NACO

National Association of Charterboat Operators

Triggerfish Interim Rule

This final temporary rule, issued pursuant to NMFS' authority to issue interim rules under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), implements interim measures to reduce overfishing of gray triggerfish in the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf).  For the recreational sector, there is currently no in-season AM, but a post-season AM is in effect. For the recreational sector, if the recreational ACL is exceeded, NMFS will reduce the length of the following year's fishing season by the amount necessary to ensure that recreational landings do not exceed the recreational ACT during the following year.

This rule reduces the gray triggerfish commercial quota (commercial annual catch target (ACT)), commercial and recreational annual catch limits (ACLs), and recreational ACT. Additionally, this final temporary rule revises the recreational accountability measures (AMs) for gray triggerfish. At its April meeting, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) requested NMFS promulgate interim measures to reduce overfishing of gray triggerfish. The rule will be effective for 180 days, unless superseded by subsequent rulemaking, although NMFS may extend the rule's effectiveness for an additional 186 days pursuant to the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The intended effect of this final temporary rule is to reduce overfishing of the gray triggerfish resource in the Gulf while the Council develops permanent management measures.

DATES: This final temporary rule is effective May 14, 2012, through November 10, 2012. Comments may be submitted through June 13, 2012.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the final temporary rule 

identified by ``NOAA-NMFS-2012-0085'' by any of the following methods:

     Electronic submissions: Submit electronic comments via the 

Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the 

``Instructions'' for submitting comments.

     Mail: Peter Hood, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 263 

13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.

 

    Instructions: All comments received are a part of the public record 

and will generally be posted to http://www.regulations.gov without 

change. All Personal Identifying Information (for example, name, 

address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly 

accessible. Do not submit Confidential Business Information or 

otherwise sensitive or protected information. NMFS will accept 

anonymous comments (enter N/A in the required field if you wish to 

remain anonymous).

    To submit comments through the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov, enter ``NOAA-NMFS-2012-0085'' in the search field 

and click on ``search.'' After you locate the document ``Fisheries of 

the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Reef Fish Fishery of 

the Gulf of Mexico; Gray Triggerfish Management Measures,'' click the 

``Submit a Comment'' link in that row. This will display the comment 

web form. You can then enter your submitter information (unless you 

prefer to remain anonymous), and type your comment on the web form. You 

can also attach additional files (up to 10 MB) in Microsoft Word, 

Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only.

    Comments received through means not specified in this rule will not 

be considered.

    For further assistance with submitting a comment, see the 

``Commenting'' section at http://www.regulations.gov/#!faqs or the Help 

section at http://www.regulations.gov.

    Electronic copies of documents supporting this proposed rule, which 

include a draft environmental impact statement and a regulatory 

flexibility analysis, may be obtained from the Southeast Regional 

Office Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov.

 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Peter Hood, telephone: 727-824-5305 or 

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

 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The reef fish fishery of the Gulf of Mexico 

is managed under the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish 

Resources of the Gulf of Mexico (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 Act. The Magnuson-Stevens Act 

provides the legal authority for the promulgation of interim 

regulations under section 305(c) (16 U.S.C. 1855(c)).

 

Background

 

    The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires NMFS and regional fishery 

management councils to prevent overfishing and achieve, on a continuing 

basis, the optimum yield (OY) from federally managed fish stocks. These 

mandates are 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. To further this goal, the Magnuson-

Stevens Act requires fishery managers to end overfishing of stocks and 

to minimize bycatch and bycatch mortality to the extent practicable.

 

Status of the Gray Triggerfish Stock

 

    The last Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR) benchmark 

stock assessment for gray triggerfish was completed in 2006 (SEDAR 9). 

SEDAR 9 indicated that the gray triggerfish stock was both overfished 

and possibly undergoing overfishing. Subsequently, Amendment 30A to the 

FMP established a gray triggerfish rebuilding plan beginning in the 

2008 fishing year (73 FR 38139, July 3, 2008). In 2011, a SEDAR update 

stock assessment for gray triggerfish determined that the gray 

triggerfish stock was still overfished and was additionally undergoing 

overfishing. The 2011 update assessment indicated the 2008 gray 

triggerfish rebuilding plan had not made adequate progress toward 

ending overfishing and rebuilding the stock as described in the 

rebuilding plan in Amendment 30A to the FMP. NMFS informed the Council 

of this determination in a letter dated March 13, 2012. NMFS also 

requested that the Council work to end overfishing of gray triggerfish 

immediately and to revise the gray triggerfish stock rebuilding plan.

    The Council has begun developing more permanent measures to end 

overfishing and rebuild the gray triggerfish stock in Amendment 37 to 

the FMP. However, these measures will not likely be implemented until 

the end of the 2012 fishing year or at the beginning of the 2013 

fishing year. Therefore, on April 19, 2012, the Council requested that 

NMFS implement a temporary rule to reduce overfishing of gray 

triggerfish on an interim basis.

 

Management Measures Contained in This Final Temporary Rule

 

    The Council's Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) reviewed 

the gray triggerfish 2011 SEDAR update assessment. The SSC recommended 

that the gray triggerfish 2012 and 2013 fishing years acceptable 

biological catches (ABC) be set at 305,300 lb (138,346 kg), whole 

weight. Based on this recommendation, the commercial and recreational 

ACLs and ACTs for the gray triggerfish need to be updated.

    According to the National Standard 1 guidelines (74 FR 3178, 

January 16, 2009), ACLs are defined as the highest level of landings 

for either a stock or fishing sector that is acceptable to maintain an 

adequate stock size and to prevent overfishing. ACTs are targets that 

provide a buffer, less than the ACL, to account for management 

uncertainty. ACLs and ACTs may both be implemented as triggers for AMs. 

AMs are management measures implemented to ensure ACLS are not exceeded 

or mitigate if ACLs are exceeded. AMs may be implemented to reduce 

overfishing or prevent overfishing from occurring.

    In Amendment 30A to the FMP, the Council established a 21 percent 

commercial and 79 percent recreational allocation of the gray 

triggerfish ABC. These allocations are used to set the commercial and 

recreational sector-specific ACLs. The ABC recommended by the SSC is 

305,300 lb (138,482 kg), whole weight. Based on the allocations 

established in Amendment 30A to the FMP, this rule sets, on a temporary 

basis, a reduced commercial ACL of 64,100 lb (29,075 kg), whole weight, 

and a reduced recreational ACL of 241,200 lb (109,406 kg), whole 

weight.

    NMFS applied the ACL/ACT control rule to the sector ACLs to set the 

sector-specific ACTs. This control rule was developed and utilized in 

the final rule implementing the Generic Annual Catch Limit Amendment 

(76 FR 82044, December 29, 2011) so that the Council and NMFS could 

take into account management uncertainty when assigning ACLs and ACTs. 

The control rule specified a buffer between the commercial ACL and 

commercial ACT of 5 percent, and between the recreational ACL and 

recreational ACT of 10 percent. Therefore, this rule sets, on a 

temporary basis, the commercial ACT (commercial quota) at 60,900 lb 

(27,624 kg), whole weight, and the recreational ACT at 217,100 lb 

(98,475 kg), whole weight. Currently, there is a commercial gray 

triggerfish quota in place, which functions as the commercial ACT.

    To reduce the risk of overfishing, Amendment 30A to the FMP 

established gray triggerfish AMs. For the commercial sector, there are 

currently both in-season and post-season AMs. The in-season AM closes 

the commercial sector after the commercial quota (commercial ACT) is 

reached or projected to be reached. Additionally, if the commercial ACL 

is exceeded despite the quota closure, the post-season AM would reduce 

the following year's commercial quota (commercial ACT) by the amount of the prior-year's 

commercial ACL overage.

    For the recreational sector, there is currently no in-season AM, 

but a post-season AM is in effect. For the recreational sector, if the 

recreational ACL is exceeded, NMFS will reduce the length of the 

following year's fishing season by the amount necessary to ensure that 

recreational landings do not exceed the recreational ACT during the 

following year.

    In 2008, recreational landings exceeded both the recreational ACT 

and ACL. In 2009, the recreational ACT was exceeded. However, in 2010, 

recreational landings did not exceed the ACT or ACL. Reduced 2010 

recreational landings may be attributable to fishery closures that were 

implemented that year as a result of the Deepwater Horizon MC252 oil 

spill. Based on recent trends in recreational landings and anticipated 

future recreational effort, the Council and NMFS have determined that 

there is a reasonable probability that the recreational sector will 

exceed its ACL in future years. The implementation of an in-season AM 

would reduce this risk. This temporary rule establishes an in-season AM 

for the recreational sector to prohibit the recreational harvest of 

gray triggerfish (a recreational sector closure) after the recreational 

ACT is reached or projected to be reached. This in-season AM would 

provide an additional level of protection to ensure that the 

recreational ACL is not exceeded and that the risk of overfishing will 

be reduced.

 

Future Action

 

    NMFS has determined that this temporary final rule is necessary to 

reduce overfishing of gray triggerfish in the Gulf. This rule will be 

effective for not more than 180 days after publication, as authorized 

by section 305(c) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. This temporary final 

rule could be extended for an additional 186 days, provided that the 

public has had an opportunity to comment on the rule. NMFS and the 

Council will continue to develop more permanent measures to reduce 

overfishing of gray triggerfish through Amendment 37 to the FMP.

 

Classification

 

    This action is issued pursuant to section 305(c) of the Magnuson-

Stevens Act, 16 U.S.C. 1855(c). The Assistant Administrator for 

Fisheries, NOAA (AA), has determined that this final temporary rule is 

necessary to reduce overfishing and to achieve OY for the gray 

triggerfish component of the reef fish fishery in the Gulf EEZ and is 

consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable laws.

    This final temporary rule has been determined to be not significant 

for purposes of Executive Order 12866.

    The AA finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive prior 

notice and the opportunity for public comment. Providing prior notice 

and the opportunity for public comment would be contrary to the public 

interest because delaying the implementation of this rule is likely to 

allow overfishing of gray triggerfish to continue. Gray triggerfish are 

currently undergoing overfishing and are overfished, so any delay would 

undermine the intent of the rule. If this rule is not implemented 

immediately, NMFS will likely be required to implement more severe 

reductions in gray triggerfish catch limits, which could have higher 

socioeconomic impacts on Gulf reef fish fishermen. NMFS was not able to 

implement this rulemaking any sooner because the scientific review of 

the most recent gray triggerfish stock assessment, upon which this rule 

is based on, was only recently completed. Any delay in the 

implementation of these revised catch limits would allow harvest to 

continue at a level that is not consistent with National Standard 1 of 

the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Comments submitted on this final temporary 

rule through the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov and received by NMFS no later than June 13, 2012, 

will be considered during any possible subsequent rulemaking relative 

to this final temporary rule, such as an extension of this rule.

    For the aforementioned reasons, the AA also finds good cause to 

waive the 30-day delay in the effectiveness of this action under 5 

U.S.C. 553(d)(3).

    Because prior notice and opportunity for public comment are not 

required for this rule by 5 U.S.C. 553 or any other law, the analytical 

requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 601 et seq. 

are inapplicable.

 

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622

 

    Fisheries, Fishing, Puerto Rico, Reporting and recordkeeping 

requirements, Virgin Islands.

 

    Dated: May 9, 2012.

Samuel D. Rauch III,

Acting Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries 

Service.

 

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

as follows:

 

PART 622--FISHERIES OF THE CARIBBEAN, GULF, AND SOUTH ATLANTIC

 

0

1. The authority citation for part 622 continues to read as follows:

 

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.

 

 

0

2. In Sec.  622.42, paragraph (a)(1)(vi) is suspended and paragraph 

(a)(1)(vii) is added to read as follows:

 

 

Sec.  622.42  Quotas.

 

* * * * *

    (a) * * *

    (1) * * *

    (vii) Gray triggerfish--60,900 lb (27,624 kg), round weight.

* * * * *

 

0

3. In Sec.  622.49, paragraph (a)(2) is suspended and paragraph (a)(17) 

is added to read as follows:

 

 

Sec.  622.49  Annual catch limits (ACLs) and accountability measures 

(AMs).

 

    (a) * * *

    (17) Gray triggerfish--(i) Commercial sector. If commercial 

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

commercial ACT (commercial quota) specified in Sec.  622.42(a)(1)(vii), 

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. 

In addition, if despite such closure, commercial landings exceed the 

commercial ACL, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the 

Federal Register, at or near the beginning of the following fishing 

year to reduce the commercial ACT (commercial quota) for that following 

year by the amount the prior-year ACL was exceeded. The commercial ACL 

is 64,100 lb (29,075 kg), round weight.

    (ii) Recreational sector. If recreational landings, as estimated by 

the SRD, reach or are projected to reach the recreational ACT, the AA 

will file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register to 

close the recreational sector for the remainder of the fishing year. In 

addition, if despite such closure, recreational landings exceed the 

recreational ACL, 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 ACT for that following fishing year. The 

recreational ACT is 217,100 lb (98,475 kg), round weight. The 

recreational ACL is 241,200 lb (109,406 kg), round weight.

* * * * *

[FR Doc. 2012-11663 Filed 5-11-12; 8:45 am]

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