Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Habitat Clam Dredge Exemption Framework, 48899-48904 [2019-19815]

Download as PDF jbell on DSK3GLQ082PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 180 / Tuesday, September 17, 2019 / Proposed Rules unlikely to be recaptured or injured by vessels. (g) A sea turtle is determined to be dead if the muscles are stiff (rigor mortis) and/or the flesh has begun to rot; otherwise the sea turtle is determined to be comatose or inactive, and resuscitation attempts are necessary as specified in paragraph B.1.(e). (h) A sea turtle that fails to respond to the reflex test or fails to move within 4 hours (up to 24 hours if possible) must be returned to the water in the same manner as that for an actively moving sea turtle. 2. Sea turtles that cannot be brought on board. If a sea turtle is too large, or is hooked or entangled in a manner that prevents bringing the sea turtle on board safely and without causing further injury, release gear specified in paragraph A. of this appendix must be used to remove the maximum amount of fishing gear from the sea turtle, or to remove as much line as possible from the sea turtle or from a hook that cannot be removed prior to releasing the sea turtle. (a) A non-boated sea turtle should be brought close to the boat. Then, determine whether the hook can be removed without causing further injury to the sea turtle. All externally embedded hooks should be removed, unless hook removal would result in further injury to the sea turtle. No attempt should be made to remove a hook if it has been swallowed and the insertion point is not clearly visible, or if it is determined that removal would result in further injury. (b) If the hook cannot be removed or if the sea turtle is only entangled, remove as much line as possible prior to its release using a long-handled line cutter or monofilament line cutters specified in paragraphs A.1. and A.11. of this appendix. (c) If the hook can be removed, it must be removed using the appropriate dehooker or other hook removal device specified in paragraph A. of this appendix. Without causing further injury, as much gear as possible must be removed from the sea turtle prior to its release. (3) Any sea turtle taken incidentally while fishing, regardless of whether the sea turtle is alive or dead, or whether it is brought on board, must not be consumed, sold, landed, offloaded, transshipped, or kept below deck. C. Incorporation by reference. The standards required in paragraphs A. and B. of this appendix are incorporated by reference into this appendix with the approval of the Director of the Federal Register under 5 U.S.C. 552(a) and 1 CFR part 51. All approved material is VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:32 Sep 16, 2019 Jkt 247001 available for inspection at the National Marine Fisheries Service, Southeast Regional Office, 263 13th Ave. South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701, phone: 727– 824–5301, website: https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/southeast/ endangered-species-conservation/seaturtle-and-smalltooth-sawfish-releasegear-protocols, and is available from the sources listed below. It is also available for inspection at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). For information on the availability of this material at NARA, call 202–741– 6030 or go to www.archives.gov/federalregister/cfr/ibr-locations.html. 1. U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, Southeast Fisheries Science Center, 75 Virginia Beach Drive, Miami, FL 33149. (a) Careful Release Protocols for Sea Turtle Release with Minimal Injury, NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS– SEFSC–735, Stokes, L., and Bergmann, C. (Editors), 2019. (b) [Reserved] 2. U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, Southeast Regional Office, 263 13th Ave. South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701. (a) Sea Turtle Handling/Release Guidelines: Quick Reference for Hook and Line Fisheries, English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Revised April 2019. (b) [Reserved] [FR Doc. 2019–19899 Filed 9–16–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 190909–0024] RIN 0648–BI77 Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Habitat Clam Dredge Exemption Framework National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS proposes to implement the New England Fishery Management Council’s Habitat Clam Dredge Exemption Framework Adjustment to its Fishery Management Plans. The SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00106 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 48899 proposed action is intended to establish areas within the Great South Channel Habitat Management Area where vessels could fish for Atlantic surfclams or mussels with dredge gear, consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and the Omnibus Habitat Amendment 2. This action is necessary in order for the fishing industry to access part of the surfclam and mussel resource within the Habitat Management Area. DATES: Comments must be received by October 17, 2019. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA– NMFS–2019–0043, by either of the following methods: Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. 1. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-;NMFS-20190043, 2. Click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields 3. Enter or attach your comments. -ORMail: Submit written comments to Michael Pentony, Regional Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the envelope: ‘‘Comments on the Proposed Rule for Habitat Clam Dredge Exemption Framework.’’ 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). A draft environmental assessment (EA) has been prepared for this action that describes the proposed measures and other considered alternatives, as well as provides an analysis of the impacts of the proposed measures and alternatives. Copies of the specifications document, including the EA and the Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA), are available on request from Thomas Nies, Executive Director, New England Fishery Management Council, 50 Water Street, Mill 2, Newburyport, E:\FR\FM\17SEP1.SGM 17SEP1 48900 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 180 / Tuesday, September 17, 2019 / Proposed Rules MA 01950. These documents are also accessible via the internet at www.nefmc.org. Written comments regarding the burden-hour estimates or other aspects of the collection-of-information requirements contained in this proposed rule may be submitted to the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office and by email to OIRA_Submission@ omb.eop.gov or fax to (202) 395–7285. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Douglas Potts, Fishery Policy Analyst, 978–281–9341. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background The Great South Channel Habitat Management Area (GSC HMA) was created by the final rule to implement the New England Fishery Management Council’s Omnibus Habitat Amendment 2 (OHA2) (83 FR 15240; April 9, 2018), which prohibited the use of all mobile bottom-tending fishing gear in the GSC HMA. The GSC HMA contains complex benthic habitat that is important for juvenile cod and other fish species, and it is susceptible to the adverse impacts of fishing gear. The OHA2 included a 1year delay of the GSC HMA closure that allowed the surfclam fishery to continue fishing with hydraulic clam dredges in the GSC HMA. This delay was intended to give the Council time to determine if a long-term exemption is warranted. The 1-year delay ended on April 9, 2019, and the GSC HMA is now closed to all mobile bottom-tending fishing gear. The Council initiated the Habitat Clam Dredge Exemption Framework Adjustment in 2015 as a following action to OHA2. Development of the framework was guided by a problem statement approved by the Council in October 2015: jbell on DSK3GLQ082PROD with PROPOSALS The Council intends through this action to identify areas within the Great South Channel and Georges Shoal Habitat Management Areas that are currently fished or contain high energy sand and gravel that could be suitable for a hydraulic clam dredging exemption that balances achieving optimum yield for the surfclam/ocean quahog fishery with the requirement to minimize adverse fishing effects on habitat to the extent practicable and is consistent with the underlying objectives of [OHA2]. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:32 Sep 16, 2019 Jkt 247001 In the final stages of OHA2 development, the Council was also approached by parties interested in developing a mussel dredge fishery in the GSC HMA. Currently there is no Federal mussel fishery management plan. The Georges Shoal HMA was disapproved by NMFS, and the framework became solely focused on the GSC HMA. Development of the Habitat Clam Dredge Exemption Framework occurred over several meetings of Council’s Habitat Plan Development Team, with input from the Council’s Habitat Committee and the full Council. While the primary focus of the framework was an exemption for the existing surfclam fishery, most of the alternatives considered could be implemented with or without the exemption applying to the mussel fishery as well. The Council took final action at its December 2018 meeting selecting preferred alternatives and approving the action for submission to NMFS. This rule proposes management measures necessary to implement the Framework. Proposed Measures This action would establish three dredge exemption areas (McBlair, Old South, and Fishing Rip) within the GSC HMA where a vessel could potentially fish for surfclams or blue mussels. Tables 1 through 3 contain the coordinates for the proposed exemption areas and are illustrated in Figure 1. Each area would be defined by the following points connected in the order listed by straight lines. TABLE 1—COORDINATES FOR MCBLAIR DREDGE EXEMPTION AREA Point 1 2 3 4 1 ............... ............... ............... ............... ............... PO 00000 Frm 00107 Longitude 69° 69° 69° 69° 69° 49.255′ 46.951′ 46.951′ 49.187′ 49.255′ Fmt 4702 W W W W W Latitude 41° 41° 41° 41° 41° Sfmt 4702 25.878′ N 25.878′ N 19.34′ N 19.34′ N 25.878′ N TABLE 2—COORDINATES FOR OLD SOUTH DREDGE EXEMPTION AREA Point 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 1 ............... ............... ............... ............... ............... ............... ............... ............... ............... ............... Longitude 69° 69° 69° 69° 69° 69° 69° 69° 69° 69° 47′ W 44′ W 44.22′ W 45′ W 47′ W 47′ W 49.101′ W 49.116′ W 47′ W 47′ W Latitude 41° 41° 41° 41° 41° 41° 41° 41° 41° 41° 15′ N 15′ N 10.432′ N 7′ N 7′ N 11′ N 11′ N 12.5′ N 12.5′ N 15′ N TABLE 3—COORDINATES FOR FISHING RIP DREDGE EXEMPTION AREA Point 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 1 ............... ............... ............... ............... ............... ............... ............... ............... ............... Longitude 69° 69° 69° 69° 69° 69° 69° 69° 69° 28.829′ 27.106′ 29.311′ 27.034′ 27.376′ 29.905′ 32.579′ 31.193′ 28.829′ W W W W W W W W W Latitude 41° 41° 41° 41° 41° 41° 41° 41° 41° 10.963′ N 10.485′ N 6.699′ N 6.609′ N 3.198′ N 1.297′ N 5.368′ N 7.356′ N 10.963′ N These exemption areas were chosen to allow limited access to some historical surfclam fishing grounds while protecting the majority of the HMA. The three exemption areas total only 6.9 percent of the total area of the HMA and do not include the areas most clearly identified as containing complex and vulnerable habitats. Because of the small area being considered for this exemption, this action would not affect the overall conservation benefit of the HMA. The McBlair and Fishing Rip Dredge Exemption Areas would be open to fishing for surfclams or mussels year round. The Old South Dredge Exemption Area would be closed to all mobile bottom-tending gear from November 1 through April 30 and open for surfclam or mussel fishing from May 1 through October 31 each year. The Old South Dredge Exemption Area overlaps with an area identified in OHA2 as a historical cod spawning area. The annual closure from November through April is meant to avoid times when cod are expected to spawn and to reduce the potential for dredge fishing to disturb spawning aggregations of cod. E:\FR\FM\17SEP1.SGM 17SEP1 In addition to the proposed exemption areas of McBlair, Old South, and Fishing Rip, the Council tasked its Habitat Plan Development Team to work with the surfclam industry to develop a prioritized list of research needs concerning two other areas of the HMA (Rose and Crown and Davis Bank East). The intent of the Council was to develop an exempted fishing permit program for these areas that could support the potential development of additional exemptions in the future. Industry members have been working with research organizations on potential exempted fishing permits (EFP) to conduct research in these areas. Requests for EFPs will be evaluated consistent with our normal practice and are separate from this rulemaking. To facilitate enforcement of the small exemption areas, participating vessels VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:32 Sep 16, 2019 Jkt 247001 would be required to obtain a letter of authorization (LOA) from the NMFS Regional Administrator. Similar LOAs are used to grant access to specific areas or programs in other fisheries and may be applied for using a common form available from NMFS’ Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office (GARFO). If a vessel violates any of the requirements of the exemption areas, the LOA may be canceled, prohibiting future access to the GSC HMA. To receive the LOA, a vessel must hold a Federal commercial surfclam permit, which comes with requirements including reporting each fishing trip, using a vessel monitoring system (VMS), and selling catch exclusively to a federally permitted dealer. The LOA would require the vessel have a NMFSapproved VMS unit that can automatically adjust the frequency of PO 00000 Frm 00108 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 48901 position information sent to NMFS. A list of qualifying VMS units is available from GARFO. While within the GSC HMA, vessels would be subject to an increased VMS position polling rate from once per hour to once every 5 minutes. This would provide finer scale resolution on the location of the vessel and allow NMFS to monitor compliance with the small exemption areas. The increased polling rate would begin automatically as the vessel approaches the GSC HMA and would continue until after the vessel leaves the area. Vessels fishing in the GSC HMA would be required to use new VMS trip declaration codes that would allow law enforcement to know they intend to fish in the GSC HMA for surfclams or blue mussels. Vessels fishing for surfclams within the GSC HMA would still be subject to E:\FR\FM\17SEP1.SGM 17SEP1 EP17SE19.002</GPH> jbell on DSK3GLQ082PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 180 / Tuesday, September 17, 2019 / Proposed Rules jbell on DSK3GLQ082PROD with PROPOSALS 48902 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 180 / Tuesday, September 17, 2019 / Proposed Rules the requirements of the individual transferable quota system and other provisions of the surfclam regulations. This includes restrictions on retention of other species of fish caught incidentally while using hydraulic clam dredge gear, which are typically determined by the other Federal fishing permits the vessel holds. To fish for mussels in the GSC HMA, a vessel would be required to hold a surfclam vessel permit. This permit can be obtained from GARFO. By holding a surfclam permit, mussel fishing vessels in the GSC HMA would be subject to permit reporting and monitoring requirements that would not normally apply to vessels fishing for mussels in Federal waters. Mussel fishing vessels would also need to obtain the new LOA and use the VMS trip declaration code for any trip in the GSC HMA. Vessels would be required to use a nonhydraulic mussel dredges (also called a dry dredge), which could not exceed 8 ft (2.4 m) in width. Vessels fishing for mussels could not fish for, harvest, or land any species of fish other than blue mussels. Any violation of permit, reporting, monitoring, or LOA requirements for fishing in the GSC HMA could result in NMFS revoking the vessel’s LOA, which would prevent further fishing by that vessel in the HMA. Pursuant to section 303(c) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), the Council has deemed that this proposed rule is necessary and appropriate for the purpose of implementing the Habitat Clam Dredge Exemption Framework Adjustment, with the exception of the measure noted below as proposed under the Secretary’s authority under section 305(d) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, we are required to publish proposed rules for comment after preliminarily determining whether they are consistent with applicable law. The MagnusonStevens Act permits us to approve, partially approve, or disapprove measures proposed by the Council based only on whether the measures are consistent with the fishery management plan, plan amendment, the MagnusonStevens Act and its National Standards, and other applicable law. Otherwise, we must defer to the Council’s policy choices. We are seeking comment on the Council’s proposed measures in the Habitat Clam Dredge Exemption Framework Adjustment and whether they are consistent with the Council’s FMPs and the OHA2, the MagnusonStevens Act and its National Standards, and other applicable law. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:32 Sep 16, 2019 Jkt 247001 Clarification This action also proposes a minor modification to the regulations under authority granted the Secretary under section 305(d) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act to ensure that Fishery Management Plans (FMP) are implemented as intended and consistent with the requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. This action proposes to define a ‘‘straight line’’ with regard to regulated areas, as a rhumb line, unless explicitly stated otherwise. When fishery managers develop regulated areas (e.g., scallop access areas or Northeast multispecies closed areas), the areas are defined by a series of points of latitude and longitude connected by straight lines when drawn on a standard nautical chart. Nautical charts use a Mercator projection so straight lines drawn on a chart are lines of constant compass bearing, also known as rhumb lines. To make the regulations as unambiguous as possible, we propose to add this definition and invite the public to comment on this proposal. Classification Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS Assistant Administrator has preliminarily determined that this proposed rule is consistent with the New England Council’s FMPs, 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 Council prepared a draft EA for this action that analyzes the impacts of this proposed rule. The EA includes an initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA), as required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). The IRFA describes the economic impact this proposed rule, if adopted, would have on small entities. A description of the action, why it is being considered, and the legal basis for this action are contained at the beginning of this section and in the preamble to this proposed rule. A summary of the RFA analysis follows. A copy of the detailed RFA analysis is available from the Council (see ADDRESSES). Description of the Reasons Why Action Is Being Considered This action proposes management measures to allow fishing with dredge gear for Atlantic surfclams or blue mussels in three exemption areas within the Great South Channel HMA. The measures seek to minimize to the extent PO 00000 Frm 00109 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 practicable the adverse effects on complex habitat within the HMA by fishing for surfclams and mussels in the area. Statement of the Objectives of, and Legal Basis for, This Proposed Rule This action is taken under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and regulations at 50 CFR part 648. A complete description of the action, why it is being considered, and the legal basis for this action are contained in the Clam Dredge Exemption Framework document, and elsewhere in the preamble to this proposed rule, and are not repeated here. Description and Estimate of the Number of Small Entities to Which This Proposed Rule Would Apply This proposed rule affects small entities engaged in commercial fishing operations in the Federal waters off Southern New England, Georges Bank, and the Gulf of Maine, and permitted to fish for either surfclams or mussels. In 2017, eight large commercial fishing businesses and 377 small commercial fishing businesses held either a surfclam or ocean quahog federal permit. The number of fishermen actively engaged in the surfclam and ocean quahog fishery is much smaller than the number of individuals permitted for those two fisheries. This is because there is an individual transferrable quota associated with both species, meaning only individuals holding or leasing quota can land surfclam and ocean quahog. Over the last 3 years, the number of businesses that have been active in the areas proposed for exemption areas has been between 10 (8 small and 2 large) and 12 (10 small and 2 large). Between 10 (2015) and 11 (2016, 2017) vessels were permitted and active in the Massachusetts mussel fishery in the most recent 3-year period, although only one or two are expected to fish in the HMA. The current status of the mussel fishery in the Great South Channel is exploratory, and ownership data is not available from which to assess business size for state-permitted vessels. This situation precludes a more thorough investigation into the number and size of mussel businesses regulated under the Clam Dredge Framework. Small businesses have historically generated a higher percentage of their revenue within the Great South Channel HMA and are expected to benefit more from any exemption than large businesses, relatively speaking. E:\FR\FM\17SEP1.SGM 17SEP1 48903 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 180 / Tuesday, September 17, 2019 / Proposed Rules Description of the Projected Reporting, Record-Keeping, and Other Compliance Requirements of This Proposed Rule This action would require an annual letter of authorization for fishermen accessing the Great South Channel HMA exemption areas and each trip into the exemption areas would require vessels use a new Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) trip declaration code and be subject to additional position polling when inside the HMA. Federal Rules Which May Duplicate, Overlap, or Conflict With This Proposed Rule NMFS is not aware of any relevant Federal rules that may duplicate, overlap, or conflict with this proposed rule. jbell on DSK3GLQ082PROD with PROPOSALS Description of Significant Alternatives to the Proposed Action Which Accomplish the Stated Objectives of Applicable Statutes and Which Minimize Any Significant Economic Impact on Small Entities This action proposes a set of three discrete exemption areas within the GSC HMA where dredge fishing for surfclams and mussels would be allowed. The Council considered three other options. The Council also evaluated taking no action thereby keeping the entire GSC HMA closed to dredge fishing for surfclams and blue mussels. All of the action alternatives would result in some level of increased revenue for vessels fishing in the exemption areas. While this action does not affect the overall quota for surfclams, the catch rate in the exemption areas is potentially higher than in other open areas. Therefore, the opening of these areas may not affect the total harvest of surfclams, but may improve the efficiency with which part of the quota is harvested. Moreover, within the affected entities, some may have had a disproportionate historic harvest from areas now closed to hydraulic dredges in the GSC HMA. In choosing a preferred alternative, the Council considered the tradeoffs between short-term economic benefit to the surfclam and mussel industries and potential long-term benefit to other fisheries through the protection of essential fish habitat from the adverse impacts of fishing gear. This proposed rule contains an addition to a collection-of-information requirement subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) and which has been approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under control number 0648–0202. Public reporting burden for obtaining a letter of VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:32 Sep 16, 2019 Jkt 247001 authorization to fish within the GSC HMA is estimated to average five minutes per response, including the time for reviewing instructions, searching existing data sources, gathering and maintaining the data needed, and completing and reviewing the collection information. The public reporting burden for increasing the VMS location data from once per hour to once every five minutes is estimated to cost participating fishermen $0.84 per hour while a vessel is within 3 nm (5.6 km) of the HMA and subject to the higher position polling rate. Based on historical fishing effort, this would translate to an average annual cost of $8,639 spread across all vessels active in the HMA. Public comment is sought regarding: Whether this proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information shall have practical utility; the accuracy of the burden estimate; ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology. Send comments on these or any other aspects of the collection of information to the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office at the ADDRESSES above, and by email to OIRA_Submission@omb.eop.gov or fax to (202) 395–7285. Notwithstanding any other provision of the law, no person is required to respond to, and no person shall be subject to penalty for failure to comply with, a collection of information subject to the requirements of the PRA, unless that collection of information displays a currently valid OMB control number. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648 Fisheries, Fishing, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements. Dated: September 9, 2019. 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 § 648.2, add, in alphabetical order, a definition for ‘‘Straight line.’’ ■ PO 00000 Frm 00110 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 § 648.2 Definitions. * * * * * Straight line, with regard to regulated areas, means a rhumb line, unless explicitly stated otherwise. * * * * * ■ 3. In 648.370, revise paragraph (h)(2) to read as follows: § 648.370 Habitat Management Areas. * * * * * (h) * * * (2) Atlantic Surfclam and Mussel Dredge Exemption Areas. (i) Dredge Exemption Area Requirements. A vessel may fish in one or more of the Dredge Exemption Areas below, provided the area is open and the vessel meets the following requirements: (A) Holds a federal Atlantic surfclam vessel permit. (B) Has been issued a Letter of Authorization to fish in the Great South Channel HMA from the Regional Administrator. (C) Has a NMFS-approved VMS unit capable of automatically transmitting a signal indicating the vessel’s accurate position at least once every 5 minutes while in or near the Great South Channel HMA. (D) Declares each trip into the HMA through the VMS and fishes exclusively inside HMA dredge exemption areas on such trips. (E) When fishing for surfclams in an HMA exemption area, uses only hydraulic clam dredge gear. (F) When fishing for mussels in an HMA exemption area, any dredge on board the vessel does not exceed 8 ft (2.4 m), measured at the widest point in the bail of the dredge, and the vessel does not possess, or land any species of fish other than blue mussels. (ii) McBlair Dredge Exemption Area. (A) The McBlair Dredge Exemption Area is defined by the following points connected in the order listed by straight lines: MCBLAIR DREDGE EXEMPTION AREA Point 1 2 3 4 1 ............... ............... ............... ............... ............... Longitude 69° 69° 69° 69° 69° 49.255′ 46.951′ 46.951′ 49.187′ 49.255′ W W W W W Latitude 41° 41° 41° 41° 41° 25.878′ N 25.878′ N 19.34′ N 19.34′ N 25.878′ N (B) The McBlair Dredge Exemption Area is open year-round. (iii) Old South Dredge Exemption Area. (A) The Old South Dredge Exemption Area is defined by the following points connected in the order listed by straight lines: E:\FR\FM\17SEP1.SGM 17SEP1 48904 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 180 / Tuesday, September 17, 2019 / Proposed Rules OLD SOUTH DREDGE EXEMPTION AREA and closed to all mobile bottom-tending Point 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 1 ............... ............... ............... ............... ............... ............... ............... ............... ............... ............... Longitude 69° 69° 69° 69° 69° 69° 69° 69° 69° 69° 47′ W 44′ W 44.22′ W 45′ W 47′ W 47′ W 49.101′ W 49.116′ W 47′ W 47′ W Latitude 41° 41° 41° 41° 41° 41° 41° 41° 41° 41° 15′ N 15′ N 10.432′ N 7′ N 7′ N 11′ N 11′ N 12.5′ N 12.5′ N 15′ N jbell on DSK3GLQ082PROD with PROPOSALS (B) The Old South Dredge Exemption Area is open from May 1–October 31, VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:32 Sep 16, 2019 Jkt 247001 gear November 1–April 30. (iv) Fishing Rip Dredge Exemption Area. (A) The Fishing Rip Dredge Exemption Area is defined by the following points connected in the order listed by straight lines: FISHING RIP DREDGE EXEMPTION AREA Point 1 2 3 4 ............... ............... ............... ............... PO 00000 Frm 00111 Longitude 69° 69° 69° 69° 28.829′ 27.106′ 29.311′ 27.034′ Fmt 4702 W W W W Latitude 41° 41° 41° 41° Sfmt 9990 10.963′ N 10.485′ N 6.699′ N 6.609′ N FISHING RIP DREDGE EXEMPTION AREA—Continued Point 5 6 7 8 1 ............... ............... ............... ............... ............... Longitude 69° 69° 69° 69° 69° 27.376′ 29.905′ 32.579′ 31.193′ 28.829′ W W W W W Latitude 41° 41° 41° 41° 41° 3.198′ N 1.297′ N 5.368′ N 7.356′ N 10.963′ N (B) The Fishing Rip Dredge Exemption Area is open year-round. * * * * * [FR Doc. 2019–19815 Filed 9–16–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\17SEP1.SGM 17SEP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 180 (Tuesday, September 17, 2019)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 48899-48904]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-19815]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 190909-0024]
RIN 0648-BI77


Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Habitat Clam Dredge 
Exemption Framework

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS proposes to implement the New England Fishery Management 
Council's Habitat Clam Dredge Exemption Framework Adjustment to its 
Fishery Management Plans. The proposed action is intended to establish 
areas within the Great South Channel Habitat Management Area where 
vessels could fish for Atlantic surfclams or mussels with dredge gear, 
consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and 
Management Act and the Omnibus Habitat Amendment 2. This action is 
necessary in order for the fishing industry to access part of the 
surfclam and mussel resource within the Habitat Management Area.

DATES: Comments must be received by October 17, 2019.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NMFS-2019-0043, by either of the following methods:
    Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via 
the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal.
    1. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-;NMFS-2019-0043,
    2. Click the ``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields
    3. Enter or attach your comments.

-OR-

    Mail: Submit written comments to Michael Pentony, Regional 
Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, Greater Atlantic 
Regional Fisheries Office, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 
01930. Mark the outside of the envelope: ``Comments on the Proposed 
Rule for Habitat Clam Dredge Exemption Framework.''
    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).
    A draft environmental assessment (EA) has been prepared for this 
action that describes the proposed measures and other considered 
alternatives, as well as provides an analysis of the impacts of the 
proposed measures and alternatives. Copies of the specifications 
document, including the EA and the Initial Regulatory Flexibility 
Analysis (IRFA), are available on request from Thomas Nies, Executive 
Director, New England Fishery Management Council, 50 Water Street, Mill 
2, Newburyport,

[[Page 48900]]

MA 01950. These documents are also accessible via the internet at 
www.nefmc.org.
    Written comments regarding the burden-hour estimates or other 
aspects of the collection-of-information requirements contained in this 
proposed rule may be submitted to the Greater Atlantic Regional 
Fisheries Office and by email to [email protected] or fax to 
(202) 395-7285.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Douglas Potts, Fishery Policy Analyst, 
978-281-9341.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The Great South Channel Habitat Management Area (GSC HMA) was 
created by the final rule to implement the New England Fishery 
Management Council's Omnibus Habitat Amendment 2 (OHA2) (83 FR 15240; 
April 9, 2018), which prohibited the use of all mobile bottom-tending 
fishing gear in the GSC HMA. The GSC HMA contains complex benthic 
habitat that is important for juvenile cod and other fish species, and 
it is susceptible to the adverse impacts of fishing gear. The OHA2 
included a 1-year delay of the GSC HMA closure that allowed the 
surfclam fishery to continue fishing with hydraulic clam dredges in the 
GSC HMA. This delay was intended to give the Council time to determine 
if a long-term exemption is warranted. The 1-year delay ended on April 
9, 2019, and the GSC HMA is now closed to all mobile bottom-tending 
fishing gear.
    The Council initiated the Habitat Clam Dredge Exemption Framework 
Adjustment in 2015 as a following action to OHA2. Development of the 
framework was guided by a problem statement approved by the Council in 
October 2015:

    The Council intends through this action to identify areas within 
the Great South Channel and Georges Shoal Habitat Management Areas 
that are currently fished or contain high energy sand and gravel 
that could be suitable for a hydraulic clam dredging exemption that 
balances achieving optimum yield for the surfclam/ocean quahog 
fishery with the requirement to minimize adverse fishing effects on 
habitat to the extent practicable and is consistent with the 
underlying objectives of [OHA2].

    In the final stages of OHA2 development, the Council was also 
approached by parties interested in developing a mussel dredge fishery 
in the GSC HMA. Currently there is no Federal mussel fishery management 
plan.
    The Georges Shoal HMA was disapproved by NMFS, and the framework 
became solely focused on the GSC HMA. Development of the Habitat Clam 
Dredge Exemption Framework occurred over several meetings of Council's 
Habitat Plan Development Team, with input from the Council's Habitat 
Committee and the full Council. While the primary focus of the 
framework was an exemption for the existing surfclam fishery, most of 
the alternatives considered could be implemented with or without the 
exemption applying to the mussel fishery as well. The Council took 
final action at its December 2018 meeting selecting preferred 
alternatives and approving the action for submission to NMFS. This rule 
proposes management measures necessary to implement the Framework.

Proposed Measures

    This action would establish three dredge exemption areas (McBlair, 
Old South, and Fishing Rip) within the GSC HMA where a vessel could 
potentially fish for surfclams or blue mussels. Tables 1 through 3 
contain the coordinates for the proposed exemption areas and are 
illustrated in Figure 1. Each area would be defined by the following 
points connected in the order listed by straight lines.

         Table 1--Coordinates for McBlair Dredge Exemption Area
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Point                   Longitude             Latitude
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1.............................  69[deg] 49.255' W    41[deg] 25.878' N
2.............................  69[deg] 46.951' W    41[deg] 25.878' N
3.............................  69[deg] 46.951' W    41[deg] 19.34' N
4.............................  69[deg] 49.187' W    41[deg] 19.34' N
1.............................  69[deg] 49.255' W    41[deg] 25.878' N
------------------------------------------------------------------------


        Table 2--Coordinates for Old South Dredge Exemption Area
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Point                   Longitude             Latitude
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1.............................  69[deg] 47' W        41[deg] 15' N
2.............................  69[deg] 44' W        41[deg] 15' N
3.............................  69[deg] 44.22' W     41[deg] 10.432' N
4.............................  69[deg] 45' W        41[deg] 7' N
5.............................  69[deg] 47' W        41[deg] 7' N
6.............................  69[deg] 47' W        41[deg] 11' N
7.............................  69[deg] 49.101' W    41[deg] 11' N
8.............................  69[deg] 49.116' W    41[deg] 12.5' N
9.............................  69[deg] 47' W        41[deg] 12.5' N
1.............................  69[deg] 47' W        41[deg] 15' N
------------------------------------------------------------------------


       Table 3--Coordinates for Fishing Rip Dredge Exemption Area
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Point                   Longitude             Latitude
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1.............................  69[deg] 28.829' W    41[deg] 10.963' N
2.............................  69[deg] 27.106' W    41[deg] 10.485' N
3.............................  69[deg] 29.311' W    41[deg] 6.699' N
4.............................  69[deg] 27.034' W    41[deg] 6.609' N
5.............................  69[deg] 27.376' W    41[deg] 3.198' N
6.............................  69[deg] 29.905' W    41[deg] 1.297' N
7.............................  69[deg] 32.579' W    41[deg] 5.368' N
8.............................  69[deg] 31.193' W    41[deg] 7.356' N
1.............................  69[deg] 28.829' W    41[deg] 10.963' N
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    These exemption areas were chosen to allow limited access to some 
historical surfclam fishing grounds while protecting the majority of 
the HMA. The three exemption areas total only 6.9 percent of the total 
area of the HMA and do not include the areas most clearly identified as 
containing complex and vulnerable habitats. Because of the small area 
being considered for this exemption, this action would not affect the 
overall conservation benefit of the HMA. The McBlair and Fishing Rip 
Dredge Exemption Areas would be open to fishing for surfclams or 
mussels year round. The Old South Dredge Exemption Area would be closed 
to all mobile bottom-tending gear from November 1 through April 30 and 
open for surfclam or mussel fishing from May 1 through October 31 each 
year. The Old South Dredge Exemption Area overlaps with an area 
identified in OHA2 as a historical cod spawning area. The annual 
closure from November through April is meant to avoid times when cod 
are expected to spawn and to reduce the potential for dredge fishing to 
disturb spawning aggregations of cod.

[[Page 48901]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP17SE19.002

    In addition to the proposed exemption areas of McBlair, Old South, 
and Fishing Rip, the Council tasked its Habitat Plan Development Team 
to work with the surfclam industry to develop a prioritized list of 
research needs concerning two other areas of the HMA (Rose and Crown 
and Davis Bank East). The intent of the Council was to develop an 
exempted fishing permit program for these areas that could support the 
potential development of additional exemptions in the future. Industry 
members have been working with research organizations on potential 
exempted fishing permits (EFP) to conduct research in these areas. 
Requests for EFPs will be evaluated consistent with our normal practice 
and are separate from this rulemaking.
    To facilitate enforcement of the small exemption areas, 
participating vessels would be required to obtain a letter of 
authorization (LOA) from the NMFS Regional Administrator. Similar LOAs 
are used to grant access to specific areas or programs in other 
fisheries and may be applied for using a common form available from 
NMFS' Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office (GARFO). If a vessel 
violates any of the requirements of the exemption areas, the LOA may be 
canceled, prohibiting future access to the GSC HMA.
    To receive the LOA, a vessel must hold a Federal commercial 
surfclam permit, which comes with requirements including reporting each 
fishing trip, using a vessel monitoring system (VMS), and selling catch 
exclusively to a federally permitted dealer. The LOA would require the 
vessel have a NMFS-approved VMS unit that can automatically adjust the 
frequency of position information sent to NMFS. A list of qualifying 
VMS units is available from GARFO. While within the GSC HMA, vessels 
would be subject to an increased VMS position polling rate from once 
per hour to once every 5 minutes. This would provide finer scale 
resolution on the location of the vessel and allow NMFS to monitor 
compliance with the small exemption areas. The increased polling rate 
would begin automatically as the vessel approaches the GSC HMA and 
would continue until after the vessel leaves the area. Vessels fishing 
in the GSC HMA would be required to use new VMS trip declaration codes 
that would allow law enforcement to know they intend to fish in the GSC 
HMA for surfclams or blue mussels.
    Vessels fishing for surfclams within the GSC HMA would still be 
subject to

[[Page 48902]]

the requirements of the individual transferable quota system and other 
provisions of the surfclam regulations. This includes restrictions on 
retention of other species of fish caught incidentally while using 
hydraulic clam dredge gear, which are typically determined by the other 
Federal fishing permits the vessel holds.
    To fish for mussels in the GSC HMA, a vessel would be required to 
hold a surfclam vessel permit. This permit can be obtained from GARFO. 
By holding a surfclam permit, mussel fishing vessels in the GSC HMA 
would be subject to permit reporting and monitoring requirements that 
would not normally apply to vessels fishing for mussels in Federal 
waters. Mussel fishing vessels would also need to obtain the new LOA 
and use the VMS trip declaration code for any trip in the GSC HMA. 
Vessels would be required to use a non-hydraulic mussel dredges (also 
called a dry dredge), which could not exceed 8 ft (2.4 m) in width. 
Vessels fishing for mussels could not fish for, harvest, or land any 
species of fish other than blue mussels. Any violation of permit, 
reporting, monitoring, or LOA requirements for fishing in the GSC HMA 
could result in NMFS revoking the vessel's LOA, which would prevent 
further fishing by that vessel in the HMA.
    Pursuant to section 303(c) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), the Council has 
deemed that this proposed rule is necessary and appropriate for the 
purpose of implementing the Habitat Clam Dredge Exemption Framework 
Adjustment, with the exception of the measure noted below as proposed 
under the Secretary's authority under section 305(d) of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act. Under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, we are required to publish 
proposed rules for comment after preliminarily determining whether they 
are consistent with applicable law. The Magnuson-Stevens Act permits us 
to approve, partially approve, or disapprove measures proposed by the 
Council based only on whether the measures are consistent with the 
fishery management plan, plan amendment, the Magnuson-Stevens Act and 
its National Standards, and other applicable law. Otherwise, we must 
defer to the Council's policy choices. We are seeking comment on the 
Council's proposed measures in the Habitat Clam Dredge Exemption 
Framework Adjustment and whether they are consistent with the Council's 
FMPs and the OHA2, the Magnuson-Stevens Act and its National Standards, 
and other applicable law.

Clarification

    This action also proposes a minor modification to the regulations 
under authority granted the Secretary under section 305(d) of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act to ensure that Fishery Management Plans (FMP) are 
implemented as intended and consistent with the requirements of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act. This action proposes to define a ``straight 
line'' with regard to regulated areas, as a rhumb line, unless 
explicitly stated otherwise. When fishery managers develop regulated 
areas (e.g., scallop access areas or Northeast multispecies closed 
areas), the areas are defined by a series of points of latitude and 
longitude connected by straight lines when drawn on a standard nautical 
chart. Nautical charts use a Mercator projection so straight lines 
drawn on a chart are lines of constant compass bearing, also known as 
rhumb lines. To make the regulations as unambiguous as possible, we 
propose to add this definition and invite the public to comment on this 
proposal.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Assistant Administrator has preliminarily determined that this 
proposed rule is consistent with the New England Council's FMPs, 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 Council prepared a draft EA for this action that analyzes the 
impacts of this proposed rule. The EA includes an initial regulatory 
flexibility analysis (IRFA), as required by section 603 of the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). The IRFA describes the economic 
impact this proposed rule, if adopted, would have on small entities. A 
description of the action, why it is being considered, and the legal 
basis for this action are contained at the beginning of this section 
and in the preamble to this proposed rule. A summary of the RFA 
analysis follows. A copy of the detailed RFA analysis is available from 
the Council (see ADDRESSES).

Description of the Reasons Why Action Is Being Considered

    This action proposes management measures to allow fishing with 
dredge gear for Atlantic surfclams or blue mussels in three exemption 
areas within the Great South Channel HMA. The measures seek to minimize 
to the extent practicable the adverse effects on complex habitat within 
the HMA by fishing for surfclams and mussels in the area.

Statement of the Objectives of, and Legal Basis for, This Proposed Rule

    This action is taken under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens 
Act and regulations at 50 CFR part 648. A complete description of the 
action, why it is being considered, and the legal basis for this action 
are contained in the Clam Dredge Exemption Framework document, and 
elsewhere in the preamble to this proposed rule, and are not repeated 
here.

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

    This proposed rule affects small entities engaged in commercial 
fishing operations in the Federal waters off Southern New England, 
Georges Bank, and the Gulf of Maine, and permitted to fish for either 
surfclams or mussels. In 2017, eight large commercial fishing 
businesses and 377 small commercial fishing businesses held either a 
surfclam or ocean quahog federal permit. The number of fishermen 
actively engaged in the surfclam and ocean quahog fishery is much 
smaller than the number of individuals permitted for those two 
fisheries. This is because there is an individual transferrable quota 
associated with both species, meaning only individuals holding or 
leasing quota can land surfclam and ocean quahog. Over the last 3 
years, the number of businesses that have been active in the areas 
proposed for exemption areas has been between 10 (8 small and 2 large) 
and 12 (10 small and 2 large).
    Between 10 (2015) and 11 (2016, 2017) vessels were permitted and 
active in the Massachusetts mussel fishery in the most recent 3-year 
period, although only one or two are expected to fish in the HMA. The 
current status of the mussel fishery in the Great South Channel is 
exploratory, and ownership data is not available from which to assess 
business size for state-permitted vessels. This situation precludes a 
more thorough investigation into the number and size of mussel 
businesses regulated under the Clam Dredge Framework.
    Small businesses have historically generated a higher percentage of 
their revenue within the Great South Channel HMA and are expected to 
benefit more from any exemption than large businesses, relatively 
speaking.

[[Page 48903]]

Description of the Projected Reporting, Record-Keeping, and Other 
Compliance Requirements of This Proposed Rule

    This action would require an annual letter of authorization for 
fishermen accessing the Great South Channel HMA exemption areas and 
each trip into the exemption areas would require vessels use a new 
Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) trip declaration code and be subject to 
additional position polling when inside the HMA.

Federal Rules Which May Duplicate, Overlap, or Conflict With This 
Proposed Rule

    NMFS is not aware of any relevant Federal rules that may duplicate, 
overlap, or conflict with this proposed rule.

Description of Significant Alternatives to the Proposed Action Which 
Accomplish the Stated Objectives of Applicable Statutes and Which 
Minimize Any Significant Economic Impact on Small Entities

    This action proposes a set of three discrete exemption areas within 
the GSC HMA where dredge fishing for surfclams and mussels would be 
allowed. The Council considered three other options. The Council also 
evaluated taking no action thereby keeping the entire GSC HMA closed to 
dredge fishing for surfclams and blue mussels. All of the action 
alternatives would result in some level of increased revenue for 
vessels fishing in the exemption areas. While this action does not 
affect the overall quota for surfclams, the catch rate in the exemption 
areas is potentially higher than in other open areas. Therefore, the 
opening of these areas may not affect the total harvest of surfclams, 
but may improve the efficiency with which part of the quota is 
harvested. Moreover, within the affected entities, some may have had a 
disproportionate historic harvest from areas now closed to hydraulic 
dredges in the GSC HMA. In choosing a preferred alternative, the 
Council considered the tradeoffs between short-term economic benefit to 
the surfclam and mussel industries and potential long-term benefit to 
other fisheries through the protection of essential fish habitat from 
the adverse impacts of fishing gear.
    This proposed rule contains an addition to a collection-of-
information requirement subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) 
and which has been approved by the Office of Management and Budget 
(OMB) under control number 0648-0202. Public reporting burden for 
obtaining a letter of authorization to fish within the GSC HMA is 
estimated to average five minutes per response, including the time for 
reviewing instructions, searching existing data sources, gathering and 
maintaining the data needed, and completing and reviewing the 
collection information. The public reporting burden for increasing the 
VMS location data from once per hour to once every five minutes is 
estimated to cost participating fishermen $0.84 per hour while a vessel 
is within 3 nm (5.6 km) of the HMA and subject to the higher position 
polling rate. Based on historical fishing effort, this would translate 
to an average annual cost of $8,639 spread across all vessels active in 
the HMA.
    Public comment is sought regarding: Whether this proposed 
collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of 
the functions of the agency, including whether the information shall 
have practical utility; the accuracy of the burden estimate; ways to 
enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be 
collected; and ways to minimize the burden of the collection of 
information, including through the use of automated collection 
techniques or other forms of information technology. Send comments on 
these or any other aspects of the collection of information to the 
Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office at the ADDRESSES above, and 
by email to [email protected] or fax to (202) 395-7285.
    Notwithstanding any other provision of the law, no person is 
required to respond to, and no person shall be subject to penalty for 
failure to comply with, a collection of information subject to the 
requirements of the PRA, unless that collection of information displays 
a currently valid OMB control number.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648

    Fisheries, Fishing, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    Dated: September 9, 2019.
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.  648.2, add, in alphabetical order, a definition for 
``Straight line.''


Sec.  648.2  Definitions.

* * * * *
    Straight line, with regard to regulated areas, means a rhumb line, 
unless explicitly stated otherwise.
* * * * *
0
3. In 648.370, revise paragraph (h)(2) to read as follows:


Sec.  648.370  Habitat Management Areas.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *
    (2) Atlantic Surfclam and Mussel Dredge Exemption Areas. (i) Dredge 
Exemption Area Requirements. A vessel may fish in one or more of the 
Dredge Exemption Areas below, provided the area is open and the vessel 
meets the following requirements:
    (A) Holds a federal Atlantic surfclam vessel permit.
    (B) Has been issued a Letter of Authorization to fish in the Great 
South Channel HMA from the Regional Administrator.
    (C) Has a NMFS-approved VMS unit capable of automatically 
transmitting a signal indicating the vessel's accurate position at 
least once every 5 minutes while in or near the Great South Channel 
HMA.
    (D) Declares each trip into the HMA through the VMS and fishes 
exclusively inside HMA dredge exemption areas on such trips.
    (E) When fishing for surfclams in an HMA exemption area, uses only 
hydraulic clam dredge gear.
    (F) When fishing for mussels in an HMA exemption area, any dredge 
on board the vessel does not exceed 8 ft (2.4 m), measured at the 
widest point in the bail of the dredge, and the vessel does not 
possess, or land any species of fish other than blue mussels.
    (ii) McBlair Dredge Exemption Area. (A) The McBlair Dredge 
Exemption Area is defined by the following points connected in the 
order listed by straight lines:

                      McBlair Dredge Exemption Area
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Point                   Longitude             Latitude
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1.............................  69[deg] 49.255' W    41[deg] 25.878' N
2.............................  69[deg] 46.951' W    41[deg] 25.878' N
3.............................  69[deg] 46.951' W    41[deg] 19.34' N
4.............................  69[deg] 49.187' W    41[deg] 19.34' N
1.............................  69[deg] 49.255' W    41[deg] 25.878' N
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    (B) The McBlair Dredge Exemption Area is open year-round.
    (iii) Old South Dredge Exemption Area. (A) The Old South Dredge 
Exemption Area is defined by the following points connected in the 
order listed by straight lines:

[[Page 48904]]



                     Old South Dredge Exemption Area
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Point                   Longitude             Latitude
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1.............................  69[deg] 47' W        41[deg] 15' N
2.............................  69[deg] 44' W        41[deg] 15' N
3.............................  69[deg] 44.22' W     41[deg] 10.432' N
4.............................  69[deg] 45' W        41[deg] 7' N
5.............................  69[deg] 47' W        41[deg] 7' N
6.............................  69[deg] 47' W        41[deg] 11' N
7.............................  69[deg] 49.101' W    41[deg] 11' N
8.............................  69[deg] 49.116' W    41[deg] 12.5' N
9.............................  69[deg] 47' W        41[deg] 12.5' N
1.............................  69[deg] 47' W        41[deg] 15' N
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    (B) The Old South Dredge Exemption Area is open from May 1-October 
31, and closed to all mobile bottom-tending gear November 1-April 30.
    (iv) Fishing Rip Dredge Exemption Area. (A) The Fishing Rip Dredge 
Exemption Area is defined by the following points connected in the 
order listed by straight lines:

                    Fishing Rip Dredge Exemption Area
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Point                   Longitude             Latitude
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1.............................  69[deg] 28.829' W    41[deg] 10.963' N
2.............................  69[deg] 27.106' W    41[deg] 10.485' N
3.............................  69[deg] 29.311' W    41[deg] 6.699' N
4.............................  69[deg] 27.034' W    41[deg] 6.609' N
5.............................  69[deg] 27.376' W    41[deg] 3.198' N
6.............................  69[deg] 29.905' W    41[deg] 1.297' N
7.............................  69[deg] 32.579' W    41[deg] 5.368' N
8.............................  69[deg] 31.193' W    41[deg] 7.356' N
1.............................  69[deg] 28.829' W    41[deg] 10.963' N
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    (B) The Fishing Rip Dredge Exemption Area is open year-round.
* * * * *

[FR Doc. 2019-19815 Filed 9-16-19; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P