Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region; Regulatory Amendment 27, 55531-55539 [2019-22197]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 201 / Thursday, October 17, 2019 / Proposed Rules Species Act (ESA). We will also hold three public hearings related to our proposed rule to revise the critical habitat designation for the Southern Resident killer whale DPS (Orcinus orca) under the ESA. Three of the public hearings will be joint hearings that address both of these proposed rules. DATES: Public hearings will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. (local time) on the following dates: November 4, 2019, in Santa Cruz, California; November 5, 2019, in Newport, Oregon; November 6, 2019, in Seattle, Washington; November 7, 2019, in Juneau, Alaska; and December 3, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska. ADDRESSES: The November 4th hearing will be held in conference Room 188 at the NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center, Santa Cruz Laboratory on the University of California Santa Cruz’s Coastal Science Campus, 110 McAllister Way, Santa Cruz, CA 95060. The November 5th hearing will be held in the Hennings Auditorium at the Hatfield Marine Science Center Visitor Center, 2030 SE Marine Science Drive, Newport, OR 97365. The November 6th hearing will be held in the Alder Auditorium at the University of Washington, 1310 NE 40th Street, Seattle, WA 98105. (The auditorium entrance is located on NE 40th Street between Brooklyn Avenue NE and University Way NE.) The November 7th hearing will be held in the Egan Lecture Hall (Room 112), University of Alaska Southeast, 11066 Auke Lake Way, Juneau, Alaska 99801. The December 3rd hearing will be held in the Wilda Marston Theater in Z.J. Loussac Public Library, 3600 Denali St., Anchorage, AK 99503. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Lisa Manning, NMFS, Office of Protected Resources 301–427–8466; or Nancy Young, NMFS West Coast Region, 206– 526–4297. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background On September 19, 2019, we published a proposed rule to revise existing critical habitat for endangered Southern Resident killer whales (84 FR 49214) under the ESA. This rule proposes to revise the critical habitat by designating six new marine areas along the U.S. West Coast. The specific new areas proposed for designation extend along the U.S. West Coast from the U.S. international border with Canada, south to Point Sur, California. Based on consideration of national security impacts, we are proposing to exclude from the designation one area off the coast of Washington. We are soliciting VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:00 Oct 16, 2019 Jkt 250001 public comment on this proposed rule through December 18, 2019. On October 9, 2019, we published a proposed rule to designate critical habitat for the endangered Western North Pacific DPS, the endangered Central America DPS, and the threatened Mexico DPS of humpback whales under the ESA (84 FR 54354). Areas proposed as critical habitat include specific marine areas located off the coasts of California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. Based on consideration of national security and economic impacts, we are also proposing to exclude multiple areas from the designation for each DPS. We are soliciting comments on the proposed humpback whale critical habitat designations through December 9, 2019. Public Hearings Each of the public hearings will be conducted in the same manner. The hearings will begin with a brief presentation by NMFS that gives an overview of critical habitat under the ESA and a summary of the relevant proposed critical habitat designation(s). Following the presentation, members of the public will have the opportunity to provide oral comments on the record regarding the proposed designations. Members of the public will also have the opportunity to submit written comments at the hearing. Written comments may also be submitted at any time during the relevant public comment period via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. To do the latter, go to www.regulations.gov; and for Southern Resident killer whale critical habitat search on the docket ID ‘‘NOAA–NMFS–2014–0041’’; for humpback whale critical habitat search on docket ID ‘‘NOAA–NMFS–2019– 0066’’; click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon; then complete the required fields and enter or attach your comments. Note that 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 commenter will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, or Adobe PDF file formats only. Reasonable Accommodations People needing accommodations so that they may attend and participate at PO 00000 Frm 00022 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 55531 the public hearings should submit a request for reasonable accommodations as soon as possible, and no later than 7 business days prior to the hearing date, by contacting Lisa Manning or Nancy Young (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq. Dated: October 9, 2019. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2019–22445 Filed 10–16–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 622 [Docket No. 191004–0056] RIN 0648–BI32 Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; SnapperGrouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region; Regulatory Amendment 27 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS proposes to implement management measures described in Vision Blueprint Commercial Regulatory Amendment 27 (Regulatory Amendment 27) to the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region (Snapper-Grouper FMP), as prepared and submitted by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council). If implemented, this proposed rule would modify commercial fishing seasons, trip limits, and minimum size limits for selected snapper-grouper species in the South Atlantic exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The purpose of this proposed rule is to improve equitable access for commercial fishermen in the snappergrouper fishery, minimize discards to the extent practicable, and improve marketability within the snappergrouper fishery. DATES: Written comments on the proposed rule must be received by November 18, 2019. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the proposed rule, identified by ‘‘NOAA–NMFS–2019–0059,’’ by either of the following methods: SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\17OCP1.SGM 17OCP1 55532 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 201 / Thursday, October 17, 2019 / Proposed Rules • Electronic submission: Submit all electronic comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to http:// www.regulations.gov/docket?D=NOAANMFS-2019-0059, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Submit written comments to Mary Vara, NMFS Southeast Regional Office, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701. Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Electronic copies of Regulatory Amendment 27 may be obtained from www.regulations.gov or the Southeast Regional Office website at https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/ regulatory-amendment-27-visionblueprint-commercial-measures includes an environmental assessment, regulatory impact review, and Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mary Vara, NMFS Southeast Regional Office, telephone: 727–824–5305, or email: mary.vara@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The snapper-grouper fishery in the South Atlantic region is managed under the Snapper-Grouper FMP and includes blueline tilefish, snowy grouper, greater amberjack, red porgy, vermilion snapper, almaco jack, other jacks complex (lesser amberjack, almaco jack, and banded rudderfish), queen snapper, silk snapper, blackfin snapper, and gray triggerfish, along with other snappergrouper species. The Snapper-Grouper FMP was prepared by the Council and is implemented by NMFS through regulations at 50 CFR part 622 under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). Background During a series of stakeholder meetings in 2014, the Council gathered input from commercial fishermen throughout the South Atlantic region to develop a long-term strategic plan for VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:00 Oct 16, 2019 Jkt 250001 managing the snapper-grouper fishery. Based on that input, the Council developed the 2016–2020 Vision Blueprint for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery (Vision Blueprint). The Vision Blueprint identified the goals, objectives, strategies, and actions that support the Council’s vision for the snapper-grouper fishery and centers around four goal areas: Science, Management, Communication, and Governance. In 2015, the Council prioritized action items in the Vision Blueprint that would be addressed through amendments to the SnapperGrouper FMP over the next 5 years. As part of this prioritization, the Council chose to focus on actions that would address the seasonality of access to certain snapper-grouper species and measures to lengthen fishing seasons to better utilize existing annual catch limits (ACLs) in the snapper-grouper fishery. To accomplish this, the Council began development of two regulatory amendments to the Snapper-Grouper FMP to address the commercial and recreational sectors, respectively. Regulatory Amendment 27 includes modifications to the commercial sector management measures in the snappergrouper fishery based on stakeholder input. The purpose of Regulatory Amendment 27 is to enable equitable access for commercial fishermen participating in the snapper-grouper fishery, and to minimize discards to the extent practicable, while improving marketability for some snapper-grouper species. Vision Blueprint Recreational Regulatory Amendment 26 to the Snapper-Grouper FMP, which would revise recreational management measures in the fishery, has been submitted to NMFS by the Council, and NMFS is developing a proposed rule. Management Measures Contained in This Proposed Rule This proposed rule would modify the commercial trip limits for blueline tilefish, greater amberjack, red porgy, and vermilion snapper; establish commercial split seasons for snowy grouper, greater amberjack, and red porgy; and establish a commercial trip limit for the other jacks complex. For the commercial sector, this proposed rule would also establish a minimum size limit for almaco jack, remove the minimum size limits for silk snapper, queen snapper, and blackfin snapper, and reduce the minimum size limit for gray triggerfish in the EEZ off the east coast of Florida. The management measures in this proposed rule would apply on board a vessel for which a Federal commercial permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has been PO 00000 Frm 00023 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 issued. Unless otherwise noted, all weights in this proposed rule are described in gutted weight. Commercial Trip Limit for Blueline Tilefish Currently, the commercial trip limit for blueline tilefish is 300 lb (136 kg) during the January through December fishing year. In Regulatory Amendment 27, the Council determined that management measures for blueline tilefish should be more consistent with snowy grouper management measures since the two species co-occur in parts of the Council’s jurisdiction. Blueline tilefish and snowy grouper are both target species for fishermen north of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, but access to these species in that area is limited early in the fishing year (during January through May) as a result of poor weather conditions. However, blueline tilefish are mostly an incidental catch during commercial harvest of snowy grouper occurring south of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, through approximately Cape Canaveral, Florida. South of Cape Hatteras, commercial fishermen targeting snowy grouper tend to continue fishing for blueline tilefish after they have reached their snowy grouper trip limit and they report that this practice results in increased discards of snowy grouper. Access to the blueline tilefish by the commercial sector has been further limited over the past few years, because the commercial sector for blueline tilefish has closed before the end of the fishing year as a result of reaching the commercial quota. This proposed rule would modify the 300-lb (136-kg) commercial trip limit for blueline tilefish throughout the South Atlantic EEZ. During January 1 through April 30 each year, the commercial trip limit would be reduced to 100 lb (45 kg), and during May 1 through December 31 each year, the commercial trip limit would continue to be 300 lb (136 kg). The Council determined that a lower 100-lb (45-kg) commercial trip limit of blueline tilefish each year from January through April would help reduce snowy grouper discards by commercial fishermen operating south of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, because the commercial trip limit for blueline tilefish would be met more quickly on a trip. This proposed rule would maintain the current 300-lb (136kg) trip limit for blueline tilefish from May through December when good weather conditions are more likely to allow commercial fishermen in the northern portion of the Council’s area of jurisdiction to have greater access to the resource and optimize their harvest through an extended fishing season. E:\FR\FM\17OCP1.SGM 17OCP1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 201 / Thursday, October 17, 2019 / Proposed Rules Commercial Split Season for Snowy Grouper During the Council’s development of the Vision Blueprint, stakeholders requested that the Council address regional differences in access to the snapper-grouper resource, including snowy grouper, and implement management approaches that would minimize discards. Commercial fishermen and other stakeholders notified the Council to an increase in snowy grouper discards when fishermen attempt to harvest the commercial trip limit of blueline tilefish, a co-occurring species, after reaching the commercial trip limit for snowy grouper. In addition, stakeholders stated the importance of snowy grouper in the commercial market during the early months of the year (January through April), when the harvest of shallowwater groupers is closed. Currently, the fishing year for snowy grouper is January 1 through December 31 and there is a single fishing season to harvest the commercial ACL (equivalent to the commercial quota) of 153,935 lb (69,824 kg), gutted weight, or 181,644 lb (82,392 kg), round weight. After reviewing stakeholder input, the Council determined that allocating the majority (70 percent) of the commercial quota to a January through June fishing season would ensure availability of snowy grouper when it is most valuable at the market and optimize access to this species for the majority of commercial fishermen in the South Atlantic. The Council also decided that allocating 30 percent of the commercial quota of snowy grouper for a July through December fishing season allows for the incidental harvest of snowy grouper when North Carolina commercial fishermen are targeting blueline tilefish. The Council determined that the longer grouper species are available in the marketplace, the more this benefits fishermen and communities in the South Atlantic. This proposed rule would establish two commercial fishing seasons for snowy grouper of January 1 through June 30 (Season 1) and July 1 through December 31 (Season 2) within the current fishing year. This proposed rule would allocate the commercial quotas as 70 percent to Season 1, 107,754 lb (48,876 kg), and 30 percent to Season 2, 46,181 lb (20,947 kg). Any remaining commercial quota from Season 1 would be transferred to Season 2. Any remaining commercial quota from Season 2 would not be carried forward into the next fishing year. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:00 Oct 16, 2019 Jkt 250001 Commercial Split Season and Trip Limit for Greater Amberjack Currently, the commercial ACL (equivalent to the commercial quota) for greater amberjack is 769,388 lb (348,989 kg), the fishing year is March 1 through the end of February, and the commercial trip limit is 1,200 lb (544 kg) and applies in either round or gutted weight. During April of each year, the commercial harvest and possession limit for greater amberjack (equivalent to a commercial trip limit) is one fish per person per day or one fish per person per trip, whichever is more restrictive. Also during April each year, the sale and purchase of greater amberjack in or from the South Atlantic EEZ is prohibited on board a vessel for which a Federal commercial permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has been issued. During the development of Regulatory Amendment 27, the Council determined that recent commercial harvests of yellowtail snapper have influenced the commercial harvest of greater amberjack. In 2017 and 2018, the commercial sector for yellowtail snapper closed 2 months prior to the end of that species’ fishing year. The early closures of commercial yellowtail snapper resulted in commercial fishermen in Florida targeting greater amberjack more heavily, leading to earlier commercial closures of greater amberjack and price fluctuations that affect resource users throughout the South Atlantic. The Council expects that dividing the commercial quota for South Atlantic greater amberjack between two seasons and reducing the commercial trip limit for the latter half of the fishing year would lengthen the greater amberjack commercial season and allow for a more equitable distribution and price stability of the greater amberjack resource throughout the South Atlantic. Regulatory Amendment 27 and this proposed rule would specify two commercial fishing seasons for greater amberjack. The two seasons would be March 1 through August 31 (Season 1) and September 1 through the end of February (Season 2). The commercial quotas would be allocated as 60 percent to Season 1, 461,633 lb (209,393 kg), and 40 percent to Season 2, 307,755 lb (139,595 kg). Any remaining commercial quota from Season 1 would be added to the commercial quota in Season 2. Any remaining quota from Season 2 would not be carried forward into the next fishing year. Additionally, Regulatory Amendment 27 and this proposed rule would modify the commercial trip limit for greater PO 00000 Frm 00024 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 55533 amberjack. During Season 1, the commercial trip limit would be 1,200 lb (544 kg) in round or gutted weight, and during Season 2, the commercial trip limit would be 1,000 lb (454 kg) in round or gutted weight. However, during April each year, the commercial sale and purchase of greater amberjack would continue to be prohibited, and the harvest and possession limit would continue to be one fish per person per day or one fish per person per trip, whichever is more restrictive. Commercial Split Season and Trip Limit for Red Porgy Currently, the fishing year for red porgy is January 1 through December 31, and the commercial ACL (equivalent to the commercial quota) is 157,692 lb (71,528 kg), gutted weight, or 164,000 lb (74,389 kg), round weight. During January through April each year, the commercial sale and purchase of red porgy is prohibited on board a vessel for which a Federal commercial permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has been issued, and the commercial harvest and possession limit for red porgy (equivalent to a commercial trip limit) is three fish per person per day or three fish per person per trip, whichever is more restrictive. The commercial trip limit for red porgy is 120 fish from May 1 through December 31. In the South Atlantic, red porgy spawn from January through May and spawning activity peaks from January through March. The current January through April prohibition on sale and purchase of red porgy and restrictive harvest and possession limit encompasses the majority of the spawning season, and provides direct benefits to the stock by reducing fishing pressure on the spawning stock. However, during January through April commercial fishermen target two cooccurring species, vermilion snapper and gray triggerfish, while reporting discards of red porgy. Therefore, these discards of red porgy reduce the benefits of a spawning season closure for the stock when commercial fishermen target other co-occurring species. The Council determined that a commercial trip limit of 60 fish and a lower portion of the commercial quota during January through April would continue to constrain harvest to protect spawning fish, while allowing commercial fishermen to retain a sufficient amount of red porgy when targeting cooccurring species, thereby reducing discards of red porgy. Regulatory Amendment 27 and this proposed rule would establish two commercial fishing seasons for red porgy. The first season would be E:\FR\FM\17OCP1.SGM 17OCP1 55534 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 201 / Thursday, October 17, 2019 / Proposed Rules January 1 through April 30 (Season 1), and the second season would be May 1 through December 31 (Season 2). The current fishing year would not change. The commercial quotas would be allocated as 30 percent to Season 1, 47,308 lb (21,459 kg) gutted weight, 49,200 lb (22,317 kg), round weight; and 70 percent to Season 2, 110,384 lb (50,069 kg) gutted weight, 114,800 lb (52,072 kg), round weight. Any remaining commercial quota from Season 1 would be added to the commercial quota in Season 2. Any remaining quota from Season 2 would not be carried forward into the next fishing year. The proposed rule would remove the current commercial sale and purchase prohibition and the possession limit of three fish per person per day or three fish per person per trip, whichever is more restrictive, during January 1 through April 30. Additionally, Regulatory Amendment 27 and this proposed rule would modify the commercial trip limits for red porgy during the Season 1 to be 60 fish. During Season 2, the commercial trip limit for red porgy would continue to be 120 fish. Commercial Trip Limit for Vermilion Snapper Currently, the commercial fishing year for vermilion snapper is from January 1 through December 31. The commercial ACL (equivalent to the commercial quota) is divided equally between two commercial fishing seasons as January 1 through June 30 (Season 1) and July 1 through December 31 (Season 2). Any remaining commercial quota from Season 1 is added to the commercial quota for Season 2. Any remaining commercial quota from Season 2 is not carried forward into the next fishing year. During both Season 1 and Season 2, the commercial trip limit for vermilion snapper is 1,000 lb (454 kg). Additionally, if NMFS estimates that 75 percent of the vermilion snapper commercial quota during either season is met or is projected to be met, NMFS will publish a notice in the Federal Register to reduce the commercial trip limit to 500 lb (227 kg). Fishermen requested that the Council consider reducing the commercial trip limit in Season 2, as many more snapper-grouper species are available for harvest during that time and a reduced commercial trip limit would be expected to extend the fishing season for vermilion snapper. In addition, Abbreviated Framework Amendment 2 to the Snapper-Grouper FMP was recently implemented (84 FR 14021, April 9, 2019) that increased the total VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:00 Oct 16, 2019 Jkt 250001 ACL for vermilion snapper based on the results of the latest stock assessment in 2018. Therefore, the Council determined that there is no longer a need to have a trip limit reduction for vermilion snapper. Also, as described in Regulatory Amendment 27, maintaining the current commercial trip limit would ensure economic profitability and efficient use of the vermilion snapper resource. Regulatory Amendment 27 and this proposed rule would remove the trip limit reduction for vermilion snapper from both seasons but retain the 1,000 lb (454 kg) commercial trip limit. Any remaining commercial quota from Season 1 would continue to be added to the commercial quota for Season 2, and any remaining commercial quota from Season 2 would not be carried forward into the next fishing year. Minimum Size Limit for Almaco Jack There is currently no commercial minimum size limit for almaco jack. This proposed rule would establish a commercial minimum size limit of 20 inches (50.8 cm), fork length (FL), in the South Atlantic EEZ. Fishermen with Federal commercial permits for South Atlantic snapper-grouper reported their concerns to the Council about the small size, and resulting poor commercial value, of some of the almaco jack being landed. The minimum size limit for the commercial sector of 20 inches (50.8 cm), FL, would allow more individual almaco jack to reach reproductive activity before being susceptible to harvest, and is projected to increase the average size and the corresponding average weight of fish harvested. Commercial Trip Limit for the Other Jacks Complex Currently, there is not a commercial trip limit for species in the other jacks complex, which includes lesser amberjack, almaco jack, and banded rudderfish. Regulatory Amendment 27 and this proposed rule would establish a commercial trip limit for the other jacks complex of 500 lb (227 kg). In 2014, stakeholders told the Council that almaco jack, which typically dominate commercial landings of species in the other jacks complex, are an incidental catch on trips targeting vermilion snapper. The Council determined that commercial fishermen would benefit from being able to profit from those incidental catches of almaco jack if they were to achieve a higher price per fish, since the market value of almaco jack (and the other species in the other jacks complex) is increasing. Because the commercial sector for the other jacks complex has historically closed before PO 00000 Frm 00025 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 the end of the fishing year, fishermen told the Council that a 500-lb (227-kg) commercial trip limit for the other jacks complex would still allow them to make a profitable trip, and the proposed commercial trip limit would enable fishermen to have the added benefit of an extended commercial season for the other jacks complex. In addition, Council members noted that banded rudderfish are commercially important in the springtime, particularly in April when the commercial harvest of greater amberjack is closed. Although some commercial trips can land over 1,000 lb (454 kg) of banded rudderfish during certain times of the year, the Council determined it would be more equitable for commercial fishermen, and better for the long-term sustainability of the other jacks complex resource, to establish a 500-lb (227-kg) commercial trip limit for this species complex. Minimum Size Limit for Queen Snapper, Silk Snapper, and Blackfin Snapper Queen snapper, silk snapper, and blackfin snapper are part of the deepwater complex. Currently, the commercial minimum size limit for queen snapper, silk snapper, and blackfin snapper is 12 inches (30.5 cm) total length (TL), but the remaining species in the deep-water complex do not have a specified minimum size limit requirement. The 12-inch (30.5-cm) TL commercial minimum size limit was implemented for queen snapper, blackfin snapper, and silk snapper early in the management of the snappergrouper fishery, before estimates of discard mortality were available, and before the creation of the various species complexes by the Council. All of the species in the deep-water complex (yellowedge grouper, silk snapper, misty grouper, queen snapper, sand tilefish, and blackfin snapper) are typically associated with a high discard mortality. The Council determined that removing the commercial minimum size limit for queen snapper, silk snapper, and blackfin snapper would reduce discards and discard mortality for these species. Therefore, Regulatory Amendment 27 and this proposed rule would remove the commercial minimum size limit for queen snapper, silk snapper, and blackfin snapper. Minimum Size Limit for Gray Triggerfish The current commercial minimum size limit for gray triggerfish in the South Atlantic EEZ is 14 inches (35.6 cm) FL off the east coast of Florida and 12 inches (30.5 cm) FL off North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Regulatory Amendment 27 and this proposed rule would reduce the E:\FR\FM\17OCP1.SGM 17OCP1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 201 / Thursday, October 17, 2019 / Proposed Rules commercial minimum size limit to 12 inches (30.5 cm) FL in the EEZ off the east coast of Florida. In 2015, the 12inch (30.5-cm) FL commercial minimum size limit was implemented for gray triggerfish in the EEZ off North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, and a commercial minimum size limit of 14 inches (35.6 cm) FL was implemented in the EEZ off the east coast of Florida (80 FR 30947, June 1, 2015). This was a precautionary action taken by the Council in response to their concerns about the status of the South Atlantic gray triggerfish stock, to align Federal regulations off the east coast of Florida with those in the Gulf of Mexico, and achieve consistency between state and Federal regulations off the east coast of Florida. However, after the commercial minimum size limit went into effect on July 1, 2015, stakeholders in Florida expressed concern to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) regarding increasing discards of gray triggerfish in south Florida where the average size of gray triggerfish is less than that off northeast Florida. In response to that concern, the FWC reduced the recreational minimum size limit of gray triggerfish in state waters to 12 inches (30.5 cm) FL in 2017, and requested that the Council develop consistent size limit regulations in Federal waters for gray triggerfish. Therefore, reducing the commercial minimum size limit to 12 inches (30.5 cm) FL would make these state and Federal regulations for gray triggerfish consistent off the east coast of Florida, off the other South Atlantic states, and in Federal waters throughout the Council’s jurisdiction. Classification Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is consistent with Regulatory Amendment 27, the Snapper-Grouper FMP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable laws, subject to further consideration after public comment. This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. This rule is expected to be an Executive Order 13771 deregulatory action. The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides the statutory basis for this proposed rule. No duplicative, overlapping, or conflicting Federal rules have been identified. NMFS prepared an initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA) for this proposed rule, as required by section 603 of the RFA, 5 U.S.C. 603. The IRFA describes the economic impact this VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:00 Oct 16, 2019 Jkt 250001 proposed rule, if adopted, would have on small entities. A description of this proposed rule, why it is being considered, and the purposes of this proposed rule are contained in the preamble and in the SUMMARY section of the preamble. A copy of the full analysis is available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). A summary of the IRFA follows. The objective of this proposed rule is to improve management of the commercial sector of the snappergrouper fishery to better achieve optimum yield, while minimizing, to the extent practicable, the adverse socioeconomic effects of regulations on commercial fishing entities in the South Atlantic. This proposed rule, if implemented, would make the following changes to the regulations for the commercial snapper-grouper fishing industry in the South Atlantic region. This proposed rule would reduce the commercial trip limit for blueline tilefish from 300 lb (136 kg) to 100 lb (45 kg) from January 1 through April 30. For snowy grouper, this proposed rule would establish two commercial fishing seasons of January 1 through June 30 (Season 1) and July 1 through December 31 (Season 2), rather than a single season within the fishing year, allocate 70 percent of the commercial quota to Season 1 and 30 percent to Season 2, and transfer any remaining commercial quota from Season 1 to Season 2 only. For greater amberjack, this proposed rule would establish two commercial fishing seasons of March 1 through August 31 (Season 1) and September 1 through the end of February (Season 2), rather than a single season within the March through February fishing year; allocate 60 percent of the commercial quota to Season 1 and 40 percent to Season 2, and add any remaining commercial quota from Season 1 to Season 2 only; and reduce the commercial trip limit from 1,200 lb (545 kg) in round or gutted weight to 1,000 lb (454 kg) in round or gutted weight for Season 2. For red porgy, this proposed rule would remove the sale and purchase prohibition, and the possession limit of three fish per person per day or three fish per person per trip during January 1 to April 30 each year; specify two commercial fishing seasons for red porgy of January 1 through April 30 (Season 1) and May 1 through December 31 (Season 2) within the fishing year; allocate 30 percent of the commercial quota to Season 1 and 70 percent to Season 2; and establish a commercial trip limit of 60 fish in Season 1. This proposed rule would also remove the inseason reduction of the commercial trip PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 55535 limit in Season 1 and Season 2 for vermilion snapper, establish a commercial minimum size limit of 20 inches (50.8 cm) FL for almaco jack, establish a commercial trip limit of 500 lb (227 kg) for the other jacks complex, remove the 12-inch (30.5-cm) TL commercial minimum size limit for queen snapper, silk snapper, and blackfin snapper, and reduce the commercial minimum size limit for gray triggerfish from 14 inches (35.6 cm) to 12 inches (30.5 cm) FL in the EEZ off the east coast of Florida. Therefore, this proposed rule is expected to directly regulate businesses that are active in the commercial snapper-grouper fishing industry. As of August 17, 2018, the number of vessels with a valid or renewable Federal commercial permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper was 644, composed of 536 transferable, unlimited snapper-grouper permits and 108 nontransferable, 225-lb (102 kg) trip-limited permits. With the exception of speciesspecific trip limits, there is no aggregate snapper-grouper harvest limit per trip for vessels with unlimited snappergrouper permits, while vessels with triplimited permits cannot harvest more than 225 lb (102 kg) of all snappergrouper species per trip. On average, only 584 vessels used their commercial permits for harvesting purposes from 2012 through 2016. Some permit holders retain their permits for speculative or other non-harvesting purposes. The majority of vessels harvest multiple snapper-grouper species. The proposed rule will only directly regulate permit holders that actually use their permits for harvesting purposes. Therefore, it is expected that approximately 584 vessels will be directly regulated by this proposed rule. Although NMFS started to collect ownership data for businesses that possess commercial snapper-grouper permits in 2017, this data is currently incomplete and historical data is not available. Therefore, it is not currently feasible to accurately determine affiliations between these particular businesses. As a result of the incomplete ownership data, for purposes of this analysis, it is assumed each of these vessels is independently owned by a single business, which is expected to result in an overestimate of the actual number of businesses directly regulated by this proposed rule. Therefore, this proposed rule is estimated to directly regulate 584 businesses in the commercial snapper-grouper fishing industry. All monetary estimates in the following analysis are in 2016 dollars. For vessels that were active in the E:\FR\FM\17OCP1.SGM 17OCP1 55536 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 201 / Thursday, October 17, 2019 / Proposed Rules snapper-grouper fishing industry from 2012 through 2016, average annual gross revenue was approximately $44,000 per vessel. Average annual net cash flow per vessel was approximately $8,300 while net revenue from operations was approximately $2,000 per vessel. Net revenue from operations is the best available estimate of economic profit. The Small Business Administration has established size standards for all major industry sectors in the U.S. including commercial fishing businesses. On December 29, 2015, NMFS issued a final rule establishing a small business size standard of $11 million in annual gross receipts (revenue) for all businesses primarily engaged in the commercial fishing industry (NAICS code 11411) for RFA compliance purposes only (80 FR 81194, December 29, 2015). In addition to this gross revenue standard, a business primarily involved in commercial fishing is classified as a small business if it is independently owned and operated, and is not dominant in it field of operations (including its affiliates). The maximum average annual gross revenue from 2012 through 2016 for a single vessel in the commercial snapper-grouper fishing industry was about $1.6 million. Based on the information above, all businesses directly regulated by this proposed rule are determined to be small businesses for the purpose of this analysis. This proposed rule, if implemented, would be expected to directly regulate the 584 active vessels with commercial permits in the South Atlantic snappergrouper fishery of the 644 vessels that currently possess those permits. All directly regulated businesses have been determined, for the purpose of this analysis, to be small entities. Based on this information, the proposed rule is expected to affect a substantial number of small businesses. The action to reduce the commercial trip limit for blueline tilefish from 300 lb (136 kg) to 100 lb (45 kg) from January 1 through April 30 is expected to directly regulate approximately 134 vessels. These vessels’ average annual gross revenues were $82,411 per vessel from 2012 through 2016. Average annual net revenue from operations for these vessels was approximately 4 percent of their average annual gross revenue from 2014 through 2016. Thus, annual net revenue from operations (economic profit) for these vessels is estimated to be about $3,300 per vessel. Average annual gross revenue per vessel is expected to increase by about $13 per year, which would result in an increase in economic profit of about 0.4 percent for these vessels. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:00 Oct 16, 2019 Jkt 250001 For snowy grouper, the action to establish two commercial fishing seasons of January 1 through June 30 (Season 1) and July 1 through December 31 (Season 2) rather than a single season within the fishing year, allocate 70 percent of the commercial quota to Season 1 and 30 percent to Season 2, and to add any remaining commercial quota from Season 1 to Season 2 only, is expected to directly regulate approximately 149 vessels. These vessels’ average annual gross revenues were $85,475 per vessel from 2012 through 2016. Average annual net revenue from operations for these vessels was approximately 4 percent of their average annual gross revenue from 2014 through 2016. Therefore, annual net revenue from operations for these vessels is estimated to be about $3,400 per vessel. This action is not expected to affect landings, annual gross revenue, or harvesting costs, and thus economic profit for these vessels is not expected to change. For greater amberjack, the action to establish two commercial fishing seasons of March 1 through August 31 (Season 1) and September 1 through the end of February (Season 2) within the fishing year, allocate 60 percent of the commercial quota to Season 1 and 40 percent to Season 2, add any remaining commercial quota from Season 1 to Season 2 only, and reduce the commercial trip limit from 1,200 lb (545 kg) in round or gutted weight to 1,000 lb (454 kg) in round or gutted weight for Season 2 is expected to directly regulate approximately 263 vessels. These vessels’ average annual gross revenues were $62,578 per vessel from 2012 through 2016. Average annual net revenue from operations for these vessels was approximately 4 percent of their average annual gross revenue from 2014 through 2016. Thus, average annual net revenue from operations for these vessels is estimated to be about $2,500 per vessel. This action is expected to reduce average annual gross revenues to these vessels by about $34, which represents less than 0.1 percent of their average annual gross revenues, and about 11.4 percent of their average annual economic profit. Although a quantitative estimate cannot be provided due to lack of data, this action is also expected to cause a minor increase in these vessels’ operating costs. In general, trip limits are expected to increase costs because commercial fishing vessels must take more trips to harvest and land the same amount of fish. The more restrictive the trip limit, the greater the expected increase in costs. The proposed reduction in the PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 commercial trip limit for Season 2 is 200 lb (91 kg) in round or gutted weight per trip, or about 17 percent of the current trip limit. A 17 percent reduction is not a large reduction in general and the reduction only applies in Season 2. Thus, this action would be expected to slightly reduce these vessels’ economic profits. For red porgy, the actions to remove the sale and purchase prohibition and the possession limit of three fish per person per day or three fish per person per trip during January 1 to April 30 each year, establishing two commercial fishing seasons of January 1 through April 30 (Season 1) and May 1 through December 31 (Season 2) within the fishing year, allocate 30 percent of the commercial quota to Season 1 and 70 percent to Season 2, and establish a commercial trip limit of 60 fish in Season 1 is expected to directly regulate approximately 160 vessels. These vessels’ average annual gross revenues were $73,366 per vessel from 2012 through 2016. Average annual net revenue from operations for commercial vessels in the snapper-grouper fishery was approximately 4.5 percent of their average annual gross revenue from 2014 through 2016. Thus, annual net revenue from operations for these vessels is estimated to be about $3,300 per vessel. The expected increase in annual gross revenue from this action is about $335 per vessel, representing an increase of about 0.5 percent of average annual gross revenues but a 9 percent increase in economic profit. The decision to harvest red porgy during the months when sales and purchase are currently prohibited could lead to additional harvesting costs, but these would be self-imposed and, assuming standard business practices by owners of commercial vessels, the additional gross revenues will exceed the additional costs (i.e., economic profit is expected to increase). Moreover, the red porgy landings that would be expected during January through April are likely fish that were previously discarded due to the current prohibition. If these landings are fish that were previously discarded, then no additional costs would be incurred and the additional gross revenue would represent additional economic profit to these vessels as well. The action to remove the in-season commercial trip limit reduction for vermilion snapper in both seasons is expected to directly regulate approximately 206 vessels. These vessels’ average annual gross revenues were $66,330 per vessel from 2011 through 2016. Average annual net revenue from operations for these vessels was approximately negative 1 E:\FR\FM\17OCP1.SGM 17OCP1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 201 / Thursday, October 17, 2019 / Proposed Rules percent of their average annual gross revenue from 2014 through 2016 (i.e., these vessels have been generating economic losses). Thus, annual net revenue from operations for these vessels is estimated to be about negative $6,600 per vessel. This action is expected to result in a reduction of $42 in average annual gross revenue per vessel, which is a minimal change relative to annual average gross revenues, but would increase economic losses by about 0.6 percent. However, the action is also expected to change the cost of harvesting vermilion snapper. In general, trip limits are expected to increase costs because commercial fishing vessels must take more trips to harvest and land the same amount of fish. The more restrictive the trip limit, the greater the expected increase in costs. Under the current regulations, the commercial trip limit for both seasons is reduced by 50 percent, from 1,000 lb (454 kg) gutted weight to 500 lb (227 kg) gutted weight, when 75 percent of the commercial quota in either season is harvested, which is significant. Further, changes in trip limits within a fishing year and particularly within a season can introduce inefficiencies in the production process as commercial fishing vessels must adjust their operations to account for such changes. While these inefficiencies are likely not as great when the trip limit changes are known well in advance, they become particularly acute when the owners of commercial fishing vessels do not know if or when the trip limit change is going to occur, which is the case under the current regulations. Further, because at least some owners of commercial fishing vessels would prefer to fish when the trip limit is greater, trip limit reductions can result in mini-fishing derbies (raceto-fish) within a season. Splitting the commercial quota between seasons only partially mitigates this effect. Although models are not available to quantitatively estimate the expected changes in costs, the elimination of the trip limit reduction is expected to significantly reduce these vessels’ harvesting costs, likely more than offsetting the relatively minor reduction in gross revenue. Therefore, this action is expected to increase economic profit for these vessels. The action to establish a commercial minimum size limit of 20 inches (50.8 cm) FL for almaco jack is expected to directly regulate approximately 165 vessels. These vessels’ average annual gross revenues were $77,267 per vessel from 2012 through 2016. Average annual net revenue from operations for these vessels was approximately 4 VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:00 Oct 16, 2019 Jkt 250001 percent of their average annual gross revenue from 2014 through 2016. Thus, average annual net revenue from operations for these vessels is estimated to be about $3,100 per vessel. Average annual gross revenue per vessel is expected to decrease by about $4 per vessel under the action, which is minimal (i.e., about 0.1 percent of economic profit), and thus unlikely to affect these vessels’ fishing behavior. However, establishing a minimum size limit will also lead to discarded fish. Thus, commercial fishing vessels would have to exert more effort per trip or take more trips to land the same amount of almaco jack, which would lead to higher costs. The more restrictive the minimum size limit, the greater the amount of discarded fish and thus the greater the expected increase in costs. The increase in costs per vessel could be considerably higher than the minimal increase in average annual gross revenue per vessel, depending on the amount of almaco jack that vessels are forced to discard and how much additional effort they exert to maintain their landings and revenue. However, the increase in cost may be partially offset through a higher price received for larger sized fish, but the extent to which this effect will occur is unknown due to lack of data on the variability of prices across almaco jack of different sizes. Based on this information, this action may reduce the economic profits of these 165 vessels. The action to establish a commercial trip limit of 500 lb (227 kg) for the other jacks complex is expected to directly regulate approximately 210 vessels. These vessels’ average annual gross revenues were $69,363 per vessel from 2012 through 2016. Average annual net revenue from operations for these vessels was approximately 4 percent of their average annual gross revenue from 2014 through 2016. Therefore, annual net revenue from operations for these vessels is estimated to be about $2,800 per vessel. Given the proposed commercial minimum size limit for almaco jack discussed in the previous action, establishing a commercial trip limit for the other jacks complex is expected to result in a reduction of $28 in average annual gross revenue per vessel, or about 1 percent of the average annual economic profit. However, establishing a minimum size limit is also expected to increase costs, which would decrease economic profit even further. The magnitude of the increase in costs depends on how much additional effort commercial vessels must exert to maintain their landings and revenues. Therefore, economic PO 00000 Frm 00028 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 55537 profit for these vessels is expected to be reduced. The action to remove the 12-inch (30.5-cm) TL commercial minimum size limit for queen snapper, silk snapper, and blackfin snapper is expected to directly regulate approximately 94 vessels. These vessels’ average annual gross revenues were $93,154 per vessel from 2012 through 2016. Average annual net revenue from operations for these vessels was approximately 4 percent of their average annual gross revenue from 2014 through 2016. Thus, annual net revenue from operations for these vessels is estimated to be about $3,700 per vessel. This action is expected to result in a minimal increase in landings of queen snapper, silk snapper, and blackfin snapper. However, commercial fishing vessels have only harvested about 43 percent of the commercial ACL for the deep-water complex since blueline tilefish was removed from that complex. Therefore, landings of queen snapper, silk snapper, and blackfin snapper could increase significantly without any concern of exceeding the commercial ACL for the deep-water complex. Further, with the elimination of the minimum size limit, vessels would be able to increase their landings per unit of effort for these species, thereby decreasing the cost per pound of fish landed. Therefore, this action would be expected to increase the economic profit of these vessels to some extent. The action to reduce the commercial minimum size limit for gray triggerfish in the EEZ off the east coast of Florida from 14 inches (35.6 cm) to 12 inches (30.5 cm) FL is expected to directly regulate approximately 213 vessels. These vessels’ average annual gross revenues were $65,661 per vessel from 2012 through 2016. Average annual net revenue from operations for these vessels was approximately 2 percent of their average annual gross revenue from 2014 through 2016. Thus, annual net revenue from operations for these vessels is estimated to be about $1,300 per vessel. This action is expected to result in an increase in annual gross revenue per vessel of approximately $10, which would represent an increase the average vessel’s economic profit of about 0.8 percent per year. Reducing the minimum size limit for gray triggerfish will also allow commercial fishing vessels to harvest these species with less effort. As such, this action would also be expected to decrease the cost per pound of harvest, though by how much is unknown due to the lack of appropriate models. Thus, this action is expected to result in a modest increase in these vessels’ economic profit. E:\FR\FM\17OCP1.SGM 17OCP1 55538 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 201 / Thursday, October 17, 2019 / Proposed Rules Based on the information above, average annual gross revenues for the 584 active commercial snapper-grouper vessels is expected to increase by about $33,400, or approximately $57 per vessel, as a result of all the actions in this proposed rule. This increase represents only about 0.1 percent of these vessels’ average annual gross revenues, but about 3 percent of their average annual economic profit. Harvesting costs are expected to significantly decrease for vessels harvesting vermilion snapper and slightly decrease for vessels harvesting gray triggerfish, while they are expected to increase for vessels harvesting greater amberjack, almaco jack, and species in the other jacks complex. Because of these countervailing effects on harvesting costs, harvesting costs for many commercial snapper-grouper vessels will likely change little if at all. Thus, economic profit for the average commercial snapper-grouper vessel is expected to increase slightly or remain relatively the same, though some vessels could experience a reduction in economic profit. Five alternatives, including the status quo, were considered for the proposed action to reduce the commercial trip limit for blueline tilefish from 300 lb (136 kg) to 100 lb (45 kg) from January 1 through April 30. The status quo alternative and the other four alternatives were not selected because they are not expected to achieve the Council’s goal of enabling more equitable access to the resource for fishermen from different areas of the South Atlantic. The status quo alternative is also not expected to increase economic profits for the affected small entities. Two alternatives, including the status quo, were considered for the proposed action to establish, for snowy grouper, two commercial fishing seasons of January 1 through June 30 (Season 1) and July 1 through December 31 (Season 2) within the calendar fishing year, allocate 70 percent of the commercial ACL to Season 1 and 30 percent to Season 2, and transfer any remaining quota from Season 1 to Season 2. The status quo alternative and the other alternative were not selected because they are not expected to achieve the Council’s goal of enabling more equitable access to the resource for fishermen from different areas of the South Atlantic. Nine alternatives, including the status quo, were considered for the proposed action to establish, for greater amberjack, two commercial fishing seasons of March 1 through August 31 (Season 1) and September 1 through VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:00 Oct 16, 2019 Jkt 250001 February 31 (Season 2) within the March through February fishing year, allocate 60 percent of the commercial ACL to Season 1 and 40 percent to Season 2, transfer any remaining quota from Season 1 to Season 2, and reduce the commercial trip limit from 1,200 lb (545 kg) in round or gutted weight to 1,000 lb (454 kg) in round or gutted weight for Season 2. The status quo alternative was not selected because it is not expected to achieve the Council’s goal of enabling more equitable access to the resource for fishermen from different areas of the South Atlantic. Six of the other alternatives are expected to decrease economic profits for the affected small entities more than the proposed action and thus were not selected. The other two alternatives are expected to reduce economic profits less than the proposed action, but were not selected because they are not expected to achieve the Council’s goal of enabling more equitable access to the resource for fishermen from different areas of the South Atlantic. For red porgy, seven alternatives, including the status quo, were considered for the proposed action to remove the sale and purchase prohibition and the possession limit of three per person per day or three per person per trip during January 1 to April 30 each year, specify two commercial fishing seasons of January 1 through April 30 (Season 1) and May 1 through December 31 (Season 2) within the fishing year, allocate 30 percent of the commercial ACL to Season 1 and 70 percent to Season 2, and establish a commercial trip limit of 60 fish in Season 1. The status quo was not selected because it is not expected to achieve the Council’s goal of enabling more equitable access to the resource for fishermen from different areas of the South Atlantic and is not expected to increase economic profits for the affected small entities. Five alternatives, including the status quo, were considered for the proposed action to remove the trip limit reduction in both seasons for vermilion snapper. None of these alternatives were selected because they are expected to result in lower economic profits for the affected small entities, while three of these alternatives are also expected to result in significantly higher regulatory costs to the government. Four alternatives, including the status quo, were considered for the proposed action to establish a commercial minimum size limit of 20 inches (50.8 cm) FL for almaco jack. The status quo was not selected because almaco jack less than 20 inches (50.8 cm) FL are not considered to be of a marketable size PO 00000 Frm 00029 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 (i.e., they are difficult if not impossible to sell at a price that would not lead to economic losses) and therefore would likely be discarded. Thus, the status quo alternative is not expected to achieve the Council’s goals of improving the marketability of certain species and minimizing discards. The other three alternatives are expected to result in even higher discards, which is contrary to the Council’s goal of minimizing discards, and are also expected to reduce economic profits for the affected small entities more than the proposed action. Three alternatives, including the status quo, were considered for the proposed action to establish a commercial trip limit of 500 lb (227 kg) for the other jacks complex. The status quo alternative was not selected as it is not expected to achieve the Council’s goal of enabling more equitable access to the resource for fishermen from different areas of the South Atlantic. The other two alternatives are expected to reduce economic profits more than the proposed action and therefore were not selected. One alternative, the status quo, was considered for the proposed action to remove the 12-inch (30.5-cm) TL commercial minimum size limit for queen snapper, silk snapper, and blackfin snapper. The status quo alternative was not selected because it is expected to result in higher discards, which is contrary to the Council’s goal of minimizing discards, and is also expected to result in lower economic profits for the affected small entities. One alternative, the status quo, was considered for the proposed action to reduce the commercial minimum size limit for gray triggerfish in the EEZ off the east coast of Florida from 14 inches (35.6 cm) to 12 inches (30.5 cm) FL. The status quo alternative was not selected because it is expected to result in higher discards, which is contrary to the Council’s goal of minimizing discards, and is also expected to result lower economic profits for the affected small entities. No new reporting, record-keeping, or other compliance requirements are introduced by this proposed rule. Accordingly, this proposed rule does not implicate the Paperwork Reduction Act. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622 Fisheries, Fishing, Grouper, Snapper, South Atlantic. E:\FR\FM\17OCP1.SGM 17OCP1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 201 / Thursday, October 17, 2019 / Proposed Rules Dated: October 7, 2019. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 622 is proposed to be amended as follows: PART 622—FISHERIES OF THE CARIBBEAN, GULF OF MEXICO, AND SOUTH ATLANTIC 1. The authority citation for part 622 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. § 622.184 [Amended] 2. In § 622.184, remove paragraph (c). 3. In § 622.185, revise paragraphs (a)(3) and (c)(2), and add paragraph (c)(6) to read as follows: ■ ■ § 622.185 Size limits. * * * * * (a) * * * (3) Cubera, gray, and yellowtail snappers—12 inches (30.5 cm), TL. * * * * * (c) * * * (2) Gray triggerfish. (i) For a fish taken by a person not subject to the bag limit specified in § 622.187(b)(8)—12 inches (30.5 cm), FL. (ii) For a fish taken by a person that is subject to the bag limit specified in § 622.187(b)(8)—(A) In the South Atlantic EEZ off Florida—14 inches (35.6 cm), FL. (B) In the South Atlantic EEZ off North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia—12 inches (30.5 cm), FL. * * * * * (6) Almaco jack. For a fish taken by a person not subject to the bag limit specified in § 622.187(b)(8)—20 inches (50.8 cm), FL. ■ 4. In § 622.190, revise paragraphs (a)(1), (3), and (6) to read as follows: § 622.190 Quotas. * * * * * (a) * * * (1) Snowy grouper—(i) For the period January 1 through June 30 each year— 107,754 lb (48,876 kg). (ii) For the period July 1 through December 31 each year—46,181 lb (20,947 kg). VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:00 Oct 16, 2019 Jkt 250001 (iii) Any unused portion of the quota specified in paragraph (a)(1)(i) of this section will be added to the quota specified in paragraph (a)(1)(ii) of this section. Any unused portion of the quota specified in paragraph (a)(1)(ii) of this section, including any addition of quota specified in paragraph (a)(1)(i) of this section that was unused, will become void and will not be added to any subsequent quota. * * * * * (3) Greater amberjack—(i) For the period March 1 through August 31 each year—461,633 lb (209,393 kg). (ii) For the period September 1 through the end of February each year— 307,755 lb (139,595 kg). (iii) Any unused portion of the quota specified in paragraph (a)(3)(i) of this section will be added to the quota specified in paragraph (a)(3)(ii) of this section. Any unused portion of the quota specified in paragraph (a)(3)(ii) of this section, including any addition of quota specified in paragraph (a)(3)(i) of this section that was unused, will become void and will not be added to any subsequent quota. * * * * * (6) Red porgy—(i) For the period January 1 through April 30 each year— 47,308 lb (21,458 kg), gutted weight; 49,200 lb (22,317 kg), round weight. (ii) For the period May 1 through December 31 each year—110,384 lb (50,069 kg), gutted weight; 114,800 lb (52,072 kg), round weight. (iii) Any unused portion of the quota specified in paragraph (a)(6)(i) of this section will be added to the quota specified in paragraph (a)(6)(ii) of this section. Any unused portion of the quota specified in paragraph (a)(6)(ii) of this section, including any addition of quota specified in paragraph (a)(6)(i) of this section that was unused, will become void and will not be added to any subsequent quota. * * * * * ■ 5. In § 622.191, revise paragraphs (a)(4) through (6), (10), and add paragraph (a)(14) to read as follows: § 622.191 * PO 00000 Commercial trip limits. * * (a) * * * Frm 00030 * * (4) Red porgy. The following commercial trip limits apply until the applicable commercial quota specified in § 622.190(a)(6) is reached. See § 622.190(c)(1) for the limitations regarding red porgy after the applicable commercial quota is reached. (i) From January 1 through April 30— 60 fish. (ii) From May 1 through December 31—120 fish. (5) Greater amberjack. The following commercial trip limits apply until the applicable commercial quota specified in § 622.190(a)(3) is reached. See § 622.190(c)(1) for the limitations regarding greater amberjack after the applicable commercial quota is reached. (i) From March 1 through August 31— 1,200 lb (544 kg). (ii) From September 1 through the end of February—1,000 lb (454 kg). (6) Vermilion snapper. Until the applicable commercial quota specified in § 622.190(a)(4) is reached—1,000 lb (454 kg), gutted weight. See § 622.190(c)(1) for the limitations regarding vermilion snapper after the applicable commercial quota is reached. * * * * * (10) Blueline tilefish. The following commercial trip limits apply until the commercial ACL specified in § 622.193(z)(1)(i) is reached. See § 622.193(z)(1)(i) for the limitations regarding blueline tilefish after the commercial ACL is reached. (i) From January 1 through April 30— 100 lb (45 kg), gutted weight; 106 lb (48 kg), round weight. (ii) From May 1 through December 31—300 lb (136 kg), gutted weight; 318 lb (144 kg), round weight. * * * * * (14) Other jacks complex (lesser amberjack, almaco jack, and banded rudderfish). Until the commercial ACL specified in § 622.193(l)(1)(i) is reached—500 lb (227 kg), gutted weight; 520 lb (236 kg), round weight. See § 622.193(l)(1)(i) for the limitations regarding the other jacks complex after the commercial ACL is reached. * * * * * [FR Doc. 2019–22197 Filed 10–16–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 55539 E:\FR\FM\17OCP1.SGM 17OCP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 201 (Thursday, October 17, 2019)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 55531-55539]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-22197]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

[Docket No. 191004-0056]
RIN 0648-BI32


Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 
Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region; Regulatory 
Amendment 27

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: NMFS proposes to implement management measures described in 
Vision Blueprint Commercial Regulatory Amendment 27 (Regulatory 
Amendment 27) to the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for the Snapper-
Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region (Snapper-Grouper FMP), as 
prepared and submitted by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council 
(Council). If implemented, this proposed rule would modify commercial 
fishing seasons, trip limits, and minimum size limits for selected 
snapper-grouper species in the South Atlantic exclusive economic zone 
(EEZ). The purpose of this proposed rule is to improve equitable access 
for commercial fishermen in the snapper-grouper fishery, minimize 
discards to the extent practicable, and improve marketability within 
the snapper-grouper fishery.

DATES: Written comments on the proposed rule must be received by 
November 18, 2019.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the proposed rule, identified by 
``NOAA-NMFS-2019-0059,'' by either of the following methods:

[[Page 55532]]

     Electronic submission: Submit all electronic comments via 
the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to http://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=NOAA-NMFS-2019-0059, click the ``Comment Now!'' icon, complete 
the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Mary Vara, NMFS Southeast 
Regional Office, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous).
    Electronic copies of Regulatory Amendment 27 may be obtained from 
www.regulations.gov or the Southeast Regional Office website at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/regulatory-amendment-27-vision-blueprint-commercial-measures includes an environmental assessment, 
regulatory impact review, and Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis 
(IRFA).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mary Vara, NMFS Southeast Regional 
Office, telephone: 727-824-5305, or email: [email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The snapper-grouper fishery in the South 
Atlantic region is managed under the Snapper-Grouper FMP and includes 
blueline tilefish, snowy grouper, greater amberjack, red porgy, 
vermilion snapper, almaco jack, other jacks complex (lesser amberjack, 
almaco jack, and banded rudderfish), queen snapper, silk snapper, 
blackfin snapper, and gray triggerfish, along with other snapper-
grouper species. The Snapper-Grouper FMP was prepared by the Council 
and is implemented by NMFS through regulations at 50 CFR part 622 under 
the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and 
Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act).

Background

    During a series of stakeholder meetings in 2014, the Council 
gathered input from commercial fishermen throughout the South Atlantic 
region to develop a long-term strategic plan for managing the snapper-
grouper fishery. Based on that input, the Council developed the 2016-
2020 Vision Blueprint for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery (Vision 
Blueprint). The Vision Blueprint identified the goals, objectives, 
strategies, and actions that support the Council's vision for the 
snapper-grouper fishery and centers around four goal areas: Science, 
Management, Communication, and Governance. In 2015, the Council 
prioritized action items in the Vision Blueprint that would be 
addressed through amendments to the Snapper-Grouper FMP over the next 5 
years. As part of this prioritization, the Council chose to focus on 
actions that would address the seasonality of access to certain 
snapper-grouper species and measures to lengthen fishing seasons to 
better utilize existing annual catch limits (ACLs) in the snapper-
grouper fishery. To accomplish this, the Council began development of 
two regulatory amendments to the Snapper-Grouper FMP to address the 
commercial and recreational sectors, respectively. Regulatory Amendment 
27 includes modifications to the commercial sector management measures 
in the snapper-grouper fishery based on stakeholder input. The purpose 
of Regulatory Amendment 27 is to enable equitable access for commercial 
fishermen participating in the snapper-grouper fishery, and to minimize 
discards to the extent practicable, while improving marketability for 
some snapper-grouper species. Vision Blueprint Recreational Regulatory 
Amendment 26 to the Snapper-Grouper FMP, which would revise 
recreational management measures in the fishery, has been submitted to 
NMFS by the Council, and NMFS is developing a proposed rule.

Management Measures Contained in This Proposed Rule

    This proposed rule would modify the commercial trip limits for 
blueline tilefish, greater amberjack, red porgy, and vermilion snapper; 
establish commercial split seasons for snowy grouper, greater 
amberjack, and red porgy; and establish a commercial trip limit for the 
other jacks complex. For the commercial sector, this proposed rule 
would also establish a minimum size limit for almaco jack, remove the 
minimum size limits for silk snapper, queen snapper, and blackfin 
snapper, and reduce the minimum size limit for gray triggerfish in the 
EEZ off the east coast of Florida. The management measures in this 
proposed rule would apply on board a vessel for which a Federal 
commercial permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has been issued. 
Unless otherwise noted, all weights in this proposed rule are described 
in gutted weight.

Commercial Trip Limit for Blueline Tilefish

    Currently, the commercial trip limit for blueline tilefish is 300 
lb (136 kg) during the January through December fishing year. In 
Regulatory Amendment 27, the Council determined that management 
measures for blueline tilefish should be more consistent with snowy 
grouper management measures since the two species co-occur in parts of 
the Council's jurisdiction. Blueline tilefish and snowy grouper are 
both target species for fishermen north of Cape Hatteras, North 
Carolina, but access to these species in that area is limited early in 
the fishing year (during January through May) as a result of poor 
weather conditions. However, blueline tilefish are mostly an incidental 
catch during commercial harvest of snowy grouper occurring south of 
Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, through approximately Cape Canaveral, 
Florida. South of Cape Hatteras, commercial fishermen targeting snowy 
grouper tend to continue fishing for blueline tilefish after they have 
reached their snowy grouper trip limit and they report that this 
practice results in increased discards of snowy grouper. Access to the 
blueline tilefish by the commercial sector has been further limited 
over the past few years, because the commercial sector for blueline 
tilefish has closed before the end of the fishing year as a result of 
reaching the commercial quota.
    This proposed rule would modify the 300-lb (136-kg) commercial trip 
limit for blueline tilefish throughout the South Atlantic EEZ. During 
January 1 through April 30 each year, the commercial trip limit would 
be reduced to 100 lb (45 kg), and during May 1 through December 31 each 
year, the commercial trip limit would continue to be 300 lb (136 kg). 
The Council determined that a lower 100-lb (45-kg) commercial trip 
limit of blueline tilefish each year from January through April would 
help reduce snowy grouper discards by commercial fishermen operating 
south of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, because the commercial trip 
limit for blueline tilefish would be met more quickly on a trip. This 
proposed rule would maintain the current 300-lb (136-kg) trip limit for 
blueline tilefish from May through December when good weather 
conditions are more likely to allow commercial fishermen in the 
northern portion of the Council's area of jurisdiction to have greater 
access to the resource and optimize their harvest through an extended 
fishing season.

[[Page 55533]]

Commercial Split Season for Snowy Grouper

    During the Council's development of the Vision Blueprint, 
stakeholders requested that the Council address regional differences in 
access to the snapper-grouper resource, including snowy grouper, and 
implement management approaches that would minimize discards. 
Commercial fishermen and other stakeholders notified the Council to an 
increase in snowy grouper discards when fishermen attempt to harvest 
the commercial trip limit of blueline tilefish, a co-occurring species, 
after reaching the commercial trip limit for snowy grouper. In 
addition, stakeholders stated the importance of snowy grouper in the 
commercial market during the early months of the year (January through 
April), when the harvest of shallow-water groupers is closed. 
Currently, the fishing year for snowy grouper is January 1 through 
December 31 and there is a single fishing season to harvest the 
commercial ACL (equivalent to the commercial quota) of 153,935 lb 
(69,824 kg), gutted weight, or 181,644 lb (82,392 kg), round weight.
    After reviewing stakeholder input, the Council determined that 
allocating the majority (70 percent) of the commercial quota to a 
January through June fishing season would ensure availability of snowy 
grouper when it is most valuable at the market and optimize access to 
this species for the majority of commercial fishermen in the South 
Atlantic. The Council also decided that allocating 30 percent of the 
commercial quota of snowy grouper for a July through December fishing 
season allows for the incidental harvest of snowy grouper when North 
Carolina commercial fishermen are targeting blueline tilefish. The 
Council determined that the longer grouper species are available in the 
marketplace, the more this benefits fishermen and communities in the 
South Atlantic.
    This proposed rule would establish two commercial fishing seasons 
for snowy grouper of January 1 through June 30 (Season 1) and July 1 
through December 31 (Season 2) within the current fishing year. This 
proposed rule would allocate the commercial quotas as 70 percent to 
Season 1, 107,754 lb (48,876 kg), and 30 percent to Season 2, 46,181 lb 
(20,947 kg). Any remaining commercial quota from Season 1 would be 
transferred to Season 2. Any remaining commercial quota from Season 2 
would not be carried forward into the next fishing year.

Commercial Split Season and Trip Limit for Greater Amberjack

    Currently, the commercial ACL (equivalent to the commercial quota) 
for greater amberjack is 769,388 lb (348,989 kg), the fishing year is 
March 1 through the end of February, and the commercial trip limit is 
1,200 lb (544 kg) and applies in either round or gutted weight. During 
April of each year, the commercial harvest and possession limit for 
greater amberjack (equivalent to a commercial trip limit) is one fish 
per person per day or one fish per person per trip, whichever is more 
restrictive. Also during April each year, the sale and purchase of 
greater amberjack in or from the South Atlantic EEZ is prohibited on 
board a vessel for which a Federal commercial permit for South Atlantic 
snapper-grouper has been issued.
    During the development of Regulatory Amendment 27, the Council 
determined that recent commercial harvests of yellowtail snapper have 
influenced the commercial harvest of greater amberjack. In 2017 and 
2018, the commercial sector for yellowtail snapper closed 2 months 
prior to the end of that species' fishing year. The early closures of 
commercial yellowtail snapper resulted in commercial fishermen in 
Florida targeting greater amberjack more heavily, leading to earlier 
commercial closures of greater amberjack and price fluctuations that 
affect resource users throughout the South Atlantic. The Council 
expects that dividing the commercial quota for South Atlantic greater 
amberjack between two seasons and reducing the commercial trip limit 
for the latter half of the fishing year would lengthen the greater 
amberjack commercial season and allow for a more equitable distribution 
and price stability of the greater amberjack resource throughout the 
South Atlantic.
    Regulatory Amendment 27 and this proposed rule would specify two 
commercial fishing seasons for greater amberjack. The two seasons would 
be March 1 through August 31 (Season 1) and September 1 through the end 
of February (Season 2). The commercial quotas would be allocated as 60 
percent to Season 1, 461,633 lb (209,393 kg), and 40 percent to Season 
2, 307,755 lb (139,595 kg). Any remaining commercial quota from Season 
1 would be added to the commercial quota in Season 2. Any remaining 
quota from Season 2 would not be carried forward into the next fishing 
year.
    Additionally, Regulatory Amendment 27 and this proposed rule would 
modify the commercial trip limit for greater amberjack. During Season 
1, the commercial trip limit would be 1,200 lb (544 kg) in round or 
gutted weight, and during Season 2, the commercial trip limit would be 
1,000 lb (454 kg) in round or gutted weight. However, during April each 
year, the commercial sale and purchase of greater amberjack would 
continue to be prohibited, and the harvest and possession limit would 
continue to be one fish per person per day or one fish per person per 
trip, whichever is more restrictive.

Commercial Split Season and Trip Limit for Red Porgy

    Currently, the fishing year for red porgy is January 1 through 
December 31, and the commercial ACL (equivalent to the commercial 
quota) is 157,692 lb (71,528 kg), gutted weight, or 164,000 lb (74,389 
kg), round weight. During January through April each year, the 
commercial sale and purchase of red porgy is prohibited on board a 
vessel for which a Federal commercial permit for South Atlantic 
snapper-grouper has been issued, and the commercial harvest and 
possession limit for red porgy (equivalent to a commercial trip limit) 
is three fish per person per day or three fish per person per trip, 
whichever is more restrictive. The commercial trip limit for red porgy 
is 120 fish from May 1 through December 31.
    In the South Atlantic, red porgy spawn from January through May and 
spawning activity peaks from January through March. The current January 
through April prohibition on sale and purchase of red porgy and 
restrictive harvest and possession limit encompasses the majority of 
the spawning season, and provides direct benefits to the stock by 
reducing fishing pressure on the spawning stock. However, during 
January through April commercial fishermen target two co-occurring 
species, vermilion snapper and gray triggerfish, while reporting 
discards of red porgy. Therefore, these discards of red porgy reduce 
the benefits of a spawning season closure for the stock when commercial 
fishermen target other co-occurring species. The Council determined 
that a commercial trip limit of 60 fish and a lower portion of the 
commercial quota during January through April would continue to 
constrain harvest to protect spawning fish, while allowing commercial 
fishermen to retain a sufficient amount of red porgy when targeting co-
occurring species, thereby reducing discards of red porgy.
    Regulatory Amendment 27 and this proposed rule would establish two 
commercial fishing seasons for red porgy. The first season would be

[[Page 55534]]

January 1 through April 30 (Season 1), and the second season would be 
May 1 through December 31 (Season 2). The current fishing year would 
not change. The commercial quotas would be allocated as 30 percent to 
Season 1, 47,308 lb (21,459 kg) gutted weight, 49,200 lb (22,317 kg), 
round weight; and 70 percent to Season 2, 110,384 lb (50,069 kg) gutted 
weight, 114,800 lb (52,072 kg), round weight. Any remaining commercial 
quota from Season 1 would be added to the commercial quota in Season 2. 
Any remaining quota from Season 2 would not be carried forward into the 
next fishing year. The proposed rule would remove the current 
commercial sale and purchase prohibition and the possession limit of 
three fish per person per day or three fish per person per trip, 
whichever is more restrictive, during January 1 through April 30.
    Additionally, Regulatory Amendment 27 and this proposed rule would 
modify the commercial trip limits for red porgy during the Season 1 to 
be 60 fish. During Season 2, the commercial trip limit for red porgy 
would continue to be 120 fish.

Commercial Trip Limit for Vermilion Snapper

    Currently, the commercial fishing year for vermilion snapper is 
from January 1 through December 31. The commercial ACL (equivalent to 
the commercial quota) is divided equally between two commercial fishing 
seasons as January 1 through June 30 (Season 1) and July 1 through 
December 31 (Season 2). Any remaining commercial quota from Season 1 is 
added to the commercial quota for Season 2. Any remaining commercial 
quota from Season 2 is not carried forward into the next fishing year. 
During both Season 1 and Season 2, the commercial trip limit for 
vermilion snapper is 1,000 lb (454 kg). Additionally, if NMFS estimates 
that 75 percent of the vermilion snapper commercial quota during either 
season is met or is projected to be met, NMFS will publish a notice in 
the Federal Register to reduce the commercial trip limit to 500 lb (227 
kg).
    Fishermen requested that the Council consider reducing the 
commercial trip limit in Season 2, as many more snapper-grouper species 
are available for harvest during that time and a reduced commercial 
trip limit would be expected to extend the fishing season for vermilion 
snapper. In addition, Abbreviated Framework Amendment 2 to the Snapper-
Grouper FMP was recently implemented (84 FR 14021, April 9, 2019) that 
increased the total ACL for vermilion snapper based on the results of 
the latest stock assessment in 2018. Therefore, the Council determined 
that there is no longer a need to have a trip limit reduction for 
vermilion snapper. Also, as described in Regulatory Amendment 27, 
maintaining the current commercial trip limit would ensure economic 
profitability and efficient use of the vermilion snapper resource.
    Regulatory Amendment 27 and this proposed rule would remove the 
trip limit reduction for vermilion snapper from both seasons but retain 
the 1,000 lb (454 kg) commercial trip limit. Any remaining commercial 
quota from Season 1 would continue to be added to the commercial quota 
for Season 2, and any remaining commercial quota from Season 2 would 
not be carried forward into the next fishing year.

Minimum Size Limit for Almaco Jack

    There is currently no commercial minimum size limit for almaco 
jack. This proposed rule would establish a commercial minimum size 
limit of 20 inches (50.8 cm), fork length (FL), in the South Atlantic 
EEZ. Fishermen with Federal commercial permits for South Atlantic 
snapper-grouper reported their concerns to the Council about the small 
size, and resulting poor commercial value, of some of the almaco jack 
being landed. The minimum size limit for the commercial sector of 20 
inches (50.8 cm), FL, would allow more individual almaco jack to reach 
reproductive activity before being susceptible to harvest, and is 
projected to increase the average size and the corresponding average 
weight of fish harvested.

Commercial Trip Limit for the Other Jacks Complex

    Currently, there is not a commercial trip limit for species in the 
other jacks complex, which includes lesser amberjack, almaco jack, and 
banded rudderfish. Regulatory Amendment 27 and this proposed rule would 
establish a commercial trip limit for the other jacks complex of 500 lb 
(227 kg). In 2014, stakeholders told the Council that almaco jack, 
which typically dominate commercial landings of species in the other 
jacks complex, are an incidental catch on trips targeting vermilion 
snapper. The Council determined that commercial fishermen would benefit 
from being able to profit from those incidental catches of almaco jack 
if they were to achieve a higher price per fish, since the market value 
of almaco jack (and the other species in the other jacks complex) is 
increasing. Because the commercial sector for the other jacks complex 
has historically closed before the end of the fishing year, fishermen 
told the Council that a 500-lb (227-kg) commercial trip limit for the 
other jacks complex would still allow them to make a profitable trip, 
and the proposed commercial trip limit would enable fishermen to have 
the added benefit of an extended commercial season for the other jacks 
complex. In addition, Council members noted that banded rudderfish are 
commercially important in the springtime, particularly in April when 
the commercial harvest of greater amberjack is closed. Although some 
commercial trips can land over 1,000 lb (454 kg) of banded rudderfish 
during certain times of the year, the Council determined it would be 
more equitable for commercial fishermen, and better for the long-term 
sustainability of the other jacks complex resource, to establish a 500-
lb (227-kg) commercial trip limit for this species complex.

Minimum Size Limit for Queen Snapper, Silk Snapper, and Blackfin 
Snapper

    Queen snapper, silk snapper, and blackfin snapper are part of the 
deep-water complex. Currently, the commercial minimum size limit for 
queen snapper, silk snapper, and blackfin snapper is 12 inches (30.5 
cm) total length (TL), but the remaining species in the deep-water 
complex do not have a specified minimum size limit requirement. The 12-
inch (30.5-cm) TL commercial minimum size limit was implemented for 
queen snapper, blackfin snapper, and silk snapper early in the 
management of the snapper-grouper fishery, before estimates of discard 
mortality were available, and before the creation of the various 
species complexes by the Council. All of the species in the deep-water 
complex (yellowedge grouper, silk snapper, misty grouper, queen 
snapper, sand tilefish, and blackfin snapper) are typically associated 
with a high discard mortality. The Council determined that removing the 
commercial minimum size limit for queen snapper, silk snapper, and 
blackfin snapper would reduce discards and discard mortality for these 
species. Therefore, Regulatory Amendment 27 and this proposed rule 
would remove the commercial minimum size limit for queen snapper, silk 
snapper, and blackfin snapper.

Minimum Size Limit for Gray Triggerfish

    The current commercial minimum size limit for gray triggerfish in 
the South Atlantic EEZ is 14 inches (35.6 cm) FL off the east coast of 
Florida and 12 inches (30.5 cm) FL off North Carolina, South Carolina, 
and Georgia. Regulatory Amendment 27 and this proposed rule would 
reduce the

[[Page 55535]]

commercial minimum size limit to 12 inches (30.5 cm) FL in the EEZ off 
the east coast of Florida. In 2015, the 12-inch (30.5-cm) FL commercial 
minimum size limit was implemented for gray triggerfish in the EEZ off 
North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, and a commercial minimum 
size limit of 14 inches (35.6 cm) FL was implemented in the EEZ off the 
east coast of Florida (80 FR 30947, June 1, 2015). This was a 
precautionary action taken by the Council in response to their concerns 
about the status of the South Atlantic gray triggerfish stock, to align 
Federal regulations off the east coast of Florida with those in the 
Gulf of Mexico, and achieve consistency between state and Federal 
regulations off the east coast of Florida. However, after the 
commercial minimum size limit went into effect on July 1, 2015, 
stakeholders in Florida expressed concern to the Florida Fish and 
Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) regarding increasing discards of 
gray triggerfish in south Florida where the average size of gray 
triggerfish is less than that off northeast Florida. In response to 
that concern, the FWC reduced the recreational minimum size limit of 
gray triggerfish in state waters to 12 inches (30.5 cm) FL in 2017, and 
requested that the Council develop consistent size limit regulations in 
Federal waters for gray triggerfish. Therefore, reducing the commercial 
minimum size limit to 12 inches (30.5 cm) FL would make these state and 
Federal regulations for gray triggerfish consistent off the east coast 
of Florida, off the other South Atlantic states, and in Federal waters 
throughout the Council's jurisdiction.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is 
consistent with Regulatory Amendment 27, the Snapper-Grouper FMP, other 
provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable laws, 
subject to further consideration after public comment.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866. This rule is expected to be an 
Executive Order 13771 deregulatory action.
    The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides the statutory basis for this 
proposed rule. No duplicative, overlapping, or conflicting Federal 
rules have been identified.
    NMFS prepared an initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA) for 
this proposed rule, as required by section 603 of the RFA, 5 U.S.C. 
603. The IRFA describes the economic impact this proposed rule, if 
adopted, would have on small entities. A description of this proposed 
rule, why it is being considered, and the purposes of this proposed 
rule are contained in the preamble and in the SUMMARY section of the 
preamble. A copy of the full analysis is available from NMFS (see 
ADDRESSES). A summary of the IRFA follows.
    The objective of this proposed rule is to improve management of the 
commercial sector of the snapper-grouper fishery to better achieve 
optimum yield, while minimizing, to the extent practicable, the adverse 
socio-economic effects of regulations on commercial fishing entities in 
the South Atlantic.
    This proposed rule, if implemented, would make the following 
changes to the regulations for the commercial snapper-grouper fishing 
industry in the South Atlantic region. This proposed rule would reduce 
the commercial trip limit for blueline tilefish from 300 lb (136 kg) to 
100 lb (45 kg) from January 1 through April 30. For snowy grouper, this 
proposed rule would establish two commercial fishing seasons of January 
1 through June 30 (Season 1) and July 1 through December 31 (Season 2), 
rather than a single season within the fishing year, allocate 70 
percent of the commercial quota to Season 1 and 30 percent to Season 2, 
and transfer any remaining commercial quota from Season 1 to Season 2 
only. For greater amberjack, this proposed rule would establish two 
commercial fishing seasons of March 1 through August 31 (Season 1) and 
September 1 through the end of February (Season 2), rather than a 
single season within the March through February fishing year; allocate 
60 percent of the commercial quota to Season 1 and 40 percent to Season 
2, and add any remaining commercial quota from Season 1 to Season 2 
only; and reduce the commercial trip limit from 1,200 lb (545 kg) in 
round or gutted weight to 1,000 lb (454 kg) in round or gutted weight 
for Season 2. For red porgy, this proposed rule would remove the sale 
and purchase prohibition, and the possession limit of three fish per 
person per day or three fish per person per trip during January 1 to 
April 30 each year; specify two commercial fishing seasons for red 
porgy of January 1 through April 30 (Season 1) and May 1 through 
December 31 (Season 2) within the fishing year; allocate 30 percent of 
the commercial quota to Season 1 and 70 percent to Season 2; and 
establish a commercial trip limit of 60 fish in Season 1. This proposed 
rule would also remove the in-season reduction of the commercial trip 
limit in Season 1 and Season 2 for vermilion snapper, establish a 
commercial minimum size limit of 20 inches (50.8 cm) FL for almaco 
jack, establish a commercial trip limit of 500 lb (227 kg) for the 
other jacks complex, remove the 12-inch (30.5-cm) TL commercial minimum 
size limit for queen snapper, silk snapper, and blackfin snapper, and 
reduce the commercial minimum size limit for gray triggerfish from 14 
inches (35.6 cm) to 12 inches (30.5 cm) FL in the EEZ off the east 
coast of Florida. Therefore, this proposed rule is expected to directly 
regulate businesses that are active in the commercial snapper-grouper 
fishing industry.
    As of August 17, 2018, the number of vessels with a valid or 
renewable Federal commercial permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper 
was 644, composed of 536 transferable, unlimited snapper-grouper 
permits and 108 non-transferable, 225-lb (102 kg) trip-limited permits. 
With the exception of species-specific trip limits, there is no 
aggregate snapper-grouper harvest limit per trip for vessels with 
unlimited snapper-grouper permits, while vessels with trip-limited 
permits cannot harvest more than 225 lb (102 kg) of all snapper-grouper 
species per trip. On average, only 584 vessels used their commercial 
permits for harvesting purposes from 2012 through 2016. Some permit 
holders retain their permits for speculative or other non-harvesting 
purposes. The majority of vessels harvest multiple snapper-grouper 
species. The proposed rule will only directly regulate permit holders 
that actually use their permits for harvesting purposes. Therefore, it 
is expected that approximately 584 vessels will be directly regulated 
by this proposed rule.
    Although NMFS started to collect ownership data for businesses that 
possess commercial snapper-grouper permits in 2017, this data is 
currently incomplete and historical data is not available. Therefore, 
it is not currently feasible to accurately determine affiliations 
between these particular businesses. As a result of the incomplete 
ownership data, for purposes of this analysis, it is assumed each of 
these vessels is independently owned by a single business, which is 
expected to result in an overestimate of the actual number of 
businesses directly regulated by this proposed rule. Therefore, this 
proposed rule is estimated to directly regulate 584 businesses in the 
commercial snapper-grouper fishing industry.
    All monetary estimates in the following analysis are in 2016 
dollars. For vessels that were active in the

[[Page 55536]]

snapper-grouper fishing industry from 2012 through 2016, average annual 
gross revenue was approximately $44,000 per vessel. Average annual net 
cash flow per vessel was approximately $8,300 while net revenue from 
operations was approximately $2,000 per vessel. Net revenue from 
operations is the best available estimate of economic profit.
    The Small Business Administration has established size standards 
for all major industry sectors in the U.S. including commercial fishing 
businesses. On December 29, 2015, NMFS issued a final rule establishing 
a small business size standard of $11 million in annual gross receipts 
(revenue) for all businesses primarily engaged in the commercial 
fishing industry (NAICS code 11411) for RFA compliance purposes only 
(80 FR 81194, December 29, 2015). In addition to this gross revenue 
standard, a business primarily involved in commercial fishing is 
classified as a small business if it is independently owned and 
operated, and is not dominant in it field of operations (including its 
affiliates). The maximum average annual gross revenue from 2012 through 
2016 for a single vessel in the commercial snapper-grouper fishing 
industry was about $1.6 million. Based on the information above, all 
businesses directly regulated by this proposed rule are determined to 
be small businesses for the purpose of this analysis.
    This proposed rule, if implemented, would be expected to directly 
regulate the 584 active vessels with commercial permits in the South 
Atlantic snapper-grouper fishery of the 644 vessels that currently 
possess those permits. All directly regulated businesses have been 
determined, for the purpose of this analysis, to be small entities. 
Based on this information, the proposed rule is expected to affect a 
substantial number of small businesses.
    The action to reduce the commercial trip limit for blueline 
tilefish from 300 lb (136 kg) to 100 lb (45 kg) from January 1 through 
April 30 is expected to directly regulate approximately 134 vessels. 
These vessels' average annual gross revenues were $82,411 per vessel 
from 2012 through 2016. Average annual net revenue from operations for 
these vessels was approximately 4 percent of their average annual gross 
revenue from 2014 through 2016. Thus, annual net revenue from 
operations (economic profit) for these vessels is estimated to be about 
$3,300 per vessel. Average annual gross revenue per vessel is expected 
to increase by about $13 per year, which would result in an increase in 
economic profit of about 0.4 percent for these vessels.
    For snowy grouper, the action to establish two commercial fishing 
seasons of January 1 through June 30 (Season 1) and July 1 through 
December 31 (Season 2) rather than a single season within the fishing 
year, allocate 70 percent of the commercial quota to Season 1 and 30 
percent to Season 2, and to add any remaining commercial quota from 
Season 1 to Season 2 only, is expected to directly regulate 
approximately 149 vessels. These vessels' average annual gross revenues 
were $85,475 per vessel from 2012 through 2016. Average annual net 
revenue from operations for these vessels was approximately 4 percent 
of their average annual gross revenue from 2014 through 2016. 
Therefore, annual net revenue from operations for these vessels is 
estimated to be about $3,400 per vessel. This action is not expected to 
affect landings, annual gross revenue, or harvesting costs, and thus 
economic profit for these vessels is not expected to change.
    For greater amberjack, the action to establish two commercial 
fishing seasons of March 1 through August 31 (Season 1) and September 1 
through the end of February (Season 2) within the fishing year, 
allocate 60 percent of the commercial quota to Season 1 and 40 percent 
to Season 2, add any remaining commercial quota from Season 1 to Season 
2 only, and reduce the commercial trip limit from 1,200 lb (545 kg) in 
round or gutted weight to 1,000 lb (454 kg) in round or gutted weight 
for Season 2 is expected to directly regulate approximately 263 
vessels. These vessels' average annual gross revenues were $62,578 per 
vessel from 2012 through 2016. Average annual net revenue from 
operations for these vessels was approximately 4 percent of their 
average annual gross revenue from 2014 through 2016. Thus, average 
annual net revenue from operations for these vessels is estimated to be 
about $2,500 per vessel. This action is expected to reduce average 
annual gross revenues to these vessels by about $34, which represents 
less than 0.1 percent of their average annual gross revenues, and about 
11.4 percent of their average annual economic profit. Although a 
quantitative estimate cannot be provided due to lack of data, this 
action is also expected to cause a minor increase in these vessels' 
operating costs. In general, trip limits are expected to increase costs 
because commercial fishing vessels must take more trips to harvest and 
land the same amount of fish. The more restrictive the trip limit, the 
greater the expected increase in costs. The proposed reduction in the 
commercial trip limit for Season 2 is 200 lb (91 kg) in round or gutted 
weight per trip, or about 17 percent of the current trip limit. A 17 
percent reduction is not a large reduction in general and the reduction 
only applies in Season 2. Thus, this action would be expected to 
slightly reduce these vessels' economic profits.
    For red porgy, the actions to remove the sale and purchase 
prohibition and the possession limit of three fish per person per day 
or three fish per person per trip during January 1 to April 30 each 
year, establishing two commercial fishing seasons of January 1 through 
April 30 (Season 1) and May 1 through December 31 (Season 2) within the 
fishing year, allocate 30 percent of the commercial quota to Season 1 
and 70 percent to Season 2, and establish a commercial trip limit of 60 
fish in Season 1 is expected to directly regulate approximately 160 
vessels. These vessels' average annual gross revenues were $73,366 per 
vessel from 2012 through 2016. Average annual net revenue from 
operations for commercial vessels in the snapper-grouper fishery was 
approximately 4.5 percent of their average annual gross revenue from 
2014 through 2016. Thus, annual net revenue from operations for these 
vessels is estimated to be about $3,300 per vessel. The expected 
increase in annual gross revenue from this action is about $335 per 
vessel, representing an increase of about 0.5 percent of average annual 
gross revenues but a 9 percent increase in economic profit. The 
decision to harvest red porgy during the months when sales and purchase 
are currently prohibited could lead to additional harvesting costs, but 
these would be self-imposed and, assuming standard business practices 
by owners of commercial vessels, the additional gross revenues will 
exceed the additional costs (i.e., economic profit is expected to 
increase). Moreover, the red porgy landings that would be expected 
during January through April are likely fish that were previously 
discarded due to the current prohibition. If these landings are fish 
that were previously discarded, then no additional costs would be 
incurred and the additional gross revenue would represent additional 
economic profit to these vessels as well.
    The action to remove the in-season commercial trip limit reduction 
for vermilion snapper in both seasons is expected to directly regulate 
approximately 206 vessels. These vessels' average annual gross revenues 
were $66,330 per vessel from 2011 through 2016. Average annual net 
revenue from operations for these vessels was approximately negative 1

[[Page 55537]]

percent of their average annual gross revenue from 2014 through 2016 
(i.e., these vessels have been generating economic losses). Thus, 
annual net revenue from operations for these vessels is estimated to be 
about negative $6,600 per vessel. This action is expected to result in 
a reduction of $42 in average annual gross revenue per vessel, which is 
a minimal change relative to annual average gross revenues, but would 
increase economic losses by about 0.6 percent. However, the action is 
also expected to change the cost of harvesting vermilion snapper. In 
general, trip limits are expected to increase costs because commercial 
fishing vessels must take more trips to harvest and land the same 
amount of fish. The more restrictive the trip limit, the greater the 
expected increase in costs. Under the current regulations, the 
commercial trip limit for both seasons is reduced by 50 percent, from 
1,000 lb (454 kg) gutted weight to 500 lb (227 kg) gutted weight, when 
75 percent of the commercial quota in either season is harvested, which 
is significant. Further, changes in trip limits within a fishing year 
and particularly within a season can introduce inefficiencies in the 
production process as commercial fishing vessels must adjust their 
operations to account for such changes. While these inefficiencies are 
likely not as great when the trip limit changes are known well in 
advance, they become particularly acute when the owners of commercial 
fishing vessels do not know if or when the trip limit change is going 
to occur, which is the case under the current regulations. Further, 
because at least some owners of commercial fishing vessels would prefer 
to fish when the trip limit is greater, trip limit reductions can 
result in mini-fishing derbies (race-to-fish) within a season. 
Splitting the commercial quota between seasons only partially mitigates 
this effect. Although models are not available to quantitatively 
estimate the expected changes in costs, the elimination of the trip 
limit reduction is expected to significantly reduce these vessels' 
harvesting costs, likely more than offsetting the relatively minor 
reduction in gross revenue. Therefore, this action is expected to 
increase economic profit for these vessels.
    The action to establish a commercial minimum size limit of 20 
inches (50.8 cm) FL for almaco jack is expected to directly regulate 
approximately 165 vessels. These vessels' average annual gross revenues 
were $77,267 per vessel from 2012 through 2016. Average annual net 
revenue from operations for these vessels was approximately 4 percent 
of their average annual gross revenue from 2014 through 2016. Thus, 
average annual net revenue from operations for these vessels is 
estimated to be about $3,100 per vessel. Average annual gross revenue 
per vessel is expected to decrease by about $4 per vessel under the 
action, which is minimal (i.e., about 0.1 percent of economic profit), 
and thus unlikely to affect these vessels' fishing behavior. However, 
establishing a minimum size limit will also lead to discarded fish. 
Thus, commercial fishing vessels would have to exert more effort per 
trip or take more trips to land the same amount of almaco jack, which 
would lead to higher costs. The more restrictive the minimum size 
limit, the greater the amount of discarded fish and thus the greater 
the expected increase in costs. The increase in costs per vessel could 
be considerably higher than the minimal increase in average annual 
gross revenue per vessel, depending on the amount of almaco jack that 
vessels are forced to discard and how much additional effort they exert 
to maintain their landings and revenue. However, the increase in cost 
may be partially offset through a higher price received for larger 
sized fish, but the extent to which this effect will occur is unknown 
due to lack of data on the variability of prices across almaco jack of 
different sizes. Based on this information, this action may reduce the 
economic profits of these 165 vessels.
    The action to establish a commercial trip limit of 500 lb (227 kg) 
for the other jacks complex is expected to directly regulate 
approximately 210 vessels. These vessels' average annual gross revenues 
were $69,363 per vessel from 2012 through 2016. Average annual net 
revenue from operations for these vessels was approximately 4 percent 
of their average annual gross revenue from 2014 through 2016. 
Therefore, annual net revenue from operations for these vessels is 
estimated to be about $2,800 per vessel. Given the proposed commercial 
minimum size limit for almaco jack discussed in the previous action, 
establishing a commercial trip limit for the other jacks complex is 
expected to result in a reduction of $28 in average annual gross 
revenue per vessel, or about 1 percent of the average annual economic 
profit. However, establishing a minimum size limit is also expected to 
increase costs, which would decrease economic profit even further. The 
magnitude of the increase in costs depends on how much additional 
effort commercial vessels must exert to maintain their landings and 
revenues. Therefore, economic profit for these vessels is expected to 
be reduced.
    The action to remove the 12-inch (30.5-cm) TL commercial minimum 
size limit for queen snapper, silk snapper, and blackfin snapper is 
expected to directly regulate approximately 94 vessels. These vessels' 
average annual gross revenues were $93,154 per vessel from 2012 through 
2016. Average annual net revenue from operations for these vessels was 
approximately 4 percent of their average annual gross revenue from 2014 
through 2016. Thus, annual net revenue from operations for these 
vessels is estimated to be about $3,700 per vessel. This action is 
expected to result in a minimal increase in landings of queen snapper, 
silk snapper, and blackfin snapper. However, commercial fishing vessels 
have only harvested about 43 percent of the commercial ACL for the 
deep-water complex since blueline tilefish was removed from that 
complex. Therefore, landings of queen snapper, silk snapper, and 
blackfin snapper could increase significantly without any concern of 
exceeding the commercial ACL for the deep-water complex. Further, with 
the elimination of the minimum size limit, vessels would be able to 
increase their landings per unit of effort for these species, thereby 
decreasing the cost per pound of fish landed. Therefore, this action 
would be expected to increase the economic profit of these vessels to 
some extent.
    The action to reduce the commercial minimum size limit for gray 
triggerfish in the EEZ off the east coast of Florida from 14 inches 
(35.6 cm) to 12 inches (30.5 cm) FL is expected to directly regulate 
approximately 213 vessels. These vessels' average annual gross revenues 
were $65,661 per vessel from 2012 through 2016. Average annual net 
revenue from operations for these vessels was approximately 2 percent 
of their average annual gross revenue from 2014 through 2016. Thus, 
annual net revenue from operations for these vessels is estimated to be 
about $1,300 per vessel. This action is expected to result in an 
increase in annual gross revenue per vessel of approximately $10, which 
would represent an increase the average vessel's economic profit of 
about 0.8 percent per year. Reducing the minimum size limit for gray 
triggerfish will also allow commercial fishing vessels to harvest these 
species with less effort. As such, this action would also be expected 
to decrease the cost per pound of harvest, though by how much is 
unknown due to the lack of appropriate models. Thus, this action is 
expected to result in a modest increase in these vessels' economic 
profit.

[[Page 55538]]

    Based on the information above, average annual gross revenues for 
the 584 active commercial snapper-grouper vessels is expected to 
increase by about $33,400, or approximately $57 per vessel, as a result 
of all the actions in this proposed rule. This increase represents only 
about 0.1 percent of these vessels' average annual gross revenues, but 
about 3 percent of their average annual economic profit. Harvesting 
costs are expected to significantly decrease for vessels harvesting 
vermilion snapper and slightly decrease for vessels harvesting gray 
triggerfish, while they are expected to increase for vessels harvesting 
greater amberjack, almaco jack, and species in the other jacks complex. 
Because of these countervailing effects on harvesting costs, harvesting 
costs for many commercial snapper-grouper vessels will likely change 
little if at all. Thus, economic profit for the average commercial 
snapper-grouper vessel is expected to increase slightly or remain 
relatively the same, though some vessels could experience a reduction 
in economic profit.
    Five alternatives, including the status quo, were considered for 
the proposed action to reduce the commercial trip limit for blueline 
tilefish from 300 lb (136 kg) to 100 lb (45 kg) from January 1 through 
April 30. The status quo alternative and the other four alternatives 
were not selected because they are not expected to achieve the 
Council's goal of enabling more equitable access to the resource for 
fishermen from different areas of the South Atlantic. The status quo 
alternative is also not expected to increase economic profits for the 
affected small entities.
    Two alternatives, including the status quo, were considered for the 
proposed action to establish, for snowy grouper, two commercial fishing 
seasons of January 1 through June 30 (Season 1) and July 1 through 
December 31 (Season 2) within the calendar fishing year, allocate 70 
percent of the commercial ACL to Season 1 and 30 percent to Season 2, 
and transfer any remaining quota from Season 1 to Season 2. The status 
quo alternative and the other alternative were not selected because 
they are not expected to achieve the Council's goal of enabling more 
equitable access to the resource for fishermen from different areas of 
the South Atlantic.
    Nine alternatives, including the status quo, were considered for 
the proposed action to establish, for greater amberjack, two commercial 
fishing seasons of March 1 through August 31 (Season 1) and September 1 
through February 31 (Season 2) within the March through February 
fishing year, allocate 60 percent of the commercial ACL to Season 1 and 
40 percent to Season 2, transfer any remaining quota from Season 1 to 
Season 2, and reduce the commercial trip limit from 1,200 lb (545 kg) 
in round or gutted weight to 1,000 lb (454 kg) in round or gutted 
weight for Season 2. The status quo alternative was not selected 
because it is not expected to achieve the Council's goal of enabling 
more equitable access to the resource for fishermen from different 
areas of the South Atlantic. Six of the other alternatives are expected 
to decrease economic profits for the affected small entities more than 
the proposed action and thus were not selected. The other two 
alternatives are expected to reduce economic profits less than the 
proposed action, but were not selected because they are not expected to 
achieve the Council's goal of enabling more equitable access to the 
resource for fishermen from different areas of the South Atlantic.
    For red porgy, seven alternatives, including the status quo, were 
considered for the proposed action to remove the sale and purchase 
prohibition and the possession limit of three per person per day or 
three per person per trip during January 1 to April 30 each year, 
specify two commercial fishing seasons of January 1 through April 30 
(Season 1) and May 1 through December 31 (Season 2) within the fishing 
year, allocate 30 percent of the commercial ACL to Season 1 and 70 
percent to Season 2, and establish a commercial trip limit of 60 fish 
in Season 1. The status quo was not selected because it is not expected 
to achieve the Council's goal of enabling more equitable access to the 
resource for fishermen from different areas of the South Atlantic and 
is not expected to increase economic profits for the affected small 
entities.
    Five alternatives, including the status quo, were considered for 
the proposed action to remove the trip limit reduction in both seasons 
for vermilion snapper. None of these alternatives were selected because 
they are expected to result in lower economic profits for the affected 
small entities, while three of these alternatives are also expected to 
result in significantly higher regulatory costs to the government.
    Four alternatives, including the status quo, were considered for 
the proposed action to establish a commercial minimum size limit of 20 
inches (50.8 cm) FL for almaco jack. The status quo was not selected 
because almaco jack less than 20 inches (50.8 cm) FL are not considered 
to be of a marketable size (i.e., they are difficult if not impossible 
to sell at a price that would not lead to economic losses) and 
therefore would likely be discarded. Thus, the status quo alternative 
is not expected to achieve the Council's goals of improving the 
marketability of certain species and minimizing discards. The other 
three alternatives are expected to result in even higher discards, 
which is contrary to the Council's goal of minimizing discards, and are 
also expected to reduce economic profits for the affected small 
entities more than the proposed action.
    Three alternatives, including the status quo, were considered for 
the proposed action to establish a commercial trip limit of 500 lb (227 
kg) for the other jacks complex. The status quo alternative was not 
selected as it is not expected to achieve the Council's goal of 
enabling more equitable access to the resource for fishermen from 
different areas of the South Atlantic. The other two alternatives are 
expected to reduce economic profits more than the proposed action and 
therefore were not selected.
    One alternative, the status quo, was considered for the proposed 
action to remove the 12-inch (30.5-cm) TL commercial minimum size limit 
for queen snapper, silk snapper, and blackfin snapper. The status quo 
alternative was not selected because it is expected to result in higher 
discards, which is contrary to the Council's goal of minimizing 
discards, and is also expected to result in lower economic profits for 
the affected small entities.
    One alternative, the status quo, was considered for the proposed 
action to reduce the commercial minimum size limit for gray triggerfish 
in the EEZ off the east coast of Florida from 14 inches (35.6 cm) to 12 
inches (30.5 cm) FL. The status quo alternative was not selected 
because it is expected to result in higher discards, which is contrary 
to the Council's goal of minimizing discards, and is also expected to 
result lower economic profits for the affected small entities.
    No new reporting, record-keeping, or other compliance requirements 
are introduced by this proposed rule. Accordingly, this proposed rule 
does not implicate the Paperwork Reduction Act.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622

    Fisheries, Fishing, Grouper, Snapper, South Atlantic.


[[Page 55539]]


    Dated: October 7, 2019.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

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

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

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

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


Sec.  622.184  [Amended]

0
2. In Sec.  622.184, remove paragraph (c).
0
3. In Sec.  622.185, revise paragraphs (a)(3) and (c)(2), and add 
paragraph (c)(6) to read as follows:


Sec.  622.185  Size limits.

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (3) Cubera, gray, and yellowtail snappers--12 inches (30.5 cm), TL.
* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (2) Gray triggerfish. (i) For a fish taken by a person not subject 
to the bag limit specified in Sec.  622.187(b)(8)--12 inches (30.5 cm), 
FL.
    (ii) For a fish taken by a person that is subject to the bag limit 
specified in Sec.  622.187(b)(8)--(A) In the South Atlantic EEZ off 
Florida--14 inches (35.6 cm), FL.
    (B) In the South Atlantic EEZ off North Carolina, South Carolina, 
and Georgia--12 inches (30.5 cm), FL.
* * * * *
    (6) Almaco jack. For a fish taken by a person not subject to the 
bag limit specified in Sec.  622.187(b)(8)--20 inches (50.8 cm), FL.
0
4. In Sec.  622.190, revise paragraphs (a)(1), (3), and (6) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  622.190  Quotas.

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (1) Snowy grouper--(i) For the period January 1 through June 30 
each year--107,754 lb (48,876 kg).
    (ii) For the period July 1 through December 31 each year--46,181 lb 
(20,947 kg).
    (iii) Any unused portion of the quota specified in paragraph 
(a)(1)(i) of this section will be added to the quota specified in 
paragraph (a)(1)(ii) of this section. Any unused portion of the quota 
specified in paragraph (a)(1)(ii) of this section, including any 
addition of quota specified in paragraph (a)(1)(i) of this section that 
was unused, will become void and will not be added to any subsequent 
quota.
* * * * *
    (3) Greater amberjack--(i) For the period March 1 through August 31 
each year--461,633 lb (209,393 kg).
    (ii) For the period September 1 through the end of February each 
year--307,755 lb (139,595 kg).
    (iii) Any unused portion of the quota specified in paragraph 
(a)(3)(i) of this section will be added to the quota specified in 
paragraph (a)(3)(ii) of this section. Any unused portion of the quota 
specified in paragraph (a)(3)(ii) of this section, including any 
addition of quota specified in paragraph (a)(3)(i) of this section that 
was unused, will become void and will not be added to any subsequent 
quota.
* * * * *
    (6) Red porgy--(i) For the period January 1 through April 30 each 
year--47,308 lb (21,458 kg), gutted weight; 49,200 lb (22,317 kg), 
round weight.
    (ii) For the period May 1 through December 31 each year--110,384 lb 
(50,069 kg), gutted weight; 114,800 lb (52,072 kg), round weight.
    (iii) Any unused portion of the quota specified in paragraph 
(a)(6)(i) of this section will be added to the quota specified in 
paragraph (a)(6)(ii) of this section. Any unused portion of the quota 
specified in paragraph (a)(6)(ii) of this section, including any 
addition of quota specified in paragraph (a)(6)(i) of this section that 
was unused, will become void and will not be added to any subsequent 
quota.
* * * * *
0
5. In Sec.  622.191, revise paragraphs (a)(4) through (6), (10), and 
add paragraph (a)(14) to read as follows:


Sec.  622.191  Commercial trip limits.

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (4) Red porgy. The following commercial trip limits apply until the 
applicable commercial quota specified in Sec.  622.190(a)(6) is 
reached. See Sec.  622.190(c)(1) for the limitations regarding red 
porgy after the applicable commercial quota is reached.
    (i) From January 1 through April 30--60 fish.
    (ii) From May 1 through December 31--120 fish.
    (5) Greater amberjack. The following commercial trip limits apply 
until the applicable commercial quota specified in Sec.  622.190(a)(3) 
is reached. See Sec.  622.190(c)(1) for the limitations regarding 
greater amberjack after the applicable commercial quota is reached.
    (i) From March 1 through August 31--1,200 lb (544 kg).
    (ii) From September 1 through the end of February--1,000 lb (454 
kg).
    (6) Vermilion snapper. Until the applicable commercial quota 
specified in Sec.  622.190(a)(4) is reached--1,000 lb (454 kg), gutted 
weight. See Sec.  622.190(c)(1) for the limitations regarding vermilion 
snapper after the applicable commercial quota is reached.
* * * * *
    (10) Blueline tilefish. The following commercial trip limits apply 
until the commercial ACL specified in Sec.  622.193(z)(1)(i) is 
reached. See Sec.  622.193(z)(1)(i) for the limitations regarding 
blueline tilefish after the commercial ACL is reached.
    (i) From January 1 through April 30--100 lb (45 kg), gutted weight; 
106 lb (48 kg), round weight.
    (ii) From May 1 through December 31--300 lb (136 kg), gutted 
weight; 318 lb (144 kg), round weight.
* * * * *
    (14) Other jacks complex (lesser amberjack, almaco jack, and banded 
rudderfish). Until the commercial ACL specified in Sec.  
622.193(l)(1)(i) is reached--500 lb (227 kg), gutted weight; 520 lb 
(236 kg), round weight. See Sec.  622.193(l)(1)(i) for the limitations 
regarding the other jacks complex after the commercial ACL is reached.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2019-22197 Filed 10-16-19; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P