Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; General Category Restricted-Fishing Days, 12643-12648 [2022-04546]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 44 / Monday, March 7, 2022 / Proposed Rules khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS demonstrate the level of effectiveness of those technologies and designs in addressing the claimed concerns regarding the installation of ELDs. However, the petitioner provided only high-level, anecdotal information about their broad, general concerns. Furthermore, petitioner failed to provide any solutions to those concerns. 3. SBTC has not provided the substance that a standard would be comprised of. As stated in previous NHTSA guidance,9 the petition should describe the requested standard (i.e., the performance requirements, test conditions, and test procedures), the supporting research and reasons why those performance requirements, test conditions, and test procedures are appropriate and provide proposed regulatory text. However, SBTC failed to provide any substantive information regarding what a new FMVSS would be comprised of that would resolve the alleged concerns regarding the ELD installation. B. SBTC’s Petition To Amend the Existing FMVSS Nos. 105, 121, and 124, and NHTSA’s Rationale for Denying This Petition Like the first petition for a new FMVSS, this second petition should demonstrate a safety need that could be resolved by amending the existing FMVSSs. However, SBTC merely contended that the alleged vulnerabilities of telematics systems could impact braking and acceleration control systems and did not provide sufficient information or evidence of such attacks occurring in heavy vehicles. The resources provided by the petitioner cover a wide range of potential telematics vulnerabilities in light passenger vehicles, many of which are directly impacted by specific vehicle architectures (i.e., make and model specific, in many instances). Petitioner has failed to provide evidence that indicates there is a general safety need related to telematics units in heavy vehicles that warrants modification of existing FMVSS. Without an identified safety need, it is unclear how petitioner’s request would meet the need for safety.10 Similarly, the petitioner failed to provide practical means or solutions by which NHTSA could resolve its concern. SBTC provided only highlevel, anecdotal information about its broad, general concerns regarding the interaction between telematics and heavy vehicle braking and acceleration 9 Id. 10 See 49 U.S.C. 30111(a). VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:13 Mar 04, 2022 Jkt 256001 control systems regulated by the existing FMVSSs. SBTC also failed to provide any substantive information regarding the amendments of the existing FMVSSs to resolve its concerns. Therefore, NHTSA is denying both of the SBTC’s rulemaking petitions because they lacked sufficient information as discussed above. Furthermore, the agency is discretionarily allocating and managing its vehicle safety resources to those rulemakings that are mandated by Congress and others that have a demonstrated safety need with solutions available to resolve those needs. Authority: 49 U.S.C. 30113; delegation of authority at 49 CFR 1.95. Steven S. Cliff, Deputy Administrator. [FR Doc. 2022–04729 Filed 3–4–22; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910–59–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 635 [Docket No. 220223–0056] RIN 0648–BK99 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; General Category Restricted-Fishing Days National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS is proposing to set Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) General category restricted-fishing days (RFDs) for the 2022 fishing year. This proposed rule would set RFDs for specific days during the months of July through November 2022. On an RFD, Atlantic Tunas General category permitted vessels may not fish for (including catch-and-release or tag-and-release fishing), possess, retain, land, or sell BFT. On an RFD, Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Charter/Headboat permitted vessels with a commercial sale endorsement also are subject to these restrictions to preclude fishing commercially for BFT under the General category restrictions and retention limits, but such vessels may still fish for, possess, retain, or land BFT when fishing recreationally under applicable HMS Angling category rules. SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00023 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 12643 Written comments must be received by April 6, 2022. NMFS will hold a public hearing via conference call and webinar for this proposed rule on March 24, 2022, from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. For webinar registration information, see the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this document. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA– NMFS–2022–0025, by electronic submission. Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to https:// www.regulations.gov and enter ‘‘NOAA–NMFS–2022–0025’’ in the Search box. Click on the ‘‘Comment’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the close of the comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). NMFS will hold a public hearing via conference call and webinar on this proposed rule. For specific location, date and time, see the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this document. Copies of this proposed rule and supporting documents are available from the HMS Management Division website at https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/topic/atlantichighly-migratory-species or by contacting Larry Redd at larry.redd@ noaa.gov or 301–427–8503. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Larry Redd, Jr., larry.redd@noaa.gov, 301–427–8503, or Carrie Soltanoff, carrie.soltanoff@noaa.gov, 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 (2006 Consolidated HMS FMP) and its amendments are implemented by regulations at 50 CFR part 635. Section 635.27 divides the U.S. BFT quota, DATES: E:\FR\FM\07MRP1.SGM 07MRP1 12644 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 44 / Monday, March 7, 2022 / Proposed Rules khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS recommended by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and as implemented by the United States, among the various domestic fishing categories per the allocations established in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments. Section 635.23 specifies the retention limit provisions for Atlantic Tunas General category permitted vessels and HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels, including regarding RFDs. RFDs are used as an effort control to ensure that BFT quotas and subquotas are not exceeded. In 2018, NMFS implemented a final rule that established the overall U.S. BFT quota and subquotas consistent with ICCAT Recommendation 17–06 (83 FR 51391, October 11, 2018) and split that BFT quota into subquotas among fishing categories, including for the Angling category (recreational) and General category (commercial). In 2020, following a stock assessment update, ICCAT adopted Recommendation 20– 06, which maintained the total allowable catch of 2,350 metric tons (mt) and the associated U.S. quota. As such, as described in § 635.27(a), the current baseline U.S. quota remains 1,247.86 mt (not including the 25 mt ICCAT allocated to the United States to account for bycatch of BFT in pelagic longline fisheries in the Northeast Distant Gear Restricted Area). The baseline quota for the General category is 555.7 mt. Each of the General category time periods (January through March, June through August, September, October through November, and December) is allocated a portion of the annual General category quota. In November 2021, following the results of the 2021 western BFT stock assessment, ICCAT adopted Recommendation 21–07, which increased the total allowable catch to 2,746 mt and the associated U.S. quota by 68.28 mt to 1,316.14 mt. NMFS recently published a proposed rule that would implement Recommendation 21– 07. If finalized as proposed after considering public comment, the final rule would increase the baseline annual U.S. quota and for BFT to the ICCATrecommended U.S. BFT quota and subquotas would increase accordingly. Background NMFS first established the regulatory authority to set ‘‘no fishing’’ days in a 1995 rule (60 FR 38505, July 27, 1995) as an available effort control that could be used to extend the General category time period subquotas while providing additional inseason management flexibility with regard to quota use and VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:13 Mar 04, 2022 Jkt 256001 season length. An RFD is a day, established ahead of time through a schedule published in the Federal Register, on which NMFS sets the BFT retention limit at zero for certain categories of permit holders. Specifically, on an RFD, vessels permitted in the Atlantic Tunas General category are prohibited from fishing for (including catch-and-release and tagand-release fishing), possessing, retaining, landing, or selling BFT (§ 635.23(a)(2)). RFDs also apply to HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels to preclude fishing commercially under General category restrictions and retention limits on those days but do not preclude such vessels from recreational fishing activity under applicable Angling category regulations, including catch-and-release and tag-and-release fishing (§ 635.23(c)(3)). NMFS may waive previously scheduled RFDs under certain circumstances. Consistent with § 635.23(a)(4), NMFS may waive an RFD by adjusting the daily BFT retention limit from zero up to five on specified RFDs, after considering the inseason adjustment determination criteria at § 635.27(a)(8). Considerations include, among other things, review of dealer reports, daily landing trends, and the availability of BFT on fishing grounds. NMFS would announce any such waiver by filing a retention limit adjustment with the Office of the Federal Register for publication. Such adjustments would be effective no less than 3 calendar days after the date of filing for public inspection with the Office of the Federal Register. NMFS also may waive previously designated RFDs effective upon closure of the General category fishery so that persons aboard vessels permitted in the General category may conduct catch-and-release or tag-and-release fishing for BFT under § 635.26(a). NMFS would not modify the previously scheduled RFDs during the fishing year in other ways (such as changing an RFD from one date to another, or adding RFDs). Due to increased BFT catch rates in the General category in 2019 and 2020, and numerous requests from Atlantic tuna dealers, General category participants, and members of the Atlantic HMS Advisory Panel, NMFS proposed to resume the use of RFDs for 2021 for the first time since 2007 (86 FR 25992, May 12, 2021). Although NMFS proposed a schedule of all Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from July 20 through November 30, 2021, due to timing issues, the final rule established RFDs on all Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from September 3 through November 30, 2021 (86 FR 43421, PO 00000 Frm 00024 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 August 9, 2021). NMFS closed the General category September subquota period on September 23, 2021 (86 FR 53010, September 24, 2021). For the October through November subquota period, the General category remained open until the end of the subquota period (November 30, 2021). Because the use of RFDs in 2021 succeeded in extending fishing opportunities through a greater portion of the relevant subquota periods and the fishing season overall, consistent with management objectives for the fishery, NMFS is proposing an RFD schedule for the 2022 fishing year. Proposed RFD Schedule for the 2022 Fishing Year For 2022, NMFS proposes a schedule of RFDs as follows: All Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from July 1, 2022, through November 30, 2022, while the fishery is open. On these designated RFDs, persons aboard vessels permitted in the General category would be prohibited from fishing for (including catch-and-release and tag-and-release fishing), possessing, retaining, landing, or selling BFT. Persons aboard HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels with a commercial sale endorsement also would be prohibited from fishing commercially for BFT. Persons aboard all HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels (including those with a commercial sale endorsement) could fish recreationally for BFT under the applicable Angling category restrictions and retention limits. NMFS is proposing the same weekly schedule as the 2021 RFD schedule (i.e., every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday). However, while the 2021 RFDs did not start until September 2021, the 2022 RFDs proposed schedule would begin at the start of July and extend through the end of November. This proposed schedule and extension is based on general feedback provided by Atlantic tuna dealers, General category participants and members of the Atlantic HMS Advisory Panel in 2021, a review of average daily catch rate data for recent years, a review of past years’ RFD schedules (including the most recent 2021 RFD schedule), and a review of past closure dates prior to RFDs being set in 2021. Considering that information, NMFS believes that a schedule of Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday RFDs from July 1 through November 30 should continue to increase the likelihood of pacing General category landings to extend fishing opportunities through a greater portion of the subquota periods (similar to the 2021 RFD schedule). It would also allow for two-consecutive-day periods E:\FR\FM\07MRP1.SGM 07MRP1 khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 44 / Monday, March 7, 2022 / Proposed Rules twice each week (Sunday–Monday; Wednesday–Thursday) for BFT product to move through the market and allow for some commercial fishing activity each weekend (Sunday). In proposing the same schedule as last year, NMFS did consider the comments and feedback received last year that suggested a different approach. During the public comment period for the 2021 RFD rulemaking, NMFS received comments regarding RFDs potentially negatively impacting HMS tournaments given the limits on weekend fishing. Several of these comments requested that a schedule of RFDs be announced earlier in the fishing year to allow tournament operators the flexibility to adapt their tournaments around RFDs. Publishing the proposed rule and affording an opportunity for comments on the proposed schedule earlier in the year would allow tournament operators the opportunity to comment and later to adjust their scheduled tournaments as needed around the 2022 RFDs. In 2021 after the RFD schedule had published, NMFS also received a request to establish a weekly schedule consisting of three days in a row such as Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. This request stated that a block of days would better assist the bluefin tuna product to move through the market, assist enforcement, and assist the industry with three consecutive days off. NMFS is not proposing that requested schedule at this time but specifically is requesting comment on this topic to help assess whether such a block of time would be less disruptive to the fishery and would better meet the goals of RFDs. Additionally, in late 2021, NMFS received requests from some winter fishery participants to extend RFDs through the December subquota period. These dealers and General category participants suggested that establishing RFDs in December would assist in facilitating entry of BFT product to the market while also allowing rest days for commercial BFT fishermen. These requests specifically suggested Wednesdays and Saturdays as December subquota period RFDs. Over the last five years, closure of the December subquota period has been necessary in 2017, 2020, and 2021, with the fishery remaining open through the end of the month in 2018 and 2019.At this time NMFS is not proposing to extend RFDs through the December subquota period for the 2022 fishing year. However, in the Federal Register notice, NMFS specifically requests comment on whether RFDs should be extended through the December subquota period. NMFS will consider comments before deciding on a final schedule. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:13 Mar 04, 2022 Jkt 256001 Lastly, NMFS also received a suggestion to implement RFDs for the January through March subquota period. Given that the 2022 January through March subquota period is currently underway, NMFS is not proposing RFDs for this period in this rulemaking, given timing considerations. However, NMFS requests comment on whether it could be appropriate to implement RFDs for the January through March subquota period in the future, including the 2023 January through March subquota period. Under existing regulations, based on consideration of regulatory criteria at § 635.27(a)(8), NMFS may waive certain RFDs consistent with § 635.23(a)(4), either by adjusting the retention limit upwards on a previously-scheduled RFD or by waiving an RFD to allow recreational fishing under the Angling category restrictions and retention limits when the General category closes. Once the schedule is set, however, NMFS would not modify RFDs in other ways (e.g., switching days or adding RFDs). Request for Comments NMFS is proposing a schedule of RFDs for every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday from July 1, 2022, through November 30, 2022. NMFS is requesting comments on this RFD schedule for the 2022 fishing year. NMFS is also specifically requesting comments on (1) whether the RFD schedule should be three days in a row per week, (2) whether RFDs should also be considered for the General category December subquota period, and (3) whether RFDs should be considered for the January through March subquota period for future rulemakings since this subquota period is currently closed. Comments on this proposed rule may be submitted via www.regulations.gov or at a public conference call and webinar. NMFS solicits comments on this action by April 6, 2022 (see DATES and ADDRESSES). During the comment period, NMFS will hold a public hearing via conference call and webinar for this proposed action. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to Larry Redd at larry.redd@noaa.gov or 301–427–8503, at least 7 days prior to the meeting. The conference call and webinar will take place on March 24, 2022. Information for registering and accessing the webinars can be found at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/ proposed-2022-restricted-fishing-daysatlantic-bluefin-tuna-fishery. The public is reminded that NMFS expects participants at conference calls and webinars to conduct themselves PO 00000 Frm 00025 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 12645 appropriately. At the beginning of each conference call and webinar, the moderator will explain how the conference call and webinar will be conducted and how and when participants can provide comments. NMFS representative(s) will structure the conference call and webinar so that all members of the public will be able to comment, if they so choose, regardless of the controversial nature of the subject(s). Participants are expected to respect the ground rules, and those that do not may be asked to leave the conference calls and webinars. Classification The NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that the proposed rule is consistent with the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, ATCA, and other applicable law, subject to further consideration after public comment. This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. An Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) was prepared, as required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). The IRFA describes the economic impact this proposed rule, if adopted, would have on small entities. A description of the action, why it is being considered, and the legal basis for this action are contained at the beginning of this section in the preamble and in the SUMMARY section of the preamble. A summary of the analysis follows. Section 603(b)(1) requires agencies to describe the reasons why the action is being considered. The purpose of this proposed rulemaking is, consistent with the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, ATCA, and other applicable law, to potentially set a schedule of RFDs for the 2022 fishing year as an effort control for the General category quota, and to extend General category fishing opportunities through a greater portion of the General category subquota periods. Implementation of the proposal would further the management goals and objectives in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments. Section 603(b)(2) of the RFA requires agencies to state the objectives of, and legal basis for, the proposed action. The objective of this proposed rulemaking is to set a schedule of RFDs for the 2022 fishing year to increase the likelihood of pacing General category landings to extend fishing opportunities through a greater portion of the subquota periods (similar to the 2021 RFD schedule). The E:\FR\FM\07MRP1.SGM 07MRP1 khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS 12646 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 44 / Monday, March 7, 2022 / Proposed Rules legal basis for the proposed rule is the Magnuson-Stevens Act and ATCA. Section 603(b)(3) of the RFA requires agencies to provide an estimate of the number of small entities to which the rule would apply. NMFS established a small business size standard of $11 million in annual gross receipts for all businesses in the commercial fishing industry (NAICS 11411) for RFA compliance purposes. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has established size standards for all other major industry sectors in the United States, including the scenic and sightseeing transportation (water) sector (NAICS code 487210), which includes for-hire (charter/party boat) fishing entities. The SBA has defined a small entity under the scenic and sightseeing transportation (water) sector as one with average annual receipts (revenue) of less than $8.0 million. NMFS considers all HMS permit holders, both commercial and for-hire, to be small entities because they had average annual receipts of less than their respective sector’s standard of $11 million and $8 million. The 2020 total ex-vessel annual revenue for the BFT fishery was $8.4 million. Since a small business is defined as having annual receipts not in excess of $11.0 million, each individual BFT permit holder would fall within the small entity definition. The numbers of relevant annual Atlantic Tunas or Atlantic HMS permits as of October 2021 are as follows: 2,730 General category permit holders and 4,055 HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders, of which 1,793 hold HMS Charter/ Headboat permits with a commercial sale endorsement. Section 603(b)(4) of the RFA requires agencies to describe any new reporting, record-keeping, and other compliance requirements. This proposed rule does not contain any new collection of information, reporting, or recordkeeping requirements. This proposed rule would set a schedule of RFDs for 2022 as an effort control for the General category. Under section 603(b)(5) of the RFA, agencies must identify, to the extent practicable, relevant Federal rules which duplicate, overlap, or conflict with the proposed action. Fishermen, dealers, and managers in these fisheries must comply with a number of international agreements, domestic laws, and other fishery management VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:13 Mar 04, 2022 Jkt 256001 measures. These include, but are not limited to, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, ATCA, the High Seas Fishing Compliance Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Paperwork Reduction Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act. This proposed action has been determined not to duplicate, overlap, or conflict with any Federal rules. Under section 603(c) of the RFA, agencies must describe any significant alternatives to the proposed rule which accomplish the stated objectives of applicable statutes and which minimize any significant economic impact of the proposed rule on small entities. Specifically, the RFA (5 U.S.C. 603(c)(1)–(4)) lists four general categories of significant alternatives to assist an agency in the development of significant alternatives. These categories of alternatives are: (1) Establishment of differing compliance or reporting requirements or timetables that take into account the resources available to small entities; (2) clarification, consolidation, or simplification of compliance and reporting requirements under the rule for such small entities; (3) use of performance rather than design standards; and, (4) exemptions from coverage of the rule, or any part thereof, for small entities. Regarding the first, second, and fourth categories, NMFS cannot establish differing compliance or reporting requirements for small entities or exempt small entities from coverage of the rule or parts of it, because all of the businesses impacted by this rule are considered small entities, and thus the requirements are already designed for small entities. Regarding the third category, NMFS does not know of any performance or design standards that would satisfy the aforementioned objectives of this rulemaking. This proposed rule would not change the U.S. Atlantic BFT quotas or implement any new management measures not previously considered under the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments. NMFS proposes continuation of the use of RFDs for the General category in 2022 and provides the regulated community the opportunity to comment on the proposed RFD schedule. Under the regulations, when a General category subquota period is reached or projected PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 to be reached, NMFS closes the General category fishery. Retaining, possessing, or landing BFT under that quota category is prohibited on and after the effective date and time of a closure notice for that category, for the remainder of the fishing year, until the opening of the subsequent quota period or until such date as specified. In recent years, these closures, if needed, have generally occurred toward the end of a subquota period. According to communications with dealers and fishermen, several of the high-volume Atlantic tunas dealers in 2019 and 2020 were limiting their purchases of BFT and buying no or very few BFT (such as harpooned fish only) on certain days during the beginning portion of the June through August subquota period in order to extend the available quota until later in the subquota period given market considerations. However, while these actions may have prevented large numbers of BFT from entering the market at the same time and may have lengthened the time before any particular subquota period was closed, because these actions were not prescheduled or consistently implemented across the fishery, there were negative impacts experienced by some General category and Charter/Headboat permitted fishermen, who could not find buyers for their BFT. As a result, a number of BFT that normally would have been sold were not, and opportunities may not have been equitably distributed among all permitted vessels. In 2021, NMFS set pre-scheduled RFDs for the General category fishery on certain days (Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays) from September through November to increase the likelihood of pacing General category landings to extend fishing opportunities through a greater portion of the subquota periods. Table 1 shows the number and total metric tons (mt) of BFT that were landed but not sold by fishermen fishing under the General category quota for 2017 through 2021. The number and weight of unsold BFT increased from 2018 through 2020, with a peak in 2020 (173 BFT and 25.8 mt) in part to the pandemic and substantially decreased in 2021 (from 143 to 12 BFT and 25.8 mt to 2.0 mt). NMFS believes this substantial reduction in 2021 from the peak in 2020 is a result of the use of RFDs in 2021. E:\FR\FM\07MRP1.SGM 07MRP1 12647 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 44 / Monday, March 7, 2022 / Proposed Rules TABLE 1—NUMBER (COUNT) AND WEIGHT (MT) OF BFT LANDED BUT UNSOLD BY GENERAL CATEGORY PARTICIPANTS BY YEAR [2017–2021] Year 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 Weight (mt) Count ......................................................................................................................................................................... ......................................................................................................................................................................... ......................................................................................................................................................................... ......................................................................................................................................................................... ......................................................................................................................................................................... 0 14 20 143 12 0 2.6 3.8 25.8 2.0 Total .................................................................................................................................................................. 189 34.2 Table 2 shows the average ex-vessel price per pound of BFT during each General category subquota time period for 2017 through 2021. Ex-vessel price per pound was lower for the June through August period, with an average (2017 through 2021) of $6.21, and time periods in 2020. In most time periods, the 2021 average price per pound was also higher than the 2019 average price per pound. NMFS believes that this increase in average price was in part due to the use of RFDs in 2021. increased over the summer and fall period, with averages of $6.26 for the September period and $6.73 for the October through November period). In 2021, the average price per pound was higher for all time periods compared to the average price per pound during the TABLE 2—AVERAGE EX-VESSEL PRICE PER POUND ($) OF BFT BY GENERAL CATEGORY SUBQUOTA TIME PERIOD [2017–2021] Subquota time period Year 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 January through March June through August September October through November December ......................................................................................................... ......................................................................................................... ......................................................................................................... ......................................................................................................... ......................................................................................................... $7.37 7.43 6.06 6.13 6.22 $6.72 6.92 5.61 4.90 6.92 $7.08 6.55 6.36 5.21 6.09 $7.56 7.58 5.53 5.61 7.38 $9.83 9.56 12.25 5.76 8.51 2017 through 2021 average ............................................................. 6.64 6.21 6.26 6.73 9.18 Table 3 shows the number of open days during each General category subquota time period for 2017 through 2021. On an annual basis, the average number of General category open days tends to be higher earlier in the fishing year (i.e., 64 days for the January through March period and 79 days for the June through August period) and decreases as the season progresses into the late fall and winter seasons (i.e., 21 days for September period, 21 days for October through November period, and 20 days for the December period). In 2021, the total number of open days was higher compared to the total number of days in 2019. NMFS set RFDs for the September and October through November subquota periods in 2021. Although the number of open days for the September 2021 subquota period was the lowest except for 2019, the October through November 2021 subquota period remained open for more days compared to the previous four years. NMFS believes that increase in fishing days was in part due to RFDs. TABLE 3—GENERAL CATEGORY NUMBER OF OPEN DAYS BY SUBQUOTA TIME PERIOD [2017–2021] Subquota time period khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Year 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 January through March June through August September October through November December Total ................................................................................. ................................................................................. ................................................................................. ................................................................................. ................................................................................. 88 61 59 55 58 77 92 69 91 65 17 23 13 27 14 5 15 13 11 34 6 31 31 14 18 193 222 185 200 189 2017 through 2021 average ..................................... 64 79 19 16 20 198 VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:13 Mar 04, 2022 Jkt 256001 PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\07MRP1.SGM 07MRP1 khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with PROPOSALS 12648 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 44 / Monday, March 7, 2022 / Proposed Rules NMFS is proposing to establish a schedule of RFDs for the 2022 fishing year that would specify days on which fishing and sales will not occur. Specifically, the proposed schedule allows for two-consecutive-day periods twice each week for BFT product to move through the market while also allowing some commercial fishing activity to occur each weekend (i.e., Sundays). Because this schedule of RFDs would apply to all participants equally, NMFS anticipates that this schedule would extend fishing opportunities through a greater proportion of the subquota periods in which they apply by spreading fishing effort out over time similar to the 2021 fishing season. Further, to the extent that the ex-vessel revenue for a BFT sold by a General or HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessel (with a commercial endorsement) may be higher when a lower volume of domestically-caught BFT is on the market at one time, the use of RFDs may result in some increase in BFT price, and the value of the General category subquotas could increase similar to that of 2021. Thus, although NMFS anticipates that the same overall amount of the General category quota would be landed as well as the same amount of BFT landed per vessel, there may be some positive impacts to the General category and Charter/Headboat (commercial) BFT fishery. Using RFDs may more equitably distribute opportunities across all permitted vessels for longer durations within the subquota periods. If NMFS does not implement a schedule, without any other changes, it is possible that the trends of increasing numbers of unsold BFT (Table 1) and decreasing ex-vessel prices (Table 2) from 2017 through 2020 could continue. Additionally, without RFDs in 2022, the General category could have fewer open days later in the fishing season when exvessel prices tend to be higher (Table 3) as observed in 2017 through 2020. If those trends were to continue, all active General category permit holders could experience negative economic impacts similar to 2019 and 2020 where dealers were limiting their purchases of BFT and buying no or very few BFT on certain days in order to extend the available quota. This proposed rule contains no information collection requirements under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 635 Fisheries, Fishing, Fishing vessels, Foreign relations, Imports, Penalties, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Statistics, Treaties. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:13 Mar 04, 2022 Jkt 256001 Dated: February 28, 2022. Samuel D. Rauch, III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2022–04546 Filed 3–4–22; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 635 [Docket No. 220224–0058] RIN 0648–BL16 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna and North Atlantic Albacore Quotas National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS is proposing to modify the baseline annual U.S. quota and subquotas for Atlantic bluefin tuna and the baseline annual U.S. North Atlantic albacore (northern albacore) quota. This action is necessary to implement binding recommendations of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) adopted in 2021, as required by the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA), and to achieve domestic management objectives under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). DATES: Written comments must be received by April 6, 2022. NMFS will hold a public hearing via conference call and webinar for this proposed rule on March 24, 2022, from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. EDT. For webinar registration information, see the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this document. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA– NMFS–2022–0024, by electronic submission. Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to https:// www.regulations.gov and enter ‘‘NOAA–NMFS–2022–0024’’ in the Search box. Click on the ‘‘Comment’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the close of the comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00028 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). NMFS will hold a public hearing via conference call and webinar on this proposed rule. For specific location, date and time, see the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this document. Copies of this proposed rule and supporting documents are available from the Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Management Division website at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/topic/ atlantic-highly-migratory-species or by contacting Carrie Soltanoff at carrie.soltanoff@noaa.gov or 301–427– 8503. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Carrie Soltanoff (carrie.soltanoff@ noaa.gov) or Larry Redd, Jr. (larry.redd@ noaa.gov) at 301–427–8503, or Steve Durkee (steve.durkee@noaa.gov) at 202– 670–6637. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Atlantic tunas fisheries are managed under the authority of ATCA (16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.) and the Magnuson-Stevens Act (16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.). The 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS Fishery Management Plan (2006 Consolidated HMS FMP) and its amendments are implemented by regulations at 50 CFR part 635. Section 635.27 divides the U.S. bluefin tuna quota recommended by ICCAT and as implemented by the United States among domestic fishing categories and provides the annual bluefin tuna quota adjustment process. Section 635.23(e) implements the ICCAT-recommended U.S. northern albacore quota and provides the annual northern albacore quota adjustment process. Since 1982, ICCAT has recommended a total allowable catch (TAC) of western Atlantic bluefin tuna for contracting parties fishing on the stock, and since 1991, ICCAT has recommended specific quotas within that TAC for the United States and other contracting parties. ICCAT adopted a 20-year rebuilding program for western Atlantic bluefin tuna in 1998. The rebuilding plan period was set as 1999 through 2018. In 2017, ICCAT adopted an interim conservation and management measure for western Atlantic bluefin tuna as to transition from the rebuilding program to a long-term management strategy for E:\FR\FM\07MRP1.SGM 07MRP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 87, Number 44 (Monday, March 7, 2022)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 12643-12648]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2022-04546]


=======================================================================
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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 635

[Docket No. 220223-0056]
RIN 0648-BK99


Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; General Category Restricted-
Fishing Days

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS is proposing to set Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) General 
category restricted-fishing days (RFDs) for the 2022 fishing year. This 
proposed rule would set RFDs for specific days during the months of 
July through November 2022. On an RFD, Atlantic Tunas General category 
permitted vessels may not fish for (including catch-and-release or tag-
and-release fishing), possess, retain, land, or sell BFT. On an RFD, 
Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Charter/Headboat permitted vessels with 
a commercial sale endorsement also are subject to these restrictions to 
preclude fishing commercially for BFT under the General category 
restrictions and retention limits, but such vessels may still fish for, 
possess, retain, or land BFT when fishing recreationally under 
applicable HMS Angling category rules.

DATES: Written comments must be received by April 6, 2022. NMFS will 
hold a public hearing via conference call and webinar for this proposed 
rule on March 24, 2022, from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. For webinar 
registration information, see the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of 
this document.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NMFS-2022-0025, by electronic submission. Submit all electronic 
public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to https://www.regulations.gov and enter ``NOAA-NMFS-2022-0025'' in the Search 
box. Click on the ``Comment'' icon, complete the required fields, and 
enter or attach your comments.
    Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or 
individual, or received after the close of the comment period, may not 
be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the public 
record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous).
    NMFS will hold a public hearing via conference call and webinar on 
this proposed rule. For specific location, date and time, see the 
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this document.
    Copies of this proposed rule and supporting documents are available 
from the HMS Management Division website at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/topic/atlantic-highly-migratory-species or by 
contacting Larry Redd at [email protected] or 301-427-8503.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Larry Redd, Jr., [email protected], 
301-427-8503, or Carrie Soltanoff, [email protected], 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 (2006 Consolidated HMS FMP) and its amendments are 
implemented by regulations at 50 CFR part 635. Section 635.27 divides 
the U.S. BFT quota,

[[Page 12644]]

recommended by the International Commission for the Conservation of 
Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and as implemented by the United States, among 
the various domestic fishing categories per the allocations established 
in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments. Section 635.23 
specifies the retention limit provisions for Atlantic Tunas General 
category permitted vessels and HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels, 
including regarding RFDs.
    RFDs are used as an effort control to ensure that BFT quotas and 
subquotas are not exceeded. In 2018, NMFS implemented a final rule that 
established the overall U.S. BFT quota and subquotas consistent with 
ICCAT Recommendation 17-06 (83 FR 51391, October 11, 2018) and split 
that BFT quota into subquotas among fishing categories, including for 
the Angling category (recreational) and General category (commercial). 
In 2020, following a stock assessment update, ICCAT adopted 
Recommendation 20-06, which maintained the total allowable catch of 
2,350 metric tons (mt) and the associated U.S. quota. As such, as 
described in Sec.  635.27(a), the current baseline U.S. quota remains 
1,247.86 mt (not including the 25 mt ICCAT allocated to the United 
States to account for bycatch of BFT in pelagic longline fisheries in 
the Northeast Distant Gear Restricted Area). The baseline quota for the 
General category is 555.7 mt. Each of the General category time periods 
(January through March, June through August, September, October through 
November, and December) is allocated a portion of the annual General 
category quota.
    In November 2021, following the results of the 2021 western BFT 
stock assessment, ICCAT adopted Recommendation 21-07, which increased 
the total allowable catch to 2,746 mt and the associated U.S. quota by 
68.28 mt to 1,316.14 mt. NMFS recently published a proposed rule that 
would implement Recommendation 21-07. If finalized as proposed after 
considering public comment, the final rule would increase the baseline 
annual U.S. quota and for BFT to the ICCAT-recommended U.S. BFT quota 
and subquotas would increase accordingly.

Background

    NMFS first established the regulatory authority to set ``no 
fishing'' days in a 1995 rule (60 FR 38505, July 27, 1995) as an 
available effort control that could be used to extend the General 
category time period subquotas while providing additional inseason 
management flexibility with regard to quota use and season length. An 
RFD is a day, established ahead of time through a schedule published in 
the Federal Register, on which NMFS sets the BFT retention limit at 
zero for certain categories of permit holders. Specifically, on an RFD, 
vessels permitted in the Atlantic Tunas General category are prohibited 
from fishing for (including catch-and-release and tag-and-release 
fishing), possessing, retaining, landing, or selling BFT (Sec.  
635.23(a)(2)). RFDs also apply to HMS Charter/Headboat permitted 
vessels to preclude fishing commercially under General category 
restrictions and retention limits on those days but do not preclude 
such vessels from recreational fishing activity under applicable 
Angling category regulations, including catch-and-release and tag-and-
release fishing (Sec.  635.23(c)(3)).
    NMFS may waive previously scheduled RFDs under certain 
circumstances. Consistent with Sec.  635.23(a)(4), NMFS may waive an 
RFD by adjusting the daily BFT retention limit from zero up to five on 
specified RFDs, after considering the inseason adjustment determination 
criteria at Sec.  635.27(a)(8). Considerations include, among other 
things, review of dealer reports, daily landing trends, and the 
availability of BFT on fishing grounds. NMFS would announce any such 
waiver by filing a retention limit adjustment with the Office of the 
Federal Register for publication. Such adjustments would be effective 
no less than 3 calendar days after the date of filing for public 
inspection with the Office of the Federal Register. NMFS also may waive 
previously designated RFDs effective upon closure of the General 
category fishery so that persons aboard vessels permitted in the 
General category may conduct catch-and-release or tag-and-release 
fishing for BFT under Sec.  635.26(a). NMFS would not modify the 
previously scheduled RFDs during the fishing year in other ways (such 
as changing an RFD from one date to another, or adding RFDs).
    Due to increased BFT catch rates in the General category in 2019 
and 2020, and numerous requests from Atlantic tuna dealers, General 
category participants, and members of the Atlantic HMS Advisory Panel, 
NMFS proposed to resume the use of RFDs for 2021 for the first time 
since 2007 (86 FR 25992, May 12, 2021). Although NMFS proposed a 
schedule of all Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from July 20 through 
November 30, 2021, due to timing issues, the final rule established 
RFDs on all Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from September 3 through 
November 30, 2021 (86 FR 43421, August 9, 2021). NMFS closed the 
General category September subquota period on September 23, 2021 (86 FR 
53010, September 24, 2021). For the October through November subquota 
period, the General category remained open until the end of the 
subquota period (November 30, 2021). Because the use of RFDs in 2021 
succeeded in extending fishing opportunities through a greater portion 
of the relevant subquota periods and the fishing season overall, 
consistent with management objectives for the fishery, NMFS is 
proposing an RFD schedule for the 2022 fishing year.

Proposed RFD Schedule for the 2022 Fishing Year

    For 2022, NMFS proposes a schedule of RFDs as follows: All 
Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from July 1, 2022, through November 
30, 2022, while the fishery is open. On these designated RFDs, persons 
aboard vessels permitted in the General category would be prohibited 
from fishing for (including catch-and-release and tag-and-release 
fishing), possessing, retaining, landing, or selling BFT. Persons 
aboard HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels with a commercial sale 
endorsement also would be prohibited from fishing commercially for BFT. 
Persons aboard all HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels (including 
those with a commercial sale endorsement) could fish recreationally for 
BFT under the applicable Angling category restrictions and retention 
limits.
    NMFS is proposing the same weekly schedule as the 2021 RFD schedule 
(i.e., every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday). However, while the 2021 
RFDs did not start until September 2021, the 2022 RFDs proposed 
schedule would begin at the start of July and extend through the end of 
November. This proposed schedule and extension is based on general 
feedback provided by Atlantic tuna dealers, General category 
participants and members of the Atlantic HMS Advisory Panel in 2021, a 
review of average daily catch rate data for recent years, a review of 
past years' RFD schedules (including the most recent 2021 RFD 
schedule), and a review of past closure dates prior to RFDs being set 
in 2021. Considering that information, NMFS believes that a schedule of 
Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday RFDs from July 1 through November 30 
should continue to increase the likelihood of pacing General category 
landings to extend fishing opportunities through a greater portion of 
the subquota periods (similar to the 2021 RFD schedule). It would also 
allow for two-consecutive-day periods

[[Page 12645]]

twice each week (Sunday-Monday; Wednesday-Thursday) for BFT product to 
move through the market and allow for some commercial fishing activity 
each weekend (Sunday).
    In proposing the same schedule as last year, NMFS did consider the 
comments and feedback received last year that suggested a different 
approach. During the public comment period for the 2021 RFD rulemaking, 
NMFS received comments regarding RFDs potentially negatively impacting 
HMS tournaments given the limits on weekend fishing. Several of these 
comments requested that a schedule of RFDs be announced earlier in the 
fishing year to allow tournament operators the flexibility to adapt 
their tournaments around RFDs. Publishing the proposed rule and 
affording an opportunity for comments on the proposed schedule earlier 
in the year would allow tournament operators the opportunity to comment 
and later to adjust their scheduled tournaments as needed around the 
2022 RFDs. In 2021 after the RFD schedule had published, NMFS also 
received a request to establish a weekly schedule consisting of three 
days in a row such as Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. This request 
stated that a block of days would better assist the bluefin tuna 
product to move through the market, assist enforcement, and assist the 
industry with three consecutive days off. NMFS is not proposing that 
requested schedule at this time but specifically is requesting comment 
on this topic to help assess whether such a block of time would be less 
disruptive to the fishery and would better meet the goals of RFDs.
    Additionally, in late 2021, NMFS received requests from some winter 
fishery participants to extend RFDs through the December subquota 
period. These dealers and General category participants suggested that 
establishing RFDs in December would assist in facilitating entry of BFT 
product to the market while also allowing rest days for commercial BFT 
fishermen. These requests specifically suggested Wednesdays and 
Saturdays as December subquota period RFDs. Over the last five years, 
closure of the December subquota period has been necessary in 2017, 
2020, and 2021, with the fishery remaining open through the end of the 
month in 2018 and 2019.At this time NMFS is not proposing to extend 
RFDs through the December subquota period for the 2022 fishing year. 
However, in the Federal Register notice, NMFS specifically requests 
comment on whether RFDs should be extended through the December 
subquota period. NMFS will consider comments before deciding on a final 
schedule.
    Lastly, NMFS also received a suggestion to implement RFDs for the 
January through March subquota period. Given that the 2022 January 
through March subquota period is currently underway, NMFS is not 
proposing RFDs for this period in this rulemaking, given timing 
considerations. However, NMFS requests comment on whether it could be 
appropriate to implement RFDs for the January through March subquota 
period in the future, including the 2023 January through March subquota 
period.
    Under existing regulations, based on consideration of regulatory 
criteria at Sec.  635.27(a)(8), NMFS may waive certain RFDs consistent 
with Sec.  635.23(a)(4), either by adjusting the retention limit 
upwards on a previously-scheduled RFD or by waiving an RFD to allow 
recreational fishing under the Angling category restrictions and 
retention limits when the General category closes. Once the schedule is 
set, however, NMFS would not modify RFDs in other ways (e.g., switching 
days or adding RFDs).

Request for Comments

    NMFS is proposing a schedule of RFDs for every Tuesday, Friday, and 
Saturday from July 1, 2022, through November 30, 2022. NMFS is 
requesting comments on this RFD schedule for the 2022 fishing year. 
NMFS is also specifically requesting comments on (1) whether the RFD 
schedule should be three days in a row per week, (2) whether RFDs 
should also be considered for the General category December subquota 
period, and (3) whether RFDs should be considered for the January 
through March subquota period for future rulemakings since this 
subquota period is currently closed. Comments on this proposed rule may 
be submitted via www.regulations.gov or at a public conference call and 
webinar. NMFS solicits comments on this action by April 6, 2022 (see 
DATES and ADDRESSES).
    During the comment period, NMFS will hold a public hearing via 
conference call and webinar for this proposed action. Requests for sign 
language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to 
Larry Redd at [email protected] or 301-427-8503, at least 7 days 
prior to the meeting.
    The conference call and webinar will take place on March 24, 2022. 
Information for registering and accessing the webinars can be found at 
https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/proposed-2022-restricted-fishing-days-atlantic-bluefin-tuna-fishery.
    The public is reminded that NMFS expects participants at conference 
calls and webinars to conduct themselves appropriately. At the 
beginning of each conference call and webinar, the moderator will 
explain how the conference call and webinar will be conducted and how 
and when participants can provide comments. NMFS representative(s) will 
structure the conference call and webinar so that all members of the 
public will be able to comment, if they so choose, regardless of the 
controversial nature of the subject(s). Participants are expected to 
respect the ground rules, and those that do not may be asked to leave 
the conference calls and webinars.

Classification

    The NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that the proposed 
rule is consistent with the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its 
amendments, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, ATCA, and 
other applicable law, subject to further consideration after public 
comment.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    An Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) was prepared, as 
required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). The 
IRFA describes the economic impact this proposed rule, if adopted, 
would have on small entities. A description of the action, why it is 
being considered, and the legal basis for this action are contained at 
the beginning of this section in the preamble and in the SUMMARY 
section of the preamble. A summary of the analysis follows. Section 
603(b)(1) requires agencies to describe the reasons why the action is 
being considered. The purpose of this proposed rulemaking is, 
consistent with the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its 
amendments, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, ATCA, and other applicable law, 
to potentially set a schedule of RFDs for the 2022 fishing year as an 
effort control for the General category quota, and to extend General 
category fishing opportunities through a greater portion of the General 
category subquota periods. Implementation of the proposal would further 
the management goals and objectives in the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP 
and its amendments.
    Section 603(b)(2) of the RFA requires agencies to state the 
objectives of, and legal basis for, the proposed action. The objective 
of this proposed rulemaking is to set a schedule of RFDs for the 2022 
fishing year to increase the likelihood of pacing General category 
landings to extend fishing opportunities through a greater portion of 
the subquota periods (similar to the 2021 RFD schedule). The

[[Page 12646]]

legal basis for the proposed rule is the Magnuson-Stevens Act and ATCA.
    Section 603(b)(3) of the RFA requires agencies to provide an 
estimate of the number of small entities to which the rule would apply. 
NMFS established a small business size standard of $11 million in 
annual gross receipts for all businesses in the commercial fishing 
industry (NAICS 11411) for RFA compliance purposes. The Small Business 
Administration (SBA) has established size standards for all other major 
industry sectors in the United States, including the scenic and 
sightseeing transportation (water) sector (NAICS code 487210), which 
includes for-hire (charter/party boat) fishing entities. The SBA has 
defined a small entity under the scenic and sightseeing transportation 
(water) sector as one with average annual receipts (revenue) of less 
than $8.0 million. NMFS considers all HMS permit holders, both 
commercial and for-hire, to be small entities because they had average 
annual receipts of less than their respective sector's standard of $11 
million and $8 million. The 2020 total ex-vessel annual revenue for the 
BFT fishery was $8.4 million. Since a small business is defined as 
having annual receipts not in excess of $11.0 million, each individual 
BFT permit holder would fall within the small entity definition. The 
numbers of relevant annual Atlantic Tunas or Atlantic HMS permits as of 
October 2021 are as follows: 2,730 General category permit holders and 
4,055 HMS Charter/Headboat permit holders, of which 1,793 hold HMS 
Charter/Headboat permits with a commercial sale endorsement.
    Section 603(b)(4) of the RFA requires agencies to describe any new 
reporting, record-keeping, and other compliance requirements. This 
proposed rule does not contain any new collection of information, 
reporting, or record-keeping requirements. This proposed rule would set 
a schedule of RFDs for 2022 as an effort control for the General 
category.
    Under section 603(b)(5) of the RFA, agencies must identify, to the 
extent practicable, relevant Federal rules which duplicate, overlap, or 
conflict with the proposed action. Fishermen, dealers, and managers in 
these fisheries must comply with a number of international agreements, 
domestic laws, and other fishery management measures. These include, 
but are not limited to, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, ATCA, the High Seas 
Fishing Compliance Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the 
Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the 
Paperwork Reduction Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act. This 
proposed action has been determined not to duplicate, overlap, or 
conflict with any Federal rules.
    Under section 603(c) of the RFA, agencies must describe any 
significant alternatives to the proposed rule which accomplish the 
stated objectives of applicable statutes and which minimize any 
significant economic impact of the proposed rule on small entities. 
Specifically, the RFA (5 U.S.C. 603(c)(1)-(4)) lists four general 
categories of significant alternatives to assist an agency in the 
development of significant alternatives. These categories of 
alternatives are: (1) Establishment of differing compliance or 
reporting requirements or timetables that take into account the 
resources available to small entities; (2) clarification, 
consolidation, or simplification of compliance and reporting 
requirements under the rule for such small entities; (3) use of 
performance rather than design standards; and, (4) exemptions from 
coverage of the rule, or any part thereof, for small entities.
    Regarding the first, second, and fourth categories, NMFS cannot 
establish differing compliance or reporting requirements for small 
entities or exempt small entities from coverage of the rule or parts of 
it, because all of the businesses impacted by this rule are considered 
small entities, and thus the requirements are already designed for 
small entities. Regarding the third category, NMFS does not know of any 
performance or design standards that would satisfy the aforementioned 
objectives of this rulemaking.
    This proposed rule would not change the U.S. Atlantic BFT quotas or 
implement any new management measures not previously considered under 
the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and its amendments. NMFS proposes 
continuation of the use of RFDs for the General category in 2022 and 
provides the regulated community the opportunity to comment on the 
proposed RFD schedule. Under the regulations, when a General category 
subquota period is reached or projected to be reached, NMFS closes the 
General category fishery. Retaining, possessing, or landing BFT under 
that quota category is prohibited on and after the effective date and 
time of a closure notice for that category, for the remainder of the 
fishing year, until the opening of the subsequent quota period or until 
such date as specified. In recent years, these closures, if needed, 
have generally occurred toward the end of a subquota period. According 
to communications with dealers and fishermen, several of the high-
volume Atlantic tunas dealers in 2019 and 2020 were limiting their 
purchases of BFT and buying no or very few BFT (such as harpooned fish 
only) on certain days during the beginning portion of the June through 
August subquota period in order to extend the available quota until 
later in the subquota period given market considerations. However, 
while these actions may have prevented large numbers of BFT from 
entering the market at the same time and may have lengthened the time 
before any particular subquota period was closed, because these actions 
were not pre-scheduled or consistently implemented across the fishery, 
there were negative impacts experienced by some General category and 
Charter/Headboat permitted fishermen, who could not find buyers for 
their BFT. As a result, a number of BFT that normally would have been 
sold were not, and opportunities may not have been equitably 
distributed among all permitted vessels. In 2021, NMFS set pre-
scheduled RFDs for the General category fishery on certain days 
(Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays) from September through November to 
increase the likelihood of pacing General category landings to extend 
fishing opportunities through a greater portion of the subquota 
periods. Table 1 shows the number and total metric tons (mt) of BFT 
that were landed but not sold by fishermen fishing under the General 
category quota for 2017 through 2021. The number and weight of unsold 
BFT increased from 2018 through 2020, with a peak in 2020 (173 BFT and 
25.8 mt) in part to the pandemic and substantially decreased in 2021 
(from 143 to 12 BFT and 25.8 mt to 2.0 mt). NMFS believes this 
substantial reduction in 2021 from the peak in 2020 is a result of the 
use of RFDs in 2021.

[[Page 12647]]



   Table 1--Number (Count) and Weight (mt) of BFT Landed but Unsold by
                  General Category Participants by Year
                               [2017-2021]
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  Year                         Count        Weight (mt)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
2017....................................               0               0
2018....................................              14             2.6
2019....................................              20             3.8
2020....................................             143            25.8
2021....................................              12             2.0
                                         -------------------------------
    Total...............................             189            34.2
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Table 2 shows the average ex-vessel price per pound of BFT during 
each General category subquota time period for 2017 through 2021. Ex-
vessel price per pound was lower for the June through August period, 
with an average (2017 through 2021) of $6.21, and increased over the 
summer and fall period, with averages of $6.26 for the September period 
and $6.73 for the October through November period). In 2021, the 
average price per pound was higher for all time periods compared to the 
average price per pound during the time periods in 2020. In most time 
periods, the 2021 average price per pound was also higher than the 2019 
average price per pound. NMFS believes that this increase in average 
price was in part due to the use of RFDs in 2021.

         Table 2--Average Ex-Vessel Price per Pound ($) of BFT by General Category Subquota Time Period
                                                   [2017-2021]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                       Subquota time period
                                                ----------------------------------------------------------------
                      Year                         January        June                    October
                                                   through      through     September     through      December
                                                    March        August                   November
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2017...........................................        $7.37        $6.72        $7.08        $7.56        $9.83
2018...........................................         7.43         6.92         6.55         7.58         9.56
2019...........................................         6.06         5.61         6.36         5.53        12.25
2020...........................................         6.13         4.90         5.21         5.61         5.76
2021...........................................         6.22         6.92         6.09         7.38         8.51
                                                ----------------------------------------------------------------
    2017 through 2021 average..................         6.64         6.21         6.26         6.73         9.18
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Table 3 shows the number of open days during each General category 
subquota time period for 2017 through 2021. On an annual basis, the 
average number of General category open days tends to be higher earlier 
in the fishing year (i.e., 64 days for the January through March period 
and 79 days for the June through August period) and decreases as the 
season progresses into the late fall and winter seasons (i.e., 21 days 
for September period, 21 days for October through November period, and 
20 days for the December period). In 2021, the total number of open 
days was higher compared to the total number of days in 2019. NMFS set 
RFDs for the September and October through November subquota periods in 
2021. Although the number of open days for the September 2021 subquota 
period was the lowest except for 2019, the October through November 
2021 subquota period remained open for more days compared to the 
previous four years. NMFS believes that increase in fishing days was in 
part due to RFDs.

                      Table 3--General Category Number of Open Days by Subquota Time Period
                                                   [2017-2021]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                Subquota time period
                                   -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
               Year                   January        June                    October
                                      through      through     September     through      December      Total
                                       March        August                   November
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2017..............................           88           77           17            5            6          193
2018..............................           61           92           23           15           31          222
2019..............................           59           69           13           13           31          185
2020..............................           55           91           27           11           14          200
2021..............................           58           65           14           34           18          189
                                   -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    2017 through 2021 average.....           64           79           19           16           20          198
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


[[Page 12648]]

    NMFS is proposing to establish a schedule of RFDs for the 2022 
fishing year that would specify days on which fishing and sales will 
not occur. Specifically, the proposed schedule allows for two-
consecutive-day periods twice each week for BFT product to move through 
the market while also allowing some commercial fishing activity to 
occur each weekend (i.e., Sundays). Because this schedule of RFDs would 
apply to all participants equally, NMFS anticipates that this schedule 
would extend fishing opportunities through a greater proportion of the 
subquota periods in which they apply by spreading fishing effort out 
over time similar to the 2021 fishing season. Further, to the extent 
that the ex-vessel revenue for a BFT sold by a General or HMS Charter/
Headboat permitted vessel (with a commercial endorsement) may be higher 
when a lower volume of domestically-caught BFT is on the market at one 
time, the use of RFDs may result in some increase in BFT price, and the 
value of the General category subquotas could increase similar to that 
of 2021. Thus, although NMFS anticipates that the same overall amount 
of the General category quota would be landed as well as the same 
amount of BFT landed per vessel, there may be some positive impacts to 
the General category and Charter/Headboat (commercial) BFT fishery. 
Using RFDs may more equitably distribute opportunities across all 
permitted vessels for longer durations within the subquota periods.
    If NMFS does not implement a schedule, without any other changes, 
it is possible that the trends of increasing numbers of unsold BFT 
(Table 1) and decreasing ex-vessel prices (Table 2) from 2017 through 
2020 could continue. Additionally, without RFDs in 2022, the General 
category could have fewer open days later in the fishing season when 
ex-vessel prices tend to be higher (Table 3) as observed in 2017 
through 2020. If those trends were to continue, all active General 
category permit holders could experience negative economic impacts 
similar to 2019 and 2020 where dealers were limiting their purchases of 
BFT and buying no or very few BFT on certain days in order to extend 
the available quota.
    This proposed rule contains no information collection requirements 
under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 635

    Fisheries, Fishing, Fishing vessels, Foreign relations, Imports, 
Penalties, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Statistics, 
Treaties.

    Dated: February 28, 2022.
Samuel D. Rauch, III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2022-04546 Filed 3-4-22; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P