Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Atlantic Bluefish Fishery; 2016-2018 Atlantic Bluefish Specifications, 51370-51374 [2016-18424]

Download as PDF 51370 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 150 / Thursday, August 4, 2016 / Rules and Regulations et seq.). This rule will not impose recordkeeping or reporting requirements on State or local governments, individuals, businesses, or organizations. An agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to, a collection of information unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number. National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) It is our position that, outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, we do not need to prepare environmental analyses pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) in connection with designating critical habitat under the Act. We published a notice outlining our reasons for this determination in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244). This position was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Douglas County v. Babbitt, 48 F.3d 1495 (9th Cir. 1995), cert. denied 516 U.S. 1042 (1996)). Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes ehiers on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with RULES 13:37 Aug 03, 2016 Authors The primary authors of this document are the staff members of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (see ADDRESSES). Authority The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). Dated: July 5, 2016. Karen Hyun, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. [FR Doc. 2016–18376 Filed 8–3–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4333–15–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE In accordance with the President’s memorandum of April 29, 1994 (Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal Governments; 59 FR 22951), Executive Order 13175 (Consultation and Coordination With Indian Tribal Governments), and the Department of the Interior’s manual at 512 DM 2, we readily acknowledge our responsibility to communicate meaningfully with recognized Federal Tribes on a government-to-government basis. In accordance with Secretarial Order 3206 of June 5, 1997 (American Indian Tribal Rights, Federal-Tribal Trust Responsibilities, and the Endangered Species Act), we readily acknowledge our responsibilities to work directly with tribes in developing programs for healthy ecosystems, to acknowledge that tribal lands are not subject to the same controls as Federal public lands, to remain sensitive to Indian culture, and to make information available to tribes. There are no tribal lands designated as critical habitat for the marbled murrelet. VerDate Sep<11>2014 References Cited A complete list of all references cited in this rule is available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov, at Docket No. FWS–R1–ES–2015–0070. In addition, a complete list of all references cited herein, as well as others, is available upon request from the Washington Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES). Jkt 238001 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 151130999–6594–02] RIN 0648–XE336 Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Atlantic Bluefish Fishery; 2016–2018 Atlantic Bluefish Specifications National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: NMFS is implementing final specifications for the 2016–2018 bluefish fishery, including catch restrictions for commercial and recreational fisheries. This action is necessary to comply with the implementing regulations for the Bluefish Fishery Management Plan that require us to publish specifications. The intent of this action is to implement specifications necessary to constrain harvest of this species within SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00074 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 scientifically sound recommendations to prevent overfishing. DATES: The final specifications for the 2016–2018 bluefish fishery are effective August 1, 2016, through December 31, 2018. Copies of the specifications document, including the Environmental Assessment and Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (EA/IRFA) and other supporting documents for the specifications, are available from Dr. Christopher M. Moore, Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Suite 201, 800 N. State Street, Dover, DE 19901. These documents are also accessible via the Internet at www.mafmc.org and www.regulations.gov. ADDRESSES: FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Elizabeth Scheimer, Fishery Management Specialist, (978) 281–9236. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background The Atlantic Bluefish fishery is jointly managed by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. The management unit for bluefish specified in the Atlantic Bluefish Fishery Management Plan is U.S. waters of the western Atlantic Ocean. Regulations implementing the FMP appear at 50 CFR part 648, subparts A and J. The regulations requiring annual specifications are found at § 648.162, and are described in the proposed rule. The proposed rule for this action published in the Federal Register on March 31, 2016 (81 FR 18559), and comments were accepted through April 15, 2016. Final Specifications A description of the process used to estimate bluefish stock status and fishing mortality, as well as the process for deriving the annual catch limit (ACL) and associated quotas and harvest limits, is provided in the proposed rule and in the bluefish regulations at § 648.160 through 162, and are not repeated here. The stock is not overfished or experiencing overfishing, and the specifications described below reflect the best available scientific information for bluefish. The final 2016–2018 bluefish specifications are shown in Table 1. E:\FR\FM\04AUR1.SGM 04AUR1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 150 / Thursday, August 4, 2016 / Rules and Regulations 51371 TABLE 1—FINAL 2016–2018 BLUEFISH SPECIFICATIONS 2016 lb OFL .......................................................... ABC .......................................................... ACL .......................................................... Management Uncertainty ......................... Commercial ACT ...................................... Recreational ACT ..................................... Commercial Discards ............................... Recreational Discards .............................. Commercial TAL ...................................... Recreational TAL ..................................... Combined TAL ......................................... Expected Recreational Landings ............. Transfer .................................................... Commercial Quota ................................... Recreational Harvest Limit ....................... ehiers on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with RULES VerDate Sep<11>2014 13:37 Aug 03, 2016 Jkt 238001 mt 25,763,220 19,455,796 19,455,796 0 3,307,485 16,148,311 0 2,989,468 3,307,485 13,158,843 16,466,328 11,581,548 1,577,295 4,884,780 13,158,843 A transfer of quota from the recreational fishery to the commercial sector is permitted under the FMP up to a commercial fishery quota of 10.50 million lb (4,763 mt), provided the combined expected recreational landings and the commercial quota does not exceed the total TAL. The proposed rule for this action contained a sector quota transfer based on preliminary 2015 recreational landings data. In the interim between the proposed rule and now, the final 2015 Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) estimates were released in June and subsequently revised in July. The final bluefish catch estimate is higher than the preliminary value used to calculate the proposed measures, but notably lower than the MRIP information provided in June. Using these updated recreational landings to project 2016 catch allows a transfer of quota from the recreational sector to the commercial fishery (1.57 million lb (715 mt)) and results in a final commercial quota of 4,884,780 lb (2,215 mt). Consistent with Council recommendations, these final specifications do not allocate research set-aside quota for 2016 through 2018; therefore, no additional adjustments to 2017 lb 11,686 8,825 8,825 0 1,500 7,325 0 1,356 1,500 5,969 7,469 5,253 715 2,215 1,500 26,444,448 20,641,883 20,641,883 0 3,509,120 17,132,763 0 2,989,468 3,509,120 14,143,295 17,652,415 11,581,548 2,561,747 6,070,867 14,143,295 commercial or recreational allocations are needed. Given historical landings, the reduced commercial quota could be constraining to the fishery. Even though the commercial quota is reduced, the bluefish quota management system has been timely and effective at constraining catch in the past, and NMFS does not expect any state to exceed their quota. Final Recreational Possession Limit Consistent with the recommendation of the Council, this final rule maintains the status quo daily recreational possession limit of up to 15 fish per person for 2016. Final State Commercial Allocations The final rule implementing Amendment 1 to the Bluefish Fishery Management Plan, which was published in the Federal Register on July 26, 2000 (65 FR 45844), provided a mechanism for bluefish quota to be transferred from one state to another. Two or more states, under mutual agreement and with the concurrence of the Administrator, Greater Atlantic Region, NMFS (Regional Administrator), can transfer or combine bluefish commercial quota under § 648.162(e). The Regional Administrator is required to consider PO 00000 Frm 00075 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 2018 mt lb 11,995 9,363 9,363 0 1,592 7,770 0 1,356 1,592 6,414 8,006 5,253 1,161 2,753 6,414 27,972,252 21,814,742 21,814,742 0 3,708,506 18,106,236 0 2,989,468 3,708,506 15,116,768 18,825,274 11,581,548 3,535,220 7,243,726 15,116,768 mt 12,688 9,895 9,895 0 1,682 8,213 0 1,356 1,682 6,857 8,539 5,253 1,604 3,286 6,857 the criteria in § 648.162(e)(1) in the evaluation of requests for quota transfers or combinations. During the processing of this final rule, the Commonwealth of Virginia agreed to transfer 50,000 lb (22,680 kg) of bluefish quota to the State of Rhode Island and 30,000 lb (13,607 kg) to the State of New York, and the State of Florida agreed to transfer 50,000 lb (22,680 kg) to the State of Rhode Island. The state commercial transfers will not preclude the overall annual quota from being fully harvested, and will address contingencies in the fishery. In addition, the transfers are consistent with the objectives of the FMP and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). These transfers have been approved and are incorporated within this final rule and the individual state quota allocations have been adjusted to reflect the transfer. The final state commercial allocations for 2016–2018 are shown in Table 2. The initial quotas are based on percentages specified in the FMP. No states exceeded their quota in 2015, therefore, no accountability measures are being implemented for the 2016 fishing year. BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\04AUR1.SGM 04AUR1 ehiers on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with RULES 51372 VerDate Sep<11>2014 Jkt 238001 PO 00000 State FMP Percent Share 2016 Initial Quota Frm 00076 kg ME 0.6685 lb 14,812 32,655 kg 2016 Final Quota 2017 Initial Quota 2018 Initial Quota kg lb kg lb kg lb 14,812 lb 32,655 18,408 40,584 21,965 48,424 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4725 NH 0.4145 9,184 20,247 9,184 20,247 11,414 25,164 13,619 30,025 MA 6.7167 148,822 328,096 148,822 328,096 184,958 407,762 220,691 486,539 RI 6.8081 150,847 332,561 196,206 432,561 187,475 413,311 223,694 493,160 28,057 61,856 34,870 76,875 41,607 91,727 243,710 537,289 285,974 630,466 341,223 752,268 CT NY 1.2663 10.3851 28,057 230,103 45,359 100,000 61,856 507,289 13,608 30,000 E:\FR\FM\04AUR1.SGM NJ 14.8162 328,282 723,739 328,282 723,739 407,994 899,472 486,816 1,073,245 DE 1.8782 41,615 91,746 41,615 91,746 51,720 114,023 61,712 136,052 MD 3.0018 66,511 146,631 66,511 146,631 82,661 182,235 98,630 217,442 226,926 500,287 327,126 721,189 390,325 860,518 VA 11.8795 263,214 580,287 -36,287 -80,000 04AUR1 NC 32.0608 710,371 1,566,100 710,371 1,566,100 882,858 1,946,369 1,053,421 2,322,397 sc 0.0352 780 1,719 780 1,719 969 2,137 1,157 2,550 GA 0.0095 210 464 210 464 262 577 312 688 200,213 441,394 277,014 610,711 330,531 728,697 2,215,699 4,884,780 2,753,699 6,070,867 3,285,699 7,243,726 FL 10.0597 222,893 491,394 Total ER04AU16.000</GPH> transfer 100.0001 2,215,699 4,884,780 -22,680 -50,000 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 150 / Thursday, August 4, 2016 / Rules and Regulations 13:37 Aug 03, 2016 Table 2. Bluefish Commercial State-by-State Allocations for 2016-2018 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 150 / Thursday, August 4, 2016 / Rules and Regulations Changes From the Proposed Rule The 2015 recreational catch for bluefish for was previously projected to be 10,980,469 lb (4.980 mt), which would have allowed for a transfer of 2,178,374 lb (984 mt) from the recreational sector to the commercial fishery. As previously noted, the 2015 MRIP estimate changed on two occasions when information was finalized. The final recreational catch for 2015 is now known to be 11,581,548 lb (5,253 mt), which results in a smaller commercial quota of 4,884,780 lb (2,215 mt) than was outlined in the proposed rule. ehiers on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with RULES Comments and Responses The public comment period for the proposed rule ended on April 15, 2016. There were four comments received from the public, including recreational and commercial fishermen. Comment 1: One commenter criticized the data used to estimate recreational catch, stating that the catch estimate was arbitrary and capricious, and requested to know where the numbers come from. The commenter did not suggest other data or approaches that might be better suited for establishing specifications. Response: NMFS disagrees that the recreational catch estimate is arbitrary and capricious. Recreational catch was estimated using data from MRIP, and a newly peer-reviewed and approved methodology that improved the incorporation of small sample sizes was used to generate the final estimates. A publically searchable database and information about the program are available at http:// www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/recreationalfisheries. The most up-to-date stock assessment and recreational and commercial catch data were used. Consistent with National Standard 2 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS used the best scientific information available and is approving specifications for the bluefish fishery. The final specifications in this rule are consistent with the FMP and recommendations of the Council. Comment 2: Two commenters were unclear why we proposed to reduce harvest by 10 percent if there was no overfishing, and were unclear how the 10-percent reduction would be achieved. One of the commenters gave anecdotal evidence that bluefish stock was declining and suggested that the reason could be overfishing or a decline in the forage fish that bluefish eat. Response: The 10-percent reduction is the cumulative result of new stock assessment information that indicates the spawning stock biomass for bluefish VerDate Sep<11>2014 13:37 Aug 03, 2016 Jkt 238001 is lower than previously believed, changes in overall stock productivity as reflected by updated biological reference points, and application of the Council’s risk policy. The commenter is correct that Atlantic bluefish stock biomass was higher in the 1980’s and overfishing occurred in the 1990’s, but this trend has not continued. The species was declared overfished in 1999 and managed under a rebuilding plan until 2009, when it was declared rebuilt. Using data from the new 2015 benchmark stock assessment, bluefish were not overfished and overfishing was not occurring in 2014. The assessment also changed the biological reference points for Atlantic bluefish to better model sources of uncertainty. The peerreviewed model captures the dynamics of the bluefish stock well and accurately reflects trends in spawning stock biomass and fishing mortality. We are approving a 10-percent reduction in catch limits because, while the spawning stock biomass estimate is greater than the overfished threshold, it is less than the biomass target, and shows a decrease from the estimate in 2013, the last year a full assessment was conducted. Further, these specifications were developed using the Council’s Risk Policy. Comment 3: One commenter suggested that NMFS was showing preference to the commercial fishery by increasing commercial quota at the expense of the stock and suggested reducing commercial quota 5-percent. Response: NMFS disagrees. NMFS is implementing final specifications, including the commercial quota, using the best available scientific information and following the formula outlined in the FMP, as recommended by the Council. Reducing commercial quota by 5-percent would be insufficient to achieve the necessary reduction in total landings. Through this process there is no explicit preference by NMFS for the commercial or recreational fishery and specifications are derived as outlined by the FMP. The Council could, at its discretion, revise the FMP through an amendment; however, at this time there are no pending bluefish actions that would change the commercial and recreational allocations or the specification process. Classification Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this final rule is consistent with the Atlantic Bluefish FMP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law. PO 00000 Frm 00077 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 51373 This final rule is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. This final rule does not duplicate, conflict, or overlap with any existing Federal rules. The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries finds there is a need to implement these measures as soon as possible in order to help achieve conservation objectives for the bluefish fishery. The bluefish fishing year began on January 1, 2016, and has been operating without an established bluefish quota. Currently landings data show that some states may soon approach their quotas. Development of this final rule was undertaken as quickly as possible; however, analyzing and incorporating the most up-to-date MRIP data necessarily created a delay. Until this final rule becomes effective, there will be no bluefish quota for 2016 and therefore no authority to close a fishery that is approaching a quota limit. A 30-day delay in implementing this final rule would delay the setting of a quota, which is necessary to properly manage and monitor bluefish stocks at the state and federal level. The need to implement these measures as soon as possible constitutes good cause, under authority contained in 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3), to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness and to make the 2016– 2018 Atlantic bluefish specifications effective immediately upon filing with the Office of the Federal Register. Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis The FRFA included in this final rule was prepared pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 604(a), and incorporates the IRFA and a summary of analyses completed to support the action. A public copy of the EA/IRFA is available from the Council (see ADDRESSES). The preamble to the proposed rule included a detailed summary of the analyses contained in the IRFA, and that discussion is not repeated here. A Summary of the Significant Issues Raised by the Public in Response to the IRFA, a Summary of the Agency’s Assessment of Such Issues, and a Statement of Any Changes Made in the Final Rule as a Result of Such Comments The comments NMFS received did not raise specific issues regarding the economic analyses summarized in the IRFA. Refer to the ‘‘Comments and Responses’’ section of this preamble for more detail. No changes to the proposed rule were required to be made as a result of public comment. E:\FR\FM\04AUR1.SGM 04AUR1 51374 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 150 / Thursday, August 4, 2016 / Rules and Regulations Description and Estimate of Number of Small Entities to Which the Rule Would Apply On December 29, 2015, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued a final rule establishing a small business size standard of $11 million in annual gross receipts for all businesses primarily engaged in the commercial fishing industry (NAICS 11411) for Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) compliance purposes only (80 FR 81194, December 29, 2015). The $11 million standard became effective on July 1, 2016, and is to be used in place of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) current standards of $20.5 million, $5.5 million, and $7.5 million for the finfish (NAICS 114111), shellfish (NAICS 114112), and other marine fishing (NAICS 114119) sectors of the U.S. commercial fishing industry in all NMFS rules subject to the Regulatory Flexibility Act after July 1, 2016. Pursuant to the Regulatory Flexibility Act, and prior to July 1, 2016, an initial regulatory flexibility analysis was developed for this regulatory action using SBA’s former size standards. NMFS has reviewed the analyses prepared for this regulatory action in light of the new size standard. All of the entities directly regulated by this regulatory action are commercial finfish fishing businesses. The new standard could result in 13 fewer commercial finfish businesses being considered small. Taking this change into consideration, NMFS has identified no additional significant alternatives that accomplish statutory objectives and minimize any significant economic impacts of the proposed rule on small entities. Other options considered by the Council, including those that could have less of an impact on small entities, fail to meet one or more of these statutory objectives and therefore cannot be implemented. Further, the new size standard does not affect the decision to prepare a FRFA as opposed to a certification for this regulatory action ehiers on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with RULES Description of Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other Compliance Requirements No additional reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements are included in this final rule. VerDate Sep<11>2014 13:37 Aug 03, 2016 Jkt 238001 Description of the Steps the Agency Has Taken To Minimize the Significant Economic Impact on Small Entities Consistent With the Stated Objectives of Applicable Statutes Specification of commercial quota, recreational harvest levels, and possession limits is constrained by the conservation objectives and derivation formula set forth in the FMP and implemented at 50 CFR part 648 under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Furthermore, specifications must be based on the best available scientific information, consistent with National Standard 2 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. With the specification options considered, the measures in this final rule are the only measures that both satisfy these overarching regulatory and statutory requirements while minimizing, to the extent possible, impacts on small entities. This rule implements the specifications outlined in Table 1. The impacts of the specifications, as implemented by this final rule, are not expected to disproportionately impact large or small entities. Small Entity Compliance Guide Section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 states that, for each rule or group of related rules for which an agency is required to prepare a FRFA, the agency shall publish one or more guides to assist small entities in complying with the rule, and shall designate such publications as ‘‘small entity compliance guides.’’ The agency shall explain the actions a small entity is required to take to comply with a rule or group of rules. As part of this rulemaking process, a small entity compliance guide will be sent to all holders of Federal permits issued for the Atlantic bluefish fishery. In addition, copies of this final rule and guide (i.e., permit holder letter) are available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES) and at the following Web site: www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: July 29, 2016. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2016–18424 Filed 8–1–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–C PO 00000 Frm 00078 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 160301167–6658–02] RIN 0648–BF89 Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Recreational Management Measures for the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fisheries; Fishing Year 2016 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: NMFS is implementing management measures for the 2016 summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass recreational fisheries, changes to the commercial scup incidental possession limit, and two minor corrections to the summer flounder commercial fishery minimum mesh size regulations. The implementing regulations for these fisheries require NMFS to publish recreational measures for the fishing year. The intent of these measures is to constrain recreational catch to established limits and prevent overfishing of the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass resources, to reduce unnecessary commercial discards by allowing more incidentally caught scup to be retained by vessels, and to correct inaccuracies within the summer flounder mesh regulations. DATES: Effective August 4, 2016. ADDRESSES: Copies of the Supplemental Information Report (SIR) and other supporting documents for the recreational harvest measures are available from Dr. Christopher M. Moore, Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Suite 201, 800 N. State Street, Dover, DE 19901. The recreational harvest measures document is also accessible via the Internet at: http:// www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov. SUMMARY: FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Elizabeth Scheimer, Fisheries Management Specialist, (978) 281–9236. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: General Background The summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries are managed cooperatively under the provisions of the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan (FMP) developed by the Mid-Atlantic E:\FR\FM\04AUR1.SGM 04AUR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 150 (Thursday, August 4, 2016)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 51370-51374]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-18424]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 151130999-6594-02]
RIN 0648-XE336


Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Atlantic Bluefish 
Fishery; 2016-2018 Atlantic Bluefish Specifications

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: NMFS is implementing final specifications for the 2016-2018 
bluefish fishery, including catch restrictions for commercial and 
recreational fisheries. This action is necessary to comply with the 
implementing regulations for the Bluefish Fishery Management Plan that 
require us to publish specifications. The intent of this action is to 
implement specifications necessary to constrain harvest of this species 
within scientifically sound recommendations to prevent overfishing.

DATES: The final specifications for the 2016-2018 bluefish fishery are 
effective August 1, 2016, through December 31, 2018.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the specifications document, including the 
Environmental Assessment and Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis 
(EA/IRFA) and other supporting documents for the specifications, are 
available from Dr. Christopher M. Moore, Executive Director, Mid-
Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Suite 201, 800 N. State Street, 
Dover, DE 19901. These documents are also accessible via the Internet 
at www.mafmc.org and www.regulations.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Elizabeth Scheimer, Fishery Management 
Specialist, (978) 281-9236.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The Atlantic Bluefish fishery is jointly managed by the Mid-
Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine 
Fisheries Commission. The management unit for bluefish specified in the 
Atlantic Bluefish Fishery Management Plan is U.S. waters of the western 
Atlantic Ocean. Regulations implementing the FMP appear at 50 CFR part 
648, subparts A and J. The regulations requiring annual specifications 
are found at Sec.  648.162, and are described in the proposed rule. The 
proposed rule for this action published in the Federal Register on 
March 31, 2016 (81 FR 18559), and comments were accepted through April 
15, 2016.

Final Specifications

    A description of the process used to estimate bluefish stock status 
and fishing mortality, as well as the process for deriving the annual 
catch limit (ACL) and associated quotas and harvest limits, is provided 
in the proposed rule and in the bluefish regulations at Sec.  648.160 
through 162, and are not repeated here. The stock is not overfished or 
experiencing overfishing, and the specifications described below 
reflect the best available scientific information for bluefish. The 
final 2016-2018 bluefish specifications are shown in Table 1.

[[Page 51371]]



                                                    Table 1--Final 2016-2018 Bluefish Specifications
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                                                                       2016                            2017                            2018
                                                         -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                lb              mt              lb              mt              lb              mt
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
OFL.....................................................      25,763,220          11,686      26,444,448          11,995      27,972,252          12,688
ABC.....................................................      19,455,796           8,825      20,641,883           9,363      21,814,742           9,895
ACL.....................................................      19,455,796           8,825      20,641,883           9,363      21,814,742           9,895
Management Uncertainty..................................               0               0               0               0               0               0
Commercial ACT..........................................       3,307,485           1,500       3,509,120           1,592       3,708,506           1,682
Recreational ACT........................................      16,148,311           7,325      17,132,763           7,770      18,106,236           8,213
Commercial Discards.....................................               0               0               0               0               0               0
Recreational Discards...................................       2,989,468           1,356       2,989,468           1,356       2,989,468           1,356
Commercial TAL..........................................       3,307,485           1,500       3,509,120           1,592       3,708,506           1,682
Recreational TAL........................................      13,158,843           5,969      14,143,295           6,414      15,116,768           6,857
Combined TAL............................................      16,466,328           7,469      17,652,415           8,006      18,825,274           8,539
Expected Recreational Landings..........................      11,581,548           5,253      11,581,548           5,253      11,581,548           5,253
Transfer................................................       1,577,295             715       2,561,747           1,161       3,535,220           1,604
Commercial Quota........................................       4,884,780           2,215       6,070,867           2,753       7,243,726           3,286
Recreational Harvest Limit..............................      13,158,843           1,500      14,143,295           6,414      15,116,768           6,857
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A transfer of quota from the recreational fishery to the commercial 
sector is permitted under the FMP up to a commercial fishery quota of 
10.50 million lb (4,763 mt), provided the combined expected 
recreational landings and the commercial quota does not exceed the 
total TAL. The proposed rule for this action contained a sector quota 
transfer based on preliminary 2015 recreational landings data. In the 
interim between the proposed rule and now, the final 2015 Marine 
Recreational Information Program (MRIP) estimates were released in June 
and subsequently revised in July. The final bluefish catch estimate is 
higher than the preliminary value used to calculate the proposed 
measures, but notably lower than the MRIP information provided in June. 
Using these updated recreational landings to project 2016 catch allows 
a transfer of quota from the recreational sector to the commercial 
fishery (1.57 million lb (715 mt)) and results in a final commercial 
quota of 4,884,780 lb (2,215 mt).
    Consistent with Council recommendations, these final specifications 
do not allocate research set-aside quota for 2016 through 2018; 
therefore, no additional adjustments to commercial or recreational 
allocations are needed.
    Given historical landings, the reduced commercial quota could be 
constraining to the fishery. Even though the commercial quota is 
reduced, the bluefish quota management system has been timely and 
effective at constraining catch in the past, and NMFS does not expect 
any state to exceed their quota.

Final Recreational Possession Limit

    Consistent with the recommendation of the Council, this final rule 
maintains the status quo daily recreational possession limit of up to 
15 fish per person for 2016.

Final State Commercial Allocations

    The final rule implementing Amendment 1 to the Bluefish Fishery 
Management Plan, which was published in the Federal Register on July 
26, 2000 (65 FR 45844), provided a mechanism for bluefish quota to be 
transferred from one state to another. Two or more states, under mutual 
agreement and with the concurrence of the Administrator, Greater 
Atlantic Region, NMFS (Regional Administrator), can transfer or combine 
bluefish commercial quota under Sec.  648.162(e). The Regional 
Administrator is required to consider the criteria in Sec.  
648.162(e)(1) in the evaluation of requests for quota transfers or 
combinations.
    During the processing of this final rule, the Commonwealth of 
Virginia agreed to transfer 50,000 lb (22,680 kg) of bluefish quota to 
the State of Rhode Island and 30,000 lb (13,607 kg) to the State of New 
York, and the State of Florida agreed to transfer 50,000 lb (22,680 kg) 
to the State of Rhode Island. The state commercial transfers will not 
preclude the overall annual quota from being fully harvested, and will 
address contingencies in the fishery. In addition, the transfers are 
consistent with the objectives of the FMP and the Magnuson-Stevens 
Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). These 
transfers have been approved and are incorporated within this final 
rule and the individual state quota allocations have been adjusted to 
reflect the transfer. The final state commercial allocations for 2016-
2018 are shown in Table 2. The initial quotas are based on percentages 
specified in the FMP. No states exceeded their quota in 2015, 
therefore, no accountability measures are being implemented for the 
2016 fishing year.
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Changes From the Proposed Rule
    The 2015 recreational catch for bluefish for was previously 
projected to be 10,980,469 lb (4.980 mt), which would have allowed for 
a transfer of 2,178,374 lb (984 mt) from the recreational sector to the 
commercial fishery. As previously noted, the 2015 MRIP estimate changed 
on two occasions when information was finalized. The final recreational 
catch for 2015 is now known to be 11,581,548 lb (5,253 mt), which 
results in a smaller commercial quota of 4,884,780 lb (2,215 mt) than 
was outlined in the proposed rule.
Comments and Responses
    The public comment period for the proposed rule ended on April 15, 
2016. There were four comments received from the public, including 
recreational and commercial fishermen.
    Comment 1: One commenter criticized the data used to estimate 
recreational catch, stating that the catch estimate was arbitrary and 
capricious, and requested to know where the numbers come from. The 
commenter did not suggest other data or approaches that might be better 
suited for establishing specifications.
    Response: NMFS disagrees that the recreational catch estimate is 
arbitrary and capricious. Recreational catch was estimated using data 
from MRIP, and a newly peer-reviewed and approved methodology that 
improved the incorporation of small sample sizes was used to generate 
the final estimates. A publically searchable database and information 
about the program are available at http://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/recreational-fisheries. The most up-to-date stock assessment and 
recreational and commercial catch data were used. Consistent with 
National Standard 2 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS used the best 
scientific information available and is approving specifications for 
the bluefish fishery. The final specifications in this rule are 
consistent with the FMP and recommendations of the Council.
    Comment 2: Two commenters were unclear why we proposed to reduce 
harvest by 10 percent if there was no overfishing, and were unclear how 
the 10-percent reduction would be achieved. One of the commenters gave 
anecdotal evidence that bluefish stock was declining and suggested that 
the reason could be overfishing or a decline in the forage fish that 
bluefish eat.
    Response: The 10-percent reduction is the cumulative result of new 
stock assessment information that indicates the spawning stock biomass 
for bluefish is lower than previously believed, changes in overall 
stock productivity as reflected by updated biological reference points, 
and application of the Council's risk policy. The commenter is correct 
that Atlantic bluefish stock biomass was higher in the 1980's and 
overfishing occurred in the 1990's, but this trend has not continued. 
The species was declared overfished in 1999 and managed under a 
rebuilding plan until 2009, when it was declared rebuilt. Using data 
from the new 2015 benchmark stock assessment, bluefish were not 
overfished and overfishing was not occurring in 2014. The assessment 
also changed the biological reference points for Atlantic bluefish to 
better model sources of uncertainty. The peer-reviewed model captures 
the dynamics of the bluefish stock well and accurately reflects trends 
in spawning stock biomass and fishing mortality. We are approving a 10-
percent reduction in catch limits because, while the spawning stock 
biomass estimate is greater than the overfished threshold, it is less 
than the biomass target, and shows a decrease from the estimate in 
2013, the last year a full assessment was conducted. Further, these 
specifications were developed using the Council's Risk Policy.
    Comment 3: One commenter suggested that NMFS was showing preference 
to the commercial fishery by increasing commercial quota at the expense 
of the stock and suggested reducing commercial quota 5-percent.
    Response: NMFS disagrees. NMFS is implementing final 
specifications, including the commercial quota, using the best 
available scientific information and following the formula outlined in 
the FMP, as recommended by the Council. Reducing commercial quota by 5-
percent would be insufficient to achieve the necessary reduction in 
total landings. Through this process there is no explicit preference by 
NMFS for the commercial or recreational fishery and specifications are 
derived as outlined by the FMP. The Council could, at its discretion, 
revise the FMP through an amendment; however, at this time there are no 
pending bluefish actions that would change the commercial and 
recreational allocations or the specification process.
Classification
    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this final rule is 
consistent with the Atlantic Bluefish FMP, other provisions of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law.
    This final rule is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.
    This final rule does not duplicate, conflict, or overlap with any 
existing Federal rules.
    The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries finds there is a need to 
implement these measures as soon as possible in order to help achieve 
conservation objectives for the bluefish fishery. The bluefish fishing 
year began on January 1, 2016, and has been operating without an 
established bluefish quota. Currently landings data show that some 
states may soon approach their quotas. Development of this final rule 
was undertaken as quickly as possible; however, analyzing and 
incorporating the most up-to-date MRIP data necessarily created a 
delay. Until this final rule becomes effective, there will be no 
bluefish quota for 2016 and therefore no authority to close a fishery 
that is approaching a quota limit. A 30-day delay in implementing this 
final rule would delay the setting of a quota, which is necessary to 
properly manage and monitor bluefish stocks at the state and federal 
level. The need to implement these measures as soon as possible 
constitutes good cause, under authority contained in 5 U.S.C. 
553(d)(3), to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness and to make the 
2016-2018 Atlantic bluefish specifications effective immediately upon 
filing with the Office of the Federal Register.
Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis
    The FRFA included in this final rule was prepared pursuant to 5 
U.S.C. 604(a), and incorporates the IRFA and a summary of analyses 
completed to support the action. A public copy of the EA/IRFA is 
available from the Council (see ADDRESSES).
    The preamble to the proposed rule included a detailed summary of 
the analyses contained in the IRFA, and that discussion is not repeated 
here.
A Summary of the Significant Issues Raised by the Public in Response to 
the IRFA, a Summary of the Agency's Assessment of Such Issues, and a 
Statement of Any Changes Made in the Final Rule as a Result of Such 
Comments
    The comments NMFS received did not raise specific issues regarding 
the economic analyses summarized in the IRFA. Refer to the ``Comments 
and Responses'' section of this preamble for more detail. No changes to 
the proposed rule were required to be made as a result of public 
comment.

[[Page 51374]]

Description and Estimate of Number of Small Entities to Which the Rule 
Would Apply
    On December 29, 2015, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) 
issued a final rule establishing a small business size standard of $11 
million in annual gross receipts for all businesses primarily engaged 
in the commercial fishing industry (NAICS 11411) for Regulatory 
Flexibility Act (RFA) compliance purposes only (80 FR 81194, December 
29, 2015). The $11 million standard became effective on July 1, 2016, 
and is to be used in place of the U.S. Small Business Administration's 
(SBA) current standards of $20.5 million, $5.5 million, and $7.5 
million for the finfish (NAICS 114111), shellfish (NAICS 114112), and 
other marine fishing (NAICS 114119) sectors of the U.S. commercial 
fishing industry in all NMFS rules subject to the Regulatory 
Flexibility Act after July 1, 2016.
    Pursuant to the Regulatory Flexibility Act, and prior to July 1, 
2016, an initial regulatory flexibility analysis was developed for this 
regulatory action using SBA's former size standards. NMFS has reviewed 
the analyses prepared for this regulatory action in light of the new 
size standard. All of the entities directly regulated by this 
regulatory action are commercial finfish fishing businesses. The new 
standard could result in 13 fewer commercial finfish businesses being 
considered small.
    Taking this change into consideration, NMFS has identified no 
additional significant alternatives that accomplish statutory 
objectives and minimize any significant economic impacts of the 
proposed rule on small entities. Other options considered by the 
Council, including those that could have less of an impact on small 
entities, fail to meet one or more of these statutory objectives and 
therefore cannot be implemented. Further, the new size standard does 
not affect the decision to prepare a FRFA as opposed to a certification 
for this regulatory action
Description of Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other Compliance 
Requirements
    No additional reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance 
requirements are included in this final rule.
Description of the Steps the Agency Has Taken To Minimize the 
Significant Economic Impact on Small Entities Consistent With the 
Stated Objectives of Applicable Statutes
    Specification of commercial quota, recreational harvest levels, and 
possession limits is constrained by the conservation objectives and 
derivation formula set forth in the FMP and implemented at 50 CFR part 
648 under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Furthermore, 
specifications must be based on the best available scientific 
information, consistent with National Standard 2 of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act. With the specification options considered, the measures in 
this final rule are the only measures that both satisfy these 
overarching regulatory and statutory requirements while minimizing, to 
the extent possible, impacts on small entities. This rule implements 
the specifications outlined in Table 1. The impacts of the 
specifications, as implemented by this final rule, are not expected to 
disproportionately impact large or small entities.
Small Entity Compliance Guide
    Section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness 
Act of 1996 states that, for each rule or group of related rules for 
which an agency is required to prepare a FRFA, the agency shall publish 
one or more guides to assist small entities in complying with the rule, 
and shall designate such publications as ``small entity compliance 
guides.'' The agency shall explain the actions a small entity is 
required to take to comply with a rule or group of rules. As part of 
this rulemaking process, a small entity compliance guide will be sent 
to all holders of Federal permits issued for the Atlantic bluefish 
fishery.
    In addition, copies of this final rule and guide (i.e., permit 
holder letter) are available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES) and at the 
following Web site: www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov.

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

    Dated: July 29, 2016.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2016-18424 Filed 8-1-16; 8:45 am]
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