Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region; Amendment 37, 91104-91114 [2016-30223]

Download as PDF 91104 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 242 / Friday, December 16, 2016 / Proposed Rules extend more than 24 inches (61 cm) past the posterior edge of the grid (Figure 16 to this part). Each panel may be sewn down the entire length of the outside edge of each panel. Paragraph (d)(3) of this section notwithstanding, this flap may be installed on either the outside or inside of the TED extension. For interior installation, the flap may be sewn to the interior of the TED extension along the leading edge and sides to a point intersecting the TED frame; however, the flap must be sewn to the exterior of the TED extension from the point at which it intersects the TED frame to the trailing edge of the flap. Chafing webbing described in paragraph (d)(4) of this section may not be used with this type of flap. * * * * * (v) Small turtle TED flap. If the angle of the deflector bars of a bent bar TED used by a skimmer trawl, pusher-head trawl, or wing net exceeds 45°, or if a double cover opening straight bar TED (at any allowable angle) is used by a skimmer trawl, pusher-head trawl, or wing net, the flap must not consist of twine size greater than number 15 (1.32mm thick) on webbing flaps described in paragraphs (d)(3)(i), (d)(3)(ii), (d)(3)(iii), or (d)(3)(iv) of this section. * * * * * [FR Doc. 2016–30224 Filed 12–15–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 622 [Docket No. 160906822–6999–01] RIN 0648–BG33 Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; SnapperGrouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region; Amendment 37 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS AGENCY: NMFS proposes to implement management measures described in Amendment 37 to the Fishery Management Plan for the SnapperGrouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region (FMP), as prepared and submitted by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (South Atlantic Council). If implemented, this proposed rule would modify the management unit SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:25 Dec 15, 2016 Jkt 241001 boundaries for hogfish in the South Atlantic by establishing two hogfish stocks, a Georgia through North Carolina (GA/NC) stock and a Florida Keys/East Florida (FLK/EFL) stock; establish a rebuilding plan for the FLK/EFL hogfish stock; specify fishing levels and accountability measures (AMs), and modify or establish management measures for the GA/NC and FLK/EFL stocks of hogfish. The purpose of this proposed rule is to manage hogfish using the best scientific information available while ending overfishing and rebuilding the FLK/EFL hogfish stock. DATES: Written comments must be received by January 17, 2017. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the proposed rule, identified by ‘‘NOAA–NMFS–2016–0068’’ by either of the following methods: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20160068, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Submit all written comments to Nikhil Mehta, NMFS Southeast Regional Office (SERO), 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701. Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/ A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Electronic copies of Amendment 37 may be obtained from www.regulations.gov or the SERO Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov. Amendment 37 includes a final environmental impact statement, initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA), regulatory impact review, and fishery impact statement. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Nikhil Mehta, NMFS SERO, telephone: 727–824–5305, or email: nikhil.mehta@ noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The snapper-grouper fishery in the South Atlantic includes hogfish and is managed under the FMP. The FMP was prepared by the South Atlantic Council PO 00000 Frm 00056 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 and is implemented by NMFS through regulations at 50 CFR part 622 under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). Background The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires that NMFS and regional fishery management councils prevent overfishing and achieve, on a continuing basis, the optimum yield (OY) from federally managed fish stocks. These mandates are intended to ensure that fishery resources are managed for the greatest overall benefit to the nation, particularly with respect to providing food production and recreational opportunities, and protecting marine ecosystems. To further this goal, the Magnuson-Stevens Act requires fishery managers to minimize bycatch and bycatch mortality to the extent practicable. Currently, hogfish is managed under the FMP as a single stock in the South Atlantic from the jurisdictional boundary between the South Atlantic Council and Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Gulf Council) (approximately the Florida Keys) to a line extending seaward from the North Carolina and Virginia state border. The current stock status determination criteria, such as maximum sustainable yield (MSY) and minimum stock size threshold (MSST), annual catch limits (ACLs), recreational annual catch targets (ACTs), AMs, and management measures in the FMP, are established for a single stock of hogfish for the South Atlantic region. The most recent stock assessment for hogfish was completed in 2014 through the Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review process (SEDAR 37). SEDAR 37 identified two separate stocks of hogfish in the South Atlantic region under the jurisdiction of the South Atlantic Council, and one stock of hogfish in the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) under the jurisdiction of the Gulf Council. In the South Atlantic region, one stock of hogfish was identified to exist off North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia; and a separate stock of hogfish was identified to exist off the Florida Keys and east Florida. The South Atlantic Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) did not consider the SEDAR 37 results for the GA/NC stock as sufficient to determine stock status and inform South Atlantic Council management decisions, and the South Atlantic Council concurred. NMFS agreed and determined that the overfishing and overfished status determination of the GA/NC stock is unknown. The SSC did consider the SEDAR 37 results as sufficient to E:\FR\FM\16DEP1.SGM 16DEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 242 / Friday, December 16, 2016 / Proposed Rules determine the stock status and inform management decisions for the FLK/EFL stock, and the South Atlantic Council concurred. NMFS agreed and determined that the FLK/EFL stock is currently undergoing overfishing and is overfished. Based on SEDAR 37, NMFS also determined that the West Florida hogfish stock in the Gulf, which occurs off the west coast of Florida to Texas, is neither overfished, nor undergoing overfishing. NMFS notified the South Atlantic Council of these stock status determinations via letter on February 17, 2015. asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Management Measures Contained in This Proposed Rule This proposed rule would revise the hogfish fishery management unit in the FMP by establishing two hogfish stocks, one in Federal waters off Georgia through North Carolina and one in Federal waters off the Florida Keys and east Florida; specify ACLs and AMs; and modify or establish management measures for the GA/NC and FLK/EFL stocks of hogfish. All weights of hogfish are described in round weight. Fishery Management Unit for Hogfish Currently, hogfish is managed as a single stock in Federal waters in the South Atlantic region from the jurisdictional boundary between the South Atlantic and Gulf Councils to the North Carolina and Virginia state border. This proposed rule would establish new stock boundaries and create two stocks of hogfish in Federal waters under the jurisdiction of the South Atlantic Council. The first stock would be the GA/NC stock, with a southern boundary extending from the Florida and Georgia state border extending northward to the North Carolina and Virginia state border. The second stock would be the FLK/EFL hogfish stock, with a southern boundary extending from 25°09′ N. lat. near Cape Sable on the west coast of Florida. The management area would extend south and east around the Florida Keys and have a northern border extending from the Florida and Georgia state border. The Gulf Council has approved Amendment 43 to the FMP for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf, and has selected the same boundary near Cape Sable on the west coast of Florida to separate the FLK/EFL hogfish stock from the West Florida hogfish stock. In accordance with section 304(f) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Gulf Council requested that the Secretary of Commerce designate the South Atlantic Council as the responsible Council for management of the FLK/EFL hogfish stock in Gulf Federal waters south of VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:25 Dec 15, 2016 Jkt 241001 25°09′ N. lat. near Cape Sable on the west coast of Florida. On November 23, 2016, NMFS published a proposed rule in the Federal Register to implement Amendment 43 (81 FR 84538, November 23, 2016). If NMFS implements Amendment 43, the Gulf Council would continue to manage hogfish in Federal waters in the Gulf (the West Florida hogfish stock), except in Federal waters south of this boundary. Therefore, the South Atlantic Council, and not the Gulf Council, would establish the management measures for the entire range of the FLK/EFL hogfish stock, including in Federal waters south of 25°09′ N. lat. near Cape Sable in the Gulf. Vessels fishing for hogfish in Gulf Federal waters, i.e., north and west of the jurisdictional boundary between the Gulf and South Atlantic Councils (approximately at the Florida Keys), as defined at 50 CFR 600.105(c), would still be required to have the appropriate Federal Gulf reef fish permits, and vessels fishing for hogfish in South Atlantic Federal waters, i.e., south and east of the jurisdictional boundary, would still be required to have the appropriate Federal South Atlantic snapper-grouper permits. Federal permit holders would still be required to follow the sale and reporting requirements associated with the respective permits. As described in Amendment 37, the proposed stock boundary near Cape Sable, Florida, would aid law enforcement personnel, because it coincides with an existing State of Florida management boundary for certain state-managed species, and it would simplify regulations across adjacent state and Federal management jurisdictions. NMFS specifically seeks public comment regarding the revised stock boundaries and the manner in which the Councils would have jurisdiction over these stocks if both Amendment 37 for the South Atlantic Council and Amendment 43 for the Gulf Council are approved and implemented. NMFS published notices of availability in the Federal Register, seeking comments on Amendment 37 and Amendment 43, on October 7, 2016, and November 4, 2016, respectively (81 FR 69774 and 81 FR 76908). On November 23, 2016, NMFS published a proposed rule to implement Amendment 43 in the Federal Register that also solicited public comment (81 FR 84538, November 23, 2016). ACLs and OY for the GA/NC and FLK/ EFL Hogfish Stocks Currently, the total acceptable biological catch (ABC) for the single hogfish stock (equal to ACL and OY) in PO 00000 Frm 00057 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 91105 the FMP is 134,824 lb (61,155 kg), with a commercial ACL sector allocation (36.69 percent) of 49,469 lb (22,439 kg), and recreational ACL sector allocation (63.31 percent) of 85,355 lb (38,716 kg). Because SEDAR 37 was not deemed sufficient to specify an ABC recommendation for the GA/NC stock of hogfish, the SSC applied Level 4 of the South Atlantic Council’s ABC control rule to arrive at their ABC recommendation for this stock. Level 4 is appropriate for unassessed stocks with only reliable catch data, and involves selection of a ‘‘catch statistic,’’ a scalar to describe the risk of overexploitation for the stock, and a scalar to describe the management risk level. Amendment 29 updated the South Atlantic Council’s ABC control rule, including Level 4 for unassessed stocks (80 FR 30947, June 1, 2015). The SSC provides the first two criteria for each stock, and the South Atlantic Council specifies their management risk level for each stock. For the GA/NC hogfish stock, this proposed rule and Amendment 37 would specify an ABC of 35,716 lb (16,201 kg), a total ACL and OY (equal to 95 percent of the ABC) of 33,930 lb (15,390 kg), and commercial and recreational ACLs based on recalculated sector allocations of 69.13 percent to the commercial sector and 30.87 percent to the recreational sector. It was necessary to re-calculate the sector allocations based on the existing formula from the South Atlantic Council’s Comprehensive ACL Amendment (77 FR 15916, March 16, 2012), to reflect the appropriate landings for each sector from the relevant geographic region of the new stock. Through this proposed rule, the commercial ACL would be 23,456 lb (10,639 kg) and the recreational ACL would be 988 fish. For the GA/NC stock of hogfish, the South Atlantic Council decided to specify the ABC, total ACL, and commercial ACL in pounds and the recreational ACL in numbers of fish. Commercial landings are already tracked in pounds while recreational landings are tracked in numbers of fish. Additionally, because Amendment 37 also considers changing the minimum size limit for this stock of hogfish, specifying the recreational ACL in pounds could potentially increase the risk of exceeding the ABC in pounds because larger fish are heavier. Therefore, the South Atlantic Council determined that there would be a lower risk of exceeding the recreational ACL due to an increase in the minimum size limit if the recreational ACL were to be specified in numbers of fish. E:\FR\FM\16DEP1.SGM 16DEP1 91106 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 242 / Friday, December 16, 2016 / Proposed Rules The SSC considered the SEDAR 37 results sufficient to provide an ABC recommendation for the FLK/EFL stock of hogfish, and the South Atlantic Council concurred with their recommendation. The ABC for the FLK/ EFL stock is derived from projections in SEDAR 37, and the projections were provided in both pounds and numbers of fish. The South Atlantic Council determined that for this stock of hogfish, it was more appropriate to specify the ABC, total ACL, and recreational ACL in numbers of fish, and the commercial ACL in pounds (since recreational landings are tracked in numbers of fish and commercial landings are tracked in pounds). Therefore, Amendment 37 would specify an ABC of 17,930 fish for this stock, which would increase annually through 2027 when the ABC would be 63,295 fish. The total ACL and OY would be equal to 95 percent of the ABC, and the commercial and recreational ACLs would be based on recalculated sector allocations of 9.63 percent to the commercial sector and 90.37 percent to the recreational sector. As discussed above, the re-calculated sector allocations are based on the South Atlantic Council’s existing allocation formula and are necessary to reflect the appropriate landings for each sector from the relevant geographic region of the new stock. In 2017, the total ACL (and OY) would be 17,034 fish, the commercial ACL would be 3,510 lb (1,592 kg), and the recreational ACL would be 15,689 fish and would increase annually through 2027 as the stock rebuilds. In 2027, the total ACL (and OY) for the FLK/EFL hogfish stock would be 60,130 fish, the commercial ACL would be 17,018 lb (7,719 kg), and recreational ACL would be 53,610 fish. asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS AMs for the Commercial and Recreational Sectors for Both the GA/ NC and FLK/EFL Hogfish Stocks The current South Atlantic commercial AMs for the single hogfish stock consist of an in-season closure of the commercial sector if the commercial ACL is met or projected to be met. If the commercial ACL is exceeded, a postseason AM would reduce the commercial ACL by the amount of the commercial ACL overage during the following fishing year if the total ACL (commercial ACL plus recreational ACL) is also exceeded and hogfish are overfished. This proposed rule would retain the current South Atlantic inseason and post-season AMs for the commercial sector, as specified in 50 CFR 622.193(u)(1), and apply them to both the GA/NC and FLK/EFL hogfish stocks. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:25 Dec 15, 2016 Jkt 241001 The current South Atlantic recreational AMs for the single hogfish stock consist of an in-season closure of the recreational sector if the recreational ACL is met or is projected to be met. If the recreational ACL is exceeded, then during the following fishing year, NMFS will monitor for a persistence in increased landings. The post-season AM would reduce the length of the recreational season and the recreational ACL by the amount of the recreational ACL overage if the total ACL is also exceeded and hogfish are overfished. This proposed rule would retain the current South Atlantic recreational AMs, as specified in 50 CFR 622.193(u)(2), and apply them to both the GA/NC and FLK/EFL hogfish stocks. Minimum Size Limits for the GA/NC and FLK/EFL Hogfish Stocks The current minimum size limit for the single hogfish stock in the South Atlantic is 12 inches (30.5 cm), fork length (FL), for both the commercial and recreational sectors. For both the commercial and recreational sectors, this proposed rule would increase the minimum size limit to 17 inches (43.2 cm), FL, for the GA/NC hogfish stock, and 16 inches (40.6 cm), FL, for the FLK/EFL hogfish stock. Hogfish are protogynous: Fish mature as females first and are expected to eventually become male if they live long enough; they are pair spawners; and they form harems. The number and gender of hogfish in a local group influences the size and age range at which sexual transition occurs. Considering these life history characteristics, the South Atlantic Council determined these proposed minimum size limits could serve as a precautionary approach to address population stability for hogfish off Georgia through North Carolina, and reduce disruption to spawning, avoid recruitment overfishing, and benefit the spawning populations off the Florida Keys and east Florida. Commercial Trip Limit for the GA/NC and FLK/EFL Hogfish Stocks Currently, there is no commercial trip limit for hogfish in the South Atlantic. This proposed rule would establish a commercial trip limit of 500 lb (227 kg) for the GA/NC stock, and 25 lb (11 kg) for the FLK/EFL stock. As described in Amendment 37, few commercial fishermen catch more than 500 lb (227 kg) of hogfish per trip off Georgia through North Carolina, and the proposed commercial ACL is not expected to be met. However, the South Atlantic Council is concerned that commercial fishermen may shift effort from the FLK/EFL stock to the GA/NC PO 00000 Frm 00058 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 stock because of the proposed restrictions to the FLK/EFL stock. Therefore, the South Atlantic Council proposed a 500-lb (227-kg) commercial trip limit for the GA/NC stock to enable commercial harvest in that geographic area to take place year-round. Furthermore, as described in Amendment 37, the majority of commercial fishermen landed 25 lb (11 kg) or less of hogfish per trip off the Florida Keys and east Florida area. The South Atlantic Council determined that implementing a commercial trip limit of 25 lb (11 kg) for the FLK/EFL hogfish stock would restrict harvest and help to prevent a commercial in-season closure. Recreational Bag Limits for the GA/NC and FLK/EFL Hogfish Stocks The current recreational bag limit for hogfish in the South Atlantic is five fish per person per day in Federal waters off Florida, with no recreational bag limit in Federal waters off Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. This proposed rule would set a recreational bag limit of one fish per person per day in Federal waters off the Florida Keys and east coast of Florida, and a recreational bag limit of two fish per person per day in Federal waters off Georgia through North Carolina. The South Atlantic Council determined that these bag limits would reduce harvest and help to prevent a recreational inseason closure. Recreational Fishing Season for the FLK/EFL Hogfish Stock Currently, hogfish is available for the recreational sector to harvest yearround, as long as the recreational ACL has not been met. This proposed rule would establish a recreational fishing season from May through October for the FLK/EFL hogfish stock, with recreational harvest prohibited from January through April and from November through December each year. As described in Amendment 37, hogfish spawning activity occurs predominantly during the months of December through April, and begins (and ends) slightly earlier in the Florida Keys than on the West Florida shelf (e.g., from the Florida panhandle south along the west coast of Florida to Naples, Florida). Analysis in Amendment 37 showed that based on the proposed recreational ACLs, minimum size limits, and recreational bag limits, a recreational fishing season that is open for 6 months would help constrain recreational landings below the recreational ACL for the FLK/EFL hogfish stock. The South Atlantic Council determined that specifying a May through October fishing season would protect the overfished FLK/EFL E:\FR\FM\16DEP1.SGM 16DEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 242 / Friday, December 16, 2016 / Proposed Rules hogfish stock during the peak spawning season, and the proposed ACLs and AMs would help ensure overfishing does not occur. The South Atlantic Council decided not to establish a recreational fishing season for the GA/ NC hogfish stock because that stock does not seem to be experiencing heavy fishing pressure, and the average recreational landings in recent years have been well below the proposed recreational ACL. asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Management Measures Contained in Amendment 37 But Not Codified Through This Proposed Rule In addition to the management measures that this proposed rule would implement, Amendment 37 includes actions to specify fishing levels and recreational ACTs for the GA/NC and FLK/EFL hogfish stocks, and establish a rebuilding plan for the FLK/EFL hogfish stock. MSY and MSST for the GA/NC and FLK/EFL Hogfish Stocks Currently, MSY for the single hogfish stock in the South Atlantic is the yield produced by the fishing mortality rate at MSY (FMSY) or the FMSY proxy, and MSST is equal to the spawning stock biomass at MSY (SSBMSY) * (1–M) or 0.5, whichever is greater (where M equals natural mortality). However, MSY and MSST values for the single hogfish stock are unknown because hogfish were unassessed until recently. Amendment 37 would specify the MSY for the GA/NC and FLK/EFL stocks of hogfish as equal to the yield produced by FMSY or the FMSY proxy, with the MSY and FMSY proxy recommended by the most recent stock assessment. Based on SEDAR 37, the resulting MSY for the FLK/EFL hogfish stock is 346,095 lb (156,986 kg), and is unknown for the GA/NC hogfish stock. Amendment 37 would specify the MSST for these two stocks of hogfish at 75 percent of SSBMSY, which results in an unknown MSST value for the GA/NC hogfish stock, and an MSST for the FLK/EFL hogfish stock of 1,725,293 lb (782,580 kg). The proposed MSST for hogfish is consistent with how the South Atlantic Council has defined MSST for other snapper-grouper stocks with low natural mortality estimates, and SEDAR 37 estimated the natural mortality for hogfish at 0.179. Recreational ACTs for the GA/NC and FLK/EFL Hogfish Stocks The recreational ACT for the current hogfish stock is 59,390 lb (26,939 kg). Amendment 37 specifies a recreational ACT (equal to 85 percent of the recreational ACL) of 840 fish for the GA/ VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:25 Dec 15, 2016 Jkt 241001 NC stock and 13,335 fish for the FLK/ EFL stock in 2017. The recreational ACT for the FLK/EFL stock would increase annually from 2017 through 2027 as the stock rebuilds. NMFS notes that the current and proposed recreational ACTs are used only for monitoring and do not trigger an AM. Rebuilding Plan for the FLK/EFL Hogfish Stock Because the FLK/EFL hogfish stock is overfished, Amendment 37 would establish a rebuilding plan that would set the ABC equal to the yield at a constant fishing mortality rate and rebuild the stock in 10 years with a 72.5 percent probability of success. Year 1 of the rebuilding plan would be 2017, and 2027 would be the last year. The South Atlantic Council’s SSC indicated that harvest levels proposed in the Amendment 37 rebuilding plan are sustainable and would achieve the goal of rebuilding the FLK/EFL hogfish stock. The ABC for the FLK/EFL hogfish stock would be 17,930 fish in 2017 and would increase annually through 2027 when the ABC would be 63,295 fish. Additional Proposed Change to Codified Text Not in Amendment 37 In addition to the measures described for Amendment 37, this final rule would correct an error in Table 1 to § 622.1— FMPs Implemented Under Part 622. In 2013, the final rule for Amendment 27 to the FMP inadvertently removed two footnotes from the entry for the FMP in Table 1 of § 622.1 (78 FR 78770, December 27, 2013). This final rule corrects that error and inserts those footnotes back into the entry for the FMP in Table 1 of § 622.1. Classification Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is consistent with Amendment 37, the FMP, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable laws, subject to further consideration after public comment. This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. NMFS prepared an IRFA for this proposed rule, as required by section 603 of the RFA, 5 U.S.C. 603. The IRFA describes the economic impact that this proposed rule, if implemented, would have on small entities. A description of the proposed rule, why it is being considered, and the objectives of and legal basis for this proposed rule are contained at the beginning of this CLASSIFICATION section in the preamble and in the SUMMARY section of PO 00000 Frm 00059 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 91107 the preamble. A copy of the full analysis is available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). A summary of the IRFA follows. The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides the statutory basis for this proposed rule. No duplicative, overlapping, or conflicting Federal rules have been identified. In addition, no new reporting, record-keeping, or other compliance requirements are introduced by this proposed rule. Accordingly, this proposed rule does not implicate the Paperwork Reduction Act. This proposed rule, if implemented, would apply to all federally-permitted commercial vessels and recreational anglers that fish for or harvest hogfish in Federal waters of the South Atlantic. It would not directly apply to or regulate charter vessels and headboats (for-hire vessels), since for-hire vessels sell fishing services to recreational anglers and the proposed changes to the hogfish management measures would not directly alter the services sold by these vessels. However, the proposed changes would affect when recreational anglers on for-hire trips are allowed to fish for or retain hogfish, as well as the quantity and size of hogfish that are harvested. Any change in demand for for-hire fishing services, and associated economic effects, as a result of this proposed rule would be a consequence of behavioral change by anglers, secondary to any direct effect on anglers and, therefore, an indirect effect of the proposed rule. Because the effects on for-hire vessels would be indirect, they fall outside the scope of the RFA. Forhire captains and crew are permitted to retain hogfish under the recreational bag limit; however, they are not permitted to sell these fish. As such, for-hire captains and crew are only affected as recreational anglers. The RFA does not consider recreational anglers to be small entities, so they are outside the scope of this analysis, and only the impacts on commercial vessels will be discussed. As of May 25, 2016, there were 552 valid or renewable Federal South Atlantic snapper-grouper unlimited permits and 116 valid or renewable 225lb (102-kg) trip-limited permits. Each of these commercial permits is associated with an individual vessel. Data from the years of 2010 through 2014, the most recent data available at the time the analysis was conducted, were used in Amendment 37 and these data provided the basis for the South Atlantic Council’s decisions. Although this proposed rule would apply to all commercial snapper-grouper permit holders, it is expected that the vessels that harvest hogfish would most likely be affected. On average from 2010 E:\FR\FM\16DEP1.SGM 16DEP1 asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS 91108 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 242 / Friday, December 16, 2016 / Proposed Rules through 2014, there were 135 federallypermitted commercial fishing vessels with reported landings of hogfish. Their average annual vessel-level revenue from all species for 2010 through 2014 was approximately $59,000 (2014 dollars). During this period, there were an average of 62 vessels that harvested hogfish in the GA/NC stock area and 77 vessels that harvested hogfish in the FLK/EFL stock area. Their average annual revenue from all species (2010 through 2014) was approximately $83,000 and $44,000 (2014 dollars) in the two stock areas, respectively. Some of these vessels reported hogfish landings from both stock areas and are, therefore, included in the vessel counts for both stock areas. The maximum annual revenue for all species reported by a single one of the 135 vessels identified above, in 2014, was approximately $1 million (2014 dollars). For RFA purposes only, NMFS has established a small business size standard for businesses, including their affiliates, whose primary industry is commercial fishing (see 50 CFR 200.2). A business primarily engaged in commercial fishing (NAICS code 11411) is classified as a small business if it is independently owned and operated, is not dominant in its field of operation (including its affiliates), and has combined annual receipts not in excess of $11 million for all its affiliated operations worldwide. All of the commercial vessels directly regulated by this proposed rule are believed to be small entities based on the NMFS size standard. No other small entities that would be directly affected by this proposed rule have been identified. There are currently 668 federallypermitted commercial vessels eligible to fish for the snapper-grouper species managed under the FMP. Based on the analysis included in Amendment 37, NMFS expects 135 of these vessels would be affected by this proposed rule (approximately 20 percent). Because all entities expected to be affected by this proposed rule are small entities, NMFS has determined that this proposed rule would affect a substantial number of small entities. Moreover, the issue of disproportionate effects on small versus large entities does not arise in the present case. This proposed rule would modify the snapper-grouper Fishery Management Unit for hogfish, specifying two stocks of hogfish: (1) A GA/NC stock from the Georgia/Florida state boundary to the North Carolina/Virginia state boundary, and (2) a FLK/EFL stock from the Florida/Georgia state boundary south to a line extending due west from 25°09′ N. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:25 Dec 15, 2016 Jkt 241001 lat. just south of Cape Sable on the west coast of Florida. Amendment 37 would also specify MSY and MSST values for each of these stocks. For both the GA/ NC and FLK/EFL stocks, MSY would be set equal to the yield produced by FMSY or the FMSY proxy (F30%SPR) and MSST would be set equal to 75 percent of SSBMSY. Specifying separate hogfish stocks, as well as management reference points (MSY and MSST) for those stocks, would not directly alter the current harvest of the hogfish resource. Therefore, these changes would not be expected to have any direct economic effects on any small entities. They would, however, influence other components of this proposed rule that would be expected to have direct economic effects. This proposed rule would also establish a total ACL of 33,930 lb (15,390 kg), round weight, for the GA/ NC stock of hogfish, which is equal to 95 percent of the ABC recommended by the Council’s SSC. Using the existing allocation formula specified in the Comprehensive ACL Amendment and landings data specific to the GA/NC stock area, the commercial ACL for the GA/NC stock of hogfish would be set constant at 23,456 lb (10,639 kg). Based on average annual landings for 2012 through 2014 off Georgia through North Carolina, the commercial sector would be expected to land only 20,534 lb (9,314 kg) under the status quo in 2017, with an estimated ex-vessel value of $76,797 (2014 dollars). Because the proposed commercial ACL is higher than the estimated status quo commercial landings for 2017, it would not be expected to have any short-term direct negative economic effects on commercial vessels. Due to increasing uncertainty as projections extend further into the future, status quo commercial landings estimates for years subsequent to 2017 were not calculated. The proposed commercial ACL would provide the potential for landings to increase by 2,922 lb (1,325 kg) relative to average historical commercial landings (2012 through 2014). Using the average annual hogfish price per pound from 2012 through 2014, this would represent a potential increase in exvessel revenue of $10,928 (2014 dollars) overall. Divided by the average number of commercial vessels that harvested hogfish in the GA/NC stock area from 2010 through 2014, this would be an increase of approximately $176 per vessel. In addition, Amendment 37 would establish a rebuilding plan, beginning in 2017, for the FLK/EFL stock, where the rebuilding strategy sets ABC equal to the yield at a constant fishing mortality rate PO 00000 Frm 00060 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 and rebuilds the stock in 10 years with a 72.5 percent probability of rebuilding success. This proposed rebuilding plan would provide the basis for setting ACLs but would not directly alter the current harvest of the hogfish resource. Therefore, it would not be expected to have direct economic effects on any small entities. The proposed rule would also establish a total ACL, in numbers of fish, for the FLK/EFL stock of hogfish for 2017 through 2027. The total ACL each year would be set equal to 95 percent of the ABC values specified in the proposed rebuilding plan. In 2017, the total ACL would be 17,034 fish and would increase each year until reaching 60,130 fish in 2027. Using the existing allocation formula specified in the Comprehensive ACL Amendment and landings data specific to the FLK/EFL stock area, the commercial ACL for the FLK/EFL stock of hogfish would be set at 3,510 lb (1,592 kg) in 2017 and would increase each year until reaching 17,018 lb (7,719 kg) in 2027. In Amendment 37, a time series model was fit to historical landings data (1997 through 2014) for the FLK/EFL stock area in order to project commercial landings under the status quo in 2017. The commercial sector would be expected to land an estimated 20,380 lb (9,244 kg) of hogfish under the status quo in 2017, worth $76,213 (2014 dollars). Due to increasing uncertainty as projections extend further into the future, status quo commercial landings estimates for years subsequent to 2017 were not calculated. Assuming the proposed commercial ACL for FLK/EFL hogfish is harvested in full, it would represent a reduction in ex-vessel revenue of $63,086 (2014 dollars), or 83 percent, relative to estimated 2017 status quo revenue. This assumes that ex-vessel revenue from other commercially harvested species would not be substituted for the loss in hogfish revenue. Divided by the average number of commercial vessels that harvested hogfish in the FLK/EFL stock area from 2010 through 2014, this would be a decrease of approximately $819 (2014 dollars) per vessel. It is assumed that ex-vessel revenue from FLK/EFL hogfish will increase relative to the proposed annual increases in the commercial ACL from 2017 through 2027. This would lessen the negative economic effects of this proposed rule on commercial vessels each year. This proposed rule would increase the commercial minimum size limit for both stocks of hogfish as well. The minimum size limit for the GA/NC stock would be increased from 12 inches (30.5 cm), FL, to 17 inches (43.2 cm), FL, and the minimum size limit for the FLK/EFL E:\FR\FM\16DEP1.SGM 16DEP1 asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 242 / Friday, December 16, 2016 / Proposed Rules stock would be increased from 12 inches (30.5 cm), FL, to 16 inches (38.1 cm), FL. The proposed minimum size limit increase for the GA/NC stock was estimated to reduce commercial landings by only 406 lb (184 kg) in 2017. This would translate into a $1,478 (2014 dollars) reduction in ex-vessel revenue overall, or $24 per vessel. This assumes that ex-vessel revenue from other species would not be substituted for the loss in hogfish revenue. Under the proposed commercial ACL for GA/ NC hogfish, the season would be expected to be open year-round and would not change as a result of the proposed minimum size limit. Assuming effort, harvest rates, and hogfish prices remain constant, then the expected economic effects of the proposed minimum size limit in future years would be equivalent to those of 2017. For the FLK/EFL stock, the proposed minimum size limit increase would not be expected to reduce aggregate commercial landings or ex-vessel revenue in 2017. This assumes that exvessel hogfish prices would be unresponsive to temporal changes in landings. In subsequent years, as the FLK/EFL stock ACL increases, the proposed minimum size limit would be more likely than the status quo minimum size limit to prevent the full harvest of the commercial ACL and result in a reduction in aggregate exvessel revenue. Under the proposed minimum size limit of 16 inches (38.1 cm), FL, the 2017 fishing season is expected to be open 35 days longer than under the current minimum size limit of 12 inches (30.5 cm), FL. Because fewer legal-sized fish would be available for harvest, this proposed rule may increase harvest costs, and in turn, reduce profitability for some vessels. Conversely, a longer season for FLK/EFL hogfish may have positive economic effects for other vessels by expanding the number of species available for harvest later in the fishing year. Individual vessels would be expected to experience varying levels of economic effects, depending on their fishing practices, profit maximization strategies, and ability to substitute revenue from other species for hogfish revenue. These economic effects cannot be estimated with available data. This proposed rule would also establish commercial trip limits for each stock of hogfish. The trip limit would be set at 500 lb (227 kg) per trip for the GA/ NC stock and 25 lb (11 kg) per trip for the FLK/EFL stock. Currently, there is no commercial trip limit for hogfish in the South Atlantic. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:25 Dec 15, 2016 Jkt 241001 For the GA/NC stock, the proposed commercial trip limit was estimated to result in a $4,470 (2014 dollars) decrease in ex-vessel revenue relative to the status quo. This assumes that exvessel revenue from other commercially harvested species would not be substituted for the loss in hogfish revenue. Based on historical harvest rates for 2012 through 2014, it is expected that the proposed commercial trip limit of 500 lb (227 kg), round weight, would only affect spearfishing trips. On average (2010 through 2014), there were 11 vessels with Federal commercial snapper-grouper permits that reported taking at least 1 hogfish trip in the GA/NC stock area, where the majority of revenue from that trip was attributed to spearfishing. Their average annual revenue from all species from 2010 through 2014 was $61,479 (2014 dollars). If the estimated reduction in ex-vessel revenue was borne entirely by these vessels, it would result in a loss of $406 per vessel, or less than 1 percent of their average annual revenue from all species from 2010 through 2014. When the proposed commercial trip limit and proposed minimum size limit for the GA/NC stock are analyzed together, the combined effect on all vessels that fish for hogfish in the corresponding stock area would be an estimated reduction in aggregate ex-vessel revenue of $5,741 (2014 dollars). For the FLK/EFL stock, the proposed commercial trip limit would not be expected to reduce aggregate commercial landings or ex-vessel revenue in 2017. This assumes that prices would not change as a result of a change in the timing of landings. In subsequent years, as the commercial ACL for the FLK/EFL stock increases, the proposed commercial trip limit of 25 lb (11 kg) would be more likely to prevent full harvest of the commercial ACL and result in a reduction in exvessel revenue relative to no trip limit. Under the proposed commercial trip limit, the 2017 fishing season is expected to be open 33 days longer than what would be expected under the proposed commercial ACL of 3,510 lb (1,592 kg) and with no commercial trip limit implemented. Because more trips would be required to harvest the same amount of fish, the proposed commercial trip limit could reduce profitability for some vessels. Conversely, a longer commercial fishing season in the FLK/EFL stock area may have positive economic effects for other vessels by expanding the number of species available for harvest later in the fishing year. On average (2010 through 2014), 37 vessels with Federal PO 00000 Frm 00061 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 91109 commercial snapper-grouper permits took at least 1 trip with hogfish landings in excess of 25 lb (11 kg). Trips with hogfish landings in excess of 25 lb (11 kg) accounted for approximately 28 percent of all hogfish trips reported for the FLK/EFL stock area, on average, from 2010 through 2014. Approximately 66 percent of these were spearfishing trips, 25 percent were trips that used hook-and-line gear, and the remaining 11 percent were trips that used other fishing gear types. Historically (2012 through 2014), 10.1 percent of hogfish landings on hook-and-line trips and approximately 29.4 percent of hogfish landings on spearfishing trips were harvested on trips in excess of the proposed 25 lb (11 kg) commercial trip limit. These statistics suggest that spearfishing trips may be more adversely affected, on average, by the proposed commercial trip limit than hook-and-line trips. However, specific economic effects estimates categorized by fishing gear are not currently available due to the high degree of model uncertainty at the gear level. Individual vessels would be expected to experience varying levels of economic effects, depending on their fishing practices, profit maximization strategies, and ability to substitute other species revenue for hogfish revenue. These economic effects cannot be estimated with available data. Finally, the proposed rule would establish commercial AMs for the GA/ NC and the FLK/EFL stocks of hogfish. These AMs would close the commercial sector for the applicable hogfish stock for the remainder of the fishing year if commercial landings of the applicable stock reach, or are projected to reach, the respective commercial ACL. Additionally, if the commercial ACL is exceeded, NMFS would reduce the stock-specific commercial ACL in the following fishing year by the amount of the commercial ACL overage, only if hogfish is overfished and the total ACL (commercial ACL and recreational ACL) for the respective stock is exceeded. These proposed AMs are the same as the current commercial AMs in place for hogfish in the South Atlantic. It is assumed that the proposed AMs would constrain landings to the proposed commercial ACL for each stock, so no direct economic effects, aside from those already discussed under the proposed ACLs, would be expected to occur. If the proposed AMs do not constrain commercial landings at or below the proposed commercial ACL, then there would be an increase in exvessel revenue in the fishing year the AMs are triggered and the commercial E:\FR\FM\16DEP1.SGM 16DEP1 asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS 91110 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 242 / Friday, December 16, 2016 / Proposed Rules sector closes. Additionally, if the conditions are met for a reduction in the following year’s commercial ACL by the amount of the commercial ACL overage, a reduction in ex-vessel revenue in the following fishing year would be expected. The status of the GA/NC stock is currently unknown, so both conditions necessary for a reduction in the following year’s commercial ACL would not be met and this provision would only affect the FLK/EFL stock. Because of the timeliness of commercial landings data for federally-permitted vessels, overages and corresponding economic effects would likely be small, should they occur. In summary, when all of the hogfish management changes in this proposed rule are analyzed together, in 2017 they would result in an estimated reduction in ex-vessel revenue of $5,741 (2014 dollars) for the vessels that harvest hogfish from the GA/NC stock and $63,086 for the vessels that harvest hogfish from the FLK/EFL stock. The proposed changes to the minimum size limit and commercial trip limit would also have the potential to reduce profitability by increasing harvest costs, although these economic effects cannot be estimated with available data. In subsequent years, if hogfish landings from the GA/NC stock increase to reach the proposed commercial ACL, the increase in landings would offset the loss in revenue from the proposed minimum size limit and commercial trip limit, and would generate an increase in ex-vessel revenue of $5,187 (2014 dollars). For the vessels that harvest hogfish from the FLK/EFL stock, it is assumed that ex-vessel revenue from hogfish would increase relative to the proposed annual increases in the commercial ACL from 2017 through 2027. This would lessen the negative economic effects of this proposed rule on commercial vessels each year. The following discussion describes the alternatives that were not selected as preferred by the South Atlantic Council. The actions to designate two separate stocks of hogfish in the South Atlantic, set management reference points (MSY and MSST) for those stocks, and establish a rebuilding plan for the FLK/ EFL stock of hogfish would not be expected to have any direct economic effects on any small entities, and therefore, the issue of significant alternatives is not relevant. Two alternatives were considered for the action to specify a stock ACL and OY for the GA/NC stock of hogfish. The first alternative, the no action alternative, would retain the current South Atlantic hogfish stock ACL and would not be expected to alter current VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:25 Dec 15, 2016 Jkt 241001 harvest or use of the resource. This alternative was not selected by the South Atlantic Council because it would not adhere to the best scientific information available from the most recent hogfish stock assessment. The second alternative is the preferred alternative, which would establish a stock ACL specific to the GA/NC stock of hogfish. This alternative includes three sub-alternatives. The first subalternative would set the ACL equal to optimum yield (OY), where OY equals acceptable biological catch (ABC). This sub-alternative would result in a commercial ACL for the GA/NC hogfish stock of 24,690 lb (11,199 kg), round weight, which is approximately 5 percent greater than the proposed commercial ACL. Because status quo landings are not expected to exceed any of the sub-alternative commercial ACL values in the short term, the first subalternative would not be expected to have any direct economic effects. However, it would allow for greater potential landings and ex-vessel revenue in the future compared to the preferred alternative in this proposed rule. The first sub-alternative was not selected as preferred by the South Atlantic Council, because the Council determined it was prudent to include a buffer in the stock ACL to account for management uncertainty. The second sub-alternative is the preferred subalternative in this proposed rule and would set the stock ACL equal to OY, where OY equals 95 percent of ABC. The third sub-alternative would set the stock ACL equal to OY, where OY equals 90 percent of ABC. This subalternative would result in a stock ACL that is approximately 5 percent less than the proposed stock ACL. Based on projected landings for 2017, this would not be expected to have direct economic effects on small entities; however, the potential for future increases in exvessel revenue would be less than under this proposed rule. Because allowable harvest and potential ex-vessel revenue would be lower than that under the preferred alternative, this alternative was not selected by the South Atlantic Council. Two alternatives were considered for the action to specify commercial and recreational ACLs and OY for the FLK/ EFL stock of hogfish. The first alternative, the no action alternative, would retain the current South Atlantic hogfish stock ACL and would not be expected to alter current harvest or use of the resource. This alternative was not selected by the South Atlantic Council, because it would not adhere to the best scientific information available from the PO 00000 Frm 00062 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 most recent hogfish stock assessment. The second alternative is the preferred alternative, which would establish commercial and recreational ACLs specific to the FLK/EFL stock of hogfish. This alternative includes three subalternatives. The first sub-alternative would set the ACL equal to OY, where OY equals ABC. The commercial hogfish ACL for the FLK/EFL stock would be 3,695 lb (1,676 kg) in 2017 and would increase annually up to 17,914 lb (8,126 kg) in 2027. Under the first sub-alternative, the commercial ACL would be approximately 5 percent greater each year than under the preferred sub-alternative. Assuming the entire commercial ACL is harvested annually, hogfish landings and ex-vessel revenue would also be 5 percent greater under the first sub-alternative than under the preferred sub-alternative. As such, the first sub-alternative would be expected to have less negative economic effects on small entities than this proposed rule. However, it was not selected as preferred by the South Atlantic Council, because they determined it was prudent to include a buffer in the stock ACL to account for management uncertainty. The second sub-alternative is the preferred subalternative, which would set the stock ACL equal to OY, where OY equals 95 percent of ABC. The third subalternative would set the stock ACL equal to OY, where OY equals 90 percent of ABC. This sub-alternative would result in commercial and recreational ACLs that are approximately 5 percent less each year than under the second (preferred) subalternative in this proposed rule and, therefore, would be expected to have more direct negative economic effects on small entities than this proposed rule. Because allowable harvest and expected ex-vessel revenue would be lower than that under the preferred alternative, this alternative was not selected by the South Atlantic Council. Three alternatives were considered for the action to increase the commercial and recreational minimum size limits for the GA/NC and FLK/EFL stocks of hogfish. The first alternative, the no action alternative, would retain the current South Atlantic hogfish minimum size limit of 12 inches (30.5 cm), FL, for both sectors. This would not be expected to alter commercial harvest rates relative to the status quo, so no direct economic effects to small entities would be expected to occur. This alternative was not selected by the South Atlantic Council, because it would fail to acknowledge important biological differences between the two E:\FR\FM\16DEP1.SGM 16DEP1 asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 242 / Friday, December 16, 2016 / Proposed Rules stocks of hogfish, as well as stockspecific management needs. The second alternative, which was selected as preferred, would increase the commercial and recreational minimum size limit for the GA/NC stock. The second alternative contains six sub-alternatives. The first subalternative would increase the minimum size limit from 12 inches (30.5 cm), FL, to 16 inches (38.1 cm), FL. This would be expected to result in an annual reduction in commercial exvessel revenue of only $479 (2014 dollars), which is $1,041 less than the reduction expected under the proposed minimum size limit. This subalternative was not selected as preferred because it would be expected to result in fewer hogfish reaching sexual maturity, fewer hogfish transitioning to males, and more negative biological effects than the proposed minimum size limit. The second sub-alternative is the preferred sub-alternative, which would set the commercial and recreational minimum size limit for the GA/NC stock at 17 inches (43.2 cm), FL. The third through the fifth sub-alternatives would set the commercial and recreational minimum size limit at 18, 19, and 20 inches (45.7, 48.3, and 50.8 cm), FL, respectively. These sub-alternatives were not selected because they would be expected to result in a greater decrease in commercial ex-vessel revenue than the proposed minimum size limit. The sixth sub-alternative would set the commercial and recreational minimum size limit at 15 inches (38.1 cm), FL, in the first year of implementation, 18 inches (45.8 cm), FL, in the second year, and 20 inches (50.8 cm), FL, in the third year. This sub-alternative would be expected to have a smaller direct negative economic effect on small entities than the proposed minimum size limit in the first year of implementation only, and a larger direct negative economic effect thereafter. The sixth sub-alternative was not selected by the South Atlantic Council, because there was little public support for step-up size limit increases, and it would not aid in simplifying regulations. The third alternative, also selected as preferred, would increase the commercial and recreational minimum size limit for the FLK/EFL stock. The third alternative contains five subalternatives. The first and second subalternatives would increase the commercial and recreational minimum size limit to 14 and 15 inches (35.6 and 38.1 cm), FL, respectively. These subalternatives would not be expected to affect aggregate ex-vessel revenue in the short-term; however, by allowing for VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:25 Dec 15, 2016 Jkt 241001 potentially higher catch rates, they would be less likely to negatively affect profitability than the proposed minimum size limit. The specific effects on profitability cannot be estimated with available data. These subalternatives were not selected by the South Atlantic Council, because they would be expected to result in fewer hogfish reaching sexual maturity, fewer hogfish transitioning to males, and more negative biological effects than the proposed minimum size limit. The third sub-alternative is the preferred subalternative, which would increase the commercial and recreational minimum size limit to 16 inches (38.1 cm), FL. The fourth sub-alternative would increase the minimum size limit to 17 inches (43.2 cm), FL, which would be more likely to negatively affect profitability than the proposed minimum size limit and, therefore, was not selected as preferred. The fifth subalternative would set the commercial and recreational minimum size limit at 14 inches (35.6 cm), FL, in the first year of implementation and 16 inches (38.1 cm), FL, in the third year. This subalternative would provide for a more gradual increase in the minimum size limit up to 16 inches (38.1 cm), FL, which would be expected to have less negative economic effects than the proposed minimum size limit in the first year of implementation and equivalent effects in the third year and beyond. The fifth sub-alternative was not selected by the Council, because it would have less immediate biological benefits to the FLK/EFL hogfish stock, which is currently overfished. Three alternatives were considered for the action to establish commercial trip limits for the GA/NC and FLK/EFL stocks of hogfish. Under the first alternative, the no action alternative, there would be no commercial trip limit specified for either stock. This would not be expected to alter commercial harvest rates relative to the status quo, so no direct economic effects to small entities would be expected to occur. This alternative was not selected by the South Atlantic Council, because they decided it was necessary to implement stock-specific commercial trip limits in order to successfully constrain commercial hogfish landings and to end overfishing of the FLK/EFL stock. The second alternative, which was selected as preferred, would establish a commercial trip limit for the GA/NC stock. The second alternative contains five sub-alternatives. The first and second sub-alternatives would set the commercial trip limit at 100 lb (45 kg) and 250 lb (113 kg), respectively, which would be expected to reduce aggregate PO 00000 Frm 00063 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 91111 annual landings and ex-vessel revenue by 43 percent and 19 percent, respectively. These reductions in exvessel revenue would be larger than what would be expected under the proposed commercial trip limit and, thus, the first and second subalternatives were not selected. The third sub-alternative was selected as preferred and would set the commercial trip limit at 500 lb (227 kg), which was estimated to reduce ex-vessel revenue by 6 percent. The fourth sub-alternative would set the commercial trip limit at 700 lb (318 kg). This sub-alternative would be expected to reduce ex-vessel revenue by only 3 percent, which would translate into $2,287 (2014 dollars) more in aggregate ex-vessel revenue than under the proposed trip limit. The fifth sub-alternative would not specify a commercial trip limit, which would be expected to have no effect on status quo hogfish landings or ex-vessel revenue. Under the fifth sub-alternative, ex-vessel revenue would be $4,470 (2014 dollars) greater than what would be expected under the proposed trip limit. The fourth and fifth sub-alternatives were not selected as preferred because the South Atlantic Council chose to take a precautionary approach to setting the commercial trip limit for the GA/NC stock in order to prevent effort shifts as a result of stricter commercial regulations needed to end overfishing of the FLK/EFL stock. Additionally, the vast majority of commercial trips in Georgia and the Carolinas do not land more than 500 lb (227 kg) of hogfish per trip. The third alternative, also selected as preferred, would establish a commercial trip limit for the FLK/EFL stock. The third alternative contains six subalternatives. The first sub-alternative was selected as preferred and would set the commercial trip limit at 25 lb (11 kg). Sub-alternatives 2 through 5 would set the commercial trip limit at 50 lb (23 kg), 100 lb (45 kg), 150 lb (68 kg), and 200 lb (91 kg), respectively. The sixth sub-alternative would not specify a commercial trip limit. These subalternatives for commercial trip limits would not be expected to affect aggregate ex-vessel revenue in the short term, given the low proposed commercial ACL. However, for each incremental increase in the commercial trip limit, the likelihood of direct negative effects on profitability would be reduced. Because of the proposed increasing commercial ACL schedule, sub-alternatives 2 through 5 may provide for greater aggregate annual exvessel hogfish revenue and increased profitability on hogfish trips in the E:\FR\FM\16DEP1.SGM 16DEP1 91112 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 242 / Friday, December 16, 2016 / Proposed Rules medium to long term, relative to the proposed commercial trip limit. These economic effects cannot be estimated with available data. However, subalternatives 2 through 6 were not selected by the South Atlantic Council because, given the overfished status of the stock, the South Atlantic Council wanted to be conservative in setting the commercial trip limit in order to end overfishing and prevent commercial ACL overages. Four alternatives were considered for the action to establish commercial and recreational AMs for the GA/NC and the FLK/EFL stocks of hogfish. The first alternative, the no action alternative, would retain the current South Atlantic hogfish AMs for both sectors. This alternative was not selected by the South Atlantic Council because stockspecific AMs would be required to ensure landings are constrained to the commercial ACL for each stock. The second alternative was selected as preferred and would specify commercial AMs for each stock that are equivalent to the existing AMs for the single South Atlantic stock. The third and fourth alternatives pertain exclusively to recreational anglers and therefore no direct economic effects on any small entities would be expected. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622 Commercial, Fisheries, Fishing, Gulf of Mexico, Hogfish, Recreational, South Atlantic. Dated: December 12, 2016. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. PART 622—FISHERIES OF THE CARIBBEAN, GULF OF MEXICO, AND SOUTH ATLANTIC 1. The authority citation for part 622 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. 2. In § 622.1, revise the Table 1 entry for ‘‘FMP for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region’’, and add footnote 8 to Table 1 to read as follows: ■ § 622.1 * Purpose and scope. * * * * For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 622 is proposed to be amended as follows: TABLE 1 TO § 622.1—FMPS IMPLEMENTED UNDER PART 622 Responsible fishery management council(s) FMP title Geographic area * * * * * * FMP for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region ..... SAFMC .............................................................. * * * * * * South Atlantic.1 2 6 8 * * 1 Regulated area includes adjoining state waters for purposes of data collection and quota monitoring. sea bass and scup are not managed by the FMP or regulated by this part north of 35°15.9′ N. lat., the latitude of Cape Hatteras Light, 2 Black NC. * * * * * * * grouper in the South Atlantic EEZ and the Gulf EEZ are managed under the FMP. * * * * * * * 8 Hogfish in the Gulf EEZ are managed under the FMP from the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico intercouncil boundary specified in § 600.105(c) and south of 25°09′ N. lat. off the west coast of Florida. Hogfish in the remainder of the Gulf EEZ are managed under the FMP for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico. 6 Nassau 3. In § 622.183, add paragraph (b)(4) to read as follows: ■ § 622.183 Area and seasonal closures. asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS * * * * * (b) * * * (4) Hogfish recreational sector off the Florida Keys and east coast of Florida. From January through April and from November through December each year, the recreational harvest or possession of hogfish in or from the South Atlantic EEZ off the Florida Keys and east coast of Florida, and in the Gulf EEZ south of 25°09′ N. lat. off the west coast of Florida is prohibited, and the bag and possession limits are zero. * * * * * ■ 4. In § 622.185, revise paragraph (c)(3) to read as follows: § 622.185 Size limits. * * * * * (c) * * * (3) Hogfish. (i) In the South Atlantic EEZ off Georgia, South Carolina, and VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:25 Dec 15, 2016 Jkt 241001 North Carolina—17 inches (43.2 cm), fork length. (ii) In the South Atlantic EEZ off the Florida Keys and east coast of Florida, and in the Gulf EEZ south of 25°09′ N. lat. off the west coast of Florida—16 inches (38.1 cm), fork length. * * * * * ■ 5. In § 622.187, revise paragraph (b)(3) to read as follows: § 622.187 Bag and possession limits. * * * * * (b) * * * (3) Hogfish. (i) In the South Atlantic EEZ off Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina—2. (ii) In the South Atlantic EEZ off the Florida Keys and east coast of Florida, and in the Gulf EEZ south of 25°09′ N. lat. off the west coast of Florida—1. * * * * * ■ 6. In § 622.191, add paragraph (a)(12) to read as follows: PO 00000 Frm 00064 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 § 622.191 Commercial trip limits. * * * * * (a) * * * (12) Hogfish. (i) Until the commercial ACL specified in § 622.193(u)(1)(iii)(A) is reached or is projected to be reached off Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, 500 lb (227 kg), round weight. (ii) Until the commercial ACL specified in § 622.193(u)(2)(iii)(A) is reached or is projected to be reached off the Florida Keys and east coast of Florida, and south of 25°09′ N. lat. off the west coast of Florida, 25 lb (11 kg), round weight. (iii) See § 622.193(u)(1)(i) or (2)(i) for the limitations regarding hogfish after a commercial ACL is reached. * * * * * ■ 7. In § 622.193, revise paragraph (u) to read as follows: § 622.193 Annual catch limits (ACLs), annual catch targets (ACTs), and accountability measures (AMs). * E:\FR\FM\16DEP1.SGM * * 16DEP1 * * asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 242 / Friday, December 16, 2016 / Proposed Rules (u) Hogfish—(1) Hogfish off Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina (Georgia-North Carolina)—(i) Commercial sector. (A) If commercial landings for the Georgia-North Carolina hogfish stock, as estimated by the SRD, reach or are projected to reach the commercial ACL specified in paragraph (u)(1)(iii)(A) of this section, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register to close the commercial sector for the remainder of the fishing year. On and after the effective date of such a notification, all sale or purchase of hogfish in or from the South Atlantic EEZ off Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina is prohibited, and harvest or possession of this species is limited to the bag and possession limits. These bag and possession limits apply to the Georgia-North Carolina hogfish stock on board a vessel for which a valid Federal commercial or charter vessel/ headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has been issued, without regard to where such species were harvested, i.e., in state or Federal waters. (B) If commercial landings for the Georgia-North Carolina hogfish stock, as estimated by the SRD, exceed the commercial ACL specified in paragraph (u)(1)(iii)(A) of this section, and the combined commercial and recreational ACL specified in paragraph (u)(1)(iii)(C) of this section is exceeded during the same fishing year, and the GeorgiaNorth Carolina hogfish stock is overfished based on the most recent Status of U.S. Fisheries Report to Congress, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register to reduce the commercial ACL for the stock in the following fishing year by the amount of the commercial ACL overage in the prior fishing year. (ii) Recreational sector. (A) If recreational landings for the GeorgiaNorth Carolina hogfish stock, as estimated by the SRD, reach or are projected to reach the recreational ACL specified in paragraph (u)(1)(iii)(B) of this section, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register to close the recreational sector for the remainder of the fishing year regardless if the stock is overfished, unless NMFS determines that no closure is necessary based on the best scientific information available. On and after the effective date of such a notification, the bag and possession limits for hogfish in or from the South Atlantic EEZ off Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina are zero. (B) If recreational landings for the Georgia-North Carolina hogfish stock, as estimated by the SRD, exceed the recreational ACL specified in paragraph VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:25 Dec 15, 2016 Jkt 241001 (u)(1)(iii)(B) of this section, then during the following fishing year recreational landings will be monitored for a persistence in increased landings. If necessary, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register to reduce the length of the following recreational fishing season and recreational ACL in the following fishing year by the amount of the recreational ACL overage if the GeorgiaNorth Carolina hogfish stock is overfished, based on the most recent Status of U.S. Fisheries Report to Congress, and the combined commercial and recreational ACL is exceeded during the same fishing year to ensure recreational landings do not exceed the recreational ACL in the following fishing year. NMFS will use the best scientific information available to determine if reducing the length of the recreational fishing season and recreational ACL is necessary. When a recreational sector is closed as a result of NMFS reducing the length of the following recreational fishing season and ACL, the bag and possession limits for hogfish in or from the South Atlantic EEZ off Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina are zero. (iii) ACLs for the Georgia-North Carolina stock. This stock includes hogfish off Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. All weights are given in round weight. (A) Commercial ACL—23,456 lb (10,639 kg). (B) Recreational ACL—988 fish. (C) The combined commercial and recreational ACL for the Georgia-North Carolina hogfish stock is 33,930 lb (15,390 kg). (2) Hogfish off the Florida Keys and east coast of Florida, and south of 25°09′ N. lat. off the west coast of Florida (Florida Keys-East Florida)—(i) Commercial sector. (A) If commercial landings for the Florida Keys-East Florida hogfish stock, as estimated by the SRD, reach or are projected to reach the applicable commercial ACL specified in paragraph (u)(2)(iii)(A) of this section, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register to close the applicable commercial sector for the remainder of the fishing year. On and after the effective date of such a notification, all sale or purchase of hogfish in or from the EEZ off the Florida Keys and east coast of Florida, and south of 25°09′ N. lat. off the west coast of Florida is prohibited, and harvest or possession of this species is limited to the bag and possession limits. These bag and possession limits apply for this hogfish stock on board a vessel for which a valid Federal commercial or charter vessel/ PO 00000 Frm 00065 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 91113 headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has been issued, without regard to where such species were harvested, i.e., in state or Federal waters. (B) If commercial landings for the Florida Keys-East Florida hogfish stock, as estimated by the SRD, exceed the applicable commercial ACL specified in paragraph (u)(2)(iii)(A) of this section, and the applicable combined commercial and recreational ACL specified in paragraph (u)(2)(iii)(C) of this section is exceeded during the same fishing year, and the stock is overfished based on the most recent Status of U.S. Fisheries Report to Congress, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register to reduce the commercial ACL for the stock in the following fishing year by the amount of the applicable commercial ACL overage in the prior fishing year. (ii) Recreational sector. (A) If recreational landings for the Florida Keys-East Florida hogfish stock, as estimated by the SRD, reach or are projected to reach the applicable recreational ACL specified in paragraph (u)(2)(iii)(B) of this section, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register to close the recreational sector for the remainder of the fishing year regardless if the stock is overfished, unless NMFS determines that no closure is necessary based on the best scientific information available. On and after the effective date of such a notification, the bag and possession limits for hogfish in or from the EEZ off the Florida Keys and east coast of Florida, and south of 25°09′ N. lat. off the west coast of Florida are zero. (B) If recreational landings for the Florida Keys-East Florida hogfish stock, as estimated by the SRD, exceed the applicable recreational ACL specified in paragraph (u)(2)(iii)(B) of this section, then during the following fishing year recreational landings will be monitored for a persistence in increased landings. If necessary, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register to reduce the length of the following applicable recreational fishing season and recreational ACL in the following fishing year by the amount of the recreational ACL overage if the Florida Keys-East Florida hogfish stock is overfished, based on the most recent Status of U.S. Fisheries Report to Congress, and the applicable combined commercial and recreational ACL is exceeded during the same fishing year to ensure recreational landings do not exceed the recreational ACL in the following fishing year. NMFS will use the best scientific information available to determine if reducing the length of E:\FR\FM\16DEP1.SGM 16DEP1 91114 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 242 / Friday, December 16, 2016 / Proposed Rules the recreational fishing season and recreational ACL is necessary. When a recreational sector is closed as a result of NMFS reducing the length of the following recreational fishing season and ACL, the bag and possession limits for hogfish in or from the EEZ off the Florida Keys and east coast of Florida, and south of 25°09′ N. lat. off the west coast of Florida are zero. (iii) ACLs for the Florida Keys-East Florida stock. This stock includes hogfish off the Florida Keys and east coast of Florida, and south of 25°09′ N. lat. off the west coast of Florida. (A) Commercial ACL. See the following table. All weights are given in round weight. Year 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 2025 2026 2027 3,510 lb (1,592 kg). 4,524 lb (2,052 kg). 5,670 lb (2,572 kg). 6,926 lb (3,142 kg). 8,277 lb (3,754 kg). 9,703 lb (4,401 kg). 11,179 lb (5,071 kg). 12,677 lb (5,750 kg). 14,167 lb (6,426 kg). 15,621 lb (7,086 kg). 17,018 lb (7,719 kg). asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS (B) Recreational ACL. See the following table. The recreational ACL is in numbers of fish. 18:25 Dec 15, 2016 Jkt 241001 * * * * ...................................... ...................................... ...................................... ...................................... ...................................... ...................................... ...................................... ...................................... ...................................... ...................................... ...................................... 15,689 18,617 21,574 25,086 29,096 33,358 37,671 41,934 46,046 49,949 53,610 (C) Combined commercial and recreational ACL. See the following table. The combined commercial and recreational ACL is in numbers of fish. Combined commercial and recreational ACL Year 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 2025 2026 2027 PO 00000 ...................................... ...................................... ...................................... ...................................... ...................................... ...................................... ...................................... ...................................... ...................................... ...................................... ...................................... Frm 00066 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 * [FR Doc. 2016–30223 Filed 12–15–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 2025 2026 2027 Commercial ACL .......................... .......................... .......................... .......................... .......................... .......................... .......................... .......................... .......................... .......................... .......................... VerDate Sep<11>2014 Recreational ACL Year 17,034 20,350 23,746 27,740 32,267 37,076 41,954 46,791 51,474 55,934 60,130 E:\FR\FM\16DEP1.SGM 16DEP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 242 (Friday, December 16, 2016)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 91104-91114]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-30223]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

[Docket No. 160906822-6999-01]
RIN 0648-BG33


Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 
Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region; Amendment 37

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: NMFS proposes to implement management measures described in 
Amendment 37 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper 
Fishery of the South Atlantic Region (FMP), as prepared and submitted 
by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (South Atlantic 
Council). If implemented, this proposed rule would modify the 
management unit boundaries for hogfish in the South Atlantic by 
establishing two hogfish stocks, a Georgia through North Carolina (GA/
NC) stock and a Florida Keys/East Florida (FLK/EFL) stock; establish a 
rebuilding plan for the FLK/EFL hogfish stock; specify fishing levels 
and accountability measures (AMs), and modify or establish management 
measures for the GA/NC and FLK/EFL stocks of hogfish. The purpose of 
this proposed rule is to manage hogfish using the best scientific 
information available while ending overfishing and rebuilding the FLK/
EFL hogfish stock.

DATES: Written comments must be received by January 17, 2017.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the proposed rule, identified by 
``NOAA-NMFS-2016-0068'' by either of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic comments via 
the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2016-0068, click the ``Comment Now!'' icon, 
complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit all written comments to Nikhil Mehta, NMFS 
Southeast Regional Office (SERO), 263 13th Avenue South, St. 
Petersburg, FL 33701.
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous).
    Electronic copies of Amendment 37 may be obtained from 
www.regulations.gov or the SERO Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov. 
Amendment 37 includes a final environmental impact statement, initial 
regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA), regulatory impact review, and 
fishery impact statement.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Nikhil Mehta, NMFS SERO, telephone: 
727-824-5305, or email: nikhil.mehta@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The snapper-grouper fishery in the South 
Atlantic includes hogfish and is managed under the FMP. The FMP was 
prepared by the South Atlantic Council and is implemented by NMFS 
through regulations at 50 CFR part 622 under the authority of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-
Stevens Act).

Background

    The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires that NMFS and regional fishery 
management councils prevent overfishing and achieve, on a continuing 
basis, the optimum yield (OY) from federally managed fish stocks. These 
mandates are intended to ensure that fishery resources are managed for 
the greatest overall benefit to the nation, particularly with respect 
to providing food production and recreational opportunities, and 
protecting marine ecosystems. To further this goal, the Magnuson-
Stevens Act requires fishery managers to minimize bycatch and bycatch 
mortality to the extent practicable.
    Currently, hogfish is managed under the FMP as a single stock in 
the South Atlantic from the jurisdictional boundary between the South 
Atlantic Council and Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Gulf 
Council) (approximately the Florida Keys) to a line extending seaward 
from the North Carolina and Virginia state border. The current stock 
status determination criteria, such as maximum sustainable yield (MSY) 
and minimum stock size threshold (MSST), annual catch limits (ACLs), 
recreational annual catch targets (ACTs), AMs, and management measures 
in the FMP, are established for a single stock of hogfish for the South 
Atlantic region. The most recent stock assessment for hogfish was 
completed in 2014 through the Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review 
process (SEDAR 37). SEDAR 37 identified two separate stocks of hogfish 
in the South Atlantic region under the jurisdiction of the South 
Atlantic Council, and one stock of hogfish in the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) 
under the jurisdiction of the Gulf Council. In the South Atlantic 
region, one stock of hogfish was identified to exist off North 
Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia; and a separate stock of hogfish 
was identified to exist off the Florida Keys and east Florida. The 
South Atlantic Council's Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) did 
not consider the SEDAR 37 results for the GA/NC stock as sufficient to 
determine stock status and inform South Atlantic Council management 
decisions, and the South Atlantic Council concurred. NMFS agreed and 
determined that the overfishing and overfished status determination of 
the GA/NC stock is unknown. The SSC did consider the SEDAR 37 results 
as sufficient to

[[Page 91105]]

determine the stock status and inform management decisions for the FLK/
EFL stock, and the South Atlantic Council concurred. NMFS agreed and 
determined that the FLK/EFL stock is currently undergoing overfishing 
and is overfished. Based on SEDAR 37, NMFS also determined that the 
West Florida hogfish stock in the Gulf, which occurs off the west coast 
of Florida to Texas, is neither overfished, nor undergoing overfishing. 
NMFS notified the South Atlantic Council of these stock status 
determinations via letter on February 17, 2015.

Management Measures Contained in This Proposed Rule

    This proposed rule would revise the hogfish fishery management unit 
in the FMP by establishing two hogfish stocks, one in Federal waters 
off Georgia through North Carolina and one in Federal waters off the 
Florida Keys and east Florida; specify ACLs and AMs; and modify or 
establish management measures for the GA/NC and FLK/EFL stocks of 
hogfish. All weights of hogfish are described in round weight.

Fishery Management Unit for Hogfish

    Currently, hogfish is managed as a single stock in Federal waters 
in the South Atlantic region from the jurisdictional boundary between 
the South Atlantic and Gulf Councils to the North Carolina and Virginia 
state border. This proposed rule would establish new stock boundaries 
and create two stocks of hogfish in Federal waters under the 
jurisdiction of the South Atlantic Council. The first stock would be 
the GA/NC stock, with a southern boundary extending from the Florida 
and Georgia state border extending northward to the North Carolina and 
Virginia state border. The second stock would be the FLK/EFL hogfish 
stock, with a southern boundary extending from 25[deg]09' N. lat. near 
Cape Sable on the west coast of Florida. The management area would 
extend south and east around the Florida Keys and have a northern 
border extending from the Florida and Georgia state border.
    The Gulf Council has approved Amendment 43 to the FMP for the Reef 
Fish Resources of the Gulf, and has selected the same boundary near 
Cape Sable on the west coast of Florida to separate the FLK/EFL hogfish 
stock from the West Florida hogfish stock. In accordance with section 
304(f) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Gulf Council requested that the 
Secretary of Commerce designate the South Atlantic Council as the 
responsible Council for management of the FLK/EFL hogfish stock in Gulf 
Federal waters south of 25[deg]09' N. lat. near Cape Sable on the west 
coast of Florida. On November 23, 2016, NMFS published a proposed rule 
in the Federal Register to implement Amendment 43 (81 FR 84538, 
November 23, 2016). If NMFS implements Amendment 43, the Gulf Council 
would continue to manage hogfish in Federal waters in the Gulf (the 
West Florida hogfish stock), except in Federal waters south of this 
boundary. Therefore, the South Atlantic Council, and not the Gulf 
Council, would establish the management measures for the entire range 
of the FLK/EFL hogfish stock, including in Federal waters south of 
25[deg]09' N. lat. near Cape Sable in the Gulf. Vessels fishing for 
hogfish in Gulf Federal waters, i.e., north and west of the 
jurisdictional boundary between the Gulf and South Atlantic Councils 
(approximately at the Florida Keys), as defined at 50 CFR 600.105(c), 
would still be required to have the appropriate Federal Gulf reef fish 
permits, and vessels fishing for hogfish in South Atlantic Federal 
waters, i.e., south and east of the jurisdictional boundary, would 
still be required to have the appropriate Federal South Atlantic 
snapper-grouper permits. Federal permit holders would still be required 
to follow the sale and reporting requirements associated with the 
respective permits.
    As described in Amendment 37, the proposed stock boundary near Cape 
Sable, Florida, would aid law enforcement personnel, because it 
coincides with an existing State of Florida management boundary for 
certain state-managed species, and it would simplify regulations across 
adjacent state and Federal management jurisdictions. NMFS specifically 
seeks public comment regarding the revised stock boundaries and the 
manner in which the Councils would have jurisdiction over these stocks 
if both Amendment 37 for the South Atlantic Council and Amendment 43 
for the Gulf Council are approved and implemented. NMFS published 
notices of availability in the Federal Register, seeking comments on 
Amendment 37 and Amendment 43, on October 7, 2016, and November 4, 
2016, respectively (81 FR 69774 and 81 FR 76908). On November 23, 2016, 
NMFS published a proposed rule to implement Amendment 43 in the Federal 
Register that also solicited public comment (81 FR 84538, November 23, 
2016).

ACLs and OY for the GA/NC and FLK/EFL Hogfish Stocks

    Currently, the total acceptable biological catch (ABC) for the 
single hogfish stock (equal to ACL and OY) in the FMP is 134,824 lb 
(61,155 kg), with a commercial ACL sector allocation (36.69 percent) of 
49,469 lb (22,439 kg), and recreational ACL sector allocation (63.31 
percent) of 85,355 lb (38,716 kg). Because SEDAR 37 was not deemed 
sufficient to specify an ABC recommendation for the GA/NC stock of 
hogfish, the SSC applied Level 4 of the South Atlantic Council's ABC 
control rule to arrive at their ABC recommendation for this stock. 
Level 4 is appropriate for unassessed stocks with only reliable catch 
data, and involves selection of a ``catch statistic,'' a scalar to 
describe the risk of overexploitation for the stock, and a scalar to 
describe the management risk level. Amendment 29 updated the South 
Atlantic Council's ABC control rule, including Level 4 for unassessed 
stocks (80 FR 30947, June 1, 2015). The SSC provides the first two 
criteria for each stock, and the South Atlantic Council specifies their 
management risk level for each stock. For the GA/NC hogfish stock, this 
proposed rule and Amendment 37 would specify an ABC of 35,716 lb 
(16,201 kg), a total ACL and OY (equal to 95 percent of the ABC) of 
33,930 lb (15,390 kg), and commercial and recreational ACLs based on 
re-calculated sector allocations of 69.13 percent to the commercial 
sector and 30.87 percent to the recreational sector. It was necessary 
to re-calculate the sector allocations based on the existing formula 
from the South Atlantic Council's Comprehensive ACL Amendment (77 FR 
15916, March 16, 2012), to reflect the appropriate landings for each 
sector from the relevant geographic region of the new stock. Through 
this proposed rule, the commercial ACL would be 23,456 lb (10,639 kg) 
and the recreational ACL would be 988 fish. For the GA/NC stock of 
hogfish, the South Atlantic Council decided to specify the ABC, total 
ACL, and commercial ACL in pounds and the recreational ACL in numbers 
of fish. Commercial landings are already tracked in pounds while 
recreational landings are tracked in numbers of fish. Additionally, 
because Amendment 37 also considers changing the minimum size limit for 
this stock of hogfish, specifying the recreational ACL in pounds could 
potentially increase the risk of exceeding the ABC in pounds because 
larger fish are heavier. Therefore, the South Atlantic Council 
determined that there would be a lower risk of exceeding the 
recreational ACL due to an increase in the minimum size limit if the 
recreational ACL were to be specified in numbers of fish.

[[Page 91106]]

    The SSC considered the SEDAR 37 results sufficient to provide an 
ABC recommendation for the FLK/EFL stock of hogfish, and the South 
Atlantic Council concurred with their recommendation. The ABC for the 
FLK/EFL stock is derived from projections in SEDAR 37, and the 
projections were provided in both pounds and numbers of fish. The South 
Atlantic Council determined that for this stock of hogfish, it was more 
appropriate to specify the ABC, total ACL, and recreational ACL in 
numbers of fish, and the commercial ACL in pounds (since recreational 
landings are tracked in numbers of fish and commercial landings are 
tracked in pounds). Therefore, Amendment 37 would specify an ABC of 
17,930 fish for this stock, which would increase annually through 2027 
when the ABC would be 63,295 fish. The total ACL and OY would be equal 
to 95 percent of the ABC, and the commercial and recreational ACLs 
would be based on re-calculated sector allocations of 9.63 percent to 
the commercial sector and 90.37 percent to the recreational sector. As 
discussed above, the re-calculated sector allocations are based on the 
South Atlantic Council's existing allocation formula and are necessary 
to reflect the appropriate landings for each sector from the relevant 
geographic region of the new stock. In 2017, the total ACL (and OY) 
would be 17,034 fish, the commercial ACL would be 3,510 lb (1,592 kg), 
and the recreational ACL would be 15,689 fish and would increase 
annually through 2027 as the stock rebuilds. In 2027, the total ACL 
(and OY) for the FLK/EFL hogfish stock would be 60,130 fish, the 
commercial ACL would be 17,018 lb (7,719 kg), and recreational ACL 
would be 53,610 fish.

AMs for the Commercial and Recreational Sectors for Both the GA/NC and 
FLK/EFL Hogfish Stocks

    The current South Atlantic commercial AMs for the single hogfish 
stock consist of an in-season closure of the commercial sector if the 
commercial ACL is met or projected to be met. If the commercial ACL is 
exceeded, a post-season AM would reduce the commercial ACL by the 
amount of the commercial ACL overage during the following fishing year 
if the total ACL (commercial ACL plus recreational ACL) is also 
exceeded and hogfish are overfished. This proposed rule would retain 
the current South Atlantic in-season and post-season AMs for the 
commercial sector, as specified in 50 CFR 622.193(u)(1), and apply them 
to both the GA/NC and FLK/EFL hogfish stocks.
    The current South Atlantic recreational AMs for the single hogfish 
stock consist of an in-season closure of the recreational sector if the 
recreational ACL is met or is projected to be met. If the recreational 
ACL is exceeded, then during the following fishing year, NMFS will 
monitor for a persistence in increased landings. The post-season AM 
would reduce the length of the recreational season and the recreational 
ACL by the amount of the recreational ACL overage if the total ACL is 
also exceeded and hogfish are overfished. This proposed rule would 
retain the current South Atlantic recreational AMs, as specified in 50 
CFR 622.193(u)(2), and apply them to both the GA/NC and FLK/EFL hogfish 
stocks.

Minimum Size Limits for the GA/NC and FLK/EFL Hogfish Stocks

    The current minimum size limit for the single hogfish stock in the 
South Atlantic is 12 inches (30.5 cm), fork length (FL), for both the 
commercial and recreational sectors. For both the commercial and 
recreational sectors, this proposed rule would increase the minimum 
size limit to 17 inches (43.2 cm), FL, for the GA/NC hogfish stock, and 
16 inches (40.6 cm), FL, for the FLK/EFL hogfish stock. Hogfish are 
protogynous: Fish mature as females first and are expected to 
eventually become male if they live long enough; they are pair 
spawners; and they form harems. The number and gender of hogfish in a 
local group influences the size and age range at which sexual 
transition occurs. Considering these life history characteristics, the 
South Atlantic Council determined these proposed minimum size limits 
could serve as a precautionary approach to address population stability 
for hogfish off Georgia through North Carolina, and reduce disruption 
to spawning, avoid recruitment overfishing, and benefit the spawning 
populations off the Florida Keys and east Florida.

Commercial Trip Limit for the GA/NC and FLK/EFL Hogfish Stocks

    Currently, there is no commercial trip limit for hogfish in the 
South Atlantic. This proposed rule would establish a commercial trip 
limit of 500 lb (227 kg) for the GA/NC stock, and 25 lb (11 kg) for the 
FLK/EFL stock. As described in Amendment 37, few commercial fishermen 
catch more than 500 lb (227 kg) of hogfish per trip off Georgia through 
North Carolina, and the proposed commercial ACL is not expected to be 
met. However, the South Atlantic Council is concerned that commercial 
fishermen may shift effort from the FLK/EFL stock to the GA/NC stock 
because of the proposed restrictions to the FLK/EFL stock. Therefore, 
the South Atlantic Council proposed a 500-lb (227-kg) commercial trip 
limit for the GA/NC stock to enable commercial harvest in that 
geographic area to take place year-round. Furthermore, as described in 
Amendment 37, the majority of commercial fishermen landed 25 lb (11 kg) 
or less of hogfish per trip off the Florida Keys and east Florida area. 
The South Atlantic Council determined that implementing a commercial 
trip limit of 25 lb (11 kg) for the FLK/EFL hogfish stock would 
restrict harvest and help to prevent a commercial in-season closure.

Recreational Bag Limits for the GA/NC and FLK/EFL Hogfish Stocks

    The current recreational bag limit for hogfish in the South 
Atlantic is five fish per person per day in Federal waters off Florida, 
with no recreational bag limit in Federal waters off Georgia, South 
Carolina, and North Carolina. This proposed rule would set a 
recreational bag limit of one fish per person per day in Federal waters 
off the Florida Keys and east coast of Florida, and a recreational bag 
limit of two fish per person per day in Federal waters off Georgia 
through North Carolina. The South Atlantic Council determined that 
these bag limits would reduce harvest and help to prevent a 
recreational in-season closure.

Recreational Fishing Season for the FLK/EFL Hogfish Stock

    Currently, hogfish is available for the recreational sector to 
harvest year-round, as long as the recreational ACL has not been met. 
This proposed rule would establish a recreational fishing season from 
May through October for the FLK/EFL hogfish stock, with recreational 
harvest prohibited from January through April and from November through 
December each year. As described in Amendment 37, hogfish spawning 
activity occurs predominantly during the months of December through 
April, and begins (and ends) slightly earlier in the Florida Keys than 
on the West Florida shelf (e.g., from the Florida panhandle south along 
the west coast of Florida to Naples, Florida). Analysis in Amendment 37 
showed that based on the proposed recreational ACLs, minimum size 
limits, and recreational bag limits, a recreational fishing season that 
is open for 6 months would help constrain recreational landings below 
the recreational ACL for the FLK/EFL hogfish stock. The South Atlantic 
Council determined that specifying a May through October fishing season 
would protect the overfished FLK/EFL

[[Page 91107]]

hogfish stock during the peak spawning season, and the proposed ACLs 
and AMs would help ensure overfishing does not occur. The South 
Atlantic Council decided not to establish a recreational fishing season 
for the GA/NC hogfish stock because that stock does not seem to be 
experiencing heavy fishing pressure, and the average recreational 
landings in recent years have been well below the proposed recreational 
ACL.

Management Measures Contained in Amendment 37 But Not Codified Through 
This Proposed Rule

    In addition to the management measures that this proposed rule 
would implement, Amendment 37 includes actions to specify fishing 
levels and recreational ACTs for the GA/NC and FLK/EFL hogfish stocks, 
and establish a rebuilding plan for the FLK/EFL hogfish stock.

MSY and MSST for the GA/NC and FLK/EFL Hogfish Stocks

    Currently, MSY for the single hogfish stock in the South Atlantic 
is the yield produced by the fishing mortality rate at MSY 
(FMSY) or the FMSY proxy, and MSST is equal to 
the spawning stock biomass at MSY (SSBMSY) * (1-M) or 0.5, 
whichever is greater (where M equals natural mortality). However, MSY 
and MSST values for the single hogfish stock are unknown because 
hogfish were unassessed until recently. Amendment 37 would specify the 
MSY for the GA/NC and FLK/EFL stocks of hogfish as equal to the yield 
produced by FMSY or the FMSY proxy, with the MSY 
and FMSY proxy recommended by the most recent stock 
assessment. Based on SEDAR 37, the resulting MSY for the FLK/EFL 
hogfish stock is 346,095 lb (156,986 kg), and is unknown for the GA/NC 
hogfish stock. Amendment 37 would specify the MSST for these two stocks 
of hogfish at 75 percent of SSBMSY, which results in an 
unknown MSST value for the GA/NC hogfish stock, and an MSST for the 
FLK/EFL hogfish stock of 1,725,293 lb (782,580 kg). The proposed MSST 
for hogfish is consistent with how the South Atlantic Council has 
defined MSST for other snapper-grouper stocks with low natural 
mortality estimates, and SEDAR 37 estimated the natural mortality for 
hogfish at 0.179.

Recreational ACTs for the GA/NC and FLK/EFL Hogfish Stocks

    The recreational ACT for the current hogfish stock is 59,390 lb 
(26,939 kg). Amendment 37 specifies a recreational ACT (equal to 85 
percent of the recreational ACL) of 840 fish for the GA/NC stock and 
13,335 fish for the FLK/EFL stock in 2017. The recreational ACT for the 
FLK/EFL stock would increase annually from 2017 through 2027 as the 
stock rebuilds. NMFS notes that the current and proposed recreational 
ACTs are used only for monitoring and do not trigger an AM.

Rebuilding Plan for the FLK/EFL Hogfish Stock

    Because the FLK/EFL hogfish stock is overfished, Amendment 37 would 
establish a rebuilding plan that would set the ABC equal to the yield 
at a constant fishing mortality rate and rebuild the stock in 10 years 
with a 72.5 percent probability of success. Year 1 of the rebuilding 
plan would be 2017, and 2027 would be the last year. The South Atlantic 
Council's SSC indicated that harvest levels proposed in the Amendment 
37 rebuilding plan are sustainable and would achieve the goal of 
rebuilding the FLK/EFL hogfish stock. The ABC for the FLK/EFL hogfish 
stock would be 17,930 fish in 2017 and would increase annually through 
2027 when the ABC would be 63,295 fish.

Additional Proposed Change to Codified Text Not in Amendment 37

    In addition to the measures described for Amendment 37, this final 
rule would correct an error in Table 1 to Sec.  622.1--FMPs Implemented 
Under Part 622. In 2013, the final rule for Amendment 27 to the FMP 
inadvertently removed two footnotes from the entry for the FMP in Table 
1 of Sec.  622.1 (78 FR 78770, December 27, 2013). This final rule 
corrects that error and inserts those footnotes back into the entry for 
the FMP in Table 1 of Sec.  622.1.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is 
consistent with Amendment 37, the FMP, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and 
other applicable laws, subject to further consideration after public 
comment.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    NMFS prepared an IRFA for this proposed rule, as required by 
section 603 of the RFA, 5 U.S.C. 603. The IRFA describes the economic 
impact that this proposed rule, if implemented, would have on small 
entities. A description of the proposed rule, why it is being 
considered, and the objectives of and legal basis for this proposed 
rule are contained at the beginning of this CLASSIFICATION section in 
the preamble and in the SUMMARY section of the preamble. A copy of the 
full analysis is available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). A summary of the 
IRFA follows.
    The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides the statutory basis for this 
proposed rule. No duplicative, overlapping, or conflicting Federal 
rules have been identified. In addition, no new reporting, record-
keeping, or other compliance requirements are introduced by this 
proposed rule. Accordingly, this proposed rule does not implicate the 
Paperwork Reduction Act.
    This proposed rule, if implemented, would apply to all federally-
permitted commercial vessels and recreational anglers that fish for or 
harvest hogfish in Federal waters of the South Atlantic. It would not 
directly apply to or regulate charter vessels and headboats (for-hire 
vessels), since for-hire vessels sell fishing services to recreational 
anglers and the proposed changes to the hogfish management measures 
would not directly alter the services sold by these vessels. However, 
the proposed changes would affect when recreational anglers on for-hire 
trips are allowed to fish for or retain hogfish, as well as the 
quantity and size of hogfish that are harvested. Any change in demand 
for for-hire fishing services, and associated economic effects, as a 
result of this proposed rule would be a consequence of behavioral 
change by anglers, secondary to any direct effect on anglers and, 
therefore, an indirect effect of the proposed rule. Because the effects 
on for-hire vessels would be indirect, they fall outside the scope of 
the RFA. For-hire captains and crew are permitted to retain hogfish 
under the recreational bag limit; however, they are not permitted to 
sell these fish. As such, for-hire captains and crew are only affected 
as recreational anglers. The RFA does not consider recreational anglers 
to be small entities, so they are outside the scope of this analysis, 
and only the impacts on commercial vessels will be discussed.
    As of May 25, 2016, there were 552 valid or renewable Federal South 
Atlantic snapper-grouper unlimited permits and 116 valid or renewable 
225-lb (102-kg) trip-limited permits. Each of these commercial permits 
is associated with an individual vessel. Data from the years of 2010 
through 2014, the most recent data available at the time the analysis 
was conducted, were used in Amendment 37 and these data provided the 
basis for the South Atlantic Council's decisions. Although this 
proposed rule would apply to all commercial snapper-grouper permit 
holders, it is expected that the vessels that harvest hogfish would 
most likely be affected. On average from 2010

[[Page 91108]]

through 2014, there were 135 federally-permitted commercial fishing 
vessels with reported landings of hogfish. Their average annual vessel-
level revenue from all species for 2010 through 2014 was approximately 
$59,000 (2014 dollars). During this period, there were an average of 62 
vessels that harvested hogfish in the GA/NC stock area and 77 vessels 
that harvested hogfish in the FLK/EFL stock area. Their average annual 
revenue from all species (2010 through 2014) was approximately $83,000 
and $44,000 (2014 dollars) in the two stock areas, respectively. Some 
of these vessels reported hogfish landings from both stock areas and 
are, therefore, included in the vessel counts for both stock areas. The 
maximum annual revenue for all species reported by a single one of the 
135 vessels identified above, in 2014, was approximately $1 million 
(2014 dollars).
    For RFA purposes only, NMFS has established a small business size 
standard for businesses, including their affiliates, whose primary 
industry is commercial fishing (see 50 CFR 200.2). A business primarily 
engaged in commercial fishing (NAICS code 11411) is classified as a 
small business if it is independently owned and operated, is not 
dominant in its field of operation (including its affiliates), and has 
combined annual receipts not in excess of $11 million for all its 
affiliated operations worldwide. All of the commercial vessels directly 
regulated by this proposed rule are believed to be small entities based 
on the NMFS size standard.
    No other small entities that would be directly affected by this 
proposed rule have been identified.
    There are currently 668 federally-permitted commercial vessels 
eligible to fish for the snapper-grouper species managed under the FMP. 
Based on the analysis included in Amendment 37, NMFS expects 135 of 
these vessels would be affected by this proposed rule (approximately 20 
percent). Because all entities expected to be affected by this proposed 
rule are small entities, NMFS has determined that this proposed rule 
would affect a substantial number of small entities. Moreover, the 
issue of disproportionate effects on small versus large entities does 
not arise in the present case.
    This proposed rule would modify the snapper-grouper Fishery 
Management Unit for hogfish, specifying two stocks of hogfish: (1) A 
GA/NC stock from the Georgia/Florida state boundary to the North 
Carolina/Virginia state boundary, and (2) a FLK/EFL stock from the 
Florida/Georgia state boundary south to a line extending due west from 
25[deg]09' N. lat. just south of Cape Sable on the west coast of 
Florida. Amendment 37 would also specify MSY and MSST values for each 
of these stocks. For both the GA/NC and FLK/EFL stocks, MSY would be 
set equal to the yield produced by FMSY or the 
FMSY proxy (F30SPR) and MSST 
would be set equal to 75 percent of SSBMSY. Specifying 
separate hogfish stocks, as well as management reference points (MSY 
and MSST) for those stocks, would not directly alter the current 
harvest of the hogfish resource. Therefore, these changes would not be 
expected to have any direct economic effects on any small entities. 
They would, however, influence other components of this proposed rule 
that would be expected to have direct economic effects.
    This proposed rule would also establish a total ACL of 33,930 lb 
(15,390 kg), round weight, for the GA/NC stock of hogfish, which is 
equal to 95 percent of the ABC recommended by the Council's SSC. Using 
the existing allocation formula specified in the Comprehensive ACL 
Amendment and landings data specific to the GA/NC stock area, the 
commercial ACL for the GA/NC stock of hogfish would be set constant at 
23,456 lb (10,639 kg). Based on average annual landings for 2012 
through 2014 off Georgia through North Carolina, the commercial sector 
would be expected to land only 20,534 lb (9,314 kg) under the status 
quo in 2017, with an estimated ex-vessel value of $76,797 (2014 
dollars). Because the proposed commercial ACL is higher than the 
estimated status quo commercial landings for 2017, it would not be 
expected to have any short-term direct negative economic effects on 
commercial vessels. Due to increasing uncertainty as projections extend 
further into the future, status quo commercial landings estimates for 
years subsequent to 2017 were not calculated. The proposed commercial 
ACL would provide the potential for landings to increase by 2,922 lb 
(1,325 kg) relative to average historical commercial landings (2012 
through 2014). Using the average annual hogfish price per pound from 
2012 through 2014, this would represent a potential increase in ex-
vessel revenue of $10,928 (2014 dollars) overall. Divided by the 
average number of commercial vessels that harvested hogfish in the GA/
NC stock area from 2010 through 2014, this would be an increase of 
approximately $176 per vessel.
    In addition, Amendment 37 would establish a rebuilding plan, 
beginning in 2017, for the FLK/EFL stock, where the rebuilding strategy 
sets ABC equal to the yield at a constant fishing mortality rate and 
rebuilds the stock in 10 years with a 72.5 percent probability of 
rebuilding success. This proposed rebuilding plan would provide the 
basis for setting ACLs but would not directly alter the current harvest 
of the hogfish resource. Therefore, it would not be expected to have 
direct economic effects on any small entities.
    The proposed rule would also establish a total ACL, in numbers of 
fish, for the FLK/EFL stock of hogfish for 2017 through 2027. The total 
ACL each year would be set equal to 95 percent of the ABC values 
specified in the proposed rebuilding plan. In 2017, the total ACL would 
be 17,034 fish and would increase each year until reaching 60,130 fish 
in 2027. Using the existing allocation formula specified in the 
Comprehensive ACL Amendment and landings data specific to the FLK/EFL 
stock area, the commercial ACL for the FLK/EFL stock of hogfish would 
be set at 3,510 lb (1,592 kg) in 2017 and would increase each year 
until reaching 17,018 lb (7,719 kg) in 2027. In Amendment 37, a time 
series model was fit to historical landings data (1997 through 2014) 
for the FLK/EFL stock area in order to project commercial landings 
under the status quo in 2017. The commercial sector would be expected 
to land an estimated 20,380 lb (9,244 kg) of hogfish under the status 
quo in 2017, worth $76,213 (2014 dollars). Due to increasing 
uncertainty as projections extend further into the future, status quo 
commercial landings estimates for years subsequent to 2017 were not 
calculated. Assuming the proposed commercial ACL for FLK/EFL hogfish is 
harvested in full, it would represent a reduction in ex-vessel revenue 
of $63,086 (2014 dollars), or 83 percent, relative to estimated 2017 
status quo revenue. This assumes that ex-vessel revenue from other 
commercially harvested species would not be substituted for the loss in 
hogfish revenue. Divided by the average number of commercial vessels 
that harvested hogfish in the FLK/EFL stock area from 2010 through 
2014, this would be a decrease of approximately $819 (2014 dollars) per 
vessel. It is assumed that ex-vessel revenue from FLK/EFL hogfish will 
increase relative to the proposed annual increases in the commercial 
ACL from 2017 through 2027. This would lessen the negative economic 
effects of this proposed rule on commercial vessels each year.
    This proposed rule would increase the commercial minimum size limit 
for both stocks of hogfish as well. The minimum size limit for the GA/
NC stock would be increased from 12 inches (30.5 cm), FL, to 17 inches 
(43.2 cm), FL, and the minimum size limit for the FLK/EFL

[[Page 91109]]

stock would be increased from 12 inches (30.5 cm), FL, to 16 inches 
(38.1 cm), FL.
    The proposed minimum size limit increase for the GA/NC stock was 
estimated to reduce commercial landings by only 406 lb (184 kg) in 
2017. This would translate into a $1,478 (2014 dollars) reduction in 
ex-vessel revenue overall, or $24 per vessel. This assumes that ex-
vessel revenue from other species would not be substituted for the loss 
in hogfish revenue. Under the proposed commercial ACL for GA/NC 
hogfish, the season would be expected to be open year-round and would 
not change as a result of the proposed minimum size limit. Assuming 
effort, harvest rates, and hogfish prices remain constant, then the 
expected economic effects of the proposed minimum size limit in future 
years would be equivalent to those of 2017.
    For the FLK/EFL stock, the proposed minimum size limit increase 
would not be expected to reduce aggregate commercial landings or ex-
vessel revenue in 2017. This assumes that ex-vessel hogfish prices 
would be unresponsive to temporal changes in landings. In subsequent 
years, as the FLK/EFL stock ACL increases, the proposed minimum size 
limit would be more likely than the status quo minimum size limit to 
prevent the full harvest of the commercial ACL and result in a 
reduction in aggregate ex-vessel revenue. Under the proposed minimum 
size limit of 16 inches (38.1 cm), FL, the 2017 fishing season is 
expected to be open 35 days longer than under the current minimum size 
limit of 12 inches (30.5 cm), FL. Because fewer legal-sized fish would 
be available for harvest, this proposed rule may increase harvest 
costs, and in turn, reduce profitability for some vessels. Conversely, 
a longer season for FLK/EFL hogfish may have positive economic effects 
for other vessels by expanding the number of species available for 
harvest later in the fishing year. Individual vessels would be expected 
to experience varying levels of economic effects, depending on their 
fishing practices, profit maximization strategies, and ability to 
substitute revenue from other species for hogfish revenue. These 
economic effects cannot be estimated with available data.
    This proposed rule would also establish commercial trip limits for 
each stock of hogfish. The trip limit would be set at 500 lb (227 kg) 
per trip for the GA/NC stock and 25 lb (11 kg) per trip for the FLK/EFL 
stock. Currently, there is no commercial trip limit for hogfish in the 
South Atlantic.
    For the GA/NC stock, the proposed commercial trip limit was 
estimated to result in a $4,470 (2014 dollars) decrease in ex-vessel 
revenue relative to the status quo. This assumes that ex-vessel revenue 
from other commercially harvested species would not be substituted for 
the loss in hogfish revenue. Based on historical harvest rates for 2012 
through 2014, it is expected that the proposed commercial trip limit of 
500 lb (227 kg), round weight, would only affect spearfishing trips. On 
average (2010 through 2014), there were 11 vessels with Federal 
commercial snapper-grouper permits that reported taking at least 1 
hogfish trip in the GA/NC stock area, where the majority of revenue 
from that trip was attributed to spearfishing. Their average annual 
revenue from all species from 2010 through 2014 was $61,479 (2014 
dollars). If the estimated reduction in ex-vessel revenue was borne 
entirely by these vessels, it would result in a loss of $406 per 
vessel, or less than 1 percent of their average annual revenue from all 
species from 2010 through 2014. When the proposed commercial trip limit 
and proposed minimum size limit for the GA/NC stock are analyzed 
together, the combined effect on all vessels that fish for hogfish in 
the corresponding stock area would be an estimated reduction in 
aggregate ex-vessel revenue of $5,741 (2014 dollars).
    For the FLK/EFL stock, the proposed commercial trip limit would not 
be expected to reduce aggregate commercial landings or ex-vessel 
revenue in 2017. This assumes that prices would not change as a result 
of a change in the timing of landings. In subsequent years, as the 
commercial ACL for the FLK/EFL stock increases, the proposed commercial 
trip limit of 25 lb (11 kg) would be more likely to prevent full 
harvest of the commercial ACL and result in a reduction in ex-vessel 
revenue relative to no trip limit. Under the proposed commercial trip 
limit, the 2017 fishing season is expected to be open 33 days longer 
than what would be expected under the proposed commercial ACL of 3,510 
lb (1,592 kg) and with no commercial trip limit implemented. Because 
more trips would be required to harvest the same amount of fish, the 
proposed commercial trip limit could reduce profitability for some 
vessels. Conversely, a longer commercial fishing season in the FLK/EFL 
stock area may have positive economic effects for other vessels by 
expanding the number of species available for harvest later in the 
fishing year. On average (2010 through 2014), 37 vessels with Federal 
commercial snapper-grouper permits took at least 1 trip with hogfish 
landings in excess of 25 lb (11 kg). Trips with hogfish landings in 
excess of 25 lb (11 kg) accounted for approximately 28 percent of all 
hogfish trips reported for the FLK/EFL stock area, on average, from 
2010 through 2014. Approximately 66 percent of these were spearfishing 
trips, 25 percent were trips that used hook-and-line gear, and the 
remaining 11 percent were trips that used other fishing gear types. 
Historically (2012 through 2014), 10.1 percent of hogfish landings on 
hook-and-line trips and approximately 29.4 percent of hogfish landings 
on spearfishing trips were harvested on trips in excess of the proposed 
25 lb (11 kg) commercial trip limit. These statistics suggest that 
spearfishing trips may be more adversely affected, on average, by the 
proposed commercial trip limit than hook-and-line trips. However, 
specific economic effects estimates categorized by fishing gear are not 
currently available due to the high degree of model uncertainty at the 
gear level. Individual vessels would be expected to experience varying 
levels of economic effects, depending on their fishing practices, 
profit maximization strategies, and ability to substitute other species 
revenue for hogfish revenue. These economic effects cannot be estimated 
with available data.
    Finally, the proposed rule would establish commercial AMs for the 
GA/NC and the FLK/EFL stocks of hogfish. These AMs would close the 
commercial sector for the applicable hogfish stock for the remainder of 
the fishing year if commercial landings of the applicable stock reach, 
or are projected to reach, the respective commercial ACL. Additionally, 
if the commercial ACL is exceeded, NMFS would reduce the stock-specific 
commercial ACL in the following fishing year by the amount of the 
commercial ACL overage, only if hogfish is overfished and the total ACL 
(commercial ACL and recreational ACL) for the respective stock is 
exceeded. These proposed AMs are the same as the current commercial AMs 
in place for hogfish in the South Atlantic. It is assumed that the 
proposed AMs would constrain landings to the proposed commercial ACL 
for each stock, so no direct economic effects, aside from those already 
discussed under the proposed ACLs, would be expected to occur. If the 
proposed AMs do not constrain commercial landings at or below the 
proposed commercial ACL, then there would be an increase in ex-vessel 
revenue in the fishing year the AMs are triggered and the commercial

[[Page 91110]]

sector closes. Additionally, if the conditions are met for a reduction 
in the following year's commercial ACL by the amount of the commercial 
ACL overage, a reduction in ex-vessel revenue in the following fishing 
year would be expected. The status of the GA/NC stock is currently 
unknown, so both conditions necessary for a reduction in the following 
year's commercial ACL would not be met and this provision would only 
affect the FLK/EFL stock. Because of the timeliness of commercial 
landings data for federally-permitted vessels, overages and 
corresponding economic effects would likely be small, should they 
occur.
    In summary, when all of the hogfish management changes in this 
proposed rule are analyzed together, in 2017 they would result in an 
estimated reduction in ex-vessel revenue of $5,741 (2014 dollars) for 
the vessels that harvest hogfish from the GA/NC stock and $63,086 for 
the vessels that harvest hogfish from the FLK/EFL stock. The proposed 
changes to the minimum size limit and commercial trip limit would also 
have the potential to reduce profitability by increasing harvest costs, 
although these economic effects cannot be estimated with available 
data. In subsequent years, if hogfish landings from the GA/NC stock 
increase to reach the proposed commercial ACL, the increase in landings 
would offset the loss in revenue from the proposed minimum size limit 
and commercial trip limit, and would generate an increase in ex-vessel 
revenue of $5,187 (2014 dollars). For the vessels that harvest hogfish 
from the FLK/EFL stock, it is assumed that ex-vessel revenue from 
hogfish would increase relative to the proposed annual increases in the 
commercial ACL from 2017 through 2027. This would lessen the negative 
economic effects of this proposed rule on commercial vessels each year.
    The following discussion describes the alternatives that were not 
selected as preferred by the South Atlantic Council.
    The actions to designate two separate stocks of hogfish in the 
South Atlantic, set management reference points (MSY and MSST) for 
those stocks, and establish a rebuilding plan for the FLK/EFL stock of 
hogfish would not be expected to have any direct economic effects on 
any small entities, and therefore, the issue of significant 
alternatives is not relevant.
    Two alternatives were considered for the action to specify a stock 
ACL and OY for the GA/NC stock of hogfish. The first alternative, the 
no action alternative, would retain the current South Atlantic hogfish 
stock ACL and would not be expected to alter current harvest or use of 
the resource. This alternative was not selected by the South Atlantic 
Council because it would not adhere to the best scientific information 
available from the most recent hogfish stock assessment. The second 
alternative is the preferred alternative, which would establish a stock 
ACL specific to the GA/NC stock of hogfish. This alternative includes 
three sub-alternatives. The first sub-alternative would set the ACL 
equal to optimum yield (OY), where OY equals acceptable biological 
catch (ABC). This sub-alternative would result in a commercial ACL for 
the GA/NC hogfish stock of 24,690 lb (11,199 kg), round weight, which 
is approximately 5 percent greater than the proposed commercial ACL. 
Because status quo landings are not expected to exceed any of the sub-
alternative commercial ACL values in the short term, the first sub-
alternative would not be expected to have any direct economic effects. 
However, it would allow for greater potential landings and ex-vessel 
revenue in the future compared to the preferred alternative in this 
proposed rule. The first sub-alternative was not selected as preferred 
by the South Atlantic Council, because the Council determined it was 
prudent to include a buffer in the stock ACL to account for management 
uncertainty. The second sub-alternative is the preferred sub-
alternative in this proposed rule and would set the stock ACL equal to 
OY, where OY equals 95 percent of ABC. The third sub-alternative would 
set the stock ACL equal to OY, where OY equals 90 percent of ABC. This 
sub-alternative would result in a stock ACL that is approximately 5 
percent less than the proposed stock ACL. Based on projected landings 
for 2017, this would not be expected to have direct economic effects on 
small entities; however, the potential for future increases in ex-
vessel revenue would be less than under this proposed rule. Because 
allowable harvest and potential ex-vessel revenue would be lower than 
that under the preferred alternative, this alternative was not selected 
by the South Atlantic Council.
    Two alternatives were considered for the action to specify 
commercial and recreational ACLs and OY for the FLK/EFL stock of 
hogfish. The first alternative, the no action alternative, would retain 
the current South Atlantic hogfish stock ACL and would not be expected 
to alter current harvest or use of the resource. This alternative was 
not selected by the South Atlantic Council, because it would not adhere 
to the best scientific information available from the most recent 
hogfish stock assessment. The second alternative is the preferred 
alternative, which would establish commercial and recreational ACLs 
specific to the FLK/EFL stock of hogfish. This alternative includes 
three sub-alternatives. The first sub-alternative would set the ACL 
equal to OY, where OY equals ABC. The commercial hogfish ACL for the 
FLK/EFL stock would be 3,695 lb (1,676 kg) in 2017 and would increase 
annually up to 17,914 lb (8,126 kg) in 2027. Under the first sub-
alternative, the commercial ACL would be approximately 5 percent 
greater each year than under the preferred sub-alternative. Assuming 
the entire commercial ACL is harvested annually, hogfish landings and 
ex-vessel revenue would also be 5 percent greater under the first sub-
alternative than under the preferred sub-alternative. As such, the 
first sub-alternative would be expected to have less negative economic 
effects on small entities than this proposed rule. However, it was not 
selected as preferred by the South Atlantic Council, because they 
determined it was prudent to include a buffer in the stock ACL to 
account for management uncertainty. The second sub-alternative is the 
preferred sub-alternative, which would set the stock ACL equal to OY, 
where OY equals 95 percent of ABC. The third sub-alternative would set 
the stock ACL equal to OY, where OY equals 90 percent of ABC. This sub-
alternative would result in commercial and recreational ACLs that are 
approximately 5 percent less each year than under the second 
(preferred) sub-alternative in this proposed rule and, therefore, would 
be expected to have more direct negative economic effects on small 
entities than this proposed rule. Because allowable harvest and 
expected ex-vessel revenue would be lower than that under the preferred 
alternative, this alternative was not selected by the South Atlantic 
Council.
    Three alternatives were considered for the action to increase the 
commercial and recreational minimum size limits for the GA/NC and FLK/
EFL stocks of hogfish. The first alternative, the no action 
alternative, would retain the current South Atlantic hogfish minimum 
size limit of 12 inches (30.5 cm), FL, for both sectors. This would not 
be expected to alter commercial harvest rates relative to the status 
quo, so no direct economic effects to small entities would be expected 
to occur. This alternative was not selected by the South Atlantic 
Council, because it would fail to acknowledge important biological 
differences between the two

[[Page 91111]]

stocks of hogfish, as well as stock-specific management needs.
    The second alternative, which was selected as preferred, would 
increase the commercial and recreational minimum size limit for the GA/
NC stock. The second alternative contains six sub-alternatives. The 
first sub-alternative would increase the minimum size limit from 12 
inches (30.5 cm), FL, to 16 inches (38.1 cm), FL. This would be 
expected to result in an annual reduction in commercial ex-vessel 
revenue of only $479 (2014 dollars), which is $1,041 less than the 
reduction expected under the proposed minimum size limit. This sub-
alternative was not selected as preferred because it would be expected 
to result in fewer hogfish reaching sexual maturity, fewer hogfish 
transitioning to males, and more negative biological effects than the 
proposed minimum size limit. The second sub-alternative is the 
preferred sub-alternative, which would set the commercial and 
recreational minimum size limit for the GA/NC stock at 17 inches (43.2 
cm), FL. The third through the fifth sub-alternatives would set the 
commercial and recreational minimum size limit at 18, 19, and 20 inches 
(45.7, 48.3, and 50.8 cm), FL, respectively. These sub-alternatives 
were not selected because they would be expected to result in a greater 
decrease in commercial ex-vessel revenue than the proposed minimum size 
limit. The sixth sub-alternative would set the commercial and 
recreational minimum size limit at 15 inches (38.1 cm), FL, in the 
first year of implementation, 18 inches (45.8 cm), FL, in the second 
year, and 20 inches (50.8 cm), FL, in the third year. This sub-
alternative would be expected to have a smaller direct negative 
economic effect on small entities than the proposed minimum size limit 
in the first year of implementation only, and a larger direct negative 
economic effect thereafter. The sixth sub-alternative was not selected 
by the South Atlantic Council, because there was little public support 
for step-up size limit increases, and it would not aid in simplifying 
regulations.
    The third alternative, also selected as preferred, would increase 
the commercial and recreational minimum size limit for the FLK/EFL 
stock. The third alternative contains five sub-alternatives. The first 
and second sub-alternatives would increase the commercial and 
recreational minimum size limit to 14 and 15 inches (35.6 and 38.1 cm), 
FL, respectively. These sub-alternatives would not be expected to 
affect aggregate ex-vessel revenue in the short-term; however, by 
allowing for potentially higher catch rates, they would be less likely 
to negatively affect profitability than the proposed minimum size 
limit. The specific effects on profitability cannot be estimated with 
available data. These sub-alternatives were not selected by the South 
Atlantic Council, because they would be expected to result in fewer 
hogfish reaching sexual maturity, fewer hogfish transitioning to males, 
and more negative biological effects than the proposed minimum size 
limit. The third sub-alternative is the preferred sub-alternative, 
which would increase the commercial and recreational minimum size limit 
to 16 inches (38.1 cm), FL. The fourth sub-alternative would increase 
the minimum size limit to 17 inches (43.2 cm), FL, which would be more 
likely to negatively affect profitability than the proposed minimum 
size limit and, therefore, was not selected as preferred. The fifth 
sub-alternative would set the commercial and recreational minimum size 
limit at 14 inches (35.6 cm), FL, in the first year of implementation 
and 16 inches (38.1 cm), FL, in the third year. This sub-alternative 
would provide for a more gradual increase in the minimum size limit up 
to 16 inches (38.1 cm), FL, which would be expected to have less 
negative economic effects than the proposed minimum size limit in the 
first year of implementation and equivalent effects in the third year 
and beyond. The fifth sub-alternative was not selected by the Council, 
because it would have less immediate biological benefits to the FLK/EFL 
hogfish stock, which is currently overfished.
    Three alternatives were considered for the action to establish 
commercial trip limits for the GA/NC and FLK/EFL stocks of hogfish. 
Under the first alternative, the no action alternative, there would be 
no commercial trip limit specified for either stock. This would not be 
expected to alter commercial harvest rates relative to the status quo, 
so no direct economic effects to small entities would be expected to 
occur. This alternative was not selected by the South Atlantic Council, 
because they decided it was necessary to implement stock-specific 
commercial trip limits in order to successfully constrain commercial 
hogfish landings and to end overfishing of the FLK/EFL stock.
    The second alternative, which was selected as preferred, would 
establish a commercial trip limit for the GA/NC stock. The second 
alternative contains five sub-alternatives. The first and second sub-
alternatives would set the commercial trip limit at 100 lb (45 kg) and 
250 lb (113 kg), respectively, which would be expected to reduce 
aggregate annual landings and ex-vessel revenue by 43 percent and 19 
percent, respectively. These reductions in ex-vessel revenue would be 
larger than what would be expected under the proposed commercial trip 
limit and, thus, the first and second sub-alternatives were not 
selected. The third sub-alternative was selected as preferred and would 
set the commercial trip limit at 500 lb (227 kg), which was estimated 
to reduce ex-vessel revenue by 6 percent. The fourth sub-alternative 
would set the commercial trip limit at 700 lb (318 kg). This sub-
alternative would be expected to reduce ex-vessel revenue by only 3 
percent, which would translate into $2,287 (2014 dollars) more in 
aggregate ex-vessel revenue than under the proposed trip limit. The 
fifth sub-alternative would not specify a commercial trip limit, which 
would be expected to have no effect on status quo hogfish landings or 
ex-vessel revenue. Under the fifth sub-alternative, ex-vessel revenue 
would be $4,470 (2014 dollars) greater than what would be expected 
under the proposed trip limit. The fourth and fifth sub-alternatives 
were not selected as preferred because the South Atlantic Council chose 
to take a precautionary approach to setting the commercial trip limit 
for the GA/NC stock in order to prevent effort shifts as a result of 
stricter commercial regulations needed to end overfishing of the FLK/
EFL stock. Additionally, the vast majority of commercial trips in 
Georgia and the Carolinas do not land more than 500 lb (227 kg) of 
hogfish per trip.
    The third alternative, also selected as preferred, would establish 
a commercial trip limit for the FLK/EFL stock. The third alternative 
contains six sub-alternatives. The first sub-alternative was selected 
as preferred and would set the commercial trip limit at 25 lb (11 kg). 
Sub-alternatives 2 through 5 would set the commercial trip limit at 50 
lb (23 kg), 100 lb (45 kg), 150 lb (68 kg), and 200 lb (91 kg), 
respectively. The sixth sub-alternative would not specify a commercial 
trip limit. These sub-alternatives for commercial trip limits would not 
be expected to affect aggregate ex-vessel revenue in the short term, 
given the low proposed commercial ACL. However, for each incremental 
increase in the commercial trip limit, the likelihood of direct 
negative effects on profitability would be reduced. Because of the 
proposed increasing commercial ACL schedule, sub-alternatives 2 through 
5 may provide for greater aggregate annual ex-vessel hogfish revenue 
and increased profitability on hogfish trips in the

[[Page 91112]]

medium to long term, relative to the proposed commercial trip limit. 
These economic effects cannot be estimated with available data. 
However, sub-alternatives 2 through 6 were not selected by the South 
Atlantic Council because, given the overfished status of the stock, the 
South Atlantic Council wanted to be conservative in setting the 
commercial trip limit in order to end overfishing and prevent 
commercial ACL overages.
    Four alternatives were considered for the action to establish 
commercial and recreational AMs for the GA/NC and the FLK/EFL stocks of 
hogfish. The first alternative, the no action alternative, would retain 
the current South Atlantic hogfish AMs for both sectors. This 
alternative was not selected by the South Atlantic Council because 
stock-specific AMs would be required to ensure landings are constrained 
to the commercial ACL for each stock. The second alternative was 
selected as preferred and would specify commercial AMs for each stock 
that are equivalent to the existing AMs for the single South Atlantic 
stock. The third and fourth alternatives pertain exclusively to 
recreational anglers and therefore no direct economic effects on any 
small entities would be expected.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622

    Commercial, Fisheries, Fishing, Gulf of Mexico, Hogfish, 
Recreational, South Atlantic.

    Dated: December 12, 2016.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 622 is 
proposed to be amended as follows:

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

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

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

0
2. In Sec.  622.1, revise the Table 1 entry for ``FMP for the Snapper-
Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region'', and add footnote 8 to 
Table 1 to read as follows:


Sec.  622.1  Purpose and scope.

* * * * *

                            Table 1 to Sec.   622.1--FMPs Implemented Under Part 622
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                Responsible fishery
                FMP title                      management council(s)                 Geographic area
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
                                                  * * * * * * *
FMP for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of     SAFMC.......................  South Atlantic.1 2 6 8
 the South Atlantic Region.
 
                                                  * * * * * * *
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Regulated area includes adjoining state waters for purposes of data collection and quota monitoring.
\2\ Black sea bass and scup are not managed by the FMP or regulated by this part north of 35[deg]15.9' N. lat.,
  the latitude of Cape Hatteras Light, NC.
 * * * * * * *
\6\ Nassau grouper in the South Atlantic EEZ and the Gulf EEZ are managed under the FMP.
 * * * * * * *
\8\ Hogfish in the Gulf EEZ are managed under the FMP from the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico intercouncil
  boundary specified in Sec.   600.105(c) and south of 25[deg]09' N. lat. off the west coast of Florida. Hogfish
  in the remainder of the Gulf EEZ are managed under the FMP for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico.

0
3. In Sec.  622.183, add paragraph (b)(4) to read as follows:


Sec.  622.183  Area and seasonal closures.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (4) Hogfish recreational sector off the Florida Keys and east coast 
of Florida. From January through April and from November through 
December each year, the recreational harvest or possession of hogfish 
in or from the South Atlantic EEZ off the Florida Keys and east coast 
of Florida, and in the Gulf EEZ south of 25[deg]09' N. lat. off the 
west coast of Florida is prohibited, and the bag and possession limits 
are zero.
* * * * *
0
4. In Sec.  622.185, revise paragraph (c)(3) to read as follows:


Sec.  622.185  Size limits.

* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (3) Hogfish. (i) In the South Atlantic EEZ off Georgia, South 
Carolina, and North Carolina--17 inches (43.2 cm), fork length.
    (ii) In the South Atlantic EEZ off the Florida Keys and east coast 
of Florida, and in the Gulf EEZ south of 25[deg]09' N. lat. off the 
west coast of Florida--16 inches (38.1 cm), fork length.
* * * * *
0
5. In Sec.  622.187, revise paragraph (b)(3) to read as follows:


Sec.  622.187  Bag and possession limits.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (3) Hogfish. (i) In the South Atlantic EEZ off Georgia, South 
Carolina, and North Carolina--2.
    (ii) In the South Atlantic EEZ off the Florida Keys and east coast 
of Florida, and in the Gulf EEZ south of 25[deg]09' N. lat. off the 
west coast of Florida--1.
* * * * *
0
6. In Sec.  622.191, add paragraph (a)(12) to read as follows:


Sec.  622.191  Commercial trip limits.

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (12) Hogfish. (i) Until the commercial ACL specified in Sec.  
622.193(u)(1)(iii)(A) is reached or is projected to be reached off 
Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, 500 lb (227 kg), round 
weight.
    (ii) Until the commercial ACL specified in Sec.  
622.193(u)(2)(iii)(A) is reached or is projected to be reached off the 
Florida Keys and east coast of Florida, and south of 25[deg]09' N. lat. 
off the west coast of Florida, 25 lb (11 kg), round weight.
    (iii) See Sec.  622.193(u)(1)(i) or (2)(i) for the limitations 
regarding hogfish after a commercial ACL is reached.
* * * * *
0
7. In Sec.  622.193, revise paragraph (u) to read as follows:


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

* * * * *

[[Page 91113]]

    (u) Hogfish--(1) Hogfish off Georgia, South Carolina, and North 
Carolina (Georgia-North Carolina)--(i) Commercial sector. (A) If 
commercial landings for the Georgia-North Carolina hogfish stock, as 
estimated by the SRD, reach or are projected to reach the commercial 
ACL specified in paragraph (u)(1)(iii)(A) of this section, the AA will 
file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register to close 
the commercial sector for the remainder of the fishing year. On and 
after the effective date of such a notification, all sale or purchase 
of hogfish in or from the South Atlantic EEZ off Georgia, South 
Carolina, and North Carolina is prohibited, and harvest or possession 
of this species is limited to the bag and possession limits. These bag 
and possession limits apply to the Georgia-North Carolina hogfish stock 
on board a vessel for which a valid Federal commercial or charter 
vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has been 
issued, without regard to where such species were harvested, i.e., in 
state or Federal waters.
    (B) If commercial landings for the Georgia-North Carolina hogfish 
stock, as estimated by the SRD, exceed the commercial ACL specified in 
paragraph (u)(1)(iii)(A) of this section, and the combined commercial 
and recreational ACL specified in paragraph (u)(1)(iii)(C) of this 
section is exceeded during the same fishing year, and the Georgia-North 
Carolina hogfish stock is overfished based on the most recent Status of 
U.S. Fisheries Report to Congress, the AA will file a notification with 
the Office of the Federal Register to reduce the commercial ACL for the 
stock in the following fishing year by the amount of the commercial ACL 
overage in the prior fishing year.
    (ii) Recreational sector. (A) If recreational landings for the 
Georgia-North Carolina hogfish stock, as estimated by the SRD, reach or 
are projected to reach the recreational ACL specified in paragraph 
(u)(1)(iii)(B) of this section, the AA will file a notification with 
the Office of the Federal Register to close the recreational sector for 
the remainder of the fishing year regardless if the stock is 
overfished, unless NMFS determines that no closure is necessary based 
on the best scientific information available. On and after the 
effective date of such a notification, the bag and possession limits 
for hogfish in or from the South Atlantic EEZ off Georgia, South 
Carolina, and North Carolina are zero.
    (B) If recreational landings for the Georgia-North Carolina hogfish 
stock, as estimated by the SRD, exceed the recreational ACL specified 
in paragraph (u)(1)(iii)(B) of this section, then during the following 
fishing year recreational landings will be monitored for a persistence 
in increased landings. If necessary, the AA will file a notification 
with the Office of the Federal Register to reduce the length of the 
following recreational fishing season and recreational ACL in the 
following fishing year by the amount of the recreational ACL overage if 
the Georgia-North Carolina hogfish stock is overfished, based on the 
most recent Status of U.S. Fisheries Report to Congress, and the 
combined commercial and recreational ACL is exceeded during the same 
fishing year to ensure recreational landings do not exceed the 
recreational ACL in the following fishing year. NMFS will use the best 
scientific information available to determine if reducing the length of 
the recreational fishing season and recreational ACL is necessary. When 
a recreational sector is closed as a result of NMFS reducing the length 
of the following recreational fishing season and ACL, the bag and 
possession limits for hogfish in or from the South Atlantic EEZ off 
Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina are zero.
    (iii) ACLs for the Georgia-North Carolina stock. This stock 
includes hogfish off Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. All 
weights are given in round weight.
    (A) Commercial ACL--23,456 lb (10,639 kg).
    (B) Recreational ACL--988 fish.
    (C) The combined commercial and recreational ACL for the Georgia-
North Carolina hogfish stock is 33,930 lb (15,390 kg).
    (2) Hogfish off the Florida Keys and east coast of Florida, and 
south of 25[deg]09' N. lat. off the west coast of Florida (Florida 
Keys-East Florida)--(i) Commercial sector. (A) If commercial landings 
for the Florida Keys-East Florida hogfish stock, as estimated by the 
SRD, reach or are projected to reach the applicable commercial ACL 
specified in paragraph (u)(2)(iii)(A) of this section, the AA will file 
a notification with the Office of the Federal Register to close the 
applicable commercial sector for the remainder of the fishing year. On 
and after the effective date of such a notification, all sale or 
purchase of hogfish in or from the EEZ off the Florida Keys and east 
coast of Florida, and south of 25[deg]09' N. lat. off the west coast of 
Florida is prohibited, and harvest or possession of this species is 
limited to the bag and possession limits. These bag and possession 
limits apply for this hogfish stock on board a vessel for which a valid 
Federal commercial or charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic 
snapper-grouper has been issued, without regard to where such species 
were harvested, i.e., in state or Federal waters.
    (B) If commercial landings for the Florida Keys-East Florida 
hogfish stock, as estimated by the SRD, exceed the applicable 
commercial ACL specified in paragraph (u)(2)(iii)(A) of this section, 
and the applicable combined commercial and recreational ACL specified 
in paragraph (u)(2)(iii)(C) of this section is exceeded during the same 
fishing year, and the stock is overfished based on the most recent 
Status of U.S. Fisheries Report to Congress, the AA will file a 
notification with the Office of the Federal Register to reduce the 
commercial ACL for the stock in the following fishing year by the 
amount of the applicable commercial ACL overage in the prior fishing 
year.
    (ii) Recreational sector. (A) If recreational landings for the 
Florida Keys-East Florida hogfish stock, as estimated by the SRD, reach 
or are projected to reach the applicable recreational ACL specified in 
paragraph (u)(2)(iii)(B) of this section, the AA will file a 
notification with the Office of the Federal Register to close the 
recreational sector for the remainder of the fishing year regardless if 
the stock is overfished, unless NMFS determines that no closure is 
necessary based on the best scientific information available. On and 
after the effective date of such a notification, the bag and possession 
limits for hogfish in or from the EEZ off the Florida Keys and east 
coast of Florida, and south of 25[deg]09' N. lat. off the west coast of 
Florida are zero.
    (B) If recreational landings for the Florida Keys-East Florida 
hogfish stock, as estimated by the SRD, exceed the applicable 
recreational ACL specified in paragraph (u)(2)(iii)(B) of this section, 
then during the following fishing year recreational landings will be 
monitored for a persistence in increased landings. If necessary, the AA 
will file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register to 
reduce the length of the following applicable recreational fishing 
season and recreational ACL in the following fishing year by the amount 
of the recreational ACL overage if the Florida Keys-East Florida 
hogfish stock is overfished, based on the most recent Status of U.S. 
Fisheries Report to Congress, and the applicable combined commercial 
and recreational ACL is exceeded during the same fishing year to ensure 
recreational landings do not exceed the recreational ACL in the 
following fishing year. NMFS will use the best scientific information 
available to determine if reducing the length of

[[Page 91114]]

the recreational fishing season and recreational ACL is necessary. When 
a recreational sector is closed as a result of NMFS reducing the length 
of the following recreational fishing season and ACL, the bag and 
possession limits for hogfish in or from the EEZ off the Florida Keys 
and east coast of Florida, and south of 25[deg]09' N. lat. off the west 
coast of Florida are zero.
    (iii) ACLs for the Florida Keys-East Florida stock. This stock 
includes hogfish off the Florida Keys and east coast of Florida, and 
south of 25[deg]09' N. lat. off the west coast of Florida.
    (A) Commercial ACL. See the following table. All weights are given 
in round weight.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
                Year                            Commercial ACL
------------------------------------------------------------------------
2017................................  3,510 lb (1,592 kg).
2018................................  4,524 lb (2,052 kg).
2019................................  5,670 lb (2,572 kg).
2020................................  6,926 lb (3,142 kg).
2021................................  8,277 lb (3,754 kg).
2022................................  9,703 lb (4,401 kg).
2023................................  11,179 lb (5,071 kg).
2024................................  12,677 lb (5,750 kg).
2025................................  14,167 lb (6,426 kg).
2026................................  15,621 lb (7,086 kg).
2027................................  17,018 lb (7,719 kg).
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    (B) Recreational ACL. See the following table. The recreational ACL 
is in numbers of fish.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                           Recreational
                          Year                                  ACL
------------------------------------------------------------------------
2017....................................................          15,689
2018....................................................          18,617
2019....................................................          21,574
2020....................................................          25,086
2021....................................................          29,096
2022....................................................          33,358
2023....................................................          37,671
2024....................................................          41,934
2025....................................................          46,046
2026....................................................          49,949
2027....................................................          53,610
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    (C) Combined commercial and recreational ACL. See the following 
table. The combined commercial and recreational ACL is in numbers of 
fish.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                             Combined
                                                          commercial and
                          Year                             recreational
                                                                ACL
------------------------------------------------------------------------
2017....................................................          17,034
2018....................................................          20,350
2019....................................................          23,746
2020....................................................          27,740
2021....................................................          32,267
2022....................................................          37,076
2023....................................................          41,954
2024....................................................          46,791
2025....................................................          51,474
2026....................................................          55,934
2027....................................................          60,130
------------------------------------------------------------------------

* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2016-30223 Filed 12-15-16; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P