Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region; Amendment 42, 27576-27578 [2019-12513]

Download as PDF 27576 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 114 / Thursday, June 13, 2019 / Proposed Rules 303(r), 403, and 405, this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is adopted. Federal Communications Commission. Katura Jackson, Federal Register Liaison. [FR Doc. 2019–12162 Filed 6–12–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6712–01–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 622 RIN 0648–BI98 Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; SnapperGrouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region; Amendment 42 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of availability (NOA); request for comments. AGENCY: The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (South Atlantic Council) has submitted Amendment 42 to the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region for review, approval, and implementation by NMFS. If approved by the Secretary of Commerce, Amendment 42 would add three new devices as options for fishermen with Federal commercial or charter vessel/headboat permits for South Atlantic snapper-grouper to meet existing requirements for sea turtle release gear, and would simplify and clarify the requirements for other sea turtle release gear. Amendment 42 would also modify the FMP framework procedure to allow for future changes to release gear and handling requirements for sea turtles and other protected resources. The purpose of Amendment 42 is to allow the use of new devices to safely handle and release incidentally captured sea turtles, clarify existing requirements, and streamline the process for making changes to the release devices and handling procedures for sea turtles and other protected species. DATES: Written comments on Amendment 42 must be received by August 12, 2019. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on Amendment 42 identified by ‘‘NOAA–NMFS–2019–0047’’ by either of the following methods: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the khammond on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with PROPOSALS SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:22 Jun 12, 2019 Jkt 247001 Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20190047, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Submit all written comments to Frank Helies, NMFS Southeast Regional Office, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701. Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Electronic copies of Amendment 42 may be obtained from www.regulations.gov or from the Southeast Regional Office website at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/ amendment-42-modifications-sea-turtlerelease-gear-and-framework-proceduresnapper-grouper. Amendment 42 includes a fishery impact statement, a regulatory impact review, and a Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) analysis. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Frank Helies, NMFS Southeast Regional Office, telephone: 727–824–5305; email: frank.helies@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) requires each regional fishery management council to submit any FMP or FMP amendment to NMFS for review, and approval, partial approval, or disapproval. The Magnuson-Stevens Act also requires that NMFS, upon receiving an FMP or amendment, publish an announcement in the Federal Register notifying the public that the FMP or amendment is available for review and comment. The Council prepared the FMP being revised by Amendment 42, and if approved, Amendment 42 would be implemented by NMFS through regulations at 50 CFR part 622 under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Background The Endangered Species Act (ESA) directs all Federal agencies to ensure that any action they authorize, fund, or PO 00000 Frm 00034 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 carry-out is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of endangered or threatened species, or destroy or adversely modify designated critical habitat. In June 2006, NMFS issued a biological opinion (2006 BiOp), in accordance with section 7 of the ESA, that evaluated the impact of the South Atlantic snapper-grouper fishery on ESA-listed sea turtles and smalltooth sawfish. The 2006 BiOp concluded that the anticipated incidental take of sea turtles and smalltooth sawfish by the South Atlantic snapper-grouper fishery is not likely to jeopardize their continued existence, or destroy or adversely modify designated critical habitat. However, the 2006 BiOp required that within the fishery reasonable and prudent measures be taken to minimize stress and increase the survival rates of any sea turtles and smalltooth sawfish taken in the fishery. In response to the 2006 BiOp, the South Atlantic Council developed measures in Amendment 15B to the FMP (Amendment 15B) to increase the likelihood of survival of released sea turtles and smalltooth sawfish caught incidentally in the South Atlantic snapper-grouper fishery. The final rule for Amendment 15B required fishermen on vessels with Federal commercial or charter vessel/headboat permits for South Atlantic snapper-grouper to possess a specific set of release gear, and comply with sea turtle and smalltooth sawfish handling and release protocols and guidelines (74 FR 58902, November 16, 2009). The final rule also required those fishermen to maintain a reference copy of the NMFS sea turtle handling and release protocols document titled, ‘‘Careful Release Protocols for Sea Turtle Release with Minimal Injury’’ (Release Protocols), in the event a sea turtle is incidentally captured. These South Atlantic snapper-grouper permit holders are also required to post a NMFS placard of sea turtle handling and release guidelines inside their vessel wheelhouse, or in an easily viewable area on the vessel if there is no wheelhouse. The required gear for safe sea turtle handling and release was initially the same gear as required for vessels using pelagic longline gear for highly migratory species. However, most effort in the snapper-grouper fishery in the South Atlantic occurs on smaller vessels using lighter tackle than used when longline fishing for pelagic species. Subsequent to Amendment 15B, Comprehensive Ecosystem-Based Amendment 2 modified sea turtle release gear requirements to allow smaller vessels to have fewer gear requirements than for pelagic longline E:\FR\FM\13JNP1.SGM 13JNP1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 114 / Thursday, June 13, 2019 / Proposed Rules vessels based on the freeboard height of the snapper-grouper fishing vessel (76 FR 82183, December 30, 2011). Since implementation of Amendment 15B, the Release Protocols have been revised twice, once in 2008, and again in 2010. NMFS recently published a 2019 revision to the Release Protocols that includes the sea turtle release devices recently approved by the NMFS Southeast Fisheries Science Center (SEFSC). Fishermen participating in the snapper-grouper fishery would be able to use these new devices to meet sea turtle release gear requirements if they are implemented via regulations. In 2018, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council took final action on similar management measures to allow federally permitted fishermen in the commercial and charter vessel/ headboat components of the reef fish fishery to use the newly-approved devices to meet requirements for sea turtle release gear. The final rule for Amendment 49 to the FMP for Reef Fish Resources in the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) updated those fishery regulations to incorporate the new devices, and simplified and clarified the requirements for other sea turtle release gear (84 FR 22383, May 17, 2019). If NMFS implements a proposed rule for Amendment 42, regulations for release gear and handling requirements for sea turtles in the Gulf and South Atlantic would be consistent, thereby benefiting fishermen that fish in both areas. khammond on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with PROPOSALS Actions Contained in Amendment 42 Amendment 42 would add three new sea turtle handling and release devices, clarify the requirements for other currently required gear, and modify the FMP framework procedure to include future changes to release gear and handling requirements for sea turtles and other protected resources. New Sea Turtle Release Gear For vessels with Federal commercial and charter vessel/headboat permits for South Atlantic snapper-grouper, Amendment 42 would add three new devices that have been approved for use by SEFSC to safely handle and release sea turtles, and provide more options for fishermen to fulfill existing requirements. Details for these new devices can be found in Amendment 42 and the Release Protocols. NMFS expects the proposed new release devices would increase flexibility for fishermen and regulatory compliance within the snapper-grouper fishery, which may result in positive benefits to sea turtles. Two of the new sea turtle handling devices are a collapsible hoop net and VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:22 Jun 12, 2019 Jkt 247001 a sea turtle hoist (net). Both of these devices are more compact versions of the currently required long-handled dip net, and would be used for bringing an incidentally captured sea turtle on board the fishing vessel to remove fishing gear from the sea turtle. For the collapsible hoop net, the net portion is attached to hoops made of flexible stainless steel cable; when the collapsible hoop net is folded over on itself for storage, its size reduces to about half of its original diameter. Additionally, there are two versions of the sea turtle hoist. One version consists of the net portion securely fastened to a frame, providing a relatively taut platform for the sea turtle to be brought on board. Another version creates a basket with the frame and net that holds the sea turtle as it is brought on board. Both the collapsible hoop net and the sea turtle hoist use rope handles attached to either side of the frame, in place of the rigid handle on the dip net. Generally, the collapsible hoop net or hoist would be used to bring sea turtles on board vessels with a high freeboard when it is not feasible to use a dip net. The third new device is a dehooker that can be used to remove an externally embedded hook from a sea turtle. This device has a squeeze handle that secures the hook into notches at the end of the shaft of the dehooker, so the hook can be twisted out. This new device would provide another option for fishermen to comply with the regulations for a shorthandled dehooker for external hooks. Requirements for Existing Sea Turtle Release Gear Amendment 42 also would also update the requirements of some currently approved devices for clarity and simplicity, and to aid fishermen and law enforcement with compliance and enforcement efforts. These updates would include more specific measurements for sea turtle release gear. The revisions would provide for either a minimum size dimension or a size range for the short-handled dehookers for external and internal hooks, bite block on the short-handled internal use dehooker, long-nose or needle-nose pliers, bolt cutters, and the block of hard wood and hank of rope when used as mouth openers and gags. Other proposed changes to the gear requirements follow. Current regulations specify that shortand long-handled dehookers must be constructed of 316L stainless steel, which is resistant to corrosion from salt water. The SEFSC has also approved 304L stainless steel for the construction of all short-handled and long-handled dehookers. This proposed additional PO 00000 Frm 00035 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 27577 grade of stainless steel is commonly available and is also corrosion resistant. Another required device to assist with removing fishing gear from a sea turtle is a pair of monofilament line cutters. Current regulations state that the monofilament line cutters must have cutting blades of 1-inch (2.5 cm) in length (Appendix F to 50 CFR part 622). However, SEFSC has clarified that the blade length must be a minimum of 1 inch (2.5 cm) but could be longer. Another required gear type is mouth openers and gags, used to hold a sea turtle’s mouth open to remove fishing gear. At least two of the seven types of mouth openers and gags are required on board. Current regulations state that canine mouth gags, an option for this gear requirement, must have the ends covered with clear vinyl tubing, friction tape, or similar, to pad the surface. However, SEFSC determined that this was not necessary and could result in the canine mouth gags not functioning properly. Amendment 42 would remove the requirement to cover the ends of the canine mouth gags with these materials. A life-saving device on a vessel, such as a personal flotation device or life ring buoy, may currently be used as the required cushion or support device for sea turtles brought aboard a vessel to remove fishing gear. However, Amendment 42 would add language to clarify that any life-saving device used to fulfill the sea turtle safe handling requirements cannot also be used to meet U.S. Coast Guard safety requirements of one flotation device per person on board the vessel. Lastly, fishermen are currently required to maintain a paper copy of the Release Protocols on each vessel for reference in the event a sea turtle is incidentally captured. Amendment 42 would allow fishermen to use an electronic copy of the document to fulfill the requirement, as long as the electronic document is readily available for viewing and reference during a trip. FMP Framework Procedure Currently, adding or changing careful release devices and protocols for incidentally caught sea turtles and other protected species requires an amendment to the FMP. This limits the South Atlantic Council and NMFS’ ability to implement new release devices and handling requirements in a timely manner. The FMP amendment and rulemaking process generally involves more detailed analyses and a lengthier timeline prior to implementation than rulemaking done through a framework procedure. The FMP contains a framework procedure to allow the South Atlantic Council to E:\FR\FM\13JNP1.SGM 13JNP1 27578 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 114 / Thursday, June 13, 2019 / Proposed Rules khammond on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with PROPOSALS modify certain management measures via an expedited process (see 50 CFR 622.194). The FMP framework procedure was last modified by the final rule implementing Amendment 27 to the FMP (78 FR 78770, December 27, 2013). Amendment 42 would allow changes to the sea turtle release gear and handling techniques under the framework procedure. For example, the South Atlantic Council could more quickly add a new release device for sea turtles if approved by the SEFSC. The South Atlantic Council decided that making these changes through an expedited process may have beneficial biological and socio-economic impacts. The South Atlantic Council concluded that the revised framework procedure would still allow adequate opportunity VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:22 Jun 12, 2019 Jkt 247001 for the public to comment on any future proposed regulatory changes. Proposed Rule for Amendment 42 A proposed rule that would implement Amendment 42 has been drafted. In accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS is evaluating the proposed rule to determine whether it is consistent with the FMP, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable laws. If that determination is affirmative, NMFS will publish the proposed rule in the Federal Register for public review and comment. Consideration of Public Comments The Council has submitted Amendment 42 for Secretarial review, approval, and implementation. Comments on Amendment 42 must be PO 00000 Frm 00036 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 received by August 12, 2019. Comments received during the respective comment periods, whether specifically directed to Amendment 42 or the proposed rule, will be considered by NMFS in the decision to approve, disapprove, or partially approve Amendment 42. Comments received after the comment periods will not be considered by NMFS in this decision. All comments received by NMFS on the amendment or the proposed rule during their respective comment periods will be addressed in the final rule. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: June 10, 2019. Alan D. Risenhoover, Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2019–12513 Filed 6–12–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\13JNP1.SGM 13JNP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 114 (Thursday, June 13, 2019)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 27576-27578]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-12513]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

RIN 0648-BI98


Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 
Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region; Amendment 42

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

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

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

SUMMARY: The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (South Atlantic 
Council) has submitted Amendment 42 to the Fishery Management Plan 
(FMP) for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region for 
review, approval, and implementation by NMFS. If approved by the 
Secretary of Commerce, Amendment 42 would add three new devices as 
options for fishermen with Federal commercial or charter vessel/
headboat permits for South Atlantic snapper-grouper to meet existing 
requirements for sea turtle release gear, and would simplify and 
clarify the requirements for other sea turtle release gear. Amendment 
42 would also modify the FMP framework procedure to allow for future 
changes to release gear and handling requirements for sea turtles and 
other protected resources. The purpose of Amendment 42 is to allow the 
use of new devices to safely handle and release incidentally captured 
sea turtles, clarify existing requirements, and streamline the process 
for making changes to the release devices and handling procedures for 
sea turtles and other protected species.

DATES: Written comments on Amendment 42 must be received by August 12, 
2019.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on Amendment 42 identified by 
``NOAA-NMFS-2019-0047'' by either of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2019-0047, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit all written comments to Frank Helies, NMFS 
Southeast Regional Office, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 
33701.
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous).
    Electronic copies of Amendment 42 may be obtained from 
www.regulations.gov or from the Southeast Regional Office website at 
https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/amendment-42-modifications-sea-turtle-release-gear-and-framework-procedure-snapper-grouper. Amendment 
42 includes a fishery impact statement, a regulatory impact review, and 
a Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) analysis.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation 
and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) requires each regional 
fishery management council to submit any FMP or FMP amendment to NMFS 
for review, and approval, partial approval, or disapproval. The 
Magnuson-Stevens Act also requires that NMFS, upon receiving an FMP or 
amendment, publish an announcement in the Federal Register notifying 
the public that the FMP or amendment is available for review and 
comment.
    The Council prepared the FMP being revised by Amendment 42, and if 
approved, Amendment 42 would be implemented by NMFS through regulations 
at 50 CFR part 622 under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

Background

    The Endangered Species Act (ESA) directs all Federal agencies to 
ensure that any action they authorize, fund, or carry-out is not likely 
to jeopardize the continued existence of endangered or threatened 
species, or destroy or adversely modify designated critical habitat. In 
June 2006, NMFS issued a biological opinion (2006 BiOp), in accordance 
with section 7 of the ESA, that evaluated the impact of the South 
Atlantic snapper-grouper fishery on ESA-listed sea turtles and 
smalltooth sawfish. The 2006 BiOp concluded that the anticipated 
incidental take of sea turtles and smalltooth sawfish by the South 
Atlantic snapper-grouper fishery is not likely to jeopardize their 
continued existence, or destroy or adversely modify designated critical 
habitat. However, the 2006 BiOp required that within the fishery 
reasonable and prudent measures be taken to minimize stress and 
increase the survival rates of any sea turtles and smalltooth sawfish 
taken in the fishery.
    In response to the 2006 BiOp, the South Atlantic Council developed 
measures in Amendment 15B to the FMP (Amendment 15B) to increase the 
likelihood of survival of released sea turtles and smalltooth sawfish 
caught incidentally in the South Atlantic snapper-grouper fishery. The 
final rule for Amendment 15B required fishermen on vessels with Federal 
commercial or charter vessel/headboat permits for South Atlantic 
snapper-grouper to possess a specific set of release gear, and comply 
with sea turtle and smalltooth sawfish handling and release protocols 
and guidelines (74 FR 58902, November 16, 2009). The final rule also 
required those fishermen to maintain a reference copy of the NMFS sea 
turtle handling and release protocols document titled, ``Careful 
Release Protocols for Sea Turtle Release with Minimal Injury'' (Release 
Protocols), in the event a sea turtle is incidentally captured. These 
South Atlantic snapper-grouper permit holders are also required to post 
a NMFS placard of sea turtle handling and release guidelines inside 
their vessel wheelhouse, or in an easily viewable area on the vessel if 
there is no wheelhouse.
    The required gear for safe sea turtle handling and release was 
initially the same gear as required for vessels using pelagic longline 
gear for highly migratory species. However, most effort in the snapper-
grouper fishery in the South Atlantic occurs on smaller vessels using 
lighter tackle than used when longline fishing for pelagic species. 
Subsequent to Amendment 15B, Comprehensive Ecosystem-Based Amendment 2 
modified sea turtle release gear requirements to allow smaller vessels 
to have fewer gear requirements than for pelagic longline

[[Page 27577]]

vessels based on the freeboard height of the snapper-grouper fishing 
vessel (76 FR 82183, December 30, 2011).
    Since implementation of Amendment 15B, the Release Protocols have 
been revised twice, once in 2008, and again in 2010. NMFS recently 
published a 2019 revision to the Release Protocols that includes the 
sea turtle release devices recently approved by the NMFS Southeast 
Fisheries Science Center (SEFSC). Fishermen participating in the 
snapper-grouper fishery would be able to use these new devices to meet 
sea turtle release gear requirements if they are implemented via 
regulations.
    In 2018, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council took final 
action on similar management measures to allow federally permitted 
fishermen in the commercial and charter vessel/headboat components of 
the reef fish fishery to use the newly-approved devices to meet 
requirements for sea turtle release gear. The final rule for Amendment 
49 to the FMP for Reef Fish Resources in the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) 
updated those fishery regulations to incorporate the new devices, and 
simplified and clarified the requirements for other sea turtle release 
gear (84 FR 22383, May 17, 2019). If NMFS implements a proposed rule 
for Amendment 42, regulations for release gear and handling 
requirements for sea turtles in the Gulf and South Atlantic would be 
consistent, thereby benefiting fishermen that fish in both areas.

Actions Contained in Amendment 42

    Amendment 42 would add three new sea turtle handling and release 
devices, clarify the requirements for other currently required gear, 
and modify the FMP framework procedure to include future changes to 
release gear and handling requirements for sea turtles and other 
protected resources.

New Sea Turtle Release Gear

    For vessels with Federal commercial and charter vessel/headboat 
permits for South Atlantic snapper-grouper, Amendment 42 would add 
three new devices that have been approved for use by SEFSC to safely 
handle and release sea turtles, and provide more options for fishermen 
to fulfill existing requirements. Details for these new devices can be 
found in Amendment 42 and the Release Protocols. NMFS expects the 
proposed new release devices would increase flexibility for fishermen 
and regulatory compliance within the snapper-grouper fishery, which may 
result in positive benefits to sea turtles.
    Two of the new sea turtle handling devices are a collapsible hoop 
net and a sea turtle hoist (net). Both of these devices are more 
compact versions of the currently required long-handled dip net, and 
would be used for bringing an incidentally captured sea turtle on board 
the fishing vessel to remove fishing gear from the sea turtle. For the 
collapsible hoop net, the net portion is attached to hoops made of 
flexible stainless steel cable; when the collapsible hoop net is folded 
over on itself for storage, its size reduces to about half of its 
original diameter. Additionally, there are two versions of the sea 
turtle hoist. One version consists of the net portion securely fastened 
to a frame, providing a relatively taut platform for the sea turtle to 
be brought on board. Another version creates a basket with the frame 
and net that holds the sea turtle as it is brought on board. Both the 
collapsible hoop net and the sea turtle hoist use rope handles attached 
to either side of the frame, in place of the rigid handle on the dip 
net. Generally, the collapsible hoop net or hoist would be used to 
bring sea turtles on board vessels with a high freeboard when it is not 
feasible to use a dip net.
    The third new device is a dehooker that can be used to remove an 
externally embedded hook from a sea turtle. This device has a squeeze 
handle that secures the hook into notches at the end of the shaft of 
the dehooker, so the hook can be twisted out. This new device would 
provide another option for fishermen to comply with the regulations for 
a short-handled dehooker for external hooks.

Requirements for Existing Sea Turtle Release Gear

    Amendment 42 also would also update the requirements of some 
currently approved devices for clarity and simplicity, and to aid 
fishermen and law enforcement with compliance and enforcement efforts. 
These updates would include more specific measurements for sea turtle 
release gear. The revisions would provide for either a minimum size 
dimension or a size range for the short-handled dehookers for external 
and internal hooks, bite block on the short-handled internal use 
dehooker, long-nose or needle-nose pliers, bolt cutters, and the block 
of hard wood and hank of rope when used as mouth openers and gags. 
Other proposed changes to the gear requirements follow.
    Current regulations specify that short- and long-handled dehookers 
must be constructed of 316L stainless steel, which is resistant to 
corrosion from salt water. The SEFSC has also approved 304L stainless 
steel for the construction of all short-handled and long-handled 
dehookers. This proposed additional grade of stainless steel is 
commonly available and is also corrosion resistant.
    Another required device to assist with removing fishing gear from a 
sea turtle is a pair of monofilament line cutters. Current regulations 
state that the monofilament line cutters must have cutting blades of 1-
inch (2.5 cm) in length (Appendix F to 50 CFR part 622). However, SEFSC 
has clarified that the blade length must be a minimum of 1 inch (2.5 
cm) but could be longer.
    Another required gear type is mouth openers and gags, used to hold 
a sea turtle's mouth open to remove fishing gear. At least two of the 
seven types of mouth openers and gags are required on board. Current 
regulations state that canine mouth gags, an option for this gear 
requirement, must have the ends covered with clear vinyl tubing, 
friction tape, or similar, to pad the surface. However, SEFSC 
determined that this was not necessary and could result in the canine 
mouth gags not functioning properly. Amendment 42 would remove the 
requirement to cover the ends of the canine mouth gags with these 
materials.
    A life-saving device on a vessel, such as a personal flotation 
device or life ring buoy, may currently be used as the required cushion 
or support device for sea turtles brought aboard a vessel to remove 
fishing gear. However, Amendment 42 would add language to clarify that 
any life-saving device used to fulfill the sea turtle safe handling 
requirements cannot also be used to meet U.S. Coast Guard safety 
requirements of one flotation device per person on board the vessel.
    Lastly, fishermen are currently required to maintain a paper copy 
of the Release Protocols on each vessel for reference in the event a 
sea turtle is incidentally captured. Amendment 42 would allow fishermen 
to use an electronic copy of the document to fulfill the requirement, 
as long as the electronic document is readily available for viewing and 
reference during a trip.

FMP Framework Procedure

    Currently, adding or changing careful release devices and protocols 
for incidentally caught sea turtles and other protected species 
requires an amendment to the FMP. This limits the South Atlantic 
Council and NMFS' ability to implement new release devices and handling 
requirements in a timely manner. The FMP amendment and rulemaking 
process generally involves more detailed analyses and a lengthier 
timeline prior to implementation than rulemaking done through a 
framework procedure. The FMP contains a framework procedure to allow 
the South Atlantic Council to

[[Page 27578]]

modify certain management measures via an expedited process (see 50 CFR 
622.194). The FMP framework procedure was last modified by the final 
rule implementing Amendment 27 to the FMP (78 FR 78770, December 27, 
2013).
    Amendment 42 would allow changes to the sea turtle release gear and 
handling techniques under the framework procedure. For example, the 
South Atlantic Council could more quickly add a new release device for 
sea turtles if approved by the SEFSC. The South Atlantic Council 
decided that making these changes through an expedited process may have 
beneficial biological and socio-economic impacts. The South Atlantic 
Council concluded that the revised framework procedure would still 
allow adequate opportunity for the public to comment on any future 
proposed regulatory changes.

Proposed Rule for Amendment 42

    A proposed rule that would implement Amendment 42 has been drafted. 
In accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS is evaluating the 
proposed rule to determine whether it is consistent with the FMP, the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable laws. If that determination 
is affirmative, NMFS will publish the proposed rule in the Federal 
Register for public review and comment.

Consideration of Public Comments

    The Council has submitted Amendment 42 for Secretarial review, 
approval, and implementation. Comments on Amendment 42 must be received 
by August 12, 2019. Comments received during the respective comment 
periods, whether specifically directed to Amendment 42 or the proposed 
rule, will be considered by NMFS in the decision to approve, 
disapprove, or partially approve Amendment 42. Comments received after 
the comment periods will not be considered by NMFS in this decision. 
All comments received by NMFS on the amendment or the proposed rule 
during their respective comment periods will be addressed in the final 
rule.

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

     Dated: June 10, 2019.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2019-12513 Filed 6-12-19; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P