Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Coastal Migratory Pelagics Resources in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Region; Amendment 31, 51424-51426 [2018-22000]

Download as PDF 51424 * * Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 197 / Thursday, October 11, 2018 / Proposed Rules * * * Dated: August 14, 2018. James W. Kurth, Deputy Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Exercising the Authority of the Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. [FR Doc. 2018–22013 Filed 10–10–18; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4333–15–C DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 622 RIN 0648–BI46 Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Coastal Migratory Pelagics Resources in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Region; Amendment 31 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notification of availability; request for comments. AGENCY: The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (South Atlantic Council) and Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Gulf Council) (Councils) have submitted Amendment 31 to the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Coastal Migratory Pelagics (CMP) of the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) and Atlantic Region (Amendment 31) for review, approval, and implementation by NMFS. Amendment 31 would remove Atlantic migratory group cobia (Atlantic cobia) from Federal management under the MagnusonStevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). At the same time, NMFS would implement comparable regulations under the Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Cooperative Management Act (Atlantic Coastal Act) to replace the existing Magnuson-Stevens Act based regulations in Atlantic Federal waters. The purpose of Amendment 31 is to facilitate improved coordination of Atlantic cobia in state and Federal waters, thereby more effectively constraining harvest and preventing overfishing and decreasing adverse socio-economic effects to fishermen. DATES: Written comments on Amendment 31 must be received by December 10, 2018. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on Amendment 31, identified by ‘‘NOAA–NMFS–2018–0114,’’ by either of the following methods: khammond on DSK30JT082PROD with PROPOSAL SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:17 Oct 10, 2018 Jkt 247001 • Electronic submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail; D=NOAA-NMFS-2018-0114 click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Submit written comments to Karla Gore, 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 required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Electronic copies Amendment 31 may be obtained from the Southeast Regional Office website at https://www.fisheries. noaa.gov/action/coastal-migratorypelagics-amendment-31-managementatlantic-migratory-group-cobia. Amendment 31 includes an environmental assessment, a fishery impact statement, a regulatory impact review, and a Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) analysis. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Karla Gore, NMFS Southeast Regional Office, telephone: 727–551–5753, or email: karla.gore@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires each regional fishery management council to submit FMPs or amendments 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. Background Through the CMP FMP, cobia is managed in two distinct migratory groups. The Gulf migratory group of cobia ranges in the Gulf from Texas through Florida and in the Atlantic includes cobia off the east coast of Florida. Atlantic cobia is managed from Georgia through New York. The boundary between the two migratory PO 00000 Frm 00025 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 groups is the Georgia-Florida state boundary. Both Gulf and Atlantic cobia were assessed through SEDAR 28 in 2013 and neither stock was determined to be overfished or experiencing overfishing. The majority of Atlantic cobia landings occur in state waters and, despite closures in Federal water in recent years, recreational landings have exceeded the recreational annual catch limit (ACL) and the combined stock ACL. This has resulted in shortened fishing seasons, which have been ineffective at constraining harvest. Following overages of the recreational and combined stock ACLs in 2015 and 2016, Federal waters closures for recreational harvest occurred in both 2016 (June 20) and 2017 (January 24). Additionally, Federal waters were closed to commercial harvest of Atlantic cobia in 2016 (December 5) and 2017 (September 4), because the commercial ACL was projected to be reached during the fishing year. Allowable harvest in state waters following the Federal closures varied by time and area. Georgia did not close state waters to recreational harvest of Atlantic cobia in 2016 or 2017. South Carolina allowed harvest in 2016 during May in the Southern Cobia Management Zone and closed state waters in 2017 when Federal waters closed. Most harvest of Atlantic cobia off Georgia and South Carolina occurs in Federal waters. Off North Carolina, recreational harvest of Atlantic cobia closed on September 30, 2016; in 2017, harvest was allowed May 1 through August 31. Off Virginia in 2016, harvest was allowed until August 30, 2016, and in 2017, Virginia allowed harvest June 1 through September 15. Harvest in state waters during the Federal closures contributed to the overage of the recreational ACL and the combined stock ACL. The South Atlantic Council requested that the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) consider complementary management measures for Atlantic cobia, as constraining harvest in Federal waters has not prevented the recreational and combined ACLs from being exceeded. The ASMFC consists of 15 Atlantic coastal states that manage and conserve their shared coastal fishery resources. The majority of ASMFC’s fisheries decision-making occurs through the Interstate Fisheries Management Program, where species management boards determine management strategies that the states implement through fishing regulations. In May 2016, the ASMFC started developing an interstate FMP for Atlantic cobia with the purpose to E:\FR\FM\11OCP1.SGM 11OCP1 khammond on DSK30JT082PROD with PROPOSAL Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 197 / Thursday, October 11, 2018 / Proposed Rules improve cobia management in the Atlantic. In April 2018, the ASFMC implemented their Interstate FMP, which established state management for Atlantic cobia. Each affected state developed an implementation plan that included regulations in their state waters. In addition, the ASMFC is currently amending the Interstate FMP for Atlantic cobia to establish a mechanism for recommending future management measures to NMFS. If Amendment 31 is implemented, such management recommendations would need to be implemented in Federal waters through the authority and process defined in the Atlantic Coastal Act. The management measures contained within the ASMFC’s Interstate FMP are consistent with the current Federal regulations for Atlantic cobia. For the recreational sector, the management measures in the Interstate FMP include a recreational bag and possession limit of one fish per person, not to exceed six fish per vessel per day, and a minimum size limit of 36 inches (91.4 cm), fork length. For the commercial sector, the management measures in the Interstate FMP include a commercial possession limit of two cobia per person, not to exceed six fish per vessel, and a minimum size limit of 33 inches (83.8 cm), fork length. Under the ASMFC plan, regulations in each state must match, or be more restrictive than, the Interstate FMP management measures. Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia have implemented more restrictive regulations for the recreational sector in their state waters than specified in the Interstate FMP. Those regulations include recreational bag and vessel limits, and minimum size limits, in addition to allowable fishing seasons. The Interstate FMP also provides the opportunity for states to declare de minimis status for their Atlantic cobia recreational sector, if a state’s recreational landings for 2 of the previous 3 years is less than 1 percent of the coastwide recreational landings for the same time period. States in a de minimis status would be required to adopt the regulations (including season) of the closest adjacent non-de minimis state or accept a one fish per vessel per day trip limit and a minimum size limit of 29 inches (73.7 cm), fork length. Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey have declared a de minimis status. The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires a council to prepare an FMP for each fishery under its authority that requires conservation and management. Any stocks that are predominately caught in Federal waters and are overfished or subject to overfishing, or likely to VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:17 Oct 10, 2018 Jkt 247001 become overfished or subject to overfishing, are considered to require conservation and management (50 CFR 600.305(c)(1)). Beyond such stocks, councils may determine that additional stocks require conservation and management. However, not every fishery requires Federal management and the NMFS National Standard Guidelines at 50 CFR 600.305(c) provide factors that NMFS and the councils should consider when considering removal of a stock from a FMP. This analysis is contained in Amendment 31. Based on this analysis, the Councils and NMFS have determined that Atlantic cobia is no longer in need of conservation and management within the South Atlantic Council’s jurisdiction and the stock is eligible for removal from the CMP FMP. The majority of Atlantic group cobia landings are in state waters and the stock is not overfished or undergoing overfishing. However, the CMP FMP has proven ineffective at resolving the primary ongoing user conflict between the recreational fishermen from different states, and it does not currently appear to be capable of promoting a more efficient utilization of the resource. Most significantly, the harvest of Atlantic cobia is adequately managed in state waters by the ASMFC and their Interstate FMP, which was implemented in April 2018. Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia have implemented more restrictive recreational regulations than those specified in the Insterstate FMP. Furthermore, the Interstate FMP requires that if a state’s average annual landings over the 3-year time period are greater than their annual harvest target, then that state must adjust their recreational season length or recreational vessel limits for the following 3 years, as necessary, to prevent exceeding their harvest target in the future years. For the commercial sector, the ASMFC’s Interstate FMP specified management measures for Atlantic cobia that are consistent with the current ACL and AM specified in the Federal regulations implemented pursuant to the CMP FMP. Therefore, NMFS and the Councils have determined that management of Atlantic cobia by the states, in conjunction with the ASMFC and Secretary of Commerce, will be more effective at constraining harvest and preventing overfishing; thereby, offering greater biological protection to the stock and decreasing adverse socioeconomic effects to fishermen. Further, management of Atlantic cobia by ASMFC is expected to promote a more PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 51425 equitable distribution of harvest of the species among the states. Action Contained in Amendment 31 Amendment 31 would remove Atlantic cobia from Federal management under the MagnusonStevens Act. At the same time, NMFS would implement comparable regulations under the Atlantic Coastal Act to replace the existing MagnusonStevens Act based regulations in Federal waters. Current commercial management measures for Atlantic cobia include a minimum size limit of 33 inches (83.8 cm), fork length and a commercial trip limit of two fish per person per day, not to exceed six fish per vessel per day. Federal regulations for recreational harvest of Atlantic cobia in Federal waters include a minimum size limit of 36 inches (91.4 cm), fork length and a bag and possession of one fish per person per day, not to exceed six fish per vessel per day. Under the authority of the Atlantic Coastal Act, NMFS would implement these same minimum size limits, recreational bag and possession limits, and commercial trip limits in Federal waters. Additionally, NMFS would implement regulations consistent with current CMP FMP regulations for the fishing year, general prohibitions, authorized gear, and landing fish intact provisions specific to Atlantic cobia. The current Atlantic cobia commercial ACL is 50,000 lb (22,680 kg) and the recreational ACL is 620,000 lb (281,227 kg). The proposed removal of Atlantic cobia from Federal management under the MagnusonStevens Act would remove these sector ACLs. Thus, NMFS would implement a commercial quota of 50,000 lb (22,280 kg) through the Atlantic Coastal Act consistent with the current commercial ACL. The current commercial accountability measure (AM) requires that if commercial landings reach or are projected to reach the ACL, then commercial harvest will be prohibited for the remainder of the fishing year. NMFS would implement commercial quota closure provisions to prohibit commercial harvest once the commercial quota is reached or projected to be reached. The ASMFC’s Interstate FMP has specified a recreational harvest limit (RHL) of 613,800 lb (278,415 kg) in state and Federal waters and state-by-state recreational quota shares (harvest targets) of the coastwide RHL. During the development of the Insterstate FMP, one percent of the amount of the recreational allocation of the current Federal ACL (initially 6,200 lb (2,812 E:\FR\FM\11OCP1.SGM 11OCP1 khammond on DSK30JT082PROD with PROPOSAL 51426 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 197 / Thursday, October 11, 2018 / Proposed Rules kg)) was set aside to account for harvests in de minimis states (Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey). The harvest targets for each state, in both state and Federal waters, are 58,311 lb (26,449 kg) for Georgia, 74,885 lb (33,967 kg) for South Carolina, 236,316 lb (107,191 kg) for North Carolina and 244,292 lb (110,809 kg) for Virginia. Percentage allocations are based on states’ percentages of the coastwide historical landings in numbers of fish, derived as 50 percent of the 10-year average landings from 2006–2015 and 50 percent of the 5-year average landings from 2011–2015. The proposed removal of Atlantic cobia from Federal management under the Magnuson-Stevens Act would remove the recreational sector AM for Atlantic cobia. The recreational AM requires that both the recreational ACL and the stock ACL are exceeded in a fishing year then in the following fishing year, recreational landings will be monitored for a persistence in increased landings, and, if necessary, the recreational vessel limit will be reduced to no less than 2 fish per vessel to ensure recreational landings achieve the recreational annual catch target, but do not exceed the recreational ACL in that fishing year. Additionally, if the reduction in the recreational vessel limit is determined to be insufficient to ensure that recreational landings will not exceed the recreational ACL, then the length of the recreational fishing season will also be reduced. In place of the current recreational AM, state-defined regulations and seasons implemented consistent with the ASMFC’s Interstate FMP are designed to keep harvest within the state harvest targets. If a state’s average annual landings over the 3-year time period are greater than their annual harvest target, then the Insterstate FMP requires the state to adjust their recreational season length or recreational vessel limits for the following 3 years, as necessary, to prevent exceeding their harvest target in the future years. If Amendment 31 is subsequently approved and implemented, Atlantic cobia would be managed under the ASMFC Interstate FMP in state waters and through Atlantic Coastal Act regulations in Federal waters. This will ensure that Atlantic cobia continues to be managed in Federal waters and that there would be no lapse in management of the stock. These regulations would be expected to be implemented concurrently with the removal of Atlantic cobia from the CMP FMP and serve essentially the same function as VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:17 Oct 10, 2018 Jkt 247001 the current CMP FMP based management measures. Proposed Rule for Amendment 31 A proposed rule that would implement Amendment 31 has been drafted. In accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS is evaluating the proposed rule to determine whether it is consistent with the CMP 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 Councils have submitted Amendment 31 for Secretarial review, approval, and implementation. Comments on Amendment 31 must be received by December 10, 2018. Comments received during the respective comment periods, whether specifically directed to Amendment 31 or the proposed rule, will be considered by NMFS in the decision to approve, disapprove, or partially approve Amendment 31. Comments received after the comment periods will not be considered by NMFS in this decision. All comments received by NMFS on Amendment 31 or the proposed rule during their respective comment periods will be addressed in the final rule. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: October 4, 2018. Margo B. Schulze-Haugen, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2018–22000 Filed 10–10–18; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 698 [Docket No. 180328324–8464–01] RIN 0648–BH87 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act; Traceability Information Program for Seafood National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Pursuant to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2018 and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), NMFS is proposing a Traceability Information Program for Seafood to establish registration, reporting and recordkeeping requirements for U.S. aquaculture producers of shrimp and abalone, two species subject to the Seafood Traceability Program, also known as the Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP). This proposed rule, if finalized, would provide traceability for these species from the point of production to entry into U.S. commerce. Collection of traceability information for U.S. aquacultured shrimp and abalone will be accomplished by electronic submission of data to NMFS. This rule would require owners or operators of U.S. inland, coastal and marine commercial aquaculture facilities (‘‘producers’’) to report information about production and entry into U.S. commerce of shrimp and abalone products. In addition, this rule would require producers to register with NMFS and retain records pertaining to the production of shrimp and abalone and entry of those products into U.S. commerce. This proposed rule serves as a domestic counterpart to the shrimp and abalone import requirements under SIMP, and will help NMFS verify that U.S. aquacultured shrimp and abalone were lawfully produced by providing information to trace each production event(s) to entry of the fish or fish products into U.S. commerce. The rule will also decrease the incidence of seafood fraud by requiring the reporting of this information to the U.S. Government at the point of entry into U.S. commerce so that the information reported (e.g., regarding species and harvest location) can be verified. DATES: Written comments must be received by November 26, 2018. ADDRESSES: Written comments on this action, identified by NOAA–NMFS– 2018–0055, may be submitted by either of the following methods: • Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to Docket Number NOAA–NMFS–2018– 0055, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Celeste Leroux, Office of International Affairs and Seafood Inspection, NOAA Fisheries, 1315 EastWest Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910. Instructions: All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted to http:// SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\11OCP1.SGM 11OCP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 83, Number 197 (Thursday, October 11, 2018)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 51424-51426]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2018-22000]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

RIN 0648-BI46


Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 
Coastal Migratory Pelagics Resources in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic 
Region; Amendment 31

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

ACTION: Notification of availability; request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (South Atlantic 
Council) and Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Gulf Council) 
(Councils) have submitted Amendment 31 to the Fishery Management Plan 
(FMP) for Coastal Migratory Pelagics (CMP) of the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) 
and Atlantic Region (Amendment 31) for review, approval, and 
implementation by NMFS. Amendment 31 would remove Atlantic migratory 
group cobia (Atlantic cobia) from Federal management under the 
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-
Stevens Act). At the same time, NMFS would implement comparable 
regulations under the Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Cooperative Management 
Act (Atlantic Coastal Act) to replace the existing Magnuson-Stevens Act 
based regulations in Atlantic Federal waters. The purpose of Amendment 
31 is to facilitate improved coordination of Atlantic cobia in state 
and Federal waters, thereby more effectively constraining harvest and 
preventing overfishing and decreasing adverse socio-economic effects to 
fishermen.

DATES: Written comments on Amendment 31 must be received by December 
10, 2018.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on Amendment 31, identified by 
``NOAA-NMFS-2018-0114,'' by either of the following methods:
     Electronic submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-
NMFS-2018-0114 click the ``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required 
fields, and enter or attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Karla Gore, 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 required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous).
    Electronic copies Amendment 31 may be obtained from the Southeast 
Regional Office website at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/coastal-migratory-pelagics-amendment-31-management-atlantic-migratory-group-cobia. Amendment 31 includes an environmental assessment, a 
fishery impact statement, a regulatory impact review, and a Regulatory 
Flexibility Act (RFA) analysis.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Karla Gore, NMFS Southeast Regional 
Office, telephone: 727-551-5753, or email: [email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires each 
regional fishery management council to submit FMPs or amendments 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.

Background

    Through the CMP FMP, cobia is managed in two distinct migratory 
groups. The Gulf migratory group of cobia ranges in the Gulf from Texas 
through Florida and in the Atlantic includes cobia off the east coast 
of Florida. Atlantic cobia is managed from Georgia through New York. 
The boundary between the two migratory groups is the Georgia-Florida 
state boundary. Both Gulf and Atlantic cobia were assessed through 
SEDAR 28 in 2013 and neither stock was determined to be overfished or 
experiencing overfishing.
    The majority of Atlantic cobia landings occur in state waters and, 
despite closures in Federal water in recent years, recreational 
landings have exceeded the recreational annual catch limit (ACL) and 
the combined stock ACL. This has resulted in shortened fishing seasons, 
which have been ineffective at constraining harvest. Following overages 
of the recreational and combined stock ACLs in 2015 and 2016, Federal 
waters closures for recreational harvest occurred in both 2016 (June 
20) and 2017 (January 24). Additionally, Federal waters were closed to 
commercial harvest of Atlantic cobia in 2016 (December 5) and 2017 
(September 4), because the commercial ACL was projected to be reached 
during the fishing year.
    Allowable harvest in state waters following the Federal closures 
varied by time and area. Georgia did not close state waters to 
recreational harvest of Atlantic cobia in 2016 or 2017. South Carolina 
allowed harvest in 2016 during May in the Southern Cobia Management 
Zone and closed state waters in 2017 when Federal waters closed. Most 
harvest of Atlantic cobia off Georgia and South Carolina occurs in 
Federal waters. Off North Carolina, recreational harvest of Atlantic 
cobia closed on September 30, 2016; in 2017, harvest was allowed May 1 
through August 31. Off Virginia in 2016, harvest was allowed until 
August 30, 2016, and in 2017, Virginia allowed harvest June 1 through 
September 15. Harvest in state waters during the Federal closures 
contributed to the overage of the recreational ACL and the combined 
stock ACL.
    The South Atlantic Council requested that the Atlantic States 
Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) consider complementary management 
measures for Atlantic cobia, as constraining harvest in Federal waters 
has not prevented the recreational and combined ACLs from being 
exceeded. The ASMFC consists of 15 Atlantic coastal states that manage 
and conserve their shared coastal fishery resources. The majority of 
ASMFC's fisheries decision-making occurs through the Interstate 
Fisheries Management Program, where species management boards determine 
management strategies that the states implement through fishing 
regulations.
    In May 2016, the ASMFC started developing an interstate FMP for 
Atlantic cobia with the purpose to

[[Page 51425]]

improve cobia management in the Atlantic. In April 2018, the ASFMC 
implemented their Interstate FMP, which established state management 
for Atlantic cobia. Each affected state developed an implementation 
plan that included regulations in their state waters. In addition, the 
ASMFC is currently amending the Interstate FMP for Atlantic cobia to 
establish a mechanism for recommending future management measures to 
NMFS. If Amendment 31 is implemented, such management recommendations 
would need to be implemented in Federal waters through the authority 
and process defined in the Atlantic Coastal Act.
    The management measures contained within the ASMFC's Interstate FMP 
are consistent with the current Federal regulations for Atlantic cobia. 
For the recreational sector, the management measures in the Interstate 
FMP include a recreational bag and possession limit of one fish per 
person, not to exceed six fish per vessel per day, and a minimum size 
limit of 36 inches (91.4 cm), fork length. For the commercial sector, 
the management measures in the Interstate FMP include a commercial 
possession limit of two cobia per person, not to exceed six fish per 
vessel, and a minimum size limit of 33 inches (83.8 cm), fork length. 
Under the ASMFC plan, regulations in each state must match, or be more 
restrictive than, the Interstate FMP management measures. Georgia, 
South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia have implemented more 
restrictive regulations for the recreational sector in their state 
waters than specified in the Interstate FMP. Those regulations include 
recreational bag and vessel limits, and minimum size limits, in 
addition to allowable fishing seasons. The Interstate FMP also provides 
the opportunity for states to declare de minimis status for their 
Atlantic cobia recreational sector, if a state's recreational landings 
for 2 of the previous 3 years is less than 1 percent of the coastwide 
recreational landings for the same time period. States in a de minimis 
status would be required to adopt the regulations (including season) of 
the closest adjacent non-de minimis state or accept a one fish per 
vessel per day trip limit and a minimum size limit of 29 inches (73.7 
cm), fork length. Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey have declared a de 
minimis status.
    The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires a council to prepare an FMP for 
each fishery under its authority that requires conservation and 
management. Any stocks that are predominately caught in Federal waters 
and are overfished or subject to overfishing, or likely to become 
overfished or subject to overfishing, are considered to require 
conservation and management (50 CFR 600.305(c)(1)). Beyond such stocks, 
councils may determine that additional stocks require conservation and 
management. However, not every fishery requires Federal management and 
the NMFS National Standard Guidelines at 50 CFR 600.305(c) provide 
factors that NMFS and the councils should consider when considering 
removal of a stock from a FMP. This analysis is contained in Amendment 
31.
    Based on this analysis, the Councils and NMFS have determined that 
Atlantic cobia is no longer in need of conservation and management 
within the South Atlantic Council's jurisdiction and the stock is 
eligible for removal from the CMP FMP. The majority of Atlantic group 
cobia landings are in state waters and the stock is not overfished or 
undergoing overfishing. However, the CMP FMP has proven ineffective at 
resolving the primary ongoing user conflict between the recreational 
fishermen from different states, and it does not currently appear to be 
capable of promoting a more efficient utilization of the resource. Most 
significantly, the harvest of Atlantic cobia is adequately managed in 
state waters by the ASMFC and their Interstate FMP, which was 
implemented in April 2018. Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and 
Virginia have implemented more restrictive recreational regulations 
than those specified in the Insterstate FMP. Furthermore, the 
Interstate FMP requires that if a state's average annual landings over 
the 3-year time period are greater than their annual harvest target, 
then that state must adjust their recreational season length or 
recreational vessel limits for the following 3 years, as necessary, to 
prevent exceeding their harvest target in the future years. For the 
commercial sector, the ASMFC's Interstate FMP specified management 
measures for Atlantic cobia that are consistent with the current ACL 
and AM specified in the Federal regulations implemented pursuant to the 
CMP FMP.
    Therefore, NMFS and the Councils have determined that management of 
Atlantic cobia by the states, in conjunction with the ASMFC and 
Secretary of Commerce, will be more effective at constraining harvest 
and preventing overfishing; thereby, offering greater biological 
protection to the stock and decreasing adverse socioeconomic effects to 
fishermen. Further, management of Atlantic cobia by ASMFC is expected 
to promote a more equitable distribution of harvest of the species 
among the states.

Action Contained in Amendment 31

    Amendment 31 would remove Atlantic cobia from Federal management 
under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. At the same time, NMFS would implement 
comparable regulations under the Atlantic Coastal Act to replace the 
existing Magnuson-Stevens Act based regulations in Federal waters.
    Current commercial management measures for Atlantic cobia include a 
minimum size limit of 33 inches (83.8 cm), fork length and a commercial 
trip limit of two fish per person per day, not to exceed six fish per 
vessel per day. Federal regulations for recreational harvest of 
Atlantic cobia in Federal waters include a minimum size limit of 36 
inches (91.4 cm), fork length and a bag and possession of one fish per 
person per day, not to exceed six fish per vessel per day.
    Under the authority of the Atlantic Coastal Act, NMFS would 
implement these same minimum size limits, recreational bag and 
possession limits, and commercial trip limits in Federal waters. 
Additionally, NMFS would implement regulations consistent with current 
CMP FMP regulations for the fishing year, general prohibitions, 
authorized gear, and landing fish intact provisions specific to 
Atlantic cobia.
    The current Atlantic cobia commercial ACL is 50,000 lb (22,680 kg) 
and the recreational ACL is 620,000 lb (281,227 kg). The proposed 
removal of Atlantic cobia from Federal management under the Magnuson-
Stevens Act would remove these sector ACLs. Thus, NMFS would implement 
a commercial quota of 50,000 lb (22,280 kg) through the Atlantic 
Coastal Act consistent with the current commercial ACL. The current 
commercial accountability measure (AM) requires that if commercial 
landings reach or are projected to reach the ACL, then commercial 
harvest will be prohibited for the remainder of the fishing year. NMFS 
would implement commercial quota closure provisions to prohibit 
commercial harvest once the commercial quota is reached or projected to 
be reached.
    The ASMFC's Interstate FMP has specified a recreational harvest 
limit (RHL) of 613,800 lb (278,415 kg) in state and Federal waters and 
state-by-state recreational quota shares (harvest targets) of the 
coastwide RHL. During the development of the Insterstate FMP, one 
percent of the amount of the recreational allocation of the current 
Federal ACL (initially 6,200 lb (2,812

[[Page 51426]]

kg)) was set aside to account for harvests in de minimis states 
(Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey). The harvest targets for each state, 
in both state and Federal waters, are 58,311 lb (26,449 kg) for 
Georgia, 74,885 lb (33,967 kg) for South Carolina, 236,316 lb (107,191 
kg) for North Carolina and 244,292 lb (110,809 kg) for Virginia. 
Percentage allocations are based on states' percentages of the 
coastwide historical landings in numbers of fish, derived as 50 percent 
of the 10-year average landings from 2006-2015 and 50 percent of the 5-
year average landings from 2011-2015.
    The proposed removal of Atlantic cobia from Federal management 
under the Magnuson-Stevens Act would remove the recreational sector AM 
for Atlantic cobia. The recreational AM requires that both the 
recreational ACL and the stock ACL are exceeded in a fishing year then 
in the following fishing year, recreational landings will be monitored 
for a persistence in increased landings, and, if necessary, the 
recreational vessel limit will be reduced to no less than 2 fish per 
vessel to ensure recreational landings achieve the recreational annual 
catch target, but do not exceed the recreational ACL in that fishing 
year. Additionally, if the reduction in the recreational vessel limit 
is determined to be insufficient to ensure that recreational landings 
will not exceed the recreational ACL, then the length of the 
recreational fishing season will also be reduced.
    In place of the current recreational AM, state-defined regulations 
and seasons implemented consistent with the ASMFC's Interstate FMP are 
designed to keep harvest within the state harvest targets. If a state's 
average annual landings over the 3-year time period are greater than 
their annual harvest target, then the Insterstate FMP requires the 
state to adjust their recreational season length or recreational vessel 
limits for the following 3 years, as necessary, to prevent exceeding 
their harvest target in the future years.
    If Amendment 31 is subsequently approved and implemented, Atlantic 
cobia would be managed under the ASMFC Interstate FMP in state waters 
and through Atlantic Coastal Act regulations in Federal waters. This 
will ensure that Atlantic cobia continues to be managed in Federal 
waters and that there would be no lapse in management of the stock. 
These regulations would be expected to be implemented concurrently with 
the removal of Atlantic cobia from the CMP FMP and serve essentially 
the same function as the current CMP FMP based management measures.

Proposed Rule for Amendment 31

    A proposed rule that would implement Amendment 31 has been drafted. 
In accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS is evaluating the 
proposed rule to determine whether it is consistent with the CMP 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 Councils have submitted Amendment 31 for Secretarial review, 
approval, and implementation. Comments on Amendment 31 must be received 
by December 10, 2018. Comments received during the respective comment 
periods, whether specifically directed to Amendment 31 or the proposed 
rule, will be considered by NMFS in the decision to approve, 
disapprove, or partially approve Amendment 31. Comments received after 
the comment periods will not be considered by NMFS in this decision. 
All comments received by NMFS on Amendment 31 or the proposed rule 
during their respective comment periods will be addressed in the final 
rule.

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

    Dated: October 4, 2018.
Margo B. Schulze-Haugen,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2018-22000 Filed 10-10-18; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P