[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 11 (Wednesday, January 16, 2013)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 3346-3355]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-00827]


-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 120731291-2522-02]
RIN 0648-BC40


Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Atlantic Mackerel, 
Squid, and Butterfish Fisheries; Specifications and Management Measures

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

ACTION: Final rule.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: NMFS is implementing 2013-2015 specifications and management 
measures for Atlantic mackerel, and 2013 specifications for butterfish. 
Specifications for longfin squid and Illex squid were set for 3 years 
in 2012 (2012-2014) and therefore are not included in this year's 
specification rulemaking. These final specifications also implement 
regulatory changes to the longfin squid fishery, the butterfish 
mortality cap to avoid 1-2 week closures at the end of a Trimester, and 
the pre-trip observer notification for longfin squid trips landing over 
2,500 lb (1.3 mt) from 72 to 48 hr. Compared to 2012, the butterfish 
domestic annual harvest implemented in this action (2,570 mt) 
represents an increase of 1,698 mt over the 2012 domestic annual 
harvest (872 mt). The butterfish mortality cap implemented in this 
action (4,464 mt) represents an increase of 1,299-mt over the current 
2012 cap level (3,165 mt). Due to the increase in the proposed 
butterfish quota, this action also implements a variety of management 
measures for controlling effort in the directed butterfish fishery, 
including changes to trip limits, the closure threshold for the 
directed fishery, and post-closure trip limits. Finally, this rule 
implements minor corrections to existing regulatory text, to clarify 
the intent of the regulations. These specifications and management 
measures promote the utilization and conservation of the Atlantic 
mackerel, squid, and butterfish resource.

DATES: Effective January 16, 2013, except for the amendments to Sec.  
648.27, which will be effective on February 15, 2013.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the 2013 specifications document, including the 
Environmental Assessment (EA), is available from John K. Bullard, 
Northeast Regional Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, 55 
Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. This document is also 
accessible via the Internet at http://www.nero.noaa.gov. NMFS prepared 
a Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (FRFA), which is contained in 
the Classification section of this rule. Copies of the FRFA and the 
Small Entity Compliance Guide are available from: John K. Bullard, 
Regional Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, Northeast 
Region, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930-2276, or via the 
internet at http://www.nero.noaa.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Lindsey Feldman, Fishery Management 
Specialist, 978-675-2179, fax 978-281-9135.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Specifications, as referred to in this rule, are the combined suite 
of commercial and recreational catch levels established for 1 or more 
fishing years. The specification process also allows for the 
modification of a select number of management measures, such as closure 
thresholds, gear restrictions, and possession limits. The Mid-Atlantic 
Fishery Management Council's (Council) process for establishing 
specifications relies on provisions within the Atlantic Mackerel, 
Squid, and Butterfish (MSB) Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and its 
implementing regulations, as well as requirements established by the 
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-
Stevens Act). Specifically, section 302(g)(1)(B) of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act states that the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) 
for each Regional Fishery Management Council shall provide its Council 
ongoing scientific advice for fishery management decisions, including 
recommendations for acceptable biological catch (ABC), preventing 
overfishing, maximum sustainable yield, and achieving rebuilding 
targets. The ABC is a level of catch that accounts for the scientific 
uncertainty in the estimate of the stock's defined overfishing level 
(OFL).
    The Council's SSC met on May 23 and 24, 2012, confirming 2013 
specifications for Illex and longfin squid and recommending ABCs for 
the 2013-2015 Atlantic mackerel (mackerel) and 2013 butterfish 
specifications. A proposed rule for 2013 MSB specifications and 
management measures was published on November 19, 2012 (77 FR 69426), 
and the public comment period for the

[[Page 3347]]

proposed rule ended on December 10, 2012.
    The MSB regulations require the specification of annual catch 
limits (ACL) and accountability measures (AM) for mackerel and 
butterfish (both squid species are exempt from the ACL/AM requirements 
because they have a life cycle of less than 1 year). In addition, the 
regulations require the specification of domestic annual harvest (DAH), 
domestic annual processing (DAP), and total allowable level of foreign 
fishing (TALFF), along with joint venture processing for (JVP) 
commercial and recreational annual catch totals (ACT) for mackerel, the 
butterfish mortality cap in the longfin squid fishery, and initial 
optimum yield (IOY) for both squid species. Details concerning the 
Council's development of these measures were presented in the preamble 
of the proposed rule and are not repeated here.

Research Set-Aside

    The Mid-Atlantic Research Set-Aside (RSA) Program funds research 
projects through the sale of fish that has been set aside from the 
total annual quota. The RSA may vary between 0 and 3 percent of the 
overall quota for each species. NMFS solicited research proposals under 
the 2013 Mid-Atlantic RSA Program through a Federal Funding Opportunity 
announcement that published on February 17, 2012 (Funding Opportunity 
Number NOAA-NMFS-NEFSC-2013-2003258 on grants.gov). Two projects were 
preliminarily selected by NMFS, although final grant approval by NOAA 
Grants is pending. Federally permitted vessels harvesting RSA quota are 
issued Exempted Fishing Permits in support of approved research 
projects, which would authorize them to exceed Federal possession 
limits and to fish during Federal quota closures. If approved, the 
projects would be awarded 589,800 lb (267,529 kg) of summer flounder, 
958,950 lb (434,972 kg) of scup, 111,900 lb (50,757 kg) of black sea 
bass, 874,000 lb (396,440 kg) of longfin squid, 79,455 lb (36,040 kg) 
of butterfish for discards on longfin squid research trips, and 715,830 
lb (324,695 kg) of bluefish. The research projects preliminary selected 
include the following:
     A near-shore trawl survey between Martha's Vineyard, MA, 
and Cape Hatteras, NC, in shallow waters unsampled by current Federal 
finfish bottom trawl surveys to provide stock assessment data for Mid-
Atlantic RSA species, including summer flounder, scup, black sea bass, 
longfin squid, butterfish, and Atlantic bluefish, and assessment-
quality data for weakfish, Atlantic croaker, spot, several skate and 
ray species, smooth dogfish, horseshoe crab, and several unmanaged but 
important forage species; and
     A fishery-independent black sea bass survey of four 
separate hard-bottom sites unsampled by current state and Federal 
finfish bottom trawl surveys in southern New England and 
Mid[hyphen]Atlantic waters using unvented black sea bass pots.
    The Council recommended that up to 3 percent of the total ACL for 
mackerel, up to 3 percent of the IOY for Illex and longfin squid, and 
up to 2 percent of the butterfish ACT could be set aside to fund 
projects selected under the 2013 Mid-Atlantic RSA Program, where 59 mt 
could be set aside for butterfish discard on longfin squid research 
trips, and 151 mt could be set aside for directed butterfish landings. 
The final RSA awards are subtracted from the IOY for longfin squid, and 
the butterfish mortality cap in Table 1 below.

Table 1--Final Specifications, in Metric Tons (mt), for Mackerel for 2013-2015, Butterfish for 2013, and Longfin
                                 and Illex Squid for the 2013-2014 Fishing Year
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                 Specifications                      Mackerel       Butterfish         Illex          Longfin
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
OFL.............................................         Unknown         Unknown         Unknown         Unknown
ABC.............................................          43,781           8,400          24,000          23,400
ACL.............................................          43,781           7,560             N/A             N/A
Commercial ACT..................................          34,907           7,560             N/A             N/A
Recreational ACT/RHL............................           2,443             N/A             N/A             N/A
IOY.............................................             N/A             N/A          22,915          22,049
DAH/DAP.........................................          33,821           2,570          22,915          22,049
JVP.............................................               0             N/A             N/A             N/A
TALFF...........................................               0               0             N/A             N/A
RSA.............................................             N/A              36             N/A             396
Butterfish Mortality Cap........................  ..............           4,464
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Final 2013-2015 Specifications and Management Measures for Mackerel

    This action specifies the mackerel U.S. ABC at 43,781 mt. The 
status of the mackerel stock was assessed by the Transboundary 
Resources Assessment Committee (TRAC) in March 2010. The 2010 TRAC 
Status Report indicated reduced productivity in the stock and a lack of 
older fish in both the survey and catch data, and determined that the 
status of the mackerel stock is unknown because biomass reference 
points could not be determined. Due to uncertainty in the assessment, 
the TRAC recommended that total annual catches not exceed 80,000 mt 
(average total U.S. and Canadian landings from 2006-2008) until new 
information is available. The mackerel stock-wide ABC was set at 80,000 
mt for 2012, consistent with the TRAC recommendation. Since a new 
mackerel assessment is not expected for several years, the SSC 
recommended maintaining the 2012 mackerel specification and specifying 
the stock-wide ABC for 3 years (2013-2015) at 80,000 mt. The Council 
recommended a U.S. ABC of 43,781 mt (80,000 mt--36,219 mt (2010 actual 
Canadian catch)). Due to the variability in recent Canadian catch, and 
the inability to predict Canadian catch for 2013, the SSC recommended 
the use of Canadian catch from 2010 (the same amount used for setting 
2012 specifications).
    Consistent with MSB Amendment 11, the Council recommended a 
recreational allocation of 2,714 mt (6.2 percent of the U.S. ABC). The 
proposed Recreational ACT of 2,443 mt (90 percent of the U.S. ABC of 
2,714 mt) was reduced to account for low precision and time lag of 
recreational catch estimates, as well as lack of recreational discard 
estimates. The Recreational ACT is equal to the Recreational Harvest 
Limit (RHL), which would be the effective cap on recreational catch.
    For the commercial mackerel fishery, the Council recommended a 
commercial fishery allocation of 41,067 mt (93.8 percent of the U.S. 
ABC, the portion of the ACL that was not allocated to the recreational 
fishery). The recommended

[[Page 3348]]

Commercial ACT of 34,907 mt (85 percent of 41,067) was reduced to 
address uncertainty in estimated 2013 Canadian landings, uncertainty in 
discard estimates, and possible misreporting. The Commercial ACT was 
further reduced by a discard rate of 3.11 percent (mean plus one 
standard deviation of discards from 1999-2008), to arrive at the 
proposed DAH of 33,821 mt. The DAH was proposed as the effective cap on 
commercial catch, as it has been in past specifications.
    Consistent with the Council's recommendation, this action sets the 
2013-2015 mackerel specifications so that the U.S. ABC/ACL is 43,781 
mt; the Commercial ACT is 34,907 mt; the DAH and DAP are 33,821 mt; and 
the Recreational ACT is 2,443 mt. Additionally, as recommended by the 
Council, JVP is maintained as zero. There was no mackerel awarded for 
the RSA program for the 2013 fishing year.
    The Magnuson-Stevens Act provides that the specification of TALFF, 
if any, shall be the portion of the optimum yield (OY) of a fishery 
that will not be harvested by U.S. vessels. TALFF would allow foreign 
vessels to harvest U.S. fish and sell their product on the world 
market, in direct competition with U.S. industry efforts to expand 
exports. While a surplus existed between ABC and the mackerel fleet's 
harvesting capacity for many years, that surplus has disappeared due to 
decreases in the specifications in recent years. Based on analysis and 
a review of the state of the world mackerel market and possible 
increases in U.S. production levels, the Council concluded that 
specifying a DAH/DAP resulting in zero TALFF will yield positive social 
and economic benefits to both U.S. harvesters and processors, and to 
the Nation. For these reasons, consistent with the Council's 
recommendation, NMFS is specifying the DAH at a level that can be fully 
harvested by the domestic fleet, thereby precluding the specification 
of a TALFF, in order to support the U.S. mackerel industry. NMFS 
concurs that it is reasonable to assume that in 2013 the commercial 
mackerel fishery has the ability to harvest 33,821 mt of mackerel.

Final 2013 Specifications and Management Measures for Butterfish

    This action specifies the butterfish ABC at 8,400 mt. The current 
status of the butterfish stock is unknown because biomass reference 
points could not be determined in the SAW 49 assessment (February 
2010); however, survey trends since the most recent assessment suggest 
an increase in butterfish abundance. In recommending 2013 
specifications, the SSC considered multiple sources of information, 
including a recent analysis of the butterfish stock by Dr. Paul Rago 
and Dr. Tim Miller from NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center 
(NEFSC). Because of the uncertainty in the most recent butterfish stock 
assessment, on April 6, 2012, the Council requested that NEFSC offer 
additional analysis of the butterfish stock to aid the SSC in the ABC 
setting process for the 2013 fishing year. The NEFSC analysis (May 2, 
2012) applied ranges of a number of different factors (such as natural 
mortality and survey catchability) to develop a range of likely stock 
biomasses that would be consistent with recent survey results and 
observed butterfish catch. The NEFSC also examined a range of fishing 
mortalities that would result from these biomass estimates. The SSC 
used the NEFSC analysis, along with guidance (Patterson, 1992) that 
suggests maintaining a natural mortality/fishing mortality ratio of 67 
percent for small pelagic species, to develop a proxy OFL for 
butterfish. Consistent with the 2010 butterfish assessment, the SSC 
assumed a high level of natural mortality (M = 0.8) and applied the 67-
percent ratio to result in a fishing mortality rate of F = 0.536, which 
the SSC used as a proxy maximum F threshold for butterfish. In the 
NEFSC analysis, a catch of 16,800 mt would only lead to fishing 
mortality rates higher than F = 0.536 (i.e., rates consistent with 
overfishing based on the maximum fishing mortality rate threshold 
proxy) under very extreme assumptions. The SSC therefore adopted 16,800 
mt as a proxy OFL. The SSC buffered the proxy OFL by 50 percent to 
reach the butterfish ABC of 8,400 mt. The SSC's justification for this 
buffer noted that the short life history of butterfish gives limited 
time for management to respond to adverse patterns, that recruitment of 
butterfish is highly variable and uncertain, that the stock status of 
butterfish is unknown, and that butterfish are susceptible to 
environmental and ecosystem variability, in particular inter-annual 
variability in natural mortality. A detailed summary of the SSC's 
rationale for its 2013 butterfish ABC recommendation is available in 
its May 2012 Report (available, along with other materials from the SSC 
discussion, at: http://www.mafmc.org/meeting_materials/SSC/2012-05/SSC_2012_05.htm).
    The Council recommended setting the butterfish ACL equal to the 
ABC, and establishing a 10-percent buffer between ACL and ACT for 
management uncertainty, which would result in an ACT of 7,560 mt. Since 
discards have been roughly \2/3\ of catch (1999-2008 average), the 
Council recommended setting the DAH and DAP at 2,570 mt (7,560 mt-4,990 
mt discards). Since up to 3 percent of the ACL for butterfish may be 
set aside for scientific research, the Council recommended setting 
aside 2 percent of the butterfish ACT for research, where 59 mt would 
be set aside for butterfish discard on longfin squid research trips, 
and 151 mt would be set aside for directed butterfish landings. RSA 
projects were not awarded any directed butterfish, but were awarded 36 
mt of butterfish to account for discards on longfin squid research 
trips. After accounting for 36 mt of RSA, the butterfish mortality cap 
on the longfin squid fishery was revised from 4,500 mt to 4,464 mt 
(59.05 percent of the ACT of 7,560 mt).
    NMFS is implementing butterfish specifications for the 2013 fishing 
year, consistent with the Council's recommendations, that would set the 
butterfish ABC/ACL at 8,400 mt, the ACT at 7,560 mt, the DAH and DAP at 
2,570 mt, TALFF at zero, and the butterfish mortality cap on the 
longfin squid fishery at 4,464 mt. Additionally, this action allocates 
the 2013 butterfish mortality cap by Trimester as follows:

Table 2--Trimester Allocation of Butterfish Mortality Cap on the Longfin
                         Squid Fishery for 2013
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                 Metric
                     Trimester                        Percent     tons
------------------------------------------------------------------------
I (Jan-Apr)........................................       65       2,902
II (May-Aug).......................................        3.3       147
III (Sep-Dec)......................................       31.7     1,415
                                                    --------------------
  Total............................................      100       4,464
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Due to the increase in the recommended butterfish DAH and 
butterfish mortality cap, a variety of management measures were 
recommended by the Council to control fishing effort while allowing the 
expansion of a profitable directed butterfish fishery. The Council 
recommended, and this action implements, a three-phase management 
system for the directed butterfish fishery (Table 3) to allow for 
maximum utilization of the butterfish resource without exceeding the 
stock-wide ACL.
    In phase 1, there is no trip limit for vessels issued longfin 
squid/butterfish moratorium permits using mesh greater than or equal to 
3 inches (7.62 cm), a 2,500-lb (1.13-mt) trip limit for longfin squid/
butterfish moratorium permits using mesh less than 3 inches (7.62 cm), 
and a trip limit of 600 lb (0.27 mt) for

[[Page 3349]]

vessels issued squid/butterfish incidental catch permits. Once 
butterfish harvest reaches the trip hold reduction threshold to move 
from phase 1 to phase 2, the trip limit for longfin squid/butterfish 
moratorium permit holders will be reduced while in phase 2 to 5,000 lb 
(2.27 mt) for vessels using greater than or equal to 3-inch (7.62-cm) 
mesh and 2,500 lb (1.13 mt) for vessels using under 3-inch (7.62-cm) 
mesh. When butterfish harvest is projected to reach the trip hold 
reduction thresholds to move from phase 2 to phase 3, the trip limit 
for all longfin squid/butterfish moratorium permit holders will be 
reduced while in phase 3 to 500 lb (0.23 mt) to avoid quota overages. 
For phases 2 and 3, the quota thresholds to reduce the trip limits will 
vary bimonthly throughout the year, as shown in Tables 4 and 5.

                                Table 3--Three-Phase Butterfish Management System
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                        Longfin squid/butterfish moratorium permit trip
                                                             limit                           Squid/butterfish
                Phase                 -------------------------------------------------- incidental catch permit
                                       >=3 inch (7.62 cm) mesh   <3 inch (7.62 cm) mesh         trip limit
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1....................................  Unlimited..............  2,500 lb (1.13 mt).....  600 lb (0.27 mt).
2....................................  5,000 lb (2.27 mt).....  2,500 lb (1.13 mt).....  600 lb (0.27 mt).
3....................................  500 lb (0.23 mt).......  500 lb (0.23 mt).......  600 lb (0.27 mt).
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


 Table 4--2013 Butterfish Thresholds for Reducing Trip Limits From Phase
                              1 to Phase 2
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                            Trip limit
                                             reduction      Butterfish
                 Months                      threshold        harvest
                                             (percent)     (metric tons)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jan-Feb.................................              40           1,028
Mar-Apr.................................              47           1,208
May-Jun.................................              55           1,414
Jul-Aug.................................              63           1,619
Sept-Oct................................              71           1,825
Nov-Dec.................................              78           2,005
------------------------------------------------------------------------


 Table 5--2013 Butterfish Thresholds for Reducing Trip Limits From Phase
                              2 to Phase 3
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                            Trip limit
                                             reduction      Butterfish
                 Months                      threshold        harvest
                                             (percent)     (metric tons)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jan-Feb.................................              58           1,491
Mar-Apr.................................              64           1,645
May-Jun.................................              71           1,825
Jul-Aug.................................              78           2,005
Sept-Oct................................              85           2,185
Nov-Dec.................................              91           2,339
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Finally, during phase 3, the NMFS Regional Administrator has the 
authority to adjust the phase 3 trip limit for limited access vessels 
within the range from 250 (0.11 mt) to 750 lb (0.34 mt) so that 
butterfish harvest does not exceed the annual DAH.

Final Management Measures for Longfin Squid

    The Council also recommended regulatory changes for the longfin 
squid fishery. Currently, vessels that intend to land greater than 
2,500 lb (1.13 mt) of longfin squid are required to notify the 
Northeast Fisheries Observer Program (NEFOP) at least 72 hr in advance 
of the start of a trip. Longfin squid vessel owners have reported that 
the 72-hr call in notification is burdensome, as trips are often 
planned based on weather, sea conditions, and longfin squid movement 
patterns, which can be highly variable. Therefore, the Council 
recommended, and NMFS is changing the longfin pre-trip observer 
notification requirement from 72 to 48 hr. In addition, to avoid 
closing the directed longfin fishery close to the end of a trimester, 
the closure threshold for the directed longfin squid fishery will 
change on April 15 (2 weeks prior to the end of Trimester 1) and August 
15 (2 weeks prior to the end of Trimester 2) of each year from 90 to 95 
percent.

Final Management Measures for the Butterfish Mortality Cap in the 
Longfin Squid Fishery

    To avoid closing the directed longfin squid fishery due to the 
butterfish mortality cap in the last 2 weeks of Trimester 1, NMFS is 
changing the closure threshold on April 15 of each year from 80 to 90 
percent. In addition, NMFS will close the directed longfin squid 
fishery in Trimester 2 if 75 percent of the annual mortality cap is 
projected to be reached. As there is currently no closure mechanism for 
the butterfish mortality cap in Trimester 2, the entire annual 
butterfish mortality cap could potentially be harvested in Trimester 2, 
which would not leave any butterfish mortality cap quota for the 
Trimester 3 longfin squid fishery. This change is being implemented to 
avoid the entire allocation of the butterfish mortality cap being 
harvested prior to the start of Trimester 3 on September 1 of each 
fishing year.
    This final rule also contains minor corrections to existing 
regulations. The corrections do not change the intent of any 
regulations; they only clarify the existing regulations by correcting 
minor errors. The current accountability measure regulations at Sec.  
648.24 state that NMFS will implement any changes to the ACL due to 
overages from the previous year through notification in the Federal 
Register, by March 31 of the fishing year in which the deductions will 
be made. However, due to delayed reporting and analysis time to 
estimate discards in the MSB fisheries, finalized data are not 
available until April 15 of each year. Therefore, NMFS will publish a 
notification in the Federal Register announcing any overage deductions 
by May 15 of the fishing year in which the deductions will be made.
    This rule also corrects Sec.  648.22(b)(2) regarding the mackerel 
ABC. This rule clarifies that the MAFMC's SSC recommends a stock-wide 
ABC, and that the Domestic ABC or ACL is calculated by deducting 
Canadian catch from the stock-wide ABC. This rule also corrects Sec.  
648.27(c) to clarify that the pre-trip notification requirement for 
vessels issued longfin squid/butterfish moratorium permits is for trips 
with landings greater than 2,500 lb (1.13 mt). While vessels previously 
issued longfin squid/butterfish moratorium permits intending to land 
greater than or equal to 2,500 lb (1.13 mt) were required to call into 
the pre-trip notification system, this action clarifies that only such 
vessels intending to land greater than 2,500 lb (1.13 mt) (ex. 2,501 
mt) are required to call into the pre-trip notification system. Only 
those trips with longfin squid landings of 2,501 lb (1.13 mt) and 
greater will be used to estimate the butterfish mortality cap.
    This rule also responds to comments on the 2012 Revised Butterfish 
Specifications, which were published in an interim final rule on 
November 9, 2012 (77 FR 67305). The 2013 butterfish specifications 
implemented in this rule supersede the 2012 Revised Butterfish 
Specifications implemented in that interim final rule. Therefore, 
instead of publishing a final rule to address comments received on the 
interim final

[[Page 3350]]

rule, such comments are addressed in this final rule.

Comments and Responses on the 2013 MSB Specifications

    NMFS received six comments on the 2013 MSB specifications from: One 
member of the public; one on behalf of Deep Sea Fish of Rhode Island, 
Inc. (a freezer/processor in Rhode Island); one on behalf of Seafreeze, 
Ltd. (a frozen seafood producer based in Rhode Island); one from the 
Garden State Seafood Association (GSSA) (an industry group representing 
members of the commercial fishing industry in New Jersey); one from 
Lund's Fisheries, Inc. (a seafood processing facility in New Jersey), 
and one from Tokai International, Inc. (an export business that ships 
seafood to Japan).
    Comment 1: Deep Sea Fish of Rhode Island, Inc., Tokai International 
Inc., and SeaFreeze, Ltd., commented in support of increasing the 2013 
butterfish specifications and are in favor of implementing the 2013 MSB 
specifications on or before January 1, 2013, so that the butterfish 
fishing industry can take advantage of the early winter Japanese export 
market when butterfish have the highest fat content. Tokai 
International, Inc., noted that the fat content of butterfish begins to 
decrease in February, making butterfish less marketable.
    Response: NMFS has published this final rule as soon as possible so 
that the butterfish fishing industry can take advantage of the increase 
in quota for the directed fishery. We recognize that the increase in 
the directed butterfish fishery quota would be less valuable to the 
butterfish industry if delayed further into the fishing year. Due to 
concerns about the lost economic opportunity from delaying the 
effectiveness of this rule for 30 days to comply with the 
Administrative Procedure Act, there exists good cause to waive the 30-
day effectiveness period and implements the 2013 MSB specifications on 
the date of publication in the Federal Register.
    Comment 2: GSSA and Lund's Fisheries, Inc., commented in support of 
the increased butterfish specifications, the proposed management 
measures for butterfish and longfin squid, the butterfish mortality cap 
in the longfin squid fishery, and corrections to the MSB regulations.
    Response: NMFS is implementing the proposed butterfish 
specifications, management measures for butterfish and longfin squid, 
the butterfish mortality cap, and the corrections to the MSB 
regulations in this final rule.
    Comment 3: GSSA and Lund's Fisheries, Inc., commented in support of 
the 2013-2015 Atlantic mackerel specifications, but noted some changes 
to the mackerel specification setting process that should be considered 
for the future, such as modifying the method to account for Canadian 
catch, accounting for discards in the recreational fishery allocation, 
and reconsidering the buffer for management uncertainty in setting the 
commercial ACT. GSSA and Lund's expressed disappointment that the 
process of setting the U.S. ABC does not provide a mechanism to 
increase the U.S. ABC if Canadian catches are smaller than predicted. 
Lund's suggested that Canadian underages should be added to the U.S. 
ABC in an in-season adjustment. GSSA and Lund's also commented that a 
discard rate should have been applied to the recreational allocation.
    Response: The addition of a mechanism to increase the U.S. ABC if 
Canadian catches are smaller than predicted would represent a 
significant change to the commercial quota system for mackerel. Such an 
adjustment would need to be considered through the Council process, and 
could only be implemented through a framework adjustment or an 
amendment to the FMP, rather than through specifications. The Council 
would, therefore, have to consider such a mechanism in a future action. 
In addition, reliable discard estimates for the recreational fishery 
are not available. Given the past performance of the recreational 
fishery, and the 10-percent buffer, NMFS believes that the potential 
for discards was adequately accounted for. The Marine Recreational 
Information Program (MRIP) estimates three types of recreational catch: 
Fish brought back to the dock in a form that can be identified by 
trained interviewers; fish that are used for bait, released dead, or 
filleted and are identified by individual anglers; and fish that are 
released alive and are identified by individual anglers. The MRIP 
estimate of recreational catch in 2011, the most recent year of 
complete data, was 932 mt. As the MRIP data do include some limited 
information on recreational discards, the mackerel recreational 
allocation for 2013-2015 of 2,443 mt is likely sufficient to cover both 
recreational catch and discards. As NMFS improves recreational data 
collection, the MSB Monitoring Committee will re-examine the 
recreational ACT and consider whether discards should be accounted for 
in an explicit deduction.
    Comment 4: GSSA and Lund's also commented that the commercial ACT 
should have been set equal to the commercial ACL, with zero buffer for 
management uncertainty (instead of the 15-percent buffer proposed for 
2013-2015) considering the mackerel fishery's performance is consistent 
with the specifications that have been set for the fishery in recent 
years.
    Response: Given recent performance of the fishery, NMFS, consistent 
with the Council's recommendation, determined that a 15-percent buffer 
between the commercial ACL and ACT was appropriate to prevent overages 
of the U.S. ABC, and to provide buffer for uncertainty in Canadian 
catch estimates. While preliminary information provided to the Council 
during its decision-making process showed Canadian catch in 2013 may be 
set at lower levels than 2012, it is unclear whether the decrease in 
Canadian catch is due to concerns about the status of the mackerel 
stock or other unknown factors. Therefore, NMFS concurs with the 
Council that setting Canadian catch and the buffer for management 
uncertainty at status quo levels (15 percent between the commercial ACL 
and ACT) is appropriate, due to the general uncertainty associated with 
the mackerel stock and the final Canadian assessment results. In 
addition, the buffer for management uncertainty includes consideration 
of management uncertainty issues for commercial catch estimation, 
including discard estimation and general imprecision in catch 
estimation.
    Comment 5: A member of the public commented that the butterfish 
quotas should not be increased, but should be decreased by 75 percent 
instead.
    Response: NMFS does not believe that there is any information to 
warrant a decrease in the butterfish specifications for 2013. On the 
contrary, the NEFSC analysis showed that the increasing the butterfish 
catch to 16,800 mt would not lead to overfishing.

Comments on Revised 2012 Butterfish Specifications

    NMFS recently published an interim final rule to revise 2012 
butterfish specifications (77 FR 67305; November 9, 2012). The interim 
final rule raised the 2012 butterfish ABC to 4,200 mt (from 3,622 mt), 
and specified the butterfish ACT at 3,780 mt, the DAH DAP at 872 mt, 
and the butterfish mortality cap at 3,165 mt. The rationale for the 
interim final rule is discussed in the background section of the 
preamble for that action and is not repeated here.
    The rule specified that these revised butterfish quotas would be 
effective from November 8, 2012, through the remainder of the 2012 
fishing year (December 31, 2012), until superseded by 2013 MSB 
specifications. Typically

[[Page 3351]]

NMFS would publish a rulemaking to finalize the measures put forward in 
an interim final rule, and use the final rule to respond to any 
comments on the interim final measures. Because of the timing of a 
rulemaking to finalize the revised 2012 butterfish specifications and 
the timing of this final rule to implement 2013 MSB specifications 
coincide, and because the 2013 MSB specifications would supersede the 
2012 measures, NMFS decided to forego the publication of a rulemaking 
to finalize the revised 2012 butterfish specifications and to instead 
respond to comments on the revised 2012 butterfish specification in the 
final rule for 2013 MSB specifications. One individual submitted a 
comment on the interim final rule, and NMFS addresses the comment 
below, in two parts.
    Comment 1: One individual commented that NMFS raised the ABC on a 
stock for which the overfished/overfishing status is unknown. The 
commenter stated that while NMFS previously classified butterfish as 
overfished with overfishing occurring, the SSC was forced by NMFS to 
change the determination so that the longfin squid fishery could 
continue to operate. The commenter stated that the butterfish stock is 
so depleted that the directed fishery has not attained its quota for 
the 2012 fishing year. The commenter also stated that the fishery did 
not catch the directed fishery quota in previous years because bycatch 
closures closed the directed fishery before the fish were available to 
fishery participants from southern states that rely on butterfish catch 
in the fall. Finally, the commenter stated that the longfin squid 
fishery is wasteful, and is characterized by the excessive catch of 
undersized fish due to the small mesh size used to prosecute the 
fishery.
    Response: The commenter incorrectly characterizes the current and 
previous status of the butterfish stock. Until recently, NMFS listed 
butterfish as overfished (i.e., stock biomass below the overfishing 
threshold), with overfishing not occurring (i.e., fishing mortality was 
not occurring at a rate higher than the stock's natural replenishment 
rate) based on the results of the 38th Stock Assessment Review Workshop 
(SAW 38; 2004). NMFS, rather than the Council's SSC, officially changed 
the overfished status for butterfish to ``unknown'' in mid-2012, after 
a review of the results of the 49th Stock Assessment Review Workshop 
(SAW 49; 2010) suggested that the stock status reference points that 
resulted from SAW 38 (i.e. the overfished status from SAW 38) were 
inappropriate. The overfishing status for butterfish has not been 
changed. The change to the stock status determination was entirely 
separate from any 2012 rulemakings related to either the longfin squid 
or butterfish fisheries. NMFS did not change the butterfish overfished 
status from ``overfished'' to ``unknown'' to facilitate a longfin squid 
fishery during the 2012 fishing year.
    The commenter does not present support for the statement that 
butterfish stock depletion has caused the fishery to catch less than 
the 2012 butterfish quota. To the contrary, recent trawl survey indices 
indicate that butterfish abundance is stable or increasing. In 
addition, management controls in recent years have constrained 
landings. While NMFS has increased the butterfish quota at several 
points during the 2012 fishing year, possession limits restrict the 
amount of butterfish that limited access and incidental butterfish 
permit holders can land on a given trip (up to 5,000 lb per trip for 
limited access permit holders, depending on mesh size, and up to 650 
per trip for incidental permit holders). Further, the directed 
butterfish fishery quota (DAH) has been maintained at a low level since 
2004 in order to limit fishing mortality on the butterfish stock 
following the ``overfished'' status determination in SAW 38. The 
previous low DAH, coupled with possession limits, has prevented the 
formation of a strong market for butterfish, and more likely explains 
why the DAH has not been attained in 2012 in spite of quota increases.
    Comment 2: The commenter also stated that the directed fishery 
quota was not attained in previous years because ``bycatch closures'' 
closed the directed fishery before the fish were available to southern 
fishery participants in the fall.
    Response: This comment is unclear. If the commenter is referring to 
closures of the directed butterfish fishery (based on the DAH) in 
recent years, these closures were the result of directed butterfish 
landings, not a result of bycatch limits due to butterfish bycatch in 
other fisheries. If the commenter is referring to the availability of 
butterfish mortality cap quota for fall participants in the longfin 
squid fishery, NMFS notes that the butterfish mortality cap was not 
constraining for fall participants in the longfin squid fishery in 
either 2011 or 2012, the only 2 years that the cap has been in 
operation. The Trimester III (September 1-December 31) longfin squid 
fishery operated without a closure related to butterfish for both 
years.
    Finally, regarding incidental catch in the longfin squid fishery, 
NMFS notes that fishery management plans for managed species consider 
incidental catch and discards. This means that annual catch levels are 
set so that mortality from all sources, including incidental catch and 
discards in the longfin squid fishery, are accounted for. Thus, while 
there is incidental catch of other species in the longfin squid 
fishery, NMFS works to constrain such catch within the context of 
overall catch levels appropriate for each managed stock.

Changes From the Proposed Rule

    There are no changes from the proposed rule to the mackerel or 
butterfish specifications or management measures.

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 MSB FMP, other provision of the Magnuson-Stevens 
Act, and other applicable laws.
    The Council prepared an EA for the 2013 specifications, and the 
NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries concluded that there will be 
no significant impact on the human environment as a result of this 
rule. A copy of the EA is available upon request (see ADDRESSES).
    This action is authorized by 50 CFR part 648 and has been 
determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866 
(E.O. 12866).
    The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries finds good cause under 
section 553(d) of the Administrative Procedure Act to waive the 30-day 
delay in effectiveness for this action for all requirements except for 
those in 648.27. This action increases the butterfish harvest available 
to the fishing industry for the 2013 fishing year. The primary 
butterfish market available to the butterfish fishing industry occurs 
in late December through mid-February due to the high fat content of 
the fish after feeding during the early winter. In addition, the 
current regulations cap the butterfish trip limit at 5,000 lb (2,268 
kg) for limited access permit holders, while this final rule implements 
an unlimited trip limit at the start of the fishing year. This change 
in the trip limit for the directed butterfish fishery will also allow 
the butterfish fleet to obtain as much profit early in the year as 
possible, when the market is available. If the effectiveness of this 
rule were delayed for 30 days from the date of publication, it would 
likely be effective after the butterfish market has decreased. 
Therefore, vessels fishing for butterfish would be unable to obtain the

[[Page 3352]]

increased economic opportunity this final rule provides by increasing 
the butterfish quota. Failure to make this final rule effective 
immediately will undermine the intent of the rule, which is to promote 
the utilization and conservation of the Atlantic mackerel, squid, and 
butterfish resource.
    NMFS, pursuant to section 604 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 
has prepared a FRFA, included in the preamble of this final rule, in 
support of the 2013 specifications and management measures. The FRFA 
describes the economic impact that this final rule, along with other 
non-preferred alternatives, will have on small entities.
    The FRFA incorporates the economic impacts and analysis summaries 
in the IRFA, a summary of the significant issues raised by the public 
in response to the IRFA, and NMFS's responses to those comments. A copy 
of the IRFA, the RIR, and the EA are available upon request (see 
ADDRESSES).

Statement of Need for This Action

    This action proposes 2013-2015 specifications for mackerel and 2013 
specifications for butterfish, along with management measures for 
longfin squid and butterfish. A complete description of the reasons why 
this action is being considered, and the objectives of and legal basis 
for this action, are contained in the preamble to the proposed and 
final rules 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 Final Rule as a 
Result of Such Comments

    There were no issues related to the IRFA or the economic impacts of 
the rule more generally raised in public comments.

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

    Based on permit data for 2011, 3,405 commercial or charter vessels 
possessed MSB permits for the 2011 fishing year, and similar numbers of 
vessels are expected to have MSB permits for 2013. All but a few of 
these participants can be considered small businesses under the 
guidelines of the Small Business Administration (SBA). Small businesses 
operating in commercial and recreational (i.e., party and charter 
vessel operations) fisheries have been defined by the SBA as firms with 
gross revenues of up to $4.0 and $7.0 million, respectively. There are 
no large entities, as that term is defined in section 601 of the RFA, 
participating in this fishery. Therefore, there are no disproportionate 
economic impacts on small entities. Many vessels participate in more 
than one of these fisheries; therefore, permit numbers are not 
additive.

Description of Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other Compliance 
Requirements

    There are no new reporting or recordkeeping requirements contained 
in any of the alternatives considered for this action. In addition, 
there are no Federal rules that duplicate, overlap, or conflict with 
this rule.

Description of the Steps the Agency Has Taken To Minimize the 
Significant Economic Impacts on Small Entities Consistent With the 
Stated Objectives of Applicable Statutes, Including a Statement of the 
Factual, Policy, and Legal Reasons for Selecting the Alternative 
Adopted in the Final Rule and Why Each One of the Other Significant 
Alternatives to the Rule Considered by the Agency Which Affect the 
Impact on Small Entities Was Rejected

Actions Implemented With the Final Rule

    The mackerel commercial DAH (33,821 mt) and recreational ACT/RHL 
(2,443 mt) implemented in this action represent no change from status 
quo. Commercial mackerel landings for 2011 were 1,463 mt, and 
recreational catch was 932 mt, and in both cases, catch was below the 
allocation. As of the publication of this rule, mackerel catch is 
estimated to be 5,325 mt and is not likely to increase significantly 
for the remainder of the year, which means that 2012 catch will also be 
below the 2012 DAH. Therefore, this action allows the mackerel fleet 
the opportunity to harvest more than they have in the previous year. 
Overall, this action is expected to generate revenue very similar to 
the 2012 revenue for vessels that participate in the commercial 
mackerel fisheries.
    The butterfish DAH implemented in this action (2,570 mt) represents 
an increase of 1,698 mt over the 2012 DAH (872 mt). Due to market 
conditions, there has not been a directed butterfish fishery since 
2001; therefore, recent landings have been low. The increase in the DAH 
has the potential to dramatically increase revenue for butterfish 
permitted vessels because the butterfish fishery has been an incidental 
catch fishery for several years.
    In addition, the three-phased management system implemented for the 
directed butterfish fishery, which allows an unlimited quota until 
butterfish harvest reaches a particular threshold, allows vessels to 
harvest substantially more butterfish during the start of the fishing 
year, when the market is suspected to be available. The three-phased 
management system allows the potentially expanded directed butterfish 
fishery to increase catch without exceeding the ACL and having to pay 
back overages the following year.
    The butterfish mortality cap implemented in this action (4,464 mt) 
represents a 1,299-mt increase over the current 2012 cap level (3,165 
mt). The increase in the butterfish mortality cap is less restrictive 
on the longfin squid fishery than the previous year. While longfin 
squid catch will still be restrained by the longfin squid DAH, there is 
less of likelihood that the longfin squid fishery will be closed due to 
the butterfish mortality cap. In addition, the management measures for 
the longfin squid fishery that are being implemented will ensure that 
the directed longfin squid fishery is not closed during the last 2 
weeks of a particular Trimester, therefore causing economic harm to the 
fishing industry when there is still a small amount of catch available 
to the fleet. Therefore, the implementation of these actions could 
result in an increase in revenue for the longfin squid fishery for 
2013.
    The Illex and longfin squid IOYs confirmed in this action (22,915 
mt and 22,049 mt respectively) represent no change from the status quo. 
Thus, implementation of this action should not result in a reduction in 
revenue or a constraint on expansion of the fishery in 2013.

Alternatives to Actions in the Final Rule

    The Council analysis evaluated three alternatives to the 
specifications for mackerel. The first (status quo) alternative 
differed from the mackerel specifications implemented, only in that the 
status quo alternative recommends specifications for 1 year, while the 
final specifications are being implemented for 3 years (2013-2015). The 
status quo alternative would have set the stock-wide ABC of 80,000 mt, 
Canadian catch of 36,219 mt, and a U.S. ABC of 43,781 mt. The second 
alternative (the least restrictive) would have set the stock-wide ABC 
at 100,000 mt, maintained Canadian catch at 35,219 mt, and would have 
set a U.S. ABC at 63,781 mt. This alternative could have generated 
increased revenue if more mackerel became available to the fishery. The 
third alternative (the most restrictive) would have set the stock-wide 
ABC at

[[Page 3353]]

60,000 mt, maintain Canadian catch at 36,219 mt, and would have set a 
U.S. ABC at 23,781 mt. This alternative could have generated the lowest 
revenue of all of the alternatives. These two alternatives were not 
selected because they were inconsistent with the ABC recommended by the 
SSC.
    There were three alternatives to the butterfish specifications 
being implemented that were not selected by the Council. The first 
(status quo) alternative would have kept the butterfish ABC and ACL at 
3,622 mt, the ACT at 3,260 mt, the DAH and DAP at 1,087, and the 
butterfish mortality cap at 2,445 mt. The second alternative (least 
restrictive) would have set the ABC and ACL at 10,500 mt, the ACT at 
9,450 mt, the DAH and DAP at 3,213 mt, and the butterfish mortality cap 
at 5,625 mt, and would have generated the highest revenues of all of 
the alternatives. The fourth alternative (most restrictive) would have 
set the ABC and ACL at 6,300 mt, the ACT at 5,670 mt, the DAH and DAP 
at 1,928 mt, the butterfish mortality cap at 3,375 mt, and would have 
generated the lowest revenue of all of the alternatives. These three 
alternatives were not selected because they were inconsistent with the 
ABC recommended by the SSC.
    The Council recommended the status quo as an alternative to 
changing management measures for the longfin squid fishery and for the 
butterfish mortality cap. The status quo alternative would have 
required vessels possessing 1,000 lb (0.45 mt) or more of butterfish to 
fish with a 3-inch (76-mm) minimum codend mesh. The status quo 
alternatives were considered, but not selected, because the measures 
implemented have the potential to increase economic opportunity for the 
fishing fleet while still ensuring the ACL for the longfin squid 
fishery and the butterfish mortality cap are not exceeded. There were 
also two alternatives to the proposed three-phase management system for 
the directed butterfish fishery. The first (status quo and most 
restrictive) would have maintained the 5,000-lb (2.27-mt) trip limit 
for vessels issued longfin squid/butterfish moratorium permits using 
over 3-inch (76-mm) mesh, 2,000-lb (0.91-mt) trip limit for vessels 
issued longfin squid/butterfish moratorium permits using under 3-inch 
(76-mm) mesh, and the 600-lb (0.27-mt) trip limit for vessels issued 
squid/butterfish incidental catch permits. Even with the increase in 
quota, the butterfish fishery may not have been able to harvest an 
increased amount of butterfish with these restrictive trip limits. 
Therefore, this alternative would have generated the lowest amount of 
revenue out of all of the alternatives. The second alternative would 
have provided a simpler management system for the directed fishery in 
which the trip limit for vessels issued longfin squid/butterfish 
moratorium permits would have been 20,000 lb (9.07 mt) for vessels 
issued longfin squid/butterfish moratorium permits using greater than 
3-inch (76-mm) mesh, 2,500 lb (1.13 mt) for vessels using under 3-inch 
(76-mm) mesh, and 1,000 lb (4.54 mt) for vessels issued squid/
butterfish incidental catch permits. If 80 percent of the DAH was 
projected to be harvested before October 1, the trip limit for all 
vessels would have been reduced to 250 lb (0.11 mt), and if the DAH was 
projected to be harvested on or after October 1, the trip limit for all 
vessels would have been 500 lb (0.23 mt). This alternative would have 
provided the butterfish fishery the opportunity to increase revenues 
over the first alternative, but not to the same extent as the 
alternative implemented in this action. While these alternatives were 
considered, they were not selected because the alternative being 
implemented has the potential to increase economic opportunity for 
vessels participating in the directed butterfish fishery while still 
ensuring the ACL is not exceeded. The other alternatives would not have 
been as effective for directed butterfish vessels to re-establish a 
butterfish market.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648

    Fisheries, Fishing, Recordkeeping and reporting requirements.

    Dated: January 10, 2013.
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.

    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.  648.4, paragraph (a)(5)(ii) is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  648.4  Vessel permits.

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (5) * * *
    (ii) Squid/butterfish incidental catch permit. Any vessel of the 
United States may obtain a permit to fish for or retain up to 2,500 lb 
(1.13 mt) of longfin squid, 600 lb (0.27 mt) of butterfish, or up to 
10,000 lb (4.54 mt) of Illex squid, as an incidental catch in another 
directed fishery. The incidental catch allowance may be revised by the 
Regional Administrator based upon a recommendation by the Council 
following the procedure set forth in Sec.  648.22.
* * * * *

0
3. In Sec.  648.14, paragraphs (g)(2)(ii)(E) and (F) are revised to 
read as follows:


Sec.  648.14  Prohibitions.

* * * * *
    (g) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (ii) * * *
    (E) Possess more than 2,500 lb (1.13 mt) of butterfish, unless the 
vessel meets the minimum mesh requirements specified in Sec.  
648.23(a).
    (F) Take, retain, possess, or land mackerel after a total closure 
specified under Sec.  648.24(b)(1).
* * * * *

0
4. In Sec.  648.22, revise paragraphs (b)(2)(i) and (b)(2)(ii), 
redesignate paragraphs (b)(3)(v) through (b)(3)(vii) as paragraphs 
(b)(3)(vi) through (b)(3)(viii), respectively, and add new paragraph 
(b)(3)(v) to read as follows:


Sec.  648.22  Atlantic mackerel, squid, and butterfish specifications.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (2) Mackerel--(i) ABC. The MAFMC's SSC shall recommend a stock-wide 
ABC to the MAFMC, as described in Sec.  648.20. The stock-wide mackerel 
ABC is reduced from the OFL based on an adjustment for scientific 
uncertainty; the stock-wide ABC must be less than or equal to the OFL.
    (ii) ACL. The ACL or Domestic ABC is calculated using the formula 
ACL/Domestic ABC = stock-wide ABC - C, where C is the estimated catch 
of mackerel in Canadian waters for the upcoming fishing year.
* * * * *
    (3) * * *
    (v) The trip limit reduction thresholds for phase 2 and phase 3 of 
the butterfish three-phase management system will be modified annually 
through the specifications process. Trip limit reduction thresholds 
vary bi-monthly and are set to allow the butterfish fishery to continue 
to operate without exceeding the stock-wide ACL. An example of the 
phase 2 and 3 trip limit reduction thresholds is shown in the table 
below:

[[Page 3354]]



 Butterfish Thresholds for Reducing Trip Limits from Phase 1 to Phase 2
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                            Trip limit
                                             reduction      Butterfish
                 Months                      threshold        harvest
                                             (percent)     (metric tons)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jan-Feb.................................              40           1,028
Mar-Apr.................................              47           1,208
May-Jun.................................              55           1,414
Jul-Aug.................................              63           1,619
Sept-Oct................................              71           1,825
Nov-ec..................................              78           2,005
------------------------------------------------------------------------

* * * * *

0
5. In Sec.  648.23, paragraph (a)(1) is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  648.23  Mackerel, squid, and butterfish gear restrictions.

    (a) * * *
    (1) Butterfish fishery. Owners or operators of otter trawl vessels 
possessing 2,500 lb (1.13 mt) or more of butterfish harvested in or 
from the EEZ may only fish with nets having a minimum codend mesh of 3 
inches (7.62 cm) diamond mesh, inside stretch measure, applied 
throughout the codend for at least 100 continuous meshes forward of the 
terminus of the net, or for codends with less than 100 meshes, the 
minimum mesh size codend shall be a minimum of one-third of the net, 
measured from the terminus of the codend to the headrope.
* * * * *

0
6. In Sec.  648.24, paragraphs (a)(1), (b)(6), (c) and (d) are revised 
to read as follows:


Sec.  648.24  Fishery closures and accountability measures.

    (a) Fishery closure procedures--(1) Longfin squid. NMFS shall close 
the directed fishery in the EEZ for longfin squid when the Regional 
Administrator projects that 90 percent of the longfin squid quota is 
harvested before April 15 of Trimester I and/or August 15 of Trimester 
II, and when 95 percent of the longfin squid DAH has been harvested in 
Trimester III. On or after April 15 of Trimester I and/or August 15 of 
Trimester II, NMFS shall close the directed fishery in the EEZ for 
longfin squid when the Regional Administrator projects that 95 percent 
of the longfin squid quota is harvested. The closure of the directed 
fishery shall be in effect for the remainder of that fishing period, 
with incidental catches allowed as specified at Sec.  648.26.
* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (6) Mackerel ACL overage evaluation. The ACL will be evaluated 
based on a single-year examination of total catch (landings and 
discards). Both landings and dead discards will be evaluated in 
determining if the ACL has been exceeded. NMFS shall make 
determinations about overages and implement any changes to the ACL, in 
accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act, through notification 
in the Federal Register, by May 15 of the fishing year in which the 
deductions will be made.
    (c) Butterfish AMs--(1) Butterfish three-phase management system. 
The butterfish fishery operates under a three-phase management system. 
Phase 1 begins annually at the start of the fishing year on January 1. 
Trip limit reductions are implemented in phase 2 and 3 dependent upon 
the amount of butterfish harvest and the trip limit reduction 
thresholds set during the specification process as described in Sec.  
648.22.
    (i) Phase 1. During phase 1, vessels issued a longfin squid/
butterfish moratorium permit (as specified at Sec.  648.4(a)(5)(i)) 
fishing with a minimum mesh size of 3 inches (76 mm) have an unlimited 
trip limit and vessels issued a longfin squid/butterfish moratorium 
permit fishing with mesh less than 3 inches (76 mm) are prohibited from 
landing more than 2,500 lb (1.13 mt) of butterfish per trip.
    (ii) Phase 2. NMFS shall reduce the trip limit for vessels issued 
longfin squid/butterfish moratorium permits (as specified at Sec.  
648.4(a)(5)(i)) fishing with a minimum mesh size of 3 inches (76 mm) to 
5,000 lb (2.27 mt), when butterfish harvest reaches the relevant phase 
2 trip limit reduction threshold. Trip limits for vessels issued 
longfin squid/butterfish moratorium permits fishing with mesh less than 
3 inches (76 mm) will remain at 2,500 lb (1.13 mt) of butterfish per 
trip.
    (iii) Phase 3. NMFS shall subsequently reduce the trip limit for 
vessels issued longfin squid/butterfish moratorium permits to 500 lb 
(0.23 mt), regardless of minimum mesh size, when butterfish harvest is 
projected to reach the relevant phase 3 trip limit reduction threshold. 
The NMFS Regional Administrator may adjust the butterfish trip limit 
during phase 3 of the directed butterfish fishery anywhere from 250 lb 
(0.11 mt) to 750 lb (0.34 mt) to ensure butterfish harvest does not 
exceed the specified DAH.
    (2) Butterfish ACL overage repayment. If the butterfish ACL is 
exceeded, then catch in excess of the ACL will be deducted from the ACL 
the following year, as a single-year adjustment.
    (3) Butterfish mortality cap on the longfin squid fishery. NMFS 
shall close the directed fishery in the EEZ for longfin squid when the 
Regional Administrator projects that 80 percent of the Trimester I 
butterfish mortality cap allocation has been harvested in Trimester I, 
when 75 percent of the annual butterfish mortality cap has been 
harvested in Trimester II, and/or when 90 percent of the butterfish 
mortality cap has been harvested in Trimester III.
    (4) Butterfish ACL overage evaluation. The ACL will be evaluated 
based on a single-year examination of total catch (landings and 
discards). Both landings and dead discards will be evaluated in 
determining if the ACL has been exceeded. NMFS shall make 
determinations about overages and implement any changes to the ACL, in 
accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act, through notification 
in the Federal Register, by May 15 of the fishing year in which the 
deductions will be made.
    (d) Notification. Upon determining that a closure or trip limit 
reduction is necessary, the Regional Administrator will notify, in 
advance of the closure, the Executive Directors of the MAFMC, NEFMC, 
and SAFMC; mail notification of the closure or trip limit reduction to 
all holders of mackerel, squid, and butterfish fishery permits at least 
72 hr before the effective date of the closure; provide adequate notice 
of the closure or trip limit reduction to recreational participants in 
the fishery; and publish notification of the closure or trip limit 
reduction in the Federal Register.

0
7. In Sec.  648.26, paragraph (d) is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  648.26  Mackerel, squid, and butterfish possession restrictions.

* * * * *
    (d) Butterfish. (1) Phase 1. A vessel issued a longfin squid/
butterfish moratorium permit (as specified at Sec.  648.4(a)(5)(i)) 
fishing with a minimum mesh size of 3 inches (76 mm) is authorized to 
fish for, possess, or land butterfish with no possession restriction in 
the EEZ per trip, and may only land butterfish once on any calendar 
day, which is defined as the 24-hr period beginning at 0001 hours and 
ending at 2400 hours, provided that butterfish harvest has not reached 
the phase 2 trip limit reduction threshold, as described in Sec.  
648.24(c). Vessels issued longfin squid/butterfish moratorium permits 
fishing with mesh less than 3 inches (76 mm) may not fish for, possess, 
or land more than 2,500 lb (1.13 mt) of butterfish per trip at any 
time, and may only land butterfish once on any calendar day, provided 
that butterfish harvest has not reached the phase 3 trip limit 
reduction threshold, as described in Sec.  648.24(c).

[[Page 3355]]

    (2) Phase 2. When butterfish harvest reaches the phase 2 trip limit 
reduction threshold for the butterfish fishery (as described in Sec.  
648.24), vessels issued a longfin squid/butterfish moratorium permit 
(as specified at Sec.  648.4(a)(5)(i)) fishing with a minimum mesh size 
of 3 inches (76 mm) may not fish for, possess, or land more than 5,000 
lb (2.27 mt) of butterfish per trip at any time, and may only land 
butterfish once on any calendar day, which is defined as the 24-hr 
period beginning at 0001 hours and ending at 2400 hours. Trip limits 
for vessels issued butterfish moratorium permits fishing with mesh less 
than 3 inches (76 mm) will remain at 2,500 lb (1.13) per trip.
    (3) Phase 3. When butterfish harvest is projected to reach the trip 
limit reduction threshold for phase 3 (as described in Sec.  648.24), 
all vessels issued a longfin squid/butterfish moratorium permit, 
regardless of mesh size used, may not fish for, possess, or land more 
than 500 lb (0.23 mt) of butterfish per trip at any time, and may only 
land butterfish once on any calendar day, which is defined as the 24-hr 
period beginning at 0001 hours and ending at 2400 hours. If a vessel 
has been issued a longfin squid/butterfish incidental catch permit (as 
specified at Sec.  648.4(a)(5)(ii)), it may not fish for, possess, or 
land more than 600 lb (0.27 mt) of butterfish per trip at any time.

0
8. In Sec.  648.27, paragraphs (a), (c), and (d) are revised to read as 
follows:


Sec.  648.27  Observer requirements for the longfin squid fishery.

    (a) A vessel issued a longfin squid and butterfish moratorium 
permit, as specified at Sec.  648.4(a)(5)(i), must, for the purposes of 
observer deployment, have a representative provide notice to NMFS of 
the vessel name, vessel permit number, contact name for coordination of 
observer deployment, telephone number or email address for contact; and 
the date, time, port of departure, and approximate trip duration, at 
least 48 hr, but no more than 10 days, prior to beginning any fishing 
trip, unless it complies with the possession restrictions in paragraph 
(c) of this section.
* * * * *
    (c) A vessel issued a longfin squid and butterfish moratorium 
permit, as specified in Sec.  648.4(a)(5)(i), that does not have a 
representative provide the trip notification required in paragraph (a) 
of this section is prohibited from fishing for, possessing, harvesting, 
or landing greater than 2,500 lb (1.13 mt) of longfin squid per trip at 
any time, and may only land longfin squid once on any calendar day, 
which is defined as the 24-hr period beginning at 0001 hours and ending 
at 2400 hours.
    (d) If a vessel issued a longfin squid and butterfish moratorium 
permit, as specified in Sec.  648.4(a)(5)(i), intends to possess, 
harvest, or land more than 2,500 lb (1.13 mt) of longfin squid per trip 
or per calendar day, has a representative notify NMFS of an upcoming 
trip, is selected by NMFS to carry an observer, and then cancels that 
trip, the representative is required to provide notice to NMFS of the 
vessel name, vessel permit number, contact name for coordination of 
observer deployment, and telephone number or email address for contact, 
and the intended date, time, and port of departure for the cancelled 
trip prior to the planned departure time. In addition, if a trip 
selected for observer coverage is cancelled, then that vessel is 
required to carry an observer, provided an observer is available, on 
its next trip.

[FR Doc. 2013-00827 Filed 1-15-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P