[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 77 (Tuesday, April 22, 2014)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 22421-22449]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-09135]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Parts 648 and 697

[Docket No. 140106011-4338-02]
RIN 0648-BD88


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

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: NMFS has partially approved Framework Adjustment 51 to the 
Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan (Groundfish FMP), and 
this final rule implements the approved measures. This action sets 
catch limits for groundfish stocks, revises the rebuilding programs for 
Gulf of Maine cod and American plaice, modifies management measures for 
yellowtail flounder, and revises management measures for the U.S./

[[Page 22422]]

Canada Management Area. Although not part of Framework 51, this action 
also sets fishing year 2014 trip limits for the common pool fishery and 
announces 2014 accountability measures for windowpane flounder. This 
action is necessary to respond to updated scientific information and 
achieve the goals and objectives of the Groundfish FMP. The approved 
measures are intended to help prevent overfishing, rebuild overfished 
stocks, achieve optimum yield, and ensure that management measures are 
based on the best scientific information available.

DATES: This final rule is effective on May 1, 2014.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

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

Disapproved Measures

1. Gulf of Maine Cod and American Plaice Rebuilding Plan Review 
Analysis

    Framework 51 proposed to establish a rebuilding plan review 
analysis for GOM cod and plaice in conjunction with the revised 
rebuilding programs adopted in this final rule. The rebuilding plan 
review analysis will be triggered if the stock falls below its 
rebuilding trajectory, among other criteria, and is intended to 
investigate why rebuilding did not occur as expected. We are partially 
disapproving the proposed rebuilding plan review analysis to remove 
irrelevant portions of the measure and the regulatory provisions 
related to these parts of the review analysis.
    Portions of the proposed rebuilding plan review were intended to 
consider extending the rebuilding programs for GOM cod and plaice to 
the maximum 10 years allowed under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). Although these 
portions of the proposed measure were initially included because the 
Council was considering shorter rebuilding timelines for both stocks, 
the Council ultimately adopted, and we have approved, 10-year 
rebuilding programs for GOM cod and plaice. As a result, we noted in 
the proposed rule for this action that the portions of the proposed 
measure related to consideration of extending the rebuilding program to 
10 years appeared to be irrelevant and redundant, and requested 
specific comments on these portions of the rebuilding plan review 
analysis. We received no public comments that specifically addressed 
our concerns, or demonstrated why these portions of the rebuilding plan 
review analysis for GOM cod and plaice were still necessary. In the 
absence of any justification for keeping these portions of the review 
analysis, we have determined that the provisions related to extending 
the rebuilding program to 10 years are not applicable or meaningful to 
this action and, as a result, is not consistent with National Standard 
7 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Based on this determination, we have 
disapproved these portions of the rebuilding plan review analysis.

2. Revised Discard Estimation for Georges Bank Yellowtail Flounder

    Framework 51 proposed to change the stratification of GB yellowtail 
flounder discards for sectors and calculate discards for two different 
areas: (1) Statistical area 522; and (2) statistical areas 525, 561, 
and 562 combined. Under the existing stratification (a single stratum 
for statistical areas 522, 525, 561, and 562), the Council was 
concerned that even if some sector vessels fished in areas on GB where 
little yellowtail flounder is caught, in order to reduce catch of GB 
yellowtail flounder, other vessels fishing on other parts of GB, with 
higher catch rates of yellowtail flounder, would impact the discard 
rate for the entire sector. As a result, creating separate strata for 
statistical area 522 and statistical areas 525, 561, and 562 combined 
was intended to more accurately reflect yellowtail flounder discards 
and fishing activity in these areas. When the Council took final action 
on Framework 51, and adopted the proposed measure, it also passed a 
motion that the measure be implemented ``unless NMFS develops a discard 
tool to address this issue through the sectors.'' This discard tool is 
explained in more detail further below.
    We have disapproved the proposed revisions to the GB yellowtail 
flounder discard strata because it would unnecessarily increase the 
cost and burden of monitoring sector catches, and potentially increase 
uncertainty of catch estimates, without any measurable benefits for 
sectors. During the development of Framework 51, we noted concerns for 
the approvability of this measure because it was unchanged from the 
same measure that we disapproved last year in Framework 48, and no 
additional rationale or analysis was provided to sufficiently overcome

[[Page 22423]]

our previous determination that the measure was not consistent with 
National Standards 5 and 7 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. We noted these 
same concerns in the proposed rule for this action, and requested 
specific comment on this issue. Based on a review of the proposed 
measure and public comments received, we determined that the added 
complications of administering this measure would increase costs more 
than it provides benefits to the fishing industry or improved catch 
estimates, and we explain each of these issues below. For these 
reasons, we determined that this measure is not consistent with 
National Standards 5 or 7 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.
    First, the revised discard strata may not improve the precision, or 
reduce the variances, of catch estimates for sectors. Creating an 
additional stratum for GB yellowtail flounder would reduce the number 
of observed trips contributing to the discard rate calculation for each 
stratum (area 522 and areas 525/561/562 combined), which could increase 
the variance in the catch estimates. This was demonstrated in the 
Council's analysis of this measure that showed the creation of two 
different areas for discard calculations reduced the number of observed 
trips to low levels for several sectors. Due to the smaller sample 
size, finer-scale stratification would also likely result in discard 
rate estimates, and thus catch estimates, that are more sensitive to 
outliers in the data. In addition, the revised discard strata could 
increase uncertainty of catch estimates if it increases errors in the 
statistical area reported for vessel landings. As the Council's 
analysis of the revised discard strata also indicates, if the measure 
resulted in increased variance of discard estimates, this could 
subsequently increase monitoring coverage levels necessary to 
accurately monitor sector catches. Lower observer coverage and this 
finer-scale stratification could also result in very high or low 
discard rates just from chance alone. Thus, without appropriate 
monitoring coverage, increased variability in discard estimates would 
affect our ability to reliably monitor sector catches, achieve the 30-
percent coefficient of variation for each stock required by the 
Groundfish FMP, and ensure that overfishing is not occurring.
    The Council's analysis of the revised discard strata also showed 
that it would not likely lead to large changes in the total discard 
estimates of GB yellowtail flounder, which appears to diminish any 
utility and benefit of the revised discard strata. While the finer-
scale stratification could allow discard rates to more closely reflect 
actual discards of yellowtail flounder in different parts of Georges 
Bank, this measure would not have any real benefits for sectors that 
could not be achieved within the existing discard rate strata. 
Particularly given the reduction in the GB yellowtail flounder catch 
limit, sectors could already take advantage of the spatially different 
catch rates within the GB yellowtail flounder stock area by choosing to 
fish only in those areas with known low catch rates of GB yellowtail 
flounder. A separate discard rate for statistical area 522 could 
benefit an individual vessel with a lower GB yellowtail flounder 
discard rate, but that vessel would still be influenced by other 
vessels in its sector that choose to fish in other areas of Georges 
Bank with higher discards. A sector is limited by the total catch of GB 
yellowtail flounder by all of its member vessels, and finer-scale 
stratification does not eliminate the need for a sector to manage catch 
of GB yellowtail flounder by all of its vessels to prevent an early end 
to their fishing season. Based on the Framework 51 analysis, a separate 
discard rate in statistical area 522 could benefit some sectors; 
however, other sectors may be negatively affected by the proposed 
measure because it could increase their discard estimates.
    In the proposed rule for this action, we requested specific comment 
to address our concerns for the revised discard strata. We only 
received one comment on this measure, and that comment did not address 
our concerns relative to National Standards 5 and 7 of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act. As a result, no additional rationale has been provided to 
sufficiently respond to our concerns about this measure, or show that 
the increased administrative burden would be meaningfully offset by 
measurable benefits for sectors. Thus, due to all of our concerns that 
this measure could increase the uncertainty of catch estimates and the 
costs of monitoring and administration of sectors without any 
corresponding benefits to sectors, we have determined that it is not 
consistent with National Standards 5 and 7, and have disapproved this 
measure.
    When adopting Framework 51, the Council expressed that it preferred 
a sector discard tool be developed instead of the revised discard 
strata proposed in Framework 51. We evaluated the approvability of the 
revised discard strata on its own merits, and concluded that the 
revised discard strata is not consistent with applicable law, as 
already stated above. However, we also considered the Council's 
preference for a discard tool to be provided to sectors that could 
serve as an alternative approach to address concerns for sector discard 
calculations. This tool does not require any regulatory changes and, 
unlike the proposed revision to the GB yellowtail flounder discard 
strata, it does not change the discard estimates for each sector. 
Rather, the discard tool is intended to help sectors allocate estimated 
discards among member vessels. Shortly after the Council took final 
action on Framework 51, we developed a discard tool for sectors, and 
presented this tool at a sector workshop in February 2014. The Council 
has not had the opportunity to comment on the discard tool we developed 
due to timing of meetings; however, we provide a brief summary below of 
potential uses for the new discard tool, and our efforts to work with 
the sectors to improve its utility.
    There are multiple uses of this tool that could allow a sector to 
assign discards in any number of ways, and each sector can potentially 
customize the discard tool based on the sector's business model. For 
example, the tool could be used to assign discards for a particular 
stock, for inshore and offshore vessels, for vessels using slightly 
different gear configurations, to exclude certain vessels or groups of 
vessels from the discard calculation, or assign discards on a number of 
other criteria including vessels size, target species, or season 
fished. Due to this wide range of possible uses, the discard tool 
potentially addresses concerns for sector discard estimates more than 
any revisions to the discard strata for a single stock, as proposed in 
Framework 51. We received initial feedback and public comments from 
sectors that the tool will likely be useful for sectors, though it 
could be difficult for sector representatives to learn how to properly 
use the tool. We realize that sector managers will likely need, and 
benefit from, additional training before the discard tool can be more 
widely used. Since the proposed rule to this action, we solicited 
additional feedback from sectors on the potential utility of this tool. 
We will continue to work with sector representatives to explain the 
various ways the tool can be used, and help sectors decide how the tool 
could best serve their needs.

Approved Measures

    We have approved the following Framework 51 measures, and have 
determined that these measures are consistent with the goals and 
objectives of the Groundfish FMP, as well as the requirements of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act:

[[Page 22424]]

    1. Ten-year rebuilding programs for GOM cod and American plaice;
    2. FY 2014 catch limits for the three shared U.S./Canada stocks;
    3. FY 2014-2016 catch limits for white hake;
    4. Accountability measures for GB yellowtail flounder for the 
small-mesh fisheries;
    5. A 1-year U.S./Canada quota trading mechanism (for FY 2014 only);
    6. A revision to the administration of eastern and western GB 
haddock sector allocations; and
    7. Prohibition on possession of yellowtail flounder by limited 
access scallop vessels.
    This rule also implements a number of other measures that are not 
part of Framework 51, but that were considered under NMFS Regional 
Administrator authority provided by the Groundfish FMP. We are 
including these additional measures in this rule in conjunction with 
the Framework 51 approved measures for expediency purposes. The 
additional measures implemented in this rule are listed below, and each 
is described in more detail later in this preamble.
     FY 2014 management measures for the common pool fishery--
This action implements initial FY 2014 trip limits for the common pool 
fishery. The Regional Administrator has the authority to set management 
measures for the common pool fishery that will help ensure the fishery 
catches, but does not exceed, its catch limits. The trip limits 
included in this action reflect public comments we received on the 
proposed trip limits.
     FY 2014 accountability measures for windowpane flounder--
We are announcing accountability measures for northern and southern 
windowpane flounder that have been triggered due to overages of the 
overall catch limits for both stocks. We also announced these 
accountability measures at the Council's Groundfish Oversight Committee 
meeting on November 19, 2013, and in our January 17, 2014, letter to 
the Council.
     Other regulatory corrections--We are implementing several 
corrections to the regulations to correct references, replace 
inadvertent deletions, and make other minor edits. Each correction is 
described in more detail in Item 10 of this preamble.

1. Gulf of Maine Cod and American Plaice Rebuilding Programs

Revised Rebuilding Strategies
    This rule implements 10-year rebuilding plans for GOM cod and 
plaice that will rebuild the stocks by 2024 with a median probability 
of success. The previous rebuilding programs for GOM cod and plaice 
were scheduled to rebuild the stocks by 2014 and 2017, respectively. In 
2012, updated scientific information indicated that neither stock could 
rebuild by its rebuilding end date, even in the absence of all fishing. 
As a result, we notified the Council that the stocks were not making 
adequate rebuilding progress, and that the Council was required to 
revise the rebuilding programs for both stocks within 2 years, or by 
May 1, 2014, consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The revised 
rebuilding strategies implemented in this action are in response to 
this mandate.
    The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires that overfished stocks be rebuilt 
as quickly as possible, not to exceed 10 years, while accounting for 
the needs of fishing communities. The minimum rebuilding time 
(Tmin) is the amount of time a stock is expected to take to 
rebuild to its maximum sustainable yield biomass level 
(SSBMSY) in the absence of any fishing mortality. 
Tmin for a stock is typically used for informational 
purposes when developing rebuilding programs, and it is important to 
note that Tmin does not necessarily account for the needs of 
fishing communities, or scientific uncertainties in rebuilding 
projections. For GOM cod, Tmin is 6 years, or 2020, and 
Tmin for plaice is 4 years, or 2018. The rebuilding programs 
adopted in this action will use the maximum time period allowed by the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act, and as explained in more detail below, these 
programs intend to address the needs of fishing communities as much as 
practicable, as well as factor in past performance of groundfish catch 
projections in order to further increase the likelihood of rebuilding 
success.
    Long-term catch projections for groundfish stocks tend to 
underestimate fishing mortality and overestimate stock biomass (see 
Appendix 5 to the 2012 groundfish assessment updates for more 
information: http://nefsc.noaa.gov/publications/crd/crd1206/). The 
inherent uncertainty surrounding long-term projections makes it 
difficult to estimate the fishing mortality rate that is required to 
rebuild the stock within the specified time frame, or 
Frebuild. This uncertainty is due, in part, to the 
estimate's dependence on future stock recruitment (the amount of fish 
added to the stock each year), which is often difficult to predict. If 
stock recruitment does not occur as projected, then progress towards 
rebuilding can occur much slower than expected.
    The Council's default control rule for setting catch limits 
requires that catches be set based on 75% FMSY (i.e., the 
fishing mortality rate that, if applied over the long term, would 
result in maximum sustainable yield) or Frebuild, whichever 
is lower. Typically, when a stock is in a rebuilding program, 
Frebuild is less than 75% FMSY, and, thus, the 
annual catch limits are usually set based on Frebuild. 
However, catch limits based on Frebuild tend to be 
unreliable since Frebuild in the near term is dependent on 
recruitment assumptions from the long-term catch projections. As a 
result, rebuilding progress for many groundfish stocks has often 
occurred slower than expected due to the uncertainties in long-term 
catch projections, which leads to dramatic reductions in catch limits 
as the rebuilding end date gets closer. As Frebuild 
approaches zero, it is less likely to be used for setting catch limits 
because of the resultant dramatic reductions in fishing mortality 
necessary to meet Frebuild, which can undermine rebuilding 
objectives.
    To help avoid this problem, all of the rebuilding strategies 
considered in Framework 51 for GOM cod and plaice were calculated using 
an Frebuild that was greater than 75% FMSY. But 
during the rebuilding time period, catches will continue to be set 
consistent with the Council's default control rule (75% FMSY 
or Frebuild, whichever is lower). Thus, under this approach, 
catches will be set more conservatively than Frebuild (based 
on 75% FMSY), at least initially in the revised rebuilding 
programs. Setting catches more conservatively than Frebuild 
is intended to account for uncertainties in the long-term catch 
projections that result from assumptions of recruitment that may be 
overly optimistic. This strategy is intended to accelerate the 
rebuilding timeline and increase the likelihood of success compared to 
traditional groundfish rebuilding programs that did not attempt to 
proactively address these uncertainties. In the future, if information 
shows that GOM cod and plaice stock sizes have not increased as 
projected, it is possible that Frebuild could become less 
than 75% FMSY. Under this scenario, catches would then be 
set based on the lower rate, or Frebuild, consistent with 
the Council's default control rule.
    The 10-year rebuilding strategy for GOM cod also addresses the 
differences in the two stock assessment models, which make it difficult 
to project how quickly the stock can rebuild. The most recent stock 
assessment for GOM cod, completed in December 2012, approved two 
different assessment models, and both assessment models were approved

[[Page 22425]]

as the basis of providing catch advice. One assessment model (base case 
model) assumes the natural mortality rate (M) is 0.2. The second 
assessment model (Mramp model) assumes that M has increased 
from 0.2 to 0.4 in recent years. The assessment concluded that M would 
return to 0.2 at some point, though, in the short-term, M would remain 
0.4. As a result, fishing mortality targets used in the catch 
projections from both models are based on biological reference points 
that assume M=0.2. A detailed summary of the benchmark assessment is 
available from the NMFS Northeast Fisheries Science Center at: http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/saw/saw55/crd1301.pdf.
    Interpreting and developing a rebuilding program under the 
Mramp model is difficult because it is not known when M 
would return to 0.2. However, a change in M (from 0.4 to 0.2) is 
required to rebuild the GOM cod stock, and if this reduction does not 
occur, then GOM cod may be unable to rebuild based on the revised 
rebuilding strategy. For this reason, the 10-year rebuilding program 
adopted in this action is expected to better incorporate the 
differences in the two assessment models compared to a shorter 
rebuilding time period.
    The rebuilding strategies implemented in this action will use the 
full 10 years, as allowed by the Magnuson-Stevens Act, even though 
rebuilding might be able to occur sooner. These strategies are intended 
to address the uncertainties noted above, as well as to account for the 
needs of fishing communities. As noted above, the approach used for 
developing the rebuilding strategies is intended to accelerate the 
rebuilding timeline because catches will be set more conservatively 
than Frebuild, at least initially. This approach increases 
the likelihood of success for rebuilding GOM cod and plaice, and in the 
long-term, provides greater net benefits that would occur from rebuilt 
stocks. The 10-year rebuilding programs for GOM cod and plaice will 
also provide more flexibility and better address the needs of fishing 
communities compared to rebuilding programs that target an earlier end 
date. This is particularly important for GOM cod, which is a key 
groundfish stock, because constrained catch limits for GOM cod also 
impede the harvest of other groundfish stocks in the GOM. In addition, 
plaice is a ``unit stock,'' meaning that there are not multiple stocks 
within the management unit. As a result, severely constrained catch 
limits for plaice could result in lost groundfish fishing opportunities 
across the entire groundfish management area (GB, GOM, and Southern New 
England). Analysis completed for various rebuilding scenarios indicates 
that the 10-year rebuilding programs adopted in this action will 
maximize the net present values (i.e., potential landings streams and 
future revenues) compared to other rebuilding scenarios that would have 
targeted earlier end dates (see Section 7.4 of the Framework 51 
Environmental Assessment). Thus, the rebuilding strategies take into 
account, and address, the needs of fishing communities, while 
rebuilding the stocks as quickly as possible, and will ultimately 
increase the likelihood of achieving optimum yield in the fishery. 
These rebuilding strategies are also approved in conjunction with a new 
process, described below, that will monitor progress throughout the 
rebuilding time period, and allow for necessary adjustments to be made 
if either GOM cod or plaice falls below its rebuilding trajectory.
Rebuilding Plan Review Analysis
    In conjunction with implementing the revised rebuilding programs, 
this rule also establishes a rebuilding plan review analysis for both 
GOM cod and plaice. We only partially approved this measure because 
part of the rebuilding plan review was intended to consider extending 
the rebuilding programs for both stocks to the maximum 10 years allowed 
under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. We disapproved these portions of the 
rebuilding plan review analysis, as we described in more detail in the 
Disapproved Measures section of this preamble. We have approved all 
other portions of the rebuilding plan review analysis.
    The Council will initiate the rebuilding plan review for the 
respective stock if all three of the following conditions are met:
     The total catch limit has not been exceeded during the 
rebuilding program;
     New scientific information indicates that the stock is 
below its rebuilding trajectory (i.e., rebuilding has not progressed as 
expected); and
     Frebuild becomes less than 75% FMSY.
    If all three of the criteria described above are met, then the 
Council would task its appropriate body (e.g., Groundfish Plan 
Development Team or Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) to 
complete a rebuilding plan review that would provide the Council with 
new catch advice for GOM cod and/or plaice. In priority order, the 
rebuilding plan review would:
    1. Review the biomass reference points; and
    2. Provide catch limits based on Frebuild for these 
scenarios:
    a. Under a review of the biomass reference points (Item 1 above); 
and
    b. Under the existing rebuilding program.
    This rebuilding plan review analysis is intended to investigate why 
rebuilding has not occurred as expected. These types of analyses are 
typically already done as part of the current biennial review process 
for the groundfish program, or during a stock assessment, regardless of 
whether the above criteria are met for initiating the review. As a 
result, we initially noted concerns with the potential administrative 
burden of this measure, and whether there were any measurable benefits 
of the rebuilding plan review analysis. Based on public comments 
received, however, although many of the aspects of this rebuilding 
review are explored during stock assessments and the biennial review 
process, we determined that this measure will be useful because it 
commits the Council to a thorough evaluation of rebuilding progress, 
should a stock drop below its rebuilding trajectory. This measure 
guarantees that a rebuilding plan review would be completed compared to 
the current process that complete these tasks on a more ``ad-hoc'' 
basis. In addition, the rebuilding plan review analysis is expected to 
provide the Council with the necessary information to adjust management 
measures and ensure that the stocks still rebuild by the rebuilding end 
date. The rebuilding review analysis adopted in this action only 
applies to GOM cod and plaice; however, it is expected that, if this 
type of review is successful, it could be adopted for other rebuilding 
stocks in the future.
    Although we partially approved the rebuilding plan review, we 
highlight a number of issues here to clarify the utility of this 
information and how the results of any rebuilding plan review analysis 
could be used to inform decision-making in the future. First, the only 
basis for initiating the rebuilding plan review analysis would be if a 
stock assessment provided information to show that a stock was not on 
its rebuilding trajectory. As noted above, if a stock falls below its 
rebuilding trajectory, at least an initial investigation of why 
rebuilding has not occurred as expected would likely occur during the 
stock assessment (e.g., a comparison of recruitment assumptions and 
realized recruitment). Further, we expect that, as part of the existing 
biennial review process, the Groundfish Plan Development Team should 
already be reviewing and evaluating fishing year

[[Page 22426]]

catches compared to the respective annual catch limits each year in 
order to recommend and develop appropriate management measures to 
achieve the goals and objectives of the Groundfish FMP. We also 
reiterate that there is no guarantee the review of the biomass 
reference points (Item 1) will result in any revisions to the biomass 
reference points. The only analyses that would be sufficient to revise 
biomass reference points, and thus provide new catch advice options 
based on those revised biological reference points (Item 2a), would be 
another stock assessment.
    As noted in a comment received on the proposed measure, this 
rebuilding plan review analysis could be adopted for other rebuilding 
stocks in the future, should this process prove successful for GOM cod 
and plaice. Although we disapproved portions of the rebuilding plan 
review analysis because the rebuilding programs adopted in this action 
already use the maximum 10 years allowed, the Council could consider 
these disapproved provisions in the future for other stocks in those 
cases where the Council initially adopts a shorter rebuilding time 
period.

2. U.S./Canada Quotas

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

 Table 1--Fishing Year 2014 U.S./Canada Quotas (mt, live weight) and Percent of Quota Allocated to Each Country,
                                                 in Parentheses
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                 Eastern GB       GB Yellowtail
                           Quota                             Eastern GB cod        haddock          flounder
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Total Shared Quota........................................               700            27,000               400
U.S. Quota................................................         154 (22%)      10,530 (39%)         328 (82%)
Canada Quota..............................................         546 (78%)      16,470 (61%)          72 (18%)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

3. Catch Limits

    The catch limits implemented in this action can be found in Tables 
2 through 6. A brief summary of how these catch limits were developed 
is provided below; however, more detail can be found in Appendix III to 
the Framework 51 Environmental Assessment (see ADDRESSES for 
information on how to get this document).
    Last year, Framework 50 adopted FY 2013-2015 catch limits for all 
groundfish stocks, except white hake and the three U.S./Canada stocks 
that are set annually. A benchmark stock assessment for white hake was 
completed in February 2013, and the results of this assessment became 
available after the Council took final action on Framework 50. As a 
result, the Council was not able to incorporate the new benchmark 
results in time for setting FY 2013-2015 catch limits. Instead, we 
implemented an emergency action for FY 2013 to increase the white hake 
catch limit based on the February 2013 assessment, and to give the 
Council time to respond to the new assessment. We are now implementing 
FY 2014-2016 catch limits for white hake based on the recent stock 
assessment, and consistent with the recommendation of the SSC. This 
rule also adopts FY 2014 shared U.S./Canada quotas (see Item 2 in this 
preamble), which are discussed in more detail below. For all stocks, 
except GB cod, GB haddock, GB yellowtail flounder, and white hake, the 
catch limits included in this action are identical to those previously 
adopted in Framework 50.

[[Page 22427]]

There is no catch limit adopted for FY 2015 or FY 2016 for many 
groundfish stocks. The Council will specify these catch limits in a 
future management action once updated scientific information becomes 
available.
Overfishing Limits and Acceptable Biological Catches
    The overfishing limit (OFL) serves as the maximum amount of fish 
that can be caught in a year without harming the stock. The OFL for 
each stock is calculated using the estimated stock size and 
FMSY (i.e., the fishing mortality rate that, if applied over 
the long term, would result in maximum sustainable yield). The OFL does 
not account for scientific uncertainty, so the Council's SSC typically 
recommends an acceptable biological catch (ABC) that is lower than the 
OFL in order to account for scientific uncertainty. Typically, the 
greater the amount of scientific uncertainty, the lower the ABC is set 
compared to the OFL. For GB cod, haddock, and yellowtail flounder, the 
total ABC is further reduced by the amount of the Canadian quota. The 
U.S. ABC is the amount available to the U.S. fishery after accounting 
for Canadian catch.
GB Yellowtail Flounder
    Both the 2013 TRAC assessment and the SSC noted concerns for the 
poor performance of the stock assessment model for GB yellowtail 
flounder. The assessment model has a strong retrospective pattern, 
which causes stock size to be overestimated and fishing mortality to be 
underestimated. Despite concerns for the uncertainties in the 
assessment, and the performance of the assessment model, however, both 
the TRAC and the SSC concluded that stock conditions are poor. 
Recruitment for the stock remains low, and although the quota has been 
reduced in recent years due to continually declining stock conditions, 
all of the available information indicates that the stock has not 
responded to these reductions. In addition, although the assessment is 
highly uncertain, it was not rejected by either the TRAC or SSC.
    The 2013 TRAC assessment concluded that 2014 catches well below 500 
mt are likely needed to achieve the TMGC's harvest strategy for GB 
yellowtail flounder, and that catch should be reduced as much as 
possible from the 2013 quota of 500 mt. Consistent with the TRAC 
assessment, the SSC recommended that catches not exceed 500 mt in FY 
2014, and strongly recommended that catch be reduced as much as 
practicable in light of concerns about the status of the stock. The SSC 
also concluded that the OFL for GB yellowtail flounder cannot be 
reliably estimated due to poor performance of the assessment model, and 
as a result determined that the OFL is unknown.
    When reviewing and approving any quota, we must determine that the 
proposed quota has a sufficient probability of preventing overfishing. 
To do this, we build off of the SSC's recommendation of an OFL and ABC. 
When absolute values for the OFL are not readily available, any quota 
recommendation must still meet the necessary requirements, and have at 
least a 50-percent probability of preventing overfishing. Both the TRAC 
results and the SSC's recommendation provide the necessary 
directionality of the 2014 quota compared to 2013, as well as 
information that can be used to determine the appropriate 2014 catch 
limit that would have a sufficient probability of preventing 
overfishing.
    The results of the assessment model that are not adjusted for the 
retrospective pattern indicate that 2014 catches at the fishing 
mortality limit would be 562 mt. However, given the poor performance of 
the assessment model, and because these results are not adjusted for 
the retrospective pattern in the assessment, it is reasonable to 
conclude that these results may be biased high. Because the unadjusted 
model results from the assessment are likely biased high, the 2014 
quota should have a greater uncertainty buffer than the Council's 
standard default control rule (75% FMSY). A 2014 catch limit 
of 400 mt is the maximum catch that would provide an additional 
uncertainty buffer from the unadjusted model results to further account 
for the uncertainties in the assessment. On the other hand, when the 
model results are adjusted for the retrospective pattern, 2014 catches 
at the fishing mortality limit would be 123 mt. In discussing the poor 
performance of the assessment model, though, the SSC questioned the 
magnitude of stock depletion, and noted that catch and survey trends 
may suggest less concern is warranted than indicated by the assessment 
model. As a result, the model results adjusted for the retrospective 
pattern may be biased low.
    Recent catches can also be used to evaluate what 2014 catch level 
would be consistent with the TRAC and SSC's recommendations to reduce 
catches as much as possible/practicable. Catches in 2012, which is the 
most recent fishing year in which final catch information is available, 
were approximately 480 mt, of which the United States caught 385 mt. 
The U.S. share of the quota increases in 2014 from 43 percent in 2013 
to 82 percent in 2014, and as a result, the 2014 TMGC recommendation of 
400 mt would result in a U.S. quota of 328 mt, which is nearly equal to 
the FY 2012 total U.S. catch. Similarly, although final 2013 catch 
estimates will not be available until September 2014, if total 2013 
catches are between 300-400 mt, a quota above 400 mt in 2014 would 
likely allow catches to increase compared to recent years, which would 
not be consistent with the TRAC and SSC's recommendation that catches 
be reduced.
    In addition, the FY 2013 catch limit for GB yellowtail flounder is 
500 mt. Because the stock has declined further this past year, a status 
quo catch limit in FY 2014 would not appropriately account for this 
stock decline. The quota was reduced by more than 40 percent from 2011 
to 2012, and again from 2012 to 2013, yet the 2013 TRAC assessment 
indicates that the stock has not responded to these reductions. This 
suggests that the 2014 quota should be further reduced from 2013 to 
increase the likelihood that stock conditions will improve.
    Based on all of these factors, we determined that 400 mt was the 
total ABC for GB yellowtail flounder that would have a sufficient 
probability of preventing overfishing, reduce catch consistent with the 
TRAC and SSC advice, and provide for some stock growth. This 
determination was provided to the TMGC in September 2013, and served as 
the basis for the TMGC recommending 400 mt as the 2014 shared quota. 
Despite alternative catch limits put forward by the Council's 
Groundfish Oversight Committee, the Council ultimately adopted the 
TMGC's recommendation in Framework 51, and a FY 2014 catch limit of 400 
mt for GB yellowtail flounder is implemented through this action. Based 
on the best scientific information available, a quota of 400 mt has at 
least a median probability of preventing overfishing and increases the 
likelihood that stock conditions will improve. This quota is also a 20-
percent reduction compared to the 2013 quota, which is consistent with 
the TRAC and SSC's recommendation to reduce catches as much as 
possible/practicable.
    In response to concerns for the poor performance of the GB 
yellowtail flounder stock assessment model, the TRAC conducted an 
empirical benchmark assessment April 14-18, 2014, to examine an 
alternative method for estimating abundance and setting catch limits 
for the stock. The TRAC and TMGC will incorporate the results of the 
benchmark assessment for providing 2015 catch advice for GB

[[Page 22428]]

yellowtail flounder, as appropriate. More information on the 2014 
benchmark assessment can be found here: http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/saw/trac/.
Annual Catch Limits
    The U.S. ABC for each stock (for each fishing year) is divided 
among the various fishery components to account for all sources of 
fishing mortality. First, expected catch from state waters and the 
``other'' sub-component is deducted from the U.S. ABC. These sub-
components are not subject to specific catch controls by the Groundfish 
FMP. As a result, the state waters and ``other'' sub-components are not 
allocations, and these components of the fishery are not subject to 
accountability measures if the catch limits are exceeded. After the 
state and other sub-components are deducted, the remaining portion of 
the U.S. ABC is the amount available to the fishery components that 
receive an allocation for the stock. Components of the fishery that 
receive an allocation are subject to catch controls by the Groundfish 
FMP, including accountability measures that are triggered if they 
exceed their respective catch limit during the fishing year.
    Once the U.S. ABC is divided, sub-annual catch limits (sub-ACLs) 
are set by reducing the amount of the ABC distributed to each component 
of the fishery to account for management uncertainty. Management 
uncertainty is the likelihood that management measures will result in a 
level of catch greater than expected. For each stock, management 
uncertainty is estimated using the following criteria: Enforceability 
and precision of management measures, adequacy of catch monitoring, 
latent effort, and catch of groundfish in non-groundfish fisheries. The 
total ACL is the sum of all of the sub-ACLs and ACL sub-components, and 
is the catch limit for a particular year after accounting for both 
scientific and management uncertainty. Landings and discards from all 
fisheries (commercial and recreational groundfish fisheries, state 
waters, and non-groundfish fisheries) are counted against the ACL.
    For stocks allocated to sectors, the commercial groundfish sub-ACL 
is further divided into the non-sector (common pool) sub-ACL and the 
sector sub-ACL based on the total vessel enrollment in sectors and the 
cumulative potential sector contributions associated with those 
sectors. The sector and common pool sub-ACLs included in this action 
are preliminary based on FY 2014 PSCs and FY 2013 sector rosters. FY 
2014 sector rosters will not be finalized until May 1, 2014, because 
individual permit holders have until the end of FY 2013, or April 30, 
2014, to drop out of a sector and fish in the common pool fishery for 
FY 2014. Therefore, it is possible that the sector and common pool 
catch limits may change due to changes in the sector rosters. If 
changes to the sector rosters occur, we will publish updated sector and 
common pool sub-ACLs as soon as possible in FY 2014 to reflect final FY 
2014 sector rosters as of May 1, 2014.
Common Pool Total Allowable Catches
    The common pool sub-ACL for each stock (except for Southern New 
England/Mid-Atlantic (SNE/MA) winter flounder, windowpane flounder, 
ocean pout, Atlantic wolffish, and Atlantic halibut) is further divided 
into trimester total allowable catches (TACs). The distribution of the 
common pool sub-ACLs into trimesters was adopted by Amendment 16 and is 
based on recent landing patterns. Once we project that 90 percent of 
the trimester TAC is caught for a stock, the trimester TAC area for 
that stock is closed for the remainder of the trimester to all common 
pool vessels fishing with gear capable of catching that stock. Any 
uncaught portions of the trimester TAC in Trimester 1 or Trimester 2 
are carried forward to the next trimester. Overages of the Trimester 1 
or Trimester 2 TAC are deducted from the Trimester 3 TAC. We are 
required to deduct any overages of the total common pool sub-ACL from 
the common pool sub-ACL for that stock in the next fishing year after 
the overage. Uncaught portions of the Trimester 3 TAC may not be 
carried over into the following fishing year. Table 5 summarizes the FY 
2014 common pool trimester TACs implemented in this action based on the 
preliminary common pool sub-ACL. If the FY 2014 common pool sub-ACL 
changes based on final sector rosters, the FY 2014 trimester TACs will 
also change. In addition, once we complete final catch estimates of FY 
2013 common pool catch, we will deduct any overages of the common pool 
sub-ACLs from the respective FY 2014 sub-ACLs. We will publish any 
necessary adjustments as close to May 1, 2014, as possible.
    Incidental catch TACs are also specified for certain stocks of 
concern (i.e., stocks that are overfished or subject to overfishing) 
for common pool vessels fishing in the special management programs 
(i.e., special access programs (SAPs) and the Regular B Days-at-Sea 
(DAS) Program), in order to limit the catch of these stocks under each 
program. Tables 6 summarizes the Incidental Catch TACs for each stock 
that are implemented by this action.
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[[Page 22429]]

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[[Page 22430]]


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[[Page 22431]]


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BILLING CODE 3510-22-C

                                                    Table 5--FYs 2014-2016 Common Pool Trimester TACs
                                                                    [mt, live weight]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                   2014                               2015                             2016
                                                   -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                       Stock                         Trimester   Trimester   Trimester  Trimester  Trimester  Trimester  Trimester  Trimester  Trimester
                                                         1           2           3          1          2          3          1          2          3
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GB Cod............................................        7.6        11.3        11.6         9.8       14.4       14.8  .........  .........  .........
GOM Cod...........................................        4.9         6.6         6.8         4.9        6.6        6.8  .........  .........  .........
GB Haddock........................................       15.0        18.3        22.2        34.0       41.6       50.4  .........  .........  .........

[[Page 22432]]

 
GOM Haddock.......................................        0.51        0.49        0.88        0.6        0.6        1.1  .........  .........  .........
GB Yellowtail Flounder............................        0.6         0.9         1.6   .........  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........
SNE/MA Yellowtail Flounder........................       19.9        35.0        39.7        19.9       35.1       39.9  .........  .........  .........
CC/GOM Yellowtail Flounder........................        4.7         4.7         4.0         4.7        4.7        4.0  .........  .........  .........
American Plaice...................................        5.8         8.7         9.7         5.9        8.9        9.9  .........  .........  .........
Witch Flounder....................................        2.9         3.3         4.5         2.9        3.3        4.5  .........  .........  .........
GB Winter Flounder................................        1.7         5.1        14.7   .........  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........
GOM Winter Flounder...............................        9.8        10.0         6.6   .........  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........
Redfish...........................................       10.5        13.0        18.4        10.9       13.6       19.2  .........  .........  .........
White Hake........................................       11.6         9.4         9.4        11.7        9.6        9.6       11.6        9.4        9.4
Pollock...........................................       26.0        32.5        34.3   .........  .........  .........  .........  .........  .........
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note: An empty cell indicates no catch limit has been specified yet. These catch limits will be specified in a future management action.


                 Table 6--FY 2014-2015 Incidental Catch TACs for Each Special Management Program
                                                [mt, live weight]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                     Regular B DAS Program    Closed area I hook gear     Eastern U.S./Canada
                                  --------------------------        haddock SAP               haddock SAP
              Stock                                         ----------------------------------------------------
                                       2014         2015         2014         2015         2014          2015
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GB Cod...........................          0.3          0.3          0.1          0.1          0.2           0.2
GOM Cod..........................          0.2          0.2           na           na         na              na
GB Yellowtail Flounder...........         0.03  ...........           na           na          0.03  ...........
CC/GOM Yellowtail Flounder.......          0.1          0.1           na           na         na              na
American Plaice..................          1.2          1.2           na           na         na              na
Witch Flounder...................          0.5          0.5           na           na         na              na
SNE/MA Winter Flounder...........          1.4          1.4           na           na         na              na
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note: An empty cell indicates no catch limit has been specified yet. These catch limits will be specified in a
  future management action.

4. Small-Mesh Fisheries Accountability Measure for Georges Bank 
Yellowtail Flounder

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

[[Page 22433]]

yellowtail flounder catch by the small-mesh fisheries is often not 
available until well after the end of the fishing year. As a result, it 
is possible that we would not be able to reliably determine whether an 
overage has occurred in time to trigger the AM at the start of fishing 
year immediately following an overage. The AM adopted in this action 
accounts for this late data availability by potentially delaying the 
implementation of the AM until the start of Year 3 (2 years following 
the overage). As monitoring improves, and discard estimates are more 
readily available for the small-mesh component of the fishery, we 
anticipate that these AMs could be, and should be, implemented more 
quickly.
    If an overage of the small-mesh fisheries sub-ACL in Year 1 occurs, 
the AM would be triggered:
     At the start of Year 2 if, based on reliable data, NMFS 
determine inseason during Year 1 that the small-mesh fisheries sub-ACL 
has been exceeded; or
     At the start of Year 3, if final catch estimates available 
after the end of Year 1 indicate that the small-mesh fisheries sub-ACL 
was exceeded in Year 1.
    As noted before, the AM adopted in this action is applied 
retroactively to FY 2013 catches. Final catch estimates for the small-
mesh fisheries will not be available until after the end of FY 2013 
(August/September 2014). Because the AM is only implemented at the 
start of a fishing year, if final FY 2013 catch estimates indicate an 
overage has occurred, the AM would be triggered at the start of FY 
2015. If necessary, we would notify the public and announce the AM in a 
future rulemaking.
    This AM will ensure that there are sufficient measures in place to 
reduce catches of GB yellowtail flounder, should an overage occur, and 
the small-mesh fisheries catch does not negatively affect other 
components of the fishery. Due to the current low stock size of GB 
yellowtail flounder, and because the stock is jointly managed with 
Canada, it is especially important that the United States implement 
sufficient management measures to help prevent overages of the U.S. 
quota for GB yellowtail flounder, and if overages occur, to 
sufficiently mitigate that overage.

5. U.S./Canada Quota Trading Mechanism

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

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

    This rule adopts a mechanism that allows sectors to ``convert'' 
their eastern GB haddock allocation into western GB haddock allocation. 
Although the groundfish fishery has not utilized a large portion of its 
GB haddock allocation in recent years, this measure is intended to 
prevent the Western U.S./Canada Area from prematurely closing to a 
sector before its overall GB haddock allocation has been caught. This 
measure provides additional flexibility for sectors to harvest their GB 
haddock allocations, without increasing the risk of biological harm to 
the stock. This measure is also intended to create additional fishing 
opportunities for sector vessels on a healthy groundfish stock, and 
better help the fishery achieve optimum yield.
    Eastern GB haddock is a sub-unit of the total GB haddock stock, and 
the total ABC for GB haddock includes the shared U.S./Canada quota for 
eastern GB haddock. A portion of a sector's GB haddock allocation may 
only be caught in the Eastern U.S./Canada Area, and the remaining 
portion of their total GB haddock allocation can be caught only in the 
Western U.S./Canada Area. This restriction was adopted by Amendment 16 
in order to cap the amount of GB haddock that a sector could catch in 
the Eastern U.S./Canada Area, and help prevent the United States from 
exceeding its eastern GB haddock quota. However, limiting the amount of 
haddock that could be caught in the Western U.S./Canada Area could 
unnecessarily reduce flexibility, and potentially limit fishing in the 
area, even if a sector has not caught its entire GB haddock allocation. 
Thus, the measure adopted in this action is intended to avoid foregone 
yield of a healthy, abundant groundfish stocks.
    The measure adopted in this action follows a process similar to the 
one used for processing sector trades. Sectors are allowed to convert 
eastern GB haddock allocation into western GB haddock allocation at any 
time during the fishing year, and up to 2 weeks into the following 
fishing year to cover any overage during the previous fishing year. A 
sector's proposed allocation conversion would be referred to, and 
approved by, NMFS based on general issues, such as whether the sector 
is complying with reporting or other administrative requirements, 
including weekly sector reports, or member vessel compliance with 
Vessel Trip Reporting requirements. Based on these factors, we will 
notify the sector if the conversion is approved or disapproved. As we 
proposed in the proposed rule, we will use member vessel compliance 
with Vessel Trip Reporting requirements as the basis for approving, or 
disapproving a re-allocation of eastern GB quota to the Western U.S./
Canada Area. This is identical to the process used for

[[Page 22434]]

reviewing, and approving, quota transfer requests between sectors.
    The responsibility for ensuring that sufficient allocation is 
available to cover the conversion is the responsibility of the sector. 
This measure also extends to state-operated permit banks. Any 
conversion of eastern GB haddock allocation into western GB haddock 
allocation may only be made within a sector or permit bank, and not 
between sectors or permit banks. In addition, once a portion of eastern 
GB haddock allocation is converted to western GB haddock allocation, 
that portion of allocation remains western GB haddock for the remainder 
of the fishing year. Western GB haddock allocation may not be converted 
to eastern GB haddock allocation. This measure does not change the 
requirement that sector vessels may only catch their eastern GB haddock 
allocation in the Eastern U.S./Canada Area, and may only catch the 
remainder of their GB haddock allocation in the Western U.S./Canada 
Area.
    The total catch limit for GB haddock includes the U.S. quota for 
eastern GB haddock, so this measure does not jeopardize the total ACL 
for GB haddock, or the U.S. quota for the eastern portion of the stock. 
A sector is still required to stop fishing in the Eastern U.S./Canada 
Area once its entire eastern GB haddock allocation is caught, or in the 
Western U.S./Canada Area once its western GB haddock allocation is 
caught, at least until it leases in additional quota. This ensures 
sufficient accountability for sector catch that will help prevent 
overages of any GB haddock catch limit. Although we are approving this 
measure, we recommend that the Council occasionally review this measure 
in the future to ensure that it is still necessary and appropriate, 
particularly if there is a drastic change in the stock assessment for 
either GB haddock or its eastern sub-unit, or the perception of stock 
status changes in the future.

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

    This action approves the prohibition on possession of yellowtail 
flounder by all limited access scallop vessels that was adopted in 
Framework 51. Prior to this action, limited-access scallop vessels were 
required to land all legal-sized yellowtail flounder. This landing 
requirement was adopted beginning in 2010 in order to reduce bycatch of 
yellowtail flounder in the scallop fishery. However, recent information 
indicates that some scallop vessels are ``targeting'' yellowtail 
flounder. As a result, prohibiting possession of yellowtail flounder is 
intended to remove any incentive for scallop vessels to ``target'' 
yellowtail flounder since they could not be retained, or sold.
    National Standard 9 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act requires that 
bycatch be reduced as much as practicable, where bycatch is defined as 
``fish harvested in a fishery, but that are not sold or kept,'' and 
refers to economic and regulatory discards. Thus, the prohibition on 
possession of yellowtail flounder adopted in this action could increase 
bycatch, as it is defined in the Magnuson-Stevens Act, compared to the 
previous requirement to land all legal-sized yellowtail flounder. 
However, from a broader conservation perspective, a more important 
consideration is the impact on the total fishing mortality for each 
yellowtail flounder stock. As described below, this action is expected 
to decrease total fishing mortality for yellowtail flounder stocks.
    The recent 2012 stock assessment for SNE/MA yellowtail flounder 
reduced the discard mortality rate from 100 percent to 90 percent for 
commercial catches. As a result, prohibiting possession of this stock 
by limited access scallop vessels has the potential to slightly reduce 
mortality on this yellowtail flounder stock assuming that some of the 
discarded fish survive. The stock assessments for Cape Cod (CC)/GOM and 
GB yellowtail flounder assume a 100-percent discard mortality rate, so 
it is unclear whether zero possession has the same potential benefits 
for these yellowtail flounder stocks as the SNE/MA stock. However, it 
is reasonable to expect that some fish from these stocks, albeit a 
small number, may survive after being discarded, thus reducing total 
mortality on these stocks. Reducing total mortality, even slightly, is 
particularly important for these yellowtail flounder stocks. Although 
SNE/MA yellowtail flounder was declared rebuilt in 2012, CC/GOM and GB 
yellowtail flounder are overfished and overfishing is occurring for 
both stocks. Thus, even though this measure could increase bycatch, as 
defined by the Magnuson-Stevens Act, it is not practicable to reduce 
bycatch because to do so would likely increase overall mortality on 
yellowtail flounder. The conservation benefits of further reducing 
mortality of yellowtail flounder by the scallop fishery, therefore, 
outweigh the potential for this measure to increase bycatch. As a 
result, we have determined that the prohibition on possession adopted 
in this action is consistent with National Standard 9, and other 
conservation requirements, of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

8. 2014 Windowpane Flounder Accountability Measures

    In fall 2013, final catch information became available for FY 2012. 
These final catch estimates indicated that the northern windowpane 
flounder ACL was exceeded by 28 percent, and the southern windowpane 
flounder ACL was exceeded by 36 percent. The FY 2012 final catch report 
can be found here: http://www.nero.noaa.gov/ro/fso/reports/Groundfish_Catch_Accounting.htm. In addition, preliminary catch information for 
FY 2013 indicates that the commercial groundfish fishery catch of ~235 
mt has exceeded the overfishing limit for northern windowpane flounder 
(202 mt). The most recent FY 2013 catch monitoring report can be found 
here: http://www.nero.noaa.gov/ro/fso/reports/Sectors/Commercial_Summary_2013.html.
    These overages will automatically trigger AMs beginning in FY 2014 
that require selective trawl gear to be used in certain parts of the 
stock areas for both windowpane flounder stocks. For the entire 2014 
fishing year, common pool and sector vessels fishing on a groundfish 
trip with trawl gear are required to use one of the following selective 
trawl gears when fishing in the AM areas: (1) Haddock separator trawl; 
(2) Ruhle trawl; (3) mini-Ruhle trawl; or (4) rope separator trawl. 
There are no restrictions on longline or gillnet gear. These gear 
restrictions will apply in the large AM areas for both northern and 
southern windowpane flounder because the overages were more than 20 
percent of the ACL for both stocks (maps and coordinates of the AM 
areas can be found here: http://www.nero.noaa.gov/regs/infodocs/windowpaneaminfosheet.pdf). As a reminder, sectors cannot request an 
exemption from these AMs. As long as additional overages do not occur, 
the AM would be removed at the start of the 2015 fishing year, 
beginning on May 1, 2015, unless the AMs are otherwise revised through 
a Council action during FY 2014. In February 2014, the Council 
initiated a new action to review and possibly revise the windowpane 
flounder AMs due to concern that the existing AMs do not effectively 
prevent overages of the windowpane flounder catch limits.
    The FY 2014 windowpane flounder AMs will not impact non-groundfish 
fisheries because these fisheries did not have an allocation of either 
windowpane flounder stock for FY 2012. Although these non-groundfish

[[Page 22435]]

fisheries may have contributed to the 2012 overages, the commercial 
groundfish fishery will be held 100-percent accountable for the 
overage. For FY 2013 and beyond, at the Council's recommendation, we 
approved the allocation of southern windowpane to the scallop fishery 
and other non-groundfish fisheries fishing with bottom otter trawl gear 
with codend mesh of 5 inches (12.7 cm) or greater. Allocating this 
stock to other fisheries will help ensure that each fishery is held 
accountable for their catch in the future, and that catch from one 
fishery cannot negatively impact another. For FY 2013 and beyond, any 
AM triggered for southern windowpane will only apply to the fishery 
that caused the overage, except in the situation where the state waters 
sub-component caused the overage. Northern windowpane is still not 
allocated to any non-groundfish fishery, so the groundfish fishery will 
continue to be held 100-percent accountable for any overages of the 
northern windowpane catch limit, regardless of what fishery caused the 
overage.

9. Annual Measures for FY 2014 Under Regional Administrator Authority

    The Groundfish FMP gives us authority to implement certain types of 
management measures for the common pool fishery, the U.S./Canada 
Management Area, and Special Management Programs on an annual basis, or 
as needed. This rule implements FY 2014 DAS possession limits and 
maximum trip limits for common pool vessels (Table 7), including cod 
possession and trip limits for vessels fishing with a Handgear A, 
Handgear B, or Small Vessel Category permits (Table 8). These measures 
are not part of Framework 51, and were not specifically proposed by the 
Council, but are included in conjunction with Framework 51 for 
expediency purposes, and because they relate to the catch limits 
implemented in this rule. The initial FY 2014 possession limits and 
maximum trip limits were developed after considering changes to the FY 
2014 common pool sub-ACLs and sector rosters, trimester TACs for FY 
2014, catch rates of each stock during FY 2013, and public comments 
received on the proposed limits. During the fishing year, we will 
monitor common pool catches, and if necessary will adjust these trips 
limits in a future action to avoid overages, or help the fishery 
harvest its allocations.
    The default cod trip limit is 300 lb (136.1 kg) per trip for 
Handgear A vessels and 75 lb (34.0 kg) per trip for Handgear B vessels. 
If the GOM or GB cod DAS possession limit drops below 300 lb (136.1 
kg), then the respective Handgear A cod trip limit must also be 
adjusted to be the same. The regulations also require that the Handgear 
B vessel trip limit for GOM and GB cod be adjusted proportionally 
(rounded up to the nearest 25 lb (11.3 kg)) to the default cod 
possession limits applicable to DAS vessels. This action implements a 
GOM cod possession limit of 200 lb (90.7 kg) per DAS for vessels 
fishing on a groundfish DAS, which is 75 percent lower than the default 
trip limit in the regulations. Accordingly, the GOM cod trip limit is 
reduced to 200 lb (90.7 kg) per trip for Handgear A vessels and to 25 
lb (11.3 kg) per trip for Handgear B vessels.
    Vessels with a Small Vessel category permit can possess up to 300 
lb (136.1 kg) of cod, haddock, and yellowtail flounder, combined, per 
trip. For FY 2014, the maximum amount of GOM cod and haddock within the 
300-lb (136.1-kg) trip limit is set equal to the DAS possession limits, 
which results in a maximum of 200 lb (90.7 kg) per trip for GOM cod and 
25 lb (11.3 kg) for GOM haddock.

   Table 7--Initial FY 2014 Common Pool DAS Possession Limits and Trip
                                 Limits
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                          Initial FY 2014 possession and
                 Stock                             trip limits
------------------------------------------------------------------------
GB cod.................................  2,000 lb (907.2 kg) per DAS, up
                                          to 20,000 lb (9,072 kg) per
                                          trip.
GOM cod................................  200 lb (90.7 kg) per DAS, up to
                                          600 lb (272.2 kg) per trip.
GB Haddock.............................  10,000 lb (4,535.9 kg) per
                                          trip.
GOM Haddock............................  25 lb (11.3 kg) per trip.
GB Yellowtail Flounder.................  100 lb (45.4 kg) per trip.
SNE/MA Yellowtail Flounder.............  2,000 lb (907.2 kg) per DAS, up
                                          to 6,000 lb (2,721.6 kg) per
                                          trip.
CC/GOM Yellowtail Flounder.............  1,000 lb (453.6 kg) per trip.
American plaice........................  Unlimited.
Witch Flounder.........................  500 lb (226.8 kg) per trip.
GB Winter Flounder.....................  1,000 lb (453.6 kg) per trip.
GOM Winter Flounder....................  1,000 lb (453.6 kg) per trip.
SNE/MA Winter Flounder.................  1,500 lb (680.4 kg) per DAS up
                                          to 2,000 lb (1,360.8 kg) per
                                          trip.
Redfish................................  Unlimited.
White hake.............................  1,000 lb (453.6 kg) per trip.
Pollock................................  10,000 lb (4,535.9 kg) per
                                          trip.
Atlantic Halibut.......................  1 fish per trip.
                                        --------------------------------
Windowpane Flounder....................  Possession Prohibited.
Ocean Pout
Atlantic Wolffish
------------------------------------------------------------------------


  Table 8--Initial FY 2014 Cod Possession and Trip Limits for Handgear A, Handgear B, and Small Vessel Category
                                                     Permits
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                         Initial FY 2014 GOM Cod
                Permit                    possession/trip limit     Initial FY 2014 GB Cod possession/trip limit
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Handgear A............................  200 lb (45.4 kg) per trip  300 lb (136.1 kg) per trip.
Handgear B............................  25 lb (11.3 kg) per trip.  75 lb (34.0 kg) per trip.
                                       -------------------------------------------------------------------------

[[Page 22436]]

 
Small Vessel Category.................    300 lb (136.1 kg) of cod, haddock, and yellowtail flounder combined;
                                          Maximum of 200 lb (90.7 kg) of GOM cod and 25 lb (11.3 kg) per trip of
                                                 GOM haddock within the 300-lb combined possession limit.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The RA has the authority to determine the allocation of the total 
number of trips into the Closed Area II Yellowtail Flounder/Haddock SAP 
based on several criteria, including the GB yellowtail flounder catch 
limit and the amount of GB yellowtail flounder caught outside of the 
SAP. In 2005, Framework 40B (70 FR 31323; June 1, 2005) implemented a 
provision that no trips should be allocated to the Closed Area II 
Yellowtail Flounder/Haddock SAP if the available GB yellowtail flounder 
catch is insufficient to support at least 150 trips with a 15,000-lb 
(6,804-kg) trip limit (or 2,250,000 lb (1,020,600 kg). This calculation 
accounts for the projected catch from the area outside the SAP. Based 
on the GB yellowtail groundfish sub-ACL of 561,077 lb (254,500 kg) 
adopted in this action, there is insufficient GB yellowtail flounder to 
allocate any trips to the SAP, even if the projected catch from outside 
the SAP area is zero. Therefore, this action does not allocate any 
trips to the Closed Area II Yellowtail Flounder/Haddock SAP for FY 
2014. Vessels can still fish in this SAP in FY 2014 using a haddock 
separator trawl, a Ruhle trawl, or hook gear. Vessels are not allowed 
to fish in this SAP using flounder nets.

10. Regulatory Corrections Under Regional Administrator Authority

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

Comments and Responses on Measures Proposed in the Framework 51 
Proposed Rule

    We received nine comments during the comment period on the 
Framework 51 proposed rule. Public comments were submitted by the 
Council, three commercial fishing organizations, one non-governmental 
organization (NGO), and four commercial fishermen. We requested 
specific comment on several measures proposed in Framework 51, 
including the rebuilding plan review analysis for GOM cod and American 
plaice, the revised discard strata for GB yellowtail flounder, and the 
prohibition on possession of yellowtail flounder for limited access 
scallop vessels. Responses to the comments received are below, and when 
possible, responses to similar comments on the proposed measures have 
been consolidated.

Gulf of Maine Cod and American Plaice Rebuilding Programs

Revised Rebuilding Strategies

    Comment 1: One industry group supported the revised rebuilding 
programs for GOM cod and plaice.
    Response: We agree with this commenter and have determined that the 
revised rebuilding programs adopted in this action are consistent with 
the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the goals and objectives of the Groundfish 
FMP. In May 2012, we notified the Council that GOM cod and plaice were 
not making adequate rebuilding progress, and as a result, the Council 
was required to revise the rebuilding program for this stock within 2 
years, or by May 1, 2014. The revised rebuilding programs implemented 
in this action are consistent with the Council's mandate to devise new 
rebuilding strategies for these stocks while continuing to prevent 
overfishing. As explained in more detail in Item 1 of this preamble, 
the revised rebuilding strategies use the maximum 10 years allowed by 
the Magnuson-Stevens Act and have a median probability of success. The 
rebuilding strategies account for the needs of fishing communities as 
much as practicable, and also use a more precautionary approach than 
the previous rebuilding programs for these stocks, in order to 
accelerate the rebuilding timeline and increase the likelihood of 
rebuilding success.
    Comment 2: One NGO opposed the proposed 10-year rebuilding programs 
for GOM cod. The commenter noted that, due to the low levels of GOM 
cod,

[[Page 22437]]

rebuilding should be as short as biologically possible, and catch 
levels should be set as close to zero as possible. In support of its 
position, the NGO stated that the needs of the fish stock outweigh the 
needs of fishing communities in this case.
    Response: We disagree with the commenter's suggestion that 
rebuilding should be as short as biologically possible, and catch 
levels should be set as close to zero as possible. The Magnuson-Stevens 
Act does not require that rebuilding programs be as short as 
biologically possible, but rather that rebuilding programs be as short 
as possible, not to exceed 10 years, while accounting for the needs of 
fishing communities. The fact that this action revises a rebuilding 
program that was not making adequate progress does not change this 
requirement. Although the Magnuson-Stevens Act requirement emphasizes 
the importance of rebuilding as quickly as possible, a plan cannot 
disregard the needs of fishing communities, and is not required to keep 
fishing mortality as close to zero as possible for the entire duration 
of the rebuilding time period, particularly, as in the case of this 
action, where precautionary measures are put into place to account for 
uncertainties in predicting the success of a rebuilding program. A 
revised rebuilding program that is as short as biologically possible, 
as the commenter suggested, would be nearly equivalent to 
Tmin, which is the time it would take a stock to rebuild in 
the absence of all fishing mortality. This type of rebuilding program 
would not mitigate economic impacts on fishing communities to the 
extent practicable consistent with National Standard of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act. As explained in detail in Item 1 of this preamble, the 
revised rebuilding strategy for GOM cod that is adopted in this action 
appropriately addresses the needs of fishing communities in light of 
conservation requirements, and is consistent with all of the National 
Standards and applicable law.
    Moreover, as the commenter noted, greater scientific uncertainty 
typically calls for greater precaution in setting management measures, 
and we agree. This is the intended effect in the design of the revised 
rebuilding strategy for GOM cod that is adopted in this action. The 
rebuilding strategy has a median probability of success, which is 
consistent with the relevant case law, but it goes one step further, 
and attempts to account for scientific uncertainty in long-term 
groundfish catch projections, which is well-documented in recent years. 
The design of the rebuilding strategy is briefly summarized below, but 
is described in more detail in Item 1 of this preamble that is not 
repeated here.
    Given the relative infrequency of groundfish stock assessments, 
there is often a considerable lag between the terminal year of the 
assessment and the year of the catch advice. As a result, when catches 
are based on only Frebuild, they are often based on 
assumptions used in the catch projection (e.g., recruitment 
assumption), rather than any real evidence that the stock biomass has 
increased. The rebuilding strategy implemented in this action 
explicitly acknowledges this issue and, in response, is designed to set 
catches lower than Frebuild, at least initially in the 
rebuilding program, in order to account for this uncertainty. Setting 
catches lower than Frebuild accelerates the rebuilding 
timeline and is intended to increase the likelihood that rebuilding 
will occur on schedule. This is an important component of the 
rebuilding program adopted in this action, and a marked improvement 
from the previous rebuilding program for GOM cod that did not attempt 
to account for scientific uncertainty in the catch projections.
    An assessment update for GOM cod is preliminarily scheduled for 
early 2015. This would provide a unique opportunity early in the 
rebuilding program adopted in this action to determine whether the 
stock is on its rebuilding trajectory. Based on the updated scientific 
information, the Council could adequately assess whether any additional 
adjustments are necessary to ensure the stock is making adequate 
rebuilding progress.
    Comment 3: One NGO opposed the SSC's catch recommendations for GOM 
cod and noted there should be no directed fishing for this stock. The 
NGO also opposed our interpretation that two equally acceptable 
assessment models were approved for GOM cod.
    Response: As noted earlier in Item 3 of this preamble, Framework 51 
does not set specifications for GOM cod. The FY 2013-2015 catch limits 
for GOM cod were adopted and approved through Framework 50 last year 
and these catch limits were recently upheld by a federal district 
court. These catch limits are restated in this action, but are 
unchanged from those recommended by the SSC and subsequently adopted by 
the Council in Framework 50. Further, this action does not consider any 
management measures that would necessarily prevent directed fishing on 
GOM cod. As a result, this comment does not directly address the 
proposed measures, and is not relevant to the final measures adopted in 
this action.
    To provide some background, however, two ABC alternatives were 
considered in Framework 50: 1,249 mt and 1,550 mt. Based on the 
recommendation of its SSC, and in order to help mitigate the economic 
impacts of Framework 50 on fishing communities, the Council adopted, 
and we approved, an ABC of 1,550 mt. These specifications adopted in 
Framework 50 were determined to be based on the best scientific 
information available, and consistent with conservation objectives of 
the Groundfish FMP and applicable law. In fact, when recently 
challenged on the GOM cod specifications adopted in Framework 50 on the 
grounds that the specifications did not prevent overfishing, and 
exceeded the recommendation of the SSC, the Court found that the 
Council and NMFS did not err in selecting a catch limit of 1,550 mt. 
Specifically, the Court found that the GOM cod specifications were 
based on the best available scientific information, and that available 
analysis adequately demonstrated that the catch limits will have an 
adequate probability of preventing overfishing. See, Conservation Law 
Foundation v. Pritzker, 2014 WL 1338596 (D.D.C. 2014).
    We disagree with the commenter's proposal that the fishery should 
be closed to directed fishing for cod. Given the substantial reduction 
in the GOM cod quota that was implemented beginning in FY 2013, it is 
unlikely that cod is currently a primary directed species. Rather, most 
commercial groundfish vessels likely use their available cod quota to 
prosecute other fisheries. Similarly, available information indicates 
that the recreational retention rates for GOM cod are extremely low; on 
average, slightly more than 1 cod was retained by anglers in FY 2013. 
We are unclear on whether the commenter intended that trip limits be 
implemented for sector vessels in order to prevent directed fishing on 
GOM cod, or whether possession of the stock should be prohibited. 
Regardless, both the commercial and recreational groundfish fisheries 
receive allocations of cod, which, in addition to other management 
measures and accountability measures, help prevent catches from 
exceeding these allocations. In addition, sector vessels have the 
flexibility to make business plans and fish as efficiently as possible 
in order to maximize revenues with available allocations.
    Appropriately set catch limits is the fundamental basis to 
management measures, and so long as accountability measures for the 
fishery adequately

[[Page 22438]]

prevent and address overages of these catch limits, groundfish vessels 
should, whenever possible, be provided with flexibility for determining 
how best to harvest the available quotas. The Council could consider 
additional management measures, such as trip limits or a prohibition on 
possession, if updated information indicated these measures were 
necessary to meet the goals and objectives of the Groundfish FMP, or 
more specifically, conservation objectives for GOM cod.

Rebuilding Plan Review Analysis

    Comment 4: The Council and one commercial fishing organization 
supported the proposed rebuilding plan review analysis for GOM cod and 
plaice. The Council commented that this measure would commit the 
Council to a formal, thorough review of rebuilding progress and provide 
the Council with necessary information for decision-making. The Council 
also noted that, often times, investigation of why rebuilding has not 
occurred as expected is not a standard term of reference for stock 
assessments, and this type of investigation can be cursory. Lastly, the 
Council also commented that the current biennial review process does 
not revisit reference points.
    Response: We agree that the review analysis provides a formal 
process for the Council, and its technical bodies, to follow should GOM 
cod or plaice fall below their rebuilding trajectories, and the other 
relevant criteria be met. However, we disagree with the Council's 
assertion that recent groundfish stock assessments have not 
investigated why rebuilding has not occurred as expected. A stock 
assessment typically evaluates the stock's current biomass levels 
compared to levels estimated in the prior stock assessment. As part of 
this exercise, the assessment will investigate why estimated levels may 
have changed from the previous assessment, and will also review the 
performance of historical projections with respect to stock size, catch 
recruitment, and fishing mortality, as the Council's comment notes.
    The Council also notes that the assessments do not compare fishing 
year catches to annual catch limits, which is the first of three 
criteria that must be met to initiate the rebuilding plan review. This 
comment ignores the Council's own biennial review process. The existing 
biennial review process specifies that the Groundfish Plan Development 
Team (PDT) shall review available catch data, including landings and 
discard information. In general, because stock assessments are based on 
the calendar year, which does not align with the groundfish fishing 
year (May 1-April 30) for which annual catch limits are set, fishing 
year catches are not compared to the annual catch limits in the stock 
assessment. Instead, the PDT does, and should, review and evaluate 
annual fishing year catches compared to the pertinent annual catch 
limits in order to develop and recommend appropriate management options 
that achieve the goals and objectives of the Groundfish FMP. Although 
``compare fishing year catches to annual catch limits'' is not an 
explicitly stated as part of the Council's biennial review process, 
this could be added as an additional step in the biennial review 
process, or the preparation of the annual Sock Assessment and Fishery 
Evaluation report or the biennial review process in a future management 
action. A review of fishing year catches compared to annual catch 
limits should not be reserved only for times when a stock falls below 
its rebuilding trajectory, and instead should be a routine task for the 
Groundfish PDT.
    To clarify the Council's comment that the existing biennial review 
process does not revisit reference points, it is important to note that 
there is no guarantee the review of the biomass reference points in the 
rebuilding review analysis will result in any revisions to the biomass 
reference points. The only analyses that would be sufficient to revise 
biomass reference points, and thus provide new catch advice options 
based on those revised reference points, would be another stock 
assessment.
    The Council's comment did not provide further clarification on our 
concerns for the portions of the rebuilding plan review analysis that 
are obsolete because this action adopts rebuilding plans that already 
use the maximum 10 years allowed by the Magnuson-Stevens Act. As a 
result, we are only partially approving the rebuilding plan review 
analysis, and have removed the unnecessary and redundant criteria 
related to considering an extension of the rebuilding program to the 
maximum 10 years allowed. We explain this partial approval in more 
detail earlier in this preamble, and this explanation is not repeated 
here. If this rebuilding review analysis is adopted for other stocks in 
the future, and those stocks do not already use the maximum 10 years 
allowed, the Council could include a necessary step that considers 
extending the rebuilding plan to 10 years, so long as that criteria is 
relevant to the pertinent stock's rebuilding program.

U.S./Canada Quotas and White Hake Catch Limits

    Comment 5: One commercial fishing organization supported the 
proposed U.S./Canada quotas and the white hake catch limits.
    Response: We acknowledge the commenter's support of the U.S./Canada 
quotas and the white hake catch limits. The most recent stock 
assessment for white hake that was completed in February 2013 indicated 
that the stock is no longer overfished, and no longer subject to 
overfishing. In addition, projections from the assessment show that 
white hake is expected to reach its rebuilt level in 2014, which is the 
target year for rebuilding this stock. Due to this improved stock 
status, we implemented an emergency action for FY 2013 to increase the 
white hake catch limit based on the results of the 2013 assessment. We 
implemented this emergency action because the assessment results became 
available after the Council took final action on Framework 50, which 
set FY 2013-2015 specifications for nearly all groundfish stocks, in 
order to give the Council time to incorporate this updated information. 
Framework 51 adopted FY 2014-2016 catch limits for white hake based on 
the new assessment and on the recommendations of the SSC. As a result, 
we determined that these catch limits are consistent with the best 
scientific information available, and are approving them in this final 
rule. The catch limits adopted in this action for FY 2014-2016 will be 
a 10-percent increase compared to FY 2013.
    Similarly, we determined that the FY 2014 U.S./Canada quotas 
adopted in Framework 51 are consistent with the best scientific 
information available, the TMGC recommendations and, for Georges Bank 
yellowtail flounder, the SSC's recommendation. As a result, we are 
approving these shared U.S./Canada quotas in this final rule. These 
determinations are more fully described in Items 2 and 3 of this 
preamble, and are not repeated here.

Small-Mesh Fisheries Accountability Measure for Georges Bank Yellowtail 
Flounder

    Comment 6: One commercial fishing organization supported the 
proposed AM for GB yellowtail flounder for the small-mesh fisheries.
    Response: We acknowledge the commenter's support of the AM for GB 
yellowtail flounder for the small-mesh fisheries. As more fully 
described in Item 4 of this preamble, an additional AM for the small-
mesh fisheries was required following the allocation of GB

[[Page 22439]]

yellowtail flounder to these fisheries for FY 2013 and beyond. The 
proposed AM would require selective trawl gear in the GB yellowtail 
flounder stock area if the small-mesh fisheries exceed their 
allocation. This gear-based AM, coupled with a pound-for-pound payback 
should the small-mesh fisheries cause the overall U.S. quota to be 
exceeded, will help ensure that sufficient measures are in place to 
reduce catch of GB yellowtail flounder should an overage occur. 
Triggering the small-mesh fisheries AM based on an overage of their 
allocation will help ensure that catch from this component of the 
fishery does not negatively affect other components of the fishery, 
particularly the commercial groundfish fishery. With the exception of 
the scallop fishery AM for yellowtail flounder, which is only triggered 
if the overall catch limit is exceeded or the scallop fishery exceeds 
its allocation by 50 percent or more, AMs for allocated groundfish 
stocks are triggered if a fishery exceeds its specific allocation, 
regardless of whether the overall catch limit is exceeded.
    The proposed AM can be implemented up to 2 years after an overage, 
which is consistent with the approach used for other groundfish AMs. 
Due to data availability used to estimate catch from state waters and 
non-groundfish fisheries, we typically do not receive final catch 
estimates until after the fishing year ends. In addition, small-mesh 
vessels operate at different times on Georges Bank depending on the 
target species (i.e., squid and whiting). In order to avoid 
disproportionate impacts of the AM on small-mesh vessels that could 
occur if the AM is implemented inseason, the AM is only implemented at 
the start of the fishing year. For all these reasons, we determined 
that the proposed AM is consistent with the necessary requirements of 
the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable law, and are approving 
this measure.

U.S./Canada Quota Trading Mechanism

    Comment 7: One commercial fishing organization and one commercial 
fisherman opposed the proposed U.S./Canada quota trading mechanism 
because, in their view, it would not provide specific opportunities for 
the groundfish industry to provide input on any potential trade, and it 
would allow all fisheries to benefit from a trade regardless of the 
fishery that traded away its quota.
    Response: We disagree that the groundfish industry would not have 
specific opportunities to provide input on a potential trade. The 
trading mechanism adopted in this action requires that the Regional 
Administrator consult with the Council prior to making any trade, 
thereby providing the groundfish industry an opportunity to provide 
input through the Council's public participation process. In addition 
to the consultation with the Council, the U.S. TMGC would also 
participate in specifying any potential trade, which provides an 
additional opportunity for the groundfish industry to provide input 
through the Council's appointees on the U.S. TMGC.
    We realize the concern of the commenters that all fisheries would 
benefit from a trade regardless of whether those fisheries gave up any 
of their quota. This was anticipated and considered during the 
development of Framework 51. We determined that a more simplified 
trading mechanism that used the Council's current ABC distribution 
schedule was the best option for an initial attempt at allowing 
trading, and that could be done through a framework action. Other types 
of trading mechanisms that allow only a single fishery component to 
participate in trades with Canada, and benefit from additional quota 
received from Canada, were determined to be beyond the scope of a 
framework action, and options that the Council would have to consider 
in an amendment. As a result, the Council adopted the trading mechanism 
that is approved in this action only for 1 year, and the mechanism will 
only apply to trades made before the end of FY 2014. This was intended 
to put a mechanism in place while the Council continued to work on 
development of a long-term trading mechanism for FY 2015 and beyond in 
Amendment 18 that would address the commenters' concerns for industry 
participation and inclusion of only those fishery components that gave 
away quota.
    In addition, although this action establishes a 1-year trading 
mechanism, this action does not guarantee, or lock in, any trade for FY 
2014. If a potential trade was being considered in FY 2014, we would 
still have to consult with the Council, including the other respective 
U.S./Canada management bodies, before any trade was agreed upon with 
Canada. We will ensure that the appropriate groups have ample time to 
provide input on any potential trade, should one become available, and 
will consider all input when determining whether to make a trade with 
Canada.

Distribution of Eastern/Western Georges Bank Haddock Sector Allocations

    Comment 8: One commercial fishing organization supported the 
measure to allow sectors to ``convert'' a portion of their eastern GB 
haddock allocation to western GB haddock allocation and noted that this 
measure will provide sectors with additional flexibility. The commenter 
also noted that this measure successfully utilizes the sector system as 
a tool to develop management solutions.
    Response: We agree that this measure will provide sectors with 
additional flexibility for harvesting their GB haddock allocations, and 
that this measure is a good example of the benefits the sector program 
can provide. As described in detail in Item 6 of this preamble, it was 
possible that the existing regulations could limit the amount of 
haddock that could be caught in the Western U.S./Canada Area and 
unnecessarily constrain a sector's catch of GB haddock. If this 
situation occurred, it could prevent a sector from harvesting its 
entire GB haddock allocation, which ultimately could prevent the 
fishery from achieving optimum yield. Any impediment for achieving 
optimum yield for this stock is particularly important given the 
healthy status of GB haddock, and the low levels of other key 
groundfish stocks, which have resulted in substantial economic losses 
for the groundfish fishery. The measure adopted in this action 
addresses this problem, and ensures that sector vessels have increased 
flexibility for harvesting a healthy stock.
    Comment 9: One commercial fisherman opposed the measure to allow 
sectors to ``convert'' a portion of their eastern GB haddock allocation 
to western GB haddock allocation and noted that this measure opens 
``Pandora's Box'' to revisit stock boundaries. The commenter also 
questioned why this measure was adopted only for GB haddock, and not GB 
cod.
    Response: We disagree that this measure opens the door for re-
visiting stock boundaries. As explained in more detail in Item 6 of 
this preamble, the eastern portion of the GB haddock stock is a sub-
unit of the total GB haddock stock. The total ABC for GB haddock 
includes the U.S./Canada quota for eastern GB haddock. As a result, 
this measure does not draw into question, or refute, the existing stock 
boundaries of GB haddock. Rather, it attempts to provide additional 
flexibility for sectors to harvest GB haddock in both the Eastern and 
Western U.S./Canada Areas, recognizing that so long as the total catch 
limit for GB haddock is not exceeded, this measure does not jeopardize 
any conservation objectives for GB haddock. Due to the current 
situation for GB haddock, no action had the potential to prematurely 
shut down the Western U.S./Canada Area should

[[Page 22440]]

sectors begin to utilize more of their GB haddock allocations. There is 
a large year class for GB haddock that has begun to recruit to the 
fishery, so although it is too early to tell whether quota utilization 
for GB haddock will increase in FY 2014, the measure adopted in this 
action is intended to proactively adjust management measures should 
sectors begin to harvest more GB haddock.
    The measure adopted in this action was determined to not have any 
negative biological implications for GB haddock; however, this same 
determination would not necessarily be true for GB cod. Under the 
assumption that cod mix freely on Georges Bank between the Eastern and 
Western U.S./Canada Areas, then this measure applied to GB cod would 
likely not increase any biological risk to the stock. However, larger 
cod tend to be aggregated more in the Eastern U.S./Canada Area. Further 
the status of GB cod is dramatically different than GB haddock. GB cod 
is overfished and overfishing is occurring. This measure was not 
considered for GB cod because the issue only existed for GB haddock, 
but further, this measure would likely not be appropriate for GB cod 
given the potential to have negative biological consequences on a 
depleted stock.
    In our approval of this measure for GB haddock in this action, we 
do recommend that the Council should occasionally review the measure in 
the future to ensure that it is still necessary and appropriate, 
particularly if there is a drastic change in the stock assessment for 
either GB haddock or its eastern sub-unit, or the perception of stock 
status changes in the future.

Georges Bank Yellowtail Flounder Discard Strata

    Comment 10: The Council commented on the proposed discard strata 
for GB yellowtail flounder, and noted that this measure was not an 
``either/or'' situation relative to the development of a [non-
regulatory] discard tool for sectors, though the Council did express a 
preference for the sector discard tool over the revised discard strata 
for GB yellowtail flounder. The Council briefly summarized the proposed 
measure and noted that the measure would result in increased accuracy 
of discard estimates with adequate observer coverage, and that the 
sector discard tool would not provide the same increased accuracy.
    Response: We agree that the proposed measure was not necessarily an 
``either/or'' situation relative to the development of a discard tool 
for sectors. As a result, we reviewed the proposed discard strata for 
GB yellowtail flounder on its merits, and for its consistency with the 
relevant National Standards of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. As explained 
earlier in this preamble, we disapproved this measure because we 
determined it was not consistent with National Standards 5 and 7, and 
would likely lack any measurable benefits. However, because the Council 
expressed a preference that a non-regulatory discard tool be developed 
for sectors, we did consider this as one approach available to address 
the concerns noted during the development of Framework 51 for discard 
estimates.
    As the Council's comment suggests, the assumption of ``adequate 
observer coverage'' in order for the proposed measure to increase 
precision of catch estimates is important. This measure has the 
potential to increase the variance in discard estimates, which could 
subsequently increase monitoring coverage levels necessary to 
accurately monitor sector catches. Without appropriate monitoring 
coverage, increased variability in discard estimates would affect our 
ability to reliably monitor sector catches, meet the 30-percent 
coefficient of variation standard specified in the Groundfish FMP, and 
ensure that overfishing is not occurring. This is described in more 
detail in the disapproval of this measure earlier in this preamble, and 
is not restated here.
    Although the Council correctly points out that the revised discard 
strata could lead to different discard estimates for some sectors, it 
does not acknowledge that the changes to the total discard estimates 
would likely be small. This comment also does not acknowledge that the 
revised discard strata would affect each sector's discard estimate for 
GB yellowtail flounder differently. Discard estimates for some sectors 
would have increased under the revised discard strata, and the 
estimates for other sectors would have decreased. Thus, it is still 
unclear whether there are any measurable benefits of this measure that 
outweigh the potential disadvantages of this measure (i.e., 
administrative burden, potential to increase variance, etc.).
    Comment 11: One commercial fishing organization commented that the 
discard tool we developed would likely prove useful for sectors, 
although this tool could be quite complicated for sectors to use. The 
commenter noted that sector representatives would likely need 
additional training on how to use the tool before it could be more 
widely used.
    Response: We agree that the discard tool will likely be useful for 
sectors, particularly because of the wide range of potential uses that 
allow a sector to assign discards to its member vessels in any number 
of ways of its choosing based on the sector's own business model, 
including applying the tool for all stocks, or just some stocks. The 
development of this discard tool is described in detail earlier in the 
preamble of this rule, and is not repeated here. We agree that, at 
least initially, the discard tool may be complicated for sector 
representatives to learn and use, particularly in learning all the 
various combinations of criteria that can be applied to distribute 
discards to member vessels. In addition, the application of this tool 
will require sector members to become familiar with the tool, and the 
sector will ultimately have to decide how best to distribute individual 
discards based on the selected criteria. We will continue to work with 
sector representatives to improve the utility of this discard tool, and 
are already soliciting additional feedback from sectors on how we can 
best provide additional support for this tool.

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

    Comment 12: The Council and one commercial fishing organization 
supported the proposed prohibition on possession of yellowtail flounder 
by limited access scallop vessels. Both commenters supported this 
measure because it would remove any incentive for scallop vessels to 
target yellowtail flounder, which would ultimately reduce bycatch of 
yellowtail flounder in the scallop fishery, and reduce total mortality 
on yellowtail flounder stocks.
    Response: We acknowledge the commenters' support of the prohibition 
on possession of yellowtail flounder by limited access scallop vessels. 
As more fully described in Item 7 of this preamble, prohibiting 
possession of yellowtail flounder would remove any incentive for 
scallop vessels to target yellowtail flounder, and has the potential to 
reduce total mortality for yellowtail flounder compared to the current 
requirement to land all legal-sized yellowtail flounder. If discard 
mortality is less than 100 percent for yellowtail flounder, then a 
requirement to land all legal-sized yellowtail flounder could increase 
mortality relative to a prohibition on possession. Based on the 
available information, it is reasonable to expect that some fish from 
these stocks, albeit a small number, may survive after being discarded, 
thus

[[Page 22441]]

reducing total mortality on these stocks. Reducing total mortality, 
even slightly, is particularly important for these yellowtail flounder 
stocks. Although SNE/MA yellowtail flounder was declared rebuilt in 
2012, CC/GOM and GB yellowtail flounder are overfished and overfishing 
is occurring for both stocks. Thus, even though this measure appears to 
increase bycatch, as defined by the Magnuson-Stevens Act, it is not 
practicable to reduce bycatch because to do so would likely increase 
overall mortality of yellowtail flounder. The conservation benefits of 
further reducing mortality of yellowtail flounder outweigh the 
potential for this measure to increase bycatch as defined by the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act. As a result, we have determined that the 
prohibition on possession adopted in this action is consistent with 
National Standard 9, and other conservation requirements, of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act.
    Comment 13: One NGO commented that it is puzzling that most of the 
fleet is not abiding by the current landing requirement, and the 
remaining portion of the fleet is targeting yellowtail flounder. The 
commenter noted that mandatory ``move-on'' rules is the only clear 
answer to possession rules for yellowtail flounder for the scallop 
fishery.
    Response: During development of Framework 51, we did note concerns 
for the apparent low compliance rate by limited access scallop vessels 
with the landing requirement. However, we repeatedly noted that low 
compliance with any management measure was not an appropriate basis, by 
itself, for eliminating a requirement. For this measure, we evaluated 
how prohibiting possession would affect total mortality on the stock, 
and as described in Item 7 of this preamble, determined that the 
discard mortality rate for yellowtail flounder was likely less than 100 
percent, at least for one stock of yellowtail flounder. Under this 
assumption then, requiring limited access scallop vessels to discard 
all yellowtail flounder is expected to decrease total mortality on 
yellowtail flounder stocks compared to the landing requirement if even 
a small number of fish survive. Further, because some scallop vessels 
may be targeting yellowtail flounder, prohibiting possession provides 
additional conservation benefits by removing any incentive for scallop 
vessels to target yellowtail flounder. Ultimately, removing this 
incentive is expected to further reduce overall fishing mortality on 
yellowtail flounder in the scallop fishery.
    The support for mandatory ``move-on'' rules does not directly 
address the proposed measures, and is not an available substitute for 
this action because we can only approve or disapprove the proposed 
Framework 51 measures. However, to briefly respond to this comment, we 
note that, although not mandatory, the scallop fishery does utilize a 
yellowtail flounder avoidance program that incorporates real-time 
information from scallop vessels to determine the location of 
yellowtail flounder catch hotspots and better allows scallop vessels to 
harvest their scallop allocations while minimizing yellowtail flounder 
catch. This program was expanded beginning in FY 2013 to include 
additional fishing areas on Georges Bank. If additional management 
measures are needed in the future to better achieve conservation 
objectives, the Council could consider ``move-on'' rules in a future 
management action. However, the scallop fishery has successfully stayed 
within its yellowtail flounder allocations under the existing 
management system that combines established AMs that are triggered if 
an overage occurs and a voluntary bycatch avoidance program.

FY 2014 Common Pool Trip Limits

    Comment 14: One commercial fishing organization and one commercial 
fisherman opposed zero possession of GOM haddock for the common pool 
fishery for FY 2014. The commenters noted that a small trip limit 
should be allowed so that common pool vessels can land a small amount 
of haddock for home consumption.
    Response: We agree with the commenter's suggestion that a small 
trip limit should be allowed. As noted in Item 9 of this preamble, the 
FY 2014 trip limit has been increased from what we initially proposed 
(zero possession) to 25 lb (11.3 kg) per trip. This trip limit is 
intended to allow vessels to land a small amount of haddock for 
personal consumption, but remains low enough to reduce any incentive to 
target GOM haddock. The FY 2013 common pool sub-ACL has been exceeded, 
and this overage will be deducted from the FY 2014 common pool sub-ACL. 
Since the common pool sub-ACL for GOM haddock is already small (2 mt), 
when considering the FY 2013 overage, and the possibility of additional 
overages in FY 2014, we have determined that it is not appropriate for 
any directed fishing on GOM haddock by common pool vessels, and thus, 
have kept the trip limit extremely low to prevent any directed fishing. 
This is expected to preserve the common pool quota for GOM haddock for 
the entire fishing year, and prevent prematurely shutting down the Gulf 
of Maine area, which would have negative impacts on common pool 
vessels, and prevent the common pool from harvesting its quota for 
other stocks.
    Comment 15: Two commercial fishermen opposed the SNE/MA winter 
flounder trip limit of 1,000 lb (453.6 kg) per DAS up to 2,000 lb 
(907.2 kg) per trip, and instead suggested the trip limit be slightly 
higher to make trips for common pool vessels more profitable.
    Response: We agree with the commenters' suggestion to increase the 
trip limit. As noted in Item 9 of this preamble, the FY 2014 trip limit 
has been increased from what we initially proposed to 1,500 lb (680.4 
kg) per DAS up to 2,000 lb (1,360.8 kg) per trip. In addition to the 
factors described earlier, we also took into account the southern 
windowpane flounder AM that is triggered for FY 2014, which will 
require the use of selective trawl gear in certain areas of Southern 
New England for commercial groundfish trips. This AM will reduce 
fishing opportunities for winter flounder, and as a result we 
determined it was appropriate to increase the initial FY 2014 slightly 
from what we proposed to help offset the impacts of the windowpane 
flounder AM.

FY 2014 Windowpane Flounder Accountability Measures

    Comment 16: The NGO noted that current catch estimates for FY 2013 
indicate that the commercial groundfish fishery has exceeded its 
allocation for both windowpane flounder stocks, and commented that it 
was unclear whether there is any quota available to act as an AM for 
the FY 2012 overages.
    Response: As explained in detail in Item 8 of the preamble, the 
commercial groundfish fishery AMs for both stocks of windowpane 
flounder are gear-restricted areas that are triggered if the overall 
catch limit is exceeded. These stocks are not allocated to sectors, and 
possession is prohibited. As a result, area-based AMs, instead of 
pound-for-pound ``payback'' AMs, were adopted to mitigate overages of 
the windowpane flounder catch limit, and prevent future overages from 
occurring, by requiring selective trawl gear for commercial groundfish 
vessels in order to reduce catches of windowpane flounder.
    Due to data availability, we typically cannot determine whether the 
overall catch limit has been exceeded until after the fishing year ends 
when updated discard information for the sub-components of the fishery 
(e.g., state waters and non-groundfish fisheries) becomes available. As 
a result,

[[Page 22442]]

implementation of the windowpane flounder AMs can be delayed up to 2 
years following an overage, which is the case of the FY 2012 overages 
that will result in an AM for FY 2014. In some circumstances, however, 
we could have reliable information inseason that shows a pertinent 
catch limit has been exceeded, and in those cases, we would trigger the 
windowpane flounder AMs the year immediately following an overage. For 
example, preliminary catch estimates for FY 2013 indicate the total 
catch limit for northern windowpane has been exceeded. Thus, regardless 
of whether an overage occurred in FY 2012 for this stock, we would have 
implemented the AM for northern windowpane at the start of the 2014 
fishing year due to the overage of the FY 2013 catch limit.
    To clarify the commenter's reference to the preliminary FY 2013 
catch information, it is important to reiterate that the commercial 
groundfish AMs are only triggered if the overall catch limit is 
exceeded. An overage of the groundfish fishery's allocation does not 
dictate that an AM be implemented. For northern windowpane, this issue 
is moot because, as noted earlier, current FY 2013 catch estimates for 
the commercial groundfish fishery indicate the commercial fleet, alone, 
has caught more than the FY 2013 OFL. However, for southern windowpane 
flounder, although the commercial groundfish allocation has been 
exceeded, it may be unlikely that the overall catch limit is exceeded 
for FY 2013. Preliminary FY 2013 catch information for the scallop 
fishery indicates that the scallop fishery only caught approximately 60 
percent of its allocation for southern windowpane (approximately an 80-
mt underharvest). There is a possibility that this underage of the 
scallop fishery allocation helps prevent the overall catch limit from 
being exceeded in FY 2013 and, if so, no AMs would be necessary to 
address FY 2013 catches.

Changes From the Proposed Rule

    We made four changes from the proposed rule in this action. First, 
this final rule disapproves the revised discard strata for GB 
yellowtail flounder, for reasons already described in detail in both 
the Disapproved Measures and the Comments and Responses sections of 
this preamble. These reasons are not restated here. Second, this final 
rule partially disapproves the rebuilding plan review analysis in order 
to remove irrelevant criteria, as well as the regulatory provisions 
related to this part of the analysis. The reasons for this partial 
disapproval are described in detail in Item 1 of this preamble and in 
the Comments and Responses section of this preamble. We also revised 
the GOM haddock and SNE/MA winter flounder trip limits for the common 
pool fishery based on comments received on the proposed trip limits, 
and these adjustments are explained in Item 9 of this preamble and in 
the Comments and Responses section of this preamble.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that the management 
measures implemented in this final rule are necessary for the 
conservation and management of the Northeast groundfish fishery and 
consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law.
    This final rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order (E.O.) 12866.
    This final rule does not contain policies with Federalism or 
``takings'' implications as those terms are defined in E.O. 13132 and 
E.O. 12630, respectively.
    The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries finds good cause, under 
authority contained in 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3), to waive the 30-day delayed 
effectiveness of this action. The effective date of this action affects 
a parallel rulemaking approving sector operations plans for the start 
of FY 2014 on May 1, 2014. In addition, this action sets FY 2014 catch 
limits for white hake and U.S./Canada stocks, adjusts management 
measures for yellowtail flounder, and improves measures that will 
increase fishing opportunities for sector vessels. Therefore, these 
measures must be in effect at the beginning of FY 2014 to fully capture 
the conservation and economic benefits of Framework 51 measures and the 
FY 2014 sector operations plans. Due to the government shutdown in 
October 2013, the Council could not take final action on Framework 51 
until December 2013, and as a result, the Council's submission of 
Framework 51 to NMFS was delayed until February 2014. Due to this time 
constraint, this rulemaking could not be completed further in advance 
of May 1, 2014. Therefore, in order to have this action effective at 
the beginning of FY 2014, which begins on May 1, 2014, it is necessary 
to waive the 30-day delayed effectiveness of this rule.
    Failure to waive the 30-day delayed effectiveness would result in 
no catch limits being specified for FY 2014 for a number of groundfish 
stocks. Without an allocation for these groundfish stocks, sector 
vessels would be unable to fish beginning on May 1, 2014. This would 
severely disrupt the fishery, and could result in foregone yield and 
revenue reductions. The groundfish fishery already faced substantial 
cuts in the catch limits for many key groundfish stocks beginning in FY 
2013, and any further disruption to the fishery could worsen the severe 
economic impacts that resulted from the FY 2013 catch limits. This 
action includes specifications that would increase the catch limits for 
white hake and the U.S. quota for the three shared U.S./Canada stocks, 
and also adopts other measures designed to increase fishing 
opportunities for sector vessels. These measures are intended to 
continue to help mitigate the economic impacts of the reductions in the 
FY 2013 catch limits. A delay in implementation of this action would 
greatly diminish the benefits of these specifications and other 
approved measures. For these reasons, a 30-day delay in the 
effectiveness of this rule is impracticable and contrary to the public 
interest.

Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

Introduction

    The Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) requires that Federal agencies 
analyze the expected impacts of a rule on small business entities, 
including consideration of disproportionate and/or significant adverse 
economic impacts on small entities that are directly regulated by the 
action. As part of the analysis, Federal agencies must also consider 
alternatives that minimize impacts on small entities while still 
accomplishing the objectives of the rule. However, it is important to 
note that the RFA does not require that the alternative with the least 
cost, or with the least impact on small entities, be selected. Rather, 
the required analysis is used to inform the agency, as well as the 
public, of the expected impacts of the various alternatives included in 
the rule, and to ensure the agency considers other alternatives that 
minimize the expected impacts while still meeting the goals and 
objectives of the action, and that are still consistent with applicable 
law. In addition, our ability to minimize economic impacts is 
constrained, in part, by recommendations of the Council. We can only 
approve, partially approve, or disapprove the measures that the Council 
recommends in a management action.
    Section 604 of the RFA, 5 U.S.C. 604, requires Federal agencies to 
prepare a Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (FRFA) for each final 
rule. Key elements

[[Page 22443]]

of the FRFA include a summary of significant issues raised by public 
comments, a description of the small entities that will be affected by 
the final rule, and a description of the steps the agency has taken to 
minimize the significant economic impact on small entities that 
includes the reasons for selecting each alternative and why other 
alternatives were not adopted. The FRFA prepared for this final rule 
includes the summary and responses to comments in this rule, the 
analyses contained in Framework 51 and its accompanying Environmental 
Assessment/Regulatory Impact Review/Initial Regulatory Flexibility 
Analysis (IRFA), the IRFA summary in the proposed rule, as well as the 
summary provided below.

Statement of Objective and Need

    A description of the action, why it is being considered, and the 
legal basis for this action are contained in Framework 51, the preamble 
to the proposed rule, as well as this final rule, and are not repeated 
here. A copy of the full analysis is available from NMFS (see 
ADDRESSES).

Summary of Significant Issues Raised in Public Comments

    Our responses to all comments received on the proposed rule can be 
found in the Comments and Responses section of this preamble. No public 
comments were received on the economic impacts of this action, or the 
IRFA prepared for the proposed rule.
    As a result of the public comment received, we disapproved the 
revised discard strata for GB yellowtail flounder, and only partially 
approved the GOM cod and plaice rebuilding plan review analysis in 
order to remove irrelevant criteria. We also revised the GOM haddock 
and SNE/MA winter flounder trip limits for the common pool fishery 
based on comments received on the proposed trip limits. No other 
changes to the proposed rule measures were required to be made as a 
result of public comments.

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

    The Small Business Administration defines a small business as one 
that is:
     Independently owned and operated;
     Not dominant in its field of operation;
     Has annual receipts that do not exceed--
    [cir] $19.0 million in the case of commercial finfish harvesting 
entities (NAIC \1\ 114111)
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

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

    [cir] $5.0 million in the case of commercial shellfish harvesting 
entities (NAIC 114112)
    [cir] $7.0 million in the case of for-hire fishing entities (NAIC 
114119); or
     Has fewer than--
    [cir] 500 employees in the case of fish processors
    [cir] 100 employees in the case of fish dealers.
    This action impacts commercial and recreational fish harvesting 
entities that participate in the groundfish limited access and open 
access fisheries, the small-mesh multispecies and squid fisheries, and 
the scallop fishery. A description of the specific permits that are 
likely to be impacted is included below for informational purposes, 
followed by a discussion of the impacted businesses (ownership 
entities), which can include multiple vessels and/or permit types.
    Limited Access Groundfish Fishery--The limited access groundfish 
fishery consists of those enrolled in the sector program and the common 
pool fishery. As of January 14, 2014, there were 1,088 individual 
limited access permits for FY 2013. Limited access groundfish 
eligibilities held as Confirmation of Permit History were not included 
for the purposes of this analysis. Although these entities may generate 
revenue from quota leasing, they do not generate any gross sales from 
fishing activity and, as a result, are not classified as commercial 
fishing entities. Of the 1,088 limited access groundfish permits issued 
in FY 2013, 664 of these permits were enrolled in the sector program, 
and 424 were in the common pool. Based on the information to date, 767 
of these limited access groundfish permits have associated landings of 
any species, and 414 have some amount of groundfish landings. Each of 
these 1,088 permits will be eligible to join a sector or enroll in the 
common pool in FY 2014. There is also a possibility that some of these 
permit owners could allow their permit to expire by failing to renew it 
for FY 2014.
    Handgear B Fishery--The Handgear B permit is an open access 
groundfish permit that can be requested at any time, with the 
limitation that a vessel cannot hold a limited access groundfish permit 
and an open access Handgear B permit concurrently. The Handgear B 
permit requires the use of rod-and-reel handgear, and is also subject 
to possession limits for groundfish species, with special provisions 
for cod. As of February 18, 2014, there were 891 Handgear B permits, 
and 78 of those vessels landed at least 1 lb (0.45 kg) of groundfish 
for FY 2014.
    Charter/Party Fishery--The charter/party permit is an open access 
groundfish permit that can be requested at any time, with the 
limitation that a vessel cannot hold a limited access groundfish permit 
and an open access party/charter permit concurrently. Charter/party 
permits are subject to annual recreational management measures that 
include minimum fish sizes, possession limits, and seasonal closures. 
As of February 20, 2014, there were 667 party/charter permits issued 
for FY 2013. Of these permits issued for FY 2013, 383 vessels reported 
taking a party or charter trip, and 120 of these vessels have caught 
cod or haddock in the Gulf of Maine during FY 2013.
    Limited Access Scallop Fisheries--The limited access scallop 
fishery includes Limited Access (LA) scallop permits and Limited Access 
General Category (LGC) scallop permits. LA scallop businesses are 
subject to a mixture of DAS and an access area rotation program. LGC 
scallop businesses are managed primarily under an individual fishing 
quota system, and vessels are able to acquire and lease additional 
scallop quota throughout the year. As of February 19, 2014, there were 
348 active LA scallop permits with at least one dollar of revenue from 
sea scallops for FY 2013.
    Small-Mesh Fisheries--The small-mesh exempted fishery allows 
vessels to harvest species in designated areas using mesh sizes smaller 
than the minimum mesh size required by the Groundfish FMP. To 
participate in the small-mesh multispecies (whiting) fishery, vessels 
must hold either a limited access groundfish permit or an open access 
Category K groundfish permit. Limited access groundfish permit holders 
can only target whiting while declared out of the fishery (i.e., not 
fishing under a DAS or sector trip). A description of limited access 
groundfish permits was provided above, and is not repeated here. As of 
February 18, 2014, there were 776 open access Category K groundfish 
permits issued, with only 34 of them landing at least 1 lb (0.45 kg) of 
whiting. Many of these vessels target both whiting and Longfin squid on 
small-mesh trips taken in the GB yellowtail flounder stock area, and 
therefore, most of them also have open access or limited access Squid, 
Mackerel, and Butterfish (SMB) permits.

[[Page 22444]]

During calendar years 2010-2011, nearly half of the total whiting 
landings came from the GB yellowtail flounder stock area, but during 
the same time period, the squid landings from this area made up less 
than 10 percent of the total squid landings. As a result, and because 
most SMB-permitted vessels fishing in the GB yellowtail flounder stock 
area also have either a limited access or open access Category K 
groundfish permit, SMB permits were not incorporated into this 
analysis.
    Ownership Entities--For the purposes of this analysis, an 
``ownership entity'' is defined as an entity with common owners as 
listed on the permit application. Only permits with identical ownership 
are categorized as an ``ownership entity.'' For example, if five 
permits have the same seven persons listed as co-owners on their permit 
application, those seven persons would form one ``ownership entity.'' 
If two of those seven owners also co-own additional vessels, that 
ownership arrangement would be considered a separate ``ownership 
entity'' for the purpose of this analysis. The ownership entities, and 
not the individual vessels, are considered to be the entities regulated 
by this action.
    On June 1 of each year, ownership entities are identified based on 
a list of all permits for the most recent complete calendar year. The 
current ownership data set is based on calendar year 2012 permits and 
contains average gross sales associated with those permits for calendar 
years 2010 through 2012. Matching the potentially-impacted FY 2013 
permits described above to the calendar year 2012 ownership data 
results in 2,064 distinct ownership entities. Based on the Small 
Business Administration guidelines, 2,042 of these ownership entities 
are categorized as small, and 22 are categorized as large entities, all 
of which are shellfish businesses.
    These totals may mask some diversity among the entities. Most of 
these ownership entities maintain diversified harvest portfolios, 
obtaining gross sales from many fisheries, and not dependent on any one 
fishery. However, not all ownership entities are equally diversified. 
The entities that depend most heavily on sales from harvesting species 
that are directly impacted by this action are most likely to be 
affected. To identify these ownership groups, dependence was defined as 
having sales of species from a specific fishery (e.g., groundfish or 
scallops) that were more than 50 percent of the ownership group's total 
gross sales.
    Using this threshold, 151 entities are groundfish-dependent, all of 
which are considered small, and all of which are finfish commercial 
harvesting businesses. Of the 151 groundfish-dependent entities, 130 
participate in the sector program, and 21 operate exclusively in the 
common pool fishery. There are 234 entities that are scallop-dependent. 
All of these scallop-dependent entities are shellfish businesses, and 
20 of them are considered large. There are 35 small-mesh fishery-
dependent entities; all of which are considered small. Of these small-
mesh dependent entities, 19 are finfish businesses, and 16 are 
shellfish businesses. The small-mesh fishery-dependent entities may 
overestimate the number of impacted entities because missing 
statistical area information in the commercial dealer database makes it 
difficult to track whiting and squid landings that occurred exclusively 
in the GB yellowtail flounder stock area.

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

    This final rule contains a revision to the collection-of-
information requirement subject to review and approval by the Office of 
Management and Budget (OMB) under the Paperwork Reduction Act, and 
which has been approved by OMB under control number 0648-0605 
(Amendment 16 reporting requirements).
    This action adjusts the Annual Catch Entitlement (ACE) transfer 
request requirement implemented through Amendment 16 by adding a new 
entry field to the ACE transfer request form. This new entry field 
allows a sector to indicate how many pounds of eastern GB haddock ACE 
it intends to re-allocate to the Western U.S./Canada Area. The change 
is necessary so that a sector can apply for a re-allocation of eastern 
GB ACE in order to increase fishing opportunities in the Western U.S./
Canada Area. Currently, all sectors use the ACE transfer request form 
to initiate ACE transfers with other sectors via an online or paper 
form to the Regional Administrator. The change would not affect the 
number of entities required to comply with this requirement. Therefore, 
this change is not expected to increase the time or cost burden 
associated with the ACE transfer request requirement. Public reporting 
burden for this requirement includes the time for reviewing 
instructions, searching existing data sources, gathering and 
maintaining the data needed, and completing and reviewing the 
collection of information.
    Notwithstanding any other provision of the law, no person is 
required to respond to, nor shall any person be subject to a penalty 
for failure to comply with, a collection of information subject to the 
requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act, unless that collection of 
information displays a currently valid OMB Control Number.

Description of the Steps Taken to Minimize Significant Economic Impacts 
of this Action

    We are disapproving the proposed revision to the method for 
estimating discards of GB yellowtail flounder, and partially 
disapproving the proposed rebuilding plan review analysis for GOM cod 
and American plaice. The rationale for disapproving these measures 
adopted by the Council in Framework 51 is explained in detail in the 
preamble of this rule, and is not repeated here. We have determined 
that all of the other measures proposed in Framework 51 are consistent 
with the requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable 
law, as well as the goals and objectives of the Groundfish FMP. As a 
result, we are approving these measures in this final rule. Many of 
these measures were developed in order to provide sectors with 
additional fishing opportunities and more flexibility to harvest their 
available allocations. These measures are expected to minimize economic 
impacts to small entities compared to the No Action alternatives. Other 
measures adopted in this final rule that may have some negative impacts 
to small entities were determined to be less burdensome compared to 
other alternatives that were considered in Framework 51, but ultimately 
not recommended by the Council.
    Two factors were examined to determine whether this action could 
result in significant economic impacts: Disproportionality and 
profitability. Disproportionality refers to whether or not the 
regulations place a substantial number of small entities at a 
significant competitive disadvantage to large entities. Profitability 
refers to whether or not the regulations significantly reduce profits 
for a substantial number of small entities. This action has the 
potential to place small entities at a significant competitive 
disadvantage compared to large entities. This is mainly because large 
entities will likely have more flexibility to adjust to, and 
accommodate, the final measures. In addition, this action may have 
significant impacts on profitability for a substantial number of small 
entities, as described below.
    The 10-year rebuilding programs for GOM cod and plaice that are 
adopted in this action are expected to have positive impacts on 
profitability of the small

[[Page 22445]]

entities that are regulated by this action that would result from 
rebuilt stocks. In addition, these rebuilding programs are expected to 
result in higher net present values and larger profits compared to the 
alternatives to the preferred alternative (No Action alternative, an 8-
year rebuilding program for GOM cod, and a 7 and 8-year rebuilding 
program for plaice). Because these stocks were not making adequate 
rebuilding progress, the revised rebuilding programs adopted in this 
action are necessary to ensure conservation objectives are met, and 
that management measures are consistent with the rebuilding 
requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The alternatives to the 10-
year rebuilding programs for both stocks were not selected because they 
would not have sufficiently accounted for the needs of fishing 
communities, past performance of groundfish rebuilding, and differences 
in the two assessment models used for GOM cod.
    The catch limits implemented in this final rule are predicted to 
decrease gross revenues for the groundfish industry by 4 percent in FY 
2014 compared to FY 2013 and by 26 percent compared to FY 2012. Net 
revenue is predicted to decline in FY 2014 by 12 percent compared to 
predicted net revenues, and by 21 percent compared to FY 2012. The 
negative impacts of the final catch limits would be non-uniformly 
distributed across vessel size classes, with smaller vessels being more 
heavily impacted compared to large vessels. Although small entities are 
defined based on gross sales of ownership groups, not physical 
characteristics of the vessel, it is reasonable to assume that larger 
vessels are more likely to be owned by large entities. As a result, the 
catch limits included in this action could put small entities at a 
competitive disadvantage compared to large entities.
    The only alternative to the catch limits implemented by this rule 
is the No Action alternative. If no action was taken, no catch limits 
would be specified for the U.S./Canada stocks or white hake. As a 
result, sector vessels would be unable to fish in the respective stock 
areas in FY 2014. This would result in greater negative economic 
impacts on vessels compared to the specifications implemented by this 
action due to lost revenues as a result of being unable to fish. If no 
action was taken to specify catch limits for these stocks, the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act requirements to achieve optimum yield, take into 
account the needs of fishing communities, and minimize adverse economic 
impacts would also be violated. For these reasons, the No Action 
alternative was not selected.
    The catch limits implemented by this action are based on the latest 
stock assessment information, which is considered the best scientific 
information available, and the applicable requirements in the 
Groundfish FMP and the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The catch limits 
implemented in this action are the highest allowed given the best 
scientific information available, the SSC's recommendations, and 
requirements to end overfishing and rebuild fish stocks. The only other 
options to the catch limits implemented in this action that would 
mitigate negative impacts would be higher catch limits. However, higher 
catch limits to those adopted in this action are not permissible under 
the law because they would not be consistent with the goals and 
objectives of the Groundfish FMP, or the Magnuson-Stevens Act, 
particularly the requirement to prevent overfishing. The Magnuson-
Stevens Act, and relevant case law, prevents implementation of measures 
that conflict with conservation requirements, even if it means negative 
impacts are not mitigated. For these reasons, higher catch limits than 
those implemented in this action were not considered in Framework 51. 
As a result, the only other alternative to the catch limits implemented 
in this action was the No Action Alternative, which would not mitigate 
the economic impacts of the final catch limits, as explained above.
    The GB yellowtail flounder AM established for the small-mesh 
fisheries that is adopted in this action is expected to have negative 
impacts on small-mesh fishery-dependent small entities, if the AM is 
triggered. However, this type of measure is required by the Magnuson-
Stevens Act to help prevent overfishing, and to ensure that small-mesh 
fisheries catch of GB yellowtail flounder does not negatively affect 
the groundfish and scallop fisheries. If the small-mesh fisheries sub-
ACL for GB yellowtail flounder is exceeded, selective trawl gear would 
be required in the year immediately following the overage, or 2 years 
after the overage, depending on data availability. Small entities would 
likely experience higher costs as a result, including the fixed cost of 
purchasing new gear and/or modifying existing gear. These potential 
gear restrictions would also likely lower the catch rates of target 
species (e.g., squid and whiting), which would increase operating costs 
and lower net revenue and overall profitability. The negative impacts 
this action could have are less than those that would have resulted 
from another alternative considered in Framework 51 that would have 
closed the entire GB yellowtail flounder stock area to small-mesh 
fisheries if the sub-ACL was exceeded. If the AM implemented in this 
rule successfully reduces discards of GB yellowtail flounder, and 
prevents overfishing, catch rates for the species could increase for 
groundfish-dependent small entities, resulting in small increases in 
profitability.
    This action also adopts two measures that would modify U.S./Canada 
management measures to provide more flexibility and create additional 
fishing opportunities for groundfish vessels. For each of these 
measures, no other alternatives were considered other than the No 
Action alternative and the measures implemented in this action. The 
first measure establishes a U.S./Canada quota trading mechanism. This 
is an administrative measure, and is not expected to have any 
additional economic impacts, positive or negative, relative to the No 
Action alternative, which would not have specified any U.S./Canada 
trading mechanism. At this time, it is not known how this action might 
increase or decrease quota allocated to groundfish fishermen because it 
is difficult to anticipate what, if any, trade would be made between 
the United States and Canada. However, if the ability to trade quota 
inseason were to result in increased quota for U.S. vessels, and that 
quota was converted into landings, then this action would be beneficial 
to groundfish-dependent small entities. In addition, because this 
trading mechanism would likely allow the United States to receive 
additional quota for limiting stocks, any trade made would better help 
achieve optimum yield in the fishery. Compared to the No Action 
alternative, the preferred alternative may result in potential benefits 
to groundfish-dependent small entities and would likely allow the 
United States to receive additional quota for limiting stocks, and for 
these reasons, the No Action alternative was rejected.
    The second measure allows sectors to convert their eastern GB 
haddock allocation to western GB haddock allocation and provide 
additional opportunities to harvest more of their total GB haddock 
allocation. This is expected to have small positive impacts on 
groundfish-dependent small entities that participate in the sector 
program due to increased operational flexibility. This measure is also 
expected to prevent the Western U.S./Canada Area from being closed to a 
sector prematurely, before the sector harvests all of its GB haddock 
allocation, which will

[[Page 22446]]

ultimately prevent foregone yield in the fishery. However, since catch 
of eastern and western GB haddock has been consistently lower than the 
respective catch limits, the benefit of this action is likely very 
small compared to the No Action alternative. Due to the small benefits 
that may be realized under the preferred alternative when compared to 
the No Action alternative, the No Action alternative was rejected.
    This action also adopts a prohibition on possession of yellowtail 
flounder by limited access scallop vessels, which is expected to impact 
only scallop-dependent small entities. This measure could result in 
some economic loss for vessels that have been landing the species. 
However, only a relatively small proportion (less than a quarter) of 
the active limited access vessels are currently landing yellowtail 
flounder, and the average revenue per vessel from yellowtail flounder 
is less than 5 percent of the average total revenue. As such, the 
effects of this action on the profitability of scallop-dependent small 
entities are expected to be small. Further, this action is required to 
reduce total mortality on yellowtail flounder in order to better meet 
the goals and objectives of the Groundfish FMP. The only alternative 
considered to the preferred alternative was No Action. Compared to the 
preferred alternative, the No Action alternative may increase revenues 
for vessels that have been landing yellowtail flounder. However, the No 
Action alternative was not selected because the conservation benefits 
of reducing mortality on yellowtail flounder outweighed any minor 
economic benefit that some vessels could obtain by landing small 
amounts of yellowtail flounder.
    The actions analyzed here must also be put into the context of 
previous actions, such as Amendment 16 to the Groundfish FMP, and 
parallel actions, such as the approval of FY 2014 sector operations 
plans, which contain ongoing measures to help mitigate negative impacts 
on the entities affected by this action.

Small Entity Compliance Guide

    Section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness 
Act of 1996 states that, for each rule or group of related rules for 
which an agency is required to prepare a FRFA, the agency shall publish 
one or more guides to assist small entities in complying with the rule, 
and shall designate such publications as ``small entity compliance 
guides.'' The agency shall explain the actions a small entity is 
required to take to comply with a rule or group of rules. As part of 
this rulemaking process, we will send a small entity compliance guide 
to all Federal permit holders affected by this action (groundfish, 
scallop, and small-mesh). In addition, copies of this final rule and 
guide (i.e., information bulletin) are available from NMFS (see 
ADDRESSES) and at the following Web site: http://www.nero.noaa.gov/sfd/sfdmulti.html.

List of Subjects

50 CFR Part 648

    Fisheries, Fishing, Recordkeeping and reporting requirements.

50 CFR Part 697

    Fisheries, Fishing.

    Dated: April 17, 2014.
Paul N. Doremus,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Operations, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons stated in the preamble, 50 CFR parts 648 and 697 
are 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.  648.14, revise paragraph (i)(2)(iii)(D) to read as follows:


Sec.  648.14  Prohibitions.

* * * * *
    (i) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (iii) * * *
    (D) Fish for, possess, or land yellowtail flounder from a vessel on 
a scallop fishing trip.
* * * * *

0
3. In Sec.  648.60, revise paragraph (a)(5)(ii)(C) to read as follows:


Sec.  648.60  Sea scallop access area program requirements.

    (a) * * *
    (5) * * *
    (ii) * * *
    (C) Yellowtail flounder. Such vessel is prohibited from fishing 
for, possessing, or landing yellowtail flounder.
* * * * *

0
4. In Sec.  648.80, revise paragraph (g)(5)(i) to read as follows:


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

* * * * *
    (g) * * *
    (5) * * *
    (i) Nets of mesh size less than 2.5 inches (6.4 cm). A vessel 
lawfully fishing for small-mesh multispecies in the GOM/GB, SNE, or MA 
Regulated Mesh Areas, as defined in paragraphs (a), (b), and (c) of 
this section, with nets of mesh size smaller than 2.5 inches (6.4-cm), 
as measured by methods specified in paragraph (f) of this section, may 
use net strengtheners (covers, as described at Sec.  648.23(d)), 
provided that the net strengthener for nets of mesh size smaller than 
2.5 inches (6.4 cm) complies with the provisions specified under Sec.  
648.23(c).
* * * * *

0
5. In Sec.  648.85, revise paragraphs (a)(2)(ii) and (b)(6)(iv)(B) and 
add paragraph (a)(2)(iv) to read as follows:


Sec.  648.85  Special management programs.

    (a) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (ii) TAC Overages. Any overages of the overall Eastern GB cod, 
Eastern GB haddock, and GB yellowtail flounder U.S. TACs caused by an 
overage of the component of the U.S. TAC specified for either the 
common pool, individual sectors, the scallop fishery, or any other 
fishery, pursuant to this paragraph (a)(2) and Sec.  648.90(a)(4), that 
occur in a given fishing year shall be subtracted from the respective 
TAC component responsible for the overage in the following fishing year 
and may be subject to the overall groundfish AM provisions as specified 
in Sec.  648.90(a)(5)(ii) if the overall ACL for a particular stock in 
a given fishing year, specified pursuant to Sec.  648.90(a)(4), is 
exceeded.
* * * * *
    (iv) Inseason TAC Adjustments. For FY 2014 only, the Regional 
Administrator, in consultation with the Council, may adjust the FY 2014 
TACs for the U.S./Canada shared resources inseason consistent with any 
quota trade recommendations made by the TMGC and/or Steering Committee, 
and approved by the Regional Administrator. Any such inseason 
adjustment to the FY 2014 TACs may only increase the TAC available to 
the U.S. fishery, and may not reduce the TAC amount distributed in FY 
2014 to any fishery component as specified in paragraph (a)(2)(iii) of 
this section. The revised FY 2014 TAC(s) shall be distributed 
consistent with the process specified in paragraph (a)(2)(iii) of this 
section. For example, if the U.S. receives additional yellowtail 
flounder TAC in FY 2014, and trades away a portion of its FY 2015 
haddock TAC, the Regional Administrator would increase the FY 2014 U.S. 
TAC for yellowtail flounder inseason consistent with the process 
specified in this paragraph (a)(2)(iv). The adjustment to the FY 2015

[[Page 22447]]

U.S. TAC for haddock would be made as part of the process for 
establishing TACs, as described in paragraph (a)(2)(i)(C) of this 
section.
* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (6) * * *
    (iv) * * *
    (B) Observer notification. For the purposes of selecting vessels 
for observer deployment, a vessel must provide notice to NMFS of the 
vessel name; contact name for coordination of observer deployment; 
telephone number for contact; the date, time, and port of departure; 
and the planned fishing area or areas (GOM, GB, or SNE/MA) at least 48 
hr prior to the beginning of any trip declared into the Regular B DAS 
Program as required by paragraph (b)(6)(iv)(C) of this section, and in 
accordance with the Regional Administrator's instructions. Providing 
notice of the area that the vessel intends to fish does not restrict 
the vessel's activity on that trip to that area only (i.e., the vessel 
operator may change his/her plans regarding planned fishing areas).
* * * * *
0
6. In Sec.  648.87:
0
a. Revise paragraph (b)(1)(i)(B) and the introductory text of paragraph 
(c)(2);
0
b. Add paragraph (e)(3)(iv); and
0
c. Remove paragraphs (b)(1)(i)(F) through (G) to read as follows:


Sec.  648.87  Sector allocation.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (B) Eastern GB stocks--(1) Allocation. Each sector allocated ACE 
for stocks managed under the terms of the U.S./Canada Resource Sharing 
Understanding in the Eastern U.S./Canada Area, as specified in Sec.  
648.85(a), shall be allocated a specific portion of the ACE for such 
stocks that can only be harvested from the Eastern U.S./Canada Area, as 
specified in Sec.  648.85(a)(1). The ACE specified for the Eastern 
U.S./Canada Area portions of these stocks shall be proportional to the 
sector's allocation of the overall ACL available to all vessels issued 
a limited access NE multispecies permit for these stocks pursuant to 
Sec.  648.90(a)(4). For example, if a sector is allocated 10 percent of 
the GB cod ACL available to all vessels issued a limited access NE 
multispecies permit, that sector would also be allocated and may 
harvest 10 percent of that ACE from the Eastern U.S./Canada Area. In 
this example, if the overall GB cod ACL available to all vessels issued 
a limited access NE multispecies permit is 1,000 mt, of which 100 mt is 
specified to the Eastern U.S./Canada Area, the sector would be 
allocated 100 mt of GB cod, of which no more than 10 mt could be 
harvested from the Eastern U.S./Canada Area and no more than 90 mt 
could be harvested from the rest of the GB cod stock area.
    (2) Re-allocation of haddock ACE. A sector may re-allocate all, or 
a portion, of a its haddock ACE specified to the Eastern U.S./Canada 
Area, pursuant to paragraph (b)(1)(i)(B)(1) of this section, to the 
Western U.S./Canada Area at any time during the fishing year, and up to 
2 weeks into the following fishing year (i.e., through May 14), unless 
otherwise instructed by NMFS, to cover any overages during the previous 
fishing year. Re-allocation of any ACE only becomes effective upon 
approval by NMFS, as specified in paragraphs (b)(1)(i)(B)(2)(i) through 
(iii) of this section. Re-allocation of haddock ACE may only be made 
within a sector, and not between sectors. For example, if 100 mt of a 
sector's GB haddock ACE is specified to the Eastern U.S./Canada Area, 
the sector could re-allocate up to 100 mt of that ACE to the Western 
U.S./Canada Area.
    (i) Application to re-allocate ACE. GB haddock ACE specified to the 
Eastern U.S./Canada Area may be re-allocated to the Western U.S./Canada 
Area through written request to the Regional Administrator. This 
request must include the name of the sector, the amount of ACE to be 
re-allocated, and the fishing year in which the ACE re-allocation 
applies, as instructed by the Regional Administrator.
    (ii) Approval of request to re-allocate ACE. NMFS shall approve or 
disapprove a request to re-allocate GB haddock ACE provided the sector, 
and its participating vessels, is in compliance with the reporting 
requirements specified in this part. The Regional Administrator shall 
inform the sector in writing, within 2 weeks of the receipt of the 
sector's request, whether the request to re-allocate ACE has been 
approved.
    (iii) Duration of ACE re-allocation. GB haddock ACE that has been 
re-allocated to the Western U.S./Canada Area pursuant to this paragraph 
(b)(1)(i)(B)(2) is only valid for the fishing year in which the re-
allocation is approved, with the exception of any requests that are 
submitted up to 2 weeks into the subsequent fishing year to address any 
potential ACE overages from the previous fishing year, as provided in 
paragraph (b)(1)(iii) of this section, unless otherwise instructed by 
NMFS.
* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (2) If a sector is approved, the Regional Administrator shall issue 
a letter of authorization to each vessel operator and/or vessel owner 
participating in the sector. The letter of authorization shall 
authorize participation in the sector operations and may exempt 
participating vessels from any Federal fishing regulation implementing 
the NE multispecies FMP, except those specified in paragraphs (c)(2)(i) 
and (ii) of this section, in order to allow vessels to fish in 
accordance with an approved operations plan, provided such exemptions 
are consistent with the goals and objectives of the FMP. The letter of 
authorization may also include requirements and conditions deemed 
necessary to ensure effective administration of, and compliance with, 
the operations plan and the sector allocation. Solicitation of public 
comment on, and NMFS final determination on such exemptions shall be 
consistent with paragraphs (c)(1) and (2) of this section.
* * * * *
    (e) * * *
    (3) * * *
    (iv) Re-allocation of GB haddock ACE. Subject to the terms and 
conditions of the state-operated permit bank's MOAs with NMFS, a state-
operated permit bank may re-allocate all, or a portion, of its GB 
haddock ACE specified for the Eastern U.S./Canada Area to the Western 
U.S./Canada Area provided it complies with the requirements in 
paragraph (b)(1)(i)(B)(2) of this section.
* * * * *

0
7. In Sec.  648.90:
0
a. Revise paragraphs (a)(2)(iv) through (vii) and (a)(4)(iii)(G); and
0
b. Add paragraphs (a)(2)(viii), (a)(4)(i)(A) and (B), (a)(5)(iv), and 
(a)(5)(v) to read as follows:


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

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (iv) Rebuilding plan review for GOM cod and American plaice. Based 
on this review of the most current scientific information available, 
the PDT shall determine whether the following conditions are met for 
either stock: The total catch limit has not been exceeded during the 
rebuilding program; new scientific information indicates that the stock 
is below its rebuilding trajectory (i.e., rebuilding has not progressed 
as expected); and Frebuild becomes less than 75% 
FMSY. If all three of these criteria are met, the PDT, and/
or SSC, shall undertake a rebuilding plan review to

[[Page 22448]]

provide new catch advice that includes the following, in priority 
order: Review of the biomass reference points and calculation of 
Frebuild ACLs based on the review of the biomass reference 
points and the existing rebuilding plan.
    (v) The Council shall review the ACLs recommended by the PDT and 
all of the options developed by the PDT and other relevant information; 
consider public comment; and develop a recommendation to meet the FMP 
objectives pertaining to regulated species or ocean pout that is 
consistent with applicable law. If the Council does not submit a 
recommendation that meets the FMP objectives and is consistent with 
applicable law, the Regional Administrator may adopt any option 
developed by the PDT, unless rejected by the Council, as specified in 
paragraph (a)(2)(vii) of this section, provided the option meets the 
FMP objectives and is consistent with applicable law.
    (vi) Based on this review, the Council shall submit a 
recommendation to the Regional Administrator of any changes, 
adjustments or additions to DAS allocations, closed areas or other 
measures necessary to achieve the FMP's goals and objectives. The 
Council shall include in its recommendation supporting documents, as 
appropriate, concerning the environmental and economic impacts of the 
proposed action and the other options considered by the Council.
    (vii) If the Council submits, on or before December 1, a 
recommendation to the Regional Administrator after one Council meeting, 
and the Regional Administrator concurs with the recommendation, the 
Regional Administrator shall publish the Council's recommendation in 
the Federal Register as a proposed rule with a 30-day public comment 
period. The Council may instead submit its recommendation on or before 
February 1, if it chooses to follow the framework process outlined in 
paragraph (c) of this section, and requests that the Regional 
Administrator publish the recommendation as a final rule, in a manner 
consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act. If the Regional 
Administrator concurs that the Council's recommendation meets the FMP 
objectives and is consistent with other applicable law, and determines 
that the recommended management measures should be published as a final 
rule, the action will be published as a final rule in the Federal 
Register, in a manner consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act. 
If the Regional Administrator concurs that the recommendation meets the 
FMP objectives and is consistent with other applicable law and 
determines that a proposed rule is warranted, and, as a result, the 
effective date of a final rule falls after the start of the fishing 
year on May 1, fishing may continue. However, DAS used or regulated 
species or ocean pout landed by a vessel on or after May 1 will be 
counted against any DAS or sector ACE allocation the vessel or sector 
ultimately receives for that year, as appropriate.
    (viii) If the Regional Administrator concurs in the Council's 
recommendation, a final rule shall be published in the Federal Register 
on or about April 1 of each year, with the exception noted in paragraph 
(a)(2)(vi) of this section. If the Council fails to submit a 
recommendation to the Regional Administrator by February 1 that meets 
the FMP goals and objectives, the Regional Administrator may publish as 
a proposed rule one of the options reviewed and not rejected by the 
Council, provided that the option meets the FMP objectives and is 
consistent with other applicable law. If, after considering public 
comment, the Regional Administrator decides to approve the option 
published as a proposed rule, the action will be published as a final 
rule in the Federal Register.
* * * * *
    (4) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) ABC recommendations. The PDT shall develop ABC recommendations 
based on the ABC control rule, the fishing mortality rate necessary to 
rebuild the stock, guidance from the SSC, and any other available 
information. The PDT recommendations shall be reviewed by the SSC. 
Guided by terms of reference developed by the Council, the SSC shall 
either concur with the ABC recommendations provided by the PDT, or 
provide alternative recommendations for each stock of regulated species 
or ocean pout and describe the elements of scientific uncertainty used 
to develop its recommendations. Should the SSC recommend an ABC that 
differs from that originally recommend by the PDT, the PDT shall revise 
its ACL recommendations if necessary to be consistent with the ABC 
recommendations made by the SSC. In addition to consideration of ABCs, 
the SSC may consider other related issues specified in the terms of 
reference developed by the Council, including, but not limited to, 
OFLs, ACLs, and management uncertainty.
    (B) ACL recommendations. The PDT shall develop ACL recommendations 
based upon ABCs recommended by the SSC and the pertinent 
recommendations of the Transboundary Management Guidance Committee 
(TMGC). The ACL recommendations of the PDT shall be specified based 
upon total catch for each stock (including both landings and discards), 
if that information is available. The PDT shall describe the steps 
involved with the calculation of the recommended ACLs and uncertainties 
and risks considered when developing these recommendations, including 
whether different levels of uncertainties were used for different sub-
components of the fishery and whether ACLs have been exceeded in recent 
years. Based upon the ABC recommendations of the SSC and the ACL 
recommendations of the PDT, the Council shall adopt ACLs that are equal 
to or lower than the ABC recommended by the SSC to account for 
management uncertainty in the fishery.
* * * * *
    (iii) * * *
    (G) GB yellowtail flounder catch by small mesh fisheries--(1) For 
the purposes of this paragraph, the term ``small-mesh fisheries'' is 
defined as vessels fishing with bottom tending mobile gear with a 
codend mesh size of less than 5 in (12.7 cm) in other, non-specified 
sub-components of the fishery, including, but not limited to, exempted 
fisheries that occur in Federal waters and fisheries harvesting 
exempted species specified in Sec.  648.80(b)(3).
    (2) Small-mesh fisheries allocation. GB yellowtail flounder catch 
by the small-mesh fisheries, as defined in paragraph (a)(4)(iii)(G)(1) 
of this section, shall be deducted from the ABC/ACL for GB yellowtail 
flounder pursuant to the process to specify ABCs and ACLs, as described 
in this paragraph (a)(4). This small mesh fishery shall be allocated 2 
percent of the GB yellowtail flounder ABC (U.S. share only) in fishing 
year 2013 and each fishing year after, pursuant to the process for 
specifying ABCs and ACLs described in this paragraph (a)(4). An ACL 
based on this ABC shall be determined using the process described in 
paragraph (a)(4)(i) of this section.
    (5) * * *
    (iv) AMs if the sub-ACL for the Atlantic sea scallop fishery is 
exceeded. At the end of the scallop fishing year, NMFS shall evaluate 
Atlantic sea scallop fishery catch to determine whether a scallop 
fishery sub-ACL has been exceeded. On January 15, or when information 
is available to make an accurate projection, NMFS will also determine 
whether the overall ACL for each stock allocated to the scallop

[[Page 22449]]

fishery has been exceeded. When evaluating whether the overall ACL has 
been exceeded, NMFS will add the maximum carryover available to 
sectors, as specified at Sec.  648.87(b)(1)(i)(C), to the estimate of 
total catch for the pertinent stock. If catch by scallop vessels 
exceeds the pertinent sub-ACL specified in paragraph (a)(4)(iii)(C) of 
this section by 50 percent or more, or if scallop catch exceeds the 
scallop fishery sub-ACL and the overall ACL for that stock is also 
exceeded, then the applicable scallop fishery AM shall take effect, as 
specified in Sec.  648.64 of the Atlantic sea scallop regulations.
    (v) AM if the small-mesh fisheries GB yellowtail flounder sub-ACL 
is exceeded. If NMFS determines that the sub-ACL of GB yellowtail 
flounder allocated to the small-mesh fisheries, pursuant to paragraph 
(a)(4)(iii)(G) of this section, is exceeded, NMFS shall implement the 
AM specified in this paragraph consistent with the Administrative 
Procedures Act. The AM requires that small-mesh fisheries vessels, as 
defined in paragraph (a)(4)(iii)(G)(1) of this section, use one of the 
following approved selective trawl gear in the GB yellowtail flounder 
stock area, as defined at Sec.  648.85(b)(6)(v)(H): A haddock separator 
trawl, as specified in Sec.  648.85(a)(3)(iii)(A); a Ruhle trawl, as 
specified in Sec.  648.85(b)(6)(iv)(J)(3); a rope separator trawl, as 
specified in Sec.  648.84(e); or any other gear approved consistent 
with the process defined in Sec.  648.85(b)(6). If reliable information 
is available, the AM shall be implemented in the fishing year 
immediately following the year in which the overage occurred only if 
there is sufficient time to do so in a manner consistent with the 
Administrative Procedures Act. Otherwise, the AM shall be implemented 
in the second fishing year after the fishing year in which the overage 
occurred. For example, if NMFS determined after the start of Year 2 
that the small-mesh fisheries sub-ACL for GB yellowtail flounder was 
exceeded in Year 1, the applicable AM would be implemented at the start 
of Year 3. If updated catch information becomes available subsequent to 
the implementation of an AM that indicates that an overage of the 
small-mesh fisheries sub-ACL did not occur, NMFS shall rescind the AM, 
consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act.
* * * * *

PART 697--ATLANTIC COASTAL FISHERIES COOPERATIVE MANAGEMENT

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

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


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


Sec.  697.7  Prohibitions.

* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (xxii) Possess, deploy, fish with, haul, harvest lobster from, or 
carry aboard a vessel any lobster trap gear, on a fishing trip in the 
EEZ from a vessel that fishes for, takes, catches, or harvests lobster 
by a method other than lobster traps.
* * * * *
    (2) * * *
    (xvii) Possess, deploy, fish with, haul, harvest lobster from, or 
carry aboard a vessel any lobster trap gear on a fishing trip in the 
EEZ on a vessel that fishes for, takes, catches, or harvests lobster by 
a method other than lobster traps.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2014-09135 Filed 4-21-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P