[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 43 (Tuesday, March 5, 2013)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 14230-14232]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-05068]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 121128658-3161-02]
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: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: NMFS is changing the butterfish mortality cap on the longfin 
squid fishery from a catch cap to a discard cap as a result of its 
approval of Framework Adjustment 7 to the Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and 
Butterfish Fishery Management Plan. This action also reduces the 
butterfish mortality cap for the 2013 fishing year by 13 percent (from 
4,477 mt to 3,884 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: Effective March 5, 2013 through December 31, 2013.

ADDRESSES: Copies of supporting documents used by the Mid-Atlantic 
Fishery Management Council (Council), including the Framework Document 
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.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Katherine Richardson, Policy Analyst, 
978-675-2152, fax 978-281-9135.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    NMFS published a proposed rule for Framework Adjustment 7 on 
December 13, 2012 (77 FR 74159). The proposed rule included additional 
background information and detail on why and how the Council developed 
Framework Adjustment 7, which NMFS has not repeated in this rule.

[[Page 14231]]

    NFMS implemented the butterfish mortality cap on the longfin squid 
fishery 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 fishermen discard most butterfish caught on a longfin squid trip 
and land only a small amount of butterfish, which has been the case 
since 2002. In response to new information that suggests increased 
butterfish abundance, the Council recommended and NMFS implemented on 
January 16, 2013, (78 FR 3346) a much higher butterfish quota for the 
2013 fishing year. The increased quota will allow for a directed 
butterfish fishery for the first time in recent years.
    NMFS currently calculates the butterfish mortality cap by 
extrapolating the observed butterfish catch (landings and discards) on 
longfin squid trips with an observer aboard to determine the butterfish 
catch on all unobserved longfin squid trips. The butterfish mortality 
cap calculations currently include all trips that land greater than or 
equal to 2,501 lb of longfin squid. With directed butterfish fishing, 
an observed trip could land a very large amount of butterfish and just 
enough longfin squid to qualify as a longfin squid trip, and we would 
include it 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. In order to accommodate the directed butterfish fishery, 
Framework Adjustment 7 changes 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, it can change the butterfish discard 
cap to a catch cap as part of the specifications process.
    This action also reduces the butterfish mortality cap for the 2013 
fishing year by 13 percent (from 4,477 mt to 3,884 mt) to exclude 
butterfish landings that were previously included in the butterfish 
mortality cap allocation. NMFS has based this reduction 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, NMFS expects the 
adjusted cap level to maintain overall butterfish mortality in the 
longfin squid fishery.

Changes From the Proposed Rule

    At the time the proposed rule for Framework 7 published, NMFS had 
not yet finalized the butterfish mortality cap allocation for 2013. 
Final Research Set-Aside (RSA) allocations for a given year are 
typically not available until final specifications, and the exclusion 
of the final RSA allocation results in slight decreases in a number of 
the specified allocations for a given species. We have since finalized 
in the 2013 MSB Specifications and adjusted the butterfish mortality 
allocation from 4,500 mt to 4,477 mt to account for allocated 
butterfish RSA.
    The proposed rule included the 13-percent reduction to the 
mortality cap using the cap specified prior to final RSA allocation. 
For this final rule, we are adjusting the reduction of the mortality 
cap to include the RSA allocation. Thus, the final rule for Framework 7 
applies the 13-percent discount to the butterfish mortality cap 
allocation presented in the final 2013 MSB Specifications (4,477 mt), 
which results in a 2013 butterfish mortality cap of 3,884 mt.

Comments and Responses

    NMFS received one comment on the proposed rule for Framework 
Adjustment 7. The Garden State Seafood Association (GSSA), a New 
Jersey-based commercial fishing industry group, commented in support 
for the action and noted that it was consistent with the intent of 
Amendment 10 to limit butterfish discards and maintain the butterfish 
cap within the longfin fishery, while facilitating the directed 
butterfish fishery in 2013.
    Response: NMFS agrees that the measures in Framework 7 will still 
limit butterfish discards in the longfin squid fishery. The measures 
implemented in the 2013 MSB Specifications facilitate the directed 
butterfish fishery, but this measure does allow additional landings of 
butterfish while on a directed longfin squid trip.

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 Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish FMP, other 
provision of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law.
    The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries finds that the need to 
implement these measures in a timely manner to avoid premature closure 
of the longfin squid fishery constitutes good cause under 5 U.S.C. 
553(d)(3) to waive the 30-day delay in effective date. The 2013 MSB 
Specifications allocated a level of butterfish catch that may create 
enough butterfish market interest to cause a directed butterfish 
fishery for the first time in many years. This directed fishery is 
expected to be of the greatest value in late winter. If directed 
butterfish fishing increases without the measures included in this 
action, vessels that catch a high volume of butterfish on trips we 
determine to be longfin squid trips (i.e., those trips that also land 
more than 2,500 lb of longfin squid), will cause the butterfish 
mortality cap in the longfin squid fishery to be quickly harvested, 
resulting in a premature closure of the longfin squid fishery. Because 
the measures in this action remove landed butterfish from the 
calculation of the longfin squid butterfish mortality cap, these 
measures would prevent such an early closure of the longfin squid 
fishery. A premature closure of the longfin squid fishery would be 
contrary to the public interest because it would cause unnecessary and 
unjustifiable economic harm to fishery participants.
    Failure to implement this rule immediately will undermine NMFS' 
ability to accurately manage the butterfish resource by correctly 
estimating discards. This action has no other impacts on the fishing 
industry or other members of the public, and thus, the potential for 
closing the fishery during the normal 30-day delay in effectiveness 
would be contrary to public interest. Therefore, we are waiving the 
delay in effectiveness so that the final rule may be effective upon 
publication. Under MSA and other applicable law requirements, we have 
proceeded expeditiously with this action and factors out of our control 
resulted in the delay beyond the implementation of the 2013 MSB 
Specifications.
    This 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 during the proposed rule stage that this action would 
not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. NMFS published the factual basis for this certification in 
the proposed rule and has not repeated it here. NMFS received no 
comments regarding this certification. As a result, NMFS was not 
required to prepare a

[[Page 14232]]

final regulatory flexibility analysis, and none has been prepared.

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

    Dated: February 27, 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.
[FR Doc. 2013-05068 Filed 3-4-13; 8:45 am]
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