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Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Fisheries

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AGENCY:

National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION:

Temporary rule; inseason quota transfer.

SUMMARY:

NMFS is transferring 15 metric tons (mt) of Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) quota from the Reserve category to the Harpoon category for the remainder of the 2014 fishing year. This action is based on consideration of the regulatory determination criteria regarding inseason adjustments, and applies to Atlantic tunas Harpoon category (commercial) permitted vessels.

DATES:

Effective August 8, 2014, through November 15, 2014.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Sarah McLaughlin or Brad McHale, 978-281-9260.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Regulations implemented under the authority of the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA; 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq.) and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) governing the harvest of BFT by persons and vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction are found at 50 CFR part 635. Section 635.27 subdivides the U.S. BFT quota recommended by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) among the various domestic fishing categories, per the allocations established in the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan (2006 Consolidated HMS FMP) (71 FR 58058, October 2, 2006) and in accordance with implementing regulations. NMFS is required under ATCA to provide U.S. fishing vessels with a reasonable opportunity to harvest the ICCAT-recommended quota.

The 2010 ICCAT recommendation regarding western BFT management resulted in baseline U.S. quotas for 2011 and for 2012 of 923.7 mt (not including the 25 mt ICCAT allocated to the United States to account for bycatch of BFT in pelagic longline fisheries in the Northeast Distant Gear Restricted Area). The 2011 BFT quota rule (76 FR 39019, July 5, 2011) implemented the base quota of 36 mt for the Harpoon category fishery and 23.1 mt for the Reserve category. As published in the final 2014 BFT quota specifications (79 FR 38255, July 7, 2014), the baseline Harpoon category and Reserve category quotas as codified have not been modified.

The 2014 Harpoon category fishery is open until November 15, 2014, or until the Harpoon category quota is reached, whichever comes first.

Inseason Transfer to the Harpoon Category

Under § 635.27(a)(7), NMFS has the authority to allocate any portion of the Reserve category to any other category, other than the Angling category school BFT subquota (for which there is a separate reserve), after considering determination criteria provided under § 635.27(a)(8), which include: The usefulness of information obtained from catches in the particular category for biological sampling and monitoring of the status of the stock; the catches of the particular category quota to date and the likelihood of closure of that segment of the fishery if no adjustment is made; the projected ability of the vessels fishing under the particular category quota to harvest the additional amount of BFT before the end of the fishing year; the estimated amounts by which quotas for other gear categories of the fishery might be exceeded; effects of the adjustment on BFT rebuilding and overfishing; effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the fishery management plan; variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migration patterns of BFT; effects of catch rates in one area precluding vessels in another area from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the category's quota; and a review of dealer reports, daily landing trends, and the availability of BFT on the fishing grounds.Start Printed Page 47382

NMFS has considered the determination criteria regarding inseason adjustments and their applicability to the Harpoon category fishery for the remainder of the 2014 fishing year. These considerations include, but are not limited to, the following: Biological samples collected from BFT landed by Harpoon category fishermen and provided by BFT dealers continue to provide NMFS with valuable parts and data for ongoing scientific studies of BFT age and growth, migration, and reproductive status. Continued BFT landings would support the collection of a broad range of data for these studies and for stock monitoring purposes. As of August 4, 2014, the Harpoon category has landed 29.7 mt, with 6.3 mt available for the remainder of the season, and NMFS anticipates the available quota will be met by mid-August, depending on weather conditions and fish availability. Without a quota transfer at this time, Harpoon category participants would have to stop BFT fishing activities once the base quota is met, while commercial-sized BFT remain available in the areas Harpoon category permitted vessels operate. NMFS anticipates that the Harpoon category could harvest the transferred 15 mt prior to the end of the Harpoon category season, subject to weather conditions and BFT availability. As this action would be taken consistent with the quotas previously established and analyzed in the 2011 BFT quota final rule (76 FR 39019, July 5, 2011), and consistent with objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, it is not expected to negatively impact stock health. A principal consideration is the objective of providing opportunities to harvest the full 2014 U.S. BFT quota without exceeding it based upon the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP goal: “Consistent with other objectives of this FMP, to manage Atlantic HMS fisheries for continuing optimum yield so as to provide the greatest overall benefit to the Nation, particularly with respect to food production, providing recreational opportunities, preserving traditional fisheries, and taking into account the protection of marine ecosystems.”

Based on all of these considerations, as well as the available quota, NMFS has determined that 15 mt of the 23.1-mt Reserve category quota should be transferred to the Harpoon category. The transfer would provide a reasonable opportunity to harvest the U.S. quota of BFT, without exceeding it, while maintaining an equitable distribution of fishing opportunities; help achieve optimum yield in the BFT fishery; allow the collection of a broad range of data for stock monitoring purposes; and be consistent with the objectives of the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP. Therefore, NMFS adjusts the Harpoon category quota to 51 mt for the 2014 fishing year. The Harpoon category will be closed for 2014 when the adjusted Harpoon category quota has been reached, or November 15, 2014, whichever comes first.

Monitoring and Reporting

NMFS will continue to monitor the BFT fishery closely through the mandatory dealer landing reports, which NMFS requires to be submitted within 24 hours of a dealer receiving BFT. Depending on the level of fishing effort and catch rates of BFT, NMFS may determine that additional action is necessary to ensure available quota is not exceeded or to enhance scientific data collection from, and fishing opportunities in, all geographic areas. Subsequent actions, if any, will be published in the Federal Register. In addition, fishermen may call the Atlantic Tunas Information Line at (888) 872-8862 or (978) 281-9260, or access hmspermits.noaa.gov, for updates on quota monitoring and inseason adjustments.

Classification

The Assistant Administrator for NMFS (AA) finds that it is impracticable and contrary to the public interest to provide prior notice of, and an opportunity for public comment on, this action for the following reasons:

The regulations implementing the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP provide for inseason adjustments to respond to the unpredictable nature of BFT availability on the fishing grounds, the migratory nature of this species, and the regional variations in the BFT fishery. Affording prior notice and opportunity for public comment to implement the quota transfer for the remainder of 2014 is impracticable and contrary to the public interest as such a delay would likely result in closure of the Harpoon fishery when the base quota is met and the need to re-open the fishery, with attendant administrative costs and costs to the fishery. The delay would preclude the fishery from harvesting BFT that are available on the fishing grounds and that might otherwise become unavailable during a delay. Therefore, the AA finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive prior notice and the opportunity for public comment. For all of the above reasons, there is good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d) to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness.

This action is being taken under 50 CFR 635.27(a)(7) and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.

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Authority: 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq. and 1801 et seq.

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Dated: August 7, 2014.

Emily H. Menashes,

Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service.

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[FR Doc. 2014-19106 Filed 8-8-14; 11:15 am]

BILLING CODE 3510-22-P