Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast Skate Complex; Framework Adjustment 8 and 2020-2021 Specifications, 23240-23242 [2020-07805]

Download as PDF lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with RULES 23240 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 81 / Monday, April 27, 2020 / Rules and Regulations have enabled a final rule to be published prior to May 1, 2020. Avoiding a delay in effectiveness beyond the May 1, 2020, start of the fishing year prevents vessel owners from incurring significant adverse economic impacts. A delay in implementing this rule would prevent sector vessels from fishing for groundfish until this rulemaking is finalized and sector allocations are made. This would cause major disruption and would effectively shut down the entire groundfish fishery during the delay. Being prohibited from fishing for up to 30 days would have a significant adverse economic impact on these vessels because vessels would be prevented from fishing in a month when sector vessels historically landed approximately 10 percent of several allocations, including Eastern GB cod and GB winter flounder. Any delay would have a significant adverse economic impact on these vessels that are already experiencing negative economic impacts and hardships due to the coronavirus pandemic. A delay would result in substantial lost fishing opportunities during a peak season for groundfish vessels. Additionally, any delay would diminish the intent of this rule to provide flexibility in vessel operations and maximum opportunity to catch the fishery quota. For the reasons outlined above, good cause exists to waive the otherwise applicable requirement to delay implementation of this rule for a period of 30 days. Additionally, sector exemptions grant relief from restrictions, which provides operational flexibility and efficiency, and helps to avoid short-term adverse economic impacts on NE multispecies sector vessels. When operating under, sector vessels are exempted from common pool trip limits, DAS limits, and seasonal closed areas. These exemptions provide vessels with flexibility in choosing when to fish, how long to fish, what species to target, and how much catch they may land. They also relieve some gear restrictions, reporting and monitoring requirements, and provide access to additional fishing grounds through the authorization of exemptions from Northeast multispecies regulations. This flexibility increases efficiency and reduces costs for sector vessels. This action is exempt from the procedures of Executive Order (E.O.) 12866. This rule does not contain policies with Federalism or ‘‘takings’’ implications as those terms are defined in E.O. 13132 and E.O. 12630, respectively. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:16 Apr 24, 2020 Jkt 250001 This interim final rule is exempt from the procedures of the Regulatory Flexibility Act because the rule is issued without opportunity for prior notice and opportunity for public comment. [FR Doc. 2020–08399 Filed 4–24–20; 8:45 am] including the EA and other supporting documents for the action, are available upon request from Thomas A. Nies, Executive Director, New England Fishery Management Council, 50 Water Street, Newburyport, MA 01950. These documents are also accessible via the internet at www.nefmc.org. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Cynthia Ferrio, Fishery Management Specialist, (978) 281–9180. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: BILLING CODE 3510–22–P Background Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: April 15, 2020. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 200408–0105] RIN 0648–BJ46 Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast Skate Complex; Framework Adjustment 8 and 2020– 2021 Specifications National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: NMFS is implementing final measures recommended by the New England Fishery Management Council in Framework Adjustment 8 to the Northeast Skate Complex Fishery Management Plan. This action specifies skate catch limits for fishing years 2020 and 2021 and increases seasonal possession limits for both the wing and bait fisheries. This action is necessary to establish skate specifications consistent with the most recent scientific information and the requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The intent of this action is to establish catch limits for the skate fishery, while providing operational flexibility to fishery participants. DATES: Effective on May 1, 2020. ADDRESSES: The New England Fishery Management Council prepared an environmental assessment (EA) for Northeast Skate Complex Framework Adjustment 8 that describes the action and other considered alternatives. The EA provides an analysis of the biological, economic, and social impacts of the preferred measures and other considered alternatives; a Regulatory Impact Review; and economic analysis. Copies of this framework adjustment, SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00036 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 The New England Fishery Management Council manages a complex of seven skate species (barndoor, clearnose, little, rosette, smooth, thorny, and winter skate) off the New England and mid-Atlantic coasts through the Northeast Skate Complex Fishery Management Plan (FMP). The thorny skate stock is 16 years into a 25-year rebuilding plan, and possession of the species remains prohibited until the stock is rebuilt. None of the six other skate stocks are overfished or subject to overfishing. Skates are harvested and managed within two targeted fisheries, one for food (the wing fishery) and one for bait used in other fisheries (the bait fishery). The FMP requires that the Council annually review and establish catch and possession limits for the skate fishery through the specifications process for up to two fishing years at a time. This action implements increased quotas and seasonal possession limits for both the wing and bait skate fisheries in fishing years 2020 and 2021. The current specifications (84 FR 4373; February 15, 2019) end on April 30, 2020, and will roll over in the event this rule is delayed beyond that date. The proposed rule for this action published in the Federal Register on February 5, 2020 (85 FR 6494), and comments were accepted through March 6, 2020. We received eight comments from the public, but no changes to the final rule are necessary as a result of those comments (see Comments and Responses for additional detail). Additional background information regarding the development of these specifications was provided in the proposed rule and is not repeated here. Final Action We approve Skate Framework 8 and the Council-recommended specifications as outlined in our proposed rule for this action (85 FR 6494). These 2020–2021 specifications have higher fishery catch limits than fishing year 2019, including a 4-percent increase in acceptable biological catch E:\FR\FM\27APR1.SGM 27APR1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 81 / Monday, April 27, 2020 / Rules and Regulations (ABC) to 32,715 metric tons (mt) and a 13-percent increase in the overall total allowable landings (TAL) to 17,864 mt. Each of the wing and bait fisheries’ TALs will also increase 13 percent from 2019. The final bait fishery TAL will be 5,984 mt, and the wing fishery TAL will be 11,879 mt. These changes are primarily in response to recent decreases in dead discards and state landings. The fishing year for skates is from May 1 to April 30. However, the directed wing and bait fisheries are managed in separate seasons to allow us to more closely manage harvest. The skate FMP regulations at 50 CFR 648.322 specify the allocation of skate TAL to each fishery (33.5 percent to bait and 66.5 percent to wing), and to each season of the fishing year. In the wing fishery, 57 percent of the wing TAL is 23241 allocated to Season 1 (May 1–August 31), and the rest to Season 2 (September 1–April 30). In the bait fishery, 30.8 percent is allocated to Season 1 (May 1– July 31), 37.1 percent is allocated to Season 2 (August 1–October 31), and the remainder is given to Season 3 (November 1–April 30). Table 1 shows the seasonal TALs for the wing and bait fisheries under this action. TABLE 1—SEASONAL TAL ALLOCATIONS FOR THE 2020–2021 SKATE WING AND BAIT FISHERIES [In metric tons] Wing Fishery ............................................. Season Season Season Season Season Bait Fishery ............................................... This action also increases seasonal possession limits in both the wing and bait fisheries to allow more flexibility to harvest the additional quota. As described in the proposed rule, the bait fishery Season 3 possession limit will increase in order to maintain the 25,000lb (11,340-kg) possession limit all year. 1 2 1 2 3 (May 1–August 31) ...................................................................................... (September 1–April 30) ............................................................................... (May 1–July 31) ........................................................................................... (August 1–October 31) ................................................................................ (November 1–April 30) ................................................................................ The wing fishery Season 1 possession limit increases to 3,000 lb (1,361 kg), and the Season 2 possession limit increases to 5,000 lb (2,268 kg). The barndoor skate possession limit in the wing fishery would also increase to 750 lb (340 kg) in Season 1, and to 1,025 lb (465 kg) in Season 2. All other 6,771 5,108 1,843 2,220 1,921 possession limits, including incidental possession limits of 500 lb (227 kg) in the wing fishery and 8,000 lb (3,629 kg) in the bait fishery, remain unchanged. Table 2 shows all of the possession limits for the skate fishery upon implementation of action. TABLE 2—SKATE FISHERY POSSESSION LIMITS ** FOR FISHING YEARS 2020 AND 2021 Trip type Season Wing weight Whole weight Barndoor * wing weight Barndoor * whole weight Northeast (NE) Multispecies, Scallop, or Monkfish Day-At-Sea (DAS). NE Multispecies B DAS Non-DAS ........................ Skate Bait under Letter of Authorization. Season 1 ....................... Season 2 ....................... 3,000 lb, 1,361 kg .. 5,000 lb, 2,268 kg .. 6,810 lb, 3,089 kg ...... 11,350 lb, 5,148 kg .... 750 lb, 340 kg ........ 1,250 lb, 465 kg ..... 1,703 lb, 772 kg. 2,838 lb, 1,287 kg. All Year .......................... All Year .......................... All Year .......................... 220 lb, 100 kg ........ 500 lb, 227 kg ........ 0 ............................. 500 lb, 227 kg ............ 1,135 lb, 515 kg ......... 25,000 lb, 11,340 kg .. 0 ............................. 0 ............................. 0 ............................. 0. 0. 0. * Barndoor skate possession limits are within the overall skate possession limit for each trip, not in addition to it. ** Possession limits may be modified in-season in order to prevent catch from exceeding quotas. The Council will review these specifications for 2021 to determine if any changes need to be made prior to the 2021 fishing year. NMFS will publish a notice prior to the May 1, 2021, start of the 2021 fishing year to confirm or announce any necessary changes. lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with RULES Comments and Responses The public comment period for the proposed rule ended on March 6, 2020, and eight comments were received from the public. Five commenters supported the action, noting the potential to decrease discards with increased possession limits, and the benefit of higher quotas to industry as long as the stocks remain healthy. NMFS agrees, and these are the primary reasons for increasing the quotas and limits in this action. One member of the public VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:16 Apr 24, 2020 Jkt 250001 submitted two comments. One comment stated that he was a skate bait fisherman and did not want any changes to the fishery, and the second comment added that he would like a change to allow vessels to keep wings as bycatch on a bait trip, but not the changes proposed by this action. NMFS understands the commenter’s concern for change, but this action was developed to provide the highest expected benefit to both the wing and bait skate fisheries. This action does not address incidental or bycatch limits of other fisheries in the bait or wing fisheries, although the Council could consider this in a future framework action. This action increases the bait fishery Season 3 possession limit to 25,000 lb (11,340 kg), that season’s limit prior to Framework Adjustment 4 in 2018 (83 FR 6133; February 13, 2018). PO 00000 Frm 00037 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 The final commenter claimed that this action was promoting overfishing and overexploitation of the skate resource at the expense of the other species that prey on skates. The commenter requested that the total take for skates be reduced to 10 mt. The commenter presented no rationale or evidence supporting these claims. This action is based on the best available science, including a 2019 stock assessment update and Northeast Fisheries Science Center trawl survey data through spring 2019. It was developed to prevent overfishing and maintain healthy skate stocks while allowing the fishery to achieve optimum yield. No changes were made to the proposed rule as a result of these comments. E:\FR\FM\27APR1.SGM 27APR1 23242 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 81 / Monday, April 27, 2020 / Rules and Regulations lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with RULES Changes From the Proposed Rule NMFS has not made any changes to the proposed regulatory text, and there are no substantive changes from the proposed rule. Classification Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MagnusonStevens Act), the NMFS Administrator, Greater Atlantic Region, has determined that this final rule is necessary and consistent with the Northeast Skate Complex FMP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law. The Council reviewed the Framework 8 regulations and deemed them necessary and appropriate to implement consistent with section 303(c) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. This action relieves a restriction by increasing catch and possession limits in the skate fishery, and is therefore not subject to the 30-day delayed effectiveness provision of the APA pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(1). This final rule increases the annual TALs for both the skate wing and bait fisheries by 13 percent, and increases seasonal possession limits in both fisheries. These increases are intended to provide additional flexibility and economic opportunity for the skate fishing industry. The 2020 fishing year begins on May 1, 2020. If the 30-day delayed effectiveness period postpones the implementation of these measures beyond the May 1 start of the fishing year, the unnecessarily restrictive, lower 2019 catch limits will roll over into the beginning of 2020. This would be contrary to the public interest as it could create confusion and potential economic harm to the skate fisheries through lost opportunity under the lower catch limits at the beginning of the fishing year. Furthermore, this action does not require any additional time to come into compliance with this rule. Unlike actions that require an adjustment period, skate fishing vessels will not have to purchase new equipment or otherwise expend time or money to comply with these management measures. Therefore, NMFS also finds good cause not to delay this final rule’s effectiveness, consistent with 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3); and to implement these measures on May 1, 2020 for the 2020 fishing year. This final rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:16 Apr 24, 2020 Jkt 250001 This final rule is considered an Executive Order 13771 deregulatory action. To determine the cost savings associated with this rule, the estimated revenue from the increased possession limits were compared to that of the No Action alternative (see ADDRESSES to locate the EA for more detailed information on the estimated revenue and alternatives). Based on a simulation using 2018 fishery data, this action is expected to increase skate wing fishery revenues by 4.65 percent ($250,329), and skate bait fishery revenues by 6.6 percent ($72,020), for a total net increase of $322,349. This action also increases the TAL by 13 percent, reducing the likelihood that a quota trigger will be reached and reduce possession to the incidental limit in either the wing or bait fishery. This increases economic opportunity and flexibility, but is difficult to quantify. Therefore, the total estimated net cost savings is $322,349 in 2018 dollars, and the annualized savings to perpetuity is $0.29 million per year in 2016 dollars. The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration during the proposed rule stage that this action would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The factual basis for the certification was published in the proposed rule and is not repeated here. No comments were received regarding this certification, and the initial certification remains unchanged. As a result, a final regulatory flexibility analysis is not required and none has been prepared. This action does not contain a collection of information requirement for the purposes of the Paperwork Reduction Act. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648 Fisheries, Fishing, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements. Dated: April 8, 2020. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 648 is amended as follows: PART 648—FISHERIES OF THE NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES 1. The authority citation for part 648 continues to read as follows: ■ PO 00000 Frm 00038 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 9990 Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. 2. In § 648.322, revise paragraphs (b)(1)(i) and (ii) and (c)(3) to read as follows: ■ § 648.322 Skate allocation, possession, and landing provisions. * * * * * (b) * * * (1) * * * (i) A vessel or operator of a vessel that has been issued a valid Federal skate permit under this part, and fishes under an Atlantic sea scallop, NE multispecies, or monkfish DAS as specified at §§ 648.53, 648.82, and 648.92, respectively, unless otherwise exempted under § 648.80 or paragraph (c) of this section, may fish for, possess, and/or land up to the allowable trip limits specified as follows: Up to 3,000 lb (1,361 kg) of skate wings (6,810 lb (3,089 kg) whole weight) per trip in Season 1 (May 1 through August 31), and 5,000 lb (2,268 kg) of skate wings (11,350 lb (5,148 kg) whole weight) per trip in Season 2 (September 1 through April 30), or any prorated combination of the allowable landing forms defined at paragraph (b)(5) of this section. (ii) When fishing under the possession limits specified in paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section, a vessel is allowed to possess and land up to 750 lb (340 kg) of barndoor skate wings (1,702 lb (772 kg) whole weight) per trip in Season 1, and 1,250 lb (567 kg) of barndoor skate wings (2,837 lb (1,287 kg) whole weight) per trip in Season 2. The possession limits for barndoor skate wings are included within the overall possession limit (i.e., total pounds of skate wings on board, including barndoor skate wings, are not allowed to exceed 3,000 lb (1,361 kg) in Season 1 and 5,000 lb (2,268 kg) in Season 2). Vessels are prohibited from discarding any skate wings when in possession of barndoor skate wings. Barndoor skate wings and carcasses on board a vessel subject to this possession limit must be separated from other species of fish and stored so as to be readily available for inspection. * * * * * (c) * * * (3) The vessel owner or operator possesses or lands no more than 25,000 lb (11,340 kg) of whole skates per trip. * * * * * [FR Doc. 2020–07805 Filed 4–24–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\27APR1.SGM 27APR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 81 (Monday, April 27, 2020)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 23240-23242]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-07805]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 200408-0105]
RIN 0648-BJ46


Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast Skate 
Complex; Framework Adjustment 8 and 2020-2021 Specifications

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS is implementing final measures recommended by the New 
England Fishery Management Council in Framework Adjustment 8 to the 
Northeast Skate Complex Fishery Management Plan. This action specifies 
skate catch limits for fishing years 2020 and 2021 and increases 
seasonal possession limits for both the wing and bait fisheries. This 
action is necessary to establish skate specifications consistent with 
the most recent scientific information and the requirements of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The intent of 
this action is to establish catch limits for the skate fishery, while 
providing operational flexibility to fishery participants.

DATES: Effective on May 1, 2020.

ADDRESSES: The New England Fishery Management Council prepared an 
environmental assessment (EA) for Northeast Skate Complex Framework 
Adjustment 8 that describes the action and other considered 
alternatives. The EA provides an analysis of the biological, economic, 
and social impacts of the preferred measures and other considered 
alternatives; a Regulatory Impact Review; and economic analysis. Copies 
of this framework adjustment, including the EA and other supporting 
documents for the action, are available upon request from Thomas A. 
Nies, Executive Director, New England Fishery Management Council, 50 
Water Street, Newburyport, MA 01950. These documents are also 
accessible via the internet at www.nefmc.org.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    The New England Fishery Management Council manages a complex of 
seven skate species (barndoor, clearnose, little, rosette, smooth, 
thorny, and winter skate) off the New England and mid-Atlantic coasts 
through the Northeast Skate Complex Fishery Management Plan (FMP). The 
thorny skate stock is 16 years into a 25-year rebuilding plan, and 
possession of the species remains prohibited until the stock is 
rebuilt. None of the six other skate stocks are overfished or subject 
to overfishing. Skates are harvested and managed within two targeted 
fisheries, one for food (the wing fishery) and one for bait used in 
other fisheries (the bait fishery). The FMP requires that the Council 
annually review and establish catch and possession limits for the skate 
fishery through the specifications process for up to two fishing years 
at a time. This action implements increased quotas and seasonal 
possession limits for both the wing and bait skate fisheries in fishing 
years 2020 and 2021. The current specifications (84 FR 4373; February 
15, 2019) end on April 30, 2020, and will roll over in the event this 
rule is delayed beyond that date.
    The proposed rule for this action published in the Federal Register 
on February 5, 2020 (85 FR 6494), and comments were accepted through 
March 6, 2020. We received eight comments from the public, but no 
changes to the final rule are necessary as a result of those comments 
(see Comments and Responses for additional detail). Additional 
background information regarding the development of these 
specifications was provided in the proposed rule and is not repeated 
here.

Final Action

    We approve Skate Framework 8 and the Council-recommended 
specifications as outlined in our proposed rule for this action (85 FR 
6494). These 2020-2021 specifications have higher fishery catch limits 
than fishing year 2019, including a 4-percent increase in acceptable 
biological catch

[[Page 23241]]

(ABC) to 32,715 metric tons (mt) and a 13-percent increase in the 
overall total allowable landings (TAL) to 17,864 mt. Each of the wing 
and bait fisheries' TALs will also increase 13 percent from 2019. The 
final bait fishery TAL will be 5,984 mt, and the wing fishery TAL will 
be 11,879 mt. These changes are primarily in response to recent 
decreases in dead discards and state landings.
    The fishing year for skates is from May 1 to April 30. However, the 
directed wing and bait fisheries are managed in separate seasons to 
allow us to more closely manage harvest. The skate FMP regulations at 
50 CFR 648.322 specify the allocation of skate TAL to each fishery 
(33.5 percent to bait and 66.5 percent to wing), and to each season of 
the fishing year. In the wing fishery, 57 percent of the wing TAL is 
allocated to Season 1 (May 1-August 31), and the rest to Season 2 
(September 1-April 30). In the bait fishery, 30.8 percent is allocated 
to Season 1 (May 1-July 31), 37.1 percent is allocated to Season 2 
(August 1-October 31), and the remainder is given to Season 3 (November 
1-April 30). Table 1 shows the seasonal TALs for the wing and bait 
fisheries under this action.

 Table 1--Seasonal TAL Allocations for the 2020-2021 Skate Wing and Bait
                                Fisheries
                            [In metric tons]
------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Wing Fishery...................  Season 1 (May 1-August            6,771
                                  31).
                                 Season 2 (September 1-            5,108
                                  April 30).
Bait Fishery...................  Season 1 (May 1-July              1,843
                                  31).
                                 Season 2 (August 1-               2,220
                                  October 31).
                                 Season 3 (November 1-             1,921
                                  April 30).
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    This action also increases seasonal possession limits in both the 
wing and bait fisheries to allow more flexibility to harvest the 
additional quota. As described in the proposed rule, the bait fishery 
Season 3 possession limit will increase in order to maintain the 
25,000-lb (11,340-kg) possession limit all year. The wing fishery 
Season 1 possession limit increases to 3,000 lb (1,361 kg), and the 
Season 2 possession limit increases to 5,000 lb (2,268 kg). The 
barndoor skate possession limit in the wing fishery would also increase 
to 750 lb (340 kg) in Season 1, and to 1,025 lb (465 kg) in Season 2. 
All other possession limits, including incidental possession limits of 
500 lb (227 kg) in the wing fishery and 8,000 lb (3,629 kg) in the bait 
fishery, remain unchanged. Table 2 shows all of the possession limits 
for the skate fishery upon implementation of action.

                                       Table 2--Skate Fishery Possession Limits ** for Fishing Years 2020 and 2021
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
          Trip type                Season             Wing weight                Whole weight          Barndoor * wing weight    Barndoor * whole weight
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Northeast (NE) Multispecies,  Season 1.......  3,000 lb, 1,361 kg......  6,810 lb, 3,089 kg.........  750 lb, 340 kg..........  1,703 lb, 772 kg.
 Scallop, or Monkfish Day-At- Season 2.......  5,000 lb, 2,268 kg......  11,350 lb, 5,148 kg........  1,250 lb, 465 kg........  2,838 lb, 1,287 kg.
 Sea (DAS).
NE Multispecies B DAS.......  All Year.......  220 lb, 100 kg..........  500 lb, 227 kg.............  0.......................  0.
Non-DAS.....................  All Year.......  500 lb, 227 kg..........  1,135 lb, 515 kg...........  0.......................  0.
Skate Bait under Letter of    All Year.......  0.......................  25,000 lb, 11,340 kg.......  0.......................  0.
 Authorization.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Barndoor skate possession limits are within the overall skate possession limit for each trip, not in addition to it.
** Possession limits may be modified in-season in order to prevent catch from exceeding quotas.

    The Council will review these specifications for 2021 to determine 
if any changes need to be made prior to the 2021 fishing year. NMFS 
will publish a notice prior to the May 1, 2021, start of the 2021 
fishing year to confirm or announce any necessary changes.

Comments and Responses

    The public comment period for the proposed rule ended on March 6, 
2020, and eight comments were received from the public. Five commenters 
supported the action, noting the potential to decrease discards with 
increased possession limits, and the benefit of higher quotas to 
industry as long as the stocks remain healthy. NMFS agrees, and these 
are the primary reasons for increasing the quotas and limits in this 
action. One member of the public submitted two comments. One comment 
stated that he was a skate bait fisherman and did not want any changes 
to the fishery, and the second comment added that he would like a 
change to allow vessels to keep wings as bycatch on a bait trip, but 
not the changes proposed by this action. NMFS understands the 
commenter's concern for change, but this action was developed to 
provide the highest expected benefit to both the wing and bait skate 
fisheries. This action does not address incidental or bycatch limits of 
other fisheries in the bait or wing fisheries, although the Council 
could consider this in a future framework action. This action increases 
the bait fishery Season 3 possession limit to 25,000 lb (11,340 kg), 
that season's limit prior to Framework Adjustment 4 in 2018 (83 FR 
6133; February 13, 2018).
    The final commenter claimed that this action was promoting 
overfishing and overexploitation of the skate resource at the expense 
of the other species that prey on skates. The commenter requested that 
the total take for skates be reduced to 10 mt. The commenter presented 
no rationale or evidence supporting these claims. This action is based 
on the best available science, including a 2019 stock assessment update 
and Northeast Fisheries Science Center trawl survey data through spring 
2019. It was developed to prevent overfishing and maintain healthy 
skate stocks while allowing the fishery to achieve optimum yield. No 
changes were made to the proposed rule as a result of these comments.

[[Page 23242]]

Changes From the Proposed Rule

    NMFS has not made any changes to the proposed regulatory text, and 
there are no substantive changes from the proposed rule.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), the NMFS 
Administrator, Greater Atlantic Region, has determined that this final 
rule is necessary and consistent with the Northeast Skate Complex FMP, 
other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law.
    The Council reviewed the Framework 8 regulations and deemed them 
necessary and appropriate to implement consistent with section 303(c) 
of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.
    This action relieves a restriction by increasing catch and 
possession limits in the skate fishery, and is therefore not subject to 
the 30-day delayed effectiveness provision of the APA pursuant to 5 
U.S.C. 553(d)(1). This final rule increases the annual TALs for both 
the skate wing and bait fisheries by 13 percent, and increases seasonal 
possession limits in both fisheries. These increases are intended to 
provide additional flexibility and economic opportunity for the skate 
fishing industry. The 2020 fishing year begins on May 1, 2020. If the 
30-day delayed effectiveness period postpones the implementation of 
these measures beyond the May 1 start of the fishing year, the 
unnecessarily restrictive, lower 2019 catch limits will roll over into 
the beginning of 2020. This would be contrary to the public interest as 
it could create confusion and potential economic harm to the skate 
fisheries through lost opportunity under the lower catch limits at the 
beginning of the fishing year. Furthermore, this action does not 
require any additional time to come into compliance with this rule. 
Unlike actions that require an adjustment period, skate fishing vessels 
will not have to purchase new equipment or otherwise expend time or 
money to comply with these management measures. Therefore, NMFS also 
finds good cause not to delay this final rule's effectiveness, 
consistent with 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3); and to implement these measures on 
May 1, 2020 for the 2020 fishing year.
    This final rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    This final rule is considered an Executive Order 13771 deregulatory 
action. To determine the cost savings associated with this rule, the 
estimated revenue from the increased possession limits were compared to 
that of the No Action alternative (see ADDRESSES to locate the EA for 
more detailed information on the estimated revenue and alternatives). 
Based on a simulation using 2018 fishery data, this action is expected 
to increase skate wing fishery revenues by 4.65 percent ($250,329), and 
skate bait fishery revenues by 6.6 percent ($72,020), for a total net 
increase of $322,349. This action also increases the TAL by 13 percent, 
reducing the likelihood that a quota trigger will be reached and reduce 
possession to the incidental limit in either the wing or bait fishery. 
This increases economic opportunity and flexibility, but is difficult 
to quantify. Therefore, the total estimated net cost savings is 
$322,349 in 2018 dollars, and the annualized savings to perpetuity is 
$0.29 million per year in 2016 dollars.
    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration during the proposed rule stage that this action would 
not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. The factual basis for the certification was published in the 
proposed rule and is not repeated here. No comments were received 
regarding this certification, and the initial certification remains 
unchanged. As a result, a final regulatory flexibility analysis is not 
required and none has been prepared.
    This action does not contain a collection of information 
requirement for the purposes of the Paperwork Reduction Act.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648

    Fisheries, Fishing, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    Dated: April 8, 2020.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

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

PART 648--FISHERIES OF THE NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES

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

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


0
2. In Sec.  648.322, revise paragraphs (b)(1)(i) and (ii) and (c)(3) to 
read as follows:


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

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (i) A vessel or operator of a vessel that has been issued a valid 
Federal skate permit under this part, and fishes under an Atlantic sea 
scallop, NE multispecies, or monkfish DAS as specified at Sec. Sec.  
648.53, 648.82, and 648.92, respectively, unless otherwise exempted 
under Sec.  648.80 or paragraph (c) of this section, may fish for, 
possess, and/or land up to the allowable trip limits specified as 
follows: Up to 3,000 lb (1,361 kg) of skate wings (6,810 lb (3,089 kg) 
whole weight) per trip in Season 1 (May 1 through August 31), and 5,000 
lb (2,268 kg) of skate wings (11,350 lb (5,148 kg) whole weight) per 
trip in Season 2 (September 1 through April 30), or any prorated 
combination of the allowable landing forms defined at paragraph (b)(5) 
of this section.
    (ii) When fishing under the possession limits specified in 
paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section, a vessel is allowed to possess and 
land up to 750 lb (340 kg) of barndoor skate wings (1,702 lb (772 kg) 
whole weight) per trip in Season 1, and 1,250 lb (567 kg) of barndoor 
skate wings (2,837 lb (1,287 kg) whole weight) per trip in Season 2. 
The possession limits for barndoor skate wings are included within the 
overall possession limit (i.e., total pounds of skate wings on board, 
including barndoor skate wings, are not allowed to exceed 3,000 lb 
(1,361 kg) in Season 1 and 5,000 lb (2,268 kg) in Season 2). Vessels 
are prohibited from discarding any skate wings when in possession of 
barndoor skate wings. Barndoor skate wings and carcasses on board a 
vessel subject to this possession limit must be separated from other 
species of fish and stored so as to be readily available for 
inspection.
* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (3) The vessel owner or operator possesses or lands no more than 
25,000 lb (11,340 kg) of whole skates per trip.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2020-07805 Filed 4-24-20; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P