Temporary Rule To Establish Management Measures for the Limited Harvest and Possession of South Atlantic Red Snapper in 2017, 50839-50843 [2017-23839]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 211 / Thursday, November 2, 2017 / Rules and Regulations DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 622 [Docket No. 170803719–7719–01)] RIN 0648–BH10 Temporary Rule To Establish Management Measures for the Limited Harvest and Possession of South Atlantic Red Snapper in 2017 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Temporary rule; emergency action. AGENCY: NMFS issues this final temporary rule to establish management measures to allow for the limited harvest and possession of red snapper in or from the South Atlantic exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in 2017 by changing the process used to set the annual catch limit (ACL), as requested by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council). This rule also announces the opening and closing dates of the 2017 recreational fishing season and the opening date for the 2017 commercial fishing season for red snapper. The intended effect of this temporary rule is to reduce, to the extent practicable, existing adverse socio-economic impacts to fishermen and fishing communities that utilize the red snapper portion of the snappergrouper fishery, without allowing overfishing or preventing the stock from rebuilding. Additionally, limited commercial and recreational harvest of red snapper in 2017 will provide an opportunity to collect fishery-dependent data that will be useful for future red snapper stock assessments and management decisions. DATES: This temporary rule is effective November 2, 2017, through December 31, 2017. The recreational red snapper season opens at 12:01 a.m., local time, on November 3, 2017, and closes at 12:01 a.m., local time, on November 6, 2017; then reopens at 12:01 a.m., local time, on November 10, 2017, and closes at 12:01 a.m., local time, on November 13, 2017. The commercial red snapper season opens at 12:01 a.m., local time, November 2, 2017. ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of the documents in support of this temporary rule, which include an environmental assessment, may be obtained from the Southeast Regional Office Web site at nlaroche on DSK9F9SC42PROD with RULES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:56 Nov 01, 2017 Jkt 244001 http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sf/ SASnapperGrouperHomepage.html. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Nikhil Mehta, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, telephone: 727–824– 5305, email: nikhil.mehta@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS and the Council manage South Atlantic snapper-grouper including red snapper under the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region (FMP). The Council prepared the FMP and NMFS implements the FMP through regulations at 50 CFR part 622 under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides the legal authority for the promulgation of emergency regulations under section 305(c) (16 U.S.C. 1855(c)). Background Harvest of red snapper from South Atlantic Federal waters was prohibited in 2010 through a temporary interim rule and then through Amendment 17A to the FMP when the stock was determined to be overfished and undergoing overfishing (Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR) 15, 2009) (74 FR 63673, December 4, 2009; 75 FR 76874, December 9, 2010). Amendment 17A also implemented a 35-year red snapper rebuilding plan that began in 2010, and set the red snapper ACL at zero. Amendment 28 to the FMP established a process that allowed red snapper harvest (ACL greater than zero) if total removals (landings plus dead discards) were less than the acceptable biological catch (ABC) in the previous fishing year (78 FR 44461, July 24, 2013). Limited harvest of red snapper was allowed in 2012, 2013, and 2014. However, because the estimated total removals of red snapper exceeded the ABC in 2014, 2015, and 2016 due to estimates of red snapper discards that were incidentally harvested as bycatch while targeting other species, there was no allowable harvest in 2015, 2016, and 2017. The process established through Amendment 28 specifies that harvest would begin in July, and specifies when the commercial and recreational seasons would open and close and the applicable fishing regulations during any open season. The commercial red snapper season closes when the commercial ACL is met or projected to be met. The length of the recreational red snapper season is projected and announced before the start of the season, based on catch rate estimates from previous years. The NMFS PO 00000 Frm 00039 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 50839 Regional Administrator (RA) has the authority to delay the opening of red snapper fishing seasons in the event of a tropical storm or hurricane affecting the area of the Council’s jurisdiction. Additionally, there is no minimum size limit for either the commercial or recreational sector; the commercial trip limit is 75 lb (34 kg), gutted weight, and the recreational bag limit is one fish per person per day. This temporary rule will allow limited commercial and recreational harvest of red snapper in 2017 by implementing a total ACL of 42,510 fish, based on the landings observed during the limited red snapper season in 2014. The total ACL is divided into a commercial ACL of 124,815 lb (56,615 kg), round weight, and a recreational ACL of 29,656 fish, based the current sector allocation ratio developed by the Council for red snapper (28.07 percent commercial and 71.93 percent recreational). The commercial sector’s ACL is set in pounds of fish because the commercial sector reports landings in weight and therefore weight is a more accurate representation of commercial landings. In this temporary rule, for the commercial sector, one red snapper is equivalent to 9.71 lb (4.40 kg), round weight. ACLs for the recreational sector are specified in numbers of fish because numbers of fish are a more reliable estimate for that sector than specifying the ACL in weight of fish. Surveys that estimate recreational landings collect information on numbers of fish and convert those numbers to weights using limited biological samples, so there is considerable uncertainty in estimates of recreational landings by weight. The recreational bag limit will be one fish per person per day and the commercial trip limit will be 75 lb (34 kg), gutted weight. There will not be a minimum size limit set for either sector. The commercial sector will close when the commercial ACL is projected to be met during the limited 2017 fishing season. The opening and closing of the recreational sector is being specified before the recreational season begins and consists of two weekends only (Friday, Saturday, Sunday). The effectiveness of this temporary rule is only for the 2017 fishing year and does not authorize any harvest after December 31, 2017. Status of the Stock The most recent stock assessment for South Atlantic red snapper, SEDAR 41 (2017), was completed in 2016 and revised in 2017. SEDAR 41 (2017) evaluated data through 2014 and determined the red snapper stock was overfished and that overfishing was E:\FR\FM\02NOR1.SGM 02NOR1 nlaroche on DSK9F9SC42PROD with RULES 50840 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 211 / Thursday, November 2, 2017 / Rules and Regulations occurring. The stock assessment indicated that overfishing was occurring because the estimated fishing mortality based on the average over the last three years of the assessment represented in the model (2012–2014) exceeded the maximum fishing mortality threshold. Though limited red snapper harvest was allowed during those years, the majority of the estimated fishing mortality occurred from estimated dead discards. The estimated red snapper discards during these years were very high as a result of fishermen targeting red snapper and species that co-occur with red snapper, such as vermilion snapper, gag, red grouper, black sea bass, gray triggerfish, greater amberjack, and scamp. In May 2016, the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) stated that SEDAR 41 (2017) was based on the best scientific information available, but noted the assessment findings were highly uncertain regarding to what extent overfishing was occurring (i.e., the actual numerical value of the current fishing mortality estimate). The SSC indicated that the most significant sources of uncertainty in the assessment include: the stock-recruitment relationship, natural mortality at age, the age structure of the unfished population, the composition and magnitude of recreational discards (where dead discards greatly outnumbered the landings during the years 2012 through 2014), and potential changes in catch per unit effort(CPUE). The projections of yield streams used in SEDAR 41 (2017) included both landings and dead discards, which were added to get an estimate of the total removals. However, red snapper is primarily a discards-only fishery as a result of the harvest prohibitions. Therefore, the Council determined that discard-only projections (zero landings) would be more informative for management. In January 2017, the Council requested the NMFS Southeast Fishery Science Center (SEFSC) provide red snapper projections under the assumption that all fish caught are subsequently discarded. Following the request, the SEFSC advised the Council in February 2017 that the requested projections were not appropriate for management use because uncertainty in the assessment was already large, and the uncertainty would increase with a more complete evaluation of the effect of the upcoming changes to Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP). Recreational catch and effort data, including discards, are monitored through MRIP, which is currently transitioning from the current Coastal Household Telephone Survey to a new VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:56 Nov 01, 2017 Jkt 244001 mail survey design for estimating marine recreational shore and private boat fishing effort, known as the Fishing Effort Survey. NMFS expects that the Fishing Effort Survey will result in a more efficient representation of recreational fishing effort, including that of discards; however, in order for a new survey method to be implemented, historical catch statistics will need to be converted into the same ‘currency’ as the new estimates. This process is underway. Additionally, in their February 2017 response, the SEFSC also advised the Council that the uncertainty in the stock assessment inhibits the ability to set an ABC that can be effectively monitored. The SEFSC further stated in an April 2017 letter to the Council, that the use of an ABC based primarily on fishery discards for monitoring the effectiveness of management action is likely ineffective due to the high level of uncertainty in measures of discards and the change in the effort estimation methodology that will be implemented in the MRIP survey. NMFS informed the Council in a letter, dated March 3, 2017, that, based on the results of SEDAR 41 (2017) using data through 2014, the red snapper stock was still overfished but was rebuilding in accordance with the rebuilding plan. Further, NMFS stated that sufficient steps had been taken to address overfishing of red snapper while continuing to rebuild the stock through harvest prohibitions in 2015 and 2016. This determination is supported by an increase in stock biomass since 2010, and increasing abundance of older age classes (SEDAR 41 2017). Justification and Need for This Temporary Rule The intended effect of this temporary rule is to minimize adverse socioeconomic effects to fishermen and fishing communities that utilize red snapper as part of the snapper-grouper fishery. Fishing seasons that prohibit the harvest of red snapper incur lost opportunities to fish among both the commercial and recreational sectors. NMFS and the Council expect that increased fishing opportunities resulting from these temporary measures should provide direct benefits to fishermen in the form of additional revenue and recreational opportunities, in addition to indirect benefits to businesses that provide supplies for fishing trips. NMFS expects the total aggregate increase in the 2017 fishing season ex-vessel revenues to commercial vessels as a result of these temporary measures would range from $176,940–$236,279 PO 00000 Frm 00040 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 (2016 dollars), and that up to 658 federally permitted commercial snapper-grouper vessels could participate in this harvest in 2017. The recreational consumer surplus to anglers as a result of a limited 2017 harvest could increase by about $2,402,136 (in total; assuming that each of the 29,656 recreational fish is harvested by an individual angler). The potential also exists for revenues and profits generated by charter vessels and headboats (forhire vessels) and fishing support businesses to increase, but such effects cannot be estimated with the current information. NMFS determined that allowing limited harvest of red snapper in 2017 is not likely to result in overfishing, or prevent continued stock rebuilding. This determination is based on the uncertainty in the assessment associated with: The stock-recruitment relationship, natural mortality at age, the age structure of the unfished population, and the composition and magnitude of recreational discards inhibiting the ability of the SEFSC to project ABC into the future. Additional support comes from fisheryindependent information collected through the Southeast Reef Fish Survey (SERFS) program, and the East Coast Fisheries Independent Monitoring information conducted by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC), presented to the Council at their June and September 2017 meetings, respectively. According to the SERFS, relative abundance (CPUE) of red snapper has increased since 2009, reaching the highest level observed in the entire time series (1990–2016) in 2016. According to the results of FWCC’s study, CPUE for red snapper for hook gear (surveyed in 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2017) and the standardized index of abundance (surveyed from 2014–2017) was highest in 2017. The FWCC data also showed a greater number of large red snapper and a broader range of ages in recent years, which suggests rebuilding progress of the red snapper stock. The Council’s SSC noted a red snapper population increase in their April 2017 report, stating that ‘‘. . . a continuing upward trend in the fishery-independent index has a high probability of reflecting increases in population size.’’ As noted by the new information presented to the Council in June and September 2017, the increase in relative abundance of red snapper indicated by the fisheryindependent CPUE indices has taken place despite landings during the limited seasons in 2012–2014 and despite the large number of estimated E:\FR\FM\02NOR1.SGM 02NOR1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 211 / Thursday, November 2, 2017 / Rules and Regulations nlaroche on DSK9F9SC42PROD with RULES red snapper dead discards during harvest restrictions for red snapper since 2010. The amount of harvest allowed in this temporary rule is equivalent to the amount of observed landings in the 2014 fishing season. Therefore, NMFS has determined that allowing that same amount of harvest in this temporary rule in 2017 is unlikely to result in overfishing or change the red snapper rebuilding time period, and is based on the best scientific information available. Emergency Rule Criteria NMFS’ Policy Guidelines for the Use of Emergency Rules (62 FR 44421, August 21, 1997) list three criteria for determining whether an emergency exists, and this temporary rule is promulgated under these criteria. Specifically, NMFS’ policy guidelines require that an emergency: (1) Result from recent, unforeseen events or recently discovered circumstances; and (2) Present serious conservation or management problems in the fishery; and (3) Can be addressed through emergency regulations for which the immediate benefits outweigh the value of advance notice, public comment, and deliberative consideration of the impacts on participants to the same extent as would be expected under the normal rulemaking process. NMFS has determined that allowing harvest in 2017 meets the three criteria required for an emergency rule. The new red snapper abundance and CPUE information collected through the SERFS program and FWCC’s study constitutes recently discovered circumstances, since it was presented to the Council at their June 2017 and September 2017 meetings. In addition, the continued harvest prohibition of South Atlantic red snapper poses significant management problems to NMFS and the Council. Fishery closures result in the limited collection of fishery-dependent data, and that negatively impacts the stock assessment process. Additionally, the harvest prohibition of red snapper results in adverse socio-economic effects to fishermen and fishing communities through lost opportunities among the commercial and recreational sectors to fish for and possess red snapper during the fishing year. Input from fishers also indicates that they are increasingly frustrated with the perceived waste of the red snapper resource resulting from the continued discarding of red snapper when they target co-occurring species. Finally, the immediate benefits of implementing a limited red snapper VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:56 Nov 01, 2017 Jkt 244001 commercial and recreational fishing season in 2017 outweigh the value of providing advance notice and public comment under the normal rulemaking process. Public comments on this action at the September 2017 Council meeting indicated that many fishermen favored a limited 2017 season. The Council considered these public comments when they recommended that NMFS proceed with a temporary rule for emergency action at their September 2017 meeting. Further, the time it would take to complete public notice and solicit public comments through rulemaking would not allow adequate time for a fishing season to take place in 2017. Additionally, while harvest restrictions remain in place, fishers report they are encountering large numbers of red snapper, which is further supported by the long-term SERFS fishery-independent CPUE index. Allowing a limited amount of harvest in 2017 through this temporary emergency action would allow commercial and recreational fishermen to harvest this species, and would also generate revenue for businesses within these sectors. Also, limited commercial and recreational harvest of red snapper in 2017 will provide an opportunity to collect fishery-dependent data including catch, fishing effort estimates, and life history information that will be useful for future red snapper stock assessments and management decisions. Measures Contained in This Temporary Rule This temporary rule implements management measures to authorize the limited harvest and possession of red snapper in or from the South Atlantic EEZ in the 2017 fishing year. The 2017 commercial ACL is set at 124,815 lb (56,615 kg), round weight, and the 2017 recreational ACL is set at 29,656 fish. These ACLs are based on the total 2017 ACL, as determined by NMFS, of 42,510 fish and following the current allocation ratio for red snapper (28.07 percent commercial and 71.93 percent recreational). NMFS and the Council are establishing several management measures that function as accountability measures to constrain red snapper harvest to these ACLs, including the establishment of limited commercial and recreational red snapper seasons for 2017. The recreational season will open for two consecutive weekends made up of Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The recreational season opens at 12:01 a.m., local time, on November 3, 2017, and closes at 12:01 a.m., local time, on November 6, 2017; then reopens at PO 00000 Frm 00041 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 50841 12:01 a.m., local time, on November 10, 2017, and closes at 12:01 a.m., local time, on November 13, 2017. The commercial season opens at 12:01 a.m., local time, November 2, 2017. NMFS will monitor commercial landings inseason and if commercial landings reach or are projected to reach the commercial ACL, then NMFS will file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register to close the commercial sector for red snapper for the remainder of the 2017 fishing year. NMFS notes that if the commercial ACL has not been met or been projected to have been met by December 31, 2017, no commercial harvest would be allowed through this temporary rule after 11:59 p.m., local time, on December 31, 2017. Harvest will additionally be constrained through the implementation of commercial and recreational management measures such as trip limits and bag limits. During these limited 2017 fishing seasons, the commercial sector will have a 75 lb (34 kg), gutted weight, daily commercial trip limit and the recreational sector will have a 1 fish per person daily recreational bag limit. The 1 fish per person recreational bag limit is included in the 10-fish aggregate snapper bag limit. No size limits are implemented for either sector through this temporary rule in an effort to decrease regulatory discards (fish returned to the water because they are below the minimum size limit). If severe weather conditions exist, the RA has the authority to modify these opening and closing dates. The RA will determine when severe weather conditions exist, the duration of the severe weather conditions, and which geographic areas are deemed affected by severe weather conditions. If severe weather conditions exist or if NMFS determines the 2017 commercial or recreational ACLs were not harvested and a reopening of either or both sectors in 2017 is possible, the RA will file a notification to that effect with the Office of the Federal Register, and announce via NOAA Weather Radio and in a Fishery Bulletin any change in or reopening of the red snapper fishing seasons. The Council is currently developing both Amendment 43 and Amendment 46 to the FMP. Amendment 43 contains actions to establish commercial and recreational ACLs and associated revisions to management measures for red snapper that would allow for a specific level of harvest each year. At its September 2017 meeting, the Council took final action and approved Amendment 43 and will submit the amendment to the Secretary for subsequent rulemaking and implementation during the 2018 fishing E:\FR\FM\02NOR1.SGM 02NOR1 50842 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 211 / Thursday, November 2, 2017 / Rules and Regulations nlaroche on DSK9F9SC42PROD with RULES year. Amendment 46, in preliminary development by the Council, would consider other red snapper management measures. Classification This action is issued pursuant to section 305(c) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, 16 U.S.C. 1855(c). The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA (AA), has determined that this temporary rule is necessary to promote an economic opportunity for South Atlantic snapper-grouper fishermen that otherwise would be foregone and is consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable laws. This action is being taken pursuant to the emergency provision of MSA and is exempt from OMB review. The AA finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive prior notice and the opportunity for public comment because they are contrary to the public interest. This temporary rule promotes an economic opportunity for South Atlantic snapper-grouper fishermen that would otherwise be forgone if harvest in 2017 were not to occur. Limited harvest and possession of red snapper in 2017 is expected to result in revenue increases to commercial vessels and benefit increases to recreational anglers, in addition to providing opportunity to for-hire vessels in booking more trips that could increase their revenues and profits. At the September 2017 Council meeting, South Atlantic snappergrouper fishermen discussed the merits of opening red snapper in the South Atlantic for a short time period in 2017. Fishermen will be able to keep a limited number of the red snapper that they are currently required to discard. As previously discussed, commercial fishermen should be able to increase their revenues in 2017 by being able to sell a highly marketable fish during the limited opening. Additionally, short red snapper seasons will provide an opportunity to collect fishery-dependent data that likely may be useful for future stock assessments. Currently, the lack of available red snapper data hinders the ability to assess the status of the stock. Delaying the implementation of this rulemaking to provide prior notice and the opportunity for public comment would reduce the likelihood of opening the red snapper component of the snapper-grouper fishery in the 2017 fishing year. As a result of the recent receipt of scientific information indicating that harvest in 2017 is possible, there is insufficient time for NMFS to implement these measures earlier in this fishing year and/or possibly allow for prior notice and opportunity for public comment on the VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:56 Nov 01, 2017 Jkt 244001 rulemaking. The harvest allowed in 2017 in this rule is not expected to result in overfishing or impede rebuilding of the stock. For these same reasons, the AA also finds good cause to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness of the actions under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3). Because prior notice and opportunity for public comment are not required for this rule by 5 U.S.C. 553 or any other law, the analytical requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 601 et seq. are inapplicable. Accordingly, no regulatory flexibility analysis is required and none has been prepared. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622 Fisheries, Fishing, Red snapper, South Atlantic. Dated: October 27, 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 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 § 622.181, suspend paragraph (b)(2) and add paragraph (c)(2) to read as follows: ■ § 622.181 species. Prohibited and limited-harvest * * * * * (c) * * * (2) Red snapper. Red snapper may only be harvested or possessed in or from the South Atlantic EEZ during the commercial and recreational seasons as specified in § 622.183(b)(9) and § 622.193(aa). Any red snapper caught in the South Atlantic EEZ during a time other than the specified commercial or recreational seasons specified in § 622.193(aa) must be released immediately with a minimum of harm. In addition, for a person on board a vessel for which a valid Federal commercial or charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic snappergrouper has been issued, the prohibition on the harvest or possession of red snapper applies in the South Atlantic, regardless of where such fish are harvested or possessed, i.e., in state or Federal waters. ■ 3. In § 622.183, suspend paragraph (b)(5) and add paragraph (b)(9) to read as follows: PO 00000 Frm 00042 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 § 622.183 Area and seasonal closures. * * * * * (b) * * * (9) Closures of the commercial and recreational sectors for red snapper—(i) The commercial and recreational sectors for red snapper are closed (i.e., red snapper may not be harvested or possessed, or sold or purchased) in or from the South Atlantic EEZ, except as specified in § 622.193(aa). The recreational fishing season would consist of consecutive Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, unless otherwise specified. See § 622.193(aa), for establishing the end date of the commercial fishing season. (ii) If the RA determines tropical storm or hurricane conditions exist, or are projected to exist, in the South Atlantic, during a commercial or recreational fishing season, the RA may modify the opening and closing dates of the fishing season by filing a notification to that effect with the Office of the Federal Register, and announcing via NOAA Weather Radio and a Fishery Bulletin any change in the dates of the red snapper commercial or recreational fishing season. ■ 4. In § 622.187, suspend paragraph (b)(9) and add paragraph (b)(12) to read as follows: § 622.187 Bag and possession limits. * * * * * (b) * * * (12) Red snapper—1. See § 622.183(b)(9), and § 622.193(aa)(2) for details on the recreational fishing season. * * * * * ■ 5. In § 622.191, suspend paragraph (a)(9) and add paragraph (a)(13) to read as follows: § 622.191 Commercial trip limits. * * * * * (a) * * * (13) Red snapper. Until the commercial ACL specified in § 622.193(aa)(1) is reached, 75 lb (34 kg), gutted weight. See § 622.193(aa)(1) for the limitations regarding red snapper after the commercial ACL is reached. See § 622.183(b)(9), and § 622.193(aa)(1) for details on the commercial fishing season. * * * * * ■ 6. In § 622.193, suspend paragraph (y) and add paragraph (aa) to read as follows: § 622.193 Annual catch limits (ACLs), annual catch targets (ACTs), and accountability measures (AMs). * * * * * (aa) Red snapper—(1) Commercial sector. The commercial ACL for red E:\FR\FM\02NOR1.SGM 02NOR1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 211 / Thursday, November 2, 2017 / Rules and Regulations nlaroche on DSK9F9SC42PROD with RULES snapper is 124,815 lb (56,615 kg), round weight. See § 622.183(b)(9) for details on the commercial fishing season. NMFS will monitor commercial landings during the season, and if commercial landings, as estimated by the SRD, reach or are projected to reach the commercial ACL, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register to close the commercial sector for red snapper for the remainder of the year. On and after the effective date of the closure notification, all sale or purchase of red snapper is prohibited and harvest VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:56 Nov 01, 2017 Jkt 244001 or possession of red snapper is limited to the bag and possession limits. This bag and possession limit and the prohibition on sale/purchase apply in the South Atlantic on board a vessel for which a valid Federal commercial or charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has been issued, without regard to where such species were harvested or possessed, i.e., in state or Federal waters. (2) Recreational sector. The recreational ACL for red snapper is PO 00000 Frm 00043 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 9990 50843 29,656 fish. The recreational season, consists of weekends only (Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays). The length of the recreational fishing season for red snapper serves as the in-season accountability measure. See § 622.183(b)(9) for details on the recreational fishing season. On and after the effective date of the recreational closure notification, the bag and possession limits for red snapper are zero. [FR Doc. 2017–23839 Filed 10–30–17; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\02NOR1.SGM 02NOR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 211 (Thursday, November 2, 2017)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 50839-50843]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-23839]



[[Page 50839]]

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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

[Docket No. 170803719-7719-01)]
RIN 0648-BH10


Temporary Rule To Establish Management Measures for the Limited 
Harvest and Possession of South Atlantic Red Snapper in 2017

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

ACTION: Temporary rule; emergency action.

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SUMMARY: NMFS issues this final temporary rule to establish management 
measures to allow for the limited harvest and possession of red snapper 
in or from the South Atlantic exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in 2017 by 
changing the process used to set the annual catch limit (ACL), as 
requested by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council). 
This rule also announces the opening and closing dates of the 2017 
recreational fishing season and the opening date for the 2017 
commercial fishing season for red snapper. The intended effect of this 
temporary rule is to reduce, to the extent practicable, existing 
adverse socio-economic impacts to fishermen and fishing communities 
that utilize the red snapper portion of the snapper-grouper fishery, 
without allowing overfishing or preventing the stock from rebuilding. 
Additionally, limited commercial and recreational harvest of red 
snapper in 2017 will provide an opportunity to collect fishery-
dependent data that will be useful for future red snapper stock 
assessments and management decisions.

DATES: This temporary rule is effective November 2, 2017, through 
December 31, 2017. The recreational red snapper season opens at 12:01 
a.m., local time, on November 3, 2017, and closes at 12:01 a.m., local 
time, on November 6, 2017; then reopens at 12:01 a.m., local time, on 
November 10, 2017, and closes at 12:01 a.m., local time, on November 
13, 2017. The commercial red snapper season opens at 12:01 a.m., local 
time, November 2, 2017.

ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of the documents in support of this 
temporary rule, which include an environmental assessment, may be 
obtained from the Southeast Regional Office Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sf/SASnapperGrouperHomepage.html.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Nikhil Mehta, Southeast Regional 
Office, NMFS, telephone: 727-824-5305, email: nikhil.mehta@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS and the Council manage South Atlantic 
snapper-grouper including red snapper under the Fishery Management Plan 
for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region (FMP). The 
Council prepared the FMP and NMFS implements the FMP through 
regulations at 50 CFR part 622 under the authority of the Magnuson-
Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). 
The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides the legal authority for the 
promulgation of emergency regulations under section 305(c) (16 U.S.C. 
1855(c)).

Background

    Harvest of red snapper from South Atlantic Federal waters was 
prohibited in 2010 through a temporary interim rule and then through 
Amendment 17A to the FMP when the stock was determined to be overfished 
and undergoing overfishing (Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review 
(SEDAR) 15, 2009) (74 FR 63673, December 4, 2009; 75 FR 76874, December 
9, 2010). Amendment 17A also implemented a 35-year red snapper 
rebuilding plan that began in 2010, and set the red snapper ACL at 
zero. Amendment 28 to the FMP established a process that allowed red 
snapper harvest (ACL greater than zero) if total removals (landings 
plus dead discards) were less than the acceptable biological catch 
(ABC) in the previous fishing year (78 FR 44461, July 24, 2013). 
Limited harvest of red snapper was allowed in 2012, 2013, and 2014. 
However, because the estimated total removals of red snapper exceeded 
the ABC in 2014, 2015, and 2016 due to estimates of red snapper 
discards that were incidentally harvested as bycatch while targeting 
other species, there was no allowable harvest in 2015, 2016, and 2017.
    The process established through Amendment 28 specifies that harvest 
would begin in July, and specifies when the commercial and recreational 
seasons would open and close and the applicable fishing regulations 
during any open season. The commercial red snapper season closes when 
the commercial ACL is met or projected to be met. The length of the 
recreational red snapper season is projected and announced before the 
start of the season, based on catch rate estimates from previous years. 
The NMFS Regional Administrator (RA) has the authority to delay the 
opening of red snapper fishing seasons in the event of a tropical storm 
or hurricane affecting the area of the Council's jurisdiction. 
Additionally, there is no minimum size limit for either the commercial 
or recreational sector; the commercial trip limit is 75 lb (34 kg), 
gutted weight, and the recreational bag limit is one fish per person 
per day.
    This temporary rule will allow limited commercial and recreational 
harvest of red snapper in 2017 by implementing a total ACL of 42,510 
fish, based on the landings observed during the limited red snapper 
season in 2014. The total ACL is divided into a commercial ACL of 
124,815 lb (56,615 kg), round weight, and a recreational ACL of 29,656 
fish, based the current sector allocation ratio developed by the 
Council for red snapper (28.07 percent commercial and 71.93 percent 
recreational). The commercial sector's ACL is set in pounds of fish 
because the commercial sector reports landings in weight and therefore 
weight is a more accurate representation of commercial landings. In 
this temporary rule, for the commercial sector, one red snapper is 
equivalent to 9.71 lb (4.40 kg), round weight. ACLs for the 
recreational sector are specified in numbers of fish because numbers of 
fish are a more reliable estimate for that sector than specifying the 
ACL in weight of fish. Surveys that estimate recreational landings 
collect information on numbers of fish and convert those numbers to 
weights using limited biological samples, so there is considerable 
uncertainty in estimates of recreational landings by weight.
    The recreational bag limit will be one fish per person per day and 
the commercial trip limit will be 75 lb (34 kg), gutted weight. There 
will not be a minimum size limit set for either sector. The commercial 
sector will close when the commercial ACL is projected to be met during 
the limited 2017 fishing season. The opening and closing of the 
recreational sector is being specified before the recreational season 
begins and consists of two weekends only (Friday, Saturday, Sunday). 
The effectiveness of this temporary rule is only for the 2017 fishing 
year and does not authorize any harvest after December 31, 2017.

Status of the Stock

    The most recent stock assessment for South Atlantic red snapper, 
SEDAR 41 (2017), was completed in 2016 and revised in 2017. SEDAR 41 
(2017) evaluated data through 2014 and determined the red snapper stock 
was overfished and that overfishing was

[[Page 50840]]

occurring. The stock assessment indicated that overfishing was 
occurring because the estimated fishing mortality based on the average 
over the last three years of the assessment represented in the model 
(2012-2014) exceeded the maximum fishing mortality threshold. Though 
limited red snapper harvest was allowed during those years, the 
majority of the estimated fishing mortality occurred from estimated 
dead discards. The estimated red snapper discards during these years 
were very high as a result of fishermen targeting red snapper and 
species that co-occur with red snapper, such as vermilion snapper, gag, 
red grouper, black sea bass, gray triggerfish, greater amberjack, and 
scamp.
    In May 2016, the Council's Scientific and Statistical Committee 
(SSC) stated that SEDAR 41 (2017) was based on the best scientific 
information available, but noted the assessment findings were highly 
uncertain regarding to what extent overfishing was occurring (i.e., the 
actual numerical value of the current fishing mortality estimate). The 
SSC indicated that the most significant sources of uncertainty in the 
assessment include: the stock-recruitment relationship, natural 
mortality at age, the age structure of the unfished population, the 
composition and magnitude of recreational discards (where dead discards 
greatly outnumbered the landings during the years 2012 through 2014), 
and potential changes in catch per unit effort(CPUE).
    The projections of yield streams used in SEDAR 41 (2017) included 
both landings and dead discards, which were added to get an estimate of 
the total removals. However, red snapper is primarily a discards-only 
fishery as a result of the harvest prohibitions. Therefore, the Council 
determined that discard-only projections (zero landings) would be more 
informative for management. In January 2017, the Council requested the 
NMFS Southeast Fishery Science Center (SEFSC) provide red snapper 
projections under the assumption that all fish caught are subsequently 
discarded. Following the request, the SEFSC advised the Council in 
February 2017 that the requested projections were not appropriate for 
management use because uncertainty in the assessment was already large, 
and the uncertainty would increase with a more complete evaluation of 
the effect of the upcoming changes to Marine Recreational Information 
Program (MRIP). Recreational catch and effort data, including discards, 
are monitored through MRIP, which is currently transitioning from the 
current Coastal Household Telephone Survey to a new mail survey design 
for estimating marine recreational shore and private boat fishing 
effort, known as the Fishing Effort Survey. NMFS expects that the 
Fishing Effort Survey will result in a more efficient representation of 
recreational fishing effort, including that of discards; however, in 
order for a new survey method to be implemented, historical catch 
statistics will need to be converted into the same `currency' as the 
new estimates. This process is underway.
    Additionally, in their February 2017 response, the SEFSC also 
advised the Council that the uncertainty in the stock assessment 
inhibits the ability to set an ABC that can be effectively monitored. 
The SEFSC further stated in an April 2017 letter to the Council, that 
the use of an ABC based primarily on fishery discards for monitoring 
the effectiveness of management action is likely ineffective due to the 
high level of uncertainty in measures of discards and the change in the 
effort estimation methodology that will be implemented in the MRIP 
survey.
    NMFS informed the Council in a letter, dated March 3, 2017, that, 
based on the results of SEDAR 41 (2017) using data through 2014, the 
red snapper stock was still overfished but was rebuilding in accordance 
with the rebuilding plan. Further, NMFS stated that sufficient steps 
had been taken to address overfishing of red snapper while continuing 
to rebuild the stock through harvest prohibitions in 2015 and 2016. 
This determination is supported by an increase in stock biomass since 
2010, and increasing abundance of older age classes (SEDAR 41 2017).

Justification and Need for This Temporary Rule

    The intended effect of this temporary rule is to minimize adverse 
socio-economic effects to fishermen and fishing communities that 
utilize red snapper as part of the snapper-grouper fishery. Fishing 
seasons that prohibit the harvest of red snapper incur lost 
opportunities to fish among both the commercial and recreational 
sectors. NMFS and the Council expect that increased fishing 
opportunities resulting from these temporary measures should provide 
direct benefits to fishermen in the form of additional revenue and 
recreational opportunities, in addition to indirect benefits to 
businesses that provide supplies for fishing trips. NMFS expects the 
total aggregate increase in the 2017 fishing season ex-vessel revenues 
to commercial vessels as a result of these temporary measures would 
range from $176,940-$236,279 (2016 dollars), and that up to 658 
federally permitted commercial snapper-grouper vessels could 
participate in this harvest in 2017. The recreational consumer surplus 
to anglers as a result of a limited 2017 harvest could increase by 
about $2,402,136 (in total; assuming that each of the 29,656 
recreational fish is harvested by an individual angler). The potential 
also exists for revenues and profits generated by charter vessels and 
headboats (for-hire vessels) and fishing support businesses to 
increase, but such effects cannot be estimated with the current 
information.
    NMFS determined that allowing limited harvest of red snapper in 
2017 is not likely to result in overfishing, or prevent continued stock 
rebuilding. This determination is based on the uncertainty in the 
assessment associated with: The stock-recruitment relationship, natural 
mortality at age, the age structure of the unfished population, and the 
composition and magnitude of recreational discards inhibiting the 
ability of the SEFSC to project ABC into the future. Additional support 
comes from fishery-independent information collected through the 
Southeast Reef Fish Survey (SERFS) program, and the East Coast 
Fisheries Independent Monitoring information conducted by Florida Fish 
and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC), presented to the Council 
at their June and September 2017 meetings, respectively. According to 
the SERFS, relative abundance (CPUE) of red snapper has increased since 
2009, reaching the highest level observed in the entire time series 
(1990-2016) in 2016. According to the results of FWCC's study, CPUE for 
red snapper for hook gear (surveyed in 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2017) and 
the standardized index of abundance (surveyed from 2014-2017) was 
highest in 2017. The FWCC data also showed a greater number of large 
red snapper and a broader range of ages in recent years, which suggests 
rebuilding progress of the red snapper stock. The Council's SSC noted a 
red snapper population increase in their April 2017 report, stating 
that ``. . . a continuing upward trend in the fishery-independent index 
has a high probability of reflecting increases in population size.'' As 
noted by the new information presented to the Council in June and 
September 2017, the increase in relative abundance of red snapper 
indicated by the fishery-independent CPUE indices has taken place 
despite landings during the limited seasons in 2012-2014 and despite 
the large number of estimated

[[Page 50841]]

red snapper dead discards during harvest restrictions for red snapper 
since 2010. The amount of harvest allowed in this temporary rule is 
equivalent to the amount of observed landings in the 2014 fishing 
season. Therefore, NMFS has determined that allowing that same amount 
of harvest in this temporary rule in 2017 is unlikely to result in 
overfishing or change the red snapper rebuilding time period, and is 
based on the best scientific information available.

Emergency Rule Criteria

    NMFS' Policy Guidelines for the Use of Emergency Rules (62 FR 
44421, August 21, 1997) list three criteria for determining whether an 
emergency exists, and this temporary rule is promulgated under these 
criteria. Specifically, NMFS' policy guidelines require that an 
emergency:
    (1) Result from recent, unforeseen events or recently discovered 
circumstances; and
    (2) Present serious conservation or management problems in the 
fishery; and
    (3) Can be addressed through emergency regulations for which the 
immediate benefits outweigh the value of advance notice, public 
comment, and deliberative consideration of the impacts on participants 
to the same extent as would be expected under the normal rulemaking 
process.
    NMFS has determined that allowing harvest in 2017 meets the three 
criteria required for an emergency rule. The new red snapper abundance 
and CPUE information collected through the SERFS program and FWCC's 
study constitutes recently discovered circumstances, since it was 
presented to the Council at their June 2017 and September 2017 
meetings. In addition, the continued harvest prohibition of South 
Atlantic red snapper poses significant management problems to NMFS and 
the Council. Fishery closures result in the limited collection of 
fishery-dependent data, and that negatively impacts the stock 
assessment process. Additionally, the harvest prohibition of red 
snapper results in adverse socio-economic effects to fishermen and 
fishing communities through lost opportunities among the commercial and 
recreational sectors to fish for and possess red snapper during the 
fishing year. Input from fishers also indicates that they are 
increasingly frustrated with the perceived waste of the red snapper 
resource resulting from the continued discarding of red snapper when 
they target co-occurring species. Finally, the immediate benefits of 
implementing a limited red snapper commercial and recreational fishing 
season in 2017 outweigh the value of providing advance notice and 
public comment under the normal rulemaking process. Public comments on 
this action at the September 2017 Council meeting indicated that many 
fishermen favored a limited 2017 season. The Council considered these 
public comments when they recommended that NMFS proceed with a 
temporary rule for emergency action at their September 2017 meeting. 
Further, the time it would take to complete public notice and solicit 
public comments through rulemaking would not allow adequate time for a 
fishing season to take place in 2017.
    Additionally, while harvest restrictions remain in place, fishers 
report they are encountering large numbers of red snapper, which is 
further supported by the long-term SERFS fishery-independent CPUE 
index. Allowing a limited amount of harvest in 2017 through this 
temporary emergency action would allow commercial and recreational 
fishermen to harvest this species, and would also generate revenue for 
businesses within these sectors. Also, limited commercial and 
recreational harvest of red snapper in 2017 will provide an opportunity 
to collect fishery-dependent data including catch, fishing effort 
estimates, and life history information that will be useful for future 
red snapper stock assessments and management decisions.

Measures Contained in This Temporary Rule

    This temporary rule implements management measures to authorize the 
limited harvest and possession of red snapper in or from the South 
Atlantic EEZ in the 2017 fishing year. The 2017 commercial ACL is set 
at 124,815 lb (56,615 kg), round weight, and the 2017 recreational ACL 
is set at 29,656 fish. These ACLs are based on the total 2017 ACL, as 
determined by NMFS, of 42,510 fish and following the current allocation 
ratio for red snapper (28.07 percent commercial and 71.93 percent 
recreational).
    NMFS and the Council are establishing several management measures 
that function as accountability measures to constrain red snapper 
harvest to these ACLs, including the establishment of limited 
commercial and recreational red snapper seasons for 2017. The 
recreational season will open for two consecutive weekends made up of 
Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The recreational season opens at 12:01 
a.m., local time, on November 3, 2017, and closes at 12:01 a.m., local 
time, on November 6, 2017; then reopens at 12:01 a.m., local time, on 
November 10, 2017, and closes at 12:01 a.m., local time, on November 
13, 2017. The commercial season opens at 12:01 a.m., local time, 
November 2, 2017. NMFS will monitor commercial landings in-season and 
if commercial landings reach or are projected to reach the commercial 
ACL, then NMFS will file a notification with the Office of the Federal 
Register to close the commercial sector for red snapper for the 
remainder of the 2017 fishing year. NMFS notes that if the commercial 
ACL has not been met or been projected to have been met by December 31, 
2017, no commercial harvest would be allowed through this temporary 
rule after 11:59 p.m., local time, on December 31, 2017. Harvest will 
additionally be constrained through the implementation of commercial 
and recreational management measures such as trip limits and bag 
limits.
    During these limited 2017 fishing seasons, the commercial sector 
will have a 75 lb (34 kg), gutted weight, daily commercial trip limit 
and the recreational sector will have a 1 fish per person daily 
recreational bag limit. The 1 fish per person recreational bag limit is 
included in the 10-fish aggregate snapper bag limit. No size limits are 
implemented for either sector through this temporary rule in an effort 
to decrease regulatory discards (fish returned to the water because 
they are below the minimum size limit). If severe weather conditions 
exist, the RA has the authority to modify these opening and closing 
dates. The RA will determine when severe weather conditions exist, the 
duration of the severe weather conditions, and which geographic areas 
are deemed affected by severe weather conditions. If severe weather 
conditions exist or if NMFS determines the 2017 commercial or 
recreational ACLs were not harvested and a reopening of either or both 
sectors in 2017 is possible, the RA will file a notification to that 
effect with the Office of the Federal Register, and announce via NOAA 
Weather Radio and in a Fishery Bulletin any change in or reopening of 
the red snapper fishing seasons.
    The Council is currently developing both Amendment 43 and Amendment 
46 to the FMP. Amendment 43 contains actions to establish commercial 
and recreational ACLs and associated revisions to management measures 
for red snapper that would allow for a specific level of harvest each 
year. At its September 2017 meeting, the Council took final action and 
approved Amendment 43 and will submit the amendment to the Secretary 
for subsequent rulemaking and implementation during the 2018 fishing

[[Page 50842]]

year. Amendment 46, in preliminary development by the Council, would 
consider other red snapper management measures.

Classification

    This action is issued pursuant to section 305(c) of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act, 16 U.S.C. 1855(c). The Assistant Administrator for 
Fisheries, NOAA (AA), has determined that this temporary rule is 
necessary to promote an economic opportunity for South Atlantic 
snapper-grouper fishermen that otherwise would be foregone and is 
consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable laws.
    This action is being taken pursuant to the emergency provision of 
MSA and is exempt from OMB review.
    The AA finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive prior 
notice and the opportunity for public comment because they are contrary 
to the public interest. This temporary rule promotes an economic 
opportunity for South Atlantic snapper-grouper fishermen that would 
otherwise be forgone if harvest in 2017 were not to occur. Limited 
harvest and possession of red snapper in 2017 is expected to result in 
revenue increases to commercial vessels and benefit increases to 
recreational anglers, in addition to providing opportunity to for-hire 
vessels in booking more trips that could increase their revenues and 
profits. At the September 2017 Council meeting, South Atlantic snapper-
grouper fishermen discussed the merits of opening red snapper in the 
South Atlantic for a short time period in 2017. Fishermen will be able 
to keep a limited number of the red snapper that they are currently 
required to discard. As previously discussed, commercial fishermen 
should be able to increase their revenues in 2017 by being able to sell 
a highly marketable fish during the limited opening. Additionally, 
short red snapper seasons will provide an opportunity to collect 
fishery-dependent data that likely may be useful for future stock 
assessments. Currently, the lack of available red snapper data hinders 
the ability to assess the status of the stock. Delaying the 
implementation of this rulemaking to provide prior notice and the 
opportunity for public comment would reduce the likelihood of opening 
the red snapper component of the snapper-grouper fishery in the 2017 
fishing year. As a result of the recent receipt of scientific 
information indicating that harvest in 2017 is possible, there is 
insufficient time for NMFS to implement these measures earlier in this 
fishing year and/or possibly allow for prior notice and opportunity for 
public comment on the rulemaking. The harvest allowed in 2017 in this 
rule is not expected to result in overfishing or impede rebuilding of 
the stock.
    For these same reasons, the AA also finds good cause to waive the 
30-day delay in effectiveness of the actions under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3).
    Because prior notice and opportunity for public comment are not 
required for this rule by 5 U.S.C. 553 or any other law, the analytical 
requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 601 et seq. 
are inapplicable. Accordingly, no regulatory flexibility analysis is 
required and none has been prepared.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622

    Fisheries, Fishing, Red snapper, South Atlantic.

    Dated: October 27, 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 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.  622.181, suspend paragraph (b)(2) and add paragraph (c)(2) 
to read as follows:


Sec.  622.181   Prohibited and limited-harvest species.

* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (2) Red snapper. Red snapper may only be harvested or possessed in 
or from the South Atlantic EEZ during the commercial and recreational 
seasons as specified in Sec.  622.183(b)(9) and Sec.  622.193(aa). Any 
red snapper caught in the South Atlantic EEZ during a time other than 
the specified commercial or recreational seasons specified in Sec.  
622.193(aa) must be released immediately with a minimum of harm. In 
addition, for a person on board a vessel for which a valid Federal 
commercial or charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic 
snapper-grouper has been issued, the prohibition on the harvest or 
possession of red snapper applies in the South Atlantic, regardless of 
where such fish are harvested or possessed, i.e., in state or Federal 
waters.

0
3. In Sec.  622.183, suspend paragraph (b)(5) and add paragraph (b)(9) 
to read as follows:


Sec.  622.183   Area and seasonal closures.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (9) Closures of the commercial and recreational sectors for red 
snapper--(i) The commercial and recreational sectors for red snapper 
are closed (i.e., red snapper may not be harvested or possessed, or 
sold or purchased) in or from the South Atlantic EEZ, except as 
specified in Sec.  622.193(aa). The recreational fishing season would 
consist of consecutive Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, unless 
otherwise specified. See Sec.  622.193(aa), for establishing the end 
date of the commercial fishing season.
    (ii) If the RA determines tropical storm or hurricane conditions 
exist, or are projected to exist, in the South Atlantic, during a 
commercial or recreational fishing season, the RA may modify the 
opening and closing dates of the fishing season by filing a 
notification to that effect with the Office of the Federal Register, 
and announcing via NOAA Weather Radio and a Fishery Bulletin any change 
in the dates of the red snapper commercial or recreational fishing 
season.

0
4. In Sec.  622.187, suspend paragraph (b)(9) and add paragraph (b)(12) 
to read as follows:


Sec.  622.187   Bag and possession limits.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (12) Red snapper--1. See Sec.  622.183(b)(9), and Sec.  
622.193(aa)(2) for details on the recreational fishing season.
* * * * *

0
5. In Sec.  622.191, suspend paragraph (a)(9) and add paragraph (a)(13) 
to read as follows:


Sec.  622.191   Commercial trip limits.

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (13) Red snapper. Until the commercial ACL specified in Sec.  
622.193(aa)(1) is reached, 75 lb (34 kg), gutted weight. See Sec.  
622.193(aa)(1) for the limitations regarding red snapper after the 
commercial ACL is reached. See Sec.  622.183(b)(9), and Sec.  
622.193(aa)(1) for details on the commercial fishing season.
* * * * *

0
6. In Sec.  622.193, suspend paragraph (y) and add paragraph (aa) to 
read as follows:


Sec.  622.193   Annual catch limits (ACLs), annual catch targets 
(ACTs), and accountability measures (AMs).

* * * * *
    (aa) Red snapper--(1) Commercial sector. The commercial ACL for red

[[Page 50843]]

snapper is 124,815 lb (56,615 kg), round weight. See Sec.  
622.183(b)(9) for details on the commercial fishing season. NMFS will 
monitor commercial landings during the season, and if commercial 
landings, as estimated by the SRD, reach or are projected to reach the 
commercial ACL, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the 
Federal Register to close the commercial sector for red snapper for the 
remainder of the year. On and after the effective date of the closure 
notification, all sale or purchase of red snapper is prohibited and 
harvest or possession of red snapper is limited to the bag and 
possession limits. This bag and possession limit and the prohibition on 
sale/purchase apply in the South Atlantic on board a vessel for which a 
valid Federal commercial or charter vessel/headboat permit for South 
Atlantic snapper-grouper has been issued, without regard to where such 
species were harvested or possessed, i.e., in state or Federal waters.
    (2) Recreational sector. The recreational ACL for red snapper is 
29,656 fish. The recreational season, consists of weekends only 
(Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays). The length of the recreational 
fishing season for red snapper serves as the in-season accountability 
measure. See Sec.  622.183(b)(9) for details on the recreational 
fishing season. On and after the effective date of the recreational 
closure notification, the bag and possession limits for red snapper are 
zero.

[FR Doc. 2017-23839 Filed 10-30-17; 4:15 pm]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P