Snapper Grouper Annual Catch Limit Amendment

NMFS issues this final rule to supplement the regulations implementing the Comprehensive Annual Catch Limit Amendment Comprehensive ACL Amendment for the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region (Snapper-Grouper FMP), as prepared and submitted by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council).

The Comprehensive ACL Amendment specified, in part, annual catch limits (ACLs) and accountability measures (AMs) for species in the Snapper-Grouper FMP. A final rule implementing the Comprehensive ACL Amendment published on March 16, 2012, and became effective on April 16, 2012. However, after publishing that final rule, NMFS discovered that the commercial quota (ACL) for greater amberjack, which was specified in the Comprehensive ACL Amendment, was inadvertently not specified in the proposed or final rules to implement that amendment. The intent of this supplemental final rule is to implement the commercial ACL for greater amberjack, while maintaining catch levels consistent with achieving optimum yield for the resource.

This rule is effective August 17, 2012.

ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of the Comprehensive ACL Amendment, which includes a final environmental impact statement, a regulatory flexibility analysis, and a regulatory impact review, may be obtained from the Southeast Regional Office Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sf/pdfs/Comp%20ACL%20Am%20101411%20FINAL.pdf.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Nikhil Mehta, telephone: 727-824-5305, or email: nikhil.mehta@noaa.gov.

 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The snapper-grouper fishery of the South 

Atlantic is managed under the 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 Fishery Conservation and Management 

Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act).

    On October 20, 2011, NMFS published a notice of availability for 

the Comprehensive ACL Amendment and requested public comment (76 FR 

65153). On December 1, 2011, NMFS published a proposed rule for the 

Comprehensive ACL Amendment and requested public comment (76 FR 74757). 

Additionally, on December 30, 2011, NMFS published an amended proposed 

rule for the Comprehensive ACL Amendment to revise the commercial and 

recreational sector ACLs for wreckfish and requested public comment (76 

FR 82264). The Secretary of Commerce approved the

 

[[Page 42193]]

 

Comprehensive ACL Amendment on January 18, 2012. The final rule to 

implement the Comprehensive ACL Amendment was published on March 16, 

2012 (77 FR 15916).

    On April 20, 2012, NMFS published a supplemental proposed rule to 

the Comprehensive ACL Amendment to revise the commercial quota 

(commercial ACL) for greater amberjack and requested public comment (77 

FR 23652). A summary of the action implemented by this supplemental 

final rule is provided below.

    The final rule to implement the Comprehensive ACL Amendment (77 FR 

15916, March 16, 2012) implemented AMs and a recreational ACL for 

greater amberjack. However, as part of the rulemaking for the 

Comprehensive ACL Amendment, NMFS inadvertently failed to revise the 

commercial quota for greater amberjack. This supplemental final rule 

revises the greater amberjack commercial quota to accurately reflect 

the actions in the Comprehensive ACL Amendment and the Council's 

intent. This rule reduces the current commercial sector quota of 

1,169,931 lb (530,672 kg), gutted weight, to 769,388 lb (348,989 kg), 

gutted weight.

 

Comments and Responses

 

    A total of four comments letters were received on the supplemental 

proposed rule. Relevant comments were similar in content and are 

addressed in a single comment and response as follows.

    Comment 1: The greater amberjack commercial quota should not be 

reduced to 769,388 lb (348,989 kg), gutted weight. The recent stock 

assessment indicated that greater amberjack is not undergoing 

overfishing and is not overfished. The lower quota will lead to greater 

economic hardships if greater amberjack is closed earlier each year.

    Response: Although greater amberjack is not undergoing overfishing 

and is not overfished, the Magnuson-Stevens Act requires that a fishery 

management council specify ACLs for species in its FMPs at a level that 

may not exceed the fishing level recommendation of its scientific and 

statistical committee (SSC), and that ACLs prevent overfishing. The SSC 

recommendation that is the most relevant to ACLs is the acceptable 

biological catch (ABC). Based on the most recent stock assessment 

completed in 2008, the SSC recommended a greater amberjack stock ABC of 

1,968,000 lb (892,670 kg), round weight. Therefore, the Council 

specified a stock ACL for greater amberjack of 1,968,000 lb (892,670 

kg). As described in the Comprehensive ACL Amendment, the commercial 

sector allocation equates to a commercial ACL of 800,163 lb (362,948 

kg), round weight, or 769,388 lb (348,989 kg), gutted weight.

    NMFS agrees that if the new commercial quota is met in-season, 

negative economic effects could be experienced by commercial fishermen 

who target greater amberjack, because the current Federal regulations 

require that if commercial landings reach, or are projected to reach 

the commercial quota (ACL), then the commercial sector will close for 

the remainder of the fishing year. The fishing year for greater 

amberjack begins on May 1 and ends on April 30. For the period of 2005-

2009, commercial greater amberjack landings did not exceed the 

commercial quota (ACL) being implemented through this rule. However, 

NMFS notes that preliminary greater amberjack commercial landings data 

for the 2011-2012 fishing year indicate that commercial landings may 

have exceeded the revised commercial quota being implemented through 

this rule, and might have triggered a closure had this rule been in 

place for the 2011-2012 fishing year. However, as noted above, the 

Council cannot set the ACL at a level that exceeds the ABC. NMFS will 

monitor commercial landings for the 2012-2013 fishing year, and 

subsequent years, to determine if the AM will be triggered and the 

commercial sector should be closed in-season.

 

Classification

 

    The Regional Administrator, Southeast Region, NMFS has determined 

that this supplemental final rule is necessary for the conservation and 

management of the species within the Comprehensive ACL Amendment and is 

consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law.

    This supplemental final rule has been determined to be not 

significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866.

    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 

certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 

Administration that the final rule to implement the Comprehensive ACL 

Amendment would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial 

number of small entities. The factual basis for this determination was 

published in the proposed rule and the supplemental proposed rule and 

is not repeated here. No comments were received regarding this 

certification. As a result, a regulatory flexibility analysis was not 

required and none was proposed.

 

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622

 

    Fisheries, Fishing, Puerto Rico, Reporting and recordkeeping 

requirements, Virgin Islands.

 

    Dated: July 12, 2012.

Alan D. Risenhoover,

Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, performing the functions and 

duties of the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, 

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 (e)(3) is revised to read as follows:

 

 

Sec.  622.42  Quotas.

 

* * * * *

    (e) * * *

    (3) Greater amberjack--769,388 lb (348,989 kg).

* * * * *