Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Amendment 13 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan, 23020-23023 [2019-10565]

Download as PDF 23020 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 98 / Tuesday, May 21, 2019 / Notices available and the resulting 41.57 percent CVD rate for POSCO, constitutes a final decision of that court that is not in harmony with the Final Amended Determination. This notice is published in fulfillment of the publication requirements of Timken. This notice is issued and published in accordance with sections 516A(e)(1), 705(c)(1)(B), and 777(i)(1) of the Act. Dated: May 15, 2019. Jeffrey I. Kessler, Assistant Secretary for Enforcement and Compliance. [FR Doc. 2019–10544 Filed 5–20–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–DS–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XF862 Endangered Species; File No. 21367 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; receipt of application for a permit modification. AGENCY: Notice is hereby given that Christopher Marshall, Ph.D., Texas A&M University at Galveston, 200 Seawolf Parkway, Galveston, TX 77553, has requested a modification to scientific research Permit No. 21367. DATES: Written, telefaxed, or email comments must be received on or before June 20, 2019. ADDRESSES: The modification request and related documents are available for review by selecting ‘‘Records Open for Public Comment’’ from the Features box on the Applications and Permits for Protected Species (APPS) home page, https://apps.nmfs.noaa.gov, and then selecting File No. 21367 Mod 3 from the list of available applications. These documents are also available upon written request or by appointment in the Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, 1315 East-West Highway, Room 13705, Silver Spring, MD 20910; phone: (301) 427–8401; fax: (301) 713–0376. Written comments on this application should be submitted to the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, at the address listed above. Comments may also be submitted by facsimile to (301) 713–0376, or by email to NMFS.Pr1Comments@noaa.gov. Please include the File No. in the subject line of the email comment. Those individuals requesting a public hearing should submit a written request jbell on DSK3GLQ082PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:50 May 20, 2019 Jkt 247001 to the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division at the address listed above. The request should set forth the specific reasons why a hearing on this application would be appropriate. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Amy Hapeman or Erin Markin, (301) 427–8401. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The subject modification to Permit No. 21367, issued on March 15, 2018 (83 FR 17655) is requested under the authority of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) and the regulations governing the taking, importing, and exporting of endangered and threatened species (50 CFR parts 222–226). Permit No. 21367 authorizes the permit holder to conduct research on sea turtles to characterize the movement, habitat use, foraging ecology, and health of sea turtles on the Texas coast and in the western Gulf of Mexico. Researchers are authorized to capture sea turtles by hand, dip net, tangle net or cast net and perform the following procedures prior to release of animals: Examination, marking, morphometrics, biological sampling, and attachment of transmitters. The permit holder requests authorization to increase the number of green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) that may be taken annually from 45 to 80 animals to accommodate increased efforts in Laguna Madre. No other changes to the permit are requested. Dated: May 16, 2019. Julia Marie Harrison, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2019–10548 Filed 5–20–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–BI08 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Amendment 13 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of intent (NOI) to prepare an environmental impact analysis; notice of availability of issues and options paper; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS announces its intent to prepare an environmental impact SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00004 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the availability of the Issues and Options Paper for Amendment 13 to the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Fishery Management Plan (FMP) (Issues and Options Paper). This notice announces the start of a public process for determining the scope of significant issues related to the management of Atlantic bluefin tuna (bluefin), and addressing issues identified by considering modification of bluefin regulations. The catalysts for beginning this regulatory process are the release of the Draft Three-Year Review of the IBQ Program (Three-Year Review), recent changes in the bluefin fishery, and advice and input from the HMS Advisory Panel and the public. The environmental impact analysis will include an assessment of the potential effects of alternative measures for management of bluefin under the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan (2006 Consolidated HMS FMP). The subjects in the Issues and Options Paper include refining the Individual Bluefin Quota (IBQ) Program, reassessing allocation of the bluefin quota and subquota, including the potential elimination or phasing out of the Purse Seine category, and other regulatory provisions regarding directed fisheries and incidental pelagic longline fisheries. The scoping process and environmental impact analysis would determine whether existing management measures are the best means of achieving current management objectives and providing flexibility to adapt to variability in the future, consistent with the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA), and other relevant Federal laws. NMFS will use the scoping process and the draft environmental impact analysis to consider development of Amendment 13 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, if warranted. NMFS is requesting comments on this NOI and the management options described in the Issues and Options Paper, and other potential regulatory provisions regarding the bluefin directed fisheries and incidental pelagic longline fishery that would meet the purpose and need for this action. NMFS will hold public scoping meetings and a webinar to gather comment on these measures and potential management options. The time and location details of the scoping meetings and webinar will be announced in a separate Federal Register notice. NMFS will also present E:\FR\FM\21MYN1.SGM 21MYN1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 98 / Tuesday, May 21, 2019 / Notices the Issues and Options Paper at the HMS Advisory Panel Meeting on May 22, 2019 (https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/event/may2019-hms-advisory-panel-meeting). Written comments on this NOI and the scoping document must be received on or before July 31, 2019. DATES: The presentation at the HMS Advisory Panel will be held at the Sheraton Silver Spring Hotel, 8777 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20910. You may submit comments, identified by ‘‘NOAA–NMFS–2019– 0042,’’ by either of the following methods: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to https://www.regulations.gov and search for: NOAA–NMFS–2019–0042, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Tom Warren, Highly Migratory Species Management Division, NOAA Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, or to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted to http:// www.regulations.gov without change. All Personal Identifying Information (e.g., name, address), 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). The Issues and Options Paper is available by sending your request to Tom Warren at the mailing address specified above, or by calling the phone numbers indicated below. The Issues and Options Paper, the Three-Year Review, the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, and FMP amendments may also be downloaded from the HMS website at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/ action/amendment-13-2006consolidated-hms-fishery-managementplan-bluefin-management-measures. jbell on DSK3GLQ082PROD with NOTICES ADDRESSES: Tom Warren at 978–281–9347, or Carrie Soltanoff at 301–427–8587, or online at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/topic/ atlantic-highly-migratory-species. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:50 May 20, 2019 Jkt 247001 Background Regulations implemented under the authority of ATCA (16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.) and the Magnuson-Stevens Act (16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) governing the harvest of Atlantic HMS, including bluefin, by persons and vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction are found at 50 CFR part 635. The 1999 Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Tunas, Swordfish, and Sharks (1999 FMP) allocated the annual U.S. bluefin quota recommended by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) to bluefin quota categories based on landings from 1983–1991. Landings were the only portion of catch (i.e., ‘‘catch’’ includes both landings and dead discards) that were factored into the 1999 FMP percentage allocation analysis for the various bluefin fisheries at that time, as dead discards were accounted for under a separate ICCAT allocation. In 2006, NMFS finalized the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP, to simplify management and better coordinate domestic conservation and management of Atlantic HMS. This consolidated HMS FMP carried forward many of the objectives and measures from the 1999 FMP (e.g., reduce dead discard and post-release mortality of Atlantic HMS in directed and nondirected fisheries; reduce bycatch and bycatch mortality). The bluefin quota category percentage allocations continued unchanged in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP. Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP (Amendment 7; 79 FR 71510, December 2, 2014) implemented several measures for the pelagic longline fishery including, but not limited to, gear restricted areas, the IBQ catch share program, and catch reporting of each pelagic longline set using vessel monitoring systems. Amendment 7 also implemented an annual adjustment of the Purse Seine category quota, using a formula based on the catch by purse seine fishery participants in the previous year. This allows NMFS to adjust the Purse Seine category quota either upwards or downwards based on recent fishing activity. Amendment 7 provided the opportunity for Purse Seine category participants to lease quota to (or from) pelagic longline vessels to ensure that the IBQ leasing market met the needs of the pelagic longline fishery to account for bluefin catch, and provided additional flexibility for the Purse Seine category participants. The most recent stock assessment for western Atlantic bluefin was conducted in 2017 by the Standing Committee on Research and Statistics (SCRS), the PO 00000 Frm 00005 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 23021 scientific body of ICCAT. At its November 2017 meeting, after considering the SCRS advice, ICCAT adopted a recommendation for an interim conservation and management plan for western Atlantic bluefin tuna for 2018 through 2020 (ICCAT Recommendation 17–06). Following the 2017 stock assessment, and after applying domestic stock status determination criteria, NMFS concluded that the overfished status of the bluefin stock was unknown, and that the stock was not subject to overfishing. NMFS stated that changing from ‘‘overfished’’ to ‘‘unknown’’ status was appropriate, given the continued inability to resolve the two widely divergent stock recruitment scenarios approach taken under past SCRS stock assessments, and the SCRS’ use of a different approach based on the fishing mortality rate in the 2017 assessment. In Amendment 7, NMFS proposed and finalized a plan to formally evaluate the success and performance of the IBQ Program after three years of operation and to provide the HMS Advisory Panel with a publicly-available written document with its findings. The Draft Three-Year Review contains preliminary conclusions of the program’s effectiveness in meeting the goals and objectives specified in Amendment 7, as well as evaluates the various components of this catch share program. The Three-Year Review was released on May 10, 2019, and included analyses of the IBQ Program since its inception. Amendment 7 anticipated that NMFS would consider regulatory changes to the IBQ Program after its formal review. The Draft Three-Year Review provides a large amount of data and is relevant for consideration of such changes. The Draft Three-Year Review made a preliminary conclusion that the IBQ Program fully achieved many Amendment 7 objectives such as reducing bluefin dead discards, providing incentives to avoid bluefin, implementing individual accountability for bluefin catch, providing flexibility to obtain quota from other vessels, and minimizing constraints on fishing for target species. However, the review found that the IBQ Program only partially achieved the objective of maintaining profitability. The ThreeYear Review also made the following preliminary recommendations regarding the IBQ Program components (not to be confused with the objectives). Regarding share distributions and IBQ individual accountability rules, the Three-Year Review recommended considering a different method of share or quota distribution among participants. The current share distribution method E:\FR\FM\21MYN1.SGM 21MYN1 jbell on DSK3GLQ082PROD with NOTICES 23022 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 98 / Tuesday, May 21, 2019 / Notices reflects historical catch and participants in the fishery, but may not reflect current fishery participation, nor align with the need for quota. Regarding Accumulation Caps, the Draft ThreeYear Review stated: ‘‘A more conservative cap on the amount of IBQ used or owned should be considered to reduce the risk of entities controlling a large percentage of IBQ.’’ The Issues and Options Paper for Amendment 13 includes options to address these issues. Similar to the pelagic longline fishery, the directed bluefin fisheries have evolved over time, and the Issues and Options Paper includes several issues related to the directed bluefin fisheries. Since 1982, the Purse Seine category has been limited to participants who historically were financially dependent on the fishery. Although new entrants are prohibited, an owner of a vessel with an Atlantic Tunas permit in the Purse Seine category may transfer the permit to another purse seine vessel that he or she owns. In the purse seine fishery, since 2015, there have been no landings of bluefin by purse seine vessels. Only one purse seine vessel operated, made only a small number of sets over a couple of years, and accounted for only a small percentage of commercial bluefin landings between 2005 and 2015 (one, twelve, two, less than one, eight, six, and five percent of commercial bluefin landings in 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015, respectively). While the purse seine fishery has been mostly inactive over the past decade-plus, handgear fisheries have remained very active, landing large amounts of bluefin in recent years, and have renewed interest in the optimal and fair allocation of bluefin quota among seasons and geographic areas. HMS Advisory Panel members and the public have suggested sun-setting or phasing out the purse seine fishery to optimize the utilization of bluefin quota and increase certainty in the bluefin fishery. Many permitted commercial and recreational vessels that may target bluefin, as well as the pelagic longline vessels that may not target bluefin, but that rely on bluefin quota to facilitate directed fishing operations for target species, would benefit from additional bluefin quota and increased certainty regarding quota availability. Prior to Amendment 7, the Purse Seine category was allocated 18.5 percent (over 150 mt) of the U.S. bluefin quota. Since 2015, when Amendment 7 implemented an annual redistribution of Purse Seine category quota (to the Reserve category) based on the previous year’s catch by the purse seine fishery, the Purse Seine category quota has been adjusted downward. Amendment 7 also VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:50 May 20, 2019 Jkt 247001 implemented the ability of the purse seine fishery participants to lease IBQ to or from the pelagic longline fishery. In 2018 and 2019, the Purse Seine category quota was adjusted downward from its baseline amount of 219.5 to 55 mt (representing four percent of the bluefin quota), and limited amounts of bluefin quota were leased to pelagic longline vessels within the IBQ Program. Although limited in scope, IBQ leases from Purse Seine participants to pelagic longline vessel owners were a meaningful initial component of the IBQ Program, contributing to a successful leasing market. Redistribution of Purse Seine category quota may provide more quota to active bluefin fisheries, which may address desire for more flexibility and concerns about premature fishery closures, as well as provide additional quota for allocation to the pelagic longline fishery. The Amendment 13 Issues and Options Paper will be used in 2019 for scoping, a public process during which NMFS will consider a range of issues and objectives, as well as possible options, for bluefin management. The options being presented in the Issues and Options Paper consider the preliminary results of the Draft ThreeYear Review and respond to recent changes in the bluefin fishery and input from the public and HMS Advisory Panel. The options include refining the IBQ program, reassessing allocation of bluefin tuna quotas (including the potential elimination or phasing out of the Purse Seine category) and other regulatory provisions regarding bluefin directed fisheries and bycatch in the pelagic longline fishery, to determine if existing measures are the best means of achieving current management objectives for bluefin management. During scoping, public feedback will be accepted via written comments or at scoping meetings as described in separate Federal Register notices. NMFS has several ongoing actions affecting HMS management that are, or soon will be, available for public comment. While each of these actions are separate, they are interrelated in some ways, and the comment periods may overlap. Depending on the outcomes, each action could have impacts on the other actions. As noted above, NMFS recently released the Draft Three-Year Review, which is expected to be finalized in September 2019 after consideration by the HMS Advisory Panel. The following details about these ongoing actions are provided for the regulated community’s information and background. NMFS is currently in the process of developing a Proposed Rule Modifying PO 00000 Frm 00006 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Pelagic Longline Bluefin Tuna AreaBased and Weak Hook Management Measures. To analyze the potential environmental effects of a range of alternatives, NMFS recently released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The DEIS evaluates whether current area-based and gear management measures remain necessary to reduce and/or maintain low numbers of bluefin tuna discards and interactions in the pelagic longline fishery, given more recent management measures, including the IBQ Program. The DEIS prefers alternatives that undertake a process to evaluate the need for the Northeastern United States Closed Area and the Gulf of Mexico Gear Restricted Area; removes the Cape Hatteras Gear Restricted Area; and adjusts the Gulf of Mexico weak hook effective period from year-round to seasonal (January–June). The comment period for the DEIS and for an anticipated Proposed Rule will be open through July 31, 2019. After consideration of public comment, NMFS expect to finalize the rule in the late fall of 2019. The proposed rule related to this DEIS is expected to be released shortly. Recently, NMFS also released an Issues and Options Paper considering approaches to collect data and perform research in areas that are currently closed to certain gears or fishing activities for Atlantic HMS. Such research will help evaluate and support spatial fisheries management for Atlantic HMS. ‘‘Spatial management’’ refers to a suite of fisheries conservation and management measures that are based on geographic area. When some spatial management tools, such as closed areas, are deployed, the collection of fishery-dependent data is reduced or eliminated. This loss of data can compromise effective fisheries management. The Issues and Options Paper considers approaches to collect data and perform research in areas that may otherwise restrict commercial or recreational fishing, making the collection of fisheries-dependent data challenging or not possible. During scoping, public feedback will be accepted via written comments or at scoping meetings as described in separate Federal Register notices. Finally, NMFS has also recently published an Issues and Options Paper for Amendment 14 that reviews annual catch limits and other target reference points for sharks. This action could result in a different process for establishing the annual catch limits for sharks, and therefore could affect all fishermen, commercial and recreational, that target or incidentally catch sharks. During scoping, public feedback will be E:\FR\FM\21MYN1.SGM 21MYN1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 98 / Tuesday, May 21, 2019 / Notices Dated: May 16, 2019. Kelly L. Denit, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. accepted via written comments or scoping meetings as described a separate Federal Register notice. jbell on DSK3GLQ082PROD with NOTICES Scoping Process [FR Doc. 2019–10565 Filed 5–20–19; 8:45 am] NMFS encourages all persons affected or otherwise interested in bluefin management measures to participate in the process to determine the scope and significance of issues to be analyzed in the draft environmental impact analysis and regulatory action for Amendment 13. All such persons are encouraged to submit written comments (see ADDRESSES), and are welcome to address the specific measures in the Issues and Options Paper. Comments may also be submitted at one of the scoping meetings or the public webinar to be identified in a future Federal Register notice. NMFS intends to hold scoping meetings in the geographic areas that may be affected by these measures, including locations on the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts, and will consult with the regional fishery management councils in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. NMFS expects to present the scoping document at the May 21–23, 2019 HMS Advisory Panel meeting (see ADDRESSES). After scoping has been completed and public comment gathered and analyzed, NMFS will determine if it is necessary to proceed with preparation of a draft environmental impact analysis and proposed rule for Amendment 13, which would include additional opportunities for public comment. The scope of the draft environmental impact analysis would consist of the range of actions, alternatives, and impacts to be considered. Alternatives may include, but are not limited to, the following: Not amending the current regulations (i.e., taking no action); developing a regulatory action that contains management measures such as those described in the Issues and Options Paper; or other reasonable courses of action. This scoping process also will identify, and eliminate from further detailed analysis, issues that may not meet the purpose and need of the action. The process of developing a regulatory action is expected to take approximately two years. Until the draft environmental impact analysis and proposed rule are finalized or until other regulations are put into place, the current regulations remain in effect. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:50 May 20, 2019 Jkt 247001 BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XH036 Pacific Fishery Management Council; Public Meeting National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of a public meeting webinar. AGENCY: The Pacific Fishery Management Council’s (Pacific Council’s) Scientific and Statistical Committee’s (SSC’s) Economics Subcommittee will hold a webinar to review new economic analyses in three draft coho rebuilding plans. The SSC Economics Subcommittee webinar is open to the public. Public comments during the webinar will be received from attendees at the discretion of the SSC Economics Subcommittee chair. DATES: The SSC Economics Subcommittee webinar will commence at 1 p.m. PDT, Tuesday, June 4, 2019 and continue until 4 p.m. or as necessary to complete business for the day. ADDRESSES: The meeting will be held via webinar. A public listening station is available at the Pacific Council office (address below). To attend the webinar (1) join the meeting by visiting this link http://www.gotomeeting.com/online/ webinar/join-webinar, (2) enter the Webinar ID: 800–770–499, and (3) enter your name and email address (required). After logging in to the webinar, please (1) dial this TOLL number 1–562–247– 8321, (2) enter the attendee phone audio access code 176–615–134 when prompted, and (3) enter your unique audio phone pin (shown after joining the webinar). Note: We have disabled Mic/Speakers as an option and require all participants to use a telephone or cell phone to participate. SUMMARY: Technical Information and System Requirements PC-based attendees are required to use Windows® 7, Vista, or XP; Mac®-based attendees are required to use Mac OS® X 10.5 or newer; Mobile attendees are required to use iPhone®, iPad®, PO 00000 Frm 00007 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 9990 23023 AndroidTM phone or Android tablet (See the https://www.gotomeeting.com/ webinar/ipad-iphone-android-webinarapps). You may send an email to Mr. Kris Kleinschmidt at Kris.Kleinschmidt@noaa.gov or contact him at (503) 820–2280, extension 411 for technical assistance. Council address: Pacific Fishery Management Council, 7700 NE Ambassador Place, Suite 101, Portland, OR 97220. Mr. John DeVore or Ms. Robin Ehlke, Pacific Council; telephone: (503) 820–2280. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: The primary objective of the SSC Economics Subcommittee webinar is to review new analyses of economic impacts associated with alternatives in three draft rebuilding plans for Queets River, Snohomish River, and Strait of Juan de Fuca Coho. Other items on the Pacific Council’s June 2019 agenda may be discussed, but no management actions will be decided in this webinar. The SSC Economics Subcommittee members’ role will be development of recommendations and a report for consideration by the SSC and Pacific Council at the June 2019 meeting in San Diego, CA. Although non-emergency issues not contained in the meeting agenda may be discussed, those issues may not be the subject of formal action during this meeting. Action will be restricted to those issues specifically listed in this document and any issues arising after publication of this document that require emergency action under section 305(c) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, provided the public has been notified of the intent to take final action to address the emergency. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Special Accommodations This meeting is physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to Mr. Kris Kleinschmidt, (503) 820–2411, at least 10 business days prior to the meeting date. Dated: May 16, 2019. Rey Israel Marquez, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2019–10557 Filed 5–20–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\21MYN1.SGM 21MYN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 98 (Tuesday, May 21, 2019)]
[Notices]
[Pages 23020-23023]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-10565]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-BI08


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Amendment 13 to the 2006 
Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan

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

ACTION: Notice of intent (NOI) to prepare an environmental impact 
analysis; notice of availability of issues and options paper; request 
for comments.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS announces its intent to prepare an environmental impact 
analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the 
availability of the Issues and Options Paper for Amendment 13 to the 
2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Fishery Management 
Plan (FMP) (Issues and Options Paper). This notice announces the start 
of a public process for determining the scope of significant issues 
related to the management of Atlantic bluefin tuna (bluefin), and 
addressing issues identified by considering modification of bluefin 
regulations. The catalysts for beginning this regulatory process are 
the release of the Draft Three-Year Review of the IBQ Program (Three-
Year Review), recent changes in the bluefin fishery, and advice and 
input from the HMS Advisory Panel and the public.
    The environmental impact analysis will include an assessment of the 
potential effects of alternative measures for management of bluefin 
under the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery 
Management Plan (2006 Consolidated HMS FMP). The subjects in the Issues 
and Options Paper include refining the Individual Bluefin Quota (IBQ) 
Program, reassessing allocation of the bluefin quota and subquota, 
including the potential elimination or phasing out of the Purse Seine 
category, and other regulatory provisions regarding directed fisheries 
and incidental pelagic longline fisheries. The scoping process and 
environmental impact analysis would determine whether existing 
management measures are the best means of achieving current management 
objectives and providing flexibility to adapt to variability in the 
future, consistent with the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, the Magnuson-
Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), 
the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA), and other relevant Federal 
laws. NMFS will use the scoping process and the draft environmental 
impact analysis to consider development of Amendment 13 to the 2006 
Consolidated HMS FMP, if warranted.
    NMFS is requesting comments on this NOI and the management options 
described in the Issues and Options Paper, and other potential 
regulatory provisions regarding the bluefin directed fisheries and 
incidental pelagic longline fishery that would meet the purpose and 
need for this action. NMFS will hold public scoping meetings and a 
webinar to gather comment on these measures and potential management 
options. The time and location details of the scoping meetings and 
webinar will be announced in a separate Federal Register notice. NMFS 
will also present

[[Page 23021]]

the Issues and Options Paper at the HMS Advisory Panel Meeting on May 
22, 2019 (https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/event/may-2019-hms-advisory-panel-meeting).

DATES: Written comments on this NOI and the scoping document must be 
received on or before July 31, 2019.

ADDRESSES: The presentation at the HMS Advisory Panel will be held at 
the Sheraton Silver Spring Hotel, 8777 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring, 
MD 20910. You may submit comments, identified by ``NOAA-NMFS-2019-
0042,'' by either of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to https://www.regulations.gov and search for: NOAA-NMFS-2019-0042, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Tom Warren, Highly Migratory Species Management 
Division, NOAA Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, 55 Great 
Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930.
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, or to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered. All comments received are a part of the public 
record and will generally be posted to http://www.regulations.gov 
without change. All Personal Identifying Information (e.g., name, 
address), 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).
    The Issues and Options Paper is available by sending your request 
to Tom Warren at the mailing address specified above, or by calling the 
phone numbers indicated below. The Issues and Options Paper, the Three-
Year Review, the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, and FMP amendments may also 
be downloaded from the HMS website at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/amendment-13-2006-consolidated-hms-fishery-management-plan-bluefin-management-measures.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Tom Warren at 978-281-9347, or Carrie 
Soltanoff at 301-427-8587, or online at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/topic/atlantic-highly-migratory-species.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Regulations implemented under the authority of ATCA (16 U.S.C. 971 
et seq.) and the Magnuson-Stevens Act (16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) 
governing the harvest of Atlantic HMS, including bluefin, by persons 
and vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction are found at 50 CFR part 635. 
The 1999 Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Tunas, Swordfish, and 
Sharks (1999 FMP) allocated the annual U.S. bluefin quota recommended 
by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas 
(ICCAT) to bluefin quota categories based on landings from 1983-1991. 
Landings were the only portion of catch (i.e., ``catch'' includes both 
landings and dead discards) that were factored into the 1999 FMP 
percentage allocation analysis for the various bluefin fisheries at 
that time, as dead discards were accounted for under a separate ICCAT 
allocation. In 2006, NMFS finalized the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS 
FMP, to simplify management and better coordinate domestic conservation 
and management of Atlantic HMS. This consolidated HMS FMP carried 
forward many of the objectives and measures from the 1999 FMP (e.g., 
reduce dead discard and post-release mortality of Atlantic HMS in 
directed and non-directed fisheries; reduce bycatch and bycatch 
mortality). The bluefin quota category percentage allocations continued 
unchanged in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP.
    Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP (Amendment 7; 79 FR 
71510, December 2, 2014) implemented several measures for the pelagic 
longline fishery including, but not limited to, gear restricted areas, 
the IBQ catch share program, and catch reporting of each pelagic 
longline set using vessel monitoring systems. Amendment 7 also 
implemented an annual adjustment of the Purse Seine category quota, 
using a formula based on the catch by purse seine fishery participants 
in the previous year. This allows NMFS to adjust the Purse Seine 
category quota either upwards or downwards based on recent fishing 
activity. Amendment 7 provided the opportunity for Purse Seine category 
participants to lease quota to (or from) pelagic longline vessels to 
ensure that the IBQ leasing market met the needs of the pelagic 
longline fishery to account for bluefin catch, and provided additional 
flexibility for the Purse Seine category participants.
    The most recent stock assessment for western Atlantic bluefin was 
conducted in 2017 by the Standing Committee on Research and Statistics 
(SCRS), the scientific body of ICCAT. At its November 2017 meeting, 
after considering the SCRS advice, ICCAT adopted a recommendation for 
an interim conservation and management plan for western Atlantic 
bluefin tuna for 2018 through 2020 (ICCAT Recommendation 17-06). 
Following the 2017 stock assessment, and after applying domestic stock 
status determination criteria, NMFS concluded that the overfished 
status of the bluefin stock was unknown, and that the stock was not 
subject to overfishing. NMFS stated that changing from ``overfished'' 
to ``unknown'' status was appropriate, given the continued inability to 
resolve the two widely divergent stock recruitment scenarios approach 
taken under past SCRS stock assessments, and the SCRS' use of a 
different approach based on the fishing mortality rate in the 2017 
assessment.
    In Amendment 7, NMFS proposed and finalized a plan to formally 
evaluate the success and performance of the IBQ Program after three 
years of operation and to provide the HMS Advisory Panel with a 
publicly-available written document with its findings. The Draft Three-
Year Review contains preliminary conclusions of the program's 
effectiveness in meeting the goals and objectives specified in 
Amendment 7, as well as evaluates the various components of this catch 
share program. The Three-Year Review was released on May 10, 2019, and 
included analyses of the IBQ Program since its inception. Amendment 7 
anticipated that NMFS would consider regulatory changes to the IBQ 
Program after its formal review. The Draft Three-Year Review provides a 
large amount of data and is relevant for consideration of such changes.
    The Draft Three-Year Review made a preliminary conclusion that the 
IBQ Program fully achieved many Amendment 7 objectives such as reducing 
bluefin dead discards, providing incentives to avoid bluefin, 
implementing individual accountability for bluefin catch, providing 
flexibility to obtain quota from other vessels, and minimizing 
constraints on fishing for target species. However, the review found 
that the IBQ Program only partially achieved the objective of 
maintaining profitability. The Three-Year Review also made the 
following preliminary recommendations regarding the IBQ Program 
components (not to be confused with the objectives). Regarding share 
distributions and IBQ individual accountability rules, the Three-Year 
Review recommended considering a different method of share or quota 
distribution among participants. The current share distribution method

[[Page 23022]]

reflects historical catch and participants in the fishery, but may not 
reflect current fishery participation, nor align with the need for 
quota. Regarding Accumulation Caps, the Draft Three-Year Review stated: 
``A more conservative cap on the amount of IBQ used or owned should be 
considered to reduce the risk of entities controlling a large 
percentage of IBQ.'' The Issues and Options Paper for Amendment 13 
includes options to address these issues.
    Similar to the pelagic longline fishery, the directed bluefin 
fisheries have evolved over time, and the Issues and Options Paper 
includes several issues related to the directed bluefin fisheries. 
Since 1982, the Purse Seine category has been limited to participants 
who historically were financially dependent on the fishery. Although 
new entrants are prohibited, an owner of a vessel with an Atlantic 
Tunas permit in the Purse Seine category may transfer the permit to 
another purse seine vessel that he or she owns. In the purse seine 
fishery, since 2015, there have been no landings of bluefin by purse 
seine vessels. Only one purse seine vessel operated, made only a small 
number of sets over a couple of years, and accounted for only a small 
percentage of commercial bluefin landings between 2005 and 2015 (one, 
twelve, two, less than one, eight, six, and five percent of commercial 
bluefin landings in 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015, 
respectively). While the purse seine fishery has been mostly inactive 
over the past decade-plus, handgear fisheries have remained very 
active, landing large amounts of bluefin in recent years, and have 
renewed interest in the optimal and fair allocation of bluefin quota 
among seasons and geographic areas.
    HMS Advisory Panel members and the public have suggested sun-
setting or phasing out the purse seine fishery to optimize the 
utilization of bluefin quota and increase certainty in the bluefin 
fishery. Many permitted commercial and recreational vessels that may 
target bluefin, as well as the pelagic longline vessels that may not 
target bluefin, but that rely on bluefin quota to facilitate directed 
fishing operations for target species, would benefit from additional 
bluefin quota and increased certainty regarding quota availability. 
Prior to Amendment 7, the Purse Seine category was allocated 18.5 
percent (over 150 mt) of the U.S. bluefin quota. Since 2015, when 
Amendment 7 implemented an annual redistribution of Purse Seine 
category quota (to the Reserve category) based on the previous year's 
catch by the purse seine fishery, the Purse Seine category quota has 
been adjusted downward. Amendment 7 also implemented the ability of the 
purse seine fishery participants to lease IBQ to or from the pelagic 
longline fishery. In 2018 and 2019, the Purse Seine category quota was 
adjusted downward from its baseline amount of 219.5 to 55 mt 
(representing four percent of the bluefin quota), and limited amounts 
of bluefin quota were leased to pelagic longline vessels within the IBQ 
Program. Although limited in scope, IBQ leases from Purse Seine 
participants to pelagic longline vessel owners were a meaningful 
initial component of the IBQ Program, contributing to a successful 
leasing market. Redistribution of Purse Seine category quota may 
provide more quota to active bluefin fisheries, which may address 
desire for more flexibility and concerns about premature fishery 
closures, as well as provide additional quota for allocation to the 
pelagic longline fishery.
    The Amendment 13 Issues and Options Paper will be used in 2019 for 
scoping, a public process during which NMFS will consider a range of 
issues and objectives, as well as possible options, for bluefin 
management. The options being presented in the Issues and Options Paper 
consider the preliminary results of the Draft Three-Year Review and 
respond to recent changes in the bluefin fishery and input from the 
public and HMS Advisory Panel. The options include refining the IBQ 
program, reassessing allocation of bluefin tuna quotas (including the 
potential elimination or phasing out of the Purse Seine category) and 
other regulatory provisions regarding bluefin directed fisheries and 
bycatch in the pelagic longline fishery, to determine if existing 
measures are the best means of achieving current management objectives 
for bluefin management. During scoping, public feedback will be 
accepted via written comments or at scoping meetings as described in 
separate Federal Register notices.
    NMFS has several ongoing actions affecting HMS management that are, 
or soon will be, available for public comment. While each of these 
actions are separate, they are interrelated in some ways, and the 
comment periods may overlap. Depending on the outcomes, each action 
could have impacts on the other actions. As noted above, NMFS recently 
released the Draft Three-Year Review, which is expected to be finalized 
in September 2019 after consideration by the HMS Advisory Panel. The 
following details about these ongoing actions are provided for the 
regulated community's information and background.
    NMFS is currently in the process of developing a Proposed Rule 
Modifying Pelagic Longline Bluefin Tuna Area-Based and Weak Hook 
Management Measures. To analyze the potential environmental effects of 
a range of alternatives, NMFS recently released a Draft Environmental 
Impact Statement (DEIS). The DEIS evaluates whether current area-based 
and gear management measures remain necessary to reduce and/or maintain 
low numbers of bluefin tuna discards and interactions in the pelagic 
longline fishery, given more recent management measures, including the 
IBQ Program. The DEIS prefers alternatives that undertake a process to 
evaluate the need for the Northeastern United States Closed Area and 
the Gulf of Mexico Gear Restricted Area; removes the Cape Hatteras Gear 
Restricted Area; and adjusts the Gulf of Mexico weak hook effective 
period from year-round to seasonal (January-June). The comment period 
for the DEIS and for an anticipated Proposed Rule will be open through 
July 31, 2019. After consideration of public comment, NMFS expect to 
finalize the rule in the late fall of 2019. The proposed rule related 
to this DEIS is expected to be released shortly.
    Recently, NMFS also released an Issues and Options Paper 
considering approaches to collect data and perform research in areas 
that are currently closed to certain gears or fishing activities for 
Atlantic HMS. Such research will help evaluate and support spatial 
fisheries management for Atlantic HMS. ``Spatial management'' refers to 
a suite of fisheries conservation and management measures that are 
based on geographic area. When some spatial management tools, such as 
closed areas, are deployed, the collection of fishery-dependent data is 
reduced or eliminated. This loss of data can compromise effective 
fisheries management. The Issues and Options Paper considers approaches 
to collect data and perform research in areas that may otherwise 
restrict commercial or recreational fishing, making the collection of 
fisheries-dependent data challenging or not possible. During scoping, 
public feedback will be accepted via written comments or at scoping 
meetings as described in separate Federal Register notices.
    Finally, NMFS has also recently published an Issues and Options 
Paper for Amendment 14 that reviews annual catch limits and other 
target reference points for sharks. This action could result in a 
different process for establishing the annual catch limits for sharks, 
and therefore could affect all fishermen, commercial and recreational, 
that target or incidentally catch sharks. During scoping, public 
feedback will be

[[Page 23023]]

accepted via written comments or scoping meetings as described a 
separate Federal Register notice.

Scoping Process

    NMFS encourages all persons affected or otherwise interested in 
bluefin management measures to participate in the process to determine 
the scope and significance of issues to be analyzed in the draft 
environmental impact analysis and regulatory action for Amendment 13. 
All such persons are encouraged to submit written comments (see 
ADDRESSES), and are welcome to address the specific measures in the 
Issues and Options Paper. Comments may also be submitted at one of the 
scoping meetings or the public webinar to be identified in a future 
Federal Register notice.
    NMFS intends to hold scoping meetings in the geographic areas that 
may be affected by these measures, including locations on the Atlantic 
and Gulf of Mexico coasts, and will consult with the regional fishery 
management councils in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. NMFS expects to 
present the scoping document at the May 21-23, 2019 HMS Advisory Panel 
meeting (see ADDRESSES).
    After scoping has been completed and public comment gathered and 
analyzed, NMFS will determine if it is necessary to proceed with 
preparation of a draft environmental impact analysis and proposed rule 
for Amendment 13, which would include additional opportunities for 
public comment. The scope of the draft environmental impact analysis 
would consist of the range of actions, alternatives, and impacts to be 
considered. Alternatives may include, but are not limited to, the 
following: Not amending the current regulations (i.e., taking no 
action); developing a regulatory action that contains management 
measures such as those described in the Issues and Options Paper; or 
other reasonable courses of action. This scoping process also will 
identify, and eliminate from further detailed analysis, issues that may 
not meet the purpose and need of the action.
    The process of developing a regulatory action is expected to take 
approximately two years.
    Until the draft environmental impact analysis and proposed rule are 
finalized or until other regulations are put into place, the current 
regulations remain in effect.

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

    Dated: May 16, 2019.
Kelly L. Denit,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2019-10565 Filed 5-20-19; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P