Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Reef Fish Fishery of the Gulf of Mexico; Modifications to the Number of Unrigged Hooks Carried On Board Bottom Longline Vessels, 50104-50106 [2017-23460]

Download as PDF 50104 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 208 / Monday, October 30, 2017 / Proposed Rules PART 622—FISHERIES OF THE CARIBBEAN, GULF OF MEXICO, AND SOUTH ATLANTIC 1. The authority citation for part 622 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. 2. In § 622.190, suspend paragraphs (a)(2)(i) through (iii) and add paragraphs (a)(2)(iv) through (vi) to read as follows: ■ § 622.190 Quotas. * * * * * (a) * * * (2) * * * (iv) Hook-and-line and longline components combined—313,310 lb (142,115 kg). (v) Hook-and-line component—78,328 lb (35,529 kg). (vi) Longline component—234,982 lb (106,586 kg). * * * * * ■ 3. In § 622.193, suspend paragraphs (a)(1)(i), (ii), and (iii), and (a)(2), and add paragraphs (a)(1)(iv), (v), and (vi), and (a)(3) to read as follows: nlaroche on DSK9F9SC42PROD with PROPOSALS § 622.193 Annual catch limits (ACLs), annual catch targets (ACTs), and accountability measures (AMs). (a) * * * (1) * * * (iv) Hook-and-line component. If commercial landings for golden tilefish, as estimated by the SRD, reach or are projected to reach the commercial ACL (commercial quota) specified in § 622.190(a)(2)(v), the AA will file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register to close the hook-andline component of the commercial sector for the remainder of the fishing year. Applicable restrictions after a commercial quota closure are specified in § 622.190(c). (v) Longline component. If commercial landings for golden tilefish, as estimated by the SRD, reach or are projected to reach the commercial ACL (commercial quota) specified in § 622.190(a)(2)(vi), the AA will file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register to close the longline component of the commercial sector for the remainder of the fishing year. After the commercial ACL for the longline component is reached or projected to be reached, golden tilefish may not be fished for or possessed by a vessel with a golden tilefish longline endorsement. Applicable restrictions after a commercial quota closure are specified in § 622.190(c). (vi) If commercial landings of golden tilefish, as estimated by the SRD, exceed the commercial ACL (including both the hook-and-line and longline component VerDate Sep<11>2014 13:42 Oct 27, 2017 Jkt 244001 quotas) specified in § 622.190(a)(2)(iv), and the combined commercial and recreational ACL of 323,000 lb (146,510 kg), gutted weight, 361,760 lb (164,092 kg), round weight, is exceeded during the same fishing year, and golden tilefish are overfished based on the most recent Status of U.S. Fisheries Report to Congress, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register to reduce the commercial ACL for that following fishing year by the amount of the commercial ACL overage in the prior fishing year. * * * * * (3) Recreational sector. (i) If recreational landings of golden tilefish, as estimated by the SRD, reach or are projected to reach the recreational ACL of 2,187 fish, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register to close the recreational sector for the remainder of the fishing year regardless if the stock is overfished, unless NMFS determines that no closure is necessary based on the best scientific information available. On and after the effective date of such a notification, the bag and possession limits for golden tilefish in or from the South Atlantic EEZ are zero. (ii) If recreational landings of golden tilefish, as estimated by the SRD, exceed the recreational ACL, then during the following fishing year recreational landings will be monitored for a persistence in increased landings, and if necessary, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register to reduce the length of the recreational fishing season and the recreational ACL by the amount of the recreational ACL overage, if the species is overfished based on the most recent Status of U.S. Fisheries Report to Congress, and if the combined commercial and recreational ACL of 323,000 lb (146,510 kg), gutted weight, 361,760 lb (164,092 kg), round weight, is exceeded during the same fishing year. The AA will use the best scientific information available to determine if reducing the length of the recreational fishing season and recreational ACL is necessary. When the recreational sector is closed as a result of NMFS reducing the length of the recreational fishing season and ACL, the bag and possession limits for golden tilefish in or from the South Atlantic EEZ are zero. * * * * * [FR Doc. 2017–23453 Filed 10–27–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 622 [Docket No. 170619570–7570–01] RIN 0648–BG92 Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Reef Fish Fishery of the Gulf of Mexico; Modifications to the Number of Unrigged Hooks Carried On Board Bottom Longline Vessels National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS proposes to implement management measures described in an abbreviated framework action to the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico (FMP), as prepared by the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) Fishery Management Council (Council). This proposed rule would remove the limit on the number of unrigged hooks that a commercial reef fish vessel with a bottom longline endorsement is allowed on board when using or carrying bottom longline gear in the Federal waters of the eastern Gulf. The proposed rule would not change the limit of 750 hooks that these vessels can have rigged for fishing at any given time. The purpose of the proposed rule is to reduce the regulatory and potential economic burden to bottom longline fishers. DATES: Written comments must be received by November 14, 2017. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the proposed rule, identified by ‘‘NOAA–NMFS–2017–0081’’ by either of the following methods: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic comments via the Federal Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20170081, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter your attached comments. • Mail: Submit all written comments to Kelli O’Donnell, NMFS Southeast Regional Office (SERO), 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701. • Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the public record SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\30OCP1.SGM 30OCP1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 208 / Monday, October 30, 2017 / Proposed Rules nlaroche on DSK9F9SC42PROD with PROPOSALS and will generally 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 required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Electronic copies of the abbreviated framework action, which includes an environmental assessment, Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) analysis, and a regulatory impact review, may be obtained from www.regulations.gov or the SERO Web site at http:// sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_ fisheries/gulf_fisheries/reef_fish/2017/ Unrigged%20hooks/Unrigged_hooks_ index.html. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kelli O’Donnell, NMFS SERO, telephone: 727–824–5305, email: Kelli.ODonnell@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Gulf reef fish fishery includes the commercial bottom longline component and is managed under the FMP. The Council prepared the FMP and NMFS implements the FMP under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Steven Act) through regulations at 50 CFR part 622. Background The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires NMFS and regional fishery management councils to prevent overfishing and achieve, on a continuing basis, the optimum yield from federally managed fish stocks to ensure that fishery resources are managed for the greatest overall benefit to the nation. In 2008, using data from Federal fishery observers, the NMFS Southeast Fisheries Science Center estimated sea turtle takes by the commercial bottom longline component of the Gulf reef fish fishery exceeded the 3-year anticipated take levels that were described in the 2005 Endangered Species Act biological opinion on the reef fish fishery. Therefore, the Council and NMFS developed management measures in Amendment 31 to the FMP to reduce sea turtle takes by the bottom longline component of the Gulf reef fish fishery (75 FR 21512; April 26, 2010). These management measures require an endorsement to the Federal commercial reef fish permit to fish for reef fish using bottom longline gear in the Gulf east of 85°30′ west longitude (near Cape San Blas, FL), and a seasonal closure for bottom longline gear use in that area. In VerDate Sep<11>2014 13:42 Oct 27, 2017 Jkt 244001 addition, vessels in that area that have the endorsement and are fishing with bottom longline gear or have bottom longline gear on board cannot possess more than 1,000 hooks total per vessel of which no more than 750 hooks can be rigged for fishing. Management Measures Contained in This Proposed Rule This proposed rule would remove the current limitation on the number of unrigged hooks allowed per bottom longline vessel in the eastern Gulf EEZ, while retaining the limit of 750 hooks that can be rigged for fishing. Since the implementation of Amendment 31, bottom longline endorsement holders using bottom longline gear in the eastern Gulf EEZ have reported increases in bottom longline hook losses due to shark biteoffs and through normal fishing effort. Therefore, vessel operators that use bottom longline gear in the eastern Gulf EEZ requested that the Council increase the number of total unrigged hooks per vessel, while still keeping in place the restriction of 750 hooks rigged to fish at any one time. Observer data from 2010–2016 has shown the average amount of hooks lost per commercial bottom longline trip in the eastern Gulf EEZ is 300 hooks. Under the current total possession limit, if more than 250 hooks are lost, a vessel either has to fish with fewer than 750 hooks, get additional hooks from other vessels to maintain the maximum number of hooks in the water, or return to port. Based on public testimony, removing the restriction on the total number of hooks kept on board is expected to make trips more economical by allowing fishing with the maximum number of hooks to continue without having to return to port or request additional hooks from other vessels. In addition, maintaining the current limit of 750 hooks rigged for fishing would preserve the reductions in sea turtle interactions since the implementation of Amendment 31. Classification Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is consistent with the FMP, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, subject to further consideration after public comment. This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 50105 Small Business Administration (SBA) that this proposed rule, if adopted, would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The factual basis for this certification is as follows. A description of this proposed rule, why it is being considered, and the objectives of, and legal basis for this proposed rule are contained in the preamble. This proposed rule would directly affect commercial fishing vessels that use bottom longline gear to harvest reef fish from the Gulf EEZ east of 85°30′ west longitude, east of Cape San Blas, FL. These vessels are required to have an eastern Gulf reef fish bottom longline endorsement, and as of July 6, 2017, 62 vessels have that endorsement. NMFS estimates up to 62 commercial longline vessels could be directly affected annually, and that 36 to 37 businesses own these 62 vessels. These businesses represent approximately 6 percent of the 631 businesses that own at least one commercial fishing vessel with a Gulf reef fish permit. NMFS expects that most to all of the directly affected vessels make their landings in Florida, and from 2011 through 2015, an annual average of 59 longline vessels landed Gulf reef fish in the state and individually landed an average of 71,130 lb (32,264 kg), gutted weight, of reef fish annually. With an average 2015 dockside price of $4.01 per lb, gutted weight, the average longline vessel had annual dockside revenue of $285,231 from reef fish landings. That annual revenue is estimated to represent approximately 98 to 99 percent of the average longline vessel’s annual revenues from all landings. For RFA purposes, NMFS has established a small business size standard for businesses, including their affiliates, whose primary industry is commercial fishing (see 50 CFR 200.2). A business primarily involved in commercial fishing (NAICS 11411) is classified as a small business if it is independently owned and operated, is not dominant in its field of operation (including its affiliates), and its combined annual receipts are not in excess of $11 million for all of its affiliated operations worldwide. Based on the average annual dockside revenue of a longline vessel, it is expected that most to all of the businesses that would be directly affected by the proposed rule are small. Since May 2010, within the Gulf EEZ east of 85°30′ west longitude, a vessel for which a valid eastern Gulf reef fish bottom longline endorsement has been issued and that is fishing bottom longline gear or has bottom longline E:\FR\FM\30OCP1.SGM 30OCP1 nlaroche on DSK9F9SC42PROD with PROPOSALS 50106 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 208 / Monday, October 30, 2017 / Proposed Rules gear on board cannot possess more than a total of 1,000 hooks, and no more than 750 hooks can be rigged for fishing at any given time. Industry representatives have indicated that a total of 1,000 hooks is not enough on long trips to compensate for hook losses due to sharks’ biting hooks off and other general reasons. Under the current total possession limit, if more than 250 hooks are lost, a vessel either has to fish with fewer than 750 hooks or acquire additional hooks from other vessels to maintain the maximum number of hooks in the water. A third option is for the vessel to end the trip and return to port; however, that reduces the vessel landings. Observer data indicates an average of over 250 hooks were lost per trip from 2011 through 2016; however, despite the total hook limit and the average hook loss, average landings of reef fish per longline trip increased over that time. The proposed rule would allow a vessel with a longline endorsement to possess an unlimited number of hooks, but it would not change the maximum number that can be rigged for fishing. Any bottom longline vessel that would increase the total number of hooks it possesses beyond 1,000 would do so only if there were an economic benefit of doing so. Removing the limit on the number of unrigged hooks that can be onboard is expected to improve fishers’ ability to maintain the maximum number of rigged hooks over the duration of a trip. There is insufficient information to estimate the number of vessels that may benefit from possessing more than 1,000 hooks and the magnitude of such a benefit. NMFS expects this proposed rule would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities, and an initial regulatory flexibility analysis is not required and none has been prepared. No duplicative, overlapping, or conflicting Federal rules have been identified. In addition, no new reporting, record-keeping, or other compliance requirements are introduced by this proposed rule. Accordingly, this proposed rule does not implicate the Paperwork Reduction Act. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622 Bottom longline gear, Fisheries, Fishing, Gulf of Mexico, Reef fish. VerDate Sep<11>2014 13:42 Oct 27, 2017 Jkt 244001 Dated: October 24, 2017. Samuel D. Rauch, III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 622 is proposed to be amended as follows: PART 622—FISHERIES OF THE CARIBBEAN, GULF OF MEXICO, AND SOUTH ATLANTIC 1. The authority citation for part 622 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. 2. In § 622.35, revise the first sentence of paragraph (b)(3) to read as follows: ■ § 622.35 Gear restricted areas. * * * * * (b) * * * (3) Within the Gulf EEZ east of 85°30′ W. long., a vessel for which a valid eastern Gulf reef fish bottom longline endorsement has been issued that is fishing bottom longline gear or has bottom longline gear on board cannot possess more than 750 hooks rigged for fishing at any given time. * * * * * * * * [FR Doc. 2017–23460 Filed 10–27–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 660 [Docket No. 170627602–7602–01] RIN 0648–BG98 Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; Fisheries Off West Coast States; Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery; Pacific Whiting; Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan; Amendment 21–3; Trawl Rationalization Program National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS proposes this interim measure to change the management of the Pacific whiting at-sea sectors’ (i.e., the Mothership (MS) and Catcher/ Processor (C/P) sectors) allocations for darkblotched rockfish and Pacific ocean perch (POP) by managing the allocations as set-asides rather than as total catch limits. This rule also proposes SUMMARY: Frm 00013 Fmt 4702 Comments on this proposed rule must be received no later than November 27, 2017. DATES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA– NMFS–2017–0102 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-20170102, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Barry A. Thom, Regional Administrator, West Coast Region, NMFS, 7600 Sand Point Way NE., Seattle, WA 98115–0070, Attn: Miako Ushio. 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). Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in ADDRESSES: DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE PO 00000 regulations in accordance with Amendment 21–3 to the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan (PCGFMP) (see electronic access under SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION). The proposed action would revise regulations so that higher than anticipated harvest of darkblotched rockfish or POP that exceeds a sector’s initial distribution of those species would not require automatic closure of one or more of the Pacific whiting at-sea sectors. This action is intended to reduce the risk of those sectors not attaining their respective Pacific whiting allocations based on the incidental catch of darkblotched rockfish or POP, when allowing the sector(s) to remain open would not exceed their respective annual catch limit (ACLs). This action would not change or increase the risk of exceeding darkblotched rockfish or POP ACL, as the proposed rule would also allow NMFS to close one or both of the MS and C/P sectors via automatic action if the species-specific set-aside amounts plus the available reserve for unforeseen catch events, known colloquially as the ‘‘buffer,’’ are anticipated to be exceeded. Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\30OCP1.SGM 30OCP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 208 (Monday, October 30, 2017)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 50104-50106]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-23460]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

[Docket No. 170619570-7570-01]
RIN 0648-BG92


Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 
Reef Fish Fishery of the Gulf of Mexico; Modifications to the Number of 
Unrigged Hooks Carried On Board Bottom Longline Vessels

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: NMFS proposes to implement management measures described in an 
abbreviated framework action to the Fishery Management Plan for the 
Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico (FMP), as prepared by the 
Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) Fishery Management Council (Council). This 
proposed rule would remove the limit on the number of unrigged hooks 
that a commercial reef fish vessel with a bottom longline endorsement 
is allowed on board when using or carrying bottom longline gear in the 
Federal waters of the eastern Gulf. The proposed rule would not change 
the limit of 750 hooks that these vessels can have rigged for fishing 
at any given time. The purpose of the proposed rule is to reduce the 
regulatory and potential economic burden to bottom longline fishers.

DATES: Written comments must be received by November 14, 2017.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the proposed rule, identified by 
``NOAA-NMFS-2017-0081'' by either of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic comments via 
the Federal Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2017-0081, click the ``Comment Now!'' icon, 
complete the required fields, and enter your attached comments.
     Mail: Submit all written comments to Kelli O'Donnell, NMFS 
Southeast Regional Office (SERO), 263 13th Avenue South, St. 
Petersburg, FL 33701.
     Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any 
other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment 
period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part 
of the public record

[[Page 50105]]

and will generally 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 
required fields if you wish to remain anonymous).
    Electronic copies of the abbreviated framework action, which 
includes an environmental assessment, Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) 
analysis, and a regulatory impact review, may be obtained from 
www.regulations.gov or the SERO Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/gulf_fisheries/reef_fish/2017/Unrigged%20hooks/Unrigged_hooks_index.html.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kelli O'Donnell, NMFS SERO, telephone: 
727-824-5305, email: [email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Gulf reef fish fishery includes the 
commercial bottom longline component and is managed under the FMP. The 
Council prepared the FMP and NMFS implements the FMP under the 
authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management 
Act (Magnuson-Steven Act) through regulations at 50 CFR part 622.

Background

    The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires NMFS and regional fishery 
management councils to prevent overfishing and achieve, on a continuing 
basis, the optimum yield from federally managed fish stocks to ensure 
that fishery resources are managed for the greatest overall benefit to 
the nation.
    In 2008, using data from Federal fishery observers, the NMFS 
Southeast Fisheries Science Center estimated sea turtle takes by the 
commercial bottom longline component of the Gulf reef fish fishery 
exceeded the 3-year anticipated take levels that were described in the 
2005 Endangered Species Act biological opinion on the reef fish 
fishery. Therefore, the Council and NMFS developed management measures 
in Amendment 31 to the FMP to reduce sea turtle takes by the bottom 
longline component of the Gulf reef fish fishery (75 FR 21512; April 
26, 2010). These management measures require an endorsement to the 
Federal commercial reef fish permit to fish for reef fish using bottom 
longline gear in the Gulf east of 85[deg]30' west longitude (near Cape 
San Blas, FL), and a seasonal closure for bottom longline gear use in 
that area. In addition, vessels in that area that have the endorsement 
and are fishing with bottom longline gear or have bottom longline gear 
on board cannot possess more than 1,000 hooks total per vessel of which 
no more than 750 hooks can be rigged for fishing.

Management Measures Contained in This Proposed Rule

    This proposed rule would remove the current limitation on the 
number of unrigged hooks allowed per bottom longline vessel in the 
eastern Gulf EEZ, while retaining the limit of 750 hooks that can be 
rigged for fishing.
    Since the implementation of Amendment 31, bottom longline 
endorsement holders using bottom longline gear in the eastern Gulf EEZ 
have reported increases in bottom longline hook losses due to shark 
bite-offs and through normal fishing effort. Therefore, vessel 
operators that use bottom longline gear in the eastern Gulf EEZ 
requested that the Council increase the number of total unrigged hooks 
per vessel, while still keeping in place the restriction of 750 hooks 
rigged to fish at any one time.
    Observer data from 2010-2016 has shown the average amount of hooks 
lost per commercial bottom longline trip in the eastern Gulf EEZ is 300 
hooks. Under the current total possession limit, if more than 250 hooks 
are lost, a vessel either has to fish with fewer than 750 hooks, get 
additional hooks from other vessels to maintain the maximum number of 
hooks in the water, or return to port. Based on public testimony, 
removing the restriction on the total number of hooks kept on board is 
expected to make trips more economical by allowing fishing with the 
maximum number of hooks to continue without having to return to port or 
request additional hooks from other vessels. In addition, maintaining 
the current limit of 750 hooks rigged for fishing would preserve the 
reductions in sea turtle interactions since the implementation of 
Amendment 31.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is 
consistent with the FMP, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable 
law, subject to further consideration after public comment.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration (SBA) that this proposed rule, if adopted, would not 
have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. The factual basis for this certification is as follows.
    A description of this proposed rule, why it is being considered, 
and the objectives of, and legal basis for this proposed rule are 
contained in the preamble.
    This proposed rule would directly affect commercial fishing vessels 
that use bottom longline gear to harvest reef fish from the Gulf EEZ 
east of 85[deg]30' west longitude, east of Cape San Blas, FL. These 
vessels are required to have an eastern Gulf reef fish bottom longline 
endorsement, and as of July 6, 2017, 62 vessels have that endorsement.
    NMFS estimates up to 62 commercial longline vessels could be 
directly affected annually, and that 36 to 37 businesses own these 62 
vessels. These businesses represent approximately 6 percent of the 631 
businesses that own at least one commercial fishing vessel with a Gulf 
reef fish permit. NMFS expects that most to all of the directly 
affected vessels make their landings in Florida, and from 2011 through 
2015, an annual average of 59 longline vessels landed Gulf reef fish in 
the state and individually landed an average of 71,130 lb (32,264 kg), 
gutted weight, of reef fish annually. With an average 2015 dockside 
price of $4.01 per lb, gutted weight, the average longline vessel had 
annual dockside revenue of $285,231 from reef fish landings. That 
annual revenue is estimated to represent approximately 98 to 99 percent 
of the average longline vessel's annual revenues from all landings.
    For RFA purposes, NMFS has established a small business size 
standard for businesses, including their affiliates, whose primary 
industry is commercial fishing (see 50 CFR 200.2). A business primarily 
involved in commercial fishing (NAICS 11411) is classified as a small 
business if it is independently owned and operated, is not dominant in 
its field of operation (including its affiliates), and its combined 
annual receipts are not in excess of $11 million for all of its 
affiliated operations worldwide. Based on the average annual dockside 
revenue of a longline vessel, it is expected that most to all of the 
businesses that would be directly affected by the proposed rule are 
small.
    Since May 2010, within the Gulf EEZ east of 85[deg]30' west 
longitude, a vessel for which a valid eastern Gulf reef fish bottom 
longline endorsement has been issued and that is fishing bottom 
longline gear or has bottom longline

[[Page 50106]]

gear on board cannot possess more than a total of 1,000 hooks, and no 
more than 750 hooks can be rigged for fishing at any given time.
    Industry representatives have indicated that a total of 1,000 hooks 
is not enough on long trips to compensate for hook losses due to 
sharks' biting hooks off and other general reasons. Under the current 
total possession limit, if more than 250 hooks are lost, a vessel 
either has to fish with fewer than 750 hooks or acquire additional 
hooks from other vessels to maintain the maximum number of hooks in the 
water. A third option is for the vessel to end the trip and return to 
port; however, that reduces the vessel landings. Observer data 
indicates an average of over 250 hooks were lost per trip from 2011 
through 2016; however, despite the total hook limit and the average 
hook loss, average landings of reef fish per longline trip increased 
over that time.
    The proposed rule would allow a vessel with a longline endorsement 
to possess an unlimited number of hooks, but it would not change the 
maximum number that can be rigged for fishing. Any bottom longline 
vessel that would increase the total number of hooks it possesses 
beyond 1,000 would do so only if there were an economic benefit of 
doing so. Removing the limit on the number of unrigged hooks that can 
be onboard is expected to improve fishers' ability to maintain the 
maximum number of rigged hooks over the duration of a trip. There is 
insufficient information to estimate the number of vessels that may 
benefit from possessing more than 1,000 hooks and the magnitude of such 
a benefit.
    NMFS expects this proposed rule would not have a significant 
economic impact on a substantial number of small entities, and an 
initial regulatory flexibility analysis is not required and none has 
been prepared.
    No duplicative, overlapping, or conflicting Federal rules have been 
identified. In addition, no new reporting, record-keeping, or other 
compliance requirements are introduced by this proposed rule. 
Accordingly, this proposed rule does not implicate the Paperwork 
Reduction Act.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622

    Bottom longline gear, Fisheries, Fishing, Gulf of Mexico, Reef 
fish.

    Dated: October 24, 2017.
Samuel D. Rauch, III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 622 is 
proposed to be amended as follows:

PART 622--FISHERIES OF THE CARIBBEAN, GULF OF MEXICO, AND SOUTH 
ATLANTIC

0
1. The authority citation for part 622 continues to read as follows:

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

0
2. In Sec.  622.35, revise the first sentence of paragraph (b)(3) to 
read as follows:


Sec.  622.35  Gear restricted areas.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (3) Within the Gulf EEZ east of 85[deg]30' W. long., a vessel for 
which a valid eastern Gulf reef fish bottom longline endorsement has 
been issued that is fishing bottom longline gear or has bottom longline 
gear on board cannot possess more than 750 hooks rigged for fishing at 
any given time. * * *
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2017-23460 Filed 10-27-17; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P