Amendments to the Reef Fish, Spiny Lobster, and Corals and Reef Associated Plants and Invertebrates Fishery Management Plans of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, 1308-1309 [2016-31927]

Download as PDF 1308 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 3 / Thursday, January 5, 2017 / Proposed Rules DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 622 RIN 0648–BG29 Amendments to the Reef Fish, Spiny Lobster, and Corals and Reef Associated Plants and Invertebrates Fishery Management Plans of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments. AGENCY: The Caribbean Fishery Management Council (Council) has submitted Amendment 8 to the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for the Reef Fish Fishery of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) (Reef Fish FMP), Amendment 7 to the FMP for the Spiny Lobster Fishery of Puerto Rico and the USVI (Spiny Lobster FMP), and Amendment 6 to the FMP for the Corals and Reef Associated Plants and Invertebrates of Puerto Rico and the USVI (Coral FMP) for review, approval, and implementation by NMFS. In combination, these amendments represent the Accountability Measure (AM) Timing Amendment. The AM Timing Amendment would change the date for the implementation of AMbased closures for all species and species groups managed by the Council under the subject FMPs and specify that the Council must periodically revisit this implementation date. The purpose of the AM Timing Amendment is to minimize, to the extent practicable, the adverse socio-economic impacts of AMbased closures, while constraining catch levels to the applicable annual catch limit (ACL) and preventing overfishing. DATES: Written comments must be received on or before March 6, 2017. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the AM Timing Amendment, identified by ‘‘NOAA–NMFS–2016– 0013’’ by either of the following methods: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20160013, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Submit written comments to ´ ´ Marıa del Mar Lopez, Southeast mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with PROPOSALS SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:07 Jan 04, 2017 Jkt 241001 Regional Office, NMFS, 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 the Timing of AM Timing Amendment, which includes an environmental assessment, a Regulatory Flexibility Act analysis, and a regulatory impact review, may be obtained from the Southeast Regional Office Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/ sustainable_fisheries/caribbean/ index.html. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: ´ ´ Marıa del Mar Lopez, telephone: 727– 824–5305, or email: maria.lopez@ noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) requires each regional fishery management council to submit any FMP or FMP amendment to NMFS for review and approval, partial approval, or disapproval. The Magnuson-Stevens Act also requires that NMFS, upon receiving a plan or amendment, publish an announcement in the Federal Register notifying the public that the plan or amendment is available for review and comment. The FMPs being revised by the AM Timing Amendment were prepared by the Council, and implemented by NMFS through regulations at 50 CFR part 622 under the authority of the MagnusonStevens Act. Background The current AMs in the U.S. Caribbean exclusive economic zone (EEZ) for reef fish, spiny lobster, and corals require NMFS to reduce the length of the Federal fishing season for a species or species group in the year following a determination that the landings exceeded the applicable ACL. As specified in the FMPs, the landings determination is based on the applicable 3-year landings average exceeding the respective ACL. However, if NMFS determines the ACL for a particular species or species group was exceeded PO 00000 Frm 00078 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 because of enhanced data collection and monitoring efforts, instead of an increase in total catch, NMFS will not reduce the length of the fishing season the following fishing year. The fishing season is reduced in the year following an ACL overage determination, by the amount necessary to constrain landings to the ACL. These AM-based reductions in the length of the fishing season, for any species or species group for which the ACL has been exceeded, currently end on December 31st of the closure year and extend backward into the fishing year for the number of days necessary to achieve the required reduction in landings. The fishing year for Council-managed species in Caribbean Federal waters is the calendar year of January 1 through December 31. Fishers in the USVI and Puerto Rico have stated to the Council that implementing AM-based closures at the end of the fishing year results in negative socio-economic impacts, for example, by resulting in multiple and potentially overlapping closures during the important December holiday season. Actions Contained in the AM Timing Amendment The AM Timing Amendment would modify the implementation date for AM-based closures for species managed under the Reef Fish, Coral, and Spiny Lobster FMPs, and specify that the Council must periodically revisit this implementation date. The Council’s goal for the actions considered in this amendment is, to the extent practicable, to minimize the adverse socio-economic impacts of AM-based closures, while still constraining catch levels to the applicable ACLs and preventing overfishing, as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The FMP for the Queen Conch Resources of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands is not included in the AM Timing Amendment because queen conch are managed with an in-season closure when the ACL is reached or projected to be reached, rather than a post-season reduction in the fishing year. Modification of the Date for the Implementation of AM-Based Closures The AM Timing Amendment would modify the date for the implementation of an AM-based closure in the year following an ACL overage determination for a species or species group managed by the Council in Federal waters off Puerto Rico, St. Thomas/St. John, and St. Croix, under the Reef Fish, Coral, and Spiny Lobster FMPs. Specifically, instead of the current end date of December 31 for AM-based closures, AM-based closures would be E:\FR\FM\05JAP1.SGM 05JAP1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 3 / Thursday, January 5, 2017 / Proposed Rules mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with PROPOSALS implemented using an end date of September 30 of the closure year, and extend backward toward the beginning of the Federal fishing year (January 1), for the number of days necessary to achieve the required reduction in landings. If the length of the required fishing season reduction exceeds the period of January 1 through September 30, any additional fishing season reduction would be applied from October 1 forward, toward the end of the fishing year (December 31). The proposed AM-based closure end date of September 30 would increase the likelihood that any AM-based closures would occur during a time of the year when the socio-economic impacts to fishers are expected to be less severe. Modifying the date for the implementation of AM-based closures would not change the level of harvest reduction in the event that an AM-based closure is required. The Council determined that an AM-based closure implementation date of September 30 going backward toward the beginning of the year, applicable to all species or species groups across all island management areas, except for queen conch, would minimize, to the extent practicable, negative socio-economic effects from the implementation of AMs VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:07 Jan 04, 2017 Jkt 241001 while constraining harvest to the applicable ACL and preventing overfishing. This approach to the timing for AM-based closures has been identified by Caribbean fishers as desirable, because it avoids periods of high demand for fish so they do not risk losing markets, and thus is expected to minimize adverse socio-economic effects from the implementation of AMs. Specification of a Time Period for Revisiting the Approach Selected To Establish AM-Based Closures The AM Timing Amendment would also ensure the Council revisit, and possibly revise, using September 30 as the end date for AM-based closures, no longer than 2 years from the implementation of the AM Timing Amendment and every 2 years thereafter. This is expected to result in positive social and economic management effects from the ability to change the method of applying AMbased closures based on new information. A proposed rule that would implement the measures outlined in the AM Timing Amendment has been drafted. In accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS is evaluating the proposed rule to PO 00000 Frm 00079 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 1309 determine whether it is consistent with the FMPs, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law. If that determination is affirmative, NMFS will publish the proposed rule in the Federal Register for public review and comment. Consideration of Public Comments The Council has submitted the AM Timing Amendment for Secretarial review, approval, and implementation. Comments on the AM Timing Amendment must be received by March 6, 2017. Comments received during the respective comment periods, whether specifically directed to the amendment or the proposed rule, will be considered by NMFS in its decision to approve, disapprove, or partially approve the AM Timing Amendment. All comments received by NMFS on the amendment or the proposed rule during their respective comment periods will be addressed in the final rule. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: December 29, 2016. Alan D. Risenhoover, Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2016–31927 Filed 1–4–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\05JAP1.SGM 05JAP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 3 (Thursday, January 5, 2017)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 1308-1309]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-31927]



[[Page 1308]]

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

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

RIN 0648-BG29


Amendments to the Reef Fish, Spiny Lobster, and Corals and Reef 
Associated Plants and Invertebrates Fishery Management Plans of Puerto 
Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands

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

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: The Caribbean Fishery Management Council (Council) has 
submitted Amendment 8 to the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for the Reef 
Fish Fishery of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) (Reef 
Fish FMP), Amendment 7 to the FMP for the Spiny Lobster Fishery of 
Puerto Rico and the USVI (Spiny Lobster FMP), and Amendment 6 to the 
FMP for the Corals and Reef Associated Plants and Invertebrates of 
Puerto Rico and the USVI (Coral FMP) for review, approval, and 
implementation by NMFS. In combination, these amendments represent the 
Accountability Measure (AM) Timing Amendment. The AM Timing Amendment 
would change the date for the implementation of AM-based closures for 
all species and species groups managed by the Council under the subject 
FMPs and specify that the Council must periodically revisit this 
implementation date. The purpose of the AM Timing Amendment is to 
minimize, to the extent practicable, the adverse socio-economic impacts 
of AM-based closures, while constraining catch levels to the applicable 
annual catch limit (ACL) and preventing overfishing.

DATES: Written comments must be received on or before March 6, 2017.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the AM Timing Amendment, 
identified by ``NOAA-NMFS-2016-0013'' by either of the following 
methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2016-0013, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Mar[iacute]a del Mar 
L[oacute]pez, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 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 the Timing of AM Timing Amendment, which 
includes an environmental assessment, a Regulatory Flexibility Act 
analysis, and a regulatory impact review, may be obtained from the 
Southeast Regional Office Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/caribbean/index.html.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mar[iacute]a del Mar L[oacute]pez, 
telephone: 727-824-5305, or email: maria.lopez@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation 
and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) requires each regional 
fishery management council to submit any FMP or FMP amendment to NMFS 
for review and approval, partial approval, or disapproval. The 
Magnuson-Stevens Act also requires that NMFS, upon receiving a plan or 
amendment, publish an announcement in the Federal Register notifying 
the public that the plan or amendment is available for review and 
comment.
    The FMPs being revised by the AM Timing Amendment were prepared by 
the Council, and implemented by NMFS through regulations at 50 CFR part 
622 under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

Background

    The current AMs in the U.S. Caribbean exclusive economic zone (EEZ) 
for reef fish, spiny lobster, and corals require NMFS to reduce the 
length of the Federal fishing season for a species or species group in 
the year following a determination that the landings exceeded the 
applicable ACL. As specified in the FMPs, the landings determination is 
based on the applicable 3-year landings average exceeding the 
respective ACL. However, if NMFS determines the ACL for a particular 
species or species group was exceeded because of enhanced data 
collection and monitoring efforts, instead of an increase in total 
catch, NMFS will not reduce the length of the fishing season the 
following fishing year. The fishing season is reduced in the year 
following an ACL overage determination, by the amount necessary to 
constrain landings to the ACL. These AM-based reductions in the length 
of the fishing season, for any species or species group for which the 
ACL has been exceeded, currently end on December 31st of the closure 
year and extend backward into the fishing year for the number of days 
necessary to achieve the required reduction in landings. The fishing 
year for Council-managed species in Caribbean Federal waters is the 
calendar year of January 1 through December 31. Fishers in the USVI and 
Puerto Rico have stated to the Council that implementing AM-based 
closures at the end of the fishing year results in negative socio-
economic impacts, for example, by resulting in multiple and potentially 
overlapping closures during the important December holiday season.

Actions Contained in the AM Timing Amendment

    The AM Timing Amendment would modify the implementation date for 
AM-based closures for species managed under the Reef Fish, Coral, and 
Spiny Lobster FMPs, and specify that the Council must periodically 
revisit this implementation date. The Council's goal for the actions 
considered in this amendment is, to the extent practicable, to minimize 
the adverse socio-economic impacts of AM-based closures, while still 
constraining catch levels to the applicable ACLs and preventing 
overfishing, as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The FMP for the 
Queen Conch Resources of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands is not 
included in the AM Timing Amendment because queen conch are managed 
with an in-season closure when the ACL is reached or projected to be 
reached, rather than a post-season reduction in the fishing year.

Modification of the Date for the Implementation of AM-Based Closures

    The AM Timing Amendment would modify the date for the 
implementation of an AM-based closure in the year following an ACL 
overage determination for a species or species group managed by the 
Council in Federal waters off Puerto Rico, St. Thomas/St. John, and St. 
Croix, under the Reef Fish, Coral, and Spiny Lobster FMPs. 
Specifically, instead of the current end date of December 31 for AM-
based closures, AM-based closures would be

[[Page 1309]]

implemented using an end date of September 30 of the closure year, and 
extend backward toward the beginning of the Federal fishing year 
(January 1), for the number of days necessary to achieve the required 
reduction in landings. If the length of the required fishing season 
reduction exceeds the period of January 1 through September 30, any 
additional fishing season reduction would be applied from October 1 
forward, toward the end of the fishing year (December 31). The proposed 
AM-based closure end date of September 30 would increase the likelihood 
that any AM-based closures would occur during a time of the year when 
the socio-economic impacts to fishers are expected to be less severe. 
Modifying the date for the implementation of AM-based closures would 
not change the level of harvest reduction in the event that an AM-based 
closure is required. The Council determined that an AM-based closure 
implementation date of September 30 going backward toward the beginning 
of the year, applicable to all species or species groups across all 
island management areas, except for queen conch, would minimize, to the 
extent practicable, negative socio-economic effects from the 
implementation of AMs while constraining harvest to the applicable ACL 
and preventing overfishing. This approach to the timing for AM-based 
closures has been identified by Caribbean fishers as desirable, because 
it avoids periods of high demand for fish so they do not risk losing 
markets, and thus is expected to minimize adverse socio-economic 
effects from the implementation of AMs.

Specification of a Time Period for Revisiting the Approach Selected To 
Establish AM-Based Closures

    The AM Timing Amendment would also ensure the Council revisit, and 
possibly revise, using September 30 as the end date for AM-based 
closures, no longer than 2 years from the implementation of the AM 
Timing Amendment and every 2 years thereafter. This is expected to 
result in positive social and economic management effects from the 
ability to change the method of applying AM-based closures based on new 
information.
    A proposed rule that would implement the measures outlined in the 
AM Timing Amendment has been drafted. In accordance with the Magnuson-
Stevens Act, NMFS is evaluating the proposed rule to determine whether 
it is consistent with the FMPs, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other 
applicable law. If that determination is affirmative, NMFS will publish 
the proposed rule in the Federal Register for public review and 
comment.

Consideration of Public Comments

    The Council has submitted the AM Timing Amendment for Secretarial 
review, approval, and implementation. Comments on the AM Timing 
Amendment must be received by March 6, 2017. Comments received during 
the respective comment periods, whether specifically directed to the 
amendment or the proposed rule, will be considered by NMFS in its 
decision to approve, disapprove, or partially approve the AM Timing 
Amendment. All comments received by NMFS on the amendment or the 
proposed rule during their respective comment periods will be addressed 
in the final rule.

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

    Dated: December 29, 2016.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2016-31927 Filed 1-4-17; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P