Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council; Omnibus Acceptable Biological Catch Framework Adjustment, 33036-33039 [2017-15073]

Download as PDF 33036 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 137 / Wednesday, July 19, 2017 / Proposed Rules by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. We request that you send comments only by the methods described in ADDRESSES. If you submit information via http:// www.regulations.gov, your entire submission—including any personal identifying information—will be posted on the Web site. If your submission is made via a hardcopy that includes personal identifying information, you may request at the top of your document that we withhold this information from public review. However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. We will post all hardcopy submissions on http://www.regulations.gov. Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting documentation we used in preparing the proposed rule, will be available for public inspection on http://www.regulations.gov, or by appointment, during normal business hours, at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). You may obtain copies of the proposed rule at http:// www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS–R8–ES–2016–0078. Copies of the proposed rule are also available at http://www.fws.gov/cno/es//. Authority The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). Dated: June 23, 2017. Gregory Sheehan, Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. [FR Doc. 2017–15126 Filed 7–18–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4333–15–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 150309236–7563–01] mstockstill on DSK30JT082PROD with PROPOSALS RIN 0648–BE65 Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council; Omnibus Acceptable Biological Catch Framework Adjustment National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:30 Jul 18, 2017 Jkt 241001 This action proposes regulations to implement an Omnibus Framework Adjustment to the MidAtlantic Fishery Management Council acceptable biological catch setting process. This proposed rule is necessary to provide the public with an opportunity to review and comment on the measures recommended by the MidAtlantic Council to the National Marine Fisheries Service for implementation. The intended effect of these measures would help bring stability to quotas while accounting for year-to-year changes in stock size projections, and allow the Mid-Atlantic Council’s Fishery Management Plans to automatically incorporate the best available scientific information when calculating acceptable biological catches. This action also proposes to revise regulatory language to clarify the Mid-Atlantic Council’s acceptable biological catch control rule assessment level designations. DATES: Comments must be received on or before August 18, 2017. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by NOAA–NMFS–2017–0056, by either of the following methods: • Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal eRulemaking portal. Go to www. regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D= NOAA-NMFS-2017-0056, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Submit written comments to John Bullard, Regional Administrator, NMFS, Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publically accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/ A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Copies of the Environmental Assessment and other supporting documents are available from Dr. Christopher M. Moore, Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Suite 201, 800 N. State Street, Dover, DE 19901. The draft Omnibus Framework Adjustment, as SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 submitted by the Council, is also available via the internet at http://www. greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov/. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Reid Lichwell, Fishery Management Specialist, (978) 281–9112. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) is required to set annual catch limits (ACLs) that do not exceed the acceptable biological catch (ABC) recommendation of its Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) to prevent overfishing. ABCs represent an upper limit for the Council to use when setting catch and landing limits. The 2011 ACL Omnibus Amendment implementing rule (76 FR 60606; September 29, 2011), enacted the Council’s risk policy that provides guidance to the SSC on how much overfishing risk the Council will accept when the SSC develops ABC recommendations. The policy also outlines risk tolerance for ensuring stocks under rebuilding plans achieve fishing mortality objectives. The Council’s risk policy for setting ABCs states that for a typical species whose stock size is equal to or greater than a biomass target associated with maximum sustainable yield (BMSY), the acceptable probability of overfishing is 40 percent, i.e., if the fishery catches the ABC then there is a 60-percent probability of not overfishing. If a species is deemed to have an atypical life history, the Council requires at least a 35-percent probability of overfishing (i.e., a 65-percent chance of not overfishing), to create a larger buffer when biomass is at or above BMSY. The SSC determines whether a stock is typical or atypical each time an ABC is recommended. When an overfishing probability is available and considered reliable by the SSC, the applicable tolerance for overfishing risk, as informed by the Council’s risk policy, would be selected to derive the ABC recommendation. For both typical and atypical species, the Council has specified that as stock size biomass or (B) falls below the target (BMSY), then the probability of overfishing decreases, until the probability of overfishing hits zero when the stock is at 10 percent of the target (BMSY). For a stock under a rebuilding plan, the probability of not exceeding the fishing mortality rate (F) within the specified timeframe must be at least 50 percent, unless this probability threshold is modified through a stock rebuilding plan. The fishery management plans (FMPs) managed by the Council all have E:\FR\FM\19JYP1.SGM 19JYP1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 137 / Wednesday, July 19, 2017 / Proposed Rules provisions for setting specifications for multiple years (five years for dogfish and three years for all other species). Moving to multi-year specifications has not provided the anticipated stability to quotas over a multi-year period. This is because target fishing mortality rates are applied to stock size projections that tend to change from year-to-year, creating varying ABCs within multi-year quotas. The change to constant multiyear ABCs would help bring stability to quotas while accounting for year-to-year changes in stock size projections and prevent overfishing. mstockstill on DSK30JT082PROD with PROPOSALS Proposed Measures Overfishing Probability Averaging The proposed action would, when assessment fishing mortality reference points are accepted by the SSC, average the probability of overfishing (or achieving the target fishing mortality for rebuilding stocks) consistent with the existing risk policy requirements. The constant, multi-year ABCs that would result must continue to meet the Council’s risk policy goals, with the probability of overfishing not to exceed 50 percent in any given year. For stocks in a rebuilding plan, the probability of achieving the rebuilding fishery mortality must meet the risk policy objectives when constant, multi-year ABCs are recommended by the SSC. Under the proposed measures, averaged ABCs could be set at a constant level for up to five years for spiny dogfish and up to three years for all other species managed by the Council. As an example, if the application of the risk policy would result in a 40-percent probability of overfishing in any given year of setting annual quotas, the average probability of overfishing resulting from constant multi-year ABCs cannot exceed 40 percent. For any 3-year period, an average ABC would result in slightly less chance of overfishing in some years and slightly more of a chance of overfishing in other years compared to non-averaged ABCs based on year-toyear projections, but could not, as outlined in the example, exceed 40 percent in any given year. This would result in a minimal difference of overfishing likelihood between the yearly ABCs versus a constant ABC over a 3-year period. As previously noted, the probability of overfishing could not exceed 50 percent in any given individual year of constant multi-year ABCs. The SSC may provide both a standard 3-year recommendation as well as a constant 3-year recommendation based on the average overfishing probability VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:41 Jul 18, 2017 Jkt 241001 approach for the Council to consider. The SSC would continue to review fishery performance each year during multi-year specifications, regardless of which multi-year approach is used to determine ABCs. The multi-year averaging of ABCs would not apply to stocks that do not have a quantitative assessment to derive ABCs and could not be used for stocks with an assessment that cannot provide information on the risk of overfishing. ABC Control Rule Assessment Level Designations The proposed action would revise some of the regulatory language describing the Council’s ABC control rule assessment level designations. These revisions were recommended by the Council to clarify the operation of the Council’s ABC control rules, these revisions are merely clarifications and do not create any regulatory changes in practice. Notice of Approved Biological Status Criteria We are also providing notice of the administrative process the Council will use for incorporating the best scientific information available in the development of ABCs for the Atlantic Bluefish, Golden Tilefish, and Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish FMPs. The best available science requirements have dictated that accepted assessment information be utilized by the SSC in setting quotas under National Standard 2. The Council’s SSC will utilize peerreviewed biological reference points (overfishing level, biomass thresholds, etc.) and periodic updates to stock status determination criteria (i.e., biomass and fishing mortality reference points) to define ABCs, consistent with the Council’s other FMPs and National Standards 1 and 2 of the MagnusonStevens Act. This change in Council operations would improve management efficiency by automatically incorporating new peer-reviewed status determination criteria instead of requiring a separate management action to adopt them within these three FMPs. Because best available science requirements have dictated that accepted assessment information be utilized by the SSC in recommending ABCs, this proposed measure would serve to clarify and simplify the administrative procedures for doing so. This same process has already been identified by the Council for their other FMPs. Classification Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 33037 Assistant Administrator has made a preliminary determination that this proposed rule is consistent with all the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s FMPs, 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 12866. The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration that this proposed rule, if adopted, would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The Small Business Administration defines a small business in the shellfish, finfish or other marine fishing sectors as a firm that is independently owned and operated with receipts of less than $11 million annually (see NMFS final rule revising the small business standard for commercial fishing, 80 FR 81194, December 29, 2015). The measures proposed in this action apply to the vessels that hold permits for Councilmanaged fisheries because all species have ABCs set by the SSC. According to permit data at the end of 2014, there were 4,712 vessels with at least one active Northeast Federal fishing permit, either commercial or party/charter (some vessels have both commercial and party/charter permits and most vessels have more than one permit). This proposed action would make it consistent with the Council’s risk policy for the SSC to specify constant multiyear ABCs for all the Council’s FMPs, provided the average of each year’s probability of overfishing adhere to the appropriate overfishing probability goal. This change would help bring stability to fishing quotas while accounting for year-to-year changes in stock size projections and prevent overfishing. Given the inherent uncertainty involved in assessments, the differences are not expected to be meaningful from a biological perspective. In addition, the proposed action would add regulatory language clarifying the assessment level designations for the Council’s ABC control rule. These changes to the regulations were recommended by the Council to merely clarify the ABC control rule and do not change its function or operation. This action also provides notice that the Atlantic Bluefish, Golden Tilefish, and Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish FMPs will automatically incorporate the best available scientific information in calculating ABCs. This means the SSC would utilize peer- E:\FR\FM\19JYP1.SGM 19JYP1 33038 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 137 / Wednesday, July 19, 2017 / Proposed Rules reviewed biological reference points (overfishing level, biomass thresholds, etc.) and periodic updates to stock status determination criteria (i.e., biomass and fishing mortality reference points) to define ABCs, consistent with the Council’s other FMPs and National Standards 1 and 2 of the MagnusonStevens Act. Since best available science requirements have dictated that accepted assessment information be utilized by the SSC in setting quotas, this measure would serve to clarify and simplify the administrative procedures for doing so. These measures are administrative and pertain to how the Council establishes catch limits. There is no reason to believe small entities will be negatively affected by the proposed action given the administrative nature of the changes. The resulting actions to set catch using these new procedures may have an indirect effect on small entities; however, catch setting will occur in separate subsequent actions that will include, as needed, analyses under the Regulatory Flexibility Act. As a result, an initial regulatory flexibility analysis is not required and none has been prepared. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648 Fisheries, Fishing, Recordkeeping and Reporting requirements. Dated: July 12, 2017. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. For the reasons set out in the preamble, NMFS proposes to amend 50 CFR 648 as follows: PART 648—FISHERIES OF THE NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES 1. The authority citation for part 648 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. 2. Section 648.20 is revised to read as follows: ■ mstockstill on DSK30JT082PROD with PROPOSALS § 648.20 Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC) control rules. The SSC shall review the following criteria, and any additional relevant information, to assign managed stocks to one of four types of control rules based on the species’ assessments and its treatment of uncertainty when developing ABC recommendations. The SSC shall review the ABC control rule assignment for stocks each time an ABC is recommended. ABCs may be recommended for up to 3 years for all stocks, with the exception of 5 years for VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:41 Jul 18, 2017 Jkt 241001 spiny dogfish. The SCC may specify constant, multi-year ABCs, derived from the average of ABCs (or average risk of overfishing) if the average probability of overfishing remains between zero and 40 percent, and does not exceed a 50percent probability in any given year. The average ABCs may remain constant for up to 3 years for all stocks, with the exception of 5 years for spiny dogfish. The SSC may deviate from the control rule methods and recommend an ABC that differs from the result of the ABC control rule application; however, any such deviation must include the following: A description of why the deviation is warranted; description of the methods used to derive the alternative ABC; and an explanation of how the deviation is consistent with National Standard 2. The four types of ABC control rules are described below. (a) ABC control rule for a stock with an OFL probability distribution that is analytically-derived and accepted by the SSC. (1) The SSC determines that the assessment OFL and the assessment’s treatment of uncertainty are acceptable, based on the following: (i) All important sources of scientific uncertainty are captured in the stock assessment model; (ii) The probability distribution of the OFL is calculated within the stock assessment and adequately describes the OFL uncertainty; (iii) The stock assessment model structure and treatment of the data prior to use in the model includes relevant details of the biology of the stock, fisheries that exploit the stock, and data collection methods; (iv) The stock assessment provides the following estimates: Fishing mortality rate (F) at MSY or an acceptable proxy maximum fishing mortality threshold (MFMT) to define OFL, biomass, biological reference points, stock status, OFL, and the respective uncertainties associated with each value; and (v) No substantial retrospective patterns exist in the stock assessment estimates of fishing mortality, biomass, and recruitment. (2) An ABC for stocks with an accepted OFL probability distribution that is analytically-derived will be determined by applying the acceptable probability of overfishing from the MAFMC’s risk policy found in § 648.21(a) through (d) to the probability distribution of the OFL. (b) ABC control rule for a stock with an OFL probability distribution that is modified by the assessment team and accepted by the SSC. (1) The SSC determines the assessment OFL is acceptable and the PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 SSC accepts the assessment team’s modifications to the analyticallyderived OFL probability distribution, based on the following: (i) Key features of the stock biology, the fisheries that exploit it, and/or the data collection methods for stock information are missing from, or poorly estimated in, the stock assessment; (ii) The stock assessment provides reference points (which may be proxies), stock status, and uncertainties associated with each; however, the uncertainty is not fully promulgated through the stock assessment model and/or some important sources of uncertainty may be lacking; (iii) The stock assessment provides estimates of the precision of biomass, fishing mortality, and reference points; (iv) The accuracy of the minimum fishing mortality threshold and projected future biomass is estimated in the stock assessment using ad hoc methods; and (v) The modified OFL probability distribution provided by the assessment team acceptably addresses the uncertainty of the assessment. (2) An ABC for stocks with an OFL probability distribution that is modified by the assessment team and accepted by the SSC will be determined by applying the acceptable probability of overfishing from the MAFMC’s risk policy found in § 648.21(a) through (d) to the probability distribution of the OFL as modified by the assessment team. (c) ABC control rule for a stock with an OFL probability distribution that is modified by the SSC. (1) The SSC determines the assessment OFL is acceptable but the SSC derives the appropriate uncertainty for OFL based on meta-analysis and other considerations. This requires the SSC to determine that the stock assessment does not contain an estimated probability distribution of OFL or the OFL probability distribution in the stock assessment is judged by the SSC to not adequately reflect uncertainty in the OFL estimate. (2) An ABC for stocks with an OFL probability distribution that is modified by the SSC will be determined by either (i) applying the acceptable probability of overfishing from the MAFMC’s risk policy found in § 648.21(a) through (d) to the SSC-adjusted OFL probability distribution. The SSC will use default assignments of uncertainty in the adjusted OFL probability distribution based on literature review and evaluation of control rule performance; or, (ii) If the SSC cannot develop an OFL probability distribution, a default E:\FR\FM\19JYP1.SGM 19JYP1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 137 / Wednesday, July 19, 2017 / Proposed Rules mstockstill on DSK30JT082PROD with PROPOSALS control rule of 75 percent of the FMSY value will be applied to derive ABC. (d) ABC control rule for when an OFL cannot be specified. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:41 Jul 18, 2017 Jkt 241001 (1) The SSC determines that the OFL cannot be specified given the available information. (2) An ABC for stocks with an OFL that cannot be specified will be determined by using control rules based PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 33039 on biomass and catch history and application of the MAFMC’s risk policy found in § 648.21(a) through (d). [FR Doc. 2017–15073 Filed 7–18–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\19JYP1.SGM 19JYP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 137 (Wednesday, July 19, 2017)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 33036-33039]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-15073]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 150309236-7563-01]
RIN 0648-BE65


Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Mid-Atlantic Fishery 
Management Council; Omnibus Acceptable Biological Catch Framework 
Adjustment

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: This action proposes regulations to implement an Omnibus 
Framework Adjustment to the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council 
acceptable biological catch setting process. This proposed rule is 
necessary to provide the public with an opportunity to review and 
comment on the measures recommended by the Mid-Atlantic Council to the 
National Marine Fisheries Service for implementation. The intended 
effect of these measures would help bring stability to quotas while 
accounting for year-to-year changes in stock size projections, and 
allow the Mid-Atlantic Council's Fishery Management Plans to 
automatically incorporate the best available scientific information 
when calculating acceptable biological catches. This action also 
proposes to revise regulatory language to clarify the Mid-Atlantic 
Council's acceptable biological catch control rule assessment level 
designations.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before August 18, 2017.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2017-0056, 
by either of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal eRulemaking portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2017-0056, click the ``Comment Now!'' icon, 
complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to John Bullard, Regional 
Administrator, NMFS, Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, 55 
Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930.
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publically accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous).
    Copies of the Environmental Assessment and other supporting 
documents are available from Dr. Christopher M. Moore, Executive 
Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Suite 201, 800 N. 
State Street, Dover, DE 19901. The draft Omnibus Framework Adjustment, 
as submitted by the Council, is also available via the internet at 
http://www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov/.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Reid Lichwell, Fishery Management 
Specialist, (978) 281-9112.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) is required 
to set annual catch limits (ACLs) that do not exceed the acceptable 
biological catch (ABC) recommendation of its Scientific and Statistical 
Committee (SSC) to prevent overfishing. ABCs represent an upper limit 
for the Council to use when setting catch and landing limits. The 2011 
ACL Omnibus Amendment implementing rule (76 FR 60606; September 29, 
2011), enacted the Council's risk policy that provides guidance to the 
SSC on how much overfishing risk the Council will accept when the SSC 
develops ABC recommendations. The policy also outlines risk tolerance 
for ensuring stocks under rebuilding plans achieve fishing mortality 
objectives.
    The Council's risk policy for setting ABCs states that for a 
typical species whose stock size is equal to or greater than a biomass 
target associated with maximum sustainable yield (BMSY), the 
acceptable probability of overfishing is 40 percent, i.e., if the 
fishery catches the ABC then there is a 60-percent probability of not 
overfishing. If a species is deemed to have an atypical life history, 
the Council requires at least a 35-percent probability of overfishing 
(i.e., a 65-percent chance of not overfishing), to create a larger 
buffer when biomass is at or above BMSY. The SSC determines 
whether a stock is typical or atypical each time an ABC is recommended. 
When an overfishing probability is available and considered reliable by 
the SSC, the applicable tolerance for overfishing risk, as informed by 
the Council's risk policy, would be selected to derive the ABC 
recommendation.
    For both typical and atypical species, the Council has specified 
that as stock size biomass or (B) falls below the target 
(BMSY), then the probability of overfishing decreases, until 
the probability of overfishing hits zero when the stock is at 10 
percent of the target (BMSY). For a stock under a rebuilding 
plan, the probability of not exceeding the fishing mortality rate (F) 
within the specified timeframe must be at least 50 percent, unless this 
probability threshold is modified through a stock rebuilding plan.
    The fishery management plans (FMPs) managed by the Council all have

[[Page 33037]]

provisions for setting specifications for multiple years (five years 
for dogfish and three years for all other species). Moving to multi-
year specifications has not provided the anticipated stability to 
quotas over a multi-year period. This is because target fishing 
mortality rates are applied to stock size projections that tend to 
change from year-to-year, creating varying ABCs within multi-year 
quotas. The change to constant multi-year ABCs would help bring 
stability to quotas while accounting for year-to-year changes in stock 
size projections and prevent overfishing.

Proposed Measures

Overfishing Probability Averaging

    The proposed action would, when assessment fishing mortality 
reference points are accepted by the SSC, average the probability of 
overfishing (or achieving the target fishing mortality for rebuilding 
stocks) consistent with the existing risk policy requirements. The 
constant, multi-year ABCs that would result must continue to meet the 
Council's risk policy goals, with the probability of overfishing not to 
exceed 50 percent in any given year. For stocks in a rebuilding plan, 
the probability of achieving the rebuilding fishery mortality must meet 
the risk policy objectives when constant, multi-year ABCs are 
recommended by the SSC.
    Under the proposed measures, averaged ABCs could be set at a 
constant level for up to five years for spiny dogfish and up to three 
years for all other species managed by the Council. As an example, if 
the application of the risk policy would result in a 40-percent 
probability of overfishing in any given year of setting annual quotas, 
the average probability of overfishing resulting from constant multi-
year ABCs cannot exceed 40 percent. For any 3-year period, an average 
ABC would result in slightly less chance of overfishing in some years 
and slightly more of a chance of overfishing in other years compared to 
non-averaged ABCs based on year-to-year projections, but could not, as 
outlined in the example, exceed 40 percent in any given year. This 
would result in a minimal difference of overfishing likelihood between 
the yearly ABCs versus a constant ABC over a 3-year period. As 
previously noted, the probability of overfishing could not exceed 50 
percent in any given individual year of constant multi-year ABCs.
    The SSC may provide both a standard 3-year recommendation as well 
as a constant 3-year recommendation based on the average overfishing 
probability approach for the Council to consider. The SSC would 
continue to review fishery performance each year during multi-year 
specifications, regardless of which multi-year approach is used to 
determine ABCs. The multi-year averaging of ABCs would not apply to 
stocks that do not have a quantitative assessment to derive ABCs and 
could not be used for stocks with an assessment that cannot provide 
information on the risk of overfishing.

ABC Control Rule Assessment Level Designations

    The proposed action would revise some of the regulatory language 
describing the Council's ABC control rule assessment level 
designations. These revisions were recommended by the Council to 
clarify the operation of the Council's ABC control rules, these 
revisions are merely clarifications and do not create any regulatory 
changes in practice.

Notice of Approved Biological Status Criteria

    We are also providing notice of the administrative process the 
Council will use for incorporating the best scientific information 
available in the development of ABCs for the Atlantic Bluefish, Golden 
Tilefish, and Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish FMPs. The best 
available science requirements have dictated that accepted assessment 
information be utilized by the SSC in setting quotas under National 
Standard 2. The Council's SSC will utilize peer-reviewed biological 
reference points (overfishing level, biomass thresholds, etc.) and 
periodic updates to stock status determination criteria (i.e., biomass 
and fishing mortality reference points) to define ABCs, consistent with 
the Council's other FMPs and National Standards 1 and 2 of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act. This change in Council operations would improve 
management efficiency by automatically incorporating new peer-reviewed 
status determination criteria instead of requiring a separate 
management action to adopt them within these three FMPs. Because best 
available science requirements have dictated that accepted assessment 
information be utilized by the SSC in recommending ABCs, this proposed 
measure would serve to clarify and simplify the administrative 
procedures for doing so. This same process has already been identified 
by the Council for their other FMPs.

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 all the Mid-Atlantic Fishery 
Management Council's FMPs, 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 12866.
    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration that this proposed rule, if adopted, would not have a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. 
The Small Business Administration defines a small business in the 
shellfish, finfish or other marine fishing sectors as a firm that is 
independently owned and operated with receipts of less than $11 million 
annually (see NMFS final rule revising the small business standard for 
commercial fishing, 80 FR 81194, December 29, 2015). The measures 
proposed in this action apply to the vessels that hold permits for 
Council-managed fisheries because all species have ABCs set by the SSC. 
According to permit data at the end of 2014, there were 4,712 vessels 
with at least one active Northeast Federal fishing permit, either 
commercial or party/charter (some vessels have both commercial and 
party/charter permits and most vessels have more than one permit).
    This proposed action would make it consistent with the Council's 
risk policy for the SSC to specify constant multi-year ABCs for all the 
Council's FMPs, provided the average of each year's probability of 
overfishing adhere to the appropriate overfishing probability goal. 
This change would help bring stability to fishing quotas while 
accounting for year-to-year changes in stock size projections and 
prevent overfishing. Given the inherent uncertainty involved in 
assessments, the differences are not expected to be meaningful from a 
biological perspective.
    In addition, the proposed action would add regulatory language 
clarifying the assessment level designations for the Council's ABC 
control rule. These changes to the regulations were recommended by the 
Council to merely clarify the ABC control rule and do not change its 
function or operation.
    This action also provides notice that the Atlantic Bluefish, Golden 
Tilefish, and Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish FMPs will 
automatically incorporate the best available scientific information in 
calculating ABCs. This means the SSC would utilize peer-

[[Page 33038]]

reviewed biological reference points (overfishing level, biomass 
thresholds, etc.) and periodic updates to stock status determination 
criteria (i.e., biomass and fishing mortality reference points) to 
define ABCs, consistent with the Council's other FMPs and National 
Standards 1 and 2 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Since best available 
science requirements have dictated that accepted assessment information 
be utilized by the SSC in setting quotas, this measure would serve to 
clarify and simplify the administrative procedures for doing so.
    These measures are administrative and pertain to how the Council 
establishes catch limits. There is no reason to believe small entities 
will be negatively affected by the proposed action given the 
administrative nature of the changes. The resulting actions to set 
catch using these new procedures may have an indirect effect on small 
entities; however, catch setting will occur in separate subsequent 
actions that will include, as needed, analyses under the Regulatory 
Flexibility Act. As a result, an initial regulatory flexibility 
analysis is not required and none has been prepared.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648

    Fisheries, Fishing, Recordkeeping and Reporting requirements.

    Dated: July 12, 2017.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, NMFS proposes to amend 50 
CFR 648 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. Section 648.20 is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  648.20   Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council Acceptable 
Biological Catch (ABC) control rules.

    The SSC shall review the following criteria, and any additional 
relevant information, to assign managed stocks to one of four types of 
control rules based on the species' assessments and its treatment of 
uncertainty when developing ABC recommendations. The SSC shall review 
the ABC control rule assignment for stocks each time an ABC is 
recommended. ABCs may be recommended for up to 3 years for all stocks, 
with the exception of 5 years for spiny dogfish. The SCC may specify 
constant, multi-year ABCs, derived from the average of ABCs (or average 
risk of overfishing) if the average probability of overfishing remains 
between zero and 40 percent, and does not exceed a 50-percent 
probability in any given year. The average ABCs may remain constant for 
up to 3 years for all stocks, with the exception of 5 years for spiny 
dogfish. The SSC may deviate from the control rule methods and 
recommend an ABC that differs from the result of the ABC control rule 
application; however, any such deviation must include the following: A 
description of why the deviation is warranted; description of the 
methods used to derive the alternative ABC; and an explanation of how 
the deviation is consistent with National Standard 2. The four types of 
ABC control rules are described below.
    (a) ABC control rule for a stock with an OFL probability 
distribution that is analytically-derived and accepted by the SSC.
    (1) The SSC determines that the assessment OFL and the assessment's 
treatment of uncertainty are acceptable, based on the following:
    (i) All important sources of scientific uncertainty are captured in 
the stock assessment model;
    (ii) The probability distribution of the OFL is calculated within 
the stock assessment and adequately describes the OFL uncertainty;
    (iii) The stock assessment model structure and treatment of the 
data prior to use in the model includes relevant details of the biology 
of the stock, fisheries that exploit the stock, and data collection 
methods;
    (iv) The stock assessment provides the following estimates: Fishing 
mortality rate (F) at MSY or an acceptable proxy maximum fishing 
mortality threshold (MFMT) to define OFL, biomass, biological reference 
points, stock status, OFL, and the respective uncertainties associated 
with each value; and
    (v) No substantial retrospective patterns exist in the stock 
assessment estimates of fishing mortality, biomass, and recruitment.
    (2) An ABC for stocks with an accepted OFL probability distribution 
that is analytically-derived will be determined by applying the 
acceptable probability of overfishing from the MAFMC's risk policy 
found in Sec.  648.21(a) through (d) to the probability distribution of 
the OFL.
    (b) ABC control rule for a stock with an OFL probability 
distribution that is modified by the assessment team and accepted by 
the SSC.
    (1) The SSC determines the assessment OFL is acceptable and the SSC 
accepts the assessment team's modifications to the analytically-derived 
OFL probability distribution, based on the following:
    (i) Key features of the stock biology, the fisheries that exploit 
it, and/or the data collection methods for stock information are 
missing from, or poorly estimated in, the stock assessment;
    (ii) The stock assessment provides reference points (which may be 
proxies), stock status, and uncertainties associated with each; 
however, the uncertainty is not fully promulgated through the stock 
assessment model and/or some important sources of uncertainty may be 
lacking;
    (iii) The stock assessment provides estimates of the precision of 
biomass, fishing mortality, and reference points;
    (iv) The accuracy of the minimum fishing mortality threshold and 
projected future biomass is estimated in the stock assessment using ad 
hoc methods; and
    (v) The modified OFL probability distribution provided by the 
assessment team acceptably addresses the uncertainty of the assessment.
    (2) An ABC for stocks with an OFL probability distribution that is 
modified by the assessment team and accepted by the SSC will be 
determined by applying the acceptable probability of overfishing from 
the MAFMC's risk policy found in Sec.  648.21(a) through (d) to the 
probability distribution of the OFL as modified by the assessment team.
    (c) ABC control rule for a stock with an OFL probability 
distribution that is modified by the SSC.
    (1) The SSC determines the assessment OFL is acceptable but the SSC 
derives the appropriate uncertainty for OFL based on meta-analysis and 
other considerations. This requires the SSC to determine that the stock 
assessment does not contain an estimated probability distribution of 
OFL or the OFL probability distribution in the stock assessment is 
judged by the SSC to not adequately reflect uncertainty in the OFL 
estimate.
    (2) An ABC for stocks with an OFL probability distribution that is 
modified by the SSC will be determined by either (i) applying the 
acceptable probability of overfishing from the MAFMC's risk policy 
found in Sec.  648.21(a) through (d) to the SSC-adjusted OFL 
probability distribution. The SSC will use default assignments of 
uncertainty in the adjusted OFL probability distribution based on 
literature review and evaluation of control rule performance; or,
    (ii) If the SSC cannot develop an OFL probability distribution, a 
default

[[Page 33039]]

control rule of 75 percent of the FMSY value will be applied 
to derive ABC.
    (d) ABC control rule for when an OFL cannot be specified.
    (1) The SSC determines that the OFL cannot be specified given the 
available information.
    (2) An ABC for stocks with an OFL that cannot be specified will be 
determined by using control rules based on biomass and catch history 
and application of the MAFMC's risk policy found in Sec.  648.21(a) 
through (d).

[FR Doc. 2017-15073 Filed 7-18-17; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P