[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 203 (Friday, October 19, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 64303-64304]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-25824]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

RIN 0648-BC48


Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast 
Multispecies; Amendment 19

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

ACTION: Notice of availability of a fishery management plan amendment; 
request for comments.

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SUMMARY: NMFS announces that the New England Fishery Management Council 
has submitted Amendment 19 to the Northeast Multispecies Fishery 
Management Plan, incorporating a draft Environmental Assessment and an 
Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis, for review and approval by the 
Secretary of Commerce. NMFS is requesting comments from the public on 
Amendment 19, which was developed by the Council to modify management 
measures that govern the small-mesh multispecies fishery, including 
accountability measures, year-round possession limits, and the total 
allowable landings process.

DATES: Public comments must be received on or before December 18, 2012.

ADDRESSES: A draft environmental assessment (EA) was prepared for 
Amendment 19 that describes the proposed action and other considered 
alternatives, and provides a thorough analysis of the impacts of the 
proposed measures and alternatives. Copies of Amendment 19, including 
the draft EA and the Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA), 
are available on request from Paul J. Howard, Executive Director, New 
England Fishery Management Council (Council), 50 Water Street, 
Newburyport, MA 01950. These documents are also available online at 
http://www.nefmc.org.
    You may submit comments, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2012-0170, by any 
one of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the

[[Page 64304]]

Federal e-Rulemaking portal: http://www.regulations.gov. To submit 
comments via the e-Rulemaking Portal, first click the ``Submit a 
Comment'' icon, then enter NOAA-NMFS-2012-0170 in the keyword search. 
Locate the document you wish to comment on from the resulting list and 
click on the ``Submit a Comment'' icon on the right of that line.
     Fax: (978) 281-9135, Attn: Comments on Whiting Amendment 
19, NOAA-NMFS-2012-0170.
     Mail and Hand Delivery: John K. Bullard, Regional 
Administrator, NMFS, Northeast Regional Office, 55 Great Republic 
Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the envelope: 
``Comments on Whiting Amendment 19.''
    Instructions: Comments must be submitted by one of the above 
methods to ensure that the comments are received, documented, and 
considered by NMFS. Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered. All comments received are part of the public 
record and will generally be posted to http://www.regulations.gov 
without change. All Personal Identifying Information (for example, 
name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be 
publicly accessible. Do not submit Confidential Business Information or 
otherwise sensitive or protected information.
    NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter N/A in the required 
fields, if you wish to remain anonymous). You may submit attachments to 
electronic comments in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF 
file formats only.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Moira Kelly, Fishery Policy Analyst, 
(978) 281-9218; fax: (978) 281-9135.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    This amendment affects the part of the New England groundfish 
fishery known as the small-mesh fishery. The small-mesh fishery is 
composed of a complex of five stocks of three species of hakes 
(northern silver hake, southern silver hake, northern red hake, 
southern red hake, and offshore hake), and the fishery is managed 
through a series of exemptions from the other provisions of the 
Northeast (NE) Multispecies Fishery Management Plan (FMP). It is 
managed separately from the other stocks of groundfish such as cod, 
haddock, and flounders primarily because it is prosecuted with much 
smaller mesh and does not generally result in the catch of these other 
stocks.
    The New England Fishery Management Council (Council) initiated 
Amendment 19 to bring the small-mesh multispecies portion of the FMP 
into compliance with the annual catch limit (ACL) and accountability 
measure (AM) requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation 
and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). However, development of 
Amendment 19 was delayed, and it was apparent that the amendment would 
not be submitted until well after the 2011 statutory deadline for 
implementing mechanisms for establishing ACLs and AMs. To ensure that 
ACLs and AMs for the small-mesh fishery were implemented closer to the 
statutory deadline, NOAA initiated, developed, and implemented, with 
the concurrence of the Council, a Secretarial Amendment (March 30, 
2012; 77 FR 19138). The Secretarial Amendment built upon measures 
already developed by the Council in the initial stages of Amendment 19.
    Amendment 19 proposes measures intended to respond to changing 
conditions in the fishery and opportunities to improve efficiency and 
accuracy. First, measures are proposed to streamline the specifications 
setting process, establish new overfishing definitions, and to define 
the roles and responsibilities of monitoring the fishery on an annual 
basis. Second, a measure is proposed to require vessels fishing for 
small-mesh multispecies to submit weekly vessel trip reports. Third, a 
measure is proposed to modify the total allowable landings (TAL) 
structure that was implemented through the Secretarial Amendment for 
the southern stock area. Implementing this measure would result in 
quarterly TALs in the southern stock area after landings in a given 
year exceed two-thirds of the TAL. Fourth, a measure is proposed that 
would increase the incidental possession limit for northern silver hake 
and southern whiting (silver and offshore hake, combined) that was 
implemented through the Secretarial Amendment from 1,000 lb (453.6 kg) 
to 2,000 lb (907.2 kg). The incidental possession limits would be 
triggered if 90 percent of a stock's TAL is projected to be harvested. 
Fifth, the amendment proposes to change the post-season AM from a 
pound-for-pound payback of an ACL overage to a system where the 
incidental possession limit trigger (i.e., the 90-percent described 
above) would be reduced by the same percentage by which the ACL was 
exceeded. For example, if a stock's ACL were exceeded by 5 percent in 
2013, then starting in 2015, the incidental possession limit would be 
triggered when 85 percent of that stock's TAL is projected to be 
harvested rather than 90 percent. Finally, Amendment 19 proposes two 
measures dealing with year-round trip limits. For red hake, a measure 
is proposed that would establish a 5,000-lb (2,268-kg) trip limit for 
all gear types in all areas. For whiting (silver and offshore hake, 
combined) in the southern stock area, the trip limit for vessels 
fishing with mesh that is 3 inches (7.6 cm) or greater would be 
increased from 30,000 lb (13,607.8 kg) to 40,000 lb (18,143.7 kg). The 
increase in the whiting possession limit would only be applicable to 
vessels fishing exclusively in the Southern New England or Mid-Atlantic 
Exemption Areas.
    Public comments on Amendment 19 and its incorporated documents may 
be submitted through the end of the comment period stated in this 
notice of availability. A proposed rule to implement Amendment 19 will 
be published in the Federal Register for public comment. Public 
comments on the proposed rule must be received by the end of the 
comment period provided in this notice of availability of Amendment 19 
to be considered in the approval/disapproval decision on the amendment. 
All comments received by December 18, 2012, whether specifically 
directed to Amendment 19 or the proposed rule for Amendment 19, will be 
considered in the approval/disapproval decision on Amendment 19. 
Comments received after that date will not be considered in the 
decision to approve or disapprove Amendment 19. To be considered, 
comments must be received by close of business on the last day of the 
comment period.

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

    Dated: October 16, 2012.
Emily H. Menashes,
Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-25824 Filed 10-18-12; 8:45 am]
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