Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region; Amendment 36, 5512-5517 [2017-00859]

Download as PDF 5512 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 11 / Wednesday, January 18, 2017 / Proposed Rules States may not be used to target, retain on board, transship, or land Pacific bluefin tuna captured in the Convention Area, with the exception that any Pacific bluefin tuna already on board a fishing vessel on the effective date of the notice may be retained on board, transshipped, and/or landed, to the extent authorized by applicable laws and regulations, provided such Pacific bluefin tuna is landed within 14 days after the effective date published in the fishing closure notice. * * * * * [FR Doc. 2017–00623 Filed 1–13–17; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 622 [Docket No. 161020986–7012–01] RIN 0648–BG38 Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; SnapperGrouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region; Amendment 36 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. AGENCY: Proposed rule; request for comments. ACTION: NMFS proposes regulations to implement Amendment 36 to the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region as prepared and submitted by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council). If implemented, this proposed rule would modify the FMP framework procedures to allow spawning special management zones (SMZs) to be established or modified through the framework process; establish spawning SMZs off North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida; establish transit and anchoring provisions in the spawning SMZs; and establish a sunset provision for most of the spawning SMZs. This proposed rule would also move the boundary of the existing Charleston Deep Artificial Reef Marine Protected Area (MPA). The purpose of this proposed rule is to protect spawning snapper-grouper species and their spawning habitat, and to reduce bycatch and bycatch mortality for snapper-grouper species, including speckled hind and warsaw grouper. mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with PROPOSALS SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:51 Jan 17, 2017 Jkt 241001 Written comments on the proposed rule must be received by February 17, 2017. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the proposed rule, identified by ‘‘NOAA–NMFS–2016–0153,’’ 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– 0153, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Submit written comments to Frank Helies, NMFS Southeast Regional Office, 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 required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Electronic copies of Amendment 36 may be obtained from www.regulations.gov or the Southeast Regional Office Web site at http:// sero.nmfs.noaa.gov. Amendment 36 includes an environmental assessment, Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) analysis, regulatory impact review, and fishery impact statement. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Frank Helies, NMFS Southeast Regional Office, telephone: 727–824–5305, or email: frank.helies@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The snapper-grouper fishery in the South Atlantic region is managed under the FMP and includes speckled hind and warsaw grouper, along with other snapper-grouper species. The FMP was prepared by the 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). DATES: Background The Council developed Amendment 36 to protect spawning snapper-grouper species and their spawning habitat by prohibiting fishing for or harvest of snapper-grouper species in certain areas PO 00000 Frm 00082 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 year-round in Federal waters of the South Atlantic. Areas designated for protection would include habitat characteristics, bottom topography (hard and live bottom), and currents that provide essential fish habitat important for spawning snapper-grouper species. The Council determined that protecting spawning snapper-grouper and their associated habitats would allow these species to produce more larvae, and may subsequently increase snappergrouper populations. The Council also developed Amendment 36 to reduce bycatch and bycatch mortality of snapper-grouper species, including speckled hind and warsaw grouper. The snapper-grouper fishery in the South Atlantic is a highly regulated, multi-species fishery. Discards in the fishery can occur due to regulations, such as closed seasons, possession or size limits, or from catch and release of these species. For snapper-grouper species prohibited from harvest, such as speckled hind and warsaw grouper, fish discarded due to regulations are considered bycatch. The deep-water snapper-grouper species are further impacted due to high discard mortality rates (low survivability due to barotrauma). The Council concluded that prohibiting the use of certain fishing gear in specified areas where snapper-grouper are known to occur and possibly spawn would reduce encounters with these species and subsequently provide protection for reproduction. Spawning SMZs could provide long-term beneficial biological and socio-economic effects if spawning fish are sufficiently protected. The Council has identified a total of five areas proposed to be considered as spawning SMZs in the South Atlantic off North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida. These areas have been identified based on the documented occurrence of snapper-grouper species and analysis of spawning data, recommendations from the Council’s MPA Expert Work Group and SnapperGrouper Advisory Panel, as well as cooperative research and public recommendations. Amendment 36 also contains a 10year sunset provision that would apply to most of the proposed spawning SMZs. The sunset provision would allow for most of the spawning SMZs to expire 10 years following the implementation date unless they are renewed. When deciding whether to renew a spawning SMZ, the Council may consider the evidence of spawning by snapper-grouper species in the spawning SMZ and whether a spawning SMZ is being monitored. The Council concluded that a 10-year sunset E:\FR\FM\18JAP1.SGM 18JAP1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 11 / Wednesday, January 18, 2017 / Proposed Rules mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with PROPOSALS provision would help to ensure that spawning SMZs are monitored and evaluated during this period to document snapper-grouper spawning within the sites. The Council developed a system management plan (SMP) for the spawning SMZs proposed in Amendment 36. The SMP describes in detail the monitoring and evaluation requirements for the proposed spawning SMZs. The Council recognizes that monitoring the proposed spawning SMZs by academic, state, or NMFS personnel is necessary to evaluate their effectiveness. Therefore, the SMP outlines the potential monitoring partners and their roles. In addition to the spawning SMZs proposed for a similar purpose through Amendment 36, the Council originally designated the Charleston Deep Artificial Reef MPA, located off South Carolina, in Amendment 14 to the Snapper-Grouper FMP (74 FR 1621, January 13, 2009) to add protected snapper-grouper habitat and contribute to adding fish biomass. Recently, the State of South Carolina worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to modify the boundary of this site to include additional substrate material that was sunk by the state in the area of this MPA. The State of South Carolina requested the Council shift the boundary of the existing Charleston Deep Artificial Reef MPA to match the new boundary of the artificial reef site. This proposed rule would align the Charleston Deep Artificial Reef MPA boundary with the site permitted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, while retaining the size of the current MPA. This proposed rule would move the existing boundary around the Charleston Deep Artificial Reef MPA 1.4 mi (2.3 km) to the northwest. Management Measures Contained in This Proposed Rule This proposed rule would modify the FMP framework procedures to allow spawning SMZs to be established or modified through the framework process; establish spawning SMZs off North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida; establish transit and anchoring provisions in the spawning SMZs; establish a sunset provision for most of the spawning SMZs; and move the existing Charleston Deep Artificial Reef MPA 1.4 mi (2.3 km) northwest to match the permitted site boundary. Modify the FMP Framework Procedures for Spawning SMZs Amending the FMP can require more detailed analyses and requires a lengthier prescribed timeline prior to VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:51 Jan 17, 2017 Jkt 241001 implementation. However, the current FMP contains framework procedures to allow the Council to modify certain management measures, such as annual catch limits and other management measures, via an expedited process (see 50 CFR 622.194; 56 FR 56016, October 31, 1991). Currently, SMZs cannot be modified under the framework process, so any changes to SMZs are required to be done through an FMP amendment. In Amendment 36 and this proposed rule, the Council has decided to include changes to spawning SMZs, such as boundary modifications and the establishment or removal of spawning SMZs, under the framework process. For example, this proposed rule would allow the Council to remove a spawning SMZ if monitoring efforts do not document evidence of spawning snapper-grouper species within the boundary. The proposed revisions to the FMP framework procedures would also allow the Council to remove the proposed 10-year sunset provision for a proposed spawning SMZ if monitoring efforts document snapper-grouper species’ spawning inside a spawning SMZ. The Council has decided that changing spawning SMZs through an expedited process can have beneficial biological and socio-economic impacts, especially if the changes respond to newer information, such as spawning locations for snapper-grouper species. The Council has concluded that the framework process will allow adequate time for the public to comment on any proposed change related to a spawning SMZ. Establish Spawning SMZs Off North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida The existing South Atlantic SMZs restrict the use of certain fishing gear in areas including artificial reefs, fish attraction devices, and other modified areas of habitat for fishing (50 CFR 622.182). Possession limits can also be regulated in SMZs. The original FMP established SMZs for artificial reefs to restrict certain fishing gear on artificial reefs (48 FR 49463, August 31, 1983). Currently, there are no spawning SMZs for snapper-grouper in the South Atlantic. The Council is proposing to establish five snapper-grouper spawning SMZs in the South Atlantic off North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida. The proposed spawning SMZ off North Carolina would be called South Cape Lookout (5.1 sq mi; 13.2 sq km). The Council is proposing three spawning SMZs off South Carolina that would be called Devil’s Hole/Georgetown Hole (3.03 sq mi; 7.8 sq km), Area 51 (approximately 3 sq mi; 7.8 sq km), and Area 53 (approximately 3 sq mi; 7.8 sq PO 00000 Frm 00083 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 5513 km). The proposed spawning SMZ off the east coast of the Florida Keys would be called Warsaw Hole/50 Fathom Hole (3.64 sq mi; 9.4 sq km). This proposed rule would prohibit fishing for or harvest of snapper-grouper species year-round in the proposed spawning SMZs. Certain other activities in the spawning SMZs would be restricted, including transiting with snapper-grouper species on board and anchoring. Another purpose of spawning SMZs is to reduce bycatch and bycatch mortality of snapper-grouper species, including speckled hind and warsaw grouper. Currently, retention of speckled hind and warsaw grouper is prohibited in Federal waters in the South Atlantic. Prohibiting the targeting or harvest of snapper-grouper species in specified areas where these species are known to occur and possibly spawn would reduce encounters with these deep-water species and provide protection for reproduction. The Council concluded that protecting snapper-grouper species within the spawning SMZs could enhance the opportunity for these species to reproduce and provide more larvae into the environment. Spawning SMZs would also allow opportunities to monitor population changes in snappergrouper species and further refine protection of spawning habitat. Establish Transit and Anchoring Provisions in Spawning SMZs This proposed rule would allow vessels to transit through the proposed spawning SMZs with snapper-grouper species on board when fishing gear is properly stowed. ‘‘Properly stowed’’ means that trawl or try nets and the attached doors must be out of the water, but would not be required to be on deck or secured below deck. Terminal gear (hook, leader, sinker, flasher, or bait) used with automatic reels, bandit gear, buoy gear, handline, or rod and reel would have to be disconnected and stowed separately from such fishing gear and sinkers would have to be disconnected from down riggers and stowed separately. Vessels in the spawning SMZs would be prohibited from fishing for, harvest, or possession of snapper-grouper species year-round in these areas. Except for the experimental artificial reefs Area 51 and Area 53 off South Carolina, persons on board a fishing vessel would not be allowed to anchor, use an anchor or chain, or use a grapple and chain while in spawning SMZs. Fishermen would continue to be allowed to troll for pelagic species such as dolphin, tuna, and billfish in spawning SMZs. E:\FR\FM\18JAP1.SGM 18JAP1 5514 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 11 / Wednesday, January 18, 2017 / Proposed Rules Establish a Sunset Provision for Most Spawning SMZs This proposed rule would implement a 10-year sunset provision for the establishment of the spawning SMZs, except for the Area 51 and Area 53 Spawning SMZs, which will remain in effect indefinitely. Thus, except for the latter two areas, the proposed spawning SMZs and their associated management measures would be effective for 10 years following the implementation of a final rule for Amendment 36. For the proposed spawning SMZs and management measures subject to the sunset provision to extend beyond 10 years, the Council would need to evaluate the effectiveness of the spawning SMZs for conserving and protecting spawning snapper-grouper species, and subsequently take further action. The Council will regularly evaluate all of the spawning SMZs over the 10-year period. They concluded that this period was an appropriate timeframe to monitor the sites and determine whether a sufficient level of spawning by snapper-grouper species occurs to justify continued protection as spawning SMZs. Move the Existing Charleston Deep Artificial Reef MPA This proposed rule would move the existing Charleston Deep Artificial Reef MPA 1.4 mi (2.3 km) northwest to match the boundary of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ permitted artificial reef area at that location. This proposed rule would not change the size of the existing MPA. The Council originally designated the current area as an artificial reef site in Amendment 14. The State of South Carolina has worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to modify the boundary of this site to include material recently sunk by the state in the area and has requested that the Council shift their boundary of the existing Charleston Deep Artificial Reef MPA to match the new boundary of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ permitted artificial reef area. mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with PROPOSALS Management Measure Contained in Amendment 36 but Not in This Proposed Rule In addition to the management measures that this proposed rule would implement, Amendment 36 includes an action to modify the SMZ procedures in the FMP to allow for the designation of spawning SMZs. The Council would be able to designate important spawning areas as spawning SMZs to provide additional protection to some existing Essential Fish Habitat-Habitat Areas of Particular Concern for snapper-grouper VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:51 Jan 17, 2017 Jkt 241001 species. The Council concluded that designating areas as spawning SMZs is important to protect snapper-grouper species and habitat where snappergrouper species spawn. Furthermore, the Council concluded that the designation of spawning SMZ sites in this proposed rule, and subsequent changes to regulations, would enhance reproduction for snapper-grouper species and thus increase the number of larvae that are produced by the species. Classification Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is consistent with Amendment 36, the FMP, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, subject to further consideration after public comment. This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce certifies to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration (SBA) that this proposed rule, if adopted, would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The factual basis for this determination is as follows: A description of this proposed rule, why it is being considered, and the objectives of this proposed rule are contained in the preamble and in the SUMMARY section of the preamble. The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides the statutory basis for this proposed rule. This proposed rule would apply to all federally-permitted commercial vessels, federally-permitted charter vessels and headboats (for-hire vessels), and private recreational anglers that fish for or harvest any of the species managed under the FMP in Federal waters. The RFA does not consider recreational anglers to be small entities, thus they are outside the scope of this analysis; only the effects on commercial and forhire vessels will be analyzed. As of May 25, 2016, there were 552 valid or renewable Federal South Atlantic snapper-grouper unlimited permits and 116 valid or renewable 225lb (102.1-kg) trip-limited permits. Each of these commercial permits is associated with an individual vessel. Data from the years of 2010 through 2014 were used in Amendment 36 and these data provided the basis for the Council’s decision. Although this proposed rule would apply to all commercial snapper-grouper Federal permit holders, it is expected that the vessels that harvest the species NMFS assumes to be most commonly PO 00000 Frm 00084 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 harvested within the proposed spawning SMZ areas would be most likely to be affected. These species include red porgy, vermilion snapper, scamp, greater amberjack, blueline tilefish, gag, and red grouper. On average from 2010 through 2014, there were 438 federally-permitted commercial vessels with reported landings of one or more of these species. Their average annual vessel-level revenue from all species for 2010 through 2014 was approximately $47,000 (2014 dollars). In 2014, the maximum annual revenue reported by a single one of these vessels was approximately $1 million (2014 dollars). As of May 25, 2016, there were 1,502 valid Federal charter vessel/headboat (for-hire) permits for South Atlantic snapper-grouper. Although the for-hire permit application collects information on the primary method of operation, the permit itself does not identify the permitted vessel as either a charter vessel or a headboat and vessels may operate in both capacities. However, only federally-permitted headboats are required to submit harvest and effort information to the NMFS Southeast Region Headboat Survey (SRHS). Participation in the SRHS is based on determination by the Southeast Fishery Science Center that the vessel primarily operates as a headboat. As of February 22, 2016, 73 South Atlantic headboats were registered in the SRHS. As a result, the estimated 1,502 for-hire vessels that may be affected by this proposed rule are expected to consist of 1,429 charter vessels and 73 headboats. The average charter vessel is estimated to receive approximately $117,000 (2014 dollars) in annual revenue. The average headboat is estimated to receive approximately $207,000 (2014 dollars) in annual revenue. 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. The SBA has established size standards for all major industry sectors in the U.S. including for-hire businesses (NAICS code 487210). A business E:\FR\FM\18JAP1.SGM 18JAP1 mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 11 / Wednesday, January 18, 2017 / Proposed Rules primarily involved in the for-hire fishing industry 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 $7.5 million for all its affiliated operations worldwide. All of the for-hire vessels directly regulated by this proposed rule are believed to be small entities based on the SBA size criteria. No other small entities that would be directly affected by this proposed rule have been identified. There are currently 668 commercial vessels eligible to fish for the snappergrouper species managed under the FMP. Based on the analysis included in Amendment 36, NMFS expects 438 of these vessels would be affected by this proposed rule (approximately 66 percent). In addition, there are 1,502 forhire vessels eligible to fish for snappergrouper species, all of which have the potential to be affected by this proposed rule. Because all of these commercial and for-hire fishing businesses are believed to be small entities, the issue of disproportionate effects on small versus large entities does not arise in the present case. Amendment 36 would modify the SMZ procedures in the FMP to include protection of any area important for snapper-grouper spawning, including natural habitat, by designating spawning SMZs. Amendment 36 and this proposed rule would also modify the framework procedures for the FMP to include modifying or establishing spawning SMZs. These procedural changes would allow the Council to create or modify spawning SMZs, including areas of natural habitat, under the FMP framework process. However, the procedural changes to allow the Council to create or modify spawning SMZs would not directly regulate, nor restrict access to specific fishing grounds. As such, they would not be expected to directly affect the small entities identified in this analysis. In addition to the procedural changes described above, this proposed rule would create specific spawning SMZs off North Carolina, South Carolina, and the east coast of Florida. Within each proposed spawning SMZ, fishing for, harvest, or possession of snappergrouper species would be prohibited year-round. In addition, this proposed rule would move the existing Charleston Deep Artificial Reef MPA 1.4 mi (2.3 km) to the northwest to match the boundary of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ permitted artificial reef area. The size of the MPA would remain the same. No spawning SMZ would be VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:51 Jan 17, 2017 Jkt 241001 designated off Georgia. This proposed rule would allow vessels in possession of snapper-grouper species to transit through spawning SMZs as long as their fishing gear is properly stowed; however, anchoring would be prohibited in all spawning SMZs, except for Area 51 and Area 53. The proposed 5.1-sq mi (13.2-sq km) South Cape Lookout Spawning SMZ off North Carolina is estimated to result in an annual decrease in total commercial ex-vessel revenues of $588 (2014 dollars), assuming commercial vessels are unable to substitute landings from other areas. The proposed 3.03-sq mi (7.8-sq km) Devil’s Hole/Georgetown Hole Spawning SMZ off South Carolina is estimated to result in an annual decrease in total ex-vessel revenue of $86 (2014 dollars) using the same assumptions. Designation of the artificial reef sites, Area 51 and Area 53 (each 2.99 sq mi, 7.8 sq km), off South Carolina as spawning SMZs is not expected to affect ex-vessel revenue, because these artificial habitat locations were previously undisclosed to the public, and it is assumed there is very little fishing activity occurring there. The 3.6-sq mi (9.4-sq km) Warsaw Hole/ 50 Fathom Hole Spawning SMZ off the east coast of Florida is estimated to reduce total annual ex-vessel revenue by $931 (2014 dollars). Again, this estimate assumes that commercial vessels will not substitute landings from other areas for the landings that are displaced by the spawning SMZs. For the proposed change to the Charleston Deep Artificial Reef MPA, because the size of the MPA would remain the same and there is little known fishing effort occurring near the existing MPA boundary, it is not expected to have a measurable effect on commercial ex-vessel revenue. When all of the proposed spawning SMZs are analyzed together, they are estimated to result in an annual decrease in ex-vessel revenue of $1,605 (2014 dollars). Divided across all of the commercial vessels expected to be affected by this proposed rule, this would result in a per-vessel annual decrease of only $4. Even if the entire estimated reduction in revenue was borne by a single commercial vessel, it would represent a less than 4 percent reduction in total ex-vessel revenue on average. The model employed in this analysis assumed uniformly distributed effort within each logbook-reported area and did not account for potential redistribution of effort after each closure. If fishermen are harvesting species within the proposed spawning SMZ areas at a much higher rate than elsewhere in the South Atlantic, the effects of these closures on ex-vessel PO 00000 Frm 00085 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 5515 revenue could be more substantial. Nevertheless, based on the small size of each area and the high likelihood that commercial vessels would substitute landings in other areas, it is assumed that any reduction in ex-vessel revenue from this proposed rule would be minimal. Also, because transit would be permitted through the spawning SMZs, any impact to travel costs resulting from the proposed rule is expected to be minimal as well. Finally, because commercial vessels would not be allowed to fish for snapper-grouper species in the spawning SMZs, the prohibition on anchoring would not be expected to result in any additional adverse economic effects. With respect to for-hire businesses, the spawning SMZs in this proposed rule would place restrictions on where charter vessels and headboats can take paying customers but would not directly alter the services sold by these vessels. Therefore, direct effects on for-hire vessels resulting from this proposed rule would be limited to potential increases in travel time and fuel consumption from having to change their usual fishing locations, travel around the proposed spawning SMZs, or transit through them with their gear properly stowed. Because of the small size of the proposed spawning SMZs relative to all available fishing grounds, their substantial distance from shore, and the negligible amount of harvest from forhire vessels estimated to occur in those areas, this proposed rule is not expected to have a measurable effect on for-hire vessel costs. With respect to potential changes in for-hire revenue, any impact that results from the proposed spawning SMZs would be a consequence of a change in recreational angler demand for for-hire services and, therefore, an indirect effect of the proposed rule. Because these potential revenue effects are indirect, they fall outside the scope of the RFA. Finally, the sunset provision contained in this proposed rule would remove most of the spawning SMZs 10 years after implementation if not reauthorized by the Council, except for the Area 51 and Area 53 Spawning SMZs, which would remain. Although this sunset provision sets a deadline for evaluating the success of spawning SMZs and reauthorizing them, it is not expected to directly influence the duration of each spawning SMZ, because the Council would have the authority to modify the spawning SMZs at any time through the FMP framework procedures as described in this proposed rule. Therefore, the sunset provision would not be expected to E:\FR\FM\18JAP1.SGM 18JAP1 5516 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 11 / Wednesday, January 18, 2017 / Proposed Rules directly affect commercial or for-hire fishing businesses. 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. The information provided above supports a determination that this proposed rule would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. Because this proposed rule, if implemented, is not expected to have a significant economic impact on any small entities, an initial regulatory flexibility analysis is not required and none has been prepared. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622 Fisheries, Fishing, Marine protected area, South Atlantic, Special management zone. Dated: January 10, 2017. 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 1. The authority citation for part 622 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. 2. In § 622.183, revise the table in paragraph (a)(1)(i)(D) and add paragraph (a)(2) to read as follows: ■ § 622.183 Area and seasonal closures. mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with PROPOSALS A B C D A ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... North lat. 32°05.04′ ..... 32°09.65′ ..... 32°07.155′ ... 32°02.36′ ..... 32°05.04′ ..... West long. 79°13.575′. 79°09.2′. 79°05.595′. 79°09.975′. 79°13.575′. * * * * * (2) Spawning SMZs. (i) Any fishing vessel in a spawning SMZ is prohibited to fish for or harvest species in the snapper-grouper fishery management unit year-round. For a fishing vessel to possess snapper-grouper species on board while in a spawning SMZ, the vessel must be in transit and fishing VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:51 Jan 17, 2017 Jkt 241001 Point A B C D A ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... North lat. 33°53.040′ 33°52.019′ 33°49.946′ 33°51.041′ 33°53.040′ West long. ... ... ... ... ... 76°28.617′. 76°27.798′. 76°30.627′. 76°31.424′. 76°28.617′. (iii) Devil’s Hole/Georgetown Hole Spawning SMZ is bounded by rhumb lines connecting, in order, the following points: Point A B C D A ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... North lat. 32°34.311′ 32°34.311′ 32°32.748′ 32°32.748′ 32°34.311′ West long. ... ... ... ... ... 78°33.220′. 78°34.996′. 78°34.996′. 78°33.220′. 78°33.220′. (iv) Area 51 Spawning SMZ is bounded by rhumb lines connecting, in order, the following points: Point A B C D A (a) * * * (1) * * * (i) * * * (D) * * * Point gear must be appropriately stowed, as specified in paragraph (a)(2)(vii) of this section. Except for spawning SMZs of Area 51 and Area 53, the spawning SMZs in this paragraph are effective until [date 10 years and 30 days from the publication of the final rule in the Federal Register]. A person on board a fishing vessel may not anchor, use an anchor and chain, or use a grapple and chain while in the spawning SMZs specified in paragraph (a)(2) of this section. The anchoring prohibition does not apply to fishing vessels in the spawning SMZs of Area 51 and Area 53. (ii) South Cape Lookout Spawning SMZ is bounded by rhumb lines connecting, in order, the following points: ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... North lat. 32°35.25′ 32°35.25′ 32°33.75′ 32°33.75′ 32°35.25′ ..... ..... ..... ..... ..... West long. 79°28.6′. 79°27′. 79°27′. 79°28.6′ 79°28.6′. (v) Area 53 Spawning SMZ is bounded by rhumb lines connecting, in order, the following points: Point A B C D A ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... North lat. 32°22.65′ 32°22.65′ 32°21.15′ 32°21.15′ 32°22.65′ ..... ..... ..... ..... ..... West long. 79°22.25′. 79°20.5′. 79°20.5′. 79°22.25′. 79°22.25′. (vi) Warsaw Hole/50 Fathom Hole Spawning SMZ is bounded by rhumb lines connecting, in order, the following points: PO 00000 Frm 00086 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Points A B C D A ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... North lat. 24°22.277′ 24°22.277′ 24°20.932′ 24°20.932′ 24°22.277′ West long. ... ... ... ... ... 82°20.417′. 82°18.215′. 82°18.215′. 82°20.417′. 82°20.417′. (vii) For the purpose of paragraph (a)(2)(i) of this section, transit means direct, non-stop progression through the spawning SMZ. Fishing gear appropriately stowedmeans— (A) A longline may be left on the drum if all gangions and hooks are disconnected and stowed below deck. Hooks cannot be baited. All buoys must be disconnected from the gear; however, buoys may remain on deck. (B) Trawl doors and nets must be out of the water, but the doors are not required to be on deck or secured on or below deck. (C) A gillnet, stab net, or trammel net must be left on the drum. Any additional such nets not attached to the drum must be stowed below deck. (D) Terminal gear (i.e., hook, leader, sinker, flasher, or bait) used with an automatic reel, bandit gear, buoy gear, handline, or rod and reel must be disconnected and stowed separately from such fishing gear. Sinkers must be disconnected from the down rigger and stowed separately. (E) A crustacean trap, golden crab trap, or sea bass pot cannot be baited. All buoys must be disconnected from the gear; however, buoys may remain on deck. * * * * * ■ 3. In § 622.194, revise paragraph (a) to read as follows: § 622.194 Adjustment of management measures. * * * * * (a) Biomass levels, age-structured analyses, target dates for rebuilding overfished species, MSY (or proxy), OY, ABC, TAC, quotas (including a quota of zero), annual catch limits (ACLs), annual catch targets (ACTs), AMs, maximum fishing mortality threshold (MFMT), minimum stock size threshold (MSST), trip limits, bag limits, size limits, gear restrictions (ranging from regulation to complete prohibition), seasonal or area closures, fishing year, rebuilding plans, definitions of essential fish habitat, essential fish habitat, essential fish habitat HAPCs or Coral HAPCs, restrictions on gear and fishing activities applicable in essential fish habitat and essential fish habitat E:\FR\FM\18JAP1.SGM 18JAP1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 11 / Wednesday, January 18, 2017 / Proposed Rules HAPCs, and establish or modify spawning SMZs. * * * * * [FR Doc. 2017–00859 Filed 1–13–17; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 665 [Docket No. 160422356–7026–01] RIN 0648–XE587 Pacific Island Fisheries; 2016 Annual Catch Limits and Accountability Measures National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Department of Commerce. ACTION: Proposed specifications; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS proposes annual catch limits (ACLs) for Pacific Island bottomfish, crustacean, precious coral, and coral reef ecosystem fisheries, and accountability measures (AMs) to correct or mitigate any overages of catch limits. The proposed ACLs and AMs would be effective for fishing year 2016. The fishing year for each fishery begins on January 1 and ends on December 31, except for precious coral fisheries, which begin July 1 and end on June 30 the following year. Although the 2016 fishing year has ended for most stocks, we will evaluate 2016 catches against these proposed ACLs when data become available in mid-2017. The proposed ACLs and AMs support the long-term sustainability of fishery resources of the U.S. Pacific Islands. DATES: NMFS must receive comments by February 2, 2017. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA– NMFS–2016–0049, by either of the following methods: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to http://www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20160049, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Send written comments to Michael D. Tosatto, Regional Administrator, NMFS Pacific Islands Region (PIR), 1845 Wasp Blvd., Bldg. 176, Honolulu, HI 96818. Instructions: NMFS may not consider comments sent by any other method, to mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with PROPOSALS SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:51 Jan 17, 2017 Jkt 241001 any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period. 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 prepared environmental analyses that describe the potential impacts on the human environment that would result from the proposed ACLs and AMs. NMFS provided additional background information in the 2015 proposed and final specifications (80 FR 43046, July 21, 2015; 80 FR 52415, August 31, 2015). Copies of the environmental analyses and other documents are available at www.regulations.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Matt Dunlap, NMFS PIR Sustainable Fisheries, 808–725–5177. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Fisheries in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ, or Federal waters) around the U.S. Pacific Islands are managed under archipelagic fishery ecosystem plans (FEPs) for American Samoa, Hawaii, the Pacific Remote Islands, and the Mariana Archipelago (Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)). A fifth FEP covers pelagic fisheries. The Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) developed the FEPs, and NMFS implemented them under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act, 16 U.S.C. 1801, et seq.). Each FEP contains a process for the Council and NMFS to specify ACLs and AMs; that process is codified at Title 50, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 665.4 (50 CFR 665.4). The regulations require NMFS to specify, every fishing year, an ACL for each stock and stock complex of management unit species (MUS) included in an FEP, as recommended by the Council and considering the best available scientific, commercial, and other information about the fishery. If a fishery exceeds an ACL, the regulations require the Council to take action, which may include reducing the ACL for the subsequent fishing year by the amount of the overage, or other appropriate action. NMFS proposes to specify ACLs for bottomfish, crustacean, precious coral, and coral reef ecosystem fishery MUS in American Samoa, Guam, the CNMI, and Hawaii. NMFS based the proposed PO 00000 Frm 00087 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 5517 specifications on recommendations from the Council at its 164th meeting held October 21–22, 2015, and at its 166th meeting held June 6–10, 2016. In all, the Council recommended 112 ACLs: 26 in American Samoa, 26 in Guam, 26 in the CNMI, and 34 in Hawaii. The Council also recommended that NMFS specify multi-year ACLs and AMs in fishing years 2015–2018. NMFS proposes to implement the specifications for 2017 and 2018 separately, prior to each fishing year. Except for bottomfish in American Samoa, Guam, and the CNMI, and Guam jacks, Hawaii crabs, and Hawaii octopus, the proposed 2016 ACLs are identical to those that NMFS specified for 2015 (80 FR 52415, August 31, 2015). For bottomfish in American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands, the 2016 ACLs are based on new estimates of maximum sustainable yield (MSY) contained in a 2016 stock assessment updated by the NMFS Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC). This stock assessment update represents the best scientific information available for specifying ACLs. For Guam jacks, Hawaii crabs, and Hawaii octopus, NMFS and the Council determined that the average 2013–2015 catch for each of these three stock complexes exceeded their respective 2015 ACLs. Specifically, average 2013– 2015 catch for Guam jacks was 37,399 lb and exceeded the 2015 ACL of 29,300 lb by 8,099 lb. For Hawaii crabs, average 2013–2015 catch was 40,363 lb and exceeded the 2015 ACL of 33,500 lb by 6,863 lb. For Hawaii octopus, average 2013–2015 catch was 40,237 lb and exceeded the 2015 ACL of 35,700 lb by 4,537 lb. In accordance with the 2015 AMs (80 FR 52415, August 31, 2015), and in consideration of the best available scientific information available, NMFS proposes to reduce the 2016 ACLs from the 2015 ACL by the amount of the 2015 overages for each of the three stocks. As a result, the proposed ACL for Guam jacks is 21,201 lb, 26,637 lb for Hawaii crabs, and 31,163 lb for Hawaii mollusks. In addition, NMFS prepared an updated environmental assessment for Pacific Island crustacean and precious coral fisheries to account for new information on the fisheries. In December 2015, NMFS and the Council received new information on the historical and projected stock status of Hawaii Kona crab. The information indicates that the Hawaii Kona crab stock was likely to be overfished as of 2006. However, an independent review identified data gaps and methodological E:\FR\FM\18JAP1.SGM 18JAP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 11 (Wednesday, January 18, 2017)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 5512-5517]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-00859]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

[Docket No. 161020986-7012-01]
RIN 0648-BG38


Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 
Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region; Amendment 36

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS proposes regulations to implement Amendment 36 to the 
Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the 
South Atlantic Region as prepared and submitted by the South Atlantic 
Fishery Management Council (Council). If implemented, this proposed 
rule would modify the FMP framework procedures to allow spawning 
special management zones (SMZs) to be established or modified through 
the framework process; establish spawning SMZs off North Carolina, 
South Carolina, and Florida; establish transit and anchoring provisions 
in the spawning SMZs; and establish a sunset provision for most of the 
spawning SMZs. This proposed rule would also move the boundary of the 
existing Charleston Deep Artificial Reef Marine Protected Area (MPA). 
The purpose of this proposed rule is to protect spawning snapper-
grouper species and their spawning habitat, and to reduce bycatch and 
bycatch mortality for snapper-grouper species, including speckled hind 
and warsaw grouper.

DATES: Written comments on the proposed rule must be received by 
February 17, 2017.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the proposed rule, identified by 
``NOAA-NMFS-2016-0153,'' 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-2016-0153, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Frank Helies, NMFS 
Southeast Regional Office, 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 required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous).
    Electronic copies of Amendment 36 may be obtained from 
www.regulations.gov or the Southeast Regional Office Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov. Amendment 36 includes an environmental assessment, 
Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) analysis, regulatory impact review, 
and fishery impact statement.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Frank Helies, NMFS Southeast Regional 
Office, telephone: 727-824-5305, or email: frank.helies@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The snapper-grouper fishery in the South 
Atlantic region is managed under the FMP and includes speckled hind and 
warsaw grouper, along with other snapper-grouper species. The FMP was 
prepared by the 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 Council developed Amendment 36 to protect spawning snapper-
grouper species and their spawning habitat by prohibiting fishing for 
or harvest of snapper-grouper species in certain areas year-round in 
Federal waters of the South Atlantic. Areas designated for protection 
would include habitat characteristics, bottom topography (hard and live 
bottom), and currents that provide essential fish habitat important for 
spawning snapper-grouper species. The Council determined that 
protecting spawning snapper-grouper and their associated habitats would 
allow these species to produce more larvae, and may subsequently 
increase snapper-grouper populations.
    The Council also developed Amendment 36 to reduce bycatch and 
bycatch mortality of snapper-grouper species, including speckled hind 
and warsaw grouper. The snapper-grouper fishery in the South Atlantic 
is a highly regulated, multi-species fishery. Discards in the fishery 
can occur due to regulations, such as closed seasons, possession or 
size limits, or from catch and release of these species. For snapper-
grouper species prohibited from harvest, such as speckled hind and 
warsaw grouper, fish discarded due to regulations are considered 
bycatch. The deep-water snapper-grouper species are further impacted 
due to high discard mortality rates (low survivability due to 
barotrauma). The Council concluded that prohibiting the use of certain 
fishing gear in specified areas where snapper-grouper are known to 
occur and possibly spawn would reduce encounters with these species and 
subsequently provide protection for reproduction. Spawning SMZs could 
provide long-term beneficial biological and socio-economic effects if 
spawning fish are sufficiently protected.
    The Council has identified a total of five areas proposed to be 
considered as spawning SMZs in the South Atlantic off North Carolina, 
South Carolina, and Florida. These areas have been identified based on 
the documented occurrence of snapper-grouper species and analysis of 
spawning data, recommendations from the Council's MPA Expert Work Group 
and Snapper-Grouper Advisory Panel, as well as cooperative research and 
public recommendations.
    Amendment 36 also contains a 10-year sunset provision that would 
apply to most of the proposed spawning SMZs. The sunset provision would 
allow for most of the spawning SMZs to expire 10 years following the 
implementation date unless they are renewed. When deciding whether to 
renew a spawning SMZ, the Council may consider the evidence of spawning 
by snapper-grouper species in the spawning SMZ and whether a spawning 
SMZ is being monitored. The Council concluded that a 10-year sunset

[[Page 5513]]

provision would help to ensure that spawning SMZs are monitored and 
evaluated during this period to document snapper-grouper spawning 
within the sites.
    The Council developed a system management plan (SMP) for the 
spawning SMZs proposed in Amendment 36. The SMP describes in detail the 
monitoring and evaluation requirements for the proposed spawning SMZs. 
The Council recognizes that monitoring the proposed spawning SMZs by 
academic, state, or NMFS personnel is necessary to evaluate their 
effectiveness. Therefore, the SMP outlines the potential monitoring 
partners and their roles.
    In addition to the spawning SMZs proposed for a similar purpose 
through Amendment 36, the Council originally designated the Charleston 
Deep Artificial Reef MPA, located off South Carolina, in Amendment 14 
to the Snapper-Grouper FMP (74 FR 1621, January 13, 2009) to add 
protected snapper-grouper habitat and contribute to adding fish 
biomass. Recently, the State of South Carolina worked with the U.S. 
Army Corps of Engineers to modify the boundary of this site to include 
additional substrate material that was sunk by the state in the area of 
this MPA. The State of South Carolina requested the Council shift the 
boundary of the existing Charleston Deep Artificial Reef MPA to match 
the new boundary of the artificial reef site. This proposed rule would 
align the Charleston Deep Artificial Reef MPA boundary with the site 
permitted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, while retaining the size 
of the current MPA. This proposed rule would move the existing boundary 
around the Charleston Deep Artificial Reef MPA 1.4 mi (2.3 km) to the 
northwest.

Management Measures Contained in This Proposed Rule

    This proposed rule would modify the FMP framework procedures to 
allow spawning SMZs to be established or modified through the framework 
process; establish spawning SMZs off North Carolina, South Carolina, 
and Florida; establish transit and anchoring provisions in the spawning 
SMZs; establish a sunset provision for most of the spawning SMZs; and 
move the existing Charleston Deep Artificial Reef MPA 1.4 mi (2.3 km) 
northwest to match the permitted site boundary.

Modify the FMP Framework Procedures for Spawning SMZs

    Amending the FMP can require more detailed analyses and requires a 
lengthier prescribed timeline prior to implementation. However, the 
current FMP contains framework procedures to allow the Council to 
modify certain management measures, such as annual catch limits and 
other management measures, via an expedited process (see 50 CFR 
622.194; 56 FR 56016, October 31, 1991). Currently, SMZs cannot be 
modified under the framework process, so any changes to SMZs are 
required to be done through an FMP amendment. In Amendment 36 and this 
proposed rule, the Council has decided to include changes to spawning 
SMZs, such as boundary modifications and the establishment or removal 
of spawning SMZs, under the framework process. For example, this 
proposed rule would allow the Council to remove a spawning SMZ if 
monitoring efforts do not document evidence of spawning snapper-grouper 
species within the boundary. The proposed revisions to the FMP 
framework procedures would also allow the Council to remove the 
proposed 10-year sunset provision for a proposed spawning SMZ if 
monitoring efforts document snapper-grouper species' spawning inside a 
spawning SMZ. The Council has decided that changing spawning SMZs 
through an expedited process can have beneficial biological and socio-
economic impacts, especially if the changes respond to newer 
information, such as spawning locations for snapper-grouper species. 
The Council has concluded that the framework process will allow 
adequate time for the public to comment on any proposed change related 
to a spawning SMZ.

Establish Spawning SMZs Off North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida

    The existing South Atlantic SMZs restrict the use of certain 
fishing gear in areas including artificial reefs, fish attraction 
devices, and other modified areas of habitat for fishing (50 CFR 
622.182). Possession limits can also be regulated in SMZs. The original 
FMP established SMZs for artificial reefs to restrict certain fishing 
gear on artificial reefs (48 FR 49463, August 31, 1983). Currently, 
there are no spawning SMZs for snapper-grouper in the South Atlantic. 
The Council is proposing to establish five snapper-grouper spawning 
SMZs in the South Atlantic off North Carolina, South Carolina, and 
Florida. The proposed spawning SMZ off North Carolina would be called 
South Cape Lookout (5.1 sq mi; 13.2 sq km). The Council is proposing 
three spawning SMZs off South Carolina that would be called Devil's 
Hole/Georgetown Hole (3.03 sq mi; 7.8 sq km), Area 51 (approximately 3 
sq mi; 7.8 sq km), and Area 53 (approximately 3 sq mi; 7.8 sq km). The 
proposed spawning SMZ off the east coast of the Florida Keys would be 
called Warsaw Hole/50 Fathom Hole (3.64 sq mi; 9.4 sq km).
    This proposed rule would prohibit fishing for or harvest of 
snapper-grouper species year-round in the proposed spawning SMZs. 
Certain other activities in the spawning SMZs would be restricted, 
including transiting with snapper-grouper species on board and 
anchoring.
    Another purpose of spawning SMZs is to reduce bycatch and bycatch 
mortality of snapper-grouper species, including speckled hind and 
warsaw grouper. Currently, retention of speckled hind and warsaw 
grouper is prohibited in Federal waters in the South Atlantic. 
Prohibiting the targeting or harvest of snapper-grouper species in 
specified areas where these species are known to occur and possibly 
spawn would reduce encounters with these deep-water species and provide 
protection for reproduction. The Council concluded that protecting 
snapper-grouper species within the spawning SMZs could enhance the 
opportunity for these species to reproduce and provide more larvae into 
the environment. Spawning SMZs would also allow opportunities to 
monitor population changes in snapper-grouper species and further 
refine protection of spawning habitat.

Establish Transit and Anchoring Provisions in Spawning SMZs

    This proposed rule would allow vessels to transit through the 
proposed spawning SMZs with snapper-grouper species on board when 
fishing gear is properly stowed. ``Properly stowed'' means that trawl 
or try nets and the attached doors must be out of the water, but would 
not be required to be on deck or secured below deck. Terminal gear 
(hook, leader, sinker, flasher, or bait) used with automatic reels, 
bandit gear, buoy gear, handline, or rod and reel would have to be 
disconnected and stowed separately from such fishing gear and sinkers 
would have to be disconnected from down riggers and stowed separately. 
Vessels in the spawning SMZs would be prohibited from fishing for, 
harvest, or possession of snapper-grouper species year-round in these 
areas. Except for the experimental artificial reefs Area 51 and Area 53 
off South Carolina, persons on board a fishing vessel would not be 
allowed to anchor, use an anchor or chain, or use a grapple and chain 
while in spawning SMZs. Fishermen would continue to be allowed to troll 
for pelagic species such as dolphin, tuna, and billfish in spawning 
SMZs.

[[Page 5514]]

Establish a Sunset Provision for Most Spawning SMZs

    This proposed rule would implement a 10-year sunset provision for 
the establishment of the spawning SMZs, except for the Area 51 and Area 
53 Spawning SMZs, which will remain in effect indefinitely. Thus, 
except for the latter two areas, the proposed spawning SMZs and their 
associated management measures would be effective for 10 years 
following the implementation of a final rule for Amendment 36. For the 
proposed spawning SMZs and management measures subject to the sunset 
provision to extend beyond 10 years, the Council would need to evaluate 
the effectiveness of the spawning SMZs for conserving and protecting 
spawning snapper-grouper species, and subsequently take further action. 
The Council will regularly evaluate all of the spawning SMZs over the 
10-year period. They concluded that this period was an appropriate 
timeframe to monitor the sites and determine whether a sufficient level 
of spawning by snapper-grouper species occurs to justify continued 
protection as spawning SMZs.

Move the Existing Charleston Deep Artificial Reef MPA

    This proposed rule would move the existing Charleston Deep 
Artificial Reef MPA 1.4 mi (2.3 km) northwest to match the boundary of 
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' permitted artificial reef area at 
that location. This proposed rule would not change the size of the 
existing MPA. The Council originally designated the current area as an 
artificial reef site in Amendment 14. The State of South Carolina has 
worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to modify the boundary of 
this site to include material recently sunk by the state in the area 
and has requested that the Council shift their boundary of the existing 
Charleston Deep Artificial Reef MPA to match the new boundary of the 
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' permitted artificial reef area.

Management Measure Contained in Amendment 36 but Not in This Proposed 
Rule

    In addition to the management measures that this proposed rule 
would implement, Amendment 36 includes an action to modify the SMZ 
procedures in the FMP to allow for the designation of spawning SMZs. 
The Council would be able to designate important spawning areas as 
spawning SMZs to provide additional protection to some existing 
Essential Fish Habitat-Habitat Areas of Particular Concern for snapper-
grouper species. The Council concluded that designating areas as 
spawning SMZs is important to protect snapper-grouper species and 
habitat where snapper-grouper species spawn. Furthermore, the Council 
concluded that the designation of spawning SMZ sites in this proposed 
rule, and subsequent changes to regulations, would enhance reproduction 
for snapper-grouper species and thus increase the number of larvae that 
are produced by the species.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is 
consistent with Amendment 36, the FMP, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and 
other applicable law, subject to further consideration after public 
comment.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certifies to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration (SBA) that this proposed rule, if adopted, would not 
have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. The factual basis for this determination is as follows:
    A description of this proposed rule, why it is being considered, 
and the objectives of this proposed rule are contained in the preamble 
and in the SUMMARY section of the preamble. The Magnuson-Stevens Act 
provides the statutory basis for this proposed rule.
    This proposed rule would apply to all federally-permitted 
commercial vessels, federally-permitted charter vessels and headboats 
(for-hire vessels), and private recreational anglers that fish for or 
harvest any of the species managed under the FMP in Federal waters. The 
RFA does not consider recreational anglers to be small entities, thus 
they are outside the scope of this analysis; only the effects on 
commercial and for-hire vessels will be analyzed.
    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 (102.1-kg) trip-limited permits. Each of these commercial 
permits is associated with an individual vessel. Data from the years of 
2010 through 2014 were used in Amendment 36 and these data provided the 
basis for the Council's decision. Although this proposed rule would 
apply to all commercial snapper-grouper Federal permit holders, it is 
expected that the vessels that harvest the species NMFS assumes to be 
most commonly harvested within the proposed spawning SMZ areas would be 
most likely to be affected. These species include red porgy, vermilion 
snapper, scamp, greater amberjack, blueline tilefish, gag, and red 
grouper. On average from 2010 through 2014, there were 438 federally-
permitted commercial vessels with reported landings of one or more of 
these species. Their average annual vessel-level revenue from all 
species for 2010 through 2014 was approximately $47,000 (2014 dollars). 
In 2014, the maximum annual revenue reported by a single one of these 
vessels was approximately $1 million (2014 dollars).
    As of May 25, 2016, there were 1,502 valid Federal charter vessel/
headboat (for-hire) permits for South Atlantic snapper-grouper. 
Although the for-hire permit application collects information on the 
primary method of operation, the permit itself does not identify the 
permitted vessel as either a charter vessel or a headboat and vessels 
may operate in both capacities. However, only federally-permitted 
headboats are required to submit harvest and effort information to the 
NMFS Southeast Region Headboat Survey (SRHS). Participation in the SRHS 
is based on determination by the Southeast Fishery Science Center that 
the vessel primarily operates as a headboat. As of February 22, 2016, 
73 South Atlantic headboats were registered in the SRHS. As a result, 
the estimated 1,502 for-hire vessels that may be affected by this 
proposed rule are expected to consist of 1,429 charter vessels and 73 
headboats. The average charter vessel is estimated to receive 
approximately $117,000 (2014 dollars) in annual revenue. The average 
headboat is estimated to receive approximately $207,000 (2014 dollars) 
in annual revenue.
    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.
    The SBA has established size standards for all major industry 
sectors in the U.S. including for-hire businesses (NAICS code 487210). 
A business

[[Page 5515]]

primarily involved in the for-hire fishing industry 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 $7.5 million for all its 
affiliated operations worldwide. All of the for-hire vessels directly 
regulated by this proposed rule are believed to be small entities based 
on the SBA size criteria.
    No other small entities that would be directly affected by this 
proposed rule have been identified.
    There are currently 668 commercial vessels eligible to fish for the 
snapper-grouper species managed under the FMP. Based on the analysis 
included in Amendment 36, NMFS expects 438 of these vessels would be 
affected by this proposed rule (approximately 66 percent). In addition, 
there are 1,502 for-hire vessels eligible to fish for snapper-grouper 
species, all of which have the potential to be affected by this 
proposed rule. Because all of these commercial and for-hire fishing 
businesses are believed to be small entities, the issue of 
disproportionate effects on small versus large entities does not arise 
in the present case.
    Amendment 36 would modify the SMZ procedures in the FMP to include 
protection of any area important for snapper-grouper spawning, 
including natural habitat, by designating spawning SMZs. Amendment 36 
and this proposed rule would also modify the framework procedures for 
the FMP to include modifying or establishing spawning SMZs. These 
procedural changes would allow the Council to create or modify spawning 
SMZs, including areas of natural habitat, under the FMP framework 
process. However, the procedural changes to allow the Council to create 
or modify spawning SMZs would not directly regulate, nor restrict 
access to specific fishing grounds. As such, they would not be expected 
to directly affect the small entities identified in this analysis.
    In addition to the procedural changes described above, this 
proposed rule would create specific spawning SMZs off North Carolina, 
South Carolina, and the east coast of Florida. Within each proposed 
spawning SMZ, fishing for, harvest, or possession of snapper-grouper 
species would be prohibited year-round. In addition, this proposed rule 
would move the existing Charleston Deep Artificial Reef MPA 1.4 mi (2.3 
km) to the northwest to match the boundary of the U.S. Army Corps of 
Engineers' permitted artificial reef area. The size of the MPA would 
remain the same. No spawning SMZ would be designated off Georgia. This 
proposed rule would allow vessels in possession of snapper-grouper 
species to transit through spawning SMZs as long as their fishing gear 
is properly stowed; however, anchoring would be prohibited in all 
spawning SMZs, except for Area 51 and Area 53.
    The proposed 5.1-sq mi (13.2-sq km) South Cape Lookout Spawning SMZ 
off North Carolina is estimated to result in an annual decrease in 
total commercial ex-vessel revenues of $588 (2014 dollars), assuming 
commercial vessels are unable to substitute landings from other areas. 
The proposed 3.03-sq mi (7.8-sq km) Devil's Hole/Georgetown Hole 
Spawning SMZ off South Carolina is estimated to result in an annual 
decrease in total ex-vessel revenue of $86 (2014 dollars) using the 
same assumptions. Designation of the artificial reef sites, Area 51 and 
Area 53 (each 2.99 sq mi, 7.8 sq km), off South Carolina as spawning 
SMZs is not expected to affect ex-vessel revenue, because these 
artificial habitat locations were previously undisclosed to the public, 
and it is assumed there is very little fishing activity occurring 
there. The 3.6-sq mi (9.4-sq km) Warsaw Hole/50 Fathom Hole Spawning 
SMZ off the east coast of Florida is estimated to reduce total annual 
ex-vessel revenue by $931 (2014 dollars). Again, this estimate assumes 
that commercial vessels will not substitute landings from other areas 
for the landings that are displaced by the spawning SMZs. For the 
proposed change to the Charleston Deep Artificial Reef MPA, because the 
size of the MPA would remain the same and there is little known fishing 
effort occurring near the existing MPA boundary, it is not expected to 
have a measurable effect on commercial ex-vessel revenue.
    When all of the proposed spawning SMZs are analyzed together, they 
are estimated to result in an annual decrease in ex-vessel revenue of 
$1,605 (2014 dollars). Divided across all of the commercial vessels 
expected to be affected by this proposed rule, this would result in a 
per-vessel annual decrease of only $4. Even if the entire estimated 
reduction in revenue was borne by a single commercial vessel, it would 
represent a less than 4 percent reduction in total ex-vessel revenue on 
average. The model employed in this analysis assumed uniformly 
distributed effort within each logbook-reported area and did not 
account for potential redistribution of effort after each closure. If 
fishermen are harvesting species within the proposed spawning SMZ areas 
at a much higher rate than elsewhere in the South Atlantic, the effects 
of these closures on ex-vessel revenue could be more substantial. 
Nevertheless, based on the small size of each area and the high 
likelihood that commercial vessels would substitute landings in other 
areas, it is assumed that any reduction in ex-vessel revenue from this 
proposed rule would be minimal. Also, because transit would be 
permitted through the spawning SMZs, any impact to travel costs 
resulting from the proposed rule is expected to be minimal as well. 
Finally, because commercial vessels would not be allowed to fish for 
snapper-grouper species in the spawning SMZs, the prohibition on 
anchoring would not be expected to result in any additional adverse 
economic effects.
    With respect to for-hire businesses, the spawning SMZs in this 
proposed rule would place restrictions on where charter vessels and 
headboats can take paying customers but would not directly alter the 
services sold by these vessels. Therefore, direct effects on for-hire 
vessels resulting from this proposed rule would be limited to potential 
increases in travel time and fuel consumption from having to change 
their usual fishing locations, travel around the proposed spawning 
SMZs, or transit through them with their gear properly stowed. Because 
of the small size of the proposed spawning SMZs relative to all 
available fishing grounds, their substantial distance from shore, and 
the negligible amount of harvest from for-hire vessels estimated to 
occur in those areas, this proposed rule is not expected to have a 
measurable effect on for-hire vessel costs. With respect to potential 
changes in for-hire revenue, any impact that results from the proposed 
spawning SMZs would be a consequence of a change in recreational angler 
demand for for-hire services and, therefore, an indirect effect of the 
proposed rule. Because these potential revenue effects are indirect, 
they fall outside the scope of the RFA.
    Finally, the sunset provision contained in this proposed rule would 
remove most of the spawning SMZs 10 years after implementation if not 
reauthorized by the Council, except for the Area 51 and Area 53 
Spawning SMZs, which would remain. Although this sunset provision sets 
a deadline for evaluating the success of spawning SMZs and 
reauthorizing them, it is not expected to directly influence the 
duration of each spawning SMZ, because the Council would have the 
authority to modify the spawning SMZs at any time through the FMP 
framework procedures as described in this proposed rule. Therefore, the 
sunset provision would not be expected to

[[Page 5516]]

directly affect commercial or for-hire fishing businesses.
    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.
    The information provided above supports a determination that this 
proposed rule would not have a significant economic impact on a 
substantial number of small entities. Because this proposed rule, if 
implemented, is not expected to have a significant economic impact on 
any small entities, an initial regulatory flexibility analysis is not 
required and none has been prepared.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622

    Fisheries, Fishing, Marine protected area, South Atlantic, Special 
management zone.

    Dated: January 10, 2017.
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.  622.183, revise the table in paragraph (a)(1)(i)(D) and add 
paragraph (a)(2) to read as follows:


Sec.  622.183   Area and seasonal closures.

    (a) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (D) * * *

------------------------------------------------------------------------
              Point                   North lat.          West long.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
A...............................  32[deg]05.04'.....  79[deg]13.575'.
B...............................  32[deg]09.65'.....  79[deg]09.2'.
C...............................  32[deg]07.155'....  79[deg]05.595'.
D...............................  32[deg]02.36'.....  79[deg]09.975'.
A...............................  32[deg]05.04'.....  79[deg]13.575'.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

* * * * *
    (2) Spawning SMZs. (i) Any fishing vessel in a spawning SMZ is 
prohibited to fish for or harvest species in the snapper-grouper 
fishery management unit year-round. For a fishing vessel to possess 
snapper-grouper species on board while in a spawning SMZ, the vessel 
must be in transit and fishing gear must be appropriately stowed, as 
specified in paragraph (a)(2)(vii) of this section. Except for spawning 
SMZs of Area 51 and Area 53, the spawning SMZs in this paragraph are 
effective until [date 10 years and 30 days from the publication of the 
final rule in the Federal Register]. A person on board a fishing vessel 
may not anchor, use an anchor and chain, or use a grapple and chain 
while in the spawning SMZs specified in paragraph (a)(2) of this 
section. The anchoring prohibition does not apply to fishing vessels in 
the spawning SMZs of Area 51 and Area 53.
    (ii) South Cape Lookout Spawning SMZ is bounded by rhumb lines 
connecting, in order, the following points:

------------------------------------------------------------------------
              Point                   North lat.          West long.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
A...............................  33[deg]53.040'....  76[deg]28.617'.
B...............................  33[deg]52.019'....  76[deg]27.798'.
C...............................  33[deg]49.946'....  76[deg]30.627'.
D...............................  33[deg]51.041'....  76[deg]31.424'.
A...............................  33[deg]53.040'....  76[deg]28.617'.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    (iii) Devil's Hole/Georgetown Hole Spawning SMZ is bounded by rhumb 
lines connecting, in order, the following points:

------------------------------------------------------------------------
              Point                   North lat.          West long.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
A...............................  32[deg]34.311'....  78[deg]33.220'.
B...............................  32[deg]34.311'....  78[deg]34.996'.
C...............................  32[deg]32.748'....  78[deg]34.996'.
D...............................  32[deg]32.748'....  78[deg]33.220'.
A...............................  32[deg]34.311'....  78[deg]33.220'.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    (iv) Area 51 Spawning SMZ is bounded by rhumb lines connecting, in 
order, the following points:

------------------------------------------------------------------------
              Point                   North lat.          West long.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
A...............................  32[deg]35.25'.....  79[deg]28.6'.
B...............................  32[deg]35.25'.....  79[deg]27'.
C...............................  32[deg]33.75'.....  79[deg]27'.
D...............................  32[deg]33.75'.....  79[deg]28.6'
A...............................  32[deg]35.25'.....  79[deg]28.6'.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    (v) Area 53 Spawning SMZ is bounded by rhumb lines connecting, in 
order, the following points:

------------------------------------------------------------------------
              Point                   North lat.          West long.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
A...............................  32[deg]22.65'.....  79[deg]22.25'.
B...............................  32[deg]22.65'.....  79[deg]20.5'.
C...............................  32[deg]21.15'.....  79[deg]20.5'.
D...............................  32[deg]21.15'.....  79[deg]22.25'.
A...............................  32[deg]22.65'.....  79[deg]22.25'.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    (vi) Warsaw Hole/50 Fathom Hole Spawning SMZ is bounded by rhumb 
lines connecting, in order, the following points:

------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Points                   North lat.          West long.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
A...............................  24[deg]22.277'....  82[deg]20.417'.
B...............................  24[deg]22.277'....  82[deg]18.215'.
C...............................  24[deg]20.932'....  82[deg]18.215'.
D...............................  24[deg]20.932'....  82[deg]20.417'.
A...............................  24[deg]22.277'....  82[deg]20.417'.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    (vii) For the purpose of paragraph (a)(2)(i) of this section, 
transit means direct, non-stop progression through the spawning SMZ. 
Fishing gear appropriately stowedmeans--
    (A) A longline may be left on the drum if all gangions and hooks 
are disconnected and stowed below deck. Hooks cannot be baited. All 
buoys must be disconnected from the gear; however, buoys may remain on 
deck.
    (B) Trawl doors and nets must be out of the water, but the doors 
are not required to be on deck or secured on or below deck.
    (C) A gillnet, stab net, or trammel net must be left on the drum. 
Any additional such nets not attached to the drum must be stowed below 
deck.
    (D) Terminal gear (i.e., hook, leader, sinker, flasher, or bait) 
used with an automatic reel, bandit gear, buoy gear, handline, or rod 
and reel must be disconnected and stowed separately from such fishing 
gear. Sinkers must be disconnected from the down rigger and stowed 
separately.
    (E) A crustacean trap, golden crab trap, or sea bass pot cannot be 
baited. All buoys must be disconnected from the gear; however, buoys 
may remain on deck.
* * * * *
0
3. In Sec.  622.194, revise paragraph (a) to read as follows:


Sec.  622.194   Adjustment of management measures.

* * * * *
    (a) Biomass levels, age-structured analyses, target dates for 
rebuilding overfished species, MSY (or proxy), OY, ABC, TAC, quotas 
(including a quota of zero), annual catch limits (ACLs), annual catch 
targets (ACTs), AMs, maximum fishing mortality threshold (MFMT), 
minimum stock size threshold (MSST), trip limits, bag limits, size 
limits, gear restrictions (ranging from regulation to complete 
prohibition), seasonal or area closures, fishing year, rebuilding 
plans, definitions of essential fish habitat, essential fish habitat, 
essential fish habitat HAPCs or Coral HAPCs, restrictions on gear and 
fishing activities applicable in essential fish habitat and essential 
fish habitat

[[Page 5517]]

HAPCs, and establish or modify spawning SMZs.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2017-00859 Filed 1-13-17; 4:15 pm]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P