Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Recreational Management Measures for the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fisheries; Fishing Year 2008, 15111-15118 [E8-5785]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 56 / Friday, March 21, 2008 / Proposed Rules (2) The operator of any vessel in the immediate vicinity of the regulated area shall: (i) Stop the vessel immediately when directed to do so by any Official Patrol and then proceed only as directed. (ii) All persons and vessels shall comply with the instructions of the Official Patrol. (3) Any spectator vessel may anchor outside of the regulated area specified in paragraph (a) of this section but may not block a navigable channel. (d) Enforcement period. (1) This section will be enforced from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on July 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18, 2008 and if the event’s daily activities should conclude prior to 6 p.m., enforcement of this proposed regulation may be terminated for that day at the discretion of the Patrol Commander. (2) The Coast Guard will publish a notice in the Fifth Coast Guard District Local Notice to Mariners and issue marine information broadcast on VHF– FM marine band radio announcing specific event dates and times. Dated: March 10, 2008. Fred M. Rosa, Jr., Rear Admiral, U.S. Coast Guard, Commander, Fifth Coast Guard District. [FR Doc. E8–5776 Filed 3–20–08; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910–15–P ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY 40 CFR Part 52 [EPA–R05–OAR–2006–0879; FRL–8533–9] Approval and Promulgation of Air Quality Implementation Plans; Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). ACTION: Proposed rule. yshivers on PROD1PC62 with PROPOSALS AGENCY: SUMMARY: EPA is proposing to approve revisions to the Ohio State Implementation Plan (SIP). On September 7, 2006, Ohio requested approval of revisions to its open burning standards. The revisions were made to clarify the open burning rules. Ohio added requirements for specific types of burning that were previously not addressed. The state also added or refined some of the definitions and slightly changed some of the existing rules. The revisions were made to increase clarity of Ohio’s open burning rules. DATES: Comments must be received on or before April 21, 2008. ADDRESSES: Submit your comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA–R05– VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:22 Mar 20, 2008 Jkt 214001 15111 OAR–2006–0879, by one of the following methods: 1. http://www.regulations.gov: Follow the online instructions for submitting comments. 2. E-mail: mooney.john@epa.gov. 3. Fax: (312) 886–5824. 4. Mail: John M. Mooney, Chief, Criteria Pollutant Section, Air Programs Branch (AR–18J), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 77 West Jackson Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois 60604. 5. Hand Delivery: John M. Mooney, Chief, Criteria Pollutant Section, Air Programs Branch (AR–18J), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 77 West Jackson Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois 60604. Such deliveries are only accepted during the Regional Office normal hours of operation, and special arrangements should be made for deliveries of boxed information. The Regional Office official hours of business are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. excluding Federal holidays. Please see the direct final rule which is located in the Rules section of this Federal Register for detailed instructions on how to submit comments. in the Rules section of this Federal Register. Matt Rau, Environmental Engineer, Criteria Pollutant Section, Air Programs Branch (AR–18J), Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5, 77 West Jackson Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois 60604, (312) 886–6524, rau.matthew@epa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: In the Final Rules section of this Federal Register, EPA is approving the State’s SIP submittal as a direct final rule without prior proposal because the Agency views this as a noncontroversial submittal and anticipates no adverse comments. A detailed rationale for the approval is set forth in the direct final rule. If no adverse comments are received in response to this rule, no further activity is contemplated. If EPA receives adverse comments, the direct final rule will be withdrawn and all public comments received will be addressed in a subsequent final rule based on this proposed rule. EPA will not institute a second comment period. Any parties interested in commenting on this action should do so at this time. Please note that if EPA receives adverse comment on an amendment, paragraph, or section of this rule and if that provision may be severed from the remainder of the rule, EPA may adopt as final those provisions of the rule that are not the subject of an adverse comment. For additional information, see the direct final rule which is located SUMMARY: NMFS proposes management measures for the 2008 summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass recreational fisheries. The implementing regulations for these fisheries require NMFS to publish recreational measures for the fishing year and to provide an opportunity for public comment. The intent of these measures is to prevent overfishing of the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass resources. DATES: Comments must be received by 5 p.m. local time, on April 21, 2008. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by RIN 0648–AV41, by any one of the following methods: • Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal http:// www.regulations.gov. • Mail and hand delivery: Patricia A. Kurkul, Regional Administrator, NMFS, Northeast Regional Office, One Blackburn Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the envelope: ‘‘Comments on 2008 Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Recreational Measures.’’ • Fax: (978) 281–9135. Send the fax to the attention of the Sustainable Fisheries Division. Include ‘‘Comments on 2008 Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Recreational Measures’’ prominently on the fax. Instructions: All comments received are a part of the public record and will FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Dated: February 15, 2008. Bharat Mathur, Acting Regional Administrator, Region 5. [FR Doc. E8–5668 Filed 3–20–08; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6560–50–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 070717341–8250–01] RIN 0648–AV41 Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Recreational Management Measures for the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fisheries; Fishing Year 2008 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 15112 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 56 / Friday, March 21, 2008 / Proposed Rules generally be posted to http:// www.regulations.gov without change. All Personal Identifying Information (for example, name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit Confidential Business Information or otherwise sensitive or protected information. NMFS will accept anonymous comments. Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only. Copies of the specifications document, including the Environmental Assessment, Regulatory Impact Review, and Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (EA/RIR/IRFA) and other supporting documents for the specifications are available from Daniel Furlong, Executive Director, MidAtlantic Fishery Management Council, Room 2115, Federal Building, 300 South Street, Dover, DE 19901–6790. These documents are also accessible via the Internet at http://www.nero.noaa.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Michael Ruccio, Fishery Policy Analyst, (978) 281–9104. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: yshivers on PROD1PC62 with PROPOSALS Background The summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries are managed cooperatively under the provisions of the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan (FMP) developed by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (Commission), in consultation with the New England and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils. The management units specified in the FMP include summer flounder (Paralichthys dentatus) in U.S. waters of the Atlantic Ocean from the southern border of North Carolina (NC) northward to the U.S./Canada border, and scup (Stenotomus chrysops) and black sea bass (Centropristis striata) in U.S. waters of the Atlantic Ocean from 35°13.3′ N. lat. (the latitude of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Buxton, NC) northward to the U.S./Canada border. The Council prepared the FMP under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Regulations implementing the FMP appear at 50 CFR part 648, subparts A (general provisions), G (summer flounder), H (scup), and I (black sea bass). General regulations governing U.S. fisheries also appear at 50 CFR part 600. States manage summer flounder within 3 nautical miles of their VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:22 Mar 20, 2008 Jkt 214001 coasts, under the Commission’s plan for summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass. The Federal regulations govern vessels fishing in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), as well as vessels possessing a Federal fisheries permit, regardless of where they fish. The FMP established Monitoring Committees (Committees) for the three fisheries, consisting of representatives from the Commission; the Mid-Atlantic, New England, and South Atlantic Councils; and NMFS. The FMP and its implementing regulations require the Committees to review scientific and other relevant information annually and to recommend management measures necessary to achieve the recreational harvest limits established for the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries for the upcoming fishing year. The FMP limits these measures to minimum fish size, possession limit, and fishing season. The Council’s Demersal Species Committee and the Commission’s Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Management Board (Board) then consider the Committees’ recommendations and any public comment in making their recommendations to the Council and the Commission, respectively. The Council then reviews the recommendations of the Demersal Species Committee, makes its own recommendations, and forwards them to NMFS for review. The Commission similarly adopts recommendations for the states. NMFS is required to review the Council’s recommendations to ensure that they are consistent with the targets specified for each species in the FMP. Quota specifications for the 2008 summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries were published on December 31, 2007 (72 FR 74197). Based on these specifications, the 2008 coastwide recreational harvest limits are 6,215,800 lb (2,819 mt) for summer flounder, 1,830,920 lb (830 mt) for scup, and 2,108,447 lb (956 mt) for black sea bass. The specification rules did not establish recreational measures, since final recreational catch data for 2007 were not available when the Council made its recreational harvest limit recommendation to NMFS. All minimum fish sizes discussed hereafter are total length measurements of the fish, i.e., the straight-line distance from the tip of the snout to the end of the tail while the fish is lying on its side. For black sea bass, total length measurement does not include the caudal fin tendril. All possession limits discussed below are per person. PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Summer Flounder Recreational landings for 2007 were estimated to have been 9.30 million lb (4,218 mt). This exceeded, by approximately 38 percent, the 2007 recreational harvest limit of 6.69 million lb (3,034 mt). All states except MA and VA are projected to have exceeded their state harvest limits established under the conservation equivalency system utilized to manage the 2007 recreational summer flounder fishery. The magnitude of the overages ranged from a low of 16 percent for CT to a high of 49 percent for MD. The 2008 coastwide harvest limit is 6,215,800 lb (2,819 mt), a 9.2-percent decrease from the 2007 harvest limit of 6,689,004 lb (3,034 mt). Given the 2007 overages and reduction in available harvest for 2008, landings must be reduced by 33.2-percent coastwide from the 2007 levels to ensure that the 2008 harvest limit is not exceeded. The Council is recommending conservation equivalency, described as follows, that would require individual states to reduce summer flounder landings (measured in number of fish) to achieve the necessary recreational harvest reductions for 2008. NMFS implemented Framework Adjustment 2 to the FMP (Framework Adjustment 2) on July 29, 2001 (66 FR 36208), which established a process that makes conservation equivalency an option for the summer flounder recreational fishery. Conservation equivalency allows each state to establish its own recreational management measures (possession limits, minimum fish size, and fishing seasons) to achieve its state harvest limit, as long as the combined effect of all of the states’ management measures achieves the same level of conservation as would Federal coastwide measures developed to achieve the overall recreational harvest limit, if implemented by all of the states. The Council and Board recommend annually that either state-specific recreational measures be developed (conservation equivalency) or coastwide management measures be implemented by all states to ensure that the recreational harvest limit will not be exceeded. Even when the Council and Board recommend conservation equivalency, the Council must specify a set of coastwide measures that would apply if conservation equivalency is not approved. If conservation equivalency is recommended, and following confirmation that the proposed state measures would achieve conservation equivalency, NMFS may waive the E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 yshivers on PROD1PC62 with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 56 / Friday, March 21, 2008 / Proposed Rules permit condition found at § 648.4(b), which requires federally permitted vessels to comply with the more restrictive management measures when state and Federal measures differ. In such a situation, federally permitted charter/party permit holders and recreational vessels fishing for summer flounder in the EEZ would then be subject to the recreational fishing measures implemented by the state in which they land summer flounder, rather than the coastwide measures. In addition, the Council and the Board must recommend precautionary default measures. The Commission would require adoption of the precautionary default measures by any state that either does not submit a summer flounder management proposal to the Commission’s Summer Flounder Technical Committee (Technical Committee), or that submits measures that are determined not to achieve the required level of reduction for that state. The precautionary default measures are defined as the set of measures that would achieve at least the highest percent reduction for any state on a coastwide basis. In December 2007, the Council and Board voted to recommend conservation equivalency to achieve the 2008 recreational harvest limit. The Commission’s conservation equivalency guidelines require the states to determine and implement appropriate state-specific management measures (i.e., possession limits, fish size limits, and fishing seasons) to achieve statespecific harvest limits. States’ may also form voluntary regions wherein the member states’ measures must achieve the overall reduction required for the region in question. For 2008, at the request of NMFS, and under the direction of the Council and Commission, the Technical Committee developed additional guidance for states to utilize to improve the effectiveness of conservation equivalency in 2008. The Technical Committee assessed the performance, as measured by the effectiveness of state measures in constraining landings to the annual recreational harvest limits, for each state’s conservation equivalency measures during the period of 2001 through 2007. Based on the average individual state overage during the 2001–2007 time frame, the Technical Committee crafted a performance-based adjustment to be applied to further increase the percent reduction some states must achieve in 2008. States assigned this additional reduction had an average net overage relative to their respective harvest targets for the 2001– 2007 time frame. VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:22 Mar 20, 2008 Jkt 214001 Under the conservation equivalent approach, each state may implement unique management measures appropriate to that state, so long as these measures are determined by the Commission to provide equivalent conservation as would Federal coastwide measures. For 2008, the Commission is requiring that states also reduce landings by an additional performance-based adjustment, as developed by the Technical Committee, to achieve the overall recreational harvest limit in an effort to ensure that recreational overages will not occur in 2008. According to the conservation equivalency procedures established in Framework Adjustment 2, each state except MA would be required to reduce 2008 landings by the percentages shown in Table 1. In addition, the states of RI, CT, NY, NJ, and VA are required by the Commission to further reduce landings by the Technical Committee’s performance-based adjustment factor shown in Table 1, resulting in a final higher total level of reduction for 2008. MA may submit more liberal management measures, provided that they are sufficient to ensure its 2008 state harvest limit is not exceeded. ME and NH have no recreational summer flounder harvest limit and are not required to submit management measures to the Commission. TABLE 1. 2008 CONSERVATION EQUIVALENCY STATE-SPECIFIC HARVEST TARGETS (THOUSANDS OF FISH), INITIAL PERCENT REDUCTIONS, COMMISSION REQUIRED PERFORMANCE-BASED ADJUSTMENTS, AND FINAL PERCENT REDUCTIONS. MA RI CT NY NJ DE MD VA NC Commission Performance Based Reduction Factor Final Percent Reduction Required by Commission 113 116 77 361 801 64 61 342 115 State 2008 Target (X ’000 fish) Initial Percent Reduction Required under Framework Adjustment 2 to the FMP 0 47.5 28.7 45.9 39.2 41.8 56.7 13.9 34.3 0 7.8 1.9 33.6 4.3 0.0 0.0 8.9 0.0 0 51.6 30.1 64.0 41.8 41.8 56.7 21.5 34.2 The Board required that each state submit its conservation equivalency proposals to the Commission by late PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 15113 January 2008. The Technical Committee then evaluated the proposals and advised the Board of each proposal’s consistency with respect to achieving the coastwide recreational harvest limit. The Commission invited public participation in its review process by allowing public comment on the state proposals at the Technical Committee meeting held on January 29, 2008. The Board met on February 7, 2008, and approved a range of management proposals for each state designed to attain conservation equivalency. Once the states select and submit their final summer flounder management measures to the Commission, the Commission will notify NMFS as to which individual state proposals have been approved or disapproved. NMFS retains the final authority either to approve or to disapprove using conservation equivalency in place of the coastwide measures and will publish its determination as a final rule in the Federal Register to establish the 2008 recreational measures for these fisheries. States that do not submit conservation equivalency proposals, or whose proposals are disapproved by the Commission, will be required by the Commission to adopt the precautionary default measures. In the case of states that are initially assigned precautionary default measures, but subsequently receive Commission approval of revised state measures, NMFS will publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing a waiver of the permit condition at § 648.4(b). The suite of state proposals for 2008, consistent with the Technical Committee’s performancebased adjustment procedures, have initially been approved by the Commission. Therefore, a state would only be required to implement precautionary default measures if the measures submitted for final Commission approval are different than those preliminarily approved by the Commission or for failing to finalize conservation equivalent measures for 2008. The precautionary default measures initially recommended by the Council and Board during their joint December 2008 meeting were for a 20.0-inch (50.80-cm) minimum fish size, a possession limit of two fish, and an open season of May 23 through September 1, 2008. Since the December 2007, the Technical Committee developed the previously discussed performance-based adjustment in response to a joint Council and Commission motion designed to improve the performance of conservation equivalency. This resulted in the precautionary default measures E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 yshivers on PROD1PC62 with PROPOSALS 15114 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 56 / Friday, March 21, 2008 / Proposed Rules initially proposed by the Council and Commission to be less restrictive than measures that some states would be required to implement under the performance-based adjustment. To rectify this situation, the Board voted in February 2008 to implement a modified precautionary default consisting of a 20.0-inch (50.80-cm) minimum fish size, a possession limit of two fish, and an open season of July 4 through September 1, 2008, to ensure that the necessary level of reduction for all states would occur in the event that precautionary default measures are assigned to any state for 2008. NMFS finds this modification to the precautionary default measures (i.e., reduction in fishing season) to be consistent with Framework Adjustment 2 that established the precautionary default reduction requirements, and therefore proposes to implement the modified precautionary default measures adopted by the Board and Commission: A 20.0-inch (50.80-cm) minimum fish size, a two fish possession limit, and an open season of July 4 through September 1, 2008. As described above, for each fishing year, NMFS implements either coastwide measures or conservation equivalent measures at the final rule stage. The coastwide measures recommended by the Council and Board for 2008 are a 19-inch (48.26-cm) minimum fish size, a possession limit of three fish, and an open season from May 23 to September 1, 2008. Supplemental analysis conducted by NMFS using the upper bound of the 2007 Marine Recreational Fishery Statistics Survey (MRFSS) harvest estimates and factoring in potential diminished effectiveness of regulations based on noncompliance in 2007 demonstrates that these coastwide measures, as proposed by the Council and Board, may not effectively constrain landings to the 2008 recreational harvest limit if implemented instead of conservation equivalency. In this action, NMFS proposes to modify the Council and Board’s recommended possession limit from a three fish to a two fish limit. The change in possession limit, while retaining the Council and Board recommended minimum fish size and fishing season, would be expected to constrain landings to the overall recreational harvest. These modified coastwide measures would be waived if conservation equivalency is approved in the final rule. Scup The 2008 scup recreational harvest limit is lb 1,830,920 lb (830 mt), roughly a 33-percent decrease from the 2007 recreational harvest limit of 2.74 million VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:22 Mar 20, 2008 Jkt 214001 lb (1,240 mt). Fishing year 2008 is year 1 of the scup rebuilding plan implemented by Amendment 14 to the FMP (July 23, 2007; 72 FR 40077). The substantial reduction in the 2008 recreational harvest limit is largely a result of a necessary reduction in exploitation on the scup stock consistent with this recently enacted management plan designed to rebuild the scup resource from an overfished condition. Recreational landings in 2007 were estimated to have been 3.80 million lb (1,723 mt). A coastwide reduction in landings of 51.8 percent is required to achieve the 2008 recreational harvest limit for scup. The 2008 scup recreational fishery will be managed under separate regulations for state and Federal waters; the Federal measures would apply to party/charter vessels with Federal permits and other vessels subject to the possession limit that fish in the EEZ. In Federal waters, to achieve the 2008 target, NMFS proposes coastwide management measures of a 10.5-inch (26.67-cm) minimum fish size, a 15-fish possession limit, and open seasons of January 1 through February 29, and October 1 through October 31, as recommended by the Council. As has occurred in the past 6 years, the scup fishery in state waters will be managed under a regional conservation equivalency system developed through the Commission. Addendum XI to the Interstate FMP (Addendum XI), approved by the Board at the January 2004 Council/Commission meeting, requires that the states of MA through NY each develop state-specific management measures to constrain their landings to an annual harvest level for this region in number of fish (approximately 1.7 million fish for 2008), through a combination of minimum fish size, possession limits, and seasonal closures. Because the Federal FMP does not contain provisions for conservation equivalency, and states may adopt their own unique measures under Addendum XI, the Federal and state recreational scup management measures will differ for 2008. At the February 7, 2008, meeting, the Board approved a regional management proposal for MA through NY that would allow different minimum fish sizes, possession limits, and fishing seasons for private vessels/shore based anglers and party/charter vessels. For this northern conservation equivalency area, the Board retained a minimum fish size of 10.5 inches (26.7 cm), a common possession limit (10 fish), and a May 24 through September 26 fishing season for private vessels and shore-based anglers; PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 party and charter vessels may take scup for up to 126 days under two distinct seasons with separate minimum fish sizes, possession limits and seasons. One charter/party season, designated as ‘‘bonus fishery’’ has a minimum fish size of 11.0 inches (27.94 cm), a 45-fish possession limit, and is constrained to a 45-day period within May 15 through October 15. The second party/charter season designation is the ‘‘non-bonus fishery’’ which carries an 11.0-inch (27.94 cm) minimum fish size, a 10-fish possession limit, and is 81 days in duration either prior to or following the dates of the open season. Due to low scup landings in NJ through NC, the Board approved the retention of status quo management measures for those states, i.e., a 10-inch (25.40-cm) minimum fish size, a 50-fish possession limit, and open seasons of January 1 through February 29 and September 18 through November 30. Black Sea Bass Recreational landings in 2007 were estimated to have been 1.97 million lb (890 mt)—20 percent below the 2007 target of 2.47 million lb (1,120 mt) and 7 percent below the 2008 target of 2.11 million lb (957 mt). The 2008 recreational harvest limit of 2.11 million lb (957 mt) is a 14.6-percent decrease from the 2007 target. Based on 2007 landings, no reduction in landings is necessary to achieve the 2008 target. For Federal waters, the Council and Board have approved measures that would maintain the 25-fish possession limit, the 12-inch (30.48-cm) minimum size, and open season of January 1 through December 31. NMFS proposes to maintain these measures, which are expected to constrain recreational black sea bass landings to the 2008 target. Classification Pursuant to section 304 (b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS Acting Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is consistent with the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass FMP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, subject to further consideration after public comment. This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. An IRFA was prepared, as required by section 603 of the RFA. The IRFA describes the economic impact this proposed rule, if adopted, would have on small entities. A description of the action, why it is being considered, and the legal basis for this action are contained at the beginning of this E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 yshivers on PROD1PC62 with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 56 / Friday, March 21, 2008 / Proposed Rules section of the preamble and in the SUMMARY section of the preamble. A summary of the analysis follows. A copy of the complete IRFA is available from the Council (see ADDRESSES). This proposed rule does not duplicate, overlap, or conflict with other Federal rules. The proposed action could affect any recreational angler who fishes for summer flounder, scup, or black sea bass in the EEZ or on a party/ charter vessel issued a Federal permit for summer flounder, scup, and/or black sea bass. However, the IRFA focuses upon the impacts on party/charter vessels issued a Federal permit for summer flounder, scup, and/or black sea bass because these vessels are considered small business entities for the purposes of the RFA, i.e., businesses in the recreational fishery with gross revenues of up to $6.5 million. These small entities can be specifically identified in the Federal vessel permit database and would be impacted by the recreational measures, regardless of whether they fish in Federal or state waters. Although individual recreational anglers are likely to be impacted, they are not considered small entities under the RFA. Also, there is no permit requirement to participate in these fisheries; thus, it would be difficult to quantify any impacts on recreational anglers in general. The Council estimated that the proposed measures could affect any of the 919 vessels possessing a Federal charter/party permit for summer flounder, scup, and/or black sea bass in 2006, the most recent year for which complete permit data are available. However, only 369 of these vessels reported active participation in the recreational summer flounder, scup, and/or black sea bass fisheries in 2006. In the IRFA, the no-action alternative (i.e., maintenance of the regulations as codified) is defined as implementation of the following: (1) For summer flounder, coastwide measures of a 19inch (48.26-cm) minimum fish size, a 2fish possession limit, and a season from May 23 through September 1, i.e., the Federal regulatory measure that would be implemented if conservation equivalency is not implemented in the final rule; (2) for scup, a 10-inch (25.40cm) minimum fish size, a 50-fish possession limit, and open seasons of January 1 through February 28, and September 18 through November 30; and (3) for black sea bass, a 12-inch (30.48-cm) minimum size, a 25-fish possession limit, and an open season of January 1 through December 31. The no-action alternative for black sea bass is the same (status quo) set of measures being proposed for 2008. VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:22 Mar 20, 2008 Jkt 214001 Landings of black sea bass in 2007 was less than the 2008 target and the status quo measures are expected to constrain landings to the 2008 target. As such, since there is no regulatory change being proposed for black sea bass, there is no further discussion of the economic impacts within this section. The impacts of the proposed action on small entities (i.e., federally permitted party/charter vessels in each state in the Northeast region) was analyzed, assessing potential changes in gross revenues for all 18 combinations of alternatives proposed. Although NMFS’s RFA guidance recommends assessing changes in profitability as a result of proposed measures, the quantitative impacts were instead evaluated using changes in party/charter vessel revenues as a proxy for profitability. This is because reliable cost and revenue information are not available for charter/party vessels at this time. Without reliable cost and revenue data, profits cannot be discriminated from gross revenues. As reliable cost data become available, impacts to profitability can be more accurately forecast. Similarly, changes to long-term solvency were not assessed due both to the absence of cost data and because the recreational management measures change annually according to the specification-setting process. Effects of the various management measures were analyzed by employing quantitative approaches, to the extent possible. Where quantitative data were not available, the qualitative analyses were utilized. Management measures proposed under the summer flounder conservation equivalency alternative (Summer Flounder Alternative 1) have yet to be adopted; therefore, potential losses under this alternative could not be analyzed in conjunction with various alternatives proposed for scup and black sea bass. Since conservation equivalency allows each state to tailor specific recreational fishing measures to the needs of that state, while still achieving conservation goals, it is likely that the measures developed under this alternative, when considered in combination with the measures proposed for scup and black sea bass, would have fewer overall adverse effects than any of the other combinations that were analyzed. Impacts for other combinations of alternatives were examined by first estimating the number of angler trips aboard party/charter vessels in each state in 2007 that would have been affected by the proposed 2008 management measures. All 2007 party/ charter fishing trips that would have PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 15115 been constrained by the proposed 2008 measures in each state were considered to be affected trips. MRFSS data indicate that anglers took 38.70 million fishing trips in 2007 in the Northeastern U.S., and that party/charter anglers accounted for 4.7 percent of the angler fishing trips, private/rental boat trips accounted for 52.5 percent of angler fishing trips, and shore trips accounted for 42.8 percent of recreational angler fishing trips. The number of party/ charter trips in each state ranged from 23,542 in DE to 508,259 in NJ. There is very little empirical evidence available to estimate how the party/ charter vessel anglers might be affected by the proposed fishing regulations. If the proposed measures discourage triptaking behavior among some of the affected anglers, economic losses may accrue to the party/charter vessel industry in the form of reduced access fees. On the other hand, if the proposed measures do not have a negative impact on the value or satisfaction the affected anglers derive from their fishing trips, party/charter revenues would remain unaffected by this action. In an attempt to estimate the potential changes in gross revenues to the party/charter vessel industry in each state, two hypothetical scenarios were considered: A 25-percent reduction, and a 50percent reduction, in the number of fishing trips that are predicted to be affected by implementation of the management measures in the northeast (ME through NC) in 2008. Total economic losses to party/charter vessels were then estimated by multiplying the number of potentially affected trips in each state in 2008, under the two hypothetical scenarios, by the estimated average access fee of $41.321 paid by party/charter anglers in the northeast in 2007. Finally, total economic losses were divided by the number of federally permitted party/ charter vessels that participated in the summer flounder fisheries in 2006 in each state (according to homeport state in the Northeast Region Permit Database) to obtain an estimate of the average projected gross revenue loss per party/charter vessel in 2008. The analysis assumed that angler effort and catch rates in 2008 will be similar to 2007. The Council noted that this method is likely to overestimate the potential revenue losses that would result from implementation of the proposed coastwide measures in these three fisheries for several reasons. First, the 1 1998 party/charter average expenditure estimate adjusted to 2007 equivalent using Bureau of Labor’s Consumer Price Index. E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 15116 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 56 / Friday, March 21, 2008 / Proposed Rules yshivers on PROD1PC62 with PROPOSALS analysis likely overestimates the potential revenue impacts of these measures because some anglers would continue to take party/charter vessel trips, even if the restrictions limit their landings. Also, some anglers may engage in catch and release fishing and/ or target other species. It was not possible to estimate the sensitivity of anglers to specific management measures. Second, the universe of party/ charter vessels that participate in the fisheries is likely to be even larger than presented in these analyses, as party/ charter vessels that do not possess a Federal summer flounder, scup, or black sea bass permit because they fish only in state waters are not represented in the analyses. Considering the large proportion of landings from state waters (e.g., more than 91 percent of summer flounder and 94 percent of scup landings in 2006, respectively), it is probable that some party/charter vessels fish only in state waters and, thus, do not hold Federal permits for these fisheries. Third, economic losses are estimated under two hypothetical scenarios: (1) A 25 percent and (2) a 50 percent reduction in the number of fishing trips that are predicted to be affected by implementation of the management measures in the Northeast in 2008. Reductions in fishing effort of this magnitude in 2008 are not likely to occur given the fact that the proposed measures do not prohibit anglers from keeping at least some of the fish they catch or the fact that there are alternative species to harvest. Again, it is likely that at least some of the potentially affected anglers would not reduce their effort when faced with the proposed landings restrictions, thereby contributing to the potential overestimation of potential impacts for 2008. Impacts of Summer Flounder Alternatives The proposed action for the summer flounder recreational fishery would limit coastwide catch to 6.21 million lb (2,817 mt) by imposing coastwide Federal measures throughout the EEZ. As described earlier, upon confirmation that the proposed state measures would achieve conservation equivalency, NMFS may waive the permit condition found at § 648.4(b), which requires federally permitted vessels to comply with the more restrictive management measures when state and Federal measures differ. Federally permitted charter/party permit holders and recreational vessels fishing for summer flounder in the EEZ then would be subject to the recreational fishing measures implemented by the state in VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:22 Mar 20, 2008 Jkt 214001 which they land summer flounder, rather than the coastwide measures. The impact of the proposed summer flounder conservation equivalency alternative (in Summer Flounder Alternative 1) among states is likely to be similar to the level of landings reductions that are required of each state. As indicated above, each state except MA would be required to reduce summer flounder landings in 2008, relative to state 2007 landings, by the percentages shown in Table 1 of the preamble of this proposed rule. If the preferred conservation equivalency alternative is effective at achieving the recreational harvest limit, then it is likely to be the only alternative that minimizes adverse economic impacts, to the extent practicable, yet achieves the biological objectives of the FMP. Because states have a choice, it is expected that the states would adopt conservation equivalent measures that result in fewer adverse economic impacts than the more restrictive Commission adopted, NMFS proposed precautionary default measures (i.e., 20.0-inch (50.80-cm) minimum fish size, a possession limit of two fish, and an open season of July 4 through September 1). Under the precautionary default measures, impacted trips are defined as trips taken in 2007 that landed at least two summer flounder smaller than 20.0 inches (50.80 cm) or landed summer flounder during closed seasons. The analysis concluded that implementation of precautionary default measures could affect 4.28 percent of the party/charter vessel trips in the Northeast, including those trips where no summer flounder were caught. The impacts of the NMFS proposed summer flounder coastwide alternative, i.e., a 19-inch (48.26-cm) minimum fish size, a two-fish possession limit, and a fishing season from May 23 through September 1, were evaluated using the quantitative method described above. Impacted trips were defined as individual angler trips taken aboard party/charter vessels in 2007 that landed at least one summer flounder smaller than 19 inches (48.26 cm), that landed more than 2 summer flounder, or landed summer flounder during closed seasons. The analysis concluded that the measures would affect 1.34 percent of the party/charter vessel trips in the Northeast, including those trips where no summer flounder were caught. Continuation of the current regulatory summer flounder coastwide management measures (i.e., an 18.5-inch (46.99-cm) minimum fish size, 4-fish possession limit, and year-round season) is not expected to constrain 2008 landings to the recreational harvest PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 limit; therefore, continuation of those measures would be inconsistent with the summer flounder rebuilding program, the FMP, and the MagnusonStevens Act. Impacts of Scup Alternatives The proposed action for the scup recreational fishery would limit coastwide catch to 1.83 million lb (830 mt) by imposing coastwide Federal measures throughout the EEZ. As described earlier in the preamble, a conservation equivalent program is utilized by the Commission to manage state waters. Federally permitted charter/party permit holders and recreational vessels fishing for summer flounder in the EEZ then would be subject to the recreational fishing measures implemented by NMFS; charter/party vessels participating solely in state waters would be subject to the provisions adopted by the Commission; vessels participating in both state and Federal waters would be subject to the most restrictive of the two measures implemented to manage the 2008 scup recreational fishery. The impact of the Council and Commission preferred scup alternative (Scup Alternative 1; a 10.5-inch (26.67cm) minimum fish size, a 15-fish per person possession limit, and open seasons of January 1 through February 29 and October 1 through October 31) would reduce scup landings in 2008 by 53.2 percent from 2007 levels. Impacted trips were defined as trips taken in 2007 that landed at least one scup smaller than 10.5 inches (26.67 cm), landed more than 15 scup during the closed seasons (March 1 through September 30 and November 1 through December 31). Analysis concluded that 3.95 percent of Federally permitted party/charter vessel trips could be impacted by this alternative. The impacts of the non-preferred scup coastwide alternative (Scup Alternative 2; 10.5-inch (26.67-cm) minimum fish size, 15-fish per person possession limit, and open seasons of January 1 through February 29 and October 1 through October 15) would reduce landings in 2008 by 60.5 percent from 2007 levels. Impacted trips were defined as trips taken in 2007 that landed at least one scup smaller than the minimum fish size, more than the possession limit, or during the closed season. The analysis concluded that this alternative could impact 4.13 percent of Federally permitted party/charter vessel trips in 2008, if implemented. Scup Alternative 3 (status quo) measures are not expected to constrain landings to the 2008 recreational harvest limit and are therefore, inconsistent E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 56 / Friday, March 21, 2008 / Proposed Rules yshivers on PROD1PC62 with PROPOSALS with the current scup rebuilding plan, the FMP, and the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Combined Impacts of Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Alternatives Since the state-specific management measures under Summer Flounder Alternative 1 (i.e., conservation equivalency) have yet to be adopted, the effort effects of this alternative could not be analyzed in conjunction with the alternatives proposed for scup and black sea bass. The percent of total party/ charter boat trips in the northeast that are estimated to be affected by the proposed actions ranges from a low of 4.59 percent for the combination of measures proposed under summer flounder alternative 2, scup alternative 3, and black sea bass alternative 2 (Table 45 Initial Specifications) to 8.90 percent for the measures proposed under the NMFS summer flounder precautionary default combined with scup alternative 2 and black sea bass alternative 3. Regionally, Federally permitted party/ charter revenue losses in 2008 range from $2.90 million to $5.14 million in sales, $1.06 million to $1.88 million in income, and between 28 and 50 jobs if a 25-percent reduction in the number of affected trips occurs. The estimated losses are approximately twice as high if a 50-percent reduction in affected trips is assumed to occur. Potential revenue losses in 2008 could differ for Federally permitted party/ charter vessels that land more than one of the regulated species. The cumulative maximum gross revenue loss per vessel varies by the combination of permits held and by state. All 18 potential combinations of management alternatives for summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass are predicted to affect party/charter vessel revenues to some extent in all of the northeastern coastal states. Although potential losses were estimated for party/charter vessels operating out of Maine and New Hampshire, these results are suppressed for confidentiality purposes. Average party/charter losses for federally permitted vessels operating in the remaining states are estimated to vary across the 18 combinations of alternatives. For example, in North Carolina, average losses are predicted to range from a high of $14,330 per vessel under the combined effects of summer flounder precautionary default measures (considered under alternative 1), Scup Alternatives 1 or 2, and Black Sea Bass Alternatives 1 or 3 management measures, to a low of $7,734 per vessel under the combined effects of Summer Flounder Alternative 2, Scup VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:22 Mar 20, 2008 Jkt 214001 Alternative 3, and Black Sea Bass Alternative 2 management measures, assuming a 25-percent reduction in effort, as described above. Average gross revenue losses per vessel under each of the 36 combinations of alternatives were generally highest in North Carolina followed by Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Virginia, Connecticut, Maryland and then Delaware. Summary The recreational harvest limits for summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass are 7.2-, 33.6-, and 14.6-percent lower than the adjusted recreational harvest limits for year 2007. In addition, the 2007 summer flounder recreational fishery exceeded the recreational harvest limit by 37.8 percent. As a result, the proposed recreational management measures for summer flounder are likely to be more restrictive for 2008 (i.e., either larger minimum fish size, lower possession limits, and/ or shorter fishing seasons) under the proposed conservation equivalency system (Summer Flounder Alternative 1) than those in place in 2007 given the combined effects of a reduced TAL and exceeding the previous year recreational harvest limit. The proposed measures for scup are more restrictive than the measures in place for 2008. The proposed black sea bass measures are status quo, despite decreases to the overall 2008 black sea bass TAL. The proposed management measures, or management system in the case of conservation equivalency, were chosen because they allow for the maximum level of recreational landings, while allowing the NMFS to meet its legal requirements under the MagnusonStevens Act while achieving the objectives of the FMP. Summer flounder conservation equivalency permits states to implement management measures tailored, to some degree, to meet the needs of their individual recreational fishery participants, provided the level of reduction is equal to the overall reduction needed coastwide, consistent with Framework Adjustment 2 to the FMP. The scup management measures were selected as they are projected to permit the maximum amount of landings under the 2008 recreational harvest limit that complies with the fishing mortality objective outlined in the scup rebuilding plan of Amendment 14 to the FMP. As no reduction in landing levels from 2007 levels is required for black sea bass, the status quo measures are proposed for 2008. There are no new reporting or recordkeeping requirements contained PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 15117 in any of the alternatives considered for this action. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648 Fisheries, Fishing, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements. Dated: March 17, 2008 James W. Balsiger, Acting Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 648 is proposed to be amended as follows: PART 648—FISHERIES OF THE NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES 1. The authority citation for part 648 continues to read as follows: Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. 2. In § 648.102, the first sentence is revised to read as follows: § 648.102 Time restrictions. Unless otherwise specified pursuant to § 648.107, vessels that are not eligible for a moratorium permit under § 648.4(a)(3) and fishermen subject to the possession limit may fish for summer flounder from May 23 through September 1. * * * * * * * * 3. In § 648.103, paragraph (b) is revised to read as follows: § 648.103 Minimum fish sizes. * * * * * (b) Unless otherwise specified pursuant to § 648.107, the minimum size for summer flounder is 19-inch (48.26-cm) TL for all vessels that do not qualify for a moratorium permit, and charter boats holding a moratorium permit if fishing with more than three crew members, or party boats holding a moratorium permit if fishing with passengers for hire or carrying more than five crew members. * * * * * 4. In § 648.105, the first sentence of paragraph (a) is revised to read as follows: § 648.105 Possession restrictions. * * * * * (a) Unless otherwise specified pursuant to § 648.107, no person shall possess more than two summer flounder in, or harvested from, the EEZ, unless that person is the owner or operator of a fishing vessel issued a summer flounder moratorium permit, or is issued a summer flounder dealer permit. *** * * * * * 5. In § 648.107, paragraph (a) introductory text and paragraph (b) are revised to read as follows: E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 15118 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 56 / Friday, March 21, 2008 / Proposed Rules § 648.107 Conservation equivalent measures for the summer flounder fishery. (a) The Regional Administrator has determined that the recreational fishing measures proposed to be implemented by Massachusetts through North Carolina for 2008 are the conservation equivalent of the season, minimum fish size, and possession limit prescribed in §§ 648.102, 648.103, and 648.105(a), respectively. This determination is based on a recommendation from the Summer Flounder Board of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. * * * * * (b) Federally permitted vessels subject to the recreational fishing measures of this part, and other recreational fishing vessels subject to the recreational fishing measures of this part and registered in states whose fishery management measures are not determined by the Regional Administrator to be the conservation equivalent of the season, minimum size, and possession limit prescribed in §§ 648.102, 648.103(b) and 648.105(a), respectively, due to the lack of, or the reversal of, a conservation equivalent recommendation from the Summer Flounder Board of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, shall be subject to the following precautionary default measures: Season-July 4 through September 1; minimum size-20.0 inches (50.80 cm); and possession limit-two fish. 6. In § 648.122, paragraph (g) is revised to read as follows: § 648.122 Season and area restrictions. * * * * * (g) Time restrictions. Vessels that are not eligible for a moratorium permit under § 648.4(a)(6), and fishermen subject to the possession limit, may not possess scup, except from January 1 through the last day of February, and from October 1 through October 31. This time period may be adjusted pursuant to the procedures in § 648.120. 7. In § 648.124, paragraph (b) is revised to read as follows: § 648.124 Minimum fish sizes. yshivers on PROD1PC62 with PROPOSALS * * * * * (b) The minimum size for scup is 10.5 inches (26.67 cm) TL for all vessels that do not have a moratorium permit, or for party and charter vessels that are issued a moratorium permit but are fishing with passengers for hire, or carrying more than three crew members if a charter boat, or more than five crew members if a party boat. * * * * * VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:22 Mar 20, 2008 Jkt 214001 8. In § 648.125, the introductory text of paragraph (a) is revised to read as follows: § 648.125 Possession limit. (a) No person shall possess more than 15 scup in, or harvested from, the EEZ unless that person is the owner or operator of a fishing vessel issued a scup moratorium permit, or is issued a scup dealer permit. * * * * * * * * [FR Doc. E8–5785 Filed 3–20–08; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–S DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 680 RIN 0648–AW45 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Allocating Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands King and Tanner Crab Fishery Resources National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of availability of fishery management plan amendment; request for comments. AGENCY: SUMMARY: Congress amended the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) to require the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) to approve the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands (BSAI) Crab Rationalization Program (Program). The Program allocates BSAI crab resources among harvesters, processors, and coastal communities. Amendment 26 would modify the Fishery Management Plan for Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands (BSAI) King and Tanner crabs (FMP) and the Program to Amendment 26 to the FMP would exempt quota share issued to crew members, and the annual harvest privileges derived from that quota share, from requirements for: delivery to specific processors; delivery within specific geographic regions; and participation in an arbitration system to resolve price disputes. This action is intended to promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the FMP, and other applicable laws. DATES: Comments on the amendment must be received by May 20, 2008. ADDRESSES: Send comments to Sue Salveson, Assistant Regional Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region, NMFS, Attn: PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Ellen Sebastian. You may submit comments, identified by 0648–AW45, by any one of the following methods: • Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the FederaleRulemaking Portal website at http://www.regulations.gov. • Mail: P. O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802. • Fax: (907) 586–7557. • Hand delivery to the Federal Building: 709 West 9th Street, Room 420A, Juneau, AK. All comments received are a 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) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit Confidential Business Information or otherwise sensitive or protected information. NMFS will accept anonymous comments. Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe portable document file (pdf) formats only. Copies of Amendment 26, the Regulatory Impact Review (RIR)/Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) for this action, and the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prepared for the Crab Rationalization Program may be obtained from the NMFS Alaska Region at the address above or from the Alaska Region website at http:// www.fakr.noaa.gov/ sustainablefisheries.htm. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Glenn Merrill, 907–586–7228, glenn.merrill@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires that each regional fishery management council submit any fishery management plan amendment it prepares to NMFS for review and approval, disapproval, or partial approval by the Secretary. The Magnuson-Stevens Act also requires that NMFS, upon receiving a fishery management plan amendment, immediately publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing that the amendment is available for public review and comment. The king and Tanner crab fisheries in the exclusive economic zone of the BSAI are managed under the FMP. The FMP was prepared by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) under the Magnuson-Stevens Act as amended by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2004 (Pub. L. 108–199, section 801). Amendments 18 and 19 to the FMP amended the FMP to include the Program. Regulations E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 73, Number 56 (Friday, March 21, 2008)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 15111-15118]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E8-5785]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 070717341-8250-01]
RIN 0648-AV41


Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Recreational 
Management Measures for the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass 
Fisheries; Fishing Year 2008

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: NMFS proposes management measures for the 2008 summer 
flounder, scup, and black sea bass recreational fisheries. The 
implementing regulations for these fisheries require NMFS to publish 
recreational measures for the fishing year and to provide an 
opportunity for public comment. The intent of these measures is to 
prevent overfishing of the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass 
resources.

DATES: Comments must be received by 5 p.m. local time, on April 21, 
2008.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by RIN 0648-AV41, by any 
one of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal http://www.regulations.gov.
     Mail and hand delivery: Patricia A. Kurkul, Regional 
Administrator, NMFS, Northeast Regional Office, One Blackburn Drive, 
Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the envelope: ``Comments on 
2008 Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Recreational Measures.''
     Fax: (978) 281-9135. Send the fax to the attention of the 
Sustainable Fisheries Division. Include ``Comments on 2008 Summer 
Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Recreational Measures'' prominently 
on the fax.
    Instructions: All comments received are a part of the public record 
and will

[[Page 15112]]

generally be posted to http://www.regulations.gov without change. All 
Personal Identifying Information (for example, name, address, etc.) 
voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do 
not submit Confidential Business Information or otherwise sensitive or 
protected information.
    NMFS will accept anonymous comments. Attachments to electronic 
comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or 
Adobe PDF file formats only.
    Copies of the specifications document, including the Environmental 
Assessment, Regulatory Impact Review, and Initial Regulatory 
Flexibility Analysis (EA/RIR/IRFA) and other supporting documents for 
the specifications are available from Daniel Furlong, Executive 
Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Room 2115, Federal 
Building, 300 South Street, Dover, DE 19901-6790. These documents are 
also accessible via the Internet at http://www.nero.noaa.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Michael Ruccio, Fishery Policy 
Analyst, (978) 281-9104.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries are managed 
cooperatively under the provisions of the Summer Flounder, Scup, and 
Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan (FMP) developed by the Mid-
Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) and the Atlantic States 
Marine Fisheries Commission (Commission), in consultation with the New 
England and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils. The management 
units specified in the FMP include summer flounder (Paralichthys 
dentatus) in U.S. waters of the Atlantic Ocean from the southern border 
of North Carolina (NC) northward to the U.S./Canada border, and scup 
(Stenotomus chrysops) and black sea bass (Centropristis striata) in 
U.S. waters of the Atlantic Ocean from 35[deg]13.3' N. lat. (the 
latitude of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Buxton, NC) northward to the 
U.S./Canada border.
    The Council prepared the FMP under the authority of the Magnuson-
Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), 
16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Regulations implementing the FMP appear at 50 
CFR part 648, subparts A (general provisions), G (summer flounder), H 
(scup), and I (black sea bass). General regulations governing U.S. 
fisheries also appear at 50 CFR part 600. States manage summer flounder 
within 3 nautical miles of their coasts, under the Commission's plan 
for summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass. The Federal regulations 
govern vessels fishing in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), as well as 
vessels possessing a Federal fisheries permit, regardless of where they 
fish.
    The FMP established Monitoring Committees (Committees) for the 
three fisheries, consisting of representatives from the Commission; the 
Mid-Atlantic, New England, and South Atlantic Councils; and NMFS. The 
FMP and its implementing regulations require the Committees to review 
scientific and other relevant information annually and to recommend 
management measures necessary to achieve the recreational harvest 
limits established for the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass 
fisheries for the upcoming fishing year. The FMP limits these measures 
to minimum fish size, possession limit, and fishing season.
    The Council's Demersal Species Committee and the Commission's 
Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Management Board (Board) then 
consider the Committees' recommendations and any public comment in 
making their recommendations to the Council and the Commission, 
respectively. The Council then reviews the recommendations of the 
Demersal Species Committee, makes its own recommendations, and forwards 
them to NMFS for review. The Commission similarly adopts 
recommendations for the states. NMFS is required to review the 
Council's recommendations to ensure that they are consistent with the 
targets specified for each species in the FMP.
    Quota specifications for the 2008 summer flounder, scup, and black 
sea bass fisheries were published on December 31, 2007 (72 FR 74197). 
Based on these specifications, the 2008 coastwide recreational harvest 
limits are 6,215,800 lb (2,819 mt) for summer flounder, 1,830,920 lb 
(830 mt) for scup, and 2,108,447 lb (956 mt) for black sea bass. The 
specification rules did not establish recreational measures, since 
final recreational catch data for 2007 were not available when the 
Council made its recreational harvest limit recommendation to NMFS.
    All minimum fish sizes discussed hereafter are total length 
measurements of the fish, i.e., the straight-line distance from the tip 
of the snout to the end of the tail while the fish is lying on its 
side. For black sea bass, total length measurement does not include the 
caudal fin tendril. All possession limits discussed below are per 
person.

Summer Flounder

    Recreational landings for 2007 were estimated to have been 9.30 
million lb (4,218 mt). This exceeded, by approximately 38 percent, the 
2007 recreational harvest limit of 6.69 million lb (3,034 mt). All 
states except MA and VA are projected to have exceeded their state 
harvest limits established under the conservation equivalency system 
utilized to manage the 2007 recreational summer flounder fishery. The 
magnitude of the overages ranged from a low of 16 percent for CT to a 
high of 49 percent for MD.
    The 2008 coastwide harvest limit is 6,215,800 lb (2,819 mt), a 9.2-
percent decrease from the 2007 harvest limit of 6,689,004 lb (3,034 
mt). Given the 2007 overages and reduction in available harvest for 
2008, landings must be reduced by 33.2-percent coastwide from the 2007 
levels to ensure that the 2008 harvest limit is not exceeded. The 
Council is recommending conservation equivalency, described as follows, 
that would require individual states to reduce summer flounder landings 
(measured in number of fish) to achieve the necessary recreational 
harvest reductions for 2008.
    NMFS implemented Framework Adjustment 2 to the FMP (Framework 
Adjustment 2) on July 29, 2001 (66 FR 36208), which established a 
process that makes conservation equivalency an option for the summer 
flounder recreational fishery. Conservation equivalency allows each 
state to establish its own recreational management measures (possession 
limits, minimum fish size, and fishing seasons) to achieve its state 
harvest limit, as long as the combined effect of all of the states' 
management measures achieves the same level of conservation as would 
Federal coastwide measures developed to achieve the overall 
recreational harvest limit, if implemented by all of the states.
    The Council and Board recommend annually that either state-specific 
recreational measures be developed (conservation equivalency) or 
coastwide management measures be implemented by all states to ensure 
that the recreational harvest limit will not be exceeded. Even when the 
Council and Board recommend conservation equivalency, the Council must 
specify a set of coastwide measures that would apply if conservation 
equivalency is not approved.
    If conservation equivalency is recommended, and following 
confirmation that the proposed state measures would achieve 
conservation equivalency, NMFS may waive the

[[Page 15113]]

permit condition found at Sec.  648.4(b), which requires federally 
permitted vessels to comply with the more restrictive management 
measures when state and Federal measures differ. In such a situation, 
federally permitted charter/party permit holders and recreational 
vessels fishing for summer flounder in the EEZ would then be subject to 
the recreational fishing measures implemented by the state in which 
they land summer flounder, rather than the coastwide measures.
    In addition, the Council and the Board must recommend precautionary 
default measures. The Commission would require adoption of the 
precautionary default measures by any state that either does not submit 
a summer flounder management proposal to the Commission's Summer 
Flounder Technical Committee (Technical Committee), or that submits 
measures that are determined not to achieve the required level of 
reduction for that state. The precautionary default measures are 
defined as the set of measures that would achieve at least the highest 
percent reduction for any state on a coastwide basis.
    In December 2007, the Council and Board voted to recommend 
conservation equivalency to achieve the 2008 recreational harvest 
limit. The Commission's conservation equivalency guidelines require the 
states to determine and implement appropriate state-specific management 
measures (i.e., possession limits, fish size limits, and fishing 
seasons) to achieve state-specific harvest limits. States' may also 
form voluntary regions wherein the member states' measures must achieve 
the overall reduction required for the region in question.
    For 2008, at the request of NMFS, and under the direction of the 
Council and Commission, the Technical Committee developed additional 
guidance for states to utilize to improve the effectiveness of 
conservation equivalency in 2008. The Technical Committee assessed the 
performance, as measured by the effectiveness of state measures in 
constraining landings to the annual recreational harvest limits, for 
each state's conservation equivalency measures during the period of 
2001 through 2007. Based on the average individual state overage during 
the 2001-2007 time frame, the Technical Committee crafted a 
performance-based adjustment to be applied to further increase the 
percent reduction some states must achieve in 2008. States assigned 
this additional reduction had an average net overage relative to their 
respective harvest targets for the 2001-2007 time frame.
    Under the conservation equivalent approach, each state may 
implement unique management measures appropriate to that state, so long 
as these measures are determined by the Commission to provide 
equivalent conservation as would Federal coastwide measures. For 2008, 
the Commission is requiring that states also reduce landings by an 
additional performance-based adjustment, as developed by the Technical 
Committee, to achieve the overall recreational harvest limit in an 
effort to ensure that recreational overages will not occur in 2008. 
According to the conservation equivalency procedures established in 
Framework Adjustment 2, each state except MA would be required to 
reduce 2008 landings by the percentages shown in Table 1. In addition, 
the states of RI, CT, NY, NJ, and VA are required by the Commission to 
further reduce landings by the Technical Committee's performance-based 
adjustment factor shown in Table 1, resulting in a final higher total 
level of reduction for 2008. MA may submit more liberal management 
measures, provided that they are sufficient to ensure its 2008 state 
harvest limit is not exceeded. ME and NH have no recreational summer 
flounder harvest limit and are not required to submit management 
measures to the Commission.

   Table 1. 2008 Conservation Equivalency State-Specific Harvest Targets (thousands of fish), Initial Percent
          Reductions, Commission Required Performance-Based Adjustments, and Final Percent Reductions.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                               Initial
                                                                               Percent
                                                                      2008    Reduction   Commission     Final
                                                                     Target   Required   Performance    Percent
                               State                                   (X       under       Based      Reduction
                                                                      '000    Framework   Reduction    Required
                                                                      fish)  Adjustment     Factor        by
                                                                              2 to the                Commission
                                                                                 FMP
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
MA                                                                     113         0           0            0
RI                                                                     116      47.5         7.8         51.6
CT                                                                      77      28.7         1.9         30.1
NY                                                                     361      45.9        33.6         64.0
NJ                                                                     801      39.2         4.3         41.8
DE                                                                      64      41.8         0.0         41.8
MD                                                                      61      56.7         0.0         56.7
VA                                                                     342      13.9         8.9         21.5
NC                                                                     115      34.3         0.0         34.2
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Board required that each state submit its conservation 
equivalency proposals to the Commission by late January 2008. The 
Technical Committee then evaluated the proposals and advised the Board 
of each proposal's consistency with respect to achieving the coastwide 
recreational harvest limit. The Commission invited public participation 
in its review process by allowing public comment on the state proposals 
at the Technical Committee meeting held on January 29, 2008. The Board 
met on February 7, 2008, and approved a range of management proposals 
for each state designed to attain conservation equivalency. Once the 
states select and submit their final summer flounder management 
measures to the Commission, the Commission will notify NMFS as to which 
individual state proposals have been approved or disapproved. NMFS 
retains the final authority either to approve or to disapprove using 
conservation equivalency in place of the coastwide measures and will 
publish its determination as a final rule in the Federal Register to 
establish the 2008 recreational measures for these fisheries.
    States that do not submit conservation equivalency proposals, or 
whose proposals are disapproved by the Commission, will be required by 
the Commission to adopt the precautionary default measures. In the case 
of states that are initially assigned precautionary default measures, 
but subsequently receive Commission approval of revised state measures, 
NMFS will publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing a waiver 
of the permit condition at Sec.  648.4(b). The suite of state proposals 
for 2008, consistent with the Technical Committee's performance-based 
adjustment procedures, have initially been approved by the Commission. 
Therefore, a state would only be required to implement precautionary 
default measures if the measures submitted for final Commission 
approval are different than those preliminarily approved by the 
Commission or for failing to finalize conservation equivalent measures 
for 2008.
    The precautionary default measures initially recommended by the 
Council and Board during their joint December 2008 meeting were for a 
20.0-inch (50.80-cm) minimum fish size, a possession limit of two fish, 
and an open season of May 23 through September 1, 2008. Since the 
December 2007, the Technical Committee developed the previously 
discussed performance-based adjustment in response to a joint Council 
and Commission motion designed to improve the performance of 
conservation equivalency. This resulted in the precautionary default 
measures

[[Page 15114]]

initially proposed by the Council and Commission to be less restrictive 
than measures that some states would be required to implement under the 
performance-based adjustment. To rectify this situation, the Board 
voted in February 2008 to implement a modified precautionary default 
consisting of a 20.0-inch (50.80-cm) minimum fish size, a possession 
limit of two fish, and an open season of July 4 through September 1, 
2008, to ensure that the necessary level of reduction for all states 
would occur in the event that precautionary default measures are 
assigned to any state for 2008. NMFS finds this modification to the 
precautionary default measures (i.e., reduction in fishing season) to 
be consistent with Framework Adjustment 2 that established the 
precautionary default reduction requirements, and therefore proposes to 
implement the modified precautionary default measures adopted by the 
Board and Commission: A 20.0-inch (50.80-cm) minimum fish size, a two 
fish possession limit, and an open season of July 4 through September 
1, 2008.
    As described above, for each fishing year, NMFS implements either 
coastwide measures or conservation equivalent measures at the final 
rule stage. The coastwide measures recommended by the Council and Board 
for 2008 are a 19-inch (48.26-cm) minimum fish size, a possession limit 
of three fish, and an open season from May 23 to September 1, 2008. 
Supplemental analysis conducted by NMFS using the upper bound of the 
2007 Marine Recreational Fishery Statistics Survey (MRFSS) harvest 
estimates and factoring in potential diminished effectiveness of 
regulations based on noncompliance in 2007 demonstrates that these 
coastwide measures, as proposed by the Council and Board, may not 
effectively constrain landings to the 2008 recreational harvest limit 
if implemented instead of conservation equivalency. In this action, 
NMFS proposes to modify the Council and Board's recommended possession 
limit from a three fish to a two fish limit. The change in possession 
limit, while retaining the Council and Board recommended minimum fish 
size and fishing season, would be expected to constrain landings to the 
overall recreational harvest. These modified coastwide measures would 
be waived if conservation equivalency is approved in the final rule.

Scup

    The 2008 scup recreational harvest limit is lb 1,830,920 lb (830 
mt), roughly a 33-percent decrease from the 2007 recreational harvest 
limit of 2.74 million lb (1,240 mt). Fishing year 2008 is year 1 of the 
scup rebuilding plan implemented by Amendment 14 to the FMP (July 23, 
2007; 72 FR 40077). The substantial reduction in the 2008 recreational 
harvest limit is largely a result of a necessary reduction in 
exploitation on the scup stock consistent with this recently enacted 
management plan designed to rebuild the scup resource from an 
overfished condition. Recreational landings in 2007 were estimated to 
have been 3.80 million lb (1,723 mt). A coastwide reduction in landings 
of 51.8 percent is required to achieve the 2008 recreational harvest 
limit for scup.
    The 2008 scup recreational fishery will be managed under separate 
regulations for state and Federal waters; the Federal measures would 
apply to party/charter vessels with Federal permits and other vessels 
subject to the possession limit that fish in the EEZ. In Federal 
waters, to achieve the 2008 target, NMFS proposes coastwide management 
measures of a 10.5-inch (26.67-cm) minimum fish size, a 15-fish 
possession limit, and open seasons of January 1 through February 29, 
and October 1 through October 31, as recommended by the Council.
    As has occurred in the past 6 years, the scup fishery in state 
waters will be managed under a regional conservation equivalency system 
developed through the Commission. Addendum XI to the Interstate FMP 
(Addendum XI), approved by the Board at the January 2004 Council/
Commission meeting, requires that the states of MA through NY each 
develop state-specific management measures to constrain their landings 
to an annual harvest level for this region in number of fish 
(approximately 1.7 million fish for 2008), through a combination of 
minimum fish size, possession limits, and seasonal closures. Because 
the Federal FMP does not contain provisions for conservation 
equivalency, and states may adopt their own unique measures under 
Addendum XI, the Federal and state recreational scup management 
measures will differ for 2008.
    At the February 7, 2008, meeting, the Board approved a regional 
management proposal for MA through NY that would allow different 
minimum fish sizes, possession limits, and fishing seasons for private 
vessels/shore based anglers and party/charter vessels. For this 
northern conservation equivalency area, the Board retained a minimum 
fish size of 10.5 inches (26.7 cm), a common possession limit (10 
fish), and a May 24 through September 26 fishing season for private 
vessels and shore-based anglers; party and charter vessels may take 
scup for up to 126 days under two distinct seasons with separate 
minimum fish sizes, possession limits and seasons. One charter/party 
season, designated as ``bonus fishery'' has a minimum fish size of 11.0 
inches (27.94 cm), a 45-fish possession limit, and is constrained to a 
45-day period within May 15 through October 15. The second party/
charter season designation is the ``non-bonus fishery'' which carries 
an 11.0-inch (27.94 cm) minimum fish size, a 10-fish possession limit, 
and is 81 days in duration either prior to or following the dates of 
the open season. Due to low scup landings in NJ through NC, the Board 
approved the retention of status quo management measures for those 
states, i.e., a 10-inch (25.40-cm) minimum fish size, a 50-fish 
possession limit, and open seasons of January 1 through February 29 and 
September 18 through November 30.

Black Sea Bass

    Recreational landings in 2007 were estimated to have been 1.97 
million lb (890 mt)--20 percent below the 2007 target of 2.47 million 
lb (1,120 mt) and 7 percent below the 2008 target of 2.11 million lb 
(957 mt). The 2008 recreational harvest limit of 2.11 million lb (957 
mt) is a 14.6-percent decrease from the 2007 target. Based on 2007 
landings, no reduction in landings is necessary to achieve the 2008 
target.
    For Federal waters, the Council and Board have approved measures 
that would maintain the 25-fish possession limit, the 12-inch (30.48-
cm) minimum size, and open season of January 1 through December 31. 
NMFS proposes to maintain these measures, which are expected to 
constrain recreational black sea bass landings to the 2008 target.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304 (b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Acting Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed 
rule is consistent with the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass 
FMP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable 
law, subject to further consideration after public comment.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    An IRFA was prepared, as required by section 603 of the RFA. The 
IRFA describes the economic impact this proposed rule, if adopted, 
would have on small entities. A description of the action, why it is 
being considered, and the legal basis for this action are contained at 
the beginning of this

[[Page 15115]]

section of the preamble and in the SUMMARY section of the preamble. A 
summary of the analysis follows. A copy of the complete IRFA is 
available from the Council (see ADDRESSES).
    This proposed rule does not duplicate, overlap, or conflict with 
other Federal rules. The proposed action could affect any recreational 
angler who fishes for summer flounder, scup, or black sea bass in the 
EEZ or on a party/charter vessel issued a Federal permit for summer 
flounder, scup, and/or black sea bass. However, the IRFA focuses upon 
the impacts on party/charter vessels issued a Federal permit for summer 
flounder, scup, and/or black sea bass because these vessels are 
considered small business entities for the purposes of the RFA, i.e., 
businesses in the recreational fishery with gross revenues of up to 
$6.5 million. These small entities can be specifically identified in 
the Federal vessel permit database and would be impacted by the 
recreational measures, regardless of whether they fish in Federal or 
state waters. Although individual recreational anglers are likely to be 
impacted, they are not considered small entities under the RFA. Also, 
there is no permit requirement to participate in these fisheries; thus, 
it would be difficult to quantify any impacts on recreational anglers 
in general.
    The Council estimated that the proposed measures could affect any 
of the 919 vessels possessing a Federal charter/party permit for summer 
flounder, scup, and/or black sea bass in 2006, the most recent year for 
which complete permit data are available. However, only 369 of these 
vessels reported active participation in the recreational summer 
flounder, scup, and/or black sea bass fisheries in 2006.
    In the IRFA, the no-action alternative (i.e., maintenance of the 
regulations as codified) is defined as implementation of the following: 
(1) For summer flounder, coastwide measures of a 19-inch (48.26-cm) 
minimum fish size, a 2-fish possession limit, and a season from May 23 
through September 1, i.e., the Federal regulatory measure that would be 
implemented if conservation equivalency is not implemented in the final 
rule; (2) for scup, a 10-inch (25.40-cm) minimum fish size, a 50-fish 
possession limit, and open seasons of January 1 through February 28, 
and September 18 through November 30; and (3) for black sea bass, a 12-
inch (30.48-cm) minimum size, a 25-fish possession limit, and an open 
season of January 1 through December 31.
    The no-action alternative for black sea bass is the same (status 
quo) set of measures being proposed for 2008. Landings of black sea 
bass in 2007 was less than the 2008 target and the status quo measures 
are expected to constrain landings to the 2008 target. As such, since 
there is no regulatory change being proposed for black sea bass, there 
is no further discussion of the economic impacts within this section.
    The impacts of the proposed action on small entities (i.e., 
federally permitted party/charter vessels in each state in the 
Northeast region) was analyzed, assessing potential changes in gross 
revenues for all 18 combinations of alternatives proposed. Although 
NMFS's RFA guidance recommends assessing changes in profitability as a 
result of proposed measures, the quantitative impacts were instead 
evaluated using changes in party/charter vessel revenues as a proxy for 
profitability. This is because reliable cost and revenue information 
are not available for charter/party vessels at this time. Without 
reliable cost and revenue data, profits cannot be discriminated from 
gross revenues. As reliable cost data become available, impacts to 
profitability can be more accurately forecast. Similarly, changes to 
long-term solvency were not assessed due both to the absence of cost 
data and because the recreational management measures change annually 
according to the specification-setting process. Effects of the various 
management measures were analyzed by employing quantitative approaches, 
to the extent possible. Where quantitative data were not available, the 
qualitative analyses were utilized.
    Management measures proposed under the summer flounder conservation 
equivalency alternative (Summer Flounder Alternative 1) have yet to be 
adopted; therefore, potential losses under this alternative could not 
be analyzed in conjunction with various alternatives proposed for scup 
and black sea bass. Since conservation equivalency allows each state to 
tailor specific recreational fishing measures to the needs of that 
state, while still achieving conservation goals, it is likely that the 
measures developed under this alternative, when considered in 
combination with the measures proposed for scup and black sea bass, 
would have fewer overall adverse effects than any of the other 
combinations that were analyzed.
    Impacts for other combinations of alternatives were examined by 
first estimating the number of angler trips aboard party/charter 
vessels in each state in 2007 that would have been affected by the 
proposed 2008 management measures. All 2007 party/charter fishing trips 
that would have been constrained by the proposed 2008 measures in each 
state were considered to be affected trips. MRFSS data indicate that 
anglers took 38.70 million fishing trips in 2007 in the Northeastern 
U.S., and that party/charter anglers accounted for 4.7 percent of the 
angler fishing trips, private/rental boat trips accounted for 52.5 
percent of angler fishing trips, and shore trips accounted for 42.8 
percent of recreational angler fishing trips. The number of party/
charter trips in each state ranged from 23,542 in DE to 508,259 in NJ.
    There is very little empirical evidence available to estimate how 
the party/charter vessel anglers might be affected by the proposed 
fishing regulations. If the proposed measures discourage trip-taking 
behavior among some of the affected anglers, economic losses may accrue 
to the party/charter vessel industry in the form of reduced access 
fees. On the other hand, if the proposed measures do not have a 
negative impact on the value or satisfaction the affected anglers 
derive from their fishing trips, party/charter revenues would remain 
unaffected by this action. In an attempt to estimate the potential 
changes in gross revenues to the party/charter vessel industry in each 
state, two hypothetical scenarios were considered: A 25-percent 
reduction, and a 50-percent reduction, in the number of fishing trips 
that are predicted to be affected by implementation of the management 
measures in the northeast (ME through NC) in 2008.
    Total economic losses to party/charter vessels were then estimated 
by multiplying the number of potentially affected trips in each state 
in 2008, under the two hypothetical scenarios, by the estimated average 
access fee of $41.32\1\ paid by party/charter anglers in the northeast 
in 2007. Finally, total economic losses were divided by the number of 
federally permitted party/charter vessels that participated in the 
summer flounder fisheries in 2006 in each state (according to homeport 
state in the Northeast Region Permit Database) to obtain an estimate of 
the average projected gross revenue loss per party/charter vessel in 
2008. The analysis assumed that angler effort and catch rates in 2008 
will be similar to 2007.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ 1998 party/charter average expenditure estimate adjusted to 
2007 equivalent using Bureau of Labor's Consumer Price Index.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Council noted that this method is likely to overestimate the 
potential revenue losses that would result from implementation of the 
proposed coastwide measures in these three fisheries for several 
reasons. First, the

[[Page 15116]]

analysis likely overestimates the potential revenue impacts of these 
measures because some anglers would continue to take party/charter 
vessel trips, even if the restrictions limit their landings. Also, some 
anglers may engage in catch and release fishing and/or target other 
species. It was not possible to estimate the sensitivity of anglers to 
specific management measures. Second, the universe of party/charter 
vessels that participate in the fisheries is likely to be even larger 
than presented in these analyses, as party/charter vessels that do not 
possess a Federal summer flounder, scup, or black sea bass permit 
because they fish only in state waters are not represented in the 
analyses. Considering the large proportion of landings from state 
waters (e.g., more than 91 percent of summer flounder and 94 percent of 
scup landings in 2006, respectively), it is probable that some party/
charter vessels fish only in state waters and, thus, do not hold 
Federal permits for these fisheries. Third, economic losses are 
estimated under two hypothetical scenarios: (1) A 25 percent and (2) a 
50 percent reduction in the number of fishing trips that are predicted 
to be affected by implementation of the management measures in the 
Northeast in 2008. Reductions in fishing effort of this magnitude in 
2008 are not likely to occur given the fact that the proposed measures 
do not prohibit anglers from keeping at least some of the fish they 
catch or the fact that there are alternative species to harvest. Again, 
it is likely that at least some of the potentially affected anglers 
would not reduce their effort when faced with the proposed landings 
restrictions, thereby contributing to the potential overestimation of 
potential impacts for 2008.

Impacts of Summer Flounder Alternatives

    The proposed action for the summer flounder recreational fishery 
would limit coastwide catch to 6.21 million lb (2,817 mt) by imposing 
coastwide Federal measures throughout the EEZ. As described earlier, 
upon confirmation that the proposed state measures would achieve 
conservation equivalency, NMFS may waive the permit condition found at 
Sec.  648.4(b), which requires federally permitted vessels to comply 
with the more restrictive management measures when state and Federal 
measures differ. Federally permitted charter/party permit holders and 
recreational vessels fishing for summer flounder in the EEZ then would 
be subject to the recreational fishing measures implemented by the 
state in which they land summer flounder, rather than the coastwide 
measures.
    The impact of the proposed summer flounder conservation equivalency 
alternative (in Summer Flounder Alternative 1) among states is likely 
to be similar to the level of landings reductions that are required of 
each state. As indicated above, each state except MA would be required 
to reduce summer flounder landings in 2008, relative to state 2007 
landings, by the percentages shown in Table 1 of the preamble of this 
proposed rule. If the preferred conservation equivalency alternative is 
effective at achieving the recreational harvest limit, then it is 
likely to be the only alternative that minimizes adverse economic 
impacts, to the extent practicable, yet achieves the biological 
objectives of the FMP. Because states have a choice, it is expected 
that the states would adopt conservation equivalent measures that 
result in fewer adverse economic impacts than the more restrictive 
Commission adopted, NMFS proposed precautionary default measures (i.e., 
20.0-inch (50.80-cm) minimum fish size, a possession limit of two fish, 
and an open season of July 4 through September 1). Under the 
precautionary default measures, impacted trips are defined as trips 
taken in 2007 that landed at least two summer flounder smaller than 
20.0 inches (50.80 cm) or landed summer flounder during closed seasons. 
The analysis concluded that implementation of precautionary default 
measures could affect 4.28 percent of the party/charter vessel trips in 
the Northeast, including those trips where no summer flounder were 
caught.
    The impacts of the NMFS proposed summer flounder coastwide 
alternative, i.e., a 19-inch (48.26-cm) minimum fish size, a two-fish 
possession limit, and a fishing season from May 23 through September 1, 
were evaluated using the quantitative method described above. Impacted 
trips were defined as individual angler trips taken aboard party/
charter vessels in 2007 that landed at least one summer flounder 
smaller than 19 inches (48.26 cm), that landed more than 2 summer 
flounder, or landed summer flounder during closed seasons. The analysis 
concluded that the measures would affect 1.34 percent of the party/
charter vessel trips in the Northeast, including those trips where no 
summer flounder were caught.
    Continuation of the current regulatory summer flounder coastwide 
management measures (i.e., an 18.5-inch (46.99-cm) minimum fish size, 
4-fish possession limit, and year-round season) is not expected to 
constrain 2008 landings to the recreational harvest limit; therefore, 
continuation of those measures would be inconsistent with the summer 
flounder rebuilding program, the FMP, and the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

Impacts of Scup Alternatives

    The proposed action for the scup recreational fishery would limit 
coastwide catch to 1.83 million lb (830 mt) by imposing coastwide 
Federal measures throughout the EEZ. As described earlier in the 
preamble, a conservation equivalent program is utilized by the 
Commission to manage state waters. Federally permitted charter/party 
permit holders and recreational vessels fishing for summer flounder in 
the EEZ then would be subject to the recreational fishing measures 
implemented by NMFS; charter/party vessels participating solely in 
state waters would be subject to the provisions adopted by the 
Commission; vessels participating in both state and Federal waters 
would be subject to the most restrictive of the two measures 
implemented to manage the 2008 scup recreational fishery.
    The impact of the Council and Commission preferred scup alternative 
(Scup Alternative 1; a 10.5-inch (26.67-cm) minimum fish size, a 15-
fish per person possession limit, and open seasons of January 1 through 
February 29 and October 1 through October 31) would reduce scup 
landings in 2008 by 53.2 percent from 2007 levels. Impacted trips were 
defined as trips taken in 2007 that landed at least one scup smaller 
than 10.5 inches (26.67 cm), landed more than 15 scup during the closed 
seasons (March 1 through September 30 and November 1 through December 
31). Analysis concluded that 3.95 percent of Federally permitted party/
charter vessel trips could be impacted by this alternative.
    The impacts of the non-preferred scup coastwide alternative (Scup 
Alternative 2; 10.5-inch (26.67-cm) minimum fish size, 15-fish per 
person possession limit, and open seasons of January 1 through February 
29 and October 1 through October 15) would reduce landings in 2008 by 
60.5 percent from 2007 levels. Impacted trips were defined as trips 
taken in 2007 that landed at least one scup smaller than the minimum 
fish size, more than the possession limit, or during the closed season. 
The analysis concluded that this alternative could impact 4.13 percent 
of Federally permitted party/charter vessel trips in 2008, if 
implemented.
    Scup Alternative 3 (status quo) measures are not expected to 
constrain landings to the 2008 recreational harvest limit and are 
therefore, inconsistent

[[Page 15117]]

with the current scup rebuilding plan, the FMP, and the goals and 
objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

Combined Impacts of Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass 
Alternatives

    Since the state-specific management measures under Summer Flounder 
Alternative 1 (i.e., conservation equivalency) have yet to be adopted, 
the effort effects of this alternative could not be analyzed in 
conjunction with the alternatives proposed for scup and black sea bass. 
The percent of total party/charter boat trips in the northeast that are 
estimated to be affected by the proposed actions ranges from a low of 
4.59 percent for the combination of measures proposed under summer 
flounder alternative 2, scup alternative 3, and black sea bass 
alternative 2 (Table 45 Initial Specifications) to 8.90 percent for the 
measures proposed under the NMFS summer flounder precautionary default 
combined with scup alternative 2 and black sea bass alternative 3.
    Regionally, Federally permitted party/charter revenue losses in 
2008 range from $2.90 million to $5.14 million in sales, $1.06 million 
to $1.88 million in income, and between 28 and 50 jobs if a 25-percent 
reduction in the number of affected trips occurs. The estimated losses 
are approximately twice as high if a 50-percent reduction in affected 
trips is assumed to occur.
    Potential revenue losses in 2008 could differ for Federally 
permitted party/charter vessels that land more than one of the 
regulated species. The cumulative maximum gross revenue loss per vessel 
varies by the combination of permits held and by state. All 18 
potential combinations of management alternatives for summer flounder, 
scup, and black sea bass are predicted to affect party/charter vessel 
revenues to some extent in all of the northeastern coastal states. 
Although potential losses were estimated for party/charter vessels 
operating out of Maine and New Hampshire, these results are suppressed 
for confidentiality purposes. Average party/charter losses for 
federally permitted vessels operating in the remaining states are 
estimated to vary across the 18 combinations of alternatives. For 
example, in North Carolina, average losses are predicted to range from 
a high of $14,330 per vessel under the combined effects of summer 
flounder precautionary default measures (considered under alternative 
1), Scup Alternatives 1 or 2, and Black Sea Bass Alternatives 1 or 3 
management measures, to a low of $7,734 per vessel under the combined 
effects of Summer Flounder Alternative 2, Scup Alternative 3, and Black 
Sea Bass Alternative 2 management measures, assuming a 25-percent 
reduction in effort, as described above. Average gross revenue losses 
per vessel under each of the 36 combinations of alternatives were 
generally highest in North Carolina followed by Massachusetts, New 
York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Virginia, Connecticut, Maryland and 
then Delaware.

Summary

    The recreational harvest limits for summer flounder, scup, and 
black sea bass are 7.2-, 33.6-, and 14.6-percent lower than the 
adjusted recreational harvest limits for year 2007. In addition, the 
2007 summer flounder recreational fishery exceeded the recreational 
harvest limit by 37.8 percent. As a result, the proposed recreational 
management measures for summer flounder are likely to be more 
restrictive for 2008 (i.e., either larger minimum fish size, lower 
possession limits, and/or shorter fishing seasons) under the proposed 
conservation equivalency system (Summer Flounder Alternative 1) than 
those in place in 2007 given the combined effects of a reduced TAL and 
exceeding the previous year recreational harvest limit. The proposed 
measures for scup are more restrictive than the measures in place for 
2008. The proposed black sea bass measures are status quo, despite 
decreases to the overall 2008 black sea bass TAL. The proposed 
management measures, or management system in the case of conservation 
equivalency, were chosen because they allow for the maximum level of 
recreational landings, while allowing the NMFS to meet its legal 
requirements under the Magnuson-Stevens Act while achieving the 
objectives of the FMP. Summer flounder conservation equivalency permits 
states to implement management measures tailored, to some degree, to 
meet the needs of their individual recreational fishery participants, 
provided the level of reduction is equal to the overall reduction 
needed coastwide, consistent with Framework Adjustment 2 to the FMP. 
The scup management measures were selected as they are projected to 
permit the maximum amount of landings under the 2008 recreational 
harvest limit that complies with the fishing mortality objective 
outlined in the scup rebuilding plan of Amendment 14 to the FMP. As no 
reduction in landing levels from 2007 levels is required for black sea 
bass, the status quo measures are proposed for 2008.
    There are no new reporting or recordkeeping requirements contained 
in any of the alternatives considered for this action.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648

    Fisheries, Fishing, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    Dated: March 17, 2008
James W. Balsiger,
Acting Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 648 is 
proposed to be amended as follows:

PART 648--FISHERIES OF THE NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES

    1. The authority citation for part 648 continues to read as 
follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.

    2. In Sec.  648.102, the first sentence is revised to read as 
follows:


Sec.  648.102  Time restrictions.

    Unless otherwise specified pursuant to Sec.  648.107, vessels that 
are not eligible for a moratorium permit under Sec.  648.4(a)(3) and 
fishermen subject to the possession limit may fish for summer flounder 
from May 23 through September 1. * * *
* * * * *
    3. In Sec.  648.103, paragraph (b) is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  648.103  Minimum fish sizes.

* * * * *
    (b) Unless otherwise specified pursuant to Sec.  648.107, the 
minimum size for summer flounder is 19-inch (48.26-cm) TL for all 
vessels that do not qualify for a moratorium permit, and charter boats 
holding a moratorium permit if fishing with more than three crew 
members, or party boats holding a moratorium permit if fishing with 
passengers for hire or carrying more than five crew members.
* * * * *
    4. In Sec.  648.105, the first sentence of paragraph (a) is revised 
to read as follows:


Sec.  648.105  Possession restrictions.

* * * * *
    (a) Unless otherwise specified pursuant to Sec.  648.107, no person 
shall possess more than two summer flounder in, or harvested from, the 
EEZ, unless that person is the owner or operator of a fishing vessel 
issued a summer flounder moratorium permit, or is issued a summer 
flounder dealer permit. * * *
* * * * *
    5. In Sec.  648.107, paragraph (a) introductory text and paragraph 
(b) are revised to read as follows:

[[Page 15118]]

Sec.  648.107  Conservation equivalent measures for the summer flounder 
fishery.

    (a) The Regional Administrator has determined that the recreational 
fishing measures proposed to be implemented by Massachusetts through 
North Carolina for 2008 are the conservation equivalent of the season, 
minimum fish size, and possession limit prescribed in Sec. Sec.  
648.102, 648.103, and 648.105(a), respectively. This determination is 
based on a recommendation from the Summer Flounder Board of the 
Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
* * * * *
    (b) Federally permitted vessels subject to the recreational fishing 
measures of this part, and other recreational fishing vessels subject 
to the recreational fishing measures of this part and registered in 
states whose fishery management measures are not determined by the 
Regional Administrator to be the conservation equivalent of the season, 
minimum size, and possession limit prescribed in Sec. Sec.  648.102, 
648.103(b) and 648.105(a), respectively, due to the lack of, or the 
reversal of, a conservation equivalent recommendation from the Summer 
Flounder Board of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, 
shall be subject to the following precautionary default measures: 
Season-July 4 through September 1; minimum size-20.0 inches (50.80 cm); 
and possession limit-two fish.
    6. In Sec.  648.122, paragraph (g) is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  648.122  Season and area restrictions.

* * * * *
    (g) Time restrictions. Vessels that are not eligible for a 
moratorium permit under Sec.  648.4(a)(6), and fishermen subject to the 
possession limit, may not possess scup, except from January 1 through 
the last day of February, and from October 1 through October 31. This 
time period may be adjusted pursuant to the procedures in Sec.  
648.120.
    7. In Sec.  648.124, paragraph (b) is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  648.124  Minimum fish sizes.

* * * * *
    (b) The minimum size for scup is 10.5 inches (26.67 cm) TL for all 
vessels that do not have a moratorium permit, or for party and charter 
vessels that are issued a moratorium permit but are fishing with 
passengers for hire, or carrying more than three crew members if a 
charter boat, or more than five crew members if a party boat.
* * * * *
    8. In Sec.  648.125, the introductory text of paragraph (a) is 
revised to read as follows:


Sec.  648.125  Possession limit.

    (a) No person shall possess more than 15 scup in, or harvested 
from, the EEZ unless that person is the owner or operator of a fishing 
vessel issued a scup moratorium permit, or is issued a scup dealer 
permit. * * *
* * * * *
[FR Doc. E8-5785 Filed 3-20-08; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-S