Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; 2020 Atlantic Shark Commercial Fishing Year, 49236-49244 [2019-20249]

Download as PDF 49236 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2019 / Proposed Rules DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 635 [Docket No. 190913–0027] RIN 0648–XT004 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; 2020 Atlantic Shark Commercial Fishing Year National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: This proposed rule would adjust quotas and retention limits, and establish opening dates for the 2020 fishing year for the Atlantic commercial shark fisheries. Quotas would be adjusted as required or allowable based on any overharvests and/or underharvests experienced during the 2019 fishing year. In addition, NMFS proposes opening dates and commercial retention limits based on adaptive management measures to provide, to the extent practicable, fishing opportunities for commercial shark fishermen in all regions and areas. The proposed measures could affect fishing opportunities for commercial shark fishermen in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea. DATES: Written comments must be received by October 10, 2019. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA– NMFS–2019–0091, by any 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-20190091, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Submit written comments to Guy DuBeck, NMFS/SF1, 1315 EastWest Highway, National Marine Fisheries Service, SSMC3, Silver Spring, MD 20910. 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 jbell on DSK3GLQ082PROD with PROPOSALS SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:15 Sep 18, 2019 Jkt 247001 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). Copies of this proposed rule and supporting documents are available from the HMS Management Division website at https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/topic/atlantichighly-migratory-species or by contacting Guy DuBeck by phone at 301–427–8503. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Guy DuBeck or Karyl Brewster-Geisz at 301– 427–8503. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background The Atlantic commercial shark fisheries are managed under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). The 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and its amendments are implemented by regulations at 50 CFR part 635. For the Atlantic commercial shark fisheries, the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments established commercial shark retention limits, commercial quotas for species and management groups, and accounting measures for underharvests and overharvests for the shark fisheries. The FMP also includes adaptive management measures, such as flexible opening dates for the fishing year and inseason adjustments to shark trip limits, which provide management flexibility in furtherance of equitable fishing opportunities, to the extent practicable, for commercial shark fishermen in all regions and areas. 2020 Proposed Commercial Shark Quotas This proposed rule would adjust the quota levels for the different shark stocks and management groups for the 2019 Atlantic commercial shark fishing year based on overharvests and underharvests that occurred during the 2019 fishing year, consistent with existing regulations at 50 CFR 635.27(b). Overharvests and underharvests are accounted for in the same region, subregion, and/or fishery in which they occurred the following year, except that large overharvests may be spread over a number of subsequent fishing years up to a maximum of five years. Shark stocks that are overfished, have overfishing occurring, or have an PO 00000 Frm 00035 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 unknown status, as well as management groups that contain one or more stocks that are overfished, have overfishing occurring, or have an unknown stock status, will not have underharvest carried over in the following year. Stocks or management groups that are not overfished and have no overfishing occurring may have any underharvest carried over in the following year, up to 50 percent of the base annual quota. Based on 2019 harvests to date, and after considering catch rates and landings from previous years, NMFS proposes to adjust the 2020 quotas for certain management groups as shown in Table 1. In the final rule, any adjustments to the quotas will be based on how the quotas are affected by new data from dealer reports received by late October to mid-November 2019. Thus, all of the 2020 proposed quotas for the respective stocks and management groups will be subject to further adjustment after NMFS considers the dealer reports through late October to mid-November. NMFS anticipates that all dealer reports that are received after the late October to mid-November date will be used to adjust 2021 quotas, as appropriate. Because the Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group and smoothhound shark management groups in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic regions are not overfished, and overfishing is not occurring, available underharvest (up to 50 percent of the base annual quota) from the 2019 fishing year for these management groups may be applied to the respective 2020 quotas. NMFS proposes to account for any underharvest of Gulf of Mexico blacktip sharks by dividing underharvest between the eastern and western Gulf of Mexico sub-regional quotas based on the sub-regional quota split percentage implemented in Amendment 6 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (80 FR 50073; August 18, 2015). For the sandbar shark, aggregated large coastal shark (LCS), hammerhead shark, non-blacknose small coastal shark (SCS), blacknose shark, blue shark, porbeagle shark, and pelagic shark (other than porbeagle or blue sharks) management groups, the 2019 underharvests cannot be carried over to the 2020 fishing year because those stocks or management groups are overfished, are experiencing overfishing, or have an unknown status. There also were no overharvests in these management groups. Thus, NMFS proposes that quotas for these management groups be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment, although the final quotas will be based E:\FR\FM\19SEP1.SGM 19SEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2019 / Proposed Rules on current data at the time the final rule is prepared. The proposed 2020 quotas by species and management group are summarized in Table 1; the description of the 49237 calculations for each stock and management group can be found below. TABLE 1—2020 PROPOSED QUOTAS AND OPENING DATES FOR THE ATLANTIC SHARK MANAGEMENT GROUPS [All quotas and landings are dressed weight (dw), in metric tons (mt), unless specified otherwise. Table includes landings data as of September 13, 2019; final quotas are subject to change based on landings as of late October to mid-November 2019. 1 mt = 2,204.6 lb] Region or sub-region Management group 2019 annual quota (A) (B) (C) (D) (D + C) Western Gulf of Mexico Blacktip Sharks 3 ....... 250.8 mt dw (552,919 lb dw)5. 22.0 mt dw (48,501 lb dw) 5. 3.9 mt dw (8,598 lb dw) 5. 32.7 mt dw (72,091 lb dw) 5. 135.5 mt dw (298,726 lb dw) 5. 21.4 mt dw (47,178 lb dw) 5. 112.6 mt dw (248,215 lb dw). 504.6 mt dw (1,112,441 lb dw). 168.9 mt dw (372,552 lb dw). 27.1 mt dw (59,736 lb dw). 264.1 mt dw (582,333 lb dw). 17.2 mt dw (37,921 lb dw). 62.2 mt dw (137,118 lb dw). 11.7 mt dw (25,805 lb dw). <0.5 mt dw (<1,300 lb dw). 7.2 mt dw (15,778 lb dw). 61.3 mt dw (135,227 lb dw). 9.2 mt dw (20,353 lb dw). 34.5 mt dw (76,027 lb dw). <5.0 mt dw (<11,000 lb dw). 34.5 mt dw (76,011 lb dw). 9.3 mt dw (20,479 lb dw). 83.8 mt dw (184,735 lb dw). 7.9 mt dw 17,431 lb dw. 127.9 mt dw (281,899.8 lb dw). ................................... 231 mt dw (510,261 lb dw). 72.0 mt dw (158,724 lb dw). 11.9 mt dw (26,301 lb dw). 25.1 mt dw (55,439 lb dw). 85.5 mt dw (188,593 lb dw). 13.4 mt dw (29,421 lb dw). 112.6 mt dw (248,215 lb dw). 336.4 mt dw (741,627 lb dw). 168.9 mt dw (372,552 lb dw). 27.1 mt dw (59,736 lb dw). 264.1 mt dw (582,333 lb dw). 17.2 mt dw (37,921 lb dw). 358.9 mt dw (792,161 lb dw). 72.0 mt dw (158,724 lb dw). 11.9 mt dw (26,301 lb dw). 39.0 mt dw (86,066.7 lb dw). 85.5 mt dw (188,593 lb dw). 13.4 mt dw (29,421 lb dw). 112.6 mt dw (248,215 lb dw). 504.6 mt dw (1,112,441 lb dw). 168.9 mt dw (372,552 lb dw). 27.1 mt dw (59,736 lb dw). 264.1 mt dw (582,333 lb dw). 17.2 mt dw (37,921 lb dw). 1,802.6 mt dw (3,973,902 lb dw). 50.0 mt dw (110,230 lb dw). 90.7 mt dw (199,943 lb dw). 273.0 mt dw (601,856 lb dw). 1.7 mt dw (3,748 lb dw). 488.0 mt dw (1,075,856 lb dw). 279.6 mt dw (616,326 lb dw). 10.1 mt dw (22,195 lb dw). 50.6 mt dw (111,542 lb dw). 0 mt dw (0 lb dw) ...... 600.9 mt dw (1,324,634 lb dw). ................................... <0.5 mt dw (<1,000 lb dw). 28.6 mt dw (63,006 lb dw). ................................... 1,201.7 mt dw (2,649,268 lb dw). 50.0 mt dw (110,230 lb dw). 90.7 mt dw (199,943 lb dw). 273.0 mt dw (601,856 lb dw). 1.7 mt dw (3,748 lb dw). 488.0 mt dw (1,075,856 lb dw). 1,802.6 mt dw (3,971,587 lb dw). 50.0 mt dw (110,230 lb dw). 90.7 mt dw (199,943 lb dw). 273.0 mt dw (601,856 lb dw). 1.7 mt dw (3,748 lb dw). 488.0 mt dw (1,075,856 lb dw). Aggregated 4 Large Coastal Sharks. Hammerhead Sharks Eastern Gulf of Mexico Blacktip Sharks 3 ....... Aggregated Large Coastal Sharks. Hammerhead Sharks Gulf of Mexico ............. Atlantic ......................... Non-Blacknose Small Coastal Sharks. Smoothhound Sharks Aggregated Large Coastal Sharks. Hammerhead Sharks Non-Blacknose Small Coastal Sharks. Blacknose Sharks ..... (South of 34° N lat. only). Smoothhound Sharks No regional quotas ...... Non-Sandbar LCS Research. Sandbar Shark Research. Blue Sharks .............. Porbeagle Sharks ..... Pelagic Sharks Other Than Porbeagle or Blue. Preliminary 2019 landings 1 Adjustments 2 ................................... 13.9 mt dw (30,627.7 lb dw). ................................... ................................... ................................... 168.2 mt dw (370,814 lb dw). ................................... ................................... ................................... ................................... ................................... ................................... ................................... 2020 base annual quota 2020 proposed annual quota Season opening dates January 1, 2020. January 1, 2020. January 1, 2020. January 1, 2020. 1 Landings are from January 1, 2019, through September 13, 2019, and are subject to change. 2 Underharvest adjustments can only be applied to stocks or management groups that are not overfished and have no overfishing occurring. Also, the underharvest adjustments cannot exceed 50 percent of the base annual quota. 3 This adjustment accounts for underharvest in 2019. This proposed rule would increase the overall Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota by 141.8 mt dw (281,899.8 lb dw). Since any underharvest would be divided based on the sub-regional quota percentage split, the western Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota would be increased by 127 mt dw, or 90.2 percent of the underharvest, while the eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota would be increased by 13.9 mt dw, or 9.8 percent of the underharvest. 4 While the western Gulf of Mexico Aggregated LCS quota was still under the limit when the 2019 final rule was released, the quota was exceeded by the end of the year. However, current landings are at 11 percent of the available 2019 quota and current catch rates do not indicate the quota will be fully landed. This underharvest (62.3 mt dw) is much greater than the 2018 overharvest (8.0 mt dw; 17,548 lb dw lb dw). Therefore, NMFS is proposing that the 2019 quota be adjusted to account for the 2018 overharvest, and the 2020 quota be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment. 5 NMFS transferred 5 mt dw of the blacktip shark quota, 50 mt dw of the aggregated LCS quota, and 8 mt dw of the hammerhead shark quota from the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region to the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region on September 12, 2019. jbell on DSK3GLQ082PROD with PROPOSALS 1. Proposed 2020 Quotas for the Gulf of Mexico Region Shark Management Groups In a recent action, NMFS transferred 5 mt dw of the blacktip shark quota, 50 mt dw of the aggregated LCS quota, and 8 mt dw of the hammerhead shark quota from the western Gulf of Mexico subregion to the eastern Gulf of Mexico subregion on September 12, 2019. This quota transfer would not impact the proposed actions in this rulemaking. The 2020 proposed commercial quota for blacktip sharks in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region is 358.9 mt dw (792,161lb dw) and the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region is 39.0 mt dw (86,066.7 lb dw; Table 1). As of September 13, 2019, preliminary reported landings for blacktip sharks in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:15 Sep 18, 2019 Jkt 247001 were at 25 percent (62.2 mt dw) of their 2019 quota levels (250.8 mt dw), and blacktip sharks in the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 22 percent (7.2 mt dw) of their 2019 quota levels (32.7 mt dw). Reported landings in both sub-regions have not exceeded the 2019 quota to date, and blacktip shark landings in both sub-regions are lower than usual. Gulf of Mexico blacktip sharks have not been declared to be overfished, to have overfishing occurring, or to have an unknown status. Pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii), underharvests for blacktip sharks within the Gulf of Mexico region therefore may be applied to the 2019 quotas, up to 50 percent of the base annual quota. Additionally, any underharvest would be divided between the two sub-regions, based on the percentages that are allocated to each sub-region, which are PO 00000 Frm 00036 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 set forth in § 635.27(b)(1)(ii)(C). To date, the overall Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group is underharvested by 214.1 mt dw (472,114 lb dw). Accordingly, NMFS proposed to increase the western Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota by 127.9 mt dw or 90.2 percent of the underharvest, while the eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark sub-regional quota would increase by 13.9 mt dw, or 9.8 percent of the underharvest (Table 1). Thus, the proposed western sub-regional Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark commercial quota is 358.9 mt dw (792,161 lb dw), and the proposed eastern sub-regional Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark commercial quota is 39.0 mt dw (86,066.7 lb dw). The 2020 proposed commercial quota for aggregated LCS in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region is 72.0 mt dw (141,176 lb dw), and the eastern Gulf of E:\FR\FM\19SEP1.SGM 19SEP1 jbell on DSK3GLQ082PROD with PROPOSALS 49238 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2019 / Proposed Rules Mexico sub-region is 85.5 mt dw (188,593 lb dw; Table 1). As of September 13, 2019, preliminary reported landings for aggregated LCS in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 53 percent (11.7 mt dw) of the 2019 quota (22.0 mt dw), while the aggregated LCS in the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 45 percent (61.3 mt dw) of their 2019 quota levels (135.5 mt dw). NMFS is proposing to adjust the 2019 aggregated LCS quota in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region to account for an 8 mt dw overharvest that occurred in 2018. While the quota was still under the limit when the 2019 Atlantic Shark Commercial Fishing Year final rule was released (83 FR 60777; November 27, 2018), the quota was exceeded by the end of the 2019 calendar year, as later revealed by updated data received in 2019. Although NMFS generally accounts for later-reported overages in the subsequent year (here, 2020), NMFS has, under certain circumstances, readjusted the subject year quota if appropriate. Given that 2019 landings are low, current catch rates indicate that the 2019 quota will not be fully landed, and that there is time to further adjust this approach, if needed, in the final rule in response to any updated landings information. NMFS is proposing that the 2019 sub-regional quota be adjusted to account for the 2018 overharvest, and is proposing that the 2020 quota for the aggregated LCS in the western Gulf of Mexico be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment. NMFS proposes to re-adjust the western Gulf of Mexico sub-regional quota by 8 mt dw (17,548 lb dw) from the 2019 quota. If catch rates do increase, and the revised 2019 subregional quota is exceeded, then NMFS would, in the final rule, reduce the 2020 quota by that overharvest. Based on preliminary estimates and catch rates from previous years, and consistent with the current regulations at § 635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2020 quota for aggregated LCS in the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment, because the overall regional quota has not been overharvested and because underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status. The 2020 proposed commercial quotas for hammerhead sharks in the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region and western Gulf of Mexico sub-region are 11.9 mt dw (26,301 lb dw) and 13.4 mt dw (29,421 lb dw), respectively (Table 1). As of September 13, 2019, preliminary reported landings for hammerhead sharks in the western Gulf VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:15 Sep 18, 2019 Jkt 247001 of Mexico sub-region were less than 12 percent (<0.5 mt dw) of their 2019 quota levels (3.9 mt dw), while landings of hammerhead sharks in the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 43 percent (9.2 mt dw) of their 2019 quota levels (21.4 mt dw). Reported landings from both Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic regions have not exceeded the 2019 overall hammerhead quota to date. Given the overfished status of the scalloped hammerhead shark, the hammerhead shark quota cannot be adjusted for any underharvests. Therefore, based on both preliminary estimates and catch rates from previous years and the fact that the 2019 overall hammerhead shark quota has not been overharvested to date, and consistent with the current regulations at § 635.27(b)(2)(ii), NMFS proposes that the 2020 quotas for hammerhead sharks in the western Gulf of Mexico and eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-regions be equal to their annual base quotas without adjustment. The 2020 proposed commercial quota for non-blacknose SCS in the Gulf of Mexico region is 112.6 mt dw (248,215 lb dw). As of September 13, 2019, preliminary reported landings of nonblacknose SCS were at 31 percent (34.5 mt dw) of their 2019 quota level (112.6 mt dw) in the Gulf of Mexico region. Reported landings have not exceeded the 2019 quota to date. Given the unknown status of bonnethead sharks within the Gulf of Mexico nonblacknose SCS management group, underharvests cannot be carried forward, pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii). Under current regulations at § 635.27(b)(2), underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status. Based on both preliminary estimates and catch rates from previous years, and because there have not been any overharvests, NMFS proposes that the 2020 quota for non-blacknose SCS in the Gulf of Mexico region be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment. There is no allowable harvest of blacknose sharks in the Gulf of Mexico region. The 2020 proposed commercial quota for smoothhound sharks in the Gulf of Mexico region is 504.6 mt dw (1,112,441 lb dw). As of September 13, 2019, preliminary reported landings of smoothhound sharks were less than 5 percent (<4.9 mt dw) in the Gulf of Mexico region. Gulf of Mexico smoothhound sharks have not been declared to be overfished, to have overfishing occurring, or to have an unknown status. Pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii), underharvests for smoothhound sharks within the Gulf of Mexico region therefore could be applied to the 2020 quotas up to 50 PO 00000 Frm 00037 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 percent of the base annual quota. Accordingly, NMFS proposes to increase the 2020 Gulf of Mexico smoothhound shark quota to adjust for anticipated underharvests in 2019 as allowed. The proposed 2020 adjusted base annual quota for Gulf of Mexico smoothhound sharks is 504.6 mt dw (336.4 mt dw) annual base quota + 168.2 mt dw 2019 underharvest = 504.6 mt dw 2020 adjusted annual quota). 2. Proposed 2020 Quotas for the Atlantic Region Shark Management Groups The 2020 proposed commercial quota for aggregated LCS in the Atlantic region is 168.9 mt dw (372,552 lb dw). As of September 13, 2019, the aggregated LCS fishery in the Atlantic region is still open, and preliminary landings indicate that only 20 percent of the quota, or 34.5 mt dw, has been harvested. Given the unknown status of some of the shark species within the Atlantic aggregated LCS management group, underharvests cannot be carried over pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on both preliminary estimates and catch rates from previous years, and consistent with current regulations at § 635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2020 quota for aggregated LCS in the Atlantic region be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment, because there have not been any overharvests, and underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status.ey End:?≤ The 2020 proposed commercial quota for hammerhead sharks in the Atlantic region is 27.1 mt dw (59,736 lb dw). Currently, the hammerhead shark fishery in the Atlantic region is still open and preliminary landings as of September 13, 2019, indicate that 34 percent of the Atlantic regional quota, or 9.3 mt dw, has been harvested. Reported landings from both Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic regions have not exceeded the 2019 overall hammerhead quota to date. Given the overfished status of hammerhead sharks, underharvests cannot be carried forward pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on both preliminary estimates and catch rates from previous years, and consistent with the current regulations at § 635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2020 quota for hammerhead sharks in the Atlantic region be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment, because the overall hammerhead shark quota has not been overharvested, and because underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status. The 2020 proposed commercial quota for non-blacknose SCS in the Atlantic region is 264.1 mt dw (582,333 lb dw). As of September 13, 2019, preliminary reported landings of non-blacknose SCS E:\FR\FM\19SEP1.SGM 19SEP1 jbell on DSK3GLQ082PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2019 / Proposed Rules were at 32 percent (83.8 mt dw) of their 2019 quota level in the Atlantic region. Reported landings have not exceeded the 2019 quota to date. Given the unknown status of bonnethead sharks within the Atlantic non-blacknose SCS management group, underharvests cannot be carried forward pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on preliminary estimates of catch rates from previous years, and consistent with the current regulations at § 635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2020 quota for non-blacknose SCS in the Atlantic region be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment, because there have not been any overharvests, and because underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status. The 2019 proposed commercial quota for blacknose sharks in the Atlantic region is 17.2 mt dw (37,921 lb dw). This quota is available in the Atlantic region only for those vessels operating south of 34° N latitude. North of 34° N latitude, retention, landing, or sale of blacknose sharks is prohibited. As of September 13, 2019, preliminary reported landings of blacknose sharks were at 46 percent (7.9 mt dw) of their 2019 quota levels in the Atlantic region. Reported landings have not exceeded the 2019 quota to date. Pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2), because blacknose sharks have been declared to be overfished with overfishing occurring in the Atlantic region, NMFS could not carry forward the remaining underharvest. Therefore, NMFS proposes that the 2020 Atlantic blacknose shark quota be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment. The 2020 proposed commercial quota for smoothhound sharks in the Atlantic region is 1,802.6 mt dw (3,973,902 lb dw). As of September 13, 2019, preliminary reported landings of smoothhound sharks were at 16 percent (279.6 mt dw) of their 2019 quota levels in the Atlantic region. Atlantic smoothhound sharks have not been declared to be overfished, to have overfishing occurring, or to have an unknown status. Pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii), underharvests for smoothhound sharks within the Atlantic region therefore could be applied to the 2020 quotas up to 50 percent of the base annual quota. Accordingly, NMFS proposes to increase the 2020 Atlantic smoothhound shark quota to adjust for anticipated underharvests in 2019 as allowed. The proposed 2020 adjusted base annual quota for Atlantic smoothhound sharks is 1,802.6 mt dw (1,201.7 mt dw annual base quota + 600.9 mt dw 2019 underharvest = 1,802.6 mt dw 2020 adjusted annual quota). VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:15 Sep 18, 2019 Jkt 247001 3. Proposed 2020 Quotas for Shark Management Groups With No Regional Quotas The 2020 proposed commercial quotas within the shark research fishery are 50 mt dw (110,230 lb dw) for research LCS and 90.7 mt dw (199,943 lb dw) for sandbar sharks. Within the shark research fishery, as of September 13, 2019, preliminary reported landings of research LCS were at 20 percent (10.1 mt dw) of their 2019 quota levels, and sandbar shark reported landings were at 56 percent (50.6 mt dw) of their 2019 quota levels. Reported landings have not exceeded the 2019 quotas to date. Under § 635.27(b)(2)(ii), because sandbar sharks and scalloped hammerhead sharks within the research LCS management group are either not overfished or overfishing is not occurring, underharvests for these management groups cannot be carried forward to the 2020 quotas. Therefore, based on preliminary estimates, and consistent with the current regulations at § 635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2020 quota in the shark research fishery be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment because there have not been any overharvests, and because underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status. The 2020 proposed commercial quotas for blue sharks, porbeagle sharks, and pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle or blue sharks) are 273.0 mt dw (601,856 lb dw), 1.7 mt dw (3,748 lb dw), and 488.0 mt dw (1,075,856 lb dw), respectively. As of September 13, 2019, there were no preliminary reported landings of blue sharks, porbeagle shark reported landings were at <33 percent (<0.5 mt dw) of their 2019 quota levels, and landings of pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle and blue sharks) were at 6 percent (28.6 mt dw) of their 2019 quota level (488.0 mt dw). Given that these pelagic species are overfished, have overfishing occurring, or have an unknown status, underharvests cannot be carried forward pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on preliminary estimates and consistent with the current regulations at § 635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2020 quotas for blue sharks, porbeagle sharks, and pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle and blue sharks) be equal to their annual base quotas without adjustment, because there have not been any overharvests and because underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status. PO 00000 Frm 00038 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 49239 4. Proposed Opening Dates and Retention Limits for the 2020 Atlantic Commercial Shark Fishing Year For each fishery, NMFS considered the seven ‘‘Opening Commercial Fishing Season Criteria’’ listed at § 635.27(b)(3). The criteria includes factors such as the available annual quotas for the current fishing season, estimated season length and average weekly catch rates from previous years, length of the season and fishery participation in past years, impacts to accomplishing objectives of the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments, temporal variation in behavior or biology of target species (e.g., seasonal distribution or abundance), impact of catch rates in one region on another, and effects of delayed openings. NMFS applied the Opening Commercial Fishing Season Criteria by examining the overharvests and underharvests of the different management groups in the 2019 fishing year to determine the likely effects of the proposed commercial quotas for 2020 on shark stocks and fishermen across regional and sub-regional fishing areas. NMFS also examined the potential season length and previous catch rates to ensure, to the extent practicable, that equitable fishing opportunities be provided to fishermen in all areas. Lastly, NMFS examined the seasonal variation of the different species/management groups and the effects on fishing opportunities. NMFS also considered the six ‘‘inseason trip limit adjustment criteria’’ listed at § 635.24(a)(8) for directed shark limited access permit holders intending to land LCS other than sandbar sharks. Those criteria are: The amount of remaining shark quota in the relevant area or region, to date, based on dealer reports; the catch rates of the relevant shark species/complexes, to date, based on dealer reports; the estimated date of fishery closure based on when the landings are projected to reach 80percent of the available overall, regional, and/or sub-regional quota, if the fishery’s landings are not projected to reach 100 percent of the applicable quota before the end of the season, or when the season of a quota-linked management group is closed; effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments; variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migratory patterns of the relevant shark species based on scientific and fishery-based knowledge; and/or effects of catch rates in one part of a region precluding vessels in another part of that region from having a E:\FR\FM\19SEP1.SGM 19SEP1 49240 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2019 / Proposed Rules reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the relevant quota. After considering all these criteria, NMFS is proposing to open the 2020 Atlantic commercial shark fishing season for all shark management groups in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, on or about January 1, 2020, after the publication of the final rule for this action (Table 2). NMFS is also proposing to start the 2020 commercial shark fishing season with the commercial retention limit of 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip in both the eastern and western Gulf of Mexico sub-regions, and a commercial retention limit of 25 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip in the Atlantic region (Table 2). NMFS will consider public comments received during the current year and catch rates from this year. Any retention limits that are proposed could change as a result of public comments as well as catch rates and landings information based on updated data available when drafting the final rule. TABLE 2—QUOTA LINKAGES, SEASON OPENING DATES, AND COMMERCIAL RETENTION LIMIT BY REGIONAL OR SUBREGIONAL SHARK MANAGEMENT GROUP Commercial retention limits for directed shark limited access permit holders (inseason adjustments are possible) Region or sub-region Management group Quota linkages Season opening dates Western Gulf of Mexico. Blacktip Sharks .......... Not Linked .................. January 1, 2020 ......... 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip. Aggregated Large Coastal Sharks. Hammerhead Sharks. Blacktip Sharks .......... Linked. January 1, 2020 ......... 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip. 1 Not Linked .................. January 1, 2020 ......... N/A. Not Linked .................. Linked ........................ January 1, 2020 ......... January 1, 2020 ......... N/A. 25 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip. If quota is landed quickly (e.g., if approximately 20 percent of quota is caught at the beginning of the year), NMFS anticipates an inseason reduction (e.g., to 3 or fewer LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip), then an inseason increase to 36 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip around July 15, 2020. 2 N/A. Eastern Gulf of Mexico. Gulf of Mexico ............ Atlantic ....................... No regional quotas .... Not Linked .................. Aggregated Large Coastal Sharks. Hammerhead Sharks. Non-Blacknose Small Coastal Sharks. Smoothhound Sharks Aggregated Large Coastal Sharks. Hammerhead Sharks Linked. .................................... .................................... Non-Blacknose Small Coastal Sharks. Blacknose Sharks (South of 34° N lat. only). Smoothhound Sharks Non-Sandbar LCS Research. Sandbar Shark Research. Blue Sharks ............... Porbeagle Sharks. Pelagic Sharks Other Than Porbeagle or Blue. Linked (South of 34° N lat. only). .................................... January 1, 2020 ......... Not Linked .................. Linked ........................ January 1, 2020 ......... January 1, 2020 ......... 8 Blacknose sharks per vessel per trip (applies to directed and incidental permit holders). N/A. N/A. Not Linked .................. January 1, 2020 ......... N/A. .................................... jbell on DSK3GLQ082PROD with PROPOSALS 1 NMFS may consider a higher starting retention limit for the entire region of 55 sharks per trip to increase the harvest level and ensure the management group can maximize its quota. NMFS is asking for comments specifically on this potential increase in retention limits. 2 NMFS is proposing changing the percent of quota harvested at which it considers adjusting the retention limit. Rather than 20 percent, NMFS would consider adjustment at a higher percentage to allow fishermen in the Atlantic region to more fully utilize the quota. NMFS is asking for comment specifically on this potential change in the benchmark (percent of quota harvested) at which NMFS considers an inseason adjustment. Additionally, NMFS is also considering an increase from the initial 25 sharks per trip in the beginning of the fishing year to a higher number of landings per trip, within the 55 sharks per trip limit. NMFS is specifically asking for comments on these potential changes. In the Gulf of Mexico region, NMFS proposes opening the fishing season on or about January 1, 2020, for the aggregated LCS, blacktip sharks, and hammerhead shark management groups with the commercial retention limits of 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip for directed shark permit VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:15 Sep 18, 2019 Jkt 247001 holders in the eastern and western subregion. This opening date and retention limit combination would provide, to the extent practicable, equitable opportunities across the fisheries management sub-regions. This opening date takes into account all the season opening criteria listed in § 635.27(b)(3), PO 00000 Frm 00039 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 and particularly the criteria that requires NMFS to consider the length of the season for the different species and/ or management group in the previous years (§ 635.27(b)(3)(ii) and (iii)) and whether fishermen were able to participate in the fishery in those years (§ 635.27(b)(3)(v)). The proposed E:\FR\FM\19SEP1.SGM 19SEP1 jbell on DSK3GLQ082PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2019 / Proposed Rules commercial retention limits take into account the criteria listed in § 635.24(a)(8), and particularly the criterion that requires NMFS to consider the catch rates of the relevant shark species/complexes based on dealer reports to date (§ 635.24(a)(8)(ii)). NMFS may also adjust the retention limit in the Gulf of Mexico region throughout the season to ensure fishermen in all parts of the region have an opportunity to harvest aggregated LCS, blacktip sharks, and hammerhead sharks (see the criteria listed at § 635.27(b)(3)(v) and § 635.24(a)(8)(ii), (v), and (vi)). For both the eastern and western Gulf of Mexico sub-regions combined, dealer reports received through September 13, 2019, indicate that 24 percent (69.4 mt dw), 46 percent (73.0 mt dw), and less than 40 percent (<10.0 mt dw) of the available blacktip, aggregated LCS, and hammerhead shark quotas, respectively, has been harvested. Therefore, for 2020, NMFS is considering opening the both the western and eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-regions at 45 sharks per trip, but may also consider a higher starting retention limit for the entire region of 55 sharks per trip to increase the harvest level and ensure the management group can maximize its quota. NMFS is asking for comments specifically on this potential increase in retention limits. In the Atlantic region, NMFS proposes opening the aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark management groups on or about January 1, 2020. This opening date is the same date that these management groups opened in 2019. As described below, this opening date also takes into account all the criteria listed in § 635.27(b)(3), and particularly the criterion that NMFS consider the effects of catch rates in one part of a region precluding vessels in another part of that region from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the different species and/or management quotas (§ 635.27(b)(3)(v)). The 2019 data indicates that an opening date of January 1, coupled with inseason adjustments to the retention limit, provided a reasonable opportunity for fishermen in every part of each region to harvest a portion of the available quotas (§ 635.27(b)(3)(i)) while accounting for variations in seasonal distribution of the different species in the management groups (§ 635.27(b)(3)(iv)). In 2019, when the aggregated LCS quota was harvested too quickly, NMFS reduced the retention limit to three sharks per trip (April 2, 2019; 84 FR 12524) to allow fishermen in the North Atlantic an opportunity to fish later in the year when sharks are available in the North Atlantic area (see VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:15 Sep 18, 2019 Jkt 247001 the criteria at § 635.24(a)(3)(i), (ii), (v), and (vi)). NMFS then increased the retention limit to 36 sharks per trip on June 25, 2019 (84 FR 29808), to increase fishing opportunities for all fishermen across the Atlantic region. Because the quotas we propose for 2020 are the same as the quotas in 2019, NMFS proposes that the season lengths and therefore the participation of various fishermen throughout the region, would be similar in 2020 (§ 635.27(b)(3)(ii) and (iii)). Based on the recent performance of the fishery, the January 1 opening date appears to meet the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments (§ 635.27(b)(3)(vi)). However, after reviewing landings data from 2016 to the present, NMFS has seen a decrease in landings over time in the aggregated LCS management group. Because of the decrease in landings, NMFS is also proposing changing the percent of quotas harvested at which it considers adjusting the retention limit. Rather than 20 percent, NMFS would consider adjustments at a higher percentage to allow fishermen in the Atlantic region to more fully utilize the quota. While this is not a regulatory provision, it is a management benchmark NMFS has used (and announced as part of the rulemaking process) in previous seasons to help determine at which point it will consider an inseason action to adjust the retention limits. NMFS is asking for comment specifically on this potential change in the benchmark (percent of quota harvested) at which NMFS considers an inseason adjustment. In addition, for the aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark management groups in the Atlantic region, NMFS proposes opening the fishing year with the commercial retention limit for directed shark limited access permit holders of 25 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip. This retention limit should allow fishermen to harvest some of the 2020 quota at the beginning of the year when sharks are more prevalent in the South Atlantic area (see the criteria at § 635.24(a)(3)(i), (ii), (v), and (vi)). As was done in 2019, if it appears that the quota is being harvested too quickly to allow directed fishermen throughout the entire region an opportunity to fish and ensure enough quota remains until later in the year, NMFS would reduce the commercial retention limits to incidental levels (3 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip) or another level calculated to reduce the harvest of LCS taking into account § 635.27(b)(3) and the inseason trip limit adjustment criteria listed in PO 00000 Frm 00040 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 49241 § 635.24(a)(8). If the quota continues to be harvested quickly, NMFS could reduce the retention limit to 0 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip to ensure enough quota remains until later in the year. If either situation occurs, NMFS would publish in the Federal Register notification of any inseason adjustments of the retention limit to an appropriate limit of sharks per trip. NMFS will consider increasing the commercial retention limits per trip at a later date, if necessary, to provide fishermen in the northern portion of the Atlantic region an opportunity to retain aggregated LCS and hammerhead sharks after considering the appropriate inseason adjustment criteria. Similarly, at some point later in the year, NMFS may consider increasing the retention limit to 36 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip or another amount, as deemed appropriate, after considering the inseason trip limit adjustment criteria. If the quota is being harvested too quickly or too slowly, NMFS could adjust the retention limit appropriately to ensure the fishery remains open most of the rest of the year. However, as stated above, NMFS has noticed a decrease in annual landings from 2016 to present. As such, in addition to the proposed change to the percent of quota harvested, NMFS is also considering an increase from the initial 25 sharks per trip in the beginning of the fishing year to a higher number of landings per trip, within the 55 sharks per trip limit. Changes to either the percent of quota harvested or the initial retention limit (or both) could allow fishermen in the Atlantic region to more fully utilize the quota. NMFS is specifically asking for comments on these potential changes. All of the shark management groups would remain open until December 31, 2020, or until NMFS determines that the landings for any shark management group have reached, or are projected to reach, 80-percent of the available overall, regional, and/or sub-regional quota, if the fishery’s landings are not projected to reach 100 percent of the applicable quota before the end of the season, or when the quota-linked management group is closed. If NMFS determines that a non-linked shark species or management group must be closed, then, consistent with § 635.28(b)(2) for non-linked quotas (e.g., eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip, western Gulf of Mexico blacktip, Gulf of Mexico non-blacknose SCS, pelagic sharks, or the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico smoothhound sharks), NMFS will publish in the Federal Register a notice of closure for that shark species, shark E:\FR\FM\19SEP1.SGM 19SEP1 jbell on DSK3GLQ082PROD with PROPOSALS 49242 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2019 / Proposed Rules management group, region, and/or subregion that will be effective no fewer than four days from the date of filing (83 FR 31677; July 9, 2018). For the blacktip shark management group, regulations at § 635.28(b)(5)(i) through (v) authorize NMFS to close the management group before landings reach, or are expected to reach, 80-percent of the available overall, regional, and/or sub-regional quota, after considering the following criteria and other relevant factors: Season length based on available subregional quota and average sub-regional catch rates; variability in regional and/ or sub-regional seasonal distribution, abundance, and migratory patterns; effects on accomplishing the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments; amount of remaining shark quotas in the relevant sub-region; and regional and/or subregional catch rates of the relevant shark species or management groups. From the effective date and time of the closure until NMFS announces, via the publication of a notice in the Federal Register, that additional quota is available and the season is reopened, the fisheries for the shark species or management group are closed, even across fishing years. If NMFS determines that a linked shark species or management group must be closed, then, consistent with § 635.28(b)(3) for linked quotas and the Final Rule to Revise Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Shark Fishery Closure Regulations (83 FR 31677; July 9, 2018), NMFS will publish in the Federal Register a notice of closure for all of the species and/or management groups in a linked group that will be effective no fewer than four days from date of filing. In that event, from the effective date and time of the closure until NMFS announces, via the publication of a notice in the Federal Register, that additional quota is available and the season is reopened, the fisheries for all linked species and/ or management groups will be closed, even across fishing years. The linked quotas of the species and/or management groups are Atlantic hammerhead sharks and Atlantic aggregated LCS; eastern Gulf of Mexico hammerhead sharks and eastern Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS; western Gulf of Mexico hammerhead sharks and western Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS; and Atlantic blacknose and Atlantic non-blacknose SCS south of 34° N latitude. Request for Comments Comments on this proposed rule may be submitted via www.regulations.gov or by mail. NMFS solicits comments on VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:15 Sep 18, 2019 Jkt 247001 this proposed rule by October 10, 2019 (see DATES and ADDRESSES). As noted above, NMFS is specifically asking for comments on three distinct issues—the initial LCS retention limit in the Gulf of Mexico region, the level of landings at which NMFS considers adjusting the retention limit for the Atlantic region, and the initial LCS retention limit in the Atlantic region. Classification The NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that the proposed rule is consistent with the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, subject to further consideration after public comment. These proposed specifications are exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. NMFS determined that the final rules to implement Amendment 2 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (June 24, 2008, 73 FR 35778; corrected on July 15, 2008, 73 FR 40658), Amendment 5a to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (78 FR 40318; July 3, 2013), Amendment 6 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (80 FR 50073; August 18, 2015), and Amendment 9 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (80 FR 73128; November 24, 2015) are consistent to the maximum extent practicable with the enforceable policies of the approved coastal management program of coastal states on the Atlantic including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea as required under the Coastal Zone Management Act. Pursuant to 15 CFR 930.41(a), NMFS provided the Coastal Zone Management Program of each coastal state a 60-day period to review the consistency determination and to advise NMFS of their concurrence. NMFS received concurrence with the consistency determinations from several states and inferred consistency from those states that did not respond within the 60-day time period. This proposed action to establish opening dates and adjust quotas for the 2020 fishing year for the Atlantic commercial shark fisheries does not change the framework previously consulted upon. Therefore, no additional consultation is required. An initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA) was prepared, as required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). The IRFA describes the economic impact this proposed rule, if adopted, would have on small entities. The IRFA analysis follows. Section 603(b)(1) of the RFA requires agencies to explain the purpose of the rule. This rule, consistent with the PO 00000 Frm 00041 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Magnuson-Stevens Act and the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments, is being proposed to establish the 2020 commercial shark fishing quotas, retention limits, and fishing seasons. Without this rule, the commercial shark fisheries would close on December 31, 2019, and would not open until another action was taken. This proposed rule would be implemented according to the regulations implementing the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments. Thus, NMFS proposes few, if any, economic impacts to fishermen other than those already analyzed in the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments, based on the quota adjustments. Section 603(b)(2) of the RFA requires agencies to explain the rule’s objectives. The objectives of this rule are to: Adjust the base quotas for all shark management groups based on any overharvests and/or underharvests from the previous fishing year(s); establish the opening dates of the various management groups; and establish the retention limits for the blacktip shark, aggregated large coastal shark, and hammerhead shark management groups in order to provide, to the extent practicable, equitable opportunities across the fishing management regions and/or sub-regions while also considering the ecological needs of the different shark species. Section 603(b)(3) of the RFA requires agencies to provide an estimate of the number of small entities to which the rule would apply. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has established size criteria for all major industry sectors in the United States, including fish harvesters. Provision is made under SBA’s regulations for an agency to develop its own industry-specific size standards after consultation with Advocacy and an opportunity for public comment (see 13 CFR 121.903(c)). Under this provision, NMFS may establish size standards that differ from those established by the SBA Office of Size Standards, but only for use by NMFS and only for the purpose of conducting an analysis of economic effects in fulfillment of the agency’s obligations under the RFA. To utilize this provision, NMFS must publish such size standards in the Federal Register, which NMFS did on December 29, 2015 (80 FR 81194; 50 CFR 200.2). In this final rule effective on July 1, 2016, NMFS established a small business size standard of $11 million in annual gross receipts for all businesses in the commercial fishing industry (NAICS 11411) for RFA compliance purposes. NMFS considers all HMS permit E:\FR\FM\19SEP1.SGM 19SEP1 49243 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2019 / Proposed Rules holders to be small entities because they had average annual receipts of less than $11 million for commercial fishing. As of September 2019, the proposed rule would apply to the approximately 219 directed commercial shark permit holders, 262 incidental commercial shark permit holders, 162 smoothhound shark permit holders, and 106 commercial shark dealers. Not all permit holders are active in the fishery in any given year. Active directed commercial shark permit holders are defined as those with valid permits that landed one shark based on HMS electronic dealer reports. Of the 481 directed and incidental commercial shark permit holders, only 12 permit holders landed sharks in the Gulf of Mexico region and only 69 landed sharks in the Atlantic region. Of the 154 smoothhound shark permit holders, only 61 permit holders landed smoothhound sharks in the Atlantic region and none landed smoothhound sharks in the Gulf of Mexico region. NMFS has determined that the proposed rule would not likely affect any small governmental jurisdictions. This proposed rule does not contain any new reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements (5 U.S.C. 603(b)(4)). Similarly, this proposed rule would not conflict, duplicate, or overlap with other relevant Federal rules (5 U.S.C. 603(b)(5)). Fishermen, dealers, and managers in these fisheries must comply with a number of international agreements as domestically implemented, domestic laws, and FMPs. These include, but are not limited to, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act, the High Seas Fishing Compliance Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Paperwork Reduction Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act. Section 603(c) of the RFA requires each IRFA to contain a description of any significant alternatives to the proposed rule, which would accomplish the stated objectives of applicable statutes and minimize any significant economic impact of the proposed rule on small entities. Additionally, the RFA (5 U.S.C. 603(c)(1)–(4)) lists four general categories of significant alternatives that would assist an agency in the development of significant alternatives. These categories of alternatives are: (1) Establishment of differing compliance or reporting requirements or timetables that take into account the resources available to small entities; (2) clarification, consolidation, or simplification of compliance and reporting requirements under the rule for such small entities; (3) use of performance rather than design standards; and (4) exemptions from coverage of the rule for small entities. In order to meet the objectives of this proposed rule, consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS cannot exempt small entities or change the reporting requirements only for small entities, because all of the entities affected are considered small entities. In addition, there are no alternatives discussed that fall under the first, second, and fourth categories described above. NMFS does not know of any performance or design standards that would satisfy the aforementioned objectives of this rulemaking while, concurrently, complying with the Magnuson-Stevens Act; therefore, there are no alternatives considered under the third category. This rulemaking does not establish management measures to be implemented, but rather implements previously adopted and analyzed measures with adjustments, as specified in the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments and the Environmental Assessment (EA) that accompanied the 2011 shark quota specifications rule (75 FR 76302; December 8, 2010). Thus, NMFS proposes to adjust quotas established and analyzed in the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments by subtracting the underharvest or adding the overharvest as allowable. Thus, NMFS has limited flexibility to modify the quotas in this rule, the impacts of which were analyzed in previous regulatory flexibility analyses. Based on the 2018 ex-vessel price (Table 3), fully harvesting the unadjusted 2020 Atlantic shark commercial base quotas could result in total fleet revenues of $8,775,599. For the Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group, NMFS is proposing to increase the base sub-regional quotas due to the underharvests in 2019. The increase for the western Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group could result in a $232,674 gain in total revenues for fishermen in that subregion, while the increase for the eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group could result in a $41,513 gain in total revenues for fishermen in that sub-region. For the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic smoothhound shark management groups, NMFS is proposing to increase the base quotas due to the underharvest in 2019. This would cause a potential gain in revenue of $262,788 for the fleet in the Gulf of Mexico region and a potential gain in revenue of $1,057,482 for the fleet in the Atlantic region. All of these changes in gross revenues are similar to the changes in gross revenues analyzed in the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments. The final regulatory flexibility analyses for those amendments concluded that the economic impacts on these small entities are expected to be minimal. In the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments and the EA for the 2011 shark quota specifications rule, NMFS stated it would be conducting annual rulemakings and considering the potential economic impacts of adjusting the quotas for underharvests and overharvests at that time. jbell on DSK3GLQ082PROD with PROPOSALS TABLE 3—AVERAGE EX-VESSEL PRICES PER LB DW FOR EACH SHARK MANAGEMENT GROUP, 2018 Average ex-vessel meat price Region Species Western Gulf of Mexico ............................... Blacktip Shark ................................................................................ Aggregated LCS ............................................................................ Hammerhead Shark ....................................................................... Blacktip Shark ................................................................................ Aggregated LCS ............................................................................ Hammerhead Shark ....................................................................... Non-Blacknose SCS ...................................................................... Smoothhound Shark ...................................................................... Aggregated LCS ............................................................................ Hammerhead Shark ....................................................................... Non-Blacknose SCS ...................................................................... Eastern Gulf of Mexico ............................... Gulf of Mexico ............................................. Atlantic ......................................................... VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:15 Sep 18, 2019 Jkt 247001 PO 00000 Frm 00042 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\19SEP1.SGM 19SEP1 $0.53 0.67 0.51 1.06 0.59 0.40 0.54 0.65 0.98 0.42 0.99 Average ex-vessel fin price $10.94 11.61 11.12 9.54 11.93 13.20 7.00 ........................ 11.06 6.66 7.67 49244 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 182 / Thursday, September 19, 2019 / Proposed Rules TABLE 3—AVERAGE EX-VESSEL PRICES PER LB DW FOR EACH SHARK MANAGEMENT GROUP, 2018—Continued Region No Region ................................................... Blacknose Shark ............................................................................ Smoothhound Shark ...................................................................... Shark Research Fishery (Aggregated LCS) .................................. Shark Research Fishery (Sandbar only) ....................................... Blue shark ...................................................................................... Porbeagle shark ............................................................................. Other Pelagic sharks ..................................................................... jbell on DSK3GLQ082PROD with PROPOSALS For this rule, NMFS also reviewed the criteria at § 635.27(b)(3) to determine when opening each fishery would provide equitable opportunities for fishermen, to the extent practicable, while also considering the ecological needs of the different species. The opening dates of the fishing season(s) could vary depending upon the available annual quota, catch rates, and number of fishing participants during VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:15 Sep 18, 2019 Average ex-vessel meat price Species Jkt 247001 the year. For the 2020 fishing year, NMFS is proposing to open all of the shark management groups on the effective date of the final rule for this action (expected to be on or about January 1). The direct and indirect economic impacts would be neutral on a short- and long-term basis because NMFS is not proposing to change the opening dates of these fisheries from the status quo. PO 00000 Frm 00043 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 1.21 0.74 0.81 0.61 0.45 1.18 1.46 Average ex-vessel fin price ........................ 1.62 11.61 11.00 3.01 3.01 3.01 Authority: 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: September 16, 2019. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2019–20249 Filed 9–18–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\19SEP1.SGM 19SEP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 182 (Thursday, September 19, 2019)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 49236-49244]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-20249]



[[Page 49236]]

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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

[Docket No. 190913-0027]
RIN 0648-XT004


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; 2020 Atlantic Shark Commercial 
Fishing Year

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: This proposed rule would adjust quotas and retention limits, 
and establish opening dates for the 2020 fishing year for the Atlantic 
commercial shark fisheries. Quotas would be adjusted as required or 
allowable based on any overharvests and/or underharvests experienced 
during the 2019 fishing year. In addition, NMFS proposes opening dates 
and commercial retention limits based on adaptive management measures 
to provide, to the extent practicable, fishing opportunities for 
commercial shark fishermen in all regions and areas. The proposed 
measures could affect fishing opportunities for commercial shark 
fishermen in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and 
the Caribbean Sea.

DATES: Written comments must be received by October 10, 2019.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NMFS-2019-0091, by any 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-2019-0091, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Guy DuBeck, NMFS/SF1, 
1315 East-West Highway, National Marine Fisheries Service, SSMC3, 
Silver Spring, MD 20910.
    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).
    Copies of this proposed rule and supporting documents are available 
from the HMS Management Division website at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/topic/atlantic-highly-migratory-species or by 
contacting Guy DuBeck by phone at 301-427-8503.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Guy DuBeck or Karyl Brewster-Geisz at 
301-427-8503.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    The Atlantic commercial shark fisheries are managed under the 
authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management 
Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). The 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly 
Migratory Species (HMS) Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and its 
amendments are implemented by regulations at 50 CFR part 635. For the 
Atlantic commercial shark fisheries, the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and 
its amendments established commercial shark retention limits, 
commercial quotas for species and management groups, and accounting 
measures for underharvests and overharvests for the shark fisheries. 
The FMP also includes adaptive management measures, such as flexible 
opening dates for the fishing year and inseason adjustments to shark 
trip limits, which provide management flexibility in furtherance of 
equitable fishing opportunities, to the extent practicable, for 
commercial shark fishermen in all regions and areas.

2020 Proposed Commercial Shark Quotas

    This proposed rule would adjust the quota levels for the different 
shark stocks and management groups for the 2019 Atlantic commercial 
shark fishing year based on overharvests and underharvests that 
occurred during the 2019 fishing year, consistent with existing 
regulations at 50 CFR 635.27(b). Overharvests and underharvests are 
accounted for in the same region, sub-region, and/or fishery in which 
they occurred the following year, except that large overharvests may be 
spread over a number of subsequent fishing years up to a maximum of 
five years. Shark stocks that are overfished, have overfishing 
occurring, or have an unknown status, as well as management groups that 
contain one or more stocks that are overfished, have overfishing 
occurring, or have an unknown stock status, will not have underharvest 
carried over in the following year. Stocks or management groups that 
are not overfished and have no overfishing occurring may have any 
underharvest carried over in the following year, up to 50 percent of 
the base annual quota.
    Based on 2019 harvests to date, and after considering catch rates 
and landings from previous years, NMFS proposes to adjust the 2020 
quotas for certain management groups as shown in Table 1. In the final 
rule, any adjustments to the quotas will be based on how the quotas are 
affected by new data from dealer reports received by late October to 
mid-November 2019. Thus, all of the 2020 proposed quotas for the 
respective stocks and management groups will be subject to further 
adjustment after NMFS considers the dealer reports through late October 
to mid-November. NMFS anticipates that all dealer reports that are 
received after the late October to mid-November date will be used to 
adjust 2021 quotas, as appropriate.
    Because the Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group and 
smoothhound shark management groups in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic 
regions are not overfished, and overfishing is not occurring, available 
underharvest (up to 50 percent of the base annual quota) from the 2019 
fishing year for these management groups may be applied to the 
respective 2020 quotas. NMFS proposes to account for any underharvest 
of Gulf of Mexico blacktip sharks by dividing underharvest between the 
eastern and western Gulf of Mexico sub-regional quotas based on the 
sub-regional quota split percentage implemented in Amendment 6 to the 
2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (80 FR 50073; August 18, 2015).
    For the sandbar shark, aggregated large coastal shark (LCS), 
hammerhead shark, non-blacknose small coastal shark (SCS), blacknose 
shark, blue shark, porbeagle shark, and pelagic shark (other than 
porbeagle or blue sharks) management groups, the 2019 underharvests 
cannot be carried over to the 2020 fishing year because those stocks or 
management groups are overfished, are experiencing overfishing, or have 
an unknown status. There also were no overharvests in these management 
groups. Thus, NMFS proposes that quotas for these management groups be 
equal to the annual base quota without adjustment, although the final 
quotas will be based

[[Page 49237]]

on current data at the time the final rule is prepared.
    The proposed 2020 quotas by species and management group are 
summarized in Table 1; the description of the calculations for each 
stock and management group can be found below.

                                Table 1--2020 Proposed Quotas and Opening Dates for the Atlantic Shark Management Groups
   [All quotas and landings are dressed weight (dw), in metric tons (mt), unless specified otherwise. Table includes landings data as of September 13,
                 2019; final quotas are subject to change based on landings as of late October to mid-November 2019. 1 mt = 2,204.6 lb]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                    Preliminary
    Region or  sub-region      Management group    2019 annual     2019 landings   Adjustments \2\     2020 base      2020 proposed     Season opening
                                                      quota             \1\                           annual quota     annual quota          dates
                                                 (A)............  (B)............  (C)............  (D)............  (D + C)........
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Western Gulf of Mexico.......  Blacktip Sharks   250.8 mt dw      62.2 mt dw       127.9 mt dw      231 mt dw        358.9 mt dw      January 1, 2020.
                                \3\.              (552,919 lb      (137,118 lb      (281,899.8 lb    (510,261 lb      (792,161 lb
                                                  dw)\5\.          dw).             dw).             dw).             dw).
                               Aggregated \4\    22.0 mt dw       11.7 mt dw       ...............  72.0 mt dw       72.0 mt dw
                                Large Coastal     (48,501 lb dw)   (25,805 lb dw).                   (158,724 lb      (158,724 lb
                                Sharks.           \5\.                                               dw).             dw).
                               Hammerhead        3.9 mt dw        <0.5 mt dw       ...............  11.9 mt dw       11.9 mt dw
                                Sharks.           (8,598 lb dw)    (<1,300 lb dw).                   (26,301 lb dw).  (26,301 lb dw).
                                                  \5\.
Eastern Gulf of Mexico.......  Blacktip Sharks   32.7 mt dw       7.2 mt dw        13.9 mt dw       25.1 mt dw       39.0 mt dw       January 1, 2020.
                                \3\.              (72,091 lb dw)   (15,778 lb dw).  (30,627.7 lb     (55,439 lb dw).  (86,066.7 lb
                                                  \5\.                              dw).                              dw).
                               Aggregated Large  135.5 mt dw      61.3 mt dw       ...............  85.5 mt dw       85.5 mt dw
                                Coastal Sharks.   (298,726 lb      (135,227 lb                       (188,593 lb      (188,593 lb
                                                  dw) \5\.         dw).                              dw).             dw).
                               Hammerhead        21.4 mt dw       9.2 mt dw        ...............  13.4 mt dw       13.4 mt dw
                                Sharks.           (47,178 lb dw)   (20,353 lb dw).                   (29,421 lb dw).  (29,421 lb dw).
                                                  \5\.
Gulf of Mexico...............  Non-Blacknose     112.6 mt dw      34.5 mt dw       ...............  112.6 mt dw      112.6 mt dw
                                Small Coastal     (248,215 lb      (76,027 lb dw).                   (248,215 lb      (248,215 lb
                                Sharks.           dw).                                               dw).             dw).
                               Smoothhound       504.6 mt dw      <5.0 mt dw       168.2 mt dw      336.4 mt dw      504.6 mt dw
                                Sharks.           (1,112,441 lb    (<11,000 lb      (370,814 lb      (741,627 lb      (1,112,441 lb
                                                  dw).             dw).             dw).             dw).             dw).
Atlantic.....................  Aggregated Large  168.9 mt dw      34.5 mt dw       ...............  168.9 mt dw      168.9 mt dw      January 1, 2020.
                                Coastal Sharks.   (372,552 lb      (76,011 lb dw).                   (372,552 lb      (372,552 lb
                                                  dw).                                               dw).             dw).
                               Hammerhead        27.1 mt dw       9.3 mt dw        ...............  27.1 mt dw       27.1 mt dw
                                Sharks.           (59,736 lb dw).  (20,479 lb dw).                   (59,736 lb dw).  (59,736 lb dw).
                               Non-Blacknose     264.1 mt dw      83.8 mt dw       ...............  264.1 mt dw      264.1 mt dw
                                Small Coastal     (582,333 lb      (184,735 lb                       (582,333 lb      (582,333 lb
                                Sharks.           dw).             dw).                              dw).             dw).
                               Blacknose Sharks  17.2 mt dw       7.9 mt dw        ...............  17.2 mt dw       17.2 mt dw
                               (South of          (37,921 lb dw).  17,431 lb dw.                     (37,921 lb dw).  (37,921 lb dw).
                                34[deg] N lat.
                                only).
                               Smoothhound       1,802.6 mt dw    279.6 mt dw      600.9 mt dw      1,201.7 mt dw    1,802.6 mt dw
                                Sharks.           (3,973,902 lb    (616,326 lb      (1,324,634 lb    (2,649,268 lb    (3,971,587 lb
                                                  dw).             dw).             dw).             dw).             dw).
No regional quotas...........  Non-Sandbar LCS   50.0 mt dw       10.1 mt dw       ...............  50.0 mt dw       50.0 mt dw       January 1, 2020.
                                Research.         (110,230 lb      (22,195 lb dw).                   (110,230 lb      (110,230 lb
                                                  dw).                                               dw).             dw).
                               Sandbar Shark     90.7 mt dw       50.6 mt dw       ...............  90.7 mt dw       90.7 mt dw
                                Research.         (199,943 lb      (111,542 lb                       (199,943 lb      (199,943 lb
                                                  dw).             dw).                              dw).             dw).
                               Blue Sharks.....  273.0 mt dw      0 mt dw (0 lb    ...............  273.0 mt dw      273.0 mt dw
                                                  (601,856 lb      dw).                              (601,856 lb      (601,856 lb
                                                  dw).                                               dw).             dw).
                               Porbeagle Sharks  1.7 mt dw        <0.5 mt dw       ...............  1.7 mt dw        1.7 mt dw
                                                  (3,748 lb dw).   (<1,000 lb dw).                   (3,748 lb dw).   (3,748 lb dw).
                               Pelagic Sharks    488.0 mt dw      28.6 mt dw       ...............  488.0 mt dw      488.0 mt dw
                                Other Than        (1,075,856 lb    (63,006 lb dw).                   (1,075,856 lb    (1,075,856 lb
                                Porbeagle or      dw).                                               dw).             dw).
                                Blue.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Landings are from January 1, 2019, through September 13, 2019, and are subject to change.
\2\ Underharvest adjustments can only be applied to stocks or management groups that are not overfished and have no overfishing occurring. Also, the
  underharvest adjustments cannot exceed 50 percent of the base annual quota.
\3\ This adjustment accounts for underharvest in 2019. This proposed rule would increase the overall Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota by 141.8 mt dw
  (281,899.8 lb dw). Since any underharvest would be divided based on the sub-regional quota percentage split, the western Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark
  quota would be increased by 127 mt dw, or 90.2 percent of the underharvest, while the eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota would be increased
  by 13.9 mt dw, or 9.8 percent of the underharvest.
\4\ While the western Gulf of Mexico Aggregated LCS quota was still under the limit when the 2019 final rule was released, the quota was exceeded by the
  end of the year. However, current landings are at 11 percent of the available 2019 quota and current catch rates do not indicate the quota will be
  fully landed. This underharvest (62.3 mt dw) is much greater than the 2018 overharvest (8.0 mt dw; 17,548 lb dw lb dw). Therefore, NMFS is proposing
  that the 2019 quota be adjusted to account for the 2018 overharvest, and the 2020 quota be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment.
\5\ NMFS transferred 5 mt dw of the blacktip shark quota, 50 mt dw of the aggregated LCS quota, and 8 mt dw of the hammerhead shark quota from the
  western Gulf of Mexico sub-region to the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region on September 12, 2019.

1. Proposed 2020 Quotas for the Gulf of Mexico Region Shark Management 
Groups
    In a recent action, NMFS transferred 5 mt dw of the blacktip shark 
quota, 50 mt dw of the aggregated LCS quota, and 8 mt dw of the 
hammerhead shark quota from the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region to 
the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region on September 12, 2019. This quota 
transfer would not impact the proposed actions in this rulemaking. The 
2020 proposed commercial quota for blacktip sharks in the western Gulf 
of Mexico sub-region is 358.9 mt dw (792,161lb dw) and the eastern Gulf 
of Mexico sub-region is 39.0 mt dw (86,066.7 lb dw; Table 1). As of 
September 13, 2019, preliminary reported landings for blacktip sharks 
in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 25 percent (62.2 mt 
dw) of their 2019 quota levels (250.8 mt dw), and blacktip sharks in 
the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 22 percent (7.2 mt dw) of 
their 2019 quota levels (32.7 mt dw). Reported landings in both sub-
regions have not exceeded the 2019 quota to date, and blacktip shark 
landings in both sub-regions are lower than usual. Gulf of Mexico 
blacktip sharks have not been declared to be overfished, to have 
overfishing occurring, or to have an unknown status. Pursuant to Sec.  
635.27(b)(2)(ii), underharvests for blacktip sharks within the Gulf of 
Mexico region therefore may be applied to the 2019 quotas, up to 50 
percent of the base annual quota. Additionally, any underharvest would 
be divided between the two sub-regions, based on the percentages that 
are allocated to each sub-region, which are set forth in Sec.  
635.27(b)(1)(ii)(C). To date, the overall Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark 
management group is underharvested by 214.1 mt dw (472,114 lb dw). 
Accordingly, NMFS proposed to increase the western Gulf of Mexico 
blacktip shark quota by 127.9 mt dw or 90.2 percent of the 
underharvest, while the eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark sub-
regional quota would increase by 13.9 mt dw, or 9.8 percent of the 
underharvest (Table 1). Thus, the proposed western sub-regional Gulf of 
Mexico blacktip shark commercial quota is 358.9 mt dw (792,161 lb dw), 
and the proposed eastern sub-regional Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark 
commercial quota is 39.0 mt dw (86,066.7 lb dw).
    The 2020 proposed commercial quota for aggregated LCS in the 
western Gulf of Mexico sub-region is 72.0 mt dw (141,176 lb dw), and 
the eastern Gulf of

[[Page 49238]]

Mexico sub-region is 85.5 mt dw (188,593 lb dw; Table 1). As of 
September 13, 2019, preliminary reported landings for aggregated LCS in 
the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 53 percent (11.7 mt dw) 
of the 2019 quota (22.0 mt dw), while the aggregated LCS in the eastern 
Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 45 percent (61.3 mt dw) of their 2019 
quota levels (135.5 mt dw). NMFS is proposing to adjust the 2019 
aggregated LCS quota in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region to 
account for an 8 mt dw overharvest that occurred in 2018. While the 
quota was still under the limit when the 2019 Atlantic Shark Commercial 
Fishing Year final rule was released (83 FR 60777; November 27, 2018), 
the quota was exceeded by the end of the 2019 calendar year, as later 
revealed by updated data received in 2019. Although NMFS generally 
accounts for later-reported overages in the subsequent year (here, 
2020), NMFS has, under certain circumstances, re-adjusted the subject 
year quota if appropriate. Given that 2019 landings are low, current 
catch rates indicate that the 2019 quota will not be fully landed, and 
that there is time to further adjust this approach, if needed, in the 
final rule in response to any updated landings information. NMFS is 
proposing that the 2019 sub-regional quota be adjusted to account for 
the 2018 overharvest, and is proposing that the 2020 quota for the 
aggregated LCS in the western Gulf of Mexico be equal to the annual 
base quota without adjustment. NMFS proposes to re-adjust the western 
Gulf of Mexico sub-regional quota by 8 mt dw (17,548 lb dw) from the 
2019 quota. If catch rates do increase, and the revised 2019 sub-
regional quota is exceeded, then NMFS would, in the final rule, reduce 
the 2020 quota by that overharvest. Based on preliminary estimates and 
catch rates from previous years, and consistent with the current 
regulations at Sec.  635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2020 quota 
for aggregated LCS in the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region be equal to 
the annual base quota without adjustment, because the overall regional 
quota has not been overharvested and because underharvests cannot be 
carried over due to stock status.
    The 2020 proposed commercial quotas for hammerhead sharks in the 
eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region and western Gulf of Mexico sub-region 
are 11.9 mt dw (26,301 lb dw) and 13.4 mt dw (29,421 lb dw), 
respectively (Table 1). As of September 13, 2019, preliminary reported 
landings for hammerhead sharks in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region 
were less than 12 percent (<0.5 mt dw) of their 2019 quota levels (3.9 
mt dw), while landings of hammerhead sharks in the eastern Gulf of 
Mexico sub-region were at 43 percent (9.2 mt dw) of their 2019 quota 
levels (21.4 mt dw). Reported landings from both Gulf of Mexico and 
Atlantic regions have not exceeded the 2019 overall hammerhead quota to 
date. Given the overfished status of the scalloped hammerhead shark, 
the hammerhead shark quota cannot be adjusted for any underharvests. 
Therefore, based on both preliminary estimates and catch rates from 
previous years and the fact that the 2019 overall hammerhead shark 
quota has not been overharvested to date, and consistent with the 
current regulations at Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii), NMFS proposes that the 
2020 quotas for hammerhead sharks in the western Gulf of Mexico and 
eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-regions be equal to their annual base quotas 
without adjustment.
    The 2020 proposed commercial quota for non-blacknose SCS in the 
Gulf of Mexico region is 112.6 mt dw (248,215 lb dw). As of September 
13, 2019, preliminary reported landings of non-blacknose SCS were at 31 
percent (34.5 mt dw) of their 2019 quota level (112.6 mt dw) in the 
Gulf of Mexico region. Reported landings have not exceeded the 2019 
quota to date. Given the unknown status of bonnethead sharks within the 
Gulf of Mexico non-blacknose SCS management group, underharvests cannot 
be carried forward, pursuant to Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii). Under current 
regulations at Sec.  635.27(b)(2), underharvests cannot be carried over 
due to stock status. Based on both preliminary estimates and catch 
rates from previous years, and because there have not been any 
overharvests, NMFS proposes that the 2020 quota for non-blacknose SCS 
in the Gulf of Mexico region be equal to the annual base quota without 
adjustment. There is no allowable harvest of blacknose sharks in the 
Gulf of Mexico region.
    The 2020 proposed commercial quota for smoothhound sharks in the 
Gulf of Mexico region is 504.6 mt dw (1,112,441 lb dw). As of September 
13, 2019, preliminary reported landings of smoothhound sharks were less 
than 5 percent (<4.9 mt dw) in the Gulf of Mexico region. Gulf of 
Mexico smoothhound sharks have not been declared to be overfished, to 
have overfishing occurring, or to have an unknown status. Pursuant to 
Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii), underharvests for smoothhound sharks within the 
Gulf of Mexico region therefore could be applied to the 2020 quotas up 
to 50 percent of the base annual quota. Accordingly, NMFS proposes to 
increase the 2020 Gulf of Mexico smoothhound shark quota to adjust for 
anticipated underharvests in 2019 as allowed. The proposed 2020 
adjusted base annual quota for Gulf of Mexico smoothhound sharks is 
504.6 mt dw (336.4 mt dw) annual base quota + 168.2 mt dw 2019 
underharvest = 504.6 mt dw 2020 adjusted annual quota).
2. Proposed 2020 Quotas for the Atlantic Region Shark Management Groups
    The 2020 proposed commercial quota for aggregated LCS in the 
Atlantic region is 168.9 mt dw (372,552 lb dw). As of September 13, 
2019, the aggregated LCS fishery in the Atlantic region is still open, 
and preliminary landings indicate that only 20 percent of the quota, or 
34.5 mt dw, has been harvested. Given the unknown status of some of the 
shark species within the Atlantic aggregated LCS management group, 
underharvests cannot be carried over pursuant to Sec.  
635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on both preliminary estimates and 
catch rates from previous years, and consistent with current 
regulations at Sec.  635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2020 quota 
for aggregated LCS in the Atlantic region be equal to the annual base 
quota without adjustment, because there have not been any overharvests, 
and underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status.ey End:?>
    The 2020 proposed commercial quota for hammerhead sharks in the 
Atlantic region is 27.1 mt dw (59,736 lb dw). Currently, the hammerhead 
shark fishery in the Atlantic region is still open and preliminary 
landings as of September 13, 2019, indicate that 34 percent of the 
Atlantic regional quota, or 9.3 mt dw, has been harvested. Reported 
landings from both Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic regions have not 
exceeded the 2019 overall hammerhead quota to date. Given the 
overfished status of hammerhead sharks, underharvests cannot be carried 
forward pursuant to Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on both 
preliminary estimates and catch rates from previous years, and 
consistent with the current regulations at Sec.  635.27(b)(2), NMFS 
proposes that the 2020 quota for hammerhead sharks in the Atlantic 
region be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment, because 
the overall hammerhead shark quota has not been overharvested, and 
because underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status.
    The 2020 proposed commercial quota for non-blacknose SCS in the 
Atlantic region is 264.1 mt dw (582,333 lb dw). As of September 13, 
2019, preliminary reported landings of non-blacknose SCS

[[Page 49239]]

were at 32 percent (83.8 mt dw) of their 2019 quota level in the 
Atlantic region. Reported landings have not exceeded the 2019 quota to 
date. Given the unknown status of bonnethead sharks within the Atlantic 
non-blacknose SCS management group, underharvests cannot be carried 
forward pursuant to Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on 
preliminary estimates of catch rates from previous years, and 
consistent with the current regulations at Sec.  635.27(b)(2), NMFS 
proposes that the 2020 quota for non-blacknose SCS in the Atlantic 
region be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment, because 
there have not been any overharvests, and because underharvests cannot 
be carried over due to stock status.
    The 2019 proposed commercial quota for blacknose sharks in the 
Atlantic region is 17.2 mt dw (37,921 lb dw). This quota is available 
in the Atlantic region only for those vessels operating south of 
34[deg] N latitude. North of 34[deg] N latitude, retention, landing, or 
sale of blacknose sharks is prohibited. As of September 13, 2019, 
preliminary reported landings of blacknose sharks were at 46 percent 
(7.9 mt dw) of their 2019 quota levels in the Atlantic region. Reported 
landings have not exceeded the 2019 quota to date. Pursuant to Sec.  
635.27(b)(2), because blacknose sharks have been declared to be 
overfished with overfishing occurring in the Atlantic region, NMFS 
could not carry forward the remaining underharvest. Therefore, NMFS 
proposes that the 2020 Atlantic blacknose shark quota be equal to the 
annual base quota without adjustment.
    The 2020 proposed commercial quota for smoothhound sharks in the 
Atlantic region is 1,802.6 mt dw (3,973,902 lb dw). As of September 13, 
2019, preliminary reported landings of smoothhound sharks were at 16 
percent (279.6 mt dw) of their 2019 quota levels in the Atlantic 
region. Atlantic smoothhound sharks have not been declared to be 
overfished, to have overfishing occurring, or to have an unknown 
status. Pursuant to Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii), underharvests for 
smoothhound sharks within the Atlantic region therefore could be 
applied to the 2020 quotas up to 50 percent of the base annual quota. 
Accordingly, NMFS proposes to increase the 2020 Atlantic smoothhound 
shark quota to adjust for anticipated underharvests in 2019 as allowed. 
The proposed 2020 adjusted base annual quota for Atlantic smoothhound 
sharks is 1,802.6 mt dw (1,201.7 mt dw annual base quota + 600.9 mt dw 
2019 underharvest = 1,802.6 mt dw 2020 adjusted annual quota).
3. Proposed 2020 Quotas for Shark Management Groups With No Regional 
Quotas
    The 2020 proposed commercial quotas within the shark research 
fishery are 50 mt dw (110,230 lb dw) for research LCS and 90.7 mt dw 
(199,943 lb dw) for sandbar sharks. Within the shark research fishery, 
as of September 13, 2019, preliminary reported landings of research LCS 
were at 20 percent (10.1 mt dw) of their 2019 quota levels, and sandbar 
shark reported landings were at 56 percent (50.6 mt dw) of their 2019 
quota levels. Reported landings have not exceeded the 2019 quotas to 
date. Under Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii), because sandbar sharks and 
scalloped hammerhead sharks within the research LCS management group 
are either not overfished or overfishing is not occurring, 
underharvests for these management groups cannot be carried forward to 
the 2020 quotas. Therefore, based on preliminary estimates, and 
consistent with the current regulations at Sec.  635.27(b)(2), NMFS 
proposes that the 2020 quota in the shark research fishery be equal to 
the annual base quota without adjustment because there have not been 
any overharvests, and because underharvests cannot be carried over due 
to stock status.
    The 2020 proposed commercial quotas for blue sharks, porbeagle 
sharks, and pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle or blue sharks) are 
273.0 mt dw (601,856 lb dw), 1.7 mt dw (3,748 lb dw), and 488.0 mt dw 
(1,075,856 lb dw), respectively. As of September 13, 2019, there were 
no preliminary reported landings of blue sharks, porbeagle shark 
reported landings were at <33 percent (<0.5 mt dw) of their 2019 quota 
levels, and landings of pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle and blue 
sharks) were at 6 percent (28.6 mt dw) of their 2019 quota level (488.0 
mt dw). Given that these pelagic species are overfished, have 
overfishing occurring, or have an unknown status, underharvests cannot 
be carried forward pursuant to Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based 
on preliminary estimates and consistent with the current regulations at 
Sec.  635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2020 quotas for blue sharks, 
porbeagle sharks, and pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle and blue 
sharks) be equal to their annual base quotas without adjustment, 
because there have not been any overharvests and because underharvests 
cannot be carried over due to stock status.
4. Proposed Opening Dates and Retention Limits for the 2020 Atlantic 
Commercial Shark Fishing Year
    For each fishery, NMFS considered the seven ``Opening Commercial 
Fishing Season Criteria'' listed at Sec.  635.27(b)(3). The criteria 
includes factors such as the available annual quotas for the current 
fishing season, estimated season length and average weekly catch rates 
from previous years, length of the season and fishery participation in 
past years, impacts to accomplishing objectives of the 2006 
Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments, temporal variation in 
behavior or biology of target species (e.g., seasonal distribution or 
abundance), impact of catch rates in one region on another, and effects 
of delayed openings.
    NMFS applied the Opening Commercial Fishing Season Criteria by 
examining the overharvests and underharvests of the different 
management groups in the 2019 fishing year to determine the likely 
effects of the proposed commercial quotas for 2020 on shark stocks and 
fishermen across regional and sub-regional fishing areas. NMFS also 
examined the potential season length and previous catch rates to 
ensure, to the extent practicable, that equitable fishing opportunities 
be provided to fishermen in all areas. Lastly, NMFS examined the 
seasonal variation of the different species/management groups and the 
effects on fishing opportunities.
    NMFS also considered the six ``inseason trip limit adjustment 
criteria'' listed at Sec.  635.24(a)(8) for directed shark limited 
access permit holders intending to land LCS other than sandbar sharks. 
Those criteria are: The amount of remaining shark quota in the relevant 
area or region, to date, based on dealer reports; the catch rates of 
the relevant shark species/complexes, to date, based on dealer reports; 
the estimated date of fishery closure based on when the landings are 
projected to reach 80-percent of the available overall, regional, and/
or sub-regional quota, if the fishery's landings are not projected to 
reach 100 percent of the applicable quota before the end of the season, 
or when the season of a quota-linked management group is closed; 
effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the 2006 
Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments; variations in 
seasonal distribution, abundance, or migratory patterns of the relevant 
shark species based on scientific and fishery-based knowledge; and/or 
effects of catch rates in one part of a region precluding vessels in 
another part of that region from having a

[[Page 49240]]

reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the relevant quota.
    After considering all these criteria, NMFS is proposing to open the 
2020 Atlantic commercial shark fishing season for all shark management 
groups in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico 
and the Caribbean Sea, on or about January 1, 2020, after the 
publication of the final rule for this action (Table 2). NMFS is also 
proposing to start the 2020 commercial shark fishing season with the 
commercial retention limit of 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per 
vessel per trip in both the eastern and western Gulf of Mexico sub-
regions, and a commercial retention limit of 25 LCS other than sandbar 
sharks per vessel per trip in the Atlantic region (Table 2). NMFS will 
consider public comments received during the current year and catch 
rates from this year. Any retention limits that are proposed could 
change as a result of public comments as well as catch rates and 
landings information based on updated data available when drafting the 
final rule.

 Table 2--Quota Linkages, Season Opening Dates, and Commercial Retention Limit by Regional or Sub-Regional Shark
                                                Management Group
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                           Commercial retention
                                                                                            limits for directed
                                                                         Season opening    shark limited access
      Region or sub-region        Management group    Quota linkages         dates            permit holders
                                                                                           (inseason adjustments
                                                                                               are possible)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Western Gulf of Mexico.........  Blacktip Sharks..  Not Linked.......  January 1, 2020..  45 LCS other than
                                                                                           sandbar sharks per
                                                                                           vessel per trip.
                                 Aggregated Large   Linked...........
                                  Coastal Sharks.
                                 Hammerhead Sharks
Eastern Gulf of Mexico.........  Blacktip Sharks..  Not Linked.......  January 1, 2020..  45 LCS other than
                                                                                           sandbar sharks per
                                                                                           vessel per trip. \1\
                                 Aggregated Large   Linked...........
                                  Coastal Sharks.
                                 Hammerhead Sharks
Gulf of Mexico.................  Non-Blacknose      Not Linked.......  January 1, 2020..  N/A.
                                  Small Coastal
                                  Sharks.
                                 Smoothhound        Not Linked.......  January 1, 2020..  N/A.
                                  Sharks.
Atlantic.......................  Aggregated Large   Linked...........  January 1, 2020..  25 LCS other than
                                  Coastal Sharks.                                          sandbar sharks per
                                                                                           vessel per trip.
                                 Hammerhead Sharks  .................  .................  If quota is landed
                                                                                           quickly (e.g., if
                                                                                           approximately 20
                                                                                           percent of quota is
                                                                                           caught at the
                                                                                           beginning of the
                                                                                           year), NMFS
                                                                                           anticipates an
                                                                                           inseason reduction
                                                                                           (e.g., to 3 or fewer
                                                                                           LCS other than
                                                                                           sandbar sharks per
                                                                                           vessel per trip),
                                                                                           then an inseason
                                                                                           increase to 36 LCS
                                                                                           other than sandbar
                                                                                           sharks per vessel per
                                                                                           trip around July 15,
                                                                                           2020. \2\
                                 Non-Blacknose      Linked (South of   January 1, 2020..  N/A.
                                  Small Coastal      34[deg] N lat.
                                  Sharks.            only).
                                 Blacknose Sharks   .................  .................  8 Blacknose sharks per
                                  (South of                                                vessel per trip
                                  34[deg] N lat.                                           (applies to directed
                                  only).                                                   and incidental permit
                                                                                           holders).
                                 Smoothhound        Not Linked.......  January 1, 2020..  N/A.
                                  Sharks.
No regional quotas.............  Non-Sandbar LCS    Linked...........  January 1, 2020..  N/A.
                                  Research.
                                 Sandbar Shark
                                  Research.
                                 Blue Sharks......  Not Linked.......  January 1, 2020..  N/A.
                                 Porbeagle Sharks.
                                 Pelagic Sharks
                                  Other Than
                                  Porbeagle or
                                  Blue.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ NMFS may consider a higher starting retention limit for the entire region of 55 sharks per trip to increase
  the harvest level and ensure the management group can maximize its quota. NMFS is asking for comments
  specifically on this potential increase in retention limits.
\2\ NMFS is proposing changing the percent of quota harvested at which it considers adjusting the retention
  limit. Rather than 20 percent, NMFS would consider adjustment at a higher percentage to allow fishermen in the
  Atlantic region to more fully utilize the quota. NMFS is asking for comment specifically on this potential
  change in the benchmark (percent of quota harvested) at which NMFS considers an inseason adjustment.
  Additionally, NMFS is also considering an increase from the initial 25 sharks per trip in the beginning of the
  fishing year to a higher number of landings per trip, within the 55 sharks per trip limit. NMFS is
  specifically asking for comments on these potential changes.

    In the Gulf of Mexico region, NMFS proposes opening the fishing 
season on or about January 1, 2020, for the aggregated LCS, blacktip 
sharks, and hammerhead shark management groups with the commercial 
retention limits of 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per 
trip for directed shark permit holders in the eastern and western sub-
region. This opening date and retention limit combination would 
provide, to the extent practicable, equitable opportunities across the 
fisheries management sub-regions. This opening date takes into account 
all the season opening criteria listed in Sec.  635.27(b)(3), and 
particularly the criteria that requires NMFS to consider the length of 
the season for the different species and/or management group in the 
previous years (Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(ii) and (iii)) and whether fishermen 
were able to participate in the fishery in those years (Sec.  
635.27(b)(3)(v)). The proposed

[[Page 49241]]

commercial retention limits take into account the criteria listed in 
Sec.  635.24(a)(8), and particularly the criterion that requires NMFS 
to consider the catch rates of the relevant shark species/complexes 
based on dealer reports to date (Sec.  635.24(a)(8)(ii)). NMFS may also 
adjust the retention limit in the Gulf of Mexico region throughout the 
season to ensure fishermen in all parts of the region have an 
opportunity to harvest aggregated LCS, blacktip sharks, and hammerhead 
sharks (see the criteria listed at Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(v) and Sec.  
635.24(a)(8)(ii), (v), and (vi)). For both the eastern and western Gulf 
of Mexico sub-regions combined, dealer reports received through 
September 13, 2019, indicate that 24 percent (69.4 mt dw), 46 percent 
(73.0 mt dw), and less than 40 percent (<10.0 mt dw) of the available 
blacktip, aggregated LCS, and hammerhead shark quotas, respectively, 
has been harvested. Therefore, for 2020, NMFS is considering opening 
the both the western and eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-regions at 45 
sharks per trip, but may also consider a higher starting retention 
limit for the entire region of 55 sharks per trip to increase the 
harvest level and ensure the management group can maximize its quota. 
NMFS is asking for comments specifically on this potential increase in 
retention limits.
    In the Atlantic region, NMFS proposes opening the aggregated LCS 
and hammerhead shark management groups on or about January 1, 2020. 
This opening date is the same date that these management groups opened 
in 2019. As described below, this opening date also takes into account 
all the criteria listed in Sec.  635.27(b)(3), and particularly the 
criterion that NMFS consider the effects of catch rates in one part of 
a region precluding vessels in another part of that region from having 
a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the different species 
and/or management quotas (Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(v)). The 2019 data 
indicates that an opening date of January 1, coupled with inseason 
adjustments to the retention limit, provided a reasonable opportunity 
for fishermen in every part of each region to harvest a portion of the 
available quotas (Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(i)) while accounting for 
variations in seasonal distribution of the different species in the 
management groups (Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(iv)). In 2019, when the 
aggregated LCS quota was harvested too quickly, NMFS reduced the 
retention limit to three sharks per trip (April 2, 2019; 84 FR 12524) 
to allow fishermen in the North Atlantic an opportunity to fish later 
in the year when sharks are available in the North Atlantic area (see 
the criteria at Sec.  635.24(a)(3)(i), (ii), (v), and (vi)). NMFS then 
increased the retention limit to 36 sharks per trip on June 25, 2019 
(84 FR 29808), to increase fishing opportunities for all fishermen 
across the Atlantic region. Because the quotas we propose for 2020 are 
the same as the quotas in 2019, NMFS proposes that the season lengths 
and therefore the participation of various fishermen throughout the 
region, would be similar in 2020 (Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(ii) and (iii)). 
Based on the recent performance of the fishery, the January 1 opening 
date appears to meet the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic 
HMS FMP and its amendments (Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(vi)). However, after 
reviewing landings data from 2016 to the present, NMFS has seen a 
decrease in landings over time in the aggregated LCS management group. 
Because of the decrease in landings, NMFS is also proposing changing 
the percent of quotas harvested at which it considers adjusting the 
retention limit. Rather than 20 percent, NMFS would consider 
adjustments at a higher percentage to allow fishermen in the Atlantic 
region to more fully utilize the quota. While this is not a regulatory 
provision, it is a management benchmark NMFS has used (and announced as 
part of the rulemaking process) in previous seasons to help determine 
at which point it will consider an inseason action to adjust the 
retention limits. NMFS is asking for comment specifically on this 
potential change in the benchmark (percent of quota harvested) at which 
NMFS considers an inseason adjustment.
    In addition, for the aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark management 
groups in the Atlantic region, NMFS proposes opening the fishing year 
with the commercial retention limit for directed shark limited access 
permit holders of 25 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip. 
This retention limit should allow fishermen to harvest some of the 2020 
quota at the beginning of the year when sharks are more prevalent in 
the South Atlantic area (see the criteria at Sec.  635.24(a)(3)(i), 
(ii), (v), and (vi)). As was done in 2019, if it appears that the quota 
is being harvested too quickly to allow directed fishermen throughout 
the entire region an opportunity to fish and ensure enough quota 
remains until later in the year, NMFS would reduce the commercial 
retention limits to incidental levels (3 LCS other than sandbar sharks 
per vessel per trip) or another level calculated to reduce the harvest 
of LCS taking into account Sec.  635.27(b)(3) and the inseason trip 
limit adjustment criteria listed in Sec.  635.24(a)(8). If the quota 
continues to be harvested quickly, NMFS could reduce the retention 
limit to 0 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip to ensure 
enough quota remains until later in the year. If either situation 
occurs, NMFS would publish in the Federal Register notification of any 
inseason adjustments of the retention limit to an appropriate limit of 
sharks per trip. NMFS will consider increasing the commercial retention 
limits per trip at a later date, if necessary, to provide fishermen in 
the northern portion of the Atlantic region an opportunity to retain 
aggregated LCS and hammerhead sharks after considering the appropriate 
inseason adjustment criteria. Similarly, at some point later in the 
year, NMFS may consider increasing the retention limit to 36 LCS other 
than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip or another amount, as deemed 
appropriate, after considering the inseason trip limit adjustment 
criteria. If the quota is being harvested too quickly or too slowly, 
NMFS could adjust the retention limit appropriately to ensure the 
fishery remains open most of the rest of the year. However, as stated 
above, NMFS has noticed a decrease in annual landings from 2016 to 
present. As such, in addition to the proposed change to the percent of 
quota harvested, NMFS is also considering an increase from the initial 
25 sharks per trip in the beginning of the fishing year to a higher 
number of landings per trip, within the 55 sharks per trip limit. 
Changes to either the percent of quota harvested or the initial 
retention limit (or both) could allow fishermen in the Atlantic region 
to more fully utilize the quota. NMFS is specifically asking for 
comments on these potential changes.
    All of the shark management groups would remain open until December 
31, 2020, or until NMFS determines that the landings for any shark 
management group have reached, or are projected to reach, 80-percent of 
the available overall, regional, and/or sub-regional quota, if the 
fishery's landings are not projected to reach 100 percent of the 
applicable quota before the end of the season, or when the quota-linked 
management group is closed. If NMFS determines that a non-linked shark 
species or management group must be closed, then, consistent with Sec.  
635.28(b)(2) for non-linked quotas (e.g., eastern Gulf of Mexico 
blacktip, western Gulf of Mexico blacktip, Gulf of Mexico non-blacknose 
SCS, pelagic sharks, or the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico smoothhound 
sharks), NMFS will publish in the Federal Register a notice of closure 
for that shark species, shark

[[Page 49242]]

management group, region, and/or sub-region that will be effective no 
fewer than four days from the date of filing (83 FR 31677; July 9, 
2018). For the blacktip shark management group, regulations at Sec.  
635.28(b)(5)(i) through (v) authorize NMFS to close the management 
group before landings reach, or are expected to reach, 80-percent of 
the available overall, regional, and/or sub-regional quota, after 
considering the following criteria and other relevant factors: Season 
length based on available sub-regional quota and average sub-regional 
catch rates; variability in regional and/or sub-regional seasonal 
distribution, abundance, and migratory patterns; effects on 
accomplishing the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP 
and its amendments; amount of remaining shark quotas in the relevant 
sub-region; and regional and/or sub-regional catch rates of the 
relevant shark species or management groups. From the effective date 
and time of the closure until NMFS announces, via the publication of a 
notice in the Federal Register, that additional quota is available and 
the season is reopened, the fisheries for the shark species or 
management group are closed, even across fishing years.
    If NMFS determines that a linked shark species or management group 
must be closed, then, consistent with Sec.  635.28(b)(3) for linked 
quotas and the Final Rule to Revise Atlantic Highly Migratory Species 
Shark Fishery Closure Regulations (83 FR 31677; July 9, 2018), NMFS 
will publish in the Federal Register a notice of closure for all of the 
species and/or management groups in a linked group that will be 
effective no fewer than four days from date of filing. In that event, 
from the effective date and time of the closure until NMFS announces, 
via the publication of a notice in the Federal Register, that 
additional quota is available and the season is reopened, the fisheries 
for all linked species and/or management groups will be closed, even 
across fishing years. The linked quotas of the species and/or 
management groups are Atlantic hammerhead sharks and Atlantic 
aggregated LCS; eastern Gulf of Mexico hammerhead sharks and eastern 
Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS; western Gulf of Mexico hammerhead sharks 
and western Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS; and Atlantic blacknose and 
Atlantic non-blacknose SCS south of 34[deg] N latitude.

Request for Comments

    Comments on this proposed rule may be submitted via 
www.regulations.gov or by mail. NMFS solicits comments on this proposed 
rule by October 10, 2019 (see DATES and ADDRESSES). As noted above, 
NMFS is specifically asking for comments on three distinct issues--the 
initial LCS retention limit in the Gulf of Mexico region, the level of 
landings at which NMFS considers adjusting the retention limit for the 
Atlantic region, and the initial LCS retention limit in the Atlantic 
region.

Classification

    The NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that the proposed 
rule is consistent with the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its 
amendments, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, subject 
to further consideration after public comment.
    These proposed specifications are exempt from review under 
Executive Order 12866.
    NMFS determined that the final rules to implement Amendment 2 to 
the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (June 24, 2008, 73 FR 35778; 
corrected on July 15, 2008, 73 FR 40658), Amendment 5a to the 2006 
Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (78 FR 40318; July 3, 2013), Amendment 6 
to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (80 FR 50073; August 18, 
2015), and Amendment 9 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (80 FR 
73128; November 24, 2015) are consistent to the maximum extent 
practicable with the enforceable policies of the approved coastal 
management program of coastal states on the Atlantic including the Gulf 
of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea as required under the Coastal Zone 
Management Act. Pursuant to 15 CFR 930.41(a), NMFS provided the Coastal 
Zone Management Program of each coastal state a 60-day period to review 
the consistency determination and to advise NMFS of their concurrence. 
NMFS received concurrence with the consistency determinations from 
several states and inferred consistency from those states that did not 
respond within the 60-day time period. This proposed action to 
establish opening dates and adjust quotas for the 2020 fishing year for 
the Atlantic commercial shark fisheries does not change the framework 
previously consulted upon. Therefore, no additional consultation is 
required.
    An initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA) was prepared, as 
required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). The 
IRFA describes the economic impact this proposed rule, if adopted, 
would have on small entities. The IRFA analysis follows.
    Section 603(b)(1) of the RFA requires agencies to explain the 
purpose of the rule. This rule, consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens 
Act and the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments, is 
being proposed to establish the 2020 commercial shark fishing quotas, 
retention limits, and fishing seasons. Without this rule, the 
commercial shark fisheries would close on December 31, 2019, and would 
not open until another action was taken. This proposed rule would be 
implemented according to the regulations implementing the 2006 
Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments. Thus, NMFS proposes 
few, if any, economic impacts to fishermen other than those already 
analyzed in the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments, 
based on the quota adjustments.
    Section 603(b)(2) of the RFA requires agencies to explain the 
rule's objectives. The objectives of this rule are to: Adjust the base 
quotas for all shark management groups based on any overharvests and/or 
underharvests from the previous fishing year(s); establish the opening 
dates of the various management groups; and establish the retention 
limits for the blacktip shark, aggregated large coastal shark, and 
hammerhead shark management groups in order to provide, to the extent 
practicable, equitable opportunities across the fishing management 
regions and/or sub-regions while also considering the ecological needs 
of the different shark species.
    Section 603(b)(3) of the RFA requires agencies to provide an 
estimate of the number of small entities to which the rule would apply. 
The Small Business Administration (SBA) has established size criteria 
for all major industry sectors in the United States, including fish 
harvesters. Provision is made under SBA's regulations for an agency to 
develop its own industry-specific size standards after consultation 
with Advocacy and an opportunity for public comment (see 13 CFR 
121.903(c)). Under this provision, NMFS may establish size standards 
that differ from those established by the SBA Office of Size Standards, 
but only for use by NMFS and only for the purpose of conducting an 
analysis of economic effects in fulfillment of the agency's obligations 
under the RFA. To utilize this provision, NMFS must publish such size 
standards in the Federal Register, which NMFS did on December 29, 2015 
(80 FR 81194; 50 CFR 200.2). In this final rule effective on July 1, 
2016, NMFS established a small business size standard of $11 million in 
annual gross receipts for all businesses in the commercial fishing 
industry (NAICS 11411) for RFA compliance purposes. NMFS considers all 
HMS permit

[[Page 49243]]

holders to be small entities because they had average annual receipts 
of less than $11 million for commercial fishing.
    As of September 2019, the proposed rule would apply to the 
approximately 219 directed commercial shark permit holders, 262 
incidental commercial shark permit holders, 162 smoothhound shark 
permit holders, and 106 commercial shark dealers. Not all permit 
holders are active in the fishery in any given year. Active directed 
commercial shark permit holders are defined as those with valid permits 
that landed one shark based on HMS electronic dealer reports. Of the 
481 directed and incidental commercial shark permit holders, only 12 
permit holders landed sharks in the Gulf of Mexico region and only 69 
landed sharks in the Atlantic region. Of the 154 smoothhound shark 
permit holders, only 61 permit holders landed smoothhound sharks in the 
Atlantic region and none landed smoothhound sharks in the Gulf of 
Mexico region. NMFS has determined that the proposed rule would not 
likely affect any small governmental jurisdictions.
    This proposed rule does not contain any new reporting, 
recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements (5 U.S.C. 603(b)(4)). 
Similarly, this proposed rule would not conflict, duplicate, or overlap 
with other relevant Federal rules (5 U.S.C. 603(b)(5)). Fishermen, 
dealers, and managers in these fisheries must comply with a number of 
international agreements as domestically implemented, domestic laws, 
and FMPs. These include, but are not limited to, the Magnuson-Stevens 
Act, the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act, the High Seas Fishing 
Compliance Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered 
Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Paperwork 
Reduction Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act.
    Section 603(c) of the RFA requires each IRFA to contain a 
description of any significant alternatives to the proposed rule, which 
would accomplish the stated objectives of applicable statutes and 
minimize any significant economic impact of the proposed rule on small 
entities. Additionally, the RFA (5 U.S.C. 603(c)(1)-(4)) lists four 
general categories of significant alternatives that would assist an 
agency in the development of significant alternatives. These categories 
of alternatives are: (1) Establishment of differing compliance or 
reporting requirements or timetables that take into account the 
resources available to small entities; (2) clarification, 
consolidation, or simplification of compliance and reporting 
requirements under the rule for such small entities; (3) use of 
performance rather than design standards; and (4) exemptions from 
coverage of the rule for small entities. In order to meet the 
objectives of this proposed rule, consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens 
Act, NMFS cannot exempt small entities or change the reporting 
requirements only for small entities, because all of the entities 
affected are considered small entities. In addition, there are no 
alternatives discussed that fall under the first, second, and fourth 
categories described above. NMFS does not know of any performance or 
design standards that would satisfy the aforementioned objectives of 
this rulemaking while, concurrently, complying with the Magnuson-
Stevens Act; therefore, there are no alternatives considered under the 
third category.
    This rulemaking does not establish management measures to be 
implemented, but rather implements previously adopted and analyzed 
measures with adjustments, as specified in the 2006 Consolidated 
Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments and the Environmental Assessment 
(EA) that accompanied the 2011 shark quota specifications rule (75 FR 
76302; December 8, 2010). Thus, NMFS proposes to adjust quotas 
established and analyzed in the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and 
its amendments by subtracting the underharvest or adding the 
overharvest as allowable. Thus, NMFS has limited flexibility to modify 
the quotas in this rule, the impacts of which were analyzed in previous 
regulatory flexibility analyses.
    Based on the 2018 ex-vessel price (Table 3), fully harvesting the 
unadjusted 2020 Atlantic shark commercial base quotas could result in 
total fleet revenues of $8,775,599. For the Gulf of Mexico blacktip 
shark management group, NMFS is proposing to increase the base sub-
regional quotas due to the underharvests in 2019. The increase for the 
western Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group could result in 
a $232,674 gain in total revenues for fishermen in that sub-region, 
while the increase for the eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark 
management group could result in a $41,513 gain in total revenues for 
fishermen in that sub-region. For the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic 
smoothhound shark management groups, NMFS is proposing to increase the 
base quotas due to the underharvest in 2019. This would cause a 
potential gain in revenue of $262,788 for the fleet in the Gulf of 
Mexico region and a potential gain in revenue of $1,057,482 for the 
fleet in the Atlantic region.
    All of these changes in gross revenues are similar to the changes 
in gross revenues analyzed in the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP 
and its amendments. The final regulatory flexibility analyses for those 
amendments concluded that the economic impacts on these small entities 
are expected to be minimal. In the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP 
and its amendments and the EA for the 2011 shark quota specifications 
rule, NMFS stated it would be conducting annual rulemakings and 
considering the potential economic impacts of adjusting the quotas for 
underharvests and overharvests at that time.

                Table 3--Average Ex-Vessel Prices per lb dw for Each Shark Management Group, 2018
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                    Average ex-     Average ex-
                    Region                                   Species                vessel meat     vessel fin
                                                                                       price           price
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Western Gulf of Mexico........................  Blacktip Shark..................           $0.53          $10.94
                                                Aggregated LCS..................            0.67           11.61
                                                Hammerhead Shark................            0.51           11.12
Eastern Gulf of Mexico........................  Blacktip Shark..................            1.06            9.54
                                                Aggregated LCS..................            0.59           11.93
                                                Hammerhead Shark................            0.40           13.20
Gulf of Mexico................................  Non-Blacknose SCS...............            0.54            7.00
                                                Smoothhound Shark...............            0.65  ..............
Atlantic......................................  Aggregated LCS..................            0.98           11.06
                                                Hammerhead Shark................            0.42            6.66
                                                Non-Blacknose SCS...............            0.99            7.67

[[Page 49244]]

 
                                                Blacknose Shark.................            1.21  ..............
                                                Smoothhound Shark...............            0.74            1.62
No Region.....................................  Shark Research Fishery                      0.81           11.61
                                                 (Aggregated LCS).
                                                Shark Research Fishery (Sandbar             0.61           11.00
                                                 only).
                                                Blue shark......................            0.45            3.01
                                                Porbeagle shark.................            1.18            3.01
                                                Other Pelagic sharks............            1.46            3.01
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    For this rule, NMFS also reviewed the criteria at Sec.  
635.27(b)(3) to determine when opening each fishery would provide 
equitable opportunities for fishermen, to the extent practicable, while 
also considering the ecological needs of the different species. The 
opening dates of the fishing season(s) could vary depending upon the 
available annual quota, catch rates, and number of fishing participants 
during the year. For the 2020 fishing year, NMFS is proposing to open 
all of the shark management groups on the effective date of the final 
rule for this action (expected to be on or about January 1). The direct 
and indirect economic impacts would be neutral on a short- and long-
term basis because NMFS is not proposing to change the opening dates of 
these fisheries from the status quo.

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

    Dated: September 16, 2019.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2019-20249 Filed 9-18-19; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P