Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast Skate Complex; Framework Adjustment 4, 6133-6135 [2018-02967]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 30 / Tuesday, February 13, 2018 / Rules and Regulations Issued in Washington, DC, on January 26, 2018. John S. Duncan, Director, Flight Standards Service. Adoption of the Amendment Accordingly, pursuant to the authority delegated to me, Title 14, Code of Federal regulations, Part 97, (14 CFR part 97), is amended by amending Standard Instrument Approach Procedures and Takeoff Minimums and ODPs, effective at 0901 UTC on the dates specified, as follows: PART 97—STANDARD INSTRUMENT APPROACH PROCEDURES 1. The authority citation for part 97 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 49 U.S.C. 106(f), 106(g), 40103, 40106, 40113, 40114, 40120, 44502, 44514, 44701, 44719, 44721–44722. 2. Part 97 is amended to read as follows: By amending: § 97.23 VOR, VOR/ DME, VOR or TACAN, and VOR/DME or TACAN; § 97.25 LOC, LOC/DME, LDA, LDA/DME, SDF, SDF/DME; § 97.27 NDB, NDB/DME; § 97.29 ILS, ILS/DME, MLS, MLS/DME, MLS/RNAV; § 97.31 RADAR SIAPs; § 97.33 RNAV SIAPs; and § 97.35 COPTER SIAPs, Identified as follows: ■ Effective Upon Publication AIRAC date State City Airport 1–Mar–18 ..... MA ........ Beverly .................. Beverly Rgnl .......................... 8/2210 1/16/18 1–Mar–18 ..... IA .......... Maquoketa ............. Maquoketa Muni .................... 8/2971 1/11/18 1–Mar–18 ..... SD ........ Rapid City .............. Rapid City Rgnl ..................... 8/3793 1/11/18 [FR Doc. 2018–02682 Filed 2–12–18; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910–13–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 170710645–8098–02] RIN 0648–BH03 Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast Skate Complex; Framework Adjustment 4 FDC No. alternatives. The EA provides a thorough analysis of the biological, economic, and social impacts of the proposed measures and other considered alternatives, a Regulatory Impact Review, and economic analysis. Copies of the Framework 4 EA are available on request from Thomas A. Nies, Executive Director, New England Fishery Management Council, 50 Water Street, Newburyport, MA 01950. This document is also available from the following internet addresses: http:// www.nefmc.org or https:// www.regulations.gov/docket?D=NOAANMFS-2017-0099. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Debra Lambert, Fishery Policy Analyst, (301) 427–8560. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. Background The final rule approves regulations to implement the Northeast Skate Complex Fishery Management Plan Framework Adjustment 4 management measures. This rule implements several measures to reduce the risk of the skate bait fishery from effectively closing down as it did in fishing year 2016. This action will reduce the skate bait season 3 possession limit and establish a separate skate bait incidental possession limit. This action is needed to better control the catch of skate bait and provide a more consistent supply of skate bait to the lobster fishery. DATES: Effective March 15, 2018. ADDRESSES: New England Fishery Management Council staff prepared an environmental assessment (EA) for Northeast Skate Complex Framework Adjustment 4 that describes the proposed action and other considered The Northeast Skate Complex Fishery Management Plan (FMP), developed by the New England Fishery Management Council and implemented in 2003, manages a complex of seven skate species (barndoor, clearnose, little, rosette, smooth, thorny, and winter skate) off the New England and MidAtlantic coasts. Skates are harvested and managed in two different fisheries: one for food (the wing fishery) and one for lobster bait (the bait fishery). Fishery specific allocations, called total allowable landings (TALs), are set through biennial specifications. Additional information on the skate fisheries can be found online at: https:// www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov/ sustainable/species/skate/index.html. The bait and wing fisheries have different seasonal quotas and possession limits. Generally, the bait fishery operates under an exemption from the wing fishery possession limits; however, AGENCY: sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with RULES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:52 Feb 12, 2018 Jkt 244001 6133 PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 FDC date Subject Takeoff Minimums and Obstacle DP, Amdt 3A. Takeoff Minimums and Obstacle DP, Amdt 1. RNAV (GPS) Rwy 32, Amdt 2. the inseason adjustments to possession limits have been linked between the two fisheries. The bait fishery is managed under a 3-season fishing year: Season 1 is May 1–July 31; Season 2 is August 1– October 31; and, Season 3 is November 1–April 30. Previously, when the bait fishery reached 90 percent of a season’s TAL, or 90 percent of the annual bait TAL, the bait fishery possession limit reverted to the substantially lower wing possession limit. The linked inseason adjustment for these fisheries became problematic in fishing year 2016, as the possession limit in the skate bait fishery was reduced twice, effectively closing the bait fishery. Further background can be found in the proposed rule for Framework Adjustment 4 to the FMP, which published on October 20, 2017 (82 FR 48781). Additional information on previous and current skate management measures can be reviewed through the Council’s website at http:// www.nefmc.org/management-plans/ skates. In response to the closure, the Council developed Framework 4 to reduce the likelihood of a lengthy in-season closure while ensuring bait landings do not exceed the TAL. As mentioned above, on October 20, 2017, NMFS published a proposed rule (82 FR 48781) identifying the measures in Framework 4. Comments on the proposed rule were accepted through November 6, 2017. Approved Measures NMFS is approving the regulatory changes for the skate bait fishery as recommended by the Council in Framework 4 and detailed in our proposed rule. The approved measures are: E:\FR\FM\13FER1.SGM 13FER1 6134 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 30 / Tuesday, February 13, 2018 / Rules and Regulations 1. Reduce the Season 3 Bait Skate Possession Limit The Season 3 (November 1 through April 30) possession limit is reduced from 25,000 lb (11,340 kg) to 12,000 lb (5,443 kg). Because Season 3 is the longest season in the bait fishery (6 months), reducing the trip limit should slow the catch rate and lessen the chance of closing the fishery. 2. Reduce the Season 3 Bait Skate TAL Threshold Trigger The trigger for implementing an inseason adjustment to possession limits in Season 3 is reduced from 90 to 80 percent of the TAL (i.e., when 80 percent of the TAL has been reached). The trigger for implementing an inseason adjustment to possession limits in Season 1 and 2 will remain at 90 percent of the seasonal TAL. 3. Establish a Separate Bait Skate Incidental Possession Limit This action de-couples the inseason adjustments for the skate wing and bait fisheries. Once the trigger for implementing an inseason adjustment to possession limits in the skate bait fishery has been reached, the incidental possession limit will be 8,000 lb (3,629 kg) for the remainder of the season. 4. Implement a Bait Skate Fishery Closure When the TAL Is Harvested The bait fishery will be closed when 100 percent of the bait TAL is projected to be harvested. This measure will better ensure that the skate bait fishery does not exceed its TAL. sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with RULES 5. Removal of Incidental Possession Limit if Necessary To Achieve TAL This action also clarifies that if NMFS determines that an in-season possession limit reduction (putting in place the incidental possession limit) could prohibit the skate bait fishery from achieving its annual TAL, NMFS may remove the in-season reduction and reinstate the standard seasonal possession limit. Comments and Responses We received four public comments on the proposed rule, two of which were not responsive to the action. Comment 1: Two commenters, the Atlantic Offshore Lobstermen’s Association and the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, support de-coupling the skate wing and bait inseason possession limit adjustments and support the measures in the proposed rule. Response: We are approving Framework 4 and the accompanying measures because they allow the fishery VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:52 Feb 12, 2018 Jkt 244001 to more effectively harvest its optimum yield. The Framework 4 measures are expected to better ensure that the skate bait fishery remains open throughout Season 3. If it becomes necessary to implement an incidental possession limit for the skate bait fishery, those measures will function independently of the skate wing fishery, and would allow fishing to continue at a lower level. Changes From the Proposed Rule Only two minor revisions were made to the regulatory text that was specified in the proposed rule. Section 648.322(c)(4) was revised to reduce redundancy by deleting the following phrase from the end of the sentence: ‘‘or whole skates greater than 23 inches (58.42 cm) total length.’’ Section 648.322(f) was revised for clarity by adding the phrase ‘‘possession limit’’ towards the end of the sentence. Classification The Administrator, Greater Atlantic Region, NMFS, determined that Framework 4 to the FMP is necessary for the conservation and management of the northeast skate complex and that it is consistent with the MagnusonStevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and other applicable law. This final rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. Pursuant to section 604 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), NMFS has prepared a Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (FRFA) in support of this action. The FRFA incorporates the Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA), a summary of the significant issues raised by the public comments in response to the IRFA, and NMFS’ responses to those comments, and a summary of the analyses completed to support the action. A copy of this analysis and the EA are available from the Council (see ADDRESSES). A description of why this action was considered, and the objectives of this rule, is contained in the preamble to the proposed rule and this final rule and 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 We received four public comments on the proposed rule, two of which were not responsive to the action. For a summary of the comments, and NMFS’ PO 00000 Frm 00028 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 response, see the Comments and Responses section above. The comments did not raise any issues or concerns related to the IRFA or the economic impacts of the rule more generally. In addition, no comments were filed by the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration in response to the proposed rule. No changes were made to the rule as a result of comments. Description and Estimate of the Number of Small Entities to Which the Rule Would Apply This rule will affect vessels that hold Federal open access commercial skate permits that participate in the skate fishery or affiliated groups that hold multiple open access commercial skate permits that participate in the skate fishery. Within the skate bait fishery, the majority of affiliated groups consist of a single permit-holder, or 71 vessels in fishing year 2015, the most recent year for which complete information was available during the Council’s impact analyses. Four vessels belong to affiliated groups that hold two or more permits. For RFA purposes only, NMFS has established a small business size standard for businesses, including their affiliates, whose primary industry is commercial fishing (see 50 CFR 200.2). A business primarily engaged in commercial fishing (NAICS code 11411) is classified as a small business if it is independently owned and operated, is not dominant in its field of operation (including its affiliates), and has combined annual receipts not in excess of $11 million for all its affiliated operations worldwide. The Council’s analysis indicates the maximum number of small fishing entities that may be affected by this action is 69 (71 vessels), based on 2015 data. During fishing year 2015, only 69 affiliated groups landed any amount of skate for bait. At the permit level, every skate landing permit is defined as a small business according to size standards (the top five vessels have total revenues between 600 thousand and 1.9 million dollars in 2015). Description of the Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other Compliance Requirements This action does not introduce any new reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements. E:\FR\FM\13FER1.SGM 13FER1 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 30 / Tuesday, February 13, 2018 / Rules and Regulations Description of the Steps the Agency Has Taken To Minimize the Significant Economic Impact on Small Entities Consistent With the Stated Objectives of Applicable Statues The Council considered revising the skate bait trigger for implementing an inseason adjustment, reduced possession limit, and closure independently, but elected to include all of the measures into a single action. The Council was concerned that, independently, the measures would not restrict catch enough and leave the fishery at risk of a substantial closure with accompanying economic impacts. Incorporating all of the measures accomplishes the goals and objectives of the FMP and minimizes the economic impact on small entities. Retaining the status quo management measures would not slow catch and would result in the fishery having a higher likelihood of closing for an extended period, resulting in greater profit losses to industry and bait shortages to the lobster fishery— both issues the Council sought to avoid by the Framework 4 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 a small entity compliance guide was prepared. Copies of this final rule are available from the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office (GARFO), and the compliance guide, i.e., permit holder letter, will be sent to all holders of permits for the skate fishery. The guide and this final rule will be posted or publically available on the GARFO website. sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with RULES List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648 Fisheries, Fishing, Recordkeeping and reporting requirements. VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:52 Feb 12, 2018 Jkt 244001 Dated: February 8, 2018. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 648 is amended as follows: PART 648—FISHERIES OF THE NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES 1. The authority citation for part 648 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. 2. In § 648.322, revise paragraphs (c) through (e), and add paragraphs (f) and (g) to read as follows: ■ § 648.322 Skate allocation, possession, and landing provisions. * * * * * (c) Bait Letter of Authorization (LOA). A skate vessel owner or operator under this part may request and receive from the Regional Administrator an exemption from the skate wing possession limit restrictions for a minimum of 7 consecutive days, provided that when the vessel is fishing pursuant to the terms of authorization at least the following requirements and conditions are met: (1) The vessel owner or operator obtains and retains onboard the vessel a valid LOA. LOAs are available upon request from the Regional Administrator. (2) The vessel owner or operator fishes for, possesses, or lands skates only for use as bait. (3) The vessel owner or operator possesses or lands no more than 25,000 lb (11,340 kg) of whole skates per trip during Seasons 1 or 2 and no more than 12,000 lb (5,443 kg) of whole skates per trip during Season 3. (4) The vessel owner or operator possesses or lands only whole skates less than 23 inches (58.42 cm) total length, and does not possess or land any skate wings. (5) Vessels that choose to possess or land skate wings during the participation period of this letter of authorization must comply with possession limit restrictions under paragraph (b) of this section for all skates or skate parts on board. Vessels possessing skate wings in compliance with the possession limit restrictions under paragraph (b) of this section may PO 00000 Frm 00029 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 9990 6135 fish for, possess, or land skates for uses other than bait. (6) The vessel owner or operator complies with the transfer at sea requirements at § 648.13(h). (d) In-season adjustment of skate bait possession limits. When the Regional Administrator projects that 90 percent of the skate bait fishery seasonal quota has been landed in Seasons 1 or 2, or 80 percent of the annual skate bait fishery TAL has been landed, the Regional Administrator shall, through a notice in the Federal Register consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act, reduce the skate bait trip limit to 8,000 lb (3,629 kg) of whole skates for the remainder of the quota period, unless such a reduction would be expected to prevent attainment of the seasonal quota or annual TAL. (e) In-season closure of skate bait fishery. When the Regional Administrator projects that 100 percent of the skate bait fishery TAL will be landed, the Regional Administrator shall, through a notice in the Federal Register consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act, close the skate bait fishery, unless such a closure would be expected to prevent attainment of the annual TAL. During a skate bait fishery closure all skate bait LOAs as described in paragraph (c) of this section are void. All skates harvested and landed during a skate bait fishery closure will be attributed towards the skate-wing TAL as described in this section. (f) Removal of in-season possession limit reductions. If it is determined that an in-season trip limit reduction as described in paragraphs (d) and (e) of this section could prohibit the skate bait fishery from achieving its annual TAL, the in-season possession limit reduction may be removed. (g) Prohibitions on possession of skates. A vessel fishing in the EEZ portion of the Skate Management Unit may not: (1) Retain, possess, or land barndoor or thorny skates taken in or from the EEZ portion of the Skate Management Unit. (2) Retain, possess, or land smooth skates taken in or from the GOM RMA described at § 648.80(a)(1)(i). [FR Doc. 2018–02967 Filed 2–12–18; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\13FER1.SGM 13FER1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 83, Number 30 (Tuesday, February 13, 2018)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 6133-6135]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2018-02967]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 170710645-8098-02]
RIN 0648-BH03


Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast Skate 
Complex; Framework Adjustment 4

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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

SUMMARY: The final rule approves regulations to implement the Northeast 
Skate Complex Fishery Management Plan Framework Adjustment 4 management 
measures. This rule implements several measures to reduce the risk of 
the skate bait fishery from effectively closing down as it did in 
fishing year 2016. This action will reduce the skate bait season 3 
possession limit and establish a separate skate bait incidental 
possession limit. This action is needed to better control the catch of 
skate bait and provide a more consistent supply of skate bait to the 
lobster fishery.

DATES: Effective March 15, 2018.

ADDRESSES: New England Fishery Management Council staff prepared an 
environmental assessment (EA) for Northeast Skate Complex Framework 
Adjustment 4 that describes the proposed action and other considered 
alternatives. The EA provides a thorough analysis of the biological, 
economic, and social impacts of the proposed measures and other 
considered alternatives, a Regulatory Impact Review, and economic 
analysis. Copies of the Framework 4 EA are available on request from 
Thomas A. Nies, Executive Director, New England Fishery Management 
Council, 50 Water Street, Newburyport, MA 01950. This document is also 
available from the following internet addresses: http://www.nefmc.org 
or https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=NOAA-NMFS-2017-0099.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Debra Lambert, Fishery Policy Analyst, 
(301) 427-8560.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    The Northeast Skate Complex Fishery Management Plan (FMP), 
developed by the New England Fishery Management Council and implemented 
in 2003, manages a complex of seven skate species (barndoor, clearnose, 
little, rosette, smooth, thorny, and winter skate) off the New England 
and Mid-Atlantic coasts. Skates are harvested and managed in two 
different fisheries: one for food (the wing fishery) and one for 
lobster bait (the bait fishery). Fishery specific allocations, called 
total allowable landings (TALs), are set through biennial 
specifications. Additional information on the skate fisheries can be 
found online at: https://www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov/sustainable/species/skate/index.html.
    The bait and wing fisheries have different seasonal quotas and 
possession limits. Generally, the bait fishery operates under an 
exemption from the wing fishery possession limits; however, the 
inseason adjustments to possession limits have been linked between the 
two fisheries. The bait fishery is managed under a 3-season fishing 
year: Season 1 is May 1-July 31; Season 2 is August 1-October 31; and, 
Season 3 is November 1-April 30. Previously, when the bait fishery 
reached 90 percent of a season's TAL, or 90 percent of the annual bait 
TAL, the bait fishery possession limit reverted to the substantially 
lower wing possession limit. The linked inseason adjustment for these 
fisheries became problematic in fishing year 2016, as the possession 
limit in the skate bait fishery was reduced twice, effectively closing 
the bait fishery. Further background can be found in the proposed rule 
for Framework Adjustment 4 to the FMP, which published on October 20, 
2017 (82 FR 48781). Additional information on previous and current 
skate management measures can be reviewed through the Council's website 
at http://www.nefmc.org/management-plans/skates.
    In response to the closure, the Council developed Framework 4 to 
reduce the likelihood of a lengthy in-season closure while ensuring 
bait landings do not exceed the TAL. As mentioned above, on October 20, 
2017, NMFS published a proposed rule (82 FR 48781) identifying the 
measures in Framework 4. Comments on the proposed rule were accepted 
through November 6, 2017.

Approved Measures

    NMFS is approving the regulatory changes for the skate bait fishery 
as recommended by the Council in Framework 4 and detailed in our 
proposed rule. The approved measures are:

[[Page 6134]]

1. Reduce the Season 3 Bait Skate Possession Limit

    The Season 3 (November 1 through April 30) possession limit is 
reduced from 25,000 lb (11,340 kg) to 12,000 lb (5,443 kg). Because 
Season 3 is the longest season in the bait fishery (6 months), reducing 
the trip limit should slow the catch rate and lessen the chance of 
closing the fishery.

2. Reduce the Season 3 Bait Skate TAL Threshold Trigger

    The trigger for implementing an inseason adjustment to possession 
limits in Season 3 is reduced from 90 to 80 percent of the TAL (i.e., 
when 80 percent of the TAL has been reached). The trigger for 
implementing an inseason adjustment to possession limits in Season 1 
and 2 will remain at 90 percent of the seasonal TAL.

3. Establish a Separate Bait Skate Incidental Possession Limit

    This action de-couples the inseason adjustments for the skate wing 
and bait fisheries. Once the trigger for implementing an inseason 
adjustment to possession limits in the skate bait fishery has been 
reached, the incidental possession limit will be 8,000 lb (3,629 kg) 
for the remainder of the season.

4. Implement a Bait Skate Fishery Closure When the TAL Is Harvested

    The bait fishery will be closed when 100 percent of the bait TAL is 
projected to be harvested. This measure will better ensure that the 
skate bait fishery does not exceed its TAL.

5. Removal of Incidental Possession Limit if Necessary To Achieve TAL

    This action also clarifies that if NMFS determines that an in-
season possession limit reduction (putting in place the incidental 
possession limit) could prohibit the skate bait fishery from achieving 
its annual TAL, NMFS may remove the in-season reduction and reinstate 
the standard seasonal possession limit.

Comments and Responses

    We received four public comments on the proposed rule, two of which 
were not responsive to the action.
    Comment 1: Two commenters, the Atlantic Offshore Lobstermen's 
Association and the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen's Alliance, support 
de-coupling the skate wing and bait inseason possession limit 
adjustments and support the measures in the proposed rule.
    Response: We are approving Framework 4 and the accompanying 
measures because they allow the fishery to more effectively harvest its 
optimum yield. The Framework 4 measures are expected to better ensure 
that the skate bait fishery remains open throughout Season 3. If it 
becomes necessary to implement an incidental possession limit for the 
skate bait fishery, those measures will function independently of the 
skate wing fishery, and would allow fishing to continue at a lower 
level.

Changes From the Proposed Rule

    Only two minor revisions were made to the regulatory text that was 
specified in the proposed rule. Section 648.322(c)(4) was revised to 
reduce redundancy by deleting the following phrase from the end of the 
sentence: ``or whole skates greater than 23 inches (58.42 cm) total 
length.'' Section 648.322(f) was revised for clarity by adding the 
phrase ``possession limit'' towards the end of the sentence.

Classification

    The Administrator, Greater Atlantic Region, NMFS, determined that 
Framework 4 to the FMP is necessary for the conservation and management 
of the northeast skate complex and that it is consistent with the 
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and other 
applicable law.
    This final rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    Pursuant to section 604 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), 
NMFS has prepared a Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (FRFA) in 
support of this action. The FRFA incorporates the Initial Regulatory 
Flexibility Analysis (IRFA), a summary of the significant issues raised 
by the public comments in response to the IRFA, and NMFS' responses to 
those comments, and a summary of the analyses completed to support the 
action. A copy of this analysis and the EA are available from the 
Council (see ADDRESSES). A description of why this action was 
considered, and the objectives of this rule, is contained in the 
preamble to the proposed rule and this final rule and 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

    We received four public comments on the proposed rule, two of which 
were not responsive to the action. For a summary of the comments, and 
NMFS' response, see the Comments and Responses section above. The 
comments did not raise any issues or concerns related to the IRFA or 
the economic impacts of the rule more generally. In addition, no 
comments were filed by the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small 
Business Administration in response to the proposed rule. No changes 
were made to the rule as a result of comments.

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

    This rule will affect vessels that hold Federal open access 
commercial skate permits that participate in the skate fishery or 
affiliated groups that hold multiple open access commercial skate 
permits that participate in the skate fishery. Within the skate bait 
fishery, the majority of affiliated groups consist of a single permit-
holder, or 71 vessels in fishing year 2015, the most recent year for 
which complete information was available during the Council's impact 
analyses. Four vessels belong to affiliated groups that hold two or 
more permits.
    For RFA purposes only, NMFS has established a small business size 
standard for businesses, including their affiliates, whose primary 
industry is commercial fishing (see 50 CFR 200.2). A business primarily 
engaged in commercial fishing (NAICS code 11411) is classified as a 
small business if it is independently owned and operated, is not 
dominant in its field of operation (including its affiliates), and has 
combined annual receipts not in excess of $11 million for all its 
affiliated operations worldwide. The Council's analysis indicates the 
maximum number of small fishing entities that may be affected by this 
action is 69 (71 vessels), based on 2015 data. During fishing year 
2015, only 69 affiliated groups landed any amount of skate for bait. At 
the permit level, every skate landing permit is defined as a small 
business according to size standards (the top five vessels have total 
revenues between 600 thousand and 1.9 million dollars in 2015).

Description of the Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other 
Compliance Requirements

    This action does not introduce any new reporting, recordkeeping, or 
other compliance requirements.

[[Page 6135]]

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

    The Council considered revising the skate bait trigger for 
implementing an inseason adjustment, reduced possession limit, and 
closure independently, but elected to include all of the measures into 
a single action. The Council was concerned that, independently, the 
measures would not restrict catch enough and leave the fishery at risk 
of a substantial closure with accompanying economic impacts. 
Incorporating all of the measures accomplishes the goals and objectives 
of the FMP and minimizes the economic impact on small entities. 
Retaining the status quo management measures would not slow catch and 
would result in the fishery having a higher likelihood of closing for 
an extended period, resulting in greater profit losses to industry and 
bait shortages to the lobster fishery--both issues the Council sought 
to avoid by the Framework 4 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 
a small entity compliance guide was prepared. Copies of this final rule 
are available from the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office 
(GARFO), and the compliance guide, i.e., permit holder letter, will be 
sent to all holders of permits for the skate fishery. The guide and 
this final rule will be posted or publically available on the GARFO 
website.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648

    Fisheries, Fishing, Recordkeeping and reporting requirements.

    Dated: February 8, 2018.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

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

PART 648--FISHERIES OF THE NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES

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

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


0
2. In Sec.  648.322, revise paragraphs (c) through (e), and add 
paragraphs (f) and (g) to read as follows:


Sec.  648.322   Skate allocation, possession, and landing provisions.

* * * * *
    (c) Bait Letter of Authorization (LOA). A skate vessel owner or 
operator under this part may request and receive from the Regional 
Administrator an exemption from the skate wing possession limit 
restrictions for a minimum of 7 consecutive days, provided that when 
the vessel is fishing pursuant to the terms of authorization at least 
the following requirements and conditions are met:
    (1) The vessel owner or operator obtains and retains onboard the 
vessel a valid LOA. LOAs are available upon request from the Regional 
Administrator.
    (2) The vessel owner or operator fishes for, possesses, or lands 
skates only for use as bait.
    (3) The vessel owner or operator possesses or lands no more than 
25,000 lb (11,340 kg) of whole skates per trip during Seasons 1 or 2 
and no more than 12,000 lb (5,443 kg) of whole skates per trip during 
Season 3.
    (4) The vessel owner or operator possesses or lands only whole 
skates less than 23 inches (58.42 cm) total length, and does not 
possess or land any skate wings.
    (5) Vessels that choose to possess or land skate wings during the 
participation period of this letter of authorization must comply with 
possession limit restrictions under paragraph (b) of this section for 
all skates or skate parts on board. Vessels possessing skate wings in 
compliance with the possession limit restrictions under paragraph (b) 
of this section may fish for, possess, or land skates for uses other 
than bait.
    (6) The vessel owner or operator complies with the transfer at sea 
requirements at Sec.  648.13(h).
    (d) In-season adjustment of skate bait possession limits. When the 
Regional Administrator projects that 90 percent of the skate bait 
fishery seasonal quota has been landed in Seasons 1 or 2, or 80 percent 
of the annual skate bait fishery TAL has been landed, the Regional 
Administrator shall, through a notice in the Federal Register 
consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act, reduce the skate bait 
trip limit to 8,000 lb (3,629 kg) of whole skates for the remainder of 
the quota period, unless such a reduction would be expected to prevent 
attainment of the seasonal quota or annual TAL.
    (e) In-season closure of skate bait fishery. When the Regional 
Administrator projects that 100 percent of the skate bait fishery TAL 
will be landed, the Regional Administrator shall, through a notice in 
the Federal Register consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act, 
close the skate bait fishery, unless such a closure would be expected 
to prevent attainment of the annual TAL. During a skate bait fishery 
closure all skate bait LOAs as described in paragraph (c) of this 
section are void. All skates harvested and landed during a skate bait 
fishery closure will be attributed towards the skate-wing TAL as 
described in this section.
    (f) Removal of in-season possession limit reductions. If it is 
determined that an in-season trip limit reduction as described in 
paragraphs (d) and (e) of this section could prohibit the skate bait 
fishery from achieving its annual TAL, the in-season possession limit 
reduction may be removed.
    (g) Prohibitions on possession of skates. A vessel fishing in the 
EEZ portion of the Skate Management Unit may not:
    (1) Retain, possess, or land barndoor or thorny skates taken in or 
from the EEZ portion of the Skate Management Unit.
    (2) Retain, possess, or land smooth skates taken in or from the GOM 
RMA described at Sec.  648.80(a)(1)(i).

[FR Doc. 2018-02967 Filed 2-12-18; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P