[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 61 (Friday, March 29, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 19367-19392]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-07532]



[[Page 19367]]

Vol. 78

Friday,

No. 61

March 29, 2013

Part II





Department of Commerce





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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration





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50 CFR Part 648





Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act Provisions; 
Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast Multispecies 
Fishery; Framework Adjustment 50; Proposed Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 78 , No. 61 / Friday, March 29, 2013 / 
Proposed Rules

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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 130219149-3288-01]
RIN 0648-BC97


Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act 
Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast 
Multispecies Fishery; Framework Adjustment 50

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; emergency action; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: NMFS proposes approval of, and regulations to implement, 
measures in Framework Adjustment 50 (Framework 50) to the Northeast 
(NE) Multispecies Fishery Management Plan (FMP). Framework 50 would set 
specifications for fishing years (FYs) 2013-2015, including 2013 total 
allowable catches (TACs) for the three U.S./Canada stocks, modify the 
rebuilding program for Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic (SNE/MA) 
winter flounder, and revise management measures for this stock 
consistent with the proposed rebuilding strategy. This action also 
proposes recreational management measures for FY 2013, as well as 
revisions to the sector carryover program. An emergency action to 
implement a 2013 catch limit for Georges Bank (GB) yellowtail flounder 
is also proposed in this action. The proposed regulations are intended 
to prevent overfishing, rebuild overfished stocks, achieve optimum 
yield, and ensure that management measures are based on the best 
available scientific information.

DATES: Comments must be received by April 15, 2013.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2013-0053, 
by any of the following methods:
     Electronic submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0053,
click the ``Comment Now!'' icon, 
complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
     Mail: Paper, disk, or CD-ROM comments should be sent to 
John K. Bullard, Regional Administrator, National Marine Fisheries 
Service, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the 
outside of the envelope, ``Comments on the Proposed Rule for NE 
Multispecies Framework Adjustment 50.''
     Fax: (978) 281-9135, Attn: Sarah Heil.
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in 
Microsoft Word, Excel, or Adobe PDF file formats only.
    Copies of Framework 50, its Regulatory Impact Review (RIR), a draft 
of the environmental assessment (EA) prepared for this action, and the 
Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) prepared by the New 
England Fishery Management Council are available from Thomas A. Nies, 
Executive Director, New England Fishery Management Council, 50 Water 
Street, Mill 2, Newburyport, MA 01950. The IRFA assessing the impacts 
of the proposed measures on small entities and describing steps taken 
to minimize any significant economic impact on such entities is 
summarized in the Classification section of this proposed rule. The 
Framework 50 EA, RIR, and IRFA are also accessible via the Internet at 
http://www.nefmc.org/nemulti/index.html or http://www.nero.noaa.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sarah Heil, Fishery Policy Analyst, 
phone: 978-281-9257, fax: 978-281-9135.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The FMP specifies management measures for 16 species in Federal 
waters off the New England and Mid-Atlantic coasts, including both 
large-mesh and small-mesh species. Small-mesh species include silver 
hake (whiting), red hake, offshore hake, and ocean pout; and large-mesh 
species include Atlantic cod, haddock, yellowtail flounder, pollock, 
American plaice, witch flounder, white hake, windowpane flounder, 
Atlantic halibut, winter flounder, Acadian redfish, and Atlantic 
wolffish. Large-mesh species, which are referred to as ``regulated 
species,'' are divided into 19 fish stocks, and along with ocean pout, 
make up the groundfish complex.
    Amendment 16 to the FMP (Amendment 16) established a process for 
setting acceptable biological catches (ABCs) and annual catch limits 
(ACLs) for regulated species and ocean pout, as well as distributing 
the available catch among the various components of the groundfish 
fishery. Amendment 16 also established accountability measures (AMs) 
for the 20 groundfish stocks in order to prevent overfishing of these 
stocks and correct or mitigate any overages of the ACLs. Framework 44 
to the FMP (Framework 44) set the ABCs and ACLs for FYs 2010-2012. In 
2011, Framework 45 to the FMP (Framework 45) revised the ABCs and ACLs 
for five stocks for FYs 2011-2012. Framework 47 to the FMP updated 
specifications for most groundfish stocks for FYs 2012-2014 and 
modified management measures to make improvements in the fishery after 
more than 1 year under ACLs and AMs.
    The New England Fishery Management Council (Council) developed and 
adopted Framework 50, in conjunction with Framework 48 to the FMP 
(Framework 48), based on the biennial review process established in the 
FMP to ACLs and revise management measures necessary to rebuild 
overfished groundfish stocks and achieve the goals and objectives of 
the FMP. The Council initially intended to set the specifications for 
FYs 2013-2015, including adoption of FY 2013 TACs for U.S./Canada 
stocks, through Framework 48 to the FMP (Framework 48). Framework 48 
also includes measures to establish allocations of SNE/MA windowpane 
flounder and GB yellowtail flounder for some non-groundfish fisheries, 
modify sector management and groundfish fishery AMs, and help mitigate 
anticipated impacts of the FY 2013 catch limits. At its December 2012 
meeting, the Council voted to remove the specifications from Framework 
48 and initiate a separate specifications package (Framework 50) for 
final action at its January 2013 meeting. Due to the drastic cuts in 
catch limits being proposed for some stocks in FY 2013, the Council 
decided that it needed additional time to explore any flexibility that 
may be available for setting specifications and to complete the 
necessary analyses for the proposed measures. The Council also needed 
additional time to develop new management measures for SNE/MA winter 
flounder that are expected to

[[Page 19369]]

help mitigate the anticipated impacts of the proposed FY 2013 catch 
limits. In addition, the Council wanted to wait for the results of the 
December 2012 benchmark assessments for Gulf of Maine (GOM) and GB cod 
that were not yet available when the Council took final action on 
Framework 48.

Proposed Measures

    The measures proposed by Framework 50 are described below. The 
proposed regulations to implement measures in Framework 50 were deemed 
by the Council to be consistent with Framework 50, and necessary to 
implement the proposed measures as specified in section 303(c) of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-
Stevens Act). Some of the measures included in this action are being 
proposed by NMFS under the authority of section 305(d) of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act, which says that the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) may 
promulgate regulations necessary to ensure that fishery management 
plans or amendments are implemented in accordance with the Magnuson-
Stevens Act. These measures, which are identified and described in this 
preamble, are necessary to reconcile conflicts between the sector 
carryover program and the conservation objectives of the FMP in a 
manner consistent with the National Standards of the Magnuson-Stevens 
Act. This proposed rule also includes management measures for the 
common pool and recreational fisheries for FY 2013 that are not 
included in Framework 50, but that may be considered by the Regional 
Administrator (RA) under authority provided by the FMP.

1. Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic Winter Flounder Rebuilding Program

    The current rebuilding strategy for SNE/MA winter flounder was 
implemented in 2004 with a targeted rebuilding end date of 2014 with a 
median probability of success. In 2008, data showed that the stock 
would not rebuild by 2014, even in the absence of all fishing 
mortality, but would likely rebuild between 2015 and 2016. As a result, 
Amendment 16 adopted management measures that would result in fishing 
mortality rates as close to zero as practicable. The stock is not 
currently allocated to sectors, and possession is prohibited by 
commercial and recreational vessels.
    A benchmark assessment was completed in June 2011 for SNE/MA winter 
flounder and concluded that there was less than a 1-percent chance that 
SNE/MA winter flounder would rebuild by 2014, even if no fishing 
mortality were allowed from 2012 to 2014. Based on the assessment 
results, NMFS determined that SNE/MA winter flounder was not making 
adequate rebuilding progress. Section 304(e)(7) of the Magnuson-Stevens 
Act says that if the Secretary finds that an FMP has not resulted in 
adequate progress toward ending overfishing and rebuilding, the 
Secretary must immediately notify the Council and recommend 
conservation and management measures that would achieve adequate 
progress. Therefore, on behalf of the Secretary, NMFS notified the 
Council in May 2012 that the SNE/MA winter flounder rebuilding program 
was not making adequate progress. As a result, NMFS also notified the 
Council that it must implement a revised rebuilding plan for the stock 
within 2 years, or by May 1, 2014, consistent with the rebuilding 
requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. In December 2012, the Council 
developed a proposal to re-specify the ABC for SNE/MA winter flounder 
to achieve an ACL of at least 1,400 mt while continuing to prevent 
overfishing. The Council also proposed to allocate this stock to 
sectors beginning in FY 2013. To allow the Council's proposed revisions 
to the management approach for SNE/MA winter flounder (see Item 2 of 
this preamble for more information), NMFS notified the Council that it 
must revise the rebuilding program for this stock.
    Therefore, Framework 50 proposes to revise the rebuilding strategy 
for SNE/MA winter flounder to rebuild the stock by 2023 with a median 
probability of success. During the rebuilding program, catch limits 
would be set based on the fishing mortality rate (F) that would rebuild 
the stock within its rebuilding timeframe (Frebuild). 
However, groundfish stock projections have recently demonstrated a 
tendency to overestimate stock growth. Therefore, short-term catch 
advice for SNE/MA winter flounder could reduce catches from 
Frebuild in order to account for the scientific uncertainty 
in the projections. If SNE/MA winter flounder stock size increases more 
rapidly than originally projected, Frebuild would be 
recalculated, which could allow increased catch limits in the future.
    The minimum rebuilding time (Tmin) is the amount of time 
a stock is expected to take to rebuild to its maximum sustainable yield 
(MSY) biomass level in the absence of any fishing mortality. For SNE/MA 
winter flounder, Tmin is 6 yr (from 2013), or 2019. Because 
the stock can rebuild in less than 10 yr in the absence of all fishing 
mortality, the maximum rebuilding period for SNE/MA winter flounder is 
10 yr. A rebuilding end date of 2023 rebuilds the stock as quickly as 
possible taking into account the needs of fishing communities. The 
proposed rebuilding strategy would return greater net benefits than a 
rebuilding strategy that targets an end date between 2019 and 2023.

2. Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic Winter Flounder Management 
Measures

Landing Restrictions
    As described in Item 1 of this preamble, the prohibition on 
retention for SNE/MA winter flounder was adopted by Amendment 16 to 
keep fishing mortality rates as close to zero as practicable in order 
to rebuild this stock. This measure has effectively reduced fishing 
mortality and overfishing is not occurring for this stock. At its 
December 2012 meeting, the Council developed measures that would modify 
the management program for SNE/MA winter flounder as one way to help 
mitigate the anticipated impacts of the proposed reductions in the FY 
2013 catch limits.
    Framework 50 proposes to allocate SNE/MA winter flounder to 
sectors. As adopted by Amendment 16, each vessel's potential sector 
contribution (PSC) for SNE/MA winter flounder would be calculated using 
dealer landings during FYs 1996 through 2006. In addition, Framework 50 
proposes to allow landings of SNE/MA winter flounder by commercial and 
recreational vessels. Sector vessels would be required to land all 
legal-sized SNE/MA winter flounder, and common pool vessels would be 
allowed to land legal-sized fish within the trip limit, or any other 
inseason restrictions, specified by the RA. The current minimum fish 
size for SNE/MA winter flounder is 12 in (30.5 cm). Common pool 
management measures for FY 2013 are proposed in Item 8 of this 
preamble.
    These measures are proposed in conjunction with the revised 
rebuilding plan for the stock (see Item 1 of this preamble). Allowing 
landings of SNE/MA winter flounder is expected to provide additional 
fishing opportunities for groundfish vessels in FY 2013 to offset low 
quotas for some groundfish stocks and promote achieving optimum yield 
in the fishery. Landings of the stock would also provide the 
opportunity to collect biological samples from landed fish after 4 
years of a prohibition on possession.

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Commercial Fishery Accountability Measures

    Currently, the AM for SNE/MA winter flounder is zero possession. 
There is no reactive AM for the stock. In December 2011, a Court order 
in Oceana v. Locke required that reactive AMs be developed for all of 
the stocks not currently allocated to sectors. As a result, Framework 
48 proposes an area-based AM for commercial groundfish vessels that 
would implement gear restrictions for common pool and sector vessels in 
certain areas if the total ACL for SNE/MA winter flounder is exceeded. 
Framework 50 proposes to replace this area-based AM for SNE/MA winter 
flounder for sector vessels with the standard sector AM. All catch 
(landings and discards) of SNE/MA winter flounder would be attributed 
to a sector's annual catch entitlement (ACE). Sector vessels would be 
required to stop fishing in season in the SNE/MA winter flounder stock 
area once the entire sector's ACE is caught, unless the sector leases 
additional ACE. A sector may also propose a program to fish on a sector 
trip in fisheries that are known to have bycatch of NE multispecies, 
when it does not have ACE for certain stocks, if the sector can show 
that the limiting stock(s) would be avoided. The proposed rule for the 
FY 2013 Sector Operations Plans and Contracts and Allocation of the NE 
Multispecies ACE provides additional detail on this provision (78 FR 
16220, March 14, 2013). If a sector exceeds its ACE for the fishing 
year, the sector's ACE would be reduced by the amount of the overage in 
the following fishing year. This proposed revision to the AM for sector 
vessels is made in conjunction with the proposed measure to allocate 
the stock to sectors and allow landings.
    Framework 50 proposes to retain the area-based AM that was proposed 
in Framework 48 for common pool vessels. However, the AM proposed in 
this action would be triggered if the common pool sub-ACL is exceeded 
(not the total ACL as proposed in Framework 48) by more than the 
management uncertainty buffer. Currently, the management uncertainty 
buffer for the common pool fishery is 5 percent for SNE/MA winter 
flounder. The management uncertainty buffers can be revised each time 
the specifications are set, so the buffer used for the common pool 
fishery could change in future actions. The AM for common pool vessels 
would require trawl vessels fishing on a NE multispecies day-at-sea 
(DAS) to use approved selective trawl gear in certain areas. Approved 
gears include the separator trawl, the Ruhle trawl, the mini-Ruhle 
trawl, rope trawl, and any other gear authorized by the Council in a 
management action, or approved for use consistent with the process 
defined in Sec.  648.85(b)(6). This area-based AM would not restrict 
common pool vessels fishing with longline or gillnet gear. The AM would 
be implemented in the fishing year following the overage, and would be 
effective for the entire fishing year. The proposed AM would account 
for an overage of the common pool sub-ACL of up to 20 percent. If the 
common pool fishery exceeds its sub-ACL by 20 percent or more, the AM 
would be implemented, and this measure would be reviewed in a future 
action.
    As adopted by Amendment 16, if the total ACL is exceeded, and the 
overage is caused by a sub-component of the fishery that is not 
allocated a sub-ACL, and does not have an AM, the overage would be 
distributed among the components of the fishery that do have a sub-ACL, 
and if necessary, the pertinent AM would be triggered. If sub-ACLs are 
allocated to additional fisheries in the future, and AMs developed for 
those fisheries, the AM for any fishery would only be implemented if it 
exceeds its sub-ACL, or if the total ACL for the stock is exceeded. If 
only one fishery exceeds it sub-ACL, only the AM for that fishery would 
be implemented.

3. U.S./Canada Total Allowable Catches

    Eastern GB cod, eastern GB haddock, and GB yellowtail flounder are 
managed jointly with Canada through the U.S./Canada Resource Sharing 
Understanding (Understanding). Each year the Transboundary Management 
Guidance Committee (TMGC), a government-industry committee made up of 
representatives from the U.S. and Canada, recommends a shared TAC for 
each stock based on the most recent stock information and the TMGC 
harvest strategy. The TMGC's harvest strategy for setting catch levels 
is to maintain a low to neutral risk (less than 50 percent) of 
exceeding the fishing mortality limit reference for each stock 
(Fref = 0.18, 0.26, and 0.25 for cod, haddock, and 
yellowtail flounder, respectively). The TMGC's harvest strategy also 
specifies that when stock conditions are poor, fishing mortality should 
be further reduced to promote rebuilding. The shared TACs are allocated 
between the U.S. and Canada based on a formula that considers 
historical catch percentages (10-percent weighting) and the current 
resource distribution based on trawl surveys (90-percent weighting). 
The U.S./Canada Management Area comprises the entire stock area for GB 
yellowtail flounder; therefore, the U.S. TAC for this stock is also the 
U.S. ABC. Eastern GB cod and haddock are sub-units of the total GB cod 
and haddock stocks. The U.S./Canada TACs for these stocks are a portion 
of the total ABC.
    Assessments for the three transboundary stocks were completed in 
June 2012 by the Transboundary Resources Assessment Committee (TRAC). A 
detailed summary of the 2012 TRAC assessment can be found at: http://www2.mar.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/science/trac/tsr.html. The TMGC met in September 
2012 to recommend shared TACs for FY 2013. Based on the results of the 
2012 TRAC assessment, the TMGC recommended a shared TAC of 600 mt for 
eastern GB cod, 10,400 mt for eastern GB haddock, and 500 mt for GB 
yellowtail flounder. At its November 14, 2012, meeting, the Council 
recommended the TMGC's guidance for eastern GB cod and haddock for FY 
2013, but it did not recommend the TMGC's guidance for GB yellowtail 
flounder. The Council selected a preferred-alternative for GB 
yellowtail flounder of 1,150 mt for FY 2013, which is more than double 
the TMGC's recommendation of 500 mt. The regulations specify that the 
Council can refer any or all of the recommended TACs back to the TMGC 
and request changes to the TACs. Although the Council selected a 
preferred alternative for GB yellowtail flounder that differed from the 
TMGC's recommendation, the Council did not request that the TMGC 
convene to reconsider its recommendation for 2013. The Council's 
recommendation for GB yellowtail flounder was based on its Scientific 
and Statistical Committee's (SSC's) recommendation that 1,150 mt could 
be a backstop ABC if measures were adopted to ensure there is no 
directed fishery, and bycatch is reduced as much as possible. NMFS 
raised serious concerns with the Council's recommendation for GB 
yellowtail flounder during the development of this action, and these 
concerns are outlined in further detail in Item 4 of this preamble. Due 
to concerns about the approvability of the Council's preferred ABC 
alternative of 1,150 mt, NMFS is also proposing an ABC of 500 mt, 
consistent with the TMGC's recommendation. If the Council's preferred 
ABC is disapproved in the final rule for Framework 50, NMFS would 
implement the TMGC-recommendation of 500 mt through a Secretarial 
emergency action under authority at section 305(c) of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act.
    The proposed 2013 U.S./Canada TACs and the percentage share for 
each

[[Page 19371]]

country are listed in Table 1. Any overages of the eastern GB cod, 
eastern GB haddock, or GB yellowtail flounder U.S. TACs would be 
deducted from the U.S. TAC in the following fishing year. If FY 2012 
catch information indicates that the U.S. fishery exceeded its TAC for 
any of the shared stocks, NMFS would reduce the FY 2013 U.S. TAC for 
that stock in a future management action, as close to May 1, 2013, as 
possible. As proposed in Framework 48, if any fishery that is allocated 
a portion of the U.S. TAC exceeds its allocation, which causes an 
overage of the U.S. TAC, the overage reduction would be applied to this 
fishery's sub-ACL in the following fishing year.

                 Table 1--Proposed 2013 U.S./Canada TACS (Mt, Live Weight) and Percentage Shares
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                                                                                     GB Yellowtail Flounder *
                                                                    Eastern GB   -------------------------------
                       TAC                        Eastern GB cod      haddock        Council-        Proposed
                                                                                     preferred       emergency
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total Shared TAC............................             600          10,400           1,150             500
                                                 ---------------------------------------------------------------
U.S. TAC........................................        96 (16%)     3,952 (38%)       495 (43%)       215 (43%)
                                                 ---------------------------------------------------------------
Canada TAC......................................       504 (84%)     6,448 (62%)       656 (57%)       285 (57%)
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* The GB yellowtail flounder TACs proposed by the Council and NMFS are described in more detail in Item 4 of
  this preamble.

4. Overfishing Levels and Acceptable Biological Catches

    The overfishing level (OFL) for each stock in the FMP is calculated 
using the estimated stock size and FMSY (i.e., the fishing 
mortality rate that, if applied over the long term, would result in 
maximum sustainable yield). The SSC recommends ABCs for each stock that 
are lower than the OFLs to account for scientific uncertainty. In most 
cases, the ABCs are calculated using the estimated stock size for a 
particular year and are based on the catch associated with 75 percent 
of FMSY, or Frebuild, whichever is lower. 
However, in recent years, catch projections for groundfish stocks have 
been overly optimistic. Catch projections often overestimate stock 
growth and underestimate fishing mortality. As a result, even catches 
that were substantially lower than the projected catch resulted in 
overfishing for some stocks. So, in many cases, the SSC has recommended 
ABCs that are lower than the catch associated with 75 percent of 
FMSY or Frebuild, or constant catches for FYs 
2013-2015, in order to account for scientific uncertainty. Appendix III 
to the Framework 50 EA provides additional detail on the proposed OFLs 
and ABCs for each stock (see ADDRESSES for information on how to get 
this document).
    As part of the biennial review process for the FMP, the Council 
adopts OFLs and ABCs for 3 years at a time. Although it is expected 
that the Council will adopt new catch limits every 2 years, specifying 
catch levels for a third year ensures there are default catch limits in 
place in the event that a management action is delayed. This action 
proposes the OFLs and ABCs for FYs 2013-2015 for most groundfish 
stocks, which are presented in Table 2, with a few exceptions that are 
described below. For GB cod, haddock, and yellowtail flounder, the 
Canadian share of the ABC, or the expected Canadian catch, is deducted 
from the total ABC. See Table 1 for the Canadian share of these stocks. 
The U.S. ABC is the amount available to the U.S. fishery after 
accounting for Canadian catch.
    Catch limits for GB and GOM winter flounder and pollock were 
adopted in a previous action and are restated here. Also, as mentioned 
above, GB yellowtail flounder is managed jointly with Canada, and catch 
limits are set annually for this stock. As a result, Framework 50 only 
proposes catch limits for GB yellowtail flounder for FY 2013. In 
addition, the last stock assessment for white hake was completed in 
2008. A benchmark assessment for this stock was completed in February 
2013; however, the results of this assessment are not yet available at 
the time of this proposed rule, and were not available when the Council 
was developing this action. As a result, the SSC recommended that the 
FY 2013 OFL and ABC for white hake be kept constant to the FY 2012 OFL 
and ABC. Consistent with established policy, NMFS believes that the 
best scientific information available will be determined based on the 
information that is available to the Council during the development of 
an action. Thus, NMFS considers the FY 2013 specifications for white 
hake proposed in Framework 50 to be based on the best scientific 
information available. Should additional information become available 
that may indicate a change to the FY 2013 catch limit for white hake, 
the Council or NMFS could consider a separate action to change the 
white hake catch limits for FY 2013.
    Many of the proposed FY 2013 ABCs are substantially lower than the 
FY 2012 ABCs. Most notably, the proposed GB cod catch level would be 
approximately 61 percent lower when compared to FY 2012, and the GOM 
cod catch level would be approximately 78 percent lower compared to FY 
2012. Although the Council's recommended ABC for GB yellowtail flounder 
would be approximately the same as FY 2012, the proposed emergency 
rulemaking would result in a quota that is approximately 62 percent 
lower than the FY 2012 catch limit. Some proposed ABCs are status quo 
to FY 2012 (GB and GOM winter flounder and white hake), and some 
proposed ABCs are higher than FY 2012. The proposed FY 2013 SNE/MA 
winter flounder ABC is over 150 percent greater than FY 2012 as a 
result of the revised management measures for this stock, which are 
expected to mitigate some of the economic impacts of this proposed 
action.

[[Page 19372]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP29MR13.014

Proposed FY 2013 Georges Bank Yellowtail Catch Limit

    NMFS has serious concerns with the Council's preferred-alternative 
for the FY 2013 GB yellowtail flounder ABC. The 2012 TRAC assessment 
noted that, in recent years, catches based on the approved assessment 
model (Split Series model) have not reduced fishing mortality below the 
fishing mortality limit reference (Fref), or increased 
spawning stock biomass as expected. As a result, the 2012 TRAC 
assessment concluded that 2013 catches should not be based on the 
unadjusted model results because these catches would likely fail to 
achieve management objectives for this stock. Catches in 2013 based on 
the unadjusted model would be approximately 882 mt.
    The 2012 TRAC assessment showed that the retrospective pattern in 
the assessment has increased in magnitude. Retrospective patterns in an 
assessment could be caused by a number of factors, such as changes in 
the level of catch that is assumed in the assessment, changes in the 
natural mortality rate (M), and changes in the survey catchability for 
a stock. However, fixing a retrospective pattern is difficult because 
it is often hard to determine the exact cause. Due to the increased 
magnitude of the retrospective pattern, five sensitivity analyses were 
performed at the 2012 TRAC to attempt to characterize the uncertainty 
and risk in the 2013 catch advice. The sensitivity analyses show that a 
2013 quota in the range of 200 mt to 500 mt would minimize the 
retrospective bias. The 2012 TRAC results indicate that the lower end 
of the 2013 quota range would have a greater probability that F would 
be less than Fref, and that the adult biomass would 
increase, than the higher end of the range.
    Based on the 2012 TRAC, the TMGC recommended a shared quota of 500 
mt (U.S. share 215 mt) for 2013. This recommendation considers the 
increasing retrospective bias in the GB yellowtail flounder assessment. 
The TMGC noted that a quota of 500 mt is lower than the catch level 
that would have less than a 50-percent chance of exceeding 
Fref based on the unadjusted projection results (882 mt). 
The TMGC also noted that a quota of 500 mt would be expected to result 
in an increase in the stock size and falls within the range

[[Page 19373]]

of sensitivity analyses provided by the 2012 TRAC assessment.
    The SSC met in August 2012 to recommend a FY 2013 OFL and ABC for 
GB yellowtail flounder. The SSC recommended a range of FY 2013 ABCs for 
GB yellowtail flounder from 200 mt up to 1,150 mt. The SSC noted that a 
2013 catch limit of 200 mt would have a low probability of overfishing 
and would be expected to allow the stock to increase, and that a 2013 
catch limit of 400-500 mt may have a greater probability of overfishing 
than 200 mt, but would allow some rebuilding. The SSC also noted that 
the basis for a FY 2013 ABC of 400-500 mt was similar to the basis of 
its ABC recommendation for FY 2012. The SSC recommended an ABC of 1,150 
mt as a backstop measure only, and noted that unintentional bycatch may 
exceed 500 mt, but total removals should be less than the FY 2012 ABC 
of 1,150 mt. Under this ABC alternative, the SSC recommended that there 
should be no directed fishery for GB yellowtail flounder, and that 
measures should be taken to reduce bycatch as much as possible. Thus, 
the SSC concluded that an FY 2013 ABC of 1,150 mt is status quo to the 
FY 2012 ABC, and would only be appropriate when management measures 
have a high probability of resulting in low fishing mortality rates. At 
a subsequent meeting in November 2012, the SSC was unable to determine 
a single OFL value, given the uncertainty in the assessment, and noted 
that its ABC recommendation of 1,150 mt is not based on the 2012 TRAC 
assessment. The SSC determined that the OFL for GB yellowtail flounder 
is unknown.
    The SSC's recommendation of 1,150 mt for FY 2013 included a number 
of conditions that NMFS does not believe the Council satisfied. The 
Council did not adopt any management measures that would prevent 
targeting of GB yellowtail flounder or that would result in a high 
probability of low fishing mortality rates under this ABC alternative. 
The SSC did not endorse an FY 2013 ABC of 1,150 mt as an appropriate 
catch level for a directed fishery, and therefore, as currently 
crafted, the Council's preferred ABC alternative for 2013 appears to be 
at odds with the SSC recommendation.
    NMFS believes that the 2012 TRAC assessment for GB yellowtail 
flounder represents the best scientific information available. The 
recommendation for a FY 2013 ABC of 1,150 mt is higher than the catch 
levels suggested by the unadjusted model results (882 mt). The TRAC 
indicated that 2013 catches based on the unadjusted model would likely 
fail to achieve management objectives, and would not appropriately 
account for the retrospective bias in the assessment. Therefore, based 
on the 2012 TRAC assessment, a FY 2013 ABC of 1,150 mt would also 
likely fail to prevent overfishing. Also, the SSC did not reject the 
2012 TRAC assessment. Even if the Council had adopted management 
measures to prevent a directed fishery, as recommended by the SSC, an 
ABC of 1,150 mt does not appear to be consistent with the 2012 TRAC 
assessment. As a result, NMFS does not believe that a 2013 catch of 
1,150 mt is consistent with the best scientific information available. 
NMFS is requesting specific comments on the basis of this 
determination, and other specific factors that should be considered in 
setting the FY 2013 ABC for GB yellowtail flounder at this particular 
level.
    In the event that NMFS disapproves the FY 2013 ABC of 1,150 mt 
proposed in Framework 50, NMFS is proposing an emergency action to 
implement FY 2013 catch limits for GB yellowtail flounder under 
Secretarial authority provided in section 305(c) of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act. The FMP does not have any rollover provisions for the FY 
2012 quotas if the FY 2013 catch limits are not specified for GB 
yellowtail flounder. Thus, if the Council's preferred alternative is 
disapproved, there would be no specifications set for the stock until 
further action was taken. If no catch limit is specified for GB 
yellowtail flounder, there would be a potential to cause harm to the 
resource and severely disrupt the fishery. Sector vessels would be 
unable to fish beginning on May 1, 2013, in the GB stock area without 
ACE for GB yellowtail flounder. In addition, other components of the 
fishery would not be constrained by an ACL that, if exceeded, would 
trigger an AM (e.g., the scallop fishery, the small-mesh fisheries). 
This would undermine the joint management of this stock with Canada 
under the Understanding and increase the likelihood of overfishing. As 
a result, NMFS, on behalf of the Secretary, finds that a fishery-
related emergency exists, and has determined that this situation meets 
the emergency criteria set forth by NMFS for emergency rulemaking (62 
FR 44421, August 21, 1997).
    NMFS proposes an OFL of 882 mt and a FY 2013 ABC of 500 mt. This 
would result in a U.S. quota for GB yellowtail flounder of 215 mt after 
deducting the Canadian share of the ABC. This ABC is consistent with 
both the TMGC and SSC's recommendations, and is within the range of 
2013 catch levels suggested by the sensitivity analyses conducted at 
the 2012 TRAC assessment. A 2013 catch level of 500 mt would allow some 
stock rebuilding, and is less than the 2013 catch level based on the 
unadjusted model results (882 mt) that the TRAC recommended should not 
be used as the basis for 2013 catch advice. The lower quota of 200 mt 
included in the 2012 TRAC results has a higher probability of not 
exceeding Fref. But, in the sensitivity analyses performed 
by the TRAC, a 2013 catch of 500 mt would have only a 4-percent chance 
of exceeding Fref (0.25) in one of the sensitivity analyses. 
This catch level would also result in some stock rebuilding in all of 
the sensitivity analyses. The 2012 TRAC assessment did not calculate an 
average output for the models presented and did not recommend averaging 
the sensitivity analyses as a basis for catch advice. Thus, NMFS does 
not believe it is appropriate to average the five sensitivity analyses, 
and therefore, all of the analyses should be considered in setting the 
2013 ABC. A catch limit of 500 mt would balance the need to account for 
the retrospective bias in the assessment and allow some stock 
rebuilding, and would be substantially below the proposed OFL for the 
stock.

Proposed FYs 2013-2015 Catch Limits for GOM Cod

    A benchmark assessment was completed for GOM cod in December 2012, 
and the Stock Assessment Review Committee (SARC) approved two different 
assessment models. One assessment model (base case model) assumes the 
natural mortality rate (M) is 0.2. The second assessment model 
(Mramp model) assumes that M has increased from 0.2 to 0.4 
in recent years, though the SARC did not conclude that M would remain 
0.4 indefinitely. As a result, fishing mortality targets used in the 
catch projections from both models are based on reference points that 
assume M=0.2. A detailed summary of the benchmark assessment is 
available from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center at: http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/saw/saw55/crd1301.pdf.
    The SSC recommended two constant catch ABC alternatives for FYs 
2013-2015: 1,249 mt and 1,550 mt. The SSC preferred an ABC of 1,249 mt. 
Their rationale for this preferred lower level was to help conserve the 
stock and increase the likelihood of rebuilding. Based on these two 
recommendations from the SSC, the Council selected a preferred 
alternative for a constant catch of 1,550 mt for FYs 2013-2015. Under 
the base case model, a constant ABC of 1,550 mt would end overfishing 
in FY 2013 and would have at least a

[[Page 19374]]

50-percent probability of avoiding overfishing. An ABC of 1,550 mt 
would be higher than 75% FMSY until FY 2015, which is the 
Council's ABC control rule. Under the Mramp model, the 
proposed ABC would be the FMSY catch level in FY 2015, and 
would be above FMSY in FY 2013 and FY 2014. An ABC of 1,550 
mt would be expected to result in a dramatic reduction from current 
fishing mortality estimates and would also allow stock growth, but is a 
departure from the ABC control rule adopted by the Council in Amendment 
16.
    Amendment 16 specified that the ABC control rule should be used in 
the absence of information that allows a more explicit determination of 
scientific uncertainty for a stock. Amendment 16 also stated that, if 
information was available to more accurately characterize scientific 
uncertainty, it could be used by the SSC to set the ABC. Furthermore, 
National Standard 1 gives deference to SSCs to recommend ABCs to 
Fishery Management Councils that are departures from established 
control rules. In such situations, SSCs are expected to make use of the 
best scientific information available, and to provide ample 
justification on why the control rule is not the best approach for the 
particular circumstances.
    The SSC determined that having two assessment models allowed for a 
better understanding of the nature and extent of the scientific 
uncertainty. As a result, the SSC concluded that both ABC alternatives 
appropriately use the assessment outcomes and account for scientific 
uncertainty. In addition, although multiple catch projections are 
available for GOM cod, the assessment did not evaluate an averaged 
output and did not recommend using an average of the two assessment 
models. Thus, in this case, NMFS does not believe it is appropriate to 
average the catch projections for GOM cod, and that all of the 
information must be considered. Lower catch limits will always increase 
the likelihood that stock growth will occur, and under this rationale, 
an ABC of 1,249 mt would have greater, and more immediate, increases in 
biomass than an ABC of 1,550 mt. However, in considering the assessment 
results and catch projections for both ABC alternatives, a constant 
catch ABC of 1,550 mt for FYs 2013-2015 would likely end overfishing 
and result in stock rebuilding. This constant catch scenario also 
accounts for the uncertainty in the assessment and the SARC's 
conclusion that although M may have increased in recent years, it will 
likely return to 0.2 in the future.

5. Annual Catch Limits

    Unless otherwise noted below, the U.S. ABC for each stock (for each 
fishing year) is divided into the following fishery components to 
account for all sources of fishing mortality: State waters (portion of 
ABC expected to be caught from state waters by vessels that are not 
subject to the FMP); other sub-components (expected catch by non-
groundfish fisheries); Atlantic sea scallop fishery; mid-water trawl 
fishery; small-mesh fisheries; commercial groundfish fishery; and 
recreational groundfish fishery. Expected catch from state waters and 
other sub-components is deducted from the ABC first, and the remaining 
portion of the ABC is the amount available to the fishery components 
that receive an allocation for the stock and that are subject to AMs. 
Currently, the scallop fishery receives an allocation for GB and SNE/MA 
yellowtail flounder, the mid-water trawl fishery receives an allocation 
for GB and GOM haddock, and the recreational groundfish fishery 
receives an allocation for GOM cod and haddock. Framework 48 proposes 
to allocate a portion of the SNE/MA windowpane flounder ABC to the 
scallop fishery and a portion of the GB yellowtail flounder ABC to the 
small-mesh fisheries. This proposed rule assumes these measures would 
be approved in Framework 48; however, if either of these measures is 
disapproved, the final ACLs for these stocks may change.
    Once the ABC is divided, sub-annual catch limits (sub-ACLs) are set 
by reducing the amount of the ABC distributed to each component of the 
fishery to account for management uncertainty. Management uncertainty 
is the likelihood that management measures will result in a level of 
catch greater than expected. For each stock, management uncertainty is 
estimated using the following criteria: Enforceability, monitoring 
adequacy, precision of management tools, latent effort, and catch of 
groundfish in non-groundfish fisheries. Appendix III of the Framework 
50 EA provides a detailed description of the process used to estimate 
management uncertainty and calculate ACLs for this action (see 
ADDRESSES for information on how to get this document).
    The total ACL is the sum of all of the sub-ACLs and ACL sub-
components, and is the catch limit for a particular year after 
accounting for both scientific and management uncertainty. Landings and 
discards from all fisheries (commercial and recreational groundfish 
fishery, state waters, and non-groundfish fisheries) are counted 
against the catch limit for each stock. Components of the fishery that 
are allocated a sub-ACL for a particular stock are subject to AMs if 
the catch limit is exceeded. The state waters and other sub-components 
are not considered ACLs, and represent the expected catch by components 
of the fishery outside of the FMP that are not subject to AMs.
    Framework 50 proposes ACLs for each groundfish stock based on the 
ABCs proposed in Item 4 of this preamble. The proposed ACLs for FYs 
2013-2015 are listed in Tables 3 through 5. For stocks allocated to 
sectors, the commercial groundfish sub-ACL is further divided into the 
non-sector (common pool) sub-ACL and the sector sub-ACL, based on the 
total vessel enrollment in all sectors and the cumulative PSCs 
associated with those sectors. The proposed distribution of the 
groundfish sub-ACL between the common pool and sectors shown in Tables 
3 through 5 are based on FY 2013 PSCs and FY 2012 sector rosters. FY 
2013 sector rosters will not be finalized until May 1, 2013, because 
owners of individual permits signed up to participate in sectors have 
until the end of FY 2012, or April 30, 2013, to drop out of a sector 
and fish in the common pool for FY 2013. Therefore, it is possible that 
the sector and common pool sub-ACLs listed in the tables below may 
change due to changes in the sector rosters. Updated sub-ACLs will be 
published in early May, if necessary, to reflect the final FY 2013 
sector rosters as of May 1, 2013.
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6. Incidental Catch Total Allowable Catches and Allocations to Special 
Management Programs

    Incidental catch TACs are specified for certain stocks of concern 
(i.e., stocks that are overfished or subject to overfishing) for common 
pool vessels fishing in the special management programs (i.e., special 
access programs (SAPs) and the Regular B DAS Program), in order to 
limit the catch of these stocks under each program. Table 6 shows the 
percentage of the common pool sub-ACL allocated to the special 
management programs and the proposed FYs 2013-2015 Incidental Catch 
TACs for each stock. Beginning in FY 2013, NMFS proposes to remove GB 
winter flounder and SNE/MA yellowtail flounder from the list of species 
of concern because the stocks are no longer overfished, and overfishing 
is not occurring. GB winter flounder is projected to be rebuilt by 
2014, and SNE/MA yellowtail flounder was declared rebuilt in November 
2012. Any catch on a trip that ends on a Category B DAS (either Regular 
or Reserve B DAS) is attributed to the Incidental Catch TAC for the 
pertinent stock. Catch on a trip that starts under a Category B DAS and 
then flips to a Category A DAS is not counted against the Incidental 
Catch TACs. Any catch from these trips would be counted against the 
common pool sub-ACL.
    The Incidental Catch TAC is further divided among each special 
management program based on the percentages listed in Table 7. The 
proposed FYs 2013-2015 Incidental Catch TACs for each special 
management program are listed in Table 8. The FY 2013 sector rosters 
will not be finalized until May 1, 2013, for the reasons mentioned 
earlier in this preamble. Therefore, the common pool sub-ACL may change 
due to changes to the FY 2013 sector rosters. Updated incidental catch 
TACs would be published in a future adjustment rule, if necessary, 
based on the final sector rosters as of May 1, 2013.
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7. Common Pool Trimester Total Allowable Catches

    The common pool sub-ACL for each stock (except for SNE/MA winter 
flounder, windowpane flounder, ocean pout, Atlantic wolffish, and 
Atlantic halibut) is divided into trimester TACs. Table 9 shows the 
percentage of the common pool sub-ACL that is allocated to each 
trimester for each stock. The distribution of the common pool sub-ACLs 
into trimesters was adopted by Amendment 16 and is based on recent 
landing patterns. Once NMFS projects that 90 percent of the trimester 
TAC is caught for a stock, the trimester TAC area for that stock is 
closed for the remainder of the trimester. The area closure applies to 
all common pool vessels fishing with gear capable of catching the 
pertinent stock. The trimester TAC areas for each stock, as well as the 
applicable gear types, are defined at Sec.  648.82(n)(2). Any uncaught 
portion of the trimester TAC in Trimester 1 or Trimester 2 will be 
carried forward to the next trimester (e.g., any remaining portion of 
the Trimester 1 TAC will be added to the Trimester 2 TAC). Overages of 
the trimester TAC in Trimester 1 or Trimester 2 will be deducted from 
the Trimester 3 TAC. Any overages of the total sub-ACL will be deducted 
from the following fishing year's common pool sub-ACL for that stock. 
Uncaught portions of the Trimester 3 TAC will not be carried over into 
the following fishing year.
    The proposed FYs 2013-2015 common pool trimester TACs are listed in 
Table 10 based on the ACLs and sub-ACLs proposed in this action (see 
Item 5 of this preamble). As described earlier, vessels have until 
April 30, 2013, to drop out of a sector, and common pool vessels may 
join a sector through April 30, 2013. If the proposed sub-ACLs included 
in this rule change as a result of changes to FY 2013 sector rosters, 
the trimester TACs would also change. Based on the final sector 
rosters, NMFS would publish a rule in early May 2013, if necessary, to 
update the common pool trimester TACs, and notify the public of these 
changes.

                    Table 9--Percentage of Common Pool Sub-ACL Distributed to Each Trimester
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                         Percentage of common pool sub-ACL
                              Stock                              -----------------------------------------------
                                                                    Trimester 1     Trimester 2     Trimester 3
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GB Cod..........................................................              25              37              38
GOM Cod.........................................................              27              36              37
GB Haddock......................................................              27              33              40
GOM Haddock.....................................................              27              26              47
GB Yellowtail Flounder..........................................              19              30              52
SNE/MA Yellowtail Flounder......................................              21              37              42
CC/GOM Yellowtail Flounder......................................              35              35              30
American Plaice.................................................              24              36              40
Witch Flounder..................................................              27              31              42
GB Winter Flounder..............................................               8              24              69
GOM Winter Flounder.............................................              37              38              25
Redfish.........................................................              25              31              44
White Hake......................................................              38              31              31
Pollock.........................................................              28              35              37
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


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[[Page 19382]]

8. Annual Measures for FY 2013 Under Regional Administrator Authority

    The FMP provides authority for the RA to implement certain types of 
management measures for the common pool fishery, the U.S./Canada 
Management Area, and Special Management Programs on an annual basis, or 
as needed. This proposed rule includes a description of the management 
measures being considered by the RA for FY 2013 in order to provide an 
opportunity for the public to comment on whether the proposed measures 
are appropriate. These measures are not part of Framework 50, and were 
not specifically proposed by the Council, but are proposed in 
conjunction with Framework 50 for expediency purposes and because they 
relate to the proposed specifications in Framework 50. The RA may 
implement measures differing from those proposed in this action based 
on public comments received, and if information indicates such measures 
are necessary to meet the requirements of the FMP. The measures 
implemented through RA authority for FY 2013 will be implemented 
through the Framework 50 final rule, or, if necessary, through a 
separate final rule.
    The RA has the authority to modify common pool trip limits in order 
to prevent exceeding the common pool sub-ACLs and facilitate harvest so 
total catch approaches the common pool sub-ACLs. Table 11 provides a 
summary of the default trip limits that would take effect in FY 2013 if 
the RA takes no action, the current common pool trip limits for FY 
2012, and the proposed trip limits that would be in effect for the 
start of FY 2013. Table 12 provides a summary of the proposed FY 2013 
cod trip limits for vessels fishing with a Handgear A, Handgear B, or 
Small Vessel Category permit.
    Proposed trip limits for FY 2013 were developed after considering 
changes to the FY 2013 common pool sub-ACLs and sector rosters, 
trimester TACs for FY 2013, catch rates of each stock during FY 2012, 
bycatch, and other available information. For stocks that include a 
range of potential trip limits in Table 11 and 12, a final trip limit 
would be specified in the final rule implementing these measures based 
upon public comment. NMFS is requesting public input on common pool 
trip limits for FY 2013, particularly on the proposed trip limit for 
SNE/MA winter flounder since possession has been prohibited for this 
stock since FY 2009.
    The default cod trip limit is 300 lb (136.1 kg) per trip for 
Handgear A vessels, unless either the GOM or GB cod trip limit 
applicable to vessels fishing under a NE multispecies DAS is adjusted 
below 300 lb (136.1 kg). If the trip limit for NE multispecies DAS 
vessels drops below 300 lb (136.1 kg), the Handgear A trip limit must 
be adjusted to be the same. The regulations also require that the 
Handgear B vessel trip limit for GOM and GB cod be adjusted 
proportionally (rounded up to the nearest 25 lb (11.3 kg)) to the 
default cod trip limits applicable to NE multispecies DAS vessels. The 
default cod trip limit for NE multispecies common pool vessels fishing 
under a Category A DAS is 800 lb (362.9 kg) per DAS for GOM cod and 
2,000 lb (907.2 kg) per DAS for GB cod. For FY 2013, NMFS is proposing 
a range of GOM cod trip limits for vessels fishing under a Category A 
DAS that are between 38 and 88 percent lower than the default limit 
specified in the regulations. Therefore, the proposed FY 2013 GOM cod 
trip limits for Handgear A and B vessels are adjusted downwards, as 
required, from the default cod trip limit for these vessels. NMFS is 
proposing the default cod trip limits for GB cod for Handgear A and B 
vessels in FY 2013.
    Vessels with a Small Vessel category permit can possess up to 300 
lb (136.1 kg) of cod, haddock, and yellowtail combined per trip. For FY 
2013, NMFS is proposing that the maximum amount of cod and haddock 
(within the 300-lb (136.1-kg) trip limit) be adjusted proportionally to 
the trip limits applicable to NE multispecies DAS vessels (see Table 
12).

                               Table 11--Proposed FY 2013 Common Pool Trip Limits
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                    Default Limit in                                     Proposed FY 2013 trip
            Stock                      regulations         Current FY 2012 trip limit            limit
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GOM cod......................  800 lb (362.9 kg) per DAS,  2,000 lb (907.2 kg) per     100 lb (45.4 kg)-500 lb
                                up to 4,000 lb (1,814.3     DAS, up to 6,000 lb         (226.8 kg) per DAS, up
                                kg) per trip.               (2,721.6 kg) per trip.      to 500 lb (226.8 kg)-
                                                                                        1,500 lb (680.4 kg) per
                                                                                        trip.
GB cod.......................  2,000 lb (907.2 kg) per     3,000 lb (1,360.8 kg) per   2,000 lb (907.2 kg) per
                                DAS, up to 20,000 lb        DAS, up to 30,000 lb        DAS, up to 20,000 lb
                                (9,072 kg) per trip.        (13,607.8 kg) per trip.     (9,072 kg) per trip.
GOM haddock..................  unrestricted..............  1,000 lb (453.6 kg) per     50 lb (22.7 kg)-100 lb
                                                            trip.                       (45.4 kg) per trip.
GB haddock...................  unrestricted..............  10,000 lb (4,535.9 kg) per  10,000 lb (4,535.9 kg)
                                                            trip.                       per trip.
GOM winter flounder..........  unrestricted..............  250 lb (113.4 kg) per trip  500 lb (226.8 kg) per
                                                                                        trip.
SNE/MA winter flounder.......  unrestricted..............  n/a.......................  5,000 lb (2,268 kg) per
                                                                                        DAS up to 15,000 lb
                                                                                        (6,803.9 kg) per trip.
GB winter flounder...........  unrestricted..............  1,000 lb (453.6 kg) per     1,000 lb (453.6 kg) per
                                                            trip.                       trip.
CC/GOM yellowtail flounder...  250 lb (113.4 kg) per DAS,  500 lb (226.8 kg) per DAS,  500 lb (226.8 kg) per
                                up to 1,500 (680.4 kg)      up to 2,000 (907.2 kg)      DAS, up to 2,000 lb
                                per trip.                   per trip.                   (907.2 kg) per trip.
GB yellowtail flounder.......  unrestricted..............  500 lb (226.8 kg) per trip  100 lb (45.4 kg)-200 lb
                                                                                        (90.7 kg) per trip.
SNE/MA yellowtail flounder...  250 lb (113.4 kg) per DAS,  5,000 lb (2268 kg), up to   2,000 lb (907.2 kg), up
                                up to 1,500 (680.4 kg)      15,000 lb (6,803.9 kg)      to 6,000 lb (2,721.6 kg)
                                per trip.                   per trip.                   per trip.
American plaice..............  unrestricted..............  unrestricted..............  unrestricted.
Pollock......................  1,000 lb (453.6 kg) per     10,000 lb (4,535.9 kg) per  10,000 lb (4,535.9 kg)
                                DAS; up to 10,000 lb        trip.                       per trip.
                                (4,535.9 kg) per trip.
Witch flounder...............  unrestricted..............  250 lb (113.4 kg) per trip  500 lb (226.8 kg) per
                                                                                        trip.
White hake...................  500 lb (226.8 kg) per DAS;  500 lb (226.8 kg) per trip  500 lb (226.8 kg) per
                                up to 2,000 lb (907.2 kg)                               trip.
                                per trip.
Redfish......................  unrestricted..............  unrestricted..............  unrestricted.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


[[Page 19383]]


    Table 12--Proposed FY 2013 Cod Trips Limits for Handgear A, Handgear B, and Small Vessel Category Permits
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                            Proposed FY 2013 GOM cod    Proposed FY 2013 GB cod
            Permit               Default cod trip limit            trip limit                  trip limit
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Handgear A...................  300 lb (136.1 kg) per trip  100 lb (45.4 kg) up to 300  300 lb (136.1 kg) per
                                                            lb (136.1 kg) per trip.     trip.
Handgear B...................  75 lb (34.0 kg) per trip..  25 lb (11.3 kg) up to 50    75 lb (34.0 kg) per trip.
                                                            lb (22.7 kg) per trip.
                              ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Small Vessel Category........   300 lb (136.1 kg) of cod, haddock, and yellowtail flounder combined; Maximum of
                                 25 lb (11.3 kg)-175 lb (79.4 kg) of GOM cod and 25 lb (11.3 kg) of GOM haddock
                                                     within the 300-lb combined trip limit.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The RA has the authority to determine the allocation of the total 
number of trips into the Closed Area II Yellowtail Flounder/Haddock SAP 
based on several criteria, including the GB yellowtail flounder TAC and 
the amount of GB yellowtail flounder caught outside of the SAP. In 
2005, Framework 40B (70 FR 31323; June 1, 2005) implemented a provision 
that no trips should be allocated to the Closed Area II Yellowtail 
Flounder/Haddock SAP if the available GB yellowtail flounder catch is 
insufficient to support at least 150 trips with a 15,000-lb (6,804-kg) 
trip limit (i.e., 150 trips of 15,000 lb (6,804 kg)/trip, or 2,250,000 
lb (1,020,600 kg). This calculation accounts for the projected catch 
from the area outside the SAP. Based on the proposed GB yellowtail sub-
ACLs of 592,823 lb (268,900 kg) and 248,241 lb (112,600 kg), derived 
from the proposed catch limits of 1,150 mt and 500 mt, respectively, 
there is insufficient GB yellowtail flounder to allocate any trips to 
the SAP, even if the projected catch from outside the SAP area is zero. 
Therefore, this action proposes to allocate zero trips to the Closed 
Area II Yellowtail Flounder/Haddock SAP for FY 2013. Vessels could 
still fish in this SAP in FY 2013 using a haddock separator trawl, a 
Ruhle trawl, or hook gear. Vessels would not be allowed to fish in this 
SAP using flounder nets.

9. Recreational Fishing Measures

    Framework 48 proposes to modify the recreational fishery AM and 
give the RA authority to adjust recreational management measures for 
the upcoming fishing year to ensure the recreational fishery catches, 
but does not exceed, its sub-ACL. Although this measure has not been 
approved yet, due to the timing of Framework 48, and the drastic 
reductions proposed for some FY 2013 catch limits, NMFS has begun 
developing recreational management measures for FY 2013. The Council 
convened its Recreational Advisory Panel (RAP) on February 15, 2013, in 
order to provide NMFS guidance on FY 2013 management measures. For GOM 
cod, the RAP recommended a 9-fish possession limit and a minimum fish 
size of 19 in (48.3 cm). These are status quo management measures from 
FY 2012. For GOM haddock, the RAP recommended an unlimited possession 
limit (status quo from FY 2012) and an increase to the minimum fish 
size from 18 in (45.7 cm) to 21 in (53.3 cm).
    Consistent with the RAP's recommendation, NMFS proposes a 9-fish 
possession limit and a minimum fish size of 19 in (48.3 cm) for GOM cod 
in FY 2013. For GOM haddock, NMFS proposes an unlimited possession 
limit and a minimum fish size of 21 in (53.3 cm) for FY 2013. The 
proposed recreational management measures for FY 2013, and the current 
FY 2012 measures, are presented in Table 13. The proposed measures were 
developed using the Bio-economic Length-Structured Angler Simulation 
Tool, which was developed by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center. 
This model was peer-reviewed by a panel that consisted of members of 
the New England Fishery Management Council and Mid-Atlantic Fishery 
Management Council's SSCs, as well as an outside expert in recreational 
fisheries economics.
    Analysis shows that recreational removals would likely decline in 
FY 2013, primarily due to changing stock conditions. As a result, FY 
2013 recreational measures are not drastically different than the FY 
2012 measures, even though the proposed reductions in the FY 2013 catch 
limits are relatively large. NMFS proposes to raise the minimum fish 
size from 18 in (45.7 cm) to 21 in (53.3 cm), for GOM haddock, with no 
bag limit. The bag limit for GOM haddock does not affect recreational 
haddock mortality very much because analysis shows that there would be 
fewer trips encountering legal-sized haddock in FY 2013. This 
translates into lower expected fishing effort and landings. The minimum 
fish size for GOM haddock has a greater impact on recreational haddock 
and cod catch, as well as the total number of recreational trips. 
Initial analysis shows that the proposed FY 2013 recreational measures 
would have less than a 50-percent probability of exceeding the 
recreational sub-ACLs for GOM cod and haddock. Implementation of these 
measures under RA authority is contingent upon the approval of the 
proposed recreational fishery AM in Framework 48.

     Table 13--Current FY 2012 and Proposed FY 2013 Recreational Management Measures for GOM Cod and Haddock
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                      Current FY 2012 measures                 Proposed FY 2013 measures
             Stock             ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                    Bag limit         Minimum size        Bag Limit            Minimum Size
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GOM Cod.......................  9................  19 in (48.3 cm)..  9................  19 in (48.3 cm).
GOM Haddock...................  Unlimited........  18 in (45.7 cm)..  Unlimited........  21 in (53.3 cm).
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


[[Page 19384]]

10. Carryover of Unused Sector Annual Catch Entitlement

Background
    The FMP authorizes up to 10 percent of unused sector ACE for all 
allocated regulated stocks, with the exception of GB yellowtail 
flounder, to be brought forward for use in the following fishing year. 
Termed ``carryover,'' this concept was part of the overall design of 
sectors in Amendment 16, and was intended to leave it up to individual 
fishermen and sector managers to determine when and where they will 
fish throughout the year. Among other things, the sector system, which 
includes carryover, was intended to provide flexibility to vessels as 
to when and how they fish which, among other benefits, promotes greater 
safety at sea, as prescribed by National Standard 10. For example, the 
ability to carry over unused catch further advances safety benefits by 
removing the incentive to fish for remaining allocations of groundfish 
stocks at the end of a fishing year even under unsafe conditions.
    The carryover provision implementing regulations found at Sec.  
648.87(b)(1)(i)(C) and the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) 
for Amendment 16, however, did not specify how carryover should be 
accounted for under the concurrently implemented ACL system. In the 2 
fishing years since the implementation of Amendment 16, NMFS has 
allowed up to the full 10-percent carryover of unused sector ACE. To 
date, NMFS has accounted for carryover by first attributing catch 
against any available carryover, without deducting it from the sector's 
ACE for that year. After the amount carried over has been fully caught, 
the sector's remaining catch for the year has been attributed to, and 
deducted from, the sector's ACE for that year.
    For multiple reasons, this method of accounting has thus far 
functioned without causing the overall ACLs to be exceeded. Generally, 
sectors have seldom fully harvested available stock ACE, often electing 
to under-harvest to provide carryover to the following fishing year. In 
addition, the ability for sectors to fully utilize all species' ACE is 
often constrained by stocks with lower ACE availability. Catch by other 
fishery components has routinely been below their respective sub-ACLs. 
These factors have, to date, helped ensure that fishery-level ACLs have 
not been exceeded by the accounting system that NMFS has used. Even if 
sectors had routinely exceeded their sub-ACL, other fishery components 
could under-harvest their sub-ACL such that the overall ACL was not 
exceeded. This has been true despite the reduction in catch limits for 
some stocks from one fishing year to the next.
    As ACL-based management programs have been implemented around the 
country and their first years of use evaluated, the issue of unused 
catch carryover has been discussed nationwide. Amendment 16, although 
it did not reconcile the problem, acknowledged the potential for 
carryover to either increase the risk of or cause overfishing in a 
given year, particularly in the event that year-to-year catch limits 
declined steeply and available allocations and carryover were fully 
harvested (Amendment 16 FEIS, pp. 505-6). Based on these evaluations 
and the dynamics of significant proposed reductions in some of the 
groundfish ACLs for FY 2013, NMFS now believes that a carryover from 
one fishing year to another must be fully accounted for in the second 
year ACLs to be consistent with the catch limit requirements in the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act and National Standard 1 guidelines. The current 
carryover accounting practice of the Northeast Region may be 
inconsistent with this conclusion to the extent it results in an ACL in 
one year to be exceeded due to additional carried over catch from the 
preceding year. This accounting practice would also be inconsistent 
with conservation objectives of Amendment 16. On the other hand, to 
completely eliminate the carryover provision because of these concerns 
would potentially conflict with safety and management flexibility 
benefits that are consistent with the National Standard 10 provision of 
promoting safety at sea and national standards to promote efficiency 
and mitigate negative impacts on the fishing industry. As a result, 
there is a fundamental conflict between the conservation and management 
objectives of Amendment 16 between the need to ensure adherence to the 
catch limits for conservation purposes and the benefits of promoting 
safety at sea and management flexibility.

FY 2013 Unused ACE Carryover Issues

    If NMFS continues its past practice, sectors would receive up to 10 
percent of unused FY 2012 ACE for all groundfish stocks subject to the 
carryover provision for use in FY 2013, without attribution to the 2013 
sector sub-ACLs. Because of the magnitude of the reductions in catch 
limits for some stocks for FY 2013, it is likely that FY 2013 allocated 
catch combined with FY 2012 carryover could cause fishery-level ACLs 
and ABCs to be exceeded. For GOM cod, this potential total catch level 
would exceed the overfishing limit.
    Despite discussions between NMFS and the Council regarding these 
issues, no clarification as to how to account for carryover was 
included in either Framework 48 or 50 for May 1, 2013, leaving 
ambiguity in the regulations on how to address the fundamental conflict 
previously described in this section. In the absence of clarification 
by the Council, NMFS' authority to address this conflict consists of a 
1-year emergency action under Secretary authority provided in section 
305(c) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and/or a clarification of the 
existing program under section 305(d) of the Act.
    In this rule, NMFS proposes to modify the existing carryover 
program for FY 2013 through section 305(c) emergency authority in order 
to limit carryover of GOM cod and to clarify the need to continue the 
current accounting practice for carryovers for FY 2013, as a 
transitional measure only, as it pertains to all other carryover 
eligible stocks. NMFS also seeks public comment on a proposal to 
clarify, under section 305(d) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, how to 
account for carryover in FY 2014 and beyond.

Proposed FY 2012 to FY 2013 Carryover Measures

    NMFS does not propose to change the amount of carryover allowed for 
stocks in FY 2013 except for GOM cod. NMFS has determined that the 
carryover amount for GOM cod, which is based on an allocation in FY 
2012 that allowed for overfishing, must be reduced to ensure that the 
total potential catch (i.e., fishery level ACL + carryover) remains 
below the overfishing limit for FY 2013. NMFS proposes to use emergency 
authority provided by section 305(c) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act to 
reduce GOM cod from the 10 percent specified in current regulations to 
1.85 percent of unused FY 2012 GOM cod ACE in FY 2013. NMFS does not 
propose to change its recent practice of not counting carryover against 
a sector's ACE. The intent not to change the carryover amounts, except 
for GOM cod, nor the current accounting practice for these carryover 
amounts, was announced to the public on February 14, 2013, to allow the 
industry to plan its activities for the remainder of FY 2012.
    Use of 305(c) emergency rulemaking authority to reduce the amount 
of GOM cod available as carryover meets the required rationale set 
forth by NMFS for 305(c) emergency rulemaking (62 FR 44421, August 21, 
1997). The Council has not taken action to address the potential for FY 
2012 to FY 2013

[[Page 19385]]

carryover of up to 10 percent to result in overfishing the GOM cod 
stock. The failure of the Council to take appropriate action was not 
foreseeable because the final revised assessment of GOM cod upon which 
the Council would have relied to address carryover problems was not 
available until January 2013. Therefore, NMFS, on behalf of the 
Secretary, finds that a fishery-related emergency exists. Specifically, 
the currently provided maximum 10-percent carryover authorized by the 
FMP would permit a total potential catch that exceeds the GOM cod 
overfishing limit. As a result, reduction in the maximum carryover 
amount is necessary to ensure that the total potential catch, if 
attained in FY 2013, will not result in overfishing. Failing to take 
this emergency action would present a serious conservation problem 
because the GOM cod stock is overfished, subject to overfishing, and 
was determined last year by NMFS to have not made adequate rebuilding 
progress.
    Given the timing of Frameworks 48 and 50, continuing the accounting 
practice for the other groundfish stocks, as a 1-year transitional 
practice, is necessary to balance the conservation objectives of 
Amendment 16 with the National Standard 10 safety benefits and 
management flexibility provided by a carryover. NMFS has determined 
that continuing to account for these carryover levels for 1 more year 
only can be done without increasing the risk of overfishing in FY 2013 
and without jeopardizing the long-term health of these stocks. 
Moreover, these carryover amounts represent the maximum available under 
existing regulations. The actual amount carried forward would depend on 
each sector's utilization of ACE in FY 2012. For example, if a sector 
harvests 97 percent of a carryover eligible stock other than GOM cod, 
the sector would be permitted to use 3 percent of its FY 2012 ACE in FY 
2013. Although accounting for carryovers in this manner may result in 
exceeding the Framework 50 sector sub-ACLs and could increase the risk 
of exceeding the overall ACLs, this approach prevents catch from 
exceeding the overfishing limit, given the uncertainty buffers built 
into the management program.
    NMFS has developed an appendix to the Framework 50 EA that provides 
analysis and rationale supporting these carryover amounts in the short-
term (see ADDRESSES).
    Allowing the continuation of NMFS' recent practice of not counting 
carryover against a sector's ACE is necessary and appropriate to 
address problems arising from the late timing and notice to industry of 
our intent. An anticipated carryover of up to 10 percent, based on 
NMFS' past practice, has been part of the fishing industry's planning 
process since the inception of sector management in 2010. To 
substantially reduce or eliminate carryover late in the fishing year 
could have the undesirable consequence of incentivizing a race to fish 
in the final weeks of the fishing year, as fishermen attempt to fully 
utilize available FY 2012 catch limits, thereby negating the safety 
benefits carryover provides. Therefore, given these safety concerns, 
which NMFS is obligated to consider under National Standard 10, and the 
determination that continuing the current accounting practice for 
carryovers presents little risk of overfishing or harm to the stocks, 
NMFS concludes that maintaining this approach for 2013 only strikes the 
right balance under the law.

Summary of FY 2012 to FY 2013 Proposed Carryover Analysis

    NMFS evaluated the likelihood that the total potential catch would 
lead to overfishing for stocks eligible for carryover. This evaluation 
is part of the 1-year transition period only. The evaluation showed 
that, for many stocks, total potential catch would be 81 percent or 
less of the OFL. Despite the potential to exceed the Council-
recommended ACLs and SSC-recommended ABCs, NMFS believes there is a 
very low likelihood that overfishing could occur for these stocks if 
the total potential catch is realized in FY 2013. These stocks are GB 
cod and haddock, SNE/MA yellowtail flounder, witch flounder, GB and GOM 
winter flounder, Acadian redfish, white hake, and pollock. For other 
stocks--GOM haddock, CC/GOM yellowtail flounder, and American plaice--
total potential catch ranged between 81 and 91 percent of the OFL. The 
total potential catch for the revised GOM cod carryover amount, 1.85 
percent of the FY 2012 ACE, is 94 percent of the OFL.

Carryover from FY 2013 to FY 2014 and Beyond

    Although the current accounting practice for carryovers for FY 2013 
can be justified, such practice is not appropriate for FY 2014 and 
thereafter because there is sufficient time to alert the fishing 
industry of how NMFS intends to account for carryover in the future in 
a way that is consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the National 
Standard Guidelines, and other provisions. This is necessary to 
reconcile the fundamental conflict between ensuring long-term 
compliance with catch limits and the need to provide, at some level, 
the safety and management benefits of carryovers. Because the Council 
did not specify in Amendment 16, or clarify how to account for 
carryover in light of this conflict in proposed Frameworks 48 or 50, 
NMFS has determined it has the responsibility under section 305(d) to 
propose regulations ensuring that the measures of Amendment 16 and 
Frameworks 48 and 50 can be carried out in a manner consistent with the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act. NMFS has concluded it has the authority to 
propose such regulations because they are fundamentally administrative 
in nature that clarify the carryover accounting process. These 
regulations are justified by this unusual circumstance in which 
previously approved Council-recommended measures conflict with each 
other and must be reconciled in order to be carried out consistent with 
the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the National Standard Guidelines.
    NMFS proposes to clarify the carryover provision in terms of how 
much carried over catch is accounted for against a sector's ACE, for 
the purposes of determining which AMs are triggered by exceeding the 
ACE. Under the proposed clarifying regulatory text, NMFS proposes to 
count carryover, except for a nominal de minimus amount, against a 
sector's ACE only for the purpose of triggering the reactive pound-for-
pound AM based on overage paybacks specified at Sec.  
648.87(b)(4)(iii).
    NMFS believes that this approach is more consistent with the intent 
of carryover. It may not be possible to fully assess the impacts of 
carryover in the next fishing year until complete information is 
available to determining the overall catch of groundfish stocks for the 
preceding year. This proposed system allows for the potential that a 
sector may use more of its carryover amount depending on whether the 
stock in question is likely to exceed the overall ACL. Therefore, the 
amount of carryover caught by a sector would not count against its ACE 
for the purpose of triggering the in-season closure AM if the ACE is 
exceeded. This is because it would not be clear whether catching the 
carryover amount would result in the fishery exceeding the overall ACL 
until after fishing year is over and final catch is known.
    This approach would allow sectors to continue fishing beyond their 
initially allocated ACE up to the full carryover amount for which they 
are eligible based on their prior year under-harvest without having to 
stop fishing in the stock area subject to a closure once an

[[Page 19386]]

ACE is exceeded. Sectors could strategize the benefits of fishing the 
carryover versus the possibility of triggering the pound for pound 
reduction in the following year's ACE if that AM is triggered. The 
maximum amount allowed would remain 10 percent. At the end of the 
fishing year, or as soon as possible after, NMFS would evaluate the 
total fishery catch relative to the total ACL. The amount of carryover 
counted against the sector ACE would depend on whether the total catch 
for the stock exceeds that stock's ACL. This approach would operate as 
follows:
     If the total ACL for the year is not exceeded, any 
carryover used would not be counted against a sector's ACE. No reactive 
AM would be required. Essentially, because the total ACL was not 
exceeded, most likely because sectors or other fishery components did 
not fully utilize their respective allocations for the year, there 
would be no consequence associated with the use of carryover. This 
would result in accounting that is similar to the current carryover 
accounting practice wherein carryover use is not directly attributed to 
the sector's ACE for the fishing year in which the carryover is taken.
     If the total ACL for the year has been exceeded and 
carryover was used, NMFS would only count the amount of carryover used 
above the total ACL against sector ACE. Individual sectors responsible 
for the ACL overage as a result of carryover use would be subject to 
pound-for-pound overage repayment specified by the FMP AMs. It is 
possible that some portion of carryover use may not be attributed to 
sector ACE, even if the total ACL is exceeded. If other fishery 
components contribute to the ACL overage, sectors would only be charged 
for the carryover ACE used.
     In the event that a situation similar to FY 2013 occurs, 
wherein substantial catch reductions are required, NMFS would reserve 
the right to modify the allowable carryover amount in excess of the de 
minimus level so that the total potential catch did not exceed the OFL. 
For FY 2013, NMFS is making this type of modification using section 
305(c) authority in large part due to the timing considerations and 
lack of adequate public notice and comment; however, in future similar 
situations, NMFS would rely on section 305(d) authority to modify the 
allowable carryover amounts.
    The provision would not count a guaranteed de minimus amount of 
carryover against a sector's ACE and would provide some certainty that 
carryover would be available without any negative consequences. The 
industry, therefore, could count on, and factor into their 
decisionmaking, this guaranteed carryover late in the fishing year 
which helps promote, albeit on a modest scale, safety at sea. NMFS has 
not yet determined an appropriate de minimus amount. One option would 
be to provide an amount sufficient to cover an average trip's landing 
for the stock in question, with the rationale being that if a single 
trip is not made late in the fishing year because of safety concerns or 
market conditions, the foregone catch from that trip could be carried 
forward. Another option would be to allow a small percentage of the 
following year's ACE for the stock in question (e.g., 1 percent of the 
stock's FY 2014 ACE). This would better ensure that available de 
minimus carryover was consistent with the prevailing stock conditions 
and catch advice for the year in which carryover would be harvested.
    Allowing for a de minimus carryover without negative consequences 
in the groundfish fishery can be justified on a couple of grounds. The 
amount provided, if taken, would not be expected to cause fishery-level 
ACLs to be exceeded. The analysis conducted for FY 2012 to FY 2013 
carryover has illustrated that the fishery has not operated in a manner 
that fully utilizes available allocations. Even with the 10 percent 
routinely set aside from the sector sub-ACL to provide carryover, few 
stocks have utilized greater than 85 percent of the available stock 
level ACL. In addition, depending on how much carryover is caught, the 
benefit to the stock from not catching that amount in the previous year 
may permit stock growth sufficient to offset the effects of any de 
minimus carryover allowed in the next year. As previously stated, NMFS 
is continuing to develop de minimus carryover analyses and will provide 
completed results to the Council's Groundfish Plan Development Team and 
Groundfish Committee for their review and input. It is not expected 
that the de minimus carryover amount would be re-evaluated annually; 
however, if the ongoing analysis indicates this would be a critical 
component to ensure ACLs were not likely to be exceeded, then annual 
review could be contemplated.
    NMFS believes this proposed approach maintains the original intent 
of the carryover program established by Amendment 16 in enhancing the 
flexibility of sectors in planning their fishing year, while still 
promoting safety and ensuring that there will be AMs for using 
carryover if overall ACLs are exceeded. This general description of the 
proposed accounting change does not explicitly discuss the implications 
of leasing ACE. Leasing, as well as other complexities of the 
accounting system, have not yet been closely evaluated by NMFS or 
discussed with the Council and public. As a result, NMFS is soliciting 
public comment on the conceptual approach proposed. After considering 
comments received, NMFS may further clarify any remaining details, 
either in collaboration with the Council or independently, for FY 2014 
implementation. The Council may also take action to revise the 
carryover program for FY 2014.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Assistant Administrator has made a preliminary determination that, 
except for those measures identified as problematic, this proposed rule 
is consistent with Framework 50, other provisions of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act, and other applicable law. In making the final 
determination, NMFS will consider the data, views, and comments 
received during the public comment period.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be significant for 
purposes of Executive Order (E.O.) 12866.
    This proposed rule does not contain policies with Federalism or 
``takings'' implications as those terms are defined in E.O. 13132 and 
E.O. 12630, respectively.
    An Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) was prepared for 
this proposed rule, as required by section 603 of the Regulatory 
Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 603. The IRFA includes this section of the 
preamble to this rule and analyses contained in Framework 50 and its 
accompanying EA/RIR/IRFA. The IRFA describes the economic impact that 
this proposed rule would have on small entities, if adopted. A 
description of the action, why it is being considered, and the legal 
basis for this action are contained in Framework 50, the beginning of 
this section (SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION) in the preamble, and in the 
SUMMARY section of the preamble. A copy of the full analysis is 
available from the Council (see ADDRESSES). A summary of the IRFA 
follows.

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

    The Small Business Administration (SBA) defines a small business as 
one that:
    (1) Is independently-owned and operated;

[[Page 19387]]

    (2) Is not dominant in its field of operation; and
    (3) Has annual gross revenues that do not exceed--
     $4.0 million in the case of commercial harvesting 
entities, or
     $7.0 million in the case of for-hire fishing entities; or
    (4) Has fewer than--
     500 employees in the case of fish processors, or
     100 employees in the case of fish dealers.
    This action would mainly impact commercial harvesting entities 
engaged in the limited access groundfish fishery, as well as both the 
limited access general category and limited access scallop fisheries. 
The limited-access groundfish fishery is further classified as vessels 
enrolled in the sector program and those in the common pool. In 
general, sector-enrolled businesses rely more heavily on sales of 
groundfish species than common pool-enrolled vessels. At the beginning 
of the 2012 groundfish fishing year on May 1, 2012, there were 1,382 
individual limited access permits. Each of these permits was eligible 
to join a sector or enroll in the common pool. Alternatively, they 
could allow their permit to expire by failing to renew it. There were 
827 permits enrolled in the sector program and 584 enrolled in the 
common pool. The limited access (LA) scallop fisheries can be further 
classified as limited access and limited access general category (LAGC) 
scallop permits. At the beginning of the 2012 scallop fishing year on 
March 1, 2012, there were 342 active LA scallop and 603 active LGC 
permits.
    Individually permitted vessels may hold permits for several 
fisheries, and may harvest species of fish that are regulated by 
several different fishery management plans, even beyond those impacted 
by this proposed action. In addition, multiple permitted-vessels, and/
or permits, may be owned by entities affiliated by stock ownership, 
common management, identity of interest, contractual relationships, or 
economic dependency. For the purposes of this analysis, ownership 
entities are defined by those entities with common ownership personnel 
as listed on permit application documentation. Only permits with 
identical ownership personnel are categorized as an ownership entity. 
For example, if five permits have the same seven personnel listed as 
co-owners on their application paperwork, those seven personnel form 
one ownership entity, covering those five permits. If one or several of 
the seven owners also own additional vessels, with sub-sets of the 
original seven personnel or with new co-owners, those ownership 
arrangements are deemed to be separate ownership entities for the 
purpose of this analysis.
    Ownership data are available for the four primary sub-fisheries 
potentially impacted by the proposed action from 2010 onward. These are 
the sector and common pool segments in the groundfish fishery, and the 
LA and LAGC scallop fisheries. Due to data limitations, only 1 year's 
gross receipts are reported, and calendar year 2011 serves as the 
baseline year for this analysis. Calendar year 2012 data are not yet 
available in a fully audited form.
    In 2011, there were 1,370 distinct ownership entities identified. 
Of these, 1,312 are categorized as small entities, and 58 are large 
entities, based on SBA guidelines. These totals may mask some diversity 
among the entities. Many, if not most, of these ownership entities 
maintain diversified harvest portfolios and obtain gross sales from 
many fisheries, and are not dependent on any one fishery. However, not 
all are equally diversified. The entities that depend most heavily on 
sales from harvesting species that are impacted by this proposed action 
are most likely to be affected. So, for this analysis, we identified 
ownership groups that are most likely to be impacted by the proposed 
measures. We identified these groups as those that derive greater than 
50 percent of their gross sales from sales of either regulated 
groundfish or scallops. Using this threshold, 135 entities are 
groundfish-dependent, of which 131 are small entities, and four are 
large entities. There are 47 entities that are scallop-dependent, of 
which 39 are small entities, and 8 are large entities.
    This action also regulates the Atlantic herring fishery. The 
herring fishery receives an allocation of GB and GOM haddock as a 
result of bycatch of these stocks that occurs in the fishery. In 2012, 
there were 3 large entities and 86 small entities that had limited 
access herring permits. There were 1,984 small entities that had an 
open access herring permit. Open access permits make up a very small 
proportion of the landings in the herring fishery, and derive little 
revenue from this fishery. Some entities that hold a limited access 
herring permit have gross revenues greater than $4 million. However, 
none of these entities reported any herring revenues during 2010-2012, 
and as a result, these entities are unlikely to be affected by this 
action. In addition, analysis predicts that it is unlikely that the 
midwater trawl herring fleet would exceed its sub-ACLs for GOM or GB 
haddock. As a result, the small regulated entities that derive revenues 
from the herring fishery are not expected to be impacted by this 
proposed action.
    In addition to the commercial harvesting entities, this action 
would also impact the recreational harvesting entities that participate 
in the groundfish fishery. Party/charter permits for the groundfish 
fishery are open access. All party/charter fishing businesses that 
catch cod or haddock may be affected by this action. During FY 2010, 
762 party/charter permits were issued. Of these 762 permits, 332 permit 
holders reported taking and retaining any species on at least one for-
hire trip. In FY 2010, 285 of these permit holders reported catching at 
least one cod or haddock. Of the 285 permit holders that reported 
catching at least one cod or haddock in FY 2010, 148 reported fishing 
in the GOM stock area (the recreational fishery only has a quota for 
GOM cod and haddock). In 2011, 170 party/charter vessels reported 
landings of GOM cod or haddock. All regulated party/charter operators 
are small entities. The median value of gross revenues from passengers 
was just over $9,000, and did not exceed $500,000 in any year from 2001 
to 2010.

Economic Impacts of the Proposed Measures and Alternatives and Measures 
Proposed To Mitigate Adverse Economic Impacts of the Proposed Action

    The economic impacts of each proposed measure are summarized below 
and are discussed in more detail in sections 7.4 and 8.11 of the 
Framework 50 EA. All of the proposed alternatives would have impacts on 
a substantial number of small entities. The economic impacts of the 
proposed measures on the groundfish fishery are expected to be severe 
and negative. The proposed action may place small entities at a 
significant competitive disadvantage relative to large entities, 
particularly those small entities engaged in the commercial groundfish 
fishery. Analysis shows that smaller entities, those generating less 
than $500K in annual gross sales, would likely be the most impacted. 
Total gross sales losses for these entities are estimated to be 
approximately 20-25 percent. Gross sales losses from groundfish are 
estimated to be 50-80 percent. Profitability of many small entities 
would also likely be significantly reduced under the proposed 
groundfish catch limits.

[[Page 19388]]

Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic Winter Flounder Management Measures

    The proposed revision to the SNE/MA winter flounder rebuilding 
strategy may avoid a loss of an estimated $40.2 million in net present 
value compared to the no action. This assumes that landings of the 
stock would be allowed, which is proposed in conjunction with the 
revised rebuilding program. Five rebuilding scenarios were analyzed in 
addition to the no action alternative. Two of these scenarios failed to 
rebuild the stock within 10 years, and thus, would violate rebuilding 
requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The other rebuilding 
strategies would meet Magnuson-Stevens Act requirements, but would 
rebuild in a shorter timeframe than 10 years, and as a result would 
have lower net economic benefits than the proposed action. If the 
Council did not take any action, the rebuilding strategy would be to 
rebuild the stock by 2014, which is unlikely even in the absence of all 
fishing mortality. The management objective for SNE/MA winter flounder 
would be to keep fishing mortality as close to zero as possible. This 
has the smallest net economic benefit when compared to all of the 
rebuilding scenarios analyzed.
    This action also proposes to allocate SNE/MA winter flounder to 
sectors and allow landing of the stock. In FY 2013, landings of SNE/MA 
winter flounder are estimated to be worth $5.4 million in ex-vessel 
gross revenues based on the preferred ABC alternative. Approximately 
$4.3 million of these estimated revenues would accrue to sector 
vessels, and the rest to common pool vessels. Landing of this stock has 
been prohibited since FY 2010. As a result, it is difficult to 
anticipate the economic impacts of the revised ABC/ACL for this stock 
because there are not enough trips to help characterize future fishing 
activity. If the Council did not take any action, possession of SNE/MA 
winter flounder would continue to be prohibited, and fishing vessel 
revenues would be lower when compared to the Council's preferred 
alternative. Revenues of other groundfish stocks may also be reduced 
since there may be fewer groundfish trips as a result of the inability 
to land SNE/MA winter flounder.
    This action proposes to modify the commercial fishery AM for SNE/MA 
winter flounder in conjunction with allocating the stock to sectors. 
There is a risk that sectors could catch their ACE prematurely within 
the fishing year and no longer be able to fish in the SNE/MA winter 
flounder stock area. This would have negative economic impacts due to 
lost revenue from the catch of other species, or increased costs as a 
result of having to fish outside of the area. However, analysis shows 
that it is unlikely that sector vessels would catch their entire 
allocation of SNE/MA winter flounder. As a result, this option would 
give sector vessels greater flexibility and would potentially result in 
higher revenues and lower costs.

Annual Catch Limit Specifications

    This proposed action would set specifications for FYs 2013-2015 for 
most groundfish stocks. The new ABCs would be set based on the latest 
benchmark stock assessment information, which is considered the best 
scientific information available and consistent with the, the ABC 
control rules in the FMP, Magnuson-Stevens Act requirments. and other 
applicable law. Because NFMS can only approve or disapprove measures 
recommended in Framework 50, the only other possible alternatives to 
the catch limits proposed that would mitigate negative impacts would be 
higher catch limits. Alternative higher catch limits are not viable or 
permissible under the law because they would not be consistent with the 
goals, objectives, and requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the 
FMP, particularly the requirement to end overfishing immediately. The 
Magnuson-Stevens Act and case law prevent implementation of measures 
that conflict with conservation requirements even if it means negative 
impacts are not mitigated. For all stocks, except GB yellowtail 
flounder, the Council recommended the highest ABCs allowed given the 
best available science, the SSC's recommendations, and Magnuson-Stevens 
Act and FMP requirements to end overfishing and rebuild fish stocks. 
The only other legally available alternatives to these proposed catch 
limits would be lower limits, which would not mitigate the economic 
impacts of the proposed action to the fishery. The Council's 
recommendation for GB yellowtail flounder does not appear to be 
consistent with the best scientific information available, would likely 
fail to end overfishing, and as a result, would violate Magnuson-
Stevens Act requirements. The proposed emergency action for GB 
yellowtail flounder is the highest ABC possible to avoid overfishing 
based on the best scientific information available.
    If the Council took no action to revise the specifications for FY 
2013-2015, no specifications would be set for most stocks in FY 2013. 
The FY 2012 catch limits expire on April 30, 2013, and the FMP does not 
specify any rollover provisions for specifications. As a result, if no 
catch limits are specified as proposed in this action, groundfish 
vessels would be unable to fish. This would be expected to have greater 
negative economic impacts than the proposed action, and would be 
predicted to have much less revenues as well. If no action is taken to 
specify catch limits, Magnuson-Stevens Act requirements to achieve 
optimum yield and consider the needs of fishing communities would be 
violated.
    For the reasons mentioned above, the proposed alternative is the 
only reasonable and legal alternative available that would mitigate the 
economic impacts of the proposed action to the extent possible. 
Although there are no other viable alternatives to mitigate negative 
impacts in the narrow scope and context of Framework 50 and this 
proposed rule, there are numerous mitigation measures that have been 
extensively discussed, considered, and implemented in Amendment 16, and 
parallel measures that are being proposed for implementation in FY 
2013. Amendment 16 established various measures to mitigate negative 
impacts of lower catch limits, including the sector program that 
provides substantial flexibility in when, how and where fishing can 
occur, the carryover provisions from year to year of uncaught quota, 
special provisions for certain small segments of the fishing fleet, and 
other measures that can be considered. The Amendment 16 FEIS and final 
rule can be found on the Council's Web site at: http://www.nefmc.org/nemulti/index.html. In addition, both the Council and NMFS are 
proposing, concurrently with this rule, other measures to mitigate the 
impacts of the anticipated reductions in the FY 2013 catch limits for 
most stocks. Mitigating measures are being proposed in Framework 48, 
including reduction in minimum fish sizes for some species and 
revisions to the discard strata for GB yellowtail flounder, an 
emergency action to increase monkfish trip limits, and the FY 2013 
Sector Operations Plans and Contracts and Allocation of the NE 
Multispecies ACE rulemaking which proposes 25 exemptions to allow more 
flexibility for sector vessels. NMFS has also already taken action on 
some measures, including announcing its intent to cover at-sea 
monitoring costs for sector vessels in FY 2013, and an exemption for 
sector vessels to allow more fishing opportunity on redfish, which is a 
healthy groundfish stock. All of these proposed and implemented

[[Page 19389]]

measures can be found at: http://www.nero.noaa.gov/sfd/sfdmulti.html.
    The analysis to estimate the economic impacts of this proposed 
action considered two different scenarios using a low (Scenario 1) and 
high (Scenario 2) ACL for both GOM cod and GB yellowtail flounder. Both 
scenarios have similar estimated groundfish gross revenues for FY 2013. 
Compared to FY 2011, groundfish gross revenues are expected to be 
approximately 28-30 percent lower. Gross groundfish revenues are 
expected to be 18 to 20 percent lower than those predicated for FY 
2012. Under the proposed action, gross revenues for all species on 
groundfish trips are expected to be 23 to 25 percent less in FY 2013 
when compared to FY 2011, and 11 to 13 percent lower compared to the 
predicated FY 2012 revenues. These expected revenues in FY 2013 assume 
the full 10-percent carryover is available to sector vessels from FY 
2012 to FY 2013. As explained below, if the carryover available to 
sector vessels is lower, expected revenue could decrease.
    The home port states of Connecticut, New Hampshire, and New Jersey 
are expected to have the largest percentage declines in landings value 
compared to FY 2011. Massachusetts would likely see the largest overall 
decline in gross revenue since FY 2011, with an expected decrease of 
approximately $21 million. All ports would be negatively affected by 
this proposed action. Chatham, MA, is expected to have the largest 
percentage decline in landings value since FY 2011.
    The impacts of the proposed action would be non-uniformly 
distributed across vessel length classes. The economic impact is 
expected to fall heaviest on the smallest vessel length class (less 
than 30 feet (9.1 m)) and is expected to taper off as vessel length 
increases up to the largest vessel length class (greater than 75 feet 
(22.9 m)). This result is not surprising; relative to larger vessels, 
small vessels have less scalability in terms of landings, and have a 
smaller geographic range.
    Under both scenarios analyzed, net revenues are expected to decline 
much less substantially than gross revenues. Gross revenues on sector 
trips in FY 2013 are expected to decline by approximately $26 million 
to $27 million from FY 2011, which is a 23 to 25-percent decrease. Net 
revenues are expected to decline by a range of only $2 to $3 million, 
or approximately 4 to 6 percent, from FY 2011. This is due in part to 
limitations of the analysis, which underestimates actual trip costs, 
and in part to efficiency gains that are predicted to occur. 
Maintaining net revenues would most likely occur at the expense of 
smaller vessels operating at a low profit margin that would be forced 
to lease their quota or sell their permits. Under the proposed action, 
crew-days, days absent, and total sector trips would also be expected 
to decline substantially relative to FY 2011, since only the most 
efficient trips are expected to occur under such highly restrictive 
quota allocations. Fewer operating vessels and days absent would 
translate into a reduction in earning opportunities for crew members.
    The proposed action would reduce the scallop fishery allocation for 
GB and SNE/MA yellowtail flounder by at least 38 percent, and 52 
percent, respectively. If the scallop fishery exceeds its allocation by 
more than 56 percent, scallop vessels would not have access to Closed 
Area II, and revenues would decline by $16.2 million. If an overage 
occurs, and is less than 56 percent, the AM areas for the scallop 
fishery would be open to fishing part of the year. Fishing effort could 
likely be moved to other months. Shorter scallop fishing windows could 
increase operating costs and have potential negative price impacts from 
short-term supply increases. If effort was shifted to other seasons 
when the meat weights are highest, there could be some positive impacts 
on the long-term revenues, which could offset some negative economic 
effects.
    The Council-preferred alternative for the FY 2013 GB yellowtail 
flounder ABC would result in a scallop allocation of 192.1 mt, and the 
proposed emergency action to implement a FY 2013 ABC of 500 mt would 
result in a scallop allocation of 83.4 mt. The medium estimate of GB 
yellowtail flounder bycatch by the scallop fishery in FY 2013 is 85.3 
mt. The high estimate of 2013 GB yellowtail flounder bycatch is 152.8 
mt. Thus, if these estimates are accurate, it is unlikely that a 
significant overage would occur in FY 2013. As a result, scallop-
dependent small entities are not expected to be significantly impacted 
by this action. NMFS is seeking comments on the economic impacts of the 
proposed GB yellowtail flounder levels on the scallop fishery.

Carryover

    This proposed action would continue to allow up to 10 percent of 
unused FY 2012 sector ACE to be used in FY 2013 in conjunction with the 
proposed catch limits in this action. NMFS is proposing to reduce the 
allowable GOM cod unused ACE from a maximum of 10 percent down to a 
maximum of 1.85 percent to better ensure overfishing does not occur. 
The actual amount of carryover to FY 2013 depends on the amount of ACE 
not harvested in FY 2012.
    The economic impact analysis conducted for Framework 50 assumed 
that the full 10-percent carryover amount, including GOM cod, was 
available and utilized for all carryover-eligible stocks. As such, 
carryover contributes to the projected $64.3 million gross groundfish 
revenues resulting from the preferred-alternative catch limits. The 
analysis also evaluated if no carryover of GOM cod was permitted in FY 
2013. This reduced projected gross groundfish revenue by $2.6 million 
to $61.7 million. NMFS estimates that the 1.85-percent GOM cod 
carryover could contribute approximately $50,000 to the FY 2013 gross 
groundfish revenue (i.e., roughly 1.85 percent of the $2.6 million 
value of GOM cod carryover). Consistent with the overall findings on FY 
2013 catch limit economic impacts, the reduction in GOM cod carryover 
proposed by NMFS would have the highest impact on vessels under 30 feet 
(9.1 m) in length.
    The proposed carryover amounts mitigate adverse economic impact to 
the maximum extent possible while ensuring NMFS meets its statutory 
obligation to propose catch limits, in this case FY 2013 ACLs plus the 
potential carryover, that do not result in overfishing stocks.

FY 2013 Recreational Management Measures

    This proposed action would increase the minimum fish size for GOM 
haddock in the recreational fishery. Total potential losses in gross 
revenues for party/charter vessels operating in the GOM as a result of 
the proposed action were estimated to be approximately $974 thousand. 
Total potential losses in gross revenues were estimated by multiplying 
the projected FY 2013 decline in fishing trips (7,109 trips) by the 
estimated average access fee paid by party/charter anglers ($137). 
Assuming the number of actively participating party/charter vessels in 
FY 2013 would be the same as in FY 2011, the proposed action would 
result in an average projected gross revenue loss of $5,729 per vessel 
($974 thousand divided by 170 vessels). Actual losses would likely be 
lower than estimated, since some anglers may switch to other species 
besides haddock and cod (striped bass, bluefish, black sea bass, scup, 
etc.) not considered in this analysis. For-hire businesses that are 
able to offer more non-groundfish fishing trips specifically marketed 
towards alternative species

[[Page 19390]]

may be able offset some of the estimated losses.

Description of the Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other 
Compliance Requirements of the Proposed Rule

    This action contains no new collection-of-information, reporting, 
or recordkeeping requirements. This action does not duplicate, overlap, 
or conflict with any other Federal law.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648

    Fisheries, Fishing, Recordkeeping and reporting requirements.

    Dated: March 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.
    For the reasons stated 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. Further amend Sec.  648.82, as proposed to be amended at 78 FR 
18188, March 25, 2013, by adding paragraph (n)(2)(vi), to read as 
follows:


Sec.  648.82  Effort-control program for NE multispecies limited access 
vessels.

* * * * *
    (n) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (vi) SNE/MA winter flounder AM. If the common pool fishery sub-ACL 
for SNE/MA winter flounder is exceeded, including the common pool's 
share of any overage of the total ACL, as specified at Sec.  
648.90(a)(5), by an amount that exceeds the management uncertainty 
buffer, the AM described in this paragraph would be implemented in the 
following fishing year. The AM would be effective for the entire 
fishing year. Common pool vessels fishing on a NE Multispecies DAS with 
trawl gear may only use a haddock separator trawl, as specified in 
Sec.  648.85(a)(3)(iii)(A); a Ruhle trawl, as specified in Sec.  
648.85(b)(6)(iv)(J)(3); a rope separator trawl, as specified in Sec.  
648.84(e); or any other gear approved consistent with the process 
defined in Sec.  648.85(b)(6) in the SNE/MA Winter Flounder Trawl Gear 
AM Areas. The AM areas are defined below, and are bounded by the 
following coordinates, connected in the order listed by straight lines, 
unless otherwise noted.

               SNE/MA Winter Flounder Trawl Gear AM Area 1
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  Point                     N. latitude    W. longitude
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1.......................................      41[deg]10'           \(1)\
                                                              71[deg]40'
2.......................................      41[deg]10'      71[deg]20'
3.......................................      41[deg]00'      71[deg]20'
4.......................................      41[deg]00'      71[deg]40'
------------------------------------------------------------------------
\(1)\ Point 1 connects to Point 2 along 41[deg]10' N or the southern
  coastline of Block Island, RI, whichever is farther south.


               SNE/MA Winter Flounder Trawl Gear AM Area 2
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  Point                     N. latitude    W. longitude
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1.......................................      41[deg]20'      70[deg]30'
2.......................................      41[deg]20'      70[deg]20'
3.......................................      41[deg]00'      70[deg]20'
4.......................................      41[deg]00'      70[deg]30'
------------------------------------------------------------------------


               SNE/MA Winter Flounder Trawl Gear AM Area 3
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  Point                     N. latitude    W. longitude
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1.......................................      41[deg]20'      69[deg]20'
2.......................................      41[deg]20'      69[deg]10'
3.......................................      41[deg]10'      69[deg]10'
4.......................................      41[deg]10'      69[deg]20'
------------------------------------------------------------------------


               SNE/MA Winter Flounder Trawl Gear AM Area 4
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  Point                     N. latitude    W. longitude
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1.......................................      41[deg]20'      69[deg]20'
2.......................................      41[deg]20'           \(1)\
3.......................................           \(1)\      69[deg]00'
4.......................................      41[deg]00'      69[deg]00'
5.......................................      41[deg]00'      69[deg]10'
6.......................................      41[deg]10'      69[deg]10'
7.......................................      41[deg]10'      69[deg]20'
------------------------------------------------------------------------
\(1)\ The southwest-facing boundary of Closed Area I.

* * * * *
0
3. Further amend Sec.  648.85, as proposed to be amended at 78 FR 
18188, March 25, 2013, by:
0
a. Revising paragraphs (b)(5) introductory text, (b)(5)(i), 
(b)(6)(iv)(D), (b)(8)(v)(F), and (b)(8)(v)(H), and
0
b. Adding paragraph (b)(5)(iii).
    The added and revised text reads as follows:


Sec.  648.85  Special management programs.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (5) Incidental Catch TACs. Unless otherwise specified in this 
paragraph (b)(5), Incidental Catch TACs shall be based upon the portion 
of the ACL for a stock specified for the common pool vessels pursuant 
to Sec.  648.90(a)(4), and allocated as described in this paragraph 
(b)(5), for each of the following stocks: GOM cod, GB cod, GB 
yellowtail flounder, CC/GOM yellowtail flounder, American plaice, white 
hake, SNE/MA winter flounder, and witch flounder. Because GB yellowtail 
flounder and GB cod are transboundary stocks, the incidental catch TACs 
for these stocks shall be based upon the common pool portion of the ACL 
available to U.S. vessels. NMFS shall send letters to limited access NE 
multispecies permit holders notifying them of such TACs.
    (i) Stocks other than GB cod and GB yellowtail flounder. With the 
exception of GB cod and GB yellowtail flounder, 100 percent of the 
Incidental Catch TACs specified in this paragraph (b)(5) shall be 
allocated to the Regular B DAS Program described in paragraph (b)(6) of 
this section.
* * * * *
    (iii) GB yellowtail flounder. The Incidental Catch TAC for GB 
yellowtail flounder specified in this paragraph (b)(5) shall be 
subdivided as follows: 50 percent to the Regular B DAS Program 
described in paragraph (b)(6) of this section and 50 percent to the 
Eastern U.S./Canada Haddock SAP described in paragraph (b)(8) of this 
section.
* * * * *
    (6) * * *
    (iv) * * *
    (D) Landing limits. Unless otherwise specified in this paragraph 
(b)(6)(iv)(D), or restricted pursuant to Sec.  648.86, a NE 
multispecies vessel fishing in the Regular B DAS Program described in 
this paragraph (b)(6), and fishing under a Regular B DAS, may not land 
more than 100 lb (45.5 kg) per DAS, or any part of a DAS, up to a 
maximum of 1,000 lb (454 kg) per trip, of any of the following species/
stocks from the areas specified in paragraph (b)(6)(v) of this section: 
Cod (both GOM and GB), American plaice, white hake, witch flounder, 
SNE/MA winter flounder, and GB yellowtail flounder; and may not land 
more than 25 lb (11.3 kg) per DAS, or any part of a DAS, up to a 
maximum of 250 lb (113 kg) per trip of CC/GOM yellowtail flounder. In 
addition, trawl vessels, which are required to fish with a haddock 
separator trawl, as specified in paragraph (a)(3)(iii)(A) of this 
section, or a Ruhle trawl, as specified in paragraph (b)(6)(iv)(J) of 
this section, and other gear that may be required in order to reduce 
catches of stocks of concern as described in paragraph (b)(6)(iv)(J) of 
this section, are restricted to the trip limits specified in paragraph 
(e) of this section.
* * * * *
    (8) * * *
    (v) * * *

[[Page 19391]]

    (F) Landing limits. Unless otherwise restricted under this part, a 
vessel fishing any portion of a trip in the Eastern U.S./Canada Haddock 
SAP under a NE multispecies DAS may not fish for, possess, or land more 
than 1,000 lb (453.6 kg) of cod, per trip, regardless of trip length. A 
common pool vessel fishing in the Eastern U.S./Canada Haddock SAP under 
a NE multispecies DAS is subject to the haddock requirements described 
in Sec.  648.86(a), unless further restricted under paragraph 
(a)(3)(iv) of this section. A common pool vessel fishing in the Eastern 
U.S./Canada Haddock SAP may not land more than 100 lb (45.5 kg) per 
DAS, or any part of a DAS, of GB yellowtail flounder, up to a maximum 
of 500 lb (227 kg) of all flatfish species, combined. Possession of 
monkfish (whole weight) and skates (whole weight) is limited to 500 lb 
(227 kg) each, unless otherwise restricted by Sec.  648.94(b)(3), and 
possession of lobsters is prohibited. Possession limits for all other 
stocks are as specified in Sec.  648.86.
* * * * *
    (H) Incidental TACs. The maximum amount of GB cod and GB yellowtail 
flounder, both landings and discards, that may be caught when fishing 
in the Eastern U.S./Canada Haddock SAP Program in a fishing year by 
vessels fishing under a Category B DAS, as authorized in paragraph 
(b)(8)(v)(A) of this section, is the amount specified in paragraphs 
(b)(5)(ii) and (iii) of this section. All regulated species and ocean 
pout caught by a vessel on a sector trip will be applied against the 
ACE for each stock that is specified for the sector in which the vessel 
participates.
* * * * *
0
4. Sec.  648.86 is amended by revising paragraph (l) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  648.86  NE Multispecies possession restrictions.

* * * * *
    (l) Ocean pout, windowpane flounder, and Atlantic wolffish. A 
vessel issued a limited access NE multispecies permit, an open access 
NE multispecies Handgear B permit, or a limited access monkfish permit 
and fishing under the monkfish Category C or D permit provisions may 
not fish for, possess, or land ocean pout, windowpane flounder, or 
Atlantic wolffish.
* * * * *
0
5. Sec.  648.87 is amended as follows:
0
a. Revise paragraphs (b)(1)(i)(A) and (c)(2)(ii)(A);
0
b. Suspend paragraph (b)(1)(i)(C); and
0
c. Add paragraphs (b)(1)(i)(F) and (b)(1)(i)(G).
    The added and revised text reads as follows:


Sec.  648.87  Sector allocation.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) Allocated stocks. Each sector shall be allocated a TAC in the 
form of an ACE for each NE multispecies stock, with the exception of 
Atlantic halibut, ocean pout, windowpane flounder (both the GOM/GB and 
the SNE/MA stocks), and Atlantic wolffish based upon the cumulative 
PSCs of vessels/permits participating in each sector during a 
particular fishing year, as described in paragraph (b)(1)(i)(E) of this 
section.
* * * * *
    (F)(1) Carry-over. (i) With the exception of GB yellowtail flounder 
and GOM cod, a sector may carry over an amount of ACE equal to up to 10 
percent of its original ACE allocation for each stock that is unused at 
the end of one fishing year into the following fishing year. A sector 
may carry over an amount of ACE equal to up to 1.85 percent of its 
original GOM cod ACE allocation that is unused at the end of one 
fishing year into the following fishing year.
    (ii) For FY 2013, no carryover shall be counted against a sector's 
ACE.
    (2) Eastern GB cod and haddock carryover. Any unused ACE allocated 
for Eastern GB stocks pursuant to paragraph (b)(1)(i)(B) of this 
section will contribute to the 10-percent carry-over allowance for each 
stock, as specified in paragraph (b)(1)(i)(F)(1), but will not increase 
an individual sector's allocation of Eastern GB stocks during the 
following year.
    (3) Carry-over when vessels leave or change sectors. Carry-over ACE 
remains effective during the subsequent fishing year even if vessels 
that contributed to the sector allocation during the previous fishing 
year are no longer participating in the same sector for the subsequent 
fishing year.
    (G) Carryover accounting. (1) Beginning in FY 2014, carryover of a 
particular stock attributed to a sector, other than the NMFS-specified 
de minimus amount, shall be counted against the sector's ACE only for 
purposes of determining an overage subject to the AM in paragraph 
(b)(4)(iii) of this section in circumstances there the stock-level ACL 
has been exceeded.
    (2) In instances where the stock-level ACL has been exceeded and 
sectors have utilized available carryover in excess of the NMFS 
specified de minimus amount, the sector will be subject to the AM 
provision, inclusive of the carryover amount in excess of the stock-
level ACL, as outlined in paragraph (b)(4)(iii) of this section.
    (3) NMFS reserves the right to reduce the available eligible 
carryover amount to ensure the total potential catch, the stock-level 
ACL plus the carryover amount, does not exceed the stock overfishing 
limit, to maintain consistency with the requirements of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act.
* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (ii) * * *
    (A) Trip limits on NE multispecies stocks for which a sector 
receives an allocation of ACE pursuant to paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this 
section (i.e., all stocks except Atlantic halibut, ocean pout, 
windowpane flounder, and Atlantic wolffish);
* * * * *


Sec.  648.89   [Amended]

0
6. Section 648.89 is amended as follows:
0
a. Remove paragraph (c)(7); and
0
b. Redesignate paragraph (c)(6) as paragraph (c)(5);; paragraph (c)(8) 
as paragraph (c)(6) and paragraph (c)(9) as paragraph (c)(7) .
0
7. Further amend Sec.  648.90, as proposed to be amended at 78 FR 
18188, March 25, 2013, by revising paragraph (a)(5)(i)(A) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  648.90  NE multispecies assessment, framework procedures and 
specifications, and flexible area action system.

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (5) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) Excessive catch by common pool vessels. If the catch of 
regulated species and ocean pout by common pool vessels exceeds the 
amount of the ACL specified for common pool vessels pursuant to 
paragraph (a)(4)(iii)(H)(2) of this section, then the AMs described in 
Sec.  648.82(n) shall take effect. Pursuant to the distribution of 
ABCs/ACLs specified in paragraph (a)(4)(iii)(H)(2) of this section, for 
the purposes of this paragraph (a)(5)(i)(A), the catch of each 
regulated species or ocean pout stock not allocated to sectors pursuant 
to Sec.  648.87(b)(1)(i)(F) (i.e., Atlantic halibut, ocean pout, 
windowpane flounder, and Atlantic wolffish) during fishing years 2010 
and 2011 shall be added to the catch of such stocks by common pool 
vessels to determine whether the differential DAS counting AM described 
in Sec.  648.82(n)(1) shall take effect. If such catch does not exceed 
the portion of the ACL specified for common pool vessels pursuant to 
paragraph (a)(4)(iii)(H)(2) of

[[Page 19392]]

this section, then no AMs shall take effect for common pool vessels.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2013-07532 Filed 3-28-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P