[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 48 (Tuesday, March 12, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 15674-15676]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-05637]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 130103002-3185-01]
RIN 0648-BC85


Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Proposed 2013-2015 
Spiny Dogfish Fishery Specifications

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: This rule proposes catch limits, commercial quotas, and 
possession limits for the spiny dogfish fishery for the 2013-2015 
fishing years. The proposed action was developed by the Mid-Atlantic 
and New England Fishery Management Councils pursuant to the fishery 
specification requirements of the Spiny Dogfish Fishery Management 
Plan. The proposed management measures are supported by the best 
available scientific information and reflect recent increases in spiny 
dogfish biomass. The proposed action is expected to result in positive 
economic impacts for the spiny dogfish fishery while maintaining the 
conservation objectives of the Spiny Dogfish Fishery Management Plan.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before March 27, 2013.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2013-0044, 
by any one of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0044, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to John Bullard, Regional 
Administrator, NMFS, Northeast Regional Office, 55 Great Republic 
Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930.
     Fax: (978) 281-9135, Attn: Tobey Curtis.
    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 publically 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.
    Copies of the specifications document, including the Environmental 
Assessment and Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (EA/IRFA) and 
other supporting documents for the specifications, are available from 
Dr. Christopher M. Moore, Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery 
Management Council, Suite 201, 800 N. State Street, Dover, DE 19901. 
The specifications document is also accessible via the Internet at: 
http://www.nero.noaa.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Tobey Curtis, Fishery Policy Analyst, 
(978) 281-9273; fax: (978) 281-9135.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    In 1998, NMFS declared Spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) 
overfished. Consequently, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and 
Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) required NMFS to prepare measures 
to end overfishing and rebuild the spiny

[[Page 15675]]

dogfish stock. The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) and 
the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) developed a joint 
fishery management plan (FMP), with the MAFMC designated as the 
administrative lead. The FMP was implemented in 2000, and the spiny 
dogfish stock was declared to be successfully rebuilt in 2010.
    The regulations implementing the FMP at 50 CFR part 648, subpart L, 
outline the process for specifying an annual catch limit (ACL), 
commercial quota, possession limit, and other management measures for a 
period of 1-5 years. The MAFMC's Scientific and Statistical Committee 
(SSC) reviews the best available information on the status of the spiny 
dogfish population and recommends acceptable biological catch (ABC) 
levels. This recommendation is then used as the basis for catch limits 
and other management measures developed by the MAFMC's Spiny Dogfish 
Monitoring Committee and Joint Spiny Dogfish Committee (which includes 
members of the NEFMC). The MAFMC and NEFMC then review the 
recommendations of the committees and make their specification 
recommendations to NMFS. NMFS reviews those recommendations, and may 
modify them if necessary to ensure that they are consistent with the 
FMP and other applicable law. NMFS then publishes proposed measures for 
public comment.

Spiny Dogfish Stock Status Update

    In September 2012, the NMFS Northeast Fisheries Science Center 
updated the spiny dogfish stock status, using the most recent catch and 
biomass estimates from the 2012 spring trawl survey. Updated estimates 
indicate that the female spawning stock biomass (SSB) for 2012 was 
475.634 million lb (215,744 mt), about 35 percent above the target 
maximum sustainable yield (MSY) biomass proxy (SSBMAX) of 
351 million lb (159,288 mt). The 2011 fishing mortality rate (F) 
estimate for the stock was 0.114, well below the overfishing threshold 
(FMSY) of 0.2439. Therefore, the spiny dogfish stock is not 
currently overfished or experiencing overfishing. However, while 
recruitment has increased in recent years, poor pup production from 
1997-2003 is projected to result in declines in SSB between 
approximately 2014-2020, when the pups from the 1997-2003 years recruit 
to the spawning stock.
    The MAFMC's SSC subsequently recommended new acceptable biological 
catch (ABC) levels for spiny dogfish for the 2013-2015 fishing years. 
The ABC recommendations were based on an overfishing level of median 
catch at the FMSY proxy, and the MAFMC's risk policy for a 
Level 3 assessment (40-percent probability of overfishing). The 
resulting spiny dogfish ABCs are 54.474 million lb (24,709 mt) for 
2013, 55.455 million lb (25,154 mt) for 2014, and 55.241 million lb 
(25,057 mt) for 2015.

Council Recommendations

    The Spiny Dogfish Monitoring Committee and the Atlantic State 
Marine Fisheries Commission's (Commission) Spiny Dogfish Technical 
Committee met in September 2012 to determine the resulting 
specifications following the FMP's process. To calculate the commercial 
quota for each year, deductions were made from the ABCs to account for 
projected Canadian landings (179,000 lb (81 mt)), management 
uncertainty (3.99 percent of the ACL), U.S. discards (11.698 million lb 
(5,306 mt)), and U.S. recreational harvest (58,000 lb (26 mt)). The 
final recommended ACLs and commercial quotas are shown in Table 1. The 
proposed commercial quotas represent 14-17-percent increases from the 
status quo commercial quota (35.694 million lb (16,191 mt)).
    The Councils also recommended an increase in the spiny dogfish 
possession limit from 3,000 lb (1,361 kg) to 4,000 lb (1,814 kg) per 
trip in each year (Table 1). The possession limit increase is projected 
to help increase trip level revenues, and reduce the potential for 
under-harvesting the available quota. The Commission has adopted 
identical management measures in state waters for 2013.

   Table 1--Summary of Proposed Spiny Dogfish ACLS, Commercial Quotas, and Possession Limits for the 2013-2015
                                                  Fishing Years
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                                                                   ACL        Commercial quota  Possession limit
                           Year                            -----------------------------------------------------
                                                              M lb      mt      M lb      mt       lb       kg
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2013......................................................   54.295   24,628   40.842   18,526    4,000    1,814
2014......................................................   55.277   25,073   41.784   18,953    4,000    1,814
2015......................................................   55.063   24,976   41.578   18,859    4,000    1,814
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    As currently specified in the FMP, quota period 1 (May 1 through 
October 31) would be allocated 57.9 percent of the commercial quota, 
and quota period 2 (November 1 through April 30) would be allocated 
42.1 percent of the commercial quota. However, the Councils have 
approved Amendment 3 to the FMP, which would eliminate the seasonal 
allocation of the commercial quota. Upon implementation of Amendment 3 
(which has not yet been submitted to NMFS, but is expected early in the 
2013 fishing year), if approved, the commercial quota would only be 
monitored on an annual, coastwide basis, thereby reducing potential 
conflicts with the Commission's management of spiny dogfish.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Assistant Administrator has made a preliminary determination that 
this proposed rule is consistent with the Spiny Dogfish FMP, other 
provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law.
    The comment period for this proposed rule (15 days) is shorter than 
that normally reserved for specifications in order to ensure that the 
final rule can become effective for the beginning of the fishing year 
on May 1, 2013.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
the purpose of E.O. 12866.
    The MAFMC prepared an IRFA, as required by section 603 of the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). The IRFA describes the economic 
impact this proposed rule, if adopted, would have on small entities. A 
description of the action, why it is being considered, and the legal 
basis for this action are contained at the beginning of this section of 
the preamble and in the SUMMARY of this proposed rule. A summary of the 
IRFA follows. A copy of

[[Page 15676]]

this analysis is available from the MAFMC (see ADDRESSES).
    This rule will impact fishing vessels, including commercial fishing 
entities. For the purposes of analyses under the Regulatory Flexibility 
Act, the Small Business Administration (SBA) considers commercial 
fishing entities (NAICS code 114111) to be small entities if they have 
no more than $4 million in annual sales, while the size standard for 
charter/party operators (part of NAICS code 487210) is $7 million in 
sales. All of the entities (fishing vessels) affected by this action 
are considered small entities under the SBA size standards for small 
fishing businesses. Although multiple vessels may be owned by a single 
owner, ownership tracking is not readily available to reliably 
ascertain affiliated entities. Therefore, for the purposes of this 
analysis, each permitted vessel is treated as a single small entity and 
is determined to be a small entity under the RFA. Accordingly, there 
are no differential impacts between large and small entities under this 
rule. Information on costs in the fishery is not readily available, and 
individual vessel profitability cannot be determined directly; 
therefore, expected changes in gross revenues were used as a proxy for 
profitability.
    This action does not introduce any new reporting, recordkeeping, or 
other compliance requirements. This proposed rule does not duplicate, 
overlap, or conflict with other Federal rules.

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

    The proposed increase in the spiny dogfish commercial quota would 
impact vessels that hold Federal open access commercial spiny dogfish 
permits, and participate in the spiny dogfish fishery. According to 
MAFMC's analysis, 2,743 vessels were issued spiny dogfish permits in 
2011. However, only 326 vessels landed any amount of spiny dogfish. 
While the fishery extends from Maine to North Carolina, most active 
vessels were from Massachusetts (31.6 percent), New Jersey (14.7 
percent), New Hampshire (11.4 percent), Rhode Island (9.8 percent), New 
York (8.0 percent), North Carolina (6.7 percent), and Virginia (5.8 
percent).

Economic Impacts of the Proposed Action Compared to Significant Non-
Selected Alternatives

    Four management alternatives were analyzed for each year, 2013-
2015. Alternative 1 represents the preferred alternative proposed in 
this rule (Table 1). Alternative 2 would include the same commercial 
quotas as Alternative 1, but would maintain the status quo possession 
limit of 3,000 lb (1,361 kg), rather than increasing it to 4,000 lb 
(1,814 kg). Alternative 3 would increase the possession limit to 4,000 
lb (1,814 kg), and include the highest possible commercial quotas by 
not making a deduction from the ACL accounting for management 
uncertainty (estimated to be 3.99 percent of the ACL). Under 
Alternative 3, the commercial quotas would be 42.539 million lb (19,295 
mt) in 2013, 43.520 million lb (19,740 mt) in 2014, and 43.307 million 
lb (19,644 mt) in 2015. Alternative 4 represents the status quo 
alternative, which would maintain fishing year 2012 specifications 
through 2015 (35.694 million-lb (16,191-mt) commercial quota; 3,000-lb 
(1,361-kg) possession limit).
    The proposed action is likely to result in greater revenue from 
spiny dogfish landings, which could be 14-17 percent higher than the 
status quo commercial quota. Based on recent landings information, the 
spiny dogfish fishery is able to land close to the full amount of fish 
allowable under the quotas. Total spiny dogfish revenue from the 2011 
fishing year was approximately $4.456 million, when the commercial 
quota was 20 million lb (9,072 mt). Fishing year 2012 (status quo) 
spiny dogfish revenue is estimated to be $7.5 million under a 
commercial quota of 35.694 million lb (16,191 mt). Assuming the 2011 
average price ($0.21 per lb), landing the proposed commercial quotas 
(Table 1) would result in gross spiny dogfish revenues of approximately 
$8.577 million in 2013, $8.775 million in 2014, and $8.731 million in 
2015. Additionally, with the proposed possession limit increase from 
3,000 lb (1,361 kg) to 4,000 lb (1,814 kg), trip-level spiny dogfish 
revenues would increase from approximately $630 per trip to $840 per 
trip. The expected increases in spiny dogfish revenue should benefit 
those ports that are more heavily dependent on spiny dogfish revenue 
than other communities, including Virginia Beach/Lynnhaven, VA; Rye and 
Seabrook, NH; and Scituate, MA.
    The purpose of the proposed action is to increase spiny dogfish 
catch limits and landings, consistent with the best available science 
and the FMP, thereby extending the duration of the fishing season and 
increasing annual and trip-level spiny dogfish revenues relative to the 
status quo. The proposed action is expected to maximize the 
profitability for the spiny dogfish fishery during the 2013-2015 
fishing years, without jeopardizing the long-term sustainability of the 
stock. Therefore, the economic impacts resulting from the proposed 
action as compared to alternatives with lower quotas or possession 
limits are positive.
    The proposed action is expected to result in the most positive 
economic impacts among the alternatives, except for Alternative 3, 
which could result in slightly higher gross spiny dogfish revenues. 
However, Alternative 3 does not account for management uncertainty, 
which would result in a higher risk of exceeding the ACL, and would be 
inconsistent with the requirements of the FMP. Alternative 3 would also 
be inconsistent with the Commission's management of the spiny dogfish 
fishery in state waters; the Commission selected Alternative 1 
commercial quotas.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648

    Fisheries, Fishing, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    Dated: March 7, 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 
proposed to be 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.  648.235, revise introductory text to paragraphs (a) and 
(b), and revise paragraphs (a)(1), and (b)(1) to read as follows:


Sec.  648.235  Spiny dogfish possession and landing restrictions.

    (a) Quota period 1. From May 1 through October 31, vessels issued a 
valid Federal spiny dogfish permit specified under Sec.  648.4(a)(11) 
may:
    (1) Possess up to 4,000 lb (1.814 mt) of spiny dogfish per trip; 
and
* * * * *
    (b) Quota period 2. From November 1 through April 30, vessels 
issued a valid Federal spiny dogfish permit specified under Sec.  
648.4(a)(11) may:
    (1) Possess up to 4,000 lb (1.814 mt) of spiny dogfish per trip; 
and
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2013-05637 Filed 3-11-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P