[Federal Register Volume 72, Number 183 (Friday, September 21, 2007)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 53942-53952]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 07-4667]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

15 CFR Part 902

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 0612243159-7456-03; I.D. 020507A]
RIN 0648-AU34


Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act 
Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Monkfish 
Fishery; Framework Adjustment 4

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

ACTION: Interim final rule; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: NMFS implements new management measures for the monkfish 
fishery approved in Framework Adjustment 4 to the Monkfish Fishery 
Management Plan (FMP). This framework eliminates the control rule for 
determining management measures established by Framework Adjustment 2 
to the FMP, and establishes target total allowable catch (TAC) levels, 
trip limits, and days-at-sea (DAS) allocations for the final 3 years of 
the monkfish rebuilding plan. The intent of this action is to replace 
the Framework 2 control rule with measures consistent with the stock 
rebuilding goals established in the original FMP, and in accordance 
with Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act 
(Magnuson-Stevens Act) requirements. NMFS is publishing this action as 
an interim final rule in order to provide the opportunity for 
additional public comment because the approval of Framework 4 was 
based, in part, on the consideration of the integrated monkfish stock 
assessment, which was not available during the original public comment 
period. This action also contains three changes to address incorrect 
cross-references or duplicate regulatory text.

DATES: The interim rule published on April 27, 2007 (72 FR 20952), 
which is scheduled to expire on October 28, 2007, is superseded by this 
interim final rule and expires at 12:01 a.m. on October 22, 2007. The 
amendments in this interim final rule become effective at 12:02 a.m. on 
October 22, 2007. Comments on the measures contained in this interim 
final rule must be received by 5 p.m. on October 22, 2007.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the Environmental Assessment (EA), including the 
Regulatory Impact Review (RIR) and Initial Regulatory Flexibility 
Analysis (IRFA), prepared for this action are available upon request 
from Paul Howard, Executive Director, New England Fishery Management 
Council, 50 Water Street, Newburyport, MA, 01950. The document is also 
available online at www.nefmc.org. NMFS prepared a Final Regulatory 
Flexibility Analysis (FRFA), which is contained in the classification 
section of this interim final rule. The small entity compliance guide 
is available from Patricia A. Kurkul, Regional Administrator, Northeast 
Regional Office, National Marine Fisheries Service, One Blackburn 
Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930 2298, and on the Northeast Regional 
Office's website at www.nero.noaa.gov/nero/nr/.
    Written comments on this interim final rule may be submitted by any 
of the following methods:
     E-mail: E-mail comments may be submitted to 
monkfish.FW4interim@noaa.gov. Include in the subject line the following 
``Comments on the Interim Final Rule for Framework Adjustment 4.''
     Mail: Comments submitted by mail should be sent to 
Patricia A. Kurkul, Administrator, Northeast Region, NMFS (Regional 
Administrator), One Blackburn Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930-2298. Mark 
the outside of the envelope ``Comments on the Interim Final Rule for 
Framework Adjustment 4 to the Monkfish FMP.''
     Facsimile (fax): Comments submitted by fax should be faxed 
to (978) 281-9135.
    Written comments regarding the burden-hour estimates or other 
aspects of the collection-of-information requirements contained in this 
interim final rule may be submitted to the Regional Administrator at 
the address listed above and by e-mail to David--Rostker@omb.eop.gov, 
or fax to (202) 395-7285.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Allison McHale, Fishery Policy 
Analyst, e-mail Allison.McHale@noaa.gov, phone (978) 281-9103, fax 
(978) 281-9135.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

[[Page 53943]]

Background

    The monkfish fishery is jointly managed by the New England and Mid-
Atlantic Fishery Management Councils (Councils), with the New England 
Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) having the administrative lead. The 
fishery extends from Maine to North Carolina, and is divided into two 
management units: The NFMA and the Southern Fishery Management Area 
(SFMA). The original Monkfish FMP established a framework adjustment 
process that requires an annual review by the Monkfish Monitoring 
Committee (MFMC) to evaluate the effectiveness of the FMP in meeting 
its conservation objectives. This annual review was a fairly general 
process calling for the development of target total allowable catch 
levels (TACs) for the upcoming fishing year based on the best 
scientific information available and consistent with the goals and 
objectives of the FMP. The annual review and target TAC setting process 
in the FMP was modified through the implementation of Framework 
Adjustment 2 (Framework 2) (68 FR 22325; April 28, 2003) to establish a 
more specific and prescribed process for setting annual target TACs. 
Specifically, Framework 2 added a target TAC setting control rule based 
on the ratio of a 3-year running average of the NMFS fall trawl survey 
biomass index to an established annual biomass index target, compared 
to landings from the previous year. Based on the experiences of the 
last several years, it became apparent that the Framework 2 control 
rule could result in measures that were inconsistent with the 
rebuilding goals of the FMP because changes to the target TACs are 
based, in large part, on prior landings. Thus, under the existing 
control rule, target TACs could be increased even when annual biomass 
rebuilding targets are not being met.
    The Councils initiated Framework 4 during the spring of 2006 
because of the above mentioned concerns regarding the Framework 2 
control rule and the status of the monkfish resource with respect to 
the rebuilding schedule established in the FMP. The intent of Framework 
4 is to replace the Framework 2 control rule with measures consistent 
with the stock rebuilding goals established in the original FMP. Due to 
concerns over the status of the monkfish resource and the fact that 
monkfish is in the seventh year of a 10-year rebuilding plan, NMFS 
postponed making a decision on Framework 4 and implemented interim 
measures for the start of the 2007 fishing year (72 FR 20952, April 27, 
2007) until a new monkfish stock assessment could be conducted in July 
2007.
    The results of the monkfish stock assessment, conducted by the 
Northeast Data Poor Stocks Working Group (Northeast Fisheries Science 
Center Reference Document 07-13) became available in August 2007. The 
summary report for this assessment entitled ``Monkfish assessment 
summary for 2007'' is available online at www.nefsc.noaa.gov/nefsc/
publications/crd/crd0713/. A new analytic model was developed and 
applied to the available scientific information for monkfish. Based on 
the existing biomass reference points in the FMP, monkfish is 
considered overfished in both the northern and southern stock 
management areas. New biological reference points were developed as 
part of the 2007 assessment, based on a revised yield-per-recruit 
analysis (using a revised value of the natural mortality rate) and 
results of a length-tuned model that incorporates multiple survey 
indices and catch data. Based on the reference points generated through 
this assessment, monkfish in both management regions would be 
considered not overfished, and overfishing is not occurring. However, 
the median and maximum sizes of monkfish in both the north and south 
have declined since the 1980s.
    The new assessment results are accompanied by substantial 
uncertainty, and therefore need to be viewed with caution. Reservations 
highlighted in the assessment report include: (1) input uncertainties 
(under-reported landings and unknown discards of monkfish during the 
1980s and incomplete understanding of key biological parameters such as 
age and growth, longevity, natural mortality, and stock structure); (2) 
the shorter assessment time frame of data used (1980-2006) than was 
used in previous assessments (1963-2006); and (3) the relatively recent 
development of the assessment model. More specifically, the assessment 
hinges critically on assumptions regarding growth, longevity, and 
natural mortality of monkfish, all of which are poorly known. In 
addition, commercial catches prior to 1993 are not well characterized. 
Model results are sensitive to the assumed value of natural mortality, 
revised in this assessment from 0.2 to 0.3 per year. This decision was 
based on the observed longevity of male and female fish in the 
resource; however, the actual lifespan of monkfish may be greater than 
that which has been observed thus far. Uncertainties in key life 
history parameters and historical catches are unlikely to be resolved 
in the short term.
    The assessment model was also used to evaluate the impacts of 
target TACs proposed in Framework 4 (5,000 mt in the north and 5,100 mt 
in the south), assuming long-term average recruitment. The results 
indicate that total biomass in both regions would increase through 2009 
and remain above the newly estimated Btarget. In other 
words, if the new biomass reference points were applied, fishing at the 
Framework 4 target TAC levels would keep the stocks at levels such that 
they would not be considered overfished. However, these results did not 
incorporate any uncertainty associated with the stock size estimates 
for 2006, and further work is necessary to develop a complete 
forecasting approach The report concluded that the data-poor nature of 
this species and the significant uncertainty in assessing the stocks 
should be considered when developing management measures.
    The biomass reference points currently contained in the FMP, which 
are used to make stock status determinations, remain unchanged at this 
time. The Councils will be presented with the new stock assessment 
results in the next few months. If, on the basis of this new 
information, the Councils determine that the FMP should be amended to 
replace the existing biomass reference points with the new biomass 
reference point recommendations, the Councils would need to do so 
through a future action. A change in determination of overfished status 
for both of the monkfish stocks cannot be made unless and until the 
biomass reference points contained in the FMP are changed. However, the 
new assessment did not recommend a change in the fishing mortality 
reference point (Fmax), but did update the value associated 
with this reference point for each management area based upon the most 
recent information available. Thus, the determination can be made, 
based on the existing fishing mortality reference points, that 
overfishing is not occurring on either stock. Therefore, NMFS is 
approving Framework 4, under the rebuilding plan contained in the FMP, 
since the best available scientific information supports a 
determination that overfishing is no longer occurring on either stock, 
and because the target TACs contained in Framework 4 are appropriate 
for the management of the two monkfish stocks, given the considerable 
uncertainty that still remains. This action supercedes the interim 
rule, and the regulatory text in this interim final rule is written to

[[Page 53944]]

amend the regulations in 50 CFR part 648 as they appeared prior to 
implementation of the interim rule. In light of the integrated monkfish 
stock assessment results, which were not available during the public 
comment period, NMFS is seeking additional public comment on this 
action.

Approved Framework Measures

1. Target TACs for the NFMA and SFMA

    In addition to changing the annual adjustment process (i.e., the 
removal of the Framework 2 control rule), this action would establish 
target TACs of 5,000 mt and 5,100 mt for the NFMA and SFMA, 
respectively, for the final 3 years of the rebuilding plan (FY 2007-FY 
2009), unless otherwise modified by the MFMC during its annual review 
process. Essentially, this framework adjustment removes the Framework 2 
control rule and replaces it with target TACs that were developed based 
upon an analysis conducted by the Monkfish Plan Development Team (PDT). 
The target TACs developed by the PDT incorporate a synthesis of nine 
different methods for calculating target TACs for the monkfish fishery. 
These target TACs represent the PDT's best estimate of target catch 
levels that could facilitate stock rebuilding but maintain a limited 
directed monkfish fishery, and are the basis for calculating DAS 
allocations and trip limits for each management area. The target TAC 
for the NFMA is 35 percent lower than the target TAC in effect for FY 
2006, and 67 percent lower than the average of target TACs in effect 
since FY 2002. The target TAC for the SFMA is 39 percent higher than 
the target TAC in effect for FY 2006, but is 33 percent lower than the 
average of the target TACs in effect since FY 2002. Therefore, both 
target TACs represent a decrease in overall effort since the 
implementation of the FMP. A copy of the target TAC analysis conducted 
by the PDT is contained in Appendix I of the Framework 4 document (see 
ADDRESSES).

2. DAS Requirement for the NFMA

    This interim final rule requires limited access monkfish vessels 
that are fishing in the NFMA to declare a monkfish DAS if the vessel 
exceeds, or is anticipating to exceed, the applicable monkfish 
incidental catch limit. Under this provision, if the vessel is equipped 
with a vessel monitoring system (VMS) unit and is fishing under a NE 
multispecies Category A DAS in the NFMA, it may declare a monkfish DAS 
any time prior to crossing the VMS demarcation line upon returning to 
port or leaving the NFMA if the applicable monkfish incidental catch 
limit is exceeded during the course of the trip. In addition, this 
action revises the minimum mesh size applicable to limited access 
monkfish gillnet vessels fishing in the NFMA that change their DAS 
declaration from a NE multispecies Category A DAS to a monkfish DAS 
while at sea. Such vessels will be subject to the smaller NE 
multispecies gillnet minimum mesh size associated with the NE 
multispecies regulated mesh area in which the vessel is fishing versus 
the relatively larger monkfish gillnet minimum mesh size requirement.
    The purpose of the at-sea declaration component of this management 
measure is to minimize discards and promote safety. For example, if a 
vessel fishing for NE multispecies under a Category A DAS in the NFMA 
exceeds the monkfish incidental catch limit, this provision enables the 
vessel to retain the additional monkfish by declaring a monkfish DAS. 
Otherwise, the vessel would be required to discard the additional 
monkfish or stay at sea long enough to account for the overage of the 
incidental limit, which is based on a NE multispecies DAS. The decision 
to apply this at-sea declaration provision only to vessels fishing in 
the NFMA is a recognition of the differences in how the monkfish 
fishery is prosecuted in each management area, particularly in the 
ability to target monkfish with minimal bycatch of NE multispecies. As 
such, vessels holding both limited access NE multispecies and limited 
access monkfish permits are far more likely to exceed the monkfish 
incidental limit while fishing for NE multispecies on a NE multispecies 
DAS in the NFMA than they are in the SFMA. For these reasons, the 
original FMP applied different gear requirements in the two areas, and 
placed no restrictions on the monkfish catch by monkfish limited access 
vessels fishing on a NE multispecies DAS in the NFMA. For the same 
reasons, the need to provide limited access monkfish vessels fishing in 
the NFMA with the flexibility provided by this at-sea declaration 
provision outweighs any potential abuse of this provision in that area, 
in contrast to the SFMA, where the need for such flexibility is much 
less, and does not outweigh the potential for abuse of this provision 
in that area.

3. Trip Limits and DAS Allocations for the NFMA

    This action establishes an annual monkfish DAS allocation of 31 DAS 
for limited access monkfish vessels fishing in the NFMA. This action 
also establishes NFMA trip limits of 1,250 lb (567 kg) tail weight per 
DAS for limited access monkfish Category A and C vessels, and 470 lb 
(213 kg) tail weight per DAS for limited access monkfish Category B and 
D vessels. The DAS allocations contained in this interim final rule are 
for the entire FY 2007, and, as such, are inclusive of the DAS 
allocated under the April 27, 2007, interim rule. Therefore, vessels 
previously allocated 31 DAS under the interim rule will not be granted 
any additional DAS under this interim final rule.

4. Trip limits and DAS Allocations for the SFMA

    This action restricts limited access monkfish vessels fishing in 
the SFMA to 23 monkfish DAS annually. Due to the difference between the 
proposed DAS allocations for the NFMA and the SFMA contained in 
Framework 4, this action establishes an annual allocation of 31 
monkfish DAS for all limited access monkfish vessels, but restricts 
vessels to using no more than 23 of their allocated 31 monkfish DAS in 
the SFMA. The DAS restrictions in this interim final rule are for the 
entire FY 2007, and, as such, are inclusive of the DAS restrictions 
contained in the April 27, 2007, interim rule. Therefore, vessels 
previously restricted to using 12 monkfish DAS in the SFMA under the 
interim rule will be authorized to use an additional 11 monkfish DAS, 
not counting any available carryover DAS, during FY 2007 through this 
interim final rule, for a total of 23 DAS during FY 2007.
    This action also establishes SFMA trip limits of 550 lb (249 kg) 
tail weight for limited access monkfish Category A, C, and G vessels; 
and 450 lb (204 kg) tail weight per DAS for limited access monkfish 
Category B, D, and H vessels. These are the same trip limits in effect 
during FY 2006 and under the interim rule.

5. Monkfish Incidental Catch Limit for the NFMA

    This action reduces the monkfish incidental catch limit applicable 
to limited access monkfish vessels (Categories A, B, C, D, F, G, and H) 
and open access monkfish vessels (Category E) fishing under a NE 
multispecies DAS in the NFMA from 400 lb (181 kg) tail weight per NE 
multispecies DAS, or 50 percent of the weight of fish on board, to 300 
lb (136 kg) tail weight per DAS, or 25 percent of the weight of fish on 
board. The revised incidental catch limit for the NFMA is equivalent to 
that implemented in the original FMP.

[[Page 53945]]

6. Target TAC Overage Backstop Provision

    The target TACs and associated management measures contained in 
this interim final rule are intended to remain in effect for the final 
3 years of the FMP rebuilding program. The method that has been used to 
calculate trip limits and DAS allocations for the SFMA since FY 2002 
has proven to be effective at keeping landings at or near the annual 
target TACs. However, there is no assurance that the success of this 
method will continue, or that similar results will occur for the NFMA, 
where there has been no monkfish trip limit since the implementation of 
the FMP. As a result, the Councils recommended a target TAC overage 
backstop provision in Framework 4 that enables the Regional 
Administrator to adjust the DAS available in either or both management 
areas for FY 2009 if the target TACs are exceeded by between 10 and 30 
percent during FY 2007. If the target TACs are exceeded by more than 30 
percent, the directed monkfish fishery would be closed in FY 2009 in 
the area in which this overage occurred.

7. Extension of Measures Beyond FY 2009

    If a subsequent regulatory action is not in place prior to the end 
of FY 2009, Framework 4 contains a provision to extend management 
measures into FY 2010 and beyond. Under this interim final rule, the 
management measures in place for FY 2009 would remain in effect in FY 
2010 and beyond unless the target TAC overage backstop provision (see 
item 6) results in the closure of the directed monkfish fishery during 
FY 2009. In this case, the management measures in effect for FY 2010 
and beyond would be those in effect during FY 2008 in the area where 
the directed fishery had been closed.

8. Revision to Boundary Line for Category H Permit Holders

    This action revises the northern boundary line applicable to 
limited access monkfish Category H permit holders. These vessels were 
allowed to enter the fishery through an extension to the monkfish 
limited access program established in Amendment 2 to the FMP. A total 
of seven vessels qualified for Category H permits under this program. 
Under the provisions of the program contained in Amendment 2, these 
vessels were restricted to fishing in the area south of 38[deg]20'N 
lat. These vessels have a limited season when monkfish are available 
during the late spring. In addition, these vessels are constrained by 
sea turtle closures that essentially restrict the fishery to an area 
that is 20 nautical miles (37 km) wide. As a result, Framework 4 shifts 
the northern boundary line applicable to limited access monkfish 
Category H vessels northward by 20 nautical miles (37 km) to 38[deg]40' 
N lat. in order to increase the opportunity for the affected vessels to 
prosecute the monkfish fishery, and provide some additional area to 
move into, in the event that sea turtles appear in the area north of 
38[deg]00' N lat., which is the northern boundary of the sea turtle 
closure area.

9. Scallop Closed Area Access Program Monkfish Incidental Catch Limit

    Prior to the final approval of Framework 4 by the Councils, 
representatives from the scallop fishing industry requested that the 
Councils clarify their intent with respect to the monkfish incidental 
catch limits applicable to scallop dredge vessels fishing in the 
Scallop Area Access Program, because changes to the program resulting 
from Scallop Framework 18 changed the monkfish incidental catch limit 
applicable to these areas. The final rule implementing Framework 18 to 
the Scallop FMP removed DAS counting for vessels fishing in the Scallop 
Area Access Program. As a result, the monkfish possession limit dropped 
from 300 lb (136 kg) tail weight per scallop DAS to 50 lb (23 kg) tail 
weight per day fished, up to a maximum of 150 lb (68 kg) tail weight in 
the access areas. Based on input from the scallop fishing industry, 
Framework 4 revises the monkfish possession limit applicable to limited 
access scallop vessels fishing in the Scallop Area Access Program to be 
300 lb (136 kg) tail weight per day fished within the access area, not 
to include steaming time.

10. Re-establishment of Carryover DAS

    The April 27, 2007, interim rule prohibited the use of carryover 
DAS. By default, since the Councils chose to take no action to change 
the DAS carryover provisions through Framework 4, this action re-
establishes the Monkfish FMP provision allowing limited access monkfish 
vessels to carryover up to 10 unused monkfish DAS from one fishing year 
to the next.

11. Additional Changes

    A section of the final rule implementing Joint NE Multispecies 
Framework 42/Monkfish Framework 3 (71 FR 62156; October 23, 2006) that 
pertained to the NE Multispecies Regular B DAS Program contained an 
error in a cross-reference to the monkfish possession limit regulations 
under Sec.  648.94. This action revises the incorrect cross-reference 
of Sec.  648.94(b)(7) found under Sec.  648.85(b)(6)(iv)(D) to be Sec.  
648.94(b)(3). This error was the result of an oversight in carrying 
forward regulatory changes from the April 13, 2006, emergency interim 
rule to the NE Multispecies FMP (71 FR 19348) that were also contained 
in this joint framework (i.e., the cross-reference was not updated in 
the final rule implementing this joint framework).
    This action also makes two additional changes that appear to be 
oversights in the regulatory text implementing Amendment 2 to the 
Monkfish FMP (70 FR 21927; April 28, 2005). The first correction 
deletes a cross reference to Sec.  648.93(b)(2) in the prohibition 
concerning the monkfish management area declaration requirement, found 
at Sec.  648.14(y)(21), since it is no longer valid. Amendment 2 
eliminated the need for an area declaration requirement associated with 
the monkfish minimum fish size provisions under Sec.  648.93 since that 
action made the minimum fish size equivalent across both management 
areas. In addition, this interim final rule removes some duplicate 
regulatory text concerning the impact of the NE multispecies leasing 
program on monkfish DAS found at Sec.  648.92(b)(2)(iii) that should 
have been deleted when that section was revised during the Amendment 2 
rulemaking process.

Comments and Responses

    The public comment period on the proposed rule for Framework 4 
ended on April 19, 2007, with 24 comments received. All of the public 
comments, except one, supported the management measures contained in 
Framework 4. Only comments that were applicable to the proposed 
measures, including the analyses used to support these measures, are 
addressed in this preamble. In implementing inseason framework 
adjustment measures such as Framework 4, NMFS may only approve or 
disapprove measures, and may not select another alternative considered 
(and not rejected) by the Councils or unilaterally modify any measure 
in a substantive way pursuant to the monkfish inseason framework 
adjustment provisions found under Sec.  648.96(c)(2), unless the 
framework action was initiated through the FMP annual review process as 
specified under Sec.  648.96(c)(1).
    Comment 1: One commenter stated that the monkfish quotas should be 
cut by 50 percent this year and by 10 percent each succeeding year.

[[Page 53946]]

    Response: The target TACs being implemented in this interim final 
rule represent an average decrease of 50 percent in overall fishing 
effort (i.e., across both management areas) since FY 2002. 
Specifically, the target TAC for the NFMA is 35 percent lower than the 
target TAC in effect for FY 2006, and 67 percent lower than the average 
of the target TACs in effect since FY 2002. Similarly, although the 
target TAC for the SFMA is 39 percent higher than the target TAC in 
effect for FY 2006, it is 33 percent lower than the average of the 
target TACs in effect since FY 2002. The appropriateness of these 
target TACs is further confirmed by a recently completed integrated 
monkfish stock assessment.
    Comment 2: Twelve of the commenters expressed support for the 
``Backstop'' and ``Extension'' provisions contained in Framework 4. In 
addition to expressing general support for these provisions, one 
commenter noted that the ``Backstop'' provision should be linked to a 
clearly defined agency commitment to a dynamic monkfish-specific 
survey/assessment process. Otherwise, they noted, decisions affecting 
the monkfish fishery over the long term would not be based on relevant 
data.
    Response: NMFS acknowledges the commenters' support of these 
measures and is fully aware of the data needs for this fishery. The 
Monkfish Research Set-Aside (RSA) Program is aimed at gathering this 
much needed information through cooperative research.
    Comment 3: Eleven commenters supported the provision to revise the 
northern boundary line applicable to limited access monkfish Category H 
vessels by moving this boundary northward by 20 nautical miles (37 km).
    Response: NMFS acknowledges the need for the boundary line change 
as conveyed by members of the fishing industry, as outlined in item 8 
of the description of approved measures contained in the preamble to 
this interim final rule.
    Comment 4: Twelve commenters expressed support for the revision to 
the incidental catch limit applicable to limited access scallop vessels 
that participate in the Scallop Area Access Program, with one 
commenter, a representative for the scallop industry, detailing the 
need for this measure.
    Response: NMFS recognizes the need for this revision, which was 
triggered by a change in the Sea Scallop FMP (Framework Adjustment 18) 
that removed the DAS requirements for the Scallop Access Areas. The 
rationale for this management measure is provided in item 9 of the 
description of approved measures contained in the preamble to this 
interim final rule, and is not repeated here.
    Comment 5: Eleven commenters expressed support for the reduction in 
the incidental catch limit in the NFMA applicable to monkfish vessels 
(limited and open access) fishing under a NE multispecies DAS.
    Response: NMFS acknowledges the industry's support for this measure 
being implemented in this interim final rule. The rationale for this 
measure is provided in item 5 of the description of approved measures 
contained in the preamble to this interim final rule, and is not 
repeated here.
    Comment 6: Six commenters expressed support for the management 
measure requiring vessels that fish in the NFMA to use a monkfish DAS 
if the vessel intends to harvest monkfish in excess of the incidental 
catch limit. Five commenters specifically commented on the provision 
contained within this measure that would allow vessels fishing in the 
NFMA that start a trip under a NE multispecies Category A DAS to change 
their DAS declaration to a monkfish DAS through the vessel's VMS unit 
while at sea, and prior to crossing the VMS demarcation line its return 
to port.
    Response: NMFS initially expressed concerns over the DAS change 
provision, since it is unclear how this provision will enable vessels 
to more efficiently utilize their monkfish DAS, which could lead to an 
overage in the target TAC. However, these initial concerns are 
outweighed by the benefit of requiring the use of monkfish DAS in the 
NFMA, to which this provision is tied in Framework 4. A full discussion 
of the rationale for this measure is provided in item 2 of the 
description of approved measures contained in the preamble to this 
interim final rule.
    Comment 7: Twelve individuals commented on the proposed change to 
the DAS carryover provision contained in Framework 4. The Councils 
voted not to change the DAS carryover provision in Framework 4, and 11 
of these commenters supported that decision. However, one individual 
expressed concern over the Councils decision, suggesting that a 10 DAS 
carryover is too high for a fishery allocated so few DAS.
    Response: NMFS is also concerned by the Council's decision not to 
revise the DAS carryover provision in Framework 4, although its 
concerns are somewhat allayed based on the recently completed 
integrated monkfish stock assessment. In FY 2006, the target TAC for 
the SFMA was exceeded by over 60 percent, likely due to the use of 
carryover DAS. NMFS intends to urge the Council to re-address the DAS 
carryover provision in its next action.
    Comment 8: Eleven individuals supported maintaining the 40 monkfish 
DAS allocation, but reducing current DAS usage.
    Response: None of the DAS alternatives considered by the Councils 
in Framework 4 included a provision that would maintain the annual 
monkfish DAS allocation at 40 DAS but reduce current DAS usage. What 
was proposed by the Councils, and is being implemented in this interim 
final rule, is the management measure allocating all limited access 
monkfish vessels a reduced annual monkfish DAS allocation of 31 DAS, 
but restricting DAS usage in the SFMA to 23 DAS.

Changes From the Proposed Rule

    NMFS has made eight changes to the proposed rule, all of which are 
to ensure consistency with and effective implementation of Framework 4 
as it relates to management measures in other FMPs. Two of these have 
been made to incorporate changes to the minimum mesh size requirement 
applicable to limited access monkfish gillnet vessels fishing in the 
NFMA that change their DAS declaration from a NE multispecies Category 
A DAS to a monkfish DAS while at sea, as provided in Framework 4, since 
these changes were left out of the proposed rule. The third change is a 
correction to the final rule implementing Joint NE Multispecies 
Framework 42/Monkfish Framework 3 to update an incorrect cross-
reference concerning the NE Multispecies Regular B DAS Program. The 
fourth change has been made to update the cross-reference to the 
incidental catch restrictions for limited access monkfish vessels when 
not fishing under a DAS program to be inclusive of all the applicable 
incidental catch limit regulations. The fifth change makes a similar 
revision to the monkfish incidental catch restrictions applicable to 
general category and limited access scallop vessels to include a 
reference to limited access monkfish vessels not fishing under a 
scallop DAS. The sixth change deletes a cross-reference in the monkfish 
prohibitions that is no longer valid, and the seventh change deletes 
some duplicate regulatory text under the monkfish effort control 
regulations. The eighth change adds a sentence concerning a prohibition 
on the use of NE multispecies B Regular DAS in conjunction with a 
monkfish DAS to the monkfish effort control regulations that currently 
exist, but was left out of the proposed revision to Sec.  
648.92(b)(2)(i) contained in the proposed rule. These

[[Page 53947]]

eight changes are specifically identified as follows.
    In Sec.  648.14, paragraph (y)(21) has been revised to delete the 
cross-reference to Sec.  648.93(b)(2).
    In Sec.  648.85, paragraph (b)(6)(iv)(D) has been revised to 
correct the cross-reference to the monkfish possession limits 
applicable to limited access monkfish vessels fishing under the NE 
Multispecies Regular B DAS Program from Sec.  648.94(b)(7) to Sec.  
648.94(b)(3).
    In Sec.  648.91, paragraph (c)(1)(iii) has been revised to include 
a change to minimum mesh size restrictions applicable to limited access 
monkfish vessels fishing with gillnet gear in the NFMA that change 
their DAS declaration from a NE multispecies Category A DAS to a 
monkfish DAS while at sea. Under the DAS change provision contained in 
Framework 4, these vessels are subject to the NE multispecies gillnet 
minimum mesh size associated with the NE multispecies regulated mesh 
area in which the vessel is fishing, versus the monkfish gillnet 
minimum mesh size.
    In Sec.  648.92, paragraph (b)(1)(iii) has been revised to include 
a reference to the minimum mesh size requirement applicable to limited 
access monkfish gillnet vessels fishing in the NFMA that change their 
DAS declaration from a NE multispecies Category A DAS to a monkfish DAS 
while at sea. As noted above, under the DAS change provision contained 
in Framework 4, these vessels are subject to the NE multispecies 
minimum mesh size associated with the NE multispecies regulated mesh 
area in which the vessel is fishing. In addition, some additional 
wording was added to clarify that the NE multispecies DAS provisions 
referenced are those requiring the use of a NE multispecies Category A 
DAS with a monkfish DAS.
    In Sec.  648.92, paragraph (b)(2)(i) has been revised to include a 
sentence concerning the prohibition on the use of a NE multispecies B 
Regular DAS to satisfy the requirement to use a NE multispecies DAS in 
conjunction with a monkfish DAS that is applicable to monkfish limited 
access Category C, D, F, G, or H vessels that also possess a limited 
access NE multispecies DAS permit.
    In Sec.  648.92, paragraph (b)(2)(iii) has been removed.
    In Sec.  648.94, paragraph (b)(6) has been revised to update the 
cross-reference to the monkfish incidental catch regulations in order 
to clarify that all limited access monkfish vessels are subject to the 
same incidental catch restrictions as open access Category E vessels 
when not fishing under a DAS.
    In Sec.  648.94, paragraph (c)(8) has been revised to include the 
following phrase under paragraphs (c)(8)(A) and (B) ``or a valid 
limited access Category C, D, F, G, or H permit, and also possessing'' 
to clarify that all limited access monkfish vessels possessing scallop 
permits are subject to the same incidental catch restrictions as open 
access Category E vessels possessing scallop permits when not fishing 
under a DAS.
    Pursuant to the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), 15 CFR part 902 
lists control numbers assigned to NMFS information collection 
requirements by OMB. This part fulfills the requirements of section 
3506(c)(1)(B)(i) of the PRA, which requires that agencies display a 
current control number, assigned by the Director of OMB, for each 
agency information collection requirement. This interim final rule 
codifies OMB Control Number 0648-0561 for Sec.  648.92.
    Under NOAA Administrative Order 205-11, dated December 17, 1990, 
the Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere has delegated authority 
to sign material for publication in the Federal Register to the 
Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA.

Classification

    The Administrator, Northeast Region, NMFS, determined that 
Framework 4 is necessary for the conservation and management of the 
monkfish fishery and that it is consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens 
Act and other applicable laws.
    This interim final rule has been determined to be not significant 
for purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    NMFS, pursuant to section 604 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act 
(RFA), prepared this FRFA in support of the approved measures in 
Framework 4. The FRFA incorporates the IRFA, a summary of the 
significant issues raised by the public comments in response to the 
IRFA, NMFS responses to those comments, and a summary of the analyses 
completed to support the action. The preamble to the proposed rule 
included a detailed summary of the analyses contained in the IRFA, and 
that discussion is not repeated here. A copy of the EA/RIR/IRFA is 
available from the NEFMC (see ADDRESSES).

Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

Statement of Objective and Need
    A description of why this action was considered, the objectives of, 
and the legal basis for this interim final rule are contained in the 
preambles to the proposed rule and this interim final rule and are not 
repeated here.
Summary of Significant Issues Raised in Public Comments
    Twenty-four public comments were submitted on the proposed rule. 
However, none of these comments were specific to the IRFA or the 
economic effects of the rule. NMFS has responded to these comments in 
the Comments and Responses section of the preamble to this interim 
final rule. No changes were made to this interim final rule as a result 
of the comments received.
Description and Estimate of Number of Small Entities to Which the Rule 
will Apply
    The Small Business Administration (SBA) defines small businesses in 
the commercial fishing sector as firms with receipts (gross revenues) 
of up to $4.0 million. All of the entities (fishing vessels) affected 
by this action are considered small entities under the SBA size 
standards for small fishing businesses. Therefore, there is no 
disproportionate impact on small entities compared to large entities. 
As of August 16, 2007, there were 724 limited access monkfish permit 
holders and 1,981 vessels holding an open access Category E monkfish 
permit. This action would affect all active limited access vessels, and 
any open access monkfish vessels that land monkfish from the NFMA.
    Vessel activity reports for FY 2005 indicate that 627 limited 
access monkfish permit holders participated in the monkfish fishery. Of 
these vessels, 150 fished exclusively in the NFMA and 226 fished 
exclusively in the SFMA, with the remaining 251 fishing in both 
management areas. During the same time period, vessel activity reports 
indicate that 570 incidental permit holders reported landing monkfish. 
Of these vessels, 163 landed monkfish only from the NFMA, 344 landed 
monkfish only from the SFMA, and 63 landed monkfish from both 
management areas. Based upon this information, the management measures 
contained in Framework 4 will affect at least the 627 limited access 
monkfish vessels that fished for monkfish and the 226 incidental permit 
holders landing monkfish from the NFMA during FY 2005.
Description of Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other Compliance 
Requirements
    The only approved Framework 4 measure that requires either new or 
revised reporting and recordkeeping requirements is the provision that 
enables limited access monkfish vessels that are fishing in the NFMA, 
that also

[[Page 53948]]

possess a limited access NE multispecies DAS permit, to change their 
DAS declaration through the vessel's VMS unit from a Category A NE 
multispecies DAS to a monkfish DAS while at sea and prior to crossing 
the VMS demarcation line on the vessel's return to port. Additional 
information regarding the projected reporting or recordkeeping costs 
associated with this action was made available for review in NMFS's PRA 
submission to OMB on March 20, 2007. There are no other compliance 
requirements associated with this interim final rule implementing 
Framework 4.
Description of the Steps Taken to Minimize Economic Impact on Small 
Entities
    The management measures contained in Framework 4 represent a 
reduction in fishing opportunities for vessels fishing in the NFMA, in 
comparison to previous fishing years, resulting from implementation of 
the requirement that vessels fishing in the NFMA use monkfish DAS if 
they exceed, or intend to exceed, the incidental catch limit; a 
reduction in the total annual DAS allocations for limited access 
monkfish vessels; and establishment of trip limits for vessels fishing 
under a monkfish DAS in this management area. To minimize the impacts 
of these management measures on vessels fishing in the NFMA, the 
Councils included a provision in Framework 4 that allows limited access 
monkfish vessels that fish in the NFMA, if equipped with a VMS unit, to 
change the DAS declaration from a NE multispecies Category A DAS to a 
monkfish DAS while at sea, but prior to crossing the VMS demarcation 
line on the return to port. This provision provides these vessels with 
the flexibility of declaring a monkfish DAS during the course of a trip 
versus wasting a monkfish DAS if the vessel is unable to harvest 
monkfish in excess of the incidental catch limit. In addition, this 
provision promotes safety and prevents discards because it enables a 
vessel that exceeds the incidental catch limit to change its DAS 
declaration to a monkfish DAS versus discarding the extra monkfish or 
staying at sea long enough to cover the overage, as the incidental 
catch limit is based on pounds per NE multispecies DAS.
    In addition, the Framework 4 management measure requiring vessels 
to declare a monkfish DAS in the NFMA if they exceed the incidental 
catch limit also includes a provision that enables gillnet vessels to 
fish with a smaller minimum mesh size, the NE multispecies minimum mesh 
size applicable to the regulated mesh area in which the vessel is 
fishing, if that vessel changes its DAS declaration from a NE 
multispecies Category A DAS to a monkfish DAS while at sea. This 
provision enables gillnet vessels to fish with both their monkfish 
gillnet gear and their NE multispecies gear on the same trip, which 
they are currently prohibited from doing under the existing interim 
rule, which did not temporarily implement this DAS declaration change 
provision contained in Framework 4. This provision is important because 
it enables monkfish gillnet vessels that fish in the NFMA to operate in 
the same manner as they have historically, thereby minimizing the 
economic impacts associated with the reducing fishing opportunities 
resulting from the NFMA management measures contained in Framework 4.
    The reduction in the incidental catch limit applicable to limited 
access and open access monkfish vessels fishing under only a NE 
multispecies DAS in the NFMA contained in Framework 4 is expected to 
have a minimal impact on monkfish vessels that fish in the NFMA because 
the majority of these vessels currently land fewer than the reduced 
incidental limit of 300 lb (136 kg) tail weight per NE multispecies 
DAS. In FY 2005, 78.2 percent of all trips by monkfish vessels fishing 
in the NFMA landed less than the revised 300-lb (136-kg) tail weight 
limit, while 82.4 percent of these trips landed less than the previous 
400-lb (181-kg) tail weight limit. However, monkfish limited access 
Category A and C vessels had a larger percentage of trips in excess of 
the previous and revised incidental catch limits. During FY 2005, only 
13.2 percent of trips by monkfish limited access Category A vessels 
were less than 400 lb (181 kg) tail weight and 5.3 percent of trips 
were less than 300 lb (136 kg) tail weight. For limited access Category 
C vessels, 48.8 percent of the FY 2005 trips were less than 400 lb (181 
kg) tail weight and 42.2 percent of the trips were less than 300 lb 
(136 kg) tail weight. However, under Framework 4, these vessels will 
have monkfish DAS that they can utilize in the NFMA to land monkfish in 
excess of the revised incidental catch limit, minimizing the economic 
impact of this measure.
    The target TAC overage backstop provision will either reduce the 
DAS allocation or close the fishery in a management area if the target 
TAC for that management area is exceeded by more the 10 percent during 
FY 2007. The Councils understood that, given the inability to precisely 
predict future fishing behavior, measures should be put in place in 
case the target TACs are exceeded. Although this provision could lead 
to the closure of the fishery in FY 2009, the provision extending 
measures beyond FY 2009, contained in Framework 4, would reopen the 
fishery in FY 2010, and reinstate the management measures in effect 
during FY 2008. Therefore, the potential negative economic impacts 
associated with the target TAC overage provision are minimized by the 
provision to extend fishery management measures beyond FY 2009.
    The remaining management measures being implemented through this 
interim final rule are less restrictive than those previously in 
effect, thereby minimizing the economic impacts of this action on small 
entities. These less restrictive measures include an increase in the 
monkfish DAS available for use in the SFMA (from 12 DAS to 23 DAS); a 
revision to the northern boundary line applicable to limited access 
Category H monkfish vessels that expands the area in which these 
vessels can operate by 20 nautical miles (37 km); and a revision to the 
incidental catch limit applicable to limited access scallop vessels 
that are participating in the Scallop Area Access Program that 
increases the amount of monkfish these vessels can land, which is 
roughly equivalent to the amount implemented in the original FMP.

Small Entity Compliance Guide

    Section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness 
Act of 1996 states that, for each rule or group of related rules for 
which an agency is required to prepare a FRFA, the agency shall publish 
one or more guides to assist small entities in complying with the rule, 
and shall designate such publications as ``small entity compliance 
guides.'' The agency shall explain the actions a small entity is 
required to take to comply with a rule or group of rules. As part of 
this rulemaking process, a small entity compliance guide will be sent 
to all holders of Federal permits issued for the monkfish fishery. In 
addition, copies of this interim final rule and guide (i.e., permit 
holder letter) are available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES) and at the 
following website: http://www.nero.noaa.gov/nero/nr/index.html.
    This interim final rule contains one new collection-of-information 
requirement subject to the PRA and which has been approved by OMB under 
control number 0648-0561. Public reporting burden for the DAS 
declaration change provision for limited access monkfish vessels 
fishing in the NFMA is estimated to average 5 minutes per response, 
including the time for reviewing instructions, searching

[[Page 53949]]

existing data sources, gathering and maintaining the data needed, and 
completing and reviewing the collection of information. Send comments 
regarding this burden estimate or any other aspect of this data 
collection, including suggestions for reducing the burden, to NMFS (see 
ADDRESSES) and by e-mail to David--Rostker@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

15 CFR Part 902
    Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.
50 CFR Part 648
    Fisheries, Fishing, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    Dated: September 14, 2007.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

0
For the reasons set out in the preamble, 15 CFR part 902 and 50 CFR 
part 648 are amended as follows:

PART 902--NOAA INFORMATION COLLECTION REQUIREMENTS UNDER THE 
PAPERWORK REDUCTION ACT: OMB CONTROL NUMBERS

0
1. The authority citation for part 902 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.

0
2. In Sec.  902.1, the table in paragraph (b) under ``50 CFR'' is 
amended by adding a new entry to read as follows:


Sec.  902.1  OMB control numbers assigned pursuant to the Paperwork 
Reduction Act.

* * * * *
    (b) Display.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                              Current OMB control number
 CFR part or section where the information     (all numbers begin with
     collection requirement is located                  0648-)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                * * * * *
 
50 CFR                                       ...........................
                                * * * * *
648.92                                       -0561
                                * * * * *
 
------------------------------------------------------------------------

PART 648--FISHERIES OF THE NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES

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

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


0
4. In Sec.  648.4, paragraphs (a)(9)(i)(A)(6) and (7) headings are 
revised to read as follows:


Sec.  648.4  Vessel permits.

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (9) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) * * *
    (6) Category G permit (vessels restricted to fishing south of 
38[deg]40' N. lat. As described in Sec.  648.92(b) that do not qualify 
for a monkfish limited access Category A, B, C, or D permit).* * *
    (7) Category H permit (vessels restricted to fishing south of 
38[deg]40' N. lat. As described in Sec.  648.92(b) that do not qualify 
for a monkfish limited access Category A, B, C, D, or G permit).* * *
* * * * *

0
5. In Sec.  648.14, paragraph (y)(21) is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  648.14  Prohibitions.

* * * * *
    (y) * * *
    (21) Fail to comply with the area declaration requirements 
specified at Sec.  648.94(f) when fishing under a scallop, NE 
multispecies, or monkfish DAS exclusively in the NFMA under the less 
restrictive measures of that area.
* * * * *

0
6. In Sec.  648.85, paragraph (b)(6)(iv)(D) is revised to read as 
follows:


Sec.  648.85  Special management programs.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (6) * * *
    (iv) * * *
    (D) Landing limits. Unless otherwise specified in this paragraph 
(b)(6)(iv)(D), a NE multispecies vessel fishing in the Regular B DAS 
Program described in this paragraph (b)(6), and fishing under a Regular 
B DAS, may not land more than 100 lb (45.5 kg) per DAS, or any part of 
a DAS, up to a maximum of 1,000 lb (454 kg) per trip, of any of the 
following species/stocks: Cod, American plaice, white hake, witch 
flounder, SNE/MA winter flounder, GB winter flounder, GB yellowtail 
flounder, southern windowpane flounder, and ocean pout; and may not 
land more than 25 lb (11.3 kg) per DAS, or any part of a DAS, up to a 
maximum of 250 lb (113 kg) per trip of CC/GOM or SNE/MA yellowtail 
flounder. In addition, trawl vessels, which are required to fish with a 
haddock separator trawl as specified under paragraph (b)(6)(iv)(J) of 
this section, and other gear that may be required in order to reduce 
catches of stocks of concern as described under paragraph (b)(6)(iv)(J) 
of this section, are restricted to the following trip limits: 500 lb 
(227 kg) of all flatfish species (American plaice, witch flounder, 
winter flounder, windowpane flounder, and GB yellowtail flounder), 
combined; 500 lb (227 kg) of monkfish (whole weight); 500 lb (227 kg) 
of skates (whole weight); and zero possession of lobsters, unless 
otherwise restricted by Sec.  648.94(b)(3).
* * * * *

0
7. In Sec.  648.91, paragraph (c)(1)(iii) is revised to read as 
follows:


Sec.  648.91  Monkfish regulated mesh areas and restrictions on gear 
and methods of fishing.

* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (iii) Gillnets while on a monkfish DAS. The minimum mesh size for 
any gillnets used by a vessel fishing under a monkfish DAS is 10-inch 
(25.4-cm) diamond mesh, unless otherwise provided for under Sec.  
648.92(b)(1)(iii)(B).
* * * * *

0
8. In Sec.  648.92, paragraph (b)(2)(iii) is removed, and paragraphs 
(b)(1), (b)(2)(i), (b)(2)(ii)(B), and (b)(9)(i) are revised to read as 
follows:


Sec.  648.92  Effort-control program for monkfish limited access 
vessels.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (1) Limited access monkfish permit holders--(i) General provision. 
Limited access monkfish permit holders shall be allocated 31 monkfish 
DAS each fishing year to be used in accordance with the restrictions of 
this paragraph (b), unless otherwise restricted by paragraph (b)(1)(ii) 
of this section or modified by Sec.  648.96(b)(3), or unless the vessel 
is enrolled in the Offshore Fishery Program in the SFMA, as specified 
in paragraph (b)(1)(iv) of this section. The annual allocation of 
monkfish DAS shall be reduced by the amount calculated in paragraph 
(b)(1)(v) of this section for the research DAS set-aside. Limited 
access NE multispecies and limited access sea scallop permit holders 
who also possess a limited access monkfish permit must use a NE 
multispecies or sea scallop DAS concurrently with each monkfish DAS 
utilized, except as provided in paragraph (b)(2) of this section, 
unless otherwise specified under this subpart F.

[[Page 53950]]

    (ii) DAS restrictions for vessels fishing in the SFMA. Limited 
access monkfish vessels may only use 23 of their 31 monkfish DAS 
allocation in the SFMA. All limited access monkfish vessels fishing in 
the SFMA must declare that they are fishing in this area through the 
vessel call-in system or VMS prior to the start of every trip. In 
addition, if a vessel does not possess a valid letter of authorization 
from the Regional Administrator to fish in the NFMA as described in 
Sec.  648.94(f), NMFS shall presume that any monkfish DAS used were 
fished in the SFMA.
    (iii) DAS declaration provision for vessels fishing in the NFMA 
with a VMS unit. Any limited access NE multispecies vessel fishing 
under a NE multispecies Category A DAS in the NFMA, and issued an LOA 
as specified in Sec.  648.94(f), may change its DAS declaration to a 
monkfish DAS through the vessel's VMS unit during the course of the 
trip, but prior to crossing the VMS demarcation line upon its return to 
port or leaving the NFMA, if the vessel exceeds the incidental catch 
limit specified under Sec.  648.94(c).
    (A) Vessels that change their DAS declaration from a NE 
multispecies Category A DAS to a monkfish DAS during the course of a 
trip remain subject to the NE multispecies DAS usage requirements 
(i.e., use a NE multispecies Category A DAS in conjunction with the 
monkfish DAS) described in paragraph (b)(2)(i) of this section.
    (B) Gillnet vessels that change their DAS declaration in accordance 
with this paragraph (b)(1)(iii) are not subject to the gillnet minimum 
mesh size restrictions found at Sec.  648.91(c)(1)(iii), but are 
subject to the smaller NE multispecies minimum mesh requirements for 
gillnet vessels found under Sec.  648.80 based upon the NE Multispecies 
Regulated Mesh Area in which the vessel is fishing.
    (iv) Offshore Fishery Program DAS allocation. A vessel issued a 
Category F permit, as described in Sec.  648.95, shall be allocated a 
prorated number of monkfish DAS as specified in Sec.  648.95(g)(2).
    (v) Research DAS set-aside. A total of 500 DAS shall be set aside 
and made available for cooperative research programs as described in 
paragraph (c) of this section. These DAS shall be deducted from the 
total number of DAS allocated to all monkfish limited access permit 
holders, as specified under paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section. A per 
vessel deduction shall be determined as follows: Allocated DAS minus 
the quotient of 500 DAS divided by the total number of limited access 
permits issued in the previous fishing year. For example, if the DAS 
allocation equals 31 DAS and there were 750 limited access monkfish 
permits issued during FY 2006, the number of DAS allocated to each 
vessel during FY 2007 would be 31 DAS minus 0.7 (500 DAS divided by 750 
permits), or 30.3 DAS.
    (2) * * *
    (i) Unless otherwise specified in paragraph (b)(2)(ii) of this 
section, each monkfish DAS used by a limited access NE multispecies or 
scallop DAS vessel holding a Category C, D, F, G, or H limited access 
monkfish permit shall also be counted as a NE multispecies or scallop 
DAS, as applicable, except when a Category C, D, F, G, or H vessel with 
a limited access NE multispecies DAS permit has an allocation of NE 
multispecies Category A DAS, specified under Sec.  648.82(d)(1), that 
is less than the number of monkfish DAS allocated for the fishing year 
May 1 through April 30. Under this circumstance, the vessel may fish 
under the monkfish limited access Category A or B provisions, as 
applicable, for the number of DAS that equal the difference between the 
number of its allocated monkfish DAS and the number of its allocated NE 
multispecies Category A DAS. For such vessels, when the total 
allocation of NE multispecies Category A DAS has been used, a monkfish 
DAS may be used without concurrent use of a NE multispecies DAS, 
provided that the vessel fishes under the regulations pertaining to a 
Category B vessel and does not retain any regulated NE multispecies. 
For example, if a monkfish Category D vessel's NE multispecies Category 
A DAS allocation is 20, and the vessel fished 20 of its 31 monkfish 
DAS, 20 NE multispecies Category A DAS would also be used. However, 
after all 20 NE multispecies Category A DAS are used, the vessel may 
utilize its remaining 11 monkfish DAS to fish for monkfish, without a 
NE multispecies DAS being used. A vessel holding a Category C, D, F, G, 
or H limited access monkfish permit may not use a NE multispecies 
Category B Regular DAS under the NE Multispecies Regular B DAS Program, 
as specified under Sec.  648.85(b)(6), in order to satisfy the 
requirement of this paragraph (b)(2)(i) to use a NE multispecies DAS 
concurrently with a monkfish DAS.
    (ii) * * *
    (A) * * *
    (B) A monkfish Category C, D, F, G, or H vessel that leases DAS to 
another vessel(s), pursuant to Sec.  648.82(k), must forfeit a monkfish 
DAS for each NE multispecies DAS that the vessel leases, equal in 
number to the difference between the number of remaining NE 
multispecies DAS and the number of unused monkfish DAS at the time of 
the lease. For example, if a lessor vessel, which had 31 unused 
monkfish DAS and 35 allocated NE multispecies DAS, leased 10 of its NE 
multispecies DAS to another vessel, the lessor would forfeit 6 of its 
monkfish DAS (10 - (35 NE multispecies DAS - 31 monkfish DAS) = 6).
* * * * *
    (9) * * *
    (i) Vessels issued monkfish limited access Category G or H permits 
may only fish under a monkfish DAS in the area south of 38[deg]40' N. 
lat.
* * * * *

0
9. In Sec.  648.94, paragraphs (b)(1), (b)(2)(i), (b)(2)(ii), 
(b)(3)(i), (b)(3)(ii), (b)(6), (c)(1)(i), and (c)(8) are revised to 
read as follows:


Sec.  648.94  Monkfish possession and landing restrictions.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (1) Vessels fishing under the monkfish DAS program in the NFMA--(i) 
Category A and C vessels. Limited access monkfish Category A and C 
vessels that fish under a monkfish DAS exclusively in the NFMA may land 
up to 1,250 lb (567 kg) tail weight or 4,150 lb (1,882 kg) whole weight 
of monkfish per DAS (or any prorated combination of tail weight and 
whole weight based on the conversion factor for tail weight to whole 
weight of 3.32).
    (ii) Category B and D vessels. Limited access monkfish Category B 
and D vessels that fish under a monkfish DAS exclusively in the NFMA 
may land up to 470 lb (213 kg) tail weight or 1,560 lb (708 kg) whole 
weight of monkfish per DAS (or any prorated combination of tail weight 
and whole weight based on the conversion factor for tail weight to 
whole weight of 3.32).
    (2) Vessels fishing under the monkfish DAS program in the SFMA--(i) 
Category A, C, and G vessels. Limited access monkfish Category A, C, 
and G vessels that fish under a monkfish DAS in the SFMA may land up to 
550 lb (249 kg) tail weight or 1,826 lb (828 kg) whole weight of 
monkfish per DAS (or any prorated combination of tail weight and whole 
weight based on the conversion factor for tail weight to whole weight 
of 3.32).
    (ii) Category B, D, and H vessels. Limited access monkfish Category 
B, D, and H vessels that fish under a monkfish DAS in the SFMA may land 
up to 450 lb (204 kg) tail weight or 1,494 lb (678 kg) whole weight of 
monkfish per DAS (or any prorated combination of tail weight and whole 
weight based

[[Page 53951]]

on the conversion factor for tail weight to whole weight of 3.32).
* * * * *
    (3) * * *
    (i) NFMA. Limited access monkfish Category C, D, F, G, or H vessels 
that are fishing under a NE multispecies DAS, and not a monkfish DAS, 
exclusively in the NFMA are subject to the incidental catch limit 
specified in paragraph (c)(1)(i) of this section. Category C, D, F, G, 
and H vessels participating in the NE Multispecies Regular B DAS 
program, as specified under Sec.  648.85(b)(6), are also subject to the 
incidental catch limit specified in paragraph (c)(1)(i) of this 
section.
    (ii) SFMA--(A) Category C, D, and F vessels. Limited access 
monkfish Category C, D, or F vessels that fish any portion of a trip 
under a NE multispecies DAS in the SFMA, and not a monkfish DAS, may 
land up to 300 lb (136 kg) tail weight or 996 lb (452 kg) whole weight 
of monkfish per DAS if trawl gear is used exclusively during the trip, 
or 50 lb (23 kg) tail weight or 166 lb (75 kg ) whole weight per DAS if 
gear other than trawl gear is used at any time during the trip. 
Category C, D, and F vessels participating in the NE Multispecies 
Regular B DAS program, as specified under Sec.  648.85(b)(6), are also 
subject to the incidental catch limit specified in paragraph (c)(1)(ii) 
of this section.
    (B) Category G and H vessels. Limited access monkfish Category G 
and H vessels that fish any portion of a trip under a NE multispecies 
DAS in the SFMA, and not under a monkfish DAS, are subject to the 
incidental catch limit specified in paragraph (c)(1)(ii) of this 
section. Category G and H vessels participating in the NE Multispecies 
Regular B DAS program, as specified under Sec.  648.85(b)(6), are also 
subject to the incidental catch limit specified in paragraph (c)(1)(ii) 
of this section.
* * * * *
    (6) Vessels not fishing under a NE multispecies, scallop, or 
monkfish DAS. The possession limits for all limited access monkfish 
vessels when not fishing under a NE multispecies, scallop, or monkfish 
DAS are the same as those possession limits applicable to a vessel 
issued a monkfish incidental catch permit specified under paragraphs 
(c)(3) through (c)(8) of this section.
* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (i) NFMA. Vessels issued a valid monkfish incidental catch 
(Category E) permit or a valid limited access Category C, D, F, G, or H 
permit, fishing under a NE multispecies DAS exclusively in the NFMA may 
land up to 300 lb (136 kg) tail weight or 996 lb (452 kg) whole weight 
of monkfish per DAS, or 25 percent (where the weight of all monkfish is 
converted to tail weight) of the total weight of fish on board, 
whichever is less. For the purpose of converting whole weight to tail 
weight, the amount of whole weight possessed or landed is divided by 
3.32.
* * * * *
    (8) Scallop vessels not fishing under a scallop DAS with dredge 
gear--(i) General provisions. A vessel issued a valid monkfish 
incidental catch (Category E) permit or a valid limited access Category 
C, D, F, G, or H permit, and also possessing a valid General Category 
sea scallop permit or a limited access sea scallop vessel not fishing 
under a scallop DAS, while fishing exclusively with scallop dredge gear 
as specified in Sec.  648.51(b), may possess, retain, and land up to 50 
lb (23 kg) tail weight or 166 lb (75 kg) whole weight of monkfish per 
day or partial day, not to exceed 150 lb (68 kg) tail weight or 498 lb 
(226 kg) whole weight per trip, unless otherwise specified in paragraph 
(c)(8)(ii) of this section.
    (ii) Limited access scallop vessels fishing in Sea Scallop Access 
Areas. A vessel issued a valid monkfish incidental catch (Category E) 
permit or a valid limited access Category C, D, F, G, or H permit, and 
also possessing a limited access sea scallop permit while fishing 
exclusively with scallop dredge gear as specified in Sec.  648.51(b), 
and fishing in one of the established Sea Scallop Access Areas 
specified under Sec.  648.59, may possess, retain, and land up to 300 
lb (136 kg) tail weight or 996 lb (452 kg) whole weight of monkfish per 
day or partial day fished within the boundaries of the Sea Scallop 
Access Area. Time within the applicable access area, for purposes of 
determining the incidental catch limit, will be determined through the 
vessel's VMS unit.
* * * * *

0
10. In Sec.  648.96, the section heading is revised, paragraphs (a) 
heading, and (b)(1) through (b)(4) are revised, and paragraphs (b)(5) 
and (b)(6) are added to read as follows:


Sec.  648.96  Monkfish annual target TACs and framework specifications.

    (a) Annual review. * * *
    (b) * * *
    (1) Annual Target TACs for FY 2007 through FY 2009--(i) NFMA. The 
annual target TAC for the NFMA is 5,000 mt for FY 2007 through FY 2009, 
unless otherwise recommended by the MFMC through its annual review 
procedure specified in paragraph (a) of this section, and adopted 
through the procedures outlined in paragraph (b)(4) of this section.
    (ii) SFMA. The annual target TAC for the SFMA is 5,100 mt for FY 
2007 through FY 2009, unless otherwise recommended by the MFMC through 
its annual review procedure specified in paragraph (a) of this section, 
and adopted through the procedures outlined in paragraph (b)(4) of this 
section.
    (2) Annual Target TACS for FY 2010 and beyond. If a regulatory 
action is not implemented to establish target TACs for the monkfish 
fishery for FY 2010 or subsequent years, either through the annual 
review procedure described in paragraph (a) of this section or another 
type of regulatory action, the target TACs in effect during FY 2007 - 
FY 2009 will remain in effect until new measures are implemented. The 
management measures for FY 2010 or subsequent years that would be 
associated with these target TACs are described in paragraph (b)(6) of 
this section.
    (3) Setting DAS allocations--(i) The process of determining the 
appropriate DAS allocations for each management area involves first 
estimating incidental landings for each management area and then 
estimating the proportional catch for permit categories A and C, and 
permit categories B, D, and H based upon vessel trip reports for the 
most recently completed fishing year for which a complete set of 
landings data exists. The landings proportions generated for each 
permit category group (A and C versus B, D, and H) are then used to 
estimate the landings that would be associated with each permit 
category group under a given target TAC, less projected incidental 
landings. For example, a target TAC of 5,100 mt equates to 11,243,580 
lb (5,100,000 kg). If incidental landings for the SFMA are projected to 
be 2,070,000 lb (938,936 kg) the total amount of the target TAC 
available to limited access vessels would be 9,173,580 lb (4,161,066 
kg). If the proportion of landings for permit category A and C vessels 
is 37 percent, and the proportion for permit category B, C, and H 
vessels is 63 percent, then the landing levels associated with each 
permit category group under this target TAC would be 3,394,225 lb 
(1,539,595 kg) and 5,779,355 lb (2,621,471 kg), respectively.
    (ii) Landings are assumed to be fixed at a constant rate per day 
for each vessel, equivalent to the average daily landings of each 
vessel in the reference year, of the last applicable full year of 
landings data (a year is applicable if the

[[Page 53952]]

TAC in that year was lower than the TAC in the year to be calculated).
    (iii) To adjust for the ability of vessels to carryover up to 10 
unused monkfish DAS from the previous fishing year to the current 
fishing year, adjustments to DAS usage shall be made by first reducing 
the landings for all permit holders who have used more than the annual 
DAS allocation specified in Sec.  648.94(b)(1)(i) (e.g., 31 monkfish 
DAS) by the proportion of DAS exceeding that annual DAS allocation, and 
then resetting the upper limit of DAS usage at the annual DAS 
allocation.
    (iv) Linear interpolation is then used to determine which DAS level 
would closest achieve the estimated landing levels for each permit 
category group under a given target TAC.
    (4) Council TAC Recommendations. The Councils shall consider any 
target TAC(s) recommended by the MFMC as part of its annual review 
specified in paragraph (a) of this section, and then forward their 
target TAC recommendation to the Regional Administrator. If the 
Councils recommend target TAC(s) to the Regional Administrator, and the 
Regional Administrator concurs with this recommendation, the Regional 
Administrator shall promulgate the target TAC(s) and associated 
management measures through rulemaking consistent with the APA. If the 
Regional Administrator does not concur with the Councils' 
recommendation, then the Councils shall be notified in writing of the 
reasons for the non-concurrence.
    (5) Target TAC Overages--(i) If monkfish landings exceed the annual 
target TAC for either management area by more than 10 percent but less 
than or equal to 30 percent during FY 2007, the Regional Administrator 
shall adjust the annual monkfish DAS allocation for the management area 
in which the overage occurred, through rulemaking consistent with the 
APA, for FY 2009 using catch and effort information for FY 2007 
according to the procedures outlined in paragraph (b)(3) of this 
section.
    (ii) If monkfish landings exceed the annual target TAC for either 
management area by more than 30 percent during FY 2007, the Regional 
Administrator shall reduce the annual monkfish DAS allocation to zero 
for FY 2009 for the management area in which the overage occurred, 
through rulemaking consistent with the APA.
    (6) Management measures for FY 2010 and beyond. If a regulatory 
action is not implemented to establish management measures for the 
monkfish fishery for FY 2010 or subsequent years, either through the 
annual review process or another type of regulatory action, the 
management measures in effect during FY 2009 (i.e., trip limits and DAS 
allocations) will remain in effect until new measures are implemented, 
with the following exception. If the monkfish DAS allocation is reduced 
to zero in either management area during FY 2009 as a result of the 
target TAC overage provision described in paragraph (b)(3) of this 
section, the annual DAS allocation and associated trip limits for that 
management area for FY 2010 and beyond will be equivalent to the annual 
monkfish DAS allocation and trip limits in effect during FY 2008, 
unless otherwise recommended by the MFMC through its annual review 
procedure specified in paragraph (a) of this section, or superceded by 
a subsequent regulatory action.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 07-4667 Filed 9-17-07; 3:23 pm]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-S