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 The rule will be effective for 180 days, unless superseded by subsequent rulemaking, although NMFS may extend the rule's effectiveness for an additional 186 days pursuant to the Magnuson-Stevens Act.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
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
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
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)).
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 622 is amended
PART 622--FISHERIES OF THE CARIBBEAN, GULF, AND SOUTH ATLANTIC
1. The authority citation for part 622 continues to read as follows:
Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.
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.
* * * * *
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
(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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