Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Amendment 21 to the Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery Management Plan, 50320-50322 [2021-19367]

Download as PDF 50320 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 171 / Wednesday, September 8, 2021 / Proposed Rules Society may apply for and obtain a renewal of the LOA. (d) In the event of projected changes to the activity or to mitigation and monitoring measures required by an LOA, the Society must apply for and obtain a modification of the LOA as described in § 217.207. (e) The LOA shall set forth: (1) Permissible methods of incidental taking; (2) Means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact (i.e., mitigation) on the species, its habitat, and on the availability of the species for subsistence uses; and (3) Requirements for monitoring and reporting. (f) Issuance of the LOA shall be based on a determination that the level of taking will be consistent with the findings made for the total taking allowable under these regulations. (g) Notice of issuance or denial of an LOA shall be published in the Federal Register within 30 days of a determination. jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS § 217.57 Renewals and modifications of Letters of Authorization. (a) An LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.206 for the activity identified in § 217.200(a) shall be renewed or modified upon request by the applicant, provided that: (1) The proposed specified activity and mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures, as well as the anticipated impacts, are the same as those described and analyzed for these regulations (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in paragraph (c)(1) of this section); and (2) NMFS determines that the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures required by the previous LOA under these regulations were implemented. (b) For LOA modification or renewal requests by the applicant that include changes to the activity or the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting (excluding changes made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in paragraph (c)(1) of this section) that do not change the findings made for the regulations or result in no more than a minor change in the total estimated number of takes (or distribution by species or years), NMFS may publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register, including the associated analysis of the change, and solicit public comment before issuing the LOA. (c) An LOA issued under §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.206 for the activity identified in § 217.200(a) may be modified by NMFS under the following circumstances: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:57 Sep 07, 2021 Jkt 253001 (1) Adaptive management. NMFS may modify (including augment) the existing mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures (after consulting with the Society regarding the practicability of the modifications) if doing so creates a reasonable likelihood of more effectively accomplishing the goals of the mitigation and monitoring set forth in the preamble for these regulations. (i) Possible sources of data that could contribute to the decision to modify the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures in an LOA: (A) Results from the Society’s monitoring from the previous year(s). (B) Results from other marine mammal and/or sound or disturbance research or studies. (C) Any information that reveals marine mammals may have been taken in a manner, extent or number not authorized by these regulations or subsequent LOAs. (ii) If, through adaptive management, the modifications to the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures are substantial, NMFS will publish a notice of proposed LOA in the Federal Register and solicit public comment. (2) Emergencies. If NMFS determines that an emergency exists that poses a significant risk to the well-being of the species or stocks of marine mammals specified in LOAs issued pursuant to §§ 216.106 of this chapter and 217.206, an LOA may be modified without prior notice or opportunity for public comment. Notice would be published in the Federal Register within 30 days of the action. §§ 217.58–217.59 [Reserved] [FR Doc. 2021–19124 Filed 9–7–21; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 RIN 0648–BK68 Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Amendment 21 to the Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery Management Plan National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Announcement of availability of amendment; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS announces that the New England Fishery Management Council has submitted Amendment 21 SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00032 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 to the Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery Management Plan, incorporating the Environmental Assessment and the Regulatory Flexibility Analysis, for review by the Secretary of Commerce, and is requesting comments from the public. This action would allow for more controlled access to the scallop resource by the limited access and limited access general category fleets and increase monitoring to support a growing directed scallop fishery in Federal waters, including the Northern Gulf of Maine Management Area. These proposed management measures are intended to promote conservation of the scallop resource in the Northern Gulf of Maine Management Area and to manage total removals from the area by all fishery components. Amendment 21 would also expand flexibility in the limited access general category individual fishing quota fishery to reduce impacts of potential decreases in ex-vessel price and increases in operating costs. DATES: Comments must be received on or before November 8, 2021. ADDRESSES: The Council has prepared a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for this action that describes the proposed measures in Amendment 21 to the Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and other considered alternatives and analyzes the impacts of the proposed measures and alternatives. The Council submitted a draft of the amendment to NMFS that includes the draft EA, a description of the Council’s preferred alternatives, the Council’s rationale for selecting each alternative, and a Regulatory Impact Review (RIR). Copies of supporting documents used by the Council, including the EA and RIR, are available from: Thomas A. Nies, Executive Director, New England Fishery Management Council, 50 Water Street, Newburyport, MA 01950 and accessible via the internet in documents available at: https://www.nefmc.org/library/ amendment-21. You may submit comments, identified by NOAA–NMFS–2021–0065, by: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov and enter NOAA– NMFS–2021–0065 in the Search box. Click the ‘‘Comment’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. Instructions: Comments sent by any other method or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public E:\FR\FM\08SEP1.SGM 08SEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 171 / Wednesday, September 8, 2021 / Proposed Rules viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/ A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Travis Ford, Fishery Policy Analyst, (978) 281–9233. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act requires that each Regional Fishery Management Council submit any amendment it prepares to NMFS for review and approval, disapproval, or partial approval. The Magnuson-Stevens Act also requires that NMFS, upon receiving an amendment, immediately publish notification in the Federal Register that the amendment is available for public review and comment. The Council submitted its final version of Amendment 21 to the Atlantic Sea Scallop FMP to NMFS for review on August 13, 2021. NMFS has declared a transmittal date of August 30, 2021. The Council has reviewed the Amendment 21 proposed rule regulations as drafted by NMFS and deemed them to be necessary and appropriate as specified in section 303(c) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Background The Atlantic sea scallop fishery is prosecuted along the East Coast from Maine to Virginia, although most fishing activity takes place between Massachusetts and New Jersey. Management measures were first adopted in 1982, but there have been several major revisions to the management program over the following decades. jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Development of the Limited Access General Category (LAGC) Fishery The Council established the general category component as an open access permit category in 1994 while developing a limited access program for qualifying vessels (now the limited access component). Through Amendment 11 to the Scallop FMP (73 FR 20090; April 14, 2008), the Council transitioned the general category component from open access to limited access to limit fishing mortality and control fleet capacity. The Council’s vision for the LAGC component was a fleet made up of relatively small vessels, with possession limits to maintain the historical character of this fleet and VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:57 Sep 07, 2021 Jkt 253001 provide opportunities to various participants, including vessels from smaller coastal communities. Amendment 11 established three LAGC permit categories, which allowed for continued participation in the general category fishery at varying levels. Vessels that met a qualifying criteria were issued an LAGC individual fishing quota (IFQ) permit and allocated quota based on the ‘contribution factor’ (i.e., if you fished longer and landed more during the qualification period, you received a higher allocation). General category permit holders that did not meet the qualifying criteria for an LAGC IFQ permit were eligible to receive either an LAGC Northern Gulf of Maine (NGOM) permit or LAGC incidental permit. Limited access vessels that fished under general category rules and qualified under the same IFQ qualification criteria were issued LAGC IFQ permits and allocated a portion of (0.5 percent) of the total scallop allocation. Unlike vessels with only LAGC IFQ permits, limited access vessels that also qualified for an LAGC IFQ permit were not allowed to transfer quota to or from other vessels. NGOM Management Area The Council also established the NGOM Management Area and permit category through Amendment 11. The area was developed to enable continued fishing and address concerns related to conservation, administrative burden, and enforceability of scallop fishing within the Gulf of Maine. Amendment 11 authorized vessels with either an LAGC NGOM permit or LAGC IFQ permit to fish within the NGOM Management Area at a 200 lb per day (91 kg per day) trip limit until the annual total allowable catch (TAC) for the area is caught. The Council did not recommend restrictions on limited access vessels fishing in the NGOM because the improved management and abundance of scallops in the major resource areas on Georges Bank and in the Mid-Atlantic region made access to Gulf of Maine scallops less important for the limited access boats and general category boats from other regions. From 2008 through 2017, limited access vessels were able to operate in the NGOM management area under days-atsea (DAS) management as long as the LAGC TAC had not been caught. The initial measures were intended to allow directed scallop fishing in the NGOM, and the Council envisioned that management of this area would be reconsidered if the scallop population and fishery in the NGOM grew in the future. PO 00000 Frm 00033 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 50321 From 2009–2015 the NGOM TAC of 70,000 lb (31,751 kg) was not caught, and the fishery remained open for the entire year. In fishing years 2016 and 2017, there was a notable increase in effort in the NGOM management area by both LAGC and limited access vessels fishing the large year class of scallops on Stellwagen Bank, located mostly within the NGOM. Monitoring removals by the limited access component in the NGOM was challenging because vessels could fish both inside and outside NGOM management area while fishing DAS on the same trip. In response to the increase in effort and landings in the NGOM area in 2016 and 2017, the Council developed the following problem statement for the Federal scallop fishery in the NGOM management area: Recent high landings and unknown biomass in the NGOM Scallop Management Area underscore the critical need to initiate surveys and develop additional tools to better manage the area and fully understand total removals. Recent actions have developed measures that allow managers to track fishing effort and landings by all components from the NGOM management area. The NGOM TAC is now based on recent survey information, with separate TACs for the limited access and LAGC components. These measures were intended to be a short-term solution to allow controlled fishing in the NGOM management area until a future action (this action) could be developed to address NGOM issues more holistically. LAGC IFQ Possession Limits The initial general category possession limit was set at 400 lb (181 kg) per trip through Amendment 4 (59 FR 2757; January 19, 1994). In 2007, Amendment 11 maintained the general category possession limit of 400 lb (181 kg) for qualifying IFQ vessels. Amendment 15 (76 FR 43746; July 21, 2011) increased the LAGC IFQ possession limit to 600 lb (272 kg) following concerns from industry members that the 400-lb (181-kg) possession limit was not economically feasible due to increased operating costs. The 200-lb (91-kg) trip limit increase was not expected to change the nature of the ‘‘day boat’’ fishery and would keep the LAGC IFQ component consistent with the vision statement laid out by the Council in Amendment 11. The Council recently completed a program review of the LAGC IFQ fishery and analyzed the impacts of changes to IFQ trip limits. This review found that increasing the possession limit for IFQ trips would increase flexibility in E:\FR\FM\08SEP1.SGM 08SEP1 50322 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 171 / Wednesday, September 8, 2021 / Proposed Rules fishing decisions, which could improve safety. Further, a higher possession limit would provide increased fishing revenue and vessel profit. The results of the program review are summarized in the Amendment 21 scoping document, which can be found at this website: https://www.nefmc.org/library/ amendment-21. Quota Transfers by Limited Access/ LAGC IFQ Vessels jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with PROPOSALS Amendment 15 allowed LAGC IFQ permit holders to permanently transfer some or all of their quota allocation to another LAGC IFQ permit holder while retaining the permit itself. During development of Amendment 15, the Council considered an option that would have included limited access permit holders that also have LAGC IFQ permits (combo vessels) in this allowance; however, the Council opted against this option because it would change the overall 5-percent and 0.5percent allocations specified in Amendment 11. For example, the 5percent allocation would be expected to increase if a combo vessel permanently transferred quota to an LAGC IFQ-only vessel and, therefore, would have implications on quota accumulation caps that apply to LAGC IFQ-only permit holders (i.e., 5-percent maximum for owners, 2.5-percent maximum for individual vessels). The Council initiated Amendment 21 to consider adjusting the management of the NGOM to allow for more controlled access by the limited access and LAGC components, to increase monitoring to support a growing directed scallop fishery in Federal waters, and to consider adjusting the LAGC IFQ program to support overall economic performance while allowing for VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:57 Sep 07, 2021 Jkt 253001 continued participation in the general category fishery at varying levels. To address these issues the Council approved Amendment 21 at its September 2020 meeting. Amendment 21 would: • Change the Annual Catch Limit flow chart to account for biomass in the NGOM as part of the Overfishing Limit and the Acceptable Biological Catch to be consistent with other portions of scallop resource management; • Develop landing limits for all permit categories in the NGOM and establish an 800,000-lb (362,874 kg) NGOM Set-Aside trigger for the NGOM directed fishery, with a sharing agreement for access by all permit categories for allocation above the trigger. Allocation above the trigger would be split 5 percent for the NGOM fleet and 95 percent for limited access and LAGC IFQ fleets; • Expand the scallop observer program to monitor directed scallop fishing in the NGOM by using a portion of the NGOM allocation to off-set monitoring costs; • Allocate 25,000 lb (11,340 kg) of the NGOM allocation to increase the overall Scallop Research Set-Aside (RSA) and support Scallop RSA compensation fishing; • Increase the LAGC IFQ possession limit to 800 lb (363 kg) per trip only for access area trips; • Prorate the daily observer compensation rate in 12-hour increments for observed LAGC IFQ trips longer than 1 day; and • Allow for temporary transfers of IFQ from limited access vessels with IFQ to LAGC IFQ-only vessels. The Magnuson-Stevens Act allows us to approve, partially approve, or disapprove measures recommended by the Council in an amendment based on PO 00000 Frm 00034 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 whether the measures are consistent with the FMPs, plan amendment, the Magnuson-Stevens Act and its National Standards, and other applicable law. The Council develops policy for its fisheries and we defer to the Council on policy decisions unless those policies are inconsistent with the MagnusonSteven Act or other applicable law. As such, we are seeking comment on whether measures in Amendment 21 are consistent with the FMP, the MagnusonStevens Act and its National Standards, and other applicable law. Through this notice, NMFS seeks comments on Amendment 21 and its incorporated documents through the end of the comment period stated in the DATES section of this notice of availability (NOA). Following the publication of this NOA a rule proposing the implementation of measures in this amendment is anticipated to be published in the Federal Register for public comment. Public comments must be received by the end of the comment period provided in this NOA of Amendment 21 to be considered in the approval/disapproval decision. All comments received by the end of the comment period on the NOA, whether specifically directed to the NOA or the proposed rule, will be considered in the approval/disapproval decision. Comments received after the end of the comment period for the NOA will not be considered in the approval/disapproval decision of Amendment 21. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: September 2, 2021. Jennifer M. Wallace, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2021–19367 Filed 9–2–21; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\08SEP1.SGM 08SEP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 86, Number 171 (Wednesday, September 8, 2021)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 50320-50322]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2021-19367]


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

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

RIN 0648-BK68


Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Amendment 21 to the 
Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery Management Plan

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

ACTION: Announcement of availability of amendment; request for 
comments.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS announces that the New England Fishery Management Council 
has submitted Amendment 21 to the Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery 
Management Plan, incorporating the Environmental Assessment and the 
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis, for review by the Secretary of 
Commerce, and is requesting comments from the public. This action would 
allow for more controlled access to the scallop resource by the limited 
access and limited access general category fleets and increase 
monitoring to support a growing directed scallop fishery in Federal 
waters, including the Northern Gulf of Maine Management Area. These 
proposed management measures are intended to promote conservation of 
the scallop resource in the Northern Gulf of Maine Management Area and 
to manage total removals from the area by all fishery components. 
Amendment 21 would also expand flexibility in the limited access 
general category individual fishing quota fishery to reduce impacts of 
potential decreases in ex-vessel price and increases in operating 
costs.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before November 8, 2021.

ADDRESSES: The Council has prepared a draft Environmental Assessment 
(EA) for this action that describes the proposed measures in Amendment 
21 to the Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and other 
considered alternatives and analyzes the impacts of the proposed 
measures and alternatives. The Council submitted a draft of the 
amendment to NMFS that includes the draft EA, a description of the 
Council's preferred alternatives, the Council's rationale for selecting 
each alternative, and a Regulatory Impact Review (RIR). Copies of 
supporting documents used by the Council, including the EA and RIR, are 
available from: Thomas A. Nies, Executive Director, New England Fishery 
Management Council, 50 Water Street, Newburyport, MA 01950 and 
accessible via the internet in documents available at: https://www.nefmc.org/library/amendment-21.
    You may submit comments, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2021-0065, by:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov 
and enter NOAA-NMFS-2021-0065 in the Search box. Click the ``Comment'' 
icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method or received after 
the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All 
comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be 
posted for public

[[Page 50321]]

viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Travis Ford, Fishery Policy Analyst, 
(978) 281-9233.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation 
and Management Act requires that each Regional Fishery Management 
Council submit any amendment it prepares to NMFS for review and 
approval, disapproval, or partial approval. The Magnuson-Stevens Act 
also requires that NMFS, upon receiving an amendment, immediately 
publish notification in the Federal Register that the amendment is 
available for public review and comment. The Council submitted its 
final version of Amendment 21 to the Atlantic Sea Scallop FMP to NMFS 
for review on August 13, 2021. NMFS has declared a transmittal date of 
August 30, 2021. The Council has reviewed the Amendment 21 proposed 
rule regulations as drafted by NMFS and deemed them to be necessary and 
appropriate as specified in section 303(c) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

Background

    The Atlantic sea scallop fishery is prosecuted along the East Coast 
from Maine to Virginia, although most fishing activity takes place 
between Massachusetts and New Jersey. Management measures were first 
adopted in 1982, but there have been several major revisions to the 
management program over the following decades.

Development of the Limited Access General Category (LAGC) Fishery

    The Council established the general category component as an open 
access permit category in 1994 while developing a limited access 
program for qualifying vessels (now the limited access component). 
Through Amendment 11 to the Scallop FMP (73 FR 20090; April 14, 2008), 
the Council transitioned the general category component from open 
access to limited access to limit fishing mortality and control fleet 
capacity. The Council's vision for the LAGC component was a fleet made 
up of relatively small vessels, with possession limits to maintain the 
historical character of this fleet and provide opportunities to various 
participants, including vessels from smaller coastal communities. 
Amendment 11 established three LAGC permit categories, which allowed 
for continued participation in the general category fishery at varying 
levels. Vessels that met a qualifying criteria were issued an LAGC 
individual fishing quota (IFQ) permit and allocated quota based on the 
`contribution factor' (i.e., if you fished longer and landed more 
during the qualification period, you received a higher allocation). 
General category permit holders that did not meet the qualifying 
criteria for an LAGC IFQ permit were eligible to receive either an LAGC 
Northern Gulf of Maine (NGOM) permit or LAGC incidental permit. Limited 
access vessels that fished under general category rules and qualified 
under the same IFQ qualification criteria were issued LAGC IFQ permits 
and allocated a portion of (0.5 percent) of the total scallop 
allocation. Unlike vessels with only LAGC IFQ permits, limited access 
vessels that also qualified for an LAGC IFQ permit were not allowed to 
transfer quota to or from other vessels.

NGOM Management Area

    The Council also established the NGOM Management Area and permit 
category through Amendment 11. The area was developed to enable 
continued fishing and address concerns related to conservation, 
administrative burden, and enforceability of scallop fishing within the 
Gulf of Maine. Amendment 11 authorized vessels with either an LAGC NGOM 
permit or LAGC IFQ permit to fish within the NGOM Management Area at a 
200 lb per day (91 kg per day) trip limit until the annual total 
allowable catch (TAC) for the area is caught. The Council did not 
recommend restrictions on limited access vessels fishing in the NGOM 
because the improved management and abundance of scallops in the major 
resource areas on Georges Bank and in the Mid-Atlantic region made 
access to Gulf of Maine scallops less important for the limited access 
boats and general category boats from other regions. From 2008 through 
2017, limited access vessels were able to operate in the NGOM 
management area under days-at-sea (DAS) management as long as the LAGC 
TAC had not been caught. The initial measures were intended to allow 
directed scallop fishing in the NGOM, and the Council envisioned that 
management of this area would be reconsidered if the scallop population 
and fishery in the NGOM grew in the future.
    From 2009-2015 the NGOM TAC of 70,000 lb (31,751 kg) was not 
caught, and the fishery remained open for the entire year. In fishing 
years 2016 and 2017, there was a notable increase in effort in the NGOM 
management area by both LAGC and limited access vessels fishing the 
large year class of scallops on Stellwagen Bank, located mostly within 
the NGOM. Monitoring removals by the limited access component in the 
NGOM was challenging because vessels could fish both inside and outside 
NGOM management area while fishing DAS on the same trip.
    In response to the increase in effort and landings in the NGOM area 
in 2016 and 2017, the Council developed the following problem statement 
for the Federal scallop fishery in the NGOM management area: Recent 
high landings and unknown biomass in the NGOM Scallop Management Area 
underscore the critical need to initiate surveys and develop additional 
tools to better manage the area and fully understand total removals.
    Recent actions have developed measures that allow managers to track 
fishing effort and landings by all components from the NGOM management 
area. The NGOM TAC is now based on recent survey information, with 
separate TACs for the limited access and LAGC components. These 
measures were intended to be a short-term solution to allow controlled 
fishing in the NGOM management area until a future action (this action) 
could be developed to address NGOM issues more holistically.

LAGC IFQ Possession Limits

    The initial general category possession limit was set at 400 lb 
(181 kg) per trip through Amendment 4 (59 FR 2757; January 19, 1994). 
In 2007, Amendment 11 maintained the general category possession limit 
of 400 lb (181 kg) for qualifying IFQ vessels. Amendment 15 (76 FR 
43746; July 21, 2011) increased the LAGC IFQ possession limit to 600 lb 
(272 kg) following concerns from industry members that the 400-lb (181-
kg) possession limit was not economically feasible due to increased 
operating costs. The 200-lb (91-kg) trip limit increase was not 
expected to change the nature of the ``day boat'' fishery and would 
keep the LAGC IFQ component consistent with the vision statement laid 
out by the Council in Amendment 11. The Council recently completed a 
program review of the LAGC IFQ fishery and analyzed the impacts of 
changes to IFQ trip limits. This review found that increasing the 
possession limit for IFQ trips would increase flexibility in

[[Page 50322]]

fishing decisions, which could improve safety. Further, a higher 
possession limit would provide increased fishing revenue and vessel 
profit. The results of the program review are summarized in the 
Amendment 21 scoping document, which can be found at this website: 
https://www.nefmc.org/library/amendment-21.

Quota Transfers by Limited Access/LAGC IFQ Vessels

    Amendment 15 allowed LAGC IFQ permit holders to permanently 
transfer some or all of their quota allocation to another LAGC IFQ 
permit holder while retaining the permit itself. During development of 
Amendment 15, the Council considered an option that would have included 
limited access permit holders that also have LAGC IFQ permits (combo 
vessels) in this allowance; however, the Council opted against this 
option because it would change the overall 5-percent and 0.5-percent 
allocations specified in Amendment 11. For example, the 5-percent 
allocation would be expected to increase if a combo vessel permanently 
transferred quota to an LAGC IFQ-only vessel and, therefore, would have 
implications on quota accumulation caps that apply to LAGC IFQ-only 
permit holders (i.e., 5-percent maximum for owners, 2.5-percent maximum 
for individual vessels).
    The Council initiated Amendment 21 to consider adjusting the 
management of the NGOM to allow for more controlled access by the 
limited access and LAGC components, to increase monitoring to support a 
growing directed scallop fishery in Federal waters, and to consider 
adjusting the LAGC IFQ program to support overall economic performance 
while allowing for continued participation in the general category 
fishery at varying levels. To address these issues the Council approved 
Amendment 21 at its September 2020 meeting. Amendment 21 would:
     Change the Annual Catch Limit flow chart to account for 
biomass in the NGOM as part of the Overfishing Limit and the Acceptable 
Biological Catch to be consistent with other portions of scallop 
resource management;
     Develop landing limits for all permit categories in the 
NGOM and establish an 800,000-lb (362,874 kg) NGOM Set-Aside trigger 
for the NGOM directed fishery, with a sharing agreement for access by 
all permit categories for allocation above the trigger. Allocation 
above the trigger would be split 5 percent for the NGOM fleet and 95 
percent for limited access and LAGC IFQ fleets;
     Expand the scallop observer program to monitor directed 
scallop fishing in the NGOM by using a portion of the NGOM allocation 
to off-set monitoring costs;
     Allocate 25,000 lb (11,340 kg) of the NGOM allocation to 
increase the overall Scallop Research Set-Aside (RSA) and support 
Scallop RSA compensation fishing;
     Increase the LAGC IFQ possession limit to 800 lb (363 kg) 
per trip only for access area trips;
     Prorate the daily observer compensation rate in 12-hour 
increments for observed LAGC IFQ trips longer than 1 day; and
     Allow for temporary transfers of IFQ from limited access 
vessels with IFQ to LAGC IFQ-only vessels.
    The Magnuson-Stevens Act allows us to approve, partially approve, 
or disapprove measures recommended by the Council in an amendment based 
on whether the measures are consistent with the FMPs, plan amendment, 
the Magnuson-Stevens Act and its National Standards, and other 
applicable law. The Council develops policy for its fisheries and we 
defer to the Council on policy decisions unless those policies are 
inconsistent with the Magnuson-Steven Act or other applicable law. As 
such, we are seeking comment on whether measures in Amendment 21 are 
consistent with the FMP, the Magnuson-Stevens Act and its National 
Standards, and other applicable law. Through this notice, NMFS seeks 
comments on Amendment 21 and its incorporated documents through the end 
of the comment period stated in the DATES section of this notice of 
availability (NOA). Following the publication of this NOA a rule 
proposing the implementation of measures in this amendment is 
anticipated to be published in the Federal Register for public comment. 
Public comments must be received by the end of the comment period 
provided in this NOA of Amendment 21 to be considered in the approval/
disapproval decision. All comments received by the end of the comment 
period on the NOA, whether specifically directed to the NOA or the 
proposed rule, will be considered in the approval/disapproval decision. 
Comments received after the end of the comment period for the NOA will 
not be considered in the approval/disapproval decision of Amendment 21.

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

    Dated: September 2, 2021.
Jennifer M. Wallace,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2021-19367 Filed 9-2-21; 4:15 pm]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P