Amendment 13

NMFS implements management measures described in 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). 

This final rule revises the annual catch limits (ACLs), including sector ACLs, for 37 snapper-grouper species based on updated landings data. The purpose 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).

This rule is effective July 17, 2013.


ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of the regulatory amendment, which 


includes an environmental assessment, regulatory impact review, 

Regulatory Flexibility Act analysis, and fishery impact statement, may 

be obtained from the Southeast Regional Office Web site at


FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Nikhil Mehta, Southeast Regional 

Office, NMFS, telephone: 727-824-5305, or email:


SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The snapper-grouper fishery of the South

Atlantic is managed under the FMP and includes 60 species, 37 of which 

are addressed in Regulatory Amendment 13 and this final 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 fishery management unit with stock 

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

Regulatory Amendment 13. For assessed species, adjustments to landings 

data will be made during assessment updates or revisions. Species with 

an ABC of zero are prohibited harvest species and are outside the scope 

of the amendment. The FMP was prepared by the Council and implemented 

through regulations at 50 CFR part 622 under the authority of the 

Magnuson-Stevens Act.

    On March 21, 2013, NMFS published a proposed rule for the 

regulatory amendment and requested public comments (78 FR 17336). The 

proposed rule and the regulatory amendment outline the rationale for 

the actions contained in this final rule. A summary of the actions 

implemented by this final rule are provided below.

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

the ABCs, ACLs (including sector ACLs) and annual catch targets (ACTs) 

implemented by the South Atlantic Comprehensive ACL Amendment (77 FR 

15916, March 16, 2012) using improved data. If the ABCs, ACLs 

(including sector ACLs), and ACTs are not updated using the new data, 

there could be a disconnect between how the ACLs were calculated and 

how the landings are calculated to determine if ACLs are met and AMs 

are triggered.


Management Measures Contained in This Final Rule


    This final rule revises 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. NMFS monitors landings throughout 

a fishing season to ensure they do not exceed the ACLs. Because the 

ACLs trigger the AMs that were established in the Comprehensive ACL 

Amendment it is important that data used to calculate the ACLs is 

consistent with the data used to monitor landings.

    The commercial AMs for the species and species complexes in this 

final 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.

    The recreational 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 will monitor the recreational landings for a 

persistence in increased landings, and will reduce the length of the 

recreational fishing season as necessary to ensure the recreational 

landings do not exceed the recreational ACL.

    This final rule ensures that the methodology used to calculate the 

ACLs is consistent with the methodology used to monitor landings and to 

determine when it is necessary to trigger the AMs.


Additional Measures Contained in Regulatory Amendment 13


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

Amendment 13 revises the ABCs and ACTs for these 37 snapper-grouper 

species using the improved data methods as previously described.


Comments and Responses


    A total of 16 comment submissions were received on the proposed 

rule for Regulatory Amendment 13. Comments were received from 

individuals, an environmental organization, a recreational fishing 

association, and a Federal agency. Of the comments received, some were 

generally opposed to any regulations, and others were supportive of the 

action in the regulatory amendment. There were also comments outside 

the scope of this rulemaking. Several of those questioned the species 

groupings and the formula used to establish the ACLs, which were 

actions included in the South Atlantic Comprehensive ACL Amendment and 

are not reconsidered in Regulatory Amendment 13. Specific comments 

related to the actions contained in Regulatory Amendment 13 and NMFS' 

responses are summarized below.

    Comment 1: NMFS states in Regulatory Amendment 13 that the ``best 

scientific information available'' is used. Provide the legal 

definition of the term ``best scientific information available'' and 

the timeline for the revision of National Standard 2.

    Response: National Standard 2 requires that ``conservation and 

management measures shall be based upon the best scientific information 

available,'' 16 U.S.C. 1851(a)(2). The Magnuson-Stevens Act does not 

define the phrase ``best scientific information available'' but NMFS 

has published National Standard 2 guidelines to provide guidance on how 

this phrase should be interpreted in the development of fishery 

management actions. See 50 CFR 600.315. On December 9, 2009, NMFS 

published a proposed rule that would revise the National Standard 2 

Guidelines (74 FR 65724). NMFS is reviewing the comments received on 

the proposed rule and expects to publish a final rule in the near 


    Comment 2: Regulatory Amendment 13 results in allocations that 

favor the recreational sector more than the commercial sector.

    Response: NMFS disagrees. Sector allocations were established by a 

formula selected by the Council in the Comprehensive ACL Amendment in 

2012. Regulatory Amendment 13 did not consider modifications to the 

allocation formula but uses updated data, including MRIP data, to 

revise the ABCs, ACLs, and ACTs for 37 snapper-grouper species. The use 

of updated data changes the percentage of allocations for these species 

but as shown in Table 2.2 of Regulatory Amendment 13, the differences 

are generally small and do not favor one sector over the other.


Changes From the Proposed Rule


    On April 17, 2013, NMFS published in the Federal Register an 

interim final rule to reorganize the regulations in 50 CFR part 622 for 

the Gulf of Mexico, the South Atlantic, and the Caribbean (78 FR 

22950). That interim final rule did not create any new rights or 

obligations; it reorganized the existing regulatory requirements in the 

Code of Federal Regulations into a new format. This final rule 

incorporates this new format into the regulatory text; it does not

change the specific regulatory requirements that were contained in the 

proposed rule. Therefore, as a result of this reorganization, the ACLs 

previously located at Sec.  622.49 are now located at Sec.  622.193.