NACO

National Association of Charterboat Operators

2013 Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Quota Specifications

Based on preliminary data available as of February 26, 2013, BFT landings in 2012 totaled 713.2 mt. Adding the 145.2-mt estimate of dead discards results in a preliminary 2012 total catch of 858.4 mt, which is 185.2 mt less than the amount of quota (inclusive of dead discards) allowed under ICCAT Recommendation 10-03, which applied in 2012 (i.e., 948.7 mt plus 94.9 mt of 2011 underharvest carried forward to 2012, totaling 1,043.6 mt). ICCAT limits the amount of underharvest that may be carried forward from one year to the next to no more than 10 percent of a country's quota, which limits the amount of 2012 U.S. underharvest that may be carried forward to 2013 to 94.9 mt.

 

NMFS proposes 2013 quota specifications for the Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) fishery, and seeks comments from the public on the allocation of available underharvest among the fishery categories under certain circumstances. This action is necessary to implement binding recommendations of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), 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).

Written comments must be received on or before May 13, 2013. 

Public hearings will be held on April 29, 2013, from 2 to 4 p.m., and on May 3, 2013, from 1 to 3 p.m. Click below for further details.

 

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

 

``NOAA-NMFS-2013-0042,'' by any of the following methods:

     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 

comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 

www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0042, click the 

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

attach your comments.

     Mail: Submit written comments to Sarah McLaughlin, Highly 

Migratory Species Management Division, Office of Sustainable Fisheries 

(F/SF1), NMFS, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930

     Fax: 978-281-9340, Attn: Sarah McLaughlin

     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 generally will 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.

    The public hearing locations are:

    1. Gloucester, MA--NMFS, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 

01930.

    2. Silver Spring, MD--NMFS Science Center, 1301 East-West Highway, 

Silver Spring, MD 20910.

    Supporting documents, including the Supplemental Environmental 

Assessment, as well as others, such as the Fishery Management Plans 

described below may be downloaded from the HMS Web site at 

www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/. These documents also are available by 

sending your request to Sarah McLaughlin at the mailing address 

specified above.

 

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

281-9260.

 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Atlantic bluefin tuna, bigeye tuna, albacore 

tuna, yellowfin tuna, and skipjack tuna (hereafter referred to as 

``Atlantic tunas'') are managed under the dual authority of the 

Magnuson-Stevens Act and ATCA. As an active member of ICCAT, the United 

States implements binding ICCAT recommendations to comply with this 

international treaty. ATCA authorizes the Secretary of Commerce 

(Secretary) to promulgate regulations, as may be necessary and 

appropriate to carry out ICCAT recommendations. The authority to issue 

regulations under the Magnuson-Stevens Act and ATCA has been delegated 

from the Secretary to the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NMFS.

 

Background

 

    On May 28, 1999, NMFS published in the Federal Register (64 FR 

29090) final regulations, effective July 1, 1999, implementing the 

Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Tunas, Swordfish, and Sharks (1999 

FMP). The 1999 FMP included a framework process to promulgate annual 

specifications for the BFT fishery, in accordance with ATCA and the 

Magnuson-Stevens Act, and to implement the annual recommendations of 

ICCAT. Since 1982, ICCAT has recommended a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) 

of western Atlantic BFT, and since 1991, ICCAT has recommended specific 

limits (quotas) for the United States and other Contracting Parties 

with BFT fisheries.

    On October 2, 2006, NMFS published a final rule in the Federal 

Register (71 FR 58058), effective November 1, 2006, implementing the 

2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management 

Plan (Consolidated HMS FMP), which consolidated management of all 

Atlantic HMS (i.e., sharks, swordfish, tunas, and billfish) into one 

comprehensive FMP. The implementing regulations for Atlantic HMS are at 

50 CFR part 635. Among other things, the Consolidated HMS FMP 

maintained an allocation scheme, established in the 1999 FMP, for 

dividing the baseline annual U.S. BFT quota among several domestic 

quota categories based on gear type (i.e., Harpoon, Purse Seine, 

Angling, General, Longline, and Trap categories).

    The baseline quota has remained unchanged from 2012, and the 2013 

BFT quota specifications are necessary to adjust the annual U.S. 

baseline BFT quota to account for any underharvest or overharvest of 

the adjusted 2012 U.S. BFT quota. Preliminary information indicates an 

underharvest of the 2012 adjusted BFT quota. Final 2012 landings and 

dead discard information will be available in late spring 2013.

    In May 2011, NMFS prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA)/

Regulatory Impact Review and Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis for 

a final rule that: (1) implemented and allocated the U.S. BFT quota for 

2011 and for 2012, (2) adjusted the 2011 U.S. quota and subquotas to 

account for unharvested 2010 quota allowed to be carried forward to 

2011, and to account for a portion of the estimated 2011 dead discards 

up front, and implemented several other BFT management measures (76 FR 

39019, July 5, 2011). Although it is not necessary to prepare an EA for 

quota specifications alone (in accordance with the approach described 

in the Consolidated HMS FMP), NMFS has prepared a Supplemental EA to 

present updated information regarding the affected environment, 

including information from a 2012 ICCAT stock assessment for BFT, among 

other things. The results of the 2012 stock assessment update were not 

substantively different than those of an assessment that ICCAT 

conducted in 2010.

 

2010 ICCAT Recommendation and 2011 Implementing Rule

 

    At its 2010 annual meeting, ICCAT recommended a TAC of 1,750 mt

 

[[Page 21585]]

 

annually for 2011 and for 2012, inclusive of dead discards (ICCAT 

Recommendation 10-03--Supplemental Recommendation by ICCAT concerning 

the Western Atlantic BFT Rebuilding Program). This amount was expected 

to allow for continued stock growth under low and high stock 

recruitment scenarios developed by ICCAT's scientific body at the 2010 

BFT stock assessment. The U.S. share of the TAC for 2011 and 2012, 

adjusted for two specific bycatch allocations, was 54.02 percent, which 

resulted in a baseline quota of 923.7 mt. The total annual U.S. quota, 

including an additional 25 mt to account for bycatch related to pelagic 

longline fisheries in the Northeast Distant gear restricted area (NED), 

was 948.7 mt. ICCAT limits the amount of underharvest that may be 

carried forward from one year to the next to no more than 10 percent of 

a country's quota.

    Through the final rule implementing the BFT quotas and Atlantic 

tuna fisheries management measures (76 FR 39019, July 5, 2011), NMFS 

implemented the 923.7-mt baseline quota consistent with ICCAT 

Recommendation 10-03 and set the domestic BFT fishing category 

subquotas per the allocation percentages established in the 

Consolidated HMS FMP and implementing regulations (71 FR 58058, October 

2, 2006). The baseline quota and category subquotas are codified and 

remain effective until changed (for instance, if any new ICCAT BFT TAC 

recommendation is adopted).

 

2012 ICCAT Recommendation

 

    At its 2012 annual meeting, ICCAT recommended a one-year rollover 

of the 1,750-mt TAC as part of ICCAT Recommendation 12-02--Supplemental 

Recommendation by ICCAT concerning the Western Atlantic BFT Rebuilding 

Program. This amount is expected to allow for continued stock growth 

under the both the low and high stock recruitment scenarios, 

considering the 2012 ICCAT BFT stock assessment results. The annual 

U.S. baseline quota for 2013 continues to be 923.7 mt, and the annual 

total U.S. quota, including 25 mt to account for bycatch related to 

pelagic longline fisheries in the NED, continues to be 948.7 mt.

    Although the baseline quota is unchanged this year because the 2012 

ICCAT recommendation included the same TAC as the prior recommendation, 

NMFS is proposing underharvest or overharvest adjustments as necessary 

for the 2013 fishing year through quota specifications, consistent with 

the Consolidated HMS FMP. Until the final specifications for 2013 are 

effective, the existing BFT base quotas continue to apply as codified. 

See Table 1, second column. As mentioned above, ICCAT limits the amount 

of underharvest that may be carried forward from one year to the next 

to no more than 10 percent of a country's quota. Applied to the 2012 

catch figures, this provision limits the amount of U.S. underharvest 

that may be carried forward this year to 94.9 mt (10 percent of the 

948.7-mt total U.S. quota).

 

Accounting for Dead Discards

 

    The United States must report BFT landings data and BFT dead 

discard estimates to ICCAT annually. Currently, the best available 

annual estimate of dead discards is the 2011 estimate of 145.2 mt. 

Using the 2011 estimate as a proxy for estimated 2013 dead discards for 

the proposed action is appropriate because it is the best available and 

most complete information that NMFS currently has regarding dead 

discards and follows the established protocol in the regulations. When 

the 2012 BFT dead discard estimate becomes available (late spring 

2013), it will be used to prepare the final specifications and will be 

reported to ICCAT along with total 2012 BFT landings. Only pelagic 

longline dead discard estimates are available at this time. Estimates 

from other gear types and fishing sectors that are not observed at 

sufficient levels for estimation and that do not report via a logbook 

are not included in this calculation. However, bycatch and bycatch 

mortality of BFT by vessels using handgear and purse seine gear is 

considered to be relatively low.

 

2013 Quota Specifications

 

    The 2013 BFT quota specifications NMFS proposes here are necessary 

to adjust the current annual U.S. baseline BFT quota to account for 

underharvest or overharvest of the adjusted 2012 U.S. BFT quota. Based 

on preliminary data available as of February 26, 2013, BFT landings in 

2012 totaled 713.2 mt. Adding the 145.2-mt estimate of dead discards 

results in a preliminary 2012 total catch of 858.4 mt, which is 185.2 

mt less than the amount of quota (inclusive of dead discards) allowed 

under ICCAT Recommendation 10-03, which applied in 2012 (i.e., 948.7 mt 

plus 94.9 mt of 2011 underharvest carried forward to 2012, totaling 

1,043.6 mt). ICCAT limits the amount of underharvest that may be 

carried forward from one year to the next to no more than 10 percent of 

a country's quota, which limits the amount of 2012 U.S. underharvest 

that may be carried forward to 2013 to 94.9 mt.

    NMFS proposes to account up front (i.e., at the beginning of the 

fishing year) for half of the expected dead discards for 2013, using 

the best available estimate of dead discards, and deducting that 

portion directly from the Longline category subquota. This is the same 

approach that NMFS took for the 2011 and 2012 BFT quota specifications. 

Accounting for dead discards in the Longline category in this way may 

provide further incentive for pelagic longline fishermen to reduce 

those interactions that may result in dead discards. NMFS would apply 

half of the amount of underharvest that is allowed to be carried 

forward to 2013 to the Longline category, and maintain the other half 

in the Reserve category. Maintaining this portion of the underharvest 

in the Reserve category until later in the fishing year would provide 

maximum flexibility in accounting for 2013 landings and dead discards. 

Consistent with determination criteria at 50 CFR Sec.  635.27(a)(8), 

NMFS may allocate any portion of the Reserve category quota for 

inseason or annual adjustments to any other quota category.

    Specifically, NMFS would deduct half of the dead discard estimate 

of 145.2 mt (i.e., 72.6 mt) from the 2013 baseline Longline category 

subquota of 74.8 mt and apply half of the 94.9 mt allowed to be carried 

forward to 2013 to the Longline category (i.e., 74.8 - 72.6 + 47.5 = 

49.7 mt adjusted Longline subquota, not including the 25-mt allocation 

set aside by ICCAT for the NED). NMFS would add the remainder of the 

2012 underharvest that can be carried forward to 2013 (47.4 mt) to the 

Reserve category's baseline allocation of 23.1 mt, for an adjusted 

Reserve category quota of 70.5 mt. The adjusted Longline category 

subquota (49.7 mt) would be further subdivided in accordance with the 

Consolidated HMS FMP (i.e., allocation of no more than 60 percent to 

the south of 31[deg] N. latitude) as follows: 19.9 mt to pelagic 

longline vessels landing BFT north of 31[deg] N. latitude, and 29.8 mt 

to pelagic longline vessels landing BFT south of 31[deg] N. latitude. 

NMFS would account for landings under the 25-mt NED allocation 

separately from other Longline category landings.

    For the directed fishing categories (i.e., the Angling, General, 

Harpoon, Purse Seine categories) as well as the Trap category, in which 

BFT may be caught incidentally, NMFS is not proposing adjustments to 

the baseline BFT subquotas (i.e., the allocations that result from 

applying the scheme established in the Consolidated HMS FMP to the 

baseline U.S. BFT quota).

 

[[Page 21586]]

 

    Thus, in accordance with the ICCAT Recommendation 12-02, the 

Consolidated HMS FMP allocation scheme for the domestic categories, and 

regulations regarding annual adjustments at Sec.  635.27(a)(10), NMFS 

proposes quota specifications for the 2013 fishing year as follows: 

General category--435.1 mt; Harpoon category--36 mt; Purse Seine 

category--171.8 mt; Angling category--182 mt; Longline category--49.7 

mt; and Trap category--0.9 mt. The amount allocated to the Reserve 

category for inseason adjustments, scientific research collection, 

potential overharvest in any category except the Purse Seine category, 

and potential quota transfers would be 70.5 mt. These allocations are 

shown in Table 1.

    NMFS will make any necessary adjustments to the 2013 specifications 

in the final rule after considering updated 2012 landings information 

and the final dead discard estimate for 2012. It is important to note 

that NMFS and ICCAT have separate schedules and approaches for 

accounting for landings and dead discards. At the beginning of the 

year, NMFS accounts proactively for half of the best estimate of dead 

discards, whereas total 2013 U.S. landings and dead discards will be 

accounted for at the end of the year and reported to ICCAT in 2014. 

ICCAT usually assesses quota compliance at its annual meeting in 

November by comparing the prior year's landings and reported dead 

discards against the adjusted U.S. quota. At the 2013 ICCAT annual 

meeting, ICCAT will compare actual U.S. 2012 landings and dead discards 

against the total 2012 adjusted U.S. quota of 1,043.6 mt (i.e., the 

948.7-mt base quota for 2012, plus the 94.9 mt allowed to be carried 

forward from 2011 to 2012), to determine the United States' compliance 

with 2012 ICCAT recommendations.

 

Request for Public Comments

 

    If the final 2012 landings and dead discards information result in 

a total of greater than 948.7 mt, but less than 1,043.6 mt, then the 

amount of 2012 underharvest that the United States may carry forward to 

2013 would need to be reduced from 94.9 mt accordingly. NMFS invites 

public comment on possible allocation approaches should the carry 

forward amount be reduced. One option might be to provide half of the 

carry forward amount to the Longline category and the other half to the 

Reserve category. For example, if the 2012 landings and the final dead 

discard estimate total 963.6 mt, 80 mt would be available to carry 

forward and NMFS could provide 40 mt to each of these two categories). 

Another option might be to provide the entire amount to the Longline or 

Reserve category, particularly if the amount is small (e.g., 20 mt) or 

to allocate the amount other ways after considering domestic management 

needs for 2013. As described below, NMFS took this approach in the 2012 

final BFT specifications (77 FR 44161, July 27, 2012). In any event, 

the baseline subquotas for the directed fishing categories and Trap 

category would not be changed.

    In exploring options, one consideration is the possibility that 

deducting of half of the final estimate of dead discards from the 

baseline Longline category subquota would result in little to no quota 

for that category for 2013 prior to application of any available 

underharvest. Another consideration is the possibility that NMFS may, 

in the final specifications, need to close the Longline category 

fishery to BFT retention based on codified quotas. This was the case in 

2012. NMFS closed the Longline category fishery to BFT retention in the 

southern area on May 29, 2012 (77 FR 31546), and in the northern area 

on June 30, 2012 (77 FR 38011), for the remainder of the year, because 

landings had met the codified subquotas for those areas. Given that the 

incidental Longline fishery for BFT was closed, NMFS accounted fully 

for those landings in the final rule by applying 76.2 of the available 

94.9-mt underharvest to the Longline category and maintaining the 

remaining underharvest (18.7 mt) in the Reserve category. Providing 

this amount to the Longline category allowed NMFS to adjust the 

Longline South and Longline North subquotas to the amounts actually 

taken in those areas at the time of the closure, and to provide greater 

transparency than year-end accounting would.

    If the complete 2012 landings information and final dead discard 

estimate exceed the adjusted 2012 U.S. BFT quota of 1,043.6 mt, NMFS 

may need to take further action, consistent with the BFT quota 

adjustment regulations and with ICCAT Recommendation 10-03. Also, the 

United States may be subject to adjustment of the U.S. BFT quota, 

consistent with ICCAT recommendations. Given the amount of dead 

discards the United States has reported to ICCAT in the last few years 

(ranging from 122 to 204 mt), NMFS considers this potential situation 

to be unlikely, as the dead discard estimate would need to be 

approximately 330 mt. To address the possibility of overharvest of the 

adjusted U.S. quota, NMFS requests public comment on potential 

regulatory options to consider for the final 2013 quota and subquotas. 

For example, the Longline and/or the Reserve category quotas could be 

reduced as necessary, or the overall 2013 BFT quota could be reduced, 

which would affect all category subquotas.

    NMFS considers the proposed specifications approach as a transition 

from the method used for 2007 through 2010, as NMFS continues to 

develop draft Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP. From 2007 

through 2010, there were substantial underharvests of some of the 

commercial BFT subquotas. Consistent with the Consolidated HMS FMP and 

its implementing regulations, NMFS provided the Longline category a 

substantial portion of prior year U.S. underharvest that was allowed to 

be carried forward (limited to 50 percent of the total U.S. quota at 

that time) during the annual specification process at the beginning of 

the fishing year. This provided quota sufficient for the pelagic 

longline fleet to operate for the entire fishing year while also 

accounting for dead discards ``up front,'' using the best available 

estimate of anticipated dead discards. NMFS was also able to increase 

the directed categories' quotas and the Reserve category quota using 

available underharvest.

    Draft Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP will explore 

related BFT fishery management issues consistent with the need to end 

overfishing and rebuild the stock. NMFS anticipates that measures in 

draft Amendment 7 would address several of the long-standing challenges 

facing the fishery and will examine, among other things, revisiting 

quota allocations; reducing and accounting for dead discards; adding or 

modifying time/area closures or gear-restricted areas; and improving 

the reporting and monitoring of dead discards and landings in all 

categories. NMFS anticipates that draft Amendment 7 will publish in 

mid-2013.

    In the meantime, management of the BFT fishery continues under the 

current Consolidated HMS FMP, implementing regulations, and ICCAT 

Recommendations. In contemplating how to account for dead discards 

within the BFT quota and allocate the underharvest that is allowed to 

be carried forward, NMFS believes that the operational issues facing 

the pelagic longline fishery as the fleet continues directed fishing 

operations for swordfish and other tunas should be considered. NMFS 

anticipates that dead discards in the pelagic longline fishery may be 

reduced due to continued

 

[[Page 21587]]

 

implementation of the weak hook requirement in the Gulf of Mexico in 

2011 (76 FR 18653, April 5, 2011).

BILLING CODE 3510-22-P

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP11AP13.002

 

Request for Comments

 

    NMFS solicits comments on this proposed rule through May 13, 2013. 

See instructions in ADDRESSES section above.

 

Public Hearing Dates and Locations

 

    1. April 29, 2013, 2 to 4 p.m., Gloucester, MA--NMFS, 55 Great 

Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930

 

[[Page 21588]]

 

    2. May 3, 2013, 1 to 3 p.m., Silver Spring, MD--NMFS Science 

Center, 1301 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910

    The public hearing locations will be physically accessible to 

people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or 

other auxiliary aids should be directed to Sarah McLaughlin at (978) 

281-9279, at least 7 days prior to the meeting. The public is reminded 

that NMFS expects participants at the public hearings to conduct 

themselves appropriately. At the beginning of each public hearing, a 

representative of NMFS will explain the ground rules (e.g., alcohol is 

prohibited from the hearing room; attendees will be called to give 

their comments in the order in which they registered to speak; each 

attendee will have an equal amount of time to speak; and attendees 

should not interrupt one another). The NMFS representative will attempt 

to structure the meeting so that all attending members of the public 

will be able to comment, if they so choose, regardless of the 

controversial nature of the subject(s). Attendees are expected to 

respect the ground rules, and, if they do not, they will be asked to 

leave the hearing.

 

Classification

 

    The NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that the proposed 

rule is consistent with the Consolidated HMS FMP, the Magnuson-Stevens 

Act, ATCA, and other applicable law, subject to further consideration 

after public comment.

    This proposed rule is exempt from the procedures of E.O. 12866 

because this action contains no implementing regulations.

    Pursuant to the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), 5 U.S.C. 601 et 

seq., the Chief Council for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 

certified to the Chief Council for Advocacy of the Small Business 

Administration (SBA) that this proposed rule, if adopted, would not 

have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 

entities. The reasoning for this certification is as follows:

    These annual BFT quota specifications (effective January 1 through 

December 31, 2013) are necessary to implement ICCAT recommendations, as 

required by ATCA, and to achieve domestic management objectives under 

the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Under ATCA, the United States must promulgate 

regulations as necessary and appropriate to implement binding 

recommendations of ICCAT.

    The proposed rule would adjust the annual U.S. baseline BFT quota 

to account for any underharvest or overharvest of the adjusted 2012 

U.S. BFT quota. Preliminary information indicates an underharvest of 

the 2012 adjusted BFT quota. This proposed action was developed in 

accordance with the framework process set forth in the Consolidated HMS 

FMP, and is supported by the Environmental Impact Statement/Regulatory 

Impact Review/Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis prepared for the 

Consolidated HMS FMP, the Environmental Assessment/Regulatory Impact 

Review/Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis prepared for the 2011 

final rule implementing BFT quotas and Atlantic tuna fisheries 

management, and the Supplemental Environmental Assessment prepared for 

these 2013 quota specifications (see ADDRESSES).

    On July 5, 2011, NMFS published a final rule (76 FR 39019) that 

modified the U.S. baseline quota to 923.7 mt to implement ICCAT 

Recommendation 10-03 (Supplemental Recommendation by ICCAT concerning 

the Western Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Rebuilding Program) and set the 

category subquotas per the allocation percentages established in the 

2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management 

Plan (Consolidated HMS FMP, 71 FR 58058, October 2, 2006). At its 2012 

annual meeting, ICCAT recommended a one-year rollover of the annual 

Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of 1,750 mt that was set in 2010 for 2011 

and 2012 (ICCAT Recommendation 12-02).

    Although the baseline quota is unchanged this year because the 2012 

ICCAT recommendation included the same TAC as the prior recommendation, 

NMFS will make underharvest and overharvest adjustments as necessary 

for the 2013 fishing year through quota specifications, consistent with 

the Consolidated HMS FMP. Preliminary information indicates an 

underharvest of the 2012 adjusted bluefin tuna quota. The proposed 

quota specifications were developed in accordance with the framework 

process set forth in the Consolidated HMS FMP, and is supported by the 

Environmental Impact Statement/Regulatory Impact Review/Final 

Regulatory Flexibility Analysis prepared for the Consolidated HMS FMP 

and the Supplemental Environmental Assessment prepared for this action.

    As summarized in the 2012 Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation 

Report for Atlantic Highly Migratory Species, there were approximately 

8,492 commercial Atlantic tunas or Atlantic HMS permits in 2012, as 

follows: 4,084 in the Atlantic Tunas General category; 13 in the 

Atlantic Tunas Harpoon category; 5 in the Atlantic Tunas Purse Seine 

category; 253 in the Atlantic Tunas Longline category; 8 in the 

Atlantic Tunas Trap category; and 4,129 in the HMS Charter/Headboat 

category. This constitutes the best available information regarding the 

universe of permits and permit holders recently analyzed.

    Under the Small Business Administration's (SBA) regulations 

implementing the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), 5 U.S.C. 601 et 

seq., a small fishing entity is one that has less than $4 million in 

annual revenue ($6.5 million for charter/party boats). This action 

would apply to all participants in the Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery, 

all of which are considered small entities.

    The U.S. Atlantic bluefin tuna quota includes dead discards. 

Although the United States is not required by ICCAT or current 

regulations to account for the total amount of dead discards until the 

end of the fishing season, in both the 2011 and 2012 proposed 

specifications, NMFS took the proactive measure of accounting for half 

of the dead discard estimate ``up front,'' (i.e., at the beginning of 

the fishing year) and deducting that portion directly from the Longline 

category quota.

    The current ICCAT recommendation limits the amount of underharvest 

that may be carried forward from one year to the next to no more than 

10 percent of a country's quota. This restriction limits the amount of 

underharvest that may be carried forward to 94.9 mt (10 percent of the 

948.7-mt total U.S. quota). In both 2011 and 2012, NMFS proposed 

allocating half of the amount of underharvest that was allowed to be 

carried forward to the Longline category and maintaining the other half 

in the Reserve category. This recommendation was intended to provide 

maximum flexibility in accounting for landings and dead discards at the 

end of the year. In 2012, when the pelagic longline fishery reached the 

incidental Longline bluefin tuna subquota, NMFS prohibited further 

retention of bluefin tuna in that fishery for the remainder of the year 

before finalizing the quota specifications. Therefore, NMFS provided a 

slightly larger portion to the Longline category in the final rule to 

account for actual bluefin tuna landings, and placed the remainder in 

the Reserve category. For the last two years, NMFS has maintained the 

directed fishing categories at their baseline quotas.

    NMFS proposes to carry 94.9 mt forward to 2013 and distribute that 

amount in the same manner as proposed for 2011 and 2012, i.e., half to 

the

 

[[Page 21589]]

 

Longline category quota and half to the Reserve category quota. The 

directed fishing categories would continue to receive their baseline 

subquotas. This would result in the same subquotas as were finalized in 

2011. NMFS will make any necessary adjustments to the 2013 

specifications in the final rule after considering updated 2012 

landings information and the final dead discard estimate for 2012, 

which should be available in late spring.

    The most recent ex-vessel average price per pound information for 

each commercial quota category is used to estimate potential ex-vessel 

gross revenues under the proposed 2013 subquotas (i.e., 2012 prices for 

the General, Harpoon, and Longline/Trap, and Purse Seine categories). 

The 2013 subquotas could result in estimated gross revenues for each 

category, if finalized and fully utilized, as follows: General 

category: $8.8 million (435.1 mt * $9.13/lb); Harpoon category: 

$724,600 (36 mt * $9.13/lb); Purse Seine category: $4.7 million (171.8 

mt * $12.46/lb); Trap category: $12,300 (0.9 mt * $6.19/lb); and 

Longline category: $678,000 (49.7 mt * $6.19/lb). Estimated potential 

2013 revenues on a per vessel basis, considering the number of permit 

holders listed above and the proposed subquotas, could be $2,144 for 

the General category; $55,739 for the Harpoon category; $2,681 for the 

Longline category; $943,845 for the Purse Seine category; and $1,535 

for the Trap category. Thus, all of the entities affected by this rule 

are considered to be small entities for the purposes of the RFA.

    This proposed rule would not change the U.S. Atlantic bluefin tuna 

baseline quota, amount of carryover, or implement any new management 

measures not previously considered. The baseline quota and category 

subquotas are codified and remain effective until changed (for 

instance, if any new ICCAT bluefin tuna TAC recommendation is adopted). 

Thus, the affected entities will not experience any negative, direct 

economic impacts as a result of this rule.

    The annual specification process that this proposed rule follows, 

including application of underharvests and overharvests, is described 

in detail in Chapters 2 and 4 of the Consolidated HMS FMP. Because the 

economic impacts of the carryover of underharvest, to the extent that 

there are any, are expected to be generally positive, this rule, if 

adopted, would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial 

number of small entities. Accordingly, no initial regulatory 

flexibility analysis is required, and none has been prepared.

 

 

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