NACO

National Association of Charterboat Operators

DEIS for Amendment 14

Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS); request for comments.

NMFS, Southeast Region, in collaboration with the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council), intends to prepare a DEIS to describe and analyze a range of alternatives for management actions to be included in Regulatory Amendment 14 to the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region (Regulatory Amendment 14). In Regulatory Amendment 14, the Council is considering management measures to modify the fishing year for greater amberjack; revise the minimum size limit measurement for gray triggerfish; increase the minimum size limit for hogfish; modify the commercial and recreational fishing years for black sea bass; adjust the commercial fishing season for vermilion snapper; modify the aggregate grouper bag limit; and revise the accountability measures (AMs) for gag and vermilion snapper. The intent of Regulatory Amendment 14 is to achieve optimum yield (OY) for snapper-grouper species and enhance socio-economic opportunities within the snapper-grouper fishery. The purpose of this NOI is to solicit public comments on the scope of issues to be addressed in the DEIS.

Written comments on the scope of issues to be addressed in the DEIS will be accepted until May 17, 2013.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments identified by ``NOAA-NMFS-2013-
0052'' 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-2013-0052, 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.

 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Nikhil Mehta, Southeast Regional
Office, telephone: 727-824-5305, or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    In Regulatory Amendment 14, the Council is considering actions to
modify the fishing year for greater amberjack; revise the minimum size
limit measurement for gray triggerfish; increase the minimum size limit
for hogfish; modify the commercial and recreational fishing year for
black sea bass; adjust the commercial fishing season for vermilion
snapper; modify the aggregate grouper bag limit; and revise the AMs for
gag and vermilion snapper.

Greater Amberjack Fishing Year

    The current fishing year for greater amberjack is May 1 through
April 30. Regulatory Amendment 14 would examine the effects of
alternatives to modify this fishing year, especially with respect to
when the commercial annual catch limit (ACL) for greater amberjack is
being reached. When the commercial ACL is reached, the a.m. triggered
is an inseason closure of the commercial sector. Some fishers have
requested that the month of March remain open to harvest, because it is
a productive month for fishing (i.e., consumers tend to buy more fish
during Lent). Also, greater amberjack migrate out of the Florida Keys
by mid-May, thereby offering a limited fishing opportunity for greater
amberjack at the start of the current fishing year. In Regulatory
Amendment 14, the Council is considering alternatives to the fishing
year with the purpose of ensuring commercial harvest opportunities
occur during March of each year.

Gray Triggerfish Minimum Size Limit

    For Federal waters off the east coast of Florida, the gray
triggerfish minimum size limit is 12 inches (30.5 cm) total length. The
state of Florida minimum size limit is 12 inches (30.5 cm) fork length.
The Council is considering alternatives to use the same length
measurement for gray triggerfish in Federal waters off Florida and
other South Atlantic states as used in state waters of Florida. A
consistent minimum size limit would reduce confusion among the public,
better assist law enforcement, and promote efficient management of this
species.

Hogfish Minimum Size Limit

    The Council is considering alternatives to revise the hogfish
minimum size limit, which is 12 inches (30.5 cm), fork length. The
Council's Snapper-Grouper Advisory Panel also expressed concern about
the harvest of undersized hogfish before they have the opportunity to
reproduce.

Black Sea Bass Fishing Year

    The Council is considering alternatives to modify the commercial
and recreational fishing seasons, which begin on June 1, to coincide
with other snapper-grouper species to reduce the likelihood of closures
being implemented early in the fishing season and to extend fishing
opportunities for both sectors throughout the year.

Vermilion Snapper Fishing Seasons

    The commercial fishing season for vermilion snapper is currently
split into two seasons, January 1 through June 30, and July 1 through
December 31. The Council is considering alternatives to modify the
start of the second season to coincide with openings of other snapper-
grouper species to extend fishing opportunities for vermilion snapper.
An adjustment to the start date of the second season may allow for
additional harvest opportunities, as well as reduce the potential for
extended seasonal closures as a result of reaching the ACL and
triggering AMs.

Vermilion Snapper Recreational AMs

    Regulatory Amendment 18 to the FMP, which was approved by the
Council in March of 2013, would remove the recreational vermilion
snapper spawning season closure that occurs from November through
March. The current recreational sector a.m. reduces the recreational
sector ACL in the year following an ACL overage by the amount of that
ACL overage. Therefore, without the seasonal closure, there is no
method in place to close the sector during the fishing year which can
lead to an overage of the ACL. In Regulatory Amendment 14, the Council
is considering alternatives to revise the recreational sector AMs to
ensure the ACL is not exceeded and overfishing does not occur.

Gag Commercial Trip Limits

    In Regulatory Amendment 14 the Council is considering commercial
trip limit alternatives as a method to extend the fishing season for
gag.

Grouper Aggregate Recreational Bag Limit

    The current grouper aggregate bag limit is three fish and within
this limit,

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no more than one fish may be a gag or black grouper, combined. In
Regulatory Amendment 14, the Council is considering alternatives to
revise this aggregate bag limit to provide for increased recreational
harvest opportunities for gag and black grouper.
    NMFS, in collaboration with the Council, will develop a DEIS to
describe and analyze alternatives to address the management needs
described above. Those alternatives will include a ``no action''
alternative for each action. In accordance with NOAA's Administrative
Order 216-6, Section 5.02(c), Scoping Process, NMFS, in collaboration
with the Council, has identified preliminary environmental issues as a
means to initiate discussion for scoping purposes only. These
preliminary issues may not represent the full range of issues that
eventually will be evaluated in the DEIS.
    After the DEIS associated with Regulatory Amendment 14 is
completed, it will be filed with the Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA). After filing, the EPA will publish a notice of availability of
the DEIS for public comment in the Federal Register. The DEIS will have
a 45-day comment period. This procedure is pursuant to regulations
issued by the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) for implementing
the procedural provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act
(NEPA; 40 CFR parts 1500-1508) and to NOAA's Administrative Order 216-6
regarding NOAA's compliance with NEPA and the CEQ regulations.
    The Council and NMFS will consider public comments received on the
DEIS in developing the final environmental impact statement (FEIS), and
before voting to submit the final amendment to NMFS for Secretarial
review, approval, and implementation. NMFS will announce in the Federal
Register the availability of the final amendment and FEIS for public
review during the Secretarial review period, and will consider all
public comments prior to final agency action to approve, disapprove, or
partially approve the final amendment.
    NMFS will announce, through a document published in the Federal
Register, all public comment periods on the final amendment, its
proposed implementing regulations, and the availability of its
associated FEIS. NMFS will consider all public comments received during
the Secretarial review period, whether they are on the final amendment,
the proposed regulations, or the FEIS, prior to final agency action.

Public Hearings, Times, and Locations

    The Council will hold public hearings to discuss the actions
included in Regulatory Amendment 14 in August 2013. Exact dates, times,
and locations will be announced by the Council. The public will be
informed, via a notification in the Federal Register, of the exact
times, dates, and locations of future scoping meetings and public
hearings for Regulatory Amendment 14.

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