Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Fisheries, 91873-91876 [2016-30481]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 243 / Monday, December 19, 2016 / Rules and Regulations First edition, September 2015, (API RP 1171), IBR approved for § 192.12. * * * * * ■ 12. Section 192.12 is added to read as follows: srobinson on DSK5SPTVN1PROD with RULES § 192.12 Underground natural gas storage facilities. Underground natural gas storage facilities must meet the following requirements: (a) Each underground natural gas storage facility that uses a solutionmined salt cavern reservoir for gas storage constructed after July 18, 2017 must meet all requirements and recommendations of API RP 1170 (incorporated by reference, see § 192.7). (b) Each underground natural gas storage facility that uses a solutionmined salt cavern reservoir for storage including those constructed not later than July 18, 2017 must meet the operations, maintenance, integrity demonstration and verification, monitoring, threat and hazard identification, assessment, remediation, site security, emergency response and preparedness, and recordkeeping requirements and recommendations of API RP 1170, sections 9, 10, and 11 (incorporated by reference, see § 192.7) by January 18, 2018. (c) Each underground natural gas storage facility that uses a depleted hydrocarbon reservoir or an aquifer reservoir for storage constructed after July 18, 2017 must meet all requirements and recommendations of API RP 1171 (incorporated by reference, see § 192.7). (d) Each underground natural gas storage facility that uses a depleted hydrocarbon reservoir or an aquifer reservoir for gas storage, including those constructed not later than July 18, 2017 must meet the operations, maintenance, integrity demonstration and verification, monitoring, threat and hazard identification, assessment, remediation, site security, emergency response and preparedness, and recordkeeping requirements and recommendations of API RP 1171, sections 8, 9, 10, and 11 (incorporated by reference, see § 192.7) by January 18, 2018. (e) Operators of underground gas storage facilities must establish and follow written procedures for operations, maintenance, and emergencies implementing the requirements of API RP 1170 and API RP 1171, as required under this section, including the effective dates as applicable, and incorporate such procedures into their written procedures for operations, maintenance, and emergencies established pursuant to § 192.605. VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:05 Dec 16, 2016 Jkt 241001 (f) With respect to the incorporation by reference of API RP 1170 and API RP 1171 in this section, the non-mandatory provisions (i.e., provisions containing the word ‘‘should’’ or other nonmandatory language) are adopted as mandatory provisions under the authority of the pipeline safety laws except when the operator includes or references written technical justifications in its program or procedural manual, described in paragraph (a)(5) of this section, as to why compliance with a provision of the recommended practice is not practicable and not necessary for safety with respect to specified underground storage facilities or equipment. The justifications for any deviation from any provision of API RP 1170 and API RP 1171 must be technically reviewed and documented by a subject matter expert to ensure there will be no adverse impact on design, construction, operations, maintenance, integrity, emergency preparedness and response, and overall safety and must be dated and approved by a senior executive officer, vice president, or higher office with responsibility of the underground natural gas storage facility. An operator must discontinue use of any variance where PHMSA determines and provides notice that the variance adversely impacts design, construction, operations, maintenance, integrity, emergency preparedness and response, or overall safety. Issued in Washington, DC, on December 9, 2016, under authority delegated in 49 CFR 1.97. Marie Therese Dominguez, Administrator. [FR Doc. 2016–30045 Filed 12–16–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910–60–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 635 [Docket No. 150121066–5717–02] RIN 0648–XF067 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Fisheries National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Temporary rule; inseason General category bluefin tuna quota transfer and retention limit adjustment. AGENCY: PO 00000 Frm 00231 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 91873 NMFS is transferring 16.3 metric tons (mt) of Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) quota from the 24.3-mt General category December 2017 subquota to the January 2017 subquota period (from January 1 through March 31, 2017, or until the available subquota for this period is reached, whichever comes first). NMFS also is adjusting the Atlantic tunas General category BFT daily retention limit for the January 2017 subquota period to three large medium or giant BFT from the default retention limit of one. This action is based on consideration of the regulatory determination criteria regarding inseason adjustments and applies to Atlantic tunas General category (commercial) permitted vessels and Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Charter/Headboat category permitted vessels when fishing commercially for BFT. DATES: The quota transfer is effective January 1, 2017, through March 31, 2017. The General category retention limit adjustment is effective January 1, 2017, through March 31, 2017. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sarah McLaughlin or Brad McHale, 978–281–9260. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Regulations implemented under the authority of the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA; 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.) and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) governing the harvest of BFT by persons and vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction are found at 50 CFR part 635. Section 635.27 subdivides the U.S. BFT quota recommended by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and as implemented by the United States among the various domestic fishing categories, per the allocations established in the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan (2006 Consolidated HMS FMP) (71 FR 58058, October 2, 2006), as amended by Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP (Amendment 7) (79 FR 71510, December 2, 2014). NMFS is required under ATCA and the Magnuson-Stevens Act to provide U.S. fishing vessels with a reasonable opportunity to harvest the ICCAT-recommended quota. The base quota for the General category is 466.7 mt. See § 635.27(a). Each of the General category time periods (January, June through August, September, October through November, and December) is allocated a portion of the annual General category quota. Although it is called the ‘‘January’’ SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\19DER1.SGM 19DER1 91874 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 243 / Monday, December 19, 2016 / Rules and Regulations subquota, the regulations allow the General category fishery under this quota to continue until the subquota is reached or March 31, whichever comes first. Based on the General category base quota of 466.7 mt, the subquotas for each time period are as follows: 24.7 mt for January; 233.3 mt for June through August; 123.7 mt for September; 60.7 mt for October through November; and 24.3 mt for December. Any unused General category quota rolls forward within the fishing year, which coincides with the calendar year, from one time period to the next, and is available for use in subsequent time periods. srobinson on DSK5SPTVN1PROD with RULES Quota Transfer Under § 635.27(a)(9), NMFS has the authority to transfer quota among fishing categories or subcategories, after considering regulatory determination criteria provided under § 635.27(a)(8). NMFS has considered all of the relevant determination criteria and their applicability to this inseason quota transfer and change in retention limit in the General category fishery. The criteria and their application are discussed below. Transfer of 16.3 mt From the December Subquota to the January Subquota For the inseason quota transfer, NMFS considered the usefulness of information obtained from catches in the particular category for biological sampling and monitoring of the status of the stock (§ 635.27(a)(8)(i)). Biological samples collected from BFT landed by General category fishermen and provided by tuna dealers provide NMFS with valuable parts and data for ongoing scientific studies of BFT age and growth, migration, and reproductive status. NMFS also considered the catches of the General category quota to date (including during the winter fishery in the last several years), and the likelihood of closure of that segment of the fishery if no adjustment is made (§ 635.27(a)(8)(ii)). Without a quota transfer from December 2017 to January 2017 for the General category at this time, the quota available for the January period would be 24.7 mt (5.3 percent of the General category quota), and participants would have to stop BFT fishing activities once that amount is met, while commercial-sized BFT may remain available in the areas where General category permitted vessels operate. Transferring 16.3 mt of the 24.3-mt quota available for December 2017 (with 24.3 mt representing 5.2 percent of the General category quota) would result in 41 mt (8.8 percent of the General category quota) being available VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:05 Dec 16, 2016 Jkt 241001 for the January subquota period. This quota transfer would provide additional opportunities to harvest the U.S. BFT quota without exceeding it, while preserving the opportunity for General category fishermen to participate in the winter BFT fishery at both the beginning and end of the calendar year. Regarding the projected ability of the vessels fishing under the particular category quota (here, the General category) to harvest the additional amount of BFT before the end of the fishing year (§ 635.27(a)(8)(iii)), NMFS considered General category landings in the last several years. General category landings in the winter BFT fishery tend to straddle the calendar year as BFT may be available in late November/ December and into January of the following year or later. Landings are highly variable and depend on access to commercial-sized BFT and fishing conditions, among other factors. Any unused General category quota from the January subperiod that remains as of March 31 will roll forward to the next subperiod within the calendar year (i.e., the June-August time period). In 2016, NMFS transferred the entire 24.3-mt December subquota to the January time period, for an adjusted January 2016 subquota of 49 mt. Under a three-fish General category daily retention limit, that adjusted subquota allowed the fishery to continue through the end of March. NMFS also considered the estimated amounts by which quotas for other gear categories of the fishery might be exceeded (§ 635.27(a)(8)(iv)) and the ability to account for all 2017 landings and dead discards. In the last several years, total U.S. BFT landings have been below the available U.S. quota such that the United States has carried forward the maximum amount of underharvest allowed by ICCAT from one year to the next. In 2016, the General category exceeded its adjusted quota (discussed below) but sufficient quota was available to cover the exceedance without affecting the other categories. NMFS will need to account for 2017 landings and dead discards within the adjusted U.S. quota, consistent with ICCAT recommendations, and anticipates having sufficient quota to do that. This transfer would be consistent with the current quotas, which were established and analyzed in the 2015 BFT quota final rule (80 FR 52198, August 28, 2015), and with objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and amendments. (§ 635.27(a)(8)(v) and (vi)). Another principal consideration is the objective of providing opportunities to harvest the full annual U.S. BFT quota PO 00000 Frm 00232 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 without exceeding it based on the goals of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and Amendment 7, including to achieve optimum yield on a continuing basis and to optimize the ability of all permit categories to harvest their full BFT quota allocations (related to § 635.27(a)(8)(x)). NMFS also anticipates that some underharvest of the 2016 adjusted U.S. BFT quota will be carried forward to 2017 and placed in the Reserve category, in accordance with the regulations. This, in addition to the fact that any unused General category quota will roll forward to the next subperiod within the calendar year, along with NMFS’ plan to actively manage the subquotas to avoid any exceedances, makes it likely that General category quota will remain available through the end of 2017 for December fishery participants, even with the quota transfer. NMFS also may choose to transfer unused quota from the Reserve or other categories, inseason, based on consideration of the determination criteria, as NMFS did for late 2016, (i.e., transferred 125 mt from the Reserve category (81 FR 70369, October 12, 2016) and later transferred another 85 mt (18 mt from the Harpoon category and 67 mt from the Reserve category) (81 FR 71639, October 18, 2016). In 2016, NMFS closed the General category quota effective November 4 to prevent further overharvest of the adjusted General category quota. General category landings were relatively high in the fall of 2016, due to a combination of fish availability, favorable fishing conditions, and higher daily retention limits (described below). NMFS anticipates that General category participants in all areas and time periods will have opportunities to harvest the General category quota in 2017, through active inseason management such as retention limit adjustments and/or the timing of quota transfers, as practicable. Thus, this quota transfer would allow fishermen to take advantage of the availability of fish on the fishing grounds, consider the expected increases in available 2017 quota later in the year, and provide a reasonable opportunity to harvest the full U.S. BFT quota. Based on the considerations above, NMFS is transferring 16.3 mt of the 24.3-mt General category quota allocated for the December 2017 period to the January 2017 period, resulting in a subquota of 41 mt for the January 2017 period and a subquota of 8 mt for the December 2017 period. NMFS will close the General category fishery when the adjusted January period subquota of 41 mt has been reached, or it will close E:\FR\FM\19DER1.SGM 19DER1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 243 / Monday, December 19, 2016 / Rules and Regulations srobinson on DSK5SPTVN1PROD with RULES automatically on March 31, 2017, whichever comes first, and it will remain closed until the General category fishery reopens on June 1, 2017. Adjustment of General Category Daily Retention Limit Unless changed, the General category daily retention limit starting on January 1 would be the default retention limit of one large medium or giant BFT (measuring 73 inches (185 cm) curved fork length (CFL) or greater) per vessel per day/trip (§ 635.23(a)(2)). This default retention limit would apply to General category permitted vessels and to HMS Charter/Headboat category permitted vessels when fishing commercially for BFT. Under § 635.23(a)(4), NMFS may increase or decrease the daily retention limit of large medium and giant BFT over a range of zero to a maximum of five per vessel based on consideration of the relevant criteria provided under § 635.27(a)(8), and listed above. For the 2016 fishing year, NMFS adjusted the daily retention limit from the default level of one large medium or giant BFT to three large medium or giant BFT for the January 2016 subquota period (80 FR 77264, December 14, 2015); and five large medium or giant BFT for the June through August 2016 subquota period (81 FR 29501, May 12, 2016). Although NMFS initially adjusted the daily retention limit for the September, October through November, and December periods to five large medium or giant BFT (81 FR 59153, August 29, 2016), NMFS later decreased the limit to four fish effective October 9 (81 FR 70369, October 12, 2016) and to two fish effective October 17 (81 FR 71639, October 18, 2016). NMFS closed the 2016 General category quota effective November 4, 2016. NMFS has considered the relevant criteria and their applicability to the General category BFT retention limit for the January 2017 subquota period. As described above with regard to the quota transfer, additional opportunity to land BFT would support the collection of a broad range of data for biological studies and for stock monitoring purposes. Regarding the effects of the adjustment on BFT rebuilding and overfishing and the effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the fishery management plan, this action would be taken consistent with the previously implemented and analyzed quotas, and it is not expected to negatively impact stock health or otherwise affect the stock in ways not previously analyzed. It is also supported by the Environmental Assessment for the 2011 VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:05 Dec 16, 2016 Jkt 241001 final rule regarding General and Harpoon category management measures, which increased the General category maximum daily retention limit from three to five fish (76 FR 74003, November 30, 2011). Regarding the catches of the particular category quota to date and the likelihood of closure of that segment of the fishery if no adjustment is made, in 2012, 2013, and 2014, the available January subquota (23.1 mt) was reached on January 22, February 15, and March 21, respectively, under a limit of two large medium or giant BFT, and in each of these years, the General category did not reach its available quota by the end of the year. For 2015, the adjusted January subquota of 45.7 was not met under a daily retention limit of three large medium or giant BFT, whereas for 2016, the adjusted subquota of 49 mt was reached, and slightly exceeded, as of March 31 under a three-fish limit. As noted above, commercial-sized BFT are typically available in January and may continue to be available through March. Considering this information and the transfer of 16.3 mt of the 24.3-mt December 2017 subquota to the January 2017 subquota period (for an adjusted total of 41 mt), the default one-fish limit likely would be overly restrictive. Increasing the daily retention limit from the default may mitigate rolling an excessive amount of unused quota from one time-period subquota to the next and thus help maintain an equitable distribution of fishing opportunities. Although NMFS has the authority to set the daily retention limit up to five fish, the rate of harvest of the January subquota could be accelerated under a high limit (and higher fish availability), and result in a relatively short fishing season or quota exceedance. A short fishing season may preclude or reduce fishing opportunities for some individuals or geographic areas because of the migratory nature and seasonal distribution of BFT. Based on these considerations, NMFS has determined that a three-fish General category retention limit is warranted for the January 2017 subquota period. It would provide a reasonable opportunity to harvest the U.S. quota of BFT without exceeding it, while maintaining an equitable distribution of fishing opportunities, help optimize the ability of the General category to harvest its available quota, allow collection of a broad range of data for stock monitoring purposes, and be consistent with the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and amendments. Therefore, NMFS increases the General category retention limit from the default limit (one) to three large medium or giant PO 00000 Frm 00233 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 91875 BFT per vessel per day/trip, effective January 1, 2017, through March 31, 2017, or until the 41-mt January subquota is harvested, whichever comes first. Regardless of the duration of a fishing trip, the daily retention limit applies upon landing. For example, during the January 2017 subquota period, whether a vessel fishing under the General category limit takes a two-day trip or makes two trips in one day, the day/trip limit of three fish applies and may not be exceeded upon landing. This General category retention limit is effective in all areas, except for the Gulf of Mexico, where NMFS prohibits targeted fishing for BFT, and applies to those vessels permitted in the General category, as well as to those HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels fishing commercially for BFT. Monitoring and Reporting NMFS will continue to monitor the BFT fishery closely. Dealers are required to submit landing reports within 24 hours of a dealer receiving BFT. General, HMS Charter/Headboat, Harpoon, and Angling category vessel owners are required to report the catch of all BFT retained or discarded dead, within 24 hours of the landing(s) or end of each trip, by accessing hmspermits.noaa.gov. Depending on the level of fishing effort and catch rates of BFT, NMFS may determine that additional action (i.e., quota and/or daily retention limit adjustment, or closure) is necessary to ensure available quota is not exceeded or to enhance scientific data collection from, and fishing opportunities in, all geographic areas. If needed, subsequent adjustments will be published in the Federal Register. In addition, fishermen may call the Atlantic Tunas Information Line at (978) 281–9260, or access hmspermits.noaa.gov, for updates on quota monitoring and inseason adjustments. Classification The Assistant Administrator for NMFS (AA) finds that it is impracticable and contrary to the public interest to provide prior notice of, and an opportunity for public comment on, this action for the following reasons: The regulations implementing the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and amendments provide for inseason retention limit adjustments to respond to the unpredictable nature of BFT availability on the fishing grounds, the migratory nature of this species, and the regional variations in the BFT fishery. Affording prior notice and opportunity for public comment to implement the E:\FR\FM\19DER1.SGM 19DER1 91876 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 243 / Monday, December 19, 2016 / Rules and Regulations srobinson on DSK5SPTVN1PROD with RULES quota transfer and daily retention limit for the January 2017 subquota period at this time is impracticable. NMFS could not have proposed these actions earlier, as it needed to consider and respond to updated data and information from the 2016 General category fishery, including during late 2016, in deciding to transfer the December 2017 quota to the January 2017 subquota period and selecting the appropriate retention limit for the January 2017 subquota period. If NMFS was to offer a public comment period now, after having appropriately considered that data, it would preclude fishermen from harvesting BFT that are legally available consistent with all of the regulatory criteria, and/or could result in selection of a retention limit inappropriately high for the amount of quota available for the period. Delays in increasing the daily retention limit would adversely affect those General and HMS Charter/ Headboat category vessels that would otherwise have an opportunity to harvest more than the default retention limit of one BFT per day/trip and may exacerbate the problem of low catch rates and quota rollovers. Limited opportunities to harvest the respective quotas may have negative social and economic impacts for U.S. fishermen that depend upon catching the available quota within the time periods designated in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, as amended. Adjustment of the retention limit needs to be effective January 1, 2017, or as soon as possible thereafter, to minimize any unnecessary disruption in fishing patterns, to allow the impacted sectors to benefit from the adjustment, and to provide fishing opportunities for fishermen in geographic areas with access to the fishery only during this time period. Therefore, the AA finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive prior notice and the opportunity for public comment. For these reasons, there also is good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d) to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness. This action is being taken under §§ 635.23(a)(4) and 635.27(a)(9), and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq. and 1801 et seq. Dated: December 14, 2016. Emily H. Menashes, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2016–30481 Filed 12–14–16; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:05 Dec 16, 2016 Jkt 241001 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 635 [Docket No. 120627194–3657–02] RIN 0648–XF062 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; North Atlantic Swordfish Fishery National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Temporary rule; Swordfish General Commercial permit retention limit inseason adjustment for the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions. AGENCY: NMFS is adjusting the Swordfish (SWO) General Commercial permit retention limits for the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions for January through June of the 2017 fishing year, unless otherwise later noticed. The SWO General Commercial permit retention limit in each of these regions is increased from the regulatory default limits to six swordfish per vessel per trip. The SWO General Commercial permit retention limit in the Florida SWO Management Area will remain unchanged at the default limit of zero swordfish per vessel per trip. These adjustments apply to SWO General Commercial permitted vessels and Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Charter/Headboat permitted vessels when on a non-for-hire trip. This action is based upon consideration of the applicable inseason regional retention limit adjustment criteria. DATES: The adjusted SWO General Commercial permit retention limits in the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions are effective from January 1, 2017, through June 30, 2017. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Rick Pearson or Randy Blankinship, 727– 824–5399. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Regulations implemented under the authority of the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA; 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.) and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) governing the harvest of North Atlantic swordfish by persons and vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction are found at 50 CFR part 635. Section 635.27 subdivides the U.S. North Atlantic swordfish quota recommended SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00234 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and implemented by the United States into two equal semi-annual directed fishery quotas, an annual incidental catch quota for fishermen targeting other species or taking swordfish recreationally, and a reserve category, according to the allocations established in the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan (2006 Consolidated HMS FMP) (71 FR 58058, October 2, 2006), as amended, and in accordance with implementing regulations. NMFS is required under ATCA and the Magnuson-Stevens Act to provide U.S. fishing vessels with a reasonable opportunity to harvest the ICCATrecommended quota. ICCAT Recommendation 13–02 set the North Atlantic swordfish total allowable catch (TAC) at 10,301 metric tons (mt) dressed weight (dw) (13,700 mt whole weight (ww)) through 2016. Of this TAC, the United States’ baseline quota is 2,937.6 mt dw (3,907 mt ww) per year. The Recommendation also included an 18.8 mt dw (25 mt ww) annual quota transfer from the United States to Mauritania and limited underharvest carryover to 15 percent of a contracting party’s baseline quota. Thus, the United States could carry over a maximum of 440.6 mt dw (586.0 mt ww) of underharvest. A new Recommendation was adopted at the 2016 ICCAT annual meeting, maintaining the provisions related to quota, the transfer to Mauritania, and the carryover limit. Absent adjustments, the codified baseline quota is 2,937 mt dw for the directed fishery in 2017, split equally (1,468.5 mt dw) between two semi-annual periods in 2017 (January through June, and July through December). We anticipate, however, that the 2017 adjusted North Atlantic swordfish quota will be 3,359.4 mt dw (equivalent to the 2016 adjusted quota) when we adjust the quota. At this time, given the extent of underharvest in 2016, we anticipate again carrying over the maximum allowable 15 percent (440.6 mt dw) which, with the Mauritania transfer, would result in a final adjusted North Atlantic swordfish quota for the 2017 fishing year equal to that from last year 3,359.4 mt dw (2,937.6–18.8 + 440.6 = 3,359.4 mt dw). Also as in past years, we anticipate allocating from the adjusted quota, 50 mt dw to the Reserve category for inseason adjustments and research, and 300 mt dw to the incidental category, which includes recreational landings and landings by incidental swordfish permit holders, per § 635.27(c)(1)(i). E:\FR\FM\19DER1.SGM 19DER1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 243 (Monday, December 19, 2016)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 91873-91876]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-30481]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

[Docket No. 150121066-5717-02]
RIN 0648-XF067


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna 
Fisheries

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

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

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SUMMARY: NMFS is transferring 16.3 metric tons (mt) of Atlantic bluefin 
tuna (BFT) quota from the 24.3-mt General category December 2017 
subquota to the January 2017 subquota period (from January 1 through 
March 31, 2017, or until the available subquota for this period is 
reached, whichever comes first). NMFS also is adjusting the Atlantic 
tunas General category BFT daily retention limit for the January 2017 
subquota period to three large medium or giant BFT from the default 
retention limit of one. This action is based on consideration of the 
regulatory determination criteria regarding inseason adjustments and 
applies to Atlantic tunas General category (commercial) permitted 
vessels and Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Charter/Headboat category 
permitted vessels when fishing commercially for BFT.

DATES: The quota transfer is effective January 1, 2017, through March 
31, 2017. The General category retention limit adjustment is effective 
January 1, 2017, through March 31, 2017.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Regulations implemented under the authority 
of the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA; 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.) and 
the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-
Stevens Act; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) governing the harvest of BFT by 
persons and vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction are found at 50 CFR 
part 635. Section 635.27 subdivides the U.S. BFT quota recommended by 
the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas 
(ICCAT) and as implemented by the United States among the various 
domestic fishing categories, per the allocations established in the 
2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan 
(2006 Consolidated HMS FMP) (71 FR 58058, October 2, 2006), as amended 
by Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP (Amendment 7) (79 FR 
71510, December 2, 2014). NMFS is required under ATCA and the Magnuson-
Stevens Act to provide U.S. fishing vessels with a reasonable 
opportunity to harvest the ICCAT-recommended quota.
    The base quota for the General category is 466.7 mt. See Sec.  
635.27(a). Each of the General category time periods (January, June 
through August, September, October through November, and December) is 
allocated a portion of the annual General category quota. Although it 
is called the ``January''

[[Page 91874]]

subquota, the regulations allow the General category fishery under this 
quota to continue until the subquota is reached or March 31, whichever 
comes first. Based on the General category base quota of 466.7 mt, the 
subquotas for each time period are as follows: 24.7 mt for January; 
233.3 mt for June through August; 123.7 mt for September; 60.7 mt for 
October through November; and 24.3 mt for December. Any unused General 
category quota rolls forward within the fishing year, which coincides 
with the calendar year, from one time period to the next, and is 
available for use in subsequent time periods.

Quota Transfer

    Under Sec.  635.27(a)(9), NMFS has the authority to transfer quota 
among fishing categories or subcategories, after considering regulatory 
determination criteria provided under Sec.  635.27(a)(8).
    NMFS has considered all of the relevant determination criteria and 
their applicability to this inseason quota transfer and change in 
retention limit in the General category fishery. The criteria and their 
application are discussed below.

Transfer of 16.3 mt From the December Subquota to the January Subquota

    For the inseason quota transfer, NMFS considered the usefulness of 
information obtained from catches in the particular category for 
biological sampling and monitoring of the status of the stock (Sec.  
635.27(a)(8)(i)). Biological samples collected from BFT landed by 
General category fishermen and provided by tuna dealers provide NMFS 
with valuable parts and data for ongoing scientific studies of BFT age 
and growth, migration, and reproductive status.
    NMFS also considered the catches of the General category quota to 
date (including during the winter fishery in the last several years), 
and the likelihood of closure of that segment of the fishery if no 
adjustment is made (Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(ii)). Without a quota transfer 
from December 2017 to January 2017 for the General category at this 
time, the quota available for the January period would be 24.7 mt (5.3 
percent of the General category quota), and participants would have to 
stop BFT fishing activities once that amount is met, while commercial-
sized BFT may remain available in the areas where General category 
permitted vessels operate. Transferring 16.3 mt of the 24.3-mt quota 
available for December 2017 (with 24.3 mt representing 5.2 percent of 
the General category quota) would result in 41 mt (8.8 percent of the 
General category quota) being available for the January subquota 
period. This quota transfer would provide additional opportunities to 
harvest the U.S. BFT quota without exceeding it, while preserving the 
opportunity for General category fishermen to participate in the winter 
BFT fishery at both the beginning and end of the calendar year.
    Regarding the projected ability of the vessels fishing under the 
particular category quota (here, the General category) to harvest the 
additional amount of BFT before the end of the fishing year (Sec.  
635.27(a)(8)(iii)), NMFS considered General category landings in the 
last several years. General category landings in the winter BFT fishery 
tend to straddle the calendar year as BFT may be available in late 
November/December and into January of the following year or later. 
Landings are highly variable and depend on access to commercial-sized 
BFT and fishing conditions, among other factors. Any unused General 
category quota from the January subperiod that remains as of March 31 
will roll forward to the next subperiod within the calendar year (i.e., 
the June-August time period). In 2016, NMFS transferred the entire 
24.3-mt December subquota to the January time period, for an adjusted 
January 2016 subquota of 49 mt. Under a three-fish General category 
daily retention limit, that adjusted subquota allowed the fishery to 
continue through the end of March.
    NMFS also considered the estimated amounts by which quotas for 
other gear categories of the fishery might be exceeded (Sec.  
635.27(a)(8)(iv)) and the ability to account for all 2017 landings and 
dead discards. In the last several years, total U.S. BFT landings have 
been below the available U.S. quota such that the United States has 
carried forward the maximum amount of underharvest allowed by ICCAT 
from one year to the next. In 2016, the General category exceeded its 
adjusted quota (discussed below) but sufficient quota was available to 
cover the exceedance without affecting the other categories. NMFS will 
need to account for 2017 landings and dead discards within the adjusted 
U.S. quota, consistent with ICCAT recommendations, and anticipates 
having sufficient quota to do that.
    This transfer would be consistent with the current quotas, which 
were established and analyzed in the 2015 BFT quota final rule (80 FR 
52198, August 28, 2015), and with objectives of the 2006 Consolidated 
HMS FMP and amendments. (Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(v) and (vi)). Another 
principal consideration is the objective of providing opportunities to 
harvest the full annual U.S. BFT quota without exceeding it based on 
the goals of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and Amendment 7, including 
to achieve optimum yield on a continuing basis and to optimize the 
ability of all permit categories to harvest their full BFT quota 
allocations (related to Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(x)).
    NMFS also anticipates that some underharvest of the 2016 adjusted 
U.S. BFT quota will be carried forward to 2017 and placed in the 
Reserve category, in accordance with the regulations. This, in addition 
to the fact that any unused General category quota will roll forward to 
the next subperiod within the calendar year, along with NMFS' plan to 
actively manage the subquotas to avoid any exceedances, makes it likely 
that General category quota will remain available through the end of 
2017 for December fishery participants, even with the quota transfer. 
NMFS also may choose to transfer unused quota from the Reserve or other 
categories, inseason, based on consideration of the determination 
criteria, as NMFS did for late 2016, (i.e., transferred 125 mt from the 
Reserve category (81 FR 70369, October 12, 2016) and later transferred 
another 85 mt (18 mt from the Harpoon category and 67 mt from the 
Reserve category) (81 FR 71639, October 18, 2016).
    In 2016, NMFS closed the General category quota effective November 
4 to prevent further overharvest of the adjusted General category 
quota. General category landings were relatively high in the fall of 
2016, due to a combination of fish availability, favorable fishing 
conditions, and higher daily retention limits (described below). NMFS 
anticipates that General category participants in all areas and time 
periods will have opportunities to harvest the General category quota 
in 2017, through active inseason management such as retention limit 
adjustments and/or the timing of quota transfers, as practicable. Thus, 
this quota transfer would allow fishermen to take advantage of the 
availability of fish on the fishing grounds, consider the expected 
increases in available 2017 quota later in the year, and provide a 
reasonable opportunity to harvest the full U.S. BFT quota.
    Based on the considerations above, NMFS is transferring 16.3 mt of 
the 24.3-mt General category quota allocated for the December 2017 
period to the January 2017 period, resulting in a subquota of 41 mt for 
the January 2017 period and a subquota of 8 mt for the December 2017 
period. NMFS will close the General category fishery when the adjusted 
January period subquota of 41 mt has been reached, or it will close

[[Page 91875]]

automatically on March 31, 2017, whichever comes first, and it will 
remain closed until the General category fishery reopens on June 1, 
2017.

Adjustment of General Category Daily Retention Limit

    Unless changed, the General category daily retention limit starting 
on January 1 would be the default retention limit of one large medium 
or giant BFT (measuring 73 inches (185 cm) curved fork length (CFL) or 
greater) per vessel per day/trip (Sec.  635.23(a)(2)). This default 
retention limit would apply to General category permitted vessels and 
to HMS Charter/Headboat category permitted vessels when fishing 
commercially for BFT.
    Under Sec.  635.23(a)(4), NMFS may increase or decrease the daily 
retention limit of large medium and giant BFT over a range of zero to a 
maximum of five per vessel based on consideration of the relevant 
criteria provided under Sec.  635.27(a)(8), and listed above. For the 
2016 fishing year, NMFS adjusted the daily retention limit from the 
default level of one large medium or giant BFT to three large medium or 
giant BFT for the January 2016 subquota period (80 FR 77264, December 
14, 2015); and five large medium or giant BFT for the June through 
August 2016 subquota period (81 FR 29501, May 12, 2016). Although NMFS 
initially adjusted the daily retention limit for the September, October 
through November, and December periods to five large medium or giant 
BFT (81 FR 59153, August 29, 2016), NMFS later decreased the limit to 
four fish effective October 9 (81 FR 70369, October 12, 2016) and to 
two fish effective October 17 (81 FR 71639, October 18, 2016). NMFS 
closed the 2016 General category quota effective November 4, 2016. NMFS 
has considered the relevant criteria and their applicability to the 
General category BFT retention limit for the January 2017 subquota 
period.
    As described above with regard to the quota transfer, additional 
opportunity to land BFT would support the collection of a broad range 
of data for biological studies and for stock monitoring purposes. 
Regarding the effects of the adjustment on BFT rebuilding and 
overfishing and the effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the 
objectives of the fishery management plan, this action would be taken 
consistent with the previously implemented and analyzed quotas, and it 
is not expected to negatively impact stock health or otherwise affect 
the stock in ways not previously analyzed. It is also supported by the 
Environmental Assessment for the 2011 final rule regarding General and 
Harpoon category management measures, which increased the General 
category maximum daily retention limit from three to five fish (76 FR 
74003, November 30, 2011).
    Regarding the catches of the particular category quota to date and 
the likelihood of closure of that segment of the fishery if no 
adjustment is made, in 2012, 2013, and 2014, the available January 
subquota (23.1 mt) was reached on January 22, February 15, and March 
21, respectively, under a limit of two large medium or giant BFT, and 
in each of these years, the General category did not reach its 
available quota by the end of the year. For 2015, the adjusted January 
subquota of 45.7 was not met under a daily retention limit of three 
large medium or giant BFT, whereas for 2016, the adjusted subquota of 
49 mt was reached, and slightly exceeded, as of March 31 under a three-
fish limit.
    As noted above, commercial-sized BFT are typically available in 
January and may continue to be available through March. Considering 
this information and the transfer of 16.3 mt of the 24.3-mt December 
2017 subquota to the January 2017 subquota period (for an adjusted 
total of 41 mt), the default one-fish limit likely would be overly 
restrictive. Increasing the daily retention limit from the default may 
mitigate rolling an excessive amount of unused quota from one time-
period subquota to the next and thus help maintain an equitable 
distribution of fishing opportunities. Although NMFS has the authority 
to set the daily retention limit up to five fish, the rate of harvest 
of the January subquota could be accelerated under a high limit (and 
higher fish availability), and result in a relatively short fishing 
season or quota exceedance. A short fishing season may preclude or 
reduce fishing opportunities for some individuals or geographic areas 
because of the migratory nature and seasonal distribution of BFT.
    Based on these considerations, NMFS has determined that a three-
fish General category retention limit is warranted for the January 2017 
subquota period. It would provide a reasonable opportunity to harvest 
the U.S. quota of BFT without exceeding it, while maintaining an 
equitable distribution of fishing opportunities, help optimize the 
ability of the General category to harvest its available quota, allow 
collection of a broad range of data for stock monitoring purposes, and 
be consistent with the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and 
amendments. Therefore, NMFS increases the General category retention 
limit from the default limit (one) to three large medium or giant BFT 
per vessel per day/trip, effective January 1, 2017, through March 31, 
2017, or until the 41-mt January subquota is harvested, whichever comes 
first.
    Regardless of the duration of a fishing trip, the daily retention 
limit applies upon landing. For example, during the January 2017 
subquota period, whether a vessel fishing under the General category 
limit takes a two-day trip or makes two trips in one day, the day/trip 
limit of three fish applies and may not be exceeded upon landing. This 
General category retention limit is effective in all areas, except for 
the Gulf of Mexico, where NMFS prohibits targeted fishing for BFT, and 
applies to those vessels permitted in the General category, as well as 
to those HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels fishing commercially 
for BFT.

Monitoring and Reporting

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

Classification

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

[[Page 91876]]

quota transfer and daily retention limit for the January 2017 subquota 
period at this time is impracticable. NMFS could not have proposed 
these actions earlier, as it needed to consider and respond to updated 
data and information from the 2016 General category fishery, including 
during late 2016, in deciding to transfer the December 2017 quota to 
the January 2017 subquota period and selecting the appropriate 
retention limit for the January 2017 subquota period. If NMFS was to 
offer a public comment period now, after having appropriately 
considered that data, it would preclude fishermen from harvesting BFT 
that are legally available consistent with all of the regulatory 
criteria, and/or could result in selection of a retention limit 
inappropriately high for the amount of quota available for the period.
    Delays in increasing the daily retention limit would adversely 
affect those General and HMS Charter/Headboat category vessels that 
would otherwise have an opportunity to harvest more than the default 
retention limit of one BFT per day/trip and may exacerbate the problem 
of low catch rates and quota rollovers. Limited opportunities to 
harvest the respective quotas may have negative social and economic 
impacts for U.S. fishermen that depend upon catching the available 
quota within the time periods designated in the 2006 Consolidated HMS 
FMP, as amended. Adjustment of the retention limit needs to be 
effective January 1, 2017, or as soon as possible thereafter, to 
minimize any unnecessary disruption in fishing patterns, to allow the 
impacted sectors to benefit from the adjustment, and to provide fishing 
opportunities for fishermen in geographic areas with access to the 
fishery only during this time period. Therefore, the AA finds good 
cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive prior notice and the 
opportunity for public comment. For these reasons, there also is good 
cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d) to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness.
    This action is being taken under Sec. Sec.  635.23(a)(4) and 
635.27(a)(9), and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.

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

    Dated: December 14, 2016.
Emily H. Menashes,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2016-30481 Filed 12-14-16; 4:15 pm]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P