Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Fisheries, 55520-55522 [2017-25202]

Download as PDF 55520 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 224 / Wednesday, November 22, 2017 / Rules and Regulations in January and using inseason trip limit adjustments to ensure the fishery is open later in the year in 2018 will cause beneficial cumulative economic impacts, because it allows for a more equitable distribution of the quotas among constituents in this region, consistent with the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments. Section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 states that, for each rule or group of related rules for which an agency is required to prepare a FRFA, the agency shall publish one or more guides to assist small entities in complying with the rule, and shall designate such publications as ‘‘small entity compliance guides.’’ The agency shall explain the actions a small entity is required to take to comply with a rule or group of rules. As part of this rulemaking process, NMFS has prepared a listserv summarizing fishery information and regulations for Atlantic shark fisheries for 2018. This listserv also serves as the small entity compliance guide. Copies of the compliance guide are available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). Authority: 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: November 15, 2017. Samuel D. Rauch, III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2017–25203 Filed 11–21–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 635 [Docket No. 150121066–5717–02] RIN 0648–XF805 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Fisheries National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Temporary rule; inseason bluefin tuna quota transfer (Harpoon category to General category). ethrower on DSK3G9T082PROD with RULES AGENCY: NMFS is transferring 25.6 metric tons (mt) of Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) quota from the Harpoon category to the General category for the remainder of the 2017 fishing year, to account for overharvests of the September and October through SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:22 Nov 21, 2017 Jkt 244001 November subquotas, and utilize the unused portion of the adjusted Harpoon category quota. This action results in an adjusted General category subquota of 12.7 mt for the December subquota period. It is intended to preserve the opportunity for General category fishermen to participate in the December General category fishery, which reopens on December 1, 2017, and is based on consideration of the regulatory determination criteria regarding inseason adjustments and applies to Atlantic tunas General category (commercial) permitted vessels and Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Charter/Headboat category permitted vessels when fishing commercially for BFT. DATES: The quota transfer is effective December 1, 2017, through December 31, 2017. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sarah McLaughlin or Brad McHale, 978–281–9260. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Regulations implemented under the authority of the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA; 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.) and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) governing the harvest of BFT by persons and vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction are found at 50 CFR part 635. Section 635.27 subdivides the U.S. BFT quota recommended by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and as implemented by the United States among the various domestic fishing categories, per the allocations established in the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan (2006 Consolidated HMS FMP) (71 FR 58058, October 2, 2006), as amended by Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP (Amendment 7) (79 FR 71510, December 2, 2014). NMFS is required under ATCA and the Magnuson-Stevens Act to provide U.S. fishing vessels with a reasonable opportunity to harvest the ICCAT-recommended quota. The base quota for the General category is 466.7 mt, as established in the 2015 BFT quota final rule (80 FR 52198, August 28, 2015). See § 635.27(a). Each of the General category time periods (January, June through August, September, October through November, and December) is allocated a ‘‘subquota’’ or portion of the annual General category quota. Although it is called the ‘‘January’’ subquota, the regulations allow the General category fishery under this quota to continue until the subquota is reached or March PO 00000 Frm 00028 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 31, whichever comes first. The subquotas for each time period are as follows: 24.7 mt for January; 233.3 mt for June through August; 123.7 mt for September; 60.7 mt for October through November; and 24.3 mt for December. Any unused General category quota rolls forward within the fishing year, which coincides with the calendar year, from one time period to the next, and is available for use in subsequent time periods. On December 19, 2016, NMFS published an inseason action transferring 16.3 mt of quota from the December 2017 subquota to the January 2017 subquota period, resulting in a subquota of 41 mt for the January 2017 period and a subquota of 8 mt for the December 2017 period (81 FR 91873). For 2017, NMFS also transferred 40 mt from the Reserve to the General category effective March 2, resulting in an adjusted General category quota of 506.7 mt (82 FR 12747, March 7, 2017). In advance of the October 1 General category reopening, NMFS published an inseason action transferring 156.4 mt from the Reserve category to the General category to account for overharvests of the January, June through August, and September subquotas, resulting in an adjusted 2017 General category quota of 663.1 mt (82 FR 46000, October 3, 2017). NMFS closed the General category fishery when the October through November subquota (60.7 mt) was met, effective October 5, 2017 (82 FR 46934, October 10, 2017). The Harpoon category fishery automatically closed for the year on November 15, 2017. Once re-opened on December 1, the 2017 General category fishery would be open until December 31, 2017, or until the General category quota is reached, whichever comes first. Quota Transfer Under § 635.27(a)(9), NMFS has the authority to transfer quota among fishing categories or subcategories, after considering regulatory determination criteria at § 635.27(a)(8). NMFS has considered all of the relevant determination criteria and their applicability to the General category fishery. These considerations include, but are not limited to, the following: NMFS considered the catches of the General category quota to date (including during the summer/fall and winter fisheries in the last several years), and the likelihood of closure of that segment of the fishery if no adjustment is made (§ 635.27(a)(8)(ii) and (ix)). Preliminary landings data as of October 31, 2017, indicate that the General category has landed 676 mt this year, which exceeds the adjusted E:\FR\FM\22NOR1.SGM 22NOR1 ethrower on DSK3G9T082PROD with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 224 / Wednesday, November 22, 2017 / Rules and Regulations General category quota of 663.1 mt, and the Harpoon category has landed 43 mt of the adjusted Harpoon category quota of 68.6 mt. Without a quota transfer at this time, there would be no quota available to General category participants in December because the entire adjusted General category quota of 663.1 mt has been reached and exceeded. Approximately 75 percent (816.3 mt) of the total of the BFT subquotas for all commercial categories (888.7 mt, as published in the 2015 BFT quota final rule) has been harvested as of October 31, 2017, however, and NMFS anticipates that some amount of that 888.7 mt of commercial quota may remain unused by the end of the year even with the transfer. Absent a transfer at this time, this segment of the fishery would have to remain closed if no adjustment is made, even though NMFS anticipates that commercial-sized BFT will be readily available to vessels fishing under the General category quota when the General category fishery is scheduled to reopen on December 1, 2017. Transferring 25.6 mt of BFT quota from the Harpoon category to the General category, effective December 1, 2017, would allow the General category to resume fishing and would result in an adjusted quota of 688.7 mt for the 2017 General category fishing season, and, specifically, 12.7 mt available for the December subquota period. Regarding the projected ability of the vessels fishing under the particular category quota (here, the General category) to harvest the additional amount of BFT quota transferred before the end of the fishing year (§ 635.27(a)(8)(iii)), NMFS considered General category landings over the last several years and landings to date this year. Landings are highly variable and depend on access to commercial-sized BFT and fishing conditions, among other factors. A portion of the transferred quota covers overharvests in the category as prosecuted to date (i.e., for late-reported September landings and landings in excess of the October through November subquota), and thus has already been harvested. For the remainder of the transferred quota, which make the December subquota whole to the extent that transferrable quota is available and to utilize unused Harpoon category quota, there is a high probability that the transferred quota will be harvested during the December time period. NMFS also considered the estimated amounts by which quotas for other gear categories of the fishery might be exceeded (§ 635.27(a)(8)(iv)) and the ability to account for all 2017 landings and dead discards. In the last several VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:22 Nov 21, 2017 Jkt 244001 years, total U.S. BFT landings have been below the total available U.S. quota such that the United States has carried forward the maximum amount of underharvest allowed by ICCAT from one year to the next. NMFS will need to account for 2017 landings and dead discards within the adjusted U.S. quota, consistent with ICCAT recommendations, and NMFS anticipates having sufficient quota to do that. Regarding the usefulness of information obtained from catches in the particular category for biological sampling and monitoring of the status of the stock (§ 635.27(a)(8)(i)), biological samples collected from BFT landed by General category fishermen and provided by BFT dealers continue to provide NMFS with valuable data for ongoing scientific studies of BFT age and growth, migration, and reproductive status. Additional opportunity to land BFT over the longest time-period allowable would support the collection of a broad range of data for these studies and for stock monitoring purposes. This transfer would be consistent with the current U.S. quota, which was established and analyzed in the 2015 BFT quota final rule, and with objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and amendments. (§ 635.27(a)(8)(v) and (vi)). Another principal consideration is the objective of providing opportunities to harvest the full annual U.S. BFT quota without exceeding it based on the goals of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and Amendment 7, including to achieve optimum yield on a continuing basis and to optimize the ability of all permit categories to harvest their full BFT quota allocations (related to § 635.27(a)(8)(x)). Based on the considerations above, NMFS is transferring all of the remaining 25.6 mt of Harpoon category quota to the General category with the objective of accounting for underharvests of the September and October through November subquotas, providing the previously announced 8 mt of BFT quota for the December subquota period, and also utilizing the remainder of the unused Harpoon category quota. Therefore, NMFS adjusts the General category quota to 688.7 mt for the 2017 General category fishing season (i.e., through December 31, 2017, or until the General category quota is reached, whichever comes first), and adjusts the Harpoon category quota to 43 mt. This results in 12.7 mt being available to the General category for the December subquota period. If necessary, NMFS will close the General category PO 00000 Frm 00029 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 55521 fishery for December when the available subquota for that time period is reached. Monitoring and Reporting NMFS will continue to monitor the BFT fishery closely. Dealers are required to submit landing reports within 24 hours of a dealer receiving BFT. Late reporting by dealers compromises NMFS’ ability to timely implement actions such as quota and retention limit adjustment, as well as closures, and may result in enforcement actions. Additionally, and separate from the dealer reporting requirement, General and HMS Charter/Headboat category vessel owners are required to report the catch of all BFT retained or discarded dead within 24 hours of the landing(s) or end of each trip, by accessing hmspermits.noaa.gov or by using the HMS Catch Reporting App. Depending on the level of fishing effort and catch rates of BFT, NMFS may determine that additional action (e.g., quota adjustment or closure) is necessary to ensure available subquotas are not exceeded or to enhance scientific data collection from, and fishing opportunities in, all geographic areas. If needed, subsequent adjustments will be published in the Federal Register. In addition, fishermen may call the Atlantic Tunas Information Line at (978) 281–9260, or access hmspermits.noaa.gov, for updates on quota monitoring and inseason adjustments. NMFS reminds General category participants that when the fishery reopens December 1, 2017, the BFT General category daily retention limit will be one large medium or giant BFT (measuring 73’’ or greater) per vessel per day/trip. Classification The Assistant Administrator for NMFS (AA) finds that it is impracticable and contrary to the public interest to provide prior notice of, and an opportunity for public comment on, this action for the following reasons: The regulations implementing the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and amendments provide for inseason retention limit adjustments to respond to the unpredictable nature of BFT availability on the fishing grounds, the migratory nature of this species, and the regional variations in the BFT fishery. Affording prior notice and opportunity for public comment to implement the quota transfer for the remainder of 2017 is impracticable and contrary to the public interest as such a delay would result in continued closure of the General category fishery (because the available quota has been met) and the need to re-open the fishery later in the E:\FR\FM\22NOR1.SGM 22NOR1 55522 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 224 / Wednesday, November 22, 2017 / Rules and Regulations December time period, rather than the fishery automatically re-opening on December 1. The delay would preclude the fishery from harvesting BFT that are available on the fishing grounds and that might otherwise become unavailable during a delay. Therefore, the AA finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive prior notice and the opportunity for public comment. For these reasons, there also is good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d) to waive the 30day delay in effectiveness. This action is being taken under § 635.27(a)(9) (Inseason adjustments) and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq. and 1801 et seq. Dated: November 16, 2017. Emily H. Menashes, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2017–25202 Filed 11–21–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 170104016–7999–03] RIN 0648–XF138 Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast Multispecies Fishery; Disapproval of Northeast Fishery Sector IX Operational Plan National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Interim final rule. AGENCY: This rule withdraws approval of the 2017 and 2018 Northeast Fishery Sector IX operations plan. The Regional Administrator determined that the sector and its participants are not complying with the requirements of the approved operations plan, and that the continuation of the operations plan will undermine achievement of conservation and management objectives of the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan. This rule is intended to ensure that sector operations are consistent with approved plans for accurately monitoring and reporting sector catch to ensure that overages of a sector’s allocation do not occur. DATES: Approval of the Northeast Fishery Sector IX Operations Plan for Fishing Years 2017 and 2018 (May 1, ethrower on DSK3G9T082PROD with RULES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:22 Nov 21, 2017 Jkt 244001 2017, through April 30, 2019) is withdrawn, effective November 20, 2017. Written comments must be received on or before December 20, 2017. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA– NMFS–2017–0016, by either 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-20170016, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Submit written comments to John K. Bullard, Regional Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the envelope, ‘‘Comments on the Interim Final Rule to Withdraw Approval of NEFS 9.’’ 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). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Liz Sullivan, Fishery Policy Analyst, (978) 282–8493. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background To help achieve the fishing mortality and conservation objectives of the Fishery Management Plan (FMP), each sector is allocated annual catch entitlements (ACE) and must ensure that these ACEs are not exceeded. The Regional Administrator must approve sector operations plans in order for sectors to operate and be allocated ACE for specific groundfish stocks. A sector’s operations plan includes a detailed plan for monitoring and reporting catch and the specific management rules sector participants will abide by in order to avoid exceeding the sector’s allocation, as well as a plan for how the sector will operate if an ACE is exceeded. The operations plan also includes internal sector enforcement measures for operation plan breaches and remedies, PO 00000 Frm 00030 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 such as a penalty schedule for noncompliance with the operations plan or other actions that would jeopardize the sector’s continued approval. Penalties under the plan range from a written warning or fine to expulsion from the sector. The Regional Administrator may withdraw approval of a sector, after consultation with the New England Fishery Management Council, at any time as authorized in 50 CFR 648.87(c)(3). Withdrawal may occur if sector participants are not complying with the requirements of the approved operations plan or if the continuation of the operations plan will undermine achievement of fishing mortality objectives of the Northeast Multispecies FMP. On March 30, 2017, Carlos Rafael pleaded guilty to all counts in United States v. Carlos Rafael (No. 16– CR10124–WGY). Mr. Rafael is the owner of Carlos Seafood (a Federally permitted dealer) and a fleet of Federally permitted groundfish vessels that are enrolled in NEFS 9. Mr. Rafael admitted to falsely reporting catch information (species and weight) for 13 of his vessels on dealer catch reports and vessel trip reports from 2012 through 2015. These 13 vessels operated under the sector operations plan for NEFS 9 during the period of known misreporting, and are currently enrolled in the sector for fishing year 2017. Sentencing for these violations occurred on September 25, 2017. Mr. Rafael was sentenced to serve 46 months in prison and 3 years of supervised release, and during supervised release, he is banned from working in the fishing industry. The Court also ordered Mr. Rafael to pay a fine of $200,000 and restitution to the U.S. Treasury of $108,929. On October 11, 2017, the U.S. District Court Judge in the criminal case ordered the forfeiture of Mr. Rafael’s interests in 4 of the 13 vessels involved in the criminal case, as well as the permits issued to those vessels. On April 28, 2017, we published an interim final rule approving 19 sectors and their operations plans, including NEFS 9, for fishing years 2017 and 2018 (82 FR 19618). At the time, although Mr. Rafael had pleaded guilty, the criminal case was not complete and sentencing for the violations had not occurred. We provisionally approved the NEFS 9 operations plan for fishing years 2017 and 2018, and allocated ACE to the sector for 2017, pending Mr. Rafael’s sentencing to allow for our consideration of any additional information regarding NEFS 9 operations. In the interim final rule, we noted that we intended to take E:\FR\FM\22NOR1.SGM 22NOR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 224 (Wednesday, November 22, 2017)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 55520-55522]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-25202]


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

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

[Docket No. 150121066-5717-02]
RIN 0648-XF805


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna 
Fisheries

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

ACTION: Temporary rule; inseason bluefin tuna quota transfer (Harpoon 
category to General category).

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

SUMMARY: NMFS is transferring 25.6 metric tons (mt) of Atlantic bluefin 
tuna (BFT) quota from the Harpoon category to the General category for 
the remainder of the 2017 fishing year, to account for overharvests of 
the September and October through November subquotas, and utilize the 
unused portion of the adjusted Harpoon category quota. This action 
results in an adjusted General category subquota of 12.7 mt for the 
December subquota period. It is intended to preserve the opportunity 
for General category fishermen to participate in the December General 
category fishery, which reopens on December 1, 2017, and is based on 
consideration of the regulatory determination criteria regarding 
inseason adjustments and applies to Atlantic tunas General category 
(commercial) permitted vessels and Highly Migratory Species (HMS) 
Charter/Headboat category permitted vessels when fishing commercially 
for BFT.

DATES: The quota transfer is effective December 1, 2017, through 
December 31, 2017.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Regulations implemented under the authority 
of the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA; 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.) and 
the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-
Stevens Act; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) governing the harvest of BFT by 
persons and vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction are found at 50 CFR 
part 635. Section 635.27 subdivides the U.S. BFT quota recommended by 
the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas 
(ICCAT) and as implemented by the United States among the various 
domestic fishing categories, per the allocations established in the 
2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan 
(2006 Consolidated HMS FMP) (71 FR 58058, October 2, 2006), as amended 
by Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP (Amendment 7) (79 FR 
71510, December 2, 2014). NMFS is required under ATCA and the Magnuson-
Stevens Act to provide U.S. fishing vessels with a reasonable 
opportunity to harvest the ICCAT-recommended quota.
    The base quota for the General category is 466.7 mt, as established 
in the 2015 BFT quota final rule (80 FR 52198, August 28, 2015). See 
Sec.  635.27(a). Each of the General category time periods (January, 
June through August, September, October through November, and December) 
is allocated a ``subquota'' or portion of the annual General category 
quota. Although it is called the ``January'' subquota, the regulations 
allow the General category fishery under this quota to continue until 
the subquota is reached or March 31, whichever comes first. The 
subquotas for each time period are as follows: 24.7 mt for January; 
233.3 mt for June through August; 123.7 mt for September; 60.7 mt for 
October through November; and 24.3 mt for December. Any unused General 
category quota rolls forward within the fishing year, which coincides 
with the calendar year, from one time period to the next, and is 
available for use in subsequent time periods.
    On December 19, 2016, NMFS published an inseason action 
transferring 16.3 mt of quota from the December 2017 subquota to the 
January 2017 subquota period, resulting in a subquota of 41 mt for the 
January 2017 period and a subquota of 8 mt for the December 2017 period 
(81 FR 91873). For 2017, NMFS also transferred 40 mt from the Reserve 
to the General category effective March 2, resulting in an adjusted 
General category quota of 506.7 mt (82 FR 12747, March 7, 2017). In 
advance of the October 1 General category reopening, NMFS published an 
inseason action transferring 156.4 mt from the Reserve category to the 
General category to account for overharvests of the January, June 
through August, and September subquotas, resulting in an adjusted 2017 
General category quota of 663.1 mt (82 FR 46000, October 3, 2017). NMFS 
closed the General category fishery when the October through November 
subquota (60.7 mt) was met, effective October 5, 2017 (82 FR 46934, 
October 10, 2017). The Harpoon category fishery automatically closed 
for the year on November 15, 2017. Once re-opened on December 1, the 
2017 General category fishery would be open until December 31, 2017, or 
until the General category quota is reached, whichever comes first.

Quota Transfer

    Under Sec.  635.27(a)(9), NMFS has the authority to transfer quota 
among fishing categories or subcategories, after considering regulatory 
determination criteria at Sec.  635.27(a)(8). NMFS has considered all 
of the relevant determination criteria and their applicability to the 
General category fishery. These considerations include, but are not 
limited to, the following:
    NMFS considered the catches of the General category quota to date 
(including during the summer/fall and winter fisheries in the last 
several years), and the likelihood of closure of that segment of the 
fishery if no adjustment is made (Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(ii) and (ix)). 
Preliminary landings data as of October 31, 2017, indicate that the 
General category has landed 676 mt this year, which exceeds the 
adjusted

[[Page 55521]]

General category quota of 663.1 mt, and the Harpoon category has landed 
43 mt of the adjusted Harpoon category quota of 68.6 mt. Without a 
quota transfer at this time, there would be no quota available to 
General category participants in December because the entire adjusted 
General category quota of 663.1 mt has been reached and exceeded. 
Approximately 75 percent (816.3 mt) of the total of the BFT subquotas 
for all commercial categories (888.7 mt, as published in the 2015 BFT 
quota final rule) has been harvested as of October 31, 2017, however, 
and NMFS anticipates that some amount of that 888.7 mt of commercial 
quota may remain unused by the end of the year even with the transfer. 
Absent a transfer at this time, this segment of the fishery would have 
to remain closed if no adjustment is made, even though NMFS anticipates 
that commercial-sized BFT will be readily available to vessels fishing 
under the General category quota when the General category fishery is 
scheduled to reopen on December 1, 2017. Transferring 25.6 mt of BFT 
quota from the Harpoon category to the General category, effective 
December 1, 2017, would allow the General category to resume fishing 
and would result in an adjusted quota of 688.7 mt for the 2017 General 
category fishing season, and, specifically, 12.7 mt available for the 
December subquota period.
    Regarding the projected ability of the vessels fishing under the 
particular category quota (here, the General category) to harvest the 
additional amount of BFT quota transferred before the end of the 
fishing year (Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(iii)), NMFS considered General 
category landings over the last several years and landings to date this 
year. Landings are highly variable and depend on access to commercial-
sized BFT and fishing conditions, among other factors. A portion of the 
transferred quota covers overharvests in the category as prosecuted to 
date (i.e., for late-reported September landings and landings in excess 
of the October through November subquota), and thus has already been 
harvested. For the remainder of the transferred quota, which make the 
December subquota whole to the extent that transferrable quota is 
available and to utilize unused Harpoon category quota, there is a high 
probability that the transferred quota will be harvested during the 
December time period.
    NMFS also considered the estimated amounts by which quotas for 
other gear categories of the fishery might be exceeded (Sec.  
635.27(a)(8)(iv)) and the ability to account for all 2017 landings and 
dead discards. In the last several years, total U.S. BFT landings have 
been below the total available U.S. quota such that the United States 
has carried forward the maximum amount of underharvest allowed by ICCAT 
from one year to the next. NMFS will need to account for 2017 landings 
and dead discards within the adjusted U.S. quota, consistent with ICCAT 
recommendations, and NMFS anticipates having sufficient quota to do 
that.
    Regarding the usefulness of information obtained from catches in 
the particular category for biological sampling and monitoring of the 
status of the stock (Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(i)), biological samples 
collected from BFT landed by General category fishermen and provided by 
BFT dealers continue to provide NMFS with valuable data for ongoing 
scientific studies of BFT age and growth, migration, and reproductive 
status. Additional opportunity to land BFT over the longest time-period 
allowable would support the collection of a broad range of data for 
these studies and for stock monitoring purposes.
    This transfer would be consistent with the current U.S. quota, 
which was established and analyzed in the 2015 BFT quota final rule, 
and with objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and amendments. 
(Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(v) and (vi)). Another principal consideration is 
the objective of providing opportunities to harvest the full annual 
U.S. BFT quota without exceeding it based on the goals of the 2006 
Consolidated HMS FMP and Amendment 7, including to achieve optimum 
yield on a continuing basis and to optimize the ability of all permit 
categories to harvest their full BFT quota allocations (related to 
Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(x)).
    Based on the considerations above, NMFS is transferring all of the 
remaining 25.6 mt of Harpoon category quota to the General category 
with the objective of accounting for underharvests of the September and 
October through November subquotas, providing the previously announced 
8 mt of BFT quota for the December subquota period, and also utilizing 
the remainder of the unused Harpoon category quota. Therefore, NMFS 
adjusts the General category quota to 688.7 mt for the 2017 General 
category fishing season (i.e., through December 31, 2017, or until the 
General category quota is reached, whichever comes first), and adjusts 
the Harpoon category quota to 43 mt. This results in 12.7 mt being 
available to the General category for the December subquota period. If 
necessary, NMFS will close the General category fishery for December 
when the available subquota for that time period is reached.

Monitoring and Reporting

    NMFS will continue to monitor the BFT fishery closely. Dealers are 
required to submit landing reports within 24 hours of a dealer 
receiving BFT. Late reporting by dealers compromises NMFS' ability to 
timely implement actions such as quota and retention limit adjustment, 
as well as closures, and may result in enforcement actions. 
Additionally, and separate from the dealer reporting requirement, 
General and HMS Charter/Headboat category vessel owners are required to 
report the catch of all BFT retained or discarded dead within 24 hours 
of the landing(s) or end of each trip, by accessing hmspermits.noaa.gov 
or by using the HMS Catch Reporting App. Depending on the level of 
fishing effort and catch rates of BFT, NMFS may determine that 
additional action (e.g., quota adjustment or closure) is necessary to 
ensure available subquotas are not exceeded or to enhance scientific 
data collection from, and fishing opportunities in, all geographic 
areas. If needed, subsequent adjustments will be published in the 
Federal Register. In addition, fishermen may call the Atlantic Tunas 
Information Line at (978) 281-9260, or access hmspermits.noaa.gov, for 
updates on quota monitoring and inseason adjustments.
    NMFS reminds General category participants that when the fishery 
reopens December 1, 2017, the BFT General category daily retention 
limit will be one large medium or giant BFT (measuring 73'' or greater) 
per vessel per day/trip.

Classification

    The Assistant Administrator for NMFS (AA) finds that it is 
impracticable and contrary to the public interest to provide prior 
notice of, and an opportunity for public comment on, this action for 
the following reasons:
    The regulations implementing the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and 
amendments provide for inseason retention limit adjustments to respond 
to the unpredictable nature of BFT availability on the fishing grounds, 
the migratory nature of this species, and the regional variations in 
the BFT fishery. Affording prior notice and opportunity for public 
comment to implement the quota transfer for the remainder of 2017 is 
impracticable and contrary to the public interest as such a delay would 
result in continued closure of the General category fishery (because 
the available quota has been met) and the need to re-open the fishery 
later in the

[[Page 55522]]

December time period, rather than the fishery automatically re-opening 
on December 1. The delay would preclude the fishery from harvesting BFT 
that are available on the fishing grounds and that might otherwise 
become unavailable during a delay. Therefore, the AA finds good cause 
under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive prior notice and the opportunity for 
public comment. For these reasons, there also is good cause under 5 
U.S.C. 553(d) to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness.
    This action is being taken under Sec.  635.27(a)(9) (Inseason 
adjustments) and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.

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

    Dated: November 16, 2017.
Emily H. Menashes,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2017-25202 Filed 11-21-17; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P