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NOAA Fisheries Announces a Proposed Rule to Adjust the 2016 North and South Atlantic Swordfish Quotas

June 6, 2016

This proposed rule would adjust the 2016 annual North and South Atlantic swordfish quotas based on 2015 underharvests and international quota transfers and modify the annual quota adjustment public notice in certain circumstances.  International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) Recommendation 13-02 established a U. S. North Atlantic swordfish baseline quota of 2,937.6 mt dw and allows for quota underharvest from the previous year to be carried over in an amount not to exceed 15 percent of the baseline quota.  Additionally, the recommendation established an annual 18.8 mt dw quota transfer to Mauritania.  In 2015, U.S. fishermen landed 1,177.8 mt dw of North Atlantic swordfish as of December 31, 2015, leaving 2,181.6 mt dw of quota underharvest.  This underharvest exceeds the underharvest carryover limit, therefore, NMFS is proposing to carry forward 440.6 mt dw.  Thus, the proposed 2016 adjusted quota for North Atlantic swordfish is 3,359.4 mt dw.  

ICCAT Recommendation 13-03 established the U. S. South Atlantic swordfish baseline quota of 75.2 mt dw and allows for quota underharvest from the previous year to be carried over in an amount not to exceed 100 percent of the baseline quota.  In 2015, U.S. fishermen landed 0.0 mt dw of South Atlantic swordfish as of December 31, 2015.  The adjusted 2015 South Atlantic swordfish quota was 75.1 mt dw due to nominal landings in previous years.  Therefore, 75.1 mt dw of underharvest is available to carry over to 2016.  Additionally, the recommendation established the following annual quota transfers: 37.6 mt dw to Namibia, 18.8 mt dw to Côte d’Ivoire, and 18.8 mt dw to Belize.  Therefore, the proposed 2016 adjusted quota for South Atlantic swordfish is 75.1 mt dw.

North Atlantic Swordfish Quota (mt dw)

2015

2016

Baseline Quota

2,937.6

2,937.6

International Quota Transfer

(-)18.8 (to Mauritania)

(-)18.8 (to Mauritania)

Total Underharvest from Previous Year+

1,337.4

2,181.6

Underharvest Carryover from Previous Year+

(+) 440.6

(+) 440.6

Adjusted Quota

3,359.4

3,359.4

Quota Allocation Directed Category

3,009.4

3,009.4

Incidental Category

300

300

Reserve Category

50

50

South Atlantic Swordfish Quota (mt dw)

2015

2016

Baseline Quota

75.2

75.2

International Quota Transfers*

(-)75.2

(-)75.2

Total Underharvest from Previous Year+

75.1

75.1

Underharvest Carryover from Previous Year+

75.1

75.1

Adjusted quota

75.1

75.1

+ Allowable underharvest carryover is now capped at 15 percent of the baseline quota allocation for the North Atlantic and 75.2 dw (100 mt ww) for the South Atlantic.  The available 2014 and 2015 underharvests are based on data current as of December 31, 2015; they do not include dead discards, late reports, or changes to the data as a result of quality control adjustments.
* Under Recommendation 13-03, the United States transfers 75.2 mt dw (100 mt ww) annually to Namibia (37.6 mt dw, 50 mt ww), Côte d’Ivoire (18.8 mt dw, 25 mt ww), and Belize (18.8 mt dw, 25 mt ww).

This proposed rule also considers modifying the process through which NMFS annually adjusts the North and South Atlantic swordfish quotas when we are simply applying a previously-adopted formula to more appropriately reflect the administrative nature of these adjustments.  In the past, NMFS annually has published proposed quota specifications, allowed for a public comment period, and then issued a final rule.  We have done this whether we are adopting new quotas/otherwise altering conservation and management measures pursuant to an ICCAT recommendation or simply adjusting the swordfish quotas based on already-established and codified formulas or measures.  NMFS is considering modifying the regulations to specify that NMFS would not undertake notice and comment rulemaking when annual quota specifications simply follow a formula previously adopted through notice and comment rulemaking, as described in existing regulatory text.  

One conference call and webinar is currently scheduled to be held on June 29, 2016 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., EST.  To participate, dial 1 (888) 469-1171 and enter participant passcode 6508132.  You are strongly encouraged to log/dial in fifteen 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=mc0c72c596c13e8dde4e1d2edf8d8ebd2, event password: swGMiC3d.  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.  If you are interested in having NMFS hold additional public hearings or an additional call, please contact Steve Durkee (202-670-6637) by phone.

The comment period closes on July 7, 2016.  Written public comments can be submitted electronically, by mail, or by fax.  Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2016-0051, click the “Comment Now!” icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.  Submit written comments to Steve Durkee, NMFS/SF1, Room 13505, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910, please mark the outside of the envelope “Comments on the 2015 Atlantic Swordfish Specifications.”  

This notice is a courtesy to the Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) fishery participants to help keep you informed about the fishery. Official notice of Federal actions is made through filing such notice with the Office of Federal Register. For further information on this proposed rule, contact Steve Durkee at 202-670-6637.  Copies of the proposed rule are available upon request from the Highly Migratory Species Management Division, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910 (phone: 301-427-8503, fax: 301-713-1917).

 

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