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Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Fisheries

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


Temporary rule; closure of the Harpoon category fishery for 2019.


NMFS closes the Harpoon category fishery for large medium and giant (i.e., measuring 73 inches curved fork length or greater) Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) for the 2019 fishing season and thus until the Harpoon category reopens on June 1, 2020. The intent of this closure is to prevent overharvest of the available Harpoon category BFT quota of 91 metric tons (mt).


Effective 11:30 p.m., local time, August 8, 2019, through December 31, 2019.

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Sarah McLaughlin, 978-281-9260, or Larry Redd, 301-420-8503.

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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 amendments, and in accordance with implementing regulations.

NMFS is required, under § 635.28(a)(1), to file a closure notice with the Office of the Federal Register for publication when a BFT quota (or subquota) is reached or is projected to be reached. On and after the effective date and time of such notification, for the remainder of the fishing year or for a specified period as indicated in the notification, retaining, possessing, or landing BFT under that quota category is prohibited until the opening of the subsequent quota period or until such date as specified in the notice.

The base quota for the Harpoon category is 46 mt. See § 635.27(a). Effective July 18, 2019, NMFS transferred 30 mt from the Reserve category to the Harpoon category, resulting in an adjusted subquota of 76 mt for the Harpoon category and 113 mt for the Reserve category (84 FR 35340, July 23, 2019). Effective August 1, 2019, NMFS transferred an additional 15 mt from the Reserve category to the Harpoon category, resulting in an adjusted subquota of 91 mt for the Harpoon category and 98 mt for the Reserve category (84 FR 38143, August 6, 2019).

Based on the best available landings information for the Harpoon category BFT fishery, NMFS has determined that the adjusted Harpoon category quota of 91 mt is projected to be reached (i.e., as of August 5, reported landings total approximately 83.8 mt) and that the Harpoon category fishery should be closed. Therefore, retaining, possessing, or landing large medium or giant BFT by persons aboard vessels permitted in the Atlantic tunas Harpoon category must cease at 11:30 p.m. local time on August 8, 2019. The Harpoon category will reopen automatically on June 1, 2020, for the 2020 fishing season. This action applies to Atlantic tunas Harpoon category (commercial) permitted and is taken consistent with the regulations at § 635.28(a)(1). The intent of this closure is to prevent overharvest of the available Harpoon category quota.

Monitoring and Reporting

NMFS will continue to monitor the BFT fisheries closely. Dealers are required to submit landing reports within 24 hours of a dealer receiving BFT. Late reporting by dealers compromises NMFS' ability to timely implement actions such as quota and retention limit adjustment, as well as closures, and may result in enforcement actions. Additionally, and separate from the dealer reporting requirement, Harpoon category vessel owners are required to report the catch of all BFT retained or discarded dead within 24 hours of the landing(s) or end of each trip, by accessing, using the HMS Catch Reporting app, or calling (888) 872-8862 (Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.).

Depending on the level of fishing effort and catch rates of BFT, NMFS may determine that additional adjustments are necessary to ensure Start Printed Page 39209available subquotas are not exceeded or to enhance scientific data collection from, and fishing opportunities in, all geographic areas. If needed, subsequent adjustments will be published in the Federal Register. In addition, fishermen may call the Atlantic Tunas Information Line at (978) 281-9260, or access, for updates on quota monitoring and inseason adjustments.


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 and amendments provide for inseason retention limit adjustments and fishery closures 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. This fishery is currently underway and delaying this action would be contrary to the public interest as it could result in BFT landings exceeding the Harpoon category quota. 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 § 635.28(a)(1) (BFT fishery closures), 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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Jennifer M. Wallace,

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

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[FR Doc. 2019-17140 Filed 8-7-19; 8:45 am]