Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; 2021 Atlantic Shark Commercial Fishing Year, 60947-60954 [2020-20573]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 189 / Tuesday, September 29, 2020 / Proposed Rules Dated: September 24, 2020. Paul N. Doremus, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Operations, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2020–21526 Filed 9–28–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 635 [Docket No. 200911–0242] RIN 0648–XT038 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; 2021 Atlantic Shark Commercial Fishing Year National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: This proposed rule would adjust quotas and retention limits and establish the opening date for the 2021 fishing year for the Atlantic commercial shark fisheries. Quotas would be adjusted as required or allowable based on any overharvests and/or underharvests experienced during the 2020 fishing year. NMFS proposes the opening date and commercial retention limits to provide, to the extent practicable, fishing opportunities for commercial shark fishermen in all regions and areas. The proposed measures could affect fishing opportunities for commercial shark fishermen in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea. DATES: Written comments must be received by October 29, 2020. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA– NMFS–2020–0108, by electronic submission. Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20200108, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:27 Sep 28, 2020 Jkt 250001 All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Copies of this proposed rule and supporting documents are available from the HMS Management Division website at https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/topic/atlantichighly-migratory-species or by contacting Lauren Latchford (lauren.latchford@noaa.gov) by phone at 301–427–8503. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Lauren Latchford (lauren.latchford@ noaa.gov), Guy Eroh (guy.eroh@ noaa.gov), or Karyl Brewster-Geisz (karyl.brewster-geisz@noaa.gov) at 301– 427–8503. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background The Atlantic commercial shark fisheries are managed under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). The 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and its amendments are implemented by regulations at 50 CFR part 635. For the Atlantic commercial shark fisheries, the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments established default commercial shark retention limits, commercial quotas for species and management groups, and accounting measures for underharvests and overharvests. Regulations also include provisions allowing flexible opening dates for the fishing year and inseason adjustments to shark trip limits, which provide management flexibility in furtherance of equitable fishing opportunities, to the extent practicable, for commercial shark fishermen in all regions and areas. 2021 Proposed Commercial Shark Quotas NMFS proposes adjusting the quota levels for the different shark stocks and management groups for the 2021 Atlantic commercial shark fishing year based on overharvests and underharvests that occurred during the 2020 fishing year, consistent with existing regulations at 50 CFR 635.27(b). Overharvests and underharvests are accounted for in the same region, subregion, and/or fishery in which they occurred the following year, except that large overharvests may be spread over a PO 00000 Frm 00025 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 60947 number of subsequent fishing years up to a maximum of five years. If a subregional quota is overharvested, but the overall regional quota is not, no subsequent adjustment is required. Unharvested quota may be added to the quota for the next fishing year, but only if NMFS knows the status of all species in the management group, none of the species in the group are overfished, and there is no overfishing in the group. No more than 50 percent of a base annual quota may be carried over from a previous fishing year. Based on 2020 harvests to date, and after considering catch rates and landings from previous years, NMFS proposes to adjust the 2021 quotas for certain management groups as shown in Table 1. All of the 2021 proposed quotas for the respective stocks and management groups will be subject to further adjustment in the final rule after NMFS considers the dealer reports through mid-October. NMFS anticipates that dealer reports received after that time will be used to adjust 2021 quotas, as appropriate, noting that in some circumstances, NMFS re-adjusts quotas in the subject year. Because the Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group and smoothhound shark management groups in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic regions are not overfished, and overfishing is not occurring, available underharvest (up to 50 percent of the base annual quota) from the 2020 fishing year for these management groups may be added to the respective 2021 base quotas. NMFS proposes to account for any underharvest of Gulf of Mexico blacktip sharks by dividing underharvest between the eastern and western Gulf of Mexico sub-regional quotas based on the sub-regional quota split percentage implemented in Amendment 6 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (80 FR 50073; August 18, 2015). For the sandbar shark, aggregated large coastal shark (LCS), hammerhead shark, non-blacknose small coastal shark (SCS), blacknose shark, blue shark, porbeagle shark, and pelagic shark (other than porbeagle or blue sharks) management groups, the 2020 underharvests cannot be carried over to the 2021 fishing year because those stocks or management groups are overfished, are experiencing overfishing, or have an unknown status. With the exception of the sub-regional western Gulf of Mexico overharvest of the aggregated LCS quota, which will be discussed below, there are no overharvests to account for in these management groups to date. Thus, NMFS proposes that quotas for these E:\FR\FM\29SEP1.SGM 29SEP1 60948 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 189 / Tuesday, September 29, 2020 / Proposed Rules management groups be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment, although the ultimate decision will be based on current data at the time of the final rule. The proposed 2021 quotas by species and management group are summarized in Table 1; the description of the calculations for each stock and management group can be found below. All quotas and landings are dressed weight (dw), in metric tons (mt), unless specified otherwise. Table 1 includes landings data as of July 10, 2020; final quotas are subject to change based on landings as of October 2020. 1 mt = 2,204.6 lb. TABLE 1—2021 PROPOSED QUOTAS AND OPENING DATE FOR THE ATLANTIC SHARK MANAGEMENT GROUPS Region or sub-region Western Gulf of Mexico Management group Blacktip Sharks 3 ....... Aggregated 4 Large Coastal Sharks. Hammerhead Sharks Eastern Gulf of Mexico Blacktip Sharks 3 ....... Aggregated Large Coastal Sharks. Hammerhead Sharks Gulf of Mexico ............. Atlantic ......................... Non-Blacknose Small Coastal Sharks. Smoothhound Sharks Aggregated Large Coastal Sharks. Hammerhead Sharks Non-Blacknose Small Coastal Sharks. Blacknose Sharks (South of 34° N lat. only). Smoothhound Sharks No regional quotas ...... Non-Sandbar LCS Research. Sandbar Shark Research. Blue Sharks .............. Porbeagle Sharks ..... Pelagic Sharks Other Than Porbeagle or Blue. 2020 Annual quota Preliminary 2020 landings 1 Adjustments 2 2021 Base annual quota 2021 Proposed annual quota (A) (B) (C) (D) (D + C) 347.2 mt dw (765,392 lb dw). 72.0 mt dw (158,724 lb dw). 11.9 mt dw (26,301 lb dw). 37.7 mt dw (83,158 lb dw). 85.5 mt dw (188,593 lb dw). 13.4 mt dw (29,421 lb dw). 112.6 mt dw (248,215 lb dw). 504.6 mt dw (1,112,441 lb dw). 168.9 mt dw (372,552 lb dw). 27.1 mt dw (59,736 lb dw). 264.1 mt dw (582,333 lb dw). 17.2 mt dw (37,921 lb dw). 204.4 mt dw (450,612 lb dw). 78.9 mt dw (173,959 lb dw). <2.3 mt dw (<5,000 lb dw). 3.5 mt dw (7,726 lb dw). 50.9 mt dw (112,266 lb dw). <2.7 mt dw (<6,000 lb dw). 25.2 mt dw (55,563 lb dw). 1.4 mt dw (3,144 lb dw). 36.8 mt dw (81,217 lb dw). 10.6 mt dw (23,340 lb dw). 44.0 mt dw (96,939 lb dw). 2.6 mt dw (5,753 lb dw). 115.7 mt dw (255,131 lb dw). ................................... 231.5 mt dw (510,261 lb dw). 72.0 mt dw (158,724 lb dw). 11.9 mt dw (26,301 lb dw). 25.1 mt dw (55,439 lb dw). 85.5 mt dw (188,593 lb dw). 13.4 mt dw (29,421 lb dw). 112.6 mt dw (248,215 lb dw). 336.4 mt dw (741,627 lb dw). 168.9 mt dw (372,552 lb dw). 27.1 mt dw (59,736 lb dw). 264.1 mt dw (582,333 lb dw). 17.2 mt dw (37,921 lb dw). 347.2 mt dw (765,392 lb dw). 72.0 mt dw (158,724 lb dw). 11.9 mt dw (26,301 lb dw). 37.7 mt dw (83,158 lb dw). 85.5 mt dw (188,593 lb dw). 13.4 mt dw (29,421 lb dw)). 112.6 mt dw (248,215 lb dw). 504.6 mt dw (1,112,441 lb dw). 168.9 mt dw (372,552 lb dw). 27.1 mt dw (59,736 lb dw). 264.1 mt dw (582,333 lb dw). 17.2 mt dw (37,921 lb dw). 1,802.6 mt dw (3,971,587 lb dw). 50.0 mt dw (110,230 lb dw). 90.7 mt dw (199,943 lb dw). 273.0 mt dw (601,856 lb dw). 1.7 mt dw (3,748 lb dw). 488.0 mt dw (1,075,856 lb dw). 121.1 mt dw (266,965 lb dw). <2.5 mt dw (<5,500 lb dw). <4.5 mt dw (<10,000 lb dw). 0 mt dw (0 lb dw) ...... 600.9 mt dw (1,323,862 lb dw). ................................... 0 mt dw (0 lb dw) ...... ................................... 28.8 mt dw (63,485 lb dw). ................................... 1,201.7 mt dw (2,649,268 lb dw). 50.0 mt dw (110,230 lb dw). 90.7 mt dw (199,943 lb dw). 273.0 mt dw (601,856 lb dw). 1.7 mt dw (3,748 lb dw). 488.0 mt dw (1,075,856 lb dw). 1,802.6 mt dw (3,971,587 lb dw). 50.0 mt dw (110,230 lb dw). 90.7 mt dw (199,943 lb dw). 273.0 mt dw (601,856 lb dw). 1.7 mt dw (3,748 lb dw). 488.0 mt dw (1,075,856 lb dw). ................................... 12.6 mt dw (27,719 lb dw). ................................... ................................... ................................... 168.2 mt dw (370,814 lb dw). ................................... ................................... ................................... ................................... ................................... ................................... Season opening dates January 1, 2021. January 1, 2021. January 1, 2021 January 1, 2021. 1 Landings are from January 1, 2020, through July 10, 2020, and are subject to change. 2 Underharvest adjustments can only be applied to stocks or management groups that are not overfished and have no overfishing occurring. Also, the underharvest adjustments cannot exceed 50 percent of the base annual quota. 3 This adjustment accounts for underharvest in 2020. This proposed rule would increase the overall Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota by 128.3 mt dw (282,850 lb dw). Since any underharvest would be divided based on the sub-regional quota percentage split, the western Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota would be increased by 115.7 mt dw, or 90.2 percent of the quota adjustment, while the eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota would be increased by 12.6 mt dw, or 9.8 percent of the quota adjustment. 4 While there is an overharvest of the western Gulf of Mexico Aggregated LCS sub-regional quota in 2020, NMFS does not expect the full Gulf of Mexico regional quota to be filled, and is thus proposing to maintain the full baseline quota in 2021. However, if the Gulf of Mexico regional quota is filled or exceeded, the sub-regional quota would be adjusted accordingly. jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS 1. Proposed 2021 Quotas for the Gulf of Mexico Region Shark Management Groups The 2021 proposed commercial quota for blacktip sharks in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region is 347.2 mt dw (765,392 lb dw) and the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region is 37.7 mt dw (83,158 lb dw; Table 1). As of July 10, 2020, preliminary reported landings for blacktip sharks in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 59 percent (204.4 mt dw) of their 2020 quota levels (347.2 mt dw), and blacktip sharks in the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 9 percent (3.5 mt dw) of the subregional 2020 quota levels (37.7 mt dw). Reported landings in both sub-regions have not exceeded the 2020 quota to date. Gulf of Mexico blacktip sharks are not overfished, are not experiencing overfishing, and do not have an VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:27 Sep 28, 2020 Jkt 250001 unknown status. Pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii), underharvests for blacktip sharks within the Gulf of Mexico region therefore may be applied to the 2020 quotas, up to 50 percent of the base annual quota. Additionally, any underharvest would be divided between the two sub-regions, based on the percentages that are allocated to each sub-region, which are set forth in § 635.27(b)(1)(ii)(C). To date, the overall Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group is underharvested by 177.0 mt dw (390,212 lb dw). Accordingly, NMFS proposes to increase the western Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota by 115.7 mt dw or 90.2 percent of the quota adjustment, while the eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark sub-regional quota would increase by 12.6 mt dw, or 9.8 percent of the quota adjustment (Table 1). Thus, PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 the proposed western sub-regional Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark commercial quota is 347.2 mt dw (765,392 lb dw), and the proposed eastern sub-regional Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark commercial quota is 37.7 mt dw (83,158 lb dw). The 2021 proposed commercial quota for aggregated LCS in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region is 72.0 mt dw (158,724 lb dw), and the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region is 85.5 mt dw (188,593 lb dw; Table 1). As of July 10, 2020, preliminary reported landings for aggregated LCS in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 110 percent (78.9 mt dw) of the 2020 quota (72.0 mt dw), while the aggregated LCS in the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 60 percent (50.9 mt dw) of the 2020 quota levels (85.5 mt dw). While the aggregated LCS management group E:\FR\FM\29SEP1.SGM 29SEP1 jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 189 / Tuesday, September 29, 2020 / Proposed Rules landings have been exceeded in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region, the current combined catch rates for both sub-regions (82 percent; 129.8 mt dw) indicate that the overall regional 2020 quota is not likely to be exceeded before the end of the fishing year. NMFS will continue to monitor these landings for the remainder of the 2020 fishing year. If the combined aggregated LCS quotas are exceeded, then the 2020 quota would be adjusted to account for any overharvest. The 2021 proposed commercial quotas for hammerhead sharks in the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region and western Gulf of Mexico sub-region are 11.9 mt dw (26,301 lb dw) and 13.4 mt dw (29,421 lb dw), respectively (Table 1). As of July 10, 2020, preliminary reported landings for hammerhead sharks in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region were less than 20 percent (<2.3 mt dw) of the 2020 quota levels (11.9 mt dw), while landings of hammerhead sharks in the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at less than 20 percent (<2.7 mt dw) of the 2020 quota levels (13.4 mt dw). Reported landings from both Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic regions have not exceeded the 2020 overall hammerhead quota to date. Given the overfished status of the scalloped hammerhead shark, the hammerhead shark quota cannot be adjusted for any underharvests. Therefore, based on both preliminary estimates and catch rates from previous years and the fact that the 2020 overall hammerhead shark quota has not been overharvested to date, and consistent with the current regulations at § 635.27(b)(2)(ii), NMFS proposes that the 2021 quotas for hammerhead sharks in the western Gulf of Mexico and eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-regions be equal to their annual base quotas without adjustment. The 2021 proposed commercial quota for non-blacknose SCS in the Gulf of Mexico region is 112.6 mt dw (248,215 lb dw). As of July 10, 2020, preliminary reported landings of non-blacknose SCS were at 22 percent (25.2 mt dw) of their 2020 quota level (112.6 mt dw) in the Gulf of Mexico region. Reported landings have not exceeded the 2020 quota to date. Given the unknown status of bonnethead sharks within the Gulf of Mexico non-blacknose SCS management group, underharvests cannot be carried forward, pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii). Based on both preliminary estimates and catch rates from previous years, and because there have not been any overharvests, NMFS proposes that the 2021 quota for non-blacknose SCS in the Gulf of Mexico region be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:27 Sep 28, 2020 Jkt 250001 The 2021 proposed commercial quota for smoothhound sharks in the Gulf of Mexico region is 504.6 mt dw (1,112,441 lb dw). As of July 10, 2020, preliminary reported landings of smoothhound sharks were less than 1 percent (1.4 mt dw) in the Gulf of Mexico region. Gulf of Mexico smoothhound sharks are not overfished, are not experiencing overfishing, and do not have an unknown status. Pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii), underharvests for smoothhound sharks within the Gulf of Mexico region therefore could be added to the 2021 quotas up to 50 percent of the base annual quota. Accordingly, NMFS proposes to increase the 2021 Gulf of Mexico smoothhound shark quota to adjust for anticipated underharvests in 2020 to the full extent allowed. The proposed 2021 adjusted base annual quota for Gulf of Mexico smoothhound sharks is 504.6 mt dw (336.4 mt dw annual base quota + 168.2 mt dw 2020 underharvest = 504.6 mt dw 2021 adjusted annual quota). 2. Proposed 2021 Quotas for the Atlantic Region Shark Management Groups The 2021 proposed commercial quota for aggregated LCS in the Atlantic region is 168.9 mt dw (372,552 lb dw). As of July 10, 2020, the aggregated LCS fishery in the Atlantic region is still open, and preliminary landings indicate that only 22 percent (36.8 mt dw) of the quota has been harvested. Given the unknown status of some of the shark species within the Atlantic aggregated LCS management group, underharvests cannot be carried over pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on both preliminary estimates and catch rates from previous years, and consistent with current regulations at § 635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2021 quota for aggregated LCS in the Atlantic region be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment, because there have not been any overharvests, and underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status. The 2021 proposed commercial quota for hammerhead sharks in the Atlantic region is 27.1 mt dw (59,736 lb dw). Currently, the hammerhead shark fishery in the Atlantic region is still open and preliminary landings as of July 10, 2020, indicate that 39 percent (10.6 mt dw) of the Atlantic regional quota has been harvested. Reported landings from both Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic regions have not exceeded the 2020 overall hammerhead quota to date. Given the overfished status of hammerhead sharks, underharvests cannot be carried forward pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on both preliminary estimates and catch PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 60949 rates from previous years, and consistent with the current regulations at § 635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2021 quota for hammerhead sharks in the Atlantic region be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment. The 2021 proposed commercial quota for non-blacknose SCS in the Atlantic region is 264.1 mt dw (582,333 lb dw). As of July 10, 2020, preliminary reported landings of non-blacknose SCS were at 17 percent (44.0 mt dw) of the 2020 quota level in the Atlantic region. Reported landings have not exceeded the 2020 quota to date. Given the unknown status of bonnethead sharks within the Atlantic non-blacknose SCS management group, underharvests cannot be carried forward pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on preliminary estimates of catch rates from previous years, and consistent with the current regulations at § 635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2021 quota for non-blacknose SCS in the Atlantic region be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment. The 2021 proposed commercial quota for blacknose sharks in the Atlantic region is 17.2 mt dw (37,921 lb dw). This quota is available in the Atlantic region only for those vessels operating south of 34° N latitude. North of 34° N latitude, retention, landing, or sale of blacknose sharks is prohibited. NMFS is not proposing any adjustments to the blacknose shark quota at this time. As of July 10, 2020, preliminary reported landings of blacknose sharks were at 15 percent (2.6 mt dw) of the 2020 quota levels in the Atlantic region. Reported landings have not exceeded the 2020 quota to date. Pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2), because blacknose sharks have been declared to be overfished with overfishing occurring in the Atlantic region, NMFS could not carry forward the remaining underharvest. Therefore, NMFS proposes that the 2021 Atlantic blacknose shark quota be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment. The 2021 proposed commercial quota for smoothhound sharks in the Atlantic region is 1,802.6 mt dw (3,973,902 lb dw). As of July 10, 2020, preliminary reported landings of smoothhound sharks were at 6.7 percent (121.1 mt dw) of their 2020 quota levels in the Atlantic region. Atlantic smoothhound sharks have not been declared to be overfished, to have overfishing occurring, or to have an unknown status. Pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii), underharvests for smoothhound sharks within the Atlantic region therefore could be applied to the 2021 quotas up to 50 percent of the base annual quota. Accordingly, NMFS proposes to increase the 2021 Atlantic smoothhound shark quota to adjust for E:\FR\FM\29SEP1.SGM 29SEP1 60950 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 189 / Tuesday, September 29, 2020 / Proposed Rules anticipated underharvests in 2020 as allowed. The proposed 2021 adjusted base annual quota for Atlantic smoothhound sharks is 1,802.6 mt dw (1,201.7 mt dw annual base quota + 600.9 mt dw 2019 underharvest = 1,802.6 mt dw 2021 adjusted annual quota). jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS 3. Proposed 2021 Quotas for Shark Management Groups With No Regional Quotas The 2021 proposed commercial quotas within the shark research fishery are 50 mt dw (110,230 lb dw) for research LCS and 90.7 mt dw (199,943 lb dw) for sandbar sharks. Within the shark research fishery, as of July 10, 2020, preliminary reported landings of research LCS were at less than 5 percent (<2.5 mt dw) of the 2020 quota, and sandbar shark reported landings were at less than 5 percent (<4.5 mt dw) of their 2020 quota. Under § 635.27(b)(2)(ii), because sandbar sharks and scalloped hammerhead sharks within the research LCS management group are either overfished or overfishing is occurring, underharvests for these management groups cannot be carried forward. Therefore, based on preliminary estimates, and consistent with the regulations at § 635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2021 quota in the shark research fishery be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment because there have not been any overharvests, and because underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status. The 2021 proposed commercial quotas for blue sharks, porbeagle sharks, and pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle or blue sharks) are 273.0 mt dw (601,856 lb dw), 1.7 mt dw (3,748 lb dw), and 488.0 mt dw (1,075,856 lb dw), respectively. As of July 10, 2020, there were no preliminary reported landings of blue sharks or porbeagle sharks, and landings of pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle and blue sharks) were at 5.9 percent (28.8 mt dw) of the 2020 quota level (488.0 mt dw). Given that these pelagic species are overfished, have overfishing occurring, or have an unknown status, underharvests cannot be carried forward pursuant to § 635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on preliminary estimates and consistent with the current regulations at § 635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2021 quotas for blue sharks, porbeagle sharks, and pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle and blue sharks) be equal to their annual base quotas without adjustment, because there have not been any overharvests and because underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status. Proposed Opening Date and Retention Limits for the 2021 Atlantic Commercial Shark Fishing Year In proposing the commercial shark fishing season opening dates for all regions and sub-regions, NMFS considers regulatory criteria listed at § 635.27(b)(3) and other relevant factors such as the available annual quotas for the current fishing season, estimated season length and average weekly catch rates from previous years, length of the season and fishery participation in past years, impacts to accomplishing objectives of the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments, temporal variation in behavior or biology of target species (e.g., seasonal distribution or abundance), impact of catch rates in one region on another, and effects of delayed openings. In analyzing the criteria, NMFS examines the overharvests and underharvests of the different management groups in the 2020 fishing year to determine the likely effects of the proposed commercial quotas for 2021 on shark stocks and fishermen across regional and sub-regional fishing areas. NMFS also examines the potential season length and previous catch rates to ensure, to the extent practicable, that equitable fishing opportunities be provided to fishermen in all areas. Lastly, NMFS examines the seasonal variation of the different species/ management groups and the effects on fishing opportunities. At the start of each fishing year, the default commercial retention limit is 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip in the eastern and western Gulf of Mexico sub-regions and in the Atlantic region, unless NMFS determines otherwise and files with the Office of the Federal Register for publication notification of an inseason adjustment. NMFS may adjust the retention limit from zero to 55 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip if the respective LCS management group is open under §§ 635.27 and 635.28, after considering the six ‘‘inseason trip limit adjustment criteria’’ listed at § 635.24(a)(8). Those criteria are: The amount of remaining shark quota in the relevant area, region, or sub-region, to date, based on dealer reports; the catch rates of the relevant shark species/ complexes in the region or sub-region, to date, based on dealer reports; the estimated date of fishery closure based on when the landings are projected to reach 80-percent of the quota given the realized catch rates and whether they are projected to reach 100 percent before the end of the fishing season; effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments; variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migratory patterns of the relevant shark species based on scientific and fishery-based knowledge; and/or effects of catch rates in one part of a region precluding vessels in another part of that region from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the relevant quota. After considering all these criteria, NMFS is proposing to open the 2021 Atlantic commercial shark fishing season for all shark management groups in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, on January 1, 2021, after the publication of the final rule for this action (Table 2). NMFS proposes to open the season on January 1, 2021, but recognizes that the actual opening date is contingent on publication in the Federal Register, and may vary accordingly. NMFS is also proposing to start the 2021 commercial shark fishing season with the commercial retention limit of 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip in both the eastern and western Gulf of Mexico subregions, and a commercial retention limit of 36 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip in the Atlantic region (Table 2). Proposed retention limits could change as a result of public comments as well as updated catch rates and landings information available when drafting the final rule. TABLE 2—QUOTA LINKAGES, SEASON OPENING DATES, AND COMMERCIAL RETENTION LIMIT BY REGIONAL OR SUBREGIONAL SHARK MANAGEMENT GROUP Region or sub-region Management group Quota linkages Season opening date Western Gulf of Mexico .... Blacktip Sharks ............... Aggregated Large Coastal Sharks. Hammerhead Sharks. Not Linked ....................... Linked. January 1, 2021 .............. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:27 Sep 28, 2020 Jkt 250001 PO 00000 Frm 00028 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Commercial retention limits for directed shark limited access permit holders (inseason adjustments are possible) 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip. E:\FR\FM\29SEP1.SGM 29SEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 189 / Tuesday, September 29, 2020 / Proposed Rules 60951 TABLE 2—QUOTA LINKAGES, SEASON OPENING DATES, AND COMMERCIAL RETENTION LIMIT BY REGIONAL OR SUBREGIONAL SHARK MANAGEMENT GROUP—Continued Commercial retention limits for directed shark limited access permit holders (inseason adjustments are possible) Region or sub-region Management group Quota linkages Season opening date Eastern Gulf of Mexico ..... Blacktip Sharks ............... Aggregated Large Coastal Sharks. Hammerhead Sharks. Non-Blacknose Small Coastal Sharks. Smoothhound Sharks ..... Aggregated Large Coastal Sharks. Hammerhead Sharks ...... Not Linked ....................... Linked. January 1, 2021 .............. 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip. Not Linked ....................... January 1, 2021 .............. N/A. Not Linked ....................... Linked .............................. January 1, 2021 .............. January 1, 2021 .............. Linked (South of 34° N lat. only). January 1, 2021 .............. N/A. 36 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip. If quota is landed quickly (e.g., if approximately 40 percent of quota is caught at the beginning of the year), NMFS anticipates considering an inseason reduction (e.g., to 3 or fewer LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip), then an inseason increase to 36 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip around July 15, 2021.1 N/A. Not Linked ....................... Linked .............................. January 1, 2021 .............. January 1, 2021 .............. 8 Blacknose sharks per vessel per trip (applies to directed and incidental permit holders). N/A. N/A. Not Linked ....................... January 1, 2021 .............. N/A. Gulf of Mexico ................... Atlantic .............................. No regional quotas ............ Non-Blacknose Small Coastal Sharks. Blacknose Sharks (South of 34° N lat. only). Smoothhound Sharks ..... Non-Sandbar LCS Research. Sandbar Shark Research. Blue Sharks ..................... Porbeagle Sharks. Pelagic Sharks Other Than Porbeagle or Blue. jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS 1 NMFS is proposing changing the percent of quota harvested at which it considers adjusting the retention limit. Rather than 35 percent, NMFS would consider adjustment to 40 percent to allow fishermen in the Atlantic region to more fully utilize the quota. In the eastern and western Gulf of Mexico sub-regions, NMFS proposes opening the fishing season on January 1, 2021, for the aggregated LCS, blacktip sharks, and hammerhead shark management groups, with the commercial retention limits of 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip for directed shark permits. This opening date and retention limit combination would provide, to the extent practicable, equitable opportunities across the fisheries management sub-regions. This opening date takes into account all the season opening criteria listed in § 635.27(b)(3), and particularly the criteria that require NMFS to consider the length of the season for the different species and/or management groups in the previous years (§ 635.27(b)(3)(ii) and (iii)) and whether fishermen were able to participate in the fishery in those years (§ 635.27(b)(3)(v)). The proposed commercial retention limits take into account the criteria listed in § 635.24(a)(8), and particularly the criterion that requires NMFS to consider the catch rates of the relevant shark species/complexes based on dealer reports to date (§ 635.24(a)(8)(ii)). NMFS may also adjust the retention limit in the Gulf of Mexico region throughout the season to ensure fishermen in all parts of the region have an opportunity VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:27 Sep 28, 2020 Jkt 250001 to harvest aggregated LCS, blacktip sharks, and hammerhead sharks (see the criteria listed at § 635.27(b)(3)(v) and § 635.24(a)(8)(ii), (v), and (vi)). For both the eastern and western Gulf of Mexico sub-regions combined, dealer reports received through July 10, 2020, indicate that 58 percent (200.4 mt dw), 110 percent (78.9 mt dw), and less than 15 percent (<0.5 mt dw) of the available blacktip, aggregated LCS, and hammerhead shark quotas, respectively, has been harvested. Therefore, for 2021, NMFS is considering opening both the western and eastern Gulf of Mexico subregions with a commercial retention limit of 45 sharks other than sandbar sharks, per vessel per trip. In the Atlantic region, NMFS proposes opening the aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark management groups on January 1, 2021. This opening date also takes into account all the criteria listed in § 635.27(b)(3), and particularly the criterion that NMFS consider the effects of catch rates in one part of a region precluding vessels in another part of that region from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the different species and/or management quotas (§ 635.27(b)(3)(v)). The 2020 data indicates that an opening date of January 1, coupled with inseason adjustments to the retention limit, provided a reasonable opportunity for PO 00000 Frm 00029 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 fishermen in every part of each region to harvest a portion of the available quotas (§ 635.27(b)(3)(i)), while accounting for variations in seasonal distribution of the different species in the management groups (§ 635.27(b)(3)(iv)). Because the quotas we propose for 2021 are the same as the quotas in 2020, NMFS proposes that the season lengths, and therefore, the participation of various fishermen throughout the region, would be similar in 2021 (§ 635.27(b)(3)(ii) and (iii)). Based on the recent performance of the fishery, the January 1 opening date appears to meet the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments (§ 635.27(b)(3)(vi)). NMFS’ review of the landings data from 2016 to the present has shown a decrease in landings over time in the aggregated LCS and hammerhead management groups. In the Final Rule to Establish Adjusted Base Annual Quotas, Opening Dates, and Retention Limits for the 2020 Atlantic Shark Commercial Fishing Year (84 FR 65690; November 29, 2019), NMFS increased the starting retention limit from 25 to 36, and the percentage threshold from 20 to 35 percent. NMFS proposes to follow the same trip adjustment criteria in 2021, but because landings continue to remain low, NMFS is proposing to change the percent of quota harvested at which it E:\FR\FM\29SEP1.SGM 29SEP1 jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS 60952 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 189 / Tuesday, September 29, 2020 / Proposed Rules considers adjusting the retention limit from 35 to 40 percent. Changing the percent of quota harvested could allow fishermen in the Atlantic region to more fully utilize the quota. Changing the percentage of quota harvested is a management benchmark NMFS has used (and announced as part of the rulemaking process) in previous seasons to help determine at which point it will consider an inseason action to adjust the retention limits. In addition, for the aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark management groups in the Atlantic region, NMFS proposes opening the fishing year with the commercial retention limit for directed shark limited access permit holders of 36 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip. This retention limit should allow fishermen to harvest some of the 2021 quota at the beginning of the year when sharks are more prevalent in the South Atlantic area (see the criteria at § 635.24(a)(3)(i), (ii), (v), and (vi)). As was done in 2020, if it appears that the quota is being harvested too quickly to allow directed fishermen throughout the entire region an opportunity to fish and ensure enough quota remains until later in the year, NMFS would consider either reducing the commercial retention limits to incidental levels (3 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip), or setting another level calculated to reduce the harvest of LCS in accordance with the opening commercial fishing season criteria listed in § 635.27(b)(3) and the inseason trip limit adjustment criteria listed in § 635.24(a)(8). If the quota continues to be harvested quickly, NMFS could consider reducing the retention limit to 0 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip to ensure enough quota remains until later in the year. If either situation occurs, NMFS would publish in the Federal Register notification of any inseason adjustments of the retention limit. NMFS will consider increasing the commercial retention limits per trip at a later date, after considering the appropriate inseason adjustment criteria, if necessary to provide fishermen in the northern portion of the Atlantic region an opportunity to retain aggregated LCS and hammerhead sharks. Similarly, at some point later in the year, NMFS may consider increasing the retention limit to a higher retention limit of aggregated LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip, as deemed appropriate, after considering the inseason trip limit adjustment criteria. If the quota is being harvested too quickly or too slowly, NMFS could adjust the retention limit appropriately VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:27 Sep 28, 2020 Jkt 250001 to ensure the fishery remains open most of the rest of the year. All of the shark management groups would remain open until December 31, 2021, or until NMFS determines that the landings for any shark management group are projected to reach 80 percent of the quota given the realized catch rates and whether they are projected to reach 100 percent before the end of the fishing season, or when the quota-linked management group is closed. If NMFS determines that a non-linked shark species or management group must be closed, then, consistent with § 635.28(b)(2) for non-linked quotas (e.g., eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip, western Gulf of Mexico blacktip, Gulf of Mexico non-blacknose SCS, pelagic sharks, or the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico smoothhound sharks), NMFS will publish in the Federal Register a notice of closure for that shark species, shark management group, region, and/or subregion that will be effective no fewer than four days from the date of filing (This is pursuant to 50 CFR part 635, as most recently amended by the July 9, 2018, final rule (83 FR 31677) revising Atlantic highly migratory species shark fishery closure regulations). For the blacktip shark management group, regulations at § 635.28(b)(5)(i) through (v) authorize NMFS to close the management group before landings have reached or are projected to reach 80 percent of applicable available overall, regional, and/or sub-regional quota and are projected to reach 100 percent of the relevant quota by the end of the fishing season, after considering the following criteria and other relevant factors: Season length based on available subregional quota and average sub-regional catch rates; variability in regional and/ or sub-regional seasonal distribution, abundance, and migratory patterns; effects on accomplishing the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments; amount of remaining shark quotas in the relevant sub-region; and regional and/or subregional catch rates of the relevant shark species or management groups. The fisheries for the shark species or management group would be closed (even across fishing years) from the effective date and time of the closure until NMFS announces, via the publication of a notice in the Federal Register, that additional quota is available and the season is reopened. If NMFS determines that a linked shark species or management group must be closed, then, consistent with § 635.28(b)(3) for linked quotas and the Final Rule to Revise Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Shark Fishery Closure Regulations (83 FR 31677; July PO 00000 Frm 00030 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 9, 2018), NMFS will publish in the Federal Register a notice of closure for all of the species and/or management groups in a linked group that will be effective no fewer than four days from the date of filing. In that event, from the effective date and time of the closure until NMFS announces that the season is reopened and additional quota is available (via the publication of another notice in the Federal Register), the fisheries for all linked species and/or management groups will be closed, even across fishing years. The linked quotas of the species and/or management groups are Atlantic hammerhead sharks and Atlantic aggregated LCS; eastern Gulf of Mexico hammerhead sharks and eastern Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS; western Gulf of Mexico hammerhead sharks and western Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS; and Atlantic blacknose and Atlantic non-blacknose SCS south of 34° N latitude. Request for Comments Comments on this proposed rule may be submitted via www.regulations.gov. NMFS solicits comments on this proposed rule by October 29, 2020 (see DATES and ADDRESSES). Classification The NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that the proposed rule is consistent with the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable laws, subject to further consideration after public comment. These proposed specifications are exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. NMFS determined that the final rules to implement Amendment 2 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (June 24, 2008, 73 FR 35778; corrected on July 15, 2008, 73 FR 40658), Amendment 5a to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (78 FR 40318; July 3, 2013), Amendment 6 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (80 FR 50073; August 18, 2015), and Amendment 9 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (80 FR 73128; November 24, 2015) are consistent to the maximum extent practicable with the enforceable policies of the approved coastal management program of coastal states on the Atlantic, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, as required under the Coastal Zone Management Act. Pursuant to 15 CFR 930.41(a), NMFS provided the Coastal Zone Management Program of each coastal state a 60-day period to review the consistency determination and to advise NMFS of their concurrence. NMFS received concurrence with the E:\FR\FM\29SEP1.SGM 29SEP1 jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 189 / Tuesday, September 29, 2020 / Proposed Rules consistency determinations from several states and inferred consistency from those states that did not respond within the 60-day time period. This proposed action to establish an opening date and adjust quotas for the 2021 fishing year for the Atlantic commercial shark fisheries does not change the framework previously consulted upon. Therefore, no additional consultation is required. An initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA) was prepared, as required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). The IRFA describes the economic impact this proposed rule, if adopted, would have on small entities. The IRFA analysis follows. Section 603(b)(1) of the RFA requires agencies to explain the purpose of the rule. This rule, consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments, would adjust quotas and retention limits and establish the opening date for the 2021 Atlantic commercial shark fishing year, consistent with regulations at 50 CFR 635.27(b). Section 603(b)(2) of the RFA requires agencies to explain the rule’s objectives. The objectives of this rule are to: Adjust the base quotas for all shark management groups based on any overharvests and/or underharvests from the previous fishing year(s); establish the opening dates of the various shark fishery management groups; and establish the retention limits for the blacktip shark, aggregated large coastal shark, and hammerhead shark management groups in order to provide, to the extent practicable, equitable opportunities across the fishing management regions and/or sub-regions while also considering the ecological needs of the different shark species. Section 603(b)(3) of the RFA requires agencies to provide an estimate of the number of small entities to which the rule would apply. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has established size criteria for all major industry sectors in the United States, including fish harvesters. SBA’s regulations include provisions for an agency to develop its own industry-specific size standards after consultation with SBA and providing 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 VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:27 Sep 28, 2020 Jkt 250001 size standards in the Federal Register, which NMFS did on December 29, 2015 (80 FR 81194; 50 CFR 200.2). In this final rule effective on July 1, 2016, NMFS established a small business size standard of $11 million in annual gross receipts for all businesses in the commercial fishing industry (NAICS 11411) for RFA compliance purposes. NMFS considers all HMS permit holders to be small entities because they had average annual receipts of less than $11 million for commercial fishing. As of July 10, 2020, the proposed rule would apply to the approximately 218 directed commercial shark permit holders, 263 incidental commercial shark permit holders, 159 smoothhound shark permit holders, and 104 commercial shark dealers. Not all permit holders are active in the fishery in any given year. Active directed commercial shark permit holders are defined as those with valid permits that landed one shark based on HMS electronic dealer reports. Of the 481 directed and incidental commercial shark permit holders, only 18 permit holders landed sharks in the Gulf of Mexico region, and only 85 landed sharks in the Atlantic region. Of the 159 smoothhound shark permit holders, only 61 permit holders landed smoothhound sharks in the Atlantic region, and none landed smoothhound sharks in the Gulf of Mexico region. NMFS has determined that the proposed rule would not likely affect any small governmental jurisdictions. This proposed rule does not contain any new reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements (5 U.S.C. 603(b)(4)) or a collection-of-information requirement subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act. Similarly, this proposed rule would not conflict, duplicate, or overlap with other relevant Federal rules (5 U.S.C. 603(b)(5)). Fishermen, dealers, and managers in these fisheries must comply with a number of international agreements as domestically implemented, domestic laws, and FMPs. These include, but are not limited to, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act. Section 603(c) of the RFA requires each IRFA to contain a description of any significant alternatives to the proposed rule, which would accomplish the stated objectives of applicable statutes and minimize any significant economic impact of the proposed rule on small entities. Additionally, the RFA (5 U.S.C. 603(c)(1)–(4)) lists four general categories of significant alternatives that PO 00000 Frm 00031 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 60953 would assist an agency in the development of significant alternatives. These categories of alternatives are: (1) Establishment of differing compliance or reporting requirements or timetables that take into account the resources available to small entities; (2) clarification, consolidation, or simplification of compliance and reporting requirements under the rule for such small entities; (3) use of performance rather than design standards; and (4) exemptions from coverage of the rule for small entities. In order to meet the objectives of this proposed rule, consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS cannot exempt small entities or change the reporting requirements only for small entities, because all of the entities affected are considered small entities. For similar reasons, there are no alternatives discussed that fall under the first, second, and fourth categories described above. NMFS does not know of any performance or design standards that would satisfy the aforementioned objectives of this rulemaking while, concurrently, complying with the Magnuson-Stevens Act; therefore, there are no alternatives considered under the third category. This rulemaking would implement previously adopted and analyzed measures with adjustments, as specified in the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments and the Environmental Assessment (EA) that accompanied the 2011 shark quota specifications rule (75 FR 76302; December 8, 2010). NMFS proposes to adjust quotas established and analyzed in the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments by subtracting the underharvest or adding the overharvest as allowable. NMFS has limited flexibility to otherwise modify the quotas in this rule. In addition, the impacts of the quotas (and any potential modifications) were analyzed in previous regulatory flexibility analyses (RFAs), including the RFA that accompanied the 2011 shark quota specifications rule. Based on the 2019 ex-vessel price (Table 3), fully harvesting the unadjusted 2021 Atlantic shark commercial base quotas could result in total fleet revenues of $9,997,263. For the Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group, NMFS is proposing to adjust the base sub-regional quotas upward due to underharvests in 2020. The increase for the western Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group could result in a $241,691 gain in total revenues for fishermen in that subregion, while the increase for the eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark E:\FR\FM\29SEP1.SGM 29SEP1 60954 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 189 / Tuesday, September 29, 2020 / Proposed Rules management group could result in a $27,645 gain in total revenues for fishermen in that sub-region. For the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic smoothhound shark management groups, NMFS is proposing to increase the base quotas due to the underharvest in 2020. This would cause a potential gain in revenue of $393,063 for the fleet in the Gulf of Mexico region, and a potential gain in revenue of $1,112,680 for the fleet in the Atlantic region. All of these changes in gross revenues are similar to the gross revenues analyzed in the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and Amendments 2, 3 5a, 6, and 9 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP. The final RFAs for those amendments concluded that the economic impacts on these small entities from adjustments such as those contemplated in this action are expected to be minimal. In accordance with the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP, as amended, and consistent with NMFS’ statements in rule implementing Amendments 2, 3 5a, 6, and 9, and in the EA for the 2011 shark quota specifications rule, NMFS now conducts annual rulemakings in which NMFS considers the potential economic impacts of adjusting the quotas for underharvests and overharvests. TABLE 3—AVERAGE EX-VESSEL PRICES PER LB DW FOR EACH SHARK MANAGEMENT GROUP, 2019 Region Species Average ex-vessel meat price Average ex-vessel fin price Western Gulf of Mexico ............................... Blacktip Shark ................................................................................ Aggregated LCS ............................................................................ Hammerhead Shark ....................................................................... Blacktip Shark ................................................................................ Aggregated LCS ............................................................................ Hammerhead Shark ....................................................................... Non-Blacknose SCS ...................................................................... Smoothhound Shark ...................................................................... Aggregated LCS ............................................................................ Hammerhead Shark ....................................................................... Non-Blacknose SCS ...................................................................... Blacknose Shark ............................................................................ Smoothhound Shark ...................................................................... Shark Research Fishery (Aggregated LCS) .................................. Shark Research Fishery (Sandbar only) ....................................... Blue shark ...................................................................................... Porbeagle shark ............................................................................. Other Pelagic sharks ..................................................................... $0.70 0.73 0.52 0.75 0.56 0.50 0.59 1.06 0.99 0.46 1.02 1.27 0.78 0.86 0.68 ........................ 0.36 1.35 $9.16 15.81 12.00 8.00 12.00 13.43 5.81 ........................ 3.51 ........................ 4.60 ........................ 1.68 15.15 ........................ ........................ 2.51 7.60 Eastern Gulf of Mexico ............................... Gulf of Mexico ............................................. Atlantic ......................................................... No Region ................................................... jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS For this rule, NMFS also reviewed the criteria at § 635.27(b)(3) to determine when opening each fishery would provide equitable opportunities for fishermen, to the extent practicable, while also considering the ecological needs of the different species. The opening date of the fishing year could vary depending upon the available annual quota, catch rates, and number of fishing participants during the year. For the 2021 fishing year, NMFS is VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:27 Sep 28, 2020 Jkt 250001 proposing to open all of the shark management groups on the effective date of the final rule for this action (which is expected to be January 1). The direct and indirect economic impacts would be neutral on a short- and longterm basis, because NMFS is not proposing to change the opening date of these fisheries from the status quo. For all of the reasons explained above, this action, if implemented, will not PO 00000 Frm 00032 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: September 14, 2020. Samuel D. Rauch, III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2020–20573 Filed 9–28–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\29SEP1.SGM 29SEP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 189 (Tuesday, September 29, 2020)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 60947-60954]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-20573]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

[Docket No. 200911-0242]
RIN 0648-XT038


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; 2021 Atlantic Shark Commercial 
Fishing Year

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: This proposed rule would adjust quotas and retention limits 
and establish the opening date for the 2021 fishing year for the 
Atlantic commercial shark fisheries. Quotas would be adjusted as 
required or allowable based on any overharvests and/or underharvests 
experienced during the 2020 fishing year. NMFS proposes the opening 
date and commercial retention limits to provide, to the extent 
practicable, fishing opportunities for commercial shark fishermen in 
all regions and areas. The proposed measures could affect fishing 
opportunities for commercial shark fishermen in the northwestern 
Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea.

DATES: Written comments must be received by October 29, 2020.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NMFS-2020-0108, by electronic submission. Submit all electronic 
public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2020-0108, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
    Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or 
individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be 
considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the public 
record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous).
    Copies of this proposed rule and supporting documents are available 
from the HMS Management Division website at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/topic/atlantic-highly-migratory-species or by 
contacting Lauren Latchford ([email protected]) by phone at 
301-427-8503.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Lauren Latchford 
([email protected]), Guy Eroh ([email protected]), or Karyl 
Brewster-Geisz ([email protected]) at 301-427-8503.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

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

2021 Proposed Commercial Shark Quotas

    NMFS proposes adjusting the quota levels for the different shark 
stocks and management groups for the 2021 Atlantic commercial shark 
fishing year based on overharvests and underharvests that occurred 
during the 2020 fishing year, consistent with existing regulations at 
50 CFR 635.27(b). Overharvests and underharvests are accounted for in 
the same region, sub-region, and/or fishery in which they occurred the 
following year, except that large overharvests may be spread over a 
number of subsequent fishing years up to a maximum of five years. If a 
sub-regional quota is overharvested, but the overall regional quota is 
not, no subsequent adjustment is required. Unharvested quota may be 
added to the quota for the next fishing year, but only if NMFS knows 
the status of all species in the management group, none of the species 
in the group are overfished, and there is no overfishing in the group. 
No more than 50 percent of a base annual quota may be carried over from 
a previous fishing year.
    Based on 2020 harvests to date, and after considering catch rates 
and landings from previous years, NMFS proposes to adjust the 2021 
quotas for certain management groups as shown in Table 1. All of the 
2021 proposed quotas for the respective stocks and management groups 
will be subject to further adjustment in the final rule after NMFS 
considers the dealer reports through mid-October. NMFS anticipates that 
dealer reports received after that time will be used to adjust 2021 
quotas, as appropriate, noting that in some circumstances, NMFS re-
adjusts quotas in the subject year.
    Because the Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group and 
smoothhound shark management groups in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic 
regions are not overfished, and overfishing is not occurring, available 
underharvest (up to 50 percent of the base annual quota) from the 2020 
fishing year for these management groups may be added to the respective 
2021 base quotas. NMFS proposes to account for any underharvest of Gulf 
of Mexico blacktip sharks by dividing underharvest between the eastern 
and western Gulf of Mexico sub-regional quotas based on the sub-
regional quota split percentage implemented in Amendment 6 to the 2006 
Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (80 FR 50073; August 18, 2015).
    For the sandbar shark, aggregated large coastal shark (LCS), 
hammerhead shark, non-blacknose small coastal shark (SCS), blacknose 
shark, blue shark, porbeagle shark, and pelagic shark (other than 
porbeagle or blue sharks) management groups, the 2020 underharvests 
cannot be carried over to the 2021 fishing year because those stocks or 
management groups are overfished, are experiencing overfishing, or have 
an unknown status. With the exception of the sub-regional western Gulf 
of Mexico overharvest of the aggregated LCS quota, which will be 
discussed below, there are no overharvests to account for in these 
management groups to date. Thus, NMFS proposes that quotas for these

[[Page 60948]]

management groups be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment, 
although the ultimate decision will be based on current data at the 
time of the final rule.
    The proposed 2021 quotas by species and management group are 
summarized in Table 1; the description of the calculations for each 
stock and management group can be found below. All quotas and landings 
are dressed weight (dw), in metric tons (mt), unless specified 
otherwise. Table 1 includes landings data as of July 10, 2020; final 
quotas are subject to change based on landings as of October 2020. 1 mt 
= 2,204.6 lb.

                                 Table 1--2021 Proposed Quotas and Opening Date for the Atlantic Shark Management Groups
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                    Preliminary
     Region or sub-region      Management group    2020 Annual     2020 landings   Adjustments \2\     2021  Base     2021 Proposed     Season opening
                                                      quota             \1\                           annual quota     annual quota          dates
                                                 (A)............  (B)............  (C)............  (D)............  (D + C)........
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Western Gulf of Mexico.......  Blacktip Sharks   347.2 mt dw      204.4 mt dw      115.7 mt dw      231.5 mt dw      347.2 mt dw      January 1, 2021.
                                \3\.              (765,392 lb      (450,612 lb      (255,131 lb      (510,261 lb      (765,392 lb
                                                  dw).             dw).             dw).             dw).             dw).
                               Aggregated \4\    72.0 mt dw       78.9 mt dw       ...............  72.0 mt dw       72.0 mt dw
                                Large Coastal     (158,724 lb      (173,959 lb                       (158,724 lb      (158,724 lb
                                Sharks.           dw).             dw).                              dw).             dw).
                               Hammerhead        11.9 mt dw       <2.3 mt dw       ...............  11.9 mt dw       11.9 mt dw
                                Sharks.           (26,301 lb dw).  (<5,000 lb dw).                   (26,301 lb dw).  (26,301 lb dw).
Eastern Gulf of Mexico.......  Blacktip Sharks   37.7 mt dw       3.5 mt dw        12.6 mt dw       25.1 mt dw       37.7 mt dw       January 1, 2021.
                                \3\.              (83,158 lb dw).  (7,726 lb dw).   (27,719 lb dw).  (55,439 lb dw).  (83,158 lb dw).
                               Aggregated Large  85.5 mt dw       50.9 mt dw       ...............  85.5 mt dw       85.5 mt dw
                                Coastal Sharks.   (188,593 lb      (112,266 lb                       (188,593 lb      (188,593 lb
                                                  dw).             dw).                              dw).             dw).
                               Hammerhead        13.4 mt dw       <2.7 mt dw       ...............  13.4 mt dw       13.4 mt dw
                                Sharks.           (29,421 lb dw).  (<6,000 lb dw).                   (29,421 lb dw).  (29,421 lb
                                                                                                                      dw)).
Gulf of Mexico...............  Non-Blacknose     112.6 mt dw      25.2 mt dw       ...............  112.6 mt dw      112.6 mt dw
                                Small Coastal     (248,215 lb      (55,563 lb dw).                   (248,215 lb      (248,215 lb
                                Sharks.           dw).                                               dw).             dw).
                               Smoothhound       504.6 mt dw      1.4 mt dw        168.2 mt dw      336.4 mt dw      504.6 mt dw
                                Sharks.           (1,112,441 lb    (3,144 lb dw).   (370,814 lb      (741,627 lb      (1,112,441 lb
                                                  dw).                              dw).             dw).             dw).
Atlantic.....................  Aggregated Large  168.9 mt dw      36.8 mt dw       ...............  168.9 mt dw      168.9 mt dw      January 1, 2021
                                Coastal Sharks.   (372,552 lb      (81,217 lb dw).                   (372,552 lb      (372,552 lb
                                                  dw).                                               dw).             dw).
                               Hammerhead        27.1 mt dw       10.6 mt dw       ...............  27.1 mt dw       27.1 mt dw
                                Sharks.           (59,736 lb dw).  (23,340 lb dw).                   (59,736 lb dw).  (59,736 lb dw).
                               Non-Blacknose     264.1 mt dw      44.0 mt dw       ...............  264.1 mt dw      264.1 mt dw
                                Small Coastal     (582,333 lb      (96,939 lb dw).                   (582,333 lb      (582,333 lb
                                Sharks.           dw).                                               dw).             dw).
                               Blacknose Sharks  17.2 mt dw       2.6 mt dw        ...............  17.2 mt dw       17.2 mt dw
                                (South of         (37,921 lb dw).  (5,753 lb dw).                    (37,921 lb dw).  (37,921 lb dw).
                                34[deg] N lat.
                                only).
                               Smoothhound       1,802.6 mt dw    121.1 mt dw      600.9 mt dw      1,201.7 mt dw    1,802.6 mt dw
                                Sharks.           (3,971,587 lb    (266,965 lb      (1,323,862 lb    (2,649,268 lb    (3,971,587 lb
                                                  dw).             dw).             dw).             dw).             dw).
No regional quotas...........  Non-Sandbar LCS   50.0 mt dw       <2.5 mt dw       ...............  50.0 mt dw       50.0 mt dw       January 1, 2021.
                                Research.         (110,230 lb      (<5,500 lb dw).                   (110,230 lb      (110,230 lb
                                                  dw).                                               dw).             dw).
                               Sandbar Shark     90.7 mt dw       <4.5 mt dw       ...............  90.7 mt dw       90.7 mt dw
                                Research.         (199,943 lb      (<10,000 lb                       (199,943 lb      (199,943 lb
                                                  dw).             dw).                              dw).             dw).
                               Blue Sharks.....  273.0 mt dw      0 mt dw (0 lb    ...............  273.0 mt dw      273.0 mt dw
                                                  (601,856 lb      dw).                              (601,856 lb      (601,856 lb
                                                  dw).                                               dw).             dw).
                               Porbeagle Sharks  1.7 mt dw        0 mt dw (0 lb    ...............  1.7 mt dw        1.7 mt dw
                                                  (3,748 lb dw).   dw).                              (3,748 lb dw).   (3,748 lb dw).
                               Pelagic Sharks    488.0 mt dw      28.8 mt dw       ...............  488.0 mt dw      488.0 mt dw
                                Other Than        (1,075,856 lb    (63,485 lb dw).                   (1,075,856 lb    (1,075,856 lb
                                Porbeagle or      dw).                                               dw).             dw).
                                Blue.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Landings are from January 1, 2020, through July 10, 2020, and are subject to change.
\2\ Underharvest adjustments can only be applied to stocks or management groups that are not overfished and have no overfishing occurring. Also, the
  underharvest adjustments cannot exceed 50 percent of the base annual quota.
\3\ This adjustment accounts for underharvest in 2020. This proposed rule would increase the overall Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota by 128.3 mt dw
  (282,850 lb dw). Since any underharvest would be divided based on the sub-regional quota percentage split, the western Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark
  quota would be increased by 115.7 mt dw, or 90.2 percent of the quota adjustment, while the eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark quota would be
  increased by 12.6 mt dw, or 9.8 percent of the quota adjustment.
\4\ While there is an overharvest of the western Gulf of Mexico Aggregated LCS sub-regional quota in 2020, NMFS does not expect the full Gulf of Mexico
  regional quota to be filled, and is thus proposing to maintain the full baseline quota in 2021. However, if the Gulf of Mexico regional quota is
  filled or exceeded, the sub-regional quota would be adjusted accordingly.

1. Proposed 2021 Quotas for the Gulf of Mexico Region Shark Management 
Groups
    The 2021 proposed commercial quota for blacktip sharks in the 
western Gulf of Mexico sub-region is 347.2 mt dw (765,392 lb dw) and 
the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region is 37.7 mt dw (83,158 lb dw; 
Table 1). As of July 10, 2020, preliminary reported landings for 
blacktip sharks in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 59 
percent (204.4 mt dw) of their 2020 quota levels (347.2 mt dw), and 
blacktip sharks in the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 9 
percent (3.5 mt dw) of the sub-regional 2020 quota levels (37.7 mt dw). 
Reported landings in both sub-regions have not exceeded the 2020 quota 
to date. Gulf of Mexico blacktip sharks are not overfished, are not 
experiencing overfishing, and do not have an unknown status. Pursuant 
to Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii), underharvests for blacktip sharks within the 
Gulf of Mexico region therefore may be applied to the 2020 quotas, up 
to 50 percent of the base annual quota. Additionally, any underharvest 
would be divided between the two sub-regions, based on the percentages 
that are allocated to each sub-region, which are set forth in Sec.  
635.27(b)(1)(ii)(C). To date, the overall Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark 
management group is underharvested by 177.0 mt dw (390,212 lb dw). 
Accordingly, NMFS proposes to increase the western Gulf of Mexico 
blacktip shark quota by 115.7 mt dw or 90.2 percent of the quota 
adjustment, while the eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark sub-
regional quota would increase by 12.6 mt dw, or 9.8 percent of the 
quota adjustment (Table 1). Thus, the proposed western sub-regional 
Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark commercial quota is 347.2 mt dw (765,392 
lb dw), and the proposed eastern sub-regional Gulf of Mexico blacktip 
shark commercial quota is 37.7 mt dw (83,158 lb dw).
    The 2021 proposed commercial quota for aggregated LCS in the 
western Gulf of Mexico sub-region is 72.0 mt dw (158,724 lb dw), and 
the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region is 85.5 mt dw (188,593 lb dw; 
Table 1). As of July 10, 2020, preliminary reported landings for 
aggregated LCS in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 110 
percent (78.9 mt dw) of the 2020 quota (72.0 mt dw), while the 
aggregated LCS in the eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region were at 60 
percent (50.9 mt dw) of the 2020 quota levels (85.5 mt dw). While the 
aggregated LCS management group

[[Page 60949]]

landings have been exceeded in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region, 
the current combined catch rates for both sub-regions (82 percent; 
129.8 mt dw) indicate that the overall regional 2020 quota is not 
likely to be exceeded before the end of the fishing year. NMFS will 
continue to monitor these landings for the remainder of the 2020 
fishing year. If the combined aggregated LCS quotas are exceeded, then 
the 2020 quota would be adjusted to account for any overharvest.
    The 2021 proposed commercial quotas for hammerhead sharks in the 
eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-region and western Gulf of Mexico sub-region 
are 11.9 mt dw (26,301 lb dw) and 13.4 mt dw (29,421 lb dw), 
respectively (Table 1). As of July 10, 2020, preliminary reported 
landings for hammerhead sharks in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region 
were less than 20 percent (<2.3 mt dw) of the 2020 quota levels (11.9 
mt dw), while landings of hammerhead sharks in the eastern Gulf of 
Mexico sub-region were at less than 20 percent (<2.7 mt dw) of the 2020 
quota levels (13.4 mt dw). Reported landings from both Gulf of Mexico 
and Atlantic regions have not exceeded the 2020 overall hammerhead 
quota to date. Given the overfished status of the scalloped hammerhead 
shark, the hammerhead shark quota cannot be adjusted for any 
underharvests. Therefore, based on both preliminary estimates and catch 
rates from previous years and the fact that the 2020 overall hammerhead 
shark quota has not been overharvested to date, and consistent with the 
current regulations at Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii), NMFS proposes that the 
2021 quotas for hammerhead sharks in the western Gulf of Mexico and 
eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-regions be equal to their annual base quotas 
without adjustment.
    The 2021 proposed commercial quota for non-blacknose SCS in the 
Gulf of Mexico region is 112.6 mt dw (248,215 lb dw). As of July 10, 
2020, preliminary reported landings of non-blacknose SCS were at 22 
percent (25.2 mt dw) of their 2020 quota level (112.6 mt dw) in the 
Gulf of Mexico region. Reported landings have not exceeded the 2020 
quota to date. Given the unknown status of bonnethead sharks within the 
Gulf of Mexico non-blacknose SCS management group, underharvests cannot 
be carried forward, pursuant to Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii). Based on both 
preliminary estimates and catch rates from previous years, and because 
there have not been any overharvests, NMFS proposes that the 2021 quota 
for non-blacknose SCS in the Gulf of Mexico region be equal to the 
annual base quota without adjustment.
    The 2021 proposed commercial quota for smoothhound sharks in the 
Gulf of Mexico region is 504.6 mt dw (1,112,441 lb dw). As of July 10, 
2020, preliminary reported landings of smoothhound sharks were less 
than 1 percent (1.4 mt dw) in the Gulf of Mexico region. Gulf of Mexico 
smoothhound sharks are not overfished, are not experiencing 
overfishing, and do not have an unknown status. Pursuant to Sec.  
635.27(b)(2)(ii), underharvests for smoothhound sharks within the Gulf 
of Mexico region therefore could be added to the 2021 quotas up to 50 
percent of the base annual quota. Accordingly, NMFS proposes to 
increase the 2021 Gulf of Mexico smoothhound shark quota to adjust for 
anticipated underharvests in 2020 to the full extent allowed. The 
proposed 2021 adjusted base annual quota for Gulf of Mexico smoothhound 
sharks is 504.6 mt dw (336.4 mt dw annual base quota + 168.2 mt dw 2020 
underharvest = 504.6 mt dw 2021 adjusted annual quota).
2. Proposed 2021 Quotas for the Atlantic Region Shark Management Groups
    The 2021 proposed commercial quota for aggregated LCS in the 
Atlantic region is 168.9 mt dw (372,552 lb dw). As of July 10, 2020, 
the aggregated LCS fishery in the Atlantic region is still open, and 
preliminary landings indicate that only 22 percent (36.8 mt dw) of the 
quota has been harvested. Given the unknown status of some of the shark 
species within the Atlantic aggregated LCS management group, 
underharvests cannot be carried over pursuant to Sec.  
635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on both preliminary estimates and 
catch rates from previous years, and consistent with current 
regulations at Sec.  635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2021 quota 
for aggregated LCS in the Atlantic region be equal to the annual base 
quota without adjustment, because there have not been any overharvests, 
and underharvests cannot be carried over due to stock status.
    The 2021 proposed commercial quota for hammerhead sharks in the 
Atlantic region is 27.1 mt dw (59,736 lb dw). Currently, the hammerhead 
shark fishery in the Atlantic region is still open and preliminary 
landings as of July 10, 2020, indicate that 39 percent (10.6 mt dw) of 
the Atlantic regional quota has been harvested. Reported landings from 
both Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic regions have not exceeded the 2020 
overall hammerhead quota to date. Given the overfished status of 
hammerhead sharks, underharvests cannot be carried forward pursuant to 
Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on both preliminary estimates 
and catch rates from previous years, and consistent with the current 
regulations at Sec.  635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2021 quota 
for hammerhead sharks in the Atlantic region be equal to the annual 
base quota without adjustment.
    The 2021 proposed commercial quota for non-blacknose SCS in the 
Atlantic region is 264.1 mt dw (582,333 lb dw). As of July 10, 2020, 
preliminary reported landings of non-blacknose SCS were at 17 percent 
(44.0 mt dw) of the 2020 quota level in the Atlantic region. Reported 
landings have not exceeded the 2020 quota to date. Given the unknown 
status of bonnethead sharks within the Atlantic non-blacknose SCS 
management group, underharvests cannot be carried forward pursuant to 
Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on preliminary estimates of 
catch rates from previous years, and consistent with the current 
regulations at Sec.  635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2021 quota 
for non-blacknose SCS in the Atlantic region be equal to the annual 
base quota without adjustment.
    The 2021 proposed commercial quota for blacknose sharks in the 
Atlantic region is 17.2 mt dw (37,921 lb dw). This quota is available 
in the Atlantic region only for those vessels operating south of 
34[deg] N latitude. North of 34[deg] N latitude, retention, landing, or 
sale of blacknose sharks is prohibited. NMFS is not proposing any 
adjustments to the blacknose shark quota at this time. As of July 10, 
2020, preliminary reported landings of blacknose sharks were at 15 
percent (2.6 mt dw) of the 2020 quota levels in the Atlantic region. 
Reported landings have not exceeded the 2020 quota to date. Pursuant to 
Sec.  635.27(b)(2), because blacknose sharks have been declared to be 
overfished with overfishing occurring in the Atlantic region, NMFS 
could not carry forward the remaining underharvest. Therefore, NMFS 
proposes that the 2021 Atlantic blacknose shark quota be equal to the 
annual base quota without adjustment.
    The 2021 proposed commercial quota for smoothhound sharks in the 
Atlantic region is 1,802.6 mt dw (3,973,902 lb dw). As of July 10, 
2020, preliminary reported landings of smoothhound sharks were at 6.7 
percent (121.1 mt dw) of their 2020 quota levels in the Atlantic 
region. Atlantic smoothhound sharks have not been declared to be 
overfished, to have overfishing occurring, or to have an unknown 
status. Pursuant to Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii), underharvests for 
smoothhound sharks within the Atlantic region therefore could be 
applied to the 2021 quotas up to 50 percent of the base annual quota. 
Accordingly, NMFS proposes to increase the 2021 Atlantic smoothhound 
shark quota to adjust for

[[Page 60950]]

anticipated underharvests in 2020 as allowed. The proposed 2021 
adjusted base annual quota for Atlantic smoothhound sharks is 1,802.6 
mt dw (1,201.7 mt dw annual base quota + 600.9 mt dw 2019 underharvest 
= 1,802.6 mt dw 2021 adjusted annual quota).
3. Proposed 2021 Quotas for Shark Management Groups With No Regional 
Quotas
    The 2021 proposed commercial quotas within the shark research 
fishery are 50 mt dw (110,230 lb dw) for research LCS and 90.7 mt dw 
(199,943 lb dw) for sandbar sharks. Within the shark research fishery, 
as of July 10, 2020, preliminary reported landings of research LCS were 
at less than 5 percent (<2.5 mt dw) of the 2020 quota, and sandbar 
shark reported landings were at less than 5 percent (<4.5 mt dw) of 
their 2020 quota. Under Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii), because sandbar sharks 
and scalloped hammerhead sharks within the research LCS management 
group are either overfished or overfishing is occurring, underharvests 
for these management groups cannot be carried forward. Therefore, based 
on preliminary estimates, and consistent with the regulations at Sec.  
635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2021 quota in the shark research 
fishery be equal to the annual base quota without adjustment because 
there have not been any overharvests, and because underharvests cannot 
be carried over due to stock status.
    The 2021 proposed commercial quotas for blue sharks, porbeagle 
sharks, and pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle or blue sharks) are 
273.0 mt dw (601,856 lb dw), 1.7 mt dw (3,748 lb dw), and 488.0 mt dw 
(1,075,856 lb dw), respectively. As of July 10, 2020, there were no 
preliminary reported landings of blue sharks or porbeagle sharks, and 
landings of pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle and blue sharks) were 
at 5.9 percent (28.8 mt dw) of the 2020 quota level (488.0 mt dw). 
Given that these pelagic species are overfished, have overfishing 
occurring, or have an unknown status, underharvests cannot be carried 
forward pursuant to Sec.  635.27(b)(2)(ii). Therefore, based on 
preliminary estimates and consistent with the current regulations at 
Sec.  635.27(b)(2), NMFS proposes that the 2021 quotas for blue sharks, 
porbeagle sharks, and pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle and blue 
sharks) be equal to their annual base quotas without adjustment, 
because there have not been any overharvests and because underharvests 
cannot be carried over due to stock status.
Proposed Opening Date and Retention Limits for the 2021 Atlantic 
Commercial Shark Fishing Year
    In proposing the commercial shark fishing season opening dates for 
all regions and sub-regions, NMFS considers regulatory criteria listed 
at Sec.  635.27(b)(3) and other relevant factors such as the available 
annual quotas for the current fishing season, estimated season length 
and average weekly catch rates from previous years, length of the 
season and fishery participation in past years, impacts to 
accomplishing objectives of the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and 
its amendments, temporal variation in behavior or biology of target 
species (e.g., seasonal distribution or abundance), impact of catch 
rates in one region on another, and effects of delayed openings.
    In analyzing the criteria, NMFS examines the overharvests and 
underharvests of the different management groups in the 2020 fishing 
year to determine the likely effects of the proposed commercial quotas 
for 2021 on shark stocks and fishermen across regional and sub-regional 
fishing areas. NMFS also examines the potential season length and 
previous catch rates to ensure, to the extent practicable, that 
equitable fishing opportunities be provided to fishermen in all areas. 
Lastly, NMFS examines the seasonal variation of the different species/
management groups and the effects on fishing opportunities. At the 
start of each fishing year, the default commercial retention limit is 
45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip in the eastern and 
western Gulf of Mexico sub-regions and in the Atlantic region, unless 
NMFS determines otherwise and files with the Office of the Federal 
Register for publication notification of an inseason adjustment. NMFS 
may adjust the retention limit from zero to 55 LCS other than sandbar 
sharks per vessel per trip if the respective LCS management group is 
open under Sec. Sec.  635.27 and 635.28, after considering the six 
``inseason trip limit adjustment criteria'' listed at Sec.  
635.24(a)(8). Those criteria are: The amount of remaining shark quota 
in the relevant area, region, or sub-region, to date, based on dealer 
reports; the catch rates of the relevant shark species/complexes in the 
region or sub-region, to date, based on dealer reports; the estimated 
date of fishery closure based on when the landings are projected to 
reach 80-percent of the quota given the realized catch rates and 
whether they are projected to reach 100 percent before the end of the 
fishing season; effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the 
objectives of the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its 
amendments; variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or 
migratory patterns of the relevant shark species based on scientific 
and fishery-based knowledge; and/or effects of catch rates in one part 
of a region precluding vessels in another part of that region from 
having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the relevant 
quota.
    After considering all these criteria, NMFS is proposing to open the 
2021 Atlantic commercial shark fishing season for all shark management 
groups in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico 
and the Caribbean Sea, on January 1, 2021, after the publication of the 
final rule for this action (Table 2). NMFS proposes to open the season 
on January 1, 2021, but recognizes that the actual opening date is 
contingent on publication in the Federal Register, and may vary 
accordingly. NMFS is also proposing to start the 2021 commercial shark 
fishing season with the commercial retention limit of 45 LCS other than 
sandbar sharks per vessel per trip in both the eastern and western Gulf 
of Mexico sub-regions, and a commercial retention limit of 36 LCS other 
than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip in the Atlantic region (Table 
2). Proposed retention limits could change as a result of public 
comments as well as updated catch rates and landings information 
available when drafting the final rule.

 Table 2--Quota Linkages, Season Opening Dates, and Commercial Retention Limit by Regional or Sub-Regional Shark
                                                Management Group
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                           Commercial retention
                                                                                            limits for directed
                                                                         Season opening    shark limited access
      Region or sub-region        Management group    Quota linkages          date            permit holders
                                                                                           (inseason adjustments
                                                                                               are possible)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Western Gulf of Mexico.........  Blacktip Sharks..  Not Linked.......  January 1, 2021..  45 LCS other than
                                 Aggregated Large   Linked...........                      sandbar sharks per
                                  Coastal Sharks.                                          vessel per trip.
                                 Hammerhead Sharks

[[Page 60951]]

 
Eastern Gulf of Mexico.........  Blacktip Sharks..  Not Linked.......  January 1, 2021..  45 LCS other than
                                 Aggregated Large   Linked...........                      sandbar sharks per
                                  Coastal Sharks.                                          vessel per trip.
                                 Hammerhead
                                  Sharks.
Gulf of Mexico.................  Non-Blacknose      Not Linked.......  January 1, 2021..  N/A.
                                  Small Coastal
                                  Sharks.
                                 Smoothhound        Not Linked.......  January 1, 2021..  N/A.
                                  Sharks.
Atlantic.......................  Aggregated Large   Linked...........  January 1, 2021..  36 LCS other than
                                  Coastal Sharks.                                          sandbar sharks per
                                                                                           vessel per trip.
                                 Hammerhead Sharks                                        If quota is landed
                                                                                           quickly (e.g., if
                                                                                           approximately 40
                                                                                           percent of quota is
                                                                                           caught at the
                                                                                           beginning of the
                                                                                           year), NMFS
                                                                                           anticipates
                                                                                           considering an
                                                                                           inseason reduction
                                                                                           (e.g., to 3 or fewer
                                                                                           LCS other than
                                                                                           sandbar sharks per
                                                                                           vessel per trip),
                                                                                           then an inseason
                                                                                           increase to 36 LCS
                                                                                           other than sandbar
                                                                                           sharks per vessel per
                                                                                           trip around July 15,
                                                                                           2021.\1\
                                 Non-Blacknose      Linked (South of   January 1, 2021..  N/A.
                                  Small Coastal      34[deg] N lat.
                                  Sharks.            only).
                                 Blacknose Sharks                                         8 Blacknose sharks per
                                  (South of                                                vessel per trip
                                  34[deg] N lat.                                           (applies to directed
                                  only).                                                   and incidental permit
                                                                                           holders).
                                 Smoothhound        Not Linked.......  January 1, 2021..  N/A.
                                  Sharks.
No regional quotas.............  Non-Sandbar LCS    Linked...........  January 1, 2021..  N/A.
                                  Research.
                                 Sandbar Shark
                                  Research.
                                 Blue Sharks......  Not Linked.......  January 1, 2021..  N/A.
                                 Porbeagle Sharks.
                                 Pelagic Sharks
                                  Other Than
                                  Porbeagle or
                                  Blue.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ NMFS is proposing changing the percent of quota harvested at which it considers adjusting the retention
  limit. Rather than 35 percent, NMFS would consider adjustment to 40 percent to allow fishermen in the Atlantic
  region to more fully utilize the quota.

    In the eastern and western Gulf of Mexico sub-regions, NMFS 
proposes opening the fishing season on January 1, 2021, for the 
aggregated LCS, blacktip sharks, and hammerhead shark management 
groups, with the commercial retention limits of 45 LCS other than 
sandbar sharks per vessel per trip for directed shark permits. This 
opening date and retention limit combination would provide, to the 
extent practicable, equitable opportunities across the fisheries 
management sub-regions. This opening date takes into account all the 
season opening criteria listed in Sec.  635.27(b)(3), and particularly 
the criteria that require NMFS to consider the length of the season for 
the different species and/or management groups in the previous years 
(Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(ii) and (iii)) and whether fishermen were able to 
participate in the fishery in those years (Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(v)). The 
proposed commercial retention limits take into account the criteria 
listed in Sec.  635.24(a)(8), and particularly the criterion that 
requires NMFS to consider the catch rates of the relevant shark 
species/complexes based on dealer reports to date (Sec.  
635.24(a)(8)(ii)). NMFS may also adjust the retention limit in the Gulf 
of Mexico region throughout the season to ensure fishermen in all parts 
of the region have an opportunity to harvest aggregated LCS, blacktip 
sharks, and hammerhead sharks (see the criteria listed at Sec.  
635.27(b)(3)(v) and Sec.  635.24(a)(8)(ii), (v), and (vi)). For both 
the eastern and western Gulf of Mexico sub-regions combined, dealer 
reports received through July 10, 2020, indicate that 58 percent (200.4 
mt dw), 110 percent (78.9 mt dw), and less than 15 percent (<0.5 mt dw) 
of the available blacktip, aggregated LCS, and hammerhead shark quotas, 
respectively, has been harvested. Therefore, for 2021, NMFS is 
considering opening both the western and eastern Gulf of Mexico sub-
regions with a commercial retention limit of 45 sharks other than 
sandbar sharks, per vessel per trip.
    In the Atlantic region, NMFS proposes opening the aggregated LCS 
and hammerhead shark management groups on January 1, 2021. This opening 
date also takes into account all the criteria listed in Sec.  
635.27(b)(3), and particularly the criterion that NMFS consider the 
effects of catch rates in one part of a region precluding vessels in 
another part of that region from having a reasonable opportunity to 
harvest a portion of the different species and/or management quotas 
(Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(v)). The 2020 data indicates that an opening date 
of January 1, coupled with inseason adjustments to the retention limit, 
provided a reasonable opportunity for fishermen in every part of each 
region to harvest a portion of the available quotas (Sec.  
635.27(b)(3)(i)), while accounting for variations in seasonal 
distribution of the different species in the management groups (Sec.  
635.27(b)(3)(iv)). Because the quotas we propose for 2021 are the same 
as the quotas in 2020, NMFS proposes that the season lengths, and 
therefore, the participation of various fishermen throughout the 
region, would be similar in 2021 (Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(ii) and (iii)). 
Based on the recent performance of the fishery, the January 1 opening 
date appears to meet the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic 
HMS FMP and its amendments (Sec.  635.27(b)(3)(vi)). NMFS' review of 
the landings data from 2016 to the present has shown a decrease in 
landings over time in the aggregated LCS and hammerhead management 
groups. In the Final Rule to Establish Adjusted Base Annual Quotas, 
Opening Dates, and Retention Limits for the 2020 Atlantic Shark 
Commercial Fishing Year (84 FR 65690; November 29, 2019), NMFS 
increased the starting retention limit from 25 to 36, and the 
percentage threshold from 20 to 35 percent. NMFS proposes to follow the 
same trip adjustment criteria in 2021, but because landings continue to 
remain low, NMFS is proposing to change the percent of quota harvested 
at which it

[[Page 60952]]

considers adjusting the retention limit from 35 to 40 percent. Changing 
the percent of quota harvested could allow fishermen in the Atlantic 
region to more fully utilize the quota. Changing the percentage of 
quota harvested is a management benchmark NMFS has used (and announced 
as part of the rulemaking process) in previous seasons to help 
determine at which point it will consider an inseason action to adjust 
the retention limits.
    In addition, for the aggregated LCS and hammerhead shark management 
groups in the Atlantic region, NMFS proposes opening the fishing year 
with the commercial retention limit for directed shark limited access 
permit holders of 36 LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip. 
This retention limit should allow fishermen to harvest some of the 2021 
quota at the beginning of the year when sharks are more prevalent in 
the South Atlantic area (see the criteria at Sec.  635.24(a)(3)(i), 
(ii), (v), and (vi)). As was done in 2020, if it appears that the quota 
is being harvested too quickly to allow directed fishermen throughout 
the entire region an opportunity to fish and ensure enough quota 
remains until later in the year, NMFS would consider either reducing 
the commercial retention limits to incidental levels (3 LCS other than 
sandbar sharks per vessel per trip), or setting another level 
calculated to reduce the harvest of LCS in accordance with the opening 
commercial fishing season criteria listed in Sec.  635.27(b)(3) and the 
inseason trip limit adjustment criteria listed in Sec.  635.24(a)(8). 
If the quota continues to be harvested quickly, NMFS could consider 
reducing the retention limit to 0 LCS other than sandbar sharks per 
vessel per trip to ensure enough quota remains until later in the year. 
If either situation occurs, NMFS would publish in the Federal Register 
notification of any inseason adjustments of the retention limit. NMFS 
will consider increasing the commercial retention limits per trip at a 
later date, after considering the appropriate inseason adjustment 
criteria, if necessary to provide fishermen in the northern portion of 
the Atlantic region an opportunity to retain aggregated LCS and 
hammerhead sharks. Similarly, at some point later in the year, NMFS may 
consider increasing the retention limit to a higher retention limit of 
aggregated LCS other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip, as deemed 
appropriate, after considering the inseason trip limit adjustment 
criteria. If the quota is being harvested too quickly or too slowly, 
NMFS could adjust the retention limit appropriately to ensure the 
fishery remains open most of the rest of the year.
    All of the shark management groups would remain open until December 
31, 2021, or until NMFS determines that the landings for any shark 
management group are projected to reach 80 percent of the quota given 
the realized catch rates and whether they are projected to reach 100 
percent before the end of the fishing season, or when the quota-linked 
management group is closed. If NMFS determines that a non-linked shark 
species or management group must be closed, then, consistent with Sec.  
635.28(b)(2) for non-linked quotas (e.g., eastern Gulf of Mexico 
blacktip, western Gulf of Mexico blacktip, Gulf of Mexico non-blacknose 
SCS, pelagic sharks, or the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico smoothhound 
sharks), NMFS will publish in the Federal Register a notice of closure 
for that shark species, shark management group, region, and/or sub-
region that will be effective no fewer than four days from the date of 
filing (This is pursuant to 50 CFR part 635, as most recently amended 
by the July 9, 2018, final rule (83 FR 31677) revising Atlantic highly 
migratory species shark fishery closure regulations). For the blacktip 
shark management group, regulations at Sec.  635.28(b)(5)(i) through 
(v) authorize NMFS to close the management group before landings have 
reached or are projected to reach 80 percent of applicable available 
overall, regional, and/or sub-regional quota and are projected to reach 
100 percent of the relevant quota by the end of the fishing season, 
after considering the following criteria and other relevant factors: 
Season length based on available sub-regional quota and average sub-
regional catch rates; variability in regional and/or sub-regional 
seasonal distribution, abundance, and migratory patterns; effects on 
accomplishing the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP 
and its amendments; amount of remaining shark quotas in the relevant 
sub-region; and regional and/or sub-regional catch rates of the 
relevant shark species or management groups. The fisheries for the 
shark species or management group would be closed (even across fishing 
years) from the effective date and time of the closure until NMFS 
announces, via the publication of a notice in the Federal Register, 
that additional quota is available and the season is reopened.
    If NMFS determines that a linked shark species or management group 
must be closed, then, consistent with Sec.  635.28(b)(3) for linked 
quotas and the Final Rule to Revise Atlantic Highly Migratory Species 
Shark Fishery Closure Regulations (83 FR 31677; July 9, 2018), NMFS 
will publish in the Federal Register a notice of closure for all of the 
species and/or management groups in a linked group that will be 
effective no fewer than four days from the date of filing. In that 
event, from the effective date and time of the closure until NMFS 
announces that the season is reopened and additional quota is available 
(via the publication of another notice in the Federal Register), the 
fisheries for all linked species and/or management groups will be 
closed, even across fishing years. The linked quotas of the species 
and/or management groups are Atlantic hammerhead sharks and Atlantic 
aggregated LCS; eastern Gulf of Mexico hammerhead sharks and eastern 
Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS; western Gulf of Mexico hammerhead sharks 
and western Gulf of Mexico aggregated LCS; and Atlantic blacknose and 
Atlantic non-blacknose SCS south of 34[deg] N latitude.

Request for Comments

    Comments on this proposed rule may be submitted via 
www.regulations.gov. NMFS solicits comments on this proposed rule by 
October 29, 2020 (see DATES and ADDRESSES).

Classification

    The NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that the proposed 
rule is consistent with the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its 
amendments, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable laws, 
subject to further consideration after public comment.
    These proposed specifications are exempt from review under 
Executive Order 12866.
    NMFS determined that the final rules to implement Amendment 2 to 
the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (June 24, 2008, 73 FR 35778; 
corrected on July 15, 2008, 73 FR 40658), Amendment 5a to the 2006 
Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (78 FR 40318; July 3, 2013), Amendment 6 
to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (80 FR 50073; August 18, 
2015), and Amendment 9 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (80 FR 
73128; November 24, 2015) are consistent to the maximum extent 
practicable with the enforceable policies of the approved coastal 
management program of coastal states on the Atlantic, including the 
Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, as required under the Coastal 
Zone Management Act. Pursuant to 15 CFR 930.41(a), NMFS provided the 
Coastal Zone Management Program of each coastal state a 60-day period 
to review the consistency determination and to advise NMFS of their 
concurrence. NMFS received concurrence with the

[[Page 60953]]

consistency determinations from several states and inferred consistency 
from those states that did not respond within the 60-day time period. 
This proposed action to establish an opening date and adjust quotas for 
the 2021 fishing year for the Atlantic commercial shark fisheries does 
not change the framework previously consulted upon. Therefore, no 
additional consultation is required.
    An initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA) was prepared, as 
required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). The 
IRFA describes the economic impact this proposed rule, if adopted, 
would have on small entities. The IRFA analysis follows.
    Section 603(b)(1) of the RFA requires agencies to explain the 
purpose of the rule. This rule, consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens 
Act and the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments, 
would adjust quotas and retention limits and establish the opening date 
for the 2021 Atlantic commercial shark fishing year, consistent with 
regulations at 50 CFR 635.27(b).
    Section 603(b)(2) of the RFA requires agencies to explain the 
rule's objectives. The objectives of this rule are to: Adjust the base 
quotas for all shark management groups based on any overharvests and/or 
underharvests from the previous fishing year(s); establish the opening 
dates of the various shark fishery management groups; and establish the 
retention limits for the blacktip shark, aggregated large coastal 
shark, and hammerhead shark management groups in order to provide, to 
the extent practicable, equitable opportunities across the fishing 
management regions and/or sub-regions while also considering the 
ecological needs of the different shark species.
    Section 603(b)(3) of the RFA requires agencies to provide an 
estimate of the number of small entities to which the rule would apply. 
The Small Business Administration (SBA) has established size criteria 
for all major industry sectors in the United States, including fish 
harvesters. SBA's regulations include provisions for an agency to 
develop its own industry-specific size standards after consultation 
with SBA and providing an opportunity for public comment (see 13 CFR 
121.903(c)). Under this provision, NMFS may establish size standards 
that differ from those established by the SBA Office of Size Standards, 
but only for use by NMFS and only for the purpose of conducting an 
analysis of economic effects in fulfillment of the agency's obligations 
under the RFA. To utilize this provision, NMFS must publish such size 
standards in the Federal Register, which NMFS did on December 29, 2015 
(80 FR 81194; 50 CFR 200.2). In this final rule effective on July 1, 
2016, NMFS established a small business size standard of $11 million in 
annual gross receipts for all businesses in the commercial fishing 
industry (NAICS 11411) for RFA compliance purposes. NMFS considers all 
HMS permit holders to be small entities because they had average annual 
receipts of less than $11 million for commercial fishing.
    As of July 10, 2020, the proposed rule would apply to the 
approximately 218 directed commercial shark permit holders, 263 
incidental commercial shark permit holders, 159 smoothhound shark 
permit holders, and 104 commercial shark dealers. Not all permit 
holders are active in the fishery in any given year. Active directed 
commercial shark permit holders are defined as those with valid permits 
that landed one shark based on HMS electronic dealer reports. Of the 
481 directed and incidental commercial shark permit holders, only 18 
permit holders landed sharks in the Gulf of Mexico region, and only 85 
landed sharks in the Atlantic region. Of the 159 smoothhound shark 
permit holders, only 61 permit holders landed smoothhound sharks in the 
Atlantic region, and none landed smoothhound sharks in the Gulf of 
Mexico region. NMFS has determined that the proposed rule would not 
likely affect any small governmental jurisdictions.
    This proposed rule does not contain any new reporting, 
recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements (5 U.S.C. 603(b)(4)) or 
a collection-of-information requirement subject to the Paperwork 
Reduction Act. Similarly, this proposed rule would not conflict, 
duplicate, or overlap with other relevant Federal rules (5 U.S.C. 
603(b)(5)). Fishermen, dealers, and managers in these fisheries must 
comply with a number of international agreements as domestically 
implemented, domestic laws, and FMPs. These include, but are not 
limited to, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Atlantic Tunas Convention 
Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, the 
National Environmental Policy Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act.
    Section 603(c) of the RFA requires each IRFA to contain a 
description of any significant alternatives to the proposed rule, which 
would accomplish the stated objectives of applicable statutes and 
minimize any significant economic impact of the proposed rule on small 
entities. Additionally, the RFA (5 U.S.C. 603(c)(1)-(4)) lists four 
general categories of significant alternatives that would assist an 
agency in the development of significant alternatives. These categories 
of alternatives are: (1) Establishment of differing compliance or 
reporting requirements or timetables that take into account the 
resources available to small entities; (2) clarification, 
consolidation, or simplification of compliance and reporting 
requirements under the rule for such small entities; (3) use of 
performance rather than design standards; and (4) exemptions from 
coverage of the rule for small entities. In order to meet the 
objectives of this proposed rule, consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens 
Act, NMFS cannot exempt small entities or change the reporting 
requirements only for small entities, because all of the entities 
affected are considered small entities. For similar reasons, there are 
no alternatives discussed that fall under the first, second, and fourth 
categories described above. NMFS does not know of any performance or 
design standards that would satisfy the aforementioned objectives of 
this rulemaking while, concurrently, complying with the Magnuson-
Stevens Act; therefore, there are no alternatives considered under the 
third category.
    This rulemaking would implement previously adopted and analyzed 
measures with adjustments, as specified in the 2006 Consolidated 
Atlantic HMS FMP and its amendments and the Environmental Assessment 
(EA) that accompanied the 2011 shark quota specifications rule (75 FR 
76302; December 8, 2010). NMFS proposes to adjust quotas established 
and analyzed in the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and its 
amendments by subtracting the underharvest or adding the overharvest as 
allowable. NMFS has limited flexibility to otherwise modify the quotas 
in this rule. In addition, the impacts of the quotas (and any potential 
modifications) were analyzed in previous regulatory flexibility 
analyses (RFAs), including the RFA that accompanied the 2011 shark 
quota specifications rule.
    Based on the 2019 ex-vessel price (Table 3), fully harvesting the 
unadjusted 2021 Atlantic shark commercial base quotas could result in 
total fleet revenues of $9,997,263. For the Gulf of Mexico blacktip 
shark management group, NMFS is proposing to adjust the base sub-
regional quotas upward due to underharvests in 2020. The increase for 
the western Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark management group could result 
in a $241,691 gain in total revenues for fishermen in that sub-region, 
while the increase for the eastern Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark

[[Page 60954]]

management group could result in a $27,645 gain in total revenues for 
fishermen in that sub-region. For the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic 
smoothhound shark management groups, NMFS is proposing to increase the 
base quotas due to the underharvest in 2020. This would cause a 
potential gain in revenue of $393,063 for the fleet in the Gulf of 
Mexico region, and a potential gain in revenue of $1,112,680 for the 
fleet in the Atlantic region.
    All of these changes in gross revenues are similar to the gross 
revenues analyzed in the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP and 
Amendments 2, 3 5a, 6, and 9 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP. 
The final RFAs for those amendments concluded that the economic impacts 
on these small entities from adjustments such as those contemplated in 
this action are expected to be minimal. In accordance with the 2006 
Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP, as amended, and consistent with NMFS' 
statements in rule implementing Amendments 2, 3 5a, 6, and 9, and in 
the EA for the 2011 shark quota specifications rule, NMFS now conducts 
annual rulemakings in which NMFS considers the potential economic 
impacts of adjusting the quotas for underharvests and overharvests.

                Table 3--Average Ex-Vessel Prices per lb dw for Each Shark Management Group, 2019
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                    Average ex-     Average ex-
                    Region                                   Species                vessel meat     vessel fin
                                                                                       price           price
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Western Gulf of Mexico........................  Blacktip Shark..................           $0.70           $9.16
                                                Aggregated LCS..................            0.73           15.81
                                                Hammerhead Shark................            0.52           12.00
Eastern Gulf of Mexico........................  Blacktip Shark..................            0.75            8.00
                                                Aggregated LCS..................            0.56           12.00
                                                Hammerhead Shark................            0.50           13.43
Gulf of Mexico................................  Non-Blacknose SCS...............            0.59            5.81
                                                Smoothhound Shark...............            1.06  ..............
Atlantic......................................  Aggregated LCS..................            0.99            3.51
                                                Hammerhead Shark................            0.46  ..............
                                                Non-Blacknose SCS...............            1.02            4.60
                                                Blacknose Shark.................            1.27  ..............
                                                Smoothhound Shark...............            0.78            1.68
No Region.....................................  Shark Research Fishery                      0.86           15.15
                                                 (Aggregated LCS).
                                                Shark Research Fishery (Sandbar             0.68  ..............
                                                 only).
                                                Blue shark......................  ..............  ..............
                                                Porbeagle shark.................            0.36            2.51
                                                Other Pelagic sharks............            1.35            7.60
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    For this rule, NMFS also reviewed the criteria at Sec.  
635.27(b)(3) to determine when opening each fishery would provide 
equitable opportunities for fishermen, to the extent practicable, while 
also considering the ecological needs of the different species. The 
opening date of the fishing year could vary depending upon the 
available annual quota, catch rates, and number of fishing participants 
during the year. For the 2021 fishing year, NMFS is proposing to open 
all of the shark management groups on the effective date of the final 
rule for this action (which is expected to be January 1). The direct 
and indirect economic impacts would be neutral on a short- and long-
term basis, because NMFS is not proposing to change the opening date of 
these fisheries from the status quo.
    For all of the reasons explained above, this action, if 
implemented, will not have a significant economic impact on a 
substantial number of small entities.

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

    Dated: September 14, 2020.
Samuel D. Rauch, III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2020-20573 Filed 9-28-20; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P