Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; North Atlantic Swordfish Fishery, 79136-79139 [2020-26796]

Download as PDF jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with RULES 79136 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 237 / Wednesday, December 9, 2020 / Rules and Regulations specified in 50 CFR 622.190(a)(1)(i) and (ii). After the January through June 2020 fishing season, 3,048 lb (1,382 kg) of the snowy grouper commercial quota remained unharvested. As specified in 50 CFR 622.190(a)(1)(iii), NMFS added this unused portion of the snowy grouper commercial quota to the commercial quota for the July through December 2020 fishing season. Therefore, the snowy grouper commercial quota for the July through December 2020 fishing season is 49,229 lb (22,329 kg). Any unused commercial quota for the July through December fishing season becomes void and will not be added to any subsequent quota (622.190(a)(1)(iii)). Under 50 CFR 622.193(b)(1), NMFS is required to close the commercial sector for snowy grouper when the commercial quota specified in 50 CFR 622.190(a)(1) is reached or is projected to be reached, by filing a notification to that effect with the Office of the Federal Register. NMFS projects that commercial landings of South Atlantic snowy grouper, as estimated by the Science and Research Director, will reach the adjusted July through December 2020 commercial quota by December 12, 2020. Accordingly, the commercial sector for South Atlantic snowy grouper is closed effective at 12:01 a.m., local time, on December 12, 2020, and remains closed until the start of the next January through June fishing season on January 1, 2021. The operator of a vessel with a valid commercial vessel permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper having snowy grouper on board must have landed and bartered, traded, or sold such snowy grouper prior to 12:01 a.m., local time, on December 12, 2020. During the commercial closure, harvest and possession of snowy grouper in or from the South Atlantic EEZ is limited to the bag and possession limits, as specified in § 622.187(b)(2)(ii) and (c)(1). Also during the commercial closure, the sale or purchase of snowy grouper taken from the EEZ is prohibited. The prohibition on sale or purchase does not apply to the sale or purchase of snowy grouper that were harvested, landed ashore, and sold prior to 12:01 a.m., local time, on December 12, 2020, and were held in cold storage by a dealer or processor. For a person on board a vessel for which a Federal commercial or charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has been issued, the bag and possession limits and the sale and purchase provisions during the commercial closure for snowy grouper apply regardless of VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:44 Dec 08, 2020 Jkt 253001 whether the fish are harvested in state or Federal waters, as specified in 50 CFR 622.190(c)(1)(ii). Classification NMFS issues this action pursuant to section 305(d) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. This action is required by 50 CFR 622.193(b)(1), which was issued pursuant to section 304(b) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. These measures are exempt from the procedures of the Regulatory Flexibility Act because the temporary rule is issued without opportunity for prior notice and comment. Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B), there is good cause to waive prior notice and an opportunity for public comment as such procedures are unnecessary and contrary to the public interest. Such procedures are unnecessary because the regulations associated with the commercial quota for South Atlantic snowy grouper have already been subject to notice and comment, and all that remains is to notify the public of the commercial closure for the remainder of the July through December 2020 fishing season. Prior notice and opportunity for public comment on this action is contrary to the public interest because of the need to immediately implement the commercial closure to protect South Atlantic snowy grouper, because the capacity of the fishing fleet allows for rapid harvest of the commercial quota. Prior notice and opportunity for public comment would require time and would potentially result in a harvest that exceeds the commercial quota. For the aforementioned reasons, there is good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3) to waive the 30-day delay in the effective date of this action. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: December 4, 2020. Jennifer M. Wallace, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2020–27064 Filed 12–7–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 635 [Docket No. 120627194–3657–02] RTID 0648–XA629 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; North Atlantic Swordfish Fishery National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Temporary rule; inseason Swordfish General Commercial permit retention limit adjustment. AGENCY: NMFS is adjusting the Swordfish General Commercial permit retention limits for the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions for January through June of the 2021 fishing year, unless otherwise later noticed. The Swordfish General Commercial permit retention limit in each of these regions is increased from the regulatory default limit (either two or three fish) to six swordfish per vessel per trip. The Swordfish General Commercial permit retention limit in the Florida Swordfish Management Area will remain unchanged at the default limit of zero swordfish per vessel per trip, as discussed in more detail below. These adjustments apply to Swordfish General Commercial permitted vessels and to Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Charter/Headboat permitted vessels with a commercial endorsement when on a non-for-hire trip. This action is based upon consideration of the applicable inseason regional retention limit adjustment criteria. DATES: The adjusted Swordfish General Commercial permit retention limits in the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions are effective from January 1, 2021, through June 30, 2021. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sarah McLaughlin, sarah.mclaughlin@ noaa.gov 978–281–9260, Lauren Latchford, lauren.latchford@noaa.gov 301–427–8503, or Larry Redd, larry.redd@noaa.gov 301–427–8503. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Regulations implemented under the authority of the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA; 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.) and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) governing the harvest of North Atlantic swordfish by persons and SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\09DER1.SGM 09DER1 jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 237 / Wednesday, December 9, 2020 / Rules and Regulations vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction are found at 50 CFR part 635. Section 635.27 subdivides the U.S. North Atlantic swordfish quota recommended by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and implemented by the United States into two equal semi-annual directed fishery quotas; an annual incidental catch quota for fishermen targeting other species or catching swordfish recreationally, and a reserve category, according to the allocations established in the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan (2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP) (71 FR 58058, October 2, 2006), as amended, and in accordance with implementing regulations. NMFS is required under ATCA and the Magnuson-Stevens Act to provide U.S. fishing vessels with a reasonable opportunity to harvest the ICCAT-recommended quota. The increase in the retention limit will help provide a reasonable opportunity to harvest available quota. The current annual U.S. baseline quota is 2,937.6 mt dressed weight (dw) (3,907 mt whole weight (ww)). Under § 635.27(c)(3)(ii), and consistent with the applicable ICCAT recommendation, NMFS may carry over underharvest from 2020, limited to 15 percent of the 2020 annual baseline quota, which is a maximum of 440.6 mt dw (586.0 mt ww). With underharvest as expected in 2020, NMFS anticipates carrying over the maximum underharvest allowed, which would result in an adjusted North Atlantic swordfish quota for the 2021 fishing year of 3,378.2 mt dw (2,937.6 + 440.6 = 3,378.2 mt dw). As in past years, NMFS anticipates allocating 50 mt dw from the adjusted quota to the Reserve category for inseason adjustments/research and allocating 300 mt dw to the Incidental category, which includes recreational landings and landings by incidental swordfish permit holders, consistent with § 635.27(c)(1)(i)(D) and (B). This would result in a final adjusted quota of 3,028.2 mt dw for the directed fishery, which would be split equally (1,514.1 mt dw) between the two semi-annual periods in 2021 (January through June, and July through December). For additional context and information on a related matter, NMFS notes that earlier this year, NMFS published a proposed rule to modify the North Atlantic swordfish and shark retention limits for certain permit holders and add inseason adjustment authorization criteria (85 FR 23315, April 27, 2020). Relevant to swordfish, the proposed rule would modify retention limits for highly migratory VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:44 Dec 08, 2020 Jkt 253001 species (HMS) Commercial Caribbean Small Boat (CCSB) permit holders, Swordfish General Commercial permit holders, and HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders with a commercial endorsement on a non-for hire (i.e., commercial) trip, and add inseason adjustment criteria to the CCSB permit. NMFS anticipates that the proposed rule would streamline HMS regulations to align retention limits for commercial swordfish permits established for HMS CCSB permit holders under Amendment 4 with those established in Amendment 8 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP for Swordfish General Commercial permit holders. If the rule were to be finalized as proposed, NMFS anticipates that it would no longer be necessary to increase the default swordfish retention limit through inseason adjustment for Swordfish General Commercial permit holders and HMS Charter/Headboat permit with a commercial endorsement on a commercial trip to provide additional fishing opportunities for these permit holders. The ability to reduce the default retention limit through inseason adjustment to account for possible quota overages would remain in effect. Adjustment of Swordfish General Commercial Permit Vessel Retention Limits The 2021 North Atlantic swordfish fishing year will begin on January 1, 2021. Regional default retention limits for the Swordfish General Commercial permit have been established and are automatically effective from January 1 through December 31 each year, unless changed based on the inseason regional retention limit adjustment criteria at § 635.24(b)(4)(iv). The Swordfish General Commercial permit default retention limits are: (1) Northwest Atlantic region—three swordfish per vessel per trip; (2) Gulf of Mexico region—three swordfish per vessel per trip; (3) U.S. Caribbean region—two swordfish per vessel per trip; and, (4) Florida Swordfish Management Area— zero swordfish per vessel per trip. The default retention limits apply to Swordfish General Commercial permitted vessels and to HMS Charter/ Headboat permitted vessels with a commercial endorsement when fishing on non-for-hire trips. Permitted vessels may not possess, retain, or land any more swordfish than is specified for the region in which the vessel is located. Under § 635.24(b)(4)(iii), NMFS may increase or decrease the Swordfish General Commercial permit vessel retention limit in any region within a range from zero to a maximum of six swordfish per vessel per trip. Any PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 79137 adjustments to the retention limits must be based upon a consideration of the relevant criteria provided in § 635.24(b)(4)(iv). NMFS has considered these criteria as discussed below and their applicability to the Swordfish General Commercial permit retention limit in all regions for January through June of the 2021 North Atlantic swordfish fishing year. NMFS must consider the effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the fishery management plan and its amendments. See § 635.24(b)(4)(iv)(D). The objective is to provide opportunities to harvest the full North Atlantic directed swordfish quota without exceeding it, and the goal, based upon the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP, is to manage Atlantic HMS fisheries for continuing optimum yield so as to provide the greatest overall benefit to the Nation, particularly with respect to food production, providing recreational opportunities, preserving traditional fisheries, and taking into account the protection of marine ecosystems. This action will help preserve the swordfish handgear fishery (rod and reel, handline, harpoon, bandit gear, and greenstick). Although this action does not specifically provide recreational fishing opportunities, it will have a minimal impact on the recreational sector because recreational landings are counted against a separate incidental swordfish quota. NMFS has examined dealer reports and landing trends and determined that the information obtained from biological sampling and monitoring of the North Atlantic swordfish stock is useful. See § 635.24(b)(4)(iv)(A). Regarding the estimated ability of vessels participating in the fishery to land the amount of swordfish quota available before the end of the fishing year, § 635.24(b)(4)(iv)(B), NMFS reviewed electronic dealer landings data, which indicates that sufficient directed swordfish quota should be available for the January through June 2021 semi-annual quota period if recent swordfish landings trends continue. The directed swordfish quota has not been fully harvested for several years and, based upon current landing trends, is not likely to be harvested or exceeded in 2021. Based upon recent landings rates from dealer reports, an increase in the vessel retention limits to six fish for Swordfish General Commercial permit holders and Charter/Headboat permit holders with a commercial endorsement (when on a non-for-hire trip) in three regions is not likely to cause quotas for other categories of the fishery to be exceeded. See § 635.24(b)(4)(iv)(C). Similarly, E:\FR\FM\09DER1.SGM 09DER1 jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with RULES 79138 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 237 / Wednesday, December 9, 2020 / Rules and Regulations regarding the criteria about the effects of catch rates in one region precluding vessels in another region from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the overall swordfish quota, § 635.24(b)(4)(iv)(F), NMFS expects there to be sufficient swordfish quota for the entirety of the 2021 fishing year. Thus, increased catch rates in these three regions as a result of this action would not be expected to preclude vessels in the other region (e.g., the buoy gear fishery in the Florida Swordfish Management Area) from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the overall swordfish quota. In making adjustments to the retention limits, NMFS must also consider variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migration patterns of swordfish, and the availability of swordfish on the fishing grounds. See § 635.24(b)(4)(iv)((E) and (G). With regard to swordfish abundance, the 2020 report by ICCAT’s Standing Committee on Research and Statistics indicated that the North Atlantic swordfish stock is not overfished and overfishing is not occurring. Increasing retention limits for the General Commercial fishery is not expected to affect the swordfish stock status determination because any additional landings would be within the ICCAT-recommended U.S. North Atlantic swordfish quota allocation, which is consistent with conservation and management measures to prevent overfishing on the stock. Increasing opportunities by increasing retention limits from the default levels beginning on January 1, 2021, is also important because of the migratory nature and seasonal distribution of swordfish. In a particular geographic region, or waters accessible from a particular port, the amount of fishing opportunity for swordfish may be constrained by the short amount of time that the swordfish are present in the area as they migrate. NMFS has determined that the retention limit for the Swordfish General Commercial permit will remain at zero swordfish per vessel per trip in the Florida Swordfish Management Area at this time. As described in Amendment 8 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (78 FR 52011, August 21, 2013), the area off the southeastern coast of Florida, particularly the Florida Straits, contains oceanographic features that make the area biologically unique. It provides important juvenile swordfish habitat, and is essentially a narrow migratory corridor containing high concentrations of swordfish located in close proximity to high concentrations of people who VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:44 Dec 08, 2020 Jkt 253001 may fish for them. Public comment on Amendment 8 indicated concern about the resultant high potential for the improper rapid growth of a commercial fishery, increased catches of undersized swordfish, the potential for larger numbers of fishermen in the area, and the potential for crowding of fishermen, which could lead to gear and user conflicts. These concerns remain valid. NMFS continues to collect information to evaluate the appropriateness of the retention limit in the Florida Swordfish Management Area and other regional retention limits. The directed swordfish quota has not been fully harvested for several years and, based upon current landing trends, is not likely to be harvested or exceeded during 2021. In 2020, a six swordfish per vessel trip limit was in effect for Swordfish General Commercial permit holders in the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions for the entire fishing season. As of October 31, 2020, this limit resulted in total annual directed swordfish landings of approximately 760.1 mt dw, or 25.1 percent of the 3,028.2-mt dw annual adjusted directed quota for 2020, which includes landings under the six-fish trip limit. This information indicates that sufficient directed swordfish quota should be available from January 1 through June 30, 2021, at the higher retention levels, within the limits of the scientifically-supported Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and consistent with the goals of the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP as amended, ATCA, and the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and are not expected to negatively impact stock health. Given that 2020 swordfish directed landings will likely fall well below the available 2020 quota, and that 2021 landings will likely follow a similar trend, and in consideration of the inseason regional retention limit adjustment criteria above, NMFS has determined that the Swordfish General Commercial permit retention limits in the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions applicable to persons issued a Swordfish General Commercial permit or HMS Charter/ Headboat permit with a commercial endorsement (when on a non-for-hire trip) should be increased from the default levels that would otherwise automatically become effective on January 1, 2021, to six swordfish per vessel per trip from January 1 through June 31, 2021. These are the same limits that were implemented through an inseason adjustment for the period July 1 through December 31, 2020 (85 FR 38091, June 25, 2020). Given the rebuilt status of the stock and the availability PO 00000 Frm 00022 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 of quota, increasing the Swordfish General Commercial permit retention limits in three regions to six fish per vessel per trip will increase the likelihood that directed swordfish landings will approach, but not exceed, the available annual swordfish quota, and increase the opportunity for catching swordfish during the 2021 fishing year. Monitoring and Reporting NMFS will continue to monitor the swordfish fishery closely during 2021 through mandatory landings and catch reports. Dealers are required to submit landing reports and negative reports (if no swordfish were purchased) on a weekly basis. Depending upon the level of fishing effort and catch rates of swordfish, NMFS may determine that additional retention limit adjustments or closures are necessary to ensure that the available quota is not exceeded or to enhance fishing opportunities. Subsequent actions, if any, will be published in the Federal Register. In addition, fishermen may access https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/atlantic-highlymigratory-species/atlantic-highlymigratory-species-landings-updates for updates on quota monitoring. Classification NMFS issues this action pursuant to section 305(d) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. This action is required by 50 CFR part 635, which was issued pursuant to section 304(c), and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. The Assistant Administrator for NMFS (AA) finds that it is impracticable and contrary to the public interest to provide prior notice of, and an opportunity for public comment on, this action for the following reasons: The regulations implementing the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP, as amended, provide for inseason retention limit adjustments to respond to changes in swordfish landings, the availability of swordfish on the fishing grounds, the migratory nature of this species, and regional variations in the fishery. Based on available swordfish quota, stock abundance, fishery performance in recent years, and the availability of swordfish on the fishing grounds, among other considerations, adjustment to the Swordfish General Commercial permit retention limits from the default levels of two or three fish to six swordfish per vessel per trip as discussed above is warranted, while maintaining the default limit of zerofish retention in the Florida Swordfish Management Area. Analysis of available data shows that adjustment to the E:\FR\FM\09DER1.SGM 09DER1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 237 / Wednesday, December 9, 2020 / Rules and Regulations swordfish retention limit from the default levels would result in minimal risk of exceeding the ICCAT-allocated quota. Delays in temporarily increasing these retention limits caused by the time required to publish a proposed rule and accept public comment would adversely and unnecessarily affect those Swordfish General Commercial permit holders and HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders with a commercial endorsement (when on a non-for-hire trip) that would otherwise have an opportunity to harvest more than the otherwise applicable lower default retention limits of three swordfish per vessel per trip in the Northwest Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions, and two swordfish per vessel per trip in the U.S. Caribbean region. Limiting opportunities to harvest available directed swordfish quota may have negative social and economic impacts for U.S. fishermen. Adjustment of the retention limits needs to be effective on January 1, 2021, to allow Swordfish General Commercial permit holders and HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders with a commercial endorsement (when on a non-for-hire trip) to benefit from the adjustment during the relevant time period, which could pass by for some fishermen who have access to the fishery during a short time period because of seasonal fish migration, if the action is delayed for notice and public comment. Furthermore, the public was given an opportunity to comment on the underlying rulemakings, including the adoption of the North Atlantic swordfish U.S. quota, and the retention limit adjustments in this action would not have any additional effects or impacts since the retention limit does not affect the overall quota. Thus, there would be little opportunity for meaningful input and review with public comment on this action. Therefore, the AA finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive prior notice and the opportunity for public comment. For all of the above reasons, there is also good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d) to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness. jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with RULES Authority: 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq. and 1801 et seq. Dated: December 1, 2020. Jennifer M. Wallace, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2020–26796 Filed 12–8–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:44 Dec 08, 2020 Jkt 253001 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No.200623–0167; RTID 0648– XA697] Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Atlantic Bluefish Fishery; Quota Transfer From MA to RI National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notification; quota transfer. AGENCY: NMFS announces that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is transferring a portion of its 2020 commercial bluefish quota to the State of Rhode Island. This quota adjustment is necessary to comply with the Atlantic Bluefish Fishery Management Plan quota transfer provisions. This announcement informs the public of the revised commercial bluefish quotas for Massachusetts and Rhode Island. DATES: Effective December 4, 2020, through December 31, 2020. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Laura Hansen, Fishery Management Specialist, (978) 281–9225. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Regulations governing the Atlantic bluefish fishery are found in 50 CFR 648.160 through 648.167. These regulations require annual specification of a commercial quota that is apportioned among the coastal states from Maine through Florida. The process to set the annual commercial quota and the percent allocated to each state is described in § 648.162, and the final 2020 allocations were published on June 29, 2020 (85 FR 38794). The final rule implementing Amendment 1 to the Bluefish Fishery Management Plan (FMP) published in the Federal Register on July 26, 2000 (65 FR 45844), and provided a mechanism for transferring bluefish quota from one state to another. Two or more states, under mutual agreement and with the concurrence of the NMFS Greater Atlantic Regional Administrator, can request approval to transfer or combine bluefish commercial quota under § 648.162(e)(1)(i) through (iii). The Regional Administrator must approve any such transfer based on the criteria in § 648.162(e). In evaluating requests to transfer a quota or combine quotas, the Regional Administrator shall consider whether: The transfer or combinations would preclude the SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00023 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 79139 overall annual quota from being fully harvested; the transfer addresses an unforeseen variation or contingency in the fishery; and the transfer is consistent with the objectives of the FMP and the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Massachusetts is transferring 15,000 lb (6,804 kg) of bluefish commercial quota to Rhode Island through mutual agreement of the states. This transfer was requested to ensure that Rhode Island would not exceed its 2020 state quota. The revised bluefish quotas for 2020 are: Massachusetts, 170,838 lb (77,491 kg); and Rhode Island, 313,366 lb (142,140 kg). Classification NMFS issues this action pursuant to section 305(d) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. This action is required by 50 CFR 648.162(e)(1)(i) through (iii), which was issued pursuant to section 304(b), and is exempted from review under Executive Order 12866. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: December 4, 2020. Jennifer M. Wallace, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2020–27044 Filed 12–4–20; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 679 [Docket No. 200604–0152] RIN 0648–BJ35 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone off Alaska; Modifying Seasonal Allocations of Pollock and Pacific Cod for Trawl Catcher Vessels in the Central and Western Gulf of Alaska; Correction National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule; correction. AGENCY: NMFS is correcting a final rule that published in the Federal Register on June 25, 2020, implementing Amendment 109 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA FMP) and a regulatory amendment to the regulations governing pollock fishing in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). The final rule’s intent as to Pacific cod was to change the seasonal apportionments of Pacific cod for the trawl catcher SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\09DER1.SGM 09DER1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 237 (Wednesday, December 9, 2020)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 79136-79139]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-26796]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

[Docket No. 120627194-3657-02]
RTID 0648-XA629


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; North Atlantic Swordfish 
Fishery

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

ACTION: Temporary rule; inseason Swordfish General Commercial permit 
retention limit adjustment.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: NMFS is adjusting the Swordfish General Commercial permit 
retention limits for the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. 
Caribbean regions for January through June of the 2021 fishing year, 
unless otherwise later noticed. The Swordfish General Commercial permit 
retention limit in each of these regions is increased from the 
regulatory default limit (either two or three fish) to six swordfish 
per vessel per trip. The Swordfish General Commercial permit retention 
limit in the Florida Swordfish Management Area will remain unchanged at 
the default limit of zero swordfish per vessel per trip, as discussed 
in more detail below. These adjustments apply to Swordfish General 
Commercial permitted vessels and to Highly Migratory Species (HMS) 
Charter/Headboat permitted vessels with a commercial endorsement when 
on a non-for-hire trip. This action is based upon consideration of the 
applicable inseason regional retention limit adjustment criteria.

DATES: The adjusted Swordfish General Commercial permit retention 
limits in the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean 
regions are effective from January 1, 2021, through June 30, 2021.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sarah McLaughlin, 
[email protected] 978-281-9260, Lauren Latchford, 
[email protected] 301-427-8503, or Larry Redd, 
[email protected] 301-427-8503.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Regulations implemented under the authority 
of the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA; 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.) and 
the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-
Stevens Act; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) governing the harvest of North 
Atlantic swordfish by persons and

[[Page 79137]]

vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction are found at 50 CFR part 635. 
Section 635.27 subdivides the U.S. North Atlantic swordfish quota 
recommended by the International Commission for the Conservation of 
Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and implemented by the United States into two 
equal semi-annual directed fishery quotas; an annual incidental catch 
quota for fishermen targeting other species or catching swordfish 
recreationally, and a reserve category, according to the allocations 
established in the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species 
Fishery Management Plan (2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP) (71 FR 
58058, October 2, 2006), as amended, and in accordance with 
implementing regulations. NMFS is required under ATCA and the Magnuson-
Stevens Act to provide U.S. fishing vessels with a reasonable 
opportunity to harvest the ICCAT-recommended quota.
    The increase in the retention limit will help provide a reasonable 
opportunity to harvest available quota. The current annual U.S. 
baseline quota is 2,937.6 mt dressed weight (dw) (3,907 mt whole weight 
(ww)). Under Sec.  635.27(c)(3)(ii), and consistent with the applicable 
ICCAT recommendation, NMFS may carry over underharvest from 2020, 
limited to 15 percent of the 2020 annual baseline quota, which is a 
maximum of 440.6 mt dw (586.0 mt ww). With underharvest as expected in 
2020, NMFS anticipates carrying over the maximum underharvest allowed, 
which would result in an adjusted North Atlantic swordfish quota for 
the 2021 fishing year of 3,378.2 mt dw (2,937.6 + 440.6 = 3,378.2 mt 
dw). As in past years, NMFS anticipates allocating 50 mt dw from the 
adjusted quota to the Reserve category for inseason adjustments/
research and allocating 300 mt dw to the Incidental category, which 
includes recreational landings and landings by incidental swordfish 
permit holders, consistent with Sec.  635.27(c)(1)(i)(D) and (B). This 
would result in a final adjusted quota of 3,028.2 mt dw for the 
directed fishery, which would be split equally (1,514.1 mt dw) between 
the two semi-annual periods in 2021 (January through June, and July 
through December).
    For additional context and information on a related matter, NMFS 
notes that earlier this year, NMFS published a proposed rule to modify 
the North Atlantic swordfish and shark retention limits for certain 
permit holders and add inseason adjustment authorization criteria (85 
FR 23315, April 27, 2020). Relevant to swordfish, the proposed rule 
would modify retention limits for highly migratory species (HMS) 
Commercial Caribbean Small Boat (CCSB) permit holders, Swordfish 
General Commercial permit holders, and HMS Charter/Headboat permit 
holders with a commercial endorsement on a non-for hire (i.e., 
commercial) trip, and add inseason adjustment criteria to the CCSB 
permit. NMFS anticipates that the proposed rule would streamline HMS 
regulations to align retention limits for commercial swordfish permits 
established for HMS CCSB permit holders under Amendment 4 with those 
established in Amendment 8 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP for 
Swordfish General Commercial permit holders. If the rule were to be 
finalized as proposed, NMFS anticipates that it would no longer be 
necessary to increase the default swordfish retention limit through 
inseason adjustment for Swordfish General Commercial permit holders and 
HMS Charter/Headboat permit with a commercial endorsement on a 
commercial trip to provide additional fishing opportunities for these 
permit holders. The ability to reduce the default retention limit 
through inseason adjustment to account for possible quota overages 
would remain in effect.

Adjustment of Swordfish General Commercial Permit Vessel Retention 
Limits

    The 2021 North Atlantic swordfish fishing year will begin on 
January 1, 2021. Regional default retention limits for the Swordfish 
General Commercial permit have been established and are automatically 
effective from January 1 through December 31 each year, unless changed 
based on the inseason regional retention limit adjustment criteria at 
Sec.  635.24(b)(4)(iv). The Swordfish General Commercial permit default 
retention limits are: (1) Northwest Atlantic region--three swordfish 
per vessel per trip; (2) Gulf of Mexico region--three swordfish per 
vessel per trip; (3) U.S. Caribbean region--two swordfish per vessel 
per trip; and, (4) Florida Swordfish Management Area--zero swordfish 
per vessel per trip. The default retention limits apply to Swordfish 
General Commercial permitted vessels and to HMS Charter/Headboat 
permitted vessels with a commercial endorsement when fishing on non-
for-hire trips. Permitted vessels may not possess, retain, or land any 
more swordfish than is specified for the region in which the vessel is 
located.
    Under Sec.  635.24(b)(4)(iii), NMFS may increase or decrease the 
Swordfish General Commercial permit vessel retention limit in any 
region within a range from zero to a maximum of six swordfish per 
vessel per trip. Any adjustments to the retention limits must be based 
upon a consideration of the relevant criteria provided in Sec.  
635.24(b)(4)(iv). NMFS has considered these criteria as discussed below 
and their applicability to the Swordfish General Commercial permit 
retention limit in all regions for January through June of the 2021 
North Atlantic swordfish fishing year.
    NMFS must consider the effects of the adjustment on accomplishing 
the objectives of the fishery management plan and its amendments. See 
Sec.  635.24(b)(4)(iv)(D). The objective is to provide opportunities to 
harvest the full North Atlantic directed swordfish quota without 
exceeding it, and the goal, based upon the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic 
HMS FMP, is to manage Atlantic HMS fisheries for continuing optimum 
yield so as to provide the greatest overall benefit to the Nation, 
particularly with respect to food production, providing recreational 
opportunities, preserving traditional fisheries, and taking into 
account the protection of marine ecosystems. This action will help 
preserve the swordfish handgear fishery (rod and reel, handline, 
harpoon, bandit gear, and greenstick). Although this action does not 
specifically provide recreational fishing opportunities, it will have a 
minimal impact on the recreational sector because recreational landings 
are counted against a separate incidental swordfish quota.
    NMFS has examined dealer reports and landing trends and determined 
that the information obtained from biological sampling and monitoring 
of the North Atlantic swordfish stock is useful. See Sec.  
635.24(b)(4)(iv)(A). Regarding the estimated ability of vessels 
participating in the fishery to land the amount of swordfish quota 
available before the end of the fishing year, Sec.  
635.24(b)(4)(iv)(B), NMFS reviewed electronic dealer landings data, 
which indicates that sufficient directed swordfish quota should be 
available for the January through June 2021 semi-annual quota period if 
recent swordfish landings trends continue. The directed swordfish quota 
has not been fully harvested for several years and, based upon current 
landing trends, is not likely to be harvested or exceeded in 2021. 
Based upon recent landings rates from dealer reports, an increase in 
the vessel retention limits to six fish for Swordfish General 
Commercial permit holders and Charter/Headboat permit holders with a 
commercial endorsement (when on a non-for-hire trip) in three regions 
is not likely to cause quotas for other categories of the fishery to be 
exceeded. See Sec.  635.24(b)(4)(iv)(C). Similarly,

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regarding the criteria about the effects of catch rates in one region 
precluding vessels in another region from having a reasonable 
opportunity to harvest a portion of the overall swordfish quota, Sec.  
635.24(b)(4)(iv)(F), NMFS expects there to be sufficient swordfish 
quota for the entirety of the 2021 fishing year. Thus, increased catch 
rates in these three regions as a result of this action would not be 
expected to preclude vessels in the other region (e.g., the buoy gear 
fishery in the Florida Swordfish Management Area) from having a 
reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the overall swordfish 
quota.
    In making adjustments to the retention limits, NMFS must also 
consider variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migration 
patterns of swordfish, and the availability of swordfish on the fishing 
grounds. See Sec.  635.24(b)(4)(iv)((E) and (G). With regard to 
swordfish abundance, the 2020 report by ICCAT's Standing Committee on 
Research and Statistics indicated that the North Atlantic swordfish 
stock is not overfished and overfishing is not occurring. Increasing 
retention limits for the General Commercial fishery is not expected to 
affect the swordfish stock status determination because any additional 
landings would be within the ICCAT-recommended U.S. North Atlantic 
swordfish quota allocation, which is consistent with conservation and 
management measures to prevent overfishing on the stock. Increasing 
opportunities by increasing retention limits from the default levels 
beginning on January 1, 2021, is also important because of the 
migratory nature and seasonal distribution of swordfish. In a 
particular geographic region, or waters accessible from a particular 
port, the amount of fishing opportunity for swordfish may be 
constrained by the short amount of time that the swordfish are present 
in the area as they migrate.
    NMFS has determined that the retention limit for the Swordfish 
General Commercial permit will remain at zero swordfish per vessel per 
trip in the Florida Swordfish Management Area at this time. As 
described in Amendment 8 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP (78 
FR 52011, August 21, 2013), the area off the southeastern coast of 
Florida, particularly the Florida Straits, contains oceanographic 
features that make the area biologically unique. It provides important 
juvenile swordfish habitat, and is essentially a narrow migratory 
corridor containing high concentrations of swordfish located in close 
proximity to high concentrations of people who may fish for them. 
Public comment on Amendment 8 indicated concern about the resultant 
high potential for the improper rapid growth of a commercial fishery, 
increased catches of undersized swordfish, the potential for larger 
numbers of fishermen in the area, and the potential for crowding of 
fishermen, which could lead to gear and user conflicts. These concerns 
remain valid. NMFS continues to collect information to evaluate the 
appropriateness of the retention limit in the Florida Swordfish 
Management Area and other regional retention limits.
    The directed swordfish quota has not been fully harvested for 
several years and, based upon current landing trends, is not likely to 
be harvested or exceeded during 2021. In 2020, a six swordfish per 
vessel trip limit was in effect for Swordfish General Commercial permit 
holders in the Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean 
regions for the entire fishing season. As of October 31, 2020, this 
limit resulted in total annual directed swordfish landings of 
approximately 760.1 mt dw, or 25.1 percent of the 3,028.2-mt dw annual 
adjusted directed quota for 2020, which includes landings under the 
six-fish trip limit. This information indicates that sufficient 
directed swordfish quota should be available from January 1 through 
June 30, 2021, at the higher retention levels, within the limits of the 
scientifically-supported Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and consistent 
with the goals of the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS FMP as amended, 
ATCA, and the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and are not expected to negatively 
impact stock health.
    Given that 2020 swordfish directed landings will likely fall well 
below the available 2020 quota, and that 2021 landings will likely 
follow a similar trend, and in consideration of the inseason regional 
retention limit adjustment criteria above, NMFS has determined that the 
Swordfish General Commercial permit retention limits in the Northwest 
Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean regions applicable to 
persons issued a Swordfish General Commercial permit or HMS Charter/
Headboat permit with a commercial endorsement (when on a non-for-hire 
trip) should be increased from the default levels that would otherwise 
automatically become effective on January 1, 2021, to six swordfish per 
vessel per trip from January 1 through June 31, 2021. These are the 
same limits that were implemented through an inseason adjustment for 
the period July 1 through December 31, 2020 (85 FR 38091, June 25, 
2020). Given the rebuilt status of the stock and the availability of 
quota, increasing the Swordfish General Commercial permit retention 
limits in three regions to six fish per vessel per trip will increase 
the likelihood that directed swordfish landings will approach, but not 
exceed, the available annual swordfish quota, and increase the 
opportunity for catching swordfish during the 2021 fishing year.

Monitoring and Reporting

    NMFS will continue to monitor the swordfish fishery closely during 
2021 through mandatory landings and catch reports. Dealers are required 
to submit landing reports and negative reports (if no swordfish were 
purchased) on a weekly basis.
    Depending upon the level of fishing effort and catch rates of 
swordfish, NMFS may determine that additional retention limit 
adjustments or closures are necessary to ensure that the available 
quota is not exceeded or to enhance fishing opportunities. Subsequent 
actions, if any, will be published in the Federal Register. In 
addition, fishermen may access https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/atlantic-highly-migratory-species/atlantic-highly-migratory-species-landings-updates for updates on quota monitoring.

Classification

    NMFS issues this action pursuant to section 305(d) of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act. This action is required by 50 CFR part 635, which was 
issued pursuant to section 304(c), and is exempt from review under 
Executive Order 12866.
    The Assistant Administrator for NMFS (AA) finds that it is 
impracticable and contrary to the public interest to provide prior 
notice of, and an opportunity for public comment on, this action for 
the following reasons:
    The regulations implementing the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS 
FMP, as amended, provide for inseason retention limit adjustments to 
respond to changes in swordfish landings, the availability of swordfish 
on the fishing grounds, the migratory nature of this species, and 
regional variations in the fishery. Based on available swordfish quota, 
stock abundance, fishery performance in recent years, and the 
availability of swordfish on the fishing grounds, among other 
considerations, adjustment to the Swordfish General Commercial permit 
retention limits from the default levels of two or three fish to six 
swordfish per vessel per trip as discussed above is warranted, while 
maintaining the default limit of zero-fish retention in the Florida 
Swordfish Management Area. Analysis of available data shows that 
adjustment to the

[[Page 79139]]

swordfish retention limit from the default levels would result in 
minimal risk of exceeding the ICCAT-allocated quota.
    Delays in temporarily increasing these retention limits caused by 
the time required to publish a proposed rule and accept public comment 
would adversely and unnecessarily affect those Swordfish General 
Commercial permit holders and HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders with 
a commercial endorsement (when on a non-for-hire trip) that would 
otherwise have an opportunity to harvest more than the otherwise 
applicable lower default retention limits of three swordfish per vessel 
per trip in the Northwest Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions, and two 
swordfish per vessel per trip in the U.S. Caribbean region. Limiting 
opportunities to harvest available directed swordfish quota may have 
negative social and economic impacts for U.S. fishermen. Adjustment of 
the retention limits needs to be effective on January 1, 2021, to allow 
Swordfish General Commercial permit holders and HMS Charter/Headboat 
permit holders with a commercial endorsement (when on a non-for-hire 
trip) to benefit from the adjustment during the relevant time period, 
which could pass by for some fishermen who have access to the fishery 
during a short time period because of seasonal fish migration, if the 
action is delayed for notice and public comment. Furthermore, the 
public was given an opportunity to comment on the underlying 
rulemakings, including the adoption of the North Atlantic swordfish 
U.S. quota, and the retention limit adjustments in this action would 
not have any additional effects or impacts since the retention limit 
does not affect the overall quota. Thus, there would be little 
opportunity for meaningful input and review with public comment on this 
action. Therefore, the AA finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to 
waive prior notice and the opportunity for public comment. For all of 
the above reasons, there is also good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d) to 
waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness.

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

    Dated: December 1, 2020.
Jennifer M. Wallace,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2020-26796 Filed 12-8-20; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P