[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 240 (Thursday, December 13, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 74159-74160]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-30119]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 121128658-2658-01]
RIN 0648-BC72


Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Atlantic Mackerel, 
Squid, and Butterfish Fisheries; Framework Adjustment 7

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

ACTION: Proposed rule, request for comments.

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SUMMARY: NMFS proposes changing the butterfish mortality cap on the 
longfin squid fishery from a catch cap to a discard cap in Framework 
Adjustment 7 to the Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish Fishery 
Management Plan,. This action also proposes reducing the butterfish 
mortality cap for the 2013 fishing year by 13 percent (from 4,500 mt to 
3,915 mt) to exclude butterfish landings that were previously included 
in the butterfish mortality cap allocation. The adjustment will 
maintain the intended function of the butterfish mortality cap by 
continuing to limit butterfish discards in the longfin squid fishery 
while accommodating a potential directed butterfish fishery during the 
2013 fishing year.

DATES: Public comments must be received on January 14, 2013.

ADDRESSES: Copies of supporting documents used by the Mid-Atlantic 
Fishery Management Council, including the Framework Document, the 
Regulatory Impact Review (RIR)/Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis 
(IRFA) for Framework Adjustment 7, are available from: Dr. Christopher 
M. Moore, Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 
Suite 201, 800 N. State Street, Dover, DE 19901. The Framework Document 
is also accessible via the Internet at http://www.nero.noaa.gov.
    You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA-NMFS-
2012-0239, by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D= NOAA-NMFS-2012-0239, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to the Northeast Regional 
Office, 55 Great Republic Dr, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of 
the envelope ``Comments on MSB Framework Adjustment 7.''
     Fax: (978) 281-9135, Attn: Aja Szumylo.
    Instructions: 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 by NMFS. 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.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. 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, Excel, or Adobe PDF file formats only.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Aja Szumylo, Fishery Policy Analyst, 
978-281-9195, fax 978-281-9135.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The butterfish mortality cap on the longfin squid fishery was 
implemented on January 1, 2011, as part of Amendment 10 to the Atlantic 
Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish (MSB) Fishery Management Plan (FMP) (75 
FR 11441, March 11, 2010) as a means of reducing fishing mortality to 
the butterfish stock. Butterfish discards in the longfin squid fishery 
account for the largest source of butterfish fishing mortality. The cap 
currently limits butterfish catch (both landings and discards) on 
directed longfin squid trips. The mortality cap accounts for fishery 
behavior in which most butterfish caught on a longfin squid trip

[[Page 74160]]

is discarded and only a small amount of butterfish is landed, which has 
been the case since 2002. However, in response to new information that 
suggests increased butterfish abundance, the Council has recommended a 
much higher butterfish quota for the 2013 fishing year, and the 
increased quota would allow for a directed butterfish fishery for the 
first time in recent years.
    The butterfish mortality cap is currently calculated by 
extrapolating observed butterfish catch (landings and discards) on 
longfin squid trips with an observer aboard over all unobserved longfin 
squid trips. All trips that land at least 2,501 lb (1.13 mt) of longfin 
squid are considered in the calculations for the butterfish mortality 
cap. With directed butterfish fishing, an observed trip could land a 
very large amount of butterfish and just enough longfin squid to still 
be classified as a butterfish mortality cap trip. This means that the 
cap estimation would include a number of trips that are not truly 
targeting longfin squid. The most effective way to address this without 
reclassifying what constitutes a longfin squid trip (i.e., changing the 
2,501-lb (1.13-mt) threshold) is to account for only discards of 
butterfish when determining how much butterfish on that trip should 
count against the mortality cap. To do this, the observed rate of 
butterfish catch (observed butterfish catch/kept all on observed squid 
trips) would be changed to the observed rate of butterfish discards 
(observed butterfish discards/kept all on observed trips), where ``kept 
all'' is the retained catch of all species on the trip.
    Thus, Framework Adjustment 7 proposes to change the butterfish 
mortality cap on the longfin squid fishery from a catch cap to a 
discard cap. If the Council specifies a butterfish quota that does not 
accommodate a directed fishery in future fishing years, the butterfish 
mortality cap can be reverted to a catch cap as part of the 
specifications process.
    This action would also reduce the butterfish mortality cap for the 
2013 fishing year by 13 percent (from 4,500 mt to 3,915 mt) to exclude 
butterfish landings that were previously included in the butterfish 
mortality cap allocation. This reduction is based on year-end 
butterfish mortality cap analyses for the 2011 fishing year, in which 
13 percent of butterfish catch in the cap was retained and 87 percent 
of butterfish catch in the cap was discarded. Although the total 
butterfish mortality allocation will decrease, the adjusted cap level 
is expected to maintain overall butterfish mortality in the longfin 
squid fishery.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is 
consistent with the Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish FMP, other 
provision of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, 
subject to further consideration after public comment.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration that this proposed rule, if adopted, would not have a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.
    As outlined in the preamble to this proposed rule, Framework 
Adjustment 7 proposes to change the butterfish mortality cap on the 
longfin squid fishery from a catch cap to a discard cap, and adjusts 
the 2013 cap allocation to account for this change. The Council 
conducted a comprehensive evaluation of the potential socioeconomic 
impacts of Framework Adjustment 7 in the Framework Document (see 
ADDRESSES), and determined that this rule will not have a significant 
economic impact on a substantial number of number entities. While 
Framework Adjustment 7 adjusts the butterfish mortality cap on the 
longfin squid fishery by changing what portion of butterfish mortality 
counts towards the cap, and adjusts the butterfish mortality cap level 
for the 2013 fishing year to account for the change in the cap 
accounting, the action does not establish annual catch limits for 
butterfish or change the annual allocation for any of the MSB species. 
This action simply means that the cap no longer limits butterfish 
landings on longfin squid trips.
    Assuming that a directed butterfish fishery is allowed, that there 
is a market for butterfish, and that vessels targeting squid will 
continue to do so as they have in past years (i.e. the nature of a 
directed longfin squid trip does not change), Framework Adjustment 7 
will have no impact on which vessels catch butterfish, or what and what 
the overall profit from butterfish will be for these vessels. Under the 
existing butterfish mortality cap (i.e. a butterfish mortality cap that 
takes into account both landings and discards), a vessel targeting 
longfin squid that catches butterfish incidentally will land butterfish 
if there is some profit to be made from the butterfish landings. The 
same would occur under Framework Adjustment 7, where only the 
butterfish mortality cap only takes into account discards. If 
butterfish landings occur while a vessel is targeting longfin squid, 
the vessel will likely land that butterfish if there is some profit to 
be made from the butterfish landings.
    The economic impacts of the total level of both butterfish landings 
and discards for the 2013 fishing year is unchanged by Framework 
Adjustment 7, and has already been analyzed in the 2013 MSB 
specifications. Further, the body of permit holders that has the 
potential to directly target butterfish is unchanged by Framework 
Adjustment 7 alone. Under both the status quo butterfish mortality cap 
and the discard only mortality cap, the total level of butterfish 
landings will be limited by the previously analyzed butterfish quota. 
The total allowed level of butterfish discards in the longfin squid 
fishery is capped through the butterfish mortality cap on the longfin 
squid fishery. Finally, the effects of a potential closure of the 
longfin squid fishery based on exceeding the butterfish mortality cap 
is analyzed in MSB Amendment 10, and the effects of the specific cap 
level set for 2013 is analyzed in 2013 MSB specifications. Thus, there 
are no economic impacts to evaluate. This action is only designed to 
maintain the effective control of butterfish mortality established in 
Amendment 10 and the annual specifications for the butterfish mortality 
cap.
    The Council-conducted analyses identified 375 unique fishing 
entities with limited access butterfish/longfin squid permits, all of 
which were determined to be small entities. However, given the minor 
change implemented by the proposed measure, there are neither expected 
direct economic or disproportionate impacts to either small or large 
regulated entities, given the aforementioned adjustment to the 
butterfish mortality cap on the longfin squid fishery process proposed 
in Framework Adjustment 7. As a result, an initial regulatory 
flexibility analysis is not required and none has been prepared. RFA 
analysis will be conducted, as appropriate, for subsequent actions that 
establish catch limits for butterfish.

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

    Dated: December 10, 2012.
Alan 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. 2012-30119 Filed 12-12-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P