Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fisheries; 2016-2018 Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Specifications, 80689-80695 [2015-32562]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 248 / Monday, December 28, 2015 / Rules and Regulations snapper-grouper are on board a vessel in fillet form when harvested lawfully in Bahamian waters, two fillets of snappergrouper, regardless of the length of each fillet, is equivalent to one snappergrouper. The skin must remain intact on the entire fillet of any snapper-grouper carcass. * * * * * ■ 4. In § 622.192, add paragraph (k) to read as follows: § 622.192 Restrictions on sale/purchase. * * * * * (k) Snapper-grouper possessed pursuant to the bag and possession limits specified in § 622.187(a)(3) may not be sold or purchased. ■ 5. Revise § 622.276 to read as follows: mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES § 622.276 Landing fish intact. (a) Dolphin or wahoo in or from the Atlantic EEZ must be maintained with head and fins intact, except as specified in paragraph (b) of this section. Such fish may be eviscerated, gilled, and scaled, but must otherwise be maintained in a whole condition. The operator of a vessel that fishes in the EEZ is responsible for ensuring that fish on that vessel in the EEZ are maintained intact and, if taken from the EEZ, are maintained intact through offloading ashore, as specified in this section. (b) In the Atlantic EEZ, dolphin or wahoo lawfully harvested in Bahamian waters are exempt from the requirement that they be maintained with head and fins intact, provided that the skin remains intact on the entire fillet of any dolphin or wahoo carcasses, valid Bahamian fishing and cruising permits are on board the vessel, each person on the vessel has a valid government passport with current stamps and dates from The Bahamas, and the vessel is in transit through the Atlantic EEZ with fishing gear appropriately stowed. For the purpose of this paragraph, a vessel is in transit through the Atlantic EEZ when it is on a direct and continuous course through the Atlantic EEZ and no one aboard the vessel fishes in the EEZ. For the purpose of this paragraph, fishing gear appropriately stowed means that terminal gear (i.e., hook, leader, sinker, flasher, or bait) used with an automatic reel, bandit gear, buoy gear, handline, or rod and reel must be disconnected and stowed separately from such fishing gear. Sinkers must be disconnected from the down rigger and stowed separately. ■ 6. In § 622.277, revise paragraphs (a)(1) and (2) to read as follows: § 622.277 Bag and possession limits. * * * VerDate Sep<11>2014 * * 13:41 Dec 24, 2015 Jkt 238001 (a) * * * (1) Dolphin. (i) In the Atlantic EEZ— 10, not to exceed 60 per vessel, whichever is less, except on board a headboat, 10 per paying passenger. (ii) In the Atlantic EEZ and lawfully harvested in Bahamian waters (as per § 622.276(b))—10, not to exceed 60 per vessel, whichever is less, except on board a headboat, 10 per paying passenger. For the purposes of this paragraph, for determining how many dolphin are on board a vessel in fillet form when harvested lawfully in Bahamian waters, two fillets of dolphin, regardless of the length of each fillet, is equivalent to one dolphin. The skin must remain intact on the entire fillet of any dolphin carcass. (2) Wahoo. (i) In the Atlantic EEZ— 2. (ii) In the Atlantic EEZ and lawfully harvested in Bahamian waters (as per § 622.276(b))—2. For the purposes of this paragraph, for determining how many wahoo are on board a vessel in fillet form when harvested lawfully in Bahamian waters, two fillets of wahoo, regardless of the length of each fillet, is equivalent to one wahoo. The skin must remain intact on the entire fillet of any wahoo carcass. * * * * * ■ 7. In § 622.279, add paragraph (d) to read as follows: § 622.279 Restrictions on sale/purchase. * * * * * (d) Dolphin or wahoo possessed pursuant to the bag and possession limits specified in § 622.277(a)(1)(ii) and (a)(2)(ii) may not be sold or purchased. [FR Doc. 2015–32555 Filed 12–24–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 150903814–5999–02] 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: Final rule. AGENCY: NMFS issues final specifications for the 2016–2018 SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00055 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 80689 summer flounder and scup fisheries, and the 2016 and 2017 black sea bass fishery. This final rule specifies allowed harvest limits for both commercial and recreational fisheries. This action prohibits federally permitted commercial fishing vessels from landing summer flounder in Delaware in 2016 due to continued quota repayment from previous years’ overages. This action also reduces the 2016 black sea bass commercial quota to account for a catch overage in 2014. These actions are necessary to comply with regulations implementing the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan, and to ensure compliance with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The intent of this action is to establish harvest levels and other management measures to ensure that these species are not overfished or subject to overfishing in 2016–2018. DATES: Effective January 1, 2016, through December 31, 2018. ADDRESSES: Copies of the specifications document, consisting of an Environmental Assessment (EA), Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA), and other supporting documents used by the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Monitoring Committees and Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC), are available from Dr. Christopher Moore, Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Suite 201, 800 North State Street, Dover, DE 19901. The specifications document is also accessible via the Internet at http:// www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov. The Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (FRFA) consists of the IRFA, public comments and responses contained in this final rule, and the summary of impacts and alternatives contained in this final rule. Copies of the small entity compliance guide are available from John K. Bullard, Regional Administrator, Greater Atlantic Region, National Marine Fisheries Service, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930–2298. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Moira Kelly, Fishery Policy Analyst, (978) 281–9218. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 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 under the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan (FMP). Fishery E:\FR\FM\28DER1.SGM 28DER1 80690 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 248 / Monday, December 28, 2015 / Rules and Regulations specifications in these fisheries include various catch and landing subdivisions, such as the species-specific acceptable biological catch (ABC), commercial and recreational sector annual catch limits (ACLs), annual catch targets (ACTs), and the sector-specific landing limits (i.e., the commercial fishery quota and recreational harvest limit) established for the up to three fishing years at a time. The FMP and its implementing regulations establish the Council’s process for establishing specifications. Requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), including the 10 national standards, also apply to 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, 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. Detailed background information regarding the status of the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass stocks and the development of the 2016–2018 specifications for these fisheries was provided in the proposed specifications (November 9, 2015; 80 FR 69179) and is not repeated here. NMFS will establish the 2016 recreational management measures (i.e., minimum fish size, possession limits, and fishing seasons) for summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass by publishing proposed and final rules in the Federal Register at a later date. 2016–2018 Specifications This action establishes the following specifications: TABLE 1—SUMMARY OF THE 2016–2018 SUMMER FLOUNDER AND SCUP SPECIFICATIONS AND 2016–2017 BLACK SEA BASS SPECIFICATIONS Summer flounder Scup Black Sea Bass 2016 Overfishing Limit (OFL) ............ ABC ........................................... Commercial ACL/ACT .............. Recreational ACL/ACT ............. Commercial Quota .................... Recreational Harvest Limit ....... The process describing the calculation of the commercial and recreational ACLs, commercial quotas, and recreational harvest limits was presented in the November 9, 2015, proposed rule, and is not repeated here. The specific discard values projected for each fishery and sector are described in more detail below. Summer Flounder This rule implements the Council’s ABC recommendation and the commercial and recreational catch limits associated with that ABC for fishing years 2016–2018. As described in the proposed rule, these specifications are based on a 2018 2016 2017 2018 2016 2017 18.06 8,194 16.26 7,375 9.42 4,275 6.83 3,100 8.12 3,685 5.42 2,457 million lb .................................... mt .............................................. million lb .................................... mt .............................................. million lb .................................... mt .............................................. million lb .................................... mt .............................................. million lb .................................... mt .............................................. million lb .................................... mt .............................................. 2017 19.82 8,991 15.86 7,193 9.19 4,168 6.67 3,025 7.91 3,590 5.28 2,393 22.40 10,159 15.68 7,111 9.10 4,127 6.56 2,984 7.89 3,581 5.26 2,387 35.80 16,238 31.11 14,110 24.26 11,006 6.84 3,104 20.47 9,284 6.09 2,763 32.09 14,556 28.40 12,881 22.15 10,047 6.25 2,834 18.38 8,337 5.50 2,495 29.68 13,464 27.05 12,270 21.10 9,571 5.95 2,699 17.34 7,866 5.21 2,361 n/a a 6.67 3,024 3.15 1,428 3.52 1,597 2.70 1,226 2.82 1,280 n/a n/a 6.67 3,024 3.15 1,428 3.52 1,597 2.71 1,226 2.82 1,280 deviation from the Council’s normal procedures. Had the standard Risk Policy been followed, the drastic reduction in available catch could have had substantial economic impacts. The 2016 and 2017 ABCs have a higher risk of overfishing than would be allowed under the Council’s Risk Policy, but the 2018 ABC has a lower risk of overfishing than the Risk Policy requires. Each of the ABCs established in this rule have a less than 50-percent probability of resulting in overfishing. Further, the projected biomass is the same under either the standard Risk Policy or the deviation from the Risk Policy used in these specifications. Because the OFLs are projected to increase modestly over the next three years, the specifications established in this rule are relatively stable. The SSC has requested a stock assessment update for next summer and intends to evaluate the available information to determine if the 2017 and 2018 ABCs remain appropriate. 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 an unacceptably high likelihood of overfishing. This action makes no other changes to the Federal commercial summer flounder management measures. TABLE 2—2016–2018 SUMMER FLOUNDER SPECIFICATIONS AND CALCULATIONS 2016 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES million lb OFL .......................................................... ABC .......................................................... ABC Landings Portion ............................. ABC Discards Portion .............................. Commercial ACL ...................................... Commercial ACT ...................................... Projected Commercial Discards .............. Commercial Quota ................................... VerDate Sep<11>2014 13:41 Dec 24, 2015 Jkt 238001 18.06 16.26 13.54 2.72 9.43 9.43 1.30 8.12 PO 00000 Frm 00056 2017 mt million lb 8,194 7,375 6,142 1,233 4,275 4,275 590 3,685 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 2018 mt 19.82 15.86 13.19 2.67 9.19 9.19 1.28 7.91 E:\FR\FM\28DER1.SGM million lb 8,991 7,193 5,983 1,210 4,168 4,168 579 3,590 28DER1 22.4 15.7 13.2 2.52 9.1 9.1 1.21 7.89 mt 10,159 7,111 5,968 1,143 4,127 4,127 547 3,581 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 248 / Monday, December 28, 2015 / Rules and Regulations 80691 TABLE 2—2016–2018 SUMMER FLOUNDER SPECIFICATIONS AND CALCULATIONS—Continued 2016 million lb Recreational ACL ..................................... Recreational ACT ..................................... Projected Recreational Discards ............. Recreational Harvest Limit ....................... 2017 mt 6.84 6.84 1.42 5.42 Table 3 presents the 2016 summer flounder allocations for each state. Consistent with the quota-setting procedures for the FMP, summer flounder overages are determined based upon landings for the period JanuaryOctober 2015, plus any previously unaccounted for overages. Table 3 summarizes the commercial summer flounder percent shares as outlined in § 648.102 (c)(1)(i), the resultant 2016 2018 million lb 3,100 3,100 643 2,457 mt 6.67 6.67 1.39 5.28 commercial quotas, the quota overages as described above, and the final adjusted 2016 commercial quotas. The 2015 quota overage is determined by comparing landings for January through October 2015, plus any landings in 2014 in excess of the 2014 quota, that were not previously addressed in the 2015 specifications, for each state. For Delaware, this includes continued repayment of overharvest from previous million lb 3,025 3,025 631 2,393 mt 6.58 6.58 1.32 5.26 2,984 2,984 596 2,387 years. Table 4 presents the initial 2017 and 2018 allocations by state. The 2017 and 2018 state quota allocations are preliminary and are subject to change if there are overages of states’ quotas carried over from a previous fishing year. Notice of any commercial quota adjustments to account for overages will be published in the Federal Register prior to the start of the respective fishing year. TABLE 3—FINAL STATE-BY-STATE COMMERCIAL SUMMER FLOUNDER ALLOCATIONS FOR 2016 2016 Initial quota FMP Percent share State Maine ........................... New Hampshire ........... Massachusetts ............. Rhode Island ................ Connecticut .................. New York ..................... New Jersey .................. Delaware ...................... Maryland ...................... Virginia ......................... North Carolina .............. Total ...................... lb 0.04756 0.00046 6.82046 15.68298 2.25708 7.64699 16.72499 0.01779 2.0391 21.31676 27.44584 Overages through October 31, 2015 kg lb kg Adjusted 2016 quota, less overages lb 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 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 ¥48,846 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 ¥22,156 0 0 0 3,864 37 554,097 1,274,091 183,366 621,244 1,358,744 ¥47,401 165,657 1,731,781 2,229,709 1,753 17 251,334 577,918 83,173 281,792 616,316 ¥21,501 75,141 785,523 1,011,379 8,124,035 100 1,753 17 251,334 577,917 83,173 281,791 616,315 656 75,141 785,522 1,011,378 3,684,997 0 0 8,122,590 1,753 Notes: Kilograms are as converted from pounds and may not necessarily add due to rounding. Total quota is the sum for all states with an allocation. A state with a negative number has a 2015 allocation of zero (0). Total adjusted 2016 quota, less overages, does not include negative allocations. TABLE 4—2016–2018 PROPOSED INITIAL SUMMER FLOUNDER STATE COMMERCIAL QUOTAS FMP Percent share State mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES Maine ................................................................................... New Hampshire ................................................................... Massachusetts ..................................................................... Rhode Island ........................................................................ Connecticut .......................................................................... New York ............................................................................. New Jersey .......................................................................... Delaware .............................................................................. Maryland .............................................................................. Virginia ................................................................................. North Carolina ...................................................................... Total .............................................................................. Delaware Summer Flounder Closure Table 3 shows that, for Delaware, the amount of overharvest from previous VerDate Sep<11>2014 13:41 Dec 24, 2015 Jkt 238001 0.04756 0.00046 6.82046 15.68298 2.25708 7.64699 16.72499 0.01779 2.0391 21.31676 27.44584 2017 Quota lb Frm 00057 lb kg 1,707 17 244,854 563,019 81,029 274,527 600,427 639 73,204 765,271 985,305 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 1,703 16 244,240 561,607 80,826 273,838 598,921 637 73,020 763,353 982,835 7,914,596 100 Fmt 4700 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 3,589,997 7,894,754 3,580,997 years is greater than the amount of commercial quota allocated to Delaware for 2016. As a result, there is no quota PO 00000 2018 Quota Sfmt 4700 available for 2016 in Delaware. The regulations at § 648.4(b) provide that Federal permit holders, as a condition of E:\FR\FM\28DER1.SGM 28DER1 80692 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 248 / Monday, December 28, 2015 / Rules and Regulations their permit, must not land summer flounder in any state that the Administrator, Greater Atlantic Region, NMFS, has determined no longer has commercial quota available for harvest. Therefore, landings of summer flounder in Delaware by vessels holding commercial Federal summer flounder permits are prohibited for the 2016 calendar year, unless additional quota becomes available through a quota transfer and is announced in the Federal Register. Federally permitted dealers are advised that they may not purchase summer flounder from federally permitted vessels that land in Delaware for the 2016 calendar year, unless additional quota becomes available through a transfer, as mentioned above. commercial and recreational catch limits associated with that ABC for fishing years 2016–2018. The scup management measures specify that the ABC is equal to the sum of the commercial and recreational sector ACLs. As described in the proposed rule, the ACLs and ACTs are set equal to each other for both sectors, sectorspecific projected discards are removed, and the specifications for 2016–2018 are as shown in Table 5. Scup This rule implements the Council’s ABC recommendation and the TABLE 5—2016–2018 SCUP SPECIFICATIONS 2016 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 ......................................... If there is a commercial overage applicable to the scup commercial quota, notice will be published prior to the start of the each fishing year. No 2017 mt 35.8 31.11 26.56 4.55 24.26 24.26 3.8 20.47 6.84 6.84 0.75 6.09 2018 million lb 16,238 14,110 12,047 2,063 11,006 11,006 1,721 9,284 3,104 3,104 342 2,763 mt 32.09 28.4 23.88 4.52 22.15 22.15 3.77 18.38 6.25 6.25 0.75 5.5 commercial quota overage is applicable to 2016; therefore, no adjustment to the 2016 quota is necessary. million lb 14,556 12,881 10,832 2,049 10,047 10,047 1,710 8,337 2,834 2,834 339 2,495 29.7 27.1 22.6 4.5 21.1 21.1 3.76 17.3 5.95 5.95 0.75 5.21 mt 13,464 12,270 10,227 2,043 9,571 9,571 1,705 7,866 2,699 2,699 338 2,361 The scup commercial quota is divided into three commercial fishery quota periods. The period quotas are detailed in Table 6. TABLE 6—COMMERCIAL SCUP QUOTA ALLOCATIONS FOR 2016–2018 BY QUOTA PERIOD 2016 Quota Quota period 2017 Initial quota 2018 Initial quota Percent share lb Winter I ................................................. Summer ................................................ Winter II ................................................ 45.11 38.95 15.94 Total .............................................. 100.0 mt lb 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 quota period possession limits are shown in Table 7. The Winter I possession limit will drop to 1,000 lb (454 kg) upon attainment of 80 percent of that period’s allocation. If the Winter I quota is not fully harvested, the remaining quota is transferred to Winter II. 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. The regulations specify that the Winter II possession limit increases consistent with the increase in the quota, as described in Table 8. TABLE 7—COMMERCIAL SCUP POSSESSION LIMITS BY QUOTA PERIOD Quota period Percent share Federal possession limits (per trip) mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES lb Winter I ........................................................................................................................................ Summer ....................................................................................................................................... Winter II ....................................................................................................................................... Total ...................................................................................................................................... VerDate Sep<11>2014 13:41 Dec 24, 2015 Jkt 238001 PO 00000 Frm 00058 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 45.11 38.95 15.94 100.0 E:\FR\FM\28DER1.SGM 28DER1 kg 50,000 N/A 12,000 22,680 N/A 5,443 N/A N/A Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 248 / Monday, December 28, 2015 / Rules and Regulations 80693 TABLE 8—POTENTIAL INCREASE IN 2016–2018 WINTER II POSSESSION LIMITS BASED ON THE AMOUNT OF UNUSED SCUP ROLLED OVER FROM WINTER I TO WINTER II Initial Winter II possession limit lb 12,000 12,000 12,000 12,000 12,000 Rollover from Winter I to Winter II kg .............. .............. .............. .............. .............. 5,443 5,443 5,443 5,443 5,443 lb kg 0–499,999 500,000–999,999 1,000,000–1,499,999 1,500,000–1,999,999 2,000,000–2,500,000 Black Sea Bass This rule implements the Council’s revised ABC recommendation and the commercial and recreational catch limits associated with that ABC for fishing years 2016 and 2017. As described in the proposed rule for this action, the Council’s SSC revised its recommendation for the 2016 and 2017 black sea bass ABC in September 2015 based on additional analysis that relies more on measures of current abundance Increase in initial Winter II possession limit lb 0–226,796 226,796–453,592 453,592–680,388 680,389–907,184 907,185–1,133,981 kg 0 1,500 3,000 4,500 6,000 than the prior constant catch approach. The Council and the Commission’s Black Sea Bass Board have also revised their recommendations for 2016 and 2017, as outlined in the proposed rule to this action. Specifications for 2018 will be made following the completion of a new stock assessment in late 2016. A commercial quota overage from fishing year 2014 is applicable to the 2016 black sea bass commercial quota. As a result, the regulations at 684.143(a)(2) require that the exact 0 680 1,361 2,041 2,722 Final Winter II possession limit after rollover from Winter I to Winter II lb kg 12,000 13,500 15,000 16,500 18,000 5,443 6,123 6,804 7,484 8,165 amount of the overage, in pounds, be deducted from a subsequent single year’s commercial quota. The 2016 commercial quota is reduced by 8,896 lb (4,035 kg) from 2,711,686 lb (1,230 mt) to 2,702,867 lb (1,226 mt). The 2016 commercial quota values in Table 9 include this deduction. Should a commercial quota or ACL accountability measure be necessary in 2017, notification will be published in the Federal Register prior to the start of the fishing year. TABLE 9—BLACK SEA BASS 2016–2017 SPECIFICATIONS 2016 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 .............................................................................. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES Comments and Responses On November 9, 2015, NMFS published proposed specifications for Summer Flounder, Scup and Sea Bass for public notice and comment, and four comments were received. Generally, the four comments each stated that the proposed specifications were overly conservative for all three species, particularly for black sea bass and scup. One commenter asserted that the SSC’s scup recommendation should not be considered the best available scientific information because it is based on a scientific uncertainty buffer that is double what the Stock Assessment Working Group recommended. Two other commenters noted that the increase in the black sea bass population in southern New England is negatively impacting the lobster fishery VerDate Sep<11>2014 13:41 Dec 24, 2015 Jkt 238001 Frm 00059 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 mt 6.67 5.53 1.13 3.15 3.15 0.44 2.70 3.52 3.52 0.70 2.82 and that the quotas should be increased or measures should be set so that the recreational season can last longer into the fall. A recreational fishing group commented that NMFS should set the summer flounder ABC equal to the OFL in each year, despite the SSC’s recommendation, because precaution is applied ‘‘excessively’’ throughout the stock assessment and SSC process. The group also stated that there should be no quota reductions for summer flounder until a sex-specific stock assessment can be conducted. This comment also asserted that the scup catch limits are overly conservative, but spoke in support of the revised black sea bass ABC recommendation. No changes to the proposed specifications were made as a result of these comments. The specifications are based on the SSC’s advice and the best PO 00000 2017 million lb 3,024 2,510 514 1,428 1,428 198 1,226 1,597 1,597 317 1,280 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 available scientific information. The Council applied its Risk Policy to derive the scup and black sea bass specifications. The summer flounder specifications deviate from that Risk Policy, but are less conservative than the Risk Policy and closer to the commenter’s request than had the Council used the Policy. However, as stated previously, the summer flounder specifications will not result in an unacceptably high likelihood of overfishing. For scup, the SSC deliberated on the stock assessment working group’s advice, but determined additional scientific uncertainty had not been adequately incorporated, as is their purview. NMFS does not disagree with the SSC’s recommendation and we are implementing the specifications as recommended by the Council. E:\FR\FM\28DER1.SGM 28DER1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES 80694 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 248 / Monday, December 28, 2015 / Rules and Regulations Classification The Administrator, Greater Atlantic Region, NMFS, determined that this final rule is necessary for the conservation and management of the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries and that it is consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable laws. The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3) to waive the 30-day delay of effectiveness period for this rule, to ensure that the final specifications are in place on January 1, 2016. This action establishes specifications (i.e., annual quotas) for the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries. This rule is being issued at the earliest possible date. Preparation of the proposed rule was dependent on the submission of the EA/IRFA in support of the specifications that is developed by the Council. A complete document was received by NMFS in early October 2015. Documentation in support of the Council’s recommended specifications is required for NMFS to provide the public with information from the environmental and economic analyses as required in rulemaking. The proposed rule published on November 9, 2015, with a 15-day comment period ending November 24, 2015. Publication of the adjusted summer flounder quota at the start of the fishing year that begins January 1, 2015, is required by the order of Judge Robert Doumar in North Carolina Fisheries Association v. Daley. If the 30-day delay in effectiveness is not waived, there will be no quota specifications for the affected fisheries on January 1, 2016, which would significantly confuse the public and substantially complicate the cooperative management regime governing these fisheries. The summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries are all expected, based on historic participation and harvest patterns, to be very active at the start of the fishing season in 2016. Without these specifications in place on January 1, 2016, individual states will be unable to set commercial possession and/or trip limits, which apportion the catch over the entirety of the calendar year. NMFS will be unable to control harvest in any way, as there will be no quotas in place for any of the three species until the regulations are effective. NMFS will be unable to control harvest or close the fishery, should landings exceed the quotas. All of these factors could result in a race for fish, wherein uncontrolled landings could occur. Disproportionately large harvest VerDate Sep<11>2014 13:41 Dec 24, 2015 Jkt 238001 occurring within the first weeks of 2016 could have distributional effects on other quota periods, and would disadvantage some gear sectors or owners and operators of smaller vessels that typically fish later in the fishing season. There is no historic precedent by which to gauge the magnitude of harvest that might occur, should quotas for these three species not be in place during the first weeks of 2016. It is reasonable to conclude that the commercial fishing fleet possesses sufficient capacity to exceed the established quotas for these three species before the regulations would become effective, should quotas not be in place on January 1, 2016. Should this occur, the fishing mortality objectives for all three species would be compromised, thus undermining the intent of the rule. For these reasons, a 30-day delay in effectiveness would be contrary to the public interest, and NMFS is waiving the requirement. These specifications are exempt from the procedures of Executive Order 12866. This final rule does not duplicate, conflict, or overlap with any existing Federal rules. A FRFA was prepared pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 604(a), and incorporates the IRFA, a summary of the significant issues raised by the public comments in response to the IRFA, NMFS’s responses to those comments, and a summary of the analyses completed to support the action. A copy of the EA//IRFA is available from the Council (see ADDRESSES). The preamble to the proposed rule included a detailed summary of the analyses contained in the IRFA, and that discussion is not repeated here. Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis A Summary of Significant Issues Raised by the Public in Response to the Summary of the Agency’s Assessment of Such Issues, and a Statement of Any Changes Made in the Final Rule as a Result No changes to the proposed rule were required to be made as a result of public comments. None of the comments received raised specific issues regarding the economic analyses summarized in the IRFA or the economic impacts of the rule more generally. A summary of the comments received, and our responses, can be found above in the ‘‘Comments and Responses’’ section of this rule’s preamble. PO 00000 Frm 00060 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 Description and Estimate of Number of Small Entities to Which the Rule Will Apply The Small Business Administration defines a small business in the commercial harvesting sector as a firm with receipts (gross revenues) of up to $5.5 and $20.5 million for shellfish and for finfish business, respectively. A small business in the recreational fishery is a firm with receipts of up to $7.5 million. The categories of small entities likely to be affected by this action include commercial and charter/ party vessel owners holding an active Federal permit for summer flounder, scup, or black sea bass, as well as owners of vessels that fish for any of these species in state waters. The Council estimates that the 2016–2018 specifications could affect 952 small entities and 8 large entities, assuming average revenues for the 2012–2014 period. Description of Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other Compliance Requirements No additional reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements are included in this final rule. Description of the Steps the Agency Has Taken To Minimize the Significant Economic Impact on Small Entities Consistent With the Stated Objectives of Applicable Statutes Specification of commercial quotas and possession limits is constrained by the conservation objectives set forth in the FMP and implemented at 50 CFR part 648 under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Economic impacts of changes in year-to-year quota specifications may be offset by adjustments to such measures as commercial fish sizes, changes to mesh sizes, gear restrictions, or possession and trip limits that may increase efficiency or value of the fishery. The Council recommended no such measures, and so none are implemented in this final rule. Therefore, the economic impact analysis of the action is evaluated on the different levels of quota specified in the alternatives. The ability of NMFS to minimize economic impacts for this action is constrained by quota levels that provide the maximum availability of fish while still ensuring that the required objectives and directives of the FMP, its implementing regulations, and the Magnuson-Stevens Act are met. In particular, the Council’s SSC has made recommendations for the 2016–2017 ABC level for all three stocks, and the 2018 ABC level for scup E:\FR\FM\28DER1.SGM 28DER1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 248 / Monday, December 28, 2015 / Rules and Regulations and black sea bass. NMFS considers these recommendations to be consistent with National Standard 2 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which requires that the best available scientific information be used in fishery decision making. The economic analysis for the 2016– 2018 specifications assessed the impacts for quota alternatives that achieve the aforementioned objectives. The Council analyzed four sets of combined catch limit alternatives for the 2016–2018 summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries. Please see the EA and IRFA for a detailed discussion on each alternative. Through this final rule, NMFS implements Alternative 1 (the Council’s preferred alternative), as modified by the Council’s revised recommendation for black sea bass. This alternative consists of the quota levels that pair the lowest economic impacts to small entities and meet the required objectives of the FMP and the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The respective specifications contained in this final rule for all three species were selected because they satisfy NMFS’ obligation to implement specifications that are consistent with the goals, objectives, and requirements of the FMP, its implementing regulations, and the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The fishing mortality rates associated with the catch limits for all three species all have acceptable likelihoods of preventing overfishing in any of the next three years. Alternative 3 for each species, contained the most restrictive options (i.e., lowest total landing levels) for each fishery have the highest potential adverse economic impacts on small entities in the form of potential foregone fishing opportunities.. Some of the catch limits associated with Alternatives 3 pre-date the ABC framework, thus the information for these alternatives is presented in terms of landing levels. Alternative 3 was not preferred by the Council of NMFS because the other alternatives considered are expected have lower adverse impacts on small entities while achieving the stated objectives of sustaining the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass stocks, consistent with the FMP and Magnuson-Stevens Act. Alternative 4 contained the least restrictive catch limits for each fishery and would have the lowest economic impacts on small entities. This alternative is not consistent with the goals and objectives of the FMP and the Magnuson-Stevens Act because it would implement catch limits much higher than the recommendations of the Council’s SSC. This could result in VerDate Sep<11>2014 13:41 Dec 24, 2015 Jkt 238001 overfishing of the resources and substantially compromise the mortality and/or stock rebuilding objectives for each species, contrary to laws and regulations. Alternative 2 (status quo), would maintain the current 2015 ABCs for each fishery, and would, in the shortterm, have negligible economic impacts on small entities. For summer flounder and scup, this alternative is not consistent with the goals and objectives of the FMP and the Magnuson-Stevens Act because it would leave in place ABCs higher than the recommendations of the Council’s SSC. This could result in overfishing of the resources and substantially compromise the mortality and/or stock rebuilding objectives for each species, contrary to laws and regulations. For black sea bass, this alternative is more restrictive than is necessary and would have unnecessary negative economic impacts. Likewise, a ‘‘true’’ no action alternative, wherein no quotas are established for the coming fishing year, was excluded from analysis because it is not consistent with the goals and objectives of the FMP and the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Small Entity Compliance Guide Section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 states that, for each rule or group of related rules for which an agency is required to prepare a FRFA, the agency shall publish one or more guides to assist small entities in complying with the rule, and shall designate such publications as ‘‘small entity compliance guides.’’ The agency shall explain the actions a small entity is required to take to comply with a rule or group of rules. As part of this rulemaking process, a small entity compliance guide will be sent to all holders of Federal permits issued for the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries. In addition, copies of this final rule and guide (i.e., permit holder letter) are available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES) and at the following Web site: http:// www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: December 21, 2015. Eileen Sobeck, Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2015–32562 Filed 12–24–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P PO 00000 Frm 00061 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 80695 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 679 [Docket No. 150126078–5999–02] RIN 0648–BE85 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Revise Maximum Retainable Amounts for Skates in the Gulf of Alaska National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: NMFS issues regulations to reduce the maximum retainable amount (MRA) of skates using groundfish and halibut as basis species in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) from 20 percent to 5 percent. Reducing skate MRAs is necessary to decrease the incentive for fishermen to target skates and slow the catch rate of skates in these fisheries. This final rule will enhance conservation and management of skates and minimize skate discards in GOA groundfish and halibut fisheries. This final rule is intended to promote the goals and objectives of the MagnusonStevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (FMP), and other applicable laws. DATES: Effective January 27, 2016. ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of the following documents may be obtained from http://www.regulations.gov or from the NMFS Alaska Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov: • The Environmental Assessment/ Regulatory Impact Review/Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (EA/ RIR/IRFA) prepared for this action (collectively referred to as the ‘‘Analysis’’); • The Alaska Groundfish Harvest Specifications Final Environmental Impact Statement (Harvest Specifications EIS); • The Harvest Specifications Supplementary Information Report (SIR) prepared for the final 2015 and 2016 harvest specifications; and • The IRFA for the Gulf of Alaska Groundfish Harvest Specifications for 2015 and 2016 (Harvest Specifications IRFA). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Peggy Murphy, 907–586–7228. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS published a proposed rule in the SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\28DER1.SGM 28DER1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 248 (Monday, December 28, 2015)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 80689-80695]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-32562]


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

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 150903814-5999-02]
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: Final rule.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS issues final specifications for the 2016-2018 summer 
flounder and scup fisheries, and the 2016 and 2017 black sea bass 
fishery. This final rule specifies allowed harvest limits for both 
commercial and recreational fisheries. This action prohibits federally 
permitted commercial fishing vessels from landing summer flounder in 
Delaware in 2016 due to continued quota repayment from previous years' 
overages. This action also reduces the 2016 black sea bass commercial 
quota to account for a catch overage in 2014. These actions are 
necessary to comply with regulations implementing the Summer Flounder, 
Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan, and to ensure 
compliance with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and 
Management Act. The intent of this action is to establish harvest 
levels and other management measures to ensure that these species are 
not overfished or subject to overfishing in 2016-2018.

DATES: Effective January 1, 2016, through December 31, 2018.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the specifications document, consisting of an 
Environmental Assessment (EA), Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis 
(IRFA), and other supporting documents used by the Summer Flounder, 
Scup, and Black Sea Bass Monitoring Committees and Scientific and 
Statistical Committee (SSC), are available from Dr. Christopher Moore, 
Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Suite 201, 
800 North State Street, Dover, DE 19901. The specifications document is 
also accessible via the Internet at http://www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov. The Final Regulatory 
Flexibility Analysis (FRFA) consists of the IRFA, public comments and 
responses contained in this final rule, and the summary of impacts and 
alternatives contained in this final rule. Copies of the small entity 
compliance guide are available from John K. Bullard, Regional 
Administrator, Greater Atlantic Region, National Marine Fisheries 
Service, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930-2298.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

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 under the Summer Flounder, Scup, and 
Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan (FMP). Fishery

[[Page 80690]]

specifications in these fisheries include various catch and landing 
subdivisions, such as the species-specific acceptable biological catch 
(ABC), commercial and recreational sector annual catch limits (ACLs), 
annual catch targets (ACTs), and the sector-specific landing limits 
(i.e., the commercial fishery quota and recreational harvest limit) 
established for the up to three fishing years at a time. The FMP and 
its implementing regulations establish the Council's process for 
establishing specifications. Requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens 
Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), 
including the 10 national standards, also apply to 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, 
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. Detailed background information regarding the 
status of the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass stocks and the 
development of the 2016-2018 specifications for these fisheries was 
provided in the proposed specifications (November 9, 2015; 80 FR 69179) 
and is not repeated here.
    NMFS will establish the 2016 recreational management measures 
(i.e., minimum fish size, possession limits, and fishing seasons) for 
summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass by publishing proposed and 
final rules in the Federal Register at a later date.

2016-2018 Specifications

    This action establishes the following specifications:

                  Table 1--Summary of the 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      n/a
                                                mt..............................    8,194    8,991   10,159   16,238   14,556   13,464        a      n/a
ABC...........................................  million lb......................    16.26    15.86    15.68    31.11    28.40    27.05     6.67     6.67
                                                mt..............................    7,375    7,193    7,111   14,110   12,881   12,270    3,024    3,024
Commercial ACL/ACT............................  million lb......................     9.42     9.19     9.10    24.26    22.15    21.10     3.15     3.15
                                                mt..............................    4,275    4,168    4,127   11,006   10,047    9,571    1,428    1,428
Recreational ACL/ACT..........................  million lb......................     6.83     6.67     6.56     6.84     6.25     5.95     3.52     3.52
                                                mt..............................    3,100    3,025    2,984    3,104    2,834    2,699    1,597    1,597
Commercial Quota..............................  million lb......................     8.12     7.91     7.89    20.47    18.38    17.34     2.70     2.71
                                                mt..............................    3,685    3,590    3,581    9,284    8,337    7,866    1,226    1,226
Recreational Harvest Limit....................  million lb......................     5.42     5.28     5.26     6.09     5.50     5.21     2.82     2.82
                                                mt..............................    2,457    2,393    2,387    2,763    2,495    2,361    1,280    1,280
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The process describing the calculation of the commercial and 
recreational ACLs, commercial quotas, and recreational harvest limits 
was presented in the November 9, 2015, proposed rule, and is not 
repeated here. The specific discard values projected for each fishery 
and sector are described in more detail below.

Summer Flounder

    This rule implements the Council's ABC recommendation and the 
commercial and recreational catch limits associated with that ABC for 
fishing years 2016-2018.
    As described in the proposed rule, these specifications are based 
on a deviation from the Council's normal procedures. Had the standard 
Risk Policy been followed, the drastic reduction in available catch 
could have had substantial economic impacts. The 2016 and 2017 ABCs 
have a higher risk of overfishing than would be allowed under the 
Council's Risk Policy, but the 2018 ABC has a lower risk of overfishing 
than the Risk Policy requires. Each of the ABCs established in this 
rule have a less than 50-percent probability of resulting in 
overfishing. Further, the projected biomass is the same under either 
the standard Risk Policy or the deviation from the Risk Policy used in 
these specifications. Because the OFLs are projected to increase 
modestly over the next three years, the specifications established in 
this rule are relatively stable. The SSC has requested a stock 
assessment update for next summer and intends to evaluate the available 
information to determine if the 2017 and 2018 ABCs remain appropriate. 
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 an unacceptably high likelihood of overfishing.
    This action makes no other changes to the Federal commercial summer 
flounder management measures.

                                           Table 2--2016-2018 Summer Flounder Specifications and Calculations
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                        2016                            2017                            2018
                                                          ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                             million lb          mt          million lb          mt          million lb         mt
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
OFL......................................................           18.06           8,194           19.82           8,991          22.4           10,159
ABC......................................................           16.26           7,375           15.86           7,193          15.7            7,111
ABC Landings Portion.....................................           13.54           6,142           13.19           5,983          13.2            5,968
ABC Discards Portion.....................................            2.72           1,233            2.67           1,210           2.52           1,143
Commercial ACL...........................................            9.43           4,275            9.19           4,168           9.1            4,127
Commercial ACT...........................................            9.43           4,275            9.19           4,168           9.1            4,127
Projected Commercial Discards............................            1.30             590            1.28             579           1.21             547
Commercial Quota.........................................            8.12           3,685            7.91           3,590           7.89           3,581

[[Page 80691]]

 
Recreational ACL.........................................            6.84           3,100            6.67           3,025           6.58           2,984
Recreational ACT.........................................            6.84           3,100            6.67           3,025           6.58           2,984
Projected Recreational Discards..........................            1.42             643            1.39             631           1.32             596
Recreational Harvest Limit...............................            5.42           2,457            5.28           2,393           5.26           2,387
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Table 3 presents the 2016 summer flounder allocations for each 
state. Consistent with the quota-setting procedures for the FMP, summer 
flounder overages are determined based upon landings for the period 
January-October 2015, plus any previously unaccounted for overages. 
Table 3 summarizes the commercial summer flounder percent shares as 
outlined in Sec.  648.102 (c)(1)(i), the resultant 2016 commercial 
quotas, the quota overages as described above, and the final adjusted 
2016 commercial quotas. The 2015 quota overage is determined by 
comparing landings for January through October 2015, plus any landings 
in 2014 in excess of the 2014 quota, that were not previously addressed 
in the 2015 specifications, for each state. For Delaware, this includes 
continued repayment of overharvest from previous years. Table 4 
presents the initial 2017 and 2018 allocations by state. The 2017 and 
2018 state quota allocations are preliminary and are subject to change 
if there are overages of states' quotas carried over from a previous 
fishing year. Notice of any commercial quota adjustments to account for 
overages will be published in the Federal Register prior to the start 
of the respective fishing year.

                                      Table 3--Final State-by-State Commercial Summer Flounder Allocations for 2016
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                2016 Initial quota         Overages through October 31,      Adjusted 2016 quota, less
                                            FMP Percent  --------------------------------              2015                          overages
                  State                        share                                     ---------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                lb              kg              lb              kg              lb              kg
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Maine....................................        0.04756           3,864           1,753               0               0           3,864           1,753
New Hampshire............................        0.00046              37              17               0               0              37              17
Massachusetts............................        6.82046         554,097         251,334               0               0         554,097         251,334
Rhode Island.............................       15.68298       1,274,091         577,917               0               0       1,274,091         577,918
Connecticut..............................        2.25708         183,366          83,173               0               0         183,366          83,173
New York.................................        7.64699         621,244         281,791               0               0         621,244         281,792
New Jersey...............................       16.72499       1,358,744         616,315               0               0       1,358,744         616,316
Delaware.................................        0.01779           1,445             656         -48,846         -22,156         -47,401         -21,501
Maryland.................................        2.0391          165,657          75,141               0               0         165,657          75,141
Virginia.................................       21.31676       1,731,781         785,522               0               0       1,731,781         785,523
North Carolina...........................       27.44584       2,229,709       1,011,378               0               0       2,229,709       1,011,379
                                          --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total................................      100             8,124,035       3,684,997               0               0       8,122,590           1,753
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Notes: Kilograms are as converted from pounds and may not necessarily add due to rounding. Total quota is the sum for all states with an allocation. A
  state with a negative number has a 2015 allocation of zero (0). Total adjusted 2016 quota, less overages, does not include negative allocations.


                   Table 4--2016-2018 Proposed Initial Summer Flounder State Commercial Quotas
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                            2017 Quota                      2018 Quota
              State                 FMP Percent  ---------------------------------------------------------------
                                       share            lb              kg              lb              kg
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Maine............................        0.04756           3,764           1,707           3,755           1,703
New Hampshire....................        0.00046              36              17              36              16
Massachusetts....................        6.82046         539,812         244,854         538,459         244,240
Rhode Island.....................       15.68298       1,241,244         563,019       1,238,133         561,607
Connecticut......................        2.25708         178,639          81,029         178,191          80,826
New York.........................        7.64699         605,228         274,527         603,711         273,838
New Jersey.......................       16.72499       1,323,715         600,427       1,320,397         598,921
Delaware.........................        0.01779           1,408             639           1,404             637
Maryland.........................        2.0391          161,387          73,204         160,982          73,020
Virginia.........................       21.31676       1,687,135         765,271       1,682,906         763,353
North Carolina...................       27.44584       2,172,227         985,305       2,166,781         982,835
                                  ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total........................      100             7,914,596       3,589,997       7,894,754       3,580,997
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Delaware Summer Flounder Closure

    Table 3 shows that, for Delaware, the amount of overharvest from 
previous years is greater than the amount of commercial quota allocated 
to Delaware for 2016. As a result, there is no quota available for 2016 
in Delaware. The regulations at Sec.  648.4(b) provide that Federal 
permit holders, as a condition of

[[Page 80692]]

their permit, must not land summer flounder in any state that the 
Administrator, Greater Atlantic Region, NMFS, has determined no longer 
has commercial quota available for harvest. Therefore, landings of 
summer flounder in Delaware by vessels holding commercial Federal 
summer flounder permits are prohibited for the 2016 calendar year, 
unless additional quota becomes available through a quota transfer and 
is announced in the Federal Register. Federally permitted dealers are 
advised that they may not purchase summer flounder from federally 
permitted vessels that land in Delaware for the 2016 calendar year, 
unless additional quota becomes available through a transfer, as 
mentioned above.

Scup

    This rule implements the Council's ABC recommendation and the 
commercial and recreational catch limits associated with that ABC for 
fishing years 2016-2018. The scup management measures specify that the 
ABC is equal to the sum of the commercial and recreational sector ACLs. 
As described in the proposed rule, the ACLs and ACTs are set equal to 
each other for both sectors, sector-specific projected discards are 
removed, and the specifications for 2016-2018 are as shown in Table 5.

                                     Table 5--2016-2018 Scup Specifications
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                            2016                       2017                       2018
                                --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                  million lb        mt       million lb        mt       million lb        mt
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
OFL............................         35.8        16,238         32.09       14,556         29.7        13,464
ABC............................         31.11       14,110         28.4        12,881         27.1        12,270
ABC Landings Portion...........         26.56       12,047         23.88       10,832         22.6        10,227
ABC Discards Portion...........          4.55        2,063          4.52        2,049          4.5         2,043
Commercial ACL.................         24.26       11,006         22.15       10,047         21.1         9,571
Commercial ACT.................         24.26       11,006         22.15       10,047         21.1         9,571
Projected Commercial Discards..          3.8         1,721          3.77        1,710          3.76        1,705
Commercial Quota...............         20.47        9,284         18.38        8,337         17.3         7,866
Recreational ACL...............          6.84        3,104          6.25        2,834          5.95        2,699
Recreational ACT...............          6.84        3,104          6.25        2,834          5.95        2,699
Projected Recreational Discards          0.75          342          0.75          339          0.75          338
Recreational Harvest Limit.....          6.09        2,763          5.5         2,495          5.21        2,361
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    If there is a commercial overage applicable to the scup commercial 
quota, notice will be published prior to the start of the each fishing 
year. No commercial quota overage is applicable to 2016; therefore, no 
adjustment to the 2016 quota is necessary.
    The scup commercial quota is divided into three commercial fishery 
quota periods. The period quotas are detailed in Table 6.

                                        Table 6--Commercial Scup Quota Allocations for 2016-2018 by Quota Period
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                 2016 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 quota period possession limits are shown in Table 7. The Winter 
I possession limit will drop to 1,000 lb (454 kg) upon attainment of 80 
percent of that period's allocation. If the Winter I quota is not fully 
harvested, the remaining quota is transferred to Winter II. 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. The regulations specify that the Winter II possession 
limit increases consistent with the increase in the quota, as described 
in Table 8.

                           Table 7--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
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


[[Page 80693]]


     Table 8--Potential Increase in 2016-2018 Winter II Possession Limits Based on the Amount of Unused Scup Rolled Over From Winter I to Winter II
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Initial Winter II possession limit                 Rollover from Winter I to Winter II           Increase in initial         Final Winter II
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------   Winter II possession     possession limit after
                                                                                                                limit            rollover from Winter I
                                                                                                     --------------------------       to Winter II
                  lb                        kg                 lb                       kg                                     -------------------------
                                                                                                           lb           kg           lb           kg
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
12,000...............................        5,443                0-499,999                0-226,796            0            0       12,000        5,443
12,000...............................        5,443          500,000-999,999          226,796-453,592        1,500          680       13,500        6,123
12,000...............................        5,443      1,000,000-1,499,999          453,592-680,388        3,000        1,361       15,000        6,804
12,000...............................        5,443      1,500,000-1,999,999          680,389-907,184        4,500        2,041       16,500        7,484
12,000...............................        5,443      2,000,000-2,500,000        907,185-1,133,981        6,000        2,722       18,000        8,165
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Black Sea Bass

    This rule implements the Council's revised ABC recommendation and 
the commercial and recreational catch limits associated with that ABC 
for fishing years 2016 and 2017. As described in the proposed rule for 
this action, the Council's SSC revised its recommendation for the 2016 
and 2017 black sea bass ABC in September 2015 based on additional 
analysis that relies more on measures of current abundance than the 
prior constant catch approach. The Council and the Commission's Black 
Sea Bass Board have also revised their recommendations for 2016 and 
2017, as outlined in the proposed rule to this action. Specifications 
for 2018 will be made following the completion of a new stock 
assessment in late 2016.
    A commercial quota overage from fishing year 2014 is applicable to 
the 2016 black sea bass commercial quota. As a result, the regulations 
at 684.143(a)(2) require that the exact amount of the overage, in 
pounds, be deducted from a subsequent single year's commercial quota. 
The 2016 commercial quota is reduced by 8,896 lb (4,035 kg) from 
2,711,686 lb (1,230 mt) to 2,702,867 lb (1,226 mt). The 2016 commercial 
quota values in Table 9 include this deduction. Should a commercial 
quota or ACL accountability measure be necessary in 2017, notification 
will be published in the Federal Register prior to the start of the 
fishing year.

                                Table 9--Black Sea Bass 2016-2017 Specifications
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                               2016                            2017
                                                 ---------------------------------------------------------------
                                                    million lb          mt          million lb          mt
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
ABC.............................................            6.67           3,024            6.67           3,024
ABC Landings Portion............................            5.53           2,510            5.53           2,510
ABC Discards Portion............................            1.13             514            1.13             514
Commercial ACL..................................            3.15           1,428            3.15           1,428
Commercial ACT..................................            3.15           1,428            3.15           1,428
Projected Commercial Discards...................            0.44             198            0.44             198
Commercial Quota................................            2.70           1,226            2.71           1,230
Recreational ACL................................            3.52           1,597            3.52           1,597
Recreational ACT................................            3.52           1,597            3.52           1,597
Projected Recreational Discards.................            0.70             317            0.70             317
Recreational Harvest Limit......................            2.82           1,280            2.82           1,280
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Comments and Responses

    On November 9, 2015, NMFS published proposed specifications for 
Summer Flounder, Scup and Sea Bass for public notice and comment, and 
four comments were received. Generally, the four comments each stated 
that the proposed specifications were overly conservative for all three 
species, particularly for black sea bass and scup. One commenter 
asserted that the SSC's scup recommendation should not be considered 
the best available scientific information because it is based on a 
scientific uncertainty buffer that is double what the Stock Assessment 
Working Group recommended. Two other commenters noted that the increase 
in the black sea bass population in southern New England is negatively 
impacting the lobster fishery and that the quotas should be increased 
or measures should be set so that the recreational season can last 
longer into the fall. A recreational fishing group commented that NMFS 
should set the summer flounder ABC equal to the OFL in each year, 
despite the SSC's recommendation, because precaution is applied 
``excessively'' throughout the stock assessment and SSC process. The 
group also stated that there should be no quota reductions for summer 
flounder until a sex-specific stock assessment can be conducted. This 
comment also asserted that the scup catch limits are overly 
conservative, but spoke in support of the revised black sea bass ABC 
recommendation.
    No changes to the proposed specifications were made as a result of 
these comments. The specifications are based on the SSC's advice and 
the best available scientific information. The Council applied its Risk 
Policy to derive the scup and black sea bass specifications. The summer 
flounder specifications deviate from that Risk Policy, but are less 
conservative than the Risk Policy and closer to the commenter's request 
than had the Council used the Policy. However, as stated previously, 
the summer flounder specifications will not result in an unacceptably 
high likelihood of overfishing. For scup, the SSC deliberated on the 
stock assessment working group's advice, but determined additional 
scientific uncertainty had not been adequately incorporated, as is 
their purview. NMFS does not disagree with the SSC's recommendation and 
we are implementing the specifications as recommended by the Council.

[[Page 80694]]

Classification

    The Administrator, Greater Atlantic Region, NMFS, determined that 
this final rule is necessary for the conservation and management of the 
summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries and that it is 
consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable laws.
    The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, finds good cause 
under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3) to waive the 30-day delay of effectiveness 
period for this rule, to ensure that the final specifications are in 
place on January 1, 2016. This action establishes specifications (i.e., 
annual quotas) for the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass 
fisheries.
    This rule is being issued at the earliest possible date. 
Preparation of the proposed rule was dependent on the submission of the 
EA/IRFA in support of the specifications that is developed by the 
Council. A complete document was received by NMFS in early October 
2015. Documentation in support of the Council's recommended 
specifications is required for NMFS to provide the public with 
information from the environmental and economic analyses as required in 
rulemaking. The proposed rule published on November 9, 2015, with a 15-
day comment period ending November 24, 2015. Publication of the 
adjusted summer flounder quota at the start of the fishing year that 
begins January 1, 2015, is required by the order of Judge Robert Doumar 
in North Carolina Fisheries Association v. Daley.
    If the 30-day delay in effectiveness is not waived, there will be 
no quota specifications for the affected fisheries on January 1, 2016, 
which would significantly confuse the public and substantially 
complicate the cooperative management regime governing these fisheries. 
The summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries are all 
expected, based on historic participation and harvest patterns, to be 
very active at the start of the fishing season in 2016. Without these 
specifications in place on January 1, 2016, individual states will be 
unable to set commercial possession and/or trip limits, which apportion 
the catch over the entirety of the calendar year. NMFS will be unable 
to control harvest in any way, as there will be no quotas in place for 
any of the three species until the regulations are effective. NMFS will 
be unable to control harvest or close the fishery, should landings 
exceed the quotas. All of these factors could result in a race for 
fish, wherein uncontrolled landings could occur. Disproportionately 
large harvest occurring within the first weeks of 2016 could have 
distributional effects on other quota periods, and would disadvantage 
some gear sectors or owners and operators of smaller vessels that 
typically fish later in the fishing season. There is no historic 
precedent by which to gauge the magnitude of harvest that might occur, 
should quotas for these three species not be in place during the first 
weeks of 2016. It is reasonable to conclude that the commercial fishing 
fleet possesses sufficient capacity to exceed the established quotas 
for these three species before the regulations would become effective, 
should quotas not be in place on January 1, 2016. Should this occur, 
the fishing mortality objectives for all three species would be 
compromised, thus undermining the intent of the rule.
    For these reasons, a 30-day delay in effectiveness would be 
contrary to the public interest, and NMFS is waiving the requirement.
    These specifications are exempt from the procedures of Executive 
Order 12866.
    This final rule does not duplicate, conflict, or overlap with any 
existing Federal rules.
    A FRFA was prepared pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 604(a), and incorporates 
the IRFA, a summary of the significant issues raised by the public 
comments in response to the IRFA, NMFS's responses to those comments, 
and a summary of the analyses completed to support the action. A copy 
of the EA//IRFA is available from the Council (see ADDRESSES).
    The preamble to the proposed rule included a detailed summary of 
the analyses contained in the IRFA, and that discussion is not repeated 
here.

Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

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

    No changes to the proposed rule were required to be made as a 
result of public comments. None of the comments received raised 
specific issues regarding the economic analyses summarized in the IRFA 
or the economic impacts of the rule more generally. A summary of the 
comments received, and our responses, can be found above in the 
``Comments and Responses'' section of this rule's preamble.

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

    The Small Business Administration defines a small business in the 
commercial harvesting sector as a firm with receipts (gross revenues) 
of up to $5.5 and $20.5 million for shellfish and for finfish business, 
respectively. A small business in the recreational fishery is a firm 
with receipts of up to $7.5 million. The categories of small entities 
likely to be affected by this action include commercial and charter/
party vessel owners holding an active Federal permit for summer 
flounder, scup, or black sea bass, as well as owners of vessels that 
fish for any of these species in state waters. The Council estimates 
that the 2016-2018 specifications could affect 952 small entities and 8 
large entities, assuming average revenues for the 2012-2014 period.

Description of Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other Compliance 
Requirements

    No additional reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance 
requirements are included in this final rule.

Description of the Steps the Agency Has Taken To Minimize the 
Significant Economic Impact on Small Entities Consistent With the 
Stated Objectives of Applicable Statutes

    Specification of commercial quotas and possession limits is 
constrained by the conservation objectives set forth in the FMP and 
implemented at 50 CFR part 648 under the authority of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act. Economic impacts of changes in year-to-year quota 
specifications may be offset by adjustments to such measures as 
commercial fish sizes, changes to mesh sizes, gear restrictions, or 
possession and trip limits that may increase efficiency or value of the 
fishery. The Council recommended no such measures, and so none are 
implemented in this final rule. Therefore, the economic impact analysis 
of the action is evaluated on the different levels of quota specified 
in the alternatives. The ability of NMFS to minimize economic impacts 
for this action is constrained by quota levels that provide the maximum 
availability of fish while still ensuring that the required objectives 
and directives of the FMP, its implementing regulations, and the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act are met. In particular, the Council's SSC has made 
recommendations for the 2016-2017 ABC level for all three stocks, and 
the 2018 ABC level for scup

[[Page 80695]]

and black sea bass. NMFS considers these recommendations to be 
consistent with National Standard 2 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which 
requires that the best available scientific information be used in 
fishery decision making.
    The economic analysis for the 2016-2018 specifications assessed the 
impacts for quota alternatives that achieve the aforementioned 
objectives. The Council analyzed four sets of combined catch limit 
alternatives for the 2016-2018 summer flounder, scup, and black sea 
bass fisheries. Please see the EA and IRFA for a detailed discussion on 
each alternative.
    Through this final rule, NMFS implements Alternative 1 (the 
Council's preferred alternative), as modified by the Council's revised 
recommendation for black sea bass. This alternative consists of the 
quota levels that pair the lowest economic impacts to small entities 
and meet the required objectives of the FMP and the Magnuson-Stevens 
Act. The respective specifications contained in this final rule for all 
three species were selected because they satisfy NMFS' obligation to 
implement specifications that are consistent with the goals, 
objectives, and requirements of the FMP, its implementing regulations, 
and the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The fishing mortality rates associated 
with the catch limits for all three species all have acceptable 
likelihoods of preventing overfishing in any of the next three years.
    Alternative 3 for each species, contained the most restrictive 
options (i.e., lowest total landing levels) for each fishery have the 
highest potential adverse economic impacts on small entities in the 
form of potential foregone fishing opportunities.. Some of the catch 
limits associated with Alternatives 3 pre-date the ABC framework, thus 
the information for these alternatives is presented in terms of landing 
levels. Alternative 3 was not preferred by the Council of NMFS because 
the other alternatives considered are expected have lower adverse 
impacts on small entities while achieving the stated objectives of 
sustaining the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass stocks, 
consistent with the FMP and Magnuson-Stevens Act.
    Alternative 4 contained the least restrictive catch limits for each 
fishery and would have the lowest economic impacts on small entities. 
This alternative is not consistent with the goals and objectives of the 
FMP and the Magnuson-Stevens Act because it would implement catch 
limits much higher than the recommendations of the Council's SSC. This 
could result in overfishing of the resources and substantially 
compromise the mortality and/or stock rebuilding objectives for each 
species, contrary to laws and regulations.
    Alternative 2 (status quo), would maintain the current 2015 ABCs 
for each fishery, and would, in the short-term, have negligible 
economic impacts on small entities. For summer flounder and scup, this 
alternative is not consistent with the goals and objectives of the FMP 
and the Magnuson-Stevens Act because it would leave in place ABCs 
higher than the recommendations of the Council's SSC. This could result 
in overfishing of the resources and substantially compromise the 
mortality and/or stock rebuilding objectives for each species, contrary 
to laws and regulations. For black sea bass, this alternative is more 
restrictive than is necessary and would have unnecessary negative 
economic impacts.
    Likewise, a ``true'' no action alternative, wherein no quotas are 
established for the coming fishing year, was excluded from analysis 
because it is not consistent with the goals and objectives of the FMP 
and the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

Small Entity Compliance Guide

    Section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness 
Act of 1996 states that, for each rule or group of related rules for 
which an agency is required to prepare a FRFA, the agency shall publish 
one or more guides to assist small entities in complying with the rule, 
and shall designate such publications as ``small entity compliance 
guides.'' The agency shall explain the actions a small entity is 
required to take to comply with a rule or group of rules. As part of 
this rulemaking process, a small entity compliance guide will be sent 
to all holders of Federal permits issued for the summer flounder, scup, 
and black sea bass fisheries. In addition, copies of this final rule 
and guide (i.e., permit holder letter) are available from NMFS (see 
ADDRESSES) and at the following Web site: http://www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov.

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

    Dated: December 21, 2015.
Eileen Sobeck,
Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2015-32562 Filed 12-24-15; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P