Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Coastal Migratory Pelagic Resources in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Region and Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico; Possession Limits for Federally-Permitted Charter Vessels and Headboats, 11152-11155 [2021-03300]

Download as PDF 11152 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 35 / Wednesday, February 24, 2021 / Rules and Regulations Federal Communications Commission. Marlene Dortch, Secretary. Commission amends 47 CFR part 73 as follows: PART 73—RADIO BROADCAST SERVICES [FR Doc. 2021–03420 Filed 2–23–21; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6712–01–P 1. The authority citation for part 73 continues to read as follows: ■ FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION Authority: 47 U.S.C. 154, 155, 301, 303, 307, 309, 310, 334, 336, 339. 47 CFR Part 73 [MB Docket No. 20–155, RM–11856; DA 20– 1522; FRS 17360] 2. In § 73.202, the table in paragraph (b) is amended under South Carolina by adding an entry for ‘‘Edgefield’’ to read as follows: Radio Broadcasting Services; Edgefield, South Carolina § 73.202 ■ * Federal Communications Commission. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: Table of Allotments. * * (b) * * * * TABLE 1 TO PARAGRAPH (b) At the request of GeorgiaCarolina Radiocasting Company, LLC, the Audio Division amends the FM Table of Allotments, by Channel 238A at Edgefield, South Carolina, as a first local service. A staff engineering analysis indicates that Channel 238A can be allotted to Edgefield, South Carolina, consistent with the minimum distance separation requirements of the Commission’s rules, using city reference coordinates. The reference coordinates are 33–48–53 NL 81–56–10 WL. DATES: Effective February 24, 2021. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Rolanda F. Smith, Media Bureau, (202) 418–2700. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This is a synopsis of the Commission’s Report and Order, MB Docket No. 20–155, adopted December 21, 2020, and released December 23, 2020. The full text of this Commission decision is available online at https://apps.fcc.gov/ ecfs/. This document does not contain information collection requirements subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, Public Law 104–13. The Commission will send a copy of the Report and Order in a report to be sent to Congress and the Government Accountability Office pursuant to the Congressional Review Act, see 5 U.S.C. 801(a)(1)(A). [U.S. States] SUMMARY: List of Subjects in 47 CFR Part 73 khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with RULES Radio, Radio broadcasting. Federal Communications Commission. Nazifa Sawez, Assistant Chief, Audio Division, Media Bureau. For the reasons discussed in the preamble, the Federal Communications 16:14 Feb 23, 2021 Jkt 253001 Channel No. * * * * South Carolina Edgefield ............................... * * * * 238A * * [FR Doc. 2021–00081 Filed 2–23–21; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6712–01–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 622 [Docket No. 210211–0019] RIN 0648–BJ60 Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Coastal Migratory Pelagic Resources in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Region and Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico; Possession Limits for Federally-Permitted Charter Vessels and Headboats National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: NMFS issues regulations to implement management measures as described in an abbreviated framework action to the Fishery Management Plans (FMPs) for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico (Reef Fish FMP) and the Coastal Migratory Pelagic (CMP) Resources of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Region (CMP FMP), as prepared SUMMARY: Editorial note: This document was received for publication at the Office of the Federal Register on January 4, 2021. VerDate Sep<11>2014 * PO 00000 Frm 00062 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Gulf Council). This final rule modifies the on-board multi-day recreational possession limit regulations for Federal charter vessel and headboat (for-hire) trips in the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf). This final rule also makes an administrative change to the reporting requirement for Gulf’s individual fishing quota (IFQ) program during catastrophic conditions. The purposes of this final rule are to promote efficiency in the utilization of the reef fish and CMP resources and reduce regulatory discards, and to update the IFQ reporting requirements. DATES: This final rule is effective March 26, 2021. ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of the framework action that contain an environmental assessment and a regulatory flexibility analysis (RFA) may be obtained from the Southeast Regional Office website at https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/ framework-amendment-modify-multiday-trip-possession-limits-federalpermitted-charter. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Rich Malinowski, NMFS Southeast Regional Office, telephone: 727–824–5305, or email: rich.malinowski@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS and the Gulf Council manage reef fish resources in the Gulf exclusive economic zone (EEZ) under the Reef Fish FMP. NMFS, and both the Gulf Council and South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Councils) manage the CMP fishery under the CMP FMP. The Gulf Council prepared the Reef Fish FMP and the Councils jointly prepared the CMP FMP. NMFS implements the FMPs through regulations at 50 CFR part 622 under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) (16 U.S.C. 1801, et seq.). On July 28, 2020, NMFS published a proposed rule for the framework action and requested public comment (85 FR 45363). The proposed rule and the framework action outline the rationale for the actions contained in this final rule. A summary of the management measures described in the framework action and implemented by this final rule is described below. Background In Gulf Federal waters, each person aboard a vessel with a Federal Gulf charter vessel/headboat permit for reef fish or CMP species (for-hire permit) that is on a for-hire trip greater than 24 hours in duration is allowed to possess two daily recreational bag limits for E:\FR\FM\24FER1.SGM 24FER1 khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 35 / Wednesday, February 24, 2021 / Rules and Regulations species in the Reef Fish FMP and CMP FMP, except for speckled hind, warsaw grouper, and Gulf migratory group cobia (50 CFR 622.38(c) and 50 CFR 622.382(a)(2)). Speckled hind and warsaw grouper have daily recreational bag limits of one fish per vessel per day; therefore, the possession limit is two vessel limits, or two fish per vessel on a trip that exceeds 24 hours (50 CFR 622.38(c)). Gulf migratory group cobia is a limited harvest species under 50 CFR 622.383(b), which specifies that no person may possess more than two cobia per person per day regardless of the duration of a trip, and this final rule does not revise that provision. A trip begins with departure from a dock, berth, beach, seawall, or ramp and terminates with return to a dock, berth, beach, seawall, or ramp (50 CFR 622.2). Currently, for the reef fish or CMP possession limit to apply, the for-hire vessel must have two licensed captains on board, and every passenger must have a receipt for the fishing trip which verifies the length of the trip (50 CFR 622.38(c) and 50 CFR 622.382(a)(2)). In addition, the possession limit does not apply until after the first 24 hours of the trip (50 CFR 622.11). Therefore, during the first 24 hours of a trip, each person (or vessel in the case of speckled hind and warsaw grouper) may only possess one daily recreational bag limit. The allowance for the possession of two daily bag or vessel limits for reef fish and CMP species does not begin until the second 24-hour period on a multiday trip begins. The Gulf Council heard public testimony at its June 2019 meeting that some for-hire vessel captains may have misinterpreted the current regulations as allowing the possession of two daily recreational bag limits at any time during a trip that lasts more than 24 hours. Additional testimony showed that allowing recreational for-hire fishers the ability to retain the possession limit at any time during a multi-day trip could increase the efficiency of the trip and reduce regulatory discards. For example, some vessel operators would prefer to target one species at a time in locations in which that species is abundant, fishing until the possession limit for the planned multi-day trip has been retained. After fishers harvest the possession limit, the vessel’s operator would attempt to avoid that species for the remainder of the multi-day trip. However, because the current possession limit does not apply until after the first 24 hours of the trip, vessel operators cannot plan a trip in this manner, but must resume fishing for the target species after the first 24-hours if VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:14 Feb 23, 2021 Jkt 253001 they want to allow fishers to obtain the second daily bag limit. Management Measure Contained in This Final Rule This final rule modifies the requirements to retain the possession limit on-board vessels that have been issued valid Gulf reef fish or CMP forhire permits. This final rule increases the trip duration threshold to greater than 30 hours, but allows fishers to retain a second daily bag limit at any time during a trip of at least that duration. The Council determined that since fishers would be allowed to possess the second daily bag limit at any time during the trip, the trip duration should clearly exceed 24 hours. All other requirements to retain the recreational possession limit are unchanged through this final rule. The for-hire vessel must have two licensed operators aboard, and each passenger must have in their possession a receipt issued to them on behalf of the vessel that verifies the length of the trip. This final rule requires that the receipt specify the date and time of departure, and clarifies that the entire trip must occur on days when the harvest and possession of the applicable reef fish species are allowed. Measure Contained in This Final Rule not in the Framework Action In addition to the measure described in the framework action, this final rule revises language related to reporting under the Gulf Council’s individual fishing quota (IFQ) programs during catastrophic conditions. The Gulf currently has two IFQ programs, one for commercial harvest of red snapper and one for commercial harvest of groupers and tilefishes. These programs require participants to record information electronically. However, both programs include a provision that allows for the use of some paper-based forms if catastrophic conditions occur (50 CFR 622.21(a)(3)(iii) and 622.22(a)(3)(iii)). This provision states that if the Regional Administrator (RA) determines that catastrophic conditions exist, NMFS will provide each IFQ dealer in the affected areas the necessary paper forms, sequentially coded, and instructions for submission of the forms to the RA. NMFS initially required the use of sequentially numbered paper forms as a method intended to prevent fraud. Although NMFS has provided dealers with these forms, to date, these forms have not been used after the RA has determined catastrophic conditions exist, and NMFS has determined that maintaining them in this manner is not PO 00000 Frm 00063 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 11153 practical or cost effective. Therefore, NMFS is removing the references to sequentially coded paper forms in both 50 CFR 622.21(a)(3)(iii) and 622.22(a)(3)(iii). If an IFQ dealer requests paper forms for use during catastrophic conditions, NMFS will provide unnumbered forms. Comments and Responses NMFS received 14 comments on the proposed rule. The majority of comments (eight) were in favor of the framework action and the proposed rule. Some comments in support of the proposed rule stated that the changes to the possession limit requirements will help resolve any confusion about when during the trip the possession limit may be retained, will allow for better operating efficiency for for-hire vessels, and will not negatively impact fish populations. NMFS agrees with these comments. Additionally, NMFS received one comment regarding the change to IFQ reporting requirements during catastrophic conditions that was in favor of that change. Comments that were outside the scope of the framework action and the proposed rule and are not addressed in this final rule. Comments in opposition to the proposed rule are summarized below, followed by NMFS’ respective responses. Comment 1: Allowing fishers on forhire vessels to retain the possession limit before the first 24 hours of the trip are complete will make it easier for vessel operators to circumvent the regulations, and more difficult to enforce the regulations. This change will also place an extra burden on law enforcement officers by requiring them to determine the actual versus the reported details of a for-hire trip. Response: NMFS disagrees that the changes to the possession limit requirements implemented in this final rule will make the regulations more difficult to enforce or place extra burdens on law enforcement officers. Like the current regulations, the revised regulations will allow passengers on forhire vessels to retain two daily bag limits on trips greater than a specified duration. The revised regulations will increase the duration of trip from greater than 24 hours to greater than 30 hours, and allow retention of the second daily bag limit at any time during that trip instead of requiring that passengers wait until the first 24 hours of the trip has passed. All of the other current requirements, which are in place to help enforce the provision, remain the same. These include that two licensed operators must be aboard, and that each passenger must have in their possession E:\FR\FM\24FER1.SGM 24FER1 khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with RULES 11154 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 35 / Wednesday, February 24, 2021 / Rules and Regulations a receipt issued to them on behalf of the vessel that verifies the date and time of departure and length of the trip. Therefore, NMFS does not expect any significant changes in the responsibilities of law enforcement as result of the implementation of this final rule. Law enforcement will continue to operate in the same manner as before this final rule, using intercepts and reviews of the captain and vessel information, vessel harvest, and trip duration validation. Comment 2: The changes to the possession limit regulations rely heavily on the full implementation of the Gulf of Mexico Electronic For-Hire Reporting final rule, which includes a requirement that Gulf reef fish and CMP for-hire vessels use vessel monitoring systems (VMS). NMFS has not fully implemented that final rule and this change to the possession limit regulations is a way for the Gulf Council and NMFS to increase acceptance of VMS. Response: The changes to the possession limit regulations implemented through this final rule were developed independently from the Gulf of Mexico For-Hire Electronic Reporting final rule, and the Gulf Council’s decision to make changes to the for-hire vessel possession limit was not contingent on the implementation of the VMS requirement. Comment 3: Some trips that are planned for greater than 30 hours may need to end early because of weather, medical, or mechanical issues, which may create a problem if two daily bag limits have already been taken. Response: NMFS understands that situations may occur where a trip that is expected to exceed 30 hours needs to end prematurely. If that occurs, fishers might already be in possession of two daily bag limits even though the vessel has not been on the trip for more than 30 hours, which would result in a violation of the regulations if the vessel must return to the dock before 30 hours elapses. However, NMFS does not expect this type of situation to occur routinely, and NMFS agrees with the public comments and discussion at Gulf Council meetings, which indicated that vessel captains have options to address this concern, such as demonstrating proper foresight prior to getting underway and anchoring offshore rather than pulling into the dock. Further, consistent with the NOAA Office of General Counsel Policy for the Assessment of Civil Administrative Penalties and Permit Sanctions, enforcement officers must assess each situation and, depending on the nature and seriousness of the violation, VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:14 Feb 23, 2021 Jkt 253001 respond accordingly. This policy is available at the website https:// www.gc.noaa.gov/documents/PenaltyPolicy-CLEAN-June242019.pdf. Classification Pursuant to section 304(b)(3) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this final rule is consistent with the Reef Fish and CMP FMPs, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law. This final rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. This final rule contains no information collection requirements under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995. The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides the statutory basis for this final rule. No duplicative, overlapping, or conflicting Federal rules have been identified. A description of this final rule, why it is being implemented, and the purposes of this final rule are contained in the SUMMARY and SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION sections of this preamble. The objectives of this final rule are to promote efficiency in the utilization of the reef fish and CMP resources, decrease regulatory discards, and establish reporting requirements in the IFQ programs that would be more practical and cost effective for NMFS during catastrophic conditions. The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration (SBA) during the proposed rule stage that this final rule, if adopted, would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. NMFS did not receive any comments from SBA’s Office of Advocacy on the certification in the proposed rule. NMFS received six public comments on the economic analysis of the proposed rule. All six comments supported the conclusion that the proposed rule would have positive economic effects on for-hire fishing vessels. No changes to this final rule were made in response to public comments. The factual basis for the certification was published in the proposed rule and is not repeated here. Because this final rule is not expected to have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities, a final regulatory flexibility analysis is not required and none has been prepared. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622 Charter vessels, Coastal migratory pelagics, Fisheries, Fishing, Gulf of PO 00000 Frm 00064 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 Mexico, Headboats, Recreational bag and possession limits. Dated: February 12, 2021. Samuel D. Rauch, III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 622 is amended as follows: PART 622—FISHERIES OF THE CARIBBEAN, GULF OF MEXICO, AND SOUTH ATLANTIC 1. The authority citation for part 622 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. 2. In § 622.21, revise paragraph (a)(3)(iii) to read as follows: ■ § 622.21 Individual fishing quota (IFQ) program for Gulf red snapper. (a) * * * (3) * * * (iii) During catastrophic conditions only, the IFQ program provides for use of paper-based components for basic required functions as a backup. The RA will determine when catastrophic conditions exist, the duration of the catastrophic conditions, and which participants or geographic areas are deemed affected by the catastrophic conditions. The RA will provide timely notice to affected participants via publication of notification in the Federal Register, NOAA weather radio, fishery bulletins, and other appropriate means and will authorize the affected participants’ use of paper-based components for the duration of the catastrophic conditions. NMFS will provide each IFQ dealer the necessary paper forms and instructions for submission of the forms to the RA. The paper forms will also be available from the RA. The program functions available to participants or geographic areas deemed affected by catastrophic conditions will be limited under the paper-based system. There will be no mechanism for transfers of IFQ shares or allocation under the paper-based system in effect during catastrophic conditions. Assistance in complying with the requirements of the paper-based system will be available via IFQ Customer Service 1–866–425–7627 Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. eastern time. * * * * * ■ 3. In § 622.22, revise paragraph (a)(3)(iii) to read as follows: § 622.22 Individual fishing quota (IFQ) program for Gulf groupers and tilefishes. (a) * * * E:\FR\FM\24FER1.SGM 24FER1 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 35 / Wednesday, February 24, 2021 / Rules and Regulations khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with RULES (3) * * * (iii) During catastrophic conditions only, the IFQ program provides for use of paper-based components for basic required functions as a backup. The RA will determine when catastrophic conditions exist, the duration of the catastrophic conditions, and which participants or geographic areas are deemed affected by the catastrophic conditions. The RA will provide timely notice to affected participants via publication of notification in the Federal Register, NOAA weather radio, fishery bulletins, and other appropriate means and will authorize the affected participants’ use of paper-based components for the duration of the catastrophic conditions. NMFS will provide each IFQ dealer the necessary paper forms and instructions for submission of the forms to the RA. The paper forms will also be available from the RA. The program functions available to participants or geographic areas deemed affected by catastrophic conditions will be limited under the paper-based system. There will be no mechanism for transfers of IFQ shares or allocation under the paper-based system in effect during catastrophic conditions. Assistance in complying with the requirements of the paper-based system will be available via IFQ Customer VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:14 Feb 23, 2021 Jkt 253001 Service 1–866–425–7627 Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. eastern time. * * * * * ■ 4. In § 622.38, revise paragraph (c) to read as follows: § 622.38 Bag and possession limits. * * * * * (c) Possession limits for vessels with a valid Federal charter vessel/headboat permit for reef fish. A person, or a vessel in the case of speckled hind or Warsaw grouper, on a trip that spans more than 30 hours may possess, at any time during the trip, no more than two daily bag limits, provided such trip is on a vessel that is operating as a charter vessel or headboat, the vessel has two licensed operators aboard, each passenger is issued and has in possession a receipt issued on behalf of the vessel that verifies the date and time of departure and length of the trip, and the entire trip occurs on days when the harvest and possession of the applicable reef fish species are allowed. ■ 5. In § 622.382, revise paragraph (a)(2) to read as follows: § 622.382 Bag and possession limits. * * * * * (a) * * * (2) Possession limits—(i) Possession limits for vessels with a valid Federal PO 00000 Frm 00065 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 9990 11155 charter vessel/headboat permit for Atlantic coastal migratory pelagic fish. A person who is on a trip that spans more than 24 hours may possess no more than two daily bag limits, provided such trip is on a vessel that is operating as a charter vessel or headboat, the vessel has two licensed operators aboard, and each passenger is issued and has in possession a receipt issued on behalf of the vessel that verifies the length of the trip. (ii) Possession limits for vessels with a valid Federal charter vessel/headboat permit for Gulf coastal migratory pelagic fish. A person who is on a trip that spans more than 30 hours may possess, at any time during the trip, no more than two daily bag limits of Gulf king and Spanish mackerel, provided such trip is on a vessel that is operating as a charter vessel or headboat, the vessel has two licensed operators aboard, each passenger is issued and has in possession a receipt issued on behalf of the vessel that verifies the date and time of departure and length of the trip, and the entire trip occurs on days when the harvest and possession of the applicable coastal migratory pelagic species are allowed. * * * * * [FR Doc. 2021–03300 Filed 2–23–21; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\24FER1.SGM 24FER1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 86, Number 35 (Wednesday, February 24, 2021)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 11152-11155]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2021-03300]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

[Docket No. 210211-0019]
RIN 0648-BJ60


Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; 
Coastal Migratory Pelagic Resources in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic 
Region and Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico; Possession Limits 
for Federally-Permitted Charter Vessels and Headboats

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: NMFS issues regulations to implement management measures as 
described in an abbreviated framework action to the Fishery Management 
Plans (FMPs) for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico (Reef 
Fish FMP) and the Coastal Migratory Pelagic (CMP) Resources of the Gulf 
of Mexico and Atlantic Region (CMP FMP), as prepared by the Gulf of 
Mexico Fishery Management Council (Gulf Council). This final rule 
modifies the on-board multi-day recreational possession limit 
regulations for Federal charter vessel and headboat (for-hire) trips in 
the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf). This final rule also makes an administrative 
change to the reporting requirement for Gulf's individual fishing quota 
(IFQ) program during catastrophic conditions. The purposes of this 
final rule are to promote efficiency in the utilization of the reef 
fish and CMP resources and reduce regulatory discards, and to update 
the IFQ reporting requirements.

DATES: This final rule is effective March 26, 2021.

ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of the framework action that contain an 
environmental assessment and a regulatory flexibility analysis (RFA) 
may be obtained from the Southeast Regional Office website at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/framework-amendment-modify-multi-day-trip-possession-limits-federal-permitted-charter.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Rich Malinowski, NMFS Southeast 
Regional Office, telephone: 727-824-5305, or email: 
[email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS and the Gulf Council manage reef fish 
resources in the Gulf exclusive economic zone (EEZ) under the Reef Fish 
FMP. NMFS, and both the Gulf Council and South Atlantic Fishery 
Management Council (Councils) manage the CMP fishery under the CMP FMP. 
The Gulf Council prepared the Reef Fish FMP and the Councils jointly 
prepared the CMP FMP. NMFS implements the FMPs through regulations at 
50 CFR part 622 under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) (16 U.S.C. 1801, 
et seq.).
    On July 28, 2020, NMFS published a proposed rule for the framework 
action and requested public comment (85 FR 45363). The proposed rule 
and the framework action outline the rationale for the actions 
contained in this final rule. A summary of the management measures 
described in the framework action and implemented by this final rule is 
described below.

Background

    In Gulf Federal waters, each person aboard a vessel with a Federal 
Gulf charter vessel/headboat permit for reef fish or CMP species (for-
hire permit) that is on a for-hire trip greater than 24 hours in 
duration is allowed to possess two daily recreational bag limits for

[[Page 11153]]

species in the Reef Fish FMP and CMP FMP, except for speckled hind, 
warsaw grouper, and Gulf migratory group cobia (50 CFR 622.38(c) and 50 
CFR 622.382(a)(2)). Speckled hind and warsaw grouper have daily 
recreational bag limits of one fish per vessel per day; therefore, the 
possession limit is two vessel limits, or two fish per vessel on a trip 
that exceeds 24 hours (50 CFR 622.38(c)). Gulf migratory group cobia is 
a limited harvest species under 50 CFR 622.383(b), which specifies that 
no person may possess more than two cobia per person per day regardless 
of the duration of a trip, and this final rule does not revise that 
provision. A trip begins with departure from a dock, berth, beach, 
seawall, or ramp and terminates with return to a dock, berth, beach, 
seawall, or ramp (50 CFR 622.2).
    Currently, for the reef fish or CMP possession limit to apply, the 
for-hire vessel must have two licensed captains on board, and every 
passenger must have a receipt for the fishing trip which verifies the 
length of the trip (50 CFR 622.38(c) and 50 CFR 622.382(a)(2)). In 
addition, the possession limit does not apply until after the first 24 
hours of the trip (50 CFR 622.11). Therefore, during the first 24 hours 
of a trip, each person (or vessel in the case of speckled hind and 
warsaw grouper) may only possess one daily recreational bag limit. The 
allowance for the possession of two daily bag or vessel limits for reef 
fish and CMP species does not begin until the second 24-hour period on 
a multi-day trip begins.
    The Gulf Council heard public testimony at its June 2019 meeting 
that some for-hire vessel captains may have misinterpreted the current 
regulations as allowing the possession of two daily recreational bag 
limits at any time during a trip that lasts more than 24 hours. 
Additional testimony showed that allowing recreational for-hire fishers 
the ability to retain the possession limit at any time during a multi-
day trip could increase the efficiency of the trip and reduce 
regulatory discards. For example, some vessel operators would prefer to 
target one species at a time in locations in which that species is 
abundant, fishing until the possession limit for the planned multi-day 
trip has been retained. After fishers harvest the possession limit, the 
vessel's operator would attempt to avoid that species for the remainder 
of the multi-day trip. However, because the current possession limit 
does not apply until after the first 24 hours of the trip, vessel 
operators cannot plan a trip in this manner, but must resume fishing 
for the target species after the first 24-hours if they want to allow 
fishers to obtain the second daily bag limit.

Management Measure Contained in This Final Rule

    This final rule modifies the requirements to retain the possession 
limit on-board vessels that have been issued valid Gulf reef fish or 
CMP for-hire permits. This final rule increases the trip duration 
threshold to greater than 30 hours, but allows fishers to retain a 
second daily bag limit at any time during a trip of at least that 
duration. The Council determined that since fishers would be allowed to 
possess the second daily bag limit at any time during the trip, the 
trip duration should clearly exceed 24 hours. All other requirements to 
retain the recreational possession limit are unchanged through this 
final rule. The for-hire vessel must have two licensed operators 
aboard, and each passenger must have in their possession a receipt 
issued to them on behalf of the vessel that verifies the length of the 
trip. This final rule requires that the receipt specify the date and 
time of departure, and clarifies that the entire trip must occur on 
days when the harvest and possession of the applicable reef fish 
species are allowed.

Measure Contained in This Final Rule not in the Framework Action

    In addition to the measure described in the framework action, this 
final rule revises language related to reporting under the Gulf 
Council's individual fishing quota (IFQ) programs during catastrophic 
conditions. The Gulf currently has two IFQ programs, one for commercial 
harvest of red snapper and one for commercial harvest of groupers and 
tilefishes. These programs require participants to record information 
electronically. However, both programs include a provision that allows 
for the use of some paper-based forms if catastrophic conditions occur 
(50 CFR 622.21(a)(3)(iii) and 622.22(a)(3)(iii)). This provision states 
that if the Regional Administrator (RA) determines that catastrophic 
conditions exist, NMFS will provide each IFQ dealer in the affected 
areas the necessary paper forms, sequentially coded, and instructions 
for submission of the forms to the RA.
    NMFS initially required the use of sequentially numbered paper 
forms as a method intended to prevent fraud. Although NMFS has provided 
dealers with these forms, to date, these forms have not been used after 
the RA has determined catastrophic conditions exist, and NMFS has 
determined that maintaining them in this manner is not practical or 
cost effective. Therefore, NMFS is removing the references to 
sequentially coded paper forms in both 50 CFR 622.21(a)(3)(iii) and 
622.22(a)(3)(iii). If an IFQ dealer requests paper forms for use during 
catastrophic conditions, NMFS will provide unnumbered forms.

Comments and Responses

    NMFS received 14 comments on the proposed rule. The majority of 
comments (eight) were in favor of the framework action and the proposed 
rule. Some comments in support of the proposed rule stated that the 
changes to the possession limit requirements will help resolve any 
confusion about when during the trip the possession limit may be 
retained, will allow for better operating efficiency for for-hire 
vessels, and will not negatively impact fish populations. NMFS agrees 
with these comments. Additionally, NMFS received one comment regarding 
the change to IFQ reporting requirements during catastrophic conditions 
that was in favor of that change.
    Comments that were outside the scope of the framework action and 
the proposed rule and are not addressed in this final rule. Comments in 
opposition to the proposed rule are summarized below, followed by NMFS' 
respective responses.
    Comment 1: Allowing fishers on for-hire vessels to retain the 
possession limit before the first 24 hours of the trip are complete 
will make it easier for vessel operators to circumvent the regulations, 
and more difficult to enforce the regulations. This change will also 
place an extra burden on law enforcement officers by requiring them to 
determine the actual versus the reported details of a for-hire trip.
    Response: NMFS disagrees that the changes to the possession limit 
requirements implemented in this final rule will make the regulations 
more difficult to enforce or place extra burdens on law enforcement 
officers. Like the current regulations, the revised regulations will 
allow passengers on for-hire vessels to retain two daily bag limits on 
trips greater than a specified duration. The revised regulations will 
increase the duration of trip from greater than 24 hours to greater 
than 30 hours, and allow retention of the second daily bag limit at any 
time during that trip instead of requiring that passengers wait until 
the first 24 hours of the trip has passed. All of the other current 
requirements, which are in place to help enforce the provision, remain 
the same. These include that two licensed operators must be aboard, and 
that each passenger must have in their possession

[[Page 11154]]

a receipt issued to them on behalf of the vessel that verifies the date 
and time of departure and length of the trip. Therefore, NMFS does not 
expect any significant changes in the responsibilities of law 
enforcement as result of the implementation of this final rule. Law 
enforcement will continue to operate in the same manner as before this 
final rule, using intercepts and reviews of the captain and vessel 
information, vessel harvest, and trip duration validation.
    Comment 2: The changes to the possession limit regulations rely 
heavily on the full implementation of the Gulf of Mexico Electronic 
For-Hire Reporting final rule, which includes a requirement that Gulf 
reef fish and CMP for-hire vessels use vessel monitoring systems (VMS). 
NMFS has not fully implemented that final rule and this change to the 
possession limit regulations is a way for the Gulf Council and NMFS to 
increase acceptance of VMS.
    Response: The changes to the possession limit regulations 
implemented through this final rule were developed independently from 
the Gulf of Mexico For-Hire Electronic Reporting final rule, and the 
Gulf Council's decision to make changes to the for-hire vessel 
possession limit was not contingent on the implementation of the VMS 
requirement.
    Comment 3: Some trips that are planned for greater than 30 hours 
may need to end early because of weather, medical, or mechanical 
issues, which may create a problem if two daily bag limits have already 
been taken.
    Response: NMFS understands that situations may occur where a trip 
that is expected to exceed 30 hours needs to end prematurely. If that 
occurs, fishers might already be in possession of two daily bag limits 
even though the vessel has not been on the trip for more than 30 hours, 
which would result in a violation of the regulations if the vessel must 
return to the dock before 30 hours elapses. However, NMFS does not 
expect this type of situation to occur routinely, and NMFS agrees with 
the public comments and discussion at Gulf Council meetings, which 
indicated that vessel captains have options to address this concern, 
such as demonstrating proper foresight prior to getting underway and 
anchoring offshore rather than pulling into the dock. Further, 
consistent with the NOAA Office of General Counsel Policy for the 
Assessment of Civil Administrative Penalties and Permit Sanctions, 
enforcement officers must assess each situation and, depending on the 
nature and seriousness of the violation, respond accordingly. This 
policy is available at the website https://www.gc.noaa.gov/documents/Penalty-Policy-CLEAN-June242019.pdf.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(3) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS 
Assistant Administrator has determined that this final rule is 
consistent with the Reef Fish and CMP FMPs, other provisions of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law.
    This final rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    This final rule contains no information collection requirements 
under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995.
    The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides the statutory basis for this 
final rule. No duplicative, overlapping, or conflicting Federal rules 
have been identified. A description of this final rule, why it is being 
implemented, and the purposes of this final rule are contained in the 
SUMMARY and SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION sections of this preamble. The 
objectives of this final rule are to promote efficiency in the 
utilization of the reef fish and CMP resources, decrease regulatory 
discards, and establish reporting requirements in the IFQ programs that 
would be more practical and cost effective for NMFS during catastrophic 
conditions.
    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration (SBA) during the proposed rule stage that this final 
rule, if adopted, would not have a significant economic impact on a 
substantial number of small entities. NMFS did not receive any comments 
from SBA's Office of Advocacy on the certification in the proposed 
rule. NMFS received six public comments on the economic analysis of the 
proposed rule. All six comments supported the conclusion that the 
proposed rule would have positive economic effects on for-hire fishing 
vessels. No changes to this final rule were made in response to public 
comments. The factual basis for the certification was published in the 
proposed rule and is not repeated here. Because this final rule is not 
expected to have a significant economic impact on a substantial number 
of small entities, a final regulatory flexibility analysis is not 
required and none has been prepared.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622

    Charter vessels, Coastal migratory pelagics, Fisheries, Fishing, 
Gulf of Mexico, Headboats, Recreational bag and possession limits.

    Dated: February 12, 2021.
Samuel D. Rauch, III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 622 is amended 
as follows:

PART 622--FISHERIES OF THE CARIBBEAN, GULF OF MEXICO, AND SOUTH 
ATLANTIC

0
1. The authority citation for part 622 continues to read as follows:

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


0
2. In Sec.  622.21, revise paragraph (a)(3)(iii) to read as follows:


Sec.  622.21  Individual fishing quota (IFQ) program for Gulf red 
snapper.

    (a) * * *
    (3) * * *
    (iii) During catastrophic conditions only, the IFQ program provides 
for use of paper-based components for basic required functions as a 
backup. The RA will determine when catastrophic conditions exist, the 
duration of the catastrophic conditions, and which participants or 
geographic areas are deemed affected by the catastrophic conditions. 
The RA will provide timely notice to affected participants via 
publication of notification in the Federal Register, NOAA weather 
radio, fishery bulletins, and other appropriate means and will 
authorize the affected participants' use of paper-based components for 
the duration of the catastrophic conditions. NMFS will provide each IFQ 
dealer the necessary paper forms and instructions for submission of the 
forms to the RA. The paper forms will also be available from the RA. 
The program functions available to participants or geographic areas 
deemed affected by catastrophic conditions will be limited under the 
paper-based system. There will be no mechanism for transfers of IFQ 
shares or allocation under the paper-based system in effect during 
catastrophic conditions. Assistance in complying with the requirements 
of the paper-based system will be available via IFQ Customer Service 1-
866-425-7627 Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. eastern 
time.
* * * * *

0
3. In Sec.  622.22, revise paragraph (a)(3)(iii) to read as follows:


Sec.  622.22  Individual fishing quota (IFQ) program for Gulf groupers 
and tilefishes.

    (a) * * *

[[Page 11155]]

    (3) * * *
    (iii) During catastrophic conditions only, the IFQ program provides 
for use of paper-based components for basic required functions as a 
backup. The RA will determine when catastrophic conditions exist, the 
duration of the catastrophic conditions, and which participants or 
geographic areas are deemed affected by the catastrophic conditions. 
The RA will provide timely notice to affected participants via 
publication of notification in the Federal Register, NOAA weather 
radio, fishery bulletins, and other appropriate means and will 
authorize the affected participants' use of paper-based components for 
the duration of the catastrophic conditions. NMFS will provide each IFQ 
dealer the necessary paper forms and instructions for submission of the 
forms to the RA. The paper forms will also be available from the RA. 
The program functions available to participants or geographic areas 
deemed affected by catastrophic conditions will be limited under the 
paper-based system. There will be no mechanism for transfers of IFQ 
shares or allocation under the paper-based system in effect during 
catastrophic conditions. Assistance in complying with the requirements 
of the paper-based system will be available via IFQ Customer Service 1-
866-425-7627 Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. eastern 
time.
* * * * *

0
4. In Sec.  622.38, revise paragraph (c) to read as follows:


Sec.  622.38  Bag and possession limits.

* * * * *
    (c) Possession limits for vessels with a valid Federal charter 
vessel/headboat permit for reef fish. A person, or a vessel in the case 
of speckled hind or Warsaw grouper, on a trip that spans more than 30 
hours may possess, at any time during the trip, no more than two daily 
bag limits, provided such trip is on a vessel that is operating as a 
charter vessel or headboat, the vessel has two licensed operators 
aboard, each passenger is issued and has in possession a receipt issued 
on behalf of the vessel that verifies the date and time of departure 
and length of the trip, and the entire trip occurs on days when the 
harvest and possession of the applicable reef fish species are allowed.

0
5. In Sec.  622.382, revise paragraph (a)(2) to read as follows:


Sec.  622.382  Bag and possession limits.

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (2) Possession limits--(i) Possession limits for vessels with a 
valid Federal charter vessel/headboat permit for Atlantic coastal 
migratory pelagic fish. A person who is on a trip that spans more than 
24 hours may possess no more than two daily bag limits, provided such 
trip is on a vessel that is operating as a charter vessel or headboat, 
the vessel has two licensed operators aboard, and each passenger is 
issued and has in possession a receipt issued on behalf of the vessel 
that verifies the length of the trip.
    (ii) Possession limits for vessels with a valid Federal charter 
vessel/headboat permit for Gulf coastal migratory pelagic fish. A 
person who is on a trip that spans more than 30 hours may possess, at 
any time during the trip, no more than two daily bag limits of Gulf 
king and Spanish mackerel, provided such trip is on a vessel that is 
operating as a charter vessel or headboat, the vessel has two licensed 
operators aboard, each passenger is issued and has in possession a 
receipt issued on behalf of the vessel that verifies the date and time 
of departure and length of the trip, and the entire trip occurs on days 
when the harvest and possession of the applicable coastal migratory 
pelagic species are allowed.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2021-03300 Filed 2-23-21; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P