Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog Fishery; 2014-2016 Fishing Quotas, 77005-77008 [2013-30313]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 245 / Friday, December 20, 2013 / Rules and Regulations * * * * * Dated: December 12, 2013. Rachel Jacobsen, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. [FR Doc. 2013–30164 Filed 12–19–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–55–C DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 121009528–2729–02] RIN 0648–XD021 Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Summer Flounder Fishery; Quota Transfer National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Temporary rule; quota transfer. AGENCY: NMFS announces that the Commonwealth of Virginia and the State of North Carolina are both transferring a portion of their 2013 commercial summer flounder quotas to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. NMFS is adjusting the quotas and announcing the revised commercial quota for each state involved. DATES: Effective December 17, 2013, through December 31, 2013. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Carly Bari, Fishery Management Specialist, 978–281–9224. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Regulations governing the summer flounder fishery are in 50 CFR part 648, and require annual specification of a commercial quota that is apportioned among the coastal states from North Carolina through Maine. The process to set the annual commercial quota and the percent allocated to each state are described in § 648.100. The final rule implementing Amendment 5 to the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan, which was published on December 17, 1993 (58 FR 65936), provided a mechanism for summer flounder quota to be transferred from one state to another. Two or more states, under mutual agreement and with the concurrence of the Administrator, Northeast Region, NMFS (Regional Administrator), can transfer or combine summer flounder commercial quota under § 648.102(c)(2). The Regional Administrator is required to consider wreier-aviles on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with RULES SUMMARY: VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:57 Dec 19, 2013 Jkt 232001 the criteria in § 648.102(c)(2)(i) to evaluate requests for quota transfers or combinations. Virginia has agreed to transfer 19,858 lb (9,007 kg) of its 2013 commercial quota to Massachusetts. North Carolina has agreed to transfer 19,857 lb (9,007 kg) of its 2013 commercial quota to Massachusetts. These transfers were prompted by summer flounder landings of two vessels intending to land in North Carolina and Virginia, which were granted safe harbor in Massachusetts due to mechanical failure on December 2, 2013, thereby requiring quota transfers to account for an increase in Massachusetts’ landings that would have otherwise accrued against the North Carolina and Virginia quotas. The Regional Administrator has determined that the criteria set forth in § 648.102(c)(2)(i) have been met. The revised summer flounder commercial quotas for calendar year 2013 are: Virginia, 5,020,643 lb (2,277,325 kg); North Carolina, 402,773 lb (182,695 kg); and Massachusetts, 830,951 lb (376,913 kg). Classification This action is taken under 50 CFR part 648 and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: December 16, 2013. Sean F. Corson, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2013–30218 Filed 12–17–13; 11:15 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 130904778–3999–02] RIN 0648–XC855 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog Fishery; 2014–2016 Fishing Quotas National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: This final rule implements the commercial quotas for the Atlantic surfclam and ocean quahog fisheries for 2014, 2015, and 2016. The quotas are SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00033 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 77005 unchanged from the quotas for the 2011, 2012, and 2013 fishing years. This action sets allowable harvest levels of Atlantic surfclams and ocean quahogs, prevents overfishing, and allows harvesting of optimum yield. This action also continues to suspend the minimum shell size for Atlantic surfclams for the 2014 fishing year. DATES: This rule is effective December 20, 2013. ADDRESSES: A copy of the Environmental Assessment prepared for this action is available upon request from the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management (Council), 800 North State Street, Suite 201, Dover, DE 09901. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jason Berthiaume, Fishery Management Specialist, 978–281–9177. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog Fishery Management Plan (FMP) requires that NMFS, in consultation with the Council, specify quotas for surfclam and ocean quahog for a 3-yr period, with an annual review, from a range that represents the optimum yield (OY) for each fishery. It is the policy of the Council that the levels selected allow sustainable fishing to continue at that level for at least 10 yrs for surfclams, and 30 yrs for ocean quahogs. The Council policy also considers the economic impacts of the quotas. Regulations implementing Amendment 10 to the FMP (63 FR 27481, May 19, 1998) added Maine ocean quahogs (locally known as Maine mahogany quahogs) to the management unit, and provided for a small artisanal fishery for ocean quahogs in the waters north of 43°50′ N. lat., with an annual quota within a range of 17,000 to 100,000 Maine bushels (bu) (0.6 to 3.524 million L). As specified in Amendment 10, the Maine mahogany ocean quahog quota is allocated separately from the quota specified for the ocean quahog fishery. Regulations implementing Amendment 13 to the FMP (68 FR 69970, December 16, 2003) established the ability to set multi-year quotas. The Council annually reviews the quota to determine whether the multi-year quota specifications remain appropriate. The fishing quotas must be in compliance with overfishing definitions for each species. In recommending these quotas, the Council considered the most recent stock assessments and other relevant scientific information. In June 2013, the Council voted to recommend maintaining the 2013 quota levels of 5.333 million bu (284 million L) for the ocean quahog fishery, 3.400 million bu (181 million L) for the Atlantic surfclam fishery, and 100,000 E:\FR\FM\20DER1.SGM 20DER1 77006 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 245 / Friday, December 20, 2013 / Rules and Regulations Maine bu (3.524 million L) for the Maine ocean quahog fishery for 2014– 2016. The quotas for the 2014–2016 Atlantic surfclam and ocean quahog fishery are shown in the table below. FINAL 2014–2016 ATLANTIC SURFCLAM AND OCEAN QUAHOG QUOTAS Ocean Quahog Year ABC ACL ACT Commercial quota 2014–2016 5.7 million bu (306 million L) ... 5.7 million bu (306 million L) ... Maine ACT: 105,010 Maine bu (3.7 million L). Non-Maine ACT: 5.56 million bu (298 million L). Maine Quota: 100,000 Maine bu (3.524 million L). Non-Maine Quota: 5.3 million bu (284 million L). Atlantic Surfclam Year Allowable Biological Catch (ABC) Annual Catch Limit (ACL) Annual Catch Target (ACT) 2014 ......... 2015 ......... 2016 ......... 7.8 million bu (415 million L) ... 6.7 million bu (202 million L) ... 6.2 million bu (188 million L) ... 7.8 million bu (415 million L) ... 6.7 million bu (202 million L) ... 6.2 million bu (188 million L) ... 3.8 million bu (202 million L) ... 3.8 million bu (202 million L) ... 3.8 million bu (115 million L) ... The Atlantic surfclam and ocean quahog quotas are specified in ‘‘industry’’ bushels of 53.24 L per bushel, while the Maine ocean quahog quota is specified in Maine bushels of 35.24 L per bushel. Because Maine ocean quahogs are the same species as ocean quahogs, both fisheries are assessed under the same ocean quahog overfishing definition. When the two quota amounts (ocean quahog and Maine ocean quahog) are added, the total allowable harvest is still lower than the level that would result in overfishing for the entire stock. wreier-aviles on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with RULES Surfclams In 1999, the Council expressed its intention to increase the surfclam quota to OY over a period of 5 yrs (OY = 3.4 million bu (181 million L)). The proposed 2014–2016 status quo surfclam quota was developed after reviewing the results of the Northeast Regional Stock Assessment Workshop (SAW) 56 for Atlantic surfclam, released to the public in 2013. The surfclam quota recommendation is consistent with the SAW 56 finding that the Atlantic surfclam stock is not overfished, nor is overfishing occurring. Based on this information, the Council recommended, and NMFS maintains, the status quo surfclam quota of 3.4 million bu (181 million L) for 2014– 2016. This quota represents the maximum allowable quota under the FMP. Ocean Quahogs In April 2013, the ocean quahog stock assessment was updated and found that the ocean quahog stock is not overfished, nor is overfishing occurring. Ocean quahog is a low productivity VerDate Mar<15>2010 14:53 Dec 19, 2013 Jkt 232001 stock that is being fished down from its pre-fishery level; however, after several decades of relatively low fishing mortality, the stock is still above the biomass target reference points. This action maintains the status quo quota of 5.333 million bu (284 million L) for 2014–2016. The 2014–2016 quota for Maine ocean quahogs is the status quo level of 100,000 Maine bu (3.524 million L). In 2008, the State of Maine completed a stock assessment of the resource within the Maine Mahogany Quahog Zone. The findings of the Maine quahog survey did not change the status of the entire ocean quahog resource. The quotas represent the maximum allowable quota under the FMP. Comments We received six comments on the proposed rule; five from members of the Atlantic surfclam and ocean quahog industry and one from the general public. All comments supported the quotas in the proposed rule. Changes From Proposed Rule to Final Rule There are no changes from the proposed to final rule. Classification Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, has determined that this final rule is consistent with the Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog FMP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law. NMFS finds good cause to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness period for this action. A delay in the effective date PO 00000 Frm 00034 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 Commercial quota 3.4 million bu (181 million L). 3.4 million bu (181 million L). 3.4 million bu (115 million L). of this final rule would disrupt the surfclam and ocean quahog fisheries and would also likely cause substantial confusion and raise administrative issues. There is no rollover provision in the surfclam and ocean quahog fisheries; therefore, if the specifications are not in place by the start of the fishing year on January 1, 2014, the following would result: (1) No 2014– 2016 proposed specifications for these fisheries would be published; (2) the indefinite management measures for each of these species would remain unchanged; (3) there would be no specific cap on the allowable annual catch (i.e., annual catch limits) and landings in each of these fisheries (i.e., no commercial quotas), and (4) individual transferable quota (ITQ) tags would be issued to owners in 2014– 2016 (however, these tags would technically have no meaning as the specifications would not be set). Further, because there is no rollover provision, the only regulatory controls on fishing effort and harvests would be the indefinite measures. These include § 648.14(j), which states that ‘‘It is unlawful for any person to do any of the following: Land or possess any surfclams or ocean quahogs harvested in or from the EEZ without having been issued, or in excess of, an individual allocation.’’ Because it prohibits landing or possessing surflcams or ocean quahogs, § 648.14(j), could effectively prohibit the fishery from operating, if quotas were not in place for January 1, 2014. Note that this provision is at odds with § 648.75(b), which requires NMFS to issue tags to ITQ allocation holders prior to the fishing year. Therefore, if NMFS does not waive the delay in effectiveness, NMFS will have already E:\FR\FM\20DER1.SGM 20DER1 wreier-aviles on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 245 / Friday, December 20, 2013 / Rules and Regulations provided ITQ allocation holders with their allocation information and tags that would otherwise allow them to fish, but without quotas being allocated. ITQ shareholders each receive a portion of the overall annual quotas for the two species. An allocation holder receives an amount of cage tags equivalent to his/her share of the overall quota each year. As discussed above, fishing for surfclams and ocean quahogs can potentially begin on January 1, each year, regardless of the publication of the annual quota, as the tags are issued each year prior to January 1, pursuant to § 648.75(b). As such, waiving the 30-day delay in effectiveness would ensure that the quota for surfclams and ocean quahogs is in place for January 1, 2014, thus preventing any conflicts between these regulations. On the contrary, not waiving the 30-day delay in effectiveness would result in tags being issued, with no associated value, as the quotas would not be in place. Lastly, ITQ allocations are often transferred, either permanently or temporarily, immediately upon the commencement of the fishing year to meet adjust to any new circumstances in the fishery. Without a quota in effect, the industry does not have the ability to transfer allocation either permanently or temporarily. The inability of the industry to make such transfers effective would preclude the intended recipients of such transfers from fishing. Accordingly, a delay in the effectiveness of this rule would be contrary to the rule’s intent to maintain current quota levels that have the full support of the fishing industry and that facilitate the transfer of quotas requested by the industry. The inability to transfer quota would be contrary to the public interest because it would preclude the intended recipients of such transfers from fishing, thereby resulting in a negative economic impact on the industry. Also, not having quotas in effect would cause substantial confusion and could raise legal and enforcement issues, since fishery participants would already have their ITQ allocation tags, but the tags would technically not have any meaning as the specifications would not have been set. Therefore, it is necessary to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness, as a delay in effectiveness would compromise the start of the fishing year and thereby undermine the intent of this rule, contrary to the public’s interest. This final rule is exempt from the requirements of E.O. 12866. The Council prepared an EA for this action that analyzes the impacts of this rule. A copy of the EA is available from the Federal e-Rulemaking portal VerDate Mar<15>2010 14:53 Dec 19, 2013 Jkt 232001 www.regulations.gov. Type ‘‘NOAA– NMFS–2013–0139’’ in the ID field and click search. A copy of the EA is also available upon request from the Council (see ADDRESSES). A final regulatory flexibility analysis (FRFA) was prepared, as required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RSA). The FRFA describes the economic impacts this final rule would have on small entities. The FRFA incorporates the IRFA, the RIR, a summary of the significant issues raised by the public comments in response to the IRFA, NMFS’ responses to those comments, and a summary of the analyses completed to support the action. A copy of the IRFA and EA are available upon request (see ADDRESSES). A summary of the IRFA was published in the proposed rule for this action and is not repeated here. A description of why this action was considered, the objectives of, and the legal basis for, this rule is contained in the preamble to the proposed rule and this final rule and is not repeated here. A Summary of the Significant Issues Raised by the Public Comments in Response to the IRFA, a Summary of the Assessment of the Agency of Such Issues, and a Statement of Any Changes Made in the Proposed Rule as a Result of Such Comments NMFS received no comments relative to the IRFA or economic impacts of the proposed 2014–2016 specifications for the Atlantic surfclam and ocean quahog fisheries. No changes were made from the proposed to final rule. Description and Estimate of the Number of Small Entities to Which This Final Rule Would Apply The final measures would only affect vessels holding an active Federal open access surfclam and/or ocean quahog permit. The SBA defines a small commercial shellfish fishing entity as a firm with gross annual receipts not exceeding $5 million. In 2012, 42 vessels reported harvesting surfclams and/or ocean quahogs from Federal waters under the IFQ system. In addition, 12 vessels participated in the limited access Maine ocean quahog fishery, for a total of 54 participants in 2012. Average 2012 gross income was $950,000 per vessel. Each vessel in this analysis is treated as a single entity for purposes of size determination and impact assessment. All 54 commercial fishing entities fall below the SBA size threshold for small commercial shellfish fishing entities. PO 00000 Frm 00035 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 77007 Reporting and Recordkeeping Requirements This action does not introduce any new reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements. This final rule does not duplicate, overlap, or conflict with other Federal rules. Description of the Steps Taken To Minimize Economic Impact on Small Entities Specifications The final quotas for 2014–2016 reflect the same quota levels set for 2011–2013. Therefore, it is not expected that there will be any different economic impacts beyond status quo resulting from the quotas. Leaving the ocean quahog quota at the harvest level of 5.333 million bu (284 million L) is not expected to constrain the fishery. The surfclam quota is set to the maximum allowed under the FMP of 3.4 million bu (181 million L). The Maine ocean quahog quota is set at the maximum allowed under the FMP of 100,000 Maine bu (3.524 million L). It is anticipated that by maintaining the status quo quota level for the next 3 years, the fishing industry will benefit from the stability of product demand from the seafood processors and being able to predict future fishery performance based on past performance from the last 3 yrs. Alternatives to these status quo quotas were considered, but were not adopted. The alternatives would have resulted in more restrictive quotas and would not have been in the best interest of the fishery. In addition, the Council and the industry both support the status quo quotas being adopted in this action. As a result, since the non-selected alternatives would have resulted in a negative impacts to fisheries and would have been contrary to achieving optimum yield, while preventing overfishing, the alternatives were not adopted. Minimum Size Suspension for Atlantic Surfclams The minimum size limit for surfclams has been suspended since 2005. Therefore, because this action would not impose a minimum size limit, and because no net change in fishing effort, participation in the fishery, or fishery expenses are expected, it is anticipated that this action would not impose any additional costs on the industry. In fact, continuing to suspend the minimum size limit would likely have positive economic affects in contrast to not suspending the minimum size limit, as not suspending the minimum size limit would likely reduce vessel efficiency E:\FR\FM\20DER1.SGM 20DER1 77008 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 245 / Friday, December 20, 2013 / Rules and Regulations through time spent measuring and culling small surfclams. Small Entity Compliance Guide wreier-aviles on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with RULES Section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 states that, for each rule, or group of related rules, for which an agency is required to prepare a FRFA, the agency shall publish one or more guides to assist small entities in complying with the rule and shall designate such publications as ‘‘small entity VerDate Mar<15>2010 14:53 Dec 19, 2013 Jkt 232001 compliance guides.’’ The agency shall explain the actions a small entity is required to make to comply with a rule or group of rules. As part of this rulemaking process, a small entity compliance guide will be sent to all holders of permits issued either a surfclam or ocean quahog permit, as well as surfclam and ocean quahog dealers. In addition, copies of this final rule and guide (i.e., bulletin) are available from the Regional Administrator (see ADDRESSES) and may PO 00000 Frm 00036 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 9990 be found at the following Web site: www.nero.noaa.gov. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: December 16, 2013. Alan D. Risenhoover, Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, performing the functions and duties of the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2013–30313 Filed 12–19–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\20DER1.SGM 20DER1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 245 (Friday, December 20, 2013)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 77005-77008]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-30313]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 130904778-3999-02]
RIN 0648-XC855


Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act 
Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Atlantic 
Surfclam and Ocean Quahog Fishery; 2014-2016 Fishing Quotas

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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

SUMMARY: This final rule implements the commercial quotas for the 
Atlantic surfclam and ocean quahog fisheries for 2014, 2015, and 2016. 
The quotas are unchanged from the quotas for the 2011, 2012, and 2013 
fishing years. This action sets allowable harvest levels of Atlantic 
surfclams and ocean quahogs, prevents overfishing, and allows 
harvesting of optimum yield. This action also continues to suspend the 
minimum shell size for Atlantic surfclams for the 2014 fishing year.

DATES: This rule is effective December 20, 2013.

ADDRESSES: A copy of the Environmental Assessment prepared for this 
action is available upon request from the Mid-Atlantic Fishery 
Management (Council), 800 North State Street, Suite 201, Dover, DE 
09901.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jason Berthiaume, Fishery Management 
Specialist, 978-281-9177.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog 
Fishery Management Plan (FMP) requires that NMFS, in consultation with 
the Council, specify quotas for surfclam and ocean quahog for a 3-yr 
period, with an annual review, from a range that represents the optimum 
yield (OY) for each fishery. It is the policy of the Council that the 
levels selected allow sustainable fishing to continue at that level for 
at least 10 yrs for surfclams, and 30 yrs for ocean quahogs. The 
Council policy also considers the economic impacts of the quotas. 
Regulations implementing Amendment 10 to the FMP (63 FR 27481, May 19, 
1998) added Maine ocean quahogs (locally known as Maine mahogany 
quahogs) to the management unit, and provided for a small artisanal 
fishery for ocean quahogs in the waters north of 43[deg]50[min] N. 
lat., with an annual quota within a range of 17,000 to 100,000 Maine 
bushels (bu) (0.6 to 3.524 million L). As specified in Amendment 10, 
the Maine mahogany ocean quahog quota is allocated separately from the 
quota specified for the ocean quahog fishery. Regulations implementing 
Amendment 13 to the FMP (68 FR 69970, December 16, 2003) established 
the ability to set multi-year quotas. The Council annually reviews the 
quota to determine whether the multi-year quota specifications remain 
appropriate. The fishing quotas must be in compliance with overfishing 
definitions for each species. In recommending these quotas, the Council 
considered the most recent stock assessments and other relevant 
scientific information.
    In June 2013, the Council voted to recommend maintaining the 2013 
quota levels of 5.333 million bu (284 million L) for the ocean quahog 
fishery, 3.400 million bu (181 million L) for the Atlantic surfclam 
fishery, and 100,000

[[Page 77006]]

Maine bu (3.524 million L) for the Maine ocean quahog fishery for 2014-
2016. The quotas for the 2014-2016 Atlantic surfclam and ocean quahog 
fishery are shown in the table below.

                            Final 2014-2016 Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog Quotas
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                  Ocean Quahog
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Year                   ABC                    ACL                    ACT              Commercial quota
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2014-2016...........  5.7 million bu (306    5.7 million bu (306    Maine ACT: 105,010     Maine Quota: 100,000
                       million L).            million L).            Maine bu (3.7          Maine bu (3.524
                                                                     million L).            million L).
                                                                    Non-Maine ACT: 5.56    Non-Maine Quota: 5.3
                                                                     million bu (298        million bu (284
                                                                     million L).            million L).
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                Atlantic Surfclam
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                       Allowable Biological    Annual Catch Limit    Annual Catch Target
        Year               Catch (ABC)               (ACL)                  (ACT)             Commercial quota
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2014................  7.8 million bu (415    7.8 million bu (415    3.8 million bu (202    3.4 million bu (181
                       million L).            million L).            million L).            million L).
2015................  6.7 million bu (202    6.7 million bu (202    3.8 million bu (202    3.4 million bu (181
                       million L).            million L).            million L).            million L).
2016................  6.2 million bu (188    6.2 million bu (188    3.8 million bu (115    3.4 million bu (115
                       million L).            million L).            million L).            million L).
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Atlantic surfclam and ocean quahog quotas are specified in 
``industry'' bushels of 53.24 L per bushel, while the Maine ocean 
quahog quota is specified in Maine bushels of 35.24 L per bushel. 
Because Maine ocean quahogs are the same species as ocean quahogs, both 
fisheries are assessed under the same ocean quahog overfishing 
definition. When the two quota amounts (ocean quahog and Maine ocean 
quahog) are added, the total allowable harvest is still lower than the 
level that would result in overfishing for the entire stock.

Surfclams

    In 1999, the Council expressed its intention to increase the 
surfclam quota to OY over a period of 5 yrs (OY = 3.4 million bu (181 
million L)). The proposed 2014-2016 status quo surfclam quota was 
developed after reviewing the results of the Northeast Regional Stock 
Assessment Workshop (SAW) 56 for Atlantic surfclam, released to the 
public in 2013. The surfclam quota recommendation is consistent with 
the SAW 56 finding that the Atlantic surfclam stock is not overfished, 
nor is overfishing occurring. Based on this information, the Council 
recommended, and NMFS maintains, the status quo surfclam quota of 3.4 
million bu (181 million L) for 2014-2016. This quota represents the 
maximum allowable quota under the FMP.

Ocean Quahogs

    In April 2013, the ocean quahog stock assessment was updated and 
found that the ocean quahog stock is not overfished, nor is overfishing 
occurring. Ocean quahog is a low productivity stock that is being 
fished down from its pre-fishery level; however, after several decades 
of relatively low fishing mortality, the stock is still above the 
biomass target reference points. This action maintains the status quo 
quota of 5.333 million bu (284 million L) for 2014-2016.
    The 2014-2016 quota for Maine ocean quahogs is the status quo level 
of 100,000 Maine bu (3.524 million L). In 2008, the State of Maine 
completed a stock assessment of the resource within the Maine Mahogany 
Quahog Zone. The findings of the Maine quahog survey did not change the 
status of the entire ocean quahog resource. The quotas represent the 
maximum allowable quota under the FMP.

Comments

    We received six comments on the proposed rule; five from members of 
the Atlantic surfclam and ocean quahog industry and one from the 
general public. All comments supported the quotas in the proposed rule.

Changes From Proposed Rule to Final Rule

    There are no changes from the proposed to final rule.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, has determined that this 
final rule is consistent with the Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog 
FMP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable 
law.
    NMFS finds good cause to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness 
period for this action. A delay in the effective date of this final 
rule would disrupt the surfclam and ocean quahog fisheries and would 
also likely cause substantial confusion and raise administrative 
issues. There is no rollover provision in the surfclam and ocean quahog 
fisheries; therefore, if the specifications are not in place by the 
start of the fishing year on January 1, 2014, the following would 
result: (1) No 2014-2016 proposed specifications for these fisheries 
would be published; (2) the indefinite management measures for each of 
these species would remain unchanged; (3) there would be no specific 
cap on the allowable annual catch (i.e., annual catch limits) and 
landings in each of these fisheries (i.e., no commercial quotas), and 
(4) individual transferable quota (ITQ) tags would be issued to owners 
in 2014-2016 (however, these tags would technically have no meaning as 
the specifications would not be set).
    Further, because there is no rollover provision, the only 
regulatory controls on fishing effort and harvests would be the 
indefinite measures. These include Sec.  648.14(j), which states that 
``It is unlawful for any person to do any of the following: Land or 
possess any surfclams or ocean quahogs harvested in or from the EEZ 
without having been issued, or in excess of, an individual 
allocation.'' Because it prohibits landing or possessing surflcams or 
ocean quahogs, Sec.  648.14(j), could effectively prohibit the fishery 
from operating, if quotas were not in place for January 1, 2014. Note 
that this provision is at odds with Sec.  648.75(b), which requires 
NMFS to issue tags to ITQ allocation holders prior to the fishing year. 
Therefore, if NMFS does not waive the delay in effectiveness, NMFS will 
have already

[[Page 77007]]

provided ITQ allocation holders with their allocation information and 
tags that would otherwise allow them to fish, but without quotas being 
allocated.
    ITQ shareholders each receive a portion of the overall annual 
quotas for the two species. An allocation holder receives an amount of 
cage tags equivalent to his/her share of the overall quota each year. 
As discussed above, fishing for surfclams and ocean quahogs can 
potentially begin on January 1, each year, regardless of the 
publication of the annual quota, as the tags are issued each year prior 
to January 1, pursuant to Sec.  648.75(b). As such, waiving the 30-day 
delay in effectiveness would ensure that the quota for surfclams and 
ocean quahogs is in place for January 1, 2014, thus preventing any 
conflicts between these regulations. On the contrary, not waiving the 
30-day delay in effectiveness would result in tags being issued, with 
no associated value, as the quotas would not be in place.
    Lastly, ITQ allocations are often transferred, either permanently 
or temporarily, immediately upon the commencement of the fishing year 
to meet adjust to any new circumstances in the fishery. Without a quota 
in effect, the industry does not have the ability to transfer 
allocation either permanently or temporarily. The inability of the 
industry to make such transfers effective would preclude the intended 
recipients of such transfers from fishing. Accordingly, a delay in the 
effectiveness of this rule would be contrary to the rule's intent to 
maintain current quota levels that have the full support of the fishing 
industry and that facilitate the transfer of quotas requested by the 
industry.
    The inability to transfer quota would be contrary to the public 
interest because it would preclude the intended recipients of such 
transfers from fishing, thereby resulting in a negative economic impact 
on the industry. Also, not having quotas in effect would cause 
substantial confusion and could raise legal and enforcement issues, 
since fishery participants would already have their ITQ allocation 
tags, but the tags would technically not have any meaning as the 
specifications would not have been set. Therefore, it is necessary to 
waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness, as a delay in effectiveness 
would compromise the start of the fishing year and thereby undermine 
the intent of this rule, contrary to the public's interest.
    This final rule is exempt from the requirements of E.O. 12866.
    The Council prepared an EA for this action that analyzes the 
impacts of this rule. A copy of the EA is available from the Federal e-
Rulemaking portal www.regulations.gov. Type ``NOAA-NMFS-2013-0139'' in 
the ID field and click search. A copy of the EA is also available upon 
request from the Council (see ADDRESSES).
    A final regulatory flexibility analysis (FRFA) was prepared, as 
required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RSA). The 
FRFA describes the economic impacts this final rule would have on small 
entities. The FRFA incorporates the IRFA, the RIR, a summary of the 
significant issues raised by the public comments in response to the 
IRFA, NMFS' responses to those comments, and a summary of the analyses 
completed to support the action. A copy of the IRFA and EA are 
available upon request (see ADDRESSES). A summary of the IRFA was 
published in the proposed rule for this action and is not repeated 
here. A description of why this action was considered, the objectives 
of, and the legal basis for, this rule is contained in the preamble to 
the proposed rule and this final rule and is not repeated here.

A Summary of the Significant Issues Raised by the Public Comments in 
Response to the IRFA, a Summary of the Assessment of the Agency of Such 
Issues, and a Statement of Any Changes Made in the Proposed Rule as a 
Result of Such Comments

    NMFS received no comments relative to the IRFA or economic impacts 
of the proposed 2014-2016 specifications for the Atlantic surfclam and 
ocean quahog fisheries. No changes were made from the proposed to final 
rule.

Description and Estimate of the Number of Small Entities to Which This 
Final Rule Would Apply

    The final measures would only affect vessels holding an active 
Federal open access surfclam and/or ocean quahog permit. The SBA 
defines a small commercial shellfish fishing entity as a firm with 
gross annual receipts not exceeding $5 million. In 2012, 42 vessels 
reported harvesting surfclams and/or ocean quahogs from Federal waters 
under the IFQ system. In addition, 12 vessels participated in the 
limited access Maine ocean quahog fishery, for a total of 54 
participants in 2012. Average 2012 gross income was $950,000 per 
vessel. Each vessel in this analysis is treated as a single entity for 
purposes of size determination and impact assessment. All 54 commercial 
fishing entities fall below the SBA size threshold for small commercial 
shellfish fishing entities.

Reporting and Recordkeeping Requirements

    This action does not introduce any new reporting, recordkeeping, or 
other compliance requirements. This final rule does not duplicate, 
overlap, or conflict with other Federal rules.

Description of the Steps Taken To Minimize Economic Impact on Small 
Entities

Specifications
    The final quotas for 2014-2016 reflect the same quota levels set 
for 2011-2013. Therefore, it is not expected that there will be any 
different economic impacts beyond status quo resulting from the quotas. 
Leaving the ocean quahog quota at the harvest level of 5.333 million bu 
(284 million L) is not expected to constrain the fishery. The surfclam 
quota is set to the maximum allowed under the FMP of 3.4 million bu 
(181 million L).
    The Maine ocean quahog quota is set at the maximum allowed under 
the FMP of 100,000 Maine bu (3.524 million L). It is anticipated that 
by maintaining the status quo quota level for the next 3 years, the 
fishing industry will benefit from the stability of product demand from 
the seafood processors and being able to predict future fishery 
performance based on past performance from the last 3 yrs.
    Alternatives to these status quo quotas were considered, but were 
not adopted. The alternatives would have resulted in more restrictive 
quotas and would not have been in the best interest of the fishery. In 
addition, the Council and the industry both support the status quo 
quotas being adopted in this action. As a result, since the non-
selected alternatives would have resulted in a negative impacts to 
fisheries and would have been contrary to achieving optimum yield, 
while preventing overfishing, the alternatives were not adopted.
Minimum Size Suspension for Atlantic Surfclams
    The minimum size limit for surfclams has been suspended since 2005. 
Therefore, because this action would not impose a minimum size limit, 
and because no net change in fishing effort, participation in the 
fishery, or fishery expenses are expected, it is anticipated that this 
action would not impose any additional costs on the industry. In fact, 
continuing to suspend the minimum size limit would likely have positive 
economic affects in contrast to not suspending the minimum size limit, 
as not suspending the minimum size limit would likely reduce vessel 
efficiency

[[Page 77008]]

through time spent measuring and culling small surfclams.

Small Entity Compliance Guide

    Section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness 
Act of 1996 states that, for each rule, or group of related rules, for 
which an agency is required to prepare a FRFA, the agency shall publish 
one or more guides to assist small entities in complying with the rule 
and shall designate such publications as ``small entity compliance 
guides.'' The agency shall explain the actions a small entity is 
required to make to comply with a rule or group of rules. As part of 
this rulemaking process, a small entity compliance guide will be sent 
to all holders of permits issued either a surfclam or ocean quahog 
permit, as well as surfclam and ocean quahog dealers. In addition, 
copies of this final rule and guide (i.e., bulletin) are available from 
the Regional Administrator (see ADDRESSES) and may be found at the 
following Web site: www.nero.noaa.gov.

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

    Dated: December 16, 2013.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, performing the functions and 
duties of the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, 
National Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-30313 Filed 12-19-13; 8:45 am]
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