Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region; Regulatory Amendment 26, 57378-57381 [2019-23267]

Download as PDF 57378 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 207 / Friday, October 25, 2019 / Proposed Rules minimize hardships for passengers (including the provision of food and water, the maintenance and servicing of lavatories, and medical assistance), and the resolution of the incident. (3) The written description referenced in paragraph (g)(1) of this section shall be accompanied by a signed certification statement that reads as follows: I, (Name) and (Title), of (Air Carrier Name), certify that the enclosed report is, to the best of my knowledge and belief, true and correct. Date: Signature: Name (Please Print or Type): (4) A U.S. air carrier that submits a report in accordance with paragraph (g) of this section is in compliance with the reporting mandate for U.S. air carriers in 49 U.S.C. 42301(h) with respect to the excessive tarmac delay reported. (h) Unfair and deceptive practice. A carrier’s failure to comply with the assurances required by this part and contained in its Contingency Plan for Lengthy Tarmac Delays will be considered to be an unfair and deceptive practice within the meaning of 49 U.S.C. 41712 that is subject to enforcement action by the Department. Issued this 15th day of October, 2019, in Washington, DC. Elaine L. Chao, Secretary of Transportation. [FR Doc. 2019–22973 Filed 10–24–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910–9X–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 622 [Docket No. 191018–0066] RIN 0648–BI33 Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; SnapperGrouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region; Regulatory Amendment 26 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS proposes to implement recreational sector management measures described in Vision Blueprint Recreational Regulatory Amendment 26 (Regulatory Amendment 26) to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:53 Oct 24, 2019 Jkt 250001 Atlantic Region (Snapper-Grouper FMP), as prepared and submitted by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council). For the recreational sector, this proposed rule would remove the minimum size limits for queen snapper, silk snapper, and blackfin snapper, reduce the minimum size limit for gray triggerfish in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off the east coast of Florida, and modify the 20-fish snapper-grouper aggregate bag limit. The purpose of this proposed rule is to minimize regulatory discards to the extent practicable, improve regulatory compliance among fishers, and increase consistency among regulations. DATES: Written comments on the proposed rule must be received by November 25, 2019. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the proposed rule, identified by ‘‘NOAA–NMFS–2019–0077,’’ by either of the following methods: • Electronic submission: Submit all electronic comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to http:// www.regulations.gov/docket?D=NOAANMFS-2019-0077, 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), 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 26 may be obtained from www.regulations.gov or the Southeast Regional Office website at https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/ regulatory-amendment-26-visionblueprint-recreational-measures. Regulatory Amendment 26 includes an environmental assessment, a regulatory impact review, and a Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) analysis. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mary Vara, NMFS Southeast Regional Office, telephone: 727–824–5305, or email: mary.vara@noaa.gov. PO 00000 Frm 00010 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 The snapper-grouper fishery in the South Atlantic region is managed under the Snapper-Grouper FMP and includes 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). SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background During a series of stakeholder meetings in 2014, the Council gathered input from recreational and commercial fishers 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 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 in order to lengthen fishing seasons and 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 26 includes modifications to recreational sector management measures in the snapper-grouper fishery based on stakeholder input. The purpose of the Council’s actions in Regulatory Amendment 26 is to reduce regulatory discards, improve regulatory compliance among fishers, and increase consistency among regulations. Separately, the Council has submitted to NMFS the Vision Blueprint Commercial Regulatory Amendment 27 to the Snapper-Grouper FMP, which would revise commercial management measures in the snapper-grouper fishery, and it is currently in the rulemaking process. E:\FR\FM\25OCP1.SGM 25OCP1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 207 / Friday, October 25, 2019 / Proposed Rules Management Measures Contained in This Proposed Rule For the recreational sector, this proposed rule would remove the minimum size limits for silk snapper, queen snapper, and blackfin snapper, reduce the minimum size limit for gray triggerfish in the EEZ off the east coast of Florida, and modify the snappergrouper aggregate bag limit for the 20fish aggregate. Minimum Size Limit for Queen Snapper, Silk Snapper, and Blackfin Snapper The deep-water complex includes yellowedge grouper, silk snapper, misty grouper, queen snapper, sand tilefish, and blackfin snapper. This proposed rule would remove the 12 inches (30.5 cm) total length (TL) recreational minimum size limit for queen snapper, silk snapper, and blackfin snapper. The remaining species in the deep-water complex do not have a minimum size limit requirement. The current 12 inches (30.5 cm) TL minimum size limit for queen snapper, silk snapper, and blackfin snapper was implemented early in the management of the snappergrouper fishery through Amendment 4 to the Snapper-Grouper FMP (56 FR 56016; October 31, 1991), before estimates of discard mortality were available, and prior to the creation of the various snapper-grouper species complexes by the Council. All of the species in the deep-water complex have high discard mortality as a result of the effects of barotrauma from being harvested from deep water. NMFS expects that removing the recreational minimum size limits would reduce discards and, therefore, discard mortality. Minimum Size Limit for Gray Triggerfish The current recreational minimum size limit for gray triggerfish in the South Atlantic EEZ off the east coast of Florida is 14 inches (35.6 cm) fork length (FL) and 12 inches (30.5 cm) FL, off North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. This proposed rule would reduce the recreational minimum size limit for gray triggerfish 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 minimum size limit was implemented for gray triggerfish in the EEZ off North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, and a 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 VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:53 Oct 24, 2019 Jkt 250001 Federal regulations off the east coast of Florida with those in the Gulf of Mexico, and to achieve consistency between state and Federal regulations off the east coast of Florida. However, after the 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 an increasing number of gray triggerfish discards in south Florida where the average size of gray triggerfish is smaller than off northeast Florida. In response to that concern, the FWC reduced the recreational minimum size limit of gray triggerfish in Florida state waters from 14 inches (35.6 cm), FL to 12 inches (30.5 cm) FL in 2017, and requested that the Council develop consistent size limit regulations in Federal waters. Reducing the recreational minimum size limit to 12 inches (30.5 cm) FL would make the state and Federal regulations for gray triggerfish consistent off the east coast of Florida, and for all Federal waters throughout the Council’s jurisdiction. NMFS expects this action to reduce regulatory discards, improve regulatory compliance among fishers, and increase consistency among regulations. 20-Fish Snapper-Grouper Aggregate Bag Limit This proposed rule would modify the 20-fish snapper-grouper aggregate bag limit by specifying that no more than 10 fish can be of any one species within the 20-fish aggregate. Currently, 14 snappergrouper species are included in the 20fish aggregate bag limit for the recreational sector. Recreational fishers in the South Atlantic EEZ may retain 20 total fish per person per day for the following species: Whitebone porgy, jolthead porgy, knobbed porgy, saucereye porgy, scup, gray triggerfish, bar jack, almaco jack, banded rudderfish, lesser amberjack, white grunt, margate, sailor’s choice, and Atlantic spadefish. These species do not have individual recreational bag limits. The Council determined that modifying the 20-fish aggregate bag limit in this way would allow recreational anglers to catch the same number of fish overall as within the current limit, while limiting the number of any one species within the 20-fish aggregate to 10 fish. Because of stakeholder concerns over the status of the South Atlantic gray triggerfish stock and large catches of Atlantic spadefish in recent years, the Council chose to be proactive and limit the harvest of these two species, as well as the remainder of the species in the 20fish aggregate. In addition, the state of Florida currently limits harvest of gray PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 57379 triggerfish to 10 fish per person per day in state waters off its east coast. Therefore, this action to revise the snapper-grouper 20-fish aggregate bag limit would also simplify the regulatory environment by creating consistent regulations for recreational fishing for and retention of gray triggerfish in state and Federal waters off the east coast of Florida. In both cases (the size limits for gray triggerfish, and the bag limits applicable to gray triggerfish), the changes in this proposed rule would align the state and Federal regulations for gray triggerfish off the east coast of Florida. Measures in Regulatory Amendment 26 Not in This Proposed Rule During development of Regulatory Amendment 26, the Council considered three related actions that would establish a deep-water species aggregate, specify the recreational season for the deep-water species aggregate, and specify the aggregate bag limit for the deep-water species aggregate. Upon consideration, the Council decided not to make changes based on these three actions because of the regional and seasonal differences in access to some of the deep-water species in the South Atlantic and the potential disproportionate negative effects on some recreational fishers. Classification Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is consistent with Regulatory Amendment 26, the Snapper-Grouper FMP, the MagnusonStevens Act, and other applicable law, 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 not an Executive Order 13771 regulatory action because this rule is not significant under E.O. 12866. The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration for purposes of the RFA that this proposed rule, if adopted, would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The factual basis for this determination is as follows. A description of the proposed rule and its purpose are contained at the beginning of the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section and in the SUMMARY section of the preamble. The MagnusonStevens Act provides the statutory basis for this rule. No duplicative, E:\FR\FM\25OCP1.SGM 25OCP1 57380 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 207 / Friday, October 25, 2019 / Proposed Rules overlapping, or conflicting Federal rules have been identified. In addition, 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. The proposed action would apply only to the recreational sector of the South Atlantic snapper-grouper fishery. This proposed action would remove the recreational minimum size limits for queen snapper, silk snapper, and blackfin snapper; reduce the recreational minimum size limit for gray triggerfish in the EEZ off the east coast of Florida; and modify the snappergrouper 20-fish aggregate bag limit. Recreational anglers fishing for snapper-grouper species would be directly affected by the proposed action, but anglers are not considered business entities under the RFA. For-hire vessels (charter vessels and headboats) would also be affected by this action, but only in an indirect way. For-hire businesses operate in the recreational sector, but these businesses only sell fishing services to recreational anglers. Even though expectations of successful fishing, however defined, likely factor into the decision by anglers to purchase these services, for-hire vessels provide a platform for the opportunity to fish and not a guarantee to catch or harvest any species. Because the effects on for-hire vessels would be indirect, they are outside the scope of the RFA. Therefore, the proposed actions in Regulatory Amendment 26 would not directly affect any small business entities in the snapper-grouper fishery. Primarily for informational purposes to the public in this proposed rule, the following description of small entities (i.e., for-hire vessels) indirectly affected by the proposed action is provided. Charter vessels and headboats (also called party boats) are the two types of vessels operating in the for-hire business industry. Although charter vessels tend to be smaller, on average, than headboats, the key distinction between the two types of operations is how the fee is typically determined. On a charter vessels trip, the fee charged is for the entire vessel, regardless of how many passengers are carried, whereas the fee charged for a headboat trip is paid per individual angler. A Federal charter vessel/headboat snapper-grouper permit (South Atlantic for-hire permit) is required for harvesting snapper-grouper species when fishing on for-hire vessels. The South Atlantic for-hire permit is an open access permit. As of June 2, 2019, there were 1,743 valid (non-expired) or renewable South Atlantic for-hire VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:53 Oct 24, 2019 Jkt 250001 permits. A renewable permit is an expired permit that may not be actively fished, but is renewable for up to 1 year after expiration. Some vessel owners may have obtained open access permits as insurance for uncertainties in the fisheries in which they currently operate. From 2012 through 2016, the lowest number of for-hire vessel permits occurred in 2014 and the highest occurred in 2016. The majority of snapper-grouper for-hire permitted vessels were home-ported in Florida, and approximately 10 percent of the total number of for-hire snapper-grouper vessels are home-ported in states outside of the Council’s area of jurisdiction. Although the for-hire permit application collects information on the primary method of operation, the resultant permit itself does not identify the permitted vessel as either a charter vessel or a headboat. This is because operation as either a charter vessel or headboat is not restricted by the permitting regulations, and vessels may operate in both capacities under the permit. However, according to the NMFS Southeast Region Headboat Survey, there were 63 headboats operating in the South Atlantic. Economic value for for-hire vessels can be measured by producer surplus (PS) per passenger trip (the amount of money that a vessel owner earns in excess of the cost of providing the trip). Estimates of the PS per for-hire passenger trip are not available. Instead, net operating revenue (NOR), which is the return used to pay all labor wages, returns to capital and owner profits, is used as a proxy for PS. For the South Atlantic region, estimated NOR values are $165 per charter angler trip and $45 per headboat angler trip. To calculate the economic effects on for-hire vessels, these NOR values would have to be multiplied by the changes in for-hire angler trips. Due to the absence of data regarding the complex nature of angler behavior, it is not possible to estimate the potential changes in angler trips. However, it is likely that for-hire trips would not be substantially reduced because of the presence of alternative species that anglers can target and catch. It is, therefore, likely that the NOR effects on for-hire vessels would be relatively small. Regulatory Amendment 26 also considered three related actions that would have established a deep-water species aggregate, specified the recreational season for the deep-water species aggregate, and specified the aggregate bag limit for the deep-water species aggregate. Because the Council chose the no action alternative for each of these actions, they would have no PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 economic effects on directly or indirectly affected small entities. The information provided above supports a determination that this proposed rule would not directly affect any small entities in the snapper grouper fishery, and that it would not likely have a significant economic impact on even indirectly affected entities. Therefore, this proposed rule would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. Because this proposed rule, if implemented, is not expected to have a significant economic impact on any small entities, an initial regulatory flexibility analysis is not required and none has been prepared. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622 Bag limits, Fisheries, Fishing, Grouper, Size limits, Snapper, South Atlantic. Dated: October 21, 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. 2. In § 622.185, revise paragraphs (a)(3) and (c)(2) 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—12 inches (30.5 cm), FL. * * * * * ■ 3. In § 622.187, revise paragraph (b)(8) to read as follows: § 622.187 Bag and possession limits. * * * * * (8) South Atlantic snapper-grouper (whitebone porgy, jolthead porgy, knobbed porgy, saucereye porgy, scup, almaco jack, banded rudderfish, lesser amberjack, white grunt, margate, sailor’s choice, Atlantic spadefish, gray triggerfish, bar jack), combined—20. However, excluded from this 20-fish bag limit are tomtate, South Atlantic snapper-grouper ecosystem component species (specified in Table 4 of E:\FR\FM\25OCP1.SGM 25OCP1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 207 / Friday, October 25, 2019 / Proposed Rules Appendix A to part 622), and those specified in paragraphs (b)(1) through (7) and paragraphs (b)(9) and (10) of this section. Within the 20-fish bag limit, no 57381 more than 10 fish can be of any one of these single snapper-grouper species. * * * * * [FR Doc. 2019–23267 Filed 10–24–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:53 Oct 24, 2019 Jkt 250001 PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 E:\FR\FM\25OCP1.SGM 25OCP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 207 (Friday, October 25, 2019)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 57378-57381]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-23267]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

[Docket No. 191018-0066]
RIN 0648-BI33


Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 
Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region; Regulatory 
Amendment 26

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 recreational sector management 
measures described in Vision Blueprint Recreational Regulatory 
Amendment 26 (Regulatory Amendment 26) to the Fishery Management Plan 
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). For the recreational sector, this 
proposed rule would remove the minimum size limits for queen snapper, 
silk snapper, and blackfin snapper, reduce the minimum size limit for 
gray triggerfish in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off the east 
coast of Florida, and modify the 20-fish snapper-grouper aggregate bag 
limit. The purpose of this proposed rule is to minimize regulatory 
discards to the extent practicable, improve regulatory compliance among 
fishers, and increase consistency among regulations.

DATES: Written comments on the proposed rule must be received by 
November 25, 2019.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the proposed rule, identified by 
``NOAA-NMFS-2019-0077,'' by either of the following methods:
     Electronic submission: Submit all electronic comments via 
the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to http://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=NOAA-NMFS-2019-0077, 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), 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 26 may be obtained from 
www.regulations.gov or the Southeast Regional Office website at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/regulatory-amendment-26-vision-blueprint-recreational-measures. Regulatory Amendment 26 includes an 
environmental assessment, a regulatory impact review, and a Regulatory 
Flexibility Act (RFA) analysis.

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 
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 recreational and commercial fishers 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 in order to lengthen fishing 
seasons and 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 26 includes modifications to recreational sector 
management measures in the snapper-grouper fishery based on stakeholder 
input. The purpose of the Council's actions in Regulatory Amendment 26 
is to reduce regulatory discards, improve regulatory compliance among 
fishers, and increase consistency among regulations. Separately, the 
Council has submitted to NMFS the Vision Blueprint Commercial 
Regulatory Amendment 27 to the Snapper-Grouper FMP, which would revise 
commercial management measures in the snapper-grouper fishery, and it 
is currently in the rulemaking process.

[[Page 57379]]

Management Measures Contained in This Proposed Rule

    For the recreational sector, this proposed rule would remove the 
minimum size limits for silk snapper, queen snapper, and blackfin 
snapper, reduce the minimum size limit for gray triggerfish in the EEZ 
off the east coast of Florida, and modify the snapper-grouper aggregate 
bag limit for the 20-fish aggregate.

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

    The deep-water complex includes yellowedge grouper, silk snapper, 
misty grouper, queen snapper, sand tilefish, and blackfin snapper. This 
proposed rule would remove the 12 inches (30.5 cm) total length (TL) 
recreational minimum size limit for queen snapper, silk snapper, and 
blackfin snapper. The remaining species in the deep-water complex do 
not have a minimum size limit requirement. The current 12 inches (30.5 
cm) TL minimum size limit for queen snapper, silk snapper, and blackfin 
snapper was implemented early in the management of the snapper-grouper 
fishery through Amendment 4 to the Snapper-Grouper FMP (56 FR 56016; 
October 31, 1991), before estimates of discard mortality were 
available, and prior to the creation of the various snapper-grouper 
species complexes by the Council. All of the species in the deep-water 
complex have high discard mortality as a result of the effects of 
barotrauma from being harvested from deep water. NMFS expects that 
removing the recreational minimum size limits would reduce discards 
and, therefore, discard mortality.

Minimum Size Limit for Gray Triggerfish

    The current recreational minimum size limit for gray triggerfish in 
the South Atlantic EEZ off the east coast of Florida is 14 inches (35.6 
cm) fork length (FL) and 12 inches (30.5 cm) FL, off North Carolina, 
South Carolina, and Georgia. This proposed rule would reduce the 
recreational minimum size limit for gray triggerfish 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 minimum size limit was implemented for gray triggerfish in 
the EEZ off North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, and a 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 to achieve consistency between state and Federal 
regulations off the east coast of Florida. However, after the 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 an increasing number of gray triggerfish 
discards in south Florida where the average size of gray triggerfish is 
smaller than off northeast Florida. In response to that concern, the 
FWC reduced the recreational minimum size limit of gray triggerfish in 
Florida state waters from 14 inches (35.6 cm), FL to 12 inches (30.5 
cm) FL in 2017, and requested that the Council develop consistent size 
limit regulations in Federal waters. Reducing the recreational minimum 
size limit to 12 inches (30.5 cm) FL would make the state and Federal 
regulations for gray triggerfish consistent off the east coast of 
Florida, and for all Federal waters throughout the Council's 
jurisdiction. NMFS expects this action to reduce regulatory discards, 
improve regulatory compliance among fishers, and increase consistency 
among regulations.

20-Fish Snapper-Grouper Aggregate Bag Limit

    This proposed rule would modify the 20-fish snapper-grouper 
aggregate bag limit by specifying that no more than 10 fish can be of 
any one species within the 20-fish aggregate. Currently, 14 snapper-
grouper species are included in the 20-fish aggregate bag limit for the 
recreational sector. Recreational fishers in the South Atlantic EEZ may 
retain 20 total fish per person per day for the following species: 
Whitebone porgy, jolthead porgy, knobbed porgy, saucereye porgy, scup, 
gray triggerfish, bar jack, almaco jack, banded rudderfish, lesser 
amberjack, white grunt, margate, sailor's choice, and Atlantic 
spadefish. These species do not have individual recreational bag 
limits. The Council determined that modifying the 20-fish aggregate bag 
limit in this way would allow recreational anglers to catch the same 
number of fish overall as within the current limit, while limiting the 
number of any one species within the 20-fish aggregate to 10 fish. 
Because of stakeholder concerns over the status of the South Atlantic 
gray triggerfish stock and large catches of Atlantic spadefish in 
recent years, the Council chose to be proactive and limit the harvest 
of these two species, as well as the remainder of the species in the 
20-fish aggregate. In addition, the state of Florida currently limits 
harvest of gray triggerfish to 10 fish per person per day in state 
waters off its east coast. Therefore, this action to revise the 
snapper-grouper 20-fish aggregate bag limit would also simplify the 
regulatory environment by creating consistent regulations for 
recreational fishing for and retention of gray triggerfish in state and 
Federal waters off the east coast of Florida. In both cases (the size 
limits for gray triggerfish, and the bag limits applicable to gray 
triggerfish), the changes in this proposed rule would align the state 
and Federal regulations for gray triggerfish off the east coast of 
Florida.

Measures in Regulatory Amendment 26 Not in This Proposed Rule

    During development of Regulatory Amendment 26, the Council 
considered three related actions that would establish a deep-water 
species aggregate, specify the recreational season for the deep-water 
species aggregate, and specify the aggregate bag limit for the deep-
water species aggregate. Upon consideration, the Council decided not to 
make changes based on these three actions because of the regional and 
seasonal differences in access to some of the deep-water species in the 
South Atlantic and the potential disproportionate negative effects on 
some recreational fishers.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is 
consistent with Regulatory Amendment 26, the Snapper-Grouper FMP, the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, 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 not an Executive Order 
13771 regulatory action because this rule is not significant under E.O. 
12866.
    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration for purposes of the RFA that this proposed rule, if 
adopted, would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial 
number of small entities. The factual basis for this determination is 
as follows.
    A description of the proposed rule and its purpose are contained at 
the beginning of the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section and in the 
SUMMARY section of the preamble. The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides the 
statutory basis for this rule. No duplicative,

[[Page 57380]]

overlapping, or conflicting Federal rules have been identified. In 
addition, 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.
    The proposed action would apply only to the recreational sector of 
the South Atlantic snapper-grouper fishery. This proposed action would 
remove the recreational minimum size limits for queen snapper, silk 
snapper, and blackfin snapper; reduce the recreational minimum size 
limit for gray triggerfish in the EEZ off the east coast of Florida; 
and modify the snapper-grouper 20-fish aggregate bag limit.
    Recreational anglers fishing for snapper-grouper species would be 
directly affected by the proposed action, but anglers are not 
considered business entities under the RFA. For-hire vessels (charter 
vessels and headboats) would also be affected by this action, but only 
in an indirect way. For-hire businesses operate in the recreational 
sector, but these businesses only sell fishing services to recreational 
anglers. Even though expectations of successful fishing, however 
defined, likely factor into the decision by anglers to purchase these 
services, for-hire vessels provide a platform for the opportunity to 
fish and not a guarantee to catch or harvest any species. Because the 
effects on for-hire vessels would be indirect, they are outside the 
scope of the RFA. Therefore, the proposed actions in Regulatory 
Amendment 26 would not directly affect any small business entities in 
the snapper-grouper fishery.
    Primarily for informational purposes to the public in this proposed 
rule, the following description of small entities (i.e., for-hire 
vessels) indirectly affected by the proposed action is provided. 
Charter vessels and headboats (also called party boats) are the two 
types of vessels operating in the for-hire business industry. Although 
charter vessels tend to be smaller, on average, than headboats, the key 
distinction between the two types of operations is how the fee is 
typically determined. On a charter vessels trip, the fee charged is for 
the entire vessel, regardless of how many passengers are carried, 
whereas the fee charged for a headboat trip is paid per individual 
angler.
    A Federal charter vessel/headboat snapper-grouper permit (South 
Atlantic for-hire permit) is required for harvesting snapper-grouper 
species when fishing on for-hire vessels. The South Atlantic for-hire 
permit is an open access permit. As of June 2, 2019, there were 1,743 
valid (non-expired) or renewable South Atlantic for-hire permits. A 
renewable permit is an expired permit that may not be actively fished, 
but is renewable for up to 1 year after expiration. Some vessel owners 
may have obtained open access permits as insurance for uncertainties in 
the fisheries in which they currently operate. From 2012 through 2016, 
the lowest number of for-hire vessel permits occurred in 2014 and the 
highest occurred in 2016. The majority of snapper-grouper for-hire 
permitted vessels were home-ported in Florida, and approximately 10 
percent of the total number of for-hire snapper-grouper vessels are 
home-ported in states outside of the Council's area of jurisdiction. 
Although the for-hire permit application collects information on the 
primary method of operation, the resultant permit itself does not 
identify the permitted vessel as either a charter vessel or a headboat. 
This is because operation as either a charter vessel or headboat is not 
restricted by the permitting regulations, and vessels may operate in 
both capacities under the permit. However, according to the NMFS 
Southeast Region Headboat Survey, there were 63 headboats operating in 
the South Atlantic.
    Economic value for for-hire vessels can be measured by producer 
surplus (PS) per passenger trip (the amount of money that a vessel 
owner earns in excess of the cost of providing the trip). Estimates of 
the PS per for-hire passenger trip are not available. Instead, net 
operating revenue (NOR), which is the return used to pay all labor 
wages, returns to capital and owner profits, is used as a proxy for PS. 
For the South Atlantic region, estimated NOR values are $165 per 
charter angler trip and $45 per headboat angler trip. To calculate the 
economic effects on for-hire vessels, these NOR values would have to be 
multiplied by the changes in for-hire angler trips. Due to the absence 
of data regarding the complex nature of angler behavior, it is not 
possible to estimate the potential changes in angler trips. However, it 
is likely that for-hire trips would not be substantially reduced 
because of the presence of alternative species that anglers can target 
and catch. It is, therefore, likely that the NOR effects on for-hire 
vessels would be relatively small.
    Regulatory Amendment 26 also considered three related actions that 
would have established a deep-water species aggregate, specified the 
recreational season for the deep-water species aggregate, and specified 
the aggregate bag limit for the deep-water species aggregate. Because 
the Council chose the no action alternative for each of these actions, 
they would have no economic effects on directly or indirectly affected 
small entities.
    The information provided above supports a determination that this 
proposed rule would not directly affect any small entities in the 
snapper grouper fishery, and that it would not likely have a 
significant economic impact on even indirectly affected entities. 
Therefore, this proposed rule would not have a significant economic 
impact on a substantial number of small entities. Because this proposed 
rule, if implemented, is not expected to have a significant economic 
impact on any small entities, an initial regulatory flexibility 
analysis is not required and none has been prepared.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622

    Bag limits, Fisheries, Fishing, Grouper, Size limits, Snapper, 
South Atlantic.

    Dated: October 21, 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.

0
2. In Sec.  622.185, revise paragraphs (a)(3) and (c)(2) 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--12 inches (30.5 cm), FL.
* * * * *
0
3. In Sec.  622.187, revise paragraph (b)(8) to read as follows:


Sec.  622.187   Bag and possession limits.

* * * * *
    (8) South Atlantic snapper-grouper (whitebone porgy, jolthead 
porgy, knobbed porgy, saucereye porgy, scup, almaco jack, banded 
rudderfish, lesser amberjack, white grunt, margate, sailor's choice, 
Atlantic spadefish, gray triggerfish, bar jack), combined--20. However, 
excluded from this 20-fish bag limit are tomtate, South Atlantic 
snapper-grouper ecosystem component species (specified in Table 4 of

[[Page 57381]]

Appendix A to part 622), and those specified in paragraphs (b)(1) 
through (7) and paragraphs (b)(9) and (10) of this section. Within the 
20-fish bag limit, no more than 10 fish can be of any one of these 
single snapper-grouper species.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2019-23267 Filed 10-24-19; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P