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NOAA Fisheries Announces a Proposed Rule to Adjust Individual Bluefin Tuna Quota (IBQ) Program Regulations for Distribution of Inseason Quota Transfers; Request for Comments

September 23, 2016

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) proposes to modify the Atlantic highly migratory species (HMS) regulations to provide additional flexibility regarding the distribution of inseason Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) quota transfers to the Longline category. 

Specifically, this proposed rule would modify the regulations to specify that the distribution of BFT quota that NMFS transfers inseason  may be either to qualified IBQ share recipients (i.e., share recipients who have associated their permit with a vessel), or to permitted Atlantic Tunas Longline vessels with recent fishing activity as determined by logbook, vessel monitoring system (VMS), or electronic monitoring data from the subject and previous year indicating fishing activity with pelagic longline gear (e.g., for inseason transfers in 2016, NMFS would examine fishing activity data for 2015 and 2016 to determine if there was fishing activity during that period).    

This proposed action would not affect the annual IBQ allocation distributed at the beginning of each year to the qualified IBQ share recipients.   

Since implementation of Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS Fishery Management Plan (Amendment 7) began on January 1, 2015, NMFS has received requests (among other suggestions about the IBQ Program and management of the pelagic longline fishery) to distribute quota inseason only to those vessels that are currently fishing to optimize fishing opportunity and account for dead discards.  Providing quota inseason (through distribution of quota transferred from the Reserve category to the Longline category) to vessels with recent fishing activity would include some permitted vessels that are not associated with IBQ shares.  Such vessels may include new entrants to the fishery.  In July 2015 and January 2016, NMFS made inseason quota transfers from the Reserve to the Longline category.  In these inseason actions, NMFS distributed the transferred quota in equal amounts to all qualified IBQ share recipients, which included those with vessels actively fishing and those not actively fishing.  This proposed rule would provide the flexibility for NMFS to distribute BFT quota inseason either to all qualified IBQ share recipients or to permitted Atlantic Tunas Longline vessels with recent fishing activity.

Public Comment Requested

You may submit comments (identified by “NOAA-NMFS-2016-0067”) through October 26, 2016, by using any one of the following methods:

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).

Public Hearing/Webinar

NMFS will hold a public hearing conference call and webinar on October 4, 2016, from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time.  The public hearing conference call information is phone number (888) 455-5378; participant passcode 5816248. Participants 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://noaaevents3.webex.com/noaaevents3/onstage/g.php?MTID=e20e9f661ee7184823fb28b56cbf7d16f; meeting number: 993 144 732; password: NOAA. Participants who have not used WebEx before will be prompted to download and run a plug-in program that will enable them 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 Thomas Warren or Sarah McLaughlin at (978) 281-9260, or Carrie Soltanoff at (301) 427-8503.  This information will also be posted on the HMS website at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms.

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