NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comment on a proposed rule for the Gulf of Mexico reef fish fishery.The proposed rule published in the Federal Register on March 19, 2014 (79 FR 15287). The public comment period ends on April 18, 2014.

The rule proposes administrative revisions to the red snapper and grouper-tilefish Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) programs that would improve enforcement, administration, and monitoring of the programs and clarify existing regulatory requirements. The proposed rule would make numerous changes to requirements for landing notifications, offloading, landing transactions, and administrative changes. For detailed information on the proposed rule please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions on the NOAA Fisheries Web site.

The proposed rule includes changes to landing notifications which would:
• Allow allocation to be held in either a vessel account or the linked shareholder account at the time the landing notification is submitted.
• Extend the landing notification reporting window from 12 to 24 hours.
• Require that a vessel must land within 30 minutes after the time given in the landing notification, unless an authorized law enforcement officer has authorized a landing prior to the notification time.
o NOAA Fisheries is specifically interested in input from fishermen regarding if 30 minutes is a sufficient window of time to land after the time specified on the advance notice of landing. If it is not a sufficient window of time to land, NMFS is interested in knowing if 1 hour would be sufficient for landing.
 Specify that any changes to a landing notification (time of landing, landing location, dealer, or change in estimated pounds) would require a new landing notification which would supersede a previous notification.
 Allow vessels to land prior to a 3-hour notification if an authorized law enforcement officer is present at the landing site and authorizes the owner or operator of the vessel to land early.
The proposed rule includes changes to offloading which would:
• Authorize offloads beginning before 6 p.m. to continue after 6 p.m. if an authorized law enforcement officer is present and authorizes the offload to continue.
• Require vessels to offload IFQ species within 72 hours of landing.
• NOAA Fisheries is specifically interested in receiving input from fishermen and dealers regarding the sufficiency of the 72-hour allotted timeframe for completing an offload or whether 96 hours would be a better timeframe for completing an offload after landing.
The proposed rule includes changes to landing transactions which would:
• Prohibit the deduction of ice and water weight when reporting an IFQ landing transaction.
• Require a dealer to complete a landing transaction for IFQ species on the day of offload. The intent of this regulation is to improve the timeliness and accuracy of landing transactions.
The proposed rule includes administrative changes which would:
• Allow IFQ account holders to close an IFQ account by submitting a Close Account Form to NOAA Fisheries. Accounts would only be closed if they no longer hold shares and allocation, or a dealer account has paid all cost recovery fees. If an account holder is deceased, a death certificate would also need to be provided with the Close Account Form.
• Allow NOAA Fisheries IFQ Customer Service staff to close an IFQ account if no landing transactions or IFQ transfers have been completed by the IFQ account holder in at least 1 year.
• Clarify that fish must be sold to a federally permitted dealer and dealers must report all landings and their actual ex-vessel value via the IFQ online Web site. These regulations ensure all landings and sales of IFQ species are accounted for and fish are not kept by a captain and/or crew without first being reported.
• Clarify that a dealer may only receive IFQ fish that have a corresponding transaction approval code. This is intended to improve accountability of the IFQ species that are transported to a dealer by a vehicle or a trailered vessel.
• Remove a phrase stating NOAA Fisheries will “add other methods of complying with the advance notice of landing requirement” because NOAA Fisheries has already identified numerous methods for submitting landing notifications.
• Remove regulatory language that prevents dealers from completing a landing transaction if a landing notification is not submitted.
• Clarify and explicitly state that IFQ species must be landed at an approved landing location.
Request for comments
Written comments on this proposed rule must be received no later than April 18, 2014, to be considered by NOAA Fisheries. All comments received by NOAA Fisheries will be addressed in the final rule. Electronic copies of the proposed rule may be obtained from the NOAA Fisheries Web site
http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/lapp_dm or the e-Rule Making Portal http://www.regulations.gov.

How to submit comments
You may submit comments by any of the following methods:

• Electronic Submissions: To submit comments through the federal e-rulemaking portal: http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0122 and click the “Comment Now!” icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
• Mail: Submit written comments to Catherine Hayslip, NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office, Sustainable Fisheries Division, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701.
Instructions: Comments received through means not specified in this bulletin may not be considered by NOAA Fisheries. All comments received are part of the public record and will generally be posted to http://www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. NOAA Fisheries will accept anonymous comments. All comments received by NOAA Fisheries specific to the proposed rule will be addressed in the final rule.