Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Fisheries, 22616-22618 [2017-10006]

Download as PDF 22616 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 94 / Wednesday, May 17, 2017 / Rules and Regulations public comment pursuant to the authority set forth in 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B), as such procedures would be unnecessary and contrary to the public interest. Such procedures are unnecessary because the rule implementing the AM has been subject to notice and comment, and all that remains is to notify the public of the closure. Prior notice and opportunity for public comment on this action are contrary to the public interest because there is a need to immediately implement this action to protect the vermilion snapper resource, as the capacity of the fishing fleet allows for rapid harvest of the commercial quota. Prior notice and opportunity for public comment would require time and could result in a harvest well in excess of the established commercial quota. For the aforementioned reasons, the AA also finds good cause to waive the 30-day delay in the effectiveness of this action under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3). Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: May 12, 2017. Karen H. Abrams, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2017–09999 Filed 5–12–17; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 635 [Docket No. 150121066–5717–02] RIN 0648–XF413 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Fisheries National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Temporary rule; inseason General category retention limit adjustment. AGENCY: NMFS is adjusting the Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) General category daily retention limit from the default limit of one large medium or giant BFT to four large medium or giant BFT for June 1 through August 31, 2017. This action is based on consideration of the regulatory determination criteria regarding inseason adjustments, and applies to Atlantic Tunas General category (commercial) permitted vessels and Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Charter/Headboat category permitted nlaroche on DSK30NT082PROD with RULES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 13:25 May 16, 2017 Jkt 241001 vessels when fishing commercially for BFT. DATES: Effective June 1, 2017, through August 31, 2017. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sarah McLaughlin or Brad McHale, 978–281–9260. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Regulations implemented under the authority of the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA; 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.) and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) governing the harvest of BFT by persons and vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction are found at 50 CFR part 635. Section 635.27 subdivides the U.S. BFT quota recommended by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) among the various domestic fishing categories, per the allocations established in the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan (2006 Consolidated HMS FMP) (71 FR 58058, October 2, 2006) and amendments, and in accordance with implementing regulations. NMFS is required under ATCA and the Magnuson-Stevens Act to provide U.S. fishing vessels with a reasonable opportunity to harvest the ICCAT-recommended quota. The currently codified baseline U.S. quota is 1,058.9 mt (not including the 25 mt ICCAT allocated to the United States to account for bycatch of BFT in pelagic longline fisheries in the Northeast Distant Gear Restricted Area). See § 635.27(a). The currently codified General category quota is 466.7 mt. Each of the General category time periods (‘‘January,’’ June through August, September, October through November, and December) is allocated a portion of the annual General category quota. The codified June through August subquota is 233.3 mt. Adjustment of General Category Daily Retention Limit Unless changed, the General category daily retention limit starting on June 1 would be the default retention limit of one large medium or giant BFT (measuring 73 inches (185 cm) curved fork length (CFL) or greater) per vessel per day/trip (§ 635.23(a)(2)). This default retention limit would apply to General category permitted vessels and to HMS Charter/Headboat category permitted vessels when fishing commercially for BFT. For the 2016 fishing year, NMFS adjusted the daily retention limit from the default level of one large medium or giant BFT to three large medium or giant BFT for the PO 00000 Frm 00008 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 January subquota period (80 FR 77264, December 14, 2015), which closed effective March 29, 2016 (the regulations allow the General category fishery under the ‘‘January’’ subquota to continue until the subquota is reached, or March 31, whichever comes first); five large medium or giant BFT for the June through August subquota period (81 FR 29501, May 12, 2016) as well as for September 1 through October 8, 2016 (81 FR 59153, August 29, 2016); four large medium or giant BFT for October 9 through October 16, 2016 (81 FR 70369, October 12, 2016); and two large medium or giant BFT for October 17 through December 31, 2016 (81 FR 71639, October 18, 2016). NMFS closed the 2016 General category fishery effective November 4, 2016 (81 FR 76874, November 4, 2016). NMFS adjusted the daily retention limit for the 2017 January subquota period from the default level of one large medium or giant BFT to three large medium or giant BFT in the same action as the 16.3-mt transfer from the December 2016 subquota period to the January 2016 subquota period (81 FR 91873, December 19, 2016), and closed the January 2017 fishery on March 29 (82 FR 16136, April 3, 2017). Under § 635.23(a)(4), NMFS may increase or decrease the daily retention limit of large medium and giant BFT over a range of zero to a maximum of five per vessel based on consideration of the relevant criteria provided under § 635.27(a)(8). NMFS has considered these criteria and their applicability to the General category BFT retention limit for June through August 2017. These considerations include, but are not limited to, the following: Regarding the usefulness of information obtained from catches in the particular category for biological sampling and monitoring of the status of the stock (§ 635.27(a)(8)(i)), biological samples collected from BFT landed by General category fishermen and provided by BFT dealers continue to provide NMFS with valuable data for ongoing scientific studies of BFT age and growth, migration, and reproductive status. Additional opportunity to land BFT would support the collection of a broad range of data for these studies and for stock monitoring purposes. NMFS also considered the catches of the General category quota to date (including during the fall and winter fishery in the last several years), and the likelihood of closure of that segment of the fishery if no adjustment is made (§ 635.27(a)(8)(ii)). Commercial-size BFT are anticipated to migrate to the fishing grounds off the northeast U.S. coast by early June. Based on General category E:\FR\FM\17MYR1.SGM 17MYR1 nlaroche on DSK30NT082PROD with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 94 / Wednesday, May 17, 2017 / Rules and Regulations landings rates during the June through August time period over the last several years, it is highly unlikely that the June through August subquota will be filled with the default daily retention limit of one BFT per vessel. During the June– August 2015 period, under a four-fish limit, landings were approximately 205 mt (88 percent of the 233.3-mt subquota). For the entire 2015 fishing year, 138 percent and 95 percent of the baseline and adjusted General category quota was filled, respectively. In the June–August 2016 period, under a fivefish limit, landings were approximately 298.5 mt (128 percent of the subquota). For the entire 2016 fishing year, 161 percent and 111 percent of the baseline and adjusted General category quota was filled, respectively. See below for description of quota transfers to the General category for 2016 and 2017. NMFS also considered the effects of the adjustment on BFT rebuilding and overfishing and the effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the FMP (§ 635.27(a)(8)(v) and (vi)). The adjusted retention limit would be consistent with the quotas established and analyzed in the BFT quota final rule (80 FR 52198, August 28, 2015), and with objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and amendments, and is not expected to negatively impact stock health or to affect the stock in ways not already analyzed in those documents. It is also important that NMFS limit landings to the subquotas both to adhere to the FMP quota allocations and to ensure that landings are as consistent as possible with the pattern of fishing mortality (e.g., fish caught at each age) that was assumed in the projections of stock rebuilding. Another principal consideration in setting the retention limit is the objective of providing opportunities to harvest the full General category quota without exceeding it based on the goals of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and amendments, including to achieve optimum yield on a continuing basis and to optimize the ability of all permit categories to harvest their full BFT quota allocations (related to § 635.27(a)(8)(x)). Adjustment of the retention limit is also supported by the Environmental Analysis for the 2011 final rule regarding General and Harpoon category management measures, which increased the General category maximum daily retention limit from three to five fish. Despite elevated General category limits, the vast majority of successful trips (i.e., General or Charter/Headboat trips on which at least one BFT is landed under General category quota) VerDate Sep<11>2014 13:25 May 16, 2017 Jkt 241001 land only one or two BFT. For instance, the landings data for 2016 show that, under the five-fish limit that applied June 1 through October 8, the proportion of trips that landed one, two, three, or four bluefin tuna was as follows: 75 percent landed one; 15 percent landed two; 5 percent landed three; 3 percent landed four; and 2 percent landed five. In the last few years, NMFS has received some comment that a high daily retention limit (specifically five fish) is needed to optimize General category fishing opportunities and account for seasonal distributions by enabling vessels to make overnight trips to distant fishing grounds. NMFS also has received some comment that a lower limit is to increase the likelihood that opportunities will extend through the end of the calendar year, as well as for improved market conditions. NMFS anticipates that some underharvest of the 2016 adjusted U.S. BFT quota will be carried forward to 2017 to the Reserve category, in accordance with the regulations, this summer (i.e., when complete BFT catch information for 2016 is available and finalized). This makes it likely that General category quota will remain available through the end of 2017 for December fishery participants, despite the transfer of 16.3 mt from the 24.3-mt General category December 2017 subquota period to the January 2017 period (81 FR 91873, December 19, 2016). General category landings were relatively high in the fall of 2016, due to a combination of fish availability, favorable fishing conditions, and higher daily retention limits. NMFS transferred 125 mt from the Reserve category (81 FR 70369, October 12, 2016) and later transferred another 85 mt (18 mt from the Harpoon category and 67 mt from the Reserve category) (81 FR 71639, October 18, 2016). Although NMFS closed the 2016 General category fishery effective November 4 to prevent further overharvest of the adjusted General category quota, NMFS anticipates that General category participants in all areas and time periods will have opportunities to harvest the General category quota in 2017, through active inseason management such as retention limit adjustments and/or the timing and amount of quota transfers (based on consideration of the determination criteria regarding inseason adjustments), as practicable. A limit lower than four fish could result in unused quota being rolled forward to the subsequent subquota time period in the General category season. Increasing the daily retention limit from the default may prevent PO 00000 Frm 00009 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 22617 rolling an excessive amount of unused quota forward from one subquota time period to the next. Increasing the daily retention limit to four fish will increase the likelihood that the General category BFT landings will approach, but not exceed, the annual quota, as well as increase the opportunity for catching BFT during the June through August subquota period. Increasing opportunity within each subquota period is also important because of the migratory nature and seasonal distribution of BFT. In a particular geographic region, or waters accessible from a particular port, the amount of fishing opportunity for BFT may be constrained by the short amount of time the BFT are present. Based on these considerations, NMFS has determined that a four-fish General category retention limit is warranted for the June–August 2017 subquota period. It would provide a reasonable opportunity to harvest the full U.S. BFT quota (including the expected increase in available 2017 quota based on 2016 underharvest), without exceeding it, while maintaining an equitable distribution of fishing opportunities; help optimize the ability of the General category to harvest its full quota; allow the collection of a broad range of data for stock monitoring purposes; and be consistent with the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and amendments. Therefore, NMFS increases the General category retention limit from the default limit (one) to four large medium or giant BFT per vessel per day/trip, effective June 1, 2017, through August 31, 2017. Regardless of the duration of a fishing trip, the daily retention limit applies upon landing. For example (and specific to the June through August 2017 limit), whether a vessel fishing under the General category limit takes a two-day trip or makes two trips in one day, the daily limit of four fish may not be exceeded upon landing. This General category retention limit is effective in all areas, except for the Gulf of Mexico, where NMFS prohibits targeting fishing for BFT, and applies to those vessels permitted in the General category, as well as to those HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels fishing commercially for BFT. Monitoring and Reporting NMFS will continue to monitor the BFT fishery closely. Dealers are required to submit landing reports within 24 hours of a dealer receiving BFT. General and HMS Charter/Headboat vessel owners are required to report the catch of all BFT retained or discarded dead, within 24 hours of the landing(s) or end of each trip, by accessing E:\FR\FM\17MYR1.SGM 17MYR1 22618 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 94 / Wednesday, May 17, 2017 / Rules and Regulations hmspermits.noaa.gov or by using the Android or iPhone app. Depending on the level of fishing effort and catch rates of BFT, NMFS may determine that additional adjustments are necessary to ensure available quota is not exceeded or to enhance scientific data collection from, and fishing opportunities in, all geographic areas. If needed, subsequent adjustments will be published in the Federal Register. In addition, fishermen may call the Atlantic Tunas Information Line at (978) 281–9260, or access hmspermits.noaa.gov, for updates on quota monitoring and inseason adjustments. Classification nlaroche on DSK30NT082PROD with RULES The Assistant Administrator for NMFS (AA) finds that it is impracticable and contrary to the public interest to provide prior notice of, and an opportunity for public comment on, this action for the following reasons: The regulations implementing the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and amendments provide for inseason retention limit adjustments to respond to the unpredictable nature of BFT availability on the fishing grounds, the migratory nature of this species, and the regional variations in the BFT fishery. The timing of this rulemaking will allow approximately two weeks’ prior notice to the regulated community. Affording additional prior notice and an opportunity for public comment on the change in the daily retention limit from the default level for the June through August 2017 subquota period would be impracticable. Based on available BFT quotas, fishery performance in recent years, and the availability of BFT on the VerDate Sep<11>2014 13:25 May 16, 2017 Jkt 241001 fishing grounds, responsive adjustment to the General category BFT daily retention limit from the default level is warranted to allow fishermen to take advantage of availability of fish and of quota. NMFS could not have proposed these actions earlier, as it needed to consider and respond to updated data and information about fishery conditions and this year’s landings. If NMFS was to offer a public comment period now, after having appropriately considered that data, it would preclude fishermen from harvesting BFT that are legally available consistent with all of the regulatory criteria, and/or could result in selection of a retention limit inappropriate to the amount of quota available for the period. Fisheries under the General category daily retention limit will commence on June 1 and thus prior notice would be contrary to the public interest. Delays in increasing these retention limits would adversely affect those General and Charter/Headboat category vessels that would otherwise have an opportunity to harvest more than the default retention limit of one BFT per day/trip and may result in low catch rates and quota rollovers. Analysis of available data shows that adjustment to the BFT daily retention limit from the default level would result in minimal risks of exceeding the ICCAT-allocated quota. NMFS provides notification of retention limit adjustments by publishing the notice in the Federal Register, emailing individuals who have subscribed to the Atlantic HMS News electronic newsletter, and updating the information posted on the Atlantic Tunas Information Line and on PO 00000 Frm 00010 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 9990 hmspermits.noaa.gov. With quota available and fish available on the grounds, and with no measurable impacts to the stock, it would be contrary to the public interest to require vessels to wait to harvest the fish allowed through this action. Therefore, the AA finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive prior notice and the opportunity for public comment. Adjustment of the General category retention limit needs to be effective June 1, 2017, or as soon as possible thereafter, to minimize any unnecessary disruption in fishing patterns, to allow the impacted sectors to benefit from the adjustment, and to not preclude fishing opportunities for fishermen in geographic areas with access to the fishery only during this time period. Foregoing opportunities to harvest the respective quotas may have negative social and economic impacts for U.S. fishermen that depend upon catching the available quota within the time periods designated in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and amendments. Therefore, the AA finds there is also good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d) to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness. This action is being taken under § 635.23(a)(4) and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq. and 1801 et seq. Dated: May 12, 2017. Karen H. Abrams, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2017–10006 Filed 5–16–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\17MYR1.SGM 17MYR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 94 (Wednesday, May 17, 2017)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 22616-22618]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-10006]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

[Docket No. 150121066-5717-02]
RIN 0648-XF413


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna 
Fisheries

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

ACTION: Temporary rule; inseason General category retention limit 
adjustment.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS is adjusting the Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) General 
category daily retention limit from the default limit of one large 
medium or giant BFT to four large medium or giant BFT for June 1 
through August 31, 2017. This action is based on consideration of the 
regulatory determination criteria regarding inseason adjustments, and 
applies to Atlantic Tunas General category (commercial) permitted 
vessels and Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Charter/Headboat category 
permitted vessels when fishing commercially for BFT.

DATES: Effective June 1, 2017, through August 31, 2017.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Regulations implemented under the authority 
of the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA; 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.) and 
the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-
Stevens Act; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) governing the harvest of BFT by 
persons and vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction are found at 50 CFR 
part 635. Section 635.27 subdivides the U.S. BFT quota recommended by 
the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas 
(ICCAT) among the various domestic fishing categories, per the 
allocations established in the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly 
Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan (2006 Consolidated HMS FMP) 
(71 FR 58058, October 2, 2006) and amendments, and in accordance with 
implementing regulations. NMFS is required under ATCA and the Magnuson-
Stevens Act to provide U.S. fishing vessels with a reasonable 
opportunity to harvest the ICCAT-recommended quota.
    The currently codified baseline U.S. quota is 1,058.9 mt (not 
including the 25 mt ICCAT allocated to the United States to account for 
bycatch of BFT in pelagic longline fisheries in the Northeast Distant 
Gear Restricted Area). See Sec.  635.27(a). The currently codified 
General category quota is 466.7 mt. Each of the General category time 
periods (``January,'' June through August, September, October through 
November, and December) is allocated a portion of the annual General 
category quota. The codified June through August subquota is 233.3 mt.

Adjustment of General Category Daily Retention Limit

    Unless changed, the General category daily retention limit starting 
on June 1 would be the default retention limit of one large medium or 
giant BFT (measuring 73 inches (185 cm) curved fork length (CFL) or 
greater) per vessel per day/trip (Sec.  635.23(a)(2)). This default 
retention limit would apply to General category permitted vessels and 
to HMS Charter/Headboat category permitted vessels when fishing 
commercially for BFT. For the 2016 fishing year, NMFS adjusted the 
daily retention limit from the default level of one large medium or 
giant BFT to three large medium or giant BFT for the January subquota 
period (80 FR 77264, December 14, 2015), which closed effective March 
29, 2016 (the regulations allow the General category fishery under the 
``January'' subquota to continue until the subquota is reached, or 
March 31, whichever comes first); five large medium or giant BFT for 
the June through August subquota period (81 FR 29501, May 12, 2016) as 
well as for September 1 through October 8, 2016 (81 FR 59153, August 
29, 2016); four large medium or giant BFT for October 9 through October 
16, 2016 (81 FR 70369, October 12, 2016); and two large medium or giant 
BFT for October 17 through December 31, 2016 (81 FR 71639, October 18, 
2016). NMFS closed the 2016 General category fishery effective November 
4, 2016 (81 FR 76874, November 4, 2016). NMFS adjusted the daily 
retention limit for the 2017 January subquota period from the default 
level of one large medium or giant BFT to three large medium or giant 
BFT in the same action as the 16.3-mt transfer from the December 2016 
subquota period to the January 2016 subquota period (81 FR 91873, 
December 19, 2016), and closed the January 2017 fishery on March 29 (82 
FR 16136, April 3, 2017).
    Under Sec.  635.23(a)(4), NMFS may increase or decrease the daily 
retention limit of large medium and giant BFT over a range of zero to a 
maximum of five per vessel based on consideration of the relevant 
criteria provided under Sec.  635.27(a)(8). NMFS has considered these 
criteria and their applicability to the General category BFT retention 
limit for June through August 2017. These considerations include, but 
are not limited to, the following:
    Regarding the usefulness of information obtained from catches in 
the particular category for biological sampling and monitoring of the 
status of the stock (Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(i)), biological samples 
collected from BFT landed by General category fishermen and provided by 
BFT dealers continue to provide NMFS with valuable data for ongoing 
scientific studies of BFT age and growth, migration, and reproductive 
status. Additional opportunity to land BFT would support the collection 
of a broad range of data for these studies and for stock monitoring 
purposes.
    NMFS also considered the catches of the General category quota to 
date (including during the fall and winter fishery in the last several 
years), and the likelihood of closure of that segment of the fishery if 
no adjustment is made (Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(ii)). Commercial-size BFT are 
anticipated to migrate to the fishing grounds off the northeast U.S. 
coast by early June. Based on General category

[[Page 22617]]

landings rates during the June through August time period over the last 
several years, it is highly unlikely that the June through August 
subquota will be filled with the default daily retention limit of one 
BFT per vessel. During the June-August 2015 period, under a four-fish 
limit, landings were approximately 205 mt (88 percent of the 233.3-mt 
subquota). For the entire 2015 fishing year, 138 percent and 95 percent 
of the baseline and adjusted General category quota was filled, 
respectively. In the June-August 2016 period, under a five-fish limit, 
landings were approximately 298.5 mt (128 percent of the subquota). For 
the entire 2016 fishing year, 161 percent and 111 percent of the 
baseline and adjusted General category quota was filled, respectively. 
See below for description of quota transfers to the General category 
for 2016 and 2017.
    NMFS also considered the effects of the adjustment on BFT 
rebuilding and overfishing and the effects of the adjustment on 
accomplishing the objectives of the FMP (Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(v) and 
(vi)). The adjusted retention limit would be consistent with the quotas 
established and analyzed in the BFT quota final rule (80 FR 52198, 
August 28, 2015), and with objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP 
and amendments, and is not expected to negatively impact stock health 
or to affect the stock in ways not already analyzed in those documents. 
It is also important that NMFS limit landings to the subquotas both to 
adhere to the FMP quota allocations and to ensure that landings are as 
consistent as possible with the pattern of fishing mortality (e.g., 
fish caught at each age) that was assumed in the projections of stock 
rebuilding.
    Another principal consideration in setting the retention limit is 
the objective of providing opportunities to harvest the full General 
category quota without exceeding it based on the goals of the 2006 
Consolidated HMS FMP and amendments, including to achieve optimum yield 
on a continuing basis and to optimize the ability of all permit 
categories to harvest their full BFT quota allocations (related to 
Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(x)). Adjustment of the retention limit is also 
supported by the Environmental Analysis for the 2011 final rule 
regarding General and Harpoon category management measures, which 
increased the General category maximum daily retention limit from three 
to five fish.
    Despite elevated General category limits, the vast majority of 
successful trips (i.e., General or Charter/Headboat trips on which at 
least one BFT is landed under General category quota) land only one or 
two BFT. For instance, the landings data for 2016 show that, under the 
five-fish limit that applied June 1 through October 8, the proportion 
of trips that landed one, two, three, or four bluefin tuna was as 
follows: 75 percent landed one; 15 percent landed two; 5 percent landed 
three; 3 percent landed four; and 2 percent landed five. In the last 
few years, NMFS has received some comment that a high daily retention 
limit (specifically five fish) is needed to optimize General category 
fishing opportunities and account for seasonal distributions by 
enabling vessels to make overnight trips to distant fishing grounds. 
NMFS also has received some comment that a lower limit is to increase 
the likelihood that opportunities will extend through the end of the 
calendar year, as well as for improved market conditions.
    NMFS anticipates that some underharvest of the 2016 adjusted U.S. 
BFT quota will be carried forward to 2017 to the Reserve category, in 
accordance with the regulations, this summer (i.e., when complete BFT 
catch information for 2016 is available and finalized). This makes it 
likely that General category quota will remain available through the 
end of 2017 for December fishery participants, despite the transfer of 
16.3 mt from the 24.3-mt General category December 2017 subquota period 
to the January 2017 period (81 FR 91873, December 19, 2016). General 
category landings were relatively high in the fall of 2016, due to a 
combination of fish availability, favorable fishing conditions, and 
higher daily retention limits. NMFS transferred 125 mt from the Reserve 
category (81 FR 70369, October 12, 2016) and later transferred another 
85 mt (18 mt from the Harpoon category and 67 mt from the Reserve 
category) (81 FR 71639, October 18, 2016). Although NMFS closed the 
2016 General category fishery effective November 4 to prevent further 
overharvest of the adjusted General category quota, NMFS anticipates 
that General category participants in all areas and time periods will 
have opportunities to harvest the General category quota in 2017, 
through active inseason management such as retention limit adjustments 
and/or the timing and amount of quota transfers (based on consideration 
of the determination criteria regarding inseason adjustments), as 
practicable.
    A limit lower than four fish could result in unused quota being 
rolled forward to the subsequent subquota time period in the General 
category season. Increasing the daily retention limit from the default 
may prevent rolling an excessive amount of unused quota forward from 
one subquota time period to the next. Increasing the daily retention 
limit to four fish will increase the likelihood that the General 
category BFT landings will approach, but not exceed, the annual quota, 
as well as increase the opportunity for catching BFT during the June 
through August subquota period. Increasing opportunity within each 
subquota period is also important because of the migratory nature and 
seasonal distribution of BFT. In a particular geographic region, or 
waters accessible from a particular port, the amount of fishing 
opportunity for BFT may be constrained by the short amount of time the 
BFT are present.
    Based on these considerations, NMFS has determined that a four-fish 
General category retention limit is warranted for the June-August 2017 
subquota period. It would provide a reasonable opportunity to harvest 
the full U.S. BFT quota (including the expected increase in available 
2017 quota based on 2016 underharvest), without exceeding it, while 
maintaining an equitable distribution of fishing opportunities; help 
optimize the ability of the General category to harvest its full quota; 
allow the collection of a broad range of data for stock monitoring 
purposes; and be consistent with the objectives of the 2006 
Consolidated HMS FMP and amendments. Therefore, NMFS increases the 
General category retention limit from the default limit (one) to four 
large medium or giant BFT per vessel per day/trip, effective June 1, 
2017, through August 31, 2017.
    Regardless of the duration of a fishing trip, the daily retention 
limit applies upon landing. For example (and specific to the June 
through August 2017 limit), whether a vessel fishing under the General 
category limit takes a two-day trip or makes two trips in one day, the 
daily limit of four fish may not be exceeded upon landing. This General 
category retention limit is effective in all areas, except for the Gulf 
of Mexico, where NMFS prohibits targeting fishing for BFT, and applies 
to those vessels permitted in the General category, as well as to those 
HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels fishing commercially for BFT.

Monitoring and Reporting

    NMFS will continue to monitor the BFT fishery closely. Dealers are 
required to submit landing reports within 24 hours of a dealer 
receiving BFT. General and HMS Charter/Headboat vessel owners are 
required to report the catch of all BFT retained or discarded dead, 
within 24 hours of the landing(s) or end of each trip, by accessing

[[Page 22618]]

hmspermits.noaa.gov or by using the Android or iPhone app. Depending on 
the level of fishing effort and catch rates of BFT, NMFS may determine 
that additional adjustments are necessary to ensure available quota is 
not exceeded or to enhance scientific data collection from, and fishing 
opportunities in, all geographic areas. If needed, subsequent 
adjustments will be published in the Federal Register. In addition, 
fishermen may call the Atlantic Tunas Information Line at (978) 281-
9260, or access hmspermits.noaa.gov, for updates on quota monitoring 
and inseason adjustments.

Classification

    The Assistant Administrator for NMFS (AA) finds that it is 
impracticable and contrary to the public interest to provide prior 
notice of, and an opportunity for public comment on, this action for 
the following reasons:
    The regulations implementing the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and 
amendments provide for inseason retention limit adjustments to respond 
to the unpredictable nature of BFT availability on the fishing grounds, 
the migratory nature of this species, and the regional variations in 
the BFT fishery. The timing of this rulemaking will allow approximately 
two weeks' prior notice to the regulated community. Affording 
additional prior notice and an opportunity for public comment on the 
change in the daily retention limit from the default level for the June 
through August 2017 subquota period would be impracticable. Based on 
available BFT quotas, fishery performance in recent years, and the 
availability of BFT on the fishing grounds, responsive adjustment to 
the General category BFT daily retention limit from the default level 
is warranted to allow fishermen to take advantage of availability of 
fish and of quota. NMFS could not have proposed these actions earlier, 
as it needed to consider and respond to updated data and information 
about fishery conditions and this year's landings. If NMFS was to offer 
a public comment period now, after having appropriately considered that 
data, it would preclude fishermen from harvesting BFT that are legally 
available consistent with all of the regulatory criteria, and/or could 
result in selection of a retention limit inappropriate to the amount of 
quota available for the period.
    Fisheries under the General category daily retention limit will 
commence on June 1 and thus prior notice would be contrary to the 
public interest. Delays in increasing these retention limits would 
adversely affect those General and Charter/Headboat category vessels 
that would otherwise have an opportunity to harvest more than the 
default retention limit of one BFT per day/trip and may result in low 
catch rates and quota rollovers. Analysis of available data shows that 
adjustment to the BFT daily retention limit from the default level 
would result in minimal risks of exceeding the ICCAT-allocated quota. 
NMFS provides notification of retention limit adjustments by publishing 
the notice in the Federal Register, emailing individuals who have 
subscribed to the Atlantic HMS News electronic newsletter, and updating 
the information posted on the Atlantic Tunas Information Line and on 
hmspermits.noaa.gov. With quota available and fish available on the 
grounds, and with no measurable impacts to the stock, it would be 
contrary to the public interest to require vessels to wait to harvest 
the fish allowed through this action. Therefore, the AA finds good 
cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive prior notice and the 
opportunity for public comment.
    Adjustment of the General category retention limit needs to be 
effective June 1, 2017, or as soon as possible thereafter, to minimize 
any unnecessary disruption in fishing patterns, to allow the impacted 
sectors to benefit from the adjustment, and to not preclude fishing 
opportunities for fishermen in geographic areas with access to the 
fishery only during this time period. Foregoing opportunities to 
harvest the respective quotas may have negative social and economic 
impacts for U.S. fishermen that depend upon catching the available 
quota within the time periods designated in the 2006 Consolidated HMS 
FMP and amendments. Therefore, the AA finds there is also good cause 
under 5 U.S.C. 553(d) to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness.
    This action is being taken under Sec.  635.23(a)(4) and is exempt 
from review under Executive Order 12866.

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

    Dated: May 12, 2017.
Karen H. Abrams,
Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National 
Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2017-10006 Filed 5-16-17; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P