[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 92 (Tuesday, May 13, 2014)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 27274-27276]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-11049]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 140403312-4312-01]
RIN 0648-BE17


Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Spiny Dogfish 
Fishery; Proposed 2014-2015 Spiny Dogfish Specifications

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

ACTION: Proposed specifications; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: This rule proposes catch limits, commercial quotas, and 
possession limits for the spiny dogfish fishery for the 2014-2015 
fishing years. The proposed action was developed by the Mid-Atlantic 
and New England Fishery Management Councils pursuant to the fishery 
specification requirements of the Spiny Dogfish Fishery Management 
Plan. These management measures are supported by the best available 
scientific information and reflect recent increases in spiny dogfish 
biomass, and are expected to result in positive economic impacts for 
the spiny dogfish fishery while maintaining the conservation objectives 
of the Spiny Dogfish Fishery Management Plan.

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

ADDRESSES: Copies of the amendment, including the Environmental 
Assessment and Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (EA/IRFA) and 
other supporting documents for the action are available from Dr. 
Christopher M. Moore, Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery 
Management Council, Suite 201, 800 N. State Street, Dover, DE 19901. 
The amendment is also accessible via the Internet at: http://www.nero.noaa.gov.
    You may submit comments, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2014-0053, by any 
one of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2014-0053, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: NMFS, Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, 55 
Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the 
envelope ``Comments on Spiny Dogfish Specifications.''
    Instructions: Comments must be submitted by one of the above 
methods to ensure that the comments are received, documented, and 
considered by NMFS. Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered. All comments received are a part of the public 
record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address) submitted voluntarily by the sender 
will be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive or protected information. NMFS will 
accept anonymous comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you 
wish to remain anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments will be 
accepted in Microsoft Word or Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF formats 
only.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    The Atlantic spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) fishery is jointly 
managed by the New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management 
Councils. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission also manages 
the spiny dogfish fishery in state waters from Maine to North Carolina 
through an interstate fishery management plan (FMP). The Federal Spiny 
Dogfish FMP was implemented in 2000, when spiny dogfish were determined 
to be overfished. The spiny dogfish stock was declared to be 
successfully rebuilt in 2010, and it continues to be above its target 
biomass.
    The regulations implementing the FMP at 50 CFR part 648, subpart L, 
outline the process for specifying an annual catch limit (ACL), 
commercial quota, possession limit, and other management measures for a 
period of 1-5 years. The Mid-Atlantic Council's Scientific and 
Statistical Committee (SSC) reviews the best available information on 
the status of the spiny dogfish population and recommends acceptable 
biological catch (ABC) levels. This recommendation is then used as the 
basis for catch limits and other management measures developed by the 
Council's Spiny Dogfish Monitoring Committee and Joint Spiny Dogfish 
Committee (which includes members of both Councils). The Councils then 
review the recommendations of the committees and make their 
specification recommendations to NMFS. NMFS reviews those 
recommendations, and may modify them if necessary to ensure that they 
are consistent with the FMP and other applicable law. NMFS then 
publishes proposed measures for public comment.
    NMFS implemented specifications for the spiny dogfish fishery for 
the 2013-2015 fishing years on May 1, 2013 (78 FR 25862). However, due 
to updated scientific information on stock status (see below), the 
Councils are recommending revised specifications for the 2014 and 2015 
fishing years.

Spiny Dogfish Stock Status Update

    In September 2013, the NMFS Northeast Fisheries Science Center 
updated the spiny dogfish stock status, using the most recent catch and 
biomass estimates from the 2013 spring trawl survey. Updated estimates 
indicate that the female spawning stock biomass (SSB) for 2013 was 466 
million lb (211,374 mt), about 33 percent above the target maximum 
sustainable yield (MSY) biomass proxy (SSBMAX) of 351 
million lb (159,288 mt). The 2012 fishing mortality rate (F) estimate 
for the stock was 0.149, well below the overfishing threshold 
(FMSY) of 0.2439. Therefore, the spiny dogfish stock is not 
currently overfished or experiencing overfishing. While stock size and 
recruitment have increased in recent years, poor pup production from 
1997-2003 is projected to result in declines in

[[Page 27275]]

SSB from 2014-2020, when the pups from the 1997-2003 years recruit to 
the spawning stock.
    The SSC reviewed this information and recommended increasing the 
ABC levels for spiny dogfish for the 2014-2015 fishing years. The ABC 
recommendations were based on an overfishing level of median catch at 
the FMSY proxy, and the Mid-Atlantic Council's risk policy 
for a Level 3 assessment (40-percent probability of overfishing). The 
resulting new spiny dogfish ABCs are 60.839 million lb (27,596 mt) 
(increased from 55.455 million lb (25,154 mt)) for 2014, and 62.413 
million lb (28,310 mt) (increased from 55.241 million lb (25,057 mt)) 
for 2015.

Council Recommendations

    The Councils' Spiny Dogfish Monitoring Committee and the 
Commission's Spiny Dogfish Technical Committee met in September 2013 to 
determine the resulting ACLs and quotas following the FMP's process. To 
calculate the commercial quota for each year, deductions were made from 
the ABC to account for Canadian landings (143,000 lb (65 mt)), U.S. 
discards (11.605 million lb (5,264 mt)), and U.S. recreational harvest 
(53,000 lb (24 mt)). For 2014, the revised ACL would be 60.695 million 
lb (27,531 mt), and the commercial quota would be 49.037 million lb 
(22,243 mt) (+20 percent from 2013), before potential deductions for 
the Research Set-Aside (RSA) program (pending the approval of Amendment 
3 to the Spiny Dogfish FMP; 79 FR 19861; April 10, 2014). A total of 
250,000 lb (113 mt) of spiny dogfish RSA has been preliminarily 
approved for the 2014 fishing year. For 2015, the revised ACL would be 
62.270 million lb (28,245 mt), and the commercial quota would be 50.612 
million lb (22,957 mt) (+24 percent from 2013), before potential RSA 
deductions.
    The Councils recommended different spiny dogfish trip limits for 
2014 and 2015. The Mid-Atlantic Council recommended the status quo trip 
limit (4,000 lb (1,814 kg)), in acknowledgment of recent market demand 
and processing capacity issues, and a desire to control the rate of 
landings across the year. The spiny dogfish fishery is projected to 
land only about 40 percent of its 2013 commercial quota due to these 
market constraints. The New England Council recommended no limits on 
the possession of spiny dogfish, with the objective of allowing the 
fishery to harvest as much spiny dogfish as possible under the 
increased quotas. We do not know at this time what trip limits the 
Commission may implement for state waters.
    Under the FMP, when the two Councils recommend different 
specification measures, NMFS has the discretion to implement any 
measure not specifically rejected by both Councils. In this case, NMFS 
may implement whatever trip limit is deemed the most appropriate based 
upon the advice of the Councils and public comments. In this rule, NMFS 
is proposing the New England Council's recommendation of unlimited 
possession of spiny dogfish, but is specifically requesting public 
input on these alternatives to help determine what trip limit is really 
preferred.
    As currently specified in the FMP, quota period 1 (May 1 through 
October 31) would be allocated 57.9 percent of the commercial quota, 
and quota period 2 (November 1 through April 30) would be allocated 
42.1 percent of the commercial quota. However, the Councils have 
approved, and NMFS has proposed to implement, Amendment 3 to the FMP, 
which would eliminate the seasonal allocation of the commercial quota 
(79 FR 19861; April 10, 2014). Upon implementation of Amendment 3, if 
approved, the Federal commercial quota and trip limit would only be 
specified on an annual, coastwide basis.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act, the NMFS Assistant Administrator has 
made a preliminary determination that this proposed rule is consistent 
with the Spiny Dogfish FMP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens 
Act, and other applicable law, subject to further consideration after 
public comment.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
the purpose of E.O. 12866.
    The Councils prepared an IRFA, as required by section 603 of the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act. The IRFA describes the economic impact this 
proposed rule, if adopted, would have on small entities. A description 
of the action, why it is being considered, and the legal basis for this 
action are contained at the beginning of this section of the preamble 
and in the SUMMARY of this proposed rule. A summary of the IRFA 
follows. A copy of this analysis is available from the Councils (see 
ADDRESSES).
    This action does not introduce any new reporting, recordkeeping, or 
other compliance requirements. This proposed rule does not duplicate, 
overlap, or conflict with other Federal rules.

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

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

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

    Three management alternatives were analyzed for each year, 2014 and 
2015. As described in the EA for this action (see ADDRESSES), 
Alternative 1 represents the Mid-Atlantic Council's recommended revised 
quotas and trip limits, Alternative 2 represents the New England 
Council's recommended revised quotas and trip limits, and Alternative 3 
represents the no action quotas and trip limits for 2014 and 2015. 
While both Councils recommended the same revised ACLs and commercial 
quotas in Alternatives 1 and 2, as described above, the Mid-Atlantic 
Council recommended a 4,000-lb (1,814-kg) trip limit and the New 
England Council recommended an unlimited trip limit. The no action 
alternative (Alternative 3) includes lower ACLs and commercial quotas 
than the other two alternatives, and maintains a 4,000-lb (1,814-kg) 
trip limit, reflecting the final 2013-2015

[[Page 27276]]

spiny dogfish specifications implemented by NMFS on May 1, 2013 (78 FR 
25862). Alternative 2 (the New England Council's recommendation) is the 
preferred alternative proposed in this rule.
    According to the analysis in the EA (see ADDRESSES), all of the 
alternatives under consideration in this action are expected to result 
in positive economic impacts. Alternatives 1 and 2 would increase the 
maximum potential landings for the spiny dogfish fishery during 2014 
and 2015, as compared to Alternative 3. However, the commercial quotas 
in all three alternatives are higher than realized spiny dogfish 
landings during recent fishing years. In the 2013 fishing year, which 
ended on April 30, 2014, the spiny dogfish fishery landed only about 40 
percent of its 40.842-million lb (18,526-mt) quota (refer to landings 
data at www.nero.noaa.gov), largely due to market issues and declines 
in demand in the primary export markets. Total spiny dogfish revenue 
from the 2012 fishing year was reported as $5.3 million, reflecting an 
average price of $0.20 per lb. The commercial quotas in Alternatives 1 
and 2, if fully utilized, would correspond to approximately $9.9 
million in potential revenue, whereas, the lower commercial quota in 
Alternative 3 would correspond to approximately $7.9 million in 
potential revenue.
    Trip limits influence the rate of landings across the fishing year, 
and are not expected to result in direct positive or negative economic 
impacts on the fishery as a whole. While different trip limit 
alternatives may affect trip-level revenues, and have variable, short-
term effects on price, total spiny dogfish revenues will still be 
largely influenced by the quota. While the New England Council's 
recommendation for unlimited possession may help the fishery achieve 
more of its allowable landings, continuing processing and market demand 
constraints may limit the ability of the fishery to accomplish this. 
Furthermore, the Commission and individual states may implement various 
spiny dogfish trip limits in their state waters (current trip limits 
range from 4,000 lb (1,814 kg) to 10,000 lb (4,536 kg) per trip), which 
would effectively limit the allowable possession of spiny dogfish by 
Federal permit holders.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648

    Fisheries, Fishing, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    Dated: May 6, 2014.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, NMFS proposes to amend 50 
CFR part 648 as follows:

PART 648--FISHERIES OF THE NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES

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

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

0
2. In Sec.  648.235, revise the introductory text to paragraphs (a) and 
(b), and revise paragraphs (a)(1) and (b)(1) to read as follows:


Sec.  648.235  Spiny dogfish possession and landing restrictions.

    (a) Quota period 1. From May 1 through October 31, vessels issued a 
valid Federal spiny dogfish permit specified under Sec.  648.4(a)(11) 
may:
    (1) Possess an unlimited amount of spiny dogfish per trip; and
* * * * *
    (b) Quota period 2. From November 1 through April 30, vessels 
issued a valid Federal spiny dogfish permit specified under Sec.  
648.4(a)(11) may:
    (1) Possess an unlimited amount of spiny dogfish per trip; and
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2014-11049 Filed 5-12-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P