NMFS issues this advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) to provide background information and request public comment on potential issues related to the implementation of the Billfish Conservation Act of 2012.
NMFS is considering issuing regulations to implement the BCA. Rulemaking is needed to provide notice to the regulated community, increase public understanding of the elements of the billfish prohibitions, facilitate enforcement, and ensure consistent implementation of the BCA nationally. Through this ANPR, NMFS seeks the public's views on the potential scope of any future regulations to implement the BCA, including the scope of the exemption in section 4(c) of the BCA and the possible use of a modified version of the current billfish COE to document that billfish offered for sale qualifies for exemption from the general prohibition on sale. Also, what, if any, restrictions can NMFS impose on the transportation and sale of billfish caught by U.S. vessels and landed in Hawaii or the Pacific Insular Areas?
Written comments regarding the issues in this ANPR must be received by 5 p.m., local time, on July 3, 2013.
ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by
NOAA-NMFS-2013-0004, 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-2013-0004, click the
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or
attach your comments.
Mail: Submit written comments to Kim Marshall, 1315 East-
West Highway, SSMC3, Silver Spring, MD 20910.
Fax: 301-713-1193; Attn: Kim Marshall.
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: Kim Marshall, Fishery Policy Analyst,
National Marine Fisheries Service, 301-427-8556.
The Billfish Conservation Act of 2012 (BCA), Public Law 112-183, 16
U.S.C. 1827a, was signed into law on October 5, 2012. The BCA defines
``billfish'' as any of the following: (1) Blue marlin; (2) striped
marlin; (3) black marlin; (4) sailfish; (5) shortbill spearfish; (6)
white marlin; (7) roundscale spearfish; (8) Mediterranean spearfish; or
(9) longbill spearfish. It exempts swordfish from the definition of
Section 4(a) of the BCA prohibits any person from offering billfish
or billfish products for sale, selling them, or having custody,
control, or possession of them for purposes of offering them for sale.
It treats a violation of the BCA as an act prohibited by section 307 of
the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA; 16
U.S.C. 1857). Individuals, including recreational fishermen may
possess, but not sell billfish or billfish products or have custody,
control, or possession for the purposes of offering them for sale,
subject to limits imposed by existing state and federal regulations.
Section 4(c) of the BCA exempts billfish caught by U.S. fishing
vessels and landed in Hawaii or Pacific Insular Areas (as defined under
the MSA) from the general prohibitions on sale and custody with the
intent to sell in section 4(a). It also exempts billfish landed by
foreign vessels in the Pacific Insular Areas and exported to markets
outside the U.S. or retained within Hawaii and the Pacific Insular
Areas for local consumption.
In passing the BCA, Congress recognized the conservation challenges
facing billfish populations in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Congress found that, despite careful management of domestic billfish
fisheries, global billfish populations have declined significantly
because of overfishing primarily through retention of bycatch by non-
U.S. fishing fleets. See 16 U.S.C. 1827a note. In 2011, the
International Union for the Conservation of Nature classified blue and
white marlin as vulnerable to extinction and striped marlin as near
threatened. The over harvest and export of billfish from foreign
nations threatens the survival of billfish populations and the
sustainability of the U.S. recreational billfish fishery. A report on
trade of billfish published by the International Game Fish Association
(IGFA) in June, 2007 found that the legal sale of billfish caught in
the Pacific Ocean may create a market that allows billfish caught in
the Atlantic Ocean to enter illegitimately into U.S. markets.
Existing federal regulations require the release of all Atlantic
billfish caught by commercial fishing operations in the U.S. Exclusive
Economic Zone (EEZ), prohibit the possession of billfish onboard
commercial fishing vessels inside the U.S. EEZ, and prohibit the sale
of Atlantic billfish. 50 CFR 635.21(a) and (e)(2), 635.31(b). The BCA
increases the protection for Atlantic billfish by prohibiting the
import and sale of all billfish in the U.S., no matter where harvested,
unless exempted pursuant to section 4(c) of the BCA.
The only U.S. commercial fishery for billfish occurs in Hawaii and
surrounding Pacific island areas. Section 4(c)(1) of the BCA exempts
billfish caught by U.S. vessels and landed in Hawaii or Pacific Insular
Areas from the general prohibition on sale of billfish. Under existing
regulations, seafood dealers and processors are required to use the
Billfish Certificate of Eligibility (COE) to document that billfish
possessed or offered for sale were not harvested from the Atlantic
Ocean. See 50 CFR 635.31(b). NMFS is considering adapting the billfish
COE requirements to implement the BCA by requiring that seafood dealers
and processors document that billfish offered for sale
qualifies for exemption from the general prohibition on the sale of
The U.S. West Coast Highly Migratory Fishery Management Plan (Plan)
includes the striped marlin as a management unit species and prohibits
sale of the species. As stated in the Pacific Fishery Management
Council's Plan, striped marlin is considered to have far greater value
as a recreational rather than commercial target species. The Plan is
not the only measure addressing striped marlin. California has
prohibited sale and importation of Pacific striped marlin since 1937,
and with a limited exception for black marlin, marlin meat, whether
fresh, smoked, canned, or preserved by any means, may not be bought or
sold, or possessed or transported for the purpose of sale in the state.
NMFS is considering issuing regulations to implement the BCA.
Rulemaking is needed to provide notice to the regulated community,
increase public understanding of the elements of the billfish
prohibitions, facilitate enforcement, and ensure consistent
implementation of the BCA nationally. Through this ANPR, NMFS seeks the
public's views on the potential scope of any future regulations to
implement the BCA, including the scope of the exemption in section 4(c)
of the BCA and the possible use of a modified version of the current
billfish COE to document that billfish offered for sale qualifies for
exemption from the general prohibition on sale. Also, what, if any,
restrictions can NMFS impose on the transportation and sale of billfish
caught by U.S. vessels and landed in Hawaii or the Pacific Insular
To help determine the scope of issues to be addressed and to
identify significant issues related to this action, NMFS is soliciting
written comments on this ANPR. The public is encouraged to submit
comments related to the specific ideas mentioned in this ANPR, as well
as any additional ideas to improve implementation of the Billfish
Conservation Act of 2012.