NACO

National Association of Charterboat Operators

Billfish Conservation Act of 2012 Implementing Regulations

NMFS issues this advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) to provide background information and request public comment on potential issues related to the implementation of the Billfish Conservation Act of 2012.

NMFS is considering issuing regulations to implement the BCA. Rulemaking is needed to provide notice to the regulated community, increase public understanding of the elements of the billfish prohibitions, facilitate enforcement, and ensure consistent implementation of the BCA nationally. Through this ANPR, NMFS seeks the public's views on the potential scope of any future regulations to implement the BCA, including the scope of the exemption in section 4(c) of the BCA and the possible use of a modified version of the current billfish COE to document that billfish offered for sale qualifies for exemption from the general prohibition on sale. Also, what, if any, restrictions can NMFS impose on the transportation and sale of billfish caught by U.S. vessels and landed in Hawaii or the Pacific Insular Areas?

Written comments regarding the issues in this ANPR must be received by 5 p.m., local time, on July 3, 2013.

 

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 

 

NOAA-NMFS-2013-0004, by any of the following methods:

     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 

comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 

www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0004, click the 

``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 

attach your comments.

     Mail: Submit written comments to Kim Marshall, 1315 East-

West Highway, SSMC3, Silver Spring, MD 20910.

     Fax: 301-713-1193; Attn: Kim Marshall.

    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 

address or individual, or received after the end 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). Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in 

Microsoft Word, Excel, or Adobe PDF file formats only.

 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kim Marshall, Fishery Policy Analyst, 

National Marine Fisheries Service, 301-427-8556.

 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

 

Background

 

    The Billfish Conservation Act of 2012 (BCA), Public Law 112-183, 16 

U.S.C. 1827a, was signed into law on October 5, 2012. The BCA defines 

``billfish'' as any of the following: (1) Blue marlin; (2) striped 

marlin; (3) black marlin; (4) sailfish; (5) shortbill spearfish; (6) 

white marlin; (7) roundscale spearfish; (8) Mediterranean spearfish; or 

(9) longbill spearfish. It exempts swordfish from the definition of 

billfish.

    Section 4(a) of the BCA prohibits any person from offering billfish 

or billfish products for sale, selling them, or having custody, 

control, or possession of them for purposes of offering them for sale. 

It treats a violation of the BCA as an act prohibited by section 307 of 

the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA; 16 

U.S.C. 1857). Individuals, including recreational fishermen may 

possess, but not sell billfish or billfish products or have custody, 

control, or possession for the purposes of offering them for sale, 

subject to limits imposed by existing state and federal regulations.

    Section 4(c) of the BCA exempts billfish caught by U.S. fishing 

vessels and landed in Hawaii or Pacific Insular Areas (as defined under 

the MSA) from the general prohibitions on sale and custody with the 

intent to sell in section 4(a). It also exempts billfish landed by 

foreign vessels in the Pacific Insular Areas and exported to markets 

outside the U.S. or retained within Hawaii and the Pacific Insular 

Areas for local consumption.

    In passing the BCA, Congress recognized the conservation challenges 

facing billfish populations in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. 

Congress found that, despite careful management of domestic billfish 

fisheries, global billfish populations have declined significantly 

because of overfishing primarily through retention of bycatch by non-

U.S. fishing fleets. See 16 U.S.C. 1827a note. In 2011, the 

International Union for the Conservation of Nature classified blue and 

white marlin as vulnerable to extinction and striped marlin as near 

threatened. The over harvest and export of billfish from foreign 

nations threatens the survival of billfish populations and the 

sustainability of the U.S. recreational billfish fishery. A report on 

trade of billfish published by the International Game Fish Association 

(IGFA) in June, 2007 found that the legal sale of billfish caught in 

the Pacific Ocean may create a market that allows billfish caught in 

the Atlantic Ocean to enter illegitimately into U.S. markets.

    Existing federal regulations require the release of all Atlantic 

billfish caught by commercial fishing operations in the U.S. Exclusive 

Economic Zone (EEZ), prohibit the possession of billfish onboard 

commercial fishing vessels inside the U.S. EEZ, and prohibit the sale 

of Atlantic billfish. 50 CFR 635.21(a) and (e)(2), 635.31(b). The BCA 

increases the protection for Atlantic billfish by prohibiting the 

import and sale of all billfish in the U.S., no matter where harvested, 

unless exempted pursuant to section 4(c) of the BCA.

    The only U.S. commercial fishery for billfish occurs in Hawaii and 

surrounding Pacific island areas. Section 4(c)(1) of the BCA exempts 

billfish caught by U.S. vessels and landed in Hawaii or Pacific Insular 

Areas from the general prohibition on sale of billfish. Under existing 

regulations, seafood dealers and processors are required to use the 

Billfish Certificate of Eligibility (COE) to document that billfish 

possessed or offered for sale were not harvested from the Atlantic 

Ocean. See 50 CFR 635.31(b). NMFS is considering adapting the billfish 

COE requirements to implement the BCA by requiring that seafood dealers 

and processors document that billfish offered for sale

qualifies for exemption from the general prohibition on the sale of 

billfish.

    The U.S. West Coast Highly Migratory Fishery Management Plan (Plan) 

includes the striped marlin as a management unit species and prohibits 

sale of the species. As stated in the Pacific Fishery Management 

Council's Plan, striped marlin is considered to have far greater value 

as a recreational rather than commercial target species. The Plan is 

not the only measure addressing striped marlin. California has 

prohibited sale and importation of Pacific striped marlin since 1937, 

and with a limited exception for black marlin, marlin meat, whether 

fresh, smoked, canned, or preserved by any means, may not be bought or 

sold, or possessed or transported for the purpose of sale in the state.

 

Public Comments

 

    NMFS is considering issuing regulations to implement the BCA. 

Rulemaking is needed to provide notice to the regulated community, 

increase public understanding of the elements of the billfish 

prohibitions, facilitate enforcement, and ensure consistent 

implementation of the BCA nationally. Through this ANPR, NMFS seeks the 

public's views on the potential scope of any future regulations to 

implement the BCA, including the scope of the exemption in section 4(c) 

of the BCA and the possible use of a modified version of the current 

billfish COE to document that billfish offered for sale qualifies for 

exemption from the general prohibition on sale. Also, what, if any, 

restrictions can NMFS impose on the transportation and sale of billfish 

caught by U.S. vessels and landed in Hawaii or the Pacific Insular 

Areas?

    To help determine the scope of issues to be addressed and to 

identify significant issues related to this action, NMFS is soliciting 

written comments on this ANPR. The public is encouraged to submit 

comments related to the specific ideas mentioned in this ANPR, as well 

as any additional ideas to improve implementation of the Billfish 

Conservation Act of 2012.

 

 

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