to be 0.86 times the fishing mortality rate at maximum 
sustainable yield (Fmsy). The 2007 action modified limited access 
vessel upgrading and permit transfer restrictions for vessels that were 
concurrently issued, or were eligible to renew, directed or incidental 
swordfish, directed or incidental shark, and Atlantic tunas Longline 
category LAPs (i.e., vessels that were eligible to fish with pelagic 
longline gear). The rule also clarified that Atlantic tunas Longline 
category LAPs were subject to the same vessel upgrade restrictions as 
swordfish and shark directed LAPs. These measures allowed eligible 
vessel owners to upgrade their vessels by 35 percent in size (length 
overall, gross registered tonnage, and net tonnage) relative to the 
specifications of the baseline vessel, and removed upgrade limits on 
horsepower. Additionally, these permits could be upgraded more than 
once, provided that the new maximum upgrade limits were not exceeded.
    NMFS now is considering removing these vessel upgrading 
restrictions for vessels issued swordfish directed and Atlantic tunas 
Longline category LAPs. Under the current regulatory framework and 
given the now rebuilt status of the North Atlantic swordfish stock, 
these restrictions have the effect of reducing flexibility in the 
pelagic longline fishery for persons interested in entering the 
fishery, purchasing a new vessel, or upgrading their existing vessel. 
Currently, a new entrant to the fishery must obtain an available permit 
with an associated maximum upgrade limit that accommodates his vessel 
size. This can limit and complicate the permit transfer as the owner 
searches for a permit suitable to the vessel. For a vessel owner who is 
already issued a swordfish directed and/or Atlantic tunas Longline 
category LAP that wants to purchase a new vessel or enlarge an existing 
vessel, the new or upgraded vessel may not exceed the permit's maximum 
vessel upgrading limit. This can limit and complicate the permit 
holder's purchasing options. Because there are usually only a small 
number of swordfish directed and Atlantic tunas Longline permits 
available, it is often difficult to find a permit that accommodates the 
target vessel size. NMFS also has heard from swordfish and tuna LAP 
permit holders that the vessel upgrading restrictions restrict their 
ability to transfer permits to newer vessels, which could have greater 
capacity, and address safety issues that exist with older vessels. For 
these reasons, and those discussed below, NMFS is proposing to remove 
vessel upgrading restrictions for swordfish directed and Atlantic tunas 
Longline LAPs.
    Since implementing the vessel upgrade requirements in 1999 and 
modifying them in 2007, several important things have changed in the 
Atlantic HMS pelagic longline fishery. First, there are fewer swordfish 
permit holders. From the mid-to-late 1990s, more than 2,000 commercial 
open access swordfish permits were issued annually, and the pelagic 
longline fleet had become overcapitalized. The directed swordfish 
fishery was closed temporarily in 1995, and again in 1997, due to quota 
overages, and the swordfish stock was overfished (B/Bmsy = 0.715) with 
overfishing occurring (F/Fmsy = 1.169). Also in 1999, ICCAT adopted an 
international rebuilding plan for North Atlantic swordfish (ICCAT 
Recommendation 99-02) and passed a resolution to examine time/area 
closures and gear modification measures to reduce catches of undersized 
swordfish (Res. 99-04). Thus, in 1999, NMFS was particularly concerned 
about ensuring that pelagic longline fishing effort and fleet capacity 
were commensurate with the available swordfish quota, and the vessel 
upgrading restrictions were part of NMFS' management strategy to reduce 
capacity. That situation does not exist today. Fleet capacity has been 
reduced through the successful application of the initial LAP 
qualification criteria and attrition over time. In 1998, prior to the 
implementation of upgrade restrictions, 233 pelagic longline vessels 
among the 2,000 permit holders landed swordfish and thus were 
considered ``active.'' The number of such vessels dropped to a low of 
102 in 2006 and has remained between 109 and 122 vessels since then. 
Similarly, as of December 30, 1999, approximately 451 directed and 
incidental swordfish LAPs had been issued. By 2015, permit numbers had 
been reduced to 260 directed and incidental swordfish LAPs. Permit 
numbers are expected to remain at approximately these levels because no 
new LAPs are being issued.
    Second, other requirements implemented since 1999, such as those 
designed to reduce bycatch in the pelagic longline fishery (e.g., 
closed areas, bait requirements, individual bluefin tuna quotas, and 
gear restrictions), have also limited fishing effort. The directed 
North Atlantic swordfish quota has not been exceeded in almost 20 years 
and, in fact, has been underharvested for a number of years.

[[Page 48733]]

    Third, during this same time period, the stock status of north 
Atlantic swordfish has significantly improved. In 2009, ICCAT declared 
that the stock has been fully rebuilt. Using domestic stock status 
thresholds, NMFS has also declared that the north Atlantic swordfish 
stock is not overfished and that overfishing is not occurring.
    In addition to limiting capacity in the HMS pelagic longline 
fishery, a secondary goal for implementing the specific swordfish 
directed and Atlantic tunas Longline vessel upgrade limits adopted in 
1999 was to be consistent with similar regulations previously 
established by the New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management 
Councils (Councils). In August 2015, the Councils removed gross 
registered and net tonnage limits (80 FR 51754) so that only length and 
horsepower limits remain in effect. Because this HMS action would 
remove all upgrade restrictions for vessels issued swordfish directed 
and Atlantic tunas Longline category LAPs, only the Council regulations 
would limit vessel upgrading for vessels issued LAPs for both Council-
managed species and HMS. Thus, there would be no conflict between 
Council and HMS vessel upgrade restrictions. This action would simplify 
compliance for dually permitted vessels and provide greater flexibility 
for HMS permitted vessels.
    The overall reduction in pelagic longline fleet capacity, in 
combination with the totality of effort controls implemented since 
1999, sufficiently limits the fishery's capacity. Vessel upgrading and 
related permit transfer restrictions are no longer necessary or 
relevant for the Atlantic HMS pelagic longline fishery at this time. 
Thus, this proposed rule would remove all upgrading restrictions for 
vessels issued swordfish directed and Atlantic tunas Longline category 
LAPs. Although limited in scope, this action would ease a barrier to 
entry in the pelagic longline fishery, facilitate limited access permit 
transfers, provide increased business flexibility, and help vessel 
owners address safety issues.
    The proposed action would provide more flexibility for current 
permit holders by eliminating the upgrading restrictions for swordfish 
directed and Atlantic tunas Longline category LAP permit holders. 
Eliminating vessel upgrading restrictions would have short- and long-
term minor beneficial socioeconomic impacts, since it would allow 
fishermen to buy, sell, or transfer swordfish directed and Atlantic 
tunas Longline category LAPs without concerns about exceeding the 
maximum upgrade limit for the permits.
    Removing the upgrading restrictions is not expected to affect the 
number of swordfish and tunas being landed by vessels, as these amounts 
are determined by established quotas and effort controls (including, 
for example, individual vessel quotas for bluefin tuna) not the size of 
the vessel. Thus, this action is expected to have no ecological impacts 
and would not result in additional interactions with protected 
resources, given the other restrictions on the Atlantic HMS pelagic 
longline fishery.

Request for Comments

    NMFS is requesting comments on any of the measures or analyses 
described in this proposed rule. NMFS is specifically requesting 
comments on its decision to certify that the proposed rule would not 
have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities and on the analysis below that supports that decision and on 
our assessment that relieving the restrictions would have no ecological 
impacts. During the comment period, NMFS will hold one conference call 
and webinar for this proposed rule. The conference call and webinar 
will be held on August 23, 2016, from 2:30-4:30 p.m. EST. Please see 
the DATES and ADDRESSES headings for more information.
    The public is reminded that NMFS expects participants on phone 
conferences to conduct themselves appropriately. At the beginning of 
the conference call, a representative of NMFS will explain the ground 
rules (e.g., all comments are to be directed to the agency on the 
proposed action; attendees will be called to give their comments in the 
order in which they registered to speak; each attendee will have an 
equal amount of time to speak; attendees may not interrupt one another; 
etc.). NMFS representative(s) will structure the meeting so that all 
attending members of the public will be able to comment, if they so 
choose, regardless of the controversial nature of the subject(s). 
Attendees are expected to respect the ground rules, and those that do 
not may be removed from the conference call.

Classification

    Pursuant to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS Assistant 
Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is consistent with 
the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments, other provisions of 
the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Atlantic Tuna Convention Act, and other 
applicable law, subject to further consideration after public comment.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    NMFS has made a preliminary determination that this action 
qualifies to be categorically excluded from the requirement to prepare 
an environmental assessment in accordance with NMFS' Environmental 
Review Procedures for Implementing the National Environmental Policy 
Act (NOAA Administrative Order 216-6), subject to further consideration 
after public comment. This action falls within the scope of effects 
already analyzed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) 
prepared for the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP, the 2012 
Environmental Assessment prepared for the rulemaking on North and South 
Atlantic Swordfish Quotas and Management Measures (77 FR 45273, July 
31, 2012), and the Final EIS for Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated 
HMS FMP. Section 6.03a.3.(b)(2) of NOAA Administrative Order 216-6 
specifies that certain actions may be categorically excluded from 
further NEPA analysis including minor changes to a management plan when 
those effects have already been analyzed and additional effects are not 
expected. This action will have no additional effects that were not 
already analyzed, and the action is not precedent-setting or 
controversial. It would not affect the number of swordfish and tunas 
being landed by vessels and would not result in additional interactions 
with protected resources, as these amounts are determined by the 
established quotas and effort controls, not the size of the vessel, and 
the effects of those established quotas and effort controls have 
already been analyzed.
    NMFS has determined that this proposed rule will have no effects on 
any coastal use or resource, and a negative determination pursuant to 
15 CFR 930.35 is not required. Therefore, pursuant to 15 CFR 
930.33(a)(2), coordination with appropriate state agencies under 
section 307 of the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) is not required. 
No changes to the human environment are anticipated because removing 
the vessel upgrading restrictions would not affect the number of 
swordfish and tunas being landed by vessels, as these amounts are 
determined by the established quotas and effort controls, not the size 
of the vessel.
    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration that this proposed rule, if adopted, would not

[[Page 48734]]

have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities under section 605(b) of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA).
    The U.S. Atlantic swordfish and tuna fisheries are managed under 
the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan 
(2006 Consolidated HMS FMP) and its amendments. Implementing 
regulations at 50 CFR part 635 are issued under the authority of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act, 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq., and ATCA, 16 U.S.C. 971 
et seq. ATCA authorizes the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) to 
promulgate regulations, as may be necessary and appropriate, to 
implement ICCAT recommendations. As discussed above, the purpose of 
this proposed rule is to remove vessel upgrading restrictions for 
vessels issued swordfish directed and Atlantic tunas Longline category 
LAPs to ease a barrier to entry in the pelagic longline fishery, 
facilitate limited access permit transfers, provide increased business 
flexibility, and help vessel owners address safety issues.
    Section 603(b)(3) of the Regulatory Flexibility Act requires 
Agencies to provide an estimate of the number of small entities to 
which the rule would apply. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has 
established size criteria for all major industry sectors in the United 
States, including fish harvesters. Under SBA's regulations, an agency 
may develop its own industry-specific size standards after consultation 
with the SBA Office of Advocacy and an opportunity for public comment 
(see 13 CFR 121.903(c)). Under this provision, NMFS may establish size 
standards that differ from those established by the SBA Office of Size 
Standards, but only for use by NMFS and only for the purpose of 
conducting an analysis of economic effects in fulfillment of the 
agency's obligations under the RFA. 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 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 SBA's 
current standards of $20.5 million, $5.5 million, and $7.5 million for 
the finfish (NAICS 114111), shellfish (NAICS 114112), and other marine 
fishing (NAICS 114119) sectors of the U.S. commercial fishing industry 
in all NMFS rules subject to the RFA after July 1, 2016. Id. at 81194.
    NMFS considers all HMS pelagic longline permit holders to be small 
entities because these vessels have reported annual gross receipts of 
less than $11 million for commercial fishing. NMFS has determined that 
this proposed rule would apply to the 280 permit holders that were 
issued Atlantic tunas Longline category LAPs in 2015, since these 
permit holders also already possess the required swordfish directed or 
incidental permits to fish with pelagic longline gear.
    The economic effects of this proposed rule to remove vessel 
upgrading restrictions for vessels issued swordfish directed and 
Atlantic tunas Longline category LAPs would likely not result in any 
significant adverse impacts on the 280 permit holders. The removal of 
vessel upgrading restrictions would reduce a regulatory burden that 
prevents fishermen from upgrading their vessels beyond established 
limits due to an outdated restriction. It would not result in any 
short-term costs to these small entities. This proposed rule would 
allow these permit holders to freely upgrade their vessels without 
being constrained by the length overall, gross registered tonnage, and 
net tonnage limits currently specified on their permits. In the short-
term, it is likely that only a few permit holders will opt to invest in 
new vessels or vessel upgrades based on past experience with these 
kinds of requests. Those who invest in new vessels or upgrades in the 
short-term would potentially face lower transaction costs, since they 
would not have to potentially search for and acquire permits with 
higher upgrade capabilities. In addition, new entrants in the fishery 
would have more options in acquiring permits, since they would not be 
limited by vessel size. Current permit holders with permits with high 
length overall, gross registered tonnage, and net tonnage baselines 
might face slightly lower demand for their permits, and thus reduced 
value of their permits under this proposed rule because these permits 
can currently be transferred to more, and larger, vessels than permits 
with lower baseline specifications. However, since the implementation 
of Individual Bluefin Quota (IBQ) program under Amendment 7 to the 2006 
Consolidated HMS FMP, much of the economic value of the swordfish 
directed and Atlantic tunas Longline category permit value has shifted 
from these permits to the actual IBQ shares bundled with those permits, 
because IBQ allocation is now required to fish with pelagic longline 
gear. Therefore, the likely economic impact on permit values of this 
proposed rule to remove vessel upgrade restrictions is likely very 
limited. In the long-term, removing the upgrading restrictions would 
allow greater flexibility for permit holders to upgrade their vessels 
and address safety issues. The removal of upgrading restrictions is not 
expected to result in disproportionate adverse effects on pelagic 
longline fishing operations of different sizes, and is actually likely 
to help smaller vessel owners slightly more than owners of larger 
vessels because they are more likely to have lower vessel upgrade 
limits associated with their permits. Overall, this proposed rule would 
likely only result in some minor positive impacts on small entity 
profitability.
    This action is not expected to result in a significant economic 
impact on the small entities currently subject to the vessel upgrading 
restrictions. Although limited in scope, this action would ease a 
barrier to entry in the pelagic longline fishery, facilitate limited 
access permit transfers, provide increased business flexibility, and 
help vessel owners address safety issues. Therefore, removing vessel 
upgrading restrictions for vessels issued swordfish directed and 
Atlantic tunas Longline category LAPs will not have a significant 
impact on a substantial number of small entities. As a result, no 
initial regulatory flexibility analysis is required, and none has been 
prepared.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 635

    Fisheries, Fishing, Fishing vessels, Foreign relations, Imports, 
Penalties, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Treaties.

    Dated: July 21, 2016.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

    For reasons set out in the preamble, NMFS proposes to amend 50 CFR 
part 635 as follows:

PART 635--ATLANTIC HIGHLY MIGRATORY SPECIES

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

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

0
2. In Sec.  635.4, revise paragraphs (l)(2)(i), (l)(2)(ii) introductory 
text, (l)(2)(ii)(B), and (l)(2)(ii)(C) to read as follows:


Sec.  635.4  Permits and fees.

* * * * *
    (l) * * *
    (2) * * *

[[Page 48735]]

    (i) Subject to the restrictions on upgrading the harvesting 
capacity of permitted vessels in paragraph (l)(2)(ii) of this section, 
as applicable, and to the limitations on ownership of permitted vessels 
in paragraph (l)(2)(iii) of this section, an owner may transfer a shark 
or swordfish LAP or an Atlantic Tunas Longline category permit to 
another vessel that he or she owns or to another person. Directed 
handgear LAPs for swordfish may be transferred to another vessel or to 
another person but only for use with handgear and subject to the 
upgrading restrictions in paragraph (l)(2)(ii) of this section and the 
limitations on ownership of permitted vessels in paragraph (l)(2)(iii) 
of this section. Shark directed and incidental LAPs, swordfish directed 
and incidental LAPs, and Atlantic Tunas Longline category permits are 
not subject to the upgrading requirements specified in paragraph 
(l)(2)(ii) of this section. Shark and swordfish incidental LAPs are not 
subject to the ownership requirements specified in paragraph 
(l)(2)(iii) of this section.
    (ii) An owner may upgrade a vessel with a swordfish handgear LAP, 
or transfer such permit to another vessel or to another person, and be 
eligible to retain or renew such permit only if the upgrade or transfer 
does not result in an increase in horsepower of more than 20 percent or 
an increase of more than 10 percent in length overall, gross registered 
tonnage, or net tonnage from the vessel baseline specifications.
* * * * *
    (B) Subsequent to the issuance of a swordfish handgear limited 
access permit, the vessel's horsepower may be increased, relative to 
the baseline specifications of the vessel initially issued the LAP, 
through refitting, replacement, or transfer. Such an increase may not 
exceed 20 percent of the baseline specifications of the vessel 
initially issued the LAP.
    (C) Subsequent to the issuance of a swordfish handgear limited 
access permit, the vessel's length overall, gross registered tonnage, 
and net tonnage may be increased, relative to the baseline 
specifications of the vessel initially issued the LAP, through 
refitting, replacement, or transfer. An increase in any of these three 
specifications of vessel size may not exceed 10 percent of the baseline 
specifications of the vessel initially issued the LAP. This type of 
upgrade may be done separately from an engine horsepower upgrade.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2016-17646 Filed 7-25-16; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P