[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 59 (Tuesday, March 27, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 18176-18201]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-7075]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 120109034-2171-01]
RIN 0648-BB62


Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act 
Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast 
Multispecies Fishery; Framework Adjustment 47

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: NMFS proposes to approve Framework Adjustment 47 (Framework 
47) to the Northeast (NE) Multispecies Fishery Management Plan (FMP) 
and to implement its measures through the proposed regulations. 
Framework 47 was developed and adopted by the New England Fishery 
Management Council (Council) based on the biennial review process 
established in the NE Multispecies FMP to develop annual catch limits 
(ACLs) and revise management measures necessary to rebuild overfished 
groundfish stocks and achieve the goals and objectives of the FMP. NMFS 
also proposes management measures and revisions to existing regulations 
that are not included in Framework 47, including common pool management 
measures for fishing year (FY) 2012, modification of the Ruhle trawl 
definition, modification of the method used to estimate fillets or 
parts of fish landed for at-home consumption, and clarification of the 
regulations for charter/party and recreational groundfish vessels 
fishing in groundfish closed areas. The proposed regulations are 
intended to prevent overfishing, rebuild overfished stocks, achieve 
optimum yield, and ensure that management measures are based on the 
best available scientific information.

DATES: Comments must be received by April 11, 2012.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
``NOAA-NMFS-2012-0004,'' by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal www.regulations.gov. To 
submit comments via the e-Rulemaking Portal,

[[Page 18177]]

first click the ``submit a comment'' icon, then enter NOAA-NMFS-2012-
0004 in the keyword search. Locate the document you wish to comment on 
from the resulting list and click on the ``Submit a Comment'' icon on 
the right of that line.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Daniel S. Morris, Acting 
Regional Administrator, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930.
     Fax: (978) 281-9135; Attn: Sarah Heil.
    Instructions: Comments must be submitted by one of the above 
methods to ensure that the comments are received, documented, and 
considered by NMFS. Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered. All comments received are a part of the public 
record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.) submitted voluntarily by the 
sender will be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive or protected information. NMFS will 
accept anonymous comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you 
wish to remain anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments will be 
accepted in Microsoft Word or Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file 
formats only.
    An environmental assessment (EA) was prepared for Framework 47 that 
describes the proposed action and other considered alternatives, as 
well as an analysis of the impacts of the proposed measures and 
alternatives. Copies of Framework 47, the draft EA, its Regulatory 
Impact Review (RIR), and the Initial Regulatory Flexibility Act (IRFA) 
analysis prepared by the Council are available upon request from Paul 
J. Howard, Executive Director, New England Fishery Management Council, 
50 Water Street, Mill 2, Newburyport, MA 01950. The Framework 47 EA/
RIR/IRFA are also accessible via the Internet at http://www.nefmc.org/nemulti/index.html or http://www.nero.noaa.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sarah Heil, Fishery Policy Analyst, 
phone: 978-281-9257, fax: 978-281-9135.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The NE Multispecies FMP specifies management measures for 16 
species in Federal waters off the New England and Mid-Atlantic coasts, 
including both large-mesh and small-mesh species. Small-mesh species 
include silver hake (whiting), red hake, offshore hake, and ocean pout, 
and large-mesh species include Atlantic cod, haddock, yellowtail 
flounder, pollock, American plaice, witch flounder, white hake, 
windowpane flounder, Atlantic halibut, winter flounder, redfish, and 
Atlantic wolffish. Large-mesh species, which are referred to as 
``regulated species,'' are divided into 19 fish stocks, and along with 
ocean pout, comprise the groundfish complex.
    Amendment 16 to the NE Multispecies FMP (Amendment 16) established 
a process for setting acceptable biological catches (ABCs) and ACLs for 
regulated species and ocean pout, as well as distributing the available 
catch among the various components of the groundfish fishery. Amendment 
16 also established accountability measures (AMs) for the 20 groundfish 
stocks in order to prevent overfishing of these stocks and correct or 
mitigate any overages of the ACLs. Framework 44 to the NE Multispecies 
FMP (Framework 44) set the ABCs and ACLs for FYs 2010-2012. In 2011, 
Framework 45 to the NE Multispecies FMP (Framework 45) revised the ABCs 
and ACLs for five stocks for FYs 2011-2012.
    The Council adopted Framework 47 on November 16, 2011, and 
submitted it to NMFS on February 7, 2012, for approval. The Council 
developed Framework 47 as part of the biennial review process 
established in the FMP to revise measures necessary to prevent 
overfishing and rebuild overfished stocks, and achieve the goals and 
objectives of the NE Multispecies FMP. The Council developed Framework 
47 to respond to recent stock assessments and updated stock 
information, as well as to revise management measures after the fishery 
has operated for more than 1 year under ACLs and AMs. If approved, 
Framework 47 will be implemented at the start of FY 2012 on May 1, 
2012. One measure, if approved, would apply retroactively to the 2011 
scallop fishing year, which ended on February 28, 2012, as described in 
Item 11 of this preamble.

Proposed Measures

    The Council reviewed the proposed regulations, as drafted by NMFS, 
and deemed them to be consistent with Framework 47 and necessary to 
implement the proposed measures as specified in section 303(c) of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-
Stevens Act). Some of the measures included in this action are being 
proposed by NMFS under the authority of section 305(d) of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act, which provides that the Secretary of Commerce may 
promulgate regulations necessary to ensure that fishery management 
plans or amendments are carried out in accordance with the Magnuson-
Steven Act. These measures, which are identified and described in this 
preamble, are necessary to implement changes to the Atlantic Sea 
Scallop FMP proposed by the Council in Framework 47, as well as 
revisions to the regulations that are not included in Framework 47, but 
that are necessary to achieve the objectives of the FMP. This proposed 
rule also includes management measures for the common pool fishery for 
FY 2012 that are not included in Framework 47, but that may be 
considered by the Regional Administrator (RA) under authority provided 
by the FMP.

1. Status Determination Criteria for Winter Flounder and Gulf of Maine 
Cod

    Amendment 16 updated the status determination criteria for existing 
NE multispecies regulated species and ocean pout stocks based on the 
best available scientific information as determined by the 2008 
Groundfish Assessment Review Meeting (GARM III). Framework 45 updated 
the status determination criteria for pollock to reflect the results of 
a new pollock stock assessment conducted in 2010. New assessments were 
conducted for Gulf of Maine (GOM), Georges Bank (GB), and Southern New 
England/Mid-Atlantic (SNE/MA) winter flounder in June 2011. In 
addition, a new assessment for GOM cod was conducted in December 2011. 
Therefore, Framework 47 proposes to update the status determination 
criteria for the three winter flounder stocks and GOM cod to 
incorporate the results of the recent stock assessments into the FMP. 
The proposed revisions are based on the best scientific information 
available.
    The results from GARM III indicated that overfishing was occurring 
for GB and SNE/MA winter flounder and GOM cod, and SNE/MA winter 
flounder was overfished. The overfished and overfishing status for GOM 
winter flounder was unknown. Based on the new assessments, overfishing 
is no longer occurring for GB or SNE/MA winter flounder. Also, the 
overfishing status is no longer unknown for GOM winter flounder, and 
overfishing is not occurring for this stock. Based on the recent GOM 
cod stock assessment, overfishing is occurring for GOM cod, and the 
stock is overfished.

[[Page 18178]]

    The revised biomass target for GB and SNE/MA winter flounder is 
spawning stock biomass at maximum sustainable yield 
(SSBMSY), and the maximum fishing mortality rate (F) 
threshold is FMSY. The revised maximum F threshold for GOM 
winter flounder is F at 40 percent of the maximum spawning potential 
(F40MSP). The biomass target for this 
stock is still undefined. For GOM cod, the biomass target is unchanged 
from GARM III and is SSB at 40 percent MSP 
(SSB40MSP). The maximum F threshold proxy 
is also unchanged from GARM III and is 
F40MSP. The revised status determination 
criteria proposed in Framework 47 are presented in Table 1, and the 
numerical estimates of these criteria are presented in Table 2.

             Table 1--Proposed Status Determination Criteria for Winter Flounder Stocks and GOM Cod
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                    Minimum biomass          Maximum fishing
                Stock                       Biomass target             threshold           mortality threshold
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GOM winter flounder..................  Undefined..............  Undefined..............  F40MSP.
GB winter flounder...................  SSBMSY.................  \1/2\ SSBMSY...........  FMSY.
SNE/MA winter flounder...............  SSBMSY.................  \1/2\ SSBMSY...........  FMSY.
GOM cod..............................  SSB40MSP.......  \1/2\ SSB40MSP.  F40MSP.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


  Table 2--Numerical Estimates of the Proposed Status Determination Criteria for Winter Flounder Stocks and GOM
                                                       Cod
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                       Maximum
                                                                       fishing
                 Stock                     Biomass target (mt)        mortality               MSY (mt)
                                                                      threshold
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GOM winter flounder...................  Undefined................            0.31  Undefined.
GB winter flounder....................  10,100...................            0.42  3,700.
SNE/MA winter flounder................  43,661...................            0.29  11,728.
GOM cod...............................  61,218...................            0.20  10,392.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

2. Rebuilding Program for GB Yellowtail Flounder

    GB yellowtail flounder is jointly managed with Canada under the 
U.S./Canada Resource Sharing Understanding (Understanding). Framework 
45 revised the GB yellowtail flounder rebuilding program, based on the 
best available scientific information, to rebuild the stock by 2016 
with a 50-percent probability of success. This revision extended the 
rebuilding program to the maximum 10-year rebuilding period allowed by 
the Magnuson-Stevens Act in order to maximize the amount of GB 
yellowtail flounder that could be caught while the stock rebuilds.
    Under the International Fisheries Agreement Clarification Act 
(IFACA) enacted into law on January 4, 2011, the Council and NMFS have 
flexibility in establishing rebuilding programs for stocks that are 
jointly managed with Canada under the Understanding. For rebuilding 
stocks managed under the Understanding, the IFACA provides that the 
Council and NMFS may consider decisions under the Understanding as 
management measures under an international agreement in order to 
provide an exception to the Magnuson- Stevens Act's maximum 10-year 
rebuilding period requirement.
    Each year, pursuant to the Understanding, the TMGC meets to 
consider the scientific advice of the Transboundary Resources 
Assessment Committee and to make decisions regarding total allowable 
catch (TAC) recommendations for the upcoming year for each stocks 
managed under the Understanding. The TMGC adopts harvest strategies to 
guide its annual TAC recommendations. At its September 2011 meeting, 
the TMGC reaffirmed its harvest strategy for GB yellowtail flounder to 
maintain a low to neutral risk of exceeding the fishing mortality limit 
reference (Fref) of 0.25. Based on that harvest strategy, 
the TMGC developed its 2012 TAC recommendation for GB yellowtail 
flounder and forwarded the recommendation to the Council for approval 
See Item 5 for more information on the 2012 TMGC TAC recommendations..
    Given the IFACA, and that the TMGC decisions regarding a GB 
yellowtail flounder harvest strategy and annual TAC are considered 
management measures under an international agreement, the rebuilding 
program for GB yellowtail flounder can exceed 10 years. Therefore, 
Framework 47 proposes to revise the rebuilding strategy for GB 
yellowtail flounder. The proposed rebuilding strategy for GB yellowtail 
flounder would rebuild the stock by 2032 with a 50-percent probability 
of success. This rebuilding strategy is based on an F of 0.21 and would 
extend 26 years beyond the rebuilding program start date (2006). The 
proposed rebuilding time period is as short as possible, taking into 
account the Understanding and decisions made under it, and the needs of 
the fishing communities, and will provide more flexibility for 
negotiating annual catches with Canada.

3. Overfishing Levels and Acceptable Biological Catches

    The overfishing level (OFL) for each stock is calculated using the 
estimated stock size and FMSY (i.e., the fishing mortality 
rate that, if applied over the long term, would result in maximum 
sustainable yield). ABCs for each stock are recommended by the 
Council's Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC), and are lower 
than the OFLs in order to account for scientific uncertainty. The ABCs 
are calculated using the estimated stock size for a particular year and 
are based on the catch associated with 75 percent of FMSY or 
the F required to rebuild the stock within the defined rebuilding time 
period (Frebuild), whichever is lower. For SNE/MA winter 
flounder, the ABC is calculated using the F expected to result from 
management measures that are designed to achieve an F as close to zero 
as practicable. The Canadian share/allowance of an ABC, or the expected 
Canadian catch, is deducted from the ABC available for each pertinent 
stock. The U.S. ABC is the amount available to the U.S. fishery after 
accounting for Canadian catch.

[[Page 18179]]

    Framework 44 specified OFLs and ABCs for each stock for FY 2010-
2012 based on the best scientific information available, and Framework 
45 revised the OFLs and ABCs for five stocks for FY 2011-2012 based on 
updated stock information. Framework 47 proposes to set the OFLs and 
ABCs for nine stocks for FY 2012-2014 that are assessed with an index-
based stock assessment or that have had a recent stock assessment 
completed, as well as set the OFL and ABC for FY 2012-2013 for GB 
yellowtail flounder based on updated stock information (Table 3). For 
nine stocks, Framework 47 proposes to adopt the OFLs and ABCs for FY 
2012 that were previously specified in Framework 44 or Framework 45 
(Table 3). These stocks were last assessed at GARM III. The SSC 
determined that projections from the GARM III assessment were not a 
reliable basis for providing catch advice for these stocks for FY 2013-
2014. As a result, stock assessment updates were completed in February 
2012 for these stocks, and the results of these updates will be used to 
set OFLs and ABCs for FY 2013-2014. The Council intends to incorporate 
the assessment update results and specify OFLs and ABCs for FY 2013-
2014 for these stocks in a future framework action. A new stock 
assessment is scheduled for SNE/MA yellowtail flounder in June 2012. 
The results of this stock assessment will be used to specify OFLs and 
ABCs for the stock for FY 2013-2014, and will also be incorporated into 
a future framework action by the Council. Updated information for 
stocks assessed with an index-based assessment may also be used to 
revise the OFLs and ABCs for FY 2013-2014 specified in this action. The 
OFLs and ABCs proposed in Framework 47 are based on the most recent 
stock assessment information, which is the best scientific information 
available.
    Framework 47, as approved by the Council on November 16, 2011, 
proposed to set specifications for GOM cod for FY 2012-2014 based on 
the most recent stock assessment that was completed in December 2011. 
The results of the assessment indicate that the stock is overfished and 
overfishing is occurring. The assessment results also indicate that GOM 
cod cannot rebuild by its rebuilding end date of 2014 even in the 
absence of all fishing mortality. Given the final results of the GOM 
cod assessment, and that rebuilding cannot be achieved within the 
rebuilding period, NMFS concluded that the NE Multispecies FMP is not 
making adequate progress toward ending overfishing and rebuilding GOM 
cod. NMFS notified the Council of this determination in a letter dated 
January 26, 2012, and of the requirement for the Council to implement a 
plan by May 1, 2013, to immediately end overfishing for GOM cod. The 
Council was also notified that it has up to 2 years to address GOM cod 
rebuilding, although NMFS urged the Council to do this by the beginning 
of FY 2013 to coincide with measures to end overfishing. In addition, 
NMFS indicated that the Magnuson-Stevens Act provides some flexibility 
for NMFS to only reduce overfishing, rather than end it immediately, 
during FY 2012 while the Council develops measures to address GOM cod.
    At its January 25, 2012, meeting, the Council's SSC met to discuss 
the GOM cod stock assessment. At the request of the Council, the SSC 
did not recommended ABCs for GOM cod for FY 2012-2014. The SSC reviewed 
the stock assessment and identified issues that may warrant a closer 
examination and that may influence the interpretation of the assessment 
results. Subsequently, at its February 1, 2012, meeting, the Council 
did not adopt ABCs for GOM cod to be implemented in Framework 47. The 
Council requested that NMFS implement an interim action for FY 2012 to 
reduce overfishing on GOM cod while the Council responds to the new GOM 
cod stock assessment and develops measures for FY 2013 that will 
immediately end overfishing. NMFS has committed that it intends to 
implement an interim action to reduce overfishing for GOM cod and 
establish catch levels for this stock for FY 2012.
    Therefore, this action does not include OFLs and ABCs for GOM cod 
for FY 2012-2014. If no action is taken to specify a new ABC for GOM 
cod for FY 2012, the FY 2012 ABC previously specified in Framework 44 
(9,018 mt) would go into effect on May 1, 2012. The SSC will meet in 
the future to recommend ABCs for FY 2013-2014 for GOM cod, and the 
Council intends to adopt these ABCs in a future management action.

                                Table 3--Proposed FY 2012-2014 OFLs and ABCs (mt)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                              OFL                            U.S. ABC
                     Stock                     -----------------------------------------------------------------
                                                   2012       2013       2014       2012       2013       2014
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GB cod........................................      7,311  .........  .........      5,103  .........  .........
GB haddock....................................     51,150  .........  .........     30,726  .........  .........
GOM haddock...................................      1,296  .........  .........      1,013  .........  .........
GB yellowtail flounder........................      1,691      1,691  .........        564        564  .........
SNE/MA yellowtail flounder....................      3,166  .........  .........      1,003  .........  .........
Cape Cod (CC)/GOM yellowtail flounder.........      1,508  .........  .........      1,159  .........  .........
American plaice...............................      4,727  .........  .........      3,632  .........  .........
Witch flounder................................      2,141  .........  .........      1,639  .........  .........
GB winter flounder............................      4,839      4,819      4,626      3,753      3,750      3,598
GOM winter flounder...........................      1,458      1,458      1,458      1,078      1,078      1,078
SNE/MA winter flounder........................      2,336      2,637      3,471        626        697        912
Redfish.......................................     12,036  .........  .........      9,224  .........  .........
White hake....................................      5,306  .........  .........      3,638  .........  .........
Pollock.......................................     19,887     20,060     20,554     15,400     15,600     16,000
Northern windowpane flounder..................        230        230        230        173        173        173
Southern windowpane flounder..................        515        515        515        386        386        386
Ocean pout....................................        342        342        342        256        256        256
Atlantic halibut..............................        143        143        143         85         85         85
Atlantic wolffish.............................         92         92         92         83         83         83
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


[[Page 18180]]

4. Annual Catch Limits

    Unless otherwise noted below, the U.S. ABC for each stock (for each 
fishing year) is divided into the following fishery components to 
account for all sources of fishing mortality: State waters (portion of 
ABC expected to be caught from state waters outside Federal 
management); other sub-components (expected catch by non-groundfish 
fisheries); scallop fishery; mid-water trawl fishery; commercial 
groundfish fishery; and recreational groundfish fishery. Currently, the 
scallop fishery only receives an allocation for GB and SNE/MA 
yellowtail flounder, the mid-water trawl fishery only receives an 
allocation for GB and GOM haddock, and the recreational groundfish 
fishery only receives an allocation for GOM cod and haddock. Once the 
ABC is divided, sub-annual catch limits (sub-ACLs) and ACL sub-
components are set by reducing the amount of the ABC distributed to 
each component of the fishery to account for management uncertainty. 
Management uncertainty is the likelihood that management measures will 
result in a level of catch greater than expected. For each stock, 
management uncertainty is estimated using the following criteria: 
Enforceability, monitoring adequacy, precision of management tools, 
latent effort, and catch of groundfish in non-groundfish fisheries. 
Appendix III of the Framework 47 EA provides a detailed description of 
the process used to estimate management uncertainty and calculate ACLs 
for this action (see ADDRESSES).
    The total ACL is the sum of all of the sub-ACLs and ACL sub-
components, and is the catch limit for a particular year after 
accounting for both scientific and management uncertainty. Landings and 
discards from all fisheries (commercial and recreational groundfish 
fishery, state waters, and non-groundfish fisheries) are counted 
against the catch limit for each stock. Components of the fishery that 
are allocated a sub-ACL for a particular stock are subject to AMs if 
the catch limit is exceeded. ACL sub-components represent the expected 
catch by components of the fishery that are not subject to AMs (e.g., 
state waters).
    Based on the ABCs proposed in this action, Framework 47 also 
proposes ACLs for each of the groundfish stocks, except GOM cod, as 
described in Item 3 of this preamble. The proposed ACLs for FY 2012-
2014 are presented in Table 4 through 7. The percentage of the ABC 
deducted for expected catch from state waters is between 1 and 10 
percent for most stocks. However, for GOM winter flounder, SNE/MA 
winter flounder, and Atlantic halibut, 25 percent, 28 percent, and 50 
percent of the ABC was set aside for state waters catch, respectively. 
The amount of the ABC deducted for expected catch from non-groundfish 
fisheries (other sub-components) is between 2 and 9 percent for each 
stock, but 19 percent and 70 percent of the ABC is set aside for 
northern and southern windowpane flounder, respectively. Seventy 
percent of the ABC for southern windowpane flounder is deducted based 
partly on the expected catch of this stock by the scallop fishery. To 
adjust for management uncertainty, the default reduction to the ABC 
component for most stocks and components of the fishery was 5 percent. 
Only 3 percent was deduced for stocks or components of the fishery with 
less management uncertainty, and 7 percent was deducted for stocks or 
components with more management uncertainty.
    This proposed action would not change the initial allocation of 
yellowtail flounder to the scallop fishery for FY 2012 that was 
specified in Framework 44. The yellowtail flounder allocation to the 
scallop fishery is based on the expected catch of yellowtail flounder 
calculated from the projected scallop harvest for the fishing year. 
Framework 44 allocated 90 percent of the projected yellowtail flounder 
catch by the scallop fishery for FY 2012 for both SNE/MA yellowtail 
flounder and GB yellowtail flounder.
    The commercial groundfish sub-ACL is further divided into the non-
sector (common pool) sub-ACL and the sector sub-ACL, based on the total 
vessel enrollment in all sectors and the cumulative Potential Sector 
Contributions associated with those sectors. The proposed distribution 
of the groundfish sub-ACL between the common pool and sectors presented 
in Tables 4 through Table 7 are based on preliminary FY 2012 sector 
rosters submitted to NMFS as of December 1, 2011. This distribution is 
different from the common pool and sector sub-ACLs included in the 
Framework 47 EA, which were based on FY 2011 sector rosters, and do not 
reflect updated rosters submitted to NMFS for FY 2012. However, this 
distribution is the same as the sector sub-ACLs and Annual Catch 
Entitlements specified for each sector in the proposed rule to approve 
sector operations plans for FY 2012 that was published in the Federal 
Register on February 15, 2012 (77 FR 8780).
    FY 2012 sector rosters will not be finalized until May 1, 2012, 
because owners of individual permits signed up to participate in 
sectors have until April 30, 2012, to drop out of a sector and fish in 
the common pool for FY 2012. In addition, NMFS extended the deadline to 
join a sector for FY 2012 through April 30, 2012, in the proposed rule 
to approve sector operations plan for FY 2012 (77 FR 8780). This 
opportunity is being provided for common pool vessels due to concerns 
for the recent GOM cod assessment and the potential impacts for FY 2012 
catch limits. Therefore, it is possible that the sector sub-ACLs listed 
in the tables below may change due to changes in the sector rosters. 
Updated sector sub-ACLs will be published in the Framework 47 final 
rule, or a subsequent adjustment rule to reflect the final FY 2012 
sector rosters as of May 1, 2012.

  Table 4--Proposed FY 2012 Allocations to the Recreational Groundfish
       Fishery, Scallop Fishery, and Mid-Water Trawl Fishery (mt)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
---------------------------------------------------------
 Fishery                        Stock
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Recreatio  GOM Cod......................  GOM Haddock.
       nal
 Groundfi
        sh
   Fishery
           n/a..........................  259.
          --------------------------------------------------------------
  Scallop  SNE/MA Yellowtail Flounder...  GB Yellowtail
   Fishery                                 Flounder.
           126..........................  307.5.
          --------------------------------------------------------------
 Midwater  GB Haddock...................  GOM Haddock.
     Trawl
   Fishery
           286..........................  9.
------------------------------------------------------------------------


[[Page 18181]]


                                Table 5--Proposed FY 2012 Total ACLs, Sub-ACLs, and ACL Sub-Components (mt, Live Weight)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                            Preliminary
                          Stock                              Total ACL    Groundfish sub-   Preliminary     common pool    State waters     Other sub-
                                                                                ACL       sector sub-ACL      sub-ACL     sub- component     component
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GB cod..................................................           4,861           4,605           4,518              87              51             204
GB haddock..............................................          29,260          27,438          27,298             141             307           1,229
GOM haddock.............................................             958             912             643              10              15              22
GB yellowtail flounder..................................           547.8           217.7           214.6             3.1             0.0            22.6
SNE/MA yellowtail flounder..............................             936             760             591             168              10              40
CC/GOM yellowtail flounder..............................           1,104           1,046           1,019              27              35              23
American plaice.........................................           3,459           3,278           3,207              71              36             145
Witch flounder..........................................           1,563           1,448           1,420              28              49              66
GB winter flounder......................................           3,575           3,387           3,365              22               0             188
GOM winter flounder.....................................           1,040             715             691              24             272              54
SNE/MA winter flounder..................................             603             303               0             303             175             125
Redfish.................................................           8,786           8,325           8,258              66              92             369
White hake..............................................           3,465           3,283           3,283              45              73             109
Pollock.................................................          14,736          12,612          12,513              99             754           1,370
Northern windowpane flounder............................             163             129               0             129               2              33
Southern windowpane flounder............................             381              72               0              72              39             270
Ocean pout..............................................             240             214               0             214               3              23
Atlantic halibut........................................              83              36               0              36              43               4
Atlantic wolffish.......................................              77              73               0              73               1               3
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


                                Table 6--Proposed FY 2013 Total ACLs, Sub-ACLs, and ACL Sub-Components (mt, Live Weight)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                            Preliminary
                          Stock                              Total ACL    Groundfish sub-   Preliminary     common pool    State waters     Other sub-
                                                                                ACL       sector sub-ACL      sub-ACL     sub- component     component
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GB yellowtail flounder..................................           547.8           217.7           214.6             3.1             0.0            22.6
GB winter flounder......................................           3,572           3,384           3,362              22               0             188
GOM winter flounder.....................................           1,040             715             691              24             272              54
SNE/MA winter flounder..................................             672             337               0             337             195             139
Pollock.................................................          14,927          12,791          12,690             101             756           1,380
Northern windowpane flounder............................             163             129               0             129               2              33
Southern windowpane flounder............................             381              72               0              72              39             270
Ocean pout..............................................             240             214               0             214               3              23
Atlantic halibut........................................              83              36               0              36              43               4
Atlantic wolffish.......................................              77              73               0              73               1               3
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


                                Table 7--Proposed FY 2014 Total ACLs, Sub-ACLs, and ACL Sub-Components (mt, Live Weight)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                            Preliminary
                          Stock                              Total ACL    Groundfish sub-   Preliminary     common pool    State waters     Other sub-
                                                                                ACL       sector sub-ACL      sub-ACL     sub- component     component
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GB winter flounder......................................           3,427           3,247           3,226              21               0             180
GOM winter flounder.....................................           1,040             715             691              24             272              54
SNE/MA winter flounder..................................             879             441               0             441             255             182
Pollock.................................................          15,308          13,148          13,044             104             760           1,400
Northern windowpane flounder............................             163             129               0             129               2              33
Southern windowpane flounder............................             381              72               0              72              39             270
Ocean pout..............................................             240             214               0             214               3              23
Atlantic halibut........................................              83              36               0              36              43               4
Atlantic wolffish.......................................              77              73               0              73               1               3
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

5. Annual Specifications for the U.S./Canada Management Area

    Eastern GB cod, eastern GB haddock, and GB yellowtail flounder are 
managed in cooperation with Canada under the U.S./Canada Resource 
Sharing Understanding, which is an informal agreement between the 
Northeast Region of NMFS and the Maritimes Region of the Department of 
Fisheries and Ocean of Canada. The FMP specifies a procedure for 
setting annual total allowable catches (TACs) for these three stocks in 
the U.S./Canada Management Area consistent with the Understanding. Each 
year the TMGC negotiates a shared TAC for each stock based on the most 
recent stock information and the TMGC harvest strategy. The harvest 
strategy for setting catch levels is to maintain a low to neutral (less 
than 50-percent) risk of exceeding the fishing mortality limit 
reference (Fref = 0.18, 0.26, and 0.25 for cod, haddock, and 
yellowtail flounder, respectively), and, when stock conditions are 
poor, fishing mortality should be further reduced to promote 
rebuilding. The shared TACs are

[[Page 18182]]

allocated to the U.S. and Canada based on a formula that considers 
historical catch percentages and the current resource distribution 
based on trawl surveys. The U.S./Canada Management Area comprises the 
entire stock area for GB yellowtail flounder; therefore, the U.S. TAC 
for this stock is also the U.S. ABC.
    In September 2011, the TMGC approved recommendations for 2012 
shared TACs for eastern GB cod, eastern GB haddock, and GB yellowtail 
flounder. The TMGC recommended a shared TAC of 675 mt for eastern GB 
cod, 16,000 mt for eastern GB haddock, and 900 mt for GB yellowtail 
flounder. However, at its September 2011 meeting, the Council's SSC 
recommended an ABC of 1,150 mt for GB yellowtail flounder, which was 
higher than the TMGC recommendation. On September 28, 2011, the Council 
reviewed the recommendations of the TMGC and the SSC, and approved the 
TMGC recommendations for eastern GB cod and eastern GB haddock. The 
Council also approved an ABC of up to 1,150 mt for GB yellowtail 
flounder, consistent with the SSC's recommendation. Because this ABC is 
greater than the shared TAC initially negotiated by the TMGC, the TMGC 
met by conference call in October 2011 to reconsider its 2012 
recommendation for GB yellowtail flounder. The TMGC concluded that 
1,150 mt was an appropriate shared TAC for GB yellowtail flounder for 
2012 that would balance the risk of exceeding Fref (0.25) 
and the desire to maintain stock biomass.
    The proposed 2012 U.S./Canada TACs are presented in Table 8. For 
2012, the annual percentage shares for each country are based on a 10-
percent weighting of historical catches and a 90-percent weighting of 
the current resource distribution. The regulations related to the 
Understanding require that any overages of the eastern GB cod, eastern 
GB haddock, or GB yellowtail flounder TACs available to the U.S. be 
deducted from the pertinent TAC in the following fishing year. If FY 
2011 catch information indicates that the U.S. TAC for any of the 
shared stocks was exceeded, NMFS will reduce the FY 2012 U.S. TAC for 
that stock, using procedures consistent with the Administrative 
Procedure Act.

Table 8--Proposed 2012 U.S./Canada TACS (mt, Live Weight) and Percentage
                                 Shares
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                  GB
               TAC                  Eastern GB   Eastern GB   yellowtail
                                       cod        haddock      flounder
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Total Shared TAC.................          675       16,000        1,150
U.S. TAC.........................    162 (24%)  6,880 (43%)    564 (49%)
Canada TAC.......................    513 (76%)  9,120 (57%)    586 (51%)
------------------------------------------------------------------------

6. Incidental Catch Total Allowable Catches and Allocations to Special 
Management Programs

    Incidental catch TACs are specified for certain stocks of concern 
(i.e., stocks that are overfished or subject to overfishing) for common 
pool vessels fishing in the special management programs (i.e., special 
access programs (SAPs) and the Regular B Days-At-Sea (DAS) Program), in 
order to limit the catch of these stocks under such programs. The 
Incidental Catch TAC for each stock is based on the common pool sub-ACL 
and is distributed to each special management program using a 
predetermined formula specified in the regulations. Any catch on a trip 
that ends on a Category B DAS (either Regular or Reserve B DAS) is 
attributed to the Incidental Catch TAC for the pertinent stock. Catch 
on a trip that starts under a Category B DAS and then flips to a 
Category A DAS is attributed to the common pool sub-ACL.
    This proposed rule specifies incidental catch TACs for the NE 
multispecies special management programs for FYs 2012-2014 based on the 
proposed common pool sub-ACLs listed in Item 4 of this preamble (Table 
11, Table 12, Table 13). The FY 2012 sector rosters will not be 
finalized until May 1, 2012, for the reasons mentioned earlier in this 
preamble. Therefore, the common pool sub-ACL may change due to changes 
to the FY 2012 sector rosters. Updated incidental catch TACs will be 
published in the Framework 47 final rule, or a subsequent adjustment 
rule, if necessary, based on the final sector rosters as of May 1, 
2012.

             Table 11--Proposed Common Pool Incidental Catch TACs for FY 2012-2014 (mt, Live Weight)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                               Percentage
                                                               of common
                            Stock                              pool sub-       2012         2013         2014
                                                                  ACL
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GB cod......................................................            2          1.7          n/a          n/a
GB yellowtail flounder......................................            2          0.1          n/a          n/a
SNE/MA yellowtail flounder..................................            1          1.7          n/a          n/a
CC/GOM yellowtail flounder..................................            1          0.3          n/a          n/a
Plaice......................................................            5          3.5          n/a          n/a
Witch Flounder..............................................            5          1.4          n/a          n/a
GB winter flounder..........................................            2          0.4          0.4          0.4
SNE/MA winter flounder......................................            1          3.0          3.4          4.4
White Hake..................................................            2          0.9          n/a          n/a
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


[[Page 18183]]


    Table 12--Percentage of Incidental Catch TACs Distributed to Each
                       Special Management Program
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                Closed area  Eastern US/
                                    Regular B   I hook gear   CA haddock
              Stock                DAS program  haddock SAP      SAP
                                     (percent)   (percent)    (percent)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
GB cod...........................           50           16           34
GB yellowtail flounder...........           50          n/a           50
SNE/MA yellowtail flounder.......          100          n/a          n/a
CC/GOM yellowtail flounder.......          100          n/a          n/a
Plaice...........................          100          n/a          n/a
Witch Flounder...................          100          n/a          n/a
GB winter flounder...............           50          n/a           50
SNE/MA winter flounder...........          100          n/a          n/a
White Hake.......................          100          n/a          n/a
------------------------------------------------------------------------


     Table 13--Incidental Catch TACs for Each Special Management Program for FY 2012-2014 (mt, Live Weight)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           Regular B DAS program    Closed area I hook      Eastern U.S./Canada
                                         ------------------------    gear haddock SAP           haddock SAP
                  Stock                                          -----------------------------------------------
                                           2012    2013    2014    2012    2013    2014    2012    2013    2014
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GB cod..................................     0.9     n/a     n/a     0.3     0.0     0.0     0.6     0.0     0.0
GB yellowtail flounder..................    0.03     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a    0.03     n/a     n/a
SNE/MA yellowtail flounder..............     1.7     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a
CC/GOM yellowtail flounder..............     0.3     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a
Plaice..................................     3.5     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a
Witch Flounder..........................     1.4     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a
GB winter flounder......................     0.2     0.2     0.2     n/a     n/a     n/a     0.2     0.2     0.2
SNE/MA winter flounder..................     3.0     3.4     4.4     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a
White hake..............................     0.9     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

7. Common Pool Trimester Total Allowable Catches

    Beginning in FY 2012, the common pool sub-ACL for each stock will 
be divided into trimester TACs at the start of the fishing year. The 
percentage of each sub-ACL allocated to each trimester was determined 
in Amendment 16. The current regulations require that, with the 
exception of both stocks of windowpane flounder, ocean pout, and 
Atlantic halibut, once 90 percent of the trimester TAC is projected to 
be caught, the area where 90 percent of the catch for the pertinent 
stock occurred will be closed. The area closure will apply to all 
common pool vessels fishing with gear capable of catching the pertinent 
stock. The trimester TAC areas for each stock, as well as the 
applicable gear types are defined at Sec.  648.82(n)(2). Any overages 
or underages of the trimester TAC in Trimester 1 or Trimester 2 will be 
applied to the next trimester (e.g., any remaining portion of the 
Trimester 1 TAC will be added to the Trimester 2 TAC). Any overage of 
the total sub-ACL will be deducted from the following fishing year's 
common pool sub-ACL for that stock. Uncaught portions of the Trimester 
3 TAC will not be carried over into the following fishing year.
    Based on the ACLs and sub-ACLs proposed in Framework 47, this rule 
also proposes trimester TACs for FYs 2012-2014 for the common pool 
(Table 14 and Table 15). As described earlier, vessels have until April 
30, 2012, to drop out of a sector, and common pool vessels have been 
provided additional flexibility to join a sector through April 30, 
2012. Sector rosters for each fishing year are finalized on May 1. The 
ACLs and sub-ACLs proposed in this rule are based on current FY 2012 
sector rosters as of December 1, 2011. Any changes to the sector 
rosters will also change the proposed sector and common pool sub-ACLs, 
and as a result, the trimester TACs proposed in this rule may also 
change. Based on the final sector rosters, NMFS will publish a rule in 
early May 2012, if necessary, to modify these sub-ACLs, and notify the 
public of these changes. As described in Item 9 of this preamble, 
Framework 47 proposes to revise the accountability measures for the 
groundfish fishery for the six stocks not currently allocated to 
sectors. If approved, these proposed measures would remove the common 
pool trimester TAC requirement for SNE/MA winter flounder, both stocks 
of windowpane flounder, ocean pout, Atlantic halibut, and Atlantic 
wolffish. Proposed FY 2012-2014 trimester TACs are presented in Table 
15 for each stock based on the current regulations.

     Table 14--Percentage of Common Pool sub-ACL Distributed to Each
                                Trimester
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                     Percentage of common pool sub-ACL
              Stock               --------------------------------------
                                   Trimester 1  Trimester 2  Trimester 3
------------------------------------------------------------------------
GB Cod...........................           25           37           38
GOM Cod..........................           27           36           37
GB Haddock.......................           27           33           40
GOM Haddock......................           27           26           47
GB Yellowtail Flounder...........           19           30           52

[[Page 18184]]

 
SNE/MA Yellowtail Flounder.......           21           37           42
CC/GOM Yellowtail Flounder.......           35           35           30
American Plaice..................           24           36           40
Witch Flounder...................           27           31           42
GB Winter Flounder...............            8           24           69
GOM Winter Flounder..............           37           38           25
SNE/MA Winter Flounder...........           36           50           14
Redfish..........................           25           31           44
White Hake.......................           38           31           31
Pollock..........................           28           35           37
N. Windowpane Flounder...........           33           33           34
S. Windowpane Flounder...........           33           33           34
Ocean Pout.......................           33           33           34
Atlantic Halibut.................           33           33           34
Atlantic Wolffish................           75           13           12
------------------------------------------------------------------------


                           Table 15--Proposed FY 2012-2014 Common Pool Trimester TACs
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                            2012                       2013                       2014
             Stock              --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                  Tri 1    Tri 2    Tri 3    Tri 1    Tri 2    Tri 3    Tri 1    Tri 2    Tri 3
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GB Cod.........................     21.8     32.2     33.1      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a
GOM Cod........................      0.0      0.0      0.0      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a
GB Haddock.....................     38.0     46.4     56.2      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a
GOM Haddock....................      2.6      2.5      4.6      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a
GB Yellowtail Flounder.........      0.6      0.9      1.6      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a
SNE/MA Yellowtail Flounder.....     32.0     50.5     87.6      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a
CC/GOM Yellowtail Flounder.....      9.5      9.5      8.1      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a
American Plaice................     17.0     25.5     28.3      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a
Witch Flounder.................      7.6      8.8     11.9      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a
GB Winter Flounder.............      1.8      5.3     15.2      1.8      5.3     15.2      1.7      5.1     14.5
GOM Winter Flounder............      8.8      9.0      5.9      8.8      9.0      5.9      8.8      9.0      5.9
SNE/MA Winter Flounder.........    109.0    151.4     42.4    121.3    168.5     47.2    158.8    220.5     61.7
Redfish........................     16.6     20.6     29.2      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a
White Hake.....................     17.2     14.0     14.0      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a
Pollock........................     27.8     34.8     36.8     28.2     35.3     37.3     29.0     36.3     38.3
N. Windowpane Flounder.........     42.5     42.5     43.8     42.5     42.5     43.8     42.5     42.5     43.8
S. Windowpane Flounder.........     23.7     23.7     24.4     23.7     23.7     24.4     23.7     23.7     24.4
Ocean Pout.....................     70.7     70.7     72.9     70.7     70.7     72.9     70.7     70.7     72.9
Atlantic Halibut...............     12.0     12.0     12.4     12.0     12.0     12.4     12.0     12.0     12.4
Atlantic Wolffish..............     55.0      9.5      8.8     55.0      9.5      8.8     55.0      9.5      8.8
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Tri 1 = Trimester 1; Tri 2 = Trimester 2; Tri 3 = Trimester 3.

8. Common Pool Restricted Gear Areas

    Amendment 16 implemented two restricted gear areas (RGAs) for 
common pool vessels beginning in FY 2010: The Western GB Multispecies 
RGA and the SNE Multispecies RGA. These RGAs were developed to help 
meet the mortality objectives for the common pool fishery and primarily 
reduce the catch of flatfish species by common pool vessels. The 
current regulations require common pool vessels fishing under a NE 
multispecies DAS that fish any part of a trip in these RGAs to use a 
haddock separator trawl, a Ruhle trawl, a rope trawl, longline/tub 
trawls, handgear, or sink gillnets. Tie-down gillnets are also allowed 
to be used in these areas, or stowed on board, as long as the mesh is 
greater than or equal to 10 inches (25.4 cm). Common pool vessels 
fishing in either of these RGAs are required to declare into the area 
via the Vessel Monitoring System, or obtain a letter of authorization 
from the RA to fish in these RGAs.
    Framework 47 proposes to remove the Western GB and SNE Multispecies 
RGAs based on a determination that there are sufficient fishing 
mortality controls for common pool vessels to limit catch within the 
pertinent catch limits. In addition, Framework 47 also proposes to 
modify AMs for several groundfish stocks, which, if approved, would 
include restricted gear areas for common pool and sector vessels if 
total catch limits are exceeded during the fishing year. Removing the 
Western GB and SNE Multispecies RGAs would simplify the regulations and 
avoid confusion between the proposed AM areas and the existing common 
pool RGAs. In addition, removing the Western GB and SNE Multispecies 
RGAs would facilitate fishing by common pool vessels without risk of 
exceeding common pool catch limits.

9. Accountability Measures

    AMs are required to prevent overfishing and ensure accountability 
in the fishery. Proactive AMs are intended to prevent ACLs from being 
exceeded and reactive AMs are meant to correct or mitigate overages if 
they occur. Amendment 16 implemented AMs for all of the groundfish 
stocks. For the six stocks not currently allocated to sectors (SNE/MA 
winter flounder, northern and southern windowpane flounder, ocean pout, 
Atlantic wolffish, and Atlantic halibut), the current AM is triggered 
if

[[Page 18185]]

catch by sector and common pool vessels exceeds the common pool catch 
limit. For FYs 2010 and 2011, if the common pool sub-ACL is exceeded, a 
differential DAS rate based on the proportion of the common pool sub-
ACL caught is applied in the differential DAS area for the pertinent 
stock. The differential DAS rate only applies to common pool vessels 
fishing under a NE multispecies DAS. Beginning in FY 2012, the common 
pool sub-ACL will be divided into trimester TACs. For Atlantic wolffish 
and SNE/MA winter flounder, if the common pool catch exceeds 90 percent 
of the trimester TAC, the area that accounts for 90 percent of the 
catch would be closed to common pool vessels fishing with certain gear 
types for the remainder of the trimester. Any overages of the common 
pool sub-ACL will be deducted from the sub-ACL for the pertinent stock 
in the following fishing year.
    Upon approval of Amendment 16, NMFS notified the Council that it 
was concerned with the AMs developed for stocks not allocated to 
sectors because they lacked sector-specific AMs. NMFS recommended that 
the Council develop appropriate AMs for these stocks in a future 
action. As a result, Framework 47 proposes to modify the AMs for these 
stocks for common pool and sector vessels. During the development of 
Framework 47, there was ongoing litigation on Amendment 16. 
Environmental groups challenged Amendment 16 partially due to the lack 
of sector-specific AMs for stocks not allocated to sectors. On December 
20, 2011, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia upheld 
all challenged measures in Amendment 16, except for the AMs for those 
stocks not allocated to sectors (SNE/MA winter flounder, northern 
windowpane flounder, southern windowpane flounder, ocean pout, Atlantic 
halibut, and Atlantic wolffish). In its only adverse finding, the Court 
found that Amendment 16 lacked adequate reactive AMs (i.e., AMs that 
are implemented if an ACL is exceeded) for these stocks and remanded 
the issue to NMFS and the Council for further action. NMFS is 
requesting public comment on the adequacy of the proposed AMs in this 
action in light of the recent litigation.

Ocean Pout and Windowpane Flounder, and Atlantic Halibut

    Framework 47 proposes area-based AMs for ocean pout and both stocks 
of windowpane flounder, and a zero-possession AM for Atlantic halibut 
for sector and common pool vessels that would be triggered if the total 
ACL is exceeded. During year 2, NMFS would evaluate catch for year 1, 
and, if the total ACL is exceeded, the AM would be implemented in year 
3. For example, if the total ACL for ocean pout is exceeded in FY 2012, 
NMFS would implement the applicable AM for ocean pout in FY 2014. To 
determine if the total ACL is exceeded, NMFS would include catch by the 
groundfish fishery as well as catch by sub-components of the fishery 
(e.g., state waters and non-groundfish fisheries). The implementation 
of AMs in year 3 would allow a complete and accurate evaluation of 
catch for year 1. Catch of these stocks occurs in state waters and non-
groundfish fisheries, and in-season catch data is not available for 
these fisheries. Due to the current data availability, the proposed 
timing of these AMs would allow for accurate catch accounting, and will 
ensure an AM is not inadvertently implemented. Improved data 
availability in the future may allow for modification of the timing of 
these AMs.
    Currently, ocean pout, northern and southern windowpane flounder, 
and Atlantic halibut are not allocated to sectors, and a sub-ACL is 
only specified for the common pool fishery. Catch by common pool and 
sector vessels is applied to the common pool sub-ACL for these stocks. 
However, if a sub-ACL is specified in the future for other fisheries, 
and AMs are developed for these fisheries, the AMs for the groundfish 
fishery or any other fisheries would only be triggered if the total ACL 
for the stock is exceeded and the fishery's sub-ACL was also exceeded, 
including its share of any overage caused by other sub-components of 
the fishery. Since these proposed AMs are meant to restrict catch by 
common pool and sector vessels, sectors would not be able to request an 
exemption from these AM provisions.
    If the total ACL is exceeded for ocean pout, northern windowpane 
flounder, or southern windowpane flounder in year 1, gear restrictions 
would apply in the AM areas developed for each stock for both sector 
and common pool vessels in year 3. For all three stocks, trawl vessels 
would be required to use selective trawl gear. Approved gears include 
the haddock separator trawl, the Ruhle trawl (see Item 14 for 
description of Ruhle trawl that includes the mid-sized eliminator (or 
Ruhle) trawl in the definition of this gear type), the rope trawl, and 
any other gears authorized by the Council in a management action or 
approved for use consistent with the process defined at Sec.  
648.85(b)(6). There would be no restrictions on longline or gillnet 
gear because it was determined that these gear types comprise a small 
amount of the total catch for these stocks. If the amount of the total 
ACL overage is between the management uncertainty buffer and up to 20 
percent, the small AM area would be triggered for the pertinent stock. 
Currently, the management uncertainty buffer is 5 percent; however, 
this buffer could be modified in the future. If the amount of the 
overage is more than 20 percent, the large AM area would be triggered. 
The applicable GB AM area would be implemented if the total ACL for 
northern windowpane is exceeded, and the applicable SNE AM area would 
be implemented if the total ACL for southern windowpane is exceeded. 
Both the GB and SNE AM areas would be implemented if the total ACL for 
ocean pout is exceeded. Sectors would be prohibited from requesting an 
exemption from these AM provisions.
    Currently, common pool and sector vessels have a one-fish landing 
limit for Atlantic halibut. If the total ACL for Atlantic halibut is 
exceeded in year 1, landing of Atlantic halibut would be prohibited by 
common pool and sector vessels in year 3. This AM is expected to keep 
mortality of Atlantic halibut below the target levels because a portion 
of the discarded fish would be expected to survive.

SNE/MA Winter Flounder and Atlantic Wolffish

    Currently, commercial and recreational vessels are prohibited from 
possessing SNE/MA winter flounder and Atlantic wolffish. Framework 47 
proposes to adopt the current possession prohibition as a proactive AM 
for SNE/MA winter flounder and Atlantic wolffish for both commercial 
and recreational vessels. Under these proposed measures, the current 
trimester TAC AM for SNE/MA winter flounder and Atlantic wolffish that 
applies to common pool vessels would be removed. Based on FY 2010 catch 
information and partial FY 2011 catch information, the prohibition on 
possession has adequately kept the catch of this stock within the 
mortality targets.

10. Removal of Cap on Yellowtail Flounder Catch in Scallop Access Areas

    In 2004, Framework 39 to the NE Multispecies FMP and Framework 16 
to the Atlantic Sea Scallop FMP implemented a cap on the amount of 
yellowtail flounder that could be caught in the Nantucket Lightship, 
Closed Area I, and Closed Area II Sea Scallop Access Areas. This 
measure was implemented before ACL and AM provisions were added to the 
NE Multispecies and Atlantic Sea Scallop FMPs in order to ensure that 
yellowtail flounder catches

[[Page 18186]]

did not exceed the target TACs for yellowtail flounder or exceed the 
U.S TAC for GB yellowtail flounder. Under the current regulations, 
scallop vessels are allowed to catch up to 10 percent of the total SNE/
MA yellowtail flounder ACL from the Nantucket Lightship Sea Scallop 
Access Area, and up to 10 percent combined of the U.S. TAC of GB 
yellowtail flounder from the Closed Area I and Closed Area II Sea 
Scallop Access Areas. Once the 10-percent access area cap is caught, 
the pertinent access area is closed to scallop vessels for the 
remainder of the scallop fishing year.
    Framework 47 proposes to remove the 10-percent access area cap for 
the Nantucket Lightship, Closed Area I, and Closed Area II Sea Scallop 
Access Areas. The scallop fishery would still be subject to its GB and 
SNE/MA yellowtail flounder sub-ACLs, but there would be no limit on how 
much of the sub-ACLs could be caught in the scallop access areas. This 
proposed measure would remove an unnecessary provision now that the 
fishery is managed under ACLs. ACLs limit the amount of yellowtail 
flounder that can be caught by the scallop fishery, so a catch cap for 
the access areas is no longer necessary to meet fishing mortality 
objectives.

11. Implementation of Scallop Fishery Accountability Measure

    Each year a portion of the GB and SNE/MA yellowtail flounder ABC is 
allocated to the scallop fishery as a sub-ACL. Currently, if the 
scallop fishery exceeds its sub-ACL for either of these stocks by 1 
percent or more in the scallop fishing year, pre-identified statistical 
areas with high catch rates of yellowtail flounder will close to 
limited access scallop vessels. The closure would be in place for 
consecutive months beginning at the start of the subsequent scallop 
fishing year, and the duration of the closure would depend on the 
magnitude of the overage. The proposed rule for Framework 23 to the 
Atlantic Sea Scallop FMP (Framework 23) was published in the Federal 
Register on January 3, 2012 (77 FR 52). Framework 23 proposes to revise 
the yellowtail flounder seasonal closure AM schedule for scallop 
vessels to ensure that the closures would occur during the months with 
the highest yellowtail flounder catch rates. If approved, Framework 23 
would likely become effective in April 2012.
    Framework 47 proposes to modify when the AM for the scallop fishery 
would be triggered. If the scallop fishery exceeds it sub-ACL for any 
groundfish stock, and the total ACL for that stock is also exceeded, 
the corresponding scallop seasonal closure would be implemented 
according to the seasonal closure AM schedule. In addition, if the 
scallop fishery exceeds its sub-ACL by 50 percent or more for any 
groundfish stock, the scallop seasonal closure AM would be implemented 
according to the schedule. When evaluating whether the total ACL has 
been exceeded for a groundfish stock for the purposes of triggering the 
scallop fishery AM, NMFS would add the maximum carryover available to 
the groundfish fishery to the estimate of total catch. Currently, the 
scallop fishery is allocated a sub-ACL for GB and SNE/MA yellowtail 
flounder; however, this measure would also apply to the scallop fishery 
AM for any additional groundfish stock that is allocated to the scallop 
fishery in a future action. If approved, this measure would apply 
retroactively to the 2011 scallop fishing year.
    The scallop fishing year ends on February 28, and the groundfish 
fishing year ends on April 30. Given the differences in fishing years, 
complete catch information for GB and SNE/MA yellowtail flounder would 
not be available until sometime after April 30. In addition, inseason 
catch information is not available for groundfish ACL sub-components, 
such as state waters catch. As a result, when evaluating the total 
catch of GB and SNE/MA yellowtail flounder for the purposes of 
triggering the scallop fishery AM, NMFS would primarily rely on partial 
catch information to project total fishing year catch of these two 
stocks from state waters and non-groundfish fisheries. NMFS would also 
use partial fishing year data to estimate GB and SNE/MA yellowtail 
flounder catch by the groundfish fishery and would project catch of 
these two stocks by groundfish vessels for the remainder of the 
groundfish fishing year. Although this proposed measure would allow 
more flexibility for the scallop fishery, there would be uncertainty 
associated with the catch projections used to determine whether the 
scallop fishery AM should be triggered. NMFS is seeking public comment 
on the use of these catch estimates for the purposes of triggering the 
scallop fishery AM.
    This proposed measure would allow more flexibility in the fishery. 
Currently, the yellowtail flounder allocation to the scallop fishery is 
based on an estimate of the yellowtail flounder expected to be caught 
with the projected scallop harvest for the fishing year. Because there 
is uncertainty in estimating the projected yellowtail flounder catch in 
the scallop fishery, the proposed revision to the AM trigger would 
account for projection uncertainty without compromising the mortality 
objectives for GB and SNE/MA yellowtail flounder. In addition, 
triggering the AM when the scallop fishery exceeds its allocation by 50 
percent or more will still ensure accountability in the fishery. The 
Council did not specifically include how to reference this measure in 
the scallop regulations in Framework 47; therefore, these references 
are proposed by NMFS under the authority of Section 305(d) of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act.

12. Inseason Re-Estimation of Scallop Fishery GB Yellowtail Flounder 
Sub-ACL

    The allocation of the GB yellowtail flounder sub-ACL to the scallop 
fishery is based on an estimate of the amount of GB yellowtail flounder 
the scallop fishery is expected to catch, which is determined by the 
scallop quota for the fishing year. The estimate is based on past 
fishing activity and projected changes in the stock size of GB 
yellowtail flounder and scallops. There are no restrictions on how much 
GB yellowtail flounder can be allocated to the scallop fishery. In FY 
2010, the scallop fishery was allocated 100 percent of the estimated GB 
yellowtail flounder catch associated with the projected scallop catch. 
In FY 2011 and FY 2012, the scallop fishery was allocated 90 percent of 
the projected GB yellowtail flounder catch. Because there is 
uncertainty in the initial estimates of projected GB yellowtail 
flounder catch, there is a possibility that the initial allocation to 
the scallop fishery could be too low, which could cause the scallop 
sub-ACL to be exceeded, or that the initial allocation to the scallop 
fishery could be too high, which could reduce GB yellowtail flounder 
yield.
    Due to the uncertainty in the initial estimates of projected GB 
yellowtail flounder and scallop catch, and to prevent the loss of 
available yield of GB yellowtail flounder, Framework 47 proposes to 
create a mechanism to re-estimate the expected GB yellowtail flounder 
catch by the scallop fishery by January 15 of each fishing year. If the 
re-estimate of projected GB yellowtail flounder indicates that the 
scallop fishery will catch less than 90 percent of its sub-ACL, NMFS 
would reduce the scallop fishery sub-ACL to the amount expected to be 
caught and increase the groundfish fishery sub-ACL for GB yellowtail 
flounder by the difference between the original estimate and the 
revised estimate. The increase to the groundfish fishery sub-ACL would 
be distributed to sectors and the common pool. NMFS would not make any 
changes to the GB yellowtail flounder

[[Page 18187]]

sub-ACL for the scallop fishery if the revised estimate indicates that 
the scallop fishery will catch 90 percent or more of its sub-ACL. NMFS 
would notify the public of any changes to the GB yellowtail flounder 
sub-ACLs consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act.
    In addition, due to uncertainty associated with the revised 
estimate of expected GB yellowtail flounder catch, NMFS would have the 
authority to adjust the size of the change made to the sub-ACLs for the 
scallop and groundfish fisheries. Based on the amount of the 
uncertainty, NMFS could revise the sub-ACLs by any amount between the 
initial estimate of expected GB yellowtail flounder catch by the 
scallop fishery and the revised estimate. Implementation of this 
measure would be delayed until data availability for projecting GB 
yellowtail flounder catch is sufficient to re-estimate the GB 
yellowtail flounder sub-ACL for the scallop fishery mid-season. 
Consideration of uncertainty and delay in implementation of this 
measure would avoid errors in the re-estimation of the GB yellowtail 
flounder sub-ACLs if the projected scallop fishery catch is 
underestimated. Errors in the re-estimation of the scallop fishery sub-
ACL could cause the scallop fishery to exceed its sub-ACL if projected 
catch is underestimated. In addition, if the groundfish fishery catches 
the additional GB yellowtail flounder allocated mid-fishing year, the 
U.S. TAC for GB yellowtail flounder could be exceeded.
    This proposed measure will prevent any loss of GB yellowtail 
flounder yield that may occur if the initial catch estimate of this 
stock by the scallop fishery is too high. Re-estimation of the expected 
GB yellowtail flounder catch by the scallop fishery mid-season would 
allow additional GB yellowtail flounder yield by the commercial 
groundfish fishery and would help achieve optimum yield for this stock.

13. Annual Measures for FY 2012 Under Regional Administrator Authority

    The FMP provides authority for the RA to implement certain types of 
management measures for the common pool fishery, the U.S./Canada 
Management Area, and Special Management Programs on an annual basis, or 
as needed. This proposed rule includes a description of the management 
measures being considered by the RA for FY 2012 in order to provide an 
opportunity for the public to comment on whether the proposed measures 
are appropriate. These measures are not part of Framework 47, and were 
not specifically proposed by the Council, but are proposed in 
conjunction with Framework 47 for expediency purposes and because they 
relate to the proposed Framework 47 measures (i.e., ACLs). The RA may 
implement different measures from the FY 2012 measures proposed in this 
action if current information indicates such measures are necessary to 
meet the requirements of the FMP. The measures implemented through RA 
authority for FY 2012 will be implemented through the Framework 47 
final rule, or, if necessary, through a separate final rule.
    The RA has the authority to modify common pool trip limits in order 
to prevent exceeding the common pool sub-ACLs and facilitate harvest so 
total catch approaches the common pool sub-ACLs. Table 16 provides a 
summary of the default trip limits that would take effect in FY 2012 if 
the RA takes no action, the common pool trip limits for FY 2011, and 
the proposed trip limits that would be in effect for the start of FY 
2012. Proposed trip limits for FY 2012 were developed after considering 
changes to the FY 2012 common pool sub-ACLs and sector rosters, 
trimester TACs for FY 2012, catch rates of each stock during FY 2011, 
bycatch, the potential for differential DAS counting in FY 2012, and 
other available information. For stocks that include a range of 
potential trip limits in Table 16, a final trip limit would be 
specified in the final rule implementing these measures based upon 
public comment. NMFS is requesting public input on common pool trip 
limits for FY 2012.

                Table 16--Default, FY 2011, and Proposed FY 2012 Trip Limits for the Common Pool
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           Default limit in                               Proposed FY 2012 trip
                Stock                        regulations           FY 2011 trip limit             limit
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GOM cod..............................  800 lb (362.9 kg) per    500 lb (226.8 kg) per    500 lb (226.8 kg)--800
                                        DAS, up to 4,000 lb      DAS, up to 2,000 lb      lb (362.9 kg) per DAS,
                                        (1,818.2 kg) per trip.   (907.2 kg) per trip;     up to 2,000 lb (907.2
                                                                 reduced to 350 lb        kg) per trip.
                                                                 (158.8 kg) per DAS up
                                                                 to 1,000 lb (453.6 kg)
                                                                 per trip.
GB cod...............................  2,000 lb (907.2 kg) per  3,000 lb (1,360.8 kg)    2,000 lb (907.2 kg) per
                                        DAS, up to 20,000 lb     per DAS, up to 30,000    DAS, up to 20,000 lb
                                        (9,072 kg) per trip.     lb (13,607.8 kg) per     (9,072 kg) per trip.
                                                                 trip; reduced to 300
                                                                 lb (136.1 kg) per DAS,
                                                                 up to 600 lb (272.2
                                                                 kg) per trip.
GOM haddock..........................  Unrestricted...........  1,000 lb (453.6 kg) per  750 lb (340.2 kg)--
                                                                 trip.                    1,000 lb (453.6 kg)
                                                                                          per trip.
GB haddock...........................  Unrestricted...........  10,000 lb (4,535.9 kg)   7,500 lb (3,402 kg)--
                                                                 per trip.                10,000 lb (4,535.9 kg)
                                                                                          per trip.
GOM winter flounder..................  Unrestricted...........  250 lb (113.4 kg) per    250 lb (113.4 kg) per
                                                                 trip.                    trip.
GB winter flounder...................  Unrestricted...........  1,000 lb (453.6 kg) per  1,000 lb (453.6 kg) per
                                                                 trip.                    trip.
CC/GOM yellowtail flounder...........  250 lb (113.4 kg) per    500 lb (226.8 kg) per    250 lb (113.4 kg) per
                                        DAS, up to 1,500         DAS, up to 2,000         DAS, up to 1,500
                                        (680.4 kg) per trip.     (907.2 kg) per trip.     (680.4 kg) per trip.
GB yellowtail flounder...............  Unrestricted...........  1,500 (680.4 kg) per     1,000 (453.6 kg)--1,500
                                                                 trip.                    (680.4 kg) per trip.
SNE/MA yellowtail flounder...........  250 lb (113.4 kg) per    500 lb (226.8 kg), up    500 lb (226.8 kg), up
                                        DAS, up to 1,500         to 2,000 (907.2 kg)      to 2,000 (907.2 kg)
                                        (680.4 kg) per trip.     per trip.                per trip--1,500 lb
                                                                                          (680.4 kg), up to
                                                                                          4,500 (2,041.1 kg) per
                                                                                          trip.
American plaice......................  Unrestricted...........  Unrestricted...........  Unrestricted.
Pollock..............................  1,000 lb (450 kg) per    Unrestricted...........  Unrestricted.
                                        DAS; up to 10,000 lb
                                        (4,500 kg) per trip.
Witch flounder.......................  Unrestricted...........  250 lb (113.4 kg) per    250 lb (113.4 kg) per
                                                                 trip.                    trip.
White hake...........................  500 lb (226.8 kg) per    1,500 lb (680.4 kg) per  1,000 lb (453.6 kg)--
                                        DAS; up to 2,000 lb      trip.                    1,500 lb (680.4 kg)
                                        (907.2 kg) per trip.                              per trip.

[[Page 18188]]

 
Redfish..............................  Unrestricted...........  Unrestricted...........  Unrestricted.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The RA has the authority to determine the allocation of the total 
number of trips into the Closed Area II Yellowtail Flounder/Haddock SAP 
based on several criteria, including the GB yellowtail flounder TAC and 
the amount of GB yellowtail flounder caught outside of the SAP. In 
2005, Framework 40B (June 1, 2005; 70 FR 31323) implemented a provision 
that no trips should be allocated to the Closed Area II Yellowtail 
Flounder/Haddock SAP if the available GB yellowtail flounder catch is 
insufficient to support at least 150 trips with a 15,000-lb (6,804-kg) 
trip limit (i.e., 150 trips of 15,000 lb (6,804 kg)/trip, or 2,250,000 
lb (1,020,600 kg). This calculation accounts for the projected catch 
from the area outside the SAP. Based on the groundfish sub-ACL of 
479,946 lb (217,700 kg), there is insufficient GB yellowtail flounder 
to allocate any trips to the SAP, even if the projected catch from 
outside the SAP area is zero. Therefore, based on existing authority, 
this action proposes to allocate zero trips to the Closed Area II 
Yellowtail Flounder/Haddock SAP for FY 2012. Vessels could still fish 
in this SAP in FY 2012 using a haddock separator trawl, a Ruhle trawl, 
or hook gear. Vessels would not be allowed to fish in this SAP using 
flounder nets.

14. Mid-Size Ruhle Trawl

    The Council requested that NMFS implement a smaller-scale version 
of the Ruhle trawl (i.e., the mid-size Eliminator Trawl), which is a 
trawl designed with large meshes in the forward part of the net to 
reduce catch of cod and flatfish. Specifically, the Council requested 
that the mid-size Eliminator Trawl should be: (1) Available for use by 
both sector and non-sector vessels in the Eastern U.S./Canada Haddock 
SAP and Regular B DAS Program; and (2) assigned a separate gear code 
but should not be assigned a separate stratum for the purpose of 
discard information. This action proposes to broaden the current 
definition of the Ruhle Trawl to include the mid-size Eliminator trawl. 
Expanding this definition would increase fishing opportunity for 
smaller vessels by allowing them to utilize this smaller-scale trawl, 
and therefore, have access to the Haddock SAP, as well as the B DAS 
program. In addition, vessels would be able to operate under the Ruhle 
trawl gear code, which would result in reduced discard rates for 
certain species, particularly depleted stocks that may have 
constraining catch limits.
    Vessels fishing in the Regular B DAS Program or the Haddock SAP 
must use approved trawl gear that has been determined to reduce the 
catch of NE multispecies stocks of concern. The RA may approve 
additional gears for use in the Regular B DAS Program and the Eastern 
U.S./Canada Haddock SAP if a gear meets gear performance standards 
defined at Sec.  648.85(b)(6)(iv)(J)(2). These gear performance 
standards were developed to allow the harvest of healthy stocks (e.g., 
GB haddock) while avoiding the capture of stocks of concern (e.g., GB 
cod and GB yellowtail flounder). The full-size Eliminator trawl (i.e., 
Ruhle trawl) was tested in 2006. This experiment demonstrated that it 
effectively harvested the target species haddock while reducing catches 
of cod and other stocks of concern. NMFS, upon the request of the 
Council, approved the Ruhle trawl for use in the B DAS Program and 
Haddock SAP on July 14, 2008 (73 FR 40186). The current definition of 
the Ruhle trawl is specific to the experimental net, which was designed 
for relatively large vessels.
    The University of Rhode Island (URI) conducted a follow-on study 
that tested two smaller versions of the Ruhle trawl that could be used 
by smaller vessels (small-size Eliminator trawl and mid-size Eliminator 
trawl) to determine if the catch performance of the smaller trawls is 
similar to that of the full-size trawl. In January 2010, URI submitted 
a final report titled ``Exploring Bycatch Reduction in the Haddock 
Fishery Through the Use of the Eliminator Trawl (Ruhle Trawl) with 
Fishing Vessels in the 250 to 550 HP Range.'' Although the small-size 
Eliminator did not attain the desired catch performance results, the 
mid-size Eliminator had catch performance characteristics very similar 
to those of the Ruhle trawl. Following a successful peer review, the 
Council determined that the mid-size Eliminator trawl effectively meets 
the pertinent gear performance standards and requested that NMFS 
approve the use of the mid-size Eliminator trawl for use by sector and 
non-sector vessels in the B DAS Program and Haddock SAP.
    Vessels participating in the NE multispecies common pool and sector 
management programs are subject to catch limits, which include 
discarded catch. Vessel Trip Report (VTR) gear codes, in conjunction 
with stock area fished and sector, are used to establish discard strata 
for each NE multispecies stock to ensure these catch limits are not 
exceeded. Each discard stratum has a particular discard rate associated 
with each NE multispecies stock based on Northeast Fisheries Observer 
Program (NEFOP) and at-sea-monitor (ASM) data. There are currently 
three commonly used VTR trawl gear codes for groundfish: Bottom fish; 
haddock separator; and Ruhle trawl. Because the haddock separator trawl 
and the Ruhle trawl were designed to fish more selectively than a 
regular bottom fish trawl, trips using these two gear types generally 
have reduced catch for certain stocks of NE multispecies, particularly 
flatfish and cod, resulting in a lower discard rate for these species. 
Due to the similar catch performance characteristics of the mid-size 
Eliminator and Ruhle trawl, the Council has requested that data from 
both be pooled for the purpose of assigning discard rates and 
establishing discard strata.
    The Council also requested that NMFS create a new VTR gear code for 
the mid-size Eliminator Trawl as a means to monitor the catch 
performance of this net design in the fishery. However, creating a new 
gear code would not achieve the Council's objective. A mid-size 
Eliminator trawl could range in size from the experimental net up to 
the size of the Ruhle trawl. Consequently, a vessel may correctly 
choose the mid-size Eliminator Trawl VTR gear code, but the net size 
could vary considerably from the experimental net size, which precludes 
the ability to use a VTR gear code to monitor how the experimental net 
performs when adopted in the fishery. Instead, NMFS proposes to use 
foot-rope length and discard data obtained by trips that are 
accompanied by a NEFOP assigned observer or ASM. Data from observed or 
monitored vessels that are using a mid-size Eliminator with a sweep 
that is comparable to the experimental net sweep of 33m (109 ft) would 
be used to evaluate how the

[[Page 18189]]

experimental gear is performing in practice.
    NMFS proposes to broaden the definition of the Ruhle Trawl such 
that, if implemented as proposed, the mid-size Eliminator would meet 
the definition of a Ruhle trawl. Upon consultation with NMFS fishing 
gear scientists and the URI Eliminator trawl research team, this action 
proposes to adjust the current definition of the Ruhle trawl to include 
the smaller dimensions of the mid-size Eliminator trawl, and only 
include the primary design features of the net design in the gear 
definition. Currently, a Ruhle trawl must have a minimum fishing circle 
of at least 398 ft (121.4 m), meet mesh-size specifications in the 
forward portion of the net, be rigged with a specific sweep 
configuration, have four seams, and have a minimum kite surface area. 
This action would revise the current Ruhle trawl definition by making 
the following modifications: Replace the minimum fishing circle 
requirement with a more concise and enforceable measure using minimum 
number of meshes at the wide end of the first bottom belly; adjust the 
mesh configuration in the forward part of the net and the minimum kite 
area requirements to that of the mid-size Eliminator; and remove the 
sweep configuration requirements. The sweep requirements have been 
removed from the definition as this component of the gear is largely 
based on bottom composition and preference, and is not the primary 
bycatch reduction device, which is the large meshes located in the 
forward part of the net. The minimum mesh sizes and minimum kite area 
were reduced to enable the mid-size Eliminator to meet the Ruhle trawl 
definition.

15. Monitoring of Fillets, Fish Parts, and Fish Landed for At-Home 
Consumption

    This action proposes to remove the 3:1 counting method for the 
purposes of counting fillets and fish-parts landed for at-home 
consumption against the pertinent ACLs. NMFS published an interim final 
rule on July 19, 2011, (76 FR 42577), which changed the way that 
fillets, fish parts, and fish landed for at-home consumption are 
counted against ACLs. That rule specified that all catch by a sector 
vessel, including fillets retained by crew for home consumption, count 
against the sector's ACE for that stock; and all catch by a common pool 
vessel, including fillets retained by crew for home consumption, count 
towards the vessel's possession limit for that stock and the common 
pool sub-ACL for that stock. The interim final rule required that 
fillets and parts of fish (as referenced at Sec.  648.83(b)) be counted 
at a rate of 3:1 both for compliance purposes with common pool 
possession limits and for monitoring ACLs. The regulations were 
modified to require the weight of fillets or parts of fish to be 
multiplied by 3 and added to the weight of whole fish for monitoring 
purposes to ensure all fish landed for at-home consumption is 
attributed to the appropriate ACL.
    Since publishing the interim final rule, NMFS has developed a more 
precise method to estimate the weight of fillets or parts of fish for 
monitoring ACLs. Instead of a universal 3:1 multiplier, the new method 
uses species-specific conversion factors. The species-specific 
conversion factors used for regulated species currently allowed to be 
landed are presented in Table 17. These conversion factors, as well as 
the conversion factors for other groundfish species and species outside 
of the NE Multispecies FMP, are available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). 
Fillets and fish parts landed would be multiplied by the species-
specific multiplier for monitoring sector ACEs and common pool sub-
ACLs. This is consistent with the FMP requirement that all catch by 
sector and common pool vessels be accounted for, and will provide more 
accurate information to be used in preventing overharvest of sector 
ACEs and common pool sub-ACLs. The 3:1 counting rate for fillets and 
parts of fish would continue to be used to determine compliance with 
possession limits for the common pool.

Table 17--Groundfish Species Conversion Factors for Fillets and Parts of
                   Fish Landed for At-Home Consumption
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                              Conversion
                          Species                               factor
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Atlantic cod...............................................        1.169
Haddock....................................................        1.139
Yellowtail Flounder........................................            1
American Plaice............................................            1
Witch Flounder.............................................            1
Winter Flounder............................................            1
Redfish....................................................            1
White Hake.................................................         1.34
Pollock....................................................        1.133
Atlantic Halibut...........................................        1.142
------------------------------------------------------------------------

16. Charter/Party Vessel Closed Area Letter of Authorization

    Framework Adjustment 33 to the NE Multispecies FMP (Framework 33) 
provided an exemption to charter/party and recreational vessels to fish 
in the GOM Rolling Closure Areas, the Western GOM Closure Area, Cashes 
Ledge Closure Area, and the Nantucket Lightship Closed Area, provided 
the vessel is issued a letter of authorization (LOA) from the Regional 
Administrator. The current regulations specify that a vessel issued 
this LOA is not allowed to sell any fish, with the exception of tuna. 
However, the Council's intent for this exemption cited in Framework 33 
was to exempt all species that are not managed by the New England 
Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) or the Mid-Atlantic Fishery 
Management Council (MAFMC). In addition to tuna, striped bass and 
lobster, among other species, are not managed by the NEFMC or the 
MAFMC, and therefore, should be precluded from the prohibition of sale. 
To address this issue, the regulations at Sec.  648.81(c)(2)(ii)(B) and 
(f)(2)(iii)(B), and at Sec.  648.89(e)(3)(ii), would be revised to 
allow the sale of fish species that are not managed by the Councils, 
including striped bass and lobster, when a vessel holds a charter/party 
LOA issued by the Regional Administrator.

Request for Comments

    The public is invited to comment on any of the measures proposed in 
this rule. NMFS is especially interested in receiving comments on the 
following proposed measures for which the agency has concern: (1) The 
proposed revisions to the AMs for the six stocks not currently 
allocated to sectors (SNE/MA winter flounder, northern windowpane 
flounder, southern windowpane flounder, ocean pout, Atlantic halibut, 
and Atlantic wolffish); (2) the use of catch projections for evaluating 
the total yellowtail flounder catch in order to trigger the scallop 
fishery AM; and (3) the proposed common pool trip limits for FY 2012, 
which is the first year the common pool fishery will be subject to the 
trimester TAC AM.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is 
consistent with Framework 47 to the FMP, other provisions of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, subject to further 
consideration after public comment. Further, pursuant to section 303(c) 
of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Council has deemed this proposed rule 
as necessary and appropriate to implement Framework 47.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    An IRFA, consistent with the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) 
analysis contained in Framework 47 and the preamble to this proposed 
rule, has been prepared, as required by section

[[Page 18190]]

603 of the RFA. The IRFA consists of this section, the SUMMARY section 
of the preamble of this proposed rule, and the EA prepared for 
Framework 47. Another IRFA, incorporated in this summary by reference, 
was prepared for the proposed rule to approve the 2012 sector 
operations plans and allocate annual catch entitlements to sectors. The 
IRFA describes the economic impact this proposed rule would have on 
small entities if adopted. A description of the action, why it is being 
considered, and the legal basis for this action are contained in 
Framework 47, and in the preamble to this rule. This IRFA analyzes 
expected impacts of the proposed measures in Framework 47, including 
setting GOM cod specifications based on the new GOM cod assessment. As 
explained in the preamble, however, the Council did not adopt ABCs for 
GOM cod in Framework 47, and if approved, Framework 47 would not 
include GOM cod specifications for FY 2012-2014. Therefore, the 
following summary also includes expected impacts of this proposed 
action in the absence of GOM cod specifications. FY 2010, which is the 
last full fishing year for which data are available, was used as the 
baseline period in this analysis to estimate the impacts of the 
proposed action on regulated small entities.

Description and Estimate of the Number of Small Entities To Which the 
Proposed Rule Will Apply

    The measures proposed in Framework 47 would primarily affect 
commercial groundfish vessels (in a sector or in the common pool) and 
commercial Atlantic sea scallop vessels. The primary economic impact of 
the proposed action is associated with the specification of ACLs and 
sub-ACLs. The size standard for determining small versus large entities 
for regulated commercial fishing entities (North American Industry 
Classification System code 114111) is $4 million in sales; regulated 
entities with less than $4 million in sales are considered small. 
Multiple vessels may be owned by a single owner, and contrary to the 
IRFA prepared for Framework 47, data tracking ownership recently became 
available to determine affiliated entities. However, this IRFA does not 
analyze the expected impacts of the proposed action using ownership 
groups, (i.e., ownership of multiple vessels by one owner). Therefore, 
for the purposes of analysis, each permitted vessel is treated as a 
single entity, except for vessels participating in the sector program, 
as described below.
    In the IRFA prepared for Framework 47, as explained in Section 
8.11.2 of Framework 47, sectors were used as the regulated entity for 
the first time to estimate impacts of the proposed action. Sectors were 
used as the entity for analysis, in part, because each vessel's 
Potential Sector Contribution only becomes fishable quota if the vessel 
is a member of a sector. Since sectors are allocated Annual Catch 
Entitlement (ACE), based on the cumulative Potential Sector 
Contribution of each individual sector member, sectors as an affiliated 
entity provides a useful approach for analyzing the impacts of 
Framework 47. This approach is different than the approach used to 
prepare the IRFA for the proposed rule to implement the 2012 sector 
operations plans and allocate ACE to sectors, as well as other previous 
groundfish actions. In the past, individual vessels, not sectors, were 
used as the regulated entity to estimate impacts of proposed measures 
on vessels participating in the sector program. NMFS determined that 
deeming a sector as the regulated entity, for the purposes of analysis 
under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), is a useful alternative to 
analysis of individual vessels for Framework 47. NMFS believes this 
analysis should also be completed using the individual vessel as the 
regulated entity to provide continuity with the RFA analyses of 
previous actions. Therefore, a supplemental analysis has been prepared 
using individual vessels as the regulated entity to analyze the impacts 
of Framework 47. This supplemental analysis, which is described below, 
along with the Framework 47 analysis, gives the public the best 
opportunity to review the impacts of Framework 47 in the context of 
prior and concurrent actions.
    Under the Framework 47 RFA analysis, which is described in Section 
8.11.2 of Framework 47, the entities affected by the proposed action 
would include 7 large and 10 small regulated entities participating in 
the sector program, and 342 small regulated entities in the common 
pool. If using individual vessels as the regulated entity for the 
sector program, this proposed action would affect 740 small regulated 
entities enrolled in the sector program. In addition, because the 
proposed action would decrease the available GB yellowtail flounder, 
permitted scallop vessels are regulated by this action. Potentially 
affected entities in the scallop fishery would include 347 limited 
access scallop vessels and 730 general category scallop vessels. All 
individual vessels in the sea scallop fishery are considered small 
business entities under the Small Business Administration criteria.
    Using sectors as the regulated entity to estimate impacts of the 
proposed action, there were 7 large and 10 small regulated entities 
participating in the sector program in FY 2010. Mean gross sales of 
fish for the 7 large entities was $13.7 million and approximately $2 
million for the 10 small entities. Under the proposed action, 3 large 
entities would fall below the threshold of $4 million in sales, which 
would result in 4 large and 13 small regulated entities. Mean gross 
sales for the large regulated entities are estimated at $9.5 million 
under the proposed action, which is a 30-percent reduction from the 
baseline period. Mean gross sales for the small regulated entities is 
estimated at $0.7 million, which is a 62-percent reduction from the 
baseline period.
    There were 343 commercial groundfish vessels in the common pool 
that had at least $1 in gross sales from fish during FY 2010. All of 
these were small regulated entities with mean gross sales of $156,000. 
Under the proposed action, gross sales from groundfish would be 
approximately $2,600, which is less than 2 percent of the mean gross 
sales. Although the proposed action may trigger common pool 
accountability measures, which would limit opportunities to fish for 
groundfish, the impact on small regulated entities would likely be 
insignificant.
    Using individual vessels as the regulated entity to estimate the 
impacts of the proposed action, there were 740 vessels enrolled in the 
sector program, and 607 common pool vessels, in FY 2010. During the 
baseline period, there were 446 sector vessels, and 343 common pool 
vessels, that generated gross sales from any species. 305 sector 
vessels, and 145 common pool vessels, generated gross sales from 
groundfish species. No individual vessel generated gross sales in 
excess of $4 million. Therefore, using individual vessels as the 
regulated entity, all regulated entities are considered small, and 
there are no disproportional impacts between small and large entities. 
Mean gross sales of fish for vessels enrolled in the sector program 
were $299.9K, and $138.1K for common pool vessels. This proposed action 
is expected to reduce mean gross sales of fish by 33 percent for sector 
vessels; mean gross sales of fish are predicted to be $200.1K. Mean 
gross sales for common pool vessels are expected to decline to $132.6K, 
which is less than a 5-percent decline.
    Mean gross sales for limited access scallop vessels are 
approximately $1 million, and are approximately $80,000 for general 
category scallop vessels. The

[[Page 18191]]

statistical areas with the highest catch rates of GB yellowtail 
flounder are 562 and 525. If the proposed action caused a closure of 
one or both of these areas beginning on March 1, 2013, fishing effort 
by scallop vessels would be displaced to other locations, primarily the 
Mid-Atlantic region. Since more than 75 percent of revenues from the 
Atlantic sea scallop fishery come from statistical areas south of 
Georges Bank, the impact of a closure in statistical areas 562 or 525 
are difficult to anticipate. In addition, during FY 2010, less than 1 
percent of total revenues in the scallop fishery came from the 
statistical areas potentially affected by the proposed action. There 
were no access area trips taken in the scallop fishery during this 
time. Opening of portions of statistical area 562 to access area trips 
could increase the probability of triggering an AM for the scallop 
fishery and could increase the potential for adverse regulatory impacts 
to lost access area trips or displaced fishing effort. However, the 
effect on profitability is likely to be minimal, and because all 
participating vessels are deemed to be small regulated entities, there 
are no disproportional impacts.
    The primary impact of the proposed action is associated with 
setting ACLs, which includes specification of sub-ACLs of GB and GOM 
haddock to the Atlantic herring fishery. Because this action decreases 
the ABCs for GB and GOM haddock, Atlantic herring vessels are 
potentially affected by this action. In calendar year 2010, 90 vessels 
were issued a limited access herring permit and two vessels exceeded $4 
million in sales. Approximately 17 percent of the haddock ABCs were 
landed in FY 2010, and similar utilization of the available quota is 
expected under the proposed action. Therefore, vessels participating in 
the Atlantic herring fishery are not expected to be affected by this 
action.
    Of the affected entities under the proposed action, only groundfish 
sectors and vessels are anticipated to be significantly adversely 
affected. Due to conservation needs, the proposed action would 
significantly reduce short-term profits for regulated small entities 
relative to the baseline period. Regulated small sector entities are 
estimated to be more adversely impacted by the proposed action than 
large sector entities. Gross sales for small sector entities would be 
reduced by 63 percent, and gross sales for large entities would be 
reduced by 30 percent. These are short-term impacts. In addition, 
reductions in fishing opportunities due to GOM cod and GB yellowtail 
flounder sub-ACLs are necessary to ensure rebuilding of these stocks. 
The ability to lease quota between sectors and consolidate quota within 
sectors will help mitigate the adverse effect on profitability. In 
addition, proposed exemptions included in the 2012 sector rule are 
expected to mitigate impacts as described in the IRFA prepared for the 
proposed action. However, using sectors as the regulated entities, the 
proposed action is likely to have a significant impact on regulated 
small sector entities under the disproportionality criteria. This 
analysis was based in part on anticipated decreases in the GOM cod 
catch limits for FY 2012-2014 that were initially proposed as part of 
this action. However, Framework 47 no longer proposes to set the GOM 
cod catch limits for FY 2012-2014, as explained in the preamble, and 
therefore, the expected impacts of this proposed action on regulated 
small entities are likely to be less.

Economic Impacts of the Proposed Action and Alternatives

    The economic impacts of each proposed measure are discussed in more 
detail in Sections 7.4 and 8.11 of the Framework 47 EA and are 
summarized below. These analyses use the individual vessel to estimate 
economic impacts, except as previously described. The proposed ABCs and 
ACLs are the greatest contributing factor to the economic impacts of 
the proposed action, particularly the ABCs and ACLs for GOM cod and GB 
yellowtail flounder. A range of possible ABCs for GOM cod was analyzed, 
and at the low end, the economic impacts are expected to be severe and 
negative. The economic impacts of the other proposed measures on the 
groundfish fishery are less severe. Although these measures could have 
some negative impacts in the short-term, these measures would have 
long-term benefits to the fishery.

Revised Status Determination Criteria and GB Yellowtail Flounder 
Rebuilding Program

    Economic impacts of the proposed revisions to the status 
determination criteria for the three winter flounder stocks and GOM cod 
primarily occur through the affect these changes have on setting the 
OFLs, ABCs, and ACLs based on these criteria. Over the long-term, the 
proposed status determination criteria provide a limit on the potential 
harvest from the fishery. The proposed MSY values are higher for GB and 
SNE/MA winter flounder than the current MSY values considered in the no 
action alternative, which would result in potential revenues of $9.6 
million more than the no action alternative. The rebuilding programs 
for these two stocks would determine how much of this additional 
revenue would be realized in the fishery.
    Economic impacts of the proposed revision to the rebuilding period 
for GB yellowtail flounder would also occur through the affect these 
changes would have on setting the specifications each year for this 
stock. The economic impact of the various rebuilding strategies for GB 
yellowtail flounder was estimated by calculating the net present value 
of the potential revenue streams that would occur under each strategy. 
The proposed strategy to rebuild by 2032 would result in a mean net 
present value of $234 million, which is approximately 5 percent more 
than the alternative to rebuild the stock by 2023. The proposed action 
would also result in much larger returns than the no action 
alternative, which is scheduled to rebuild the stock by 2016. The no 
action alternative would constrain scallop fishery on Georges Bank, and 
may also prevent sector vessels from fishing in the GB yellowtail 
flounder stock area. Thus, the no action alternative would result in 
large revenue reductions for the groundfish fishery and the scallop 
fishery.

Annual Catch Limits

    The total potential groundfish revenue of the proposed 
specifications is estimated to be approximately $61.1 million. This is 
approximately a 25-percent reduction from the gross groundfish revenues 
in FY 2010, and a 50-percent reduction from the no action alternative. 
GOM cod is the constraining stock under this proposed action. The 
proposed action would allow sustained catches of other GOM stocks, 
including plaice and witch flounder. In addition, estimates of gross 
groundfish revenue that were only 25 percent lower than FY 2010 are a 
result of a likely shift in the fishery to avoid cod and maximize 
revenues from other stocks. Catch rates could also increase as stocks 
rebuild, which would make these estimates conservative.
    The proposed action would have a negative economic impact across 
all size classes, gear types, and nearly all hailing ports. Chatham, 
MA, would be expected to maintain its revenue from groundfish, and 
groundfish revenues in Boston, MA, would decline by less than 25 
percent. New Hampshire would lose over 90 percent of its gross 
groundfish revenues. Massachusetts would lose 33 percent of its gross 
revenues under the proposed action. However, Gloucester, MA, would 
likely have more than a 40-percent reduction in gross groundfish 
revenue. The 30-50 ft (9.1-15.2 m)

[[Page 18192]]

vessel size class would likely be the most adversely affected as the 
fishery shifts from the nearshore areas west of the Western GOM Closed 
Area to deeper waters farther east. Analysis also indicates that 
gillnet would be the most negatively affected gear type. Under this 
action, GOM cod is the constraining stock, and most of the lost 
groundfish revenues estimated are a result of low GOM cod catch limits. 
However, because this action no longer proposes to set the GOM cod 
catch limits for FY 2012-2014, the potential revenue would likely be 
higher than initially estimated, which would result in less of a 
reduction from the FY 2010 gross groundfish revenues.
    The no action alternative would set the specifications for FY 2012 
as previously adopted by Framework 44 and Framework 45. No 
specifications would be adopted for FY 2013-2014, with the exception of 
pollock. FY 2013-2014 specifications for pollock were adopted by 
Framework 45. The no action alternative, which is the only other 
alternative considered, would generate the highest groundfish revenue 
($114 million), and would likely have positive net benefits relative to 
FY 2010 across all hailing ports and states, with the exception of 
Rhode Island, which may lose 30 percent of gross revenues.

U.S./Canada Management Area TACs

    Revenues from the FY 2012 proposed TACs for the U.S./Canada 
Management Area were estimated using two catch scenarios. In the first 
scenario, total landings in FY 2012 were assumed to be 75 percent of 
the TAC for Eastern GB cod and GB yellowtail flounder and 15 percent of 
the TAC for Eastern GB haddock. Under this catch scenario, estimated 
revenues from the U.S./Canada Management Area are between 46 and 57 
percent lower than FY 2010 revenues. However, because the FY 2012 TACs 
are lower, a larger proportion of the TAC may be caught in FY 2012. In 
the second scenario, total landings in FY 2012 were assumed to be 100 
percent of the Eastern GB cod and GB yellowtail flounder TAC and 30 
percent of the Eastern GB haddock TAC. The estimated revenues are 
greater for all stocks in this scenario compared to the first scenario, 
and are 42 percent and 28 percent lower than FY 2010 for Eastern GB cod 
and GB yellowtail flounder, respectively. If more of the U.S. TAC for 
Eastern GB haddock is caught, revenues would increase by approximately 
3 percent compared to FY 2010. The no action alternative would not 
specify TACs for the U.S./Canada Management Area. In comparison to the 
no action alternative, the proposed action would have short-term 
positive economic impacts.
    In addition, because the FY 2012 TACs are lower than the FY 2011 
TACs, the proposed action would likely result in reduced overall 
revenue from the U.S./Canada Management Area. This reduced revenue 
would be due to both the decrease in potential landings of Eastern GB 
cod and GB yellowtail flounder, as well as a loss of revenue from other 
stocks caught on trips to the Eastern U.S./Canada Area if vessels lose 
access to this area when a pertinent TAC is projected to be caught. 
Although the Eastern GB haddock TAC will not limit haddock catch, 
access to haddock may be impacted by the reduced FY 2012 TACs for 
Eastern GB cod and GB yellowtail flounder. Reductions in revenue could 
be mitigated if vessels are able to minimize the catch of Eastern GB 
cod and maximize the catch of Eastern GB haddock.
    Different impacts would likely be realized by common pool and 
sector vessels due to the nature of the operations of such groups and 
applicable regulations. Unlike vessels operating within the same 
sector, the common pool is unable to actively coordinate fishing 
operations to maximize fishing revenue based upon resource availability 
and market price. Therefore, impacts on common pool vessels will be 
dependent upon the overall rate at which available TACs are caught, and 
whether any responsive measures necessary to prevent such TACs from 
being exceeded are triggered. Further, once the available ACE for a 
particular stock is caught, sectors must cease fishing operations in 
the entire stock area unless they lease in additional ACE for the 
pertinent stock. In contrast, while common pool vessels may be subject 
to more restrictive DAS or trip limits in a particular area, they could 
continue to fish in the Western U.S./Canada Area even after the GB 
yellowtail flounder TAC is caught, provided they do not retain any GB 
yellowtail flounder.
    The other alternative considered, the no action alternative, would 
result in decreased revenue in FY 2012 as a result of no TACs being 
specified for the U.S./Canada Management Area. Due to limited fishing 
opportunities under this alternative, the long-term economic impacts 
would likely be negative compared to the proposed action. However, 
stock rebuilding could occur more quickly under this alternative, and 
the associated revenue resulting from an increasing stock size would 
likely provide long-term economic impacts.

Common Pool Restricted Gear Areas

    The proposed action to remove the Western GB Multispecies and SNE 
Multispecies RGAs would be expected to increase revenues for common 
pool vessels when compared to the no action alternative. Removals of 
these RGAs would likely increase the common pool landings of SNE/MA 
yellowtail flounder. In FY 2010, only 26 percent of the common pool 
sub-ACL for this stock was caught. Based on this percentage of catch, 
and the SNE/MA yellowtail flounder ACLs proposed in this action, 
removing the RGAs would result in increased landings of this stock by 
129 mt. These increased landings are estimated at $370,000. In 
addition, removal of the RGAs may reduce costs for common pool vessels 
because vessel operators would not be required to purchase selective 
gear to fish in these areas.
    The no action alternative would restrict revenue for common pool 
vessels because the requirement to use selective gear would make 
fishing by common pool vessels less efficient. Under this alternative, 
common pool catch of stocks in Southern New England would be 
restricted, which may prevent the common pool from utilizing more of 
its available quota. This alternative may also increase costs for 
common pool vessels if the vessel must purchase selective gear to fish 
in the RGAs.

Accountability Measures

    The economic impacts of the revisions to the AMs for windowpane 
flounder, ocean pout, Atlantic halibut, Atlantic wolffish, and SNE/MA 
winter flounder were analyzed by estimating changes in fishing vessel 
revenue that would occur if the proposed AM was triggered. The small AM 
areas for northern and southern windowpane flounder and ocean pout 
account for approximately $7 million of total revenue by groundfish 
vessels fishing in these areas. Only a portion of these revenues would 
be affected by this proposed AM because vessels could still fish inside 
these areas with selective gear. Catch data indicate that the 
composition of the catch inside these proposed AM areas would change 
substantially with the use of selective gear. Selective gear inside the 
AM areas catch a higher proportion of haddock and a lower proportion of 
flatfish relative to traditional trawl gears. Average revenues per tow 
for selective gears in this area were approximately 31 percent higher 
than the revenues per tow using traditional trawl gears. Depending on 
the profitability of other

[[Page 18193]]

fishing options, vessels may also elect to fish in other areas rather 
than fish inside the AM area with selective gear. Given the relatively 
small size of these proposed AM areas, additional trip costs for 
fishing in other areas are likely negligible.
    The large AM areas proposed for northern and southern windowpane 
flounder and ocean pout account for approximately $15 million of total 
revenue by groundfish vessels fishing in these areas. Approximately 75 
percent of these revenues come from New Bedford, MA, and $1.7 million 
comes from Point Judith, RI. Similar to the small AM areas proposed, 
use of selective gears inside the large AM areas would substantially 
change the composition of catch and likely result in higher proportions 
of haddock caught and lower proportions of flatfish catch relative to 
traditional trawl gears. Revenues affected by these AM areas could 
likely be recovered by using selective gear or fishing in other areas.
    Overall, the proposed AM for northern and southern windowpane 
flounder and ocean pout would result in negative economic impacts 
compared to the no action alternative. This AM would affect fishing 
behavior and apply to all commercial groundfish vessels. Under this 
proposed measure, fishermen would have to alter their behavior, which 
could impose additional costs. The greatest economic impact could 
reduce revenues by $15 million if the large AM areas are implemented 
simultaneously due to an overage of the total ACL for both stocks of 
windowpane flounder, or if the total ACL is exceeded for ocean pout.
    The proposed AM for Atlantic halibut would prohibit possession in 
year 3 if the total ACL is exceeded in year 1. The maximum revenue loss 
from this proposed AM would be the value of the ACL during year 3. In 
FY 2012-2014, the groundfish sub-ACL is 36 mt, which would result in 
approximately $400,000 in groundfish revenues. This revenue loss is 
greater than in the no action alternative because the AM would apply to 
sector and common pool vessels. The proposed AM for Atlantic wolffish 
and SNE/MA winter flounder would maintain the prohibition on possession 
for these two stocks. Because possession of these two stocks is 
currently prohibited, this proposed measure would not be expected to 
result in any revenue loss.
    The no action alternative for Atlantic wolffish and SNE/MA winter 
flounder would require closure of statistical areas to common pool 
vessels if sector and common pool catch exceeded the common pool sub-
ACL for these stocks. This could lead to derby effects since fishing 
activity would be constrained if the AM is triggered. The no action 
alternative for Atlantic halibut would require adjustment to trip 
limits for common pool vessels. Since the current possession limit is 
one fish per day, the only possible trip limit adjustment would be to 
decrease the possession limit to zero, and prohibit possession of this 
stock. Common pool revenues could be reduced by $25,000 compared to FY 
2010 if possession of this stock was prohibited. The no action 
alternatives for windowpane flounder and ocean pout are expected to 
have no economic impacts because possession of these stocks is already 
prohibited.

Removal of Cap on Yellowtail Flounder Catch in GB Scallop Access Areas

    This proposed measure would not be expected to have any economic 
impacts on the groundfish fishery. Elimination of the 10-percent 
yellowtail flounder access area caps would reduce the incentive for 
derby fishing, and would likely have positive impacts on the scallop 
fishery compared to the no action alternative. However, removing the 
10-percent access area caps could increase the risk for the scallop 
fishery to exceed its sub-ACL for yellowtail flounder if the scallop 
fishery catches more yellowtail flounder in the access areas than 
projected. This would trigger the scallop fishery AMs, which would 
restrict fishing, reduce scallop landings, and increase fishing costs. 
The no action alternative would increase the incentive for derby 
fishing and may have negative impacts on the scallop fishery. Some of 
these negative impacts could be mitigated because vessels can transfer 
unused access area trips to open areas if an access area closes.

Implementation of the Scallop Fishery AM

    The proposed revisions to the implementation of the scallop fishery 
AM would not be expected to have any economic impacts on the groundfish 
fishery. The proposed revision would have a positive economic impact on 
the scallop fishery because the scallop fishery AMs would not be 
triggered if less than 150 percent of the scallop fishery sub-ACL for 
GB and SNE/MA yellowtail flounder is caught, or if the total ACL is not 
exceeded. This would prevent effort shifts to less optimal areas by 
scallop vessels, as well as effort shifts into seasons with lower meat 
weights for scallops. The no action alternative would not modify the 
trigger for the scallop fishery AM, and the pertinent AM would be 
triggered if the scallop fishery exceeds its sub-ACL by 1 percent or 
more. The proposed measure would minimize negative economic impacts to 
the scallop fishery compared to the no action alternative and would 
prevent the loss of scallop landings, revenues, and increased fishing 
costs that would result under the no action alternative.

Inseason Re-Estimation of Scallop Fishery GB Yellowtail Flounder Sub-
ACL

    The proposed measure would have positive economic benefits for the 
groundfish fishery. These benefits would only occur in years when the 
scallop fishery is not projected to catch its initial sub-ACL, and the 
groundfish sub-ACL is increased mid-fishing year. When additional quota 
is made available to the groundfish fishery, revenues for the 
groundfish fishery would be expected to increase if groundfish vessels 
are able to catch additional GB yellowtail flounder. However, compared 
to the no action alternative, this measure could have negative impacts 
if the inseason re-estimation of projected yellowtail flounder catch by 
the scallop fishery is incorrect. If the scallop fishery sub-ACL is 
reduced in error, and subsequently the groundfish sub-ACL is increased, 
total catch of GB yellowtail flounder could exceed the U.S. TAC. Any 
overage of the U.S. TAC for GB yellowtail is deducted from the 
following year's TAC. Because the allocation of GB yellowtail flounder 
is set in advance, and does not vary with changes to the overall TAC, 
the catch available to the groundfish fishery would be reduced.
    The no action alternative would not provide a mechanism to re-
estimate the scallop fishery GB yellowtail flounder sub-ACL mid-fishing 
year and adjust the groundfish fishery sub-ACL. The no action 
alternative would have negative impacts on the scallop fishery if a 
yellowtail flounder AM is triggered and effort shifts to areas and 
seasons with lower scallop catch rates and meat weights. This could 
increase fishing costs as scallop vessels fish in less optimal areas, 
and scallop revenues would decline. The current AM trigger for the 
scallop fishery would result in lower profits, lower crew incomes, and 
less economic benefits than the proposed action.

Regulatory Changes Not Included in Framework 47

    There are several changes proposed in this rule that are considered 
to be mostly administrative in nature and do not affect individual 
vessel operations that would result in any economic impact to regulated 
entities. These changes include modifying the

[[Page 18194]]

definition of the Ruhle trawl, reinserting text defining stock areas 
applicable to sector vessels, revising the methodology used to 
attribute fillets, fish parts, and fish landed for at-home consumption 
to the pertinent ACL, and clarifying the regulations for charter/party 
and recreational groundfish vessels fishing in groundfish closed areas. 
This proposed change to the at-home consumption conversion factors 
would implement a more precise method using species-specific conversion 
factors, which would be expected to have positive impacts on the 
fishery due to improved quota monitoring. In addition, this rule 
proposes to broaden the definition of the Ruhle trawl to include the 
mid-size Eliminator trawl Ruhle trawl for use in the Regular B DAS 
Program and the Eastern U.S./Canada Haddock SAP. This proposed revision 
would provide more flexibility for the groundfish fishery in the use of 
trawl gear that minimizes catch of stocks of concern. The additional 
exempted gear option would provide vessels a choice of the most cost-
effective means of targeting healthy stocks. Vessels choosing to use 
the mid-size Eliminator trawl would incur the purchase cost of the 
gear.

Measures Proposed To Mitigate Adverse Economic Impacts of the Proposed 
Action

    During the development of Framework 47, NMFS and the Council 
considered ways to reduce the regulatory burden on, and provide 
flexibility for, the regulated entities in this proposed action. 
Proposed actions and alternatives are described in detail in Framework 
47, which includes an EA, RIR, and IRFA (available at ADDRESSES). The 
proposed action contains several measures that would provide small 
entities with some ability to offset at least some portion of the 
estimated economic impacts associated with the proposed measures. The 
delay in the implementation of the area-based AMs for windowpane 
flounder and ocean pout will give fishermen time to plan their fishing 
operations in order to mitigate the economic impacts of this proposed 
measure. In addition, the proposed removal of the Western GB and SNE 
Multispecies RGAs for common pool vessels would also mitigate the 
economic impacts of the proposed action by allowing common pool vessels 
more flexibility to catch the pertinent sub-ACLs, as well as reducing 
the potential costs of fishing in these areas with selective gear. In 
addition, the re-estimation of the GB yellowtail flounder sub-ACL would 
help mitigate adverse economic impacts of the proposed action by 
allowing increased landings of this stock by the groundfish fishery. 
These increased landings would be expected to increase revenues for the 
groundfish fishery. In addition, proposed exemptions for sector vessels 
in the 2012 sector rule could also mitigate negative impacts of this 
proposed action.
    Eliminating the cap on yellowtail flounder catch in the Nantucket, 
Closed Area I, and Closed Area II Sea Scallop Access Areas would reduce 
the incentive for derby fishing in the access areas, which would have 
positive impacts for scallop vessels. The revision to the scallop 
fishery AM trigger would also be expected to have positive impacts on 
the scallop fishery. This measure would prevent effort shifts to less 
optimal areas and seasons with lower scallop meat weights and would 
minimize reduced scallop revenues and increased fishing costs.

Description of the Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other 
Compliance Requirements of the Proposed Rule

    This action contains no new collection-of-information, reporting, 
or recordkeeping requirements. This action does not duplicate, overlap, 
or conflict with any other Federal law.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648

    Fisheries, Fishing, Recordkeeping and reporting requirements.

    Dated: March 19, 2012.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Acting Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
    For the reasons stated in the preamble, 50 CFR part 648 is proposed 
to be amended as follows:

PART 648--FISHERIES OF THE NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES

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

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

    2. In Sec.  648.14,
    a. Remove and reserve paragraphs (i)(2)(vi)(B), (i)(2)(vi)(C), and 
(i)(3)(v)(C);
    b. Remove paragraph (k)(7)(i)(C)(4); and
    c. Revise paragraph (k)(13)(ii)(B) and add paragraph (k)(20) to 
read as follows:


Sec.  648.14  Prohibitions.

* * * * *
    (k) * * *
    (13) * * *
    (ii) * * *
    (B) Possess or land per trip more than the possession or landing 
limits specified in Sec.  648.86(a), (b), (c), (e), (g), (h), (j), (l), 
(m), (n), and (o); Sec.  648.82(b)(5) and (6); Sec.  648.85; or Sec.  
648.88, if the vessel has been issued a limited access NE multispecies 
permit or open access NE multispecies permit, as applicable.
* * * * *
    (20) AMs for both stocks of windowpane flounder and ocean pout. It 
is unlawful for any person, including any owner or operator of a vessel 
issued a valid Federal NE multispecies permit or letter under Sec.  
648.4(a)(1)(i), unless otherwise specified in Sec.  648.17, to fail to 
comply with the restrictions on fishing and gear specified in Sec.  
648.90(a)(D).
    5. In Sec.  648.60, paragraphs (a)(5)(ii)(C)(1) and 
(a)(5)(ii)(C)(3) are removed and reserved, and paragraph (g)(1) is 
revised to read as follows:


Sec.  648.60  Sea scallop area access program requirements.

* * * * *
    (g) * * * (1) An LAGC scallop vessel may only fish in the scallop 
access areas specified in Sec.  648.59(a) through (e), subject to the 
seasonal restrictions specified in Sec.  648.59(b)(4), (c)(4), and 
(d)(4), and subject to the possession limit specified in Sec.  
648.52(a), and provided the vessel complies with the requirements 
specified in paragraphs (a)(1), (a)(2), (a)(6) through (a)(9), (d), 
(e), (f), and (g) of this section. A vessel issued both a NE 
multispecies permit and an LAGC scallop permit may fish in an approved 
SAP under Sec.  648.85 and under multispecies DAS in the Closed Area I, 
Closed Area II, and Nantucket Lightship Sea Scallop Access Areas 
specified in Sec.  648.59(b) through (d), provided the vessel complies 
with the requirements specified in Sec.  648.59(b)(5)(ii), (c)(5)(ii), 
and (d)(5)(ii), and this paragraph (g), but may not fish for, possess, 
or land scallops on such trips.
* * * * *
    6. In Sec.  648.64, the introductory text of paragraph (a) and 
paragraphs (b)(1) and (c)(1) are revised to read as follows:


Sec.  648.64  Yellowtail flounder sub-ACLs and AMs for the scallop 
fishery.

    (a) As specified in Sec.  648.55(d), and pursuant to the biennial 
framework adjustment process specified in Sec.  648.90, the scallop 
fishery shall be allocated a sub-ACL for the Georges Bank and Southern 
New England/Mid-Atlantic stocks of yellowtail flounder. Unless 
otherwise specified in Sec.  648.90(a)(4)(iii)(C) of the NE 
multispecies regulations, the sub-ACLs for the 2011 through 2013 
fishing years are as follows:
* * * * *
    (b) * * * (1) Unless otherwise specified in Sec.  648.90(a)(5)(iv) 
of the NE

[[Page 18195]]

multispecies regulations, if the Georges Bank yellowtail flounder sub-
ACL for the scallop fishery is exceeded, the area defined by the 
following coordinates shall be closed to scallop fishing by vessels 
issued a limited access scallop permit for the period of time specified 
in paragraph (b)(2) of this section:

                     Georges Bank Yellowtail Closure
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Point                     N. lat.             W. long.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
GBYT AM 1......................  41[deg]50'           66[deg]51.94'
GBYT AM 2......................  40[deg]30.75'        65[deg]44.96'
GBYT AM 3......................  40[deg]30'           66[deg]40'
GBYT AM 4......................  40[deg]40'           66[deg]40'
GBYT AM 5......................  40[deg]40'           66[deg]50'
GBYT AM 6......................  40[deg]50'           66[deg]50'
GBYT AM 7......................  40[deg]50'           67[deg]00'
GBYT AM 8......................  41[deg]00'           67[deg]00'
GBYT AM 9......................  41[deg]00'           67[deg]20'
GBYT AM 10.....................  41[deg]10'           67[deg]20'
GBYT AM 11.....................  41[deg]10'           67[deg]40'
GBYT AM 12.....................  41[deg]50'           67[deg]40'
GBYT AM 1......................  41[deg]50'           66[deg]51.94'
------------------------------------------------------------------------

* * * * *
    (c) * * * (1) Unless otherwise specified in Sec.  648.90(a)(5)(iv) 
of the NE multispecies regulations, if the Southern New England/Mid-
Atlantic yellowtail flounder sub-ACL for the scallop fishery is 
exceeded, the area defined by the following coordinates shall be closed 
to scallop fishing by vessels issued a limited access scallop permit 
for the period of time specified in paragraph (c)(2) of this section:

                 Southern New England Yellowtail Closure
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Point                     N. lat.             W. long.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
SNEYT AM 1.....................  41[deg]28.4'         71[deg]10.25'
SNEYT AM 2.....................  41[deg]28.57'        71[deg]10'
SNEYT AM 3.....................  41[deg]20'           71[deg]10'
SNEYT AM 4.....................  41[deg]20'           70[deg]50'
SNEYT AM 5.....................  41[deg]20'           70[deg]30'
SNEYT AM 6.....................  41[deg]18'           70[deg]15'
SNEYT AM 7.....................  41[deg]17.69'        70[deg]12.54'
SNEYT AM 8.....................  41[deg]14.73'        70[deg]00'
SNEYT AM 9.....................  39[deg]50'           70[deg]00'
SNEYT AM 10....................  39[deg]50'           71[deg]00'
SNEYT AM 11....................  39[deg]50'           71[deg]40'
SNEYT AM 12....................  40[deg]00'           71[deg]40'
SNEYT AM 13....................  40[deg]00'           73[deg]00'
SNEYT AM 14....................  40[deg]41.23'        73[deg]00'
SNEYT AM 15....................  41[deg]00'           71[deg]55'
SNEYT AM 16....................  41[deg]00'           71[deg]40'
SNEYT AM 17....................  41[deg]20'           71[deg]40'
SNEYT AM 18....................  41[deg]21.15'        71[deg]40'
------------------------------------------------------------------------

* * * * *
    7. In Sec.  648.81, revise paragraphs (c)(2)(ii)(B), 
(f)(2)(iii)(B), and (n), and remove paragraph (o) to read as follows:


Sec.  648.81  NE multispecies closed areas and measures to protect EFH.

* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (ii) * * *
    (B) Fish species managed by the NEFMC or MAFMC that are harvested 
or possessed by the vessel, are not sold or intended for trade, barter 
or sale, regardless of where the fish are caught; and
* * * * *
    (f) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (iii) * * *
    (B) Fish species managed by the NEFMC or MAFMC that are harvested 
or possessed by the vessel, are not sold or intended for trade, barter 
or sale, regardless of where the fish are caught; and
* * * * *
    (n) GOM Cod Spawning Protection Area. (1) Except as specified in 
paragraph (o)(2) of this section, from April through June of each year, 
no fishing vessel or person on a fishing vessel may enter, fish in, or 
be in; and no fishing gear capable of catching NE multispecies may be 
used on, or be on board, a vessel in the GOM Cod Spawning Protection 
Area, as defined by straight lines connecting the following points in 
the order stated (a chart depicting this area is available from the RA 
upon request):

                    GOM Cod Spawning Protection Area
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Point                   N. Latitude         W. Longitude
------------------------------------------------------------------------
CSPA1..........................  42[deg]50.95'        70[deg]32.22'

[[Page 18196]]

 
CSPA2..........................  42[deg]47.65'        70[deg]35.64'
CSPA3..........................  42[deg]54.91'        70[deg]41.88'
CSPA4..........................  42[deg]58.27'        70[deg]38.64'
CSPA1..........................  42[deg]50.95'        70[deg]32.22'
------------------------------------------------------------------------

     (2) Paragraph (n)(1) of this section does not apply to persons on 
a fishing vessel or fishing vessels:
    (i) That have not been issued a NE multispecies permit and that are 
fishing exclusively in state waters;
    (ii) That are fishing with or using exempted gear as defined under 
this part, excluding pelagic gillnet gear capable of catching NE 
multispecies, except for vessels fishing with a single pelagic gillnet 
not longer than 300 ft (91.4 m) and not greater than 6 ft (1.83 m) 
deep, with a maximum mesh size of 3 inches (7.6 cm), provided:
    (A) The net is attached to the vessel and fished in the upper two-
thirds of the water column;
    (B) The net is marked with the vessel owner's name and vessel 
identification number;
    (C) There is no retention of regulated species or ocean pout; and
    (D) There is no other gear on board capable of catching NE 
multispecies;
    (iii) That are fishing as a charter/party or recreational fishing 
vessel, provided that:
    (A) With the exception of tuna, fish harvested or possessed by the 
vessel are not sold or intended for trade, barter, or sale, regardless 
where the species are caught;
    (B) The vessel has no gear other than pelagic hook and line gear, 
as defined in this part, on board unless that gear is properly stowed 
pursuant to Sec.  648.23(b); and
    (C) There is no retention of regulated species, or ocean pout; and
    (iv) That are transiting pursuant to paragraph (i) of this section.
    8. In Sec.  648.82,
    a. Remove paragraphs (n)(2)(ii)(O) and (n)(2)(ii)(P)
    b. Revise paragraphs (n)(2)(i)(A), (n)(2)(ii) introductory text, 
and (n)(2)(ii)(L) through (n)(2)(ii)(N):


Sec.  648.82  Effort-control program for NE multispecies limited access 
vessels.

* * * * *
    (n) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (i) Trimester TACs. (A) Trimester TAC distribution. Any sub-ACLs 
specified for common pool vessels pursuant to Sec.  648.90(a)(4) shall 
be apportioned into trimesters of 4 months in duration, beginning at 
the start of the fishing year (i.e., Trimester 1: May 1-August 31; 
Trimester 2: September 1-December 31; Trimester 3: January 1-April 30), 
as follows):

   Portion of Common Pool Sub-ACLs Apportioned to Each Stock for Each
                                Trimester
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                   Trimester 1  Trimester 2  Trimester 3
         Stock (percent)            (percent)    (percent)    (percent)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
GOM Cod..........................           27           36           37
GB Cod...........................           25           37           38
GOM Haddock......................           27           26           47
GB Haddock.......................           27           33           40
CC/GOM Yellowtail Flounder.......           35           35           30
GB Yellowtail Flounder...........           19           30           52
SNE/MA Yellowtail Flounder.......           21           37           42
GOM Winter Flounder..............           37           38           25
GB Winter Flounder...............            8           24           69
Witch Flounder...................           27           31           42
American Plaice..................           24           36           40
Pollock..........................           28           35           37
Redfish..........................           25           31           44
White Hake.......................           38           31           31
------------------------------------------------------------------------

* * * * *
    (ii) Stock area closures. If the Regional Administrator projects 
that 90 percent of the trimester TACs specified in paragraph (n)(2)(i) 
of this section will be caught based upon available information, the 
Regional Administrator shall close the area where 90 percent of the 
catch for each such stock occurred, according to available VTR data and 
other information, to all common pool vessels using gear capable of 
catching such stocks for the remainder of that trimester, as specified 
in paragraphs (n)(2)(ii)(A) through (P) of this section, in a manner 
consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act. For example, if the 
Regional Administrator projects that 90 percent of the CC/GOM 
yellowtail flounder Trimester 1 TAC will be caught, common pool vessels 
using trawl and gillnet gear shall be prohibited from fishing in the 
CC/GOM Yellowtail Flounder Closure Area specified in paragraph 
(n)(2)(ii)(G) of this section until the beginning of Trimester 2 on 
September 1 of that fishing year. Based upon all available information, 
the Regional Administrator is authorized to expand or narrow the areas 
closed under this paragraph (n)(2)(ii) in a manner consistent with the 
Administrative Procedure Act. If it is not possible to identify an area 
where only 90 percent of the catch occurred, the Regional Administrator 
shall close the smallest area possible where greater than 90 percent of 
the catch occurred.
* * * * *
    (L) Redfish Trimester TAC Area. For the purposes of the trimester 
TAC AM closure specified in paragraph (n)(2)(ii) of this section, the 
Redfish Trimester TAC Area shall apply to common pool vessels using 
trawl gear within the area bounded by straight lines connecting the 
following points in the order stated:

[[Page 18197]]



                       Redfish Trimester TAC Area
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Point                   N. Latitude         W. Longitude
------------------------------------------------------------------------
RF1............................  (\1\)                69[deg]20'
RF2............................  43[deg]40'           69[deg]20'
RF3............................  43[deg]40'           69[deg]00'
RF4............................  43[deg]20'           69[deg]00'
RF5............................  43[deg]20'           67[deg]40'
RF6............................  (\2\)                67[deg]40'
RF7............................  42[deg]53.1'         67[deg]44.4'
RF8............................  (\2\)                67[deg]40'
RF9............................  41[deg]20'           67[deg] 40'
RF10...........................  41[deg]20'           68[deg]10'
RF11...........................  41[deg]10'           68[deg]10'
RF12...........................  41[deg]10'           68[deg]20'
RF13...........................  41[deg]00'           68[deg]20'
RF14...........................  41[deg]00'           69[deg]30'
RF15...........................  41[deg]10'           69[deg]30'
RF16...........................  41[deg]10'           69[deg]50'
RF17...........................  41[deg]20'           69[deg]50'
RF18...........................  41[deg]20'           (\3\)
RF19...........................  (\4\)                70[deg]00'
RF20...........................  (\5\)                70[deg]00'
------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Intersection with ME shoreline.
\2\ U.S./Canada maritime boundary.
\3\ East-facing shoreline of Nantucket, MA.
\4\ North-facing shoreline of Nantucket, MA.
\5\ South-facing shoreline of Cape Cod, MA.

    (M) White Hake Trimester TAC Area. For the purposes of the 
trimester TAC AM closure specified in paragraph (n)(2)(ii) of this 
section, the White Hake Trimester TAC Area shall apply to common pool 
vessels using trawl gear, sink gillnet gear, and longline/hook gear 
within the area bounded by straight lines connecting the following 
points in the order stated:

                      White Hake Trimester TAC Area
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Point                   N. Latitude         W. Longitude
------------------------------------------------------------------------
RF1............................  (\1\)                69[deg]20'
RF2............................  43[deg]40'           69[deg]20'
RF3............................  43[deg]40'           69[deg]00'
RF4............................  43[deg]20'           69[deg]00'
RF5............................  43[deg]20'           67[deg]40'
RF6............................  (\2\)                67[deg]40'
RF7............................  42[deg]53.1'         67[deg]44.4'
RF8............................  (\2\)                67[deg]40'
RF9............................  41[deg]20'           67[deg]40'
RF10...........................  41[deg]20'           68[deg]10'
RF11...........................  41[deg]10'           68[deg]10'
RF12...........................  41[deg]10'           68[deg]20'
RF13...........................  41[deg]00'           68[deg]20'
RF14...........................  41[deg]00'           69[deg]30'
RF15...........................  41[deg]10'           69[deg]30'
RF16...........................  41[deg]10'           69[deg]50'
RF17...........................  41[deg]20'           69[deg]50'
RF18...........................  41[deg]20'           (\3\)
RF19...........................  (\4\)                70[deg]00'
RF20...........................  (\5\)                70[deg]00'
------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Intersection with ME shoreline.
\2\ U.S./Canada maritime boundary.
\3\ East-facing shoreline of Nantucket, MA.
\4\ North-facing shoreline of Nantucket, MA.
\5\ South-facing shoreline of Cape Cod, MA.

    (N) Pollock Trimester TAC Area. For the purposes of the trimester 
TAC AM closure specified in paragraph (n)(2)(ii) of this section, the 
Pollock Trimester TAC Area shall apply to common pool vessels using 
trawl gear, sink gillnet gear, and longline/hook gear within the area 
bounded by straight lines connecting the following points in the order 
stated:

[[Page 18198]]



                       Pollock Trimester TAC Area
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Point                   N. Latitude         W. Longitude
------------------------------------------------------------------------
RF1............................  (\1\)                69[deg]20'
RF2............................  43[deg]40'           69[deg]20'
RF3............................  43[deg]40'           69[deg]00'
RF4............................  43[deg]20'           69[deg]00'
RF5............................  43[deg]20'           67[deg]40'
RF6............................  (\2\)                67[deg]40'
RF7............................  42[deg]53.1'         67[deg]44.4'
RF8............................  (\2\)                67[deg]40'
RF9............................  41[deg]20'           67[deg]40'
RF10...........................  41[deg]20'           68[deg]10'
RF11...........................  41[deg]10'           68[deg]10'
RF12...........................  41[deg]10'           68[deg]20'
RF13...........................  41[deg]00'           68[deg]20'
RF14...........................  41[deg]00'           69[deg]30'
RF15...........................  41[deg]10'           69[deg]30'
RF16...........................  41[deg]10'           69[deg]50'
RF17...........................  41[deg]20'           69[deg]50'
RF18...........................  41[deg]20'           (\3\)
RF19...........................  (\4\)                70[deg]00'
RF20...........................  (\5\)                70[deg]00'
------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Intersection with ME shoreline.
\2\ U.S./Canada maritime boundary.
\3\ East-facing shoreline of Nantucket, MA.
\4\ North-facing shoreline of Nantucket, MA.
\5\ South-facing shoreline of Cape Cod, MA.

* * * * *
    9. In Sec.  648.83 revise paragraph (b)(1) to read as follows:


Sec.  648.83  Multispecies minimum fish sizes.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *(1) Each person aboard a vessel issued a NE multispecies 
limited access permit and fishing under the NE multispecies DAS program 
or on a sector trip may possess up to 25 lb (11.3 kg) of fillets that 
measure less than the minimum size, if such fillets are from legal-
sized fish and are not offered or intended for sale, trade, or barter.
    (i) For the purpose of determining compliance with common pool 
possession limits, on board the vessel, and at the time of landing, as 
specified at Sec.  648.86, the weight of fillets and parts of fish, 
other than whole-gutted or gilled fish, shall be multiplied by 3.
    (ii) For the purpose of accounting for all catch by sector vessels, 
as specified at Sec.  648.87(b)(1)(v), the weight of all fillets and 
parts of fish, other than whole-gutted or gilled fish reported for at-
home consumption, shall be multiplied by the conversion factors 
provided in writing by the Regional Administrator.
    (iii) For the purposes of accounting for all catch by common pool 
vessels and monitoring sub-ACLs, the weight of all fillets and parts of 
fish, other than whole-gutted or gilled fish reported for at-home 
consumption shall be multiplied by the conversion factors provided in 
writing by the Regional Administrator.
* * * * *
    10. In Sec.  648.85,
    a. Remove paragraphs (b)(6)(iv)(J)(3)(vi), (c)(1), (c)(2), and 
(c)(3); and
    b. Revise paragraphs (b)(5) and (b)(6)(iv)(J)(3)(i) through 
(b)(6)(iv)(J)(3)(v) to read as follows:


Sec.  648.85  Special management programs.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (5) Incidental Catch TACs. Unless otherwise specified in this 
paragraph (b)(5), Incidental Catch TACs shall be based upon the portion 
of the ACL for a stock specified for the common pool vessels pursuant 
to Sec.  648.90(a)(4), and allocated as described in this paragraph 
(b)(5), for each of the following stocks: GOM cod, GB cod, GB 
yellowtail flounder, GB winter flounder, CC/GOM yellowtail flounder, 
American plaice, white hake, SNE/MA yellowtail flounder, SNE/MA winter 
flounder, and witch flounder. Because GB yellowtail flounder and GB cod 
are transboundary stocks, the incidental catch TACs for these stocks 
shall be based upon the common pool portion of the ACL available to 
U.S. vessels. NMFS shall send letters to limited access NE multispecies 
permit holders notifying them of such TACs.
    (i) Stocks other than GB cod, GB yellowtail flounder, and GB winter 
flounder. With the exception of GB cod, GB yellowtail flounder, and GB 
winter flounder, 100 percent of the Incidental Catch TACs specified in 
this paragraph (b)(5) shall be allocated to the Regular B DAS Program 
described in paragraph (b)(6) of this section.
    (ii) GB cod. The Incidental Catch TAC for GB cod specified in this 
paragraph (b)(5) shall be subdivided as follows: 50 percent to the 
Regular B DAS Program described in paragraph (b)(6) of this section; 16 
percent to the CA I Hook Gear Haddock SAP described in paragraph (b)(7) 
of this section; and 34 percent to the Eastern U.S./Canada Haddock SAP 
described in paragraph (b)(8) of this section.
* * * * *
    (6) * * *
    (iv) * * *
    (J) * * *
    (3) * * *
    (i) The net must be constructed with four seams (i.e., a net with a 
top and bottom panel and two side panels), and include at least the 
following net sections as depicted in Figure 1 of this part (this 
figure is also available from the Administrator, Northeast Region): Top 
jib, bottom jib, jib side panels (x 2), top wing, bottom wing, wing 
side panels (x 2), bunt, square, square side panels (x 2), first top 
belly, first bottom belly, first belly side panels (x 2), and second 
bottom belly.
    (ii) The top and bottom jibs, jib side panels, top and bottom 
wings, and wing side panels, bunt, and first bottom belly (the first 
bottom belly and all portions of the net in front of the first bottom 
belly, with the exception of the square

[[Page 18199]]

and the square side panels) must be at least two meshes long in the 
fore and aft direction. For these net sections, the stretched length of 
any single mesh must be at least 7.9 ft (240 cm), measured in a 
straight line from knot to knot.
    (iii) Mesh size in all other sections must be consistent with mesh 
size requirements specified under Sec.  648.80 and meet the following 
minimum specifications: Each mesh in the square, square side panels, 
and second bottom belly must be 31.5 inches (80 cm); each mesh in the 
first top belly, and first belly side panels must be at least 7.9 
inches (20 cm); and 6 inches (15.24 cm) or larger in sections following 
the first top belly and second bottom belly sections, all the way to 
the codend. The mesh size requirements of the top sections apply to the 
side panel sections.
    (iv) The trawl must have at least 15 meshes (240 cm each) at the 
wide end of the first bottom belly, excluding the gore.
    (v) The trawl must have a single or multiple kite panels with a 
total surface area of at least 19.3 sq. ft. (1.8 sq. m) on the forward 
end of the square to help maximize headrope height, for the purpose of 
capturing rising fish. A kite panel is a flat structure, usually semi-
flexible, used to modify the shape of trawl and mesh openings by 
providing lift when a trawl is moving through the water.
* * * * *
    11. In Sec.  648.86, revise paragraph (c) to read as follows:


Sec.  648.86  NE Multispecies possession restrictions.

* * * * *
    (c) Atlantic halibut. A vessel issued a NE multispecies permit 
under Sec.  648.4(a)(1) may land or possess on board no more than one 
Atlantic halibut per trip, provided the vessel complies with other 
applicable provisions of this part, unless otherwise specified in Sec.  
648.90(a)(5)(i)(D)(2).
    12. In Sec.  648.87, revise paragraph (c)(2)(i) to read as follows:


Sec.  648.87.  Sector allocation.

* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (i) Regulations that may not be exempted for sector participants. 
The Regional Administrator may not exempt participants in a sector from 
the following Federal fishing regulations: NE multispecies year-round 
closure areas; permitting restrictions (e.g., vessel upgrades, etc.); 
gear restrictions designed to minimize habitat impacts (e.g., roller 
gear restrictions, etc.); reporting requirements; and AMs specified at 
Sec.  648.90(a)(5)(i)(D). For the purposes of this paragraph (c)(2)(i), 
the DAS reporting requirements specified at Sec.  648.82; the SAP-
specific reporting requirements specified at Sec.  648.85; and the 
reporting requirements associated with a dockside monitoring program 
specified in paragraph (b)(5)(i) of this section are not considered 
reporting requirements, and the Regional Administrator may exempt 
sector participants from these requirements as part of the approval of 
yearly operations plans. This list may be modified through a framework 
adjustment, as specified in Sec.  648.90.
* * * * *
    13. In Sec.  648.89, revise paragraphs (e)(1) and (e)(3)(ii) to 
read as follows:


Sec.  648.89  Recreational and charter/party vessel restrictions.

* * * * *
    (e) Charter/party vessel restrictions on fishing in GOM closed 
areas and the Nantucket Lightship Closed Area --(1) GOM Closed Areas. 
Unless otherwise specified in this paragraph (e)(1), a vessel fishing 
under charter/party regulations may not fish in the GOM closed areas 
specified at Sec.  648.81(d)(1) through (f)(1) during the time periods 
specified in those paragraphs, unless the vessel has on board a valid 
letter of authorization issued by the Regional Administrator pursuant 
to Sec.  648.81(f)(2)(iii) and paragraph (e)(3) of this section. The 
conditions and restrictions of the letter of authorization must be 
complied with for a minimum of 3 months if the vessel fishes or intends 
to fish in the seasonal GOM closure areas; or for the rest of the 
fishing year, beginning with the start of the participation period of 
the letter of authorization, if the vessel fishes or intends to fish in 
the year-round GOM closure areas. A vessel fishing under charter/party 
regulations may not fish in the GOM Cod Spawning Protection Area 
specified at Sec.  648.81(n)(1) during the time period specified in 
that paragraph, unless the vessel complies with the requirements 
specified at Sec.  648.81(n)(2)(iii).
* * * * *
    (3) * * *
    (ii) Fish species managed by the NEFMC or MAFMC that are harvested 
or possessed by the vessel, are not sold or intended for trade, barter 
or sale, regardless of where the fish are caught;
* * * * *
    14. In Sec.  648.90, revise paragraph (a)(4)(iii)(C) and add 
paragraphs (a)(5)(i)(D), (a)(5)(i)(E), and (a)(5)(iv) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  648.90  NE multispecies assessment, framework procedures and 
specifications, and flexible area action system.

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (4) * * *
    (iii) * * *
    (C) Yellowtail flounder catch by the Atlantic sea scallop fishery. 
Yellowtail flounder catch in the Atlantic sea scallop fishery, as 
defined in subpart D, shall be deducted from the ABC/ACL for each 
yellowtail flounder stock pursuant to the restrictions specified in 
subpart D of this part and the process to specify ABCs and ACLs, as 
described in paragraph (a)(4) of this section. Unless otherwise 
specified in this paragraph (a)(4)(iii)(C), or subpart D of this part, 
the specific value of the sub-components of the ABC/ACL for each stock 
of yellowtail flounder distributed to the Atlantic sea scallop fishery 
shall be specified pursuant to the biennial adjustment process 
specified in paragraph (a)(2) of this section. Based on information 
available, NMFS shall re-estimate the expected scallop fishery catch of 
GB yellowtail flounder for the current fishing year by January 15. If 
NMFS determines that the scallop fishery will catch less than 90 
percent of its GB yellowtail flounder sub-ACL, the Regional 
Administrator may reduce the scallop fishery sub-ACL to the amount 
projected to be caught, and increase the groundfish fishery sub-ACL by 
any amount up to the amount reduced from the scallop fishery sub-ACL. 
The revised groundfish fishery sub-ACL shall be distributed to the 
common pool and sectors based on the process specified in paragraph 
(a)(4)(E)(1) of this section.
* * * * *
    (5) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (D) AMs for both stocks of windowpane flounder, ocean pout, and 
Atlantic halibut. At the end of each fishing year, NMFS shall determine 
if the overall ACL for northern windowpane flounder, southern 
windowpane flounder, ocean pout, or Atlantic halibut was exceeded. If 
the overall ACL for any of these stocks is exceeded, NMFS shall 
implement the appropriate AM, as specified in this paragraph 
(a)(5)(i)(D), in the second fishing year after the fishing year in 
which the overage occurred, consistent with the Administrative 
Procedure Act. For example, if NMFS determined the overall ACL for 
northern windowpane flounder was exceeded in fishing year

[[Page 18200]]

2012, the applicable AM would be implemented for fishing year 2014.
    (1) Windowpane flounder and ocean pout. If NMFS determines the 
overall ACL for either stock of windowpane flounder or ocean pout is 
exceeded, as described in this paragraph (a)(5)(i)(D)(1), by any amount 
between the management uncertainty buffer and 20 percent, the 
applicable small AM area for the stock shall be implemented, as 
specified in paragraph (a)(5)(i)(D) of this section. If the overall ACL 
is exceeded by 21 percent or more, the applicable large AM area for the 
stock shall be implemented, as specified in paragraph (a)(5)(i)(D) of 
this section. Any vessel issued a limited access NE multispecies permit 
and fishing with trawl gear in these areas may only use a haddock 
separator trawl, as specified in Sec.  648.85(a)(3)(iii)(A); a Ruhle 
trawl, as specified in Sec.  648.85(b)(6)(iv)(J)(3); a rope separator 
trawl, as specified in Sec.  648.81(n)(3)(i)(A); or any other gear 
approved consistent with the process defined in Sec.  648.85(b)(6). If 
a sub-ACL for either stock of windowpane flounder or ocean pout is 
allocated to another fishery, consistent with the process specified at 
Sec.  648.90(a)(4), and AMs are developed for that fishery, the 
groundfish fishery AM shall only be implemented if the sub-ACL 
allocated to the groundfish fishery is exceeded (i.e., the sector and 
common pool catch for a particular stock, including the common pool's 
share of any overage of the overall ACL caused by excessive catch by 
other sub-components of the fishery pursuant to Sec.  648.90(a)(5) 
exceeds the common pool sub-ACL) and the overall ACL is also exceeded.

       Northern Windowpane Flounder and Ocean Pout Small AM Areas
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Point                   N. Latitude         W. Longitude
------------------------------------------------------------------------
NWS1...........................  41[deg]10'           67[deg]40'
NWS2...........................  41[deg]10'           67[deg]20'
NWS3...........................  41[deg]00'           67[deg]20'
NWS4...........................  41[deg]00'           67[deg]00'
NWS5...........................  40[deg]50'           67[deg]00'
NWS6...........................  40[deg]50'           67[deg]40'
------------------------------------------------------------------------


       Northern Windowpane Flounder and Ocean Pout Large AM Areas
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Point                   N. Latitude         W. Longitude
------------------------------------------------------------------------
NWL1...........................  42[deg]10'           67[deg]40'
NWL2...........................  42[deg]10'           67[deg]20'
NWL3...........................  41[deg]00'           67[deg]20'
NWL4...........................  41[deg]00'           67[deg]00'
NWL5...........................  40[deg]50'           67[deg]00'
NWL6...........................  40[deg]50'           67[deg]40'
------------------------------------------------------------------------


       Southern Windowpane Flounder and Ocean Pout Small AM Areas
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Point                   N. Latitude         W. Longitude
------------------------------------------------------------------------
SWS1...........................  41[deg]10'           71[deg]30'
SWS2...........................  41[deg]10'           71[deg]20'
SWS3...........................  40[deg]50'           71[deg]20'
SWS4...........................  50[deg]50'           71[deg]30'
------------------------------------------------------------------------


       Southern Windowpane Flounder and Ocean Pout Large AM Areas
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Point                   N. Latitude         W. Longitude
------------------------------------------------------------------------
SWL1...........................  41[deg]10'           71[deg]50'
SWL2...........................  41[deg]10'           71[deg]10'
SWL3...........................  41[deg]00'           71[deg]10'
SWL4...........................  41[deg]00'           71[deg]20'
SWL5...........................  40[deg]50'           71[deg]20'
SWL6...........................  40[deg]50'           71[deg]50'
------------------------------------------------------------------------


------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Point                   N. Latitude         W. Longitude
------------------------------------------------------------------------
SWL1...........................  NY Coast             73[deg]30'
SWL2...........................  40[deg]30'           73[deg]30'
SWL3...........................  40[deg]30'           73[deg]50'
SWL4...........................  40[deg]20'           73[deg]50'
SWL5...........................  NJ Coast             73[deg]50'
SWL6...........................  NY Coast             73[deg]50'
------------------------------------------------------------------------

     (2) Atlantic halibut. If NMFS determines the overall ACL is 
exceeded for Atlantic halibut, any vessel issued a limited access NE 
multispecies permit, an open access NE multispecies Handgear B permit, 
an open access NE

[[Page 18201]]

multispecies Category K permit, or a limited access monkfish permit and 
fishing under the monkfish Category C or D permit provisions, may not 
fish for, possess, or land Atlantic halibut for the fishing year in 
which the AM is implemented as specified in paragraph (a)(5)(i)(D) of 
this section.
    (E) AMs for SNE/MA winter flounder and Atlantic wolffish. A vessel 
issued a limited access NE multispecies permit, an open access NE 
multispecies Handgear B permit, an open access NE multispecies charter/
party permit, or a limited access monkfish permit and fishing under the 
monkfish Category C or D permit provisions may not fish for, possess, 
or land SNE/MA winter flounder, as specified in Sec.  648.86(l), as a 
proactive AM to prevent the overall ACL for these stocks from being 
exceeded.
* * * * *
    (iv) AMs if the sub-ACL for the Atlantic sea scallop fishery is 
exceeded. At the end of the scallop fishing year, NMFS shall evaluate 
Atlantic sea scallop fishery catch to determine whether a scallop 
fishery sub-ACL has been exceeded. On January 15, or when information 
is available to make an accurate projection, NMFS will also determine 
whether the overall ACL for each stock allocated to the scallop fishery 
has been exceeded. When evaluating whether the overall ACL has been 
exceeded, NMFS will add the maximum carryover available to sectors, as 
specified at Sec.  648.87(b)(1)(i)(C), to the estimate of total catch 
for the pertinent stock. If catch by scallop vessels exceeds the 
pertinent sub-ACL specified in paragraph (a)(4)(iii)(C) of this section 
by 50 percent or more, or if scallop catch exceeds the scallop fishery 
sub-ACL and the overall ACL for that stock is also exceeded, then the 
applicable scallop fishery AM shall take effect, as specified in Sec.  
648.64 of the Atlantic sea scallop regulations.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2012-7075 Filed 3-26-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P