[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 100 (Wednesday, May 23, 2012)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 30427-30432]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-12422]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 120321208-2076-02]
RIN 0648-BC07


Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Recreational 
Management Measures for the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass 
Fisheries; Fishing Year 2012

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: NMFS implements management measures for the 2012 summer 
flounder, scup, and black sea bass recreational fisheries in Federal 
waters. These actions are necessary to comply with regulations 
implementing the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery 
Management Plan (FMP) and to ensure compliance with the Magnuson-
Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). 
Recreational management measures are intended to prevent overfishing 
the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass resources in 2012.

DATES: Effective May 18, 2012.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the Supplemental Environmental Assessment (SEA) 
for the 2012 recreational management measures document, including the 
Supplemental Environmental Assessment, Regulatory Impact Review, and 
Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (SEA/RIR/IRFA) and other 
supporting documents for the recreational management measures are 
available from Dr. Christopher M. Moore, Executive Director, Mid-
Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Suite 201, 800 North State Street, 
Dover, DE 19901. These documents are also accessible via the Internet 
at http://www.nero.noaa.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Moira Kelly, Fishery Policy Analyst, 
(978) 281-9218.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

General Background

    The summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries are managed 
cooperatively by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission 
(Commission) and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council), 
in consultation with the New England and South Atlantic Fishery 
Management Councils. The FMP and its implementing regulations, which 
are found at 50 CFR part 648, subparts A (general provisions), G 
(summer flounder), H (scup), and I (black sea bass), describe the 
process for specifying annual recreational management measures that 
apply in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The states from North 
Carolina to Maine manage these fisheries within 3 nautical miles of 
their coasts, under the Commission's plan for summer flounder, scup, 
and black sea bass. The Federal regulations govern fishing activity in 
the EEZ, as well as vessels possessing Federal permits for summer 
flounder, scup, and/or black sea bass, regardless of where they fish.
    A proposed rule to implement the 2012 Federal recreational measures 
for the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass recreational 
fisheries was published on April 30, 2012 (77 FR 25394). Additional 
background and information is provided in the preamble to the proposed 
rule and is not repeated here.

2012 Recreational Management Measures

    The 2012 coastwide recreational harvest limits were previously 
established by a final rule published on April 23, 2012 (77 FR 24151). 
The 2012 recreational harvest limits are as follows: Summer flounder, 
8.76 million lb (3,973 mt); scup, 8.45 million lb (3,833 mt); and black 
sea bass, 1.32 million lb (599 mt). Recreational harvest limits are the 
target objectives or ``quotas'' established for the summer flounder, 
scup, and black sea bass recreational fisheries. The management 
measures (i.e., minimum fish size requirements, angler possession 
limits, and fishing seasons) established by this rule are all designed 
to ensure that recreational landings do not exceed the recreational 
harvest limits.
    This final rule implements management measures that apply in the 
Federal waters of the EEZ and to all federally permitted party/charter 
vessels with applicable summer flounder, scup, and/or black sea bass 
permits, regardless of where they fish during the 2012 fishing year. 
The management measures established by this rule are as follows: For 
summer flounder, use of state-by-state conservation equivalency 
measures, which is the status quo management system; for scup, a 10.5-
inch (26.67-cm) minimum fish size, a 20-fish per person possession 
limit, and a year-round season; and, for black sea bass, a 12.5-in 
(31.75-cm) minimum fish size, a 25-fish per person possession limit and 
fishing seasons from May 19-October 14 and November 1-December 31, as 
well as an open season of January 1 through the end of February that 
would have a 12.5-in (31.75 cm) minimum fish size and a 15-fish per 
person possession limit. More detail on these measures is provided in 
the following sections:
    Federal permit holders are reminded that, as a condition of their 
Federal permit, they must abide by the Federal measures, even if 
fishing in state waters. In addition, in instances where the state-
implemented measures are different than the Federal measures, federally 
permitted vessels must adhere to the more restrictive of the two 
measures. This will be applicable for both the 2012 scup and black sea 
bass recreational fisheries.
    All minimum fish sizes discussed below are total length 
measurements of the fish, i.e., the straight-line distance from the tip 
of the snout to the end of the tail while the fish is lying on its 
side. For black sea bass, total length measurement does not include the 
caudal fin tendril. All possession limits discussed below are per 
person.

Summer Flounder Recreational Management Measures

    This final rule implements conservation equivalency as the 
management approach for the 2012 summer flounder recreational fishery. 
NMFS implemented Framework Adjustment 2 to the FMP on July 29, 2001 (66 
FR 36208), to permit the use of conservation equivalency to manage the 
recreational summer flounder fishery. Conservation equivalency allows 
each state to establish its own recreational management measures to 
achieve its state harvest limit partitioned from the coastwide 
recreational harvest limit by the Commission. The combined effect of 
all of the states' management measures achieves the same level of 
conservation as would Federal coastwide measures, hence the term 
conservation equivalency. This means that minimum fish sizes, 
possession limits, and fishing seasons developed and adopted by the 
individual states from Massachusetts to

[[Page 30428]]

North Carolina will be utilized as the Federal waters measures for 
2012.
    The Commission notified the NMFS Northeast Regional Administrator 
by letter dated May 4, 2012, that the 2012 summer flounder recreational 
fishery management programs (i.e., minimum fish size, possession limit, 
and fishing seasons) implemented by the states from Massachusetts to 
North Carolina have been reviewed by the Commission's Technical 
Committee and approved by the Commission's Summer Flounder Management 
Board (SF Board). The correspondence indicates that the Commission-
approved management programs are projected to restrict 2012 
recreational summer flounder coastwide landings consistent with the 
state-specific requirements established by the Technical Committee and 
SF Board through the Commission process.
    Based on the recommendation of the Commission, the NMFS Northeast 
Regional Administrator finds that the recreational summer flounder 
fishing measures proposed to be implemented by the individual states 
for 2012 are the conservation equivalent of the season, minimum size, 
and possession limit prescribed in Sec. Sec.  648.102, 648.103, and 
648.105(a), respectively. According to Sec.  648.107(a)(1), vessels 
subject to the recreational fishing measures of this part and landing 
summer flounder in a state with an approved conservation equivalency 
program shall not be subject to Federal measures, and shall instead be 
subject to the recreational fishing measures implemented by the state 
in which they land. Section 648.107(a) has been amended to recognize 
state-implemented measures as conservation equivalent of the coastwide 
recreational management measures for 2012. For clarity, the 2012 summer 
flounder management measures adopted by the individual states vary 
according to the state of landing, as specified in Table 1.

  Table 1--2012 Commission Approved State-by-State Conservation Equivalent Recreational Management Measures for
                                                 Summer Flounder
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                 Minimum size
             State                 (inches)           Possession limit                    Open season
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Massachusetts.................            16.5  5 fish......................  May 22-September 30.
Rhode Island..................            18.5  8 fish......................  May 1-December 31.
Connecticut *.................              18  5 fish......................  May 15-October 31.
New York......................            19.5  4 fish......................  May 1-September 30.
New Jersey....................            17.5  5 fish......................  May 5-September 28.
Delaware......................              18  4 fish......................  January 1-October 23.
Maryland......................              17  3 fish......................  April 14-December 16.
PRFC..........................            16.5  4 fish......................  All year.
Virginia......................            16.5  4 fish......................  All year.
North Carolina................              15  6 fish......................  All year.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note: At 44 designated shore sites in CT, anglers may keep 5 fish at 16.0 inches (40.64 cm), May 1-September 30.

Scup Recreational Management Measures

    NMFS is implementing the management measures as proposed in the 
April 30, 2012, proposed rule. These measures are a 10.5-in (26.67-cm) 
minimum fish size, a 20-fish per person possession limit, and year-
round open season (i.e., January 1-December 31).
    These measures, in conjunction with the regional approach being 
applied to state waters through the Commission, are expected to 
constrain landings to the 8.45-million-lb (3,833-mt) recreational 
harvest limit.
    NMFS acknowledges that the Commission will continue managing the 
recreational scup fishery through a Commission-based conservation 
equivalency program that has no comparable measures in the Federal FMP. 
Thus, recreational management measures will differ between state and 
Federal waters in 2012. Historically, very little of the scup 
recreational harvest comes from Federal waters.

Black Sea Bass Recreational Management Measures

    NMFS is implementing the following measures for Federal waters 
during the 2012 fishery: A 12.5-in (31.75-cm) minimum fish size and a 
15-fish per person possession limit from January 1 through the end of 
February; and a 12.5-in (31.75-cm) minimum fish size and a 25-fish per 
person possession limit from May 19-October 14 and from November 1-
December 31. Measures for state waters will vary by state. Because the 
Commission-based measures implemented by the states are different than 
the Federal water measures, Federal permit holders are required to 
adhere to the more restrictive set of measures irrespective of whether 
the vessel is fishing in state or Federal waters. Similarly, private 
anglers must adhere to the recreational measures implemented by the 
state in which the fish will be landed as all the state-implemented 
measures place restrictions on possession as opposed to landings.
    For additional information on state-implemented management 
measures, please contact the marine fisheries management agency for the 
state in question or the Commission (www.asmfc.org; (703) 842-0740).

Comments and Responses

    NMFS received three comments regarding the proposed recreational 
management measures. All three comments discussed the proposed opening 
of the recreational black sea bass fishery. Two of the comments 
requested that NMFS not delay implementing the final rule so that the 
black sea bass fishery would open on May 19, 2012. One comment 
requested that NMFS not make the rule effective until after that date. 
Detailed responses are addressed below.
    Comment: The State of Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife 
commented that they did not want NMFS to publish the final rule in time 
to make the Council's recommended May 19, 2012, start date for the 
recreational black sea bass fishery. Delaware's rulemaking process 
would not allow them to open state waters on May 19, 2012, which could 
put federally permitted charter/party vessels home-ported in Delaware 
at a disadvantage because they could not land their catch in the state 
until the season is opened in its waters. Delaware claims that this is 
a violation of National Standard 4 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.
    Response: NMFS disagrees that implementing the Council's 
recommended measure for the start of the black sea bass fishery is a 
violation of National Standard 4. Reopening a fishing season is not an 
allocation or assignment of fishing privileges

[[Page 30429]]

contemplated by National Standard 4, and does not discriminate between 
residents of different states. Currently, the Federal regulations 
prescribe that the black sea bass season starts on May 22. Delaying 
implementation of this action to satisfy Delaware's request would have 
negative economic impacts for charter and party boat owners that are 
home-ported in other states that open the recreational fishing season 
on May 19. These vessels would be prevented from fishing on their 
traditional fishing grounds in Federal waters on a weekend (May 19-20) 
during which a significant amount of recreational fishing is expected 
to occur. The fact that a uniform coastwide reopening of the black sea 
bass season in Federal waters has a differing effect among the states 
is a function of the varied processes these states follow to establish 
a fishing season. It is not a discriminatory, unfair, or inequitable 
result imposed by the Federal regulation opening the recreational black 
sea bass fishery in Federal waters.
    Comment: The Recreational Fishing Alliance commented that it 
supported all of the proposed measures for summer flounder, scup, and 
black sea bass. The comment expressed concern regarding the opening of 
the black sea bass fishery and stressed the importance of the 
additional fishing opportunity that having the rule effective before 
May 19, 2012, would provide to recreational fishermen.
    Response: NMFS agrees that the additional weekend is important for 
recreational fishermen to take advantage of the increased fishing 
opportunity recommended by the Council. NMFS has made this rule 
effective as soon as possible after the close of the proposed rule 
comment period in an effort to have the fishery open on May 19, 2012.
    Comment: One commenter said that he hoped that there would not be a 
delay in opening the black sea bass fishery beyond May 19. The 
commenter suggested that if the opening was delayed beyond the 
Council's recommended start date that NMFS add additional time on to 
the end of the season.
    Response: As noted above, NMFS has made this rule effective as soon 
as possible after the close of the proposed rule comment period in an 
effort to have the fishery open on May 19, 2012. If the opening is 
delayed, however, the Council's recommended black sea bass season, as 
implemented through this rule, already extends the season in October an 
additional weekend beyond the status quo, and it would not be 
appropriate from NMFS to add 3 additional days beyond that.

Classification

    The Regional Administrator, Northeast Region, NMFS, determined that 
this final rule implementing the 2012 summer flounder, scup, and black 
sea bass recreational management measures is necessary for the 
conservation and management of the summer flounder, scup, and black sea 
bass fisheries, and is consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and 
other applicable laws.
    This final rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.

Administrative Procedure Act

    The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, finds good cause 
to waive the requirement for a 30-day delay in effectiveness under the 
provisions of section 553(d) of the Administrative Procedure Act 
because a delay in its effectiveness would not serve any legitimate 
purpose while unfairly prejudicing federally permitted charter/party 
vessels. This action will open the recreational black sea bass fishery 
3 days earlier than currently scheduled, allowing charter/party vessel 
operators to book trips starting on Saturday, May 19. Because some 
states' black sea bass fisheries are already open or will open on May 
19, 2012, federally permitted charter/party vessels would be prohibited 
from fishing, even in state waters, until the Federal regulations are 
effective. This would unnecessarily disadvantage the federally 
permitted vessels, which would be prohibited from fishing at a time 
when state-licensed vessels could be engaged in fishing activities.
    In addition, this rule increases the possession limit for scup and 
extends fishing opportunities for fishermen that would otherwise be 
constrained under the current seasons. If this final rule is delayed 
for 30 days, the fishery would likely forego some amount of landings 
and revenues during the delay period. While some of these restrictions 
would be alleviated after this rule becomes effective, fishermen may be 
not able to recoup the lost economic opportunity of foregone trips that 
would result from delaying the effectiveness of this action. Delaying 
the opening of the scup and black sea bass seasons would complicate 
business plans currently being developed by charter/party operations, 
and prohibit them from effectively advertising and booking trips for 
the upcoming fishing season.
    Finally, requiring a 30-day delay before the final rule becomes 
effective does not provide any benefit to the regulated parties. Unlike 
actions that require an adjustment period to comply with new rules, 
charter/party operators will not have to purchase new equipment or 
otherwise expend time or money to comply with these management 
measures. Rather, complying with this final rule simply means adhering 
to the published management measures for each relevant species of fish 
while the charter/party operators are engaged in fishing activities.
    For these reasons, the Assistant Administrator finds good cause to 
waive the 30-day delay and to implement this rule upon filing with the 
Office of the Federal Register.

Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

    Included in this final rule is the FRFA prepared pursuant to 5 
U.S.C. 604(a). The FRFA incorporates the economic impacts described in 
the IRFA, a summary of the significant issues raised by the public 
comments in response to the IRFA, NMFS's responses to those comments, 
and a summary of the analyses completed to support the action. Copies 
of the EA/RIR/IRFA and SEA are available from the Council and NMFS (see 
ADDRESSES).

Statement of Objective and Need

    A description of the reasons why the 2012 recreational management 
measures for summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass are being 
implemented, and the objectives of and legal basis for this final rule 
implementing both actions are explained in the preambles to the 
proposed rule and this final rule, and are not repeated here.

A Summary of the Significant Issues Raised by the Public Comments in 
Response to the IRFA, a Summary of the Assessment of the Agency of Such 
Issues, and a Statement of Any Changes Made in the Proposed Rule as a 
Result of Such Comments

    Three comments were received on the proposed rule. However, none of 
the comments addressed the IRFA or economic analysis and did not result 
in any changes to the rule.

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

    The recreational management measures could affect any of the 982 
vessels possessing a Federal charter/party permit for summer flounder, 
scup, and/or black sea bass in 2010, the most recent year for which 
complete data are available. However, only 414 vessels reported active 
participation in the 2010 recreational summer flounder, scup, and/or 
black sea bass fisheries, based on

[[Page 30430]]

Vessel Trip Reports where the amount of kept summer flounder, scup, or 
black sea bass is greater than zero on a reported charter/party trip. 
The Small Business Administration (SBA) considers commercial fishing 
entities (NAICS code 114111) to be small entities if they have no more 
than $4 million in annual sales, while the size standard for charter/
party operators (part of NAICS code 487210) is $7 million in sales. 
Because any vessel at any time may be issued an open access charter/
party summer flounder, scup, and/or black sea bass permit, it is 
difficult to determine how many vessels or owners will participate in 
this fishery in a given year. Although some firms own more than one 
vessel, available data make it difficult to reliably identify ownership 
control over more than one vessel. Thus, all of the entities (fishing 
vessels) affected by this action are considered small entities under 
the SBA size standards for charter/party fishing businesses ($7.0 
million in annual gross sales). Therefore, there are no 
disproportionate effects on small versus large entities.

Description of Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other Compliance 
Requirements

    No additional reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance 
requirements are included in this final rule.

Description of the Steps Taken To Minimize Economic Impact on Small 
Entities

    In seeking to minimize the impact of recreational management 
measures (minimum fish size, possession limit, and fishing season) on 
small entities (i.e., Federal party/charter permit holders), NMFS is 
constrained to implementing measures that meet the conservation 
objectives of the FMP and Magnuson-Stevens Act. Management measures 
must provide sufficient constraints on recreational landings, such that 
the established recreational harvest limits have a low likelihood of 
being exceeded, which might lead to overfishing the stock. This rule 
maintains the status quo recreational management measures for summer 
flounder and implements less restrictive management measures for scup 
and black sea bass in Federal waters.
    Summer flounder alternatives. The alternatives examined by the 
Council and forwarded for consideration by NMFS consisted of the non-
preferred alternative of coastwide measures (an 18.5-inch (46.99-cm) 
minimum fish size, a 2-fish per person possession limit, and open 
season from May 1 through September 30), and the preferred alternative 
of state-by-state conservation equivalency (see Table 2 for measures) 
with a precautionary default backstop (status quo). These were 
alternatives 1 and 2, respectively, in the Council's SEA/RIR/IRFA. 
These two alternatives were determined by the Council to provide a high 
probability of constraining recreational landings to levels at or below 
the 2012 recreational harvest limit. Therefore, either alternative 
recreational management system could be considered for implementation 
by NMFS, as the critical metric of satisfying the regulatory and 
statutory requirements would likely be met by either.
    Next, NMFS considered the recommendation of both the Council and 
Commission. Both groups recommended implementation of state-by-state 
conservation equivalency, with a precautionary default backstop. The 
recommendations of both groups were not unanimous: Some Council and 
Commission members objected to the use of conservation equivalency, 
stating a preference for coastwide measures.
    For NMFS to disapprove the Council's recommendation for 
conservation equivalency and substitute coastwide management measures, 
NMFS must reasonably demonstrate that the recommended measures are 
either inconsistent with applicable law or that the conservation 
objectives of the FMP will not be achieved by implementing conservation 
equivalency. NMFS does not find the Council and Commission's 
recommendation to be inconsistent with the implementing regulations of 
the FMP at Sec.  648.100 or the Magnuson-Stevens Act, including the 10 
National Standards.
    The additional metric for consideration by NMFS, applicable to the 
FRFA, is examination of the economic impacts of the alternatives on 
small entities consistent with the stated objectives of applicable 
statutes. As previously stated, both coastwide measures (alternative 1) 
and conservation equivalency (alternative 2) are projected to achieve 
the conservation objectives for the 2012 summer flounder recreational 
fishery. However, the economic impacts of the two alternatives are not 
projected to be equal in the Council's analyses: The economic impacts 
on small entities under the coastwide measures management system would 
vary in comparison to the conservation equivalency system, dependent on 
the specific state wherein the small entities operate.
    Quantitative analyses of the economic impacts associated with 
conservation equivalency measures are not available. This is because 
the development of the individual state measures occurs concurrent to 
the NMFS rulemaking process to ensure timely implementation of final 
measures for the 2012 recreational fishery; thus, the specific measures 
implemented by states are not available for economic impact analyses. 
Instead, qualitative methods were utilized by the Council to assess the 
relative impact of conservation equivalency (alternative 2) to 
coastwide measures (alternative 1). The Council analysis concluded, and 
NMFS agrees, that conservation equivalency is expected to minimize 
impacts on small entities because individual states can develop 
specific summer flounder management measures that allow the fishery to 
operate during each state's critical fishing periods while still 
achieving conservation goals.
    NMFS is implementing the Council and Commission's recommended 
state-by-state conservation equivalency measures because: (1) NMFS 
finds no compelling reason to disapprove the Council and Commission's 
recommended 2012 management system, as the management measures 
contained in conservation equivalency are projected to provide the 
necessary restriction on recreational landings to prevent the 
recreational harvest limit from being exceeded; and (2) the net 
economic impact to small entities on a coastwide basis are expected to 
be mitigated, to the extent practicable, for a much larger percentage 
of small entities.
    Scup alternatives. NMFS is implementing the Council's preferred 
measures as the Federal water measures for the 2012 fishing year: A 
10.5-inch (26.67-cm) minimum fish size; a 20-fish per person possession 
limit; and year-round open season. Similar to the summer flounder 
discussion, this suite of scup measures (alternative 2) provides the 
greatest economic opportunity for small entities from the alternatives 
available by providing the maximum fishing opportunity in Federal 
waters that also meets the requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, 
the FMP, and achieves the conservation objectives for 2012. Alternative 
1 for a 10.5-inch (26.67-cm) minimum fish size, 10-fish per person 
possession limit, and open seasons of June 6-September 26 contained 
measures that had higher impacts on small entities fishing in Federal 
waters, as it contains more restrictive measures than would be 
necessary to satisfy the management objectives.
    Black sea bass alternatives. As previously stated in the preamble,

[[Page 30431]]

individual states have developed and implemented measures for use in 
state waters. This rule implements the Council's preferred measures 
(Alternative 2 in the Council's SEA/RIR/IRFA): A 12.5-inch (31.75-cm) 
minimum fish size and a 25-fish possession limit for the May 19-October 
14 and November 1-December 31 fishing seasons; and a 12.5-in (31.75-cm) 
minimum fish size and a 15-fish possession limit for January 1 through 
the end of February for Federal waters. This alternative provides the 
greatest associated economic opportunities to small entities of the 
measures considered for Federal waters that also meets the statutory 
and regulatory requirements for the 2012 fishery. Alternative 1 (a 
13.0-inch (33.02-cm) minimum fish size, a 25-fish per person possession 
limit, and open season of May 22 through October 11 and November 1 
through December 31), would result in higher impacts on small entities 
fishing in Federal waters, as it contains more restrictive measures 
than would be necessary to satisfy the management objectives.

Small Entity Compliance Guide

    Section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness 
Act of 1996 states that, for each rule or group of related rules for 
which an agency is required to prepare a FRFA, the agency shall publish 
one or more guides to assist small entities in complying with the rule, 
and shall designate such publications as ``small entity compliance 
guides.'' The agency shall explain the actions a small entity is 
required to take to comply with a rule or group of rules. As part of 
this rulemaking process, a letter to permit holders that also serves as 
the small entity compliance guide was prepared and will be sent to all 
holders of Federal party/charter permits issued for the summer 
flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries. In addition, copies of 
this final rule and the small entity compliance guide are available 
from NMFS (see ADDRESSES) and at the following Web site: http://www.nero.noaa.gov.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648

    Fisheries, Fishing, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    Dated: May 17, 2012.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons set out 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.  648.107, introductory paragraph (a) and paragraph (b) are 
revised to read as follows:


Sec.  648.107  Conservation equivalent measures for the summer flounder 
party/charter and recreational fishery.

    (a) The Regional Administrator has determined that the recreational 
fishing measures proposed to be implemented by Massachusetts through 
North Carolina for 2012 are the conservation equivalent of the minimum 
fish size, season, and possession limit prescribed in Sec. Sec.  
648.104(b), 648.105, and 648.106(a), respectively. This determination 
is based on a recommendation from the Summer Flounder Board of the 
Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
* * * * *
    (b) Federally permitted vessels subject to the recreational fishing 
measures of this part, and other recreational fishing vessels subject 
to the recreational fishing measures of this part and registered in 
states whose fishery management measures are not determined by the 
Regional Administrator to be the conservation equivalent of the minimum 
size, season, and possession limit prescribed in Sec. Sec.  648.104(b), 
648.105, and 648.106(a), respectively, due to the lack of, or the 
reversal of, a conservation equivalent recommendation from the Summer 
Flounder Board of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, 
shall be subject to the following precautionary default measures: 
Season--May 1 through September 30; minimum size--20.0 inches (50.80 
cm); and possession limit--two fish.
0
3. Section 648.127 is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  648.127  Scup recreational fishing season.

    Fishermen and vessels that are not eligible for a moratorium permit 
under Sec.  648.4(a)(6) may possess scup year-round, subject to the 
possession limit specified in Sec.  648.128(a). The recreational 
fishing season may be adjusted pursuant to the procedures in Sec.  
648.122.
0
4. In Sec.  648.128, paragraph (a) is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  648.128  Scup possession restrictions.

    (a) Party/Charter and recreational possession limits. No person 
shall possess more than 20 scup in, or harvested from, the EEZ unless 
that person is the owner or operator of a fishing vessel issued a scup 
moratorium permit, or is issued a scup dealer permit. Persons aboard a 
commercial vessel that is not eligible for a scup moratorium permit are 
subject to this possession limit. The owner, operator, and crew of a 
charter or party boat issued a scup moratorium permit are subject to 
the possession limit when carrying passengers for hire or when carrying 
more than five crew members for a party boat, or more than three crew 
members for a charter boat. This possession limit may be adjusted 
pursuant to the procedures in Sec.  648.122.
* * * * *
0
5. In Sec.  648.145, paragraph (a) is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  648.145  Black sea bass possession limit.

    (a) From January 1 through February 28, no person shall possess 
more than 15 black sea bass in, or harvested from, the EEZ unless that 
person is the owner or operator of a fishing vessel issued a black sea 
bass moratorium permit, or is issued a black sea bass dealer permit. 
From May 19 through October 14, and from November 1 through December 
31, no person shall possess more than 25 black sea bass in, or 
harvested from, the EEZ unless that person is the owner or operator of 
a fishing vessel issued a black sea bass moratorium permit, or is 
issued a black sea bass dealer permit. Persons aboard a commercial 
vessel that is not eligible for a black sea bass moratorium permit may 
not retain more than 15 black sea bass from January 1 through February 
29, or more than 25 black sea bass from May 19 through October 14 and 
from November 1 through December 31. The owner, operator, and crew of a 
charter or party boat issued a black sea bass moratorium permit are 
subject to the possession limit when carrying passengers for hire or 
when carrying more than five crew members for a party boat, or more 
than three crew members for a charter boat. This possession limit may 
be adjusted pursuant to the procedures in Sec.  648.142.
* * * * *
0
6. Section 648.146 is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  648.146  Black sea bass recreational fishing season.

    Vessels that are not eligible for a moratorium permit under Sec.  
648.4(a)(7), and fishermen subject to the possession limit specified in 
Sec.  648.145(a), may possess black sea bass from January 1 through 
February 28, May 19 through October 14, and November 1 through December 
31, unless this time period is

[[Page 30432]]

adjusted pursuant to the procedures in Sec.  648.142.

[FR Doc. 2012-12422 Filed 5-18-12; 11:15 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P