Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; 2018 Atlantic Shark Commercial Fishing Season, 39735-39743 [2017-17575]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 161 / Tuesday, August 22, 2017 / Proposed Rules removed from the net. This transit exemption is expected to reduce the time at sea required for some shrimpers while still allowing enforcement to verify that they have not been fishing in the EEZ. A proposed rule that would implement measures outlined in Amendment 17B has been drafted. In accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS is evaluating the proposed rule to determine whether it is consistent with the FMP, the MagnusonStevens Act, and other applicable law. If that determination is affirmative, NMFS will publish the proposed rule in the Federal Register for public review and comment. Consideration of Public Comments The Council has submitted Amendment 17B for Secretarial review, approval, and implementation. Comments on Amendment 17B must be received by October 23, 2017. Comments received during the respective comment periods, whether specifically directed to the amendment or the proposed rule, will be considered by NMFS in its decision to approve, disapprove, or partially approve the amendment and will be addressed in the final rule. All comments received by NMFS on the amendment or the proposed rule during their respective comment periods will be addressed in the final rule. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: August 16, 2017. Alan D. Risenhoover, Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2017–17635 Filed 8–21–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 635 [Docket No. 170605543–7737–01] sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS RIN 0648–XF486 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; 2018 Atlantic Shark Commercial Fishing Season National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:08 Aug 21, 2017 Jkt 241001 This proposed rule would establish quotas, opening dates, and retention limits for the 2018 fishing season for the Atlantic commercial shark fisheries. Quotas would be adjusted as required or allowable based on any over- and/or underharvests experienced during 2017 and previous fishing seasons. In addition, NMFS proposes season opening dates and commercial retention limits based on adaptive management measures to provide, to the extent practicable, fishing opportunities for commercial shark fishermen in all regions and areas. The proposed measures could affect fishing opportunities for commercial shark fishermen in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. SUMMARY: Written comments must be received by September 21, 2017. DATES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA– NMFS–2017–0069, by any 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-20170069, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Submit written comments to Margo Schulze-Haugen, NMFS/SF1, 1315 East-West Highway, National Marine Fisheries Service, SSMC3, Silver Spring, MD 20910. Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/ A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Copies of this proposed rule and supporting documents are available from the HMS Management Division Web site at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/ ´ hms/ or by contacting Guy DuBeck by phone at 301–427–8503. ´ FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Guy DuBeck or Karyl Brewster-Geisz at 301– 427–8503. ADDRESSES: SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: PO 00000 Frm 00034 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 39735 Background The Atlantic commercial shark fisheries are managed under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). The 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and its amendments are implemented by regulations at 50 CFR part 635. For the Atlantic commercial shark fisheries, the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments established, among other things, commercial shark retention limits, commercial quotas for species and management groups, accounting measures for under- and overharvests for the shark fisheries, and adaptive management measures such as flexible opening dates for the fishing season and inseason adjustments to shark trip limits, which provide management flexibility in furtherance of equitable fishing opportunities, to the extent practicable, for commercial shark fishermen in all regions and areas. 2018 Proposed Quotas This proposed rule would adjust the quota levels for the different shark stocks and management groups for the 2018 Atlantic commercial shark fishing season based on over- and underharvests that occurred during 2017 and previous fishing seasons, consistent with existing regulations at 50 CFR 635.27(b). Over- and underharvests are accounted for in the same region, sub-region, and/or fishery in which they occurred the following year, except that large overharvests may be spread over a number of subsequent fishing years up to a maximum of 5 years. Shark stocks or management groups that contain one or more stocks that are overfished, have overfishing occurring, or have an unknown status, will not have underharvest carried over in the following year. Stocks that are not overfished and have no overfishing occurring may have any underharvest carried over in the following year, up to 50 percent of the base quota. The quotas in this proposed rule are based on dealer reports received as of July 14, 2017. In the final rule, NMFS will adjust the quotas as needed based on dealer reports received as of a date in mid-October 2017. Thus, all of the 2018 proposed quotas for the respective stocks and management groups will be subject to further adjustment after NMFS considers the dealer reports through mid-October. All dealer reports that are received after the October date will be used to adjust the 2019 quotas, as appropriate. E:\FR\FM\22AUP1.SGM 22AUP1 39736 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 161 / Tuesday, August 22, 2017 / Proposed Rules For the sandbar shark, aggregated large coastal share (LCS), hammerhead shark, non-blacknose small coastal share (SCS), blacknose shark, blue shark, porbeagle shark, and pelagic shark (other than porbeagle or blue sharks) management groups, the 2017 underharvests cannot be carried over to the 2018 fishing season because those stocks or management groups have been determined to be overfished, overfished with overfishing occurring, or have an unknown status. Thus, for all of these management groups, the 2018 proposed quotas would be equal to the applicable base quota minus any overharvests that occurred in 2017 and/or previous fishing seasons, as applicable. Because the Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group and smoothhound shark management groups in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic regions have been determined not to be overfished and to have no overfishing occurring, available underharvest (up to 50 percent of the base quota) from the 2017 fishing season for these management groups may be applied to the respective 2018 quotas, and NMFS proposes to do so. The proposed 2018 quotas by species and management group are summarized in Table 1; the description of the calculations for each stock and management group can be found below. TABLE 1—2018 PROPOSED QUOTAS AND OPENING DATES FOR THE ATLANTIC SHARK MANAGEMENT GROUPS [All Quotas and Landings Are Dressed Weight (dw), in Metric Tons (mt), Unless Specified Otherwise. Table Includes Landings Data as of July 14, 2017; Final Quotas Are Subject to Change Based on Landings as of October 2017. 1 mt = 2,204.6 lb] Region or sub-region Management group Blacktip Sharks .. Aggregated Large Coastal Sharks. Hammerhead Sharks. Blacktip Sharks .. Eastern Gulf of Mexico. Gulf of Mexico ...... Atlantic .................. No regional quotas Aggregated Large Coastal Sharks. Hammerhead Sharks. Non-Blacknose Small Coastal Sharks. Smoothhound Sharks. Aggregated Large Coastal Sharks. Hammerhead Sharks. Non-Blacknose Small Coastal Sharks. Blacknose Sharks (South of 34 ° N. lat. only). Smoothhound Sharks. Non-Sandbar LCS Research. Sandbar Shark Research. Blue Sharks ........ Porbeagle Sharks sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS Pelagic Sharks Other Than Porbeagle or Blue. Preliminary 2017 landings 1 (A) Western Gulf of Mexico. 2017 annual quota Adjustments 2 2018 base annual quota 2018 proposed annual quota (B) (C) (D) Season opening dates (D + C) 331.6 mt dw (730,425 lb dw). 72.0 mt dw (158,724 lb dw). 11.9 mt dw (26,301 lb dw). 36.0 mt dw (79,359 lb dw). 85.5 mt dw (188,593 lb dw). 13.4 mt dw (29,421 lb dw). 112.6 mt dw (248,215 lb dw). 206.6 mt dw (455,535 lb dw). 65.8 mt dw (145,098 lb dw). 2.5 mt dw (5,490 lb dw). 15.3 mt dw (33,788 lb dw). 42.0 mt dw (92,617 lb dw). 6.4 mt dw (14,151 lb dw). 36.2 mt dw (79,779 lb dw). 3 115.7 504.6 mt dw (1,112,441 lb dw). 168.9 mt dw (372,552 lb dw). 27.1 mt dw (59,736 lb dw). 264.1 mt dw (582,333 lb dw). 0 mt dw (0 lb dw) 168.2 mt dw 336.4 mt dw (370,814 lb dw). (741,627). 55.2 mt dw ............................. (121,791 lb dw). 5.0 mt dw ............................. (10,973 lb dw). 60.9 mt dw ............................. (134,202 lb dw). 504.6 mt dw (1,112,441 lb dw). 168.9 mt dw 168.9 mt dw January 1, 2018. (372,552 lb dw). (372,552 lb dw). 27.1 mt dw 27.1 mt dw (59,736 lb dw). (59,736 lb dw). 264.1 mt dw 264.1 mt dw (582,333 lb dw). (582,333 lb dw). 17.2 mt dw (37,921 lb dw). 5.2 mt dw (11,373 lb dw). 17.2 mt dw (37,921 lb dw). 17.2 mt dw (37,921 lb dw). 1,802.6 mt dw (3,973,902 lb dw). 50.0 mt dw (110,230 lb dw). 90.7 mt dw (199,943 lb dw). 273.0 mt dw (601,856 lb dw). 1.7 mt dw (3,748 lb dw). 488.0 mt dw (1,075,856 lb dw). 166.9 mt dw 600.9 mt dw (367,933 lb dw). (1,324,634 lb dw). 10.1 mt dw ............................. (22,157 lb dw). 38.4 mt dw ............................. (84,619 lb dw). < 2.3 mt dw ............................. (< 5,000 lb dw) ... 0 mt dw (0 lb dw) ............................. 1,201.7 mt dw (2,649,268 lb dw). 50.0 mt dw (110,230 lb dw). 90.7 mt dw (199,943 lb dw). 273.0 mt dw (601,856 lb dw). 1.7 mt dw (3,748 lb dw). 488.0 mt dw (1,075,856 lb dw). 1,802.6 mt dw (3,973,902 lb dw). 50.0 mt dw January 1, 2018. (110,230 lb dw). 90.7 mt dw (199,943 lb dw). 273.0 mt dw (601,856 lb dw). 1.7 mt dw (3,748 lb dw). 488.0 mt dw (1,075,856 lb dw). mt dw 231.5 mt dw (255,131 lb dw). (510,261 lb dw). ............................. 72.0 mt dw (158,724 lb dw). ............................. 11.9 mt dw (26,301 lb dw). 3 12.6 mt dw 25.1 mt dw (27,719 lb dw). (55,439 lb dw). ............................. 85.5 mt dw (188,593 lb dw). ............................. 13.4 mt dw (29,421 lb dw). ............................. 112.6 mt dw (248,215 lb dw). ............................. 64.9 mt dw ............................. (143,137 lb dw). 347.2 mt dw January 1, 2018. (765,392 lb dw). 72.0 mt dw (158,724 lb dw). 11.9 mt dw (26,301 lb dw). 37.7 mt dw (83,158 lb dw). 85.5 mt dw (188,593 lb dw). 13.4 mt dw (29,421 lb dw). 112.6 mt dw (248,215 lb dw). 1 Landings are from January 1, 2017, through July 14, 2017, and are subject to change. 2 Underharvest adjustments can only be applied to stocks or management groups that are not overfished and have no overfishing occurring. Also, the underharvest adjustments cannot exceed 50 percent of the base quota. 3 This adjustment accounts for underharvest in 2017. This proposed rule would increase the overall Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota by 128.3 mt dw (282,850 lb dw). Since any underharvest would be divided based on the sub-regional quota percentage split, the western Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota would be increased by 115.7 mt dw, or 90.2 percent of the underharvest, while the eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota would be increased by 12.6 mt dw, or 9.8 percent of the underharvest. 1. Proposed 2018 Quotas for the Gulf of Mexico Region Shark Management Groups The 2018 proposed commercial quota for blacktip sharks in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region is 347.2 mt dw VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:08 Aug 21, 2017 Jkt 241001 (765,392 lb dw) and the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region is 37.7 mt dw (83,158 lb dw). As of July 14, 2017, preliminary reported landings for blacktip sharks in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 62 percent (206.6 mt dw) of PO 00000 Frm 00035 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 their 2017 quota levels (331.6 mt dw), while the blacktip sharks in the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 43 percent (15.3 mt dw) of their 2017 quota levels (36.0 mt dw). Reported landings have not exceeded the 2017 quota to E:\FR\FM\22AUP1.SGM 22AUP1 sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 161 / Tuesday, August 22, 2017 / Proposed Rules date, and the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region fishery was closed on May 2, 2017 (82 FR 20447). Gulf of Mexico blacktip sharks have not been declared to be overfished, to have overfishing occurring, or to have an unknown status. Pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii), underharvests for blacktip sharks within the Gulf of Mexico region therefore could be applied to the 2018 quotas up to 50 percent of the base quota. Any underharvest would be split based on the sub-regional quota percentages of 90.2 percent for western Gulf of Mexico blacktip sharks and 9.8 percent for eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip sharks (§ 635.27(b)(1)(ii)). To date, the overall Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group was underharvested by 148.0 mt dw (325,665 lb dw); however, NMFS can only apply up to 50 percent of the base quota or 128.3 mt dw (282,850 lb dw). Accordingly, NMFS proposes to increase the 2018 western Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota by 115.7 mt dw (128.3 mt dw underharvest in 2017 * 90.2 percent = 115.7 mt dw western sub-region underharvest) and increase the 2018 eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota by 12.6 mt dw (128.3 mt dw underharvest in 2017 * 9.8 percent = 12.6 mt dw eastern sub-region underharvest). Thus, the proposed western sub-regional Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark commercial quota is 347.2 mt dw and the proposed eastern sub-regional Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark commercial quota is 37.7 mt dw. The 2018 proposed commercial quota for aggregated LCS in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region is 72.0 mt dw (158,724 lb dw) and the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region is 85.5 mt dw (188,593 lb dw). As of July 14, 2017, preliminary reported landings for aggregated LCS in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 91 percent (65.8 mt dw) of their 2017 quota levels (72.0 mt dw), while the aggregated LCS in the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 49 percent (42.0 mt dw) of their 2017 quota levels (85.5 mt dw). Reported landings have not exceeded the 2017 quota to date, and the western aggregated LCS sub-region fishery was closed on May 2, 2017 (82 FR 20447). Given the unknown status of some of the shark species within the Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS management group, underharvests cannot be carried over pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on preliminary estimates and consistent with the current regulations at § 635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2018 quotas for aggregated LCS in the western Gulf of Mexico and eastern Gulf of Mexico subregions be equal to their annual base VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:08 Aug 21, 2017 Jkt 241001 quotas without adjustment, because there have not been any overharvests and because underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status. In the Gulf of Mexico, hammerhead shark quotas are divided into two subregions: Western and eastern. The 2018 proposed commercial quotas for hammerhead sharks in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region and eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region are 11.9 mt dw (23,301 lb dw) and 13.4 mt dw (29,421 lb dw), respectively. As of July 14, 2017, preliminary reported landings for hammerhead sharks in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 24 percent (2.5 mt dw) of their 2017 quota levels (11.9 mt dw), while landings of hammerhead sharks in the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 48 percent (6.4 mt dw) of their 2017 quota levels (13.4 mt dw). Reported landings have not exceeded the 2017 quota to date, and the western hammerhead shark subregion fishery was closed on May 2, 2017 (82 FR 20447). Therefore, based on preliminary estimates and consistent with the current regulations at § 635.27(b)(2), at this time, NMFS proposes that the 2018 quotas for hammerhead sharks in the western Gulf of Mexico and eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-regions be equal to their annual base quotas without adjustment, because there have not been any overharvests and because underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status. The 2018 proposed commercial quota for non-blacknose SCS in the Gulf of Mexico region is 112.6 mt dw (248,215 lb dw). As of July 14, 2017, preliminary reported landings of non-blacknose SCS were at 32 percent (36.2 mt dw) of their 2017 quota level (112.6 mt dw) in the Gulf of Mexico region. Reported landings have not exceeded the 2017 quota to date. Given the unknown status of bonnethead sharks within the Gulf of Mexico non-blacknose SCS management group, underharvests cannot be carried forward pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on preliminary estimates and consistent with the current regulations at § 635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2018 quota for non-blacknose SCS in the Gulf of Mexico region be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment, because there have not been any overharvests and because underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status. The 2018 proposed commercial quota for smoothhound sharks in the Gulf of Mexico region is 504.6 mt dw (1,112,441 lb dw). As of July 14, 2017, there are no preliminary reported landings of smoothhound sharks in the Gulf of Mexico region. Gulf of Mexico PO 00000 Frm 00036 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 39737 smoothhound sharks have not been declared to be overfished, to have overfishing occurring, or to have an unknown status. Pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii), underharvests for smoothhound sharks within the Gulf of Mexico region therefore could be applied to the 2018 quotas up to 50 percent of the base quota. Accordingly, NMFS proposes to increase the 2018 Gulf of Mexico smoothhound shark quota to adjust for anticipated underharvests in 2017 as allowed. The proposed 2018 adjusted base annual quota for Gulf of Mexico smoothhound sharks is 504.6 mt dw (1,112,441 lb dw) (336.4 mt dw annual base quota + 168.2 mt dw 2017 underharvest = 504.6 mt dw 2018 adjusted annual quota). 2. Proposed 2018 Quotas for the Atlantic Region Shark Management Groups The 2018 proposed commercial quota for aggregated LCS in the Atlantic region is 168.9 mt dw (372,552 lb dw). As of July 14, 2017, the aggregated LCS fishery in the Atlantic region is still open and preliminary landings indicate that only 33 percent of the quota, or 55.2 mt dw (121,791 lb dw), has been harvested. Given the unknown status of some of the shark species within the Atlantic aggregated LCS management group, underharvests cannot be carried over pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on preliminary estimates and consistent with current regulations at § 635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2018 quota for aggregated LCS in the Atlantic region be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment, because there have not been any overharvests and underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status. The 2018 proposed commercial quota for hammerhead sharks in the Atlantic region is 27.1 mt dw (59,736 lb dw). Currently, the hammerhead shark fishery in the Atlantic region is still open and preliminary landings as of July 14, 2017, indicate that only 18 percent of the quota, or 5.0 mt dw (10,973 lb dw), has been harvested. Given the overfished status of hammerhead sharks, underharvests cannot be carried forward pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on preliminary estimates and consistent with the current regulations at § 635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2018 quota for hammerhead sharks in the Atlantic region be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment, because there have not been any overharvests and because underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status. E:\FR\FM\22AUP1.SGM 22AUP1 sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS 39738 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 161 / Tuesday, August 22, 2017 / Proposed Rules The 2018 proposed commercial quota for non-blacknose SCS in the Atlantic region is 264.1 mt dw (582,333 lb dw). As of July 14, 2017, preliminary reported landings of non-blacknose SCS were at 23 percent (60.9 mt dw) of their 2017 quota level (264.1 mt dw) in the Atlantic region. Reported landings have not exceeded the 2017 quota to date. Given the unknown status of bonnethead sharks within the Atlantic non-blacknose SCS management group, underharvests cannot be carried forward pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on preliminary estimates and consistent with the current regulations at § 635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2018 quota for non-blacknose SCS in the Atlantic region be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment, because there have not been any overharvests and because underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status. The 2018 proposed commercial quota for blacknose sharks in the Atlantic region is 17.2 mt dw (37,921 lb dw). As of July 14, 2017, preliminary reported landings of blacknose sharks were at 30 percent (5.2 mt dw) of their 2017 quota levels (17.2 mt dw) in the Atlantic region. Reported landings have not exceeded the 2017 quota to date. Pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2), because blacknose sharks have been declared to be overfished with overfishing occurring in the Atlantic region, NMFS could not carry forward the remaining underharvest. Therefore, NMFS proposes that the 2018 Atlantic blacknose shark quota be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment. (NOTE: The blacknose shark quota is available in the Atlantic region only for those vessels operating south of 34° N. latitude; north of 34° N. latitude, retention, landing, and sale of blacknose sharks are prohibited.) The 2018 proposed commercial quota for smoothhound sharks in the Atlantic region is 1,802.6 mt dw (3,973,902 lb dw). As of July 14, 2017, preliminary reported landings of smoothhound sharks were at 9 percent (166.9 mt dw) of their 2017 quota levels (1,802.6 mt dw) in the Atlantic region. Atlantic smoothhound sharks have not been declared to be overfished, to have overfishing occurring, or to have an unknown status. Pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii), underharvests for smoothhound sharks within the Atlantic region therefore could be applied to the 2018 quotas up to 50 percent of the base quota. Accordingly, NMFS proposes to increase the 2018 Atlantic smoothhound shark quota to adjust for anticipated underharvests in 2017 as allowed. The proposed 2018 adjusted base annual VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:08 Aug 21, 2017 Jkt 241001 quota for Atlantic smoothhound sharks is 1,802.6 mt dw (1,323,862 lb dw) (1,201.7 mt dw annual base quota + 600.9 mt dw 2017 underharvest = 1,802.6 mt dw 2018 adjusted annual quota). 3. Proposed 2018 Quotas for Shark Management Groups With No Regional Quotas The 2018 proposed commercial quotas within the shark research fishery are 50.0 mt dw (110,230 lb dw) for research LCS and 90.7 mt dw (199,943 lb dw) for sandbar sharks. Within the shark research fishery, as of July 14, 2017, preliminary reported landings of research LCS were at 20 percent (10.1 mt dw) of their 2017 quota levels (50.0 mt dw), and sandbar shark reported landings were at 42 percent (38.4 mt dw) of their 2017 quota levels (27.1 mt dw). Reported landings have not exceeded the 2017 quotas to date. Under § 635.27(b)(2)(ii), because sandbar sharks and scalloped hammerhead sharks within the research LCS management group have been determined to be either overfished or overfished with overfishing occurring, underharvests for these management groups cannot be carried forward to the 2018 quotas. Therefore, based on preliminary estimates and consistent with the current regulations at § 635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2018 quota in the shark research fishery be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment because there have not been any overharvests and because underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status. The 2018 proposed commercial quotas for blue sharks, porbeagle sharks, and pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle or blue sharks) are 273 mt dw (601,856 lb dw), 1.7 mt dw (3,748 lb dw), and 488 mt dw (1,075,856 lb dw), respectively. As of July 14, 2017, there are no preliminary reported landings of porbeagle sharks. The preliminary reported landings of blue sharks were at less than 1 percent (less than 2.3 mt dw) of their 2017 quota level (273.0 mt dw), while preliminary reported landings of pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle and blue sharks) were at 13 percent (64.9 mt dw) of their 2017 quota level (488.0 mt dw). Given that these pelagic species are overfished, have overfishing occurring, or have an unknown status, underharvests cannot be carried forward pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on preliminary estimates and consistent with the current regulations at § 635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2018 quotas for blue sharks, porbeagle sharks, and pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle and blue sharks) PO 00000 Frm 00037 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 be equal to their annual base quotas without adjustment, because there have not been any overharvests and because underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status. Proposed Opening Dates and Retention Limits for the 2018 Atlantic Commercial Shark Fishing Season For each fishery, NMFS considered the seven ‘‘Opening Commercial Fishing Season Criteria’’ listed at § 635.27(b)(3). The ‘‘Opening Fishing Season’’ criteria consider factors such as the available annual quotas for the current fishing season, estimated season length and average weekly catch rates from previous years, length of the season and fishermen participation in past years, impacts to accomplishing objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments, temporal variation in behavior or biology target species (e.g., seasonal distribution or abundance), impact of catch rates in one region on another, and effects of delayed season openings. Specifically, as described above and below, NMFS examined the 2017 and previous fishing years’ over- and/or underharvests of the different management groups to determine the effects of the 2018 proposed commercial quotas on the shark stocks and fishermen across regional and subregional fishing areas. NMFS also examined the potential season length and previous catch rates to ensure, to the extent practicable, that equitable fishing opportunities be provided to fishermen in all areas. Lastly, NMFS examined the seasonal variation of the different species/management groups and the effects on fishing opportunities. As described below, NMFS also considered the six ‘‘Inseason trip limit adjustment criteria’’ listed at § 635.24(a)(8) for directed shark limited access permit holders intending to land LCS other than sandbar sharks. Those criteria are: The amount of remaining shark quota in the relevant area or region, to date, based on dealer reports; the catch rates of the relevant shark species/complexes, to date, based on dealer reports; estimated date of fishery closure based on when the landings are projected to reach 80 percent of the quota given the realized catch rates; effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments; variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migratory patterns of the relevant shark species based on scientific and fishery-based knowledge; and/or effects of catch rates in one part of a region precluding vessels in another part of that region E:\FR\FM\22AUP1.SGM 22AUP1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 161 / Tuesday, August 22, 2017 / Proposed Rules from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the relevant quota. After considering these criteria, NMFS is proposing that the 2018 Atlantic commercial shark fishing season for all shark management groups in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, open on or about January 1, 2018, after the publication of the final rule for this action (Table 2). NMFS is also proposing to start the 2018 commercial shark fishing season with the commercial retention limit of 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region, 50 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip in the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region, and 25 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip in the Atlantic region (Table 2). However, at the time of 39739 writing this proposed rule, some management groups remain open and, for those management groups that are already closed, landings are still being calculated and checked for quality control and assurance. Thus, NMFS may implement different opening dates and commercial retention limits in the final rule if there are underharvested quotas or quota exceedances in 2017 that are not accounted for in this proposed rule. TABLE 2—QUOTA LINKAGES, SEASON OPENING DATES, AND COMMERCIAL RETENTION LIMIT BY REGIONAL OR SUB-REGIONAL SHARK MANAGEMENT GROUP Season opening dates Commercial retention limits for directed shark limited access permit holders (inseason adjustments are possible) January 1, 2018 ..... 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip. January 1, 2018 ..... 50 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip. Not Linked .. January 1, 2018 ..... N/A. Quota linkages Region or sub-region Management group Western Gulf of Mexico .. Blacktip Sharks ............... Not Linked Linked. Eastern Gulf of Mexico ... Aggregated Large Coastal Sharks. Hammerhead Sharks. Blacktip Sharks ............... Not Linked Atlantic ............................ sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS No regional quotas ......... Linked. Not Linked .. Linked ......... January 1, 2018 ..... January 1, 2018 ..... Non-Blacknose Small Coastal Sharks. Gulf of Mexico ................ Aggregated Large Coastal Sharks. Hammerhead Sharks. Non-Blacknose Small Coastal Sharks. Smoothhound Sharks ..... Aggregated Large Coastal Sharks. Linked (South of 34° N. lat. only). January 1, 2018 ..... N/A. 25 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip. If quota is landed quickly (e.g., if approximately 20 percent of quota is caught at the beginning of the year), NMFS anticipates an inseason reduction (e.g., to 3 or fewer LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip), then an inseason increase to 36 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip around July 15, 2018. Hammerhead Sharks N/A. Not Linked .. Linked ......... January 1, 2018 ..... January 1, 2018 ..... N/A. N/A. Not Linked .. January 1, 2018 ..... N/A. Blacknose Sharks (South of 34° N. lat. only). Smoothhound Sharks ..... Non-Sandbar LCS Research. Sandbar Shark Research Blue Sharks .................... Porbeagle Sharks Pelagic Sharks Other Than Porbeagle or Blue In the Gulf of Mexico region, we are opening the fishing season on or about January 1, 2018, for the aggregated LCS, blacktip sharks, and hammerhead shark management groups with the commercial retention limits of 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip for directed shark permit holders in the western sub-region—and 50 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip for directed shark permit holders in the eastern sub-region. This would provide, to the extent practicable, VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:08 Aug 21, 2017 Jkt 241001 equitable opportunities across the fisheries management sub-regions. This opening date takes into account all the season opening criteria listed in § 635.27(b)(3), and particularly the criteria that NMFS consider the length of the season for the different species and/or management group in the previous years (§ 635.27(b)(3)(ii) and (iii)) and whether fishermen were able to participate in the fishery in those years (§ 635.27(b)(3)(v)). The proposed commercial retention limits take into PO 00000 Frm 00038 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 account the criteria listed in § 635.24(a)(8), and particularly the criterion that NMFS consider the catch rates of the relevant shark species/ complexes based on dealer reports to date (§ 635.24(a)(8)(ii)). Similar to the retention limit adjustment process described for the Atlantic region, NMFS may consider adjusting the retention limit in the Gulf of Mexico region throughout the season to ensure fishermen in all parts of the region have an opportunity to harvest aggregated E:\FR\FM\22AUP1.SGM 22AUP1 sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS 39740 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 161 / Tuesday, August 22, 2017 / Proposed Rules LCS, blacktip sharks, and hammerhead sharks (see the criteria listed at § 635.27(b)(3)(v) and § 635.24(a)(8)(ii), (v), and (vi)). In 2017, the management groups in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region were closed on May 2, 2017 (82 FR 20447). As such, in 2018, NMFS is proposing the same commercial trip limit for these management groups that was set in 2017 in order to ensure the management group is open until at least April 2017, which is when the State of Louisiana closes state waters to shark fishing and when that State has previously asked that NMFS close Federal shark fisheries to match state regulations if quotas are limited (see the criteria listed at § 635.27(b)(3)(vii) and § 635.24(a)(8)(iii)). In the eastern Gulf of Mexico, NMFS is proposing a slightly higher trip limit in order to increase the harvest levels. Currently, the aggregated LCS, blacktip shark, and hammerhead shark management groups are still open in the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region (see the criteria listed at § 635.27(b)(3)(i) through (v), § 635.24(a)(8)(i) through (iii), and § 635.24(a)(8)(v) and (vi)). Fishermen fishing for these management groups in the eastern Gulf of Mexico did not fully land available quota in 2016 (fishing with the same retention limit as in 2017), and, if fishing rates remain similar to those in 2016, are not expected to fully land available quotas in 2017. Thus, NMFS believes that a small increase in retention limit in this sub-region could allow fishermen additional opportunities to fully land available quotas while not exceeding them. However, if catch rates increase and the eastern Gulf of Mexico subregional management groups close this year, NMFS could make changes to the 2018 opening dates and commercial retention limits if necessary to ensure equitable fishing opportunities. In the Atlantic region, NMFS proposes opening the aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark management groups on or about January 1, 2018. This opening date is the same date that these management groups opened in 2017. As described below, this opening date also takes into account all the criteria listed in § 635.27(b)(3), and particularly the criterion that NMFS consider the effects of catch rates in one part of a region precluding vessels in another part of that region from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the different species and/or management quotas (§ 635.27(b)(3)(v)). In 2017, the data indicate that an opening date of January 1 provided a reasonable opportunity for every part of each region to harvest a portion of the available quotas (§ 635.27(b)(3)(i)) while VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:08 Aug 21, 2017 Jkt 241001 accounting for variations in seasonal distribution of the different species in the management groups (§ 635.27(b)(3)(iv)). When the aggregated LCS quota was harvested too quickly to allow fishermen in the North Atlantic area an opportunity to fish, NMFS reduced the retention limit to three sharks per trip on April 13, 2017 (82 FR 17765). NMFS then increased the retention limit to 36 sharks per trip on July 16, 2017 (82 FR 32490), to allow for equitable fishing opportunities across the Atlantic region. Because the quotas in 2018 are proposed to be the same as the quotas in 2017, NMFS expects that the season lengths and therefore the participation of various fishermen throughout the region, would be similar in 2018 (§ 635.27(b)(3)(ii) and (iii)). Based on the recent performance of the fishery, the January 1 opening date appears to be meet the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments (§ 635.27(b)(3)(vi)). Therefore, there is no information that indicates changing the opening date is necessary. In addition, for the aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark management groups in the Atlantic region, NMFS is proposing that the commercial retention trip limit for directed shark limited access permit holders on the proposed opening date be 25 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip. This retention limit should allow fishermen to harvest some of the 2018 quota at the beginning of the year when sharks are more prevalent in the South Atlantic area (see the criteria at § 635.24(a)(3)(i), (ii), (v), and (vi)). As was done in 2017, if it appears that the quota is being harvested too quickly (i.e., about 20 percent) to allow directed fishermen throughout the entire region an opportunity to fish and ensure enough quota remains until later in the year, NMFS would reduce the commercial retention limits to incidental levels (3 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip) or another level calculated to reduce the harvest of LCS taking into account § 635.27(b)(3) and the inseason trip limit adjustment criteria listed in § 635.24(a)(8), particularly the consideration of whether catch rates in one part of a region or sub-region are precluding vessels in another part of that region or sub-region from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the relevant quota (§ 635.24(a)(8)(vi)). If the quota continues to be harvested quickly, NMFS could reduce the retention limit to 0 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip to ensure enough quota remains until later in the year. If either PO 00000 Frm 00039 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 situation occurs, NMFS would publish in the Federal Register notification of any inseason adjustments of the retention limit to an appropriate limit of sharks per trip. In 2017, NMFS reduced the retention limit to 3 LCS other than sandbar sharks on April 13, 2017 (82 FR 17765) when the aggregated LCS landings reached approximately 20 percent of the aggregated LCS quota, and did not need to reduce it further. Also, as was done in 2017, NMFS will consider increasing the commercial retention limits per trip at a later date if necessary to provide fishermen in the northern portion of the Atlantic region an opportunity to retain aggregated LCS and hammerhead sharks after considering the appropriate inseason adjustment criteria. Similarly, at some point later in the year (e.g., July 15), potentially equivalent to how the 2017 fishing season operated, NMFS may consider increasing the retention limit to 36 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip or another amount, as deemed appropriate, after considering the inseason trip limit adjustment criteria. If the quota is being harvested too quickly or too slowly, NMFS could adjust the retention limit appropriately to ensure the fishery remains open most of the rest of the year. Since the fishery is still open with majority of the quota available, NMFS will monitor the rest of the fishing season and could make changes to the proposed 2018 opening date if necessary to ensure equitable fishing opportunities. All of the shark management groups would remain open until December 31, 2018, or until NMFS determines that the fishing season landings for any shark management group have reached, or are projected to reach, 80 percent of the available quota. If NMFS determines that a non-linked shark species or management group must be closed, then, consistent with § 635.28(b)(2) for non-linked quotas (e.g., eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip, western Gulf of Mexico blacktip, Gulf of Mexico non-blacknose SCS, pelagic sharks, or the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico smoothhound sharks), NMFS will publish in the Federal Register a notice of closure for that shark species, shark management group, region, and/or sub-region that will be effective no fewer than 5 days from the date of filing. For the blacktip shark management group, regulations at § 635.28(b)(5)(i) through (v) authorize NMFS to close the management group before landings reach, or are expected to reach, 80 percent of the quota after considering the following criteria and other relevant factors: season length based on available sub-regional quota and average sub-regional catch rates; E:\FR\FM\22AUP1.SGM 22AUP1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 161 / Tuesday, August 22, 2017 / Proposed Rules variability in regional and/or subregional seasonal distribution, abundance, and migratory patterns; effects on accomplishing the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments; amount of remaining shark quotas in the relevant sub-region; and regional and/or sub-regional catch rates of the relevant shark species or management groups. From the effective date and time of the closure until NMFS announces, via the publication of a notice in the Federal Register, that additional quota is available and the season is reopened, the fisheries for the shark species or management group are closed, even across fishing years. If NMFS determines that a linked shark species or management group must be closed, then, consistent with § 635.28(b)(3) for linked quotas, NMFS will publish in the Federal Register a notice of closure for all of the species and/or management groups in a linked group that will be effective no fewer than 5 days from date of filing. From the effective date and time of the closure until NMFS announces, via the publication of a notice in the Federal Register, that additional quota is available and the season is reopened, the fisheries for all linked species and/ or management groups are closed, even across fishing years. The linked quotas of the species and/or management groups are Atlantic hammerhead sharks and Atlantic aggregated LCS; eastern Gulf of Mexico hammerhead sharks and eastern Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS; western Gulf of Mexico hammerhead sharks and western Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS; and Atlantic blacknose and Atlantic non-blacknose SCS south of 34° N. latitude. NMFS may close the fishery for the Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark before landings reach, or are expected to reach, 80 percent of the quota, after considering the criteria listed at § 635.28(b)(5). Request for Comments Comments on this proposed rule may be submitted via www.regulations.gov or by mail. NMFS solicits comments on this proposed rule by September 21, 2017 (see DATES and ADDRESSES). sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS Classification The NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that the proposed rule is consistent with the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, subject to further consideration after public comment. These proposed specifications are exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:08 Aug 21, 2017 Jkt 241001 NMFS determined that the final rules to implement Amendment 2 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP (June 24, 2008, 73 FR 35778; corrected on July 15, 2008, 73 FR 40658), Amendment 5a to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP (78 FR 40318; July 3, 2013), Amendment 6 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP (80 FR 50073; August 18, 2015), and Amendment 9 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP (80 FR 73128; November 24, 2015) are consistent to the maximum extent practicable with the enforceable policies of the approved coastal management program of coastal states on the Atlantic including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea as required under the Coastal Zone Management Act. Pursuant to 15 CFR 930.41(a), NMFS provided the Coastal Zone Management Program of each coastal state a 60-day period to review the consistency determination and to advise the Agency of their concurrence. NMFS received concurrence with the consistency determinations from several states and inferred consistency from those states that did not respond within the 60-day time period. This proposed action to establish opening dates and adjust quotas for the 2018 fishing season for the Atlantic commercial shark fisheries does not change the framework previously consulted upon; therefore, no additional consultation is required. An initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA) was prepared, as required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). The IRFA describes the economic impact this proposed rule, if adopted, would have on small entities. The IRFA analysis follows. Section 603(b)(1) of the RFA requires agencies to explain the purpose of the rule. This rule, consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments, is being proposed to establish the 2018 commercial shark fishing quotas, retention limits, and fishing seasons. Without this rule, the commercial shark fisheries would close on December 31, 2017, and would not open until another action was taken. This proposed rule would be implemented according to the regulations implementing the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments. Thus, NMFS expects few, if any, economic impacts to fishermen other than those already analyzed in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments, based on the quota adjustments. Section 603(b)(2) of the RFA requires agencies to explain the rule’s objectives. The objectives of this rule are to: Adjust the baseline quotas for all Atlantic shark PO 00000 Frm 00040 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 39741 management groups based on any overand/or underharvests from the previous fishing year(s); establish the opening dates of the various management groups; and establish the retention limits for the blacktip shark, aggregated large coastal shark, and hammerhead shark management groups in order to provide, to the extent practicable, equitable opportunities across the fishing management regions and/or subregions while also considering the ecological needs of the different shark species. Section 603(b)(3) of the RFA requires agencies to provide an estimate of the number of small entities to which the rule would apply. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has established size criteria for all major industry sectors in the United States, including fish harvesters. Provision is made under SBA’s regulations for an agency to develop its own industry-specific size standards after consultation with Advocacy and an opportunity for public comment (see 13 CFR 121.903(c)). Under this provision, NMFS may establish size standards that differ from those established by the SBA Office of Size Standards, but only for use by NMFS and only for the purpose of conducting an analysis of economic effects in fulfillment of the agency’s obligations under the RFA. To utilize this provision, NMFS must publish such size standards in the Federal Register, which NMFS did on December 29, 2015 (80 FR 81194). In this final rule effective on July 1, 2016, NMFS established a small business size standard of $11 million in annual gross receipts for all businesses in the commercial fishing industry (NAICS 11411) for RFA compliance purposes. NMFS considers all HMS permit holders to be small entities because they had average annual receipts of less than $11 million for commercial fishing. As of July 2017, the proposed rule would apply to the approximately 206 directed commercial shark permit holders, 244 incidental commercial shark permit holders, 142 smoothhound shark permit holders, and 112 commercial shark dealers. Not all permit holders are active in the fishery in any given year. Active directed commercial shark permit holders are defined as those with valid permits that landed one shark based on HMS electronic dealer reports. Of the 450 directed and incidental commercial shark permit holders, only 28 permit holders landed sharks in the Gulf of Mexico region and only 78 landed sharks in the Atlantic region. Of the 142 smoothhound shark permit holders, only 26 permit holders landed E:\FR\FM\22AUP1.SGM 22AUP1 39742 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 161 / Tuesday, August 22, 2017 / Proposed Rules smoothhound sharks in the Atlantic region and none landed smoothhound sharks in the Gulf of Mexico region. NMFS has determined that the proposed rule would not likely affect any small governmental jurisdictions. This proposed rule does not contain any new reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements (5 U.S.C. 603(b)(4)). Similarly, this proposed rule would not conflict, duplicate, or overlap with other relevant Federal rules (5 U.S.C. 603(b)(5)). Fishermen, dealers, and managers in these fisheries must comply with a number of international agreements as domestically implemented, domestic laws, and FMPs. These include, but are not limited to, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act, the High Seas Fishing Compliance Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Paperwork Reduction Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act. Section 603(c) of the RFA requires each IRFA to contain a description of any significant alternatives to the proposed rule which would accomplish the stated objectives of applicable statutes and minimize any significant economic impact of the proposed rule on small entities. Additionally, the RFA (5 U.S.C. 603(c)(1)–(4)) lists four general categories of significant alternatives that would assist an agency in the development of significant alternatives. These categories of alternatives are: (1) Establishment of differing compliance or reporting requirements or timetables that take into account the resources available to small entities; (2) clarification, consolidation, or simplification of compliance and reporting requirements under the rule for such small entities; (3) use of performance rather than design standards; and, (4) exemptions from coverage of the rule for small entities. In order to meet the objectives of this proposed rule, consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS cannot exempt small entities or change the reporting requirements only for small entities because all the entities affected are considered small entities; therefore, there are no alternatives discussed that fall under the first, second, and fourth categories described above. NMFS does not know of any performance or design standards that would satisfy the aforementioned objectives of this rulemaking while, concurrently, complying with the Magnuson-Stevens Act; therefore, there are no alternatives considered under the third category. This rulemaking does not establish management measures to be implemented, but rather implements previously adopted and analyzed measures with adjustments, as specified in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments and the Environmental Assessment (EA) that accompanied the 2011 shark quota specifications rule (75 FR 76302; December 8, 2010). Thus, NMFS proposes to adjust quotas established and analyzed in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments by subtracting the underharvest or adding the overharvest as allowable. Thus, NMFS has limited flexibility to modify the quotas in this rule, the impacts of which were analyzed in previous regulatory flexibility analyses. Based on the 2016 ex-vessel price, fully harvesting the unadjusted 2018 Atlantic shark commercial baseline quotas could result in total fleet revenues of $7,779,285 (see Table 3). For the Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group, NMFS is proposing to increase the baseline sub-regional quotas due to the underharvests in 2017. The increase for the western Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group could result in a $218,647 gain in total revenues for fishermen in that subregion, while the increase for the eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group could result in a $32,902 gain in total revenues for fishermen in that sub-region. For the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic smoothhound shark management groups, NMFS is proposing to increase the baseline quotas due to the underharvest in 2017. This would cause a potential gain in revenue of $581,718 for the fleet in the Gulf of Mexico region and a potential gain in revenue of $1,083,926 for the fleet in the Atlantic region. All of these changes in gross revenues are similar to the changes in gross revenues analyzed in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments. The final regulatory flexibility analyses for those amendments concluded that the economic impacts on these small entities are expected to be minimal. In the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments and the EA for the 2011 shark quota specifications rule, NMFS stated it would be conducting annual rulemakings and considering the potential economic impacts of adjusting the quotas for under- and overharvests at that time. TABLE 3—AVERAGE EX-VESSEL PRICES PER LB DW FOR EACH SHARK MANAGEMENT GROUP, 2016 Average ex-vessel meat price Region Species Western Gulf of Mexico ............................... Blacktip Shark ................................................................................ Aggregated LCS ............................................................................ Hammerhead Shark ....................................................................... Blacktip Shark ................................................................................ Aggregated LCS ............................................................................ Hammerhead Shark ....................................................................... Non-Blacknose SCS ...................................................................... Smoothhound Shark ...................................................................... Aggregated LCS ............................................................................ Hammerhead Shark ....................................................................... Non-Blacknose SCS ...................................................................... Blacknose Shark ............................................................................ Smoothhound Shark ...................................................................... Shark Research Fishery (Aggregated LCS) .................................. Shark Research Fishery (Sandbar only) ....................................... Blue shark ...................................................................................... Porbeagle shark * ........................................................................... Other Pelagic sharks ..................................................................... Eastern Gulf of Mexico ............................... Gulf of Mexico ............................................. sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS Atlantic ......................................................... No Region ................................................... $0.56 0.52 0.83 0.89 0.56 0.25 0.38 1.50 0.79 0.38 0.71 0.98 0.75 0.70 0.68 0.75 1.54 1.54 Average ex-vessel fin price $11.00 11.06 11.08 10.67 11.23 15.95 8.68 1.91 5.54 5.73 2.92 2.92 1.91 9.47 9.47 3.58 3.58 3.58 * Used other pelagic shark ex-vessel prices for porbeagle sharks ex-vessel prices since there currently are no landings of porbeagle sharks. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:08 Aug 21, 2017 Jkt 241001 PO 00000 Frm 00041 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\22AUP1.SGM 22AUP1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 161 / Tuesday, August 22, 2017 / Proposed Rules For this rule, NMFS also reviewed the criteria at § 635.27(b)(3) to determine when opening each fishery would provide equitable opportunities for fishermen, to the extent practicable, while also considering the ecological needs of the different species. The opening dates of the fishing season(s) could vary depending upon the available annual quota, catch rates, and number of fishing participants during the year. For the 2018 fishing season, NMFS is proposing to open all of the shark management groups on the effective date of the final rule for this action (expected to be on or about January 1). The direct and indirect economic impacts would be neutral on a short- and long-term basis because NMFS is not proposing to change the opening dates of these fisheries from the status quo. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: August 15, 2017. Samuel D. Rauch, III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2017–17575 Filed 8–21–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Parts 679 and 680 [Docket No. 170412391–7391–01] RIN 0648–BG84 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area; American Fisheries Act; Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Crab Rationalization Program National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS issues a proposed rule to implement Amendment 48 to the Fishery Management Plan for Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands King and Tanner Crabs (Crab FMP) and a regulatory amendment to revise regulations implementing the American Fisheries Act (AFA) Program and the Crab Rationalization (CR) Program. This proposed rule would revise how NMFS determines the amount of limited access privileges held and used by groups in sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with PROPOSALS SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:08 Aug 21, 2017 Jkt 241001 the Western Alaska Community Development Quota Program (CDQ Program) for the purposes of managing the excessive share limits under the AFA Program and the CR Program. This proposed rule is necessary to align regulations and the Crab FMP to be consistent with an amendment to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) and NMFS’ current method of managing excessive share limits for CDQ groups in the AFA Program and the CR Program. This proposed rule is intended to promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Crab FMP, and other applicable law. DATES: Submit comments on or before September 21, 2017. ADDRESSES: Submit comments, identified by docket number NOAA– NMFS–2017–0038, by either of the following methods: • Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D= NOAA-NMFS-2017-0038, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Submit written comments to Glenn Merrill, Assistant Regional Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian. Mail comments to P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802–1668. 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 be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Electronic copies of Amendment 48 to the Crab FMP, the Regulatory Impact Review (RIR), and the Categorical Exclusion prepared for this proposed action are available from http:// www.regulations.gov or from the NMFS Alaska Region Web site at http://alaska fisheries.noaa.gov. The CR Program Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), RIR, and Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis, as well as the AFA Program EIS and RIR, are available from the NMFS Alaska Region Web site at http://alaska fisheries.noaa.gov. PO 00000 Frm 00042 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 39743 FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Keeley Kent, 907–586–7228. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Authority for Action NMFS manages the pollock fisheries in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off Alaska under the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (BSAI FMP). NMFS manages the king and Tanner crab fisheries in the U.S. EEZ of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) under the Crab FMP. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) prepared, and NMFS approved, the BSAI FMP and the Crab FMP under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Regulations governing and implementing the BSAI FMP appear at 50 CFR parts 600 and 679. Regulations governing and implementing the Crab FMP appear at 50 CFR parts 600 and 680. A notice of availability for Amendment 48 to the Crab FMP was published in the Federal Register on August 3, 2017. Comment on Amendment 48 is invited through October 2, 2017. All relevant written comments received by the end of the comment period, whether specifically directed to the FMP amendment, this proposed rule, or both, will be considered in the approval/disapproval decision for Amendment 48 and addressed in the response to comments in the final rule. Background This proposed rule would modify regulations that specify how NMFS determines holding and use of limited access privileges (LAPs) for the purposes of managing excessive share limits for CDQ groups under the AFA Program and the CR Program. The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires NMFS to establish excessive share limits to prevent excessive consolidation of harvesting and processing LAPs in order to maintain an appropriate distribution of economic and social benefits for fishery participants and communities. NMFS has adopted regulations under its LAP programs to ensure that no person holds or uses more LAPs than authorized under excessive share limits established for each LAP program. Section 305(i) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act describes the Western Alaska Community Development Quota Program (CDQ Program) (16 U.S.C. 1855(i)). Regulations at 50 CFR 679.2 define the term ‘‘CDQ group’’ as an entity identified as eligible for the CDQ Program under 16 U.S.C. 1855(i)(1)(D). E:\FR\FM\22AUP1.SGM 22AUP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 161 (Tuesday, August 22, 2017)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 39735-39743]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-17575]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

[Docket No. 170605543-7737-01]
RIN 0648-XF486


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; 2018 Atlantic Shark Commercial 
Fishing Season

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: This proposed rule would establish quotas, opening dates, and 
retention limits for the 2018 fishing season for the Atlantic 
commercial shark fisheries. Quotas would be adjusted as required or 
allowable based on any over- and/or underharvests experienced during 
2017 and previous fishing seasons. In addition, NMFS proposes season 
opening dates and commercial retention limits based on adaptive 
management measures to provide, to the extent practicable, fishing 
opportunities for commercial shark fishermen in all regions and areas. 
The proposed measures could affect fishing opportunities for commercial 
shark fishermen in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf 
of Mexico and Caribbean Sea.

DATES: Written comments must be received by September 21, 2017.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NMFS-2017-0069, by any 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-2017-0069, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Margo Schulze-Haugen, 
NMFS/SF1, 1315 East-West Highway, National Marine Fisheries Service, 
SSMC3, Silver Spring, MD 20910.
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous).
    Copies of this proposed rule and supporting documents are available 
from the HMS Management Division Web site at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/ 
or by contacting Gu[yacute] DuBeck by phone at 301-427-8503.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Gu[yacute] DuBeck or Karyl Brewster-
Geisz at 301-427-8503.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The Atlantic commercial shark fisheries are managed under the 
authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management 
Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). The 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory 
Species (HMS) Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and its amendments are 
implemented by regulations at 50 CFR part 635. For the Atlantic 
commercial shark fisheries, the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its 
amendments established, among other things, commercial shark retention 
limits, commercial quotas for species and management groups, accounting 
measures for under- and overharvests for the shark fisheries, and 
adaptive management measures such as flexible opening dates for the 
fishing season and inseason adjustments to shark trip limits, which 
provide management flexibility in furtherance of equitable fishing 
opportunities, to the extent practicable, for commercial shark 
fishermen in all regions and areas.

2018 Proposed Quotas

    This proposed rule would adjust the quota levels for the different 
shark stocks and management groups for the 2018 Atlantic commercial 
shark fishing season based on over- and underharvests that occurred 
during 2017 and previous fishing seasons, consistent with existing 
regulations at 50 CFR 635.27(b). Over- and underharvests are accounted 
for in the same region, sub-region, and/or fishery in which they 
occurred the following year, except that large overharvests may be 
spread over a number of subsequent fishing years up to a maximum of 5 
years. Shark stocks or management groups that contain one or more 
stocks that are overfished, have overfishing occurring, or have an 
unknown status, will not have underharvest carried over in the 
following year. Stocks that are not overfished and have no overfishing 
occurring may have any underharvest carried over in the following year, 
up to 50 percent of the base quota.
    The quotas in this proposed rule are based on dealer reports 
received as of July 14, 2017. In the final rule, NMFS will adjust the 
quotas as needed based on dealer reports received as of a date in mid-
October 2017. Thus, all of the 2018 proposed quotas for the respective 
stocks and management groups will be subject to further adjustment 
after NMFS considers the dealer reports through mid-October. All dealer 
reports that are received after the October date will be used to adjust 
the 2019 quotas, as appropriate.

[[Page 39736]]

    For the sandbar shark, aggregated large coastal share (LCS), 
hammerhead shark, non-blacknose small coastal share (SCS), blacknose 
shark, blue shark, porbeagle shark, and pelagic shark (other than 
porbeagle or blue sharks) management groups, the 2017 underharvests 
cannot be carried over to the 2018 fishing season because those stocks 
or management groups have been determined to be overfished, overfished 
with overfishing occurring, or have an unknown status. Thus, for all of 
these management groups, the 2018 proposed quotas would be equal to the 
applicable base quota minus any overharvests that occurred in 2017 and/
or previous fishing seasons, as applicable.
    Because the Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group and 
smoothhound shark management groups in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic 
regions have been determined not to be overfished and to have no 
overfishing occurring, available underharvest (up to 50 percent of the 
base quota) from the 2017 fishing season for these management groups 
may be applied to the respective 2018 quotas, and NMFS proposes to do 
so.
    The proposed 2018 quotas by species and management group are 
summarized in Table 1; the description of the calculations for each 
stock and management group can be found below.

                                                    Table 1--2018 Proposed Quotas and Opening Dates for the Atlantic Shark Management Groups
[All Quotas and Landings Are Dressed Weight (dw), in Metric Tons (mt), Unless Specified Otherwise. Table Includes Landings Data as of July 14, 2017; Final Quotas Are Subject to Change Based on
                                                                         Landings as of October 2017. 1 mt = 2,204.6 lb]
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                 Preliminary 2017                            2018 base annual      2018 proposed
       Region or sub-region          Management group      2017 annual quota       landings \1\         Adjustments \2\           quota             annual quota         Season opening dates
                                   ....................  (A).................  (B).................  (C).................  (D)................  (D + C)............
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Western Gulf of Mexico...........  Blacktip Sharks.....  331.6 mt dw (730,425  206.6 mt dw (455,535  \3\ 115.7 mt dw       231.5 mt dw          347.2 mt dw          January 1, 2018.
                                                          lb dw).               lb dw).               (255,131 lb dw).      (510,261 lb dw).     (765,392 lb dw).
                                   Aggregated Large      72.0 mt dw (158,724   65.8 mt dw (145,098   ....................  72.0 mt dw (158,724  72.0 mt dw (158,724
                                    Coastal Sharks.       lb dw).               lb dw).                                     lb dw).              lb dw).
                                   Hammerhead Sharks...  11.9 mt dw (26,301    2.5 mt dw (5,490 lb   ....................  11.9 mt dw (26,301   11.9 mt dw (26,301
                                                          lb dw).               dw).                                        lb dw).              lb dw).
Eastern Gulf of Mexico...........  Blacktip Sharks.....  36.0 mt dw (79,359    15.3 mt dw (33,788    \3\ 12.6 mt dw        25.1 mt dw (55,439   37.7 mt dw (83,158
                                                          lb dw).               lb dw).               (27,719 lb dw).       lb dw).              lb dw).
                                   Aggregated Large      85.5 mt dw (188,593   42.0 mt dw (92,617    ....................  85.5 mt dw (188,593  85.5 mt dw (188,593
                                    Coastal Sharks.       lb dw).               lb dw).                                     lb dw).              lb dw).
                                   Hammerhead Sharks...  13.4 mt dw (29,421    6.4 mt dw (14,151 lb  ....................  13.4 mt dw (29,421   13.4 mt dw (29,421
                                                          lb dw).               dw).                                        lb dw).              lb dw).
Gulf of Mexico...................  Non-Blacknose Small   112.6 mt dw (248,215  36.2 mt dw (79,779    ....................  112.6 mt dw          112.6 mt dw
                                    Coastal Sharks.       lb dw).               lb dw).                                     (248,215 lb dw).     (248,215 lb dw).
                                   Smoothhound Sharks..  504.6 mt dw           0 mt dw (0 lb dw)...  168.2 mt dw (370,814  336.4 mt dw          504.6 mt dw
                                                          (1,112,441 lb dw).                          lb dw).               (741,627).           (1,112,441 lb dw).
Atlantic.........................  Aggregated Large      168.9 mt dw (372,552  55.2 mt dw (121,791   ....................  168.9 mt dw          168.9 mt dw          January 1, 2018.
                                    Coastal Sharks.       lb dw).               lb dw).                                     (372,552 lb dw).     (372,552 lb dw).
                                   Hammerhead Sharks...  27.1 mt dw (59,736    5.0 mt dw (10,973 lb  ....................  27.1 mt dw (59,736   27.1 mt dw (59,736
                                                          lb dw).               dw).                                        lb dw).              lb dw).
                                   Non-Blacknose Small   264.1 mt dw (582,333  60.9 mt dw (134,202   ....................  264.1 mt dw          264.1 mt dw
                                    Coastal Sharks.       lb dw).               lb dw).                                     (582,333 lb dw).     (582,333 lb dw).
                                   Blacknose Sharks      17.2 mt dw (37,921    5.2 mt dw (11,373 lb  ....................  17.2 mt dw (37,921   17.2 mt dw (37,921
                                    (South of 34 [deg]    lb dw).               dw).                                        lb dw).              lb dw).
                                    N. lat. only).
                                   Smoothhound Sharks..  1,802.6 mt dw         166.9 mt dw (367,933  600.9 mt dw           1,201.7 mt dw        1,802.6 mt dw
                                                          (3,973,902 lb dw).    lb dw).               (1,324,634 lb dw).    (2,649,268 lb dw).   (3,973,902 lb dw).
No regional quotas...............  Non-Sandbar LCS       50.0 mt dw (110,230   10.1 mt dw (22,157    ....................  50.0 mt dw (110,230  50.0 mt dw (110,230  January 1, 2018.
                                    Research.             lb dw).               lb dw).                                     lb dw).              lb dw).
                                   Sandbar Shark         90.7 mt dw (199,943   38.4 mt dw (84,619    ....................  90.7 mt dw (199,943  90.7 mt dw (199,943
                                    Research.             lb dw).               lb dw).                                     lb dw).              lb dw).
                                   Blue Sharks.........  273.0 mt dw (601,856  < 2.3 mt dw           ....................  273.0 mt dw          273.0 mt dw
                                                          lb dw).              (< 5,000 lb dw).....                         (601,856 lb dw).     (601,856 lb dw).
                                   Porbeagle Sharks....  1.7 mt dw (3,748 lb   0 mt dw (0 lb dw)...  ....................  1.7 mt dw (3,748 lb  1.7 mt dw (3,748 lb
                                                          dw).                                                              dw).                 dw).
                                   Pelagic Sharks Other  488.0 mt dw           64.9 mt dw (143,137   ....................  488.0 mt dw          488.0 mt dw
                                    Than Porbeagle or     (1,075,856 lb dw).    lb dw).                                     (1,075,856 lb dw).   (1,075,856 lb dw).
                                    Blue.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Landings are from January 1, 2017, through July 14, 2017, and are subject to change.
\2\ Underharvest adjustments can only be applied to stocks or management groups that are not overfished and have no overfishing occurring. Also, the underharvest adjustments cannot exceed 50
  percent of the base quota.
\3\ This adjustment accounts for underharvest in 2017. This proposed rule would increase the overall Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota by 128.3 mt dw (282,850 lb dw). Since any underharvest
  would be divided based on the sub-regional quota percentage split, the western Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota would be increased by 115.7 mt dw, or 90.2 percent of the underharvest,
  while the eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota would be increased by 12.6 mt dw, or 9.8 percent of the underharvest.

1. Proposed 2018 Quotas for the Gulf of Mexico Region Shark Management 
Groups
    The 2018 proposed commercial quota for blacktip sharks in the 
western Gulf of Mexico sub-region is 347.2 mt dw (765,392 lb dw) and 
the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region is 37.7 mt dw (83,158 lb dw). As 
of July 14, 2017, preliminary reported landings for blacktip sharks in 
the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 62 percent (206.6 mt dw) 
of their 2017 quota levels (331.6 mt dw), while the blacktip sharks in 
the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 43 percent (15.3 mt dw) 
of their 2017 quota levels (36.0 mt dw). Reported landings have not 
exceeded the 2017 quota to

[[Page 39737]]

date, and the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region fishery was closed on 
May 2, 2017 (82 FR 20447). Gulf of Mexico blacktip sharks have not been 
declared to be overfished, to have overfishing occurring, or to have an 
unknown status. Pursuant to Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii), underharvests for 
blacktip sharks within the Gulf of Mexico region therefore could be 
applied to the 2018 quotas up to 50 percent of the base quota. Any 
underharvest would be split based on the sub-regional quota percentages 
of 90.2 percent for western Gulf of Mexico blacktip sharks and 9.8 
percent for eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip sharks (Sec.  
635.27(b)(1)(ii)). To date, the overall Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark 
management group was underharvested by 148.0 mt dw (325,665 lb dw); 
however, NMFS can only apply up to 50 percent of the base quota or 
128.3 mt dw (282,850 lb dw). Accordingly, NMFS proposes to increase the 
2018 western Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota by 115.7 mt dw (128.3 
mt dw underharvest in 2017 * 90.2 percent = 115.7 mt dw western sub-
region underharvest) and increase the 2018 eastern Gulf of Mexico 
blacktip shark quota by 12.6 mt dw (128.3 mt dw underharvest in 2017 * 
9.8 percent = 12.6 mt dw eastern sub-region underharvest). Thus, the 
proposed western sub-regional Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark commercial 
quota is 347.2 mt dw and the proposed eastern sub-regional Gulf of 
Mexico blacktip shark commercial quota is 37.7 mt dw.
    The 2018 proposed commercial quota for aggregated LCS in the 
western Gulf of Mexico sub-region is 72.0 mt dw (158,724 lb dw) and the 
eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region is 85.5 mt dw (188,593 lb dw). As of 
July 14, 2017, preliminary reported landings for aggregated LCS in the 
western Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 91 percent (65.8 mt dw) of 
their 2017 quota levels (72.0 mt dw), while the aggregated LCS in the 
eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 49 percent (42.0 mt dw) of 
their 2017 quota levels (85.5 mt dw). Reported landings have not 
exceeded the 2017 quota to date, and the western aggregated LCS sub-
region fishery was closed on May 2, 2017 (82 FR 20447). Given the 
unknown status of some of the shark species within the Gulf of Mexico 
aggregated LCS management group, underharvests cannot be carried over 
pursuant to Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on preliminary 
estimates and consistent with the current regulations at Sec.  
635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2018 quotas for aggregated LCS in 
the western Gulf of Mexico and eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-regions be 
equal to their annual base quotas without adjustment, because there 
have not been any overharvests and because underharvests cannot be 
carried over due to stock status.
    In the Gulf of Mexico, hammerhead shark quotas are divided into two 
sub-regions: Western and eastern. The 2018 proposed commercial quotas 
for hammerhead sharks in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region and 
eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region are 11.9 mt dw (23,301 lb dw) and 
13.4 mt dw (29,421 lb dw), respectively. As of July 14, 2017, 
preliminary reported landings for hammerhead sharks in the western Gulf 
of Mexico sub-region were at 24 percent (2.5 mt dw) of their 2017 quota 
levels (11.9 mt dw), while landings of hammerhead sharks in the eastern 
Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 48 percent (6.4 mt dw) of their 2017 
quota levels (13.4 mt dw). Reported landings have not exceeded the 2017 
quota to date, and the western hammerhead shark sub-region fishery was 
closed on May 2, 2017 (82 FR 20447). Therefore, based on preliminary 
estimates and consistent with the current regulations at Sec.  
635.27(b)(2), at this time, NMFS proposes that the 2018 quotas for 
hammerhead sharks in the western Gulf of Mexico and eastern Gulf of 
Mexico sub-regions be equal to their annual base quotas without 
adjustment, because there have not been any overharvests and because 
underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status.
    The 2018 proposed commercial quota for non-blacknose SCS in the 
Gulf of Mexico region is 112.6 mt dw (248,215 lb dw). As of July 14, 
2017, preliminary reported landings of non-blacknose SCS were at 32 
percent (36.2 mt dw) of their 2017 quota level (112.6 mt dw) in the 
Gulf of Mexico region. Reported landings have not exceeded the 2017 
quota to date. Given the unknown status of bonnethead sharks within the 
Gulf of Mexico non-blacknose SCS management group, underharvests cannot 
be carried forward pursuant to Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based 
on preliminary estimates and consistent with the current regulations at 
Sec.  635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2018 quota for non-blacknose 
SCS in the Gulf of Mexico region be equal to the annual base quota 
without adjustment, because there have not been any overharvests and 
because underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status.
    The 2018 proposed commercial quota for smoothhound sharks in the 
Gulf of Mexico region is 504.6 mt dw (1,112,441 lb dw). As of July 14, 
2017, there are no preliminary reported landings of smoothhound sharks 
in the Gulf of Mexico region. Gulf of Mexico smoothhound sharks have 
not been declared to be overfished, to have overfishing occurring, or 
to have an unknown status. Pursuant to Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii), 
underharvests for smoothhound sharks within the Gulf of Mexico region 
therefore could be applied to the 2018 quotas up to 50 percent of the 
base quota. Accordingly, NMFS proposes to increase the 2018 Gulf of 
Mexico smoothhound shark quota to adjust for anticipated underharvests 
in 2017 as allowed. The proposed 2018 adjusted base annual quota for 
Gulf of Mexico smoothhound sharks is 504.6 mt dw (1,112,441 lb dw) 
(336.4 mt dw annual base quota + 168.2 mt dw 2017 underharvest = 504.6 
mt dw 2018 adjusted annual quota).
2. Proposed 2018 Quotas for the Atlantic Region Shark Management Groups
    The 2018 proposed commercial quota for aggregated LCS in the 
Atlantic region is 168.9 mt dw (372,552 lb dw). As of July 14, 2017, 
the aggregated LCS fishery in the Atlantic region is still open and 
preliminary landings indicate that only 33 percent of the quota, or 
55.2 mt dw (121,791 lb dw), has been harvested. Given the unknown 
status of some of the shark species within the Atlantic aggregated LCS 
management group, underharvests cannot be carried over pursuant to 
Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on preliminary estimates and 
consistent with current regulations at Sec.  635.27(b)(2), NMFS 
proposes that the 2018 quota for aggregated LCS in the Atlantic region 
be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment, because there 
have not been any overharvests and underharvests cannot be carried over 
due to stock status.
    The 2018 proposed commercial quota for hammerhead sharks in the 
Atlantic region is 27.1 mt dw (59,736 lb dw). Currently, the hammerhead 
shark fishery in the Atlantic region is still open and preliminary 
landings as of July 14, 2017, indicate that only 18 percent of the 
quota, or 5.0 mt dw (10,973 lb dw), has been harvested. Given the 
overfished status of hammerhead sharks, underharvests cannot be carried 
forward pursuant to Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on 
preliminary estimates and consistent with the current regulations at 
Sec.  635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2018 quota for hammerhead 
sharks in the Atlantic region be equal to the annual base quota without 
adjustment, because there have not been any overharvests and because 
underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status.

[[Page 39738]]

    The 2018 proposed commercial quota for non-blacknose SCS in the 
Atlantic region is 264.1 mt dw (582,333 lb dw). As of July 14, 2017, 
preliminary reported landings of non-blacknose SCS were at 23 percent 
(60.9 mt dw) of their 2017 quota level (264.1 mt dw) in the Atlantic 
region. Reported landings have not exceeded the 2017 quota to date. 
Given the unknown status of bonnethead sharks within the Atlantic non-
blacknose SCS management group, underharvests cannot be carried forward 
pursuant to Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on preliminary 
estimates and consistent with the current regulations at Sec.  
635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2018 quota for non-blacknose SCS 
in the Atlantic region be equal to the annual base quota without 
adjustment, because there have not been any overharvests and because 
underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status.
    The 2018 proposed commercial quota for blacknose sharks in the 
Atlantic region is 17.2 mt dw (37,921 lb dw). As of July 14, 2017, 
preliminary reported landings of blacknose sharks were at 30 percent 
(5.2 mt dw) of their 2017 quota levels (17.2 mt dw) in the Atlantic 
region. Reported landings have not exceeded the 2017 quota to date. 
Pursuant to Sec.  635.27(b)(2), because blacknose sharks have been 
declared to be overfished with overfishing occurring in the Atlantic 
region, NMFS could not carry forward the remaining underharvest. 
Therefore, NMFS proposes that the 2018 Atlantic blacknose shark quota 
be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment. (Note: The 
blacknose shark quota is available in the Atlantic region only for 
those vessels operating south of 34[deg] N. latitude; north of 34[deg] 
N. latitude, retention, landing, and sale of blacknose sharks are 
prohibited.)
    The 2018 proposed commercial quota for smoothhound sharks in the 
Atlantic region is 1,802.6 mt dw (3,973,902 lb dw). As of July 14, 
2017, preliminary reported landings of smoothhound sharks were at 9 
percent (166.9 mt dw) of their 2017 quota levels (1,802.6 mt dw) in the 
Atlantic region. Atlantic smoothhound sharks have not been declared to 
be overfished, to have overfishing occurring, or to have an unknown 
status. Pursuant to Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii), underharvests for 
smoothhound sharks within the Atlantic region therefore could be 
applied to the 2018 quotas up to 50 percent of the base quota. 
Accordingly, NMFS proposes to increase the 2018 Atlantic smoothhound 
shark quota to adjust for anticipated underharvests in 2017 as allowed. 
The proposed 2018 adjusted base annual quota for Atlantic smoothhound 
sharks is 1,802.6 mt dw (1,323,862 lb dw) (1,201.7 mt dw annual base 
quota + 600.9 mt dw 2017 underharvest = 1,802.6 mt dw 2018 adjusted 
annual quota).

3. Proposed 2018 Quotas for Shark Management Groups With No Regional 
Quotas

    The 2018 proposed commercial quotas within the shark research 
fishery are 50.0 mt dw (110,230 lb dw) for research LCS and 90.7 mt dw 
(199,943 lb dw) for sandbar sharks. Within the shark research fishery, 
as of July 14, 2017, preliminary reported landings of research LCS were 
at 20 percent (10.1 mt dw) of their 2017 quota levels (50.0 mt dw), and 
sandbar shark reported landings were at 42 percent (38.4 mt dw) of 
their 2017 quota levels (27.1 mt dw). Reported landings have not 
exceeded the 2017 quotas to date. Under Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii), because 
sandbar sharks and scalloped hammerhead sharks within the research LCS 
management group have been determined to be either overfished or 
overfished with overfishing occurring, underharvests for these 
management groups cannot be carried forward to the 2018 quotas. 
Therefore, based on preliminary estimates and consistent with the 
current regulations at Sec.  635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2018 
quota in the shark research fishery be equal to the annual base quota 
without adjustment because there have not been any overharvests and 
because underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status.
    The 2018 proposed commercial quotas for blue sharks, porbeagle 
sharks, and pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle or blue sharks) are 
273 mt dw (601,856 lb dw), 1.7 mt dw (3,748 lb dw), and 488 mt dw 
(1,075,856 lb dw), respectively. As of July 14, 2017, there are no 
preliminary reported landings of porbeagle sharks. The preliminary 
reported landings of blue sharks were at less than 1 percent (less than 
2.3 mt dw) of their 2017 quota level (273.0 mt dw), while preliminary 
reported landings of pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle and blue 
sharks) were at 13 percent (64.9 mt dw) of their 2017 quota level 
(488.0 mt dw). Given that these pelagic species are overfished, have 
overfishing occurring, or have an unknown status, underharvests cannot 
be carried forward pursuant to Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based 
on preliminary estimates and consistent with the current regulations at 
Sec.  635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2018 quotas for blue sharks, 
porbeagle sharks, and pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle and blue 
sharks) be equal to their annual base quotas without adjustment, 
because there have not been any overharvests and because underharvests 
cannot be carried over due to stock status.
Proposed Opening Dates and Retention Limits for the 2018 Atlantic 
Commercial Shark Fishing Season
    For each fishery, NMFS considered the seven ``Opening Commercial 
Fishing Season Criteria'' listed at Sec.  635.27(b)(3). The ``Opening 
Fishing Season'' criteria consider factors such as the available annual 
quotas for the current fishing season, estimated season length and 
average weekly catch rates from previous years, length of the season 
and fishermen participation in past years, impacts to accomplishing 
objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments, 
temporal variation in behavior or biology target species (e.g., 
seasonal distribution or abundance), impact of catch rates in one 
region on another, and effects of delayed season openings.
    Specifically, as described above and below, NMFS examined the 2017 
and previous fishing years' over- and/or underharvests of the different 
management groups to determine the effects of the 2018 proposed 
commercial quotas on the shark stocks and fishermen across regional and 
sub-regional fishing areas. NMFS also examined the potential season 
length and previous catch rates to ensure, to the extent practicable, 
that equitable fishing opportunities be provided to fishermen in all 
areas. Lastly, NMFS examined the seasonal variation of the different 
species/management groups and the effects on fishing opportunities.
    As described below, NMFS also considered the six ``Inseason trip 
limit adjustment criteria'' listed at Sec.  635.24(a)(8) for directed 
shark limited access permit holders intending to land LCS other than 
sandbar sharks. Those criteria are: The amount of remaining shark quota 
in the relevant area or region, to date, based on dealer reports; the 
catch rates of the relevant shark species/complexes, to date, based on 
dealer reports; estimated date of fishery closure based on when the 
landings are projected to reach 80 percent of the quota given the 
realized catch rates; effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the 
objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments; 
variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migratory patterns 
of the relevant shark species based on scientific and fishery-based 
knowledge; and/or effects of catch rates in one part of a region 
precluding vessels in another part of that region

[[Page 39739]]

from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the 
relevant quota.
    After considering these criteria, NMFS is proposing that the 2018 
Atlantic commercial shark fishing season for all shark management 
groups in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico 
and the Caribbean Sea, open on or about January 1, 2018, after the 
publication of the final rule for this action (Table 2). NMFS is also 
proposing to start the 2018 commercial shark fishing season with the 
commercial retention limit of 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per 
vessel per trip in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region, 50 LCS other 
than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip in the eastern Gulf of Mexico 
sub-region, and 25 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip in 
the Atlantic region (Table 2). However, at the time of writing this 
proposed rule, some management groups remain open and, for those 
management groups that are already closed, landings are still being 
calculated and checked for quality control and assurance. Thus, NMFS 
may implement different opening dates and commercial retention limits 
in the final rule if there are underharvested quotas or quota 
exceedances in 2017 that are not accounted for in this proposed rule.

          Table 2--Quota Linkages, Season Opening Dates, and Commercial Retention Limit by Regional or
                                       Sub-Regional Shark Management Group
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                            Commercial retention
                                                                                             limits for directed
                                                                                            shark limited access
     Region or sub-region      Management group   Quota linkages    Season opening dates       permit holders
                                                                                                  (inseason
                                                                                               adjustments are
                                                                                                  possible)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Western Gulf of Mexico.......  Blacktip Sharks.  Not Linked       January 1, 2018.........  45 LCS other than
                                                                                             sandbar sharks per
                                                                                             vessel per trip.
                               Aggregated Large  Linked.........
                                Coastal Sharks.
                               Hammerhead
                                Sharks.
Eastern Gulf of Mexico.......  Blacktip Sharks.  Not Linked       January 1, 2018.........  50 LCS other than
                                                                                             sandbar sharks per
                                                                                             vessel per trip.
                               Aggregated Large  Linked.........
                                Coastal Sharks.
                               Hammerhead
                                Sharks.
Gulf of Mexico...............  Non-Blacknose     Not Linked.....  January 1, 2018.........  N/A.
                                Small Coastal
                                Sharks.
                               Smoothhound       Not Linked.....  January 1, 2018.........  N/A.
                                Sharks.
Atlantic.....................  Aggregated Large  Linked.........  January 1, 2018.........  25 LCS other than
                                Coastal Sharks.                                              sandbar sharks per
                                                                                             vessel per trip.
                                                                                            If quota is landed
                                                                                             quickly (e.g., if
                                                                                             approximately 20
                                                                                             percent of quota is
                                                                                             caught at the
                                                                                             beginning of the
                                                                                             year), NMFS
                                                                                             anticipates an
                                                                                             inseason reduction
                                                                                             (e.g., to 3 or
                                                                                             fewer LCS other
                                                                                             than sandbar sharks
                                                                                             per vessel per
                                                                                             trip), then an
                                                                                             inseason increase
                                                                                             to 36 LCS other
                                                                                             than sandbar sharks
                                                                                             per vessel per trip
                                                                                             around July 15,
                                                                                             2018.
                                                                                            Hammerhead Sharks
                               Non-Blacknose     Linked (South    January 1, 2018.........  N/A.
                                Small Coastal     of 34[deg] N.
                                Sharks.           lat. only).
                               Blacknose Sharks
                                (South of
                                34[deg] N. lat.
                                only).
                               Smoothhound       Not Linked.....  January 1, 2018.........  N/A.
                                Sharks.
No regional quotas...........  Non-Sandbar LCS   Linked.........  January 1, 2018.........  N/A.
                                Research.
                               Sandbar Shark
                                Research.
                               Blue Sharks.....  Not Linked.....  January 1, 2018.........  N/A.
                               Porbeagle Sharks
                               Pelagic Sharks
                                Other Than
                                Porbeagle or
                                Blue.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In the Gulf of Mexico region, we are opening the fishing season on 
or about January 1, 2018, for the aggregated LCS, blacktip sharks, and 
hammerhead shark management groups with the commercial retention limits 
of 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip for directed 
shark permit holders in the western sub-region--and 50 LCS other than 
sandbar sharks per vessel per trip for directed shark permit holders in 
the eastern sub-region. This would provide, to the extent practicable, 
equitable opportunities across the fisheries management sub-regions. 
This opening date takes into account all the season opening criteria 
listed in Sec.  635.27(b)(3), and particularly the criteria that NMFS 
consider the length of the season for the different species and/or 
management group in the previous years (Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(ii) and 
(iii)) and whether fishermen were able to participate in the fishery in 
those years (Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(v)). The proposed commercial retention 
limits take into account the criteria listed in Sec.  635.24(a)(8), and 
particularly the criterion that NMFS consider the catch rates of the 
relevant shark species/complexes based on dealer reports to date (Sec.  
635.24(a)(8)(ii)). Similar to the retention limit adjustment process 
described for the Atlantic region, NMFS may consider adjusting the 
retention limit in the Gulf of Mexico region throughout the season to 
ensure fishermen in all parts of the region have an opportunity to 
harvest aggregated

[[Page 39740]]

LCS, blacktip sharks, and hammerhead sharks (see the criteria listed at 
Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(v) and Sec.  635.24(a)(8)(ii), (v), and (vi)). In 
2017, the management groups in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region 
were closed on May 2, 2017 (82 FR 20447). As such, in 2018, NMFS is 
proposing the same commercial trip limit for these management groups 
that was set in 2017 in order to ensure the management group is open 
until at least April 2017, which is when the State of Louisiana closes 
state waters to shark fishing and when that State has previously asked 
that NMFS close Federal shark fisheries to match state regulations if 
quotas are limited (see the criteria listed at Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(vii) 
and Sec.  635.24(a)(8)(iii)). In the eastern Gulf of Mexico, NMFS is 
proposing a slightly higher trip limit in order to increase the harvest 
levels. Currently, the aggregated LCS, blacktip shark, and hammerhead 
shark management groups are still open in the eastern Gulf of Mexico 
sub-region (see the criteria listed at Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(i) through 
(v), Sec.  635.24(a)(8)(i) through (iii), and Sec.  635.24(a)(8)(v) and 
(vi)). Fishermen fishing for these management groups in the eastern 
Gulf of Mexico did not fully land available quota in 2016 (fishing with 
the same retention limit as in 2017), and, if fishing rates remain 
similar to those in 2016, are not expected to fully land available 
quotas in 2017. Thus, NMFS believes that a small increase in retention 
limit in this sub-region could allow fishermen additional opportunities 
to fully land available quotas while not exceeding them. However, if 
catch rates increase and the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-regional 
management groups close this year, NMFS could make changes to the 2018 
opening dates and commercial retention limits if necessary to ensure 
equitable fishing opportunities.
    In the Atlantic region, NMFS proposes opening the aggregated LCS 
and hammerhead shark management groups on or about January 1, 2018. 
This opening date is the same date that these management groups opened 
in 2017. As described below, this opening date also takes into account 
all the criteria listed in Sec.  635.27(b)(3), and particularly the 
criterion that NMFS consider the effects of catch rates in one part of 
a region precluding vessels in another part of that region from having 
a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the different species 
and/or management quotas (Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(v)). In 2017, the data 
indicate that an opening date of January 1 provided a reasonable 
opportunity for every part of each region to harvest a portion of the 
available quotas (Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(i)) while accounting for 
variations in seasonal distribution of the different species in the 
management groups (Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(iv)). When the aggregated LCS 
quota was harvested too quickly to allow fishermen in the North 
Atlantic area an opportunity to fish, NMFS reduced the retention limit 
to three sharks per trip on April 13, 2017 (82 FR 17765). NMFS then 
increased the retention limit to 36 sharks per trip on July 16, 2017 
(82 FR 32490), to allow for equitable fishing opportunities across the 
Atlantic region. Because the quotas in 2018 are proposed to be the same 
as the quotas in 2017, NMFS expects that the season lengths and 
therefore the participation of various fishermen throughout the region, 
would be similar in 2018 (Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(ii) and (iii)). Based on 
the recent performance of the fishery, the January 1 opening date 
appears to be meet the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and 
its amendments (Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(vi)). Therefore, there is no 
information that indicates changing the opening date is necessary.
    In addition, for the aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark management 
groups in the Atlantic region, NMFS is proposing that the commercial 
retention trip limit for directed shark limited access permit holders 
on the proposed opening date be 25 LCS other than sandbar sharks per 
vessel per trip. This retention limit should allow fishermen to harvest 
some of the 2018 quota at the beginning of the year when sharks are 
more prevalent in the South Atlantic area (see the criteria at Sec.  
635.24(a)(3)(i), (ii), (v), and (vi)). As was done in 2017, if it 
appears that the quota is being harvested too quickly (i.e., about 20 
percent) to allow directed fishermen throughout the entire region an 
opportunity to fish and ensure enough quota remains until later in the 
year, NMFS would reduce the commercial retention limits to incidental 
levels (3 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip) or another 
level calculated to reduce the harvest of LCS taking into account Sec.  
635.27(b)(3) and the inseason trip limit adjustment criteria listed in 
Sec.  635.24(a)(8), particularly the consideration of whether catch 
rates in one part of a region or sub-region are precluding vessels in 
another part of that region or sub-region from having a reasonable 
opportunity to harvest a portion of the relevant quota (Sec.  
635.24(a)(8)(vi)). If the quota continues to be harvested quickly, NMFS 
could reduce the retention limit to 0 LCS other than sandbar sharks per 
vessel per trip to ensure enough quota remains until later in the year. 
If either situation occurs, NMFS would publish in the Federal Register 
notification of any inseason adjustments of the retention limit to an 
appropriate limit of sharks per trip. In 2017, NMFS reduced the 
retention limit to 3 LCS other than sandbar sharks on April 13, 2017 
(82 FR 17765) when the aggregated LCS landings reached approximately 20 
percent of the aggregated LCS quota, and did not need to reduce it 
further.
    Also, as was done in 2017, NMFS will consider increasing the 
commercial retention limits per trip at a later date if necessary to 
provide fishermen in the northern portion of the Atlantic region an 
opportunity to retain aggregated LCS and hammerhead sharks after 
considering the appropriate inseason adjustment criteria. Similarly, at 
some point later in the year (e.g., July 15), potentially equivalent to 
how the 2017 fishing season operated, NMFS may consider increasing the 
retention limit to 36 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip 
or another amount, as deemed appropriate, after considering the 
inseason trip limit adjustment criteria. If the quota is being 
harvested too quickly or too slowly, NMFS could adjust the retention 
limit appropriately to ensure the fishery remains open most of the rest 
of the year. Since the fishery is still open with majority of the quota 
available, NMFS will monitor the rest of the fishing season and could 
make changes to the proposed 2018 opening date if necessary to ensure 
equitable fishing opportunities.
    All of the shark management groups would remain open until December 
31, 2018, or until NMFS determines that the fishing season landings for 
any shark management group have reached, or are projected to reach, 80 
percent of the available quota. If NMFS determines that a non-linked 
shark species or management group must be closed, then, consistent with 
Sec.  635.28(b)(2) for non-linked quotas (e.g., eastern Gulf of Mexico 
blacktip, western Gulf of Mexico blacktip, Gulf of Mexico non-blacknose 
SCS, pelagic sharks, or the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico smoothhound 
sharks), NMFS will publish in the Federal Register a notice of closure 
for that shark species, shark management group, region, and/or sub-
region that will be effective no fewer than 5 days from the date of 
filing. For the blacktip shark management group, regulations at Sec.  
635.28(b)(5)(i) through (v) authorize NMFS to close the management 
group before landings reach, or are expected to reach, 80 percent of 
the quota after considering the following criteria and other relevant 
factors: season length based on available sub-regional quota and 
average sub-regional catch rates;

[[Page 39741]]

variability in regional and/or sub-regional seasonal distribution, 
abundance, and migratory patterns; effects on accomplishing the 
objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments; amount 
of remaining shark quotas in the relevant sub-region; and regional and/
or sub-regional catch rates of the relevant shark species or management 
groups. From the effective date and time of the closure until NMFS 
announces, via the publication of a notice in the Federal Register, 
that additional quota is available and the season is reopened, the 
fisheries for the shark species or management group are closed, even 
across fishing years.
    If NMFS determines that a linked shark species or management group 
must be closed, then, consistent with Sec.  635.28(b)(3) for linked 
quotas, NMFS will publish in the Federal Register a notice of closure 
for all of the species and/or management groups in a linked group that 
will be effective no fewer than 5 days from date of filing. From the 
effective date and time of the closure until NMFS announces, via the 
publication of a notice in the Federal Register, that additional quota 
is available and the season is reopened, the fisheries for all linked 
species and/or management groups are closed, even across fishing years. 
The linked quotas of the species and/or management groups are Atlantic 
hammerhead sharks and Atlantic aggregated LCS; eastern Gulf of Mexico 
hammerhead sharks and eastern Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS; western 
Gulf of Mexico hammerhead sharks and western Gulf of Mexico aggregated 
LCS; and Atlantic blacknose and Atlantic non-blacknose SCS south of 
34[deg] N. latitude. NMFS may close the fishery for the Gulf of Mexico 
blacktip shark before landings reach, or are expected to reach, 80 
percent of the quota, after considering the criteria listed at Sec.  
635.28(b)(5).

Request for Comments

    Comments on this proposed rule may be submitted via 
www.regulations.gov or by mail. NMFS solicits comments on this proposed 
rule by September 21, 2017 (see DATES and ADDRESSES).

Classification

    The NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that the proposed 
rule is consistent with the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its 
amendments, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, subject 
to further consideration after public comment.
    These proposed specifications are exempt from review under 
Executive Order 12866.
    NMFS determined that the final rules to implement Amendment 2 to 
the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP (June 24, 2008, 73 FR 35778; corrected on 
July 15, 2008, 73 FR 40658), Amendment 5a to the 2006 Consolidated HMS 
FMP (78 FR 40318; July 3, 2013), Amendment 6 to the 2006 Consolidated 
HMS FMP (80 FR 50073; August 18, 2015), and Amendment 9 to the 2006 
Consolidated HMS FMP (80 FR 73128; November 24, 2015) are consistent to 
the maximum extent practicable with the enforceable policies of the 
approved coastal management program of coastal states on the Atlantic 
including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea as required under 
the Coastal Zone Management Act. Pursuant to 15 CFR 930.41(a), NMFS 
provided the Coastal Zone Management Program of each coastal state a 
60-day period to review the consistency determination and to advise the 
Agency of their concurrence. NMFS received concurrence with the 
consistency determinations from several states and inferred consistency 
from those states that did not respond within the 60-day time period. 
This proposed action to establish opening dates and adjust quotas for 
the 2018 fishing season for the Atlantic commercial shark fisheries 
does not change the framework previously consulted upon; therefore, no 
additional consultation is required.
    An initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA) was prepared, as 
required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). The 
IRFA describes the economic impact this proposed rule, if adopted, 
would have on small entities. The IRFA analysis follows.
    Section 603(b)(1) of the RFA requires agencies to explain the 
purpose of the rule. This rule, consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens 
Act and the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments, is being 
proposed to establish the 2018 commercial shark fishing quotas, 
retention limits, and fishing seasons. Without this rule, the 
commercial shark fisheries would close on December 31, 2017, and would 
not open until another action was taken. This proposed rule would be 
implemented according to the regulations implementing the 2006 
Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments. Thus, NMFS expects few, if 
any, economic impacts to fishermen other than those already analyzed in 
the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments, based on the quota 
adjustments.
    Section 603(b)(2) of the RFA requires agencies to explain the 
rule's objectives. The objectives of this rule are to: Adjust the 
baseline quotas for all Atlantic shark management groups based on any 
over- and/or underharvests from the previous fishing year(s); establish 
the opening dates of the various management groups; and establish the 
retention limits for the blacktip shark, aggregated large coastal 
shark, and hammerhead shark management groups in order to provide, to 
the extent practicable, equitable opportunities across the fishing 
management regions and/or sub-regions while also considering the 
ecological needs of the different shark species.
    Section 603(b)(3) of the RFA requires agencies to provide an 
estimate of the number of small entities to which the rule would apply. 
The Small Business Administration (SBA) has established size criteria 
for all major industry sectors in the United States, including fish 
harvesters. Provision is made under SBA's regulations for an agency to 
develop its own industry-specific size standards after consultation 
with Advocacy and an opportunity for public comment (see 13 CFR 
121.903(c)). Under this provision, NMFS may establish size standards 
that differ from those established by the SBA Office of Size Standards, 
but only for use by NMFS and only for the purpose of conducting an 
analysis of economic effects in fulfillment of the agency's obligations 
under the RFA. To utilize this provision, NMFS must publish such size 
standards in the Federal Register, which NMFS did on December 29, 2015 
(80 FR 81194). In this final rule effective on July 1, 2016, NMFS 
established a small business size standard of $11 million in annual 
gross receipts for all businesses in the commercial fishing industry 
(NAICS 11411) for RFA compliance purposes. NMFS considers all HMS 
permit holders to be small entities because they had average annual 
receipts of less than $11 million for commercial fishing.
    As of July 2017, the proposed rule would apply to the approximately 
206 directed commercial shark permit holders, 244 incidental commercial 
shark permit holders, 142 smoothhound shark permit holders, and 112 
commercial shark dealers. Not all permit holders are active in the 
fishery in any given year. Active directed commercial shark permit 
holders are defined as those with valid permits that landed one shark 
based on HMS electronic dealer reports. Of the 450 directed and 
incidental commercial shark permit holders, only 28 permit holders 
landed sharks in the Gulf of Mexico region and only 78 landed sharks in 
the Atlantic region. Of the 142 smoothhound shark permit holders, only 
26 permit holders landed

[[Page 39742]]

smoothhound sharks in the Atlantic region and none landed smoothhound 
sharks in the Gulf of Mexico region. NMFS has determined that the 
proposed rule would not likely affect any small governmental 
jurisdictions.
    This proposed rule does not contain any new reporting, 
recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements (5 U.S.C. 603(b)(4)). 
Similarly, this proposed rule would not conflict, duplicate, or overlap 
with other relevant Federal rules (5 U.S.C. 603(b)(5)). Fishermen, 
dealers, and managers in these fisheries must comply with a number of 
international agreements as domestically implemented, domestic laws, 
and FMPs. These include, but are not limited to, the Magnuson-Stevens 
Act, the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act, the High Seas Fishing 
Compliance Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered 
Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Paperwork 
Reduction Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act.
    Section 603(c) of the RFA requires each IRFA to contain a 
description of any significant alternatives to the proposed rule which 
would accomplish the stated objectives of applicable statutes and 
minimize any significant economic impact of the proposed rule on small 
entities. Additionally, the RFA (5 U.S.C. 603(c)(1)-(4)) lists four 
general categories of significant alternatives that would assist an 
agency in the development of significant alternatives. These categories 
of alternatives are: (1) Establishment of differing compliance or 
reporting requirements or timetables that take into account the 
resources available to small entities; (2) clarification, 
consolidation, or simplification of compliance and reporting 
requirements under the rule for such small entities; (3) use of 
performance rather than design standards; and, (4) exemptions from 
coverage of the rule for small entities. In order to meet the 
objectives of this proposed rule, consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens 
Act, NMFS cannot exempt small entities or change the reporting 
requirements only for small entities because all the entities affected 
are considered small entities; therefore, there are no alternatives 
discussed that fall under the first, second, and fourth categories 
described above. NMFS does not know of any performance or design 
standards that would satisfy the aforementioned objectives of this 
rulemaking while, concurrently, complying with the Magnuson-Stevens 
Act; therefore, there are no alternatives considered under the third 
category.
    This rulemaking does not establish management measures to be 
implemented, but rather implements previously adopted and analyzed 
measures with adjustments, as specified in the 2006 Consolidated HMS 
FMP and its amendments and the Environmental Assessment (EA) that 
accompanied the 2011 shark quota specifications rule (75 FR 76302; 
December 8, 2010). Thus, NMFS proposes to adjust quotas established and 
analyzed in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments by 
subtracting the underharvest or adding the overharvest as allowable. 
Thus, NMFS has limited flexibility to modify the quotas in this rule, 
the impacts of which were analyzed in previous regulatory flexibility 
analyses.
    Based on the 2016 ex-vessel price, fully harvesting the unadjusted 
2018 Atlantic shark commercial baseline quotas could result in total 
fleet revenues of $7,779,285 (see Table 3). For the Gulf of Mexico 
blacktip shark management group, NMFS is proposing to increase the 
baseline sub-regional quotas due to the underharvests in 2017. The 
increase for the western Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group 
could result in a $218,647 gain in total revenues for fishermen in that 
sub-region, while the increase for the eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip 
shark management group could result in a $32,902 gain in total revenues 
for fishermen in that sub-region. For the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic 
smoothhound shark management groups, NMFS is proposing to increase the 
baseline quotas due to the underharvest in 2017. This would cause a 
potential gain in revenue of $581,718 for the fleet in the Gulf of 
Mexico region and a potential gain in revenue of $1,083,926 for the 
fleet in the Atlantic region.
    All of these changes in gross revenues are similar to the changes 
in gross revenues analyzed in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its 
amendments. The final regulatory flexibility analyses for those 
amendments concluded that the economic impacts on these small entities 
are expected to be minimal. In the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its 
amendments and the EA for the 2011 shark quota specifications rule, 
NMFS stated it would be conducting annual rulemakings and considering 
the potential economic impacts of adjusting the quotas for under- and 
overharvests at that time.

                Table 3--Average Ex-Vessel Prices per lb dw for Each Shark Management Group, 2016
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                   Average  ex-    Average  ex-
                    Region                                   Species               vessel  meat     vessel  fin
                                                                                       price           price
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Western Gulf of Mexico........................  Blacktip Shark..................           $0.56          $11.00
                                                Aggregated LCS..................            0.52           11.06
                                                Hammerhead Shark................            0.83           11.08
Eastern Gulf of Mexico........................  Blacktip Shark..................            0.89           10.67
                                                Aggregated LCS..................            0.56           11.23
                                                Hammerhead Shark................            0.25           15.95
Gulf of Mexico................................  Non-Blacknose SCS...............            0.38            8.68
                                                Smoothhound Shark...............            1.50            1.91
Atlantic......................................  Aggregated LCS..................            0.79            5.54
                                                Hammerhead Shark................            0.38            5.73
                                                Non-Blacknose SCS...............            0.71            2.92
                                                Blacknose Shark.................            0.98            2.92
                                                Smoothhound Shark...............            0.75            1.91
No Region.....................................  Shark Research Fishery                      0.70            9.47
                                                 (Aggregated LCS).
                                                Shark Research Fishery (Sandbar             0.68            9.47
                                                 only).
                                                Blue shark......................            0.75            3.58
                                                Porbeagle shark *...............            1.54            3.58
                                                Other Pelagic sharks............            1.54            3.58
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Used other pelagic shark ex-vessel prices for porbeagle sharks ex-vessel prices since there currently are no
  landings of porbeagle sharks.


[[Page 39743]]

    For this rule, NMFS also reviewed the criteria at Sec.  
635.27(b)(3) to determine when opening each fishery would provide 
equitable opportunities for fishermen, to the extent practicable, while 
also considering the ecological needs of the different species. The 
opening dates of the fishing season(s) could vary depending upon the 
available annual quota, catch rates, and number of fishing participants 
during the year. For the 2018 fishing season, NMFS is proposing to open 
all of the shark management groups on the effective date of the final 
rule for this action (expected to be on or about January 1). The direct 
and indirect economic impacts would be neutral on a short- and long-
term basis because NMFS is not proposing to change the opening dates of 
these fisheries from the status quo.

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

    Dated: August 15, 2017.
Samuel D. Rauch, III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2017-17575 Filed 8-21-17; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P