[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 65 (Friday, April 4, 2014)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 18834-18844]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-07610]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 130903775-4276-02]
RIN 0648-BD65


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

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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

DATES: Effective April 4, 2014.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the 2014 specifications document, including the 
Environmental Assessment (EA), is available from John K. Bullard, 
Regional Administrator, Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office 
(formerly Northeast Regional Office), National Marine Fisheries 
Service, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. This document 
is also accessible via the Internet at http://www.nero.noaa.gov. NMFS 
prepared a Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (FRFA), which is 
contained in the Classification section of this rule. Copies of the 
FRFA and the Small Entity Compliance Guide are available from: John K. 
Bullard, Regional Administrator, at the address provided above.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Specifications, as referred to in this rule, are the combined suite 
of commercial and recreational catch levels established for 1 or more 
FYs. The specification process also allows for the modification of a 
select number of management measures, such as closure thresholds, gear 
restrictions, and possession limits. The Mid-Atlantic Fishery 
Management Council's (Council) process for establishing specifications 
relies on provisions within the Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and 
Butterfish (MSB) Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and its implementing 
regulations, as well as requirements established by the Magnuson-
Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). 
Specifically, section 302(g)(1)(B) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act states 
that the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) for each Regional 
Fishery Management Council shall provide its Council ongoing scientific 
advice for fishery management decisions, including recommendations for 
acceptable biological catch (ABC), preventing overfishing, maximum 
sustainable yield, and achieving rebuilding targets. The ABC is a level 
of catch that accounts for the scientific uncertainty in the estimate 
of the stock's defined overfishing level (OFL).
    The Council's SSC met on May 15 and 16, 2013, confirming FY 2014 
specifications for Illex squid, longfin squid, and Atlantic mackerel 
(mackerel) and recommending ABCs for the FY 2014 butterfish 
specifications. A proposed rule for FY 2014 MSB specifications and 
management measures was published on January 10, 2014 (79 FR 1813); the 
public comment period for the proposed rule ended February 10, 2014. 
NMFS set the specifications for longfin squid and Illex squid for 3 
years in 2012 (77 FR 51858; August 27, 2012) and for mackerel in 2013 
(78 FR 3346; January 16, 2013). Information on these specifications is 
not included in this action (except for in Table 1), but can be found 
in the final rules for those actions, as referenced above.
    The MSB regulations require the specification of annual catch 
limits (ACL) and accountability measures (AM) for mackerel and 
butterfish (both

[[Page 18835]]

squid species are exempt from the ACL/AM requirements because they have 
a life cycle of less than 1 year). In addition, the regulations require 
the specification of domestic annual harvest (DAH), domestic annual 
processing (DAP), and total allowable level of foreign fishing (TALFF), 
along with joint venture processing for (JVP) commercial and 
recreational annual catch totals (ACT) for mackerel, the butterfish 
mortality cap in the longfin squid fishery, and initial optimum yield 
(IOY) for both squid species. Details concerning the Council's 
development of these measures were presented in the preamble of the 
proposed rule and are not repeated here.
    The Council recommended that up to 3 percent of the total ACL for 
mackerel, up to 3 percent of the IOY for Illex and longfin squid, and 
up to 2 percent of the butterfish ACT could be set aside to fund 
projects selected under the 2014 Mid-Atlantic Research Set-Aside (RSA) 
Program. The final RSA allocation for longfin squid, 635 mt, is 
subtracted from the IOY for longfin squid in the table below. The 
butterfish award, 115 mt, is accounted for within the 1,106-mt 
unallocated portion of the butterfish ACT that covers discards in other 
fisheries (i.e., the ACL minus the Commercial ACT), and is thus not 
reflected in the table below.

  Table 1--Final Specifications, in Metric Tons (mt), for Mackerel for
 2013-2015, Butterfish for FY 2014, and Longfin and Illex Squid for the
                        FY 2013-2014 Fishing Year
------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Specifications           Mackerel   Butterfish   Illex   Longfin
------------------------------------------------------------------------
OFL...........................  Unknown    18,200       Unknow  Unknown
                                                         n
ABC...........................  43,781     9,100        24,000  23,400
ACL...........................  43,781     9,100        N/A     N/A
Commercial ACT................  34,907     8,190        N/A     N/A
Recreational ACT/RHL..........  2,443      N/A          N/A     N/A
IOY...........................  N/A        N/A          22,915  21,810
DAH/DAP.......................  33,821     3,200        22,915  21,810
JVP...........................  0          N/A          N/A     N/A
TALFF.........................  0          0            N/A     N/A
RSA...........................  N/A        **           N/A     635
Butterfish Mortality Cap......             3,884
------------------------------------------------------------------------
** Part of ACT that accounts for discards in other fisheries.

Final FY 2014 Specifications for Butterfish

    Details regarding the derivation of the Council's recommended 
butterfish specifications were included in the proposed rule, and are 
not repeated here. This action establishes the butterfish 
specifications as recommended by the Council. The butterfish ACL is set 
equal to the ABC, and there is a 10-percent buffer between ACL and ACT 
for management uncertainty, which results in an ACT of 8,190 mt. The 
DAH and DAP are set at 3,200 mt, and the butterfish discard cap in the 
longfin fishery is maintained at 3,884 mt. The remaining 1,106 mt of 
the ACT allows for discards in other fisheries to minimize the 
likelihood of an ACL overage, and covers the RSA allocation of 115 mt. 
Additionally, consistent with MSB regulations, butterfish TALFF is set 
at zero for FY 2014. Butterfish TALFF is only specified to address 
bycatch by foreign fleets targeting mackerel TALFF. Because no mackerel 
TALFF was allocated for FYs 2013-2015, butterfish TALFF is also set at 
zero.
    Consistent with FY 2013, the FY 2014 butterfish mortality cap is 
allocated by Trimester, as follows:

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

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

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


[[Page 18836]]

    This action implements the following quota thresholds to reduce the 
trip limits for Phases 2 and 3 (Tables 4 and 5):

   Table 4--Butterfish Thresholds for Reducing Trip Limits for Phase 2
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                            Trip limit
                                             reduction      Butterfish
                 Months                      threshold        harvest
                                             (percent)     (metric tons)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jan-Feb.................................              52           1,658
Mar-Apr.................................              57           1,838
May-Jun.................................              64           2,044
Jul-Aug.................................              70           2,249
Sept-Oct................................              77           2,455
Nov-Dec.................................              82           2,635
------------------------------------------------------------------------


   Table 5--Butterfish Thresholds for Reducing Trip Limits for Phase 3
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                            Trip limit
                                             reduction      Butterfish
                 Months                      threshold        harvest
                                             (percent)     (metric tons)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jan-Feb.................................              66           2,121
Mar-Apr.................................              71           2,275
May-Jun.................................              77           2,455
Jul-Aug.................................              82           2,635
Sept-Oct................................              88           2,815
Nov-Dec.................................              93           2,969
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Proposed River Herring and Shad Catch Cap in the Mackerel Fishery

    This action establishes a river herring and shad (RH/S) catch cap 
in the mackerel fishery. In order to limit RH/S catch, Amendment 14 to 
the FMP (79 FR 10029, February 24, 2014) includes the provision to 
allow the Council to set a RH/S cap. However, the actual value of the 
cap must be set through annual specifications. As such, this action 
implements the Council's recommended RH/S catch cap of 236 mt, which 
represents the estimated median amount of RH/S that would have been 
caught, had the commercial mackerel fishery landed its current quota of 
33,821 mt for each year during 2005-2012, based on analysis of observer 
and landings. RH/S caught on all trips that land 20,000 lb (9.07 mt) or 
more of mackerel count against the cap. Once NMFS estimates that 
directed mackerel trips have caught 95 percent of the 236-mt RH/S cap, 
the directed mackerel fishery will close, and NMFS will institute a 
20,000-lb (9.07-mt) mackerel trip limit, as currently occurs if the 
directed mackerel fishery closes. The RH/S cap amount should create a 
strong incentive for the fleet to avoid RH/S, allows for the 
possibility of the full mackerel quota to be caught if the fleet can 
avoid RH/S, and should reduce RH/S catches over time, compared to what 
would occur without a cap, given recent data.

Longfin Squid Possession Limit Increase

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

Corrections

    This final rule also makes minor corrections to existing 
regulations, and reinstates regulations that were inadvertently deleted 
in previous rulemakings. NMFS implements these adjustments under the 
authority of section 305(d) to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which provides 
that the Secretary of Commerce may promulgate regulations necessary to 
ensure that amendments to an FMP are carried out in accordance with the 
FMP and the Magnuson-Stevens Act. These adjustments, which are 
identified and described below, are necessary to clarify current 
regulations or the intent of the FMP and do not substantively impact 
any existing regulations.
    NMFS corrects references to a now obsolete section of the 
regulatory text at Sec.  648.26(a)(1)(iii). NMFS clarifies the 
coordinates at Sec.  648.23(a)(3) to more accurately define the Illex 
exemption line. Most significantly, this action proposes to create a 
southern boundary for the exemption by extending the southernmost point 
eastward until it intersects with the boundary of the Exclusive 
Economic Zone. In addition, this rule reinstates the coordinates for 
the MSB bottom trawling restricted areas (i.e., Oceanographer Canyon 
and Lydonia Canyon) at Sec.  648.23(a)(4), and the Tier 3 closure 
threshold for the mackerel fishery at Sec.  648.24(b)(1)(ii), which 
were inadvertently deleted in previous rulemakings.

Comments and Responses

    NMFS received 101 comments on the proposed rule. Four were from 
industry groups, including the Garden State Seafood Association (GSSA), 
Lund's Fisheries Incorporated (Lund's), the Cape Cod Commercial 
Fishermen's Alliance (CCCFA), and the Angler's Conservation Network 
(ACN). Four were from environmental groups, including the Herring 
Alliance, Wild Oceans, the Pew Charitable Trusts (Pew), and The Natural 
Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The remaining 93 comments were from 
individuals. Only comments relevant to the measures considered the 2014 
Specifications and Management Measures are addressed below. Comments 
related to other fishery management actions or general fishery 
management practices are not addressed here.

Comments on Butterfish Specifications and Management Measures

    Comment 1: GSSA and Lund's both commented in support of the 
Council's recommended butterfish specifications, including the DAH, the 
butterfish mortality cap, and the 3-phase butterfish management system. 
Both groups look forward to the opportunity to for a directed 
butterfish fishery in 2014.
    Response: NMFS is implementing the specifications as proposed.
    Comment 2: GSSA and Lund's both commented in support of the 
proposed increase to the Phase 3 butterfish possession limit for 
longfin squid/butterfish moratorium permit holders.
    Response: NMFS concurs with the commenters, and believes that 
aligning the incidental butterfish possession limit and the Phase 3 
possession limit for longfin squid/butterfish moratorium permit holders 
will reduce regulatory confusion.
    Comment 3: One individual commented that there should be no 
increase in butterfish catch, and that the increase has no basis in 
fact.
    Response: NFMS disagrees. As described in the proposed rule for 
this

[[Page 18837]]

action, the Council's recommended specifications are based on a NMFS 
Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) analysis that suggested that 
increasing the butterfish ABC to 9,100 mt (from 8,400 mt in 2013) would 
be extremely unlikely to cause overfishing if the 2014 butterfish 
biomass were similar to butterfish biomass from 2006-2012. In addition, 
the NEFSC recently completed an assessment for butterfish, which found 
that butterfish stock is not overfished and overfishing is not 
occurring (Northeast Fisheries Science Center. 2014. 58th Northeast 
Regional Stock Assessment Workshop (58th SAW) Assessment Summary 
Report. US Dept Commer, Northeast Fish Sci Cent Ref Doc. 14-03; 44 p. 
Available from: National Marine Fisheries Service, 166 Water Street, 
Woods Hole, MA 02543-1026, or online at http://nefsc.noaa.gov/publications/).
    Comment 4: One individual commented that there should be a 
commercial cap on butterfish catch. The commenter stated that trawlers 
devastate the butterfish population in certain areas and ruin fishing 
for recreational fisherman. The commenter went on to state that 
butterfish are an important forage species for striped bass, and that, 
when butterfish populations are low, fishing for striped bass and 
bluefish are virtually nonexistent because these predatory fish migrate 
to areas where more forage fish are available.
    Response: NMFS notes that total commercial butterfish catch is 
limited by the butterfish ABC. Overall catch recommendations by the 
Council and the SSC are based on fishery stock assessments, which take 
natural mortality (including predation) into account. Although 
difficult to account for with available information, the role of 
species like butterfish in the complex ocean ecosystem is therefore 
considered in setting allocations. NMFS conducts research and 
investigates ways of incorporating ecosystem approaches into management 
that in the future could be considered for species like butterfish.

Comment on the Post-Closure Longfin Squid Possession Limit Increase

    Comment 5: GSSA commented in support of the proposed increase to 
the Trimester II post-closure longfin squid possession limit for 
vessels targeting Illex squid.
    Response: NMFS concurs with the commenters. Increasing the 
Trimester II post-closure longfin squid possession limit should reduce 
regulatory discarding on Illex squid trips.

Comments on the River Herring and Shad Catch Cap

    Comment 6: GSSA and Lund's expressed concern that the 236-mt RH/S 
catch cap will jeopardize the optimum yield (OY) of the mackerel 
fishery if it returns this winter and spring. They noted that National 
Standard 1 requires the maintenance of OY for the U.S. fishing industry 
on a continuing basis.
    Response: The Council's recommendation of 236 mt represents the 
estimated median amount of RH/S that would have been caught, had the 
commercial mackerel fishery landed its current quota of 33,821 mt for 
each year during 2005-2012, based on analysis of observer and landings. 
According to the National Standard 1 guidelines, OY is achieved by 
balancing the objectives of the fishery management plan with the 
various interests that comprise the greatest benefit to the nation, 
while at the same time preventing overfishing of the stock in question. 
As discussed in the EA for 2013 MSB Specifications, the most recent 
action to set mackerel specifications, the established mackerel quotas 
are designed to prevent overfishing while allowing for the fishery to 
catch the specified quota. As noted in the Council's analysis for 2014 
MSB Specifications, the recommended RH/S cap level is intended to allow 
the mackerel fishery to catch its full quota if it achieves a 
relatively low RH/S encounter rate. This means that the selected RH/S 
quota should allow the fishery to achieve OY. NMFS agrees that the RH/S 
cap amount should create a strong incentive for the fleet to avoid RH/S 
while allowing for the possibility of the full mackerel quota to be 
caught.
    Comment 7: GSSA and Lund's acknowledged the fishing industry's 
responsibility to reduce RH/S catch, as required by National Standard 
9, but note that the industry has been actively engaged in bycatch 
reductions for these species for several years as part of the ongoing 
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth School of Marine Science and 
Technology (SMAST) and Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries 
(MADMF) bycatch avoidance and shoreside monitoring program. They 
expressed disappointment that the bycatch avoidance program is 
sufficient to reduce Atlantic sea scallop fleet interactions with 
yellowtail flounder, but that it is not good enough for managing the 
region's pelagic fisheries.
    Response: The Atlantic sea scallop fishery does not depend on the 
SMAST/MADMF bycatch avoidance program to limit yellowtail flounder 
bycatch. Rather, the scallop fishery is subject to a cap on yellowtail 
catch that, if exceeded, results in area and seasonal closures of the 
scallop fishery. Each fishing year, the New England Fishery Management 
Council and NMFS set limits on the amount of yellowtail flounder that 
the scallop fishery can catch. If the scallop fishery exceeds its 
limits, seasonal area closures are triggered. The avoidance program 
helps the scallop fishery remain below the applicable yellowtail sub-
ACL, which is what the river herring bycatch avoidance program would 
help the mackerel fishery do in the face of the new RH/S catch cap.
    Comment 8: GSSA and Lund's asserted that the cap has no biological 
foundation and no measurable benefits to RH/S.
    Response: As noted in the Amendment 14 final rule, data from the 
recent Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) assessments 
for RH/S are insufficient to determine a biologically based catch cap 
for these species, and/or the potential effects on these populations if 
a catch cap is implemented on a coast-wide scale. In the absence of 
biologically based data, the cap is based on recent RH/S catch in the 
mackerel fishery. The Council and NMFS believe that capping the allowed 
level of RH/S catch in the mackerel fishery should provide an incentive 
for the industry to avoid RH/S, and may help to minimize, but will at 
least limit encounters with these species. Though it is difficult to 
measure the benefits of the catch cap on RH/S stocks without absolute 
abundance estimates, NMFS believes that, until better stock status 
information is available, implementing a cap will allow for better 
characterization of RH/S encounters in the mackerel fishery, and 
prevent RH/S catch from increasing beyond current levels.
    Comment 9: GSSA and Lund's recommended that the 456-mt cap 
considered by the Council be applied during FY 2014. They believe the 
higher cap will increase the chances that the fleet will be able to 
target mackerel, should they return in abundance this year.
    Response: The Council's analysis suggested that, by setting the RH/
S cap at 456 mt, the mackerel industry would only have to avoid RH/S 
encounter rates similar to those observed in 2007 and 2012, the 2 
recent years with the highest RH/S encounter rates, in order to catch 
the entire mackerel quota without attaining the RH/S cap. The Council 
determined, and NMFS agrees, that the 456-mt cap would not provide 
sufficient incentive for industry to continue to avoid RH/S. The 
selected 236-mt cap is expected to allow the fleet to catch the

[[Page 18838]]

entire mackerel quota if RH/S interactions are kept to a minimum.
    Comment 10: GSSA and Lund's asserted that the midwater trawl fleet 
is being accused of negatively impacting the region's RH/S stocks 
without evidence, and without attempts to assign relative mortality to 
the range of issues facing RH/S recovery in the region. They note that 
the region's alewife runs are dramatically improving as habitat is 
reclaimed and environmental factors have provided for good recruitment 
in recent years.
    Response: The impacts of RH/S catch in the mackerel fishery are not 
clear. Despite some signs of recovery for RH/S in some regions, the 
assessments of these species have concluded that they are depleted and 
that commercial fishing is a contributing factor. The Council 
recommended, and NMFS agrees with, addressing this by establishing the 
RH/S cap for the mackerel fishery. NMFS has also established a working 
group to evaluate all threats to river herring populations and possible 
solutions and ways of protecting river herring, and shad would benefit 
from the ultimate measures aimed at protecting river herring.
    Comment 11: The NRDC, Pew, the Herring Alliance, ACN, CCCFA, Wild 
Oceans, and 91 individuals commented in support of a RH/S cap that 
would close the directed mackerel fishery when 95 percent of the cap 
has been reached. Commenters point to the depleted state of RH/S 
stocks, and the importance of these species as food sources for ocean 
predators. They also assert that the cap will provide strong incentive 
for offshore trawlers to avoid these fish in order to catch their 
target species.
    Response: NMFS concurs with the commenters, and believes the RH/S 
cap should create an incentive for the fleet to avoid RH/S while 
allowing for the operation of the mackerel fishery.
    Comment 12: The NRDC, Pew, the Herring Alliance, and ACN urged NMFS 
to retroactively account for all RH/S catches from January 1, 2014, 
forward. These groups also urged NMFS to implement the RH/S cap as soon 
as possible and waive the 30-day delay of the final rule's effective 
date for good cause. Pew and the Herring Alliance noted that a majority 
of mackerel landings happen from January to April, and that the 
greatest incidental catch of RH/S will likely occur during these 
months. Pew and the Herring Alliance went on to state that, if RH/S 
catch after January 1, 2014, meets or exceeds the cap, NMFS should 
close the mackerel fishery immediately to prevent additional, 
significant catch. Pew and the Herring Alliance argued that similar 
actions form a strong precedent to waive the 30-day delay in 
effectiveness for the final rule. They cite that NMFS waived the 30-day 
delay in effectiveness for midwater trawl vessels in Closed Area I (CA 
I) because a delay would have failed to increase observer coverage and 
control at-sea dumping of unsampled catch in time for an annual pulse 
of effort in CA I, and that this delay would have pushed back data 
collection by up to 1 year (74 FR 56567; November 2, 2009).
    Response: NMFS will retroactively account for RH/S catch in the 
mackerel fishery from January 1, 2014, to the present. Given our intent 
to retroactively account for RH/S catch, we believe a waiver of the 30-
day delay in effectiveness is justified so that NMFS is able to enforce 
a closure of the mackerel fishery related to the RH/S cap, should that 
become necessary.
    Comment 13: Wild Oceans asked that, in lieu of Wild Oceans' 
preferred course of managing RH/S in a Federal FMP, NMFS devote the 
resources necessary to facilitate comprehensive conservation of RH/S 
throughout state and Federal waters, by coordinating management across 
Council jurisdictions (Mid-Atlantic and New England) and overlapping 
fisheries (Atlantic herring and mackerel).
    Response: NMFS is committed to engaging in proactive, coordinated 
conservation efforts for RH/S. NMFS considers river herring to be a 
species of concern, but recently (78 FR 48944, August 12, 2013) 
determined that listing river herring as either threatened or 
endangered under the Endangered Species Act is not warranted at this 
time. Following this determination, NMFS established a technical 
working group and continues to work closely with the ASMFC and other 
partners to develop a long-term, dynamic conservation plan for river 
herring from Canada to Florida. The working group will evaluate the 
impact of ongoing restoration and conservation efforts (e.g., the RH/S 
caps in the mackerel and Atlantic herring fisheries), as well as new 
fisheries management measures, which should benefit the species. It 
will also review new information produced from ongoing research, 
including genetic analyses, ocean migration pattern research, and 
climate change impact studies, to assess whether recent reports showing 
higher river herring counts in the last 2 years represent sustained 
trends. NMFS is also committed to working with partners and tribal 
governments to continue implementing important conservation efforts and 
fund needed research for river herring. NMFS intends to revisit its 
river herring status determination within the next 5 years.
    Comment 14: The Herring Alliance, Pew, and ACN also requested 
management of RH/S in a Federal FMP, and argued that, while the 
proposed catch cap is a first step, it is ultimately insufficient to 
prevent further population declines. They stated that the Magnuson-
Stevens Act requires all stocks in need of conservation and management 
to be added to an FMP, and that an FMP would align Federal management 
more closely with state moratoria and sustainable fishery plans.
    Response: The issue of Federal management of RH/S in an FMP is not 
considered in this action. The Council initiated Amendment 15 to the 
MSB FMP to explore the need for conservation and management of RH/S, 
and analyze all of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and 
Management Act (MSA) provisions (i.e., management reference points, 
description and delineation of essential fish habitat, etc.) required 
for a Federal FMP. Scoping for MSB Amendment 15 began in October 2012 
(77 FR 65867). The Council completed a document that examined a range 
of issues related to Federal management for RH/S. The document 
presented legal requirements for managing species under the MSA, the 
existing management and protection of RH/S, and the potential benefits 
of managing them under the MSA in contrast to the other authorities 
already providing protection. After reviewing the document, the Council 
determined at its October 2013 meeting that it should not go forward 
with the development of Amendment 15 at this time. The Council's 
decision was based on a range of considerations related to ongoing RH/S 
conservation and management efforts, including conservation efforts for 
RH/S at the local, state and Federal level, the pending incidental 
catch caps for RH/S in the Atlantic mackerel and Atlantic herring 
fisheries, the recent determination by NMFS that river herring are not 
endangered or threatened, and the NMFS commitment to expand engagement 
in river herring conservation following the ESA determination. The 
Council also decided to re-evaluate Federal management of RH/S in 3 
years after a number of other actions related to RH/S conservation have 
been implemented.
    Comment 15: Wild Oceans, Pew, the Herring Alliance, and ACN 
expressed concerns about the ability of NMFS to monitor and enforce the 
cap, given that key measures in MSB Amendment 14 were disapproved. They 
state that 100-

[[Page 18839]]

percent observer coverage on large capacity vessels and accountability 
measures to curtail the discarding of catch at-sea (slippage) are 
essential to an effective RH/S cap, given the fleet's fishing capacity 
and its demonstrated propensity for episodic, high impact bycatch 
events.
    Response: While increases to observer coverage may improve the 
quality of data used to determine the rate of RH/S bycatch in the 
mackerel fishery, NMFS disagrees that the RH/S catch cap cannot be 
administered without the observer coverage and slippage cap measures 
disapproved in Amendment 14. Several key measures approved in Amendment 
14 will be instrumental in administration of the cap. Amendment 14 
implemented a pre-trip notification requirement for the mackerel 
fishery to help with the identification of directed mackerel trips and 
the placement of observers on those trips. Amendment 14 also expanded 
sampling requirements to assist observers in the successful and 
complete collection of data on observed trips, and instituted a 
prohibition on slippage on observed mackerel trips.
    In addition, the Council and NMFS are moving forward with the 
development of actions to address the disapproved observer coverage 
measures and the slippage cap. To address the disapproved observer 
coverage measures, NMFS has taken the lead on an omnibus amendment that 
would create the framework for industry-funded monitoring programs for 
all Northeast FMPs. The amendment will activate industry-funded 
observer coverage when NMFS has funding available to cover its costs to 
administer these programs. The omnibus amendment also includes coverage 
targets for the Atlantic mackerel fishery.
    To address the disapproved slippage cap, the Council recently took 
final action on Framework Adjustment 9 to the MSB FMP at its February 
2014 meeting. The Council selected an alternative that would require 
vessels to return to port if they release catch prior to making it 
available for sampling by an observer for reasons other than safety 
concerns, mechanical failure, or dogfish clogging the pump. The Council 
is finalizing the analysis supporting its recommendation, after which 
it will submit Framework 9 for NMFS review.
    Comment 16: The Herring Alliance commented that, even with 100-
percent coverage, slippage would hinder the goals of the cap by skewing 
observer and landings data. They cited the midwater trawl CA I 
provisions again in saying that NMFS has already acknowledged that 
accurate catch composition records cannot be obtained for dumped catch 
(75 FR 73979, November 30, 2010). In addition, the Herring Alliance 
asserted that NMFS documented slippage as a problem that directly 
affects the administration of the butterfish mortality cap on the 
longfin squid fishery, where longfin squid hauls have been slipped due 
to the presence of butterfish.
    Response: NMFS agrees with the commenter that the best way to 
obtain catch composition information is through full sampling of hauls 
by observers. As noted in the previous response, NMFS will address the 
issue of discarding of unsampled catch on observed trips by 
implementing a prohibition on slippage through Amendment 14. In 
addition, the Council recently took final action on a measure to 
further deter slippage events. NMFS believes that these requirements 
should improve the quality of data used to estimate the RH/S catch 
caps.
    NMFS reiterates that the slippage prohibition and the requirement 
that captains submit released catch affidavit to document all slippage 
events (also implemented in Amendment 14) are also a requirement for 
longfin squid permit holders, which can help address any issues with 
the administration of the butterfish mortality cap that may have 
resulted from past slippage events.
    Comment 17: Wild Oceans expressed disappointment that NMFS 
representative who participated in MSB Amendment 14 did not, in their 
view, proactively help the Council resolve the agency's concerns about 
observer coverage and slippage. They praised the Mid-Atlantic Council 
for continuing to pursue these issues in new actions in spite of the 
disapprovals, and encouraged NMFS to work constructively with the 
Council to improve monitoring of the mackerel fishery.
    Response: This comment misrepresents the events that led up to the 
partial approval of Amendment 14. NMFS staff provided guidance and 
input on Amendment 14 throughout the process and warned the Council of 
the problems associated with its observer coverage and slippage 
alternatives on several occasions. NMFS has clearly explained the 
reasons for disapproving measures in Amendment 14 (79 FR 10029; 
February 24, 2014) and that discussion is not included in this rule. 
NMFS is working with Council to resolve the issues and has taken the 
lead on resolving the observer coverage issues disapproved in Amendment 
14.
    Comment 18: The NRDC, Pew, the Herring Alliance, CCCFA, and ACN 
supported transitioning towards a biologically based cap on RH/S as 
soon as possible. The Herring Alliance and Pew went on to say that a 
biologically based cap should include an analysis of the status of 
river populations of RH/S in discrete geographic regions, and should 
also account for directed and incidental catch of RH/S in state waters. 
The Herring Alliance and Pew also advocated for review of the cap by 
the Council's SSC to improve oversight of cap determination, and that 
there be an annual review of the cap, similar to the review conducted 
on the butterfish mortality cap on the longfin squid fishery.
    Response: Both NMFS and the Council would like to move towards a 
biologically based RH/S catch cap as soon as possible. As noted above, 
NMFS plans to work with state and Federal partners over the coming 3-5 
years to support research that will fill important data gaps that 
limited recent assessments for these species. In addition, the Council 
has already indicated it is interested in involving its SSC in the 
determination of RH/S catch caps in the future. In the meantime, the 
cap will be reviewed annually during the specifications setting 
process, and the best available scientific information will be used to 
adjust the cap level. The annual evaluation and re-specification of the 
cap may include certain elements of the periodic reviews done for the 
butterfish mortality cap on the longfin squid fishery, including 
estimates of scientific uncertainty of the catch cap estimate, and 
estimates of RH/S mortality in the mackerel fishery.
    The ASMFC continues to manage RH/S catch in state waters. At this 
time, there is no coordination between the Federal cap on RH/S in the 
mackerel fishery, and catch limits in state waters set by the ASMFC. As 
noted in the Council analysis for 2014 specifications, Council and NMFS 
technical staffs continue to investigate the application of a regional 
cap spanning multiple fisheries and jurisdictions. However, the scope 
of this action and Amendment 14 are limited to RH/S catch in the 
mackerel fishery.
    Comment 19: While they support implementation of the cap, Wild 
Oceans and the Herring Alliance asserted that a more effective cap, in 
terms of reducing mortality, would have been set at the median of 
recent actual RH/S catch, rather than what catch would have been had 
the mackerel fishery landed its full quota from 2005-2012. The Herring 
Alliance went further in suggesting that NMFS should scale back catch 
based on the advice in the NMFS report for data poor stocks, and that 
the cap should be adjusted annually as scientific information becomes 
available through

[[Page 18840]]

better monitoring, in accordance with National Standard 2.
    Response: The Council and NMFS are committed to minimizing RH/S 
encounters in the mackerel fishery. However, data do not appear to be 
robust enough to determine a biologically based catch cap for RH/S, 
and/or the potential effects on these populations if a catch cap is 
implemented on a coast-wide scale. Given these limitations, the Council 
chose to balance its goal of minimizing RH/S catch in the mackerel 
fishery, with the goal of allowing the mackerel fishery the potential 
to attain its full quota. The Council's preferred 2014 RH/S catch cap 
of 236 mt is reflective of these goals.
    The commenters reference NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-SEFSC-616 
(Calculating Acceptable Biological Catch for Stocks that Have Reliable 
Catch Data Only (Only Reliable Catch Stocks--ORCS; 2011)). The 
memorandum was developed by a Working Group comprised of 
representatives from seven of the eight SSCs, five of the six NMFS 
Science Centers, NMFS Headquarters, academic institutions, a state 
agency, and an NGO to offer guidance that can be used to set ABCs for 
managed stocks that only have reliable catch data, are lightly fished, 
and appear to have stable or increasing trends. The report recommends 
doubling catch during a stable period to create an OFL, setting the ABC 
at 50 to 90 percent of the OFL, and then tracking the stock to see how 
the adjusted catch levels affect abundance. The Council did not 
evaluate the appropriateness of this method for establishing the 2014 
RH/S cap because RH/S are not managed species, and because the focus of 
the cap is limiting RH/S catch in the mackerel fishery rather than the 
establishment of total catch levels for the entire RH/S stock. Instead, 
the Council found it most appropriate to set the cap based on recent 
catch in the mackerel fishery. The Council may choose to consider the 
applicability of the guidance in the ORCS Technical Memorandum when 
setting the RH/S catch cap in future years, if it desires.
    Comment 20: While they supported the 95-percent closure threshold, 
the Herring Alliance and Pew point to analysis in Amendment 14 that 
suggests that earlier closures of the mackerel fishery could lead to 
relatively higher benefits to RH/S populations. They discussed that the 
95-percent threshold will need to be evaluated based on fishery 
performance, and if the cap is exceeded, that the threshold must be 
adjusted to prevent the mackerel fishery from exceeding the cap in the 
future. They asserted that a lower threshold may be needed if observer 
coverage is not available to accurately monitor the cap.
    Response: The Amendment 14 analysis discusses the RH/S cap 
conceptually because the actual establishment of the RH/S cap was 
deferred to the annual specifications process. In evaluating the 
concept of the cap, the Council concluded that, compared to setting the 
cap at a high level, setting the cap lower could result in earlier 
closures of the mackerel fishery, which could lead to comparatively 
higher benefits to RH/S populations. In contrast, the commenters imply 
that the Council's Amendment 14 analysis suggests that lower closure 
thresholds, rather than a lower overall cap level, would lead to higher 
benefits for RH/S. Lowering the closure threshold would have the same 
effect as lowering the overall cap, and thus is likely to result in 
similar potential benefits to RH/S populations. However, the closure 
threshold is only a means to ensuring that the overall cap is not 
exceeded. The overall cap should be set to reach the desired 
conservation benefit, and the closure threshold should be set 
secondarily in support of ensuring the cap is not exceeded. The Council 
will likely evaluate the effectiveness of the closure threshold in 
ensuring that the cap is not exceeded, and make any necessary 
adjustments, as part of the specifications process for upcoming fishing 
years. At that time, the Council can also evaluate whether observer 
coverage levels are sufficient to monitor the cap, and may recommend 
additional management measures to ensure appropriate cap 
implementation.
    Comment 21: The Herring Alliance suggests that, as an 
accountability measure, any overages of the RH/S catch cap in a given 
year should be deducted from the catch cap for the subsequent year, but 
that underages of the catch cap should not be carried over.
    Response: The Council did not contemplate accountability measures 
for the RH/S cap in Amendment 14 or the 2014 specifications, and would 
need to consider this type of measure in a separate action.
    Comment 22: Pew and the Herring Alliance advocate for coordination 
between the RH/S caps between the mackerel and herring fisheries. In 
particular, they suggest that the implementing language should be 
revised so that measures apply to trips ``fishing for, catching, 
possessing, transferring, or landing'' the specified amount of mackerel 
to be consistent with the Atlantic Herring FMP.
    Response: NMFS has added text to the regulations to clarify that 
the cap applies to trips that land over 20,000 lb (9.08 mt) of 
mackerel. The commenter referenced language in the Atlantic Herring FMP 
that describes the possession restrictions for fishing vessels 
following a closure of the directed herring fishery. Similar language 
(e.g., fish for, possess, or land) is already used to describe 
possession restrictions for the Atlantic mackerel fishery at Sec.  
648.26(a)(2).
    Comment 23: Several individuals commented that the relationship 
between predator species and RH/S should be more fully considered and 
analyzed. While some focused on making commercial mackerel fishery 
restrictions more similar to recreational measures (bans on fishing, 
regional caps), others noted that the actions for commercial fisheries 
should take into account the impacts on recreational fisheries. One 
commenter noted that NMFS should consider the impacts on tourism and 
the overall economy.
    Response: NMFS recognizes these concerns but notes that such 
analyses and holistic consideration stretch beyond the capabilities of 
current analytical tools and the mandates of the MSA. Through Federal 
fishery management plans, we are responsible for managing fisheries to 
OY, which is the maximum yield one can harvest while taking into 
account ecological factors such as habitat protection, bycatch 
considerations, and to the extent we understand it, the ecological role 
of the managed species. The relationships between commercial and 
recreational fisheries are complex; the economic relationships even 
more so. Nevertheless, NMFS strives to improve its data and 
understanding of such relationships. With more understanding, more 
holistic analyses may be possible in the future.

Changes From the Proposed Rule

    The proposed rule presented two tables (Tables 4 and 5 in the 
proposed rule) listing quota thresholds to reduce the trip limits for 
Phases 2 and 3 in the butterfish fishery. Though the tables presented 
the correct butterfish harvest amounts at which trip limit changes 
would be triggered, the tables incorrectly listed the percentages for 
the trip limit reductions. The correct percentages are presented in 
Tables 4 and 5 in this final rule, and will be presented to industry in 
the small entity compliance guide sent to longfin squid/butterfish 
permit holders after the publication of this final rule.
    The proposed rule did not include regulatory text that clearly 
outlines the trips to which the RH/S cap apply. Similarly, the 
regulatory text regarding

[[Page 18841]]

the butterfish mortality cap did not clearly state the trips to which 
the cap applies. Clarifying text is added for both caps in this rule.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Assistant Administrator (AA) has determined that this final rule 
is consistent with the MSB FMP, other provisions of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act, and other applicable laws.
    The Council prepared an EA for the 2014 specifications, and the AA 
concluded that there will be no significant impact on the human 
environment as a result of this rule. A copy of the EA is available 
upon request (see ADDRESSES).
    This action is authorized by 50 CFR part 648 and has been 
determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866 
(E.O. 12866).
    The AA finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3) to waive the 30-
day delay in effectiveness for this action. This action increases the 
butterfish harvest available to the fishing industry for FY 2014. The 
primary butterfish market available to the butterfish fishing industry 
occurs in late December through April due to the high fat content of 
the fish after feeding during the early winter. Under the 2013 
butterfish allocations, the Phase 2 trip limit reduction threshold is 
exceeded when the fishery has landed 47 percent of the 2013 allocation 
(1,208 mt) of the butterfish allocation in March/April. Once the Phase 
2 trip limit reduction threshold is exceeded, the butterfish possession 
limit is reduced from unlimited down to 5,000 lb (2.28 mt). The 2014 
butterfish allocations increase the Phase 2 trip limit reduction 
threshold to 57 percent of the 2014 butterfish allocation (1,838 mt) 
for March/April.
    NMFS has already issued a Phase 1 to Phase 2 trip limit reduction 
on March 18, 2014. As of March 26, 2014, NMFS determined that only 45 
percent of the butterfish quota has been harvested relative to the 2014 
specifications, meaning that the fishery could still be operating under 
Phase 1 for 2014. If the effectiveness of this rule were delayed for 30 
days from the date of publication, the possession limit for butterfish 
would remain at 5,000 lb (2.28 mt) at a time of year when the value of 
butterfish is highest. Increasing the Phase 2 trip limit reduction 
threshold immediately will allow NMFS to temporarily return the 
butterfish fishery to Phase 1, and ensures that the butterfish fleet 
can continue operation with the highest possible possession limit 
during this critical time of year when the market is available. Vessels 
fishing for butterfish would only be able to obtain the increased 
economic opportunity provided by this final rule if the 30-day delay in 
effectiveness is waived. Failure to make this final rule effective 
immediately will cause economic harm to the butterfish fleet and 
undermine the intent of the rule, which is to promote the utilization 
and conservation of the Atlantic mackerel, squid, and butterfish 
resource. Therefore, good cause exists to waive the 30-day delay in 
effectiveness under 5 U.S.C. Section 553(d)(3).
    NMFS, pursuant to section 604 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 
has prepared a FRFA, included in the preamble of this final rule, in 
support of the 2013 specifications and management measures. The FRFA 
describes the economic impact that this final rule, along with other 
non-preferred alternatives, will have on small entities.
    The FRFA incorporates the economic impacts and analysis summaries 
in the IRFA, a summary of the significant issues raised by the public 
in response to the IRFA, and NMFS's responses to those comments. A copy 
of the IRFA, the RIR, and the EA are available upon request (see 
ADDRESSES).

Statement of Need for This Action

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

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

    None of the public comments raised issues related to the IRFA or 
the economic impacts of the rule on affected entities.

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

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

[[Page 18842]]

Description of Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other Compliance 
Requirements

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

Description of the Steps the Agency Has Taken To Minimize the 
Significant Economic Impacts on Small Entities Consistent With the 
Stated Objectives of Applicable Statutes, Including a Statement of the 
Factual, Policy, and Legal Reasons for Selecting the Alternative 
Adopted in the Final Rule and Why Each One of the Other Significant 
Alternatives to the Rule Considered by the Agency Which Affect the 
Impact on Small Entities Was Rejected

Actions Implemented With the Final Rule

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

Alternatives to Actions in the Final Rule

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

List of Subjects in 50 CFR part 648

    Fisheries, Fishing, Recordkeeping and reporting requirements.

    Dated: March 31, 2014.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 648 is amended 
as follows:

PART 648--FISHERIES OF THE NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES

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

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


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


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

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (3) Illex fishery. Seaward of the following coordinates, connected 
in the

[[Page 18843]]

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

------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Point                     N. lat.             W. long.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
M0.............................  43[deg]58.0[min]     [\1\]
M1.............................  43[deg]58.0[min]     67[deg]22.0[min]
M2.............................  43[deg]50.0[min]     68[deg]35.0[min]
M3.............................  43[deg]30.0[min]     69[deg]40.0[min]
M4.............................  43[deg]20.0[min]     70[deg]00.0[min]
M5.............................  42[deg]45.0[min]     70[deg]10.0[min]
M6.............................  42[deg]13.0[min]     69[deg]55.0[min]
M7.............................  41[deg]00.0[min]     69[deg]00.0[min]
M8.............................  41[deg]45.0[min]     68[deg]15.0[min]
M9.............................  42[deg]10.0[min]     67[deg]10.0[min]
                                                       [\2\]
M10............................  41[deg]18.6[min]     66[deg]24.8[min]
                                                       [\2\]
M11............................  40[deg]55.5[min]     66[deg]38.0[min]
M12............................  40[deg]45.5[min]     68[deg]00.0[min]
M13............................  40[deg]37.0[min]     68[deg]00.0[min]
M14............................  40[deg]30.0[min]     69[deg]00.0[min]
M15............................  40[deg]22.7[min]     69[deg]00.0[min]
M16............................  40[deg]18.7[min]     69[deg]40.0[min]
M17............................  40[deg]21.0[min]     71[deg]03.0[min]
M18............................  39[deg]41.0[min]     72[deg]32.0[min]
M19............................  38[deg]47.0[min]     73[deg]11.0[min]
M20............................  38[deg]04.0[min]     74[deg]06.0[min]
M21............................  37[deg]08.0[min]     74[deg]46.0[min]
M22............................  36[deg]00.0[min]     74[deg]52.0[min]
M23............................  35[deg]45.0[min]     74[deg]53.0[min]
M24............................  35[deg]28.0[min]     74[deg]52.0[min]
M25............................  35[deg]28.0[min]     [\3\]
------------------------------------------------------------------------
[\1\] The intersection of 43[deg]58.0[min]N. latitude and the US-Canada
  Maritime Boundary.
[\2\] Points M9 and M10 are intended to fall along and are connected by
  the US-Canada Maritime Boundary.
[\3\] The intersection of 35[deg]28.0[min]N. latitude and the outward
  limit of the U.S. EEZ.

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

Oceanographer Canyon

------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Point                     N. lat.             W. long.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
OC1............................  40[deg]10.0[min]     68[deg]12.0[min]
OC2............................  40[deg]24.0[min]     68[deg]09.0[min]
OC3............................  40[deg]24.0[min]     68[deg]08.0[min]
OC4............................  40[deg]10.0[min]     67[deg]59.0[min]
OC1............................  40[deg]10.0[min]     68[deg]12.0[min]
------------------------------------------------------------------------

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

Lydonia Canyon

------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Point                     N. lat.             W. long.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
LC1............................  40[deg]16.0[min]     67[deg]34.0[min]
LC2............................  40[deg]16.0[min]     67[deg]42.0[min]
LC3............................  40[deg]20.0[min]     67[deg]43.0[min]
LC4............................  40[deg]27.0[min]     67[deg]40.0[min]
LC5............................  40[deg]27.0[min]     67[deg]38.0[min]
LC1............................  40[deg]16.0[min]     67[deg]34.0[min]
------------------------------------------------------------------------

* * * * *

0
3. In Sec.  648.24, paragraphs (b)(1), (c)(1)(iii) and (c)(3) are 
revised and paragraph (b)(6) is added to read as follows:


Sec.  648.24  Fishery closures and accountability measures.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (i) Mackerel commercial sector EEZ closure. NMFS will close the 
commercial mackerel fishery in the EEZ when the Regional Administrator 
projects that 95 percent of the mackerel DAH is harvested, if such a 
closure is necessary to prevent the DAH from being exceeded. The 
closure of the commercial fishery shall be in effect for the remainder 
of that fishing year, with incidental catches allowed as specified in 
Sec.  648.26. When the Regional Administrator projects that the DAH for 
mackerel will be landed, NMFS shall close the commercial mackerel 
fishery in the EEZ, and the incidental catches specified for mackerel 
in Sec.  648.26 will be prohibited.
    (ii) NMFS will close the Tier 3 commercial mackerel fishery in the 
EEZ when the Regional Administrator projects that 90 percent of the 
Tier 3 mackerel allocation will be harvested, if such a closure is 
necessary to prevent the DAH from being exceeded. The closure of the 
Tier 3 commercial mackerel fishery will be in effect for the remainder 
of that fishing period, with incidental catches allowed as specified in 
Sec.  648.26.
* * * * *
    (6) River herring and shad catch cap. The river herring and shad 
cap on the mackerel fishery applies to all trips that land more than 
20,000 lb (9.08 mt) of mackerel. NMFS shall close the directed mackerel 
fishery in the EEZ when the Regional Administrator projects that 95 
percent of the river herring/shad catch cap has been harvested. 
Following closures of the directed mackerel fishery, vessels must 
adhere to the possession restrictions specified in Sec.  648.26.
    (c) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (iii) Phase 3. NMFS shall subsequently reduce the trip limit for 
vessels issued longfin squid/butterfish moratorium permits to 600 lb 
(0.27 mt), regardless of minimum mesh size, when butterfish harvest is 
projected to reach the relevant phase 3 trip limit reduction threshold. 
The NMFS Regional Administrator may adjust the butterfish trip limit 
during phase 3 of the directed butterfish fishery anywhere from 250 lb 
(0.11 mt) to 750 lb (0.34 mt) to ensure butterfish harvest does not 
exceed the specified DAH.
* * * * *
    (3) Butterfish mortality cap on the longfin squid fishery. The 
butterfish mortality cap on the longfin squid fishery applies to all 
trips that land more than 20,000 lb (9.08 mt) of mackerel. NMFS shall 
close the directed fishery in the EEZ for longfin squid when the 
Regional Administrator projects that 80 percent of the Trimester I 
butterfish mortality cap allocation has been harvested in Trimester I, 
when 75 percent of the annual butterfish mortality cap has been 
harvested in Trimester II, and/or when 90 percent of the butterfish 
mortality cap has been harvested in Trimester III. Following closures 
of the directed longfin squid fishery, vessels must adhere to the 
possession restrictions specified in Sec.  648.26.
* * * * *

0
4. In Sec.  648.26, paragraphs (a)(1)(iii), (b) and (d)(3) are revised 
to read as follows:


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

* * * * *

[[Page 18844]]

    (a) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (iii) A vessel issued a Tier 3 Limited Access Mackerel Permit is 
authorized to fish for, possess, or land up to 100,000 lb (45.36 mt) of 
Atlantic mackerel in the EEZ per trip, and may only land Atlantic 
mackerel once on any calendar day, which is defined as the 24-hr period 
beginning at 0001 hours and ending at 2400 hours, provided that the 
fishery has not been closed because 90 percent of the Tier 3 allocation 
has been harvested, or 95 percent of the DAH has been harvested, as 
specified in Sec.  648.24(b)(1)(i) and (ii).
* * * * *
    (b) Longfin squid. (1) Unless specified in paragraph (b)(2) of this 
section, during a closure of the directed fishery for longfin squid 
vessels may not fish for, possess, or land more than 2,500 lb (1.13 mt) 
of longfin squid per trip at any time, and may only land longfin squid 
once on any calendar day, which is defined as the 24-hr period 
beginning at 0001 hours and ending at 2400 hours. If a vessel has been 
issued a longfin squid incidental catch permit (as specified at Sec.  
648.4(a)(5)(ii)), then it may not fish for, possess, or land more than 
2,500 lb (1.13 mt) of longfin squid per trip at any time and may only 
land longfin squid once on any calendar day, unless such a vessel meets 
the criteria outlined in paragraph (b)(2) of this section.
    (2) During a closure of the directed fishery for longfin squid for 
Trimester II, a vessel with a longfin squid/butterfish moratorium 
permit that is on a directed Illex squid fishing trip (i.e., possess 
over 10,000 lb (4.54 mt) of Illex) and is seaward of the coordinates 
specified at Sec.  648.23 (a)(3), may possess up to 15,000 lb (6.80 mt) 
of longfin squid. Once landward of the coordinates specified at Sec.  
648.23 (a)(3), such vessels must stow all fishing gear, as specified at 
Sec.  648.23(b), in order to possess more than 2,500 lb (1.13 mt) of 
longfin squid per trip.
* * * * *
    (d) * * *
    (3) Phase 3. When butterfish harvest is projected to reach the trip 
limit reduction threshold for phase 3 (as described in Sec.  648.24), 
all vessels issued a longfin squid/butterfish moratorium permit, 
regardless of mesh size used, may not fish for, possess, or land more 
than 600 lb (0.27 mt) of butterfish per trip at any time, and may only 
land butterfish once on any calendar day, which is defined as the 24-hr 
period beginning at 0001 hours and ending at 2400 hours. If a vessel 
has been issued a longfin squid/butterfish incidental catch permit (as 
specified at Sec.  648.4(a)(5)(ii)), it may not fish for, possess, or 
land more than 600 lb (0.27 mt) of butterfish per trip at any time.

[FR Doc. 2014-07610 Filed 4-3-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P