Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Fisheries, 41356-41358 [2017-18493]

Download as PDF 41356 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 168 / Thursday, August 31, 2017 / Rules and Regulations SUMMARY: The Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) General category is currently closed and will reopen on September 1, 2017. NMFS is updating the adjustment of the BFT General category daily retention limit that will take effect beginning September 1, 2017, from the recently adopted two large medium or giant BFT per vessel per day/trip to one large medium or giant BFT per vessel per day/trip. This action is based on updated information about the availability of BFT and quota after considering the regulatory determination criteria regarding inseason adjustments and applies to Atlantic Tunas General category (commercial) permitted vessels and Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Charter/Headboat category permitted vessels when fishing commercially for BFT. October 2, 2006), as amended by Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP (Amendment 7) (79 FR 71510, December 2, 2014), and in accordance with implementing regulations. NMFS is required under ATCA and the Magnuson-Stevens Act to provide U.S. fishing vessels with a reasonable opportunity to harvest the ICCAT-recommended quota. The base quota for the General category is 466.7 mt. See § 635.27(a). Each of the General category time periods (January, June through August, September, October through November, and December) is allocated a ‘‘subquota’’ or portion of the annual General category quota. Although it is called the ‘‘January’’ subquota, the regulations allow the General category fishery under this quota to continue until the subquota is reached or March 31, whichever comes first. The subquotas for each time period are as follows: 24.7 mt for January; 233.3 mt for June through August; 123.7 mt for September; 60.7 mt for October through November; and 24.3 mt for December. Any unused General category quota rolls forward within the fishing year, which coincides with the calendar year, from one time period to the next, and is available for use in subsequent time periods. On December 19, 2016, NMFS published an inseason action transferring 16.3 mt of BFT quota from the December 2017 subquota to the January 2017 subquota period (81 FR 91873). For 2017, NMFS also transferred 40 mt from the Reserve to the General category effective March 2, resulting in an adjusted General category quota of 506.7 mt (82 FR 12747, March 7, 2017). Effective September 1, 2017, through December 31, 2017. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sarah McLaughlin or Brad McHale, 978–281–9260. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Regulations implemented under the authority of the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA; 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.) and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) governing the harvest of BFT by persons and vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction are found at 50 CFR part 635. Section 635.27 subdivides the U.S. BFT quota recommended by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) among the various domestic fishing categories, per the allocations established in the 2006 Atlantic Consolidated Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan (2006 Consolidated HMS FMP) (71 FR 58058, Adjustment of General Category Daily Retention Limit The default General category retention limit is one large medium or giant BFT (measuring 73 inches (185 cm) curved fork length (CFL) or greater) per vessel per day/trip (§ 635.23(a)(2)). Thus far this year, NMFS adjusted the daily retention limit for the 2017 January subquota period from the default level of one large medium or giant BFT to three large medium BFT (81 FR 91873, December 19, 2016). NMFS closed the January 2017 fishery on March 29 (82 FR 16136, April 3, 2017). NMFS adjusted the daily retention limit from the default level of one large medium or giant BFT to four large medium or giant BFT for the June through August 2017 subquota period (82 FR 22616, May 17, 2017). Effective August 5, 2017, NMFS reduced the daily retention limit from four to two large medium or giant BFT for the remainder of 2017, and indicated that, DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 635 [Docket No. 150121066–5717–02] RIN 0648–XF634 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Fisheries National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Temporary rule; inseason General category retention limit adjustment. AGENCY: nlaroche on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with RULES DATES: VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:11 Aug 30, 2017 Jkt 241001 PO 00000 Frm 00036 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 if needed, additional adjustments would be published in the Federal Register (82 FR 36689, August 7, 2017). Upon determining that the June through August 2017 subquota of 233.3 mt had been reached, NMFS closed the General category fishery for the June through August period effective August 16, 2017 (82 FR 39047, August 17, 2017). Under § 635.23(a)(4), NMFS may increase or decrease the daily retention limit of large medium and giant BFT over a range of zero to a maximum of five per vessel based on consideration of the relevant criteria provided under § 635.27(a)(8). NMFS has considered the relevant regulatory determination criteria and their applicability to the General category BFT retention limit for the September, October through November, and December subquota time periods. These considerations include, but are not limited to, the following: NMFS considered the catches and catch rates of the General category quota to date (including during the summer/ fall and winter fisheries in the last several years), and the likelihood of closure of that segment of the fishery if no adjustment is made (§ 635.27(a)(8)(ii) and (ix)). NMFS previously considered catch and catch rate information from July and August and determined that a two-fish limit was appropriate for the remainder of the year. Subsequently, however, a large number of landings occurred in a short time period, increasing the overall daily catch rates and indicating increased availability of fish on the fishing grounds, and participation in the fishery. Through the August 16, 2017 General category closure date, 2017 General category landings were approximately 433 mt, which is 93 and 85 percent of the annual base and adjusted 2017 General category quotas, respectively. Landings from June 1 through the August 16 closure date were 325.3 mt, representing 139 percent of the General category subquota for the June 1 through August 31 period. NMFS anticipates that commercial-size BFT will be readily available to vessels fishing under the General category quota. If the catch rates of approximately 6 mt per day under the two-fish daily limit established in the August 7 Federal Register document were to continue when the fishery reopens on September 1, the available subquotas for the September, October through November, and December could be reached or exceeded quickly, and NMFS would need to close the fishery earlier than otherwise would be necessary under a lower limit. Thus, while NMFS anticipates that commercial-size bluefin tuna will be readily available to vessels fishing E:\FR\FM\31AUR1.SGM 31AUR1 nlaroche on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 168 / Thursday, August 31, 2017 / Rules and Regulations under the General category quota when the fishery reopens, current catch rates indicate a reduction from two fish to one fish is warranted. Another relevant criterion is the effects of catch rates in one area precluding vessels in another area from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the category’s quota (§ 635.27(a)(8)(viii)). NMFS anticipates that 108.38 mt of underharvest of the 2016 adjusted U.S. BFT quota will be carried forward to 2017 to the Reserve category, in accordance with the regulations, in the coming weeks. This increases the likelihood that General category quota will remain available through the end of 2017, provided retention limits are managed accordingly. Last fall, General category landings were relatively high due to a combination of fish availability, favorable fishing conditions, and higher daily retention limits (five fish per day for June 1 through October 8, four fish effective October 9 through October 16, and two fish effective October 17 through November 3). Given these conditions, NMFS transferred 125 mt from the Reserve category (81 FR 70369, October 12, 2016) and later transferred another 85 mt (18 mt from the Harpoon category and 67 mt from the Reserve category) (81 FR 71639, October 18, 2016). Nevertheless, NMFS had to close the 2016 General category fishery effective November 4 to prevent further overharvest of the adjusted General category quota. For 2017, NMFS again intends to provide General category participants in all areas and time periods opportunities to harvest the General category quota without exceeding it, through active inseason management such as retention limit adjustments and/or the timing and amount of quota transfers (based on consideration of the determination criteria regarding inseason adjustments), while extending the season as long as practicable. Regarding the usefulness of information obtained from catches in the particular category for biological sampling and monitoring of the status of the stock (§ 635.27(a)(8)(i)), biological samples collected from BFT landed by General category fishermen and provided by BFT dealers continue to provide NMFS with valuable data for ongoing scientific studies of BFT age and growth, migration, and reproductive status. Prolonged opportunities to land BFT over the longest time-period allowable would support the collection of a broad range of data for these studies and for stock monitoring purposes. NMFS also considered the effects of the adjustment on BFT rebuilding and VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:11 Aug 30, 2017 Jkt 241001 overfishing and the effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the FMP (§ 635.27(a)(8)(v) and (vi)). The adjusted retention limit would be consistent with the quotas established and analyzed in the BFT quota final rule (80 FR 52198, August 28, 2015), and with objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and amendments, and is not expected to negatively impact stock health or to affect the stock in ways not already analyzed in those documents. It is also important that NMFS limit landings to the subquotas both to adhere to the FMP quota allocations and to ensure that landings are as consistent as possible with the pattern of fishing mortality (e.g., fish caught at each age) that was assumed in the projections of stock rebuilding. Another principal consideration in setting the retention limit is the objective of providing opportunities to harvest the full General category quota without exceeding it based on the goals of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and amendments, including to achieve optimum yield on a continuing basis and to optimize the ability of all permit categories to harvest their full BFT quota allocations (related to § 635.27(a)(8)(x)). Based on these considerations, NMFS has determined that a one-fish General category retention limit is warranted for the remainder of the year. It would provide a reasonable opportunity to harvest the U.S. quota of BFT without exceeding it, while maintaining an equitable distribution of fishing opportunities, help optimize the ability of the General category to harvest its available quota, allow collection of a broad range of data for stock monitoring purposes, and be consistent with the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and amendments. Therefore, NMFS adjusts the General category retention limit from two to one large medium or giant BFT per vessel per day/trip, effective when the General category fishery reopens on September 1, 2017, through December 31, 2017. Depending on the level of fishing effort and catch rates of BFT, NMFS may determine that additional adjustments are necessary to ensure available quota is not exceeded or to enhance scientific data collection from, and fishing opportunities in, all geographic areas. Regardless of the duration of a fishing trip, no more than a single day’s retention limit may be possessed, retained, or landed. For example (and specific to the limit that will apply beginning September 1, 2017), whether a vessel fishing under the General category limit takes a two-day trip or PO 00000 Frm 00037 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 41357 makes two trips in one day, the daily limit of one fish may not be exceeded upon landing. This General category retention limit is effective in all areas, except for the Gulf of Mexico, where NMFS prohibits targeting fishing for BFT, and applies to those vessels permitted in the General category, as well as to those HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels fishing commercially for BFT. Monitoring and Reporting NMFS will continue to monitor the BFT fishery closely. Dealers are required to submit landing reports within 24 hours of a dealer receiving BFT. General and HMS Charter/Headboat category vessel owners are required to report the catch of all BFT retained or discarded dead, within 24 hours of the landing(s) or end of each trip, by accessing hmspermits.noaa.gov or by using the HMS Catch Reporting App. If needed, subsequent adjustments will be published in the Federal Register. In addition, fishermen may call the Atlantic Tunas Information Line at (978) 281–9260, or access hmspermits.noaa.gov, for updates on quota monitoring and inseason adjustments. Classification The Assistant Administrator for NMFS (AA) finds that it is impracticable and contrary to the public interest to provide prior notice of, and an opportunity for public comment on, this action for the following reasons: Prior notice and an opportunity for public comment is impracticable because the regulations implementing the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, as amended, intended that inseason retention limit adjustments would allow the agency to respond quickly to the unpredictable nature of BFT availability on the fishing grounds, the migratory nature of this species, and the regional variations in the BFT fishery. Based on available BFT quotas, fishery performance in recent years, and the availability of BFT on the fishing grounds, adjustment to the General category BFT daily retention limit from the default level is warranted. Delays in adjusting the retention limit may result in the available quota being reached or exceeded and NMFS needing to close the fishery earlier than otherwise would be necessary under a lower limit. Such delays could adversely affect those General and HMS Charter/Headboat category vessels that would otherwise have an opportunity to harvest BFT if the fishery were to remain open for as long as feasible throughout the remaining subquota E:\FR\FM\31AUR1.SGM 31AUR1 41358 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 168 / Thursday, August 31, 2017 / Rules and Regulations periods. Limited opportunities to harvest the respective quotas may have negative social and economic impacts for U.S. fishermen that depend upon catching the available quota within the time periods designated in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, as amended. Adjustment of the retention limit needs to be effective September 1, 2017, to extend fishing opportunities for fishermen in all geographic areas, consistent with objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and provide equitable opportunities. Prior notice and an opportunity for public comment is also impracticable for the retention limit adjustment to one fish for the September and subsequent subquota periods. By adopting the onefish limit for the remainder of the year through this action, NMFS avoids confusion that would arise for the regulated community from two inseason actions adopting the same limit. Therefore, the AA finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive prior notice and the opportunity for public comment. For these reasons, there is good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d) to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness. This action is being taken under § 635.23(a)(4), and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq. and 1801 et seq. Dated: August 28, 2017. Alan D. Risenhoover, Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2017–18493 Filed 8–28–17; 4:15 pm] nlaroche on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with RULES BILLING CODE 3510–22–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:11 Aug 30, 2017 Jkt 241001 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 679 [Docket No. 161020985–7181–02] RIN 0648–XF656 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Pacific Ocean Perch in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Temporary rule; closure. AGENCY: NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for Pacific ocean perch in the Central Aleutian district (CAI) of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area (BSAI) by vessels participating in the BSAI trawl limited access fishery. This action is necessary to prevent exceeding the 2017 total allowable catch (TAC) of Pacific ocean perch in the CAI allocated to vessels participating in the BSAI trawl limited access fishery. DATES: Effective 1200 hrs, Alaska local time (A.l.t.), August 28, 2017, through 2400 hrs, A.l.t., December 31, 2017. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Whitney, 907–586–7228. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS manages the groundfish fishery in the BSAI exclusive economic zone according to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (FMP) prepared by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council under authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Regulations governing fishing by U.S. vessels in accordance with the FMP appear at subpart H of 50 CFR part 600 and 50 CFR part 679. The 2017 TAC of Pacific ocean perch, in the CAI, allocated to vessels participating in the BSAI trawl limited access fishery was established as a directed fishing allowance of 619 metric tons by the final 2017 and 2018 harvest SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00038 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 9990 specifications for groundfish in the BSAI (82 FR 11826, February 27, 2017). In accordance with § 679.20(d)(1)(iii), the Regional Administrator finds that this directed fishing allowance has been reached. Consequently, NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for Pacific ocean perch in the CAI by vessels participating in the BSAI trawl limited access fishery. After the effective dates of this closure, the maximum retainable amounts at § 679.20(e) and (f) apply at any time during a trip. Classification This action responds to the best available information recently obtained from the fishery. The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, (AA) finds good cause to waive the requirement to provide prior notice and opportunity for public comment pursuant to the authority set forth at 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) as such a requirement is impracticable and contrary to the public interest. This requirement is impracticable and contrary to the public interest as it would prevent NMFS from responding to the most recent fisheries data in a timely fashion and would delay the closure of the Pacific ocean perch directed fishery in the CAI for vessels participating in the BSAI trawl limited access fishery. NMFS was unable to publish a document providing time for public comment because the most recent, relevant data only became available as of August 25, 2017. The Acting AA also finds good cause to waive the 30-day delay in the effective date of this action under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3). This finding is based upon the reasons provided above for waiver of prior notice and opportunity for public comment. This action is required by § 679.20 and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: August 28, 2017. Alan D. Risenhoover, Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2017–18496 Filed 8–28–17; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\31AUR1.SGM 31AUR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 168 (Thursday, August 31, 2017)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 41356-41358]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-18493]



[[Page 41356]]

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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

[Docket No. 150121066-5717-02]
RIN 0648-XF634


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna 
Fisheries

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

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

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SUMMARY: The Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) General category is currently 
closed and will reopen on September 1, 2017. NMFS is updating the 
adjustment of the BFT General category daily retention limit that will 
take effect beginning September 1, 2017, from the recently adopted two 
large medium or giant BFT per vessel per day/trip to one large medium 
or giant BFT per vessel per day/trip. This action is based on updated 
information about the availability of BFT and quota after considering 
the regulatory determination criteria regarding inseason adjustments 
and applies to Atlantic Tunas General category (commercial) permitted 
vessels and Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Charter/Headboat category 
permitted vessels when fishing commercially for BFT.

DATES: Effective September 1, 2017, through December 31, 2017.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Regulations implemented under the authority 
of the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA; 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.) and 
the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-
Stevens Act; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) governing the harvest of BFT by 
persons and vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction are found at 50 CFR 
part 635. Section 635.27 subdivides the U.S. BFT quota recommended by 
the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas 
(ICCAT) among the various domestic fishing categories, per the 
allocations established in the 2006 Atlantic Consolidated Highly 
Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan (2006 Consolidated HMS FMP) 
(71 FR 58058, October 2, 2006), as amended by Amendment 7 to the 2006 
Consolidated HMS FMP (Amendment 7) (79 FR 71510, December 2, 2014), and 
in accordance with implementing regulations. NMFS is required under 
ATCA and the Magnuson-Stevens Act to provide U.S. fishing vessels with 
a reasonable opportunity to harvest the ICCAT-recommended quota.
    The base quota for the General category is 466.7 mt. See Sec.  
635.27(a). Each of the General category time periods (January, June 
through August, September, October through November, and December) is 
allocated a ``subquota'' or portion of the annual General category 
quota. Although it is called the ``January'' subquota, the regulations 
allow the General category fishery under this quota to continue until 
the subquota is reached or March 31, whichever comes first. The 
subquotas for each time period are as follows: 24.7 mt for January; 
233.3 mt for June through August; 123.7 mt for September; 60.7 mt for 
October through November; and 24.3 mt for December. Any unused General 
category quota rolls forward within the fishing year, which coincides 
with the calendar year, from one time period to the next, and is 
available for use in subsequent time periods. On December 19, 2016, 
NMFS published an inseason action transferring 16.3 mt of BFT quota 
from the December 2017 subquota to the January 2017 subquota period (81 
FR 91873). For 2017, NMFS also transferred 40 mt from the Reserve to 
the General category effective March 2, resulting in an adjusted 
General category quota of 506.7 mt (82 FR 12747, March 7, 2017).

Adjustment of General Category Daily Retention Limit

    The default General category retention limit is one large medium or 
giant BFT (measuring 73 inches (185 cm) curved fork length (CFL) or 
greater) per vessel per day/trip (Sec.  635.23(a)(2)).
    Thus far this year, NMFS adjusted the daily retention limit for the 
2017 January subquota period from the default level of one large medium 
or giant BFT to three large medium BFT (81 FR 91873, December 19, 
2016). NMFS closed the January 2017 fishery on March 29 (82 FR 16136, 
April 3, 2017). NMFS adjusted the daily retention limit from the 
default level of one large medium or giant BFT to four large medium or 
giant BFT for the June through August 2017 subquota period (82 FR 
22616, May 17, 2017). Effective August 5, 2017, NMFS reduced the daily 
retention limit from four to two large medium or giant BFT for the 
remainder of 2017, and indicated that, if needed, additional 
adjustments would be published in the Federal Register (82 FR 36689, 
August 7, 2017). Upon determining that the June through August 2017 
subquota of 233.3 mt had been reached, NMFS closed the General category 
fishery for the June through August period effective August 16, 2017 
(82 FR 39047, August 17, 2017).
    Under Sec.  635.23(a)(4), NMFS may increase or decrease the daily 
retention limit of large medium and giant BFT over a range of zero to a 
maximum of five per vessel based on consideration of the relevant 
criteria provided under Sec.  635.27(a)(8). NMFS has considered the 
relevant regulatory determination criteria and their applicability to 
the General category BFT retention limit for the September, October 
through November, and December subquota time periods. These 
considerations include, but are not limited to, the following:
    NMFS considered the catches and catch rates of the General category 
quota to date (including during the summer/fall and winter fisheries in 
the last several years), and the likelihood of closure of that segment 
of the fishery if no adjustment is made (Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(ii) and 
(ix)). NMFS previously considered catch and catch rate information from 
July and August and determined that a two-fish limit was appropriate 
for the remainder of the year. Subsequently, however, a large number of 
landings occurred in a short time period, increasing the overall daily 
catch rates and indicating increased availability of fish on the 
fishing grounds, and participation in the fishery. Through the August 
16, 2017 General category closure date, 2017 General category landings 
were approximately 433 mt, which is 93 and 85 percent of the annual 
base and adjusted 2017 General category quotas, respectively. Landings 
from June 1 through the August 16 closure date were 325.3 mt, 
representing 139 percent of the General category subquota for the June 
1 through August 31 period. NMFS anticipates that commercial-size BFT 
will be readily available to vessels fishing under the General category 
quota. If the catch rates of approximately 6 mt per day under the two-
fish daily limit established in the August 7 Federal Register document 
were to continue when the fishery reopens on September 1, the available 
subquotas for the September, October through November, and December 
could be reached or exceeded quickly, and NMFS would need to close the 
fishery earlier than otherwise would be necessary under a lower limit. 
Thus, while NMFS anticipates that commercial-size bluefin tuna will be 
readily available to vessels fishing

[[Page 41357]]

under the General category quota when the fishery reopens, current 
catch rates indicate a reduction from two fish to one fish is 
warranted.
    Another relevant criterion is the effects of catch rates in one 
area precluding vessels in another area from having a reasonable 
opportunity to harvest a portion of the category's quota (Sec.  
635.27(a)(8)(viii)). NMFS anticipates that 108.38 mt of underharvest of 
the 2016 adjusted U.S. BFT quota will be carried forward to 2017 to the 
Reserve category, in accordance with the regulations, in the coming 
weeks. This increases the likelihood that General category quota will 
remain available through the end of 2017, provided retention limits are 
managed accordingly. Last fall, General category landings were 
relatively high due to a combination of fish availability, favorable 
fishing conditions, and higher daily retention limits (five fish per 
day for June 1 through October 8, four fish effective October 9 through 
October 16, and two fish effective October 17 through November 3). 
Given these conditions, NMFS transferred 125 mt from the Reserve 
category (81 FR 70369, October 12, 2016) and later transferred another 
85 mt (18 mt from the Harpoon category and 67 mt from the Reserve 
category) (81 FR 71639, October 18, 2016). Nevertheless, NMFS had to 
close the 2016 General category fishery effective November 4 to prevent 
further overharvest of the adjusted General category quota. For 2017, 
NMFS again intends to provide General category participants in all 
areas and time periods opportunities to harvest the General category 
quota without exceeding it, through active inseason management such as 
retention limit adjustments and/or the timing and amount of quota 
transfers (based on consideration of the determination criteria 
regarding inseason adjustments), while extending the season as long as 
practicable.
    Regarding the usefulness of information obtained from catches in 
the particular category for biological sampling and monitoring of the 
status of the stock (Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(i)), biological samples 
collected from BFT landed by General category fishermen and provided by 
BFT dealers continue to provide NMFS with valuable data for ongoing 
scientific studies of BFT age and growth, migration, and reproductive 
status. Prolonged opportunities to land BFT over the longest time-
period allowable would support the collection of a broad range of data 
for these studies and for stock monitoring purposes.
    NMFS also considered the effects of the adjustment on BFT 
rebuilding and overfishing and the effects of the adjustment on 
accomplishing the objectives of the FMP (Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(v) and 
(vi)). The adjusted retention limit would be consistent with the quotas 
established and analyzed in the BFT quota final rule (80 FR 52198, 
August 28, 2015), and with objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP 
and amendments, and is not expected to negatively impact stock health 
or to affect the stock in ways not already analyzed in those documents. 
It is also important that NMFS limit landings to the subquotas both to 
adhere to the FMP quota allocations and to ensure that landings are as 
consistent as possible with the pattern of fishing mortality (e.g., 
fish caught at each age) that was assumed in the projections of stock 
rebuilding.
    Another principal consideration in setting the retention limit is 
the objective of providing opportunities to harvest the full General 
category quota without exceeding it based on the goals of the 2006 
Consolidated HMS FMP and amendments, including to achieve optimum yield 
on a continuing basis and to optimize the ability of all permit 
categories to harvest their full BFT quota allocations (related to 
Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(x)).
    Based on these considerations, NMFS has determined that a one-fish 
General category retention limit is warranted for the remainder of the 
year. It would provide a reasonable opportunity to harvest the U.S. 
quota of BFT without exceeding it, while maintaining an equitable 
distribution of fishing opportunities, help optimize the ability of the 
General category to harvest its available quota, allow collection of a 
broad range of data for stock monitoring purposes, and be consistent 
with the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and amendments. 
Therefore, NMFS adjusts the General category retention limit from two 
to one large medium or giant BFT per vessel per day/trip, effective 
when the General category fishery reopens on September 1, 2017, through 
December 31, 2017. Depending on the level of fishing effort and catch 
rates of BFT, NMFS may determine that additional adjustments are 
necessary to ensure available quota is not exceeded or to enhance 
scientific data collection from, and fishing opportunities in, all 
geographic areas.
    Regardless of the duration of a fishing trip, no more than a single 
day's retention limit may be possessed, retained, or landed. For 
example (and specific to the limit that will apply beginning September 
1, 2017), whether a vessel fishing under the General category limit 
takes a two-day trip or makes two trips in one day, the daily limit of 
one fish may not be exceeded upon landing. This General category 
retention limit is effective in all areas, except for the Gulf of 
Mexico, where NMFS prohibits targeting fishing for BFT, and applies to 
those vessels permitted in the General category, as well as to those 
HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels fishing commercially for BFT.

Monitoring and Reporting

    NMFS will continue to monitor the BFT fishery closely. Dealers are 
required to submit landing reports within 24 hours of a dealer 
receiving BFT. General and HMS Charter/Headboat category vessel owners 
are required to report the catch of all BFT retained or discarded dead, 
within 24 hours of the landing(s) or end of each trip, by accessing 
hmspermits.noaa.gov or by using the HMS Catch Reporting App. If needed, 
subsequent adjustments will be published in the Federal Register. In 
addition, fishermen may call the Atlantic Tunas Information Line at 
(978) 281-9260, or access hmspermits.noaa.gov, for updates on quota 
monitoring and inseason adjustments.

Classification

    The Assistant Administrator for NMFS (AA) finds that it is 
impracticable and contrary to the public interest to provide prior 
notice of, and an opportunity for public comment on, this action for 
the following reasons:
    Prior notice and an opportunity for public comment is impracticable 
because the regulations implementing the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, as 
amended, intended that inseason retention limit adjustments would allow 
the agency to respond quickly to the unpredictable nature of BFT 
availability on the fishing grounds, the migratory nature of this 
species, and the regional variations in the BFT fishery. Based on 
available BFT quotas, fishery performance in recent years, and the 
availability of BFT on the fishing grounds, adjustment to the General 
category BFT daily retention limit from the default level is warranted.
    Delays in adjusting the retention limit may result in the available 
quota being reached or exceeded and NMFS needing to close the fishery 
earlier than otherwise would be necessary under a lower limit. Such 
delays could adversely affect those General and HMS Charter/Headboat 
category vessels that would otherwise have an opportunity to harvest 
BFT if the fishery were to remain open for as long as feasible 
throughout the remaining subquota

[[Page 41358]]

periods. Limited opportunities to harvest the respective quotas may 
have negative social and economic impacts for U.S. fishermen that 
depend upon catching the available quota within the time periods 
designated in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, as amended. Adjustment of 
the retention limit needs to be effective September 1, 2017, to extend 
fishing opportunities for fishermen in all geographic areas, consistent 
with objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and provide equitable 
opportunities.
    Prior notice and an opportunity for public comment is also 
impracticable for the retention limit adjustment to one fish for the 
September and subsequent subquota periods. By adopting the one-fish 
limit for the remainder of the year through this action, NMFS avoids 
confusion that would arise for the regulated community from two 
inseason actions adopting the same limit. Therefore, the AA finds good 
cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive prior notice and the 
opportunity for public comment. For these reasons, there is good cause 
under 5 U.S.C. 553(d) to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness.
    This action is being taken under Sec.  635.23(a)(4), and is exempt 
from review under Executive Order 12866.

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

    Dated: August 28, 2017.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2017-18493 Filed 8-28-17; 4:15 pm]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P