Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Reef Fish Fishery of the Gulf of Mexico; Modifications to Greater Amberjack Recreational Fishing Year and Fixed Closed Season, 13426-13428 [2018-06317]

Download as PDF 13426 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 61 / Thursday, March 29, 2018 / Rules and Regulations rmajette on DSKBCKNHB2PROD with RULES proposed approach, which may include the following four alternatives (among others): ‘‘(1) the establishment of differing compliance or reporting requirements or timetables that take into account the resources available to small entities; (2) the clarification, consolidation, or simplification of compliance or reporting requirements under the rule for small entities; (3) the use of performance, rather than design, standards; and (4) and exemption from coverage of the rule, or any part thereof, for small entities.’’ 70. The challenge procedures established in the MF–II Challenge Process Procedures Public Notice are intended to remove the need for a challenger to submit a map of the area(s) it wishes to challenge on top of its evidence by having the Commission perform all geospatial data analysis on a uniform grid, which will benefit small entities. The challenge procedures also allow a challenged entity to submit evidence identifying devices that were subject to data speed reductions, alongside evidence from transmitter monitoring software and speed tests, thereby minimizing the significant economic impact on small entities. Challenged parties will also be given 30 days to review challenges and supporting data before the response window opens. In addition, the Bureaus note that the challenge processes and procedures adopted in the MF–II Challenge Process Procedures Public Notice will only apply to small entities who participate in the challenge process. The Bureaus also note that to the extent a challenged party is a small entity, since a challenged party is not required to respond to challenges within their service area(s) the processes and procedures associated with responding to challenges adopted in the MF–II Challenge Process Procedures Public Notice are only applicable should a small entity choose to submit responsive evidence. Federal Communications Commission. RIN 0648–BH32 amberjack, is managed under the FMP. The Council prepared the FMP, and NMFS implements the FMP under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Steven Act) through regulations at 50 CFR part 622. On January 26, 2018, NMFS published a proposed rule for the framework action and requested public comment (83 FR 3670). The proposed rule and the framework action outline the rationale for the actions contained in this final rule. A summary of the management measures described in the framework action and implemented by this final rule is provided below. Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Reef Fish Fishery of the Gulf of Mexico; Modifications to Greater Amberjack Recreational Fishing Year and Fixed Closed Season Management Measures Contained in This Final Rule This final rule revises the recreational fishing year and the recreational fixed closed season for greater amberjack in the Gulf. Gary D. Michaels, Deputy Chief, Auctions and Spectrum Access Division, WTB. [FR Doc. 2018–06382 Filed 3–28–18; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6712–01–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 622 [Docket No. 171017999–8262–01] National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: NMFS issues regulations to implement management measures described in a framework action to the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico (FMP), as prepared by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council). This final rule revises the recreational fishing year and modifies the recreational fixed closed season for greater amberjack in the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The purposes of this final rule and the framework action are to constrain recreational harvest to assist in ending overfishing, and to rebuild the greater amberjack stock in the Gulf, while achieving optimum yield of the stock in the Gulf. DATES: This final rule is effective April 30, 2018. 7. Report to Congress ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of the 71. The Commission will send a copy framework action, which includes an environmental assessment, a regulatory of the MF–II Challenge Process Procedures Public Notice, including this impact review, and a Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) analysis may be Supplemental FRFA, in a report to obtained from the Southeast Regional Congress pursuant to the Congressional Office website at http:// Review Act. In addition, the Commission will send a copy of the MF– sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_ fisheries/gulf_fisheries/reef_fish/2017/ II Challenge Process Procedures Public GAJ_Fishing%20Year/index.html. Notice, including this Supplemental FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: FRFA, to the Chief Counsel for Kelli O’Donnell, NMFS SERO, Advocacy of the SBA. A copy of the telephone: 727–824–5305, email: MF–II Challenge Process Procedures Kelli.ODonnell@noaa.gov. Public Notice and Supplemental FRFA (or summaries thereof) will also be SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Gulf published in the Federal Register. reef fish fishery, which includes greater VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:09 Mar 28, 2018 Jkt 244001 SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00052 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 Greater Amberjack Recreational Fishing Year This final rule revises the Gulf greater amberjack recreational fishing year to be August 1 through July 31. The current Gulf recreational fishing year for greater amberjack is January 1 through December 31 and was established in the original FMP (49 FR 39548; October 9, 1984). The change implemented through this final rule allows for greater amberjack recreational harvest to occur later in the year and provides an opportunity to harvest greater amberjack when harvest of many other reef fish species is prohibited due to in-season closures as a result of harvest limits. By starting the fishing year in August, when fishing effort is less, NMFS and the Council expect enough recreational quota remaining to allow for harvest during May of the following calendar year. Consistent with the change in the fishing year, this final rule revises the years associated with the greater amberjack recreational annual catch limits (ACLs) and quotas. Currently, the recreational ACLs and quotas are defined by the calendar year, which is also the fishing year. With the change to the recreational fishing year, the recreational ACLs and quotas apply across calendar years. Therefore, this final rule assigns the recently implemented 2018 ACL and quota to the remainder of the August 1, 2017, through July 31, 2018, recreational fishing year. The 2019 recreational ACL and quota will correspond to the 2018– 2019 recreational fishing year, and the recreational ACL and quota for 2020 and beyond will correspond to all subsequent fishing years. E:\FR\FM\29MRR1.SGM 29MRR1 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 61 / Thursday, March 29, 2018 / Rules and Regulations Greater Amberjack Recreational Fixed Closed Season NMFS recently published a final rule that changed the greater amberjack recreational closed season from June through July each year to January through June (82 FR 61485; December 28, 2017) to allow the Council time to further modify the closed season to create two separate recreational fishing seasons. This final rule modifies the recreational fixed closed season for greater amberjack to be from January 1 through April 30, June 1 through July 31, and November 1 through December 31, each year. This means that recreational harvest would be allowed in May and from August through October each calendar year unless an inseason closure is necessary to constrain harvest to the recreational quota. Because this final rule also changes the recreational fishing year, NMFS expects any in-season quota closure to occur later in the fall or during May of the following year. However, because NMFS expects the recreational fixed closed season to reduce recreational landings NMFS also expects this change to reduce the likelihood of an in-season closure and landings exceeding the recreational ACL. This final rule is also expected to protect greater amberjack during peak spawning months in the majority of the Gulf (March through April), thereby contributing to rebuilding the greater amberjack stock by the end of the designated time period in 2027. rmajette on DSKBCKNHB2PROD with RULES Comments and Responses NMFS received a total of 46 comments on the proposed rule for the framework action from individual fishers and two for-hire fishing vessel associations. Several commenters supported the proposed measures for Gulf greater amberjack. Other comments stated that changes to fishing regulations cause confusion, and suggested a tag system to measure harvest of greater amberjack, but those assertions were outside the scope of the proposed rule and therefore are not addressed here. Specific comments related to the framework action and the proposed rule are grouped by topic and summarized below, followed by NMFS’ respective responses. Comment 1: Greater amberjack is abundant in the Gulf which suggests the stock is healthy; therefore, the greater amberjack stock is not in need of rebuilding, and these additional management measures are not necessary. VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:09 Mar 28, 2018 Jkt 244001 Response: NMFS disagrees that the greater amberjack stock is not in need of rebuilding and that the management measures in this final rule are unnecessary. In 2016, a Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR) stock assessment for greater amberjack was completed (SEDAR 33) and indicated the Gulf greater amberjack stock remained overfished, was undergoing overfishing, and would not be rebuilt by 2019, as was previously estimated. Therefore, the Council established a new rebuilding time period that ends in 2027 and revised the ACLs and quotas. (82 FR 61485; December 28, 2017). The management measures implemented through this final rule are expected to constrain harvest to the new catch levels and protect the stock during springtime spawning activity in March and April. The Council determined, and NMFS agrees, that these management measures will help meet rebuilding goals for this stock. Comment 2: The greater amberjack recreational fishing year should not be changed. Changing the fishing year to start on August 1 will cost money and take time to implement without providing any benefit. It will also shift effort in the eastern Gulf to the western Gulf, changing the dynamics of the fishery. This change will eliminate any recreational spring fishery for greater amberjack in the eastern Gulf because there will be enough of the recreational quota remaining after the fall season. Response: While NMFS agrees that the change in the fishing year may shift fishery dynamics, this change is expected to provide benefits by reducing the overall recreational harvest of greater amberjack, which will reduce the likelihood of an in-season closure, and allow for harvest in May as well as August through October. The first season is limited to 3 months (August, September, and October) and is during a time of historically low fishing effort. Analysis included in the framework action predicted that the new recreational quota should be sufficient to allow for harvest both in the fall and the spring. In addition, changing the fishing year to begin on August 1 provides access to greater amberjack later in the calendar year, which is a period when the harvest of other targeted species (e.g., red snapper) is typically unavailable in Federal waters. Opening recreational fishing for greater amberjack later in the calendar year is also expected to improve access to this species because weather tends to be more favorable. Comment 3: The recreational closed season for greater amberjack should not be changed. PO 00000 Frm 00053 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 13427 Response: NMFS disagrees that the recreational closed season for greater amberjack should not be changed. The current recreational greater amberjack closed season of January 1 through June 30 was intended to be a temporary measure to allow the Council time to consider alternatives that would allow for harvest in both the spring and fall. If the current closed season were left in place, it would not allow for recreational harvest in the spring, which is a time when many recreational anglers have requested that recreational harvest of greater amberjack occur because this is a time when other targeted species, such as red snapper, are usually unavailable for harvest. The Council considered several options for modifying the closed season to allow harvest in the spring and chose May as the open month to avoid harvest during the peak spawning months of March and April. Comment 4: A 4-month recreational open season for greater amberjack is too short. Recreational harvest should be allowed year-round or at least also in June and July. Response: NMFS disagrees. Allowing recreational harvest of greater amberjack during June and July, historically the months of highest recreational fishing effort, or year-round, would likely result in an in-season quota closure, and would increase the likelihood of exceeding the recreational ACL. It would also be inconsistent with the Council’s intent to have both fall and spring fishing seasons. Allowing for recreational harvest in May, August, September, and October is expected to increase the opportunity for recreational harvest while still protecting the stock as it rebuilds. Comment 5: Modifying the recreational bag limits, implementing seasonal split quotas, and modifying the commercial trip limits would be more effective in managing the greater amberjack stock in the Gulf than changing the fishing year and closed season. Response: The Council did not consider modifying recreational bag limits or establishing recreational seasonal quotas for greater amberjack in the Gulf in this framework action. However, in response to public comments at its October 2017 meeting, the Council began development of another framework action in which it will consider recreational bag limit options and split quotas as well as commercial vessel limits for greater amberjack. NMFS expects the Council to review a draft options paper for this framework in 2018. E:\FR\FM\29MRR1.SGM 29MRR1 13428 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 61 / Thursday, March 29, 2018 / Rules and Regulations Classification 3. In § 622.34, revise paragraph (c) to read as follows: ■ The Regional Administrator for the NMFS Southeast Region has determined that this final rule is consistent with the framework action, the FMP, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law. This final rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides the statutory basis for this final rule. No duplicative, overlapping, or conflicting Federal rules have been identified. In addition, no new reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements are introduced by this final rule. The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration (SBA) during the proposed rule stage that this rule, if adopted, would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The factual basis for this determination was published in the proposed rule and is not repeated here. No comments from the public or the SBA’s Chief Counsel for Advocacy were received regarding the certification, and NMFS has not received any new information that would affect its determination. As a result, a final regulatory flexibility analysis is not required and none has been prepared. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622 Fisheries, Fishing, Greater amberjack, Gulf, Recreational, Reef fish. Dated: March 23, 2018. 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: ■ § 622.34 Seasonal and area closures designed to protect Gulf reef fish. * * * * * (c) Seasonal closure of the recreational sector for greater amberjack. The recreational sector for greater amberjack in or from the Gulf EEZ is closed from January 1 through April 30, June 1 through July 31, and November 1 through December 31, each year. During the closure, the bag and possession limit for greater amberjack in or from the Gulf EEZ is zero. * * * * * * * * * (a) * * * (2) * * * (ii) Recreational quota for greater amberjack. (A) For the 2017–2018 fishing year—716,173 lb (324,851 kg). (B) For the 2018–2019 fishing year— 902,185 lb (409,224 kg). (C) For the 2019–2020 fishing year and subsequent fishing years— 1,086,985 lb (493,048 kg). * * * * * 5. In § 622.41, revise paragraph (a)(2)(iii) to read as follows: ■ § 622.41 Annual catch limits (ACLs), annual catch targets (ACTs), and accountability measures (AMs). (a) * * * (2) * * * (iii) The applicable recreational ACL for greater amberjack, in round weight, is 862,860 lb (391,387 kg) for the 2017– 2018 fishing year, 1,086,970 lb (493,041 kg) for the 2018–2019 fishing year, and 1,309,620 lb (594,034 kg) for 2019–2020 fishing year and subsequent fishing years. * * * * * BILLING CODE 3510–22–P rmajette on DSKBCKNHB2PROD with RULES Fishing years. * * * * (h) Gulf of Mexico greater amberjack recreational sector—August 1 through July 31. (Note: The fishing year for the commercial sector for greater amberjack is January 1 through December 31). Jkt 244001 RIN 0648–BG40 Fisheries Off West Coast States; Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan; Authorization of an Oregon Recreational Fishery for Midwater Groundfish Species SUMMARY: Quotas. * * 15:09 Mar 28, 2018 [Docket No. 161024999–8248–02] § 622.39 2. In § 622.7, add paragraph (h) to read as follows: VerDate Sep<11>2014 50 CFR Part 660 4. In § 622.39, revise paragraph (a)(2)(ii) to read as follows: ■ ■ § 622.7 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. [FR Doc. 2018–06317 Filed 3–28–18; 8:45 am] Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE PO 00000 AGENCY: This final rule authorizes the use of midwater long-leader gear for recreational fishing in waters seaward of a boundary line approximating the 40 fathoms depth contour off the coast of Oregon. Both charter and private vessels are authorized to use midwater longleader gear seaward of the 40 fathom seasonal depth closure, while being monitored with the existing Oregon Ocean Recreational Boat Sampling (ORBS) program. The use of midwater long-leader gear is intended to limit bycatch of overfished and rebuilding rockfish species, such as bottomdwelling yelloweye rockfish, while still allowing for the catch of abundant midwater species such as yellowtail and widow rockfish. The season will occur between April and September, months currently subject to depth restrictions. DATES: Effective April 1, 2018. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Christopher Biegel, phone: 503–231– 6291, fax: 503–872–2737, or email: Christopher.biegel@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Electronic Access This final rule is accessible via the internet at the Office of the Federal Register website at http:// www.federalregister.gov. Background information and documents are available at the NMFS West Coast Region website at http:// www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/ fisheries/groundfish/index.html and at the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s website at http:// www.pcouncil.org. Background Since 2004, NMFS has restricted Oregon recreational groundfish fisheries to shallow depths (<20–40 fm) during peak effort to reduce interactions with Frm 00054 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 E:\FR\FM\29MRR1.SGM 29MRR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 83, Number 61 (Thursday, March 29, 2018)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 13426-13428]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2018-06317]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

[Docket No. 171017999-8262-01]
RIN 0648-BH32


Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 
Reef Fish Fishery of the Gulf of Mexico; Modifications to Greater 
Amberjack Recreational Fishing Year and Fixed Closed Season

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS issues regulations to implement management measures 
described in a framework action to the Fishery Management Plan for the 
Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico (FMP), as prepared by the 
Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council). This final rule 
revises the recreational fishing year and modifies the recreational 
fixed closed season for greater amberjack in the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) 
exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The purposes of this final rule and the 
framework action are to constrain recreational harvest to assist in 
ending overfishing, and to rebuild the greater amberjack stock in the 
Gulf, while achieving optimum yield of the stock in the Gulf.

DATES: This final rule is effective April 30, 2018.

ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of the framework action, which includes an 
environmental assessment, a regulatory impact review, and a Regulatory 
Flexibility Act (RFA) analysis may be obtained from the Southeast 
Regional Office website at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/gulf_fisheries/reef_fish/2017/GAJ_Fishing%20Year/index.html.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Gulf reef fish fishery, which includes 
greater amberjack, is managed under the FMP. The Council prepared the 
FMP, and NMFS implements the FMP under the authority of the Magnuson-
Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Steven Act) 
through regulations at 50 CFR part 622.
    On January 26, 2018, NMFS published a proposed rule for the 
framework action and requested public comment (83 FR 3670). The 
proposed rule and the framework action outline the rationale for the 
actions contained in this final rule. A summary of the management 
measures described in the framework action and implemented by this 
final rule is provided below.

Management Measures Contained in This Final Rule

    This final rule revises the recreational fishing year and the 
recreational fixed closed season for greater amberjack in the Gulf.

Greater Amberjack Recreational Fishing Year

    This final rule revises the Gulf greater amberjack recreational 
fishing year to be August 1 through July 31. The current Gulf 
recreational fishing year for greater amberjack is January 1 through 
December 31 and was established in the original FMP (49 FR 39548; 
October 9, 1984). The change implemented through this final rule allows 
for greater amberjack recreational harvest to occur later in the year 
and provides an opportunity to harvest greater amberjack when harvest 
of many other reef fish species is prohibited due to in-season closures 
as a result of harvest limits. By starting the fishing year in August, 
when fishing effort is less, NMFS and the Council expect enough 
recreational quota remaining to allow for harvest during May of the 
following calendar year.
    Consistent with the change in the fishing year, this final rule 
revises the years associated with the greater amberjack recreational 
annual catch limits (ACLs) and quotas. Currently, the recreational ACLs 
and quotas are defined by the calendar year, which is also the fishing 
year. With the change to the recreational fishing year, the 
recreational ACLs and quotas apply across calendar years. Therefore, 
this final rule assigns the recently implemented 2018 ACL and quota to 
the remainder of the August 1, 2017, through July 31, 2018, 
recreational fishing year. The 2019 recreational ACL and quota will 
correspond to the 2018-2019 recreational fishing year, and the 
recreational ACL and quota for 2020 and beyond will correspond to all 
subsequent fishing years.

[[Page 13427]]

Greater Amberjack Recreational Fixed Closed Season

    NMFS recently published a final rule that changed the greater 
amberjack recreational closed season from June through July each year 
to January through June (82 FR 61485; December 28, 2017) to allow the 
Council time to further modify the closed season to create two separate 
recreational fishing seasons.
    This final rule modifies the recreational fixed closed season for 
greater amberjack to be from January 1 through April 30, June 1 through 
July 31, and November 1 through December 31, each year. This means that 
recreational harvest would be allowed in May and from August through 
October each calendar year unless an in-season closure is necessary to 
constrain harvest to the recreational quota. Because this final rule 
also changes the recreational fishing year, NMFS expects any in-season 
quota closure to occur later in the fall or during May of the following 
year. However, because NMFS expects the recreational fixed closed 
season to reduce recreational landings NMFS also expects this change to 
reduce the likelihood of an in-season closure and landings exceeding 
the recreational ACL. This final rule is also expected to protect 
greater amberjack during peak spawning months in the majority of the 
Gulf (March through April), thereby contributing to rebuilding the 
greater amberjack stock by the end of the designated time period in 
2027.

Comments and Responses

    NMFS received a total of 46 comments on the proposed rule for the 
framework action from individual fishers and two for-hire fishing 
vessel associations. Several commenters supported the proposed measures 
for Gulf greater amberjack. Other comments stated that changes to 
fishing regulations cause confusion, and suggested a tag system to 
measure harvest of greater amberjack, but those assertions were outside 
the scope of the proposed rule and therefore are not addressed here.
    Specific comments related to the framework action and the proposed 
rule are grouped by topic and summarized below, followed by NMFS' 
respective responses.
    Comment 1: Greater amberjack is abundant in the Gulf which suggests 
the stock is healthy; therefore, the greater amberjack stock is not in 
need of rebuilding, and these additional management measures are not 
necessary.
    Response: NMFS disagrees that the greater amberjack stock is not in 
need of rebuilding and that the management measures in this final rule 
are unnecessary. In 2016, a Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review 
(SEDAR) stock assessment for greater amberjack was completed (SEDAR 33) 
and indicated the Gulf greater amberjack stock remained overfished, was 
undergoing overfishing, and would not be rebuilt by 2019, as was 
previously estimated. Therefore, the Council established a new 
rebuilding time period that ends in 2027 and revised the ACLs and 
quotas. (82 FR 61485; December 28, 2017). The management measures 
implemented through this final rule are expected to constrain harvest 
to the new catch levels and protect the stock during springtime 
spawning activity in March and April. The Council determined, and NMFS 
agrees, that these management measures will help meet rebuilding goals 
for this stock.
    Comment 2: The greater amberjack recreational fishing year should 
not be changed. Changing the fishing year to start on August 1 will 
cost money and take time to implement without providing any benefit. It 
will also shift effort in the eastern Gulf to the western Gulf, 
changing the dynamics of the fishery. This change will eliminate any 
recreational spring fishery for greater amberjack in the eastern Gulf 
because there will be enough of the recreational quota remaining after 
the fall season.
    Response: While NMFS agrees that the change in the fishing year may 
shift fishery dynamics, this change is expected to provide benefits by 
reducing the overall recreational harvest of greater amberjack, which 
will reduce the likelihood of an in-season closure, and allow for 
harvest in May as well as August through October. The first season is 
limited to 3 months (August, September, and October) and is during a 
time of historically low fishing effort. Analysis included in the 
framework action predicted that the new recreational quota should be 
sufficient to allow for harvest both in the fall and the spring.
    In addition, changing the fishing year to begin on August 1 
provides access to greater amberjack later in the calendar year, which 
is a period when the harvest of other targeted species (e.g., red 
snapper) is typically unavailable in Federal waters. Opening 
recreational fishing for greater amberjack later in the calendar year 
is also expected to improve access to this species because weather 
tends to be more favorable.
    Comment 3: The recreational closed season for greater amberjack 
should not be changed.
    Response: NMFS disagrees that the recreational closed season for 
greater amberjack should not be changed. The current recreational 
greater amberjack closed season of January 1 through June 30 was 
intended to be a temporary measure to allow the Council time to 
consider alternatives that would allow for harvest in both the spring 
and fall. If the current closed season were left in place, it would not 
allow for recreational harvest in the spring, which is a time when many 
recreational anglers have requested that recreational harvest of 
greater amberjack occur because this is a time when other targeted 
species, such as red snapper, are usually unavailable for harvest. The 
Council considered several options for modifying the closed season to 
allow harvest in the spring and chose May as the open month to avoid 
harvest during the peak spawning months of March and April.
    Comment 4: A 4-month recreational open season for greater amberjack 
is too short. Recreational harvest should be allowed year-round or at 
least also in June and July.
    Response: NMFS disagrees. Allowing recreational harvest of greater 
amberjack during June and July, historically the months of highest 
recreational fishing effort, or year-round, would likely result in an 
in-season quota closure, and would increase the likelihood of exceeding 
the recreational ACL. It would also be inconsistent with the Council's 
intent to have both fall and spring fishing seasons. Allowing for 
recreational harvest in May, August, September, and October is expected 
to increase the opportunity for recreational harvest while still 
protecting the stock as it rebuilds.
    Comment 5: Modifying the recreational bag limits, implementing 
seasonal split quotas, and modifying the commercial trip limits would 
be more effective in managing the greater amberjack stock in the Gulf 
than changing the fishing year and closed season.
    Response: The Council did not consider modifying recreational bag 
limits or establishing recreational seasonal quotas for greater 
amberjack in the Gulf in this framework action. However, in response to 
public comments at its October 2017 meeting, the Council began 
development of another framework action in which it will consider 
recreational bag limit options and split quotas as well as commercial 
vessel limits for greater amberjack. NMFS expects the Council to review 
a draft options paper for this framework in 2018.

[[Page 13428]]

Classification

    The Regional Administrator for the NMFS Southeast Region has 
determined that this final rule is consistent with the framework 
action, the FMP, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law.
    This final rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides the statutory basis for this 
final rule. No duplicative, overlapping, or conflicting Federal rules 
have been identified. In addition, no new reporting, record-keeping, or 
other compliance requirements are introduced by this final rule.
    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration (SBA) during the proposed rule stage that this rule, if 
adopted, would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial 
number of small entities. The factual basis for this determination was 
published in the proposed rule and is not repeated here. No comments 
from the public or the SBA's Chief Counsel for Advocacy were received 
regarding the certification, and NMFS has not received any new 
information that would affect its determination. As a result, a final 
regulatory flexibility analysis is not required and none has been 
prepared.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622

    Fisheries, Fishing, Greater amberjack, Gulf, Recreational, Reef 
fish.

    Dated: March 23, 2018.
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.  622.7, add paragraph (h) to read as follows:


Sec.  622.7  Fishing years.

* * * * *
    (h) Gulf of Mexico greater amberjack recreational sector--August 1 
through July 31. (Note: The fishing year for the commercial sector for 
greater amberjack is January 1 through December 31).

0
3. In Sec.  622.34, revise paragraph (c) to read as follows:


Sec.  622.34   Seasonal and area closures designed to protect Gulf reef 
fish.

* * * * *
    (c) Seasonal closure of the recreational sector for greater 
amberjack. The recreational sector for greater amberjack in or from the 
Gulf EEZ is closed from January 1 through April 30, June 1 through July 
31, and November 1 through December 31, each year. During the closure, 
the bag and possession limit for greater amberjack in or from the Gulf 
EEZ is zero.
* * * * *

0
4. In Sec.  622.39, revise paragraph (a)(2)(ii) to read as follows:


Sec.  622.39   Quotas.

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (ii) Recreational quota for greater amberjack. (A) For the 2017-
2018 fishing year--716,173 lb (324,851 kg).
    (B) For the 2018-2019 fishing year--902,185 lb (409,224 kg).
    (C) For the 2019-2020 fishing year and subsequent fishing years--
1,086,985 lb (493,048 kg).
* * * * *

0
5. In Sec.  622.41, revise paragraph (a)(2)(iii) to read as follows:


Sec.  622.41   Annual catch limits (ACLs), annual catch targets (ACTs), 
and accountability measures (AMs).

    (a) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (iii) The applicable recreational ACL for greater amberjack, in 
round weight, is 862,860 lb (391,387 kg) for the 2017-2018 fishing 
year, 1,086,970 lb (493,041 kg) for the 2018-2019 fishing year, and 
1,309,620 lb (594,034 kg) for 2019-2020 fishing year and subsequent 
fishing years.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2018-06317 Filed 3-28-18; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P