Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fisheries; 2019 Specifications, 57389-57395 [2018-24946]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 221 / Thursday, November 15, 2018 / Proposed Rules khammond on DSK30JT082PROD with PROPOSAL justification of the need for the extension. To implement this authority, PHMSA is issuing guidance on what constitutes sufficient justification to extend a gas pipeline operator’s 7-year integrity management reassessment interval by up to 6 months if the operator submits written notice. PHMSA invites interested individuals to participate by reviewing the FAQs provided below and submitting written comments, data, or other information. Please include any comments on potential safety and environmental impacts that may result from issuance of the FAQs. Before finalizing the FAQs, PHMSA will evaluate all comments received on or before the comment closing date. PHMSA will consider all relevant comments we receive prior to the deadline when making changes to the final FAQs. Comments received after the closing date will be evaluated to the extent practicable. Once finalized, PHMSA’s FAQs will be posted on PHMSA’s public website at https://primis.phmsa.dot.gov/gasimp/ faqs.htm: Guidance on the Extension of the 7year Integrity Management Reassessment Interval by 6 Months (FAQs): • NEW FAQ–281. How do I extend the assessment schedule beyond 7 years? Notify PHMSA, in accordance with 49 CFR 192.949, of the need for an extension, which may not exceed 6 months. The notification must be made 180 days prior to end of the 7-year assessment date and include sufficient information to justify the extension. • NEW FAQ–282. What constitutes sufficient information to justify extension of the assessment interval? Documentation is required to comply with 49 CFR 192.943 and include: —An explanation as to why the deadline could not be met and how it will not compromise safety, and —Identification of any additional actions necessary to ensure public safety during the extension time period. • REVISED FAQ–207. Table 3 of ASME/ANSI B31.8S indicates that reassessment intervals must be 5 years for some instances in which test pressure was higher than would be required by subpart J. If I conduct my assessments in accordance with Subpart J, must I reassess more frequently than once every 7 years? Section 192.939(a)(1) specifies requirements for establishing reassessment intervals. Two options are allowed: (i) Basing the interval on VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:33 Nov 14, 2018 Jkt 247001 identified threats, assessment results, data integration, and risk analysis, or (ii) using the intervals specified in Table 3 of ASME/ANSI B31.8S. An operator using the former option (§ 192.939(a)(1)(i)) could establish intervals longer than those in Table 3. The intervals that can be established by either method are limited to the maximum intervals in the table in § 192.939. Pressure tests used as integrity management assessments must meet the requirements of Subpart J, including required test pressures. Higher test pressures must be used to justify extended reassessment intervals (§ 192.937(c)(2)). As used here ‘‘extended reassessment intervals’’ refers to any interval longer than 7 years as required by §§ 192.937(a) and 192.939(a) and (b). Operators conducting assessments by pressure testing and who use test pressures meeting Subpart J requirements may establish a reassessment interval of 7 years, unless their analysis under § 192.939(a)(i) indicates a need for a shorter interval. This is true even if Table 3 would lead to a shorter interval. Operators who use Table 3 test pressures may establish reassessment intervals in accordance with Table 3 up to the maximums listed in the table in § 192.939, again unless their analysis under § 192.939(a)(i) indicates a need for a shorter interval. Operators who establish intervals longer than 7 years must conduct a confirmatory direct assessment within the 7-year period. (For segments operating at less than 30% specified maximum yield strength, a low-stress reassessment per § 192.941 may be conducted in lieu of confirmatory direct assessment—see § 192.939(b)(1)). PHMSA may extend the 7-year interval for an additional 6 months if the operator submits written notice that includes sufficient justification regarding the need for an extension (Reference FAQ–281 and 282). Issued in Washington, DC, on November 7, 2018, under authority delegated in 49 CFR 1.97. Alan K. Mayberry, Associate Administrator for Pipeline Safety. [FR Doc. 2018–24774 Filed 11–14–18; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910–60–P PO 00000 Frm 00047 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 57389 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 180906820–8820–01] RIN 0648–BI48 Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fisheries; 2019 Specifications National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS proposes 2019 specifications for the summer flounder and black sea bass fisheries and maintains previously established 2019 specifications for the scup fishery. Additionally, this action proposes to reopen the February 2018 black sea bass recreational fishery and to adjust to the current commercial incidental possession limit for scup. The implementing regulations for the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan require us to publish specifications for the upcoming fishing year for each of these species and to provide an opportunity for public comment. This action is intended to inform the public of the proposed specifications and management measures for the start of the 2019 fishing year for these three species. SUMMARY: Comments must be received on or before November 30, 2018. ADDRESSES: An environmental assessment (EA) was prepared for this action that describes the proposed measures and other considered alternatives, and provides an analysis of the impacts of the proposed measures and alternatives. Copies of the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass 2019 Specifications, including the 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. These documents are also accessible via the internet at http://www.mafmc.org/s/ SFSBSB_2019_specs_EA.pdf. You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA–NMFS– 2018–0110, by either of the following methods: DATES: E:\FR\FM\15NOP1.SGM 15NOP1 57390 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 221 / Thursday, November 15, 2018 / Proposed Rules Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. 1. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20180110, 2. Click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and 3. Enter or attach your comments. —OR— Mail: Submit written comments to Michael Pentony, Regional Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA, 01930. Mark the outside of the envelope, ‘‘Comments on the Proposed Rule for the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass 2019 Specifications.’’ Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Emily Gilbert, Fishery Policy Analyst, (978) 281–9244. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: General Background The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (Commission) cooperatively manage the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries. The Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and its implementing regulations outline the Council’s process for establishing specifications. Specifications in these fisheries include various catch and landing subdivisions, such as the commercial and recreational sector annual catch limits (ACL), annual catch targets (ACT), and sector-specific landing limits (i.e., the commercial fishery quota and recreational harvest limit), as well as management measures, as needed, that are designed to ensure these catch limits will not be exceeded. Annual specifications may be established for three year periods, and, in interim years, specifications are reviewed by the Council to ensure previously established multi-year specifications remain appropriate. The FMP also contains formulas to divide the specification catch limits into commercial and recreational fishery allocations, state-by-state quotas, and quota periods, depending on the species in question. Rulemaking for measures used to manage the recreational fisheries (minimum fish sizes, open seasons, and bag limits) for these three species occurs separately, and typically takes place in the spring of each year. This action proposes 2019 specifications for summer flounder and black sea bass. The previously approved 2019 scup specifications (82 FR 60682; December 22, 2017) remain unchanged from the current two year specifications and are maintained through this action. The Council’s Science and Statistical Committee (SSC) and Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Monitoring Committee met in July 2018 to develop specification recommendations, including new acceptable biological catch limits (ABC) for summer flounder and black sea bass. The Council and the Commission’s Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Management Board (Board) met jointly August 14–15, 2018, to consider the SSC and Monitoring Committee’s recommendations, receive public comments on those recommendations, and to formalize recommendations to the NMFS for catch limit specifications and commercial management measures. Recreational fishery management measures will be developed in early 2019. A summer flounder benchmark assessment, which will incorporate updated Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) data, is expected to be completed by early 2019. Operational assessments for black sea bass and scup that will also incorporate updated MRIP information will be completed in spring 2019. Because of this, the Council and Board have only recommended specifications for 2019. As explained below, the Council and Board are considering the specifications here as interim measures and will likely develop mid-year changes to the summer flounder specifications, if not also black sea bass, to address the updated assessment information, if necessary. Proposed 2019 Summer Flounder Specifications In June, the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (Center) provided the Council with a summer flounder data update. The data update provided a projection for stock biomass for 2019. Most state and Federal survey indices of abundance, with the exception of Massachusetts and Delaware, remain below their most recent peaks (generally 2009–2012) in the update. Recruitment indices in 2017 were highly variable. Based on the best available scientific information, the summer flounder stock is subject to overfishing but is not overfished. After reviewing the update, the SSC and Monitoring Committee recommended an interim ABC of 15.41 million lb (6,990 mt). At the joint August meeting, the Council and Board made recommendations for interim summer flounder specifications for the start of the 2019 fishing year (Table 1). Compared to 2018, the proposed interim 2019 ABC is a 16-percent increase. The results from the benchmark stock assessment are expected to be available in early 2019 following peer review in November 2018. The Council and Board intend to consider revising the 2019 summer flounder specifications at a joint meeting in February 2019 taking into account the benchmark stock assessment. If revisions are recommended at this meeting, we anticipate updated catch limits could be in place by early May 2019. TABLE 1—CURRENT 2018 AND PROPOSED 2019 SUMMER FLOUNDER SPECIFICATIONS khammond on DSK30JT082PROD with PROPOSAL 2018 (current) million lb Overfishing Limits (OFL) ...................................................... ABC ...................................................................................... Commercial ACL .................................................................. Commercial ACT .................................................................. Projected Commercial Discards .......................................... Commercial Quota ............................................................... Recreational ACL ................................................................. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:33 Nov 14, 2018 Jkt 247001 PO 00000 Frm 00048 mt 18.69 13.23 7.70 7.70 1.07 6.63 5.53 Fmt 4702 2019 Sfmt 4702 million lb 8,476 5,999 3,491 3,491 485 3,006 2,508 E:\FR\FM\15NOP1.SGM 20.60 15.41 9.18 9.18 1.47 7.72 6.22 15NOP1 Difference (%) mt 9,344 6,990 4,164 4,164 667 3,502 2,821 10 16 19 19 2 16 12 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 221 / Thursday, November 15, 2018 / Proposed Rules 57391 TABLE 1—CURRENT 2018 AND PROPOSED 2019 SUMMER FLOUNDER SPECIFICATIONS—Continued 2018 (current) 2019 million lb Recreational ACT ................................................................. Projected Recreational Discards ......................................... Recreational Harvest Limit ................................................... 2019 Summer Flounder Commercial Non-Landing Accountability Measure Our final 2017 catch accounting shows that the 2017 commercial fishery exceeded its ACL by 21 percent and the 2017 ABC was exceeded by 7 percent, due to higher than expected discards in the commercial fishery. Currently, the regulations require a pound-for-pound accountability measure (AM) that is applied to the commercial ACT when the ACL has been exceeded and the overage is caused by higher discards than those estimated prior to the fishing year. A final rule for a framework adjustment (Framework 13) that would modify this AM published on October 25, 2018 (83 FR 53825), and will be effective on November 26, 2018. That mt 5.53 1.11 4.42 million lb 2,508 504 2,004 action adjusts this non-landings based AM to help account for the variability in commercial discard estimates and provide additional flexibility based on stock status and the biological consequences, if any, of estimated discard overages. In terms of impacts of the 2017 discard overage for 2019, the AM as modified by the pending framework would result in a scaled payback against the commercial fishery’s ACT, based on the amount of the overage and the status of the summer flounder stock, using the most recent biological reference points. Based on the 2016 assessment update, this scaled payback would be 1.04 million lb (472 mt). This overage, when applied to the proposed 2019 Difference (%) mt 6.22 1.08 5.15 2,821 490 2,336 12 ¥3 16 commercial ACT of 9.18 million lb (3,502 mt), would result in a commercial quota of 6.67 million lb (3,030 mt), after subtracting the 2019 projected estimated discards. The resulting quota is less than one percent higher than the 2018 quota. Proposed 2019 Commercial State Quota Shares Table 2 presents the proposed state summer flounder allocations for 2019 using the commercial state quota allocations described in the FMP. Any commercial quota adjustments to account for commercial landings overages will be published in the final specification rule prior to the start of the respective fishing year. TABLE 2—2019 PROPOSED INITIAL SUMMER FLOUNDER STATE COMMERCIAL QUOTAS 2019 Initial quota FMP Percent share State lb 2019 Initial quota, including AM accounting for 2017 nonlandings overages (using AM as modified by Framework 13) kg lb kg ME ........................................................................................ NH ........................................................................................ MA ........................................................................................ RI .......................................................................................... CT ........................................................................................ NY ........................................................................................ NJ ......................................................................................... DE ........................................................................................ MD ........................................................................................ VA ........................................................................................ NC ........................................................................................ 0.04756 0.00046 6.82046 15.68298 2.25708 7.64699 16.72499 0.01779 2.0391 21.31676 27.44584 3,672 36 526,540 1,210,726 174,247 590,348 1,291,169 1,373 157,419 1,645,654 2,118,819 1,665 16 238,834 549,176 79,037 267,777 585,665 623 71,404 746,456 961,080 3,172 31 454,925 1,046,055 150,547 510,054 1,115,557 1,187 136,008 1,421,828 1,830,638 1,439 14 206,350 474,482 68,287 231,357 506,008 538 61,692 644,930 830,363 Total .............................................................................. 100 7,720,000 3,501,733 6,670,000 3,025,461 khammond on DSK30JT082PROD with PROPOSAL Note: Kilograms are as converted from lb and do not sum to the converted total due to rounding. Rounding of quotas results in totals slightly exceeding 100 percent. The Council and Board recommended no adjustment to the commercial minimum fish size (14-inch (35.6 cm) total length), gear requirements, and possession limits. The Council and Board will develop recreational management measures (i.e., minimum fish sizes, open seasons, and bag limits) for summer flounder this fall and NMFS rulemaking will occur in early spring of 2019. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:33 Nov 14, 2018 Jkt 247001 Proposed 2019 Black Sea Bass Specifications At the August meeting, the Council and Board made recommendations for the 2019 black sea bass specifications, but for reasons outlined below, we propose maintaining status quo measures currently in place for 2018. In June 2018, the Center provided the Council with a black sea bass data update, including updated catch, landings, and survey indices through 2017. Black sea bass biomass continues PO 00000 Frm 00049 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 to be high and the 2015 year class appears to be above average in both the northern and southern surveys. Updated stock status information and biomass projections incorporating data on the 2015 year class are not available, but will be once the operational assessment is completed in April 2019. The SSC recommended a 2019 ABC of 7.97 million lb (3,615 mt), which was based on biomass projections from the 2016 benchmark stock assessment. This ABC would be an 11-percent reduction E:\FR\FM\15NOP1.SGM 15NOP1 57392 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 221 / Thursday, November 15, 2018 / Proposed Rules compared to the 2018 ABC. This declining pattern of ABCs reflects the population responding to fishing at maximum sustainable yield and the decrease of the large 2011 year class, but does not incorporate the information on the 2015 year class. Based on this ABC recommendation, the Council and Board recommended the 2019 specifications outlined in Table 3. Following the Council and Board meeting, the Center performed a sensitivity analysis of the 2019 projection derived from the 2016 benchmark stock assessment. As previously described, that projection did not include the 2015 year class because those fish were too small to be widely captured in the surveys at the time of the 2016 assessment. This sensitivity analysis used various recruitment scenarios applied to the original projection and compared them to the most recent survey indices. The objective of this analysis was to see if that projection would have supported different specifications for 2019 had we been able to incorporate what we know now about the strength of the 2015 year class. The results suggest that the 2015 year class would only have to be about 50 percent above average to allow for 2019 catch limits to be the same as what they were in 2018. Based on a comparison between the Center’s 2018 spring survey results and average recruitment from 2003–2018, the 2015 year class appears to be well more than 50 percent above average. Based on this information, we propose maintaining status quo black sea bass specifications for 2019 (Table 3). TABLE 3—PROPOSED 2019 BLACK SEA BASS SPECIFICATIONS [In millions of lb] Proposed NMFS Recommendation (Status Quo 2018) million lb OFL .................................................................................................................. ABC .................................................................................................................. Commercial ACL .............................................................................................. Commercial ACT ............................................................................................. Projected Commercial Discards ...................................................................... Commercial Quota ........................................................................................... Recreational ACL ............................................................................................. Recreational ACT ............................................................................................ Projected Recreational Discards ..................................................................... Recreational Harvest Limit .............................................................................. Maintaining status quo would allow for stability in the black sea bass commercial and recreational fisheries while we wait for the results of the MRIP operational assessment to be completed in April 2019. Once that information is available, the Council and Board may recommend adjusting black sea bass measures mid-year. The Council and Board recommended no adjustment to the commercial minimum fish size (11-inch (27.9 cm) total length), gear requirements, and possession limits. Recreational Black Sea Bass Wave 1 Fishery This action also proposes reopening the black sea bass recreational fishery for the month of February (during MRIP Wave 1). The current Federal black sea bass recreational management measures (i.e., a 12.5-inch (31.8-cm) minimum mt 10.29 8.94 4.35 4.35 0.83 3.52 4.59 4.59 0.93 3.66 size and a possession limit of 15 fish) would apply to the fishery for this limited winter season. The intent of this action is to allow for some recreational fishing access during a portion of Wave 1 in 2019. There are currently no MRIP survey estimates collected for Wave 1, but catch from this time period must be accounted for, and count against the recreational harvest limit. Similar to last year, to account for the harvest during this 28-day season, the Council and Board recommended a catch estimate of 100,000 lb (45.3 mt). States that decide to participate in the Wave 1 fishery must account for this catch when developing their management measures for the remainder of the fishing year. Only two states participated in the 2018 February recreational fishery. The estimated catch was nominal. Measures for the rest of the 2019 recreational Council and Board Recommendation million lb 4,667 4,055 1,974 1,974 377 1,596 2,083 2,083 422 1,661 mt 9.18 7.97 3.88 3.88 0.74 3.14 4.10 4.10 0.83 3.27 4,164 3,615 1,760 1,760 336 1,424 1,860 1,860 376 1,483 fishery will be developed through the winter for implementation in spring 2019. 2019 Scup Specifications The scup fishery is currently operating under multi-year specifications projected through 2019. The Council received a data update indicating that biomass continues to be high, and the 2015 year class appears to be above average. In response, the Council and Board made no adjustments to the previously implemented multiyear specifications set in August 2017. This action reaffirms the Council’s and Board’s previous recommendation for scup 2019 specifications. Those specifications result in the same commercial quota and recreational harvest limit as implemented in 2018 (Table 4). TABLE 4—SCUP SPECIFICATIONS FOR 2019 khammond on DSK30JT082PROD with PROPOSAL million lb OFL .......................................................................................................................................................................... ABC .......................................................................................................................................................................... Commercial ACL ...................................................................................................................................................... Commercial ACT ..................................................................................................................................................... Commercial Discards ............................................................................................................................................... Commercial Quota ................................................................................................................................................... Recreational ACL ..................................................................................................................................................... Recreational ACT .................................................................................................................................................... VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:33 Nov 14, 2018 Jkt 247001 PO 00000 Frm 00050 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\15NOP1.SGM 15NOP1 41.03 36.43 28.42 28.42 4.43 23.98 8.01 8.01 mt 18,612 16,525 12,890 12,890 2,011 10,879 3,636 3,636 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 221 / Thursday, November 15, 2018 / Proposed Rules 57393 TABLE 4—SCUP SPECIFICATIONS FOR 2019—Continued million lb Recreational Discards .............................................................................................................................................. Recreational Harvest Limit ...................................................................................................................................... mt 0.65 7.37 293 3,342 The 2019 scup commercial quota is divided into three commercial fishery quota periods, as outlined in Table 5. TABLE 5—COMMERCIAL SCUP QUOTA ALLOCATIONS FOR 2019 BY QUOTA PERIOD 2019 Initial quota Percent share Quota period 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 lb 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 6. 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 7. TABLE 6—COMMERCIAL SCUP POSSESSION LIMITS BY QUOTA PERIOD Quota period Percent share Federal possession limits (per trip) lb Winter I ........................................................................................................................................ Summer ....................................................................................................................................... Winter II ....................................................................................................................................... Total ...................................................................................................................................... 45.11 38.95 15.94 100.0 kg 50,000 N/A 12,000 N/A 22,680 N/A 5,443 N/A TABLE 7—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 lb Rollover from Winter I to Winter II lb kg Increase in Initial Winter II possession limit kg lb Final Winter II possession limit after rollover from Winter I to Winter II kg lb 12,000 12,000 12,000 12,000 12,000 .. .. .. .. .. 5,443 5,443 5,443 5,443 5,443 0–499,999 500,000–999,999 1,000,000–1,499,999 1,500,000–1,999,999 * 2,000,000–2,500,000 0–226,796 226,796–453,592 453,592–680,388 680,389–907,184 907,185–1,133,981 0 1,500 3,000 4,500 6,000 0 680 1,361 2,041 2,722 12,000 13,500 15,000 16,500 18,000 kg 5,443 6,123 6,804 7,484 8,165 khammond on DSK30JT082PROD with PROPOSAL * 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. Adjustment to the Commercial Scup Gear-Based Possession Limit Thresholds This action proposes adjustments to the gear-based incidental possession limit for the commercial fishery. The incidental possession limit applies to vessels with commercial moratorium VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:33 Nov 14, 2018 Jkt 247001 scup permits fishing with nets with diamond mesh smaller than 5 inches (12.7 cm) in diameter. The incidental possession limit is currently 1,000 lb (454 kg) during October 1-April 30 and 200 lb (91 kg) during May 1-September 30. The action would add another threshold period from April 15-June 15 PO 00000 Frm 00051 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 to allow for higher retention in the small-mesh squid fishery that operates during that time and occasionally catches larger amounts of scup than the current limits allow to be landed (Table 8). During that time, vessels with scup moratorium permits using small mesh E:\FR\FM\15NOP1.SGM 15NOP1 57394 Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 221 / Thursday, November 15, 2018 / Proposed Rules could land up to 2,000 lb (907 kg) of scup. khammond on DSK30JT082PROD with PROPOSAL Classification Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is consistent with the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass FMP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, subject to further consideration after public comment. This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration that this proposed rule, if adopted, would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council conducted an evaluation of the potential socioeconomic impacts of the proposed measures in conjunction with an environmental assessment. According to the commercial ownership database, 771 affiliate firms landed summer flounder and/or black sea bass during the 2015–2017 period, with 762 of those business affiliates categorized as small businesses and nine categorized as large businesses. Summer flounder and black sea bass represented approximately 4 percent of the average receipts of the small entities and 1 percent for large entities considered over this time period. The ownership data for the for-hire fleet indicate that there were 869 forhire affiliate firms with summer flounder and/or black sea bass permits generating revenues from recreationally fishing, all of which are categorized as small businesses. Although it is not possible to derive what proportion of the overall revenues came from specific fishing activities, given the popularity of these three species as recreational VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:33 Nov 14, 2018 Jkt 247001 targets it is likely that revenues generated from these species are important for some, if not all, of these firms. For the summer flounder fishery, the proposed measures would increase both the 2019 commercial quota and the 2019 recreational harvest limit. Even though there will be an AM applied to the commercial summer flounder fishery, the resulting commercial quota will still be a slight increase from 2018. For the black sea bass fishery, the proposed measures would result in a 2019 commercial quota and a 2019 recreational harvest limit that are identical to what was in place for 2018. As a result, this action is not expected to adversely impact revenues for vessels that fish for summer flounder and black sea bass commercially. The increase in the summer flounder recreational harvest limit does not directly impact the party/charter fishery. Future regulatory action may be needed to adjust current summer flounder, black sea bass, and scup recreational management measures (i.e., bag limits, seasons, and minimum sizes), and consideration of the impact of those potential future measures on small entities engaged in the for-hire fishery will be evaluated at that time, should such a regulatory action become necessary. Because this rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities, an initial regulatory flexibility analysis is not required and none has been prepared. There are no new reporting or recordkeeping requirements contained in any of the alternatives considered for this action. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648 Fisheries, Fishing, Recordkeeping and reporting requirements. PO 00000 Frm 00052 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Dated: November 9, 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 proposed to be 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 § 648.125, paragraphs (a)(1) and (a)(5) are revised to read as follows: ■ § 648.125 Scup gear restrictions. (a) * * * (1) Minimum mesh size. No owner or operator of an otter trawl vessel that is issued a scup moratorium permit may possess more than 1,000 lb (454 kg) of scup from October 1 through April 14, more than 2,000 lb (907 kg) from April 15 through June 15, or more than 200 lb (91 kg) of scup from June 16 through September 30, unless fishing with nets that have a minimum mesh size of 5.0-inch (12.7-cm) diamond mesh, applied throughout the codend for at least 75 continuous meshes forward of the terminus of the net, and all other nets are stowed and not available for immediate use as defined in § 648.2. * * * * * (5) Stowage of nets. The owner or operator of an otter trawl vessel retaining 1,000 lb (454 kg) or more of scup from October 1 through April 14, 2,000 lb (907 kg) or more of scup from April 15 through June 15, or 200 lb (90.7 kg) or more of scup from June 16 through September 30, and subject to the minimum mesh requirements in paragraph (a)(1) of this section, and the owner or operator of a midwater trawl or other trawl vessel subject to the minimum size requirement in § 648.126, may not have available for immediate use any net, or any piece of net, not meeting the minimum mesh size requirement, or mesh that is rigged in a E:\FR\FM\15NOP1.SGM 15NOP1 EP15NO18.002</GPH> The Council and Board made no adjustments to the current commercial minimum fish size (9-inch (22.9-cm) total length) and winter quota period directed-fishery possession limits. Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 221 / Thursday, November 15, 2018 / Proposed Rules manner that is inconsistent with the minimum mesh size. A net that is stowed and not available for immediate use as defined in § 648.2, and that can be shown not to have been in recent use, is considered to be not available for immediate use. * * * * * ■ 3. Section 648.146 is revised to read as follows: § 648.146 Black sea bass recreational fishing season. Vessels that are not eligible for a moratorium permit under § 648.4(a)(7), and fishermen subject to the possession limit specified in § 648.145(a), may only possess black sea bass from February 1 through February 28, May 15 through December 31, unless this time period is adjusted pursuant to the procedures in § 648.142. [FR Doc. 2018–24946 Filed 11–14–18; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 151124999–8985–01] RIN 0648–BF57 Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast Multispecies Fishery; Approval of New Gear Under Small-Mesh Fisheries Accountability Measures National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: We propose to approve new selective trawl gear for use in several non-groundfish fisheries when subject to the Georges Bank yellowtail flounder accountability measure. The proposed selective gear would reduce bycatch of groundfish species, while allowing the target fisheries to continue operating when selective trawl gear is required. Approving this selective trawl gear would provide the fishing industry with more flexibility because there are limited selective trawl gears currently approved for use. We also propose to disapprove the use of this gear in the southern windowpane accountability measure areas. DATES: Written comments must be received on or before December 17, 2018. khammond on DSK30JT082PROD with PROPOSAL SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:33 Nov 14, 2018 Jkt 247001 You may submit comments, identified by NOAA–NMFS–2018–0119, by either of the following methods: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. 1. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20180119; 2. Click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon and complete the required fields; and 3. Enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Submit written comments to Michael Pentony, Regional Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the envelope, ‘‘Comments on the Proposed Rule for Selective Gear.’’ Instructions: All comments received that were timely and properly submitted are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. We will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by us. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Emily Keiley, Fishery Management Specialist, phone: (978) 281–9116; email: Emily.Keiley@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: ADDRESSES: Background The Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan (FMP) requires the use of selective trawl gear in certain times and areas. The FMP specifies the list of selective trawl gear that meet the required selectivity standards. The FMP also authorizes NMFS to approve additional selective gear, at the request of the New England Fishery Management Council, if the gear meets the regulatory requirements for new selective gear. The regulations (§ 648.85(b)(6)(iv)(J)(2)(i)) require that new selective gear must either: Demonstrate a statistically significant reduction in catch of at least 50 percent, by weight, on a trip-by-trip basis, of each regulated species stock of concern, or, catch of stocks of concern must be less than 5 percent of the total catch of regulated groundfish (by weight, on a trip-by-trip basis). The Council submitted two requests to add the largemesh belly panel to the list of approved PO 00000 Frm 00053 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 57395 selective gears: (1) For the Georges Bank yellowtail accountability measure (AM); and (2) for the southern windowpane AM. The small-mesh trawl fishery (e.g., whiting and squid) has a sub-annual catch limit (sub-ACL) and AM for Georges Bank yellowtail flounder. If catch exceeds the sub-ACL, the AM requires small-mesh trawl vessels to use selective trawl gear that reduces flatfish catch in certain areas for the subsequent fishing year. Southern windowpane flounder is allocated to three fishery components: Groundfish; scallops; and, other nongroundfish fisheries. The other (nongroundfish) component is primarily the scup, fluke, squid, and whiting fisheries. If the AM for the other (nongroundfish) component is triggered, vessels fishing with any trawl gear with a codend mesh size greater than, or equal to 5 in (12.7 cm), are required to use one of the approved selective trawl gears to reduce flatfish bycatch in certain areas in Southern New England in a subsequent year. The selective trawl gears approved for use under these AMs are: Haddock separator trawl; Ruhle trawl; and rope separator trawl. When we adopted the AMs for the non-groundfish fisheries, many industry members expressed concern that the selective trawl gears currently approved for use were not suitable for their fisheries. To address this concern, Cornell University conducted a series of studies to test the effectiveness of a new selective gear, the large-mesh belly panel, in several nongroundfish fisheries. The experimental gear included a large-mesh panel to replace the first bottom belly of the trawl net that allows flatfish such as windowpane and yellowtail flounder to escape. Cornell University conducted two studies in 2014 to investigate using a large-mesh belly panel in a small-mesh trawl net typical of those used in the squid and whiting fisheries on Georges Bank. Both experiments demonstrated a statistically significant reduction in catch of more than 50 percent of Georges Bank yellowtail flounder on a trip-by-trip basis, as required by regulations, without a significant reduction in squid and whiting catch. These studies also demonstrated that the large-mesh belly panel reduced catch, by more than 50 percent per trip, of stocks that are overfished or subject to overfishing. Cornell University conducted an additional study in 2015 to investigate using a large-mesh belly panel in a trawl net typical of those used in the scup fishery in southern New England E:\FR\FM\15NOP1.SGM 15NOP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 83, Number 221 (Thursday, November 15, 2018)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 57389-57395]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2018-24946]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 180906820-8820-01]
RIN 0648-BI48


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

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS proposes 2019 specifications for the summer flounder and 
black sea bass fisheries and maintains previously established 2019 
specifications for the scup fishery. Additionally, this action proposes 
to reopen the February 2018 black sea bass recreational fishery and to 
adjust to the current commercial incidental possession limit for scup. 
The implementing regulations for the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black 
Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan require us to publish specifications 
for the upcoming fishing year for each of these species and to provide 
an opportunity for public comment. This action is intended to inform 
the public of the proposed specifications and management measures for 
the start of the 2019 fishing year for these three species.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before November 30, 2018.

ADDRESSES: An environmental assessment (EA) was prepared for this 
action that describes the proposed measures and other considered 
alternatives, and provides an analysis of the impacts of the proposed 
measures and alternatives. Copies of the Summer Flounder, Scup, and 
Black Sea Bass 2019 Specifications, including the 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. These documents are also accessible via the internet at 
http://www.mafmc.org/s/SFSBSB_2019_specs_EA.pdf.
    You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA-NMFS-
2018-0110, by either of the following methods:

[[Page 57390]]

    Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via 
the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal.
    1. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2018-0110,
    2. Click the ``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, 
and
    3. Enter or attach your comments.

--OR--

    Mail: Submit written comments to Michael Pentony, Regional 
Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, 55 Great Republic 
Drive, Gloucester, MA, 01930. Mark the outside of the envelope, 
``Comments on the Proposed Rule for the Summer Flounder, Scup, and 
Black Sea Bass 2019 Specifications.''
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous).

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

General Background

    The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) and the 
Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (Commission) cooperatively 
manage the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries. The 
Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan (FMP) 
and its implementing regulations outline the Council's process for 
establishing specifications. Specifications in these fisheries include 
various catch and landing subdivisions, such as the commercial and 
recreational sector annual catch limits (ACL), annual catch targets 
(ACT), and sector-specific landing limits (i.e., the commercial fishery 
quota and recreational harvest limit), as well as management measures, 
as needed, that are designed to ensure these catch limits will not be 
exceeded. Annual specifications may be established for three year 
periods, and, in interim years, specifications are reviewed by the 
Council to ensure previously established multi-year specifications 
remain appropriate. The FMP also contains formulas to divide the 
specification catch limits into commercial and recreational fishery 
allocations, state-by-state quotas, and quota periods, depending on the 
species in question. Rulemaking for measures used to manage the 
recreational fisheries (minimum fish sizes, open seasons, and bag 
limits) for these three species occurs separately, and typically takes 
place in the spring of each year.
    This action proposes 2019 specifications for summer flounder and 
black sea bass. The previously approved 2019 scup specifications (82 FR 
60682; December 22, 2017) remain unchanged from the current two year 
specifications and are maintained through this action. The Council's 
Science and Statistical Committee (SSC) and Summer Flounder, Scup, and 
Black Sea Bass Monitoring Committee met in July 2018 to develop 
specification recommendations, including new acceptable biological 
catch limits (ABC) for summer flounder and black sea bass. The Council 
and the Commission's Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass 
Management Board (Board) met jointly August 14-15, 2018, to consider 
the SSC and Monitoring Committee's recommendations, receive public 
comments on those recommendations, and to formalize recommendations to 
the NMFS for catch limit specifications and commercial management 
measures. Recreational fishery management measures will be developed in 
early 2019. A summer flounder benchmark assessment, which will 
incorporate updated Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) 
data, is expected to be completed by early 2019. Operational 
assessments for black sea bass and scup that will also incorporate 
updated MRIP information will be completed in spring 2019. Because of 
this, the Council and Board have only recommended specifications for 
2019. As explained below, the Council and Board are considering the 
specifications here as interim measures and will likely develop mid-
year changes to the summer flounder specifications, if not also black 
sea bass, to address the updated assessment information, if necessary.

Proposed 2019 Summer Flounder Specifications

    In June, the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (Center) provided 
the Council with a summer flounder data update. The data update 
provided a projection for stock biomass for 2019. Most state and 
Federal survey indices of abundance, with the exception of 
Massachusetts and Delaware, remain below their most recent peaks 
(generally 2009-2012) in the update. Recruitment indices in 2017 were 
highly variable. Based on the best available scientific information, 
the summer flounder stock is subject to overfishing but is not 
overfished. After reviewing the update, the SSC and Monitoring 
Committee recommended an interim ABC of 15.41 million lb (6,990 mt).
    At the joint August meeting, the Council and Board made 
recommendations for interim summer flounder specifications for the 
start of the 2019 fishing year (Table 1). Compared to 2018, the 
proposed interim 2019 ABC is a 16-percent increase. The results from 
the benchmark stock assessment are expected to be available in early 
2019 following peer review in November 2018. The Council and Board 
intend to consider revising the 2019 summer flounder specifications at 
a joint meeting in February 2019 taking into account the benchmark 
stock assessment. If revisions are recommended at this meeting, we 
anticipate updated catch limits could be in place by early May 2019.

                     Table 1--Current 2018 and Proposed 2019 Summer Flounder Specifications
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                          2018 (current)                       2019
                                 ---------------------------------------------------------------- Difference (%)
                                    million lb          mt          million lb          mt
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Overfishing Limits (OFL)........           18.69           8,476           20.60           9,344              10
ABC.............................           13.23           5,999           15.41           6,990              16
Commercial ACL..................            7.70           3,491            9.18           4,164              19
Commercial ACT..................            7.70           3,491            9.18           4,164              19
Projected Commercial Discards...            1.07             485            1.47             667               2
Commercial Quota................            6.63           3,006            7.72           3,502              16
Recreational ACL................            5.53           2,508            6.22           2,821              12

[[Page 57391]]

 
Recreational ACT................            5.53           2,508            6.22           2,821              12
Projected Recreational Discards.            1.11             504            1.08             490              -3
Recreational Harvest Limit......            4.42           2,004            5.15           2,336              16
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

2019 Summer Flounder Commercial Non-Landing Accountability Measure

    Our final 2017 catch accounting shows that the 2017 commercial 
fishery exceeded its ACL by 21 percent and the 2017 ABC was exceeded by 
7 percent, due to higher than expected discards in the commercial 
fishery. Currently, the regulations require a pound-for-pound 
accountability measure (AM) that is applied to the commercial ACT when 
the ACL has been exceeded and the overage is caused by higher discards 
than those estimated prior to the fishing year. A final rule for a 
framework adjustment (Framework 13) that would modify this AM published 
on October 25, 2018 (83 FR 53825), and will be effective on November 
26, 2018. That action adjusts this non-landings based AM to help 
account for the variability in commercial discard estimates and provide 
additional flexibility based on stock status and the biological 
consequences, if any, of estimated discard overages. In terms of 
impacts of the 2017 discard overage for 2019, the AM as modified by the 
pending framework would result in a scaled payback against the 
commercial fishery's ACT, based on the amount of the overage and the 
status of the summer flounder stock, using the most recent biological 
reference points.
    Based on the 2016 assessment update, this scaled payback would be 
1.04 million lb (472 mt). This overage, when applied to the proposed 
2019 commercial ACT of 9.18 million lb (3,502 mt), would result in a 
commercial quota of 6.67 million lb (3,030 mt), after subtracting the 
2019 projected estimated discards. The resulting quota is less than one 
percent higher than the 2018 quota.

Proposed 2019 Commercial State Quota Shares

    Table 2 presents the proposed state summer flounder allocations for 
2019 using the commercial state quota allocations described in the FMP. 
Any commercial quota adjustments to account for commercial landings 
overages will be published in the final specification rule prior to the 
start of the respective fishing year.

                     Table 2--2019 Proposed Initial Summer Flounder State Commercial Quotas
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                        2019 Initial quota         2019 Initial quota, including
                                                 --------------------------------   AM accounting for 2017 non-
                                    FMP Percent                                   landings overages (using AM as
              State                    share                                         modified by Framework 13)
                                                        lb              kg       -------------------------------
                                                                                        lb              kg
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
ME..............................         0.04756           3,672           1,665           3,172           1,439
NH..............................         0.00046              36              16              31              14
MA..............................         6.82046         526,540         238,834         454,925         206,350
RI..............................        15.68298       1,210,726         549,176       1,046,055         474,482
CT..............................         2.25708         174,247          79,037         150,547          68,287
NY..............................         7.64699         590,348         267,777         510,054         231,357
NJ..............................        16.72499       1,291,169         585,665       1,115,557         506,008
DE..............................         0.01779           1,373             623           1,187             538
MD..............................          2.0391         157,419          71,404         136,008          61,692
VA..............................        21.31676       1,645,654         746,456       1,421,828         644,930
NC..............................        27.44584       2,118,819         961,080       1,830,638         830,363
                                 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total.......................             100       7,720,000       3,501,733       6,670,000       3,025,461
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note: Kilograms are as converted from lb and do not sum to the converted total due to rounding. Rounding of
  quotas results in totals slightly exceeding 100 percent.

    The Council and Board recommended no adjustment to the commercial 
minimum fish size (14-inch (35.6 cm) total length), gear requirements, 
and possession limits. The Council and Board will develop recreational 
management measures (i.e., minimum fish sizes, open seasons, and bag 
limits) for summer flounder this fall and NMFS rulemaking will occur in 
early spring of 2019.

Proposed 2019 Black Sea Bass Specifications

    At the August meeting, the Council and Board made recommendations 
for the 2019 black sea bass specifications, but for reasons outlined 
below, we propose maintaining status quo measures currently in place 
for 2018.
    In June 2018, the Center provided the Council with a black sea bass 
data update, including updated catch, landings, and survey indices 
through 2017. Black sea bass biomass continues to be high and the 2015 
year class appears to be above average in both the northern and 
southern surveys. Updated stock status information and biomass 
projections incorporating data on the 2015 year class are not 
available, but will be once the operational assessment is completed in 
April 2019.
    The SSC recommended a 2019 ABC of 7.97 million lb (3,615 mt), which 
was based on biomass projections from the 2016 benchmark stock 
assessment. This ABC would be an 11-percent reduction

[[Page 57392]]

compared to the 2018 ABC. This declining pattern of ABCs reflects the 
population responding to fishing at maximum sustainable yield and the 
decrease of the large 2011 year class, but does not incorporate the 
information on the 2015 year class. Based on this ABC recommendation, 
the Council and Board recommended the 2019 specifications outlined in 
Table 3.
    Following the Council and Board meeting, the Center performed a 
sensitivity analysis of the 2019 projection derived from the 2016 
benchmark stock assessment. As previously described, that projection 
did not include the 2015 year class because those fish were too small 
to be widely captured in the surveys at the time of the 2016 
assessment. This sensitivity analysis used various recruitment 
scenarios applied to the original projection and compared them to the 
most recent survey indices. The objective of this analysis was to see 
if that projection would have supported different specifications for 
2019 had we been able to incorporate what we know now about the 
strength of the 2015 year class. The results suggest that the 2015 year 
class would only have to be about 50 percent above average to allow for 
2019 catch limits to be the same as what they were in 2018. Based on a 
comparison between the Center's 2018 spring survey results and average 
recruitment from 2003-2018, the 2015 year class appears to be well more 
than 50 percent above average. Based on this information, we propose 
maintaining status quo black sea bass specifications for 2019 (Table 
3).

                              Table 3--Proposed 2019 Black Sea Bass Specifications
                                               [In millions of lb]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                   Proposed NMFS Recommendation          Council and Board
                                                         (Status Quo 2018)                Recommendation
                                                 ---------------------------------------------------------------
                                                    million lb          mt          million lb          mt
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
OFL.............................................           10.29           4,667            9.18           4,164
ABC.............................................            8.94           4,055            7.97           3,615
Commercial ACL..................................            4.35           1,974            3.88           1,760
Commercial ACT..................................            4.35           1,974            3.88           1,760
Projected Commercial Discards...................            0.83             377            0.74             336
Commercial Quota................................            3.52           1,596            3.14           1,424
Recreational ACL................................            4.59           2,083            4.10           1,860
Recreational ACT................................            4.59           2,083            4.10           1,860
Projected Recreational Discards.................            0.93             422            0.83             376
Recreational Harvest Limit......................            3.66           1,661            3.27           1,483
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Maintaining status quo would allow for stability in the black sea 
bass commercial and recreational fisheries while we wait for the 
results of the MRIP operational assessment to be completed in April 
2019. Once that information is available, the Council and Board may 
recommend adjusting black sea bass measures mid-year.
    The Council and Board recommended no adjustment to the commercial 
minimum fish size (11-inch (27.9 cm) total length), gear requirements, 
and possession limits.

Recreational Black Sea Bass Wave 1 Fishery

    This action also proposes reopening the black sea bass recreational 
fishery for the month of February (during MRIP Wave 1). The current 
Federal black sea bass recreational management measures (i.e., a 12.5-
inch (31.8-cm) minimum size and a possession limit of 15 fish) would 
apply to the fishery for this limited winter season. The intent of this 
action is to allow for some recreational fishing access during a 
portion of Wave 1 in 2019.
    There are currently no MRIP survey estimates collected for Wave 1, 
but catch from this time period must be accounted for, and count 
against the recreational harvest limit. Similar to last year, to 
account for the harvest during this 28-day season, the Council and 
Board recommended a catch estimate of 100,000 lb (45.3 mt). States that 
decide to participate in the Wave 1 fishery must account for this catch 
when developing their management measures for the remainder of the 
fishing year. Only two states participated in the 2018 February 
recreational fishery. The estimated catch was nominal. Measures for the 
rest of the 2019 recreational fishery will be developed through the 
winter for implementation in spring 2019.

2019 Scup Specifications

    The scup fishery is currently operating under multi-year 
specifications projected through 2019. The Council received a data 
update indicating that biomass continues to be high, and the 2015 year 
class appears to be above average. In response, the Council and Board 
made no adjustments to the previously implemented multi-year 
specifications set in August 2017. This action reaffirms the Council's 
and Board's previous recommendation for scup 2019 specifications. Those 
specifications result in the same commercial quota and recreational 
harvest limit as implemented in 2018 (Table 4).

                  Table 4--Scup Specifications for 2019
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                            million lb          mt
------------------------------------------------------------------------
OFL.....................................           41.03          18,612
ABC.....................................           36.43          16,525
Commercial ACL..........................           28.42          12,890
Commercial ACT..........................           28.42          12,890
Commercial Discards.....................            4.43           2,011
Commercial Quota........................           23.98          10,879
Recreational ACL........................            8.01           3,636
Recreational ACT........................            8.01           3,636

[[Page 57393]]

 
Recreational Discards...................            0.65             293
Recreational Harvest Limit..............            7.37           3,342
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The 2019 scup commercial quota is divided into three commercial 
fishery quota periods, as outlined in Table 5.

                       Table 5--Commercial Scup Quota Allocations for 2019 by Quota Period
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                        2019 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 lb 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 6. 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 7.

                           Table 6--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 7--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 Winter II    Final Winter II possession
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------        possession limit            limit after 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
12,000......................        5,443    * 2,000,000-2,500,000     907,185-1,133,981           6,000           2,722          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.

Adjustment to the Commercial Scup Gear-Based Possession Limit 
Thresholds

    This action proposes adjustments to the gear-based incidental 
possession limit for the commercial fishery. The incidental possession 
limit applies to vessels with commercial moratorium scup permits 
fishing with nets with diamond mesh smaller than 5 inches (12.7 cm) in 
diameter. The incidental possession limit is currently 1,000 lb (454 
kg) during October 1-April 30 and 200 lb (91 kg) during May 1-September 
30. The action would add another threshold period from April 15-June 15 
to allow for higher retention in the small-mesh squid fishery that 
operates during that time and occasionally catches larger amounts of 
scup than the current limits allow to be landed (Table 8). During that 
time, vessels with scup moratorium permits using small mesh

[[Page 57394]]

could land up to 2,000 lb (907 kg) of scup.
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP15NO18.002

    The Council and Board made no adjustments to the current commercial 
minimum fish size (9-inch (22.9-cm) total length) and winter quota 
period directed-fishery possession limits.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is 
consistent with the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass FMP, 
other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, 
subject to further consideration after public comment.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration that this proposed rule, if adopted, would not have a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. 
The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council conducted an evaluation of 
the potential socioeconomic impacts of the proposed measures in 
conjunction with an environmental assessment. According to the 
commercial ownership database, 771 affiliate firms landed summer 
flounder and/or black sea bass during the 2015-2017 period, with 762 of 
those business affiliates categorized as small businesses and nine 
categorized as large businesses. Summer flounder and black sea bass 
represented approximately 4 percent of the average receipts of the 
small entities and 1 percent for large entities considered over this 
time period.
    The ownership data for the for-hire fleet indicate that there were 
869 for-hire affiliate firms with summer flounder and/or black sea bass 
permits generating revenues from recreationally fishing, all of which 
are categorized as small businesses. Although it is not possible to 
derive what proportion of the overall revenues came from specific 
fishing activities, given the popularity of these three species as 
recreational targets it is likely that revenues generated from these 
species are important for some, if not all, of these firms.
    For the summer flounder fishery, the proposed measures would 
increase both the 2019 commercial quota and the 2019 recreational 
harvest limit. Even though there will be an AM applied to the 
commercial summer flounder fishery, the resulting commercial quota will 
still be a slight increase from 2018. For the black sea bass fishery, 
the proposed measures would result in a 2019 commercial quota and a 
2019 recreational harvest limit that are identical to what was in place 
for 2018. As a result, this action is not expected to adversely impact 
revenues for vessels that fish for summer flounder and black sea bass 
commercially. The increase in the summer flounder recreational harvest 
limit does not directly impact the party/charter fishery. Future 
regulatory action may be needed to adjust current summer flounder, 
black sea bass, and scup recreational management measures (i.e., bag 
limits, seasons, and minimum sizes), and consideration of the impact of 
those potential future measures on small entities engaged in the for-
hire fishery will be evaluated at that time, should such a regulatory 
action become necessary.
    Because this rule will not have a significant economic impact on a 
substantial number of small entities, an initial regulatory flexibility 
analysis is not required and none has been prepared. There are no new 
reporting or recordkeeping requirements contained in any of the 
alternatives considered for this action.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648

    Fisheries, Fishing, Recordkeeping and reporting requirements.

    Dated: November 9, 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 
proposed to be amended as follows:

PART 648--FISHERIES OF THE NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES

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

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

0
2. In Sec.  648.125, paragraphs (a)(1) and (a)(5) are revised to read 
as follows:


Sec.  648.125   Scup gear restrictions.

    (a) * * * (1) Minimum mesh size. No owner or operator of an otter 
trawl vessel that is issued a scup moratorium permit may possess more 
than 1,000 lb (454 kg) of scup from October 1 through April 14, more 
than 2,000 lb (907 kg) from April 15 through June 15, or more than 200 
lb (91 kg) of scup from June 16 through September 30, unless fishing 
with nets that have a minimum mesh size of 5.0-inch (12.7-cm) diamond 
mesh, applied throughout the codend for at least 75 continuous meshes 
forward of the terminus of the net, and all other nets are stowed and 
not available for immediate use as defined in Sec.  648.2.
* * * * *
    (5) Stowage of nets. The owner or operator of an otter trawl vessel 
retaining 1,000 lb (454 kg) or more of scup from October 1 through 
April 14, 2,000 lb (907 kg) or more of scup from April 15 through June 
15, or 200 lb (90.7 kg) or more of scup from June 16 through September 
30, and subject to the minimum mesh requirements in paragraph (a)(1) of 
this section, and the owner or operator of a midwater trawl or other 
trawl vessel subject to the minimum size requirement in Sec.  648.126, 
may not have available for immediate use any net, or any piece of net, 
not meeting the minimum mesh size requirement, or mesh that is rigged 
in a

[[Page 57395]]

manner that is inconsistent with the minimum mesh size. A net that is 
stowed and not available for immediate use as defined in Sec.  648.2, 
and that can be shown not to have been in recent use, is considered to 
be not available for immediate use.
* * * * *
0
3. Section 648.146 is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  648.146  Black sea bass recreational fishing season.

    Vessels that are not eligible for a moratorium permit under Sec.  
648.4(a)(7), and fishermen subject to the possession limit specified in 
Sec.  648.145(a), may only possess black sea bass from February 1 
through February 28, May 15 through December 31, unless this time 
period is adjusted pursuant to the procedures in Sec.  648.142.

[FR Doc. 2018-24946 Filed 11-14-18; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P