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NMFS Announces Proposed 2014 Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Quotas
Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) proposes quota specifications for the 2014 Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery. The proposed rule would adjust the U.S. baseline bluefin tuna quota and subquotas to account for allowable unharvested 2013 quota and to account for a portion of the anticipated 2014 dead discards up front (i.e., at the beginning of the fishing year). This action is proposed in accordance with the framework process set forth in the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan (2006 Consolidated HMS FMP), and is supported by the environmental and economic analyses prepared for the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, the 2011 final rule implementing Atlantic bluefin tuna quotas and Atlantic tuna fisheries management measures (76 FR 39019, July 5, 2011), and the Supplemental Environmental Assessment prepared for the 2013 quota specifications. This action is consistent with the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act and is necessary to achieve domestic management objectives under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

Currently, the best available annual estimate of dead discards that could be expected in 2014 is the 2012 estimate of 202.3 mt for the pelagic longline fishery and the observed 2013 dead discards of 13.7 mt for the purse seine fishery, totaling 219.5 mt. Based on the best currently available landings data and dead discard estimate (as of February 10, 2014), NMFS anticipates an underharvest of the 2013 U.S. adjusted bluefin tuna quota of approximately 306 mt. The maximum amount of unharvested 2013 quota that the United States may carry forward to 2014 is 94.9 mt. As detailed in the attached table, the proposed rule would specifically:
Account for half of the dead discard estimate of 219.5 mt up front in the 2014 specifications process; Allocate the full 2014 baseline quotas to the Angling, General, Harpoon, and Trap categories; Allocate 66.8 mt to the Longline category. This amount is achieved by deducting from the Longline category half of the pelagic longline dead discard estimate of 205.8 mt and applying to the Longline category the full amount of underharvest allowed to be carried forward to 2014 (i.e., 74.8 mt baseline quota - 102.9 mt dead discards + 94.9 mt underharvest = 66.8 mt adjusted quota, not including the 25-mt allocation for the Northeast Distant Gear Restricted Area); Allocate 164.9 mt to the Purse Seine category. This amount is achieved by deducting from the Purse Seine category half of purse seine dead discard estimate of 13.7 mt (i.e., 171.8 mt baseline quota - 6.9 mt dead discards = 164.9 mt adjusted quota).

Angler Category (19.7%) - Baseline Allocation = 182.0 mt; Adjusted 2014 Fishing Year Quota = 182.0 mt

General Category (47.1%) - Baseline Allocation = 435.1 mt; Adjusted 2014 Fishing Year Quota = 435.1 mt

Harpoon Category (3.9%) - Baseline Allocation = 36.0 mt; Adjusted 2014 Fishing Year Quota = 36.0 mt

Purse Seine Category (18.6%) - Baseline Allocation = 171.8 mt; Adjusted 2014 Fishing Year Quota = 164.9 mt

Longline Category (8.1%) - Baseline Allocation = 74.8 mt; Adjusted 2014 Fishing Year Quota = 66.8 mt

Trap Category (0.1%) - Baseline Allocation = 0.9 mt; Adjusted 2014 Fishing Year Quota = 0.9 mt

Reserve Category (2.5%) - Baseline Allocation = 23.1 mt; Adjusted 2014 Fishing Year Quota = 23.1 mt

Total (100%) - Baseline Allocation = 923.7 mt; Adjusted 2014 Fishing Year Quota = 908.8 mt

NMFS considers the specifications approaches taken in 2011 through 2013 and proposed for 2014 as a transition from the method used for 2007 through 2010, as NMFS continues to develop Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP, which, among other things, would reallocate bluefin tuna quota among categories in a way to more accurately reflect annual fishery operations and needs while decreasing bycatch in the non-directed fisheries. Amendment 7 will address related bluefin tuna fishery management issues consistent with the need to end overfishing and rebuild the stock, including revisiting quota allocations; reducing and accounting for dead discards; adding or modifying time/area closures or gear-restricted areas; and improving the reporting and monitoring of dead discards and landings in all categories (78 FR 52032, August 21, 2013). NMFS anticipates publishing the Amendment 7 final rule in mid-2014, with implementation dates varying by topic.

NMFS will make any necessary adjustments to the 2014 specifications in the final rule after considering updated 2013 landings information, the final dead discard estimate for 2013, and public comments. For additional details on the range of possible outcomes resulting from updated 2013 landings and dead discard information, please see the proposed rule.

You may submit comments (identified by "NOAA-NMFS-2014-0008") through through May 5, 2014, by using any one of the following methods:
Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2014-0008, click the "Comment Now!" icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
Mail: Sarah McLaughlin, Highly Migratory Species Management Division, NMFS, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930

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 generally will 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.

NMFS will hold a public hearing conference call and webinar on April 16, 2014, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. EDT, to allow for an additional opportunity for interested members of the public from all geographic areas to submit verbal comments on the proposed quota specifications. To participate, dial 1-800-619-7481 and enter participant passcode 5246202. You are strongly encouraged to log/dial in 15 minutes prior to the meeting. NMFS will show a brief presentation via webinar followed by public comment. To join the webinar, go to
https://noaa-meets.webex.com/noaa-meets/j.php?MTID=m1c122efdcf020f0807ff335b43858362,
enter your name and email address, and click the JOIN button. If you have not used WebEx before, you will be prompted to download and run a plug-in program that will enable you to view the webinar.

This notice is a courtesy to fishery participants to help keep you informed about the fishery. Official notice of Federal fishery actions is made through filing such notice with the Office of the Federal Register. For further information, contact the HMS Management Division at (978) 281-9260.


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