[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 51 (Monday, March 17, 2014)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 14951-14976]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-05779]



[[Page 14951]]

Vol. 79

Monday,

No. 51

March 17, 2014

Part V





Department of Commerce





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 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration





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50 CFR Part 648 and 697





 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act Provisions; 
Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast Groundfish 
Fishery; Framework Adjustment 51; Proposed Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 79 , No. 51 / Monday, March 17, 2014 / 
Proposed Rules

[[Page 14952]]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648 and 697

[Docket No. 140106011-4215-01]
RIN 0648-BD88


Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act 
Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast 
Groundfish Fishery; Framework Adjustment 51

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: This action proposes approval of, and regulations to 
implement, Framework Adjustment 51 to the Northeast Multispecies 
(Groundfish) Fishery Management Plan. This rule would set catch limits 
for groundfish stocks, revise the rebuilding programs for Gulf of Maine 
cod and American plaice, modify management measures for yellowtail 
flounder, and revise management measures for the U.S./Canada Management 
Area. Although not part of Framework 51, this action also proposes 
fishing year 2014 trip limits for the common pool fishery and announces 
2014 accountability measures for windowpane flounder. This action is 
necessary to respond to updated scientific information and achieve the 
goals and objectives of the Groundfish Plan. The proposed measures are 
intended to help prevent overfishing, rebuild overfished stocks, 
achieve optimum yield, and ensure that management measures are based on 
the best scientific information available.

DATES: Comments must be received by April 1, 2014.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2014-0003, 
by any of the following methods:
     Electronic submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2014-0003, click the ``Comment Now!'' icon, 
complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to John K. Bullard, Regional 
Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, 55 Great Republic 
Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the envelope, 
``Comments on the Proposed Rule for Groundfish Framework Adjustment 
51.''
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in 
Microsoft Word, Excel, or Adobe PDF file formats only.
    Copies of Framework 51, its Regulatory Impact Review (RIR), a draft 
of the environmental assessment (EA) prepared for this action, and the 
Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) prepared by the New 
England Fishery Management Council are available from Thomas A. Nies, 
Executive Director, New England Fishery Management Council, 50 Water 
Street, Mill 2, Newburyport, MA 01950. The IRFA assesses the impacts of 
the proposed measures on small entities, and describes steps taken to 
minimize any significant economic impact on these entities. A summary 
of the IRFA is included in the Classification section of this proposed 
rule. The Framework 51 EA, RIR, and IRFA are also accessible via the 
Internet at www.nefmc.org/nemulti/index.html or www.nero.noaa.gov/sfd/sfdmulti.html.
    Written comments regarding the burden-hour estimates or other 
aspects of the collection-of-information requirements contained in this 
rule should be submitted to the Regional Administrator at the address 
above and to the Office of Management and Budget by email at OIRA_Submission@omb.eop.gov, or fax to (202) 395-7285.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    The Groundfish Fishery Management Plan (Groundfish Plan) specifies 
management measures for 16 groundfish species in Federal waters off the 
New England and Mid-Atlantic coasts. Based on fish size, and the type 
of gear used to catch the fish, some of these species are managed as 
``small-mesh species,'' and others are managed as ``large-mesh 
species.'' Small-mesh species include silver hake (whiting), red hake, 
offshore hake, and ocean pout. Of these species, silver hake (whiting), 
red hake, and offshore hake are managed under a separate small-mesh 
multispecies program. Large-mesh species include Atlantic cod, haddock, 
yellowtail flounder, American plaice, witch flounder, winter flounder, 
Acadian redfish, white hake, pollock, windowpane flounder, ocean pout, 
Atlantic halibut, and Atlantic wolffish. These large-mesh species are 
divided into 19 fish stocks based on their geographic distribution, 
and, along with ocean pout, are managed under the groundfish program.
    The New England Fishery Management Council (Council) is required to 
set annual catch limits for each groundfish stock, along with 
accountability measures that help ensure the catch limits are not 
exceeded and, if they are, that help mitigate the overage. The Council 
develops annual or biennial management actions to set catch limits 
based on the best scientific information available and adjust 
management measures for the groundfish fishery that will help prevent 
overfishing, rebuild overfished stocks, and achieve optimum yield. For 
most groundfish stocks, the Council typically adopts catch limits for 3 
years at a time. Although it is expected that the Council will adopt 
new catch limits every 2 years, specifying catch levels for a third 
year ensures there are default catch limits in place in the event that 
a management action is delayed. The Council sets catch limits annually 
for transboundary Georges Bank (GB) stocks that are jointly managed 
with Canada (GB yellowtail flounder, eastern GB cod, and eastern GB 
haddock), as described in more detail later in this rule.
    Last year, the Council adopted, and we partially approved, 
Framework 50, which set fishing year (FY) 2013-2015 catch limits for 
all groundfish stocks, except for white hake and the U.S./Canada 
stocks. The Council has now developed and adopted Framework 51 in order 
to respond to new stock assessment information for white hake and the 
three U.S./Canada stocks. Based on updated information for other 
groundfish stocks, the Council has also adopted revised rebuilding 
programs for Gulf of Maine (GOM) cod and American plaice, as well as 
other changes to groundfish management measures that better meet the 
goals and objectives of the groundfish program.

Proposed Measures

    This action proposes regulations to implement the measures in 
Framework

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51. The Council deemed the proposed regulations consistent with, and 
necessary to implement, Framework 51, in a March 10, 2014, letter from 
Council Vice Chairman John F. Quinn to Regional Administrator John 
Bullard. Framework 51 proposes to:
    1. Revise the rebuilding programs for GOM cod and American plaice;
    2. Set FY 2014 catch limits for the three U.S./Canada stocks;
    3. Set FY 2014-2016 catch limits for white hake;
    4. Adopt accountability measures for GB yellowtail flounder for the 
small-mesh fisheries;
    5. Establish a U.S./Canada quota trading mechanism for FY 2014;
    6. Modify the administration of eastern and western GB haddock 
sector allocations;
    7. Revise the stratification used to estimate GB yellowtail 
flounder discards for monitoring sector catches; and
    8. Prohibit possession of yellowtail flounder by limited access 
scallop vessels.
    This action also proposes a number of other measures that are not 
part of Framework 51, but that may be considered under NMFS Regional 
Administrator authority provided by the Groundfish Plan. We are 
including these additional measures in conjunction with the Framework 
51 proposed measures for expediency purposes. The additional measures 
proposed in this action are listed below.
     FY 2014 management measures for the common pool fishery--
This action proposes FY 2014 trip limits for the common pool fishery. 
The Regional Administrator has the authority to set management measures 
for the common pool fishery that will help ensure the fishery catches, 
but does not exceed, its catch limits.
     FY 2014 accountability measures for windowpane flounder--
This action announces accountability measures for northern and southern 
windowpane flounder that are being implemented due to overages of the 
FY 2012 catch limits for both stocks. We announced these accountability 
measures at the Council's Groundfish Oversight Committee meeting on 
November 19, 2013, and in our January 17, 2014, letter to Council 
Executive Director Thomas A. Nies, but are providing additional notice 
and opportunity for public comment through this proposed rule.
     Other regulatory corrections--We propose several 
corrections to the regulations to correct references, replace 
inadvertent deletions, and make other minor edits. Each proposed 
correction is described in detail in Item 11 of this preamble.

1. Gulf of Maine Cod and American Plaice Rebuilding Programs

Revised Rebuilding Strategies

    The current rebuilding strategies for GOM cod and American plaice 
were adopted in 2004. The rebuilding program for GOM cod was scheduled 
to rebuild the stock by 2014, and the American plaice rebuilding 
program was scheduled to rebuild the stock by 2017. In 2012, updated 
scientific information indicated that neither stock could rebuild by 
its rebuilding end date, even in the absence of all fishing. As a 
result, we notified the Council that the stocks were not making 
adequate rebuilding progress, and that the Council was required to 
revise the rebuilding programs for both stocks within 2 years, or by 
May 1, 2014, consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation 
and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). The Magnuson-Stevens Act 
requires that overfished stocks be rebuilt as quickly as possible, not 
to exceed 10 years, while accounting for the needs to fishing 
communities.
    In response to this requirement, this rule proposes to revise the 
rebuilding plans for GOM cod and American plaice. The minimum 
rebuilding time (Tmin) is the amount of time a stock is 
expected to take to rebuild to its maximum sustainable yield biomass 
level (SSBMSY) in the absence of any fishing mortality. 
Tmin for a stock is typically used for informational 
purposes when developing rebuilding programs, and it is important to 
note that Tmin does not necessarily account for the needs of 
fishing communities, or scientific uncertainties in rebuilding 
projections. For GOM cod, Tmin is 6 years, or 2020, and 
Tmin for American plaice is 4 years, or 2018. The rebuilding 
programs proposed in this action would rebuild the stocks within 10 
years, or by 2024, which is the maximum time period allowed by the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act. Both rebuilding programs have a median 
probability of rebuilding by the target dates. As explained in more 
detail below, the proposed rebuilding programs intend to address the 
needs of fishing communities as much as practicable, as well as factor 
in past performance of groundfish catch projections in order to 
increase the likelihood of rebuilding success.
    Long-term catch projections for groundfish stocks tend to 
underestimate fishing mortality and overestimate stock biomass (see 
Appendix 5 to the 2012 groundfish assessment updates for more 
information: http://nefsc.noaa.gov/publications/crd/crd1206/). The 
inherent uncertainty surrounding long-term projections makes it 
difficult to estimate the fishing mortality rate that is required to 
rebuild the stock within the specified time frame, or 
Frebuild. This uncertainty is due, in part, to the 
estimate's dependence on future stock recruitment (the amount of fish 
added to the stock each year), which is often difficult to predict. If 
stock recruitment does not occur as projected, then progress towards 
rebuilding can occur much slower than expected.
    The Council's default control rule for setting catch limits 
requires that catches be set based on 75% FMSY (i.e., the 
fishing mortality rate that, if applied over the long term, would 
result in maximum sustainable yield) or Frebuild, whichever 
is lower. Typically, when a stock is in a rebuilding program, 
Frebuild is less than 75% FMSY, and, thus, the 
annual catch limits are usually set based on Frebuild. 
Rebuilding progress for many groundfish stocks has often occurred 
slower than expected due to the uncertainties in long-term catch 
projections, which leads to dramatic reductions in catch limits as the 
rebuilding end date gets closer. As Frebuild approaches 
zero, it is less likely to be used for setting catch limits, which can 
undermine rebuilding objectives.
    To help avoid this problem, the revised rebuilding end dates 
proposed in this action were calculated using an Frebuild 
that was greater than 75% FMSY. During the rebuilding time 
period, catches would continue to be set consistent with the Council's 
default control rule (75% FMSY or Frebuild, 
whichever is lower). Thus, under this approach, catches would be set 
more conservatively than Frebuild (based on 75% 
FMSY), at least initially in the proposed rebuilding 
programs. This strategy is intended to accelerate the rebuilding 
timeline and increase the likelihood of success. In the future, if 
information shows that GOM cod and American plaice stock sizes have not 
increased as projected, it is possible that Frebuild could 
become less than 75% FMSY. Under this scenario, catches 
would then be set based on the lower rate, or Frebuild, 
consistent with the Council's default control rule.
    The proposed 10-year rebuilding strategy for GOM cod also accounts 
for additional uncertainty that results from the two different stock 
assessment models, which make it difficult to project how quickly the 
stock will rebuild. The most recent stock assessment for GOM cod, 
completed in December 2012, approved two different

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assessment models and, as a result, both assessment models are used to 
provide catch advice. One assessment model (base case model) assumes 
the natural mortality rate (M) is 0.2. The second assessment model 
(Mramp model) assumes that M has increased from 0.2 to 0.4 
in recent years. The assessment concluded that M would return to 0.2 at 
some point though, in the short-term, M would remain 0.4. As a result, 
fishing mortality targets used in the catch projections from both 
models are based on biological reference points that assume M=0.2. A 
detailed summary of the benchmark assessment is available from the NMFS 
Northeast Fisheries Science Center at: http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/saw/saw55/crd1301.pdf. There is little difference in the time period needed 
to rebuild GOM cod based on the two assessment models. However, the 
catches estimated in the out years (closer to the rebuilding end date) 
differ between the two assessment models, and so do the estimates of 
SSBMSY.
    Interpreting and developing a rebuilding program under the 
Mramp model is difficult because it is not known when M 
would return to 0.2. However, a change in M (from 0.4 to 0.2) is 
required to rebuild the GOM cod stock, and if this reduction does not 
occur, then GOM cod may be unable to rebuild based on the proposed 
rebuilding strategy. For this reason, the 10-year rebuilding program 
proposed in this action is expected to better account for these 
uncertainties compared to a shorter rebuilding time period.
    The rebuilding strategies proposed in Framework 51 would use the 
full 10 years, as allowed by the Magnuson-Stevens Act, even though 
rebuilding might be able to occur sooner. These strategies are intended 
to account for the uncertainties noted above, as well as to account for 
the needs of fishing communities. As noted above, the approach used for 
developing the proposed rebuilding strategies is intended to accelerate 
the rebuilding timeline because catches would be set more 
conservatively than Frebuild, at least initially. This 
approach increases the likelihood of success for rebuilding GOM cod and 
American plaice, and in the long-term, provides greater net benefits 
that would occur from rebuilt stocks. The proposed 10-year rebuilding 
programs for GOM cod and American plaice would also provide some 
flexibility and better address the needs of fishing communities 
compared to rebuilding programs that target an earlier end date. This 
is particularly important for GOM cod, which is a key groundfish stock, 
because constrained catch limits for GOM cod also impede the harvest of 
other groundfish stocks in the GOM. In addition, American plaice is a 
``unit stock,'' meaning that there are not multiple stocks within the 
management unit. As a result, severely constrained catch limits for 
American plaice could result in lost groundfish fishing opportunities 
across the entire groundfish management area (GB, GOM, and Southern New 
England). Analysis completed for various rebuilding scenarios indicates 
that the proposed rebuilding programs would maximize the net present 
value (i.e., potential landings streams and future revenues) compared 
to other rebuilding scenarios that would target earlier end dates (see 
Section 7.4 of the Framework 51 Environmental Assessment). Thus, the 
proposed rebuilding strategies take into account, and address, the 
needs of fishing communities, while rebuilding the stocks as quickly as 
possible, and will increase the likelihood of achieving optimum yield 
in the fishery.

Rebuilding Plan Review Analysis

    This rule also proposes to establish a rebuilding plan review 
analysis for both GOM cod and American plaice, in conjunction with the 
proposed revisions to the rebuilding programs. The proposed rebuilding 
plan review would occur for the respective stock if all three of the 
following conditions are met:
     The total catch limit has not been exceeded during the 
rebuilding program;
     New scientific information indicates that the stock is 
below its rebuilding trajectory (i.e., rebuilding has not progressed as 
expected); and
     Frebuild becomes less than 75% FMSY.
    If all three of the criteria described above are met, then the 
Council would task its appropriate body (e.g., Groundfish Plan 
Development Team or Scientific and Statistical Committee) to complete a 
rebuilding plan review that would provide the Council with new catch 
advice for GOM cod and/or American plaice. In priority order, the 
rebuilding plan review would:
    1. Consider extending the rebuilding program to the maximum 10 
years if a shorter time frame was initially adopted;
    2. Review the biomass reference points; and
    3. Provide catch limits based on Frebuild for these 
scenarios:
    a. Under a 10-year rebuilding program (Item 1 above);
    b. Under a review of the biomass reference points (Item 2 above); 
and
    c. Under the existing rebuilding program.
    The proposed rebuilding plan review analysis is intended to 
investigate why rebuilding has not occurred as expected. These types of 
analyses are typically already done as part of the current biennial 
review process for the groundfish program, or during a stock 
assessment, regardless of whether the above criteria are met for 
initiating the review. The proposed rebuilding plan review would not 
replace the current biennial review process; rather it would modify it 
in order to explicitly identify the criteria for initiating a review, 
or the specific analyses that should result from the review.
    As noted during the development of Framework 51, we are concerned 
with the administrative burden of this measure, and whether there are 
any measurable benefits of the proposed rebuilding plan review 
analysis. The only basis for initiating the rebuilding plan review 
analysis, as proposed, would be a stock assessment that provided 
information to show that a stock was not on its rebuilding trajectory. 
As noted above, if a stock falls below its rebuilding trajectory, an 
investigation of why rebuilding has not occurred as expected would 
already occur during the stock assessment, or as part of the existing 
biennial review process.
    In addition, the rebuilding programs adopted by Framework 51, and 
proposed in this rule, would also already use the maximum 10-year 
rebuilding period allowed. Thus, the first step in the rebuilding plan 
review (Item 1) is obsolete, and so is the task of providing 
Frebuild-catch limits under an extended rebuilding program 
(Item 3a). Moreover, the only analyses that would be sufficient to 
provide revised biomass reference points, or provide new catch advice 
options based on revised biomass reference points (Item 3b) would be 
another stock assessment. The review of biomass reference points that 
is proposed in the rebuilding plan review (Item 2), in particular, may 
set unrealistic expectations for stakeholders. Since the proposed 
rebuilding plan review would review biomass reference points, but not 
necessarily change biomass reference points, the catch limits based on 
Frebuild (described by Item 3b) would also likely remain 
unchanged. By undertaking the rebuilding plan review, many stakeholders 
would likely expect that changes to the biomass reference points might 
occur as a result, which is not the case.
    We are concerned about the approvability of this measure due to all 
of the issues noted above. As a result, we are requesting specific 
comments on

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our concerns for this measure, including how the proposed analysis 
differs from the existing biennial review process for the groundfish 
program, or the existing stock assessment process, and what, if any, 
measurable benefit would be achieved through this administrative 
measure.

2. U.S./Canada Quotas

    Eastern GB cod, eastern GB haddock, and GB yellowtail flounder are 
jointly managed with Canada. Each year, the Transboundary Management 
Guidance Committee (TMGC), which is a government-industry committee 
made up of representatives from the United States and Canada, 
recommends a shared quota for each stock based on the most recent stock 
information and the TMGC harvest strategy. The TMGC's harvest strategy 
for setting catch levels is to maintain a low to neutral risk (less 
than 50 percent) of exceeding the fishing mortality limit for each 
stock. The TMGC's harvest strategy also specifies that when stock 
conditions are poor, fishing mortality should be further reduced to 
promote stock rebuilding. The shared quotas are allocated between the 
United States and Canada based on a formula that considers historical 
catch (10-percent weighting) and the current resource distribution (90-
percent weighting).
    Assessments for the three transboundary stocks were completed in 
June 2013 by the Transboundary Resources Assessment Committee (TRAC). A 
detailed summary of the 2013 TRAC assessment can be found at: http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/saw/trac/. The TMGC met in September 2013 to 
recommend shared quotas for 2014 based on the updated assessments, and 
the Council adopted the TMGC's recommendations in Framework 51. The 
proposed 2014 shared U.S./Canada quotas, and each country's allocation, 
are listed in Table 1. For a detailed discussion of the TMGC's 2014 
catch advice, see the TMGC's guidance document at: http://www2.mar.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/science/tmgc/tgd.html.
    Although the proposed 2014 shared quota for GB yellowtail flounder 
would be a 20-percent decrease from 2013, the U.S. quota for GB 
yellowtail flounder would increase by 53 percent in 2014 compared to 
2013. This increase is due to the large increase of the U.S. share of 
the quota in 2014 (from 43 percent to 82 percent) due to higher 
distribution of this stock in U.S. waters compared to past years. The 
proposed 2014 shared U.S./Canada quotas for eastern GB cod and haddock 
are higher compared to 2013. The resulting U.S. quotas would increase 
by 60 percent for eastern GB cod and 166 percent for eastern GB haddock 
compared to 2013. The proposed 2014 catch limit for GB yellowtail 
flounder is also discussed in more detail in Item 3 of this preamble.
    The U.S./Canada Resource Sharing Understanding requires that any 
overages of the eastern GB cod, eastern GB haddock, or GB yellowtail 
flounder U.S. quotas be deducted from the U.S. quota in the following 
fishing year. If FY 2013 catch information indicates that the U.S. 
fishery exceeded its quota for any of the shared stocks, we must reduce 
the FY 2014 U.S. quota for that stock in a future management action, as 
close to May 1, 2014, as possible. If any fishery that is allocated a 
portion of the U.S. quota exceeds its allocation, and causes an overage 
of the overall U.S. quota, the overage reduction would be applied to 
that fishery's allocation in the following fishing year. For example, 
if the scallop fishery exceeded its allocation of GB yellowtail 
flounder, which caused the overall U.S. quota to be exceeded, then the 
pound-for-pound reduction would be applied to the scallop fishery's 
allocation for the next fishing year. This ensures that catch by one 
component of the fishery does not negatively affect another component 
of the fishery.
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP17MR14.014

3. Catch Limits

    The catch limits proposed in this action can be found in Tables 2 
through 8. A brief summary of how these catch limits were developed is 
provided below. More detail on the proposed catch limits for each 
groundfish stock can be found in Appendix III to the Framework 51 EA 
(see ADDRESSES for information on how to get this document).
    Last year, Framework 50 adopted FY 2013-2015 catch limits for all 
groundfish stocks, except for the U.S./Canada stocks, which must be set 
every year, and white hake. A benchmark stock assessment for white hake 
was completed in February 2013, and the results of this assessment 
became available after the Council took final action on Framework 50. 
As a result, the Council was not able to incorporate the new benchmark 
results in time for setting FY 2013-2015 catch limits. Instead, we 
implemented an emergency action for FY 2013 to increase the white hake 
catch limit based on the February 2013 assessment, and give the Council 
time to respond to the new assessment. As described in Framework 51, 
this rule now proposes to implement FY 2014-2016 catch limits for white 
hake based on the recent stock assessment, and consistent with the 
recommendation of the Council's Scientific and Statistical Committee 
(SSC). This rule also proposes to incorporate the FY 2014 shared U.S./
Canada quotas (see Item 2 in this preamble), which are discussed in 
more detail below. For all stocks, except GB cod, GB haddock, GB 
yellowtail flounder, and white hake, the

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catch limits included in this action are identical to those previously 
adopted in Framework 50. There is no catch limit proposed for FY 2015 
or FY 2016 for many groundfish stocks. These catch limits will be 
specified in a future management action once updated scientific 
information becomes available.

Overfishing Limits and Acceptable Biological Catches

    The overfishing limit (OFL) serves as the maximum amount of fish 
that can be caught in a year without harming the stock. The OFL for 
each stock is calculated using the estimated stock size and 
FMSY (i.e., the fishing mortality rate that, if applied over 
the long term, would result in maximum sustainable yield). The OFL does 
not account for scientific uncertainty, so the Council's SSC typically 
recommends an acceptable biological catch (ABC) that is lower than the 
OFL in order to account for scientific uncertainty. Usually, the 
greater the amount of scientific uncertainty, the lower the ABC is set 
compared to the OFL. For GB cod, haddock, and yellowtail flounder, the 
total ABC is further reduced by the amount of the Canadian quota (see 
Table 1 for the Canadian share of these stocks). The U.S. ABC is the 
amount available to the U.S. fishery after accounting for Canadian 
catch.

GB Yellowtail Flounder

    Both the 2013 TRAC assessment and the SSC noted concerns for the 
poor performance of the stock assessment model for GB yellowtail 
flounder. The assessment model has a strong retrospective pattern, 
which causes stock size to be overestimated and fishing mortality to be 
underestimated. Despite concerns for the uncertainties in the 
assessment, and the performance of the assessment model, however, both 
the TRAC and the SSC concluded that stock conditions are poor. 
Recruitment for the stock remains low, and although the quota has been 
reduced in recent years due to continually declining stock conditions, 
all of the available information indicates that the stock has not 
responded to these reductions. In addition, although the assessment is 
highly uncertain, it was not rejected by either the TRAC or SSC.
    The 2013 TRAC assessment concluded that 2014 catches well below 500 
mt are likely needed to achieve the TMGC's harvest strategy for GB 
yellowtail flounder, and that catch should be reduced as much as 
possible from the 2013 quota of 500 mt. Consistent with the TRAC 
assessment, the SSC recommended that catches not exceed 500 mt in FY 
2014, and strongly recommended that catch be reduced as much as 
practicable in light of concerns about the status of the stock. The SSC 
also concluded that the OFL for GB yellowtail flounder cannot be 
reliably estimated due to poor performance of the assessment model, and 
as a result determined that the OFL is unknown.
    When reviewing and approving any quota, the Magnuson-Stevens Act 
requires us to determine that the proposed quota has a sufficient 
probability of preventing overfishing. To do this, we build off of the 
SSC's recommendation of an OFL and ABC. When absolute values for the 
OFL are not readily available, any quota recommendation must still meet 
the necessary requirements, and have at least a 50-percent probability 
of preventing overfishing. Both the TRAC results and the SSC's 
recommendation provide the necessary directionality of the 2014 quota 
compared to 2013 as well as information that can be used to determine 
the appropriate 2014 catch limit that would have a sufficient 
probability of preventing overfishing.
    The results of the assessment model that are not adjusted for the 
retrospective pattern indicate that 2014 catches at the fishing 
mortality limit would be 562 mt. However, given the poor performance of 
the assessment model, and because these results are not adjusted for 
the retrospective pattern in the assessment, it is reasonable to 
conclude that these results may be biased high. Because the unadjusted 
model results from the assessment are likely biased high, the 2014 
quota should have a greater uncertainty buffer than the Council's 
standard default control rule (75% FMSY). A 2014 catch limit 
of 400 mt is the maximum catch that would provide an additional 
uncertainty buffer from the unadjusted model results to further account 
for the uncertainties in the assessment. On the other hand, when the 
model results are adjusted for the retrospective pattern, 2014 catches 
at the fishing mortality limit would be 123 mt. In discussing the poor 
performance of the assessment model, though, the SSC questioned the 
magnitude of stock depletion, and noted that catch and survey trends 
may suggest less concern is warranted than indicated by the assessment 
model. As a result, the model results adjusted for the retrospective 
pattern may be biased low.
    Recent catches can also be used to evaluate what 2014 catch level 
would be consistent with the TRAC and SSC's recommendations to reduce 
catches as much as possible/practicable. Catches in 2012, which is the 
most recent fishing year in which final catch information is available, 
were approximately 480 mt, of which the United States caught 385 mt. 
The U.S. share of the quota increases in 2014 from 43 percent in 2013 
to 82 percent in 2014, and as a result, the 2014 TMGC recommendation of 
400 mt would result in a U.S. quota of 328 mt, which is nearly equal to 
the FY 2012 total U.S. catch. Similarly, although final 2013 catch 
estimates will not be available until September 2014, if total 2013 
catches are between 300-400 mt, a quota above 400 mt in 2014 would 
likely allow catches to increase compared to recent years, which would 
not be consistent with the TRAC and SSC's recommendation that catches 
be reduced.
    The FY 2013 catch limit for GB yellowtail flounder was 500 mt. 
Because the stock has declined further this past year, a status quo 
catch limit in FY 2014 would not appropriately account for this stock 
decline. The quota was reduced by more than 40 percent from 2011 to 
2012, and again from 2012 to 2013, yet the 2013 TRAC assessment 
indicates that the stock has not responded to these reductions. This 
suggests that the 2014 quota should be further reduced from 2013 to 
increase the likelihood that stock conditions will improve.
    Based on all of these factors, we determined that 400 mt was the 
total ABC for GB yellowtail flounder that would have a sufficient 
probability of preventing overfishing, reduce catch consistent with the 
TRAC and SSC advice, and provide for some stock growth. This 
determination was provided to the TMGC in September 2013, and served as 
the basis for the TMGC recommending 400 mt as the 2014 shared quota. 
Despite alternative catch limits put forward by the Council's 
Groundfish Oversight Committee, the Council ultimately adopted the 
TMGC's recommendation in Framework 51, and this action proposes a FY 
2014 catch limit of 400 mt for GB yellowtail flounder. Based on the 
best scientific information available, a quota of 400 mt would have at 
least a median probability of preventing overfishing, and would also 
increase the likelihood that stock conditions will improve. The 
proposed quota of 400 mt would be a 20-percent reduction compared to 
the 2013 quota, which is consistent with the TRAC and SSC's 
recommendation to reduce catches as much as practicable.
    In response to concerns for the poor performance of the GB 
yellowtail flounder stock assessment model, the TRAC will conduct a 
benchmark assessment April 14-18, 2014, to examine an alternative 
method for

[[Page 14957]]

estimating abundance and setting catch limits. The results of the 
benchmark assessment will be incorporated for setting 2015 catches for 
GB yellowtail flounder. More information on the 2014 benchmark 
assessment can be found here: http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/saw/trac/.

Annual Catch Limits

    The U.S. ABC for each stock (for each fishing year) is divided 
among the various fishery components to account for all sources of 
fishing mortality. First, expected catch from state waters and the 
``other'' sub-component is deducted from the U.S. ABC. These sub-
components are not subject to specific catch controls by the Groundfish 
Plan. As a result, the state waters and ``other'' sub-components are 
not allocations, and these components of the fishery are not subject to 
accountability measures if the catch limits are exceeded. After the 
state and other sub-components are deducted, the remaining portion of 
the U.S. ABC is the amount available to the fishery components that 
receive an allocation for the stock. Components of the fishery that 
receive an allocation are subject to catch controls by the Groundfish 
Plan, including accountability measures that are triggered if they 
exceed their respective catch limit during the fishing year.
    Once the U.S. ABC is divided, sub-annual catch limits (sub-ACLs) 
are set by reducing the amount of the ABC distributed to each component 
of the fishery to account for management uncertainty. Management 
uncertainty is the likelihood that management measures will result in a 
level of catch greater than expected. For each stock, management 
uncertainty is estimated using the following criteria: Enforceability 
and precision of management measures, adequacy of catch monitoring, 
latent effort, and catch of groundfish in non-groundfish fisheries. The 
total ACL is the sum of all of the sub-ACLs and ACL sub-components, and 
is the catch limit for a particular year after accounting for both 
scientific and management uncertainty. Landings and discards from all 
fisheries (commercial and recreational groundfish fisheries, state 
waters, and non-groundfish fisheries) are counted against the ACL for 
each stock.
    For stocks allocated to sectors, the commercial groundfish sub-ACL 
is further divided into the non-sector (common pool) sub-ACL and the 
sector sub-ACL, based on the total vessel enrollment in sectors and the 
cumulative PSCs associated with those sectors. The preliminary sector 
and common pool sub-ACLs proposed in this action are based on FY 2014 
PSCs and FY 2013 sector rosters. FY 2014 sector rosters will not be 
finalized until May 1, 2014, because individual permit holders have 
until the end of FY 2013 to drop out of a sector and fish in the common 
pool fishery for FY 2014. Therefore, it is possible that the sector and 
common pool catch limits proposed in this action may change due to 
changes in the sector rosters. If changes to the sector rosters occur, 
updated catch limits will be published as soon as possible in FY 2014 
to reflect the final FY 2014 sector rosters as of May 1, 2014.

Common Pool Total Allowable Catches

    The common pool sub-ACL for each stock (except for Southern New 
England/Mid-Atlantic (SNE/MA) winter flounder, windowpane flounder, 
ocean pout, Atlantic wolffish, and Atlantic halibut) is further divided 
into trimester total allowable catches (TACs). The distribution of the 
common pool sub-ACLs into trimesters was adopted by Amendment 16 and is 
based on recent landing patterns. Once we project that 90 percent of 
the trimester TAC is caught for a stock, the trimester TAC area for 
that stock is closed for the remainder of the trimester to all common 
pool vessels fishing with gear capable of catching the pertinent stock. 
Any uncaught portion of the trimester TAC in Trimester 1 or Trimester 2 
will be carried forward to the next trimester. Overages of the 
Trimester 1 or Trimester 2 TAC will be deducted from the Trimester 3 
TAC. Any overages of the total common pool sub-ACL will be deducted 
from the following fishing year's common pool sub-ACL for that stock. 
Uncaught portions of the Trimester 3 TAC may not be carried over into 
the following fishing year. Table 5 summarizes the common pool 
trimester TACs proposed in this action.
    Incidental catch TACs are also specified for certain stocks of 
concern (i.e., stocks that are overfished or subject to overfishing) 
for common pool vessels fishing in the special management programs 
(i.e., special access programs (SAPs) and the Regular B Days-at-Sea 
(DAS) Program), in order to limit the catch of these stocks under each 
program. Tables 6 through 8 summarize the distribution of the common 
pool sub-ACLs to each special management program, and the Incidental 
Catch TACs for each stock that are proposed in this action.
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BILLING CODE 3510-22-C

4. Small-Mesh Fisheries Accountability Measure

    For FY 2013 and beyond, Framework 48 adopted an allocation of GB 
yellowtail flounder for the small-mesh fisheries. For this allocation, 
the small-mesh fisheries were defined as vessels fishing with otter 
trawl gear with a codend mesh size of 5 inches (12.7 cm) or less. The 
target species for these small-mesh fisheries typically include squid 
and whiting. Framework 48 adopted a GB yellowtail flounder allocation 
for these fisheries due to concerns for the low stock size of GB 
yellowtail flounder, and that these fisheries have accounted for a 
larger portion of the total catch in recent years. Corresponding 
accountability measures (AMs) were not adopted last year because 
development of AMs required close coordination with the Mid-Atlantic 
Fishery Management Council, which is responsible for the Atlantic 
Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish Fishery Management Plan. As a result, 
Framework 48 presumed that AMs would be developed by the respective 
Fishery Management Plans in a future management action through 
coordination of the New England and Mid-Atlantic Councils. Thus, 
Framework 51 and this rule now propose to establish AMs for GB 
yellowtail flounder for the small-mesh fisheries, and apply them 
retroactively to FY 2013 catches.
    The U.S./Canada Resource Sharing Understanding requires that, if 
the U.S. quota for GB yellowtail flounder is exceeded, then the U.S. 
quota for the following fishing year must be reduced by the amount of 
the overage. The pound-for-pound reduction is applied to the sub-ACL of 
the fishery component that caused the overage. For example, if the 
small-mesh fisheries caused an overage of the U.S. quota in Year 1, the 
small-mesh fisheries sub-ACL would be reduced by the amount of the 
overage in the next fishing year (Year 2). This pound-for-pound 
reduction serves as a reactive AM. However, the small-mesh fisheries 
are currently required to discard all GB yellowtail flounder caught. 
Thus, a pound-for-pound reduction of the quota, without corresponding 
measures to help reduce catches of GB yellowtail flounder, would not 
appropriately mitigate an overage, or prevent future overages from 
occurring.
    This rule proposes an additional reactive AM that would require 
vessels fishing with bottom otter trawl gear with a codend mesh size of 
less than 5 in (12.7 cm) to fish with selective trawl gear in the GB 
yellowtail flounder stock area (Statistical areas 522, 525, 561, and 
562) if the small-mesh fisheries sub-ACL is exceeded. Currently, 
approved gear types include the raised footrope trawl, separator trawl, 
rope trawl, Ruhle trawl, and mini-Ruhle trawl. Additional gear types 
can be authorized by the Council in a future management action, or 
approved by the Regional Administrator through the gear-approval 
process defined at Sec.  648.85(b)(6). The proposed AM would be 
triggered regardless of whether the total ACL is exceeded. With the 
exception of the GB yellowtail flounder AM for the scallop fishery, 
this approach to triggering an AM is consistent with how other fishery 
components are treated (i.e., commercial and recreational groundfish 
fisheries and mid-water trawl fishery). AMs linked to the sub-ACLs of 
the fishery ensure that each component is held responsible for its 
catch of the respective stock.
    The proposed AM would only be implemented at the start of a fishing 
year (May 1). The AM would not be implemented in the middle of the 
fishing year due to the potential for disproportionate impacts on the 
small-mesh fisheries, which operate at different times on GB, depending 
on the target species. If an overage of the small-mesh fisheries sub-
ACL in Year 1 occurs, the proposed AM would be triggered:
     At the start of Year 2 if, based on reliable data, NMFS 
determined inseason during Year 1 that the small-mesh fisheries sub-ACL 
had been exceeded; or

[[Page 14964]]

     At the start of Year 3, if final catch estimates available 
after the end of Year 1 indicate that the small-mesh fisheries sub-ACL 
was exceeded in Year 1.
    The proposed AM would ensure that there are sufficient measures in 
place to reduce catches of GB yellowtail flounder, should an overage 
occur. This AM also ensures that the small-mesh fisheries catch of GB 
yellowtail flounder does not negatively impact other components of the 
fishery. Further, because GB yellowtail flounder is jointly managed 
with Canada, it is especially important that the United States 
implement sufficient management measures to prevent overages of the 
U.S. TAC, and if overages occur, to sufficiently mitigate that overage.

5. Inseason Adjustment of U.S./Canada Quotas

    In 2013, the TMGC developed a U.S./Canada quota trading mechanism 
that would provide more flexibility in setting annual U.S./Canada 
quotas in order to create additional fishing opportunities. Framework 
51 proposes to adopt a 1-year mechanism for FY 2014 that would allow 
the Regional Administrator, in consultation with the Council, to adjust 
the U.S./Canada quotas inseason consistent with any trade agreed upon 
with Canada. Any additional quota that the United States receives from 
a trade would be allocated to all of the fishery components consistent 
with the current ABC distribution used by the Council in this action 
for setting groundfish catch limits. Under this proposed approach, both 
groundfish and non-groundfish fisheries would potentially benefit from 
additional quota, regardless of what fishery gave up quota for the 
trade. For example, if the United States trades away eastern GB cod in 
return for GB yellowtail flounder, the scallop and small-mesh fisheries 
would benefit from the additional GB yellowtail flounder quota, even 
though the commercial groundfish fishery was the only component to give 
away its cod quota.
    The Canadian fishing year is based on the calendar year, while the 
U.S. groundfish fishing year is May 1-April 30. The difference between 
the U.S. and Canadian fishing years allows a trade to occur for 
adjacent years. Under the proposed mechanism, a trade could occur 
towards the end of the Canadian fishing year, when the U.S. fishing 
year is only half completed. For example, if Canada underharvests its 
quota, it could trade away its surplus quota to the United States in 
the current fishing year, in return for additional quota from the 
United States for the upcoming fishing year. Under this proposed 
mechanism, the United States would only receive additional quota in the 
current fishing year, and would only trade away its quota for the 
upcoming fishing year, prior to the start of the fishing year, and 
before allocations are made to components of the U.S. fishery.
    The proposed mechanism would exist only for quota trades made by, 
or before the end of, FY 2014. The Council adopted a 1-year only 
trading mechanism for several reasons:
    1. The Council wished to determine whether trades between the 
United States and Canada are practical under the proposed approach; and
    2. The Council is considering a more sophisticated trading 
mechanism as part of Amendment 18 to the Groundfish Plan that would 
better ensure the entities trading away quota would directly receive 
quota in return.

6. Distribution of Eastern/Western Georges Bank Haddock Sector 
Allocations

    Eastern GB haddock is a sub-unit of the total GB haddock stock, and 
the total ABC for GB haddock includes the shared U.S./Canada quota for 
eastern GB haddock. A portion of a sector's GB haddock allocation may 
only be caught in the Eastern U.S./Canada Area, and the remaining 
portion of their total GB haddock allocation can be caught only in the 
Western U.S./Canada Area. This restriction was adopted by Amendment 16 
in order to cap the amount of GB haddock that a sector could catch in 
the eastern U.S./Canada Area and help prevent the United States from 
exceeding its eastern GB haddock quota. However, limiting the amount of 
haddock that could be caught in the western U.S./Canada Area could 
unnecessarily reduce flexibility, and potentially limit fishing in the 
area, even if a sector has not caught its entire GB haddock allocation. 
Ultimately, this could prevent the fishery from achieving optimum yield 
for the GB haddock stock.
    To address this concern, this rule proposes to allow sectors to 
``convert'' their eastern GB haddock allocation into western GB haddock 
allocation. This measure would follow a process similar to the one used 
for processing sector trades. Sectors could convert eastern GB haddock 
allocation into western GB haddock allocation at any time during the 
fishing year, and up to 2 weeks into the following fishing year to 
cover any overage during the previous fishing year. A sector's proposed 
allocation conversion would be referred to, and approved by, NMFS based 
on general issues, such as whether the sector is complying with 
reporting or other administrative requirements, including weekly sector 
reports, or member vessel compliance with Vessel Trip Reporting 
requirements. Based on these factors, we would notify the sector if the 
conversion is approved or disapproved. At this time, NMFS proposes to 
use member vessel compliance with Vessel Trip Reporting requirements as 
the basis for approving, or disapproving a re-allocation of Eastern GB 
quota to the Western U.S./Canada Area. This is identical to the process 
used for reviewing, and approving, quota transfer requests between 
sectors.
    The responsibility for ensuring that sufficient allocation is 
available to cover the conversion is the responsibility of the sector. 
This measure would also extend to state-operated permit banks. Any 
conversion of eastern GB haddock allocation into western GB haddock 
allocation may be made only within a sector, or permit bank, and not 
between sectors or permit banks. In addition, once a portion of eastern 
GB haddock allocation has been converted to western GB haddock 
allocation, that portion of allocation remains western GB haddock for 
the remainder of the fishing year. Western GB haddock allocation may 
not be converted to eastern GB haddock allocation. This proposed 
measure does not change the requirement that sector vessels may only 
catch their eastern GB haddock allocation in the Eastern U.S./Canada 
Area, and may only catch the remainder of their GB haddock allocation 
in the Western U.S./Canada Area.
    This measure would provide additional flexibility for sectors to 
harvest their GB haddock allocations, without increasing the risk of 
biological harm to the stock. This measure may also create additional 
fishing opportunities for sector vessels on a healthy groundfish stock, 
and better help the fishery achieve optimum yield for this stock. The 
total catch limit for GB haddock includes the U.S. quota for eastern GB 
haddock, so this proposed measure would not jeopardize the total ACL 
for GB haddock, or the U.S. quota for the eastern portion of the stock. 
A sector would also still be required to stop fishing in the Eastern 
U.S./Canada Area once its entire eastern GB haddock allocation was 
caught, or in the Western U.S./Canada Area once its western GB haddock 
allocation was caught, or at least until it leased in additional quota. 
This ensures sufficient accountability for sector catch that will help 
prevent overages of any GB haddock catch limit.

[[Page 14965]]

7. Revised Discard Estimation for Georges Bank Yellowtail Flounder

    Landings and discards of a stock count against a sector's 
allocation. A sector's discard rate for a stock is estimated by 
extrapolating discards of that stock on observed fishing trips. For 
each sector and stock, a discard rate is calculated for each 
combination of gear type and stock area (known as a ``discard 
strata''). For example, a sector receives a unique discard rate for 
yellowtail flounder caught on trips fishing with bottom otter trawl 
gear in the GB yellowtail flounder stock area (Statistical areas 522, 
525, 561, and 562). In Framework 48 to the Groundfish Plan, the Council 
proposed to change the stratification of discard estimates for GB 
yellowtail flounder by creating two separate discard strata for GB 
yellowtail flounder: (1) A stratum for statistical area 522 by itself; 
and (2) a stratum for statistical areas 525, 561, and 562 combined. 
This measure was developed, in part, because there were concerns that 
the substantial reductions in the GB yellowtail flounder quota for FY 
2013 would severely constrain sector vessels. Under the existing 
stratification (a single stratum for statistical areas 522, 525, 561, 
and 562 combined), the Council was concerned that even if some sector 
vessels fished in areas on GB where little yellowtail flounder is 
caught, in order to reduce catch of GB yellowtail flounder, other 
vessels fishing on other parts of GB, with higher catch rates of 
yellowtail flounder, would impact the discard rate for the entire 
sector. As a result, creating a separate strata for statistical area 
522 and statistical areas 525, 561, and 562 combined would more 
accurately reflect fishing effort in these areas.
    Based on public comments received on the Framework 48 proposed 
rule, we disapproved the change to the stratification of GB yellowtail 
flounder discards because it would increase the costs and burden of 
monitoring, and potentially increase uncertainty of catch estimates, 
without any measurable benefit for sectors. Industry members opposed 
this measure in Framework 48 because they said it would not benefit 
groundfish vessels. We did not receive any comments in support of this 
measure. Although finer scale discard strata may have allowed discard 
estimates to more closely reflect actual discard rates of yellowtail 
flounder in different areas of GB, we determined that the new discard 
strata would not have provided any benefits that sectors could not 
realize through the existing discard rate strata (by only fishing in 
areas of GB with low catches of GB yellowtail flounder). For more 
information on this measure, as proposed in Framework 48, see the 
proposed and interim final rules for Framework 48 here: http://www.nero.noaa.gov/sfd/sfdmultifr.html#yr2013.
    Despite the disapproval in Framework 48, this rule proposes to 
change the stratification of GB yellowtail flounder discards for 
sectors and create two separate discard strata for GB yellowtail 
flounder: (1) A stratum for statistical area 522; and (2) a stratum for 
statistical areas 525, 561, and 562. This proposed measure is identical 
to the measure that was proposed, and disapproved, in Framework 48. The 
proposed measure would only apply to inseason sector monitoring, and 
would only apply to GB yellowtail flounder. The proposed measure would 
not change the stratification of discards for the common pool fishery, 
or any non-groundfish fishery.
    Although the stratification of discards could be changed for all 
gear types, the proposed measure is primarily intended for trawl 
vessels, which catch the majority of GB yellowtail flounder. This rule 
also proposes to give the Regional Administrator authority for 
determining whether this change to the stratification for GB yellowtail 
flounder is needed, or not, for non-trawl gears. If the Regional 
Administrator determines that the change to stratification is not 
necessary for other, non-trawl gears, these gears types could be 
excluded from the proposed stratification. At this time, we have 
determined that the revised stratification for GB yellowtail flounder 
should be proposed only for trawl gear.
    Analysis of the proposed measure completed by the Council in the 
Framework 51 Environmental Assessment indicates that if the proposed 
discard strata for GB yellowtail flounder had been used in FY 2010 and 
FY 2011, the total discards estimates would have increased by 5 
percent, and declined by less than 1 percent, respectively. Thus, based 
on this analysis, changing the stratification used for monitoring GB 
yellowtail flounder would not likely lead to large changes in the total 
discard estimates; however, it does have the potential to increase the 
variance in discard estimates, which could increase monitoring coverage 
levels necessary to accurately monitor sector catch.
    The impacts of the proposed discard strata on individual sectors 
would likely vary. The Framework 51 analysis shows that GB yellowtail 
flounder discard estimates for some sectors would decrease by up to 40 
percent, while discard estimates for other sectors would increase by up 
to 25 percent. As a result, the economic impacts of the proposed 
measure would be mixed. For those sectors that would receive a lower 
discard rate, vessels would expend less GB yellowtail flounder quota on 
each trip, which would increase net revenues, and potentially allow for 
more fishing. For sectors that would receive an increased discard rate, 
the opposite would be true, and the proposed measure could reduce net 
revenues. Sections 7.1.2.3.2 and 7.4.2.3.2 of the Framework 51 
Environmental Assessment have additional details on the impacts of the 
proposed measure.
    We are concerned that if a new discard strata is developed for GB 
yellowtail flounder, it could set a precedent for revising discard 
strata for other quota-limiting stocks (like GOM cod). Each additional 
discard strata created for monitoring sector catch increases the 
administrative burden on NMFS, and has the potential for increasing the 
monitoring coverage levels necessary to accurately monitor catch if it 
increases the variance of discard estimates. We are concerned for the 
approvability of this measure for all of these reasons, in addition to 
the reasons this measure was initially disapproved in Framework 48.
    When the Council took final action on Framework 51, and adopted the 
proposed revisions to the GB yellowtail flounder discard strata, it 
also passed a motion that the measure be implemented ``unless NMFS 
develops a discard tool to address this issue through the sectors.'' 
The Council's motion was unclear how this determination would be made, 
and who would make this determination whether to implement the proposed 
revisions to the GB yellowtail flounder discard strata in Framework 51, 
or to instead, rely on the discard tool developed by NMFS.
    Since the Council took final action on Framework 51, we developed a 
discard tool that sectors can use in order to more appropriately 
allocate discards among sector vessels based on individual fishing 
activity. We held a sector workshop on February 20, 2014, to present 
the discard tool to the sectors, and we received positive feedback from 
sector representatives. Based on the results of the February 20, 2014, 
sector workshop, we believe that the discard tool for sectors to 
allocate discards to their members provides a better solution than the 
proposed stratification for GB yellowtail flounder, and more 
sufficiently addresses the problem for the reasons provided below.
     Each sector can decide whether to use the discard tool 
and, if so, can

[[Page 14966]]

decide what stocks, and gear types, to apply the methodology.
     Each fishing year, or during the fishing year, a sector 
could make changes to how the discard tool is used based on the needs 
and interests of the sector.
     A sector could use the discard tool for as many, or as 
few, allocated stocks as it desires, whereas the discard strata 
proposed in Framework 51 would only serve as a patch fix for GB 
yellowtail flounder.
     The discard tool uses only exiting data already available 
to managers; no additional data would have to be collected.
     The discard tool does not require any regulatory changes, 
does not have the potential to increase variance of discard estimates, 
and thus, does not have the potential to increase monitoring coverage 
levels.
    We are requesting specific comments to address our concerns about 
the proposed revisions to the GB yellowtail flounder discard strata, 
whether these proposed revisions would provide sectors with any 
measurable benefits, and whether the discard tool would sufficiently 
address sector needs in lieu of the Framework 51 proposed measure.

8. Prohibition on Possession of Yellowtail Flounder by the Limited 
Access Scallop Fishery

    Currently, limited-access scallop vessels are required to land all 
legal-sized yellowtail flounder. This measure was adopted beginning in 
FY 2010 in order to reduce bycatch of yellowtail flounder in the 
scallop fishery consistent with National Standard 9 of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act, which requires bycatch be reduced as much as practicable. 
Landing yellowtail flounder is not cost effective for scallop vessels, 
so, the current requirement was intended to remove any incentive for 
scallop vessels to ``target'' yellowtail flounder. With the respect to 
this measure, it is important to note that scallop vessels do not 
``target'' yellowtail flounder in the traditional sense; rather they 
may choose not to move out of an area with high levels of yellowtail 
flounder bycatch. Recent information shows that compliance with the 
current landing requirement has been extremely low probably due, in 
part, because landing yellowtail flounder is not cost effective for 
scallop vessels. The current landing requirement is likely difficult to 
enforce because it requires law enforcement officers to intercept 
scallop vessels at sea during the act of illegally discarding legal-
sized yellowtail flounder.
    Despite documented low compliance rates, industry reports have 
recently indicated that a very small number of scallop vessels may be 
``targeting'' yellowtail flounder. To address this possibility, this 
action proposes to remove the landing requirement, and prohibit the 
possession of all yellowtail flounder by limited access scallop 
vessels. Prohibiting possession of yellowtail flounder is intended to 
remove the incentive for scallop vessels to ``target'' yellowtail 
flounder since they could not be retained, or sold, which is expected 
to ultimately reduce yellowtail flounder mortality.
    National Standard 9 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act requires that 
bycatch be reduced as much as practicable, where bycatch is defined as 
``fish harvested in a fishery, but that are not sold or kept,'' and 
refers to economic and regulatory discards. Thus, the proposed measure 
to prohibit possession of yellowtail flounder would actually increase 
bycatch, as it is defined in the Magnuson-Stevens Act, compared to the 
existing requirement to land all legal-sized yellowtail flounder. 
However, for the purposes of reviewing the proposed measure, a more 
important consideration is the total fishing mortality for each 
yellowtail flounder stock. If the proposed action would reduce fishing 
effort on yellowtail flounder, then total fishing mortality for 
yellowtail flounder stocks would be expected to decrease. This would 
provide important conservation benefits, particularly for GB yellowtail 
flounder, which has declined in recent years.
    The recent 2012 stock assessment for SNE/MA yellowtail flounder 
reduced the discard mortality rate from 100 percent to 90 percent for 
commercial catches. As a result, prohibiting possession of this stock 
by limited access scallop vessels has the potential to slightly reduce 
mortality on this yellowtail flounder stock assuming that some of the 
discarded fish survive. The stock assessments for Cape Cod/Gulf of 
Maine and GB yellowtail flounder assume a 100-percent discard mortality 
rate, so it is unclear whether zero possession has the same potential 
benefits for these yellowtail stocks as the SNE/MA stock.
    We are requesting specific comment on whether the current landing 
requirement truly created an incentive to ``target'' yellowtail 
flounder, thereby increasing total mortality on the stocks, and whether 
the proposed measure would be expected to decrease total fishing 
mortality on each of the yellowtail flounder stocks.

9. 2014 Windowpane Flounder Accountability Measures

    In fall 2013, final catch information became available for FY 2012. 
These final catch estimates indicated that the northern windowpane 
flounder ACL was exceeded by 28 percent, and the southern windowpane 
flounder ACL was exceeded by 36 percent. The FY 2012 final catch report 
can be found here: http://www.nero.noaa.gov/ro/fso/reports/Groundfish_Catch_Accounting.htm.
    These FY 2012 overages will automatically trigger AMs beginning in 
FY 2014 that require selective trawl gear to be used in certain parts 
of the stock areas for both windowpane flounder stocks. For the entire 
2014 fishing year, common pool and sector vessels fishing on a 
groundfish trip with trawl gear will be required to use one of the 
following selective trawl gears when fishing in the AM areas: (1) 
Haddock separator trawl; (2) Ruhle trawl; (3) mini-Ruhle trawl; or (4) 
rope separator trawl. There are no restrictions on longline or gillnet 
gear. These gear restrictions will apply in the large AM areas for both 
northern and southern windowpane flounder because the overages were 
more than 20 percent of the ACL for both stocks (maps and coordinates 
of the AM areas can be found here: http://www.nero.noaa.gov/sfd/sfdmulti.html). As a reminder, sectors cannot request an exemption from 
these AMs. As long as the catch limits are not exceeded in FY 2014, the 
AM would be removed at the start of the 2015 fishing year, beginning on 
May 1, 2015. These AMs are not part of Framework 51, but are proposed 
in conjunction with Framework 51 for expediency purposes.
    The FY 2014 windowpane flounder AMs will not impact non-groundfish 
fisheries because these fisheries did not have an allocation of either 
windowpane flounder stock for FY 2012. Although these non-groundfish 
fisheries may have contributed to the 2012 overages, the commercial 
groundfish fishery will be held 100-percent accountable. For FY 2013 
and beyond, at the Council's recommendation, we approved the allocation 
of southern windowpane to the scallop fishery and other non-groundfish 
fisheries fishing with bottom otter traw gear with codend mesh of 5 
inches (12.7 cm) or greater. Allocating this stock to other fisheries 
will help ensure that each fishery is held accountable for their catch 
in the future, and that catch from one fishery cannot negatively impact 
another. For FY 2013 and beyond, any AM triggered for southern 
windowpane will only apply

[[Page 14967]]

to the fishery that caused the overage, except in the situation where 
the state waters sub-component caused the overage. Northern windowpane 
is still not allocated to any non-groundfish fishery, so the groundfish 
fishery would continue to be held 100-percent accountable for any 
overages of the northern windowpane catch limit, regardless of what 
fishery caused the overage.

10. Annual Measures for FY 2014 Under Regional Administrator Authority

    The Groundfish FMP gives us authority to implement certain types of 
management measures for the common pool fishery, the U.S./Canada 
Management Area, and Special Management Programs on an annual basis, or 
as needed. This proposed rule includes a description of these 
management measures that are being considered for FY 2014 in order to 
provide an opportunity for the public to comment on whether the 
proposed measures are appropriate. These measures are not part of 
Framework 51, and were not specifically proposed by the Council, but 
are proposed in conjunction with Framework 51 for expediency purposes, 
and because they relate to the proposed catch limits in Framework 51.
    Table 9 provides a summary of the default trip limits that would 
take effect in FY 2014 if we took no action, the current common pool 
trip limits for FY 2013, and the proposed trip limits that would be in 
effect for the start of FY 2014. Table 10 provides a summary of the 
proposed FY 2014 cod trip limits for vessels fishing with a Handgear A, 
Handgear B, or Small Vessel Category permit. Proposed trip limits for 
FY 2014 were developed after considering changes to the FY 2014 common 
pool sub-ACLs and sector rosters, trimester TACs for FY 2014, catch 
rates of each stock during FY 2013, and other available information.
    The default cod trip limit is 300 lb (136.1 kg) per trip for 
Handgear A vessels. If the GOM or GB cod trip limit for vessels fishing 
on a groundfish DAS drops below 300 lb (136.1 kg), then the respective 
Handgear A cod trip limit must be adjusted to be the same. This action 
proposes a GOM cod trip limit of 200 lb (90.7 kg) per DAS for vessels 
fishing on a groundfish DAS, so the proposed Handgear A trip limit for 
GOM cod is reduced to 200 lb (90.7 kg) per trip, accordingly.
    The regulations also require that the Handgear B vessel trip limit 
for GOM and GB cod be adjusted proportionally (rounded up to the 
nearest 25 lb (11.3 kg)) to the default cod trip limits applicable to 
DAS vessels. The FY 2014 GOM cod trip limit proposed in this action for 
DAS vessels (200 lb (90.7 kg) per DAS) is 75 percent lower than the 
default trip limit in the regulations. As a result, the proposed 
Handgear B vessel trip limit for GOM cod is reduced proportionally to 
25 lb (11.3 kg) per trip.
    Vessels with a Small Vessel category permit can possess up to 300 
lb (136.1 kg) of cod, haddock, and yellowtail, combined, per trip. For 
FY 2014, we are proposing that the maximum amount of cod and haddock 
(within the 300-lb (136.1-kg) trip limit) be adjusted proportionally to 
the trip limits applicable to NE multispecies DAS vessels (see Table 
9).
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P

[[Page 14968]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP17MR14.022

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP17MR14.023

    The RA has the authority to determine the allocation of the total 
number of trips into the Closed Area II Yellowtail Flounder/Haddock SAP 
based on several criteria, including the GB yellowtail flounder catch 
limit and the amount of GB yellowtail flounder caught outside of the 
SAP. In 2005, Framework 40B (70 FR 31323; June 1, 2005) implemented a 
provision that no trips should be allocated to the Closed Area II 
Yellowtail Flounder/Haddock SAP if the available GB yellowtail flounder 
catch is insufficient to support at least 150 trips with a 15,000-lb 
(6,804-kg) trip limit (or 2,250,000 lb (1,020,600 kg). This calculation 
accounts for the projected catch from the area outside the SAP. Based 
on the proposed GB yellowtail groundfish sub-ACL of 561,077 lb (254,500 
kg), there is insufficient GB yellowtail flounder to allocate any trips 
to the SAP, even if the projected catch from outside the SAP area is 
zero. Therefore, this action proposes to allocate zero trips to the 
Closed Area II Yellowtail Flounder/

[[Page 14969]]

Haddock SAP for FY 2014. Vessels could still fish in this SAP in FY 
2014 using a haddock separator trawl, a Ruhle trawl, or hook gear. 
Vessels would not be allowed to fish in this SAP using flounder nets.

11. Regulatory Corrections Under Regional Administrator Authority

    The following changes are being proposed to the regulations to 
correct references, inadvertent deletions, and other minor errors.
    In Sec.  648.80(g)(5)(i), this rule would correct the reference to 
the mesh obstruction or constriction definition.
    In Sec.  648.85(b)(6)(iv)(B), the observer call-in requirement 
under the B DAS program is corrected to 48 hr prior to the start of the 
trip, instead of 72 hr prior to the start of the trip. This change was 
inadvertently omitted during the Amendment 16 rulemaking.
    This rule would remove Sec.  648.87(b)(1)(i)(F) and (G). This 
regulatory text was added as part of NMFS's emergency rule for 
addressing sector carryover for FY 2013. This regulatory text was 
supposed to expire on April 30, 2014; however, was inadvertently left 
in the regulations permanently.
    In Sec.  648.87(c)(2), this rule would clarify that sector 
exemptions are limited to those regulations implementing the groundfish 
program, and not any regulation applicable to a groundfish vessel. The 
proposed regulatory correction more precisely reflects the intent of 
Amendment 16.
    In Sec.  648.90(a)(4), this rule would reinstate the regulatory 
text describing the ABC and ACL recommendation process, which was 
inadvertently deleted in a previous rulemaking.
    In Sec.  648.90(a)(5), this rule would reinstate the regulatory 
text describing the trigger of the scallop fishery accountability 
measures, which was inadvertently deleted in a previous rulemaking.
    In Sec.  697.7(c)(1)(xxii) and (c)(2)(xvii), this rule would 
replace the word ``traps'' with ``lobster traps.'' This proposed 
correction is intended to clarify that the lobster regulations do not 
prohibit Federal lobster permit holders from possessing, or using, non-
lobster trap gear on trips fishing with a method other than traps 
(e.g., mobile trawl gear).
    NMFS defines a lobster trap as ``any structure or other device, 
other than a net, that is placed, or designed to be placed, on the 
ocean bottom and is designed for or is capable of, catching lobsters.'' 
This definition applies to all Federal lobster permit holders 
regardless of whether the permit holder might actually be targeting a 
different species with the trap (e.g., crab or fish traps). Federal 
lobster permit holders are prohibited from possessing, or using, 
lobster traps on any trip that catches lobster with non-trap gear 
(e.g., trawl gear). However, trap gear that is configured in such a way 
so that it is not capable of catching lobster is not considered 
``lobster trap'' gear. As a result, Federal lobster permit holders are 
allowed to possess, and use, non-lobster trap gear on board their 
vessel even if harvesting lobster with gear other than lobster traps 
(e.g., trawl gear).

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Assistant Administrator has made a preliminary determination that 
this proposed rule is consistent with Framework 51, other provisions of 
the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law. In making the final 
determination, NMFS will consider the data, views, and comments 
received during the public comment period.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order (E.O.) 12866.
    This proposed rule does not contain policies with Federalism or 
``takings'' implications as those terms are defined in E.O. 13132 and 
E.O. 12630, respectively.
    The Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) was prepared for 
this proposed rule, as required by section 603 of the Regulatory 
Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 603. The IRFA includes this section of the 
preamble to this rule and analyses contained in Framework 51 and its 
accompanying EA/RIR/IRFA. The IRFA describes the economic impact that 
this proposed rule would have on small entities, if adopted. A 
description of the action, why it is being considered, and the legal 
basis for this action are contained in Framework 51, the beginning of 
this section (SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION) in the preamble, and in the 
SUMMARY section of the preamble. A copy of the full analysis is 
available from the Council (see ADDRESSES). A summary of the IRFA 
follows.

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

    The Small Business Administration defines a small business as one 
that is:

 Independently owned and operated;
 not dominant in its field of operation;
 has annual receipts that do not exceed--
    [cir] $19.0 million in the case of commercial finfish harvesting 
entities (NAIC \1\ 114111)
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) is 
the standard used by Federal statistical agencies in classifying 
business establishments for the purpose of collecting, analyzing, 
and publishing statistical data related to the U.S. business 
economy.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    [cir] $5.0 million in the case of commercial shellfish harvesting 
entities (NAIC 114112)
    [cir] $7.0 million in the case of for-hire fishing entities (NAIC 
114119); or
 has fewer than--
    [cir] 500 employees in the case of fish processors
    [cir] 100 employees in the case of fish dealers.

    This proposed rule impacts commercial and recreational fish 
harvesting entities engaged in the groundfish limited access and open 
access fisheries, the small-mesh multispecies and squid fisheries, and 
the scallop fishery. A description of the specific permits that are 
likely to be impacted is included below for informational purposes, 
followed by a discussion of the impacted businesses (ownership 
entities), which can include multiple vessels and/or permit types. For 
the purposes of the RFA analysis, the ownership entities, not the 
individual vessels, are considered to be the regulated entities.

Limited Access Groundfish Fishery

    The limited access groundfish fishery consists of those enrolled in 
the sector program and those in the common pool. As of January 14, 2014 
(FY 2013), there were 1,088 individual limited access permits. For 
purposes of this analysis, groundfish limited access eligibilities held 
as Confirmation of Permit History are not included because, although 
they may generate revenue from quota leasing, they do not generate any 
gross sales from fishing activity, and thus, would not be classified as 
commercial fishing entities.
    Of the 1,088 limited access groundfish permits issued in FY 2013, 
664 of these permits were enrolled in the sector program, and 424 were 
in the common pool. Each of these permits will be eligible to join a 
sector or enroll in the common pool in FY 2014. Alternatively each 
permit owner could also allow their permit to expire by failing to 
renew it. Of the 1,088 limited access groundfish permits, 767 have 
landings of any species and 414 have some amount of groundfish 
landings.

Handgear B

    The Handgear B permit is an open access groundfish permit that can 
be requested at any time, with the

[[Page 14970]]

limitation that a vessel cannot have a limited access and an open 
access Handgear B permit concurrently. There are no qualification 
criteria required for this permit. The Handgear B permit is a rod-and-
reel handgear permit that must adhere to specified possession limits 
for groundfish species with special provisions for cod. The cod 
possession limit for Handgear B permits is set annually to 75 lb (34 
kg) per trip, and is automatically adjusted relative to the GOM cod 
trip limit for limited access DAS vessels enrolled in the common pool 
fishery. The current possession limit is 75 lb (34 kg). As of February 
18, 2014 (FY 2013), there were 891 Handgear B permits, and 78 of those 
vessels landed groundfish.

Charter/Party Fishery

    The charter/party permit is an open access groundfish permit that 
can be requested at any time, with the limitation that a vessel cannot 
have a limited access and an open access party/charter permit 
concurrently. There are no qualification criteria required for this 
permit. Charter/party permits are issued as an open access permit 
(Category I) under the Groundfish Plan, and are subject to recreational 
management measures. As of February 20, 2014 (FY 2013), there were 667 
party/charter permits issued; 383 of which reported taking a party or 
charter trip. Of these active party/charter vessels, 120 caught cod or 
haddock in the Gulf of Maine in FY 2013.

Limited Access Scallop Fisheries

    The limited access scallop fisheries include Limited Access (LA) 
scallop permits and Limited Access General Category (LGC) scallop 
permits. LA scallop businesses are subject to a mixture of DAS and 
dedicated area trip restrictions. LGC scallop businesses are able to 
acquire and trade LGC scallop quota, and there is an annual cap on 
quota/landings. The proposed action would not alter the regulations for 
LGC permit holders. As of February 19, 2014 (FY 2013), there were 348 
active LA scallop permits with at least one dollar of revenue from sea 
scallops.

Small-Mesh Fisheries

    The small-mesh exempted fishery allows vessels to harvest species 
in designated areas using mesh sizes smaller than the minimum mesh size 
required by the Groundfish Plan. To participate in the small-mesh 
multispecies (whiting) fishery, vessels must hold either a limited 
access multispecies permit or an open access multispecies permit 
(category K). Limited access multispecies permit holders can only 
target whiting when not fishing under a DAS, and while declared out of 
the fishery. A description of limited access multispecies permits was 
provided above. As of February 18, 2014 (FY 2013), there were 776 open 
access category K multispecies permits issued, with only 34 of them 
landing whiting. Many of these vessels target both whiting and longfin 
squid on small-mesh trips taken in the GB yellowtail flounder stock 
area, and therefore, most of them also have open access or limited 
access Squid, Mackerel, and Butterfish (SMB) permits. The GB yellowtail 
flounder stock area provided almost half of total whiting landings in 
CY 2010-2011. Since squid landings in the GB yellowtail flounder stock 
area comprised less than 10 percent of overall squid landings during 
the same time period, and since most SMB permitted vessels fishing in 
the GB yellowtail flounder stock area will also have a multispecies 
permit, SMB permits will not be handled separately in this analysis.

Ownership Entities

    Individually-permitted vessels may hold permits for several 
fisheries, harvesting species of fish that are regulated by several 
different fishery management plans, even beyond those impacted by the 
proposed action. Furthermore, multiple permitted vessels and/or permits 
may be owned by entities affiliated by stock ownership, common 
management, identity of interest, contractual relationships, or 
economic dependency. For the purposes of this analysis, ``ownership 
entities'' are defined as those entities with common owners as listed 
on the permit application. Only permits with identical ownership are 
categorized as an ``ownership entity.'' For example, if five permits 
have the same seven persons listed as co-owners on their permit 
application, those seven persons would form one ``ownership entity,'' 
that hold those five permits. If two of those seven owners also co-own 
additional vessels, that ownership arrangement would be considered a 
separate ``ownership entity'' for the purpose of this analysis.
    On June 1 of each year, ownership entities are identified based on 
a list of all permits for the most recent complete calendar year. The 
current ownership data set is based on calendar year 2012 permits and 
contains average gross sales associated with those permits for calendar 
years 2010 through 2012. Matching the potentially impacted FY 2013 
permits described above (limited access and open access groundfish, 
Handgear B, charter/party, and limited access scallop) to the calendar 
year 2012 ownership data results in 2,064 distinct ownership entities. 
Of these, and based on the Small Business Administration guidelines, 
2,042 are categorized as small, and 22 are categorized as large 
entities, all of which are shellfish businesses.
    These totals may mask some diversity among the entities. Many, if 
not most, of these ownership entities maintain diversified harvest 
portfolios, obtaining gross sales from many fisheries, and not 
dependent on any one. However, not all are equally diversified. Those 
that depend most heavily on sales from harvesting species impacted 
directly by the proposed action are most likely to be affected. By 
defining dependence as deriving greater than 50 percent of gross sales 
from sales of regulated species associated with a specific fishery, we 
are able to identify those ownership groups most likely to be impacted 
by the proposed regulations.
    Using this threshold, 151 entities are groundfish-dependent, all of 
which are small, and all of which are finfish commercial harvesting 
businesses. Of the 151 groundfish-dependent entities, 130 have some 
level of participation in the sector program, and 21 operate 
exclusively in the common pool fishery. There are 234 regulated 
entities which are scallop-dependent. All of these are shellfish 
businesses, and 20 are considered large. There are 35 small-mesh 
fishery-dependent entities; 19 of them are finfish businesses, 16 of 
them are shellfish businesses, and all of them are considered small. 
The small-mesh fishery-dependent entities may overestimate the number 
of impacted entities since missing statistical area information in the 
commercial dealer database makes it difficult to track whiting and 
squid landings that occurred exclusively in the GB yellowtail flounder 
stock area.

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

    The economic impacts of each proposed measure are summarized below 
and are discussed in more detail in sections 7.4 and 8.11 of the 
Framework 51 EA. The outcome of ``significant economic impact'' can be 
ascertained by examining two factors: Disproportionality and 
profitability. Disproportionality refers to whether or not the 
regulations place a substantial number of small entities at a 
significant competitive disadvantage to large entities. Profitability 
refers to whether or not the regulations significantly

[[Page 14971]]

reduce profits for a substantial number of small entities.
    The proposed action has the potential to place small entities at a 
significant competitive disadvantage relative to large entities. This 
is mainly because large entities likely have more flexibility to adjust 
to, and accommodate, the proposed measures. Impacts on profitability 
from the proposed action may be significant for a substantial number of 
small entities as described below.

Gulf of Maine Cod and American Plaice Rebuilding Strategies

    The preferred alternatives to change the rebuilding strategies for 
GOM cod and American plaice (10-year rebuilding program) are expected 
to positively impact profitability of small entities regulated by this 
action. The rebuilding strategies being considered for both species are 
expected to result in higher Net Present Values (NPVs) for each stock 
compared to if no action was taken, which would translate into larger 
profits. The alternatives to the preferred alternative included the No 
Action alternative, an 8-year rebuilding program for GOM cod, and a 7 
and 8-year rebuilding program for American plaice. The 10-year 
rebuilding plan for GOM cod is expected to have modest gains in NPV and 
profitability compared to the 8-year rebuilding plan. For American 
plaice, there is little discernible difference between the three 
rebuilding strategies considered. In addition, by adopting new 
rebuilding strategies for GOM cod and American plaice, the proposed 
action will help prevent severe economic loss that could occur under 
highly restrictive catch limits in FY 2015 that would occur if no 
action was taken, especially to groundfish-dependent small entities. 
Party/charter fishing businesses would also experience significant 
economic loss under the No Action option for GOM cod, but would be 
unaffected by the American plaice action because there is no directed 
recreational fishery for this stock, and no recreational allocation of 
American plaice.

Catch Limits

    The preferred alternative to modify the ACLs and sub-ACLs for white 
hake, eastern GB cod and haddock, and GB yellowtail flounder has the 
potential to impact groundfish and scallop-dependent small entities, 
and is discussed in the next section. Recreational harvesting entities, 
as well as small-mesh fishery-dependent entities, do not target these 
stocks, and are not expected to be directly impacted by this proposed 
action. Based on the proposed catch limits, gross revenues for the 
groundfish industry are predicted to decrease in FY 2014 by 26 percent 
compared to FY 2012, and by 4 percent compared to FY 2013. Net revenue 
is predicted to decline by 21 percent in FY 2014 compared to FY 2012, 
and by 12 percent compared to predicted net revenues for FY 2013. The 
negative impacts of the revised ACLs would be non-uniformly distributed 
across vessel size classes, with smaller vessels being more heavily 
impacted compared to large vessels. Although small entities are defined 
based on gross sales of ownership groups, not physical characteristics 
of the vessel, it is reasonable to assume that larger vessels are more 
likely to be owned by large entities. As a result, the proposed ACLs 
could put small entities at a competitive disadvantage compared to 
large entities.
    Under the No Action alternative, no catch limits would be specified 
for the U.S./Canada stocks or white hake. As a result, sector vessels 
would be unable to fish in the respective stock areas in FY 2014. This 
would result in greater negative economic impacts on vessels compared 
to the proposed action due to lost revenues as a result of being unable 
to fish. If no action was taken to specify catch limits for these 
stocks, the Magnuson-Stevens Act requirements to achieve optimum yield 
and consider the needs of fishing communities would be violated.
    If the scallop fishery triggers the GB yellowtail flounder 
accountability measures, the proposed ACLs for this stock would likely 
reduce scallop fishery revenues. How this reduction in revenue would 
compare to No Action is unclear. The No Action would not set a scallop 
fishery sub-ACL for GB yellowtail flounder. If no sub-ACL was set, this 
would not prevent the scallop fishery from fishing in FY 2014. In 
addition, if no sub-ACL is set, catches in FY 2014 would likely not 
trigger an AM, which might allow for greater scallop fishery revenues. 
The proposed FY 2014 GB yellowtail flounder sub-ACL could create a 
competitive disadvantage within the scallop fishery if an AM is 
triggered as a result of an overage. Small entities would have less 
flexibility compared to large entities to adjust to the area closures 
that would result from an ACL overage.
    The proposed catch limits are based on the latest stock assessment 
information, which is considered the best scientific information 
available, and the applicable requirements in the Groundfish Plan and 
the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Because NMFS can only approve or disapprove 
measures recommended in Framework 51, the only other possible 
alternatives to the catch limits proposed in this action that would 
mitigate negative impacts would be higher catch limits. Alternative, 
higher catch limits, however, are not permissible under the law because 
they would not be consistent with the goals and objectives of the 
Groundfish Plan, or the Magnuson-Stevens Act, particularly the 
requirement to prevent overfishing. The Magnuson-Stevens Act, and case 
law, prevent implementation of measures that conflict with conservation 
requirements, even if it means negative impacts are not mitigated. The 
catch limits proposed in this action are the highest allowed given the 
best scientific information available, the SSC's recommendations, and 
requirements to end overfishing and rebuild fish stocks. The only other 
catch limits that would be legal would be lower than those proposed in 
this action, which would not mitigate the economic impacts of the 
proposed catch limits.

Small-Mesh Fisheries Accountability Measures

    The preferred alternative to implement a GB yellowtail flounder 
accountability measure for small-mesh fisheries is expected to 
negatively impact small-mesh fishery-dependent small entities, and has 
the potential to create minor economic benefits for groundfish-
dependent small entities. Under the preferred alternative, if the 
small-mesh fisheries sub-ACL for GB yellowtail flounder is exceeded, 
selective trawl gear would be required in the year immediately 
following the overage, or 2 years after the overage, depending on data 
availability. Small entities would likely experience higher costs as a 
result, including the fixed cost of purchasing new gear and/or 
modifying existing gear. These potential gear restrictions would also 
likely lower the catch rates of target species (e.g., squid and 
whiting), which would increase operating costs, and effectively lower 
net revenue and overall profitability. The negative impacts from the 
proposed action are expected to be lower than another alternative 
considered in Framework 51 that would have closed the entire GB 
yellowtail flounder stock area to small-mesh fisheries if the sub-ACL 
was exceeded. If the proposed accountability measure successfully 
reduces discards of GB yellowtail flounder, and prevents overfishing, 
catch rates for the species could increase for groundfish-dependent 
small entities, resulting in small increases in profitability.

[[Page 14972]]

Economic Impacts of Other Measures

    Framework 51 also considered multiple alternatives that would 
modify U.S./Canada management measures to provide more flexibility for 
groundfish vessels. For each specific measure, no other alternatives 
were considered other than the No Action alternative and the proposed 
action.
    The proposed U.S./Canada trading mechanism is not expected to have 
any additional economic impacts, positive or negative, relative to the 
No Action alternative, which would not specify any U.S./Canada trading 
mechanism. At this time, it is not known how the proposed action might 
increase or decrease quota allocated to groundfish fishermen because it 
is difficult to anticipate what, if any, trade would be made between 
the U.S. and Canada. However, if the ability to trade quota inseason 
were to result in increased quota for sector and/or common pool 
fishermen, and if that quota were to be converted into landings, then 
the proposed action would be beneficial to groundfish-dependent small 
entities.
    The second proposed measure would modify the distribution of the 
eastern and western allocations of GB haddock and is expected to have 
small, but positive, impacts on groundfish-dependent small entities 
that participate in the sector program due to increased operational 
flexibility. Under the proposed action, sector vessels would be allowed 
to convert their eastern GB haddock allocation into western GB haddock 
allocation. This would likely increase flexibility for sector vessels, 
and prevent the western U.S./Canada Area from being closed to a sector 
prematurely, before the sector had harvested all of its GB haddock 
allocation. However, since catch of eastern and western GB haddock has 
been persistently lower than the respective catch limits, the benefit 
of the proposed action is likely very small.
    The proposed action to revise the discard strata for GB yellowtail 
flounder is only expected to impact groundfish-dependent entities that 
participate in the sector program. If the discard rate decreases in 
area 522 as a result of the proposed action, vessels fishing in that 
area would be able to expend less GB yellowtail quota on each trip. 
This would likely allow more fishing, and would likely increase net 
revenues for vessels. The proposed action is expected to have the 
largest effect on trawl vessels, since these vessels catch the majority 
of the GB yellowtail flounder catch. The proposed revision to the GB 
yellowtail flounder discard strata could potentially result in a higher 
discard rate for the other areas (525, 561, and 562). This would 
potentially decrease net revenues to vessels fishing in those areas, 
because the opportunity cost of quota would likely increase.
    Finally, the proposed prohibition on possession of yellowtail 
flounder by limited access scallop vessels is expected to impact only 
scallop-dependent small entities. If scallop vessels are prohibited 
from retaining and landing yellowtail flounder, there could be some 
economic loss for vessels that have been landing the species. Only a 
relatively small proportion (less than a quarter) of the active limited 
access vessels are currently landing yellowtail flounder, and the 
average revenue per vessel from yellowtail flounder is less than 5 
percent of the average total revenue. As such, the effects of the 
proposed action on the profitability of scallop-dependent small 
entities are expected to be small.

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

    The proposed action contains a collection-of-information 
requirement subject to review and approval by the Office of Management 
and Budget (OMB) under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA). This 
requirement will be submitted to OMB for approval. The proposed action 
does not duplicate, overlap, or conflict with any other Federal rules.
    This action proposes to adjust the ACE transfer request requirement 
implemented through Amendment 16. This rule would add a new entry field 
to the Annual Catch Entitlement (ACE) transfer request form to allow a 
sector to indicate how many pounds of eastern GB haddock ACE it intends 
to re-allocate to the Western U.S./Canada Area. This change is 
necessary to allow a sector to apply for a re-allocation of eastern GB 
ACE in order to increase fishing opportunities in the Western U.S./
Canada Area. Currently, all sectors use the ACE transfer request form 
to initiate ACE transfers with other sectors via an online or paper 
form to the Regional Administrator. The proposed change adds a single 
field to this form, and would not affect the number of entities 
required to comply with this requirement. Therefore, the proposed 
change would not be expected to increase the time or cost burden 
associated with the ACE transfer request requirement. Public reporting 
burden for this requirement includes the time for reviewing 
instructions, searching existing data sources, gathering and 
maintaining the data needed, and completing and reviewing the 
collection of information.
    Notwithstanding any other provision of the law, no person is 
required to respond to, nor shall any person be subject to a penalty 
for failure to comply with, a collection of information subject to the 
requirements of the PRA, unless that collection of information displays 
a currently valid OMB Control Number.

List of Subjects

50 CFR Part 648

    Fisheries, Fishing, Recordkeeping and reporting requirements.

50 CFR Part 697

    Fisheries, Fishing.

    Dated: March 11, 2014.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
    For the reasons stated in the preamble, 50 CFR parts 648 and 697 
are 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
1a. In Sec.  648.14, revise paragraph (i)(2)(iii)(D) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  648.14.  Prohibitions.

* * * * *
    (i) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (iii) * * *
    (D) Fish for, possess, or land yellowtail flounder from a vessel on 
a scallop fishing trip.
* * * * *
0
2. In Sec.  648.60, revise paragraph (a)(5)(ii)(C) to read as follows:


Sec.  648.60.  Sea scallop access area program requirements.

    (a) * * *
    (5) * * *
    (ii) * * *
    (C) Yellowtail flounder. Such vessel is prohibited from fishing 
for, possessing, or landing yellowtail flounder.
* * * * *
0
3. In Sec.  648.80, revise paragraph (g)(5)(i) to read as follows:


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

* * * * *
    (g) * * *
    (5) * * *
    (i) Nets of mesh size less than 2.5 inches (6.4 cm). A vessel 
lawfully

[[Page 14973]]

fishing for small-mesh multispecies in the GOM/GB, SNE, or MA Regulated 
Mesh Areas, as defined in paragraphs (a), (b), and (c) of this section, 
with nets of mesh size smaller than 2.5 inches (6.4-cm), as measured by 
methods specified in paragraph (f) of this section, may use net 
strengtheners (covers, as described at Sec.  648.23(d)), provided that 
the net strengthener for nets of mesh size smaller than 2.5 inches (6.4 
cm) complies with the provisions specified under Sec.  648.23(c).
* * * * *
0
4. In Sec.  648.85, revise paragraphs (a)(2)(ii) and (b)(6)(iv)(B) and 
add paragraph (a)(2)(iv) to read as follows:


Sec.  648.85.  Special management programs.

    (a) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (ii) TAC Overages. Any overages of the overall Eastern GB cod, 
Eastern GB haddock, and GB yellowtail flounder U.S. TACs caused by an 
overage of the component of the U.S. TAC specified for either the 
common pool, individual sectors, the scallop fishery, or any other 
fishery, pursuant to this paragraph (a)(2) and Sec.  648.90(a)(4), that 
occur in a given fishing year shall be subtracted from the respective 
TAC component responsible for the overage in the following fishing year 
and may be subject to the overall groundfish AM provisions as specified 
in Sec.  648.90(a)(5)(ii) if the overall ACL for a particular stock in 
a given fishing year, specified pursuant to Sec.  648.90(a)(4), is 
exceeded.
* * * * *
    (iv) Inseason TAC Adjustments. For FY 2014 only, the Regional 
Administrator, in consultation with the Council, may adjust the FY 2014 
TACs for the U.S./Canada shared resources inseason consistent with any 
quota trade recommendations made by the TMGC and/or Steering Committee, 
and approved by the Regional Administrator. Any such inseason 
adjustment to the FY 2014 TACs may only increase the TAC available to 
the U.S. fishery, and may not reduce the TAC amount distributed in FY 
2014 to any fishery component as specified in paragraph (a)(2)(iii) of 
this section. The revised FY 2014 TAC(s) shall be distributed 
consistent with the process specified in paragraph (a)(2)(iii) of this 
section. For example, if the U.S. receives additional yellowtail 
flounder TAC in FY 2014, and trades away a portion of its FY 2015 
haddock TAC, the Regional Administrator would increase the FY 2014 U.S. 
TAC for yellowtail flounder inseason consistent with the process 
specified in this paragraph (a)(2)(iv). The adjustment to the FY 2015 
U.S. TAC for haddock would be made as part of the process for 
establishing TACs, as described in paragraph (a)(2)(i)(C) of this 
section.
* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (6) * * *
    (iv) * * *
    (B) Observer notification. For the purposes of selecting vessels 
for observer deployment, a vessel must provide notice to NMFS of the 
vessel name; contact name for coordination of observer deployment; 
telephone number for contact; the date, time, and port of departure; 
and the planned fishing area or areas (GOM, GB, or SNE/MA) at least 48 
hr prior to the beginning of any trip declared into the Regular B DAS 
Program as required by paragraph (b)(6)(iv)(C) of this section, and in 
accordance with the Regional Administrator's instructions. Providing 
notice of the area that the vessel intends to fish does not restrict 
the vessel's activity on that trip to that area only (i.e., the vessel 
operator may change his/her plans regarding planned fishing areas).
* * * * *
0
5. In Sec.  648.87:
0
a. Revise paragraphs (b)(1)(i)(B), (b)(1)(v)(A), and (c)(2);
0
b. Add paragraph (e)(3)(iv); and
0
c. Remove paragraphs (b)(1)(i)(F) through (G) to read as follows:


Sec.  648.87.  Sector allocation.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (B) Eastern GB stocks--(1) Allocation. Each sector allocated ACE 
for stocks managed under the terms of the U.S./Canada Resource Sharing 
Understanding in the Eastern U.S./Canada Area, as specified in Sec.  
648.85(a), shall be allocated a specific portion of the ACE for such 
stocks that can only be harvested from the Eastern U.S./Canada Area, as 
specified in Sec.  648.85(a)(1). The ACE specified for the Eastern 
U.S./Canada Area portions of these stocks shall be proportional to the 
sector's allocation of the overall ACL available to all vessels issued 
a limited access NE multispecies permit for these stocks pursuant to 
Sec.  648.90(a)(4). For example, if a sector is allocated 10 percent of 
the GB cod ACL available to all vessels issued a limited access NE 
multispecies permit, that sector would also be allocated and may 
harvest 10 percent of that ACE from the Eastern U.S./Canada Area. In 
this example, if the overall GB cod ACL available to all vessels issued 
a limited access NE multispecies permit is 1,000 mt, of which 100 mt is 
specified to the Eastern U.S./Canada Area, the sector would be 
allocated 100 mt of GB cod, of which no more than 10 mt could be 
harvested from the Eastern U.S./Canada Area and no more than 90 mt 
could be harvested from the rest of the GB cod stock area.
    (2) Re-allocation of haddock ACE. A sector may re-allocate all, or 
a portion, of a its haddock ACE specified to the Eastern U.S./Canada 
Area, pursuant to paragraph (b)(1)(i)(B)(1) of this section, to the 
Western U.S./Canada Area at any time during the fishing year, and up to 
2 weeks into the following fishing year (i.e., through May 14), unless 
otherwise instructed by NMFS, to cover any overages during the previous 
fishing year. Re-allocation of any ACE only becomes effective upon 
approval by NMFS, as specified in paragraphs (b)(1)(i)(B)(2)(i) through 
(iii) of this section. Re-allocation of haddock ACE may only be made 
within a sector, and not between sectors. For example, if 100 mt of a 
sector's GB haddock ACE is specified to the Eastern U.S./Canada Area, 
the sector could re-allocate up to 100 mt of that ACE to the Western 
U.S./Canada Area.
    (i) Application to re-allocate ACE. GB haddock ACE specified to the 
Eastern U.S./Canada Area may be re-allocated to the Western U.S./Canada 
Area through written request to the Regional Administrator. This 
request must include the name of the sector, the amount of ACE to be 
re-allocated, and the fishing year in which the ACE re-allocation 
applies, as instructed by the Regional Administrator.
    (ii) Approval of request to re-allocate ACE. NMFS shall approve or 
disapprove a request to re-allocate GB haddock ACE provided the sector, 
and its participating vessels, is in compliance with the reporting 
requirements specified in this part. The Regional Administrator shall 
inform the sector in writing, within 2 weeks of the receipt of the 
sector's request, whether the request to re-allocate ACE has been 
approved.
    (iii) Duration of ACE re-allocation. GB haddock ACE that has been 
re-allocated to the Western U.S./Canada Area pursuant to this paragraph 
(b)(1)(i)(B)(2) is only valid for the fishing year in which the re-
allocation is approved, with the exception of any requests that are 
submitted up to 2 weeks into the subsequent fishing year to address any 
potential ACE overages from the previous fishing year, as provided in 
paragraph (b)(1)(iii) of this section, unless otherwise instructed by 
NMFS.
* * * * *
    (v) * * *

[[Page 14974]]

    (A) Discards
    (1) A sector vessel may not discard any legal-sized regulated 
species or ocean pout allocated to sectors pursuant to paragraph 
(b)(1)(i) of this section, unless otherwise required pursuant to Sec.  
648.86(l). Discards of undersized regulated species or ocean pout by a 
sector vessel must be reported to NMFS consistent with the reporting 
requirements specified in paragraph (b)(1)(vi) of this section. 
Discards shall not be included in the information used to calculate a 
vessel's PSC, as described in Sec.  648.87(b)(1)(i)(E), but shall be 
counted against a sector's ACE for each NE multispecies stock allocated 
to a sector.
    (2) GB yellowtail flounder discards. For the purpose of counting 
discards of GB yellowtail flounder against a sector's ACE pursuant to 
paragraph (b)(1)(v)(A)(1) of this section, GB yellowtail flounder 
discards shall be calculated for the following two GB areas for each 
gear type, unless otherwise specified in this paragraph: Statistical 
area 522, by itself, and statistical areas 525, 561, and 562 combined. 
This provision does not change the methods used to estimate discards of 
other groundfish stocks. If the Regional Administrator determines this 
finer stratification of GB yellowtail flounder discards is only 
appropriate for trawl gear, then the Regional Administrator may exclude 
other, non-trawl gears from this stratification method in a manner 
consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act.
* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (2) If a sector is approved, the Regional Administrator shall issue 
a letter of authorization to each vessel operator and/or vessel owner 
participating in the sector. The letter of authorization shall 
authorize participation in the sector operations and may exempt 
participating vessels from any Federal fishing regulation implementing 
the NE multispecies FMP, except those specified in paragraphs (c)(2)(i) 
and (ii) of this section, in order to allow vessels to fish in 
accordance with an approved operations plan, provided such exemptions 
are consistent with the goals and objectives of the FMP. The letter of 
authorization may also include requirements and conditions deemed 
necessary to ensure effective administration of, and compliance with, 
the operations plan and the sector allocation. Solicitation of public 
comment on, and NMFS final determination on such exemptions shall be 
consistent with paragraphs (c)(1) and (2) of this section.
* * * * *
    (e) * * *
    (3) * * *
    (iv) Re-allocation of GB haddock ACE. Subject to the terms and 
conditions of the state-operated permit bank's MOAs with NMFS, a state-
operated permit bank may re-allocate all, or a portion, of its GB 
haddock ACE specified for the Eastern U.S./Canada Area to the Western 
U.S./Canada Area provided it complies with the requirements in 
paragraph (b)(1)(i)(B)(2) of this section.
* * * * *
0
6. In Sec.  648.90:
0
a. Revise paragraphs (a)(2)(iv) through (vii), (a)(4)(i), and 
(a)(4)(iii)(G); and
0
b. Add paragraphs (a)(2)(viii), (a)(5)(iv), and (a)(5)(v) to read as 
follows:


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

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (iv) Rebuilding plan review for GOM cod and American plaice. Based 
on this review of the most current scientific information available, 
the PDT shall determine whether the following conditions are met for 
either stock: The total catch limit has not been exceeded during the 
rebuilding program; new scientific information indicates that the stock 
is below its rebuilding trajectory (i.e., rebuilding has not progressed 
as expected); and Frebuild becomes less than 75% 
FMSY. If all three of these criteria are met, the PDT, and/
or SSC, shall undertake a rebuilding plan review to provide new catch 
advice that includes the following, in priority order: Consideration of 
extending the rebuilding program to the maximum 10 years if a shorter 
time period was initially adopted; review of the biomass reference 
points; and calculation of Frebuild ACLs based on an 
extension of the rebuilding program to 10 years, the review of the 
biomass reference points, and the existing rebuilding plan.
    (v) The Council shall review the ACLs recommended by the PDT and 
all of the options developed by the PDT and other relevant information; 
consider public comment; and develop a recommendation to meet the FMP 
objectives pertaining to regulated species or ocean pout that is 
consistent with applicable law. If the Council does not submit a 
recommendation that meets the FMP objectives and is consistent with 
applicable law, the Regional Administrator may adopt any option 
developed by the PDT, unless rejected by the Council, as specified in 
paragraph (a)(2)(vii) of this section, provided the option meets the 
FMP objectives and is consistent with applicable law.
    (vi) Based on this review, the Council shall submit a 
recommendation to the Regional Administrator of any changes, 
adjustments or additions to DAS allocations, closed areas or other 
measures necessary to achieve the FMP's goals and objectives. The 
Council shall include in its recommendation supporting documents, as 
appropriate, concerning the environmental and economic impacts of the 
proposed action and the other options considered by the Council.
    (vii) If the Council submits, on or before December 1, a 
recommendation to the Regional Administrator after one Council meeting, 
and the Regional Administrator concurs with the recommendation, the 
Regional Administrator shall publish the Council's recommendation in 
the Federal Register as a proposed rule with a 30-day public comment 
period. The Council may instead submit its recommendation on or before 
February 1, if it chooses to follow the framework process outlined in 
paragraph (c) of this section, and requests that the Regional 
Administrator publish the recommendation as a final rule, in a manner 
consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act. If the Regional 
Administrator concurs that the Council's recommendation meets the FMP 
objectives and is consistent with other applicable law, and determines 
that the recommended management measures should be published as a final 
rule, the action will be published as a final rule in the Federal 
Register, in a manner consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act. 
If the Regional Administrator concurs that the recommendation meets the 
FMP objectives and is consistent with other applicable law and 
determines that a proposed rule is warranted, and, as a result, the 
effective date of a final rule falls after the start of the fishing 
year on May 1, fishing may continue. However, DAS used or regulated 
species or ocean pout landed by a vessel on or after May 1 will be 
counted against any DAS or sector ACE allocation the vessel or sector 
ultimately receives for that year, as appropriate.
    (viii) If the Regional Administrator concurs in the Council's 
recommendation, a final rule shall be published in the Federal Register 
on or about April 1 of each year, with the exception noted in paragraph 
(a)(2)(vi) of this section. If the Council fails to submit a 
recommendation to the

[[Page 14975]]

Regional Administrator by February 1 that meets the FMP goals and 
objectives, the Regional Administrator may publish as a proposed rule 
one of the options reviewed and not rejected by the Council, provided 
that the option meets the FMP objectives and is consistent with other 
applicable law. If, after considering public comment, the Regional 
Administrator decides to approve the option published as a proposed 
rule, the action will be published as a final rule in the Federal 
Register.
* * * * *
    (4) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) ABC recommendations. The PDT shall develop ABC recommendations 
based on the ABC control rule, the fishing mortality rate necessary to 
rebuild the stock, guidance from the SSC, and any other available 
information. The PDT recommendations shall be reviewed by the SSC. 
Guided by terms of reference developed by the Council, the SSC shall 
either concur with the ABC recommendations provided by the PDT, or 
provide alternative recommendations for each stock of regulated species 
or ocean pout and describe the elements of scientific uncertainty used 
to develop its recommendations. Should the SSC recommend an ABC that 
differs from that originally recommend by the PDT, the PDT shall revise 
its ACL recommendations if necessary to be consistent with the ABC 
recommendations made by the SSC. In addition to consideration of ABCs, 
the SSC may consider other related issues specified in the terms of 
reference developed by the Council, including, but not limited to, 
OFLs, ACLs, and management uncertainty.
    (B) ACL recommendations. The PDT shall develop ACL recommendations 
based upon ABCs recommended by the SSC and the pertinent 
recommendations of the Transboundary Management Guidance Committee 
(TMGC). The ACL recommendations of the PDT shall be specified based 
upon total catch for each stock (including both landings and discards), 
if that information is available. The PDT shall describe the steps 
involved with the calculation of the recommended ACLs and uncertainties 
and risks considered when developing these recommendations, including 
whether different levels of uncertainties were used for different sub-
components of the fishery and whether ACLs have been exceeded in recent 
years. Based upon the ABC recommendations of the SSC and the ACL 
recommendations of the PDT, the Council shall adopt ACLs that are equal 
to or lower than the ABC recommended by the SSC to account for 
management uncertainty in the fishery.
* * * * *
    (iii) * * *
    (G) GB yellowtail flounder catch by small mesh fisheries--(1) For 
the purposes of this paragraph, the term ``small-mesh fisheries'' is 
defined as vessels fishing with bottom tending mobile gear with a 
codend mesh size of less than 5 in (12.7 cm) in other, non-specified 
sub-components of the fishery, including, but not limited to, exempted 
fisheries that occur in Federal waters and fisheries harvesting 
exempted species specified in Sec.  648.80(b)(3).
    (2) Small-mesh fisheries allocation. GB yellowtail flounder catch 
by the small-mesh fisheries, as defined in paragraph (a)(4)(iii)(G)(1) 
of this section, shall be deducted from the ABC/ACL for GB yellowtail 
flounder pursuant to the process to specify ABCs and ACLs, as described 
in this paragraph (a)(4). This small mesh fishery shall be allocated 2 
percent of the GB yellowtail ABC (U.S. share only) in fishing year 2013 
and each fishing year after, pursuant to the process for specifying 
ABCs and ACLs described in this paragraph (a)(4). An ACL based on this 
ABC shall be determined using the process described in paragraph 
(a)(4)(i) of this section.
    (5) * * *
    (iv) AMs if the sub-ACL for the Atlantic sea scallop fishery is 
exceeded. At the end of the scallop fishing year, NMFS shall evaluate 
Atlantic sea scallop fishery catch to determine whether a scallop 
fishery sub-ACL has been exceeded. On January 15, or when information 
is available to make an accurate projection, NMFS will also determine 
whether the overall ACL for each stock allocated to the scallop fishery 
has been exceeded. When evaluating whether the overall ACL has been 
exceeded, NMFS will add the maximum carryover available to sectors, as 
specified at Sec.  648.87(b)(1)(i)(C), to the estimate of total catch 
for the pertinent stock. If catch by scallop vessels exceeds the 
pertinent sub-ACL specified in paragraph (a)(4)(iii)(C) of this section 
by 50 percent or more, or if scallop catch exceeds the scallop fishery 
sub-ACL and the overall ACL for that stock is also exceeded, then the 
applicable scallop fishery AM shall take effect, as specified in Sec.  
648.64 of the Atlantic sea scallop regulations.
    (v) AM if the small-mesh fisheries GB yellowtail flounder sub-ACL 
is exceeded. If NMFS determines that the sub-ACL of GB yellowtail 
flounder allocated to the small-mesh fisheries, pursuant to paragraph 
(a)(4)(iii)(G) of this section, is exceeded, NMFS shall implement the 
AM specified in this paragraph consistent with the Administrative 
Procedures Act. The AM requires that small-mesh fisheries vessels, as 
defined in paragraph (a)(4)(iii)(G)(1) of this section, use one of the 
following approved selective trawl gear in the GB yellowtail flounder 
stock area, as defined at Sec.  648.85(b)(6)(v)(H):, A haddock 
separator trawl, as specified in Sec.  648.85(a)(3)(iii)(A); a Ruhle 
trawl, as specified in Sec.  648.85(b)(6)(iv)(J)(3); a rope separator 
trawl, as specified in Sec.  648.84(e); or any other gear approved 
consistent with the process defined in Sec.  648.85(b)(6). If reliable 
information is available, the AM shall be implemented in the fishing 
year immediately following the year in which the overage occurred only 
if there is sufficient time to do so in a manner consistent with the 
Administrative Procedures Act. Otherwise, the AM shall be implemented 
in the second fishing year after the fishing year in which the overage 
occurred. For example, if NMFS determined after the start of Year 2 
that the small-mesh fisheries sub-ACL for GB yellowtail flounder was 
exceeded in Year 1, the applicable AM would be implemented at the start 
of Year 3. If updated catch information becomes available subsequent to 
the implementation of an AM that indicates that an overage of the 
small-mesh fisheries sub-ACL did not occur, NMFS shall rescind the AM, 
consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act.
* * * * *

PART 697--ATLANTIC COASTAL FISHERIES COOPERATIVE MANAGEMENT

0
7. The authority citation for part 697 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 5101 et seq.

0
8. In Sec.  697.7, revise paragraphs (c)(1)(xxii) and (c)(2)(xvii) to 
read as follows:


Sec.  697.7.  Prohibitions.

* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (xxii) Possess, deploy, fish with, haul, harvest lobster from, or 
carry aboard a vessel any lobster trap gear, on a fishing trip in the 
EEZ from a vessel that fishes for, takes, catches, or harvests lobster 
by a method other than lobster traps.
* * * * *
    (2) * * *
    (xvii) Possess, deploy, fish with, haul, harvest lobster from, or 
carry aboard a vessel any lobster trap gear on a fishing trip in the 
EEZ on a vessel that fishes

[[Page 14976]]

for, takes, catches, or harvests lobster by a method other than lobster 
traps.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2014-05779 Filed 3-14-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P