Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast Groundfish Fishery; Framework Adjustment 55, 15003-15033 [2016-06186]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 54 / Monday, March 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS in the amount of the proposed fees. For other services, fees may be lower than current fees due to an overall reduced cost to provide those services. The Commission assesses nominal processing fees for services related to the filing of complaints and certain petitions; various public information services, such as records searches, document copying, and admissions to practice; and filing applications for special permission. Due to an increase in the processing cost of these services, the Commission is considering adjusting upward these administrative fees based on an assessment of fiscal year 2015 costs. Similarly, the Commission is considering adjusting upward the user fees associated with agreements filed under 46 CFR part 535 because of the increase in reviewing and analyzing the agreement filings. With respect to OTI license applications, the Commission offers lower fees for electronic filing of license applications through its FMC–18 automated filing system. The Commission first adopted lower fees in 2007 to promote the use of the electronic filing option by the public and to facilitate the transfer of OTI records from a paper-based format to a more convenient and accessible digital format.4 As intended, the majority of OTI applicants are using the automated system and paying the reduced fees. In fiscal year 2015, the total number of OTI applicants using the automated filing system at the reduced fees was 619, and the total number of OTI applicants filing their applications in paper format at the higher fees was 44. This program has been successful and the Commission is considering continuing to offer the lower fees for electronic filing at the current fee amounts.5 The Commission is considering decreasing fees for the Commission’s services to passenger vessel operators (PVOs) under 46 CFR part 540. These services include reviewing and processing the application for certification on performance; the supplemental application on performance for the addition or substitution of a vessel; the application for certification on casualty, and the 4 FMC Docket No. 07–08, Optional Method of Filing Form FMC–18, Application for a License as an Ocean Transportation Intermediary, 72 FR 44976, 44977 (Aug. 10, 2007). 5 While the automated filing system allows users to file their applications electronically, the automated system for processing the applications is still under development. The fees for the electronic filing of OTI applications will be addressed by the Commission when the entire FMC–18 automated system is complete and operational, and the costs of the system and its impact on the review of OTI applications can be quantified. VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:25 Mar 18, 2016 Jkt 238001 supplemental application on casualty for the addition or substitution of a vessel. For reviews of requests filed under FOIA and requests for revisions of clerical errors on service contracts, the Commission is considering lowering the fees due to the change in grade level of the professional staff that review FOIA requests. The Commission is considering repealing the user fee for obtaining a copy of the Regulated Persons Index given that it is currently available on the Commission’s Web site. The Commission is also considering repealing the current fee assessed for adding an interested party to a specific docket mailing list under § 503.50(d), and the fee assessed under § 535.401(h) for obtaining a Commission agreement database report. In addition, the Commission is considering repealing the user fee for filing petitions for rulemaking found in § 503.51(a). This would align the Commission with the practice of other agencies, the vast majority of which do not impose a fee to file petitions for rulemaking. Repealing this user fee would also enhance access to the rulemaking process, thereby making it fairer and more open. The Commission is also considering adding a new fee for processing requests for expedited review of an agreement under § 535.605, which allows filing parties to request that the 45-day waiting period be shortened to meet an operational urgency. The Commission believes that a fee for processing such requests is necessary to recoup the cost of publishing a separate Federal Register notice for expedited review. This new fee would be assessed in addition to the underlying agreement filing fee required by § 535.401(g). The Commission welcomes comments on its new fee calculation methodology and possible fee adjustments. By the Commission. Karen V. Gregory, Secretary. [FR Doc. 2016–06241 Filed 3–18–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6731–AA–P PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 15003 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 151211999–6209–01] RIN 0648–BF62 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast Groundfish Fishery; Framework Adjustment 55 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: This action proposes approval of, and regulations to implement, Framework Adjustment 55 to the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan. This rule would set 2016–2018 catch limits for all 20 groundfish stocks, adjust the groundfish at-sea monitoring program, and adopt several sector measures. This action is necessary to respond to updated scientific information and achieve the goals and objectives of the Fishery Management Plan. The proposed measures are intended to help prevent overfishing, rebuild overfished stocks, achieve optimum yield, and ensure that management measures are based on the best scientific information available. DATES: Comments must be received by April 5, 2016. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by NOAA–NMFS–2016–0019, by either of the following methods: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. 1. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20160019; 2. Click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon and complete the required fields; and 3. Enter or attach your comments. • 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 the Proposed Rule for Groundfish Framework Adjustment 55.’’ 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 us. All comments SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 15004 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 54 / Monday, March 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules 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. We will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Copies of Framework Adjustment 55, including the draft Environmental Assessment, the Regulatory Impact Review, and the Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis prepared by the New England Fishery Management Council in support of this action are available from Thomas A. Nies, Executive Director, New England Fishery Management Council, 50 Water Street, Mill 2, Newburyport, MA 01950. The supporting documents are also accessible via the Internet at: http:// www.nefmc.org/management-plans/ northeast-multispecies or http:// www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov/ sustainable/species/multispecies. Written comments regarding the burden-hour estimates or other aspects of the collection-of-information requirements contained in this rule should be submitted to the Regional Administrator at the address above and to the Office of Management and Budget by email at OIRA_Submission@ omb.eop.gov, or fax to (202) 395–7285. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Aja Szumylo, Fishery Policy Analyst, phone: 978–281–9195; email: Aja.Szumylo@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Table of Contents Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS 1. Summary of Proposed Measures 2. Status Determination Criteria 3. 2016 Fishing Year Shared U.S./Canada Quotas 4. Catch Limits for the 2016–2018 Fishing Years 5. Default Catch Limits for the 2019 Fishing Year 6. Groundfish At-Sea Monitoring Program Adjustments 7. Other Framework 55 Measures 8. Sector Measures for the 2016 Fishing Year 9. 2016 Fishing Year Annual Measures Under Regional Administrator Authority 10. Regulatory Corrections Under Regional Administrator Authority 1. Summary of Proposed Measures This action would implement the management measures in Framework Adjustment 55 to the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan (FMP). The Council deemed the proposed regulations consistent with, and necessary to implement, Framework VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:25 Mar 18, 2016 Jkt 238001 55, in a February 25, 2016, letter from Council Chairman E.F. ‘‘Terry’’ Stockwell to Regional Administrator John Bullard. Under the MagnusonStevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), we are required to publish proposed rules for comment after preliminarily determining whether they are consistent with applicable law. The Magnuson-Stevens Act permits us to approve, partially approve, or disapprove measures proposed by the Council based only on whether the measures are consistent with the fishery management plan, plan amendment, the Magnuson-Stevens Act and its National Standards, and other applicable law. Otherwise, we must defer to the Council’s policy choices. We are seeking comment on the Council’s proposed measures in Framework 55 and whether they are consistent with the Northeast Multispecies FMP and Amendment 16, the Magnuson-Stevens Act and its National Standards, and other applicable law. Through Framework 55, the Council proposes to: • Set 2016–2018 specifications for all 20 groundfish stocks; • Set fishing year 2016 shared U.S./ Canada quotas for Georges Bank (GB) yellowtail flounder and Eastern GB cod and haddock; • Modify the industry-funded sector at-sea monitoring program to make the program more cost-effective, while still ensuring that groundfish catch is reliably monitored; • Create a new sector; • Modify the sector approval process so that new sectors would not have to be approved through a Council framework or amendment process; • Adjust gear requirements to improve the enforceability of selective trawl gear; • Remove the general Gulf of Maine (GOM) cod prohibition for recreational anglers established in Framework 53 (other recreational measures will be implemented in a separate rulemaking); and • Allow sectors to transfer GB cod quota from the eastern U.S./Canada Area to the western area. This action also proposes a number of other measures that are not part of Framework 55, but that may be considered and implemented under our authority specified in the FMP. We are proposing these measures in conjunction with the Framework 55 proposed measures for expediency purposes, and because these measures are related to the catch limits proposed as part of Framework 55. The additional measures proposed in this action are listed below. PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 • Management measures necessary to implement sector operations plans—this action proposes one new sector regulatory exemption and annual catch entitlements for 19 sectors for the 2016 fishing year. • Management measures for the common pool fishery—this action proposes fishing year 2015 trip limits for the common pool fishery. • Other regulatory corrections—we propose several administrative revisions to the regulations to clarify their intent, correct references, remove unnecessary text, and make other minor edits. Each proposed correction is described in the section ‘‘10. Regulatory Corrections Under Regional Administrator Authority.’’ 2. Status Determination Criteria The Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) conducted operational stock assessment updates in 2015 for all 20 groundfish stocks. The final report for the operational assessment updates is available on the NEFSC Web site: http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/groundfish/ operational-assessments-2015/. This action proposes to revise status determination criteria, as necessary, and provide updated numerical estimates of these criteria, in order to incorporate the results of the 2015 stock assessments. Table 1 provides the updated numerical estimates of the status determination criteria, and Table 2 summarizes changes in stock status based on the 2015 assessment updates. Stock status did not change for 15 of the 20 stocks, worsened for 2 stocks (Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic (SNE/MA) yellowtail flounder and GB winter flounder), improved for 1 stock (Northern windowpane flounder), and became more uncertain for 2 stocks (GB cod and Atlantic halibut). As described in more detail below, status determination relative to reference points is no longer possible for GB cod and Atlantic halibut. However, the proposed changes do not affect the rebuilding plans for these stocks. The rebuilding plan for GB cod has an end date of 2026, and the rebuilding plan for halibut has an end date of 2056. Although numerical estimates of status determination criteria are currently not available, to ensure that rebuilding progress is made, catch limits will continue to be set at levels that the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) determines will prevent overfishing. Additionally, at whatever point the stock assessment for GB cod and halibut can provide biomass estimates, these estimates will be used to evaluate progress towards the rebuilding targets. E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 54 / Monday, March 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules 15005 TABLE 1—NUMERICAL ESTIMATES OF STATUS DETERMINATION CRITERIA Stock Biomass target (SSBMSY or Proxy (mt)) Maximum fishing mortality threshold (FMSY or Proxy) GB Cod ..................................................................................... M=0.2 Model ..................................................................... GOM Cod Mramp Model ....................................................................... GB Haddock ............................................................................. GOM Haddock .......................................................................... GB Yellowtail Flounder ............................................................. SNE/MA Yellowtail Flounder .................................................... CC/GOM Yellowtail Flounder ................................................... American Plaice ........................................................................ Witch Flounder ......................................................................... GB Winter Flounder .................................................................. GOM Winter Flounder .............................................................. SNE/MA Winter Flounder ......................................................... Acadian Redfish ....................................................................... White Hake ............................................................................... Pollock ...................................................................................... Northern Windowpane Flounder .............................................. Southern Windowpane Flounder .............................................. Ocean Pout ............................................................................... Atlantic Halibut .......................................................................... Atlantic Wolffish ........................................................................ NA .............................................. 40,187 ........................................ NA ........................................... 0.185 ....................................... NA 6,797 59,045 ........................................ 108,300 ...................................... 4,623 .......................................... NA .............................................. 1,959 .......................................... 5,259 .......................................... 13,107 ........................................ 9,473 .......................................... 6,700 .......................................... NA .............................................. 26,928 ........................................ 281,112 ...................................... 32,550 ........................................ 105,226 ...................................... 1.554 kg/tow .............................. 0.247 kg/tow .............................. 4.94 kg/tow ................................ NA .............................................. 1,663 .......................................... 0.187 ....................................... 0.39 ......................................... 0.468 ....................................... NA ........................................... 0.35 ......................................... 0.279 ....................................... 0.196 ....................................... 0.279 ....................................... 0.536 ....................................... 0.23 exploitation rate .............. 0.325 ....................................... 0.038 ....................................... 0.188 ....................................... 0.277 ....................................... 0.45 c/i .................................... 2.027 c/i .................................. 0.76 c/i .................................... NA ........................................... 0.243 ....................................... 10,043 24,900 1,083 NA 541 1,285 2,675 1,957 2,840 NA 7,831 10,466 5,422 19,678 700 500 3,754 NA 244 MSY (mt) SSB = Spawning Stock Biomass; MSY = Maximum Sustainable Yield; F = Fishing Mortality; M = Natural Mortality. Note. A brief explanation of the two assessment models for GOM cod is provided in the section ‘‘4. Catch Limits for the 2016–2018 Fishing Years.’’ TABLE 2—SUMMARY OF CHANGES TO STOCK STATUS Previous assessment 2015 Assessment Stock Overfishing? Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS GB Cod ............................................................................................................ GOM Cod ......................................................................................................... GB Haddock .................................................................................................... GOM Haddock ................................................................................................. GB Yellowtail Flounder .................................................................................... SNE/MA Yellowtail Flounder ............................................................................ CC/GOM Yellowtail Flounder ........................................................................... American Plaice ............................................................................................... Witch Flounder ................................................................................................. GB Winter Flounder ......................................................................................... GOM Winter Flounder ..................................................................................... SNE/MA Winter Flounder ................................................................................ Acadian Redfish ............................................................................................... White Hake ...................................................................................................... Pollock ............................................................................................................. Northern Windowpane Flounder ...................................................................... Southern Windowpane Flounder ..................................................................... Ocean Pout ...................................................................................................... Atlantic Halibut ................................................................................................. Atlantic Wolffish ............................................................................................... Georges Bank Cod Status Determination Criteria The 2015 assessment update for GB cod was an update of the existing 2012 benchmark assessment (available at: http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/saw/). The 2012 benchmark assessment determined that the stock is overfished, and that overfishing is occurring. The peer review panel for the 2015 assessment update concluded that the updated assessment model was not acceptable as a scientific basis for management VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:25 Mar 18, 2016 Jkt 238001 Overfished? Overfishing? Overfished? Yes Yes No No Unknown No Yes No Yes No No No No No No Yes No No No No Yes Yes No No Unknown No Yes No Yes No Unknown Yes No No No Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Unknown Yes Yes No Yes Yes No No No No No No No No No No Yes Yes No No Unknown Yes Yes No Yes Yes Unknown Yes No No No Yes No Yes Yes Yes advice. Several model performanceindicators suggested that the problems in the 2012 benchmark assessment are worse in the 2015 assessment update. There was a strong retrospective pattern in the benchmark assessment that worsened considerably in the assessment update. The retrospective pattern causes the model to overestimate stock biomass and underestimate fishing mortality. Neither assessment could definitively identify the cause of the retrospective pattern, PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 but both cited uncertainty in the estimates of catch and/or natural mortality assumptions used in the assessments. The 2012 benchmark assessment accounted for the retrospective pattern using a retrospective adjustment. However, when the retrospective adjustment was applied in the 2015 assessment update to generate short-term catch projections, the assessment model failed. Based on this, and other indications that the model is no longer a good fit for the E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 15006 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 54 / Monday, March 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules available data, the review panel recommended that an alternative approach should be used to provide management advice. Although the review panel concluded that GB cod catch advice should be based on an alternative approach, it recommended that the 2012 benchmark assessment is the best scientific information for stock status determination. All information available in the 2015 assessment update indicates that stock size has not increased, and that the condition of the stock is still poor. As a result, based on the 2015 assessment update, the stock remains overfished and overfishing is occurring. However, because the assessment model was not accepted during the 2015 assessment, there are no longer numerical estimates of the status determination criteria. Atlantic Halibut Status Determination Criteria This 2015 assessment update for Atlantic halibut is an operational update of the existing 2010 benchmark assessment and a 2012 assessment update (both available at: http:// www.nefsc.noaa.gov/saw/). The previous assessments determined that the stock was overfished but that overfishing was not occurring. Though the previous assessments were used to provide catch advice and make status determinations for this stock, the review panel for the 2015 assessment update saw a number of limitations in the model and concluded it was no longer an appropriate basis for management advice. All information available for the 2015 assessment indicates that the stock has not increased, and that the condition of the stock is still poor. However, the results of the assessment model indicated that the stock is near or above its unfished biomass and could support a directed fishery. The review panel noted that the model is very simplistic and uses a number of assumptions (e.g., no immigration or emigration from the stock) that are likely not true for the stock. As a result, the review panel recommended a benchmark assessment to develop a new Atlantic halibut stock assessment model and explore stock boundaries. In the interim, the peer review panel recommended that an alternative approach should be used to provide management advice. 3. 2016 Fishing Year U.S./Canada Quotas Management of Transboundary Georges Bank Stocks Eastern GB cod, eastern GB haddock, and GB yellowtail flounder are jointly managed with Canada under the United States/Canada Resource Sharing Understanding. Each year, the Transboundary Management Guidance Committee (TMGC), which is a government-industry committee made up of representatives from the U.S. and Canada, recommends a shared quota for each stock based on the most recent stock information and the TMGC’s harvest strategy. The TMGC’s harvest strategy for setting catch levels is to maintain a low to neutral risk (less than 50 percent) of exceeding the fishing mortality limit for each stock. The harvest strategy also specifies that when stock conditions are poor, fishing mortality should be further reduced to promote stock rebuilding. The shared quotas are allocated between the U.S. and Canada based on a formula that considers historical catch (10-percent weighting) and the current resource distribution (90-percent weighting). For GB yellowtail flounder, the SSC also recommends an acceptable biological catch (ABC) for the stock, which is typically used to inform the U.S. TMGC’s discussions with Canada for the annual shared quota. Although the stock is jointly managed with Canada, and the TMGC recommends annual shared quotas, the United States may not set catch limits that would exceed the SSC’s recommendation. The SSC does not recommend ABCs for eastern GB cod and haddock because they are management units of the total GB cod and haddock stocks. The SSC recommends overall ABCs for the total GB cod and haddock stocks. The shared U.S./Canada quota for eastern GB cod and haddock is accounted for in these overall ABCs, and must be consistent with the SSC’s recommendation for the total GB stocks. 2016 U.S./Canada Quotas The Transboundary Resources Assessment Committee (TRAC) conducted assessments for the three transboundary stocks in July 2015, and detailed summaries of these assessments can be found at: http:// www.nefsc.noaa.gov/saw/trac/. The TMGC met in September 2015 to recommend shared quotas for 2016 based on the updated assessments, and the Council adopted the TMGC’s recommendations in Framework 55. The proposed 2016 shared U.S./Canada quotas, and each country’s allocation, are listed in Table 3. TABLE 3—PROPOSED 2016 FISHING YEAR U.S./CANADA QUOTAS (MT, LIVE WEIGHT) AND PERCENT OF QUOTA ALLOCATED TO EACH COUNTRY Quota Eastern GB Cod Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Total Shared Quota ................................................................................................... U.S. Quota ................................................................................................................. Canada Quota ........................................................................................................... The Council’s proposed 2016 U.S. quota for eastern GB haddock would be a 15-percent reduction compared to 2015. This reduction is due to a reduction in the amount of the shared quota that is allocated to the U.S. The Council’s proposed U.S. quotas for eastern GB cod and GB yellowtail flounder would be an 11-percent and 9percent increase, respectively, compared to 2015, which are a result of an increase in the amounts allocated to VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:25 Mar 18, 2016 Jkt 238001 625 138 (22%) 487 (78%) the U.S. For a more detailed discussion of the TMGC’s 2016 catch advice, see the TMGC’s guidance document at: http:// www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov/ sustainable/species/multispecies/ index.html. Additionally, the proposed 2016 catch limit for GB yellowtail flounder is discussed in more detail in section ‘‘4. Catch Limits for the 2016– 2018 Fishing Years.’’ The regulations implementing the U.S./Canada Resource Sharing PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Eastern GB Haddock 37,000 15,170 (41%) 21,830 (59%) GB Yellowtail Flounder 354 269 (76%) 85 (24%) Understanding require that any overages of the U.S. quota for eastern GB cod, eastern GB haddock, or GB yellowtail flounder be deducted from the U.S. quota in the following fishing year. If catch information for the 2015 fishing year indicates that the U.S. fishery exceeded its quota for any of the shared stocks, we will reduce the respective U.S. quotas for the 2016 fishing year in a future management action, as close to May 1, 2016, as possible. If any fishery E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 15007 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 54 / Monday, March 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules that is allocated a portion of the U.S. quota exceeds its allocation and causes an overage of the overall U.S. quota, the overage reduction would only be applied to that fishery’s allocation in the following fishing year. This ensures that catch by one component of the fishery does not negatively affect another component of the fishery. 4. Catch Limits for the 2016–2018 Fishing Years Summary of the Proposed Catch Limits The catch limits proposed by the Council in this action can be found in Tables 4 through 11. A brief summary of how these catch limits were developed is provided below. More details on the proposed catch limits for each groundfish stock can be found in Appendix III to the Framework 55 Environmental Assessment (see ADDRESSES for information on how to get this document). Through Framework 55, the Council proposes to adopt catch limits for all 20 groundfish stocks for the 2016–2018 fishing years based on the 2015 operational assessment updates. In addition, the Council proposes to update the 2016 catch limits for GB cod and haddock based on the proposed U.S./Canada quotas for the portions of these stocks managed jointly with Canada. Catch limit increases are proposed for 10 stocks; however, for a number of stocks, the catch limits proposed in this action are substantially lower than the catch limits set for the 2015 fishing year (with decreases ranging from 14 to 67 percent). Table 4 details the percent change in the 2016 catch limit compared to the 2015 fishing year. Overfishing Limits and Acceptable Biological Catches The overfishing limit (OFL) serves as the maximum amount of fish that can be caught in a year without resulting in overfishing. The OFL for each stock is calculated using the estimated stock size and FMSY (i.e., the fishing mortality rate that, if applied over the long term, would result in maximum sustainable yield). The OFL does not account for scientific uncertainty, so the SSC typically recommends an ABC that is lower than the OFL in order to account for this uncertainty. Usually, the greater the amount of scientific uncertainty, the lower the ABC is set compared to the OFL. For GB cod, GB haddock, and GB yellowtail flounder, the total ABC is then reduced by the amount of the Canadian quota (see Table 3 for the Canadian share of these stocks). Additionally, although GB winter flounder and Atlantic halibut are not jointly managed with Canada, there is some Canadian catch of these stocks. Because the total ABC must account for all sources of fishing mortality, expected Canadian catch of GB winter flounder (87 mt) and Atlantic halibut (34 mt) is deducted from the total ABC. The U.S. ABC is the amount available to the U.S. fishery after accounting for Canadian catch. Additional details about the Council’s proposed ABCs for SNE/MA yellowtail flounder and witch flounder are provided below. TABLE 4—PROPOSED FISHING YEARS 2016–2018 OVERFISHING LIMITS AND ACCEPTABLE BIOLOGICAL CATCHES [mt, live weight] 2016 Stock OFL GB Cod ........................ GOM Cod ..................... GB Haddock ................. GOM Haddock ............. GB Yellowtail Flounder SNE/MA Yellowtail Flounder ................... CC/GOM Yellowtail Flounder ................... American Plaice ........... Witch Flounder ............. GB Winter Flounder ..... GOM Winter Flounder .. SNE/MA Winter Flounder ............................ Redfish ......................... White Hake .................. Pollock .......................... N. Windowpane Flounder ............................ S. Windowpane Flounder ............................ Ocean Pout .................. Atlantic Halibut ............. Atlantic Wolffish ........... U.S. ABC Percent change from 2015 2017 OFL 2018 U.S. ABC OFL U.S. ABC 1,665 667 160,385 4,717 Unknown 762 500 56,068 3,630 269 -62% 30% 130% 150% 8% 1,665 667 258,691 5,873 Unknown 1,249 500 48,398 4,534 354 1,665 667 358,077 6,218 ........................ 1,249 500 77,898 4,815 ........................ Unknown 267 -62% Unknown 267 Unknown 267 555 1,695 521 957 1,080 427 1,297 460 668 810 -22% -16% -41% -67% 59% 707 1,748 732 1,056 1,080 427 1,336 460 668 810 900 1,840 954 1,459 1,080 427 1,404 460 668 810 1,041 13,723 4,985 27,668 780 10,338 3,754 21,312 -53% -14% -20% 28% 1,021 14,665 4,816 32,004 780 11,050 3,624 21,312 1,587 15,260 4,733 34,745 780 11,501 3,560 21,312 243 182 21% 243 182 243 182 833 220 210 110 623 165 124 82 14% -30% 24% 17% 833 220 210 110 623 165 124 82 833 220 210 110 623 165 124 82 Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS SNE/MA = Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic; CC = Cape Cod; N = Northern; S = Southern. Note: An empty cell indicates no OFL/ABC is adopted for that year. These catch limits will be set in a future action. Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic Yellowtail Flounder The 2015 operational assessment results suggest a dramatic decline in condition of the SNE/MA yellowtail flounder stock compared to the 2012 VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:25 Mar 18, 2016 Jkt 238001 benchmark assessment (available at: http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/saw/). Based on the results of the 2012 assessment, we declared the stock rebuilt. However, the results of the 2015 operational assessments suggest that the stock is PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 overfished and that overfishing is occurring. There was also a major retrospective pattern in the 2015 operational assessment. In advance of the operational assessments, guidelines were defined for the assessments, one of E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 15008 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 54 / Monday, March 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS which required the application of an adjustment to the terminal year biomass in assessments with major retrospective patterns. However, for SNE/MA yellowtail flounder, the assessment peer review panel did not accept the retrospective adjustment because the adjustment led to failures in the shortterm catch projections, and because the model had no other apparent issues. The peer review panel ultimately accepted the assessment without the retrospective adjustment. The SSC recognized that the stock is in poor condition, and that a substantial reduction in catch is necessary. The SSC expressed concerned that the assessment for SNE/MA yellowtail flounder did not follow the established guidelines and discussed whether it should not have passed peer review. However, the SSC recognized that the assessment guidelines did not address cases where a retrospective adjustment resulted in model failure. Given this scientific uncertainty, the SSC concluded that the catch projections from the assessment should not be used as the sole basis for catch advice. The SSC ultimately recommended a 3-year constant ABC of 276 mt based on the average of the assessment catch projections and the estimate of 2015 catch, and recommended that the OFL be specified as unknown. In support of this recommendation, it noted that this compromise approach uses the assessment outcome as one bound for ABC advice, but does not adhere too strongly to those outcomes in light of the substantial uncertainties and procedural issues. The Council’s proposed ABC is a 62-percent decrease from the 2015 ABC. Witch Flounder The 2015 operational assessment update for witch flounder determined that the stock is overfished, and overfishing is occurring. The stock status is unchanged from the 2012 assessment update and 2008 benchmark assessment for this stock. Witch flounder is under a 7-year rebuilding plan that has a target end date of 2017. Based on the 2015 assessment update, the 2014 spawning stock biomass is at only at 22 percent of the biomass target, and the stock is not expected to reach the 2017 rebuilding target even in the absence of fishing mortality. An important source of uncertainty for this assessment is a major retrospective pattern, which causes the model to underestimate fishing mortality and overestimate stock biomass and recruitment; the assessment was unable to identify the cause of the retrospective pattern. VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:25 Mar 18, 2016 Jkt 238001 The SSC initially recommended a witch flounder OFL of 513 mt, and an ABC of 394 mt, based on 75 percent of FMSY. At its December 2015 meeting, the Council recommended the SSC’s initial witch flounder OFL and ABC recommendations. The 394-mt ABC represented a 50-percent decrease from the 2015 ABC. Industry members raised strong concern for the poor performance of the assessment model and that the reduction in the witch flounder ABC has the potential to severely limit the groundfish fishery in all areas (Southern New England, Gulf of Maine, and Georges Bank). In response to these concerns, the Council requested that the SSC reconsider the witch flounder ABC using additional information about incidental, non-target catch of the stock by groundfish vessels that was not available to the SSC when it made its initial ABC recommendation. The Council noted that it would be willing to accept the temporary risk associated with an ABC that equals the OFL of 513 mt. The SSC met on January 20, 2016, to review the biological and economic impacts of increasing the witch flounder ABC above its initial recommendation. The Groundfish Plan Development Team also updated the 2015 catch estimate for witch flounder, which slightly increased the OFL estimate to 521 mt, and the 75 percent of FMSY estimate to 399 mt. The SSC acknowledged that an ABC closer to the OFL would be expected to result in higher rates of fishing mortality, higher probabilities of overfishing, and lower resulting biomass in 2017 compared to its initial ABC recommendation. The SSC also cautioned that a history of overly optimistic biomass projections and the risk of overestimating the OFL likely mean higher biological risks with higher ABCs. Biomass projections out to 2018, however, suggest minimal biological difference between the initial ABC recommendation and the OFL because of the short timeframe and relatively small differences in the recommended catch amounts. In each instance, however, biomass is expected to increase from the level estimated in the 2015 assessment. An economic model of groundfish fishery suggested no overall increase in revenue with increases in the witch flounder ABC up to the OFL due to the likelihood that low quotas for other key stocks (GOM cod, GB cod, and SNE/MA yellowtail flounder) would be more restrictive. Industry members disagreed with the economic model results. They noted that the results are overly optimistic given current fishery PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 conditions, and that they do not reflect the impact of a reduced witch flounder ABC on individual sectors. The SSC noted that it is possible that a lower ABC for witch flounder could show economic benefits at the fisherywide level, but could still impose economic costs at the vessel or community level. After weighing the uncertainties in the biological and economic information, the SSC ultimately recommended that that the Council set the ABC no higher than 500 mt. The SSC’s discussion of its revised witch flounder ABC recommendation is available here: http:// s3.amazonaws.com/nefmc.org/1_SSC_ response_witchflounder_Jan2016_ FINAL.pdf. The Council discussed the SSC’s revised witch flounder ABC recommendation on January 27, 2016, and recommended a witch flounder ABC of 460 mt, which is the midpoint between the initial ABC recommendation of 399 mt and the OFL of 521 mt, for the 2016–2018 fishing years. This recommendation is 40 mt lower that the SSC’s upper limit for the ABC, and was recommended by the Council to reduce the risk of overfishing while providing some flexibility for groundfish vessels to prosecute other healthy groundfish stocks such as haddock, redfish, and pollock. An important factor in the revised ABC recommendation for witch flounder ABC is that a benchmark assessment for witch flounder will be conducted in fall of 2016, in time to respecify witch flounder catch limits for the 2017 fishing year. This new stock assessment information is also expected to provide additional information on the rebuilding potential for witch flounder and potential adjustments to the rebuilding plan. Thus, although the Council proposes a 3-year constant ABC, the catch limits adopted are expected to be in place for only 1 year. Annual Catch Limits Development of Annual Catch Limits The U.S. ABC for each stock is divided among the various fishery components to account for all sources of fishing mortality. First, an estimate of catch expected from state waters and the ‘‘other’’ sub-component (i.e., nongroundfish fisheries) is deducted from the U.S. ABC. These sub-components are not subject to specific catch controls by the FMP. As a result, the state waters and other sub-components are not allocations, and these components of the fishery are not subject to accountability measures if the catch limits are exceeded. After the state and E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 54 / Monday, March 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules other sub-components are deducted, the remaining portion of the U.S. ABC is distributed to the fishery components that receive an allocation for the stock. Components of the fishery that receive an allocation are subject to accountability measures if they exceed their respective catch limit during the fishing year. Once the U.S. ABC is divided, subannual catch limits (sub-ACLs) are set by reducing the amount of the ABC distributed to each component of the fishery to account for management uncertainty. Management uncertainty is the likelihood that management measures will result in a level of catch greater than expected. For each stock and fishery component, management uncertainty is estimated using the following criteria: Enforceability and precision of management measures, adequacy of catch monitoring, latent effort, and catch of groundfish in nongroundfish fisheries. The total ACL is the sum of all of the sub-ACLs and ACL sub-components, and is the catch limit for a particular year after accounting for both scientific and management uncertainty. Landings and discards from all fisheries (commercial and recreational groundfish fisheries, state waters, and non-groundfish fisheries) are counted against the ACL for each stock. Sector and Common Pool Allocations Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS For stocks allocated to sectors, the commercial groundfish sub-ACL is further divided into the non-sector (common pool) sub-ACL and the sector VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:25 Mar 18, 2016 Jkt 238001 sub-ACL, based on the total vessel enrollment in sectors and the cumulative Potential Sector Contributions (PSCs) associated with those sectors. The preliminary sector and common pool sub-ACLs proposed in this action are based on fishing year 2016 PSCs and fishing year 2015 sector rosters. Sector specific allocations for each stock can be found in this rule in section ‘‘8. Sector Administrative Measures.’’ Common Pool Total Allowable Catches The common pool sub-ACL for each stock (except for SNE/MA winter flounder, windowpane flounder, ocean pout, Atlantic wolffish, and Atlantic halibut) is further divided into trimester total allowable catches (TACs). The distribution of the common pool subACLs into trimesters was adopted in Amendment 16 to the FMP and is based on recent landing patterns. Once we project that 90 percent of the trimester TAC is caught for a stock, the trimester TAC area for that stock is closed for the remainder of the trimester to all common pool vessels fishing with gear capable of catching the pertinent stock. Any uncaught portion of the TAC in Trimester 1 or Trimester 2 will be carried forward to the next trimester. Overages of the Trimester 1 or Trimester 2 TAC will be deducted from the Trimester 3 TAC. Any overages of the total common pool sub-ACL will be deducted from the following fishing year’s common pool sub-ACL for that stock. Uncaught portions of the Trimester 3 TAC may not be carried PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 15009 over into the following fishing year. Table 8 summarizes the common pool trimester TACs proposed in this action. Incidental catch TACs are also specified for certain stocks of concern (i.e., stocks that are overfished or subject to overfishing) for common pool vessels fishing in the special management programs (i.e., special access programs (SAPs) and the Regular B Days-at-Sea (DAS) Program), in order to limit the catch of these stocks under each program. Tables 9 through 11 summarize the proposed Incidental Catch TACs for each stock and the distribution of these TACs to each special management program. Closed Area I Hook Gear Haddock Special Access Program Overall fishing effort by both common pool and sector vessels in the Closed Area I Hook Gear Haddock SAP is controlled by an overall TAC for GB haddock, which is the target species for this SAP. The maximum amount of GB haddock that may be caught in any fishing year is based on the amount allocated to this SAP for the 2004 fishing year (1,130 mt), and adjusted according to the growth or decline of the western GB haddock biomass in relationship to its size in 2004. Based on this formula, the Council’s proposed GB Haddock TAC for this SAP is 2,448 mt for the 2015 fishing year. Once this overall TAC is caught, the Closed Area I Hook Gear Haddock SAP will be closed to all groundfish vessels for the remainder of the fishing year. BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS 15010 VerDate Sep<11>2014 :o~. rroposeo eaten Limns tor me ~Ul(J ~1snmg Jkt 238001 PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4725 Total ACL Total G dfi h roun IS F.IS h ery . . Prelmunary Sector Preliminary C ammon p oo1 E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 State Waters b su component Other b su component 730 473 53,309 3,430 608 437 51,667 3,344 595 273 51,209 2,385 l3 8 458 31 23 27 561 26 99 10 561 26 GB Yellowtail Flounder SNE/MA Yellowtail Flounder 261 211 207 4 42 NA 3 255 182 145 37 39 5 29 ClC/GdOM Yellowtail F oun er American Plaice Witch Flounder GB Winter Flounder 409 341 325 16 43 26 I ,235 441 650 I, 183 370 590 I, 160 361 584 23 8 6 26 12 NA 26 59 60 776 639 604 35 122 16 749 585 514 71 70 94 9,837 3,572 20,374 9,526 3,459 17,817 9,471 3,434 17,705 55 25 112 103 38 1,279 207 75 1,279 N. Windowpane Flounder 177 66 na 66 2 109 S Windowpane Flounder Ocean Pout Atlantic Halibut Atlantic Wolffish 599 104 na 104 37 249 155 119 77 137 91 72 na na na 137 91 72 2 25 1 17 4 3 Stoek GB Cod GOM Cod GB Haddock GOM Haddock GOM Winter Flounder SNE/MA Winter Flounder Redfish White Hake Pollock . RecreatiOnal . Fishery rear (mt, nve weigntJ Midwater T raw1 F.IS h ery Scallop . Fishery Small-Mesh . . Fishenes 157 928 521 34 209 5 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 54 / Monday, March 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules 15:25 Mar 18, 2016 EP21MR16.006</GPH> 1a01e Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS VerDate Sep<11>2014 Jkt 238001 PO 00000 Frm 00022 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4725 E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 GBCod GOMCod GB Haddock GOMHaddock GB Yellowtail Flounder SNE/MA Yellowtail Flounder CC/GOM Yellowtail Flounder American Plaice Witch Flounder GB Winter Flounder GOMWinter Flounder SNE/MA Winter Flounder Redfish White Hake Pollock N. Windowpane Flounder S Windowpane Flounder Ocean Pout Atlantic Halibut Atlantic Wolffish State Waters subcomponent Other subcomponent 37 27 484 33 162 10 484 33 NA 4 5 29 16 43 26 1,195 361 584 23 8 6 27 12 NA 27 59 60 639 604 35 122 16 749 585 514 71 70 94 10,514 3,448 20,374 10,183 3,340 17,817 10,124 3,315 17,705 59 24 112 Ill 36 1,279 221 72 1,279 177 66 na 66 2 109 599 104 na 104 37 249 155 119 77 137 91 72 na na na 137 91 72 2 25 1 17 4 3 Total ACL Total Groundfish Fishery Preliminary Sector Preliminary Common Pool 1,197 473 46,017 4,285 608 437 44,599 4,177 975 273 44,204 2,979 22 8 395 39 343 278 273 5 55 255 187 145 37 39 409 341 325 1,272 441 650 I ,218 370 590 776 Recreational Fishery Midwater Trawl Fishery Scallop Fishery Small-Mesh Fisheries 157 1,160 450 42 209 7 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 54 / Monday, March 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules 15:25 Mar 18, 2016 Stock 15011 EP21MR16.007</GPH> Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS 15012 VerDate Sep<11>2014 Jkt 238001 PO 00000 Frm 00023 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4725 E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 GBCod GOMCod GB Haddock GOMHaddock GB Yellowtail Flounder SNE/MA Yellowtail Flounder CC/GOM Yellowtail Flounder American Plaice Witch Flounder GB Winter Flounder GOMWinter Flounder SNE/MA Winter Flounder Redfish White Hake Pollock N. Windowpane Flounder S Windowpane Flounder Ocean Pout Atlantic Halibut Atlantic Wolffish State Waters subcomponent Other subcomponent 37 27 779 35 162 10 779 35 5 29 16 43 26 1,256 361 584 24 8 6 28 12 NA 28 59 60 639 604 35 122 16 749 585 514 71 70 94 10,943 3,387 20,374 10,598 3,281 17,817 10,537 3,257 17,705 61 24 112 115 36 1,279 230 71 1,279 177 66 na 66 2 109 599 104 na 104 37 249 155 119 77 137 91 72 na na na 137 91 72 2 25 1 17 4 3 Total ACL Total Groundfish Fishery Preliminary Sector Preliminary Common Pool 1,197 473 74,065 4,550 608 437 71,783 4,436 975 273 71,147 3,163 22 8 636 39 255 179 142 37 409 341 325 1,337 441 650 1,280 370 590 776 Recreational Fishery Midwater Trawl Fishery Scallop Fishery 157 1,231 724 45 38 209 Small-Mesh Fisheries Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 54 / Monday, March 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules 15:25 Mar 18, 2016 EP21MR16.008</GPH> Stock Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Jkt 238001 2017 2018 Trimester Trimester Trimester Trimester Trimester Trimester Trimester Trimester Trimester PO 00000 1 2 3 1 2 Frm 00024 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 GB Cod 3.3 4.9 5.0 5.4 8.0 GOMCod 2.1 2.7 2.8 2.1 2.7 GB Haddock 123.5 151.0 183.0 106.6 130.3 GOMHaddock 8.4 8.1 14.6 10.5 10.1 GB Yellowtail Flounder 0.8 1.2 2.1 1.0 1.6 SNE/MA Yellowtail 8.2 14.4 16.4 8.1 14.3 Flounder CC/GOM Yellowtail 5.5 5.5 4.7 5.5 5.5 Flounder American Plaice 5.4 8.1 9.1 5.6 8.4 Witch Flounder 2.3 2.6 3.6 2.3 2.6 GB Winter Flounder 0.5 1.4 3.9 0.5 1.4 GOM Winter Flounder 12.8 13.2 8.7 12.8 13.2 Redfish 13.7 17.0 24.2 14.7 18.2 White Hake 9.5 7.8 7.8 9.2 7.5 Pollock 31.4 39.3 41.5 31.4 39.3 Note. An empty cell indicates that no catch limit has been set yet for these future management action. 3 8.2 2.8 158.0 18.2 2.8 1 5.4 2.1 171.6 11.1 2 8.0 2.7 209.8 10.7 3 8.2 2.8 254.3 19.3 16.2 8.0 14.1 16.0 4.7 5.5 5.5 4.7 9.3 3.6 3.9 8.7 25.9 7.5 41.5 5.9 2.3 0.5 12.8 15.3 9.0 31.4 8.8 2.6 1.4 13.2 19.0 7.4 39.3 9.8 3.6 3.9 8.7 26.9 7.4 41.5 stocks. These catch limits will be set in a Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 54 / Monday, March 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules 15:25 Mar 18, 2016 BILLING CODE 3510–22–C VerDate Sep<11>2014 2016 Stock 15013 EP21MR16.009</GPH> 15014 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 54 / Monday, March 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules TABLE 9—PROPOSED COMMON POOL INCIDENTAL CATCH TACS FOR THE 2016–2018 FISHING YEARS [mt, live weight] Percentage of common pool sub-ACL Stock GB Cod ............................................................................................................ GOM Cod ......................................................................................................... GB Yellowtail Flounder .................................................................................... CC/GOM Yellowtail Flounder .......................................................................... American Plaice ............................................................................................... Witch Flounder ................................................................................................. SNE/MA Winter Flounder ................................................................................ 2016 2 1 2 1 5 5 1 2017 0.26 0.08 0.08 0.16 1.13 0.42 0.71 2018 0.43 0.08 0.11 0.16 1.17 0.42 0.71 0.43 0.08 0.00 0.16 1.22 0.42 0.71 TABLE 10—PERCENTAGE OF INCIDENTAL CATCH TACS DISTRIBUTED TO EACH SPECIAL MANAGEMENT PROGRAM Regular B DAS Program Stock Closed Area I Hook Gear Haddock SAP Eastern US/ CA Haddock SAP 50 100 50 100 100 100 100 100 16 ........................ ........................ ........................ ........................ ........................ ........................ ........................ 34 ........................ 50 ........................ ........................ ........................ ........................ ........................ GB Cod ........................................................................................................................................ GOM Cod ..................................................................................................................................... GB Yellowtail Flounder ................................................................................................................ CC/GOM Yellowtail Flounder ...................................................................................................... American Plaice ........................................................................................................................... Witch Flounder ............................................................................................................................. SNE/MA Winter Flounder ............................................................................................................ White Hake .................................................................................................................................. TABLE 11—PROPOSED FISHING YEARS 2016–2018 INCIDENTAL CATCH TACS FOR EACH SPECIAL MANAGEMENT PROGRAM [mt, live weight] Regular B DAS Program Closed Area I Hook Gear Haddock SAP 2016 2016 Stock Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS GB Cod ............................................................................ GOM Cod ......................................................................... GB Yellowtail Flounder .................................................... CC/GOM Yellowtail Flounder ........................................... American Plaice ............................................................... Witch Flounder ................................................................. SNE/MA Winter Flounder ................................................. 5. Default Catch Limits for the 2019 Fishing Year Framework 53 established a mechanism for setting default catch limits in the event a future management action is delayed. If final catch limits have not been implemented by the start of a fishing year on May 1, then default catch limits are set at 35 percent of the previous year’s catch limit, effective until July 31 of that fishing year. If this value exceeds the Council’s recommendation for the upcoming fishing year, the default catch limits will be reduced to an amount equal to the VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:25 Mar 18, 2016 Jkt 238001 0.13 0.08 0.04 0.16 1.13 0.42 0.71 2017 0.22 0.08 0.05 0.16 1.17 0.42 0.71 2018 0.22 0.08 0.00 0.16 1.22 0.42 0.71 0.04 n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a Council’s recommendation for the upcoming fishing year. Because groundfish vessels are not able to fish if final catch limits have not been implemented, this measure was established to prevent disruption to the groundfish fishery. Additional description of the default catch limit mechanism is provided in the preamble to the Framework 53 final rule (80 FR 25110; May 1, 2015). The default catch limits for 2019 are summarized in Table 12. This rule announces default catch limits for the 2019 fishing year that will PO 00000 Frm 00025 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 2017 0.07 n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a 2018 0.07 n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a Eastern U.S./Canada Haddock SAP 2016 0.09 n/a 0.04 n/a n/a n/a n/a 2017 0.15 n/a 0.05 n/a n/a n/a n/a 2018 0.15 n/a 0.00 n/a n/a n/a n/a become effective May 1, 2019, until July 31, 2019, unless otherwise replaced by final specifications. The preliminary sector and common pool sub-ACLs in Table 12 are based on existing 2015 sector rosters, and will be adjusted based on rosters from the 2018 fishing year. In addition, prior to the start of the 2019 fishing year, we will evaluate whether any of the default catch limits announced in this rule exceed the Council’s recommendations for 2019. If necessary, we will announce adjustments prior to May 1, 2019. E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 15015 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 54 / Monday, March 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules TABLE 12—DEFAULT SPECIFICATIONS FOR THE 2019 FISHING YEAR [mt, live weight] U.S. ABC GB Cod .................................................... GOM Cod ................................................. GB Haddock ............................................. GOM Haddock ......................................... SNE/MA Yellowtail Flounder .................... CC/GOM Yellowtail Flounder ................... American Plaice ....................................... Witch Flounder ......................................... GB Winter Flounder ................................. GOM Winter Flounder .............................. SNE/MA Winter Flounder ........................ Redfish ..................................................... White Hake .............................................. Pollock ...................................................... N. Windowpane Flounder ........................ S. Windowpane Flounder ........................ Ocean Pout .............................................. Atlantic Halibut ......................................... Atlantic Wolffish ....................................... Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Stock 583 233 125,327 2,176 ........................ 315 644 334 511 378 555 5,341 1,657 12,161 85 292 77 74 39 6. Groundfish At-Sea Monitoring Program Adjustments In this action, the Council proposes adjustments to the groundfish sector atsea monitoring (ASM) program to make it more cost effective, while still ensuring the likelihood that discards for all groundfish stocks are monitored at a 30-percent coefficient of variation (CV). Due to changes in the 2015 revision to the Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology (SBRM) Amendment (80 FR 37182; June 30, 2015) that limit agency discretion in how Congressional funding is used to provide observer coverage, we are no longer able to cover industry’s portion of ASM costs. As a result, in early 2015, we announced that sectors would be responsible for covering ASM costs before the end of the 2015 calendar year. We had some funding in existing contracts to cover ASM costs for a portion of the 2015 fishing year, which delayed the operations of the industry-funded ASM program until March 2016. The Council was concerned that the cost burden of the ASM program to the fishing industry would reduce, and possibly eliminate, sector profitability for the remainder of the 2015 fishing year and in future fishing years, especially in light of recent reductions in catch limits for many key groundfish stocks. While the Council has expressed interest in exploring extensive changes to the ASM program in a future action (i.e., adjusting the 30-percent CV requirement), this action only includes minor modifications to the current ASM program. The following section describes the existing industry-funded VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:25 Mar 18, 2016 Jkt 238001 Groundfish sub-ACL Total ACL 437 175 27,264 1,685 93 149 491 161 264 284 273 4,025 1,268 7,459 64 218 58 55 29 465 204 5,007 1,552 66 119 448 129 233 224 205 3,709 1,168 6,236 64 218 58 55 29 ASM program, the current methods for deriving annual ASM coverage levels, and the Council’s proposed adjustments to the ASM program. Description of Existing Industry-Funded ASM Program Amendment 16 to the Northeast Multispecies FMP (75 FR 18261; April 9, 2010) established industry-funded atsea monitoring requirements within the sector management system to facilitate accurate monitoring of sector catch to ensure that sector allocations would not be exceeded. Amendment 16 stated that the level of ASM coverage should be less than 100 percent of sector trips, but meet the 30-percent CV standard specified in the SBRM Amendment. While Amendment 16 established a performance standard for coverage levels, it did not provide guidance on what level the CV standard should be applied—discard estimates at the stock level for all sectors, or for each combination of sector and stock. Framework 48 to the FMP (May 3, 2013; 78 FR 26118) clarified that the CV standard was intended to apply to discard estimates at the overall stock level for all sectors combined. Amendment 16 did not detail explicit goals for sector monitoring beyond accurate catch estimation, so the Council further articulated the goals and objectives of the sector monitoring program in Framework 48 in order to assist NMFS and the sectors in designing and evaluating proposals to satisfy monitoring requirements in sector operations plans. The ASM program goals and objectives PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Preliminary sector sub-ACL 455 127 4,963 1,107 52 113 439 126 231 212 180 3,688 1,160 6,196 na na na na na Preliminary common pool sub-ACL 10 4 44 14 14 5 9 3 2 12 25 21 8 39 64 218 58 55 29 Midwater trawl fishery ........................ ........................ 51 16 ........................ ........................ ........................ ........................ ........................ ........................ ........................ ........................ ........................ ........................ ........................ ........................ ........................ ........................ ........................ established in Framework 48 include that groundfish sector monitoring programs improve documentation of catch, determine total catch and effort of regulated species, and achieve a coverage level sufficient to minimize effects of potential monitoring bias to the extent possible, while enhancing fleet viability. Sector monitoring programs should also reduce the cost of monitoring, streamline data management and eliminate redundancy, explore options for cost-sharing, all while recognizing the opportunity costs of insufficient monitoring. Other goals and objectives include incentivizing reducing discards, providing additional data streams for stock assessments, reducing management and/or biological uncertainty, and enhancing the safety of the monitoring program. The complete list of goals and objectives for groundfish monitoring programs is specified in the NE multispecies regulations at § 648.11(l) and in Framework 48. For the 2010 and 2011 fishing years, there was no requirement for an industry-funded ASM program, and we were able to fund an ASM program with a target ASM coverage level of 30 percent of all trips. In addition, we provided 8-percent observer coverage through the Northeast Fishery Observer Program (NEFOP), which helps to support SBRM and stock assessments. This resulted in an overall target coverage level of 38 percent, between ASM and NEFOP, for the 2010 and 2011 fishing years. We were able to achieve a 38-percent ASM coverage level for the 2010 and 2011 fishing years because E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 15016 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 54 / Monday, March 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules Congressional funding was appropriated to support new catch share programs, which included the implementation of the sector program. Beginning in the 2012 fishing year, we have conducted an annual analysis to predict the total coverage that would likely reach a 30- percent CV for all stocks, and would reliably estimate overall catch by sector vessels. Industry has been required to pay for their costs of ASM coverage since the 2012 fishing year, while we continued to fund NEFOP coverage. However, we were able to fully fund the industry’s portion of ASM costs and NEFOP coverage during the 2012 to 2014 fishing years. Table 13 shows annual target coverage levels for the 2010 to 2015 fishing years. TABLE 13—HISTORIC TARGET COVERAGE LEVEL FOR AT-SEA MONITORING Fishing year 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 Total coverage level (%) ASM coverage level (%) 38 38 25 22 26 24 30 30 17 14 18 20 ........................................ ........................................ ........................................ ........................................ ........................................ ........................................ Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Historic Determination of ASM Coverage Level As described in further detail below, the target coverage level sufficient to reach a 30-percent CV for all stocks in the fishery has been set using the most recent full fishing year of data, based on the most sensitive stock, for at least 80 percent of the discarded pounds of all groundfish stocks. First, target coverage levels have been determined based on discard information from the most recent single full fishing year. For example, discard information was available only from the full 2013 fishing year to determine the target coverage level for the 2015 fishing year. In the initial years of the ASM program, multiple years of data were not available, and the most recent full fishing year was determined to be the best available information to predict target coverage levels. Second, because it is necessary to estimate discards with a 30-percent CV for each of the 20 groundfish stocks, we conservatively used the individual stock that needed the highest coverage level to reach a 30-percent CV in the most recent full fishing year to predict the annual target coverage level for the upcoming fishing year. For example, in 2013, of the 20 groundfish stocks, SNE/MA yellowtail flounder needed the highest coverage level to reach a 30-percent CV. Thus, the coverage level needed to reach a 30-percent CV for SNE/MA yellowtail flounder in 2013 was used to predict the ASM coverage level for the 2015 fishing year. Since the start of the ASM program in 2010, this approach has resulted in realized annual ASM coverage levels that far exceeded the 30-percent CV requirement for a vast majority of the 20 groundfish stocks. VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:25 Mar 18, 2016 NEFOP coverage level (%) Jkt 238001 Funding source 8 8 8 8 8 4 NMFS. NMFS. NMFS. NMFS. NMFS. NMFS and Sectors. Finally, in the first year that the sector program was implemented, we were able to fund ASM coverage at a level that reached this precision standard for 80 percent of the discarded pounds. In each subsequent year, because Congress appropriated funds to pay for industry’s ASM costs, we sought to maintain the same statistical quality achieved in the 2010 fishing year by ensuring that at least 80 percent of the discarded pounds of all groundfish stocks were estimated at a 30-percent CV or better. In some years, applying this standard has resulted in higher coverage levels than if the standard were not applied. For example, the application of this standard increased the required ASM coverage levels from 22 percent to 26 percent for the 2014 fishing year, and from 21 percent to 24 percent in the 2015 fishing year. Proposed ASM Program Adjustments Through this action, the Council proposes to modify the method used to set the target coverage level for the industry-funded ASM program based on 5 years of experience with ASM coverage operations for groundfish sectors and evaluation of the accumulated discard data. The Council proposed these adjustments to make the program more cost effective and smooth the fluctuations in the annual coverage level to provide additional stability for the fishing industry, while still providing coverage levels sufficient to meet the 30-percent CV requirement. The changes proposed in this action would remove ASM coverage for a certain subset of sector trips, use more years of discard information to predict ASM coverage levels, and base the target coverage level on the predictions for stocks that would be at a higher risk for an error in the discard estimate. We are PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 seeking comment on our preliminarily determination that the adjustments the Council proposed to the ASM program are consistent with the Northeast Multispecies FMP and Amendment 16, the Magnuson-Stevens Act and its National Standards, and other applicable law. None of the proposed adjustments remove our obligation under Amendment 16 and Framework 48 to ensure sufficient ASM coverage to achieve a 30-percent CV for all stocks. The proposed changes would result in a target coverage level of 14 percent for the 2016 fishing year, including SBRM coverage paid in full by NEFOP. Assuming NEFOP covers 4 percent of trips as it has in recent years, this would result in sectors paying for ASM on approximately 10 percent of their vessels’ trips in 2016. Though the proposed changes result in a reduced target ASM coverage level for the 2016 fishing year compared to previous years, there is no guarantee that the changes would result in reduced target coverage levels in future fishing years (i.e., using the same methods proposed here could result in higher coverage in 2017 or 2018 than in recent years). We are only able to determine whether the target coverage level reaches the 30-percent CV for all stocks in hindsight, after a fishing year is over. Thus, while a target ASM coverage level is expected to generate a 30-percent CV on discard estimates, there is no guarantee that the required coverage level will be met or result in a 30percent CV across all stocks due to changes in fishing effort and observed fishing activity that may happen in a given fishing year. However, during the 2010–2014 fishing years, the target coverage level was in excess of the coverage level that would have been E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 15017 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 54 / Monday, March 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules necessary to reach at least a 30-percent CV for almost every stock. We expect the 2016 target coverage level to achieve results consistent with prior years based on applying the proposed 2016 target coverage level to the 2010–2014 fishing year data. For example, over the five years from 2010– 2014, coverage levels of 14 percent would have achieved a 30-percent CV or better for 95 out of the 100 monitored stocks (i.e., 20 stocks x 5 years). For two of the years, (2010 and 2012), all of the stocks would have achieved a 30percent CV or better. The lowest 30percent CV achievement overall would have occurred in fishing year 2014, when 17 of the 20 groundfish stocks would have met the 30-percent CV under the 2016 target coverage level. The three stocks that would not have achieved the 30-percent CV included redfish, GOM winter flounder, and SNE/ MA yellowtail flounder. Our application of the 2016 target coverage rate to 2010– 2014 data, however, showed that stocks not achieving the 30-percent CV typically did not recur. Moreover, the only stock that would not have achieved a 30-percent CV for more than one of the five years (2 times) was SNE/MA yellowtail flounder. However, the proposed 14 percent coverage rate is projected to achieve the necessary 30percent CV requirement for SNE/MA yellowtail flounder in 2016. Were a higher coverage level necessary to achieve the 30-percent CV requirement for this stock, coverage would be set equal to that level. Further, the risk of not achieving the required CV level for these stocks is mitigated by a number of factors. For example, for SNE/MA yellowtail flounder, a more sizeable portion of its ACL has been caught over the last three years (58–70 percent), but less than 10 percent of total catch was made up of discards. Redfish and GOM winter flounder were underutilized over the last three fishing years (less than 50 percent of the ACL caught) and less than 10 percent of their total catch was made up of discards. Thus, even in the unexpected event of not achieving a CV of 30 percent, the risk to these stocks of erring in the discard estimates is very low. Table 14 describes the combined impact of the proposed adjustments, applied sequentially in Steps 1 through 4. Table 14 also lists the individual stock that would have needed the highest coverage level to reach a 30percent CV and, in turn, be used to set the target ASM coverage level. The text that follows discusses the potential effects of each alternative on the target ASM coverage level for 2016 if each alternative were adopted in isolation. TABLE 14—PROPOSED ASM PROGRAM ADJUSTMENTS AND RESULTING 2016 ASM COVERAGE LEVEL Total 2016 coverage level (NEFOP + ASM) (%) Proposed action No Action ................................................................................................................................................. 1. Remove standard that 80% of discarded pounds be monitored at a 30% CV (administrative) ........ 2. Remove ASM coverage requirement for extra-large mesh gillnet trips ............................................. 3. Use multiple years of information to determine ASM coverage levels ............................................... 4. Filter the application of the 30% CV standard based on stock status and utilization ........................ Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Removal of Standard That 80 Percent of Discarded Pounds Be Monitored at a 30Percent CV As discussed above, from 2012 to 2015, we set coverage levels to ensure that at least 80 percent of the discarded pounds of all groundfish stocks were estimated at a 30-percent CV or better to maintain the same statistical quality achieved in the 2010 fishing year. We applied this standard during years when Congress appropriated funds to pay for industry costs for the ASM program (2010 and 2011), and in other years when we were able to fund industry’s costs for ASM (2012–2014, and part of 2015). In some years, applying this standard resulted in higher coverage levels than if the standard were not applied. However, this additional criterion was not necessary to satisfy the CV requirement of the ASM program or to accurately monitor sector catches, and was not required by the FMP. This action proposes to clarify the Council’s intent that target ASM coverage levels for sectors should be set using only realized stock-level CVs, and should not be set using the additional VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:25 Mar 18, 2016 Jkt 238001 administrative standard of monitoring 80 percent of discard pounds at a 30percent CV or better. If implemented alone, removing this administrative standard would result in a target 2016 ASM coverage level of 37 percent. Removing ASM Coverage Requirement for Extra-Large Mesh Gillnet Trips Currently, sector monitoring requirements apply to any trip where groundfish catch counts against a sector’s annual catch entitlement (ACE). This Council action proposes to remove the ASM coverage requirement for sector trips using gillnets with extralarge mesh (10 inches (25.4 cm) or greater) in the SNE/MA and Inshore GB Broad Stock Areas. A majority of catch on these trips is of non-groundfish stocks such as skates, monkfish, and dogfish, with minimal or no groundfish catch. As a result, applying the same level of coverage on these trips as targeted groundfish trips does not contribute to improving the overall precision and accuracy of sector discard estimates, and would not be a sufficient use of the limited resources for the ASM program. These trips would still be PO 00000 Frm 00028 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 41 37 37 17 14 Driving stock Redfish. Redfish. Redfish. Redfish. SNE/MA yellowtail flounder. subject to SBRM coverage through NEFOP, and monitoring coverage levels would be consistent with non-sector trips that target non-groundfish species. If implemented alone, this alternative would result in a target ASM coverage level of 37 percent for the 2016 fishing year. This measure is intended to reduce ASM costs to sectors with members that take this type of extra-large mesh gillnet trip. The benefit of reducing ASM coverage for these trips is that resources would be diverted to monitor trips that catch more groundfish, which could improve discard estimates for directed groundfish trips. All other sector trips would still be required to meet the CV standard at a minimum. Changes in stock size or fishing behavior on these trips could change the amount of groundfish bycatch in future fishing years. However, data from 2012 to 2014 shows that groundfish catch has represented less than 5 percent of total catch on a majority of trips, and large changes are not expected. We will continue to evaluate this measure in the future to make sure bycatch levels remain low. E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 15018 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 54 / Monday, March 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Because this subset of trips would have a different coverage level than other sector trips in the SNE/MA and Inshore GB Broad Stock Areas, we would create separate discard strata for each stock caught on extra-large gillnet trips in order to ensure the different coverage levels do not bias discard estimates. At this time, no adjustments to the current notification procedures appear necessary to implement this measure. Sector vessels already declare gear type and Broad Stock Area to be fished in the Pre-Trip Notification System, which would allow us to easily identify trips that are exempt from ASM coverage. To minimize the possibility that this measure would be used to avoid ASM coverage, only vessels declared into the SNE/MA and/or Inshore GB Broad Stock Areas using extra-large mesh gillnets would be exempt from the ASM coverage requirement. Vessels using extra-large mesh gillnet declaring into the GOM or Offshore GB Broad Stock Areas would not be exempt from the ASM coverage requirement. In addition, a vessel is already prohibited from changing its fishing plan for a trip once a waiver from coverage has been issued. Framework 48 implemented a similar measure exempting the subset of sector trips declared into the SNE/MA Broad Stock Area on a monkfish DAS and using extra-large mesh gillnets from the standard ASM coverage level. The Framework 48 measure gave us the authority to specify some lower coverage level for these trips on an annual basis when determining coverage rates for all other sector trips. Since this measure was implemented at the start of the 2013 fishing year, the ASM coverage level for these trips has been set to zero, and these trips have only been subject to NEFOP coverage. The measure proposed in this action would supersede the Framework 48 measure because it would entirely remove the ASM coverage requirement from these trips. Using Multiple Years of Data to Determine ASM Total Coverage Levels Currently, data from the most recent fishing year are used to predict the target ASM coverage level for the upcoming fishing year. For example, data from the 2013 groundfish fishing year were used to set the target ASM coverage level for the 2015 fishing year. When a single year of data is used to determine the target coverage level, the entire coverage level is driven by the variability in discards in a single stock. This variability is primarily due to interannual changes in management measures and fishing activity. Though VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:25 Mar 18, 2016 Jkt 238001 the target ASM coverage level has ranged from 22 to 26 percent for the last four fishing years, there is the potential that variability could result in large fluctuations of target ASM coverage levels in the future, and result in target coverage levels that are well above the level necessary to meet the 30-percent CV for most stocks. For example, available analyses indicates that, using the status quo methodology, the ASM coverage level would be 41 percent in 2016 compared to the current 2015 rate of 24 percent. Based on a 2016 target coverage level of 41 percent, the coverage level that would have been necessary to meet a 30-percent CV in 2014 would be exceeded by 15–39 percent for 19 of the 20 stocks. This Council action proposes using information from the most recent three full fishing years to predict target ASM coverage levels for the upcoming fishing year. For example, data from the 2012 to 2014 fishing years would be used to predict the target ASM coverage level for the 2016 fishing year. Now that five full years of discard data are available, using multiple years of data is expected to smooth inter-annual fluctuations in the level of coverage needed to meet a 30-percent CV that might result from changes to fishing activity and management measures. This measure is intended to make the annual determination of the target ASM coverage level more stable. For example, the percent coverage necessary to reach a 30-percent CV for redfish varied widely for the last 3 years (5 percent in 2012; 10 percent in 2013, and 37 percent in 2014). With this measure, the Council intended to make the annual determination of the target ASM coverage level more stable. Additional stability in predicting the annual target ASM coverage level is beneficial in the context of the industry-funded ASM program. Wide inter-annual fluctuations in the necessary coverage level would make it difficult for groundfish vessels to plan for the costs of monitoring, and for ASM service providers to adjust staffing to meet variable demands for monitoring coverage. The ability for ASM service providers to successfully meet staffing needs, including maintaining the appropriate staff numbers and retaining quality monitors, increases the likelihood of achieving the target coverage level each year. If implemented alone, using multiple years of data would result in a target 2016 ASM coverage level of 17 percent. Filtering the Application of the 30Percent CV Standard This Council action proposes to filter the application of the 30-percent CV PO 00000 Frm 00029 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 standard consistent with existing goals for the ASM program. Under this alternative, stocks that meet all of the following criteria would not be used as the predictor for the annual target ASM coverage level for all stocks: (1) Not overfished; (2) Overfishing is not occurring; (3) Not fully utilized (less than 75 percent of sector sub-ACL harvested); and (4) Discards are less than 10 percent of total catch. This proposed measure does not eliminate the 30-percent CV standard. Rather, this measure is intended to reflect the Council’s policy that target ASM coverage level should be based on stocks that are overfished, are subject to overfishing, or are more fully utilized— stocks for which it is critical to attempt to fully account for past variability in discard estimates. Because stocks that meet all four of the filtering criteria are healthy and not fully utilized, there is a lower risk in erring in the discard estimate. Additionally, using these stocks to predict the target coverage could lead to coverage levels that are not necessary to accurately monitor sector catch. For the 2016 fishing year, preliminary analysis shows that, under the status quo methodology for determining the ASM target coverage level, redfish would drive the target coverage level at 37 percent. However, redfish is a healthy stock, and current biomass is well above the biomass threshold. Redfish also meets all of the filtering criteria—the stock is currently not overfished, overfishing is not occurring, only 45 percent of the sector sub-ACL was harvested in 2014, and only 3 percent of total catch was made up of discards. Also, because of the high yearto-year variability in the coverage necessary to achieve the 30-percent CV standard for redfish, we expect the target coverage level of 14 percent to meet the objective. If implemented alone, filtering the application of the 30-percent CV standard would eliminate redfish as a driver for the target ASM 2016 coverage level, and GOM winter flounder would drive coverage at 26 percent. If implemented in combination with the other alternatives, SNE/MA yellowtail flounder would drive the coverage level at 14 percent. Clarification of Groundfish Monitoring Goals and Objectives As described earlier in this section, Framework Adjustment 48 revised and clarified the goals and objectives of the sector monitoring program to include, among other things, improving the documentation of catch, reducing the cost of monitoring, and providing E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 54 / Monday, March 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules additional data streams for stock assessments. However, Framework 48 did not prioritize these goals and objectives. This Council action clarifies that the primary goal of the sector ASM program is to verify area fished, catch and discards by species, and by gear type, in a manner that would reduce the cost of monitoring. This proposed adjustment to the program goals would not affect the target ASM coverage levels. 7. Other Framework 55 Measures The Council also proposed a number of additional minor adjustments to the FMP as part of this action. Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Formation of Sustainable Harvest Sector II The Council proposes to approve the formation of a new sector, Sustainable Harvest Sector II. We must still review the sector operations plan submitted by Sustainable Harvest Sector II to ensure that it contains the required provisions for operation, and that a sufficient analysis is completed under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). We propose to approve Sustainable Harvest Sector II, but intend to make our final determination concerning what sectors are approved and allocated ACE for operations for the 2016 fishing year as part of this rulemaking. Modification of the Sector Approval Process This Council action proposes to modify to the sector approval process so that new sectors would not have to be approved through an FMP amendment or framework adjustment. Under the current process, new sectors must submit operations plans to the Council no less than 1 year prior to the date that it plans to begin operations (i.e, by May 1, 2016, if the sector intends to operate on May 1, 2017). The Council must decide whether to approve the formation of a new sector through an amendment or framework adjustment. NMFS then reviews the operations plan submitted by the new sector to ensure that it contains the required provisions for operation and sufficient NEPA analysis before making final determinations about the formation of the new sector consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Under the proposed process, new sectors would submit operations plans directly to NMFS no later than September 1 of the fishing year prior to the fishing year it intends to begin operations. For example, if a new sector wished to operate starting on May 1, 2017, it would need to submit its VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:25 Mar 18, 2016 Jkt 238001 operations plan to NMFS no later than September 1, 2016. NMFS would notify the Council in writing of its intent to consider approving new sectors. NMFS would present the submitted sector operations plans and any supporting analysis for the new sector at a Groundfish Committee meeting and a Council meeting. After its review, the Council would submit comments to NMFS in writing and indicate whether it endorses the formation of the new sector. NMFS would then make a final determination about new sector consistent with the APA. NMFS would not initiate a rulemaking to make final determinations on the formation of the new sector without the Council’s endorsement. This modified process would shorten the timeline for, and increase the flexibility of, the sector approval process, while maintaining opportunities for Council approval and public involvement in the approval process. No other aspects of the sector formation process, including the content of sector operations plan submissions, would change as a result of this proposed measure. Modification to the Definition of the Haddock Separator Trawl This Council action proposes to modify the definition of the haddock separator trawl to improve the enforceability of this selective trawl gear. In many haddock separator trawls, the separator panel is made with the same mesh color as the net, which makes it difficult for enforcement to identify that this gear is properly configured during vessel inspections. This measure would require the separator panel to be a contrasting color to the portions of the net that it separates. Requiring that the separator panel be a contrasting color to the rest of the net would make the separator panel highly visible, which would improve identification of the panel during boarding, and potentially allow for faster inspections and more effective enforcement. This proposed modification does not affect rope or Ruhle trawls. If we approve this measure, we intend to delay the effective date of the requirement by 6 months to allow affected fishermen time to replace their separator panels with contrasting netting. Removal of GOM Cod Recreational Possession Limit This Council action proposes to remove the prohibition on recreational possession of GOM cod that was established as part of the protection measures implemented for this stock in Framework Adjustment 53. We PO 00000 Frm 00030 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 15019 currently set recreational management measures in consultation with the Council, and have the authority to modify bag limits, size limits, and seasons. The Framework 53 prohibition on the recreational possession of GOM cod was implemented as a permanent provision in the FMP. In removing the permanent prohibition on recreational possession of GOM cod, this proposed measure returns the authority to set recreational management measures for GOM cod to us. We will implement additional recreational measures to help ensure the recreational fishery does not exceed the GOM cod allocation in a separate rulemaking. Distribution of Eastern/Western GB Cod Sector Allocations Eastern GB cod is a sub-unit of the total GB cod stock, and the total ABC for GB cod includes the shared U.S./Canada quota for eastern GB cod. A portion of a sector’s GB cod allocation may only be caught in the Eastern U.S./Canada Area, and the remaining portion of its total GB cod allocation can be caught only in the Western U.S./Canada Area. This restriction was adopted by Amendment 16 in order to cap the amount of GB cod that a sector could catch in the eastern U.S./Canada Area and help prevent the United States from exceeding its eastern GB cod quota. However, limiting the amount of cod that could be caught in the western U.S./Canada Area could unnecessarily reduce flexibility, and potentially limit fishing in the area, even if a sector has not caught its entire GB cod allocation. Ultimately, this could prevent the fishery from achieving optimum yield for the GB cod stock. To address this concern, the Council proposes in this to allow sectors to ‘‘convert’’ their eastern GB cod allocation into western GB cod allocation. This measure would follow a process similar to the one used for processing sector trades, and is similar to a measure already approved for GB haddock in Framework Adjustment 51 (77 FR 22421; April 22, 2014). Sectors could convert eastern GB cod allocation into western GB cod allocation at any time during the fishing year, and up to 2 weeks into the following fishing year to cover any overage during the previous fishing year. A sector’s proposed allocation conversion would be referred to, and approved by, NMFS based on general issues, such as whether the sector is complying with reporting or other administrative requirements, including weekly sector reports, or member vessel compliance with Vessel Trip Reporting requirements. Based on these factors, we E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 15020 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 54 / Monday, March 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules would notify the sector if the conversion is approved or disapproved. As with GB haddock transfers, we propose to use member vessel compliance with Vessel Trip Reporting requirements as the basis for approving, or disapproving, a reallocation of Eastern GB quota to the Western U.S./Canada Area. This is identical to the process used for reviewing, and approving, quota transfer requests between sectors. The responsibility for ensuring that sufficient allocation is available to cover the conversion is the responsibility of the sector. This measure would also extend to state-operated permit banks. Any conversion of eastern GB cod allocation into western GB cod allocation may be made only within a sector, or permit bank, and not between sectors or permit banks. In addition, once a portion of eastern GB cod allocation has been converted to western GB cod allocation, that portion of allocation remains western GB cod for the remainder of the fishing year. Western GB cod allocation may not be converted to eastern GB cod allocation. This proposed measure does not change the requirement that sector vessels may only catch their eastern GB cod allocation in the Eastern U.S./Canada Area, and may only catch the remainder of their GB cod allocation in the Western U.S./Canada Area. This measure would provide additional flexibility for sectors to harvest their GB cod allocations. The total catch limit for GB cod includes the U.S. quota for eastern GB cod, so this proposed measure would not jeopardize the total ACL for GB cod, or the U.S. quota for the eastern portion of the stock. A sector would also still be required to stop fishing in the Eastern U.S./Canada Area once its entire eastern GB cod allocation was caught, or in the Western U.S./Canada Area once its western GB cod allocation was caught, or at least until it leased in additional quota. This ensures sufficient accountability for sector catch that will help prevent overages of any GB cod catch limit. Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS 8. Sector Measures for the 2016 Fishing Year This action also proposes measures necessary to implement sector operations plan, including sector regulatory exemptions and annual catch entitlements, for 19 sectors for the 2016 fishing year. In past years, sector operations measures have been covered in a separate, concurrent rulemaking, but are included in this rulemaking for efficiency. VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:25 Mar 18, 2016 Jkt 238001 Sector Operations Plans and Contracts A total of 19 sectors would operate in the 2016 fishing year, including: • Seventeen sectors that had operations plans that had been previously approved for the 2016 fishing year (see the Final Rule for 2015 and 2016 Sector Operations Plans and 2015 Contracts and Allocation of Northeast Multispecies Annual Catch Entitlements; 80 FR 25143; May 1, 2015); • Sustainable Harvest Sector II, discussed in section ‘‘7. Other Framework 55 Measures,’’ which is proposed for formation and approval as part of Framework 55; and • Northeast Fishery Sector 12, which has not operated since 2013, but submitted an operations plan for approval for the 2016 fishing year. We have made a preliminary determination that the two new proposed sector operations plans and contracts for Sustainable Harvest Sector II and Northeast Fisheries Sector 12 are consistent with the FMP’s goals and objectives and meet the applicable sector requirements. We request comments on the proposed operations plans and the accompanying environmental assessment (EA) for these two sectors. Copies of the operations plans and contracts, and the EA, are available at: http://www.regulations.gov and from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). Sector Allocations Regional Administrator approval is required for sectors to receive ACEs for specific groundfish stocks. The ACE allocations are a portion of a stock’s ACL available to the sector based on the collective fishing history of the sector’s members. Sectors are allocated ACE for groundfish stocks for which its members have landings history, with the exception of Atlantic halibut, ocean pout, windowpane flounder, and Atlantic wolffish. These stocks are not allocated to sectors. Each year, we use sector enrollment information from the previous fishing year to estimate ACE allocations for the upcoming fishing year. Due to the shift to industry-funded ASM, sector enrollment could decrease for the 2016 fishing year if current sector members decide to fish in the common pool to avoid the financial burden of the ASM requirement. Despite some uncertainty in 2016 enrollment levels, we expect that 2015 enrollment still provides the best proxy for fishing year 2016 sector membership, and used 2015 enrollment to calculate the fishing year 2016 projected allocations in this proposed rule. PO 00000 Frm 00031 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 All permits enrolled in a sector, and the vessels associated with those permits, have until April 30, 2016, to withdraw from a sector and fish in the common pool for fishing year 2016. In addition to the enrollment delay, all permits that change ownership after December 1, 2015, retain the ability to join a sector through April 30, 2016. We will publish final sector ACEs and common pool sub-ACLs, based upon final rosters, as soon as possible after the start of the 2016 fishing year, and again after the start of the 2017 and 2018 fishing years. The sector allocations proposed in this rule are based on the fishing year 2016 specifications described above under ‘‘3. Catch Limits for the 2016– 2018 Fishing Years.’’ We calculate the sector’s allocation for each stock by summing its members’ potential sector contributions (PSC) for a stock, as shown in Table 15. The information presented in Table 15 is the total percentage of each commercial sub-ACL each sector would receive for the 2016 fishing year, based on their 2015 fishing year rosters. Tables 16 and 17 show the allocations each sector would receive for 2016 fishing year, based on their 2015 fishing year rosters. At the start of the fishing year, after sector enrollment is finalized, we provide the final allocations, to the nearest pound, to the individual sectors, and we use those final allocations to monitor sector catch. While the common pool does not receive a specific allocation, the common pool sub-ACLs have been included in each of these tables for comparison. We do not assign an individual permit separate PSCs for the Eastern GB cod or Eastern GB haddock; instead, we assign a permit a PSC for the GB cod stock and GB haddock stock. Each sector’s GB cod and GB haddock allocations are then divided into an Eastern ACE and a Western ACE, based on each sector’s percentage of the GB cod and GB haddock ACLs. For example, if a sector is allocated 4 percent of the GB cod ACL and 6 percent of the GB haddock ACL, the sector is allocated 4 percent of the commercial Eastern U.S./Canada Area GB cod TAC and 6 percent of the commercial Eastern U.S./Canada Area GB haddock TAC as its Eastern GB cod and haddock ACEs. These amounts are then subtracted from the sector’s overall GB cod and haddock allocations to determine its Western GB cod and haddock ACEs. Framework 51 implemented a mechanism that allows sectors to ‘‘convert’’ their Eastern GB haddock allocation into Western GB haddock allocation (79 FR 22421; April 22, 2014) and fish that converted ACE E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 54 / Monday, March 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS in Western GB. This rule proposes a similar measure for GB cod under ‘‘6. Other Framework 55 Measures.’’ At the start of the 2016 fishing year, we will withhold 20 percent of each sector’s 2016 fishing year allocation until we finalize fishing year 2015 catch VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:25 Mar 18, 2016 Jkt 238001 information. If the default catch limits for the 2016 fishing year are implemented, groundfish sectors would not be subject to the 20-percent holdback. We will allow sectors to transfer fishing year 2015 ACE for 2 weeks of the fishing year following the PO 00000 Frm 00032 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 15021 completion of year-end catch accounting to reduce or eliminate any 2015 fishing year overages. If necessary, we will reduce any sector’s 2016 fishing year allocation to account for a remaining overage in 2015 fishing year. BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS 15022 VerDate Sep<11>2014 Jkt 238001 ~ z "' "' 8 0 ~ "' ~ 8 "' "' 0 ~ .,. " "' "' 0 i "' "' "' " ~ = !;:"!;" 0 ,.-g 0:: !;: <( • ~~ "' . !;:"!;" 0-g "~ 0-" u~ .. a: -~ ~ ~ ~ 0 0:: ~ ~~ ~~ ~ § 3: § "'"" "~ "'0 00:: "' :§~ ~ >=-1: <( = .. 5 € &! " ~ ffiu: ~ 0 ~ 27.694499 2.60411697 5.755360518 1.873582559 0 014065303 0.36965025 3.036066503 0978592 2.143369699 0.028412693 13.46364714 2.334028199 2.741955621 5 700232461 7.406486911 lvla1ne Coast Commumly Sector (MCCS) 0 209544172 4600244934 0 038770112 2558599027 0 003515134 0659621953 1050175506 7 551057401 5059623761 0006783136 1963756861 0192030108 2501806185 4394764742 3800918739 0.13356367 1151604693 0.044328832 1.122501791 0 013776402 0.031768648 0.317513209 1.16380585 0.726777657 0.000217133 0 425311313 0.017880187 0.82178406 1.65253695 1.693531383 0.180040577 0901939603 0.137722621 0.39231453 0 835596046 0.719151243 0.621303564 0.307144341 0.295070995 0.053814572 0925011235 0.285781447 0.455537453 0 858478535 0.515403308 NEFS 1 0 0030667067 0 0.002486595 0 0 0.037552983 0.008557969 0.012747468 9 54953E-07 0 052051436 3.23199E-06 0 0 0 NEFS 2 5.687894047 18.30360845 10.68364767 16.45827575 1.90723756 1.398286728 18.8369872 7.785788823 12.5908369 3.217799926 181690099 3.181206138 14 73385933 6 047332124 11.88293817 NEFS 3 1.124229243 13.68898364 0.142548175 8.942020244 0 045912766 0.408527091 8.49865556 4.053641044 2.849440834 0.025822743 9181332294 0.752743649 1.289751767 4511522707 6.070162061 Fmt 4702 NEFS 4 414318807 9 597405796 5335097636 8270809838 21614662 2 347792266 5 462377432 9 286894705 8 49383212 0 691712475 6 242139483 1 280143849 6 642126915 8 057084511 6 161406659 NEFS 5 0.727506303 0106490691 0.857874951 0.131472624 1 260279277 20.76328588 0.207340751 0.384981588 0.553406822 0.434302079 0017630126 12.34662638 0.02090793 0098752363 0.093209471 NEFS 6 2.868798943 2 958643672 2.923662617 3.855973179 2 702518084 5.263853615 3.734652453 3.891212841 5.204629066 1.504558353 4554173598 1.937408254 5.310537267 3 914446397 3.305383724 Sfmt 4725 NEFS 7 4 594070833 0818030811 4 50882333 0 693832144 10 44501276 4 323152078 4 359600944 3 685939942 3 664668201 10 26792054 300699365 4 859064252 0 608476927 0 877646784 0758293521 NEFS 8 5.890348994 0178115436 5.863076643 0.076677132 9 741947074 5.435139581 4.317834885 1.543348675 2.116386826 15 05809284 1 042673413 9.761157879 0.53028413 0 459131138 0.571670347 NEFS 9 14.22184825 1651873823 11.59666618 4.711835489 26.80583387 7.721214256 10 42517636 8.263119688 8.2664236 3953809711 2.44965554 18.32925453 5.690931683 4092160698 3.891240261 NEFS 10 0 734971715 5 427462366 0251529927 2 588775644 0 001558849 0 540958113 13 05160144 1707236165 2 394944893 0 0107466 1811014966 0 72835591 0 548637748 0915571794 1462752389 NEFS 11 0.407171937 13.64608735 0.038172885 3.216874044 0001526329 0.019524121 2.580138791 2.096400751 2.073624465 0.003309759 2248671897 0.021573873 1.995777016 4841858308 9.494305856 NEFS 13 7.95815638 0 841578343 15.96918462 0.934025674 24.73739076 18.59430082 4.743917868 5.153000148 6.173362974 7.245172042 2 054422461 10.81730202 3.982679998 1745943429 2.278026077 Bank 000082187 114188081 3 40501E-05 0 032289496 2 0261E-05 178561E-05 0 021778079 0 028471233 0006158791 3 23751E-06 0060517624 3 62755E-05 0019399565 0 081273377 0111251823 Sustainable Harvest Sector 1 1.822596096 4341135142 2.235310723 3.93990206 0 923994992 0.435355048 2.816495859 5.751160183 3.948985 5.714888386 5.0712478 0.823364685 4.267827176 4871669006 3.956327396 Sustainable Harvest Sector3 19.4585015 15.39706124 32.73269154 38.9185545 16.49540297 10.37393213 11.3071658 34 4470914 31.12196251 15 23411037 5545962681 20.04562217 47 25899124 46.15820984 35.92276189 Sectors Total 97.8577516 97.38693083 99.11450303 98.72080232 98.09705463 79.40553167 95.42633519 98.08744475 97.69625258 99.03576495 94.58435811 87.71358305 99.42127201 99.27861517 99.37606998 Common Pool 2.142248399 2613069165 0.885496971 1.279197678 1 902945372 20.59446833 4.573664806 1.912555252 2.303747415 0.964235051 5.41564189 12.28641695 0.578727992 0 721384833 0.623930017 E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM Maine Permit Bank Northeast Coastal Communities Sector (NCCS) Frm 00033 PO 00000 GB Cod Fixed Gear Sector (Fixed Gear Sector) 21MRP1 EP21MR16.010</GPH> New Hampsh1re Perm~ * The data in this table are based on fishing year 2015 sector rosters. Sectors proposed for approval in tllis action (i.e., NEFS 11 and SHS 2) are not reflected here and will be included in the adjustment rule. t For fishing year 2016, 18.9 percent of the GB codACL would be allocated for the Eastem U.S./Canada Area, while 28.46 percent of the GB haddockACL would be allocated for the Eastem U.S./CanadaArea. l SNEIMA Yellowtail flounder refers to the SNI:/Mid-Atlantic stock. CC/COM Yellowtail flollllder refers to the Cape Coci/GOM stock. Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 54 / Monday, March 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules 15:25 Mar 18, 2016 Table 15. Cumulative PSC (percentage each sector would receive by stock for fishing ear 2016.* Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS VerDate Sep<11>2014 E "' "' z ~ 1n w 1n ""C ""C "' 0 ~ 0 ""C -"' u -"' u u -c""Ct/) 2 ""C""C"' ::cW ::c$: [D (!) [D (!) 0 0 "' "' 0 0 "' "' ""C ""C "' :I: ~ 1- ., >-"'g :::> [D ~ ., "' :::> 0 !;:: 1- >- ~ "' <:: <(""C 2""0 :::;;: w (!) 0 urr :::> "' "' .g ~ "' "' "' EO: -~ "fi~ -"' ~~ "' - ., ~ <:::""0 ~ "' ~ 'E "' ij53:~ !§ ~ "' "' "' :2 <(~....~ :!!:CI>""C (!)LL ~§ 2 0 au: ~ § rn..S! ill~§ ..<:: If) -"' :I: -"' u 0 0 Jkt 238001 0 PO 00000 u u en "' [D (!) [D (!) Fixed Gear Sector 84 287 16 1,925 4,631 100 0 2 23 26 17 0 190 30 576 435 2,909 MCCS 1 2 28 13 31 136 0 3 8 197 41 0 28 2 525 335 1,493 Maine Permit Bank 0 1 7 15 36 60 0 0 2 30 6 0 6 0 173 126 665 NCCS 1 2 6 46 111 21 4 3 5 8 2 1 13 4 96 65 202 0 0 0 0 1 0 142 203 103 42 256 41 3,094 461 4,668 13 0 (!) 2 0 1::>..2 LL (!) en LL (!) 3: c.. NEFS 3 3 12 85 48 115 476 0 2 64 106 23 0 129 10 271 344 2,384 NEFS4 13 43 59 1,784 4,293 441 10 10 41 242 69 9 88 17 1,395 614 2,420 NEFS 5 2 8 1 287 690 7 6 87 2 10 5 6 0 159 4 8 37 NEFS 6 9 30 18 978 2,352 205 13 22 28 101 42 20 64 25 1,115 299 1,298 NEFS 7 14 48 5 1,508 3,628 37 49 18 33 96 30 134 42 63 128 67 298 NEFS 8 18 61 1 1,961 4,718 4 45 23 32 40 17 196 15 126 111 35 225 1,528 Sfmt 4725 NEFS 1 Fmt 4702 0 u <( Frm 00034 0 zu:: NEFS 2 17 59 113 3,573 8,596 877 9 6 E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM NEFS 9 43 147 10 3,878 9,331 251 125 32 78 216 67 514 35 236 1,195 312 NEFS 10 2 8 34 84 202 138 0 2 98 45 20 0 255 9 115 70 575 NEFS 11 1 4 84 13 31 171 0 0 19 55 17 0 32 0 419 369 3,729 895 NEFS 13 24 82 5 5,341 12,849 50 115 77 36 134 50 94 29 140 836 133 New Hampshire Permit Bank 0 0 7 0 0 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 4 6 44 Sustainable Harvest Sector 1 6 19 27 748 1,799 210 4 2 21 150 32 74 71 11 896 372 1,554 21MRP1 Sustainable Harvest Sector 3 59 202 95 10,947 26,337 2,073 77 43 85 898 254 198 78 259 9,925 3,520 14,110 Sectors Total 298 1,014 601 33,148 79,750 5,258 456 331 717 2,558 797 1,288 1,332 1,131 20,880 7,571 39,035 Common Pool 7 22 16 296 712 68 9 86 34 50 19 13 76 158 122 55 245 *The data in this table are based on fishing year 2015 sector rosters. Sectors proposed tor approval in this action (i.e., NEFS II and SHS 2) are not retlected here and will be included in the adjustment mle. ~umbers are rounded to the nearest thousand lbs. In some cases, this table shows an allocation of 0, but that sector may be allocated a small amount of that stock in tens or hundreds pounds. '·The data in the table represent the total allocations to each sector. "\IMFS will withhold 20 percent of a sector's total ACE at the start of the fishing year. t We have used preliminary ACLs to estimate each sectors ACE. Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 54 / Monday, March 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules 15:25 Mar 18, 2016 # -"' u 15023 EP21MR16.011</GPH> Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS 15024 VerDate Sep<11>2014 me E ~ 1. ..... Ill 111 Jkt 238001 111 w ..... "'C z 0 .s u u en (!) Q) PO 00000 Frm 00035 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 Fixed Gear Sector MCCS Maine Permit Bank NCCS NEFS 1 NEFS 2 NEFS 3 NEFS 4 NEFS 5 NEFS 6 NEFS 7 NEFS 8 NEFS 9 NEFS 10 NEFS 11 NEFS 13 New Hampshire Permit Bank Sustainable Harvest Sector 1 Sustainable Harvest Sector 3 Sectors Total Common Pool Ol 38 0 0 0 rroposeo ALr.. \Ill mente wns J, rn SlOCK, 10r eacn seCior 10r nsnmg year Ill Q) 3: "'C 0 u ~ "'C 0 u 2 0 Ol (!) 130 1 1 1 7 13 3 3 0 51 38 27 0 8 2 0 5 15 38 2 3 12 43 273 7 - - 27 5 19 3 13 22 28 67 3 2 37 0 9 91 460 10 0 0 u "'C ..... "'C Ill 111 111 u "'C "'C -Ill 111 Q) :::t:W :::t:S: Ol Ol (!) (!) 8 2 6 1 4 6 8 20 1 1 11 0 3 27 135 3 ~ 873 6 7 21 ~ :::2: g 0"'0 (!)~ :I: 1- .... 1>Q) >-"'C 45 62 27 9 0 1,621 3,899 398 22 52 216 809 1,947 200 130 313 3 444 1,067 93 684 1,646 17 889 2,140 2 1,759 4,232 114 38 92 63 6 14 78 2,423 5,828 23 0 0 1 339 816 95 4,966 11,946 940 15,036 36,174 2,385 134 323 31 Q) s::: Ol ::I (!)..Q LL -::I 0 0 0 2 0 4 0 5 3 6 22 21 57 0 0 52 0 2 35 207 4 1 1 0 1 0 3 1 4 39 10 8 10 15 1 0 35 0 1 20 150 39 (!) 2,101 14 16 50 ..... <("'C 2 w s::: 0 1- >- .... Q) 2-c 0 s::: (!) ::I zu::: (J~ en u 10 4 1 2 0 64 29 19 1 13 15 15 36 45 9 16 0 10 39 325 16 .... s::: 111 Q) .!:::! u ..... ·Q) 111 EC::: <( 12 89 14 4 0 92 48 110 5 46 44 18 98 20 25 61 0 68 408 1160 23 ..... ..... J!! Q) S:::"'C ..s::: Q) u-c ..... s::: ·-::I s..Q LL Ol..Q (!)LL 8 19 3 1 0 47 11 31 2 19 14 8 31 9 8 23 0 15 115 361 9 0 0 0 0 0 19 0 4 3 9 61 89 233 0 0 43 0 34 90 584 6 3: § ~u~o." ..... J!! s::: ..... Q) ~-g :::2: 5 # "T ..s::: :::i:J!!"'C ;;:::: :I: "'C J!! ..... w .!: § zs:o u::: au: en (!) 86 13 3 6 0 116 59 40 0 29 19 7 16 116 14 13 0 32 35 604 35 Q) ~ :u <( 14 1 0 2 0 19 4 7 72 11 28 57 107 4 0 63 0 5 117 513 72 Ill Q) 0::: 261 238 78 43 0 1404 123 633 2 506 58 51 542 52 190 379 2 407 4502 9471 55 111 :E s: 197 152 57 30 0 209 156 279 3 135 30 16 142 32 167 60 3 169 1597 3434 25 *The dala in this table are based on fishing year 2015 sedur roster,;. Sedors proposed fur approval in this adion (i.e., NEFS II and SHS 2) are nol re1lecled here and will be included in the adjustment mle. #Numbers are rounded to the nearest metric ton, but allocations are made in potmds. In some cases, this table shows a sector allocation ofO metric tons, but that sector may be allocated a small ammmt of that stock in pmmds. 1\ The dala in the lable represent U1e lola! allocations lo each sec lor. NMFS will withhold 20 percent of a sec lor's lola! ACE allhe slarl orthe 1ishing year. t We have used preliminary ACLs to estimate each sector's ACE. ~ u 0 0 c.. 1,320 677 302 92 0 2,117 1,082 1,098 17 589 135 102 693 261 1692 406 20 705 6,400 17706 111 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 54 / Monday, March 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules 15:25 Mar 18, 2016 EP21MR16.012</GPH> ~a Q) 15025 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 54 / Monday, March 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules BILLING CODE 3510–22–C Sector Carryover From the 2015 to 2016 Fishing Year Sectors can carry over up to 10 percent of the unused initial allocation for each stock into the next fishing year. However, the maximum available carryover may be reduced if up to 10 percent of the unused sector sub-ACL, plus the total ACL for the upcoming fishing year, exceeds the total ABC. Based on the catch limits proposed in this action, we evaluated whether the total potential catch in the 2016 fishing year would exceed the proposed ABC if sectors carried over the maximum 10 percent of unused allocation from 2015 to 2016 (Table 18). Under this scenario, total potential catch would exceed the 2016 ABC for all stocks except for GOM haddock and GB haddock. As a result, we expect we will need to adjust the maximum amount of unused allocation that a sector can carry forward from 2015 to 2016 (down from 10 percent). It is possible that not all sectors will have 10 percent of unused allocation at the end of the 2015 fishing year. We will make final adjustments to the maximum carryover possible for each sector based on the final 2015 catch for the sectors, each sector’s total unused allocation, and proportional to the cumulative PSCs of vessels/permits participating in the sector. We will announce this adjustment as close to May 1, 2016, as possible. Based on the catch limits proposed in this rule, the de minimis carryover amount for the 2016 fishing year would be set at the default one percent of the 2016 overall sector sub-ACL. The overall de minimis amount will be applied to each sector based on the cumulative PSCs of the vessel/permits participating in the sector. If the overall ACL for any allocated stock is exceeded for the 2016 fishing year, the allowed carryover harvested by a sector minus its specified de minimis amount, will be counted against its allocation to determine whether an overage, subject to an AM, occurred. TABLE 18—EVALUATION OF MAXIMUM CARRYOVER ALLOWED FROM THE 2015 TO 2016 FISHING YEARS [mt, live weight] 2016 U.S. ABC Stock GB Cod ................................................................................ GOM cod .............................................................................. GB Haddock ......................................................................... GOM Haddock ..................................................................... SNE Yellowtail Flounder ...................................................... CC/GOM Yellowtail Flounder ............................................... Plaice ................................................................................... Witch Flounder ..................................................................... GB Winter Flounder ............................................................. GOM Winter Flounder .......................................................... SNE/MA Winter Flounder .................................................... Redfish ................................................................................. White Hake .......................................................................... 2016 Total ACL 762 500 56,068 3,630 267 427 1,297 460 668 810 780 10,338 3,816 Potential carryover (10% of 2015 sector sub-ACL) 730 473 53,309 3,430 256 409 1,235 441 650 776 749 9,837 3,572 174 81 1,705 43 46 46 136 60 336 68 106 1,052 425 Total potential catch (2016 total ACL + potential carryover Difference between total potential catch and ABC 904 555 55,015 3,474 302 455 1,370 500 985 845 855 10,889 3,997 142 55 ¥1,053 ¥156 35 28 73 40 317 35 75 551 181 Note. Carry over of GB yellowtail flounder is not allowed because this stock is jointly managed with Canada. Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Sector Exemptions Because sectors elect to receive an allocation under a quota-based system, the FMP grants sector vessels several ‘‘universal’’ exemptions from the FMP’s effort controls. These universal exemptions apply to: Trip limits on allocated stocks; the GB Seasonal Closure Area; NE multispecies days-atsea (DAS) restrictions; the requirement to use a 6.5-inch (16.5-cm) mesh codend when fishing with selective gear on GB; and portions of the GOM Cod Protection Closures. The FMP prohibits sectors from requesting exemptions from permitting restrictions, gear restrictions designed to minimize habitat impacts, and reporting requirements. In addition to the ‘‘universal’’ exemptions approved under Amendment 16 to the Northeast Multispecies FMP, the existing 17 operational sectors and the two that are proposed for approval in this action are granted 19 additional exemptions from the NE multispecies regulations for the VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:25 Mar 18, 2016 Jkt 238001 2016 fishing year. These exemptions were previously approved in the sector operations rulemaking for the 2015 and 2016 fishing years. Descriptions of the current range of approved exemptions are included in the preamble to the Final Rule for 2015 and 2016 Sector Operations Plans and 2015 Contracts (80 FR 25143; May 1, 2015) and are not repeated here. We received a request for an additional sector exemption intended to complement the proposed Framework 55 measure that would remove the ASM coverage requirement for sector trips using 10-inch (25.4-cm), or larger, mesh gillnet gear and fishing exclusively in the inshore GB and SNE/MA broad stock areas (described in section ‘‘6. Groundfish At-Sea Monitoring Program Adjustments’’). If this Framework 55 measure is approved, the requested sector exemption would allow vessels on these ASM-exempted sector trips to also target dogfish using 6.5-inch (16.5- PO 00000 Frm 00036 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 cm) mesh within the footprint and season of either the Nantucket Shoals Dogfish Exemption Area (June 1 to October 15), the Eastern Area of the Cape Cod Spiny Dogfish Exemption Area (June 1 to December 31), and the Southern New England Dogfish Gillnet Exemption Area (May 1 to October 31). Sectors seek to participate in this exempted fishery for dogfish while simultaneously being exempted from ASM coverage on extra-large mesh sector trips (i.e., take trips using both greater than 10-inch (25.4-cm) mesh and 6.5-inch (16.5-in) mesh) in an effort to maximize the viability and profitability of their businesses. The Fixed Gear Sector requested this exemption, and we propose to grant this exemption to any sectors that modify their operations plans to include this exemption. In this rule, we propose regulatory text to detail the process for amending sector operations plans during the fishing year in section ‘‘10. Regulatory Corrections E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 15026 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 54 / Monday, March 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules under Regional Administrator Authority.’’ While sector trips using this exemption would still be would be exempt from ASM coverage, all groundfish catch on these trips would still be attributed to a sector’s ACE. 9. 2016 Fishing Year Annual Measures Under Regional Administrator Authority The FMP gives us authority to implement certain types of management measures for the common pool fishery, the U.S./Canada Management Area, and Special Management Programs on an annual basis, or as needed. This proposed rule includes a description of these management measures that are being considered for the 2016 fishing year in order to provide an opportunity for the public to comment on whether the proposed measures are appropriate. These measures are not part of Framework 55, and were not specifically proposed by the Council. We are proposing them in conjunction with Framework 55 measures in this action for expediency purposes, and because they relate to the catch limits proposed in Framework 55. Common Pool Trip Limits Tables 19 and 20 provide a summary of the current common pool trip limits for fishing year 2015 and the trip limits proposed for fishing year 2016. The proposed 2016 trip limits were developed after considering changes to the common pool sub-ACLs and sector rosters from 2015 to 2016, proposed trimester TACs for 2016, catch rates of each stock during 2015, and other available information. The default cod trip limit is 300 lb (136 kg) for Handgear A vessels and 75 lb (34 kg) for Handgear B vessels. If the GOM or GB cod landing limit for vessels fishing on a groundfish DAS drops below 300 lb (136 kg), then the respective Handgear A cod trip limit must be reduced to the same limit. Similarly, the Handgear B trip limit must be adjusted proportionally (rounded up to the nearest 25 lb (11 kg)) to the DAS limit. This action proposes a GOM cod landing limit of 25 lb (11 kg) per DAS for vessels fishing on a groundfish DAS, which is 97 percent lower than the default limit specified in the regulations for these vessels (800 lb (363 kg) per DAS). As a result, the proposed Handgear A trip limit for GOM cod is reduced to 25 lb (11 kg) per trip, and the proposed Handgear B trip limit for GOM cod is maintained at 25 lb (11 kg) per trip. This action proposes a GB cod landing limit of 500 lb (227 kg) per DAS for vessels fishing on a groundfish DAS, which is 75 percent lower than the 2,000-lb (907-kg) per DAS default limit specified in the regulations for these vessels. As a result, the proposed Handgear A trip limit for GB cod is maintained at 300 lb (136 kg) per trip, and the proposed Handgear B trip limit for GB cod is reduced to 25 lb (11 kg) per trip. Vessels with a Small Vessel category permit can possess up to 300 lb (136 kg) of cod, haddock, and yellowtail, combined, per trip. For the 2016 fishing year, we are proposing that the maximum amount of GOM cod and haddock (within the 300-lb (136-kg) trip limit) be set equal to the possession limits applicable to multispecies DAS vessels (see Table 20). This adjustment is necessary to ensure that the trip limit applicable to the Small Vessel category permit is consistent with reductions to the trip limits for other common pool vessels, as described above. TABLE 19—PROPOSED COMMON POOL TRIP LIMITS FOR THE 2016 FISHING YEAR Stock Current 2015 trip limit GB Cod (outside Eastern U.S./Canada Area) ... 2,000 lb (907 kg)/DAS, up to 20,000 lb (9,072 GB Cod (inside Eastern U.S./Canada Area) ..... GOM Cod ........................................................... GB Haddock ....................................................... GOM Haddock ................................................... CC/GOM Yellowtail Flounder ............................. American plaice ................................................. Witch Flounder ................................................... GB Winter Flounder ........................................... GOM Winter Flounder ........................................ SNE/MA Winter Flounder .................................. 500 lb (227 kg)/DAS, up to 2,500 lb/trip 100 lb (45 kg)/DAS, up to 500 lb (227 kg)/trip 50 lb (23 kg)/DAS, up to 200 lb (91 kg)/trip .... 25,000 lb (11,340 kg)/trip ................................. 50 lb (23 kg)/DAS, up to 200 lb (91 kg)/trip .... GB Yellowtail Flounder ...................................... SNE/MA Yellowtail Flounder .............................. Proposed 2016 trip limit 25 lb (11 kg)/DAS up to 100 lb (45 kg)/trip 100,000 lb (45,359 kg)/trip 100 lb (45 kg)/DAS up to 300 lb (136 kg)/trip 100 lb (45 kg)/trip 2,000 lb (907 kg)/DAS, up to 6,000 lb (2,722 kg)/trip. 1,500 lb (680 kg)/DAS up to 3,000 lb (1,361 kg)/trip. Unlimited .......................................................... 1,000 lb (454 kg)/trip ........................................ 1,000 lb (454 kg)/trip ........................................ 1,000 lb (454 kg)/trip ........................................ 3,000 lb (1,361 kg)/DAS, up to 6,000 lb (2,722 kg)/trip. 250 lb (113 kg)/DAS, up to 500 lb (227 kg)/ trip 75 lb (34 kg)/DAS up to 1,500 lb (680 kg)/trip 1,000 lb (454 kg)/trip 250 lb (113 kg)/trip 250 lb (113 kg)/trip 2,000 lb (907 kg)/trip 2,000 lb (907 kg)/DAS, up to 4,000 lb (1,814 kg)/trip Redfish ............................................................... Unlimited White hake ......................................................... 1,500 lb (680 kg)/trip Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Pollock ................................................................ 10,000 lb (4,536 kg)/trip ................................... Unlimited Atlantic Halibut ................................................... 1 fish/trip Windowpane Flounder ....................................... Ocean Pout ........................................................ Atlantic Wolffish ................................................. Possession Prohibited VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:25 Mar 18, 2016 Jkt 238001 PO 00000 Frm 00037 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 54 / Monday, March 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules 15027 TABLE 20—PROPOSED COD TRIPS LIMITS FOR HANDGEAR A, HANDGEAR B, AND SMALL VESSEL CATEGORY PERMITS FOR THE 2016 FISHING YEAR Permit Current 2015 trip limit Proposed 2016 trip limit Handgear A GOM Cod ........ 50 lb (23 kg)/trip .............................................................. 25 lb (11 kg)/trip. Handgear A GB Cod ............ 300 lb (136 kg)/trip. Handgear B GOM Cod ........ 25 lb (11 kg)/trip. Handgear B GB Cod ............ 75 lb (34 kg)/trip .............................................................. Small Vessel Category ........ 300 lb (136 kg) of cod, haddock, and yellowtail flounder combined. Maximum of 50 lb (23 kg) of GOM cod and 50 lb (23 kg) of GOM haddock within the 300-lb combined trip limit. Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Closed Area II Yellowtail Flounder/ Haddock Special Access Program This action proposes to allocate zero trips for common pool vessels to target yellowtail flounder within the Closed Area II Yellowtail Flounder/Haddock SAP for fishing year 2016. Vessels could still fish in this SAP in 2016 to target haddock, but must fish with a haddock separator trawl, a Ruhle trawl, or hook gear. Vessels would not be allowed to fish in this SAP using flounder trawl nets. This SAP is open from August 1, 2016, through January 31, 2017. We have the authority to determine the allocation of the total number of trips into the Closed Area II Yellowtail Flounder/Haddock SAP based on several criteria, including the GB yellowtail flounder catch limit and the amount of GB yellowtail flounder caught outside of the SAP. The FMP specifies that no trips should be allocated to the Closed Area II Yellowtail Flounder/Haddock SAP if the available GB yellowtail flounder catch is insufficient to support at least 150 trips with a 15,000-lb (6,804-kg) trip limit (or 2,250,000 lb (1,020,600 kg)). This calculation accounts for the projected catch from the area outside the SAP. Based on the proposed fishing year 2016 GB yellowtail flounder groundfish sub-ACL of 465,175 lb (211,000 kg), there is insufficient GB yellowtail flounder to allocate any trips to the SAP, even if the projected catch from outside the SAP area is zero. Further, given the low GB yellowtail flounder catch limit, catch rates outside of this SAP are more than adequate to fully harvest the 2016 GB yellowtail flounder allocation. 10. Regulatory Corrections Under Regional Administrator Authority The following changes are being proposed to the regulations to clarify regulatory intent, correct references, VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:25 Mar 18, 2016 25 lb (11 kg)/trip. Jkt 238001 Maximum of 25 lb (11 kg) of GOM cod and 100 lb (45 kg) of GOM haddock within the 300-lb combined trip limit. inadvertent deletions, and other minor errors. In § 648.87(b)(4)(i)(G), this proposed rule would revise text to clarify that NMFS will determine the adequate level of insurance that monitoring service providers must provide to cover injury, liability, and accidental death to cover at-sea monitors, and notify potential service providers. In § 648.87(c)(2)(i)(A), this proposed rule would correct the inadvertent deletion of the definition of the Fippennies Ledge Area. In § 648.87(c), this proposed rule would add regulatory text to detail the process for amending sector operations plans during the fishing year. Classification Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS Assistant Administrator has made a preliminary determination that this proposed rule is consistent with Framework 55, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law. In making the final determination, we will consider the data, views, and comments received during the public comment period. This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order (E.O.) 12866. This proposed rule does not contain policies with Federalism or ‘‘takings’’ implications as those terms are defined in E.O. 13132 and E.O. 12630, respectively. An Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) was prepared for this proposed rule, as required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 603. The IRFA describes the economic impact that this proposed rule would have on small entities, including small businesses, and also determines ways to minimize these impacts. The IRFA includes this section of the PO 00000 Frm 00038 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 preamble to this rule and analyses contained in Framework 55 and its accompanying EA/RIR/IRFA. A copy of the full analysis is available from the Council (see ADDRESSES). A summary of the IRFA follows. Description of the Reason Why Action by the Agency Is Being Considered and Statement of the Objective of, and Legal Basis for, This Proposed Rule This action proposes management measures, including annual catch limits, for the multispecies fishery in order to prevent overfishing, rebuild overfished groundfish stocks, and achieve optimum yield in the fishery. A complete description of the action, why it is being considered, and the legal basis for this action are contained in Framework 55, and elsewhere in the preamble to this proposed rule, and are not repeated here. Description and Estimate of the Number of Small Entities To Which the Proposed Rule Would Apply The Small Business Administration defines a small business as one that is: • Independently owned and operated; • Not dominant in its field of operation; • Has annual receipts that do not exceed— Æ $20.5 million in the case of commercial finfish harvesting entities (NAIC 1 114111) Æ $5.5 million in the case of commercial shellfish harvesting entities (NAIC 114112) Æ $7.5 million in the case of for-hire fishing entities (NAIC 114119); or • Has fewer than— Æ 750 employees in the case of fish processors 1 The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) is the standard used by Federal statistical agencies in classifying business establishments for the purpose of collecting, analyzing, and publishing statistical data related to the U.S. business economy. E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 15028 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 54 / Monday, March 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules Æ 100 employees in the case of fish dealers. This proposed rule impacts commercial and recreational fish harvesting entities engaged in the groundfish fishery, the small-mesh multispecies and squid fisheries, the midwater trawl herring fishery, and the scallop fishery. Individually-permitted vessels may hold permits for several fisheries, harvesting species of fish that are regulated by several different FMPs, even beyond those impacted by the proposed action. Furthermore, multiplepermitted vessels and/or permits may be owned by entities affiliated by stock ownership, common management, identity of interest, contractual relationships, or economic dependency. For the purposes of the Regulatory Flexibility Act analysis, the ownership entities, not the individual vessels, are considered to be the regulated entities. Ownership entities are defined as those entities with common ownership personnel as listed on the permit application. Only permits with identical ownership personnel are categorized as an ownership entity. For example, if five permits have the same seven persons listed as co-owners on their permit application, those seven persons would form one ownership entity that holds those five permits. If two of those seven owners also co-own additional vessels, these two persons would be considered a separate ownership entity. On June 1 of each year, NMFS identifies ownership entities based on a list of all permits for the most recent complete calendar year. The current ownership dataset used for this analysis was created on June 1, 2015, based on calendar year 2014 and contains average gross sales associated with those permits for calendar years 2012 through 2014. In addition to classifying a business (ownership entity) as small or large, a business can also be classified by its primary source of revenue. A business is defined as being primarily engaged in fishing for finfish if it obtains greater than 50 percent of its gross sales from sales of finfish. Similarly, a business is defined as being primarily engaged in fishing for shellfish if it obtains greater than 50 percent of its gross sales from sales of shellfish. A description of the specific permits that are likely to be impacted by this action is provided below, along with a discussion of the impacted businesses, which can include multiple vessels and/ or permit types. Regulated Commercial Fish Harvesting Entities Table 18 describes the total number of commercial business entities potentially regulated by the proposed action. As of June 1, 2015, there were 1,359 commercial business entities potentially regulated by the proposed action. These entities participate in, or are permitted for, the groundfish, small-mesh multispecies, herring midwater trawl, and scallop fisheries. For the groundfish fishery, the proposed action directly regulates potentially affected entities through catch limits and other management measures designed to achieve the goals and objectives of the FMP. For the non-groundfish fisheries, the proposed action includes allocations for groundfish stocks caught as bycatch in these fisheries. For each of these fisheries, there are accountability measures that are triggered if their respective allocations are exceeded. As a result, the likelihood of triggering an accountability measure is a function of changes to the ACLs each year. TABLE 18—COMMERCIAL FISH HARVESTING ENTITIES REGULATED BY THE PROPOSED ACTION Type Total number Classified as small businesses Primarily finfish ............................................................................................................................................ Primarily shellfish ......................................................................................................................................... Primarily for hire .......................................................................................................................................... No Revenue ................................................................................................................................................. 385 480 297 197 385 462 297 197 Total ...................................................................................................................................................... 1,359 1,341 Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Limited Access Groundfish Fishery The proposed action will directly impact entities engaged in the limited access groundfish fishery. The limited access groundfish fishery consists of those enrolled in the sector program and those in the common pool. Both sectors and the common pool are subject to catch limits, and accountability measures that prevent fishing in a respective stock area when the entire catch limit has been caught. Additionally, common pool vessels are subject to DAS restrictions and trip limits. All permit holders are eligible to enroll in the sector program; however, many vessels remain in the common pool because they have low catch histories of groundfish stocks, which translate into low PSCs. Low PSCs limit a vessel’s viability in the sector program. In general, businesses enrolled in the sector program rely more heavily VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:25 Mar 18, 2016 Jkt 238001 on sales of groundfish species than vessels enrolled in the common pool. As of June 1, 2015 (just after the start of the 2015 fishing year), there were 1,068 individual limited access multispecies permits. Of these, 627 were enrolled in the sector program, and 441 were in the common pool. For fishing year 2014, which is the most recent complete fishing year, 717 of these limited access permits had landings of any species, and 273 of these permits had landings of groundfish species. Of the 1,068 individual limited access multispecies permits potentially impacted by this action, there are 661 distinct ownership entities. Of these, 649 are categorized as small entities, and 12 are categorized as large entities. However, these totals may mask some diversity among the entities. Many, if not most, of these ownership entities maintain diversified harvest portfolios, obtaining gross sales from many PO 00000 Frm 00039 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 fisheries and not dependent on any one. However, not all are equally diversified. This action is most likely to affect those entities that depend most heavily on sales from harvesting groundfish species. There are 61 entities that are groundfish-dependent (obtain more than 50 percent of gross sales from groundfish species), all of which are small, and all but one of which are finfish commercial harvesting businesses. Limited Access Scallop Fisheries The limited access scallop fisheries include Limited Access (LA) scallop permits and Limited Access General Category (LGC) scallop permits. LA scallop businesses are subject to a mixture of DAS restrictions and dedicated area trip restrictions. LGC scallop businesses are able to acquire and trade LGC scallop quota, and there is an annual cap on quota/landings. The E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 54 / Monday, March 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS scallop fishery receives an allocation for GB and SNE/MA yellowtail flounder and southern windowpane flounder. If these allocations are exceeded, accountability measures are implemented in a subsequent fishing year. These accountability measures close certain areas of high groundfish bycatch to scallop fishery, and the length of the closure depends on the magnitude of the overage. Of the total commercial business entities potentially affected by this action (1,359), there are 169 scallop fishing entities. The majority of these entities are defined as shellfish businesses (166). However, three of these entities are defined as finfish businesses, all of which are small. Of the total scallop fishing entities, 154 entities are classified as small entities. Midwater Trawl Fishery There are five categories of permits for the herring fishery. Three of these permit categories are limited access, and vary based on the allowable herring possession limits and areas fished. The remaining two permit categories are open access. Although there is a large number of open access permits issued each year, these categories are subject to fairly low possession limits for herring, account for a very small amount of the herring landings, and derive relatively little revenue from the fishery. Only the midwater trawl herring fishery receives an allocation of GOM and GB haddock. Once the entire allocation for either stock has been caught, the directed herring fishery for midwater trawl vessels is closed in the respective area for the remainder of the fishing year. Additionally, if the midwater trawl fishery exceeds its allocation, the overage is deducted from its allocation in the following fishing year. Of the total commercial business entities potentially regulated by this action (1,359), there are 63 herring fishing entities. Of these, 39 entities are defined as finfish businesses, all of which are small. There are 24 entities that are defined as shellfish businesses, and 18 of these are considered small. For the purposes of this analysis, squid is classified as shellfish. Thus, because there is some overlap with the herring and squid fisheries, it is likely that these shellfish entities derive most of their revenues from the squid fishery. Small-Mesh Fisheries The small-mesh exempted fisheries allow vessels to harvest species in designated areas using mesh sizes smaller than the minimum mesh size required by the Northeast Multispecies FMP. To participate in the small-mesh VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:25 Mar 18, 2016 Jkt 238001 multispecies (whiting) fishery, vessels must hold either a limited access multispecies permit or an open access multispecies permit. Limited access multispecies permit holders can only target whiting when not fishing under a DAS or a sector trip, and while declared out of the fishery. A description of limited access multispecies permits was provided above. Many of these vessels target both whiting and longfin squid on small-mesh trips, and, therefore, most of them also have open access or limited access Squid, Mackerel, and Butterfish (SMB) permits. As a result, SMB permits were not handled separately in this analysis. The small-mesh fisheries receive an allocation of GB yellowtail flounder. If this allocation is exceeded, an accountability measure is triggered for a subsequent fishing year. The accountability measure requires smallmesh vessels to use selective trawl gear when fishing on GB. This gear restriction is only implemented for 1 year as a result of an overage, and is removed as long as additional overages do not occur. Of the total commercial harvesting entities potentially affected by this action, there are 1,007 small-mesh entities. However, this is not necessarily informative because not all of these entities are active in the whiting fishery. Based on the most recent information, 223 of these entities are considered active, with at least 1 lb of whiting landed. Of these entities, 167 are defined as finfish businesses, all of which are small. There are 56 entities that are defined as shellfish businesses, and 54 of these are considered small. Because there is overlap with the whiting and squid fisheries, it is likely that these shellfish entities derive most of their revenues from the squid fishery. Regulated Recreational Party/Charter Fishing Entities The charter/party permit is an open access groundfish permit that can be requested at any time, with the limitation that a vessel cannot have a limited access groundfish permit and an open access party/charter permit concurrently. There are no qualification criteria for this permit. Charter/party permits are subject to recreational management measures, including minimum fish sizes, possession restrictions, and seasonal closures. During calendar year 2015, 425 party/ charter permits were issued. Of these, 271 party/charter permit holders reported catching and retaining any groundfish species on at least one forhire trip. A 2013 report indicated that, in the northeast U.S., the mean gross PO 00000 Frm 00040 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 15029 sales was approximately $27,650 for a charter business and $13,500 for a party boat. Based on the available information, no business approached the $7.5 million large business threshold. Therefore, the 425 potentially regulated party/charter entities are all considered small businesses. Description of the Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other Compliance Requirements of This Proposed Rule The proposed action contains a collection-of-information requirement subject to review and approval by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA). This requirement will be submitted to OMB for approval under OMB Control Number 0648–0605: Northeast Multispecies Amendment 16 Data Collection. The proposed action does not duplicate, overlap, or conflict with any other Federal rules. This action proposes to adjust the ACE transfer request requirement implemented through Amendment 16. This rule would add a new entry field to the Annual Catch Entitlement (ACE) transfer request form to allow a sector to indicate how many pounds of eastern GB cod ACE it intends to re-allocate to the Western U.S./Canada Area. This change is necessary to allow a sector to apply for a re-allocation of eastern GB ACE in order to increase fishing opportunities in the Western U.S./ Canada Area. Currently, all sectors use the ACE transfer request form to initiate ACE transfers with other sectors, or to re-allocation eastern GB haddock ACE to the Western U.S./Canada Area, via an online or paper form to the Regional Administrator. The proposed change adds a single field to this form, and would not affect the number of entities required to comply with this requirement. Therefore, the proposed change would not be expected to increase the time or cost burden associated with the ACE transfer request requirement. Public reporting burden for this requirement includes the time for reviewing instructions, searching existing data sources, gathering and maintaining the data needed, and completing and reviewing the collection of information. Notwithstanding any other provision of the law, no person is required to respond 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. E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 15030 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 54 / Monday, March 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules Federal Rules Which May Duplication, Overlap, or Conflict With This Proposed Rule The proposed regulations do not create overlapping regulations with any state regulations or other federal laws. 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 economic impacts of each proposed measure is discussed in more detail in sections 7.4 and 8.11 of the Framework 55 Environmental Assessment and are not repeated here. The only alternatives to the proposed action that accomplish the stated objectives and minimize significant economic impacts on small entities are related to the witch flounder ABCs under the annual catch limits and the alternative to modify the definition of the haddock separator trawl. Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Witch Flounder ABCs and Groundfish Annual Catch Limits The proposed action would set catch limits for all 20 groundfish stocks. For 19 of the stocks, there is only a single catch limit alternative to the No Action alternative, described in Table 5 in the preamble. For witch flounder, there are three non-selected alternatives to the proposed ABC of 460 mt, namely 399 mt, 500 mt, and the No Action alternative. In each of these witch flounder alternatives, except for the No Action alternative, all other groundfish stock allocations would remain the same as those described in Table 5. It is important to note that all of the nonselected action alternatives assume a 14percent target ASM coverage level for 2016. The No Action alternative assumes a 41-percent target ASM coverage level for 2016. For the commercial groundfish fishery, the proposed catch limits (460 mt witch flounder ABC) are expected to result in a 10-percent decrease in gross revenues on groundfish trips, or $8 million, compared to predicted gross revenues for the 2015 fishing year. The impacts of the proposed catch limits would not be uniformly distributed across vessels size classes and ports. Vessels in the 30–50 ft (9–15 m) category are expected to see gross revenue increases of 2 percent. Vessels in the 50–75 ft (15–23 m) size class are expected to see revenue increases of 19 percent. The largest vessels (75 ft (23 m) and greater) are predicted to incur the largest decreases in gross revenues revenue decreases of 30 percent relative VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:25 Mar 18, 2016 Jkt 238001 to 2015, due primarily to reductions in several GB and SNE/MA stocks (e.g., GB cod, GB winter flounder, SNE/MA yellowtail flounder, SNE/MA winter flounder). Southern New England ports are expected to be negatively impacted, with New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island predicted to incur revenue losses of 100 percent, 80 percent, and 62 percent, respectively, relative to 2015. These large revenue losses are also due to reductions in GB and SNE/MA stocks. Maine and Massachusetts are also predicted to incur revenue losses of 16 percent and 6 percent, respectively, as a result of the proposed catch limits, while New Hampshire is expected to have small increases in gross revenues of up to 8 percent. For major home ports, New Bedford is predicted to see a 47-percent decline in revenues relative to 2015, and Point Judith expected to see a 58-percent decline. Boston and Gloucester, meanwhile, are predicted to have revenue increases of 31 and 29 percent, respectively, compared to 2015. Two of the three non-selected alternatives would have set all groundfish allocations at the levels described in Table 5, with the exception of the witch flounder allocation. In the alternative where the witch flounder ABC is set at 399 mt, gross revenues are predicted to be the same as for the proposed alternative (460-mt witch flounder ABC), namely a 10-percent decrease in gross revenues on groundfish trips, or $8 million, compared to predicted gross revenues for the 2015 fishing year. The 399-mt alternative is also expected to provide the same changes in gross revenue by vessels size class. In the alternative where the witch flounder ABC is set at 500 mt, gross revenues are predicted to be slightly lower than the proposed alternative, namely an 11-percent decrease in gross revenues on groundfish trips, or $9 million, compared to predicted gross revenues for fishing year 2015. Vessels in the 30– 50 ft (9–15 m) category are expected to see gross revenue increases of 4 percent. Vessels in the 50–75 ft (15–23 m) size class are expected to see revenue increases of 15 percent. The largest vessels (75 ft (23 m) and greater) are predicted to incur the largest decreases in gross revenues revenue decreases of 28 percent relative to 2015. State and port-level impacts are also similar across the action alternatives. Under the No Action option, groundfish vessels would only have 3 months (May, June, and July) to operate in the 2016 fishing year before the default specifications expire. Once the default specifications expire, there PO 00000 Frm 00041 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 would be no ACL for a number of the groundfish stocks, and the fishery would be closed for the remainder of the fishing year. This would result in greater negative economic impacts for vessels compared to the proposed action due to lost revenues as a result of being unable to fish. The proposed action is predicted to result in approximately $69 million in gross revenues from groundfish trips. Roughly 92 percent of this revenue would be lost if no action was taken to specify catch limits. Further, if no action was taken, the Magnuson-Stevens Act requirements to achieve optimum yield and consider the needs of fishing communities would be violated. Each of the 2016 ACL alternatives show a decrease in gross revenue when compared to the 2015 fishing year. When compared against each other, the economic analysis of the various witch flounder ABC alternatives did not show any gain in gross revenue at the fishery level, or any wide difference in vessel and port-level gross revenue, as the witch flounder ABC increased. The economic analysis consistently showed other stocks (GB cod, GOM cod, and SNE/MA yellowtail flounder) would be more constraining than witch flounder, which may partially explain the lack of predicted revenue increases with higher witch flounder ABCs. In addition, there are other assumptions in the economic analysis that may mask sector and vessel level impacts that could result from alternatives with lower witch flounder ABCs. Ultimately, the proposed alternative (460-mt witch flounder ABC) is expected to mitigate potential economic impacts to fishing communities compared to both the No Action alternative and the 399-mt witch flounder ABC alternative, while reducing the biological concerns of an increased risk of overfishing compared to the 500-mt witch flounder ABC alternative. The proposed catch limits are based on the latest stock assessment information, which is considered the best scientific information available, and the applicable requirements in the FMP and the Magnuson-Stevens Act. With the exception of witch flounder, the only other possible alternatives to the catch limits proposed in this action that would mitigate negative impacts would be higher catch limits. Alternative, higher catch limits, however, are not permissible under the law because they would not be consistent with the goals and objectives of the FMP, or the Magnuson-Stevens Act, particularly the requirement to prevent overfishing. The MagnusonStevens Act, and case law, prevent E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 54 / Monday, March 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules implementation of measures that conflict with conservation requirements, even if it means negative impacts are not mitigated. The catch limits proposed in this action are the highest allowed given the best scientific information available, the SSC’s recommendations, and requirements to end overfishing and rebuild fish stocks. The only other catch limits that would be legal would be lower than those proposed in this action, which would not mitigate the economic impacts of the proposed catch limits. Modification of the Definition of the Haddock Separator Trawl The proposed action would modify the current definition of the haddock separator trawl to require that the separator panel contrasts in color to the portions of the net that it separates. An estimated 46 unique vessels had at least one trip that used a haddock separator trawl from 2013–2015. The costs for labor and installation of a new separator panel are estimated to range from $560 to $1,400 per panel. The No Action alternative would not modify the current definition of the haddock separator trawl. The proposed action is expected to expedite Coast Guard vessel inspections when compared to the No Action alternative, which could improve enforceability of this gear type and reduce delays in fishing operations while inspections occur. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648 Fisheries, Fishing, Recordkeeping and reporting requirements. Dated: March 11, 2016. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. For the reasons stated 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 § 648.14, revise paragraph (k)(16)(iii)(B) to read as follows: ■ Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS § 648.14 Prohibitions. * * * * * (k) * * * (16) * * * (iii) * * * (B) Fail to comply with the requirements specified in § 648.81(f)(5)(v) when fishing in the areas described in § 648.81(d)(1), (e)(1), VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:25 Mar 18, 2016 Jkt 238001 and (f)(4) during the time periods specified. ■ 3. In § 648.85, revise paragraph (a)(3)(iii)(A) to read as follows: ■ § 648.85 § 648.87 15031 Special management programs. (a) * * * (3) * * * (iii) * * * (A) Haddock Separator Trawl. A haddock separator trawl is defined as a groundfish trawl modified to a vertically-oriented trouser trawl configuration, with two extensions arranged one over the other, where a codend shall be attached only to the upper extension, and the bottom extension shall be left open and have no codend attached. A horizontal largemesh separating panel constructed with a minimum of 6.0-inch (15.2-cm) diamond mesh must be installed between the selvedges joining the upper and lower panels, as described in paragraphs (a)(3)(iii)(A) and (B) of this section, extending forward from the front of the trouser junction to the aft edge of the first belly behind the fishing circle. The horizontal large-mesh separating panel must be constructed with mesh of a contrasting color to the upper and bottom extensions of the net that it separates. (1) Two-seam bottom trawl nets—For two seam nets, the separator panel will be constructed such that the width of the forward edge of the panel is 80–85 percent of the width of the after edge of the first belly of the net where the panel is attached. For example, if the belly is 200 meshes wide (from selvedge to selvedge), the separator panel must be no wider than 160–170 meshes wide. (2) Four-seam bottom trawl nets—For four seam nets, the separator panel will be constructed such that the width of the forward edge of the panel is 90–95 percent of the width of the after edge of the first belly of the net where the panel is attached. For example, if the belly is 200 meshes wide (from selvedge to selvedge), the separator panel must be no wider than 180–190 meshes wide. The separator panel will be attached to both of the side panels of the net along the midpoint of the side panels. For example, if the side panel is 100 meshes tall, the separator panel must be attached at the 50th mesh. * * * * * ■ 3. In § 648.87: ■ A. Revise paragraphs (a)(1) and (2), (b)(1)(i)(B)(2), (b)(1)(v)(B) introductory text, and (b)(1)(v)(B)(1)(i); ■ B. Add paragraph (b)(1)(v)(B)(1)(ii); ■ C. Revise paragraph (b)(4)(i)(G); ■ D. Add paragraphs (c)(2)(i)(A), reserved paragraph (c)(2)(i)(B), and (c)(4); and PO 00000 Frm 00042 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 E. Revise paragraphs, (d), and (e)(3)(iv). The revisions and additions read as follows: Sector allocation. (a) Procedure for approving/ implementing a sector allocation proposal. (1) Any person may submit a sector allocation proposal for a group of limited access NE multispecies vessels to NMFS. The sector allocation proposal must be submitted to the Council and NMFS in writing by the deadline for submitting an operations plan and preliminary sector contract that is specified in paragraph (b)(2) of this section. The proposal must include a cover letter requesting the formation of the new sector, a complete sector operations plan and preliminary sector contract, prepared as described in in paragraphs (b)(2) and (3) of this section, and appropriate analysis that assesses the impact of the proposed sector, in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. (2) Upon receipt of a proposal to form a new sector allocation, and following the deadline for each sector to submit an operations plan, as described in paragraph (b)(2) of this section, NMFS will notify the Council in writing of its intent to consider a new sector allocation for approval. The Council will review the proposal(s) and associated NEPA analyses at a Groundfish Committee and Council meeting, and provide its recommendation on the proposed sector allocation to NMFS in writing. NMFS will make final determinations regarding the approval of the new sectors based on review of the proposed operations plans, associated NEPA analyses, and the Council’s recommendations, and in a manner consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act. NMFS will only approve a new sector that has received the Council’s endorsement. * * * * * (b) * * * (1) * * * (i) * * * (B) * * * (2) Re-allocation of haddock or cod ACE. A sector may re-allocate all, or a portion, of a its haddock or cod ACE specified to the Eastern U.S./Canada Area, pursuant to paragraph (b)(1)(i)(B)(1) of this section, to the Western U.S./Canada Area at any time during the fishing year, and up to 2 weeks into the following fishing year (i.e., through May 14), unless otherwise instructed by NMFS, to cover any overages during the previous fishing year. Re-allocation of any ACE only E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS 15032 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 54 / Monday, March 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules becomes effective upon approval by NMFS, as specified in paragraphs (b)(1)(i)(B)(2)(i) through (iii) of this section. Re-allocation of haddock or cod ACE may only be made within a sector, and not between sectors. For example, if 100 mt of a sector’s GB haddock ACE is specified to the Eastern U.S./Canada Area, the sector could re-allocate up to 100 mt of that ACE to the Western U.S./ Canada Area. (i) Application to re-allocate ACE. GB haddock or GB cod ACE specified to the Eastern U.S./Canada Area may be reallocated to the Western U.S./Canada Area through written request to the Regional Administrator. This request must include the name of the sector, the amount of ACE to be re-allocated, and the fishing year in which the ACE reallocation applies, as instructed by the Regional Administrator. (ii) Approval of request to re-allocate ACE. NMFS shall approve or disapprove a request to re-allocate GB haddock or GB cod ACE provided the sector, and its participating vessels, are in compliance with the reporting requirements specified in this part. The Regional Administrator shall inform the sector in writing, within 2 weeks of the receipt of the sector’s request, whether the request to re-allocate ACE has been approved. (iii) Duration of ACE re-allocation. GB haddock or GB cod ACE that has been re-allocated to the Western U.S./Canada Area pursuant to this paragraph (b)(1)(i)(B)(2) is only valid for the fishing year in which the re-allocation is approved, with the exception of any requests that are submitted up to 2 weeks into the subsequent fishing year to address any potential ACE overages from the previous fishing year, as provided in paragraph (b)(1)(iii) of this section, unless otherwise instructed by NMFS. * * * * * (v) * * * (B) Independent third-party monitoring program. A sector must develop and implement an at-sea or electronic monitoring program that is satisfactory to, and approved by, NMFS for monitoring catch and discards and utilization of sector ACE, as specified in this paragraph (b)(1)(v)(B). The primary goal of the at-sea/electronic monitoring program is to verify area fished, as well as catch and discards by species and gear type, in the most cost-effective means practicable. All other goals and objectives of groundfish monitoring programs at § 648.11(l) are considered equally-weighted secondary goals. The details of any at-sea or electronic monitoring program must be specified in the sector’s operations plan, pursuant VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:25 Mar 18, 2016 Jkt 238001 to paragraph (b)(2)(xi) of this section, and must meet the operational standards specified in paragraph (b)(5) of this section. Electronic monitoring may be used in place of actual observers if the technology is deemed sufficient by NMFS for a specific trip type based on gear type and area fished, in a manner consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act. The level of coverage for trips by sector vessels is specified in paragraph (b)(1)(v)(B)(1) of this section. The at-sea/electronic monitoring program shall be reviewed and approved by the Regional Administrator as part of a sector’s operations plans in a manner consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act. A service provider providing at-sea or electronic monitoring services pursuant to this paragraph (b)(1)(v)(B) must meet the service provider standards specified in paragraph (b)(4) of this section, and be approved by NMFS in a manner consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act. (1) * * * (i) At-sea/electronic monitoring. Coverage levels must be sufficient to at least meet the coefficient of variation specified in the Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology at the overall stock level for each stock of regulated species and ocean pout, and to monitor sector operations, to the extent practicable, in order to reliably estimate overall catch by sector vessels. In making its determination, NMFS shall take into account the primary goal of the at-sea/electronic monitoring program to verify area fished, as well as catch and discards by species and gear type, in the most cost-effective means practicable, the equally-weighted secondary goals and objectives of groundfish monitoring programs detailed at § 648.11(l), the National Standards and requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and any other relevant factors. NMFS will determine the total target coverage level (i.e., combined NEFOP coverage and atsea/electronic monitoring coverage) for the upcoming fishing year using the criteria in this paragraph. Annual coverage levels will be based on the most recent 3-year average of the total required coverage level necessary to reach the required coefficient of variation for each stock. For example, if data from the 2012 through 2014 fishing years are the most recent three complete fishing years available for the fishing year 2016 projection, NMFS will use data from these three years to determine 2016 target coverage levels. For each stock, the coverage level needed to achieve the required coefficient of variation would be calculated first for each of the 3 years and then averaged PO 00000 Frm 00043 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 (e.g., (percent coverage necessary to meet the required coefficient of variation in year 1 + year 2 + year 3)/ 3). The coverage level that will apply is the maximum stock-specific rate after considering the following criteria. For a given fishing year, stocks that are not overfished, with overfishing not occurring according to the most recent available stock assessment, and that in the previous fishing year have less than 75 percent of the sector sub-ACL harvested and less than 10 percent of catch comprised of discards, will not be used to predict the annual target coverage level. A stock must meet all of these criteria to be eliminated as a predictor for the annual target coverage level for a given year. (ii) A sector vessel that declares its intent to exclusively fish using gillnets with a mesh size of 10-inch (25.4-cm) or greater in either the Inshore GB Stock Area, as defined at § 648.10(k)(3)(ii), and/or the SNE Broad Stock Area, as defined at § 648.10(k)(3)(iv), is not subject to the coverage rate specified in this paragraph (b)(1)(v)(B)(1) of this section provided that the trip is limited to the Inshore GB and/or SNE Broad Stock Areas and that the vessel only uses gillnets with a mesh size of 10inches (25.4-cm) or greater. When on such a trip, other gear may be on board provided that it is stowed and not available for immediate use as defined in § 648.2. A sector trip fishing with 10inch (25.4-cm) mesh or larger gillnets will still be subject to the annual coverage rate if the trip declares its intent to fish in any part of the trip in the GOM Stock area, as defined at § 648.10(k)(3)(i), or the Offshore GB Stock Area, as defined at § 648.10(k)(3)(iii). * * * * * (4) * * * (i) * * * (G) Evidence of adequate insurance (copies of which shall be provided to the vessel owner, operator, or vessel manager, when requested) to cover injury, liability, and accidental death to cover at-sea monitors (including during training); vessel owner; and service provider. NMFS will determine the adequate level of insurance and notify potential service providers; * * * * * (c) * * * (2) * * * (i) * * * (A) Fippennies Ledge Area. The Fippennies Ledge Area is bounded by the following coordinates, connected by straight lines in the order listed: E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 54 / Monday, March 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules FIPPENNIES LEDGE AREA Point 1 2 3 4 1 ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ N. Latitude 42°50.0′ 42°44.0′ 42°44.0′ 42°50.0′ 42°50.0′ W. Longitude 69°17.0′ 69°14.0′ 69°18.0′ 69°21.0′ 69°17.0′ (B) [Reserved] * * * * (4) Any sector may submit a written request to amend its approved operations plan to the Regional Administrator. If the amendment is administrative in nature, within the scope of, and consistent with the actions and impacts previously considered for current sector operations, the Regional Administrator may approve an administrative amendment in writing. The Regional Administrator may approve substantive changes to an approved operations plan in a manner consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act and other applicable law. All approved operations plan amendments will be published on the regional office Web site and will be provided to the Council. (d) Approved sector allocation proposals. Eligible NE multispecies vessels, as specified in paragraph (a)(3) of this section, may participate in the Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS * VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:25 Mar 18, 2016 Jkt 238001 sectors identified in paragraphs (d)(1) through (25) of this section, provided the operations plan is approved by the Regional Administrator in accordance with paragraph (c) of this section and each participating vessel and vessel operator and/or vessel owner complies with the requirements of the operations plan, the requirements and conditions specified in the letter of authorization issued pursuant to paragraph (c) of this section, and all other requirements specified in this section. All operational aspects of these sectors shall be specified pursuant to the operations plan and sector contract, as required by this section. (1) GB Cod Hook Sector. (2) GB Cod Fixed Gear Sector. (3) Sustainable Harvest Sector. (4) Sustainable Harvest Sector II. (5) Sustainable Harvest Sector III. (6) Port Clyde Community Groundfish Sector. (7) Northeast Fishery Sector I. (8) Northeast Fishery Sector II. (9) Northeast Fishery Sector III. (10) Northeast Fishery Sector IV. (11) Northeast Fishery Sector V. (12) Northeast Fishery Sector VI. (13) Northeast Fishery Sector VII. (14) Northeast Fishery Sector VIII. (15) Northeast Fishery Sector IX. (16) Northeast Fishery Sector X. (17) Northeast Fishery Sector XI. PO 00000 Frm 00044 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 15033 (18) Northeast Fishery Sector XII. (19) Northeast Fishery Sector XIII. (20) Tristate Sector. (21) Northeast Coastal Communities Sector. (22) State of Maine Permit Banking Sector. (23) State of Rhode Island Permit Bank Sector. (24) State of New Hampshire Permit Bank Sector. (25) State of Massachusetts Permit Bank Sector * * * * * (e) * * * (3) (iv) Reallocation of GB haddock or GB cod ACE. Subject to the terms and conditions of the state-operated permit bank’s MOAs with NMFS, a stateoperated permit bank may re-allocate all, or a portion, of its GB haddock or GB cod ACE specified for the Eastern U.S./Canada Area to the Western U.S./ Canada Area provided it complies with the requirements in paragraph (b)(1)(i)(B)(2) of this section. * * * * * § 648.89 [Amended] 4. In § 648.89, remove and reserve paragraph (f)(3)(ii). ■ [FR Doc. 2016–06186 Filed 3–18–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\21MRP1.SGM 21MRP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 54 (Monday, March 21, 2016)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 15003-15033]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-06186]


=======================================================================
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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 151211999-6209-01]
RIN 0648-BF62


Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act 
Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast 
Groundfish Fishery; Framework Adjustment 55

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: This action proposes approval of, and regulations to 
implement, Framework Adjustment 55 to the Northeast Multispecies 
Fishery Management Plan. This rule would set 2016-2018 catch limits for 
all 20 groundfish stocks, adjust the groundfish at-sea monitoring 
program, and adopt several sector measures. This action is necessary to 
respond to updated scientific information and achieve the goals and 
objectives of the Fishery Management Plan. The proposed measures are 
intended to help prevent overfishing, rebuild overfished stocks, 
achieve optimum yield, and ensure that management measures are based on 
the best scientific information available.

DATES: Comments must be received by April 5, 2016.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2016-0019, 
by either of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal.
    1. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2016-0019;
    2. Click the ``Comment Now!'' icon and complete the required 
fields; and
    3. Enter or attach your comments.
     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 the Proposed Rule for Groundfish Framework Adjustment 
55.''
    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 us. All comments

[[Page 15004]]

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. We will accept 
anonymous comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to 
remain anonymous).
    Copies of Framework Adjustment 55, including the draft 
Environmental Assessment, the Regulatory Impact Review, and the Initial 
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis prepared by the New England Fishery 
Management Council in support of this action are available from Thomas 
A. Nies, Executive Director, New England Fishery Management Council, 50 
Water Street, Mill 2, Newburyport, MA 01950. The supporting documents 
are also accessible via the Internet at: http://www.nefmc.org/management-plans/northeast-multispecies or http://www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov/sustainable/species/multispecies.
    Written comments regarding the burden-hour estimates or other 
aspects of the collection-of-information requirements contained in this 
rule should be submitted to the Regional Administrator at the address 
above and to the Office of Management and Budget by email at 
OIRA_Submission@omb.eop.gov, or fax to (202) 395-7285.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Aja Szumylo, Fishery Policy Analyst, 
phone: 978-281-9195; email: Aja.Szumylo@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Table of Contents

1. Summary of Proposed Measures
2. Status Determination Criteria
3. 2016 Fishing Year Shared U.S./Canada Quotas
4. Catch Limits for the 2016-2018 Fishing Years
5. Default Catch Limits for the 2019 Fishing Year
6. Groundfish At-Sea Monitoring Program Adjustments
7. Other Framework 55 Measures
8. Sector Measures for the 2016 Fishing Year
9. 2016 Fishing Year Annual Measures Under Regional Administrator 
Authority
10. Regulatory Corrections Under Regional Administrator Authority

1. Summary of Proposed Measures

    This action would implement the management measures in Framework 
Adjustment 55 to the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan 
(FMP). The Council deemed the proposed regulations consistent with, and 
necessary to implement, Framework 55, in a February 25, 2016, letter 
from Council Chairman E.F. ``Terry'' Stockwell to Regional 
Administrator John Bullard. Under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), we are required 
to publish proposed rules for comment after preliminarily determining 
whether they are consistent with applicable law. The Magnuson-Stevens 
Act permits us to approve, partially approve, or disapprove measures 
proposed by the Council based only on whether the measures are 
consistent with the fishery management plan, plan amendment, the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act and its National Standards, and other applicable 
law. Otherwise, we must defer to the Council's policy choices. We are 
seeking comment on the Council's proposed measures in Framework 55 and 
whether they are consistent with the Northeast Multispecies FMP and 
Amendment 16, the Magnuson-Stevens Act and its National Standards, and 
other applicable law. Through Framework 55, the Council proposes to:
     Set 2016-2018 specifications for all 20 groundfish stocks;
     Set fishing year 2016 shared U.S./Canada quotas for 
Georges Bank (GB) yellowtail flounder and Eastern GB cod and haddock;
     Modify the industry-funded sector at-sea monitoring 
program to make the program more cost-effective, while still ensuring 
that groundfish catch is reliably monitored;
     Create a new sector;
     Modify the sector approval process so that new sectors 
would not have to be approved through a Council framework or amendment 
process;
     Adjust gear requirements to improve the enforceability of 
selective trawl gear;
     Remove the general Gulf of Maine (GOM) cod prohibition for 
recreational anglers established in Framework 53 (other recreational 
measures will be implemented in a separate rulemaking); and
     Allow sectors to transfer GB cod quota from the eastern 
U.S./Canada Area to the western area.
    This action also proposes a number of other measures that are not 
part of Framework 55, but that may be considered and implemented under 
our authority specified in the FMP. We are proposing these measures in 
conjunction with the Framework 55 proposed measures for expediency 
purposes, and because these measures are related to the catch limits 
proposed as part of Framework 55. The additional measures proposed in 
this action are listed below.
     Management measures necessary to implement sector 
operations plans--this action proposes one new sector regulatory 
exemption and annual catch entitlements for 19 sectors for the 2016 
fishing year.
     Management measures for the common pool fishery--this 
action proposes fishing year 2015 trip limits for the common pool 
fishery.
     Other regulatory corrections--we propose several 
administrative revisions to the regulations to clarify their intent, 
correct references, remove unnecessary text, and make other minor 
edits. Each proposed correction is described in the section ``10. 
Regulatory Corrections Under Regional Administrator Authority.''

2. Status Determination Criteria

    The Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) conducted 
operational stock assessment updates in 2015 for all 20 groundfish 
stocks. The final report for the operational assessment updates is 
available on the NEFSC Web site: http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/groundfish/operational-assessments-2015/. This action proposes to revise status 
determination criteria, as necessary, and provide updated numerical 
estimates of these criteria, in order to incorporate the results of the 
2015 stock assessments. Table 1 provides the updated numerical 
estimates of the status determination criteria, and Table 2 summarizes 
changes in stock status based on the 2015 assessment updates. Stock 
status did not change for 15 of the 20 stocks, worsened for 2 stocks 
(Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic (SNE/MA) yellowtail flounder and GB 
winter flounder), improved for 1 stock (Northern windowpane flounder), 
and became more uncertain for 2 stocks (GB cod and Atlantic halibut).
    As described in more detail below, status determination relative to 
reference points is no longer possible for GB cod and Atlantic halibut. 
However, the proposed changes do not affect the rebuilding plans for 
these stocks. The rebuilding plan for GB cod has an end date of 2026, 
and the rebuilding plan for halibut has an end date of 2056. Although 
numerical estimates of status determination criteria are currently not 
available, to ensure that rebuilding progress is made, catch limits 
will continue to be set at levels that the Council's Scientific and 
Statistical Committee (SSC) determines will prevent overfishing. 
Additionally, at whatever point the stock assessment for GB cod and 
halibut can provide biomass estimates, these estimates will be used to 
evaluate progress towards the rebuilding targets.

[[Page 15005]]



                          Table 1--Numerical Estimates of Status Determination Criteria
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                   Maximum fishing
                Stock                 Biomass target  (SSBMSY    mortality threshold            MSY (mt)
                                           or Proxy (mt))          (FMSY or Proxy)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GB Cod..............................  NA.....................  NA.....................  NA
    M=0.2 Model.....................  40,187.................  0.185..................  6,797
GOM Cod
    Mramp Model.....................  59,045.................  0.187..................  10,043
GB Haddock..........................  108,300................  0.39...................  24,900
GOM Haddock.........................  4,623..................  0.468..................  1,083
GB Yellowtail Flounder..............  NA.....................  NA.....................  NA
SNE/MA Yellowtail Flounder..........  1,959..................  0.35...................  541
CC/GOM Yellowtail Flounder..........  5,259..................  0.279..................  1,285
American Plaice.....................  13,107.................  0.196..................  2,675
Witch Flounder......................  9,473..................  0.279..................  1,957
GB Winter Flounder..................  6,700..................  0.536..................  2,840
GOM Winter Flounder.................  NA.....................  0.23 exploitation rate.  NA
SNE/MA Winter Flounder..............  26,928.................  0.325..................  7,831
Acadian Redfish.....................  281,112................  0.038..................  10,466
White Hake..........................  32,550.................  0.188..................  5,422
Pollock.............................  105,226................  0.277..................  19,678
Northern Windowpane Flounder........  1.554 kg/tow...........  0.45 c/i...............  700
Southern Windowpane Flounder........  0.247 kg/tow...........  2.027 c/i..............  500
Ocean Pout..........................  4.94 kg/tow............  0.76 c/i...............  3,754
Atlantic Halibut....................  NA.....................  NA.....................  NA
Atlantic Wolffish...................  1,663..................  0.243..................  244
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
SSB = Spawning Stock Biomass; MSY = Maximum Sustainable Yield; F = Fishing Mortality; M = Natural Mortality.
Note. A brief explanation of the two assessment models for GOM cod is provided in the section ``4. Catch Limits
  for the 2016-2018 Fishing Years.''


                                   Table 2--Summary of Changes to Stock Status
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                     Previous assessment                 2015 Assessment
                    Stock                    -------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                Overfishing?     Overfished?      Overfishing?     Overfished?
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GB Cod......................................             Yes              Yes              Yes              Yes
GOM Cod.....................................             Yes              Yes              Yes              Yes
GB Haddock..................................              No               No               No               No
GOM Haddock.................................              No               No               No               No
GB Yellowtail Flounder......................         Unknown          Unknown          Unknown          Unknown
SNE/MA Yellowtail Flounder..................              No               No              Yes              Yes
CC/GOM Yellowtail Flounder..................             Yes              Yes              Yes              Yes
American Plaice.............................              No               No               No               No
Witch Flounder..............................             Yes              Yes              Yes              Yes
GB Winter Flounder..........................              No               No              Yes              Yes
GOM Winter Flounder.........................              No          Unknown               No          Unknown
SNE/MA Winter Flounder......................              No              Yes               No              Yes
Acadian Redfish.............................              No               No               No               No
White Hake..................................              No               No               No               No
Pollock.....................................              No               No               No               No
Northern Windowpane Flounder................             Yes              Yes               No              Yes
Southern Windowpane Flounder................              No               No               No               No
Ocean Pout..................................              No              Yes               No              Yes
Atlantic Halibut............................              No              Yes               No              Yes
Atlantic Wolffish...........................              No              Yes               No              Yes
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Georges Bank Cod Status Determination Criteria

    The 2015 assessment update for GB cod was an update of the existing 
2012 benchmark assessment (available at: http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/saw/
). The 2012 benchmark assessment determined that the stock is 
overfished, and that overfishing is occurring. The peer review panel 
for the 2015 assessment update concluded that the updated assessment 
model was not acceptable as a scientific basis for management advice. 
Several model performance-indicators suggested that the problems in the 
2012 benchmark assessment are worse in the 2015 assessment update. 
There was a strong retrospective pattern in the benchmark assessment 
that worsened considerably in the assessment update. The retrospective 
pattern causes the model to overestimate stock biomass and 
underestimate fishing mortality. Neither assessment could definitively 
identify the cause of the retrospective pattern, but both cited 
uncertainty in the estimates of catch and/or natural mortality 
assumptions used in the assessments. The 2012 benchmark assessment 
accounted for the retrospective pattern using a retrospective 
adjustment. However, when the retrospective adjustment was applied in 
the 2015 assessment update to generate short-term catch projections, 
the assessment model failed. Based on this, and other indications that 
the model is no longer a good fit for the

[[Page 15006]]

available data, the review panel recommended that an alternative 
approach should be used to provide management advice.
    Although the review panel concluded that GB cod catch advice should 
be based on an alternative approach, it recommended that the 2012 
benchmark assessment is the best scientific information for stock 
status determination. All information available in the 2015 assessment 
update indicates that stock size has not increased, and that the 
condition of the stock is still poor. As a result, based on the 2015 
assessment update, the stock remains overfished and overfishing is 
occurring. However, because the assessment model was not accepted 
during the 2015 assessment, there are no longer numerical estimates of 
the status determination criteria.

Atlantic Halibut Status Determination Criteria

    This 2015 assessment update for Atlantic halibut is an operational 
update of the existing 2010 benchmark assessment and a 2012 assessment 
update (both available at: http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/saw/). The 
previous assessments determined that the stock was overfished but that 
overfishing was not occurring. Though the previous assessments were 
used to provide catch advice and make status determinations for this 
stock, the review panel for the 2015 assessment update saw a number of 
limitations in the model and concluded it was no longer an appropriate 
basis for management advice. All information available for the 2015 
assessment indicates that the stock has not increased, and that the 
condition of the stock is still poor. However, the results of the 
assessment model indicated that the stock is near or above its unfished 
biomass and could support a directed fishery. The review panel noted 
that the model is very simplistic and uses a number of assumptions 
(e.g., no immigration or emigration from the stock) that are likely not 
true for the stock. As a result, the review panel recommended a 
benchmark assessment to develop a new Atlantic halibut stock assessment 
model and explore stock boundaries. In the interim, the peer review 
panel recommended that an alternative approach should be used to 
provide management advice.

3. 2016 Fishing Year U.S./Canada Quotas

Management of Transboundary Georges Bank Stocks

    Eastern GB cod, eastern GB haddock, and GB yellowtail flounder are 
jointly managed with Canada under the United States/Canada Resource 
Sharing Understanding. Each year, the Transboundary Management Guidance 
Committee (TMGC), which is a government-industry committee made up of 
representatives from the U.S. and Canada, recommends a shared quota for 
each stock based on the most recent stock information and the TMGC's 
harvest strategy. The TMGC's harvest strategy for setting catch levels 
is to maintain a low to neutral risk (less than 50 percent) of 
exceeding the fishing mortality limit for each stock. The harvest 
strategy also specifies that when stock conditions are poor, fishing 
mortality should be further reduced to promote stock rebuilding. The 
shared quotas are allocated between the U.S. and Canada based on a 
formula that considers historical catch (10-percent weighting) and the 
current resource distribution (90-percent weighting).
    For GB yellowtail flounder, the SSC also recommends an acceptable 
biological catch (ABC) for the stock, which is typically used to inform 
the U.S. TMGC's discussions with Canada for the annual shared quota. 
Although the stock is jointly managed with Canada, and the TMGC 
recommends annual shared quotas, the United States may not set catch 
limits that would exceed the SSC's recommendation. The SSC does not 
recommend ABCs for eastern GB cod and haddock because they are 
management units of the total GB cod and haddock stocks. The SSC 
recommends overall ABCs for the total GB cod and haddock stocks. The 
shared U.S./Canada quota for eastern GB cod and haddock is accounted 
for in these overall ABCs, and must be consistent with the SSC's 
recommendation for the total GB stocks.

2016 U.S./Canada Quotas

    The Transboundary Resources Assessment Committee (TRAC) conducted 
assessments for the three transboundary stocks in July 2015, and 
detailed summaries of these assessments can be found at: http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/saw/trac/. The TMGC met in September 2015 to 
recommend shared quotas for 2016 based on the updated assessments, and 
the Council adopted the TMGC's recommendations in Framework 55. The 
proposed 2016 shared U.S./Canada quotas, and each country's allocation, 
are listed in Table 3.

 Table 3--Proposed 2016 Fishing Year U.S./Canada Quotas (mt, live weight) and Percent of Quota Allocated to Each
                                                     Country
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                Eastern GB       GB Yellowtail
                         Quota                             Eastern GB Cod        Haddock            Flounder
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Total Shared Quota.....................................                625             37,000                354
U.S. Quota.............................................          138 (22%)       15,170 (41%)          269 (76%)
Canada Quota...........................................          487 (78%)       21,830 (59%)           85 (24%)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Council's proposed 2016 U.S. quota for eastern GB haddock would 
be a 15-percent reduction compared to 2015. This reduction is due to a 
reduction in the amount of the shared quota that is allocated to the 
U.S. The Council's proposed U.S. quotas for eastern GB cod and GB 
yellowtail flounder would be an 11-percent and 9-percent increase, 
respectively, compared to 2015, which are a result of an increase in 
the amounts allocated to the U.S. For a more detailed discussion of the 
TMGC's 2016 catch advice, see the TMGC's guidance document at: http://www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov/sustainable/species/multispecies/index.html. Additionally, the proposed 2016 catch limit 
for GB yellowtail flounder is discussed in more detail in section ``4. 
Catch Limits for the 2016-2018 Fishing Years.''
    The regulations implementing the U.S./Canada Resource Sharing 
Understanding require that any overages of the U.S. quota for eastern 
GB cod, eastern GB haddock, or GB yellowtail flounder be deducted from 
the U.S. quota in the following fishing year. If catch information for 
the 2015 fishing year indicates that the U.S. fishery exceeded its 
quota for any of the shared stocks, we will reduce the respective U.S. 
quotas for the 2016 fishing year in a future management action, as 
close to May 1, 2016, as possible. If any fishery

[[Page 15007]]

that is allocated a portion of the U.S. quota exceeds its allocation 
and causes an overage of the overall U.S. quota, the overage reduction 
would only be applied to that fishery's allocation in the following 
fishing year. This ensures that catch by one component of the fishery 
does not negatively affect another component of the fishery.

4. Catch Limits for the 2016-2018 Fishing Years

Summary of the Proposed Catch Limits

    The catch limits proposed by the Council in this action can be 
found in Tables 4 through 11. A brief summary of how these catch limits 
were developed is provided below. More details on the proposed catch 
limits for each groundfish stock can be found in Appendix III to the 
Framework 55 Environmental Assessment (see ADDRESSES for information on 
how to get this document).
    Through Framework 55, the Council proposes to adopt catch limits 
for all 20 groundfish stocks for the 2016-2018 fishing years based on 
the 2015 operational assessment updates. In addition, the Council 
proposes to update the 2016 catch limits for GB cod and haddock based 
on the proposed U.S./Canada quotas for the portions of these stocks 
managed jointly with Canada. Catch limit increases are proposed for 10 
stocks; however, for a number of stocks, the catch limits proposed in 
this action are substantially lower than the catch limits set for the 
2015 fishing year (with decreases ranging from 14 to 67 percent). Table 
4 details the percent change in the 2016 catch limit compared to the 
2015 fishing year.

Overfishing Limits and Acceptable Biological Catches

    The overfishing limit (OFL) serves as the maximum amount of fish 
that can be caught in a year without resulting in overfishing. The OFL 
for each stock is calculated using the estimated stock size and 
FMSY (i.e., the fishing mortality rate that, if applied over 
the long term, would result in maximum sustainable yield). The OFL does 
not account for scientific uncertainty, so the SSC typically recommends 
an ABC that is lower than the OFL in order to account for this 
uncertainty. Usually, the greater the amount of scientific uncertainty, 
the lower the ABC is set compared to the OFL. For GB cod, GB haddock, 
and GB yellowtail flounder, the total ABC is then reduced by the amount 
of the Canadian quota (see Table 3 for the Canadian share of these 
stocks). Additionally, although GB winter flounder and Atlantic halibut 
are not jointly managed with Canada, there is some Canadian catch of 
these stocks. Because the total ABC must account for all sources of 
fishing mortality, expected Canadian catch of GB winter flounder (87 
mt) and Atlantic halibut (34 mt) is deducted from the total ABC. The 
U.S. ABC is the amount available to the U.S. fishery after accounting 
for Canadian catch. Additional details about the Council's proposed 
ABCs for SNE/MA yellowtail flounder and witch flounder are provided 
below.

                             Table 4--Proposed Fishing Years 2016-2018 Overfishing Limits and Acceptable Biological Catches
                                                                    [mt, live weight]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                       2016                                            2017                            2018
                  Stock                  -------------------------------- Percent change ---------------------------------------------------------------
                                                OFL          U.S. ABC        from 2015          OFL          U.S. ABC           OFL          U.S. ABC
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GB Cod..................................           1,665             762            -62%           1,665           1,249           1,665           1,249
GOM Cod.................................             667             500             30%             667             500             667             500
GB Haddock..............................         160,385          56,068            130%         258,691          48,398         358,077          77,898
GOM Haddock.............................           4,717           3,630            150%           5,873           4,534           6,218           4,815
GB Yellowtail Flounder..................         Unknown             269              8%         Unknown             354  ..............  ..............
SNE/MA Yellowtail Flounder..............         Unknown             267            -62%         Unknown             267         Unknown             267
CC/GOM Yellowtail Flounder..............             555             427            -22%             707             427             900             427
American Plaice.........................           1,695           1,297            -16%           1,748           1,336           1,840           1,404
Witch Flounder..........................             521             460            -41%             732             460             954             460
GB Winter Flounder......................             957             668            -67%           1,056             668           1,459             668
GOM Winter Flounder.....................           1,080             810             59%           1,080             810           1,080             810
SNE/MA Winter Flounder..................           1,041             780            -53%           1,021             780           1,587             780
Redfish.................................          13,723          10,338            -14%          14,665          11,050          15,260          11,501
White Hake..............................           4,985           3,754            -20%           4,816           3,624           4,733           3,560
Pollock.................................          27,668          21,312             28%          32,004          21,312          34,745          21,312
N. Windowpane Flounder..................             243             182             21%             243             182             243             182
S. Windowpane Flounder..................             833             623             14%             833             623             833             623
Ocean Pout..............................             220             165            -30%             220             165             220             165
Atlantic Halibut........................             210             124             24%             210             124             210             124
Atlantic Wolffish.......................             110              82             17%             110              82             110              82
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
SNE/MA = Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic; CC = Cape Cod; N = Northern; S = Southern.
Note: An empty cell indicates no OFL/ABC is adopted for that year. These catch limits will be set in a future action.

Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic Yellowtail Flounder

    The 2015 operational assessment results suggest a dramatic decline 
in condition of the SNE/MA yellowtail flounder stock compared to the 
2012 benchmark assessment (available at: http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/saw/
). Based on the results of the 2012 assessment, we declared the stock 
rebuilt. However, the results of the 2015 operational assessments 
suggest that the stock is overfished and that overfishing is occurring. 
There was also a major retrospective pattern in the 2015 operational 
assessment. In advance of the operational assessments, guidelines were 
defined for the assessments, one of

[[Page 15008]]

which required the application of an adjustment to the terminal year 
biomass in assessments with major retrospective patterns. However, for 
SNE/MA yellowtail flounder, the assessment peer review panel did not 
accept the retrospective adjustment because the adjustment led to 
failures in the short-term catch projections, and because the model had 
no other apparent issues. The peer review panel ultimately accepted the 
assessment without the retrospective adjustment.
    The SSC recognized that the stock is in poor condition, and that a 
substantial reduction in catch is necessary. The SSC expressed 
concerned that the assessment for SNE/MA yellowtail flounder did not 
follow the established guidelines and discussed whether it should not 
have passed peer review. However, the SSC recognized that the 
assessment guidelines did not address cases where a retrospective 
adjustment resulted in model failure. Given this scientific 
uncertainty, the SSC concluded that the catch projections from the 
assessment should not be used as the sole basis for catch advice. The 
SSC ultimately recommended a 3-year constant ABC of 276 mt based on the 
average of the assessment catch projections and the estimate of 2015 
catch, and recommended that the OFL be specified as unknown. In support 
of this recommendation, it noted that this compromise approach uses the 
assessment outcome as one bound for ABC advice, but does not adhere too 
strongly to those outcomes in light of the substantial uncertainties 
and procedural issues. The Council's proposed ABC is a 62-percent 
decrease from the 2015 ABC.

Witch Flounder

    The 2015 operational assessment update for witch flounder 
determined that the stock is overfished, and overfishing is occurring. 
The stock status is unchanged from the 2012 assessment update and 2008 
benchmark assessment for this stock. Witch flounder is under a 7-year 
rebuilding plan that has a target end date of 2017. Based on the 2015 
assessment update, the 2014 spawning stock biomass is at only at 22 
percent of the biomass target, and the stock is not expected to reach 
the 2017 rebuilding target even in the absence of fishing mortality. An 
important source of uncertainty for this assessment is a major 
retrospective pattern, which causes the model to underestimate fishing 
mortality and overestimate stock biomass and recruitment; the 
assessment was unable to identify the cause of the retrospective 
pattern.
    The SSC initially recommended a witch flounder OFL of 513 mt, and 
an ABC of 394 mt, based on 75 percent of FMSY. At its 
December 2015 meeting, the Council recommended the SSC's initial witch 
flounder OFL and ABC recommendations. The 394-mt ABC represented a 50-
percent decrease from the 2015 ABC. Industry members raised strong 
concern for the poor performance of the assessment model and that the 
reduction in the witch flounder ABC has the potential to severely limit 
the groundfish fishery in all areas (Southern New England, Gulf of 
Maine, and Georges Bank). In response to these concerns, the Council 
requested that the SSC reconsider the witch flounder ABC using 
additional information about incidental, non-target catch of the stock 
by groundfish vessels that was not available to the SSC when it made 
its initial ABC recommendation. The Council noted that it would be 
willing to accept the temporary risk associated with an ABC that equals 
the OFL of 513 mt.
    The SSC met on January 20, 2016, to review the biological and 
economic impacts of increasing the witch flounder ABC above its initial 
recommendation. The Groundfish Plan Development Team also updated the 
2015 catch estimate for witch flounder, which slightly increased the 
OFL estimate to 521 mt, and the 75 percent of FMSY estimate 
to 399 mt.
    The SSC acknowledged that an ABC closer to the OFL would be 
expected to result in higher rates of fishing mortality, higher 
probabilities of overfishing, and lower resulting biomass in 2017 
compared to its initial ABC recommendation. The SSC also cautioned that 
a history of overly optimistic biomass projections and the risk of 
overestimating the OFL likely mean higher biological risks with higher 
ABCs. Biomass projections out to 2018, however, suggest minimal 
biological difference between the initial ABC recommendation and the 
OFL because of the short timeframe and relatively small differences in 
the recommended catch amounts. In each instance, however, biomass is 
expected to increase from the level estimated in the 2015 assessment.
    An economic model of groundfish fishery suggested no overall 
increase in revenue with increases in the witch flounder ABC up to the 
OFL due to the likelihood that low quotas for other key stocks (GOM 
cod, GB cod, and SNE/MA yellowtail flounder) would be more restrictive. 
Industry members disagreed with the economic model results. They noted 
that the results are overly optimistic given current fishery 
conditions, and that they do not reflect the impact of a reduced witch 
flounder ABC on individual sectors.
    The SSC noted that it is possible that a lower ABC for witch 
flounder could show economic benefits at the fishery-wide level, but 
could still impose economic costs at the vessel or community level. 
After weighing the uncertainties in the biological and economic 
information, the SSC ultimately recommended that that the Council set 
the ABC no higher than 500 mt. The SSC's discussion of its revised 
witch flounder ABC recommendation is available here: http://s3.amazonaws.com/nefmc.org/1_SSC_response_witchflounder_Jan2016_FINAL.pdf.
    The Council discussed the SSC's revised witch flounder ABC 
recommendation on January 27, 2016, and recommended a witch flounder 
ABC of 460 mt, which is the midpoint between the initial ABC 
recommendation of 399 mt and the OFL of 521 mt, for the 2016-2018 
fishing years. This recommendation is 40 mt lower that the SSC's upper 
limit for the ABC, and was recommended by the Council to reduce the 
risk of overfishing while providing some flexibility for groundfish 
vessels to prosecute other healthy groundfish stocks such as haddock, 
redfish, and pollock.
    An important factor in the revised ABC recommendation for witch 
flounder ABC is that a benchmark assessment for witch flounder will be 
conducted in fall of 2016, in time to re-specify witch flounder catch 
limits for the 2017 fishing year. This new stock assessment information 
is also expected to provide additional information on the rebuilding 
potential for witch flounder and potential adjustments to the 
rebuilding plan. Thus, although the Council proposes a 3-year constant 
ABC, the catch limits adopted are expected to be in place for only 1 
year.

Annual Catch Limits

Development of Annual Catch Limits
    The U.S. ABC for each stock is divided among the various fishery 
components to account for all sources of fishing mortality. First, an 
estimate of catch expected from state waters and the ``other'' sub-
component (i.e., non-groundfish fisheries) is deducted from the U.S. 
ABC. These sub-components are not subject to specific catch controls by 
the FMP. As a result, the state waters and other sub-components are not 
allocations, and these components of the fishery are not subject to 
accountability measures if the catch limits are exceeded. After the 
state and

[[Page 15009]]

other sub-components are deducted, the remaining portion of the U.S. 
ABC is distributed to the fishery components that receive an allocation 
for the stock. Components of the fishery that receive an allocation are 
subject to accountability measures if they exceed their respective 
catch limit during the fishing year.
    Once the U.S. ABC is divided, sub-annual catch limits (sub-ACLs) 
are set by reducing the amount of the ABC distributed to each component 
of the fishery to account for management uncertainty. Management 
uncertainty is the likelihood that management measures will result in a 
level of catch greater than expected. For each stock and fishery 
component, management uncertainty is estimated using the following 
criteria: Enforceability and precision of management measures, adequacy 
of catch monitoring, latent effort, and catch of groundfish in non-
groundfish fisheries. The total ACL is the sum of all of the sub-ACLs 
and ACL sub-components, and is the catch limit for a particular year 
after accounting for both scientific and management uncertainty. 
Landings and discards from all fisheries (commercial and recreational 
groundfish fisheries, state waters, and non-groundfish fisheries) are 
counted against the ACL for each stock.
Sector and Common Pool Allocations
    For stocks allocated to sectors, the commercial groundfish sub-ACL 
is further divided into the non-sector (common pool) sub-ACL and the 
sector sub-ACL, based on the total vessel enrollment in sectors and the 
cumulative Potential Sector Contributions (PSCs) associated with those 
sectors. The preliminary sector and common pool sub-ACLs proposed in 
this action are based on fishing year 2016 PSCs and fishing year 2015 
sector rosters. Sector specific allocations for each stock can be found 
in this rule in section ``8. Sector Administrative Measures.''
Common Pool Total Allowable Catches
    The common pool sub-ACL for each stock (except for SNE/MA winter 
flounder, windowpane flounder, ocean pout, Atlantic wolffish, and 
Atlantic halibut) is further divided into trimester total allowable 
catches (TACs). The distribution of the common pool sub-ACLs into 
trimesters was adopted in Amendment 16 to the FMP and is based on 
recent landing patterns. Once we project that 90 percent of the 
trimester TAC is caught for a stock, the trimester TAC area for that 
stock is closed for the remainder of the trimester to all common pool 
vessels fishing with gear capable of catching the pertinent stock. Any 
uncaught portion of the TAC in Trimester 1 or Trimester 2 will be 
carried forward to the next trimester. Overages of the Trimester 1 or 
Trimester 2 TAC will be deducted from the Trimester 3 TAC. Any overages 
of the total common pool sub-ACL will be deducted from the following 
fishing year's common pool sub-ACL for that stock. Uncaught portions of 
the Trimester 3 TAC may not be carried over into the following fishing 
year. Table 8 summarizes the common pool trimester TACs proposed in 
this action.
    Incidental catch TACs are also specified for certain stocks of 
concern (i.e., stocks that are overfished or subject to overfishing) 
for common pool vessels fishing in the special management programs 
(i.e., special access programs (SAPs) and the Regular B Days-at-Sea 
(DAS) Program), in order to limit the catch of these stocks under each 
program. Tables 9 through 11 summarize the proposed Incidental Catch 
TACs for each stock and the distribution of these TACs to each special 
management program.
Closed Area I Hook Gear Haddock Special Access Program
    Overall fishing effort by both common pool and sector vessels in 
the Closed Area I Hook Gear Haddock SAP is controlled by an overall TAC 
for GB haddock, which is the target species for this SAP. The maximum 
amount of GB haddock that may be caught in any fishing year is based on 
the amount allocated to this SAP for the 2004 fishing year (1,130 mt), 
and adjusted according to the growth or decline of the western GB 
haddock biomass in relationship to its size in 2004. Based on this 
formula, the Council's proposed GB Haddock TAC for this SAP is 2,448 mt 
for the 2015 fishing year. Once this overall TAC is caught, the Closed 
Area I Hook Gear Haddock SAP will be closed to all groundfish vessels 
for the remainder of the fishing year.
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               Table 9--Proposed Common Pool Incidental Catch TACs for the 2016-2018 Fishing Years
                                                [mt, live weight]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                   Percentage of
                      Stock                         common pool        2016            2017            2018
                                                      sub-ACL
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GB Cod..........................................               2            0.26            0.43            0.43
GOM Cod.........................................               1            0.08            0.08            0.08
GB Yellowtail Flounder..........................               2            0.08            0.11            0.00
CC/GOM Yellowtail Flounder......................               1            0.16            0.16            0.16
American Plaice.................................               5            1.13            1.17            1.22
Witch Flounder..................................               5            0.42            0.42            0.42
SNE/MA Winter Flounder..........................               1            0.71            0.71            0.71
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


          Table 10--Percentage of Incidental Catch TACs Distributed to Each Special Management Program
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                   Closed Area I
                              Stock                                Regular B DAS     Hook Gear     Eastern US/CA
                                                                      Program       Haddock SAP     Haddock SAP
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GB Cod..........................................................              50              16              34
GOM Cod.........................................................             100  ..............  ..............
GB Yellowtail Flounder..........................................              50  ..............              50
CC/GOM Yellowtail Flounder......................................             100  ..............  ..............
American Plaice.................................................             100  ..............  ..............
Witch Flounder..................................................             100  ..............  ..............
SNE/MA Winter Flounder..........................................             100  ..............  ..............
White Hake......................................................             100  ..............  ..............
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


      Table 11--Proposed Fishing Years 2016-2018 Incidental Catch TACs for Each Special Management Program
                                                [mt, live weight]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                   Regular B DAS Program     Closed Area I Hook Gear      Eastern U.S./Canada
                                ---------------------------        Haddock SAP                Haddock SAP
             Stock                                         -----------------------------------------------------
                                   2016     2017     2018     2016     2017     2018     2016     2017     2018
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GB Cod.........................     0.13     0.22     0.22     0.04     0.07     0.07     0.09     0.15     0.15
GOM Cod........................     0.08     0.08     0.08      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a
GB Yellowtail Flounder.........     0.04     0.05     0.00      n/a      n/a      n/a     0.04     0.05     0.00
CC/GOM Yellowtail Flounder.....     0.16     0.16     0.16      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a
American Plaice................     1.13     1.17     1.22      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a
Witch Flounder.................     0.42     0.42     0.42      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a
SNE/MA Winter Flounder.........     0.71     0.71     0.71      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

5. Default Catch Limits for the 2019 Fishing Year

    Framework 53 established a mechanism for setting default catch 
limits in the event a future management action is delayed. If final 
catch limits have not been implemented by the start of a fishing year 
on May 1, then default catch limits are set at 35 percent of the 
previous year's catch limit, effective until July 31 of that fishing 
year. If this value exceeds the Council's recommendation for the 
upcoming fishing year, the default catch limits will be reduced to an 
amount equal to the Council's recommendation for the upcoming fishing 
year. Because groundfish vessels are not able to fish if final catch 
limits have not been implemented, this measure was established to 
prevent disruption to the groundfish fishery. Additional description of 
the default catch limit mechanism is provided in the preamble to the 
Framework 53 final rule (80 FR 25110; May 1, 2015). The default catch 
limits for 2019 are summarized in Table 12.
    This rule announces default catch limits for the 2019 fishing year 
that will become effective May 1, 2019, until July 31, 2019, unless 
otherwise replaced by final specifications. The preliminary sector and 
common pool sub-ACLs in Table 12 are based on existing 2015 sector 
rosters, and will be adjusted based on rosters from the 2018 fishing 
year. In addition, prior to the start of the 2019 fishing year, we will 
evaluate whether any of the default catch limits announced in this rule 
exceed the Council's recommendations for 2019. If necessary, we will 
announce adjustments prior to May 1, 2019.

[[Page 15015]]



                                               Table 12--Default Specifications for the 2019 Fishing Year
                                                                    [mt, live weight]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                                            Preliminary
                          Stock                              U.S. ABC        Total ACL    Groundfish sub-   Preliminary     common pool   Midwater trawl
                                                                                                ACL       sector sub-ACL      sub-ACL         fishery
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GB Cod..................................................             583             437             465             455              10  ..............
GOM Cod.................................................             233             175             204             127               4  ..............
GB Haddock..............................................         125,327          27,264           5,007           4,963              44              51
GOM Haddock.............................................           2,176           1,685           1,552           1,107              14              16
SNE/MA Yellowtail Flounder..............................  ..............              93              66              52              14  ..............
CC/GOM Yellowtail Flounder..............................             315             149             119             113               5  ..............
American Plaice.........................................             644             491             448             439               9  ..............
Witch Flounder..........................................             334             161             129             126               3  ..............
GB Winter Flounder......................................             511             264             233             231               2  ..............
GOM Winter Flounder.....................................             378             284             224             212              12  ..............
SNE/MA Winter Flounder..................................             555             273             205             180              25  ..............
Redfish.................................................           5,341           4,025           3,709           3,688              21  ..............
White Hake..............................................           1,657           1,268           1,168           1,160               8  ..............
Pollock.................................................          12,161           7,459           6,236           6,196              39  ..............
N. Windowpane Flounder..................................              85              64              64              na              64  ..............
S. Windowpane Flounder..................................             292             218             218              na             218  ..............
Ocean Pout..............................................              77              58              58              na              58  ..............
Atlantic Halibut........................................              74              55              55              na              55  ..............
Atlantic Wolffish.......................................              39              29              29              na              29  ..............
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

6. Groundfish At-Sea Monitoring Program Adjustments

    In this action, the Council proposes adjustments to the groundfish 
sector at-sea monitoring (ASM) program to make it more cost effective, 
while still ensuring the likelihood that discards for all groundfish 
stocks are monitored at a 30-percent coefficient of variation (CV). Due 
to changes in the 2015 revision to the Standardized Bycatch Reporting 
Methodology (SBRM) Amendment (80 FR 37182; June 30, 2015) that limit 
agency discretion in how Congressional funding is used to provide 
observer coverage, we are no longer able to cover industry's portion of 
ASM costs. As a result, in early 2015, we announced that sectors would 
be responsible for covering ASM costs before the end of the 2015 
calendar year. We had some funding in existing contracts to cover ASM 
costs for a portion of the 2015 fishing year, which delayed the 
operations of the industry-funded ASM program until March 2016. The 
Council was concerned that the cost burden of the ASM program to the 
fishing industry would reduce, and possibly eliminate, sector 
profitability for the remainder of the 2015 fishing year and in future 
fishing years, especially in light of recent reductions in catch limits 
for many key groundfish stocks. While the Council has expressed 
interest in exploring extensive changes to the ASM program in a future 
action (i.e., adjusting the 30-percent CV requirement), this action 
only includes minor modifications to the current ASM program. The 
following section describes the existing industry-funded ASM program, 
the current methods for deriving annual ASM coverage levels, and the 
Council's proposed adjustments to the ASM program.

Description of Existing Industry-Funded ASM Program

    Amendment 16 to the Northeast Multispecies FMP (75 FR 18261; April 
9, 2010) established industry-funded at-sea monitoring requirements 
within the sector management system to facilitate accurate monitoring 
of sector catch to ensure that sector allocations would not be 
exceeded. Amendment 16 stated that the level of ASM coverage should be 
less than 100 percent of sector trips, but meet the 30-percent CV 
standard specified in the SBRM Amendment. While Amendment 16 
established a performance standard for coverage levels, it did not 
provide guidance on what level the CV standard should be applied--
discard estimates at the stock level for all sectors, or for each 
combination of sector and stock. Framework 48 to the FMP (May 3, 2013; 
78 FR 26118) clarified that the CV standard was intended to apply to 
discard estimates at the overall stock level for all sectors combined.
    Amendment 16 did not detail explicit goals for sector monitoring 
beyond accurate catch estimation, so the Council further articulated 
the goals and objectives of the sector monitoring program in Framework 
48 in order to assist NMFS and the sectors in designing and evaluating 
proposals to satisfy monitoring requirements in sector operations 
plans. The ASM program goals and objectives established in Framework 48 
include that groundfish sector monitoring programs improve 
documentation of catch, determine total catch and effort of regulated 
species, and achieve a coverage level sufficient to minimize effects of 
potential monitoring bias to the extent possible, while enhancing fleet 
viability. Sector monitoring programs should also reduce the cost of 
monitoring, streamline data management and eliminate redundancy, 
explore options for cost-sharing, all while recognizing the opportunity 
costs of insufficient monitoring. Other goals and objectives include 
incentivizing reducing discards, providing additional data streams for 
stock assessments, reducing management and/or biological uncertainty, 
and enhancing the safety of the monitoring program. The complete list 
of goals and objectives for groundfish monitoring programs is specified 
in the NE multispecies regulations at Sec.  648.11(l) and in Framework 
48.
    For the 2010 and 2011 fishing years, there was no requirement for 
an industry-funded ASM program, and we were able to fund an ASM program 
with a target ASM coverage level of 30 percent of all trips. In 
addition, we provided 8-percent observer coverage through the Northeast 
Fishery Observer Program (NEFOP), which helps to support SBRM and stock 
assessments. This resulted in an overall target coverage level of 38 
percent, between ASM and NEFOP, for the 2010 and 2011 fishing years. We 
were able to achieve a 38-percent ASM coverage level for the 2010 and 
2011 fishing years because

[[Page 15016]]

Congressional funding was appropriated to support new catch share 
programs, which included the implementation of the sector program. 
Beginning in the 2012 fishing year, we have conducted an annual 
analysis to predict the total coverage that would likely reach a 30-
percent CV for all stocks, and would reliably estimate overall catch by 
sector vessels. Industry has been required to pay for their costs of 
ASM coverage since the 2012 fishing year, while we continued to fund 
NEFOP coverage. However, we were able to fully fund the industry's 
portion of ASM costs and NEFOP coverage during the 2012 to 2014 fishing 
years. Table 13 shows annual target coverage levels for the 2010 to 
2015 fishing years.

                         Table 13--Historic Target Coverage Level for At-Sea Monitoring
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                        Total coverage   ASM coverage   NEFOP coverage
             Fishing year                  level (%)       level (%)       level (%)         Funding source
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2010..................................              38              30               8  NMFS.
2011..................................              38              30               8  NMFS.
2012..................................              25              17               8  NMFS.
2013..................................              22              14               8  NMFS.
2014..................................              26              18               8  NMFS.
2015..................................              24              20               4  NMFS and Sectors.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Historic Determination of ASM Coverage Level

    As described in further detail below, the target coverage level 
sufficient to reach a 30-percent CV for all stocks in the fishery has 
been set using the most recent full fishing year of data, based on the 
most sensitive stock, for at least 80 percent of the discarded pounds 
of all groundfish stocks.
    First, target coverage levels have been determined based on discard 
information from the most recent single full fishing year. For example, 
discard information was available only from the full 2013 fishing year 
to determine the target coverage level for the 2015 fishing year. In 
the initial years of the ASM program, multiple years of data were not 
available, and the most recent full fishing year was determined to be 
the best available information to predict target coverage levels.
    Second, because it is necessary to estimate discards with a 30-
percent CV for each of the 20 groundfish stocks, we conservatively used 
the individual stock that needed the highest coverage level to reach a 
30-percent CV in the most recent full fishing year to predict the 
annual target coverage level for the upcoming fishing year. For 
example, in 2013, of the 20 groundfish stocks, SNE/MA yellowtail 
flounder needed the highest coverage level to reach a 30-percent CV. 
Thus, the coverage level needed to reach a 30-percent CV for SNE/MA 
yellowtail flounder in 2013 was used to predict the ASM coverage level 
for the 2015 fishing year. Since the start of the ASM program in 2010, 
this approach has resulted in realized annual ASM coverage levels that 
far exceeded the 30-percent CV requirement for a vast majority of the 
20 groundfish stocks.
    Finally, in the first year that the sector program was implemented, 
we were able to fund ASM coverage at a level that reached this 
precision standard for 80 percent of the discarded pounds. In each 
subsequent year, because Congress appropriated funds to pay for 
industry's ASM costs, we sought to maintain the same statistical 
quality achieved in the 2010 fishing year by ensuring that at least 80 
percent of the discarded pounds of all groundfish stocks were estimated 
at a 30-percent CV or better. In some years, applying this standard has 
resulted in higher coverage levels than if the standard were not 
applied. For example, the application of this standard increased the 
required ASM coverage levels from 22 percent to 26 percent for the 2014 
fishing year, and from 21 percent to 24 percent in the 2015 fishing 
year.

Proposed ASM Program Adjustments

    Through this action, the Council proposes to modify the method used 
to set the target coverage level for the industry-funded ASM program 
based on 5 years of experience with ASM coverage operations for 
groundfish sectors and evaluation of the accumulated discard data. The 
Council proposed these adjustments to make the program more cost 
effective and smooth the fluctuations in the annual coverage level to 
provide additional stability for the fishing industry, while still 
providing coverage levels sufficient to meet the 30-percent CV 
requirement. The changes proposed in this action would remove ASM 
coverage for a certain subset of sector trips, use more years of 
discard information to predict ASM coverage levels, and base the target 
coverage level on the predictions for stocks that would be at a higher 
risk for an error in the discard estimate. We are seeking comment on 
our preliminarily determination that the adjustments the Council 
proposed to the ASM program are consistent with the Northeast 
Multispecies FMP and Amendment 16, the Magnuson-Stevens Act and its 
National Standards, and other applicable law.
    None of the proposed adjustments remove our obligation under 
Amendment 16 and Framework 48 to ensure sufficient ASM coverage to 
achieve a 30-percent CV for all stocks. The proposed changes would 
result in a target coverage level of 14 percent for the 2016 fishing 
year, including SBRM coverage paid in full by NEFOP. Assuming NEFOP 
covers 4 percent of trips as it has in recent years, this would result 
in sectors paying for ASM on approximately 10 percent of their vessels' 
trips in 2016. Though the proposed changes result in a reduced target 
ASM coverage level for the 2016 fishing year compared to previous 
years, there is no guarantee that the changes would result in reduced 
target coverage levels in future fishing years (i.e., using the same 
methods proposed here could result in higher coverage in 2017 or 2018 
than in recent years).
    We are only able to determine whether the target coverage level 
reaches the 30-percent CV for all stocks in hindsight, after a fishing 
year is over. Thus, while a target ASM coverage level is expected to 
generate a 30-percent CV on discard estimates, there is no guarantee 
that the required coverage level will be met or result in a 30-percent 
CV across all stocks due to changes in fishing effort and observed 
fishing activity that may happen in a given fishing year. However, 
during the 2010-2014 fishing years, the target coverage level was in 
excess of the coverage level that would have been

[[Page 15017]]

necessary to reach at least a 30-percent CV for almost every stock.
    We expect the 2016 target coverage level to achieve results 
consistent with prior years based on applying the proposed 2016 target 
coverage level to the 2010-2014 fishing year data. For example, over 
the five years from 2010-2014, coverage levels of 14 percent would have 
achieved a 30-percent CV or better for 95 out of the 100 monitored 
stocks (i.e., 20 stocks x 5 years). For two of the years, (2010 and 
2012), all of the stocks would have achieved a 30-percent CV or better. 
The lowest 30-percent CV achievement overall would have occurred in 
fishing year 2014, when 17 of the 20 groundfish stocks would have met 
the 30-percent CV under the 2016 target coverage level. The three 
stocks that would not have achieved the 30-percent CV included redfish, 
GOM winter flounder, and SNE/MA yellowtail flounder. Our application of 
the 2016 target coverage rate to 2010-2014 data, however, showed that 
stocks not achieving the 30-percent CV typically did not recur. 
Moreover, the only stock that would not have achieved a 30-percent CV 
for more than one of the five years (2 times) was SNE/MA yellowtail 
flounder. However, the proposed 14 percent coverage rate is projected 
to achieve the necessary 30-percent CV requirement for SNE/MA 
yellowtail flounder in 2016. Were a higher coverage level necessary to 
achieve the 30-percent CV requirement for this stock, coverage would be 
set equal to that level.
    Further, the risk of not achieving the required CV level for these 
stocks is mitigated by a number of factors. For example, for SNE/MA 
yellowtail flounder, a more sizeable portion of its ACL has been caught 
over the last three years (58-70 percent), but less than 10 percent of 
total catch was made up of discards. Redfish and GOM winter flounder 
were underutilized over the last three fishing years (less than 50 
percent of the ACL caught) and less than 10 percent of their total 
catch was made up of discards. Thus, even in the unexpected event of 
not achieving a CV of 30 percent, the risk to these stocks of erring in 
the discard estimates is very low.
    Table 14 describes the combined impact of the proposed adjustments, 
applied sequentially in Steps 1 through 4. Table 14 also lists the 
individual stock that would have needed the highest coverage level to 
reach a 30-percent CV and, in turn, be used to set the target ASM 
coverage level. The text that follows discusses the potential effects 
of each alternative on the target ASM coverage level for 2016 if each 
alternative were adopted in isolation.

                Table 14--Proposed ASM Program Adjustments and Resulting 2016 ASM Coverage Level
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                     Total 2016
                Proposed action                    coverage level                   Driving stock
                                                 (NEFOP + ASM) (%)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
No Action......................................                 41  Redfish.
1. Remove standard that 80% of discarded pounds                 37  Redfish.
 be monitored at a 30% CV (administrative).
2. Remove ASM coverage requirement for extra-                   37  Redfish.
 large mesh gillnet trips.
3. Use multiple years of information to                         17  Redfish.
 determine ASM coverage levels.
4. Filter the application of the 30% CV                         14  SNE/MA yellowtail flounder.
 standard based on stock status and utilization.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Removal of Standard That 80 Percent of Discarded Pounds Be Monitored at 
a 30-Percent CV

    As discussed above, from 2012 to 2015, we set coverage levels to 
ensure that at least 80 percent of the discarded pounds of all 
groundfish stocks were estimated at a 30-percent CV or better to 
maintain the same statistical quality achieved in the 2010 fishing 
year. We applied this standard during years when Congress appropriated 
funds to pay for industry costs for the ASM program (2010 and 2011), 
and in other years when we were able to fund industry's costs for ASM 
(2012-2014, and part of 2015). In some years, applying this standard 
resulted in higher coverage levels than if the standard were not 
applied. However, this additional criterion was not necessary to 
satisfy the CV requirement of the ASM program or to accurately monitor 
sector catches, and was not required by the FMP. This action proposes 
to clarify the Council's intent that target ASM coverage levels for 
sectors should be set using only realized stock-level CVs, and should 
not be set using the additional administrative standard of monitoring 
80 percent of discard pounds at a 30-percent CV or better. If 
implemented alone, removing this administrative standard would result 
in a target 2016 ASM coverage level of 37 percent.

Removing ASM Coverage Requirement for Extra-Large Mesh Gillnet Trips

    Currently, sector monitoring requirements apply to any trip where 
groundfish catch counts against a sector's annual catch entitlement 
(ACE). This Council action proposes to remove the ASM coverage 
requirement for sector trips using gillnets with extra-large mesh (10 
inches (25.4 cm) or greater) in the SNE/MA and Inshore GB Broad Stock 
Areas. A majority of catch on these trips is of non-groundfish stocks 
such as skates, monkfish, and dogfish, with minimal or no groundfish 
catch. As a result, applying the same level of coverage on these trips 
as targeted groundfish trips does not contribute to improving the 
overall precision and accuracy of sector discard estimates, and would 
not be a sufficient use of the limited resources for the ASM program. 
These trips would still be subject to SBRM coverage through NEFOP, and 
monitoring coverage levels would be consistent with non-sector trips 
that target non-groundfish species. If implemented alone, this 
alternative would result in a target ASM coverage level of 37 percent 
for the 2016 fishing year.
    This measure is intended to reduce ASM costs to sectors with 
members that take this type of extra-large mesh gillnet trip. The 
benefit of reducing ASM coverage for these trips is that resources 
would be diverted to monitor trips that catch more groundfish, which 
could improve discard estimates for directed groundfish trips. All 
other sector trips would still be required to meet the CV standard at a 
minimum. Changes in stock size or fishing behavior on these trips could 
change the amount of groundfish bycatch in future fishing years. 
However, data from 2012 to 2014 shows that groundfish catch has 
represented less than 5 percent of total catch on a majority of trips, 
and large changes are not expected. We will continue to evaluate this 
measure in the future to make sure bycatch levels remain low.

[[Page 15018]]

    Because this subset of trips would have a different coverage level 
than other sector trips in the SNE/MA and Inshore GB Broad Stock Areas, 
we would create separate discard strata for each stock caught on extra-
large gillnet trips in order to ensure the different coverage levels do 
not bias discard estimates. At this time, no adjustments to the current 
notification procedures appear necessary to implement this measure. 
Sector vessels already declare gear type and Broad Stock Area to be 
fished in the Pre-Trip Notification System, which would allow us to 
easily identify trips that are exempt from ASM coverage.
    To minimize the possibility that this measure would be used to 
avoid ASM coverage, only vessels declared into the SNE/MA and/or 
Inshore GB Broad Stock Areas using extra-large mesh gillnets would be 
exempt from the ASM coverage requirement. Vessels using extra-large 
mesh gillnet declaring into the GOM or Offshore GB Broad Stock Areas 
would not be exempt from the ASM coverage requirement. In addition, a 
vessel is already prohibited from changing its fishing plan for a trip 
once a waiver from coverage has been issued.
    Framework 48 implemented a similar measure exempting the subset of 
sector trips declared into the SNE/MA Broad Stock Area on a monkfish 
DAS and using extra-large mesh gillnets from the standard ASM coverage 
level. The Framework 48 measure gave us the authority to specify some 
lower coverage level for these trips on an annual basis when 
determining coverage rates for all other sector trips. Since this 
measure was implemented at the start of the 2013 fishing year, the ASM 
coverage level for these trips has been set to zero, and these trips 
have only been subject to NEFOP coverage. The measure proposed in this 
action would supersede the Framework 48 measure because it would 
entirely remove the ASM coverage requirement from these trips.

Using Multiple Years of Data to Determine ASM Total Coverage Levels

    Currently, data from the most recent fishing year are used to 
predict the target ASM coverage level for the upcoming fishing year. 
For example, data from the 2013 groundfish fishing year were used to 
set the target ASM coverage level for the 2015 fishing year. When a 
single year of data is used to determine the target coverage level, the 
entire coverage level is driven by the variability in discards in a 
single stock. This variability is primarily due to inter-annual changes 
in management measures and fishing activity. Though the target ASM 
coverage level has ranged from 22 to 26 percent for the last four 
fishing years, there is the potential that variability could result in 
large fluctuations of target ASM coverage levels in the future, and 
result in target coverage levels that are well above the level 
necessary to meet the 30-percent CV for most stocks. For example, 
available analyses indicates that, using the status quo methodology, 
the ASM coverage level would be 41 percent in 2016 compared to the 
current 2015 rate of 24 percent. Based on a 2016 target coverage level 
of 41 percent, the coverage level that would have been necessary to 
meet a 30-percent CV in 2014 would be exceeded by 15-39 percent for 19 
of the 20 stocks.
    This Council action proposes using information from the most recent 
three full fishing years to predict target ASM coverage levels for the 
upcoming fishing year. For example, data from the 2012 to 2014 fishing 
years would be used to predict the target ASM coverage level for the 
2016 fishing year. Now that five full years of discard data are 
available, using multiple years of data is expected to smooth inter-
annual fluctuations in the level of coverage needed to meet a 30-
percent CV that might result from changes to fishing activity and 
management measures. This measure is intended to make the annual 
determination of the target ASM coverage level more stable. For 
example, the percent coverage necessary to reach a 30-percent CV for 
redfish varied widely for the last 3 years (5 percent in 2012; 10 
percent in 2013, and 37 percent in 2014). With this measure, the 
Council intended to make the annual determination of the target ASM 
coverage level more stable. Additional stability in predicting the 
annual target ASM coverage level is beneficial in the context of the 
industry-funded ASM program. Wide inter-annual fluctuations in the 
necessary coverage level would make it difficult for groundfish vessels 
to plan for the costs of monitoring, and for ASM service providers to 
adjust staffing to meet variable demands for monitoring coverage. The 
ability for ASM service providers to successfully meet staffing needs, 
including maintaining the appropriate staff numbers and retaining 
quality monitors, increases the likelihood of achieving the target 
coverage level each year. If implemented alone, using multiple years of 
data would result in a target 2016 ASM coverage level of 17 percent.

Filtering the Application of the 30-Percent CV Standard

    This Council action proposes to filter the application of the 30-
percent CV standard consistent with existing goals for the ASM program. 
Under this alternative, stocks that meet all of the following criteria 
would not be used as the predictor for the annual target ASM coverage 
level for all stocks: (1) Not overfished; (2) Overfishing is not 
occurring; (3) Not fully utilized (less than 75 percent of sector sub-
ACL harvested); and (4) Discards are less than 10 percent of total 
catch.
    This proposed measure does not eliminate the 30-percent CV 
standard. Rather, this measure is intended to reflect the Council's 
policy that target ASM coverage level should be based on stocks that 
are overfished, are subject to overfishing, or are more fully 
utilized--stocks for which it is critical to attempt to fully account 
for past variability in discard estimates. Because stocks that meet all 
four of the filtering criteria are healthy and not fully utilized, 
there is a lower risk in erring in the discard estimate. Additionally, 
using these stocks to predict the target coverage could lead to 
coverage levels that are not necessary to accurately monitor sector 
catch.
    For the 2016 fishing year, preliminary analysis shows that, under 
the status quo methodology for determining the ASM target coverage 
level, redfish would drive the target coverage level at 37 percent. 
However, redfish is a healthy stock, and current biomass is well above 
the biomass threshold. Redfish also meets all of the filtering 
criteria--the stock is currently not overfished, overfishing is not 
occurring, only 45 percent of the sector sub-ACL was harvested in 2014, 
and only 3 percent of total catch was made up of discards. Also, 
because of the high year-to-year variability in the coverage necessary 
to achieve the 30-percent CV standard for redfish, we expect the target 
coverage level of 14 percent to meet the objective.
    If implemented alone, filtering the application of the 30-percent 
CV standard would eliminate redfish as a driver for the target ASM 2016 
coverage level, and GOM winter flounder would drive coverage at 26 
percent. If implemented in combination with the other alternatives, 
SNE/MA yellowtail flounder would drive the coverage level at 14 
percent.

Clarification of Groundfish Monitoring Goals and Objectives

    As described earlier in this section, Framework Adjustment 48 
revised and clarified the goals and objectives of the sector monitoring 
program to include, among other things, improving the documentation of 
catch, reducing the cost of monitoring, and providing

[[Page 15019]]

additional data streams for stock assessments. However, Framework 48 
did not prioritize these goals and objectives. This Council action 
clarifies that the primary goal of the sector ASM program is to verify 
area fished, catch and discards by species, and by gear type, in a 
manner that would reduce the cost of monitoring. This proposed 
adjustment to the program goals would not affect the target ASM 
coverage levels.

7. Other Framework 55 Measures

    The Council also proposed a number of additional minor adjustments 
to the FMP as part of this action.

Formation of Sustainable Harvest Sector II

    The Council proposes to approve the formation of a new sector, 
Sustainable Harvest Sector II. We must still review the sector 
operations plan submitted by Sustainable Harvest Sector II to ensure 
that it contains the required provisions for operation, and that a 
sufficient analysis is completed under the National Environmental 
Policy Act (NEPA). We propose to approve Sustainable Harvest Sector II, 
but intend to make our final determination concerning what sectors are 
approved and allocated ACE for operations for the 2016 fishing year as 
part of this rulemaking.

Modification of the Sector Approval Process

    This Council action proposes to modify to the sector approval 
process so that new sectors would not have to be approved through an 
FMP amendment or framework adjustment. Under the current process, new 
sectors must submit operations plans to the Council no less than 1 year 
prior to the date that it plans to begin operations (i.e, by May 1, 
2016, if the sector intends to operate on May 1, 2017). The Council 
must decide whether to approve the formation of a new sector through an 
amendment or framework adjustment. NMFS then reviews the operations 
plan submitted by the new sector to ensure that it contains the 
required provisions for operation and sufficient NEPA analysis before 
making final determinations about the formation of the new sector 
consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).
    Under the proposed process, new sectors would submit operations 
plans directly to NMFS no later than September 1 of the fishing year 
prior to the fishing year it intends to begin operations. For example, 
if a new sector wished to operate starting on May 1, 2017, it would 
need to submit its operations plan to NMFS no later than September 1, 
2016. NMFS would notify the Council in writing of its intent to 
consider approving new sectors. NMFS would present the submitted sector 
operations plans and any supporting analysis for the new sector at a 
Groundfish Committee meeting and a Council meeting. After its review, 
the Council would submit comments to NMFS in writing and indicate 
whether it endorses the formation of the new sector. NMFS would then 
make a final determination about new sector consistent with the APA. 
NMFS would not initiate a rulemaking to make final determinations on 
the formation of the new sector without the Council's endorsement. This 
modified process would shorten the timeline for, and increase the 
flexibility of, the sector approval process, while maintaining 
opportunities for Council approval and public involvement in the 
approval process. No other aspects of the sector formation process, 
including the content of sector operations plan submissions, would 
change as a result of this proposed measure.

Modification to the Definition of the Haddock Separator Trawl

    This Council action proposes to modify the definition of the 
haddock separator trawl to improve the enforceability of this selective 
trawl gear. In many haddock separator trawls, the separator panel is 
made with the same mesh color as the net, which makes it difficult for 
enforcement to identify that this gear is properly configured during 
vessel inspections. This measure would require the separator panel to 
be a contrasting color to the portions of the net that it separates. 
Requiring that the separator panel be a contrasting color to the rest 
of the net would make the separator panel highly visible, which would 
improve identification of the panel during boarding, and potentially 
allow for faster inspections and more effective enforcement. This 
proposed modification does not affect rope or Ruhle trawls. If we 
approve this measure, we intend to delay the effective date of the 
requirement by 6 months to allow affected fishermen time to replace 
their separator panels with contrasting netting.

Removal of GOM Cod Recreational Possession Limit

    This Council action proposes to remove the prohibition on 
recreational possession of GOM cod that was established as part of the 
protection measures implemented for this stock in Framework Adjustment 
53. We currently set recreational management measures in consultation 
with the Council, and have the authority to modify bag limits, size 
limits, and seasons. The Framework 53 prohibition on the recreational 
possession of GOM cod was implemented as a permanent provision in the 
FMP. In removing the permanent prohibition on recreational possession 
of GOM cod, this proposed measure returns the authority to set 
recreational management measures for GOM cod to us. We will implement 
additional recreational measures to help ensure the recreational 
fishery does not exceed the GOM cod allocation in a separate 
rulemaking.

Distribution of Eastern/Western GB Cod Sector Allocations

    Eastern GB cod is a sub-unit of the total GB cod stock, and the 
total ABC for GB cod includes the shared U.S./Canada quota for eastern 
GB cod. A portion of a sector's GB cod allocation may only be caught in 
the Eastern U.S./Canada Area, and the remaining portion of its total GB 
cod allocation can be caught only in the Western U.S./Canada Area. This 
restriction was adopted by Amendment 16 in order to cap the amount of 
GB cod that a sector could catch in the eastern U.S./Canada Area and 
help prevent the United States from exceeding its eastern GB cod quota. 
However, limiting the amount of cod that could be caught in the western 
U.S./Canada Area could unnecessarily reduce flexibility, and 
potentially limit fishing in the area, even if a sector has not caught 
its entire GB cod allocation. Ultimately, this could prevent the 
fishery from achieving optimum yield for the GB cod stock.
    To address this concern, the Council proposes in this to allow 
sectors to ``convert'' their eastern GB cod allocation into western GB 
cod allocation. This measure would follow a process similar to the one 
used for processing sector trades, and is similar to a measure already 
approved for GB haddock in Framework Adjustment 51 (77 FR 22421; April 
22, 2014). Sectors could convert eastern GB cod allocation into western 
GB cod allocation at any time during the fishing year, and up to 2 
weeks into the following fishing year to cover any overage during the 
previous fishing year. A sector's proposed allocation conversion would 
be referred to, and approved by, NMFS based on general issues, such as 
whether the sector is complying with reporting or other administrative 
requirements, including weekly sector reports, or member vessel 
compliance with Vessel Trip Reporting requirements. Based on these 
factors, we

[[Page 15020]]

would notify the sector if the conversion is approved or disapproved. 
As with GB haddock transfers, we propose to use member vessel 
compliance with Vessel Trip Reporting requirements as the basis for 
approving, or disapproving, a reallocation of Eastern GB quota to the 
Western U.S./Canada Area. This is identical to the process used for 
reviewing, and approving, quota transfer requests between sectors.
    The responsibility for ensuring that sufficient allocation is 
available to cover the conversion is the responsibility of the sector. 
This measure would also extend to state-operated permit banks. Any 
conversion of eastern GB cod allocation into western GB cod allocation 
may be made only within a sector, or permit bank, and not between 
sectors or permit banks. In addition, once a portion of eastern GB cod 
allocation has been converted to western GB cod allocation, that 
portion of allocation remains western GB cod for the remainder of the 
fishing year. Western GB cod allocation may not be converted to eastern 
GB cod allocation. This proposed measure does not change the 
requirement that sector vessels may only catch their eastern GB cod 
allocation in the Eastern U.S./Canada Area, and may only catch the 
remainder of their GB cod allocation in the Western U.S./Canada Area.
    This measure would provide additional flexibility for sectors to 
harvest their GB cod allocations. The total catch limit for GB cod 
includes the U.S. quota for eastern GB cod, so this proposed measure 
would not jeopardize the total ACL for GB cod, or the U.S. quota for 
the eastern portion of the stock. A sector would also still be required 
to stop fishing in the Eastern U.S./Canada Area once its entire eastern 
GB cod allocation was caught, or in the Western U.S./Canada Area once 
its western GB cod allocation was caught, or at least until it leased 
in additional quota. This ensures sufficient accountability for sector 
catch that will help prevent overages of any GB cod catch limit.

8. Sector Measures for the 2016 Fishing Year

    This action also proposes measures necessary to implement sector 
operations plan, including sector regulatory exemptions and annual 
catch entitlements, for 19 sectors for the 2016 fishing year. In past 
years, sector operations measures have been covered in a separate, 
concurrent rulemaking, but are included in this rulemaking for 
efficiency.

Sector Operations Plans and Contracts

    A total of 19 sectors would operate in the 2016 fishing year, 
including:
     Seventeen sectors that had operations plans that had been 
previously approved for the 2016 fishing year (see the Final Rule for 
2015 and 2016 Sector Operations Plans and 2015 Contracts and Allocation 
of Northeast Multispecies Annual Catch Entitlements; 80 FR 25143; May 
1, 2015);
     Sustainable Harvest Sector II, discussed in section ``7. 
Other Framework 55 Measures,'' which is proposed for formation and 
approval as part of Framework 55; and
     Northeast Fishery Sector 12, which has not operated since 
2013, but submitted an operations plan for approval for the 2016 
fishing year.
    We have made a preliminary determination that the two new proposed 
sector operations plans and contracts for Sustainable Harvest Sector II 
and Northeast Fisheries Sector 12 are consistent with the FMP's goals 
and objectives and meet the applicable sector requirements. We request 
comments on the proposed operations plans and the accompanying 
environmental assessment (EA) for these two sectors. Copies of the 
operations plans and contracts, and the EA, are available at: http://www.regulations.gov and from NMFS (see ADDRESSES).

Sector Allocations

    Regional Administrator approval is required for sectors to receive 
ACEs for specific groundfish stocks. The ACE allocations are a portion 
of a stock's ACL available to the sector based on the collective 
fishing history of the sector's members. Sectors are allocated ACE for 
groundfish stocks for which its members have landings history, with the 
exception of Atlantic halibut, ocean pout, windowpane flounder, and 
Atlantic wolffish. These stocks are not allocated to sectors.
    Each year, we use sector enrollment information from the previous 
fishing year to estimate ACE allocations for the upcoming fishing year. 
Due to the shift to industry-funded ASM, sector enrollment could 
decrease for the 2016 fishing year if current sector members decide to 
fish in the common pool to avoid the financial burden of the ASM 
requirement. Despite some uncertainty in 2016 enrollment levels, we 
expect that 2015 enrollment still provides the best proxy for fishing 
year 2016 sector membership, and used 2015 enrollment to calculate the 
fishing year 2016 projected allocations in this proposed rule.
    All permits enrolled in a sector, and the vessels associated with 
those permits, have until April 30, 2016, to withdraw from a sector and 
fish in the common pool for fishing year 2016. In addition to the 
enrollment delay, all permits that change ownership after December 1, 
2015, retain the ability to join a sector through April 30, 2016. We 
will publish final sector ACEs and common pool sub-ACLs, based upon 
final rosters, as soon as possible after the start of the 2016 fishing 
year, and again after the start of the 2017 and 2018 fishing years.
    The sector allocations proposed in this rule are based on the 
fishing year 2016 specifications described above under ``3. Catch 
Limits for the 2016-2018 Fishing Years.'' We calculate the sector's 
allocation for each stock by summing its members' potential sector 
contributions (PSC) for a stock, as shown in Table 15. The information 
presented in Table 15 is the total percentage of each commercial sub-
ACL each sector would receive for the 2016 fishing year, based on their 
2015 fishing year rosters. Tables 16 and 17 show the allocations each 
sector would receive for 2016 fishing year, based on their 2015 fishing 
year rosters. At the start of the fishing year, after sector enrollment 
is finalized, we provide the final allocations, to the nearest pound, 
to the individual sectors, and we use those final allocations to 
monitor sector catch. While the common pool does not receive a specific 
allocation, the common pool sub-ACLs have been included in each of 
these tables for comparison.
    We do not assign an individual permit separate PSCs for the Eastern 
GB cod or Eastern GB haddock; instead, we assign a permit a PSC for the 
GB cod stock and GB haddock stock. Each sector's GB cod and GB haddock 
allocations are then divided into an Eastern ACE and a Western ACE, 
based on each sector's percentage of the GB cod and GB haddock ACLs. 
For example, if a sector is allocated 4 percent of the GB cod ACL and 6 
percent of the GB haddock ACL, the sector is allocated 4 percent of the 
commercial Eastern U.S./Canada Area GB cod TAC and 6 percent of the 
commercial Eastern U.S./Canada Area GB haddock TAC as its Eastern GB 
cod and haddock ACEs. These amounts are then subtracted from the 
sector's overall GB cod and haddock allocations to determine its 
Western GB cod and haddock ACEs. Framework 51 implemented a mechanism 
that allows sectors to ``convert'' their Eastern GB haddock allocation 
into Western GB haddock allocation (79 FR 22421; April 22, 2014) and 
fish that converted ACE

[[Page 15021]]

in Western GB. This rule proposes a similar measure for GB cod under 
``6. Other Framework 55 Measures.''
    At the start of the 2016 fishing year, we will withhold 20 percent 
of each sector's 2016 fishing year allocation until we finalize fishing 
year 2015 catch information. If the default catch limits for the 2016 
fishing year are implemented, groundfish sectors would not be subject 
to the 20-percent holdback. We will allow sectors to transfer fishing 
year 2015 ACE for 2 weeks of the fishing year following the completion 
of year-end catch accounting to reduce or eliminate any 2015 fishing 
year overages. If necessary, we will reduce any sector's 2016 fishing 
year allocation to account for a remaining overage in 2015 fishing 
year.
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P

[[Page 15022]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP21MR16.010


[[Page 15023]]


[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP21MR16.011


[[Page 15024]]


[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP21MR16.012


[[Page 15025]]


BILLING CODE 3510-22-C

Sector Carryover From the 2015 to 2016 Fishing Year

    Sectors can carry over up to 10 percent of the unused initial 
allocation for each stock into the next fishing year. However, the 
maximum available carryover may be reduced if up to 10 percent of the 
unused sector sub-ACL, plus the total ACL for the upcoming fishing 
year, exceeds the total ABC. Based on the catch limits proposed in this 
action, we evaluated whether the total potential catch in the 2016 
fishing year would exceed the proposed ABC if sectors carried over the 
maximum 10 percent of unused allocation from 2015 to 2016 (Table 18). 
Under this scenario, total potential catch would exceed the 2016 ABC 
for all stocks except for GOM haddock and GB haddock. As a result, we 
expect we will need to adjust the maximum amount of unused allocation 
that a sector can carry forward from 2015 to 2016 (down from 10 
percent). It is possible that not all sectors will have 10 percent of 
unused allocation at the end of the 2015 fishing year. We will make 
final adjustments to the maximum carryover possible for each sector 
based on the final 2015 catch for the sectors, each sector's total 
unused allocation, and proportional to the cumulative PSCs of vessels/
permits participating in the sector. We will announce this adjustment 
as close to May 1, 2016, as possible.
    Based on the catch limits proposed in this rule, the de minimis 
carryover amount for the 2016 fishing year would be set at the default 
one percent of the 2016 overall sector sub-ACL. The overall de minimis 
amount will be applied to each sector based on the cumulative PSCs of 
the vessel/permits participating in the sector. If the overall ACL for 
any allocated stock is exceeded for the 2016 fishing year, the allowed 
carryover harvested by a sector minus its specified de minimis amount, 
will be counted against its allocation to determine whether an overage, 
subject to an AM, occurred.

              Table 18--Evaluation of Maximum Carryover Allowed From the 2015 to 2016 Fishing Years
                                                [mt, live weight]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                       Total
                                                                     Potential       potential      Difference
                                                                  carryover (10%    catch (2016    between total
              Stock                2016 U.S. ABC  2016 Total ACL  of 2015 sector    total ACL +      potential
                                                                     sub-ACL)        potential     catch and ABC
                                                                                     carryover
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GB Cod..........................             762             730             174             904             142
GOM cod.........................             500             473              81             555              55
GB Haddock......................          56,068          53,309           1,705          55,015          -1,053
GOM Haddock.....................           3,630           3,430              43           3,474            -156
SNE Yellowtail Flounder.........             267             256              46             302              35
CC/GOM Yellowtail Flounder......             427             409              46             455              28
Plaice..........................           1,297           1,235             136           1,370              73
Witch Flounder..................             460             441              60             500              40
GB Winter Flounder..............             668             650             336             985             317
GOM Winter Flounder.............             810             776              68             845              35
SNE/MA Winter Flounder..........             780             749             106             855              75
Redfish.........................          10,338           9,837           1,052          10,889             551
White Hake......................           3,816           3,572             425           3,997             181
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note. Carry over of GB yellowtail flounder is not allowed because this stock is jointly managed with Canada.

Sector Exemptions

    Because sectors elect to receive an allocation under a quota-based 
system, the FMP grants sector vessels several ``universal'' exemptions 
from the FMP's effort controls. These universal exemptions apply to: 
Trip limits on allocated stocks; the GB Seasonal Closure Area; NE 
multispecies days-at-sea (DAS) restrictions; the requirement to use a 
6.5-inch (16.5-cm) mesh codend when fishing with selective gear on GB; 
and portions of the GOM Cod Protection Closures. The FMP prohibits 
sectors from requesting exemptions from permitting restrictions, gear 
restrictions designed to minimize habitat impacts, and reporting 
requirements. In addition to the ``universal'' exemptions approved 
under Amendment 16 to the Northeast Multispecies FMP, the existing 17 
operational sectors and the two that are proposed for approval in this 
action are granted 19 additional exemptions from the NE multispecies 
regulations for the 2016 fishing year. These exemptions were previously 
approved in the sector operations rulemaking for the 2015 and 2016 
fishing years. Descriptions of the current range of approved exemptions 
are included in the preamble to the Final Rule for 2015 and 2016 Sector 
Operations Plans and 2015 Contracts (80 FR 25143; May 1, 2015) and are 
not repeated here.
    We received a request for an additional sector exemption intended 
to complement the proposed Framework 55 measure that would remove the 
ASM coverage requirement for sector trips using 10-inch (25.4-cm), or 
larger, mesh gillnet gear and fishing exclusively in the inshore GB and 
SNE/MA broad stock areas (described in section ``6. Groundfish At-Sea 
Monitoring Program Adjustments''). If this Framework 55 measure is 
approved, the requested sector exemption would allow vessels on these 
ASM-exempted sector trips to also target dogfish using 6.5-inch (16.5-
cm) mesh within the footprint and season of either the Nantucket Shoals 
Dogfish Exemption Area (June 1 to October 15), the Eastern Area of the 
Cape Cod Spiny Dogfish Exemption Area (June 1 to December 31), and the 
Southern New England Dogfish Gillnet Exemption Area (May 1 to October 
31). Sectors seek to participate in this exempted fishery for dogfish 
while simultaneously being exempted from ASM coverage on extra-large 
mesh sector trips (i.e., take trips using both greater than 10-inch 
(25.4-cm) mesh and 6.5-inch (16.5-in) mesh) in an effort to maximize 
the viability and profitability of their businesses. The Fixed Gear 
Sector requested this exemption, and we propose to grant this exemption 
to any sectors that modify their operations plans to include this 
exemption. In this rule, we propose regulatory text to detail the 
process for amending sector operations plans during the fishing year in 
section ``10. Regulatory Corrections

[[Page 15026]]

under Regional Administrator Authority.'' While sector trips using this 
exemption would still be would be exempt from ASM coverage, all 
groundfish catch on these trips would still be attributed to a sector's 
ACE.

9. 2016 Fishing Year Annual Measures Under Regional Administrator 
Authority

    The FMP gives us authority to implement certain types of management 
measures for the common pool fishery, the U.S./Canada Management Area, 
and Special Management Programs on an annual basis, or as needed. This 
proposed rule includes a description of these management measures that 
are being considered for the 2016 fishing year in order to provide an 
opportunity for the public to comment on whether the proposed measures 
are appropriate. These measures are not part of Framework 55, and were 
not specifically proposed by the Council. We are proposing them in 
conjunction with Framework 55 measures in this action for expediency 
purposes, and because they relate to the catch limits proposed in 
Framework 55.

Common Pool Trip Limits

    Tables 19 and 20 provide a summary of the current common pool trip 
limits for fishing year 2015 and the trip limits proposed for fishing 
year 2016. The proposed 2016 trip limits were developed after 
considering changes to the common pool sub-ACLs and sector rosters from 
2015 to 2016, proposed trimester TACs for 2016, catch rates of each 
stock during 2015, and other available information.
    The default cod trip limit is 300 lb (136 kg) for Handgear A 
vessels and 75 lb (34 kg) for Handgear B vessels. If the GOM or GB cod 
landing limit for vessels fishing on a groundfish DAS drops below 300 
lb (136 kg), then the respective Handgear A cod trip limit must be 
reduced to the same limit. Similarly, the Handgear B trip limit must be 
adjusted proportionally (rounded up to the nearest 25 lb (11 kg)) to 
the DAS limit. This action proposes a GOM cod landing limit of 25 lb 
(11 kg) per DAS for vessels fishing on a groundfish DAS, which is 97 
percent lower than the default limit specified in the regulations for 
these vessels (800 lb (363 kg) per DAS). As a result, the proposed 
Handgear A trip limit for GOM cod is reduced to 25 lb (11 kg) per trip, 
and the proposed Handgear B trip limit for GOM cod is maintained at 25 
lb (11 kg) per trip. This action proposes a GB cod landing limit of 500 
lb (227 kg) per DAS for vessels fishing on a groundfish DAS, which is 
75 percent lower than the 2,000-lb (907-kg) per DAS default limit 
specified in the regulations for these vessels. As a result, the 
proposed Handgear A trip limit for GB cod is maintained at 300 lb (136 
kg) per trip, and the proposed Handgear B trip limit for GB cod is 
reduced to 25 lb (11 kg) per trip.
    Vessels with a Small Vessel category permit can possess up to 300 
lb (136 kg) of cod, haddock, and yellowtail, combined, per trip. For 
the 2016 fishing year, we are proposing that the maximum amount of GOM 
cod and haddock (within the 300-lb (136-kg) trip limit) be set equal to 
the possession limits applicable to multispecies DAS vessels (see Table 
20). This adjustment is necessary to ensure that the trip limit 
applicable to the Small Vessel category permit is consistent with 
reductions to the trip limits for other common pool vessels, as 
described above.

  Table 19--Proposed Common Pool Trip Limits for the 2016 Fishing Year
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                   Current 2015 trip  Proposed 2016 trip
              Stock                      limit               limit
------------------------------------------------------------------------
GB Cod (outside Eastern U.S./     2,000 lb (907 kg)/  500 lb (227 kg)/
 Canada Area).                     DAS, up to 20,000   DAS, up to 2,500
                                   lb (9,072.          lb/trip
                                 ---------------------------------------
GB Cod (inside Eastern U.S./       100 lb (45 kg)/DAS, up to 500 lb (227
 Canada Area).                                    kg)/trip
                                 ---------------------------------------
GOM Cod.........................  50 lb (23 kg)/DAS,  25 lb (11 kg)/DAS
                                   up to 200 lb (91    up to 100 lb (45
                                   kg)/trip.           kg)/trip
GB Haddock......................  25,000 lb (11,340   100,000 lb (45,359
                                   kg)/trip.           kg)/trip
GOM Haddock.....................  50 lb (23 kg)/DAS,  100 lb (45 kg)/DAS
                                   up to 200 lb (91    up to 300 lb (136
                                   kg)/trip.           kg)/trip
                                 ---------------------------------------
GB Yellowtail Flounder..........            100 lb (45 kg)/trip
                                 ---------------------------------------
SNE/MA Yellowtail Flounder......  2,000 lb (907 kg)/  250 lb (113 kg)/
                                   DAS, up to 6,000    DAS, up to 500 lb
                                   lb (2,722 kg)/      (227 kg)/trip
                                   trip.
CC/GOM Yellowtail Flounder......  1,500 lb (680 kg)/  75 lb (34 kg)/DAS
                                   DAS up to 3,000     up to 1,500 lb
                                   lb (1,361 kg)/      (680 kg)/trip
                                   trip.
American plaice.................  Unlimited.........  1,000 lb (454 kg)/
                                                       trip
Witch Flounder..................  1,000 lb (454 kg)/  250 lb (113 kg)/
                                   trip.               trip
GB Winter Flounder..............  1,000 lb (454 kg)/  250 lb (113 kg)/
                                   trip.               trip
GOM Winter Flounder.............  1,000 lb (454 kg)/  2,000 lb (907 kg)/
                                   trip.               trip
SNE/MA Winter Flounder..........  3,000 lb (1,361     2,000 lb (907 kg)/
                                   kg)/DAS, up to      DAS, up to 4,000
                                   6,000 lb (2,722     lb (1,814 kg)/
                                   kg)/trip.           trip
                                 ---------------------------------------
Redfish.........................                 Unlimited
                                 ---------------------------------------
White hake......................          1,500 lb (680 kg)/trip
                                 ---------------------------------------
Pollock.........................  10,000 lb (4,536    Unlimited
                                   kg)/trip.
                                 ---------------------------------------
Atlantic Halibut................                1 fish/trip
                                 ---------------------------------------
Windowpane Flounder.............
Ocean Pout......................           Possession Prohibited
Atlantic Wolffish...............
------------------------------------------------------------------------


[[Page 15027]]


   Table 20--Proposed Cod Trips Limits for Handgear A, Handgear B, and
         Small Vessel Category Permits for the 2016 Fishing Year
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                Current 2015 trip    Proposed 2016 trip
           Permit                     limit                 limit
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Handgear A GOM Cod..........  50 lb (23 kg)/trip..  25 lb (11 kg)/trip.
                             -------------------------------------------
Handgear A GB Cod...........             300 lb (136 kg)/trip.
                             -------------------------------------------
Handgear B GOM Cod..........              25 lb (11 kg)/trip.
                             -------------------------------------------
Handgear B GB Cod...........  75 lb (34 kg)/trip..  25 lb (11 kg)/trip.
                             -------------------------------------------
Small Vessel Category.......     300 lb (136 kg) of cod, haddock, and
                                     yellowtail flounder combined.
                             -------------------------------------------
                              Maximum of 50 lb (23  Maximum of 25 lb (11
                               kg) of GOM cod and    kg) of GOM cod and
                               50 lb (23 kg) of      100 lb (45 kg) of
                               GOM haddock within    GOM haddock within
                               the 300-lb combined   the 300-lb combined
                               trip limit.           trip limit.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Closed Area II Yellowtail Flounder/Haddock Special Access Program

    This action proposes to allocate zero trips for common pool vessels 
to target yellowtail flounder within the Closed Area II Yellowtail 
Flounder/Haddock SAP for fishing year 2016. Vessels could still fish in 
this SAP in 2016 to target haddock, but must fish with a haddock 
separator trawl, a Ruhle trawl, or hook gear. Vessels would not be 
allowed to fish in this SAP using flounder trawl nets. This SAP is open 
from August 1, 2016, through January 31, 2017.
    We have the authority to determine the allocation of the total 
number of trips into the Closed Area II Yellowtail Flounder/Haddock SAP 
based on several criteria, including the GB yellowtail flounder catch 
limit and the amount of GB yellowtail flounder caught outside of the 
SAP. The FMP specifies that no trips should be allocated to the Closed 
Area II Yellowtail Flounder/Haddock SAP if the available GB yellowtail 
flounder catch is insufficient to support at least 150 trips with a 
15,000-lb (6,804-kg) trip limit (or 2,250,000 lb (1,020,600 kg)). This 
calculation accounts for the projected catch from the area outside the 
SAP. Based on the proposed fishing year 2016 GB yellowtail flounder 
groundfish sub-ACL of 465,175 lb (211,000 kg), there is insufficient GB 
yellowtail flounder to allocate any trips to the SAP, even if the 
projected catch from outside the SAP area is zero. Further, given the 
low GB yellowtail flounder catch limit, catch rates outside of this SAP 
are more than adequate to fully harvest the 2016 GB yellowtail flounder 
allocation.

10. Regulatory Corrections Under Regional Administrator Authority

    The following changes are being proposed to the regulations to 
clarify regulatory intent, correct references, inadvertent deletions, 
and other minor errors.
    In Sec.  648.87(b)(4)(i)(G), this proposed rule would revise text 
to clarify that NMFS will determine the adequate level of insurance 
that monitoring service providers must provide to cover injury, 
liability, and accidental death to cover at-sea monitors, and notify 
potential service providers.
    In Sec.  648.87(c)(2)(i)(A), this proposed rule would correct the 
inadvertent deletion of the definition of the Fippennies Ledge Area.
    In Sec.  648.87(c), this proposed rule would add regulatory text to 
detail the process for amending sector operations plans during the 
fishing year.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Assistant Administrator has made a preliminary determination that 
this proposed rule is consistent with Framework 55, other provisions of 
the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law. In making the final 
determination, we will consider the data, views, and comments received 
during the public comment period.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order (E.O.) 12866.
    This proposed rule does not contain policies with Federalism or 
``takings'' implications as those terms are defined in E.O. 13132 and 
E.O. 12630, respectively.
    An Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) was prepared for 
this proposed rule, as required by section 603 of the Regulatory 
Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 603. The IRFA describes the economic impact 
that this proposed rule would have on small entities, including small 
businesses, and also determines ways to minimize these impacts. The 
IRFA includes this section of the preamble to this rule and analyses 
contained in Framework 55 and its accompanying EA/RIR/IRFA. A copy of 
the full analysis is available from the Council (see ADDRESSES). A 
summary of the IRFA follows.

Description of the Reason Why Action by the Agency Is Being Considered 
and Statement of the Objective of, and Legal Basis for, This Proposed 
Rule

    This action proposes management measures, including annual catch 
limits, for the multispecies fishery in order to prevent overfishing, 
rebuild overfished groundfish stocks, and achieve optimum yield in the 
fishery. A complete description of the action, why it is being 
considered, and the legal basis for this action are contained in 
Framework 55, and elsewhere in the preamble to this proposed rule, and 
are not repeated here.

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

    The Small Business Administration defines a small business as one 
that is:
     Independently owned and operated;
     Not dominant in its field of operation;
     Has annual receipts that do not exceed--
    [cir] $20.5 million in the case of commercial finfish harvesting 
entities (NAIC \1\ 114111)
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) is 
the standard used by Federal statistical agencies in classifying 
business establishments for the purpose of collecting, analyzing, 
and publishing statistical data related to the U.S. business 
economy.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    [cir] $5.5 million in the case of commercial shellfish harvesting 
entities (NAIC 114112)
    [cir] $7.5 million in the case of for-hire fishing entities (NAIC 
114119); or
     Has fewer than--
    [cir] 750 employees in the case of fish processors

[[Page 15028]]

    [cir] 100 employees in the case of fish dealers.
    This proposed rule impacts commercial and recreational fish 
harvesting entities engaged in the groundfish fishery, the small-mesh 
multispecies and squid fisheries, the midwater trawl herring fishery, 
and the scallop fishery. Individually-permitted vessels may hold 
permits for several fisheries, harvesting species of fish that are 
regulated by several different FMPs, even beyond those impacted by the 
proposed action. Furthermore, multiple-permitted vessels and/or permits 
may be owned by entities affiliated by stock ownership, common 
management, identity of interest, contractual relationships, or 
economic dependency. For the purposes of the Regulatory Flexibility Act 
analysis, the ownership entities, not the individual vessels, are 
considered to be the regulated entities.
    Ownership entities are defined as those entities with common 
ownership personnel as listed on the permit application. Only permits 
with identical ownership personnel are categorized as an ownership 
entity. For example, if five permits have the same seven persons listed 
as co-owners on their permit application, those seven persons would 
form one ownership entity that holds those five permits. If two of 
those seven owners also co-own additional vessels, these two persons 
would be considered a separate ownership entity.
    On June 1 of each year, NMFS identifies ownership entities based on 
a list of all permits for the most recent complete calendar year. The 
current ownership dataset used for this analysis was created on June 1, 
2015, based on calendar year 2014 and contains average gross sales 
associated with those permits for calendar years 2012 through 2014.
    In addition to classifying a business (ownership entity) as small 
or large, a business can also be classified by its primary source of 
revenue. A business is defined as being primarily engaged in fishing 
for finfish if it obtains greater than 50 percent of its gross sales 
from sales of finfish. Similarly, a business is defined as being 
primarily engaged in fishing for shellfish if it obtains greater than 
50 percent of its gross sales from sales of shellfish.
    A description of the specific permits that are likely to be 
impacted by this action is provided below, along with a discussion of 
the impacted businesses, which can include multiple vessels and/or 
permit types.

Regulated Commercial Fish Harvesting Entities

    Table 18 describes the total number of commercial business entities 
potentially regulated by the proposed action. As of June 1, 2015, there 
were 1,359 commercial business entities potentially regulated by the 
proposed action. These entities participate in, or are permitted for, 
the groundfish, small-mesh multispecies, herring midwater trawl, and 
scallop fisheries. For the groundfish fishery, the proposed action 
directly regulates potentially affected entities through catch limits 
and other management measures designed to achieve the goals and 
objectives of the FMP. For the non-groundfish fisheries, the proposed 
action includes allocations for groundfish stocks caught as bycatch in 
these fisheries. For each of these fisheries, there are accountability 
measures that are triggered if their respective allocations are 
exceeded. As a result, the likelihood of triggering an accountability 
measure is a function of changes to the ACLs each year.

 Table 18--Commercial Fish Harvesting Entities Regulated by the Proposed
                                 Action
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                         Classified as
               Type                    Total number     small businesses
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Primarily finfish.................                385                385
Primarily shellfish...............                480                462
Primarily for hire................                297                297
No Revenue........................                197                197
                                   -------------------------------------
    Total.........................              1,359              1,341
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Limited Access Groundfish Fishery
    The proposed action will directly impact entities engaged in the 
limited access groundfish fishery. The limited access groundfish 
fishery consists of those enrolled in the sector program and those in 
the common pool. Both sectors and the common pool are subject to catch 
limits, and accountability measures that prevent fishing in a 
respective stock area when the entire catch limit has been caught. 
Additionally, common pool vessels are subject to DAS restrictions and 
trip limits. All permit holders are eligible to enroll in the sector 
program; however, many vessels remain in the common pool because they 
have low catch histories of groundfish stocks, which translate into low 
PSCs. Low PSCs limit a vessel's viability in the sector program. In 
general, businesses enrolled in the sector program rely more heavily on 
sales of groundfish species than vessels enrolled in the common pool.
    As of June 1, 2015 (just after the start of the 2015 fishing year), 
there were 1,068 individual limited access multispecies permits. Of 
these, 627 were enrolled in the sector program, and 441 were in the 
common pool. For fishing year 2014, which is the most recent complete 
fishing year, 717 of these limited access permits had landings of any 
species, and 273 of these permits had landings of groundfish species.
    Of the 1,068 individual limited access multispecies permits 
potentially impacted by this action, there are 661 distinct ownership 
entities. Of these, 649 are categorized as small entities, and 12 are 
categorized as large entities. However, these totals may mask some 
diversity among the entities. Many, if not most, of these ownership 
entities maintain diversified harvest portfolios, obtaining gross sales 
from many fisheries and not dependent on any one. However, not all are 
equally diversified. This action is most likely to affect those 
entities that depend most heavily on sales from harvesting groundfish 
species. There are 61 entities that are groundfish-dependent (obtain 
more than 50 percent of gross sales from groundfish species), all of 
which are small, and all but one of which are finfish commercial 
harvesting businesses.
Limited Access Scallop Fisheries
    The limited access scallop fisheries include Limited Access (LA) 
scallop permits and Limited Access General Category (LGC) scallop 
permits. LA scallop businesses are subject to a mixture of DAS 
restrictions and dedicated area trip restrictions. LGC scallop 
businesses are able to acquire and trade LGC scallop quota, and there 
is an annual cap on quota/landings. The

[[Page 15029]]

scallop fishery receives an allocation for GB and SNE/MA yellowtail 
flounder and southern windowpane flounder. If these allocations are 
exceeded, accountability measures are implemented in a subsequent 
fishing year. These accountability measures close certain areas of high 
groundfish bycatch to scallop fishery, and the length of the closure 
depends on the magnitude of the overage.
    Of the total commercial business entities potentially affected by 
this action (1,359), there are 169 scallop fishing entities. The 
majority of these entities are defined as shellfish businesses (166). 
However, three of these entities are defined as finfish businesses, all 
of which are small. Of the total scallop fishing entities, 154 entities 
are classified as small entities.
Midwater Trawl Fishery
    There are five categories of permits for the herring fishery. Three 
of these permit categories are limited access, and vary based on the 
allowable herring possession limits and areas fished. The remaining two 
permit categories are open access. Although there is a large number of 
open access permits issued each year, these categories are subject to 
fairly low possession limits for herring, account for a very small 
amount of the herring landings, and derive relatively little revenue 
from the fishery. Only the midwater trawl herring fishery receives an 
allocation of GOM and GB haddock. Once the entire allocation for either 
stock has been caught, the directed herring fishery for midwater trawl 
vessels is closed in the respective area for the remainder of the 
fishing year. Additionally, if the midwater trawl fishery exceeds its 
allocation, the overage is deducted from its allocation in the 
following fishing year.
    Of the total commercial business entities potentially regulated by 
this action (1,359), there are 63 herring fishing entities. Of these, 
39 entities are defined as finfish businesses, all of which are small. 
There are 24 entities that are defined as shellfish businesses, and 18 
of these are considered small. For the purposes of this analysis, squid 
is classified as shellfish. Thus, because there is some overlap with 
the herring and squid fisheries, it is likely that these shellfish 
entities derive most of their revenues from the squid fishery.
Small-Mesh Fisheries
    The small-mesh exempted fisheries allow vessels to harvest species 
in designated areas using mesh sizes smaller than the minimum mesh size 
required by the Northeast Multispecies FMP. To participate in the 
small-mesh multispecies (whiting) fishery, vessels must hold either a 
limited access multispecies permit or an open access multispecies 
permit. Limited access multispecies permit holders can only target 
whiting when not fishing under a DAS or a sector trip, and while 
declared out of the fishery. A description of limited access 
multispecies permits was provided above. Many of these vessels target 
both whiting and longfin squid on small-mesh trips, and, therefore, 
most of them also have open access or limited access Squid, Mackerel, 
and Butterfish (SMB) permits. As a result, SMB permits were not handled 
separately in this analysis.
    The small-mesh fisheries receive an allocation of GB yellowtail 
flounder. If this allocation is exceeded, an accountability measure is 
triggered for a subsequent fishing year. The accountability measure 
requires small-mesh vessels to use selective trawl gear when fishing on 
GB. This gear restriction is only implemented for 1 year as a result of 
an overage, and is removed as long as additional overages do not occur.
    Of the total commercial harvesting entities potentially affected by 
this action, there are 1,007 small-mesh entities. However, this is not 
necessarily informative because not all of these entities are active in 
the whiting fishery. Based on the most recent information, 223 of these 
entities are considered active, with at least 1 lb of whiting landed. 
Of these entities, 167 are defined as finfish businesses, all of which 
are small. There are 56 entities that are defined as shellfish 
businesses, and 54 of these are considered small. Because there is 
overlap with the whiting and squid fisheries, it is likely that these 
shellfish entities derive most of their revenues from the squid 
fishery.

Regulated Recreational Party/Charter Fishing Entities

    The charter/party permit is an open access groundfish permit that 
can be requested at any time, with the limitation that a vessel cannot 
have a limited access groundfish permit and an open access party/
charter permit concurrently. There are no qualification criteria for 
this permit. Charter/party permits are subject to recreational 
management measures, including minimum fish sizes, possession 
restrictions, and seasonal closures.
    During calendar year 2015, 425 party/charter permits were issued. 
Of these, 271 party/charter permit holders reported catching and 
retaining any groundfish species on at least one for-hire trip. A 2013 
report indicated that, in the northeast U.S., the mean gross sales was 
approximately $27,650 for a charter business and $13,500 for a party 
boat. Based on the available information, no business approached the 
$7.5 million large business threshold. Therefore, the 425 potentially 
regulated party/charter entities are all considered small businesses.

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

    The proposed action contains a collection-of-information 
requirement subject to review and approval by the Office of Management 
and Budget (OMB) under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA). This 
requirement will be submitted to OMB for approval under OMB Control 
Number 0648-0605: Northeast Multispecies Amendment 16 Data Collection. 
The proposed action does not duplicate, overlap, or conflict with any 
other Federal rules.
    This action proposes to adjust the ACE transfer request requirement 
implemented through Amendment 16. This rule would add a new entry field 
to the Annual Catch Entitlement (ACE) transfer request form to allow a 
sector to indicate how many pounds of eastern GB cod ACE it intends to 
re-allocate to the Western U.S./Canada Area. This change is necessary 
to allow a sector to apply for a re-allocation of eastern GB ACE in 
order to increase fishing opportunities in the Western U.S./Canada 
Area. Currently, all sectors use the ACE transfer request form to 
initiate ACE transfers with other sectors, or to re-allocation eastern 
GB haddock ACE to the Western U.S./Canada Area, via an online or paper 
form to the Regional Administrator. The proposed change adds a single 
field to this form, and would not affect the number of entities 
required to comply with this requirement. Therefore, the proposed 
change would not be expected to increase the time or cost burden 
associated with the ACE transfer request requirement. Public reporting 
burden for this requirement includes the time for reviewing 
instructions, searching existing data sources, gathering and 
maintaining the data needed, and completing and reviewing the 
collection of information.
    Notwithstanding any other provision of the law, no person is 
required to respond 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.

[[Page 15030]]

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

    The proposed regulations do not create overlapping regulations with 
any state regulations or other federal laws.

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 economic impacts of each proposed measure is discussed in more 
detail in sections 7.4 and 8.11 of the Framework 55 Environmental 
Assessment and are not repeated here. The only alternatives to the 
proposed action that accomplish the stated objectives and minimize 
significant economic impacts on small entities are related to the witch 
flounder ABCs under the annual catch limits and the alternative to 
modify the definition of the haddock separator trawl.

Witch Flounder ABCs and Groundfish Annual Catch Limits

    The proposed action would set catch limits for all 20 groundfish 
stocks. For 19 of the stocks, there is only a single catch limit 
alternative to the No Action alternative, described in Table 5 in the 
preamble. For witch flounder, there are three non-selected alternatives 
to the proposed ABC of 460 mt, namely 399 mt, 500 mt, and the No Action 
alternative. In each of these witch flounder alternatives, except for 
the No Action alternative, all other groundfish stock allocations would 
remain the same as those described in Table 5. It is important to note 
that all of the non-selected action alternatives assume a 14-percent 
target ASM coverage level for 2016. The No Action alternative assumes a 
41-percent target ASM coverage level for 2016.
    For the commercial groundfish fishery, the proposed catch limits 
(460 mt witch flounder ABC) are expected to result in a 10-percent 
decrease in gross revenues on groundfish trips, or $8 million, compared 
to predicted gross revenues for the 2015 fishing year. The impacts of 
the proposed catch limits would not be uniformly distributed across 
vessels size classes and ports. Vessels in the 30-50 ft (9-15 m) 
category are expected to see gross revenue increases of 2 percent. 
Vessels in the 50-75 ft (15-23 m) size class are expected to see 
revenue increases of 19 percent. The largest vessels (75 ft (23 m) and 
greater) are predicted to incur the largest decreases in gross revenues 
revenue decreases of 30 percent relative to 2015, due primarily to 
reductions in several GB and SNE/MA stocks (e.g., GB cod, GB winter 
flounder, SNE/MA yellowtail flounder, SNE/MA winter flounder).
    Southern New England ports are expected to be negatively impacted, 
with New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island predicted to incur revenue 
losses of 100 percent, 80 percent, and 62 percent, respectively, 
relative to 2015. These large revenue losses are also due to reductions 
in GB and SNE/MA stocks. Maine and Massachusetts are also predicted to 
incur revenue losses of 16 percent and 6 percent, respectively, as a 
result of the proposed catch limits, while New Hampshire is expected to 
have small increases in gross revenues of up to 8 percent. For major 
home ports, New Bedford is predicted to see a 47-percent decline in 
revenues relative to 2015, and Point Judith expected to see a 58-
percent decline. Boston and Gloucester, meanwhile, are predicted to 
have revenue increases of 31 and 29 percent, respectively, compared to 
2015.
    Two of the three non-selected alternatives would have set all 
groundfish allocations at the levels described in Table 5, with the 
exception of the witch flounder allocation. In the alternative where 
the witch flounder ABC is set at 399 mt, gross revenues are predicted 
to be the same as for the proposed alternative (460-mt witch flounder 
ABC), namely a 10-percent decrease in gross revenues on groundfish 
trips, or $8 million, compared to predicted gross revenues for the 2015 
fishing year. The 399-mt alternative is also expected to provide the 
same changes in gross revenue by vessels size class. In the alternative 
where the witch flounder ABC is set at 500 mt, gross revenues are 
predicted to be slightly lower than the proposed alternative, namely an 
11-percent decrease in gross revenues on groundfish trips, or $9 
million, compared to predicted gross revenues for fishing year 2015. 
Vessels in the 30-50 ft (9-15 m) category are expected to see gross 
revenue increases of 4 percent. Vessels in the 50-75 ft (15-23 m) size 
class are expected to see revenue increases of 15 percent. The largest 
vessels (75 ft (23 m) and greater) are predicted to incur the largest 
decreases in gross revenues revenue decreases of 28 percent relative to 
2015. State and port-level impacts are also similar across the action 
alternatives.
    Under the No Action option, groundfish vessels would only have 3 
months (May, June, and July) to operate in the 2016 fishing year before 
the default specifications expire. Once the default specifications 
expire, there would be no ACL for a number of the groundfish stocks, 
and the fishery would be closed for the remainder of the fishing year. 
This would result in greater negative economic impacts for vessels 
compared to the proposed action due to lost revenues as a result of 
being unable to fish. The proposed action is predicted to result in 
approximately $69 million in gross revenues from groundfish trips. 
Roughly 92 percent of this revenue would be lost if no action was taken 
to specify catch limits. Further, if no action was taken, the Magnuson-
Stevens Act requirements to achieve optimum yield and consider the 
needs of fishing communities would be violated.
    Each of the 2016 ACL alternatives show a decrease in gross revenue 
when compared to the 2015 fishing year. When compared against each 
other, the economic analysis of the various witch flounder ABC 
alternatives did not show any gain in gross revenue at the fishery 
level, or any wide difference in vessel and port-level gross revenue, 
as the witch flounder ABC increased. The economic analysis consistently 
showed other stocks (GB cod, GOM cod, and SNE/MA yellowtail flounder) 
would be more constraining than witch flounder, which may partially 
explain the lack of predicted revenue increases with higher witch 
flounder ABCs. In addition, there are other assumptions in the economic 
analysis that may mask sector and vessel level impacts that could 
result from alternatives with lower witch flounder ABCs. Ultimately, 
the proposed alternative (460-mt witch flounder ABC) is expected to 
mitigate potential economic impacts to fishing communities compared to 
both the No Action alternative and the 399-mt witch flounder ABC 
alternative, while reducing the biological concerns of an increased 
risk of overfishing compared to the 500-mt witch flounder ABC 
alternative.
    The proposed catch limits are based on the latest stock assessment 
information, which is considered the best scientific information 
available, and the applicable requirements in the FMP and the Magnuson-
Stevens Act. With the exception of witch flounder, the only other 
possible alternatives to the catch limits proposed in this action that 
would mitigate negative impacts would be higher catch limits. 
Alternative, higher catch limits, however, are not permissible under 
the law because they would not be consistent with the goals and 
objectives of the FMP, or the Magnuson-Stevens Act, particularly the 
requirement to prevent overfishing. The Magnuson-Stevens Act, and case 
law, prevent

[[Page 15031]]

implementation of measures that conflict with conservation 
requirements, even if it means negative impacts are not mitigated. The 
catch limits proposed in this action are the highest allowed given the 
best scientific information available, the SSC's recommendations, and 
requirements to end overfishing and rebuild fish stocks. The only other 
catch limits that would be legal would be lower than those proposed in 
this action, which would not mitigate the economic impacts of the 
proposed catch limits.

Modification of the Definition of the Haddock Separator Trawl

    The proposed action would modify the current definition of the 
haddock separator trawl to require that the separator panel contrasts 
in color to the portions of the net that it separates. An estimated 46 
unique vessels had at least one trip that used a haddock separator 
trawl from 2013-2015. The costs for labor and installation of a new 
separator panel are estimated to range from $560 to $1,400 per panel. 
The No Action alternative would not modify the current definition of 
the haddock separator trawl. The proposed action is expected to 
expedite Coast Guard vessel inspections when compared to the No Action 
alternative, which could improve enforceability of this gear type and 
reduce delays in fishing operations while inspections occur.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648

    Fisheries, Fishing, Recordkeeping and reporting requirements.

    Dated: March 11, 2016.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
    For the reasons stated 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.  648.14, revise paragraph (k)(16)(iii)(B) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  648.14  Prohibitions.

* * * * *
    (k) * * *
    (16) * * *
    (iii) * * *
    (B) Fail to comply with the requirements specified in Sec.  
648.81(f)(5)(v) when fishing in the areas described in Sec.  
648.81(d)(1), (e)(1), and (f)(4) during the time periods specified.
0
3. In Sec.  648.85, revise paragraph (a)(3)(iii)(A) to read as follows:


Sec.  648.85  Special management programs.

    (a) * * *
    (3) * * *
    (iii) * * *
    (A) Haddock Separator Trawl. A haddock separator trawl is defined 
as a groundfish trawl modified to a vertically-oriented trouser trawl 
configuration, with two extensions arranged one over the other, where a 
codend shall be attached only to the upper extension, and the bottom 
extension shall be left open and have no codend attached. A horizontal 
large-mesh separating panel constructed with a minimum of 6.0-inch 
(15.2-cm) diamond mesh must be installed between the selvedges joining 
the upper and lower panels, as described in paragraphs (a)(3)(iii)(A) 
and (B) of this section, extending forward from the front of the 
trouser junction to the aft edge of the first belly behind the fishing 
circle. The horizontal large-mesh separating panel must be constructed 
with mesh of a contrasting color to the upper and bottom extensions of 
the net that it separates.
    (1) Two-seam bottom trawl nets--For two seam nets, the separator 
panel will be constructed such that the width of the forward edge of 
the panel is 80-85 percent of the width of the after edge of the first 
belly of the net where the panel is attached. For example, if the belly 
is 200 meshes wide (from selvedge to selvedge), the separator panel 
must be no wider than 160-170 meshes wide.
    (2) Four-seam bottom trawl nets--For four seam nets, the separator 
panel will be constructed such that the width of the forward edge of 
the panel is 90-95 percent of the width of the after edge of the first 
belly of the net where the panel is attached. For example, if the belly 
is 200 meshes wide (from selvedge to selvedge), the separator panel 
must be no wider than 180-190 meshes wide. The separator panel will be 
attached to both of the side panels of the net along the midpoint of 
the side panels. For example, if the side panel is 100 meshes tall, the 
separator panel must be attached at the 50th mesh.
* * * * *
0
3. In Sec.  648.87:
0
A. Revise paragraphs (a)(1) and (2), (b)(1)(i)(B)(2), (b)(1)(v)(B) 
introductory text, and (b)(1)(v)(B)(1)(i);
0
B. Add paragraph (b)(1)(v)(B)(1)(ii);
0
C. Revise paragraph (b)(4)(i)(G);
0
D. Add paragraphs (c)(2)(i)(A), reserved paragraph (c)(2)(i)(B), and 
(c)(4); and
0
E. Revise paragraphs, (d), and (e)(3)(iv).
    The revisions and additions read as follows:


Sec.  648.87  Sector allocation.

    (a) Procedure for approving/implementing a sector allocation 
proposal. (1) Any person may submit a sector allocation proposal for a 
group of limited access NE multispecies vessels to NMFS. The sector 
allocation proposal must be submitted to the Council and NMFS in 
writing by the deadline for submitting an operations plan and 
preliminary sector contract that is specified in paragraph (b)(2) of 
this section. The proposal must include a cover letter requesting the 
formation of the new sector, a complete sector operations plan and 
preliminary sector contract, prepared as described in in paragraphs 
(b)(2) and (3) of this section, and appropriate analysis that assesses 
the impact of the proposed sector, in compliance with the National 
Environmental Policy Act.
    (2) Upon receipt of a proposal to form a new sector allocation, and 
following the deadline for each sector to submit an operations plan, as 
described in paragraph (b)(2) of this section, NMFS will notify the 
Council in writing of its intent to consider a new sector allocation 
for approval. The Council will review the proposal(s) and associated 
NEPA analyses at a Groundfish Committee and Council meeting, and 
provide its recommendation on the proposed sector allocation to NMFS in 
writing. NMFS will make final determinations regarding the approval of 
the new sectors based on review of the proposed operations plans, 
associated NEPA analyses, and the Council's recommendations, and in a 
manner consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act. NMFS will only 
approve a new sector that has received the Council's endorsement.
* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (B) * * *
    (2) Re-allocation of haddock or cod ACE. A sector may re-allocate 
all, or a portion, of a its haddock or cod ACE specified to the Eastern 
U.S./Canada Area, pursuant to paragraph (b)(1)(i)(B)(1) of this 
section, to the Western U.S./Canada Area at any time during the fishing 
year, and up to 2 weeks into the following fishing year (i.e., through 
May 14), unless otherwise instructed by NMFS, to cover any overages 
during the previous fishing year. Re-allocation of any ACE only

[[Page 15032]]

becomes effective upon approval by NMFS, as specified in paragraphs 
(b)(1)(i)(B)(2)(i) through (iii) of this section. Re-allocation of 
haddock or cod ACE may only be made within a sector, and not between 
sectors. For example, if 100 mt of a sector's GB haddock ACE is 
specified to the Eastern U.S./Canada Area, the sector could re-allocate 
up to 100 mt of that ACE to the Western U.S./Canada Area.
    (i) Application to re-allocate ACE. GB haddock or GB cod ACE 
specified to the Eastern U.S./Canada Area may be re-allocated to the 
Western U.S./Canada Area through written request to the Regional 
Administrator. This request must include the name of the sector, the 
amount of ACE to be re-allocated, and the fishing year in which the ACE 
re-allocation applies, as instructed by the Regional Administrator.
    (ii) Approval of request to re-allocate ACE. NMFS shall approve or 
disapprove a request to re-allocate GB haddock or GB cod ACE provided 
the sector, and its participating vessels, are in compliance with the 
reporting requirements specified in this part. The Regional 
Administrator shall inform the sector in writing, within 2 weeks of the 
receipt of the sector's request, whether the request to re-allocate ACE 
has been approved.
    (iii) Duration of ACE re-allocation. GB haddock or GB cod ACE that 
has been re-allocated to the Western U.S./Canada Area pursuant to this 
paragraph (b)(1)(i)(B)(2) is only valid for the fishing year in which 
the re-allocation is approved, with the exception of any requests that 
are submitted up to 2 weeks into the subsequent fishing year to address 
any potential ACE overages from the previous fishing year, as provided 
in paragraph (b)(1)(iii) of this section, unless otherwise instructed 
by NMFS.
* * * * *
    (v) * * *
    (B) Independent third-party monitoring program. A sector must 
develop and implement an at-sea or electronic monitoring program that 
is satisfactory to, and approved by, NMFS for monitoring catch and 
discards and utilization of sector ACE, as specified in this paragraph 
(b)(1)(v)(B). The primary goal of the at-sea/electronic monitoring 
program is to verify area fished, as well as catch and discards by 
species and gear type, in the most cost-effective means practicable. 
All other goals and objectives of groundfish monitoring programs at 
Sec.  648.11(l) are considered equally-weighted secondary goals. The 
details of any at-sea or electronic monitoring program must be 
specified in the sector's operations plan, pursuant to paragraph 
(b)(2)(xi) of this section, and must meet the operational standards 
specified in paragraph (b)(5) of this section. Electronic monitoring 
may be used in place of actual observers if the technology is deemed 
sufficient by NMFS for a specific trip type based on gear type and area 
fished, in a manner consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act. 
The level of coverage for trips by sector vessels is specified in 
paragraph (b)(1)(v)(B)(1) of this section. The at-sea/electronic 
monitoring program shall be reviewed and approved by the Regional 
Administrator as part of a sector's operations plans in a manner 
consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act. A service provider 
providing at-sea or electronic monitoring services pursuant to this 
paragraph (b)(1)(v)(B) must meet the service provider standards 
specified in paragraph (b)(4) of this section, and be approved by NMFS 
in a manner consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act.
    (1) * * *
    (i) At-sea/electronic monitoring. Coverage levels must be 
sufficient to at least meet the coefficient of variation specified in 
the Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology at the overall stock 
level for each stock of regulated species and ocean pout, and to 
monitor sector operations, to the extent practicable, in order to 
reliably estimate overall catch by sector vessels. In making its 
determination, NMFS shall take into account the primary goal of the at-
sea/electronic monitoring program to verify area fished, as well as 
catch and discards by species and gear type, in the most cost-effective 
means practicable, the equally-weighted secondary goals and objectives 
of groundfish monitoring programs detailed at Sec.  648.11(l), the 
National Standards and requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and 
any other relevant factors. NMFS will determine the total target 
coverage level (i.e., combined NEFOP coverage and at-sea/electronic 
monitoring coverage) for the upcoming fishing year using the criteria 
in this paragraph. Annual coverage levels will be based on the most 
recent 3-year average of the total required coverage level necessary to 
reach the required coefficient of variation for each stock. For 
example, if data from the 2012 through 2014 fishing years are the most 
recent three complete fishing years available for the fishing year 2016 
projection, NMFS will use data from these three years to determine 2016 
target coverage levels. For each stock, the coverage level needed to 
achieve the required coefficient of variation would be calculated first 
for each of the 3 years and then averaged (e.g., (percent coverage 
necessary to meet the required coefficient of variation in year 1 + 
year 2 + year 3)/3). The coverage level that will apply is the maximum 
stock-specific rate after considering the following criteria. For a 
given fishing year, stocks that are not overfished, with overfishing 
not occurring according to the most recent available stock assessment, 
and that in the previous fishing year have less than 75 percent of the 
sector sub-ACL harvested and less than 10 percent of catch comprised of 
discards, will not be used to predict the annual target coverage level. 
A stock must meet all of these criteria to be eliminated as a predictor 
for the annual target coverage level for a given year.
    (ii) A sector vessel that declares its intent to exclusively fish 
using gillnets with a mesh size of 10-inch (25.4-cm) or greater in 
either the Inshore GB Stock Area, as defined at Sec.  648.10(k)(3)(ii), 
and/or the SNE Broad Stock Area, as defined at Sec.  648.10(k)(3)(iv), 
is not subject to the coverage rate specified in this paragraph 
(b)(1)(v)(B)(1) of this section provided that the trip is limited to 
the Inshore GB and/or SNE Broad Stock Areas and that the vessel only 
uses gillnets with a mesh size of 10-inches (25.4-cm) or greater. When 
on such a trip, other gear may be on board provided that it is stowed 
and not available for immediate use as defined in Sec.  648.2. A sector 
trip fishing with 10-inch (25.4-cm) mesh or larger gillnets will still 
be subject to the annual coverage rate if the trip declares its intent 
to fish in any part of the trip in the GOM Stock area, as defined at 
Sec.  648.10(k)(3)(i), or the Offshore GB Stock Area, as defined at 
Sec.  648.10(k)(3)(iii).
* * * * *
    (4) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (G) Evidence of adequate insurance (copies of which shall be 
provided to the vessel owner, operator, or vessel manager, when 
requested) to cover injury, liability, and accidental death to cover 
at-sea monitors (including during training); vessel owner; and service 
provider. NMFS will determine the adequate level of insurance and 
notify potential service providers;
* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) Fippennies Ledge Area. The Fippennies Ledge Area is bounded by 
the following coordinates, connected by straight lines in the order 
listed:

[[Page 15033]]



                          Fippennies Ledge Area
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  Point                     N. Latitude    W. Longitude
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1.......................................    42[deg]50.0'    69[deg]17.0'
2.......................................    42[deg]44.0'    69[deg]14.0'
3.......................................    42[deg]44.0'    69[deg]18.0'
4.......................................    42[deg]50.0'    69[deg]21.0'
1.......................................    42[deg]50.0'    69[deg]17.0'
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    (B) [Reserved]
* * * * *
    (4) Any sector may submit a written request to amend its approved 
operations plan to the Regional Administrator. If the amendment is 
administrative in nature, within the scope of, and consistent with the 
actions and impacts previously considered for current sector 
operations, the Regional Administrator may approve an administrative 
amendment in writing. The Regional Administrator may approve 
substantive changes to an approved operations plan in a manner 
consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act and other applicable 
law. All approved operations plan amendments will be published on the 
regional office Web site and will be provided to the Council.
    (d) Approved sector allocation proposals. Eligible NE multispecies 
vessels, as specified in paragraph (a)(3) of this section, may 
participate in the sectors identified in paragraphs (d)(1) through (25) 
of this section, provided the operations plan is approved by the 
Regional Administrator in accordance with paragraph (c) of this section 
and each participating vessel and vessel operator and/or vessel owner 
complies with the requirements of the operations plan, the requirements 
and conditions specified in the letter of authorization issued pursuant 
to paragraph (c) of this section, and all other requirements specified 
in this section. All operational aspects of these sectors shall be 
specified pursuant to the operations plan and sector contract, as 
required by this section.
    (1) GB Cod Hook Sector.
    (2) GB Cod Fixed Gear Sector.
    (3) Sustainable Harvest Sector.
    (4) Sustainable Harvest Sector II.
    (5) Sustainable Harvest Sector III.
    (6) Port Clyde Community Groundfish Sector.
    (7) Northeast Fishery Sector I.
    (8) Northeast Fishery Sector II.
    (9) Northeast Fishery Sector III.
    (10) Northeast Fishery Sector IV.
    (11) Northeast Fishery Sector V.
    (12) Northeast Fishery Sector VI.
    (13) Northeast Fishery Sector VII.
    (14) Northeast Fishery Sector VIII.
    (15) Northeast Fishery Sector IX.
    (16) Northeast Fishery Sector X.
    (17) Northeast Fishery Sector XI.
    (18) Northeast Fishery Sector XII.
    (19) Northeast Fishery Sector XIII.
    (20) Tristate Sector.
    (21) Northeast Coastal Communities Sector.
    (22) State of Maine Permit Banking Sector.
    (23) State of Rhode Island Permit Bank Sector.
    (24) State of New Hampshire Permit Bank Sector.
    (25) State of Massachusetts Permit Bank Sector
* * * * *
    (e) * * *
    (3)
    (iv) Reallocation of GB haddock or GB cod ACE. Subject to the terms 
and conditions of the state-operated permit bank's MOAs with NMFS, a 
state-operated permit bank may re-allocate all, or a portion, of its GB 
haddock or GB cod ACE specified for the Eastern U.S./Canada Area to the 
Western U.S./Canada Area provided it complies with the requirements in 
paragraph (b)(1)(i)(B)(2) of this section.
* * * * *


Sec.  648.89  [Amended]

0
4. In Sec.  648.89, remove and reserve paragraph (f)(3)(ii).

[FR Doc. 2016-06186 Filed 3-18-16; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P