[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 69 (Thursday, April 10, 2014)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 19861-19864]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-07976]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 140331031-4031-01]
RIN 0648-BC77


Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Spiny Dogfish 
Fishery; Amendment 3

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: This rule proposes regulations to implement measures in 
Amendment 3 to the Spiny Dogfish Fishery Management Plan, which was 
developed by the Mid-Atlantic and New England Fishery Management 
Councils. The proposed management measures include implementing a 
research set-aside program, updating essential fish habitat 
definitions, allowing rollover of specifications, and eliminating the 
seasonal allocation of the commercial quota. These administrative 
measures are intended to improve the implementation of the Spiny 
Dogfish Fishery Management Plan and provide benefits to the spiny 
dogfish fishery.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before May 12, 2014.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the amendment, including the Environmental 
Assessment and Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (EA/IRFA) and 
other supporting documents for the action are available from Dr. 
Christopher M. Moore, Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery 
Management Council, Suite 201, 800 N. State Street, Dover, DE 19901. 
The amendment is also accessible via the Internet at: http://www.nero.noaa.gov.
    You may submit comments, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2014-0036, by any 
one of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2014-0036, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon,

[[Page 19862]]

complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
     Mail: NMFS, Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, 55 
Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the 
envelope ``Comments on Spiny Dogfish Amendment 3.''
    Instructions: Comments must be submitted by one of the above 
methods to ensure that the comments are received, documented, and 
considered by NMFS. Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered. All comments received are a part of the public 
record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address) submitted voluntarily by the sender 
will be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive or protected information. NMFS will 
accept anonymous comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you 
wish to remain anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments will be 
accepted in Microsoft Word or Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF formats 
only.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Tobey Curtis, Fishery Policy Analyst, 
(978) 281-9273.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The Atlantic spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) fishery is jointly 
managed by the New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils 
(Councils). The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission 
(Commission) also manages the spiny dogfish fishery in state waters 
from Maine to North Carolina through an interstate fishery management 
plan (FMP). The Federal Spiny Dogfish FMP was implemented in 2000, when 
spiny dogfish were determined to be overfished. The spiny dogfish stock 
was declared to be successfully rebuilt in 2010, and it continues to be 
above its target biomass. Currently, the stock is not overfished or 
experiencing overfishing.
    The regulations implementing the FMP at 50 CFR part 648, subpart L, 
outline the management procedures and measures for the spiny dogfish 
fishery. The Councils have developed and submitted Amendment 3, which 
is intended to update the FMP and improve management of the spiny 
dogfish fishery. Specifically, the Councils have recommended: (1) 
Adding an option for allocation of a small percentage (up to 3 percent) 
of the commercial quota for use in the Research Set-Aside (RSA) 
Program; (2) updating the definitions of essential fish habitat (EFH) 
for all life stages of spiny dogfish; (3) maintaining existing annual 
management measures until replaced via rulemaking (i.e., specifications 
rollover); and (4) eliminating the seasonal allocation of the 
commercial quota in order to minimize conflicts with spiny dogfish 
fishing operations that occur in both state and Federal waters. These 
proposed management measures are described in more detail below.

Research Set-Aside (RSA)

    A number of FMPs include an RSA program, in which a percentage of 
the quota is set aside to fund research. In Amendment 3, the Councils 
are proposing to allow up to 3 percent of the spiny dogfish commercial 
quota to be set aside as RSA quota. The revenues generated by those 
landings would be used for scientific research aimed at improving our 
understanding of the spiny dogfish stock and its related fisheries, 
consistent with the Councils' research priorities. For example, the 
spiny dogfish commercial quota for fishing year 2014 is currently 
specified at 41.784 million lb (18,953 mt). Based upon the funds 
requested through the RSA Federal Funding Opportunity announcement 
(refer to: http://www.nero.noaa.gov/mediacenter/2013/03/ma13rsaawards.html), up to 1.254 million lb (569 mt) of spiny dogfish 
could be used for RSA (i.e., 3 percent of the 2014 commercial quota).

Essential Fish Habitat (EFH)

    The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires that EFH be defined for all 
managed stocks, and that it should be periodically reviewed and 
updated. EFH designations are used by NMFS when consulting with other 
agencies on Federal activities, and up-to-date designations lead to 
more effective consultation and protection of EFH. Spiny dogfish EFH 
was most recently updated in 2007 (http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/nefsc/publications/tm/tm150/). Amendment 3 includes updated text and maps, 
using the most recent fishery-independent data, to describe EFH for the 
following spiny dogfish size and sex categories: Recruits (juvenile 
males and females <36 cm); sub-adult females (36-79 cm); sub-adult 
males (36-59 cm); adult females (>79 cm); and adult males (>59 cm). 
Detailed EFH maps and text descriptions are provided in the supporting 
documents (see ADDRESSES).

Rollover of Specifications

    This measure would allow the specifications (annual catch limit, 
commercial quota, etc.) of the current fishing year to carry forward to 
the subsequent fishing year, in the event that rulemaking and 
implementation of revised specifications are delayed. If the 
implementation of new final specifications is delayed beyond the start 
of the new fishing year (May 1), the previous year's specifications 
would apply to the new fishing year until replaced by the final rule. 
The Councils are recommending this measure to maintain consistency 
across FMPs.

Commercial Quota Allocation

    The current regulations implementing the Spiny Dogfish FMP (Sec.  
648.232) require that the commercial quota be allocated between two 
seasons: Season 1 (May through October) receives 57.9 percent of the 
quota; and Season 2 (November through April) receives 42.1 percent of 
the quota. These seasons were designed to match the regional 
distribution of the spiny dogfish population as it migrates up and down 
the Atlantic coast, and to ensure that each state's fisheries would be 
able to land spiny dogfish during the year.
    In contrast to the Federal regulations, the Commission allocates 
the commercial quota to individual states/regions, rather than by 
season. These different management approaches have occasionally 
resulted in misaligned in-season fishery closures between Federal and 
state waters, and confusion within the industry regarding where they 
can fish. This rule proposes to remove the Federal FMP's seasonal quota 
allocation, and replace it with a single, annual coastwide commercial 
quota. The Federal spiny dogfish fishery would only be closed when 100 
percent of the coastwide commercial quota is projected to be landed. 
The states, through the Commission's FMP, would be responsible for 
controlling their spiny dogfish allocations to ensure the participation 
of all states. This measure is expected to help alleviate potential 
misalignment issues with the Commission, while still constraining total 
spiny dogfish catch to the specified Federal limits.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Assistant Administrator has made a preliminary determination that 
this proposed rule is consistent with the Spiny Dogfish FMP, other 
provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law.

[[Page 19863]]

    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
the purpose of E.O. 12866.
    The Councils prepared an IRFA, as required by section 603 of the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). The IRFA describes the economic 
impact this proposed rule, if adopted, would have on small entities. A 
description of the action, why it is being considered, and the legal 
basis for this action are contained at the beginning of this section of 
the preamble and in the SUMMARY of this proposed rule. A summary of the 
IRFA follows. A copy of this analysis is available from the Councils 
(see ADDRESSES).
    This action does not introduce any new reporting, recordkeeping, or 
other compliance requirements. This proposed rule does not duplicate, 
overlap, or conflict with other Federal rules.

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

    This rule will impact fishing vessels, including commercial fishing 
entities. In 2012, 2,666 vessels held spiny dogfish permits. However, 
not all of those vessels are active participants in the fishery; only 
489 vessels landed spiny dogfish in 2012. If two or more vessels have 
identical owners, these vessels should be considered to be part of the 
same firm, because they may have the same owners. When permit ownership 
data is considered, in 2012, 1,976 fishing firms held at least one 
spiny dogfish permit. According to the Small Business Administration 
(SBA), firms are classified as finfish or shellfish firms based on the 
activity which they derive the most revenue. Using the $5M cutoff for 
shellfish firms (NAICS 114112) and the $19M cutoff for finfish firms 
(NAICS 114111), there are 1,953 directly regulated small entities and 
23 directly regulated large entities. There are 488 active fishing 
firms, of which 482 are small entities and 6 are large entities. On 
average, for small entities, spiny dogfish is responsible for a small 
fraction of landings, and active participants derive a small share of 
gross receipts from the spiny dogfish fishery. While all 1,953 directly 
regulated small entities will be affected by the Amendment 3, many of 
these small entities do not currently participate in this fishery and 
would be likely to experience only negligible economic impacts, if any.

Economic Impacts of the Proposed Action Compared to Significant Non-
Selected Alternatives

    According to the Council's analysis in the EA (see ADDRESSES), 
Amendment 3 is not expected to result in any direct negative or 
positive economic impacts. The management measures and alternatives 
included in this action are administrative in nature, and have no 
inherent direct economic costs or benefits. Possible indirect, minor 
positive economic impacts are anticipated from the RSA and EFH 
alternatives. Under the RSA alternatives, the preferred alternative 
(Alternative 1b) of allowing an RSA quota of up to 3 percent of the 
commercial quota, and Alternative 1c, which would allow up to 5 percent 
of the commercial quota for RSA, are expected to result in minor 
positive economic impacts relative to no action (i.e., no RSA; 
Alternative 1a). This conclusion was based on cases where research 
funded by RSA would result in improved management of the spiny dogfish 
fishery. Both the no action (i.e., no update to EFH; Alternative 2a) 
and preferred (i.e., updated EFH; Alternative 2b) EFH alternatives may 
result in indirect, minor positive economic impacts, as the designation 
of EFH can inform Federal activities and help minimize potentially 
negative habitat impacts. Under the commercial quota allocation 
alternatives, the no action alternative (i.e., maintain current 
seasonal allocation of the quota; Alternative 4a) was expected to 
result in minor, indirect negative economic impacts in situations where 
misalignment in Federal (Council) vs. state (Commission) fishery 
closures could result in lost revenues. The preferred alternative 
(i.e., remove allocation of the quota; Alternative 4b) is anticipated 
to alleviate the potential negative economic impacts associated with 
the current management misalignment. Both the no action alternative 
(i.e., no rollover of specifications; Alternative 3a) and the preferred 
alternative (i.e., allow rollover of specifications; Alternative 3b) 
associated with the rollover of specifications from one year to the 
next in the event of delayed implementation of specifications are 
expected to have no economic impact (positive or negative).

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648

    Fisheries, Fishing, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    Dated: April 4, 2014.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, NMFS proposes to amend 50 
CFR part 648 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.  648.232, revise paragraphs (a), (b), and (e); and add 
paragraphs (c)(3) and (f) to read as follows:


Sec.  648.232  Spiny dogfish specifications.

    (a) Commercial quota and other specification measures. The Spiny 
Dogfish Monitoring Committee shall recommend to the Joint Spiny Dogfish 
Committee a TAL (i.e., annual coastwide commercial quota) and any other 
measures, including those in paragraphs (a)(1) through (8) of this 
section, that are necessary to ensure that the commercial ACL will not 
be exceeded in any fishing year (May 1-April 30), for a period of 1-5 
fishing years. If research quota is specified as described in paragraph 
(f) of this section, the effective commercial quota will be those 
commercial landings available after the deduction for the research 
quota. The measures that may be recommended include, but are not 
limited to:
    (1) Minimum or maximum fish sizes;
    (2) Seasons;
    (3) Mesh size restrictions;
    (4) Trip limits;
    (5) Research quota set from a range of 0 to 3 percent of the 
commercial quota;
    (6) [Reserved]
    (7) Other gear restrictions; and
    (8) Changes to AMs and ACT control rules.
    (b) Joint Spiny Dogfish Committee recommendation. The Councils' 
Joint Spiny Dogfish Committee shall review the recommendations of the 
Spiny Dogfish Monitoring Committee. Based on these recommendations, 
requests for research quota, and any public comments, the Joint Spiny 
Dogfish Committee shall recommend to the Councils a TAL, and possibly 
other measures, including those specified in paragraphs (a)(1) through 
(8) of this section, necessary to ensure that the ACL specified in 
Sec.  648.230 will not be exceeded in any fishing year (May 1-April 
30), for a period of 1-5 fishing years.
    (c) * * *
* * * * *

[[Page 19864]]

    (3) If the annual specifications are not published in the Federal 
Register prior to the start of the fishing year, the previous year's 
annual specifications will remain in effect. The previous year's 
specifications will be replaced by the current year's specifications as 
of the effective date of the final rule implementing the current year's 
specifications.
* * * * *
    (e) Landings applied against the commercial quota. All spiny 
dogfish landed for a commercial purpose in the states from Maine 
through Florida shall be applied against the annual coastwide 
commercial quota, regardless of where the spiny dogfish were harvested.
    (f) Research quota. See Sec.  648.22(g).
0
3. In Sec.  648.233, revise paragraph (a) to read as follows:


Sec.  648.233  Spiny dogfish accountability measures (AMs).

    (a) Commercial EEZ closure. The Regional Administrator shall 
determine the date by which the annual coastwide quota described in 
Sec.  648.232 will be harvested and shall close the EEZ to fishing for 
spiny dogfish on that date for the remainder of the fishing year by 
publishing notification in the Federal Register. Upon the closure date, 
and for the remainder of the fishing year, no vessel may fish for or 
possess spiny dogfish in the EEZ, nor may vessels issued a spiny 
dogfish permit under this part land spiny dogfish, nor may dealers 
issued a Federal permit purchase spiny dogfish from vessels issued a 
spiny dogfish permit under this part.
* * * * *
0
4. In Sec.  648.235, revise paragraph (a) introductory text and 
paragraph (b), and remove paragraph (c).
    The revisions read as follows:


Sec.  648.235  Spiny dogfish possession and landing restrictions.

    (a) Possession limit. Vessels issued a valid Federal spiny dogfish 
permit under Sec.  648.4(a)(11) may:
* * * * *
    (b) Regulations governing the harvest, possession, landing, 
purchase, and sale of shark fins are found at part 600, subpart N, of 
this chapter.

[FR Doc. 2014-07976 Filed 4-9-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P