Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Golden Tilefish Fishery; 2018 and Projected 2019-2020 Specifications, 51578-51581 [2017-24135]

Download as PDF 51578 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 214 / Tuesday, November 7, 2017 / Rules and Regulations nshattuck on DSK9F9SC42PROD with RULES Connecticut, and Rhode Island at 41°18′16.249″ N. lat., 71°54′28.477″ W. long. and proceeds southeast to 37°22′32.75″ N. lat. and the intersection point with the outward boundary of the EEZ. The southern boundary of the northern zone extends from the North Carolina and South Carolina state border, along a line extending in a direction of 135°34′55″ from true north beginning at 33°51′07.9″ N. lat., 78°32′32.6″ W. long. to the intersection point with the outward boundary of the EEZ. Regulations at 50 CFR 622.388(d)(1)(i) require NMFS to close the commercial sector for Atlantic Spanish mackerel in the northern zone when the commercial quota is reached, or is projected to be reached, by filing a notification to that effect with the Office of the Federal Register. NMFS has determined the revised commercial quota of 762,670 lb (345,941 kg) for Atlantic Spanish mackerel in the northern zone will be reached by November 7, 2017. Accordingly, the commercial sector for Atlantic Spanish mackerel in the northern zone is closed effective at 12:01 a.m., local time, November 7, 2017, through February 28, 2018, the end of the current fishing year. During the commercial closure, a person on board a vessel that has been issued a valid Federal permit to harvest Atlantic Spanish mackerel may continue to retain this species in the northern zone under the recreational bag and possession limits specified in 50 CFR 622.382(a)(1)(iii) and (a)(2), as long as the recreational sector for Atlantic Spanish mackerel is open (50 CFR 622.384(e)(1)). Also during the closure, Atlantic Spanish mackerel from the closed zone, including those harvested under the bag and possession limits, may not be purchased or sold. This prohibition does not apply to Atlantic Spanish mackerel from the closed zone that were harvested, landed ashore, and sold prior to the closure and were held in cold storage by a dealer or processor (50 CFR 622.384(e)(2)). Classification The RA for the NMFS Southeast Region has determined this temporary rule is necessary for the conservation and management of Atlantic Spanish mackerel and is consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable laws. This action is taken under 50 CFR 622.8, 622.384(e), and 622.388(d)(1)(i) and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. These measures are exempt from the procedures of the Regulatory Flexibility VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:04 Nov 06, 2017 Jkt 244001 Act, because the temporary rule is issued without opportunity for prior notice and opportunity for comment. This action responds to the best scientific information available. The Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries (AA) finds good cause to waive the requirements to provide prior notice and opportunity for public comment pursuant to the authority set forth at 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) as such procedures are unnecessary and contrary to the public interest. Such procedures are unnecessary because the rule implementing the commercial quota and the associated AM has already been subject to notice and public comment, and all that remains is to notify the public of the closure. Additionally, allowing prior notice and opportunity for public comment is contrary to the public interest because of the need to immediately implement this action to protect the Atlantic Spanish mackerel stock, because the capacity of the fishing fleet allows for rapid harvest of the commercial quota. Prior notice and opportunity for public comment would require time and could potentially result in a harvest well in excess of the established commercial quota. For the aforementioned reasons, the AA also finds good cause to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness of this action under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3). Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: November 2, 2017. Emily H. Menashes, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2017–24220 Filed 11–2–17; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 170717675–7999–02] RIN 0648–XF571 Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Golden Tilefish Fishery; 2018 and Projected 2019–2020 Specifications National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: NMFS issues final specifications for the 2018 commercial golden tilefish fishery and projected SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00030 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 specifications for 2019 and 2020. This action establishes allowable harvest levels and other management measures to prevent overfishing while allowing optimum yield, consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and the Tilefish Fishery Management Plan. It is also intended to inform the public of these specifications for the 2018 fishing year and projected specifications for 2019–2020. DATES: Effective November 2, 2017 through October 31, 2018. ADDRESSES: Copies of these specifications, including the Environmental Assessment, Regulatory Flexibility Act Analyses, and other supporting documents for the action, are available upon request from Dr. Christopher M. Moore, Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Suite 201, 800 N. State Street, Dover, DE 19901. The specifications document is also accessible via the Internet at: http:// www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Cynthia Hanson, Fishery Management Specialist, (978) 281–9180. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background The golden tilefish fishery is managed by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council under the Tilefish Fishery Management Plan (FMP), which outlines the Council’s process for establishing annual specifications. Regulations implementing the Tilefish FMP appear at 50 CFR part 648, subparts A and N, which require the Council to recommend acceptable biological catch (ABC), annual catch limit (ACL), annual catch target (ACT), total allowable landings (TAL), and other management measures, for up to three years at a time. On September 7, 2017, NMFS proposed 2018–2020 specifications for the golden tilefish fishery (82 FR 42266) based on Council recommendations, and accepted public comment through September 22, 2017. Additional background information regarding the development of these specifications was provided in the proposed rule and is not repeated here. Final Specifications This action implements the approved ABCs, catch limits, and quota limits for the commercial golden tilefish fishery for the 2018 fishing year (Table 1), and projects specifications for fishing years 2019 and 2020 (Table 2), as outlined in the proposed rule. By providing projected quotas for 2019 and 2020, NMFS hopes to assist fishery E:\FR\FM\07NOR1.SGM 07NOR1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 214 / Tuesday, November 7, 2017 / Rules and Regulations participants in planning ahead. The Council will review these specifications annually, and NMFS will provide notice prior to each fishing year to announce any necessary changes for 2019 and 2020. These specifications are approximately 14 percent lower than the 2017 ABC and overall commercial quota to ensure overfishing does not occur. For more information on the Council’s recommendations and decisionmaking process, please see the proposed rule (82 FR 42266). As explained in the proposed rule, the Mid-Atlantic Council developed these specifications in parallel with Framework Adjustment 2 to the Tilefish FMP. Framework 2 would revise how assumed discards are deducted in the specifications setting process, and the Council developed these specifications based on that new method. However, implementation of Framework 2 was delayed, and a proposed rule to implement Framework 2 is pending. Because the revision to the specification process has not been finalized, this action implements the 2018 golden tilefish specifications based on current 51579 regulations. For clarity, we also provide details of how the 2018 specifications would be changed under the process proposed by Framework 2 (Table 1). If Framework 2 is implemented as proposed, the 2018 specifications would be adjusted accordingly during the fishing year. This would result in a slight decrease in the incidental TAL and a slight increase to the IFQ TAL and by extension to individual IFQ allocations. The proposed 2019 and 2020 specifications in Table 2 anticipate the implementation of Framework 2. TABLE 1—2018 GOLDEN TILEFISH SPECIFICATIONS AS IMPLEMENTED BY THIS ACTION, AND POTENTIAL REVISIONS UNDER TILEFISH FRAMEWORK ADJUSTMENT 2 As implemented million lb Overfishing Limit .............................................................................................. ABC .................................................................................................................. ACL .................................................................................................................. IFQ ACT ........................................................................................................... Incidental ACT ................................................................................................. TAL .................................................................................................................. IFQ TAL ........................................................................................................... Incidental TAL .................................................................................................. Under framework 2 mt 2.332 1.636 1.636 NA NA 1.627 1.546 0.081 million lb 1,058 742 742 NA NA 738 701 37 mt 2.332 1.636 1.636 1.554 0.082 NA 1.554 0.072 1,058 742 742 705 37 NA 705 33 TABLE 2—PROPOSED 2019 AND 2020 GOLDEN TILEFISH SPECIFICATIONS 2019 million lb Overfishing Limit .............................................................................................. ABC .................................................................................................................. ACL .................................................................................................................. IFQ ACT ........................................................................................................... Incidental ACT ................................................................................................. IFQ TAL ........................................................................................................... Incidental TAL .................................................................................................. As in previous years, no golden tilefish quota has been allocated for research set-aside. All other management measures in the golden tilefish fishery will remain unchanged for the 2018–2020 fishing years. The incidental trip limit will stay 500 lb (226.8 kg) (live weight), and the recreational catch limit will remain eight fish per-angler, per-trip. Annual IFQ allocations will be issued to individual quota shareholders in midOctober, before the November 1 start of the fishing year. nshattuck on DSK9F9SC42PROD with RULES Comments and Responses The public comment period for the proposed rule ended on September 22, 2017. Five comments were received from the public on this rule. Comment 1: Three commenters wrote in support of this action and the reduction in quotas. They mentioned VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:04 Nov 06, 2017 Jkt 244001 Frm 00031 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 mt 2.421 1.636 1.636 1.554 0.082 1.554 0.072 the importance of preemptive measures to preserve fish populations and ecosystems from overfishing while maintaining sustainable fishing practices. Response 1: NMFS agrees. It is important to use the best available science to maintain healthy fish stocks and sustainable fishing practices. The Council’s risk policy was applied to the most recent assessment outputs in the development of these specifications consistent with National Standard 2 and the Magnuson-Stevens Act. This resulted in a recommended reduction in quota even though golden tilefish are not currently overfished or experiencing overfishing. Comment 2: One commenter questioned the necessity of quota reductions when overfishing is not occurring, and requested more PO 00000 2020 million lb 1,098 742 742 705 37 705 33 2.291 1.636 1.636 1.554 0.082 1.554 0.072 mt 1,039 742 742 705 37 705 33 information about Tilefish Framework Adjustment 2. Response 2: As explained in the proposed rule and the response to Comment 1, catch limits and quotas are being reduced a result of the application of the Council’s risk policy to the best available science to prevent overfishing from occurring in the golden tilefish fishery. The commenter is correct, the golden tilefish stock is not considered overfished or subject to overfishing; but this action is working to maintain that status into the future. Framework Adjustment 2 is currently in development through a separate rulemaking process, and does have more background information on the topics in question. The proposed rule is expected to publish in October; however, in the interim, more information can be found on the Council Web site at http:// www.mafmc.org/tilefish/. E:\FR\FM\07NOR1.SGM 07NOR1 51580 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 214 / Tuesday, November 7, 2017 / Rules and Regulations Comment 3: The commenter recommended a more drastic cut in quotas and claimed widespread corruption and collusion between NMFS and the commercial fishing industry for unregulated profit. Response 3: The commenter presented no rationale or evidence supporting the claims. The most recent assessment determined that the golden tilefish stock is neither overfished, nor subject to overfishing. The Council’s recommended quotas were set below the overfishing limit from the stock assessment in order to account for any scientific uncertainty. NMFS used the best scientific information available and is approving specifications for the golden tilefish fishery that are consistent with the FMP, all applicable legal requirements, and the recommendations of the Council. nshattuck on DSK9F9SC42PROD with RULES Changes From the Proposed Rule As explained above, the proposed rule anticipated the implementation of Framework 2 before these specifications were finalized. Because that has not happened, the specifications must be implemented under current regulations, but will be adjusted when Framework 2 is finalized near the end of December 2017. Classification Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this final rule is consistent with the Tilefish FMP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law. This final rule is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866 because this action contains no implementing regulations. This final rule does not duplicate, conflict, or overlap with any existing Federal rules. This action does not contain a collection of information requirement for purposes of the Paperwork Reduction Act. The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3) to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness period for this rule, to ensure that the final specifications are in place as close to the start of the 2018 golden tilefish fishing year as possible, which began on November 1, 2017. A delay in effectiveness past the start of the 2018 fishing year would be contrary to the public interest, as it could create confusion, added burden, and potential economic harm to the commercial golden tilefish industry. If new specifications are not effective on that VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:04 Nov 06, 2017 Jkt 244001 date, the regulations at § 648.292(a) state the current harvest quotas would automatically continue into the new fishing year. Therefore, NMFS would be required to issue initial IFQ permits using the 2017 quota amount, and then reissue those permits using the lower 2018 quota implemented by this rule after the start of the fishing year. Representatives of the commercial golden tilefish industry have been active participants in the Council’s development of these specifications, and are anticipating the 2018 quota amount implemented by this action. Issuing two sets of IFQ allocations based on different quota amounts in a short period of time would cause unnecessary confusion and paperwork for the commercial golden tilefish industry. If IFQ shareholders fished or leased their initial allocation in the interim, they could be responsible for a quota overage once the new 2018 quotas became effective. Under the regulations, such an overage would need to be paid back in the following fishing year, which would decrease fishing opportunities in 2019. Because the Council did not submit these specifications recommendations and the accompanying environmental assessment until early July, NMFS was unable to prepare this action early enough to allow for both an appropriate public comment period and full delay in effectiveness period. As noted above, the commercial tilefish industry has been a participant in the Council’s process of developing these specifications and is anticipating these measures. Therefore, there is good cause to implement these quota specifications on November 2, 2017. Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis The final regulatory flexibility analysis (FRFA) included in this final rule was prepared pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 604(a), and incorporates the initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA) and a summary of analyses completed to support the action. A public copy of the environmental assessment/IRFA is available from the Council (see ADDRESSES). The preamble to the proposed rule included a detailed summary of the analyses contained in the IRFA, and that discussion is not repeated here. A Summary of the Significant Issues Raised by the Public in Response to the IRFA, a Summary of the Agency’s Assessment of Such Issues, and a Statement of Any Changes Made in the Final Rule as a Result of Such Comments The comments NMFS received did not raise specific issues regarding the PO 00000 Frm 00032 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 economic analyses summarized in the IRFA. Refer to the ‘‘Comments and Responses’’ section of this preamble for more detail. No changes to the proposed rule were required to be made as a result of public comment. Description and Estimate of Number of Small Entities To Which the Rule Would Apply This final rule affects small entities engaged in commercial fishing operations with Federal golden tilefish permits. For the purposes of the regulatory flexibility analysis (RFA) analysis, the ownership entities (or firms), not the individual vessels, are considered to be the regulated entities. Because of this, some vessels with golden tilefish permits may be considered to be part of the same firm because they may have the same owners. In terms of RFA, a business primarily engaged in commercial fishing is classified as a small business if it has combined annual receipts not in excess of $11 million, for all its affiliated operations worldwide. The current ownership data set used for this analysis is based on calendar year 2016 (the most recent complete year available) and contains average gross sales associated with those permits for calendar years 2014 through 2016. According to the commercial ownership database, 148 affiliate firms landed golden tilefish during the 2014–2016 period, with 145 of those business affiliates categorized as small, and 3 as large businesses. Description of Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other Compliance Requirements No additional reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements are included in this final rule. Description of the Steps the Agency Has Taken To Minimize the Significant Economic Impact on Small Entities Consistent With the Stated Objectives of Applicable Statutes Specification of commercial quota is constrained by the conservation objectives set forth in the FMP and implemented at 50 CFR part 648 under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The 2018–2020 catch limits and quotas contained in this final rule are 14 percent lower than those currently in place for 2017. However, this is the result of the Council’s risk policy, which requires a formulaic buffer between the OFL and ABC that, in turn, lowers the TAL and quotas. Therefore, these lower catch levels in 2018 and projected for 2019 and 2020 are consistent with the best available E:\FR\FM\07NOR1.SGM 07NOR1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 214 / Tuesday, November 7, 2017 / Rules and Regulations nshattuck on DSK9F9SC42PROD with RULES scientific information, the Council’s tolerance for overfishing risk, and are intended to prevent overfishing from occurring. As described in the proposed rule for this action, two other alternatives to the approved these specifications were considered. The status quo specifications (Alternative 2) were not consistent with the Council’s risk policy. Alternative 3 would have had a comparable quota decrease over the three years with the approved specifications (Alternative 1), but fluctuating quotas and catch limits year to year. This was not selected because it did not support the annual consistency of quota/landings that the tilefish industry considers important to maintaining price and supply stability in this fishery. All affected IFQ shareholders will receive decreases in their tilefish 2018 VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:04 Nov 06, 2017 Jkt 244001 IFQ allocations in comparison to their respective tilefish 2017 IFQ allocations. However, the magnitude of the decrease varies depending on the shareholder’s relative percentage of the total IFQ quota. Shareholders may also seek leases to offset individual quota decreases. NMFS does not anticipate this decrease will create a significant impact on the entities affected by this action. Small Entity Compliance Guide Section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 states that, for each rule or group of related rules for which an agency is required to prepare a FRFA, the agency shall publish one or more guides to assist small entities in complying with the rule, and shall designate such publications as ‘‘small entity compliance guides.’’ The agency shall PO 00000 Frm 00033 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 9990 51581 explain the actions a small entity is required to take to comply with a rule or group of rules. As part of this rulemaking process, a letter to permit holders that also serves as small entity compliance guide was prepared and will be sent to all holders of Federal permits issued for the golden tilefish fishery. In addition, copies of this final rule and guide (i.e., permit holder letter) are available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES) and at the following Web site: www.greateratlantic.fisheries. noaa.gov. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: November 1, 2017. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2017–24135 Filed 11–2–17; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\07NOR1.SGM 07NOR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 214 (Tuesday, November 7, 2017)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 51578-51581]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-24135]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 170717675-7999-02]
RIN 0648-XF571


Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Golden Tilefish 
Fishery; 2018 and Projected 2019-2020 Specifications

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS issues final specifications for the 2018 commercial 
golden tilefish fishery and projected specifications for 2019 and 2020. 
This action establishes allowable harvest levels and other management 
measures to prevent overfishing while allowing optimum yield, 
consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and 
Management Act and the Tilefish Fishery Management Plan. It is also 
intended to inform the public of these specifications for the 2018 
fishing year and projected specifications for 2019-2020.

DATES: Effective November 2, 2017 through October 31, 2018.

ADDRESSES: Copies of these specifications, including the Environmental 
Assessment, Regulatory Flexibility Act Analyses, and other supporting 
documents for the action, are available upon request from Dr. 
Christopher M. Moore, Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery 
Management Council, Suite 201, 800 N. State Street, Dover, DE 19901. 
The specifications document is also accessible via the Internet at: 
http://www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Cynthia Hanson, Fishery Management 
Specialist, (978) 281-9180.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    The golden tilefish fishery is managed by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery 
Management Council under the Tilefish Fishery Management Plan (FMP), 
which outlines the Council's process for establishing annual 
specifications. Regulations implementing the Tilefish FMP appear at 50 
CFR part 648, subparts A and N, which require the Council to recommend 
acceptable biological catch (ABC), annual catch limit (ACL), annual 
catch target (ACT), total allowable landings (TAL), and other 
management measures, for up to three years at a time. On September 7, 
2017, NMFS proposed 2018-2020 specifications for the golden tilefish 
fishery (82 FR 42266) based on Council recommendations, and accepted 
public comment through September 22, 2017. Additional background 
information regarding the development of these specifications was 
provided in the proposed rule and is not repeated here.

Final Specifications

    This action implements the approved ABCs, catch limits, and quota 
limits for the commercial golden tilefish fishery for the 2018 fishing 
year (Table 1), and projects specifications for fishing years 2019 and 
2020 (Table 2), as outlined in the proposed rule. By providing 
projected quotas for 2019 and 2020, NMFS hopes to assist fishery

[[Page 51579]]

participants in planning ahead. The Council will review these 
specifications annually, and NMFS will provide notice prior to each 
fishing year to announce any necessary changes for 2019 and 2020. These 
specifications are approximately 14 percent lower than the 2017 ABC and 
overall commercial quota to ensure overfishing does not occur. For more 
information on the Council's recommendations and decisionmaking 
process, please see the proposed rule (82 FR 42266).
    As explained in the proposed rule, the Mid-Atlantic Council 
developed these specifications in parallel with Framework Adjustment 2 
to the Tilefish FMP. Framework 2 would revise how assumed discards are 
deducted in the specifications setting process, and the Council 
developed these specifications based on that new method. However, 
implementation of Framework 2 was delayed, and a proposed rule to 
implement Framework 2 is pending. Because the revision to the 
specification process has not been finalized, this action implements 
the 2018 golden tilefish specifications based on current regulations. 
For clarity, we also provide details of how the 2018 specifications 
would be changed under the process proposed by Framework 2 (Table 1). 
If Framework 2 is implemented as proposed, the 2018 specifications 
would be adjusted accordingly during the fishing year. This would 
result in a slight decrease in the incidental TAL and a slight increase 
to the IFQ TAL and by extension to individual IFQ allocations. The 
proposed 2019 and 2020 specifications in Table 2 anticipate the 
implementation of Framework 2.

    Table 1--2018 Golden Tilefish Specifications as Implemented by This Action, and Potential Revisions Under
                                         Tilefish Framework Adjustment 2
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                          As implemented                 Under framework 2
                                                 ---------------------------------------------------------------
                                                    million lb          mt          million lb          mt
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Overfishing Limit...............................           2.332           1,058           2.332           1,058
ABC.............................................           1.636             742           1.636             742
ACL.............................................           1.636             742           1.636             742
IFQ ACT.........................................              NA              NA           1.554             705
Incidental ACT..................................              NA              NA           0.082              37
TAL.............................................           1.627             738              NA              NA
IFQ TAL.........................................           1.546             701           1.554             705
Incidental TAL..................................           0.081              37           0.072              33
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


                         Table 2--Proposed 2019 and 2020 Golden Tilefish Specifications
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                               2019                            2020
                                                 ---------------------------------------------------------------
                                                    million lb          mt          million lb          mt
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Overfishing Limit...............................           2.421           1,098           2.291           1,039
ABC.............................................           1.636             742           1.636             742
ACL.............................................           1.636             742           1.636             742
IFQ ACT.........................................           1.554             705           1.554             705
Incidental ACT..................................           0.082              37           0.082              37
IFQ TAL.........................................           1.554             705           1.554             705
Incidental TAL..................................           0.072              33           0.072              33
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    As in previous years, no golden tilefish quota has been allocated 
for research set-aside. All other management measures in the golden 
tilefish fishery will remain unchanged for the 2018-2020 fishing years. 
The incidental trip limit will stay 500 lb (226.8 kg) (live weight), 
and the recreational catch limit will remain eight fish per-angler, 
per-trip. Annual IFQ allocations will be issued to individual quota 
shareholders in mid-October, before the November 1 start of the fishing 
year.

Comments and Responses

    The public comment period for the proposed rule ended on September 
22, 2017. Five comments were received from the public on this rule.
    Comment 1: Three commenters wrote in support of this action and the 
reduction in quotas. They mentioned the importance of preemptive 
measures to preserve fish populations and ecosystems from overfishing 
while maintaining sustainable fishing practices.
    Response 1: NMFS agrees. It is important to use the best available 
science to maintain healthy fish stocks and sustainable fishing 
practices. The Council's risk policy was applied to the most recent 
assessment outputs in the development of these specifications 
consistent with National Standard 2 and the Magnuson-Stevens Act. This 
resulted in a recommended reduction in quota even though golden 
tilefish are not currently overfished or experiencing overfishing.
    Comment 2: One commenter questioned the necessity of quota 
reductions when overfishing is not occurring, and requested more 
information about Tilefish Framework Adjustment 2.
    Response 2: As explained in the proposed rule and the response to 
Comment 1, catch limits and quotas are being reduced a result of the 
application of the Council's risk policy to the best available science 
to prevent overfishing from occurring in the golden tilefish fishery. 
The commenter is correct, the golden tilefish stock is not considered 
overfished or subject to overfishing; but this action is working to 
maintain that status into the future. Framework Adjustment 2 is 
currently in development through a separate rulemaking process, and 
does have more background information on the topics in question. The 
proposed rule is expected to publish in October; however, in the 
interim, more information can be found on the Council Web site at 
http://www.mafmc.org/tilefish/.

[[Page 51580]]

    Comment 3: The commenter recommended a more drastic cut in quotas 
and claimed widespread corruption and collusion between NMFS and the 
commercial fishing industry for unregulated profit.
    Response 3: The commenter presented no rationale or evidence 
supporting the claims. The most recent assessment determined that the 
golden tilefish stock is neither overfished, nor subject to 
overfishing. The Council's recommended quotas were set below the 
overfishing limit from the stock assessment in order to account for any 
scientific uncertainty. NMFS used the best scientific information 
available and is approving specifications for the golden tilefish 
fishery that are consistent with the FMP, all applicable legal 
requirements, and the recommendations of the Council.

Changes From the Proposed Rule

    As explained above, the proposed rule anticipated the 
implementation of Framework 2 before these specifications were 
finalized. Because that has not happened, the specifications must be 
implemented under current regulations, but will be adjusted when 
Framework 2 is finalized near the end of December 2017.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this final rule is 
consistent with the Tilefish FMP, other provisions of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act, and other applicable law.
    This final rule is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866 
because this action contains no implementing regulations.
    This final rule does not duplicate, conflict, or overlap with any 
existing Federal rules.
    This action does not contain a collection of information 
requirement for purposes of the Paperwork Reduction Act.
    The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, finds good cause 
under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3) to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness 
period for this rule, to ensure that the final specifications are in 
place as close to the start of the 2018 golden tilefish fishing year as 
possible, which began on November 1, 2017. A delay in effectiveness 
past the start of the 2018 fishing year would be contrary to the public 
interest, as it could create confusion, added burden, and potential 
economic harm to the commercial golden tilefish industry. If new 
specifications are not effective on that date, the regulations at Sec.  
648.292(a) state the current harvest quotas would automatically 
continue into the new fishing year. Therefore, NMFS would be required 
to issue initial IFQ permits using the 2017 quota amount, and then 
reissue those permits using the lower 2018 quota implemented by this 
rule after the start of the fishing year. Representatives of the 
commercial golden tilefish industry have been active participants in 
the Council's development of these specifications, and are anticipating 
the 2018 quota amount implemented by this action. Issuing two sets of 
IFQ allocations based on different quota amounts in a short period of 
time would cause unnecessary confusion and paperwork for the commercial 
golden tilefish industry. If IFQ shareholders fished or leased their 
initial allocation in the interim, they could be responsible for a 
quota overage once the new 2018 quotas became effective. Under the 
regulations, such an overage would need to be paid back in the 
following fishing year, which would decrease fishing opportunities in 
2019.
    Because the Council did not submit these specifications 
recommendations and the accompanying environmental assessment until 
early July, NMFS was unable to prepare this action early enough to 
allow for both an appropriate public comment period and full delay in 
effectiveness period. As noted above, the commercial tilefish industry 
has been a participant in the Council's process of developing these 
specifications and is anticipating these measures. Therefore, there is 
good cause to implement these quota specifications on November 2, 2017.

Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

    The final regulatory flexibility analysis (FRFA) included in this 
final rule was prepared pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 604(a), and incorporates 
the initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA) and a summary of 
analyses completed to support the action. A public copy of the 
environmental assessment/IRFA is available from the Council (see 
ADDRESSES). The preamble to the proposed rule included a detailed 
summary of the analyses contained in the IRFA, and that discussion is 
not repeated here.

A Summary of the Significant Issues Raised by the Public in Response to 
the IRFA, a Summary of the Agency's Assessment of Such Issues, and a 
Statement of Any Changes Made in the Final Rule as a Result of Such 
Comments

    The comments NMFS received did not raise specific issues regarding 
the economic analyses summarized in the IRFA. Refer to the ``Comments 
and Responses'' section of this preamble for more detail. No changes to 
the proposed rule were required to be made as a result of public 
comment.

Description and Estimate of Number of Small Entities To Which the Rule 
Would Apply

    This final rule affects small entities engaged in commercial 
fishing operations with Federal golden tilefish permits. For the 
purposes of the regulatory flexibility analysis (RFA) analysis, the 
ownership entities (or firms), not the individual vessels, are 
considered to be the regulated entities. Because of this, some vessels 
with golden tilefish permits may be considered to be part of the same 
firm because they may have the same owners. In terms of RFA, a business 
primarily engaged in commercial fishing is classified as a small 
business if it has combined annual receipts not in excess of $11 
million, for all its affiliated operations worldwide. The current 
ownership data set used for this analysis is based on calendar year 
2016 (the most recent complete year available) and contains average 
gross sales associated with those permits for calendar years 2014 
through 2016. According to the commercial ownership database, 148 
affiliate firms landed golden tilefish during the 2014-2016 period, 
with 145 of those business affiliates categorized as small, and 3 as 
large businesses.

Description of Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other Compliance 
Requirements

    No additional reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance 
requirements are included in this final rule.

Description of the Steps the Agency Has Taken To Minimize the 
Significant Economic Impact on Small Entities Consistent With the 
Stated Objectives of Applicable Statutes

    Specification of commercial quota is constrained by the 
conservation objectives set forth in the FMP and implemented at 50 CFR 
part 648 under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The 2018-2020 
catch limits and quotas contained in this final rule are 14 percent 
lower than those currently in place for 2017. However, this is the 
result of the Council's risk policy, which requires a formulaic buffer 
between the OFL and ABC that, in turn, lowers the TAL and quotas. 
Therefore, these lower catch levels in 2018 and projected for 2019 and 
2020 are consistent with the best available

[[Page 51581]]

scientific information, the Council's tolerance for overfishing risk, 
and are intended to prevent overfishing from occurring.
    As described in the proposed rule for this action, two other 
alternatives to the approved these specifications were considered. The 
status quo specifications (Alternative 2) were not consistent with the 
Council's risk policy. Alternative 3 would have had a comparable quota 
decrease over the three years with the approved specifications 
(Alternative 1), but fluctuating quotas and catch limits year to year. 
This was not selected because it did not support the annual consistency 
of quota/landings that the tilefish industry considers important to 
maintaining price and supply stability in this fishery.
    All affected IFQ shareholders will receive decreases in their 
tilefish 2018 IFQ allocations in comparison to their respective 
tilefish 2017 IFQ allocations. However, the magnitude of the decrease 
varies depending on the shareholder's relative percentage of the total 
IFQ quota. Shareholders may also seek leases to offset individual quota 
decreases. NMFS does not anticipate this decrease will create a 
significant impact on the entities affected by this action.

Small Entity Compliance Guide

    Section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness 
Act of 1996 states that, for each rule or group of related rules for 
which an agency is required to prepare a FRFA, the agency shall publish 
one or more guides to assist small entities in complying with the rule, 
and shall designate such publications as ``small entity compliance 
guides.'' The agency shall explain the actions a small entity is 
required to take to comply with a rule or group of rules. As part of 
this rulemaking process, a letter to permit holders that also serves as 
small entity compliance guide was prepared and will be sent to all 
holders of Federal permits issued for the golden tilefish fishery. In 
addition, copies of this final rule and guide (i.e., permit holder 
letter) are available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES) and at the following 
Web site: www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov.

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

    Dated: November 1, 2017.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2017-24135 Filed 11-2-17; 4:15 pm]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P