Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Fisheries, 54873-54875 [2021-21718]

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 86, Number 190 (Tuesday, October 5, 2021)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 54873-54875]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2021-21718]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

[Docket No. 180117042-8884-02]
RTID 0648-XB483


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna 
Fisheries

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

ACTION: Temporary rule; quota transfer.

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SUMMARY: NMFS is transferring 140 metric tons (mt) of Atlantic bluefin 
tuna (BFT) quota from the Reserve category to the General category. 
This action is intended to provide further opportunities for General 
category fishermen to participate in the October through November 
General category fishery, based on consideration of the regulatory 
determination criteria regarding inseason adjustments. This action 
would affect Atlantic Tunas General category (commercial) permitted 
vessels and Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Charter/Headboat permitted 
vessels with a commercial sale endorsement when fishing commercially 
for BFT.

DATES: Effective October 4, 2021, through November 30, 2021.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Larry Redd, Jr., 301-427-8503, 
Nicholas Velseboer, 978-281-9260, or Lauren Latchford, 301-427-8503.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Atlantic HMS fisheries, including BFT 
fisheries, are managed 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.). The 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS Fishery 
Management Plan (FMP) and its amendments are implemented by regulations 
at 50 CFR part 635. Section 635.27 divides the U.S. BFT quota 
recommended by the International Commission for the Conservation of 
Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and as implemented by the United States among 
the various domestic

[[Page 54874]]

fishing categories, per the allocations established in the 2006 
Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments. NMFS is required under the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act to provide U.S. fishing vessels with a reasonable 
opportunity to harvest quotas under relevant international fishery 
agreements such as the ICCAT Convention, which is implemented 
domestically pursuant to ATCA.
    The baseline General and Reserve category quotas are 555.7 mt and 
29.5 mt, respectively. The General category baseline subquota for the 
October through November time-period is 72.2 mt. Under the regulations, 
any unused General category quota rolls forward from one time-period to 
the next and is available for use in subsequent time-periods. To date 
for 2021, NMFS has published several actions that adjusted the Reserve 
category quota (86 FR 8717, February 9, 2021; 86 FR 43420, August 9, 
2021; 86 FR 51016, September 14, 2021). NMFS recently also recently 
adjusted the Reserve category quota using the allowable underharvest 
from 2020 to 2021. The current adjusted Reserve category quota is 151.5 
mt.

Transfer of 140 mt From the Reserve Category to the General Category

    Under Sec.  635.27(a)(9), NMFS has the authority to transfer quota 
among fishing categories or subcategories after considering 
determination criteria provided under Sec.  635.27(a)(8). NMFS has 
considered all of the relevant determination criteria and their 
applicability to this inseason quota transfer. These considerations 
include, but are not limited to, the following:
    Regarding the usefulness of information obtained from catches in 
the particular category for biological sampling and monitoring of the 
status of the stock (Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(i)), biological samples 
collected from BFT landed by General category fishermen and provided by 
tuna dealers provide NMFS with valuable parts and data for ongoing 
scientific studies of BFT age and growth, migration, and reproductive 
status. Additional opportunity to land BFT in the General category 
would support the continued collection of a broad range of data for 
these studies and for stock monitoring purposes.
    NMFS also considered the catches of the General category quota to 
date (including during the summer/fall and winter fisheries in the last 
several years) and the likelihood of closure of that segment of the 
fishery if no adjustment is made (Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(ii) and (ix)). The 
General category October through November time-period subquota has not 
yet been exceeded, but without a quota transfer at this time, NMFS 
would likely need to close the General category fishery shortly, and 
participants would have to stop BFT fishing activities while 
commercial-sized BFT remain available in the areas where General 
category permitted vessels operate at this time of year. Transferring 
140 mt of quota from the Reserve category for the October through 
November 2021 subquota time-period would provide limited additional 
opportunities to harvest the U.S. BFT quota while avoiding exceeding 
it. NMFS also took into consideration a recently published final rule 
that would set restricted-fishing days for the General category during 
the months of September through November 2021 (86 FR 43421, August 9, 
2021). That rule would further increase the likelihood that the fishery 
would remain open throughout the subperiod and year.
    Regarding the projected ability of the vessels fishing under the 
General category quota to harvest the additional amount of BFT quota 
transferred before the end of the fishing year (Sec.  
635.27(a)(8)(iii)), NMFS considered General category landings over the 
last several years and landings to date this year. Landings are highly 
variable and depend on access to commercial-sized BFT and fishing 
conditions, among other factors, such as the restrictions that some 
dealers placed on their purchases of BFT from General category 
participants this year. In the unlikely event that any of this quota is 
unused by November 30, such quota will roll forward to the next 
subquota time period within the calendar year (i.e., to the December 
period), and NMFS anticipates that it would be used before the end of 
the fishing year. Thus, this quota transfer would allow fishermen to 
take advantage of the availability of fish on the fishing grounds and 
provide a reasonable opportunity to harvest available U.S. BFT quota.
    NMFS also considered the estimated amounts by which quotas for 
other gear categories of the BFT fishery might be exceeded (Sec.  
635.27(a)(8)(iv)) and the ability to account for all 2021 landings and 
dead discards. In the last several years, total U.S. BFT landings have 
been below the available U.S. quota such that the United States has 
carried forward the maximum amount of underharvest allowed by ICCAT 
from one year to the next. NMFS recently took such an action to 
carryover the allowable 127.3 mt of underharvest from 2020 to 2021. 
NMFS will need to account for 2021 landings and dead discards within 
the adjusted U.S. quota, consistent with ICCAT recommendations, and 
anticipates having sufficient quota to do that.
    NMFS also considered the effects of the adjustment on the BFT stock 
and the effects of the transfer on accomplishing the objectives of the 
FMP (Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(v) and (vi)). This transfer would be consistent 
with established quotas and subquotas, which are implemented consistent 
with ICCAT recommendations (established in Recommendation 17-06 and 
maintained in Recommendation 20-06), ATCA, and the objectives of the 
2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and amendments. In establishing these quotas 
and subquotas and associated management measures, ICCAT and NMFS 
considered the best scientific information available, objectives for 
stock management and status, and effects on the stock. This quota 
transfer is in line with the established management measures and stock 
status determinations. Another principal consideration is the objective 
of providing opportunities to harvest the available General category 
quota without exceeding the annual quota, based on the objectives of 
the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments, including to achieve 
optimum yield on a continuing basis and to allow all permit categories 
a reasonable opportunity to harvest available BFT quota allocations 
(related to Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(x)). Specific to the General category, 
this includes providing opportunities equitably across all time-
periods.
    Given these considerations, NMFS is transferring 140 mt of the 
available 151.5 mt of Reserve category quota to the General category. 
Therefore, NMFS adjusts the General category October through November 
2021 subquota to 212.2 mt and adjusts the Reserve category quota to 
11.5 mt. The General category fishery will remain open until November 
30, 2021, or until the adjusted General category quota is reached, 
whichever comes first.

Monitoring and Reporting

    NMFS will continue to monitor the BFT fishery closely. Dealers are 
required to submit landing reports within 24 hours of a dealer 
receiving BFT. Late reporting by dealers compromises NMFS' ability to 
timely implement actions such as quota and retention limit adjustments, 
as well as closures, and may result in enforcement actions. 
Additionally, and separate from the dealer reporting requirement, 
General category and HMS Charter/Headboat vessel owners are required to 
report the catch of all BFT retained or discarded dead within 24 hours 
of the landing(s) or end of each trip, by accessing hmspermits.noaa.gov 
or by using the HMS Catch Reporting app or calling

[[Page 54875]]

(888) 872-8862 (Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.).
    Depending on the level of fishing effort and catch rates of BFT, 
NMFS may determine that additional adjustments (e.g., quota adjustment, 
daily retention limit adjustment, or closure) are necessary to ensure 
available quota is not exceeded or to enhance scientific data 
collection from, and fishing opportunities in, all geographic areas. If 
needed, subsequent adjustments will be published in the Federal 
Register. In addition, fishermen may call the Atlantic Tunas 
Information Line at (978) 281-9260, or access hmspermits.noaa.gov, for 
updates on quota monitoring and inseason adjustments.

Classification

    NMFS issues this action pursuant to section 305(d) of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act and regulations at 50 CFR part 635 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 HMS FMP and its 
amendments provide for inseason retention limit adjustments to respond 
to the unpredictable nature of BFT availability on the fishing grounds, 
the migratory nature of this species, and the regional variations in 
the BFT fishery. Affording prior notice and opportunity for public 
comment to implement the quota transfer for the October through 
November 2021 time-period is contrary to the public interest as such a 
delay would likely fail to prevent the closure of the General category 
fishery when the baseline subquota for the October through November 
time-period is met and the need to re-open the fishery, with attendant 
costs to the fishery, including administrative costs and lost fishing 
opportunities. The delay would preclude the fishery from harvesting BFT 
that are available on the fishing grounds and that might otherwise 
become unavailable during a delay. This action does not raise 
conservation and management concerns. Transferring quota from the 
Reserve category to the General category does not affect the overall 
U.S. BFT quota, and the adjustment would have a minimal risk of 
exceeding the ICCAT-allocated quota. NMFS notes that the public had an 
opportunity to comment on the underlying rulemakings that established 
the U.S. BFT quota and the inseason adjustment criteria. Therefore, the 
AA finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive prior notice and 
the opportunity for public comment. For these reasons, there also is 
good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d) to waive the 30-day delay in effective 
date.

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

    Dated: September 30, 2021.
Jennifer M. Wallace,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2021-21718 Filed 9-30-21; 4:15 pm]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P