Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Reef Fish Fishery of the Gulf of Mexico; Revisions to Red Snapper and Hogfish Management Measures, 7828-7831 [2019-03900]

Download as PDF 7828 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 43 / Tuesday, March 5, 2019 / Rules and Regulations amozie on DSK9F9SC42PROD with RULES when the commercial ACL is reached or is projected to be reached. Accordingly, the 2019 commercial season opens on July 8, 2019. The commercial season will remain open until 12:01 a.m., local time, on January 1, 2020, unless the commercial ACL is reached or projected to be reached prior to this date. During the commercial fishing season, the commercial trip limit is 75 lb (34 kg), gutted weight. NMFS will monitor commercial landings during the open season, and if commercial landings reach or are projected to reach the commercial ACL, then NMFS will file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register to close the commercial sector for red snapper for the remainder of the fishing year. The recreational season begins on the second Friday in July. Accordingly, the 2019 recreational red snapper season opens at 12:01 a.m., local time, on July 12, 2019, and closes at 12:01 a.m., local time, on July 15, 2019; then reopens at 12:01 a.m., local time, on July 19, 2019, and closes at 12:01 a.m., local time, on July 21, 2019. During the recreational season, the recreational bag limit is one red snapper per person, per day. After the recreational sector closure, the bag and possession limits for red snapper are zero. Additionally, during both the commercial and recreational open seasons, there is not a red snapper minimum or maximum size limit for either sector. Classification The Regional Administrator, Southeast Region, NMFS, has determined this temporary rule is necessary for the conservation and management of South Atlantic red snapper and is consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable laws. This action is taken under 50 CFR 622.183(b)(5)(i) and 622.193(y) and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. These measures are exempt from the procedures of the Regulatory Flexibility Act because the temporary rule is issued without opportunity for prior notice and comment. This action responds to the best scientific information available. The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA (AA), finds that the need to implement the notice of the dates for the red snapper fishing seasons constitutes good cause to waive the requirements to provide prior notice and opportunity for public comment pursuant to the authority set forth in 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B), because prior notice and opportunity for public comment on this temporary rule VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:03 Mar 04, 2019 Jkt 247001 is unnecessary. Such procedures are unnecessary, because the rule establishing the red snapper ACLs and AMs has already been subject to notice and comment, and all that remains is to notify the public of the respective commercial and recreational fishing seasons. Additionally, announcing the fishing seasons now allows each sector to prepare for the upcoming harvest and provides opportunity to for-hire fishing vessels to book trips that could increase their revenues and profits. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: February 28, 2019. Karen H. Abrams, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2019–03933 Filed 3–4–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 622 [Docket No. 180724688–9135–02] RIN 0648–BI39 Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Reef Fish Fishery of the Gulf of Mexico; Revisions to Red Snapper and Hogfish Management Measures National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: NMFS issues regulations to implement management measures described in two framework actions to the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf), as prepared by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council). The framework actions are titled ‘‘Modify the Annual Catch Limit (ACL) for the Gulf Red Snapper and Hogfish Stocks’’ (ACL Framework Action) and ‘‘Modify the Red Snapper Recreational Annual Catch Targets (ACT)’’ (ACT Framework Action). This final rule modifies Gulf red snapper commercial and recreational ACLs (quotas) and ACTs, as well as the Gulf hogfish (West Florida stock) stock ACL, as a result of recent stock assessments for each species. Additionally, this final rule reduces the Federal charter vessel/ headboat (for-hire) component’s red snapper ACT buffer to a level that will allow a greater harvest in 2019 while continuing to constrain landings to the SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00036 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 component and total recreational ACLs. The purposes of this final rule are to respond to updated stock assessment information, maximize socio-economic opportunities for red snapper in the Federal for-hire component, and to continue to achieve optimum yield (OY) for each stock. DATES: This final rule is effective April 4, 2019. ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of the two framework actions, each including an environmental assessment, a regulatory impact review, and a Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) analysis, may be obtained from the Southeast Regional Office website at https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/ framework-action-modificationrecreational-red-snapper-annual-catchtarget-buffers-0. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Peter Hood, NMFS Southeast Regional Office, telephone: 727–824–5305, email: peter.hood@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS and the Council manage the Gulf reef fish fishery under the FMP. The FMP, which includes red snapper and hogfish, was prepared by the Council and is implemented by NMFS through regulations at 50 CFR part 622 under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) (16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.). On December 4, 2018, NMFS published a proposed rule for the framework actions and requested public comment (83 FR 62555). The proposed rule and the framework actions outline the rationale for the actions contained in this final rule. A summary of the management measures described in the framework actions and implemented by this final rule is described below. All weights described in this final rule are in round (whole) weight. Background Red Snapper The current red snapper stock ACL is equal to the acceptable biological catch (ABC) of 13.74 million lb (6.23 million kg); 51 percent is allocated to the commercial sector and 49 percent to the recreational sector. The recreational sector’s ACL is further divided into the private angling component (57.7 percent) and Federal for-hire component (42.3 percent). In addition, recreational ACTs are in place for the recreational sector and its respective components to reduce the likelihood of exceeding the respective ACLs. The commercial sector does not have an ACT because it is managed under an individual fishing E:\FR\FM\05MRR1.SGM 05MRR1 amozie on DSK9F9SC42PROD with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 43 / Tuesday, March 5, 2019 / Rules and Regulations quota program that effectively constrains landings to the commercial ACL. The current red snapper sector ACLs are 7.007 million lb (3.178 million kg) for the commercial sector and 6.733 million lb (3.054 million kg) for the recreational sector. The current recreational component ACLs are 2.848 million lb (1.292 million kg) for the forhire component and 3.885 million lb (1.762 million kg) for the private angling component. The current red snapper recreational ACT is 5.386 million lb (2.443 million kg). The Federal for-hire component ACT is 2.278 million lb (1.033 million kg) and the private angling component ACT is 3.108 million lb (1.410 million kg). The component ACLs and ACTs are effective through 2022, after which sector separation ends and the recreational sector will be managed through a recreational ACL and an ACT, but no component ACLs or ACTs. The Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR) 52 stock assessment for Gulf red snapper indicated the Gulf red snapper stock is not overfished or undergoing overfishing, and is still rebuilding consistent with the plan to rebuild the stock by 2032. Based on the SEDAR 52 results, the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) determined the red snapper ABC could be increased, and recommended two different ABC options to the Council: A declining yield stream and a constant catch scenario. The Council used the constant catch recommendation to set the ABC at 15.1 million lb (6.85 million kg). Because the Federal for-hire component has not exceeded its applicable ACL or ACT, the ACT Framework Action was developed to reduce the buffer between the Federal for-hire component ACT and ACL. The Council did not consider decreasing the private angling component ACT buffer because this component exceeded its ACL in 2 of the past 3 years. Application of the Council’s ACL/ACT Control Rule resulted in a suggested buffer of 9 percent for the Federal forhire component. The Council decided to change the Federal for-hire component ACT for the 2019 fishing year to reflect this reduced buffer. All five Gulf states received exempted fishing permits (EFPs) from NMFS for the 2018 and 2019 fishing years to allow them to test limited state management of the private angling component. Each state was allocated a percentage of the private angling ACL and each state determined whether to manage a reduced portion of its ACL to account for management uncertainty. Therefore, the Council VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:03 Mar 04, 2019 Jkt 247001 determined that the reduction in the Federal for-hire component ACT buffer should be limited to 2019. Hogfish The West Florida stock of hogfish is contained completely within the jurisdiction of the Council and includes hogfish in the Gulf exclusive economic zone (EEZ) except south of 25°09′ N lat. off the west coast of Florida. As implemented through Amendment 43 to the FMP, the West Florida stock ACL is 159,300 lb (72,257 kg) for the 2019 and subsequent fishing years (82 FR 34574, July 25, 2017). The stock ACL is equal to the ABC. There is no ACT designated for West Florida hogfish. The SEDAR 37 Update assessment for the West Florida hogfish stock indicated the West Florida stock is not overfished or undergoing overfishing. The Council’s SSC reviewed the assessment in May 2018, and provided new ABC recommendations based on an increasing yield stream. As a result of uncertainties in the update assessment, the SSC did not provide ABC recommendations beyond 2021. Management Measures Contained in This Final Rule For red snapper, this final rule revises the commercial and recreational sector ACLs and ACTs. For the 2019 fishing year, the for-hire component ACT will be set 9 percent below the component ACL. For hogfish, this final rule revises the stock ACL for the West Florida stock. Red Snapper ACLs, ACTs, and For-Hire Component ACT Buffer Through this final rule, the total red snapper ACL will increase from 13.74 million lb (6.23 million kg) to 15.1 million lb (6.85 million kg). Using the current sector allocation ratios, the resulting ACLs are 7.701 million lb (3.493 million kg) for the commercial sector, 7.399 million lb (3.356 million kg) for the recreational sector, 3.130 million lb (1.420 million kg) for the Federal for-hire component, and 4.269 million lb (1.936 million kg) for the private angling component. As described in the ACT Framework Action, this final rule temporarily reduces the Federal for-hire component ACL/ACT buffer from 20 percent to 9 percent in 2019, which in turn increases the Federal for-hire component ACT. This consequently increases the recreational ACT as it is the sum of the Federal for-hire and private angling component’s ACTs. For the 2019 fishing year, the recreational ACT is 6.263 million lb (2.841 million kg) and the Federal for- PO 00000 Frm 00037 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 7829 hire component ACT is 2.848 million lb (1.292 million kg). For 2020 and subsequent fishing years, the recreational ACT will be 5.919 million lb (2.830 million kg) and the Federal forhire component ACT will be 2.504 million lb (1.136 million kg) for the 2020 through 2022 fishing years. The private angling component ACT will be 3.415 million lb (1.549 million kg) for the 2019 through 2022 fishing years. Hogfish Stock ACL The ACL Framework Action sets the hogfish stock ACLs equal to the Council’s SSC recommended ABCs of 129,500 lb (58,740 kg) for 2019, 141,300 lb (64,093 kg) for 2020, and 150,400 lb (68,220 kg) for 2021 and subsequent fishing years, unless changed by the Council. Comments and Responses A total of 12 comments were received on the proposed rule for the framework actions. Several comments expressed support for increasing the red snapper ACLs, decreasing the buffer between the Federal for-hire component ACL and ACT, and reducing the hogfish ACL. Other comments were outside the scope of this action and are not responded to here. These include comments related to changing the recreational season, increasing the red snapper bag limit, and allocating the hogfish ACL between the commercial and recreational sectors. Comments that are specific to the actions in the proposed rule are summarized and responded to below. No changes to this final rule were made as a result of these public comments. Comment 1: The 20 percent buffer for Federal for-hire component between the ACL and ACT should be maintained as a precautionary measure to minimize the chance of recreational harvests exceeding the ACL. Response: NMFS does not agree that the 20 percent buffer for Federal for-hire component between the ACL and ACT should be maintained in 2019. The Federal for-hire component has not exceeded its ACL or ACT since sector separation was established in 2015 in Amendment 40 to the FMP (80 FR 22422, April 22, 2015). Therefore, the Council re-evaluated the established buffer for the Federal for-hire component. The 9 percent buffer selected by the Council was derived using the ACL/ACT Control Rule, which evaluates factors such as whether there are recent harvest overages, the percent standard error in Federal for-hire landing estimates, stock status, and whether in-season accountability measures are used. This reduction in the buffer is precautionary because it takes E:\FR\FM\05MRR1.SGM 05MRR1 amozie on DSK9F9SC42PROD with RULES 7830 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 43 / Tuesday, March 5, 2019 / Rules and Regulations into account recent information that indicates NMFS can project a season length that constrains for-hire landings to the ACT, and is effective only for 2019 to coincide with the second year of Gulf state management of the private angling component under the EFPs. Comment 2: Instead of reducing the red snapper buffer between the Federal for-hire component ACL and ACT, there should be more days added to the Federal for-hire fishing season as a result of the increase in the ACL. Response: NMFS expects the increase in the Federal for-hire ACL as well as the reduction in the buffer between the Federal for-hire component ACL and ACT to allow more fishing days for the Federal for-hire component. NMFS is required to project the length of the Federal for-hire season length based on the ACT. Regardless of the ACL, reducing the buffer between the ACT and ACL will increase the ACT, and a larger ACT is expected to result in a longer Federal for-hire season length. Comment 3: One comment expressed confusion about how the hogfish minimum size limit is relevant to the action to reduce the red snapper Federal for-hire component buffer. Response: The hogfish minimum size limit is not relevant to action to reduce the Federal for-hire component buffer, and was not discussed in this context. This final rule combines two framework actions submitted by the Council: (1) The ACL Framework Action, which increases the red snapper ACLs and ACTs and decreases the hogfish stock ACL; and (2) the ACT Framework Action, which addresses only changing the red snapper buffer between the Federal for-hire component ACL and ACT. In the ACL Framework Action, the red snapper minimum size limit is discussed relative to the red snapper ACL and ACT increases and the hogfish minimum size limit, which was increased in 2017, is discussed relative to the hogfish ACL decrease. There is no comparison of the minimum size limits between these two species. Similarly, the proposed rule mentions the recent change in the hogfish minimum size limit only in the discussion of the change to the hogfish ACL. Neither the ACT Framework Action nor the section of the of the proposed rule addressing that action discusses the hogfish minimum size limit. Comment 4: It is not clear why the hogfish ACL needs to be reduced so soon after increasing the minimum size limit. Response: The reduction to the West Florida hogfish stock ACL is based on the ABC recommendation of the Council’s SSC. The SSC’s VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:03 Mar 04, 2019 Jkt 247001 recommendation was based on the 2018 SEDAR 37 update stock assessment and accounts for increased uncertainty in the stock assessment results. Because the ACL cannot exceed the ABC, the Council determined the ACL should be changed to equal the new ABC. Classification The Regional Administrator for the NMFS Southeast Region has determined that this final rule is consistent with the framework actions, the FMP, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law. This final rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order (E.O.) 12866. This rule is not an E.O. 13771 regulatory action because this rule is not significant under E.O. 12866. The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides the statutory basis for this final rule. No duplicative, overlapping, or conflicting Federal rules have been identified. In addition, no new reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements are introduced by this final rule. The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration (SBA) during the proposed rule stage that this rule, if adopted, would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The factual basis for this determination was published in the proposed rule and is not repeated here. No comments from the public or SBA’s Chief Counsel for Advocacy were received regarding the certification, and NMFS has not received any new information that would affect its determination. As a result, a final regulatory flexibility analysis is not required and none has been prepared. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622 Commercial, Fisheries, Fishing, Hogfish, Gulf, Recreational, Red snapper. Dated: February 27, 2019. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 622 is amended as follows: PART 622—FISHERIES OF THE CARIBBEAN, GULF, AND SOUTH ATLANTIC 1. The authority citation for part 622 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. PO 00000 Frm 00038 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 2. In § 622.39, revise paragraphs (a)(1)(i) and (a)(2)(i) to read as follows: ■ § 622.39 Quotas. * * * * * (a) * * * (1) * * * (i) Commercial quota for red snapper—7.701 million lb (3.493 million kg), round weight. * * * * * (2) * * * (i) Recreational quota for red snapper—(A) Total recreational. The total recreational quota is 7.399 million lb (3.356 million kg), round weight. (B) Federal charter vessel/headboat component quota. The Federal charter vessel/headboat component quota applies to vessels that have been issued a valid Federal charter vessel/headboat permit for Gulf reef fish any time during the fishing year. This component quota is effective through the 2022 fishing year. For the 2023 and subsequent fishing years, the applicable total recreational quota, specified in paragraph (a)(2)(i)(A) of this section, will apply to the recreational sector. The Federal charter vessel/headboat component quota is 3.130 million lb (1.420 million kg), round weight. (C) Private angling component quota. The private angling component quota applies to vessels that fish under the bag limit and have not been issued a Federal charter vessel/headboat permit for Gulf reef fish any time during the fishing year. This component quota is effective through the 2022 fishing year. For the 2023 and subsequent fishing years, the applicable total recreational quota, specified in paragraph (a)(2)(i)(A) of this section, will apply to the recreational sector. The private angling component quota is 4.269 million lb (1.936 million kg), round weight. * * * * * ■ 3. In § 622.41, revise paragraphs (p) and (q)(2)(iii) to read as follows: § 622.41 Annual catch limits (ACLs), annual catch targets (ACTs), and accountability measures (AMs). * * * * * (p) Hogfish in the Gulf EEZ except south of 25°09′ N lat. off the west coast of Florida. If the sum of the commercial and recreational landings, as estimated by the SRD, exceeds the stock ACL, then during the following fishing year, if the sum of commercial and recreational landings reaches or is projected to reach the stock ACL, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register to close the commercial and recreational sectors for the remainder of that fishing year. The stock ACL for hogfish, in round weight, in the E:\FR\FM\05MRR1.SGM 05MRR1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 43 / Tuesday, March 5, 2019 / Rules and Regulations amozie on DSK9F9SC42PROD with RULES Gulf EEZ except south of 25°09′ N lat. off the west coast of Florida, is 129,500 lb (58,740 kg), for the 2019 fishing year, 141,300 lb (64,093 kg), for the 2020 fishing year, and 150,400 lb (68,220 kg) for the 2021 fishing year and subsequent fishing years. See § 622.193(u)(2) for the ACLs, ACT, and AMs for hogfish in the Gulf EEZ south of 25°09′ N lat. off the west coast of Florida. (q) * * * (2) * * * (iii)(A) Total recreational ACT. For the 2019 fishing year, the total recreational ACT is 6.263 million lb (2.841 million kg), round weight. For the 2020 and subsequent fishing years, the total recreational ACT is 5.919 VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:03 Mar 04, 2019 Jkt 247001 million lb (2.830 million kg), round weight. (B) Federal charter vessel/headboat component ACT. The Federal charter vessel/headboat component ACT applies to vessels that have been issued a valid Federal charter vessel/headboat permit for Gulf reef fish any time during the fishing year. This component ACT is effective through the 2022 fishing year. For the 2019 fishing year, the component ACT is 2.848 million lb (1.292 million kg), round weight. For the 2020, 2021, and 2022 fishing years, the component ACT is 2.504 million lb (1.136 million lb), round weight. For the 2023 and subsequent fishing years, the applicable total recreational ACT, specified in paragraph (q)(2)(iii)(A) of PO 00000 Frm 00039 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 9990 7831 this section, will apply to the recreational sector. (C) Private angling component ACT. The private angling component ACT applies to vessels that fish under the bag limit and have not been issued a Federal charter vessel/headboat permit for Gulf reef fish any time during the fishing year. This component ACT is effective through the 2022 fishing year. The component ACT is 3.415 million lb (1.549 million kg), round weight. For the 2023 and subsequent fishing years, the applicable total recreational ACT, specified in paragraph (q)(2)(iii)(A) of this section, will apply to the recreational sector. [FR Doc. 2019–03900 Filed 3–4–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\05MRR1.SGM 05MRR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 43 (Tuesday, March 5, 2019)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 7828-7831]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-03900]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

[Docket No. 180724688-9135-02]
RIN 0648-BI39


Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 
Reef Fish Fishery of the Gulf of Mexico; Revisions to Red Snapper and 
Hogfish Management Measures

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: NMFS issues regulations to implement management measures 
described in two framework actions to the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) 
for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf), as prepared 
by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council). The 
framework actions are titled ``Modify the Annual Catch Limit (ACL) for 
the Gulf Red Snapper and Hogfish Stocks'' (ACL Framework Action) and 
``Modify the Red Snapper Recreational Annual Catch Targets (ACT)'' (ACT 
Framework Action). This final rule modifies Gulf red snapper commercial 
and recreational ACLs (quotas) and ACTs, as well as the Gulf hogfish 
(West Florida stock) stock ACL, as a result of recent stock assessments 
for each species. Additionally, this final rule reduces the Federal 
charter vessel/headboat (for-hire) component's red snapper ACT buffer 
to a level that will allow a greater harvest in 2019 while continuing 
to constrain landings to the component and total recreational ACLs. The 
purposes of this final rule are to respond to updated stock assessment 
information, maximize socio-economic opportunities for red snapper in 
the Federal for-hire component, and to continue to achieve optimum 
yield (OY) for each stock.

DATES: This final rule is effective April 4, 2019.

ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of the two framework actions, each 
including an environmental assessment, a regulatory impact review, and 
a Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) analysis, may be obtained from the 
Southeast Regional Office website at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/framework-action-modification-recreational-red-snapper-annual-catch-target-buffers-0.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Peter Hood, NMFS Southeast Regional 
Office, telephone: 727-824-5305, email: peter.hood@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS and the Council manage the Gulf reef 
fish fishery under the FMP. The FMP, which includes red snapper and 
hogfish, was prepared by the Council and is implemented by NMFS through 
regulations at 50 CFR part 622 under the authority of the Magnuson-
Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) 
(16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.).
    On December 4, 2018, NMFS published a proposed rule for the 
framework actions and requested public comment (83 FR 62555). The 
proposed rule and the framework actions outline the rationale for the 
actions contained in this final rule. A summary of the management 
measures described in the framework actions and implemented by this 
final rule is described below.
    All weights described in this final rule are in round (whole) 
weight.

Background

Red Snapper

    The current red snapper stock ACL is equal to the acceptable 
biological catch (ABC) of 13.74 million lb (6.23 million kg); 51 
percent is allocated to the commercial sector and 49 percent to the 
recreational sector. The recreational sector's ACL is further divided 
into the private angling component (57.7 percent) and Federal for-hire 
component (42.3 percent). In addition, recreational ACTs are in place 
for the recreational sector and its respective components to reduce the 
likelihood of exceeding the respective ACLs. The commercial sector does 
not have an ACT because it is managed under an individual fishing

[[Page 7829]]

quota program that effectively constrains landings to the commercial 
ACL.
    The current red snapper sector ACLs are 7.007 million lb (3.178 
million kg) for the commercial sector and 6.733 million lb (3.054 
million kg) for the recreational sector. The current recreational 
component ACLs are 2.848 million lb (1.292 million kg) for the for-hire 
component and 3.885 million lb (1.762 million kg) for the private 
angling component.
    The current red snapper recreational ACT is 5.386 million lb (2.443 
million kg). The Federal for-hire component ACT is 2.278 million lb 
(1.033 million kg) and the private angling component ACT is 3.108 
million lb (1.410 million kg). The component ACLs and ACTs are 
effective through 2022, after which sector separation ends and the 
recreational sector will be managed through a recreational ACL and an 
ACT, but no component ACLs or ACTs.
    The Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR) 52 stock 
assessment for Gulf red snapper indicated the Gulf red snapper stock is 
not overfished or undergoing overfishing, and is still rebuilding 
consistent with the plan to rebuild the stock by 2032. Based on the 
SEDAR 52 results, the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) 
determined the red snapper ABC could be increased, and recommended two 
different ABC options to the Council: A declining yield stream and a 
constant catch scenario. The Council used the constant catch 
recommendation to set the ABC at 15.1 million lb (6.85 million kg).
    Because the Federal for-hire component has not exceeded its 
applicable ACL or ACT, the ACT Framework Action was developed to reduce 
the buffer between the Federal for-hire component ACT and ACL. The 
Council did not consider decreasing the private angling component ACT 
buffer because this component exceeded its ACL in 2 of the past 3 
years. Application of the Council's ACL/ACT Control Rule resulted in a 
suggested buffer of 9 percent for the Federal for-hire component. The 
Council decided to change the Federal for-hire component ACT for the 
2019 fishing year to reflect this reduced buffer. All five Gulf states 
received exempted fishing permits (EFPs) from NMFS for the 2018 and 
2019 fishing years to allow them to test limited state management of 
the private angling component. Each state was allocated a percentage of 
the private angling ACL and each state determined whether to manage a 
reduced portion of its ACL to account for management uncertainty. 
Therefore, the Council determined that the reduction in the Federal 
for-hire component ACT buffer should be limited to 2019.

Hogfish

    The West Florida stock of hogfish is contained completely within 
the jurisdiction of the Council and includes hogfish in the Gulf 
exclusive economic zone (EEZ) except south of 25[deg]09' N lat. off the 
west coast of Florida. As implemented through Amendment 43 to the FMP, 
the West Florida stock ACL is 159,300 lb (72,257 kg) for the 2019 and 
subsequent fishing years (82 FR 34574, July 25, 2017). The stock ACL is 
equal to the ABC. There is no ACT designated for West Florida hogfish.
    The SEDAR 37 Update assessment for the West Florida hogfish stock 
indicated the West Florida stock is not overfished or undergoing 
overfishing. The Council's SSC reviewed the assessment in May 2018, and 
provided new ABC recommendations based on an increasing yield stream. 
As a result of uncertainties in the update assessment, the SSC did not 
provide ABC recommendations beyond 2021.

Management Measures Contained in This Final Rule

    For red snapper, this final rule revises the commercial and 
recreational sector ACLs and ACTs. For the 2019 fishing year, the for-
hire component ACT will be set 9 percent below the component ACL. For 
hogfish, this final rule revises the stock ACL for the West Florida 
stock.

Red Snapper ACLs, ACTs, and For-Hire Component ACT Buffer

    Through this final rule, the total red snapper ACL will increase 
from 13.74 million lb (6.23 million kg) to 15.1 million lb (6.85 
million kg). Using the current sector allocation ratios, the resulting 
ACLs are 7.701 million lb (3.493 million kg) for the commercial sector, 
7.399 million lb (3.356 million kg) for the recreational sector, 3.130 
million lb (1.420 million kg) for the Federal for-hire component, and 
4.269 million lb (1.936 million kg) for the private angling component.
    As described in the ACT Framework Action, this final rule 
temporarily reduces the Federal for-hire component ACL/ACT buffer from 
20 percent to 9 percent in 2019, which in turn increases the Federal 
for-hire component ACT. This consequently increases the recreational 
ACT as it is the sum of the Federal for-hire and private angling 
component's ACTs.
    For the 2019 fishing year, the recreational ACT is 6.263 million lb 
(2.841 million kg) and the Federal for-hire component ACT is 2.848 
million lb (1.292 million kg). For 2020 and subsequent fishing years, 
the recreational ACT will be 5.919 million lb (2.830 million kg) and 
the Federal for-hire component ACT will be 2.504 million lb (1.136 
million kg) for the 2020 through 2022 fishing years. The private 
angling component ACT will be 3.415 million lb (1.549 million kg) for 
the 2019 through 2022 fishing years.

Hogfish Stock ACL

    The ACL Framework Action sets the hogfish stock ACLs equal to the 
Council's SSC recommended ABCs of 129,500 lb (58,740 kg) for 2019, 
141,300 lb (64,093 kg) for 2020, and 150,400 lb (68,220 kg) for 2021 
and subsequent fishing years, unless changed by the Council.

Comments and Responses

    A total of 12 comments were received on the proposed rule for the 
framework actions. Several comments expressed support for increasing 
the red snapper ACLs, decreasing the buffer between the Federal for-
hire component ACL and ACT, and reducing the hogfish ACL. Other 
comments were outside the scope of this action and are not responded to 
here. These include comments related to changing the recreational 
season, increasing the red snapper bag limit, and allocating the 
hogfish ACL between the commercial and recreational sectors. Comments 
that are specific to the actions in the proposed rule are summarized 
and responded to below. No changes to this final rule were made as a 
result of these public comments.
    Comment 1: The 20 percent buffer for Federal for-hire component 
between the ACL and ACT should be maintained as a precautionary measure 
to minimize the chance of recreational harvests exceeding the ACL.
    Response: NMFS does not agree that the 20 percent buffer for 
Federal for-hire component between the ACL and ACT should be maintained 
in 2019. The Federal for-hire component has not exceeded its ACL or ACT 
since sector separation was established in 2015 in Amendment 40 to the 
FMP (80 FR 22422, April 22, 2015). Therefore, the Council re-evaluated 
the established buffer for the Federal for-hire component. The 9 
percent buffer selected by the Council was derived using the ACL/ACT 
Control Rule, which evaluates factors such as whether there are recent 
harvest overages, the percent standard error in Federal for-hire 
landing estimates, stock status, and whether in-season accountability 
measures are used. This reduction in the buffer is precautionary 
because it takes

[[Page 7830]]

into account recent information that indicates NMFS can project a 
season length that constrains for-hire landings to the ACT, and is 
effective only for 2019 to coincide with the second year of Gulf state 
management of the private angling component under the EFPs.
    Comment 2: Instead of reducing the red snapper buffer between the 
Federal for-hire component ACL and ACT, there should be more days added 
to the Federal for-hire fishing season as a result of the increase in 
the ACL.
    Response: NMFS expects the increase in the Federal for-hire ACL as 
well as the reduction in the buffer between the Federal for-hire 
component ACL and ACT to allow more fishing days for the Federal for-
hire component. NMFS is required to project the length of the Federal 
for-hire season length based on the ACT. Regardless of the ACL, 
reducing the buffer between the ACT and ACL will increase the ACT, and 
a larger ACT is expected to result in a longer Federal for-hire season 
length.
    Comment 3: One comment expressed confusion about how the hogfish 
minimum size limit is relevant to the action to reduce the red snapper 
Federal for-hire component buffer.
    Response: The hogfish minimum size limit is not relevant to action 
to reduce the Federal for-hire component buffer, and was not discussed 
in this context. This final rule combines two framework actions 
submitted by the Council: (1) The ACL Framework Action, which increases 
the red snapper ACLs and ACTs and decreases the hogfish stock ACL; and 
(2) the ACT Framework Action, which addresses only changing the red 
snapper buffer between the Federal for-hire component ACL and ACT. In 
the ACL Framework Action, the red snapper minimum size limit is 
discussed relative to the red snapper ACL and ACT increases and the 
hogfish minimum size limit, which was increased in 2017, is discussed 
relative to the hogfish ACL decrease. There is no comparison of the 
minimum size limits between these two species. Similarly, the proposed 
rule mentions the recent change in the hogfish minimum size limit only 
in the discussion of the change to the hogfish ACL. Neither the ACT 
Framework Action nor the section of the of the proposed rule addressing 
that action discusses the hogfish minimum size limit.
    Comment 4: It is not clear why the hogfish ACL needs to be reduced 
so soon after increasing the minimum size limit.
    Response: The reduction to the West Florida hogfish stock ACL is 
based on the ABC recommendation of the Council's SSC. The SSC's 
recommendation was based on the 2018 SEDAR 37 update stock assessment 
and accounts for increased uncertainty in the stock assessment results. 
Because the ACL cannot exceed the ABC, the Council determined the ACL 
should be changed to equal the new ABC.

Classification

    The Regional Administrator for the NMFS Southeast Region has 
determined that this final rule is consistent with the framework 
actions, the FMP, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law.
    This final rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order (E.O.) 12866. This rule is not an E.O. 
13771 regulatory action because this rule is not significant under E.O. 
12866.
    The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides the statutory basis for this 
final rule. No duplicative, overlapping, or conflicting Federal rules 
have been identified. In addition, no new reporting, record-keeping, or 
other compliance requirements are introduced by this final rule.
    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration (SBA) during the proposed rule stage that this rule, if 
adopted, would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial 
number of small entities. The factual basis for this determination was 
published in the proposed rule and is not repeated here. No comments 
from the public or SBA's Chief Counsel for Advocacy were received 
regarding the certification, and NMFS has not received any new 
information that would affect its determination. As a result, a final 
regulatory flexibility analysis is not required and none has been 
prepared.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622

    Commercial, Fisheries, Fishing, Hogfish, Gulf, Recreational, Red 
snapper.

    Dated: February 27, 2019.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 622 is amended 
as follows:

PART 622--FISHERIES OF THE CARIBBEAN, GULF, AND SOUTH ATLANTIC

0
1. The authority citation for part 622 continues to read as follows:

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


0
2. In Sec.  622.39, revise paragraphs (a)(1)(i) and (a)(2)(i) to read 
as follows:


Sec.  622.39  Quotas.

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (i) Commercial quota for red snapper--7.701 million lb (3.493 
million kg), round weight.
* * * * *
    (2) * * *
    (i) Recreational quota for red snapper--(A) Total recreational. The 
total recreational quota is 7.399 million lb (3.356 million kg), round 
weight.
    (B) Federal charter vessel/headboat component quota. The Federal 
charter vessel/headboat component quota applies to vessels that have 
been issued a valid Federal charter vessel/headboat permit for Gulf 
reef fish any time during the fishing year. This component quota is 
effective through the 2022 fishing year. For the 2023 and subsequent 
fishing years, the applicable total recreational quota, specified in 
paragraph (a)(2)(i)(A) of this section, will apply to the recreational 
sector. The Federal charter vessel/headboat component quota is 3.130 
million lb (1.420 million kg), round weight.
    (C) Private angling component quota. The private angling component 
quota applies to vessels that fish under the bag limit and have not 
been issued a Federal charter vessel/headboat permit for Gulf reef fish 
any time during the fishing year. This component quota is effective 
through the 2022 fishing year. For the 2023 and subsequent fishing 
years, the applicable total recreational quota, specified in paragraph 
(a)(2)(i)(A) of this section, will apply to the recreational sector. 
The private angling component quota is 4.269 million lb (1.936 million 
kg), round weight.
* * * * *

0
3. In Sec.  622.41, revise paragraphs (p) and (q)(2)(iii) to read as 
follows:


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

* * * * *
    (p) Hogfish in the Gulf EEZ except south of 25[deg]09' N lat. off 
the west coast of Florida. If the sum of the commercial and 
recreational landings, as estimated by the SRD, exceeds the stock ACL, 
then during the following fishing year, if the sum of commercial and 
recreational landings reaches or is projected to reach the stock ACL, 
the AA will file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register 
to close the commercial and recreational sectors for the remainder of 
that fishing year. The stock ACL for hogfish, in round weight, in the

[[Page 7831]]

Gulf EEZ except south of 25[deg]09' N lat. off the west coast of 
Florida, is 129,500 lb (58,740 kg), for the 2019 fishing year, 141,300 
lb (64,093 kg), for the 2020 fishing year, and 150,400 lb (68,220 kg) 
for the 2021 fishing year and subsequent fishing years. See Sec.  
622.193(u)(2) for the ACLs, ACT, and AMs for hogfish in the Gulf EEZ 
south of 25[deg]09' N lat. off the west coast of Florida.
    (q) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (iii)(A) Total recreational ACT. For the 2019 fishing year, the 
total recreational ACT is 6.263 million lb (2.841 million kg), round 
weight. For the 2020 and subsequent fishing years, the total 
recreational ACT is 5.919 million lb (2.830 million kg), round weight.
    (B) Federal charter vessel/headboat component ACT. The Federal 
charter vessel/headboat component ACT applies to vessels that have been 
issued a valid Federal charter vessel/headboat permit for Gulf reef 
fish any time during the fishing year. This component ACT is effective 
through the 2022 fishing year. For the 2019 fishing year, the component 
ACT is 2.848 million lb (1.292 million kg), round weight. For the 2020, 
2021, and 2022 fishing years, the component ACT is 2.504 million lb 
(1.136 million lb), round weight. For the 2023 and subsequent fishing 
years, the applicable total recreational ACT, specified in paragraph 
(q)(2)(iii)(A) of this section, will apply to the recreational sector.
    (C) Private angling component ACT. The private angling component 
ACT applies to vessels that fish under the bag limit and have not been 
issued a Federal charter vessel/headboat permit for Gulf reef fish any 
time during the fishing year. This component ACT is effective through 
the 2022 fishing year. The component ACT is 3.415 million lb (1.549 
million kg), round weight. For the 2023 and subsequent fishing years, 
the applicable total recreational ACT, specified in paragraph 
(q)(2)(iii)(A) of this section, will apply to the recreational sector.
[FR Doc. 2019-03900 Filed 3-4-19; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P