Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog Fishery; Proposed 2017-2018 Fishing Quotas, 84544-84546 [2016-28174]

Download as PDF 84544 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 226 / Wednesday, November 23, 2016 / Proposed Rules (7) Hogfish in the Gulf EEZ except south of 25°09′ N. lat. off the west coast of Florida—5. See § 622.187(b)(3)(ii) for the hogfish bag and possession limits in the Gulf EEZ south of 25°09′ N. lat. off the west coast of Florida. * * * * * ■ 8. In § 622.41, revise paragraph (p) to read as follows: § 622.41 Annual catch limits (ACLs), annual catch targets (ACTs), and accountability measures (AMs). * * * * * (p) Hogfish in the Gulf EEZ except south of 25°09′ N. lat. off the west coast of Florida. If the sum of the commercial and recreational landings, as estimated by the SRD, exceeds the stock ACL, then during the following fishing year, if the sum of commercial and recreational landings reaches or is projected to reach the stock ACL, the AA will file a notification with the Office of the Federal Register to close the commercial and recreational sectors for the remainder of that fishing year. For the 2016 through 2018 fishing years, the stock ACL for hogfish in the Gulf EEZ except south of 25°09′ N. lat. off the west coast of Florida is 219,000 lb (99,337 kg), round weight. For the 2019 and subsequent fishing years, the stock ACL for hogfish in the Gulf EEZ except south of 25°09′ N. lat. off the west coast of Florida is 159,300 lb (72,257 kg), round weight. See § 622.193(u)(2) for the ACLs, ACT, and AMs for hogfish in the Gulf EEZ south of 25°09′ N. lat. off the west coast of Florida. * * * * * ■ 9. In § 622.43, add paragraph (c) to read as follows: § 622.43 Commercial trip limits. * * * * * (c) Hogfish in the Gulf EEZ south of 25°09′ N. lat. off the west coast of Florida—see § 622.191(a)(12) for the applicable commercial trip limit. [FR Doc. 2016–28173 Filed 11–22–16; 8:45 am] mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with PROPOSALS BILLING CODE 3510–22–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:51 Nov 22, 2016 Jkt 241001 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 160816746–6746–01] RIN 0648–XE819 Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog Fishery; Proposed 2017–2018 Fishing Quotas National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS proposes status quo commercial quotas for the Atlantic surfclam and ocean quahog fisheries for 2017 and projected status quo quotas for 2018. This action is necessary to establish allowable harvest levels of Atlantic surfclams and ocean quahogs that will prevent overfishing and allow harvesting of optimum yield. This action would also continue to suspend the minimum shell size for Atlantic surfclams for the 2017 fishing year. It is expected that the industry and dealers will benefit from the proposed status quo quotas, as they will be able to maintain a consistent market. DATES: Comments must be received by December 8, 2016. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by NOAA–NMFS–2016–0122, by any of the following methods: • Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20160122, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Submit written comments to John K. Bullard, Regional Administrator, NMFS, Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the envelope: ‘‘Comments on the 2017–2018 Surfclam/Ocean Quahog 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 a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00039 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the commenter may be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/ A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, or Adobe PDF file formats only. Copies of the Environmental Assessment (EA), Supplemental Information Report (SIR), and other supporting documents for these proposed specifications are available from the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 800 North State Street, Suite 201, Dover, DE 19901. The EA and SIR are also accessible via the internet at: www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov/. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Douglas Potts, Fishery Policy Analyst, 978–281–9341. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog Fishery Management Plan (FMP) requires that NMFS, in consultation with the Mid-Atlantic Council, specify quotas for surfclam and ocean quahog for up to a 3-year period, with an annual review. It is the policy of the Council that the catch limits selected allow sustainable fishing to continue at that level for at least 10 years for surfclams, and 30 years for ocean quahogs. In addition to this, the Council policy also considers the economic impacts of the quotas. Regulations implementing Amendment 10 to the FMP (63 FR 27481; May 19, 1998) added Maine ocean quahogs (locally known as Maine mahogany quahogs) to the management unit, and provided for a small artisanal fishery for ocean quahogs in the waters north of 43°50′ N. lat., with an annual quota within a range of 17,000 to 100,000 Maine bu (0.6 to 3.524 million L). As specified in Amendment 10, the Maine ocean quahog quota is allocated separately from the quota specified for the ocean quahog fishery. Regulations implementing Amendment 13 to the FMP (68 FR 69970; December 16, 2003) established the ability to propose multiyear quotas with an annual quota review to be conducted by the Council to determine if the multi-year quota specifications remain appropriate for each year. NMFS then publishes the annual final quotas in the Federal Register. The fishing quotas must ensure overfishing will not occur. In recommending these quotas, the Council considered the most recent stock assessments and other relevant scientific information. E:\FR\FM\23NOP1.SGM 23NOP1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 226 / Wednesday, November 23, 2016 / Proposed Rules In June 2016, the Council voted to recommend maintaining the status quo quota levels of 5.33 million bu (284 million L) for the ocean quahog fishery, 3.40 million bu (181 million L) for the Atlantic surfclam fishery, and 100,000 Maine bu (3.52 million L) for the Maine ocean quahog fishery for 2017 and projected status quo quotas would be maintained in 2018. Tables 1 and 2 show proposed quotas for the 2017 Atlantic surfclam and ocean quahog fishery along with projected quotas for 2018. By providing projected quotas for 2018, NMFS hopes to assist fishery participants in planning 84545 ahead. NMFS plans to reassess the status of the Atlantic surfclam and ocean quahog fishery in 2017. Final 2018 quotas will be published in the Federal Register before the start of the 2018 fishing year (January 1, 2018) based on the 2017 review. TABLE 1—PROPOSED ATLANTIC SURFCLAM MEASURES Year Acceptable biological catch (ABC) (mt) 2017 ....................................... 2018 (projected) ..................... Annual catch limit (ACL) (mt) 44,469 45,524 Annual catch target (ACT) (mt) 44,469 45,524 29,364 29,364 Commercial quota 3.40 million bu (181 million L). 3.4 million bu (181 million L). TABLE 2—PROPOSED OCEAN QUAHOG MEASURES Year ABC (mt) ACL (mt) ACT (mt) 2017; 2018 (projected) ................... 26,100 26,100 26,035 The Atlantic surfclam and ocean quahog quotas are specified in ‘‘industry’’ bushels of 1.88 ft3 (53.24 L) per bushel, while the Maine ocean quahog quota is specified in Maine bushels of 1.24 ft3 (35.24 L) per bushel. Because Maine ocean quahogs are the same species as ocean quahogs, both fisheries are assessed under the same overfishing definition. When the two quota amounts (ocean quahog and Maine ocean quahog) are added, the total allowable harvest is below the level that would result in overfishing for the entire stock. mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with PROPOSALS Surfclams The proposed 2017 status quo surfclam quota was developed after reviewing the results of the Northeast Regional Stock Assessment Workshop (SAW) 56 for Atlantic surfclam, released to the public in 2013. The surfclam quota recommendation is consistent with the SAW 56 finding that the Atlantic surfclam stock is not overfished, nor is overfishing occurring. Based on this information, the Council is recommending, and NMFS is proposing, to maintain the status quo surfclam quota of 3.40 million bu (181 million L) for 2017 (See Table 1). Ocean Quahogs The proposed 2017 non-Maine quota for ocean quahogs also reflects the status quo quota of 5.33 million bu (284 million L). In April 2013, the ocean quahog stock assessment was updated and found that the ocean quahog stock is not overfished, nor is overfishing VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:51 Nov 22, 2016 Jkt 241001 Commercial quota Non-Maine Quota: 5.33 million bu (284 million L) Maine ACT: 100,000 Maine bu (3.52 million L) occurring. After several decades of relatively low fishing mortality, the ocean quahog stock is still above the biomass target reference points. The 2017 proposed quota for Maine ocean quahogs is the status quo level of 100,000 Maine bu (3.52 million L). The proposed quota represents the maximum allowable quota under the FMP. This proposed rule also announces projected quotas for 2018. However, new stock assessments for both Atlantic surfclam and ocean quahog are pending and the results are expected to be available to the Council when it next reviews quotas for this fishery in June 2017. It is expected that the Council will use these assessment results to update the 2018 specifications as needed and recommend specifications for both fisheries for 2018 through 2020. Surfclam Minimum Size At its June 2016 meeting, the Council voted to recommend that the Regional Administrator suspend the minimum size limit for Atlantic surfclams for the 2017 fishing year. This action may be taken unless discard, catch, and biological sampling data indicate that 30 percent or more of the Atlantic surfclam resource have a shell length less than 4.75 inches (120 mm), and the overall reduced size is not attributable to harvest from beds where growth of the individual clams has been reduced because of density-dependent factors. Commercial surfclam data for 2016 were analyzed to determine the percentage of surfclams that were PO 00000 Frm 00040 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 smaller than the minimum size requirement. The analysis indicated that 14.4 percent of the overall commercial landings were composed of surfclams that were less than the 4.75-in (120-mm) default minimum size. This percentage of small clams is higher than in most previous years; however, it is still below the 30-percent trigger. Based on the information available, the Regional Administrator concurs with the Council’s recommendation, and is proposing to suspend the minimum size limit for Atlantic surfclams in the upcoming fishing year (January 1 through December 31, 2017). Classification Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, has determined that this proposed rule is consistent with the Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog FMP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, subject to further consideration after public comment. This action does not introduce any new reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements. This proposed rule does not duplicate, overlap, or conflict with other Federal rules. This proposed rule is exempt from the requirements of E.O. 12866. The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration that this proposed rule, if adopted, would not E:\FR\FM\23NOP1.SGM 23NOP1 84546 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 226 / Wednesday, November 23, 2016 / Proposed Rules mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with PROPOSALS have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The factual basis for this certification is as follows: For RFA purposes only, NMFS has established a small business size standard for businesses, including their affiliates, whose primary industry is commercial fishing (see 50 CFR 200.2). A business primarily engaged in commercial fishing (NAICS code 11411) is classified as a small business if it is independently owned and operated, is not dominant in its field of operation (including its affiliates), and has combined annual receipts not in excess of $11 million for all its affiliated operations worldwide. In 2015, there were 358 fishing firms that held at least one surfclam or ocean quahog permit. Using the $11.0 million cutoff for firms, there are 348 entities that are small and 10 that are large. In order to provide a more accurate count and description of the small directly regulated entities, landings data were evaluated to select only firms that were active in either the surfclam or ocean quahog fishery. There are 29 active fishing firms, of which 26 are small entities and 3 are large entities. Because the proposed quotas are identical to those implemented for 2014–2016, the proposed action would have no impact on the way the fishery operates. These measures are expected to provide similar fishing opportunities in 2017 and 2018 when compared to 2015 (proxy for base year 2016). As such, revenue changes are not expected in 2017 and 2018 when compared to landings and revenues in 2015. Therefore, adoption of the proposed specifications would have no impacts on entities participating in the fishery if landings are similar to those that occurred in 2015. Maintaining the suspension of the surfclam minimum shell length requirement would result in no change when compared to 2014–2016. The minimum shell length requirement has been suspended each year since 2005. The proposed action would have no impact on the way the fishery operates, and is not expected to disproportionately affect small entities. As a result, an initial regulatory flexibility analysis is not required and none has been prepared. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: November 16, 2016. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2016–28174 Filed 11–22–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:51 Nov 22, 2016 Jkt 241001 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 660 [Docket No. 160728670–6904–01] RIN 0648–BG23 Fisheries off West Coast States; Highly Migratory Fisheries; California Drift Gillnet Fishery; Protected Species Hard Caps for the California/Oregon Large-Mesh Drift Gillnet Fishery; Extension of Public Comment Period National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; extension of public comment period. AGENCY: On October 13, 2016, NMFS published a proposed rule to establish protected species hard caps for the California/Oregon large-mesh drift gillnet fishery, with comments due by November 28, 2016. However, in response to a request to extend the public comment period, NMFS has decided to extend the public comment period by an additional 30 calendar days. DATES: The deadline for receipt of comments on the proposed rule published on October 13, 2016 (81 FR 70660) is extended to December 28, 2016. NMFS must receive written comments and information on or before December 28, 2016. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the proposed rule, draft Environmental Assessment (EA), draft Regulatory Impact Review (RIR), and Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA), identified by NOAA–NMFS– 2016–0123, by any of the following methods: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to http://www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20160123, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Submit written comments to Lyle Enriquez, NMFS West Coast Region, 501 W. Ocean Blvd., Suite 4200, Long Beach, CA 90802. Include the identifier ‘‘NOAA–NMFS–2016–0123’’ in the comments. Instructions: Comments must be submitted by one of the above methods to ensure they are received, documented, and considered by NMFS. Comments sent by any other method, to SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00041 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.) submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive or protected information. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Copies of the draft EA, draft RIR, IRFA, and other supporting documents are available via the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov, docket NOAA– NMFS–2016–0123 or by contacting the Regional Administrator, Barry Thom, NMFS West Coast Region, 1201 NE Lloyd Blvd., Portland, OR 97232–2182, or RegionalAdministrator.WCRHMS@ noaa.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Lyle Enriquez, NMFS, West Coast Region, 562–980–4025, or Lyle.Enriquez@ noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On October 13, 2016, NMFS published a proposed rule in the Federal Register (81 FR 70660) announcing proposed issuance of regulations to establish protected species hard caps for the California/Oregon large-mesh drift gillnet fishery. The 45-day public comment period on the proposed rule ends on November 28, 2016. On October 21, 2016, representatives of potentially affected parties requested an extension of the public comment period to aid in their review of the proposed rulemaking. NMFS has considered the request and will extend the comment period to December 28, 2016. This extension provides a total of 75 days for public input and continuing Federal agency reviews to inform NMFS’ final decision to issue or deny the regulations. NMFS refers the reader to the October 13, 2016, proposed rule (81 FR 70660) for background information concerning the proposed rulemaking as this notice does not repeat the information here. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: November 15, 2016. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2016–28179 Filed 11–22–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\23NOP1.SGM 23NOP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 226 (Wednesday, November 23, 2016)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 84544-84546]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-28174]


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

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 160816746-6746-01]
RIN 0648-XE819


Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Atlantic Surfclam 
and Ocean Quahog Fishery; Proposed 2017-2018 Fishing Quotas

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS proposes status quo commercial quotas for the Atlantic 
surfclam and ocean quahog fisheries for 2017 and projected status quo 
quotas for 2018. This action is necessary to establish allowable 
harvest levels of Atlantic surfclams and ocean quahogs that will 
prevent overfishing and allow harvesting of optimum yield. This action 
would also continue to suspend the minimum shell size for Atlantic 
surfclams for the 2017 fishing year. It is expected that the industry 
and dealers will benefit from the proposed status quo quotas, as they 
will be able to maintain a consistent market.

DATES: Comments must be received by December 8, 2016.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2016-0122, 
by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2016-0122, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to John K. Bullard, Regional 
Administrator, NMFS, Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, 55 
Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the 
envelope: ``Comments on the 2017-2018 Surfclam/Ocean Quahog 
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 a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the commenter may be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in 
Microsoft Word, Excel, or Adobe PDF file formats only.
    Copies of the Environmental Assessment (EA), Supplemental 
Information Report (SIR), and other supporting documents for these 
proposed specifications are available from the Mid-Atlantic Fishery 
Management Council, 800 North State Street, Suite 201, Dover, DE 19901. 
The EA and SIR are also accessible via the internet at: 
www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov/.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Douglas Potts, Fishery Policy Analyst, 
978-281-9341.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog 
Fishery Management Plan (FMP) requires that NMFS, in consultation with 
the Mid-Atlantic Council, specify quotas for surfclam and ocean quahog 
for up to a 3-year period, with an annual review. It is the policy of 
the Council that the catch limits selected allow sustainable fishing to 
continue at that level for at least 10 years for surfclams, and 30 
years for ocean quahogs. In addition to this, the Council policy also 
considers the economic impacts of the quotas. Regulations implementing 
Amendment 10 to the FMP (63 FR 27481; May 19, 1998) added Maine ocean 
quahogs (locally known as Maine mahogany quahogs) to the management 
unit, and provided for a small artisanal fishery for ocean quahogs in 
the waters north of 43[deg]50' N. lat., with an annual quota within a 
range of 17,000 to 100,000 Maine bu (0.6 to 3.524 million L). As 
specified in Amendment 10, the Maine ocean quahog quota is allocated 
separately from the quota specified for the ocean quahog fishery. 
Regulations implementing Amendment 13 to the FMP (68 FR 69970; December 
16, 2003) established the ability to propose multi-year quotas with an 
annual quota review to be conducted by the Council to determine if the 
multi-year quota specifications remain appropriate for each year. NMFS 
then publishes the annual final quotas in the Federal Register. The 
fishing quotas must ensure overfishing will not occur. In recommending 
these quotas, the Council considered the most recent stock assessments 
and other relevant scientific information.

[[Page 84545]]

    In June 2016, the Council voted to recommend maintaining the status 
quo quota levels of 5.33 million bu (284 million L) for the ocean 
quahog fishery, 3.40 million bu (181 million L) for the Atlantic 
surfclam fishery, and 100,000 Maine bu (3.52 million L) for the Maine 
ocean quahog fishery for 2017 and projected status quo quotas would be 
maintained in 2018.
    Tables 1 and 2 show proposed quotas for the 2017 Atlantic surfclam 
and ocean quahog fishery along with projected quotas for 2018. By 
providing projected quotas for 2018, NMFS hopes to assist fishery 
participants in planning ahead. NMFS plans to reassess the status of 
the Atlantic surfclam and ocean quahog fishery in 2017. Final 2018 
quotas will be published in the Federal Register before the start of 
the 2018 fishing year (January 1, 2018) based on the 2017 review.

                                  Table 1--Proposed Atlantic Surfclam Measures
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                          Acceptable
                                          biological     Annual  catch   Annual  catch
                 Year                    catch  (ABC)    limit  (ACL)    target  (ACT)      Commercial quota
                                             (mt)            (mt)            (mt)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2017..................................          44,469          44,469          29,364  3.40 million bu (181
                                                                                         million L).
2018 (projected)......................          45,524          45,524          29,364  3.4 million bu (181
                                                                                         million L).
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


                                     Table 2--Proposed Ocean Quahog Measures
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                    Year                       ABC  (mt)   ACL  (mt)   ACT  (mt)         Commercial quota
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2017; 2018 (projected)......................     26,100      26,100      26,035   Non-Maine Quota: 5.33 million
                                                                                   bu (284 million L)
                                                                                  Maine ACT: 100,000 Maine bu
                                                                                   (3.52 million L)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Atlantic surfclam and ocean quahog quotas are specified in 
``industry'' bushels of 1.88 ft\3\ (53.24 L) per bushel, while the 
Maine ocean quahog quota is specified in Maine bushels of 1.24 ft\3\ 
(35.24 L) per bushel. Because Maine ocean quahogs are the same species 
as ocean quahogs, both fisheries are assessed under the same 
overfishing definition. When the two quota amounts (ocean quahog and 
Maine ocean quahog) are added, the total allowable harvest is below the 
level that would result in overfishing for the entire stock.

Surfclams

    The proposed 2017 status quo surfclam quota was developed after 
reviewing the results of the Northeast Regional Stock Assessment 
Workshop (SAW) 56 for Atlantic surfclam, released to the public in 
2013. The surfclam quota recommendation is consistent with the SAW 56 
finding that the Atlantic surfclam stock is not overfished, nor is 
overfishing occurring. Based on this information, the Council is 
recommending, and NMFS is proposing, to maintain the status quo 
surfclam quota of 3.40 million bu (181 million L) for 2017 (See Table 
1).

Ocean Quahogs

    The proposed 2017 non-Maine quota for ocean quahogs also reflects 
the status quo quota of 5.33 million bu (284 million L). In April 2013, 
the ocean quahog stock assessment was updated and found that the ocean 
quahog stock is not overfished, nor is overfishing occurring. After 
several decades of relatively low fishing mortality, the ocean quahog 
stock is still above the biomass target reference points.
    The 2017 proposed quota for Maine ocean quahogs is the status quo 
level of 100,000 Maine bu (3.52 million L). The proposed quota 
represents the maximum allowable quota under the FMP.
    This proposed rule also announces projected quotas for 2018. 
However, new stock assessments for both Atlantic surfclam and ocean 
quahog are pending and the results are expected to be available to the 
Council when it next reviews quotas for this fishery in June 2017. It 
is expected that the Council will use these assessment results to 
update the 2018 specifications as needed and recommend specifications 
for both fisheries for 2018 through 2020.

Surfclam Minimum Size

    At its June 2016 meeting, the Council voted to recommend that the 
Regional Administrator suspend the minimum size limit for Atlantic 
surfclams for the 2017 fishing year. This action may be taken unless 
discard, catch, and biological sampling data indicate that 30 percent 
or more of the Atlantic surfclam resource have a shell length less than 
4.75 inches (120 mm), and the overall reduced size is not attributable 
to harvest from beds where growth of the individual clams has been 
reduced because of density-dependent factors.
    Commercial surfclam data for 2016 were analyzed to determine the 
percentage of surfclams that were smaller than the minimum size 
requirement. The analysis indicated that 14.4 percent of the overall 
commercial landings were composed of surfclams that were less than the 
4.75-in (120-mm) default minimum size. This percentage of small clams 
is higher than in most previous years; however, it is still below the 
30-percent trigger. Based on the information available, the Regional 
Administrator concurs with the Council's recommendation, and is 
proposing to suspend the minimum size limit for Atlantic surfclams in 
the upcoming fishing year (January 1 through December 31, 2017).

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, has determined that this 
proposed rule is consistent with the Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog 
FMP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable 
law, subject to further consideration after public comment.
    This action does not introduce any new reporting, recordkeeping, or 
other compliance requirements. This proposed rule does not duplicate, 
overlap, or conflict with other Federal rules.
    This proposed rule is exempt from the requirements of E.O. 12866.
    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration that this proposed rule, if adopted, would not

[[Page 84546]]

have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. The factual basis for this certification is as follows:
    For RFA purposes only, NMFS has established a small business size 
standard for businesses, including their affiliates, whose primary 
industry is commercial fishing (see 50 CFR 200.2). A business primarily 
engaged in commercial fishing (NAICS code 11411) is classified as a 
small business if it is independently owned and operated, is not 
dominant in its field of operation (including its affiliates), and has 
combined annual receipts not in excess of $11 million for all its 
affiliated operations worldwide. In 2015, there were 358 fishing firms 
that held at least one surfclam or ocean quahog permit. Using the $11.0 
million cutoff for firms, there are 348 entities that are small and 10 
that are large. In order to provide a more accurate count and 
description of the small directly regulated entities, landings data 
were evaluated to select only firms that were active in either the 
surfclam or ocean quahog fishery. There are 29 active fishing firms, of 
which 26 are small entities and 3 are large entities.
    Because the proposed quotas are identical to those implemented for 
2014-2016, the proposed action would have no impact on the way the 
fishery operates. These measures are expected to provide similar 
fishing opportunities in 2017 and 2018 when compared to 2015 (proxy for 
base year 2016). As such, revenue changes are not expected in 2017 and 
2018 when compared to landings and revenues in 2015. Therefore, 
adoption of the proposed specifications would have no impacts on 
entities participating in the fishery if landings are similar to those 
that occurred in 2015.
    Maintaining the suspension of the surfclam minimum shell length 
requirement would result in no change when compared to 2014-2016. The 
minimum shell length requirement has been suspended each year since 
2005. The proposed action would have no impact on the way the fishery 
operates, and is not expected to disproportionately affect small 
entities.
    As a result, an initial regulatory flexibility analysis is not 
required and none has been prepared.

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

    Dated: November 16, 2016.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2016-28174 Filed 11-22-16; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P