[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 65 (Thursday, April 4, 2013)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 20260-20267]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-07865]


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

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 120822383-3277-02]
RIN 0648-BC48


Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast 
Multispecies Fishery Management Plan; Amendment 19

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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

SUMMARY: This final rule implements Amendment 19 to the Northeast 
Multispecies Fishery Management Plan. The New England Fishery 
Management Council developed Amendment 19 to modify management measures 
that currently govern the small-mesh multispecies fishery, including 
the accountability measures, the year-round possession limits, and 
total allowable landings process. Amendment 19 was approved by NMFS on 
January 15, 2013.

DATES: Effective May 6, 2013.

ADDRESSES: An environmental assessment (EA) was prepared for Amendment 
19 that describes the proposed action and other considered 
alternatives, and provides an analysis of the impacts of the proposed 
measures and alternatives. Copies of Amendment 19, including the EA and 
the Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA), are available on 
request from the New England Fishery Management Council, 50 Water 
Street, Newburyport, MA 01950. These documents are also available 
online at http://www.nefmc.org.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Moira Kelly, Fishery Policy Analyst, 
(978) 281-9218.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The small-mesh multispecies complex is composed of five stocks of 
three species of hakes (northern silver hake, southern silver hake, 
northern red hake, southern red hake, and offshore hake), and the 
fishery is managed through a series of exemptions from the other 
provisions of the Northeast (NE) Multispecies Fishery Management Plan 
(FMP). None of the small-mesh multispecies stocks are overfished, and 
overfishing is not occurring. Amendment 19 to the FMP was initiated by 
the New England Fishery Management Council (Council) in 2009 to 
establish a mechanism for specifying annual catch limits (ACLs) and 
accountability measures (AMs) for the small-mesh multispecies fishery, 
as required by the 2007 reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). However, the 
Council postponed developing the amendment in order to include the 
results of an updated stock assessment in November 2010. Due to this 
delay, and in order to bring the small-mesh multispecies portion of the 
NE Multispecies FMP into compliance with the Magnuson-Stevens Act 
requirements for ACLs and AMs, NMFS implemented a Secretarial Amendment 
in time for the start of the 2012 fishing year (March 30, 2012; 77 FR 
19138).
    The Secretarial Amendment was based on the preliminary work the 
Council had done on Amendment 19 up to that point, including the 
overfishing limits (OFL), acceptable biological catches (ABC), and 
ACLs. The Council, through Amendment 19, is adopting those limits 
(Table 1), as well as the process that describes how those values are 
calculated, as was implemented in the Secretarial Amendment. As 
described in the Secretarial Amendment, the ABCs are based on the OFLs 
and, to account for scientific uncertainty, are set equal to the 40th 
percentile of the OFL distribution for both red hake stocks, and the 
25th percentile for both silver hake stocks.
    Offshore hake, which does not have an overfishing definition, are 
caught incidentally in the southern silver hake fishery and are 
marketed together with silver hake as ``whiting.'' In order to account 
for offshore hake, the southern silver hake ABC is increased by 4 
percent, which is the average amount of offshore hake landed on a 
typical ``whiting'' trip, based on information presented during the 
most recent stock assessment. It is not feasible for fishermen to 
separate silver and offshore hake on a given trip, and there is not 
enough information to establish a distinct set of offshore hake catch 
limits. Therefore, this combined ABC, ACL, and TAL in the southern 
whiting fishery is deemed adequate to account for and manage the 
southern silver hake and offshore hake stocks. This combined

[[Page 20261]]

fishery is referred throughout this rule as ``southern whiting.''
    The ACLs are set equal to 95 percent of the respective ABC, to 
account for management uncertainty. This process was recommended by the 
SSC.

                                    Table 1--OFL, ABC, and ACL for 2012-2014
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                     Northern
                                                   Northern red     silver hake    Southern red      Southern
                                                    hake  (mt)         (mt)         hake  (mt)     whiting  (mt)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Overfishing Limit (OFL).........................             314          24,840           3,448          62,301
Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC)...............             280          13,177           3,259          33,940
Annual Catch Limit (ACL)........................             266          12,518           3,096          32,295
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Amendment 19 changes some of the other measures implemented in the 
Secretarial Amendment, as well as management measures that the 
Secretarial Amendment did not address. A full description of the 
justifications and rationale behind each measure being implemented in 
this final rule was included in the proposed rule published on November 
2, 2012 (77 FR 66169) and is not repeated here.

Final Measures

1. Revised Overfishing Definitions
    The overfishing definitions were derived from the most recent stock 
assessment for the small-mesh multispecies that was conducted in 
November 2010 (SAW 51). There is no overfishing definition for offshore 
hake because there is insufficient information for a stock assessment. 
SAW 51 concluded that the existing biological reference points should 
be rejected and could not recommend an alternative. Therefore, this 
action removes the overfishing definition for offshore hake implemented 
in Amendment 12 until such time that the best available scientific 
information provides an acceptable overfishing definition for this 
stock. In the meantime, offshore hake will be accounted for in the 
southern silver hake fishery, because it is caught in conjunction with 
and cannot be separated from silver hake. This approach to managing the 
offshore hake fishery was recommended by the Council's Scientific and 
Statistical Committee (SSC) and is considered consistent with National 
Standard 1 for a stock in a stock complex for which it is not possible 
to calculate reference points.
    The new overfishing definitions for red hake and silver hake are as 
follows:

Red Hake

    Red hake is overfished when the 3-yr moving average of the spring 
survey weight per tow (i.e., the biomass threshold) is less than one-
half of the biomass at maximum sustainable yield (BMSY 
proxy), where the BMSY proxy is defined as the average 
observed biomass from 1980-2010. The current estimates of the biomass 
thresholds for the northern and southern stocks are 1.27 kg/tow and 
0.51 kg/tow, respectively.
    Overfishing occurs when the ratio between the catch and spring 
survey biomass exceeds 0.163 kt/kg and 3.038 kt/kg, respectively, 
derived from An Index Method (AIM) analyses from 1980-2009.

Silver Hake

    Silver hake is overfished when the 3-yr moving average of the fall 
survey weight per tow is less than one-half the BMSY proxy, 
where the BMSY proxy is defined as the average observed 
biomass from 1973-1982. The most recent estimates of the biomass 
thresholds are 3.21 kg/tow for the northern stock and 0.83 kg/tow for 
the southern stock.
    Overfishing occurs when the ratio between the catch and the 
arithmetic fall survey biomass index from the most recent 3 yr exceeds 
the overfishing threshold. The most recent estimates of the overfishing 
thresholds are 2.78 kt/kg for the northern stock and 34.19 kt/kg for 
the southern stock.
2. Adjustments to the Specifications Process and Frameworkable 
Measures, and Monitoring Procedures and Requirements
    Amendment 19 modifies the specifications process and the list of 
frameworkable measures implemented by the Secretarial Amendment, as 
well as the process by which the fishery is monitored. The 
specifications process instructs the Council as to when it needs to 
make a recommendation on the catch limits, possession limits, and other 
measures deemed to be part of the specifications package. In addition, 
the list of items that may be considered for adjustment in a framework 
is modified slightly.
    This final rule also implements a measure that requires NMFS to 
prepare, and the appropriate Council technical group (such as a plan 
development team (PDT)) to review, a report on the small-mesh 
multispecies fishery, including trends in the fishery and changes in 
stock size. The PDT or other appropriate Council technical group would 
be responsible for making recommendations to the Council, should any 
management changes be deemed necessary.
    Finally, this final rule requires vessels fishing for small-mesh 
multispecies to send their vessel trip reports (VTR) to NMFS on a 
weekly basis. Amendment 16 to the NE Multispecies FMP implemented the 
requirement that vessels fishing with a NE multispecies permit have a 
weekly VTR requirement; however, that amendment had no other small-mesh 
multispecies measures associated with it. As a result, the Council and 
the Whiting Oversight Committee wanted to ensure through this action it 
is clear that the weekly submission of VTRs is required for small-mesh 
multispecies vessels, in order to facilitate more effective monitoring 
of the stock-area based total allowable landings (TALs.)
3. Stock Area Total Allowable Landings
    The Secretarial Amendment implemented annual, stock-wide TALs for 
northern and southern red hake, as well as for northern silver hake and 
southern whiting. The TALs are calculated by deducting the most recent 
3-yr moving average of discards from the ACL, and then deducting an 
additional 3 percent to account for state-waters landings.

[[Page 20262]]



                                                       Table 2--2012-2014 Total Allowable Landings
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           Northern red hake           Northern silver hake          Southern red hake            Southern  whiting
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
ACL.................................  266 mt.....................  12,518 mt..................  3,096 mt...................  32,295 mt
Discard Estimate (2008-2010)........  65%........................  26%........................  56%........................  13%
                                      (173 mt)...................  (3,255 mt).................  (1,718 mt).................  (4,198 mt)
State-Waters Landings (3%)..........  2.8 mt.....................  278 mt.....................  42 mt......................  842 mt
Federal TAL (mt)....................  90.3 mt....................  8,985 mt...................  1,336 mt...................  27,255 mt
Federal TAL (lb)....................  199,077.4 lb...............  19,809,243 lb..............  2,945,376 lb...............  60,086,990 lb
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Amendment 19 maintains an annual, stock-wide TAL for the northern 
area. In the southern stock area, however, the TALs will be monitored 
annually initially, until two-thirds of a TAL is harvested in a given 
year. If landings in a given year exceed two-thirds of the TAL, NMFS 
would consult with the Council during the following year, and, if the 
Council agrees, NMFS would implement a rule to switch the TAL to a 
quarterly system for the next year. That is, if two-thirds of the red 
hake TAL were landed in 2013, and the Council agreed, quarterly TALs 
would be implemented for the start of the 2015 fishing year and would 
be maintained until the Council chooses, through specifications or a 
Framework Adjustment, to revert back to an annual TAL. The incidental 
possession limit trigger (as described in the in-season a.m. section, 
below) would be applied for each quarter. The quarterly allocations 
would be based on the average proportion of dealer-reported landings 
from 2008-2010, as follows:

                           Table 3--Quarterly Allocations for the Southern Stock Area
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                     May-Jul %       Aug-Oct %       Nov-Jan %       Feb-Apr %
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Southern red hake...............................            33.3            25.3            17.7            23.7
Southern whiting................................              27            21.4            22.8            28.8
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Included in this measure is a ``roll-up'' procedure that would be 
used for in-season monitoring of the quarterly TALs. In each quarter, 
the cumulative landings to date that fishing year would be monitored 
against a quarterly TAL represented by the sum of that quarter's 
allocation, plus the allocations from prior quarters (e.g., during 
quarter 2, the cumulative landings of southern red hake to date would 
be monitored against a quota equal to 58.6 percent of the annual TAL, 
which is the sum of the quarter 1 allocation of 33.3 percent plus the 
quarter 2 allocation of 25.3 percent). The possession limit trigger for 
each stock would apply in each quarter, and the incidental possession 
limit would remain in effect until the end of that quarter. At the 
start of the next quarter, the possession limit would reset to the 
appropriate default possession limit. This procedure allows for unused 
quota from a quarter to be available immediately to the fleet, without 
unnecessary delays from rulemaking to formally transfer quota between 
quarters.
4. Accountability Measures
    The Secretarial Amendment implemented two types of AMs for the 
small-mesh multispecies fishery. The in-season a.m. would reduce the 
possession limit to an incidental amount for a stock if 90 percent of 
that stock's TAL is projected to be harvested. For both red hake 
stocks, the possession limit would be reduced to 400 lb (181 kg), and 
for northern silver hake and southern whiting, the possession limit 
would be reduced to 1,000 lb (454 kg). In the event that an ACL is 
exceeded in a given year, the post-season a.m. implemented in the 
Secretarial Amendment would reduce a subsequent year's ACL by the exact 
amount, by weight, by which the ACL was exceeded.

In-Season AMs

    This final rule maintains the overall structure of the in-season 
a.m. (i.e., the 90-percent trigger, with a reduced possession limit), 
but changes the incidental possession limit for northern silver hake 
and southern whiting from 1,000 lb (454 kg) to 2,000 lb (907 kg), while 
maintaining the 400-lb (181-kg) incidental possession limit for both 
stocks of red hake.

Post-Season AM

    This final rule replaces the post-season AM implemented by the 
Secretarial Amendment with one that would decrease the TAL trigger by 
the same percentage by which the ACL is exceeded. That is, if an ACL is 
exceeded by 5 percent in fishing year 2013, the incidental possession 
limit trigger starting in fishing year 2015 would be reduced to 85 
percent. An ACL overage that occurred in fishing year 2012 would be 
subject to this AM, which would be applied to the 2014 fishing year.
    This reduction in the TAL trigger would remain in effect until the 
Council chooses to modify it through the specifications process or in a 
framework adjustment.
5. Trip Limits
    This final rule implements a 5,000-lb (2,268-kg) trip limit for red 
hake in both the northern and southern stock areas for all gear types. 
This final rule also increases the southern whiting trip limit from 
30,000 lb (13,608 kg) to 40,000 lb (18,144 kg) for vessels fishing in 
the Southern New England and Mid-Atlantic Exemption Areas using mesh 
that is 3 inches (7.62 cm) or greater.

Other Regulatory Changes

    This final rule also clarifies some of the regulations governing 
the small-mesh multispecies fishery. The language of the regulations 
pertaining to the small-mesh multispecies exemption programs were 
unclear as to what gear was allowed in these programs. This final rule 
clarifies the regulatory language so that it is clear that only a 
raised footrope trawl is allowed in the Small Mesh Area I and II 
Exemption Programs and the Gulf of Maine Grate Raised Footrope Trawl 
Area Exemption Program, and that no other fishing gears may be used 
while a vessel is fishing in these exemption programs. The regulations 
are further clarified with the

[[Page 20263]]

citation for each of the incidental catch limits for other species in 
the small-mesh multispecies exemption programs. An incorrect citation 
in the regulations pertaining to small-mesh multispecies transfers-at-
sea is also corrected in this rule.
    The proposed rule incorrectly referenced northern silver hake and 
southern whiting instead of northern and southern red hake in the 
proposed changes to 50 CFR 648.90(b)(2)(i)(C)(1). The regulations in 
this final rule correct that error.

Public Comments

    NMFS only received two comments to the proposed action. Neither of 
these comments resulted in a change to the final rule.
    Comments: A comment on the Notice of Availability (October 19, 
2012; 77 FR 64303) recommended that NMFS set the quotas to zero for all 
of the small-mesh multispecies stocks. A comment was received on the 
proposed rule stating that the rule would allow overfishing to 
continue.
    Response: Neither of these commenters presented credible evidence 
in support of their claim. The quotas were developed using the best 
available science, which also indicates that overfishing is not 
occurring on any of the small-mesh multispecies stocks. In addition, 
none of the small-mesh multispecies stocks are overfished. The quotas 
implemented by this final rule are consistent with scientific advice 
and do not allow for overfishing.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this rule is 
consistent with the NE Multispecies FMP, other provisions of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law.
    This final rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    Pursuant to section 604 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), 
this final rule includes a Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (FRFA) 
in support of Amendment 19 analyzing the rule's impact on small 
entities. This FRFA incorporates the IRFA, a summary of the significant 
issues raised by the public comments in response to the IRFA, NMFS' 
responses to those comments, relevant analyses in the Amendment and its 
EA, and a summary of the analyses completed to support the action 
implemented through this rule. A copy of the analyses done in the 
Amendment and EA is available from the Council (see ADDRESSES). A 
summary of the IRFA was published in the proposed rule for this action 
and is not repeated here. A description of why this action was 
considered, the objectives of, and the legal basis for this rule is 
contained in the preamble to the proposed rule and this final rule and 
is not repeated here.

A Summary of the Significant Issues Raised by the Public in Response to 
the IRFA, a Summary of the Agency's Assessment of Such Issues, and a 
Statement of Any Changes Made in the Proposed Rule as a Result of Such 
Comments

    Two comments were received on the proposed rule and the amendment. 
However, neither addressed the IRFA or economic analysis contained in 
Amendment 19, and neither resulted in any changes to the rule.

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

    This rule affects those vessels and vessel owners that fish for 
small-mesh multispecies in the northeast Atlantic Ocean. The Small 
Business Administration (SBA) considers commercial fishing entities 
(NAICS code 114111) to be small entities if they have no more than $4 
million in annual sales, while the size standard for charter/party 
operators (part of NAICS cod 487210) is $7 million in sales. The 
participants in the commercial small-mesh multispecies fishery are 
those vessels issued limited or open access NE multispecies permits 
that land any of the small-mesh multispecies. Because any vessel at any 
time may be issued an open access NE multispecies permit, it is 
difficult to determine how many vessels or owners will participate in 
this fishery in a given year. Also, because some firms own more than 
one vessel, available data make it difficult to reliably identify 
ownership control over more than one vessel. For this analysis, the 
number of vessels landing at least 1 lb (0.45 kg) of any of the small-
mesh multispecies (red hake, silver hake, or offshore hake) is 
considered to be a maximum estimate of the number of small business 
entities. The average number of permitted vessels landing at least 1 lb 
(0.45 kg) of small-mesh multispecies from 2005-2010 was 562 vessels per 
year. All of the entities (fishing vessels) affected by this action are 
considered small entities under the SBA size standards for small 
fishing businesses ($4.0 million in annual gross sales). Therefore, 
there are no disproportionate effects on small versus large entities.
    Information on costs in the fishery is not readily available, and 
individual vessel profitability cannot be determined directly; 
therefore, expected changes in gross revenues were used as a proxy for 
profitability. In general, the economic impacts from the measures 
implemented in Amendment 19 are neutral. There may be slightly negative 
impacts if the in-season or post-season AMs are triggered. The AMs 
would reduce the amount of fish available to the fleet, which in turn 
would reduce vessel revenues. On the other hand, there are likely to be 
positive long-term impacts on the fishery, as these measures are 
intended to ensure the sustainable harvesting of the small-mesh 
multispecies stocks. Further, other measures implemented by Amendment 
19 are likely to have positive economic impacts, specifically 
increasing the incidental trip limit for northern silver hake and 
southern whiting should the in-season a.m. be triggered, and increasing 
the southern whiting trip limit for vessels using mesh that is 3 in 
(7.62 cm) or greater. The implementation of a trip limit for red hake 
is likely to have neutral impacts, as the intent of the trip limit is 
to cap landings at approximately the current level and discourage 
sudden increases in catch.

Description of Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other Compliance 
Requirements

    There are no compliance requirements associated with this final 
rule. The rule clarifies the requirement that vessels landing small-
mesh multispecies must submit their VTRs on a weekly basis, but this is 
not a new requirement. This final rule contains reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements and associated information collections 
subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act that have been previously 
approved by OMB under control number 0648-0212.
    This final rule does not duplicate, overlap, or conflict with other 
Federal rules.

Description of the Steps the Agency Has Taken To Minimize the 
Significant Economic Impact on Small Entities Consistent With the 
Stated Objectives of Applicable Statutes

    The management measures implemented in Amendment 19 were developed 
to improve the overall management of the small-mesh multispecies 
fishery. None of the measures being implemented in Amendment 19 reduces 
fishing opportunities or flexibility. These measures promote efficiency 
within the

[[Page 20264]]

fishery by increasing trip limits or reduce waste associated with 
regulatory discards by establishing incidental and year-round 
possession limits that take into account the existing behavior of the 
fleet and setting the possession limits at or above the current, 
market-driven level.
    Therefore, by implementing management measures that provide 
flexibility and efficiency and reduce waste, NMFS has taken the steps 
necessary to minimize the impacts of this action on small entities 
consistent with the stated objectives of applicable statutes.

Small Entity Compliance Guide

    Section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness 
Act of 1996 states that, for each rule or group of related rules for 
which an agency is required to prepare a FRFA, the agency shall publish 
one or more guides to assist small entities in complying with the rule, 
and shall designate such publications as ``small entity compliance 
guides.'' The agency shall explain the actions a small entity is 
required to take to comply with a rule or group of rules. As part of 
this rulemaking process, a letter to permit holders that also serves as 
small entity compliance guide (the guide) was prepared. Copies of this 
final rule are available from the Northeast Regional Office, and the 
guide, i.e., permit holder letter, will be sent to all holders of 
permits for the Northeast multispecies fishery. The guide and this 
final rule will be available upon request, and posted on the Northeast 
Regional Office's Web site at www.nero.noaa.gov.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648

    Fisheries, Fishing, Recordkeeping and reporting requirements.

    Dated: March 29, 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 amended 
as follows:

PART 648--FISHERIES OF THE NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES

0
1. The authority citation for part 648 continues to read as follows:

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


0
2. In Sec.  648.7, paragraph (f)(2)(i) is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  648.7  Recordkeeping and reporting requirements.

* * * * *
    (f) * * *
    (2) Fishing vessel log reports. (i) For any vessel not issued a NE 
multispecies permit, Atlantic herring permit, or Tier 3 Limited Access 
mackerel permit, fishing vessel log reports, required by paragraph 
(b)(1)(i) of this section, must be postmarked or received by NMFS 
within 15 days after the end of the reporting month. If no fishing trip 
is made during a particular month for such a vessel, a report stating 
so must be submitted, as instructed by the Regional Administrator. For 
any vessel issued a NE multispecies permit, including vessels fishing 
for small-mesh multispecies or whiting, an Atlantic herring permit, or 
a Tier 3 Limited Access mackerel permit, fishing vessel log reports 
must be postmarked or received by midnight of the first Tuesday 
following the end of the reporting week. If no fishing trip is made 
during a reporting week for such a vessel, a report stating so must be 
submitted and received by NMFS by midnight of the first Tuesday 
following the end of the reporting week, as instructed by the Regional 
Administrator. For the purposes of this paragraph (f)(2)(i), the date 
when fish are offloaded will establish the reporting week or month that 
the VTR must be submitted to NMFS, as appropriate. Any fishing activity 
during a particular reporting week (i.e., starting a trip, landing, or 
offloading catch) will constitute fishing during that reporting week 
and will eliminate the need to submit a negative fishing report to NMFS 
for that reporting week. For example, if a vessel issued a NE 
multispecies permit, Atlantic herring permit, or Tier 3 Limited Access 
Mackerel Vessel begins a fishing trip on Wednesday, but returns to port 
and offloads its catch on the following Thursday (i.e., after a trip 
lasting 8 days), the VTR for the fishing trip would need to be 
submitted by midnight Tuesday of the third week, but a negative report 
(i.e., a ``did not fish'' report) would not be required for either 
earlier week.
* * * * *

0
3. In Sec.  648.13, paragraph (e) is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  648.13  Transfers at sea.

* * * * *
    (e) Vessels issued a letter of authorization from the Regional 
Administrator to transfer small-mesh multispecies at sea for use as 
bait will automatically have 500 lb (226.8 kg) deducted from the 
vessel's combined silver hake and offshore hake possession limit, as 
specified under Sec.  648.86(d), for every trip during the 
participation period specified on the letter of authorization, 
regardless of whether a transfer of small-mesh multispecies at sea 
occurred or whether the actual amount that was transferred was less 
than 500 lb (226.8 kg). This deduction shall be noted on the 
transferring vessel's letter of authorization from the Regional 
Administrator.
* * * * *

0
4. In Sec.  648.80, paragraphs (a)(6)(i)(B), (a)(6)(i)(F), 
(a)(9)(i)(A), (a)(9)(ii), (a)(15)(i)(B), (a)(16)(i)(A), and 
(a)(16)(ii)(A) are revised to read as follows:


Sec.  648.80  NE Multispecies regulated mesh areas and restrictions on 
gear and methods of fishing.

    (a) * * *
    (6) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (B) An owner or operator of a vessel fishing in this area may not 
fish for, possess on board, or land any species of fish other than 
whiting and offshore hake combined--up to a maximum of 30,000 lb 
(13,608 kg), except for the following, with the restrictions noted, as 
allowable incidental species: Atlantic herring, up to the amount 
specified in Sec.  648.204; longhorn sculpin; squid, butterfish, and 
Atlantic mackerel, up to the amounts specified in Sec.  648.26; spiny 
dogfish, up to the amount specified in Sec.  648.235; red hake, up to 
the amount specified in Sec.  648.86(d), monkfish and monkfish parts--
up to 10 percent, by weight, of all other species on board or up to 50 
lb (23 kg) tail-weight/166 lb (75 kg) whole-weight of monkfish per 
trip, as specified in Sec.  648.94(c)(4), whichever is less; and 
American lobster--up to 10 percent, by weight, of all other species on 
board or 200 lobsters, whichever is less, unless otherwise restricted 
by landing limits specified in Sec.  697.17 of this chapter.
* * * * *
    (F) A vessel fishing in the Cultivator Shoal Whiting Fishery 
Exemption Area may fish for small-mesh multispecies in exempted 
fisheries outside of the Cultivator Shoal Whiting Fishery Exemption 
Area, provided that the vessel complies with the more restrictive gear, 
possession limit, and other requirements specified in the regulations 
of that exempted fishery for the entire participation period specified 
on the vessel's letter of authorization and consistent with paragraph 
(a)(15)(i)(G) of this section. For example, a vessel may fish in both 
the Cultivator

[[Page 20265]]

Shoal Whiting Fishery Exemption Area and the Southern New England or 
Mid-Atlantic Exemption Areas, and would be restricted to a minimum mesh 
size of 3 in (7.62 cm) and a maximum trip limit of 30,000 lb (13,607.77 
kg) for silver hake and offshore hake, combined, as required in the 
Cultivator Shoal Whiting Fishery Exemption Area.
* * * * *
    (9) Small Mesh Area 1/Small Mesh Area 2--(i) Description. (A) 
Unless otherwise prohibited in Sec.  648.81, a vessel subject to the 
minimum mesh size restrictions specified in paragraphs (a)(3) or (4) of 
this section may fish with or possess nets with a mesh size smaller 
than the minimum size, provided the vessel complies with the 
requirements of paragraphs (a)(5)(ii) or (a)(9)(ii) of this section, 
and Sec.  648.86(d), from July 15 through November 15, when fishing in 
Small Mesh Area 1; and from January 1 through June 30, when fishing in 
Small Mesh Area 2. While lawfully fishing in these areas with mesh 
smaller than the minimum size, an owner or operator of any vessel may 
not fish for, possess on board, or land any species of fish other than: 
Silver hake and offshore hake, combined, and red hake--up to the 
amounts specified in Sec.  648.86(d); butterfish, Atlantic mackerel, 
squid, up the amounts specified in Sec.  648.26; spiny dogfish, up to 
the amount specified in Sec.  648.235; Atlantic herring, up to the 
amount specified in Sec.  648.204; and scup, up to the amount specified 
in Sec.  648.128.
* * * * *
    (ii) Raised footrope trawl. Vessels fishing in the Small Mesh Areas 
I and II Exemption Programs described in Sec.  648.80(a)(9)) must 
configure the vessel's gear with a raised footrope trawl, configured in 
such a way that, when towed, the gear is not in contact with the ocean 
bottom. Vessels are presumed to be fishing in such a manner if their 
trawl gear is designed as specified in paragraphs (a)(9)(ii)(A) through 
(D) of this section and is towed so that it does not come into contact 
with the ocean bottom.
* * * * *
    (15) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (B) All nets must be no smaller than a minimum mesh size of 2.5-in 
(6.35-cm) square or diamond mesh, subject to the restrictions as 
specified in paragraph (a)(15)(i)(D) of this section. An owner or 
operator of a vessel enrolled in the raised footrope whiting fishery 
may not fish for, possess on board, or land any species of fish other 
than silver hake, offshore hake, and red hake, subject to the 
applicable possession limits as specified in Sec.  648.86(d), except 
for the following allowable incidental species: Butterfish, Atlantic 
mackerel, and squid, up to the amounts specified in Sec.  648.26; scup, 
up to the amount specified in Sec.  648.128; spiny dogfish, up to the 
amount specified in Sec.  648.235, and Atlantic herring, up to the 
amount specified in Sec.  648.204.
* * * * *
    (16) * * *
    (i) Mesh requirements and possession restrictions. (A) All nets 
must comply with a minimum mesh size of 2.5-in (6.35-cm) square or 
diamond mesh, subject to the restrictions specified in paragraph 
(a)(16)(i)(B) of this section. An owner or operator of a vessel 
participating in the GOM Grate Raised Footrope Trawl Exempted Whiting 
Fishery may not fish for, possess on board, or land any species of 
fish, other than silver hake and offshore hake, subject to the 
applicable possession limits as specified in paragraph (a)(16)(i)(C) of 
this section, and red hake, subject to the possession limit specified 
in Sec.  648.86, except for the following allowable incidental species: 
Butterfish, Atlantic mackerel, and squid, up to the amounts specified 
in Sec.  648.26; Atlantic herring, up to the amount specified in Sec.  
648.204; and alewife.
* * * * *
    (ii) * * *
    (A) An owner or operator of a vessel fishing in the GOM Grate 
Raised Footrope Trawl Exempted Whiting Fishery must configure the 
vessel's gear with a raised footrope trawl as specified in paragraphs 
(a)(9)(ii)(A) through (C) of this section. In addition, the 
restrictions specified in paragraphs (a)(16)(ii)(B) and (C) of this 
section apply to vessels fishing in the GOM Grate Raised Footrope Trawl 
Exempted Whiting Fishery.
* * * * *

0
5. In Sec.  648.86, paragraphs (d)(1)(i) introductory text, (d)(1)(ii) 
introductory text, (d)(1)(iii) introductory text, and (d)(4)(ii) are 
revised to read as follows:


Sec.  648.86  NE Multispecies possession restrictions.

* * * * *
    (d) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (i) Vessels possessing on board or using nets of mesh size smaller 
than 2.5 in (6.35 cm). Owners or operators of a vessel may possess and 
land not more than 5,000 lb (2,268 kg) of red hake, and not more than 
3,500 lb (1,588 kg) of combined silver hake and offshore hake, if 
either of the following conditions apply:
* * * * *
    (ii) Vessels possessing on board or using nets of mesh size equal 
to or greater than 2.5 in (6.35 cm) but less than 3 in (7.62 cm). 
Owners or operators of a vessel that is not subject to the possession 
limit specified in paragraph (d)(1)(i) of this section may possess and 
land not more than 5,000 lb (2,268 kg) of red hake, and not more than 
7,500 lb (3,402 kg) of combined silver hake and offshore hake if either 
of the following conditions apply:
* * * * *
    (iii) Vessels possessing on board or using nets of mesh size equal 
to or greater than 3 in (7.62 cm). An owner or operator of a vessel 
that is not subject to the possession limits specified in paragraphs 
(d)(1)(i) and (ii) of this section may possess and land not more than 
5,000 lb (2,268 kg) of red hake, and not more than 30,000 lb (13,608 
kg) of combined silver hake and offshore hake when fishing in the Gulf 
of Maine or Georges Bank Exemption Areas, as described in Sec.  
648.80(a), and not more than 40,000 lb (18,144 kg) of combined silver 
hake and offshore hake when fishing in the Southern New England or Mid-
Atlantic Exemption Areas, as described in Sec. Sec.  648.80(b)(10) and 
648.80(c)(5), respectively, if both of the following conditions apply:
* * * * *
    (4) * * *
    (ii) Silver hake and offshore hake. If a possession limit reduction 
is needed for a stock area, the incidental possession limit for silver 
hake and offshore hake, combined, in that stock area will be 2,000 lb 
(907 kg) for the remainder of the fishing year.
* * * * *

0
6. In Sec.  648.90, paragraphs (b)(1) introductory text, (b)(1)(i) 
through (iii), (b)(1)(iv)(A), (b)(2) introductory text, (b)(2)(i)(C), 
(b)(2)(ii)(C), (b)(3), (b)(4), (b)(5)(ii), and (c)(1) are revised to 
read as follows:


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

* * * * *
    (b) Small-mesh multispecies--(1) Three-year specifications process, 
annual review, and specifications package. The Council shall specify on 
at least a 3-year basis the OFL, ABC, ACLs, and TALs for each small-
mesh multispecies stock in accordance with the following process.
    (i) At least every 3 years, based on the annual review, described 
below in paragraph (b)(3) of this section, and/or the specifications 
package, described in paragraph (b)(4) of this section, recommendations 
for ABC from the

[[Page 20266]]

SSC, and any other relevant information, the Whiting PDT shall 
recommend to the Whiting Oversight Committee and Council specifications 
including the OFL, ABC, ACL, and TAL for each small-mesh multispecies 
stock for a period of at least 3 years. The Whiting PDT and the Council 
shall follow the process in paragraph (b)(2) of this section for 
setting these specifications.
    (ii) The Whiting PDT, after reviewing the available information on 
the status of the stock and the fishery, may recommend to the Council 
any measures necessary to assure that the specifications will not be 
exceeded, as well as changes to the appropriate specifications.
    (iii) Taking into account the annual review and/or specifications 
package described in paragraphs (b)(2) and (b)(4), respectively, of 
this section, the advice of the SSC, and any other relevant 
information, the Whiting PDT may also recommend to the Whiting 
Oversight Committee and Council changes to stock status determination 
criteria and associated thresholds based on the best scientific 
information available, including information from peer-reviewed stock 
assessments of small-mesh multispecies. These adjustments may be 
included in the Council's specifications for the small-mesh 
multispecies fishery.
    (iv) Council recommendation. (A) The Council shall review the 
recommendations of the Whiting PDT, Whiting Oversight Committee, and 
SSC, any public comment received thereon, and any other relevant 
information, and make a recommendation to the Regional Administrator on 
appropriate specifications and any measures necessary to assure that 
the specifications will not be exceeded.
* * * * *
    (2) Process for specifying ABCs, ACLs, and TALs. The Whiting PDT 
shall calculate the OFL and ABC values for each small-mesh multispecies 
stock based on the control rules established in the FMP. These 
calculations shall be reviewed by the SSC, guided by terms of reference 
developed by the Council. The ACLs and TALs shall be calculated based 
on the SSC's approved ABCs, as specified in paragraphs (a)(2)(i)(A) 
through (C), and (a)(2)(ii)(A) through (C) of this section.
    (i) * * *
    (C) TALs. (1) The red hake TALs are equal to the northern red hake 
and southern red hake ACLs minus a discard estimate based on the most 
recent 3 years of data and then reduced by 3 percent to account for 
silver hake and offshore hake landings that occur in state waters.
    (2) If more than two-thirds of the southern red hake TAL is 
harvested in a single year, the Regional Administrator shall consult 
with the Council and will consider implementing quarterly TALs in the 
following fishing year, as proscribed in the FMP and in a manner 
consistent with the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act.
* * * * *
    (ii) * * *
    (C) TALs. (1) The northern silver hake and southern whiting TALs 
are equal to the northern silver hake and southern whiting ACLs minus a 
discard estimate based on the most recent 3 years of data and then 
reduced by 3 percent to account for silver hake and offshore hake 
landings that occur in state waters.
    (2) If more than two-thirds of the southern whiting TAL is 
harvested in a single year, the Regional Administrator shall consult 
with the Council and will consider implementing quarterly TALs in the 
following fishing year, as proscribed in the FMP and in a manner 
consistent with the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act.
* * * * *
    (3) Annual Review. (i) Using a report provided by NMFS that 
includes trends in the fishery, changes in stock biomass, and total 
catch data, the Whiting PDT shall meet at least once annually to review 
the status of the stock and the fishery and the adequacy of the 3-year 
specifications. Based on such review, the PDT shall provide a report to 
the Council on any changes or new information about the small-mesh 
multispecies stocks and/or fishery, and it shall recommend whether the 
specifications for the upcoming year(s), established pursuant to 
paragraph (b)(1) of this section, need to be modified. At a minimum, 
this review should include a review of at least the following data, if 
available: Commercial catch data; discards; stock status (exploitation 
rate and survey biomass); sea sampling, port sampling, and survey data 
or, if sea sampling data are unavailable, length frequency information 
from port sampling and/or surveys; impact of other fisheries on the 
mortality of small-mesh multispecies; and any other relevant 
information.
    (ii) If new and/or additional information becomes available, the 
Whiting PDT shall consider it during this annual review. Based on this 
review, the Whiting PDT shall provide guidance to the Whiting Oversight 
Committee and the Council regarding the need to adjust measures for the 
small-mesh multispecies fishery to better achieve the FMP's objectives. 
After considering this guidance, the Council may submit to NMFS its 
recommendations for changes to management measures, as appropriate, 
through the specifications process described in this section, the 
process specified in paragraph (c) of this section, or through an 
amendment to the FMP.
    (4) Specifications Package. (i) The Whiting PDT shall prepare a 
specification package, including a SAFE Report, at least every 3 years. 
Based on the specification package, the Whiting PDT shall develop and 
present to the Council recommended specifications as defined in 
paragraph (a) of this section for up to 3 fishing years. The 
specifications package shall be the primary vehicle for the 
presentation of all updated biological and socio-economic information 
regarding the small-mesh multispecies fishery. The specifications 
package shall provide source data for any adjustments to the management 
measures that may be needed to continue to meet the goals and 
objectives of the FMP.
    (ii) In any year in which a specifications package, including a 
SAFE Report, is not completed by the Whiting PDT, the annual review 
process described in paragraph (a) of this section shall be used to 
recommend any necessary adjustments to specifications and/or management 
measures in the FMP.
    (5) * * *
    (ii) Post-season adjustment for an overage. If NMFS determines that 
a small-mesh multispecies ACL was exceeded in a given fishing year, the 
in-season accountability measure adjustment trigger, as specified in 
paragraph (b)(5)(i) of this section, shall be reduced in a subsequent 
fishing year by 1 percent for each 1 percent by which the ACL was 
exceeded through notification consistent with the Administrative 
Procedure Act. For example, if the in-season adjustment trigger is 90 
percent, and an ACL is exceeded by 5 percent, the adjustment trigger 
for the stock whose ACL was exceeded would be reduced to 85 percent for 
subsequent fishing years.
* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (1) Adjustment process. (i) After a management action has been 
initiated, the Council shall develop and analyze appropriate management 
actions over the span of at least two Council meetings. The Council 
shall provide the public with advance notice of the availability of 
both the proposals and

[[Page 20267]]

the analyses and opportunity to comment on them prior to and at the 
second Council meeting. The Council's recommendation on adjustments or 
additions to management measures, other than to address gear conflicts, 
must come from one or more of the following categories: DAS changes; 
effort monitoring; data reporting; possession limits; gear 
restrictions; closed areas; permitting restrictions; crew limits; 
minimum fish sizes; onboard observers; minimum hook size and hook 
style; the use of crucifer in the hook-gear fishery; sector 
requirements; recreational fishing measures; area closures and other 
appropriate measures to mitigate marine mammal entanglements and 
interactions; description and identification of EFH; fishing gear 
management measures to protect EFH; designation of habitat areas of 
particular concern within EFH; and any other management measures 
currently included in the FMP.
    (ii) The Council's recommendation on adjustments or additions to 
management measures pertaining to small-mesh NE multispecies, other 
than to address gear conflicts, must come from one or more of the 
following categories: Quotas and appropriate seasonal adjustments for 
vessels fishing in experimental or exempted fisheries that use small 
mesh in combination with a separator trawl/grate (if applicable); 
modifications to separator grate (if applicable) and mesh 
configurations for fishing for small-mesh NE multispecies; adjustments 
to whiting stock boundaries for management purposes; adjustments for 
fisheries exempted from minimum mesh requirements to fish for small-
mesh NE multispecies (if applicable); season adjustments; declarations; 
participation requirements for any of the Gulf of Maine/Georges Bank 
small-mesh multispecies exemption areas; OFL and ABC values; ACL, TAL, 
or TAL allocations, including the proportions used to allocate by 
season or area; small-mesh multispecies possession limits, including 
in-season AM possession limits; changes to reporting requirements and 
methods to monitor the fishery; and biological reference points, 
including selected reference time series, survey strata used to 
calculate biomass, and the selected survey for status determination.
    (iii) Adjustment process for whiting DAS. The Council may develop 
recommendations for a whiting DAS effort reduction program through the 
framework process outlined in paragraph (c) of this section only if 
these options are accompanied by a full set of public hearings that 
span the area affected by the proposed measures in order to provide 
adequate opportunity for public comment.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2013-07865 Filed 4-3-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P