NACO

National Association of Charterboat Operators

Bluefin Tuna Retention Limit

NMFS has determined that the Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) daily retention limit that applies to vessels permitted in the Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Charter/Headboat category (when fishing recreationally for BFT) should be adjusted for the remainder of 2013, based on consideration of the regulatory determination criteria regarding inseason adjustments and based on preliminary 2013 landings data. The adjusted limit for HMS Charter/Headboat vessels is one school BFT and one large school/small medium BFT per vessel per day/trip when fishing recreationally for BFT (i.e., one BFT measuring 27 to less than 47 inches, and one BFT measuring 47 to less than 73 inches). This retention limit is effective in all areas, except for the Gulf of Mexico, where NMFS prohibits targeted fishing for BFT. NMFS also closes the southern area Angling category fishery for large medium and giant (``trophy'') BFT. These actions are being taken consistent with the BFT fishery management objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS Fishery Management Plan (Consolidated HMS FMP) and to prevent overharvest of the 2013 Angling category quota.

Effective April 4, 2013, through December 31, 2013.

 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sarah McLaughlin or Brad McHale, 978-281-9260.

 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Regulations implemented under the authority 

of the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA; 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.) and 

the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-

Stevens Act; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) governing the harvest of BFT by 

persons and vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction are found at 50 CFR 

part 635. Section 635.27 subdivides the U.S. BFT quota recommended by 

the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas 

(ICCAT) among the various domestic fishing categories, per the 

allocations established in the Consolidated HMS FMP (71 FR 58058, 

October 2, 2006) and in accordance with implementing regulations. NMFS 

is required under ATCA and the Magnuson-Stevens Act to provide U.S. 

fishing vessels with a reasonable opportunity to harvest the ICCAT-

recommended quota.

    The 2013 BFT fishing year, which is managed on a calendar-year 

basis and subject to an annual calendar-year quota, began January 1, 

2013. The Angling category season opened January 1, 2013, and continues 

through December 31, 2013. Currently, the default Angling category 

daily retention limit of one school, large school, or small medium BFT 

(measuring 27 to less than 73 inches (68.5 to less than 185 cm)) 

applies (50 CFR 635.23(b)(2)). An annual limit of one large medium or 

giant BFT (73 inches or greater) per vessel also applies (Sec.  

635.23(b)(1)). These retention limits apply to HMS Angling and HMS 

Charter/Headboat category permitted vessels (when fishing 

recreationally for BFT).

    The currently codified Angling category quota is 182 mt (94.9 mt 

for school BFT, 82.9 mt for large school/small medium BFT, and 4.2 mt 

for large medium/giant BFT).

 

Adjustment of Angling Category Daily Retention Limit

 

    Under Sec.  635.23(b)(3), NMFS may increase or decrease the 

retention limit for any size class of BFT based on consideration of the 

criteria provided under Sec.  635.27(a)(8), which include: 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)); effects of the adjustment on BFT 

rebuilding and overfishing (Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(v)); effects of the 

adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the Consolidated HMS FMP 

(Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(vi)); variations in seasonal BFT distribution, 

abundance, or migration patterns (Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(vii)); effects of 

catch rates in one area precluding vessels in another area from having 

a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the category's quota 

(Sec.  635.27(a)(8)(viii)); and a review of daily landing trends and 

availability of the BFT on the fishing grounds (Sec.  

635.27(a)(8)(ix)). Retention limits may be adjusted separately for 

specific vessel type, such as private vessels, headboats, or 

charterboats.

    NMFS has considered the set of criteria at Sec.  635.27(a)(8) and 

their applicability to the Angling category BFT retention limit for the 

2013 Angling category fishery. These considerations include, but are 

not limited to, the following: This action, which is taken consistent 

with the quotas previously established and analyzed in the 2011 BFT 

quotas final rule (76 FR 39019, July 5, 2011) and consistent with 

objectives of the Consolidated HMS FMP, is not expected to negatively 

impact stock health. Biological samples collected

 from BFT landed by recreational fishermen continue to provide NMFS with 

valuable parts and data for ongoing scientific studies of BFT age and 

growth, migration, and reproductive status. A principal consideration 

is the objective of providing opportunities to harvest the Angling 

category quota without exceeding it based upon the Consolidated HMS FMP 

goal: ``Consistent with other objectives of this FMP, to manage 

Atlantic HMS fisheries for continuing optimum yield so as to provide 

the greatest overall benefit to the Nation, particularly with respect 

to food production, providing recreational opportunities, preserving 

traditional fisheries, and taking into account the protection of marine 

ecosystems.'' It is important that NMFS constrain landings to BFT 

subquotas both to adhere to the current FMP quota allocations and to 

ensure that landings are as consistent as possible with the pattern of 

fishing mortality (e.g., fish caught at each age) that was assumed in 

the projections of stock rebuilding.

    NMFS examined the results of the 2009 through 2012 fishing seasons 

under the applicable daily retention limits, as well as the observed 

trend in the recreational fishery over that time period (i.e., a shift 

in availability from primarily large school BFT, which measure 47 to 

less than 59 inches (119 to less than 150 cm) in 2008 to small medium 

BFT (59 to less than 73 inches) in 2009 through 2011). Large school and 

small medium BFT traditionally have been managed as one size class (47 

to less than 73 inches). In 2010 and 2011, based on considerations of 

the available quota, fishery performance in recent years, and the 

availability of BFT on the fishing grounds, NMFS adjusted the Angling 

category retention limit from the default level to prohibit the 

retention of small medium BFT for the remainder of the respective 

fishing years (75 FR 33531, June 14, 2010, and 76 FR 18416, April 4, 

2011). Recognizing the different nature, socio-economic needs, and 

recent landings results of private and charter/headboat vessels, NMFS 

implemented separate limits for each. Effective June 12 through 

December 31, 2010, and effective April 2 through December 31, 2011, the 

limit was one school or large school BFT per vessel per day/trip for 

private vessels (i.e., those with HMS Angling category permits), and 

was one school BFT and one large school BFT per vessel per day/trip for 

charter vessels (i.e., those with HMS Charter/Headboat permits, when 

fishing recreationally for BFT).

    In 2012, based on the annual BFT growth rate and preliminary 

recreational catch information, NMFS found it was reasonable to assume 

that the cohort of fish described above largely had grown to greater 

than 73 inches (i.e., had moved through the recreational large school/

small medium size class), and adjusted the retention limit for HMS 

Charter/Headboat vessels from the default level to one school and one 

large school/small medium BFT per vessel per day/trip.

    Given the considerations above, NMFS has determined that the 

Angling category retention limit applicable to HMS Charter/Headboat 

category participants (when fishing recreationally) should be adjusted 

from the default level, and that implementation of separate limits for 

private and charter/headboat vessels is appropriate, recognizing the 

different nature, socio-economic needs, and recent landings results of 

the two components of the recreational BFT fishery. For example, 

charter operators historically have indicated that a multi-fish 

retention limit is vital to their ability to attract customers. In 

addition, 2012 Large Pelagics Survey estimates indicate that charter/

headboat BFT landings constitute approximately 30 percent of recent 

recreational landings, with the remaining 70 percent landed by private 

vessels.

    Therefore, for private vessels (i.e., those with HMS Angling 

category permits), the limit is maintained at one school, large school, 

or small medium BFT per vessel per day/trip (i.e., one BFT measuring 27 

to less than 73 inches). For charter vessels (i.e., those with HMS 

Charter/Headboat permits), the limit is one school BFT and one large 

school/small medium BFT per vessel per day/trip when fishing 

recreationally for BFT (i.e., one BFT measuring 27 to less than 47 

inches, and one BFT measuring 47 to less than 73 inches). These 

retention limits are effective in all areas, except for the Gulf of 

Mexico, where NMFS prohibits targeted fishing for BFT. Regardless of 

the duration of a fishing trip, the daily retention limit applies upon 

landing.

    NMFS anticipates that the BFT daily retention limits in this action 

will result in landings during 2013 that would not exceed the available 

subquotas as codified in 2011. A lower retention limit could result in 

substantial underharvest of the codified Angling category subquota, and 

increasing the daily limit further may risk exceeding the available 

quota, contrary to the objectives of the Consolidated HMS FMP. NMFS 

will monitor 2013 landings closely and will make further adjustments, 

including closure, with an inseason action if warranted.

 

Angling Category Large Medium and Giant Southern ``Trophy'' Fishery 

Closure

 

    The codified BFT quotas provide for 4.2 mt of large medium and 

giant (trophy) BFT (measuring greater than 73 inches) to be harvested 

from the regulatory area by vessels fishing under the Angling category 

quota, with 1.4 mt for the area north of 39[deg]18' N. lat. (off Great 

Egg Inlet, NJ) and 2.8 mt for the area south of 39[deg]18' N. lat.

    Based on information from the NMFS Automated Landings Reporting 

System and the North Carolina Tagging Program, NMFS has determined that 

the codified Angling category trophy BFT subquota has been taken and 

that a closure of the southern area trophy BFT fishery is warranted at 

this time. Therefore, retaining, possessing, or landing large medium or 

giant (``trophy'') BFT south of 39[deg]18' N. lat. by persons aboard 

vessels permitted in the HMS Angling category and the HMS Charter/

Headboat category (when fishing recreationally) must cease at 11:30 

p.m. local time on April 4, 2013. This action is taken consistent with 

the regulations at Sec.  635.28(a)(1).

    These Angling category actions are intended to provide a reasonable 

opportunity to harvest the U.S. quota of BFT without exceeding it, 

while maintaining an equitable distribution of fishing opportunities; 

and to be consistent with the objectives of the Consolidated HMS FMP.

    HMS Angling and HMS Charter/Headboat category permit holders may 

catch and release (or tag and release) BFT of all sizes, subject to the 

requirements of the catch-and-release and tag-and-release programs at 

Sec.  635.26. Anglers are also reminded that all BFT that are released 

must be handled in a manner that will maximize survivability, and 

without removing the fish from the water, consistent with requirements 

at Sec.  635.21(a)(1). For additional information on safe handling, see 

the ``Careful Catch and Release'' brochure available at 

www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/.

    If needed, subsequent Angling category adjustments will be 

published in the Federal Register. In addition, fishermen may call the 

Atlantic Tunas Information Line at (888) 872-8862 or (978) 281-9260, or 

access www.hmspermits.noaa.gov, for updates.

 

Classification

 

    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 Consolidated HMS FMP 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. Based 

on available BFT quotas, fishery performance in recent years, the 

availability of BFT on the fishing grounds, among other considerations, 

an adjustment to the recreational BFT daily retention limit is 

warranted. Analysis of available data shows that adjustment to the BFT 

daily retention limit from the default level would result in minimal 

risks of exceeding the ICCAT-allocated quota. Further, closure of the 

southern area Angling category trophy fishery is necessary to ensure 

sufficient quota remains available to ensure overall 2013 fishing year 

landings are consistent with ICCAT recommendations and the Consolidated 

HMS FMP. NMFS provides notification of closures and retention limit 

adjustments by publishing the notice in the Federal Register, emailing 

individuals who have subscribed to the Atlantic HMS News electronic 

newsletter, and updating the information posted on the Atlantic Tunas 

Information Line and on www.hmspermits.noaa.gov.

    These fisheries are currently underway and delaying this action 

would be contrary to the public interest as it could result in 

excessive trophy BFT landings that may result in future potential quota 

reductions for the Angling category and potentially other BFT quota 

categories, depending on the magnitude of a potential Angling category 

overharvest. NMFS must close the southern area trophy BFT fishery 

before additional landings of these sizes of BFT accumulate. Delays in 

increasing the daily recreational BFT retention limits would adversely 

affect those Charter/Headboat category vessels that would otherwise 

have an opportunity to harvest more than the default retention limit of 

one school, large school, or small medium BFT per day/trip and may 

exacerbate the problem of low catch rates and quota rollovers. 

Therefore, the AA finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive 

prior notice and the opportunity for public comment. For all of the 

above reasons, there is good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d) to waive the 

30-day delay in effectiveness.

    This action is being taken under 50 CFR 635.23(b)(3) and 

635.28(a)(1), and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.

 

 

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