NMFS proposes regulations to implement Regulatory Amendment 15 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region (FMP), as prepared by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council). Regulatory Amendment 15 would revise the optimum yield (OY) and the annual catch limit (ACL) for yellowtail snapper. If implemented, this rule would increase the commercial and recreational ACLs and recreational annual catch target (ACT) for yellowtail snapper harvested in or from the South Atlantic exclusive economic zone (EEZ). This rule would also modify the commercial ACL and the accountability measure (AM) for gag that requires a closure of all other South Atlantic shallow-water grouper (SASWG) when the gag commercial ACL is met or projected to be met. This rule also proposes several administrative changes to regulatory text, which are unrelated to the measures contained in Regulatory Amendment 15. The intent of this rule is to provide socio-economic benefits to snapper-grouper fishermen and communities that utilize the snapper-grouper resource, while maintaining fishing mortality at sustainable levels according to the best scientific information available.
Written comments must be received on or before June 24, 2013.
ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the amendment identified by
``NOAA-NMFS-2013-0088'' by any of the following methods:
Electronic submissions: Submit electronic comments via the
Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Go to
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0088, click the
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or
attach your comments.
Mail: Submit written comments to Rick DeVictor, Southeast
Regional Office, NMFS, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.
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.
Electronic copies of Regulatory Amendment 15, which includes an
environmental assessment, an initial regulatory flexibility analysis
(IRFA), and a regulatory impact review, may be obtained from the
Southeast Regional Office Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sf/pdfs/SGRegAmend15.pdf.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Rick DeVictor, Southeast Regional
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The snapper-grouper fishery of the South
Atlantic, which includes yellowtail snapper and SASWG species (i.e.,
gag, black grouper, red grouper, scamp, red hind, rock hind,
yellowmouth grouper, yellowfin grouper, graysby, and coney), is managed
under the FMP. The FMP was prepared by the Council and is implemented
through regulations at 50 CFR part 622 under the authority of the
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-
The state of Florida completed a stock assessment for yellowtail
snapper in May 2012. The yellowtail snapper stock is neither overfished
nor currently undergoing overfishing. The assessment results suggest
the yellowtail snapper catch levels could be increased without
jeopardizing the health of the population. Both the Gulf of Mexico and
South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils' Scientific and Statistical
Committees (SSCs) reviewed the assessment in October 2012 and
determined the assessment to be based upon the best scientific
information available and provided a new acceptable biological catch
(ABC) recommendation that is greater than the previous recommendation.
While the Council and NMFS were developing Regulatory Amendment 15,
the Council requested an emergency rule under the Magnuson-Stevens Act
to temporarily increase the yellowtail snapper commercial ACL. On
November 7, 2012, NMFS implemented a temporary rule to increase the
commercial ACL in the South Atlantic to prevent unnecessary adverse
socioeconomic impacts on snapper-grouper fishermen (77 FR 66744). The
temporary rule was effective through May 6, 2013, and was extended
through November 28, 2013 (78 FR 25213, April 30, 2013), unless
superseded by other rulemaking.
Gag and Other South Atlantic Shallow-Water Grouper
The final rule to implement Amendment 16 to the FMP established a
suite of management measures to end the overfishing of gag (74 FR
30964, June 29, 2009). These measures included reducing the aggregate
bag limit for groupers and tilefishes, reducing the bag limit for gag
and black grouper combined, establishing a commercial quota for gag,
and establishing a 4-month seasonal closure for SASWG species. The
final rule also implemented a management measure that closes the
commercial sector for gag and all other SASWG for the remainder of the
fishing year when the gag quota (now called an ACL) is met. This
measure was implemented to reduce bycatch of gag. However, new
information suggests the closure of gag and all other SASWG is not as
effective as previously thought at reducing bycatch of gag. Recent
studies suggest that, with the exception of red grouper and scamp, gag
are not as closely associated in landings with the other SASWG species.
In addition, the closure of gag and all other SASWG species was
implemented at a time when the SASWG complex did not have ACLs and AMs
to prevent overfishing from occurring. The final rule to implement
Amendment 17B to the FMP established ACLs and AMs for gag, and the
closure of gag and all other SASWG species when the gag ACL is met
became a commercial AM for gag (75 FR 82280, December 30, 2010). The
red grouper ACLs and AMs were established through the final rule to
implement Amendment 24 to the FMP (77 FR 34254, June 11, 2012), and
ACLs and AMs were established for the other SASWG species in the final
rule to implement the Comprehensive ACL Amendment (77 FR 15916, March
Because of the new information that SASWG species, except for red
grouper and scamp, do not co-occur with gag, NMFS has determined that
the closure of all other SASWG species when the gag ACL is met is no
longer necessary to help reduce any overfishing of gag. Also, because
of the implementation of ACLs and AMs for the other SASWG species, the
closure of gag and all other SASWG species when the gag ACL is met is
no longer necessary to protect the other SASWG species because they now
have their own catch limits.
Management Measures Contained in This Proposed Rule
This rule would implement management measures affecting yellowtail
snapper, gag and other SASWG harvested in or from the South Atlantic
This rule would increase the commercial ACL, recreational ACL, and
recreational ACT for yellowtail snapper. The commercial ACL would
increase from 1,142,589 lb (518,270 kg), round weight, to 1,596,510 lb
(725,686 kg), round weight. The recreational ACL would increase from
1,031,286 lb (467,783 kg), round weight, to 1,440,990 lb (653,622 kg),
round weight. And the recreational ACT would increase from 897,160 lb
(406,945 kg), round weight, to 1,253,661 lb (568,651 kg), round weight.
Gag and Other South Atlantic Shallow-Water Grouper
This rule would modify the commercial AM for gag so that only the
commercial sector for gag would close when the gag commercial ACL is
met or projected to be met. The ACLs and AMs for all other SASWG
species would remain unchanged. This proposed rule would also reduce
the gag commercial ACL from 353,940 lb (160,544 kg), gutted weight, to
326,722 lb (148,199 kg), gutted weight, to account for projected gag
discard mortality from commercial trips that target co-occurring
species (i.e., red grouper and scamp) during a gag closure.
Other Changes to Codified Text
This rule would make several changes to the regulatory text in 50
CFR part 622 that are administrative in nature and unrelated to
Regulatory Amendment 15. In two paragraphs within Sec. 622.183,
``fishery'' would be changed to ``sector'' to clarify that it is a
commercial sector or recreational sector within a specific fishery and
to be consistent with other regulations in part 622.
Black grouper and red grouper would be removed from the heading of
Sec. 622.190(c)(1), restrictions applicable after a commercial quota
closure, because black grouper and red grouper no longer have quotas,
only ACLs and AMs.
In several paragraphs within Sec. 622.193, ``fishery'' would be
changed to ``sector'', for clarification and consistency purposes. Also
in Sec. 622.193, the specific years for evaluating the recreational
landings relative to the ACL would be removed from the regulatory text
because these years will keep changing. Instead, more general language
would be included in the regulatory text, specifically ``recreational
landings would be evaluated relative to the ACL based on a moving
multi-year average of landings, as described in the FMP.'' In addition,
closure provisions are included in the regulatory text for snowy
grouper when the recreational post-season AM is implemented, because
these closure provisions were inadvertently not included in the final
rule to implement the Comprehensive ACL Amendment.
In Table 4 of Appendix A to Part 622, ``Grass porgy, Calamus
arctifrons'' would be removed from the table because this species was
removed from the South Atlantic snapper-grouper fishery management unit
in the Comprehensive ACL Amendment, however, it was inadvertently not
removed from the regulations during implementation of that amendment.