[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 7 (Friday, January 10, 2014)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 1813-1818]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-00265]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 130903775-4002-01]
RIN 0648-BD65


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

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

ACTION: Proposed rule, request for comments.

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SUMMARY: NMFS proposes the specifications for the 2014 fishing year for 
butterfish, as well as other management measures for the species 
managed under the Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish Fishery 
Management Plan. NMFS previously set specifications for longfin squid 
and Illex squid for 3 years in 2012 (2012-2014) and, therefore, new 
specifications will not be included in this year's specification 
rulemaking. Likewise, NMFS set specifications for mackerel for 3 years 
in 2013 (2013-2015), and new specifications will also not be included 
in this action. The proposed specifications for butterfish would 
increase the butterfish acceptable biological catch by 8 percent and 
would increase the butterfish landings limit by 24 percent compared to 
2013. This action also proposes to increase the butterfish Phase 3 trip 
limit from 500 lb (0.23 mt) to 600 lb (0.27 mt) for longfin squid/
butterfish moratorium permit holders; establish a 236-mt cap on river 
herring (blueback and alewife) and shad (American and hickory) catch in 
the mackerel fishery; and raise the post-closure possession limit for 
longfin squid to 15,000 lb (6.80 mt) for vessels targeting Illex squid.

DATES: Public comments must be received by February 10, 2014.

ADDRESSES: Copies of supporting documents used by the Mid-Atlantic 
Fishery Management Council (Council), including the Environmental 
Assessment (EA) and Regulatory Impact Review (RIR)/Initial Regulatory 
Flexibility Analysis (IRFA), are available from: Dr. Christopher M. 
Moore, Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 
Suite 201, 800 N. State Street, Dover, DE 19901. The EA/RIR/IRFA is 
accessible via the Internet at http://www.nero.noaa.gov.
    You may submit comments, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2013-0172, by any 
one of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0172, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments. Mail: Submit written comments to NOAA Fisheries, 
Northeast Regional Office, 55 Great Republic Dr, Gloucester, MA 01930. 
Mark the outside of the envelope ``Comments on 2014 MSB 
Specifications.''
    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.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Aja Szumylo, Fishery Policy Analyst, 
978-281-9195, fax 978-281-9135.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    This rule proposes specifications, which are the combined suite of 
commercial and recreational catch levels established for one or more 
fishing years. The specification process also allows for the 
modification of a select number of management measures, such as closure 
thresholds, gear restrictions, and possession limits. The Council's 
process for establishing specifications relies on provisions within the 
Atlantic Mackerel, Squid,

[[Page 1814]]

and Butterfish (MSB) Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and its implementing 
regulations, as well as requirements established by the Magnuson-
Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). 
Specifically, section 302(g)(1)(B) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act states 
that the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) for each Regional 
Fishery Management Council shall provide its Council ongoing scientific 
advice for fishery management decisions, including recommendations for 
acceptable biological catch (ABC), preventing overfishing, maximum 
sustainable yield, and achieving rebuilding targets. The ABC is a level 
of catch that accounts for the scientific uncertainty in the estimate 
of the stock's defined overfishing level (OFL). The Council's SSC met 
on May 15 and 16, 2013, confirming 2014 specifications for Illex squid, 
longfin squid, and Atlantic mackerel (mackerel) and recommending ABCs 
for the 2014 butterfish specifications. As previously mentioned, NMFS 
set the specifications for longfin squid and Illex squid for 3 years in 
2012 (77 FR 51858; August 27, 2012) and for mackerel in 2013 (78 FR 
3346; January 16, 2013). Information on these specifications are not 
included in this action and can be found in the final rules for those 
actions, as referenced above.
    The MSB FMP's implementing regulations require the involvement of a 
monitoring committee in the specification process for each species. The 
monitoring committees' role has largely been to recommend any reduction 
in catch limits from the SSC-recommended ABCs to offset management 
uncertainty, and to recommend other management measures (e.g., gear 
and/or possession restrictions) needed for the efficient management of 
the fisheries. The MSB Monitoring Committee met on May 28, 2013, to 
discuss specification related recommendations for the 2014 butterfish 
fishery, changes in management measures in the squid and butterfish 
fisheries, and the establishment of the river herring/shad (RH/S) cap 
in the mackerel fishery.
    Following the SSC and MSB Monitoring Committee meetings, the 
Council considered the committees' recommendations and public comments 
at its June 2013, meeting in Eatontown, NJ, and made their 
specification recommendations. The Council submitted these 
recommendations, along with the required analyses, for agency review on 
August 15, 2013, with final submission on December 18, 2013. NMFS must 
review the Council's recommendations to ensure that they comply with 
the FMP and applicable law, and conduct notice-and-comment rulemaking 
to propose and implement the final recommendations.
    The MSB regulations require the specification of annual catch 
limits (ACL) and accountability measure (AM) provisions for mackerel 
and butterfish (both squid species are exempt from the ACL/AM 
requirements because they have a life cycle of less than 1 year). In 
addition, the regulations require the specification of domestic annual 
harvest (DAH), domestic annual processing (DAP), and total allowable 
level of foreign fishing (TALFF), along with joint venture processing 
for (JVP) and commercial and recreational annual catch totals (ACT) for 
mackerel, the butterfish mortality cap in the longfin squid fishery, 
and initial optimum yield (IOY) for both squid species.

2014 Proposed Specifications for Butterfish

    Table 1 outlines all of the proposed butterfish specifications for 
the 2014 fishing year, which are further explained below.

  Table 1--Proposed Specifications, in Metric Tons (mt), for Butterfish
                        for the 2014 Fishing Year
------------------------------------------------------------------------
              Specifications                       Butterfish (mt)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
OFL.......................................  18,200.
ABC.......................................  9,100.
ACL.......................................  8,190.
Commercial ACT............................  7,084.
DAH/DAP...................................  3,200.
JVP.......................................  0.
TALFF.....................................  0.
Butterfish Mortality Cap..................  3,884.
RSA.......................................  Up to 2 percent of ACT (164
                                             mt).
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Most recent assessments of the butterfish resource do not provide 
conclusive advice on the status of the butterfish resource in order to 
make a determination of whether or not the stock is overfished. A new 
assessment is underway and expected to be finalized in January 2014. To 
address this, NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) 
expanded its fall trawl survey data (i.e., the survey that best samples 
butterfish) to a range of total swept area biomass based on ranges of 
reasonable assumptions regarding catchability, and also investigated 
likely fishing mortalities from various catch levels. The results of 
this strongly supported that a catch of 9,100 mt would be extremely 
unlikely to cause overfishing if the 2014 biomass of butterfish is 
similar to butterfish biomass over 2006-2012.
    Additional NEFSC analysis examined the range of probable fishing 
mortalities that would result from relatively conservative assumptions 
about butterfish biomass. This analysis suggested that catches of 
18,200 mt would only lead to overfishing under the most extreme 
assumptions (i.e., assuming that the entire Atlantic butterfish stock 
falls within the bounds of the NEFSC's fall trawl survey area, and that 
the survey catches 100 percent of the butterfish in each sample 
location). The SSC therefore adopted 18,200 mt as a proxy OFL and 
recommended an ABC of 9,100 mt (50 percent of the OFL, and an 8-percent 
increase from the 2013 ABC). The relatively large 50-percent buffer 
accounts for uncertainty in the evaluation of fishing mortality 
associated with the catch levels. A detailed summary of the SSC's 
rationale for its 2014 butterfish ABC recommendation is available in 
its May 2013 Report (available, along with other materials from the SSC 
discussion, at: http://www.mafmc.org/ssc-meeting-documents).
    The Council recommended setting the butterfish ACL equal to the 
ABC, and establishing a 10-percent buffer between ACL and ACT for 
management uncertainty, which would result in an ACT of 8,190 mt. From 
this amount, the Council recommended setting the DAH and DAP at 3,200 
mt and the butterfish discard cap in the longfin fishery at 3,884 mt. 
The remaining 1,106 mt of the ACT allows for discards in other 
fisheries to minimize the likelihood of an ACL overage. Since up to 3 
percent of the ACL for butterfish may be set aside for scientific 
research, the Council recommended setting aside up to 2 percent of the 
butterfish ACT (i.e., 164 mt). This allocation would be accounted for 
within the 1,106-mt unallocated portion of the ACT that covers 
butterfish discards in other fisheries.
    NMFS proposes specifications, consistent with the Council's 
recommendation, that would set the butterfish ABC/ACL at 9,100 mt, the 
ACT at 8,190 mt, the DAH and DAP at 3,200 mt, and the butterfish 
mortality cap on the longfin squid fishery at 3,884 mt. Additionally, 
consistent with MSB regulations, NMFS is proposing zero TALFF for 
butterfish in 2014. Butterfish TALFF is only specified to address 
bycatch by foreign fleets targeting mackerel TALFF. Because no mackerel 
TALFF was allocated for the 2013-2015 fishing years, butterfish TALFF 
is also proposed to be set at zero for 2014.

[[Page 1815]]

    Consistent with 2013, NMFS proposes that the 2014 butterfish 
mortality cap be allocated by Trimester, as follows:

  Table 2--Proposed Trimester Allocation of Butterfish Mortality Cap on
                   the Longfin Squid Fishery for 2014
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                   Trimester                      Percent    Metric tons
------------------------------------------------------------------------
I (Jan-Apr)...................................           65        2,525
II (May-Aug)..................................          3.3          128
III (Sep-Dec).................................         31.7        1,231
------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total.....................................          100        3,884
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    This action also proposes to increase the butterfish possession 
limit in Phase 3 of the directed butterfish fishery. Currently, NMFS 
manages the directed butterfish fishery in three phases. Table 3 shows 
the phases and possession limits, and the fishery moves from Phase 1, 
to Phase 2, and to Phase 3 when catch reaches specified thresholds 
throughout the year. When NMFS projects the butterfish harvest to reach 
the catch threshold for Phase 3, the trip limit for all limited access 
permit holders is currently reduced to 500 lb (0.23 mt) to avoid quota 
overages, but the incidental trip limit remains at 600 lb (0.27 mt). 
This action would increase the Phase 3 possession limit from 500 lb 
(0.23 mt) to 600 lb (0.27 mt) to allow for consistency with the current 
incidental butterfish trip limit.

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

    Consistent with 2013, NMFS proposes the following quota thresholds 
to reduce the trip limits for Phases 2 and 3 (Tables 4 and 5):

  Table 4--Proposed Butterfish Thresholds for Reducing Trip Limits for
                                 Phase 2
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                            Trip limit
                                             reduction      Butterfish
                 Months                      threshold        harvest
                                             (percent)     (metric tons)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jan-Feb.................................              40           1,658
Mar-Apr.................................              47           1,838
May-Jun.................................              55           2,044
Jul-Aug.................................              63           2,249
Sept-Oct................................              71           2,455
Nov-Dec.................................              78           2,635
------------------------------------------------------------------------


  Table 5--Proposed Butterfish Thresholds for Reducing Trip Limits for
                                 Phase 3
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                            Trip limit
                                             reduction      Butterfish
                 Months                      threshold        harvest
                                             (percent)     (metric tons)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jan-Feb.................................              58           2,121
Mar-Apr.................................              64           2,275
May-Jun.................................              71           2,455
Jul-Aug.................................              78           2,635
Sept-Oct................................              85           2,815
Nov-Dec.................................              91           2,969
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Proposed River Herring and Shad Catch Cap in the Mackerel Fishery

    This action proposes a river herring and shad (RH/S) catch cap in 
the mackerel fishery. In order to limit RH/S catch, Amendment 14 to the 
FMP (proposed rule published August 29, 2013, 78 FR 53404; partial 
approval by Secretary on November 7, 2013) includes the provision to 
allow the Council to set a RH/S cap. However, the actual value of the 
cap must be set through annual specifications. As such, this action 
proposes the Council's recommended RH/S catch cap of 236 mt. This 
amount represents the estimated median amount of RH/S that would have 
been caught, had the commercial mackerel fishery landed its current 
quota of 33,821 mt for each year during 2005-2012 based on analysis of 
observer and landings. RH/S caught on all trips that land 20,000 lb 
(9.07 mt) or more of mackerel would count against the cap. Once NMFS 
estimates that directed mackerel trips have caught 95 percent of the 
236-mt RH/S cap, then the directed mackerel fishery would close, and 
NMFS would institute a 20,000-lb mackerel trip limit, as currently 
occurs if the directed mackerel fishery closes. The improved reporting 
and monitoring requirements proposed in Amendment 14 would enable 
monitoring of the RH/S cap. This proposed RH/S cap amount should create 
a strong incentive for the fleet to avoid RH/S, would allow for the 
possibility of the full mackerel quota to be caught if the fleet can 
avoid RH/S, and would likely reduce RH/S catches over time, compared to 
what would occur without a cap, given recent data.

Longfin Squid Possession Limit Increase

    This action proposes to increase the Trimester II longfin squid 
post-closure possession limit for longfin squid/butterfish moratorium 
permit holders from 2,500 lb (1.13 mt) to 15,000 lb (6.80 mt) for 
vessels targeting Illex squid if they are fishing seaward of the Illex 
mesh exemption line and have more than 10,000 lb (4.54 mt) of Illex 
onboard. In recent years, fishermen are reporting that, to remain in 
compliance with longfin squid regulations, they sometimes have to 
discard large quantities of longfin squid while Illex fishing during 
longfin squid Trimester II after that trimester closes (i.e., from July 
10-August 31 in 2012). Increasing the longfin squid possession limit to 
accommodate the multi-day nature of Illex fishing trips would reduce 
the potential for high levels of regulatory discarding of longfin on 
such trips. Requiring a minimal Illex possession requirement of 15,000 
lb (6.80 mt) should help ensure that vessels are actually Illex fishing 
when they utilize this provision, and restricting the proposed 
possession limit increase to areas beyond the Illex mesh exemption line 
should help prevent vessels returning from Illex fishing from targeting 
longfin squid in inshore areas after a Trimester II closure. This 
action does not propose changes for the post-closure possession limit 
for longfin squid during Trimesters I (January 1-April 30) or III 
(September 1-December 31). The post-closure possession limit for 
longfin squid would remain 2,500 lb (1.13 mt) during those Trimesters.

Corrections

    This proposed rule also contains minor corrections to existing 
regulations, and would reinstate

[[Page 1816]]

regulations that were inadvertently deleted in previous rulemakings. 
NMFS proposes these adjustments under the authority of section 305(d) 
to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which provides that the Secretary of 
Commerce may promulgate regulations necessary to ensure that amendments 
to an FMP are carried out in accordance with the FMP and the Magnuson-
Stevens Act. These adjustments, which are identified and described 
below, are necessary to clarify current regulations or the intent of 
the FMP and would not change the intent of any regulations.
    NMFS proposes to clarify the coordinates at Sec.  648.23(a)(3) to 
more accurately define the Illex exemption line. Most significantly, 
this action proposes to create a southern boundary for the exemption by 
extending the southernmost point eastward until it intersects with the 
boundary of the Exclusive Economic Zone. In addition, this rule 
proposes to reinstate the coordinates for the MSB bottom trawling 
restricted areas (i.e., Oceanographer Canyon and Lydonia Canyon) at 
Sec.  648.23(a)(4), which were inadvertently deleted in previous 
rulemaking.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is 
consistent with the Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish FMP; other 
provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act; and other applicable law, 
subject to further consideration after public comment.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    The Council prepared an IRFA, as required by section 603 of the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). The IRFA describes the economic 
impact this proposed rule, if adopted, would have on small entities. A 
summary of the analysis follows. A copy of this analysis is available 
from the Council or NMFS (see ADDRESSES) or via the Internet at http://www.nero.noaa.gov.

Statement of Objective and Need

    This action proposes 2014 specifications for butterfish, along with 
management measures for the longfin squid, butterfish, and mackerel 
fisheries. A complete description of the reasons why this action is 
being considered, and the objectives of and legal basis for this 
action, are contained in the preamble to this proposed rule and are not 
repeated here.

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

    On June 20, 2013, the Small Business Administration (SBA) issued a 
final rule revising the small business size standards for several 
industries effective July 22, 2013 (78 FR 37398). The rule increased 
the size standard for Finfish Fishing from $4.0 to $19.0 million, 
Shellfish Fishing from $4.0 to $5.0 million, and Other Marine Fishing 
from $4.0 to $7.0 million. NMFS has reviewed the analyses prepared for 
this action in light of the new size standards. Under the former, lower 
size standards, all entities subject to this action were considered 
small entities, thus they all would continue to be considered small 
under the new standards.
    The proposed measures in the 2014 MSB Specifications and Management 
Measures could affect any vessel holding an active Federal permit to 
fish for Atlantic mackerel, longfin squid, Illex squid, or butterfish. 
Having different size standards for different types of marine fishing 
activities creates difficulties in categorizing businesses that 
participate in more than one of these activities. For now, the short-
term approach is to classify a business entity into the SBA defined 
categories based on which activity produced the highest gross revenue. 
In this case, Atlantic mackerel is the only species with significant 
recreational fishing, and in 2012, the charter boat industry harvested 
only 10,000 lb (4.54 mt). Based on these assumptions, the finfish size 
standard would apply, and the business is considered large, only if 
revenues are greater than $19 million. As such, all of the potentially 
affected businesses are considered small entities under the standards 
described in NMFS guidelines, because they have gross receipts that do 
not exceed $19 million annually. Based on permit data for 2013, 2,441 
commercial or charter vessels possessed MSB permits for the 2013 
fishing year, and similar numbers of vessels are expected to have MSB 
permits for 2014. Many vessels participate in more than one of these 
fisheries; therefore, permit numbers are not additive.
    Although it is possible that some entities, based on rules of 
affiliation, would qualify as large business entities, due to lack of 
reliable ownership affiliation data NMFS cannot apply the business size 
standard at this time. NMFS is currently compiling data on vessel 
ownership that should permit a more refined assessment and 
determination of the number of large and small entities for future 
actions. For this action, since available data are not adequate to 
identify affiliated vessels, each operating unit is considered a small 
entity for purposes of the RFA, and, therefore, there is no 
differential impact between small and large entities. Therefore, there 
are no disproportionate economic impacts on small entities. Section 6.7 
in Amendment 14 describes the vessels, key ports, and revenue 
information for the MSB fisheries; therefore, that information is not 
repeated here.

Description of Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other Compliance 
Requirements

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

Minimizing Significant Economic Impacts on Small Entities

Proposed Actions
    The proposed RH/S catch cap in the mackerel fishery has the 
potential to limit the fishery from achieving its full mackerel quota 
if the RH/S encounter rates are high, but it is very unlikely that the 
fishery would close before exceeding the levels of landings experienced 
since 2010, when landings have been less than 11,000 mt. Limiting 
catches of river herring and shad has the potential to benefit those 
species, although the extent of this benefit is unknown because overall 
abundance information for these species is not available.
    The butterfish DAH proposed in this action (3,200 mt) represents a 
24-percent increase over the 2013 DAH (2,570 mt). The proposed increase 
in the DAH has the potential to slightly increase revenue for permitted 
vessels.
    In addition, this action proposes a slightly higher trip limit in 
Phase 3 of the directed butterfish fishery, in order to simplify the 
regulations and have this limit match the incidental trip limit of 600 
lb (0.27 mt). This increase should also have positive economic impacts 
on the fishery.
    The only proposed adjustment to the longfin squid fishery is an 
increase to the Trimester II longfin squid post-closure possession 
limit for longfin squid/butterfish moratorium permit holders from 2,500 
lb (1.13 mt) to 15,000 lb (6.80 mt) for vessels targeting Illex. This 
measure should reduce regulatory discarding and provide a small amount 
of additional revenue; thus, it would have positive economic impacts to 
the Illex fishery.

[[Page 1817]]

Alternatives to the Proposed Rule

    The Council analysis evaluated four alternatives to the proposed 
specifications for butterfish. Of the three the Council did not select, 
two alternatives would have resulted in lower 2014 specifications. The 
first of these is the No Action alternative (status quo), which would 
have set the butterfish ABC at 8,400 mt and resulted in an ACT of 7,560 
mt, a DAH and DAP of 2,570 mt, and a butterfish mortality cap at 3,884 
mt. The other alternative (the most restrictive) would have set the ABC 
at 25 percent lower than the proposed alternative (6,825 mt), resulting 
in an ACT of 6,143 mt, a DAH and DAP of 2,400 mt, and a butterfish 
mortality cap at 2,913 mt. These alternatives could generate the lowest 
revenues of all of the considered alternatives. The fourth alternative 
(the least restrictive) would have set the ABC at 25 percent higher 
than the proposed alternative (11,375 mt), resulting in an ACT of 
10,238 mt, a DAH and DAP of 5,248 mt, and a butterfish mortality cap at 
3,884 mt. This alternative could generate increased revenue if more 
butterfish became available to the fishery. These three alternatives 
were not selected because they were all inconsistent with the ABC 
recommended by the SSC.
    The Council considered four alternatives for the RH/S catch cap in 
the mackerel fishery. Aside from the No Action (status quo) 
alternative, which would not have implemented a catch cap in the 
fishery because there is currently no cap in place, the Council 
considered one alternative that would have set the RH/S catch cap at 
119 mt (most restrictive) and one alternative that would have set the 
RH/S catch cap at 456 mt (least restrictive). If the catch cap were set 
at 119 mt, there would be the greatest likelihood that the cap level 
could restrict mackerel fishing, whereas setting the RH/S cap at 456 mt 
would be the least likely to be restrictive. Any cap would be more 
likely to close the fishery compared to no cap (status quo), the 
proposed alternative (RH/S cap of 236 mt) would most likely assist in 
the recovery of RH/S stocks while allowing the mackerel fishery to 
continue, assuming low RH/S catch rates.
    With regards to matching Phase 3 and the incidental trip limits in 
the butterfish fishery, the Council considered two other alternatives 
in addition to the proposed alternative (i.e., increasing the Phase 3 
trip limit from 500 lb (0.23 mt) to 600 lb (0.27 mt), to match the 
incidental limit). One alternative was the No Action alternative, which 
would have unnecessarily continued the regulatory confusion by 
requiring two different possession limits based on permit type. The 
other alternative would have lowered the incidental limit to 500 lb 
(0.23 mt) to match the current Phase 3 limit, which potentially could 
have the effect of converting currently retained butterfish catch into 
discards. The proposed alternative would resolve this confusion over 
different trip limits, while continuing to discourage directed fishing.
    The Council considered three alternatives related to the post-
closure possession limit of longfin squid in the Illex fishery. The 
most restrictive alternative considered was the No Action (status quo) 
alternative, which would continue the current longfin squid trip limit 
of 2,500 lb (1.13 mt) in Trimester 3. The proposed alternative, which 
would increase the possession limit to 15,000 lb (6.80 mt), is the 
least restrictive alternative. The other alternative considered would 
have increased the longfin squid possession limit to 10,000 lb (4.54 
mt). Compared to the other two alternatives, the status quo alternative 
would continue to result in high levels of regulatory discards of 
longfin squid and would result in lower revenues than the other 
alternatives considered. Although the other two alternatives would both 
result in previously discarded longfin squid being landed, the proposed 
alternative with its higher possession limit would result in the 
highest potential revenue.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648

    Fisheries, Fishing, Recordkeeping and reporting requirements.

    Dated: January 6, 2014.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, performing the functions and 
duties of the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, 
National Marine Fisheries Service.
    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 648 is 
proposed to be amended as follows:

PART 648--FISHERIES OF THE NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES

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

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

0
2. In Sec.  648.23, paragraph (a)(3) is revised and paragraph (a)(4) is 
added to read as follows:


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

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (3) Illex fishery. Seaward of the following coordinates, connected 
in the order listed by straight lines except otherwise noted, otter 
trawl vessels possessing longfin squid harvested in or from the EEZ and 
fishing for Illex during the months of June, July, August, in Trimester 
II, and September in Trimester III are exempt from the longfin squid 
gear requirements specified in paragraph (a)(2) of this section, 
provided that landward of the specified coordinates they do not have 
available for immediate use, as defined in paragraph (b) of this 
section, any net, or any piece of net, with a mesh size less than 1\7/
8\ inches (48 mm) diamond mesh in Trimester II, and 2\1/8\ inches (54 
mm) diamond mesh in Trimester III, or any piece of net, with mesh that 
is rigged in a manner that is prohibited by paragraph (a)(2) of this 
section.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
                       Point                         N. lat.    W. long.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
M0................................................  43[deg]58        \1\
                                                          .0'
M1................................................  43[deg]58  67[deg]22
                                                          .0'        .0'
M2................................................  43[deg]50  68[deg]35
                                                          .0'        .0'
M3................................................  43[deg]30  69[deg]40
                                                          .0'        .0'
M4................................................  43[deg]20  70[deg]00
                                                          .0'        .0'
M5................................................  42[deg]45  70[deg]10
                                                          .0'        .0'
M6................................................  42[deg]13  69[deg]55
                                                          .0'        .0'
M7................................................  41[deg]00  69[deg]00
                                                          .0'        .0'
M8................................................  41[deg]45  68[deg]15
                                                          .0'        .0'
M9................................................  42[deg]10        \2\
                                                          .0'  67[deg]10
                                                                     .0'
M10...............................................  41[deg]18        \2\
                                                          .6'  66[deg]24
                                                                     .8'
M11...............................................  40[deg]55  66[deg]38
                                                          .5'        .0'
M12...............................................  40[deg]45  68[deg]00
                                                          .5'        .0'
M13...............................................  40[deg]37  68[deg]00
                                                          .0'        .0'
M14...............................................  40[deg]30  69[deg]00
                                                          .0'        .0'
M15...............................................  40[deg]22  69[deg]00
                                                          .7'        .0'
M16...............................................  40[deg]18  69[deg]40
                                                          .7'        .0'
M17...............................................  40[deg]21  71[deg]03
                                                          .0'        .0'
M18...............................................  39[deg]41  72[deg]32
                                                          .0'        .0'
M19...............................................  38[deg]47  73[deg]11
                                                          .0'        .0'
M20...............................................  38[deg]04  74[deg]06
                                                          .0'        .0'
M21...............................................  37[deg]08  74[deg]46
                                                          .0'        .0'
M22...............................................  36[deg]00  74[deg]52
                                                          .0'        .0'
M23...............................................  35[deg]45  74[deg]53
                                                          .0'        .0'
M24...............................................  35[deg]28  74[deg]52
                                                          .0'        .0'
M25...............................................  35[deg]28      (\3\)
                                                          .0'
------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ The intersection of 43[deg]58.0' N. latitude and the US-Canada
  Maritime Boundary.
\2\ Points M9 and M10 are intended to fall along and are connected by
  the US-Canada Maritime Boundary.
\3\ The intersection of 35[deg]28.0' N. latitude and the outward limit
  of the US EEZ.

    (4) Mackerel, squid, and butterfish bottom trawling restricted 
areas--(i) Oceanographer Canyon. No permitted mackerel, squid, or 
butterfish vessel may fish with bottom trawl gear in the Oceanographer 
Canyon or be in the Oceanographer Canyon unless transiting. Vessels may 
transit this area provided the bottom trawl gear is stowed in 
accordance with the provisions of paragraph (b) of this section. 
Oceanographer Canyon is defined by straight lines connecting the 
following points in the order stated

[[Page 1818]]

(copies of a chart depicting this area are available from the Regional 
Administrator upon request):

                          Oceanographer Canyon
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                       Point                         N. lat.    W. long.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
OC1...............................................  40[deg]10  68[deg]12
                                                          .0'        .0'
OC2...............................................  40[deg]24  68[deg]09
                                                          .0'        .0'
OC3...............................................  40[deg]24  68[deg]08
                                                          .0'        .0'
OC4...............................................  40[deg]10  67[deg]59
                                                          .0'        .0'
OC1...............................................  40[deg]10  68[deg]12
                                                          .0'        .0'
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    (ii) Lydonia Canyon. No permitted mackerel, squid, or butterfish 
vessel may fish with bottom trawl gear in the Lydonia Canyon or be in 
the Lydonia Canyon unless transiting. Vessels may transit this area 
provided the bottom trawl gear is stowed in accordance with the 
provisions of paragraph (b) of this section. Lydonia Canyon is defined 
by straight lines connecting the following points in the order stated 
(copies of a chart depicting this area are available from the Regional 
Administrator upon request):

                             Lydonia Canyon
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                       Point                         N. lat.    W. long.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
LC1...............................................  40[deg]16  67[deg]34
                                                          .0'        .0'
LC2...............................................  40[deg]16  67[deg]42
                                                          .0'        .0'
LC3...............................................  40[deg]20  67[deg]43
                                                          .0'        .0'
LC4...............................................  40[deg]27  67[deg]40
                                                          .0'        .0'
LC5...............................................  40[deg]27  67[deg]38
                                                          .0'        .0'
LC1...............................................  40[deg]16  67[deg]34
                                                          .0'        .0'
------------------------------------------------------------------------

* * * * *
0
3. In Sec.  648.24, paragraph (b)(7) is added and paragraph (c)(1)(iii) 
is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  648.24  Fishery closures and accountability measures.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (7) River herring and shad catch cap. NMFS shall close the directed 
mackerel fishery in the EEZ when the Regional Administrator projects 
that 95 percent of the river herring/shad catch cap has been harvested.
    (c) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (iii) Phase 3. NMFS shall subsequently reduce the trip limit for 
vessels issued longfin squid/butterfish moratorium permits to 600 lb 
(0.27 mt), regardless of minimum mesh size, when butterfish harvest is 
projected to reach the relevant phase 3 trip limit reduction threshold. 
The NMFS Regional Administrator may adjust the butterfish trip limit 
during phase 3 of the directed butterfish fishery anywhere from 250 lb 
(0.11 mt) to 750 lb (0.34 mt) to ensure butterfish harvest does not 
exceed the specified DAH.
* * * * *
0
4. In Sec.  648.26, paragraphs (b) and (d)(3) are revised to read as 
follows:


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

* * * * *
    (b) Longfin squid. (1) Unless specified in paragraph (b)(2) of this 
section, during a closure of the directed fishery for longfin squid 
vessels may not fish for, possess, or land more than 2,500 lb (1.13 mt) 
of longfin squid per trip at any time, and may only land longfin squid 
once on any calendar day, which is defined as the 24-hr period 
beginning at 0001 hours and ending at 2400 hours. If a vessel has been 
issued a longfin squid incidental catch permit (as specified at Sec.  
648.4(a)(5)(ii)), then it may not fish for, possess, or land more than 
2,500 lb (1.13 mt) of longfin squid per trip at any time and may only 
land longfin squid once on any calendar day, unless such a vessel meets 
the criteria outlined in paragraph (b)(2) of this section.
    (2) During a closure of the directed fishery for longfin squid for 
Trimester II, a vessel with a longfin squid/butterfish moratorium 
permit that is on a directed Illex squid fishing trip (i.e., possess 
over 10,000 lb (4.54 mt) of Illex) and is seaward of the coordinates 
specified at Sec.  648.23 (a)(3), may possess up to 15,000 lb (6.80 mt) 
of longfin squid. Once landward of the coordinates specified at Sec.  
648.23 (a)(3), such vessels must stow all fishing gear, as specified at 
Sec.  648.23(b), in order to possess more than 2,500 lb (1.13 mt) of 
longfin squid per trip.
* * * * *
    (d) * * *
    (3) Phase 3. When butterfish harvest is projected to reach the trip 
limit reduction threshold for phase 3 (as described in Sec.  648.24), 
all vessels issued a longfin squid/butterfish moratorium permit, 
regardless of mesh size used, may not fish for, possess, or land more 
than 600 lb (0.27 mt) of butterfish per trip at any time, and may only 
land butterfish once on any calendar day, which is defined as the 24-hr 
period beginning at 0001 hours and ending at 2400 hours. If a vessel 
has been issued a longfin squid/butterfish incidental catch permit (as 
specified at Sec.  648.4(a)(5)(ii)), it may not fish for, possess, or 
land more than 600 lb (0.27 mt) of butterfish per trip at any time.

[FR Doc. 2014-00265 Filed 1-9-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P