[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 83 (Wednesday, April 30, 2014)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 24354-24356]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-09875]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 140421359-4359-01]
RIN 0648-BE08


Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act 
Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northern Red 
Hake Accountability Measure

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: This action reduces the in-season possession limit adjustment 
trigger for northern red hake beginning in fishing year 2014 due to an 
annual catch limit overage in 2012. This action also makes some minor 
corrections and clarifications to the accountability measure 
regulations. These corrections and clarifications are administrative in 
nature and will not affect the small-mesh multispecies fishery, 
possession limits, or how the accountability measures function. This 
action is required under the provisions of the Northeast Multispecies 
Fishery Management Plan.

DATES: This action is effective May 1, 2014.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jason Berthiaume, Fishery Management 
Specialist, phone: (978) 281-9177, or Jason.Berthiaume@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The small-mesh multispecies fishery is managed as a component of 
the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan (FMP), using a 
series of exemptions from the minimum mesh size requirements of the 
groundfish fishery. There are three species in the small-mesh 
multispecies fishery, managed as five stocks under the regulations at 
50 CFR 648.80 (northern and southern silver hake, northern and southern 
red hake, and offshore hake). The northern stock areas are generally in 
the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank,

[[Page 24355]]

and the southern stock areas are in Southern New England and the Mid-
Atlantic regions. Silver hake, also known as ``whiting,'' is generally 
the primary target species of the fishery. Red hake is caught 
concurrently with whiting and typically sold as bait.
    Under the current regulations, once 90 percent of a small-mesh 
multispecies stock's total allowable landings (TAL) is reached in a 
given fishing year, NMFS is required to reduce the possession limit for 
that stock to the prescribed incidental level for the remainder of the 
fishing year. Further, for accountability measure purposes, if the full 
annual catch limit (ACL) for that stock is exceeded, NMFS is required 
to reduce the in-season possession limit adjustment trigger (i.e., the 
percentage of the TAL of each small-mesh multispecies stock that 
triggers the reduction in the possession limit) in a subsequent fishing 
year by 1 percent for each 1 percent by which the ACL was exceeded. In 
fishing year 2012, the northern red hake ACL was 266 mt and the 
commercial catch was 386 mt. This equates to an ACL overage of 120 mt; 
45 percent above the ACL. Therefore, pursuant to current regulations, 
this action reduces the trigger from 90 percent to 45 percent of the 
TAL for this stock. This results in an in-season adjustment trigger 
equal to 41 mt. Thus, for fishing year 2014, if 45 percent, or 41 mt, 
of the northern red hake TAL is projected to be reached or exceeded, 
the possession limit for northern red hake would be reduced from 5,000 
lb (2,270 kg) to 400 lb (181.44 kg). The reduced trigger would remain 
in effect until the New England Fishery Management Council changes it 
through specifications or a framework action, or unless the ACL is 
again exceeded, in which case NMFS must further reduce the percentage 
of the in-season adjustment trigger. None of the catch of other small-
mesh multispecies stocks exceeded their respective ACLs in 2012.
    This is the first year in which this accountability measure has 
been triggered. In developing this action, NMFS has discovered that 
some parts of the Amendment 19 implementing regulations regarding the 
accountability measures for small-mesh multispecies need to be 
clarified to better reflect the intent of the Amendment 19. 
Accordingly, this action clarifies the small-mesh multispecies 
accountability measure regulations at 648.86 and 648.90. Specifically, 
this action specifies more clearly the possession limit adjustment 
trigger for each individual stock of the small-mesh multispecies 
fishery and how the trigger works. Since this is the first time the 
possession limit adjustment trigger has had to be reduced, the current 
regulations only broadly specify the trigger for all small-mesh 
multispecies stocks. As such, the regulations need to be clarified to 
specify the triggers for each individual stock since they are being 
reduced for one stock (northern red hake), but not the other stocks. In 
addition, since a new section is needed to specify the different 
possession limit adjustment triggers for each stock, the in-season 
adjustment accountability measure regulations that cite the possession 
limit adjustment triggers also need to be adjusted to cite the correct 
regulations. These clarifications are administrative in nature and do 
not affect the small-mesh multispecies fishery, possession limits, or 
how the accountability measures function, outside of what was 
originally intended in the implementing action and the accountability 
measures.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this rule is 
consistent with the Northeast Multispecies FMP, other provisions of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law.
    Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B), the Assistant Administrator for 
Fisheries, NOAA, finds good cause to waive prior notice and opportunity 
for additional public comment for this action because this would be 
impracticable, and contrary to the public interest. Allowing for prior 
notice and public comment is impracticable because this is a non-
discretionary action required by provisions of Amendment 19 to the 
Northeast Multispecies FMP, which was subject to public comment, and it 
must be in place on or before May 1, 2014. The proposed rule to 
implement Amendment 19 requested public comment on these measures 
including the specific accountability measure implemented by this rule, 
with the understanding that possession limit trigger adjustments would 
be required if an ACL overage occurred. Based on latest landings data 
received by NMFS, we have determined that the accountability measure 
was triggered because the TAL was exceeded, thus it is necessary to 
publish this rule to reduce the possession limit adjustment trigger for 
red hake. We received no significant comments on Amendment 19 in 
opposition to the accountability measures and their implementing 
procedures. Providing for additional public comment at this time, 
therefore, would not serve any additional purpose because the public 
has already had the opportunity to comment on the measures being 
implemented with this action.
    Providing public comment at this time would also be contrary to the 
public interest because it is imperative to implement the 
accountability measures at the beginning of the second year following 
an ACL overage, which is May 1, 2014. Given that the fishery has 
surpassed its quota in the past, if the AM is not implemented by May 1, 
there is the potential that the fishery could incur an additional quota 
overage because fishermen would be unaware of the new reduced trigger 
level, thereby resulting in curtailed fishing opportunities leading to 
unnecessary adverse economic consequences for fishermen that 
participate in this fishery.
    Regarding the changes to the implementing regulations regarding the 
accountability measures for small-mesh multispecies, NMFS makes 
clarifications to the regulations that do not substantively impact 
regulated entities. These corrections and clarifications more clearly 
delineate the different possession limit adjustment triggers for each 
stock, and revise the in-season adjustment accountability measure 
regulations to correctly cite the different possession limit adjustment 
triggers. As such, these corrections and clarifications are 
administrative in nature and will not affect the small-mesh 
multispecies fishery, possession limits, or how the accountability 
measures function.
    For these same reasons, there is good cause to waive the 30-day 
delay in effectiveness requirement pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(d). NMFS 
was unable to prepare this rule in time to allow public comment and 
implement a final rule before it has to be in place on or before May 1, 
2014. Moreover, providing for additional public comment would be 
impracticable because this is a non-discretionary action required by 
provisions of Amendment 19 to the Northeast Multispecies FMP, which was 
subject to public comment. Providing public comment at this time would 
also be contrary to the public interest because it is imperative to 
implement the accountability measures at the beginning of the second 
year following an ACL overage, which is May 1, 2014. Given that the 
fishery has surpassed its quota in the past, if the AM is not 
implemented by May 1, there is the potential that the fishery could 
incur an additional quota overage because fishermen would be unaware of 
the new reduced trigger level, thereby resulting in curtailed fishing 
opportunities leading to unnecessary adverse

[[Page 24356]]

economic consequences for fishermen that participate in this fishery.
    The changes to the implementing regulations regarding the 
accountability measures for small-mesh multispecies are clarifications 
and do not substantively impact regulated entities. These corrections 
and clarifications more clearly delineate the different possession 
limit adjustment triggers for each stock, and revise the in-season 
adjustment accountability measure regulations to correctly cite the 
different possession limit adjustment triggers. As such, these 
corrections and clarifications are administrative in nature and will 
not affect the small-mesh multispecies fishery, possession limits, or 
how the accountability measures function.
    Because prior notice and opportunity for public comment are not 
required for this rule by 5 U.S.C. 553, or any other law, the 
analytical requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 601 
et seq., do not apply.
    This rule is not significant for the purposes of Executive Order 
12866.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648

    Fisheries, Fishing, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    Dated: April 24, 2014.
Eileen Sobeck,
Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 648 is amended 
to read 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.  648.86, paragraph (d)(4) introductory text is revised to 
read as follows:


Sec.  648.86  NE Multispecies possession restrictions.

* * * * *
    (d) * * *
    (4) In-season adjustment of small-mesh multispecies possession 
limits. If the Regional Administrator projects that an in-season 
adjustment TAL trigger level for any small-mesh multispecies stock, as 
specified in Sec.  648.90(b)(5)(iii), has been reached or exceeded, the 
Regional Administrator shall reduce the possession limit of that stock 
to the incidental level for that stock, as specified in this paragraph 
(d)(4), for the remainder of the fishing year through notice consistent 
with the Administrative Procedure Act, unless such a reduction in the 
possession limit would be expected to prevent the TAL from being 
reached.
* * * * *

0
3. In Sec.  648.90, paragraph (b)(5) is revised to read as follows:


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

    * * *
    (b) * * *
    (5) Accountability measures for the small-mesh multispecies 
fishery--(i) In-season adjustment of possession limits. In-season 
adjustment accountability measures for the small-mesh multispecies 
fishery are specified in accordance with the procedures in Sec.  
648.86(d)(4).
    (ii) Post-season adjustment for an overage. If NMFS determines that 
a small-mesh multispecies ACL was exceeded in a given fishing year, the 
in-season accountability measure adjustment trigger, as specified in 
paragraph (b)(5)(iii) of this section, shall be reduced in a subsequent 
fishing year by 1 percent for each 1 percent by which the ACL was 
exceeded through notification consistent with the Administrative 
Procedure Act. For example, if the in-season adjustment trigger is 90 
percent, and an ACL is exceeded by 5 percent, the adjustment trigger 
for the stock whose ACL was exceeded would be reduced to 85 percent for 
subsequent fishing years.
    (iii) Small-mesh multispecies in-season adjustment triggers. The 
small-mesh multispecies in-season accountability measure adjustment 
triggers are as follow:

------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                              In-season
                                                             adjustment
                          Species                              trigger
                                                              (percent)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Northern Red Hake.........................................            45
Northern Silver Hake......................................            90
Southern Red Hake.........................................            90
Southern Whiting..........................................            90
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[FR Doc. 2014-09875 Filed 4-29-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P