Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Fisheries, 60680-60682 [2017-27648]

Download as PDF 60680 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 245 / Friday, December 22, 2017 / Rules and Regulations Inquiries, and Requests for Dispute Assistance.’’ As required by the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. 552a, the Commission also published a SORN, FCC/CGB–1 ‘‘Informal Complaints, Inquiries, and Requests for Dispute Assistance’’ in the Federal Register on August 15, 2014, published at 79 FR 48152, which became effective on September 24, 2014. Privacy Impact Assessment: Yes. Needs and Uses: On February 19, 2016, the Commission adopted the Second Report and Order, amending its rules to allocate the responsibilities of VPDs and video programmers with respect to the provision and quality of closed captioning. The Commission took the following actions, among others: (a) Revised the procedures for receiving, serving, and addressing television closed captioning complaints in accordance with a burden-shifting compliance model; and (b) Established a compliance ladder for the Commission’s television closed captioning quality requirements. Federal Communications Commission. Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Office of the Secretary. [FR Doc. 2017–27556 Filed 12–21–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6712–01–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 635 [Docket No. 150121066–5717–02] RIN 0648–XF890 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Fisheries National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Temporary rule; inseason General category bluefin tuna quota transfer. AGENCY: NMFS is transferring 14.3 metric tons (mt) of Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) quota from the 24.3-mt General category December 2018 subquota to the January 2018 subquota period (from January 1 through March 31, 2018, or until the available subquota for this period is reached, whichever comes first). This action is based on consideration of the regulatory determination criteria regarding inseason adjustments and applies to Atlantic tunas General category sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with RULES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:04 Dec 21, 2017 Jkt 244001 (commercial) permitted vessels and Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Charter/Headboat category permitted vessels with a commercial sale endorsement when fishing commercially for BFT. DATES: Effective January 1, 2018, through March 31, 2018. 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. See § 635.27(a). Each of the General category time periods (January, June through August, September, October through November, and December) is allocated a ‘‘subquota’’ or portion of the annual General category quota. Although it is called the ‘‘January’’ subquota, the regulations allow the General category fishery under this quota to continue until the subquota is reached or March 31, whichever comes first. The subquotas for each time period are as follows: 24.7 mt for January; 233.3 mt for June through August; 123.7 mt for September; 60.7 mt for October through November; and 24.3 mt for December. Any unused General category quota rolls forward within the fishing year, which coincides with the calendar year, from one time period to the next, and is available for use in subsequent time periods. Although the 2017 ICCAT recommendation regarding western BFT management would result in an increase to the baseline U.S. BFT quota (i.e., from PO 00000 Frm 00008 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 1,058.79 mt to 1,247.86 mt) and subquotas for 2018 (including an expected increase in General category quota from 466.7 mt to 555.7 mt, consistent with the annual BFT quota calculation process established in Amendment 7), domestic implementation of that recommendation will take place in a separate rulemaking, likely to be finalized in mid-2018. Transfer of 14.3 mt From the December Subquota to the January Subquota Under § 635.27(a)(9), NMFS has the authority to transfer quota among fishing categories or subcategories, after considering regulatory determination criteria provided under § 635.27(a)(8). NMFS has considered all of the relevant determination criteria and their applicability to this inseason quota. These considerations include, but are not limited to, the following: 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 tuna dealers provide NMFS with valuable parts and data for ongoing scientific studies of BFT age and growth, migration, and reproductive status. NMFS also considered the catches of the General category quota to date (including in December 2017 and during the winter fishery 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)). Without a quota transfer from December 2018 to January 2018 for the General category at this time, the quota available for the January period would be 24.7 mt (5.3 percent of the General category quota), and participants would have to stop BFT fishing activities once that amount is met, while commercial-sized BFT may remain available in the areas where General category permitted vessels operate. Transferring 14.3 mt of the 24.3-mt quota available for December 2018 (with 24.3 mt representing 5.2 percent of the General category quota) would result in 39 mt (8.4 percent of the General category quota) being available for the January subquota period. This quota transfer would provide additional opportunities to harvest the U.S. BFT quota without exceeding it, while preserving the opportunity for General category fishermen to participate in the winter BFT fishery at both the beginning and end of the calendar year. Regarding the projected ability of the vessels fishing under the particular E:\FR\FM\22DER1.SGM 22DER1 sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 245 / Friday, December 22, 2017 / Rules and Regulations category quota (here, the General category) to harvest the additional amount of BFT before the end of the fishing year (§ 635.27(a)(8)(iii)), NMFS considered General category landings over the last several years. General category landings in the winter BFT fishery tend to straddle the calendar year as BFT may be available in late November/December and into January of the following year or later. Landings are highly variable and depend on access to commercial-sized BFT and fishing conditions, among other factors. Any unused General category quota from the January subperiod that remains as of March 31 will roll forward to the next subperiod within the calendar year (i.e., the June–August time period). In 2017, NMFS transferred 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, December 19, 2016). NMFS also transferred 40 mt from the Reserve to the General category effective March 2, resulting in an adjusted subquota of 81 mt for the January 2017 period (82 FR 12747, March 7, 2017). Under a three-fish General category daily retention limit (i.e., of large medium or giant BFT, measuring 73 inches (185 cm) curved fork length (CFL) or greater) effective January 1 through March 4, a total of 68.6 mt were landed. Under a one-fish daily retention limit effective March 5 through March 29, when NMFS closed the General category, an additional 39.1 mt were landed, for a total of 107.7 mt for the January subquota period (82 FR 12747, March 7, 2017; 82 FR 16136, April 3, 2017). 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 2018 landings and dead discards. In the last several years, total U.S. BFT landings have been below the 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. In 2016 and 2017, the General category exceeded its adjusted quota (discussed below) but sufficient quota was available to cover the exceedance without affecting the other categories. NMFS will need to account for 2018 landings and dead discards within the adjusted U.S. quota, consistent with ICCAT recommendations, and anticipates having sufficient quota to do that. This transfer would be consistent with the current quotas, which were established and analyzed in the 2015 VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:04 Dec 21, 2017 Jkt 244001 BFT quota final rule (80 FR 52198, August 28, 2015), 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)). NMFS also anticipates that some underharvest of the 2017 adjusted U.S. BFT quota will be carried forward to 2018 and placed in the Reserve category, in accordance with the regulations. This, in addition to the fact that any unused General category quota will roll forward to the next subperiod within the calendar year, as well as the anticipated increase in the U.S. quota and subquotas for 2018 as a result of ICCAT recommendations and NMFS’ plan to actively manage the subquotas to avoid any exceedances, makes it likely that General category quota will remain available through the end of 2018 for December fishery participants, even with the quota transfer. NMFS also may choose to transfer unused quota from the Reserve or other categories, inseason, based on consideration of the determination criteria, as NMFS did for late 2017 (i.e., transferred 156.4 mt from the Reserve category, effective October 1, 2017 (82 FR 46000, October 3, 2017)), and later transferred another 25.6 mt from the Harpoon category, effective December 1 (82 FR 55520, November 22, 2017). In 2017, NMFS closed the General category fishery several times to prevent further overharvest of the adjusted General category quota, specifically August 16 for the June through August subquota period (82 FR 39047, August 17, 2017); September 17 for the September subquota period (82 FR 43711, September 19, 2017); October 4 for the October through November subquota period (82 FR 46934, October 10, 2017); and December 6 for the December subquota period (82 FR 57885, December 8, 2017). General category landings were relatively high in the summer and fall of 2017, due to a combination of fish availability, favorable fishing conditions, and higher daily retention limits in June through early August (i.e., four fish June 1 through August 4 (82 FR 22616, May 17, 2017), and two fish August 5 through August 16 (82 FR 36689, August 7, 2017)). NMFS anticipates that General category participants in all areas and PO 00000 Frm 00009 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 60681 time periods will have opportunities to harvest the General category quota in 2018, through active inseason management such as retention limit adjustments and/or the timing of quota transfers, as practicable. Thus, this quota transfer would allow fishermen to take advantage of the availability of fish on the fishing grounds, consider the expected increases in available 2018 quota later in the year, and provide a reasonable opportunity to harvest the full U.S. BFT quota. Based on the considerations above, NMFS is transferring 14.3 mt of the 24.3-mt General category quota allocated for the December 2018 period to the January 2018 period, resulting in a subquota of 39 mt for the January 2018 period and a subquota of 10 mt for the December 2018 period. NMFS will close the General category fishery when the adjusted January period subquota of 39 mt has been reached, or it will close automatically on March 31, 2018, whichever comes first, and it will remain closed until the General category fishery reopens on June 1, 2018. 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. Under § 635.23(a)(4), NMFS may increase or decrease the daily retention limit of large medium and giant bluefin tuna over a range of zero to a maximum of five per vessel based on consideration of the relevant criteria provided under § 635.27(a)(8). However, at this time, NMFS is maintaining the default daily retention limit of one large medium or giant BFT per vessel per day/trip (§ 635.23(a)(2)) for the January 2018 General category fishery. Regardless of the duration of a fishing trip, no more than a single day’s retention limit may be possessed, retained, or landed. For example (and specific to the limit that will apply beginning January 1, 2018), whether a vessel fishing under the General category limit takes a two-day trip or makes two trips in one day, the daily limit of one fish may not be E:\FR\FM\22DER1.SGM 22DER1 60682 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 245 / Friday, December 22, 2017 / Rules and Regulations sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with RULES exceeded upon landing. This General category retention limit is effective in all areas, except for the Gulf of Mexico, where NMFS prohibits targeting fishing for BFT, and applies to those vessels permitted in the General category, as well as to those HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels with a commercial sale endorsement when fishing commercially for BFT fishing commercially for BFT. For information regarding the CHB commercial sale endorsement, see 82 FR 57543, December 6, 2017. Depending on the level of fishing effort and catch rates of BFT, NMFS may determine that additional action (e.g., quota adjustment, daily retention limit 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. 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 January 2018 subquota period at this time is impracticable and contrary to the public interest as NMFS could not have proposed this action earlier, as it needed to consider and respond to updated data and information from the 2017 General category fishery, including the recentlyavailable December 2017 data, in deciding to transfer a portion of the December 2018 quota to the January 2018 subquota. If NMFS was to offer a public comment period now, after having appropriately considered that data, it could preclude fishermen from harvesting BFT that are legally available VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:04 Dec 21, 2017 Jkt 244001 consistent with all of the regulatory criteria, and/or could result in selection of a retention limit inappropriately high for the amount of quota available for the period. 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 § 635.27(a)(9), and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq. and 1801 et seq. Dated: December 19, 2017. Emily H. Menashes, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2017–27648 Filed 12–20–17; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 170828822–70999–02] RIN 0648–XF669 Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Summer Flounder, Scup, Black Sea Bass Fisheries; 2018 and Projected 2019 Scup Specifications and Announcement of Final 2018 Summer Flounder and Black Sea Bass Specifications National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. catch limits to account for previous overages, finalize the 2018 black sea bass specifications, and inform the public of projected scup specifications for the 2019 fishing year. DATES: Effective December 22, 2017, through December 31, 2018. ADDRESSES: Copies of the specifications document, including the Environmental Assessment (EA), are available on request from Dr. Christopher M. Moore, Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Suite 201, 800 North State Street, Dover, DE 19901. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Emily Gilbert, Fishery Policy Analyst, (978) 281–9244. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: General Background Scup, summer flounder, and black sea bass are jointly managed by the MidAtlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission as part of the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan (FMP). This action implements revised scup specifications for the 2018 fishing year and announces projected 2019 scup specifications. This rule also revises the 2018 summer flounder commercial annual catch limit (ACL) and subsequent state commercial quotas to account for an ACL overage in 2016, consistent with the FMP and regulations. The previously projected 2018 black sea bass specifications (82 FR 24078; May 25 2017) are announced as final in this action. AGENCY: Final Scup Specifications NMFS issues revised scup specifications for the 2018 fishing year and projected specifications for 2019. Additionally, this action implements a summer flounder accountability measure for 2018. These actions are necessary to comply with regulations implementing the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan, and to ensure compliance with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. This rule is intended to revise the 2018 scup catch limits based on updated scientific information to afford more opportunity to obtain optimum yield, update the summer flounder Background on how the Council derived the 2018 and 2019 scup specifications was outlined in the proposed rule (82 FR 51594; November 7, 2017) and is not repeated here. We are implementing the 2018 final and 2019 projected scup specifications as proposed. The 2018 and 2019 annual catch targets (ACTs) implemented by this final rule are based on the 2019 acceptable biological catch (ABC) and setting the ACLs for 2019 equal to the ACTs. The resulting 2018 commercial quota is 38 percent higher than what is currently in place for 2018. Similarly, the resulting 2018 recreational harvest limit is 41 percent higher. This rule makes no changes to the commercial scup management measures (e.g., mesh requirements, fishery seasons, etc.). SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00010 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 E:\FR\FM\22DER1.SGM 22DER1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 245 (Friday, December 22, 2017)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 60680-60682]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-27648]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

[Docket No. 150121066-5717-02]
RIN 0648-XF890


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna 
Fisheries

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

ACTION: Temporary rule; inseason General category bluefin tuna quota 
transfer.

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SUMMARY: NMFS is transferring 14.3 metric tons (mt) of Atlantic bluefin 
tuna (BFT) quota from the 24.3-mt General category December 2018 
subquota to the January 2018 subquota period (from January 1 through 
March 31, 2018, or until the available subquota for this period is 
reached, whichever comes first). This action 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 with a commercial sale endorsement when fishing 
commercially for BFT.

DATES: Effective January 1, 2018, through March 31, 2018.

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. 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.
    Although the 2017 ICCAT recommendation regarding western BFT 
management would result in an increase to the baseline U.S. BFT quota 
(i.e., from 1,058.79 mt to 1,247.86 mt) and subquotas for 2018 
(including an expected increase in General category quota from 466.7 mt 
to 555.7 mt, consistent with the annual BFT quota calculation process 
established in Amendment 7), domestic implementation of that 
recommendation will take place in a separate rulemaking, likely to be 
finalized in mid-2018.

Transfer of 14.3 mt From the December Subquota to the January Subquota

    Under Sec.  635.27(a)(9), NMFS has the authority to transfer quota 
among fishing categories or subcategories, after considering regulatory 
determination criteria provided under Sec.  635.27(a)(8). NMFS has 
considered all of the relevant determination criteria and their 
applicability to this inseason quota. These considerations include, but 
are not limited to, the following:
    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 
tuna dealers provide NMFS with valuable parts and data for ongoing 
scientific studies of BFT age and growth, migration, and reproductive 
status.
    NMFS also considered the catches of the General category quota to 
date (including in December 2017 and during the winter fishery 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)). Without 
a quota transfer from December 2018 to January 2018 for the General 
category at this time, the quota available for the January period would 
be 24.7 mt (5.3 percent of the General category quota), and 
participants would have to stop BFT fishing activities once that amount 
is met, while commercial-sized BFT may remain available in the areas 
where General category permitted vessels operate. Transferring 14.3 mt 
of the 24.3-mt quota available for December 2018 (with 24.3 mt 
representing 5.2 percent of the General category quota) would result in 
39 mt (8.4 percent of the General category quota) being available for 
the January subquota period. This quota transfer would provide 
additional opportunities to harvest the U.S. BFT quota without 
exceeding it, while preserving the opportunity for General category 
fishermen to participate in the winter BFT fishery at both the 
beginning and end of the calendar year.
    Regarding the projected ability of the vessels fishing under the 
particular

[[Page 60681]]

category quota (here, the General category) to harvest the additional 
amount of BFT before the end of the fishing year (Sec.  
635.27(a)(8)(iii)), NMFS considered General category landings over the 
last several years. General category landings in the winter BFT fishery 
tend to straddle the calendar year as BFT may be available in late 
November/December and into January of the following year or later. 
Landings are highly variable and depend on access to commercial-sized 
BFT and fishing conditions, among other factors. Any unused General 
category quota from the January subperiod that remains as of March 31 
will roll forward to the next subperiod within the calendar year (i.e., 
the June-August time period). In 2017, NMFS transferred 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, 
December 19, 2016). NMFS also transferred 40 mt from the Reserve to the 
General category effective March 2, resulting in an adjusted subquota 
of 81 mt for the January 2017 period (82 FR 12747, March 7, 2017). 
Under a three-fish General category daily retention limit (i.e., of 
large medium or giant BFT, measuring 73 inches (185 cm) curved fork 
length (CFL) or greater) effective January 1 through March 4, a total 
of 68.6 mt were landed. Under a one-fish daily retention limit 
effective March 5 through March 29, when NMFS closed the General 
category, an additional 39.1 mt were landed, for a total of 107.7 mt 
for the January subquota period (82 FR 12747, March 7, 2017; 82 FR 
16136, April 3, 2017).
    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 2018 landings and 
dead discards. In the last several years, total U.S. BFT landings have 
been below the 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. In 2016 and 2017, the General category 
exceeded its adjusted quota (discussed below) but sufficient quota was 
available to cover the exceedance without affecting the other 
categories. NMFS will need to account for 2018 landings and dead 
discards within the adjusted U.S. quota, consistent with ICCAT 
recommendations, and anticipates having sufficient quota to do that.
    This transfer would be consistent with the current quotas, which 
were established and analyzed in the 2015 BFT quota final rule (80 FR 
52198, August 28, 2015), 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)).
    NMFS also anticipates that some underharvest of the 2017 adjusted 
U.S. BFT quota will be carried forward to 2018 and placed in the 
Reserve category, in accordance with the regulations. This, in addition 
to the fact that any unused General category quota will roll forward to 
the next subperiod within the calendar year, as well as the anticipated 
increase in the U.S. quota and subquotas for 2018 as a result of ICCAT 
recommendations and NMFS' plan to actively manage the subquotas to 
avoid any exceedances, makes it likely that General category quota will 
remain available through the end of 2018 for December fishery 
participants, even with the quota transfer. NMFS also may choose to 
transfer unused quota from the Reserve or other categories, inseason, 
based on consideration of the determination criteria, as NMFS did for 
late 2017 (i.e., transferred 156.4 mt from the Reserve category, 
effective October 1, 2017 (82 FR 46000, October 3, 2017)), and later 
transferred another 25.6 mt from the Harpoon category, effective 
December 1 (82 FR 55520, November 22, 2017).
    In 2017, NMFS closed the General category fishery several times to 
prevent further overharvest of the adjusted General category quota, 
specifically August 16 for the June through August subquota period (82 
FR 39047, August 17, 2017); September 17 for the September subquota 
period (82 FR 43711, September 19, 2017); October 4 for the October 
through November subquota period (82 FR 46934, October 10, 2017); and 
December 6 for the December subquota period (82 FR 57885, December 8, 
2017). General category landings were relatively high in the summer and 
fall of 2017, due to a combination of fish availability, favorable 
fishing conditions, and higher daily retention limits in June through 
early August (i.e., four fish June 1 through August 4 (82 FR 22616, May 
17, 2017), and two fish August 5 through August 16 (82 FR 36689, August 
7, 2017)). NMFS anticipates that General category participants in all 
areas and time periods will have opportunities to harvest the General 
category quota in 2018, through active inseason management such as 
retention limit adjustments and/or the timing of quota transfers, as 
practicable. Thus, this quota transfer would allow fishermen to take 
advantage of the availability of fish on the fishing grounds, consider 
the expected increases in available 2018 quota later in the year, and 
provide a reasonable opportunity to harvest the full U.S. BFT quota.
    Based on the considerations above, NMFS is transferring 14.3 mt of 
the 24.3-mt General category quota allocated for the December 2018 
period to the January 2018 period, resulting in a subquota of 39 mt for 
the January 2018 period and a subquota of 10 mt for the December 2018 
period. NMFS will close the General category fishery when the adjusted 
January period subquota of 39 mt has been reached, or it will close 
automatically on March 31, 2018, whichever comes first, and it will 
remain closed until the General category fishery reopens on June 1, 
2018.

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.
    Under Sec.  635.23(a)(4), NMFS may increase or decrease the daily 
retention limit of large medium and giant bluefin tuna over a range of 
zero to a maximum of five per vessel based on consideration of the 
relevant criteria provided under Sec.  635.27(a)(8). However, at this 
time, NMFS is maintaining the default daily retention limit of one 
large medium or giant BFT per vessel per day/trip (Sec.  635.23(a)(2)) 
for the January 2018 General category fishery. Regardless of the 
duration of a fishing trip, no more than a single day's retention limit 
may be possessed, retained, or landed. For example (and specific to the 
limit that will apply beginning January 1, 2018), whether a vessel 
fishing under the General category limit takes a two-day trip or makes 
two trips in one day, the daily limit of one fish may not be

[[Page 60682]]

exceeded upon landing. This General category retention limit is 
effective in all areas, except for the Gulf of Mexico, where NMFS 
prohibits targeting fishing for BFT, and applies to those vessels 
permitted in the General category, as well as to those HMS Charter/
Headboat permitted vessels with a commercial sale endorsement when 
fishing commercially for BFT fishing commercially for BFT. For 
information regarding the CHB commercial sale endorsement, see 82 FR 
57543, December 6, 2017.
    Depending on the level of fishing effort and catch rates of BFT, 
NMFS may determine that additional action (e.g., quota adjustment, 
daily retention limit 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.

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 January 2018 subquota 
period at this time is impracticable and contrary to the public 
interest as NMFS could not have proposed this action earlier, as it 
needed to consider and respond to updated data and information from the 
2017 General category fishery, including the recently-available 
December 2017 data, in deciding to transfer a portion of the December 
2018 quota to the January 2018 subquota. If NMFS was to offer a public 
comment period now, after having appropriately considered that data, it 
could preclude fishermen from harvesting BFT that are legally available 
consistent with all of the regulatory criteria, and/or could result in 
selection of a retention limit inappropriately high for the amount of 
quota available for the period. 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), and is exempt 
from review under Executive Order 12866.

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

    Dated: December 19, 2017.
Emily H. Menashes,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2017-27648 Filed 12-20-17; 4:15 pm]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P