Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Summer Flounder Fishery; 2017 and 2018 Summer Flounder Specifications, 80038-80041 [2016-27410]

Download as PDF 80038 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 220 / Tuesday, November 15, 2016 / Notices operations, maintenance, and repair activities in the Massachusetts Bay. Please include with your comments any supporting data or literature citations to help inform our final decision on Northeast Gateway and Algonquin’s request for an MMPA authorization. Dated: November 7, 2016. Donna Wieting, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2016–27383 Filed 11–14–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [Docket No. 161017970–6970–01] RIN 0648–XE976 Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Summer Flounder Fishery; 2017 and 2018 Summer Flounder Specifications National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed specifications; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS proposes revised summer flounder specifications for the 2017 and 2018 fishing years. Updated scientific information regarding the status of the summer flounder stock indicates that these proposed catch limits are necessary to constrain summer flounder harvest within scientifically sound recommendations to prevent overfishing. This action is intended to inform the public of proposed reductions for the 2017 and 2018 summer flounder fishing years. DATES: Comments must be received on or before November 30, 2016. ADDRESSES: A supplemental environmental assessment (SEA) was prepared for the specifications and describes the proposed action and other considered alternatives, and provides an analysis of the impacts of the proposed measures and alternatives. Copies of the Specifications Document, including the SEA, the Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA), and the original environmental assessment for the 2016– 2018 summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass specifications are available on request from Dr. Christopher M. Moore, Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Suite 201, 800 North State Street, Dover, DE 19901. These documents are also accessible via the Internet at http://www.mafmc.org. mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 22:00 Nov 11, 2016 Jkt 241001 You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA–NMFS– 2016–0138, by either of the following methods: Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. 1. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20160138, 2. Click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields 3. Enter or attach your comments. —or— Mail: Submit written comments to John Bullard, Regional Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA, 01950. Mark the outside of the envelope, ‘‘Comments on the Proposed Rule for Summer Flounder Specifications.’’ Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/ A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Emily Gilbert, Fishery Policy Analyst, (978) 281–9244. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background and Proposed Specifications The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission cooperatively manage the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries. The Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and its implementing regulations outline the Council’s process for establishing specifications. Specifications in these fisheries include various catch and landing subdivisions, such as the commercial and recreational sector annual catch limits (ACLs), annual catch targets (ACTs), and sectorspecific landing limits (i.e., the commercial fishery quota and recreational harvest limit). Annual specifications may be established for three year periods, and, in interim years, specifications are reviewed by the Council to ensure previously PO 00000 Frm 00024 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 established multi-year specifications remain appropriate. The FMP also contains formulas to divide the specification catch limits into commercial and recreational fishery allocations, state-by-state quotas, and quota periods, depending on the species in question. Rulemaking for measures used to manage the recreational fisheries (minimum fish sizes, open seasons, and bag limits) for these three species occurs separately, and typically takes place in the spring of each year. On December 28, 2015, NMFS published a final rule implementing the Council’s recommended specifications for the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries (80 FR 80689) for fishing years 2016 through 2018. The Council intended to reconsider the specifications set for fishing years 2017 and 2018 after reviewing any updated information. Based on updated information on the status of the summer flounder stock, the Council is now recommending adjustments to the previously established summer flounder specifications for the 2017 and 2018 fishing years. An assessment update will be available next summer and notice will be provided in the Federal Register on whether the revised 2018 specifications will remain in place or be updated further based on any new information. The scup and black sea bass specifications implemented through previous rulemaking remain unchanged by this action. When the Council previously recommended summer flounder specifications in 2015, available scientific information indicated that the summer flounder stock size was declining and that overfishing occurred in 2014. In order to minimize disruption to the industry as much as possible, given the necessary reduction in available catch to prevent further overfishing and to increase the stock size, the Council requested its Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) to deviate from the standard risk policy and to phase-in the summer flounder catch reductions over the 3-year specifications cycle. The SSC complied with this request, but requested a stock assessment update in July 2016 to determine if its recommended acceptable biological catches (ABCs) remain appropriate for 2017 and 2018. The SSC met on July 21–22, 2016, to review the stock assessment update for summer flounder compiled by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center. This 2016 update was based on the peerreview approved model from the 2013 benchmark assessment, updated to include data through 2015. More specific information about the E:\FR\FM\15NON1.SGM 15NON1 80039 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 220 / Tuesday, November 15, 2016 / Notices assessment information (e.g., biomass level, fishing mortality, etc.) can be found in section 6.0 of the SEA for this action. The assessment update noted that the consistent pattern in both underestimation of fishing mortality and overestimation of spawning stock biomass is continuing, even though catches have not substantially exceeded ABC levels. This downward trend in biomass is mainly due to below average recruitment in the last five years. As a result of this information, the assessment update recalculated the 2017 and 2018 overfishing limits (OFLs) for the stock. For 2017, the recalculated OFL is 16.76 million lb (7,600 mt) and for 2018, the recalculated OFL is 18.69 million lb (8,476 mt), representing approximately a 16-percent reduction from the previously established OFLs. To keep catch below these updated OFL estimates, the SSC recommended revisions to the previously adopted 2017 and 2018 ABCs. The SSC recommended revising the ABCs by abandoning the phased-in approach and instead following the Council’s standard risk policy. The SSC cited among its reasons for departing from the commercial landings monitoring and fishery closure system is timely enough to prevent commercial overages. As a result, the Monitoring Committee recommended that ACTs for the commercial and recreational sectors should equal their respective ACLs and made no recommended changes to any other summer flounder management measures. Following the SSC and Monitoring Committee meetings, the Council and the Commission’s Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Management Board met jointly on August 9, 2016, to consider the recommendations of the SSC, the Monitoring Committee, and public comments, and to make their specification recommendations. More complete details on the SSC, Monitoring Committee, and Council meeting deliberations can be found on the Council’s Web site (www.mafmc.org). Ultimately, the Council recommended the summer flounder commercial quotas and recreational harvest limits shown in Table 1. The recommended catch limits for 2017 are nearly 30 percent lower than those previously established. previously approved phased-in approach the continual overestimation of biomass and recruitment and underestimation of fishing mortality, emphasizing that continuing to overfish in a period of consistently poor recruitment represents a substantial risk to the stock. The SSC recommended a revised 2017 ABC that is approximately 30 percent lower than both the previously established 2017 ABC and the current 2016 ABC. The SSC recommended a 2018 ABC that is 16 percent lower than the previously established 2018 ABC (Table 1). The Council’s Summer Flounder Monitoring Committee met July 25, 2016, to discuss specification-related recommendations for the summer flounder fishery, to recommend offsets from the ACL to account for management uncertainty, and to discuss commercial management measure recommendations, as appropriate. The Monitoring Committee determined that no additional reductions were necessary to account for management uncertainty because the recreational fishery has had only minor overages of the recreational harvest limit in recent years, and the TABLE 1—COMPARISON OF RECOMMENDED MEASURES TO PREVIOUSLY ESTABLISHED CATCH AND LANDING LIMITS OF SUMMER FLOUNDER 2017 2018 2016 Current Acceptable Biological Catch: million lb ............................................ Mt ...................................................... Commercial Quota: million lb ............................................ Mt ...................................................... Recreational Harvest Limit: million lb ............................................ Mt ...................................................... Difference (%) Proposed Current Proposed Difference (%) 16.26 7,374 11.30 5,125 ¥29 15.68 7,111 13.23 5,999 ¥16 8.12 3,685 7.91 3,590 5.66 2,567 ¥28 7.89 3,581 6.63 3,006 ¥16 5.42 2,457 While the Board action was finalized at the August meeting, the Council’s recommendations must be reviewed by NMFS to ensure that they comply with the FMP and applicable law. NMFS also must conduct notice-and-comment 15.86 7,193 5.28 2,393 3.77 1,711 ¥29 5.26 2,387 4.42 2,004 ¥16 rulemaking to propose and implement the final specifications. Proposed 2017 and 2018 Summer Flounder Specifications specifications that NMFS is proposing for 2017 and 2018, including the sectorspecific estimated discards. Table 2 summarizes the Council’s recommended summer flounder TABLE 2—PROPOSED 2017–2018 SUMMER FLOUNDER SPECIFICATIONS 2016 (current) mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with NOTICES million lb OFL .......................................................... ABC .......................................................... ABC Landings Portion ............................. ABC Discards Portion .............................. Commercial ACL ...................................... Commercial ACT ...................................... Projected Commercial Discards .............. VerDate Sep<11>2014 22:00 Nov 11, 2016 Jkt 241001 18.06 16.26 13.54 2.72 9.43 9.43 1.30 PO 00000 Frm 00025 2017 mt million lb 8,194 7,375 6,142 1,233 4,275 4,275 590 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 2018 mt 16.76 11.30 9.43 1.87 6.57 6.57 0.92 E:\FR\FM\15NON1.SGM million lb 7,600 5,125 4,278 847 2,982 2,982 415 15NON1 18.69 13.23 11.05 2.18 7.70 7.70 1.07 mt 8,476 5,999 5,010 989 3,491 3,491 485 80040 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 220 / Tuesday, November 15, 2016 / Notices TABLE 2—PROPOSED 2017–2018 SUMMER FLOUNDER SPECIFICATIONS—Continued 2016 (current) million lb Commercial Quota ................................... Recreational ACL ..................................... Recreational ACT ..................................... Projected Recreational Discards ............. Recreational Harvest Limit ....................... mt 8.12 6.84 6.84 1.42 5.42 Consistent with the summer flounder regulations, the sum of the recreational and commercial sector ACLs is equal to the ABC for each fishing year. To derive the ACLs, the sum of the sector-specific projected discards are removed from the ABCs to derive the landing allowances. For summer flounder, 60 percent of the landing allowance for each fishing year is allocated to the commercial fishery and 40 percent to the recreational fishery. Using this method ensures that 2017 million lb 3,685 3,100 3,100 643 2,457 2018 mt 5.66 4.72 4.72 0.95 3.77 million lb 2,567 2,143 2,143 432 1,711 each sector is accountable for its respective discards, rather than simply apportioning the ABCs by the allocation percentages to derive the sector ACLs. Although the derived ACLs are not split exactly according to the allocations specified in the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan (FMP), the landing portions of the ACLs preserve the appropriate allocation split, consistent with the FMP. mt 6.63 5.53 5.53 1.11 4.42 3,006 2,508 2,508 504 2,004 Table 3 presents the proposed state summer flounder allocations for 2017– 2018 using the commercial state quota allocations described in the FMP. Any commercial quota adjustments to account for overages will be published in the Federal Register prior to the start of the respective fishing year. The final rule for this action will include any necessary quota overage reductions for fishing year 2017. TABLE 3—2017–2018 PROPOSED INITIAL SUMMER FLOUNDER STATE COMMERCIAL QUOTAS FMP percent share State 2017 Initial quota Lb 2018 Initial quota Kg Lb Kg ME .......................................................... NH .......................................................... MA .......................................................... RI ........................................................... CT .......................................................... NY .......................................................... NJ ........................................................... DE .......................................................... MD ......................................................... VA .......................................................... NC .......................................................... 0.04756 0.00046 6.82046 15.68298 2.25708 7.64699 16.72499 0.01779 2.0391 21.31676 27.44584 2,692 26 385,988 887,542 127,734 432,764 946,512 1,007 115,398 1,206,372 1,553,233 1,221 18 175,081 402,582 57,939 196,298 429,331 457 52,344 547,201 704,535 3,152 30 451,998 1,039,326 149,579 506,773 1,108,381 1,179 135,133 1,412,682 1,818,862 1,430 14 205,023 471,430 67,848 229,868 502,753 535 61,295 640,782 825,022 Total ................................................ 100 5,659,266 2,567,000 6,627,096 3,006,000 Note: Kilograms are as converted from pounds and do not sum to the converted total due to rounding. Rounding of quotas results in totals slightly exceeding 100 percent. The Council and Commission will develop recreational management measures (e.g., minimum fish sizes, open seasons, and bag limits) for summer flounder this fall and NMFS rulemaking will occur in early spring of 2017. mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with NOTICES Classification Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is consistent with the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass FMP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, subject to further consideration after public comment. These proposed specifications are exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. VerDate Sep<11>2014 22:00 Nov 11, 2016 Jkt 241001 An IRFA was prepared by the Council, as required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), to examine the impacts of these proposed specifications on small business entities, if adopted. A description of the specifications, why they are being considered, and the legal basis for proposing and implementing specifications for the summer flounder fishery are contained in the preamble to this proposed rule. A copy of the detailed RFA analysis is available from NMFS or the Council (see ADDRESSES). The Council’s analysis made use of quantitative approaches when possible. Where quantitative data on revenues or other business-related metrics that would provide insight to potential impacts were not available to inform the analyses, qualitative analyses were conducted. A summary of the 2017 and PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 2018 summer flounder specifications RFA analysis follows. Description of the Reasons Why Action by the Agency Is Being Considered, and a Statement of the Objectives of, and Legal Basis for, This Proposed Rule This action proposes management measures, including annual catch limits, for the summer flounder fishery in order to prevent overfishing 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 the specifications document, and elsewhere in the preamble to this proposed rule, and are not repeated here. E:\FR\FM\15NON1.SGM 15NON1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 220 / Tuesday, November 15, 2016 / Notices mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with NOTICES Description and Estimate of the Number of Small Entities To Which the Proposed Rule Would Apply On December 29, 2015, 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 and $7 million in annual gross receipts for all businesses primarily engaged in for-hire fishing activity (NAICS 11411) for Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) compliance purposes only (80 FR 81194, December 29, 2015). 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. This proposed rule affects commercial and recreational fish harvesting entities engaged in the summer flounder 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 RFA 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 applications, those seven persons would form one ownership entity that holds those five permits. If two of those seven owners also co-own additional vessels, that ownership arrangement would be considered a separate ownership entity for the purpose of this analysis. The current ownership data set used for this analysis is based on calendar year 2015 (the most recent complete year available) and contains average gross sales associated with those permits for calendar years 2013 through 2015. 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. VerDate Sep<11>2014 22:00 Nov 11, 2016 Jkt 241001 According to the commercial ownership database, 553 affiliate firms landed summer flounder during the 2013–2015 period, with 547 of those businesses affiliates categorized as small businesses and 6 categorized as large businesses. The ownership data for the for-hire fleet indicate that there were 411 for-hire affiliate firms generating revenues from fishing recreationally for various species during the 2013–2015 period, all of which are categorized as small businesses. Although it is not possible to derive what proportion of the overall revenues came from specific fishing activities, given the popularity of summer flounder as a recreational species, it is likely that revenues generated from summer flounder recreational fishing is important for some, if not all, of these firms. Description of the Projected Reporting, Record-Keeping, and Other Compliance Requirements of This Proposed Rule There are no new reporting or recordkeeping requirements contained in any of the alternatives considered for this action. Federal Rules Which May Duplicate, Overlap, or Conflict With This Proposed Rule NMFS is not aware of any relevant Federal rules that may duplicate, overlap, or conflict with this proposed rule. 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 action proposes to set commercial quotas and recreational harvest limits for the summer flounder fishery for the 2017 and 2018 fishing years that are consistent with the best scientific information available and the most recent catch limit recommendations of the Council’s SSC. The proposed landings limits for 2017 include a commercial quota of 5.66 million lb (2,567 mt) and a recreational harvest limit of 3.77 million lb (1,711 mt). For 2018, the proposed measures include a commercial quota of 6.63 million lb (3,006 mt) and a recreational harvest limit of 4.42 million lb (2,004 mt). The only other alternatives considered in this document are status quo alternatives that are identical to the summer flounder landings limits implemented in December 2015. If these specifications remained in place, they would have greater positive socioeconomic impacts than the PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 80041 preferred alternatives. However, these alternatives were not selected as preferred given that they do not address the new scientific information regarding summer flounder stock status, and, therefore, would likely result in overfishing, which would be inconsistent with the FMP, National Standard 1 guidance under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and the most recent advice of the Council’s SSC. Because these alternatives are inconsistent with the purpose and need of this action, they are not considered further under this analysis. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: November 7, 2016. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2016–27410 Filed 11–14–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XF039 South Atlantic Fishery Management Council; Public Meetings National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of public meetings of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council. AGENCY: The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) will hold meetings of the: Advisory Panel Selection Committee (Partially Closed Session); Law Enforcement Committee; Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) Selection Committee; Protected Resources Committee; Habitat Protection and Ecosystem-Based Management Committee; Southeast Data, Assessment and Review (SEDAR) Committee (Partially Closed Session); Spiny Lobster Committee; Joint Dolphin Wahoo/Snapper Grouper and Mackerel Cobia Committees; Information and Education Committee; Executive Finance Committee; Snapper Grouper Committee; Personnel Committee (Closed Session); Highly Migratory Species Committee; Mackerel Cobia Committee; Citizen Science Committee; Data Collection Committee; and a meeting of the Full Council. The Council will take action as necessary. The Council will also hold a formal public comment session. The SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\15NON1.SGM 15NON1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 220 (Tuesday, November 15, 2016)]
[Notices]
[Pages 80038-80041]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-27410]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

[Docket No. 161017970-6970-01]
RIN 0648-XE976


Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Summer Flounder 
Fishery; 2017 and 2018 Summer Flounder Specifications

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

ACTION: Proposed specifications; request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS proposes revised summer flounder specifications for the 
2017 and 2018 fishing years. Updated scientific information regarding 
the status of the summer flounder stock indicates that these proposed 
catch limits are necessary to constrain summer flounder harvest within 
scientifically sound recommendations to prevent overfishing. This 
action is intended to inform the public of proposed reductions for the 
2017 and 2018 summer flounder fishing years.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before November 30, 2016.

ADDRESSES: A supplemental environmental assessment (SEA) was prepared 
for the specifications and describes the proposed action and other 
considered alternatives, and provides an analysis of the impacts of the 
proposed measures and alternatives. Copies of the Specifications 
Document, including the SEA, the Initial Regulatory Flexibility 
Analysis (IRFA), and the original environmental assessment for the 
2016-2018 summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass specifications are 
available on request from Dr. Christopher M. Moore, Executive Director, 
Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Suite 201, 800 North State 
Street, Dover, DE 19901. These documents are also accessible via the 
Internet at http://www.mafmc.org.
    You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA-NMFS-
2016-0138, by either of the following methods:
    Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via 
the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal.
    1. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2016-0138,
    2. Click the ``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields
    3. Enter or attach your comments.

--or--

    Mail: Submit written comments to John Bullard, Regional 
Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, 55 Great Republic 
Drive, Gloucester, MA, 01950. Mark the outside of the envelope, 
``Comments on the Proposed Rule for Summer Flounder Specifications.''
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Emily Gilbert, Fishery Policy Analyst, 
(978) 281-9244.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background and Proposed Specifications

    The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States 
Marine Fisheries Commission cooperatively manage the summer flounder, 
scup, and black sea bass fisheries. The Summer Flounder, Scup, and 
Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and its implementing 
regulations outline the Council's process for establishing 
specifications. Specifications in these fisheries include various catch 
and landing subdivisions, such as the commercial and recreational 
sector annual catch limits (ACLs), annual catch targets (ACTs), and 
sector-specific landing limits (i.e., the commercial fishery quota and 
recreational harvest limit). Annual specifications may be established 
for three year periods, and, in interim years, specifications are 
reviewed by the Council to ensure previously established multi-year 
specifications remain appropriate. The FMP also contains formulas to 
divide the specification catch limits into commercial and recreational 
fishery allocations, state-by-state quotas, and quota periods, 
depending on the species in question. Rulemaking for measures used to 
manage the recreational fisheries (minimum fish sizes, open seasons, 
and bag limits) for these three species occurs separately, and 
typically takes place in the spring of each year.
    On December 28, 2015, NMFS published a final rule implementing the 
Council's recommended specifications for the summer flounder, scup, and 
black sea bass fisheries (80 FR 80689) for fishing years 2016 through 
2018. The Council intended to reconsider the specifications set for 
fishing years 2017 and 2018 after reviewing any updated information. 
Based on updated information on the status of the summer flounder 
stock, the Council is now recommending adjustments to the previously 
established summer flounder specifications for the 2017 and 2018 
fishing years. An assessment update will be available next summer and 
notice will be provided in the Federal Register on whether the revised 
2018 specifications will remain in place or be updated further based on 
any new information. The scup and black sea bass specifications 
implemented through previous rulemaking remain unchanged by this 
action.
    When the Council previously recommended summer flounder 
specifications in 2015, available scientific information indicated that 
the summer flounder stock size was declining and that overfishing 
occurred in 2014. In order to minimize disruption to the industry as 
much as possible, given the necessary reduction in available catch to 
prevent further overfishing and to increase the stock size, the Council 
requested its Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) to deviate 
from the standard risk policy and to phase-in the summer flounder catch 
reductions over the 3-year specifications cycle. The SSC complied with 
this request, but requested a stock assessment update in July 2016 to 
determine if its recommended acceptable biological catches (ABCs) 
remain appropriate for 2017 and 2018.
    The SSC met on July 21-22, 2016, to review the stock assessment 
update for summer flounder compiled by the Northeast Fisheries Science 
Center. This 2016 update was based on the peer-review approved model 
from the 2013 benchmark assessment, updated to include data through 
2015. More specific information about the

[[Page 80039]]

assessment information (e.g., biomass level, fishing mortality, etc.) 
can be found in section 6.0 of the SEA for this action. The assessment 
update noted that the consistent pattern in both underestimation of 
fishing mortality and overestimation of spawning stock biomass is 
continuing, even though catches have not substantially exceeded ABC 
levels. This downward trend in biomass is mainly due to below average 
recruitment in the last five years. As a result of this information, 
the assessment update recalculated the 2017 and 2018 overfishing limits 
(OFLs) for the stock. For 2017, the recalculated OFL is 16.76 million 
lb (7,600 mt) and for 2018, the recalculated OFL is 18.69 million lb 
(8,476 mt), representing approximately a 16-percent reduction from the 
previously established OFLs. To keep catch below these updated OFL 
estimates, the SSC recommended revisions to the previously adopted 2017 
and 2018 ABCs. The SSC recommended revising the ABCs by abandoning the 
phased-in approach and instead following the Council's standard risk 
policy. The SSC cited among its reasons for departing from the 
previously approved phased-in approach the continual overestimation of 
biomass and recruitment and underestimation of fishing mortality, 
emphasizing that continuing to overfish in a period of consistently 
poor recruitment represents a substantial risk to the stock. The SSC 
recommended a revised 2017 ABC that is approximately 30 percent lower 
than both the previously established 2017 ABC and the current 2016 ABC. 
The SSC recommended a 2018 ABC that is 16 percent lower than the 
previously established 2018 ABC (Table 1).
    The Council's Summer Flounder Monitoring Committee met July 25, 
2016, to discuss specification-related recommendations for the summer 
flounder fishery, to recommend offsets from the ACL to account for 
management uncertainty, and to discuss commercial management measure 
recommendations, as appropriate. The Monitoring Committee determined 
that no additional reductions were necessary to account for management 
uncertainty because the recreational fishery has had only minor 
overages of the recreational harvest limit in recent years, and the 
commercial landings monitoring and fishery closure system is timely 
enough to prevent commercial overages. As a result, the Monitoring 
Committee recommended that ACTs for the commercial and recreational 
sectors should equal their respective ACLs and made no recommended 
changes to any other summer flounder management measures.
    Following the SSC and Monitoring Committee meetings, the Council 
and the Commission's Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass 
Management Board met jointly on August 9, 2016, to consider the 
recommendations of the SSC, the Monitoring Committee, and public 
comments, and to make their specification recommendations. More 
complete details on the SSC, Monitoring Committee, and Council meeting 
deliberations can be found on the Council's Web site (www.mafmc.org). 
Ultimately, the Council recommended the summer flounder commercial 
quotas and recreational harvest limits shown in Table 1. The 
recommended catch limits for 2017 are nearly 30 percent lower than 
those previously established.

                    Table 1--Comparison of Recommended Measures to Previously Established Catch and Landing Limits of Summer Flounder
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                                                                                             2017                                   2018
                                                                           -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                   2016                                Difference                             Difference
                                                                              Current      Proposed       (%)        Current      Proposed       (%)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Acceptable Biological Catch:
    million lb...............................................        16.26        15.86        11.30          -29        15.68        13.23          -16
    Mt.......................................................        7,374        7,193        5,125                     7,111        5,999
Commercial Quota:
    million lb...............................................         8.12         7.91         5.66          -28         7.89         6.63          -16
    Mt.......................................................        3,685        3,590        2,567                     3,581        3,006
Recreational Harvest Limit:
    million lb...............................................         5.42         5.28         3.77          -29         5.26         4.42          -16
    Mt.......................................................        2,457        2,393        1,711                     2,387        2,004
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    While the Board action was finalized at the August meeting, the 
Council's recommendations must be reviewed by NMFS to ensure that they 
comply with the FMP and applicable law. NMFS also must conduct notice-
and-comment rulemaking to propose and implement the final 
specifications.

Proposed 2017 and 2018 Summer Flounder Specifications

    Table 2 summarizes the Council's recommended summer flounder 
specifications that NMFS is proposing for 2017 and 2018, including the 
sector-specific estimated discards.

                                               Table 2--Proposed 2017-2018 Summer Flounder Specifications
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                                                                  2016 (current)                       2017                            2018
                                                         -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                            million lb          mt          million lb          mt          million lb          mt
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
OFL.....................................................           18.06           8,194           16.76           7,600           18.69           8,476
ABC.....................................................           16.26           7,375           11.30           5,125           13.23           5,999
ABC Landings Portion....................................           13.54           6,142            9.43           4,278           11.05           5,010
ABC Discards Portion....................................            2.72           1,233            1.87             847            2.18             989
Commercial ACL..........................................            9.43           4,275            6.57           2,982            7.70           3,491
Commercial ACT..........................................            9.43           4,275            6.57           2,982            7.70           3,491
Projected Commercial Discards...........................            1.30             590            0.92             415            1.07             485

[[Page 80040]]

 
Commercial Quota........................................            8.12           3,685            5.66           2,567            6.63           3,006
Recreational ACL........................................            6.84           3,100            4.72           2,143            5.53           2,508
Recreational ACT........................................            6.84           3,100            4.72           2,143            5.53           2,508
Projected Recreational Discards.........................            1.42             643            0.95             432            1.11             504
Recreational Harvest Limit..............................            5.42           2,457            3.77           1,711            4.42           2,004
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Consistent with the summer flounder regulations, the sum of the 
recreational and commercial sector ACLs is equal to the ABC for each 
fishing year. To derive the ACLs, the sum of the sector-specific 
projected discards are removed from the ABCs to derive the landing 
allowances. For summer flounder, 60 percent of the landing allowance 
for each fishing year is allocated to the commercial fishery and 40 
percent to the recreational fishery. Using this method ensures that 
each sector is accountable for its respective discards, rather than 
simply apportioning the ABCs by the allocation percentages to derive 
the sector ACLs. Although the derived ACLs are not split exactly 
according to the allocations specified in the Summer Flounder, Scup, 
and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan (FMP), the landing portions 
of the ACLs preserve the appropriate allocation split, consistent with 
the FMP.
    Table 3 presents the proposed state summer flounder allocations for 
2017-2018 using the commercial state quota allocations described in the 
FMP. Any commercial quota adjustments to account for overages will be 
published in the Federal Register prior to the start of the respective 
fishing year. The final rule for this action will include any necessary 
quota overage reductions for fishing year 2017.

                                       Table 3--2017-2018 Proposed Initial Summer Flounder State Commercial Quotas
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                       2017 Initial quota                    2018 Initial quota
                          State                            FMP percent share ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                      Lb                 Kg                 Lb                 Kg
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
ME.......................................................            0.04756              2,692              1,221              3,152              1,430
NH.......................................................            0.00046                 26                 18                 30                 14
MA.......................................................            6.82046            385,988            175,081            451,998            205,023
RI.......................................................           15.68298            887,542            402,582          1,039,326            471,430
CT.......................................................            2.25708            127,734             57,939            149,579             67,848
NY.......................................................            7.64699            432,764            196,298            506,773            229,868
NJ.......................................................           16.72499            946,512            429,331          1,108,381            502,753
DE.......................................................            0.01779              1,007                457              1,179                535
MD.......................................................             2.0391            115,398             52,344            135,133             61,295
VA.......................................................           21.31676          1,206,372            547,201          1,412,682            640,782
NC.......................................................           27.44584          1,553,233            704,535          1,818,862            825,022
                                                          ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total................................................                100          5,659,266          2,567,000          6,627,096          3,006,000
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note: Kilograms are as converted from pounds and do not sum to the converted total due to rounding. Rounding of quotas results in totals slightly
  exceeding 100 percent.

    The Council and Commission will develop recreational management 
measures (e.g., minimum fish sizes, open seasons, and bag limits) for 
summer flounder this fall and NMFS rulemaking will occur in early 
spring of 2017.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is 
consistent with the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass FMP, 
other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, 
subject to further consideration after public comment.
    These proposed specifications are exempt from review under 
Executive Order 12866.
    An IRFA was prepared by the Council, as required by section 603 of 
the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), to examine the impacts of these 
proposed specifications on small business entities, if adopted. A 
description of the specifications, why they are being considered, and 
the legal basis for proposing and implementing specifications for the 
summer flounder fishery are contained in the preamble to this proposed 
rule. A copy of the detailed RFA analysis is available from NMFS or the 
Council (see ADDRESSES). The Council's analysis made use of 
quantitative approaches when possible. Where quantitative data on 
revenues or other business-related metrics that would provide insight 
to potential impacts were not available to inform the analyses, 
qualitative analyses were conducted. A summary of the 2017 and 2018 
summer flounder specifications RFA analysis follows.

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

    This action proposes management measures, including annual catch 
limits, for the summer flounder fishery in order to prevent overfishing 
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 the specifications document, and elsewhere in the 
preamble to this proposed rule, and are not repeated here.

[[Page 80041]]

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

    On December 29, 2015, 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 and $7 
million in annual gross receipts for all businesses primarily engaged 
in for-hire fishing activity (NAICS 11411) for Regulatory Flexibility 
Act (RFA) compliance purposes only (80 FR 81194, December 29, 2015). 
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.
    This proposed rule affects commercial and recreational fish 
harvesting entities engaged in the summer flounder 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 RFA 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 applications, those seven persons would 
form one ownership entity that holds those five permits. If two of 
those seven owners also co-own additional vessels, that ownership 
arrangement would be considered a separate ownership entity for the 
purpose of this analysis.
    The current ownership data set used for this analysis is based on 
calendar year 2015 (the most recent complete year available) and 
contains average gross sales associated with those permits for calendar 
years 2013 through 2015.
    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.
    According to the commercial ownership database, 553 affiliate firms 
landed summer flounder during the 2013-2015 period, with 547 of those 
businesses affiliates categorized as small businesses and 6 categorized 
as large businesses. The ownership data for the for-hire fleet indicate 
that there were 411 for-hire affiliate firms generating revenues from 
fishing recreationally for various species during the 2013-2015 period, 
all of which are categorized as small businesses. Although it is not 
possible to derive what proportion of the overall revenues came from 
specific fishing activities, given the popularity of summer flounder as 
a recreational species, it is likely that revenues generated from 
summer flounder recreational fishing is important for some, if not all, 
of these firms.

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

    There are no new reporting or recordkeeping requirements contained 
in any of the alternatives considered for this action.

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

    NMFS is not aware of any relevant Federal rules that may duplicate, 
overlap, or conflict with this proposed rule.

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 action proposes to set commercial quotas and recreational 
harvest limits for the summer flounder fishery for the 2017 and 2018 
fishing years that are consistent with the best scientific information 
available and the most recent catch limit recommendations of the 
Council's SSC. The proposed landings limits for 2017 include a 
commercial quota of 5.66 million lb (2,567 mt) and a recreational 
harvest limit of 3.77 million lb (1,711 mt). For 2018, the proposed 
measures include a commercial quota of 6.63 million lb (3,006 mt) and a 
recreational harvest limit of 4.42 million lb (2,004 mt).
    The only other alternatives considered in this document are status 
quo alternatives that are identical to the summer flounder landings 
limits implemented in December 2015. If these specifications remained 
in place, they would have greater positive socioeconomic impacts than 
the preferred alternatives. However, these alternatives were not 
selected as preferred given that they do not address the new scientific 
information regarding summer flounder stock status, and, therefore, 
would likely result in overfishing, which would be inconsistent with 
the FMP, National Standard 1 guidance under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, 
and the most recent advice of the Council's SSC. Because these 
alternatives are inconsistent with the purpose and need of this action, 
they are not considered further under this analysis.

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

    Dated: November 7, 2016.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2016-27410 Filed 11-14-16; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P