[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 85 (Wednesday, May 2, 2012)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 26103-26128]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-10526]



[[Page 26103]]

Vol. 77

Wednesday,

No. 85

May 2, 2012

Part III





Department of Commerce





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





National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration





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





50 CFR Part 648





Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act Provisions; 
Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast Multispecies 
Fishery; Framework Adjustment 47; 2012 Sector Operations Plans and 
Contracts, and Allocation of Northeast Multispecies Annual Catch 
Entitlements; Final Rules

Federal Register / Vol. 77 , No. 85 / Wednesday, May 2, 2012 / Rules 
and Regulations

[[Page 26104]]


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

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: Final rule.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS approves Framework Adjustment 47 (Framework 47) to the 
Northeast (NE) Multispecies Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and 
implements the approved measures. The New England Fishery Management 
Council (Council) developed and adopted Framework 47 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. This action also implements management 
measures and revises 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, and 
clarification of the regulations for charter/party and recreational 
groundfish vessels fishing in groundfish closed areas. This action is 
intended to prevent overfishing, rebuild overfished stocks, achieve 
optimum yield, and ensure that management measures are based on the 
best available scientific information at the time Framework 47 was 
submitted.

DATES: Effective May 1, 2012.

ADDRESSES: Copies of Framework 47, the draft environmental assessment 
(EA), its Regulatory Impact Review (RIR), and the draft Initial 
Regulatory Flexibility Act (IRFA) analysis prepared by the Council are 
available from Paul J. Howard, Executive Director, New England Fishery 
Management Council, 50 Water Street, Mill 2, Newburyport, MA 01950. A 
supplemental analysis was included with the draft IRFA prepared by the 
Council in the preamble to the proposed rule for this action. The Final 
Regulatory Flexibility Act (FRFA) analysis consists of the IRFA, public 
comments and responses, and the summary of impacts and alternatives 
contained in the Classification section of this final rule and 
Framework 47. The Framework 47 EA/RIR/FRFA is 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 for 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 47 is part of 
the process established in the FMP to set ABCs and ACLs and to revise 
management measures necessary to achieve the goals and objectives of 
the 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. NMFS published a proposed rule to approve Framework 
47 and implement its measures on March 27, 2012 (77 FR 18176), and 
accepted public comments through April 11, 2012. NMFS proposed 
additional measures not included in Framework 47 to modify the Ruhle 
trawl definition, clarify regulations for charter/party vessels fishing 
in groundfish closed areas, modify the conversion rate used to estimate 
the live weight of fillets and parts of fish landed for home 
consumption, and implement management measures for the common pool 
fishery for FY 2012.

Approved Measures

    This section summarizes the Framework 47 measures, all of which 
have been approved, and the measures being implemented by NMFS under 
the authority of section 305(d) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), which allows 
the Secretary of Commerce to implement regulations necessary to ensure 
that fishery management plans or amendments are carried out consistent 
with the Magnuson-Steven Act. The measures implemented under this 
authority are necessary to implement changes to the Atlantic Sea 
Scallop FMP proposed by the Council in Framework 47, and to change 
regulations that are not part of Framework 47, but that are necessary 
to clarify existing regulations and achieve the objective of the FMP. 
This final rule modifies the Rhule trawl definition and clarifies the 
regulations for charter/party vessels fishing in the groundfish closed 
areas. This action does not change the conversion rate for home 
consumption landings, which NMFS had originally proposed, for reasons 
discussed below. This final rule also implements management measures 
for the common pool fishery for FY 2012 that are not included in 
Framework 47, but that are implemented by the Regional Administrator 
(RA) under authority provided by the FMP.

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

    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, and a new assessment for GOM cod was completed 
in December 2011. Based on the results from the 52nd Stock Assessment 
Workshop (SAW) completed in June 2011, GB winter flounder is no longer 
experiencing overfishing, and the stock is no longer overfished. SNE/MA 
winter flounder is still overfished, but overfishing is no longer 
occurring for this stock. In addition, the overfishing status is no 
longer unknown for GOM winter flounder, and overfishing is not 
occurring. However, the overfished status for GOM winter flounder is 
still unknown. The results of the 53rd SAW completed in December 2011 
indicate that overfishing is occurring for GOM cod, and the stock is 
overfished.

[[Page 26105]]

    This final rule updates 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. These changes are based on 
the best scientific information available. The revised biomass targets 
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 (F40[percnt]MSP). 
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 
(SSB40[percnt]MSP). The maximum F 
threshold proxy is also unchanged from GARM III and is 
F40[percnt]MSP. Table 1 lists the 
revised status determination criteria, and the numerical estimates of 
these criteria are shown in Table 2.

                  Table 1--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..............................  SSB40[percnt]MSP.......  \1/2\ SSB40[percnt]MSP.  F40[percnt]MSP.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Table 2--Numerical Estimates of the 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 
Adjustment 45 to the NE Multispecies FMP (Framework 45) revised the GB 
yellowtail flounder rebuilding program in 2011, 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. IFACA allows the 
Council and NMFS to consider decisions made 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 Transboundary 
Management Guidance Committee (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 stock managed under the Understanding. The TMGC 
adopts harvest strategies to guide its annual TAC recommendations. The 
TMGC's harvest strategy for GB yellowtail flounder is to maintain a low 
to neutral risk of exceeding the fishing mortality limit reference 
(Fref) of 0.25. 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 provisions of IFACA, and that the TMGC decisions 
regarding a GB yellowtail flounder harvest strategy and annual TAC are 
considered management measures under an international agreement, NFMS 
interprets the Magnuson-Stevens Act to allow the rebuilding program for 
GB yellowtail flounder to exceed 10 years. Therefore, this action 
revises the rebuilding strategy for GB yellowtail flounder. The revised 
rebuilding strategy would rebuild the stock by 2032 with at least 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 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 in the NE Multispecies 
FMP 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). The Council's Scientific 
and Statistical Committee (SSC) recommends ABCs for each stock that are 
lower than the OFLs 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 a stock within its rebuilding time period

[[Page 26106]]

(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. For some stocks, the Canadian share of an ABC, or the 
expected Canadian catch, is deducted from the ABC. The U.S. ABC is the 
amount available to the U.S. fishery after accounting for Canadian 
catch.
    As part of the biennial review process for the NE Multispecies FMP, 
the Council adopts OFLs and ABCs for 3 years at a time. Although it is 
expected that the Council will adopt new catch levels every 2 years, 
specifying catch levels for a third year ensures there are default 
catch limits in place in the event that a management action is delayed. 
Framework 44 specified OFLps and ABCs for each stock for FYs 2010-2012 
based on the best scientific information available, and Framework 45 
revised the OFLs and ABCs for five stocks for FYs 2011-2012 based on 
updated stock information. Although Framework 44 and Framework 45 
specified catch levels for all stocks through FY 2012, Framework 47 was 
developed to set catch levels for FYs 2012-2014 and revise the OFLs and 
ABCs previously adopted for FY 2012 based on updated stock information.
    This action sets the OFLs and ABCs for nine stocks (GB, GOM, and 
SNE/MA winter flounder, pollock, northern and southern windowpane 
flounder, ocean pout, Atlantic halibut, and Atlantic wolffish) for FYs 
2012-2014 that are assessed with an index-based stock assessment or 
that have had a recent stock assessment completed. This action also 
sets the OFL and ABC for FYs 2012-2013 only for GB yellowtail flounder 
based on updated stock information. Table 3 lists the OFLs and ABCs for 
these stocks.
    For nine other stocks (GB cod, GB haddock, GOM haddock, SNE/MA 
yellowtail flounder, CC/GOM yellowtail flounder, American plaice, witch 
flounder, redfish, and white hake), this action adopts the OFLs and 
ABCs for FY 2012 only, that were previously specified in Framework 44 
or Framework 45 (Table 3). OFLs and ABCs are only being set for FY 2012 
based on advice from the SSC. At the time the Council was developing 
Framework 47, these stocks were last assessed at the 3rd Groundfish 
Assessment Review Meeting (GARM III) in 2008. The SSC determined that 
projections from the GARM III assessment were not a reliable basis for 
providing catch advice for these stocks for all three fishing years 
from 2012-2014. As a result, the SSC recommended that the Council 
specify ABCs for FY 2012 only based on the ABCs that were previously 
adopted in Framework 44 or Framework 45. Consistent with the SSC 
recommendations, the Council adopted the FY 2012 ABCs previously set by 
Framework 44 and Framework 45 in Framework 47. The Council also 
requested that the Northeast Fisheries Science Center complete 
assessment updates for the stocks last assessed at GARM III in order to 
set catch limits for FYs 2013-2014 for these stocks. The Council made 
this request with the understanding that these catch limits would be 
implemented through a subsequent framework that the Council is already 
developing.
    The Council finalized and submitted Framework 47 to NMFS on 
February 7, 2012. The stock assessment updates to be used for setting 
FYs 2013-2014 catch limits were not completed until February 13-17, 
2012, and the final report for the updates was not published until 
March 14, 2012. As the Council and the SSC understood while developing 
Framework 47, these updated assessments were never intended to be 
incorporated into Framework 47 for the nine stocks for FY 2012 because 
they would not be available in time for the Council and the SSC to 
consider them for implementation by the start of FY 2012. Therefore, 
Framework 47 adopted the OFLs and ABCs for FY 2012 for these nine 
stocks based on the best scientific information available at the time 
the Council took final action on Framework 47.
    The updated assessments for five stocks (GB cod, GOM haddock, CC/
GOM yellowtail flounder, American plaice, and witch flounder), indicate 
that the FY 2012 ABCs adopted in Framework 47 are significantly higher 
than those suggested by the assessment updates. For the remaining eight 
stocks that were updated in early 2012, the FY 2012 ABCs adopted in 
Framework 47 are virtually the same, or somewhat lower, than those 
suggested by the assessment updates. Because the stock assessment 
updates suggest that ABCs might be different than those adopted in 
Framework 47 for some stocks, and may be significantly lower for the 
five stocks specified above, one commenter recommended that NMFS 
disapprove the OFLs and ABCs for these stocks because they are not 
consistent with National Standard 2, which requires actions to be 
consistent with best scientific information available. This comment is 
briefly discussed below to explain NMFS' decision to approve the FY 
2012 OFLs and ABCs despite the comment received on this measure.
    The National Standard 2 guidelines (50 CFR 600.315) require that 
each FMP (and by extension amendment and framework) take into account 
the best scientific information available at the time, or preparation, 
of an action. The guidelines recognize that new information often 
becomes available between the initial drafting of an FMP and its 
submission to NMFS for final review. The guidelines state that this new 
information should be incorporated into the action, if practicable; but 
it is unnecessary for the Council to re-start the FMP process based on 
this information, unless it indicates that drastic changes have 
occurred in the fishery that might require revision of the management 
objectives or measures. This is not a situation in which the Council 
received information that ``drastic changes'' have occurred in the 
fishery prior to submission of the action to NMFS. Instead, as was 
fully understood in developing Framework 47, the assessment updates 
would not be completed until after the Council took final action on 
Framework 47 and submitted it to NMFS for review. As a result, there 
was no practicable way to incorporate this information into Framework 
47 without reinitiating the Council process and delaying the action far 
beyond the start of FY 2012, which begins on May 1, 2012, and is when 
the ABCs need to be in place. Therefore, NMFS has determined that it is 
appropriate for the Council to set the OFLs and ABCs in this action 
based on the best scientific information available at the time the 
Council took final action and submitted Framework 47 to NMFS for 
approval. The appropriate response to the new information that became 
available after submission of Framework 47 is for the Council to 
consider whether to initiate a new framework or amendment, or to 
request an emergency or interim Secretarial action, to revise the 
existing measures or catch limits adopted in this action.
    Consistent with the National Standard 2 guidelines, this 
determination recognizes the need for some certainty as to what 
information the Council may rely on in taking its final action, and 
what information NMFS will use to evaluate the approvability of a 
Council action. Without such certainty, there would be a lack of 
predictability and confidence in Council actions, which must be 
developed well in advance of their implementation due to the time it 
takes to prepare appropriate analyses and documents for submission to 
NMFS for final review. A lack of certainty about what information will 
be used to review a Council action could also

[[Page 26107]]

seriously undermine the Council process because neither the Council, 
nor the public, would have confidence that their efforts would not be 
meaningless. Thus, new scientific information that becomes available 
after the Council has submitted its final action to NMFS for review 
should not, based on National Standard 2, be used retroactively to undo 
recommended actions that had the benefit of the full Council process.
    NMFS also considered the practical effect of disapproving the OFLs 
and ABCs specified in this action. Approving catch limits for these 
stocks, whose assessments were updated in early 2012, actually results 
in slightly lower fishing mortality than if they were disapproved and 
the default measures specified by Framework 44 and Framework 45 went 
into place. The default catch limits for FY 2012 for the five stocks 
mentioned earlier (GB cod, GOM haddock, CC/GOM yellowtail flounder, 
American plaice, and witch flounder) are identical to those specified 
in this action, except for GB cod, which is 5 percent higher. For the 
remaining stocks, the default measures are essentially identical or 
higher than those adopted in Framework 47. Therefore, disapproving the 
FY 2012 ABCs in Framework 47 would result in almost identical catch 
limits as those previously specified, but a higher catch limit for GB 
cod, which could increase overfishing of this stock while the Council 
develops its next management action to incorporate the new scientific 
information available.
    Approving these catch limits, as explained above, does not reduce 
the importance of acting on the new information as soon as possible in 
a new action, but rather emphasizes the importance of analyzing and 
considering this information through the full Council process. 
Consistent with the SSC guidance and the Council's understanding during 
the development of Framework 47, the Council has already started 
developing a management action that will incorporate the assessment 
update information and adopt catch limits for the pertinent stocks for 
FYs 2013-2014. The Council is scheduled to receive and discuss the 
results of the assessment updates at its April 25, 2012, meeting. A new 
stock assessment for SNE/MA yellowtail flounder is also scheduled for 
June 2012, and the results of this stock assessment will be 
incorporated into the same Council action to set OFLs and ABCs for the 
stock for FYs 2013-2014. The Council may also use updated information 
for other stocks to revise the FYs 2013-2014 OFLs and ABCs specified in 
this action. The Council intends to complete this management action by 
May 1, 2013, to set catch limits for FYs 2013-2014. NMFS has notified 
the Council that the updated assessment information must be 
incorporated as soon as possible, but no later than May 1, 2013. NMFS 
recommends that, at its June meeting, the Council identify how and when 
this information will be incorporated and how that process would affect 
any existing or planned management measures.
    Framework 47, as approved by the Council on November 16, 2011, 
initially proposed to set specifications for GOM cod for FYs 2012-2014 
based on the most recent stock assessment, completed in December 2011. 
The results of that assessment indicate that the stock is overfished 
and overfishing is occurring, and that GOM cod cannot rebuild by its 
rebuilding end date (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. In a letter dated 
January 26, 2012, NMFS notified the Council of this determination and 
that the Council must 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. 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 recommend ABCs for GOM cod for FYs 2012-2014. Instead, 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 for 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. In response to the Council's request, NMFS 
published an interim action on April 3, 2012, to set catch levels for 
GOM cod for FY 2012 (77 FR 19944). Therefore, although this action does 
not include OFLs and ABCs for GOM cod for FYs 2012-2014, it is not 
deficient regarding GOM cod because of the interim action. The SSC will 
meet in the future to recommend ABCs for FYs 2013-2014 for GOM cod, and 
the Council intends to adopt these ABCs in a future management action.

                                    Table 3--FYs 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

[[Page 26108]]

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

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).
    This final rule sets ACLs for each groundfish stock except GOM cod 
(see Item 3 of this preamble), based on the ABCs set by this action. 
The ACLs for FYs 2012-2014 are listed in Table 4 through Table 7. For 
stocks allocated to sectors, 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 distribution of the groundfish sub-ACL between the common 
pool and sectors shown in Tables 5 through Table 7 are based on 
preliminary FY 2012 sector rosters submitted to NMFS as of December 1, 
2011, including any PSC updates or corrections that have been made 
since the proposed rule for this action was published. This 
distribution differs 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. 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 
the end of the 2011 fishing year, or April 30, 2012, to drop out of a 
sector and fish in the common pool for FY 2012. NMFS also extended the 
deadline to join a sector for FY 2012 through April 30, 2012, to 
provide common pool vessels the opportunity to join a sector due to the 
potential impacts of the FY 2012 GOM cod catch limits. The sector sub-
ACLs listed in the tables below may change due to changes in the sector 
rosters. If necessary, updated sector sub-ACLs will be published in a 
future adjustment rule to reflect the final FY 2012 sector rosters as 
of May 1, 2012.

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


[[Page 26109]]


                                     Table 5--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           4,523              82              51             204
GB haddock..............................................          29,260          27,438          27,306             132             307           1,229
GOM haddock.............................................             958             912             648               5              15              22
GB yellowtail flounder..................................           547.8           217.7           214.6             3.1             0.0            22.6
SNE/MA yellowtail flounder..............................             936             760             592             168              10              40
CC/GOM yellowtail flounder..............................           1,104           1,046           1,019              27              35              23
American plaice.........................................           3,459           3,278           3,221              57              36             145
Witch flounder..........................................           1,563           1,448           1,424              24              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              na             303             175             125
Redfish.................................................           8,786           8,325           8,291              34              92             369
White hake..............................................           3,465           3,283           3,256              27              73             109
Pollock.................................................          14,736          12,612          12,530              82             754           1,370
Northern windowpane flounder............................             163             129              na             129               2              33
Southern windowpane flounder............................             381              72              na              72              39             270
Ocean pout..............................................             240             214              na             214               3              23
Atlantic halibut........................................              83              36              na              36              43               4
Atlantic wolffish.......................................              77              73              na              73               1               3
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


                                     Table 6--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             690              25             272              54
SNE/MA winter flounder..................................             672             337              na             337             195             139
Pollock.................................................          14,927          12,791          12,707              83             756           1,380
Northern windowpane flounder............................             163             129              na             129               2              33
Southern windowpane flounder............................             381              72              na              72              39             270
Ocean pout..............................................             240             214              na             214               3              23
Atlantic halibut........................................              83              36              na              36              43               4
Atlantic wolffish.......................................              77              73              na              73               1               3
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


                                     Table 7--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             690              25             272              54
SNE/MA winter flounder..................................             879             441               0             441             255             182
Pollock.................................................          15,308          13,148          13,062              86             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. U.S./Canada Total Allowable Catches

    Eastern GB cod, eastern GB haddock, and GB yellowtail flounder are 
managed jointly with Canada through the U.S./Canada Resource Sharing 
Understanding. Each year the TMGC, which is made up of representatives 
from Canada and the U.S., negotiates a shared TAC for each stock based 
on the most recent stock information and the TMGC harvest strategy. The 
TMGC's 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). When stock 
conditions are poor, fishing mortality should be further reduced to 
promote rebuilding. The shared TACs are allocated between 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.

[[Page 26110]]

    In September 2011, the TMGC recommended 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. The TMGC met by conference 
call in October 2011 to reconsider its 2012 recommendation for GB 
yellowtail flounder since the ABC approved by the Council was higher 
than the shared TAC initially negotiated by the TMGC. At this meeting, 
the TMGC recommended a shared TAC of 1,150 mt for GB yellowtail 
flounder for 2012.
    The 2012 U.S./Canada TACs and the percentage shared for each 
country are listed 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. Any overages of the eastern GB cod, eastern GB haddock, 
or GB yellowtail flounder U.S. TACs will be deducted from the U.S. TAC 
in the following fishing year. If FY 2011 catch information indicates 
that the U.S. fishery exceeded its TAC for any of the shared stocks, 
NMFS will reduce the FY 2012 U.S. TAC for that stock in a future 
management action.

 Table 8--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 each program. Table 9 
shows the percentage of the common pool sub-ACL allocated to the 
special management programs and the FYs 2012-2014 Incidental Catch TACs 
for each stock. 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 counted against 
the common pool sub-ACL.
    The Incidental Catch TAC is further divided among each special 
management program based on the percentages listed in Table 10. Table 
11 lists the FYs 2012-2014 Incidental Catch TACs for each special 
management program. 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 
a future adjustment rule, if necessary, based on the final sector 
rosters as of May 1, 2012.

                 Table 9--Common Pool Incidental Catch TACs for FYs 2012-2014 (mt, Live Weight)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                   Percentage of
                      Stock                         common pool        2012            2013            2014
                                                      sub-ACL
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GB cod..........................................               2             1.6             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             2.9             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
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Table 10--Percentage of Incidental Catch TACs Distributed to Each
                       Special Management Program
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                    Regular B   Closed Area    Eastern
              Stock                    DAS      I hook gear    U.S./CA
                                     program    haddock SAP  haddock SAP
------------------------------------------------------------------------
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

[[Page 26111]]

 
GB winter flounder...............           50          n/a           50
SNE/MA winter flounder...........          100          n/a          n/a
White hake.......................          100          n/a          n/a
------------------------------------------------------------------------


     Table 11--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..................................     0.8     n/a     n/a     0.3     0.0     0.0     0.5     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..................................     2.9     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a     n/a
Witch flounder..........................     1.2     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..............................     0.5     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 
(except for SNE/MA winter flounder, windowpane flounder, ocean pout, 
Atlantic wolffish, and Atlantic halibut) will be divided into trimester 
TACs. Table 12 shows the percentage of the common pool sub-ACL that is 
allocated to each trimester for each stock. Once NMFS projects that 90 
percent of the trimester TAC is caught for a stock, the trimester TAC 
area for that stock will be closed for the remainder of the trimester. 
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 uncaught portion of the trimester TAC in 
Trimester 1 or Trimester 2 will be carried forward to the next 
trimester (e.g., any remaining portion of the Trimester 1 TAC will be 
added to the Trimester 2 TAC). Overages of the trimester TAC in 
Trimester 1 or Trimester 2 will be deducted from the Trimester 3 TAC, 
and 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.
    Table 13 lists the common pool trimester TACs for FYs 2012-2014 
based on the ACLs and sub-ACLs set in this action (see Item 4 of this 
preamble). As described earlier, vessels have until April 30, 2012, to 
drop out of a sector, and common pool vessels may join a sector through 
April 30, 2012. If the final sub-ACLs included in this rule change as a 
result of changes to FY 2012 sector rosters, the trimester TACs will 
also change. NMFS will update the common pool trimester TACs in an 
adjustment rule in early May 2012, if necessary.

     Table 12--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
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
Redfish..........................           25           31           44
White hake.......................           38           31           31
Pollock..........................           28           35           37
------------------------------------------------------------------------


[[Page 26112]]


                                Table 13--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.........................     20.5     30.3     31.1      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a
GB haddock.....................     35.6     43.5     52.7      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a
GOM haddock....................      1.3      1.2      2.3      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a
GB yellowtail flounder.........      0.6      0.9      1.6      0.6      0.9      1.6      n/a      n/a      n/a
SNE/MA yellowtail flounder.....     35.3     62.2     70.6      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................     13.7     20.5     22.8      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a
Witch flounder.................      6.4      7.3      9.9      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     14.6
GOM winter flounder............      8.9      9.1      6.0      9.1      9.3      6.1      9.1      9.3      6.1
Redfish........................      8.6     10.6     15.0      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a
White hake.....................     10.1      8.2      8.2      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a      n/a
Pollock........................     23.0     28.8     30.5     23.4     29.2     30.9     24.0     30.0     31.7
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Tri 1 = Trimester 1; Tri 2 = Trimester 2; Tri 3 = Trimester 3.

8. Common Pool Restricted Gear Areas

    This action removes the common pool Western GB Multispecies 
Restricted Gear Area (RGA) and the SNE Multispecies RGA. These RGAs 
were implemented by Amendment 16 beginning in FY 2010 to help meet the 
mortality objectives for the common pool fishery, and primarily reduce 
the catch of flatfish species by common pool vessels. There are 
sufficient fishing mortality controls for common pool vessels to keep 
catch within the common pool catch limits. Therefore, the Western GB 
and SNE Multispecies RGAs are no longer needed to control fishing 
mortality for the common pool fishery. NMFS expects that removing the 
Western GB and SNE Multispecies RGAs will facilitate fishing for common 
pool vessels without risk of exceeding the common pool catch limits. In 
addition, removing these common pool RGAs will simplify the regulations 
and avoid confusion with new restricted gear areas included in this 
action as an AM for common pool and sector vessels (see Item 9 of this 
preamble).

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. Upon approving Amendment 16, however, NMFS notified the Council 
that it was concerned that the AMs developed for stocks not allocated 
to sectors lacked sector-specific AMs. NMFS recommended that the 
Council develop appropriate AMs for these stocks in a future action. As 
a result, Framework 47 intended to revise the AMs for these stocks for 
common pool and sector vessels.
    During the development of Framework 47, there was ongoing 
litigation on Amendment 16. Oceana, an environmental organization, 
challenged Amendment 16 partially because it lacked sector-specific AMs 
for stocks not allocated to sectors. On December 20, 2011, the U.S. 
District Court for the District of Columbia upheld most of Amendment 
16, but found that the Amendment's lack of reactive 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) violated the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The 
court remanded this single issue to NMFS and the Council for further 
action. The Council developed the Framework 47 AMs before the Court 
decided the case, however, and, therefore, did not specifically address 
this remand in Framework 47. When it proposed Framework 47, NMFS asked 
for specific comments about the adequacy of sector specific AMs in 
light of the court's decision and remand.

Ocean Pout and Windowpane Flounder, and Atlantic Halibut

    This action adopts reactive AMs for ocean pout, both stocks of 
windowpane flounder, and Atlantic halibut for sector and common pool 
vessels that would be triggered if the total ACL is exceeded. NMFS will 
evaluate total catch of each stock in the year following the pertinent 
fishing year (Year 2), and if the total ACL for the fishing year (Year 
1) is exceeded, the AM will be implemented in the next fishing year 
(Year 3). For example, if the total ACL for ocean pout is exceeded in 
FY 2012, NMFS will implement the applicable AM for ocean pout in FY 
2014.
    The Council decided to implement these AMs in Year 3 out of its 
concern that final catch information, including final discard 
estimates, needed to evaluate total catch in the fishery would not be 
available in time to implement until Year 3.
    To determine if the total ACL is exceeded for any of these stocks, 
NMFS will include catch by the groundfish fishery as well as catch by 
sub-components of the fishery (e.g., state waters and non-groundfish 
fisheries). Since these AMs are meant to restrict catch by common pool 
and sector vessels, sectors cannot be exempt from these AM provisions. 
Adopting these AMs removes the trimester TAC provision for common pool 
vessels, which was the previous AM implemented by Amendment 16 for 
these stocks that would have become effective in FY 2012. Prior to 
Framework 47, the AMs for these stocks only applied to common pool 
vessels, and did not include measures to restrict catch by sector 
vessels should an ACL be exceeded.
    Currently, a sub-ACL is only allocated to the common pool fishery 
for these stocks and catch by common pool and sector vessels is counted 
against the common pool sub-ACL. 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 both the total ACL for the stock and the fishery's sub-ACL 
are exceeded, including the fishery's share of any overage caused by 
the other sub-components.
    If the total ACL for Atlantic halibut is exceeded in Year 1, 
landing of Atlantic halibut will be prohibited by common pool and 
sector vessels in Year 3. If the total ACL is exceeded for ocean pout, 
northern windowpane flounder, or

[[Page 26113]]

southern windowpane flounder in year 1, gear restrictions will 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 will 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 are no 
restrictions on longline or gillnet gear because 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 will 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 
ACL is exceeded by 21 percent or more, the large AM area will be 
triggered. The applicable GB AM area will be implemented if the total 
ACL for northern windowpane is exceeded, and the applicable SNE AM area 
will be implemented if the total ACL for southern windowpane is 
exceeded. Both the GB and SNE AM areas will be implemented if the total 
ACL for ocean pout is exceeded. Sectors may not be exempted from these 
AM provisions.
    Currently, common pool and sector vessels have a one-fish landing 
limit for Atlantic halibut. Because commercial groundfish vessels can 
only land one Atlantic halibut per trip, and generally do not target 
this stock, a zero possession limit, by itself, even if implemented 
sooner than Year 3, will not likely create a sufficient incentive for 
vessels to avoid catching this stock should the total ACL be exceeded. 
Therefore, NMFS finds that the reactive AM for this stock adopted in 
this action is not adequate, by itself, in light of court's remand 
described above. NMFS recommends that the Council consider area 
closures or gear-restricted areas, similar to those adopted for 
windowpane flounder and ocean pout, as a reactive AM for Atlantic 
halibut. NMFS requests that the Council take action to ensure that 
necessary revisions to the reactive AM for Atlantic halibut are 
developed and implemented as soon as possible, and that significant 
progress be made on this issue by its November 2012 meeting. NMFS also 
requests that the Council consider whether these measures could be 
applied retroactively to FY 2012.
    NMFS is approving the reactive AM for Atlantic halibut because, 
should the total ACL be exceeded, it will provide some benefit to the 
fishery as a conservation measure, where currently there is none, and 
will alleviate perceived inequity between sector and common pool 
vessels. The AM for this stock adopted in Amendment 16, which would go 
into place if NMFS disapproved the Framework 47 a.m., only applies to 
common pool vessels. Common pool and sector catch would count against 
the common pool sub-ACL, and if the sub-ACL were exceeded, the common 
pool sub-ACL would be reduced by the amount of the overage in the 
subsequent fishing year. In FY 2010, sector vessels caught 92 percent 
of the total commercial catch for Atlantic halibut, and, based on 
preliminary catch information, sector vessels have caught more than 95 
percent of the total commercial catch for Atlantic halibut in FY 2011. 
Therefore, although NMFS does not find the reactive AM for this stock 
adopted in this action adequate by itself, in light of court's remand 
described above, approving this reactive AM as a conservation measure 
provides some meaningful benefit until a new, or additional, reactive 
AM can be developed.
    With respect to the delayed implementation of these reactive AMs to 
Year 3, NMFS recommends that these AMs be implemented as soon as 
possible after the overage occurs, when catch data, including final 
discard information, reliably show an overage of the catch limit, and 
not be bound by an AM that only allows implementation in Year 3. The 
Council recommended a Year 3 implementation because of concerns that 
final catch data for these stocks, which include catch from state 
waters and non-groundfish fisheries and discard estimates, could not be 
reliably available in time to trigger the AM in Year 2, or earlier. As 
monitoring improves, and discard estimates are more readily available 
for all components of the fishery, NMFS anticipates that these reactive 
AMs can, and should, be implemented more quickly.

SNE/MA Winter Flounder and Atlantic Wolffish

    Amendment 16 prohibited possession of SNE/MA winter flounder and 
Atlantic wolffish by commercial vessels. This action adopts the current 
zero possession as a proactive AM for SNE/MA winter flounder and 
Atlantic wolffish for commercial vessels. Based on FY 2010 catch 
information and partial FY 2011 catch information, the Council 
concluded, before the decision in the Amendment 16 lawsuit described 
above, that prohibiting possession appears to have kept catch of these 
stocks well below mortality targets, and that such preventive measures 
satisfy the AM requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. However, 
although zero possession may be a sufficient proactive AM for these 
stocks, the Magnuson-Stevens Act requires reactive AMs. NMFS recommends 
that the Council consider area closures or gear-restricted areas, 
similar to those adopted for windowpane flounder and ocean pout, as a 
reactive AM for SNE/MA winter flounder and Atlantic wolffish. NMFS 
requests that the Council take action to ensure reactive AMs for SNE/MA 
winter flounder and Atlantic wolffish are developed and implemented as 
soon as possible, and that significant progress be made on this issue 
by its November 2012 meeting. NMFS also requests that the Council 
consider whether these measures could be applied retroactively to FY 
2012.
    Although zero possession does not meet the requirement for a 
reactive AM for these stocks, NMFS approves these measures because it 
removes a potential inequity for common pool vessels. Adopting zero 
possession for SNE/MA winter flounder and Atlantic wolffish, as 
prescribed by Framework 47, removes the trimester TAC provision for 
these stocks for common pool vessels established by Amendment 16. Under 
the default Amendment 16 measures, if the overall sub-ACL for these 
stocks is exceeded in a year, the common pool's sub-ACL is reduced by 
the amount of the overage. This AM only applies to the common pool, 
even if sector vessels cause the overage. Because common pool vessels 
generally take less than 10 percent of the total commercial catch of 
these two stocks, there is a potential inequity in only applying the AM 
to the common pool vessels. Until the Council is able to develop 
reactive AMs for these two stocks, the zero possession proactive AM 
will avoid disproportionately penalizing common pool vessels for catch 
by sector vessels, and will continue to benefit the fishery by keeping 
catch within allowable levels.

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

[[Page 26114]]

Areas. This measure was implemented before ACL and AM provisions were 
added to the NE Multispecies and Atlantic Sea Scallop FMPs to ensure 
that yellowtail flounder catches did not exceed the target TACs for 
yellowtail flounder or exceed the U.S TAC for GB yellowtail flounder. 
This action removes the 10-percent access area cap for the Nantucket 
Lightship, Closed Area I, and Closed Area II Sea Scallop Access Areas. 
The scallop fishery is still subject to its GB and SNE/MA yellowtail 
flounder sub-ACLs, but there is no limit on how much of the sub-ACLs 
can be caught in the scallop access areas. The yellowtail flounder sub-
ACLs limit the amount of yellowtail flounder that can be caught by the 
scallop fishery, so a catch cap for the access areas in 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. If the scallop fishery 
exceeds its sub-ACL for either of these stocks, the statistical areas 
with high catch rates of yellowtail flounder are closed to limited 
access scallop vessels. The duration of the closure depends on the 
magnitude of the overage. Framework 23 to the Atlantic Sea Scallop FMP 
(Framework 23) set 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.
    This action modifies when the AM for the scallop fishery is 
triggered. The scallop fishery AM will be triggered if: (1) The scallop 
fishery exceeds it sub-ACL for any groundfish stock, and the total ACL 
for that stock is also exceeded; or (2) the scallop fishery exceeds its 
sub-ACL by 50 percent or more for any groundfish stock, even if the 
total ACL for that stock is not exceeded. If the scallop fishery AM is 
triggered, the corresponding scallop seasonal closure will be 
implemented according to the seasonal closure AM schedule. Currently, 
the scallop fishery is only allocated a sub-ACL for GB and SNE/MA 
yellowtail flounder; however, this measure applies to the scallop 
fishery AM for any additional groundfish stock that is allocated to the 
scallop fishery in a future action. This measure is applied 
retroactively to the 2011 scallop fishing year.
    Given the differences in the scallop and groundfish fishing years, 
complete catch information for GB and SNE/MA yellowtail flounder will 
not be available until sometime after April 30 (the end of the 
groundfish fishing year). 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 will primarily rely on partial catch information to project 
total fishing year catch of these two stocks from state waters and non-
groundfish fisheries. NMFS will also use partial fishing year data to 
estimate GB and SNE/MA yellowtail flounder catch by the commercial 
groundfish fishery and will project catch of these two stocks by 
groundfish vessels for the remainder of the groundfish fishing year. 
NMFS will add the maximum carryover available to the groundfish fishery 
to the estimate of total catch when evaluating whether the total ACL 
has been exceeded for a groundfish stock for the purposes of triggering 
the scallop fishery AM.
    This measure is expected to allow more flexibility in the fishery. 
The yellowtail flounder allocation to the scallop fishery is based on 
an estimated catch of yellowtail flounder with the projected scallop 
harvest for the fishing year. There is uncertainty in the projected 
yellowtail flounder catch in the scallop fishery, and this measure will 
help account for that 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, NMFS adopts these 
references under its authority in 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 expected GB yellowtail flounder 
catch in the scallop fishery. Because there is uncertainty in the 
initial estimates of projected GB yellowtail flounder catch, it is 
possible that the initial allocation to the scallop fishery will be too 
low, which could cause the scallop sub-ACL to be exceeded, or that the 
initial allocation to the scallop fishery will be too high, which could 
reduce GB yellowtail flounder yield. This measure creates 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 may reduce the 
scallop fishery sub-ACL to the amount expected to be caught, and 
increase the groundfish fishery sub-ACL for GB yellowtail flounder up 
to the difference between the original estimate and the revised 
estimate. Any increase to the groundfish fishery sub-ACL will be 
distributed to sectors and the common pool. NMFS will not make any 
changes to the GB yellowtail flounder 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. Consistent with the Administrative 
Procedure Act, NMFS will notify the public of any changes to the GB 
yellowtail flounder sub-ACLs. This measure is expected to 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-
estimating the expected GB yellowtail flounder catch by the scallop 
fishery mid-season will allow additional GB yellowtail flounder yield 
by the commercial groundfish fishery, and will help achieve optimum 
yield for this stock.
    Due to uncertainty associated with the revised estimate of expected 
GB yellowtail flounder catch, NMFS has 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 may be delayed until data are 
sufficient for NMFS to project GB yellowtail flounder catch and re-
estimate the GB yellowtail flounder sub-ACL for the scallop fishery 
mid-season. Consideration of uncertainty and delay in implementation of 
this measure will avoid errors in re-estimating 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, which may trigger the scallop fishery AM. 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.

[[Page 26115]]

13. Annual Measures for FY 2012 Under Regional Administrator Authority

    The FMP authorizes 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 
rule includes management measures for FY 2012 that are being 
implemented under RA authority. These measures are not part of 
Framework 47, and were not specifically proposed by the Council, but 
are included in this final rule because they relate to Framework 47 
measures (i.e., ACLs). The RA may modify these measures if current 
information indicates changes are necessary. Any adjustments to these 
measures will be implemented through an inseason action consistent with 
the Administrative Procedure Act.
    Table 14 lists the initial FY 2012 trip limits for common pool 
vessels. These FY 2012 trip limits take into consideration 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, public comments 
received on the proposed FY 2012 trip limits, and other available 
information. This action does not change the default cod trip limit for 
vessels with a limited access Handgear A permit (300 lb (136.1. kg) per 
trip), an open access Handgear B permit (75 lb (34.0 kg) per trip), or 
a limited access Small Vessel Category permit (300 lb (136.1 kg) of 
cod, haddock, and yellowtail flounder combined).
    NMFS will monitor common pool catch using dealer-reported landings, 
VMS catch reports, and other available information, and if necessary, 
will adjust the common pool management measures.

            Table 14--Initial FY 2012 Common Pool Trip Limits
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                 Stock                     Initial FY 2012 trip limits
------------------------------------------------------------------------
GOM cod................................  650 lb (294.8 kg) per DAS, up
                                          to 2,000 lb (907.2 kg) per
                                          trip.
GB cod.................................  2,000 lb (907.2 kg) per DAS, up
                                          to 20,000 lb (9,072 kg) per
                                          trip.
GOM haddock............................  1,000 lb (453.6 kg) per trip.
GB haddock.............................  10,000 lb (4,535.9 kg) per
                                          trip.
GOM winter flounder....................  250 lb (113.4 kg) per trip.
GB winter flounder.....................  1,000 lb (453.6 kg) per trip.
CC/GOM yellowtail flounder.............  500 lb (226.8 kg) per DAS, up
                                          to 2,000 lb (907.2 kg) per
                                          trip.
GB yellowtail flounder.................  500 lb (226.8 kg) per trip.
SNE/MA yellowtail flounder.............  1,500 lb (680.4 kg), up to
                                          4,500 (2,041.1 kg) per trip.
American plaice........................  unrestricted.
Pollock................................  unrestricted.
Witch flounder.........................  250 lb (113.4 kg) per trip.
White hake.............................  1,500 lb (680.4 kg) per trip.
Redfish................................  unrestricted.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The FMP also provides the RA the authority to allocate 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, this action allocates zero 
trips to the Closed Area II Yellowtail Flounder/Haddock SAP for FY 
2012. Vessels can still fish in this SAP in FY 2012 using a haddock 
separator trawl, a Ruhle trawl, or hook gear. Vessels are not allowed 
to fish in this SAP using flounder nets.

14. Mid-Size Ruhle Trawl

    This action modifies the 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. The following 
modifications are being made: Replace the minimum fishing circle 
requirement with a more concise and enforceable measure using the 
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 because this component of the 
gear is largely based on bottom composition and preference, and is not 
the primary bycatch reduction device. The primary bycatch reduction 
device for this gear type is the large meshes located in the forward 
part of the net. The minimum mesh sizes and minimum kite area are 
reduced to enable the mid-size Eliminator to meet the Ruhle trawl 
definition.
    The Council requested that NMFS implement a smaller-scale version 
of the Ruhle trawl (i.e., the mid-size Eliminator Trawl) that 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. Expanding this 
definition will 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 will be able to operate under the Ruhle trawl gear code, which 
will 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

[[Page 26116]]

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. In response to a Council's request, NMFS, 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. Following a successful peer 
review in 2010, 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 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 of 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, data from 
both gear types will 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 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 can range 
in size from the experimental net up to the size of the Ruhle trawl. As 
a result, 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. This would prevent using the VTR gear code to 
monitor how the experiment net performs when adopted in the fishery. 
Instead, NMFS will 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) will be used to evaluate how the experimental gear is 
performing in practice.

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

    In the proposed rule for this action, NMFS proposed to replace the 
3:1 counting method with new species-specific conversion factors for 
the purposes of counting fillets and fish-parts landed for at-home 
consumption against the pertinent ACLs. However, based on public 
comments received on this proposed measure, and additional analysis 
performed, NMFS concluded that the 3:1 counting method is the most 
accurate for counting fillets and fish parts landed for at-home 
consumption against ACLs, and that any changes to this conversion 
factor should go through the Council.
    Framework Adjustment 27 to the NE Multispecies FMP (Framework 27) 
implemented a counting rate of 3:1 for the purposes of ensuring 
compliance with days-at-sea possession limits. This counting rate was 
implemented prior to implementation of ACLs and AMs in the FMP. When 
Amendment 16 was implemented in 2010, the 3:1 counting rate was not 
extended for quota monitoring purposes to ensure that all catch by 
common pool and sector vessels is counted and attributed to the 
appropriate sub-ACL. Therefore, on July 19, 2011, NMFS published an 
interim final rule correcting the counting method for fillets and parts 
of fish landed for home consumption (76 FR 42577). The interim final 
rule applied the 3:1 counting rate to all fillets and parts of fish 
landed for home consumption by sector and common pool vessels.
    For FY 2010 and FY 2011, fish landed for at-home consumption were 
counted at a 1:1 rate against the common pool and sector sub-ACLs. This 
was not accurate. Beginning in FY 2012, all fillets and parts of fish 
landed for home consumption will be multiplied by 3 for quota 
monitoring purposes. All catch by sector and common pool vessels, 
including fillets retained by crew for home consumption, count against 
a sector's ACE for that stock or the common pool sub-ACL for that 
stock. The 3:1 counting method is consistent with the FMP requirement 
that all catch by sector and common pool vessels be accounted for, and 
is also consistent with the 3:1 counting method implemented by the 
Council in Framework 27. The 3:1 counting rate for fillets and parts of 
fish will also continue to be used to determine compliance with 
possession limits for common pool vessels.

16. Charter/Party Vessel Closed Area Letter of Authorization

    Framework Adjustment 33 to the NE Multispecies FMP (Framework 33) 
allowed 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. Framework 33 prohibited vessels issued this LOA from 
selling any fish, except for species that are not managed by the New 
England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) or the Mid-Atlantic Fishery 
Management Council (MAFMC). When NMFS implemented this action, the 
regulations only provided an exception to the sale of tuna for charter/
party vessels issued this LOA. This exception was inconsistent with the 
Council's intent. 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. This 
action clarifies the regulations that charter/party vessels issued a 
LOA to fish in the GOM Rolling Closure Areas, the Western GOM Closure 
Area, Cashes Ledge Closure Area, and the Nantucket Lightship Closed 
Area are only prohibited from selling fishing species managed by the 
NEFMC or the MAFMC.
Comments and Responses on Measures Proposed in the Framework 47 
Proposed Rule
    NMFS received nine comments during the comment period on the 
Framework 47 proposed rule from six individuals, one industry group, 
the Council, and Oceana.

[[Page 26117]]

Acceptable Biological Catches and Annual Catch Limits
    Comment 1: Oceana commented that NMFS should disapprove the catch 
limits in Framework 47 because they are not based on the best 
scientific information available and, therefore, violate National 
Standard 2. Oceana stated that the stock assessment updates completed 
in early 2012 should be the basis for setting catch limits in Framework 
47, and that NMFS should disapprove the ABCs for the 13 stocks whose 
assessments were updated in 2012. Oceana also stated that NMFS should 
take emergency or interim action to revise catch limits for FY 2012.
    Response: National Standard 2 guidelines (50 CFR 600.315) require 
that each FMP (and by extension amendment and framework) must take into 
account the best scientific information available at the time, or 
preparation, of an action. The guidelines recognize that new 
information often becomes available between the initial drafting of an 
FMP and its submission to NMFS for final review. The guidelines state 
that this new information should be incorporated into the action, if 
practicable; but it is unnecessary for the Council to start the FMP 
process over again, unless the information indicates that drastic 
changes have occurred in the fishery that might require revision of the 
management objectives or measures. This is not a situation in which the 
Council received information that ``drastic changes'' have occurred in 
the fishery prior to submission of the action to NMFS. Instead, as was 
fully understood in the development of Framework 47, the assessment 
updates were not completed until after the Council took final action on 
Framework 47 and submitted it to NMFS for review. As a result, there 
was no practicable way to incorporate this information into Framework 
47 without reinitiating the Council process and delaying the action far 
beyond the start of FY 2012, which begins on May 1, 2012, and is when 
the ABCs need to be in place. Therefore, NMFS has determined that it is 
appropriate for the Council to set the OFLs and ABCs in this action 
based on the best scientific information available at the time the 
Council took final action and submitted Framework 47 to NMFS for 
approval. The appropriate response to the new information that became 
available after submission to NMFS is for the Council to consider 
whether to initiate a new framework or amendment, or to request an 
emergency or interim Secretarial action, to revise the existing 
measures or catch limits adopted in this action.
    Consistent with the National Standard 2 guidelines, this 
determination recognizes the need for some certainty as to what 
scientific information the Council may rely on in taking its final 
action, and what information NMFS will use to evaluate the 
approvability of a Council action. Without such certainty, there would 
be a lack of predictability and confidence in Council actions, which 
must be developed well in advance of their implementation due to the 
time it takes to prepare appropriate analyses and documents for 
submission to NMFS for final review. Uncertainty about what information 
will be used to review a Council action could also seriously undermine 
the Council process, because neither the Council, nor the public, would 
be confident their efforts would not be meaningless. Thus, new 
scientific information that becomes available after the Council has 
submitted its final action to NMFS for review should not, based on 
National Standard 2, be used retroactively to undo recommended actions 
that had the benefit of the full Council process.
    NMFS also considered the practical effect of disapproving the OFLs 
and ABCs specified in this action. Approving the catch limits for these 
stocks, whose assessments were updated in early 2012, actually results 
in slightly less fishing mortality than if they were disapproved and 
the default measures specified by Framework 44 and Framework 45 went 
into place. The default catch limits for FY 2012 for the five stocks 
mentioned earlier (GB cod, GOM haddock, CC/GOM yellowtail flounder, 
American plaice, and witch flounder) are identical to those specified 
in this action, except for GB cod, which is 5 percent higher. For the 
remaining stocks, the default measures are essentially identical or 
higher than those adopted in Framework 47. Therefore, disapproving the 
FY 2012 ABCs in Framework 47 would result in the same catch limits as 
those previously specified, and a higher catch limit for GB cod, which 
could increase overfishing on this stock while the Council develops its 
next management action to incorporate the new scientific information 
available.
    Approving these catch limits, as explained above, does not reduce 
the importance of acting on the new information as soon as possible in 
a new action, but rather emphasizes the importance of analyzing and 
considering this information through the full Council process. 
Consistent with the SSC guidance and the Council's understanding during 
the development of Framework 47, the Council has already started 
developing a management action to incorporate the assessment update 
information and adopt catch limits for the pertinent stocks for FYs 
2013-2014. A new stock assessment is also scheduled for SNE/MA 
yellowtail flounder in June 2012, and the results of this stock 
assessment will be incorporated into the same Council action to set 
OFLs and ABCs for the stock for FYs 2013-2014. The Council may also use 
updated information for other stocks to revise the FYs 2013-2014 OFLs 
and ABCs specified in this action. The Council intends to complete this 
management action by May 1, 2013, to set catch limits for FYs 2013-
2014.
    Oceana's comment recommending emergency action is outside the scope 
of this action and is considered to be an independent request for NMFS 
to take action addressing the updated stock assessment information. As 
explained above, this new information should preferably be considered 
through the full Council process, and NMFS has charged the Council to 
address this new information as soon as possible. At the time of this 
rulemaking, the Council has not yet had the opportunity to review and 
discuss the results of the assessment updates. NMFS believes this 
information is best incorporated through the Council process, and is 
waiting on a response from the Council to Framework 47 and the 
assessment updates. The Council is scheduled to receive and discuss the 
results of the assessment updates at its April 25, 2012, meeting. NMFS 
has notified the Council that the updated assessment information must 
be incorporated as soon as possible, but no later than May 1, 2013. 
NMFS recommends that, at its June meeting, the Council identify how and 
when this information will be incorporated and how that process would 
affect any existing or planned management measures.

Accountability Measures

    Comment 1: The Council commented that the use of zero possession 
has been effective at keeping catches within allowable levels for 
pertinent stocks. The Council commented that adopting zero possession 
as a proactive AM for SNE/MA winter flounder and Atlantic wolffish, and 
as a reactive AM for Atlantic halibut, is the Council's preferred 
method for ensuring catch levels are not exceeded while also giving 
industry the greatest possible opportunity to target healthy stocks. 
Oceana commented that the use of zero possession as an AM is not 
adequate for

[[Page 26118]]

SNE/MA winter flounder, Atlantic wolffish, or Atlantic halibut.
    Response: NMFS agrees that zero possession for SNE/MA winter 
flounder and Atlantic wolffish appears to have effectively kept catches 
within allowable levels. In FY 2010, total catch of these two stocks 
was well below the total ACL, and based on preliminary catch 
information, it appears that total catches will also be below the total 
ACL in FY 2011. However, as discussed in Item 9 of this preamble, 
although zero possession may be a sufficient proactive AM for these two 
stocks, effective reactive AMs remain necessary, and must be developed 
as soon as possible as a step in the ongoing process to ensure 
compliance with the with the Court remand. If zero possession continues 
to be an effective proactive AM, the reactive AM will likely not be 
triggered. However, should the proactive AM fail, and an overage of the 
total ACL occurs, a reactive AM will ensure this overage is mitigated, 
and prevent repeated overages of the ACL. For Atlantic halibut, a zero 
possession reactive AM, while a step in the right direction, by itself, 
is not adequate in light of the court's remand. Because commercial 
groundfish vessels can only land one halibut per trip, and generally do 
not target halibut, a zero possession limit will not likely create a 
sufficient incentive for vessels to avoid catching this stock should an 
ACL be exceeded. NMFS recommends that the Council consider area 
closures or gear-restricted areas, similar to those adopted for 
windowpane flounder and ocean pout, as a reactive AM for these stocks. 
NMFS requests that the Council take action to ensure that effective 
reactive AMs are developed and implemented as soon as possible, and 
that significant progress be made on this issue by its November 2012 
meeting. NMFS also requests that the Council consider whether these 
measures could be applied retroactively to FY 2012.
    While NMFS recognizes that the AMs approved in this action do not 
satisfy the court remand, zero possession as a proactive AM for SNE/MA 
winter flounder, and as a reactive AM for Atlantic halibut, will still 
provide some benefit to prevent catch from exceeding the ACLs for these 
stocks, and will reduce a potential inequity between common pool and 
sector vessels. The initial AMs implemented by Amendment 16 for these 
stocks only applied to common pool vessels. Catch by common pool and 
sector vessels counted against the common pool sub-ACL. Based on 
preliminary FY 2011 catch information, sector vessels have caught more 
than 95 percent of the total commercial catch for SNE/ME winter 
flounder, Atlantic wolffish, and Atlantic halibut. Disapproving the 
Framework 47 AMs for these stocks would result in the same default 
management measures for SNE/MA winter flounder and Atlantic wolffish 
(zero possession), no reactive AM for Atlantic halibut, and would 
disproportionately penalize common pool vessels. Therefore, NMFS has 
approved zero possession as a proactive AM for SNE/MA winter flounder 
and Atlantic wolffish, but recognizes that reactive AMs are required 
for these stocks and must be developed as soon as possible. In 
addition, NMFS approves the reactive AM for Atlantic halibut because it 
will provide some conservation benefit while the Council develops a 
more effective reactive AM for this stock. Approving these AMs will 
also ensure the common pool vessels are not disproportionately 
penalized for any overages that may occur.
    Comment 2: Oceana disagreed that an AM should be implemented 2 
years after the fishing year in which the overage occurred, and stated 
that this measure is inconsistent with the National Standard 1 
guidelines. Oceana suggests that inseason AMs are not impossible and 
that preliminary data is used for inseason management in other 
fisheries.
    Response: The Council adopted AMs for windowpane flounder, ocean 
pout, and Atlantic halibut that would be implemented in Year 3 because 
evaluating total catch includes catch of these stocks in state waters 
and non-groundfish fisheries. The Council felt that final catch data, 
including final discard estimates, would not be reliably available in 
time to implement these AMs earlier than Year 3. Indeed, catch 
information, including discard estimates, are not readily available 
inseason for these components of the fishery. While we are approving 
this measure because it provides a reactive AM for these stocks should 
an ACL be exceeded, where no AM currently exists, NMFS recommends that 
the Council reconsider the timing of these AMs. NMFS recommends to the 
Council that AMs should be implemented as soon as possible, rather than 
2 years after an overage occurs, when catch data, including final 
discard information, show an overage of the catch limit. As monitoring 
improves, and discard estimates are more readily available for all 
components of the fishery, NMFS anticipates that these reactive AMs 
can, and should, be implemented more quickly.
    Annual Measures for FY 2012 Under Regional Administrator Authority
    Comment 1: One commenter favored an 800 lb per day-at-sea (DAS) 
trip limit for GOM cod. The commenter stated that this trip limit would 
make each trip more profitable and would allow hiring one crew member, 
as opposed to fishing alone.
    Response: NMFS proposed a trip limit range for GOM cod of 500 lb-
800 lb per DAS. NMFS is implementing an initial FY 2012 trip limit for 
GOM cod of 650 lb per DAS. NMFS believes this trip limit will allow a 
more profitable trip than the 500 lb DAS limit in FY 2011. A 650-lb 
trip limit will likely preserve the GOM cod trimester TAC throughout 
each trimester and prevent premature closure of the trimester TAC area. 
If necessary, NMFS will modify trip limits inseason to prevent under 
harvest or overharvest of the trimester TACs, or the common pool sub-
ACLs.
    Comment 2: One commenter stated that the common pool fishery does 
not need the trimester TAC AM because trip limits effectively control 
fishing mortality during the fishing year and requested that NMFS not 
implement the trimester TAC AM for the common pool fishery. This 
commenter also stated that the trimester TAC AM for white hake should 
not apply to vessels fishing with longline or hook gear. Another 
commenter stated that the distribution of the common pool sub-ACL to 
the trimesters should be revisited.
    Response: The trimester TAC AM provision was adopted in Amendment 
16 in 2010, and is not part of Framework 47. Accordingly, this measure 
was not proposed in this action. Because this measure was not part of 
Framework 47, these comments are irrelevant to, and outside the scope 
of, the measures approved in this final rule.
    To provide some background, however, FY 2012 will be the first 
fishing year that this AM is effective for the common pool fishery. The 
trimester TAC AM serves as a reactive AM that is triggered if an 
overage of the common pool catch limit occurs. Sector-specific reactive 
AMs are required for every groundfish stock. The trimester TAC AM is 
only one type of reactive AM that the Council may use, and the Council 
could develop a different AM for the common pool fishery if it chooses. 
However, any changes to the trimester TAC AM must be developed through 
the full Council process in another action, and cannot be addressed in 
this rule. If trip limits continue to be an effective proactive AM that 
keep common pool catch within allowable levels, the trimester TAC AM 
will likely not be triggered. However, if inseason management measures 
fail to keep catch

[[Page 26119]]

within allowable levels, the trimester TAC AM will ensure overfishing 
does not occur and mitigate any overages.
    When the trimester TAC AM was developed, the area closures for each 
stock were applied to any gear types capable of catching that stock. In 
addition, the distribution of the common pool sub-ACL was based on the 
distribution of landings and the influence of management measures on 
landings patterns. NMFS does not have the authority to modify the 
applicable gear types for the white hake trimester TAC AM or the 
distribution of the common pool sub-ACL. Any modifications to these 
measures must be made through the Council process. NMFS recommends that 
the commenters raise this issue to the Council for possible inclusion 
in a future management action.

Mid-Size Ruhle Trawl

    Comment 1: Two individuals commented that they strongly support the 
proposed revision to the Ruhle trawl definition because it will provide 
smaller vessels with increased fishing opportunities. One commenter 
suggested that eliminating the requirement for a minimum kite area (as 
opposed to the proposed minimum kite area of 19.3 sq. ft (1.8 sq. m)) 
would allow more flexibility.
    Response: NMFS believes that the minimum kite size is necessary 
because it will help ensure that the catch performance of the mid-size 
Ruhle trawl will be more consistent and comparable with the catch 
performance of the experimental net. The large meshes greatly reduce 
catch of flounders and cod; however, the experimental net effectively 
caught other fish, such as haddock, as a result of the relatively high 
profile of the net. The high profile of the net is due, in part, to the 
lift provided by the kites. A minimum kite size will also minimize the 
catch performance differences between kites and headrope floats. 
Therefore, NMFS retained the minimum kite size requirement.

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

    Comment 1: One individual commented that landing fish for home 
consumption should be prohibited, and that all catch should be counted 
against the appropriate catch limit.
    Response: ACLs and AMs for the groundfish fishery were implemented 
by Amendment 16 in FY 2010. Allowing home consumption of some fish has 
been a long-standing provision and was not proposed for elimination. 
Therefore, this comment is outside the scope of this action. In any 
event, landings and discards from all fisheries are counted against the 
catch limit for each stock, including landings by commercial groundfish 
vessels for home consumption. The proposed rule was intended only to 
address the appropriateness of the conversion factor for determining 
the live weight of fillets and parts of fish landed for home 
consumption. As discussed in the response to the next comment, NMFS 
decided not to implement a new conversion factor for fish parts landed 
for home consumption.
    Comment 2: One individual and the Council commented that the 
proposed species-specific conversion factors for home consumption are 
nearly identical to the conversional factors used for dressed fish, 
which could underestimate the amount of fish landed for home 
consumption.
    Response: NMFS agrees that the proposed species-species conversion 
factors are similar to the conversion factors used for dressed fish. 
Based on additional analysis, NMFS is not implementing the proposed 
species-specific conversion factors. Beginning in FY 2012, all fillets 
and parts of fish landed for home consumption will be multiplied by 3 
and attributed to the appropriate sector ACE or common pool sub-ACL. 
Any change to the conversion factor should be considered by Council 
first.

Changes From the Proposed Rule

    NMFS has made three changes from the proposed rule. After further 
review, the coordinates for several AM areas are revised to correct 
errors contained in the proposed rule. In addition, the regulations are 
further revised to reflect the removal of the trimester TAC for the 
common pool fishery for those stocks whose AMs were revised in this 
action. NMFS is not implementing species-specific conversion factors in 
place of the 3:1 counting rate for home consumption landings, as was 
proposed in the proposed rule for this action.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Assistant Administrator determined that Framework 47 is necessary 
for the conservation and management of the NE multispecies fishery and 
that it is consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other 
applicable law.
    Under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(1), the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries 
finds good cause to waive the 30-day delayed effectiveness of this 
action. The effective date of this action affects a parallel rulemaking 
approving sector operations plans for the start of FY 2012 on May 1, 
2012. In addition, the effective date of this action affects the 
scallop fishery AM for FY 2011. Therefore, these actions must be in 
effect at the beginning of FY 2012 to fully capture the environmental 
and economic benefits of Framework 47 measures as well as the FY 2012 
sector operations plans. Due to unforeseen circumstances related to FY 
2012 catch levels for GOM cod, the Council's submission of Framework 47 
to NMFS was delayed until February 2012. Due to this constraint, this 
rulemaking could not be completed further in advance of May 1, 2012. 
Therefore, in order to have this action effective at the beginning of 
FY 2012, it is necessary to waive the 30-day delayed effectiveness of 
this rule.
    The waiver of the 30-day delayed effectiveness for this final rule 
is in the public interest because it is necessary to implement a number 
of measures by the start of FY 2012 that would benefit the NE 
multispecies fishery and the Atlantic sea scallop fishery. This action 
sets catch levels for FY 2012-2014 for most groundfish stocks, adopts 
U.S./Canada TACs for FY 2012, removes restricted gear areas for common 
pool vessels, and alleviates the scallop fishery AM trigger to allow 
the scallop fishery to catch more yellowtail flounder. This rule also 
includes measures controlling fishing effort by common pool vessels to 
help prevent the premature or overharvest of the common pool trimester 
TACs and sub-ACLs during FY 2012. Waiving the 30-day delayed 
effectiveness of this final rule will ensure that the appropriate catch 
levels are implemented at the start of FY 2012. Waiver of delayed 
effectiveness will also ensure that common pool vessels will benefit 
from the removal of restricted gear areas as soon as possible. This 
measure will also modify when the scallop fishery AM is triggered to 
allow the scallop fishery to catch more yellowtail flounder before an 
AM is triggered. This measure is being applied retroactively to FY 
2011, and a waiver of the delayed effectiveness will prevent a 
premature trigger of the scallop fishery AM.
    Failure to waive the 30-day delayed effectiveness would result in 
the default FY 2012 ABCs, which could be lower or higher than those 
adopted in this final rule. This could prevent vessels from maximizing 
the benefit from increased catch limits or result in catch limits that 
are too high based on the best scientific information available. 
Failure to waive the 30-day delayed effectiveness of this action could 
also result in no TACs being specified for U.S./Canada stocks. Without 
an allocation for Eastern GB

[[Page 26120]]

cod or haddock, sector vessels would be unable to fish in the Eastern 
U.S./Canada Area. Failure to waive delayed effectiveness will delay the 
removal of the GB or SNE/MA Multispecies Restricted Gear Areas, which 
would unnecessarily burden common pool vessels and reduce their 
economic efficiency. Failure to delay could also result in prematurely 
triggering the scallop fishery AM pending final FY 2011 catch 
information. Thus, delaying implementation of this final rule would 
result in short-term adverse economic impacts to groundfish and scallop 
vessels and associated fishing communities. In addition, delaying 
implementation of this final rule could increase the risk of excessive 
catch by common pool vessels, and exceeding a trimester TAC or sub-ACL, 
if the FY 2012 trip limits included in this rule are not in place at 
the start of FY 2012. Therefore, a 30-day delay in the effectiveness of 
this rule is impracticable and contrary to the public interest.
    This final rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    This final rule does not contain policies with federalism or 
``takings'' implications, as those terms are defined in E.O. 13132 and 
E.O. 12630, respectively.
    An FRFA was prepared for this action, as required by section 604 of 
the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). The FRFA, which includes the 
summary in this rule and the analyses contained in Framework 47 and its 
accompanying EA/RIR/FRFA, describes the economic impact the measures 
adopted in Framework 47 would have on small entities. A description of 
this action and its objectives and the legal basis for this action are 
contained in Framework 47 and in the preamble to the proposed rule as 
well as this final rule; it is not repeated here. All of the documents 
that constitute the FRFA are available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). This 
FRFA analyzes expected impacts of the 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. Therefore, the following 
summary also includes expected impacts of this action in the absence of 
GOM cod specifications.
    No issues were raised by public comments in response to the IRFA or 
with respect to the economic impacts of this action. As a result, no 
changes were made from the proposed rule.

Description and Estimate of the Number of Small Entities to Which the 
Final Rule Will Apply

    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 this action on regulated small entities. The measures 
implemented by this action 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 action is 
associated with the specification of ACLs and sub-ACLs. The Small 
Business Administration considers a commercial fishing operation a 
small entity if it has annual sales of less than $4 million (see North 
American Industry Classification System code 114111). 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 FRFA does not analyze the 
expected impacts of this 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 this 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 differs from 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 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 
RFA, is a useful alternative to analyzing individual vessels for 
Framework 47. NMFS believes this analysis should also be completed 
using the individual vessels as the regulated entity to provide 
continuity with the RFA analyses of previous actions. Therefore, a 
supplemental analysis was 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 description of impacts 
of Framework 47.
    The entities affected by this 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 individual vessels are 
considered regulated entities for the sector program, this action would 
affect 740 small regulated entities enrolled in the sector program.
    If sectors are considered regulated entities for the purposes of 
estimating this rule's impacts, this rule would affect 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 
this 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. NMFS estimates this action will result in mean gross sales 
for the large regulated entities of $9.5 million, 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. 
Of this amount, NMFS estimates that gross sales from groundfish would 
be approximately $2,600 per vessel, or less than 2 percent of the mean 
gross sales. Although this action may trigger common pool AMs, which 
would limit opportunities to fish for groundfish, the impact on small 
regulated entities would likely be insignificant.
    If individual vessels are considered the regulated entities for the 
purposes of this FRFA, this action would affect substantially more 
small entities. During FY 2010, for example, 740 vessels enrolled in 
the sector program, and 607 remained in the common pool. During the 
baseline period, 446 sector vessels and 343 common pool vessels 
generated gross sales from any species. Of those vessels, 305 sector 
vessels and 145 common pool vessels generated gross

[[Page 26121]]

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 action is 
expected to reduce mean gross sales of fish by 33 percent for sector 
vessels to $200.1K. Mean gross sales for common pool vessels are 
expected to decline to $132.6K, which is less than a 5-percent decline.
    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. Mean gross sales for limited access scallop 
vessels are approximately $1 million, and are approximately $80,000 for 
general category scallop vessels. The statistical areas with the 
highest catch rates of GB yellowtail flounder are 562 and 525. If this 
action caused one or both of these areas to close 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 closing 
statistical areas 562 or 525 is 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 this 
action. There were no access area trips taken in the scallop fishery 
during this time. Opening 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 this 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 this 
action. Therefore, vessels participating in the Atlantic herring 
fishery are not expected to be affected by this action.
    Of the affected entities under this action, only groundfish sectors 
and vessels are anticipated to be adversely affected. Due to 
conservation needs, this action would 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 
this 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 for some stocks are 
necessary to ensure rebuilding. The ability to lease quota between 
sectors and consolidate quota within sectors will help mitigate the 
adverse effect on profitability. In addition, exemptions included in 
the 2012 sector rule are expected to mitigate adverse economic impacts. 
However, using sectors as the regulated entities, this 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 FYs 2012-2014 
that were initially proposed as part of this action. However, Framework 
47 no longer sets the GOM cod catch limits for FY 2012-2014, as 
explained in the preamble, and, therefore, the expected impacts of this 
action on regulated small entities are likely to be less.

Description of Steps the Agency Has Taken To Minimize the Economic 
Impact on Small Entities Consistent With the Stated Objectives of 
Applicable Statues

    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 action. Proposed 
actions and alternatives are described in detail in Framework 47, which 
includes an EA, RIR, and IRFA (available at ADDRESSES). The measures 
implemented by this final rule minimize the long-term economic impacts 
on small entities to the extent practicable. Reasonable alternatives 
are limited because of the legal requirements to implement effective 
conservation measures which necessarily may result in negative impacts 
that cannot be effectively mitigated. Moreover, the limited number of 
alternatives available for this action must be evaluated in the context 
of an ever-changing fishery management plan that has considered 
numerous alternatives over the years.
    Overall, this rule minimizes adverse long-term impacts by ensuring 
that management measures and catch limits result in sustainable fishing 
mortality rates promote stock rebuilding, and as a result, maximize 
yield. The measures implemented by this final rule also provide 
additional flexibility for fishing operations in the short-term. This 
final rule implements several measures that enable small entities to 
offset some portion of the estimated economic impacts. These measures 
include: extending the rebuilding period for GB yellowtail flounder; 
removing the Western GB and SNE Multispecies RGAs for common pool 
vessels; re-estimation of the GB yellowtail flounder sub-ACL for the 
scallop fishery; eliminating the cap on yellowtail flounder catch in 
the Nantucket, Closed Area I, and Closed Area II Sea Scallop Access 
Areas; and revising the scallop fishery AM trigger.
    Revisions to the status determination criteria for the three winter 
flounder stocks and GOM cod primarily affect setting the OFLs, ABCs, 
and ACLs for these stocks based on these criteria. Over the long-term, 
the revised status determination criteria limit the potential harvest 
from the fishery. The MSY values are higher for GB and SNE/MA winter 
flounder than the previous MSY values which would result in greater 
potential revenues over the long-term. This action also extends the 
rebuilding period for GB yellowtail flounder, which allows for greater 
yellowtail flounder catches and result in larger revenues for 
groundfish and scallop vessels than if the rebuilding program was not 
extended beyond 2016. Adopting the U.S./Canada TACs for FY 2012 would 
have short-term positive economic impacts if no U.S. TACs were 
specified. Reduced revenue due to decreases in Eastern GB cod and GB 
yellowtail flounder TACs could be mitigated if vessels are able to 
maximize Eastern GB haddock catch.
    Removing the Western GB Multispecies and SNE Multispecies RGAs for 
common pool vessels could increase revenues for common pool vessels 
compared to revenues if this action was not implemented. Removing these 
RGAs will likely increase common pool landings of some stocks, increase 
efficiency for common pool vessels, and may reduce costs for common 
pool vessels because vessel operators would

[[Page 26122]]

not be required to purchase selective gear to fish in these areas. The 
economic impacts of the AMs adopted in this action could be mitigated 
by using selective gear or fishing in other areas, and will be 
addressed in a future rulemaking implementing the AMs, if necessary. 
Given the relatively small size of the AM areas, additional trip costs 
for fishing in other areas are likely negligible.
    Eliminating the 10-percent yellowtail flounder access area caps for 
the scallop fishery will reduce the incentive for derby fishing, and 
will likely positively impact on the scallop fishery. In addition, 
revising the implementation of the scallop fishery AM is expected to 
mitigate economic impacts that may occur if the scallop fishery exceeds 
its yellowtail flounder allocation. This measure will prevent the loss 
of scallop landings, revenues, and increased fishing costs compared to 
impacts of this measure not being implemented. This measure will also 
prevent effort shifts to less optimal areas by scallop vessels, as well 
as effort shifts into seasons with lower meat weights for scallops. 
Inseason re-estimation of the scallop fishery GB yellowtail flounder 
sub-ACL will 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 will increase if groundfish vessels are able to 
catch additional GB yellowtail flounder.
    Modifying the definition of the Ruhle trawl will provide more 
flexibility for the groundfish fishery in the use of trawl gear that 
minimizes catch of stocks of concern. This measure will provide small 
vessels with increased fishing opportunities. The additional exempted 
gear option will provide vessels a choice of the most cost-effective 
means of targeting healthy stocks.

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

    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: April 26, 2012.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator For Regulatory Programs, National 
Marine Fisheries Service.

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

PART 648--FISHERIES OF THE NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES

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

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


0
2. In Sec.  648.14,
0
a. Remove and reserve paragraphs (i)(2)(vi)(B), (i)(2)(vi)(C), and 
(i)(3)(v)(C);
0
b. Remove paragraph (k)(7)(i)(C)(4);
0
c. Revise paragraph (k)(13)(ii)(B); and
0
d. Add paragraph (k)(20).
    The revision and addition 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)(5)(i)(D).
* * * * *

0
5. In Sec.  648.60, paragraphs (a)(5)(ii)(C)(1) and (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 (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.
* * * * *

0
6. In Sec.  648.64, paragraph (a) introductory text 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 
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

[[Page 26123]]

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'
------------------------------------------------------------------------

* * * * *
0
7. In Sec.  648.81:
0
a. Revise paragraphs (c)(2)(ii)(B), (f)(2)(iii)(B), and (n); and
0
b. Remove paragraph (o).
    The revsions 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 (n)(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'
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.

0
8. In Sec.  648.82:
0
a. Revise paragraphs (n)(2)(i)(A), (n)(2)(ii) introductory text, and 
(n)(2)(ii)(L) through (N); and
0
b. Remove paragraphs (n)(2)(ii)(O) and (n)(2)(ii)(P).
    The revisions read as follows:


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)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
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

[[Page 26124]]

 
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 (N) 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:

                       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:

                       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.

* * * * *

0
9. In Sec.  648.85:
0
a. Revise paragraphs (b)(5) and (b)(6)(iv)(J)(3)(i) through (v); and
0
b. Remove paragraphs (b)(6)(iv)(J)(3)(vi) and (c)(1) through (3).
    The revisions 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

[[Page 26125]]

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 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.
* * * * *

0
10. 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).
* * * * *

0
11. 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.
* * * * *

0
12. 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;
* * * * *

0
13. 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

[[Page 26126]]

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 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 up to 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(s) for 
the stock shall be implemented, as specified in paragraph (a)(5)(i)(D) 
of this section. The AM areas defined below are bounded by the 
following coordinates, connected in the order listed by rhumb lines, 
unless otherwise noted. 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 Area
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             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'
NWS1...........................  41[deg]10'           67[deg]40'
------------------------------------------------------------------------


        Northern Windowpane Flounder and Ocean Pout Large AM Area
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             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'
NWL1...........................  42[deg]10'           67[deg]40'
------------------------------------------------------------------------


        Southern Windowpane Flounder and Ocean Pout Small AM Area
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             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...........................  40[deg]50'           71[deg]30'
SWS1...........................  41[deg]10'           71[deg]30'
------------------------------------------------------------------------


       Southern Windowpane Flounder and Ocean Pout Large AM Area 1
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             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'
SWL1...........................  41[deg]10'           71[deg]50'
------------------------------------------------------------------------


       Southern Windowpane Flounder and Ocean Pout Large AM Area 2
------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Point                   N. latitude         W. longitude
------------------------------------------------------------------------
SWL7...........................  (\1\)                73[deg]30'
SWL8...........................  40[deg]30'           73[deg]30'
SWL9...........................  40[deg]30'           73[deg]50'
SWL10..........................  40[deg]20'           73[deg]50'
SWL11..........................  40[deg]20'           (\2\)
SWL12..........................  (\3\)                73[deg]58.5'
SWL13..........................  (\4\)                73[deg]58.5'
SWL14..........................  40[deg]32.6' (\5\)   73[deg]56.4' (\5\)
SWL7...........................  (\1\)                73[deg]30'
------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ The southern-most coastline of Long Island, NY at 73[deg]30' W.
  longitude.
\2\ The eastern-most coastline of NJ at 40[deg]20' N. latitude, then
  northward along the NJ coastline to point SWL12.
\3\ The northern-most coastline of NJ at 73[deg]58.5' W. longitude.
\4\ The southern-most coastline of Long Island, NY at 73[deg]58.5' W.
  longitude.
\5\ The approximate location of the southwest corner of the Rockaway
  Peninsula, Queens, NY, then eastward along the southern-most coastline
  of Long Island, NY (excluding South Oyster Bay), back to point SWL7.

    (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 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.
* * * * *

[[Page 26127]]

    (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.
* * * * *

0
14. In part 648, revise Figure 1 to read as follows:
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P

[[Page 26128]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR02MY12.001

[FR Doc. 2012-10526 Filed 5-1-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-C