Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Summer Flounder, Scup, Black Sea Bass Fisheries; 2018 and Projected 2019 Scup Specifications and Announcement of Final 2018 Summer Flounder and Black Sea Bass Specifications, 60682-60686 [2017-27581]

Download as PDF 60682 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 245 / Friday, December 22, 2017 / Rules and Regulations sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with RULES exceeded upon landing. This General category retention limit is effective in all areas, except for the Gulf of Mexico, where NMFS prohibits targeting fishing for BFT, and applies to those vessels permitted in the General category, as well as to those HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels with a commercial sale endorsement when fishing commercially for BFT fishing commercially for BFT. For information regarding the CHB commercial sale endorsement, see 82 FR 57543, December 6, 2017. Depending on the level of fishing effort and catch rates of BFT, NMFS may determine that additional action (e.g., quota adjustment, daily retention limit adjustment, or closure) is necessary to ensure available subquotas are not exceeded or to enhance scientific data collection from, and fishing opportunities in, all geographic areas. If needed, subsequent adjustments will be published in the Federal Register. In addition, fishermen may call the Atlantic Tunas Information Line at (978) 281–9260, or access hmspermits.noaa.gov, for updates on quota monitoring and inseason adjustments. Classification The Assistant Administrator for NMFS (AA) finds that it is impracticable and contrary to the public interest to provide prior notice of, and an opportunity for public comment on, this action for the following reasons: The regulations implementing the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP and amendments provide for inseason retention limit adjustments to respond to the unpredictable nature of BFT availability on the fishing grounds, the migratory nature of this species, and the regional variations in the BFT fishery. Affording prior notice and opportunity for public comment to implement the quota transfer for the January 2018 subquota period at this time is impracticable and contrary to the public interest as NMFS could not have proposed this action earlier, as it needed to consider and respond to updated data and information from the 2017 General category fishery, including the recentlyavailable December 2017 data, in deciding to transfer a portion of the December 2018 quota to the January 2018 subquota. If NMFS was to offer a public comment period now, after having appropriately considered that data, it could preclude fishermen from harvesting BFT that are legally available VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:04 Dec 21, 2017 Jkt 244001 consistent with all of the regulatory criteria, and/or could result in selection of a retention limit inappropriately high for the amount of quota available for the period. Therefore, the AA finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive prior notice and the opportunity for public comment. For these reasons, there also is good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d) to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness. This action is being taken under § 635.27(a)(9), and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 971 et seq. and 1801 et seq. Dated: December 19, 2017. Emily H. Menashes, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2017–27648 Filed 12–20–17; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 170828822–70999–02] RIN 0648–XF669 Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Summer Flounder, Scup, Black Sea Bass Fisheries; 2018 and Projected 2019 Scup Specifications and Announcement of Final 2018 Summer Flounder and Black Sea Bass Specifications National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. catch limits to account for previous overages, finalize the 2018 black sea bass specifications, and inform the public of projected scup specifications for the 2019 fishing year. DATES: Effective December 22, 2017, through December 31, 2018. ADDRESSES: Copies of the specifications document, including the Environmental Assessment (EA), are available on request from Dr. Christopher M. Moore, Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Suite 201, 800 North State Street, Dover, DE 19901. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Emily Gilbert, Fishery Policy Analyst, (978) 281–9244. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: General Background Scup, summer flounder, and black sea bass are jointly managed by the MidAtlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission as part of the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan (FMP). This action implements revised scup specifications for the 2018 fishing year and announces projected 2019 scup specifications. This rule also revises the 2018 summer flounder commercial annual catch limit (ACL) and subsequent state commercial quotas to account for an ACL overage in 2016, consistent with the FMP and regulations. The previously projected 2018 black sea bass specifications (82 FR 24078; May 25 2017) are announced as final in this action. AGENCY: Final Scup Specifications NMFS issues revised scup specifications for the 2018 fishing year and projected specifications for 2019. Additionally, this action implements a summer flounder accountability measure for 2018. These actions are necessary to comply with regulations implementing the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan, and to ensure compliance with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. This rule is intended to revise the 2018 scup catch limits based on updated scientific information to afford more opportunity to obtain optimum yield, update the summer flounder Background on how the Council derived the 2018 and 2019 scup specifications was outlined in the proposed rule (82 FR 51594; November 7, 2017) and is not repeated here. We are implementing the 2018 final and 2019 projected scup specifications as proposed. The 2018 and 2019 annual catch targets (ACTs) implemented by this final rule are based on the 2019 acceptable biological catch (ABC) and setting the ACLs for 2019 equal to the ACTs. The resulting 2018 commercial quota is 38 percent higher than what is currently in place for 2018. Similarly, the resulting 2018 recreational harvest limit is 41 percent higher. This rule makes no changes to the commercial scup management measures (e.g., mesh requirements, fishery seasons, etc.). SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00010 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 E:\FR\FM\22DER1.SGM 22DER1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 245 / Friday, December 22, 2017 / Rules and Regulations 60683 TABLE 1—FINAL SCUP SPECIFICATIONS FOR 2018 AND PROJECTED FOR 2019 Scup specifications 2018 (Current) million lb Overfishing Limit (OFL) ............................ ABC .......................................................... Commercial ACL ...................................... Commercial ACT ...................................... Commercial Discards ............................... Commercial Quota ................................... Recreational ACL ..................................... Recreational ACT ..................................... Recreational Discards .............................. Recreational Harvest Limit ....................... 29.68 27.05 21.10 21.10 3.76 17.34 5.95 5.95 0.75 5.21 2018 (Revised) mt million lb 13,462 12,270 9,571 9,571 1,705 7,866 2,699 2,699 338 2,361 2019 (Projected) mt 45.05 39.14 30.53 28.42 4.43 23.98 8.61 8.01 0.65 7.37 million lb 20,433 17,755 13,849 12,890 2,011 10,879 3,906 3,636 293 3,342 mt 41.03 36.43 28.42 28.42 4.43 23.98 8.01 8.01 0.65 7.37 18,612 16,525 12,890 12,890 2,011 10,879 3,636 3,636 293 3,342 The 2018 scup commercial quota is divided into three commercial fishery quota periods, as outlined in Table 2. TABLE 2—COMMERCIAL SCUP QUOTA ALLOCATIONS FOR 2018 BY QUOTA PERIOD 2018 Initial quota Quota period Percent share lb mt Winter I ........................................................................................................................................ Summer ....................................................................................................................................... Winter II ....................................................................................................................................... 45.11 38.95 15.94 10,820,000 9,340,986 3,822,816 4,908 4,237 1,734 Total ...................................................................................................................................... 100.0 23,983,802 10,879 Note: Metric tons are as converted from pounds and may not necessarily total due to rounding. The current quota period possession limits are not changed by this action, and are outlined in Table 3. The Winter I possession limit will drop to 1,000 lb (454 kg) upon attainment of 80 percent of that period’s allocation. If the Winter I quota is not fully harvested, the remaining quota is transferred to Winter II. The Winter II possession limit may be adjusted (in association with a transfer of unused Winter I quota to the Winter II period) via notice in the Federal Register. The regulations specify that the Winter II possession limit increases consistent with the increase in the quota, as described in Table 4. TABLE 3—COMMERCIAL SCUP POSSESSION LIMITS BY QUOTA PERIOD Quota period Percent share Federal possession limits (per trip) lb kg Winter I ........................................................................................................................................ Summer ....................................................................................................................................... Winter II ....................................................................................................................................... 45.11 38.95 15.94 50,000 N/A 12,000 22,680 N/A 5,443 Total ...................................................................................................................................... 100.0 N/A N/A TABLE 4—POTENTIAL INCREASE IN WINTER II POSSESSION LIMITS BASED ON THE AMOUNT OF UNUSED SCUP ROLLED OVER FROM WINTER I TO WINTER II sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with RULES Initial Winter II possession limit lb Rollover from Winter I to Winter II kg lb Increase in initial Winter II possession limit kg lb 12,000 12,000 12,000 12,000 ...................... ...................... ...................... ...................... VerDate Sep<11>2014 5,443 5,443 5,443 5,443 16:04 Dec 21, 2017 0–499,999 500,000–999,999 1,000,000–1,499,999 1,500,000–1,999,999 Jkt 244001 PO 00000 Final Winter II possession limit after rollover from Winter I to Winter II Frm 00011 0–226,796 226,796–453,592 453,592–680,388 680,389–907,184 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 0 1,500 3,000 4,500 E:\FR\FM\22DER1.SGM kg 0 680 1,361 2,041 22DER1 lb 12,000 13,500 15,000 16,500 kg 5,443 6,123 6,804 7,484 60684 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 245 / Friday, December 22, 2017 / Rules and Regulations TABLE 4—POTENTIAL INCREASE IN WINTER II POSSESSION LIMITS BASED ON THE AMOUNT OF UNUSED SCUP ROLLED OVER FROM WINTER I TO WINTER II—Continued Initial Winter II possession limit lb Rollover from Winter I to Winter II kg lb Increase in initial Winter II possession limit kg lb 12,000 ...................... 5,443 Final Winter II possession limit after rollover from Winter I to Winter II * 2,000,000–2,500,000 907,185–1,133,981 kg 6,000 lb 2,722 kg 18,000 8,165 * This process of increasing the possession limit in 1,500 lb (680 kg) increments would continue past 2,500,000 lb (1,122,981 kg), but we end here for the purpose of this example. Accountability Measure Quota Adjustment Announcements Each year, NMFS publishes a notice to inform the public and the states of any commercial summer flounder, scup, or black sea bass overages that are deducted from a fishing year’s allocations for the start of the fishing year. These overages are determined based on a review of catch and landings information for the previous full year of fishing information as well as any preliminary information in the current fishing year. In this case, the previous full year of fishing information for fishing year 2016 became available in late November 2017. This final rule is announcing a 2018 accountability measure for the summer flounder commercial fishery, as required by the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan and in compliance with the regulations at § 648.103. Summer Flounder This final rule implements an accountability measure to address a 2016 commercial ACL overage in the summer flounder fishery. Although the 2016 commercial summer flounder quota was not fully harvested, our estimates indicate that the commercial summer flounder 2016 ACL (9.42 million lb; 4,275 mt) was exceeded by 191,218 lb (86.7 mt). This overage was due entirely to the fact that 2016 discard estimates were much higher than originally projected, accounting for 19.3 percent of the total commercial catch in 2016. Ultimately, this results in a 2016 ACL overage of 2 percent. As a result, the regulations require an automatic pound-for-pound payback from the 2018 summer flounder ACL (7.70 million lb; 3,491 mt), which results in a 2.5-percent decrease in the ACL compared to what was previously projected for the year (Table 5). Once the 2018 estimated discards (1.07 million lb; 485 mt) are subtracted from the adjusted ACL, the resulting 2018 commercial quota is reduced by 2.9 percent from the previously projected level. This final 2018 summer flounder commercial quota is 13.7 percent higher than the quota in place for 2017 (5.66 million lb; 2,567 mt). TABLE 5—2018 FINAL SUMMER FLOUNDER SPECIFICATIONS—Continued Million lb Recreational Harvest Limit ........................... 4.42 Mt 2,004 1 Incorporates reductions for 2016 overages. The initial 2018 commercial ACL/ACT was 7.70 million lb (3,491 mt) and the initial 2018 commercial quota was 6.63 million lb (3,006 mt). Table 6 summarizes the commercial summer flounder quotas for each state, incorporating the revised 2018 commercial ACL. This rule announces commercial state quota overage reductions necessary for fishing year 2018. Table 6 includes percent shares as outlined in § 648.102 (c)(1)(i), the resultant 2018 commercial quotas, quota overages (as needed), and the final adjusted 2018 commercial quotas. The 2017 quota overage is determined by comparing landings for January through TABLE 5—2018 FINAL SUMMER October 2017, plus any 2016 landings FLOUNDER SPECIFICATIONS overage that was not previously addressed in establishing the 2017 Million lb Mt summer flounder specifications, for Commercial ACL/ACT 1 7.51 3,404 each state. For Delaware, this includes Recreational ACL/ACT 5.53 2,508 continued repayment of overharvest Commercial Quota 1 ..... 6.44 2,919 from previous years. TABLE 6—FINAL STATE-BY-STATE COMMERCIAL SUMMER FLOUNDER QUOTAS FOR 2018 sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with RULES State FMP percent share 2018 Initial quota lb 2018 Adjusted quota (ACL overage) kg lb Overages through October 31, 2017 kg lb kg Final adjusted 2018 quota, less overages lb kg Maine ......................................... New Hampshire ......................... Massachusetts .......................... Rhode Island ............................. Connecticut ............................... New York ................................... New Jersey ............................... Delaware ................................... Maryland .................................... Virginia ...................................... North Carolina ........................... 0.04756 0.00046 6.82046 15.68298 2.25708 7.64699 16.72499 0.01779 2.0391 21.31676 27.44584 3,152 30 451,998 1,039,326 149,579 506,773 1,108,381 1,179 135,133 1,412,682 1,818,862 1,430 14 205,023 471,430 67,848 229,868 502,753 535 61,295 640,782 825,022 3,061 30 438,973 1,009,375 145,268 492,169 1,076,440 1,145 131,239 1,371,972 1,766,447 1,388 13 199,115 457,845 65,893 223,244 488,265 519 59,529 622,316 801,247 0 0 37,816 13,002 0 0 0 49,638 0 0 0 0 0 17,153 5,898 0 0 0 22,515 0 0 0 3,061 30 401,157 996,373 145,268 492,169 1,076,440 ¥48,493 131,239 1,371,972 1,766,447 1,388 13 181,962 451,947 65,893 223,244 488,265 ¥21,996 59,529 622,316 801,247 Total ................................... 100 6,627,096 3,006,000 6,436,120 2,919,375 .................... .................... 6,384,158 2,895,805 Notes: Kilograms are as converted from pounds and may not necessarily add due to rounding. Total quota is the sum for all states with an allocation. A state with a negative number has a 2018 allocation of zero (0). Total adjusted 2018 quota, less overages, does not include negative allocations (i.e., Delaware’s overage). VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:04 Dec 21, 2017 Jkt 244001 PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 E:\FR\FM\22DER1.SGM 22DER1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 245 / Friday, December 22, 2017 / Rules and Regulations sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with RULES Delaware Summer Flounder Closure Table 6 shows the amount of overharvest from previous years for Delaware is greater than the amount of commercial quota allocated to Delaware for 2018. As a result, there is no quota available for 2018 in Delaware. The regulations at § 648.4(b) provide that Federal permit holders, as a condition of their permit, must not land summer flounder in any state that the NMFS Greater Atlantic Region Administrator has determined no longer has commercial quota available for harvest. Therefore, landings of summer flounder in Delaware by vessels holding commercial Federal summer flounder permits are prohibited for the 2018 calendar year, unless additional quota becomes available through a quota transfer and is announced in the Federal Register. Federally permitted dealers are advised that they may not purchase summer flounder from federally permitted vessels that land in Delaware for the 2018 calendar year, unless additional quota becomes available through a transfer, as mentioned above. Black Sea Bass Although the 2016 commercial quota was not fully harvested, the commercial black sea bass 2016 ACL (3.15 million lb; 1,428 mt) was exceeded by approximately 630,000 lb (286 mt). This overage was due entirely to the fact that 2016 discard estimates were much higher than originally projected, accounting for 40.3 percent of the total commercial catch in 2016. This results in a 2016 ACL overage of 20 percent. However, similar to last year’s reconsideration of the 2017 commercial ACL accountability measure given the 2016 benchmark assessment, we will not implement an accountability measure for this overage. The assessment provided updated information on the condition of the stock indicating that the 2016 specifications, including estimated discards, could have been much higher if the assessment had been available when those catch limits were implemented. Because an accountability measure likely would not have been triggered if catch limits had been consistent with our understanding of the stock’s status, implementing an accountability measure is unnecessary. Biomass remains well above the biomass target and the stock is not subject to overfishing. The final black sea bass specifications for 2018, unchanged from when first announced as projected, are outlined in Table 7. These specifications are consistent with VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:04 Dec 21, 2017 Jkt 244001 the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee’s ABC recommendation and are sufficient to ensure the stock is not subject to overfishing or likely to be reduced below the biomass target. 60685 This rule is being issued at the earliest possible date. Preparation of the proposed rule was dependent on the submission of the EA in support of the specifications that is developed by the Council. A complete document was TABLE 7—FINAL 2018 BLACK SEA received by NMFS in early December 2017. Documentation in support of the BASS SPECIFICATIONS Council’s recommended specifications Million lb Mt is required for NMFS to provide the public with information from the Commercial ACL/ACT .. 4.35 1,974 environmental and economic analyses, Recreational ACL/ACT 4.59 2,083 Commercial Quota ........ 3.52 1,596 as required in rulemaking, and to evaluate the consistency of the Recreational Harvest Limit ........................... 3.66 1,661 Council’s recommendation with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable law. The proposed rule Comments and Responses published on November 7, 2017, with a On November 7, 2017, NMFS 15-day comment period ending published the proposed scup November 22, 2017. Publication of the specifications for public notice and summer flounder quotas at the start of comment. NMFS received three the fishing year that begins January 1 of comments on the proposed rule. Two each fishing year is required by the commenters were in opposition to the order of Judge Robert Doumar in North increase in the scup catch limits. One Carolina Fisheries Association v. Daley. offered no reason for opposition, while Although there are currently established the other noted concern over market 2018 catch limits for summer flounder, instability and a drop in the price of scup should the market be flooded. This this action adjusts overall quotas and state allocations to account for 2016 second commenter supported ACL overages. Without these revised maintaining status quo measures for summer flounder specifications in place 2018. This increase in scup catch limit on January 1, 2018, individual states is intended to meet the objective of will not be held to the appropriately achieving optimum yield while also accounting for management uncertainty. reduced limits and will be unable to set accurate commercial possession and/or As outlined in the EA of this action, scup landings have been well below the trip limits, which apportion the catch over the entirety of the calendar year. commercial quota since 2011. It is not This is the very issue Judge Doumar anticipated that the commercial quota increase will result in a large increase in sought to remedy by compelling NMFS to provide quota information on or landings. The third commenter offered before the start of the fishing year. support for the catch limit increases, Disproportionately large harvest noting the benefits for both the occurring within the first weeks of 2018 commercial and recreational fisheries. would disadvantage some gear sectors No changes to the proposed scup or owners and operators of smaller specifications were made as a result of vessels that typically fish later in the these comments. fishing season. Classification Furthermore, the revised 2018 scup catch limits increase fishing The Administrator, Greater Atlantic opportunities, so their timely Region, NMFS, determined that these implementation also relieves the specifications are necessary for the restriction of potentially constrained conservation and management of the fishing opportunity. This action will summer flounder, scup, and black sea increase the coastwide 2018 scup quota bass fisheries and that they are by 31 percent and increases the 2018 consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens scup recreational harvest limit by 41 Act and other applicable laws. percent, providing federally permitted The Assistant Administrator for vessels additional harvest opportunity. Fisheries, NOAA, finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3) to waive the If this final rule were delayed for 30 30-day delay of effectiveness period for days, the scup fishery would forego this rule, to ensure that the final some amount of landings and revenues specifications are in place on January 1, during the delay period, as this rule 2018. This action establishes the final relieves, in part, a quota-related specifications (i.e., annual catch limits) restriction. In addition, NMFS would for the scup, summer flounder, and violate a standing court order regarding black sea bass fisheries for the 2018 summer flounder quotas. For all of these fishing year, which begins on January 1, reasons, a 30-day delay in effectiveness 2018. would be contrary to the public interest. PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 E:\FR\FM\22DER1.SGM 22DER1 60686 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 245 / Friday, December 22, 2017 / Rules and Regulations sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with RULES As a result, NMFS is waiving the requirement. The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration during the proposed rule stage that this action would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:04 Dec 21, 2017 Jkt 244001 entities. The factual basis for the certification was published in the proposed rule and is not repeated here. No comments were received regarding this certification, and the initial certification remains unchanged. As a result, a final regulatory flexibility analysis is not required and none has been prepared. PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 9990 Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: December 18, 2017. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2017–27581 Filed 12–21–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\22DER1.SGM 22DER1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 245 (Friday, December 22, 2017)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 60682-60686]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-27581]


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

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 170828822-70999-02]
RIN 0648-XF669


Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Summer Flounder, 
Scup, Black Sea Bass Fisheries; 2018 and Projected 2019 Scup 
Specifications and Announcement of Final 2018 Summer Flounder and Black 
Sea Bass Specifications

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS issues revised scup specifications for the 2018 fishing 
year and projected specifications for 2019. Additionally, this action 
implements a summer flounder accountability measure for 2018. These 
actions are necessary to comply with regulations implementing the 
Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan, and 
to ensure compliance with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and 
Management Act. This rule is intended to revise the 2018 scup catch 
limits based on updated scientific information to afford more 
opportunity to obtain optimum yield, update the summer flounder catch 
limits to account for previous overages, finalize the 2018 black sea 
bass specifications, and inform the public of projected scup 
specifications for the 2019 fishing year.

DATES: Effective December 22, 2017, through December 31, 2018.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the specifications document, including the 
Environmental Assessment (EA), are available on request from Dr. 
Christopher M. Moore, Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery 
Management Council, Suite 201, 800 North State Street, Dover, DE 19901.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Emily Gilbert, Fishery Policy Analyst, 
(978) 281-9244.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

General Background

    Scup, summer flounder, and black sea bass are jointly managed by 
the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States 
Marine Fisheries Commission as part of the Summer Flounder, Scup, and 
Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan (FMP). This action implements 
revised scup specifications for the 2018 fishing year and announces 
projected 2019 scup specifications. This rule also revises the 2018 
summer flounder commercial annual catch limit (ACL) and subsequent 
state commercial quotas to account for an ACL overage in 2016, 
consistent with the FMP and regulations. The previously projected 2018 
black sea bass specifications (82 FR 24078; May 25 2017) are announced 
as final in this action.

Final Scup Specifications

    Background on how the Council derived the 2018 and 2019 scup 
specifications was outlined in the proposed rule (82 FR 51594; November 
7, 2017) and is not repeated here. We are implementing the 2018 final 
and 2019 projected scup specifications as proposed.
    The 2018 and 2019 annual catch targets (ACTs) implemented by this 
final rule are based on the 2019 acceptable biological catch (ABC) and 
setting the ACLs for 2019 equal to the ACTs. The resulting 2018 
commercial quota is 38 percent higher than what is currently in place 
for 2018. Similarly, the resulting 2018 recreational harvest limit is 
41 percent higher. This rule makes no changes to the commercial scup 
management measures (e.g., mesh requirements, fishery seasons, etc.).

[[Page 60683]]



                                           Table 1--Final Scup Specifications for 2018 and Projected for 2019
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                Scup specifications
                                                         -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                  2018 (Current)                  2018 (Revised)                 2019 (Projected)
                                                         -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                            million lb          mt          million lb          mt          million lb          mt
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Overfishing Limit (OFL).................................           29.68          13,462           45.05          20,433           41.03          18,612
ABC.....................................................           27.05          12,270           39.14          17,755           36.43          16,525
Commercial ACL..........................................           21.10           9,571           30.53          13,849           28.42          12,890
Commercial ACT..........................................           21.10           9,571           28.42          12,890           28.42          12,890
Commercial Discards.....................................            3.76           1,705            4.43           2,011            4.43           2,011
Commercial Quota........................................           17.34           7,866           23.98          10,879           23.98          10,879
Recreational ACL........................................            5.95           2,699            8.61           3,906            8.01           3,636
Recreational ACT........................................            5.95           2,699            8.01           3,636            8.01           3,636
Recreational Discards...................................            0.75             338            0.65             293            0.65             293
Recreational Harvest Limit..............................            5.21           2,361            7.37           3,342            7.37           3,342
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The 2018 scup commercial quota is divided into three commercial 
fishery quota periods, as outlined in Table 2.

                       Table 2--Commercial Scup Quota Allocations for 2018 by Quota Period
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                        2018 Initial quota
                          Quota period                             Percent share -------------------------------
                                                                                        lb              mt
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Winter I........................................................           45.11      10,820,000           4,908
Summer..........................................................           38.95       9,340,986           4,237
Winter II.......................................................           15.94       3,822,816           1,734
                                                                 -----------------------------------------------
    Total.......................................................           100.0      23,983,802          10,879
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note: Metric tons are as converted from pounds and may not necessarily total due to rounding.

    The current quota period possession limits are not changed by this 
action, and are outlined in Table 3. The Winter I possession limit will 
drop to 1,000 lb (454 kg) upon attainment of 80 percent of that 
period's allocation. If the Winter I quota is not fully harvested, the 
remaining quota is transferred to Winter II. The Winter II possession 
limit may be adjusted (in association with a transfer of unused Winter 
I quota to the Winter II period) via notice in the Federal Register. 
The regulations specify that the Winter II possession limit increases 
consistent with the increase in the quota, as described in Table 4.

                           Table 3--Commercial Scup Possession Limits by Quota Period
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                  Federal possession limits (per
                                                                                               trip)
                          Quota period                             Percent share -------------------------------
                                                                                        lb              kg
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Winter I........................................................           45.11          50,000          22,680
Summer..........................................................           38.95             N/A             N/A
Winter II.......................................................           15.94          12,000           5,443
                                                                 -----------------------------------------------
    Total.......................................................           100.0             N/A             N/A
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


          Table 4--Potential Increase in Winter II Possession Limits Based on the Amount of Unused Scup Rolled Over From Winter I to Winter II
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
           Initial Winter II possession limit                 Rollover from Winter I to Winter II        Increase in initial         Final Winter II
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------   Winter II possession     possession limit after
                                                                                                                limit            rollover from Winter I
                                                                                                     --------------------------       to Winter II
                     lb                           kg               lb                    kg                                    -------------------------
                                                                                                           lb           kg           lb           kg
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
12,000.....................................        5,443             0-499,999             0-226,796            0            0       12,000        5,443
12,000.....................................        5,443       500,000-999,999       226,796-453,592        1,500          680       13,500        6,123
12,000.....................................        5,443   1,000,000-1,499,999       453,592-680,388        3,000        1,361       15,000        6,804
12,000.....................................        5,443   1,500,000-1,999,999       680,389-907,184        4,500        2,041       16,500        7,484

[[Page 60684]]

 
12,000.....................................        5,443          * 2,000,000-     907,185-1,133,981        6,000        2,722       18,000        8,165
                                                                     2,500,000
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* This process of increasing the possession limit in 1,500 lb (680 kg) increments would continue past 2,500,000 lb (1,122,981 kg), but we end here for
  the purpose of this example.

Accountability Measure Quota Adjustment Announcements

    Each year, NMFS publishes a notice to inform the public and the 
states of any commercial summer flounder, scup, or black sea bass 
overages that are deducted from a fishing year's allocations for the 
start of the fishing year. These overages are determined based on a 
review of catch and landings information for the previous full year of 
fishing information as well as any preliminary information in the 
current fishing year. In this case, the previous full year of fishing 
information for fishing year 2016 became available in late November 
2017. This final rule is announcing a 2018 accountability measure for 
the summer flounder commercial fishery, as required by the Summer 
Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan and in 
compliance with the regulations at Sec.  648.103.

Summer Flounder

    This final rule implements an accountability measure to address a 
2016 commercial ACL overage in the summer flounder fishery. Although 
the 2016 commercial summer flounder quota was not fully harvested, our 
estimates indicate that the commercial summer flounder 2016 ACL (9.42 
million lb; 4,275 mt) was exceeded by 191,218 lb (86.7 mt). This 
overage was due entirely to the fact that 2016 discard estimates were 
much higher than originally projected, accounting for 19.3 percent of 
the total commercial catch in 2016. Ultimately, this results in a 2016 
ACL overage of 2 percent. As a result, the regulations require an 
automatic pound-for-pound payback from the 2018 summer flounder ACL 
(7.70 million lb; 3,491 mt), which results in a 2.5-percent decrease in 
the ACL compared to what was previously projected for the year (Table 
5). Once the 2018 estimated discards (1.07 million lb; 485 mt) are 
subtracted from the adjusted ACL, the resulting 2018 commercial quota 
is reduced by 2.9 percent from the previously projected level. This 
final 2018 summer flounder commercial quota is 13.7 percent higher than 
the quota in place for 2017 (5.66 million lb; 2,567 mt).

           Table 5--2018 Final Summer Flounder Specifications
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                       Million
                                                         lb        Mt
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commercial ACL/ACT \1\..............................      7.51     3,404
Recreational ACL/ACT................................      5.53     2,508
Commercial Quota \1\................................      6.44     2,919
Recreational Harvest Limit..........................      4.42     2,004
------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Incorporates reductions for 2016 overages. The initial 2018
  commercial ACL/ACT was 7.70 million lb (3,491 mt) and the initial 2018
  commercial quota was 6.63 million lb (3,006 mt).

    Table 6 summarizes the commercial summer flounder quotas for each 
state, incorporating the revised 2018 commercial ACL. This rule 
announces commercial state quota overage reductions necessary for 
fishing year 2018. Table 6 includes percent shares as outlined in Sec.  
648.102 (c)(1)(i), the resultant 2018 commercial quotas, quota overages 
(as needed), and the final adjusted 2018 commercial quotas. The 2017 
quota overage is determined by comparing landings for January through 
October 2017, plus any 2016 landings overage that was not previously 
addressed in establishing the 2017 summer flounder specifications, for 
each state. For Delaware, this includes continued repayment of 
overharvest from previous years.

                                        Table 6--Final State-by-State Commercial Summer Flounder Quotas for 2018
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                     2018 Initial quota     2018 Adjusted quota (ACL  Overages through October     Final adjusted 2018
                                     FMP percent --------------------------         overage)                  31, 2017            quota, less overages
               State                    share                              -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                       lb           kg           lb           kg           lb           kg           lb           kg
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Maine..............................      0.04756        3,152        1,430        3,061        1,388            0            0        3,061        1,388
New Hampshire......................      0.00046           30           14           30           13            0            0           30           13
Massachusetts......................      6.82046      451,998      205,023      438,973      199,115       37,816       17,153      401,157      181,962
Rhode Island.......................     15.68298    1,039,326      471,430    1,009,375      457,845       13,002        5,898      996,373      451,947
Connecticut........................      2.25708      149,579       67,848      145,268       65,893            0            0      145,268       65,893
New York...........................      7.64699      506,773      229,868      492,169      223,244            0            0      492,169      223,244
New Jersey.........................     16.72499    1,108,381      502,753    1,076,440      488,265            0            0    1,076,440      488,265
Delaware...........................      0.01779        1,179          535        1,145          519       49,638       22,515      -48,493      -21,996
Maryland...........................       2.0391      135,133       61,295      131,239       59,529            0            0      131,239       59,529
Virginia...........................     21.31676    1,412,682      640,782    1,371,972      622,316            0            0    1,371,972      622,316
North Carolina.....................     27.44584    1,818,862      825,022    1,766,447      801,247            0            0    1,766,447      801,247
                                    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total..........................          100    6,627,096    3,006,000    6,436,120    2,919,375  ...........  ...........    6,384,158    2,895,805
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Notes: Kilograms are as converted from pounds and may not necessarily add due to rounding. Total quota is the sum for all states with an allocation. A
  state with a negative number has a 2018 allocation of zero (0). Total adjusted 2018 quota, less overages, does not include negative allocations (i.e.,
  Delaware's overage).


[[Page 60685]]

Delaware Summer Flounder Closure

    Table 6 shows the amount of overharvest from previous years for 
Delaware is greater than the amount of commercial quota allocated to 
Delaware for 2018. As a result, there is no quota available for 2018 in 
Delaware. The regulations at Sec.  648.4(b) provide that Federal permit 
holders, as a condition of their permit, must not land summer flounder 
in any state that the NMFS Greater Atlantic Region Administrator has 
determined no longer has commercial quota available for harvest. 
Therefore, landings of summer flounder in Delaware by vessels holding 
commercial Federal summer flounder permits are prohibited for the 2018 
calendar year, unless additional quota becomes available through a 
quota transfer and is announced in the Federal Register. Federally 
permitted dealers are advised that they may not purchase summer 
flounder from federally permitted vessels that land in Delaware for the 
2018 calendar year, unless additional quota becomes available through a 
transfer, as mentioned above.

Black Sea Bass

    Although the 2016 commercial quota was not fully harvested, the 
commercial black sea bass 2016 ACL (3.15 million lb; 1,428 mt) was 
exceeded by approximately 630,000 lb (286 mt). This overage was due 
entirely to the fact that 2016 discard estimates were much higher than 
originally projected, accounting for 40.3 percent of the total 
commercial catch in 2016. This results in a 2016 ACL overage of 20 
percent. However, similar to last year's reconsideration of the 2017 
commercial ACL accountability measure given the 2016 benchmark 
assessment, we will not implement an accountability measure for this 
overage. The assessment provided updated information on the condition 
of the stock indicating that the 2016 specifications, including 
estimated discards, could have been much higher if the assessment had 
been available when those catch limits were implemented. Because an 
accountability measure likely would not have been triggered if catch 
limits had been consistent with our understanding of the stock's 
status, implementing an accountability measure is unnecessary. Biomass 
remains well above the biomass target and the stock is not subject to 
overfishing. The final black sea bass specifications for 2018, 
unchanged from when first announced as projected, are outlined in Table 
7. These specifications are consistent with the Council's Scientific 
and Statistical Committee's ABC recommendation and are sufficient to 
ensure the stock is not subject to overfishing or likely to be reduced 
below the biomass target.

            Table 7--Final 2018 Black Sea Bass Specifications
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                       Million
                                                         lb        Mt
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commercial ACL/ACT..................................      4.35     1,974
Recreational ACL/ACT................................      4.59     2,083
Commercial Quota....................................      3.52     1,596
Recreational Harvest Limit..........................      3.66     1,661
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Comments and Responses

    On November 7, 2017, NMFS published the proposed scup 
specifications for public notice and comment. NMFS received three 
comments on the proposed rule. Two commenters were in opposition to the 
increase in the scup catch limits. One offered no reason for 
opposition, while the other noted concern over market instability and a 
drop in the price of scup should the market be flooded. This second 
commenter supported maintaining status quo measures for 2018. This 
increase in scup catch limit is intended to meet the objective of 
achieving optimum yield while also accounting for management 
uncertainty. As outlined in the EA of this action, scup landings have 
been well below the commercial quota since 2011. It is not anticipated 
that the commercial quota increase will result in a large increase in 
landings. The third commenter offered support for the catch limit 
increases, noting the benefits for both the commercial and recreational 
fisheries. No changes to the proposed scup specifications were made as 
a result of these comments.

Classification

    The Administrator, Greater Atlantic Region, NMFS, determined that 
these specifications are necessary for the conservation and management 
of the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries and that 
they are consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable 
laws.
    The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, finds good cause 
under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3) to waive the 30-day delay of effectiveness 
period for this rule, to ensure that the final specifications are in 
place on January 1, 2018. This action establishes the final 
specifications (i.e., annual catch limits) for the scup, summer 
flounder, and black sea bass fisheries for the 2018 fishing year, which 
begins on January 1, 2018.
    This rule is being issued at the earliest possible date. 
Preparation of the proposed rule was dependent on the submission of the 
EA in support of the specifications that is developed by the Council. A 
complete document was received by NMFS in early December 2017. 
Documentation in support of the Council's recommended specifications is 
required for NMFS to provide the public with information from the 
environmental and economic analyses, as required in rulemaking, and to 
evaluate the consistency of the Council's recommendation with the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable law. The proposed rule 
published on November 7, 2017, with a 15-day comment period ending 
November 22, 2017. Publication of the summer flounder quotas at the 
start of the fishing year that begins January 1 of each fishing year is 
required by the order of Judge Robert Doumar in North Carolina 
Fisheries Association v. Daley. Although there are currently 
established 2018 catch limits for summer flounder, this action adjusts 
overall quotas and state allocations to account for 2016 ACL overages. 
Without these revised summer flounder specifications in place on 
January 1, 2018, individual states will not be held to the 
appropriately reduced limits and will be unable to set accurate 
commercial possession and/or trip limits, which apportion the catch 
over the entirety of the calendar year. This is the very issue Judge 
Doumar sought to remedy by compelling NMFS to provide quota information 
on or before the start of the fishing year. Disproportionately large 
harvest occurring within the first weeks of 2018 would disadvantage 
some gear sectors or owners and operators of smaller vessels that 
typically fish later in the fishing season.
    Furthermore, the revised 2018 scup catch limits increase fishing 
opportunities, so their timely implementation also relieves the 
restriction of potentially constrained fishing opportunity. This action 
will increase the coastwide 2018 scup quota by 31 percent and increases 
the 2018 scup recreational harvest limit by 41 percent, providing 
federally permitted vessels additional harvest opportunity.
    If this final rule were delayed for 30 days, the scup fishery would 
forego some amount of landings and revenues during the delay period, as 
this rule relieves, in part, a quota-related restriction. In addition, 
NMFS would violate a standing court order regarding summer flounder 
quotas. For all of these reasons, a 30-day delay in effectiveness would 
be contrary to the public interest.

[[Page 60686]]

As a result, NMFS is waiving the requirement.
    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration during the proposed rule stage that this action would 
not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. The factual basis for the certification was published in the 
proposed rule and is not repeated here. No comments were received 
regarding this certification, and the initial certification remains 
unchanged. As a result, a final regulatory flexibility analysis is not 
required and none has been prepared.

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

    Dated: December 18, 2017.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2017-27581 Filed 12-21-17; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P