Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast Groundfish Fishery; Fishing Year 2017; Recreational Management Measures, 24086-24092 [2017-10703]

Download as PDF 24086 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 100 / Thursday, May 25, 2017 / Proposed Rules online instructions for submitting comments. Once submitted, comments cannot be edited or removed from Regulations.gov. For either manner of submission, the EPA may publish any comment received to its public docket. Do not submit electronically any information you consider to be Confidential Business Information (CBI) or other information whose disclosure is restricted by statute. Multimedia submissions (audio, video, etc.) must be accompanied by a written comment. The written comment is considered the official comment and should include discussion of all points you wish to make. The EPA will generally not consider comments or comment contents located outside of the primary submission (i.e. on the web, cloud, or other file sharing system). For additional submission methods, please contact the person identified in the ‘‘For Further Information Contact’’ section. For the full EPA public comment policy, information about CBI or multimedia submissions, and general guidance on making effective comments, please visit https://www2.epa.gov/dockets/ commenting-epa-dockets. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ida E. McDonnell, Manager, Air Permits, Toxics, and Indoor Programs Unit, Office of Ecosystem Protection, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA New England Regional Office, 5 Post Office Square, Suite 100, (OEP05–2), Boston, MA 02109–3912, phone number (617) 918–1653, fax number (617) 918– 0653, email McDonnell.Ida@epa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: In the Final Rules Section of this Federal Register, EPA is approving the State’s SIP submittal as a direct final rule without prior proposal because the Agency views this as a noncontroversial submittal and anticipates no adverse comments. A detailed rationale for the approval is set forth in the direct final rule. If no adverse comments are received in response to this action rule, no further activity is contemplated. If EPA receives adverse comments, the direct final rule will be withdrawn and all public comments received will be addressed in a subsequent final rule based on this proposed rule. EPA will not institute a second comment period. Any parties interested in commenting on this action should do so at this time. Please note that if EPA receives adverse comment on an amendment, paragraph, or section of this rule and if that provision may be severed from the remainder of the rule, EPA may adopt as final those provisions of the rule that are not the subject of an adverse comment. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:01 May 24, 2017 Jkt 241001 For additional information, see the direct final rule which is located in the Rules Section of this Federal Register. Dated: April 19, 2017. Deborah A. Szaro, Acting Regional Administrator, EPA New England. [FR Doc. 2017–09538 Filed 5–24–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6560–50–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 161220999–7467–01] RIN 0648–BG52 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast Groundfish Fishery; Fishing Year 2017; Recreational Management Measures National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS proposes to modify recreational management measures for Gulf of Maine cod and haddock for the 2017 fishing year. This action proposes to prohibit recreational possession of cod, reduce the haddock bag limit, and implement a new closed season for haddock in the fall. The intended effect of this action is to reduce catch of cod and haddock. This action is necessary to ensure fishing year 2017 recreational catch limits are not exceeded. DATES: Comments must be received by June 9, 2017. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA– NMFS–2017–0048, by either of the following methods: Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. 1. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS2017-0048 2. Click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and 3. Enter or attach your comments. —OR— Mail: Submit written comments to: John K. Bullard, Regional Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00007 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 outside of the envelope, ‘‘Comments on the Fishing Year 2017 Groundfish Recreational Measures.’’ 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 the analyses supporting this rulemaking, including the Framework Adjustment 55 environmental assessment (EA) prepared by the New England Fishery Management Council, a supplemental EA to Framework Adjustment 55 prepared by the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office and Northeast Fisheries Science Center, and the supplemental information report (SIR) are available from: John K. Bullard, Regional Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. The Framework Adjustment 55 EA, supplemental EA, and SIR are also accessible via the Internet at: http:// www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov/ sustainable/species/multispecies/. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mark Grant, Sector Policy Analyst, phone: 978–281–9145; email: Mark.Grant@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Table of Contents 1. Fishing Year 2017 Recreational Management Measures 2. Regulatory Corrections Under Regional Administrator Authority 1. Proposed Recreational Management Measures for Fishing Year 2017 Background The recreational fishery for Gulf of Maine (GOM) cod and haddock is managed under the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan (FMP). Under the FMP, specific subannual catch limits (sub-ACL) for the recreational fishery are established for each fishing year for GOM cod and haddock. These sub-ACLs are a portion of the overall catch limit for each stock. The multispecies fishery opens on May 1 each year and runs through April 30 of the following calendar year. The FMP also contains recreational accountability E:\FR\FM\25MYP1.SGM 25MYP1 24087 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 100 / Thursday, May 25, 2017 / Proposed Rules measures to prevent the recreational sub-ACLs from being exceeded, or to correct the cause if an overage of one occurs. The proactive accountability measure provision in the FMP indicates that the Regional Administrator shall, in consultation with the New England Fishery Management Council, develop recreational management measures for the upcoming fishing year necessary to ensure that the sub-ACL is achieved, but not exceeded. The provisions authorizing this action can be found in § 648.89(f)(3) of the FMP’s implementing regulations. This action also proposes additional measures necessary to facilitate enforcement of recreational management measures. These measures and corrections to other regulations also in this action are proposed under the authority of § 305(d) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), which states that the Secretary of Commerce may promulgate regulations necessary to ensure that FMPs are implemented in accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Recreational catch and effort data are estimated by the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP), a comprehensive, multi-faceted survey system administered by NMFS that collects data from recreational anglers and captains. In 2016, the recreational sub-ACL for GOM cod increased 30 percent, and the recreational sub-ACL for GOM haddock increased 149 percent. Accordingly, the recreational measures set for 2016 were more liberal than the 2015 measures to increase recreational fishing opportunities and catch. However, in 2016, cod catch increased more than predicted and the recreational sub-ACL was exceeded by 92 percent. Haddock catch slightly exceeded the sub-ACL (by 15 percent). For 2017, the recreational sub-ACL for GOM haddock increases 25 percent, from 928 mt to 1,160 mt, and the recreational sub-ACL for GOM cod remains unchanged at 157 mt. As specified in Table 1, compared to the 2016 catch, the 2017 sub-ACLs would allow for a 9-percent increase in haddock catch, but would require a 48percent reduction in cod catch. TABLE 1—FISHING YEAR 2016 CATCH COMPARED TO FISHING YEAR 2016 AND 2017 SUB-ACLS 2016 Sub-ACL (mt) 2016 Catch (mt) GOM stock Cod ....................................................................................... Haddock ............................................................................... Analysis of Measures for Fishing Year 2017 A peer-reviewed bioeconomic model, developed by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, was used to estimate 2017 recreational GOM cod and haddock mortality under various combinations of minimum sizes, possession limits, and closed seasons. Even when incorporating zero possession of GOM cod, the model estimates that the status quo measures for GOM haddock are not expected to constrain the catch of haddock, or the bycatch of cod, to the 2017 catch limits. Catch of 2016 sub-ACL (percent) 2017 Sub-ACL (mt) Change in 2016 catch to reach 2017 sub-ACL (percent) 157 928 192 115 157 1,160 ¥48 +9 302 1,066 The model estimates that the status quo haddock measures would result in cod catch of 292 mt and haddock catch of 1,299 mt (see Table 3), which would be 186 percent of the cod sub-ACL and 112 percent of the haddock sub-ACL. Proposed Measures Because the recreational measures currently in place for GOM cod and haddock are not expected to constrain fishing year 2017 catch to the sub-ACLs, the proactive accountability measure requires adjustment of the management measures. The proposed measures are slightly more restrictive than the current measures. Recreational possession of GOM cod would be prohibited. The minimum size for GOM haddock would be unchanged, but the bag limit would be reduced from 15 fish to 12 fish, and a fall closed season would be added to the existing spring closure. We are soliciting comment on two different fall closures, as described in more detail below. The proposed fishing year 2017 recreational measures for GOM cod and haddock are specified in Table 2, along with information on fishing year 2016 measures for comparison. TABLE 2—PROPOSED GOM COD AND HADDOCK RECREATIONAL MANAGEMENT MEASURES FOR FISHING YEAR 2017 AND STATUS QUO (FISHING YEAR 2016) MEASURES Haddock 2017 Measures Haddock possession limit (per angler) Cod Minimum fish size (inches) Council Recommended .................. 12 fish ................ 17 Additional NMFS Option ................. 12 fish ................ 17 Status Quo ...................................... 15 fish ................ 17 Council Recommendations We consulted with the Council, and its Recreational Advisory Panel (RAP), in January 2017. The RAP met on VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:01 May 24, 2017 Jkt 241001 Closed season 3/1–4/14 9/17–10/31 3/1–4/14 9/1–9/30 3/1–4/14 Cod possession limit (per angler) Frm 00008 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Closed season N/A ..................... N/A 5/1–4/30 N/A ..................... N/A 5/1–4/30 1 fish .................. 24 5/1–7/31 10/1–4/30 January 18, 2017, to review catch projections under various scenarios of changed measures for fishing year 2017. The RAP discussed a number of PO 00000 Minimum fish size (inches) alternatives, and specifically decided against any options that would include closures in May or that would set different measures for private anglers E:\FR\FM\25MYP1.SGM 25MYP1 24088 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 100 / Thursday, May 25, 2017 / Proposed Rules and for-hire vessels. Ultimately, the RAP recommended the option that prohibited cod possession, and for haddock maintained the 17-inch minimum size, reduced the bag limit from 15 to 12 fish, and added a fall closure from September 17 through October 31 to the existing spring closure. On January 25, 2017, the Council discussed recreational measures for 2017. The Council declined the Groundfish Oversight Committee’s suggestion to implement separate measures for the private and for-hire modes at this time in deference to having a larger public process to consider the concept. Ultimately, the Council recommended we implement the RAP’s recommended option (see Table 2). The proposed measures are projected to result in fishing year 2017 recreational GOM cod and haddock catches that do not exceed the sub-ACLs (see Table 3), as explained further below. The analyses supporting this action are available as outlined in the ADDRESSES section of this rule’s preamble. TABLE 3—PROJECTED FISHING YEAR 2017 RECREATIONAL COD AND HADDOCK CATCH UNDER PROPOSED MEASURES AND STATUS QUO 2017 Measures Haddock Possession Limit (per angler) Minimum Fish Size (inches) Council Recommended ... 12 fish ........ 17 Additional NMFS Option .. 12 fish ........ 17 Status Quo ...................... 15 fish ........ 17 The bioeconomic model’s predicted probabilities that catch will remain at or below the sub-ACLs are informative. However, we are using preliminary MRIP data that will change when vessel trip report data from the for-hire fleet is incorporated (after June 15). MRIP estimates are highly variable from year to year. This combination of factors makes it difficult for the model to produce consistent predictions and to assess the underlying reasons for the discrepancies between predicted and actual catch. Historically, while the model’s predictive power increases each year, the model underestimates recreational catch. Recent measures have generally resulted in catch close to the sub-ACLs; however, a number of overages have still occurred. NMFS Additional Option The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires accountability measures to ensure compliance with ACLs. In 2014, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in Guindon v. Pritzker, 2014 WL 1274076 (D.D.C. Mar. 26, 2014) ruled against the agency’s recreational fishery measures in the Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery because the measures did not include a sufficient buffer, or additional accountability measures, to account for the management uncertainty represented by repeated ACL overages in past years. In light of the bioeconomic model’s prediction that the Council’s recommended measures have only a 50percent probability of preventing haddock catch from exceeding the subACL, the model’s history of underestimating catch, and multiple VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:01 May 24, 2017 Jkt 241001 Predicted Haddock Catch (mt) Closed Season 3/1–4/14 9/17–10/31 3/1–4/14 9/1–9/30 3/1–4/14 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Probability Cod Catch Below sub-ACL (percent) 50 147 78 1,137 70 149 78 1,299 0 292 0 2. Regulatory Corrections and Other Measures Under Regional Administrator Authority In § 648.89(b), we have added an exception to the minimum fish sizes for GOM cod and haddock to allow vessels to transit the GOM Regulated Mesh Area while in possession of cod and haddock caught outside the area, provided those fish meet the minimum sizes specified for fish caught outside the area. Frm 00009 Predicted Cod Catch (mt) 1,160 overages over the past five years it may be prudent to implement more conservative measures. Therefore, in addition to the Council’s recommended haddock measures, we are requesting comment on a set of measures with the same minimum size and bag limit, but a different fall closure (Additional NMFS Option in Table 2). As shown in Table 3, the model predicts shifting from a 6-week fall closure (9/17–10/31), as recommended by the Council, to a 4week September closure (9/1–9/30), would slightly reduce haddock catch and increase the probability that haddock catch would not exceed the sub-ACL. The key difference is that closing the entirety of September eliminates high catches associated with Labor Day weekend. Thus, a shorter fall closure could be a more conservative approach; however, this closure would be at the expense of a holiday weekend that is popular with private anglers and economically important to a portion of the for-hire fleet. We are particularly interested in comments on the effects of the different fall closures of the Council’s recommended option and NMFS additional option. PO 00000 Probability Haddock Catch Below sub-ACL (percent) Amendment 16 to the FMP included seasonal closures of the GOM recreational fishery for cod and haddock, and also implemented a possession limit exemption to allow vessels to transit the GOM when it was closed while in possession of fish legally caught outside the area. At that time, there was a single minimum size for cod, and a single minimum size for haddock, regardless of where the fish were caught and the transiting provision included in Amendment 16 did not address minimum fish size restrictions. Subsequently, we have changed the minimum sizes for GOM cod and haddock as part of the proactive accountability measures. We adjust the recreational measures for only GOM cod and haddock because these are the only stocks allocated a recreational sub-ACL. This has created a complicated system in which vessels may transit the GOM Regulated Mesh Area with fish legally caught outside the area in excess of the GOM possession limits, but those vessels must comply with the most restrictive minimum size of the two areas, rather than the minimum size applicable to where the fish were caught. The intent of this change is to simplify the existing transiting exemption by allowing any cod and haddock legally caught outside the GOM to be possessed by vessels transiting the GOM to ensure consistent implementation of the existing transiting provision. In § 648.89(e), we have revised the text specifying the requirements for the letters of authorization allowing charter and party boats to fish in the GOM closed areas and the Nantucket E:\FR\FM\25MYP1.SGM 25MYP1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 100 / Thursday, May 25, 2017 / Proposed Rules Lightship Closed Area to improve readability. In paragraph (e)(3), we have also corrected the name of the NMFS office issuing letters of authorization from the ‘‘Northeast Regional Office’’ to the ‘‘Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office.’’ In § 648.89(f)(2)(ii), we removed text prohibiting the Regional Administrator from adjusting the possession limit for GOM cod while recreational possession of GOM cod was prohibited by the Northeast Multispecies FMP. In 2016, Framework Adjustment 55 removed this prohibition, but the final rule implementing Framework Adjustment 55 inadvertently failed to remove this text. This change in intended to correct the regulations to accurately reflect the Council’s intent in Framework Adjustment 55. Classification Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS Assistant Administrator has made a preliminary determination that this proposed rule is consistent with the Northeast Multispecies FMP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, subject to further consideration after public comment. This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order (E.O.) 12866. This proposed rule does not contain policies with Federalism or ‘‘takings’’ implications as those terms are defined in E.O. 13132 and E.O. 12630, respectively. An initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA) was prepared, as required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). The IRFA describes the economic impact this proposed rule, if adopted, would have on small entities, and also determines ways to minimize these impacts. The IRFA includes sections of the preamble (SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION) and analyses supporting this rulemaking, including the Framework Adjustment 55 EA, the supplemental EA to Framework Adjustment 55, and the supplemental information report. A summary of the analysis follows (see ADDRESSES). Description of the Reasons Why Action by the Agency Is Being Considered Because the recreational measures currently in place for GOM cod and haddock are not expected to constrain fishing year 2017 catch to the sub-ACLs, this action proposes new measures, as required by the FMP, to ensure that the sub-ACL is achieved, but not exceeded. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:01 May 24, 2017 Jkt 241001 Statement of the Objectives of, and Legal Basis for, This Proposed Rule The accountability measures outlined in the FMP indicate that the Regional Administrator may, in consultation with the Council, modify the recreational management measures for the upcoming fishing year to ensure that the sub-ACL is achieved, but not exceeded. The provisions authorizing this action can be found in § 648.89(f)(3) of the FMP’s implementing regulations. The intended effect of this action is to reduce catch of cod and haddock. This action is necessary to ensure fishing year 2017 recreational catch limits are not exceeded. Additional measures necessary to facilitate enforcement of these accountability measures, consistent with the FMP, are authorized by section 305(d) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. In § 648.89(b), we have added an exception to the minimum fish sizes for GOM cod and haddock to allow vessels to transit the GOM Regulated Mesh Area while in possession of cod and haddock caught outside the area, provided those fish meet the minimum sizes specified for fish caught outside the area. In § 648.89(e), we have revised the text specifying the requirements for the letters of authorization allowing charter and party boats to fish in the GOM closed areas and the Nantucket Lightship Closed Area to improve readability. In § 648.89(f)(2)(ii), we removed text prohibiting the Regional Administrator from adjusting the possession limit for GOM cod while recreational possession of GOM cod was prohibited by the Northeast Multispecies FMP to accurately reflect the Council’s intent in Framework Adjustment 55. Description and Estimate of the Number of Small Entities to Which This Proposed Rule Would Apply The Small Business Administration (SBA) defines a small commercial finfishing or shellfishing business as a firm with annual receipts (gross revenue) of up to $11.0 million. A small for-hire recreational fishing business is defined as a firm with receipts of up to $7.5 million. Having different size standards for different types of fishing activities creates difficulties in categorizing businesses that participate in multiple fishing related activities. For purposes of this assessment business entities have been classified into the SBA-defined categories based on which activity produced the highest percentage of average annual gross revenues from 2013–2015, the most recent three-year period for which data are available. This PO 00000 Frm 00010 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 24089 classification is now possible because vessel ownership data have been added to Northeast permit database. The ownership data identify all individuals who own fishing vessels. Using this information, vessels can be grouped together according to common owners. The resulting groupings were treated as a fishing business for purposes of this analysis. Revenues summed across all vessels in a group and the activities that generate those revenues form the basis for determining whether the entity is a large or small business. The proposed regulations include closed seasons in addition to possession limits and size limits. For purposes of this analysis, it is assumed that for-hire businesses are directly affected by all three types of recreational fishing restrictions. According to the FMP, it is unlawful for the owner or operator of a charter or party boat issued a valid multispecies permit, when the boat is carrying passengers for hire, to: • Possess cod or haddock in excess of the possession limits. • Fish with gear in violation of the regulations. • Fail to comply with the applicable restrictions if transiting the GOM Regulated Mesh Area with cod or haddock on board that was caught outside the GOM Regulated Mesh Area. As the for-hire owner and operator can be prosecuted under the law for violations of the proposed regulations, for-hire business entities are considered directly affected in this analysis. Anglers are not considered ‘‘entities’’ under the RFA and thus economic impacts on anglers are not discussed here. For-hire fishing businesses are required to obtain a Federal charter/ party multispecies fishing permit in order to carry passengers to catch GOM cod or haddock. Thus, the affected businesses entities of concern are businesses that hold Federal multispecies for-hire fishing permits. While all business entities that hold forhire permits could be affected by changes in recreational fishing restrictions, not all business that hold for-hire permits actively participate in a given year. Those who actively participate, i.e., land fish, would be the group of business entities that are impacted by the regulations. Latent fishing power (in the form of unfished permits) has the potential to alter the impacts on a fishery, but it’s not possible to predict how many of these latent business entities will or will not participate in this fishery in fishing year 2017. The Northeast Federal landings database (i.e., vessel trip report data) indicates that a total of 645 party/ E:\FR\FM\25MYP1.SGM 25MYP1 24090 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 100 / Thursday, May 25, 2017 / Proposed Rules charter vessels held a multispecies forhire fishing permit in 2015 (the most recent full year of available data). Of the 645 for-hire permitted vessels, however, only 208 actively participated in the forhire Atlantic cod and haddock fishery in fishing year 2015 (i.e., reported catch of cod or haddock). Using vessel ownership information developed from Northeast Federal permit data and Northeast vessel trip report data, it was determined that the 208 actively participating for-hire vessels are owned by 191 unique fishing business entities. The vast majority of the 208 fishing businesses were solely engaged in for-hire fishing, but some also earned revenue from shellfish and/ or finfish fishing. The highest percentage of annual gross revenues though for all but 18 of the fishing businesses was from for-hire fishing. In other words, the revenue from for-hire fishing was greater than the revenue from shellfishing and the revenue from finfish fishing for all but 18 of the business entities. According to the SBA size standards, small for-hire businesses are defined as firms with annual receipts of up to $7.5 million, and small commercial finfishing or shellfishing business as firms with annual receipts (gross revenue) of up to $11.0 million. Average annual gross revenue estimates calculated from the most recent three years (2013–2015) indicate that none of the 191 for-hire business entities had annual receipts of more than $5.2 million from all of their fishing activities (for-hire, shellfish, and finfish). Therefore, all of the affected for-hire business entities are considered ‘‘small’’ by the SBA size standards and thus this action will not disproportionately affect small versus large for-hire business entities. Description of the Projected Reporting, Record-Keeping, and Other Compliance Requirements of This Proposed Rule There are no proposed reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements. Federal Rules Which May Duplicate, Overlap, or Conflict With This Proposed Rule The proposed action is authorized by the regulations implementing the NE Multispecies FMP. It does not duplicate, overlap, or conflict with other Federal rules. Description of Significant Alternatives to the Proposed Action Which Accomplish the Stated Objectives of Applicable Statutes and Which Minimize Any Significant Economic Impact on Small Entities the Recreational Advisory Panel, the Groundfish Oversight Committee, and the Council. This included the status quo and an option (presented to the Panel, Committee, and Council as Option 1) that prohibited cod possession while retaining the current haddock measures that would not have restrained catch to the quotas, and thus, would not have accomplished the objective. The proposed options that would accomplish the objectives were the Council recommended option (presented to the Panel, Committee, and Council as Option 2) and the additional NMFS option (presented to the Panel, Committee, and Council as Option 3), which are discussed in detail in the preamble. The remaining three options (Options 4, 5, and 6 in Table 4) that would accomplish the objective were discussed by all three groups. These remaining options were rejected either because implementation was viewed as confusing to the public (e.g., implementing a May closure shortly after the start of the fishing year on May 1) or in deference to having a larger public process to consider the concept (i.e., separate measures for the private anglers and the for-hire fleet). A total of seven combinations of recreational measures were presented to TABLE 4—PROJECTED FISHING YEAR 2017 RECREATIONAL COD AND HADDOCK CATCH UNDER ALTERNATIVE MEASURES NOT PROPOSED Haddock 2017 measures Haddock possession limit Cod Minimum fish size Option 4 ...................... 15 17 Option 5 ...................... 10 17 Option 6 Private ......... 12 17 Option 6 For Hire ....... 10 Closed season 3/1–4/14 2 weeks in May. 3/1–4/14 2 weeks in May. 3/1–4/14 ............. 9/17–10/31 ......... 3/1–4/14 ............. 17 List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648 Fisheries, Fishing, Recordkeeping and reporting requirements. Dated: May 19, 2017 Alan D. Risenhoover, Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. 18:01 May 24, 2017 Jkt 241001 Minimum fish size Closed season Probability haddock catch below sub-ACL (percent) Predicted cod catch (mt) Probability cod catch below sub-ACL (percent) N/A N/A 5/1–4/30 1,118 73 153 61 N/A N/A 5/1–4/30 1,149 68 157 51 N/A N/A 5/1–4/30 1,159 51 153 55 N/A N/A 5/1–4/30 PART 648—FISHERIES OF THE NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES The revisions and additions read as follows: 1. The authority citation for part 648 continues to read as follows: § 648.89 Recreational and charter/party vessel restrictions. ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. 2. In § 648.89: a. Revise paragraphs (b)(2) and (c)(1); ■ b. Remove paragraph (c)(2); ■ c. Redesignate paragraphs (c)(3) through (c)(8) as paragraphs (c)(2) through (c)(7), respectively; ■ d. Revise newly redesignated paragraph (c)(7); and ■ e. Revise paragraphs (e) and (f). ■ ■ For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 648 is proposed to be amended as follows: VerDate Sep<11>2014 Cod possession limit Predicted haddock catch (mt) PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 * * * * * (b) * * * (2) Exceptions—(i) Fillet size. Vessels may possess fillets less than the minimum size specified, if the fillets are taken from legal-sized fish and are not offered or intended for sale, trade or barter. (ii) Transiting. Vessels in possession of cod or haddock caught outside the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in E:\FR\FM\25MYP1.SGM 25MYP1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 100 / Thursday, May 25, 2017 / Proposed Rules § 648.80(a)(1) may transit this area with cod and haddock that meet the minimum size specified for fish caught outside the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in § 648.80(b)(1), provided all bait and hooks are removed from fishing rods, and any cod and haddock on board has been gutted and stored. * * * * * (c) Possession Restrictions—(1) Cod— (i) Outside the Gulf of Maine—(A) Private recreational vessels. Each person on a private recreational vessel may possess no more than 10 cod per day in, or harvested from, the EEZ when fishing outside of the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in § 648.80(a)(1). (B) Charter or party boats. Each person on a charter or party fishing boat permitted under this part, and not fishing under the NE multispecies DAS program or on a sector trip, may possess unlimited cod in, or harvested from, the EEZ when fishing outside of the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in § 648.80(a)(1). (ii) Gulf of Maine—(A) Private recreational vessels. When fishing in the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in § 648.80(a)(1), persons aboard private recreational fishing vessels may not fish for or possess cod, except that each person on a private recreational vessel in possession of cod caught outside the GOM Regulated Mesh Area may transit this area with cod up to the possession limit specified at § 648.80(c)(1)(i)(A), provided all bait and hooks are removed from fishing rods and any cod on board has been gutted and stored. (B) Charter or party boats. When fishing in the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in § 648.80(a)(1), persons aboard a charter or party fishing boat may not fish for or possess cod, except that each person on a charter or party fishing boat permitted under this part, and not fishing under the NE multispecies DAS program or on a sector trip, in possession of cod caught outside the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in § 648.80(a)(1) may transit this area in possession of cod caught outside the GOM Regulated Mesh Area with cod up to the possession limit specified at § 648.80(c)(1)(i)(B), provided all bait and hooks are removed from fishing rods and any cod on board has been gutted and stored. (iii) For purposes of counting fish, fillets will be converted to whole fish at the place of landing by dividing the number of fillets by two. If fish are filleted into a single (butterfly) fillet, such fillet shall be deemed to be from one whole fish. (iv) Cod harvested by recreational fishing vessels in or from the EEZ with VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:01 May 24, 2017 Jkt 241001 more than one person aboard may be pooled in one or more containers. Compliance with the possession limit will be determined by dividing the number of fish on board by the number of persons on board. If there is a violation of the possession limit on board a vessel carrying more than one person, the violation shall be deemed to have been committed by the owner or operator of the vessel. (v) Cod must be stored so as to be readily available for inspection. * * * * * (7) Haddock—(i) Outside the Gulf of Maine—(A) Private recreational vessels. Each person on a private recreational vessel may possess unlimited haddock in, or harvested from, the EEZ when fishing outside of the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in § 648.80(a)(1). (B) Charter or party boats. Each person on a charter or party fishing boat permitted under this part, and not fishing under the NE multispecies DAS program or on a sector trip, may possess unlimited haddock in, or harvested from, the EEZ when fishing outside of the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in § 648.80(a)(1). (ii) Gulf of Maine—(A) Private recreational vessels. Each person on a private recreational vessel in possession of haddock caught outside the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in § 648.80(a)(1) may transit this area with more than the GOM haddock possession limit specified at paragraph (c)(8)(ii) of this section up to the possession limit specified at paragraph (c)(8)(i) of this section, provided all bait and hooks are removed from fishing rods and any haddock on board has been gutted and stored. (1) May 1 through September 17. Each person on a private recreational fishing vessel, fishing from May 1 through September 17, may possess no more than 12 haddock per day in, or harvested from, the EEZ when fishing in the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in § 648.80(a)(1). (2) September 18 through October 31. When fishing in the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in § 648.80(a)(1), persons aboard private recreational fishing vessels may not fish for or possess any haddock from September 18 through October 31. (3) November through February. Each person on a private recreational fishing vessel, fishing from November 1 through February 28 (February 29 in leap years), may possess no more than 12 haddock per day in, or harvested from, the EEZ when fishing in the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in § 648.80(a)(1). (4) March 1 through April 14. When fishing in the GOM Regulated Mesh PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 24091 Area specified in § 648.80(a)(1), persons aboard private recreational fishing vessels may not fish for or possess any haddock from March 1 through April 14. (5) April 15 through April 30. Each person on a private recreational fishing vessel, fishing from April 15 through April 30, may possess no more than 12 haddock per day in, or harvested from, the EEZ when fishing in the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in § 648.80(a)(1). (B) Charter or party boats. Each person on a charter or party fishing boat permitted under this part, and not fishing under the NE multispecies DAS program or on a sector trip, in possession of haddock caught outside the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in § 648.80(a)(1) may transit this area with more than the GOM haddock possession limit specified at paragraph (c)(8)(ii) of this section up to the possession limit specified at paragraph (c)(8)(i) of this section, provided all bait and hooks are removed from fishing rods and any haddock on board has been gutted and stored. (1) May 1 through September 17. Each person on a charter or party fishing boat permitted under this part, and not fishing under the NE multispecies DAS program or on a sector trip, fishing from May 1 through September 17, may possess no more than 12 haddock per day in, or harvested from, the EEZ when fishing in the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in § 648.80(a)(1). (2) September 18 through October 31. When fishing in the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in § 648.80(a)(1), persons on a charter or party fishing boat permitted under this part, and not fishing under the NE multispecies DAS program or on a sector trip, may not fish for or possess any haddock from September 18 through October 31. (3) November through February. Each person on a charter or party fishing boat permitted under this part, and not fishing under the NE multispecies DAS program or on a sector trip, fishing from November 1 through February 28 (February 29 in leap years), may possess no more than 12 haddock per day in, or harvested from, the EEZ when fishing in the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in § 648.80(a)(1). (4) March 1 through April 14. When fishing in the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in § 648.80(a)(1), persons aboard a charter or party fishing boat permitted under this part, and not fishing under the NE multispecies DAS program or on a sector trip, may not fish for or possess any haddock from March 1 through April 14. E:\FR\FM\25MYP1.SGM 25MYP1 24092 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 100 / Thursday, May 25, 2017 / Proposed Rules (5) April 15 through April 30. Each person on a charter or party fishing boat permitted under this part, and not fishing under the NE multispecies DAS program or on a sector trip, fishing from April 15 through April 30, may possess no more than 12 haddock per day in, or harvested from, the EEZ when fishing in the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in § 648.80(a)(1). (iii) For purposes of counting fish, fillets will be converted to whole fish at the place of landing by dividing the number of fillets by two. If fish are filleted into a single (butterfly) fillet, such fillet shall be deemed to be from one whole fish. (iv) Haddock harvested in or from the EEZ by private recreational fishing boats or charter or party boats with more than one person aboard may be pooled in one or more containers. Compliance with the possession limit will be determined by dividing the number of fish on board by the number of persons on board. If there is a violation of the possession limit on board a vessel carrying more than one person, the violation shall be deemed to have been committed by the owner or operator of the vessel. (v) Haddock must be stored so as to be readily available for inspection. * * * * * (e) Charter/party vessel restrictions on fishing in GOM closed areas and the Nantucket Lightship Closed Area—(1) GOM Closed Areas. (i) A vessel fishing under charter/party regulations may not fish in the GOM closed areas specified in § 648.81(d)(1), (e)(1), and (f)(4) during the time periods specified in those paragraphs, unless the vessel has on board a valid letter of authorization issued by the Regional Administrator pursuant to § 648.81(f)(5)(v) and paragraph (e)(3) of this section. If the vessel fishes or intends to fish in the GOM cod protection closures, the conditions and restrictions of the letter of authorization must be complied with for a minimum of 3 months. If the vessel fishes or intends to fish in the yearround GOM closure areas, the conditions and restrictions of the letter of authorization must be complied with for the rest of the fishing year, beginning with the start of the participation period of the letter of authorization. (ii) A vessel fishing under charter/ party regulations may not fish in the GOM Cod Spawning Protection Area specified at § 648.81(n)(1) during the time period specified in that paragraph, unless the vessel complies with the requirements specified at § 648.81(n)(2)(iii). (2) Nantucket Lightship Closed Area. A vessel fishing under charter/party VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:01 May 24, 2017 Jkt 241001 regulations may not fish in the Nantucket Lightship Closed Area specified in § 648.81(c)(1) unless the vessel has on board a letter of authorization issued by the Regional Administrator pursuant to § 648.81(c)(2)(iii) and paragraph (e)(3) of this section. (3) Letters of authorization. To obtain either of the letters of authorization specified in paragraphs (e)(1) and (2) of this section, a vessel owner must request a letter from the NMFS Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, either in writing or by phone (see Table 1 to 50 CFR 600.502). As a condition of these letters of authorization, the vessel owner must agree to the following: (i) The letter of authorization must be carried on board the vessel during the period of participation; (ii) Fish species managed by the NEFMC or MAFMC that are harvested or possessed by the vessel, are not sold or intended for trade, barter or sale, regardless of where the fish are caught; (iii) The vessel has no gear other than rod and reel or handline gear on board; and (iv) For the GOM charter/party closed area exemption only, the vessel may not fish on a sector trip, under a NE multispecies DAS, or under the provisions of the NE multispecies Small Vessel Category or Handgear A or Handgear B permit categories, as specified at § 648.82, during the period of participation. (f) Recreational fishery AM—(1) Catch evaluation. As soon as recreational catch data are available for the entire previous fishing year, the Regional Administrator will evaluate whether recreational catches exceed any of the sub-ACLs specified for the recreational fishery pursuant to § 648.90(a)(4). When evaluating recreational catch, the components of recreational catch that are used shall be the same as those used in the most recent assessment for that particular stock. To determine if any sub-ACL specified for the recreational fishery was exceeded, the Regional Administrator shall compare the 3-year average of recreational catch to the 3year average of the recreational sub-ACL for each stock. (2) Reactive AM adjustment. If it is determined that any recreational subACL was exceeded, as specified in paragraph (f)(1) of this section, the Regional Administrator, after consultation with the NEFMC, shall develop measures necessary to prevent the recreational fishery from exceeding the appropriate sub-ACL in future years. Appropriate AMs for the recreational fishery, including adjustments to fishing season, minimum fish size, or PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 possession limits, may be implemented in a manner consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act, with final measures published in the Federal Register no later than January when possible. Separate AMs shall be developed for the private and charter/ party components of the recreational fishery. (3) Proactive AM adjustment. When necessary, the Regional Administrator, after consultation with the New England Fishery Management Council, may adjust recreational measures to ensure the recreational fishery achieves, but does not exceed any recreational fishery sub-ACL in a future fishing year. Appropriate AMs for the recreational fishery, including adjustments to fishing season, minimum fish size, or possession limits, may be implemented in a manner consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act, with final measures published in the Federal Register prior to the start of the fishing year where possible. In specifying these AMs, the Regional Administrator shall take into account the non-binding prioritization of possible measures recommended by the Council: For cod, first increases to minimum fish sizes, then adjustments to seasons, followed by changes to bag limits; and for haddock, first increases to minimum size limits, then changes to bag limits, and then adjustments to seasons. [FR Doc. 2017–10703 Filed 5–24–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 665 [Docket No. 170330338–7470–01] RIN 0648–XF335 Pacific Island Fisheries; 2017–18 Annual Catch Limit and Accountability Measures; Main Hawaiian Islands Deep 7 Bottomfish National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed specifications; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS proposes to specify an annual catch limit (ACL) of 306,000 lb for Deep 7 bottomfish in the main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) for the 2017–18 fishing year, which will begin on September 1, 2017, and end on August 31, 2018. If NMFS projects that the SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\25MYP1.SGM 25MYP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 100 (Thursday, May 25, 2017)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 24086-24092]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-10703]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 161220999-7467-01]
RIN 0648-BG52


Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act 
Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast 
Groundfish Fishery; Fishing Year 2017; Recreational Management Measures

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: NMFS proposes to modify recreational management measures for 
Gulf of Maine cod and haddock for the 2017 fishing year. This action 
proposes to prohibit recreational possession of cod, reduce the haddock 
bag limit, and implement a new closed season for haddock in the fall. 
The intended effect of this action is to reduce catch of cod and 
haddock. This action is necessary to ensure fishing year 2017 
recreational catch limits are not exceeded.

DATES: Comments must be received by June 9, 2017.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NMFS-2017-0048, by either of the following methods:
    Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via 
the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal.

1. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2017-0048
2. Click the ``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and
3. Enter or attach your comments.

--OR--

    Mail: Submit written comments to: John K. Bullard, Regional 
Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, 55 Great Republic 
Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the envelope, 
``Comments on the Fishing Year 2017 Groundfish Recreational Measures.''
    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 the analyses supporting this rulemaking, including the 
Framework Adjustment 55 environmental assessment (EA) prepared by the 
New England Fishery Management Council, a supplemental EA to Framework 
Adjustment 55 prepared by the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries 
Office and Northeast Fisheries Science Center, and the supplemental 
information report (SIR) are available from: John K. Bullard, Regional 
Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, 55 Great Republic 
Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. The Framework Adjustment 55 EA, 
supplemental EA, and SIR are also accessible via the Internet at: 
http://www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov/sustainable/species/multispecies/.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mark Grant, Sector Policy Analyst, 
phone: 978-281-9145; email: Mark.Grant@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Table of Contents

1. Fishing Year 2017 Recreational Management Measures
2. Regulatory Corrections Under Regional Administrator Authority

1. Proposed Recreational Management Measures for Fishing Year 2017

Background

    The recreational fishery for Gulf of Maine (GOM) cod and haddock is 
managed under the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan (FMP). 
Under the FMP, specific sub-annual catch limits (sub-ACL) for the 
recreational fishery are established for each fishing year for GOM cod 
and haddock. These sub-ACLs are a portion of the overall catch limit 
for each stock. The multispecies fishery opens on May 1 each year and 
runs through April 30 of the following calendar year. The FMP also 
contains recreational accountability

[[Page 24087]]

measures to prevent the recreational sub-ACLs from being exceeded, or 
to correct the cause if an overage of one occurs.
    The proactive accountability measure provision in the FMP indicates 
that the Regional Administrator shall, in consultation with the New 
England Fishery Management Council, develop recreational management 
measures for the upcoming fishing year necessary to ensure that the 
sub-ACL is achieved, but not exceeded. The provisions authorizing this 
action can be found in Sec.  648.89(f)(3) of the FMP's implementing 
regulations. This action also proposes additional measures necessary to 
facilitate enforcement of recreational management measures. These 
measures and corrections to other regulations also in this action are 
proposed under the authority of Sec.  305(d) of the Magnuson-Stevens 
Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), which 
states that the Secretary of Commerce may promulgate regulations 
necessary to ensure that FMPs are implemented in accordance with the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act.
    Recreational catch and effort data are estimated by the Marine 
Recreational Information Program (MRIP), a comprehensive, multi-faceted 
survey system administered by NMFS that collects data from recreational 
anglers and captains. In 2016, the recreational sub-ACL for GOM cod 
increased 30 percent, and the recreational sub-ACL for GOM haddock 
increased 149 percent. Accordingly, the recreational measures set for 
2016 were more liberal than the 2015 measures to increase recreational 
fishing opportunities and catch. However, in 2016, cod catch increased 
more than predicted and the recreational sub-ACL was exceeded by 92 
percent. Haddock catch slightly exceeded the sub-ACL (by 15 percent). 
For 2017, the recreational sub-ACL for GOM haddock increases 25 
percent, from 928 mt to 1,160 mt, and the recreational sub-ACL for GOM 
cod remains unchanged at 157 mt. As specified in Table 1, compared to 
the 2016 catch, the 2017 sub-ACLs would allow for a 9-percent increase 
in haddock catch, but would require a 48-percent reduction in cod 
catch.

                Table 1--Fishing Year 2016 Catch Compared to Fishing Year 2016 and 2017 Sub-ACLs
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                  Change in 2016
                                    2016 Catch     2016 Sub-ACL    Catch of 2016   2017 Sub-ACL   catch to reach
            GOM stock                  (mt)            (mt)           sub-ACL          (mt)        2017 sub-ACL
                                                                     (percent)                       (percent)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cod.............................             302             157             192             157             -48
Haddock.........................           1,066             928             115           1,160              +9
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Analysis of Measures for Fishing Year 2017

    A peer-reviewed bioeconomic model, developed by the Northeast 
Fisheries Science Center, was used to estimate 2017 recreational GOM 
cod and haddock mortality under various combinations of minimum sizes, 
possession limits, and closed seasons. Even when incorporating zero 
possession of GOM cod, the model estimates that the status quo measures 
for GOM haddock are not expected to constrain the catch of haddock, or 
the bycatch of cod, to the 2017 catch limits. The model estimates that 
the status quo haddock measures would result in cod catch of 292 mt and 
haddock catch of 1,299 mt (see Table 3), which would be 186 percent of 
the cod sub-ACL and 112 percent of the haddock sub-ACL.

Proposed Measures

    Because the recreational measures currently in place for GOM cod 
and haddock are not expected to constrain fishing year 2017 catch to 
the sub-ACLs, the proactive accountability measure requires adjustment 
of the management measures. The proposed measures are slightly more 
restrictive than the current measures. Recreational possession of GOM 
cod would be prohibited. The minimum size for GOM haddock would be 
unchanged, but the bag limit would be reduced from 15 fish to 12 fish, 
and a fall closed season would be added to the existing spring closure. 
We are soliciting comment on two different fall closures, as described 
in more detail below. The proposed fishing year 2017 recreational 
measures for GOM cod and haddock are specified in Table 2, along with 
information on fishing year 2016 measures for comparison.

        Table 2--Proposed GOM Cod and Haddock Recreational Management Measures for Fishing Year 2017 and Status Quo (Fishing Year 2016) Measures
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                Haddock                                                    Cod
                                      ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
            2017 Measures                 Haddock  possession     Minimum fish                     Cod possession limit    Minimum fish
                                          limit  (per angler)     size (inches)   Closed season        (per angler)        size (inches)   Closed season
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Council Recommended..................  12 fish.................              17        3/1-4/14  N/A....................             N/A        5/1-4/30
                                                                                     9/17-10/31
Additional NMFS Option...............  12 fish.................              17        3/1-4/14  N/A....................             N/A        5/1-4/30
                                                                                       9/1-9/30
Status Quo...........................  15 fish.................              17        3/1-4/14  1 fish.................              24        5/1-7/31
                                                                                                                                               10/1-4/30
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Council Recommendations

    We consulted with the Council, and its Recreational Advisory Panel 
(RAP), in January 2017. The RAP met on January 18, 2017, to review 
catch projections under various scenarios of changed measures for 
fishing year 2017. The RAP discussed a number of alternatives, and 
specifically decided against any options that would include closures in 
May or that would set different measures for private anglers

[[Page 24088]]

and for-hire vessels. Ultimately, the RAP recommended the option that 
prohibited cod possession, and for haddock maintained the 17-inch 
minimum size, reduced the bag limit from 15 to 12 fish, and added a 
fall closure from September 17 through October 31 to the existing 
spring closure. On January 25, 2017, the Council discussed recreational 
measures for 2017. The Council declined the Groundfish Oversight 
Committee's suggestion to implement separate measures for the private 
and for-hire modes at this time in deference to having a larger public 
process to consider the concept. Ultimately, the Council recommended we 
implement the RAP's recommended option (see Table 2).
    The proposed measures are projected to result in fishing year 2017 
recreational GOM cod and haddock catches that do not exceed the sub-
ACLs (see Table 3), as explained further below. The analyses supporting 
this action are available as outlined in the ADDRESSES section of this 
rule's preamble.

                     Table 3--Projected Fishing Year 2017 Recreational Cod and Haddock Catch Under Proposed Measures and Status Quo
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                            Probability                     Probability
                                     Haddock Possession    Minimum Fish                      Predicted     Haddock Catch   Predicted Cod     Cod Catch
           2017 Measures             Limit (per angler)    Size (inches)  Closed  Season   Haddock Catch   Below sub-ACL    Catch  (mt)   Below  sub-ACL
                                                                                               (mt)          (percent)                       (percent)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Council Recommended...............  12 fish.............              17        3/1-4/14           1,160              50             147              78
                                                                              9/17-10/31
Additional NMFS Option............  12 fish.............              17        3/1-4/14           1,137              70             149              78
                                                                                9/1-9/30
Status Quo........................  15 fish.............              17        3/1-4/14           1,299               0             292               0
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The bioeconomic model's predicted probabilities that catch will 
remain at or below the sub-ACLs are informative. However, we are using 
preliminary MRIP data that will change when vessel trip report data 
from the for-hire fleet is incorporated (after June 15). MRIP estimates 
are highly variable from year to year. This combination of factors 
makes it difficult for the model to produce consistent predictions and 
to assess the underlying reasons for the discrepancies between 
predicted and actual catch. Historically, while the model's predictive 
power increases each year, the model underestimates recreational catch. 
Recent measures have generally resulted in catch close to the sub-ACLs; 
however, a number of overages have still occurred.

NMFS Additional Option

    The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires accountability measures to ensure 
compliance with ACLs. In 2014, the U.S. District Court for the District 
of Columbia in Guindon v. Pritzker, 2014 WL 1274076 (D.D.C. Mar. 26, 
2014) ruled against the agency's recreational fishery measures in the 
Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery because the measures did not include 
a sufficient buffer, or additional accountability measures, to account 
for the management uncertainty represented by repeated ACL overages in 
past years. In light of the bioeconomic model's prediction that the 
Council's recommended measures have only a 50-percent probability of 
preventing haddock catch from exceeding the sub-ACL, the model's 
history of underestimating catch, and multiple overages over the past 
five years it may be prudent to implement more conservative measures. 
Therefore, in addition to the Council's recommended haddock measures, 
we are requesting comment on a set of measures with the same minimum 
size and bag limit, but a different fall closure (Additional NMFS 
Option in Table 2). As shown in Table 3, the model predicts shifting 
from a 6-week fall closure (9/17-10/31), as recommended by the Council, 
to a 4-week September closure (9/1-9/30), would slightly reduce haddock 
catch and increase the probability that haddock catch would not exceed 
the sub-ACL. The key difference is that closing the entirety of 
September eliminates high catches associated with Labor Day weekend. 
Thus, a shorter fall closure could be a more conservative approach; 
however, this closure would be at the expense of a holiday weekend that 
is popular with private anglers and economically important to a portion 
of the for-hire fleet.
    We are particularly interested in comments on the effects of the 
different fall closures of the Council's recommended option and NMFS 
additional option.

2. Regulatory Corrections and Other Measures Under Regional 
Administrator Authority

    In Sec.  648.89(b), we have added an exception to the minimum fish 
sizes for GOM cod and haddock to allow vessels to transit the GOM 
Regulated Mesh Area while in possession of cod and haddock caught 
outside the area, provided those fish meet the minimum sizes specified 
for fish caught outside the area. Amendment 16 to the FMP included 
seasonal closures of the GOM recreational fishery for cod and haddock, 
and also implemented a possession limit exemption to allow vessels to 
transit the GOM when it was closed while in possession of fish legally 
caught outside the area. At that time, there was a single minimum size 
for cod, and a single minimum size for haddock, regardless of where the 
fish were caught and the transiting provision included in Amendment 16 
did not address minimum fish size restrictions.
    Subsequently, we have changed the minimum sizes for GOM cod and 
haddock as part of the proactive accountability measures. We adjust the 
recreational measures for only GOM cod and haddock because these are 
the only stocks allocated a recreational sub-ACL. This has created a 
complicated system in which vessels may transit the GOM Regulated Mesh 
Area with fish legally caught outside the area in excess of the GOM 
possession limits, but those vessels must comply with the most 
restrictive minimum size of the two areas, rather than the minimum size 
applicable to where the fish were caught. The intent of this change is 
to simplify the existing transiting exemption by allowing any cod and 
haddock legally caught outside the GOM to be possessed by vessels 
transiting the GOM to ensure consistent implementation of the existing 
transiting provision.
    In Sec.  648.89(e), we have revised the text specifying the 
requirements for the letters of authorization allowing charter and 
party boats to fish in the GOM closed areas and the Nantucket

[[Page 24089]]

Lightship Closed Area to improve readability. In paragraph (e)(3), we 
have also corrected the name of the NMFS office issuing letters of 
authorization from the ``Northeast Regional Office'' to the ``Greater 
Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office.''
    In Sec.  648.89(f)(2)(ii), we removed text prohibiting the Regional 
Administrator from adjusting the possession limit for GOM cod while 
recreational possession of GOM cod was prohibited by the Northeast 
Multispecies FMP. In 2016, Framework Adjustment 55 removed this 
prohibition, but the final rule implementing Framework Adjustment 55 
inadvertently failed to remove this text. This change in intended to 
correct the regulations to accurately reflect the Council's intent in 
Framework Adjustment 55.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Assistant Administrator has made a preliminary determination that 
this proposed rule is consistent with the Northeast Multispecies FMP, 
other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, 
subject to further consideration after public comment.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order (E.O.) 12866.
    This proposed rule does not contain policies with Federalism or 
``takings'' implications as those terms are defined in E.O. 13132 and 
E.O. 12630, respectively.
    An initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA) was prepared, as 
required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). The 
IRFA describes the economic impact this proposed rule, if adopted, 
would have on small entities, and also determines ways to minimize 
these impacts. The IRFA includes sections of the preamble 
(SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION) and analyses supporting this rulemaking, 
including the Framework Adjustment 55 EA, the supplemental EA to 
Framework Adjustment 55, and the supplemental information report. A 
summary of the analysis follows (see ADDRESSES).

Description of the Reasons Why Action by the Agency Is Being Considered

    Because the recreational measures currently in place for GOM cod 
and haddock are not expected to constrain fishing year 2017 catch to 
the sub-ACLs, this action proposes new measures, as required by the 
FMP, to ensure that the sub-ACL is achieved, but not exceeded.

Statement of the Objectives of, and Legal Basis for, This Proposed Rule

    The accountability measures outlined in the FMP indicate that the 
Regional Administrator may, in consultation with the Council, modify 
the recreational management measures for the upcoming fishing year to 
ensure that the sub-ACL is achieved, but not exceeded. The provisions 
authorizing this action can be found in Sec.  648.89(f)(3) of the FMP's 
implementing regulations. The intended effect of this action is to 
reduce catch of cod and haddock. This action is necessary to ensure 
fishing year 2017 recreational catch limits are not exceeded.
    Additional measures necessary to facilitate enforcement of these 
accountability measures, consistent with the FMP, are authorized by 
section 305(d) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. In Sec.  648.89(b), we have 
added an exception to the minimum fish sizes for GOM cod and haddock to 
allow vessels to transit the GOM Regulated Mesh Area while in 
possession of cod and haddock caught outside the area, provided those 
fish meet the minimum sizes specified for fish caught outside the area.
    In Sec.  648.89(e), we have revised the text specifying the 
requirements for the letters of authorization allowing charter and 
party boats to fish in the GOM closed areas and the Nantucket Lightship 
Closed Area to improve readability.
    In Sec.  648.89(f)(2)(ii), we removed text prohibiting the Regional 
Administrator from adjusting the possession limit for GOM cod while 
recreational possession of GOM cod was prohibited by the Northeast 
Multispecies FMP to accurately reflect the Council's intent in 
Framework Adjustment 55.

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

    The Small Business Administration (SBA) defines a small commercial 
finfishing or shellfishing business as a firm with annual receipts 
(gross revenue) of up to $11.0 million. A small for-hire recreational 
fishing business is defined as a firm with receipts of up to $7.5 
million. Having different size standards for different types of fishing 
activities creates difficulties in categorizing businesses that 
participate in multiple fishing related activities. For purposes of 
this assessment business entities have been classified into the SBA-
defined categories based on which activity produced the highest 
percentage of average annual gross revenues from 2013-2015, the most 
recent three-year period for which data are available. This 
classification is now possible because vessel ownership data have been 
added to Northeast permit database. The ownership data identify all 
individuals who own fishing vessels. Using this information, vessels 
can be grouped together according to common owners. The resulting 
groupings were treated as a fishing business for purposes of this 
analysis. Revenues summed across all vessels in a group and the 
activities that generate those revenues form the basis for determining 
whether the entity is a large or small business.
    The proposed regulations include closed seasons in addition to 
possession limits and size limits. For purposes of this analysis, it is 
assumed that for-hire businesses are directly affected by all three 
types of recreational fishing restrictions. According to the FMP, it is 
unlawful for the owner or operator of a charter or party boat issued a 
valid multispecies permit, when the boat is carrying passengers for 
hire, to:
     Possess cod or haddock in excess of the possession limits.
     Fish with gear in violation of the regulations.
     Fail to comply with the applicable restrictions if 
transiting the GOM Regulated Mesh Area with cod or haddock on board 
that was caught outside the GOM Regulated Mesh Area.
    As the for-hire owner and operator can be prosecuted under the law 
for violations of the proposed regulations, for-hire business entities 
are considered directly affected in this analysis. Anglers are not 
considered ``entities'' under the RFA and thus economic impacts on 
anglers are not discussed here.
    For-hire fishing businesses are required to obtain a Federal 
charter/party multispecies fishing permit in order to carry passengers 
to catch GOM cod or haddock. Thus, the affected businesses entities of 
concern are businesses that hold Federal multispecies for-hire fishing 
permits. While all business entities that hold for-hire permits could 
be affected by changes in recreational fishing restrictions, not all 
business that hold for-hire permits actively participate in a given 
year. Those who actively participate, i.e., land fish, would be the 
group of business entities that are impacted by the regulations. Latent 
fishing power (in the form of unfished permits) has the potential to 
alter the impacts on a fishery, but it's not possible to predict how 
many of these latent business entities will or will not participate in 
this fishery in fishing year 2017. The Northeast Federal landings 
database (i.e., vessel trip report data) indicates that a total of 645 
party/

[[Page 24090]]

charter vessels held a multispecies for-hire fishing permit in 2015 
(the most recent full year of available data). Of the 645 for-hire 
permitted vessels, however, only 208 actively participated in the for-
hire Atlantic cod and haddock fishery in fishing year 2015 (i.e., 
reported catch of cod or haddock).
    Using vessel ownership information developed from Northeast Federal 
permit data and Northeast vessel trip report data, it was determined 
that the 208 actively participating for-hire vessels are owned by 191 
unique fishing business entities. The vast majority of the 208 fishing 
businesses were solely engaged in for-hire fishing, but some also 
earned revenue from shellfish and/or finfish fishing. The highest 
percentage of annual gross revenues though for all but 18 of the 
fishing businesses was from for-hire fishing. In other words, the 
revenue from for-hire fishing was greater than the revenue from 
shellfishing and the revenue from finfish fishing for all but 18 of the 
business entities.
    According to the SBA size standards, small for-hire businesses are 
defined as firms with annual receipts of up to $7.5 million, and small 
commercial finfishing or shellfishing business as firms with annual 
receipts (gross revenue) of up to $11.0 million. Average annual gross 
revenue estimates calculated from the most recent three years (2013-
2015) indicate that none of the 191 for-hire business entities had 
annual receipts of more than $5.2 million from all of their fishing 
activities (for-hire, shellfish, and finfish). Therefore, all of the 
affected for-hire business entities are considered ``small'' by the SBA 
size standards and thus this action will not disproportionately affect 
small versus large for-hire business entities.

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

    There are no proposed reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance 
requirements.

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

    The proposed action is authorized by the regulations implementing 
the NE Multispecies FMP. It does not duplicate, overlap, or conflict 
with other Federal rules.

Description of Significant Alternatives to the Proposed Action Which 
Accomplish the Stated Objectives of Applicable Statutes and Which 
Minimize Any Significant Economic Impact on Small Entities

    A total of seven combinations of recreational measures were 
presented to the Recreational Advisory Panel, the Groundfish Oversight 
Committee, and the Council. This included the status quo and an option 
(presented to the Panel, Committee, and Council as Option 1) that 
prohibited cod possession while retaining the current haddock measures 
that would not have restrained catch to the quotas, and thus, would not 
have accomplished the objective. The proposed options that would 
accomplish the objectives were the Council recommended option 
(presented to the Panel, Committee, and Council as Option 2) and the 
additional NMFS option (presented to the Panel, Committee, and Council 
as Option 3), which are discussed in detail in the preamble. The 
remaining three options (Options 4, 5, and 6 in Table 4) that would 
accomplish the objective were discussed by all three groups. These 
remaining options were rejected either because implementation was 
viewed as confusing to the public (e.g., implementing a May closure 
shortly after the start of the fishing year on May 1) or in deference 
to having a larger public process to consider the concept (i.e., 
separate measures for the private anglers and the for-hire fleet).

                     Table 4--Projected Fishing Year 2017 Recreational Cod and Haddock Catch Under Alternative Measures Not Proposed
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           Haddock                                  Cod                             Probability              Probability
                          -----------------------------------------------------------------------------  Predicted    haddock     Predicted   cod catch
      2017 measures          Haddock                                    Cod                               haddock   catch below   cod catch   below sub-
                           possession    Minimum    Closed season   possession    Minimum     Closed    catch (mt)    sub-ACL       (mt)         ACL
                              limit     fish size                      limit     fish size    season                 (percent)                (percent)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Option 4.................          15          17  3/1-4/14 2              N/A         N/A    5/1-4/30       1,118           73         153           61
                                                    weeks in May.
Option 5.................          10          17  3/1-4/14 2              N/A         N/A    5/1-4/30       1,149           68         157           51
                                                    weeks in May.
Option 6 Private.........          12          17  3/1-4/14.......         N/A         N/A    5/1-4/30       1,159           51         153           55
                                                   9/17-10/31.....
Option 6 For Hire........          10          17  3/1-4/14.......         N/A         N/A    5/1-4/30
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648

    Fisheries, Fishing, Recordkeeping and reporting requirements.

    Dated: May 19, 2017
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National 
Marine Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 648 is 
proposed to be amended as follows:

PART 648--FISHERIES OF THE NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES

0
1. The authority citation for part 648 continues to read as follows:

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

0
2. In Sec.  648.89:
0
a. Revise paragraphs (b)(2) and (c)(1);
0
b. Remove paragraph (c)(2);
0
c. Redesignate paragraphs (c)(3) through (c)(8) as paragraphs (c)(2) 
through (c)(7), respectively;
0
d. Revise newly redesignated paragraph (c)(7); and
0
e. Revise paragraphs (e) and (f).
    The revisions and additions read as follows:


Sec.  648.89  Recreational and charter/party vessel restrictions.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (2) Exceptions--(i) Fillet size. Vessels may possess fillets less 
than the minimum size specified, if the fillets are taken from legal-
sized fish and are not offered or intended for sale, trade or barter.
    (ii) Transiting. Vessels in possession of cod or haddock caught 
outside the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in

[[Page 24091]]

Sec.  648.80(a)(1) may transit this area with cod and haddock that meet 
the minimum size specified for fish caught outside the GOM Regulated 
Mesh Area specified in Sec.  648.80(b)(1), provided all bait and hooks 
are removed from fishing rods, and any cod and haddock on board has 
been gutted and stored.
* * * * *
    (c) Possession Restrictions--(1) Cod-- (i) Outside the Gulf of 
Maine--(A) Private recreational vessels. Each person on a private 
recreational vessel may possess no more than 10 cod per day in, or 
harvested from, the EEZ when fishing outside of the GOM Regulated Mesh 
Area specified in Sec.  648.80(a)(1).
    (B) Charter or party boats. Each person on a charter or party 
fishing boat permitted under this part, and not fishing under the NE 
multispecies DAS program or on a sector trip, may possess unlimited cod 
in, or harvested from, the EEZ when fishing outside of the GOM 
Regulated Mesh Area specified in Sec.  648.80(a)(1).
    (ii) Gulf of Maine--(A) Private recreational vessels. When fishing 
in the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in Sec.  648.80(a)(1), persons 
aboard private recreational fishing vessels may not fish for or possess 
cod, except that each person on a private recreational vessel in 
possession of cod caught outside the GOM Regulated Mesh Area may 
transit this area with cod up to the possession limit specified at 
Sec.  648.80(c)(1)(i)(A), provided all bait and hooks are removed from 
fishing rods and any cod on board has been gutted and stored.
    (B) Charter or party boats. When fishing in the GOM Regulated Mesh 
Area specified in Sec.  648.80(a)(1), persons aboard a charter or party 
fishing boat may not fish for or possess cod, except that each person 
on a charter or party fishing boat permitted under this part, and not 
fishing under the NE multispecies DAS program or on a sector trip, in 
possession of cod caught outside the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified 
in Sec.  648.80(a)(1) may transit this area in possession of cod caught 
outside the GOM Regulated Mesh Area with cod up to the possession limit 
specified at Sec.  648.80(c)(1)(i)(B), provided all bait and hooks are 
removed from fishing rods and any cod on board has been gutted and 
stored.
    (iii) For purposes of counting fish, fillets will be converted to 
whole fish at the place of landing by dividing the number of fillets by 
two. If fish are filleted into a single (butterfly) fillet, such fillet 
shall be deemed to be from one whole fish.
    (iv) Cod harvested by recreational fishing vessels in or from the 
EEZ with more than one person aboard may be pooled in one or more 
containers. Compliance with the possession limit will be determined by 
dividing the number of fish on board by the number of persons on board. 
If there is a violation of the possession limit on board a vessel 
carrying more than one person, the violation shall be deemed to have 
been committed by the owner or operator of the vessel.
    (v) Cod must be stored so as to be readily available for 
inspection.
* * * * *
    (7) Haddock--(i) Outside the Gulf of Maine--(A) Private 
recreational vessels. Each person on a private recreational vessel may 
possess unlimited haddock in, or harvested from, the EEZ when fishing 
outside of the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in Sec.  648.80(a)(1).
    (B) Charter or party boats. Each person on a charter or party 
fishing boat permitted under this part, and not fishing under the NE 
multispecies DAS program or on a sector trip, may possess unlimited 
haddock in, or harvested from, the EEZ when fishing outside of the GOM 
Regulated Mesh Area specified in Sec.  648.80(a)(1).
    (ii) Gulf of Maine--(A) Private recreational vessels. Each person 
on a private recreational vessel in possession of haddock caught 
outside the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in Sec.  648.80(a)(1) may 
transit this area with more than the GOM haddock possession limit 
specified at paragraph (c)(8)(ii) of this section up to the possession 
limit specified at paragraph (c)(8)(i) of this section, provided all 
bait and hooks are removed from fishing rods and any haddock on board 
has been gutted and stored.
    (1) May 1 through September 17. Each person on a private 
recreational fishing vessel, fishing from May 1 through September 17, 
may possess no more than 12 haddock per day in, or harvested from, the 
EEZ when fishing in the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in Sec.  
648.80(a)(1).
    (2) September 18 through October 31. When fishing in the GOM 
Regulated Mesh Area specified in Sec.  648.80(a)(1), persons aboard 
private recreational fishing vessels may not fish for or possess any 
haddock from September 18 through October 31.
    (3) November through February. Each person on a private 
recreational fishing vessel, fishing from November 1 through February 
28 (February 29 in leap years), may possess no more than 12 haddock per 
day in, or harvested from, the EEZ when fishing in the GOM Regulated 
Mesh Area specified in Sec.  648.80(a)(1).
    (4) March 1 through April 14. When fishing in the GOM Regulated 
Mesh Area specified in Sec.  648.80(a)(1), persons aboard private 
recreational fishing vessels may not fish for or possess any haddock 
from March 1 through April 14.
    (5) April 15 through April 30. Each person on a private 
recreational fishing vessel, fishing from April 15 through April 30, 
may possess no more than 12 haddock per day in, or harvested from, the 
EEZ when fishing in the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in Sec.  
648.80(a)(1).
    (B) Charter or party boats. Each person on a charter or party 
fishing boat permitted under this part, and not fishing under the NE 
multispecies DAS program or on a sector trip, in possession of haddock 
caught outside the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in Sec.  
648.80(a)(1) may transit this area with more than the GOM haddock 
possession limit specified at paragraph (c)(8)(ii) of this section up 
to the possession limit specified at paragraph (c)(8)(i) of this 
section, provided all bait and hooks are removed from fishing rods and 
any haddock on board has been gutted and stored.
    (1) May 1 through September 17. Each person on a charter or party 
fishing boat permitted under this part, and not fishing under the NE 
multispecies DAS program or on a sector trip, fishing from May 1 
through September 17, may possess no more than 12 haddock per day in, 
or harvested from, the EEZ when fishing in the GOM Regulated Mesh Area 
specified in Sec.  648.80(a)(1).
    (2) September 18 through October 31. When fishing in the GOM 
Regulated Mesh Area specified in Sec.  648.80(a)(1), persons on a 
charter or party fishing boat permitted under this part, and not 
fishing under the NE multispecies DAS program or on a sector trip, may 
not fish for or possess any haddock from September 18 through October 
31.
    (3) November through February. Each person on a charter or party 
fishing boat permitted under this part, and not fishing under the NE 
multispecies DAS program or on a sector trip, fishing from November 1 
through February 28 (February 29 in leap years), may possess no more 
than 12 haddock per day in, or harvested from, the EEZ when fishing in 
the GOM Regulated Mesh Area specified in Sec.  648.80(a)(1).
    (4) March 1 through April 14. When fishing in the GOM Regulated 
Mesh Area specified in Sec.  648.80(a)(1), persons aboard a charter or 
party fishing boat permitted under this part, and not fishing under the 
NE multispecies DAS program or on a sector trip, may not fish for or 
possess any haddock from March 1 through April 14.

[[Page 24092]]

    (5) April 15 through April 30. Each person on a charter or party 
fishing boat permitted under this part, and not fishing under the NE 
multispecies DAS program or on a sector trip, fishing from April 15 
through April 30, may possess no more than 12 haddock per day in, or 
harvested from, the EEZ when fishing in the GOM Regulated Mesh Area 
specified in Sec.  648.80(a)(1).
    (iii) For purposes of counting fish, fillets will be converted to 
whole fish at the place of landing by dividing the number of fillets by 
two. If fish are filleted into a single (butterfly) fillet, such fillet 
shall be deemed to be from one whole fish.
    (iv) Haddock harvested in or from the EEZ by private recreational 
fishing boats or charter or party boats with more than one person 
aboard may be pooled in one or more containers. Compliance with the 
possession limit will be determined by dividing the number of fish on 
board by the number of persons on board. If there is a violation of the 
possession limit on board a vessel carrying more than one person, the 
violation shall be deemed to have been committed by the owner or 
operator of the vessel.
    (v) Haddock must be stored so as to be readily available for 
inspection.
* * * * *
    (e) Charter/party vessel restrictions on fishing in GOM closed 
areas and the Nantucket Lightship Closed Area--(1) GOM Closed Areas. 
(i) A vessel fishing under charter/party regulations may not fish in 
the GOM closed areas specified in Sec.  648.81(d)(1), (e)(1), and 
(f)(4) during the time periods specified in those paragraphs, unless 
the vessel has on board a valid letter of authorization issued by the 
Regional Administrator pursuant to Sec.  648.81(f)(5)(v) and paragraph 
(e)(3) of this section. If the vessel fishes or intends to fish in the 
GOM cod protection closures, the conditions and restrictions of the 
letter of authorization must be complied with for a minimum of 3 
months. If the vessel fishes or intends to fish in the year-round GOM 
closure areas, the conditions and restrictions of the letter of 
authorization must be complied with for the rest of the fishing year, 
beginning with the start of the participation period of the letter of 
authorization.
    (ii) A vessel fishing under charter/party regulations may not fish 
in the GOM Cod Spawning Protection Area specified at Sec.  648.81(n)(1) 
during the time period specified in that paragraph, unless the vessel 
complies with the requirements specified at Sec.  648.81(n)(2)(iii).
    (2) Nantucket Lightship Closed Area. A vessel fishing under 
charter/party regulations may not fish in the Nantucket Lightship 
Closed Area specified in Sec.  648.81(c)(1) unless the vessel has on 
board a letter of authorization issued by the Regional Administrator 
pursuant to Sec.  648.81(c)(2)(iii) and paragraph (e)(3) of this 
section.
    (3) Letters of authorization. To obtain either of the letters of 
authorization specified in paragraphs (e)(1) and (2) of this section, a 
vessel owner must request a letter from the NMFS Greater Atlantic 
Regional Fisheries Office, either in writing or by phone (see Table 1 
to 50 CFR 600.502). As a condition of these letters of authorization, 
the vessel owner must agree to the following:
    (i) The letter of authorization must be carried on board the vessel 
during the period of participation;
    (ii) Fish species managed by the NEFMC or MAFMC that are harvested 
or possessed by the vessel, are not sold or intended for trade, barter 
or sale, regardless of where the fish are caught;
    (iii) The vessel has no gear other than rod and reel or handline 
gear on board; and
    (iv) For the GOM charter/party closed area exemption only, the 
vessel may not fish on a sector trip, under a NE multispecies DAS, or 
under the provisions of the NE multispecies Small Vessel Category or 
Handgear A or Handgear B permit categories, as specified at Sec.  
648.82, during the period of participation.
    (f) Recreational fishery AM--(1) Catch evaluation. As soon as 
recreational catch data are available for the entire previous fishing 
year, the Regional Administrator will evaluate whether recreational 
catches exceed any of the sub-ACLs specified for the recreational 
fishery pursuant to Sec.  648.90(a)(4). When evaluating recreational 
catch, the components of recreational catch that are used shall be the 
same as those used in the most recent assessment for that particular 
stock. To determine if any sub-ACL specified for the recreational 
fishery was exceeded, the Regional Administrator shall compare the 3-
year average of recreational catch to the 3-year average of the 
recreational sub-ACL for each stock.
    (2) Reactive AM adjustment. If it is determined that any 
recreational sub-ACL was exceeded, as specified in paragraph (f)(1) of 
this section, the Regional Administrator, after consultation with the 
NEFMC, shall develop measures necessary to prevent the recreational 
fishery from exceeding the appropriate sub-ACL in future years. 
Appropriate AMs for the recreational fishery, including adjustments to 
fishing season, minimum fish size, or possession limits, may be 
implemented in a manner consistent with the Administrative Procedure 
Act, with final measures published in the Federal Register no later 
than January when possible. Separate AMs shall be developed for the 
private and charter/party components of the recreational fishery.
    (3) Proactive AM adjustment. When necessary, the Regional 
Administrator, after consultation with the New England Fishery 
Management Council, may adjust recreational measures to ensure the 
recreational fishery achieves, but does not exceed any recreational 
fishery sub-ACL in a future fishing year. Appropriate AMs for the 
recreational fishery, including adjustments to fishing season, minimum 
fish size, or possession limits, may be implemented in a manner 
consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act, with final measures 
published in the Federal Register prior to the start of the fishing 
year where possible. In specifying these AMs, the Regional 
Administrator shall take into account the non-binding prioritization of 
possible measures recommended by the Council: For cod, first increases 
to minimum fish sizes, then adjustments to seasons, followed by changes 
to bag limits; and for haddock, first increases to minimum size limits, 
then changes to bag limits, and then adjustments to seasons.

[FR Doc. 2017-10703 Filed 5-24-17; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P