Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fisheries; 2016-2018 Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Specifications, 69179-69187 [2015-28444]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 216 / Monday, November 9, 2015 / Proposed Rules H. Executive Order 13211, Actions That Significantly Affect Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use This proposed action is not subject to Executive Order 13211, because it is not a significant regulatory action under Executive Order 12866. I. National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act This rulemaking does not involve technical standards. J. Executive Order 12898: Federal Actions To Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations EPA has determined that this action will not have potential disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects on minority or low-income populations because it does not affect the level of protection provided to human health or the environment. This proposed action would only reclassify the Salt Lake City, Provo, and the Logan portion of the Logan, UT/ID nonattainment areas as Serious nonattainment for the 2006 PM2.5 NAAQS, triggering additional Serious area planning requirements under the CAA. List of Subjects in 40 CFR Part 81 Environmental protection, Air pollution control, Carbon monoxide, Intergovernmental relations, Incorporation by reference, Lead, Nitrogen dioxide, Ozone, Particulate matter, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Sulfur oxides, Volatile organization compounds. Authority: 42 U.S.C. 7401 et seq. Dated: October 27, 2015. Shaun L. McGrath, Regional Administrator, Region 8. [FR Doc. 2015–28359 Filed 11–6–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6560–50–P DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY Coast Guard 46 CFR Parts 401, 403, and 404 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS [USCG–2015–0497; 1625–AC22] Great Lakes Pilotage Rates—2016 Annual Review and Changes to Methodology Coast Guard, DHS. Notice of proposed rulemaking; extension of public comment period. AGENCY: ACTION: The Coast Guard is extending, for 30 days, the period for submitting SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:17 Nov 06, 2015 Jkt 238001 public comments on the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM). The extension responds to a request made by several members of the public. DATES: The comment period for the NPRM published on September 10, 2015 (80 FR 54484) is extended. Comments and related material must be submitted to the docket by December 9, 2015. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments identified by docket number USCG– 2015–0497 using the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http:// www.regulations.gov. See the ‘‘Public Participation and Request for Comments’’ portion of the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section for further instructions on submitting comments. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: If you have questions on this proposed rule, call or email Mr. Todd Haviland, Director, Great Lakes Pilotage, Commandant (CG–WWM–2), Coast Guard; telephone 202–372–2037, email Todd.A.Haviland@uscg.mil, or fax 202– 372–1914. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: A. Public Participation and Comments We view public participation as essential to effective rulemaking, and will consider all comments and material received during the comment period. Your comment can help shape the outcome of this rulemaking. If you submit a comment, please include the docket number for this rulemaking, indicate the specific section of this document to which each comment applies, and provide a reason for each suggestion or recommendation. We encourage you to submit comments through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http:// www.regulations.gov. If your material cannot be submitted using http:// www.regulations.gov, contact the person in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section of this document for alternate instructions. Documents mentioned in this notice, and all public comments, are in our online docket at http://www.regulations.gov and can be viewed by following that Web site’s instructions. Additionally, if you go to the online docket and sign up for email alerts, you will be notified when comments are posted or a final rule is published. We accept anonymous comments. All comments received will be posted without change to http:// www.regulations.gov and will include any personal information you have provided. For more about privacy and the docket, you may review a Privacy Act notice regarding the Federal Docket PO 00000 Frm 00036 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 69179 Management System in the March 24, 2005, issue of the Federal Register (70 FR 15086). B. Regulatory History and Information We published the NPRM for this rulemaking on September 10, 2015 (80 FR 54484). It proposed changes to the methodology by which the Coast Guard reviews and adjusts rates for Great Lakes pilotage, and also proposed rates for the 2016 shipping season. The NPRM announced a 60 day public comment period ending November 9, 2015. We have received a request from several members of the public for an extension of the comment period, which we have decided to grant in light of the importance of our proposed changes to the ratemaking methodology. With this extension, the total length of the public comment period will now be 90 days. This notice is issued under authority of 5 U.S.C. 552(a). November 5, 2015. Gary C. Rasicot, Director, Marine Transportation Systems, U.S. Coast Guard. [FR Doc. 2015–28590 Filed 11–5–15; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 9110–04–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 150903814–5814–01] RIN 0648–XE171 Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fisheries; 2016–2018 Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Specifications National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed specifications; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS proposes specifications for the 2016–2018 summer flounder and scup fisheries and for the 2016–2017 black sea bass fishery. The implementing regulations for the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan require us to publish specifications for the upcoming fishing year for each of these species and to provide an opportunity for public comment. This action is intended to propose for implementation specifications necessary to constrain harvest for these three species within SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\09NOP1.SGM 09NOP1 69180 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 216 / Monday, November 9, 2015 / Proposed Rules scientifically sound recommendations to prevent overfishing. DATES: Comments must be received on or before November 24, 2015. ADDRESSES: An environmental assessment (EA) was prepared for the specifications and describes the proposed action and other considered alternatives, and provides an analysis of the impacts of the proposed measures and alternatives. Copies of the Specifications Document, including the EA and the Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA), are available on request from Dr. Christopher M. Moore, Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Suite 201, 800 North State Street, Dover, DE 19901. These documents are also accessible via the Internet at http://www.mafmc.org. You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA–NMFS– 2015–0117, by either of the following methods: Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. 1. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20150117, 2. Click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields 3. Enter or attach your comments. -ORMail: Submit written comments to John Bullard, Regional Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01950. Mark the outside of the envelope, ‘‘Comments on the Proposed Rule for FSB Specifications.’’ Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/ A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Moira Kelly, Fishery Policy Analyst, (978) 281–9218. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: General Specification Background The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission cooperatively manage the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries. Fishery specifications in these fisheries include various catch and landing subdivisions, such as the commercial and recreational sector annual catch limits (ACLs), annual catch targets (ACTs), and sector-specific landing limits (i.e., the commercial fishery quota and recreational harvest limit) for the upcoming fishing year. Rulemaking for measures used to manage the recreational fisheries (minimum fish sizes, open seasons, and bag limits) for these three species occurs separately and typically takes place in the spring of each year. The Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and its implementing regulations establish the Council’s process for establishing specifications. 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 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 FMP also contains formulas to divide the specification catch limits into commercial and recreational fishery allocations, state-by-state quotas, and quota periods, depending on the species in question. The Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) met July 22–23, 2015, to recommend acceptable biological catches (ABC) for the 2016– 2018 these fisheries. The Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Monitoring Committees met July 23–24, 2015, to discuss specification-related recommendations for the three fisheries, to recommend offsets from the ACL to account for management uncertainty, and to discuss commercial management measure recommendations, as appropriate. Note, because of a planned black sea bass benchmark stock assessment scheduled for late 2016, the SSC only recommended interim ABCs for 2016 and 2017. More details on the SSC’s discussions are provided in the fishery-specific sections below. Following the SSC and Monitoring Committee meetings, the Council and the Commission’s Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Management Board met jointly on August 12, 2015, to consider the recommendations of the SSC, the three Monitoring Committees, and public comments, and to make their specification recommendations. The SSC and the Council met subsequently to reconsider the black sea bass recommendations. More complete details on the SSC, Monitoring Committee, and Council meeting deliberations can be found on the Council’s Web site (www.mafmc.org). While the Board action was finalized at the August meeting, the Council’s recommendations must be reviewed by NMFS to ensure that they comply with the FMP and applicable law. NMFS also must conduct notice-and-comment rulemaking to propose and implement the final specifications. TABLE 1—SUMMARY OF THE PROPOSED 2016–2018 SUMMER FLOUNDER AND SCUP SPECIFICATIONS AND 2016–2017 BLACK SEA BASS SPECIFICATIONS Summer flounder Scup Black sea bass 2016 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Overfishing Limit (OFL) ............... ABC ............................................. Commercial ACL/ACT ................. Recreational ACL/ACT ................ Commercial Quota ...................... VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:17 Nov 06, 2015 2017 2018 2016 2017 2018 18.06 8,194 16.26 7,375 9.42 4,275 6.83 3,100 8.12 3,685 19.82 8,991 15.86 7,193 9.19 4,168 6.67 3,025 7.91 3,590 22.40 10,159 15.68 7,111 9.10 4,127 6.56 2,984 7.89 3,581 35.80 16,238 31.11 14,110 24.26 11,006 6.84 3,104 20.47 9,284 32.09 14,556 28.40 12,881 22.15 10,047 6.25 2,834 18.38 8,337 29.68 13,464 27.05 12,270 21.10 9,571 5.95 2,699 17.34 7,866 million lb ..................................... mt ................................................ million lb ..................................... mt ................................................ million lb ..................................... mt ................................................ million lb ..................................... mt ................................................ million lb ..................................... mt ................................................ Jkt 238001 PO 00000 Frm 00037 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\09NOP1.SGM 09NOP1 2016–2017 n/a n/a 6.67 3,024 3.15 1,428 3.52 1,597 2.71 1,230 69181 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 216 / Monday, November 9, 2015 / Proposed Rules TABLE 1—SUMMARY OF THE PROPOSED 2016–2018 SUMMER FLOUNDER AND SCUP SPECIFICATIONS AND 2016–2017 BLACK SEA BASS SPECIFICATIONS—Continued Summer flounder Scup Black sea bass 2016 Recreational Harvest Limit .......... 2017 2018 2016 2017 2018 5.42 2,457 5.28 2,393 5.26 2,387 6.09 2,763 5.50 2,495 5.21 2,361 million lb ..................................... mt ................................................ Consistent with the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass regulations, the sum of the recreational and commercial sector ACLs are equal to the ABCs. ACL is an expression of total catch (i.e., landings and dead discarded fish). To derive the ACLs, the sum of the sectorspecific projected discards are removed from the ABCs to derive the landing allowances. The resulting landing allowance is apportioned to the commercial and recreational sectors by applying the FMP allocation criteria: (1) Summer flounder—60 percent to the commercial fishery and 40 percent to the recreational fishery; (2) scup—78 percent to the commercial fishery and 22 percent to the recreational fishery; and (3) black sea bass—49 percent to the commercial fishery and 51 percent to the recreational fishery. Using this method ensures that each sector is accountable for its respective discards, rather than simply apportioning the ABC by the allocation percentages to derive the sector ACLs. Although the derived ACLs are not split exactly according to the FMP-specified allocations, the landing portions of the ACLs preserve the appropriate allocation split, consistent with the FMP. This process results in the commercial and recreational ACLs, commercial quotas, and recreational harvest limits shown in Table 1. The specific discard values projected for each fishery and sector are described in more detail below. Proposed Specifications Summer Flounder This rulemaking proposes the Council’s ABC recommendation and the commercial and recreational catch limits associated with that ABC for fishing years 2016–2018. The 2015 stock assessment update used to established these specifications was based on the approved model from the 2013 benchmark assessment, updated to include data through 2014 (http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/publi cations/crd/crd1513/crd1513.pdf). The assessment update indicates that summer flounder are not overfished, but that overfishing did occur in 2014. The stock status change was primarily due to four years of below average recruitment, leading to fewer summer flounder being available to the fishery than had previously been predicted. The OFL for 2016 was estimated to be 18.06 million lb (8,194 mt), a reduction of 33 percent from 2015. At the request of the Council, the SSC deviated from the standard Risk Policy and ABC Control Rule and recommended ABCs that ‘‘phase in’’ the required reduction in order to minimize the economic impact that such a reduction in a single year’s catch limits would cause. Using the standard ABC Control Rule, the 2016 ABC would have been 30 percent below the OFL to account for scientific uncertainty. As proposed, this 30percent buffer would be phased-in over the next three years by increasing the 2016–2017 2.82 1,280 buffer by a third in each year. That is, a 10-buffer in 2016, a 20-percent buffer in 2017, and, finally, the full 30-percent buffer in 2018. Each of the ABCs derived from this approach have a less than 50-percent probability of resulting in overfishing. This results in relatively stable specifications because the current projections indicate a modest increase in the OFL over these three years. The SSC has requested a stock assessment update for next summer and intends to evaluate the available information to determine if the proposed ABCs remain appropriate. The Summer Flounder Monitoring Committee met to discuss the SSC’s recommendations and to determine whether additional reductions in the catch limits were necessary to account for management uncertainty. Because the recreational fishery in recent years has not substantially exceeded the recreational harvest limit, discards in the commercial fishery have been relatively low, and the commercial landings monitoring and fishery closure system is timely, the Summer Flounder Monitoring Committee determined that no additional reductions to account for management uncertainty were necessary. Therefore, it was recommended that the ACT (both commercial and recreational) should be set equal to ACL for all three years. Removing the estimated discards results in the commercial quotas and recreational harvest limits shown below in Table 2. TABLE 2—PROPOSED 2016–2018 SUMMER FLOUNDER SPECIFICATIONS AND CALCULATIONS 2015 (current) tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS million lb OFL .................................................. ABC .................................................. ABC Landings Portion ..................... ABC Discards Portion ...................... Commercial ACL .............................. Commercial ACT .............................. Projected Commercial Discards ...... Commercial Quota ........................... Recreational ACL ............................. Recreational ACT ............................. Projected Recreational Discards ..... Recreational Harvest Limit ............... VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:17 Nov 06, 2015 Jkt 238001 27.06 22.77 18.45 4.32 13.34 13.34 2.27 11.07 9.44 9.44 2.06 7.38 PO 00000 2016 mt million lb 12,275 10,329 8,368 1,961 6,049 6,049 1,028 5,021 4,280 4,280 933 3,347 Frm 00038 18.06 16.26 13.54 2.72 9.43 9.43 1.30 8.12 6.84 6.84 1.42 5.42 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 2017 mt 8,194 7,375 6,142 1,233 4,275 4,275 590 3,685 3,100 3,100 643 2,457 million lb mt 19.82 15.86 13.19 2.67 9.19 9.19 1.28 7.91 6.67 6.67 1.39 5.28 E:\FR\FM\09NOP1.SGM 2018 8,991 7,193 5,983 1,210 4,168 4,168 579 3,590 3,025 3,025 631 2,393 09NOP1 million lb 22.4 15.7 13.2 2.52 9.1 9.1 1.21 7.89 6.58 6.58 1.32 5.26 mt 10,159 7,111 5,968 1,143 4,127 4,127 547 3,581 2,984 2,984 596 2,387 69182 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 216 / Monday, November 9, 2015 / Proposed Rules The Council and Board considered the SSC and Summer Flounder Monitoring Committee recommendations before concurring with the catch recommendations specified in Table 2. Fishing under these catch limits for 2016 through 2018 is not expected to compromise the summer flounder stock, nor will fishing at this level present a unacceptably high likelihood of overfishing. The Council recommended all other commercial management measures remain status quo. Table 3 presents the proposed state allocations for 2016–2018 using the commercial state quota allocations described in the FMP. Any commercial quota adjustments to account for overages will be published in the Federal Register prior to the start of the respective fishing year. The final rule for this action will include any necessary quota overage reductions for fishing year 2016. TABLE 3—2016–2018 PROPOSED INITIAL SUMMER FLOUNDER STATE COMMERCIAL QUOTAS 2016 initial quota FMP percent share State ME ................................ NH ................................ MA ................................ RI .................................. CT ................................ NY ................................ NJ ................................. DE ................................ MD ................................ VA ................................ NC ................................ Total ...................... lb 0.04756 0.00046 6.82046 15.68298 2.25708 7.64699 16.72499 0.01779 2.0391 21.31676 27.44584 100 2017 initial quota kg 3,864 37 554,097 1,274,091 183,366 621,244 1,358,744 1,445 165,657 1,731,781 2,229,709 8,124,035 lb 1,753 17 251,334 577,917 83,173 281,791 616,315 656 75,141 785,522 1,011,378 3,684,997 2018 initial quota kg 3,764 36 539,812 1,241,244 178,639 605,228 1,323,715 1,408 161,387 1,687,135 2,172,227 7,914,596 lb 1,707 17 244,854 563,019 81,029 274,527 600,427 639 73,204 765,271 985,305 3,589,997 kg 3,755 36 538,459 1,238,133 178,191 603,711 1,320,397 1,404 160,982 1,682,906 2,166,781 7,894,754 1,703 16 244,240 561,607 80,826 273,838 598,921 637 73,020 763,353 982,835 3,580,997 Note: Kilograms are as converted from pounds and do not sum to the converted total due to rounding. Rounding of quotas results in totals slightly exceeding 100 percent. Scup This rule proposes the Council’s ABC recommendation and the commercial and recreational catch limits associated with that ABC for fishing years 2016– 2018. The SSC reviewed the results of the 2015 scup benchmark stock assessment and determined that an update to the existing control rule was warranted. The SSC determined that a lower coefficient of variation, or CV, to estimate scientific uncertainty was acceptable for the scup stock assessment instead of the default 100-percent CV. The SSC’s ABC recommendations are based on a 60percent CV from the OFL and are, therefore, higher than they would have otherwise been. In addition, the 2016 ABC is based on an assumption that only 75 percent of the 2015 ABC would be harvested, consistent with recent fishery performance. The stock assessment upon which the specifications are based indicates that scup biomass is currently lower than in recent years, but still more than double the biomass target. Therefore, the proposed catch limits are lower than the specifications for fishing year 2015, but are still relatively high compared to recent landings. The Scup Monitoring Committee met to discuss the SSC’s recommendations and to determine whether additional reductions in the catch limits were necessary to account for management uncertainty. Because both the recreational and commercial fisheries have not reached their respective landings limits because of the very high quotas, and the landings monitoring and fishery closure system is timely, the Monitoring Committee determined that no additional reductions to account for management uncertainty were necessary. Therefore, it was recommended that the ACTs (both commercial and recreational) should be set equal to the respective ACLs for fishing years 2016–2018. The Council and Board considered the SSC and Scup Monitoring Committee recommendations before concurring with the catch recommendations specified in Table 2. Fishing under these catch limits for 2016 through 2018 is not expected to compromise the scup stock, nor will fishing at this level present an unacceptably high likelihood of overfishing. The Council recommended all other commercial management measures remain status quo. After deducting the appropriate sector-specific discards, the 2016–2018 commercial quotas and recreational harvest limits would be as described below in Table 4. TABLE 4—PROPOSED SCUP SPECIFICATIONS 2015 (current) tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS mil lb OFL .................................................................. ABC .................................................................. ABC Landings Portion ..................................... ABC Discards Portion ...................................... Commercial ACL .............................................. Commercial ACT .............................................. Projected Commercial Discards ...................... Commercial Quota ........................................... Recreational ACL ............................................. Recreational ACT ............................................. VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:17 Nov 06, 2015 Jkt 238001 PO 00000 47.8 33.77 28.03 5.74 26.34 26.34 5.11 21.23 7.92 7.92 Frm 00039 mt 21,680 15,320 12,716 2,604 11,950 11,950 2,318 9,632 3,592 3,592 Fmt 4702 2016 mil lb 35.8 31.11 26.56 4.55 24.26 24.26 3.8 20.47 6.84 6.84 Sfmt 4702 2017 mt 16,238 14,110 12,047 2,063 11,006 11,006 1,721 9,284 3,104 3,104 mil lb mt 32.09 28.4 23.88 4.52 22.15 22.15 3.77 18.38 6.25 6.25 E:\FR\FM\09NOP1.SGM 2018 09NOP1 14,556 12,881 10,832 2,049 10,047 10,047 1,710 8,337 2,834 2,834 mil lb 29.7 27.1 22.6 4.5 21.1 21.1 3.76 17.3 5.95 5.95 mt 13,464 12,270 10,227 2,043 9,571 9,571 1,705 7,866 2,699 2,699 69183 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 216 / Monday, November 9, 2015 / Proposed Rules TABLE 4—PROPOSED SCUP SPECIFICATIONS—Continued 2015 (current) mil lb Projected Recreational Discards ..................... Recreational Harvest Limit ............................... The scup commercial quota is divided into three commercial fishery quota periods: Winter I; Summer; and Winter II. This rule proposes commercial scup quotas for these three periods for 2016– 2018, consistent with the allocation 2016 mt 0.67 6.8 mil lb 304 3,288 2017 mt 0.75 6.09 2018 mil lb 342 2,763 mt 0.75 5.5 mil lb 339 2,495 mt 0.75 5.21 338 2,361 2017 and 2018 will be provided in a Federal Register notice published prior to the start of the fishing year. The period quotas are detailed in Table 5. Unused Winter I quota may be carried over for use in the Winter II period. structure of the FMP. If there is a commercial overage applicable to the 2016 scup commercial quota, notice of that overage will be included in the final rule for this action. Commercial overages applicable to fishing years TABLE 5—PROPOSED COMMERCIAL SCUP QUOTA ALLOCATIONS FOR 2016–2018 BY QUOTA PERIOD Percent share Quota period Winter I ..................................................................... Summer .................................................................... Winter II .................................................................... Total .................................................................. 45.11 38.95 15.94 100.0 2016 Initial quota lb 2017 Initial quota mt lb 2018 Initial quota mt lb mt 9,232,987 7,972,176 3,262,554 4,188 3,616 1,480 8,291,190 7,158,986 2,929,762 3,761 3,247 1,329 7,822,778 6,754,538 2,764,245 3,548 3,064 1,254 20,467,716 9,284 18,379,939 8,337 17,341,562 7,866 Note: Metric tons are as converted from pounds and may not necessarily total due to rounding. The Winter I possession limit will be reduced to 1,000 lb (454 kg) when 80 percent of that period’s allocation has been landed. The Winter II possession limit may be adjusted (in association with a transfer of unused Winter I quota to the Winter II period) via notification in the Federal Register. TABLE 6—INITIAL COMMERCIAL SCUP POSSESSION LIMITS BY QUOTA PERIOD Quota period Percent share Federal possession limits (per trip) lb Winter I ........................................................................................................................................ Summer ....................................................................................................................................... Winter II ....................................................................................................................................... tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Total ...................................................................................................................................... Black Sea Bass This rule proposes the Council’s revised ABC recommendation and the commercial and recreational catch limits associated with that ABC for fishing years 2016 and 2017. Black sea bass remains a data-poor stock, with relatively high uncertainty for the purposes of calculating ABC. The SSC rejected the OFL estimate provided from the 2011 stock assessment, stating that it was highly uncertain and not sufficiently reliable to use as the basis of management advice. In 2012, the SSC recommended an ABC of 4.50 million lb (2,041 mt). The Council tasked the SSC to revisit this recommendation in January 2013. The SSC revised its recommendation for fishing years 2013 and 2014 and recommended an ABC of 5.50 million lb (2,494 mt). This ABC and the corresponding specifications VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:17 Nov 06, 2015 Jkt 238001 were implemented in June 2013 and were carried forward into fishing year 2015. At the July 2015 meeting, the SSC made an interim recommendation that would continue this ABC into fishing years 2016–2017. No recommendation was made for 2018. A benchmark stock assessment for black sea bass is scheduled to occur in 2016 and the Council and the SSC will use this information to recommend a 2018 ABC. A very large year class from 2011 has been prevalent throughout the fishery for the past several years, making it difficult to avoid black sea bass and leading to increasingly restrictive management measures. The SSC reviewed additional information at its September 16, 2015, meeting on setting catch recommendations for data poor stocks with no reliable overfishing limit estimate available (i.e., ABC Control PO 00000 Frm 00040 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 45.11 38.95 15.94 100.0 kg 50,000 N/A 12,000 22,680 N/A 5,443 N/A N/A Rule Level IV). This is intended to replace the default constant catch approach the SSC has used for data-poor stocks. The SSC determined that the average of four of the Data-Limited Modeling Approaches that were evaluated was a more scientifically robust approach to setting catch advice. This approach resulted in the SSC revising its black sea bass ABC recommendation for 2016 and 2017 to 6.67 million lb (3,024 mt). The Council discussed the revised SSC recommendation at its October 7, 2015, meeting, notifying NMFS in a letter dated October 14, 2015. The Commission’s Black Sea Bass Board will review this recommendation in November. The Black Sea Bass Monitoring Committee met in July 2015 to discuss the SSC’s interim recommendation and E:\FR\FM\09NOP1.SGM 09NOP1 69184 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 216 / Monday, November 9, 2015 / Proposed Rules to determine if additional reductions in the catch limits were necessary to account for management uncertainty. The Monitoring Committee determined that no additional reductions to account for management uncertainty were necessary because the commercial management program is timely, and management uncertainty will be more explicitly accounted for in the recreational management measures process. Therefore, it was recommended that the ACTs (both commercial and recreational) should be set equal to their respective ACL for fishing years 2016 and 2017. The Monitoring Committee discussed the revised ABC recommendation via email prior to the Council’s discussion. The Monitoring Committee determined that the rationale for the prior recommendation was also applicable to the revised specifications. As such, the Council is recommending, and this rule proposes, that the ACT be set equal to the ACL for both sectors in both years. The Council recommended that all other commercial management measures remain at the status quo. This rule proposes the revised specifications shown in Table 7, as recommended by the Council and consistent with the SSC’s recommendations. Preliminary data indicate that a commercial quota overage occurred in 2014. There may also have been more discards than projected, resulting in an additional overage of the ACL, potentially triggering an additional accountability measure. Any overage of the ACL beyond the landings overage will be deducted from the 2016 ACT. The 2014 commercial quota overage amount, in pounds, will be deducted from the 2016 quota when the final accounting is completed. Commercial overages applicable to fishing year 2017 will be provided in a Federal Register notice prior to the start of the fishing year. TABLE 7—PROPOSED BLACK SEA BASS 2016–2017 SPECIFICATIONS 2015 (current) million lb ABC .................................................................................................................. ABC Landings Portion ..................................................................................... ABC Discards Portion ...................................................................................... Commercial ACL .............................................................................................. Commercial ACT ............................................................................................. Projected Commercial Discards ...................................................................... Commercial Quota ........................................................................................... Recreational ACL ............................................................................................. Recreational ACT ............................................................................................ Projected Recreational Discards ..................................................................... Recreational Harvest Limit .............................................................................. 2016 and 2017 mt 5.50 4.56 0.93 2.60 2.58 0.37 2.21 2.90 2.90 0.57 2.33 million lb 2,494 2,070 424 1,180 1,170 166 1,004 1,314 1,314 258 1,056 6.67 5.53 1.13 3.15 3.15 0.44 2.71 3.52 3.52 0.70 2.82 mt 3,024 2,510 514 1,428 1,428 198 1,230 1,597 1,597 317 1,280 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Note: An accountability measure was implemented for fishing year 2015 because of a prior year’s commercial fishery overage. Classification Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS 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. These proposed specifications are exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. An IRFA was prepared by the Council, as required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), to examine the impacts of these proposed specifications on small business entities, if adopted. A description of the specifications, why they are being considered, and the legal basis for proposing and implementing specifications for the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries are contained in the preamble to this proposed rule. A copy of the detailed RFA analysis is available from NMFS or the Council (see ADDRESSES). The Council’s analysis made use of quantitative approaches when possible. Where quantitative data on revenues or other business-related metrics that VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:17 Nov 06, 2015 Jkt 238001 would provide insight to potential impacts were not available to inform the analyses, qualitative analyses were conducted. A summary of the 2016– 2018 specifications RFA analysis follows. Description of the Reasons Why Action by the Agency is Being Considered, and a Statement of the Objectives of, and Legal Basis for, This Proposed Rule This action proposes management measures, including annual catch limits, for the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries in order to prevent overfishing and achieve optimum yield in the fishery. A complete description of the action, why it is being considered, and the legal basis for this action are contained in the specifications document, and elsewhere in the preamble to this proposed rule, and are not repeated here. Description and Estimate of the Number of Small Entities to Which the Proposed Rule Would Apply The Small Business Administration defines a small business as one that is independently owned and operated; not dominant in its field of operation; has annual receipts that do not exceed $20.5 PO 00000 Frm 00041 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 million in the case of commercial finfish harvesting entities (NAIC 114111), $5.5 million in the case of commercial shellfish harvesting entities (NAIC 114112), $7.5 million in the case of forhire fishing entities (NAIC 114119); or has fewer than 500 employees in the case of fish processors or 100 employees in the case of fish dealers. The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) is the standard used by Federal statistical agencies in classifying business establishments for the purpose of collecting, analyzing, and publishing statistical data related to the U.S. business economy. This proposed rule affects commercial and recreational fish harvesting entities engaged in the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries. Individually-permitted vessels may hold permits for several fisheries, harvesting species of fish that are regulated by several different FMPs, even beyond those impacted by the proposed action. Furthermore, multiple-permitted vessels and/or permits may be owned by entities affiliated by stock ownership, common management, identity of interest, contractual relationships, or economic dependency. For the purposes of the RFA analysis, the ownership E:\FR\FM\09NOP1.SGM 09NOP1 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 216 / Monday, November 9, 2015 / Proposed Rules entities, not the individual vessels, are considered to be the regulated entities. Ownership entities are defined as those entities with common ownership personnel as listed on the permit application. Only permits with identical ownership personnel are categorized as an ownership entity. For example, if five permits have the same seven persons listed as co-owners on their permit applications, those seven persons would form one ownership entity that holds those five permits. If two of those seven owners also co-own additional vessels, that ownership arrangement would be considered a separate ownership entity for the purpose of this analysis. In preparation for this action, ownership entities are identified based on a list of all permits for the most recent complete calendar year. The current ownership data set used for this analysis is based on calendar year 2014 and contains average gross sales associated with those permits for calendar years 2012 through 2014. In addition to classifying a business (ownership entity) as small or large, a business can also be classified by its primary source of revenue. A business is defined as being primarily engaged in fishing for finfish if it obtains greater than 50 percent of its gross sales from sales of finfish. Similarly, a business is defined as being primarily engaged in fishing for shellfish if it obtains greater than 50 percent of its gross sales from sales of shellfish. A description of the specific permits that are likely to be impacted by this action is provided below, along with a discussion of the impacted businesses, which can include multiple vessels and/ or permit types. The ownership database shows that for the 2012–2014 period, 485 affiliate firms held a summer flounder commercial permit and 547 affiliate firms held a summer flounder party/ charter permit; 446 affiliate firms held a scup commercial permit and 491 affiliate firms held a scup party/charter permit; and 491 affiliate firms held a black sea bass commercial permit and 533 affiliate firms held a black sea bass party/charter permit. However, not all of those affiliate firms are active participants in the fishery. According to the ownership database, 960 affiliate firms landed summer flounder, scup, and/or black sea bass during the 2012– 2014 period, with 952 of those business affiliates categorized as small business and 8 categorized as large business. Description of the Projected Reporting, Record-Keeping, and Other Compliance Requirements of This Proposed Rule There are no new reporting or recordkeeping requirements contained in any of the alternatives considered for this action. Federal Rules Which May Duplicate, Overlap, or Conflict With This Proposed Rule NMFS is not aware of any relevant Federal rules that may duplicate, overlap, or conflict with this proposed rule. Description of Significant Alternatives to the Proposed Action Which Accomplish the Stated Objectives of Applicable Statutes and Which Minimize Any Significant Economic Impact on Small Entities The Council analyzed four sets of combined catch limit alternatives for each of the fishing years 2016–2018 for the summer flounder, scup, and black 69185 sea bass fisheries. The 2018 fishing year analysis is based on summer flounder and scup only because there was no recommendation for black sea bass. The alternatives were as follows: • Alternative 1 was the Council’s originally preferred alternative, and was consistent with the SSC’s interim advice; • Alternative 2 is the status quo and would maintain the current specifications in effect; • Alternative 3 is an alternative provided for analytical purposes as the ‘‘most restrictive’’ set of landings limits, based on the lowest landings limits in the time series for each stock; and • Alternative 4 is the counter-point to Alternative 3 as the ‘‘least restrictive’’ or highest landings limits in the time series. This analysis was completed using the Council’s interim recommendation for the black sea bass specifications. The specifications proposed in this action are different than Alternative 1, as described in the Council’s specifications document and IRFA. The proposed specifications represent an increase in the 2016 and 2017 commercial quotas to 2.71 million lb (1,230 mt) and recreational harvest limits of 2.82 million lb (1,280 mt). These are 21 percent higher than the previously preferred alternative (Alternative 1), and 33 percent lower than the ‘‘least restrictive’’ alternative (Alternative 4). The impacts from the proposed catch limits fall within the range that has been analyzed and are more fully described here. The discussion below is based on the conclusions of the RFA analyses in the draft specifications document provided by the Council, modified to account for the revised black sea bass recommendation. TABLE 8—SUMMARY OF LANDINGS LIMITS BY ALTERNATIVE Commercial quota Recreational harvest limit Year Alternative Species 2016 .................. Proposed ....................................................... Summer Flounder ......................................... Scup .............................................................. Black Sea Bass ............................................ Summer Flounder ......................................... Scup .............................................................. Black Sea Bass ............................................ Summer Flounder ......................................... Scup .............................................................. Black Sea Bass ............................................ Summer Flounder ......................................... Scup .............................................................. Black Sea Bass ............................................ Summer Flounder ......................................... Scup .............................................................. Black Sea Bass ............................................ 8.12 20.47 2.71 8.12 20.47 2.24 11.07 21.23 2.21 6.30 2.53 1.13 18.18 28.35 4.02 5.42 6.09 2.82 5.42 6.09 2.33 7.38 6.80 2.33 4.20 1.24 1.17 12.12 8.57 4.18 Summer Flounder ......................................... Scup .............................................................. Black Sea Bass ............................................ 7.91 18.38 2.71 5.28 5.50 2.82 Alternative 1 (Preferred) Alternative 2 (Status quo) ............................. tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Alternative 3 (Most Restrictive) .................... Alternative 4 (Least Restrictive) ................... 2017 .................. VerDate Sep<11>2014 Proposed ....................................................... 19:17 Nov 06, 2015 Jkt 238001 PO 00000 Frm 00042 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\09NOP1.SGM 09NOP1 69186 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 216 / Monday, November 9, 2015 / Proposed Rules TABLE 8—SUMMARY OF LANDINGS LIMITS BY ALTERNATIVE—Continued Year Commercial quota Recreational harvest limit Alternative Species Alternative 1 (Preferred) ............................... Summer Flounder ......................................... Scup .............................................................. Black Sea Bass ............................................ Summer Flounder ......................................... Scup .............................................................. Black Sea Bass ............................................ Summer Flounder ......................................... Scup .............................................................. Black Sea Bass ............................................ Summer Flounder ......................................... Scup .............................................................. Black Sea Bass ............................................ 7.91 18.38 2.24 11.07 21.23 2.21 6.30 2.53 1.13 18.18 28.35 4.02 5.28 5.50 2.33 7.38 6.80 2.33 4.20 1.24 1.17 12.12 8.57 4.18 Summer Flounder ......................................... Scup .............................................................. Summer Flounder ......................................... Scup .............................................................. Summer Flounder ......................................... Scup .............................................................. Summer Flounder ......................................... Scup .............................................................. 7.89 17.34 11.07 21.23 6.30 2.53 18.18 28.35 5.26 5.21 7.38 6.80 4.20 1.24 12.12 8.57 Alternative 2 (Status quo) ............................. Alternative 3 (Most Restrictive) .................... Alternative 4 (Least Restrictive) ................... 2018 .................. Alternative 1 (Preferred; Proposed) .............. Alternative 2 (Status quo) ............................. Alternative 3 (Most Restrictive) .................... Alternative 4 (Least Restrictive) ................... tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Commercial Fishery Impacts It is expected that varying levels of negative economic impacts on the three fisheries may occur from the proposed specifications. The summer flounder fishery is expected to experience the largest negative impact, because of the 20-percent decrease in available quota in 2016. This represents an approximately $8.1-million decrease in ex-vessel summer flounder revenue across the fleet. However, some of this impact may be offset for some firms if the price of summer flounder increases because of lower availability. This decrease is not distributed uniformly across each participating vessel because each business is not equally dependent on summer flounder. The Council’s analysis shows that 228 out of the 952 small business entities are likely to be faced with revenue reductions of 5 percent or more because of Alternative 1. Of these, 40 percent had gross sales of $10,000 or less, suggesting dependence on fishing for some of these firms is very small. If the revenue impacts were distributed equally across the active firms (i.e., those business entities who vessel or vessels landed summer flounder between 2012 and 2014), the proposed specifications would result in a $11,877-decrease per firm in 2016 compared to 2015. The 2016–2018 proposed scup commercial quotas and recreational harvest limits under the proposed alternative are lower than the quotas implemented in 2015; however, they are higher than the 2014 commercial and recreational landings. Unless market conditions change substantially in VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:17 Nov 06, 2015 Jkt 238001 coming years, it is expected that commercial and recreational landings will likely be close to the 2014 landings. There is no indication that the market environment for commercially and recreationally caught scup will change considerably in fishing years 2016– 2018. Therefore, there are no expected negative impacts from the proposed scup quotas, even though they are lower than those of the previous year. The 2016–2017 proposed black sea bass commercial quotas are increases from 2015. Relative to the status quo catch levels, the proposed black sea bass quotas could result in slightly positive impacts for the commercial fishery. The status quo specifications would result in a $0.1-million increase, in revenue, fleet-wide, for the commercial black sea bass fishery, or $134 per business entity if distributed equally. The least restrictive alternative (Alternative 4) would result in a $5.9-million increase in revenues ($7,930 per business entity, if distributed equally). The proposed commercial quota is approximately 13 percent higher than 2014 landings. Assuming the 2014 ex-vessel price for black sea bass ($3.24/lb), the proposed commercial quota represents a potential increase of $1.5 million in fleet-wide revenues, or approximately $2,000 per business entity if distributed equally. The proposed alternative has slightly more positive economic impacts than the status quo catch limits and is consistent with the SSC’s revised recommendation. Recreational Fishery Impacts While the proposed specifications would establish recreational harvest PO 00000 Frm 00043 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 limits for summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass, the management measure details for recreational fisheries will be developed by the Council separately for each fishing year, followed by NMFS rulemaking in the spring of that year. A comprehensive analysis of the impacts associated with the recommended recreational management measures will be provided to NMFS from the Council to support these activities. If recreational landings for these three species are the same in 2016–2018 as in recent years, the recreational harvest limits proposed would likely constrain recreational landings for summer flounder and black sea bass, but not likely for scup. As such, it is likely that more restrictive limits (i.e., lower possession limits, higher minimum size limits, and/or shorter open seasons) will be required for summer flounder and black sea bass. This will likely have some negative economic impacts, particularly for the summer flounder fishery. Increasing the recreational harvest limit for black sea bass would allow the measures to be restricted less than if the status quo recreational harvest limit is maintained, although only slightly. Specific recreational management measures (for all three species) will be determined when more complete data regarding recreational landings are available. Summary The Council selected Alternative 1 (preferred) over Alternative 2 (status quo), Alternative 3 (most restrictive), and Alternative 4 (least restrictive) stating that the Alternative 1 measures were consistent with the advice E:\FR\FM\09NOP1.SGM 09NOP1 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 216 / Monday, November 9, 2015 / Proposed Rules tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS provided to the Council by its SSC and monitoring committees and would have less negative economic impacts than the most restrictive alternatives. The status quo and least restrictive alternatives (Alternatives 2 and 4, respectively) would have less economic impact than the preferred alternative, but not satisfy the Magnuson-Stevens Act requirements to ensure fish stocks are not subject to VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:17 Nov 06, 2015 Jkt 238001 overfishing. NMFS agrees with the Council’s IRFA analysis and rationale for recommending these catch limits. As such, NMFS is proposing to implement the Council’s preferred ABCs, ACLs, ACTs, commercial quotas, and recreational harvest limits, as revised, presented in Table 1 of this proposed rule’s preamble. PO 00000 Frm 00044 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 69187 Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: November 4, 2015. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2015–28444 Filed 11–6–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\09NOP1.SGM 09NOP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 216 (Monday, November 9, 2015)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 69179-69187]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-28444]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 150903814-5814-01]
RIN 0648-XE171


Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Summer Flounder, 
Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fisheries; 2016-2018 Summer Flounder, Scup, 
and Black Sea Bass Specifications

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

ACTION: Proposed specifications; request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS proposes specifications for the 2016-2018 summer flounder 
and scup fisheries and for the 2016-2017 black sea bass fishery. The 
implementing regulations for the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea 
Bass Fishery Management Plan require us to publish specifications for 
the upcoming fishing year for each of these species and to provide an 
opportunity for public comment. This action is intended to propose for 
implementation specifications necessary to constrain harvest for these 
three species within

[[Page 69180]]

scientifically sound recommendations to prevent overfishing.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before November 24, 2015.

ADDRESSES: An environmental assessment (EA) was prepared for the 
specifications and describes the proposed action and other considered 
alternatives, and provides an analysis of the impacts of the proposed 
measures and alternatives. Copies of the Specifications Document, 
including the EA and the Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis 
(IRFA), are available on request from Dr. Christopher M. Moore, 
Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Suite 201, 
800 North State Street, Dover, DE 19901. These documents are also 
accessible via the Internet at http://www.mafmc.org.
    You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA-NMFS-
2015-0117, by either of the following methods:
    Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via 
the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal.
    1. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2015-0117,
    2. Click the ``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields
    3. Enter or attach your comments.

-OR-

    Mail: Submit written comments to John Bullard, Regional 
Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, 55 Great Republic 
Drive, Gloucester, MA 01950. Mark the outside of the envelope, 
``Comments on the Proposed Rule for FSB Specifications.''
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Moira Kelly, Fishery Policy Analyst, 
(978) 281-9218.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

General Specification Background

    The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States 
Marine Fisheries Commission cooperatively manage the summer flounder, 
scup, and black sea bass fisheries. Fishery specifications in these 
fisheries include various catch and landing subdivisions, such as the 
commercial and recreational sector annual catch limits (ACLs), annual 
catch targets (ACTs), and sector-specific landing limits (i.e., the 
commercial fishery quota and recreational harvest limit) for the 
upcoming fishing year. Rulemaking for measures used to manage the 
recreational fisheries (minimum fish sizes, open seasons, and bag 
limits) for these three species occurs separately and typically takes 
place in the spring of each year.
    The Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management 
Plan (FMP) and its implementing regulations establish the Council's 
process for establishing specifications. 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 
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 FMP 
also contains formulas to divide the specification catch limits into 
commercial and recreational fishery allocations, state-by-state quotas, 
and quota periods, depending on the species in question.
    The Council's Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) met July 
22-23, 2015, to recommend acceptable biological catches (ABC) for the 
2016-2018 these fisheries. The Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea 
Bass Monitoring Committees met July 23-24, 2015, to discuss 
specification-related recommendations for the three fisheries, to 
recommend offsets from the ACL to account for management uncertainty, 
and to discuss commercial management measure recommendations, as 
appropriate. Note, because of a planned black sea bass benchmark stock 
assessment scheduled for late 2016, the SSC only recommended interim 
ABCs for 2016 and 2017. More details on the SSC's discussions are 
provided in the fishery-specific sections below.
    Following the SSC and Monitoring Committee meetings, the Council 
and the Commission's Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass 
Management Board met jointly on August 12, 2015, to consider the 
recommendations of the SSC, the three Monitoring Committees, and public 
comments, and to make their specification recommendations. The SSC and 
the Council met subsequently to reconsider the black sea bass 
recommendations. More complete details on the SSC, Monitoring 
Committee, and Council meeting deliberations can be found on the 
Council's Web site (www.mafmc.org).
    While the Board action was finalized at the August meeting, the 
Council's recommendations must be reviewed by NMFS to ensure that they 
comply with the FMP and applicable law. NMFS also must conduct notice-
and-comment rulemaking to propose and implement the final 
specifications.

             Table 1--Summary of the Proposed 2016-2018 Summer Flounder and Scup Specifications and 2016-2017 Black Sea Bass Specifications
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                         Summer flounder                  Scup            Black sea bass
                                                                                   ---------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                      2016     2017     2018     2016     2017     2018      2016-2017
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Overfishing Limit (OFL)........................  million lb.......................    18.06    19.82    22.40    35.80    32.09    29.68             n/a
                                                 mt...............................    8,194    8,991   10,159   16,238   14,556   13,464             n/a
ABC............................................  million lb.......................    16.26    15.86    15.68    31.11    28.40    27.05            6.67
                                                 mt...............................    7,375    7,193    7,111   14,110   12,881   12,270           3,024
Commercial ACL/ACT.............................  million lb.......................     9.42     9.19     9.10    24.26    22.15    21.10            3.15
                                                 mt...............................    4,275    4,168    4,127   11,006   10,047    9,571           1,428
Recreational ACL/ACT...........................  million lb.......................     6.83     6.67     6.56     6.84     6.25     5.95            3.52
                                                 mt...............................    3,100    3,025    2,984    3,104    2,834    2,699           1,597
Commercial Quota...............................  million lb.......................     8.12     7.91     7.89    20.47    18.38    17.34            2.71
                                                 mt...............................    3,685    3,590    3,581    9,284    8,337    7,866           1,230

[[Page 69181]]

 
Recreational Harvest Limit.....................  million lb.......................     5.42     5.28     5.26     6.09     5.50     5.21            2.82
                                                 mt...............................    2,457    2,393    2,387    2,763    2,495    2,361           1,280
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Consistent with the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass 
regulations, the sum of the recreational and commercial sector ACLs are 
equal to the ABCs. ACL is an expression of total catch (i.e., landings 
and dead discarded fish). To derive the ACLs, the sum of the sector-
specific projected discards are removed from the ABCs to derive the 
landing allowances. The resulting landing allowance is apportioned to 
the commercial and recreational sectors by applying the FMP allocation 
criteria: (1) Summer flounder--60 percent to the commercial fishery and 
40 percent to the recreational fishery; (2) scup--78 percent to the 
commercial fishery and 22 percent to the recreational fishery; and (3) 
black sea bass--49 percent to the commercial fishery and 51 percent to 
the recreational fishery. Using this method ensures that each sector is 
accountable for its respective discards, rather than simply 
apportioning the ABC by the allocation percentages to derive the sector 
ACLs. Although the derived ACLs are not split exactly according to the 
FMP-specified allocations, the landing portions of the ACLs preserve 
the appropriate allocation split, consistent with the FMP. This process 
results in the commercial and recreational ACLs, commercial quotas, and 
recreational harvest limits shown in Table 1. The specific discard 
values projected for each fishery and sector are described in more 
detail below.

Proposed Specifications

Summer Flounder

    This rulemaking proposes the Council's ABC recommendation and the 
commercial and recreational catch limits associated with that ABC for 
fishing years 2016-2018.
    The 2015 stock assessment update used to established these 
specifications was based on the approved model from the 2013 benchmark 
assessment, updated to include data through 2014 (http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/publications/crd/crd1513/crd1513.pdf). The 
assessment update indicates that summer flounder are not overfished, 
but that overfishing did occur in 2014. The stock status change was 
primarily due to four years of below average recruitment, leading to 
fewer summer flounder being available to the fishery than had 
previously been predicted.
    The OFL for 2016 was estimated to be 18.06 million lb (8,194 mt), a 
reduction of 33 percent from 2015. At the request of the Council, the 
SSC deviated from the standard Risk Policy and ABC Control Rule and 
recommended ABCs that ``phase in'' the required reduction in order to 
minimize the economic impact that such a reduction in a single year's 
catch limits would cause. Using the standard ABC Control Rule, the 2016 
ABC would have been 30 percent below the OFL to account for scientific 
uncertainty. As proposed, this 30-percent buffer would be phased-in 
over the next three years by increasing the buffer by a third in each 
year. That is, a 10-buffer in 2016, a 20-percent buffer in 2017, and, 
finally, the full 30-percent buffer in 2018. Each of the ABCs derived 
from this approach have a less than 50-percent probability of resulting 
in overfishing. This results in relatively stable specifications 
because the current projections indicate a modest increase in the OFL 
over these three years. The SSC has requested a stock assessment update 
for next summer and intends to evaluate the available information to 
determine if the proposed ABCs remain appropriate.
    The Summer Flounder Monitoring Committee met to discuss the SSC's 
recommendations and to determine whether additional reductions in the 
catch limits were necessary to account for management uncertainty. 
Because the recreational fishery in recent years has not substantially 
exceeded the recreational harvest limit, discards in the commercial 
fishery have been relatively low, and the commercial landings 
monitoring and fishery closure system is timely, the Summer Flounder 
Monitoring Committee determined that no additional reductions to 
account for management uncertainty were necessary. Therefore, it was 
recommended that the ACT (both commercial and recreational) should be 
set equal to ACL for all three years. Removing the estimated discards 
results in the commercial quotas and recreational harvest limits shown 
below in Table 2.

                                       Table 2--Proposed 2016-2018 Summer Flounder Specifications and Calculations
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                           2015 (current)                2016                     2017                     2018
                                                     ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                        million lb       mt      million lb       mt      million lb       mt      million lb       mt
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
OFL.................................................           27.06   12,275           18.06    8,194           19.82    8,991            22.4   10,159
ABC.................................................           22.77   10,329           16.26    7,375           15.86    7,193            15.7    7,111
ABC Landings Portion................................           18.45    8,368           13.54    6,142           13.19    5,983            13.2    5,968
ABC Discards Portion................................            4.32    1,961            2.72    1,233            2.67    1,210            2.52    1,143
Commercial ACL......................................           13.34    6,049            9.43    4,275            9.19    4,168             9.1    4,127
Commercial ACT......................................           13.34    6,049            9.43    4,275            9.19    4,168             9.1    4,127
Projected Commercial Discards.......................            2.27    1,028            1.30      590            1.28      579            1.21      547
Commercial Quota....................................           11.07    5,021            8.12    3,685            7.91    3,590            7.89    3,581
Recreational ACL....................................            9.44    4,280            6.84    3,100            6.67    3,025            6.58    2,984
Recreational ACT....................................            9.44    4,280            6.84    3,100            6.67    3,025            6.58    2,984
Projected Recreational Discards.....................            2.06      933            1.42      643            1.39      631            1.32      596
Recreational Harvest Limit..........................            7.38    3,347            5.42    2,457            5.28    2,393            5.26    2,387
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


[[Page 69182]]

    The Council and Board considered the SSC and Summer Flounder 
Monitoring Committee recommendations before concurring with the catch 
recommendations specified in Table 2. Fishing under these catch limits 
for 2016 through 2018 is not expected to compromise the summer flounder 
stock, nor will fishing at this level present a unacceptably high 
likelihood of overfishing. The Council recommended all other commercial 
management measures remain status quo.
    Table 3 presents the proposed state allocations for 2016-2018 using 
the commercial state quota allocations described in the FMP. Any 
commercial quota adjustments to account for overages will be published 
in the Federal Register prior to the start of the respective fishing 
year. The final rule for this action will include any necessary quota 
overage reductions for fishing year 2016.

                                       Table 3--2016-2018 Proposed Initial Summer Flounder State Commercial Quotas
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                2016 initial quota              2017 initial quota              2018 initial quota
                  State                     FMP percent  -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                               share            lb              kg              lb              kg              lb              kg
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
ME.......................................        0.04756           3,864           1,753           3,764           1,707           3,755           1,703
NH.......................................        0.00046              37              17              36              17              36              16
MA.......................................        6.82046         554,097         251,334         539,812         244,854         538,459         244,240
RI.......................................       15.68298       1,274,091         577,917       1,241,244         563,019       1,238,133         561,607
CT.......................................        2.25708         183,366          83,173         178,639          81,029         178,191          80,826
NY.......................................        7.64699         621,244         281,791         605,228         274,527         603,711         273,838
NJ.......................................       16.72499       1,358,744         616,315       1,323,715         600,427       1,320,397         598,921
DE.......................................        0.01779           1,445             656           1,408             639           1,404             637
MD.......................................        2.0391          165,657          75,141         161,387          73,204         160,982          73,020
VA.......................................       21.31676       1,731,781         785,522       1,687,135         765,271       1,682,906         763,353
NC.......................................       27.44584       2,229,709       1,011,378       2,172,227         985,305       2,166,781         982,835
    Total................................      100             8,124,035       3,684,997       7,914,596       3,589,997       7,894,754       3,580,997
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note: Kilograms are as converted from pounds and do not sum to the converted total due to rounding. Rounding of quotas results in totals slightly
  exceeding 100 percent.

Scup

    This rule proposes the Council's ABC recommendation and the 
commercial and recreational catch limits associated with that ABC for 
fishing years 2016-2018.
    The SSC reviewed the results of the 2015 scup benchmark stock 
assessment and determined that an update to the existing control rule 
was warranted. The SSC determined that a lower coefficient of 
variation, or CV, to estimate scientific uncertainty was acceptable for 
the scup stock assessment instead of the default 100-percent CV. The 
SSC's ABC recommendations are based on a 60-percent CV from the OFL and 
are, therefore, higher than they would have otherwise been. In 
addition, the 2016 ABC is based on an assumption that only 75 percent 
of the 2015 ABC would be harvested, consistent with recent fishery 
performance. The stock assessment upon which the specifications are 
based indicates that scup biomass is currently lower than in recent 
years, but still more than double the biomass target. Therefore, the 
proposed catch limits are lower than the specifications for fishing 
year 2015, but are still relatively high compared to recent landings.
    The Scup Monitoring Committee met to discuss the SSC's 
recommendations and to determine whether additional reductions in the 
catch limits were necessary to account for management uncertainty. 
Because both the recreational and commercial fisheries have not reached 
their respective landings limits because of the very high quotas, and 
the landings monitoring and fishery closure system is timely, the 
Monitoring Committee determined that no additional reductions to 
account for management uncertainty were necessary. Therefore, it was 
recommended that the ACTs (both commercial and recreational) should be 
set equal to the respective ACLs for fishing years 2016-2018. The 
Council and Board considered the SSC and Scup Monitoring Committee 
recommendations before concurring with the catch recommendations 
specified in Table 2. Fishing under these catch limits for 2016 through 
2018 is not expected to compromise the scup stock, nor will fishing at 
this level present an unacceptably high likelihood of overfishing. The 
Council recommended all other commercial management measures remain 
status quo. After deducting the appropriate sector-specific discards, 
the 2016-2018 commercial quotas and recreational harvest limits would 
be as described below in Table 4.

                                                          Table 4--Proposed Scup Specifications
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                     2015 (current)             2016                  2017                  2018
                                                                 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                    mil lb       mt       mil lb       mt       mil lb       mt       mil lb       mt
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
OFL.............................................................      47.8      21,680      35.8      16,238      32.09     14,556      29.7      13,464
ABC.............................................................      33.77     15,320      31.11     14,110      28.4      12,881      27.1      12,270
ABC Landings Portion............................................      28.03     12,716      26.56     12,047      23.88     10,832      22.6      10,227
ABC Discards Portion............................................       5.74      2,604       4.55      2,063       4.52      2,049       4.5       2,043
Commercial ACL..................................................      26.34     11,950      24.26     11,006      22.15     10,047      21.1       9,571
Commercial ACT..................................................      26.34     11,950      24.26     11,006      22.15     10,047      21.1       9,571
Projected Commercial Discards...................................       5.11      2,318       3.8       1,721       3.77      1,710       3.76      1,705
Commercial Quota................................................      21.23      9,632      20.47      9,284      18.38      8,337      17.3       7,866
Recreational ACL................................................       7.92      3,592       6.84      3,104       6.25      2,834       5.95      2,699
Recreational ACT................................................       7.92      3,592       6.84      3,104       6.25      2,834       5.95      2,699

[[Page 69183]]

 
Projected Recreational Discards.................................       0.67        304       0.75        342       0.75        339       0.75        338
Recreational Harvest Limit......................................       6.8       3,288       6.09      2,763       5.5       2,495       5.21      2,361
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The scup commercial quota is divided into three commercial fishery 
quota periods: Winter I; Summer; and Winter II. This rule proposes 
commercial scup quotas for these three periods for 2016-2018, 
consistent with the allocation structure of the FMP. If there is a 
commercial overage applicable to the 2016 scup commercial quota, notice 
of that overage will be included in the final rule for this action. 
Commercial overages applicable to fishing years 2017 and 2018 will be 
provided in a Federal Register notice published prior to the start of 
the fishing year. The period quotas are detailed in Table 5. Unused 
Winter I quota may be carried over for use in the Winter II period.

                                    Table 5--Proposed Commercial Scup Quota Allocations for 2016-2018 by Quota Period
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                  2016 Initial quota       2017 Initial quota       2018 Initial quota
                           Quota period                              Percent  --------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                      share          lb           mt          lb           mt          lb           mt
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Winter I..........................................................      45.11       9,232,987    4,188       8,291,190    3,761       7,822,778    3,548
Summer............................................................      38.95       7,972,176    3,616       7,158,986    3,247       6,754,538    3,064
Winter II.........................................................      15.94       3,262,554    1,480       2,929,762    1,329       2,764,245    1,254
                                                                   -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total.........................................................     100.0       20,467,716    9,284      18,379,939    8,337      17,341,562    7,866
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note: Metric tons are as converted from pounds and may not necessarily total due to rounding.

    The Winter I possession limit will be reduced to 1,000 lb (454 kg) 
when 80 percent of that period's allocation has been landed. The Winter 
II possession limit may be adjusted (in association with a transfer of 
unused Winter I quota to the Winter II period) via notification in the 
Federal Register.

                       Table 6--Initial Commercial Scup Possession Limits by Quota Period
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                  Federal possession limits (per
                                                                                               trip)
                           Quota period                            Percent share -------------------------------
                                                                                        lb              kg
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Winter I.........................................................          45.11          50,000          22,680
Summer...........................................................          38.95             N/A             N/A
Winter II........................................................          15.94          12,000           5,443
                                                                  ----------------------------------------------
    Total........................................................         100.0              N/A             N/A
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Black Sea Bass

    This rule proposes the Council's revised ABC recommendation and the 
commercial and recreational catch limits associated with that ABC for 
fishing years 2016 and 2017.
    Black sea bass remains a data-poor stock, with relatively high 
uncertainty for the purposes of calculating ABC. The SSC rejected the 
OFL estimate provided from the 2011 stock assessment, stating that it 
was highly uncertain and not sufficiently reliable to use as the basis 
of management advice. In 2012, the SSC recommended an ABC of 4.50 
million lb (2,041 mt). The Council tasked the SSC to revisit this 
recommendation in January 2013. The SSC revised its recommendation for 
fishing years 2013 and 2014 and recommended an ABC of 5.50 million lb 
(2,494 mt). This ABC and the corresponding specifications were 
implemented in June 2013 and were carried forward into fishing year 
2015. At the July 2015 meeting, the SSC made an interim recommendation 
that would continue this ABC into fishing years 2016-2017. No 
recommendation was made for 2018. A benchmark stock assessment for 
black sea bass is scheduled to occur in 2016 and the Council and the 
SSC will use this information to recommend a 2018 ABC.
    A very large year class from 2011 has been prevalent throughout the 
fishery for the past several years, making it difficult to avoid black 
sea bass and leading to increasingly restrictive management measures. 
The SSC reviewed additional information at its September 16, 2015, 
meeting on setting catch recommendations for data poor stocks with no 
reliable overfishing limit estimate available (i.e., ABC Control Rule 
Level IV). This is intended to replace the default constant catch 
approach the SSC has used for data-poor stocks. The SSC determined that 
the average of four of the Data-Limited Modeling Approaches that were 
evaluated was a more scientifically robust approach to setting catch 
advice. This approach resulted in the SSC revising its black sea bass 
ABC recommendation for 2016 and 2017 to 6.67 million lb (3,024 mt). The 
Council discussed the revised SSC recommendation at its October 7, 
2015, meeting, notifying NMFS in a letter dated October 14, 2015. The 
Commission's Black Sea Bass Board will review this recommendation in 
November.
    The Black Sea Bass Monitoring Committee met in July 2015 to discuss 
the SSC's interim recommendation and

[[Page 69184]]

to determine if additional reductions in the catch limits were 
necessary to account for management uncertainty. The Monitoring 
Committee determined that no additional reductions to account for 
management uncertainty were necessary because the commercial management 
program is timely, and management uncertainty will be more explicitly 
accounted for in the recreational management measures process. 
Therefore, it was recommended that the ACTs (both commercial and 
recreational) should be set equal to their respective ACL for fishing 
years 2016 and 2017. The Monitoring Committee discussed the revised ABC 
recommendation via email prior to the Council's discussion. The 
Monitoring Committee determined that the rationale for the prior 
recommendation was also applicable to the revised specifications. As 
such, the Council is recommending, and this rule proposes, that the ACT 
be set equal to the ACL for both sectors in both years.
    The Council recommended that all other commercial management 
measures remain at the status quo. This rule proposes the revised 
specifications shown in Table 7, as recommended by the Council and 
consistent with the SSC's recommendations. Preliminary data indicate 
that a commercial quota overage occurred in 2014. There may also have 
been more discards than projected, resulting in an additional overage 
of the ACL, potentially triggering an additional accountability 
measure. Any overage of the ACL beyond the landings overage will be 
deducted from the 2016 ACT. The 2014 commercial quota overage amount, 
in pounds, will be deducted from the 2016 quota when the final 
accounting is completed. Commercial overages applicable to fishing year 
2017 will be provided in a Federal Register notice prior to the start 
of the fishing year.

                            Table 7--Proposed Black Sea Bass 2016-2017 Specifications
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                          2015 (current)                   2016 and 2017
                                                 ---------------------------------------------------------------
                                                    million lb          mt          million lb          mt
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
ABC.............................................            5.50           2,494            6.67           3,024
ABC Landings Portion............................            4.56           2,070            5.53           2,510
ABC Discards Portion............................            0.93             424            1.13             514
Commercial ACL..................................            2.60           1,180            3.15           1,428
Commercial ACT..................................            2.58           1,170            3.15           1,428
Projected Commercial Discards...................            0.37             166            0.44             198
Commercial Quota................................            2.21           1,004            2.71           1,230
Recreational ACL................................            2.90           1,314            3.52           1,597
Recreational ACT................................            2.90           1,314            3.52           1,597
Projected Recreational Discards.................            0.57             258            0.70             317
Recreational Harvest Limit......................            2.33           1,056            2.82           1,280
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note: An accountability measure was implemented for fishing year 2015 because of a prior year's commercial
  fishery overage.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS 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.
    These proposed specifications are exempt from review under 
Executive Order 12866.
    An IRFA was prepared by the Council, as required by section 603 of 
the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), to examine the impacts of these 
proposed specifications on small business entities, if adopted. A 
description of the specifications, why they are being considered, and 
the legal basis for proposing and implementing specifications for the 
summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries are contained in 
the preamble to this proposed rule. A copy of the detailed RFA analysis 
is available from NMFS or the Council (see ADDRESSES). The Council's 
analysis made use of quantitative approaches when possible. Where 
quantitative data on revenues or other business-related metrics that 
would provide insight to potential impacts were not available to inform 
the analyses, qualitative analyses were conducted. A summary of the 
2016-2018 specifications RFA analysis follows.

Description of the Reasons Why Action by the Agency is Being 
Considered, and a Statement of the Objectives of, and Legal Basis for, 
This Proposed Rule

    This action proposes management measures, including annual catch 
limits, for the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries in 
order to prevent overfishing and achieve optimum yield in the fishery. 
A complete description of the action, why it is being considered, and 
the legal basis for this action are contained in the specifications 
document, and elsewhere in the preamble to this proposed rule, and are 
not repeated here.

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

    The Small Business Administration defines a small business as one 
that is independently owned and operated; not dominant in its field of 
operation; has annual receipts that do not exceed $20.5 million in the 
case of commercial finfish harvesting entities (NAIC 114111), $5.5 
million in the case of commercial shellfish harvesting entities (NAIC 
114112), $7.5 million in the case of for-hire fishing entities (NAIC 
114119); or has fewer than 500 employees in the case of fish processors 
or 100 employees in the case of fish dealers. The North American 
Industry Classification System (NAICS) is the standard used by Federal 
statistical agencies in classifying business establishments for the 
purpose of collecting, analyzing, and publishing statistical data 
related to the U.S. business economy.
    This proposed rule affects commercial and recreational fish 
harvesting entities engaged in the summer flounder, scup, and black sea 
bass fisheries. Individually-permitted vessels may hold permits for 
several fisheries, harvesting species of fish that are regulated by 
several different FMPs, even beyond those impacted by the proposed 
action. Furthermore, multiple-permitted vessels and/or permits may be 
owned by entities affiliated by stock ownership, common management, 
identity of interest, contractual relationships, or economic 
dependency. For the purposes of the RFA analysis, the ownership

[[Page 69185]]

entities, not the individual vessels, are considered to be the 
regulated entities.
    Ownership entities are defined as those entities with common 
ownership personnel as listed on the permit application. Only permits 
with identical ownership personnel are categorized as an ownership 
entity. For example, if five permits have the same seven persons listed 
as co-owners on their permit applications, those seven persons would 
form one ownership entity that holds those five permits. If two of 
those seven owners also co-own additional vessels, that ownership 
arrangement would be considered a separate ownership entity for the 
purpose of this analysis.
    In preparation for this action, ownership entities are identified 
based on a list of all permits for the most recent complete calendar 
year. The current ownership data set used for this analysis is based on 
calendar year 2014 and contains average gross sales associated with 
those permits for calendar years 2012 through 2014. In addition to 
classifying a business (ownership entity) as small or large, a business 
can also be classified by its primary source of revenue. A business is 
defined as being primarily engaged in fishing for finfish if it obtains 
greater than 50 percent of its gross sales from sales of finfish. 
Similarly, a business is defined as being primarily engaged in fishing 
for shellfish if it obtains greater than 50 percent of its gross sales 
from sales of shellfish.
    A description of the specific permits that are likely to be 
impacted by this action is provided below, along with a discussion of 
the impacted businesses, which can include multiple vessels and/or 
permit types.
    The ownership database shows that for the 2012-2014 period, 485 
affiliate firms held a summer flounder commercial permit and 547 
affiliate firms held a summer flounder party/charter permit; 446 
affiliate firms held a scup commercial permit and 491 affiliate firms 
held a scup party/charter permit; and 491 affiliate firms held a black 
sea bass commercial permit and 533 affiliate firms held a black sea 
bass party/charter permit. However, not all of those affiliate firms 
are active participants in the fishery. According to the ownership 
database, 960 affiliate firms landed summer flounder, scup, and/or 
black sea bass during the 2012-2014 period, with 952 of those business 
affiliates categorized as small business and 8 categorized as large 
business.

Description of the Projected Reporting, Record-Keeping, and Other 
Compliance Requirements of This Proposed Rule

    There are no new reporting or recordkeeping requirements contained 
in any of the alternatives considered for this action.

Federal Rules Which May Duplicate, Overlap, or Conflict With This 
Proposed Rule

    NMFS is not aware of any relevant Federal rules that may duplicate, 
overlap, or conflict with this proposed rule.

Description of Significant Alternatives to the Proposed Action Which 
Accomplish the Stated Objectives of Applicable Statutes and Which 
Minimize Any Significant Economic Impact on Small Entities

    The Council analyzed four sets of combined catch limit alternatives 
for each of the fishing years 2016-2018 for the summer flounder, scup, 
and black sea bass fisheries. The 2018 fishing year analysis is based 
on summer flounder and scup only because there was no recommendation 
for black sea bass. The alternatives were as follows:
     Alternative 1 was the Council's originally preferred 
alternative, and was consistent with the SSC's interim advice;
     Alternative 2 is the status quo and would maintain the 
current specifications in effect;
     Alternative 3 is an alternative provided for analytical 
purposes as the ``most restrictive'' set of landings limits, based on 
the lowest landings limits in the time series for each stock; and
     Alternative 4 is the counter-point to Alternative 3 as the 
``least restrictive'' or highest landings limits in the time series.
    This analysis was completed using the Council's interim 
recommendation for the black sea bass specifications. The 
specifications proposed in this action are different than Alternative 
1, as described in the Council's specifications document and IRFA. The 
proposed specifications represent an increase in the 2016 and 2017 
commercial quotas to 2.71 million lb (1,230 mt) and recreational 
harvest limits of 2.82 million lb (1,280 mt). These are 21 percent 
higher than the previously preferred alternative (Alternative 1), and 
33 percent lower than the ``least restrictive'' alternative 
(Alternative 4). The impacts from the proposed catch limits fall within 
the range that has been analyzed and are more fully described here. The 
discussion below is based on the conclusions of the RFA analyses in the 
draft specifications document provided by the Council, modified to 
account for the revised black sea bass recommendation.

                               Table 8--Summary of Landings Limits by Alternative
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                    Commercial     Recreational
             Year                     Alternative                Species               quota       harvest limit
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2016.........................  Proposed................  Summer Flounder........            8.12            5.42
                                                         Scup...................           20.47            6.09
                                                         Black Sea Bass.........            2.71            2.82
                               Alternative 1             Summer Flounder........            8.12            5.42
                                (Preferred)
                                                         Scup...................           20.47            6.09
                                                         Black Sea Bass.........            2.24            2.33
                               Alternative 2 (Status     Summer Flounder........           11.07            7.38
                                quo).
                                                         Scup...................           21.23            6.80
                                                         Black Sea Bass.........            2.21            2.33
                               Alternative 3 (Most       Summer Flounder........            6.30            4.20
                                Restrictive).
                                                         Scup...................            2.53            1.24
                                                         Black Sea Bass.........            1.13            1.17
                               Alternative 4 (Least      Summer Flounder........           18.18           12.12
                                Restrictive).
                                                         Scup...................           28.35            8.57
                                                         Black Sea Bass.........            4.02            4.18
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2017.........................  Proposed................  Summer Flounder........            7.91            5.28
                                                         Scup...................           18.38            5.50
                                                         Black Sea Bass.........            2.71            2.82

[[Page 69186]]

 
                               Alternative 1             Summer Flounder........            7.91            5.28
                                (Preferred).
                                                         Scup...................           18.38            5.50
                                                         Black Sea Bass.........            2.24            2.33
                               Alternative 2 (Status     Summer Flounder........           11.07            7.38
                                quo).
                                                         Scup...................           21.23            6.80
                                                         Black Sea Bass.........            2.21            2.33
                               Alternative 3 (Most       Summer Flounder........            6.30            4.20
                                Restrictive).
                                                         Scup...................            2.53            1.24
                                                         Black Sea Bass.........            1.13            1.17
                               Alternative 4 (Least      Summer Flounder........           18.18           12.12
                                Restrictive).
                                                         Scup...................           28.35            8.57
                                                         Black Sea Bass.........            4.02            4.18
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2018.........................  Alternative 1             Summer Flounder........            7.89            5.26
                                (Preferred; Proposed).
                                                         Scup...................           17.34            5.21
                               Alternative 2 (Status     Summer Flounder........           11.07            7.38
                                quo).
                                                         Scup...................           21.23            6.80
                               Alternative 3 (Most       Summer Flounder........            6.30            4.20
                                Restrictive).
                                                         Scup...................            2.53            1.24
                               Alternative 4 (Least      Summer Flounder........           18.18           12.12
                                Restrictive).
                                                         Scup...................           28.35            8.57
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Commercial Fishery Impacts

    It is expected that varying levels of negative economic impacts on 
the three fisheries may occur from the proposed specifications. The 
summer flounder fishery is expected to experience the largest negative 
impact, because of the 20-percent decrease in available quota in 2016. 
This represents an approximately $8.1-million decrease in ex-vessel 
summer flounder revenue across the fleet. However, some of this impact 
may be offset for some firms if the price of summer flounder increases 
because of lower availability. This decrease is not distributed 
uniformly across each participating vessel because each business is not 
equally dependent on summer flounder. The Council's analysis shows that 
228 out of the 952 small business entities are likely to be faced with 
revenue reductions of 5 percent or more because of Alternative 1. Of 
these, 40 percent had gross sales of $10,000 or less, suggesting 
dependence on fishing for some of these firms is very small. If the 
revenue impacts were distributed equally across the active firms (i.e., 
those business entities who vessel or vessels landed summer flounder 
between 2012 and 2014), the proposed specifications would result in a 
$11,877-decrease per firm in 2016 compared to 2015.
    The 2016-2018 proposed scup commercial quotas and recreational 
harvest limits under the proposed alternative are lower than the quotas 
implemented in 2015; however, they are higher than the 2014 commercial 
and recreational landings. Unless market conditions change 
substantially in coming years, it is expected that commercial and 
recreational landings will likely be close to the 2014 landings. There 
is no indication that the market environment for commercially and 
recreationally caught scup will change considerably in fishing years 
2016-2018. Therefore, there are no expected negative impacts from the 
proposed scup quotas, even though they are lower than those of the 
previous year.
    The 2016-2017 proposed black sea bass commercial quotas are 
increases from 2015. Relative to the status quo catch levels, the 
proposed black sea bass quotas could result in slightly positive 
impacts for the commercial fishery. The status quo specifications would 
result in a $0.1-million increase, in revenue, fleet-wide, for the 
commercial black sea bass fishery, or $134 per business entity if 
distributed equally. The least restrictive alternative (Alternative 4) 
would result in a $5.9-million increase in revenues ($7,930 per 
business entity, if distributed equally). The proposed commercial quota 
is approximately 13 percent higher than 2014 landings. Assuming the 
2014 ex-vessel price for black sea bass ($3.24/lb), the proposed 
commercial quota represents a potential increase of $1.5 million in 
fleet-wide revenues, or approximately $2,000 per business entity if 
distributed equally. The proposed alternative has slightly more 
positive economic impacts than the status quo catch limits and is 
consistent with the SSC's revised recommendation.

Recreational Fishery Impacts

    While the proposed specifications would establish recreational 
harvest limits for summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass, the 
management measure details for recreational fisheries will be developed 
by the Council separately for each fishing year, followed by NMFS 
rulemaking in the spring of that year. A comprehensive analysis of the 
impacts associated with the recommended recreational management 
measures will be provided to NMFS from the Council to support these 
activities. If recreational landings for these three species are the 
same in 2016-2018 as in recent years, the recreational harvest limits 
proposed would likely constrain recreational landings for summer 
flounder and black sea bass, but not likely for scup. As such, it is 
likely that more restrictive limits (i.e., lower possession limits, 
higher minimum size limits, and/or shorter open seasons) will be 
required for summer flounder and black sea bass. This will likely have 
some negative economic impacts, particularly for the summer flounder 
fishery. Increasing the recreational harvest limit for black sea bass 
would allow the measures to be restricted less than if the status quo 
recreational harvest limit is maintained, although only slightly. 
Specific recreational management measures (for all three species) will 
be determined when more complete data regarding recreational landings 
are available.

Summary

    The Council selected Alternative 1 (preferred) over Alternative 2 
(status quo), Alternative 3 (most restrictive), and Alternative 4 
(least restrictive) stating that the Alternative 1 measures were 
consistent with the advice

[[Page 69187]]

provided to the Council by its SSC and monitoring committees and would 
have less negative economic impacts than the most restrictive 
alternatives. The status quo and least restrictive alternatives 
(Alternatives 2 and 4, respectively) would have less economic impact 
than the preferred alternative, but not satisfy the Magnuson-Stevens 
Act requirements to ensure fish stocks are not subject to overfishing. 
NMFS agrees with the Council's IRFA analysis and rationale for 
recommending these catch limits. As such, NMFS is proposing to 
implement the Council's preferred ABCs, ACLs, ACTs, commercial quotas, 
and recreational harvest limits, as revised, presented in Table 1 of 
this proposed rule's preamble.

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

    Dated: November 4, 2015.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2015-28444 Filed 11-6-15; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P