[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 122 (Monday, June 25, 2012)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 37816-37822]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-15448]



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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 120109034-2153-02]
RIN 0648-BB62


Revisions to Framework Adjustment 47 to the Northeast 
Multispecies Fishery Management Plan and Sector Annual Catch 
Entitlements; Updated Annual Catch Limits for Sectors and the Common 
Pool for Fishing Year 2012

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

ACTION: Temporary final rule; adjustment to specifications.

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SUMMARY: Based on the final Northeast multispecies sector rosters 
submitted as of May 1, 2012, NMFS is adjusting the fishing year 2012 
specification of annual catch limits for commercial groundfish vessels 
as well as sector annual catch entitlements for groundfish stocks. This 
revision to fishing year 2012 catch levels is necessary to account for 
changes in the number of participants electing to fish in either 
sectors or the common pool fishery.

DATES: Effective June 22, 2012, through April 30, 2013.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: William Whitmore, Fishery Policy 
Analyst, (978) 281-9182.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The New England Fishery Management Council 
(the Council) developed Amendment 16 to the Northeast (NE) Multispecies 
Fishery Management Plan (FMP) to establish a process for setting 
groundfish annual catch limits (also referred to as ACLs or catch 
limits) and accountability measures. The Council has a biennial review 
process to develop catch limits and revise management measures. 
Framework Adjustment (FW) 47 set annual catch limits for nine 
groundfish stocks and three jointly managed U.S./Canada stocks for FY 
2012-2014. We recently approved FW 47, which became effective on May 1, 
2012 (77 FR 26104).
    While the Council was working on FW 47, a new benchmark stock 
assessment for Gulf of Maine (GOM) cod was finalized in January 2012. 
The perception of the stock biomass changed dramatically as a result of 
this assessment. The Council initially intended to include catch limit 
alternatives based on these updated results in FW 47. However, after 
the results were finalized, the Council elected not to recommend final 
measures for GOM cod and requested that NMFS, acting on behalf of the 
Secretary of Commerce, use the interim rulemaking authority provided at 
section 305(c) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act to implement measures 
designed to reduce, but not end, overfishing in fishing year (FY) 2012. 
We published an emergency action for GOM cod on May 1, 2012 (77 FR 
25623), consistent with the Council's request. The common pool and 
sector GOM cod catch limits are based on this emergency action.
    Along with FW 47 and the emergency GOM cod rule, we recently 
approved FY 2012 sector operations plans and allocations (77 FR 26129, 
May 2, 2012) (the``sector rule''). A sector receives an allocation of 
each stock, or annual catch entitlement (referred to as ACE, or 
allocation), based on its members' catch histories. State-operated 
permit banks also receive an allocation that can be transferred to 
qualifying sector vessels (for more information, see Amendment 17, 77 
FR 16942, March 23, 2012). The sum of all sector and state-operated 
permit bank allocations is referred to as the sector sub-ACL in the 
management plan. Whatever groundfish allocation remains after sectors 
and state-operated permit banks receive their allocations is then 
provided to vessels not enrolled in a sector (referred to as the common 
pool). This allocation is also referred to as the common pool sub-ACL.
    Changes in sector membership require ACL and ACE adjustments. This 
rule adjusts the FY 2012 sector and common pool allocations based on 
final sector membership as of May 1, 2012. Permitted vessels that wish 
to fish in a sector must enroll by December 1 of each year, with the 
fishing year beginning the following May 1 and lasting until April 30 
of the next year. However, due to concern over the reduced GOM cod 
allocation (see the emergency action cited above), we provided 
additional flexibility to NE multispecies permitted vessels by allowing 
vessels to enroll in a sector for fishing year 2012 up through April 
30, 2012. In addition, vessels had until April 30 (the day before the 
beginning of the fishing year) to drop out of a sector and fish in the 
common pool. If the sector allocation increases as a result of sector 
membership changes, the common pool allocation decreases--the opposite 
is true as well. Because sector membership has changed since the 
December 1, 2011, date used in the FW 47 and sector proposed and final 
rules, we need to update the allocations to all sectors and to the 
common pool.
    The final number of permits enrolled in a sector or state-operated 
permit bank for FY 2012 is 850 (an increase of 5 permits since the 
December 1, 2011, roster submission). All sector allocations assume 
that each NE multispecies vessel enrolled in a sector has a valid 
permit for FY 2012. Tables 1, 2, and 3 (below) explain the revised FY 
2012 allocations as a percentage and absolute amount (in metric tons 
and pounds).
    Table 4 compares the preliminary FY 2012 allocations published in 
the FW 47 final rule, with the revised allocations based on the final 
sector and state-operated permit bank rosters as of May 1, 2012. The 
table shows that changes in sector allocations due to updated rosters 
range from a decrease of 0.14 percent of GOM winter flounder, to an 
increase of 2.53 percent of Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic (SNE/MA) 
yellowtail flounder. Common pool allocation adjustments range between a 
43.18-percent decrease in Georges Bank (GB) haddock, to a 4.17-percent 
increase in GOM winter flounder. The changes in the common-pool 
allocations are greater because the common-pool has a significantly 
lower allocation for all stocks, so even small changes appear large 
when viewed as a percentage increase or decrease.
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    It is important to point out that this is only a temporary final 
rule. After we finish reconciling differences in catch accounting 
between our data and each sector manager's data, each sector will have 
2 weeks to trade FY 2011 ACE to account for any overharvesting during 
that period. After that 2-week trading window, a sector that still has 
exceeded its FY 2011 allocation will have its FY 2012 allocation 
reduced. Because data reconciliation and the 2-week trading window take 
place after the new fishing year has begun, we reserve 20 percent of 
each sector's FY 2012 allocation until FY 2011 catch data are 
reconciled. This reserve is held to ensure that each sector has 
sufficient ACE to balance any overages from the previous fishing year. 
Sectors are also able to carry over up to 10 percent of their initial 
allocation of most stocks to the next fishing year. We will publish a 
final follow-up rule detailing any carryover of FY 2011 sector 
allocation or reduction in FY 2012 allocation resulting from sectors 
under or overharvesting their allocations.
    FW 47 also specifies incidental catch limits (or incidental total 
allowable catches, ``TACs'') applicable to the NE multispecies Special 
Management Programs for FY 2012-2014. Special Management Programs are 
designed to allow fishing for healthy stocks that can support 
additional fishing effort without undermining the other goals of the 
management plan. Incidental catch limits are specified to limit catch 
of certain stocks of concern for common pool vessels fishing in the 
Special Management Programs. Because these incidental catch limits are 
based on the changed common pool allocation, they also must be revised 
(Tables 5 and 6).

                            Table 5--Incidental Catch TACs by Stock for FY 2012 (mt)
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                                                                           Final rule 2012       Revised 2012
                       Stock                         Percentage of Sub-   incidental catch     incidental catch
                                                             ACL                 TAC                 TAC
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GB cod.............................................                   2                 1.6                 1.6
GOM cod............................................                   1                0.81                 0.8
GB yellowtail flounder.............................                   2                 0.1                 0.05
CC/GOM yellowtail flounder.........................                   1                 0.3                 0.3
SNE/MA yellowtail flounder.........................                   1                 1.7                 1.5
American plaice....................................                   5                 2.9                 2.7
Witch flounder.....................................                   5                 1.4                 1.1
GB winter flounder.................................                   1                 0.4                 0.4
SNE/MA winter flounder.............................                   2                 3.0                 3.0
White hake.........................................                   2                 0.9                 0.5
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                                Table 6--Incidental Catch TACs for Special Management Programs by Stock for FY 2012 (mt)
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                                                               Regular B DAS program          Closed Area I hook gear       Eastern U.S./Canada haddock
                                                         --------------------------------           haddock SAP                         SAP
                          Stock                                                          ---------------------------------------------------------------
                                                            Final rule     Revised 2012     Final rule                      Final rule
                                                               2012                            2012        Revised 2012        2012        Revised 2012
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GB cod..................................................            0.8            0.8               0.3             0.3            0.5            0.6
GOM cod.................................................            0.81           0.8    ..............  ..............  ..............  ..............
GB yellowtail flounder..................................            0.03           0.025  ..............  ..............            0.03           0.025
CC/GOM yellowtail flounder..............................            0.3            0.3    ..............  ..............  ..............  ..............
SNE/MA yellowtail flounder..............................            1.7            1.5    ..............  ..............  ..............  ..............
American plaice.........................................            2.9            2.7    ..............  ..............  ..............  ..............
Witch flounder..........................................            1.2            1.1    ..............  ..............  ..............  ..............
GB winter flounder......................................            0.2            0.2    ..............  ..............            0.2            0.2
SNE/MA winter flounder..................................            3.0            3.0    ..............  ..............  ..............  ..............
White hake..............................................            0.5            0.5    ..............  ..............  ..............  ..............
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Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this final rule is 
consistent with the NE Multispecies FMP, other provisions of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law.
    This final rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Orders 12866.
    Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(b) and (d)(3), we find good cause to waive 
prior public notice and opportunity for public comment on the catch 
limit and allocation adjustments because notice, comment, and a delayed 
effectiveness is impracticable and contrary to the public interest. 
Also, for the same reasons, we find good cause to waive the 30-day 
delay in effectiveness pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3), so that this 
final rule may become effective upon filing.
    Notice and comment are impracticable and contrary to the public 
interest. We explained the need to adjust sector and common pool 
allocations based on final sector rosters in the proposed and final 
rules for fishing year 2012 sector operations plans and contracts. We 
receive no comments on this issue. These adjustments provide a more 
accurate accounting of a sector's or common pool's allocation. If this 
rule is not effective immediately, the public and the fishery will have 
incorrect information on the catch limits for each stock for sectors 
and the common pool. Accurate allocations will prevent potential 
adverse economic consequences that would result from vessels 
unknowingly fishing in excess of one's allocation. For the same 
reasons, we find good cause to waive the 30-day delay period of this 
rule's effectiveness.
    Delaying this rule's effectiveness to allow for public comment or 
delaying its effectiveness for 30 days could cause negative economic 
impacts to both sectors and the common pool. A delay keeps management 
measures in place that are not based on the best available information. 
If the sector and common pool allocations are not adjusted immediately, 
groundfish vessels will operate under incorrect catch limits and

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allocations until the adjustments are implemented. This could adversely 
affect fishermen, depending on the size of the allocation, the degree 
of change in the allocation, and the catch rate of a particular stock. 
Further, a delay--either to allow comments or pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 
553(d)--would potentially impair achieving the management plan's 
objectives of preventing overfishing and achieving optimum yield by 
staying within staying within ACLs or allocations.
    Making this regulatory change effective immediately allows 
harvesting in a manner that prevents catch limits of species from being 
exceeded in fisheries that are important to coastal communities. Until 
the final stock allocations are made, the affected fishing entities 
will not know how many fish of a particular stock they can catch 
without going over their ultimate limits. Fishermen may make both 
short- and long-term business decisions based on the catch limits in a 
given sector or the common pool. Any delays in adjusting these limits 
may cause the affected fishing entities to slow down, or speed up, 
their fishing activities during the interim period before this rule 
becomes effective. Both of these reactions could negatively affect the 
fishery and the businesses and communities that depend on them. The 
fishing industry and the communities it supports could be affected by 
potentially reducing harvests and delaying profits. Lastly, the catch 
limit and allocation adjustments are not controversial. Therefore, it 
is important to implement adjusted catch limits and allocations as soon 
as possible. For these reasons, we are waiving the public comment 
period and delay in effectiveness for this rule, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 
553(b) and (d).

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

    Dated: June 20, 2012.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-15448 Filed 6-22-12; 8:45 am]
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