[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 52 (Tuesday, March 18, 2014)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 15046-15047]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-05920]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 120731291-2522-02]
RIN 0648-XD167


Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Atlantic Mackerel, 
Squid, and Butterfish Fisheries; Butterfish Trip Limit Reduction

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

ACTION: Temporary rule; inseason action.

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SUMMARY: NMFS announces that the butterfish trip limit for longfin 
squid/butterfish moratorium permit holders will be reduced to no more 
than 5,000 lb (2.27 mt), effective 0001 hours, March 18, 2014. Vessels 
issued a Federal longfin squid/butterfish moratorium permit and using 
greater than 3-inch (76-mm) mesh may not fish for, catch, possess or 
land more than 5,000 lb (2.27 mt) of butterfish per trip or calendar 
day for the remainder of the year (through December 31, 2014). The 
possession limit remains unchanged at 2,500-lb (1.13 mt) per trip or 
calendar day for vessels issued a Federal longfin squid/butterfish 
moratorium permit and fishing with less than 3-inch (76-mm). The 
incidental possession limit also remains unchanged at 600 lb (0.27 mt). 
Federally permitted dealers also may not purchase more than 5,000 lb 
(2.27 mt) of butterfish from federally permitted vessels per trip or 
per day, through December 31, 2014. This action is necessary to prevent 
the fishery from exceeding the domestic annual harvest (DAH) of 2,570 
mt, and to allow for effective management of this stock.

DATES: Effective 0001 hours, March 18, 2014, through 2400 hours, 
December 31, 2014.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Regulations at 50 CFR part 648 govern the 
butterfish fishery. The regulations require specifications for maximum 
sustainable yield, initial optimum yield, allowable biological catch, 
annual catch limit (ACL), domestic annual harvest (DAH), domestic 
annual processing (DAP), joint venture processing, and total allowable 
levels of foreign fishing for the species managed under the Atlantic 
Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish (MSB) Fishery Management Plan (FMP). 
The procedures for setting the annual initial specifications are 
described in Sec.  648.22. The 2013 MSB specifications set the 2013 
butterfish DAH at 2,570 mt (77 FR 3346, January 16, 2013). The 
regulations at Sec.  648.22(d) state that, if annual specifications for 
the MSB fisheries are not published in the Federal Register prior to 
the start of the fishing year (January 1), the previous year's annual 
specifications, will remain in effect. A proposed rule for 2014 MSB 
specifications and management measures was published on January 10, 
2014 (79 FR 1813), and the public comment period for the proposed rule 
ended on February 10, 2014. A final rule is expected shortly, after 
which the 2014 specifications will go into effect and supersede the 
2013 specifications.

[[Page 15047]]

    Due to the increase in the butterfish DAH from previous years, the 
2013 MSB specifications implemented a 3-phase butterfish management 
system to allow for maximum utilization of the butterfish resource 
without exceeding the stock-wide ACL. In phase 1, there is no trip 
limit for vessels issued longfin squid/butterfish moratorium permits 
using mesh greater than or equal to 3 inches (76 mm), a 2,500-lb (1.13-
mt) trip limit for longfin squid/butterfish moratorium permits using 
mesh less than 3 inches (76 mm), and a trip limit of 600 lb (0.27 mt) 
for vessels issued squid/butterfish incidental catch permits. Once 
butterfish harvest reaches the trip hold reduction threshold to move 
from phase 1 to phase 2, the trip limit for longfin squid/butterfish 
moratorium permit holders will be reduced while in phase 2 to 5,000 lb 
(2.27 mt) for vessels using greater than or equal to 3-inch (7.62 cm) 
mesh. The limit remains unchanged at 2,500-lb (1.13 mt) per trip or 
calendar day for vessels issued a Federal longfin squid/butterfish 
moratorium permits and fishing with less than 3-inch (76-mm); and the 
incidental limit remains at 600 lb (0.27 mt). When we project 
butterfish harvest to reach the trip hold reduction thresholds to move 
from phase 2 to phase 3, the trip limit for all longfin squid/
butterfish moratorium permit holders will be reduced while in phase 3 
to 500 lb (0.23 mt) to avoid quota overages. For phases 2 and 3, the 
quota thresholds to reduce the trip limits will vary bimonthly 
throughout the year.
    Section 648.24 requires NMFS to reduce the butterfish trip limits 
for vessels issued longfin squid/butterfish moratorium permits when 
butterfish harvest reaches the trip limit reduction threshold to move 
from phase 1 to phase 2. When butterfish harvest reaches the trip limit 
reduction threshold to move from phase 1 to phase 2, vessels fishing 
with a minimum mesh size of 3 inches (76 mm) are prohibited from 
fishing for, catching, possessing, or landing more than 5,000 lb (2.27 
mt) per trip or per day. Trip limits for vessels issued longfin squid/
butterfish moratorium permits fishing with mesh less than 3 inches (76 
mm) remain at 2,500 lb (1.13 mt) of butterfish per trip, and the 
incidental trip limit remains at 600 mt (0.27 lb).
    NMFS is further required to notify the Executive Directors of the 
Mid-Atlantic, New England, and South Atlantic Fishery Management 
Councils; mail notification of the trip limit reduction to all holders 
of butterfish permits at least 72 hr before the effective date of the 
trip limit reduction; provide adequate notice of the trip limit 
reduction to recreational participants in the fishery; and publish 
notification of the trip limit reduction in the Federal Register.
    The Administrator, Greater Atlantic Region, NMFS, based on dealer 
reports and other available information, has determined that butterfish 
harvest has reached the phase 2 trip limit reduction of 47 percent. 
Therefore, effective 0001 hours, March 18, 2014, the directed 
butterfish fishery is operating under phase 2, and vessels issued 
Federal longfin squid/butterfish moratorium permits may not fish for, 
catch, possess or land more than 5,000 lb (2.27 mt) of butterfish per 
trip or calendar day when fishing with mesh size greater than 3 inches 
(76 mm). Trip limits for vessels issued longfin squid/butterfish 
moratorium permits fishing with mesh less than 3 inches (76 mm) will 
remain at 2,500 lb (1.13 mt) of butterfish per trip and the incidental 
trip limit will remain at 600 lb (0.27 mt). If or when butterfish 
harvest is projected to reach the phase 3 trip limit reduction 
threshold specified for 2013, butterfish trip limits for longfin squid/
butterfish moratorium permit holders will be reduced to 500 lb (0.23 
mt), regardless of mesh size used, through a subsequent action in the 
Federal Register.

Classification

    This action is required by 50 CFR part 648, and is exempt from 
review under Executive Order 12866.
    The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA (AA), finds good 
cause pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive prior notice and the 
opportunity for public comment because it would be contrary to the 
public interest. This action reduces the butterfish trip limit for 
vessels issued longfin squid/butterfish moratorium permits, under 
current regulations. The regulations at Sec.  648.24 require such 
action to ensure that butterfish vessels do not exceed the 2013 DAH. 
Data indicating the butterfish fleet will have landed at least 50 
percent of the 2013 DAH have only recently become available. If NMFS 
delays the implementation of this trip limit reduction in order to 
solicit prior public comment, butterfish harvest may continue to 
increase without sufficient effort control, thereby undermining the 
conservation objectives of the FMP. The AA further finds, pursuant to 5 
U.S.C. 553(d)(3), good cause to waive the 30-day delayed effectiveness 
period for the reasons stated above.

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

    Dated: March 13, 2014.
Emily H. Menashes,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-05920 Filed 3-13-14; 4:15 pm]
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