[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 99 (Thursday, May 22, 2014)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 29371-29377]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-11665]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 140117052-4402-02]
RIN 0648-XD094


Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Summer Flounder, 
Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fisheries; 2014 Summer Flounder 
Specifications; 2015 Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass 
Specifications

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: NMFS issues final specifications for the 2014 summer flounder 
fishery, and the 2015 summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass 
fisheries. This final rule specifies allowed harvest limits for both 
commercial and recreational fisheries. This action prohibits federally 
permitted commercial fishing vessels from landing summer flounder in 
Delaware in 2014 due to continued quota repayment from previous years' 
overages. These actions are necessary to comply with regulations 
implementing the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery 
Management Plan, and to ensure compliance with the Magnuson-Stevens 
Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The intent of this action is 
to establish harvest levels and other management measures to ensure 
that these species are not overfished or subject to overfishing in 2014 
and 2015.

DATES: Effective May 22, 2014, through December 31, 2015.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the specifications document, consisting of an 
Environmental Assessment (EA), Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis 
(IRFA), and other supporting documents used by the Summer Flounder, 
Scup, and Black Sea Bass Monitoring Committees and Scientific and 
Statistical Committee (SSC), are available from Dr. Christopher Moore, 
Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Suite 201, 
800 North State Street, Dover, DE 19901. The specifications document is 
also accessible via the Internet at http://www.nero.noaa.gov. The Final 
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (FRFA) consists of the IRFA, public 
comments and responses contained in this final rule, and the summary of 
impacts and alternatives contained in this final rule. Copies of the 
small entity compliance guide are available from John K. Bullard, 
Regional Administrator, Greater Atlantic Region, National Marine 
Fisheries Service, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930-2298.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Moira Kelly, Fishery Policy Analyst, 
(978) 281-9218.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) and the 
Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (Commission) cooperatively 
manage the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries under 
the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan 
(FMP). Fishery specifications in these fisheries include various catch 
and landing subdivisions, such as the commercial and recreational 
sector annual catch limits (ACLs), annual catch targets (ACTs), sector-
specific landing limits (i.e., the commercial fishery quota and 
recreational harvest limit (RHL)), and research set-aside (RSA) 
established for the upcoming fishing year. Details of each subdivision 
appear later in this rule.
    The FMP and its implementing regulations establish the Council's 
process for establishing specifications. All requirements of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-
Stevens Act), including the 10 national standards, also apply to 
specifications.
    The management units specified in the FMP include summer flounder 
(Paralichthys dentatus) in U.S. waters of the Atlantic Ocean from the 
southern

[[Page 29372]]

border of North Carolina northward to the U.S./Canada border, scup 
(Stenotomus chrysops), and black sea bass (Centropristis striata) in 
U.S. waters of the Atlantic Ocean from 35[deg]13.3' N. lat. (the 
latitude of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Buxton, NC) northward to the 
U.S./Canada border. Detailed background information regarding the 
status of the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass stocks and the 
development of the 2014 and 2015 specifications for these fisheries was 
provided in the proposed specifications (March 31, 2014; 79 FR 17995). 
That information is not repeated here.
    NMFS will establish the 2014 recreational management measures 
(i.e., minimum fish size, possession limits, and fishing seasons) for 
summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass by publishing proposed and 
final rules in the Federal Register at a later date.

2014 and 2015 Specifications

    This action specifies the allowed harvest limits for the commercial 
and recreational fisheries for the 2014 summer flounder fishery, and 
the 2015 summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries. 
Specifications for all three species for fishing year 2014 were 
implemented in 2012 (December 31, 2012; 77 FR 76942). This rule 
modifies the 2014 summer flounder specifications based an updated stock 
assessment conducted by the NMFS Northeast Fisheries Science Center 
(NEFSC) in July 2013, and establishes the 2015 summer flounder 
specifications. This rule also establishes the 2015 scup and black sea 
bass specifications. This rule makes no changes to the 2014 scup 
specifications, previously established in 2012, and the 2014 black sea 
bass specifications, last revised in 2013 (June 21, 2013; 78 FR 37475). 
This action will establish the following specifications:

   Table 1--Summary of the Proposed 2014-2015 Summer Flounder Specifications and 2015 Scup and Black Sea Bass
                                                 Specifications
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                Summer flounder           Scup        Black sea
                                                         ------------------------------------------     bass
                                                                                                   -------------
                                                              2014          2015          2015          2015
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
ABC...............................  million lb..........         21.94         22.77         33.77          5.50
                                    mt..................      9,950        10,329        15,320         2,494
Commercial ACL....................  million lb..........         12.87         13.34         26.34          2.60
                                    mt..................      5,837         6,049        11,950         1,180
Recreational ACL..................  million lb..........          9.07          9.44          7.43          2.90
                                    mt..................      4,113         4,280         3,370         1,314
Commercial ACT....................  million lb..........         12.87         13.34         26.34          2.60
                                    mt..................      5,837         6,049        11,950         1,180
Recreational ACT..................  million lb..........          9.07          9.44          7.43          2.90
                                    mt..................      4,113         4,280         3,370         1,314
Commercial Quota..................  million lb..........         10.51         10.77         20.60          2.17
                                    mt..................      4,767         4,870         9,343           986
RHL...............................  million lb..........          7.01          7.16          6.60          2.26
                                    mt..................      3,179         3,247         2,991         1,026
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note: Commercial Quotas and RHLs include the 3-percent RSA reduction.

Additional detail for each species' specifications is provided, as 
follows.

Summer Flounder

    The summer flounder stock was declared rebuilt in 2011. The new 
(2013) stock assessment utilized to derive specification 
recommendations indicates that summer flounder were not overfished and 
that overfishing did not occur in 2012, the most recent year of 
available data.
    The overfishing limit (OFL) for 2014 was estimated to be 26.76 
million lb (12,138 mt). Based on this information, the 2014 ABC for 
summer flounder is 23.94 million lb (9,950 mt). The OFL for 2015 is 
projected to be 27.06 million lb (12,275 mt), and the 2015 ABC for 
summer flounder is 22.77 million lb (10,329 mt). Consistent with the 
summer flounder regulations, the sum of the recreational and commercial 
sector ACLs is equal to the ABC. ACL is an expression of total catch 
(i.e., landings and dead discarded fish). To derive the ACLs, the sum 
of the sector-specific estimated discards is removed from the ABC to 
derive the landing allowance. The resulting landing allowance is 
apportioned to the commercial and recreational sectors by applying the 
FMP allocation criteria: 60 percent to the commercial fishery and 40 
percent to the recreational fishery. Using this method ensures that 
each sector is accountable for its respective discards, rather than 
simply apportioning the ABC by the allocation percentages to derive the 
sector ACLs. Although the derived ACLs are not split exactly 60/40, the 
landing portions of the ACLs preserve the 60/40 allocation split, 
consistent with the FMP. This process results in a commercial ACL of 
12.89 million lb (5,837 mt) for 2014, and 13.34 million lb (6,049 mt) 
for 2015. The recreational ACLs are 9.07 million lb (4,113 mt) for 2014 
and 9.44 million lb (4,280 mt) for 2015. The ACTs (both commercial and 
recreational) are equal to their respective ACL for both 2014 and 2015. 
Removing the estimated discards and 3 percent of the TAL for RSA, the 
commercial summer flounder quotas are 10.51 million lb (4,767 mt) for 
2014 and 10.74 million lb (4,870 mt) for 2015. The RHLs are 7.01 
million lb (3,179 mt) for 2014 and 7.16 million lb (3,247 mt) for 2015.

                                                         Table 2--Summer Flounder Specifications
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                                               Comm. quota
               Year                                          ABC       Commercial   Recreational    Comm. ACT     Rec. ACT      (minus 3%    RHL  (minus
                                                                           ACL           ACL                                      RSA)         3% RSA)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2014 (Current)...................  million lb.........         22.40         12.05         10.19         12.05         10.19         11.39          7.60
                                   mt.................     10,088         5,467         4,621         5,467         4,621         5,166         3,444

[[Page 29373]]

 
2014 (Proposed)..................  million lb.........         21.94         12.87          9.07         12.87          9.07         10.51          7.01
                                   mt.................      9,950         5,837         4,113         5,837         4,113         4,767         3,179
2015 (Proposed)..................  million lb.........         22.77         13.34          9.44         13.34          9.44         10.77          7.16
                                   mt.................     10,329         6,049         4,280         6,049         4,280         4,870         3,247
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note: Commercial Quotas and RHLs include the 3-percent RSA reduction.

    Table 3 presents the final allocations for 2014, by state, with the 
commercial portion of the RSA deduction. In December 2013, NMFS 
published a document (78 FR 78786) indicating what, if any, adjustments 
would be required to the state commercial summer flounder quotas as a 
result of commercial sector overages. Those overages have been applied 
to the new specifications for fishing year 2014 as well, and are 
presented in Table 3. Any commercial quota adjustments to account for 
overages will be published prior to the start of the 2015 fishing year. 
As described in the document, consistent with the quota-setting 
procedures for the FMP, summer flounder overages are determined based 
upon landings for the period January-October 2013, plus any previously 
unaccounted for overages. Table 3 summarizes, for each state, the 
commercial summer flounder percent shares as outlined in Sec.  648.102 
(c)(1)(i), the resultant 2014 commercial quotas (both initial and after 
deducting the RSA), the quota overages as described above, and the 
final adjusted 2014 commercial quotas, after deducting the RSA.

                                      Table 3--Final State-by-State Commercial Summer Flounder Allocations for 2014
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                     2014 Initial quota     2014 Initial quota, less  Quota overages  (through    Adjusted 2014 quota,
                                     FMP percent --------------------------            RSA                    10/31/13)           less RSA and overages
               State                    share                              -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                       lb           kg           lb           kg           lb           kg           lb           kg
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
ME................................       0.04756        5,153        2,338        4,998          227            0            0        4,998        2,267
NH................................       0.00046           50           23           48            2            0            0           48           22
MA................................       6.82046      739,046      335,226      716,792       32,513       28,199       12,791      688,593      312,340
RI................................      15.68298    1,699,364      770,818    1,648,193       74,761            0            0    1,648,193      747,608
CT................................       2.25708      244,571      110,935      237,206       10,760            0            0      237,206      107,595
NY................................       7.64699      828,606      375,850      803,656       36,453       79,355       35,995      724,301      328,537
NJ................................      16.72499    1,812,273      822,033    1,757,702       79,728            0            0    1,757,702      797,280
DE................................       0.01779        1,928          874        1,870           85       52,384       23,760            0            0
MD................................       2.0391       220,951      100,222      214,298        9,720            0            0      214,298       97,204
VA................................      21.31676    2,309,824    1,047,719    2,240,271      101,617            0            0    2,240,271    1,016,170
NC................................      27.44584    2,973,954    1,348,963    2,884,403      130,834            0            0    2,884,403    1,308,343
                                   ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total.........................     100         10,835,720    4,915,000   10,509,436      476,700      155,376       70,476   10,354,060    4,696,523
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Notes: 2013 quota overage is determined by comparing landings for January through October 2013, plus any landings in 2012 in excess of the 2012 quota
  (that were not previously addressed in the 2013 specifications) for each state. For Delaware, this includes continued repayment of overharvest from
  previous years. Total quota is the sum for all states with an allocation. A state with a negative number has a 2014 allocation of zero (0). Kilograms
  are as converted from pounds and may not necessarily add due to rounding.

    Table 4 presents the initial allocations of summer flounder for 
2015, by state, with and without the commercial portion of the RSA 
deduction. These state quota allocations for 2015 are preliminary and 
are subject to change if there are overages of states' quotas carried 
over from a previous fishing year, as well as any adjustments needed 
after the 2015 RSA projects are awarded. The final commercial quota 
allocations will be announced in a Federal Register document prior to 
the start of the 2015 fishing year.

                        Table 4--2015 Preliminary Summer Flounder State Commercial Quotas
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                 Initial quota (TAL)    Initial quota (TAL) less
                                                 FMP percent --------------------------          RSA \1\
                     State                          share                              -------------------------
                                                                   lb         kg \2\         lb         kg \2\
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
ME............................................       0.04756        5,265        2,388        5,106        2,316
NH............................................       0.00046           51           23           49           22
MA............................................       6.82046      754,985      342,461      732,280      332,156
RI............................................      15.68298    1,736,013      787,456    1,683,805      763,761
CT............................................       2.25708      249,845      113,330      242,332      109,920
NY............................................       7.64699      846,477      383,962      821,020      372,408
NJ............................................      16.72499    1,851,358      839,776    1,795,681      814,507
DE............................................       0.01779        1,969          893        1,910          866
MD............................................       2.0391       225,716      102,385      218,928       99,304
VA............................................      21.31676    2,359,640    1,070,333    2,288,676    1,038,126

[[Page 29374]]

 
NC............................................      27.44584    3,038,093    1,378,079    2,946,726    1,336,612
                                               -----------------------------------------------------------------
    Total \3\.................................     100         11,069,410    5,021,085   10,736,512    4,870,000
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Preliminary Research Set-Aside amount is 587,100 lb (266 mt).
\2\ Kilograms are as converted from pounds and do not sum to the converted total due to rounding.
\3\ Rounding of quotas results in totals exceeding 100 percent.

Delaware Summer Flounder Closure

    Table 3 shows that, for Delaware, the amount of overharvest from 
previous years is greater than the amount of commercial quota allocated 
to Delaware for 2014. As a result, there is no quota available for 2014 
in Delaware. The regulations at Sec.  648.4(b) provide that Federal 
permit holders, as a condition of their permit, must not land summer 
flounder in any state that the Administrator, Greater Atlantic Region, 
NMFS, has determined no longer has commercial quota available for 
harvest. Therefore, landings of summer flounder in Delaware by vessels 
holding commercial Federal summer flounder permits are prohibited for 
the 2014 calendar year, unless additional quota becomes available 
through a quota transfer and is announced in the Federal Register. 
Federally permitted dealers are advised that they may not purchase 
summer flounder from federally permitted vessels that land in Delaware 
for the 2014 calendar year, unless additional quota becomes available 
through a transfer, as mentioned above.

Scup

    Using the appropriate control rule and applying the Council's risk 
policy, the ABC for scup is 33.77 million lb (15,320 mt) for fishing 
year 2015. The stock assessment review upon which the specifications 
are based indicates that scup biomass is currently lower than in recent 
years. Therefore, the catch limits are lower than those for fishing 
year 2014, but are still relatively high compared to recent landings.
    The scup management measures specify that the ABC is equal to the 
sum of the commercial and recreational sector ACLs. It was recommended 
that the ACTs (both commercial and recreational) should be set equal to 
the respective ACLs for fishing year 2015. Therefore, the 2015 
commercial sector ACL/ACT is 26.35 million lb (11,950 mt) and the 2015 
recreational sector ACL/ACT is 7.43 million lb (3,370 mt). After 
840,990 lb (381 mt) of RSA and discards (commercial: 5.11 million lb 
(2,321 mt); recreational: 630,000 lb (285 mt)) are removed, the 2015 
commercial quota is 20.60 million lb (9,343 mt) and the 2015 
recreational harvest limit is 6.60 million lb (2,991 mt).

                    Table 5--2015 Scup Specifications
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                     million lb     mt
------------------------------------------------------------------------
ABC...............................................        33.77   15,320
Commercial ACL....................................        26.35   11,950
Recreational ACL..................................         7.43    3,370
Commercial ACT....................................        26.35   11,950
Recreational ACT..................................         7.43    3,370
Commercial Quota..................................        20.60    9,343
RHL...............................................         6.60    2,991
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note: Commercial Quotas and RHLs include the 3-percent RSA reduction.

    The scup commercial quota is divided into three commercial fishery 
quota periods. If there is a commercial overage applicable to the 2015 
scup commercial quota, a document will be published prior to the start 
of the 2015 fishing year. The period quotas, after deducting for RSA, 
are detailed in Table 6. Unused Winter I quota may be carried over for 
use in the Winter II period. The Winter I possession limit will drop to 
1,000 lb (454 kg) upon attainment of 80 percent of that period's 
allocation.

                                           Table 6--Commercial Scup Quota Allocations for 2015 by Quota Period
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                           Initial quota           Initial quota less overages (through    Adjusted quota less overages
                                                 --------------------------------               10/31/2013)                           and RSA
          Quota period             Percent share                                 -----------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                        lb              mt                lb                  mt                lb              mt
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Winter I........................           45.11       9,578,008           4,345  N/A...............  N/A...............       9,290,668           4,214
Summer..........................           38.95       8,270,083           3,751  N/A...............  N/A...............       8,021,980           3,639
Winter II.......................           15.94       3,384,470           1,535  N/A...............  N/A...............       3,282,936           1,489
                                 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total.......................          100.0       21,232,561           9,631  N/A...............  N/A...............      20,595,585           9,342
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Notes: Metric tons are as converted from pounds and may not necessarily total due to rounding.
N/A = Not applicable.

    An increase in the Winter II commercial scup possession limit from 
2,000 lb (907 kg) to 12,000 lb (5,443 kg) is also being implemented in 
this action. Because the commercial fishery has under-harvested the 
scup quota in recent years, this increase in the possession limit is 
expected to increase efficiency in the scup fishery. The quota period 
possession limits are shown in Table 7. The increase in the Winter II 
possession limit does not impact the potential additional increase as a 
result of a quota transfer from Winter I. If the Winter I quota is not 
fully harvested, the remaining quota is transferred to Winter II. The 
Winter II possession limit may be adjusted (in association with a 
transfer of unused Winter I quota to the Winter II period) via 
notification in the Federal Register. The regulations specify that the 
Winter II possession limit increases consistent with the increase in 
the quota, as described in Table 8.

[[Page 29375]]



                           Table 7--Commercial Scup Possession Limits by Quota Period
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                  Federal possession limits (per
                                                                                               trip)
                          Quota period                             Percent share -------------------------------
                                                                                        lb              kg
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Winter I........................................................           45.11          50,000          22,680
Summer..........................................................           38.95             N/A             N/A
Winter II.......................................................           15.94          12,000           5,443
                                                                 -----------------------------------------------
    Total.......................................................          100.0              N/A             N/A
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


  Table 8--Potential Increase in 2014 Winter II Possession Limits Based on the Amount of Scup Rolled Over From
                                              Winter I to Winter II
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
   Initial Winter II       Rollover from Winter I to Winter II      Increase in initial       Final Winter II
   possession limit    ------------------------------------------  Winter II possession   possession limit after
-----------------------                                                    limit          rollover from Winter I
                                                                 ------------------------      to Winter II
    lb          kg               lb                   kg                                 -----------------------
                                                                      lb          kg          lb          kg
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
   12,000       5,443            0-499,999            0-226,796           0           0      12,000       5,443
   12,000       5,443      500,000-999,999      226,796-453,592       1,500         680      13,500       6,123
   12,000       5,443   1,000,000-1,499,999     453,592-680,388       3,000       1,361      15,000       6,804
   12,000       5,443   1,500,000-1,999,999     680,389-907,184       4,500       2,041      16,500       7,484
   12,000       5,443   2,000,000-2,500,000   907,185-1,133,981       6,000       2,722      18,000       8,165
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Black Sea Bass

    The 2015 black sea bass ABC is 5.50 million lb (2,494 mt), equal to 
the 2013 and 2014 fishing years' ABC. The fishing year 2015 commercial 
ACL and ACT are 2.60 million lb (1,180 mt), the recreational ACL and 
ACT are 2.90 million lb (1,314 mt), the commercial quota is 2.17 
million lb (986 mt), and the RHL is 2.26 million lb (1,026 mt). The 
quotas include reductions for RSA (3 percent) and discards.

               Table 9--Black Sea Bass 2015 Specifications
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                            million lb          mt
------------------------------------------------------------------------
ABC.....................................            5.50           2,494
Commercial ACL..........................            2.60           1,180
Recreational ACL........................            2.90           1,314
Commercial ACT..........................            2.60           1,180
Recreational ACT........................            2.90           1,314
Commercial Quota........................            2.17             986
RHL.....................................            2.26           1,026
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Comments and Responses

    On March 31, 2014, NMFS published proposed specifications for 
public notice and comment. NMFS received one letter containing comments 
on three issues. The one commenter suggested that the quotas should be 
reduced by 50 percent, that exempted fishing permits (discussed under 
the RSA sections) were unnecessary, and that the scup possession limit 
should not be increased.
    NMFS disagrees with each of those statements. The quotas 
established through this final rule were based on the best available 
science, as recommended by the Council's SSC. Thus, NMFS did not take 
the suggestion to reduce the quotas by 50%. The RSA program continues 
to provide a mechanism to fund research and compensate vessel owners 
through the sale of fish harvested under the research quota. This 
program provides valuable scientific information and fosters 
cooperative research throughout the region. Further, the scup quota has 
not been fully harvested in several years and the Council has concluded 
that a Winter II possession limit closer to the Winter I possession 
limit of 20,000 lb would allow the industry to fish more efficiently. 
Thus, for this reason, NMFS did not implement the suggestion that the 
scup possession limit should not be increased.

Classification

    The Administrator, Greater Atlantic Region, NMFS, determined that 
this final rule is necessary for the conservation and management of the 
summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries and that it is 
consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable laws.
    These specifications are exempt from the procedures of Executive 
Order 12866.
    This final rule does not duplicate, conflict, or overlap with any 
existing Federal rules.
    A FRFA was prepared pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 604(a), and incorporates 
the IRFA, a summary of the significant issues raised by the public 
comments in response to the IRFA, NMFS's responses to those comments, 
and a summary of the analyses completed to support the action. A copy 
of the EA//IRFA is available from the Council (see ADDRESSES).
    The preamble to the proposed rule included a detailed summary of 
the analyses contained in the IRFA, and that discussion is not repeated 
here.

[[Page 29376]]

Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

Statement of Objective and Need

    A description of the reasons why this action is being taken, and 
the objectives of and legal basis for this final rule, is contained in 
the preambles to the proposed rule and this final rule and is not 
repeated here.

Summary of Significant Issues Raised in Public Comments

    No changes to the proposed rule were required to be made as a 
result of public comments. None of the comments received raised 
specific issues regarding the economic analyses summarized in the IRFA 
or the economic impacts of the rule more generally. For a summary of 
the comments received, and the responses thereto, refer to the 
``Comments and Responses'' section of this preamble.

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

    The Small Business Administration defines a small business in the 
commercial harvesting sector as a firm with receipts (gross revenues) 
of up to $5.0 and $19.0 million for shellfish and for finfish business, 
respectively. A small business in the recreational fishery is a firm 
with receipts of up to $7.0 million. The categories of small entities 
likely to be affected by this action include commercial and charter/
party vessel owners holding an active Federal permit for summer 
flounder, scup, or black sea bass, as well as owners of vessels that 
fish for any of these species in state waters. The Council estimates 
that the 2014-2015 specifications could affect 986 entities that are 
small and 6 that are large, assuming average revenues for the 2010-2013 
period. The majority of the permitted vessels readily fall within the 
definition of small business. Estimates of costs associated with this 
rule are discussed further below.

Description of Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other Compliance 
Requirements

    No additional reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance 
requirements are included in this final rule.

Description of the Steps Taken To Minimize Economic Impact on Small 
Entities

    Specification of commercial quotas and possession limits is 
constrained by the conservation objectives set forth in the FMP and 
implemented at 50 CFR part 648 under the authority of the Magnuson-
Stevens Act. Economic impacts of changes in year-to-year quota 
specifications may be offset by adjustments to such measures as 
commercial fish sizes, changes to mesh sizes, gear restrictions, or 
possession and trip limits that may increase efficiency or value of the 
fishery. For 2014 and 2015, this final rule implements one such 
measure: Increasing the scup Winter II possession limit. Therefore, the 
economic impact analysis of the action is evaluated on the different 
levels of quota specified in the alternatives and the increase in the 
possession limit. While the overall scup catch limits have been 
decreasing slightly, the scup quota has been significantly under-
harvested in recent years. As a result, the increase in the scup 
possession limit is intended to offset the quota decrease by allowing 
the fleet to fish more efficiently. The ability of NMFS to minimize 
economic impacts for this action is constrained to approving quota 
levels that provide the maximum availability of fish while still 
ensuring that the required objectives and directives of the FMP, its 
implementing regulations, and the Magnuson-Stevens Act are met. In 
particular, the Council's SSC has made recommendations for the 2014-
2015 ABC level for all three stocks. NMFS considers these 
recommendations to be consistent with National Standard 2. Establishing 
catch levels higher than the SSC ABC recommendations is not permitted 
under the Magnuson-Stevens Act.
    The economic analysis for the 2014-2015 specifications assessed the 
impacts for quota alternatives that achieve the aforementioned 
objectives. The Council analyzed three sets of combined catch limit 
alternatives for the 2014-2015 summer flounder, scup, and black sea 
bass fisheries, even though the 2014 scup and black sea bass catch 
limits are not being considered for modification. Of these, one 
alternative, labeled Alternative 3 for each species, contained the most 
restrictive options (i.e., lowest total landing levels) for each 
fishery: Commercial quotas of 9.18 million lb (4,164 mt) for summer 
flounder, 10.68 million lb (4,844 mt) for scup, and 1.09 million lb 
(494 mt) for black sea bass; and recreational harvest limits of 6.12 
million lb (2,776 mt) for summer flounder, 3.01 million lb (1,365 mt) 
for scup, and 1.14 million lb (517 mt) for black sea bass. The catch 
limits associated with Alternative 3 pre-date the ABC framework, thus 
the information for this alternative is presented in terms of landing 
levels. Please see the EA for a detailed discussion on this 
alternative. While the Alternative 3 measures would achieve the 
objectives of the proposed action for each of three species, they have 
the highest potential adverse economic impacts on small entities in the 
form of potential foregone fishing opportunities. Alternative 3 was not 
preferred by the Council because the other alternatives considered are 
expected have lower adverse impacts on small entities while achieving 
the stated objectives of sustaining the summer flounder, scup, and 
black sea bass stocks, consistent with the FMP and Magnuson-Stevens 
Act.
    Another alternative, Alternative 2 (status quo), would maintain the 
current 2014 ABC for summer flounder of 22.24 million lb (10,088 mt). 
Alternative 2 (status quo) would implement the following ABCs in 2015: 
Summer flounder, 22.24 million lb (10,088 mt); scup, 35.99 million lb 
(16,325 mt); and black sea bass, 5.5 million lb (2,494 mt). This 
alternative is not consistent with the goals and objectives of the FMP 
and the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The status quo alternative would result 
in fishing limits for the 2014 summer flounder fishery and for the 2015 
summer flounder and scup fisheries which are higher than the 
recommended levels. This could result in overfishing of the resources 
and substantially compromise the mortality and/or stock rebuilding 
objectives for each species, contrary to laws and regulations.
    Likewise, a ``true'' no action alternative, wherein no quotas are 
adjusted for 2014 or established for 2015, was excluded from analysis 
because it is not consistent with the goals and objectives of the FMP 
and the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Implementation of the no action 
alternative in 2014 or 2015 would substantially complicate the approved 
management programs for these three species. NMFS is required under the 
FMP's implementing regulations to implement specifications for these 
fisheries on an annual basis, and for up to 3 years. The no action 
alternative would result in no fishing limits for 2015 and would 
maintain a fishing limit for the 2014 summer flounder fishery which is 
higher than the recommended level. This could result in overfishing of 
the resources and substantially compromise the mortality and/or stock 
rebuilding objectives for each species, contrary to laws and 
regulations.
    Through this final rule, NMFS implements Alternative 1 (the 
Council's preferred alternative). Under this alternative, NMFS would 
implement the ABCs in 2014 for summer flounder (21.94 million lb (9,950 
mt)). This final

[[Page 29377]]

rule also implements the following ABCs for 2015: Summer flounder, 
22.77 million lb (10,329 mt); scup, 33.77 million lb (15,320 mt); and 
black sea bass, 5.5 million lb (2,494 mt). This alternative consists of 
the quota levels that pair the lowest economic impacts to small 
entities and meet the required objectives of the FMP and the Magnuson-
Stevens Act. The respective specifications contained in this final rule 
for all three species were selected because they satisfy NMFS' 
obligation to implement specifications that are consistent with the 
goals, objectives, and requirements of the FMP, its implementing 
regulations, and the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The F rates associated with 
the catch limits for all three species all have very low likelihoods of 
causing overfishing to occur in 2014 or 2015.
    The revenue decreases associated with allocating a portion of 
available catch to the RSA program are expected to be minimal 
(approximately between $300 and $1,000 per vessel), and are expected to 
yield important benefits associated with improved fisheries data. It 
should also be noted that fish harvested under the RSA program can be 
sold, and the profits used to offset the costs of research. As such, 
total gross revenues to the industry are not expected to decrease 
substantially, if at all, as a result of this final rule authorizing 
RSA for 2014 and 2015.

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, a small entity compliance guide will be sent 
to all holders of Federal permits issued for the summer flounder, scup, 
and black sea bass fisheries. In addition, copies of this final rule 
and guide (i.e., permit holder letter) are available from NMFS (see 
ADDRESSES) and at the following Web site: http://www.nero.noaa.gov.

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

    Dated: May 15, 2014.
 Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-11665 Filed 5-21-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P