Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Reef Fish Fishery of the Gulf of Mexico; Revisions to Sea Turtle Release Gear; Amendment 49, 50056-50059 [2018-21635]

Download as PDF 50056 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 193 / Thursday, October 4, 2018 / Proposed Rules [ONE WEEK IN ADVANCE OF THE MEETING], to allow us to arrange for such services. There is no guarantee that interpreter services requested on short notice can be provided. For information concerning the HOS rules, contact Mr. Tom Yager, Chief, Driver and Carrier Operations Division, (202) 366–4325, mcpsd@dot.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: I. Public Participation and Request for Comments daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with PROPOSALS A. Submitting Comments If you submit a comment, please include the docket number for this ANPRM (Docket No. FMCSA–2018– 0248), indicate the specific section of this document to which each section applies, and provide a reason for each suggestion or recommendation. You may submit your comments and material online or by fax, mail, or hand delivery, but please use only one of these means. FMCSA recommends that you include your name and a mailing address, an email address, or a phone number in the body of your document so that FMCSA can contact you if there are questions regarding your submission. To submit your comment online, go to http://www.regulations.gov, put the docket number, FMCSA–2018–0248, in the keyword box, and click ‘‘Search.’’ When the new screen appears, click on the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ button and type your comment into the text box on the following screen. Choose whether you are submitting your comment as an individual or on behalf of a third party and then submit. If you submit your comments by mail or hand delivery, submit them in an unbound format, no larger than 81⁄2 by 11 inches, suitable for copying and electronic filing. If you submit comments by mail and would like to know that they reached the facility, please enclose a stamped, self-addressed postcard or envelope. FMCSA will consider all comments and material received during the comment period for the ANPRM. Late comments will be considered to the extent practicable. Confidential Business Information Confidential Business Information (CBI) is commercial or financial information that is customarily not made available to the public by the submitter. Under the Freedom of Information Act, CBI is eligible for protection from public disclosure. If you have CBI that is relevant or responsive to the ANPRM and this listening session, it is important that you clearly VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:40 Oct 03, 2018 Jkt 247001 designate the submitted comments as CBI. Accordingly, please mark each page of your submission as ‘‘confidential’’ or ‘‘CBI.’’ Submissions designated as CBI and meeting the definition noted above will not be placed in the public docket for the ANPRM and this listening session. Submissions containing CBI should be sent to Mr. Brian Dahlin, Chief, Regulatory Analysis Division, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590 or brian.dahlin@dot.gov. Any commentary that FMCSA receives which is not specifically designated as CBI will be placed in the public docket for this rulemaking. FMCSA will consider all comments and material received during the comment period for the ANPRM. B. Viewing Comments and Documents To view comments, as well as any documents mentioned in this preamble as being available in the docket, go to http://www.regulations.gov. Insert the docket number, FMCSA–2018–0248, in the keyword box, and click ‘‘Search.’’ Next, click the ‘‘Open Docket Folder’’ button and choose the document to review. If you do not have access to the internet, you may view the docket online by visiting the Docket Management Facility in Room W12–140 on the ground floor of the DOT West Building, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., e.t., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. C. Privacy Act In accordance with 5 U.S.C. 553(c), DOT solicits comments from the public to better inform its rulemaking process. DOT posts these comments, without edit, including any personal information the commenter provides, to www.regulations.gov, as described in the system of records notice (DOT/ALL– 14 FDMS), which can be reviewed at www.dot.gov/privacy. II. Background On August 23, 2018 (83 FR 42631), FMCSA published an ANPRM concerning potential changes to its hours-of-service rules. The ANPRM indicated the Agency is considering changes in four areas of the HOS rules: The short-haul HOS limit [49 CFR 395.1(e)(1)(ii)(A)]; the HOS exception for adverse driving conditions [§ 395.1(b)(1)]; the 30-minute rest break provision [§ 395.3(a)(3)(ii)]; and the split-sleeper berth rule to allow drivers to split their required time in the sleeper berth [§ 395.1(g)(1)(i)(A) and (ii)(A)]. In addition, the Agency requested public comment on petitions for rulemaking PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) and TruckerNation.org (TruckerNation). The ANPRM provides an opportunity for additional discussion of each of these topics. The listening session will provide an opportunity for interested persons to share their views on these topics with representatives of the Agency. The Agency encourages ELD vendors to participate to address potential implementation issues, should changes to the HOS rules be made. III. Meeting Participation The listening session is open to the public. Speakers’ remarks will be limited to 2 minutes each. The public may submit material to the FMCSA staff at the session for inclusion in the public docket, FMCSA–2018–0248. The session will be webcast in its entirety, providing the opportunity for remote participation via the internet. For information on participating in the live webcast, please go to www.fmcsa.dot.gov. IV. Questions for Discussion During the Listening Session In preparing their comments, meeting participants should consider the questions posed in the ANPRM about the current HOS requirements. Answers to these questions should be based upon the experience of the participants and any data or information they can share with FMCSA. Issued on: September 27, 2018. Jim Mullen, Chief Counsel. [FR Doc. 2018–21628 Filed 10–3–18; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910–EX–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 622 RIN 0648–BH92 Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Reef Fish Fishery of the Gulf of Mexico; Revisions to Sea Turtle Release Gear; Amendment 49 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of availability (NOA); request for comments. AGENCY: The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) has SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\04OCP1.SGM 04OCP1 daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 193 / Thursday, October 4, 2018 / Proposed Rules submitted Amendment 49 to the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) (Amendment 49) for review, approval, and implementation by NMFS. If approved by the Secretary of Commerce, Amendment 49 would add three new devices as options for fishermen to meet requirements for sea turtle release gear, and would simplify and clarify the requirements for other sea turtle release gear. The new devices would provide additional options to fulfill existing requirements for carrying sea turtle release gear on board vessels with Federal Gulf commercial or charter vessel/headboat reef fish permits. Amendment 49 would also modify the FMP framework procedure to allow for future changes to release gear and handling requirements for sea turtles and other protected resources. The purpose of Amendment 49 is to allow the use of new devices to safely handle and release incidentally captured sea turtles, clarify existing requirements, and streamline the process for making changes to the release devices and handling procedures for sea turtles and other protected species. DATES: Written comments on Amendment 49 must be received by December 3, 2018. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on Amendment 49 identified by ‘‘NOAA–NMFS–2018–0087’’ by either of the following methods: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail; D=NOAA-NMFS-2018-0087, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Submit all written comments to Susan Gerhart, NMFS Southeast Regional Office, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701. 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). Electronic copies of Amendment 49 may be obtained www.regulations.gov or VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:40 Oct 03, 2018 Jkt 247001 from the Southeast Regional Office website at https://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/ sustainable_fisheries/gulf_fisheries/ reef_fish/index.html. Amendment 49 includes an environmental assessment, a fishery impact statement, a regulatory impact review, and a Regulatory Flexibility Act analysis. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Susan Gerhart, NMFS Southeast Regional Office, telephone: 727–824– 5305; email: susan.gerhart@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) requires each regional fishery management council to submit any FMP or FMP amendment to NMFS for review and approval, partial approval, or disapproval. The Magnuson-Stevens Act also requires that NMFS, upon receiving an FMP or amendment, publish an announcement in the Federal Register notifying the public that the FMP or amendment is available for review and comment. The FMP being revised by Amendment 49 was prepared by the Council, and Amendment 49, if approved, would be implemented by NMFS through regulations at 50 CFR part 622 under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Background The Endangered Species Act (ESA) directs all Federal agencies to insure that any action they authorize, fund, or carry-out does not jeopardize the continued existence of endangered or threatened species, or destroy or adversely modify designated critical habitat. The ESA requires that any Federal agency proposing an action that may adversely affect ESA-listed species or critical habitat formally consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or NMFS (i.e., consulting agencies). In February 2005, NMFS issued a biological opinion (2005 BiOp), in accordance with section 7 of the ESA, that evaluated the impact of the Gulf reef fish fishery on endangered sea turtles and smalltooth sawfish. The 2005 BiOp concluded that the anticipated incidental take of sea turtles and smalltooth sawfish by the Gulf reef fish fishery was not likely to jeopardize their continued existence, or destroy or adversely modify designated critical habitat; however, the 2005 BiOp required that reasonable and prudent measures be taken to minimize stress and increase the survival rates of any sea turtles and smalltooth sawfish taken in the fishery. In response to the 2005 BiOp, the Council developed measures in PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 50057 Amendment 18A to the FMP to increase the likelihood of survival of released sea turtles and smalltooth sawfish caught incidentally in the Gulf reef fish fishery. The final rule implementing Amendment 18A required vessels with Federal commercial or charter vessel/ headboat permits for Gulf reef fish to possess a specific set of release gear, and comply with sea turtle and smalltooth sawfish handling and release protocols and guidelines (71 FR 45428, August 9, 2006). Fishermen on these same federally permitted vessels are also required to maintain a reference copy of the NMFS sea turtle handling and release protocols document titled, ‘‘Careful Release Protocols for Sea Turtle Release with Minimal Injury’’ (Release Protocols), in the event a sea turtle is incidentally captured. These Gulf reef fish permit holders are also required to post a NMFS placard of sea turtle handling and release guidelines inside the wheelhouse, or in an easily viewable area on the vessel if there is no wheelhouse. Since implementation of Amendment 18A in 2006, the Release Protocols have been revised twice, once in 2008, and again in 2010. Currently, NMFS is drafting a revision to the Release Protocols and would include the recently approved sea turtle release devices if NMFS implements Amendment 49. However, fishermen participating in the reef fish fishery cannot use these devices to meet sea turtle release gear requirements until they are implemented via regulations. Actions Contained in Amendment 49 Amendment 49 would add three new sea turtle handling and release devices, clarify the requirements for other currently required gear, and modify the FMP framework procedure to include future changes to release gear and handling requirements for sea turtles and other protected resources. NMFS and the Council are proposing these changes to provide additional flexibility to fishermen in complying with sea turtle release gear requirements, to aid fishermen and law enforcement with compliance and enforcement efforts by clarifying existing requirements, and to allow for more rapid implementation of regulatory changes to release gear and handling requirements. New Sea Turtle Release Gear The final rule for Amendment 18A established the requirement for sea turtle release gear to be carried on board vessels with Federal commercial and charter vessel/headboat reef fish permits, and specified the devices allowed to meet this requirement. E:\FR\FM\04OCP1.SGM 04OCP1 50058 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 193 / Thursday, October 4, 2018 / Proposed Rules daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with PROPOSALS Amendment 49 would add three new sea turtle release and handling devices that have been approved for use by the NMFS Southeast Fisheries Science Center (SEFSC), providing more options for fishermen to fulfill the sea turtle gear requirements. Details of the construction requirements for these new devices can be found in Amendment 49, and would be included in the new Release Protocols, if subsequently approved by NMFS. NMFS expects the proposed new release devices would increase flexibility for fishermen and regulatory compliance within the fishery, which may result in positive benefits to sea turtles. Two of the new sea turtle handling devices are a collapsible hoop net and a sea turtle hoist (net). Both of these devices are more compact versions of the currently required long-handled dip net, and would be used for bringing an incidentally captured sea turtle on board the fishing vessel to remove fishing gear from the sea turtle. For the collapsible hoop net, the net portion is attached to hoops made of flexible stainless steel cable; when the collapsible hoop net is folded over on itself for storage, its size reduces to about half of its original diameter. Additionally, there are two versions of the sea turtle hoist. One version consists of the net portion securely fastened to a frame, providing a relatively taut platform for the sea turtle to be brought on board. Another version creates a basket with the frame and net that holds the sea turtle as it is brought on board. Both the collapsible hoop net and the sea turtle hoist use rope handles attached to either side of the frame, in place of the rigid handle on the dip net. Generally, the collapsible hoop net or hoist would be used to bring sea turtles on board vessels with a high freeboard when it is not feasible to use a dip net. The third new device is a dehooker that can be used to remove an externally embedded hook from a sea turtle. This device has a squeeze handle that secures the hook into notches at the end of the shaft of the dehooker, so the hook can be twisted out. This new device would provide another option for fishermen to comply with the regulation for a shorthandled dehooker for external hooks. Requirements for Existing Sea Turtle Release Gear Amendment 49 also would also update the requirements of some currently approved devices for clarity and simplicity, and to aid fishermen and law enforcement with compliance and enforcement efforts. These updates would include more specific measurements for sea turtle release gear. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:40 Oct 03, 2018 Jkt 247001 The revisions would provide for either a minimum size dimension or a size range for the short-handled dehookers for external and internal hooks, bite block on the short-handled internal use dehooker, long-nose or needle-nose pliers, bolt cutters, and the block of hard wood and hank of rope when used as mouth openers and gags. Other proposed changes are listed below. Current regulations specify that short and long-handled dehookers must be constructed of 316L stainless steel, which is resistant to corrosion from salt water. The SEFSC has also approved 304L stainless steel for the construction of all short-handled and long-handled dehookers. This proposed additional grade of stainless steel is commonly available and is also corrosion resistant. Another required device to assist with removing fishing gear from a sea turtle is a pair of monofilament line cutters. Current regulations state that the monofilament line cutters must have cutting blades of 1-inch (2.54 cm) in length (Appendix F to 50 CFR part 622). However, SEFSC has clarified that the blade length must be a minimum of 1 inch (2.54 cm) but could be longer. Another required gear type is mouth openers and gags, used to hold a sea turtle’s mouth open to remove fishing gear. At least two of the seven types of mouth openers and gags are required on board. Current regulations state the canine mouth gags, an option for this gear requirement, must have the ends covered with clear vinyl tubing, friction tape, or similar, to pad the surface. However, SEFSC determined that this was not necessary and could result in the canine mouth gags not functioning properly. Amendment 49 would remove the requirement to cover the ends of the canine mouth gags with these materials from the regulations. Lastly, a life-saving device on a vessel, such as a personal flotation device or life ring buoy, may currently be used as the required cushion or support device for a sea turtle brought on board a vessel to remove fishing gear. However, Amendment 49 would add language to clarify that any life-saving device used to fulfill the sea turtle safe handling requirements cannot also be used to meet U.S. Coast Guard safety requirements of one flotation device per person on board the vessel. FMP Framework Procedure Currently, adding or changing careful release devices and protocols for incidentally caught sea turtles and other protected species requires an amendment to the FMP. This limits the Council and NMFS’ ability to implement new release devices and PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 handling requirements in a timely manner. Amending the FMP through the FMP amendment rulemaking process generally involves more detailed analyses and a lengthier timeline prior to implementation than rulemaking done through a framework procedure. However, the FMP contains a framework procedure to allow the Council to modify certain management measures via an expedited process (see 50 CFR 622.42). The FMP framework procedure was last modified by the final rule implementing Amendment 38 to the FMP (78 FR 6218, January 30, 2013). Amendment 49 would allow changes to the sea turtle release gear and handling techniques under the framework procedure. For example, the Council could more quickly add a new release device for sea turtles if approved by the SEFSC. The Council decided that making these changes through an expedited process may have beneficial biological and socio-economic impacts, especially if the changes respond to newer information. The Council concluded that the framework procedure would still allow adequate time for the public to comment on any future proposed regulatory changes. Proposed Rule for Amendment 49 A proposed rule that would implement Amendment 49 has been drafted. In accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS is evaluating the proposed rule to determine whether it is consistent with the FMP, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable laws. If that determination is affirmative, NMFS will publish the proposed rule in the Federal Register for public review and comment. Consideration of Public Comments The Council has submitted Amendment 49 for Secretarial review, approval, and implementation. Comments on Amendment 49 must be received by December 3, 2018. Comments received during the respective comment periods, whether specifically directed to Amendment 49 or the proposed rule will be considered by NMFS in the decision to approve, disapprove, or partially approve Amendment 49. Comments received after the comment periods will not be considered by NMFS in this decision. All comments received by NMFS on the amendment or the proposed rule during their respective comment periods will be addressed in the final rule. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. E:\FR\FM\04OCP1.SGM 04OCP1 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 193 / Thursday, October 4, 2018 / Proposed Rules Dated: October 1, 2018. Margo Schulze-Haugen, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2018–21635 Filed 10–3–18; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 180807736–8736–01] RIN 0648–BI41 Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Framework Adjustment 12 to the Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish Fishery Management Plan National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS proposes to approve and implement measures included in Framework Adjustment 12 to the Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish Fishery Management Plan that would allow the possession of Atlantic mackerel after 100 percent of the domestic annual harvest is projected to be caught. This action proposes to allow the possession of 5,000 lb of Atlantic mackerel after 100 percent of the domestic annual harvest is caught instead of prohibiting the possession of Atlantic mackerel for the rest of the year. This action is necessary to prevent unintended consequences and negative economic impacts to other fisheries. The intended effect of this rule is to notify the public of this proposed measure and to solicit comment on the proposed change. DATES: Public comments must be received by October 19, 2018. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA– NMFS–2018–0099, 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-20180099, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Michael Pentony, Regional Administrator, NMFS, Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. daltland on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with PROPOSALS SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:40 Oct 03, 2018 Jkt 247001 Mark the outside of the envelope, ‘‘Comments on Mackerel Framework 12.’’ 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). Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, or Adobe PDF formats only. The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council prepared a draft supplemental environmental assessment for the Framework 12 that describes the proposed action and other alternatives considered and provides a thorough analysis of the impacts of the proposed action and alternatives considered. Copies of the Framework 12 including the draft SEA and the preliminary Regulatory Impact Review, analysis are available from: Christopher Moore, Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Suite 201, 800 State Street, Dover, DE 19901. The SEA/RIR is accessible via the internet at http://www.greateratlantic.fisheries. noaa.gov/ or http://www.mafmc.org. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Alyson Pitts, Fishery Management Specialist, (978) 281–9352, Alyson.Pitts@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background When the Atlantic mackerel fishery starts each year, the various mackerel permit categories start with different trip limits. Tier 1 limited access permit holders have an unlimited trip limit, Tier 2 limited access permit holders have a 135,000-lb (61,235-kg) trip limit, and Tier 3 limited access permit holders have a 100,000-lb (45,359-kg) trip limit. The open access incidental permit has a 20,000-lb (9,072-kg) trip limit. When the fishery reaches 95 percent of the domestic annual harvest (DAH), all permits have 20,000-lb (9,072-kg) trip limits. When the fishery reaches 100 percent of the DAH, no mackerel possession is allowed by vessels with Federal mackerel permits. The mackerel fishery also operates under a river herring and shad (RH/S) PO 00000 Frm 00022 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 50059 catch cap, which closes the directed mackerel fishery and implements a 20,000-lb (9,072-kg) trip limit for all permits once the catch cap, currently 82 mt of RH/S, has been projected to be caught in the directed mackerel fishery. In 2018, the RH/S cap closed the mackerel fishery effective February 27, 2018 (83 FR 8635), at which point approximately 88 percent of the mackerel DAH had been harvested. Despite the early mackerel closure due to the RH/S cap, fishery participants, including small-scale mackerel jig fishermen and larger, directed herring fishermen, whose respective fisheries occur late in the year, raised concern to the Council that if mackerel catch reaches 100 percent of its quota and possession goes to zero pounds, they will be negatively impacted. Projections indicate a full closure could occur upon reaching 100 percent of the DAH at some point in November or December of 2018, depending on the pace of mackerel landings. There is a management uncertainty buffer for the mackerel fishery, currently 10 percent of the commercial allocation that is primarily designed to account for the difficulty in closing a high volume fishery, such as mackerel. Where the RH/S cap has already effectively closed the high-volume part of the fishery, the buffer is unlikely to be utilized in its original intent this year. Projections from Council staff suggest that if the fishery does not go to a zero possession limit at 100 percent of the DAH but rather a 5,000-lb (2,268-kg) trip limit, then only an additional 384,000-lb (174,180-kg) would be landed, which is a small part (17 percent) of this year’s management uncertainty buffer. The Atlantic mackerel stock was recently declared overfished, with overfishing occurring in 2016. The Council is preparing a rebuilding plan via a separate action that is on track to be effective in 2019. The projections from the assessment for that action indicate that the stock can be rebuilt in 3-, 5-, or 7-year timelines even if the full management uncertainty buffer is caught this year. The rebuilding plan projections assume that the full management uncertainty buffer will be caught in 2018. Under the proposed change to possession limits when the DAH is harvested, at its June 2018 meeting, the Council recommended to change the trip limit once 100 percent of the DAH is landed, from zero pounds to 5,000 lb (2,268 kg) through Framework 12. The New England Fishery Management Council also discussed the issue in June 2018 and expressed support for an action that would avoid the full E:\FR\FM\04OCP1.SGM 04OCP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 83, Number 193 (Thursday, October 4, 2018)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 50056-50059]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2018-21635]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

RIN 0648-BH92


Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 
Reef Fish Fishery of the Gulf of Mexico; Revisions to Sea Turtle 
Release Gear; Amendment 49

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

ACTION: Notice of availability (NOA); request for comments.

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SUMMARY: The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) has

[[Page 50057]]

submitted Amendment 49 to the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for the 
Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) (Amendment 49) for 
review, approval, and implementation by NMFS. If approved by the 
Secretary of Commerce, Amendment 49 would add three new devices as 
options for fishermen to meet requirements for sea turtle release gear, 
and would simplify and clarify the requirements for other sea turtle 
release gear. The new devices would provide additional options to 
fulfill existing requirements for carrying sea turtle release gear on 
board vessels with Federal Gulf commercial or charter vessel/headboat 
reef fish permits. Amendment 49 would also modify the FMP framework 
procedure to allow for future changes to release gear and handling 
requirements for sea turtles and other protected resources. The purpose 
of Amendment 49 is to allow the use of new devices to safely handle and 
release incidentally captured sea turtles, clarify existing 
requirements, and streamline the process for making changes to the 
release devices and handling procedures for sea turtles and other 
protected species.

DATES: Written comments on Amendment 49 must be received by December 3, 
2018.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on Amendment 49 identified by 
``NOAA-NMFS-2018-0087'' by either of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2018-0087, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit all written comments to Susan Gerhart, NMFS 
Southeast Regional Office, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 
33701.
    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).
    Electronic copies of Amendment 49 may be obtained 
www.regulations.gov or from the Southeast Regional Office website at 
https://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/gulf_fisheries/reef_fish/index.html. Amendment 49 includes an environmental 
assessment, a fishery impact statement, a regulatory impact review, and 
a Regulatory Flexibility Act analysis.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Susan Gerhart, NMFS Southeast Regional 
Office, telephone: 727-824-5305; email: [email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation 
and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) requires each regional 
fishery management council to submit any FMP or FMP amendment to NMFS 
for review and approval, partial approval, or disapproval. The 
Magnuson-Stevens Act also requires that NMFS, upon receiving an FMP or 
amendment, publish an announcement in the Federal Register notifying 
the public that the FMP or amendment is available for review and 
comment.
    The FMP being revised by Amendment 49 was prepared by the Council, 
and Amendment 49, if approved, would be implemented by NMFS through 
regulations at 50 CFR part 622 under the authority of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act.

Background

    The Endangered Species Act (ESA) directs all Federal agencies to 
insure that any action they authorize, fund, or carry-out does not 
jeopardize the continued existence of endangered or threatened species, 
or destroy or adversely modify designated critical habitat. The ESA 
requires that any Federal agency proposing an action that may adversely 
affect ESA-listed species or critical habitat formally consult with the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or NMFS (i.e., consulting agencies).
    In February 2005, NMFS issued a biological opinion (2005 BiOp), in 
accordance with section 7 of the ESA, that evaluated the impact of the 
Gulf reef fish fishery on endangered sea turtles and smalltooth 
sawfish. The 2005 BiOp concluded that the anticipated incidental take 
of sea turtles and smalltooth sawfish by the Gulf reef fish fishery was 
not likely to jeopardize their continued existence, or destroy or 
adversely modify designated critical habitat; however, the 2005 BiOp 
required that reasonable and prudent measures be taken to minimize 
stress and increase the survival rates of any sea turtles and 
smalltooth sawfish taken in the fishery.
    In response to the 2005 BiOp, the Council developed measures in 
Amendment 18A to the FMP to increase the likelihood of survival of 
released sea turtles and smalltooth sawfish caught incidentally in the 
Gulf reef fish fishery. The final rule implementing Amendment 18A 
required vessels with Federal commercial or charter vessel/headboat 
permits for Gulf reef fish to possess a specific set of release gear, 
and comply with sea turtle and smalltooth sawfish handling and release 
protocols and guidelines (71 FR 45428, August 9, 2006). Fishermen on 
these same federally permitted vessels are also required to maintain a 
reference copy of the NMFS sea turtle handling and release protocols 
document titled, ``Careful Release Protocols for Sea Turtle Release 
with Minimal Injury'' (Release Protocols), in the event a sea turtle is 
incidentally captured. These Gulf reef fish permit holders are also 
required to post a NMFS placard of sea turtle handling and release 
guidelines inside the wheelhouse, or in an easily viewable area on the 
vessel if there is no wheelhouse.
    Since implementation of Amendment 18A in 2006, the Release 
Protocols have been revised twice, once in 2008, and again in 2010. 
Currently, NMFS is drafting a revision to the Release Protocols and 
would include the recently approved sea turtle release devices if NMFS 
implements Amendment 49. However, fishermen participating in the reef 
fish fishery cannot use these devices to meet sea turtle release gear 
requirements until they are implemented via regulations.

Actions Contained in Amendment 49

    Amendment 49 would add three new sea turtle handling and release 
devices, clarify the requirements for other currently required gear, 
and modify the FMP framework procedure to include future changes to 
release gear and handling requirements for sea turtles and other 
protected resources. NMFS and the Council are proposing these changes 
to provide additional flexibility to fishermen in complying with sea 
turtle release gear requirements, to aid fishermen and law enforcement 
with compliance and enforcement efforts by clarifying existing 
requirements, and to allow for more rapid implementation of regulatory 
changes to release gear and handling requirements.

New Sea Turtle Release Gear

    The final rule for Amendment 18A established the requirement for 
sea turtle release gear to be carried on board vessels with Federal 
commercial and charter vessel/headboat reef fish permits, and specified 
the devices allowed to meet this requirement.

[[Page 50058]]

Amendment 49 would add three new sea turtle release and handling 
devices that have been approved for use by the NMFS Southeast Fisheries 
Science Center (SEFSC), providing more options for fishermen to fulfill 
the sea turtle gear requirements. Details of the construction 
requirements for these new devices can be found in Amendment 49, and 
would be included in the new Release Protocols, if subsequently 
approved by NMFS. NMFS expects the proposed new release devices would 
increase flexibility for fishermen and regulatory compliance within the 
fishery, which may result in positive benefits to sea turtles.
    Two of the new sea turtle handling devices are a collapsible hoop 
net and a sea turtle hoist (net). Both of these devices are more 
compact versions of the currently required long-handled dip net, and 
would be used for bringing an incidentally captured sea turtle on board 
the fishing vessel to remove fishing gear from the sea turtle. For the 
collapsible hoop net, the net portion is attached to hoops made of 
flexible stainless steel cable; when the collapsible hoop net is folded 
over on itself for storage, its size reduces to about half of its 
original diameter. Additionally, there are two versions of the sea 
turtle hoist. One version consists of the net portion securely fastened 
to a frame, providing a relatively taut platform for the sea turtle to 
be brought on board. Another version creates a basket with the frame 
and net that holds the sea turtle as it is brought on board. Both the 
collapsible hoop net and the sea turtle hoist use rope handles attached 
to either side of the frame, in place of the rigid handle on the dip 
net. Generally, the collapsible hoop net or hoist would be used to 
bring sea turtles on board vessels with a high freeboard when it is not 
feasible to use a dip net.
    The third new device is a dehooker that can be used to remove an 
externally embedded hook from a sea turtle. This device has a squeeze 
handle that secures the hook into notches at the end of the shaft of 
the dehooker, so the hook can be twisted out. This new device would 
provide another option for fishermen to comply with the regulation for 
a short-handled dehooker for external hooks.

Requirements for Existing Sea Turtle Release Gear

    Amendment 49 also would also update the requirements of some 
currently approved devices for clarity and simplicity, and to aid 
fishermen and law enforcement with compliance and enforcement efforts. 
These updates would include more specific measurements for sea turtle 
release gear. The revisions would provide for either a minimum size 
dimension or a size range for the short-handled dehookers for external 
and internal hooks, bite block on the short-handled internal use 
dehooker, long-nose or needle-nose pliers, bolt cutters, and the block 
of hard wood and hank of rope when used as mouth openers and gags. 
Other proposed changes are listed below.
    Current regulations specify that short and long-handled dehookers 
must be constructed of 316L stainless steel, which is resistant to 
corrosion from salt water. The SEFSC has also approved 304L stainless 
steel for the construction of all short-handled and long-handled 
dehookers. This proposed additional grade of stainless steel is 
commonly available and is also corrosion resistant.
    Another required device to assist with removing fishing gear from a 
sea turtle is a pair of monofilament line cutters. Current regulations 
state that the monofilament line cutters must have cutting blades of 1-
inch (2.54 cm) in length (Appendix F to 50 CFR part 622). However, 
SEFSC has clarified that the blade length must be a minimum of 1 inch 
(2.54 cm) but could be longer.
    Another required gear type is mouth openers and gags, used to hold 
a sea turtle's mouth open to remove fishing gear. At least two of the 
seven types of mouth openers and gags are required on board. Current 
regulations state the canine mouth gags, an option for this gear 
requirement, must have the ends covered with clear vinyl tubing, 
friction tape, or similar, to pad the surface. However, SEFSC 
determined that this was not necessary and could result in the canine 
mouth gags not functioning properly. Amendment 49 would remove the 
requirement to cover the ends of the canine mouth gags with these 
materials from the regulations.
    Lastly, a life-saving device on a vessel, such as a personal 
flotation device or life ring buoy, may currently be used as the 
required cushion or support device for a sea turtle brought on board a 
vessel to remove fishing gear. However, Amendment 49 would add language 
to clarify that any life-saving device used to fulfill the sea turtle 
safe handling requirements cannot also be used to meet U.S. Coast Guard 
safety requirements of one flotation device per person on board the 
vessel.

FMP Framework Procedure

    Currently, adding or changing careful release devices and protocols 
for incidentally caught sea turtles and other protected species 
requires an amendment to the FMP. This limits the Council and NMFS' 
ability to implement new release devices and handling requirements in a 
timely manner. Amending the FMP through the FMP amendment rulemaking 
process generally involves more detailed analyses and a lengthier 
timeline prior to implementation than rulemaking done through a 
framework procedure. However, the FMP contains a framework procedure to 
allow the Council to modify certain management measures via an 
expedited process (see 50 CFR 622.42). The FMP framework procedure was 
last modified by the final rule implementing Amendment 38 to the FMP 
(78 FR 6218, January 30, 2013).
    Amendment 49 would allow changes to the sea turtle release gear and 
handling techniques under the framework procedure. For example, the 
Council could more quickly add a new release device for sea turtles if 
approved by the SEFSC. The Council decided that making these changes 
through an expedited process may have beneficial biological and socio-
economic impacts, especially if the changes respond to newer 
information. The Council concluded that the framework procedure would 
still allow adequate time for the public to comment on any future 
proposed regulatory changes.

Proposed Rule for Amendment 49

    A proposed rule that would implement Amendment 49 has been drafted. 
In accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS is evaluating the 
proposed rule to determine whether it is consistent with the FMP, the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable laws. If that determination 
is affirmative, NMFS will publish the proposed rule in the Federal 
Register for public review and comment.

Consideration of Public Comments

    The Council has submitted Amendment 49 for Secretarial review, 
approval, and implementation. Comments on Amendment 49 must be received 
by December 3, 2018. Comments received during the respective comment 
periods, whether specifically directed to Amendment 49 or the proposed 
rule will be considered by NMFS in the decision to approve, disapprove, 
or partially approve Amendment 49. Comments received after the comment 
periods will not be considered by NMFS in this decision. All comments 
received by NMFS on the amendment or the proposed rule during their 
respective comment periods will be addressed in the final rule.

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


[[Page 50059]]


    Dated: October 1, 2018.
Margo Schulze-Haugen,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2018-21635 Filed 10-3-18; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P