Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; 2019 Atlantic Shark Commercial Fishing Year, 45866-45874 [2018-19594]

Download as PDF 45866 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 176 / Tuesday, September 11, 2018 / Proposed Rules We plan to hold a public meeting to receive oral comments on this notice of inquiry and will announce the date, time, and location in a separate document published in the Federal Register. If you signed up for docket email alerts mentioned in the paragraph above, you will receive an email notice when the public meeting notice is published and placed in the docket. Dated: September 4, 2018. N.C. Witt, Commander, U.S. Coast Guard, Captain of the Port Savannah. [FR Doc. 2018–19661 Filed 9–10–18; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 9110–04–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 635 [Docket No. 180517486–8772–01] RIN 0648–XG263 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; 2019 Atlantic Shark Commercial Fishing Year National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: This proposed rule would establish quotas, opening dates, and retention limits for the 2019 fishing year for the Atlantic commercial shark fisheries. Quotas would be adjusted as required or allowable based on any over- and/or underharvests experienced during the 2018 fishing year. In addition, NMFS proposes opening dates and commercial retention limits based on adaptive management measures to provide, to the extent practicable, fishing opportunities for commercial shark fishermen in all regions and areas. The proposed measures could affect fishing opportunities for commercial shark fishermen in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. DATES: Written comments must be received by October 11, 2018. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA– NMFS–2018–0097, by any of the following methods: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail; daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with PROPOSALS SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:36 Sep 10, 2018 Jkt 244001 D=NOAA-NMFS-2018-0097, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Submit written comments to Brad McHale, NMFS/SF1, 1315 EastWest Highway, National Marine Fisheries Service, SSMC3, Silver Spring, MD 20910. Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/ A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Copies of this proposed rule and supporting documents are available from the HMS Management Division website at https://www.fisheries.noaa. gov/topic/atlantic-highly-migratoryspecies or by contacting Lauren Latchford or Chante´ Davis by phone at (301) 427–8503. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Karyl Brewster-Geisz, Lauren Latchford, or Chante´ Davis at (301) 427–8503. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background The Atlantic commercial shark fisheries are managed under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). The 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and its amendments are implemented by regulations at 50 CFR part 635. For the Atlantic commercial shark fisheries, the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments established commercial shark retention limits, commercial quotas for species and management groups, and accounting measures for under- and overharvests for the shark fisheries. The FMP also includes adaptive management measures, such as flexible opening dates for the fishing year and inseason adjustments to shark trip limits, which provide management flexibility in furtherance of equitable fishing opportunities, to the extent practicable, for commercial shark fishermen in all regions and areas. PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 2019 Proposed Quotas This proposed rule would adjust the quota levels for the different shark stocks and management groups for the 2019 Atlantic commercial shark fishing year based on over- and underharvests that occurred during the 2018 fishing year, consistent with existing regulations at 50 CFR 635.27(b). Overand underharvests are accounted for in the same region, sub-region, and/or fishery in which they occurred the following year, except that large overharvests may be spread over a number of subsequent fishing years up to a maximum of five years. Shark stocks that are overfished, have overfishing occurring, or have an unknown status, as well as management groups that contain one or more stocks that are overfished, have overfishing occurring, or have an unknown stock status, will not have underharvest carried over in the following year. Stocks or management groups that are not overfished and have no overfishing occurring may have any underharvest carried over in the following year, up to 50 percent of the base quota. Based on harvests to date, and after considering catch rates and landings from previous years, NMFS proposes to adjust the 2019 quotas for some management groups as shown in Table 1. In the final rule, NMFS will adjust the quotas as needed based on dealer reports received by mid-October 2018. Thus, all of the 2019 proposed quotas for the respective stocks and management groups will be subject to further adjustment after NMFS considers the dealer reports through mid-October. All dealer reports that are received after the October date will be used to adjust 2020 quotas, as appropriate. While the sub-quota for the western Gulf of Mexico aggregated large coastal shark (LCS) was exceeded this year, based on current landings in the eastern Gulf of Mexico for that management group and based on catch rates from previous years from the eastern Gulf of Mexico, NMFS does not believe the overall regional Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS quota will be exceeded. Thus, NMFS proposes the base line quotas for the eastern and western Gulf of Mexico sub-regions. If catch rates in the eastern Gulf of Mexico increase, it is possible that in the final rule NMFS would need to reduce the western Gulf of Mexico sub-regional aggregated LCS quota to account for that sub-region’s overharvest. Because the Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group and smoothhound shark management groups E:\FR\FM\11SEP1.SGM 11SEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 176 / Tuesday, September 11, 2018 / Proposed Rules in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic regions have been determined not to be overfished, and to have no overfishing occurring, available underharvest (up to 50 percent of the base quota) from the 2018 fishing year for these management groups may be applied to the respective 2019 quotas. NMFS proposes to account for any underharvest of Gulf of Mexico blacktip sharks by dividing underharvest between the eastern and western Gulf of Mexico sub-regional quotas based on the sub-regional quota split percentage implemented in Amendment 6 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Fishery Management Plan (FMP). For the sandbar shark, aggregated large coastal shark (LCS), hammerhead shark, non-blacknose small coastal shark (SCS), blacknose shark, blue shark, porbeagle shark, and pelagic shark (other than porbeagle or blue sharks) management groups, the 2018 underharvests cannot be carried over to the 2019 fishing year because those stocks or management groups have been determined to be overfished, overfished with overfishing occurring, or have an 45867 unknown status. Furthermore, with the exception of the sub-regional western Gulf of Mexico overharvest of the aggregated LCS quota described above, there were no overharvests to account for in these management groups. Thus, NMFS proposes that quotas for these management groups be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment. The proposed 2019 quotas by species and management group are summarized in Table 1; the description of the calculations for each stock and management group can be found below. TABLE 1—2019 PROPOSED QUOTAS AND OPENING DATES FOR THE ATLANTIC SHARK MANAGEMENT GROUPS [All quotas and landings are dressed weight (dw), in metric tons (mt), unless specified otherwise. Table includes landings data as of July 13, 2018; final quotas are subject to change based on landings as of October 2018. 1 mt = 2,204.6 lb.] Region or sub-region Management group Western Gulf of Mexico. Blacktip Sharks ................................. Aggregated Large Coastal Sharks ... Hammerhead Sharks ........................ Eastern Gulf of Mexico. Blacktip Sharks ................................. Aggregated Large Coastal Sharks ... Hammerhead Sharks ........................ Gulf of Mexico ..... Non-Blacknose Small Coastal Sharks. Smoothhound Sharks ....................... Atlantic ................. Aggregated Large Coastal Sharks ... Hammerhead Sharks ........................ Non-Blacknose Small Coastal Sharks. Blacknose Sharks (South of 34° N lat. only). Smoothhound Sharks ....................... No regional quotas. Non-Sandbar LCS Research ............ Sandbar Shark Research ................. Blue Sharks ....................................... Porbeagle Sharks ............................. Pelagic Sharks Other Porbeagle or Blue sharks. Than 2018 Annual quota Preliminary 2018 landings Adjustments 2 2019 base Annual quota 2019 proposed annual quota (A) (B) 1 (C) (D) (D + C) 347.2 mt dw ......... 765,392 lb dw ....... 72 mt dw .............. 158,724 lb dw ....... 11.9 mt dw ........... 26,301 lb dw ......... 37.7 mt dw ........... 83,158 lb dw ......... 85.5 mt dw ........... 188,593 lb dw ....... 13.4 mt dw ........... 29,421 lb dw ......... 112.6 mt dw ......... 248,215 lb dw ....... 504.6 mt dw ......... 1,112,441 lb dw .... 168.9 mt dw ......... 372,552 lb dw ....... 27.1 mt dw ........... 59,736 lb dw ......... 264.1 mt dw ......... 582,333 lb dw ....... 17.2 mt dw ........... (37,921 lb dw) ...... 1802.6 mt dw ....... 3,971,587 lb dw .... 50.0 mt dw ........... 110,230 lb dw ....... 90.7 mt dw ........... 199,943 lb dw ....... 273.0 mt dw ......... 601,856 lb dw ....... 1.7 mt dw ............. 3,748 lb dw ........... 488.0 mt dw ......... 1,075,856 lb dw .... 330.2 mt dw ......... 727,992 lb dw ....... 92.2 mt dw ........... 203,400 lb dw ....... 11.0 mt dw ........... 24,292 lb dw ......... 16.3 mt dw ........... 35,856 lb dw ......... 37.5 mt dw ........... 82,751 lb dw ......... 6.2 mt dw ............. 13,696 lb dw ......... 27.5 mt dw ........... 60,731 lb dw ......... 0 mt dw ................ 0 lb dw .................. 45.9 mt dw ........... 101,245 lb dw ....... 4.9 mt dw ............. 10,777 lb dw ......... 55.1 mt dw ........... 121,385 lb dw ....... 3.4 mt dw ............. 7,501 lb dw ........... 261.4 mt dw ......... 576,181 lb dw ....... 11.2 mt dw ........... 24,799 lb dw ......... 31.0 mt dw ........... 68,443 lb dw ......... <13.6 mt dw ......... (<30,000 lb dw) .... 0 mt dw ................ 0 lb dw .................. 38.1 mt dw ........... 83,896 lb dw ......... dw 3 34.6 mt ......... 76,401 lb dw ......... ............................... ............................... ............................... ............................... 3.8 mt dw 3 ........... 8,301 lb dw ........... ............................... ............................... ............................... ............................... ............................... ............................... 168.2 mt dw ......... 370,814 lb dw ....... ............................... ............................... ............................... ............................... ............................... ............................... ............................... ............................... 600.85 mt dw ....... 1,324,634 lb dw .... ............................... ............................... ............................... ............................... ............................... ............................... ............................... ............................... ............................... ............................... 231.0 mt dw ......... 510,261 lb dw ....... 72.0 mt dw ........... 158,724 lb dw ....... 11.9 mt dw ........... 26,301 lb dw ......... 25.1 mt dw ........... 55,439 lb dw ......... 85.5 mt dw ........... 188,593 lb dw ....... 13.4 mt dw ........... 29,421 lb dw ......... 112.6 mt dw ......... 248,215 lb dw ....... 336.4 mt dw ......... 741,627 lb dw ....... 168.9 mt dw ......... 372,552 lb dw ....... 27.1 mt dw ........... 59,736 lb dw ......... 264.1 mt dw ......... 582,333 lb dw ....... 17.2 mt dw ........... 37,921 lb dw ......... 1201.7 mt dw ....... 2,649,268 lb dw .... 50.0 mt dw ........... 110,230 lb dw ....... 90.7 mt dw ........... 199,943 lb dw ....... 273.0 mt dw ......... 601,856 lb dw ....... 1.7 mt dw ............. 3,748 lb dw ........... 488.0 mt dw ......... 1,075,856 lb dw .... 265.6 mt dw. 586,662.2 lb dw. 72.0 mt dw. 158,724 lb dw. 11.9 mt dw. 26,301 lb dw. 28.9 mt dw. 63,740 lb dw 85.5 mt dw. 188,593 lb dw. 13.4 mt dw. 29,421 lb dw. 112.6. mt dw. 248,215 lb dw. 504.6 mt dw. 1,112,441 lb dw. 168.9 mt dw. 372,552 lb dw. 27.1 mt dw. 59,736 lb dw. 264.1 mt dw. 582,333 lb dw 17.2 mt dw 3,7921 lb dw. 1802.55 mt dw. 3,973,902 lb dw. 50.0 mt dw. 110,230 lb dw. 90.7 mt dw. 199,943 lb dw. 273.0 mt dw. 601,856 lb dw. 1.7 mt dw. 3,748 lb dw. 488.0 mt dw. 1,075,856 lb dw. 1 Landings are from January 1, 2018, through July 13, 2018, and are subject to change. adjustments can only be applied to stocks or management groups that are not overfished and have no overfishing occurring. Also, the underharvest adjustments cannot exceed 50 percent of the base quota. 3 This proposed rule would increase the overall Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota due to an overall underharvest of 38.4 mt dw (84,702 lb dw) in 2018. The overall quota would be split based on percentages that are allocated to each sub-region, as explained in the text. daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with PROPOSALS 2 Underharvest 1. Proposed 2019 Quotas for the Gulf of Mexico Region Shark Management Groups The 2019 proposed commercial quota for blacktip sharks in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region is 265.6 mt dw (586,662 lb dw) and the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region is 28.9 mt dw (63,740 lb dw; Table 1). As of July 13, 2018, preliminary reported landings for VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:36 Sep 10, 2018 Jkt 244001 blacktip sharks in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 95 percent (330.2 mt dw) of their 2018 quota levels (347.2 mt dw), while the blacktip sharks in the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 43 percent (16.3 mt dw) of their 2018 quota levels (37.7 mt dw). Reported landings have not exceeded the 2018 quota to date, and the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region fishery was PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 closed on March 13, 2018 (83 FR 10802). Gulf of Mexico blacktip sharks have not been declared to be overfished, to have overfishing occurring, or to have an unknown status. Pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii), underharvests for blacktip sharks within the Gulf of Mexico region therefore could be applied to the 2019 quotas up to 50 percent of the base quota. Additionally, E:\FR\FM\11SEP1.SGM 11SEP1 daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with PROPOSALS 45868 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 176 / Tuesday, September 11, 2018 / Proposed Rules any underharvest would be divided between the two sub-regions, based on the percentages that are allocated to each sub-region, which are set forth in § 635.27(b)(1)(ii)(C). To date, the overall Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group is underharvested by 38.4 mt dw (84,702 lb dw). Accordingly, the western Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota would be increased by 34.6 mt dw or 90.2 percent of the underharvest, while the eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark sub-regional quota would be increased by 3.8 mt dw, or 9.8 percent of the underharvest (Table 1). Thus, the proposed western sub-regional Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark commercial quota is 265.6 mt dw (586,662 lb dw), and the proposed eastern sub-regional Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark commercial quota is 28.9 mt dw (63,740 lb dw). The 2019 proposed commercial quota for aggregated LCS in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region is 72.0 mt dw (158,724 lb dw), and the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region is 85.5 mt dw (188,593 lb dw; Table 1). As of July 13, 2018, preliminary reported landings for aggregated LCS in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 128 percent (92.2 mt dw) of their 2018 quota levels (72.0 mt dw), while the aggregated LCS in the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 44 percent (37.5 mt dw) of their 2018 quota levels (85.5 mt dw). Reported landings have not exceeded the overall Gulf of Mexico regional 2018 quota to date, and the western aggregated LCS sub-region fishery was closed on March 13, 2018 (83 FR 10802). Given the unknown status of some of the shark species within the Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS management group, underharvests cannot be carried over pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on both preliminary estimates and catch rates from previous years, and consistent with the current regulations at § 635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2019 quotas for aggregated LCS in the western Gulf of Mexico and eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-regions be equal to their annual base quotas without adjustment, because the overall regional quota has not been overharvested and because underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status. The 2019 proposed commercial quotas for hammerhead sharks in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region and eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region are 11.9 mt dw (26,301 lb dw) and 13.4 mt dw (29,421 lb dw), respectively (Table 1). As of July 13, 2018, preliminary reported landings for hammerhead sharks in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 92 percent (11.0 mt VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:36 Sep 10, 2018 Jkt 244001 dw) of their 2018 quota levels (11.9 mt dw), while landings of hammerhead sharks in the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 47 percent (6.2 mt dw) of their 2018 quota levels (13.4 mt dw). Reported landings from both Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic regions have not exceeded the 2018 overall hammerhead quota to date, and the western hammerhead shark Gulf of Mexico subregion fishery was closed on March 13, 2018 (83 FR 10802). Given the overfished status of the scalloped hammerhead shark, the hammerhead shark quota cannot be adjusted for any underharvests. Therefore, based on both preliminary estimates and catch rates from previous years, the fact that the 2018 overall hammerhead shark quota has not been overharvested to date, and consistent with the current regulations at § 635.27(b)(2)(ii), NMFS proposes that the 2019 quotas for hammerhead sharks in the western Gulf of Mexico and eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-regions be equal to their annual base quotas without adjustment. The 2019 proposed commercial quota for non-blacknose SCS in the Gulf of Mexico region is 112.6 mt dw (248,215 lb dw). As of July 13, 2018, preliminary reported landings of non-blacknose SCS were at 24 percent (27.5 mt dw) of their 2018 quota level (112.6 mt dw) in the Gulf of Mexico region. Reported landings have not exceeded the 2018 quota to date. Given the unknown status of bonnethead sharks within the Gulf of Mexico non-blacknose SCS management group, underharvests cannot be carried forward pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on both preliminary estimates and catch rates from previous years, and consistent with the current regulations at § 635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2019 quota for nonblacknose SCS in the Gulf of Mexico region be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment, because there have not been any overharvests and because underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status. The 2019 proposed commercial quota for smoothhound sharks in the Gulf of Mexico region is 504.6 mt dw (1,112,441 lb dw). As of July 13, 2018, there are no preliminary reported landings of smoothhound sharks in the Gulf of Mexico region. Gulf of Mexico smoothhound sharks have not been declared to be overfished, to have overfishing occurring, or to have an unknown status. Pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii), underharvests for smoothhound sharks within the Gulf of Mexico region therefore could be applied to the 2019 quotas up to 50 percent of the base quota. Accordingly, NMFS proposes to increase the 2019 PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Gulf of Mexico smoothhound shark quota to adjust for anticipated underharvests in 2018 as allowed. The proposed 2019 adjusted base annual quota for Gulf of Mexico smoothhound sharks is 504.6 mt dw (336.4 mt dw annual base quota + 168.2 mt dw 2018 underharvest = 504.6 mt dw 2019 adjusted annual quota). 2. Proposed 2019 Quotas for the Atlantic Region Shark Management Groups The 2019 proposed commercial quota for aggregated LCS in the Atlantic region is 168.9 mt dw (372,552 lb dw). As of July 13, 2018, the aggregated LCS fishery in the Atlantic region is still open and preliminary landings indicate that only 27 percent of the quota, or 45.9 mt dw, has been harvested. Given the unknown status of some of the shark species within the Atlantic aggregated LCS management group, underharvests cannot be carried over pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on both preliminary estimates and catch rates from previous years, and consistent with current regulations at § 635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2018 quota for aggregated LCS in the Atlantic region be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment, because there have not been any overharvests and underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status. The 2019 proposed commercial quota for hammerhead sharks in the Atlantic region is 27.1 mt dw (59,736 lb dw). Currently, the hammerhead shark fishery in the Atlantic region is still open and preliminary landings as of July 13, 2018, indicate that only 18 percent of the Atlantic regional quota, or 4.9 mt dw, has been harvested. Reported landings from both Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic regions have not exceeded the 2018 overall hammerhead quota to date. Given the overfished status of hammerhead sharks, underharvests cannot be carried forward pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on both preliminary estimates and catch rates from previous years, and consistent with the current regulations at § 635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2019 quota for hammerhead sharks in the Atlantic region be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment, because the overall hammerhead shark quota has not been overharvested, and because underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status. The 2019 proposed commercial quota for non-blacknose SCS in the Atlantic region is 264.1 mt dw (582,333 lb dw). As of July 13, 2018, preliminary reported landings of non-blacknose SCS were at 21 percent (55.1 mt dw) of their E:\FR\FM\11SEP1.SGM 11SEP1 daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 176 / Tuesday, September 11, 2018 / Proposed Rules 2018 quota level in the Atlantic region. Reported landings have not exceeded the 2018 quota to date. Given the unknown status of bonnethead sharks within the Atlantic non-blacknose SCS management group, underharvests cannot be carried forward pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on preliminary estimates of catch rates from previous years, and consistent with the current regulations at § 635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2019 quota for non-blacknose SCS in the Atlantic region be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment, because there have not been any overharvests, and because underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status. The 2019 proposed commercial quota for blacknose sharks in the Atlantic region is 17.2 mt dw (37,921 lb dw). This quota is available in the Atlantic region only for those vessels operating south of 34° N. latitude. North of 34° N. latitude, retention, landing, or sale of blacknose sharks is prohibited. As of July 13, 2018, preliminary reported landings of blacknose sharks were at 20 percent (3.4 mt dw) of their 2018 quota levels in the Atlantic region. Reported landings have not exceeded the 2018 quota to date. Pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2), because blacknose sharks have been declared to be overfished with overfishing occurring in the Atlantic region, NMFS could not carry forward the remaining underharvest. Therefore, NMFS proposes that the 2019 Atlantic blacknose shark quota be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment. The 2019 proposed commercial quota for smoothhound sharks in the Atlantic region is 1,802.6 mt dw (3,973,902 lb dw). As of July 13, 2018, preliminary reported landings of smoothhound sharks were at 14 percent (261.4 mt dw) of their 2018 quota levels in the Atlantic region. Atlantic smoothhound sharks have not been declared to be overfished, to have overfishing occurring, or to have an unknown status. Pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii), underharvests for smoothhound sharks within the Atlantic region therefore could be applied to the 2019 quotas up to 50 percent of the base quota. Accordingly, NMFS proposes to increase the 2019 Atlantic smoothhound shark quota to adjust for anticipated underharvests in 2018 as allowed. The proposed 2019 adjusted base annual quota for Atlantic smoothhound sharks is 1,802.6 mt dw (1,201.7 mt dw annual base quota + 600.9 mt dw 2018 underharvest = 1,802.6 mt dw 2019 adjusted annual quota). VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:36 Sep 10, 2018 Jkt 244001 3. Proposed 2019 Quotas for Shark Management Groups With No Regional Quotas The 2019 proposed commercial quotas within the shark research fishery are 50 mt dw (110,230 lb dw) for research LCS and 90 mt dw (199,943 lb dw) for sandbar sharks. Within the shark research fishery, as of July 13, 2018, preliminary reported landings of research LCS were at 22 percent (11.2 mt dw) of their 2018 quota levels, and sandbar shark reported landings were at 34 percent (31.0 mt dw) of their 2018 quota levels. Reported landings have not exceeded the 2018 quotas to date. Under § 635.27(b)(2)(ii), because sandbar sharks and scalloped hammerhead sharks within the research LCS management group have been determined to be either overfished or overfished with overfishing occurring, underharvests for these management groups cannot be carried forward to the 2019 quotas. Therefore, based on preliminary estimates, and consistent with the current regulations at § 635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2019 quota in the shark research fishery be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment because there have not been any overharvests, and because underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status. The 2019 proposed commercial quotas for blue sharks, porbeagle sharks, and pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle or blue sharks) are 273.0 mt dw (601,856 lb dw), 1.7 mt dw (3,748 lb dw), and 488.0 mt dw (1,075,856 lb dw), respectively. As of July 13, 2018, preliminary reported landings of blue sharks were at less than 5 percent (less than 13.6 mt dw) of their 2018 quota level (273.0 mt dw), there are no preliminary reported landings of porbeagle sharks, and landings of pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle and blue sharks) were at 8 percent (38.1 mt dw) of their 2018 quota level (488.0 mt dw). Given that these pelagic species are overfished, have overfishing occurring, or have an unknown status, underharvests cannot be carried forward pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on preliminary estimates and consistent with the current regulations at § 635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2019 quotas for blue sharks, porbeagle sharks, and pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle and blue sharks) be equal to their annual base quotas without adjustment, because there have not been any overharvests and because underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status. PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 45869 4. Proposed Opening Dates and Retention Limits for the 2019 Atlantic Commercial Shark Fishing Year For each fishery, NMFS considered the seven ‘‘Opening Commercial Fishing Season Criteria’’ listed at § 635.27(b)(3). The Criteria includes factors such as the available annual quotas for the current fishing season, estimated season length and average weekly catch rates from previous years, length of the season and fishery participation in past years, impacts to accomplishing objectives of the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments, temporal variation in behavior or biology of target species (e.g., seasonal distribution or abundance), impact of catch rates in one region on another, and effects of delayed openings. NMFS applied the Opening Commercial Fishing Season Criteria by examining the over- and underharvests of the different management groups in the 2018 fishing year to determine the likely effects of the proposed commercial quotas for 2019 on shark stocks and fishermen across regional and sub-regional fishing areas. NMFS also examined the potential season length and previous catch rates to ensure, to the extent practicable, that equitable fishing opportunities be provided to fishermen in all areas. Lastly, NMFS examined the seasonal variation of the different species/ management groups and the effects on fishing opportunities. NMFS also considered the six ‘‘Inseason trip limit adjustment criteria’’ listed at § 635.24(a)(8) for directed shark limited access permit holders intending to land LCS other than sandbar sharks. Those criteria are: the amount of remaining shark quota in the relevant area or region, to date, based on dealer reports; the catch rates of the relevant shark species/complexes, to date, based on dealer reports; estimated date of fishery closure based on when the landings are projected to reach 80percent of the available overall, regional, and/or sub-regional quota, if the fishery’s landings are not projected to reach 100 percent of the applicable quota before the end of the season, or when the season of a quota-linked management group is closed; effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments; variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migratory patterns of the relevant shark species based on scientific and fishery-based knowledge; and/or effects of catch rates in one part of a region precluding vessels in another part of that region from having a E:\FR\FM\11SEP1.SGM 11SEP1 45870 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 176 / Tuesday, September 11, 2018 / Proposed Rules reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the relevant quota. After considering all these criteria, NMFS is proposing to open the 2019 Atlantic commercial shark fishing season for all shark management groups in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, on or about January 1, 2019, after the publication of the final rule for this action (Table 2). NMFS is also proposing to start the 2019 commercial shark fishing season with the commercial retention limit of 36 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip in both the eastern and western Gulf of Mexico sub-regions, and a commercial retention limit of 25 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip in the Atlantic region (Table 2). NMFS will consider public comments received during the current year and catch rates from this year. Any retention limits that are proposed could change as a result of public comments as well as catch rates and landings information based on updated data available when drafting the final rule. TABLE 2—QUOTA LINKAGES, SEASON OPENING DATES, AND COMMERCIAL RETENTION LIMIT BY REGIONAL OR SUBREGIONAL SHARK MANAGEMENT GROUP Management group Quota linkages Season opening dates Commercial retention limits for directed shark limited access permit holders (inseason adjustments are possible) Blacktip Sharks ..................................... Aggregated Large Coastal Sharks Hammerhead Sharks Blacktip Sharks ..................................... Aggregated Large Coastal Sharks Hammerhead Sharks Not Linked .......... Linked ................. January 1, 2019 .. 36 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip. Not Linked .......... Linked ................. January 1, 2019 .. Non-Blacknose Small Coastal Sharks .. Smoothhound Sharks ............................ Aggregated Large Coastal Sharks ........ Hammerhead Sharks Not Linked .......... Not Linked .......... Linked ................. January 1, 2019 .. January 1, 2019 .. January 1, 2019 .. Non-Blacknose Small Coastal Sharks .. Linked (South of 34° N lat. only). ............................. January 1, 2019 .. 36 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip. NMFS anticipates an inseason increase to 50 large coastal sharks other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip around April 1, 2019. N/A. N/A. 25 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip. If quota is landed quickly (e.g., if approximately 20 percent of quota is caught at the beginning of the year), NMFS anticipates an inseason reduction (e.g., to 3 or fewer LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip), then an inseason increase to 36 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip around July 15, 2019. N/A. Not Linked .......... Linked ................. January 1, 2019 .. January 1, 2019 .. 8 Blacknose sharks per vessel per trip (applies to directed and incidental permit holders). N/A. N/A. Not Linked .......... January 1, 2019 .. N/A. Region or subregion Western Gulf of Mexico. Eastern Gulf of Mexico. Gulf of Mexico ........ Atlantic ................... Blacknose Sharks (South of 34° N lat. only). daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with PROPOSALS No regional quotas Smoothhound Sharks ............................ Non-Sandbar LCS Research Sandbar Shark Research ...................... Blue Sharks ........................................... Porbeagle Sharks Pelagic Sharks Other Than Porbeagle or Blue. In the Gulf of Mexico region, NMFS proposes opening the fishing season on or about January 1, 2019, for the aggregated LCS, blacktip sharks, and hammerhead shark management groups with the commercial retention limits of 36 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip for directed shark permit holders in the eastern and western subregion. This opening date and retention limit combination would provide, to the extent practicable, equitable opportunities across the fisheries management sub-regions. This opening date takes into account all the season opening criteria listed in § 635.27(b)(3), and particularly the criteria that NMFS consider the length of the season for the VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:36 Sep 10, 2018 Jkt 244001 ............................. different species and/or management group in the previous years (§ 635.27(b)(3)(ii) and (iii)) and whether fishermen were able to participate in the fishery in those years (§ 635.27(b)(3)(v)). The proposed commercial retention limits take into account the criteria listed in § 635.24(a)(8), and particularly the criterion that NMFS consider the catch rates of the relevant shark species/ complexes based on dealer reports to date (§ 635.24(a)(8)(ii)). NMFS may also adjust the retention limit in the Gulf of Mexico region throughout the season to ensure fishermen in all parts of the region have an opportunity to harvest aggregated LCS, blacktip sharks, and hammerhead sharks (see the criteria PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 listed at § 635.27(b)(3)(v) and § 635.24(a)(8)(ii), (v), and (vi)). In 2018, the aggregated LCS, hammerhead, and blacktip shark management groups in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region were closed on March 13, 2018 (82 FR 20447). As such, in 2019, NMFS is proposing a reduction in the commercial trip limit for these management groups in order to ensure the management group is open until at least April 2019, which is when the State of Louisiana closes state waters to shark fishing and when that State has previously asked that NMFS close Federal shark fisheries to match state regulations (see the criteria listed at § 635.27(b)(3)(vii) and E:\FR\FM\11SEP1.SGM 11SEP1 daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 176 / Tuesday, September 11, 2018 / Proposed Rules § 635.24(a)(8)(iii)). In the eastern Gulf of Mexico, NMFS is proposing a lower trip limit to ensure fishermen in both Gulf of Mexico sub-regions have an opportunity to harvest aggregated LCS, blacktip sharks, and hammerhead sharks and to reduce any confusion or inequities caused by establishing different catch limits for each subregion. When the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region closes, which is expected to occur around April 1, 2019, NMFS may increase the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region retention limit, potentially up to 50 or 55 sharks per trip. Modifying the retention limit on an inseason basis in this manner is similar to what NMFS has done successfully in recent years in the Atlantic region. NMFS expects such changes in retention limit to allow fishermen in the eastern Gulf of Mexico the opportunity to fully land the available quotas. In the Atlantic region, NMFS proposes opening the aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark management groups on or about January 1, 2019. This opening date is the same date that these management groups opened in 2018. As described below, this opening date also takes into account all the criteria listed in § 635.27(b)(3), and particularly the criterion that NMFS consider the effects of catch rates in one part of a region precluding vessels in another part of that region from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the different species and/or management quotas (§ 635.27(b)(3)(v)). The 2018 data indicates that an opening date of January 1, coupled with inseason adjustments to the retention limit, provided a reasonable opportunity for fishermen in every part of each region to harvest a portion of the available quotas (§ 635.27(b)(3)(i)) while accounting for variations in seasonal distribution of the different species in the management groups (§ 635.27(b)(3)(iv)). In 2018, when the aggregated LCS quota was harvested too quickly, NMFS reduced the retention limit to three sharks per trip (May 10, 2018; 83 FR 17765) to allow fishermen in the North Atlantic an opportunity to fish later in the year when sharks are available in the North Atlantic area (see the criteria at § 635.24(a)(3)(i), (ii), (v), and (vi)). NMFS then increased the retention limit to 36 sharks per trip on July 18, 2018 (83 FR 33870), to increase fishing opportunities for all fishermen across the Atlantic region. Because the quotas we propose for 2019 are the same as the quotas in 2018, NMFS expects that the season lengths and therefore the participation of various fishermen throughout the region, would be similar VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:36 Sep 10, 2018 Jkt 244001 in 2019 (§ 635.27(b)(3)(ii) and (iii)). Based on the recent performance of the fishery, the January 1 opening date appears to meet the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments (§ 635.27(b)(3)(vi)). Therefore, changing the opening date in the fishery seems unnecessary. In addition, for the aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark management groups in the Atlantic region, NMFS proposes opening the fishing year with the commercial retention limit for directed shark limited access permit holders of 25 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip. This retention limit should allow fishermen to harvest some of the 2019 quota at the beginning of the year when sharks are more prevalent in the South Atlantic area (see the criteria at § 635.24(a)(3)(i), (ii), (v), and (vi)). As was done in 2018, if it appears that the quota is being harvested too quickly (i.e., about 20 percent) to allow directed fishermen throughout the entire region an opportunity to fish and ensure enough quota remains until later in the year, NMFS would reduce the commercial retention limits to incidental levels (3 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip) or another level calculated to reduce the harvest of LCS taking into account § 635.27(b)(3) and the inseason trip limit adjustment criteria listed in § 635.24(a)(8). If the quota continues to be harvested quickly, NMFS could reduce the retention limit to 0 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip to ensure enough quota remains until later in the year. If either situation occurs, NMFS would publish in the Federal Register notification of any inseason adjustments of the retention limit to an appropriate limit of sharks per trip. In 2018, NMFS reduced the retention limit to 3 LCS other than sandbar sharks on May 10, 2018 (83 FR 21744) when the aggregated LCS landings reached approximately 20 percent of the aggregated LCS quota, and did not need to reduce it further. Also, as was done in 2018, NMFS will consider increasing the commercial retention limits per trip at a later date if necessary to provide fishermen in the northern portion of the Atlantic region an opportunity to retain aggregated LCS and hammerhead sharks after considering the appropriate inseason adjustment criteria. Similarly, at some point later in the year (e.g., July 15), potentially equivalent to how the 2018 fishing season operated, NMFS may consider increasing the retention limit to 36 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip or another amount, as deemed appropriate, after considering the inseason trip limit adjustment PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 45871 criteria. If the quota is being harvested too quickly or too slowly, NMFS could adjust the retention limit appropriately to ensure the fishery remains open most of the rest of the year. Since the fishery is still open with a majority of the quota available, NMFS will monitor the rest of the fishing year and could make changes to the proposed 2019 opening date if necessary to ensure equitable fishing opportunities. All of the shark management groups would remain open until December 31, 2019, or until NMFS determines that the landings for any shark management group have reached, or are projected to reach, 80-percent of the available overall, regional, and/or sub-regional quota, if the fishery’s landings are not projected to reach 100 percent of the applicable quota before the end of the season, or when the quota-linked management group is closed. If NMFS determines that a non-linked shark species or management group must be closed, then, consistent with § 635.28(b)(2) for non-linked quotas (e.g., eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip, western Gulf of Mexico blacktip, Gulf of Mexico non-blacknose SCS, pelagic sharks, or the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico smoothhound sharks), NMFS will publish in the Federal Register a notice of closure for that shark species, shark management group, region, and/or subregion that will be effective no fewer than four days from the date of filing (83 FR 31677). For the blacktip shark management group, regulations at § 635.28(b)(5)(i) through (v) authorize NMFS to close the management group before landings reach, or are expected to reach, 80-percent of the available overall, regional, and/or sub-regional quota, after considering the following criteria and other relevant factors: Season length based on available subregional quota and average sub-regional catch rates; variability in regional and/ or sub-regional seasonal distribution, abundance, and migratory patterns; effects on accomplishing the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments; amount of remaining shark quotas in the relevant sub-region; and regional and/or subregional catch rates of the relevant shark species or management groups. From the effective date and time of the closure until NMFS announces, via the publication of a notice in the Federal Register, that additional quota is available and the season is reopened, the fisheries for the shark species or management group are closed, even across fishing years. If NMFS determines that a linked shark species or management group must be closed, then, consistent with E:\FR\FM\11SEP1.SGM 11SEP1 45872 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 176 / Tuesday, September 11, 2018 / Proposed Rules § 635.28(b)(3) for linked quotas and the Final Rule to Revise Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Shark Fishery Closure Regulations (83 FR 31677), NMFS will publish in the Federal Register a notice of closure for all of the species and/or management groups in a linked group that will be effective no fewer than four days from date of filing. From the effective date and time of the closure until NMFS announces, via the publication of a notice in the Federal Register, that additional quota is available and the season is reopened, the fisheries for all linked species and/ or management groups are closed, even across fishing years. The linked quotas of the species and/or management groups are Atlantic hammerhead sharks and Atlantic aggregated LCS; eastern Gulf of Mexico hammerhead sharks and eastern Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS; western Gulf of Mexico hammerhead sharks and western Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS; and Atlantic blacknose and Atlantic non-blacknose SCS south of 34° N. latitude. daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with PROPOSALS Request for Comments Comments on this proposed rule may be submitted via www.regulations.gov or by mail. NMFS solicits comments on this proposed rule by October 11, 2018 (see DATES and ADDRESSES). Classification The NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that the proposed rule is consistent with the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, subject to further consideration after public comment. These proposed specifications are exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. NMFS determined that the final rules to implement Amendment 2 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (June 24, 2008, 73 FR 35778; corrected on July 15, 2008, 73 FR 40658), Amendment 5a to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (78 FR 40318; July 3, 2013), Amendment 6 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (80 FR 50073; August 18, 2015), and Amendment 9 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (80 FR 73128; November 24, 2015) are consistent to the maximum extent practicable with the enforceable policies of the approved coastal management program of coastal states on the Atlantic including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea as required under the Coastal Zone Management Act. Pursuant to 15 CFR 930.41(a), NMFS provided the Coastal Zone Management Program of each coastal state a 60-day period to review the consistency determination VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:36 Sep 10, 2018 Jkt 244001 and to advise the Agency of their concurrence. NMFS received concurrence with the consistency determinations from several states and inferred consistency from those states that did not respond within the 60-day time period. This proposed action to establish opening dates and adjust quotas for the 2019 fishing year for the Atlantic commercial shark fisheries does not change the framework previously consulted upon; therefore, no additional consultation is required. An initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA) was prepared, as required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). The IRFA describes the economic impact this proposed rule, if adopted, would have on small entities. The IRFA analysis follows. Section 603(b)(1) of the RFA requires agencies to explain the purpose of the rule. This rule, consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments, is being proposed to establish the 2019 commercial shark fishing quotas, retention limits, and fishing seasons. Without this rule, the commercial shark fisheries would close on December 31, 2018, and would not open until another action was taken. This proposed rule would be implemented according to the regulations implementing the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments. Thus, NMFS expects few, if any, economic impacts to fishermen other than those already analyzed in the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments, based on the quota adjustments. Section 603(b)(2) of the RFA requires agencies to explain the rule’s objectives. The objectives of this rule are to: Adjust the baseline quotas for all shark management groups based on any overand/or underharvests from the previous fishing year(s); establish the opening dates of the various management groups; and establish the retention limits for the blacktip shark, aggregated large coastal shark, and hammerhead shark management groups in order to provide, to the extent practicable, equitable opportunities across the fishing management regions and/or subregions while also considering the ecological needs of the different shark species. Section 603(b)(3) of the RFA requires agencies to provide an estimate of the number of small entities to which the rule would apply. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has established size criteria for all major industry sectors in the United States, including fish harvesters. Provision is made under PO 00000 Frm 00022 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 SBA’s regulations for an agency to develop its own industry-specific size standards after consultation with Advocacy and an opportunity for public comment (see 13 CFR 121.903(c)). Under this provision, NMFS may establish size standards that differ from those established by the SBA Office of Size Standards, but only for use by NMFS and only for the purpose of conducting an analysis of economic effects in fulfillment of the agency’s obligations under the RFA. To utilize this provision, NMFS must publish such size standards in the Federal Register, which NMFS did on December 29, 2015 (80 FR 81194). In this final rule effective on July 1, 2016, NMFS established a small business size standard of $11 million in annual gross receipts for all businesses in the commercial fishing industry (NAICS 11411) for RFA compliance purposes. NMFS considers all HMS permit holders to be small entities because they had average annual receipts of less than $11 million for commercial fishing. As of October 2017, the proposed rule would apply to the approximately 221 directed commercial shark permit holders, 269 incidental commercial shark permit holders, 154 smoothhound shark permit holders, and 113 commercial shark dealers. Not all permit holders are active in the fishery in any given year. Active directed commercial shark permit holders are defined as those with valid permits that landed one shark based on HMS electronic dealer reports. Of the 490 directed and incidental commercial shark permit holders, only 28 permit holders landed sharks in the Gulf of Mexico region and only 78 landed sharks in the Atlantic region. Of the 154 smoothhound shark permit holders, only 26 permit holders landed smoothhound sharks in the Atlantic region and none landed smoothhound sharks in the Gulf of Mexico region. NMFS has determined that the proposed rule would not likely affect any small governmental jurisdictions. This proposed rule does not contain any new reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements (5 U.S.C. 603(b)(4)). Similarly, this proposed rule would not conflict, duplicate, or overlap with other relevant Federal rules (5 U.S.C. 603(b)(5)). Fishermen, dealers, and managers in these fisheries must comply with a number of international agreements as domestically implemented, domestic laws, and FMPs. These include, but are not limited to, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act, the High Seas Fishing Compliance Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered E:\FR\FM\11SEP1.SGM 11SEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 176 / Tuesday, September 11, 2018 / Proposed Rules Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Paperwork Reduction Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act. Section 603(c) of the RFA requires each IRFA to contain a description of any significant alternatives to the proposed rule which would accomplish the stated objectives of applicable statutes and minimize any significant economic impact of the proposed rule on small entities. Additionally, the RFA (5 U.S.C. 603(c)(1)–(4)) lists four general categories of significant alternatives that would assist an agency in the development of significant alternatives. These categories of alternatives are: (1) Establishment of differing compliance or reporting requirements or timetables that take into account the resources available to small entities; (2) clarification, consolidation, or simplification of compliance and reporting requirements under the rule for such small entities; (3) use of performance rather than design standards; and, (4) exemptions from coverage of the rule for small entities. In order to meet the objectives of this proposed rule, consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS cannot exempt small entities or change the reporting requirements only for small entities because all the entities affected are considered small entities; therefore, there are no alternatives discussed that fall under the first, second, and fourth categories described above. NMFS does not know of any performance or design standards that would satisfy the aforementioned objectives of this rulemaking while, concurrently, complying with the Magnuson-Stevens Act; therefore, there are no alternatives considered under the third category. This rulemaking does not establish management measures to be implemented, but rather implements previously adopted and analyzed measures with adjustments, as specified in the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments and the Environmental Assessment (EA) that accompanied the 2011 shark quota specifications rule (75 FR 76302; December 8, 2010). Thus, NMFS proposes to adjust quotas established and analyzed in the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments by subtracting the underharvest or adding the overharvest as allowable. Thus, NMFS has limited flexibility to modify the quotas in this rule, the impacts of which were analyzed in previous regulatory flexibility analyses. Based on the 2017 ex-vessel price (Table 3), fully harvesting the unadjusted 2019 Atlantic shark commercial baseline quotas could result in total fleet revenues of $7,184,943. For the Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group, NMFS is proposing to increase the baseline sub-regional quotas due to the underharvests in 2018. 45873 The increase for the western Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group could result in a $79,243 gain in total revenues for fishermen in that subregion, while the increase for the eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group could result in a $9,781 gain in total revenues for fishermen in that sub-region. For the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic smoothhound shark management groups, NMFS is proposing to increase the baseline quotas due to the underharvest in 2018. This would cause a potential gain in revenue of $581,718 for the fleet in the Gulf of Mexico region and a potential gain in revenue of $1,323,867 for the fleet in the Atlantic region. All of these changes in gross revenues are similar to the changes in gross revenues analyzed in the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments. The final regulatory flexibility analyses for those amendments concluded that the economic impacts on these small entities are expected to be minimal. In the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments and the EA for the 2011 shark quota specifications rule, NMFS stated it would be conducting annual rulemakings and considering the potential economic impacts of adjusting the quotas for under- and overharvests at that time. TABLE 3—AVERAGE EX-VESSEL PRICES PER LB DW FOR EACH SHARK MANAGEMENT GROUP, 2017 Species Western Gulf of Mexico ............................... Blacktip Shark ................................................................................ Aggregated LCS ............................................................................ Hammerhead Shark ....................................................................... Blacktip Shark ................................................................................ Aggregated LCS ............................................................................ Hammerhead Shark ....................................................................... Non-Blacknose SCS ...................................................................... Smoothhound Shark ...................................................................... Aggregated LCS ............................................................................ Hammerhead Shark ....................................................................... Non-Blacknose SCS ...................................................................... Blacknose Shark ............................................................................ Smoothhound Shark ...................................................................... Shark Research Fishery (Aggregated LCS) .................................. Shark Research Fishery (Sandbar only) ....................................... Blue shark ...................................................................................... Porbeagle shark* ........................................................................... Other Pelagic sharks ..................................................................... Eastern Gulf of Mexico ............................... Gulf of Mexico ............................................. Atlantic ......................................................... No Region ................................................... daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with PROPOSALS Average ex-vessel meat price Region $0.51 0.51 0.67 0.62 0.43 0.55 0.38 1.50 0.95 0.41 0.96 1.05 0.70 0.80 0.50 1.40 1.54 1.52 Average ex-vessel fin price $11.03 12.51 11.67 8.22 13.00 12.80 8.68 1.91 11.47 13.91 7.33 7.33 1.63 12.40 12.40 11.44 2.82 2.82 * Used other pelagic shark ex-vessel prices for porbeagle sharks ex-vessel prices since there currently are no landings of porbeagle sharks. For this rule, NMFS also reviewed the criteria at § 635.27(b)(3) to determine when opening each fishery would provide equitable opportunities for fishermen, to the extent practicable, while also considering the ecological VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:36 Sep 10, 2018 Jkt 244001 needs of the different species. The opening dates of the fishing season(s) could vary depending upon the available annual quota, catch rates, and number of fishing participants during the year. For the 2019 fishing year, PO 00000 Frm 00023 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 NMFS is proposing to open all of the shark management groups on the effective date of the final rule for this action (expected to be on or about January 1). The direct and indirect economic impacts would be neutral on E:\FR\FM\11SEP1.SGM 11SEP1 45874 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 176 / Tuesday, September 11, 2018 / Proposed Rules a short- and long-term basis because NMFS is not proposing to change the opening dates of these fisheries from the status quo. Authority 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: September 5, 2018. Samuel D. Rauch, III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2018–19594 Filed 9–10–18; 8:45 am] daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with PROPOSALS BILLING CODE 3510–22–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:36 Sep 10, 2018 Jkt 244001 PO 00000 Frm 00024 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 E:\FR\FM\11SEP1.SGM 11SEP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 83, Number 176 (Tuesday, September 11, 2018)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 45866-45874]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2018-19594]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

[Docket No. 180517486-8772-01]
RIN 0648-XG263


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; 2019 Atlantic Shark Commercial 
Fishing Year

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: This proposed rule would establish quotas, opening dates, and 
retention limits for the 2019 fishing year for the Atlantic commercial 
shark fisheries. Quotas would be adjusted as required or allowable 
based on any over- and/or underharvests experienced during the 2018 
fishing year. In addition, NMFS proposes opening dates and commercial 
retention limits based on adaptive management measures to provide, to 
the extent practicable, fishing opportunities for commercial shark 
fishermen in all regions and areas. The proposed measures could affect 
fishing opportunities for commercial shark fishermen in the 
northwestern Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean 
Sea.

DATES: Written comments must be received by October 11, 2018.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NMFS-2018-0097, by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2018-0097, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Brad McHale, NMFS/SF1, 
1315 East-West Highway, National Marine Fisheries Service, SSMC3, 
Silver Spring, MD 20910.
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous).
    Copies of this proposed rule and supporting documents are available 
from the HMS Management Division website at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/topic/atlantic-highly-migratory-species or by 
contacting Lauren Latchford or Chant[eacute] Davis by phone at (301) 
427-8503.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Karyl Brewster-Geisz, Lauren 
Latchford, or Chant[eacute] Davis at (301) 427-8503.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    The Atlantic commercial shark fisheries are managed under the 
authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management 
Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). The 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly 
Migratory Species (HMS) Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and its 
amendments are implemented by regulations at 50 CFR part 635. For the 
Atlantic commercial shark fisheries, the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and 
its amendments established commercial shark retention limits, 
commercial quotas for species and management groups, and accounting 
measures for under- and overharvests for the shark fisheries. The FMP 
also includes adaptive management measures, such as flexible opening 
dates for the fishing year and inseason adjustments to shark trip 
limits, which provide management flexibility in furtherance of 
equitable fishing opportunities, to the extent practicable, for 
commercial shark fishermen in all regions and areas.

2019 Proposed Quotas

    This proposed rule would adjust the quota levels for the different 
shark stocks and management groups for the 2019 Atlantic commercial 
shark fishing year based on over- and underharvests that occurred 
during the 2018 fishing year, consistent with existing regulations at 
50 CFR 635.27(b). Over- and underharvests are accounted for in the same 
region, sub-region, and/or fishery in which they occurred the following 
year, except that large overharvests may be spread over a number of 
subsequent fishing years up to a maximum of five years. Shark stocks 
that are overfished, have overfishing occurring, or have an unknown 
status, as well as management groups that contain one or more stocks 
that are overfished, have overfishing occurring, or have an unknown 
stock status, will not have underharvest carried over in the following 
year. Stocks or management groups that are not overfished and have no 
overfishing occurring may have any underharvest carried over in the 
following year, up to 50 percent of the base quota.
    Based on harvests to date, and after considering catch rates and 
landings from previous years, NMFS proposes to adjust the 2019 quotas 
for some management groups as shown in Table 1. In the final rule, NMFS 
will adjust the quotas as needed based on dealer reports received by 
mid-October 2018. Thus, all of the 2019 proposed quotas for the 
respective stocks and management groups will be subject to further 
adjustment after NMFS considers the dealer reports through mid-October. 
All dealer reports that are received after the October date will be 
used to adjust 2020 quotas, as appropriate.
    While the sub-quota for the western Gulf of Mexico aggregated large 
coastal shark (LCS) was exceeded this year, based on current landings 
in the eastern Gulf of Mexico for that management group and based on 
catch rates from previous years from the eastern Gulf of Mexico, NMFS 
does not believe the overall regional Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS 
quota will be exceeded. Thus, NMFS proposes the base line quotas for 
the eastern and western Gulf of Mexico sub-regions. If catch rates in 
the eastern Gulf of Mexico increase, it is possible that in the final 
rule NMFS would need to reduce the western Gulf of Mexico sub-regional 
aggregated LCS quota to account for that sub-region's overharvest.
    Because the Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group and 
smoothhound shark management groups

[[Page 45867]]

in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic regions have been determined not to 
be overfished, and to have no overfishing occurring, available 
underharvest (up to 50 percent of the base quota) from the 2018 fishing 
year for these management groups may be applied to the respective 2019 
quotas. NMFS proposes to account for any underharvest of Gulf of Mexico 
blacktip sharks by dividing underharvest between the eastern and 
western Gulf of Mexico sub-regional quotas based on the sub-regional 
quota split percentage implemented in Amendment 6 to the 2006 
Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Fishery Management 
Plan (FMP).
    For the sandbar shark, aggregated large coastal shark (LCS), 
hammerhead shark, non-blacknose small coastal shark (SCS), blacknose 
shark, blue shark, porbeagle shark, and pelagic shark (other than 
porbeagle or blue sharks) management groups, the 2018 underharvests 
cannot be carried over to the 2019 fishing year because those stocks or 
management groups have been determined to be overfished, overfished 
with overfishing occurring, or have an unknown status. Furthermore, 
with the exception of the sub-regional western Gulf of Mexico 
overharvest of the aggregated LCS quota described above, there were no 
overharvests to account for in these management groups. Thus, NMFS 
proposes that quotas for these management groups be equal to the annual 
base quota without adjustment.
    The proposed 2019 quotas by species and management group are 
summarized in Table 1; the description of the calculations for each 
stock and management group can be found below.

                                                    Table 1--2019 Proposed Quotas and Opening Dates for the Atlantic Shark Management Groups
[All quotas and landings are dressed weight (dw), in metric tons (mt), unless specified otherwise. Table includes landings data as of July 13, 2018; final quotas are subject to change based on
                                                                        landings as of October 2018. 1 mt = 2,204.6 lb.]
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                                                                                          2019 proposed annual
       Region or sub-region            Management group        2018 Annual quota      Preliminary 2018 landings       Adjustments \2\         2019 base Annual quota             quota
                                                           (A)......................  (B) \1\..................  (C)......................  (D)......................  (D + C)
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Western Gulf of Mexico............  Blacktip Sharks......  347.2 mt dw..............  330.2 mt dw..............  34.6 mt dw \3\...........  231.0 mt dw..............  265.6 mt dw.
                                                           765,392 lb dw............  727,992 lb dw............  76,401 lb dw.............  510,261 lb dw............  586,662.2 lb dw.
                                    Aggregated Large       72 mt dw.................  92.2 mt dw...............  .........................  72.0 mt dw...............  72.0 mt dw.
                                     Coastal Sharks.       158,724 lb dw............  203,400 lb dw............  .........................  158,724 lb dw............  158,724 lb dw.
                                    Hammerhead Sharks....  11.9 mt dw...............  11.0 mt dw...............  .........................  11.9 mt dw...............  11.9 mt dw.
                                                           26,301 lb dw.............  24,292 lb dw.............  .........................  26,301 lb dw.............  26,301 lb dw.
Eastern Gulf of Mexico............  Blacktip Sharks......  37.7 mt dw...............  16.3 mt dw...............  3.8 mt dw \3\............  25.1 mt dw...............  28.9 mt dw.
                                                           83,158 lb dw.............  35,856 lb dw.............  8,301 lb dw..............  55,439 lb dw.............  63,740 lb dw
                                    Aggregated Large       85.5 mt dw...............  37.5 mt dw...............  .........................  85.5 mt dw...............  85.5 mt dw.
                                     Coastal Sharks.       188,593 lb dw............  82,751 lb dw.............  .........................  188,593 lb dw............  188,593 lb dw.
                                    Hammerhead Sharks....  13.4 mt dw...............  6.2 mt dw................  .........................  13.4 mt dw...............  13.4 mt dw.
                                                           29,421 lb dw.............  13,696 lb dw.............  .........................  29,421 lb dw.............  29,421 lb dw.
Gulf of Mexico....................  Non-Blacknose Small    112.6 mt dw..............  27.5 mt dw...............  .........................  112.6 mt dw..............  112.6. mt dw.
                                     Coastal Sharks.       248,215 lb dw............  60,731 lb dw.............  .........................  248,215 lb dw............  248,215 lb dw.
                                    Smoothhound Sharks...  504.6 mt dw..............  0 mt dw..................  168.2 mt dw..............  336.4 mt dw..............  504.6 mt dw.
                                                           1,112,441 lb dw..........  0 lb dw..................  370,814 lb dw............  741,627 lb dw............  1,112,441 lb dw.
Atlantic..........................  Aggregated Large       168.9 mt dw..............  45.9 mt dw...............  .........................  168.9 mt dw..............  168.9 mt dw.
                                     Coastal Sharks.       372,552 lb dw............  101,245 lb dw............  .........................  372,552 lb dw............  372,552 lb dw.
                                    Hammerhead Sharks....  27.1 mt dw...............  4.9 mt dw................  .........................  27.1 mt dw...............  27.1 mt dw.
                                                           59,736 lb dw.............  10,777 lb dw.............  .........................  59,736 lb dw.............  59,736 lb dw.
                                    Non-Blacknose Small    264.1 mt dw..............  55.1 mt dw...............  .........................  264.1 mt dw..............  264.1 mt dw.
                                     Coastal Sharks.       582,333 lb dw............  121,385 lb dw............  .........................  582,333 lb dw............  582,333 lb dw
                                    Blacknose Sharks       17.2 mt dw...............  3.4 mt dw................  .........................  17.2 mt dw...............  17.2 mt dw
                                     (South of 34[deg] N   (37,921 lb dw)...........  7,501 lb dw..............  .........................  37,921 lb dw.............  3,7921 lb dw.
                                     lat. only).
                                    Smoothhound Sharks...  1802.6 mt dw.............  261.4 mt dw..............  600.85 mt dw.............  1201.7 mt dw.............  1802.55 mt dw.
                                                           3,971,587 lb dw..........  576,181 lb dw............  1,324,634 lb dw..........  2,649,268 lb dw..........  3,973,902 lb dw.
No regional quotas................  Non-Sandbar LCS        50.0 mt dw...............  11.2 mt dw...............  .........................  50.0 mt dw...............  50.0 mt dw.
                                     Research.             110,230 lb dw............  24,799 lb dw.............  .........................  110,230 lb dw............  110,230 lb dw.
                                    Sandbar Shark          90.7 mt dw...............  31.0 mt dw...............  .........................  90.7 mt dw...............  90.7 mt dw.
                                     Research.             199,943 lb dw............  68,443 lb dw.............  .........................  199,943 lb dw............  199,943 lb dw.
                                    Blue Sharks..........  273.0 mt dw..............  <13.6 mt dw..............  .........................  273.0 mt dw..............  273.0 mt dw.
                                                           601,856 lb dw............  (<30,000 lb dw)..........  .........................  601,856 lb dw............  601,856 lb dw.
                                    Porbeagle Sharks.....  1.7 mt dw................  0 mt dw..................  .........................  1.7 mt dw................  1.7 mt dw.
                                                           3,748 lb dw..............  0 lb dw..................  .........................  3,748 lb dw..............  3,748 lb dw.
                                    Pelagic Sharks Other   488.0 mt dw..............  38.1 mt dw...............  .........................  488.0 mt dw..............  488.0 mt dw.
                                     Than Porbeagle or     1,075,856 lb dw..........  83,896 lb dw.............  .........................  1,075,856 lb dw..........  1,075,856 lb dw.
                                     Blue sharks.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Landings are from January 1, 2018, through July 13, 2018, and are subject to change.
\2\ Underharvest adjustments can only be applied to stocks or management groups that are not overfished and have no overfishing occurring. Also, the underharvest adjustments cannot exceed 50
  percent of the base quota.
\3\ This proposed rule would increase the overall Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota due to an overall underharvest of 38.4 mt dw (84,702 lb dw) in 2018. The overall quota would be split
  based on percentages that are allocated to each sub-region, as explained in the text.

1. Proposed 2019 Quotas for the Gulf of Mexico Region Shark Management 
Groups

    The 2019 proposed commercial quota for blacktip sharks in the 
western Gulf of Mexico sub-region is 265.6 mt dw (586,662 lb dw) and 
the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region is 28.9 mt dw (63,740 lb dw; 
Table 1). As of July 13, 2018, preliminary reported landings for 
blacktip sharks in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 95 
percent (330.2 mt dw) of their 2018 quota levels (347.2 mt dw), while 
the blacktip sharks in the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 43 
percent (16.3 mt dw) of their 2018 quota levels (37.7 mt dw). Reported 
landings have not exceeded the 2018 quota to date, and the western Gulf 
of Mexico sub-region fishery was closed on March 13, 2018 (83 FR 
10802). Gulf of Mexico blacktip sharks have not been declared to be 
overfished, to have overfishing occurring, or to have an unknown 
status. Pursuant to Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii), underharvests for blacktip 
sharks within the Gulf of Mexico region therefore could be applied to 
the 2019 quotas up to 50 percent of the base quota. Additionally,

[[Page 45868]]

any underharvest would be divided between the two sub-regions, based on 
the percentages that are allocated to each sub-region, which are set 
forth in Sec.  635.27(b)(1)(ii)(C). To date, the overall Gulf of Mexico 
blacktip shark management group is underharvested by 38.4 mt dw (84,702 
lb dw). Accordingly, the western Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota 
would be increased by 34.6 mt dw or 90.2 percent of the underharvest, 
while the eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark sub-regional quota 
would be increased by 3.8 mt dw, or 9.8 percent of the underharvest 
(Table 1). Thus, the proposed western sub-regional Gulf of Mexico 
blacktip shark commercial quota is 265.6 mt dw (586,662 lb dw), and the 
proposed eastern sub-regional Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark commercial 
quota is 28.9 mt dw (63,740 lb dw).
    The 2019 proposed commercial quota for aggregated LCS in the 
western Gulf of Mexico sub-region is 72.0 mt dw (158,724 lb dw), and 
the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region is 85.5 mt dw (188,593 lb dw; 
Table 1). As of July 13, 2018, preliminary reported landings for 
aggregated LCS in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 128 
percent (92.2 mt dw) of their 2018 quota levels (72.0 mt dw), while the 
aggregated LCS in the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 44 
percent (37.5 mt dw) of their 2018 quota levels (85.5 mt dw). Reported 
landings have not exceeded the overall Gulf of Mexico regional 2018 
quota to date, and the western aggregated LCS sub-region fishery was 
closed on March 13, 2018 (83 FR 10802). Given the unknown status of 
some of the shark species within the Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS 
management group, underharvests cannot be carried over pursuant to 
Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on both preliminary estimates 
and catch rates from previous years, and consistent with the current 
regulations at Sec.  635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2019 quotas 
for aggregated LCS in the western Gulf of Mexico and eastern Gulf of 
Mexico sub-regions be equal to their annual base quotas without 
adjustment, because the overall regional quota has not been 
overharvested and because underharvests cannot be carried over due to 
stock status.
    The 2019 proposed commercial quotas for hammerhead sharks in the 
western Gulf of Mexico sub-region and eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region 
are 11.9 mt dw (26,301 lb dw) and 13.4 mt dw (29,421 lb dw), 
respectively (Table 1). As of July 13, 2018, preliminary reported 
landings for hammerhead sharks in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region 
were at 92 percent (11.0 mt dw) of their 2018 quota levels (11.9 mt 
dw), while landings of hammerhead sharks in the eastern Gulf of Mexico 
sub-region were at 47 percent (6.2 mt dw) of their 2018 quota levels 
(13.4 mt dw). Reported landings from both Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic 
regions have not exceeded the 2018 overall hammerhead quota to date, 
and the western hammerhead shark Gulf of Mexico sub-region fishery was 
closed on March 13, 2018 (83 FR 10802). Given the overfished status of 
the scalloped hammerhead shark, the hammerhead shark quota cannot be 
adjusted for any underharvests. Therefore, based on both preliminary 
estimates and catch rates from previous years, the fact that the 2018 
overall hammerhead shark quota has not been overharvested to date, and 
consistent with the current regulations at Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii), NMFS 
proposes that the 2019 quotas for hammerhead sharks in the western Gulf 
of Mexico and eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-regions be equal to their 
annual base quotas without adjustment.
    The 2019 proposed commercial quota for non-blacknose SCS in the 
Gulf of Mexico region is 112.6 mt dw (248,215 lb dw). As of July 13, 
2018, preliminary reported landings of non-blacknose SCS were at 24 
percent (27.5 mt dw) of their 2018 quota level (112.6 mt dw) in the 
Gulf of Mexico region. Reported landings have not exceeded the 2018 
quota to date. Given the unknown status of bonnethead sharks within the 
Gulf of Mexico non-blacknose SCS management group, underharvests cannot 
be carried forward pursuant to Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based 
on both preliminary estimates and catch rates from previous years, and 
consistent with the current regulations at Sec.  635.27(b)(2), NMFS 
proposes that the 2019 quota for non-blacknose SCS in the Gulf of 
Mexico region be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment, 
because there have not been any overharvests and because underharvests 
cannot be carried over due to stock status.
    The 2019 proposed commercial quota for smoothhound sharks in the 
Gulf of Mexico region is 504.6 mt dw (1,112,441 lb dw). As of July 13, 
2018, there are no preliminary reported landings of smoothhound sharks 
in the Gulf of Mexico region. Gulf of Mexico smoothhound sharks have 
not been declared to be overfished, to have overfishing occurring, or 
to have an unknown status. Pursuant to Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii), 
underharvests for smoothhound sharks within the Gulf of Mexico region 
therefore could be applied to the 2019 quotas up to 50 percent of the 
base quota. Accordingly, NMFS proposes to increase the 2019 Gulf of 
Mexico smoothhound shark quota to adjust for anticipated underharvests 
in 2018 as allowed. The proposed 2019 adjusted base annual quota for 
Gulf of Mexico smoothhound sharks is 504.6 mt dw (336.4 mt dw annual 
base quota + 168.2 mt dw 2018 underharvest = 504.6 mt dw 2019 adjusted 
annual quota).

2. Proposed 2019 Quotas for the Atlantic Region Shark Management Groups

    The 2019 proposed commercial quota for aggregated LCS in the 
Atlantic region is 168.9 mt dw (372,552 lb dw). As of July 13, 2018, 
the aggregated LCS fishery in the Atlantic region is still open and 
preliminary landings indicate that only 27 percent of the quota, or 
45.9 mt dw, has been harvested. Given the unknown status of some of the 
shark species within the Atlantic aggregated LCS management group, 
underharvests cannot be carried over pursuant to Sec.  
635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on both preliminary estimates and 
catch rates from previous years, and consistent with current 
regulations at Sec.  635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2018 quota 
for aggregated LCS in the Atlantic region be equal to the annual base 
quota without adjustment, because there have not been any overharvests 
and underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status.
    The 2019 proposed commercial quota for hammerhead sharks in the 
Atlantic region is 27.1 mt dw (59,736 lb dw). Currently, the hammerhead 
shark fishery in the Atlantic region is still open and preliminary 
landings as of July 13, 2018, indicate that only 18 percent of the 
Atlantic regional quota, or 4.9 mt dw, has been harvested. Reported 
landings from both Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic regions have not 
exceeded the 2018 overall hammerhead quota to date. Given the 
overfished status of hammerhead sharks, underharvests cannot be carried 
forward pursuant to Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on both 
preliminary estimates and catch rates from previous years, and 
consistent with the current regulations at Sec.  635.27(b)(2), NMFS 
proposes that the 2019 quota for hammerhead sharks in the Atlantic 
region be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment, because 
the overall hammerhead shark quota has not been overharvested, and 
because underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status.
    The 2019 proposed commercial quota for non-blacknose SCS in the 
Atlantic region is 264.1 mt dw (582,333 lb dw). As of July 13, 2018, 
preliminary reported landings of non-blacknose SCS were at 21 percent 
(55.1 mt dw) of their

[[Page 45869]]

2018 quota level in the Atlantic region. Reported landings have not 
exceeded the 2018 quota to date. Given the unknown status of bonnethead 
sharks within the Atlantic non-blacknose SCS management group, 
underharvests cannot be carried forward pursuant to Sec.  
635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on preliminary estimates of catch 
rates from previous years, and consistent with the current regulations 
at Sec.  635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2019 quota for non-
blacknose SCS in the Atlantic region be equal to the annual base quota 
without adjustment, because there have not been any overharvests, and 
because underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status.
    The 2019 proposed commercial quota for blacknose sharks in the 
Atlantic region is 17.2 mt dw (37,921 lb dw). This quota is available 
in the Atlantic region only for those vessels operating south of 
34[deg] N. latitude. North of 34[deg] N. latitude, retention, landing, 
or sale of blacknose sharks is prohibited. As of July 13, 2018, 
preliminary reported landings of blacknose sharks were at 20 percent 
(3.4 mt dw) of their 2018 quota levels in the Atlantic region. Reported 
landings have not exceeded the 2018 quota to date. Pursuant to Sec.  
635.27(b)(2), because blacknose sharks have been declared to be 
overfished with overfishing occurring in the Atlantic region, NMFS 
could not carry forward the remaining underharvest. Therefore, NMFS 
proposes that the 2019 Atlantic blacknose shark quota be equal to the 
annual base quota without adjustment.
    The 2019 proposed commercial quota for smoothhound sharks in the 
Atlantic region is 1,802.6 mt dw (3,973,902 lb dw). As of July 13, 
2018, preliminary reported landings of smoothhound sharks were at 14 
percent (261.4 mt dw) of their 2018 quota levels in the Atlantic 
region. Atlantic smoothhound sharks have not been declared to be 
overfished, to have overfishing occurring, or to have an unknown 
status. Pursuant to Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii), underharvests for 
smoothhound sharks within the Atlantic region therefore could be 
applied to the 2019 quotas up to 50 percent of the base quota. 
Accordingly, NMFS proposes to increase the 2019 Atlantic smoothhound 
shark quota to adjust for anticipated underharvests in 2018 as allowed. 
The proposed 2019 adjusted base annual quota for Atlantic smoothhound 
sharks is 1,802.6 mt dw (1,201.7 mt dw annual base quota + 600.9 mt dw 
2018 underharvest = 1,802.6 mt dw 2019 adjusted annual quota).

3. Proposed 2019 Quotas for Shark Management Groups With No Regional 
Quotas

    The 2019 proposed commercial quotas within the shark research 
fishery are 50 mt dw (110,230 lb dw) for research LCS and 90 mt dw 
(199,943 lb dw) for sandbar sharks. Within the shark research fishery, 
as of July 13, 2018, preliminary reported landings of research LCS were 
at 22 percent (11.2 mt dw) of their 2018 quota levels, and sandbar 
shark reported landings were at 34 percent (31.0 mt dw) of their 2018 
quota levels. Reported landings have not exceeded the 2018 quotas to 
date. Under Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii), because sandbar sharks and 
scalloped hammerhead sharks within the research LCS management group 
have been determined to be either overfished or overfished with 
overfishing occurring, underharvests for these management groups cannot 
be carried forward to the 2019 quotas. Therefore, based on preliminary 
estimates, and consistent with the current regulations at Sec.  
635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2019 quota in the shark research 
fishery be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment because 
there have not been any overharvests, and because underharvests cannot 
be carried over due to stock status.
    The 2019 proposed commercial quotas for blue sharks, porbeagle 
sharks, and pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle or blue sharks) are 
273.0 mt dw (601,856 lb dw), 1.7 mt dw (3,748 lb dw), and 488.0 mt dw 
(1,075,856 lb dw), respectively. As of July 13, 2018, preliminary 
reported landings of blue sharks were at less than 5 percent (less than 
13.6 mt dw) of their 2018 quota level (273.0 mt dw), there are no 
preliminary reported landings of porbeagle sharks, and landings of 
pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle and blue sharks) were at 8 percent 
(38.1 mt dw) of their 2018 quota level (488.0 mt dw). Given that these 
pelagic species are overfished, have overfishing occurring, or have an 
unknown status, underharvests cannot be carried forward pursuant to 
Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on preliminary estimates and 
consistent with the current regulations at Sec.  635.27(b)(2), NMFS 
proposes that the 2019 quotas for blue sharks, porbeagle sharks, and 
pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle and blue sharks) be equal to their 
annual base quotas without adjustment, because there have not been any 
overharvests and because underharvests cannot be carried over due to 
stock status.

4. Proposed Opening Dates and Retention Limits for the 2019 Atlantic 
Commercial Shark Fishing Year

    For each fishery, NMFS considered the seven ``Opening Commercial 
Fishing Season Criteria'' listed at Sec.  635.27(b)(3). The Criteria 
includes factors such as the available annual quotas for the current 
fishing season, estimated season length and average weekly catch rates 
from previous years, length of the season and fishery participation in 
past years, impacts to accomplishing objectives of the 2006 
Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments, temporal variation in 
behavior or biology of target species (e.g., seasonal distribution or 
abundance), impact of catch rates in one region on another, and effects 
of delayed openings.
    NMFS applied the Opening Commercial Fishing Season Criteria by 
examining the over- and underharvests of the different management 
groups in the 2018 fishing year to determine the likely effects of the 
proposed commercial quotas for 2019 on shark stocks and fishermen 
across regional and sub-regional fishing areas. NMFS also examined the 
potential season length and previous catch rates to ensure, to the 
extent practicable, that equitable fishing opportunities be provided to 
fishermen in all areas. Lastly, NMFS examined the seasonal variation of 
the different species/management groups and the effects on fishing 
opportunities.
    NMFS also considered the six ``Inseason trip limit adjustment 
criteria'' listed at Sec.  635.24(a)(8) for directed shark limited 
access permit holders intending to land LCS other than sandbar sharks. 
Those criteria are: the amount of remaining shark quota in the relevant 
area or region, to date, based on dealer reports; the catch rates of 
the relevant shark species/complexes, to date, based on dealer reports; 
estimated date of fishery closure based on when the landings are 
projected to reach 80-percent of the available overall, regional, and/
or sub-regional quota, if the fishery's landings are not projected to 
reach 100 percent of the applicable quota before the end of the season, 
or when the season of a quota-linked management group is closed; 
effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the 2006 
Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments; variations in 
seasonal distribution, abundance, or migratory patterns of the relevant 
shark species based on scientific and fishery-based knowledge; and/or 
effects of catch rates in one part of a region precluding vessels in 
another part of that region from having a

[[Page 45870]]

reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the relevant quota.
    After considering all these criteria, NMFS is proposing to open the 
2019 Atlantic commercial shark fishing season for all shark management 
groups in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico 
and the Caribbean Sea, on or about January 1, 2019, after the 
publication of the final rule for this action (Table 2). NMFS is also 
proposing to start the 2019 commercial shark fishing season with the 
commercial retention limit of 36 LCS other than sandbar sharks per 
vessel per trip in both the eastern and western Gulf of Mexico sub-
regions, and a commercial retention limit of 25 LCS other than sandbar 
sharks per vessel per trip in the Atlantic region (Table 2). NMFS will 
consider public comments received during the current year and catch 
rates from this year. Any retention limits that are proposed could 
change as a result of public comments as well as catch rates and 
landings information based on updated data available when drafting the 
final rule.

 Table 2--Quota Linkages, Season Opening Dates, and Commercial Retention Limit by Regional or Sub-Regional Shark
                                                Management Group
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                    Commercial
                                                                                                    retention
                                                                                                    limits for
                                                                                                  directed shark
    Region or sub- region      Management group      Quota linkages       Season opening dates    limited access
                                                                                                  permit holders
                                                                                                    (inseason
                                                                                                 adjustments are
                                                                                                    possible)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Western Gulf of Mexico.......  Blacktip Sharks.  Not Linked............  January 1, 2019.......  36 LCS other
                               Aggregated Large  Linked................                           than sandbar
                                Coastal Sharks.                                                   sharks per
                               Hammerhead                                                         vessel per
                                Sharks.                                                           trip.
Eastern Gulf of Mexico.......  Blacktip Sharks.  Not Linked............  January 1, 2019.......  36 LCS other
                               Aggregated Large  Linked................                           than sandbar
                                Coastal Sharks.                                                   sharks per
                               Hammerhead                                                         vessel per
                                Sharks.                                                           trip.
                                                                                                 NMFS
                                                                                                  anticipates an
                                                                                                  inseason
                                                                                                  increase to 50
                                                                                                  large coastal
                                                                                                  sharks other
                                                                                                  than sandbar
                                                                                                  sharks per
                                                                                                  vessel per
                                                                                                  trip around
                                                                                                  April 1, 2019.
Gulf of Mexico...............  Non-Blacknose     Not Linked............  January 1, 2019.......  N/A.
                                Small Coastal    Not Linked............  January 1, 2019.......  N/A.
                                Sharks.
                               Smoothhound
                                Sharks.
Atlantic.....................  Aggregated Large  Linked................  January 1, 2019.......  25 LCS other
                                Coastal Sharks.                                                   than sandbar
                               Hammerhead                                                         sharks per
                                Sharks.                                                           vessel per
                                                                                                  trip.
                                                                                                 If quota is
                                                                                                  landed quickly
                                                                                                  (e.g., if
                                                                                                  approximately
                                                                                                  20 percent of
                                                                                                  quota is
                                                                                                  caught at the
                                                                                                  beginning of
                                                                                                  the year),
                                                                                                  NMFS
                                                                                                  anticipates an
                                                                                                  inseason
                                                                                                  reduction
                                                                                                  (e.g., to 3 or
                                                                                                  fewer LCS
                                                                                                  other than
                                                                                                  sandbar sharks
                                                                                                  per vessel per
                                                                                                  trip), then an
                                                                                                  inseason
                                                                                                  increase to 36
                                                                                                  LCS other than
                                                                                                  sandbar sharks
                                                                                                  per vessel per
                                                                                                  trip around
                                                                                                  July 15, 2019.
                               Non-Blacknose     Linked (South of        January 1, 2019.......  N/A.
                                Small Coastal     34[deg] N lat. only).
                                Sharks.
                               Blacknose Sharks  ......................  ......................  8 Blacknose
                                (South of                                                         sharks per
                                34[deg] N lat.                                                    vessel per
                                only).                                                            trip (applies
                                                                                                  to directed
                                                                                                  and incidental
                                                                                                  permit
                                                                                                  holders).
                               Smoothhound       Not Linked............  January 1, 2019.......  N/A.
                                Sharks.
No regional quotas...........  Non-Sandbar LCS   Linked................  January 1, 2019.......  N/A.
                                Research
                               Sandbar Shark
                                Research.
                               Blue Sharks.....  Not Linked............  January 1, 2019.......  N/A.
                               Porbeagle Sharks
                               Pelagic Sharks
                                Other Than
                                Porbeagle or
                                Blue.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In the Gulf of Mexico region, NMFS proposes opening the fishing 
season on or about January 1, 2019, for the aggregated LCS, blacktip 
sharks, and hammerhead shark management groups with the commercial 
retention limits of 36 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per 
trip for directed shark permit holders in the eastern and western sub-
region. This opening date and retention limit combination would 
provide, to the extent practicable, equitable opportunities across the 
fisheries management sub-regions. This opening date takes into account 
all the season opening criteria listed in Sec.  635.27(b)(3), and 
particularly the criteria that NMFS consider the length of the season 
for the different species and/or management group in the previous years 
(Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(ii) and (iii)) and whether fishermen were able to 
participate in the fishery in those years (Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(v)). The 
proposed commercial retention limits take into account the criteria 
listed in Sec.  635.24(a)(8), and particularly the criterion that NMFS 
consider the catch rates of the relevant shark species/complexes based 
on dealer reports to date (Sec.  635.24(a)(8)(ii)). NMFS may also 
adjust the retention limit in the Gulf of Mexico region throughout the 
season to ensure fishermen in all parts of the region have an 
opportunity to harvest aggregated LCS, blacktip sharks, and hammerhead 
sharks (see the criteria listed at Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(v) and Sec.  
635.24(a)(8)(ii), (v), and (vi)). In 2018, the aggregated LCS, 
hammerhead, and blacktip shark management groups in the western Gulf of 
Mexico sub-region were closed on March 13, 2018 (82 FR 20447). As such, 
in 2019, NMFS is proposing a reduction in the commercial trip limit for 
these management groups in order to ensure the management group is open 
until at least April 2019, which is when the State of Louisiana closes 
state waters to shark fishing and when that State has previously asked 
that NMFS close Federal shark fisheries to match state regulations (see 
the criteria listed at Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(vii) and

[[Page 45871]]

Sec.  635.24(a)(8)(iii)). In the eastern Gulf of Mexico, NMFS is 
proposing a lower trip limit to ensure fishermen in both Gulf of Mexico 
sub-regions have an opportunity to harvest aggregated LCS, blacktip 
sharks, and hammerhead sharks and to reduce any confusion or inequities 
caused by establishing different catch limits for each sub-region. When 
the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region closes, which is expected to 
occur around April 1, 2019, NMFS may increase the eastern Gulf of 
Mexico sub-region retention limit, potentially up to 50 or 55 sharks 
per trip. Modifying the retention limit on an inseason basis in this 
manner is similar to what NMFS has done successfully in recent years in 
the Atlantic region. NMFS expects such changes in retention limit to 
allow fishermen in the eastern Gulf of Mexico the opportunity to fully 
land the available quotas.
    In the Atlantic region, NMFS proposes opening the aggregated LCS 
and hammerhead shark management groups on or about January 1, 2019. 
This opening date is the same date that these management groups opened 
in 2018. As described below, this opening date also takes into account 
all the criteria listed in Sec.  635.27(b)(3), and particularly the 
criterion that NMFS consider the effects of catch rates in one part of 
a region precluding vessels in another part of that region from having 
a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the different species 
and/or management quotas (Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(v)). The 2018 data 
indicates that an opening date of January 1, coupled with inseason 
adjustments to the retention limit, provided a reasonable opportunity 
for fishermen in every part of each region to harvest a portion of the 
available quotas (Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(i)) while accounting for 
variations in seasonal distribution of the different species in the 
management groups (Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(iv)). In 2018, when the 
aggregated LCS quota was harvested too quickly, NMFS reduced the 
retention limit to three sharks per trip (May 10, 2018; 83 FR 17765) to 
allow fishermen in the North Atlantic an opportunity to fish later in 
the year when sharks are available in the North Atlantic area (see the 
criteria at Sec.  635.24(a)(3)(i), (ii), (v), and (vi)). NMFS then 
increased the retention limit to 36 sharks per trip on July 18, 2018 
(83 FR 33870), to increase fishing opportunities for all fishermen 
across the Atlantic region. Because the quotas we propose for 2019 are 
the same as the quotas in 2018, NMFS expects that the season lengths 
and therefore the participation of various fishermen throughout the 
region, would be similar in 2019 (Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(ii) and (iii)). 
Based on the recent performance of the fishery, the January 1 opening 
date appears to meet the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic 
HMS FMP and its amendments (Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(vi)). Therefore, 
changing the opening date in the fishery seems unnecessary.
    In addition, for the aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark management 
groups in the Atlantic region, NMFS proposes opening the fishing year 
with the commercial retention limit for directed shark limited access 
permit holders of 25 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip. 
This retention limit should allow fishermen to harvest some of the 2019 
quota at the beginning of the year when sharks are more prevalent in 
the South Atlantic area (see the criteria at Sec.  635.24(a)(3)(i), 
(ii), (v), and (vi)). As was done in 2018, if it appears that the quota 
is being harvested too quickly (i.e., about 20 percent) to allow 
directed fishermen throughout the entire region an opportunity to fish 
and ensure enough quota remains until later in the year, NMFS would 
reduce the commercial retention limits to incidental levels (3 LCS 
other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip) or another level 
calculated to reduce the harvest of LCS taking into account Sec.  
635.27(b)(3) and the inseason trip limit adjustment criteria listed in 
Sec.  635.24(a)(8). If the quota continues to be harvested quickly, 
NMFS could reduce the retention limit to 0 LCS other than sandbar 
sharks per vessel per trip to ensure enough quota remains until later 
in the year. If either situation occurs, NMFS would publish in the 
Federal Register notification of any inseason adjustments of the 
retention limit to an appropriate limit of sharks per trip. In 2018, 
NMFS reduced the retention limit to 3 LCS other than sandbar sharks on 
May 10, 2018 (83 FR 21744) when the aggregated LCS landings reached 
approximately 20 percent of the aggregated LCS quota, and did not need 
to reduce it further.
    Also, as was done in 2018, NMFS will consider increasing the 
commercial retention limits per trip at a later date if necessary to 
provide fishermen in the northern portion of the Atlantic region an 
opportunity to retain aggregated LCS and hammerhead sharks after 
considering the appropriate inseason adjustment criteria. Similarly, at 
some point later in the year (e.g., July 15), potentially equivalent to 
how the 2018 fishing season operated, NMFS may consider increasing the 
retention limit to 36 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip 
or another amount, as deemed appropriate, after considering the 
inseason trip limit adjustment criteria. If the quota is being 
harvested too quickly or too slowly, NMFS could adjust the retention 
limit appropriately to ensure the fishery remains open most of the rest 
of the year. Since the fishery is still open with a majority of the 
quota available, NMFS will monitor the rest of the fishing year and 
could make changes to the proposed 2019 opening date if necessary to 
ensure equitable fishing opportunities.
    All of the shark management groups would remain open until December 
31, 2019, or until NMFS determines that the landings for any shark 
management group have reached, or are projected to reach, 80-percent of 
the available overall, regional, and/or sub-regional quota, if the 
fishery's landings are not projected to reach 100 percent of the 
applicable quota before the end of the season, or when the quota-linked 
management group is closed. If NMFS determines that a non-linked shark 
species or management group must be closed, then, consistent with Sec.  
635.28(b)(2) for non-linked quotas (e.g., eastern Gulf of Mexico 
blacktip, western Gulf of Mexico blacktip, Gulf of Mexico non-blacknose 
SCS, pelagic sharks, or the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico smoothhound 
sharks), NMFS will publish in the Federal Register a notice of closure 
for that shark species, shark management group, region, and/or sub-
region that will be effective no fewer than four days from the date of 
filing (83 FR 31677). For the blacktip shark management group, 
regulations at Sec.  635.28(b)(5)(i) through (v) authorize NMFS to 
close the management group before landings reach, or are expected to 
reach, 80-percent of the available overall, regional, and/or sub-
regional quota, after considering the following criteria and other 
relevant factors: Season length based on available sub-regional quota 
and average sub-regional catch rates; variability in regional and/or 
sub-regional seasonal distribution, abundance, and migratory patterns; 
effects on accomplishing the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated 
Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments; amount of remaining shark quotas 
in the relevant sub-region; and regional and/or sub-regional catch 
rates of the relevant shark species or management groups. From the 
effective date and time of the closure until NMFS announces, via the 
publication of a notice in the Federal Register, that additional quota 
is available and the season is reopened, the fisheries for the shark 
species or management group are closed, even across fishing years.
    If NMFS determines that a linked shark species or management group 
must be closed, then, consistent with

[[Page 45872]]

Sec.  635.28(b)(3) for linked quotas and the Final Rule to Revise 
Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Shark Fishery Closure Regulations (83 
FR 31677), NMFS will publish in the Federal Register a notice of 
closure for all of the species and/or management groups in a linked 
group that will be effective no fewer than four days from date of 
filing. From the effective date and time of the closure until NMFS 
announces, via the publication of a notice in the Federal Register, 
that additional quota is available and the season is reopened, the 
fisheries for all linked species and/or management groups are closed, 
even across fishing years. The linked quotas of the species and/or 
management groups are Atlantic hammerhead sharks and Atlantic 
aggregated LCS; eastern Gulf of Mexico hammerhead sharks and eastern 
Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS; western Gulf of Mexico hammerhead sharks 
and western Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS; and Atlantic blacknose and 
Atlantic non-blacknose SCS south of 34[deg] N. latitude.

Request for Comments

    Comments on this proposed rule may be submitted via 
www.regulations.gov or by mail. NMFS solicits comments on this proposed 
rule by October 11, 2018 (see DATES and ADDRESSES).

Classification

    The NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that the proposed 
rule is consistent with the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its 
amendments, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, subject 
to further consideration after public comment.
    These proposed specifications are exempt from review under 
Executive Order 12866.
    NMFS determined that the final rules to implement Amendment 2 to 
the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (June 24, 2008, 73 FR 35778; 
corrected on July 15, 2008, 73 FR 40658), Amendment 5a to the 2006 
Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (78 FR 40318; July 3, 2013), Amendment 6 
to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (80 FR 50073; August 18, 
2015), and Amendment 9 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (80 FR 
73128; November 24, 2015) are consistent to the maximum extent 
practicable with the enforceable policies of the approved coastal 
management program of coastal states on the Atlantic including the Gulf 
of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea as required under the Coastal Zone 
Management Act. Pursuant to 15 CFR 930.41(a), NMFS provided the Coastal 
Zone Management Program of each coastal state a 60-day period to review 
the consistency determination and to advise the Agency of their 
concurrence. NMFS received concurrence with the consistency 
determinations from several states and inferred consistency from those 
states that did not respond within the 60-day time period. This 
proposed action to establish opening dates and adjust quotas for the 
2019 fishing year for the Atlantic commercial shark fisheries does not 
change the framework previously consulted upon; therefore, no 
additional consultation is required.
    An initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA) was prepared, as 
required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). The 
IRFA describes the economic impact this proposed rule, if adopted, 
would have on small entities. The IRFA analysis follows.
    Section 603(b)(1) of the RFA requires agencies to explain the 
purpose of the rule. This rule, consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens 
Act and the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments, is 
being proposed to establish the 2019 commercial shark fishing quotas, 
retention limits, and fishing seasons. Without this rule, the 
commercial shark fisheries would close on December 31, 2018, and would 
not open until another action was taken. This proposed rule would be 
implemented according to the regulations implementing the 2006 
Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments. Thus, NMFS expects 
few, if any, economic impacts to fishermen other than those already 
analyzed in the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments, 
based on the quota adjustments.
    Section 603(b)(2) of the RFA requires agencies to explain the 
rule's objectives. The objectives of this rule are to: Adjust the 
baseline quotas for all shark management groups based on any over- and/
or underharvests from the previous fishing year(s); establish the 
opening dates of the various management groups; and establish the 
retention limits for the blacktip shark, aggregated large coastal 
shark, and hammerhead shark management groups in order to provide, to 
the extent practicable, equitable opportunities across the fishing 
management regions and/or sub-regions while also considering the 
ecological needs of the different shark species.
    Section 603(b)(3) of the RFA requires agencies to provide an 
estimate of the number of small entities to which the rule would apply. 
The Small Business Administration (SBA) has established size criteria 
for all major industry sectors in the United States, including fish 
harvesters. Provision is made under SBA's regulations for an agency to 
develop its own industry-specific size standards after consultation 
with Advocacy and an opportunity for public comment (see 13 CFR 
121.903(c)). Under this provision, NMFS may establish size standards 
that differ from those established by the SBA Office of Size Standards, 
but only for use by NMFS and only for the purpose of conducting an 
analysis of economic effects in fulfillment of the agency's obligations 
under the RFA. To utilize this provision, NMFS must publish such size 
standards in the Federal Register, which NMFS did on December 29, 2015 
(80 FR 81194). In this final rule effective on July 1, 2016, NMFS 
established a small business size standard of $11 million in annual 
gross receipts for all businesses in the commercial fishing industry 
(NAICS 11411) for RFA compliance purposes. NMFS considers all HMS 
permit holders to be small entities because they had average annual 
receipts of less than $11 million for commercial fishing.
    As of October 2017, the proposed rule would apply to the 
approximately 221 directed commercial shark permit holders, 269 
incidental commercial shark permit holders, 154 smoothhound shark 
permit holders, and 113 commercial shark dealers. Not all permit 
holders are active in the fishery in any given year. Active directed 
commercial shark permit holders are defined as those with valid permits 
that landed one shark based on HMS electronic dealer reports. Of the 
490 directed and incidental commercial shark permit holders, only 28 
permit holders landed sharks in the Gulf of Mexico region and only 78 
landed sharks in the Atlantic region. Of the 154 smoothhound shark 
permit holders, only 26 permit holders landed smoothhound sharks in the 
Atlantic region and none landed smoothhound sharks in the Gulf of 
Mexico region. NMFS has determined that the proposed rule would not 
likely affect any small governmental jurisdictions.
    This proposed rule does not contain any new reporting, 
recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements (5 U.S.C. 603(b)(4)). 
Similarly, this proposed rule would not conflict, duplicate, or overlap 
with other relevant Federal rules (5 U.S.C. 603(b)(5)). Fishermen, 
dealers, and managers in these fisheries must comply with a number of 
international agreements as domestically implemented, domestic laws, 
and FMPs. These include, but are not limited to, the Magnuson-Stevens 
Act, the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act, the High Seas Fishing 
Compliance Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered

[[Page 45873]]

Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Paperwork 
Reduction Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act.
    Section 603(c) of the RFA requires each IRFA to contain a 
description of any significant alternatives to the proposed rule which 
would accomplish the stated objectives of applicable statutes and 
minimize any significant economic impact of the proposed rule on small 
entities. Additionally, the RFA (5 U.S.C. 603(c)(1)-(4)) lists four 
general categories of significant alternatives that would assist an 
agency in the development of significant alternatives. These categories 
of alternatives are: (1) Establishment of differing compliance or 
reporting requirements or timetables that take into account the 
resources available to small entities; (2) clarification, 
consolidation, or simplification of compliance and reporting 
requirements under the rule for such small entities; (3) use of 
performance rather than design standards; and, (4) exemptions from 
coverage of the rule for small entities. In order to meet the 
objectives of this proposed rule, consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens 
Act, NMFS cannot exempt small entities or change the reporting 
requirements only for small entities because all the entities affected 
are considered small entities; therefore, there are no alternatives 
discussed that fall under the first, second, and fourth categories 
described above. NMFS does not know of any performance or design 
standards that would satisfy the aforementioned objectives of this 
rulemaking while, concurrently, complying with the Magnuson-Stevens 
Act; therefore, there are no alternatives considered under the third 
category.
    This rulemaking does not establish management measures to be 
implemented, but rather implements previously adopted and analyzed 
measures with adjustments, as specified in the 2006 Consolidated 
Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments and the Environmental Assessment 
(EA) that accompanied the 2011 shark quota specifications rule (75 FR 
76302; December 8, 2010). Thus, NMFS proposes to adjust quotas 
established and analyzed in the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and 
its amendments by subtracting the underharvest or adding the 
overharvest as allowable. Thus, NMFS has limited flexibility to modify 
the quotas in this rule, the impacts of which were analyzed in previous 
regulatory flexibility analyses.
    Based on the 2017 ex-vessel price (Table 3), fully harvesting the 
unadjusted 2019 Atlantic shark commercial baseline quotas could result 
in total fleet revenues of $7,184,943. For the Gulf of Mexico blacktip 
shark management group, NMFS is proposing to increase the baseline sub-
regional quotas due to the underharvests in 2018. The increase for the 
western Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group could result in 
a $79,243 gain in total revenues for fishermen in that sub-region, 
while the increase for the eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark 
management group could result in a $9,781 gain in total revenues for 
fishermen in that sub-region. For the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic 
smoothhound shark management groups, NMFS is proposing to increase the 
baseline quotas due to the underharvest in 2018. This would cause a 
potential gain in revenue of $581,718 for the fleet in the Gulf of 
Mexico region and a potential gain in revenue of $1,323,867 for the 
fleet in the Atlantic region.
    All of these changes in gross revenues are similar to the changes 
in gross revenues analyzed in the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP 
and its amendments. The final regulatory flexibility analyses for those 
amendments concluded that the economic impacts on these small entities 
are expected to be minimal. In the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP 
and its amendments and the EA for the 2011 shark quota specifications 
rule, NMFS stated it would be conducting annual rulemakings and 
considering the potential economic impacts of adjusting the quotas for 
under- and overharvests at that time.

                Table 3--Average Ex-Vessel Prices per lb dw for Each Shark Management Group, 2017
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                    Average ex-     Average ex-
                    Region                                   Species                vessel meat     vessel fin
                                                                                       price           price
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Western Gulf of Mexico........................  Blacktip Shark..................           $0.51          $11.03
                                                Aggregated LCS..................            0.51           12.51
                                                Hammerhead Shark................            0.67           11.67
Eastern Gulf of Mexico........................  Blacktip Shark..................            0.62            8.22
                                                Aggregated LCS..................            0.43           13.00
                                                Hammerhead Shark................            0.55           12.80
Gulf of Mexico................................  Non-Blacknose SCS...............            0.38            8.68
                                                Smoothhound Shark...............            1.50            1.91
Atlantic......................................  Aggregated LCS..................            0.95           11.47
                                                Hammerhead Shark................            0.41           13.91
                                                Non-Blacknose SCS...............            0.96            7.33
                                                Blacknose Shark.................            1.05            7.33
                                                Smoothhound Shark...............            0.70            1.63
No Region.....................................  Shark Research Fishery                      0.80           12.40
                                                 (Aggregated LCS).
                                                Shark Research Fishery (Sandbar             0.50           12.40
                                                 only).
                                                Blue shark......................            1.40           11.44
                                                Porbeagle shark*................            1.54            2.82
                                                Other Pelagic sharks............            1.52            2.82
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Used other pelagic shark ex-vessel prices for porbeagle sharks ex-vessel prices since there currently are no
  landings of porbeagle sharks.

    For this rule, NMFS also reviewed the criteria at Sec.  
635.27(b)(3) to determine when opening each fishery would provide 
equitable opportunities for fishermen, to the extent practicable, while 
also considering the ecological needs of the different species. The 
opening dates of the fishing season(s) could vary depending upon the 
available annual quota, catch rates, and number of fishing participants 
during the year. For the 2019 fishing year, NMFS is proposing to open 
all of the shark management groups on the effective date of the final 
rule for this action (expected to be on or about January 1). The direct 
and indirect economic impacts would be neutral on

[[Page 45874]]

a short- and long-term basis because NMFS is not proposing to change 
the opening dates of these fisheries from the status quo.

    Authority 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.

    Dated: September 5, 2018.
Samuel D. Rauch, III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2018-19594 Filed 9-10-18; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P