Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Proposed Rule To Modify North Atlantic Swordfish and Shark Retention Limits for Certain Permit Holders and Add Inseason Adjustment Authorization Criteria, 23315-23324 [2020-08426]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 81 / Monday, April 27, 2020 / Proposed Rules Concurrent with this proposed delisting rule, we announce the draft plan’s availability for public review at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket Number FWS–R4–ES–2019– 0080. Copies can also be obtained from the Service’s Tennessee Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). We seek information, data, and comments from the public regarding the draft PDM plan. Required Determinations Clarity of the Proposed Rule We are required by Executive Orders 12866 and 12988 and by the Presidential Memorandum of June 1, 1998, to write all rules in plain language. This means that each rule we publish must: (a) Be logically organized; (b) Use the active voice to address readers directly; (c) Use clear language rather than jargon; (d) Be divided into short sections and sentences; and (e) Use lists and tables wherever possible. If you feel that we have not met these requirements, send us comments by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. To better help us revise the rule, your comments should be as specific as possible. For example, you should tell us the numbers of the sections or paragraphs that are unclearly written, which sections or sentences are too long, the sections where you feel lists or tables would be useful, etc. National Environmental Policy Act We have determined that we do not need to prepare an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement, as defined in the National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C 4321 et seq.), in connection with regulations adopted pursuant to section 4(a) of the Endangered Species Act. We published a notice outlining our reasons for this determination in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244). lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with PROPOSALS Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes 17:39 Apr 24, 2020 References Cited A complete list of references cited is available at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket Number FWS–R4–ES– 2019–0080, or upon request from the Field Supervisor, Tennessee Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Authors The primary authors of this document are the staff members of the Tennessee Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17 Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Transportation. Proposed Regulation Promulgation Accordingly, we propose to amend part 17, subchapter B of chapter I, title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as set forth below: PART 17—ENDANGERED AND THREATENED WILDLIFE AND PLANTS 1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361–1407; 1531– 1544; 4201–4245, unless otherwise noted. § 17.12 [Amended] 2. Amend § 17.12(h) by removing the entry for ‘‘Arenaria cumberlandensis’’ under ‘‘FLOWERING PLANTS’’ from the List of Endangered and Threatened Plants. ■ Aurelia Skipwith, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. [FR Doc. 2020–08398 Filed 4–24–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4333–15–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 635 In accordance with the President’s memorandum of April 29, 1994, ‘‘Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal Governments’’ (59 FR 22951), Executive Order 13175, and the Department of the Interior’s manual at 512 DM 2, we readily acknowledge our responsibility to communicate meaningfully with recognized Federal Tribes on a government-to-government basis. We VerDate Sep<11>2014 have determined that there are no tribal lands that may be affected by this proposal. Jkt 250001 [Docket No. 200415–0113] RIN 0648–BI09 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Proposed Rule To Modify North Atlantic Swordfish and Shark Retention Limits for Certain Permit Holders and Add Inseason Adjustment Authorization Criteria National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and AGENCY: PO 00000 Frm 00073 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 23315 Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. NMFS is proposing to adjust the current regulations for North Atlantic swordfish and shark retention limits for certain permit holders in U.S. Atlantic and Caribbean waters. This action considers modifying swordfish retention limits for highly migratory species (HMS) Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit holders, Swordfish General Commercial permit holders, and HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders with a commercial endorsement on a non-for hire (i.e., commercial) trip and modifying shark retention limits for HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit holders. The action also considers adding regulatory criteria for inseason adjustment of swordfish and shark retention limits for the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit. This proposed action would better align swordfish management measures established for HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit holders under Amendment 4 with those established in Amendment 8 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Swordfish General Commercial permit holders and HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders with a commercial sale endorsement on a commercial trip. A commercial trip in this document is defined as HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders with a commercial sale endorsement on a non-for hire trip catching swordfish with the intent to sell their catch. DATES: Written comments must be received by June 26, 2020. NMFS will hold 3 public hearings via conference calls and webinars for this proposed rule on May 19, 2020, May 27, 2020 and June 10, 2020, from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. For specific locations, dates and times, see the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this document. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA– NMFS–2020–0057, by any of the following methods: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20200057, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • 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 SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\27APP1.SGM 27APP1 lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with PROPOSALS 23316 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 81 / Monday, April 27, 2020 / Proposed Rules considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the public record and generally will be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). NMFS will hold three public hearings via conference call/webinars on this proposed rule. For specific locations, dates and times, see the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this document. Copies of the supporting documents, including the draft Environmental Assessment (EA), Regulatory Impact Review (RIR), Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA), and the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and amendments are available from the HMS website at https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/topic/atlantichighly-migratory-species or by contacting Nicolas Alvarado 727–824– 5399. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Nicolas Alvarado or Rick Pearson by phone at 727–824–5399, or Delisse Ortiz at 240–681–9037. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Atlantic HMS are managed under the dual authorities of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) and the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA). NMFS published in the Federal Register (71 FR 59058, October 2, 2006) final regulations, effective November 1, 2006, implementing the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP, which details management measures for Atlantic HMS fisheries. The implementing regulations for the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments are at 50 CFR part 635. This proposed rule considers management actions that would streamline the regulations to align the retention limits for commercial swordfish permits established for HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit holders under Amendment 4 with those established in Amendment 8 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP for Swordfish General Commercial permit holders and HMS Charter/ Headboat permit holders with a commercial sale endorsement on a nonfor hire commercial trip. Background A brief summary of the background of this proposed action is provided below. Additional information regarding VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:59 Apr 24, 2020 Jkt 250001 Atlantic HMS management can be found in the Draft EA for this proposed action and the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments, found online (see ADDRESSES). Sharks have been managed by NMFS as delegated by the Secretary of Commerce since 1993 under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. NMFS implemented the FMP for Sharks of the Atlantic Ocean, which established three management complexes: Large coastal sharks, small coastal sharks, and pelagic sharks (NMFS, 1993). This 1993 FMP implemented commercial quotas for large coastal sharks and pelagic sharks and established recreational retention limits for all sharks, consistent with the large coastal sharks rebuilding program. As a result of the 1996 amendments to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS implemented an FMP in 1999 that revised much of the management of Atlantic sharks, including establishing new commercial quotas, a commercial size limit, a new rebuilding plan for large coastal sharks, and a limited access fishing permit program for the commercial fishery. Between 1999 and 2008, NMFS changed many of the shark management measures, which included revising quotas, eliminating the commercial minimum size, adjusting the recreational retention and size limits, establishing a time/area closure off the coast of North Carolina, establishing a mechanism for changing the species on the prohibited species list, requiring shark dealers to attend shark identification workshops, and requiring gillnet, bottom longline, and pelagic longline fishermen to attend workshops on the safe handling and release of protected resources and prohibited sharks. The final rule for Amendment 2 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (Amendment 2) (73 FR 35778, June 24, 2008; corrected 73 FR 40657, July 15, 2008) implemented management measures that included, but were not limited to, establishing rebuilding plans for porbeagle, dusky, and sandbar sharks consistent with stock assessments; implementing commercial quotas and retention limits consistent with stock assessment recommendations to prevent overfishing and rebuild overfished stocks; modifying recreational measures to reduce fishing mortality of overfished/overfishing stocks; modifying reporting requirements; requiring that all Atlantic sharks be offloaded with fins naturally attached; collecting shark life history information via the implementation of a shark research program; and implementing time/area closures PO 00000 Frm 00074 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 recommended by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council. The final rule for Amendment 3 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (Amendment 3) (75 FR 30483, June 1, 2010; corrected 75 FR 50715, August 17, 2010; updated effective date of Atlantic Smoothhound Shark Fishery Management Measures 76 FR 70064, November 10, 2011) implemented management measures that included, but were not limited to, rebuilding blacknose sharks and ending overfishing of blacknose and shortfin mako shark. This amendment also added smoothhound sharks (smooth dogfish (Mustelus canis) and Florida smoothhound (Mustelus norrisi)) under NMFS management; created an open access commercial smoothhound permit and commercial smoothhound quota (715.5 metric tons (mt) dressed weight (dw)); required smoothhound sharks to be landed with fins naturally attached; required commercial smoothhound permit holders to sell their catch to a federally-permitted shark dealer; and delayed the smoothhound shark management measures until such time as the agency could implement the new permit, incorporate provisions of the Shark Conservation Act, and implement the findings of the Biological Opinion. The final rule for Amendment 4 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (Amendment 4) (77 FR 59842, October 1, 2012) implemented management measures that included, but were not limited to, creating the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit for the traditional small-scale commercial handgear fishing fleet in the U.S. Caribbean region. This permit currently has a swordfish retention limit of two swordfish per trip (50 CFR 635.24(b)(3)). Current regulations do not allow for inseason modifications to this retention limit. In addition to implementing a swordfish retention limit, a shark retention limit was set at zero sharks per vessel per trip. Similar to the swordfish retention limit, the shark retention limit established by Amendment 4 can only be modified through framework regulatory procedures, see 50 CFR 635.34(b), which requires carrying out a rulemaking for a framework adjustment to adjust the limit. The final rule for Amendment 6 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (Amendment 6) (80 FR 50073, August 18, 2015) implemented management measures that included, but were not limited to, establishing regional and sub-regional quotas for large coastal and small coastal sharks in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, removing vessel upgrading restrictions for shark limited E:\FR\FM\27APP1.SGM 27APP1 lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 81 / Monday, April 27, 2020 / Proposed Rules access permit holders, and increasing the large coastal shark retention limit for shark directed limited access permit holders to a maximum of 55 large coastal sharks other than sandbar sharks per trip with a default of 45 large coastal sharks other than sandbar sharks per trip. The final rule for Amendment 8 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (Amendment 8) (78 FR 52011, August 21, 2013) implemented management measures that included, but were not limited to, establishing additional opportunities for U.S. fishermen to harvest swordfish. Specifically, Amendment 8 established an open access Swordfish General Commercial permit with default retention limits set at two swordfish per vessel per trip for the U.S. Caribbean region, three swordfish per vessel per trip for the Northwest Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions, and zero swordfish per vessel per trip in the Florida Swordfish Management Area. These retention limits also apply to permit holders who hold an HMS Charter/Headboat permit with a commercial sale endorsement (and only when on a non-for-hire trip). Amendment 8 also implemented regulations allowing NMFS to adjust these retention limits on an inseason basis between zero and six swordfish per vessel per trip (50 CFR 635.24(b)(4)(iv)). These retention limits also apply to permit holders who hold an HMS Charter/Headboat permit with a commercial sale endorsement (and only when on a non for-hire trip). In order to provide additional opportunities for fishermen to catch the U.S. North Atlantic swordfish quota, and after considering the specified regulatory criteria, NMFS has consistently adjusted the retention limits for the Swordfish General Commercial permit and the HMS Charter/Headboat permit when on a commercial trip upward from the default limits (two or three fish) to the maximum of six fish per vessel per trip in each of the past five years that the permit has been in existence in all areas except the Florida Swordfish Management Area, where the retention limit has remained at zero fish per vessel per trip. The final rule for Amendment 9 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (Amendment 9) (80 FR 73128, November 24, 2015) implemented management measures that included, but were not limited to, establishing an effective date for previously-adopted smoothhound shark management measures finalized in Amendment 3; adjusting the commercial quota for the smoothhound shark fishery based on VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:59 Apr 24, 2020 Jkt 250001 recent stock assessments; implementing the smooth dogfish-specific provisions of the Shark Conservation Act (i.e., all sharks landed from Federal waters in the United States must be landed with their fins naturally attached to the carcass, with limited exception for smooth dogfish); implementing the 2012 Shark Biological Opinion; and implementing Atlantic shark gillnet vessel monitoring system requirements. In March 2015, the Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR) 39 stock assessments for smoothhound sharks were completed. Notice of stock status determinations of no overfishing and not overfished for Atlantic smooth dogfish and Gulf of Mexico smoothhound sharks published on June 29, 2015 (80 FR 36974). These stock assessments provided information that could allow NMFS to establish scientifically-based quotas, and the final rule for Amendment 9 considered that new information and resulting quotas. Amendment 9 implemented a commercial quota for the smoothhound shark fishery in the Atlantic Region, and in the Gulf of Mexico region, with no size or retention limit restrictions for smoothhound sharks. In 2017, International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) Standing Committee on Research and Statistics (SCRS) reassessed North Atlantic swordfish and found that the stock remained not overfished and that overfishing was not occurring. SCRS also indicated that the North Atlantic swordfish stock has been rebuilt since at least 2013 (78 FR 12273, February 2, 2013). The United States has not fully harvested its swordfish quota in several years; therefore, there is a need to continue to provide additional opportunities for fishermen to catch the U.S. quota. NMFS has received comments from HMS Advisory Panel (AP) members at three HMS AP meetings (September 2017, March 2018, and September 2019) requesting that NMFS increase the current swordfish and shark retention limits for the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit. Specifically, AP members have requested that NMFS increase the retention limit of the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit from two to six swordfish per vessel per trip, similar to the current upper swordfish retention limit for the Swordfish General Commercial permit and HMS Charter/Headboat permit with a commercial sale endorsement, and allow for an increase in the shark retention limit of the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit from zero to three sharks per vessel per trip, in PO 00000 Frm 00075 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 23317 order to retain sharks for personal consumption or to sell at the local market or restaurant. Furthermore, additional outreach with the Caribbean Fishery Management Council, the territorial governments, and general discussions with commercial and recreational fishermen have shown interest in increasing the current shark retention limits for the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit from zero to three sharks per vessel per trip. As described above, based on the rebuilt status of North Atlantic swordfish and shark stocks, increased interest in participating in the swordfish and shark fisheries, and the need to more fully utilize the U.S. ICCATrecommended swordfish quota allocation, NMFS is proposing management changes to the swordfish retention limits of the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat, Swordfish General Commercial, and HMS Charter/ Headboat commercial permits, and to the shark retention limits of the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit. This rule proposes to update and revise existing HMS regulations to increase the flexibility of, and provide consistency between, the North Atlantic swordfish and shark retention limits for vessel owners issued the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit, the Swordfish General Commercial permit, and the HMS Charter/Headboat permit with a commercial sale endorsement, all of whom fish with similar handgears within U.S. Atlantic and Caribbean waters. Furthermore, this proposed action would increase administrative efficiencies by managing these permits similarly (i.e., using inseason adjustment authority) with the goal of more fully utilizing the available U.S. swordfish quota, while also avoiding quota overharvests. NMFS prepared a draft EA, RIR, and an IRFA, which present and analyze the anticipated environmental, social, and economic impacts of each alternative considered for this proposed rule. The complete list of alternatives and related analyses are provided in the draft EA/ RIR/IRFA and are not repeated here in its entirety. A copy of the draft EA/RIR/ IRFA prepared for this proposed rulemaking is available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). NMFS considered three alternatives (Alternatives A1–A3) to modify the mechanism to adjust swordfish and shark retention limits for vessels issued the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit. NMFS considered four alternatives (Alternatives B1–B4) for modifying the swordfish retention limits E:\FR\FM\27APP1.SGM 27APP1 lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with PROPOSALS 23318 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 81 / Monday, April 27, 2020 / Proposed Rules for the Swordfish General Commercial permit, the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit, and for HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders with a commercial sale endorsement on a nonfor hire (i.e., commercial) trip. NMFS also considered three alternatives (Alternatives C1–C3) for modifying the shark retention limits for the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit. Currently, adjusting the swordfish and shark retention limit for the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit requires conducting a rulemaking to make a framework adjustment, while the retention limits for the Swordfish General Commercial and HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders with a commercial sale endorsement can be changed through an inseason adjustment. This means that NMFS currently has to take two separate regulatory actions to adjust the swordfish retention limits for the three swordfish commercial permits. Specifically, in the U.S. Caribbean region, adjusting swordfish retention limits through two different regulatory procedures with different time frames has caused confusion among fishermen. Under Alternative A1 (No Action), NMFS would maintain the current ability to adjust the regional swordfish retention limit for vessels issued the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit only through framework adjustment procedures (see 50 CFR 635.34(b)). Under Alternative A2 (Preferred Alternative), NMFS would implement the Swordfish General Commercial Permit inseason adjustment authorization criteria codified at 50 CFR 635.24(b)(4)(iv) to adjust the regional swordfish retention limit for the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit. Before making any inseason adjustments to the Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit retention limit, NMFS would consider the following criteria and other relevant factors: A. The usefulness of information obtained from biological sampling and monitoring of the North Atlantic swordfish stock; B. The estimated ability of vessels participating in the fishery to land the amount of swordfish quota available before the end of the fishing year; C. The estimated amounts by which quotas for other categories of the fishery might be exceeded; D. Effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the FMP and its amendments; VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:59 Apr 24, 2020 Jkt 250001 E. Variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migration patterns of swordfish; F. Effects of catch rates in one region precluding vessels in another region from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the overall swordfish quota; and; G. Review of dealer reports, landing trends, and the availability of swordfish on the fishing grounds. Under Alternative A3 (Preferred Alternative), NMFS would implement the shark inseason trip limit adjustment authorization criteria codified at 50 CFR 635.24(a)(8) to adjust the regional shark retention limit for the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit. Before making any inseason adjustments to the Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit retention limit, NMFS would consider the following criteria and other relevant factors: A. The amount of remaining shark quota in the relevant area or region, to date, based on dealer reports; B. The catch rates of the relevant shark species/complexes in the region, to date, based on dealer reports; C. Estimated date of fishery closure based on when the landings are projected to reach 80 percent of the quota given the realized catch rates; D. Effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments; E. Variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migratory patterns of the relevant shark species based on scientific and fishery-based knowledge, and/or; F. Effects of catch rates in one part of a region precluding vessels in another part of that region from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the relevant quota. Regarding the alternatives considered to adjust the retention limits, Alternative B1 (No Action) would maintain the existing range of zero to six swordfish per vessel per trip within all regions for Swordfish General Commercial permit holders and for HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders with a commercial sale endorsement. The default retention limits established for these permits would remain at: (1) Northwest Atlantic region—three swordfish per vessel per trip; (2) Gulf of Mexico region—three swordfish per vessel per trip; (3) U.S. Caribbean region—two swordfish per vessel per trip; and, (4) Florida Swordfish Management Area—zero swordfish per vessel per trip. NMFS would also maintain the current retention limit of two swordfish per vessel per trip for PO 00000 Frm 00076 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 vessels issued an HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit. Alternative B2 (Preferred Alternative) would maintain the default swordfish retention limit of zero swordfish per vessel per trip for the Florida Swordfish Management Area and establish a default swordfish retention limit of six swordfish per vessel per trip for all other regions and for HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat and Swordfish General Commercial permit holders, and HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders with a commercial sale endorsement. Additionally, for the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit, NMFS would establish a retention limit range of zero to six swordfish per vessel per trip, with a default retention limit of six swordfish per vessel per trip. Similar to Alternative B2, Alternative B3 would change the retention limit range for all three permits and the default retention limits for all three permits in all areas, except the Florida Swordfish Management Area, which would remain with a default limit of zero swordfish per vessel per trip. Specifically, the retention limit range would change to zero to 18 swordfish per vessel per trip for all permits. The default retention limits established for these permits would be changed to 18 swordfish per vessel per trip in the Northwest Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions and to six swordfish per vessel per trip in the U.S. Caribbean. Alternative B4 is similar to Alternative B3, except it would change the default retention limit for all permits and all areas to 18 swordfish per vessel per trip, except for the Florida Swordfish Management Area, which would remain with a default limit of zero swordfish per vessel per trip. Accordingly, the retention limit range would change to zero to 18 swordfish per vessel per trip for all permits. Alternative C1 (No Action) would maintain the current shark retention limit for HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit holders of zero sharks per vessel per trip. Alternative C2 (Preferred Alternative) would establish a default retention limit of three smoothhound and/or tiger sharks (combined) per vessel per trip for HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit holders. The retention limit range would be zero to three smoothhounds and/or tiger sharks (combined) per vessel per trip. The retention of any other shark species would not be allowed under this alternative. Alternative C3 would establish a default retention limit of six nonprohibited large coastal, small coastal, E:\FR\FM\27APP1.SGM 27APP1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 81 / Monday, April 27, 2020 / Proposed Rules lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with PROPOSALS pelagic, and/or smoothhound sharks (combined) per vessel per trip for HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit holders. The retention limit range would be zero to six nonprohibited large coastal, small coastal, pelagic, and/or smoothhound sharks (combined) per vessel per trip. Preferred Alternatives Preferred Alternatives A2 and A3, in combination with Preferred Alternatives B2 and C2 would establish inseason adjustment authority for the swordfish and shark retention limits under the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit in the U.S. Caribbean. The ability to adjust the retention limit between zero and six for all three permits and all regions for swordfish, and adjust the retention limit between zero and three smoothhound and/or tiger sharks (combined) for the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit holders would result in NMFS being more flexible and able to respond in a more timely manner when adjusting the swordfish and shark retention limits. This flexibility would also provide consistency for swordfish management across the permits and regions. This flexibility could allow NMFS to lower the retention limit throughout the year, if necessary, to prevent exceeding the North Atlantic swordfish quota. Thus, Alternatives A2 and A3 would likely have neutral direct and indirect, shortand long-term, ecological impacts. Because these alternatives would increase flexibility in managing the swordfish and shark fisheries as needed, while still preventing overharvest of the North Atlantic swordfish and shark quotas, NMFS prefers these alternatives at this time. Under Alternative B2 (Preferred Alternative), the default retention limit for all three permits in all regions (other than the Florida Swordfish Management Area which would remain at zero fish per vessel per trip) would change to six swordfish per vessel per trip. Currently, the maximum swordfish retention limit for Swordfish General Commercial permit holders and HMS Charter/ Headboat permit holders with a commercial sale endorsement is six swordfish per vessel per trip with a default limit of three swordfish per vessel per trip in the Northwest Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions and two swordfish per vessel per trip in the U.S. Caribbean region. NMFS has increased these swordfish retention limits to six every year for each of the past six years that the Swordfish General Commercial permit has been in existence, in order to provide additional fishing opportunities to harvest the U.S. swordfish quota, VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:59 Apr 24, 2020 Jkt 250001 which is currently underharvested. Because the fishermen with a Swordfish General Commercial permit and the HMS Charter/Headboat permit with a commercial sale endorsement already fish under the default retention limit preferred here, NMFS does not anticipate any changes to current fishing practices or bycatch mortality rates not previously analyzed in Amendment 8. Thus, Alternative B2, would have neutral direct and indirect ecological impacts on the U.S. swordfish stock in the short- and long-term for Swordfish General Commercial permit holders and the HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders with a commercial sale endorsement. Because the per trip and annual revenue for these permit holders would essentially remain the same as under Alternative B1, this alternative would also result in neutral direct socioeconomic impacts to Swordfish General Commercial permit holders and HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders with a commercial sale endorsement in the short- and long-term. The current HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit swordfish retention limit is two swordfish per vessel per trip. If NMFS were to increase the retention limit to six swordfish per vessel per trip, it is likely that this alternative will have neutral direct ecological impacts on the U.S. swordfish stock in the short-and long-term as this action would not affect or alter the science-based quotas for the North Atlantic swordfish, and the swordfish stock can support higher removal levels within established quotas without jeopardizing the sustainability of the stock. In addition, because authorized gear under the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit has low bycatch and bycatch mortality, NMFS anticipates Alternative B2 to have neutral indirect ecological impact in the short- and long- term. Affected fishermen could realize higher trip revenues since they would have more swordfish to sell, assuming a vessel is able to retain the maximum trip limit. This minor increase in per trip, and annual, revenue would result in neutral direct socioeconomic impacts in the short- and long-term to HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit holders as any increase in annual ex-vessel revenue would be relatively minor. Under Alternative C2 (Preferred Alternative), the default shark retention limit would change to three smoothhound and/or tiger sharks (combined) for HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit holders, with a retention limit range of zero to three smoothhounds and/or tiger sharks PO 00000 Frm 00077 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 23319 (combined) per vessel per trip. The retention of any other shark species would not be allowed under this alternative. Currently, the default shark retention limit for HMS Commercial Caribbean Small boat permit holders is zero sharks per vessel per trip. Preferred Alternative C2 would not likely adversely affect shark populations for several reasons. First, this range is a conservative limit that is analogous to the lowest retention limit of the existing HMS permits. Second, the smoothhound shark stock is healthy, not overfished, and with no overfishing occurring. And while the nonprohibited large coastal shark stock status is unknown (the tiger shark stock is part of the non-prohibited aggregated large coastal shark stocks), tiger shark landings have been below the allocated shark quotas for the non-prohibited large coastal shark management group. Moreover, the non-prohibited large coastal shark quotas have not been fully harvested in recent years and NMFS is not expecting increased landings of tiger sharks to adversely affect the stocks. Third, both of these shark species can withstand higher removals within the established quotas and the proposed retention limits without jeopardizing the sustainability of the stocks. Fourth, the quotas for smoothhound and nonprohibited large coastal sharks are not being modified in this rulemaking and fishermen would continue to be limited to the total amount of sharks that can be harvested, as well as by seasonal closures when the shark quotas have reached or are projected to reach 80 percent of the relevant quota or are projected to reach 100 percent of the relevant quota by the end of the fishing season (see § 635.28(b)(2)). Fifth, both of these species have unique physical features that make them easy to distinguish from other shark species. Thus, alternative C2 is anticipated to have neutral direct ecological impacts to shark stocks in the short- and long-term. This alternative would also have neutral indirect ecological impacts. While other bycatch species may be caught during fishing activities targeting smoothhounds and/or tiger sharks, the use of handgears in the small-scale fishery as authorized by the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit would allow for a quick release of bycatch species, maximizing their post-release survival rate. It is anticipated that fishermen using handgear would have no adverse impacts on ESA-listed species, including marine mammals and sea turtles, beyond the impacts analyzed in the 2004 and 2012 Biological Opinions E:\FR\FM\27APP1.SGM 27APP1 lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with PROPOSALS 23320 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 81 / Monday, April 27, 2020 / Proposed Rules which concluded that the HMS handgear fishery will not jeopardize any ESA-listed species, including the Central and Southwest Distinct Population Segment of the scalloped hammerhead shark. Under alternative C2, permitted HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit holders would be able to land and sell smoothhound and tiger sharks. If NMFS increases the retention limit to three sharks per vessel per trip, fishermen would potentially realize higher per trip and annual revenues since they would have sharks to sell. This minor increase in per trip and annual revenue would result in neutral direct socioeconomic impacts in the short- and long-term to the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit holders because any potential increase would be relatively minor. As described above, NMFS also considered five other alternatives on retention limits—three other alternatives regarding the swordfish retention limits (Alternatives B1, B3, and B4) and two other alternatives regarding shark retention limits (Alternatives C1, and C3)—and one other alternative regarding the mechanism to adjust retention limits for the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit (Alternative A1). At this time, NMFS does not prefer Alternatives A1 (No Action), B1 (No Action), and C1 (No Action) because these alternatives do not meet the objectives of the rule: Providing additional fishing opportunities to fishermen when other factors, such as availability of fish on the grounds and available quota, support such an increase. NMFS does not prefer Alternative B3, B4, or C3 at this time. With regard to Alternatives B3 and B4, it is not yet clear that Swordfish General Commercial permit holders or HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit holders would achieve the full benefits of, a retention limit of up to 18 swordfish from a retention limit range of zero to 18 swordfish per vessel per trip or if a default retention limit of six to 18 swordfish per trip is most appropriate for the U.S. Caribbean region, given prior landings and the current make-up of the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat fleet. With regard to Alternative C3, it is also not clear if HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit holders would achieve the full benefits of a retention limit of up to six shark per vessel per trip (non-prohibited large coastal, small coastal, pelagic, and smoothhound sharks, combined) or if a default retention limit of six sharks per vessel per trip is most appropriate for the U.S. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:59 Apr 24, 2020 Jkt 250001 Caribbean region, given prior landings and the current make-up of the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat fleet. NMFS specifically requests comments on the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit, Swordfish General Commercial permit, and HMS Charter/ Headboat permit swordfish and shark retention limits. Specific Requests for Comments: NMFS requests comments from the public on the proposed action and this document. In particular, NMFS would like the following questions considered and is specifically requesting comments from the public. 1. NMFS specifically requests comments on whether vessels, having a Swordfish General Commercial permit, can support the extra weight of additional swordfish. 2. NMFS specifically requests comments on whether vessels, having an HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit, can support the extra weight of additional swordfish. 3. NMFS specifically requests comments on the ability of the smallscale fleet to hold and market the proposed, increased retention limit for sharks. 4. NMFS specifically requests comments on the six-shark retention limit alternative, and the ability for the fleet to hold six sharks, and to transport them safely back to their homeport. 5. NMFS specifically requests comments on the swordfish retention limits of the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit, Swordfish General Commercial permit, and HMS Charter/Headboat permit when a vessel is on a commercial trip, and the shark retention limits of the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit. 6. NMFS specifically requests comments on price data for swordfish and non-prohibited large coastal, small coastal, pelagic, and smoothhound sharks in the U.S. Caribbean. Public Hearing Comments on this proposed rule may be submitted via http:// www.regulations.gov or at a public conference call/webinar. NMFS solicits comments on this proposed rule through [insert date 60 days after the date of publication in the Federal Register]. During the comment period, NMFS will hold three conference calls/ webinars for this proposed rule. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to Nicolas Alvarado or Delisse Ortiz at 727–824–5399/240– 681–9037, at least 7 days prior to the meeting. PO 00000 Frm 00078 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 The webinar/conference calls will take place on May 19, 2020, May 27, 2020, and June 10, 2020. Information for registering and accessing the webinars can be found at https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/ modifications-some-north-atlanticswordfish-and-shark-retention-limitsand-inseason. The public is reminded that NMFS expects participants at the public hearings to conduct themselves appropriately. At the beginning of the conference call, the moderator will explain how the conference call will be conducted and how and when attendees can provide comments. The NMFS representative will attempt to structure the meeting so that all the attending members of the public will be able to comment, if they so choose, regardless of the controversial nature of the subject(s). Attendees are expected to respect the ground rules, and, if they do they may not be allowed to speak during the conference call. Classification Pursuant to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that the proposed rule is consistent with the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments, other provisions of the MagnusonStevens Act, ATCA, 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 Regulatory Planning and Review. This proposed rule is expected to be an Executive Order 13771 deregulatory action. The proposed rule would increase flexibility for, and reduce the burden to, fishermen by modifying the North Atlantic swordfish and shark retention limit in U.S. Atlantic and Caribbean waters and allowing those retention limits to be increased within a certain range if warranted, which would result in the ability for fishermen to catch and retain more fish. This proposed action would also streamline the regulations by aligning the different swordfish retention limits between different commercial swordfish permits that use similar gears. An IRFA was prepared, as required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). The IRFA describes the economic impact this proposed rule would have on small entities if adopted. A description of the action, why it is being considered, and the legal basis for this action are contained below. A summary of the analysis follows. A copy of this analysis is available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). E:\FR\FM\27APP1.SGM 27APP1 lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 81 / Monday, April 27, 2020 / Proposed Rules Section 603(b)(1) of the Regulatory Flexibility Act requires Agencies to describe reasons why the action is being considered. The purpose of this proposed action is to consider modifications to the swordfish retention limits for vessels issued HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permits, Swordfish General Commercial permits, and HMS Charter/Headboat permits with a commercial endorsement (applicable only when on a non-for hire trip), and shark retention limits for vessels issued an HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit, and adding regulatory criteria for inseason adjustment to the retention limits of the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit retention limits while avoiding under- and overharvest. Section 603(b)(2) requires Agencies to describe the objectives of the proposed rule. NMFS has identified the following objectives, which are consistent with existing statutes such as the MagnusonStevens Act and its objectives, with regard to this proposed action: • Maintain optimum yield for the swordfish fishery; • Management measures shall, where practicable, minimize costs and avoid unnecessary duplication; and • Take into account the importance of fishery resources to fishing communities in order to provide for the sustained participation of such communities, and to the extent practicable, minimize adverse economic impacts on such communities. Section 603(b)(3) of the RFA requires Agencies to provide an estimate of the number of small entities to which the rule would apply. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has established size criteria for all major industry sectors in the United States, including fish harvesters. Provision is made under the SBA’s regulations for an agency to develop its own industry-specific size standards after consultation with Advocacy and an opportunity for public comment (see 13 CFR 121.903(c)). Under this provision, NMFS may establish size standards that differ from those established by the SBA Office of Size Standards, but only for use by NMFS and only for the purpose of conducting an analysis of economic effects in fulfillment of the agency’s obligations under the RFA. To utilize this provision, NMFS must publish such size standards in the Federal Register, which NMFS did on December 29, 2015 (80 FR 81194). In that final rule effective on July 1, 2016, NMFS established a small business size standard of $11 million in annual gross receipts for all businesses in the commercial fishing industry (NAICS 11411) for RFA VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:59 Apr 24, 2020 Jkt 250001 compliance purposes. NMFS considers all HMS permit holders to be small entities because they all had average annual receipts of less than $11 million for commercial fishing. The proposed rule would apply to the approximately 35 HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permits, 667 Swordfish General Commercial permits, and 3,769 HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders, based on an analysis of permit holders as of December 2019. Of those 667 Swordfish General Commercial permit holders, 24, or 3.6 percent of permit holders, landed swordfish in 2019. Of the 35 HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit holders, 5, or 14.2 percent of permit holders, landed swordfish in 2019. Of the 3,769 HMS Charter/ Headboat vessels only 23, or 0.6 percent of permit holders, landed swordfish in 2019. NMFS has determined that the proposed rule would not likely affect any small governmental jurisdictions. Section 603(b)(4) of the RFA requires Agencies to describe any new reporting, record-keeping and other compliance requirements. The action does not contain any new collection of information, reporting, or recordkeeping requirements. The alternatives considered would review and potentially modify the swordfish retention limits for existing swordfish commercial permits, modify shark retention limits for HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permits and add regulatory criteria for inseason adjustment of the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit retention limits. Under section 603(b)(5) of the RFA, agencies must identify, to the extent practicable, relevant Federal rules which duplicate, overlap, or conflict with the proposed rule. Fishermen, dealers, and managers in these fisheries must comply with a number of international agreements, domestic laws, and fishery management measures. These include the MagnusonStevens Act, ATCA, the High Seas Fishing Compliance Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Paperwork Reduction Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act. This proposed rule has been determined not to duplicate, overlap, or conflict with any Federal rules. One of the requirements of an IRFA is to describe any significant alternatives to the proposed rule which accomplish the stated objectives of applicable statutes and which minimize any significant economic impacts of the proposed rule on small entities. These PO 00000 Frm 00079 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 23321 impacts are discussed below. Additionally, the RFA (5 U.S.C. 603 (c)(1)–(4)) lists four general categories of ‘‘significant’’ alternatives that would assist an agency in the development of significant alternatives. These categories of alternatives are: (1) Establishment of differing compliance or reporting requirements or timetables that take into account the resources available to small entities; (2) Clarification, consolidation, or simplification of compliance and reporting requirements under the rule for such small entities; (3) Use of performance rather than design standards; and (4) Exemptions from coverage of the rule, or any part thereof, for small entities. NMFS examined each of these categories of alternatives. Regarding the first, second, and fourth categories, NMFS cannot establish differing compliance requirements for small entities or exempt small entities from coverage of the rule or parts of it because all of the businesses impacted by this rule are considered small entities and thus the requirements are already designed for small entities. NMFS does not know of any performance or design standards that would satisfy the aforementioned objectives of this rulemaking while, concurrently, complying with the Magnuson-Stevens Act. As described below, NMFS analyzed several different alternatives in this proposed rulemaking and provides rationales for identifying the preferred alternatives to achieve the desired objectives. The alternatives considered and analyzed are described below. The IRFA assumes that each vessel will have similar catch and gross revenues to show the relative impact of the proposed action on vessels. Alternative A1 would maintain the current ability to adjust the regional swordfish retention limits for vessels possessing the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit only through framework adjustment procedures (see 50 CFR 635.34(b)). Under this alternative, NMFS does not anticipate any change in economic impacts, as this would maintain NMFS’ ability to modify swordfish retention limits using the existing current framework adjustment procedures. As such, this alternative would have neutral economic impacts on HMS permit holders. However, this alternative would have additional administrative burden and time costs associated with continuing to be required do a framework action to change the trip limit for the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit. E:\FR\FM\27APP1.SGM 27APP1 lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with PROPOSALS 23322 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 81 / Monday, April 27, 2020 / Proposed Rules Alternatives A2 and A3 would implement inseason adjustment authority for swordfish and sharks, similar to those codified at 50 CFR 635.24(b)(4)(iv) and 50 CFR 635.24(a)(8), respectively, in order to modify the retention limit for the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat within a range, as described in Alternatives B2 to B4 and Alternatives C2 to C3, respectively. NMFS already has the ability to adjust the swordfish retention limits under the Swordfish General Commercial and HMS Charter/Headboat permits, and the shark retention limits under the Shark Limited Access permits. Under these alternatives (A2 and A3), inseason adjustment authority would provide NMFS with more flexibility in the regulations to be more responsive to the changes needed in the swordfish and shark fisheries within the fishing season. The alternatives would provide for a new regulatory process that would not change the actual retention limits. Therefore, the alternatives would have neutral socioeconomic impacts to HMS permit holders. Alternative B1, the No Action alternative, would maintain the zero to six swordfish per vessel per trip retention limit range within all Swordfish General Commercial permit management regions, and maintain the existing default swordfish retention trip limit of two swordfish per vessel per trip for Swordfish General Commercial permit holders in the U.S. Caribbean and three swordfish per vessel per trip for Swordfish General Commercial permit holders and HMS Charter/ Headboat permit holders with a commercial sale endorsement within the Gulf of Mexico and Northwest Atlantic regions. The default swordfish retention trip limit for the Florida Swordfish Management Area would remain at zero. For the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit, the swordfish retention trip limit of two swordfish per vessel per trip would be maintained. A single swordfish is estimated to be worth $331 (ex-vessel), on average, whereas six swordfish are estimated to be worth $1,987 (ex-vessel). Under the No Action alternative, the potential gross revenue per trip for each HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat vessel landing the trip limit would remain at approximately $662 based on the average ex-vessel price of swordfish, with gross revenue from swordfish ranging from $662 under a two fish limit to $1,987 under a six swordfish limit. Similarly, the potential gross revenue per trip for vessels possessing a Swordfish General Commercial permit or a HMS Charter/Headboat permit with VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:59 Apr 24, 2020 Jkt 250001 a commercial sale endorsement fishing in either the U.S. Caribbean, Northwest Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico and landing the full trip limit would remain at $1,987, with gross revenue from swordfish ranging from either $662 under a two fish limit or $993 under a three swordfish limit to $1,987 under a six swordfish limit. Alternative B1 would likely result in neutral economic impacts since there would be no change in the management structure of the swordfish fishery. Alternative B2 (Preferred Alternative), would maintain the zero to six swordfish retention limit range, but would increase the default limit to the highest swordfish retention limit of six swordfish per vessel per trip for most of the swordfish management regions (NW Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, U.S. Caribbean) for vessels possessing an HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit, a Swordfish General Commercial permit, or vessels with an HMS Charter/Headboat permit with a commercial sale endorsement. The default swordfish retention trip limit for the Florida Swordfish Management Area would remain at zero. Under this alternative, the potential gross revenue per trip for each vessel that has landed the maximum allowed trip limit under either of the three swordfish commercial swordfish permits and within the U.S. Caribbean, Northwest Atlantic, and Gulf of Mexico would be $1,987 per vessel per trip. For example, for a vessel making ten trips per year and retaining the maximum allowable limit each trip, annual gross revenue derived from swordfish would generate up to $19,870 under a six swordfish limit. See Table 4.2 in draft EA/IRFA (summarizing average number of trips per year under the different permits). By having a higher default trip limit for swordfish, this alternative would continue to provide a seasonal, or secondary, fishery for most participants as well as provide new socioeconomic benefits to some fishermen, fishing tackle manufacturers and suppliers, bait suppliers, fuel providers, and swordfish dealers. Alternative B2 would likely result in neutral economic impacts in the shortand long-term. Because NMFS has increased the swordfish retention limit in the Northwest Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, and the U.S. Caribbean regions to six every year for each of the past six years since the implementation of the Swordfish General Commercial permit, any economic impact would be neutral for Swordfish General Commercial permit holders and HMS Charter/ Headboat permit holders with a commercial sale endorsement. For the PO 00000 Frm 00080 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit, fishermen would realize higher trip revenues since they could sell up to four additional swordfish per trip than the current two swordfish per vessel per trip limit. However, this alternative would result in neutral direct socioeconomic impacts to the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit holders in the short- and longterm as any increase in annual ex-vessel revenue would be relatively minor. Alternative B3 would modify the existing swordfish retention limit range by increasing it from a zero to six swordfish per vessel per trip to zero to 18 swordfish per vessel per trip for all swordfish management regions. Similar to Alternative B2, this alternative would establish a default swordfish retention limit of six swordfish per vessel per trip for the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit within the U.S. Caribbean region. However, unlike Alternative B2, this alternative would increase the default swordfish retention limit from six swordfish per vessel per trip to 18 swordfish per vessel per trip for vessels possessing a Swordfish General Commercial permit, or vessels with an HMS Charter/Headboat permit with a commercial sale endorsement within the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and the U.S. Caribbean swordfish management regions. The default swordfish retention trip limit for the Florida Swordfish Management Area would remain at zero. Under this alternative, the potential gross revenue from swordfish for each vessel with an HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit within the U.S. Caribbean region would range from $1,987 per trip under a six swordfish limit to $5,961 per trip under an 18 swordfish limit. Fishermen would realize higher trip revenues since they would have more swordfish to sell, assuming a vessel is able to retain the maximum trip limit, and more fishermen may conduct a greater number of trips or longer trips. If all of the five active HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat vessels in 2019 landed the six-swordfish default trip limit and take an average of four trips per year they could realize an increase in annual revenue of up to $39,740. See Table 4.2 in draft EA/IRFA (summarizing average of trips per year under the different permits). Alternative B3 would likely result in minor beneficial direct impacts on HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit holders in the short- and longterm. Similarly, the potential gross revenue per trip for vessels possessing a Swordfish General Commercial permit or vessels with an HMS Charter/ E:\FR\FM\27APP1.SGM 27APP1 lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 81 / Monday, April 27, 2020 / Proposed Rules Headboat permit and a commercial sale endorsement fishing in either the U.S. Caribbean, Northwest Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico swordfish management regions retaining the maximum 18-swordfish limit on each trip would be $5,961. For example, for a vessel making ten trips per year and retaining the maximum allowable limit each trip, annual gross revenue derived from swordfish would generate up to $59,616 under an 18 fish limit. Alternative B3 would likely result in minor beneficial direct economic impacts on Swordfish General Commercial permit holders or HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders with a commercial sale endorsement in the short- and long-term since the default retention limit would be set higher than the current default limit for all swordfish management region, resulting in fishermen potentially realizing higher trip revenues since fishermen would have more swordfish to sell. Alternative B4 would modify the existing default swordfish retention limit range by increasing it from a zero to six swordfish per vessel per trip to a zero to 18 swordfish per vessel per trip for all swordfish management regions, with the default swordfish retention limit set at the maximum trip limit of 18 swordfish per vessel per trip everywhere except the Florida Swordfish Management Area, which would remain at zero. As noted above, Alternative B3 would make the same modifications, but with a lower (six swordfish) default retention limit for the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit within the U.S. Caribbean region. Similar to Alternative B3, under Alternative B4, the potential gross revenue per trip for each vessel with an HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit, a Swordfish General Commercial permit, or a vessel with an HMS Charter/Headboat permit and commercial sale endorsement fishing in either the U.S. Caribbean, the Northwest Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico swordfish management regions retaining the maximum allowed limit on each trip would be $5,961. For example, for a vessel making ten trips per year and retaining the maximum allowable limit (i.e., an 18 swordfish retention limit) each trip, the annual gross revenue derived from swordfish would generate up to $59,616. In increasing the retention limit above the default limit for all swordfish management regions, fishermen would realize higher trip revenues since they would have more swordfish to sell. Consequently, the outcome of Alternative B4 would likely result in minor beneficial direct economic impacts on the HMS VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:37 Apr 24, 2020 Jkt 250001 Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit holders, Swordfish General Commercial permit holders, and HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders with a commercial sale endorsements in the short- and long-term. Alternative C1, the No Action alternative, would maintain the current range of zero to three sharks per vessel per trip for the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit, with a default shark retention limit of zero sharks per vessel per trip. Thus, if the retention limit remains the same there would likely be neutral direct economic impacts to HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit holders in the shortand long-term. However, the No Action alternative would not provide NMFS with flexibility to address multiple requests by commercial shark fishermen to land a limited number of sharks, when factors, such as availability of fish on the grounds and available quota, support such an increase. Alternative C2 (Preferred Alternative) would establish a retention limit range of zero to three smoothhounds and/or tiger sharks (combined) per vessel per trip, with a default shark retention limit of three smoothhound and/or tiger sharks (combined) per vessel per trip. The retention of any other shark species would not be allowed under this alternative. The retention limit could be raised or lowered in the region in season within the zero to three shark per vessel per trip range. Under this alternative, the potential annual gross revenue for each vessel that has landed the maximum allowed trip limit of three smoothhounds and/or tiger sharks (combined) per vessel per trip would be as follow: (a) If only tiger sharks were caught, and the vessel takes two trips per month (24 trips per year), then the annual revenue per vessel associated with this activity would be $4,455; and (b) if only smoothhound sharks were caught, and the vessel conducted two trips per month (24 trips per year), then the annual revenue per vessel would be $733. See Table 3.9 in draft EA/IRFA (summarizing number of trips landing sharks per year under the different permits). Because NMFS would have the authority to adjust the shark retention limit from zero to three, the annual ex-vessel revenue estimates could vary from $0 (under a zero fish limit) to as much as $733 to $4,455, depending on the species composition of the catch. This minor increase in per trip, and annual revenue would result in neutral direct economic impacts in the short- and long-term to the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit holders because any potential increase would be relatively minor. PO 00000 Frm 00081 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 23323 Under Alternative C3, NMFS would establish a retention limit range of zero to six non-prohibited large coastal, small coastal, pelagic, and smoothhound sharks (combined) per vessel per trip, with a default retention limit of six non-prohibited large coastal, small coastal, pelagic, and smoothhound sharks (combined) per vessel per trip for HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit holders. Under this alternative, the potential annual gross revenue for each vessel that has landed the maximum allowed trip limit of six non-prohibited large coastal, small coastal, pelagic, and smoothhound sharks per vessel per trip would vary depending on the composition of the catch. If only large coastal sharks were caught, and the vessel takes two trips per month (24 trips per year), then the annual revenue per vessel associated with this activity would be $8,910. Assuming a successful trip and two trips per month, the annual revenue per vessel associated with a vessel landing the full trip limit of either small coastal, pelagic or smoothhound sharks would be $5,110, $11,269, and $1,468, respectively. Because NMFS would have the authority to adjust the shark retention limit from zero to six, the annual exvessel revenue estimates could vary from $0 (under a zero fish limit) to as much as $1,468 to $11,269, depending on the species composition of the catch. This minor increase in per trip, and annual, revenue would result in neutral economic impacts to the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit holders in the short- and longterm because any potential increase would be relatively minor. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 635 Fisheries, Fishing, Fishing vessels, Foreign relations, Imports, Penalties, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Treaties. Dated: April 16, 2020. 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 635 is proposed to be amended as follows: PART 635—ATLANTIC HIGHLY MIGRATORY SPECIES 1. The authority citation for part 635 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. ■ ■ 2. Amend § 635.24 by: a. Revising paragraph (a)(4)(iv); E:\FR\FM\27APP1.SGM 27APP1 23324 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 81 / Monday, April 27, 2020 / Proposed Rules b. Revising paragraph (b)(3); c. Revising the introductory text of paragraph (b)(4); ■ d. Revising paragraph (b)(4)(iii); ■ e. Removing paragraph (b)(4)(iv); and ■ f. Adding paragraph (b)(5). The revisions and addition read as follows: ■ ■ § 635.24 Commercial retention limits for sharks, swordfish, and BAYS tunas. * * * * (a) * * * (4) * * * (iv) A person who owns or operates a vessel that has been issued an HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit may retain, possess, land, or sell only smoothhound sharks and tiger sharks, subject to the current shark trip limit. The shark trip limit for persons aboard a vessel issued an HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit will range between zero to three smoothhound and/or tiger sharks, combined, per vessel per trip. At the start of each fishing year, the default shark trip limit will apply. During the fishing year, NMFS may adjust the default shark trip limit per the inseason trip limit adjustment criteria listed in paragraph (a)(8) of this section. The default shark trip limit for the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit is three smoothhound and/or tiger sharks, combined, per vessel per trip. * * * * * (b) * * * (3) Persons aboard a vessel that has been issued an HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit are subject to the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit retention limit. The swordfish retention limit for persons lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with PROPOSALS * VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:59 Apr 24, 2020 Jkt 250001 aboard a vessel issued an HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit will range between zero to six swordfish per vessel per trip. At the start of each fishing year, the default retention limit will apply. During the fishing year, NMFS may adjust the default retention limit per the inseason regional retention limit adjustment criteria listed in § 635.24(b)(5). The default retention limit for the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit is six swordfish per vessel per trip. (4) Persons aboard a vessel that has been issued a Swordfish General Commercial permit or an HMS Charter/ Headboat permit with a commercial sale endorsement (and only when on a non for-hire trip) are subject to the regional swordfish retention limits specified at paragraph (b)(4)(iii) of this section, which may be adjusted during the fishing year based upon the inseason regional retention limit adjustment criteria listed in § 635.24(b)(5). * * * * * (iii) Regional retention limits. The swordfish regional retention limits for each region will range between zero to six swordfish per vessel per trip. At the start of each fishing year, the default regional retention limits will apply. During the fishing year, NMFS may adjust the default retention limits per the inseason regional retention limit adjustment criteria listed in § 635.24(b)(5). The default retention limits for the regions set forth under paragraph (b)(4)(i) of this section are: (A) Zero swordfish per vessel per trip for the Florida Swordfish Management Area. (B) Six swordfish per vessel per trip for the Caribbean region. PO 00000 Frm 00082 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 (C) Six swordfish per vessel per trip for the Northwest Atlantic region. (D) Six swordfish per vessel per trip for the Gulf of Mexico region. * * * * * (5) NMFS will file with the Office of the Federal Register for publication notification of any inseason adjustments to the default swordfish retention limits specified at § 635.24(b)(3) and (b)(4)(iii). Before making any inseason adjustments to swordfish retention limits, NMFS will consider the following criteria and other relevant factors: (i) The usefulness of information obtained from biological sampling and monitoring of the North Atlantic swordfish stock; (ii) The estimated ability of vessels participating in the fishery to land the amount of swordfish quota available before the end of the fishing year; (iii) The estimated amounts by which quotas for other categories of the fishery might be exceeded; (iv) Effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the fishery management plan and its amendments; (v) Variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migration patterns of swordfish; (vi) Effects of catch rates in one region precluding vessels in another region from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the overall swordfish quota; and (vii) Review of dealer reports, landing trends, and the availability of swordfish on the fishing grounds. * * * * * [FR Doc. 2020–08426 Filed 4–24–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\27APP1.SGM 27APP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 81 (Monday, April 27, 2020)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 23315-23324]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-08426]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

[Docket No. 200415-0113]
RIN 0648-BI09


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Proposed Rule To Modify North 
Atlantic Swordfish and Shark Retention Limits for Certain Permit 
Holders and Add Inseason Adjustment Authorization Criteria

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 is proposing to adjust the current regulations for North 
Atlantic swordfish and shark retention limits for certain permit 
holders in U.S. Atlantic and Caribbean waters. This action considers 
modifying swordfish retention limits for highly migratory species (HMS) 
Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit holders, Swordfish General 
Commercial permit holders, and HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders with 
a commercial endorsement on a non-for hire (i.e., commercial) trip and 
modifying shark retention limits for HMS Commercial Caribbean Small 
Boat permit holders. The action also considers adding regulatory 
criteria for inseason adjustment of swordfish and shark retention 
limits for the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit. This 
proposed action would better align swordfish management measures 
established for HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit holders 
under Amendment 4 with those established in Amendment 8 to the 2006 
Consolidated Atlantic HMS Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Swordfish 
General Commercial permit holders and HMS Charter/Headboat permit 
holders with a commercial sale endorsement on a commercial trip. A 
commercial trip in this document is defined as HMS Charter/Headboat 
permit holders with a commercial sale endorsement on a non-for hire 
trip catching swordfish with the intent to sell their catch.

DATES: Written comments must be received by June 26, 2020. NMFS will 
hold 3 public hearings via conference calls and webinars for this 
proposed rule on May 19, 2020, May 27, 2020 and June 10, 2020, from 
1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. For specific locations, dates and times, see the 
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this document.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NMFS-2020-0057, by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2020-0057, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     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

[[Page 23316]]

considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the public 
record and generally will be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous).
    NMFS will hold three public hearings via conference call/webinars 
on this proposed rule. For specific locations, dates and times, see the 
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this document.
    Copies of the supporting documents, including the draft 
Environmental Assessment (EA), Regulatory Impact Review (RIR), Initial 
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA), and the 2006 Consolidated 
Atlantic HMS FMP and amendments are available from the HMS website at 
https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/topic/atlantic-highly-migratory-species 
or by contacting Nicolas Alvarado 727-824-5399.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:  Nicolas Alvarado or Rick Pearson by 
phone at 727-824-5399, or Delisse Ortiz at 240-681-9037.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Atlantic HMS are managed under the dual 
authorities of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management 
Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) and the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act 
(ATCA). NMFS published in the Federal Register (71 FR 59058, October 2, 
2006) final regulations, effective November 1, 2006, implementing the 
2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP, which details management measures 
for Atlantic HMS fisheries. The implementing regulations for the 2006 
Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments are at 50 CFR part 
635. This proposed rule considers management actions that would 
streamline the regulations to align the retention limits for commercial 
swordfish permits established for HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat 
permit holders under Amendment 4 with those established in Amendment 8 
to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP for Swordfish General 
Commercial permit holders and HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders with 
a commercial sale endorsement on a non-for hire commercial trip.

Background

    A brief summary of the background of this proposed action is 
provided below. Additional information regarding Atlantic HMS 
management can be found in the Draft EA for this proposed action and 
the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments, found online 
(see ADDRESSES).
    Sharks have been managed by NMFS as delegated by the Secretary of 
Commerce since 1993 under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. 
NMFS implemented the FMP for Sharks of the Atlantic Ocean, which 
established three management complexes: Large coastal sharks, small 
coastal sharks, and pelagic sharks (NMFS, 1993). This 1993 FMP 
implemented commercial quotas for large coastal sharks and pelagic 
sharks and established recreational retention limits for all sharks, 
consistent with the large coastal sharks rebuilding program. As a 
result of the 1996 amendments to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS 
implemented an FMP in 1999 that revised much of the management of 
Atlantic sharks, including establishing new commercial quotas, a 
commercial size limit, a new rebuilding plan for large coastal sharks, 
and a limited access fishing permit program for the commercial fishery. 
Between 1999 and 2008, NMFS changed many of the shark management 
measures, which included revising quotas, eliminating the commercial 
minimum size, adjusting the recreational retention and size limits, 
establishing a time/area closure off the coast of North Carolina, 
establishing a mechanism for changing the species on the prohibited 
species list, requiring shark dealers to attend shark identification 
workshops, and requiring gillnet, bottom longline, and pelagic longline 
fishermen to attend workshops on the safe handling and release of 
protected resources and prohibited sharks.
    The final rule for Amendment 2 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic 
HMS FMP (Amendment 2) (73 FR 35778, June 24, 2008; corrected 73 FR 
40657, July 15, 2008) implemented management measures that included, 
but were not limited to, establishing rebuilding plans for porbeagle, 
dusky, and sandbar sharks consistent with stock assessments; 
implementing commercial quotas and retention limits consistent with 
stock assessment recommendations to prevent overfishing and rebuild 
overfished stocks; modifying recreational measures to reduce fishing 
mortality of overfished/overfishing stocks; modifying reporting 
requirements; requiring that all Atlantic sharks be offloaded with fins 
naturally attached; collecting shark life history information via the 
implementation of a shark research program; and implementing time/area 
closures recommended by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council.
    The final rule for Amendment 3 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic 
HMS FMP (Amendment 3) (75 FR 30483, June 1, 2010; corrected 75 FR 
50715, August 17, 2010; updated effective date of Atlantic Smoothhound 
Shark Fishery Management Measures 76 FR 70064, November 10, 2011) 
implemented management measures that included, but were not limited to, 
rebuilding blacknose sharks and ending overfishing of blacknose and 
shortfin mako shark. This amendment also added smoothhound sharks 
(smooth dogfish (Mustelus canis) and Florida smoothhound (Mustelus 
norrisi)) under NMFS management; created an open access commercial 
smoothhound permit and commercial smoothhound quota (715.5 metric tons 
(mt) dressed weight (dw)); required smoothhound sharks to be landed 
with fins naturally attached; required commercial smoothhound permit 
holders to sell their catch to a federally-permitted shark dealer; and 
delayed the smoothhound shark management measures until such time as 
the agency could implement the new permit, incorporate provisions of 
the Shark Conservation Act, and implement the findings of the 
Biological Opinion.
    The final rule for Amendment 4 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic 
HMS FMP (Amendment 4) (77 FR 59842, October 1, 2012) implemented 
management measures that included, but were not limited to, creating 
the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit for the traditional 
small-scale commercial handgear fishing fleet in the U.S. Caribbean 
region. This permit currently has a swordfish retention limit of two 
swordfish per trip (50 CFR 635.24(b)(3)). Current regulations do not 
allow for inseason modifications to this retention limit. In addition 
to implementing a swordfish retention limit, a shark retention limit 
was set at zero sharks per vessel per trip. Similar to the swordfish 
retention limit, the shark retention limit established by Amendment 4 
can only be modified through framework regulatory procedures, see 50 
CFR 635.34(b), which requires carrying out a rulemaking for a framework 
adjustment to adjust the limit.
    The final rule for Amendment 6 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic 
HMS FMP (Amendment 6) (80 FR 50073, August 18, 2015) implemented 
management measures that included, but were not limited to, 
establishing regional and sub-regional quotas for large coastal and 
small coastal sharks in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, removing 
vessel upgrading restrictions for shark limited

[[Page 23317]]

access permit holders, and increasing the large coastal shark retention 
limit for shark directed limited access permit holders to a maximum of 
55 large coastal sharks other than sandbar sharks per trip with a 
default of 45 large coastal sharks other than sandbar sharks per trip.
    The final rule for Amendment 8 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic 
HMS FMP (Amendment 8) (78 FR 52011, August 21, 2013) implemented 
management measures that included, but were not limited to, 
establishing additional opportunities for U.S. fishermen to harvest 
swordfish. Specifically, Amendment 8 established an open access 
Swordfish General Commercial permit with default retention limits set 
at two swordfish per vessel per trip for the U.S. Caribbean region, 
three swordfish per vessel per trip for the Northwest Atlantic and Gulf 
of Mexico regions, and zero swordfish per vessel per trip in the 
Florida Swordfish Management Area. These retention limits also apply to 
permit holders who hold an HMS Charter/Headboat permit with a 
commercial sale endorsement (and only when on a non-for-hire trip). 
Amendment 8 also implemented regulations allowing NMFS to adjust these 
retention limits on an inseason basis between zero and six swordfish 
per vessel per trip (50 CFR 635.24(b)(4)(iv)). These retention limits 
also apply to permit holders who hold an HMS Charter/Headboat permit 
with a commercial sale endorsement (and only when on a non for-hire 
trip). In order to provide additional opportunities for fishermen to 
catch the U.S. North Atlantic swordfish quota, and after considering 
the specified regulatory criteria, NMFS has consistently adjusted the 
retention limits for the Swordfish General Commercial permit and the 
HMS Charter/Headboat permit when on a commercial trip upward from the 
default limits (two or three fish) to the maximum of six fish per 
vessel per trip in each of the past five years that the permit has been 
in existence in all areas except the Florida Swordfish Management Area, 
where the retention limit has remained at zero fish per vessel per 
trip.
    The final rule for Amendment 9 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic 
HMS FMP (Amendment 9) (80 FR 73128, November 24, 2015) implemented 
management measures that included, but were not limited to, 
establishing an effective date for previously-adopted smoothhound shark 
management measures finalized in Amendment 3; adjusting the commercial 
quota for the smoothhound shark fishery based on recent stock 
assessments; implementing the smooth dogfish-specific provisions of the 
Shark Conservation Act (i.e., all sharks landed from Federal waters in 
the United States must be landed with their fins naturally attached to 
the carcass, with limited exception for smooth dogfish); implementing 
the 2012 Shark Biological Opinion; and implementing Atlantic shark 
gillnet vessel monitoring system requirements. In March 2015, the 
Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR) 39 stock assessments for 
smoothhound sharks were completed. Notice of stock status 
determinations of no overfishing and not overfished for Atlantic smooth 
dogfish and Gulf of Mexico smoothhound sharks published on June 29, 
2015 (80 FR 36974). These stock assessments provided information that 
could allow NMFS to establish scientifically-based quotas, and the 
final rule for Amendment 9 considered that new information and 
resulting quotas. Amendment 9 implemented a commercial quota for the 
smoothhound shark fishery in the Atlantic Region, and in the Gulf of 
Mexico region, with no size or retention limit restrictions for 
smoothhound sharks.
    In 2017, International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic 
Tunas (ICCAT) Standing Committee on Research and Statistics (SCRS) 
reassessed North Atlantic swordfish and found that the stock remained 
not overfished and that overfishing was not occurring. SCRS also 
indicated that the North Atlantic swordfish stock has been rebuilt 
since at least 2013 (78 FR 12273, February 2, 2013). The United States 
has not fully harvested its swordfish quota in several years; 
therefore, there is a need to continue to provide additional 
opportunities for fishermen to catch the U.S. quota. NMFS has received 
comments from HMS Advisory Panel (AP) members at three HMS AP meetings 
(September 2017, March 2018, and September 2019) requesting that NMFS 
increase the current swordfish and shark retention limits for the HMS 
Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit. Specifically, AP members have 
requested that NMFS increase the retention limit of the HMS Commercial 
Caribbean Small Boat permit from two to six swordfish per vessel per 
trip, similar to the current upper swordfish retention limit for the 
Swordfish General Commercial permit and HMS Charter/Headboat permit 
with a commercial sale endorsement, and allow for an increase in the 
shark retention limit of the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit 
from zero to three sharks per vessel per trip, in order to retain 
sharks for personal consumption or to sell at the local market or 
restaurant. Furthermore, additional outreach with the Caribbean Fishery 
Management Council, the territorial governments, and general 
discussions with commercial and recreational fishermen have shown 
interest in increasing the current shark retention limits for the HMS 
Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit from zero to three sharks per 
vessel per trip.
    As described above, based on the rebuilt status of North Atlantic 
swordfish and shark stocks, increased interest in participating in the 
swordfish and shark fisheries, and the need to more fully utilize the 
U.S. ICCAT-recommended swordfish quota allocation, NMFS is proposing 
management changes to the swordfish retention limits of the HMS 
Commercial Caribbean Small Boat, Swordfish General Commercial, and HMS 
Charter/Headboat commercial permits, and to the shark retention limits 
of the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit. This rule proposes 
to update and revise existing HMS regulations to increase the 
flexibility of, and provide consistency between, the North Atlantic 
swordfish and shark retention limits for vessel owners issued the HMS 
Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit, the Swordfish General 
Commercial permit, and the HMS Charter/Headboat permit with a 
commercial sale endorsement, all of whom fish with similar handgears 
within U.S. Atlantic and Caribbean waters. Furthermore, this proposed 
action would increase administrative efficiencies by managing these 
permits similarly (i.e., using inseason adjustment authority) with the 
goal of more fully utilizing the available U.S. swordfish quota, while 
also avoiding quota overharvests.
    NMFS prepared a draft EA, RIR, and an IRFA, which present and 
analyze the anticipated environmental, social, and economic impacts of 
each alternative considered for this proposed rule. The complete list 
of alternatives and related analyses are provided in the draft EA/RIR/
IRFA and are not repeated here in its entirety. A copy of the draft EA/
RIR/IRFA prepared for this proposed rulemaking is available from NMFS 
(see ADDRESSES).
    NMFS considered three alternatives (Alternatives A1-A3) to modify 
the mechanism to adjust swordfish and shark retention limits for 
vessels issued the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit. NMFS 
considered four alternatives (Alternatives B1-B4) for modifying the 
swordfish retention limits

[[Page 23318]]

for the Swordfish General Commercial permit, the HMS Commercial 
Caribbean Small Boat permit, and for HMS Charter/Headboat permit 
holders with a commercial sale endorsement on a non-for hire (i.e., 
commercial) trip. NMFS also considered three alternatives (Alternatives 
C1-C3) for modifying the shark retention limits for the HMS Commercial 
Caribbean Small Boat permit.
    Currently, adjusting the swordfish and shark retention limit for 
the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit requires conducting a 
rulemaking to make a framework adjustment, while the retention limits 
for the Swordfish General Commercial and HMS Charter/Headboat permit 
holders with a commercial sale endorsement can be changed through an 
inseason adjustment. This means that NMFS currently has to take two 
separate regulatory actions to adjust the swordfish retention limits 
for the three swordfish commercial permits. Specifically, in the U.S. 
Caribbean region, adjusting swordfish retention limits through two 
different regulatory procedures with different time frames has caused 
confusion among fishermen.
    Under Alternative A1 (No Action), NMFS would maintain the current 
ability to adjust the regional swordfish retention limit for vessels 
issued the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit only through 
framework adjustment procedures (see 50 CFR 635.34(b)).
    Under Alternative A2 (Preferred Alternative), NMFS would implement 
the Swordfish General Commercial Permit inseason adjustment 
authorization criteria codified at 50 CFR 635.24(b)(4)(iv) to adjust 
the regional swordfish retention limit for the HMS Commercial Caribbean 
Small Boat permit. Before making any inseason adjustments to the 
Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit retention limit, NMFS would 
consider the following criteria and other relevant factors:
    A. The usefulness of information obtained from biological sampling 
and monitoring of the North Atlantic swordfish stock;
    B. The estimated ability of vessels participating in the fishery to 
land the amount of swordfish quota available before the end of the 
fishing year;
    C. The estimated amounts by which quotas for other categories of 
the fishery might be exceeded;
    D. Effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the 
FMP and its amendments;
    E. Variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migration 
patterns of swordfish;
    F. Effects of catch rates in one region precluding vessels in 
another region from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a 
portion of the overall swordfish quota; and;
    G. Review of dealer reports, landing trends, and the availability 
of swordfish on the fishing grounds.
    Under Alternative A3 (Preferred Alternative), NMFS would implement 
the shark inseason trip limit adjustment authorization criteria 
codified at 50 CFR 635.24(a)(8) to adjust the regional shark retention 
limit for the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit. Before making 
any inseason adjustments to the Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit 
retention limit, NMFS would consider the following criteria and other 
relevant factors:
    A. The amount of remaining shark quota in the relevant area or 
region, to date, based on dealer reports;
    B. The catch rates of the relevant shark species/complexes in the 
region, to date, based on dealer reports;
    C. Estimated date of fishery closure based on when the landings are 
projected to reach 80 percent of the quota given the realized catch 
rates;
    D. Effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the 
2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments;
    E. Variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migratory 
patterns of the relevant shark species based on scientific and fishery-
based knowledge, and/or;
    F. Effects of catch rates in one part of a region precluding 
vessels in another part of that region from having a reasonable 
opportunity to harvest a portion of the relevant quota.
    Regarding the alternatives considered to adjust the retention 
limits, Alternative B1 (No Action) would maintain the existing range of 
zero to six swordfish per vessel per trip within all regions for 
Swordfish General Commercial permit holders and for HMS Charter/
Headboat permit holders with a commercial sale endorsement. The default 
retention limits established for these permits would remain at: (1) 
Northwest Atlantic region--three swordfish per vessel per trip; (2) 
Gulf of Mexico region--three swordfish per vessel per trip; (3) U.S. 
Caribbean region--two swordfish per vessel per trip; and, (4) Florida 
Swordfish Management Area--zero swordfish per vessel per trip. NMFS 
would also maintain the current retention limit of two swordfish per 
vessel per trip for vessels issued an HMS Commercial Caribbean Small 
Boat permit.
    Alternative B2 (Preferred Alternative) would maintain the default 
swordfish retention limit of zero swordfish per vessel per trip for the 
Florida Swordfish Management Area and establish a default swordfish 
retention limit of six swordfish per vessel per trip for all other 
regions and for HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat and Swordfish 
General Commercial permit holders, and HMS Charter/Headboat permit 
holders with a commercial sale endorsement. Additionally, for the HMS 
Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit, NMFS would establish a 
retention limit range of zero to six swordfish per vessel per trip, 
with a default retention limit of six swordfish per vessel per trip.
    Similar to Alternative B2, Alternative B3 would change the 
retention limit range for all three permits and the default retention 
limits for all three permits in all areas, except the Florida Swordfish 
Management Area, which would remain with a default limit of zero 
swordfish per vessel per trip. Specifically, the retention limit range 
would change to zero to 18 swordfish per vessel per trip for all 
permits. The default retention limits established for these permits 
would be changed to 18 swordfish per vessel per trip in the Northwest 
Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions and to six swordfish per vessel per 
trip in the U.S. Caribbean.
    Alternative B4 is similar to Alternative B3, except it would change 
the default retention limit for all permits and all areas to 18 
swordfish per vessel per trip, except for the Florida Swordfish 
Management Area, which would remain with a default limit of zero 
swordfish per vessel per trip. Accordingly, the retention limit range 
would change to zero to 18 swordfish per vessel per trip for all 
permits.
    Alternative C1 (No Action) would maintain the current shark 
retention limit for HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit holders 
of zero sharks per vessel per trip.
    Alternative C2 (Preferred Alternative) would establish a default 
retention limit of three smoothhound and/or tiger sharks (combined) per 
vessel per trip for HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit holders. 
The retention limit range would be zero to three smoothhounds and/or 
tiger sharks (combined) per vessel per trip. The retention of any other 
shark species would not be allowed under this alternative.
    Alternative C3 would establish a default retention limit of six 
non-prohibited large coastal, small coastal,

[[Page 23319]]

pelagic, and/or smoothhound sharks (combined) per vessel per trip for 
HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit holders. The retention limit 
range would be zero to six non-prohibited large coastal, small coastal, 
pelagic, and/or smoothhound sharks (combined) per vessel per trip.

Preferred Alternatives

    Preferred Alternatives A2 and A3, in combination with Preferred 
Alternatives B2 and C2 would establish inseason adjustment authority 
for the swordfish and shark retention limits under the HMS Commercial 
Caribbean Small Boat permit in the U.S. Caribbean. The ability to 
adjust the retention limit between zero and six for all three permits 
and all regions for swordfish, and adjust the retention limit between 
zero and three smoothhound and/or tiger sharks (combined) for the HMS 
Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit holders would result in NMFS 
being more flexible and able to respond in a more timely manner when 
adjusting the swordfish and shark retention limits. This flexibility 
would also provide consistency for swordfish management across the 
permits and regions. This flexibility could allow NMFS to lower the 
retention limit throughout the year, if necessary, to prevent exceeding 
the North Atlantic swordfish quota. Thus, Alternatives A2 and A3 would 
likely have neutral direct and indirect, short- and long-term, 
ecological impacts. Because these alternatives would increase 
flexibility in managing the swordfish and shark fisheries as needed, 
while still preventing overharvest of the North Atlantic swordfish and 
shark quotas, NMFS prefers these alternatives at this time.
    Under Alternative B2 (Preferred Alternative), the default retention 
limit for all three permits in all regions (other than the Florida 
Swordfish Management Area which would remain at zero fish per vessel 
per trip) would change to six swordfish per vessel per trip. Currently, 
the maximum swordfish retention limit for Swordfish General Commercial 
permit holders and HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders with a 
commercial sale endorsement is six swordfish per vessel per trip with a 
default limit of three swordfish per vessel per trip in the Northwest 
Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions and two swordfish per vessel per 
trip in the U.S. Caribbean region. NMFS has increased these swordfish 
retention limits to six every year for each of the past six years that 
the Swordfish General Commercial permit has been in existence, in order 
to provide additional fishing opportunities to harvest the U.S. 
swordfish quota, which is currently underharvested. Because the 
fishermen with a Swordfish General Commercial permit and the HMS 
Charter/Headboat permit with a commercial sale endorsement already fish 
under the default retention limit preferred here, NMFS does not 
anticipate any changes to current fishing practices or bycatch 
mortality rates not previously analyzed in Amendment 8. Thus, 
Alternative B2, would have neutral direct and indirect ecological 
impacts on the U.S. swordfish stock in the short- and long-term for 
Swordfish General Commercial permit holders and the HMS Charter/
Headboat permit holders with a commercial sale endorsement. Because the 
per trip and annual revenue for these permit holders would essentially 
remain the same as under Alternative B1, this alternative would also 
result in neutral direct socioeconomic impacts to Swordfish General 
Commercial permit holders and HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders with 
a commercial sale endorsement in the short- and long-term. The current 
HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit swordfish retention limit is 
two swordfish per vessel per trip. If NMFS were to increase the 
retention limit to six swordfish per vessel per trip, it is likely that 
this alternative will have neutral direct ecological impacts on the 
U.S. swordfish stock in the short-and long-term as this action would 
not affect or alter the science-based quotas for the North Atlantic 
swordfish, and the swordfish stock can support higher removal levels 
within established quotas without jeopardizing the sustainability of 
the stock. In addition, because authorized gear under the HMS 
Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit has low bycatch and bycatch 
mortality, NMFS anticipates Alternative B2 to have neutral indirect 
ecological impact in the short- and long- term. Affected fishermen 
could realize higher trip revenues since they would have more swordfish 
to sell, assuming a vessel is able to retain the maximum trip limit. 
This minor increase in per trip, and annual, revenue would result in 
neutral direct socioeconomic impacts in the short- and long-term to HMS 
Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit holders as any increase in 
annual ex-vessel revenue would be relatively minor.
    Under Alternative C2 (Preferred Alternative), the default shark 
retention limit would change to three smoothhound and/or tiger sharks 
(combined) for HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit holders, with 
a retention limit range of zero to three smoothhounds and/or tiger 
sharks (combined) per vessel per trip. The retention of any other shark 
species would not be allowed under this alternative. Currently, the 
default shark retention limit for HMS Commercial Caribbean Small boat 
permit holders is zero sharks per vessel per trip. Preferred 
Alternative C2 would not likely adversely affect shark populations for 
several reasons. First, this range is a conservative limit that is 
analogous to the lowest retention limit of the existing HMS permits. 
Second, the smoothhound shark stock is healthy, not overfished, and 
with no overfishing occurring. And while the non-prohibited large 
coastal shark stock status is unknown (the tiger shark stock is part of 
the non-prohibited aggregated large coastal shark stocks), tiger shark 
landings have been below the allocated shark quotas for the non-
prohibited large coastal shark management group. Moreover, the non-
prohibited large coastal shark quotas have not been fully harvested in 
recent years and NMFS is not expecting increased landings of tiger 
sharks to adversely affect the stocks. Third, both of these shark 
species can withstand higher removals within the established quotas and 
the proposed retention limits without jeopardizing the sustainability 
of the stocks. Fourth, the quotas for smoothhound and non-prohibited 
large coastal sharks are not being modified in this rulemaking and 
fishermen would continue to be limited to the total amount of sharks 
that can be harvested, as well as by seasonal closures when the shark 
quotas have reached or are projected to reach 80 percent of the 
relevant quota or are projected to reach 100 percent of the relevant 
quota by the end of the fishing season (see Sec.  635.28(b)(2)). Fifth, 
both of these species have unique physical features that make them easy 
to distinguish from other shark species. Thus, alternative C2 is 
anticipated to have neutral direct ecological impacts to shark stocks 
in the short- and long-term. This alternative would also have neutral 
indirect ecological impacts. While other bycatch species may be caught 
during fishing activities targeting smoothhounds and/or tiger sharks, 
the use of handgears in the small-scale fishery as authorized by the 
HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit would allow for a quick 
release of bycatch species, maximizing their post-release survival 
rate. It is anticipated that fishermen using handgear would have no 
adverse impacts on ESA-listed species, including marine mammals and sea 
turtles, beyond the impacts analyzed in the 2004 and 2012 Biological 
Opinions

[[Page 23320]]

which concluded that the HMS handgear fishery will not jeopardize any 
ESA-listed species, including the Central and Southwest Distinct 
Population Segment of the scalloped hammerhead shark. Under alternative 
C2, permitted HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit holders would 
be able to land and sell smoothhound and tiger sharks. If NMFS 
increases the retention limit to three sharks per vessel per trip, 
fishermen would potentially realize higher per trip and annual revenues 
since they would have sharks to sell. This minor increase in per trip 
and annual revenue would result in neutral direct socioeconomic impacts 
in the short- and long-term to the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat 
permit holders because any potential increase would be relatively 
minor.
    As described above, NMFS also considered five other alternatives on 
retention limits--three other alternatives regarding the swordfish 
retention limits (Alternatives B1, B3, and B4) and two other 
alternatives regarding shark retention limits (Alternatives C1, and 
C3)--and one other alternative regarding the mechanism to adjust 
retention limits for the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit 
(Alternative A1). At this time, NMFS does not prefer Alternatives A1 
(No Action), B1 (No Action), and C1 (No Action) because these 
alternatives do not meet the objectives of the rule: Providing 
additional fishing opportunities to fishermen when other factors, such 
as availability of fish on the grounds and available quota, support 
such an increase. NMFS does not prefer Alternative B3, B4, or C3 at 
this time. With regard to Alternatives B3 and B4, it is not yet clear 
that Swordfish General Commercial permit holders or HMS Commercial 
Caribbean Small Boat permit holders would achieve the full benefits of, 
a retention limit of up to 18 swordfish from a retention limit range of 
zero to 18 swordfish per vessel per trip or if a default retention 
limit of six to 18 swordfish per trip is most appropriate for the U.S. 
Caribbean region, given prior landings and the current make-up of the 
HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat fleet. With regard to Alternative 
C3, it is also not clear if HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit 
holders would achieve the full benefits of a retention limit of up to 
six shark per vessel per trip (non-prohibited large coastal, small 
coastal, pelagic, and smoothhound sharks, combined) or if a default 
retention limit of six sharks per vessel per trip is most appropriate 
for the U.S. Caribbean region, given prior landings and the current 
make-up of the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat fleet. NMFS 
specifically requests comments on the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small 
Boat permit, Swordfish General Commercial permit, and HMS Charter/
Headboat permit swordfish and shark retention limits.
    Specific Requests for Comments: NMFS requests comments from the 
public on the proposed action and this document. In particular, NMFS 
would like the following questions considered and is specifically 
requesting comments from the public.
    1. NMFS specifically requests comments on whether vessels, having a 
Swordfish General Commercial permit, can support the extra weight of 
additional swordfish.
    2. NMFS specifically requests comments on whether vessels, having 
an HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit, can support the extra 
weight of additional swordfish.
    3. NMFS specifically requests comments on the ability of the small-
scale fleet to hold and market the proposed, increased retention limit 
for sharks.
    4. NMFS specifically requests comments on the six-shark retention 
limit alternative, and the ability for the fleet to hold six sharks, 
and to transport them safely back to their homeport.
    5. NMFS specifically requests comments on the swordfish retention 
limits of the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit, Swordfish 
General Commercial permit, and HMS Charter/Headboat permit when a 
vessel is on a commercial trip, and the shark retention limits of the 
HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit.
    6. NMFS specifically requests comments on price data for swordfish 
and non-prohibited large coastal, small coastal, pelagic, and 
smoothhound sharks in the U.S. Caribbean.

Public Hearing

    Comments on this proposed rule may be submitted via http://www.regulations.gov or at a public conference call/webinar. NMFS 
solicits comments on this proposed rule through [insert date 60 days 
after the date of publication in the Federal Register]. During the 
comment period, NMFS will hold three conference calls/webinars for this 
proposed rule. Requests for sign language interpretation or other 
auxiliary aids should be directed to Nicolas Alvarado or Delisse Ortiz 
at 727-824-5399/240-681-9037, at least 7 days prior to the meeting.
    The webinar/conference calls will take place on May 19, 2020, May 
27, 2020, and June 10, 2020. Information for registering and accessing 
the webinars can be found at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/modifications-some-north-atlantic-swordfish-and-shark-retention-limits-and-inseason.
    The public is reminded that NMFS expects participants at the public 
hearings to conduct themselves appropriately. At the beginning of the 
conference call, the moderator will explain how the conference call 
will be conducted and how and when attendees can provide comments. The 
NMFS representative will attempt to structure the meeting so that all 
the attending members of the public will be able to comment, if they so 
choose, regardless of the controversial nature of the subject(s). 
Attendees are expected to respect the ground rules, and, if they do 
they may not be allowed to speak during the conference call.

Classification

    Pursuant to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS Assistant 
Administrator has determined that the proposed rule is consistent with 
the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments, other 
provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, ATCA, 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 Regulatory Planning and Review.
    This proposed rule is expected to be an Executive Order 13771 
deregulatory action. The proposed rule would increase flexibility for, 
and reduce the burden to, fishermen by modifying the North Atlantic 
swordfish and shark retention limit in U.S. Atlantic and Caribbean 
waters and allowing those retention limits to be increased within a 
certain range if warranted, which would result in the ability for 
fishermen to catch and retain more fish. This proposed action would 
also streamline the regulations by aligning the different swordfish 
retention limits between different commercial swordfish permits that 
use similar gears.
    An IRFA was prepared, as required by section 603 of the Regulatory 
Flexibility Act (RFA). The IRFA describes the economic impact this 
proposed rule would have on small entities if adopted. A description of 
the action, why it is being considered, and the legal basis for this 
action are contained below. A summary of the analysis follows. A copy 
of this analysis is available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES).

[[Page 23321]]

    Section 603(b)(1) of the Regulatory Flexibility Act requires 
Agencies to describe reasons why the action is being considered. The 
purpose of this proposed action is to consider modifications to the 
swordfish retention limits for vessels issued HMS Commercial Caribbean 
Small Boat permits, Swordfish General Commercial permits, and HMS 
Charter/Headboat permits with a commercial endorsement (applicable only 
when on a non-for hire trip), and shark retention limits for vessels 
issued an HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit, and adding 
regulatory criteria for inseason adjustment to the retention limits of 
the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit retention limits while 
avoiding under- and overharvest.
    Section 603(b)(2) requires Agencies to describe the objectives of 
the proposed rule. NMFS has identified the following objectives, which 
are consistent with existing statutes such as the Magnuson-Stevens Act 
and its objectives, with regard to this proposed action:
     Maintain optimum yield for the swordfish fishery;
     Management measures shall, where practicable, minimize 
costs and avoid unnecessary duplication; and
     Take into account the importance of fishery resources to 
fishing communities in order to provide for the sustained participation 
of such communities, and to the extent practicable, minimize adverse 
economic impacts on such communities.
    Section 603(b)(3) of the RFA requires Agencies to provide an 
estimate of the number of small entities to which the rule would apply. 
The Small Business Administration (SBA) has established size criteria 
for all major industry sectors in the United States, including fish 
harvesters. Provision is made under the SBA's regulations for an agency 
to develop its own industry-specific size standards after consultation 
with Advocacy and an opportunity for public comment (see 13 CFR 
121.903(c)). Under this provision, NMFS may establish size standards 
that differ from those established by the SBA Office of Size Standards, 
but only for use by NMFS and only for the purpose of conducting an 
analysis of economic effects in fulfillment of the agency's obligations 
under the RFA. To utilize this provision, NMFS must publish such size 
standards in the Federal Register, which NMFS did on December 29, 2015 
(80 FR 81194). In that final rule effective on July 1, 2016, NMFS 
established a small business size standard of $11 million in annual 
gross receipts for all businesses in the commercial fishing industry 
(NAICS 11411) for RFA compliance purposes. NMFS considers all HMS 
permit holders to be small entities because they all had average annual 
receipts of less than $11 million for commercial fishing.
    The proposed rule would apply to the approximately 35 HMS 
Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permits, 667 Swordfish General 
Commercial permits, and 3,769 HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders, 
based on an analysis of permit holders as of December 2019. Of those 
667 Swordfish General Commercial permit holders, 24, or 3.6 percent of 
permit holders, landed swordfish in 2019. Of the 35 HMS Commercial 
Caribbean Small Boat permit holders, 5, or 14.2 percent of permit 
holders, landed swordfish in 2019. Of the 3,769 HMS Charter/Headboat 
vessels only 23, or 0.6 percent of permit holders, landed swordfish in 
2019. NMFS has determined that the proposed rule would not likely 
affect any small governmental jurisdictions.
    Section 603(b)(4) of the RFA requires Agencies to describe any new 
reporting, record-keeping and other compliance requirements. The action 
does not contain any new collection of information, reporting, or 
record-keeping requirements. The alternatives considered would review 
and potentially modify the swordfish retention limits for existing 
swordfish commercial permits, modify shark retention limits for HMS 
Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permits and add regulatory criteria for 
inseason adjustment of the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit 
retention limits.
    Under section 603(b)(5) of the RFA, agencies must identify, to the 
extent practicable, relevant Federal rules which duplicate, overlap, or 
conflict with the proposed rule. Fishermen, dealers, and managers in 
these fisheries must comply with a number of international agreements, 
domestic laws, and fishery management measures. These include the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act, ATCA, the High Seas Fishing Compliance Act, the 
Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National 
Environmental Policy Act, the Paperwork Reduction Act, and the Coastal 
Zone Management Act. This proposed rule has been determined not to 
duplicate, overlap, or conflict with any Federal rules.
    One of the requirements of an IRFA is to describe any significant 
alternatives to the proposed rule which accomplish the stated 
objectives of applicable statutes and which minimize any significant 
economic impacts of the proposed rule on small entities. These impacts 
are discussed below. Additionally, the RFA (5 U.S.C. 603 (c)(1)-(4)) 
lists four general categories of ``significant'' alternatives that 
would assist an agency in the development of significant alternatives. 
These categories of alternatives are: (1) Establishment of differing 
compliance or reporting requirements or timetables that take into 
account the resources available to small entities; (2) Clarification, 
consolidation, or simplification of compliance and reporting 
requirements under the rule for such small entities; (3) Use of 
performance rather than design standards; and (4) Exemptions from 
coverage of the rule, or any part thereof, for small entities.
    NMFS examined each of these categories of alternatives. Regarding 
the first, second, and fourth categories, NMFS cannot establish 
differing compliance requirements for small entities or exempt small 
entities from coverage of the rule or parts of it because all of the 
businesses impacted by this rule are considered small entities and thus 
the requirements are already designed for small entities. NMFS does not 
know of any performance or design standards that would satisfy the 
aforementioned objectives of this rulemaking while, concurrently, 
complying with the Magnuson-Stevens Act. As described below, NMFS 
analyzed several different alternatives in this proposed rulemaking and 
provides rationales for identifying the preferred alternatives to 
achieve the desired objectives.
    The alternatives considered and analyzed are described below. The 
IRFA assumes that each vessel will have similar catch and gross 
revenues to show the relative impact of the proposed action on vessels.
    Alternative A1 would maintain the current ability to adjust the 
regional swordfish retention limits for vessels possessing the HMS 
Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit only through framework 
adjustment procedures (see 50 CFR 635.34(b)). Under this alternative, 
NMFS does not anticipate any change in economic impacts, as this would 
maintain NMFS' ability to modify swordfish retention limits using the 
existing current framework adjustment procedures. As such, this 
alternative would have neutral economic impacts on HMS permit holders. 
However, this alternative would have additional administrative burden 
and time costs associated with continuing to be required do a framework 
action to change the trip limit for the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small 
Boat permit.

[[Page 23322]]

    Alternatives A2 and A3 would implement inseason adjustment 
authority for swordfish and sharks, similar to those codified at 50 CFR 
635.24(b)(4)(iv) and 50 CFR 635.24(a)(8), respectively, in order to 
modify the retention limit for the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat 
within a range, as described in Alternatives B2 to B4 and Alternatives 
C2 to C3, respectively. NMFS already has the ability to adjust the 
swordfish retention limits under the Swordfish General Commercial and 
HMS Charter/Headboat permits, and the shark retention limits under the 
Shark Limited Access permits. Under these alternatives (A2 and A3), 
inseason adjustment authority would provide NMFS with more flexibility 
in the regulations to be more responsive to the changes needed in the 
swordfish and shark fisheries within the fishing season. The 
alternatives would provide for a new regulatory process that would not 
change the actual retention limits. Therefore, the alternatives would 
have neutral socioeconomic impacts to HMS permit holders.
    Alternative B1, the No Action alternative, would maintain the zero 
to six swordfish per vessel per trip retention limit range within all 
Swordfish General Commercial permit management regions, and maintain 
the existing default swordfish retention trip limit of two swordfish 
per vessel per trip for Swordfish General Commercial permit holders in 
the U.S. Caribbean and three swordfish per vessel per trip for 
Swordfish General Commercial permit holders and HMS Charter/Headboat 
permit holders with a commercial sale endorsement within the Gulf of 
Mexico and Northwest Atlantic regions. The default swordfish retention 
trip limit for the Florida Swordfish Management Area would remain at 
zero. For the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit, the swordfish 
retention trip limit of two swordfish per vessel per trip would be 
maintained.
    A single swordfish is estimated to be worth $331 (ex-vessel), on 
average, whereas six swordfish are estimated to be worth $1,987 (ex-
vessel). Under the No Action alternative, the potential gross revenue 
per trip for each HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat vessel landing 
the trip limit would remain at approximately $662 based on the average 
ex-vessel price of swordfish, with gross revenue from swordfish ranging 
from $662 under a two fish limit to $1,987 under a six swordfish limit. 
Similarly, the potential gross revenue per trip for vessels possessing 
a Swordfish General Commercial permit or a HMS Charter/Headboat permit 
with a commercial sale endorsement fishing in either the U.S. 
Caribbean, Northwest Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico and landing the full 
trip limit would remain at $1,987, with gross revenue from swordfish 
ranging from either $662 under a two fish limit or $993 under a three 
swordfish limit to $1,987 under a six swordfish limit. Alternative B1 
would likely result in neutral economic impacts since there would be no 
change in the management structure of the swordfish fishery.
    Alternative B2 (Preferred Alternative), would maintain the zero to 
six swordfish retention limit range, but would increase the default 
limit to the highest swordfish retention limit of six swordfish per 
vessel per trip for most of the swordfish management regions (NW 
Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, U.S. Caribbean) for vessels possessing an HMS 
Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit, a Swordfish General Commercial 
permit, or vessels with an HMS Charter/Headboat permit with a 
commercial sale endorsement. The default swordfish retention trip limit 
for the Florida Swordfish Management Area would remain at zero. Under 
this alternative, the potential gross revenue per trip for each vessel 
that has landed the maximum allowed trip limit under either of the 
three swordfish commercial swordfish permits and within the U.S. 
Caribbean, Northwest Atlantic, and Gulf of Mexico would be $1,987 per 
vessel per trip. For example, for a vessel making ten trips per year 
and retaining the maximum allowable limit each trip, annual gross 
revenue derived from swordfish would generate up to $19,870 under a six 
swordfish limit. See Table 4.2 in draft EA/IRFA (summarizing average 
number of trips per year under the different permits). By having a 
higher default trip limit for swordfish, this alternative would 
continue to provide a seasonal, or secondary, fishery for most 
participants as well as provide new socioeconomic benefits to some 
fishermen, fishing tackle manufacturers and suppliers, bait suppliers, 
fuel providers, and swordfish dealers. Alternative B2 would likely 
result in neutral economic impacts in the short- and long-term. Because 
NMFS has increased the swordfish retention limit in the Northwest 
Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, and the U.S. Caribbean regions to six 
every year for each of the past six years since the implementation of 
the Swordfish General Commercial permit, any economic impact would be 
neutral for Swordfish General Commercial permit holders and HMS 
Charter/Headboat permit holders with a commercial sale endorsement. For 
the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit, fishermen would realize 
higher trip revenues since they could sell up to four additional 
swordfish per trip than the current two swordfish per vessel per trip 
limit. However, this alternative would result in neutral direct 
socioeconomic impacts to the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit 
holders in the short- and long- term as any increase in annual ex-
vessel revenue would be relatively minor.
    Alternative B3 would modify the existing swordfish retention limit 
range by increasing it from a zero to six swordfish per vessel per trip 
to zero to 18 swordfish per vessel per trip for all swordfish 
management regions. Similar to Alternative B2, this alternative would 
establish a default swordfish retention limit of six swordfish per 
vessel per trip for the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit 
within the U.S. Caribbean region. However, unlike Alternative B2, this 
alternative would increase the default swordfish retention limit from 
six swordfish per vessel per trip to 18 swordfish per vessel per trip 
for vessels possessing a Swordfish General Commercial permit, or 
vessels with an HMS Charter/Headboat permit with a commercial sale 
endorsement within the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and the U.S. 
Caribbean swordfish management regions. The default swordfish retention 
trip limit for the Florida Swordfish Management Area would remain at 
zero. Under this alternative, the potential gross revenue from 
swordfish for each vessel with an HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat 
permit within the U.S. Caribbean region would range from $1,987 per 
trip under a six swordfish limit to $5,961 per trip under an 18 
swordfish limit. Fishermen would realize higher trip revenues since 
they would have more swordfish to sell, assuming a vessel is able to 
retain the maximum trip limit, and more fishermen may conduct a greater 
number of trips or longer trips. If all of the five active HMS 
Commercial Caribbean Small Boat vessels in 2019 landed the six-
swordfish default trip limit and take an average of four trips per year 
they could realize an increase in annual revenue of up to $39,740. See 
Table 4.2 in draft EA/IRFA (summarizing average of trips per year under 
the different permits). Alternative B3 would likely result in minor 
beneficial direct impacts on HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit 
holders in the short- and long-term. Similarly, the potential gross 
revenue per trip for vessels possessing a Swordfish General Commercial 
permit or vessels with an HMS Charter/

[[Page 23323]]

Headboat permit and a commercial sale endorsement fishing in either the 
U.S. Caribbean, Northwest Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico swordfish 
management regions retaining the maximum 18-swordfish limit on each 
trip would be $5,961. For example, for a vessel making ten trips per 
year and retaining the maximum allowable limit each trip, annual gross 
revenue derived from swordfish would generate up to $59,616 under an 18 
fish limit. Alternative B3 would likely result in minor beneficial 
direct economic impacts on Swordfish General Commercial permit holders 
or HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders with a commercial sale 
endorsement in the short- and long-term since the default retention 
limit would be set higher than the current default limit for all 
swordfish management region, resulting in fishermen potentially 
realizing higher trip revenues since fishermen would have more 
swordfish to sell.
    Alternative B4 would modify the existing default swordfish 
retention limit range by increasing it from a zero to six swordfish per 
vessel per trip to a zero to 18 swordfish per vessel per trip for all 
swordfish management regions, with the default swordfish retention 
limit set at the maximum trip limit of 18 swordfish per vessel per trip 
everywhere except the Florida Swordfish Management Area, which would 
remain at zero. As noted above, Alternative B3 would make the same 
modifications, but with a lower (six swordfish) default retention limit 
for the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit within the U.S. 
Caribbean region. Similar to Alternative B3, under Alternative B4, the 
potential gross revenue per trip for each vessel with an HMS Commercial 
Caribbean Small Boat permit, a Swordfish General Commercial permit, or 
a vessel with an HMS Charter/Headboat permit and commercial sale 
endorsement fishing in either the U.S. Caribbean, the Northwest 
Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico swordfish management regions retaining 
the maximum allowed limit on each trip would be $5,961. For example, 
for a vessel making ten trips per year and retaining the maximum 
allowable limit (i.e., an 18 swordfish retention limit) each trip, the 
annual gross revenue derived from swordfish would generate up to 
$59,616. In increasing the retention limit above the default limit for 
all swordfish management regions, fishermen would realize higher trip 
revenues since they would have more swordfish to sell. Consequently, 
the outcome of Alternative B4 would likely result in minor beneficial 
direct economic impacts on the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat 
permit holders, Swordfish General Commercial permit holders, and HMS 
Charter/Headboat permit holders with a commercial sale endorsements in 
the short- and long-term.
    Alternative C1, the No Action alternative, would maintain the 
current range of zero to three sharks per vessel per trip for the HMS 
Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit, with a default shark retention 
limit of zero sharks per vessel per trip. Thus, if the retention limit 
remains the same there would likely be neutral direct economic impacts 
to HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit holders in the short- and 
long-term. However, the No Action alternative would not provide NMFS 
with flexibility to address multiple requests by commercial shark 
fishermen to land a limited number of sharks, when factors, such as 
availability of fish on the grounds and available quota, support such 
an increase.
    Alternative C2 (Preferred Alternative) would establish a retention 
limit range of zero to three smoothhounds and/or tiger sharks 
(combined) per vessel per trip, with a default shark retention limit of 
three smoothhound and/or tiger sharks (combined) per vessel per trip. 
The retention of any other shark species would not be allowed under 
this alternative. The retention limit could be raised or lowered in the 
region in season within the zero to three shark per vessel per trip 
range. Under this alternative, the potential annual gross revenue for 
each vessel that has landed the maximum allowed trip limit of three 
smoothhounds and/or tiger sharks (combined) per vessel per trip would 
be as follow: (a) If only tiger sharks were caught, and the vessel 
takes two trips per month (24 trips per year), then the annual revenue 
per vessel associated with this activity would be $4,455; and (b) if 
only smoothhound sharks were caught, and the vessel conducted two trips 
per month (24 trips per year), then the annual revenue per vessel would 
be $733. See Table 3.9 in draft EA/IRFA (summarizing number of trips 
landing sharks per year under the different permits). Because NMFS 
would have the authority to adjust the shark retention limit from zero 
to three, the annual ex-vessel revenue estimates could vary from $0 
(under a zero fish limit) to as much as $733 to $4,455, depending on 
the species composition of the catch. This minor increase in per trip, 
and annual revenue would result in neutral direct economic impacts in 
the short- and long-term to the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat 
permit holders because any potential increase would be relatively 
minor.
    Under Alternative C3, NMFS would establish a retention limit range 
of zero to six non-prohibited large coastal, small coastal, pelagic, 
and smoothhound sharks (combined) per vessel per trip, with a default 
retention limit of six non-prohibited large coastal, small coastal, 
pelagic, and smoothhound sharks (combined) per vessel per trip for HMS 
Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit holders. Under this alternative, 
the potential annual gross revenue for each vessel that has landed the 
maximum allowed trip limit of six non-prohibited large coastal, small 
coastal, pelagic, and smoothhound sharks per vessel per trip would vary 
depending on the composition of the catch. If only large coastal sharks 
were caught, and the vessel takes two trips per month (24 trips per 
year), then the annual revenue per vessel associated with this activity 
would be $8,910. Assuming a successful trip and two trips per month, 
the annual revenue per vessel associated with a vessel landing the full 
trip limit of either small coastal, pelagic or smoothhound sharks would 
be $5,110, $11,269, and $1,468, respectively. Because NMFS would have 
the authority to adjust the shark retention limit from zero to six, the 
annual ex-vessel revenue estimates could vary from $0 (under a zero 
fish limit) to as much as $1,468 to $11,269, depending on the species 
composition of the catch. This minor increase in per trip, and annual, 
revenue would result in neutral economic impacts to the HMS Commercial 
Caribbean Small Boat permit holders in the short- and long-term because 
any potential increase would be relatively minor.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 635

    Fisheries, Fishing, Fishing vessels, Foreign relations, Imports, 
Penalties, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Treaties.

    Dated: April 16, 2020.
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 635 is 
proposed to be amended as follows:

PART 635--ATLANTIC HIGHLY MIGRATORY SPECIES

0
1. The authority citation for part 635 continues to read as follows:

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

0
2. Amend Sec.  635.24 by:
0
a. Revising paragraph (a)(4)(iv);

[[Page 23324]]

0
b. Revising paragraph (b)(3);
0
c. Revising the introductory text of paragraph (b)(4);
0
d. Revising paragraph (b)(4)(iii);
0
e. Removing paragraph (b)(4)(iv); and
0
f. Adding paragraph (b)(5).
    The revisions and addition read as follows:


Sec.  635.24  Commercial retention limits for sharks, swordfish, and 
BAYS tunas.

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (4) * * *
    (iv) A person who owns or operates a vessel that has been issued an 
HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit may retain, possess, land, 
or sell only smoothhound sharks and tiger sharks, subject to the 
current shark trip limit. The shark trip limit for persons aboard a 
vessel issued an HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit will range 
between zero to three smoothhound and/or tiger sharks, combined, per 
vessel per trip. At the start of each fishing year, the default shark 
trip limit will apply. During the fishing year, NMFS may adjust the 
default shark trip limit per the inseason trip limit adjustment 
criteria listed in paragraph (a)(8) of this section. The default shark 
trip limit for the HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit is three 
smoothhound and/or tiger sharks, combined, per vessel per trip.
* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (3) Persons aboard a vessel that has been issued an HMS Commercial 
Caribbean Small Boat permit are subject to the HMS Commercial Caribbean 
Small Boat permit retention limit. The swordfish retention limit for 
persons aboard a vessel issued an HMS Commercial Caribbean Small Boat 
permit will range between zero to six swordfish per vessel per trip. At 
the start of each fishing year, the default retention limit will apply. 
During the fishing year, NMFS may adjust the default retention limit 
per the inseason regional retention limit adjustment criteria listed in 
Sec.  635.24(b)(5). The default retention limit for the HMS Commercial 
Caribbean Small Boat permit is six swordfish per vessel per trip.
    (4) Persons aboard a vessel that has been issued a Swordfish 
General Commercial permit or an HMS Charter/Headboat permit with a 
commercial sale endorsement (and only when on a non for-hire trip) are 
subject to the regional swordfish retention limits specified at 
paragraph (b)(4)(iii) of this section, which may be adjusted during the 
fishing year based upon the inseason regional retention limit 
adjustment criteria listed in Sec.  635.24(b)(5).
* * * * *
    (iii) Regional retention limits. The swordfish regional retention 
limits for each region will range between zero to six swordfish per 
vessel per trip. At the start of each fishing year, the default 
regional retention limits will apply. During the fishing year, NMFS may 
adjust the default retention limits per the inseason regional retention 
limit adjustment criteria listed in Sec.  635.24(b)(5). The default 
retention limits for the regions set forth under paragraph (b)(4)(i) of 
this section are:
    (A) Zero swordfish per vessel per trip for the Florida Swordfish 
Management Area.
    (B) Six swordfish per vessel per trip for the Caribbean region.
    (C) Six swordfish per vessel per trip for the Northwest Atlantic 
region.
    (D) Six swordfish per vessel per trip for the Gulf of Mexico 
region.
* * * * *
    (5) NMFS will file with the Office of the Federal Register for 
publication notification of any inseason adjustments to the default 
swordfish retention limits specified at Sec.  635.24(b)(3) and 
(b)(4)(iii). Before making any inseason adjustments to swordfish 
retention limits, NMFS will consider the following criteria and other 
relevant factors:
    (i) The usefulness of information obtained from biological sampling 
and monitoring of the North Atlantic swordfish stock;
    (ii) The estimated ability of vessels participating in the fishery 
to land the amount of swordfish quota available before the end of the 
fishing year;
    (iii) The estimated amounts by which quotas for other categories of 
the fishery might be exceeded;
    (iv) Effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of 
the fishery management plan and its amendments;
    (v) Variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migration 
patterns of swordfish;
    (vi) Effects of catch rates in one region precluding vessels in 
another region from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a 
portion of the overall swordfish quota; and
    (vii) Review of dealer reports, landing trends, and the 
availability of swordfish on the fishing grounds.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2020-08426 Filed 4-24-20; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P