NACO

National Association of Charterboat Operators

Amendment 13 Comments Sought

 NMFS proposes regulations to implement a regulatory amendment (Regulatory Amendment 13) 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). If implemented, this rule would revise the annual catch limits (ACLs) (including sector ACLs) for 37 species in the snapper-grouper fishery management unit (FMU). The intent of this rule is to ensure that the ACLs are based on the best scientific information available, and to prevent unnecessary negative socio-economic impacts to participants in the snapper-grouper fishery and fishing community that could occur if the ACLs are not revised, in accordance with the provisions set forth in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act).

Written comments must be received on or before April 22, 2013.

 

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

 

``NOAA-NMFS-2012-0245'', 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-2012-0245, click the 

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

attach your comments.

     Mail: Submit written comments to Nikhil Mehta, 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 documents supporting this proposed rule 

including an environmental assessment, initial regulatory flexibility 

analysis (IRFA), regulatory impact review, and fishery impact statement 

may be obtained from the Southeast Regional Office Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sf/SASnapperGrouperHomepage.htm.

 FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Nikhil Mehta, telephone: 727-824-5305, 

or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The snapper-grouper fishery of the South 

Atlantic is managed under the FMP and includes the 37 snapper-grouper 

species addressed in Regulatory Amendment 13 and this proposed rule. 

These 37 snapper-grouper species do not have stock assessments; their 

acceptable biological catch estimates (ABCs) are greater than zero; and 

their ABCs were specified using a formula established in the 

Comprehensive ACL Amendment. Species in the FMU with stock assessments 

and species with an ABC equal to zero are not addressed in Regulatory 

Amendment 13. However, they will be considered in future amendments. 

The FMP was prepared by the Council and implemented through regulations 

at 50 CFR parts 622 under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

Background

The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires NMFS and regional fishery 

management councils to prevent overfishing of federally managed fish 

stocks, to the extent practicable. This mandate is intended to ensure 

that fishery resources are managed for the greatest overall benefit to 

the nation, particularly with respect to providing food production and 

recreational opportunities, and protecting marine ecosystems. National 

Standard 2 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act states that the conservation and 

management measures of fishery management plans and any regulations 

promulgated to implement any such plan shall be based upon the best 

scientific information available.

 To address this mandate of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS published 

the final rule to implement the Comprehensive ACL Amendment on March 

16, 2012 (77 FR 15916). That final rule established ACLs (including 

sector-specific ACL allocations) and accountability measures (AMs) for 

select species in the snapper-grouper FMU. Additionally, the 

Comprehensive ACL Amendment established ABCs and annual catch targets 

(ACTs) for these select species in the snapper-grouper FMU. These ABCs 

and ACTs are not codified in the regulatory text. Recreational catch 

estimates in the Comprehensive ACL Amendment were determined by using 

data generated by the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey 

(MRFSS), which was the best scientific information available at that 

time.

    The MRFSS is made up of an integrated system of surveys, each 

targeted toward particular segments of the fishing community (one for 

for-hire vessels, one for anglers pursuing highly migratory species, 

and one for all other anglers). It usually takes a couple of months to 

compile information from both surveys, perform quality control, and 

tabulate the results from each 2-month wave of data. As a result, in 

most places, total estimates of catch and effort are produced on an 

annual basis. These annual estimates are then used by NMFS and the 

Council to make informed decisions about the health and sustainability 

of the fishery and how many fish can be harvested the following year.

    Since the implementation of the Comprehensive ACL Amendment on 

April 16, 2012, there have been substantial improvements in the data 

collection and catch estimation methodologies that are used to generate 

the data for the computation of ABCs and recreational and commercial 

ACLs and ACTs. NMFS no longer uses the MRFSS and now estimates landings 

using the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP).

    The MRIP collects data on a more frequent basis and provides more 

accurate recreational catch estimates by accounting for potential 

biases such as possible differences in catch rates at high-activity and 

low-activity fishing sites, as well as variation in fishing effort 

throughout the day. As described in Regulatory Amendment 13, the NMFS 

Office of Science and Technology released MRIP data from 2004-2011. 

MRFSS data from 2004-2011 were compared with MRIP data (2004-2011) and 

ratio estimators were generated. These ratio estimators were used to 

recalibrate MRFSS data from 1986-2003 to MRIP data (from 1986-2003). 

These calculations provided a complete MRIP data set from 1986-2011. To 

determine the ABCs for these species in the Comprehensive ACL 

Amendment, the Council's SSC used data from 1999-2008 for 36 out of the 

37 species (1986-2008 for blueline tilefish). The same years of MRIP 

data were used to determine revised ABC values for the 37 species in 

Regulatory Amendment 13. The revised ABC values also include updated 

commercial and for-hire landings data. Using those revised ABC values, 

the same procedures used in the Comprehensive ACL Amendment for 

calculating ACL and ACT values were also used in Regulatory Amendment 

13.

    The revisions are necessary because if the ABC, ACL, and ACT values 

are not updated with the new MRIP estimates, ACLs would be set using 

MRFSS data while the landings being used to track the ACLs would be 

estimated using MRIP data. This would result in a disconnect in how 

ACLs are calculated versus how they are monitored. The changes in data 

impact the allocations to the commercial and recreational sectors 

because the formula used to establish the allocations remains unchanged 

from what was implemented previously in the Comprehensive ACL 

Amendment.

    Using MRIP values to estimate recreational landings, and using 

updated headboat and commercial landings, ensures that the ABCs, ACLs, 

and ACTs are based on the best scientific information available in 

accordance with National Standard 2 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

Management Measures Contained in This Proposed Rule

    This proposed rule would revise ACLs for the following species and 

species complexes: deep-water complex species (yellowedge grouper, 

blueline tilefish, silk snapper, misty grouper, sand tilefish, queen 

snapper, black snapper, and blackfin snapper); shallow-water groupers 

(red hind, rock hind, yellowmouth grouper, yellowfin grouper, coney, 

and graysby); snappers (gray snapper, lane snapper, cubera snapper, dog 

snapper, and mahogany snapper), jacks (almaco jack, banded rudderfish, 

and lesser amberjack), grunts (white grunt, sailor's choice, tomtate, 

and margate); porgies (jolthead porgy, knobbed porgy, saucereye porgy, 

scup, and whitebone porgy); Atlantic spadefish; blue runner; bar jack; 

gray triggerfish; scamp; and hogfish. The ACLs are used to monitor 

landings throughout a fishing season. The potential disconnect between 

how the ACLs are calculated and how they are monitored is important 

because the ACLs trigger the AMs that were established in the 

Comprehensive ACL Amendment.

    The AMs for the commercial sector for the species and species 

complexes in this proposed rule specify that if the commercial ACL for 

a species or species complex is reached or projected to be reached 

during a fishing year, the sector will close for the remainder of that 

fishing year for that species or species complex. If a complex is 

closed, sale and purchase of any species in that complex is prohibited. 

If a species, or a single member of a species complex, is designated as 

overfished and the commercial ACL is exceeded, then during the 

following fishing year the commercial sector ACL would be reduced by 

the amount of the commercial ACL overage in the prior fishing year.

    For the recreational sector, the AMs for the species and species 

complexes are as follows: if the recreational ACL is exceeded for a 

species or species complex in a fishing year, then during the next 

fishing year the NMFS Regional Administrator monitors the recreational 

landings for a persistence in increased landings, and using the best 

scientific information available, reduces the length of the 

recreational fishing season as necessary to ensure the recreational 

landings do not exceed the recreational ACL.

    This proposed rule would ensure that the methodology used to 

calculate the ACLs is consistent with the methodology used to monitor 

landings and determine when it is necessary to trigger the established 

AMs.

 Additional Measures Contained in Regulatory Amendment 13

    In addition to the ACL revisions in this proposed rule, Regulatory 

Amendment 13 would revise the ABCs, and ACTs for the 37 un-assessed 

species in the snapper-grouper FMU, using the improved data methods as 

previously described.

    The purpose of this rule and Regulatory Amendment 13 is to revise 

the ABCs, ACLs (including sector ACLs) and ACTs implemented by the 

Comprehensive ACL Amendment with improved data. The revisions are 

necessary because if the ABCs, ACLs (including sector ACLs), and ACTs 

are not updated using the new data, there could be a disconnect between 

the ACLs and the landings used to determine if ACLs are met and AMs are 

triggered. The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides the statutory basis for 

the proposed action.

    No duplicative, overlapping, or conflicting Federal rules have been 

identified.

    The rule would apply directly to licensed commercial fishermen in 

the Finfish Fishing Industry (NAICS 114111) that harvest six stock 

complexes and six individual stocks of the South Atlantic snapper-

grouper fishery. An estimated 890 to 944 small businesses in the 

Finfish Fishing Industry may be affected.

    This proposed rule would not establish any new reporting or record-

keeping requirements. If the measures contained in this proposed rule 

are implemented, they are expected to increase the lengths of 

commercial fishing seasons for the deep-water and porgies stock 

complexes and collectively increase annual landings by 33,821 lb 

(15,341 kg) and $78,259. These proposed measures are also expected to 

decrease the lengths of commercial fishing seasons for the jacks 

complex, blue runner and gray triggerfish, and collectively decrease 

annual landings by 46,527 lb (21,104 kg) and $74,520. The collective 

net change to small businesses in the Finfish Fishing Industry would be 

a loss of annual landings of 12,706 lb (5,763 kg), but a gain of $3,739 

because the deep-water and porgies stock complexes are more valued 

species. With an estimated 890 to 944 small businesses potentially 

affected, the average annual gain per small business would be $3.96 to 

$4.20.

     For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 622 is 

proposed to be amended as follows:

 In Sec.  622.49, the first sentence of paragraphs (b)(8)(i)(A), 

(b)(8)(ii), (b)(9)(i)(A), (b)(9)(ii), (b)(10)(i)(A), (b)(10)(ii), 

(b)(12)(i)(A), (b)(12)(ii), (b)(13)(i)(A), (b)(13)(ii), (b)(16)(i)(A), 

(b)(16)(ii), (b)(17)(i)(A), (b)(17)(ii), (b)(19)(i)(A), (b)(19)(ii), 

(b)(20)(i)(A), (b)(20)(ii), (b)(21)(i)(A), (b)(21)(ii), (b)(23)(i)(A), 

(b)(23)(ii), (b)(24)(i)(A), and (b)(24)(ii) are revised, to read as 

follows:

 

 Sec.  622.49  Annual catch limits (ACLs), annual catch targets (ACTs), 

and accountability measures (AMs).

 

* * * * *

    (b) * * *

    (8) * * *

    (i) * * *

    (A) If commercial landings for the deep-water complex, as estimated 

by the SRD, reach or are projected to reach the commercial ACL of 

376,469 lb (170,763 kg), round weight, the AA will file a notification 

with the Office of the Federal Register to close the commercial sector 

for this complex for the remainder of the fishing year. * * *

* * * * *

    (ii) * * * If recreational landings for the deep-water complex, as 

estimated by the SRD, exceed the recreational ACL of 334,556 lb 

(151,752 kg), round weight, then during the following fishing year, 

recreational landings will be monitored for a persistence in increased 

landings and, if necessary, the AA will file a notification with the 

Office of the Federal Register, to reduce the length of the following 

recreational fishing season by the amount necessary to ensure 

recreational landings do not exceed the recreational ACL in the 

following fishing year. * * *

    (9) * * *

    (i) * * *

    (A) If commercial landings for scamp, as estimated by the SRD, 

reach or are projected to reach the commercial ACL of 333,100 lb 

(151,092 kg), round weight, the AA will file a notification with the 

Office of the Federal Register to close the commercial sector for the 

remainder of the fishing year. * * *

* * * * *

    (ii) * * * If recreational landings for scamp, as estimated by the 

SRD, exceed the recreational ACL of 176,688 lb (80,144 kg), round 

weight, then during the following fishing year, recreational landings 

will be monitored for a persistence in increased landings and, if 

necessary, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the 

Federal Register, to reduce the length of the following recreational 

fishing season by the amount necessary to ensure recreational landings 

do not exceed the recreational ACL in the following fishing year. * * *

    (10) * * *

    (i) * * *

    (A) If commercial landings for other SASWG, as estimated by the 

SRD, reach or are projected to reach the commercial ACL of 49,776 lb 

(22,578 kg), round weight, the AA will file a notification with the 

Office of the Federal Register to close the commercial sector for this 

complex for the remainder of the fishing year. * * *

* * * * *

    (ii) * * * If recreational landings for other SASWG, as estimated 

by the SRD, exceed the recreational ACL of 46,656 lb (21,163 kg), round 

weight, then during the following fishing year, recreational landings 

will be monitored for a persistence in increased landings and, if 

necessary, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the 

Federal Register, to reduce the length of the following recreational 

fishing season by the amount necessary to ensure recreational landings 

do not exceed the recreational ACL in the following fishing year. * * *

* * * * *

    (12) * * *

    (i) * * *

    (A) If commercial landings for lesser amberjack, almaco jack, and 

banded rudderfish, combined, as estimated by the SRD, reach or are 

projected to reach their combined commercial ACL of 189,422 lb (85,920 

kg), round weight, the AA will file a notification with the Office of 

the Federal Register to close the commercial sector for this complex 

for the remainder of the fishing year. * * *

* * * * *

    (ii) * * * If recreational landings for the complex (lesser 

amberjack, almaco jack, and banded rudderfish), combined, as estimated 

by the SRD, exceed the recreational ACL of 267,799 lb (121,472 kg), 

round weight, then during the following fishing year, recreational 

landings will be monitored for a persistence in increased landings and, 

if

 

[[Page 17339]]

 

necessary, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the 

Federal Register, to reduce the length of the following recreational 

fishing season by the amount necessary to ensure recreational landings 

do not exceed the recreational ACL in the following fishing year. * * *

    (13) * * *

    (i) * * *

    (A) If commercial landings for bar jack, as estimated by the SRD, 

reach or are projected to reach the commercial ACL of 5,265 lb (2,388 

kg), round weight, the AA will file a notification with the Office of 

the Federal Register to close the commercial sector for the remainder 

of the fishing year. * * *

* * * * *

    (ii) * * * If recreational landings for bar jack, as estimated by 

the SRD, exceed the recreational ACL of 19,515 lb (8,852 kg), round 

weight, then during the following fishing year, recreational landings 

will be monitored for a persistence in increased landings and, if 

necessary, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the 

Federal Register, to reduce the length of the following recreational 

fishing season by the amount necessary to ensure recreational landings 

do not exceed the recreational ACL in the following fishing year. * * *

* * * * *

    (16) * * *

    (i) * * *

    (A) If commercial landings combined for this other snappers 

complex, as estimated by the SRD, reach or are projected to reach the 

combined complex commercial ACL of 215,662 lb (97,823 kg), round 

weight, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the Federal 

Register to close the commercial sector for this complex for the 

remainder of the fishing year. * * *

* * * * *

    (ii) * * * If the combined recreational landings for this snappers 

complex, as estimated by the SRD, exceed the recreational ACL of 

728,577 lb (330,477 kg), round weight, then during the following 

fishing year, recreational landings will be monitored for a persistence 

in increased landings and, if necessary, the AA will file a 

notification with the Office of the Federal Register, to reduce the 

length of the following recreational fishing season by the amount 

necessary to ensure recreational landings do not exceed the 

recreational ACL for this complex in the following fishing year. * * *

    (17) * * *

    (i) * * *

    (A) If commercial landings for gray triggerfish, as estimated by 

the SRD, reach or are projected to reach the commercial ACL of 272,880 

lb (123,776 kg), round weight, the AA will file a notification with the 

Office of the Federal Register to close the commercial sector for the 

remainder of the fishing year. * * *

* * * * *

    (ii) * * * If recreational landings for gray triggerfish, as 

estimated by the SRD, exceed the recreational ACL of 353,638 lb 

(160,407 kg), round weight, then during the following fishing year, 

recreational landings will be monitored for a persistence in increased 

landings and, if necessary, the AA will file a notification with the 

Office of the Federal Register, to reduce the length of the following 

recreational fishing season by the amount necessary to ensure 

recreational landings do not exceed the recreational ACL in the 

following fishing year. * * *

* * * * *

    (19) * * *

    (i) * * *

    (A) If commercial landings for blue runner, as estimated by the 

SRD, reach or are projected to reach the commercial ACL of 177,506 lb 

(80,515 kg), round weight, the AA will file a notification with the 

Office of the Federal Register to close the commercial sector for the 

remainder of the fishing year. * * *

* * * * *

    (ii) * * * If recreational landings for blue runner, as estimated 

by the SRD, exceed the recreational ACL of 948,223 lb (430,107 kg), 

round weight, then during the following fishing year, recreational 

landings will be monitored for a persistence in increased landings and, 

if necessary, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the 

Federal Register, to reduce the length of the following recreational 

fishing season by the amount necessary to ensure recreational landings 

do not exceed the recreational ACL in the following fishing year. * * *

* * * * *

    (20) * * *

    (i) * * *

    (A) If commercial landings for Atlantic spadefish, as estimated by 

the SRD, reach or are projected to reach the commercial ACL of 35,108 

lb (15,925 kg), round weight, the AA will file a notification with the 

Office of the Federal Register to close the commercial sector for the 

remainder of the fishing year. * * *

* * * * *

    (ii) * * * If recreational landings for Atlantic spadefish, as 

estimated by the SRD, exceed the recreational ACL of 154,352 lb (70,013 

kg), round weight, then during the following fishing year, recreational 

landings will be monitored for a persistence in increased landings and, 

if necessary, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the 

Federal Register, to reduce the length of the following recreational 

fishing season by the amount necessary to ensure recreational landings 

do not exceed the recreational ACL in the following fishing year. * * *

    (21) * * *

    (i) * * *

    (A) If commercial landings for hogfish, as estimated by the SRD, 

reach or are projected to reach the commercial ACL of 49,469 lb (22,439 

kg), round weight, the AA will file a notification with the Office of 

the Federal Register to close the commercial sector for the remainder 

of the fishing year. * * *

* * * * *

    (ii) * * * If recreational landings for hogfish, as estimated by 

the SRD, exceed the recreational ACL of 85,355 lb (38,716 kg), round 

weight, then during the following fishing year, recreational landings 

will be monitored for a persistence in increased landings and, if 

necessary, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the 

Federal Register, to reduce the length of the following recreational 

fishing season by the amount necessary to ensure recreational landings 

do not exceed the recreational ACL in the following fishing year. * * *

* * * * *

    (23) * * *

    (i) * * *

    (A) If commercial landings for jolthead porgy, knobbed porgy, 

whitebone porgy, scup, and saucereye porgy, combined, as estimated by 

the SRD, reach or are projected to reach the commercial complex ACL of 

36,348 lb (16,487 kg), round weight, the AA will file a notification 

with the Office of the Federal Register to close the commercial sector 

for this complex for the remainder of the fishing year. * * *

* * * * *

    (ii) * * * If recreational landings for jolthead porgy, knobbed 

porgy, whitebone porgy, scup, and saucereye porgy, combined, as 

estimated by the SRD, exceed the recreational ACL of 106,914 lb (48,495 

kg), round weight, then during the following fishing year, recreational 

landings will be monitored for a persistence in increased landings and, 

if necessary, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the 

Federal Register, to reduce the length of the following recreational 

fishing season for this complex by the amount necessary to ensure 

recreational landings do not exceed the recreational ACL in the 

following fishing year. * * *

    (24) * * *

    (i) * * *

    (A) If commercial landings for white grunt, sailor's choice, 

tomtate, and

 

[[Page 17340]]

 

margate, combined, as estimated by the SRD, reach or are projected to 

reach the commercial complex ACL of 218,539 lb (99,128 kg), round 

weight, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the Federal 

Register to close the commercial sector for this complex for the 

remainder of the fishing year. * * *

* * * * *

    (ii) * * * If recreational landings for white grunt, sailor's 

choice, tomtate, and margate, as estimated by the SRD, exceed the 

recreational ACL of 588,113 lb (266,764 kg), round weight, then during 

the following fishing year, recreational landings will be monitored for 

a persistence in increased landings and, if necessary, the AA will file 

a notification with the Office of the Federal Register, to reduce the 

length of the following recreational fishing season for this complex by 

the amount necessary to ensure recreational landings do not exceed the 

recreational ACL in the following fishing year. 

 

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