Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Fisheries, 71639-71641 [2016-25309]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 201 / Tuesday, October 18, 2016 / Rules and Regulations DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 635 [Docket No. 150121066–5717–02] RIN 0648–XE963 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Fisheries National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Temporary rule; inseason General category bluefin tuna quota transfer and retention limit adjustment. AGENCY: NMFS is transferring 18 metric tons (mt) of Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) quota from the Harpoon category and 67 mt from the Reserve category to the General category for the remainder of the 2016 fishing year. These transfers result in adjusted 2016 quotas of 676.7 mt, 20.6 mt, and 8.6 mt for the General, Harpoon, and Reserve category quotas, respectively. NMFS also is adjusting the Atlantic tunas General category BFT daily retention limit from four large medium or giant BFT per vessel per day/trip to two large medium or giant BFT per vessel per day/trip for the remainder of the 2016 fishing year. This action is based on consideration of the regulatory determination criteria regarding inseason adjustments and applies to Atlantic tunas General category (commercial) permitted vessels and Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Charter/Headboat category permitted vessels when fishing commercially for BFT. SUMMARY: The quota transfer is effective October 14, 2016, through December 31, 2016. The General category retention limit adjustment is effective October 17, 2016, through December 31, 2016. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sarah McLaughlin or Brad McHale, 978–281–9260. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Regulations implemented under the authority of the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA; 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.) and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) governing the harvest of BFT by persons and vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction are found at 50 CFR part 635. Section 635.27 subdivides the U.S. BFT quota recommended by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) Lhorne on DSK30JT082PROD with RULES DATES: VerDate Sep<11>2014 12:31 Oct 17, 2016 Jkt 241001 among the various domestic fishing categories, per the allocations established in the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan (2006 Consolidated HMS FMP) (71 FR 58058, October 2, 2006), as amended by Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP (Amendment 7) (79 FR 71510, December 2, 2014). NMFS is required under ATCA and the Magnuson-Stevens Act to provide U.S. fishing vessels with a reasonable opportunity to harvest the ICCAT-recommended quota. The base quota for the General category is 466.7 mt. See § 635.27(a). Each of the General category time periods (January through March, June through August, September, October through November, and December) is allocated a portion of the annual General category quota. Based on the General category base quota of 466.7 mt, the subquotas for each time period are as follows: 24.7 mt for January; 233.3 mt for June through August; 123.7 mt for September; 60.7 mt for October through November; and 24.3 mt for December. Any unused General category quota rolls forward within the fishing year, which coincides with the calendar year, from one time period to the next, and is available for use in subsequent time periods. On December 14, 2015, NMFS published an inseason action transferring 24.3 mt of BFT quota from the December 2016 subquota to the January 2016 subquota period (80 FR 77264). To date this year, NMFS has published three actions that have adjusted and/or distributed the available 2016 Reserve category quota, which is currently 75.6 mt (81 FR 19, January 4, 2016; 81 FR 60286, September 1, 2016; and 81 FR 70369, October 12, 2016). The 2016 General category fishery was open January 1, 2016, through March 31, 2016, reopened June 1, 2016, and remains open until December 31, 2016, or until the adjusted General category quota is reached, whichever comes first. NMFS recently took a similar action (81 FR 70369, October 12, 2016) which reduced the daily retention limit from five to four large medium or giant BFT per vessel as well as transferred 125 mt of BFT quota to the General category from the Reserve category to meet the same objectives stated below. Based on continued fish availability, catch rates, effort, as well as other determination criteria, NMFS is taking this action with the same intent. Under § 635.27(a)(9), NMFS has the authority to transfer quota among fishing categories or subcategories, after considering 14 determination criteria provided under § 635.27(a)(8), including PO 00000 Frm 00061 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 71639 five new criteria added in Amendment 7. NMFS has considered all of the relevant determination criteria and their applicability to this inseason quota transfer and change in retention limit in the General category fishery. The criteria and their application are discussed below. Transfer of 85 mt to the General Category For the inseason quota transfer, NMFS considered the usefulness of information obtained from catches in the particular category for biological sampling and monitoring of the status of the stock (§ 635.27(a)(8)(i)). Biological samples collected from BFT landed by General category fishermen and provided by tuna dealers provide NMFS with valuable parts and data for ongoing scientific studies of BFT age and growth, migration, and reproductive status. Additional opportunity to land BFT in the General Category would support the continued collection of a broad range of data for these studies and for stock monitoring purposes. NMFS also considered the catches of the General category quota to date and the likelihood of closure of that segment of the fishery if no adjustment is made (§ 635.27(a)(8)(ii)). As of October 11, 2016, the General category has landed approximately 537 mt of its adjusted 2016 quota of 591.7 mt. Without a quota transfer, NMFS would have to close the 2016 General category fishery for the remainder of the year, while unused quota remains in the Harpoon and Reserve categories. Regarding the projected ability of the vessels fishing under the particular category quota (here, the General category) to harvest the additional amount of BFT before the end of the fishing year (§ 635.27(a)(8)(iii)), NMFS considered catches during the winter fishery in the last several years. General category landings in the winter BFT fishery, which typically begins in December or January each year, are highly variable and depend on availability of commercial-sized BFT. Commercialsized BFT have continued to be available to General category vessels currently, and General category vessels should be able to harvest the additional amount (85 mt) of quota before the end of the fishing year. NMFS also considered the estimated amounts by which quotas for other gear categories of the fishery might be exceeded (§ 635.27(a)(8)(iv)) and the ability to account for all 2016 landings and dead discards. Overall, approximately 60 percent of the total of the currently available commercial BFT E:\FR\FM\18OCR1.SGM 18OCR1 71640 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 201 / Tuesday, October 18, 2016 / Rules and Regulations Lhorne on DSK30JT082PROD with RULES subquotas for 2016 has been harvested. Activity in the Harpoon category has stopped for the year. NMFS will need to account for 2016 landings and dead discards within the adjusted U.S. quota, consistent with ICCAT recommendations and anticipates having sufficient quota to do that even with this transfer from the Harpoon and Reserve categories. These quota transfers would provide additional opportunities to harvest the U.S. BFT quota without exceeding it, while preserving the opportunity for General category fishermen to participate in the fall/winter BFT fishery. Another principal consideration is the objective of providing opportunities to harvest the full annual U.S. BFT quota without exceeding it based on the goals of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and Amendment 7, including to achieve optimum yield on a continuing basis and to optimize the ability of all permit categories to harvest their full BFT quota allocations (§ 635.27(a)(8)(vi)). This transfer is consistent with the quotas established and analyzed in the most recent BFT quota final rule (80 FR 52198, August 28, 2015) and with objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and amendments, and is not expected to negatively impact stock health or to affect the stock in ways not already analyzed in those documents (§ 635.27(a)(8)(v) and (x)). Based on the considerations above, NMFS is transferring 18 mt of Harpoon category quota and 67 mt of Reserve category quota to the General category for the remainder of 2016, resulting in adjusted General, Harpoon, and Reserve category quotas for 2016 of 676.7 mt, 20.6 mt, and 23.6 mt, respectively. NMFS will close the 2016 General category fishery for the remainder of the year when the adjusted General category quota of 676.7 mt has been reached. Adjustment of General Category Daily Retention Limit Under § 635.23(a)(4), NMFS may increase or decrease the daily retention limit of large medium and giant BFT over a range of zero to a maximum of five per vessel based on consideration of the relevant criteria provided under § 635.27(a)(8), and listed above. NMFS adjusted the daily retention limit for the 2016 January subquota period (which closed March 31) from the default level of one large medium or giant BFT to three large medium or giant BFT in December 2016 (80 FR 77264, December 14, 2015). NMFS adjusted the daily retention limit to five large medium or giant BFT for the June through August 2016 subquota period (81 FR 29501, May 12, 2016), and again for the VerDate Sep<11>2014 12:31 Oct 17, 2016 Jkt 241001 September, October through November, and December periods (81 FR 59153, August 29, 2016); and recently to four large medium or giant BFT (81 FR 70369, October 12, 2016). NMFS has considered the relevant criteria and their applicability to the General category BFT retention limit for the remainder of the fishing year. As described above with regard to the quota transfer, additional opportunity to land BFT would support the continued collection of a broad range of data for the biological studies and for stock monitoring purposes (§ 635.27(a)(8)(i)). Regarding the effects of the adjustment on BFT stock rebuilding and the effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the fishery management plan (§ 635.27(a)(8)(v) and (x)), this action would be taken consistent with the previously implemented and analyzed quotas, and it is not expected to negatively impact stock health or otherwise affect the stock in ways not previously analyzed. It is also supported by the Environmental Analysis for the 2011 final rule regarding General and Harpoon category management measures, which established the current range over which NMFS may set the General category daily retention limit (i.e., from zero to five fish) (76 FR 74003, November 30, 2011). As described above, a principal consideration is the objective of providing opportunities to harvest the available U.S. BFT quota without exceeding that quota, based on the goals of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and Amendment 7. The retention limit currently is four fish. NMFS is setting the retention limit at two fish through this action because, given the expected level of fishing effort and catch rates, a continued level of four fish may lead to exceeding the adjusted category quota, and less than two would likely result in underharvest. Based on these considerations, NMFS has determined that a two-fish General category retention limit is warranted for the remainder of the year. It would provide a reasonable opportunity to harvest the U.S. quota of BFT without exceeding it, while maintaining an equitable distribution of fishing opportunities, help optimize the ability of the General category to harvest its available quota, allow collection of a broad range of data for stock monitoring purposes, and be consistent with the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and amendments. Therefore, NMFS adjusts the General category retention limit from four to two large medium or giant BFT per vessel per day/trip, effective October 17, 2016, through December 31, 2016. PO 00000 Frm 00062 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 Regardless of the duration of a fishing trip, the daily retention limit applies upon landing. For example (and specific to the limit that will apply through the end of the year), whether a vessel fishing under the General category limit takes a two-day trip or makes two trips in one day, the day/trip limit of two fish applies and may not be exceeded upon landing. This General category retention limit is effective in all areas, except for the Gulf of Mexico, where NMFS prohibits targeted fishing for BFT, and applies to those vessels permitted in the General category, as well as to those HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels fishing commercially for BFT. Monitoring and Reporting NMFS will continue to monitor the BFT fishery closely. Dealers are required to submit landing reports within 24 hours of a dealer receiving BFT. General, HMS Charter/Headboat, Harpoon, and Angling category vessel owners are required to report the catch of all BFT retained or discarded dead, within 24 hours of the landing(s) or end of each trip, by accessing hmspermits.noaa.gov. Depending on the level of fishing effort and catch rates of BFT, NMFS may determine that additional action (i.e., quota and/or daily retention limit adjustment, or closure) is necessary to ensure available quota is not exceeded or to enhance scientific data collection from, and fishing opportunities in, all geographic areas. If needed, subsequent adjustments will be published in the Federal Register. In addition, fishermen may call the Atlantic Tunas Information Line at (978) 281–9260, or access hmspermits.noaa.gov, for updates on quota monitoring and inseason adjustments. Classification The Assistant Administrator for NMFS (AA) finds that it is impracticable and contrary to the public interest to provide prior notice of, and an opportunity for public comment on, this action for the following reasons: The regulations implementing the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and amendments provide for inseason retention limit adjustments to respond to the unpredictable nature of BFT availability on the fishing grounds, the migratory nature of this species, and the regional variations in the BFT fishery. Affording prior notice and an opportunity for public comment to implement the quota transfer and daily retention limit for the remainder of the year is impracticable as NMFS must react as quickly as possible to updated data and information that then requires E:\FR\FM\18OCR1.SGM 18OCR1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 201 / Tuesday, October 18, 2016 / Rules and Regulations immediate action to be effective on the fishing grounds and thus efficiently manage the fishery. NMFS could not effectively react to this data if, in implementing the retention limit, it allowed a public comment period, which, for both the quota transfers, would preclude fishermen from harvesting BFT that are legally available consistent with all of the regulatory criteria. Delays in adjusting the retention limit may result in the available quota being exceeded and NMFS needing to close the fishery earlier than otherwise would be necessary under a lower limit. This could adversely affect those General and HMS Charter/Headboat category vessels that would otherwise have an opportunity to harvest BFT under retention limits set in response to the most recent data available. Limited opportunities to harvest the respective quotas may have negative social and economic impacts for U.S. fishermen that depend upon catching the available quota within the time periods designated in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, as amended. Adjustment of the retention limit needs to be effective as soon as possible to extend fishing opportunities for fishermen in geographic areas with access to the fishery only during this time period. Therefore, the AA finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive prior notice and the opportunity for public comment. For these reasons, there is good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d) to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness. This action is being taken under §§ 635.23(a)(4) and 635.27(a)(9), and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq. and 1801 et seq. Dated: October 14, 2016. Emily H. Menashes, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2016–25309 Filed 10–14–16; 4:15 pm] Lhorne on DSK30JT082PROD with RULES BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 160301164–6694–02] RIN 0648–XE955 Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast Skate Complex; Adjustment to the Skate Bait Inseason Possession Limit National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Temporary rule; inseason adjustment. AGENCY: We announce the reduction of the commercial per-trip skate bait possession limit from 25,000 lb (11,340 kg) to 9,307 lb (4,222 kg) whole weight through October 31, 2016. This action is required to prevent the skate bait Season 2 quota from being exceeded. This announcement informs the public that the skate bait possession limit is reduced. DATES: Effective October 17, 2016, through October 31, 2016. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: William Whitmore, Fishery Policy Analyst, 978–281–9182. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: SUMMARY: Background The bait skate fishery is managed primarily through the Northeast Skate Complex Fishery Management Plan. The regulations describing the process to adjust inseason commercial possession limits of skate bait are described at 50 CFR 648.322(b) and (d). When the National Marine Fisheries Service Regional Administrator, Greater Atlantic Region projects that 90 percent of the skate bait fishery seasonal quota has been landed, the Regional Administrator is required to reduce the skate bait trip limit unless such a reduction would be expected to prevent attainment of the seasonal quota or annual TAL. The current skate bait trip limit is 25,000 lb (11,340 kg) and the current skate wing trip limit is 9,307 lb (4,222 kg) whole weight, 4,100 lb (1,860 kg) skate wings. Inseason Action Based on commercial landings data reported through October 1, 2016, the skate bait fishery is projected to reach or exceed 90 percent of the Season 2 quota on or around October 15, 2016. Further, catch projections indicate that retaining the current skate bait possession limits VerDate Sep<11>2014 12:31 Oct 17, 2016 Jkt 241001 PO 00000 Frm 00063 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 71641 would result in 109 percent of the Season 2 quota being harvested. Additional projections indicate that the annual TAL is likely to be attained in Season 3, even with this season 2 possession limit reduction. Therefore, consistent with § 648.322(b) and (d) we are reducing the skate wing trip limit from 25,000 lb (11,340 kg) to 9,307 lb (4,222 kg) whole weight [4,100 lb (1,860 kg) skate wings] to prevent the season 2 quota from being exceeded. Beginning October 17, 2016, no person may possess on board or land more than 9,307 lb (4,222 kg) of skate bait per trip for the remainder of Season 2 (i.e., through October 31, 2016). The 25,000 lb (11,340 kg) skate bait trip limit is reinstated on November 1, 2016, the start of Season 3. Classification This action is taken under 50 CFR part 648 and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: October 13, 2016. Emily H. Menashes, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2016–25139 Filed 10–13–16; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 679 [Docket No. 150818742–6210–02] RIN 0648–XE966 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Pacific Ocean Perch in the Central Regulatory Area of the Gulf of Alaska National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Temporary rule; closure. AGENCY: NMFS is prohibiting retention of the incidental catch allowance for Pacific Ocean perch in the Central Regulatory Area of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). This action is necessary because the 2016 total allowable catch of Pacific Ocean perch apportioned to the incidental catch allowance in the Central Regulatory Area of the GOA has been reached. DATES: Effective 1200 hours, Alaska local time (A.l.t.), October 14, 2016, through 2400 hours, A.l.t., December 31, 2016. SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\18OCR1.SGM 18OCR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 201 (Tuesday, October 18, 2016)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 71639-71641]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-25309]



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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

[Docket No. 150121066-5717-02]
RIN 0648-XE963


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna 
Fisheries

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

ACTION: Temporary rule; inseason General category bluefin tuna quota 
transfer and retention limit adjustment.

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SUMMARY: NMFS is transferring 18 metric tons (mt) of Atlantic bluefin 
tuna (BFT) quota from the Harpoon category and 67 mt from the Reserve 
category to the General category for the remainder of the 2016 fishing 
year. These transfers result in adjusted 2016 quotas of 676.7 mt, 20.6 
mt, and 8.6 mt for the General, Harpoon, and Reserve category quotas, 
respectively. NMFS also is adjusting the Atlantic tunas General 
category BFT daily retention limit from four large medium or giant BFT 
per vessel per day/trip to two large medium or giant BFT per vessel per 
day/trip for the remainder of the 2016 fishing year. This action is 
based on consideration of the regulatory determination criteria 
regarding inseason adjustments and applies to Atlantic tunas General 
category (commercial) permitted vessels and Highly Migratory Species 
(HMS) Charter/Headboat category permitted vessels when fishing 
commercially for BFT.

DATES: The quota transfer is effective October 14, 2016, through 
December 31, 2016. The General category retention limit adjustment is 
effective October 17, 2016, through December 31, 2016.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Regulations implemented under the authority 
of the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA; 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.) and 
the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-
Stevens Act; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) governing the harvest of BFT by 
persons and vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction are found at 50 CFR 
part 635. Section 635.27 subdivides the U.S. BFT quota recommended by 
the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas 
(ICCAT) among the various domestic fishing categories, per the 
allocations established in the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory 
Species Fishery Management Plan (2006 Consolidated HMS FMP) (71 FR 
58058, October 2, 2006), as amended by Amendment 7 to the 2006 
Consolidated HMS FMP (Amendment 7) (79 FR 71510, December 2, 2014). 
NMFS is required under ATCA and the Magnuson-Stevens Act to provide 
U.S. fishing vessels with a reasonable opportunity to harvest the 
ICCAT-recommended quota.
    The base quota for the General category is 466.7 mt. See Sec.  
635.27(a). Each of the General category time periods (January through 
March, June through August, September, October through November, and 
December) is allocated a portion of the annual General category quota. 
Based on the General category base quota of 466.7 mt, the subquotas for 
each time period are as follows: 24.7 mt for January; 233.3 mt for June 
through August; 123.7 mt for September; 60.7 mt for October through 
November; and 24.3 mt for December. Any unused General category quota 
rolls forward within the fishing year, which coincides with the 
calendar year, from one time period to the next, and is available for 
use in subsequent time periods. On December 14, 2015, NMFS published an 
inseason action transferring 24.3 mt of BFT quota from the December 
2016 subquota to the January 2016 subquota period (80 FR 77264). To 
date this year, NMFS has published three actions that have adjusted 
and/or distributed the available 2016 Reserve category quota, which is 
currently 75.6 mt (81 FR 19, January 4, 2016; 81 FR 60286, September 1, 
2016; and 81 FR 70369, October 12, 2016).
    The 2016 General category fishery was open January 1, 2016, through 
March 31, 2016, reopened June 1, 2016, and remains open until December 
31, 2016, or until the adjusted General category quota is reached, 
whichever comes first.
    NMFS recently took a similar action (81 FR 70369, October 12, 2016) 
which reduced the daily retention limit from five to four large medium 
or giant BFT per vessel as well as transferred 125 mt of BFT quota to 
the General category from the Reserve category to meet the same 
objectives stated below. Based on continued fish availability, catch 
rates, effort, as well as other determination criteria, NMFS is taking 
this action with the same intent.
    Under Sec.  635.27(a)(9), NMFS has the authority to transfer quota 
among fishing categories or subcategories, after considering 14 
determination criteria provided under Sec.  635.27(a)(8), including 
five new criteria added in Amendment 7.
    NMFS has considered all of the relevant determination criteria and 
their applicability to this inseason quota transfer and change in 
retention limit in the General category fishery. The criteria and their 
application are discussed below.

Transfer of 85 mt to the General Category

    For the inseason quota transfer, NMFS considered the usefulness of 
information obtained from catches in the particular category for 
biological sampling and monitoring of the status of the stock (Sec.  
635.27(a)(8)(i)). Biological samples collected from BFT landed by 
General category fishermen and provided by tuna dealers provide NMFS 
with valuable parts and data for ongoing scientific studies of BFT age 
and growth, migration, and reproductive status. Additional opportunity 
to land BFT in the General Category would support the continued 
collection of a broad range of data for these studies and for stock 
monitoring purposes.
    NMFS also considered the catches of the General category quota to 
date and the likelihood of closure of that segment of the fishery if no 
adjustment is made (Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(ii)). As of October 11, 2016, 
the General category has landed approximately 537 mt of its adjusted 
2016 quota of 591.7 mt. Without a quota transfer, NMFS would have to 
close the 2016 General category fishery for the remainder of the year, 
while unused quota remains in the Harpoon and Reserve categories. 
Regarding the projected ability of the vessels fishing under the 
particular category quota (here, the General category) to harvest the 
additional amount of BFT before the end of the fishing year (Sec.  
635.27(a)(8)(iii)), NMFS considered catches during the winter fishery 
in the last several years. General category landings in the winter BFT 
fishery, which typically begins in December or January each year, are 
highly variable and depend on availability of commercial-sized BFT. 
Commercial-sized BFT have continued to be available to General category 
vessels currently, and General category vessels should be able to 
harvest the additional amount (85 mt) of quota before the end of the 
fishing year.
    NMFS also considered the estimated amounts by which quotas for 
other gear categories of the fishery might be exceeded (Sec.  
635.27(a)(8)(iv)) and the ability to account for all 2016 landings and 
dead discards. Overall, approximately 60 percent of the total of the 
currently available commercial BFT

[[Page 71640]]

subquotas for 2016 has been harvested. Activity in the Harpoon category 
has stopped for the year. NMFS will need to account for 2016 landings 
and dead discards within the adjusted U.S. quota, consistent with ICCAT 
recommendations and anticipates having sufficient quota to do that even 
with this transfer from the Harpoon and Reserve categories. These quota 
transfers would provide additional opportunities to harvest the U.S. 
BFT quota without exceeding it, while preserving the opportunity for 
General category fishermen to participate in the fall/winter BFT 
fishery.
    Another principal consideration is the objective of providing 
opportunities to harvest the full annual U.S. BFT quota without 
exceeding it based on the goals of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and 
Amendment 7, including to achieve optimum yield on a continuing basis 
and to optimize the ability of all permit categories to harvest their 
full BFT quota allocations (Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(vi)). This transfer is 
consistent with the quotas established and analyzed in the most recent 
BFT quota final rule (80 FR 52198, August 28, 2015) and with objectives 
of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and amendments, and is not expected to 
negatively impact stock health or to affect the stock in ways not 
already analyzed in those documents (Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(v) and (x)).
    Based on the considerations above, NMFS is transferring 18 mt of 
Harpoon category quota and 67 mt of Reserve category quota to the 
General category for the remainder of 2016, resulting in adjusted 
General, Harpoon, and Reserve category quotas for 2016 of 676.7 mt, 
20.6 mt, and 23.6 mt, respectively. NMFS will close the 2016 General 
category fishery for the remainder of the year when the adjusted 
General category quota of 676.7 mt has been reached.

Adjustment of General Category Daily Retention Limit

    Under Sec.  635.23(a)(4), NMFS may increase or decrease the daily 
retention limit of large medium and giant BFT over a range of zero to a 
maximum of five per vessel based on consideration of the relevant 
criteria provided under Sec.  635.27(a)(8), and listed above. NMFS 
adjusted the daily retention limit for the 2016 January subquota period 
(which closed March 31) from the default level of one large medium or 
giant BFT to three large medium or giant BFT in December 2016 (80 FR 
77264, December 14, 2015). NMFS adjusted the daily retention limit to 
five large medium or giant BFT for the June through August 2016 
subquota period (81 FR 29501, May 12, 2016), and again for the 
September, October through November, and December periods (81 FR 59153, 
August 29, 2016); and recently to four large medium or giant BFT (81 FR 
70369, October 12, 2016). NMFS has considered the relevant criteria and 
their applicability to the General category BFT retention limit for the 
remainder of the fishing year.
    As described above with regard to the quota transfer, additional 
opportunity to land BFT would support the continued collection of a 
broad range of data for the biological studies and for stock monitoring 
purposes (Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(i)). Regarding the effects of the 
adjustment on BFT stock rebuilding and the effects of the adjustment on 
accomplishing the objectives of the fishery management plan (Sec.  
635.27(a)(8)(v) and (x)), this action would be taken consistent with 
the previously implemented and analyzed quotas, and it is not expected 
to negatively impact stock health or otherwise affect the stock in ways 
not previously analyzed. It is also supported by the Environmental 
Analysis for the 2011 final rule regarding General and Harpoon category 
management measures, which established the current range over which 
NMFS may set the General category daily retention limit (i.e., from 
zero to five fish) (76 FR 74003, November 30, 2011).
    As described above, a principal consideration is the objective of 
providing opportunities to harvest the available U.S. BFT quota without 
exceeding that quota, based on the goals of the 2006 Consolidated HMS 
FMP and Amendment 7. The retention limit currently is four fish. NMFS 
is setting the retention limit at two fish through this action because, 
given the expected level of fishing effort and catch rates, a continued 
level of four fish may lead to exceeding the adjusted category quota, 
and less than two would likely result in underharvest.
    Based on these considerations, NMFS has determined that a two-fish 
General category retention limit is warranted for the remainder of the 
year. It would provide a reasonable opportunity to harvest the U.S. 
quota of BFT without exceeding it, while maintaining an equitable 
distribution of fishing opportunities, help optimize the ability of the 
General category to harvest its available quota, allow collection of a 
broad range of data for stock monitoring purposes, and be consistent 
with the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and amendments. 
Therefore, NMFS adjusts the General category retention limit from four 
to two large medium or giant BFT per vessel per day/trip, effective 
October 17, 2016, through December 31, 2016.
    Regardless of the duration of a fishing trip, the daily retention 
limit applies upon landing. For example (and specific to the limit that 
will apply through the end of the year), whether a vessel fishing under 
the General category limit takes a two-day trip or makes two trips in 
one day, the day/trip limit of two fish applies and may not be exceeded 
upon landing. This General category retention limit is effective in all 
areas, except for the Gulf of Mexico, where NMFS prohibits targeted 
fishing for BFT, and applies to those vessels permitted in the General 
category, as well as to those HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels 
fishing commercially for BFT.

Monitoring and Reporting

    NMFS will continue to monitor the BFT fishery closely. Dealers are 
required to submit landing reports within 24 hours of a dealer 
receiving BFT. General, HMS Charter/Headboat, Harpoon, and Angling 
category vessel owners are required to report the catch of all BFT 
retained or discarded dead, within 24 hours of the landing(s) or end of 
each trip, by accessing hmspermits.noaa.gov. Depending on the level of 
fishing effort and catch rates of BFT, NMFS may determine that 
additional action (i.e., quota and/or daily retention limit adjustment, 
or closure) is necessary to ensure available quota is not exceeded or 
to enhance scientific data collection from, and fishing opportunities 
in, all geographic areas. If needed, subsequent adjustments will be 
published in the Federal Register. In addition, fishermen may call the 
Atlantic Tunas Information Line at (978) 281-9260, or access 
hmspermits.noaa.gov, for updates on quota monitoring and inseason 
adjustments.

Classification

    The Assistant Administrator for NMFS (AA) finds that it is 
impracticable and contrary to the public interest to provide prior 
notice of, and an opportunity for public comment on, this action for 
the following reasons:
    The regulations implementing the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and 
amendments provide for inseason retention limit adjustments to respond 
to the unpredictable nature of BFT availability on the fishing grounds, 
the migratory nature of this species, and the regional variations in 
the BFT fishery. Affording prior notice and an opportunity for public 
comment to implement the quota transfer and daily retention limit for 
the remainder of the year is impracticable as NMFS must react as 
quickly as possible to updated data and information that then requires

[[Page 71641]]

immediate action to be effective on the fishing grounds and thus 
efficiently manage the fishery. NMFS could not effectively react to 
this data if, in implementing the retention limit, it allowed a public 
comment period, which, for both the quota transfers, would preclude 
fishermen from harvesting BFT that are legally available consistent 
with all of the regulatory criteria.
    Delays in adjusting the retention limit may result in the available 
quota being exceeded and NMFS needing to close the fishery earlier than 
otherwise would be necessary under a lower limit. This could adversely 
affect those General and HMS Charter/Headboat category vessels that 
would otherwise have an opportunity to harvest BFT under retention 
limits set in response to the most recent data available. Limited 
opportunities to harvest the respective quotas may have negative social 
and economic impacts for U.S. fishermen that depend upon catching the 
available quota within the time periods designated in the 2006 
Consolidated HMS FMP, as amended. Adjustment of the retention limit 
needs to be effective as soon as possible to extend fishing 
opportunities for fishermen in geographic areas with access to the 
fishery only during this time period. Therefore, the AA finds good 
cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive prior notice and the 
opportunity for public comment. For these reasons, there is good cause 
under 5 U.S.C. 553(d) to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness.
    This action is being taken under Sec. Sec.  635.23(a)(4) and 
635.27(a)(9), and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.

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

    Dated: October 14, 2016.
Emily H. Menashes,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2016-25309 Filed 10-14-16; 4:15 pm]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P