Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; North Atlantic Swordfish Fishery, 38091-38093 [2020-13704]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 123 / Thursday, June 25, 2020 / Rules and Regulations Reporting and recordkeeping requirements. Federal Communications Commission. Marlene Dortch, Secretary. For the reasons discussed in the preamble, the Federal Communications Commission amends 47 CFR part 90 as follows: ■ 1. The authority citation for part 90 continues to read as follows: Authority: 47 U.S.C. 154(i), 161, 303(g), 303(r), 332(c)(7), 1401–1473. § 90.676 [Amended] 2. Amend § 90.676 by removing and reserving paragraph (b)(4). ■ [FR Doc. 2020–12131 Filed 6–24–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6712–01–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 635 [Docket No. 120627194–3657–02; RTID 0648–XA222] Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; North Atlantic Swordfish Fishery National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Temporary rule. AGENCY: NMFS is adjusting the Swordfish General Commercial permit retention limits for the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions for July through December of the 2020 fishing year, unless further action is taken. The Swordfish General Commercial permit retention limits in each of these regions are increased from the regulatory default limits (either two or three fish) to six swordfish per vessel per trip. The Swordfish General Commercial permit retention limit in the Florida Swordfish Management Area will remain unchanged at the default limit of zero swordfish per vessel per trip, as discussed in more detail below. These adjustments apply to Swordfish General Commercial permitted vessels and to Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Charter/Headboat permitted vessels with a commercial endorsement when on a non-for-hire trip. This action is based upon consideration of the applicable inseason regional retention limit adjustment criteria. DATES: The adjusted Swordfish General Commercial permit retention limits in jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with RULES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:57 Jun 24, 2020 Jkt 250001 the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions are effective from July 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Rick Pearson, email: rick.a.pearson@ noaa.gov or phone 727–824–5399. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Regulations implemented under the authority of the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA; 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.) and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) governing the harvest of North Atlantic swordfish by persons and vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction are found at 50 CFR part 635. Section 635.27 subdivides the U.S. North Atlantic swordfish quota recommended by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and implemented by the United States into two equal semi-annual directed fishery quotas; an annual incidental catch quota for fishermen targeting other species or catching swordfish recreationally, and a reserve category, according to the allocations established in the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan (2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP) (71 FR 58058, October 2, 2006), as amended, and in accordance with implementing regulations. NMFS is required under ATCA and the Magnuson-Stevens Act to provide U.S. fishing vessels with a reasonable opportunity to harvest the ICCAT-recommended quota. In 2017, ICCAT Recommendation 17– 02 specified that the overall North Atlantic swordfish total allowable catch (TAC) be set at 9,925 metric tons (mt) dressed weight (dw) (13,200 mt whole weight (ww)) through 2021. Consistent with scientific advice, this was a reduction of 500 mt ww (375.9 mt dw) from previous ICCAT-recommended TACs. However, the United States’ baseline quota remained at 2,937.6 mt dw (3,907 mt ww) per year. The Recommendation (17–02) also continued to limit underharvest carryover to 15 percent of a contracting party’s baseline quota. Thus, the United States may carry over a maximum of 440.6 mt dw (586.0 mt ww) of underharvest. Absent adjustments, the codified baseline quota is 2,937.6 mt dw for 2020. At this time, given the extent of expected underharvest in 2019, NMFS anticipates carrying over the maximum allowable 15 percent (440.6 mt dw), which would result in a final adjusted North Atlantic swordfish quota for the 2020 fishing year equal to 3,378.2 mt dw (2,937.6 + 440.6 = 3,378.2 PO 00000 Frm 00061 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 38091 mt dw). As in past years we anticipate allocating 50 mt dw from the adjusted quota to the Reserve category for inseason adjustments/research and allocating 300 mt dw to the Incidental category, which includes recreational landings and landings by incidental swordfish permit holders, consistent with § 635.27(c)(1)(i)(D) and (B). This would result in an adjusted quota of 3,028.2 mt dw for the directed fishery, which would be split equally (1,514.1 mt dw) between the two semi-annual periods in 2020 (January through June, and July through December). Adjustment of Swordfish General Commercial Permit Vessel Retention Limits The 2020 North Atlantic swordfish fishing year, which is managed on a calendar-year basis and divided into two equal semi-annual quotas for the directed fishery, began on January 1, 2020. Landings attributable to the Swordfish General Commercial permit count against the applicable semiannual directed fishery quota. Regional default retention limits for this permit have been established and are automatically effective from January 1 through December 31 each year, unless changed based on the inseason regional retention limit adjustment criteria at § 635.24(b)(4)(iv). The default retention limits established for the Swordfish General Commercial permit are: (1) Northwest Atlantic region—three swordfish per vessel per trip; (2) Gulf of Mexico region—three swordfish per vessel per trip; (3) U.S. Caribbean region—two swordfish per vessel per trip; and, (4) Florida Swordfish Management Area—zero swordfish per vessel per trip. The default retention limits apply to Swordfish General Commercial permitted vessels and to HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels with a commercial endorsement when fishing on non-for-hire trips. As a condition of these permits, vessels may not possess, retain, or land any more swordfish than is specified for the region in which the vessel is located. Under § 635.24(b)(4)(iii), NMFS may increase or decrease the Swordfish General Commercial permit vessel retention limit in any region within a range from zero to a maximum of six swordfish per vessel per trip. Any adjustments to the retention limits must be based upon a consideration of the relevant criteria provided in § 635.24(b)(4)(iv), which include: (A) The usefulness of information obtained from biological sampling and monitoring of the North Atlantic swordfish stock; (B) the estimated ability of vessels participating in the E:\FR\FM\25JNR1.SGM 25JNR1 jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with RULES 38092 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 123 / Thursday, June 25, 2020 / Rules and Regulations fishery to land the amount of swordfish quota available before the end of the fishing year; (C) the estimated amounts by which quotas for other categories of the fishery might be exceeded; (D) effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the fishery management plan and its amendments; (E) variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migration patterns of swordfish; (F) effects of catch rates in one region precluding vessels in another region from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the overall swordfish quota; and, (G) review of dealer reports, landing trends, and the availability of swordfish on the fishing grounds. NMFS has considered these criteria as discussed below and their applicability to the Swordfish General Commercial permit retention limit in all regions for July through December of the 2020 North Atlantic swordfish fishing year. NMFS has determined that the Swordfish General Commercial permit retention limits in the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions applicable to persons issued a Swordfish General Commercial permit or HMS Charter/Headboat permit with a commercial endorsement (when on a non-for-hire trip) should be increased from the default levels that would otherwise automatically become effective on July 1, 2020, to six swordfish per vessel per trip from July 1 through December 31, 2020, unless otherwise later noticed. These are the same limits that were implemented through an inseason adjustment for the period January 1 through June 30, 2020 (85 FR 14, January 2, 2020). Given the rebuilt status of the stock and the availability of quota, increasing the Swordfish General Commercial permit retention limits in these three regions to six fish per vessel per trip will increase the likelihood that directed swordfish landings will approach, but not exceed, the available annual swordfish quota, and increase the opportunity for catching swordfish during the 2020 fishing year. In 2019, a six swordfish per vessel trip limit was in effect for Swordfish General Commercial permit holders in the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions for the entire fishing season. As of December 31, 2019, this limit resulted in total annual directed swordfish landings of approximately 986 mt dw, or 32.6 percent of the 3,028.2 mt dw annual adjusted directed quota for 2019, which includes landings under the six fish trip limit. Among the regulatory criteria for inseason adjustments to retention limits, VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:57 Jun 24, 2020 Jkt 250001 and given the rebuilt status of the stock and availability of quota, is the requirement that NMFS consider the ‘‘effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the fishery management plan and its amendments.’’ See § 635.24(b)(4)(iv)(D). A consideration in deciding whether to increase the retention limit, in this case, is the objective of providing opportunities to harvest the full North Atlantic directed swordfish quota without exceeding it based upon the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP goal to, consistent with other objectives of this FMP, ‘‘manage Atlantic HMS fisheries for continuing optimum yield so as to provide the greatest overall benefit to the Nation, particularly with respect to food production, providing recreational opportunities, preserving traditional fisheries, and taking into account the protection of marine ecosystems.’’ This action will help preserve a traditional swordfish handgear fishery (rod and reel, handline, harpoon, bandit gear, and greenstick). Although this action does not specifically provide recreational fishing opportunities, it will have a minimal impact on the recreational sector because recreational landings are counted against a separate incidental swordfish quota. NMFS has examined dealer reports and landing trends and determined that the information obtained from biological sampling and monitoring of the North Atlantic swordfish stock is useful. See § 635.24(b)(4)(iv)(A). Regarding the estimated ability of vessels participating in the fishery to land the amount of swordfish quota available before the end of the fishing year, § 635.24(b)(4)(iv)(B), NMFS reviewed electronic dealer landings data, which indicates that sufficient directed swordfish quota should be available for the July through December 2020 semi-annual quota period if recent swordfish landing trends continue. The directed swordfish quota has not been harvested for several years and, based upon current landing trends, is not likely to be harvested or exceeded in 2020. Based upon recent landings rates from dealer reports, an increase in the vessel retention limits to six fish for Swordfish General Commercial permit holders and Charter/ Headboat permit holders with a commercial endorsement (when on a non-for-hire trip) in three regions is not likely to cause quotas for other categories of the fishery to be exceeded. See § 635.24(b)(4)(iv)(C). Similarly, regarding the criteria about the effects of catch rates in one region precluding vessels in another region from having a PO 00000 Frm 00062 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the overall swordfish quota, § 635.24(b)(4)(iv)(F), we expect there to be sufficient swordfish quota for the entirety of the 2020 fishing year. Thus, increased catch rates in these three regions as a result of this action would not be expected to preclude vessels in the other region (e.g., the buoy gear fishery in the Florida Swordfish Management Area) from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the overall swordfish quota. In making adjustments to the retention limits NMFS must also consider variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migration patterns of swordfish, and the availability of swordfish on the fishing grounds. See § 635.24(b)(4)(iv)(G). With regard to swordfish abundance, the 2018 report by ICCAT’s Standing Committee on Research and Statistics indicated that the North Atlantic swordfish stock is not overfished (B2015/Bmsy = 1.04), and overfishing is not occurring (F2015/Fmsy = 0.78). Increasing retention limits for the General Commercial directed fishery is not expected to affect the swordfish stock status determination because any additional landings would be within the ICCAT-recommended U.S. North Atlantic swordfish quota allocation, which is consistent with conservation and management measures to prevent overfishing on the stock. Increasing opportunities by increasing retention limits from the default levels beginning on July 1, 2020, is also important because of the migratory nature and seasonal distribution of swordfish. In a particular geographic region, or waters accessible from a particular port, the amount of fishing opportunity for swordfish may be constrained by the short amount of time that the swordfish are present in the area as they migrate. Finally, another consideration, consistent with the FMP and its amendments, is to continue to provide protection to important swordfish nursery areas and migratory corridors. Therefore, NMFS has determined that the retention limit for the Swordfish General Commercial permit will remain at zero swordfish per vessel per trip in the Florida Swordfish Management Area at this time. As discussed above, NMFS considered consistency with the 2006 HMS FMP and its amendments, and the importance for NMFS to continue to provide protection to important swordfish nursery areas and migratory corridors. As described in Amendment 8 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (78 FR 52011, August 21, 2013), the area off the southeastern coast of Florida, particularly the Florida Straits, contains oceanographic features E:\FR\FM\25JNR1.SGM 25JNR1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 123 / Thursday, June 25, 2020 / Rules and Regulations jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with RULES that make the area biologically unique. It provides important juvenile swordfish habitat, and is essentially a narrow migratory corridor containing high concentrations of swordfish located in close proximity to high concentrations of people who may fish for them. Public comment on Amendment 8, including from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, indicated concern about the resultant high potential for the improper rapid growth of a commercial fishery, increased catches of undersized swordfish, the potential for larger numbers of fishermen in the area, and the potential for crowding of fishermen, which could lead to gear and user conflicts. These concerns remain valid. NMFS will continue to collect information to evaluate the appropriateness of the retention limit in the Florida Swordfish Management Area and other regional retention limits. This action therefore maintains a zero-fish retention limit in the Florida Swordfish Management Area. The directed swordfish quota has not been harvested for several years and, based upon current landing trends, is not likely to be harvested or exceeded during 2020. This information indicates that sufficient directed swordfish quota should be available from July 1 through December 31, 2020, at the higher retention levels, within the limits of the scientifically-supported TAC and consistent with the goals of the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP as amended, ATCA, and the MagnusonStevens Act, and are not expected to negatively impact stock health. Monitoring and Reporting NMFS will continue to monitor the swordfish fishery closely during 2020 through mandatory landings and catch reports. Dealers are required to submit landing reports and negative reports (if no swordfish were purchased) on a weekly basis. Depending upon the level of fishing effort and catch rates of swordfish, NMFS may determine that additional retention limit adjustments or closures are necessary to ensure that the available quota is not exceeded or to enhance fishing opportunities. Subsequent actions, if any, will be published in the Federal Register. In addition, fishermen may access https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/atlantic-highlymigratory-species/2020-atlanticswordfish-landings-updates for updates on quota monitoring. and contrary to the public interest to provide prior notice of, and an opportunity for public comment on, this action for the following reasons: Based on recent data for the first semiannual quota period, NMFS has determined that landings have been very low through April 30, 2020 (21.9 percent of 1,318.8 mt dw quota). Adjustment of the retention limits needs to be effective on July 1, 2020; otherwise lower, default retention limits will apply. Delaying this action for prior notice and public comment would unnecessarily limit opportunities to harvest available directed swordfish quota, which may have negative social and economic impacts for U.S. fishermen. If this action is delayed, some fishermen may not benefit from the adjustment at all, given a short period of access to the fishery due to seasonal fish migration. This action does not raise conservation and management concerns. Adjusting retention limits does not affect the overall, North Atlantic swordfish U.S. quota, and available data show the adjustment would have a minimal risk of exceeding the ICCAT-allocated quota. NMFS notes that the public had an opportunity to comment on the underlying rulemakings that established the U.S. swordfish quota and retention limit adjustment criteria. Therefore, the AA finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive prior notice and the opportunity for public comment. For all of the above reasons, there is also good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d) to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness. This action is being taken under 50 CFR 635.24(b)(4) and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq. and 1801 et seq. Dated: June 19, 2020. He´le`ne M.N. Scalliet, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2020–13704 Filed 6–24–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P 16:57 Jun 24, 2020 Jkt 250001 PO 00000 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 679 [Docket No. 200604–0152] RIN 0648–BJ35 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Modifying Seasonal Allocations of Pollock and Pacific Cod for Trawl Catcher Vessels in the Central and Western Gulf of Alaska National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: NMFS issues a final rule to implement Amendment 109 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA FMP) and a regulatory amendment to the regulations governing pollock fishing in the Gulf of Alaska. This final rule reduces operational and management inefficiencies in the Central Gulf of Alaska and Western Gulf of Alaska trawl catcher vessel pollock and Pacific cod fisheries by reducing regulatory time gaps between the pollock seasons, and changing Gulf of Alaska Pacific cod seasonal apportionments to allow greater harvest opportunities earlier in the year. This action is intended to promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), the GOA FMP, and other applicable laws. DATES: This rule is effective on January 1, 2021. ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of the Environmental Assessment and the Regulatory Impact Review (collectively referred to as the ‘‘Analysis’’) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Finding of No Significant Impact prepared for this final rule may be obtained from http:// www.regulations.gov. SUMMARY: FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Joseph Krieger, 907–586–7228 or joseph.krieger@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: I. Authority for Action NMFS manages the U.S. groundfish fisheries of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) under the GOA FMP. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) prepared, and the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) approved, the GOA FMP under the authority of the Classification The Assistant Administrator for NMFS (AA) finds that it is impracticable VerDate Sep<11>2014 38093 Frm 00063 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 E:\FR\FM\25JNR1.SGM 25JNR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 123 (Thursday, June 25, 2020)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 38091-38093]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-13704]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

[Docket No. 120627194-3657-02; RTID 0648-XA222]


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; North Atlantic Swordfish 
Fishery

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

ACTION: Temporary rule.

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SUMMARY: NMFS is adjusting the Swordfish General Commercial permit 
retention limits for the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. 
Caribbean regions for July through December of the 2020 fishing year, 
unless further action is taken. The Swordfish General Commercial permit 
retention limits in each of these regions are increased from the 
regulatory default limits (either two or three fish) to six swordfish 
per vessel per trip. The Swordfish General Commercial permit retention 
limit in the Florida Swordfish Management Area will remain unchanged at 
the default limit of zero swordfish per vessel per trip, as discussed 
in more detail below. These adjustments apply to Swordfish General 
Commercial permitted vessels and to Highly Migratory Species (HMS) 
Charter/Headboat permitted vessels with a commercial endorsement when 
on a non-for-hire trip. This action is based upon consideration of the 
applicable inseason regional retention limit adjustment criteria.

DATES: The adjusted Swordfish General Commercial permit retention 
limits in the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean 
regions are effective from July 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Rick Pearson, email: 
[email protected] or phone 727-824-5399.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Regulations implemented under the authority 
of the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA; 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.) and 
the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-
Stevens Act; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) governing the harvest of North 
Atlantic swordfish by persons and vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction 
are found at 50 CFR part 635. Section 635.27 subdivides the U.S. North 
Atlantic swordfish quota recommended by the International Commission 
for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and implemented by the 
United States into two equal semi-annual directed fishery quotas; an 
annual incidental catch quota for fishermen targeting other species or 
catching swordfish recreationally, and a reserve category, according to 
the allocations established in the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly 
Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan (2006 Consolidated Atlantic 
HMS FMP) (71 FR 58058, October 2, 2006), as amended, and in accordance 
with implementing regulations. NMFS is required under ATCA and the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act to provide U.S. fishing vessels with a reasonable 
opportunity to harvest the ICCAT-recommended quota.
    In 2017, ICCAT Recommendation 17-02 specified that the overall 
North Atlantic swordfish total allowable catch (TAC) be set at 9,925 
metric tons (mt) dressed weight (dw) (13,200 mt whole weight (ww)) 
through 2021. Consistent with scientific advice, this was a reduction 
of 500 mt ww (375.9 mt dw) from previous ICCAT-recommended TACs. 
However, the United States' baseline quota remained at 2,937.6 mt dw 
(3,907 mt ww) per year. The Recommendation (17-02) also continued to 
limit underharvest carryover to 15 percent of a contracting party's 
baseline quota. Thus, the United States may carry over a maximum of 
440.6 mt dw (586.0 mt ww) of underharvest. Absent adjustments, the 
codified baseline quota is 2,937.6 mt dw for 2020. At this time, given 
the extent of expected underharvest in 2019, NMFS anticipates carrying 
over the maximum allowable 15 percent (440.6 mt dw), which would result 
in a final adjusted North Atlantic swordfish quota for the 2020 fishing 
year equal to 3,378.2 mt dw (2,937.6 + 440.6 = 3,378.2 mt dw). As in 
past years we anticipate allocating 50 mt dw from the adjusted quota to 
the Reserve category for inseason adjustments/research and allocating 
300 mt dw to the Incidental category, which includes recreational 
landings and landings by incidental swordfish permit holders, 
consistent with Sec.  635.27(c)(1)(i)(D) and (B). This would result in 
an adjusted quota of 3,028.2 mt dw for the directed fishery, which 
would be split equally (1,514.1 mt dw) between the two semi-annual 
periods in 2020 (January through June, and July through December).

Adjustment of Swordfish General Commercial Permit Vessel Retention 
Limits

    The 2020 North Atlantic swordfish fishing year, which is managed on 
a calendar-year basis and divided into two equal semi-annual quotas for 
the directed fishery, began on January 1, 2020. Landings attributable 
to the Swordfish General Commercial permit count against the applicable 
semi-annual directed fishery quota. Regional default retention limits 
for this permit have been established and are automatically effective 
from January 1 through December 31 each year, unless changed based on 
the inseason regional retention limit adjustment criteria at Sec.  
635.24(b)(4)(iv). The default retention limits established for the 
Swordfish General Commercial permit are: (1) Northwest Atlantic 
region--three swordfish per vessel per trip; (2) Gulf of Mexico 
region--three swordfish per vessel per trip; (3) U.S. Caribbean 
region--two swordfish per vessel per trip; and, (4) Florida Swordfish 
Management Area--zero swordfish per vessel per trip. The default 
retention limits apply to Swordfish General Commercial permitted 
vessels and to HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels with a commercial 
endorsement when fishing on non-for-hire trips. As a condition of these 
permits, vessels may not possess, retain, or land any more swordfish 
than is specified for the region in which the vessel is located.
    Under Sec.  635.24(b)(4)(iii), NMFS may increase or decrease the 
Swordfish General Commercial permit vessel retention limit in any 
region within a range from zero to a maximum of six swordfish per 
vessel per trip. Any adjustments to the retention limits must be based 
upon a consideration of the relevant criteria provided in Sec.  
635.24(b)(4)(iv), which include: (A) The usefulness of information 
obtained from biological sampling and monitoring of the North Atlantic 
swordfish stock; (B) the estimated ability of vessels participating in 
the

[[Page 38092]]

fishery to land the amount of swordfish quota available before the end 
of the fishing year; (C) the estimated amounts by which quotas for 
other categories of the fishery might be exceeded; (D) effects of the 
adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the fishery management 
plan and its amendments; (E) variations in seasonal distribution, 
abundance, or migration patterns of swordfish; (F) effects of catch 
rates in one region precluding vessels in another region from having a 
reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the overall swordfish 
quota; and, (G) review of dealer reports, landing trends, and the 
availability of swordfish on the fishing grounds.
    NMFS has considered these criteria as discussed below and their 
applicability to the Swordfish General Commercial permit retention 
limit in all regions for July through December of the 2020 North 
Atlantic swordfish fishing year. NMFS has determined that the Swordfish 
General Commercial permit retention limits in the Northwest Atlantic, 
Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions applicable to persons issued 
a Swordfish General Commercial permit or HMS Charter/Headboat permit 
with a commercial endorsement (when on a non-for-hire trip) should be 
increased from the default levels that would otherwise automatically 
become effective on July 1, 2020, to six swordfish per vessel per trip 
from July 1 through December 31, 2020, unless otherwise later noticed. 
These are the same limits that were implemented through an inseason 
adjustment for the period January 1 through June 30, 2020 (85 FR 14, 
January 2, 2020). Given the rebuilt status of the stock and the 
availability of quota, increasing the Swordfish General Commercial 
permit retention limits in these three regions to six fish per vessel 
per trip will increase the likelihood that directed swordfish landings 
will approach, but not exceed, the available annual swordfish quota, 
and increase the opportunity for catching swordfish during the 2020 
fishing year.
    In 2019, a six swordfish per vessel trip limit was in effect for 
Swordfish General Commercial permit holders in the Northwest Atlantic, 
Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions for the entire fishing 
season. As of December 31, 2019, this limit resulted in total annual 
directed swordfish landings of approximately 986 mt dw, or 32.6 percent 
of the 3,028.2 mt dw annual adjusted directed quota for 2019, which 
includes landings under the six fish trip limit.
    Among the regulatory criteria for inseason adjustments to retention 
limits, and given the rebuilt status of the stock and availability of 
quota, is the requirement that NMFS consider the ``effects of the 
adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the fishery management 
plan and its amendments.'' See Sec.  635.24(b)(4)(iv)(D). A 
consideration in deciding whether to increase the retention limit, in 
this case, is the objective of providing opportunities to harvest the 
full North Atlantic directed swordfish quota without exceeding it based 
upon the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP goal to, consistent with 
other objectives of this FMP, ``manage Atlantic HMS fisheries for 
continuing optimum yield so as to provide the greatest overall benefit 
to the Nation, particularly with respect to food production, providing 
recreational opportunities, preserving traditional fisheries, and 
taking into account the protection of marine ecosystems.'' This action 
will help preserve a traditional swordfish handgear fishery (rod and 
reel, handline, harpoon, bandit gear, and greenstick). Although this 
action does not specifically provide recreational fishing 
opportunities, it will have a minimal impact on the recreational sector 
because recreational landings are counted against a separate incidental 
swordfish quota.
    NMFS has examined dealer reports and landing trends and determined 
that the information obtained from biological sampling and monitoring 
of the North Atlantic swordfish stock is useful. See Sec.  
635.24(b)(4)(iv)(A). Regarding the estimated ability of vessels 
participating in the fishery to land the amount of swordfish quota 
available before the end of the fishing year, Sec.  
635.24(b)(4)(iv)(B), NMFS reviewed electronic dealer landings data, 
which indicates that sufficient directed swordfish quota should be 
available for the July through December 2020 semi-annual quota period 
if recent swordfish landing trends continue. The directed swordfish 
quota has not been harvested for several years and, based upon current 
landing trends, is not likely to be harvested or exceeded in 2020. 
Based upon recent landings rates from dealer reports, an increase in 
the vessel retention limits to six fish for Swordfish General 
Commercial permit holders and Charter/Headboat permit holders with a 
commercial endorsement (when on a non-for-hire trip) in three regions 
is not likely to cause quotas for other categories of the fishery to be 
exceeded. See Sec.  635.24(b)(4)(iv)(C). Similarly, regarding the 
criteria about the effects of catch rates in one region precluding 
vessels in another region from having a reasonable opportunity to 
harvest a portion of the overall swordfish quota, Sec.  
635.24(b)(4)(iv)(F), we expect there to be sufficient swordfish quota 
for the entirety of the 2020 fishing year. Thus, increased catch rates 
in these three regions as a result of this action would not be expected 
to preclude vessels in the other region (e.g., the buoy gear fishery in 
the Florida Swordfish Management Area) from having a reasonable 
opportunity to harvest a portion of the overall swordfish quota.
    In making adjustments to the retention limits NMFS must also 
consider variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migration 
patterns of swordfish, and the availability of swordfish on the fishing 
grounds. See Sec.  635.24(b)(4)(iv)(G). With regard to swordfish 
abundance, the 2018 report by ICCAT's Standing Committee on Research 
and Statistics indicated that the North Atlantic swordfish stock is not 
overfished (B2015/Bmsy = 1.04), and overfishing 
is not occurring (F2015/Fmsy = 0.78). Increasing 
retention limits for the General Commercial directed fishery is not 
expected to affect the swordfish stock status determination because any 
additional landings would be within the ICCAT-recommended U.S. North 
Atlantic swordfish quota allocation, which is consistent with 
conservation and management measures to prevent overfishing on the 
stock. Increasing opportunities by increasing retention limits from the 
default levels beginning on July 1, 2020, is also important because of 
the migratory nature and seasonal distribution of swordfish. In a 
particular geographic region, or waters accessible from a particular 
port, the amount of fishing opportunity for swordfish may be 
constrained by the short amount of time that the swordfish are present 
in the area as they migrate.
    Finally, another consideration, consistent with the FMP and its 
amendments, is to continue to provide protection to important swordfish 
nursery areas and migratory corridors. Therefore, NMFS has determined 
that the retention limit for the Swordfish General Commercial permit 
will remain at zero swordfish per vessel per trip in the Florida 
Swordfish Management Area at this time. As discussed above, NMFS 
considered consistency with the 2006 HMS FMP and its amendments, and 
the importance for NMFS to continue to provide protection to important 
swordfish nursery areas and migratory corridors. As described in 
Amendment 8 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (78 FR 52011, 
August 21, 2013), the area off the southeastern coast of Florida, 
particularly the Florida Straits, contains oceanographic features

[[Page 38093]]

that make the area biologically unique. It provides important juvenile 
swordfish habitat, and is essentially a narrow migratory corridor 
containing high concentrations of swordfish located in close proximity 
to high concentrations of people who may fish for them. Public comment 
on Amendment 8, including from the Florida Fish and Wildlife 
Conservation Commission, indicated concern about the resultant high 
potential for the improper rapid growth of a commercial fishery, 
increased catches of undersized swordfish, the potential for larger 
numbers of fishermen in the area, and the potential for crowding of 
fishermen, which could lead to gear and user conflicts. These concerns 
remain valid. NMFS will continue to collect information to evaluate the 
appropriateness of the retention limit in the Florida Swordfish 
Management Area and other regional retention limits. This action 
therefore maintains a zero-fish retention limit in the Florida 
Swordfish Management Area.
    The directed swordfish quota has not been harvested for several 
years and, based upon current landing trends, is not likely to be 
harvested or exceeded during 2020. This information indicates that 
sufficient directed swordfish quota should be available from July 1 
through December 31, 2020, at the higher retention levels, within the 
limits of the scientifically-supported TAC and consistent with the 
goals of the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP as amended, ATCA, and 
the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and are not expected to negatively impact 
stock health.

Monitoring and Reporting

    NMFS will continue to monitor the swordfish fishery closely during 
2020 through mandatory landings and catch reports. Dealers are required 
to submit landing reports and negative reports (if no swordfish were 
purchased) on a weekly basis.
    Depending upon the level of fishing effort and catch rates of 
swordfish, NMFS may determine that additional retention limit 
adjustments or closures are necessary to ensure that the available 
quota is not exceeded or to enhance fishing opportunities. Subsequent 
actions, if any, will be published in the Federal Register. In 
addition, fishermen may access https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/atlantic-highly-migratory-species/2020-atlantic-swordfish-landings-updates for 
updates on quota monitoring.

Classification

    The Assistant Administrator for NMFS (AA) finds that it is 
impracticable and contrary to the public interest to provide prior 
notice of, and an opportunity for public comment on, this action for 
the following reasons:
    Based on recent data for the first semi-annual quota period, NMFS 
has determined that landings have been very low through April 30, 2020 
(21.9 percent of 1,318.8 mt dw quota). Adjustment of the retention 
limits needs to be effective on July 1, 2020; otherwise lower, default 
retention limits will apply. Delaying this action for prior notice and 
public comment would unnecessarily limit opportunities to harvest 
available directed swordfish quota, which may have negative social and 
economic impacts for U.S. fishermen. If this action is delayed, some 
fishermen may not benefit from the adjustment at all, given a short 
period of access to the fishery due to seasonal fish migration. This 
action does not raise conservation and management concerns. Adjusting 
retention limits does not affect the overall, North Atlantic swordfish 
U.S. quota, and available data show the adjustment would have a minimal 
risk of exceeding the ICCAT-allocated quota. NMFS notes that the public 
had an opportunity to comment on the underlying rulemakings that 
established the U.S. swordfish quota and retention limit adjustment 
criteria. Therefore, the AA finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) 
to waive prior notice and the opportunity for public comment. For all 
of the above reasons, there is also good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d) to 
waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness.
    This action is being taken under 50 CFR 635.24(b)(4) and is exempt 
from review under Executive Order 12866.

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

    Dated: June 19, 2020.
H[eacute]l[egrave]ne M.N. Scalliet,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2020-13704 Filed 6-24-20; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P