Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast Multispecies Fishery; 2017 and 2018 Sector Operations Plans and 2017 Allocation of Northeast Multispecies Annual Catch Entitlements, 19618-19630 [2017-08617]

Download as PDF 19618 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 81 / Friday, April 28, 2017 / Rules and Regulations risks of exceeding the ICCAT-allocated quota. NMFS provides notification of retention limit adjustments by publishing the notice in the Federal Register, emailing individuals who have subscribed to the Atlantic HMS News electronic newsletter, and updating the information posted on the Atlantic Tunas Information Line and on hmspermits.noaa.gov. Therefore, the AA finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive prior notice and the opportunity for public comment. For these reasons, there also is good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d) to waive the 30day delay in effectiveness. This action is being taken under § 635.23(b)(3), and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq. and 1801 et seq. Dated: April 26, 2017. Karen H. Abrams, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2017–08777 Filed 4–27–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 170104016–7016–01] RIN 0648–XF138 Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast Multispecies Fishery; 2017 and 2018 Sector Operations Plans and 2017 Allocation of Northeast Multispecies Annual Catch Entitlements National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Interim final rule. AGENCY: We have approved sector operations plans for fishing years 2017 and 2018, granting regulatory exemptions for fishing years 2017 and 2018, and providing Northeast multispecies annual catch entitlements to approved sectors for fishing year 2017. Approval of sector operations plans is necessary to allocate annual catch entitlements to the sectors and for the sectors to operate. The Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan allows limited access permit holders to form sectors, and requires sectors to submit their operations plans and contracts to us, NMFS, for approval or jstallworth on DSK7TPTVN1PROD with RULES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:52 Apr 27, 2017 Jkt 241001 disapproval. This interim final rule approves sector operations plans, grants regulatory exemptions for sectors, and provides preliminary allocations of annual catch entitlements to sectors for the start of the 2017 fishing year. Changes to exemptions and updates to sector annual catch entitlements may be considered in subsequent rulemakings. DATES: Sector operations plans and regulatory exemptions are effective May 1, 2017, through April 30, 2019. Northeast multispecies annual catch entitlements for sectors are effective May 1, 2017, through April 30, 2018. The default catch limit for Eastern Georges Bank cod is effective May 1, 2017, through July 31, 2017, or until the final rule for Framework 56 is implemented if prior to July 31, 2017. Written comments must be received on or before May 30, 2017. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA– NMFS–2017–0016, by either of the following methods: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D= NOAA-NMFS-2017-0016, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Submit written comments to Kyle Molton, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. 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 sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/ A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Copies of each sector’s final operations plan and contract are available from the NMFS Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office: John K. Bullard, Regional Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. These documents are also accessible via the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kyle Molton, Fishery Management Specialist, (978) 281–9236. To review Federal Register documents referenced in this PO 00000 Frm 00006 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 rule, you can visit: http:// www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov/ sustainable/species/multispecies. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background Amendment 13 to the Northeast (NE) Multispecies Fishery Management Plan (FMP) (69 FR 22906; April 27, 2004) established a process for forming sectors within the NE multispecies (groundfish) fishery, and Amendment 16 to the FMP (74 FR 18262; April 9, 2010), followed by Framework Adjustment 45 to the FMP (76 FR 23042; April 25, 2011) and Framework 48 to the FMP (78 FR 26118; May 3, 2013), expanded and revised sector management. The FMP defines a sector as ‘‘[a] group of persons (three or more persons, none of whom have an ownership interest in the other two persons in the sector) holding limited access vessel permits who have voluntarily entered into a contract and agree to certain fishing restrictions for a specified period of time, and which has been granted a TAC(s) [sic] in order to achieve objectives consistent with applicable FMP goals and objectives.’’ Sectors are self-selecting, meaning each sector can choose its members. The NE multispecies sector management system allocates a portion of the NE multispecies stocks to each sector. These annual sector allocations are known as annual catch entitlements (ACEs) and are based on the collective fishing history of a sector’s members. Sectors may receive allocations of largemesh NE multispecies stocks with the exception of Atlantic halibut, windowpane flounder, Atlantic wolffish, and ocean pout, which are non-allocated species. The ACEs are a portion of a stock’s annual catch limit (ACL) available to commercial NE multispecies vessels within a sector. A sector determines how to harvest its ACEs and may decide to limit operations to fewer vessels. Because sectors elect to receive an allocation under a quota-based system, the FMP grants sector vessels several ‘‘universal’’ exemptions from the FMP’s effort controls. These universal exemptions apply to: Trip limits on allocated stocks; the Georges Bank (GB) Seasonal Closure Area; NE multispecies days-at-sea (DAS) restrictions; the requirement to use a 6.5-inch (16.5-cm) mesh codend when fishing with selective gear on GB; portions of the Gulf of Maine (GOM) Cod Protection Closures; and the at-sea monitoring (ASM) coverage level for sector vessels fishing exclusively in the Southern New England (SNE) and Inshore GB Broad Stock Areas (BSA) with extra-large mesh E:\FR\FM\28APR1.SGM 28APR1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 81 / Friday, April 28, 2017 / Rules and Regulations jstallworth on DSK7TPTVN1PROD with RULES gillnets (10-inch [25.4-cm] or greater). The FMP prohibits sectors from requesting exemptions from permitting restrictions, gear restrictions designed to minimize habitat impacts, and most reporting requirements. We received operations plans and preliminary contracts for fishing years 2017 and 2018 from 19 sectors. The operations plans are similar to previously approved versions and cover two fishing years. Continuing to approve two-year sector operations plans will help streamline the process for sector managers and reduce administrative burdens for both sectors and NMFS. In addition to the approved sectors, there are several state-operated permit banks, which receive allocation based on the history of the permits owned by the states. The final rule implementing Amendment 17 to the FMP allowed a state-operated permit bank to receive an allocation without needing to comply with the administrative and procedural requirements for sectors (77 FR 16942; March 23, 2012). Instead, permit banks are required to submit a list of participating permits to us, as specified in the permit bank’s Memorandum of Agreement, to determine the ACE allocated to the permit bank. These allocations may be leased to fishermen enrolled in sectors. Although stateoperated permit banks are no longer approved through the sector approval process, they are included in this discussion of allocations because they contribute to the total allocation under the sector system. We have determined that the 19 sector operations plans and contracts that we have approved, and 21 of the 26 VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:52 Apr 27, 2017 Jkt 241001 regulatory exemptions requested, are consistent with the FMP’s goals and objectives, and meet sector requirements outlined in the regulations at § 648.87. These 19 operations plans are similar to previously approved plans. Copies of the operations plans and contracts, and the environmental assessment (EA), are available at: http://www.regulations.gov and from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). Default Catch Limits for Fishing Year 2017 Last year, Framework 55 (81 FR 26412; May 2, 2016) set fishing year 2017 catch limits for all groundfish stocks. The 2017 catch limits for most stocks remain the same as, or similar, to 2016 limits, with minor adjustments for projected stock growth or revised estimates of Canadian catch. Framework 55 did not, however, specify a 2017 catch limit for Eastern GB cod, which is a management unit of the GB cod stock that is jointly managed with Canada. In addition, the Northeast Fisheries Science Center conducted a new benchmark assessment for witch flounder in December 2016. This year, in Framework 56, the Council adopted a new 2017 catch limit for witch flounder based on the 2016 benchmark assessment, as well as 2017 catch limits for the three U.S./Canada stocks (Eastern GB cod, Eastern GB haddock, and GB yellowtail flounder). We are working to publish a proposed rule to request comments on the Framework 56 measures. Given the timing of the 2016 witch flounder stock assessment, the development and submission of Framework 56 was delayed, and it will not be possible to implement Framework 56 measures in time for May 1, 2017. PO 00000 Frm 00007 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 19619 As a result, this rule sets a default catch limit for Eastern GB cod to prevent disruption to the groundfish fishery. The default catch limit for Eastern GB cod is set at 35 percent of the previous year’s (2016) catch limit. This rule also announces the 2017 catch limits that will be effective on May 1, 2017, including the sector and common pool allocations based on the preliminary fishing year 2017 sector rosters (Table 1). The default catch limit for Eastern GB cod would be effective from May 1, 2017, through July 31, 2017, or the date on which the final rule for Framework 56 is implemented if prior to July 31. The catch limits for GB cod, GB haddock, GB yellowtail flounder, and witch flounder would be replaced once Framework 56 is implemented. In Framework 56, the Council recommended a 23-percent decrease for GB yellowtail flounder for fishing year 2017 compared to 2016, and compared to the fishing year 2017 catch limit previously set in Framework 55. The recommended decrease is based on the Transboundary Management Guidance Committee’s recommendation, which is the joint U.S./Canada management body that meets annually to recommend shared quotas for the three transboundary stocks. This recommendation will be further discussed in the Framework 56 proposed rule. We are highlighting this proposed decrease to sectors in this rule because the GB yellowtail flounder sector allocation issued in this rule is based on the higher 2017 catch limit previously approved in Framework 55. BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\28APR1.SGM 28APR1 jstallworth on DSK7TPTVN1PROD with RULES 19620 VerDate Sep<11>2014 - Jkt 241001 PO 00000 Frm 00008 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 A to H Stock E:\FR\FM\28APR1.SGM 28APR1 GB Cod* GOM Cod GB Haddock* GOM Haddock GB Yellowtail Flounder* SNE/MA Yellowtail Flounder CC/GOM Yellowtail Flounder American Plaice Witch Flounder* GB Winter Flounder GOM Winter Flounder SNE/MA Winter Flounder Redfish White Hake Pollock N. Windowpane Flounder S. Windowpane Flounder Ocean Pout Atlantic Halibut Atlantic Wolffish Total ACL Groundfish sub-ACL Preliminary Common Pool sub-ACL B State Waters subcomponent G Other subcomponent H A+B+C 730 473 46,017 4,285 608 437 44,599 4,177 596 270 44,287 2,980 12 10 312 37 23 27 484 33 99 10 484 33 261 211 208 3 42 0 3 256 187 153 34 34 5 29 409 341 325 16 43 26 1,272 441 1,218 370 1,197 361 22 9 27 12 27 59 650 590 585 5 0 60 776 639 605 34 122 16 749 585 519 67 70 94 10,514 3,448 20,374 10,183 3,340 17,817 10,126 3,314 17,701 57 26 116 111 36 1,279 221 72 1,279 177 66 66 2 109 599 104 104 37 249 155 119 77 137 91 72 137 91 72 2 25 1 17 4 3 Recreational sub-ACL Midwater Trawl Fishery Scallop Fishery Small-Mesh Fisheries c D E F 157 1,160 *Catch limit will be replaced when the fmal rule for Framework 56 becomes effective. ER28AP17.044</GPH> 450 42 209 5 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 81 / Friday, April 28, 2017 / Rules and Regulations 14:52 Apr 27, 2017 Table 1. NE Multispecies Catch Limits for 2017 Preliminary Sector sub-ACL A Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 81 / Friday, April 28, 2017 / Rules and Regulations BILLING CODE 3510–22–C jstallworth on DSK7TPTVN1PROD with RULES Sector Allocations Based on preliminary sector rosters submitted on March 20, 2017, we have projected fishing year 2017 allocations in this final rule. All permits enrolled in a sector, and the vessels associated with those permits, have until April 30, 2017, to withdraw from a sector and fish in the common pool for fishing year 2017. For fishing year 2018, we will set similar roster deadlines, notify permit holders of the fishing year 2018 deadlines, and allow permit holders to change sectors separate from the annual sector operations plans approval process. We calculate the sector’s allocation for each stock by summing its members’ potential sector contributions (PSC) for a stock and then multiplying that total percentage by the available commercial sub-ACL for that stock. Table 2 shows the projected total PSC for each sector by stock for fishing year 2017. Tables 3 and 4 show the initial allocations that each sector will be allocated, in pounds and metric tons, respectively, for fishing VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:52 Apr 27, 2017 Jkt 241001 year 2017, based on their preliminary fishing year 2017 rosters. At the start of the fishing year, we provide the final allocations, to the nearest pound, to the individual sectors, and we use those final allocations to monitor sector catch. The common pool sub-ACLs are also included in each of these tables for comparison. We do not assign a permit separate PSCs for the Eastern GB cod or Eastern GB haddock; instead, we assign each permit a PSC for the GB cod stock and GB haddock stock. Each sector’s GB cod and GB haddock allocations are then divided into an Eastern ACE and a Western ACE, based on each sector’s percentage of the GB cod and GB haddock ACLs. For example, if a sector is allocated 4 percent of the GB cod ACL and 6 percent of the GB haddock ACL, the sector is allocated 4 percent of the commercial Eastern U.S./Canada Area GB cod total allowable catch (TAC) and 6 percent of the commercial Eastern U.S./Canada Area GB haddock TAC as its Eastern GB cod and haddock ACEs. These amounts are then subtracted from PO 00000 Frm 00009 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 19621 the sector’s overall GB cod and haddock allocations to determine its Western GB cod and haddock ACEs. A sector may only harvest its Eastern GB cod and haddock ACEs in the Eastern U.S./ Canada Area, but may ‘‘convert,’’ or transfer, its Eastern GB cod or haddock allocation into Western GB allocation and fish that converted ACE outside the Eastern GB area. We expect to finalize 2016 catch information in summer 2017. We will allow sectors to transfer fishing year 2016 ACE for 2 weeks upon our completion of year-end catch accounting to reduce or eliminate any fishing year 2016 overages. If necessary, we will reduce any sector’s fishing year 2017 allocation to account for a remaining overage in fishing year 2016. We will follow the same process for fishing year 2018. Each year of the operations plans, we will notify the Council and sector managers of this deadline in writing and will announce this decision on our Web site at: http:// www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov/. BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\28APR1.SGM 28APR1 jstallworth on DSK7TPTVN1PROD with RULES 19622 VerDate Sep<11>2014 Jkt 241001 ~ ~ o E 1l. ,jlz 0 (J ii1 :;; 0 "' (J "' " 0 "' (J :;; 0 "' r~L i! ~ ~ :I: tpercentage) eacn sector womo receive oy stocK tor nsnmg ear .l.Ult ... :;; " g 0, "~ " ii :u mJ"g = <C:;;:u ~J"g ;z:~:U OJ'g B <n~U:: §i~ (J>"" ·;; w "0 ~ 0 ~>"" z=o 0 ~ 0: fii i ~ ;;: B lii ~"' i; s~ .: .g ;;: ; <( ~ :I: w-~ .!! ~ ~ .,.2 :;;.2 "'"" 2.33905249 2.78896863 0"- . .l! ~ :;;.!!"' ~==~ ~ Frm 00010 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4725 2.05986188 0.01410317 0.37015063 3.06163632 1.00120862 2.15174107 0.02840963 " 13.60089150 Maine Coast Community Sector 64 0.96681005 9.52130659 0.96065073 6.34858867 1.58666588 1.27352349 3.25375532 9.90276015 7.47002898 0.66990195 3.11274949 1.48754318 5.95496715 10.49289957 10.68115015 Maine Permit Bank 11 0.13359371 1.15229526 0.04432773 1.12267471 0.01377700 0.03180706 0.31762428 1.16396845 0.72685826 0.00021716 0.42608652 0.01789057 0.82179392 1.65260336 NCCS 31 0.39767691 2.09639037 0.35133778 1.53239089 0.83924990 0.70058623 1.89733263 0.61211670 1.25009064 0.05429194 2.14164276 0.70544113 0.99917766 1.95739966 1.76182806 NEFS1 3 0.00000000 0.03068546 0.00000000 0.00248698 0.00000000 0.00000000 0.03756612 0.00855916 0.01274888 0.00000096 0.05214631 0.00000323 0.00000000 0.00000000 0.00000000 NEFS2 86 5.85541718 18.55271390 10.66649307 17.12546537 1.86551235 1.73025022 19.85266791 NEFS3 56 0.73328653 9.91701816 0.05053684 6.81841846 0.04401911 0.06601225 6.08162313 2.07048057 1.68826788 0.01361530 6.98897919 0.40775084 0.75394968 3.23935331 3.96316950 NEFS4 51 4.15307137 9.97051530 5.34806481 8.39956066 2.16156175 2.35080531 5.47382222 9.29315100 8.49568840 0.69179797 6.31786267 1.28099662 6.71055733 8.07912629 6.31919085 NEFS5 26 0.48697009 0.00070532 0.81553839 0.00357186 1.27642416 21.85972631 0.20637978 0.43352335 0.56559236 0.43634226 0.02248155 12.62851159 0.01572242 0.10890777 0.04252833 NEFS6 PO 00000 114 28.55088469 2.98184781 "' "' 6.34066056 22 2.86957812 2.96017293 2.92681853 3.84084576 2.70263541 5.27021762 3.73595895 3.89175649 5.20520629 1.50474419 4.56247441 3.91460371 3.30548119 3.41209604 1.28133136 Fixed Gear Sector/FGS 8.01301842 1.69358132 9.45690548 13.25717042 3.20670608 18.97105983 3.50585010 14.84594282 6.44691098 11.38834524 1.93853382 5.31060100 NEFS7 20 1.25480636 0.80376681 1.35247704 0.59037186 2.47183060 2.26724135 0.73975638 0.93610137 2.38588460 0.80357683 0.35693646 0.55809083 0.45451036 NEFSB 16 6.51790722 0.15594187 5.94719762 0.06821334 10.63224074 5.21885960 2.59779718 2.08752528 2.44109420 21.16004781 0.68022107 8.97265613 0.50683898 0.46632724 0.61322607 6.36126311 E:\FR\FM\28APR1.SGM NEFS9 60 13.16828902 3.01666261 11.24352608 7.39149111 25.19220000 8.72232143 10.61700121 9.70689545 9.41350439 32.56133094 2.94647951 17.95005455 9.05149193 6.37855417 NEFS 10 27 0.33828109 0.16461659 1.24660884 0.00114042 0.54741703 4.00884630 0.93107515 1.69016836 0.01083151 8.95328087 0.48768027 0.32509525 0.61408857 0.69606092 NEFS11 52 0.40629927 12.45006609 0.03722788 3.08313551 0.00149970 0.01949288 2.52128782 2.08085291 1.98241521 0.00330849 2.13135985 0.02152270 1.96478551 4.72755390 9.01991409 NEFS 12 19 0.63151303 1.04520246 0.00042969 0.01049524 7.95034035 0.50391090 0.56855101 0.00043898 7.66448782 0.21889325 0.22950555 0.29535685 0.82496955 NEFS 13 62 12.18285679 0.90896251 20.11363366 1.05046789 34.49943811 21.02740300 8.83804125 8.48405225 9.29843980 17.82189215 3.04937928 16.60357909 4.28302829 2.14904573 2.61919403 4 0.00082205 1.14256555 0.00003406 0.03229444 0.00002026 0.00001788 0.02178570 0.02847521 0.00615947 0.00000324 0.06062793 0.00003630 0.01939980 0.08127664 0.11125510 30 2.67295101 5.96556815 2.52270202 4.76510605 0.96587585 0.31532637 3.22108149 6.40294382 4.35110313 5.73641170 4.67381419 0.82222986 6.07538462 8.41351804 7.28519039 14 0.28812111 0.29347573 0.40165710 0.07151001 2.20948828 2.24516980 0.84146135 0.71550373 0.61479620 0.45961600 0.93029859 1.10566785 0.26110454 0.33427366 0.26502607 New Hampshire Permit Bank Sustainable Harvest Sector 1 Sustainable Harvest Sector2 28APR1 ER28AP17.045</GPH> 5.84241146 Sustainable Harvest Sector3 Common Pool 2.34583468 2.98152458 0.09401144 70 16.45431014 9.19155572 29.91874848 32.18195071 11.05985642 7.43666217 500 1.93655425 3.56042462 0.69973960 1.22178256 8.55607607 28.70228915 25.53629888 13.53562739 4.99272245 17.32857563 38.16429030 33.47229065 23.92968571 1.52176575 18.33192486 4.64087327 * The data in this table are based on preliminary fishing year 2017 sector rosters. 1.78228978 2.33797478 0.82313297 5.33506961 11.37415396 0.56045817 0.77540961 0.65141150 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 81 / Friday, April 28, 2017 / Rules and Regulations 14:52 Apr 27, 2017 laDle .l.. Lummanve ~ ~ jstallworth on DSK7TPTVN1PROD with RULES VerDate Sep<11>2014 Sector Name Jkt 241001 FGS -= .... = =~ \.!) PO 00000 MPB \.!) u ~ 30 ~ 0 0 Frm 00011 6 4 Fmt 4700 NEFS5 NEFS6 3 NEFS7 Sfmt 4725 NEFS8 NEFS9 NEFS 10 E:\FR\FM\28APR1.SGM NEFS II NHPB SHS I SHS2 28APR1 SHS3 Common Pool Sector Total 13 0 3 0 18 2 104 I I I I I I I I \.!)~~ 7 13 0 61 62 0 18 5 1 2,866 434 20 159 4,821 23 2,417 369 1,323 5,667 27 2,841 433 1,555 719 3,160 5,974 87 20 50 10,686 0 1,340 213 15,896 611 1 I 19 14 77 18 6 7 37 2 57 2,688 5,081 74 17 42 9,090 0 1,140 182 13,522 22 316 1,210 I I I I I I I 595 I ~ ~ o-= \.!)~ = 3,369 510 24 187 24 I 7 14 0 0 NEFS 12 NEFS 13 18 59 72 I 115 9 51 6 35 15 80 162 4 5 8 150 0 33 4 203 .:c =.g ~ =.g ~ = = \.!) 352 I 12 I 2 I 5 .:c .... ... \.!)~~ ~ 0 18 ~ NEFS3 NEFS4 ....... Q NEFSI NEFS2 .:c u Q MCCS NCCS -= -= 44,879 == "' =i~ r~ = ~ Q,j '-" = ~s Q Q 81 6,570 1 i~ Oi-8 \.!) = Q,j Q Q Q Q,j- 7 0 10 90 372 I 52,757 Q,j 9 0 10 1 I I I ~ 2 6 13 16 49 117 0 0 0 160 0 4 10 51 I I I I I I I I I I I == "' ~ 0 7 0 4 137 422 75 102 0 1,139 453 559 0 255 39 5 492 83 205 70 70 2 317 5 2,141 1 :; "' ~ = -u. =.s .!:! . = £ Z = oo;;..roo. u;;..roo. ~ 5 0 3 22 10 22 36 2 0 0 87 0 Q,j 23 24 2 14 0 149 46 41 2 28 17 20 80 30 19 60 66 9 31 0 24 6 64 7 76 35 458 337 -= -= .i-8 ~ "' ... § ~ § .1:: Q,j ~.s ... 27 18 266 61 31 6 16 10 0 0 254 I 108 56 I 14 250 I 69 5 12 I 105 I 42 20 I 8 56 I 20 261 I 77 25 I 14 56 I 16 14 I 5 228 I 76 1I 0 172 I 35 5 19 I 771 I 208 48 I 717 I 2,637 "' =.s ~.-'""' 0 9 0 0 42 0 9 6 20 17 275 424 0 0 0 232 0 75 6 176 ~ ~ 0 .9 ~ "' -8 < "' -= "":' § ~ ... 1.-'~.S 192 44 6 30 1 267 98 89 0 64 34 10 42 126 30 108 43 -= "' = -= Q,j .9 § ~ z~.s 00 ... 30 19 0 9 0 45 5 17 163 25 10 11 75 797 I 1,290 1,334 1,143 ~ ~ 430 773 122 144 3,147 4,196 665 692 52 962 4 1,364 59 8,568 475 239 595 8 288 41 34 470 45 348 22 158 6 620 25 2,465 4,473 1,557 2,482 17 1,298 179 241 2,499 273 3,543 324 1,029 126 147 19 ~ Q Q,j 3,333 169 1,506 4 1,192 80 114 2,032 73 116 13 70 1 .:c ... ~ = 626 1,337 184 224 232 6 0 3 214 0 11 14 223 66 ~ 57 256 22,324 7,306 441 1 44 2,862 104 9,400 1 39,024 *The data in this table are based on preliminary fishing year 2017 sector rosters. ~umbers are rounded to the nearest thousand pounds. In some cases, this table shows an allocation of 0, but that sector may be allocated a small amount of that stock in tens or hundreds pounds. 1\ The data in the table represent the total allocations to each sector. Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 81 / Friday, April 28, 2017 / Rules and Regulations 14:52 Apr 27, 2017 Table 3. ACE (in 1,000 lbs), by stock, for each sector for fishing year 2017.*#A 19623 ER28AP17.046</GPH> jstallworth on DSK7TPTVN1PROD with RULES 19624 VerDate Sep<11>2014 Sector Name = ~ "0 0 ... .. "' ~ "0 0 Jkt 241001 PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 E:\FR\FM\28APR1.SGM 28APR1 Common Pool Sector Total u \.!) FGS MCCS MPB NCCS NEFS 1 NEFS2 NEFS3 NEFS4 NEFS5 NEFS6 NEFS7 NEFS8 NEFS9 NEFS 10 NEFS 11 NEFS 12 NEFS 13 NHPB SHS 1 SHS2 SHS3 u "0 0 u ~ \.!) = = 14 0 0 0 160 5 1 2 0 \.!) .. AL~ .. ..:.: 0 :gt;; == =~ = \.!) "0 ... "0 "' = .. =~ = 1,528 232 11 85 - - 2,187 10 1,096 167 600 277 1,219 2,305 34 8 19 4,123 0 517 82 6,133 2,571 12 1,289 197 705 326 1,433 2,710 40 9 23 4,847 0 608 97 7,210 62 192 34 46 0 517 206 253 0 116 18 2 223 38 93 32 32 1 144 2 971 33 4 23 3 16 7 36 74 2 2 4 68 0 15 2 92 1 11 10 143 169 47 549 270 20,357 23,930 0 "0 ~ ~ \.!) 3 0 2 0 1 1 3 6 0 0 0 6 0 1 0 8 - "0 "0 0 8 27 3 6 0 52 28 28 0 8 2 0 8 7 35 8 3 3 17 1 26 - "0 0 \.!) 1,300 197 9 72 .. ""' .. .. =; ""' ""' ""' ~ ~ ~ =""' ~ =""' = .. \.!)~] .. = ~~ 1: .. = .. = .. = == ~ 3 .. = ><.s oo;::r;:: u == = -= =.s orz~ z = u;::rz . 3 ~ =""' .. ""' ..:.: ..:.: 0 vn metnc tons), oy stocK, 10r eacn sector 10r nsmn g year ~Ult.A # " ~"0 0 0 ...... 0 ""' -~ 0 0 .<: \.!) "'""' ~ 1 2 0 1 0 3 0 2 ~] ~ ~ ·~ \.!) "0 ~~ .... ~ z ""' 00~ ~ -= "' = .. "0 ~ ~ 284 606 84 102 = .= .<: -= ~ 195 350 55 65 .. ..:.: 0 =; ~ 12 121 14 7 0 115 25 113 5 47 9 25 118 11 25 6 103 0 78 9 350 8 28 3 5 0 49 6 31 2 19 3 9 35 6 7 2 34 0 16 2 94 0 4 0 0 0 19 0 4 3 9 8 125 192 0 0 0 105 0 34 3 80 87 20 3 14 0 121 45 40 0 29 15 4 19 57 14 49 19 0 30 6 32 14 9 0 4 0 21 2 7 74 11 5 52 105 3 0 1 97 0 5 6 101 1,428 1,903 302 314 - - - 1,512 77 683 2 541 36 52 922 33 200 23 436 2 619 27 3,886 215 108 270 4 131 19 16 213 21 158 10 72 3 281 11 1,118 2,029 706 1,126 8 589 81 109 1,133 124 1,607 147 467 20 1,298 47 4,264 4 0 5 3 6 7 22 53 0 0 0 73 0 2 5 23 3 0 4 41 10 5 10 16 1 0 0 39 0 1 4 14 10 11 1 6 0 68 21 19 1 13 8 9 36 14 9 27 30 0 11 3 29 37 3 34 16 22 9 5 34 67 57 26 116 2,980 208 153 325 1,196 361 585 605 518 10,126 3,314 17,701 - - *The data in this table are based on preliminary fishing year 2017 sector rosters. ~umbers are rounded to the nearest metric ton, but allocations are made in pounds. In some cases, this table shows a sector allocation of 0 metric tons, but that sector may be allocated a small amount of that stock in pounds. 1\ The data in the table represent the total allocations to each sector. ER28AP17.047</GPH> Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 81 / Friday, April 28, 2017 / Rules and Regulations 14:52 Apr 27, 2017 ... "' 1 ame '1. Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 81 / Friday, April 28, 2017 / Rules and Regulations BILLING CODE 3510–22–C Sector Operations Plans and Contracts Approved Sectors As previously stated, we received and are approving 19 sector operations plans and contracts for fishing years 2017 and 2018. In order to approve a sector’s operations plan for fishing years 2017 and 2018, we consider whether a sector has been compliant with reporting requirements from previous years, including the year-end reporting requirements found at § 648.87(b)(1)(vi)(C). Approved operations plans, provided on our Web site as a single document for each sector, not only contain the rules under which each sector would fish, but also provide the legal contract that binds each member to the sector for the length of the sector’s operations plan. Each sector’s operations plan, and each sector’s members, must comply with the regulations governing sectors, found at § 648.87. In addition, each sector must conduct fishing activities as detailed in its approved operations plan. Participating vessels are required to comply with all pertinent Federal fishing regulations, except as specifically exempted in the letter of authorization (LOA) issued by the Regional Administrator, which details any approved sector exemptions from the regulations. If, during a fishing year, or between fishing years 2017 and 2018, a sector requests an exemption that we have already granted, or proposes a change to administrative provisions, we may amend the sector operations plans. Should any such amendments require modifications to LOAs, we would include these changes in updated LOAs and provide them to the appropriate sectors. As in previous years, we retain the right to revoke exemptions in-season if: We determine that the exemption jeopardizes management measures, objectives, or rebuilding efforts; the exemption results in unforeseen negative impacts on other managed fish stocks, habitat, or protected resources; the exemption causes enforcement concerns; catch from trips utilizing the exemption cannot adequately be monitored; or a sector is not meeting certain administrative or operational requirements. If it becomes necessary to revoke an exemption, we will do so through a process consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act. Each sector is required to ensure that it does not exceed its ACE during the fishing year. Sector vessels are required to retain all legal-sized allocated NE multispecies stocks, unless a sector is granted an exemption allowing its member vessels to discard legal-sized unmarketable fish at sea. Catch (defined as landings and dead discards) of all allocated NE multispecies stocks by a sector’s vessels count against the sector’s allocation. Catch from a sector trip targeting dogfish, monkfish, skate, and lobster (with non-trap gear) would be deducted from the sector’s ACE because these are groundfish trips using gear capable of catching groundfish. This includes trips that have declared into the small-mesh exemption described below, because vessels fishing under this sector exemption, (i.e., vessels fishing with both small mesh and large mesh during the same trip) are considered to be on a sector trip for purposes of monitoring ACE. Catch from a non-sector trip in an exempted fishery does not count against a sector’s allocation and is assigned to a separate ACL sub-component to account for any 19625 groundfish bycatch that occurs in nongroundfish fisheries. In fishing years 2010 and 2011, we funded an ASM program with a target ASM coverage level of 30 percent of all trips. In addition, we provided 8percent observer coverage through the Northeast Fishery Observer Program (NEFOP), which helps to support the Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology (SBRM) and stock assessments. This resulted in an overall target coverage level of 38 percent for fishing years 2010 and 2011, between ASM and NEFOP. Beginning in fishing year 2012, we have conducted an annual analysis to determine the total target coverage level. Industry has been required to pay for their costs of ASM coverage since 2012, while we continued to fund NEFOP coverage. However, we were able to fund the industry’s portion of ASM costs and NEFOP coverage in fishing years 2012 through most of 2015. Industry began paying for their portion of the ASM program in March 2016. In June 2016, after determining that the SBRM monitoring program could be fully funded, NOAA Fisheries announced that we had remaining funds to offset some of industry’s costs of the groundfish ASM program in 2016. We provided a grant to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) to reimburse sectors for 85 percent of their costs for at-sea monitoring. We expect that there will be funds remaining in the grant to the ASMFC at the end of the 2016 fishing year that will be available to reimburse sectors for a portion of their ASM costs in fishing year 2017. We have not yet determined the reimbursement rate for 2017. However, it may be lower than 85 percent. Table 5 shows the target coverage level in previous fishing years. TABLE 5—HISTORIC TARGET COVERAGE LEVEL FOR MONITORING Total target coverage level (%) Fishing year jstallworth on DSK7TPTVN1PROD with RULES 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 ........................................................................................................................... ........................................................................................................................... ........................................................................................................................... ........................................................................................................................... ........................................................................................................................... ........................................................................................................................... ........................................................................................................................... Sectors are responsible for paying the at-sea portion of costs associated with the sector ASM program and for designing, implementing, and funding an ASM program that will provide the level of ASM coverage specified VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:52 Apr 27, 2017 Jkt 241001 38 38 25 22 26 16 14 annually. We are required to specify a level of ASM coverage using a process described in Framework 55 that attempts to balance minimizing the cost burden to sectors and NMFS to the extent practicable, while still providing PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 ASM target coverage level (%) 30 30 17 14 18 12 10 NEFOP target coverage level (%) 8 8 8 8 8 4 4 a reliable estimate of overall catch by sectors needed for monitoring ACEs and ACLs. Using this method, NMFS has determined that the total appropriate target coverage level for fishing year 2017 is 16 percent of all eligible sector E:\FR\FM\28APR1.SGM 28APR1 19626 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 81 / Friday, April 28, 2017 / Rules and Regulations jstallworth on DSK7TPTVN1PROD with RULES trips. Federally-funded observer coverage provided by NEFOP to meet SBRM will partially satisfy the 16percent coverage requirement, so sectors will pay for ASM coverage on less than 16 percent of their groundfish trips. We will use discards derived from these observed and monitored trips to calculate and apply discards to unobserved sector trips. We have published a more detailed summary of the supporting information, explanation and justification for this decision at: http:// www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov/ ro/fso/reports/Sectors/ASM/FY2017_ Multispecies_Sector_ASM_ Requirements_Summary.pdf. The draft operations plans submitted in September 2016 included industryfunded ASM plans to be used for fishing year 2017. As in previous years, we gave sectors the option to design their own programs in compliance with regulations, or elect to adopt the NMFSdesigned ASM program that we have used in previous fishing years. As in past years, several sectors chose to adopt the NMFS-designed program while others proposed programs of their own design. Sector-designed ASM programs for fishing years 2017 and 2018 were similar to those approved in past years. We reviewed all sectorproposed ASM programs for consistency with ASM requirements and have approved them. ASM programs proposed by the sectors are described in detail later in this final rule. Each sector contract details the method for initial ACE sub-allocation to sector members. For fishing years 2017 and 2018, each sector has proposed that each sector member could harvest an amount of fish equal to the amount each individual member’s permit contributed to the sector, as modified by the sector for reserves or other management measures. Each sector operations plan submitted for fishing years 2017 and 2018 states that the sector would withhold an initial reserve from the sector’s ACE sub-allocation to each individual member to prevent the sector from exceeding its ACE. A sector and sector members can be held jointly and severally liable for ACE overages, discarding legal-sized fish, and/or misreporting catch (landings or discards). Each sector contract provides procedures for enforcement of the VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:52 Apr 27, 2017 Jkt 241001 sector’s rules, explains sector monitoring and reporting requirements, provides sector managers with the authority to issue stop fishing orders to sector members who violate provisions of the operations plan and contract, and presents a schedule of penalties that managers may levy for sector plan violations. Sectors are required to monitor their allocations and catch. To help ensure that a sector does not exceed its ACE, each sector operations plan explains sector monitoring and reporting requirements, including a requirement to submit weekly catch reports to us. If a sector reaches an ACE threshold (specified in the operations plan), the sector must provide us with sector allocation usage reports on a daily basis. Once a sector’s allocation for a particular stock is caught, that sector is required to cease all sector fishing operations in that stock area until it acquires more ACE, likely by an ACE transfer between sectors. Within 60 days of when we complete year-end catch accounting, each sector is required to submit an annual report detailing the sector’s catch (landings and discards), enforcement actions, and pertinent information necessary to evaluate the biological, economic, and social impacts of each sector. Future Consideration of 2017 Sector Operations An ongoing case, United States v. Carlos Rafael, may affect sector operations for the 2017 fishing year. On March 30, 2017, Carlos Rafael pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges involving falsely reporting catch information on dealer reports and vessel trip reports. All of the vessels involved were enrolled in NEFS 9 during the period of misreporting, are currently enrolled in the sector for fishing year 2016, and are on the preliminary sector roster for fishing year 2017. Sentencing for these violations is currently scheduled for June 27, 2017, and may provide additional information that could affect sector operations. Because the case is ongoing, we are approving the NEFS 9 operations plan at this time. However, we intend to take into account additional information regarding NEFS 9 operations as it becomes available and take further action, as necessary, including consideration of further PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 management or monitoring requirements and continued approval of the sector. Granted Exemptions for Fishing Years 2017 and 2018 Previously Granted Exemptions Granted for Fishing Years 2017 and 2018 (1–20) We are granting exemptions from the following requirements for fishing years 2017 and 2018, all of which have been requested and granted in previous years: (1) 120-day block out of the fishery required for Day gillnet vessels; (2) 20day spawning block out of the fishery required for all vessels; (3) prohibition on a vessel hauling another vessel’s gillnet gear; (4) limits on the number of gillnets that may be hauled on GB when fishing under a NE multispecies/ monkfish DAS; (5) limits on the number of hooks that may be fished; (6) DAS Leasing Program length and horsepower restrictions; (7) prohibition on discarding; (8) daily catch reporting by sector managers for sector vessels participating in the Closed Area (CA) I Hook Gear Haddock Special Access Program (SAP); (9) prohibition on fishing inside and outside of the CA I Hook Gear Haddock SAP while on the same trip; (10) prohibition on a vessel hauling another vessel’s hook gear; (11) the requirement to declare an intent to fish in the Eastern U.S./Canada SAP and the CA II Yellowtail Flounder/Haddock SAP prior to leaving the dock; (12) gear requirements in the Eastern U.S./Canada Management Area; (13) seasonal restrictions for the Eastern U.S./Canada Haddock SAP; (14) seasonal restrictions for the CA II Yellowtail Flounder/ Haddock SAP; (15) sampling exemption; (16) prohibition on groundfish trips in the Nantucket Lightship Closed Area; (17) prohibition on combining smallmesh exempted fishery and sector trips in Southern New England; (18) limits on the number of gillnets for day gillnet vessels fishing outside the GOM; (19) 6.5-inch minimum mesh size requirement for trawl nets to allow a 5.5 inch codend on directed redfish trips; and (20) extra-large mesh requirement to target dogfish on trips excluded from ASM in SNE and Inshore GB. A detailed description of the previously granted exemptions and supporting rationale can be found in the applicable final rules identified in Table 6 below. E:\FR\FM\28APR1.SGM 28APR1 19627 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 81 / Friday, April 28, 2017 / Rules and Regulations TABLE 6—EXEMPTIONS FROM PREVIOUS FISHING YEARS THAT ARE GRANTED IN FISHING YEARS 2017 AND 2018 Exemptions Rulemaking Date of publication 1–8, 12 ............... 9–11 ................... 13–15 ................. 16 ....................... 17–19 ................. 20 ....................... Fishing Year 2011 Sector Operations Final Rule ................................ Fishing Year 2012 Sector Operations Final Rule ................................ Fishing Year 2013 Sector Operations Interim Final Rule .................... Fishing Year 2014 Sector Operations Final Rule ................................ Fishing Years 2015–2016 Sector Operations Final Rule ..................... Framework 55 Final Rule ..................................................................... April 25, 2011 ................................ May 2, 2012 .................................. May 2, 2013 .................................. April 28, 2014 ................................ May 1, 2015 .................................. May 2, 2016 .................................. Citation 76 77 78 79 80 81 FR FR FR FR FR FR 23076. 26129. 25591. 23278. 25143. 26412. NE Multispecies Federal Register documents can be found at http://www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov/sustainable/species/multispecies/. jstallworth on DSK7TPTVN1PROD with RULES New Exemption Granted for Fishing Years 2017 and 2018 (21) Requirement To Carry a VMS for Handgear A Vessels Fishing in a Single Broad Stock Area Sectors are prohibited from requesting exemptions from reporting requirements. However, Amendment 18 included a measure that allows a sector to request a VMS exemption for Handgear A vessels, and we are granting this exemption for the 2017 and 2018 fishing years. Because the cost of VMS units is often a significant barrier to sector participation for handgear vessels, this exemption is intended to increase Handgear A vessel participation in sectors. Handgear A vessels using the VMS exemption (enrolled in a sector that has the exemption and fishing in a single broad stock area) must declare the start of trips to NMFS using the interactive voice response (IVR) system. Vessels must also declare their trip end through IVR, similar to a VMS trip end hail. To ensure that catch and discards are reported to the correct broad stock area, Handgear A vessels may only use the VMS exemption when fishing in a single broad stock area. Handgear vessels intending to fish in multiple broad stock areas (for example, Gulf of Maine and Inshore Georges Bank) must declare their trip through a VMS system and submit daily VMS catch reports when fishing inside and outside of the Gulf of Maine on the same trip. A VMS unit is also required when fishing in the Eastern and Western U.S./Canada Areas, and may be required for some sector exemptions or special access areas, and this exemption does not waive those requirements. Handgear A vessels using the VMS exemption are still required to call into the pre-trip notification system (PTNS) at least 48 hours prior to the start of a trip to facilitate ASM selection procedures. Additionally, all other reporting and monitoring requirements still apply, including the requirement to complete a vessel trip report (VTR) and declare their trip end before beginning to offload. We expect the requirement to VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:52 Apr 27, 2017 Jkt 241001 complete a VTR and declare a trip end before offloading to assist with coordinating dockside enforcement and sampling. As with other exemptions, sectors that have requested the exemption must include it in their operations plan, and have their plan approved, in order for their sector members to use the exemption. We will monitor the use of this exemption and update requirements, as necessary. Denied Fishing Years 2017 and 2018 Exemption Requests We are denying five exemption requests. Three of these requests sought to allow the use of nets with mesh smaller than the minimum mesh size to target healthy stocks. We are denying these exemptions because of concerns about bycatch of undersized groundfish, concerns about impacts on stocks in poor condition, like cod, and a lack of available data to support approval. Increasing fishing opportunities to catch healthy stocks is important, but we must ensure that these opportunities do not negatively affect stocks in poor condition. As such, testing these concepts and collecting data necessary to support future exemption requests are needed. These ideas should be pursued through experimental fishing permits and other research to collect data useful in evaluating their effectiveness. We are also denying an exemption request that would allow certain gillnet vessels to leave nets in the water between trips because this could undermine effort controls in the Monkfish FMP due to interactions between that plan and the groundfish FMP. Because of the complicated interplay between this exemption request and multiple FMP’s we have forwarded this request to the New England Council for their consideration in future groundfish or monkfish actions, should they choose. We are denying the VMS powerdown exemption because of a lack of compliance with the requirements of the exemptions when it was granted in previous years. In years when this exemption was granted, we worked with sectors to improve use of this PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 exemption; however, compliance did not improve. As a result, we did not approve this exemption for fishing years 2015 and 2016. Requests for this exemption for fishing years 2017 and 2018 did not include any additional requirements or information that would suggest use of this exemption would improve from previous years. For these reasons, we do not have confidence that compliance with this exemption would be adequate, which would undermine our ability to adequately monitor the fishery. For these reasons, we are again denying this exemption. Exemption We Propose To Modify Modifications to the Sectors Small-Mesh Fishery Exemption Area We received a request to modify the area for an approved exemption (17) that allows the use of small-mesh and large mesh trawl gear on a sector trip in portions of Southern New England. As approved in fishing years 2015 and 2016, and in this rule for fishing years 2017 and 2018, the exemption allows vessels to combine sector and smallmesh fishery trips by first targeting groundfish with large mesh and then switching to small-mesh mid-trip to target exempted fishery species. There are additional requirements for gear modifications on the small-mesh portion of the trip to reduce bycatch of groundfish, and all legal groundfish caught on the small-mesh portion of the trip must be kept and counted against the sector’s allocation. A vessel using this exemption is still required to meet the same NEFOP and ASM coverage as groundfish trips, and is also required to submit a VMS catch report when switching gears. The current small-mesh sector exemption area as described in the Final 2015 and 2016 Sector Rule (80 FR 25143, May 1 2015) includes two discrete areas, one that parallels the southern shore of Long Island to the waters just off Narragansett Bay, and a second area south of Martha’s Vineyard (see Figure 1). The request was to modify the area to include all of statistical areas 537, 539 and 613, which would expand the geographic footprint E:\FR\FM\28APR1.SGM 28APR1 19628 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 81 / Friday, April 28, 2017 / Rules and Regulations closed areas or southern windowpane flounder accountability measure (AM) areas, regardless of whether the AM areas are triggered. We are excluding the overlapping southern windowpane flounder AM areas because of concerns about interactions with windowpane flounder and other regulated groundfish of the exemption area, to better reflect fishing practices in the area and increase efficiency and opportunities for sector vessels (see Figure 2). We are proposing to grant the modification to the exemption area, as requested, but the exemption would not be applicable to any areas that overlap groundfish species within the AM area. As with all sector exemptions, we will continue to monitor the use of the updated exemption, as well as any changes to AM areas by the New England Council, in future consideration of this exemption. BILLING CODE 3510–22–P Figure 1. Current Sectors Small-Mesh Fishery Exemption Areas, and Overlapping Southern Windowpane Accountability Measure and Groundfish Closed Areas . • Sectors Smal~sh Fishery Exemption Area IX'X'X:l Nantucket Lightship ~ ClosedArea ~:::~:=:~ Southern Windowpane ··•···•·· Rounder Small AM Area ~ Southern Windowpane ~ Flounder large AM Area 1 Figure 2. Proposed Sectors Small-Mesh Fishery Exemption Area, and Overlapping Southern Windowpane Accountability Measure and Groundfish Closed Areas . • Requested Exemption (StatAreas labeled) IX50<:l Nantucket Lightship Southern Windowpane ~Southern Windowpane ER28AP17.049</GPH> ~ Flounder Large AM Area 1 VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:52 Apr 27, 2017 Jkt 241001 PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 E:\FR\FM\28APR1.SGM 28APR1 ER28AP17.048</GPH> jstallworth on DSK7TPTVN1PROD with RULES I22:Q9 Closed Area ~ t:::::::::l Flounder Small AM Area Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 81 / Friday, April 28, 2017 / Rules and Regulations BILLING CODE 3510–22–C trips must be landed and the associated landed weight (dealer or VTR) will be deducted from the sector’s ACE. jstallworth on DSK7TPTVN1PROD with RULES Modified Exemption Reporting Requirements Changes to the Reporting Requirements for the Exemption From the Extra-Large Mesh Requirement To Target Dogfish on Trips Excluded From ASM Last year, Framework 55 removed the ASM coverage requirement for sector trips using gillnets with extra-large mesh (10 inches (25.4 cm) or greater) in the SNE and Inshore GB Broad Stock Areas. We also approved a sector exemption that allows vessels on these ASM-excluded sector trips to target dogfish using 6.5-inch (16.5-cm) mesh gillnet gear within the footprint and season of either the Nantucket Shoals Dogfish Exemption Area (June 1 to October 15), the Eastern Area of the Cape Cod Spiny Dogfish Exemption Area (June 1 to December 31), or the Southern New England Dogfish Gillnet Exemption Area (May 1 to October 31). At the time, we announced that we would closely monitor the exemption during the 2016 fishing year to evaluate whether additional reporting measures are necessary. In order to improve the monitoring of this exemption, and to be consistent with reporting requirements of similar exemptions, we are updating the reporting requirements for this exemption beginning in the 2017 fishing year. In addition to the PTNS requirement, a vessel is now required to declare its intent to use gillnets with extra-large mesh (10 inches (25.4 cm) or greater) in the SNE/MA and Inshore GB Broad Stock Areas by submitting a trip start hail through its VMS unit prior to departure. This trip start hail will be used for monitoring and enforcement purposes. Trips declaring this exemption must stow their regulated mesh gear and use their extra large mesh (10 inches (25.4 cm) or greater) first. Also starting fishing year 2017, the vessel, once finished with the extralarge mesh portion of the trip, must submit a Multispecies Catch Report via VMS with a good faith estimate of all catch on board, and an indication of the switch to regulated mesh. The vessel could then fish with regulated mesh within the allowable dogfish exemption areas, and comply with the remaining requirements of a sector trip, including the submission of VTRs, a trip end hail, and a final Multispecies Catch Report. We will continue to closely monitor this exemption to evaluate whether additional reporting measures are necessary. While sector trips using this exemption are exempt from ASM coverage, any legal-sized allocated groundfish stocks caught during these VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:52 Apr 27, 2017 Jkt 241001 Additional Sector Operations Plan Provisions Inshore GOM Restrictions Several sectors have proposed an operations plan provision to limit and more accurately document a vessel’s behavior when fishing in an area they define as the inshore portion of the GOM BSA, or the area to the west of 70°15′ W. long. As in fishing years 2015 and 2016, we are approving this provision, but note that a sector may elect to remove this provision in the final version of its operations plan, and it is not a requirement under NMFS regulations. Under this provision, a vessel that is carrying an observer or at-sea monitor would remain free to fish in all areas, including the inshore GOM area, without restriction. If a vessel is not carrying an observer or at-sea monitor and fishes any part of its trip in the GOM west of 70°15′ W. long., the vessel would be prohibited from fishing outside of the GOM BSA. Also, if a vessel is not carrying an observer or atsea monitor and fishes any part of its trip outside the GOM BSA, this provision would prohibit a vessel from fishing west of 70°15′ W. long. within the GOM BSA. The approved provision includes a requirement that a vessel declare whether it intends to fish in the inshore GOM area through the trip start hail using its VMS unit prior to departure. We provide sector managers with the ability to monitor this provision through the Sector Information Management Module, a Web site where we also provide roster, trip, discard, and observer information to sector managers. A sector vessel may use a federally funded NEFOP observer or at-sea monitor on these trips because we believe it will not create bias in coverage or discard estimates, as fishing behavior is not expected to change as a result of this provision. Prohibition on a Vessel Hauling Another Vessel’s Trap Gear To Target Groundfish Several sectors have requested a provision to allow a vessel to haul another vessel’s fish trap gear, similar to the current exemptions that allow a vessel to haul another vessel’s gillnet gear or hook gear. These exemptions have generally been referred to as ‘‘community’’ gear exemptions. Regulations at § 648.84(a) require a vessel to mark all bottom-tending fixed gear, which would include fish trap gear PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 19629 used to target groundfish. To facilitate enforcement of this regulation, we are requiring that any community fish trap gear be tagged by each vessel that plans to haul the gear, similar to how this sector operations plan provision was implemented in fishing years 2014 through 2016. This allows one vessel to deploy the trap gear and another vessel to haul the trap gear, provided both vessels tag the gear prior to deployment. This requirement is included in the sector’s operations plan to provide the opportunity for the sector to monitor the use of this provision and ensure that the Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) and the U.S. Coast Guard can enforce the marking requirement. At-Sea Monitoring Proposals For fishing years 2017 and 2018, each sector is required to develop and fund an approved ASM program. In the event we cannot approve a proposed ASM program we asked all sectors to include an option to use the current NMFSdesigned ASM program as a back-up. Sustainable Harvest Sectors 1, 2, and 3, GB Cod Fixed Gear Sector, Northeast Coastal Communities Sector, and Maine Coast Community Sector have proposed to use the ASM program that was developed by NMFS. We approve this program for these sectors because it is consistent with goals and objectives of monitoring, and with regulatory requirements. Sectors that operate only as permit banks, and explicitly prohibit fishing in their operations plans, are not required to include provisions for an ASM program. We approve the ASM programs proposed by the remaining 12 sectors, which state that they will: Contract with a NMFS-approved ASM provider; meet the specified coverage level; and utilize the PTNS for random selection of monitored trips and notification to providers. These ASM programs also include additional protocols for ASM coverage waivers, incident reporting, and safety requirements for their sector mangers and members. We have determined that the programs are consistent with the goals and objectives of at-sea monitoring, and within the regulatory requirements. Classification Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), the NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this interim final rule is consistent with the NE Multispecies FMP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law. E:\FR\FM\28APR1.SGM 28APR1 jstallworth on DSK7TPTVN1PROD with RULES 19630 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 81 / Friday, April 28, 2017 / Rules and Regulations The AA finds that prior notice and the opportunity for public comment would be contrary to the public interest, consistent with 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B). The purpose of this action is to allocate quotas to sectors and to authorize vessels to fish under the sector operations plans during the 2017 fishing year. The sector operations plans must be approved before sector vessels can fish in the sector fishery. In 2015, Framework Adjustment 55 to the NE Multispecies FMP set 2017 annual catch limits for groundfish stocks. However, in January 2017 the New England Fishery Management Council approved Framework Adjustment 56 to the FMP which would change the annual catch limits for 2017 for some stocks (some stocks would increase and others would decrease). To avoid public confusion and a mid-year change in allocations, we initially developed this rule to complement the Framework 56 rulemaking process. Typically, the framework rulemaking and related sector operations rule are completed in time for the start of the fishing year on May 1. However, the Council did not formally submit Framework 56 to us until April 13, 2017, which prohibited us from coordinating the publication of the two actions. Due to the late submission of Framework 56, this rule instead makes allocations based on the quota previously set by Framework 55. This rule could not be revised, as necessary, in time to provide prior notice and comment and still be effective for the start of the 2017 fishing year on May 1, 2017. Delaying the effective date of this action past the beginning of the fishing year on May 1 would cause a major disruption in sector member fishing plans and impose substantial opportunity costs through lost fishing opportunities. Sectors include 838 permits and 99 percent of fishing activity. Thus, any delay past the beginning of the fishing year would effectively shut down nearly the entire groundfish fishery during that delay. This delay may also require sector members to reconsider their decision and plans to fish in the sector rather than the common pool. Shutting down the fishery and disrupting business plans is contrary to this rule’s intended purpose of providing operational flexibility and maximum opportunity for catching up to the fishery’s allocated amounts. Further, these allocated amounts are gauged to achieve Optimum Yield and producing the greatest benefit to the nation as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. A VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:52 Apr 27, 2017 Jkt 241001 delay in the beginning of the fishery would be contrary to this statutory requirement and FMP goal. The economic loss from this lost opportunity and disruption would further exacerbate the severe economic impacts experienced by the groundfish fishery that have resulted from the substantial catch limit reductions for many key groundfish stocks over the past 5 years. For these reasons, delaying the effective date of this action to provide prior opportunity for public comment is contrary to the public interest. The AA finds that there is adequate justification under 5. U.S.C. 553(d)(1) to waive the 30-day delay in effective date because this rule relieves several restrictions. This action allocates quotas and approves sector operations plans for fishing year 2017. A delay in effectiveness would not be in the public interest because this rule does not impose any new requirements or costs on industry for which industry needs time to prepare to comply. Further, if the effectiveness of this action is delayed beyond the May 1, 2017, start of the fishing year, the 838 permits enrolled to fish in a sector in 2017 would either need to cease fishing on May 1, until this rule became effective, or forego fishing as part of a sector, including the associated regulatory exemptions, for the entirety of the fishing year and instead fish under the effort control regulations of the common pool. For example, vessels fishing in the common pool would be subject to effort controls that do not apply to vessels fishing under an approved sector operations plan. Common pool vessels will have their catch limited each trip, will be further limited in the number of days they could fish, and will be subject to several seasonal closures that sector vessels will be exempted from. Additionally, there is good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3), to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness so that the purpose of this rule is not undermined. As stated above, the purpose of this action is to allocate quotas to sectors and to authorize vessels to fish under the sector operations plans during the 2017 fishing year. If the effectiveness of this action is delayed beyond the May 1, 2017, start of the fishing year, the 838 permits enrolled to fish in a sector in 2017 would either need to cease fishing on May 1 until this rule became effective, or forego fishing as part of a sector, including the associated regulatory exemptions, for the entirety of the fishing year and instead fish under the effort control regulations of the common pool. Preventing vessels from fishing under the provisions of an PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 9990 approved operations plan either for the whole year, or a portion of the year, would severely disrupt the sector fishery and have direct negative economic effects on the affected vessels. This interim final rule does not contain policies with Federalism or ‘‘takings’’ implications as those terms are defined in E.O. 13132 and E.O. 12630, respectively. This interim final rule is exempt from the procedures of the Regulatory Flexibility Act because the rule is issued without opportunity for prior notice and opportunity for public comment. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: April 25, 2017. Alan D. Risenhoover, Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2017–08617 Filed 4–27–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 150630567–7360–02] RIN 0648–BF26 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast Groundfish Fishery; Amendment 18 Correction In rule document 2017–8035 beginning on page 18706 in the issue of Friday, April 21, 2017, make the following correction: On page 18713, in the first column, in the second paragraph, the first sentence should read ‘‘This final rule contains a collection-of-information requirement subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) and which has been approved by OMB under control number 0648– 0752.’’. [FR Doc. C1–2017–08035 Filed 4–27–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 1301–00–D E:\FR\FM\28APR1.SGM 28APR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 81 (Friday, April 28, 2017)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 19618-19630]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-08617]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 170104016-7016-01]
RIN 0648-XF138


Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern 
United States; Northeast Multispecies Fishery; 2017 and 2018 Sector 
Operations Plans and 2017 Allocation of Northeast Multispecies Annual 
Catch Entitlements

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

ACTION: Interim final rule.

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

SUMMARY: We have approved sector operations plans for fishing years 
2017 and 2018, granting regulatory exemptions for fishing years 2017 
and 2018, and providing Northeast multispecies annual catch 
entitlements to approved sectors for fishing year 2017. Approval of 
sector operations plans is necessary to allocate annual catch 
entitlements to the sectors and for the sectors to operate. The 
Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan allows limited access 
permit holders to form sectors, and requires sectors to submit their 
operations plans and contracts to us, NMFS, for approval or 
disapproval. This interim final rule approves sector operations plans, 
grants regulatory exemptions for sectors, and provides preliminary 
allocations of annual catch entitlements to sectors for the start of 
the 2017 fishing year. Changes to exemptions and updates to sector 
annual catch entitlements may be considered in subsequent rulemakings.

DATES: Sector operations plans and regulatory exemptions are effective 
May 1, 2017, through April 30, 2019. Northeast multispecies annual 
catch entitlements for sectors are effective May 1, 2017, through April 
30, 2018. The default catch limit for Eastern Georges Bank cod is 
effective May 1, 2017, through July 31, 2017, or until the final rule 
for Framework 56 is implemented if prior to July 31, 2017. Written 
comments must be received on or before May 30, 2017.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NMFS-2017-0016, by either of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D= NOAA-NMFS-2017-0016, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Kyle Molton, 55 Great 
Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930.
    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 sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous).
    Copies of each sector's final operations plan and contract are 
available from the NMFS Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office: 
John K. Bullard, Regional Administrator, National Marine Fisheries 
Service, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. These documents 
are also accessible via the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kyle Molton, Fishery Management 
Specialist, (978) 281-9236. To review Federal Register documents 
referenced in this rule, you can visit: http://www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov/sustainable/species/multispecies.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    Amendment 13 to the Northeast (NE) Multispecies Fishery Management 
Plan (FMP) (69 FR 22906; April 27, 2004) established a process for 
forming sectors within the NE multispecies (groundfish) fishery, and 
Amendment 16 to the FMP (74 FR 18262; April 9, 2010), followed by 
Framework Adjustment 45 to the FMP (76 FR 23042; April 25, 2011) and 
Framework 48 to the FMP (78 FR 26118; May 3, 2013), expanded and 
revised sector management.
    The FMP defines a sector as ``[a] group of persons (three or more 
persons, none of whom have an ownership interest in the other two 
persons in the sector) holding limited access vessel permits who have 
voluntarily entered into a contract and agree to certain fishing 
restrictions for a specified period of time, and which has been granted 
a TAC(s) [sic] in order to achieve objectives consistent with 
applicable FMP goals and objectives.'' Sectors are self-selecting, 
meaning each sector can choose its members.
    The NE multispecies sector management system allocates a portion of 
the NE multispecies stocks to each sector. These annual sector 
allocations are known as annual catch entitlements (ACEs) and are based 
on the collective fishing history of a sector's members. Sectors may 
receive allocations of large-mesh NE multispecies stocks with the 
exception of Atlantic halibut, windowpane flounder, Atlantic wolffish, 
and ocean pout, which are non-allocated species. The ACEs are a portion 
of a stock's annual catch limit (ACL) available to commercial NE 
multispecies vessels within a sector. A sector determines how to 
harvest its ACEs and may decide to limit operations to fewer vessels.
    Because sectors elect to receive an allocation under a quota-based 
system, the FMP grants sector vessels several ``universal'' exemptions 
from the FMP's effort controls. These universal exemptions apply to: 
Trip limits on allocated stocks; the Georges Bank (GB) Seasonal Closure 
Area; NE multispecies days-at-sea (DAS) restrictions; the requirement 
to use a 6.5-inch (16.5-cm) mesh codend when fishing with selective 
gear on GB; portions of the Gulf of Maine (GOM) Cod Protection 
Closures; and the at-sea monitoring (ASM) coverage level for sector 
vessels fishing exclusively in the Southern New England (SNE) and 
Inshore GB Broad Stock Areas (BSA) with extra-large mesh

[[Page 19619]]

gillnets (10-inch [25.4-cm] or greater). The FMP prohibits sectors from 
requesting exemptions from permitting restrictions, gear restrictions 
designed to minimize habitat impacts, and most reporting requirements.
    We received operations plans and preliminary contracts for fishing 
years 2017 and 2018 from 19 sectors. The operations plans are similar 
to previously approved versions and cover two fishing years. Continuing 
to approve two-year sector operations plans will help streamline the 
process for sector managers and reduce administrative burdens for both 
sectors and NMFS. In addition to the approved sectors, there are 
several state-operated permit banks, which receive allocation based on 
the history of the permits owned by the states. The final rule 
implementing Amendment 17 to the FMP allowed a state-operated permit 
bank to receive an allocation without needing to comply with the 
administrative and procedural requirements for sectors (77 FR 16942; 
March 23, 2012). Instead, permit banks are required to submit a list of 
participating permits to us, as specified in the permit bank's 
Memorandum of Agreement, to determine the ACE allocated to the permit 
bank. These allocations may be leased to fishermen enrolled in sectors. 
Although state-operated permit banks are no longer approved through the 
sector approval process, they are included in this discussion of 
allocations because they contribute to the total allocation under the 
sector system.
    We have determined that the 19 sector operations plans and 
contracts that we have approved, and 21 of the 26 regulatory exemptions 
requested, are consistent with the FMP's goals and objectives, and meet 
sector requirements outlined in the regulations at Sec.  648.87. These 
19 operations plans are similar to previously approved plans. Copies of 
the operations plans and contracts, and the environmental assessment 
(EA), are available at: http://www.regulations.gov and from NMFS (see 
ADDRESSES).

Default Catch Limits for Fishing Year 2017

    Last year, Framework 55 (81 FR 26412; May 2, 2016) set fishing year 
2017 catch limits for all groundfish stocks. The 2017 catch limits for 
most stocks remain the same as, or similar, to 2016 limits, with minor 
adjustments for projected stock growth or revised estimates of Canadian 
catch. Framework 55 did not, however, specify a 2017 catch limit for 
Eastern GB cod, which is a management unit of the GB cod stock that is 
jointly managed with Canada. In addition, the Northeast Fisheries 
Science Center conducted a new benchmark assessment for witch flounder 
in December 2016.
    This year, in Framework 56, the Council adopted a new 2017 catch 
limit for witch flounder based on the 2016 benchmark assessment, as 
well as 2017 catch limits for the three U.S./Canada stocks (Eastern GB 
cod, Eastern GB haddock, and GB yellowtail flounder). We are working to 
publish a proposed rule to request comments on the Framework 56 
measures. Given the timing of the 2016 witch flounder stock assessment, 
the development and submission of Framework 56 was delayed, and it will 
not be possible to implement Framework 56 measures in time for May 1, 
2017.
    As a result, this rule sets a default catch limit for Eastern GB 
cod to prevent disruption to the groundfish fishery. The default catch 
limit for Eastern GB cod is set at 35 percent of the previous year's 
(2016) catch limit. This rule also announces the 2017 catch limits that 
will be effective on May 1, 2017, including the sector and common pool 
allocations based on the preliminary fishing year 2017 sector rosters 
(Table 1). The default catch limit for Eastern GB cod would be 
effective from May 1, 2017, through July 31, 2017, or the date on which 
the final rule for Framework 56 is implemented if prior to July 31. The 
catch limits for GB cod, GB haddock, GB yellowtail flounder, and witch 
flounder would be replaced once Framework 56 is implemented.
    In Framework 56, the Council recommended a 23-percent decrease for 
GB yellowtail flounder for fishing year 2017 compared to 2016, and 
compared to the fishing year 2017 catch limit previously set in 
Framework 55. The recommended decrease is based on the Transboundary 
Management Guidance Committee's recommendation, which is the joint 
U.S./Canada management body that meets annually to recommend shared 
quotas for the three transboundary stocks. This recommendation will be 
further discussed in the Framework 56 proposed rule. We are 
highlighting this proposed decrease to sectors in this rule because the 
GB yellowtail flounder sector allocation issued in this rule is based 
on the higher 2017 catch limit previously approved in Framework 55.
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P

[[Page 19620]]

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[[Page 19621]]


BILLING CODE 3510-22-C

Sector Allocations

    Based on preliminary sector rosters submitted on March 20, 2017, we 
have projected fishing year 2017 allocations in this final rule. All 
permits enrolled in a sector, and the vessels associated with those 
permits, have until April 30, 2017, to withdraw from a sector and fish 
in the common pool for fishing year 2017. For fishing year 2018, we 
will set similar roster deadlines, notify permit holders of the fishing 
year 2018 deadlines, and allow permit holders to change sectors 
separate from the annual sector operations plans approval process.
    We calculate the sector's allocation for each stock by summing its 
members' potential sector contributions (PSC) for a stock and then 
multiplying that total percentage by the available commercial sub-ACL 
for that stock. Table 2 shows the projected total PSC for each sector 
by stock for fishing year 2017. Tables 3 and 4 show the initial 
allocations that each sector will be allocated, in pounds and metric 
tons, respectively, for fishing year 2017, based on their preliminary 
fishing year 2017 rosters. At the start of the fishing year, we provide 
the final allocations, to the nearest pound, to the individual sectors, 
and we use those final allocations to monitor sector catch. The common 
pool sub-ACLs are also included in each of these tables for comparison.
    We do not assign a permit separate PSCs for the Eastern GB cod or 
Eastern GB haddock; instead, we assign each permit a PSC for the GB cod 
stock and GB haddock stock. Each sector's GB cod and GB haddock 
allocations are then divided into an Eastern ACE and a Western ACE, 
based on each sector's percentage of the GB cod and GB haddock ACLs. 
For example, if a sector is allocated 4 percent of the GB cod ACL and 6 
percent of the GB haddock ACL, the sector is allocated 4 percent of the 
commercial Eastern U.S./Canada Area GB cod total allowable catch (TAC) 
and 6 percent of the commercial Eastern U.S./Canada Area GB haddock TAC 
as its Eastern GB cod and haddock ACEs. These amounts are then 
subtracted from the sector's overall GB cod and haddock allocations to 
determine its Western GB cod and haddock ACEs. A sector may only 
harvest its Eastern GB cod and haddock ACEs in the Eastern U.S./Canada 
Area, but may ``convert,'' or transfer, its Eastern GB cod or haddock 
allocation into Western GB allocation and fish that converted ACE 
outside the Eastern GB area.
    We expect to finalize 2016 catch information in summer 2017. We 
will allow sectors to transfer fishing year 2016 ACE for 2 weeks upon 
our completion of year-end catch accounting to reduce or eliminate any 
fishing year 2016 overages. If necessary, we will reduce any sector's 
fishing year 2017 allocation to account for a remaining overage in 
fishing year 2016. We will follow the same process for fishing year 
2018. Each year of the operations plans, we will notify the Council and 
sector managers of this deadline in writing and will announce this 
decision on our Web site at: http://www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov/.
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[[Page 19622]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR28AP17.045


[[Page 19623]]


[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR28AP17.046


[[Page 19624]]


[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR28AP17.047


[[Page 19625]]


BILLING CODE 3510-22-C

Sector Operations Plans and Contracts

Approved Sectors

    As previously stated, we received and are approving 19 sector 
operations plans and contracts for fishing years 2017 and 2018. In 
order to approve a sector's operations plan for fishing years 2017 and 
2018, we consider whether a sector has been compliant with reporting 
requirements from previous years, including the year-end reporting 
requirements found at Sec.  648.87(b)(1)(vi)(C). Approved operations 
plans, provided on our Web site as a single document for each sector, 
not only contain the rules under which each sector would fish, but also 
provide the legal contract that binds each member to the sector for the 
length of the sector's operations plan. Each sector's operations plan, 
and each sector's members, must comply with the regulations governing 
sectors, found at Sec.  648.87. In addition, each sector must conduct 
fishing activities as detailed in its approved operations plan.
    Participating vessels are required to comply with all pertinent 
Federal fishing regulations, except as specifically exempted in the 
letter of authorization (LOA) issued by the Regional Administrator, 
which details any approved sector exemptions from the regulations. If, 
during a fishing year, or between fishing years 2017 and 2018, a sector 
requests an exemption that we have already granted, or proposes a 
change to administrative provisions, we may amend the sector operations 
plans. Should any such amendments require modifications to LOAs, we 
would include these changes in updated LOAs and provide them to the 
appropriate sectors.
    As in previous years, we retain the right to revoke exemptions in-
season if: We determine that the exemption jeopardizes management 
measures, objectives, or rebuilding efforts; the exemption results in 
unforeseen negative impacts on other managed fish stocks, habitat, or 
protected resources; the exemption causes enforcement concerns; catch 
from trips utilizing the exemption cannot adequately be monitored; or a 
sector is not meeting certain administrative or operational 
requirements. If it becomes necessary to revoke an exemption, we will 
do so through a process consistent with the Administrative Procedure 
Act.
    Each sector is required to ensure that it does not exceed its ACE 
during the fishing year. Sector vessels are required to retain all 
legal-sized allocated NE multispecies stocks, unless a sector is 
granted an exemption allowing its member vessels to discard legal-sized 
unmarketable fish at sea. Catch (defined as landings and dead discards) 
of all allocated NE multispecies stocks by a sector's vessels count 
against the sector's allocation. Catch from a sector trip targeting 
dogfish, monkfish, skate, and lobster (with non-trap gear) would be 
deducted from the sector's ACE because these are groundfish trips using 
gear capable of catching groundfish. This includes trips that have 
declared into the small-mesh exemption described below, because vessels 
fishing under this sector exemption, (i.e., vessels fishing with both 
small mesh and large mesh during the same trip) are considered to be on 
a sector trip for purposes of monitoring ACE. Catch from a non-sector 
trip in an exempted fishery does not count against a sector's 
allocation and is assigned to a separate ACL sub-component to account 
for any groundfish bycatch that occurs in non-groundfish fisheries.
    In fishing years 2010 and 2011, we funded an ASM program with a 
target ASM coverage level of 30 percent of all trips. In addition, we 
provided 8-percent observer coverage through the Northeast Fishery 
Observer Program (NEFOP), which helps to support the Standardized 
Bycatch Reporting Methodology (SBRM) and stock assessments. This 
resulted in an overall target coverage level of 38 percent for fishing 
years 2010 and 2011, between ASM and NEFOP. Beginning in fishing year 
2012, we have conducted an annual analysis to determine the total 
target coverage level. Industry has been required to pay for their 
costs of ASM coverage since 2012, while we continued to fund NEFOP 
coverage. However, we were able to fund the industry's portion of ASM 
costs and NEFOP coverage in fishing years 2012 through most of 2015. 
Industry began paying for their portion of the ASM program in March 
2016. In June 2016, after determining that the SBRM monitoring program 
could be fully funded, NOAA Fisheries announced that we had remaining 
funds to offset some of industry's costs of the groundfish ASM program 
in 2016. We provided a grant to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries 
Commission (ASMFC) to reimburse sectors for 85 percent of their costs 
for at-sea monitoring. We expect that there will be funds remaining in 
the grant to the ASMFC at the end of the 2016 fishing year that will be 
available to reimburse sectors for a portion of their ASM costs in 
fishing year 2017. We have not yet determined the reimbursement rate 
for 2017. However, it may be lower than 85 percent. Table 5 shows the 
target coverage level in previous fishing years.

                             Table 5--Historic Target Coverage Level for Monitoring
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                            Total target        ASM target        NEFOP target
                      Fishing year                         coverage level     coverage level     coverage level
                                                                (%)                (%)                (%)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2010...................................................                 38                 30                  8
2011...................................................                 38                 30                  8
2012...................................................                 25                 17                  8
2013...................................................                 22                 14                  8
2014...................................................                 26                 18                  8
2015...................................................                 16                 12                  4
2016...................................................                 14                 10                  4
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Sectors are responsible for paying the at-sea portion of costs 
associated with the sector ASM program and for designing, implementing, 
and funding an ASM program that will provide the level of ASM coverage 
specified annually. We are required to specify a level of ASM coverage 
using a process described in Framework 55 that attempts to balance 
minimizing the cost burden to sectors and NMFS to the extent 
practicable, while still providing a reliable estimate of overall catch 
by sectors needed for monitoring ACEs and ACLs. Using this method, NMFS 
has determined that the total appropriate target coverage level for 
fishing year 2017 is 16 percent of all eligible sector

[[Page 19626]]

trips. Federally-funded observer coverage provided by NEFOP to meet 
SBRM will partially satisfy the 16-percent coverage requirement, so 
sectors will pay for ASM coverage on less than 16 percent of their 
groundfish trips. We will use discards derived from these observed and 
monitored trips to calculate and apply discards to unobserved sector 
trips. We have published a more detailed summary of the supporting 
information, explanation and justification for this decision at: http://www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov/ro/fso/reports/Sectors/ASM/FY2017_Multispecies_Sector_ASM_Requirements_Summary.pdf.
    The draft operations plans submitted in September 2016 included 
industry-funded ASM plans to be used for fishing year 2017. As in 
previous years, we gave sectors the option to design their own programs 
in compliance with regulations, or elect to adopt the NMFS-designed ASM 
program that we have used in previous fishing years. As in past years, 
several sectors chose to adopt the NMFS-designed program while others 
proposed programs of their own design. Sector-designed ASM programs for 
fishing years 2017 and 2018 were similar to those approved in past 
years. We reviewed all sector-proposed ASM programs for consistency 
with ASM requirements and have approved them. ASM programs proposed by 
the sectors are described in detail later in this final rule.
    Each sector contract details the method for initial ACE sub-
allocation to sector members. For fishing years 2017 and 2018, each 
sector has proposed that each sector member could harvest an amount of 
fish equal to the amount each individual member's permit contributed to 
the sector, as modified by the sector for reserves or other management 
measures. Each sector operations plan submitted for fishing years 2017 
and 2018 states that the sector would withhold an initial reserve from 
the sector's ACE sub-allocation to each individual member to prevent 
the sector from exceeding its ACE. A sector and sector members can be 
held jointly and severally liable for ACE overages, discarding legal-
sized fish, and/or misreporting catch (landings or discards). Each 
sector contract provides procedures for enforcement of the sector's 
rules, explains sector monitoring and reporting requirements, provides 
sector managers with the authority to issue stop fishing orders to 
sector members who violate provisions of the operations plan and 
contract, and presents a schedule of penalties that managers may levy 
for sector plan violations.
    Sectors are required to monitor their allocations and catch. To 
help ensure that a sector does not exceed its ACE, each sector 
operations plan explains sector monitoring and reporting requirements, 
including a requirement to submit weekly catch reports to us. If a 
sector reaches an ACE threshold (specified in the operations plan), the 
sector must provide us with sector allocation usage reports on a daily 
basis. Once a sector's allocation for a particular stock is caught, 
that sector is required to cease all sector fishing operations in that 
stock area until it acquires more ACE, likely by an ACE transfer 
between sectors. Within 60 days of when we complete year-end catch 
accounting, each sector is required to submit an annual report 
detailing the sector's catch (landings and discards), enforcement 
actions, and pertinent information necessary to evaluate the 
biological, economic, and social impacts of each sector.

Future Consideration of 2017 Sector Operations

    An ongoing case, United States v. Carlos Rafael, may affect sector 
operations for the 2017 fishing year. On March 30, 2017, Carlos Rafael 
pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges involving falsely reporting 
catch information on dealer reports and vessel trip reports. All of the 
vessels involved were enrolled in NEFS 9 during the period of 
misreporting, are currently enrolled in the sector for fishing year 
2016, and are on the preliminary sector roster for fishing year 2017. 
Sentencing for these violations is currently scheduled for June 27, 
2017, and may provide additional information that could affect sector 
operations. Because the case is ongoing, we are approving the NEFS 9 
operations plan at this time. However, we intend to take into account 
additional information regarding NEFS 9 operations as it becomes 
available and take further action, as necessary, including 
consideration of further management or monitoring requirements and 
continued approval of the sector.

Granted Exemptions for Fishing Years 2017 and 2018

Previously Granted Exemptions Granted for Fishing Years 2017 and 2018 
(1-20)

    We are granting exemptions from the following requirements for 
fishing years 2017 and 2018, all of which have been requested and 
granted in previous years: (1) 120-day block out of the fishery 
required for Day gillnet vessels; (2) 20-day spawning block out of the 
fishery required for all vessels; (3) prohibition on a vessel hauling 
another vessel's gillnet gear; (4) limits on the number of gillnets 
that may be hauled on GB when fishing under a NE multispecies/monkfish 
DAS; (5) limits on the number of hooks that may be fished; (6) DAS 
Leasing Program length and horsepower restrictions; (7) prohibition on 
discarding; (8) daily catch reporting by sector managers for sector 
vessels participating in the Closed Area (CA) I Hook Gear Haddock 
Special Access Program (SAP); (9) prohibition on fishing inside and 
outside of the CA I Hook Gear Haddock SAP while on the same trip; (10) 
prohibition on a vessel hauling another vessel's hook gear; (11) the 
requirement to declare an intent to fish in the Eastern U.S./Canada SAP 
and the CA II Yellowtail Flounder/Haddock SAP prior to leaving the 
dock; (12) gear requirements in the Eastern U.S./Canada Management 
Area; (13) seasonal restrictions for the Eastern U.S./Canada Haddock 
SAP; (14) seasonal restrictions for the CA II Yellowtail Flounder/
Haddock SAP; (15) sampling exemption; (16) prohibition on groundfish 
trips in the Nantucket Lightship Closed Area; (17) prohibition on 
combining small-mesh exempted fishery and sector trips in Southern New 
England; (18) limits on the number of gillnets for day gillnet vessels 
fishing outside the GOM; (19) 6.5-inch minimum mesh size requirement 
for trawl nets to allow a 5.5 inch codend on directed redfish trips; 
and (20) extra-large mesh requirement to target dogfish on trips 
excluded from ASM in SNE and Inshore GB. A detailed description of the 
previously granted exemptions and supporting rationale can be found in 
the applicable final rules identified in Table 6 below.

[[Page 19627]]



         Table 6--Exemptions From Previous Fishing Years That Are Granted in Fishing Years 2017 and 2018
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
         Exemptions                    Rulemaking             Date of publication              Citation
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1-8, 12.....................  Fishing Year 2011 Sector      April 25, 2011.........  76 FR 23076.
                               Operations Final Rule.
9-11........................  Fishing Year 2012 Sector      May 2, 2012............  77 FR 26129.
                               Operations Final Rule.
13-15.......................  Fishing Year 2013 Sector      May 2, 2013............  78 FR 25591.
                               Operations Interim Final
                               Rule.
16..........................  Fishing Year 2014 Sector      April 28, 2014.........  79 FR 23278.
                               Operations Final Rule.
17-19.......................  Fishing Years 2015-2016       May 1, 2015............  80 FR 25143.
                               Sector Operations Final
                               Rule.
20..........................  Framework 55 Final Rule.....  May 2, 2016............  81 FR 26412.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
NE Multispecies Federal Register documents can be found at http://www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov/sustainable/species/multispecies/ sustainable/species/multispecies/.

New Exemption Granted for Fishing Years 2017 and 2018

(21) Requirement To Carry a VMS for Handgear A Vessels Fishing in a 
Single Broad Stock Area

    Sectors are prohibited from requesting exemptions from reporting 
requirements. However, Amendment 18 included a measure that allows a 
sector to request a VMS exemption for Handgear A vessels, and we are 
granting this exemption for the 2017 and 2018 fishing years. Because 
the cost of VMS units is often a significant barrier to sector 
participation for handgear vessels, this exemption is intended to 
increase Handgear A vessel participation in sectors. Handgear A vessels 
using the VMS exemption (enrolled in a sector that has the exemption 
and fishing in a single broad stock area) must declare the start of 
trips to NMFS using the interactive voice response (IVR) system. 
Vessels must also declare their trip end through IVR, similar to a VMS 
trip end hail.
    To ensure that catch and discards are reported to the correct broad 
stock area, Handgear A vessels may only use the VMS exemption when 
fishing in a single broad stock area. Handgear vessels intending to 
fish in multiple broad stock areas (for example, Gulf of Maine and 
Inshore Georges Bank) must declare their trip through a VMS system and 
submit daily VMS catch reports when fishing inside and outside of the 
Gulf of Maine on the same trip. A VMS unit is also required when 
fishing in the Eastern and Western U.S./Canada Areas, and may be 
required for some sector exemptions or special access areas, and this 
exemption does not waive those requirements.
    Handgear A vessels using the VMS exemption are still required to 
call into the pre-trip notification system (PTNS) at least 48 hours 
prior to the start of a trip to facilitate ASM selection procedures. 
Additionally, all other reporting and monitoring requirements still 
apply, including the requirement to complete a vessel trip report (VTR) 
and declare their trip end before beginning to offload. We expect the 
requirement to complete a VTR and declare a trip end before offloading 
to assist with coordinating dockside enforcement and sampling.
    As with other exemptions, sectors that have requested the exemption 
must include it in their operations plan, and have their plan approved, 
in order for their sector members to use the exemption. We will monitor 
the use of this exemption and update requirements, as necessary.

Denied Fishing Years 2017 and 2018 Exemption Requests

    We are denying five exemption requests. Three of these requests 
sought to allow the use of nets with mesh smaller than the minimum mesh 
size to target healthy stocks. We are denying these exemptions because 
of concerns about bycatch of undersized groundfish, concerns about 
impacts on stocks in poor condition, like cod, and a lack of available 
data to support approval. Increasing fishing opportunities to catch 
healthy stocks is important, but we must ensure that these 
opportunities do not negatively affect stocks in poor condition. As 
such, testing these concepts and collecting data necessary to support 
future exemption requests are needed. These ideas should be pursued 
through experimental fishing permits and other research to collect data 
useful in evaluating their effectiveness. We are also denying an 
exemption request that would allow certain gillnet vessels to leave 
nets in the water between trips because this could undermine effort 
controls in the Monkfish FMP due to interactions between that plan and 
the groundfish FMP. Because of the complicated interplay between this 
exemption request and multiple FMP's we have forwarded this request to 
the New England Council for their consideration in future groundfish or 
monkfish actions, should they choose. We are denying the VMS powerdown 
exemption because of a lack of compliance with the requirements of the 
exemptions when it was granted in previous years. In years when this 
exemption was granted, we worked with sectors to improve use of this 
exemption; however, compliance did not improve. As a result, we did not 
approve this exemption for fishing years 2015 and 2016. Requests for 
this exemption for fishing years 2017 and 2018 did not include any 
additional requirements or information that would suggest use of this 
exemption would improve from previous years. For these reasons, we do 
not have confidence that compliance with this exemption would be 
adequate, which would undermine our ability to adequately monitor the 
fishery. For these reasons, we are again denying this exemption.

Exemption We Propose To Modify

Modifications to the Sectors Small-Mesh Fishery Exemption Area

    We received a request to modify the area for an approved exemption 
(17) that allows the use of small-mesh and large mesh trawl gear on a 
sector trip in portions of Southern New England. As approved in fishing 
years 2015 and 2016, and in this rule for fishing years 2017 and 2018, 
the exemption allows vessels to combine sector and small-mesh fishery 
trips by first targeting groundfish with large mesh and then switching 
to small-mesh mid-trip to target exempted fishery species. There are 
additional requirements for gear modifications on the small-mesh 
portion of the trip to reduce bycatch of groundfish, and all legal 
groundfish caught on the small-mesh portion of the trip must be kept 
and counted against the sector's allocation. A vessel using this 
exemption is still required to meet the same NEFOP and ASM coverage as 
groundfish trips, and is also required to submit a VMS catch report 
when switching gears.
    The current small-mesh sector exemption area as described in the 
Final 2015 and 2016 Sector Rule (80 FR 25143, May 1 2015) includes two 
discrete areas, one that parallels the southern shore of Long Island to 
the waters just off Narragansett Bay, and a second area south of 
Martha's Vineyard (see Figure 1). The request was to modify the area to 
include all of statistical areas 537, 539 and 613, which would expand 
the geographic footprint

[[Page 19628]]

of the exemption area, to better reflect fishing practices in the area 
and increase efficiency and opportunities for sector vessels (see 
Figure 2). We are proposing to grant the modification to the exemption 
area, as requested, but the exemption would not be applicable to any 
areas that overlap groundfish closed areas or southern windowpane 
flounder accountability measure (AM) areas, regardless of whether the 
AM areas are triggered. We are excluding the overlapping southern 
windowpane flounder AM areas because of concerns about interactions 
with windowpane flounder and other regulated groundfish species within 
the AM area. As with all sector exemptions, we will continue to monitor 
the use of the updated exemption, as well as any changes to AM areas by 
the New England Council, in future consideration of this exemption.
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Modified Exemption Reporting Requirements

Changes to the Reporting Requirements for the Exemption From the Extra-
Large Mesh Requirement To Target Dogfish on Trips Excluded From ASM

    Last year, Framework 55 removed the ASM coverage requirement for 
sector trips using gillnets with extra-large mesh (10 inches (25.4 cm) 
or greater) in the SNE and Inshore GB Broad Stock Areas. We also 
approved a sector exemption that allows vessels on these ASM-excluded 
sector trips to target dogfish using 6.5-inch (16.5-cm) mesh gillnet 
gear within the footprint and season of either the Nantucket Shoals 
Dogfish Exemption Area (June 1 to October 15), the Eastern Area of the 
Cape Cod Spiny Dogfish Exemption Area (June 1 to December 31), or the 
Southern New England Dogfish Gillnet Exemption Area (May 1 to October 
31). At the time, we announced that we would closely monitor the 
exemption during the 2016 fishing year to evaluate whether additional 
reporting measures are necessary. In order to improve the monitoring of 
this exemption, and to be consistent with reporting requirements of 
similar exemptions, we are updating the reporting requirements for this 
exemption beginning in the 2017 fishing year.
    In addition to the PTNS requirement, a vessel is now required to 
declare its intent to use gillnets with extra-large mesh (10 inches 
(25.4 cm) or greater) in the SNE/MA and Inshore GB Broad Stock Areas by 
submitting a trip start hail through its VMS unit prior to departure. 
This trip start hail will be used for monitoring and enforcement 
purposes. Trips declaring this exemption must stow their regulated mesh 
gear and use their extra large mesh (10 inches (25.4 cm) or greater) 
first. Also starting fishing year 2017, the vessel, once finished with 
the extra-large mesh portion of the trip, must submit a Multispecies 
Catch Report via VMS with a good faith estimate of all catch on board, 
and an indication of the switch to regulated mesh. The vessel could 
then fish with regulated mesh within the allowable dogfish exemption 
areas, and comply with the remaining requirements of a sector trip, 
including the submission of VTRs, a trip end hail, and a final 
Multispecies Catch Report.
    We will continue to closely monitor this exemption to evaluate 
whether additional reporting measures are necessary. While sector trips 
using this exemption are exempt from ASM coverage, any legal-sized 
allocated groundfish stocks caught during these trips must be landed 
and the associated landed weight (dealer or VTR) will be deducted from 
the sector's ACE.

Additional Sector Operations Plan Provisions

Inshore GOM Restrictions

    Several sectors have proposed an operations plan provision to limit 
and more accurately document a vessel's behavior when fishing in an 
area they define as the inshore portion of the GOM BSA, or the area to 
the west of 70[deg]15' W. long. As in fishing years 2015 and 2016, we 
are approving this provision, but note that a sector may elect to 
remove this provision in the final version of its operations plan, and 
it is not a requirement under NMFS regulations.
    Under this provision, a vessel that is carrying an observer or at-
sea monitor would remain free to fish in all areas, including the 
inshore GOM area, without restriction. If a vessel is not carrying an 
observer or at-sea monitor and fishes any part of its trip in the GOM 
west of 70[deg]15' W. long., the vessel would be prohibited from 
fishing outside of the GOM BSA. Also, if a vessel is not carrying an 
observer or at-sea monitor and fishes any part of its trip outside the 
GOM BSA, this provision would prohibit a vessel from fishing west of 
70[deg]15' W. long. within the GOM BSA. The approved provision includes 
a requirement that a vessel declare whether it intends to fish in the 
inshore GOM area through the trip start hail using its VMS unit prior 
to departure. We provide sector managers with the ability to monitor 
this provision through the Sector Information Management Module, a Web 
site where we also provide roster, trip, discard, and observer 
information to sector managers. A sector vessel may use a federally 
funded NEFOP observer or at-sea monitor on these trips because we 
believe it will not create bias in coverage or discard estimates, as 
fishing behavior is not expected to change as a result of this 
provision.

Prohibition on a Vessel Hauling Another Vessel's Trap Gear To Target 
Groundfish

    Several sectors have requested a provision to allow a vessel to 
haul another vessel's fish trap gear, similar to the current exemptions 
that allow a vessel to haul another vessel's gillnet gear or hook gear. 
These exemptions have generally been referred to as ``community'' gear 
exemptions. Regulations at Sec.  648.84(a) require a vessel to mark all 
bottom-tending fixed gear, which would include fish trap gear used to 
target groundfish. To facilitate enforcement of this regulation, we are 
requiring that any community fish trap gear be tagged by each vessel 
that plans to haul the gear, similar to how this sector operations plan 
provision was implemented in fishing years 2014 through 2016. This 
allows one vessel to deploy the trap gear and another vessel to haul 
the trap gear, provided both vessels tag the gear prior to deployment. 
This requirement is included in the sector's operations plan to provide 
the opportunity for the sector to monitor the use of this provision and 
ensure that the Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) and the U.S. Coast 
Guard can enforce the marking requirement.

At-Sea Monitoring Proposals

    For fishing years 2017 and 2018, each sector is required to develop 
and fund an approved ASM program. In the event we cannot approve a 
proposed ASM program we asked all sectors to include an option to use 
the current NMFS-designed ASM program as a back-up. Sustainable Harvest 
Sectors 1, 2, and 3, GB Cod Fixed Gear Sector, Northeast Coastal 
Communities Sector, and Maine Coast Community Sector have proposed to 
use the ASM program that was developed by NMFS. We approve this program 
for these sectors because it is consistent with goals and objectives of 
monitoring, and with regulatory requirements. Sectors that operate only 
as permit banks, and explicitly prohibit fishing in their operations 
plans, are not required to include provisions for an ASM program.
    We approve the ASM programs proposed by the remaining 12 sectors, 
which state that they will: Contract with a NMFS-approved ASM provider; 
meet the specified coverage level; and utilize the PTNS for random 
selection of monitored trips and notification to providers. These ASM 
programs also include additional protocols for ASM coverage waivers, 
incident reporting, and safety requirements for their sector mangers 
and members. We have determined that the programs are consistent with 
the goals and objectives of at-sea monitoring, and within the 
regulatory requirements.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), the NMFS 
Assistant Administrator has determined that this interim final rule is 
consistent with the NE Multispecies FMP, other provisions of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law.

[[Page 19630]]

    The AA finds that prior notice and the opportunity for public 
comment would be contrary to the public interest, consistent with 5 
U.S.C. 553(b)(B). The purpose of this action is to allocate quotas to 
sectors and to authorize vessels to fish under the sector operations 
plans during the 2017 fishing year. The sector operations plans must be 
approved before sector vessels can fish in the sector fishery. In 2015, 
Framework Adjustment 55 to the NE Multispecies FMP set 2017 annual 
catch limits for groundfish stocks. However, in January 2017 the New 
England Fishery Management Council approved Framework Adjustment 56 to 
the FMP which would change the annual catch limits for 2017 for some 
stocks (some stocks would increase and others would decrease). To avoid 
public confusion and a mid-year change in allocations, we initially 
developed this rule to complement the Framework 56 rulemaking process. 
Typically, the framework rulemaking and related sector operations rule 
are completed in time for the start of the fishing year on May 1. 
However, the Council did not formally submit Framework 56 to us until 
April 13, 2017, which prohibited us from coordinating the publication 
of the two actions. Due to the late submission of Framework 56, this 
rule instead makes allocations based on the quota previously set by 
Framework 55. This rule could not be revised, as necessary, in time to 
provide prior notice and comment and still be effective for the start 
of the 2017 fishing year on May 1, 2017.
    Delaying the effective date of this action past the beginning of 
the fishing year on May 1 would cause a major disruption in sector 
member fishing plans and impose substantial opportunity costs through 
lost fishing opportunities. Sectors include 838 permits and 99 percent 
of fishing activity. Thus, any delay past the beginning of the fishing 
year would effectively shut down nearly the entire groundfish fishery 
during that delay. This delay may also require sector members to 
reconsider their decision and plans to fish in the sector rather than 
the common pool. Shutting down the fishery and disrupting business 
plans is contrary to this rule's intended purpose of providing 
operational flexibility and maximum opportunity for catching up to the 
fishery's allocated amounts. Further, these allocated amounts are 
gauged to achieve Optimum Yield and producing the greatest benefit to 
the nation as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and 
Management Act. A delay in the beginning of the fishery would be 
contrary to this statutory requirement and FMP goal. The economic loss 
from this lost opportunity and disruption would further exacerbate the 
severe economic impacts experienced by the groundfish fishery that have 
resulted from the substantial catch limit reductions for many key 
groundfish stocks over the past 5 years. For these reasons, delaying 
the effective date of this action to provide prior opportunity for 
public comment is contrary to the public interest. The AA finds that 
there is adequate justification under 5. U.S.C. 553(d)(1) to waive the 
30-day delay in effective date because this rule relieves several 
restrictions. This action allocates quotas and approves sector 
operations plans for fishing year 2017. A delay in effectiveness would 
not be in the public interest because this rule does not impose any new 
requirements or costs on industry for which industry needs time to 
prepare to comply. Further, if the effectiveness of this action is 
delayed beyond the May 1, 2017, start of the fishing year, the 838 
permits enrolled to fish in a sector in 2017 would either need to cease 
fishing on May 1, until this rule became effective, or forego fishing 
as part of a sector, including the associated regulatory exemptions, 
for the entirety of the fishing year and instead fish under the effort 
control regulations of the common pool. For example, vessels fishing in 
the common pool would be subject to effort controls that do not apply 
to vessels fishing under an approved sector operations plan. Common 
pool vessels will have their catch limited each trip, will be further 
limited in the number of days they could fish, and will be subject to 
several seasonal closures that sector vessels will be exempted from.
    Additionally, there is good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3), to 
waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness so that the purpose of this 
rule is not undermined. As stated above, the purpose of this action is 
to allocate quotas to sectors and to authorize vessels to fish under 
the sector operations plans during the 2017 fishing year. If the 
effectiveness of this action is delayed beyond the May 1, 2017, start 
of the fishing year, the 838 permits enrolled to fish in a sector in 
2017 would either need to cease fishing on May 1 until this rule became 
effective, or forego fishing as part of a sector, including the 
associated regulatory exemptions, for the entirety of the fishing year 
and instead fish under the effort control regulations of the common 
pool. Preventing vessels from fishing under the provisions of an 
approved operations plan either for the whole year, or a portion of the 
year, would severely disrupt the sector fishery and have direct 
negative economic effects on the affected vessels.
    This interim final rule does not contain policies with Federalism 
or ``takings'' implications as those terms are defined in E.O. 13132 
and E.O. 12630, respectively.
    This interim final rule is exempt from the procedures of the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act because the rule is issued without 
opportunity for prior notice and opportunity for public comment.

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

    Dated: April 25, 2017.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National 
Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2017-08617 Filed 4-27-17; 8:45 am]
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