Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog Fishery; 2017-2018 Fishing Quotas, 95060-95062 [2016-31077]

Download as PDF 95060 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 248 / Tuesday, December 27, 2016 / Rules and Regulations DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 150903814–5999–02] RIN 0648–XF096 Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Summer Flounder Fishery; Commercial Quota Harvested for the State of Connecticut National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Temporary rule; closure. AGENCY: NMFS announces that the 2016 summer flounder commercial quota allocated to the State of Connecticut has been harvested. Vessels issued a commercial Federal fisheries permit for the summer flounder fishery may not land summer flounder in Connecticut for the remainder of calendar year 2016. Regulations governing the summer flounder fishery require publication of this notification to advise Connecticut that the quota has been harvested and to advise vessel permit holders and dealer permit holders that no Federal commercial quota is available for landing summer flounder in Connecticut. DATES: Effective 0001 hours, December 22, 2016, through December 31, 2016. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Cynthia Hanson, (978) 281–9180, or Cynthia.Hanson@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Regulations governing the summer flounder fishery are found at 50 CFR part 648. The regulations require annual specification of a commercial quota that is apportioned on a percentage basis among the coastal states from Maine through North Carolina. The process to set the annual commercial quota and the percent allocated to each state is described in § 648.102. The initial commercial quota for summer flounder for the 2016 calendar year was set equal to 8,124,035 lb (3,684,997 kg) (80 FR 80689, December 28, 2015). The percent allocated to vessels landing summer flounder in Connecticut is 2.25708 percent, resulting in a commercial quota of 183,366 lb (83,173 kg). This allocation was adjusted to 187,166 lb (84,897 kg) to account for quota transfers from other states. The NMFS Administrator for the Greater Atlantic Region (Regional Administrator), monitors the state asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:06 Dec 23, 2016 Jkt 241001 commercial landings and determines when a state’s commercial quota has been harvested. NMFS is required to publish notification in the Federal Register advising and notifying commercial vessels and dealer permit holders that, effective upon a specific date, the state’s commercial quota has been harvested and no commercial quota is available for landing summer flounder in that state. The Regional Administrator has determined, based upon dealer reports and other available information, that the 2016 Connecticut commercial summer flounder quota will be harvested by December 22, 2016. Section 648.4(b) provides that Federal permit holders agree, as a condition of the permit, not to land summer flounder in any state that the Regional Administrator has determined no longer has commercial quota available. Therefore, effective 0001 hours, December 22, 2016, landings of summer flounder in Connecticut by vessels holding summer flounder commercial Federal fisheries permits are prohibited for the remainder of the 2016 calendar year. Effective 0001 hours, December 22, 2016, federally permitted dealers are also notified that they may not purchase summer flounder from federally permitted vessels that land in Connecticut for the remainder of the calendar year. Classification This action is required by 50 CFR part 648 and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, finds good cause pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive prior notice and the opportunity for public comment because it would be contrary to the public interest. This action closes the summer flounder fishery for Connecticut until January 1, 2017, under current regulations. The regulations at § 648.103(b) require such action to ensure that summer flounder vessels do not exceed quotas allocated to the states. If implementation of this closure was delayed to solicit prior public comment, the quota for this fishing year will be exceeded, thereby undermining the conservation objectives of the Summer Flounder Fishery Management Plan. The Assistant Administrator further finds, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3), good cause to waive the 30-day delayed effectiveness period for the reason stated above. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. PO 00000 Frm 00152 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 Dated: December 21, 2016. Alan D. Risenhoover, Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2016–31194 Filed 12–21–16; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 160816746–6999–02] RIN 0648–XE819 Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog Fishery; 2017–2018 Fishing Quotas National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: This final rule implements status quo commercial quotas for the Atlantic surfclam and ocean quahog fisheries for 2017, suspends the minimum shell size for Atlantic surfclams for 2017, and provides 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. DATES: This rule is effective January 1, 2017, through December 31, 2017. ADDRESSES: Copies of the Environmental Assessment (EA), Supplemental Information Report (SIR), and other supporting documents for these 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 annual reviews if multiple year quotas are established. 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 SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\27DER1.SGM 27DER1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 248 / Tuesday, December 27, 2016 / Rules and Regulations 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 ocean quahog individual transferable quota (ITQ) fishery quota. Regulations implementing Amendment 13 to the FMP (68 FR 69970; December 16, 2003) established the ability to set 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. 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. On November 23, 2016, we published a proposed rule (81 95061 FR 84544), with a public comment period through December 8, 2016. Eight comments were received and are discussed below. 2017 and Projected 2018 Specifications Tables 1 and 2 show 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 and the Council will reassess the status of the Atlantic surfclam and ocean quahog fishery in 2017, including the results of new stock assessments for both species. 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—2017 AND PROJECTED 2018 ATLANTIC SURFCLAM MEASURES Year Acceptable biological catch (ABC) Annual catch limit (ACL) Annual catch target (ACT) 2017 ....................... 2018 ....................... 44,469 mt ............... 45,524 mt ............... 44,469 mt ............... 45,524 mt ............... 29,364 mt ............... 29,364 mt ............... Commercial quota 3.40 million bu (181 million L). 3.4 million bu (181 million L). TABLE 2—2017 AND PROJECTED 2018 OCEAN QUAHOG MEASURES ABC ACL ACT 2017 ....................... 26,100 mt ............... 26,100 mt ............... 26,035 mt ............... Projected 2018 ....... asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES Year 26,100 mt ............... 26,100 mt ............... 26,035 mt ............... 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. Results of a new stock assessment for the Atlantic surfclam stock were released in November 2016, and a new assessment of the ocean quahog stock will be completed in early 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 through 2020. We anticipate rulemaking for 2018 specifications, with projections for 2019–2020, in the fall of 2017. Surfclam Minimum Size Suspension 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 VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:06 Dec 23, 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). Non-Maine Quota: 5.33 million bu (284 million L). Maine ACT: 100,000 Maine bu (3.52 million L). 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 specified in regulation. Based on the information available, the Regional Administrator suspends the minimum size limit for Atlantic surfclams for the 2017 fishing year (January 1 through December 31, 2017). A determination on the 2018 minimum size suspension will be made in the fall of 2017 and announced in the Federal Register. Comments We received eight comments on the proposed rule; six from representatives of Atlantic surfclam and ocean quahog commercial fishing and processing companies and two from the general public. One comment from the general public was critical of NMFS management of the fishery, suggesting quotas be reduced to zero, but offered no supporting information. All other PO 00000 Frm 00153 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 comments strongly supported the status quo quotas and continuing to suspend the surfclam minimum size limit. This final rule maintains status quo quotas and the minimum surfclam size is suspended for 2017, as outlined in the preamble. Changes From Proposed Rule to Final Rule There are no changes from the proposed to final rule. Classification Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, has determined that this final rule is consistent with the Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog FMP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law. The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries finds good cause to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness period for this action under the Administrative Procedure Act (5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3)). E:\FR\FM\27DER1.SGM 27DER1 asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with RULES 95062 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 248 / Tuesday, December 27, 2016 / Rules and Regulations First, if this action is not effective on January 1, 2017, the current suspension of the surfclam minimum size limit would expire. Timely publication of the 2017 minimum size suspension for the January 1 start of the fishing year relieves this restriction, thus exempting the minimum size suspension under this rule from the requirement for a 30day delay in effectiveness (5 U.S.C. 553(d)(1)). There is also good cause to waive the 30-day delay because, until the new suspension is effective, fishing vessels would be subject to the size limit and would incur additional expense and lost fishing time to have crew members sort the catch to comply with the default minimum surfclam length of 4.75 inches (12.065 cm). The minimum surfclam size has routinely been suspended each year for over a decade. If the minimum size were again in effect without prior warning, it would cause significant confusion for industry members and disruption to normal fishing operations. Vessels operating unaware of the reinstatement of the minimum size may also violate the applicable regulation. Second, a delay in the effective date of this final rule may also cause substantial confusion. The regulations at 50 CFR 648.72(c) state that ‘‘annual quotas for surfclams and ocean quahogs will remain effective unless revised pursuant to this section,’’ and requires NMFS to publish ‘‘notification in the Federal Register if the previous year’s specifications will not be changed.’’ Members of the fishing industry may not be aware that quotas remain effective without the timely publication of a notice to inform them that specifications are not being changed. As a result, fishermen could be hesitant to fish or transfer cage tags if they think there are no quotas or that the associated cage tags may not be valid. Delaying the effectiveness of this rule past January 1, 2017, would provide no benefit to the public or the fishing industry. On the contrary, there could potentially be significant disruption and cost to the fishery if the minimum size suspension is not in place on January 1. Therefore, there is good cause to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness, as not doing so would be contrary to the public’s interest. This action does not introduce any new reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements. This final rule does not duplicate, overlap, or conflict with other Federal rules. This final 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 VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:06 Dec 23, 2016 Jkt 241001 Small Business Administration during the proposed rule stage that this action would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The factual basis for the certification was published in the proposed rule and is not repeated here. No comments were received regarding this certification. As a result, a regulatory flexibility analysis was not required and none was prepared. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: December 19, 2016. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2016–31077 Filed 12–23–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 679 [Docket No. 150916863–6211–02] RIN 0648–XF109 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Reallocation of Pacific Cod in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Temporary rule; reallocation. AGENCY: NMFS is reallocating the projected unused amount of Pacific cod from catcher vessels greater than or equal to 60 feet (18.3 meters (m)) length overall (LOA) using pot gear to catcher/ processors (C/Ps) using hook-and-line gear in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) management area. This action is necessary to allow the 2016 total allowable catch of Pacific cod to be harvested. DATES: Effective December 21, 2016 through 2400 hours, Alaska local time (A.l.t.), December 31, 2016. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Josh Keaton, 907–586–7228. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS manages the groundfish fishery in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) according to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (FMP) prepared by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council under authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00154 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 Act. Regulations governing fishing by U.S. vessels in accordance with the FMP appear at subpart H of 50 CFR part 600 and 50 CFR part 679. The 2016 Pacific cod TAC specified for catcher vessels greater than or equal to 60 feet (18.3 m) LOA using pot gear in the BSAI is 14,598 mt as established by the final 2016 and 2017 harvest specifications for groundfish of the BSAI (81 FR 14773, March 18, 2016) and reallocations (81 FR 69445, October 6, 2016; and 81 FR 80006, November 15, 2016). The Regional Administrator has determined that catcher vessels greater than or equal to 60 feet (18.3 m) LOA using pot gear will not be able to harvest 2,500 mt of the remaining 2016 Pacific cod TAC allocated to those vessels under § 679.20(a)(7)(ii)(A)(5). Therefore, in accordance with § 679.20(a)(7)(iii), taking into account the capabilities of the sectors to harvest reallocated amounts of Pacific cod, and following the hierarchies set forth in § 679.20(a)(7)(iii)(A) and (B), NMFS reallocates 2,500 mt of Pacific cod to C/ Ps using hook-and-line gear in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area. The harvest specifications for Pacific cod included in the final 2016 and 2017 harvest specifications for groundfish of the BSAI (81 FR 14773, March 18, 2016; 81 FR 57491, August 23, 2016; 81 FR 61143, September 6, 2016; 81 FR 69445, October 6, 2016; 81 FR 76530, November 3, 2016; 81 FR 80006, November 15, 2016) are revised as follows: 12,098 for catcher vessels greater than or equal to 60 feet (18.3 m) LOA using pot gear, and 114,283 for C/ Ps using hook-and-line gear. Classification This action responds to the best available information recently obtained from the fishery. The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA (AA), finds good cause to waive the requirement to provide prior notice and opportunity for public comment pursuant to the authority set forth at 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) as such requirement is impracticable and contrary to the public interest. This requirement is impracticable and contrary to the public interest as it would prevent NMFS from responding to the most recent fisheries data in a timely fashion and would delay the reallocation of Pacific cod specified from catcher vessels greater than or equal to 60 feet (18.3 m) LOA using pot gear to C/Ps using hook-andline gear in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area. Since these fisheries are currently open, it is important to immediately inform the industry as to the revised allocations. E:\FR\FM\27DER1.SGM 27DER1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 248 (Tuesday, December 27, 2016)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 95060-95062]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-31077]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 160816746-6999-02]
RIN 0648-XE819


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

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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

SUMMARY: This final rule implements status quo commercial quotas for 
the Atlantic surfclam and ocean quahog fisheries for 2017, suspends the 
minimum shell size for Atlantic surfclams for 2017, and provides 
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.

DATES: This rule is effective January 1, 2017, through December 31, 
2017.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the Environmental Assessment (EA), Supplemental 
Information Report (SIR), and other supporting documents for these 
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 annual reviews if multiple year quotas 
are established. 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

[[Page 95061]]

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 ocean quahog individual transferable quota (ITQ) fishery quota. 
Regulations implementing Amendment 13 to the FMP (68 FR 69970; December 
16, 2003) established the ability to set 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.
    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. On November 23, 2016, we published a proposed rule 
(81 FR 84544), with a public comment period through December 8, 2016. 
Eight comments were received and are discussed below.

2017 and Projected 2018 Specifications

    Tables 1 and 2 show 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 and the Council will reassess the status of the 
Atlantic surfclam and ocean quahog fishery in 2017, including the 
results of new stock assessments for both species. 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--2017 and Projected 2018 Atlantic Surfclam Measures
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                    Acceptable
             Year                biological catch    Annual catch      Annual catch         Commercial quota
                                      (ABC)          limit  (ACL)      target  (ACT)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2017..........................  44,469 mt........  44,469 mt.......  29,364 mt.......  3.40 million bu (181
                                                                                        million L).
2018..........................  45,524 mt........  45,524 mt.......  29,364 mt.......  3.4 million bu (181
                                                                                        million L).
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


                             Table 2--2017 and Projected 2018 Ocean Quahog Measures
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Year                      ABC                ACL               ACT             Commercial quota
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2017..........................  26,100 mt........  26,100 mt.......  26,035 mt.......  Non-Maine Quota: 5.33
                                                                                        million bu (284 million
                                                                                        L).
                                                                                       Maine ACT: 100,000 Maine
                                                                                        bu (3.52 million L).
Projected 2018................  26,100 mt........  26,100 mt.......  26,035 mt.......  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.
    Results of a new stock assessment for the Atlantic surfclam stock 
were released in November 2016, and a new assessment of the ocean 
quahog stock will be completed in early 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 through 2020. We anticipate rulemaking for 2018 
specifications, with projections for 2019-2020, in the fall of 2017.

Surfclam Minimum Size Suspension

    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 specified in regulation. Based on the information 
available, the Regional Administrator suspends the minimum size limit 
for Atlantic surfclams for the 2017 fishing year (January 1 through 
December 31, 2017). A determination on the 2018 minimum size suspension 
will be made in the fall of 2017 and announced in the Federal Register.

Comments

    We received eight comments on the proposed rule; six from 
representatives of Atlantic surfclam and ocean quahog commercial 
fishing and processing companies and two from the general public. One 
comment from the general public was critical of NMFS management of the 
fishery, suggesting quotas be reduced to zero, but offered no 
supporting information. All other comments strongly supported the 
status quo quotas and continuing to suspend the surfclam minimum size 
limit. This final rule maintains status quo quotas and the minimum 
surfclam size is suspended for 2017, as outlined in the preamble.

Changes From Proposed Rule to Final Rule

    There are no changes from the proposed to final rule.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, has determined that this 
final rule is consistent with the Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog 
FMP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable 
law.
    The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries finds good cause to waive 
the 30-day delay in effectiveness period for this action under the 
Administrative Procedure Act (5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3)).

[[Page 95062]]

    First, if this action is not effective on January 1, 2017, the 
current suspension of the surfclam minimum size limit would expire. 
Timely publication of the 2017 minimum size suspension for the January 
1 start of the fishing year relieves this restriction, thus exempting 
the minimum size suspension under this rule from the requirement for a 
30-day delay in effectiveness (5 U.S.C. 553(d)(1)). There is also good 
cause to waive the 30-day delay because, until the new suspension is 
effective, fishing vessels would be subject to the size limit and would 
incur additional expense and lost fishing time to have crew members 
sort the catch to comply with the default minimum surfclam length of 
4.75 inches (12.065 cm). The minimum surfclam size has routinely been 
suspended each year for over a decade. If the minimum size were again 
in effect without prior warning, it would cause significant confusion 
for industry members and disruption to normal fishing operations. 
Vessels operating unaware of the reinstatement of the minimum size may 
also violate the applicable regulation.
    Second, a delay in the effective date of this final rule may also 
cause substantial confusion. The regulations at 50 CFR 648.72(c) state 
that ``annual quotas for surfclams and ocean quahogs will remain 
effective unless revised pursuant to this section,'' and requires NMFS 
to publish ``notification in the Federal Register if the previous 
year's specifications will not be changed.'' Members of the fishing 
industry may not be aware that quotas remain effective without the 
timely publication of a notice to inform them that specifications are 
not being changed. As a result, fishermen could be hesitant to fish or 
transfer cage tags if they think there are no quotas or that the 
associated cage tags may not be valid.
    Delaying the effectiveness of this rule past January 1, 2017, would 
provide no benefit to the public or the fishing industry. On the 
contrary, there could potentially be significant disruption and cost to 
the fishery if the minimum size suspension is not in place on January 
1. Therefore, there is good cause to waive the 30-day delay in 
effectiveness, as not doing so would be contrary to the public's 
interest.
    This action does not introduce any new reporting, recordkeeping, or 
other compliance requirements. This final rule does not duplicate, 
overlap, or conflict with other Federal rules.
    This final 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 during the proposed rule stage that this action would 
not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. The factual basis for the certification was published in the 
proposed rule and is not repeated here. No comments were received 
regarding this certification. As a result, a regulatory flexibility 
analysis was not required and none was prepared.

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

    Dated: December 19, 2016.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2016-31077 Filed 12-23-16; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P