Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish Fisheries; Specifications and Management Measures, 3768-3775 [2016-01189]

Download as PDF 3768 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 14 / Friday, January 22, 2016 / Proposed Rules wgreen on DSK2VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS the public has an adequate opportunity to review and comment, we are reopening the comment period on our September 30, 2015, proposed rule for an additional 30 days. We will accept comments and information until the date specified above in DATES or at the public hearing. We will consider all information and recommendations we receive from all interested parties. For details on specific information that we are requesting, please see the Information Requested section of our proposed rule (80 FR 58820; September 30, 2015). The proposed rule is available at the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov (see ADDRESSES, above). Our final determination concerning the proposed rulemaking will take into consideration all written and oral comments and any additional information we receive. If you previously submitted comments or information on the proposed rule, please do not resubmit them. We have incorporated them into the public record, and we will fully consider them in our final determination. You may submit your comments and materials concerning the proposed rule by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. We request that you send comments only by the methods described in ADDRESSES. If you submit a comment via http:// www.regulations.gov, your entire comment—including any personal identifying information—will be posted on the Web site. We will post all hardcopy comments on http:// www.regulations.gov as well. If you submit a hardcopy comment that includes personal identifying information, you may request at the top of your document that we withhold this information from public review. However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting documentation we used in preparing the proposed rule, will be available for public inspection on http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS–R1–ES–2015–0125 or by appointment, during normal business hours, at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Public Information Meeting and Public Hearing We will hold a public information meeting and public hearing on the date listed above in the DATES section at the location listed above in the ADDRESSES section. The public information meeting is an opportunity for Service staff to provide information and address VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:28 Jan 21, 2016 Jkt 238001 questions on the proposed rule; at the public hearing, we accept formal verbal testimony on the proposed rule. Anyone wishing to make an oral statement at a public hearing for the record is encouraged to provide a written copy of their statement to us at the hearing. In the event there is a large attendance, the time allotted for oral statements may be limited. Speakers can sign up at a hearing if they desire to make an oral statement. Oral and written statements receive equal consideration. There are no limits on the length of written comments submitted to us. People needing reasonable accommodation in order to attend and participate in the public information meeting or public hearing should contact Mary Abrams, Field Supervisor, Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office, as soon as possible (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Authority: The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). Dated: January 5, 2016. Stephen Guertin, Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. [FR Doc. 2016–01143 Filed 1–21–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4333–15–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 151110999–5999–01] RIN 0648–BF53 Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish Fisheries; Specifications and Management Measures National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule, request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS proposes 2016–2018 specifications for Atlantic mackerel and the river herring and shad catch cap for Atlantic mackerel. NMFS previously set specifications for butterfish, longfin squid, and Illex squid for 3 years in 2015 (2015–2017) and, therefore, new specifications will not be included in this year’s specification rulemaking. This action also proposes to adjust the butterfish mesh requirement, clarify the SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 use of strengtheners in the butterfish fishery, and suspend indefinitely the pre-trip notification system requirement in the longfin squid fishery. These proposed specifications and management measures are intended to promote the sustainable utilization and conservation of the Atlantic mackerel, squid, and butterfish resources. DATES: Public comments must be received by February 22, 2016. ADDRESSES: Copies of supporting documents used by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, including the Environmental Assessment (EA) and Regulatory Impact Review (RIR)/Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA), are available from: Dr. Christopher M. Moore, Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 800 North State Street, Suite 201, Dover, DE 19901, telephone (302) 674–2331. The EA/RIR/ IRFA is also accessible via the Internet at http:// www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov. You may submit comments, identified by NOAA–NMFS–2015–0151, by either of the following methods: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20150151, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Submit written comments to NMFS, Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the envelope ‘‘Comments on 2016 MSB 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 a 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). Written comments regarding the burden-hour estimates or other aspects of the collection-of-information requirements contained in this proposed rule may be submitted to NMFS, Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office and by email to OIRA_Submission@ omb.eop.gov, or fax to (202) 395–5806. E:\FR\FM\22JAP1.SGM 22JAP1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 14 / Friday, January 22, 2016 / Proposed Rules FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: wgreen on DSK2VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Carly Bari, Fishery Policy Analyst, (978) 281–9224, fax (978) 281–9135. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background This rule proposes specifications, which are the combined suite of commercial and recreational catch levels established for one or more fishing years. The specifications process also allows for the modification of a select number of management measures, such as closure thresholds, gear restrictions, and possession limits. The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s process for establishing specifications relies on provisions within the Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and its implementing regulations, as well as requirements established by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Specifically, section 302(g)(1)(B) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act states that the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) for each Regional Fishery Management Council shall provide its Council ongoing scientific advice for fishery management decisions, including recommendations for acceptable biological catch (ABC), preventing overfishing, maximum sustainable yield, and achieving rebuilding targets. The ABC is a level of catch that accounts for the scientific uncertainty in the estimate of the stock’s defined overfishing level (OFL). The Council’s SSC met on May 13 and 14, 2015, to recommend an ABC for the 2016–2018 Atlantic mackerel specifications. The FMP’s implementing regulations require the Council’s Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish Monitoring Committee to consider and develop specification recommendations for each species. Since the Magnuson-Stevens Act requirements for the SSC to recommend ABC became effective, the role of all Council monitoring committees has largely been to recommend any reduction in catch limits from the SSC-recommended ABCs to account for management uncertainty, and to recommend other management measures (e.g., gear and/or possession restrictions) needed for the efficient management of the fishery. The Monitoring Committee met via webinar on May 21, 2015, to discuss recommendations for the 2016–2018 mackerel fishery. The Council considered the recommendations of the SSC, the Monitoring Committee, and public comments at its June 9, 2015, meeting in Virginia Beach, VA, and made its VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:28 Jan 21, 2016 Jkt 238001 specification recommendations. The Council submitted the recommendations, along with the required analyses, for agency review on August 24, 2015, with final submission on December 11, 2015. NMFS must review the Council’s recommendations for the compliance with the FMP and applicable law, and conduct notice-andcomment rulemaking to propose and implement the final specifications. The regulations for the FMP require the specification of annual catch limits (ACLs) and accountability measure (AM) provisions for mackerel and butterfish. Both squid species are exempt from the ACL/AM requirements because they have a life cycle of less than 1 year. In addition, the regulations require the specification of domestic annual harvest (DAH), domestic annual processing (DAP), total allowable level of foreign fishing (TALFF), joint venture processing (JVP), commercial and recreational annual catch targets (ACT), and the river herring and shad catch cap for mackerel, the butterfish mortality cap in the longfin squid fishery, and initial optimum yield (IOY) for both squid species. In addition to the specifications, this action will adjust the butterfish mesh requirement, clarify the use of strengtheners in the butterfish fishery, and suspend indefinitely the pre-trip notification system (PTNS) requirement in the longfin squid fishery. Proposed 2016–2018 Specifications for Atlantic Mackerel TABLE 1—PROPOSED 2016–2018 SPECIFICATIONS IN METRIC TONS (mt) FOR ATLANTIC MACKEREL Overfishing limit (OFL) ............... ABC ............................................ ACL ............................................. Commercial ACT ........................ Recreational ACT/Recreational Harvest Limit (RHL). DAH/DAP .................................... JVP ............................................. TALFF ......................................... Unknown. 19,898. 11,009. 9,294. 614. 9,177. 0. 0. The most recent U.S. stock assessment for Atlantic mackerel was conducted by the Transboundary Resources Assessment Committee (TRAC) in March 2010. The 2010 TRAC Status Report indicated reduced productivity in the stock and a lack of older fish in both the survey and catch data; however, the status of the Atlantic mackerel stock is unknown because biomass reference points could not be determined. Due to this uncertainty in the 2010 assessment, the TRAC Status Report recommended that total annual mackerel catches not exceed 80,000 mt PO 00000 Frm 00022 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 3769 (average total U.S. and Canadian landings from 2006–2008) until new information is available. Since 2010, the SSC has recommended a stock-wide ABC of 80,000 mt based on the recommendation in the TRAC Status Report. NMFS previously implemented specifications that matched the recommendation in the TRAC Status Report for the 2013– 2015 fishing years as part of the 2013 specifications for the FMP (January 16, 2013; 78 FR 3346). However, more recent data has shown that 2006–2008 was a period of unusually high catches. Given the uncertainty in the 2010 mackerel assessment, low U.S. landings since 2011, and results from a 2014 Canadian assessment suggesting the stock is doing poorly, the SSC concluded that the foundation that it used for developing its previous ABC recommendation was inappropriate. In order to capture the highly periodic nature of mackerel catches, NMFS implemented a stock-wide ABC of 40,165 mt for the 2015 fishing year only. 40,165 mt is the median of U. S. and Canadian catches from 1978–2013, a time period during which fisheries operations were relatively consistent and foreign fleets were not in operation. For 2016–2018, the SSC recommended an ABC of 19,898 mt. The SSC concluded that the mackerel stock is in a depleted state relative to historical levels of abundance, and that the foundation (which assumed sustainable catch in the period 1978– 2013) previously used to establish the ABC was no longer valid. The SSC used 50 percent of the median catch to calculate the new ABC, because the SSC’s review of a management strategy evaluation concluded that this method came closest to meeting (while not exceeding) the acceptable probability of overfishing under the Council’s risk policy. The median value of the long term mackerel catch series (1978–2014) is 39,797 mt. Accordingly, the SSC recommended an ABC of half that, or 19,898 mt, for 2016–2018. According to the FMP, the mackerel ABC must be calculated using the formula: U.S. ABC = Stock-wide ABC¥C, where C is the estimated catch of mackerel in Canadian waters for the upcoming fishing year. Canadian catch was estimated at 8,889 mt, which is the Canadian quota (8,000 mt) plus 10 percent to account for management uncertainty (the same ratio that the Council has used for management uncertainty in the U.S. fishery). The Council deducted estimated Canadian catch from the stock-wide ABC to recommend a U.S. ABC of 11,009 mt (19,898 mt minus 8,889 mt). E:\FR\FM\22JAP1.SGM 22JAP1 wgreen on DSK2VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS 3770 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 14 / Friday, January 22, 2016 / Proposed Rules The Council recommended a recreational allocation of 683 mt (6.2 percent of the U.S. ABC). The Recreational ACT is equal to the Recreational Harvest Limit (RHL), the effective cap on recreational catch. The proposed Recreational ACT of 614 mt (90 percent of 683 mt) accounts for uncertainty in recreational catch and discard estimates. For the commercial mackerel fishery, the Council recommended a commercial fishery allocation of 10,327 mt (93.8 percent of the U.S. ABC, the portion of the ACL that was not allocated to the recreational fishery). The recommended Commercial ACT of 9,294 mt (90 percent of 10,327 mt) compensates for management uncertainty, uncertainty in discard estimates, and possible misreporting of mackerel catch. The Commercial ACT would be further reduced by a discard rate of 1.26 percent to arrive at the proposed DAH of 9,177 mt. The DAH would be the effective cap on commercial catch. Consistent with the Council’s recommendation, NMFS proposes Atlantic mackerel specifications that would set the U.S. ACL at 11,009 mt, the Commercial ACT at 9,294 mt, the DAH and DAP at 9,177 mt, and the Recreational ACT at 614 mt. Additionally, as recommended by the Council, NMFS proposes to maintain JVP at zero (the most recent allocation was 5,000 mt of JVP in 2004). In the past, the Council recommended a JVP greater than zero because it believed U.S. processors lacked the ability to process the total amount of mackerel that U.S. harvesters could land. However, for the past 11 years, the Council has recommended zero JVP because U.S. shoreside processing capacity for mackerel has expanded. The Council concluded that processing capacity was no longer a limiting factor relative to domestic production of mackerel. The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides that the specification of TALFF, if any, shall be the portion of the optimum yield (OY) of a fishery that will not be harvested by U.S. vessels. TALFF would allow foreign vessels to harvest U.S. fish and sell their product on the world market, in direct competition with U.S. industry efforts to expand exports. While a surplus existed between ABC and the mackerel fleet’s harvesting capacity for many years, that surplus has disappeared due to downward adjustments of the specifications in recent years. Based on analysis of the global mackerel market and possible increases in U.S. production levels, the Council concluded that specifying a DAH/DAP that would result in zero VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:28 Jan 21, 2016 Jkt 238001 TALFF would yield positive social and economic benefits to both U.S. harvesters and processors, and to the Nation. For these reasons, consistent with the Council’s recommendation, NMFS proposes to specify DAH at a level that can be fully harvested by the domestic fleet, thereby precluding the specification of a TALFF, in order to support the U.S. mackerel industry. 2016–2018 Proposed River Herring and Shad Catch Cap in the Atlantic Mackerel Fishery In order to limit river herring and shad catch, Amendment 14 to the FMP (February 24, 2014; 79 FR 10029) allows the Council to set a river herring and shad cap through annual specifications. For 2015, we implemented a cap that was set at 89 mt initially, but if mackerel landing surpass 10,000 mt before closure, then the cap would increase to 155 mt. The 89-mt cap represents the median annual river herring and shad catch by all vessels landing over 20,000 lb (9.08 mt) of mackerel per trip from 2005–2012. These were the years when the fishery caught about 13,000 mt of mackerel. The 155-mt cap was based on the median river herring and shad catch by all vessels landing over 20,000 lb (9.08 mt) of mackerel per trip from 2005–2012, adjusted to the 2015 DAH (20,872 mt). This two-tier system was implemented to encourage the fishery to avoid river herring and shad regardless of the rate of mackerel catches. For 2016–2018, the Council recommended that the cap be set at 82 mt. For 2016–2018, the proposed mackerel catch limit is 9,177 mt, which is 8.23 percent less than the river herring and shad catch cap increase trigger set in 2015 (10,000 mt). The Council recommended the river herring and shad cap should be reduced by the same proportion as the catch cap increase trigger, resulting in a cap of 82 mt (8.23 percent less than 89 mt). Once the mackerel fishery catches 95 percent of the river herring and shad cap, we will close the directed mackerel fishery and implement a 20,000-lb (9.08-mt) mackerel incidental catch trip limit for the remainder of the year. Butterfish Mesh Requirement Adjustment and Clarification The Council recommended increasing the possession limit for vessels fishing with mesh smaller than 3 inches (7.62 cm) from 2,500 lb (1.13 mt) to 5,000 lb (2.27 mt). The 3-inch (7.62-cm) mesh requirement is designed to allow escapement of juvenile butterfish during directed butterfish fishing. Currently, vessels holding a longfin squid and PO 00000 Frm 00023 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 butterfish moratorium permit and fishing with nets that have a mesh size smaller than 3 inches (7.62 cm) are allowed to retain up to 2,500 lb (1.13 mt) of butterfish. This action proposes to increase the possession limit to 5,000 lb (2.27 mt) of butterfish for those vessels fishing with mesh smaller than 3 inches (7.62 cm). The Council also recommended a clarification regarding net strengtheners used in the butterfish fishery. The regulations do not directly address whether strengtheners are allowed in the operation of the butterfish fishery. This action proposes to amend the regulations to clearly state that 5-inch (12.7-cm) square or diamond, or greater, mesh size strengtheners may be used outside the 3-inch (7.62-cm) mesh to avoid breaking nets during large hauls. Suspension of the Longfin Squid PreTrip Notification System Requirement NMFS proposes an indefinite suspension of the longfin squid PTNS requirement for vessels with longfin squid moratorium permits that want to retain more than 2,500 lb (1,13 mt) of longfin squid. This requirement was implemented via Amendment 10 to the Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish FMP (75 FR 11441, March 11, 2010) to improve the selection process of vessels being observed for purposes of monitoring the longfin squid fishery’s butterfish cap. However, the new Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology (SBRM) requires observers to adhere to a region/gear intercept selection procedure that conflicts with use of the PTNS for assigning observers. This action proposes to resolve the resulting logistical problems by relying on observer coverage through the new SBRM, and eliminating the PTNS requirement. Corrections This proposed rule contains minor adjustment to existing regulations to correct references to the gear stowage regulations. 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 Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish FMP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, subject to further consideration after public comment. This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. An IRFA was prepared, as required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility E:\FR\FM\22JAP1.SGM 22JAP1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 14 / Friday, January 22, 2016 / Proposed Rules Act (RFA). The IRFA describes the economic impact this proposed rule, if adopted, would have on small entities. A summary of the analysis follows. Description of the Reasons Why Action by the Agency Is Being Considered This action proposes 2016–2018 specifications for Atlantic mackerel and the river herring and shad catch cap. It also proposes management measures for the butterfish and longfin squid fisheries. The preamble to this proposed rule includes a complete description of the reasons why the Council and NMFS are considering this action, and these are not repeated here. wgreen on DSK2VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Statement of the Objectives of, and Legal Basis for, This Proposed Rule This action proposes the 2016–2018 specifications for Atlantic mackerel. It also proposes to modify the possession limit for butterfish using a mesh smaller than 3 inches (7.62 cm), and to suspend PTNS requirements for vessels targeting longfin squid. The preamble to this proposed rule includes a complete description of the reasons why this action is being considered, and the objectives of and legal basis for this action, and these are not repeated here. Description and Estimate of the Number of Small Entities to Which This Proposed Rule Would Apply The proposed alternatives apply to vessels that hold Atlantic mackerel, squid, and butterfish limited access permits. Based on permit data for 2014, 370 separate vessels hold Atlantic mackerel, squid, and butterfish limited access permits, 271 entities own those vessels, and, based on current Small Business Administration (SBA) definitions, 259 of these are small entities. Of the 259 small entities, 25 had no revenue in 2014 and those entities with no revenue are considered small entities for the purpose of this analysis. All of the entities that had revenue fell into the finfish or shellfish categories, and the SBA definitions for those categories for 2014 are $20.5 million for finfish fishing and $5.5 million for shellfish fishing. The only proposed alternative that involves increased restrictions applies to Atlantic mackerel limited access permits so those numbers are listed separately (they are a subset of the above entities). Based on permit data for 2014, 139 separate vessels hold Atlantic mackerel limited access permits, 105 entities own those vessels, and based on current SBA definitions, 97 are small entities. Of the 97 small entities, 3 had no revenue in 2014 and those entities with no revenue are considered small VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:28 Jan 21, 2016 Jkt 238001 entities for the purpose of this analysis. Of the entities with revenues, their average revenues in 2014 were $1,212,230. Sixty entities had primary revenues from finfish fishing and 34 had their primary revenues from shellfish fishing. Description of the Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other Compliance Requirements of This Proposed Rule The proposed action contains collection-of-information requirements subject to review and approval by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA). This requirement has been submitted to OMB for approval under Control Number 0648–0679. Under the proposed action, all limited access longfin squid vessels intending to land more than 2,500 lb (1.13 mt) of longfin squid will no longer be required to call PTNS to request an observer. This would remove the information collection requirement to reduce logistical issues for the Northeast Fishery Observer Program and reduce burden for industry participants. The reduction in burden estimates for these new requirements apply to all limited access longfin squid vessels. In a given fishing year, NMFS estimates that removal of this reporting requirement will reduce time burden by 256 hours and reduce cost to the government by $25,943 from that which was previously approved under OMB Control Number 0648–0679. Public comment is sought regarding: Whether this proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information shall have practical utility; the accuracy of the burden estimate; ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology. Send comments on these or any other aspects of the collection of information to the Regional Administrator (see ADDRESSES), or by email to OIRA_Submission@ omb.eop.gov, or fax to (202) 395–5806. Notwithstanding any other provisions of the law, no person is required to, nor shall any person be subject to a penalty for failure to comply with, a collection of information subject to the requirements of the PRA, unless that collection of information displays a currently valid OMB Control Number. All currently approved NOAA collections of information may be PO 00000 Frm 00024 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 3771 viewed at: http://www.cio.noaa.gov/ services_programs/prasubs.html. Federal Rules Which May Duplicate, Overlap, or Conflict With This Proposed Rule This action contains no other compliance costs. It does not duplicate, overlap, or conflict with any other Federal law. 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 Atlantic mackerel commercial DAH proposed in this action (9,177 mt) represents a reduction from status quo (2015 DAH = 20,872 mt). Despite the reduction, the proposed DAH is above recent U.S. landings; mackerel landings for 2012–2014 averaged 5,136 mt. Thus, the reduction should not have more than minimal impact on the affected small entities compared to recent operation of the fishery (2012–2014, and 2015 landings to date appear similar to 2014). Even though the proposed 2016– 2018 quota is lower than 2015, it would still allow more catch compared to any year from 2012–2014. The proposed river herring and shad catch cap in the Atlantic mackerel fishery has the potential to limit the fishery from achieving its full mackerel quota if the river herring and shad encounter rates are high, but it is very unlikely that this fishery would close before exceeding the levels of landings experienced since 2010, when landing have been less than 11,000 mt. Based on the operation of the cap in 2014 and first half of 2015 (the first years of the cap), as long as the fishery can maintain relatively low river herring and shad catch rates, the proposed lower cap should not negatively impact fishery participants. However, a few large river herring and shad bycatch events could potentially shut down the mackerel fishery early. At 2014 prices ($491/mt), the proposed mackerel quota (9,177 mt) could potentially generate about $4.5 million. While the performance of the cap in 2014–2015 suggests that the fishery can operate with very low river herring and shad catch rates, if river herring and shad catch rates happen to be relatively high then most of the mackerel catch, and associated revenues could be forgone. The proposed butterfish mesh requirement adjustment would allow more butterfish to be retained with small mesh gear; therefore, there should be no negative impacts on the relevant entities. E:\FR\FM\22JAP1.SGM 22JAP1 3772 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 14 / Friday, January 22, 2016 / Proposed Rules The proposed suspension of PTNS requirement for longfin squid would reduce administrative burden, so there should be no negative impacts on the relevant entities. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648 Fisheries, Fishing, Recordkeeping and reporting requirements. Dated: January 14, 2016. Eileen Sobeck, Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 648 is proposed to be amended as follows: PART 648—FISHERIES OF THE NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES 1. The authority citation for part 648 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. 2. In § 648.11, paragraphs (n)(1)(i), (ii), (iii), and (iv) are revised to read as follows: ■ § 648.11 At-sea sea sampler/observer coverage. wgreen on DSK2VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS * * * * * (n) * * * (1) * * * (i) A vessel issued a limited access Atlantic mackerel permit, as specified at § 648.4(a)(5)(iii), must, for the purposes of observer deployment, have a representative provide notice to NMFS of the vessel name, vessel permit number, contact name for coordination of observer deployment, telephone number or email address for contact; and the date, time, port of departure, gear type, and approximate trip duration, at least 48 hr, but no more than 10 days, prior to beginning any fishing trip, unless it complies with the possession restrictions in paragraph (n)(1)(iii) of this section. (ii) A vessel that has a representative provide notification to NMFS as described in paragraph (n)(1)(i) of this section may only embark on a mackerel trip without an observer if a vessel representative has been notified by NMFS that the vessel has received a waiver of the observer requirement for that trip. NMFS shall notify a vessel representative whether the vessel must carry an observer, or if a waiver has been granted, for the specific mackerel trip, within 24 hr of the vessel representative’s notification of the prospective mackerel trip, as specified in paragraph (n)(1)(i) of this section. Any request to carry an observer may be waived by NMFS. A vessel that fishes with an observer waiver confirmation number that does not match the VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:28 Jan 21, 2016 Jkt 238001 mackerel trip plan that was called in to NMFS is prohibited from fishing for, possessing, harvesting, or landing mackerel except as specified in paragraph (n)(1)(iii) of this section. Confirmation numbers for trip notification calls are only valid for 48 hr from the intended sail date. (iii) Trip limits. A vessel issued a limited access mackerel permit, as specified in § 648.4(a)(5)(iii), that does not have a representative provide the trip notification required in paragraph (n)(1)(i) of this section is prohibited from fishing for, possessing, harvesting, or landing more than 20,000 lb (9.07 mt) of mackerel per trip at any time, and may only land mackerel once on any calendar day, which is defined as the 24-hr period beginning at 0001 hours and ending at 2400 hours. (iv) If a vessel issued a limited access Atlantic mackerel permit, as specified in § 648.4(a)(5)(iii), intends to possess, harvest, or land more than 20,000 lb (9.07 mt) of mackerel per trip or per calendar day, and has a representative notify NMFS of an upcoming trip, is selected by NMFS to carry an observer, and then cancels that trip, the representative is required to provide notice to NMFS of the vessel name, vessel permit number, contact name for coordination of observer deployment, and telephone number or email address for contact, and the intended date, time, and port of departure for the cancelled trip prior to the planned departure time. In addition, if a trip selected for observer coverage is cancelled, then that vessel is required to carry an observer, provided an observer is available, on its next trip. * * * * * ■ 3. In § 648.14, paragraphs (g)(2)(ii)(E), (g)(2)(iii)(A) and (C), and (g)(2)(iv) are revised to read as follows: § 648.14 Prohibitions. * * * * * (g) * * * (2) * * * (ii) * * * (E) Possess more than 5,000 lb (2.27 mt) of butterfish, unless the vessel meets the minimum mesh requirements specified in § 648.23(a). * * * * * (iii) * * * (A) Fish with or possess nets or netting that do not meet the gear requirements for Atlantic mackerel, longfin squid, Illex, or butterfish specified in § 648.23(a); or that are modified, obstructed, or constricted, if subject to the minimum mesh requirements, unless the nets or netting are stowed and not available for PO 00000 Frm 00025 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 immediate use as defined in § 648.2 or the vessel is fishing under an exemption specified in § 648.23(a)(4). * * * * * (C) Enter or fish in the mackerel, squid, and butterfish bottom trawling restricted areas, as described in § 648.23(a)(5). * * * * * (iv) Observer requirements for longfin squid fishery. Fail to comply with any of the provisions specified in § 648.11. * * * * * ■ 4. In § 648.23, paragraph (a) is revised to read as follows: § 648.23 Mackerel, squid, and butterfish gear restrictions. (a) Mesh restrictions and exemptions. Vessels subject to the mesh restrictions in this paragraph (a) may not have available for immediate use any net, or any piece of net, with a mesh size smaller than that specified in paragraphs (a)(1), (a)(2) and (a)(3) of this section. (1) Butterfish fishery. Owners or operators of otter trawl vessels possessing more than 5,000 lb (2.27 mt) of butterfish harvested in or from the EEZ may only fish with nets having a minimum codend mesh of 3 inches (7.62 cm) diamond mesh, inside stretch measure, applied throughout the codend for at least 100 continuous meshes forward of the terminus of the net, or for codends with less than 100 meshes, the minimum mesh size codend shall be a minimum of one-third of the net, measured from the terminus of the codend to the headrope. (2) Longfin squid fishery. (i) Owners or operators of otter trawl vessels possessing longfin squid harvested in or from the EEZ may only fish with nets having a minimum mesh size of 21⁄8 inches (54 mm) during Trimesters I (Jan–Apr) and III (Sept–Dec), or 17⁄8 inches (48 mm) during Trimester II (May–Aug), diamond mesh, inside stretch measure, applied throughout the codend for at least 150 continuous meshes forward of the terminus of the net, or, for codends with less than 150 meshes, the minimum mesh size codend shall be a minimum of one-third of the net measured from the terminus of the codend to the headrope, unless their gear is stowed and not available for immediate use as defined in § 648.2. (ii) Jigging exemption. During closures of the longfin squid fishery resulting from the butterfish mortality cap, described in § 648.24(c)(3), vessels fishing for longfin squid using jigging gear are exempt from the closure possession limit specified in § 648.26(b), provided that all otter trawl gear is E:\FR\FM\22JAP1.SGM 22JAP1 3773 wgreen on DSK2VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 14 / Friday, January 22, 2016 / Proposed Rules stowed and not available for immediate use as defined in § 648.2. (3) Net obstruction or constriction. (i) Owners or operators of otter trawl vessels fishing for and/or possessing butterfish shall not use any device, gear, or material, including, but not limited to, nets, net strengtheners, ropes, lines, or chafing gear, on the top of the regulated portion of a trawl net that results in an effective mesh opening of less than 3 inches (7.62 cm) diamond mesh, inside stretch measure. ‘‘Top of the regulated portion of the net’’ means the 50 percent of the entire regulated portion of the net that would not be in contact with the ocean bottom if, during a tow, the regulated portion of the net were laid flat on the ocean floor. However, owners or operators of otter trawl vessels fishing for and/or possessing butterfish may use net strengtheners (covers), splitting straps, and/or bull ropes or wire around the entire circumference of the codend provided they do not have a mesh opening of less than 5 inches (12.7 cm) diamond or square mesh, inside stretch measure. (ii) Owners or operators of otter trawl vessels fishing for and/or possessing longfin squid shall not use any device, gear, or material, including, but not limited to, nets, net strengtheners, ropes, lines, or chafing gear, on the top of the regulated portion of a trawl net that results in an effective mesh opening of less than 21⁄8 inches (54 mm) during Trimesters I (Jan–Apr) and III (Sept– Dec), or 17⁄8 inches (48 mm) during Trimester II (May–Aug), diamond mesh, inside stretch measure. ‘‘Top of the regulated portion of the net’’ means the 50 percent of the entire regulated portion of the net that would not be in contact with the ocean bottom if, during a tow, the regulated portion of the net were laid flat on the ocean floor. However, owners or operators of otter trawl vessels fishing for and/or possessing longfin squid may use net strengtheners (covers), splitting straps, and/or bull ropes or wire around the entire circumference of the codend, provided they do not have a mesh opening of less than 5 inches (12.7 cm) diamond mesh, inside stretch measure. For the purposes of this requirement, head ropes are not to be considered part of the top of the regulated portion of a trawl net. (iii) The owner or operator of a fishing vessel shall not use any mesh construction, mesh configuration, or other means that effectively decreases the mesh size below the minimum mesh size, except that a liner may be used to close the opening created by the rings in the aftermost portion of the net, VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:28 Jan 21, 2016 Jkt 238001 provided the liner extends no more than 10 meshes forward of the aftermost portion of the net. The inside webbing of the codend shall be the same circumference or less than the outside webbing (strengthener). In addition, the inside webbing shall not be more than 2 ft (61 cm) longer than the outside webbing. (4) Illex fishery. Seaward of the following coordinates, connected in the order listed by straight lines except otherwise noted, otter trawl vessels possessing longfin squid harvested in or from the EEZ and fishing for Illex during the months of June, July, August, in Trimester II, and September in Trimester III are exempt from the longfin squid gear requirements specified in paragraph (a)(2) of this section, provided that landward of the specified coordinates they do not have available for immediate use, as defined in § 648.2, any net, or any piece of net, with a mesh size less than 17⁄8 inches (48 mm) diamond mesh in Trimester II, and 21⁄8 inches (54 mm) diamond mesh in Trimester III, or any piece of net, with mesh that is rigged in a manner that is prohibited by paragraphs (a)(2) and (a)(3)(ii) of this section. Point M0 .................. M1 .................. M2 .................. M3 .................. M4 .................. M5 .................. M6 .................. M7 .................. M8 .................. M9 .................. M10 ................ M11 ................ M12 ................ M13 ................ M14 ................ M15 ................ M16 ................ M17 ................ M18 ................ M19 ................ M20 ................ M21 ................ M22 ................ M23 ................ M24 ................ M25 ................ N. lat. 43°58.0′ 43°58.0′ 43°50.0′ 43°30.0′ 43°20.0′ 42°45.0′ 42°13.0′ 41°00.0′ 41°45.0′ 42°10.0′ 41°18.6′ 40°55.5′ 40°45.5′ 40°37.0′ 40°30.0′ 40°22.7′ 40°18.7′ 40°21.0′ 39°41.0′ 38°47.0′ 38°04.0′ 37°08.0′ 36°00.0′ 35°45.0′ 35°28.0′ 35°28.0′ W. long. (1) 67°22.0′ 68°35.0′ 69°40.0′ 70°00.0′ 70°10.0′ 69°55.0′ 69°00.0′ 68°15.0′ 67°10.0′ 2 66°24.8′ 2 66°38.0′ 68°00.0′ 68°00.0′ 69°00.0′ 69°00.0′ 69°40.0′ 71°03.0′ 72°32.0′ 73°11.0′ 74°06.0′ 74°46.0′ 74°52.0′ 74°53.0′ 74°52.0′ (3) 1 The intersection of 43°58.0′ N. latitude and the US-Canada Maritime Boundary. 2 Points M9 and M10 are intended to fall along and are connected by the US-Canada Maritime Boundary. 3 The intersection of 35°28.0′ N. latitude and the outward limit of the U.S. EEZ. (5) Mackerel, squid, and butterfish bottom trawling restricted areas—(i) Oceanographer Canyon. No permitted mackerel, squid, or butterfish vessel may fish with bottom trawl gear in the PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Oceanographer Canyon or be in the Oceanographer Canyon unless transiting. Vessels may transit this area provided the bottom trawl gear is stowed and not available for immediate use as defined in § 648.2. Oceanographer Canyon is defined by straight lines connecting the following points in the order stated (copies of a chart depicting this area are available from the Regional Administrator upon request): OCEANOGRAPHER CANYON Point OC1 OC2 OC3 OC4 OC1 N. lat. ............... ............... ............... ............... ............... 40°10.0′ 40°24.0′ 40°24.0′ 40°10.0′ 40°10.0′ W. long. 68°12.0′ 68°09.0′ 68°08.0′ 67°59.0′ 68°12.0′ (ii) Lydonia Canyon. No permitted mackerel, squid, or butterfish vessel may fish with bottom trawl gear in the Lydonia Canyon or be in the Lydonia Canyon unless transiting. Vessels may transit this area provided the bottom trawl gear is stowed and not available for immediate use as defined in § 648.2. Lydonia Canyon is defined by straight lines connecting the following points in the order stated (copies of a chart depicting this area are available from the Regional Administrator upon request): LYDONIA CANYON Point LC1 LC2 LC3 LC4 LC5 LC1 ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ N. lat. 40°16.0′ 40°16.0′ 40°20.0′ 40°27.0′ 40°27.0′ 40°16.0′ W. long. 67°34.0′ 67°42.0′ 67°43.0′ 67°40.0′ 67°38.0′ 67°34.0′ * * * * * 5. In § 648.26, paragraphs (b)(2) and (d)(2) are revised to read as follows: ■ § 648.26 Mackerel, squid, and butterfish possession restrictions. * * * * * (b) * * * (2) During a closure of the directed fishery for longfin squid for Trimester II, a vessel with a longfin squid/butterfish moratorium permit that is on a directed Illex squid fishing trip (i.e., possess over 10,000 lb (4.54 mt) of Illex) and is seaward of the coordinates specified at § 648.23(a)(4), may possess up to 15,000 lb (6.80 mt) of longfin squid. Once landward of the coordinates specified at § 648.23(a)(4), such vessels must stow all fishing gear, as defined in § 648.2, in E:\FR\FM\22JAP1.SGM 22JAP1 3774 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 14 / Friday, January 22, 2016 / Proposed Rules order to possess more than 2,500 lb (1.13 mt) of longfin squid per trip. * * * * * (d) * * * (2) A vessel issued longfin squid/ butterfish moratorium permit fishing with mesh less than 3 inches (76 mm) may not fish for, possess, or land more than 5,000 lb (2,27 mt) of butterfish per trip at any time, and may only land butterfish once on any calendar day, provided that butterfish harvest has not reached the DAH limit and the reduced possession limit has not been implemented, as described in § 648.24(c)(1). When butterfish harvest is projected to reach the DAH limit (as described in § 648.24(c)(1)), these vessels may not fish for, possess, or land more than 600 lb (0.27 mt) of butterfish per trip at any time, and may only land butterfish once on any calendar day. * * * * * ■ 6. In § 648.80, paragraphs (a)(4)(iv)(B)(2) and (g)(5)(i) are revised to read as follows: § 648.80 NE Multispecies regulated mesh areas and restrictions on gear and methods of fishing. wgreen on DSK2VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS * * * * * (a) * * * (4) * * * (iv) * * * (B) * * * (2) Net size requirements. Vessels may fish any combination of roundfish and flatfish gillnets, up to 50 nets. Such vessels, as defined in § 648.2, may stow additional nets not to exceed 150, counting the deployed net. Such vessels may stow additional nets in accordance with the definition of not available for immediate use as defined in § 648.2 not to exceed 150 nets, counting the deployed net. * * * * * (g) * * * (5) * * * (i) Nets of mesh size less than 2.5 inches (6.4 cm). A vessel lawfully fishing for small-mesh multispecies in the GOM/GB, SNE, or MA Regulated Mesh Areas, as defined in paragraphs (a), (b), and (c) of this section, with nets of mesh size smaller than 2.5 inches (6.4-cm), as measured by methods specified in paragraph (f) of this section, may use net strengtheners (covers, as described at § 648.23(a)(3)), provided that the net strengthener for nets of mesh size smaller than 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) complies with the provisions specified under § 648.23(a)(3)(iii). * * * * * ■ 7. In § 648.90, paragraphs (a)(5)(i)(D)(2) and (3) are revised to read as follows: VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:28 Jan 21, 2016 Jkt 238001 § 648.90 NE Multispecies assessment, framework procedures and specifications, and flexible area action system. * * * * (a) * * * (5) * * * (i) * * * (D) * * * (2) Atlantic halibut. If NMFS determines the overall ACL for Atlantic halibut is exceeded, as described in this paragraph (a)(5)(i)(D)(2), by any amount greater than the management uncertainty buffer, the applicable AM areas shall be implemented and any vessel issued a NE multispecies permit or a limited access monkfish permit and fishing under the monkfish Category C or D permit provisions, may not fish for, possess, or land Atlantic halibut for the fishing year in which the AM is implemented, as specified in paragraph (a)(5)(i)(D) of this section. If the overall ACL is exceeded by more than 20 percent, the applicable AM area(s) for the stock shall be implemented, as specified in paragraph (a)(5)(i)(D) of this section, and the Council shall revisit the AM in a future action. The AM areas defined below are bounded by the following coordinates, connected in the order listed by rhumb lines, unless otherwise noted. Any vessel issued a limited access NE multispecies permit and fishing with trawl gear in the Atlantic Halibut Trawl Gear AM Area may only use a haddock separator trawl, as specified in § 648.85(a)(3)(iii)(A); a Ruhle trawl, as specified in § 648.85(b)(6)(iv)(J)(3); a rope separator trawl, as specified in § 648.84(e); or any other gear approved consistent with the process defined in § 648.85(b)(6). When in effect, a limited access NE multispecies permitted vessel with gillnet or longline gear may not fish or be in the Atlantic Halibut Fixed Gear AM Areas, unless transiting with its gear stowed and not available for immediate use as defined in § 648.2, or such gear was approved consistent with the process defined in § 648.85(b)(6). If a sub-ACL for Atlantic halibut is allocated to another fishery, consistent with the process specified at § 648.90(a)(4), and there are AMs for that fishery, the groundfish fishery AM shall only be implemented if the subACL allocated to the groundfish fishery is exceeded (i.e., the sector and common pool catch for a particular stock, including the common pool’s share of any overage of the overall ACL caused by excessive catch by other subcomponents of the fishery pursuant to § 648.90(a)(5), exceeds the common pool sub-ACL) and the overall ACL is also exceeded. ATLANTIC HALIBUT TRAWL GEAR AM AREA * PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Point 1 2 3 4 ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... N. Latitude 42°00′ 42°00′ 41°30′ 41°30′ W. Longitude 69°20′ 68°20′ 68°20′ 69°20′ ATLANTIC HALIBUT FIXED GEAR AM AREA 1 Point 1 2 3 4 ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... N. Latitude 42°30′ 42°30′ 42°20′ 42°20′ W. Longitude 70°20′ 70°15′ 70°15′ 70°20′ ATLANTIC HALIBUT FIXED GEAR AM AREA 2 Point 1 2 3 4 ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... N. Latitude 43°10′ 43°10′ 43°00′ 43°00′ W. Longitude 69°40′ 69°30′ 69°30′ 69°40′ (3) Atlantic wolffish. If NMFS determines the overall ACL for Atlantic wolffish is exceeded, as described in this paragraph (a)(5)(i)(D)(3), by any amount greater than the management uncertainty buffer, the applicable AM areas shall be implemented, as specified in paragraph (a)(5)(i)(D) of this section. If the overall ACL is exceeded by more than 20 percent, the applicable AM area(s) for the stock shall be implemented, as specified in paragraph (a)(5)(i)(D) of this section, and the Council shall revisit the AM in a future action. The AM areas defined below are bounded by the following coordinates, connected in the order listed by rhumb lines, unless otherwise noted. Any vessel issued a limited access NE multispecies permit and fishing with trawl gear in the Atlantic Wolffish Trawl Gear AM Area may only use a haddock separator trawl, as specified in § 648.85(a)(3)(iii)(A); a Ruhle trawl, as specified in § 648.85(b)(6)(iv)(J)(3); a rope separator trawl, as specified in § 648.84(e); or any other gear approved consistent with the process defined in § 648.85(b)(6). When in effect, a limited access NE multispecies permitted vessel with gillnet or longline gear may not fish or be in the Atlantic Wolffish Fixed Gear AM Areas, unless transiting with its gear stowed and not available for immediate use as defined in § 648.2, or such gear was approved consistent with the process defined in § 648.85(b)(6). If a sub-ACL for Atlantic wolffish is allocated to another fishery, consistent E:\FR\FM\22JAP1.SGM 22JAP1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 14 / Friday, January 22, 2016 / Proposed Rules with the process specified at § 648.90(a)(4), and AMs are developed for that fishery, the groundfish fishery AM shall only be implemented if the sub-ACL allocated to the groundfish fishery is exceeded (i.e., the sector and common pool catch for a particular stock, including the common pool’s share of any overage of the overall ACL caused by excessive catch by other subcomponents of the fishery pursuant to § 648.90(a)(5), exceeds the common pool sub-ACL) and the overall ACL is also exceeded. ATLANTIC WOLFFISH TRAWL GEAR AM AREA Point 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... N. Latitude 42°30′ 42°30′ 42°15′ 42°15′ 42°10′ 42°10′ 42°20′ 42°20′ W. Longitude ATLANTIC WOLFFISH FIXED GEAR AM AREA 1—Continued Point 2 ..................... 3 ..................... 4 ..................... 41°40′ 41°30′ 41°30′ 69°30′ 69°30′ 69°40′ N. Latitude DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 679 [Docket No.:150904827–5827–01] RIN 0648–BF36 Point 1 2 3 4 N. Latitude ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... * * 42°30′ 42°30′ 42°20′ 42°20′ * W. Longitude 70°20′ 70°15′ 70°15′ 70°20′ * [FR Doc. 2016–01189 Filed 1–21–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P ATLANTIC WOLFFISH FIXED GEAR AM AREA 1 Point W. Longitude ATLANTIC WOLFFISH FIXED GEAR AM AREA 2 * 70°30′ 70°15′ 70°15′ 70°10′ 70°10′ 70°20′ 70°20′ 70°30′ N. Latitude 3775 W. Longitude Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off of Alaska; Observer Coverage Requirements for Small Catcher/ Processors in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Groundfish Fisheries Correction In proposed rule document 2015– 32742 appearing on pages 81262–81271 in the issue of Tuesday, December 29, 2015 make the following corrections: 1. On page 81263, in the first column, in the second paragraph, beginning on the eighth line, ‘‘February 29, 2016’’ should read ‘‘December 17, 2015’’. 2. In the same paragraph, in the 10th line, ‘‘February 29, 2016’’ should read ‘‘February 16, 2016’’. 3. In the same paragraph, in the 13th line, ‘‘February 29, 2016’’ should read ‘‘February 16, 2016’’. [FR Doc. C1–2015–32742 Filed 1–21–16; 8:45 am] wgreen on DSK2VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS 1 ..................... VerDate Sep<11>2014 41°40′ 14:28 Jan 21, 2016 69°40′ Jkt 238001 BILLING CODE1505–01–D PO 00000 Frm 00028 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 E:\FR\FM\22JAP1.SGM 22JAP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 14 (Friday, January 22, 2016)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 3768-3775]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-01189]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 151110999-5999-01]
RIN 0648-BF53


Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Atlantic Mackerel, 
Squid, and Butterfish Fisheries; Specifications and Management Measures

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

ACTION: Proposed rule, request for comments.

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SUMMARY: NMFS proposes 2016-2018 specifications for Atlantic mackerel 
and the river herring and shad catch cap for Atlantic mackerel. NMFS 
previously set specifications for butterfish, longfin squid, and Illex 
squid for 3 years in 2015 (2015-2017) and, therefore, new 
specifications will not be included in this year's specification 
rulemaking. This action also proposes to adjust the butterfish mesh 
requirement, clarify the use of strengtheners in the butterfish 
fishery, and suspend indefinitely the pre-trip notification system 
requirement in the longfin squid fishery. These proposed specifications 
and management measures are intended to promote the sustainable 
utilization and conservation of the Atlantic mackerel, squid, and 
butterfish resources.

DATES: Public comments must be received by February 22, 2016.

ADDRESSES: Copies of supporting documents used by the Mid-Atlantic 
Fishery Management Council, including the Environmental Assessment (EA) 
and Regulatory Impact Review (RIR)/Initial Regulatory Flexibility 
Analysis (IRFA), are available from: Dr. Christopher M. Moore, 
Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 800 North 
State Street, Suite 201, Dover, DE 19901, telephone (302) 674-2331. The 
EA/RIR/IRFA is also accessible via the Internet at http://www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov.
    You may submit comments, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2015-0151, by 
either of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2015-0151, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to NMFS, Greater Atlantic 
Regional Fisheries Office, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 
01930. Mark the outside of the envelope ``Comments on 2016 MSB 
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 a 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).
    Written comments regarding the burden-hour estimates or other 
aspects of the collection-of-information requirements contained in this 
proposed rule may be submitted to NMFS, Greater Atlantic Regional 
Fisheries Office and by email to OIRA_Submission@omb.eop.gov, or fax to 
(202) 395-5806.

[[Page 3769]]


FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Carly Bari, Fishery Policy Analyst, 
(978) 281-9224, fax (978) 281-9135.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    This rule proposes specifications, which are the combined suite of 
commercial and recreational catch levels established for one or more 
fishing years. The specifications process also allows for the 
modification of a select number of management measures, such as closure 
thresholds, gear restrictions, and possession limits. The Mid-Atlantic 
Fishery Management Council's process for establishing specifications 
relies on provisions within the Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and 
Butterfish Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and its implementing 
regulations, as well as requirements established by the Magnuson-
Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Specifically, section 
302(g)(1)(B) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act states that the Scientific and 
Statistical Committee (SSC) for each Regional Fishery Management 
Council shall provide its Council ongoing scientific advice for fishery 
management decisions, including recommendations for acceptable 
biological catch (ABC), preventing overfishing, maximum sustainable 
yield, and achieving rebuilding targets. The ABC is a level of catch 
that accounts for the scientific uncertainty in the estimate of the 
stock's defined overfishing level (OFL). The Council's SSC met on May 
13 and 14, 2015, to recommend an ABC for the 2016-2018 Atlantic 
mackerel specifications.
    The FMP's implementing regulations require the Council's Atlantic 
Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish Monitoring Committee to consider and 
develop specification recommendations for each species. Since the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act requirements for the SSC to recommend ABC became 
effective, the role of all Council monitoring committees has largely 
been to recommend any reduction in catch limits from the SSC-
recommended ABCs to account for management uncertainty, and to 
recommend other management measures (e.g., gear and/or possession 
restrictions) needed for the efficient management of the fishery. The 
Monitoring Committee met via webinar on May 21, 2015, to discuss 
recommendations for the 2016-2018 mackerel fishery.
    The Council considered the recommendations of the SSC, the 
Monitoring Committee, and public comments at its June 9, 2015, meeting 
in Virginia Beach, VA, and made its specification recommendations. The 
Council submitted the recommendations, along with the required 
analyses, for agency review on August 24, 2015, with final submission 
on December 11, 2015. NMFS must review the Council's recommendations 
for the compliance with the FMP and applicable law, and conduct notice-
and-comment rulemaking to propose and implement the final 
specifications.
    The regulations for the FMP require the specification of annual 
catch limits (ACLs) and accountability measure (AM) provisions for 
mackerel and butterfish. Both squid species are exempt from the ACL/AM 
requirements because they have a life cycle of less than 1 year. In 
addition, the regulations require the specification of domestic annual 
harvest (DAH), domestic annual processing (DAP), total allowable level 
of foreign fishing (TALFF), joint venture processing (JVP), commercial 
and recreational annual catch targets (ACT), and the river herring and 
shad catch cap for mackerel, the butterfish mortality cap in the 
longfin squid fishery, and initial optimum yield (IOY) for both squid 
species.
    In addition to the specifications, this action will adjust the 
butterfish mesh requirement, clarify the use of strengtheners in the 
butterfish fishery, and suspend indefinitely the pre-trip notification 
system (PTNS) requirement in the longfin squid fishery.

Proposed 2016-2018 Specifications for Atlantic Mackerel

   Table 1--Proposed 2016-2018 Specifications in Metric Tons (mt) for
                            Atlantic Mackerel
------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Overfishing limit (OFL)....................  Unknown.
ABC........................................  19,898.
ACL........................................  11,009.
Commercial ACT.............................  9,294.
Recreational ACT/Recreational Harvest Limit  614.
 (RHL).
DAH/DAP....................................  9,177.
JVP........................................  0.
TALFF......................................  0.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The most recent U.S. stock assessment for Atlantic mackerel was 
conducted by the Transboundary Resources Assessment Committee (TRAC) in 
March 2010. The 2010 TRAC Status Report indicated reduced productivity 
in the stock and a lack of older fish in both the survey and catch 
data; however, the status of the Atlantic mackerel stock is unknown 
because biomass reference points could not be determined. Due to this 
uncertainty in the 2010 assessment, the TRAC Status Report recommended 
that total annual mackerel catches not exceed 80,000 mt (average total 
U.S. and Canadian landings from 2006-2008) until new information is 
available.
    Since 2010, the SSC has recommended a stock-wide ABC of 80,000 mt 
based on the recommendation in the TRAC Status Report. NMFS previously 
implemented specifications that matched the recommendation in the TRAC 
Status Report for the 2013-2015 fishing years as part of the 2013 
specifications for the FMP (January 16, 2013; 78 FR 3346). However, 
more recent data has shown that 2006-2008 was a period of unusually 
high catches. Given the uncertainty in the 2010 mackerel assessment, 
low U.S. landings since 2011, and results from a 2014 Canadian 
assessment suggesting the stock is doing poorly, the SSC concluded that 
the foundation that it used for developing its previous ABC 
recommendation was inappropriate. In order to capture the highly 
periodic nature of mackerel catches, NMFS implemented a stock-wide ABC 
of 40,165 mt for the 2015 fishing year only. 40,165 mt is the median of 
U. S. and Canadian catches from 1978-2013, a time period during which 
fisheries operations were relatively consistent and foreign fleets were 
not in operation.
    For 2016-2018, the SSC recommended an ABC of 19,898 mt. The SSC 
concluded that the mackerel stock is in a depleted state relative to 
historical levels of abundance, and that the foundation (which assumed 
sustainable catch in the period 1978-2013) previously used to establish 
the ABC was no longer valid. The SSC used 50 percent of the median 
catch to calculate the new ABC, because the SSC's review of a 
management strategy evaluation concluded that this method came closest 
to meeting (while not exceeding) the acceptable probability of 
overfishing under the Council's risk policy. The median value of the 
long term mackerel catch series (1978-2014) is 39,797 mt. Accordingly, 
the SSC recommended an ABC of half that, or 19,898 mt, for 2016-2018.
    According to the FMP, the mackerel ABC must be calculated using the 
formula: U.S. ABC = Stock-wide ABC-C, where C is the estimated catch of 
mackerel in Canadian waters for the upcoming fishing year. Canadian 
catch was estimated at 8,889 mt, which is the Canadian quota (8,000 mt) 
plus 10 percent to account for management uncertainty (the same ratio 
that the Council has used for management uncertainty in the U.S. 
fishery). The Council deducted estimated Canadian catch from the stock-
wide ABC to recommend a U.S. ABC of 11,009 mt (19,898 mt minus 8,889 
mt).

[[Page 3770]]

    The Council recommended a recreational allocation of 683 mt (6.2 
percent of the U.S. ABC). The Recreational ACT is equal to the 
Recreational Harvest Limit (RHL), the effective cap on recreational 
catch. The proposed Recreational ACT of 614 mt (90 percent of 683 mt) 
accounts for uncertainty in recreational catch and discard estimates.
    For the commercial mackerel fishery, the Council recommended a 
commercial fishery allocation of 10,327 mt (93.8 percent of the U.S. 
ABC, the portion of the ACL that was not allocated to the recreational 
fishery). The recommended Commercial ACT of 9,294 mt (90 percent of 
10,327 mt) compensates for management uncertainty, uncertainty in 
discard estimates, and possible misreporting of mackerel catch. The 
Commercial ACT would be further reduced by a discard rate of 1.26 
percent to arrive at the proposed DAH of 9,177 mt. The DAH would be the 
effective cap on commercial catch.
    Consistent with the Council's recommendation, NMFS proposes 
Atlantic mackerel specifications that would set the U.S. ACL at 11,009 
mt, the Commercial ACT at 9,294 mt, the DAH and DAP at 9,177 mt, and 
the Recreational ACT at 614 mt.
    Additionally, as recommended by the Council, NMFS proposes to 
maintain JVP at zero (the most recent allocation was 5,000 mt of JVP in 
2004). In the past, the Council recommended a JVP greater than zero 
because it believed U.S. processors lacked the ability to process the 
total amount of mackerel that U.S. harvesters could land. However, for 
the past 11 years, the Council has recommended zero JVP because U.S. 
shoreside processing capacity for mackerel has expanded. The Council 
concluded that processing capacity was no longer a limiting factor 
relative to domestic production of mackerel.
    The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides that the specification of TALFF, 
if any, shall be the portion of the optimum yield (OY) of a fishery 
that will not be harvested by U.S. vessels. TALFF would allow foreign 
vessels to harvest U.S. fish and sell their product on the world 
market, in direct competition with U.S. industry efforts to expand 
exports. While a surplus existed between ABC and the mackerel fleet's 
harvesting capacity for many years, that surplus has disappeared due to 
downward adjustments of the specifications in recent years. Based on 
analysis of the global mackerel market and possible increases in U.S. 
production levels, the Council concluded that specifying a DAH/DAP that 
would result in zero TALFF would yield positive social and economic 
benefits to both U.S. harvesters and processors, and to the Nation. For 
these reasons, consistent with the Council's recommendation, NMFS 
proposes to specify DAH at a level that can be fully harvested by the 
domestic fleet, thereby precluding the specification of a TALFF, in 
order to support the U.S. mackerel industry.

2016-2018 Proposed River Herring and Shad Catch Cap in the Atlantic 
Mackerel Fishery

    In order to limit river herring and shad catch, Amendment 14 to the 
FMP (February 24, 2014; 79 FR 10029) allows the Council to set a river 
herring and shad cap through annual specifications. For 2015, we 
implemented a cap that was set at 89 mt initially, but if mackerel 
landing surpass 10,000 mt before closure, then the cap would increase 
to 155 mt. The 89-mt cap represents the median annual river herring and 
shad catch by all vessels landing over 20,000 lb (9.08 mt) of mackerel 
per trip from 2005-2012. These were the years when the fishery caught 
about 13,000 mt of mackerel. The 155-mt cap was based on the median 
river herring and shad catch by all vessels landing over 20,000 lb 
(9.08 mt) of mackerel per trip from 2005-2012, adjusted to the 2015 DAH 
(20,872 mt). This two-tier system was implemented to encourage the 
fishery to avoid river herring and shad regardless of the rate of 
mackerel catches.
    For 2016-2018, the Council recommended that the cap be set at 82 
mt. For 2016-2018, the proposed mackerel catch limit is 9,177 mt, which 
is 8.23 percent less than the river herring and shad catch cap increase 
trigger set in 2015 (10,000 mt). The Council recommended the river 
herring and shad cap should be reduced by the same proportion as the 
catch cap increase trigger, resulting in a cap of 82 mt (8.23 percent 
less than 89 mt). Once the mackerel fishery catches 95 percent of the 
river herring and shad cap, we will close the directed mackerel fishery 
and implement a 20,000-lb (9.08-mt) mackerel incidental catch trip 
limit for the remainder of the year.

Butterfish Mesh Requirement Adjustment and Clarification

    The Council recommended increasing the possession limit for vessels 
fishing with mesh smaller than 3 inches (7.62 cm) from 2,500 lb (1.13 
mt) to 5,000 lb (2.27 mt). The 3-inch (7.62-cm) mesh requirement is 
designed to allow escapement of juvenile butterfish during directed 
butterfish fishing. Currently, vessels holding a longfin squid and 
butterfish moratorium permit and fishing with nets that have a mesh 
size smaller than 3 inches (7.62 cm) are allowed to retain up to 2,500 
lb (1.13 mt) of butterfish. This action proposes to increase the 
possession limit to 5,000 lb (2.27 mt) of butterfish for those vessels 
fishing with mesh smaller than 3 inches (7.62 cm).
    The Council also recommended a clarification regarding net 
strengtheners used in the butterfish fishery. The regulations do not 
directly address whether strengtheners are allowed in the operation of 
the butterfish fishery. This action proposes to amend the regulations 
to clearly state that 5-inch (12.7-cm) square or diamond, or greater, 
mesh size strengtheners may be used outside the 3-inch (7.62-cm) mesh 
to avoid breaking nets during large hauls.

Suspension of the Longfin Squid Pre-Trip Notification System 
Requirement

    NMFS proposes an indefinite suspension of the longfin squid PTNS 
requirement for vessels with longfin squid moratorium permits that want 
to retain more than 2,500 lb (1,13 mt) of longfin squid. This 
requirement was implemented via Amendment 10 to the Atlantic Mackerel, 
Squid, and Butterfish FMP (75 FR 11441, March 11, 2010) to improve the 
selection process of vessels being observed for purposes of monitoring 
the longfin squid fishery's butterfish cap. However, the new 
Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology (SBRM) requires observers to 
adhere to a region/gear intercept selection procedure that conflicts 
with use of the PTNS for assigning observers. This action proposes to 
resolve the resulting logistical problems by relying on observer 
coverage through the new SBRM, and eliminating the PTNS requirement.

Corrections

    This proposed rule contains minor adjustment to existing 
regulations to correct references to the gear stowage regulations.

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 Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish FMP, other 
provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, 
subject to further consideration after public comment.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    An IRFA was prepared, as required by section 603 of the Regulatory 
Flexibility

[[Page 3771]]

Act (RFA). The IRFA describes the economic impact this proposed rule, 
if adopted, would have on small entities. A summary of the analysis 
follows.

Description of the Reasons Why Action by the Agency Is Being Considered

    This action proposes 2016-2018 specifications for Atlantic mackerel 
and the river herring and shad catch cap. It also proposes management 
measures for the butterfish and longfin squid fisheries. The preamble 
to this proposed rule includes a complete description of the reasons 
why the Council and NMFS are considering this action, and these are not 
repeated here.

Statement of the Objectives of, and Legal Basis for, This Proposed Rule

    This action proposes the 2016-2018 specifications for Atlantic 
mackerel. It also proposes to modify the possession limit for 
butterfish using a mesh smaller than 3 inches (7.62 cm), and to suspend 
PTNS requirements for vessels targeting longfin squid. The preamble to 
this proposed rule includes a complete description of the reasons why 
this action is being considered, and the objectives of and legal basis 
for this action, and these are not repeated here.

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

    The proposed alternatives apply to vessels that hold Atlantic 
mackerel, squid, and butterfish limited access permits. Based on permit 
data for 2014, 370 separate vessels hold Atlantic mackerel, squid, and 
butterfish limited access permits, 271 entities own those vessels, and, 
based on current Small Business Administration (SBA) definitions, 259 
of these are small entities. Of the 259 small entities, 25 had no 
revenue in 2014 and those entities with no revenue are considered small 
entities for the purpose of this analysis. All of the entities that had 
revenue fell into the finfish or shellfish categories, and the SBA 
definitions for those categories for 2014 are $20.5 million for finfish 
fishing and $5.5 million for shellfish fishing.
    The only proposed alternative that involves increased restrictions 
applies to Atlantic mackerel limited access permits so those numbers 
are listed separately (they are a subset of the above entities). Based 
on permit data for 2014, 139 separate vessels hold Atlantic mackerel 
limited access permits, 105 entities own those vessels, and based on 
current SBA definitions, 97 are small entities. Of the 97 small 
entities, 3 had no revenue in 2014 and those entities with no revenue 
are considered small entities for the purpose of this analysis. Of the 
entities with revenues, their average revenues in 2014 were $1,212,230. 
Sixty entities had primary revenues from finfish fishing and 34 had 
their primary revenues from shellfish fishing.

Description of the Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other 
Compliance Requirements of This Proposed Rule

    The proposed action contains collection-of-information requirements 
subject to review and approval by the Office of Management and Budget 
(OMB) under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA). This requirement has 
been submitted to OMB for approval under Control Number 0648-0679.
    Under the proposed action, all limited access longfin squid vessels 
intending to land more than 2,500 lb (1.13 mt) of longfin squid will no 
longer be required to call PTNS to request an observer. This would 
remove the information collection requirement to reduce logistical 
issues for the Northeast Fishery Observer Program and reduce burden for 
industry participants. The reduction in burden estimates for these new 
requirements apply to all limited access longfin squid vessels. In a 
given fishing year, NMFS estimates that removal of this reporting 
requirement will reduce time burden by 256 hours and reduce cost to the 
government by $25,943 from that which was previously approved under OMB 
Control Number 0648-0679.
    Public comment is sought regarding: Whether this proposed 
collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of 
the functions of the agency, including whether the information shall 
have practical utility; the accuracy of the burden estimate; ways to 
enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be 
collected; and ways to minimize the burden of the collection of 
information, including through the use of automated collection 
techniques or other forms of information technology. Send comments on 
these or any other aspects of the collection of information to the 
Regional Administrator (see ADDRESSES), or by email to 
OIRA_Submission@omb.eop.gov, or fax to (202) 395-5806.
    Notwithstanding any other provisions of the law, no person is 
required to, nor shall any person be subject to a penalty for failure 
to comply with, a collection of information subject to the requirements 
of the PRA, unless that collection of information displays a currently 
valid OMB Control Number. All currently approved NOAA collections of 
information may be viewed at: http://www.cio.noaa.gov/services_programs/prasubs.html.

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

    This action contains no other compliance costs. It does not 
duplicate, overlap, or conflict with any other Federal law.

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 Atlantic mackerel commercial DAH proposed in this action (9,177 
mt) represents a reduction from status quo (2015 DAH = 20,872 mt). 
Despite the reduction, the proposed DAH is above recent U.S. landings; 
mackerel landings for 2012-2014 averaged 5,136 mt. Thus, the reduction 
should not have more than minimal impact on the affected small entities 
compared to recent operation of the fishery (2012-2014, and 2015 
landings to date appear similar to 2014). Even though the proposed 
2016-2018 quota is lower than 2015, it would still allow more catch 
compared to any year from 2012-2014.
    The proposed river herring and shad catch cap in the Atlantic 
mackerel fishery has the potential to limit the fishery from achieving 
its full mackerel quota if the river herring and shad encounter rates 
are high, but it is very unlikely that this fishery would close before 
exceeding the levels of landings experienced since 2010, when landing 
have been less than 11,000 mt. Based on the operation of the cap in 
2014 and first half of 2015 (the first years of the cap), as long as 
the fishery can maintain relatively low river herring and shad catch 
rates, the proposed lower cap should not negatively impact fishery 
participants. However, a few large river herring and shad bycatch 
events could potentially shut down the mackerel fishery early. At 2014 
prices ($491/mt), the proposed mackerel quota (9,177 mt) could 
potentially generate about $4.5 million. While the performance of the 
cap in 2014-2015 suggests that the fishery can operate with very low 
river herring and shad catch rates, if river herring and shad catch 
rates happen to be relatively high then most of the mackerel catch, and 
associated revenues could be forgone.
    The proposed butterfish mesh requirement adjustment would allow 
more butterfish to be retained with small mesh gear; therefore, there 
should be no negative impacts on the relevant entities.

[[Page 3772]]

    The proposed suspension of PTNS requirement for longfin squid would 
reduce administrative burden, so there should be no negative impacts on 
the relevant entities.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648

    Fisheries, Fishing, Recordkeeping and reporting requirements.

    Dated: January 14, 2016.
Eileen Sobeck,
Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 648 is 
proposed to be amended as follows:

PART 648--FISHERIES OF THE NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES

0
1. The authority citation for part 648 continues to read as follows:

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

0
2. In Sec.  648.11, paragraphs (n)(1)(i), (ii), (iii), and (iv) are 
revised to read as follows:


Sec.  648.11  At-sea sea sampler/observer coverage.

* * * * *
    (n) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (i) A vessel issued a limited access Atlantic mackerel permit, as 
specified at Sec.  648.4(a)(5)(iii), must, for the purposes of observer 
deployment, have a representative provide notice to NMFS of the vessel 
name, vessel permit number, contact name for coordination of observer 
deployment, telephone number or email address for contact; and the 
date, time, port of departure, gear type, and approximate trip 
duration, at least 48 hr, but no more than 10 days, prior to beginning 
any fishing trip, unless it complies with the possession restrictions 
in paragraph (n)(1)(iii) of this section.
    (ii) A vessel that has a representative provide notification to 
NMFS as described in paragraph (n)(1)(i) of this section may only 
embark on a mackerel trip without an observer if a vessel 
representative has been notified by NMFS that the vessel has received a 
waiver of the observer requirement for that trip. NMFS shall notify a 
vessel representative whether the vessel must carry an observer, or if 
a waiver has been granted, for the specific mackerel trip, within 24 hr 
of the vessel representative's notification of the prospective mackerel 
trip, as specified in paragraph (n)(1)(i) of this section. Any request 
to carry an observer may be waived by NMFS. A vessel that fishes with 
an observer waiver confirmation number that does not match the mackerel 
trip plan that was called in to NMFS is prohibited from fishing for, 
possessing, harvesting, or landing mackerel except as specified in 
paragraph (n)(1)(iii) of this section. Confirmation numbers for trip 
notification calls are only valid for 48 hr from the intended sail 
date.
    (iii) Trip limits. A vessel issued a limited access mackerel 
permit, as specified in Sec.  648.4(a)(5)(iii), that does not have a 
representative provide the trip notification required in paragraph 
(n)(1)(i) of this section is prohibited from fishing for, possessing, 
harvesting, or landing more than 20,000 lb (9.07 mt) of mackerel per 
trip at any time, and may only land mackerel once on any calendar day, 
which is defined as the 24-hr period beginning at 0001 hours and ending 
at 2400 hours.
    (iv) If a vessel issued a limited access Atlantic mackerel permit, 
as specified in Sec.  648.4(a)(5)(iii), intends to possess, harvest, or 
land more than 20,000 lb (9.07 mt) of mackerel per trip or per calendar 
day, and has a representative notify NMFS of an upcoming trip, is 
selected by NMFS to carry an observer, and then cancels that trip, the 
representative is required to provide notice to NMFS of the vessel 
name, vessel permit number, contact name for coordination of observer 
deployment, and telephone number or email address for contact, and the 
intended date, time, and port of departure for the cancelled trip prior 
to the planned departure time. In addition, if a trip selected for 
observer coverage is cancelled, then that vessel is required to carry 
an observer, provided an observer is available, on its next trip.
* * * * *
0
3. In Sec.  648.14, paragraphs (g)(2)(ii)(E), (g)(2)(iii)(A) and (C), 
and (g)(2)(iv) are revised to read as follows:


Sec.  648.14  Prohibitions.

* * * * *
    (g) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (ii) * * *
    (E) Possess more than 5,000 lb (2.27 mt) of butterfish, unless the 
vessel meets the minimum mesh requirements specified in Sec.  
648.23(a).
* * * * *
    (iii) * * *
    (A) Fish with or possess nets or netting that do not meet the gear 
requirements for Atlantic mackerel, longfin squid, Illex, or butterfish 
specified in Sec.  648.23(a); or that are modified, obstructed, or 
constricted, if subject to the minimum mesh requirements, unless the 
nets or netting are stowed and not available for immediate use as 
defined in Sec.  648.2 or the vessel is fishing under an exemption 
specified in Sec.  648.23(a)(4).
* * * * *
    (C) Enter or fish in the mackerel, squid, and butterfish bottom 
trawling restricted areas, as described in Sec.  648.23(a)(5).
* * * * *
    (iv) Observer requirements for longfin squid fishery. Fail to 
comply with any of the provisions specified in Sec.  648.11.
* * * * *
0
4. In Sec.  648.23, paragraph (a) is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  648.23  Mackerel, squid, and butterfish gear restrictions.

    (a) Mesh restrictions and exemptions. Vessels subject to the mesh 
restrictions in this paragraph (a) may not have available for immediate 
use any net, or any piece of net, with a mesh size smaller than that 
specified in paragraphs (a)(1), (a)(2) and (a)(3) of this section.
    (1) Butterfish fishery. Owners or operators of otter trawl vessels 
possessing more than 5,000 lb (2.27 mt) of butterfish harvested in or 
from the EEZ may only fish with nets having a minimum codend mesh of 3 
inches (7.62 cm) diamond mesh, inside stretch measure, applied 
throughout the codend for at least 100 continuous meshes forward of the 
terminus of the net, or for codends with less than 100 meshes, the 
minimum mesh size codend shall be a minimum of one-third of the net, 
measured from the terminus of the codend to the headrope.
    (2) Longfin squid fishery. (i) Owners or operators of otter trawl 
vessels possessing longfin squid harvested in or from the EEZ may only 
fish with nets having a minimum mesh size of 2\1/8\ inches (54 mm) 
during Trimesters I (Jan-Apr) and III (Sept-Dec), or 1\7/8\ inches (48 
mm) during Trimester II (May-Aug), diamond mesh, inside stretch 
measure, applied throughout the codend for at least 150 continuous 
meshes forward of the terminus of the net, or, for codends with less 
than 150 meshes, the minimum mesh size codend shall be a minimum of 
one-third of the net measured from the terminus of the codend to the 
headrope, unless their gear is stowed and not available for immediate 
use as defined in Sec.  648.2.
    (ii) Jigging exemption. During closures of the longfin squid 
fishery resulting from the butterfish mortality cap, described in Sec.  
648.24(c)(3), vessels fishing for longfin squid using jigging gear are 
exempt from the closure possession limit specified in Sec.  648.26(b), 
provided that all otter trawl gear is

[[Page 3773]]

stowed and not available for immediate use as defined in Sec.  648.2.
    (3) Net obstruction or constriction. (i) Owners or operators of 
otter trawl vessels fishing for and/or possessing butterfish shall not 
use any device, gear, or material, including, but not limited to, nets, 
net strengtheners, ropes, lines, or chafing gear, on the top of the 
regulated portion of a trawl net that results in an effective mesh 
opening of less than 3 inches (7.62 cm) diamond mesh, inside stretch 
measure. ``Top of the regulated portion of the net'' means the 50 
percent of the entire regulated portion of the net that would not be in 
contact with the ocean bottom if, during a tow, the regulated portion 
of the net were laid flat on the ocean floor. However, owners or 
operators of otter trawl vessels fishing for and/or possessing 
butterfish may use net strengtheners (covers), splitting straps, and/or 
bull ropes or wire around the entire circumference of the codend 
provided they do not have a mesh opening of less than 5 inches (12.7 
cm) diamond or square mesh, inside stretch measure.
    (ii) Owners or operators of otter trawl vessels fishing for and/or 
possessing longfin squid shall not use any device, gear, or material, 
including, but not limited to, nets, net strengtheners, ropes, lines, 
or chafing gear, on the top of the regulated portion of a trawl net 
that results in an effective mesh opening of less than 2\1/8\ inches 
(54 mm) during Trimesters I (Jan-Apr) and III (Sept-Dec), or 1\7/8\ 
inches (48 mm) during Trimester II (May-Aug), diamond mesh, inside 
stretch measure. ``Top of the regulated portion of the net'' means the 
50 percent of the entire regulated portion of the net that would not be 
in contact with the ocean bottom if, during a tow, the regulated 
portion of the net were laid flat on the ocean floor. However, owners 
or operators of otter trawl vessels fishing for and/or possessing 
longfin squid may use net strengtheners (covers), splitting straps, 
and/or bull ropes or wire around the entire circumference of the 
codend, provided they do not have a mesh opening of less than 5 inches 
(12.7 cm) diamond mesh, inside stretch measure. For the purposes of 
this requirement, head ropes are not to be considered part of the top 
of the regulated portion of a trawl net.
    (iii) The owner or operator of a fishing vessel shall not use any 
mesh construction, mesh configuration, or other means that effectively 
decreases the mesh size below the minimum mesh size, except that a 
liner may be used to close the opening created by the rings in the 
aftermost portion of the net, provided the liner extends no more than 
10 meshes forward of the aftermost portion of the net. The inside 
webbing of the codend shall be the same circumference or less than the 
outside webbing (strengthener). In addition, the inside webbing shall 
not be more than 2 ft (61 cm) longer than the outside webbing.
    (4) Illex fishery. Seaward of the following coordinates, connected 
in the order listed by straight lines except otherwise noted, otter 
trawl vessels possessing longfin squid harvested in or from the EEZ and 
fishing for Illex during the months of June, July, August, in Trimester 
II, and September in Trimester III are exempt from the longfin squid 
gear requirements specified in paragraph (a)(2) of this section, 
provided that landward of the specified coordinates they do not have 
available for immediate use, as defined in Sec.  648.2, any net, or any 
piece of net, with a mesh size less than 1\7/8\ inches (48 mm) diamond 
mesh in Trimester II, and 2\1/8\ inches (54 mm) diamond mesh in 
Trimester III, or any piece of net, with mesh that is rigged in a 
manner that is prohibited by paragraphs (a)(2) and (a)(3)(ii) of this 
section.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Point                     N. lat.             W. long.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
M0.............................  43[deg]58.0'         (\1\)
M1.............................  43[deg]58.0'         67[deg]22.0'
M2.............................  43[deg]50.0'         68[deg]35.0'
M3.............................  43[deg]30.0'         69[deg]40.0'
M4.............................  43[deg]20.0'         70[deg]00.0'
M5.............................  42[deg]45.0'         70[deg]10.0'
M6.............................  42[deg]13.0'         69[deg]55.0'
M7.............................  41[deg]00.0'         69[deg]00.0'
M8.............................  41[deg]45.0'         68[deg]15.0'
M9.............................  42[deg]10.0'         67[deg]10.0' \2\
M10............................  41[deg]18.6'         66[deg]24.8' \2\
M11............................  40[deg]55.5'         66[deg]38.0'
M12............................  40[deg]45.5'         68[deg]00.0'
M13............................  40[deg]37.0'         68[deg]00.0'
M14............................  40[deg]30.0'         69[deg]00.0'
M15............................  40[deg]22.7'         69[deg]00.0'
M16............................  40[deg]18.7'         69[deg]40.0'
M17............................  40[deg]21.0'         71[deg]03.0'
M18............................  39[deg]41.0'         72[deg]32.0'
M19............................  38[deg]47.0'         73[deg]11.0'
M20............................  38[deg]04.0'         74[deg]06.0'
M21............................  37[deg]08.0'         74[deg]46.0'
M22............................  36[deg]00.0'         74[deg]52.0'
M23............................  35[deg]45.0'         74[deg]53.0'
M24............................  35[deg]28.0'         74[deg]52.0'
M25............................  35[deg]28.0'         (\3\)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ The intersection of 43[deg]58.0' N. latitude and the US-Canada
  Maritime Boundary.
\2\ Points M9 and M10 are intended to fall along and are connected by
  the US-Canada Maritime Boundary.
\3\ The intersection of 35[deg]28.0' N. latitude and the outward limit
  of the U.S. EEZ.

    (5) Mackerel, squid, and butterfish bottom trawling restricted 
areas--(i) Oceanographer Canyon. No permitted mackerel, squid, or 
butterfish vessel may fish with bottom trawl gear in the Oceanographer 
Canyon or be in the Oceanographer Canyon unless transiting. Vessels may 
transit this area provided the bottom trawl gear is stowed and not 
available for immediate use as defined in Sec.  648.2. Oceanographer 
Canyon is defined by straight lines connecting the following points in 
the order stated (copies of a chart depicting this area are available 
from the Regional Administrator upon request):

                          Oceanographer Canyon
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Point                     N. lat.             W. long.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
OC1............................  40[deg]10.0'         68[deg]12.0'
OC2............................  40[deg]24.0'         68[deg]09.0'
OC3............................  40[deg]24.0'         68[deg]08.0'
OC4............................  40[deg]10.0'         67[deg]59.0'
OC1............................  40[deg]10.0'         68[deg]12.0'
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    (ii) Lydonia Canyon. No permitted mackerel, squid, or butterfish 
vessel may fish with bottom trawl gear in the Lydonia Canyon or be in 
the Lydonia Canyon unless transiting. Vessels may transit this area 
provided the bottom trawl gear is stowed and not available for 
immediate use as defined in Sec.  648.2. Lydonia Canyon is defined by 
straight lines connecting the following points in the order stated 
(copies of a chart depicting this area are available from the Regional 
Administrator upon request):

                             Lydonia Canyon
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Point                     N. lat.             W. long.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
LC1............................  40[deg]16.0'         67[deg]34.0'
LC2............................  40[deg]16.0'         67[deg]42.0'
LC3............................  40[deg]20.0'         67[deg]43.0'
LC4............................  40[deg]27.0'         67[deg]40.0'
LC5............................  40[deg]27.0'         67[deg]38.0'
LC1............................  40[deg]16.0'         67[deg]34.0'
------------------------------------------------------------------------

* * * * *
0
5. In Sec.  648.26, paragraphs (b)(2) and (d)(2) are revised to read as 
follows:


Sec.  648.26  Mackerel, squid, and butterfish possession restrictions.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (2) During a closure of the directed fishery for longfin squid for 
Trimester II, a vessel with a longfin squid/butterfish moratorium 
permit that is on a directed Illex squid fishing trip (i.e., possess 
over 10,000 lb (4.54 mt) of Illex) and is seaward of the coordinates 
specified at Sec.  648.23(a)(4), may possess up to 15,000 lb (6.80 mt) 
of longfin squid. Once landward of the coordinates specified at Sec.  
648.23(a)(4), such vessels must stow all fishing gear, as defined in 
Sec.  648.2, in

[[Page 3774]]

order to possess more than 2,500 lb (1.13 mt) of longfin squid per 
trip.
* * * * *
    (d) * * *
    (2) A vessel issued longfin squid/butterfish moratorium permit 
fishing with mesh less than 3 inches (76 mm) may not fish for, possess, 
or land more than 5,000 lb (2,27 mt) of butterfish per trip at any 
time, and may only land butterfish once on any calendar day, provided 
that butterfish harvest has not reached the DAH limit and the reduced 
possession limit has not been implemented, as described in Sec.  
648.24(c)(1). When butterfish harvest is projected to reach the DAH 
limit (as described in Sec.  648.24(c)(1)), these vessels may not fish 
for, possess, or land more than 600 lb (0.27 mt) of butterfish per trip 
at any time, and may only land butterfish once on any calendar day.
* * * * *
0
6. In Sec.  648.80, paragraphs (a)(4)(iv)(B)(2) and (g)(5)(i) are 
revised to read as follows:


Sec.  648.80  NE Multispecies regulated mesh areas and restrictions on 
gear and methods of fishing.

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (4) * * *
    (iv) * * *
    (B) * * *
    (2) Net size requirements. Vessels may fish any combination of 
roundfish and flatfish gillnets, up to 50 nets. Such vessels, as 
defined in Sec.  648.2, may stow additional nets not to exceed 150, 
counting the deployed net. Such vessels may stow additional nets in 
accordance with the definition of not available for immediate use as 
defined in Sec.  648.2 not to exceed 150 nets, counting the deployed 
net.
* * * * *
    (g) * * *
    (5) * * *
    (i) Nets of mesh size less than 2.5 inches (6.4 cm). A vessel 
lawfully fishing for small-mesh multispecies in the GOM/GB, SNE, or MA 
Regulated Mesh Areas, as defined in paragraphs (a), (b), and (c) of 
this section, with nets of mesh size smaller than 2.5 inches (6.4-cm), 
as measured by methods specified in paragraph (f) of this section, may 
use net strengtheners (covers, as described at Sec.  648.23(a)(3)), 
provided that the net strengthener for nets of mesh size smaller than 
2.5 inches (6.4 cm) complies with the provisions specified under Sec.  
648.23(a)(3)(iii).
* * * * *
0
7. In Sec.  648.90, paragraphs (a)(5)(i)(D)(2) and (3) are revised to 
read as follows:


Sec.  648.90  NE Multispecies assessment, framework procedures and 
specifications, and flexible area action system.

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (5) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (D) * * *
    (2) Atlantic halibut. If NMFS determines the overall ACL for 
Atlantic halibut is exceeded, as described in this paragraph 
(a)(5)(i)(D)(2), by any amount greater than the management uncertainty 
buffer, the applicable AM areas shall be implemented and any vessel 
issued a NE multispecies permit or a limited access monkfish permit and 
fishing under the monkfish Category C or D permit provisions, may not 
fish for, possess, or land Atlantic halibut for the fishing year in 
which the AM is implemented, as specified in paragraph (a)(5)(i)(D) of 
this section. If the overall ACL is exceeded by more than 20 percent, 
the applicable AM area(s) for the stock shall be implemented, as 
specified in paragraph (a)(5)(i)(D) of this section, and the Council 
shall revisit the AM in a future action. The AM areas defined below are 
bounded by the following coordinates, connected in the order listed by 
rhumb lines, unless otherwise noted. Any vessel issued a limited access 
NE multispecies permit and fishing with trawl gear in the Atlantic 
Halibut Trawl Gear AM Area may only use a haddock separator trawl, as 
specified in Sec.  648.85(a)(3)(iii)(A); a Ruhle trawl, as specified in 
Sec.  648.85(b)(6)(iv)(J)(3); a rope separator trawl, as specified in 
Sec.  648.84(e); or any other gear approved consistent with the process 
defined in Sec.  648.85(b)(6). When in effect, a limited access NE 
multispecies permitted vessel with gillnet or longline gear may not 
fish or be in the Atlantic Halibut Fixed Gear AM Areas, unless 
transiting with its gear stowed and not available for immediate use as 
defined in Sec.  648.2, or such gear was approved consistent with the 
process defined in Sec.  648.85(b)(6). If a sub-ACL for Atlantic 
halibut is allocated to another fishery, consistent with the process 
specified at Sec.  648.90(a)(4), and there are AMs for that fishery, 
the groundfish fishery AM shall only be implemented if the sub-ACL 
allocated to the groundfish fishery is exceeded (i.e., the sector and 
common pool catch for a particular stock, including the common pool's 
share of any overage of the overall ACL caused by excessive catch by 
other sub-components of the fishery pursuant to Sec.  648.90(a)(5), 
exceeds the common pool sub-ACL) and the overall ACL is also exceeded.

                   Atlantic Halibut Trawl Gear AM Area
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Point                   N. Latitude         W. Longitude
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1..............................  42[deg]00'           69[deg]20'
2..............................  42[deg]00'           68[deg]20'
3..............................  41[deg]30'           68[deg]20'
4..............................  41[deg]30'           69[deg]20'
------------------------------------------------------------------------


                  Atlantic Halibut Fixed Gear AM Area 1
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Point                   N. Latitude         W. Longitude
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1..............................  42[deg]30'           70[deg]20'
2..............................  42[deg]30'           70[deg]15'
3..............................  42[deg]20'           70[deg]15'
4..............................  42[deg]20'           70[deg]20'
------------------------------------------------------------------------


                  Atlantic Halibut Fixed Gear AM Area 2
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Point                   N. Latitude         W. Longitude
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1..............................  43[deg]10'           69[deg]40'
2..............................  43[deg]10'           69[deg]30'
3..............................  43[deg]00'           69[deg]30'
4..............................  43[deg]00'           69[deg]40'
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    (3) Atlantic wolffish. If NMFS determines the overall ACL for 
Atlantic wolffish is exceeded, as described in this paragraph 
(a)(5)(i)(D)(3), by any amount greater than the management uncertainty 
buffer, the applicable AM areas shall be implemented, as specified in 
paragraph (a)(5)(i)(D) of this section. If the overall ACL is exceeded 
by more than 20 percent, the applicable AM area(s) for the stock shall 
be implemented, as specified in paragraph (a)(5)(i)(D) of this section, 
and the Council shall revisit the AM in a future action. The AM areas 
defined below are bounded by the following coordinates, connected in 
the order listed by rhumb lines, unless otherwise noted. Any vessel 
issued a limited access NE multispecies permit and fishing with trawl 
gear in the Atlantic Wolffish Trawl Gear AM Area may only use a haddock 
separator trawl, as specified in Sec.  648.85(a)(3)(iii)(A); a Ruhle 
trawl, as specified in Sec.  648.85(b)(6)(iv)(J)(3); a rope separator 
trawl, as specified in Sec.  648.84(e); or any other gear approved 
consistent with the process defined in Sec.  648.85(b)(6). When in 
effect, a limited access NE multispecies permitted vessel with gillnet 
or longline gear may not fish or be in the Atlantic Wolffish Fixed Gear 
AM Areas, unless transiting with its gear stowed and not available for 
immediate use as defined in Sec.  648.2, or such gear was approved 
consistent with the process defined in Sec.  648.85(b)(6). If a sub-ACL 
for Atlantic wolffish is allocated to another fishery, consistent

[[Page 3775]]

with the process specified at Sec.  648.90(a)(4), and AMs are developed 
for that fishery, the groundfish fishery AM shall only be implemented 
if the sub-ACL allocated to the groundfish fishery is exceeded (i.e., 
the sector and common pool catch for a particular stock, including the 
common pool's share of any overage of the overall ACL caused by 
excessive catch by other sub-components of the fishery pursuant to 
Sec.  648.90(a)(5), exceeds the common pool sub-ACL) and the overall 
ACL is also exceeded.

                  Atlantic Wolffish Trawl Gear AM Area
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Point                   N. Latitude         W. Longitude
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1..............................  42[deg]30'           70[deg]30'
2..............................  42[deg]30'           70[deg]15'
3..............................  42[deg]15'           70[deg]15'
4..............................  42[deg]15'           70[deg]10'
5..............................  42[deg]10'           70[deg]10'
6..............................  42[deg]10'           70[deg]20'
7..............................  42[deg]20'           70[deg]20'
8..............................  42[deg]20'           70[deg]30'
------------------------------------------------------------------------


                 Atlantic Wolffish Fixed Gear AM Area 1
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Point                   N. Latitude         W. Longitude
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1..............................  41[deg]40'           69[deg]40'
2..............................  41[deg]40'           69[deg]30'
3..............................  41[deg]30'           69[deg]30'
4..............................  41[deg]30'           69[deg]40'
------------------------------------------------------------------------


                 Atlantic Wolffish Fixed Gear AM Area 2
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Point                   N. Latitude         W. Longitude
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1..............................  42[deg]30'           70[deg]20'
2..............................  42[deg]30'           70[deg]15'
3..............................  42[deg]20'           70[deg]15'
4..............................  42[deg]20'           70[deg]20'
------------------------------------------------------------------------

* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2016-01189 Filed 1-21-16; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P