[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 229 (Wednesday, November 28, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 70988-70990]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-28838]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 121115632-2632-01]
RIN 0648-BC70


Control Date To Limit Excessive Accumulation of Control, 
Qualifying Landings History, and Referendum Eligibility in the Small-
Mesh Multispecies Fishery

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

ACTION: Advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR); request for 
comments.

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SUMMARY: At the request of the New England Fishery Management Council, 
this notice announces a ``control date'' that may be used as a 
reference for future management actions applicable to, but not limited 
to, qualifying landings and permit history for a limited access or 
allocation-based management program and limits on the accumulation of 
excessive control or ownership of fishing privileges in the small-mesh 
multispecies fishery. This notice is intended to promote awareness of 
possible rulemaking; notify the public that any future accumulation of 
fishing privilege interests in the small-mesh

[[Page 70989]]

multispecies fishery may be affected, restricted, or even nullified; 
and discourage speculative behavior in the market for fishing 
privileges while the New England Fishery Management Council considers 
whether and how such limitations on accumulation of fishing privileges 
should be developed. Interested participants should locate and preserve 
records that substantiate and verify their control of small-mesh 
multispecies permits and other fishing privileges, as well as red, 
silver, and offshore hake, collectively known as small-mesh 
multispecies, landings history from Federal waters.

DATES: November 28, 2012, shall be known as the ``control date'' for 
the small-mesh multispecies fishery and may be used as a reference for 
future management measures related to the maintenance of a fishery with 
characteristics consistent with the Councils' objectives and applicable 
Federal laws. Written comments must be received on or before 5 p.m., 
local time, December 28, 2012.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
``NOAA-NMFS-2012-0212,'' by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal www.regulations.gov. To 
submit comments via the e-Rulemaking Portal, first click the ``submit a 
comment'' icon, then enter ``NOAA-NMFS-2012-0212'' in the keyword 
search. Locate the document you wish to comment on from the resulting 
list and click on the ``Submit a Comment'' icon on the right of that 
line.
     Mail: Submit written comments to John Bullard, Regional 
Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, 55 Great Republic 
Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the envelope, 
``Comments on SMMS Limited Access and Accumulation Limits Control 
Date.''
     Fax: (978) 281-9135; Attn: Moira Kelly.
    Instructions: Comments must be submitted by one of the above 
methods to ensure that the comments are received, documented, and 
considered by NMFS. Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered. All comments received are a part of the public 
record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.) submitted voluntarily by the 
sender will be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive or protected information. NMFS will 
accept anonymous comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you 
wish to remain anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments will be 
accepted in Microsoft Word or Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file 
formats only.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The small-mesh multispecies fishery is 
composed 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 primarily through a series 
of exemptions from the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan 
(FMP). The New England Fishery Management Council (Council) manages 
these fisheries through annual catch limits, in-season and post-season 
accountability measures, and possession limits.
    According to the most recent assessment, none of the small-mesh 
multispecies stocks are currently overfished or in danger of being 
overfished, and overfishing is not occurring. The Council sets limits 
to achieve maximum sustainable yield, which allows for positive impacts 
to human communities, yet measures (primarily possession limits) are 
included in the FMP to minimize excessive fishing effort. Despite this 
and the relatively stable recent catches, the potential remains for a 
rapid increase in effort and catch due to the open access management 
status.
    Limited access alternatives for the small-mesh multispecies fishery 
were proposed during 2000 for incorporation in Amendment 12, using a 
September 9, 1996, control date. The Council proposed entry 
requirements based on historic participation in the small-mesh 
multispecies fishery, including factors such as amount of small-mesh 
multispecies landed and whether or not the vessel had obtained a 
multispecies permit on or before the previous control date of September 
9, 1996. Future participation would have included catch restrictions 
based on a vessel's past involvement in the fishery. The limited access 
provisions of Amendment 12 were disapproved by NMFS because they were 
inconsistent with National Standard 4 regarding fairness and equity of 
the qualifying criteria, and section 304(e) of the Magnuson-Stevens 
Fishery Conservation and Management Act, regarding achieving rebuilding 
objectives. The Council later updated the control date to March 23, 
2003, intended for use as part of the basis for determination of 
potential limited access eligibility with a different set of 
eligibility criteria. However, development of the limited access 
program for the small-mesh multispecies fishery stalled due to other 
priorities of the Council.
    The Council is reconsidering limited access in the small-mesh 
multispecies fishery to address the potential for a rapid increase in 
fishing effort that could cause overfishing and destabilize markets. 
Limited access criteria may differ between the northern and southern 
stock areas due to fishery characteristics and participation. 
Historically, the northern stock area has seen greater activity 
involving small-mesh multispecies vessels and trips than the southern 
stock area. However, access to the directed small-mesh multispecies 
fishery is more limited in the northern stock area than in the southern 
stock area. The northern stock area is managed with a series of access 
areas and seasons, while the vessels may fish with small mesh 
throughout the southern area year-round. The Council may choose 
alternatives that account for differences between the areas, focusing 
on preventing excessive fishing effort. Limited access alternatives may 
apply to any vessel landing any amount of small-mesh multispecies, or 
only vessels targeting or landing larger amounts of small-mesh 
multispecies. The Council intends to develop alternatives that will 
have thresholds for determining whether a vessel qualifies for limited 
access or allocation based management program, and, possibly, limits on 
the accumulation of excessive fishing privileges. The Council may 
develop alternatives for sector management as well as for limited 
access. This may include determination of potential section 
contributions based on a qualifying vessel's history in the fishery. 
Because the last control date for this fishery is over 10 years old and 
may not reflect current fishing activities, the Council requested at is 
September 2012 meeting that NMFS publish this new ANPR ``control 
date.''
    The date of publication of this notification, November 28, 2012, 
shall be known as the ``control date'' for the small-mesh multispecies 
fishery and may be used as a reference for future management measures 
in determining how to treat landings and permit history acquired before 
or after this date for purposes of establishing a limited access

[[Page 70990]]

or allocation-based management program, as well as possibly limiting 
the accumulation of fishing privileges acquired before or after this 
date, depending on the Council's determinations on limiting access, 
control, or ownership of such landings and privileges. The 
establishment of a control date, however, does not obligate the Council 
to use this control date or take any action, nor does it prevent the 
Council from picking another control date or imposing limits on permits 
acquired prior to the control date. Accordingly, this notification is 
intended to promote awareness that the Council may develop management 
measures to address these concerns; to provide notice to the public 
that any current or future accumulation of fishing privilege interests 
in the small-mesh multispecies fishery may be affected, restricted, or 
even nullified; and discourage speculative behavior in the market for 
fishing privileges while the Council considers whether and how such 
limitations on accumulation of fishing privileges should be developed. 
Any measures the Council considers may require changes to the Northeast 
Multispecies FMP. Such measures may be adopted in a future amendment to 
the FMP, which would include opportunity for further public 
participation and comment.
    This notification also gives the public notice that interested 
participants should locate and preserve records that substantiate and 
verify their control of small-mesh multispecies permits and other 
fishing privileges in the small-mesh multispecies fishery, as well as 
small-mesh multispecies landings from Federal waters. Fishing 
privileges include, but are not limited to vessels, fishing permits, 
and any other type of catch limit or share.
    This notification and control date do not impose any legal 
obligations, requirements, or expectation.

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

    Dated: November 21, 2012.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, performing the functions and 
duties of the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, 
National Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-28838 Filed 11-27-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P