Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; 2017 Atlantic Shark Commercial Fishing Season, 84491-84501 [2016-28154]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 226 / Wednesday, November 23, 2016 / Rules and Regulations d. Revising the last sentence of paragraph (l)(2). The revisions read as follows: ■ § 62.23 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration WYO companies authorized. (a) * * * Arrangements entered into by WYO companies or other insurers under this subpart must be in the form and substance of the standard arrangement, titled ‘‘Financial Assistance/Subsidy Arrangement.’’ Each year, at least six months before the effective date of the ‘‘Financial Assistance/Subsidy Arrangement,’’ FEMA must publish in the Federal Register and make available to the WYO companies the terms for subscription or re-subscription to the ‘‘Financial Assistance/Subsidy Arrangement.’’ * * * * * (f) * * * In furtherance of this end, the Federal Insurance Administrator has established ‘‘A Plan to Maintain Financial Control for Business Written Under the Write Your Own Program.’’ * * * * * (i) * * * (1) WYO companies will adjust claims in accordance with general company standards, guided by NFIP Claims manuals. The Arrangement provides that claim adjustments shall be binding upon the FIA. * * * * * (l) * * * (2) * * * Participating WYO companies must also maintain evidence of compliance with paragraph (l)(3) of this section for review during the audits and reviews required by the WYO Financial Control Plan. * * * * * Appendix A to Part 62 [Removed] ■ 3. Remove Appendix A to Part 62. Appendix B to Part 62 [Removed] ■ 4. Remove Appendix B to Part 62. Dated: November 17, 2016. W. Craig Fugate, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency. [FR Doc. 2016–28224 Filed 11–22–16; 8:45 am] mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with RULES BILLING CODE 9110–11–P 50 CFR Part 635 [Docket No. 160620545–6999–02] RIN 0648–XE696 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; 2017 Atlantic Shark Commercial Fishing Season National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule; fishing season notification. AGENCY: This final rule establishes the opening date for all Atlantic shark fisheries, including the fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. This final rule also establishes the quotas for the 2017 fishing season based on overand/or underharvests experienced during 2016 and previous fishing seasons. The large coastal shark (LCS) retention limit for directed shark limited access permit holders will start at 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per trip in the Gulf of Mexico region and at 25 LCS other than sandbar sharks per trip in the Atlantic region. These retention limits for directed shark limited access permit holders may decrease or increase during the year after considering the specified inseason action regulatory criteria to provide, to the extent practicable, equitable fishing opportunities for commercial shark fishermen in all regions and areas. These actions could affect fishing opportunities for commercial shark fishermen in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. DATES: This rule is effective on January 1, 2017. The 2017 Atlantic commercial shark fishing season opening dates and quotas are provided in Table 1 under SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION. ADDRESSES: Highly Migratory Species Management Division, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910. ´ FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Guy DuBeck or Karyl Brewster-Geisz at 301– 427–8503. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: SUMMARY: Background The Atlantic commercial shark fisheries are managed under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). The 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:26 Nov 22, 2016 Jkt 241001 PO 00000 Frm 00103 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 84491 (HMS) Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and its amendments are implemented by regulations at 50 CFR part 635. For the Atlantic commercial shark fisheries, the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments established, among other things, commercial shark retention limits, commercial quotas for species and management groups, accounting measures for under- and overharvests for the shark fisheries, and adaptive management measures such as flexible opening dates for the fishing season and inseason adjustments to shark trip limits, which provide management flexibility in furtherance of equitable fishing opportunities, to the extent practicable, for commercial shark fishermen in all regions and areas. On August 29, 2016 (81 FR 59167), NMFS published a rule proposing the 2017 opening dates for the Atlantic commercial shark fisheries, commercial shark fishing quotas based on shark landings information reported as of July 15, 2016, and the commercial shark retention limits for each region and subregion. The August 2016 proposed rule (81 FR 59167; August 29, 2016) for the 2017 season contains details that are not repeated here. The comment period on the proposed rule ended on September 28, 2016. During the comment period, NMFS received approximately 300 written and oral comments on the proposed rule. Those comments, along with the Agency’s responses, are summarized below. As further detailed in the Response to Comments section below, after considering all the comments, NMFS is opening the fishing seasons for all shark management groups except the blacktip, aggregated LCS, and hammerhead shark management groups in the western Gulf of Mexico subregion on January 1, 2017, as proposed in the August 29, 2016, proposed rule. The blacktip, aggregated LCS, and hammerhead shark management groups in the western Gulf of Mexico subregion will open on February 1, 2017, which is a change from the proposed rule. For directed shark limited access permit holders, the blacktip, aggregated LCS, and hammerhead management groups in the entire Gulf of Mexico region will start the fishing season with a retention limit of 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip. The aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark management groups in the Atlantic region will start the fishing season with a retention limit of 25 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip for directed shark limited access permit holders, which is a change from the proposed rule. The retention limit for incidental shark limited access permit E:\FR\FM\23NOR1.SGM 23NOR1 84492 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 226 / Wednesday, November 23, 2016 / Rules and Regulations mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with RULES holders for all regions has not changed from the proposed rule and remains at 3 LCS other than sandbar sharks per trip and a combined total of 16 small coastal sharks (SCS) and pelagic sharks, combined per trip consistent with § 635.24(a)(3) and (4). This final rule serves as notification of the 2017 opening dates for the Atlantic commercial shark fisheries and 2017 quotas, based on shark landings data updated as of October 14, 2016, and considering the ‘‘opening commercial fishing season’’ criteria at § 635.27(b)(3). These criteria consider factors such as the available annual quotas for the current fishing season, estimated season length and average weekly catch rates from previous years, length of the season and fishermen participation in past years, impacts to accomplishing objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments, temporal variation in behavior or biology target species (e.g., seasonal distribution or abundance), impact of catch rates in one region on another, and effects of delayed season openings. This action does not establish or change the annual base commercial quotas established under the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments for any shark management group. The base quotas were established under previous actions, and any changes to those base quotas would be performed through a separate action. Rather, this action adjusts the annual commercial quotas for 2017 based on over- and/or underharvests that occurred in 2016 and previous fishing seasons, consistent with existing regulations and establishes the opening dates for the fisheries. Only the adjusted blacktip quota in the Gulf of Mexico region has changed since the proposed rule, based on updated landings information as of October 14, 2016; all other quotas remain the same as proposed. Response to Comments NMFS received approximately 300 written and oral comments on the proposed rule from fishermen, dealers, and other interested parties. All written comments can be found at http:// www.regulations.gov/ by searching for RIN 0648–XE696. NMFS received approximately 10 oral comments through phone conversations or at the HMS Advisory Panel meeting on September 8, 2016. All of the oral comments are represented with the written comments below. A. LCS Management Group Comments Comment 1: NMFS received comments regarding the proposed VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:26 Nov 22, 2016 Jkt 241001 opening dates for the western Gulf of Mexico LCS fisheries on January 1. Some commenters supported the proposed January 1 opening date for both Gulf of Mexico sub-regions, while other commenters supported a delayed western Gulf of Mexico opening date of February 1 to coincide with the religious holiday of Lent. Response: After considering public comment, NMFS has determined that changing the opening date to February 1 for the blacktip shark, aggregated LCS, and hammerhead shark management groups in the western Gulf of Mexico region, in combination with the change in retention limit (see discussion in Comment 2), will promote equitable fishing opportunities throughout this region. In reaching this determination, NMFS considered, in particular, the regulatory criterion regarding the length of the season in previous years for the different species and/or management groups and whether fishermen had been able to participate in the fishery in those years (§ 635.27(b)(3)(iii)). In 2016, NMFS opened the season on January 1 and closed it on March 12, 2016 (81 FR 12602; March 10, 2016). The State of Louisiana annually plans a state-water closure from April 1 through June 30. However, once NMFS announced that it was closing the Federal fishery, the State of Louisiana closed its waters as well, 2 weeks before its initially planned closure. Shark fishermen and dealers in the western Gulf of Mexico who were not expecting the closure did not have as much of an opportunity to fish as those few fishermen who fished earlier. Based on 2016 landings data, the majority of the shark landings from the western Gulf of Mexico region did not begin to occur until February, which is when other non-shark fisheries close. If NMFS were to open the fishery on January 1, 2017, it is likely that once again the fishery would need to close earlier than April 1 and a number of fishermen who would otherwise participate in the shark fishery based on traditional expectations would not have the opportunity. Furthermore, based on the review of the landings data, delaying the opening until February 1 will provide more equitable fishing opportunities. Thus, opening the season in February, in combination with the higher retention limit (see change discussion in Comment 2), should give all fishermen in the sub-region an equitable opportunity to harvest the quota before the state-water closure. Comment 2: NMFS received comments regarding the proposed commercial retention limit for the blacktip, aggregated LCS, and hammerhead management groups in the PO 00000 Frm 00104 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 western Gulf of Mexico sub-region. Specifically, some commenters from the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region preferred a retention limit of 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip instead of the proposed 30 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip. Response: NMFS has determined that the default retention limit of 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip at the start of the season will ensure equitable fishing opportunities in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region. In the proposed rule, NMFS proposed a lower trip limit (30 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip) in order to slow the harvest level due to the potential for a reduced hammerhead shark quota based on the 2016 subregional overharvest and given that the Aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark quotas are linked. The lower proposed trip limit was also intended to ensure the management groups remain open until at least April 2017, which is when the State of Louisiana closes state waters to shark fishing and when that State has asked that we close Federal shark fisheries to match state regulations if quotas are limited (see the criteria listed at § 635.27(b)(3)(vii) and 635.24(a)(8)(iii)). With the change in the western Gulf of Mexico LCS fisheries opening date to February 1 (see Comment 1), and because there are no sub-regional blacktip shark, aggregated LCS, and hammerhead shark management group quota adjustments due to overharvest, NMFS no longer believes a lower retention limit is needed to slow the harvest level to ensure the management groups will remain open until at least April 2017. Rather, NMFS will start the commercial retention limit at 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip as of February 1, 2017, which is the retention limit preferred in public comments. However, NMFS may utilize the inseason retention limit adjustment during the fishing season if needed to ensure the quotas are not harvested too quickly and the management groups remain open at least until April 2017. Comment 3: NMFS received several comments regarding the proposed opening date and retention limits for the aggregated LCS and hammerhead management groups in the Atlantic region. Regarding the opening dates, some commenters from the southern and northern part of the Atlantic region supported the proposed opening date of January 1 for the aggregated LCS and hammerhead management groups and retention limits. Some of these commenters requested that NMFS modify the retention limits on an E:\FR\FM\23NOR1.SGM 23NOR1 mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 226 / Wednesday, November 23, 2016 / Rules and Regulations inseason basis to ensure the majority of the quota remains available later in the year since there are no other fisheries open in Florida at the end of the year. Other commenters suggested that NMFS delay the opening of the Atlantic region fishery until the western Gulf of Mexico LCS fisheries closes to ensure better market prices for the shark products. Additionally, comments from some of the fishermen in the southern part of the region preferred lowering the proposed retention limit of 36 to a lower retention limit of three to five LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip on January 1 with the potential for later inseason retention limit adjustments to ensure the opportunity to fish for sharks in October through December because they participate in other, non-shark fisheries at the beginning of the year and in the shark fisheries later in the year. NMFS also received comments that the LCS retention limit in the Atlantic region should stay at 36 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip all season long and that NMFS should not later consider increasing the retention limit to 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip since the aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark management groups quotas have not increased. Response: After considering the ‘‘opening commercial fishing season’’ criteria in light of the comments, which reflected general support of the proposed opening date, NMFS has decided to open the fisheries in the Atlantic region on January 1, 2017, as proposed, but with a lower retention limit than proposed. Specifically, on January 1, 2017, the LCS fisheries in the Atlantic region will open with a retention limit of 25 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip for directed shark limited access permit holders. NMFS has determined that a lower retention limit at the start of the season will allow NMFS to more easily and closely monitor the quota and catch rates in the beginning of the year to help ensure equitable fishing opportunities later in the year, while still allowing the majority of quota to be harvested later in the year (see the criteria listed at § 635.24(a)(8)(iii)). NMFS chose 25 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip because that is the commercial retention limit for the fishery from October 19, 2016, through the rest of the 2016 fishing season (81 FR 72007; October 19, 2016), and would not cause additional changes in fishing practices, thus minimizing any economic or compliance issues within the fishery. Also, this change seemed a reasonable amount between that of an incidental VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:26 Nov 22, 2016 Jkt 241001 level (3 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip) and maximum retention levels (between 36 and 55 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip). The January 1 opening date, in combination with this reduced retention limit, should allow fishermen in the southern and northern portions of the Atlantic region the opportunity to fish at the beginning of the year, while providing all fishermen in the Atlantic region fishing opportunities later in the year, when the majority of fishing occurs, as the majority of the quota should still be available. The proposed rule stated that, if it appears that the quota is being harvested too quickly to allow fishermen throughout the entire region an opportunity to fish, NMFS will consider reducing the commercial retention limit after a portion of the quota is harvested (e.g., 20 percent) and later consider raising the commercial retention limit to 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip around July 15 to allow greater fishing opportunities later in the year. After considering public comment, NMFS anticipates that it would consider increasing the commercial retention limit around July 15, 2017, as this was the date used for prior season opening dates and was the date NMFS increased the retention limit in 2016 (81 FR 44798; July 11, 2016). Regarding the request to delay the fishery in the Atlantic region until the shark fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico close, NMFS decided to not delay the LCS fisheries opening date in the Atlantic region until the western Gulf of Mexico fisheries are closed since this would not promote equitable fishing opportunities throughout the Atlantic region. In past fishing seasons, the LCS fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico have closed as early as March 17 or as late as July 17, and never on the same date year to year. Without knowing when the western or eastern Gulf of Mexico LCS fisheries will close, NMFS could not evaluate the ‘‘opening commercial fishing season’’ criteria (§ 635.27(b)(3)) when choosing an opening date for the Atlantic region based on the commenters’ request. Thus, NMFS is not making a change in response to this comment and will open the Atlantic LCS fisheries on January 1. NMFS will consider adjusting the commercial retention limit during the season as appropriate to ensure equitable fishing opportunities. Regarding the comments that having the LCS fisheries in the Atlantic and western Gulf of Mexico regions open at the same time will impact the market prices, while NMFS considers economic PO 00000 Frm 00105 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 84493 impacts as required, market prices are not one of the criteria NMFS evaluates when choosing an opening date. However, in the past, the LCS fisheries in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions have been open at the same time, and during those times, NMFS has noticed impacts on the ex-vessel prices in either region. For example, in 2016, when both regional LCS fisheries were open in January, the ex-vessel price for Atlantic aggregated LCS was at its lowest when compared to the rest of the year, but was higher than the western Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS ex-vessel prices. Comment 4: NMFS received comments regarding the overharvest of the western Gulf of Mexico sub-regional hammerhead shark quota. Some commenters were concerned that NMFS did not propose to adjust the western Gulf of Mexico sub-regional hammerhead shark quota even though the quota was overharvested by 41 percent in 2016. Response: Based on landings through October 14, 2016, NMFS is not adjusting the western Gulf of Mexico sub-regional hammerhead shark quota in this final rule. As stated in the proposed rule, even though the reported landings in the western Gulf of Mexico exceeded the 2016 sub-regional quota, the total regional Gulf of Mexico reported landings have not exceeded the 2016 regional quota as of October 14, 2016. The regulations implemented through Amendment 6 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP (80 FR 50073; August 18, 2015), provide that sub-regional quota overages (e.g., western Gulf of Mexico sub-region) are only deducted from the next year’s quota if the total regional quota (e.g., Gulf of Mexico region) is exceeded. Thus, at this time, because the overall regional quota has not been overharvested, NMFS is not adjusting the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region quota to account for the overharvest. However, because the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region remains open at the time of this final rulemaking and quota is still available in that sub-region, NMFS expects that landings will continue to occur. If landings in the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region exceed 8.5 mt dw (18,594 lb dw) (i.e., the remainder of the total regional Gulf of Mexico quota), then NMFS will take additional action to reduce the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region quota to account for overharvests in 2018. B. General Comments Comment 5: NMFS received some comments in support of the proposed rule regulating commercial shark fishing, while other commenters E:\FR\FM\23NOR1.SGM 23NOR1 mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with RULES 84494 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 226 / Wednesday, November 23, 2016 / Rules and Regulations opposed the regulations that allow for increased adjusted quotas as a result of underharvest. Specifically, those in opposition were concerned with the accuracy and the potential for under reporting of shark landings. Response: As discussed in the proposed rule, shark stocks or management groups that are not overfished and have no overfishing occurring may have any underharvest carried over in the following year, up to 50 percent of the base quota (81 FR 59167; August 29, 2016). Since the Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group and smoothhound shark management groups in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic regions have been determined not to be overfished and to have no overfishing occurring, available underharvest from the 2016 fishing season for these management groups may be applied to the respective 2017 quotas to the extent allowable, and NMFS is doing so in this final rule. All commercial shark landings and quotas are monitored with the HMS electronic dealer reporting system, which has been in use since January 1, 2013. This improvement in commercial quota monitoring technology and the weekly, as opposed to biweekly, reporting on paper provides more information on each dealer transaction, including a requirement of reporting all shark landings to the species level, and ensures that quotas are not exceeded. Overall, this improvement helps with monitoring of commercial landings of all shark species and with closing management groups in a more efficient and timely manner. Comment 6: NMFS received approximately 280 comments in support of more conservative shark management measures by, for example, implementing lower commercial shark fishing quotas or prohibiting all commercial shark fishing to stop shark finning. Response: These comments are outside the scope of this rulemaking because the purpose of this rulemaking is to adjust quotas for the 2017 shark seasons based on over- and underharvests from the previous years and set opening dates and commercial retention limits for the 2017 shark seasons. The quotas and general management measures were established in previous rulemakings, which were the final rules to implement Amendment 2 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP (73 FR 35778, June 24, 2008; corrected on 73 FR 40658; July 15, 2008), Amendment 5a to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP (78 FR 40318; July 3, 2013), Amendment 6 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP (80 FR 50073; August 18, 2015), and Amendment 9 to VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:26 Nov 22, 2016 Jkt 241001 the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP (80 FR 73128; November 24, 2015). Management of the Atlantic shark fisheries is based on the best available science to achieve optimum yield while also rebuilding overfished shark stocks and preventing overfishing. NMFS currently is considering conservation and management to rebuild the dusky shark stock and prevent overfishing in Amendment 5b to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP (81 FR 71672; October 18, 2016). The comment period for that rulemaking ends on December 22, 2016. Comment 7: NMFS received a comment suggesting that we change the start of the fishing year for all shark species from January to September. Response: This comment is outside the scope of this rulemaking because the fishing year is defined in the regulations as January 1 to December 31. The rule did not reanalyze the overall start date of the shark fishing year, which was established in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP. Comment 8: NMFS received a comment suggesting that we not implement these regulations until such time that adequate shark research can be accomplished. Response: Management of the Atlantic shark fisheries is based on the best available science to achieve optimum yield while preventing overfishing and to rebuild overfished shark stocks. Domestic shark stock assessments are generally conducted through the Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR) process, in which NMFS participates. This process is also used by the South Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Fishery Management Councils and is designed to provide transparency throughout the stock assessment process. Generally, SEDAR stock assessments have three stages (data availability, assessment models, and peer review). Meetings in these stages may be face-to-face or by webinar or conference call. All meetings are open to the public. All reports from all stages of the process are available online at http://www.sefsc.noaa.gov/ sedar/. The SEDAR process can take several months to over a year depending on whether the species has been assessed before, if a species needs a full review of a previous assessment, or if the assessment is more of an update to previous assessments. Because the process takes so long and because of the large number of shark stocks that need to be assessed, there are times where we have reviewed stock assessments that were completed and peer reviewed outside of the SEDAR process and have determined the assessment to be PO 00000 Frm 00106 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 appropriate for management. We have done that for both porbeagle and scalloped hammerhead sharks. Additionally, there are some shark stocks that are assessed internationally via the process established by ICCAT. In all cases, we ensure the data and models used are appropriate, all sources of mortality are considered, and that the end result constitutes the best available science, consistent with National Standard 2 and other requirements. Comment 9: NMFS received comments asserting that sharks are worth more to eco-tourism than commercial fishermen. Response: In adjusting quotas for the 2017 shark seasons based on over- and underharvests from the previous years and setting opening dates and commercial retention limits for the 2017 shark seasons, NMFS considers specific regulatory criteria, including the available annual quotas for the current fishing season, estimated season length and average weekly catch rates from previous years, length of the season and fishermen participation in past years, impacts to accomplishing objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments, temporal variation in behavior or biology target species (e.g., seasonal distribution or abundance), impact of catch rates in one region on another, and effects of delayed season openings. NMFS does not consider the economic impacts of sharks to ecotourism compared to commercial shark fishing. Such impacts are appropriately considered when establishing the base quotas. Comment 10: NMFS received a comment expressing concern about the high mercury levels in shark meat. Specifically, the commenter is concerned that NMFS still allows fishing for sharks even though the health impacts are well known about high levels of mercury in shark meat. Response: This comment is outside the scope of this rulemaking because the purpose of this rulemaking is to adjust quotas for the 2017 shark seasons based on over- and underharvests from the previous years and set opening dates and commercial retention limits for the 2017 shark seasons. Comment 11: NMFS received comments regarding the stock status of hammerhead shark and other shark species. Some commenters requested more protective management for hammerhead sharks and other shark species due to their threatened or endangered stock status listing by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Response: This comment is outside the scope of this rulemaking, because E:\FR\FM\23NOR1.SGM 23NOR1 mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 226 / Wednesday, November 23, 2016 / Rules and Regulations the purpose of this rulemaking is to adjust quotas for the 2017 shark seasons based on over- and underharvests from the previous years and set opening dates and commercial retention limits for the 2017 shark seasons. NMFS published Amendment 5a on July 3, 2013 (78 FR 40318) which implemented quotas for the hammerhead shark complex, including scalloped hammerhead sharks, linked the hammerhead shark quota to the aggregated LCS quota, and established a hammerhead shark recreational minimum size limit to reduce fishing mortality and rebuild the scalloped hammerhead stock. That rulemaking addressed this issue and it is not further addressed in this rulemaking. Comment 12: NMFS received a comment requesting that NMFS implement individual fishing quotas for each of the three species of hammerhead sharks within the hammerhead shark management group. Response: This comment is outside the scope of this rulemaking, because the purpose of this rulemaking is to adjust quotas for the 2017 shark seasons based on over- and underharvests from the previous years and set opening dates and commercial retention limits for the 2017 shark seasons. The current hammerhead shark quota was established in Amendment 5a to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP based on the best available science (78 FR 40318; July 3, 2013). In that rulemaking, NMFS decided to include all hammerhead shark landings in one quota because the three hammerhead sharks are difficult to differentiate, with the most evident differences being small differences in the shape of the front of the head. Once the head has been removed and the carcass has been dressed, species identification becomes more difficult. NMFS intends to conduct stock assessments on scalloped, smooth, and great hammerhead sharks in the future, as soon as practicable given timing, resource limits, and data availability and NMFS could consider individual fishing quotas for each of the three species of hammerhead sharks in the future if warranted and supportable. Comment 13: NMFS received comments regarding state-water landings and discards of sharks with no observer coverage and fewer requirements and training than Federal fishermen. The commenters supported the need to have consistency between state, Council, and Federal regulations. Response: This comment is outside the scope of this rulemaking, because the purpose of this rulemaking is to adjust quotas for the 2017 shark seasons based on over- and underharvests from VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:26 Nov 22, 2016 Jkt 241001 the previous years and set opening dates and commercial retention limits for the 2017 shark seasons. Many states allow landings of sharks by state-permitted fishermen. However, these fishermen must comply with the state fishing regulations, which in some cases are the same as Federal regulations or, in other cases, are more restrictive. NMFS will continue to work closely with the states to ensure consistent regulations for shark fishing, to the extent practicable. Comment 14: NMFS received comments that all quota linkages should be removed since it has contributed to underfishing for the past several years. Response: This comment is outside the scope of this rulemaking, because the purpose of this rulemaking is to adjust quotas for the 2017 shark seasons based on over- and underharvests from the previous years and set opening dates and commercial retention limits for the 2017 shark seasons. The current LCS and SCS quota linkages were implemented in the final rules for Amendment 5a and Amendment 6 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and NMFS is citing the rationale provided in the previous rulemakings. The issue of removing quota linkages is not being reconsidered or re-addressed in this rulemaking now. As explained in those rulemakings, quota linkages were created for shark species that are in separate management groups, but that have the potential to be caught together on the same shark fishing trip (e.g. aggregated LCS and hammerhead sharks). If the quota for one management group has been harvested and the management group is closed, that species could still be caught as bycatch by fishermen targeting other shark species, possibly resulting in excess mortality and negating some of the conservation benefit of management group closures. In addition, shark quota linkages were put into place as part of the rebuilding plans for shark species that are overfished in order to reduce excess mortality of the overfished species during commercial fishing for other shark species. Thus, NMFS closes the linked shark management groups together. Comment 15: NMFS received comments requesting that we consider increasing the Federal fishery closure trigger for the shark management groups from 80 percent to greater than 90 percent to prevent quota underharvests and to promote harvesting quotas fully for the greater profitability for fishermen and for increased access to shark products for consumers. Response: This comment is outside the scope of this rulemaking, because the purpose of this rulemaking is to PO 00000 Frm 00107 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 84495 adjust quotas for the 2017 shark seasons based on over- and underharvests from the previous years and set opening dates and commercial retention limits for the 2017 shark seasons. The 80-percent Federal fishery closure trigger for the shark management groups was implemented in the final rule for Amendment 2 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and NMFS is citing the rationale provided in the previous rulemakings. The issue of changing this closure trigger is not being reconsidered or re-addressed in this rulemaking now. As explained in Amendment 2, NMFS’ goal is to allow shark fishermen to harvest the full quota without exceeding it in order to maximize economic benefits to stakeholders while achieving conservation goals, including preventing overfishing and rebuilding overfished stocks. Based on past experiences with monitoring quotas for HMS species, the 80-percent threshold works well, allowing for all or almost all of the quota to be harvested without exceeding the quota. As such, NMFS expects that, in general, the quotas would be harvested between the time that the 80-percent threshold is reached and the time that the season actually closes. In addition, NMFS must also account for late reporting by shark dealers even with the improved electronic dealer system. Closing shark fisheries when 80 percent of quotas have been harvested provides a buffer to include landings received after the reporting deadline in an attempt to avoid overharvests. Comment 16: NMFS received a comment to present all shark landings by species in addition to management group, particularly for hammerhead sharks given the listing of hammerhead sharks on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Response: This comment is outside the scope of this rulemaking, because the purpose of this rulemaking is to adjust quotas for the 2017 shark seasons based on over- and underharvests from the previous years and set opening dates and commercial retention limits for the 2017 shark seasons. NMFS presents the shark landings by species and region in the annual Stock Assessment and Fisheries Evaluation (SAFE) Report that is released in December of each year, consistent with confidentiality requirements. CITES is an international treaty designed to control and regulate international trade of certain animal and plant species that are now or potentially may be threatened with extinction and are affected by trade. Some shark E:\FR\FM\23NOR1.SGM 23NOR1 84496 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 226 / Wednesday, November 23, 2016 / Rules and Regulations species (e.g., oceanic whitetip sharks, great, scalloped, and smooth hammerhead sharks, and porbeagle sharks) are now listed on Appendix II, which imposes strict trade monitoring and could impact the ability of dealers to sell these species to international costumers. Additionally, starting in October 2017, silky and thresher sharks will be listed on Appendix II. Due to this listing, any U.S. fishermen or dealer who wishes to export these shark products will have to obtain a CITES permit in order to export or re-export these products. Changes From the Proposed Rule NMFS made four changes to the proposed rule, as described below. 1. NMFS changed the final blacktip shark quota in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region from the 331.8 mt dw (730,803 lb dw) in the proposed rule to 331.6 mt dw (730,425 lb dw), a difference of 378 lb dw, based on updated landings through October 14, 2016. The 2017 shark season proposed rule (81 FR 59167; August 29, 2016) was based on dealer reports available through July 15, 2016. NMFS explained in the proposed rule that it would adjust the proposed quotas based on dealer reports as of mid-October or midNovember 2015. Based on updated landings data through October 14, 2016, the overall available adjustment amount for the blacktip shark management group in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region was 100.1 mt dw (220,164 lb dw), resulting in a small reduction in the amount of quota that could be carried over to 2017. Landings information beyond October 14, 2016, was not available while NMFS was writing this rule. Any landings between October 14 and December 31, 2016, will be accounted for in the 2018 shark fisheries quotas, as appropriate. 2. NMFS changed the retention limit for directed shark limited access permit holders at the start of the commercial shark fishing season for the aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark management groups in the Atlantic region from 36 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip to 25 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip. As explained above, NMFS changed the retention limit after considering the ‘‘opening commercial fishing season’’ criteria (§ 635.27(b)(3)), public comment, and the 2016 landings data in order to promote equitable fishing opportunities throughout the Atlantic region. 3. NMFS changed the retention limit for directed shark limited access permit holders for the aggregated LCS, blacktip shark, and hammerhead shark management groups in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region from 30 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip to 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip. As explained above, NMFS changed the retention limit after considering the ‘‘opening commercial fishing season’’ criteria (§ 635.27(b)(3)), public comment, and the 2016 landings data in order to promote equitable fishing opportunities throughout the Gulf of Mexico region. 4. NMFS changed the fishing season opening date for the western Gulf of Mexico from January 1, to February 1, 2017. NMFS changed the opening date based upon public comments that indicated a preference for a delayed opening when market conditions would be more optimal in that sub-region. 2017 Annual Quotas This final rule adjusts the 2017 commercial quotas due to over- and/or underharvests in 2016 and previous fishing seasons, based on landings data through October 14, 2016. Based on overharvest in 2012 and 2015, NMFS had previously reduced the Atlantic blacknose shark base annual quota by 1.5 mt dw (3,268 lb dw) in 2016, 2017, and 2018. However, in 2016, the Atlantic blacknose shark quota was underharvested by 3.5 mt dw (7,725 lb dw). In the proposed rule for this action, NMFS noted that preliminary reported landings of blacknose sharks were at 78 percent (12.2 mt dw) of their 2016 quota levels (15.7 mt dw) in the Atlantic region. Given this large underharvest, NMFS notified the public that rather than spread out the previous years’ overharvests over several years, it proposed to use the 2016 underharvest to cover the remaining 2012 and 2015 overharvest. Since NMFS received no comments on this proposal, 3.0 mt dw of the 2016 quota will be used to account for the past years’ overharvests. An underharvest of 0.5 mt dw occurs in 2016 after this accounting but, pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2), NMFS cannot carry forward underharvest because blacknose sharks have been declared to be overfished with overfishing occurring in the Atlantic region. Therefore, the 2017 Atlantic blacknose shark quota is equal to the annual base quota without adjustment. The 2017 annual quotas by species and management group are summarized in Table 1. Any dealer reports that are received by NMFS after October 14, 2016, will be used to adjust the 2018 quotas, if necessary. A description of the quota calculations is provided in the proposed rule and is not repeated here. Any changes are described in the ‘‘Changes from the Proposed Rule’’ section. TABLE 1—ANNUAL QUOTAS FOR THE ATLANTIC SHARK FISHERIES [All quotas and landings are dressed weight (dw), in metric tons (mt), unless specified otherwise. 1 mt dw = 2,204.6 lb dw] mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with RULES Eastern Gulf of Mexico. Management group Blacktip Sharks ... Western Gulf of Mexico. Aggregated Large Coastal Sharks. Hammerhead Sharks. Blacktip Sharks ... Aggregated Large Coastal Sharks. Hammerhead Sharks. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:26 Nov 22, 2016 Jkt 241001 2016 annual quota Preliminary 2016 landings 1 Adjustments 2 2017 Base annual quota 2017 Final annual quota (A) Region or sub-region (B) (C) (D) (D+C) 28.9 mt dw (63,189 lb dw). 85.5 mt dw (188,593 lb dw). 13.4 mt dw (29,421 lb dw). 266.5 mt dw (587,396 lb dw). 18.7 mt dw (41,116 lb dw). 54.2 mt dw (119,592 lb dw). 6.8 mt dw (14,955 lb dw). 165.7 mt dw (365,385 lb dw). 10.9 mt dw (23,920 lb dw) 3. ............................. 25.1 mt dw (55,439 lb dw). 85.5 mt dw (188,593 lb dw). 13.4 mt dw (29,421 lb dw). 231.5 mt dw (510,261 lb dw). 36.0 mt dw (79,359 lb dw) 85.5 mt dw (188,593 lb dw) 13.4 mt dw (29,421 lb dw) 331.6 mt dw (730,425 lb dw) 72.0 mt dw (158,724 lb dw). 11.9 mt dw (26,301 lb dw). 66.1 mt dw (145,791 lb dw). 16.8 mt dw (37,128 lb dw). 72.0 mt dw (158,724 lb dw). 11.9 mt dw (23,301 lb dw). 72.0 mt dw (158,724 lb dw) 11.9 mt dw (23,301 lb dw) PO 00000 Fmt 4700 Frm 00108 Sfmt 4700 ............................. 100.1 mt dw (220,164 lb dw) 3. ............................. ............................. E:\FR\FM\23NOR1.SGM 23NOR1 84497 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 226 / Wednesday, November 23, 2016 / Rules and Regulations TABLE 1—ANNUAL QUOTAS FOR THE ATLANTIC SHARK FISHERIES—Continued [All quotas and landings are dressed weight (dw), in metric tons (mt), unless specified otherwise. 1 mt dw = 2,204.6 lb dw] Gulf of Mexico ........ Atlantic ................... No regional quotas 2016 annual quota Preliminary 2016 landings 1 Adjustments 2 2017 Base annual quota 2017 Final annual quota (A) Region or sub-region (B) (C) (D) (D+C) Non-Blacknose Small Coastal Sharks. Smoothhound Sharks. 107.3 mt dw (236,603 lb dw). 60.6 mt dw (133,648 lb dw). ............................. 112.6 mt dw (248,215 lb dw). 112.6 mt dw (248,215 lb dw) 336.4 mt dw (741,627). 0 mt dw (0 lb dw) 168.2 mt dw (370,814 lb dw). 336.4 mt dw (741,627). Aggregated Large Coastal Sharks. Hammerhead Sharks. Non-Blacknose Small Coastal Sharks. Blacknose Sharks (South of 34° N. lat. only). Smoothhound Sharks. 168.9 mt dw (372,552 lb dw). 27.1 mt dw (59,736 lb dw). 264.1 mt dw (582,333 lb dw). 113.2 mt dw (249,661 lb dw). 12.5 mt dw (27,542 lb dw). 50.7 mt dw (111,793 lb dw). ............................. 168.9 mt dw (372,552 lb dw). 27.1 mt dw (59,736 lb dw). 264.1 mt dw (582,333 lb dw). 504.6 mt dw (1,112,441 lb dw) 168.9 mt dw (372,552 lb dw) 27.1 mt dw (59,736 lb dw) 264.1 mt dw (582,333 lb dw) 15.7 mt dw (34,653 lb dw). 12.2 mt dw (26,928 lb dw). ............................. 17.2 mt dw (37,921 lb dw). 17.2 mt dw (37,921 lb dw) 1,201.7 mt dw (2,647,725 lb dw). 50.0 mt dw (110,230 lb dw). 90.7 mt dw (199,943 lb dw). 273.0 mt dw (601,856 lb dw). 0 mt dw (0 lb dw) 287.4 mt dw (633,605 lb dw). 600.9 mt dw (1,323,862 lb dw). ............................. 1,201.7 mt dw (2,647,725 lb dw). 50.0 mt dw (110,230 lb dw). 90.7 mt dw (199,943 lb dw). 273.0 mt dw (601,856 lb dw). 1.7 mt dw (3,748 lb dw). 488.0 mt dw (1,075,856 lb dw). 1,802.6 mt dw (3,971,587 lb dw) 50.0 mt dw (110,230 lb dw) 90.7 mt dw (199,943 lb dw) 273.0 mt dw (601,856 lb dw) 1.7 mt dw (3,748 lb dw) 488.0 mt dw (1,075,856 lb dw) Management group Non-Sandbar LCS Research. Sandbar Shark Research. Blue Sharks ......... Porbeagle Sharks Pelagic Sharks Other Than Porbeagle or Blue. 488.0 mt dw (1,075,856 lb dw). 14.6 mt dw (32,167 lb dw). 41.5 mt dw (91,568 lb dw). < 1.0 mt dw (< 2,000 lb dw). 0 mt dw (0 lb dw) 77.4 mt dw (170,675 lb dw). ............................. ............................. ............................. ............................. ............................. ............................. 4 1 Landings are from January 1, 2016, through October 14, 2016, and are subject to change. adjustments can only be applied to stocks or management groups that are not overfished and have no overfishing occurring. Also, the underharvest adjustments cannot exceed 50 percent of the base quota. 3 This adjustment accounts for underharvest in 2016. This final rule would increase the overall Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota by 111.0 mt dw (244,084 lb dw). Since any underharvest would be divided based on the sub-regional quota percentage split, 10.9 mt dw (9.8 percent of the overall regional quota adjustment) is being added to the eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark base quota, and 100.1 mt dw (90.2 percent of the overall regional quota adjustment) is being added to the western Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark base quota. 4 Based on overharvest in 2012 and 2015, NMFS had previously reduced the Atlantic blacknose shark base annual quota by 1.5 mt dw (3,268 lb dw) in 2016, 2017, and 2018. However, in 2016, the Atlantic blacknose shark quota was underharvested by 3.5 mt dw (7,725 lb dw). NMFS will use the 2016 underharvest to cover the remaining overharvest amount of 3.0 mt dw (6,536 lb dw). Thus the 2017 Atlantic blacknose shark quota will be equal to base annual quota. 2 Underharvest mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with RULES Fishing Season Notification for the 2017 Atlantic Commercial Shark Fishing Seasons Based on the seven ‘‘opening commercial fishing season’’ criteria listed in § 635.27(b)(3), NMFS is opening the 2016 Atlantic commercial shark fishing seasons on January 1, 2017, except for the aggregated LCS, blacktip shark, and hammerhead shark management groups in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region which will open on February 1, 2017 (Table 2). Regarding the LCS retention limit, as shown in Table 2, for directed shark limited access permit holders, the Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark, aggregated LCS, and hammerhead shark management groups will start the commercial fishing season at 45 LCS VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:26 Nov 22, 2016 Jkt 241001 other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip, and the Atlantic aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark management groups will start the commercial fishing season at 25 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip. In the Atlantic region, as described above, NMFS will closely monitor the quota at the beginning of the year. If it appears that the quota is being harvested too quickly to allow fishermen throughout the entire region an opportunity to fish (e.g., if approximately 20 percent of the quota is caught at the beginning of the year), NMFS will consider reducing the commercial retention limit, then consider raising it later in the season. Based on prior years’ fishing activity, to allow greater fishing opportunities later in the year, NMFS anticipates PO 00000 Frm 00109 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 considering raising the commercial retention limit to the default limit of 36 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip around July 15, 2017. Any retention limit reductions and increases will be based on consideration of the trip limit adjustment criteria at 50 CFR 635.24(a)(8). All of the shark management groups will remain open until December 31, 2017, or until NMFS determines that the fishing season landings for any shark management group has reached, or is projected to reach, 80 percent of the available quota; however, consistent with § 635.28(b)(5), NMFS may close the Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group before landings reach, or are expected to reach, 80 percent of the quota. Additionally, E:\FR\FM\23NOR1.SGM 23NOR1 84498 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 226 / Wednesday, November 23, 2016 / Rules and Regulations NMFS has previously established nonlinked and linked quotas; linked quotas are explicitly designed to concurrently close multiple shark management groups that are caught together to prevent incidental catch mortality from exceeding the total allowable catch. The linked and non-linked quotas are shown in Table 2. NMFS will file for publication with the Office of the Federal Register a notice of closure for that shark species, shark management group including any linked quotas, and/ or region that will be effective no fewer than 5 days from date of filing. From the effective date and time of the closure until NMFS announces, via the publication of a notice in the Federal Register, that additional quota is available and the season is reopened, the fisheries for the shark species or management group are closed, even across fishing years. TABLE 2—QUOTA LINKAGES, SEASON OPENING DATES, AND COMMERCIAL RETENTION LIMIT BY REGIONAL OR SUBREGIONAL SHARK MANAGEMENT GROUP Region or sub-region Eastern Gulf of Mexico. Western Gulf of Mexico. Gulf of Mexico ............ Atlantic ....................... No regional quotas .... Quota linkages Season opening dates Blacktip Sharks .......... Not Linked .................. January 1, 2017 ......... 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip Aggregated Large Coastal Sharks. Hammerhead Sharks. Blacktip Sharks .......... Linked. February 1, 2017 ....... 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip Not Linked .................. January 1, 2017 ......... N/A Linked ........................ January 1, 2017 ......... 25 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip. [If quota is landed quickly (e.g., if approximately 20 percent of quota is caught at the beginning of the year), NMFS anticipates considering an inseason reduction (e.g., to 3 or fewer LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip), and later considering an inseason increase to 36 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip around July 15, 2017] Linked (South of 34 °N. lat. only). January 1, 2017 ......... N/A Linked ........................ January 1, 2017 ......... N/A Not Linked .................. January 1, 2017 ......... N/A Aggregated Large Coastal Sharks. Hammerhead Sharks. Non-Blacknose Small Coastal Sharks. Aggregated Large Coastal Sharks. Hammerhead Sharks. Non-Blacknose Small Coastal Sharks. Blacknose Sharks (South of 34 °N. lat. only). Non-Sandbar LCS Research. Sandbar Shark Research. Blue Sharks ............... Porbeagle Sharks. Pelagic Sharks Other Than Porbeagle or Blue. mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with RULES Classification The NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that the final rule is consistent with the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law. This final rule is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. In compliance with section 604 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), NMFS prepared a Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (FRFA) for this final rule, which analyzed the adjustments to the Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark, Gulf of Mexico smoothhound shark, and Atlantic smoothhound shark VerDate Sep<11>2014 Commercial retention limits for directed shark limited access permit holders (inseason adjustments are available) Management group 16:26 Nov 22, 2016 Jkt 241001 Not Linked .................. Linked. management group quotas based on underharvests from the previous fishing season(s). The FRFA analyzes the anticipated economic impacts of the final actions and any significant economic impacts on small entities. The FRFA is below. Section 604(a)(1) of the RFA requires an explanation of the purpose of the rulemaking. The purpose of this final rulemaking is, consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments, to establish the 2017 Atlantic commercial shark fishing quotas, retention limits, and fishing seasons. Without this rule, the Atlantic PO 00000 Frm 00110 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 commercial shark fisheries would close on December 31, 2016, and would not reopen until another action was taken. This final rule will be implemented according to the regulations implementing the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments. Thus, NMFS expects few, if any, economic impacts to fishermen other than those already analyzed in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments. While there may be some direct negative economic impacts associated with the opening dates for fishermen in certain areas, there could also be positive effects for other fishermen in the region. The opening E:\FR\FM\23NOR1.SGM 23NOR1 mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 226 / Wednesday, November 23, 2016 / Rules and Regulations dates were chosen to allow for an equitable distribution of the available quotas among all fishermen across regions and states, to the extent practicable. Section 604(a)(2) of the RFA requires NMFS to summarize significant issues raised by the public in response to the Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA), provide a summary of NMFS’ assessment of such issues, and provide a statement of any changes made as a result of the comments. The IRFA was done as part of the proposed rule for the 2017 Atlantic Commercial Shark Season Specifications. NMFS did not receive any comments specific to the IRFA. However, NMFS received comments related to the overall economic impacts of the proposed rule, and those comments and NMFS’ assessment of and response to them are summarized above (see Comments 3 and 9 above). As described in the responses to those comments relating to the season opening dates, consistent with § 635.27(b)(3), the opening date for the all of the commercial shark fisheries will be implemented as proposed (January 1, 2017), except for the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region, which will open on February 1, 2017. Section 604(a)(4) of the RFA requires NMFS 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. Provision is made under SBA’s regulations for an agency to develop its own industry-specific size standards after consultation with 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. To utilize this provision, NMFS must publish such size standards in the Federal Register (FR), which NMFS did on December 29, 2015 (80 FR 81194, December 29, 2015). In this final rule effective on July 1, 2016, NMFS established a small business size standard of $11 million in annual gross receipts for all businesses in the commercial fishing industry (NAICS 11411) for RFA compliance purposes (80 FR 81194, December 29, 2015). NMFS considers all HMS permit holders to be small entities because they had average annual receipts of less than $11 million for commercial fishing. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:26 Nov 22, 2016 Jkt 241001 As of October 2016, the proposed rule would apply to the approximately 223 directed commercial shark permit holders, 271 incidental commercial shark permit holders, 103 smoothhound shark permit holders, and 111 commercial shark dealers. Not all permit holders are active in the fishery in any given year. Active directed commercial shark permit holders are defined as those with valid permits that landed one shark based on HMS electronic dealer reports. Of the 494 directed and incidental commercial shark permit holders, only 40 permit holders landed sharks in the Gulf of Mexico region and only 99 landed sharks in the Atlantic region. Of the 103 smoothhound shark permit holders, only 59 permit holders landed smoothhound sharks in the Atlantic region and none landed smoothhound sharks in the Gulf of Mexico region. NMFS has determined that the proposed rule would not likely affect any small governmental jurisdictions. Section 604(a)(5) of the RFA requires NMFS to describe the projected reporting, recordkeeping, and other compliance requirements of the final rule, including an estimate of the classes of small entities which would be subject to the requirements of the report or record. None of the actions in this final rule would result in additional reporting, recordkeeping, or compliance requirements beyond those already analyzed in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments. Section 604(a)(6) of the RFA requires NMFS to describe the steps taken to minimize the economic impact on small entities, consistent with the stated objectives of applicable statutes. Additionally, the RFA (5 U.S.C. 603(c)(1)–(4)) lists four general categories of ‘‘significant’’ alternatives that would assist an agency in the development of significant alternatives that would accomplish the stated objectives of applicable statutes and minimize any significant economic impact of the rule on small entities. These categories of alternatives are: (1) Establishment of differing compliance or reporting requirements or timetables that take into account the resources available to small entities; (2) clarification, consolidation, or simplification of compliance and reporting requirements under the rule for such small entities; (3) use of performance rather than design standards; and (4) exemptions from coverage of the rule, or any part thereof, for small entities. In order to meet the objectives of this rule, consistent with the MagnusonStevens Act, NMFS cannot exempt PO 00000 Frm 00111 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 84499 small entities or change the reporting requirements only for small entities because all the entities affected are small entities. Thus, there are no alternatives discussed that fall under the first, second, and fourth categories described above. NMFS does not know of any performance or design standards that would satisfy the aforementioned objectives of this rulemaking while, concurrently, complying with the Magnuson-Stevens Act; therefore, there are no alternatives considered under the third category. This rulemaking does not establish management measures to be implemented, but rather implements previously adopted and analyzed measures as adjustments, as specified in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments and the Environmental Assessment (EA) for the 2011 shark quota specifications rule (75 FR 76302; December 8, 2010). Thus, in this rulemaking, NMFS adjusted the base quotas established and analyzed in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments by subtracting the underharvest or adding the overharvest, as specified and allowable in existing regulations. Under current regulations (§ 635.27(b)(2)), all shark fisheries close on December 31 of each year, or when NMFS determines that the fishing season landings for any shark management group has reached, or is projected to reach, 80 percent of the available quota, and do not open until NMFS takes action, such as this rulemaking to re-open the fisheries. Thus, not implementing these management measures would negatively affect shark fishermen and related small entities, such as dealers, and also would not provide management flexibility in furtherance of equitable fishing opportunities, to the extent practicable, for commercial shark fishermen in all regions and areas. Based on the 2015 ex-vessel price, fully harvesting the unadjusted 2017 Atlantic shark commercial baseline quotas could result in total fleet revenues of $8,265,467 (see Table 3). For the Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group, NMFS will increase the baseline sub-regional quotas due to the underharvests in 2016. The increase for the eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group would result in a $24,099 gain in total revenues for fishermen in that sub-region, while the increase for the western Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group would result in a $221,815 gain in total revenues for fishermen in that subregion. For the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic smoothhound shark management groups, NMFS will E:\FR\FM\23NOR1.SGM 23NOR1 84500 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 226 / Wednesday, November 23, 2016 / Rules and Regulations increase the baseline quotas due to the underharvest in 2016. This would cause a potential gain in revenue of $270,323 for the fleet in the Gulf of Mexico region and a potential gain in revenue of $965,095 for the fleet in the Atlantic region. All of these changes in gross revenues are similar to the changes in gross revenues analyzed in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments. The FRFAs for those amendments concluded that the economic impacts on these small entities are expected to be minimal. In the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments and the EA for the 2011 shark quota specifications rule, NMFS stated it would be conducting annual rulemakings and considering the potential economic impacts of adjusting the quotas for under- and overharvests at that time. TABLE 3—AVERAGE EX-VESSEL PRICES PER LB DW FOR EACH SHARK MANAGEMENT GROUP, 2015 Average ex-vessel meat price Region Species Gulf of Mexico .............................................................. Blacktip Shark ............................................................... Aggregated LCS ........................................................... Hammerhead Shark ..................................................... Non-Blacknose SCS ..................................................... Smoothhound Shark* ................................................... Aggregated LCS ........................................................... Hammerhead Shark ..................................................... Non-Blacknose SCS ..................................................... Blacknose Shark ........................................................... Smoothhound Shark* ................................................... Shark Research Fishery (Aggregated LCS) ................ Shark Research Fishery (Sandbar only) ...................... Blue shark ..................................................................... Porbeagle shark ........................................................... Other Pelagic sharks .................................................... Atlantic .......................................................................... No Region ..................................................................... $0.51 0.55 0.61 0.35 0.65 0.80 0.65 0.73 0.97 0.65 0.68 0.76 0.60 1.50 1.50 Average ex-vessel fin price $9.95 9.96 11.98 6.72 1.58 4.73 10.25 4.36 4.00 1.58 9.24 10.62 2.93 2.93 2.93 mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with RULES * Ex-vessel prices for smoothhound sharks come from HMS dealers who submitted landings data voluntarily before it was a requirement on March 15, 2016. For this final rule, NMFS reviewed the ‘‘opening commercial fishing season’’ criteria at § 635.27(b)(3)(i) through (vii) to determine when opening each fishery will provide equitable opportunities for fishermen while also considering the ecological needs of the different species. Overand/or underharvests of 2016 and previous fishing season quotas were examined for the different species/ complexes to determine the effects of the 2017 final quotas on fishermen across regional fishing areas. The potential season lengths and previous catch rates were examined to ensure that equitable fishing opportunities would be provided to fishermen. Lastly, NMFS examined the seasonal variation of the different species/complexes and the effects on fishing opportunities. In addition to these criteria, NMFS also considered other relevant factors, such as recent landings data and public comments, before arriving at the final opening dates for the 2017 Atlantic shark management groups. For the 2017 fishing season, NMFS is opening the shark management groups on January 1, 2017, except for the aggregated LCS, blacktip shark, and hammerhead shark management groups in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region, which will open on February 1, 2017. The direct and indirect economic impacts will be neutral on a short- and long-term basis VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:26 Nov 22, 2016 Jkt 241001 for the eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark, eastern Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS, eastern Gulf of Mexico hammerhead shark, Gulf of Mexico nonblacknose shark SCS, Atlantic nonblacknose shark SCS, Atlantic blacknose shark, sandbar shark, blue shark, porbeagle shark, and pelagic shark (other than porbeagle or blue sharks) management groups, because NMFS did not change the opening dates of these fisheries from the status quo. For the aggregated LCS, blacktip shark, and hammerhead shark management groups in the western Gulf of Mexico subregion, the delayed opening to February 1, 2017, anticipates minor positive short- and long-term economic impacts, because, according to public comments, ex-vessel prices for sharks are expected to be higher at that time in that subregion. Opening the aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark management groups in the Atlantic region on January 1 will result in short-term, direct, moderate, beneficial economic impacts, as fishermen and dealers in the southern portion of the Atlantic region will be able to fish for and sell aggregated LCS and hammerhead sharks starting in January. These fishermen will be able to fish earlier in the 2017 fishing season compared to the 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, and 2015 fishing seasons, which did not start until June or July. Based on public PO 00000 Frm 00112 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 comment, some Atlantic fishermen in the southern and northern part of the region prefer a January 1 opening for the fishery as long as the majority of the quota is available later in the year. With the implementation of the HMS electronic reporting system in 2013, NMFS now monitors the quota on a more real-time basis compared to the paper reporting system that was in place before 2013. This ability, along with the inseason retention limit adjustment criteria in § 635.24(a)(8), should allow NMFS the flexibility to further provide equitable fishing opportunities for fishermen across all regions, to the extent practicable. Depending on how quickly the quota is being harvested, NMFS will consider reducing the commercial retention limit, then consider raising it later in the season to ensure that fishermen farther north have sufficient quota for a fishery later in the 2017 fishing season. The direct impacts to shark fishermen in the Atlantic region of reducing the trip limit depend on the needed reduction in the trip limit and the timing of such a reduction. Therefore, such a reduction in the trip limit for directed shark limited access permit holders is only anticipated to have minor adverse direct economic impacts to fishermen in the short-term; long-term impacts are not anticipated as these reductions would not be permanent. E:\FR\FM\23NOR1.SGM 23NOR1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 226 / Wednesday, November 23, 2016 / Rules and Regulations In the northern portion of the Atlantic region, a January 1 opening for the aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark management groups, with inseason trip limit adjustments to ensure quota is available later in the season, will have direct, minor, beneficial economic impacts in the short-term for fishermen as they will potentially have access to the aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark quotas earlier than in past seasons. Fishermen in this area have stated that, depending on the weather, some aggregated LCS species might be available to retain in January. Thus, fishermen will be able to target or retain aggregated LCS while targeting nonblacknose SCS. There will be indirect, minor, beneficial economic impacts in the short- and long-term for shark dealers and other entities that deal with shark products in this region as they will also have access to aggregated LCS products earlier than in past seasons. Thus, opening the aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark management groups in January and using inseason trip limit adjustments to ensure the fishery is open later in the year in 2017 will cause beneficial cumulative economic impacts, because it allows for a more equitable distribution of the quotas among constituents in this region, consistent with the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments. Section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 states that, for each rule or group of related rules for which an agency is required to prepare a FRFA, the agency shall publish one or more guides to assist small entities in complying with the rule, and shall designate such publications as ‘‘small entity compliance guides.’’ The agency shall explain the actions a small entity is required to take to comply with a rule or group of rules. As part of this rulemaking process, NMFS has prepared a listserv summarizing fishery information and regulations for Atlantic shark fisheries for 2017. This listserv also serves as the small entity compliance guide. Copies of the compliance guide are available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with RULES Authority: 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: November 17, 2016. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2016–28154 Filed 11–22–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:26 Nov 22, 2016 Jkt 241001 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 635 [Docket No. 160531477–6999–02] RIN 0648–BG10 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Removal of Vessel Upgrade Restrictions for Swordfish Directed Limited Access and Atlantic Tunas Longline Category Permits National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: This final rule removes 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 a Highly Migratory Species (HMS) LAP). This final rule eliminates these restrictions on upgrades and permit transfers. This action affects 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. DATES: This rule is effective on December 23, 2016. ADDRESSES: Other documents relevant to this final rule are available from the Atlantic 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: The U.S. Atlantic swordfish and tuna fisheries are managed under the 2006 Consolidated 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 SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00113 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 84501 et seq., and the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (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 recommendations of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). Background This final rule removes vessel upgrading restrictions for vessels issued swordfish directed and Atlantic tunas Longline category LAPs. A brief summary of the background of this final rule is provided below. The details were described in the proposed rule for this action (81 FR 48731, July 26, 2016) and are not repeated here. Additional information regarding Atlantic HMS management can be found in the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments, the annual HMS Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation (SAFE) Reports, and online at http:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/. The comments received on the proposed rule for this action, and NMFS’ responses to those comments, are summarized below in the section labeled ‘‘Response to Comments.’’ In 1999, 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. 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. However, as a practical effect, Atlantic tunas Longline category LAPs were limited by the same upgrading restrictions as the swordfish and shark E:\FR\FM\23NOR1.SGM 23NOR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 226 (Wednesday, November 23, 2016)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 84491-84501]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-28154]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

[Docket No. 160620545-6999-02]
RIN 0648-XE696


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; 2017 Atlantic Shark Commercial 
Fishing Season

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

ACTION: Final rule; fishing season notification.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: This final rule establishes the opening date for all Atlantic 
shark fisheries, including the fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico and 
Caribbean. This final rule also establishes the quotas for the 2017 
fishing season based on over- and/or underharvests experienced during 
2016 and previous fishing seasons. The large coastal shark (LCS) 
retention limit for directed shark limited access permit holders will 
start at 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per trip in the Gulf of 
Mexico region and at 25 LCS other than sandbar sharks per trip in the 
Atlantic region. These retention limits for directed shark limited 
access permit holders may decrease or increase during the year after 
considering the specified inseason action regulatory criteria to 
provide, to the extent practicable, equitable fishing opportunities for 
commercial shark fishermen in all regions and areas. These actions 
could affect fishing opportunities for commercial shark fishermen in 
the northwestern Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and 
Caribbean Sea.

DATES: This rule is effective on January 1, 2017. The 2017 Atlantic 
commercial shark fishing season opening dates and quotas are provided 
in Table 1 under SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION.

ADDRESSES: Highly Migratory Species Management Division, 1315 East-West 
Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Gu[yacute] DuBeck or Karyl Brewster-
Geisz at 301-427-8503.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    The Atlantic commercial shark fisheries are managed under the 
authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management 
Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). The 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory 
Species (HMS) Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and its amendments are 
implemented by regulations at 50 CFR part 635. For the Atlantic 
commercial shark fisheries, the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its 
amendments established, among other things, commercial shark retention 
limits, commercial quotas for species and management groups, accounting 
measures for under- and overharvests for the shark fisheries, and 
adaptive management measures such as flexible opening dates for the 
fishing season and inseason adjustments to shark trip limits, which 
provide management flexibility in furtherance of equitable fishing 
opportunities, to the extent practicable, for commercial shark 
fishermen in all regions and areas.
    On August 29, 2016 (81 FR 59167), NMFS published a rule proposing 
the 2017 opening dates for the Atlantic commercial shark fisheries, 
commercial shark fishing quotas based on shark landings information 
reported as of July 15, 2016, and the commercial shark retention limits 
for each region and sub-region. The August 2016 proposed rule (81 FR 
59167; August 29, 2016) for the 2017 season contains details that are 
not repeated here. The comment period on the proposed rule ended on 
September 28, 2016.
    During the comment period, NMFS received approximately 300 written 
and oral comments on the proposed rule. Those comments, along with the 
Agency's responses, are summarized below. As further detailed in the 
Response to Comments section below, after considering all the comments, 
NMFS is opening the fishing seasons for all shark management groups 
except the blacktip, aggregated LCS, and hammerhead shark management 
groups in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region on January 1, 2017, as 
proposed in the August 29, 2016, proposed rule. The blacktip, 
aggregated LCS, and hammerhead shark management groups in the western 
Gulf of Mexico sub-region will open on February 1, 2017, which is a 
change from the proposed rule. For directed shark limited access permit 
holders, the blacktip, aggregated LCS, and hammerhead management groups 
in the entire Gulf of Mexico region will start the fishing season with 
a retention limit of 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per 
trip. The aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark management groups in the 
Atlantic region will start the fishing season with a retention limit of 
25 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip for directed shark 
limited access permit holders, which is a change from the proposed 
rule. The retention limit for incidental shark limited access permit

[[Page 84492]]

holders for all regions has not changed from the proposed rule and 
remains at 3 LCS other than sandbar sharks per trip and a combined 
total of 16 small coastal sharks (SCS) and pelagic sharks, combined per 
trip consistent with Sec.  635.24(a)(3) and (4).
    This final rule serves as notification of the 2017 opening dates 
for the Atlantic commercial shark fisheries and 2017 quotas, based on 
shark landings data updated as of October 14, 2016, and considering the 
``opening commercial fishing season'' criteria at Sec.  635.27(b)(3). 
These criteria consider factors such as the available annual quotas for 
the current fishing season, estimated season length and average weekly 
catch rates from previous years, length of the season and fishermen 
participation in past years, impacts to accomplishing objectives of the 
2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments, temporal variation in 
behavior or biology target species (e.g., seasonal distribution or 
abundance), impact of catch rates in one region on another, and effects 
of delayed season openings. This action does not establish or change 
the annual base commercial quotas established under the 2006 
Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments for any shark management group. 
The base quotas were established under previous actions, and any 
changes to those base quotas would be performed through a separate 
action. Rather, this action adjusts the annual commercial quotas for 
2017 based on over- and/or underharvests that occurred in 2016 and 
previous fishing seasons, consistent with existing regulations and 
establishes the opening dates for the fisheries. Only the adjusted 
blacktip quota in the Gulf of Mexico region has changed since the 
proposed rule, based on updated landings information as of October 14, 
2016; all other quotas remain the same as proposed.

Response to Comments

    NMFS received approximately 300 written and oral comments on the 
proposed rule from fishermen, dealers, and other interested parties. 
All written comments can be found at http://www.regulations.gov/ by 
searching for RIN 0648-XE696. NMFS received approximately 10 oral 
comments through phone conversations or at the HMS Advisory Panel 
meeting on September 8, 2016. All of the oral comments are represented 
with the written comments below.

A. LCS Management Group Comments

    Comment 1: NMFS received comments regarding the proposed opening 
dates for the western Gulf of Mexico LCS fisheries on January 1. Some 
commenters supported the proposed January 1 opening date for both Gulf 
of Mexico sub-regions, while other commenters supported a delayed 
western Gulf of Mexico opening date of February 1 to coincide with the 
religious holiday of Lent.
    Response: After considering public comment, NMFS has determined 
that changing the opening date to February 1 for the blacktip shark, 
aggregated LCS, and hammerhead shark management groups in the western 
Gulf of Mexico region, in combination with the change in retention 
limit (see discussion in Comment 2), will promote equitable fishing 
opportunities throughout this region. In reaching this determination, 
NMFS considered, in particular, the regulatory criterion regarding the 
length of the season in previous years for the different species and/or 
management groups and whether fishermen had been able to participate in 
the fishery in those years (Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(iii)). In 2016, NMFS 
opened the season on January 1 and closed it on March 12, 2016 (81 FR 
12602; March 10, 2016). The State of Louisiana annually plans a state-
water closure from April 1 through June 30. However, once NMFS 
announced that it was closing the Federal fishery, the State of 
Louisiana closed its waters as well, 2 weeks before its initially 
planned closure. Shark fishermen and dealers in the western Gulf of 
Mexico who were not expecting the closure did not have as much of an 
opportunity to fish as those few fishermen who fished earlier. Based on 
2016 landings data, the majority of the shark landings from the western 
Gulf of Mexico region did not begin to occur until February, which is 
when other non-shark fisheries close. If NMFS were to open the fishery 
on January 1, 2017, it is likely that once again the fishery would need 
to close earlier than April 1 and a number of fishermen who would 
otherwise participate in the shark fishery based on traditional 
expectations would not have the opportunity. Furthermore, based on the 
review of the landings data, delaying the opening until February 1 will 
provide more equitable fishing opportunities. Thus, opening the season 
in February, in combination with the higher retention limit (see change 
discussion in Comment 2), should give all fishermen in the sub-region 
an equitable opportunity to harvest the quota before the state-water 
closure.
    Comment 2: NMFS received comments regarding the proposed commercial 
retention limit for the blacktip, aggregated LCS, and hammerhead 
management groups in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region. 
Specifically, some commenters from the western Gulf of Mexico sub-
region preferred a retention limit of 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks 
per vessel per trip instead of the proposed 30 LCS other than sandbar 
sharks per vessel per trip.
    Response: NMFS has determined that the default retention limit of 
45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip at the start of 
the season will ensure equitable fishing opportunities in the western 
Gulf of Mexico sub-region. In the proposed rule, NMFS proposed a lower 
trip limit (30 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip) in 
order to slow the harvest level due to the potential for a reduced 
hammerhead shark quota based on the 2016 sub-regional overharvest and 
given that the Aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark quotas are linked. 
The lower proposed trip limit was also intended to ensure the 
management groups remain open until at least April 2017, which is when 
the State of Louisiana closes state waters to shark fishing and when 
that State has asked that we close Federal shark fisheries to match 
state regulations if quotas are limited (see the criteria listed at 
Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(vii) and 635.24(a)(8)(iii)). With the change in the 
western Gulf of Mexico LCS fisheries opening date to February 1 (see 
Comment 1), and because there are no sub-regional blacktip shark, 
aggregated LCS, and hammerhead shark management group quota adjustments 
due to overharvest, NMFS no longer believes a lower retention limit is 
needed to slow the harvest level to ensure the management groups will 
remain open until at least April 2017. Rather, NMFS will start the 
commercial retention limit at 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per 
vessel per trip as of February 1, 2017, which is the retention limit 
preferred in public comments. However, NMFS may utilize the inseason 
retention limit adjustment during the fishing season if needed to 
ensure the quotas are not harvested too quickly and the management 
groups remain open at least until April 2017.
    Comment 3: NMFS received several comments regarding the proposed 
opening date and retention limits for the aggregated LCS and hammerhead 
management groups in the Atlantic region. Regarding the opening dates, 
some commenters from the southern and northern part of the Atlantic 
region supported the proposed opening date of January 1 for the 
aggregated LCS and hammerhead management groups and retention limits. 
Some of these commenters requested that NMFS modify the retention 
limits on an

[[Page 84493]]

inseason basis to ensure the majority of the quota remains available 
later in the year since there are no other fisheries open in Florida at 
the end of the year. Other commenters suggested that NMFS delay the 
opening of the Atlantic region fishery until the western Gulf of Mexico 
LCS fisheries closes to ensure better market prices for the shark 
products. Additionally, comments from some of the fishermen in the 
southern part of the region preferred lowering the proposed retention 
limit of 36 to a lower retention limit of three to five LCS other than 
sandbar sharks per vessel per trip on January 1 with the potential for 
later inseason retention limit adjustments to ensure the opportunity to 
fish for sharks in October through December because they participate in 
other, non-shark fisheries at the beginning of the year and in the 
shark fisheries later in the year. NMFS also received comments that the 
LCS retention limit in the Atlantic region should stay at 36 LCS other 
than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip all season long and that NMFS 
should not later consider increasing the retention limit to 45 LCS 
other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip since the aggregated LCS 
and hammerhead shark management groups quotas have not increased.
    Response: After considering the ``opening commercial fishing 
season'' criteria in light of the comments, which reflected general 
support of the proposed opening date, NMFS has decided to open the 
fisheries in the Atlantic region on January 1, 2017, as proposed, but 
with a lower retention limit than proposed. Specifically, on January 1, 
2017, the LCS fisheries in the Atlantic region will open with a 
retention limit of 25 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip 
for directed shark limited access permit holders. NMFS has determined 
that a lower retention limit at the start of the season will allow NMFS 
to more easily and closely monitor the quota and catch rates in the 
beginning of the year to help ensure equitable fishing opportunities 
later in the year, while still allowing the majority of quota to be 
harvested later in the year (see the criteria listed at Sec.  
635.24(a)(8)(iii)). NMFS chose 25 LCS other than sandbar sharks per 
vessel per trip because that is the commercial retention limit for the 
fishery from October 19, 2016, through the rest of the 2016 fishing 
season (81 FR 72007; October 19, 2016), and would not cause additional 
changes in fishing practices, thus minimizing any economic or 
compliance issues within the fishery. Also, this change seemed a 
reasonable amount between that of an incidental level (3 LCS other than 
sandbar sharks per vessel per trip) and maximum retention levels 
(between 36 and 55 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip). 
The January 1 opening date, in combination with this reduced retention 
limit, should allow fishermen in the southern and northern portions of 
the Atlantic region the opportunity to fish at the beginning of the 
year, while providing all fishermen in the Atlantic region fishing 
opportunities later in the year, when the majority of fishing occurs, 
as the majority of the quota should still be available.
    The proposed rule stated that, if it appears that the quota is 
being harvested too quickly to allow fishermen throughout the entire 
region an opportunity to fish, NMFS will consider reducing the 
commercial retention limit after a portion of the quota is harvested 
(e.g., 20 percent) and later consider raising the commercial retention 
limit to 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip around 
July 15 to allow greater fishing opportunities later in the year. After 
considering public comment, NMFS anticipates that it would consider 
increasing the commercial retention limit around July 15, 2017, as this 
was the date used for prior season opening dates and was the date NMFS 
increased the retention limit in 2016 (81 FR 44798; July 11, 2016).
    Regarding the request to delay the fishery in the Atlantic region 
until the shark fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico close, NMFS decided to 
not delay the LCS fisheries opening date in the Atlantic region until 
the western Gulf of Mexico fisheries are closed since this would not 
promote equitable fishing opportunities throughout the Atlantic region. 
In past fishing seasons, the LCS fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico have 
closed as early as March 17 or as late as July 17, and never on the 
same date year to year. Without knowing when the western or eastern 
Gulf of Mexico LCS fisheries will close, NMFS could not evaluate the 
``opening commercial fishing season'' criteria (Sec.  635.27(b)(3)) 
when choosing an opening date for the Atlantic region based on the 
commenters' request. Thus, NMFS is not making a change in response to 
this comment and will open the Atlantic LCS fisheries on January 1. 
NMFS will consider adjusting the commercial retention limit during the 
season as appropriate to ensure equitable fishing opportunities.
    Regarding the comments that having the LCS fisheries in the 
Atlantic and western Gulf of Mexico regions open at the same time will 
impact the market prices, while NMFS considers economic impacts as 
required, market prices are not one of the criteria NMFS evaluates when 
choosing an opening date. However, in the past, the LCS fisheries in 
the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions have been open at the same 
time, and during those times, NMFS has noticed impacts on the ex-vessel 
prices in either region. For example, in 2016, when both regional LCS 
fisheries were open in January, the ex-vessel price for Atlantic 
aggregated LCS was at its lowest when compared to the rest of the year, 
but was higher than the western Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS ex-vessel 
prices.
    Comment 4: NMFS received comments regarding the overharvest of the 
western Gulf of Mexico sub-regional hammerhead shark quota. Some 
commenters were concerned that NMFS did not propose to adjust the 
western Gulf of Mexico sub-regional hammerhead shark quota even though 
the quota was overharvested by 41 percent in 2016.
    Response: Based on landings through October 14, 2016, NMFS is not 
adjusting the western Gulf of Mexico sub-regional hammerhead shark 
quota in this final rule. As stated in the proposed rule, even though 
the reported landings in the western Gulf of Mexico exceeded the 2016 
sub-regional quota, the total regional Gulf of Mexico reported landings 
have not exceeded the 2016 regional quota as of October 14, 2016. The 
regulations implemented through Amendment 6 to the 2006 Consolidated 
HMS FMP (80 FR 50073; August 18, 2015), provide that sub-regional quota 
overages (e.g., western Gulf of Mexico sub-region) are only deducted 
from the next year's quota if the total regional quota (e.g., Gulf of 
Mexico region) is exceeded. Thus, at this time, because the overall 
regional quota has not been overharvested, NMFS is not adjusting the 
western Gulf of Mexico sub-region quota to account for the overharvest. 
However, because the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region remains open at 
the time of this final rulemaking and quota is still available in that 
sub-region, NMFS expects that landings will continue to occur. If 
landings in the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region exceed 8.5 mt dw 
(18,594 lb dw) (i.e., the remainder of the total regional Gulf of 
Mexico quota), then NMFS will take additional action to reduce the 
western Gulf of Mexico sub-region quota to account for overharvests in 
2018.

B. General Comments

    Comment 5: NMFS received some comments in support of the proposed 
rule regulating commercial shark fishing, while other commenters

[[Page 84494]]

opposed the regulations that allow for increased adjusted quotas as a 
result of underharvest. Specifically, those in opposition were 
concerned with the accuracy and the potential for under reporting of 
shark landings.
    Response: As discussed in the proposed rule, shark stocks or 
management groups that are not overfished and have no overfishing 
occurring may have any underharvest carried over in the following year, 
up to 50 percent of the base quota (81 FR 59167; August 29, 2016). 
Since the Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group and 
smoothhound shark management groups in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic 
regions have been determined not to be overfished and to have no 
overfishing occurring, available underharvest from the 2016 fishing 
season for these management groups may be applied to the respective 
2017 quotas to the extent allowable, and NMFS is doing so in this final 
rule.
    All commercial shark landings and quotas are monitored with the HMS 
electronic dealer reporting system, which has been in use since January 
1, 2013. This improvement in commercial quota monitoring technology and 
the weekly, as opposed to biweekly, reporting on paper provides more 
information on each dealer transaction, including a requirement of 
reporting all shark landings to the species level, and ensures that 
quotas are not exceeded. Overall, this improvement helps with 
monitoring of commercial landings of all shark species and with closing 
management groups in a more efficient and timely manner.
    Comment 6: NMFS received approximately 280 comments in support of 
more conservative shark management measures by, for example, 
implementing lower commercial shark fishing quotas or prohibiting all 
commercial shark fishing to stop shark finning.
    Response: These comments are outside the scope of this rulemaking 
because the purpose of this rulemaking is to adjust quotas for the 2017 
shark seasons based on over- and underharvests from the previous years 
and set opening dates and commercial retention limits for the 2017 
shark seasons. The quotas and general management measures were 
established in previous rulemakings, which were the final rules to 
implement Amendment 2 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP (73 FR 35778, 
June 24, 2008; corrected on 73 FR 40658; July 15, 2008), Amendment 5a 
to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP (78 FR 40318; July 3, 2013), Amendment 
6 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP (80 FR 50073; August 18, 2015), and 
Amendment 9 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP (80 FR 73128; November 24, 
2015). Management of the Atlantic shark fisheries is based on the best 
available science to achieve optimum yield while also rebuilding 
overfished shark stocks and preventing overfishing. NMFS currently is 
considering conservation and management to rebuild the dusky shark 
stock and prevent overfishing in Amendment 5b to the 2006 Consolidated 
HMS FMP (81 FR 71672; October 18, 2016). The comment period for that 
rulemaking ends on December 22, 2016.
    Comment 7: NMFS received a comment suggesting that we change the 
start of the fishing year for all shark species from January to 
September.
    Response: This comment is outside the scope of this rulemaking 
because the fishing year is defined in the regulations as January 1 to 
December 31. The rule did not reanalyze the overall start date of the 
shark fishing year, which was established in the 2006 Consolidated HMS 
FMP.
    Comment 8: NMFS received a comment suggesting that we not implement 
these regulations until such time that adequate shark research can be 
accomplished.
    Response: Management of the Atlantic shark fisheries is based on 
the best available science to achieve optimum yield while preventing 
overfishing and to rebuild overfished shark stocks. Domestic shark 
stock assessments are generally conducted through the Southeast Data, 
Assessment, and Review (SEDAR) process, in which NMFS participates. 
This process is also used by the South Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and 
Caribbean Fishery Management Councils and is designed to provide 
transparency throughout the stock assessment process. Generally, SEDAR 
stock assessments have three stages (data availability, assessment 
models, and peer review). Meetings in these stages may be face-to-face 
or by webinar or conference call. All meetings are open to the public. 
All reports from all stages of the process are available online at 
http://www.sefsc.noaa.gov/sedar/. The SEDAR process can take several 
months to over a year depending on whether the species has been 
assessed before, if a species needs a full review of a previous 
assessment, or if the assessment is more of an update to previous 
assessments. Because the process takes so long and because of the large 
number of shark stocks that need to be assessed, there are times where 
we have reviewed stock assessments that were completed and peer 
reviewed outside of the SEDAR process and have determined the 
assessment to be appropriate for management. We have done that for both 
porbeagle and scalloped hammerhead sharks. Additionally, there are some 
shark stocks that are assessed internationally via the process 
established by ICCAT. In all cases, we ensure the data and models used 
are appropriate, all sources of mortality are considered, and that the 
end result constitutes the best available science, consistent with 
National Standard 2 and other requirements.
    Comment 9: NMFS received comments asserting that sharks are worth 
more to eco-tourism than commercial fishermen.
    Response: In adjusting quotas for the 2017 shark seasons based on 
over- and underharvests from the previous years and setting opening 
dates and commercial retention limits for the 2017 shark seasons, NMFS 
considers specific regulatory criteria, including the available annual 
quotas for the current fishing season, estimated season length and 
average weekly catch rates from previous years, length of the season 
and fishermen participation in past years, impacts to accomplishing 
objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments, 
temporal variation in behavior or biology target species (e.g., 
seasonal distribution or abundance), impact of catch rates in one 
region on another, and effects of delayed season openings. NMFS does 
not consider the economic impacts of sharks to eco-tourism compared to 
commercial shark fishing. Such impacts are appropriately considered 
when establishing the base quotas.
    Comment 10: NMFS received a comment expressing concern about the 
high mercury levels in shark meat. Specifically, the commenter is 
concerned that NMFS still allows fishing for sharks even though the 
health impacts are well known about high levels of mercury in shark 
meat.
    Response: This comment is outside the scope of this rulemaking 
because the purpose of this rulemaking is to adjust quotas for the 2017 
shark seasons based on over- and underharvests from the previous years 
and set opening dates and commercial retention limits for the 2017 
shark seasons.
    Comment 11: NMFS received comments regarding the stock status of 
hammerhead shark and other shark species. Some commenters requested 
more protective management for hammerhead sharks and other shark 
species due to their threatened or endangered stock status listing by 
the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
    Response: This comment is outside the scope of this rulemaking, 
because

[[Page 84495]]

the purpose of this rulemaking is to adjust quotas for the 2017 shark 
seasons based on over- and underharvests from the previous years and 
set opening dates and commercial retention limits for the 2017 shark 
seasons. NMFS published Amendment 5a on July 3, 2013 (78 FR 40318) 
which implemented quotas for the hammerhead shark complex, including 
scalloped hammerhead sharks, linked the hammerhead shark quota to the 
aggregated LCS quota, and established a hammerhead shark recreational 
minimum size limit to reduce fishing mortality and rebuild the 
scalloped hammerhead stock. That rulemaking addressed this issue and it 
is not further addressed in this rulemaking.
    Comment 12: NMFS received a comment requesting that NMFS implement 
individual fishing quotas for each of the three species of hammerhead 
sharks within the hammerhead shark management group.
    Response: This comment is outside the scope of this rulemaking, 
because the purpose of this rulemaking is to adjust quotas for the 2017 
shark seasons based on over- and underharvests from the previous years 
and set opening dates and commercial retention limits for the 2017 
shark seasons. The current hammerhead shark quota was established in 
Amendment 5a to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP based on the best 
available science (78 FR 40318; July 3, 2013). In that rulemaking, NMFS 
decided to include all hammerhead shark landings in one quota because 
the three hammerhead sharks are difficult to differentiate, with the 
most evident differences being small differences in the shape of the 
front of the head. Once the head has been removed and the carcass has 
been dressed, species identification becomes more difficult. NMFS 
intends to conduct stock assessments on scalloped, smooth, and great 
hammerhead sharks in the future, as soon as practicable given timing, 
resource limits, and data availability and NMFS could consider 
individual fishing quotas for each of the three species of hammerhead 
sharks in the future if warranted and supportable.
    Comment 13: NMFS received comments regarding state-water landings 
and discards of sharks with no observer coverage and fewer requirements 
and training than Federal fishermen. The commenters supported the need 
to have consistency between state, Council, and Federal regulations.
    Response: This comment is outside the scope of this rulemaking, 
because the purpose of this rulemaking is to adjust quotas for the 2017 
shark seasons based on over- and underharvests from the previous years 
and set opening dates and commercial retention limits for the 2017 
shark seasons. Many states allow landings of sharks by state-permitted 
fishermen. However, these fishermen must comply with the state fishing 
regulations, which in some cases are the same as Federal regulations 
or, in other cases, are more restrictive. NMFS will continue to work 
closely with the states to ensure consistent regulations for shark 
fishing, to the extent practicable.
    Comment 14: NMFS received comments that all quota linkages should 
be removed since it has contributed to underfishing for the past 
several years.
    Response: This comment is outside the scope of this rulemaking, 
because the purpose of this rulemaking is to adjust quotas for the 2017 
shark seasons based on over- and underharvests from the previous years 
and set opening dates and commercial retention limits for the 2017 
shark seasons. The current LCS and SCS quota linkages were implemented 
in the final rules for Amendment 5a and Amendment 6 to the 2006 
Consolidated HMS FMP and NMFS is citing the rationale provided in the 
previous rulemakings. The issue of removing quota linkages is not being 
re-considered or re-addressed in this rulemaking now.
    As explained in those rulemakings, quota linkages were created for 
shark species that are in separate management groups, but that have the 
potential to be caught together on the same shark fishing trip (e.g. 
aggregated LCS and hammerhead sharks). If the quota for one management 
group has been harvested and the management group is closed, that 
species could still be caught as bycatch by fishermen targeting other 
shark species, possibly resulting in excess mortality and negating some 
of the conservation benefit of management group closures. In addition, 
shark quota linkages were put into place as part of the rebuilding 
plans for shark species that are overfished in order to reduce excess 
mortality of the overfished species during commercial fishing for other 
shark species. Thus, NMFS closes the linked shark management groups 
together.
    Comment 15: NMFS received comments requesting that we consider 
increasing the Federal fishery closure trigger for the shark management 
groups from 80 percent to greater than 90 percent to prevent quota 
underharvests and to promote harvesting quotas fully for the greater 
profitability for fishermen and for increased access to shark products 
for consumers.
    Response: This comment is outside the scope of this rulemaking, 
because the purpose of this rulemaking is to adjust quotas for the 2017 
shark seasons based on over- and underharvests from the previous years 
and set opening dates and commercial retention limits for the 2017 
shark seasons. The 80-percent Federal fishery closure trigger for the 
shark management groups was implemented in the final rule for Amendment 
2 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and NMFS is citing the rationale 
provided in the previous rulemakings. The issue of changing this 
closure trigger is not being re-considered or re-addressed in this 
rulemaking now.
    As explained in Amendment 2, NMFS' goal is to allow shark fishermen 
to harvest the full quota without exceeding it in order to maximize 
economic benefits to stakeholders while achieving conservation goals, 
including preventing overfishing and rebuilding overfished stocks. 
Based on past experiences with monitoring quotas for HMS species, the 
80-percent threshold works well, allowing for all or almost all of the 
quota to be harvested without exceeding the quota. As such, NMFS 
expects that, in general, the quotas would be harvested between the 
time that the 80-percent threshold is reached and the time that the 
season actually closes. In addition, NMFS must also account for late 
reporting by shark dealers even with the improved electronic dealer 
system. Closing shark fisheries when 80 percent of quotas have been 
harvested provides a buffer to include landings received after the 
reporting deadline in an attempt to avoid overharvests.
    Comment 16: NMFS received a comment to present all shark landings 
by species in addition to management group, particularly for hammerhead 
sharks given the listing of hammerhead sharks on Appendix II of the 
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
    Response: This comment is outside the scope of this rulemaking, 
because the purpose of this rulemaking is to adjust quotas for the 2017 
shark seasons based on over- and underharvests from the previous years 
and set opening dates and commercial retention limits for the 2017 
shark seasons. NMFS presents the shark landings by species and region 
in the annual Stock Assessment and Fisheries Evaluation (SAFE) Report 
that is released in December of each year, consistent with 
confidentiality requirements.
    CITES is an international treaty designed to control and regulate 
international trade of certain animal and plant species that are now or 
potentially may be threatened with extinction and are affected by 
trade. Some shark

[[Page 84496]]

species (e.g., oceanic whitetip sharks, great, scalloped, and smooth 
hammerhead sharks, and porbeagle sharks) are now listed on Appendix II, 
which imposes strict trade monitoring and could impact the ability of 
dealers to sell these species to international costumers. Additionally, 
starting in October 2017, silky and thresher sharks will be listed on 
Appendix II. Due to this listing, any U.S. fishermen or dealer who 
wishes to export these shark products will have to obtain a CITES 
permit in order to export or re-export these products.
Changes From the Proposed Rule
    NMFS made four changes to the proposed rule, as described below.
    1. NMFS changed the final blacktip shark quota in the western Gulf 
of Mexico sub-region from the 331.8 mt dw (730,803 lb dw) in the 
proposed rule to 331.6 mt dw (730,425 lb dw), a difference of 378 lb 
dw, based on updated landings through October 14, 2016. The 2017 shark 
season proposed rule (81 FR 59167; August 29, 2016) was based on dealer 
reports available through July 15, 2016. NMFS explained in the proposed 
rule that it would adjust the proposed quotas based on dealer reports 
as of mid-October or mid-November 2015. Based on updated landings data 
through October 14, 2016, the overall available adjustment amount for 
the blacktip shark management group in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-
region was 100.1 mt dw (220,164 lb dw), resulting in a small reduction 
in the amount of quota that could be carried over to 2017. Landings 
information beyond October 14, 2016, was not available while NMFS was 
writing this rule. Any landings between October 14 and December 31, 
2016, will be accounted for in the 2018 shark fisheries quotas, as 
appropriate.
    2. NMFS changed the retention limit for directed shark limited 
access permit holders at the start of the commercial shark fishing 
season for the aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark management groups in 
the Atlantic region from 36 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel 
per trip to 25 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip. As 
explained above, NMFS changed the retention limit after considering the 
``opening commercial fishing season'' criteria (Sec.  635.27(b)(3)), 
public comment, and the 2016 landings data in order to promote 
equitable fishing opportunities throughout the Atlantic region.
    3. NMFS changed the retention limit for directed shark limited 
access permit holders for the aggregated LCS, blacktip shark, and 
hammerhead shark management groups in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-
region from 30 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip to 45 
LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip. As explained above, 
NMFS changed the retention limit after considering the ``opening 
commercial fishing season'' criteria (Sec.  635.27(b)(3)), public 
comment, and the 2016 landings data in order to promote equitable 
fishing opportunities throughout the Gulf of Mexico region.
    4. NMFS changed the fishing season opening date for the western 
Gulf of Mexico from January 1, to February 1, 2017. NMFS changed the 
opening date based upon public comments that indicated a preference for 
a delayed opening when market conditions would be more optimal in that 
sub-region.
2017 Annual Quotas
    This final rule adjusts the 2017 commercial quotas due to over- 
and/or underharvests in 2016 and previous fishing seasons, based on 
landings data through October 14, 2016. Based on overharvest in 2012 
and 2015, NMFS had previously reduced the Atlantic blacknose shark base 
annual quota by 1.5 mt dw (3,268 lb dw) in 2016, 2017, and 2018. 
However, in 2016, the Atlantic blacknose shark quota was underharvested 
by 3.5 mt dw (7,725 lb dw). In the proposed rule for this action, NMFS 
noted that preliminary reported landings of blacknose sharks were at 78 
percent (12.2 mt dw) of their 2016 quota levels (15.7 mt dw) in the 
Atlantic region. Given this large underharvest, NMFS notified the 
public that rather than spread out the previous years' overharvests 
over several years, it proposed to use the 2016 underharvest to cover 
the remaining 2012 and 2015 overharvest. Since NMFS received no 
comments on this proposal, 3.0 mt dw of the 2016 quota will be used to 
account for the past years' overharvests. An underharvest of 0.5 mt dw 
occurs in 2016 after this accounting but, pursuant to Sec.  
635.27(b)(2), NMFS cannot carry forward underharvest because blacknose 
sharks have been declared to be overfished with overfishing occurring 
in the Atlantic region. Therefore, the 2017 Atlantic blacknose shark 
quota is equal to the annual base quota without adjustment.
    The 2017 annual quotas by species and management group are 
summarized in Table 1. Any dealer reports that are received by NMFS 
after October 14, 2016, will be used to adjust the 2018 quotas, if 
necessary. A description of the quota calculations is provided in the 
proposed rule and is not repeated here. Any changes are described in 
the ``Changes from the Proposed Rule'' section.

                                                 Table 1--Annual Quotas for the Atlantic Shark Fisheries
               [All quotas and landings are dressed weight (dw), in metric tons (mt), unless specified otherwise. 1 mt dw = 2,204.6 lb dw]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                           Preliminary  2016                       2017  Base annual  2017  Final annual
      Region or  sub-region        Management group   2016  annual quota     landings \1\       Adjustments \2\          quota               quota
                                                      (A)...............  (B)...............  (C)...............  (D)...............  (D+C)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Eastern Gulf of Mexico..........  Blacktip Sharks...  28.9 mt dw (63,189  18.7 mt dw (41,116  10.9 mt dw (23,920  25.1 mt dw (55,439  36.0 mt dw (79,359
                                                       lb dw).             lb dw).             lb dw) \3\.         lb dw).             lb dw)
                                  Aggregated Large    85.5 mt dw          54.2 mt dw          ..................  85.5 mt dw          85.5 mt dw
                                   Coastal Sharks.     (188,593 lb dw).    (119,592 lb dw).                        (188,593 lb dw).    (188,593 lb dw)
                                  Hammerhead Sharks.  13.4 mt dw (29,421  6.8 mt dw (14,955   ..................  13.4 mt dw (29,421  13.4 mt dw (29,421
                                                       lb dw).             lb dw).                                 lb dw).             lb dw)
Western Gulf of Mexico..........  Blacktip Sharks...  266.5 mt dw         165.7 mt dw         100.1 mt dw         231.5 mt dw         331.6 mt dw
                                                       (587,396 lb dw).    (365,385 lb dw).    (220,164 lb dw)     (510,261 lb dw).    (730,425 lb dw)
                                                                                               \3\.
                                  Aggregated Large    72.0 mt dw          66.1 mt dw          ..................  72.0 mt dw          72.0 mt dw
                                   Coastal Sharks.     (158,724 lb dw).    (145,791 lb dw).                        (158,724 lb dw).    (158,724 lb dw)
                                  Hammerhead Sharks.  11.9 mt dw (26,301  16.8 mt dw (37,128  ..................  11.9 mt dw (23,301  11.9 mt dw (23,301
                                                       lb dw).             lb dw).                                 lb dw).             lb dw)

[[Page 84497]]

 
Gulf of Mexico..................  Non-Blacknose       107.3 mt dw         60.6 mt dw          ..................  112.6 mt dw         112.6 mt dw
                                   Small Coastal       (236,603 lb dw).    (133,648 lb dw).                        (248,215 lb dw).    (248,215 lb dw)
                                   Sharks.
                                  Smoothhound Sharks  336.4 mt dw         0 mt dw (0 lb dw).  168.2 mt dw         336.4 mt dw         504.6 mt dw
                                                       (741,627).                              (370,814 lb dw).    (741,627).          (1,112,441 lb dw)
Atlantic........................  Aggregated Large    168.9 mt dw         113.2 mt dw         ..................  168.9 mt dw         168.9 mt dw
                                   Coastal Sharks.     (372,552 lb dw).    (249,661 lb dw).                        (372,552 lb dw).    (372,552 lb dw)
                                  Hammerhead Sharks.  27.1 mt dw (59,736  12.5 mt dw (27,542  ..................  27.1 mt dw (59,736  27.1 mt dw (59,736
                                                       lb dw).             lb dw).                                 lb dw).             lb dw)
                                  Non-Blacknose       264.1 mt dw         50.7 mt dw          ..................  264.1 mt dw         264.1 mt dw
                                   Small Coastal       (582,333 lb dw).    (111,793 lb dw).                        (582,333 lb dw).    (582,333 lb dw)
                                   Sharks.
                                  Blacknose Sharks    15.7 mt dw (34,653  12.2 mt dw (26,928  ..................  17.2 mt dw (37,921  17.2 mt dw (37,921
                                   (South of 34[deg]   lb dw).             lb dw).                                 lb dw).             lb dw) \4\
                                   N. lat. only).
                                  Smoothhound Sharks  1,201.7 mt dw       287.4 mt dw         600.9 mt dw         1,201.7 mt dw       1,802.6 mt dw
                                                       (2,647,725 lb dw).  (633,605 lb dw).    (1,323,862 lb dw).  (2,647,725 lb dw).  (3,971,587 lb dw)
No regional quotas..............  Non-Sandbar LCS     50.0 mt dw          14.6 mt dw (32,167  ..................  50.0 mt dw          50.0 mt dw
                                   Research.           (110,230 lb dw).    lb dw).                                 (110,230 lb dw).    (110,230 lb dw)
                                  Sandbar Shark       90.7 mt dw          41.5 mt dw (91,568  ..................  90.7 mt dw          90.7 mt dw
                                   Research.           (199,943 lb dw).    lb dw).                                 (199,943 lb dw).    (199,943 lb dw)
                                  Blue Sharks.......  273.0 mt dw         < 1.0 mt dw (<      ..................  273.0 mt dw         273.0 mt dw
                                                       (601,856 lb dw).    2,000 lb dw).                           (601,856 lb dw).    (601,856 lb dw)
                                  Porbeagle Sharks..  0 mt dw (0 lb dw).  0 mt dw (0 lb dw).  ..................  1.7 mt dw (3,748    1.7 mt dw (3,748
                                                                                                                   lb dw).             lb dw)
                                  Pelagic Sharks      488.0 mt dw         77.4 mt dw          ..................  488.0 mt dw         488.0 mt dw
                                   Other Than          (1,075,856 lb dw).  (170,675 lb dw).                        (1,075,856 lb dw).  (1,075,856 lb dw)
                                   Porbeagle or Blue.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Landings are from January 1, 2016, through October 14, 2016, and are subject to change.
\2\ Underharvest adjustments can only be applied to stocks or management groups that are not overfished and have no overfishing occurring. Also, the
  underharvest adjustments cannot exceed 50 percent of the base quota.
\3\ This adjustment accounts for underharvest in 2016. This final rule would increase the overall Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota by 111.0 mt dw
  (244,084 lb dw). Since any underharvest would be divided based on the sub-regional quota percentage split, 10.9 mt dw (9.8 percent of the overall
  regional quota adjustment) is being added to the eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark base quota, and 100.1 mt dw (90.2 percent of the overall
  regional quota adjustment) is being added to the western Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark base quota.
\4\ Based on overharvest in 2012 and 2015, NMFS had previously reduced the Atlantic blacknose shark base annual quota by 1.5 mt dw (3,268 lb dw) in
  2016, 2017, and 2018. However, in 2016, the Atlantic blacknose shark quota was underharvested by 3.5 mt dw (7,725 lb dw). NMFS will use the 2016
  underharvest to cover the remaining overharvest amount of 3.0 mt dw (6,536 lb dw). Thus the 2017 Atlantic blacknose shark quota will be equal to base
  annual quota.

Fishing Season Notification for the 2017 Atlantic Commercial Shark 
Fishing Seasons
    Based on the seven ``opening commercial fishing season'' criteria 
listed in Sec.  635.27(b)(3), NMFS is opening the 2016 Atlantic 
commercial shark fishing seasons on January 1, 2017, except for the 
aggregated LCS, blacktip shark, and hammerhead shark management groups 
in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region which will open on February 1, 
2017 (Table 2).
    Regarding the LCS retention limit, as shown in Table 2, for 
directed shark limited access permit holders, the Gulf of Mexico 
blacktip shark, aggregated LCS, and hammerhead shark management groups 
will start the commercial fishing season at 45 LCS other than sandbar 
sharks per vessel per trip, and the Atlantic aggregated LCS and 
hammerhead shark management groups will start the commercial fishing 
season at 25 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip. In the 
Atlantic region, as described above, NMFS will closely monitor the 
quota at the beginning of the year. If it appears that the quota is 
being harvested too quickly to allow fishermen throughout the entire 
region an opportunity to fish (e.g., if approximately 20 percent of the 
quota is caught at the beginning of the year), NMFS will consider 
reducing the commercial retention limit, then consider raising it later 
in the season. Based on prior years' fishing activity, to allow greater 
fishing opportunities later in the year, NMFS anticipates considering 
raising the commercial retention limit to the default limit of 36 LCS 
other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip around July 15, 2017. Any 
retention limit reductions and increases will be based on consideration 
of the trip limit adjustment criteria at 50 CFR 635.24(a)(8).
    All of the shark management groups will remain open until December 
31, 2017, or until NMFS determines that the fishing season landings for 
any shark management group has reached, or is projected to reach, 80 
percent of the available quota; however, consistent with Sec.  
635.28(b)(5), NMFS may close the Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark 
management group before landings reach, or are expected to reach, 80 
percent of the quota. Additionally,

[[Page 84498]]

NMFS has previously established non-linked and linked quotas; linked 
quotas are explicitly designed to concurrently close multiple shark 
management groups that are caught together to prevent incidental catch 
mortality from exceeding the total allowable catch. The linked and non-
linked quotas are shown in Table 2. NMFS will file for publication with 
the Office of the Federal Register a notice of closure for that shark 
species, shark management group including any linked quotas, and/or 
region that will be effective no fewer than 5 days from date of filing. 
From the effective date and time of the closure until NMFS announces, 
via the publication of a notice in the Federal Register, that 
additional quota is available and the season is reopened, the fisheries 
for the shark species or management group are closed, even across 
fishing years.

 Table 2--Quota Linkages, Season Opening Dates, and Commercial Retention Limit by Regional or Sub-Regional Shark
                                                Management Group
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                           Commercial retention
                                                                                            limits for directed
                                                                         Season opening    shark limited access
      Region or sub-region        Management group    Quota linkages         dates            permit holders
                                                                                           (inseason adjustments
                                                                                              are available)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Eastern Gulf of Mexico.........  Blacktip Sharks..  Not Linked.......  January 1, 2017..  45 LCS other than
                                                                                           sandbar sharks per
                                                                                           vessel per trip
                                 Aggregated Large   Linked...........
                                  Coastal Sharks.
                                 Hammerhead Sharks
Western Gulf of Mexico.........  Blacktip Sharks..  Not Linked.......  February 1, 2017.  45 LCS other than
                                                                                           sandbar sharks per
                                                                                           vessel per trip
                                 Aggregated Large   Linked...........
                                  Coastal Sharks.
                                 Hammerhead Sharks
Gulf of Mexico.................  Non-Blacknose      Not Linked.......  January 1, 2017..  N/A
                                  Small Coastal
                                  Sharks.
Atlantic.......................  Aggregated Large   Linked...........  January 1, 2017..  25 LCS other than
                                  Coastal Sharks.                                          sandbar sharks per
                                                                                           vessel per trip. [If
                                                                                           quota is landed
                                                                                           quickly (e.g., if
                                                                                           approximately 20
                                                                                           percent of quota is
                                                                                           caught at the
                                                                                           beginning of the
                                                                                           year), NMFS
                                                                                           anticipates
                                                                                           considering an
                                                                                           inseason reduction
                                                                                           (e.g., to 3 or fewer
                                                                                           LCS other than
                                                                                           sandbar sharks per
                                                                                           vessel per trip), and
                                                                                           later considering an
                                                                                           inseason increase to
                                                                                           36 LCS other than
                                                                                           sandbar sharks per
                                                                                           vessel per trip
                                                                                           around July 15, 2017]
                                 Hammerhead Sharks
                                 Non-Blacknose      Linked (South of   January 1, 2017..  N/A
                                  Small Coastal      34 [deg]N. lat.
                                  Sharks.            only).
                                 Blacknose Sharks
                                  (South of 34
                                  [deg]N. lat.
                                  only).
No regional quotas.............  Non-Sandbar LCS    Linked...........  January 1, 2017..  N/A
                                  Research.
                                 Sandbar Shark
                                  Research.
                                 Blue Sharks......  Not Linked.......  January 1, 2017..  N/A
                                 Porbeagle Sharks.
                                 Pelagic Sharks
                                  Other Than
                                  Porbeagle or
                                  Blue.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Classification
    The NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that the final rule 
is consistent with the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments, 
other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law.
    This final rule is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.
    In compliance with section 604 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act 
(RFA), NMFS prepared a Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (FRFA) for 
this final rule, which analyzed the adjustments to the Gulf of Mexico 
blacktip shark, Gulf of Mexico smoothhound shark, and Atlantic 
smoothhound shark management group quotas based on underharvests from 
the previous fishing season(s). The FRFA analyzes the anticipated 
economic impacts of the final actions and any significant economic 
impacts on small entities. The FRFA is below.
    Section 604(a)(1) of the RFA requires an explanation of the purpose 
of the rulemaking. The purpose of this final rulemaking is, consistent 
with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its 
amendments, to establish the 2017 Atlantic commercial shark fishing 
quotas, retention limits, and fishing seasons. Without this rule, the 
Atlantic commercial shark fisheries would close on December 31, 2016, 
and would not reopen until another action was taken. This final rule 
will be implemented according to the regulations implementing the 2006 
Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments. Thus, NMFS expects few, if 
any, economic impacts to fishermen other than those already analyzed in 
the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments. While there may be 
some direct negative economic impacts associated with the opening dates 
for fishermen in certain areas, there could also be positive effects 
for other fishermen in the region. The opening

[[Page 84499]]

dates were chosen to allow for an equitable distribution of the 
available quotas among all fishermen across regions and states, to the 
extent practicable.
    Section 604(a)(2) of the RFA requires NMFS to summarize significant 
issues raised by the public in response to the Initial Regulatory 
Flexibility Analysis (IRFA), provide a summary of NMFS' assessment of 
such issues, and provide a statement of any changes made as a result of 
the comments. The IRFA was done as part of the proposed rule for the 
2017 Atlantic Commercial Shark Season Specifications. NMFS did not 
receive any comments specific to the IRFA. However, NMFS received 
comments related to the overall economic impacts of the proposed rule, 
and those comments and NMFS' assessment of and response to them are 
summarized above (see Comments 3 and 9 above). As described in the 
responses to those comments relating to the season opening dates, 
consistent with Sec.  635.27(b)(3), the opening date for the all of the 
commercial shark fisheries will be implemented as proposed (January 1, 
2017), except for the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region, which will 
open on February 1, 2017.
    Section 604(a)(4) of the RFA requires NMFS 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. Provision is made under SBA's regulations for an agency to 
develop its own industry-specific size standards after consultation 
with 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. To utilize this provision, NMFS must publish such size 
standards in the Federal Register (FR), which NMFS did on December 29, 
2015 (80 FR 81194, December 29, 2015). In this final rule effective on 
July 1, 2016, NMFS established a small business size standard of $11 
million in annual gross receipts for all businesses in the commercial 
fishing industry (NAICS 11411) for RFA compliance purposes (80 FR 
81194, December 29, 2015). NMFS considers all HMS permit holders to be 
small entities because they had average annual receipts of less than 
$11 million for commercial fishing.
    As of October 2016, the proposed rule would apply to the 
approximately 223 directed commercial shark permit holders, 271 
incidental commercial shark permit holders, 103 smoothhound shark 
permit holders, and 111 commercial shark dealers. Not all permit 
holders are active in the fishery in any given year. Active directed 
commercial shark permit holders are defined as those with valid permits 
that landed one shark based on HMS electronic dealer reports. Of the 
494 directed and incidental commercial shark permit holders, only 40 
permit holders landed sharks in the Gulf of Mexico region and only 99 
landed sharks in the Atlantic region. Of the 103 smoothhound shark 
permit holders, only 59 permit holders landed smoothhound sharks in the 
Atlantic region and none landed smoothhound sharks in the Gulf of 
Mexico region. NMFS has determined that the proposed rule would not 
likely affect any small governmental jurisdictions.
    Section 604(a)(5) of the RFA requires NMFS to describe the 
projected reporting, recordkeeping, and other compliance requirements 
of the final rule, including an estimate of the classes of small 
entities which would be subject to the requirements of the report or 
record. None of the actions in this final rule would result in 
additional reporting, recordkeeping, or compliance requirements beyond 
those already analyzed in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its 
amendments.
    Section 604(a)(6) of the RFA requires NMFS to describe the steps 
taken to minimize the economic impact on small entities, consistent 
with the stated objectives of applicable statutes. Additionally, the 
RFA (5 U.S.C. 603(c)(1)-(4)) lists four general categories of 
``significant'' alternatives that would assist an agency in the 
development of significant alternatives that would accomplish the 
stated objectives of applicable statutes and minimize any significant 
economic impact of the rule on small entities. These categories of 
alternatives are: (1) Establishment of differing compliance or 
reporting requirements or timetables that take into account the 
resources available to small entities; (2) clarification, 
consolidation, or simplification of compliance and reporting 
requirements under the rule for such small entities; (3) use of 
performance rather than design standards; and (4) exemptions from 
coverage of the rule, or any part thereof, for small entities.
    In order to meet the objectives of this rule, consistent with the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS cannot exempt small entities or change the 
reporting requirements only for small entities because all the entities 
affected are small entities. Thus, there are no alternatives discussed 
that fall under the first, second, and fourth categories described 
above. NMFS does not know of any performance or design standards that 
would satisfy the aforementioned objectives of this rulemaking while, 
concurrently, complying with the Magnuson-Stevens Act; therefore, there 
are no alternatives considered under the third category.
    This rulemaking does not establish management measures to be 
implemented, but rather implements previously adopted and analyzed 
measures as adjustments, as specified in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP 
and its amendments and the Environmental Assessment (EA) for the 2011 
shark quota specifications rule (75 FR 76302; December 8, 2010). Thus, 
in this rulemaking, NMFS adjusted the base quotas established and 
analyzed in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments by 
subtracting the underharvest or adding the overharvest, as specified 
and allowable in existing regulations. Under current regulations (Sec.  
635.27(b)(2)), all shark fisheries close on December 31 of each year, 
or when NMFS determines that the fishing season landings for any shark 
management group has reached, or is projected to reach, 80 percent of 
the available quota, and do not open until NMFS takes action, such as 
this rulemaking to re-open the fisheries. Thus, not implementing these 
management measures would negatively affect shark fishermen and related 
small entities, such as dealers, and also would not provide management 
flexibility in furtherance of equitable fishing opportunities, to the 
extent practicable, for commercial shark fishermen in all regions and 
areas.
    Based on the 2015 ex-vessel price, fully harvesting the unadjusted 
2017 Atlantic shark commercial baseline quotas could result in total 
fleet revenues of $8,265,467 (see Table 3). For the Gulf of Mexico 
blacktip shark management group, NMFS will increase the baseline sub-
regional quotas due to the underharvests in 2016. The increase for the 
eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group would result in 
a $24,099 gain in total revenues for fishermen in that sub-region, 
while the increase for the western Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark 
management group would result in a $221,815 gain in total revenues for 
fishermen in that sub-region. For the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic 
smoothhound shark management groups, NMFS will

[[Page 84500]]

increase the baseline quotas due to the underharvest in 2016. This 
would cause a potential gain in revenue of $270,323 for the fleet in 
the Gulf of Mexico region and a potential gain in revenue of $965,095 
for the fleet in the Atlantic region.
    All of these changes in gross revenues are similar to the changes 
in gross revenues analyzed in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its 
amendments. The FRFAs for those amendments concluded that the economic 
impacts on these small entities are expected to be minimal. In the 2006 
Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments and the EA for the 2011 shark 
quota specifications rule, NMFS stated it would be conducting annual 
rulemakings and considering the potential economic impacts of adjusting 
the quotas for under- and overharvests at that time.

                Table 3--Average Ex-Vessel Prices per lb dw for Each Shark Management Group, 2015
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                   Average  ex-    Average  ex-
                   Region                                  Species                 vessel  meat     vessel  fin
                                                                                       price           price
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gulf of Mexico.............................  Blacktip Shark.....................           $0.51           $9.95
                                             Aggregated LCS.....................            0.55            9.96
                                             Hammerhead Shark...................            0.61           11.98
                                             Non-Blacknose SCS..................            0.35            6.72
                                             Smoothhound Shark*.................            0.65            1.58
Atlantic...................................  Aggregated LCS.....................            0.80            4.73
                                             Hammerhead Shark...................            0.65           10.25
                                             Non-Blacknose SCS..................            0.73            4.36
                                             Blacknose Shark....................            0.97            4.00
                                             Smoothhound Shark*.................            0.65            1.58
No Region..................................  Shark Research Fishery (Aggregated             0.68            9.24
                                              LCS).
                                             Shark Research Fishery (Sandbar                0.76           10.62
                                              only).
                                             Blue shark.........................            0.60            2.93
                                             Porbeagle shark....................            1.50            2.93
                                             Other Pelagic sharks...............            1.50            2.93
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Ex-vessel prices for smoothhound sharks come from HMS dealers who submitted landings data voluntarily before
  it was a requirement on March 15, 2016.

    For this final rule, NMFS reviewed the ``opening commercial fishing 
season'' criteria at Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(i) through (vii) to determine 
when opening each fishery will provide equitable opportunities for 
fishermen while also considering the ecological needs of the different 
species. Over- and/or underharvests of 2016 and previous fishing season 
quotas were examined for the different species/complexes to determine 
the effects of the 2017 final quotas on fishermen across regional 
fishing areas. The potential season lengths and previous catch rates 
were examined to ensure that equitable fishing opportunities would be 
provided to fishermen. Lastly, NMFS examined the seasonal variation of 
the different species/complexes and the effects on fishing 
opportunities. In addition to these criteria, NMFS also considered 
other relevant factors, such as recent landings data and public 
comments, before arriving at the final opening dates for the 2017 
Atlantic shark management groups. For the 2017 fishing season, NMFS is 
opening the shark management groups on January 1, 2017, except for the 
aggregated LCS, blacktip shark, and hammerhead shark management groups 
in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region, which will open on February 
1, 2017. The direct and indirect economic impacts will be neutral on a 
short- and long-term basis for the eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip 
shark, eastern Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS, eastern Gulf of Mexico 
hammerhead shark, Gulf of Mexico non-blacknose shark SCS, Atlantic non-
blacknose shark SCS, Atlantic blacknose shark, sandbar shark, blue 
shark, porbeagle shark, and pelagic shark (other than porbeagle or blue 
sharks) management groups, because NMFS did not change the opening 
dates of these fisheries from the status quo. For the aggregated LCS, 
blacktip shark, and hammerhead shark management groups in the western 
Gulf of Mexico sub-region, the delayed opening to February 1, 2017, 
anticipates minor positive short- and long-term economic impacts, 
because, according to public comments, ex-vessel prices for sharks are 
expected to be higher at that time in that sub-region.
    Opening the aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark management groups 
in the Atlantic region on January 1 will result in short-term, direct, 
moderate, beneficial economic impacts, as fishermen and dealers in the 
southern portion of the Atlantic region will be able to fish for and 
sell aggregated LCS and hammerhead sharks starting in January. These 
fishermen will be able to fish earlier in the 2017 fishing season 
compared to the 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, and 2015 fishing seasons, which 
did not start until June or July. Based on public comment, some 
Atlantic fishermen in the southern and northern part of the region 
prefer a January 1 opening for the fishery as long as the majority of 
the quota is available later in the year. With the implementation of 
the HMS electronic reporting system in 2013, NMFS now monitors the 
quota on a more real-time basis compared to the paper reporting system 
that was in place before 2013. This ability, along with the inseason 
retention limit adjustment criteria in Sec.  635.24(a)(8), should allow 
NMFS the flexibility to further provide equitable fishing opportunities 
for fishermen across all regions, to the extent practicable. Depending 
on how quickly the quota is being harvested, NMFS will consider 
reducing the commercial retention limit, then consider raising it later 
in the season to ensure that fishermen farther north have sufficient 
quota for a fishery later in the 2017 fishing season. The direct 
impacts to shark fishermen in the Atlantic region of reducing the trip 
limit depend on the needed reduction in the trip limit and the timing 
of such a reduction. Therefore, such a reduction in the trip limit for 
directed shark limited access permit holders is only anticipated to 
have minor adverse direct economic impacts to fishermen in the short-
term; long-term impacts are not anticipated as these reductions would 
not be permanent.

[[Page 84501]]

    In the northern portion of the Atlantic region, a January 1 opening 
for the aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark management groups, with 
inseason trip limit adjustments to ensure quota is available later in 
the season, will have direct, minor, beneficial economic impacts in the 
short-term for fishermen as they will potentially have access to the 
aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark quotas earlier than in past 
seasons. Fishermen in this area have stated that, depending on the 
weather, some aggregated LCS species might be available to retain in 
January. Thus, fishermen will be able to target or retain aggregated 
LCS while targeting non-blacknose SCS. There will be indirect, minor, 
beneficial economic impacts in the short- and long-term for shark 
dealers and other entities that deal with shark products in this region 
as they will also have access to aggregated LCS products earlier than 
in past seasons. Thus, opening the aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark 
management groups in January and using inseason trip limit adjustments 
to ensure the fishery is open later in the year in 2017 will cause 
beneficial cumulative economic impacts, because it allows for a more 
equitable distribution of the quotas among constituents in this region, 
consistent with the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments.
    Section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness 
Act of 1996 states that, for each rule or group of related rules for 
which an agency is required to prepare a FRFA, the agency shall publish 
one or more guides to assist small entities in complying with the rule, 
and shall designate such publications as ``small entity compliance 
guides.'' The agency shall explain the actions a small entity is 
required to take to comply with a rule or group of rules. As part of 
this rulemaking process, NMFS has prepared a listserv summarizing 
fishery information and regulations for Atlantic shark fisheries for 
2017. This listserv also serves as the small entity compliance guide. 
Copies of the compliance guide are available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES).

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

    Dated: November 17, 2016.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2016-28154 Filed 11-22-16; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P