[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 68 (Wednesday, April 9, 2014)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 19497-19498]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-07944]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 120109034-2171-01]
RIN 0648-XD212


Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast 
Multispecies Fishery; Trimester Closure and Trip Limit Adjustments for 
the Common Pool Fishery

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

ACTION: Temporary rule; closure.

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SUMMARY: We are closing the Georges Bank cod Trimester Total Allowable 
Catch Area for the remainder of Trimester 3, through April 30, 2014. 
Based on our projection, the common pool fishery has caught 97 percent 
of its Georges Bank cod Trimester 3 total allowable catch, triggering 
the regulatory requirement to close that area for the remainder of the 
trimester. This action is intended to prevent an overage of the common 
pool's Georges Bank cod quota. Because the common pool catch of Georges 
Bank cod is not limited to the Georges Bank cod Trimester Total 
Allowable Catch Area, we are reducing the common pool possession and 
trip limit for the Georges Bank cod stock to zero, in order to prevent 
the overharvest of the common pool's fishing year 2013 allocation of 
Georges Bank cod. We are also increasing the common pool possession and 
trip limit for Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic winter flounder to 
allow the common pool fishery to catch more of its quota for that 
stock.

DATES: This action is effective April 9, 2014, through April 30, 2014.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Liz Sullivan, Fishery Management 
Specialist, 978-282-8493.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The regulations at Sec.  648.82(n)(2)(ii) 
require the Regional Administrator to close the Trimester Total 
Allowable Catch (TAC) Area for a stock when 90 percent of the Trimester 
TAC is projected to be caught. The fishing year (FY) 2013 common pool 
quota for Georges Bank (GB) cod is 32 mt, which is divided into 
Trimester TACs. The Trimester 3 TAC is 18.2 mt (revised due to 
underages from Trimesters 1 and 2). Based on the most recent data, 
which include vessel trip reports (VTRs), dealer-reported landings, and 
vessel monitoring system (VMS) information, we estimate that 97 percent 
of the Trimester 3 TAC for GB cod has been caught. Therefore, effective 
April 9, 2014, the GB cod Trimester TAC Area is closed for the 
remainder of Trimester 3, through April 30, 2014, to all owners or 
operators of common pool vessels fishing with trawl gear, sink gillnet 
gear, and longline/hook gear. The GB cod Trimester TAC Area includes 
statistical areas 521, 522, 525, and 561. The GB cod Trimester TAC Area 
will reopen to common pool vessels fishing with trawl, sink gillnet, or 
longline/hook gear at the beginning of FY 2014, on May 1, 2014.
    The regulations at Sec.  648.86(o) authorize the Regional 
Administrator to adjust the possession and trip limits for common pool 
vessels to prevent the overharvest or underharvest of the common pool 
quotas. Based on data reported through March 25, 2014, the common pool 
fishery has caught approximately 98 percent of its GB cod sub-annual 
catch limit (sub-ACL) for FY 2013. Despite the GB cod Trimester TAC 
Area closure described above, recent analysis shows that catch from 
outside the Trimester TAC Area would likely cause the common pool to 
exceed its allocation for GB cod if further action is not taken. 
Therefore, the possession and trip limit for GB cod, defined as cod 
caught outside the Gulf of Maine Regulated Mesh Area (as defined in 
Sec.  648.80(a)(1)), is set to zero for all common pool vessels, 
effective April 9, 2014, through April 30, 2014.
    Common pool groundfish vessels that have declared their trip 
through the VMS or IVR system, and crossed the VMS demarcation line 
prior to April 9, 2014, may complete their trip in part, or all, in the 
GB cod Trimester TAC Area. Additionally, such vessels will not be 
subject to the new possession and trip limit for that trip.
    The regulations at Sec.  648.86(o) authorize the Regional 
Administrator to adjust the possession limits for common pool vessels 
in order to prevent the overharvest or underharvest of the common pool 
quotas. As of March 25, 2014, the common pool has caught 81 percent of 
its sub-ACL of Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic (SNE/MA) winter 
flounder. To allow the common pool fishery to catch more of its quota 
for that stock, effective April 9, 2014, the possession and trip limit 
of SNE/MA winter flounder, defined as winter flounder caught within the 
Inshore GB and SNE/MA Broad Stock Areas (as defined in Sec.  
648.10(k)(3)(ii) and (iv)) for all common pool vessels, per day-at-sea, 
is increased from 300 lb (0.14 mt) to 1,000 lb (0.45 mt), with a 
maximum trip limit of 2,000 lb (0.9 mt). We estimate

[[Page 19498]]

that if the possession and trip limit is raised, the common pool fleet 
will reach approximately 88 percent of its quota by the end of the 
fishing year.
    At the end of FY 2013, we will evaluate total common pool catch, 
and if the common pool fishery has exceeded its annual quota for any 
stock for FY 2013, we are required to deduct the overage from the 
respective common pool quota for FY 2014. Uncaught portions of the 
common pool's annual quota may not be carried over to the next FY. 
Weekly quota monitoring reports for the common pool fishery can be 
found on our Web site at: http://www.nero.noaa.gov/ro/fso/MultiMonReports.htm. We will continue to monitor common pool catch 
through VTRs, dealer-reported landings, VMS catch reports, and other 
available information and, if necessary, we will make additional 
adjustments to common pool management measures.

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, finds good cause 
pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) and 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3) to waive prior 
notice and the opportunity for public comment and the 30-day delayed 
effectiveness period because it would be impracticable and contrary to 
the public interest.
    The regulations require the Regional Administrator to close a 
trimester TAC area to the common pool fishery when 90 percent of the 
Trimester TAC for a stock has been caught. Updated catch information 
only recently became available indicating that the common pool fishery 
has caught over 90 percent of its Trimester 3 TAC for GB cod. The time 
necessary to provide for prior notice and comment, and a 30-day delay 
in effectiveness, would prevent the immediate closure of the GB cod 
Trimester 3 TAC area and reduction of trip limits, and would increase 
the likelihood that the common pool fishery would exceed its quota of 
GB cod, to the detriment of this stock.
    Further, an overage of the Trimester 3 TAC would cause the common 
pool fishery to exceed its total annual quota for GB cod, which would 
trigger accountability measures in FY 2014. Overages would not only 
have negative economic impacts on the common pool fishery, but would 
also undermine the conservation objectives of the Northeast 
Multispecies Fishery Management Plan. As a result, immediate 
implementation of this action is necessary to help ensure that the 
common pool fishery does not exceed its GB cod quota.
    There is additional good cause to waive the delayed effective 
period because part of this action relieves restrictions on fishing 
vessels by increasing this possession and trip limit. The possession 
and trip limit increase for SNE/MA winter flounder reduces the 
probability of underharvesting for this stock. The time necessary to 
provide for prior notice and comment, and a 30-day delay in 
effectiveness, would prevent NMFS from implementing the necessary 
possession and trip limit adjustment for SNE/MA winter flounder in a 
timely manner, which could undermine management objectives of the NE 
Multispecies Fishery Management Plan, and cause negative economic 
impacts to the common pool fishery.

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

    Dated: April 4, 2014.
 James P. Burgess,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-07944 Filed 4-4-14; 4:15 pm]
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