Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast Groundfish Fishery; Recreational Management Measures, 11168-11172 [2016-04656]

Download as PDF mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS 11168 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 42 / Thursday, March 3, 2016 / Proposed Rules Magnuson-Stevens Act provides the statutory basis for this proposed rule. This proposed rule, if implemented, would not be expected to directly affect any small entities. This proposed rule would modify the gag and black grouper recreational minimum size limits and the gag recreational season in the Gulf. Only recreational anglers, who may fish from shore, man-made structures, private, rental, or charter vessels, and headboats, are allowed a bag or possession limit of grouper species in the Gulf. Captains or crew members on charter vessels or headboats, as well as commercial vessels, cannot harvest or possess gag or black grouper under the recreational bag limits. As a result of only recreational anglers being allowed a bag or possession limit, only recreational anglers would be directly affected by the proposed changes to the gag and black grouper recreational minimum size limits and the gag recreational season dates. Recreational anglers, however, are not considered to be small entities under the RFA and the economic effects of this proposed rule on these anglers are outside the scope of the RFA. Charter vessels and headboats (forhire vessels) sell fishing services to recreational anglers. Because the proposed change in the gag and black grouper minimum size limits and the change to the gag recreational season would not directly alter the services sold by these vessels, this proposed rule would not directly apply to or regulate their operations. Any change in demand for these fishing services, and associated economic effects, as a result of changing the minimum size limits and recreational season would be a consequence of behavioral change by anglers, secondary to any direct effect on anglers and, therefore, an indirect effect of the proposed rule. Because the effects on for-hire vessels would be indirect, they fall outside the scope of the RFA. The information provided above supports a determination that this rule would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. Because this rule, if implemented, is not expected to have a significant economic impact on any small entities, an initial regulatory flexibility analysis is not required and none has been prepared. No duplicative, overlapping, or conflicting Federal rules have been identified. In addition, no new reporting, record-keeping, or other compliance requirements are introduced by this proposed rule. Accordingly, this rule does not implicate the Paperwork Reduction Act. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:24 Mar 02, 2016 Jkt 238001 List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 622 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE Black grouper, Fisheries, Fishing, Gag, Gulf, Recreational, Reef fish, Size limits. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Dated: February 25, 2016. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 622 is proposed to be amended as follows: PART 622—FISHERIES OF THE CARIBBEAN, GULF OF MEXICO, AND SOUTH ATLANTIC 1. The authority citation for part 622 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. 2. In § 622.34, paragraph (e) is revised to read as follows: ■ § 622.34 Seasonal and area closures designed to protect Gulf reef fish. * * * * * (e) Seasonal closure of the recreational sector for gag. The recreational sector for gag, in or from the Gulf EEZ, is closed from January 1 through May 31. During the closure, the bag and possession limits for gag in or from the Gulf EEZ are zero. * * * * * ■ 3. In § 622.37, paragraphs (b)(1) and (b)(5)(ii) are revised to read as follows: § 622.37 Size limits. * * * * * (b) * * * (1) Gag—(i) For a person not subject to the bag limit specified in § 622.38 (b)(2)—22 inches (55.9 cm), TL. (ii) For a person subject to the bag limit specified in § 622.38(b)(2)—24 inches (61.0 cm), TL. * * * * * (5) * * * (ii) For a person subject to the bag limit specified in § 622.38(b)(2)—24 inches (61.0 cm), TL. * * * * * [FR Doc. 2016–04655 Filed 3–2–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P PO 00000 Frm 00037 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 160120042–6042–01] RIN 0648–BF69 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast Groundfish Fishery; Recreational Management Measures National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS proposes to modify recreational fishery management measures for Gulf of Maine cod and haddock, including daily bag limits, size limits, and seasonal possession restrictions. This action is necessary to increase recreational fishing opportunities and catch of cod and haddock in a manner consistent with anticipated catch limit increases. The intended effect of this action is to ensure the recreational fishery can achieve but not exceed its catch limits. DATES: Comments must be received by March 18, 2016. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA– NMFS–2016–0011, by either of the following methods: Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. 1. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20160011. 2. Click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and 3. Enter or attach your comments. – OR – Mail: Submit written comments to: John K. Bullard, Regional Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the envelope, ‘‘Comments on groundfish recreational fishing management measures.’’ 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 SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\03MRP1.SGM 03MRP1 11169 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 42 / Thursday, March 3, 2016 / Proposed Rules 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). In support of the proposed action, NMFS prepared a supplemental environmental assessment (EA) to Framework Adjustment 55 to the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan. The Framework 55 EA was prepared by the New England Fishery Management Council. Copies of the Framework 55 EA and supplemental EA are available from: John K. Bullard, Regional Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. The Framework 55 EA and supplement are also accessible via the Internet at: http://www.greateratlantic.fisheries. noaa.gov/sustainable/species/ multispecies/. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: William Whitmore, Fishery Policy Analyst, phone: 978–281–9182; email: William.Whitmore@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Proposed Modifications to Recreational Management Measures We are proposing to increase recreational fishing opportunities for Gulf of Maine (GOM) cod and haddock starting May 1, 2016. The proposed changes would allow anglers to retain one cod per day during the months of August and September and keep up to 15 haddock per day for most of the fishing year. Table 1, below, summarizes the proposed measures compared to the fishing year 2015 measures. TABLE 1—PROPOSED CHANGES TO GOM COD AND HADDOCK RECREATIONAL MANAGEMENT MEASURES Current measures Per day possession limit (fish per angler) Stock GOM Cod * ............. Minimum fish size Proposed measures Per day possession limit (fish per angler) Season when possession is permitted Possession Prohibited Year-Round GOM Haddock ........ 3 17 inches (43.2 cm) Season when possession is permitted Minimum fish size 1 August 1–September 30. 15 May 1– August 31, 2015 and November 1–February 29, 2016. 24 inches (61.0 cm).. 17 inches (43.2 cm).. Year Round Except April 15–30. * The recreational cod prohibition is proposed to be rescinded in Framework 55. This action would establish the actual recreational fishing effort regulations if the prohibition is removed. Background Framework Adjustment 55 Proposes To Increase Recreational Catch Limits The Northeast Fishery Science Center (Center) conducted operational stock assessments for all 20 groundfish stocks in September 2015. The assessment concluded that the GOM haddock stock biomass continues to increase, and as a result, a substantial catch-limit increase (150 percent) is anticipated for the 2016 fishing year. The assessment also concluded that, although GOM cod remains overfished and subject to overfishing, biomass has increased slightly. A 30-percent increase to the catch limit for GOM cod is expected for 2016. These catch limit increases will be proposed in a separate rulemaking for Framework Adjustment 55 to the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan (FMP) which is expected to be published in the Federal Register in the next few weeks. Final approval of the recreational measures proposed in this action is contingent upon approval of the catch limit increases proposed in Framework 55. Framework 55 also proposes to remove the GOM cod retention prohibition in the recreational fishery. If catch limits or management measures other than those to be proposed in Framework 55 rulemaking are implemented, we will adjust recreational measures as necessary to ensure that catch from the recreational fishery will remain within the final catch limits implemented for fishing year 2016. A peer-reviewed bioeconomic model, developed by the Center, was used to estimate 2016 recreational GOM cod and haddock mortality under various combinations of minimum sizes, possession limits, and closed seasons. Catch data and model projections suggest that the recreational fleet is not expected to exceed its fishing year 2015 catch limits for GOM cod or haddock. Based on the Framework 55 catch limits recommended by the Council for the 2016 fishing year, analyses indicate that recreational catch for both GOM cod and haddock could be increased (Table 2). TABLE 2—PROJECTED FISHING YEAR 2015 AND 2016 RECREATIONAL CATCH INFORMATION FOR GOM COD AND HADDOCK mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Fishing year 2015 Catch limit (mt) Stock GOM Cod ............................................................................. GOM Haddock ..................................................................... Projected catch (mt) 121 372 Fishing year 2016 Percent of catch limit caught 69 301 57 81 * NMFS will propose fishing year 2016 recreational catch limits in a separate Framework 55 rulemaking. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:24 Mar 02, 2016 Jkt 238001 PO 00000 Frm 00038 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\03MRP1.SGM 03MRP1 Catch limit (mt) * 157 926 Percent of catch limit increase from 2015 30 149 11170 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 42 / Thursday, March 3, 2016 / Proposed Rules How Management Alternatives and the Proposed Measures Were Developed Each year, pursuant to the regulations within the FMP, we may consult with the New England Fishery Management Council and modify recreational management measures to help the fishery achieve optimum yield while ensuring that catch limits are not exceeded. The Center’s bioeconomic model results were presented to the Council, its Recreational Advisory Panel (RAP), and its Groundfish Oversight Committee in November and December 2015. These groups concurred that data in two month ‘‘waves’’ (for example, wave 1 is January-February; wave 2 is March-April). Since MRIP data is provided in waves, the bioeconomic model used to develop recreational management measures estimates effort and catch by 2 month waves as well. As a result, seasonal closures and openings are typically implemented in line with the MRIP waves. Additional information and analyses on these alternatives is included in a supplemental Environmental Assessment (see ADDRESSES). fishing effort on GOM haddock should be increased and suggested that bag limits increase from 3 to 15 fish per angler per day. The Council, RAP, and Committee also recomended that the fishing season for GOM haddock should be substantially extended. The Council, RAP, and Committee agreed that the GOM cod recreational retention prohibition should be removed. However, they debated when anglers should be permitted to retain GOM cod (Table 3). The Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) gathers fishing effort and catch TABLE 3—ESTIMATED FISHING YEAR 2016 MORTALITY OF GOM COD AND HADDOCK BY MANAGEMENT ALTERNATIVE * Haddock Total mortality as percent of quota Bag limit Size limit (in/cm) 405 44% 0 n/a All year, except April 15–30. All year, except April 15–30. 709 76% 1 707 76% All year, except April 15–30. 707–709 76% Bag limit Alternative Current Recreational Measures. 2016 RAP Recommendation. 2016 Committee Recommendation. 2016 Council Recommendation. Cod Size limit (in/ cm) Total mortality (mt) 3 17/43.2 Waves 3, 4, 6, 1 ... 15 17/43.2 15 17/43.2 15 17/43.2 Open season Open season Total mortality (mt) Total mortality as percent of quota Angler trips Closed 66 42% 117,139 24/61.0 Jul–Aug 132 84% 168,125 1 24/61.0 Sept– Oct. 114 73% 167,549 1 24/61.0 Aug– Sept. 114–132 73–84% 167,549–168,125 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS * The model cannot split a wave of data; the numbers provided under alternative 4 are a range between alternatives 2 and 3. Council recommended Framework 55 fishing year 2016 GOM haddock recreational catch limit = 928 mt. Council recommended Framework fishing year 2016 GOM cod recreational catch limit = 157 mt. There was general agreement among the Council, RAP, and Committee that the GOM cod daily bag limit could not exceed more than 1 fish per person per day. The RAP debated whether anglers should be able to retain that one cod during the months of July and August (wave 4) or September and October (wave 5). According to the model, opening wave 4 would result in slightly more trips being taken compared to opening wave 5; however, both options are expected to keep catch within the proposed limits. Most RAP members initially supported opening wave 5 because it would result in less cod being caught, which may provide additional conservation benefits. The RAP also discussed that opening wave 5 would extend the primary summer fishing season further into the fall, potentially creating additional fishing opportunities that would help charter and party boat businesses. However, opening wave 5 would not benefit private anglers as much because fewer private anglers fish in the fall compared to the summer. Because allowing cod retention during July and August, when most anglers are fishing, would provide the greatest overall benefits, the RAP endorsed opening wave 4. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:24 Mar 02, 2016 Jkt 238001 The Groundfish Committee considered the RAP’s recommendation and evaluated the trade-offs between opening waves 4 or 5. The Committee recommended opening wave 5, citing a preference to extend the recreational fishing season further into the fall. The Council proposed a compromise, recommending that anglers should be able to retain one cod during the months of August and September (the second month of wave 4 and the first month of wave 5). We propose to adopt the Council’s recommendations in this action. We intend to modify our bioeconomic model so we can project effort and catch at a monthly level, but there is some concern that a revised model may not work if there is insufficient data at the monthly level. Since MRIP effort and catch data is reported by 2-month waves, reducing the length of time from two months to one would reduce the amount of samples that would be incorporated into the model, potentially increasing variability and uncertainty in the model, which could cause the model to fail. We believe this to be unlikely, but still a possibility. The increased flexibility from the proposed measure appears to outweigh PO 00000 Frm 00039 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 the potential data trade-off. There is a substantial ‘‘buffer’’ between the catch forecasted by the model and the proposed catch limits, and we will be modifying the model in the future to reduce management uncertainty where possible. We believe that the Council’s suggestion is appropriate and are therefore proposing it for this action. We are providing a 15-day comment period for this rule. A 15-day comment period, coupled with extensive public comment periods at three different Council-related meetings during the development of this action, provides sufficient opportunity for public input on the proposed measures. The Council did not recommend management measures to NMFS until December 2015; as a result were unable to develop a proposed rule any sooner than this. Recreational fishing businesses and fishermen are currently scheduling fishing trips and these proposed measures will provide them with additional information to assist their planning efforts. Since these measures increase fishing opportunities, announcing these measures quickly will provide additional support to recreational-fishing businesses. E:\FR\FM\03MRP1.SGM 03MRP1 11171 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 42 / Thursday, March 3, 2016 / Proposed Rules Classification Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS Assistant Administrator has made a determination that this proposed rule is consistent with the Northeast Multispecies FMP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, subject to further consideration after public comment. The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration (SBA) that this proposed rule, if adopted, would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. As explained above, the purpose of this action is to modify recreational fishing management measures to increase recreational fishing opportunities, effort, and catch consistent with the catch limit increases anticipated in Framework 55. This action is needed to help the recreational fishery achieve its optimum yield without overfishing. The regulated entities most likely to be affected by this action are private anglers, and charter/party vessel fishing corporations. Other than private anglers, which are not businesses, all charter/ party fishing businesses are considered small businesses per the SBA guidelines because they all have less than $7.5 million in annual receipts. As a result, the impacts of these measures are not considered to be disproportional. All of the measures proposed in this action are expected to have a positive economic impact on participants as new regulations would allow for additional fishing opportunities. Additional fishing opportunities would generate additional effort (trips) and result in more revenue for recreational fishing businesses. This rule would not impose significant negative economic impacts. Since no small entities would be placed at a competitive disadvantage to large entities, and the regulations would not reduce the profit for any small entities, an initial regulatory flexibility analysis is not required and none has been prepared. This action has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order (E.O.) 12866. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648 Fisheries, Fishing, Recordkeeping and reporting requirements. Dated: February 25, 2016. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, 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 § 648.89, revise paragraphs (b)(1), (c)(1)(ii), (c)(2), and (c)(8) to read as follows: ■ § 648.89 Recreational and charter/party vessel restrictions. * * * * * (b) Recreational minimum fish sizes— (1) Minimum fish sizes. Unless further restricted under this section, persons aboard charter/party vessel permitted under this part and not fishing under the NE multispecies DAS program or under the restrictions and conditions of an approved sector operations plan, and private recreational fishing vessels in or possessing fish from the EEZ, may not possess fish smaller than the minimum fish sizes, measured in total length, as follows: Minimum Size Species Inches Cod: Inside GOM Regulated Mesh Area1 ................................................................................................................ Outside GOM Regulated Mesh Area1 .............................................................................................................. Haddock: Inside GOM Regulated Mesh Area .................................................................................................................. Outside GOM Regulated Mesh Area ............................................................................................................... Pollock ..................................................................................................................................................................... Witch Flounder (gray sole) ...................................................................................................................................... Yellowtail Flounder .................................................................................................................................................. American Plaice (dab) ............................................................................................................................................. Atlantic Halibut ......................................................................................................................................................... Winter Flounder (blackback) .................................................................................................................................... Redfish ..................................................................................................................................................................... 1 GOM 24 22 61.0 55.9 17 18 19 14 13 14 41 12 9 43.2 45.7 48.3 35.6 33.0 35.6 104.1 30.5 22.9 Regulated Mesh Area specified in § 648.80(a) * mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS cm * * * * (c) * * * (1) * * * (ii) Each person on a private recreational fishing vessel, fishing from August 1 through September 30, may possess no more than one cod per day in, or harvested from, the EEZ when fishing in the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in § 648.80(a)(1); with the exception that each person on a private recreational vessel in possession of cod caught outside the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in § 648.80(a)(1) VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:24 Mar 02, 2016 Jkt 238001 may transit this area with more than one such cod per person up to the possession limit specified at § 648.89(c)(1)(i), provided all bait and hooks are removed from fishing rods and any cod on board has been gutted and stored. * * * * * (2) Charter/party vessels (i) Each person on a charter/party fishing vessel permitted under this part and not fishing under a NE multispecies DAS program or on a sector trip may possess unlimited cod when fishing outside of PO 00000 Frm 00040 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in § 648.80(a)(1). (ii) Each person on a charter/party fishing vessel permitted under this part, fishing from August 1 through September 30, and not fishing under the NE multispecies DAS program or on a sector trip, may possess no more than one cod per day in the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in § 648.80(a)(1); with the exception that each person on a charter/party vessel in possession of cod caught outside the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in § 648.80(a)(1) E:\FR\FM\03MRP1.SGM 03MRP1 11172 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 42 / Thursday, March 3, 2016 / Proposed Rules mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS may transit this area with more than one such cod up to any possession limit under § 648.89(c)(2)(ii), provided all bait and hooks are removed from fishing rods and any cod on board has been gutted and stored. (iii) For purposes of counting fish, fillets will be converted to whole fish at the place of landing by dividing the number of fillets by two. If fish are filleted into a single (butterfly) fillet, such fillet shall be deemed to be from one whole fish. (iv) Cod harvested by charter/party vessels with more than one person aboard may be pooled in one or more containers. Compliance with the possession limits will be determined by dividing the number of fish on board by the number of persons on board. If there is a violation of the possession limits on board a vessel carrying more than one person, the violation shall be deemed to have been committed by the owner or operator of the vessel. (v) Cod must be stored so as to be readily available for inspection. * * * * * (8) Haddock. (i) Each person on a private recreational vessel may possess unlimited haddock in, or harvested from, the EEZ when fishing outside of the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in § 648.80(a)(1). VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:24 Mar 02, 2016 Jkt 238001 (ii) Each person on a private recreational fishing vessel, fishing from May 1 through April 14, may possess no more than 15 haddock per day in, or harvested from, the EEZ when fishing in the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in § 648.80(a)(1); with the exception that each person on a private recreational vessel in possession of haddock caught outside the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in § 648.80(a)(1) may transit this area with more than 15 such haddock per person up to the possession limit specified at § 648.89(c)(8)(i), provided all bait and hooks are removed from fishing rods and any haddock on board has been gutted and stored. (iii) Each person on a charter/party fishing vessel permitted under this part and not fishing under a NE multispecies DAS program or on a sector trip may possess unlimited haddock when fishing outside of the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in § 648.80(a)(1). (iv) Each person on a charter/party fishing vessel permitted under this part, fishing from May 1 through April 14, and not fishing under the NE multispecies DAS program or on a sector trip, may possess no more than 15 haddock per day in the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in § 648.80(a)(1); with the exception that each person on a charter/party vessel in possession of PO 00000 Frm 00041 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 haddock caught outside the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in § 648.80(a)(1) may transit this area with more than fifteen such haddock up to any possession limit under § 648.89(c)(8)(iii), provided all bait and hooks are removed from fishing rods and any cod on board has been gutted and stored. (v) For purposes of counting fish, fillets will be converted to whole fish at the place of landing by dividing the number of fillets by two. If fish are filleted into a single (butterfly) fillet, such fillet shall be deemed to be from one whole fish. (vi) Haddock harvested in or from the EEZ by private recreational fishing boats or charter or party boats with more than one person aboard may be pooled in one or more containers. Compliance with the possession limit will be determined by dividing the number of fish on board by the number of persons on board. If there is a violation of the possession limit on board a vessel carrying more than one person, the violation shall be deemed to have been committed by the owner or operator of the vessel. (vii) Haddock must be stored so as to be readily available for inspection. * * * * * [FR Doc. 2016–04656 Filed 3–2–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\03MRP1.SGM 03MRP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 42 (Thursday, March 3, 2016)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 11168-11172]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-04656]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 160120042-6042-01]
RIN 0648-BF69


Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act 
Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast 
Groundfish Fishery; Recreational Management Measures

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS proposes to modify recreational fishery management 
measures for Gulf of Maine cod and haddock, including daily bag limits, 
size limits, and seasonal possession restrictions. This action is 
necessary to increase recreational fishing opportunities and catch of 
cod and haddock in a manner consistent with anticipated catch limit 
increases. The intended effect of this action is to ensure the 
recreational fishery can achieve but not exceed its catch limits.

DATES: Comments must be received by March 18, 2016.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NMFS-2016-0011, by either of the following methods:
    Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via 
the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal.
    1. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2016-0011.
    2. Click the ``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, 
and
    3. Enter or attach your comments.

- OR -

    Mail: Submit written comments to: John K. Bullard, Regional 
Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, 55 Great Republic 
Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the envelope, 
``Comments on groundfish recreational fishing management measures.''
    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

[[Page 11169]]

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).
    In support of the proposed action, NMFS prepared a supplemental 
environmental assessment (EA) to Framework Adjustment 55 to the 
Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan. The Framework 55 EA was 
prepared by the New England Fishery Management Council. Copies of the 
Framework 55 EA and supplemental EA are available from: John K. 
Bullard, Regional Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, 55 
Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. The Framework 55 EA and 
supplement are also accessible via the Internet at: http://www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov/sustainable/species/multispecies/.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: William Whitmore, Fishery Policy 
Analyst, phone: 978-281-9182; email: William.Whitmore@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Proposed Modifications to Recreational Management Measures

    We are proposing to increase recreational fishing opportunities for 
Gulf of Maine (GOM) cod and haddock starting May 1, 2016. The proposed 
changes would allow anglers to retain one cod per day during the months 
of August and September and keep up to 15 haddock per day for most of 
the fishing year. Table 1, below, summarizes the proposed measures 
compared to the fishing year 2015 measures.

                                    Table 1--Proposed Changes to GOM Cod and Haddock Recreational Management Measures
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                        Current measures                                           Proposed measures
                                  ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                       Per day                                                     Per day
              Stock                  possession                               Season when        possession                              Season when
                                     limit (fish     Minimum fish size       possession is       limit (fish     Minimum fish size      possession is
                                    per  angler)                               permitted        per  angler)                              permitted
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GOM Cod *........................               Possession Prohibited Year-Round                            1  24 inches (61.0 cm).  August 1-September
                                                                                                                                      30.
                                  ------------------------------------------------------------
GOM Haddock......................               3  17 inches (43.2 cm).  May 1- August 31,                 15  17 inches (43.2 cm).  Year Round Except
                                                                          2015 and November 1-                                        April 15-30.
                                                                          February 29, 2016.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* The recreational cod prohibition is proposed to be rescinded in Framework 55. This action would establish the actual recreational fishing effort
  regulations if the prohibition is removed.

Background

Framework Adjustment 55 Proposes To Increase Recreational Catch Limits

    The Northeast Fishery Science Center (Center) conducted operational 
stock assessments for all 20 groundfish stocks in September 2015. The 
assessment concluded that the GOM haddock stock biomass continues to 
increase, and as a result, a substantial catch-limit increase (150 
percent) is anticipated for the 2016 fishing year. The assessment also 
concluded that, although GOM cod remains overfished and subject to 
overfishing, biomass has increased slightly. A 30-percent increase to 
the catch limit for GOM cod is expected for 2016.
    These catch limit increases will be proposed in a separate 
rulemaking for Framework Adjustment 55 to the Northeast Multispecies 
Fishery Management Plan (FMP) which is expected to be published in the 
Federal Register in the next few weeks. Final approval of the 
recreational measures proposed in this action is contingent upon 
approval of the catch limit increases proposed in Framework 55. 
Framework 55 also proposes to remove the GOM cod retention prohibition 
in the recreational fishery. If catch limits or management measures 
other than those to be proposed in Framework 55 rulemaking are 
implemented, we will adjust recreational measures as necessary to 
ensure that catch from the recreational fishery will remain within the 
final catch limits implemented for fishing year 2016.
    A peer-reviewed bioeconomic model, developed by the Center, was 
used to estimate 2016 recreational GOM cod and haddock mortality under 
various combinations of minimum sizes, possession limits, and closed 
seasons. Catch data and model projections suggest that the recreational 
fleet is not expected to exceed its fishing year 2015 catch limits for 
GOM cod or haddock. Based on the Framework 55 catch limits recommended 
by the Council for the 2016 fishing year, analyses indicate that 
recreational catch for both GOM cod and haddock could be increased 
(Table 2).

      Table 2--Projected Fishing Year 2015 and 2016 Recreational Catch Information for GOM Cod and Haddock
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                 Fishing year 2015                       Fishing year 2016
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                    Percent of
                                    Catch limit      Projected      Percent of      Catch limit     catch limit
              Stock                    (mt)         catch (mt)      catch limit       (mt) *       increase from
                                                                      caught                           2015
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GOM Cod.........................             121              69              57             157              30
GOM Haddock.....................             372             301              81             926             149
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* NMFS will propose fishing year 2016 recreational catch limits in a separate Framework 55 rulemaking.


[[Page 11170]]

How Management Alternatives and the Proposed Measures Were Developed

    Each year, pursuant to the regulations within the FMP, we may 
consult with the New England Fishery Management Council and modify 
recreational management measures to help the fishery achieve optimum 
yield while ensuring that catch limits are not exceeded. The Center's 
bioeconomic model results were presented to the Council, its 
Recreational Advisory Panel (RAP), and its Groundfish Oversight 
Committee in November and December 2015. These groups concurred that 
fishing effort on GOM haddock should be increased and suggested that 
bag limits increase from 3 to 15 fish per angler per day. The Council, 
RAP, and Committee also recomended that the fishing season for GOM 
haddock should be substantially extended.
    The Council, RAP, and Committee agreed that the GOM cod 
recreational retention prohibition should be removed. However, they 
debated when anglers should be permitted to retain GOM cod (Table 3). 
The Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) gathers fishing 
effort and catch data in two month ``waves'' (for example, wave 1 is 
January-February; wave 2 is March-April). Since MRIP data is provided 
in waves, the bioeconomic model used to develop recreational management 
measures estimates effort and catch by 2 month waves as well. As a 
result, seasonal closures and openings are typically implemented in 
line with the MRIP waves.
    Additional information and analyses on these alternatives is 
included in a supplemental Environmental Assessment (see ADDRESSES).

                                                Table 3--Estimated Fishing Year 2016 Mortality of GOM Cod and Haddock by Management Alternative *
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                     Haddock                                                               Cod
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                                                                                      Total
                                                 Size                                Total       Total               Size                                 Total     mortality     Angler trips
              Alternative                Bag     limit         Open  season        mortality   mortality    Bag   limit (in/       Open  season         mortality      as
                                        limit   (in/cm)                               (mt)    as  percent  limit     cm)                                  (mt)     percent of
                                                                                               of  quota                                                              quota
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Current Recreational Measures.........      3   17/43.2  Waves 3, 4, 6, 1........        405          44%      0        n/a  Closed..................          66         42%            117,139
2016 RAP Recommendation...............     15   17/43.2  All year, except April          709          76%      1    24/61.0  Jul-Aug.................         132         84%            168,125
                                                          15-30.
2016 Committee Recommendation.........     15   17/43.2  All year, except April          707          76%      1    24/61.0  Sept-Oct................         114         73%            167,549
                                                          15-30.
2016 Council Recommendation...........     15   17/43.2  All year, except April      707-709          76%      1    24/61.0  Aug-Sept................     114-132      73-84%    167,549-168,125
                                                          15-30.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* The model cannot split a wave of data; the numbers provided under alternative 4 are a range between alternatives 2 and 3.
Council recommended Framework 55 fishing year 2016 GOM haddock recreational catch limit = 928 mt.
Council recommended Framework fishing year 2016 GOM cod recreational catch limit = 157 mt.

    There was general agreement among the Council, RAP, and Committee 
that the GOM cod daily bag limit could not exceed more than 1 fish per 
person per day. The RAP debated whether anglers should be able to 
retain that one cod during the months of July and August (wave 4) or 
September and October (wave 5). According to the model, opening wave 4 
would result in slightly more trips being taken compared to opening 
wave 5; however, both options are expected to keep catch within the 
proposed limits. Most RAP members initially supported opening wave 5 
because it would result in less cod being caught, which may provide 
additional conservation benefits. The RAP also discussed that opening 
wave 5 would extend the primary summer fishing season further into the 
fall, potentially creating additional fishing opportunities that would 
help charter and party boat businesses. However, opening wave 5 would 
not benefit private anglers as much because fewer private anglers fish 
in the fall compared to the summer. Because allowing cod retention 
during July and August, when most anglers are fishing, would provide 
the greatest overall benefits, the RAP endorsed opening wave 4.
    The Groundfish Committee considered the RAP's recommendation and 
evaluated the trade-offs between opening waves 4 or 5. The Committee 
recommended opening wave 5, citing a preference to extend the 
recreational fishing season further into the fall.
    The Council proposed a compromise, recommending that anglers should 
be able to retain one cod during the months of August and September 
(the second month of wave 4 and the first month of wave 5). We propose 
to adopt the Council's recommendations in this action.
    We intend to modify our bioeconomic model so we can project effort 
and catch at a monthly level, but there is some concern that a revised 
model may not work if there is insufficient data at the monthly level. 
Since MRIP effort and catch data is reported by 2-month waves, reducing 
the length of time from two months to one would reduce the amount of 
samples that would be incorporated into the model, potentially 
increasing variability and uncertainty in the model, which could cause 
the model to fail. We believe this to be unlikely, but still a 
possibility.
    The increased flexibility from the proposed measure appears to 
outweigh the potential data trade-off. There is a substantial 
``buffer'' between the catch forecasted by the model and the proposed 
catch limits, and we will be modifying the model in the future to 
reduce management uncertainty where possible. We believe that the 
Council's suggestion is appropriate and are therefore proposing it for 
this action.
    We are providing a 15-day comment period for this rule. A 15-day 
comment period, coupled with extensive public comment periods at three 
different Council-related meetings during the development of this 
action, provides sufficient opportunity for public input on the 
proposed measures. The Council did not recommend management measures to 
NMFS until December 2015; as a result were unable to develop a proposed 
rule any sooner than this. Recreational fishing businesses and 
fishermen are currently scheduling fishing trips and these proposed 
measures will provide them with additional information to assist their 
planning efforts. Since these measures increase fishing opportunities, 
announcing these measures quickly will provide additional support to 
recreational-fishing businesses.

[[Page 11171]]

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Assistant Administrator has made a determination that this 
proposed rule is consistent with the Northeast Multispecies FMP, other 
provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, 
subject to further consideration after public comment.
    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration (SBA) that this proposed rule, if adopted, would not 
have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities.
    As explained above, the purpose of this action is to modify 
recreational fishing management measures to increase recreational 
fishing opportunities, effort, and catch consistent with the catch 
limit increases anticipated in Framework 55. This action is needed to 
help the recreational fishery achieve its optimum yield without 
overfishing.
    The regulated entities most likely to be affected by this action 
are private anglers, and charter/party vessel fishing corporations. 
Other than private anglers, which are not businesses, all charter/party 
fishing businesses are considered small businesses per the SBA 
guidelines because they all have less than $7.5 million in annual 
receipts. As a result, the impacts of these measures are not considered 
to be disproportional.
    All of the measures proposed in this action are expected to have a 
positive economic impact on participants as new regulations would allow 
for additional fishing opportunities. Additional fishing opportunities 
would generate additional effort (trips) and result in more revenue for 
recreational fishing businesses. This rule would not impose significant 
negative economic impacts.
    Since no small entities would be placed at a competitive 
disadvantage to large entities, and the regulations would not reduce 
the profit for any small entities, an initial regulatory flexibility 
analysis is not required and none has been prepared.
    This action has been determined to be not significant for purposes 
of Executive Order (E.O.) 12866.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648

    Fisheries, Fishing, Recordkeeping and reporting requirements.

    Dated: February 25, 2016.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, 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.  648.89, revise paragraphs (b)(1), (c)(1)(ii), (c)(2), and 
(c)(8) to read as follows:


Sec.  648.89  Recreational and charter/party vessel restrictions.

* * * * *
    (b) Recreational minimum fish sizes--(1) Minimum fish sizes. Unless 
further restricted under this section, persons aboard charter/party 
vessel permitted under this part and not fishing under the NE 
multispecies DAS program or under the restrictions and conditions of an 
approved sector operations plan, and private recreational fishing 
vessels in or possessing fish from the EEZ, may not possess fish 
smaller than the minimum fish sizes, measured in total length, as 
follows:

------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                   Minimum Size
                 Species                 -------------------------------
                                              Inches            cm
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cod:
    Inside GOM Regulated Mesh Area\1\...              24            61.0
    Outside GOM Regulated Mesh Area\1\..              22            55.9
Haddock:
    Inside GOM Regulated Mesh Area......              17            43.2
    Outside GOM Regulated Mesh Area.....              18            45.7
Pollock.................................              19            48.3
Witch Flounder (gray sole)..............              14            35.6
Yellowtail Flounder.....................              13            33.0
American Plaice (dab)...................              14            35.6
Atlantic Halibut........................              41           104.1
Winter Flounder (blackback).............              12            30.5
Redfish.................................               9            22.9
------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in Sec.   648.80(a)

* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (ii) Each person on a private recreational fishing vessel, fishing 
from August 1 through September 30, may possess no more than one cod 
per day in, or harvested from, the EEZ when fishing in the GOM 
Regulated Mesh Area specified in Sec.  648.80(a)(1); with the exception 
that each person on a private recreational vessel in possession of cod 
caught outside the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in Sec.  
648.80(a)(1) may transit this area with more than one such cod per 
person up to the possession limit specified at Sec.  648.89(c)(1)(i), 
provided all bait and hooks are removed from fishing rods and any cod 
on board has been gutted and stored.
* * * * *
    (2) Charter/party vessels (i) Each person on a charter/party 
fishing vessel permitted under this part and not fishing under a NE 
multispecies DAS program or on a sector trip may possess unlimited cod 
when fishing outside of the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in Sec.  
648.80(a)(1).
    (ii) Each person on a charter/party fishing vessel permitted under 
this part, fishing from August 1 through September 30, and not fishing 
under the NE multispecies DAS program or on a sector trip, may possess 
no more than one cod per day in the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified 
in Sec.  648.80(a)(1); with the exception that each person on a 
charter/party vessel in possession of cod caught outside the GOM 
Regulated Mesh Area specified in Sec.  648.80(a)(1)

[[Page 11172]]

may transit this area with more than one such cod up to any possession 
limit under Sec.  648.89(c)(2)(ii), provided all bait and hooks are 
removed from fishing rods and any cod on board has been gutted and 
stored.
    (iii) For purposes of counting fish, fillets will be converted to 
whole fish at the place of landing by dividing the number of fillets by 
two. If fish are filleted into a single (butterfly) fillet, such fillet 
shall be deemed to be from one whole fish.
    (iv) Cod harvested by charter/party vessels with more than one 
person aboard may be pooled in one or more containers. Compliance with 
the possession limits will be determined by dividing the number of fish 
on board by the number of persons on board. If there is a violation of 
the possession limits on board a vessel carrying more than one person, 
the violation shall be deemed to have been committed by the owner or 
operator of the vessel.
    (v) Cod must be stored so as to be readily available for 
inspection.
* * * * *
    (8) Haddock. (i) Each person on a private recreational vessel may 
possess unlimited haddock in, or harvested from, the EEZ when fishing 
outside of the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in Sec.  648.80(a)(1).
    (ii) Each person on a private recreational fishing vessel, fishing 
from May 1 through April 14, may possess no more than 15 haddock per 
day in, or harvested from, the EEZ when fishing in the GOM Regulated 
Mesh Area specified in Sec.  648.80(a)(1); with the exception that each 
person on a private recreational vessel in possession of haddock caught 
outside the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in Sec.  648.80(a)(1) may 
transit this area with more than 15 such haddock per person up to the 
possession limit specified at Sec.  648.89(c)(8)(i), provided all bait 
and hooks are removed from fishing rods and any haddock on board has 
been gutted and stored.
    (iii) Each person on a charter/party fishing vessel permitted under 
this part and not fishing under a NE multispecies DAS program or on a 
sector trip may possess unlimited haddock when fishing outside of the 
GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in Sec.  648.80(a)(1).
    (iv) Each person on a charter/party fishing vessel permitted under 
this part, fishing from May 1 through April 14, and not fishing under 
the NE multispecies DAS program or on a sector trip, may possess no 
more than 15 haddock per day in the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified 
in Sec.  648.80(a)(1); with the exception that each person on a 
charter/party vessel in possession of haddock caught outside the GOM 
Regulated Mesh Area specified in Sec.  648.80(a)(1) may transit this 
area with more than fifteen such haddock up to any possession limit 
under Sec.  648.89(c)(8)(iii), provided all bait and hooks are removed 
from fishing rods and any cod on board has been gutted and stored.
    (v) For purposes of counting fish, fillets will be converted to 
whole fish at the place of landing by dividing the number of fillets by 
two. If fish are filleted into a single (butterfly) fillet, such fillet 
shall be deemed to be from one whole fish.
    (vi) Haddock harvested in or from the EEZ by private recreational 
fishing boats or charter or party boats with more than one person 
aboard may be pooled in one or more containers. Compliance with the 
possession limit will be determined by dividing the number of fish on 
board by the number of persons on board. If there is a violation of the 
possession limit on board a vessel carrying more than one person, the 
violation shall be deemed to have been committed by the owner or 
operator of the vessel.
    (vii) Haddock must be stored so as to be readily available for 
inspection.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2016-04656 Filed 3-2-16; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P