Gray Triggerfish Amendment 37

Amendment 37 proposes to modify the gray triggerfish rebuilding plan; revise the commercial and recreational sector's annual catch limits (ACLs) and annual catch targets (ACTs) for gray triggerfish; revise the recreational sector accountability measures (AMs) for gray triggerfish; revise the gray triggerfish recreational bag limit; establish a commercial trip limit for gray triggerfish; and establish a fixed closed season for the gray triggerfish commercial and recreational sectors.

The intent of Amendment 37 is to end overfishing of gray triggerfish and help achieve optimum yield (OY) for the gray triggerfish resource in accordance with the requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act).

Written comments must be received on or before March 26, 2013.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by
``NOAA-NMFS-2012-0199'', by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2012-0199, click the
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Rich Malinowski,
Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg,
FL 33701.
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period,
may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain
anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in
Microsoft Word, Excel, or Adobe PDF file formats only.
    Electronic copies of the amendment may be obtained from the
Southeast Regional Office Web site at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov.

 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Rich Malinowski, Southeast Regional
Office, NMFS, telephone  727-824-5305; email: rich.malinowski@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The reef fish fishery of the Gulf of Mexico
(Gulf) 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 Act. The Magnuson-Stevens Act also
requires that NMFS, upon receiving a plan or amendment, publish an
announcement in the Federal Register notifying the public that the plan
or amendment is available for review and comment. All gray triggerfish
weights discussed in this proposed rule are in round weight.

Background

    The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires NMFS and regional fishery
management councils to prevent overfishing and achieve, on a continuing
basis, the OY from federally managed fish stocks. These mandates are
intended to ensure 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 specify their strategy to rebuild overfished stocks
to a sustainable level within a certain time frame, to minimize bycatch
and bycatch mortality to the extent practicable, and to establish AMs
for a stock to ensure ACLs are not exceeded. Amendment 37 addresses
these issues for gray triggerfish.

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. 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.
    As a way to more quickly implement measures to end overfishing and
rebuild the stock, the Council requested and NMFS implemented a
temporary rule to reduce the gray triggerfish commercial and
recreational ACLs and ACTs (77 FR 28308, May 14, 2012). The temporary
rule also established an in-season AM for the gray triggerfish
recreational sector to be more consistent with the commercial sector
AMs and provide for an additional level of protection to ensure that
the recreational ACL is not exceeded and that the risk of overfishing
is reduced. These interim measures were then extended through May 15,
2013, to ensure that the more permanent measures being developed
through Amendment 37 could be implemented without a lapse in these more
protective management measures (77 FR 67303, November 9, 2012).

Actions Contained in Amendment 37

    Amendment 37 proposes to modify the gray triggerfish rebuilding
plan, revise the commercial and recreational sector's ACLs and ACTs for
gray triggerfish (the commercial ACT is expressed as the commercial
quota in the regulatory text), revise the recreational sector AMs for
gray triggerfish, revise the gray triggerfish recreational bag limit,
establish a commercial trip limit for gray triggerfish, and establish a
fixed closed season for the gray triggerfish commercial and
recreational sectors.

Modifications to the Gray Triggerfish Rebuilding Plan

    Amendment 37 would revise the rebuilding plan for gray triggerfish.
The gray triggerfish stock is currently in the 5th year of a rebuilding
plan that began in 2008. Amendment 37 would modify the rebuilding plan
in response to the results from the 2011 SEDAR 9 Update and the
Council's subsequent Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) review
and recommendations for the gray triggerfish allowable biological catch
(ABC). The modified rebuilding plan would be based on a constant
fishing mortality rate that does not exceed the fishing mortality rate
at OY.

ACLs and ACTs

    Amendment 37 would revise the ACLs for the gray triggerfish
commercial and recreational sectors. Amendment 37 would also revise the
ACTs (commercial ACT expressed as a quota in the regulatory text) for
both sectors.
    The Council's SSC reviewed the gray triggerfish 2011 SEDAR 9
Update. The SSC recommended that the ABC for gray

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triggerfish for the 2012 and 2013 fishing years be set at 305,300 lb
(138,346 kg). Based on this recommendation, the commercial and
recreational ACLs and ACTs for the gray triggerfish need to be updated.
    In Amendment 30A to the FMP, the Council established a 21 percent
commercial and 79 percent recreational allocation of the gray
triggerfish ABC (73 FR 38139, July 3, 2008). 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) and the combined
sector ACLs are equal to the ABC. Based on the allocations established
in Amendment 30A to the FMP, Amendment 37 would set a reduced
commercial ACL of 64,100 lb (29,075 kg), and a reduced recreational ACL
of 241,200 lb (109,406 kg).
    The Generic Annual Catch Limit Amendment developed by the Council
and implemented by NMFS (76 FR 82044, December 29, 2011) established a
standardized procedure to set sector-specific ACTs based on the ACLs.
ACTs are intended to account for management uncertainty and provide a
buffer that better ensures a sector does not exceed its designated ACL.
The Council chose to use this procedure, which resulted in a 5 percent
buffer between the commercial ACL and ACT, and a 10 percent buffer
between the recreational ACL and ACT. Therefore, Amendment 37 would set
the commercial ACT (commercial quota) at 60,900 lb (27,624 kg), and the
recreational ACT at 217,100 lb (98,475 kg). The proposed ACLs and ACTs
in Amendment 37 are the same as those currently in place as implemented
through the temporary rule for gray triggerfish (77 FR 28308, May 14,
2012). The current commercial gray triggerfish quota functions as the
commercial ACT.

AMs

    Amendment 37 proposes to modify the gray triggerfish recreational
sector AMs. Currently, the AM for the recreational sector is triggered
if the recreational ACL is exceeded and requires NMFS to 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. Amendment 37 would replace this AM with an
in-season AM, in the form of a recreational season closure that would
prohibit the recreational harvest of gray triggerfish after the
recreational ACT is reached or projected to be reached. This in-season
AM would provide an additional level of protection to help ensure that
the recreational ACL is not exceeded and reduce the risk of
overfishing. Amendment 37 would also add an overage adjustment that
would apply if the recreational sector ACL is exceeded and gray
triggerfish are overfished. This post-season AM would reduce the
recreational ACL and ACT for the following year by the amount of the
ACL overage in the prior fishing year, unless the best scientific
information available determines that a greater, lesser, or no overage
adjustment is necessary.

Commercial Trip Limit

    Currently, there is no trip limit for the commercial sector.
Amendment 37 would establish a commercial trip limit for gray
triggerfish of 12 fish. This trip limit would allow commercial reef
fish fisherman to harvest their incidental catch of gray triggerfish.
This trip limit would be applicable until the commercial ACT
(commercial quota) is reached or projected to be reached during a
fishing year and the commercial sector is closed.

Seasonal Closure of the Commercial and Recreational Sectors

    Amendment 37 would establish a seasonal closure of the gray
triggerfish commercial and recreational sectors in the Gulf from June
through July, each year. This fixed seasonal closure would occur during
gray triggerfish peak spawning season and during the period with the
highest percentage of recreational landings.

Recreational Bag Limit

    Gray triggerfish currently are part of the 20-fish aggregate reef
fish recreational bag limit. As such, there is currently no specific
limit for recreational gray triggerfish landings as long as the total
is 20 fish or less. Amendment 37 would establish a 2-fish gray
triggerfish recreational bag limit within the 20-fish aggregate reef
fish bag limit. This recreational bag limit would be applicable until
the recreational ACT is reached or projected to be reached during a
fishing year and the recreational sector is closed.

Proposed Rule for Amendment 37

    A proposed rule that would implement Amendment 37 has been drafted.
In accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS is evaluating
Amendment 37 to determine whether it is consistent with the FMP, the
Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law. If the determination is
affirmative, NMFS will publish the proposed rule in the Federal
Register for public review and comment.

Consideration of Public Comments

    The Council submitted Amendment 37 for Secretarial review,
approval, and implementation. NMFS' decision to approve, partially
approve, or disapprove Amendment 37 will be based, in part, on
consideration of comments, recommendations, and information received
during the comment period on this notice of availability.
    Public comments received by 5 p.m. eastern time, on March 26, 2013,
will be considered by NMFS in the approval/disapproval decision
regarding Amendment 37.