Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; North Atlantic Swordfish Fishery, 29088-29091 [2019-13222]

Download as PDF 29088 6106.612 612]. Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 120 / Friday, June 21, 2019 / Rules and Regulations Streamlined procedures [Rule The Board encourages parties to focus on providing only the information a panel needs to resolve an eligibility or repayment dispute. Examples of streamlining may include without limitation— (a) Electing not to supplement the materials already provided to FEMA, if (or to the extent) the existing record adequately frames the dispute; (b) Relying when possible on documents over other types of evidence; (c) Simplifying live hearings by efiling in advance written testimony, reports, or opening statements by some witnesses or party representatives; (d) Refraining from objecting to evidence without good cause; and (e) Omitting duplicative and immaterial evidence and arguments. 6106.613 Decision; finality [Rule 613]. The panel will advise the parties when the arbitration is closed. The panel will resolve a dispute within 60 calendar days thereafter unless the panel advises the parties that the Board Chair approves a later date. The panel’s decision may be issued in writing or orally with transcription. A decision is primarily for the parties, is not precedential, and should concisely resolve the dispute. The decision of a panel majority is the final administrative action on the arbitrated dispute and is judicially reviewable only to the limited extent provided by the Federal Arbitration Act (9 U.S.C. 10). Within 30 calendar days after issuing a decision, a panel may correct clerical, typographical, technical, or arithmetic errors. A panel may not reconsider the merits of its decision resolving an eligibility or repayment dispute. [FR Doc. 2019–13081 Filed 6–20–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6820–AL–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 635 [Docket No. 120627194–3657–02] jspears on DSK30JT082PROD with RULES RIN 0648–XT002 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; North Atlantic Swordfish Fishery National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Temporary rule. AGENCY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:42 Jun 20, 2019 Jkt 247001 NMFS is adjusting the Swordfish General Commercial permit retention limits for the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions for July through December of the 2019 fishing year, unless otherwise later noticed. The Swordfish General Commercial permit retention limits in each of these regions are increased from the regulatory default limits (either two or three fish) to six swordfish per vessel per trip. The Swordfish General Commercial permit retention limit in the Florida Swordfish Management Area will remain unchanged at the default limit of zero swordfish per vessel per trip, as discussed in more detail below. These adjustments apply to Swordfish General Commercial permitted vessels and to Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Charter/Headboat permitted vessels with a commercial endorsement when on a non-for-hire trip. This action is based upon consideration of the applicable inseason regional retention limit adjustment criteria. SUMMARY: The adjusted Swordfish General Commercial permit retention limits in the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions are effective from July 1, 2019, through December 31, 2019. DATES: Rick Pearson or Randy Blankinship, 727– 824–5399. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Regulations implemented under the authority of the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA; 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.) and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) governing the harvest of North Atlantic swordfish by persons and vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction are found at 50 CFR part 635. Section 635.27 subdivides the U.S. North Atlantic swordfish quota recommended by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and implemented by the United States into two equal semi-annual directed fishery quotas; an annual incidental catch quota for fishermen targeting other species or catching swordfish recreationally, and a reserve category, according to the allocations established in the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan (2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP) (71 FR 58058, October 2, 2006), as amended, and in accordance with implementing regulations. NMFS is required under ATCA and the Magnuson-Stevens Act to provide U.S. fishing vessels with a PO 00000 Frm 00060 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 reasonable opportunity to harvest the ICCAT-recommended quota. In 2017, ICCAT Recommendation 17– 02 specified that the overall North Atlantic swordfish total allowable catch (TAC) be set at 9,925 metric tons (mt) dressed weight (dw) (13,200 mt whole weight (ww)) through 2021. Consistent with scientific advice, this was a reduction of 500 mt ww (375.9 mt dw) from previous ICCAT-recommended TACs. However, the United States’ baseline quota remained at 2,937.6 mt dw (3,907 mt ww) per year. The Recommendation (17–02) also continued to limit underharvest carryover to 15 percent of a contracting party’s baseline quota. Thus, the United States may carry over a maximum of 440.6 mt dw (586.0 mt ww) of underharvest. Absent adjustments, the codified baseline quota is 2,937.6 mt dw for 2019. At this time, given the extent of underharvest in 2018, NMFS anticipates carrying over the maximum allowable 15 percent (440.6 mt dw), which would result in a final adjusted North Atlantic swordfish quota for the 2019 fishing year equal to 3,378.2 mt dw (2,937.6 + 440.6 = 3,378.2 mt dw). As in past years we anticipate allocating 50 mt dw from the adjusted quota to the Reserve category for inseason adjustments/research and allocating 300 mt dw to the Incidental category, which includes recreational landings and landings by incidental swordfish permit holders, consistent with § 635.27(c)(1)(i)(D) and (B). This would result in an adjusted quota of 3,028.2 mt dw for the directed fishery, which would be split equally (1,514.1 mt dw) between the two semi-annual periods in 2019 (January through June, and July through December). Adjustment of Swordfish General Commercial Permit Vessel Retention Limits The 2019 North Atlantic swordfish fishing year, which is managed on a calendar-year basis and divided into two equal semi-annual quotas for the directed fishery, began on January 1, 2019. Landings attributable to the Swordfish General Commercial permit count against the applicable semiannual directed fishery quota. Regional default retention limits for this permit have been established and are automatically effective from January 1 through December 31 each year, unless changed based on the inseason regional retention limit adjustment criteria at § 635.24(b)(4)(iv). The default retention limits established for the Swordfish General Commercial permit are: (1) Northwest Atlantic region—three swordfish per vessel per trip; (2) Gulf of E:\FR\FM\21JNR1.SGM 21JNR1 jspears on DSK30JT082PROD with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 120 / Friday, June 21, 2019 / Rules and Regulations Mexico region—three swordfish per vessel per trip; (3) U.S. Caribbean region—two swordfish per vessel per trip; and, (4) Florida Swordfish Management Area—zero swordfish per vessel per trip. The default retention limits apply to Swordfish General Commercial permitted vessels and to HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels with a commercial endorsement when fishing on non-for-hire trips. As a condition of these permits, vessels may not possess, retain, or land any more swordfish than is specified for the region in which the vessel is located. Under § 635.24(b)(4)(iii), NMFS may increase or decrease the Swordfish General Commercial permit vessel retention limit in any region within a range from zero to a maximum of six swordfish per vessel per trip. Any adjustments to the retention limits must be based upon a consideration of the relevant criteria provided in § 635.24(b)(4)(iv), which include: (A) The usefulness of information obtained from biological sampling and monitoring of the North Atlantic swordfish stock; (B) the estimated ability of vessels participating in the fishery to land the amount of swordfish quota available before the end of the fishing year; (C) the estimated amounts by which quotas for other categories of the fishery might be exceeded; (D) effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the fishery management plan and its amendments; (E) variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migration patterns of swordfish; (F) effects of catch rates in one region precluding vessels in another region from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the overall swordfish quota; and, (G) review of dealer reports, landing trends, and the availability of swordfish on the fishing grounds. NMFS has considered these criteria as discussed below and their applicability to the Swordfish General Commercial permit retention limit in all regions for July through December of the 2019 North Atlantic swordfish fishing year. We have determined that the Swordfish General Commercial permit retention limits in the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions applicable to persons issued a Swordfish General Commercial permit or HMS Charter/Headboat permit with a commercial endorsement (when on a non-for-hire trip) should be increased from the default levels that would otherwise automatically become effective on July 1, 2019, to six swordfish per vessel per trip from July 1 through December 31, 2019, unless otherwise later noticed. These are the VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:42 Jun 20, 2019 Jkt 247001 same limits that were implemented through an inseason adjustment for the period January 1 through June 31, 2019 (83 FR 65571, December 21, 2018). Given the rebuilt status of the stock and the availability of quota, increasing the Swordfish General Commercial permit retention limits in three regions to six fish per vessel per trip will increase the likelihood that directed swordfish landings will approach, but not exceed, the available annual swordfish quota, and increase the opportunity for catching swordfish during the 2019 fishing year. In 2018, a six swordfish per vessel trip limit was in effect for Swordfish General Commercial permit holders in the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions for the entire fishing season. As of December 31, 2018, total annual directed swordfish landings were approximately 901.0 mt dw, or 29.8 percent of the 3,028.2 mt dw annual adjusted directed quota for 2018, which includes landings under the six fish trip limit. Among the regulatory criteria for inseason adjustments to retention limits, and given the rebuilt status of the stock and availability of quota, is the requirement that NMFS consider the ‘‘effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the fishery management plan and its amendments.’’ See § 635.24(b)(4)(iv)(D). A consideration in deciding whether to increase the retention limit, in this case, is the objective of providing opportunities to harvest the full North Atlantic directed swordfish quota without exceeding it based upon the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP goal to, consistent with other objectives of this FMP, ‘‘manage Atlantic HMS fisheries for continuing optimum yield so as to provide the greatest overall benefit to the Nation, particularly with respect to food production, providing recreational opportunities, preserving traditional fisheries, and taking into account the protection of marine ecosystems.’’ This action will help preserve a traditional swordfish handgear fishery (rod and reel, handline, harpoon, bandit gear, and green-stick). Although this action does not specifically provide recreational fishing opportunities, it will have a minimal impact on the recreational sector because recreational landings are counted against a separate incidental swordfish quota. NMFS has examined dealer reports and landing trends and determined that the information obtained from biological sampling and monitoring of the North Atlantic swordfish stock is useful. See § 635.24(b)(4)(iv)(A). Regarding the PO 00000 Frm 00061 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 29089 estimated ability of vessels participating in the fishery to land the amount of swordfish quota available before the end of the fishing year, § 635.24(b)(4)(iv)(B), NMFS reviewed electronic dealer landings data, which indicates that sufficient directed swordfish quota will be available for the July through December 2019 semi-annual quota period if recent swordfish landing trends continue. The directed swordfish quota has not been harvested for several years and, based upon current landing trends, is not likely to be harvested or exceeded in 2019. As of April 30, 2019, approximately 8.5 percent (258.9 mt ww) of the anticipated 3,028.2 mt dw annual adjusted directed swordfish quota for 2019 had been harvested during the first semi-annual quota period. Based upon recent landings rates from dealer reports, an increase in the vessel retention limits to six fish for Swordfish General Commercial permit holders and Charter/Headboat permit holders with a commercial endorsement (when on a non-for-hire trip) in three regions is not likely to cause quotas for other categories of the fishery to be exceeded. See § 635.24(b)(4)(iv)(C). Similarly, regarding the criteria about the effects of catch rates in one region precluding vessels in another region from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the overall swordfish quota, § 635.24(b)(4)(iv)(F), we expect there to be sufficient swordfish quota for the entirety of the 2019 fishing year. Thus, increased catch rates in these three regions as a result of this action would not be expected to preclude vessels in the other region (e.g., the buoy gear fishery in the Florida Swordfish Management Area) from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the overall swordfish quota. In making adjustments to the retention limits NMFS must also consider variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migration patterns of swordfish, and the availability of swordfish on the fishing grounds. See § 635.24(b)(4)(iv)(G). With regard to swordfish abundance, the 2018 report by ICCAT’s Standing Committee on Research and Statistics indicated that the North Atlantic swordfish stock is not overfished (B2015/Bmsy = 1.04), and overfishing is not occurring (F2015/Fmsy = 0.78). Increasing retention limits for the General Commercial directed fishery is not expected to affect the swordfish stock status determination because any additional landings would be within the ICCAT-recommended U.S. North Atlantic swordfish quota allocation, which is consistent with conservation E:\FR\FM\21JNR1.SGM 21JNR1 jspears on DSK30JT082PROD with RULES 29090 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 120 / Friday, June 21, 2019 / Rules and Regulations and management measures to prevent overfishing on the stock. Increasing opportunities by increasing retention limits from the default levels beginning on July 1, 2019, is also important because of the migratory nature and seasonal distribution of swordfish. In a particular geographic region, or waters accessible from a particular port, the amount of fishing opportunity for swordfish may be constrained by the short amount of time that the swordfish are present in the area as they migrate. Finally, another consideration, consistent with the FMP and its amendments, is to continue to provide protection to important swordfish nursery areas and migratory corridors. Therefore, NMFS has determined that the retention limit for the Swordfish General Commercial permit will remain at zero swordfish per vessel per trip in the Florida Swordfish Management Area at this time. As discussed above, NMFS considered consistency with the 2006 HMS FMP and its amendments, and the importance for NMFS to continue to provide protection to important swordfish nursery areas and migratory corridors. As described in Amendment 8 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (78 FR 52011, August 21, 2013), the area off the southeastern coast of Florida, particularly the Florida Straits, contains oceanographic features that make the area biologically unique. It provides important juvenile swordfish habitat, and is essentially a narrow migratory corridor containing high concentrations of swordfish located in close proximity to high concentrations of people who may fish for them. Public comment on Amendment 8, including from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, indicated concern about the resultant high potential for the improper rapid growth of a commercial fishery, increased catches of undersized swordfish, the potential for larger numbers of fishermen in the area, and the potential for crowding of fishermen, which could lead to gear and user conflicts. These concerns remain valid. NMFS will continue to collect information to evaluate the appropriateness of the retention limit in the Florida Swordfish Management Area and other regional retention limits. This action therefore maintains a zero-fish retention limit in the Florida Swordfish Management Area. The directed swordfish quota has not been harvested for several years and, based upon current landing trends, is not likely to be harvested or exceeded during 2019. This information indicates that sufficient directed swordfish quota should be available from July 1 through VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:42 Jun 20, 2019 Jkt 247001 December 31, 2019, at the higher retention levels, within the limits of the scientifically-supported TAC and consistent with the goals of the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP as amended, ATCA, and the MagnusonStevens Act, and are not expected to negatively impact stock health. Monitoring and Reporting NMFS will continue to monitor the swordfish fishery closely during 2019 through mandatory landings and catch reports. Dealers are required to submit landing reports and negative reports (if no swordfish were purchased) on a weekly basis. Depending upon the level of fishing effort and catch rates of swordfish, NMFS may determine that additional retention limit adjustments or closures are necessary to ensure that the available quota is not exceeded or to enhance fishing opportunities. Subsequent actions, if any, will be published in the Federal Register. In addition, fishermen may access https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/atlantic-highlymigratory-species/2019-atlanticswordfish-landings-updates for updates on quota monitoring. Classification The Assistant Administrator for NMFS (AA) finds that it is impracticable and contrary to the public interest to provide prior notice of, and an opportunity for public comment on, this action for the following reasons: The regulations implementing the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP, as amended, provide for inseason retention limit adjustments to respond to changes in swordfish landings, the availability of swordfish on the fishing grounds, the migratory nature of this species, and regional variations in the fishery. Based on available swordfish quota, stock abundance, fishery performance in recent years, and the availability of swordfish on the fishing grounds, among other considerations, adjustment to the Swordfish General Commercial permit retention limits from the default levels of two or three fish to six swordfish per vessel per trip as discussed above is warranted, while maintaining the default limit of zerofish retention in the Florida Swordfish Management Area. Analysis of available data shows that adjustment to the swordfish retention limit from the default levels would result in minimal risk of exceeding the ICCAT-allocated quota. NMFS provides notification of retention limit adjustments by publishing the notice in the Federal Register, emailing individuals who have PO 00000 Frm 00062 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 subscribed to the Atlantic HMS News electronic newsletter, and updating the information posted on the ‘‘News and Announcements’’ website at https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/news-andannouncements (filter by ‘‘Atlantic Highly Migratory Species’’ under ‘‘Topic’’). Delays in temporarily increasing these retention limits caused by the time required to publish a proposed rule and accept public comment would adversely and unnecessarily affect those Swordfish General Commercial permit holders and HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders with a commercial endorsement (when on a non-for-hire trip) that would otherwise have an opportunity to harvest more than the otherwise applicable lower default retention limits of three swordfish per vessel per trip in the Northwest Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions, and two swordfish per vessel per trip in the U.S. Caribbean region. Limiting opportunities to harvest available directed swordfish quota may have negative social and economic impacts for U.S. fishermen. Adjustment of the retention limits needs to be effective on July 1, 2019, to allow Swordfish General Commercial permit holders and HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders with a commercial endorsement (when on a non-for-hire trip) to benefit from the adjustment during the relevant time period, which could pass by for some fishermen who have access to the fishery during a short time period because of seasonal fish migration, if the action is delayed for notice and public comment. Furthermore, the public was given an opportunity to comment on the underlying rulemakings, including the adoption of the North Atlantic swordfish U.S. quota, and the retention limit adjustments in this action would not have any additional effects or impacts since the retention limit does not affect the overall quota. Thus, there would be little opportunity for meaningful input and review with public comment on this action. Therefore, the AA finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive prior notice and the opportunity for public comment. For all of the above reasons, there is also good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d) to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness. This action is being taken under 50 CFR 635.24(b)(4) and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq. and 1801 et seq. E:\FR\FM\21JNR1.SGM 21JNR1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 120 / Friday, June 21, 2019 / Rules and Regulations Dated: June 18, 2019. Jennifer M. Wallace, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2019–13222 Filed 6–20–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 679 [Docket No. 180713633–9174–02] RIN 0648–XH066 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Kamchatka Flounder in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Temporary rule; closure. AGENCY: NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for Kamchatka flounder in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area (BSAI). This action is necessary to prevent exceeding the 2019 Kamchatka flounder initial total allowable catch (ITAC) in the BSAI. DATES: Effective 1200 hours, Alaska local time (A.l.t.), June 18, 2019, through 2400 hours, A.l.t., December 31, 2019. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Whitney, 907–586–7228. jspears on DSK30JT082PROD with RULES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:42 Jun 20, 2019 Jkt 247001 NMFS manages the groundfish fishery in the BSAI according to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (FMP) prepared by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council under authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Regulations governing fishing by U.S. vessels in accordance with the FMP appear at subpart H of 50 CFR part 600 and 50 CFR part 679. The 2019 Kamchatka flounder ITAC in the BSAI is 4,250 metric tons (mt) as established by the final 2019 and 2020 harvest specifications for groundfish in the BSAI (84 FR 9000, March 13, 2019). In accordance with § 679.20(d)(1)(i), the Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS (Regional Administrator), has determined that the 2019 Kamchatka flounder ITAC in the BSAI will soon be reached. Therefore, the Regional Administrator is establishing a directed fishing allowance of 2,000 mt, and is setting aside the remaining 2,250 mt as incidental catch to support other anticipated groundfish fisheries. In accordance with § 679.20(d)(1)(iii), the Regional Administrator finds that this directed fishing allowance has been reached. Consequently, NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for Kamchatka flounder in the BSAI. While this closure is effective the maximum retainable amounts at § 679.20(e) and (f) apply at any time during a trip. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: PO 00000 Frm 00063 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 9990 29091 Classification This action responds to the best available information recently obtained from the fishery. The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA (AA), finds good cause to waive the requirement to provide prior notice and opportunity for public comment pursuant to the authority set forth at 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) as such requirement is impracticable and contrary to the public interest. This requirement is impracticable and contrary to the public interest as it would prevent NMFS from responding to the most recent fisheries data in a timely fashion and would delay the closure of Kamchatka flounder to directed fishing in the BSAI. NMFS was unable to publish a notice providing time for public comment because the most recent, relevant data only became available as of June 14, 2019. The AA also finds good cause to waive the 30-day delay in the effective date of this action under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3). This finding is based upon the reasons provided above for waiver of prior notice and opportunity for public comment. This action is required by § 679.20 and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: June 17, 2019. Jennifer M. Wallace, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2019–13192 Filed 6–18–19; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\21JNR1.SGM 21JNR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 120 (Friday, June 21, 2019)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 29088-29091]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-13222]


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

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

[Docket No. 120627194-3657-02]
RIN 0648-XT002


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; North Atlantic Swordfish 
Fishery

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

ACTION: Temporary rule.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS is adjusting the Swordfish General Commercial permit 
retention limits for the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. 
Caribbean regions for July through December of the 2019 fishing year, 
unless otherwise later noticed. The Swordfish General Commercial permit 
retention limits in each of these regions are increased from the 
regulatory default limits (either two or three fish) to six swordfish 
per vessel per trip. The Swordfish General Commercial permit retention 
limit in the Florida Swordfish Management Area will remain unchanged at 
the default limit of zero swordfish per vessel per trip, as discussed 
in more detail below. These adjustments apply to Swordfish General 
Commercial permitted vessels and to Highly Migratory Species (HMS) 
Charter/Headboat permitted vessels with a commercial endorsement when 
on a non-for-hire trip. This action is based upon consideration of the 
applicable inseason regional retention limit adjustment criteria.

DATES: The adjusted Swordfish General Commercial permit retention 
limits in the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean 
regions are effective from July 1, 2019, through December 31, 2019.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Rick Pearson or Randy Blankinship, 
727-824-5399.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Regulations implemented under the authority 
of the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA; 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.) and 
the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-
Stevens Act; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) governing the harvest of North 
Atlantic swordfish by persons and vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction 
are found at 50 CFR part 635. Section 635.27 subdivides the U.S. North 
Atlantic swordfish quota recommended by the International Commission 
for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and implemented by the 
United States into two equal semi-annual directed fishery quotas; an 
annual incidental catch quota for fishermen targeting other species or 
catching swordfish recreationally, and a reserve category, according to 
the allocations established in the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly 
Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan (2006 Consolidated Atlantic 
HMS FMP) (71 FR 58058, October 2, 2006), as amended, and in accordance 
with implementing regulations. NMFS is required under ATCA and the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act to provide U.S. fishing vessels with a reasonable 
opportunity to harvest the ICCAT-recommended quota.
    In 2017, ICCAT Recommendation 17-02 specified that the overall 
North Atlantic swordfish total allowable catch (TAC) be set at 9,925 
metric tons (mt) dressed weight (dw) (13,200 mt whole weight (ww)) 
through 2021. Consistent with scientific advice, this was a reduction 
of 500 mt ww (375.9 mt dw) from previous ICCAT-recommended TACs. 
However, the United States' baseline quota remained at 2,937.6 mt dw 
(3,907 mt ww) per year. The Recommendation (17-02) also continued to 
limit underharvest carryover to 15 percent of a contracting party's 
baseline quota. Thus, the United States may carry over a maximum of 
440.6 mt dw (586.0 mt ww) of underharvest. Absent adjustments, the 
codified baseline quota is 2,937.6 mt dw for 2019. At this time, given 
the extent of underharvest in 2018, NMFS anticipates carrying over the 
maximum allowable 15 percent (440.6 mt dw), which would result in a 
final adjusted North Atlantic swordfish quota for the 2019 fishing year 
equal to 3,378.2 mt dw (2,937.6 + 440.6 = 3,378.2 mt dw). As in past 
years we anticipate allocating 50 mt dw from the adjusted quota to the 
Reserve category for inseason adjustments/research and allocating 300 
mt dw to the Incidental category, which includes recreational landings 
and landings by incidental swordfish permit holders, consistent with 
Sec.  635.27(c)(1)(i)(D) and (B). This would result in an adjusted 
quota of 3,028.2 mt dw for the directed fishery, which would be split 
equally (1,514.1 mt dw) between the two semi-annual periods in 2019 
(January through June, and July through December).

Adjustment of Swordfish General Commercial Permit Vessel Retention 
Limits

    The 2019 North Atlantic swordfish fishing year, which is managed on 
a calendar-year basis and divided into two equal semi-annual quotas for 
the directed fishery, began on January 1, 2019. Landings attributable 
to the Swordfish General Commercial permit count against the applicable 
semi-annual directed fishery quota. Regional default retention limits 
for this permit have been established and are automatically effective 
from January 1 through December 31 each year, unless changed based on 
the inseason regional retention limit adjustment criteria at Sec.  
635.24(b)(4)(iv). The default retention limits established for the 
Swordfish General Commercial permit are: (1) Northwest Atlantic 
region--three swordfish per vessel per trip; (2) Gulf of

[[Page 29089]]

Mexico region--three swordfish per vessel per trip; (3) U.S. Caribbean 
region--two swordfish per vessel per trip; and, (4) Florida Swordfish 
Management Area--zero swordfish per vessel per trip. The default 
retention limits apply to Swordfish General Commercial permitted 
vessels and to HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels with a commercial 
endorsement when fishing on non-for-hire trips. As a condition of these 
permits, vessels may not possess, retain, or land any more swordfish 
than is specified for the region in which the vessel is located.
    Under Sec.  635.24(b)(4)(iii), NMFS may increase or decrease the 
Swordfish General Commercial permit vessel retention limit in any 
region within a range from zero to a maximum of six swordfish per 
vessel per trip. Any adjustments to the retention limits must be based 
upon a consideration of the relevant criteria provided in Sec.  
635.24(b)(4)(iv), which include: (A) The usefulness of information 
obtained from biological sampling and monitoring of the North Atlantic 
swordfish stock; (B) the estimated ability of vessels participating in 
the fishery to land the amount of swordfish quota available before the 
end of the fishing year; (C) the estimated amounts by which quotas for 
other categories of the fishery might be exceeded; (D) effects of the 
adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the fishery management 
plan and its amendments; (E) variations in seasonal distribution, 
abundance, or migration patterns of swordfish; (F) effects of catch 
rates in one region precluding vessels in another region from having a 
reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the overall swordfish 
quota; and, (G) review of dealer reports, landing trends, and the 
availability of swordfish on the fishing grounds.
    NMFS has considered these criteria as discussed below and their 
applicability to the Swordfish General Commercial permit retention 
limit in all regions for July through December of the 2019 North 
Atlantic swordfish fishing year. We have determined that the Swordfish 
General Commercial permit retention limits in the Northwest Atlantic, 
Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions applicable to persons issued 
a Swordfish General Commercial permit or HMS Charter/Headboat permit 
with a commercial endorsement (when on a non-for-hire trip) should be 
increased from the default levels that would otherwise automatically 
become effective on July 1, 2019, to six swordfish per vessel per trip 
from July 1 through December 31, 2019, unless otherwise later noticed. 
These are the same limits that were implemented through an inseason 
adjustment for the period January 1 through June 31, 2019 (83 FR 65571, 
December 21, 2018). Given the rebuilt status of the stock and the 
availability of quota, increasing the Swordfish General Commercial 
permit retention limits in three regions to six fish per vessel per 
trip will increase the likelihood that directed swordfish landings will 
approach, but not exceed, the available annual swordfish quota, and 
increase the opportunity for catching swordfish during the 2019 fishing 
year.
    In 2018, a six swordfish per vessel trip limit was in effect for 
Swordfish General Commercial permit holders in the Northwest Atlantic, 
Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions for the entire fishing 
season. As of December 31, 2018, total annual directed swordfish 
landings were approximately 901.0 mt dw, or 29.8 percent of the 3,028.2 
mt dw annual adjusted directed quota for 2018, which includes landings 
under the six fish trip limit.
    Among the regulatory criteria for inseason adjustments to retention 
limits, and given the rebuilt status of the stock and availability of 
quota, is the requirement that NMFS consider the ``effects of the 
adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the fishery management 
plan and its amendments.'' See Sec.  635.24(b)(4)(iv)(D). A 
consideration in deciding whether to increase the retention limit, in 
this case, is the objective of providing opportunities to harvest the 
full North Atlantic directed swordfish quota without exceeding it based 
upon the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP goal to, consistent with 
other objectives of this FMP, ``manage Atlantic HMS fisheries for 
continuing optimum yield so as to provide the greatest overall benefit 
to the Nation, particularly with respect to food production, providing 
recreational opportunities, preserving traditional fisheries, and 
taking into account the protection of marine ecosystems.'' This action 
will help preserve a traditional swordfish handgear fishery (rod and 
reel, handline, harpoon, bandit gear, and green-stick). Although this 
action does not specifically provide recreational fishing 
opportunities, it will have a minimal impact on the recreational sector 
because recreational landings are counted against a separate incidental 
swordfish quota.
    NMFS has examined dealer reports and landing trends and determined 
that the information obtained from biological sampling and monitoring 
of the North Atlantic swordfish stock is useful. See Sec.  
635.24(b)(4)(iv)(A). Regarding the estimated ability of vessels 
participating in the fishery to land the amount of swordfish quota 
available before the end of the fishing year, Sec.  
635.24(b)(4)(iv)(B), NMFS reviewed electronic dealer landings data, 
which indicates that sufficient directed swordfish quota will be 
available for the July through December 2019 semi-annual quota period 
if recent swordfish landing trends continue. The directed swordfish 
quota has not been harvested for several years and, based upon current 
landing trends, is not likely to be harvested or exceeded in 2019. As 
of April 30, 2019, approximately 8.5 percent (258.9 mt ww) of the 
anticipated 3,028.2 mt dw annual adjusted directed swordfish quota for 
2019 had been harvested during the first semi-annual quota period. 
Based upon recent landings rates from dealer reports, an increase in 
the vessel retention limits to six fish for Swordfish General 
Commercial permit holders and Charter/Headboat permit holders with a 
commercial endorsement (when on a non-for-hire trip) in three regions 
is not likely to cause quotas for other categories of the fishery to be 
exceeded. See Sec.  635.24(b)(4)(iv)(C). Similarly, regarding the 
criteria about the effects of catch rates in one region precluding 
vessels in another region from having a reasonable opportunity to 
harvest a portion of the overall swordfish quota, Sec.  
635.24(b)(4)(iv)(F), we expect there to be sufficient swordfish quota 
for the entirety of the 2019 fishing year. Thus, increased catch rates 
in these three regions as a result of this action would not be expected 
to preclude vessels in the other region (e.g., the buoy gear fishery in 
the Florida Swordfish Management Area) from having a reasonable 
opportunity to harvest a portion of the overall swordfish quota.
    In making adjustments to the retention limits NMFS must also 
consider variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migration 
patterns of swordfish, and the availability of swordfish on the fishing 
grounds. See Sec.  635.24(b)(4)(iv)(G). With regard to swordfish 
abundance, the 2018 report by ICCAT's Standing Committee on Research 
and Statistics indicated that the North Atlantic swordfish stock is not 
overfished (B2015/Bmsy = 1.04), and overfishing 
is not occurring (F2015/Fmsy = 0.78). Increasing 
retention limits for the General Commercial directed fishery is not 
expected to affect the swordfish stock status determination because any 
additional landings would be within the ICCAT-recommended U.S. North 
Atlantic swordfish quota allocation, which is consistent with 
conservation

[[Page 29090]]

and management measures to prevent overfishing on the stock. Increasing 
opportunities by increasing retention limits from the default levels 
beginning on July 1, 2019, is also important because of the migratory 
nature and seasonal distribution of swordfish. In a particular 
geographic region, or waters accessible from a particular port, the 
amount of fishing opportunity for swordfish may be constrained by the 
short amount of time that the swordfish are present in the area as they 
migrate.
    Finally, another consideration, consistent with the FMP and its 
amendments, is to continue to provide protection to important swordfish 
nursery areas and migratory corridors. Therefore, NMFS has determined 
that the retention limit for the Swordfish General Commercial permit 
will remain at zero swordfish per vessel per trip in the Florida 
Swordfish Management Area at this time. As discussed above, NMFS 
considered consistency with the 2006 HMS FMP and its amendments, and 
the importance for NMFS to continue to provide protection to important 
swordfish nursery areas and migratory corridors. As described in 
Amendment 8 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (78 FR 52011, 
August 21, 2013), the area off the southeastern coast of Florida, 
particularly the Florida Straits, contains oceanographic features that 
make the area biologically unique. It provides important juvenile 
swordfish habitat, and is essentially a narrow migratory corridor 
containing high concentrations of swordfish located in close proximity 
to high concentrations of people who may fish for them. Public comment 
on Amendment 8, including from the Florida Fish and Wildlife 
Conservation Commission, indicated concern about the resultant high 
potential for the improper rapid growth of a commercial fishery, 
increased catches of undersized swordfish, the potential for larger 
numbers of fishermen in the area, and the potential for crowding of 
fishermen, which could lead to gear and user conflicts. These concerns 
remain valid. NMFS will continue to collect information to evaluate the 
appropriateness of the retention limit in the Florida Swordfish 
Management Area and other regional retention limits. This action 
therefore maintains a zero-fish retention limit in the Florida 
Swordfish Management Area.
    The directed swordfish quota has not been harvested for several 
years and, based upon current landing trends, is not likely to be 
harvested or exceeded during 2019. This information indicates that 
sufficient directed swordfish quota should be available from July 1 
through December 31, 2019, at the higher retention levels, within the 
limits of the scientifically-supported TAC and consistent with the 
goals of the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP as amended, ATCA, and 
the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and are not expected to negatively impact 
stock health.

Monitoring and Reporting

    NMFS will continue to monitor the swordfish fishery closely during 
2019 through mandatory landings and catch reports. Dealers are required 
to submit landing reports and negative reports (if no swordfish were 
purchased) on a weekly basis.
    Depending upon the level of fishing effort and catch rates of 
swordfish, NMFS may determine that additional retention limit 
adjustments or closures are necessary to ensure that the available 
quota is not exceeded or to enhance fishing opportunities. Subsequent 
actions, if any, will be published in the Federal Register. In 
addition, fishermen may access https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/atlantic-highly-migratory-species/2019-atlantic-swordfish-landings-updates for 
updates on quota monitoring.

Classification

    The Assistant Administrator for NMFS (AA) finds that it is 
impracticable and contrary to the public interest to provide prior 
notice of, and an opportunity for public comment on, this action for 
the following reasons:
    The regulations implementing the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS 
FMP, as amended, provide for inseason retention limit adjustments to 
respond to changes in swordfish landings, the availability of swordfish 
on the fishing grounds, the migratory nature of this species, and 
regional variations in the fishery. Based on available swordfish quota, 
stock abundance, fishery performance in recent years, and the 
availability of swordfish on the fishing grounds, among other 
considerations, adjustment to the Swordfish General Commercial permit 
retention limits from the default levels of two or three fish to six 
swordfish per vessel per trip as discussed above is warranted, while 
maintaining the default limit of zero-fish retention in the Florida 
Swordfish Management Area. Analysis of available data shows that 
adjustment to the swordfish retention limit from the default levels 
would result in minimal risk of exceeding the ICCAT-allocated quota.
    NMFS provides notification of retention limit adjustments by 
publishing the notice in the Federal Register, emailing individuals who 
have subscribed to the Atlantic HMS News electronic newsletter, and 
updating the information posted on the ``News and Announcements'' 
website at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/news-and-announcements 
(filter by ``Atlantic Highly Migratory Species'' under ``Topic''). 
Delays in temporarily increasing these retention limits caused by the 
time required to publish a proposed rule and accept public comment 
would adversely and unnecessarily affect those Swordfish General 
Commercial permit holders and HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders with 
a commercial endorsement (when on a non-for-hire trip) that would 
otherwise have an opportunity to harvest more than the otherwise 
applicable lower default retention limits of three swordfish per vessel 
per trip in the Northwest Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions, and two 
swordfish per vessel per trip in the U.S. Caribbean region. Limiting 
opportunities to harvest available directed swordfish quota may have 
negative social and economic impacts for U.S. fishermen. Adjustment of 
the retention limits needs to be effective on July 1, 2019, to allow 
Swordfish General Commercial permit holders and HMS Charter/Headboat 
permit holders with a commercial endorsement (when on a non-for-hire 
trip) to benefit from the adjustment during the relevant time period, 
which could pass by for some fishermen who have access to the fishery 
during a short time period because of seasonal fish migration, if the 
action is delayed for notice and public comment. Furthermore, the 
public was given an opportunity to comment on the underlying 
rulemakings, including the adoption of the North Atlantic swordfish 
U.S. quota, and the retention limit adjustments in this action would 
not have any additional effects or impacts since the retention limit 
does not affect the overall quota. Thus, there would be little 
opportunity for meaningful input and review with public comment on this 
action. Therefore, the AA finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to 
waive prior notice and the opportunity for public comment. For all of 
the above reasons, there is also good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d) to 
waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness.
    This action is being taken under 50 CFR 635.24(b)(4) and is exempt 
from review under Executive Order 12866.

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


[[Page 29091]]


    Dated: June 18, 2019.
Jennifer M. Wallace,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2019-13222 Filed 6-20-19; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P