Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; North Atlantic Swordfish Fishery, 30884-30887 [2018-14116]

Download as PDF 30884 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 127 / Monday, July 2, 2018 / Rules and Regulations operating costs that carriers that predominately serve Tribal lands can recover from the universal service fund (USF) in recognition that they are likely to have higher costs than carriers not serving Tribal lands. The rules published in the Federal Register on May 1, 2018. DATES: Effective July 2, 2018. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Suzanne Yelen, Wireline Competition Bureau, (202) 418–7400. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This is a summary of the FCC’s Erratum, released on June 7, 2018. This summary contains technical amendments to the Commission’s rules that were published in the Federal Register at 83 FR 18948 (May 1, 2018). The full text of the Commission’s Report and Order, WC Docket No. 10–90; FCC 18–37, released on April 5, 2018 is available for public inspection during regular business hours in the FCC Reference Center, Room CY–A257, 445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC 20554. In the document published in the Federal Register at 83 FR 18948 (May 1, 2018), amendatory instruction 2 erroneously added text as paragraph (a)(6) to § 54.303. The Commission’s intent was to add the text as paragraph (a)(7) to the section. This document corrects that error. study area has not deployed broadband service of 10 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload to 90 percent or more of the housing units on the Tribal lands in its study area and unsubsidized competitors have not deployed broadband service of 10 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload to 85 percent or more of the housing units on the Tribal lands in its study area. * * * * * Federal Communications Commission. Marlene Dortch, Secretary. [FR Doc. 2018–14149 Filed 6–29–18; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6712–01–P FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION 47 CFR Part 54 Universal Service CFR Correction In Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Parts 40 to 69, revised as of October 1, 2017, on page 206, in § 54.507, the second paragraph (f) is removed. ■ [FR Doc. 2018–14186 Filed 6–29–18; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 1301–00–D Technical Amendments List of Subjects in 47 CFR Part 54 Communications common carriers, Health facilities, Infants and children, Internet, Libraries, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Schools, Telecommunications, Telephone. Accordingly, 47 CFR part 54 is corrected by making the following correcting amendments: 1. The authority citation for part 54 continues to read as follows: Authority: 47 U.S.C. 151, 154(i), 155, 201, 205, 214, 219, 220, 254, 303(r), 403, and 1302 unless otherwise noted. 2. In § 54.303, add paragraph (a)(7) to read as follows: ■ daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with RULES § 54.303 Eligible Capital Investment and Operating Expenses. (a) * * * (7) For those study areas where a majority of the housing units are on Tribal lands, as determined by the Wireline Competition Bureau, and meet the following conditions, total eligible annual operating expenses per location ˆ shall be limited by calculating Exp (Y + 2.5 * mean square error of the regression): The carrier serving the Jkt 244001 50 CFR Part 635 [Docket No. 120627194–3657–02] RIN 0648–XG167 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Temporary rule. AGENCY: ■ 16:46 Jun 29, 2018 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; North Atlantic Swordfish Fishery PART 54—UNIVERSAL SERVICE VerDate Sep<11>2014 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE NMFS is adjusting the Swordfish (SWO) General Commercial permit retention limits for the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions for July through December of the 2018 fishing year, unless otherwise later noticed. The SWO General Commercial permit retention limit in each of these regions is increased from the regulatory default limits (either two or three fish) to six swordfish per vessel per trip. The SWO General Commercial permit retention limit in the Florida SWO Management SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00054 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 Area will remain unchanged at the default limit of zero swordfish per vessel per trip, as discussed in more detail below. These adjustments apply to SWO General Commercial permitted vessels and to Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Charter/Headboat permitted vessels with a commercial endorsement when on a non-for-hire trip. This action is based upon consideration of the applicable inseason regional retention limit adjustment criteria. DATES: The adjusted SWO General Commercial permit retention limits in the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions are effective from July 1, 2018, through December 31, 2018. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Rick Pearson or Randy Blankinship, 727– 824–5399. 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 North Atlantic swordfish by persons and vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction are found at 50 CFR part 635. Section 635.27 subdivides the U.S. North Atlantic swordfish quota recommended by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and implemented by the United States into two equal semi-annual directed fishery quotas—an annual incidental catch quota for fishermen targeting other species or catching swordfish recreationally, and a reserve category, according to the allocations established in the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan (2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP) (71 FR 58058, October 2, 2006), as amended, and in accordance with implementing regulations. 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. In 2017, ICCAT Recommendation 17– 02 specified that the overall North Atlantic swordfish total allowable catch (TAC) be set at 9,925 metric tons (mt) dressed weight (dw) (13,200 mt whole weight (ww)) through 2021. Consistent with scientific advice, this was a reduction of 500 mt ww (375.9 mt dw) from previous ICCAT-recommended TACs. However, of this TAC, the United States’ baseline quota remained at 2,937.6 mt dw (3,907 mt ww) per year. The Recommendation (17–02) also continued to limit underharvest E:\FR\FM\02JYR1.SGM 02JYR1 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 127 / Monday, July 2, 2018 / Rules and Regulations daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with RULES carryover to 15 percent of a contracting party’s baseline quota. Thus, the United States may carry over a maximum of 440.6 mt dw (586.0 mt ww) of underharvest. Absent adjustments, the codified baseline quota is 2,937.6 mt dw for 2018. At this time, given the extent of underharvest in 2017, NMFS anticipates carrying over the maximum allowable 15 percent (440.6 mt dw), which would result in a final adjusted North Atlantic swordfish quota for the 2018 fishing year equal to 3,378.2 mt dw (2,937.6 + 440.6 = 3,378.2 mt dw). As in past years we anticipate allocating 50 mt dw from the adjusted quota to the Reserve category for inseason adjustments/research and allocating 300 mt dw to the Incidental category, which includes recreational landings and landings by incidental swordfish permit holders, consistent with § 635.27(c)(1)(i)(D) and (B). This would result in an adjusted quota of 3,028.2 mt dw for the directed fishery, which would be split equally (1,514.1 mt dw) between the two semi-annual periods in 2018 (January through June, and July through December). Landings attributable to the Swordfish General Commercial permit will count against the applicable semi-annual directed fishery quota. Adjustment of SWO General Commercial Permit Vessel Retention Limits The 2018 North Atlantic swordfish fishing year, which is managed on a calendar-year basis and divided into two equal semi-annual quotas for the directed fishery, began on January 1, 2018. Landings attributable to the SWO General Commercial permit are counted against the applicable semi-annual directed fishery quota. Regional default retention limits for this permit have been established and are automatically effective from January 1 through December 31 each year, unless changed based on the inseason regional retention limit adjustment criteria at § 635.24(b)(4)(iv). The default retention limits established for the SWO General Commercial permit are: (1) Northwest Atlantic region—three swordfish per vessel per trip; (2) Gulf of Mexico region—three swordfish per vessel per trip; (3) U.S. Caribbean region—two swordfish per vessel per trip; and, (4) Florida SWO Management Area—zero swordfish per vessel per trip. The default retention limits apply to SWO General Commercial permitted vessels and to HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels with a commercial endorsement when fishing on non for-hire trips. As a condition of these permits, vessels may not possess, retain, or land any VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:46 Jun 29, 2018 Jkt 244001 more swordfish than is specified for the region in which the vessel is located. Under § 635.24(b)(4)(iii), NMFS may increase or decrease the SWO General Commercial permit vessel retention limit in any region within a range from zero to a maximum of six swordfish per vessel per trip. Any adjustments to the retention limits must be based upon a consideration of the relevant criteria provided in § 635.24(b)(4)(iv), which include: (A) The usefulness of information obtained from biological sampling and monitoring of the North Atlantic swordfish stock; (B) the estimated ability of vessels participating in the fishery to land the amount of swordfish quota available before the end of the fishing year; (C) the estimated amounts by which quotas for other categories of the fishery might be exceeded; (D) effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the fishery management plan and its amendments; (E) variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migration patterns of swordfish; (F) effects of catch rates in one region precluding vessels in another region from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the overall swordfish quota; and, (G) review of dealer reports, landing trends, and the availability of swordfish on the fishing grounds. NMFS has considered these criteria as discussed below and their applicability to the SWO General Commercial permit retention limit in all regions for July through December of the 2018 North Atlantic swordfish fishing year. We have determined that the SWO General Commercial permit retention limits in the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions applicable to persons issued a SWO General Commercial permit or HMS Charter/ Headboat permit with a commercial endorsement (when on a non for-hire trip) should be increased from the default levels that would otherwise automatically become effective on July 1, 2018, to six swordfish per vessel per trip from July 1 through December 31, 2018, unless otherwise later noticed. These are the same limits that were made effective through an inseason adjustment for the period January 1 through June 30, 2018 (82 FR 58761). Given the rebuilt status of the stock and the availability of quota, increasing the Swordfish General Commercial permit retention limits in three regions to six fish per vessel per trip will increase the likelihood that directed swordfish landings will approach, but not exceed, the available annual swordfish quota, and increase the opportunity for catching swordfish during the 2018 fishing year. PO 00000 Frm 00055 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 30885 Last year, a six swordfish per vessel trip limit was in effect for Swordfish General Commercial permit holders in the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions for the entire 2017 fishing season. This limit resulted in total annual directed swordfish landings of approximately 901.0 mt dw, or 29.9 percent of the 3,009.4 mt dw annual adjusted directed quota for 2017. With a six fish retention limit in effect during the first semi-annual directed quota period in 2018, total directed swordfish landings through April 30, 2018, are approximately 209.6 mt dw, or 15.9 percent of the 1,318.8 mt dw semiannual baseline directed swordfish quota. Among the regulatory criteria for inseason adjustments to retention limits, and given the rebuilt status of the stock and availability of quota, is the requirement that NMFS consider the ‘‘effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the fishery management plan and its amendments.’’ See § 635.24(b)(4)(iv)(D). One consideration in deciding whether to increase the retention limit, in this case, is the objective of providing opportunities to harvest the full North Atlantic directed swordfish quota without exceeding it based upon the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP goal to, consistent with other objectives of this FMP, ‘‘manage Atlantic HMS fisheries for continuing optimum yield so as to provide the greatest overall benefit to the Nation, particularly with respect to food production, providing recreational opportunities, preserving traditional fisheries, and taking into account the protection of marine ecosystems’’. This action will help preserve a traditional swordfish handgear fishery (rod and reel, handline, harpoon, bandit gear, and greenstick). Although this action does not specifically provide recreational fishing opportunities, it will have a minimal impact on the recreational sector because recreational landings are counted against a separate incidental swordfish quota. NMFS has examined dealer reports and landing trends and determined that the information obtained from biological sampling and monitoring of the North Atlantic swordfish stock is useful. See § 635.24(b)(4)(iv)(A). Regarding the estimated ability of vessels participating in the fishery to land the amount of swordfish quota available before the end of the fishing year, § 635.24(b)(4)(iv)(B), NMFS reviewed accurate and timely electronic dealer landings data, which indicates that sufficient directed swordfish quota will be available for the July through December 2018 semi- E:\FR\FM\02JYR1.SGM 02JYR1 daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with RULES 30886 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 127 / Monday, July 2, 2018 / Rules and Regulations annual quota period if recent swordfish landing trends continue. The directed swordfish quota has not been harvested for several years and, based upon current landing trends, is not likely to be harvested or exceeded in 2018. Based upon recent landings rates from dealer reports, an increase in the vessel retention limits to six fish for Swordfish General Commercial permit holders in three regions is not likely to cause quotas for other categories of the fishery to be exceeded. See § 635.24(b)(4)(iv)(C). Similarly, regarding the criteria about the effects of catch rates in one region precluding vessels in another region from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the overall swordfish quota, § 635.24(b)(4)(iv)(F), we expect there to be sufficient swordfish quota for the entirety of the 2018 fishing year, and thus increased catch rates in these three regions as a result of this action would not be expected to preclude vessels in the other region (e.g., the buoy gear fishery in the Florida SWO Management Area) from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the overall swordfish quota. In making adjustments to the retention limits NMFS must also consider variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migration patterns of swordfish, and the availability of swordfish on the fishing grounds. See § 635.24(b)(4)(iv)(G). With regard to swordfish abundance, the 2017 report by ICCAT’s Standing Committee on Research and Statistics indicated that the North Atlantic swordfish stock is not overfished (B2015/Bmsy = 1.04), and overfishing is not occurring (F2015/Fmsy = 0.78). Increasing retention limits for the General Commercial directed fishery is not expected to affect the swordfish stock status determination because any additional landings would be within the ICCAT-recommended U.S. North Atlantic swordfish quota allocation, which is consistent with conservation and management measures to prevent overfishing on the stock. Increasing opportunities by increasing retention limits from the default levels beginning on July 1, 2018, is also important because of the migratory nature and seasonal distribution of swordfish. In a particular geographic region, or waters accessible from a particular port, the amount of fishing opportunity for swordfish may be constrained by the short amount of time the swordfish are present as they migrate. Finally, another consideration, consistent with the FMP and its amendments, is to continue to provide protection to important swordfish juvenile areas and migratory corridors. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:46 Jun 29, 2018 Jkt 244001 Therefore, NMFS has determined that the retention limit for the SWO General Commercial permit will remain at zero swordfish per vessel per trip in the Florida SWO Management Area at this time. As discussed above, NMFS considered consistency with the 2006 HMS FMP and its amendments, and the importance for NMFS to continue to provide protection to important swordfish juvenile areas and migratory corridors. As described in Amendment 8 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (78 FR 52012), the area off the southeastern coast of Florida, particularly the Florida Straits, contains oceanographic features that make the area biologically unique. It provides important juvenile swordfish habitat, and is essentially a narrow migratory corridor containing high concentrations of swordfish located in close proximity to high concentrations of people who may fish for them. Public comment on Amendment 8, including from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, indicated concern about the resultant high potential for the improper rapid growth of a commercial fishery, increased catches of undersized swordfish, the potential for larger numbers of fishermen in the area, and the potential for crowding of fishermen, which could lead to gear and user conflicts. These concerns remain valid. NMFS will continue to collect information to evaluate the appropriateness of the retention limit in the Florida SWO Management Area and other regional retention limits. This action therefore maintains a zero-fish retention limit in the Florida Swordfish Management Area. The directed swordfish quota has not been harvested for several years and, based upon current landing trends, is not likely to be harvested or exceeded during 2018. This information indicates that sufficient directed swordfish quota should be available from July 1 through December 31, 2018, at the higher retention levels, within the limits of the scientifically-supported TAC and consistent with the goals of the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP as amended, ATCA, and the MagnusonStevens Act, and are not expected to negatively impact stock health. Monitoring and Reporting NMFS will continue to monitor the swordfish fishery closely during 2018 through mandatory landings and catch reports. Dealers are required to submit landing reports and negative reports (if no swordfish were purchased) on a weekly basis. Depending upon the level of fishing effort and catch rates of swordfish, PO 00000 Frm 00056 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 NMFS may determine that additional retention limit adjustments or closures are necessary to ensure that the available quota is not exceeded or to enhance fishing opportunities. Subsequent actions, if any, will be published in the Federal Register. In addition, fishermen may access https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/atlantic-highlymigratory-species/2018-atlanticswordfish-landings-updates for updates on quota monitoring. 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 Atlantic HMS FMP, as amended, provide for inseason retention limit adjustments to respond to changes in swordfish landings, the availability of swordfish on the fishing grounds, the migratory nature of this species, and regional variations in the fishery. Based on available swordfish quota, stock abundance, fishery performance in recent years, and the availability of swordfish on the fishing grounds, among other considerations, adjustment to the SWO General Commercial permit retention limits from the default levels of two or three fish to six SWO per vessel per trip as discussed above is warranted, while maintaining the default limit of zerofish retention in the Florida SWO Management Area. Analysis of available data shows that adjustment to the swordfish retention limit from the default levels would result in minimal risk of exceeding the ICCAT-allocated quota. NMFS provides notification of retention limit adjustments by publishing the notice in the Federal Register, emailing individuals who have subscribed to the Atlantic HMS News electronic newsletter, and updating the information posted on the ‘‘News and Announcements’’ website at https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/news-andannouncements (filter by ‘‘Atlantic Highly Migratory Species’’ under ‘‘Topic’’). Delays in temporarily increasing these retention limits caused by the time required to publish a proposed rule and accept public comment would adversely and unnecessarily affect those SWO General Commercial permit holders and HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders with a commercial endorsement that would otherwise have an opportunity to harvest more than the otherwise applicable lower default retention limits E:\FR\FM\02JYR1.SGM 02JYR1 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 127 / Monday, July 2, 2018 / Rules and Regulations of three swordfish per vessel per trip in the Northwest Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions, and two swordfish per vessel per trip in the U.S. Caribbean region. Limiting opportunities to harvest available directed swordfish quota may have negative social and economic impacts for U.S. fishermen. Adjustment of the retention limits needs to be effective on July 1, 2018, to allow SWO General Commercial permit holders and HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders with a commercial endorsement to benefit from the adjustment during the relevant time period, which could pass by for some fishermen, particularly in the Northwest Atlantic region who have access to the fishery during a short time period because of seasonal fish migration, if the action is delayed for notice and public comment. Furthermore, the public was given an opportunity to comment on the underlying rulemakings, including the adoption of the North Atlantic swordfish U.S. quota, and the retention limit adjustments in this action would not have any additional effects or impacts since the retention limit does not affect the overall quota. Thus, there would be little opportunity for meaningful input and review with public comment on this action. 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 all of the above reasons, there is also good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d) to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness. This action is being taken under 50 CFR 635.24(b)(4) and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq. and 1801 et seq. Dated: June 26, 2018. Margo B. Schulze-Haugen, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2018–14116 Filed 6–27–18; 11:15 am] daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with RULES BILLING CODE 3510–22–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:46 Jun 29, 2018 Jkt 244001 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 151211999–6343–02] RIN 0648–XG318 Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast Multispecies Fishery; Gulf of Maine Haddock Trimester Total Allowable Catch Area Closure for the Common Pool Fishery National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Temporary rule; area closure. AGENCY: This action closes the Gulf of Maine Haddock Trimester Total Allowable Catch Area to Northeast multispecies common pool vessels fishing with trawl gear, sink gillnet gear, and longline/hook gear. The closure is required because the common pool fishery is projected to have caught over 90 percent of its Trimester 1 quota for Gulf of Maine haddock. This closure is intended to prevent an overage of the common pool’s quota for this stock. DATES: This action is effective June 29, 2018, through August 31, 2018. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Spencer Talmage, Fishery Management Specialist, (978) 281–9232. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Federal regulations at § 648.82(n)(2)(ii) require the Regional Administrator to close a common pool Trimester Total Allowable Catch (TAC) Area for a stock when 90 percent of the Trimester TAC is projected to be caught. The closure applies to all common pool vessels fishing with gear capable of catching that stock, and remains in effect for the remainder of the trimester. During the closure, common pool vessels fishing with trawl gear, sink gillnet gear, and longline/hook gear may not fish for, harvest, possess, or land regulated multispecies or ocean pout in or from the Trimester TAC Area for the stock. The Trimester 1 TAC for Gulf of Maine (GOM) haddock is 26.3 mt (57,982 lb). Based on catch data through June 17, 2018, the common pool fishery is projected to have caught 29.4 mt (64,792 lb) of GOM haddock, or 112 percent of the Trimester 1 TAC. Effective June 29, 2018, the GOM Haddock Trimester TAC Area is closed for the remainder of Trimester 1, through August 31, 2018. The GOM Haddock Trimester TAC Area consists of statistical areas 513, 514, and 515. SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00057 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 30887 During the closure, common pool vessels fishing with trawl gear, sink gillnet gear, and longline/hook gear may not fish for, harvest, possess, or land regulated multispecies or ocean pout in or from this area. The area reopens at the beginning of Trimester 2 on September 1, 2018. If a vessel declared its trip through the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) or the interactive voice response system, and crossed the VMS demarcation line prior to June 29, 2018, it may complete its trip within the GOM Haddock Trimester TAC Area. A vessel that has set its sink gillnet gear prior to June 29, 2018, may complete its trip by hauling such gear. If the common pool fishery exceeds its total quota for a stock in the 2018 fishing year, the overage must be deducted from the common pool’s quota for that stock for fishing year 2019. Weekly quota monitoring reports for the common pool fishery are on our website at: https://www.greateratlantic. fisheries.noaa.gov/ro/fso/ MultiMonReports.htm. We will continue to monitor common pool catch through vessel trip reports, dealer-reported landings, VMS catch reports, and other available information and, if necessary, will make additional adjustments to common pool management measures. Classification This action is required by 50 CFR part 648 and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, finds good cause pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) and 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3) to waive prior notice and the opportunity for public comment and the 30-day delayed effectiveness period because it would be impracticable and contrary to the public interest. The regulations require the Regional Administrator to close a trimester TAC area to the common pool fishery when 90 percent of the Trimester TAC for a stock has been caught. Updated catch information through June 17, 2018, only recently became available indicating that the common pool fishery is projected to have caught 112 percent of its Trimester 1 TAC for GOM haddock. The time necessary to provide for prior notice and comment, and a 30-day delay in effectiveness, would prevent the immediate closure of the GOM Haddock Trimester TAC Area. This would be contrary to the regulatory requirement and would increase the magnitude of the Trimester 1 closure and the likelihood that the common pool fishery would exceed its annual quota of GOM haddock. Any overage of the Trimester 1 or Trimester 2 TACs are deducted from the Trimester 3 TAC, and any E:\FR\FM\02JYR1.SGM 02JYR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 83, Number 127 (Monday, July 2, 2018)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 30884-30887]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2018-14116]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

[Docket No. 120627194-3657-02]
RIN 0648-XG167


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; North Atlantic Swordfish 
Fishery

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

ACTION: Temporary rule.

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SUMMARY: NMFS is adjusting the Swordfish (SWO) General Commercial 
permit retention limits for the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and 
U.S. Caribbean regions for July through December of the 2018 fishing 
year, unless otherwise later noticed. The SWO General Commercial permit 
retention limit in each of these regions is increased from the 
regulatory default limits (either two or three fish) to six swordfish 
per vessel per trip. The SWO General Commercial permit retention limit 
in the Florida SWO Management Area will remain unchanged at the default 
limit of zero swordfish per vessel per trip, as discussed in more 
detail below. These adjustments apply to SWO General Commercial 
permitted vessels and to Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Charter/
Headboat permitted vessels with a commercial endorsement when on a non-
for-hire trip. This action is based upon consideration of the 
applicable inseason regional retention limit adjustment criteria.

DATES: The adjusted SWO General Commercial permit retention limits in 
the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions are 
effective from July 1, 2018, through December 31, 2018.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Rick Pearson or Randy Blankinship, 
727-824-5399.

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 North 
Atlantic swordfish by persons and vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction 
are found at 50 CFR part 635. Section 635.27 subdivides the U.S. North 
Atlantic swordfish quota recommended by the International Commission 
for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and implemented by the 
United States into two equal semi-annual directed fishery quotas--an 
annual incidental catch quota for fishermen targeting other species or 
catching swordfish recreationally, and a reserve category, according to 
the allocations established in the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly 
Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan (2006 Consolidated Atlantic 
HMS FMP) (71 FR 58058, October 2, 2006), as amended, and in accordance 
with implementing regulations. 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.
    In 2017, ICCAT Recommendation 17-02 specified that the overall 
North Atlantic swordfish total allowable catch (TAC) be set at 9,925 
metric tons (mt) dressed weight (dw) (13,200 mt whole weight (ww)) 
through 2021. Consistent with scientific advice, this was a reduction 
of 500 mt ww (375.9 mt dw) from previous ICCAT-recommended TACs. 
However, of this TAC, the United States' baseline quota remained at 
2,937.6 mt dw (3,907 mt ww) per year. The Recommendation (17-02) also 
continued to limit underharvest

[[Page 30885]]

carryover to 15 percent of a contracting party's baseline quota. Thus, 
the United States may carry over a maximum of 440.6 mt dw (586.0 mt ww) 
of underharvest. Absent adjustments, the codified baseline quota is 
2,937.6 mt dw for 2018. At this time, given the extent of underharvest 
in 2017, NMFS anticipates carrying over the maximum allowable 15 
percent (440.6 mt dw), which would result in a final adjusted North 
Atlantic swordfish quota for the 2018 fishing year equal to 3,378.2 mt 
dw (2,937.6 + 440.6 = 3,378.2 mt dw). As in past years we anticipate 
allocating 50 mt dw from the adjusted quota to the Reserve category for 
inseason adjustments/research and allocating 300 mt dw to the 
Incidental category, which includes recreational landings and landings 
by incidental swordfish permit holders, consistent with Sec.  
635.27(c)(1)(i)(D) and (B). This would result in an adjusted quota of 
3,028.2 mt dw for the directed fishery, which would be split equally 
(1,514.1 mt dw) between the two semi-annual periods in 2018 (January 
through June, and July through December). Landings attributable to the 
Swordfish General Commercial permit will count against the applicable 
semi-annual directed fishery quota.

Adjustment of SWO General Commercial Permit Vessel Retention Limits

    The 2018 North Atlantic swordfish fishing year, which is managed on 
a calendar-year basis and divided into two equal semi-annual quotas for 
the directed fishery, began on January 1, 2018. Landings attributable 
to the SWO General Commercial permit are counted against the applicable 
semi-annual directed fishery quota. Regional default retention limits 
for this permit have been established and are automatically effective 
from January 1 through December 31 each year, unless changed based on 
the inseason regional retention limit adjustment criteria at Sec.  
635.24(b)(4)(iv). The default retention limits established for the SWO 
General Commercial permit are: (1) Northwest Atlantic region--three 
swordfish per vessel per trip; (2) Gulf of Mexico region--three 
swordfish per vessel per trip; (3) U.S. Caribbean region--two swordfish 
per vessel per trip; and, (4) Florida SWO Management Area--zero 
swordfish per vessel per trip. The default retention limits apply to 
SWO General Commercial permitted vessels and to HMS Charter/Headboat 
permitted vessels with a commercial endorsement when fishing on non 
for-hire trips. As a condition of these permits, vessels may not 
possess, retain, or land any more swordfish than is specified for the 
region in which the vessel is located.
    Under Sec.  635.24(b)(4)(iii), NMFS may increase or decrease the 
SWO General Commercial permit vessel retention limit in any region 
within a range from zero to a maximum of six swordfish per vessel per 
trip. Any adjustments to the retention limits must be based upon a 
consideration of the relevant criteria provided in Sec.  
635.24(b)(4)(iv), which include: (A) The usefulness of information 
obtained from biological sampling and monitoring of the North Atlantic 
swordfish stock; (B) the estimated ability of vessels participating in 
the fishery to land the amount of swordfish quota available before the 
end of the fishing year; (C) the estimated amounts by which quotas for 
other categories of the fishery might be exceeded; (D) effects of the 
adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the fishery management 
plan and its amendments; (E) variations in seasonal distribution, 
abundance, or migration patterns of swordfish; (F) effects of catch 
rates in one region precluding vessels in another region from having a 
reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the overall swordfish 
quota; and, (G) review of dealer reports, landing trends, and the 
availability of swordfish on the fishing grounds.
    NMFS has considered these criteria as discussed below and their 
applicability to the SWO General Commercial permit retention limit in 
all regions for July through December of the 2018 North Atlantic 
swordfish fishing year. We have determined that the SWO General 
Commercial permit retention limits in the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of 
Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions applicable to persons issued a SWO 
General Commercial permit or HMS Charter/Headboat permit with a 
commercial endorsement (when on a non for-hire trip) should be 
increased from the default levels that would otherwise automatically 
become effective on July 1, 2018, to six swordfish per vessel per trip 
from July 1 through December 31, 2018, unless otherwise later noticed. 
These are the same limits that were made effective through an inseason 
adjustment for the period January 1 through June 30, 2018 (82 FR 
58761). Given the rebuilt status of the stock and the availability of 
quota, increasing the Swordfish General Commercial permit retention 
limits in three regions to six fish per vessel per trip will increase 
the likelihood that directed swordfish landings will approach, but not 
exceed, the available annual swordfish quota, and increase the 
opportunity for catching swordfish during the 2018 fishing year.
    Last year, a six swordfish per vessel trip limit was in effect for 
Swordfish General Commercial permit holders in the Northwest Atlantic, 
Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions for the entire 2017 fishing 
season. This limit resulted in total annual directed swordfish landings 
of approximately 901.0 mt dw, or 29.9 percent of the 3,009.4 mt dw 
annual adjusted directed quota for 2017. With a six fish retention 
limit in effect during the first semi-annual directed quota period in 
2018, total directed swordfish landings through April 30, 2018, are 
approximately 209.6 mt dw, or 15.9 percent of the 1,318.8 mt dw semi-
annual baseline directed swordfish quota.
    Among the regulatory criteria for inseason adjustments to retention 
limits, and given the rebuilt status of the stock and availability of 
quota, is the requirement that NMFS consider the ``effects of the 
adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the fishery management 
plan and its amendments.'' See Sec.  635.24(b)(4)(iv)(D). One 
consideration in deciding whether to increase the retention limit, in 
this case, is the objective of providing opportunities to harvest the 
full North Atlantic directed swordfish quota without exceeding it based 
upon the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP goal to, consistent with 
other objectives of this FMP, ``manage Atlantic HMS fisheries for 
continuing optimum yield so as to provide the greatest overall benefit 
to the Nation, particularly with respect to food production, providing 
recreational opportunities, preserving traditional fisheries, and 
taking into account the protection of marine ecosystems''. This action 
will help preserve a traditional swordfish handgear fishery (rod and 
reel, handline, harpoon, bandit gear, and greenstick). Although this 
action does not specifically provide recreational fishing 
opportunities, it will have a minimal impact on the recreational sector 
because recreational landings are counted against a separate incidental 
swordfish quota.
    NMFS has examined dealer reports and landing trends and determined 
that the information obtained from biological sampling and monitoring 
of the North Atlantic swordfish stock is useful. See Sec.  
635.24(b)(4)(iv)(A). Regarding the estimated ability of vessels 
participating in the fishery to land the amount of swordfish quota 
available before the end of the fishing year, Sec.  
635.24(b)(4)(iv)(B), NMFS reviewed accurate and timely electronic 
dealer landings data, which indicates that sufficient directed 
swordfish quota will be available for the July through December 2018 
semi-

[[Page 30886]]

annual quota period if recent swordfish landing trends continue. The 
directed swordfish quota has not been harvested for several years and, 
based upon current landing trends, is not likely to be harvested or 
exceeded in 2018. Based upon recent landings rates from dealer reports, 
an increase in the vessel retention limits to six fish for Swordfish 
General Commercial permit holders in three regions is not likely to 
cause quotas for other categories of the fishery to be exceeded. See 
Sec.  635.24(b)(4)(iv)(C). Similarly, regarding the criteria about the 
effects of catch rates in one region precluding vessels in another 
region from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the 
overall swordfish quota, Sec.  635.24(b)(4)(iv)(F), we expect there to 
be sufficient swordfish quota for the entirety of the 2018 fishing 
year, and thus increased catch rates in these three regions as a result 
of this action would not be expected to preclude vessels in the other 
region (e.g., the buoy gear fishery in the Florida SWO Management Area) 
from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the 
overall swordfish quota.
    In making adjustments to the retention limits NMFS must also 
consider variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migration 
patterns of swordfish, and the availability of swordfish on the fishing 
grounds. See Sec.  635.24(b)(4)(iv)(G). With regard to swordfish 
abundance, the 2017 report by ICCAT's Standing Committee on Research 
and Statistics indicated that the North Atlantic swordfish stock is not 
overfished (B2015/Bmsy = 1.04), and overfishing 
is not occurring (F2015/Fmsy = 0.78). Increasing 
retention limits for the General Commercial directed fishery is not 
expected to affect the swordfish stock status determination because any 
additional landings would be within the ICCAT-recommended U.S. North 
Atlantic swordfish quota allocation, which is consistent with 
conservation and management measures to prevent overfishing on the 
stock. Increasing opportunities by increasing retention limits from the 
default levels beginning on July 1, 2018, is also important because of 
the migratory nature and seasonal distribution of swordfish. In a 
particular geographic region, or waters accessible from a particular 
port, the amount of fishing opportunity for swordfish may be 
constrained by the short amount of time the swordfish are present as 
they migrate.
    Finally, another consideration, consistent with the FMP and its 
amendments, is to continue to provide protection to important swordfish 
juvenile areas and migratory corridors. Therefore, NMFS has determined 
that the retention limit for the SWO General Commercial permit will 
remain at zero swordfish per vessel per trip in the Florida SWO 
Management Area at this time. As discussed above, NMFS considered 
consistency with the 2006 HMS FMP and its amendments, and the 
importance for NMFS to continue to provide protection to important 
swordfish juvenile areas and migratory corridors. As described in 
Amendment 8 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (78 FR 52012), 
the area off the southeastern coast of Florida, particularly the 
Florida Straits, contains oceanographic features that make the area 
biologically unique. It provides important juvenile swordfish habitat, 
and is essentially a narrow migratory corridor containing high 
concentrations of swordfish located in close proximity to high 
concentrations of people who may fish for them. Public comment on 
Amendment 8, including from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation 
Commission, indicated concern about the resultant high potential for 
the improper rapid growth of a commercial fishery, increased catches of 
undersized swordfish, the potential for larger numbers of fishermen in 
the area, and the potential for crowding of fishermen, which could lead 
to gear and user conflicts. These concerns remain valid. NMFS will 
continue to collect information to evaluate the appropriateness of the 
retention limit in the Florida SWO Management Area and other regional 
retention limits. This action therefore maintains a zero-fish retention 
limit in the Florida Swordfish Management Area.
    The directed swordfish quota has not been harvested for several 
years and, based upon current landing trends, is not likely to be 
harvested or exceeded during 2018. This information indicates that 
sufficient directed swordfish quota should be available from July 1 
through December 31, 2018, at the higher retention levels, within the 
limits of the scientifically-supported TAC and consistent with the 
goals of the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP as amended, ATCA, and 
the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and are not expected to negatively impact 
stock health.

Monitoring and Reporting

    NMFS will continue to monitor the swordfish fishery closely during 
2018 through mandatory landings and catch reports. Dealers are required 
to submit landing reports and negative reports (if no swordfish were 
purchased) on a weekly basis.
    Depending upon the level of fishing effort and catch rates of 
swordfish, NMFS may determine that additional retention limit 
adjustments or closures are necessary to ensure that the available 
quota is not exceeded or to enhance fishing opportunities. Subsequent 
actions, if any, will be published in the Federal Register. In 
addition, fishermen may access https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/atlantic-highly-migratory-species/2018-atlantic-swordfish-landings-updates for 
updates on quota monitoring.

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 Atlantic HMS 
FMP, as amended, provide for inseason retention limit adjustments to 
respond to changes in swordfish landings, the availability of swordfish 
on the fishing grounds, the migratory nature of this species, and 
regional variations in the fishery. Based on available swordfish quota, 
stock abundance, fishery performance in recent years, and the 
availability of swordfish on the fishing grounds, among other 
considerations, adjustment to the SWO General Commercial permit 
retention limits from the default levels of two or three fish to six 
SWO per vessel per trip as discussed above is warranted, while 
maintaining the default limit of zero-fish retention in the Florida SWO 
Management Area. Analysis of available data shows that adjustment to 
the swordfish retention limit from the default levels would result in 
minimal risk of exceeding the ICCAT-allocated quota.
    NMFS provides notification of retention limit adjustments by 
publishing the notice in the Federal Register, emailing individuals who 
have subscribed to the Atlantic HMS News electronic newsletter, and 
updating the information posted on the ``News and Announcements'' 
website at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/news-and-announcements 
(filter by ``Atlantic Highly Migratory Species'' under ``Topic''). 
Delays in temporarily increasing these retention limits caused by the 
time required to publish a proposed rule and accept public comment 
would adversely and unnecessarily affect those SWO General Commercial 
permit holders and HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders with a 
commercial endorsement that would otherwise have an opportunity to 
harvest more than the otherwise applicable lower default retention 
limits

[[Page 30887]]

of three swordfish per vessel per trip in the Northwest Atlantic and 
Gulf of Mexico regions, and two swordfish per vessel per trip in the 
U.S. Caribbean region. Limiting opportunities to harvest available 
directed swordfish quota may have negative social and economic impacts 
for U.S. fishermen. Adjustment of the retention limits needs to be 
effective on July 1, 2018, to allow SWO General Commercial permit 
holders and HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders with a commercial 
endorsement to benefit from the adjustment during the relevant time 
period, which could pass by for some fishermen, particularly in the 
Northwest Atlantic region who have access to the fishery during a short 
time period because of seasonal fish migration, if the action is 
delayed for notice and public comment. Furthermore, the public was 
given an opportunity to comment on the underlying rulemakings, 
including the adoption of the North Atlantic swordfish U.S. quota, and 
the retention limit adjustments in this action would not have any 
additional effects or impacts since the retention limit does not affect 
the overall quota. Thus, there would be little opportunity for 
meaningful input and review with public comment on this action. 
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 all of the 
above reasons, there is also good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d) to waive 
the 30-day delay in effectiveness.
    This action is being taken under 50 CFR 635.24(b)(4) and is exempt 
from review under Executive Order 12866.

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

    Dated: June 26, 2018.
Margo B. Schulze-Haugen,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2018-14116 Filed 6-27-18; 11:15 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P