Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast Skate Complex Fishery; Framework Adjustment 3 and 2016-2017 Specifications, 36251-36253 [2016-13236]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 108 / Monday, June 6, 2016 / Proposed Rules • Mail: NMFS, Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the envelope ‘‘Comments on Skate Framework 3.’’ DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE Instructions: Comments must be submitted by one of the above methods National Oceanic and Atmospheric to ensure that the comments are Administration received, documented, and considered by NMFS. Comments sent by any other 50 CFR Part 648 method, to any other address or [Docket No. 160301164–6164–01] individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be RIN 0648–BF87 considered. All comments received are a part of the public record and will Fisheries of the Northeastern United generally be posted for public viewing States; Northeast Skate Complex on www.regulations.gov without change. Fishery; Framework Adjustment 3 and All personal identifying information 2016–2017 Specifications (e.g., name, address) submitted AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries voluntarily by the sender will be Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and publicly accessible. Do not submit Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), confidential business information, or Commerce. otherwise sensitive or protected information. NMFS will accept ACTION: Proposed rule; request for anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in comments. the required fields if you wish to remain SUMMARY: This rule proposes regulations anonymous). to approve and implement measures in FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Framework Adjustment 3 and 2016– Tobey Curtis, Fishery Policy Analyst, 2017 Specifications (Framework 3) to (978) 281–9273. the Northeast Skate Complex Fishery SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Management Plan (FMP). Framework 3 would implement skate fishery Background specifications and a new seasonal quota The New England Fishery allocation for the skate wing fishery. Management Council is responsible for The action is necessary to update the developing management measures for Skate FMP to be consistent with the skate fisheries in the northeastern U.S. most recent scientific information, and through the Northeast Skate Complex improve management of the skate Fishery Management Plan (Skate FMP). fisheries. The proposed action is Seven skate species are managed under expected to help conserve skate stocks, the Skate FMP: Winter; little; thorny; while maintaining economic barndoor; smooth; clearnose; and opportunities for the skate fisheries. rosette. The Council’s Scientific and DATES: Comments must be received on Statistical Committee reviews the best or before June 21, 2016. available information on the status of ADDRESSES: Copies of the framework, skate populations and makes including the Environmental recommendations on acceptable Assessment and Regulatory Impact biological catch (ABC) for the skate Review (EA/RIR) and other supporting complex (all seven species). This documents for the action are available recommendation is then used as the from Thomas A. Nies, Executive basis for catch limits and other Director, New England Fishery management measures for the skate Management Council, 50 Water Street, fisheries. The regulations implementing the Mill 2, Newburyport, MA 01950. The Skate FMP at 50 CFR part 648, subpart framework is also accessible via the O, outline the management procedures Internet at: http:// and measures for the skate fisheries. www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov. You may submit comments, identified Specifications including the annual catch limit (ACL), annual catch target by NOAA–NMFS–2016–0054, by any (ACT), total allowable landings (TALs) one of the following methods: for the skate wing and bait fisheries, and • Electronic Submissions: Submit all possession limits may be specified for electronic public comments via the up to 2 years. The current specifications Federal e-Rulemaking portal. Go to were implemented as part of Framework www.regulations.gov/ Adjustment 2 to the Skate FMP (79 FR #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-201651504, August 29, 2014). The Council is 0054, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, required to develop new specifications complete the required fields, and enter for the 2016 and 2017 fishing years. The or attach your comments. [FR Doc. 2016–13189 Filed 6–3–16; 8:45 am] sradovich on DSK3TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS BILLING CODE 6820–EP–C VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:27 Jun 03, 2016 Jkt 238001 PO 00000 Frm 00066 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 36251 existing specifications and possession limits remain in effect until they are replaced. In addition to setting specifications, the Council desired to modify the in-season management of the skate wing fishery, including a new seasonal allocation of the quota in a framework adjustment. In September 2015, the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee reviewed updated information on the status of the seven species in the skate complex, including new research on discard mortality rates, and recommended an ABC of 31,081 mt for 2016 and 2017 (a 12-percent reduction from 2015). The recommended catch reduction is based on trawl survey biomass declines in little and clearnose skates, as well as adjustments to historical catch estimates derived from the new discard mortality rate data (lower than previously assumed). According to the most recent stock status information, no skates are experiencing overfishing, and only thorny skate is in an overfished condition. Thorny skate continues to be a prohibited species as part of its longterm stock rebuilding plan. More details are provided in the EA (see ADDRESSES). The Council’s Skate Oversight Committee and Advisory Panel (AP) met in October 2015 to develop specification recommendations for Council consideration, following the procedures in Amendment 3 to the Skate FMP (75 FR 34049, June 16, 2010). Following these procedures, the recommended ABC reduction, in addition to increases in the skate discard rate in recent years, resulted in a 23-percent decline in the total allowable landings (TAL) from 2015 levels. Due to the 23-percent reduction in the TAL, the Committee and AP discussed tradeoffs between reducing possession limits versus seasonally allocating the TAL in an effort to avoid in-season closures and maintain a steady supply of skate wings across the year. Proposed Framework Adjustment Measure The Council ultimately decided to recommend status quo possession limits (see Proposed Specification Measures), but to use a framework adjustment to allocate 57 percent of the skate wing TAL to a Season 1 quota (May 1–August 31). Under this action, the Regional Administrator would be given the authority to reduce the skate wing possession limit from 2,600 lb (1,179 kg) to an incidental catch level of 500 lb (227 kg) when 85 percent of the Season 1 quota is projected to be landed. If 85 percent of the Season 1 quota is projected to be landed between May 1 E:\FR\FM\06JNP1.SGM 06JNP1 36252 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 108 / Monday, June 6, 2016 / Proposed Rules and August 17, the Regional Administrator would be required to reduce the possession limit. However, if 85 percent of the quota is projected to be landed between August 18 and August 31, the Regional Administrator would have discretion on whether or not to reduce the possession limit. The directed fishery would re-open with a 4,100-lb (1,860-kg) possession limit on September 1 with the remainder of the annual skate wing TAL available in Season 2. In Season 2, the Regional Administrator may reduce the possession limit to 500 lb (227 kg) when 85 percent of the annual skate wing TAL is projected to be landed, consistent with the existing authority provided in the regulations implemented in Framework Adjustment 1 to the Skate FMP (76 FR 28328, May 17, 2011). These in-season possession limit reductions are designed to mitigate the potential for prolonged closures for the directed skate fishery, while still allowing some incidental catches to be landed. sradovich on DSK3TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Proposed Specification Measures The Council has recommended, and NMFS is proposing in this rule, the following specifications for the skate fisheries for the 2016–2017 fishing years: 1. Skate Complex ABC and ACL of 31,081 mt; 2. Skate Complex ACT of 23,311 mt; 3. A TAL of 8,372 mt for the skate wing fishery, with 4,772 mt (57 percent) allocated to Season 1 (May 1–August 31), and the remainder of the TAL (at least 43 percent) allocated to Season 2 (September 1–April 30); 4. Status quo skate wing possession limits, as defined in § 648.322(b): 2,600 lb (1,179 kg) wing weight per trip for Season 1 (May 1 through August 31), and 4,100 lb (1,860 kg) wing weight per trip for Season 2 (September 1 through April 30) for vessels fishing on a Northeast Multispecies, Monkfish, or Scallop day-at-sea. The Northeast Multispecies Category-B day-at-sea possession limit remains at 220 lb (100 kg) wing weight per trip, and the nonday-at-sea incidental possession limit remains at 500 lb (227 kg) wing weight per trip; 5. A TAL of 4,218 mt for the skate bait fishery, divided into three seasons according to the current regulations at § 648.322; and 6. Status quo skate bait possession limit, as defined in § 648.322(c): 25,000 lb (11,340 kg) whole weight per trip for vessels carrying a valid Skate Bait Letter of Authorization. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:27 Jun 03, 2016 Jkt 238001 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 the Skate FMP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, subject to further consideration after public comment. This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for the purpose of E.O. 12866. The Council prepared an IRFA, as required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). The IRFA consists of Framework 3, the EA for Framework 3, and this preamble to the proposed rule. The IRFA describes the economic impact this proposed rule, if adopted, would have on small entities. A copy of this analysis is available from the Council (see ADDRESSES). The following is a summary of the IRFA. Description of the Reasons Why Action by the Agency Is Being Considered and Statement of Objectives of, and Legal Basis for, This Proposed Rule A description of the action, why it is being considered, and the legal basis for this action are contained in the Background section of the preamble and in the SUMMARY of this proposed rule. Description of the Projected Reporting, Record-Keeping, and Other Compliance Requirements of This Proposed Rule This action does not introduce any new reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements. Federal Rules Which May Duplicate, Overlap, or Conflict With This Proposed Rule This proposed rule does not duplicate, overlap, or conflict with other Federal rules. Description and Estimate of Number of Small Entities to Which the Rule Would Apply This proposed rule would impact fishing vessels, including commercial fishing entities. In 2014, there were 2,012 vessels that held an open access skate permit. However, only 431 of those permit holders were active participants in the commercial skate fishery (i.e., landed any amount of skates). If two or more vessels have identical owners, these vessels are considered to be part of the same firm. In 2014, there were 67 vessels within affiliate groups; therefore, the total number of active entities is 364. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), firms are PO 00000 Frm 00067 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 classified as finfish or shellfish firms based on the activity from which they derive the most revenue. Using the $5.5M cutoff for shellfish firms (NAICS 114112) and the $20.5M cutoff for finfish firms (NAICS 114111), 361 of the 364 entities were small businesses in 2014; only three entities (0.8%) qualified as large businesses. On average, for small entities, skate is responsible for a small fraction of total landings, and active participants derive a small share of gross receipts from the skate fishery. 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 This proposed rule includes management measure alternatives for (1) the skate complex ACL and associated ACT and TALs, (2) possession limits in the skate wing and bait fisheries, and (3) seasonal allocation alternatives in the skate wing fishery. With respect to the latter two management measures, the proposed action includes the alternatives that are expected to minimize any potential economic impacts compared to the other alternatives. This action proposes to maintain the current skate bait and skate wing trip limits. It would also apportion a percentage of the wing TAL to each season and establish an inseason trigger for season one. Therefore, the remainder of this summary will focus on the first management measure alternatives (i.e., ACLs). The proposed ACL alternative described in the preamble of this proposed rule represents a reduction in the allowable catch and landings as compared to the no action alternative. Therefore, as compared to the proposed action, the no action alternative would result in less short-term economic impacts. During 2014, total revenues from skate landings were valued at approximately $8.9 million. Compared to the no action alternative, the proposed reduction in the skate TALs (23 percent) could reduce potential annual skate revenues. However, actual skate landings in recent years have been close to the proposed TAL, suggesting that it is unlikely that potential revenue losses would be directly commensurate with the TAL reduction. If skate landings in 2016 and 2017 are comparable to those observed in 2014 and 2015, then most skate vessels may experience little loss of skate revenue, and the fishery may actually come closer to fully harvesting the available amount of landings. According to the E:\FR\FM\06JNP1.SGM 06JNP1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 108 / Monday, June 6, 2016 / Proposed Rules analysis in the EA (see ADDRESSES), based on 2014 data, most entities (95 percent) would experience total landings revenue losses of less than 10 percent. Approximately 12 affiliate groups would experience losses of 10– 15 percent, and 7 affiliate groups would experience losses greater than 15 percent. The no action alternative is not expected to result in any additional short-term reductions in landings revenue. Given the recent performance of the skate fisheries, the no action alternative could minimize economic impacts and still achieve the stated objectives of this action. However, the no action alternative does not include all of the most recent information on skate stock status and discard mortality rates, and could result in a higher risk of overfishing the skate complex resulting in long-term economic impacts. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648 Fisheries, Fishing, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements. Dated: May 26, 2016. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. sradovich on DSK3TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS For the reasons set out in the preamble, NMFS proposes to amend 50 CFR part 648 as follows: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:27 Jun 03, 2016 Jkt 238001 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 § 648.322, revise paragraphs (a)(1) and (b)(2) to read as follows: ■ § 648.322 Skate allocation, possession, and landing provisions. (a) * * * (1) A total of 66.5 percent of the annual skate complex TAL shall be allocated to the skate wing fishery. All skate products that are landed in wing form, for the skate wing market, or classified by Federal dealers as food as required under § 648.7(a)(1)(i), shall count against the skate wing fishery TAL. The annual skate wing fishery TAL shall be allocated in two seasonal quota periods as follows: (i) Season 1—May 1 through August 31, 57 percent of the annual skate wing fishery TAL shall be allocated; (ii) Season 2—September 1 through April 30, the remainder of the annual skate wing fishery TAL not landed in Season 1 shall be allocated. * * * * * (b) * * * (2) In-season adjustment of skate wing possession limits. The Regional Administrator shall, through a notice in the Federal Register consistent with the PO 00000 Frm 00068 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 36253 Administrative Procedure Act, reduce the skate wing possession limit to 500 lb (227 kg) of skate wings (1,135 lb (515 kg) whole weight or any prorated combination of the allowable landing forms defined at paragraph (b)(4) of this section) for the remainder of the applicable quota season, under the following circumstances: (i) When 85 percent of the Season 1 skate wing quota is projected to be landed between May 1 and August 17, the Regional Administrator shall reduce the skate wing possession limit to the incidental level described in paragraph (b)(2) of this section. (ii) When 85 percent of the Season 1 skate wing quota is projected to be landed between August 18 and August 31, the Regional Administrator may reduce the skate wing possession limit to the incidental level described in paragraph (b)(2) of this section. (iii) In Season 2, when 85 percent of the annual skate wing fishery TAL is projected to be landed, the Regional Administrator shall reduce the skate wing possession limit to the incidental level described in this paragraph, unless such a reduction would be expected to prevent attainment of the annual TAL. * * * * * [FR Doc. 2016–13236 Filed 6–3–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\06JNP1.SGM 06JNP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 108 (Monday, June 6, 2016)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 36251-36253]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-13236]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 160301164-6164-01]
RIN 0648-BF87


Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast Skate 
Complex Fishery; Framework Adjustment 3 and 2016-2017 Specifications

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: This rule proposes regulations to approve and implement 
measures in Framework Adjustment 3 and 2016-2017 Specifications 
(Framework 3) to the Northeast Skate Complex Fishery Management Plan 
(FMP). Framework 3 would implement skate fishery specifications and a 
new seasonal quota allocation for the skate wing fishery. The action is 
necessary to update the Skate FMP to be consistent with the most recent 
scientific information, and improve management of the skate fisheries. 
The proposed action is expected to help conserve skate stocks, while 
maintaining economic opportunities for the skate fisheries.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before June 21, 2016.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the framework, including the Environmental 
Assessment and Regulatory Impact Review (EA/RIR) and other supporting 
documents for the action are available from Thomas A. Nies, Executive 
Director, New England Fishery Management Council, 50 Water Street, Mill 
2, Newburyport, MA 01950. The framework is also accessible via the 
Internet at: http://www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov.
    You may submit comments, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2016-0054, by any 
one of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2016-0054, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: NMFS, Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, 55 
Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the 
envelope ``Comments on Skate Framework 3.''
    Instructions: Comments must be submitted by one of the above 
methods to ensure that the comments are received, documented, and 
considered by NMFS. 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. All comments received are a part of the public 
record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address) submitted voluntarily by the sender 
will be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive or protected information. NMFS will 
accept anonymous comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you 
wish to remain anonymous).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Tobey Curtis, Fishery Policy Analyst, 
(978) 281-9273.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    The New England Fishery Management Council is responsible for 
developing management measures for skate fisheries in the northeastern 
U.S. through the Northeast Skate Complex Fishery Management Plan (Skate 
FMP). Seven skate species are managed under the Skate FMP: Winter; 
little; thorny; barndoor; smooth; clearnose; and rosette. The Council's 
Scientific and Statistical Committee reviews the best available 
information on the status of skate populations and makes 
recommendations on acceptable biological catch (ABC) for the skate 
complex (all seven species). This recommendation is then used as the 
basis for catch limits and other management measures for the skate 
fisheries.
    The regulations implementing the Skate FMP at 50 CFR part 648, 
subpart O, outline the management procedures and measures for the skate 
fisheries. Specifications including the annual catch limit (ACL), 
annual catch target (ACT), total allowable landings (TALs) for the 
skate wing and bait fisheries, and possession limits may be specified 
for up to 2 years. The current specifications were implemented as part 
of Framework Adjustment 2 to the Skate FMP (79 FR 51504, August 29, 
2014). The Council is required to develop new specifications for the 
2016 and 2017 fishing years. The existing specifications and possession 
limits remain in effect until they are replaced. In addition to setting 
specifications, the Council desired to modify the in-season management 
of the skate wing fishery, including a new seasonal allocation of the 
quota in a framework adjustment.
    In September 2015, the Council's Scientific and Statistical 
Committee reviewed updated information on the status of the seven 
species in the skate complex, including new research on discard 
mortality rates, and recommended an ABC of 31,081 mt for 2016 and 2017 
(a 12-percent reduction from 2015). The recommended catch reduction is 
based on trawl survey biomass declines in little and clearnose skates, 
as well as adjustments to historical catch estimates derived from the 
new discard mortality rate data (lower than previously assumed). 
According to the most recent stock status information, no skates are 
experiencing overfishing, and only thorny skate is in an overfished 
condition. Thorny skate continues to be a prohibited species as part of 
its long-term stock rebuilding plan. More details are provided in the 
EA (see ADDRESSES).
    The Council's Skate Oversight Committee and Advisory Panel (AP) met 
in October 2015 to develop specification recommendations for Council 
consideration, following the procedures in Amendment 3 to the Skate FMP 
(75 FR 34049, June 16, 2010). Following these procedures, the 
recommended ABC reduction, in addition to increases in the skate 
discard rate in recent years, resulted in a 23-percent decline in the 
total allowable landings (TAL) from 2015 levels. Due to the 23-percent 
reduction in the TAL, the Committee and AP discussed tradeoffs between 
reducing possession limits versus seasonally allocating the TAL in an 
effort to avoid in-season closures and maintain a steady supply of 
skate wings across the year.

Proposed Framework Adjustment Measure

    The Council ultimately decided to recommend status quo possession 
limits (see Proposed Specification Measures), but to use a framework 
adjustment to allocate 57 percent of the skate wing TAL to a Season 1 
quota (May 1-August 31). Under this action, the Regional Administrator 
would be given the authority to reduce the skate wing possession limit 
from 2,600 lb (1,179 kg) to an incidental catch level of 500 lb (227 
kg) when 85 percent of the Season 1 quota is projected to be landed. If 
85 percent of the Season 1 quota is projected to be landed between May 
1

[[Page 36252]]

and August 17, the Regional Administrator would be required to reduce 
the possession limit. However, if 85 percent of the quota is projected 
to be landed between August 18 and August 31, the Regional 
Administrator would have discretion on whether or not to reduce the 
possession limit. The directed fishery would re-open with a 4,100-lb 
(1,860-kg) possession limit on September 1 with the remainder of the 
annual skate wing TAL available in Season 2.
    In Season 2, the Regional Administrator may reduce the possession 
limit to 500 lb (227 kg) when 85 percent of the annual skate wing TAL 
is projected to be landed, consistent with the existing authority 
provided in the regulations implemented in Framework Adjustment 1 to 
the Skate FMP (76 FR 28328, May 17, 2011). These in-season possession 
limit reductions are designed to mitigate the potential for prolonged 
closures for the directed skate fishery, while still allowing some 
incidental catches to be landed.

Proposed Specification Measures

    The Council has recommended, and NMFS is proposing in this rule, 
the following specifications for the skate fisheries for the 2016-2017 
fishing years:
    1. Skate Complex ABC and ACL of 31,081 mt;
    2. Skate Complex ACT of 23,311 mt;
    3. A TAL of 8,372 mt for the skate wing fishery, with 4,772 mt (57 
percent) allocated to Season 1 (May 1-August 31), and the remainder of 
the TAL (at least 43 percent) allocated to Season 2 (September 1-April 
30);
    4. Status quo skate wing possession limits, as defined in Sec.  
648.322(b): 2,600 lb (1,179 kg) wing weight per trip for Season 1 (May 
1 through August 31), and 4,100 lb (1,860 kg) wing weight per trip for 
Season 2 (September 1 through April 30) for vessels fishing on a 
Northeast Multispecies, Monkfish, or Scallop day-at-sea. The Northeast 
Multispecies Category-B day-at-sea possession limit remains at 220 lb 
(100 kg) wing weight per trip, and the non-day-at-sea incidental 
possession limit remains at 500 lb (227 kg) wing weight per trip;
    5. A TAL of 4,218 mt for the skate bait fishery, divided into three 
seasons according to the current regulations at Sec.  648.322; and
    6. Status quo skate bait possession limit, as defined in Sec.  
648.322(c): 25,000 lb (11,340 kg) whole weight per trip for vessels 
carrying a valid Skate Bait Letter of Authorization.

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 the Skate FMP, other provisions 
of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, subject to 
further consideration after public comment.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
the purpose of E.O. 12866.
    The Council prepared an IRFA, as required by section 603 of the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). The IRFA consists of Framework 3, the 
EA for Framework 3, and this preamble to the proposed rule. The IRFA 
describes the economic impact this proposed rule, if adopted, would 
have on small entities. A copy of this analysis is available from the 
Council (see ADDRESSES). The following is a summary of the IRFA.

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

    A description of the action, why it is being considered, and the 
legal basis for this action are contained in the Background section of 
the preamble and in the SUMMARY of this proposed rule.

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

    This action does not introduce any new reporting, recordkeeping, or 
other compliance requirements.

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

    This proposed rule does not duplicate, overlap, or conflict with 
other Federal rules.

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

    This proposed rule would impact fishing vessels, including 
commercial fishing entities. In 2014, there were 2,012 vessels that 
held an open access skate permit. However, only 431 of those permit 
holders were active participants in the commercial skate fishery (i.e., 
landed any amount of skates). If two or more vessels have identical 
owners, these vessels are considered to be part of the same firm. In 
2014, there were 67 vessels within affiliate groups; therefore, the 
total number of active entities is 364. According to the Small Business 
Administration (SBA), firms are classified as finfish or shellfish 
firms based on the activity from which they derive the most revenue. 
Using the $5.5M cutoff for shellfish firms (NAICS 114112) and the 
$20.5M cutoff for finfish firms (NAICS 114111), 361 of the 364 entities 
were small businesses in 2014; only three entities (0.8%) qualified as 
large businesses. On average, for small entities, skate is responsible 
for a small fraction of total landings, and active participants derive 
a small share of gross receipts from the skate fishery.

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

    This proposed rule includes management measure alternatives for (1) 
the skate complex ACL and associated ACT and TALs, (2) possession 
limits in the skate wing and bait fisheries, and (3) seasonal 
allocation alternatives in the skate wing fishery.
    With respect to the latter two management measures, the proposed 
action includes the alternatives that are expected to minimize any 
potential economic impacts compared to the other alternatives. This 
action proposes to maintain the current skate bait and skate wing trip 
limits. It would also apportion a percentage of the wing TAL to each 
season and establish an in-season trigger for season one. Therefore, 
the remainder of this summary will focus on the first management 
measure alternatives (i.e., ACLs).
    The proposed ACL alternative described in the preamble of this 
proposed rule represents a reduction in the allowable catch and 
landings as compared to the no action alternative. Therefore, as 
compared to the proposed action, the no action alternative would result 
in less short-term economic impacts. During 2014, total revenues from 
skate landings were valued at approximately $8.9 million. Compared to 
the no action alternative, the proposed reduction in the skate TALs (23 
percent) could reduce potential annual skate revenues. However, actual 
skate landings in recent years have been close to the proposed TAL, 
suggesting that it is unlikely that potential revenue losses would be 
directly commensurate with the TAL reduction. If skate landings in 2016 
and 2017 are comparable to those observed in 2014 and 2015, then most 
skate vessels may experience little loss of skate revenue, and the 
fishery may actually come closer to fully harvesting the available 
amount of landings. According to the

[[Page 36253]]

analysis in the EA (see ADDRESSES), based on 2014 data, most entities 
(95 percent) would experience total landings revenue losses of less 
than 10 percent. Approximately 12 affiliate groups would experience 
losses of 10-15 percent, and 7 affiliate groups would experience losses 
greater than 15 percent.
    The no action alternative is not expected to result in any 
additional short-term reductions in landings revenue. Given the recent 
performance of the skate fisheries, the no action alternative could 
minimize economic impacts and still achieve the stated objectives of 
this action. However, the no action alternative does not include all of 
the most recent information on skate stock status and discard mortality 
rates, and could result in a higher risk of overfishing the skate 
complex resulting in long-term economic impacts.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648

    Fisheries, Fishing, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    Dated: May 26, 2016.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, NMFS proposes to amend 50 
CFR part 648 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.  648.322, revise paragraphs (a)(1) and (b)(2) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  648.322  Skate allocation, possession, and landing provisions.

    (a) * * *
    (1) A total of 66.5 percent of the annual skate complex TAL shall 
be allocated to the skate wing fishery. All skate products that are 
landed in wing form, for the skate wing market, or classified by 
Federal dealers as food as required under Sec.  648.7(a)(1)(i), shall 
count against the skate wing fishery TAL. The annual skate wing fishery 
TAL shall be allocated in two seasonal quota periods as follows:
    (i) Season 1--May 1 through August 31, 57 percent of the annual 
skate wing fishery TAL shall be allocated;
    (ii) Season 2--September 1 through April 30, the remainder of the 
annual skate wing fishery TAL not landed in Season 1 shall be 
allocated.
* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (2) In-season adjustment of skate wing possession limits. The 
Regional Administrator shall, through a notice in the Federal Register 
consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act, reduce the skate wing 
possession limit to 500 lb (227 kg) of skate wings (1,135 lb (515 kg) 
whole weight or any prorated combination of the allowable landing forms 
defined at paragraph (b)(4) of this section) for the remainder of the 
applicable quota season, under the following circumstances:
    (i) When 85 percent of the Season 1 skate wing quota is projected 
to be landed between May 1 and August 17, the Regional Administrator 
shall reduce the skate wing possession limit to the incidental level 
described in paragraph (b)(2) of this section.
    (ii) When 85 percent of the Season 1 skate wing quota is projected 
to be landed between August 18 and August 31, the Regional 
Administrator may reduce the skate wing possession limit to the 
incidental level described in paragraph (b)(2) of this section.
    (iii) In Season 2, when 85 percent of the annual skate wing fishery 
TAL is projected to be landed, the Regional Administrator shall reduce 
the skate wing possession limit to the incidental level described in 
this paragraph, unless such a reduction would be expected to prevent 
attainment of the annual TAL.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2016-13236 Filed 6-3-16; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P