Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone off Alaska; Application for an Exempted Fishing Permit
This notice announces receipt of an exempted fishing permit (EFP) application from the Alaska Seafood Cooperative (AKSC). If granted, this permit would allow up to ten vessels to participate in the EFPup to five AKSC-member Amendment 80 vessels would be allowed to conduct experimental fishing in two subareas of the Bering Sea that are closed to fishing with trawl gear, and five additional AKSC-member Amendment 80 vessels would conduct experimental fishing adjacent to the closed areas. Under the permit, experimental fishing with non-pelagic trawl gear would be authorized in Reporting Area 516 of Zone 1 that is otherwise closed to all trawl gear and the Red King Crab Savings Area (RKCSA) that is otherwise closed to non-pelagic trawl gear. The AKSC would collect data on crab prohibited species catch (PSC) rates during commercial groundfish fishing operations inside the Area 516 seasonal closure, the RKCSA, and adjacent areas that are currently open to non- pelagic trawling. The objective of the EFP is to evaluate PSC rates and overall catch of target species in the above-mentioned closed areas compared with the areas currently open to fishing with trawl gear. This experiment has the potential to promote the objectives of the Magnuson- Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
Fisheries off West Coast States; Highly Migratory Fisheries; California Drift Gillnet Fishery; Protected Species Hard Caps for the California/Oregon Large-Mesh Drift Gillnet Fishery; Extension of Public Comment Period
On October 13, 2016, NMFS published a proposed rule to establish protected species hard caps for the California/Oregon large- mesh drift gillnet fishery, with comments due by November 28, 2016. However, in response to a request to extend the public comment period, NMFS has decided to extend the public comment period by an additional 30 calendar days.
Revisions to Framework Adjustment 55 to the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan
We are reducing the 2016 fishing year Georges Bank haddock catch cap for the herring midwater trawl fishery. The reduction in the 2016 midwater trawl catch cap is necessary to account for an overage that occurred in fishing year 2015. This reduction is formulaic and is required as an accountability measure to help mitigate the 2015 overage.
Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog Fishery; Proposed 2017-2018 Fishing Quotas
NMFS proposes status quo commercial quotas for the Atlantic surfclam and ocean quahog fisheries for 2017 and projected status quo quotas for 2018. This action is necessary to establish allowable harvest levels of Atlantic surfclams and ocean quahogs that will prevent overfishing and allow harvesting of optimum yield. This action would also continue to suspend the minimum shell size for Atlantic surfclams for the 2017 fishing year. It is expected that the industry and dealers will benefit from the proposed status quo quotas, as they will be able to maintain a consistent market.
Fisheries of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and South Atlantic; Reef Fish Fishery of the Gulf of Mexico; Hogfish Management Measures
NMFS proposes to implement management measures described in Amendment 43 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf)(FMP), as prepared by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Gulf Council)(Amendment 43). This proposed rule would revise the geographic range of the fishery management unit (FMU) for Gulf hogfish (the West Florida stock) consistent with the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council's (South Atlantic Council) proposed boundary between the Florida Keys/East Florida and West Florida stocks, set the annual catch limit (ACL) for the West Florida stock, increase the minimum size limit for the proposed West Florida stock, and remove the powerhead exception for harvest of hogfish in the Gulf reef fish stressed area. This proposed rule would also correct a reference in the regulatory definition for charter vessel. The purpose of this proposed rule is to manage hogfish using the best scientific information available.
Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Removal of Vessel Upgrade Restrictions for Swordfish Directed Limited Access and Atlantic Tunas Longline Category Permits
This final rule removes vessel upgrading restrictions for vessels issued swordfish directed and Atlantic tunas Longline category limited access permits (LAPs). Currently, regulations allow for upgrading vessels or transferring permits to another vessel only if the vessel upgrade or permit transfer results in an increase of no more than 35 percent in length overall, gross registered tonnage, and net tonnage, as measured relative to the baseline vessel specifications (i.e., the specifications of the vessel first issued a Highly Migratory Species (HMS) LAP). This final rule eliminates these restrictions on upgrades and permit transfers. This action affects vessel owners issued swordfish directed and Atlantic tunas Longline category LAPs and fishing in the Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea.
Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; 2017 Atlantic Shark Commercial Fishing Season
This final rule establishes the opening date for all Atlantic shark fisheries, including the fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. This final rule also establishes the quotas for the 2017 fishing season based on over- and/or underharvests experienced during 2016 and previous fishing seasons. The large coastal shark (LCS) retention limit for directed shark limited access permit holders will start at 45 LCS other than sandbar sharks per trip in the Gulf of Mexico region and at 25 LCS other than sandbar sharks per trip in the Atlantic region. These retention limits for directed shark limited access permit holders may decrease or increase during the year after considering the specified inseason action regulatory criteria to provide, to the extent practicable, equitable fishing opportunities for commercial shark fishermen in all regions and areas. These actions could affect fishing opportunities for commercial shark fishermen in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea.
Fisheries Off West Coast States; Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan; Commercial Sablefish Fishing Regulations and Electronic Fish Tickets
This final rule revises fishery monitoring and equipment requirements for all commercial groundfish fisheries. In particular, it establishes a requirement for submitting electronic fish tickets (EFT) in the limited entry fixed gear fisheries and open access fisheries. This final rule also: revises administrative procedures for limited entry permits, providing greater flexibility and efficiencies for limited entry groundfish fishery participants; requires vessels registered to Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) to make an initial declaration report; and makes administrative changes and clarifying edits to improve consistency of the regulations with past Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) actions and with the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan (FMP). This action improves monitoring and administration of the limited entry sablefish primary fishery, and addresses unforeseen issues arising out of the evolution of commercial sablefish fisheries and subsequent regulations.
Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area; American Fisheries Act; Amendment 113
NMFS issues this final rule to implement Amendment 113 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (FMP). This final rule modifies the management of Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) Pacific cod fishery to set aside a portion of the Aleutian Islands Pacific cod total allowable catch for harvest by vessels directed fishing for Aleutian Islands Pacific cod and delivering their catch for processing to a shoreside processor located on land west of 170[deg] W. longitude in the Aleutian Islands (``Aleutian Islands shoreplant''). The harvest set-aside applies only if specific notification and performance requirements are met, and only during the first few months of the fishing year. This harvest set-aside provides the opportunity for vessels, Aleutian Islands shoreplants, and the communities where Aleutian Islands shoreplants are located to receive benefits from a portion of the Aleutian Islands Pacific cod fishery. The notification and performance requirements preserve an opportunity for the complete harvest of the BSAI Pacific cod resource if the set-aside is not fully harvested. This final rule is intended to promote the goals and objectives of Amendment 113, the FMP, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, and other applicable laws.
Resource Agency Hearings and Alternatives Development Procedures in Hydropower Licenses
The Departments of Agriculture, the Interior, and Commerce are jointly issuing final rules for procedures for expedited trial-type hearings and the consideration of alternative conditions and fishway prescriptions required by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The hearings are conducted to expeditiously resolve disputed issues of material fact with respect to conditions or prescriptions developed for inclusion in a hydropower license issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission under the Federal Power Act. The final rules make no changes to existing regulations that have been in place since the revised interim rules were published on March 31, 2015, and took effect on April 30, 2015. At the time of publication of the revised interim rules, the Departments also requested public comments on additional ways the rules could be improved. The Departments now respond to the public comments received on the revised interim rules by providing analysis and clarifications in the preamble. The Departments have determined that no revisions to existing regulations are warranted at this time.