[Federal Register Volume 61, Number 202 (Thursday, October 17, 1996)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 54105-54107]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 96-26498]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 961008281-6281-01; I.D. 091896B]
RIN 0648-AJ25


Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast 
Multispecies Fishery; Monkfish Exempted Trawl Fishery

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

ACTION: Final rule.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: NMFS issues this final rule to modify the regulations 
implementing the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan (FMP). 
This rule allows a year-round exempted trawl fishery for monkfish south 
of 40 deg.10' N. lat. and east of 72 deg.30' W. long., allows 
additional bycatch species in the Cultivator Shoal Whiting Fishery, and 
adds a prohibition to enhance enforcement of the exemptions. The intent 
of this action is to maximize fishing opportunities in a manner that is 
consistent with the conservation objectives of the FMP.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 10, 1996.

ADDRESSES: Copies of Amendment 7 to the FMP, its regulatory impact 
review (RIR) and the regulatory flexibility analysis contained within 
the RIR, and its final supplemental environmental impact statement, are 
available upon request from Christopher Kellogg, Acting Executive 
Director, New England Fishery Management Council (Council), 5 Broadway, 
Saugus, MA 01906-1097. Copies of the Environmental Assessment (EA) 
supporting this action may be obtained from Dr. Andrew A. Rosenberg, 
Regional Administrator, NMFS, 1 Blackburn Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: E. Martin Jaffe, Fishery Policy 
Analyst, 508-281-9272.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Regulations implementing Amendment 7 to the 
FMP became effective on July 1, 1996 (61 FR 27710, May 31, 1996). These 
regulations implemented a

[[Page 54106]]

comprehensive set of measures to control fishing mortality and rebuild 
the primary stocks of regulated multispecies. Amendment 7 contains a 
bycatch control measure that is applied in each of two specific 
regulated mesh areas: The Gulf of Maine/Georges Bank Regulated Mesh 
Area and the Southern New England (SNE) Regulated Mesh Area. A vessel 
may not fish in these areas unless it is fishing under a multispecies 
or scallop days-at-sea (DAS) allocation, is fishing with exempted gear, 
is fishing under the handgear or party/charter permit restrictions, or 
is fishing in an exempted fishery.
    The procedure for adding, modifying, or deleting fisheries from the 
list of exempted fisheries is found in Sec. 648.80. A fishery may be 
exempted by the Regional Administrator, Northeast Region (Regional 
Administrator), after consultation with the Council, if the Regional 
Administrator determines, based on available data or information, that 
the bycatch of regulated species is, or can be reduced to, less than 5 
percent by weight of the total catch and that such exemption will not 
jeopardize the fishing mortality objectives of the FMP. The Regional 
Administrator is also authorized to impose specific gear, area, 
seasonal, or other limitations appropriate to reduce bycatch of 
regulated species.
    The Council submitted a request to establish an exempted trawl 
fishery for monkfish south of 40 deg.10' N. lat. and requiring 8-inch 
(20.3 cm) mesh or larger in the codend. In addition, the Regional 
Administrator received other requests for monkfish fishery exemptions 
that differed in area or mesh size but were similar enough to the 
Council's request to consider and analyze jointly. The data 
subsequently analyzed consisted of available otter trawl and beam trawl 
sea sampling, vessel trip reports, and catch data. Consequently, in the 
regulatory text, references to trawl vessels refer to otter trawl and 
beam trawl vessels.
    The Regional Administrator has also received and completed the data 
analysis for a request involving the existing Cultivator Shoal Whiting 
Fishery exemption. The request was submitted by an individual fisher 
seeking additional bycatch species that could be retained under the 
constraints of that program. The Regional Administrator also consulted 
with the Council on this request and found no opposition to adding the 
requested species.
    Based on the analysis of the available data regarding regulated 
species bycatch for the gear, area, and time periods specified in the 
aforementioned exemption requests, and any other relevant factors, the 
Regional Administrator has determined that the request for an exempted 
fishery submitted by the Council and the request for additional bycatch 
in the Cultivator Shoal Whiting Fishery submitted by a fisher meet the 
exemption requirements specified in Sec. 648.80(a)(7) and (b)(4). The 
other requests for monkfish fishery exemptions were determined not to 
meet the requirements based on the EA, which is available upon request 
from the Regional Administrator.
    This rule implements an exempted fishery for trawl vessels using a 
minimum mesh size of 8 inches (20.3 cm) in the codend, in the portion 
of the SNE Regulated Mesh Area south of 40 deg.10' N. lat. Such vessels 
may retain monkfish as well as the existing bycatch species allowed for 
the SNE Regulated Mesh Area (Sec. 648.80(b)(3)). Vessels fishing in 
this exempted fishery are subject to net stowage requirements if mesh 
less than 8 inches (20.3 cm) is on board and may not possess regulated 
species.
    Vessels enrolled in the existing Cultivator Shoal Whiting Fishery 
may retain, in addition to the currently allowed bycatch species, 
unlimited amounts of butterfish and mackerel and may retain red hake 
and dogfish, each in amounts not to exceed 10 percent, by weight, of 
all other species on board. The 10 percent limit is based on data that 
indicate that, when landed as bycatch these two species would not 
result in greater than 5 percent bycatch of regulated multispecies. To 
ensure that a directed fishery does not occur for dogfish and red hake 
in the Cultivator Shoal Whiting Fishery, and that the species are only 
bycatch, a 10 percent limit is imposed. Ten percent is consistent with 
previous bycatch limits.
    A directed fishery for mackerel is unlikely to occur, as it is 
impractical with the gear used in this fishery. A directed fishery for 
butterfish is unlikely to occur, because the area is located in the 
northernmost extent of the species' range and, like mackerel, a 
directed fishery is impractical with the gear required under the 
program. Hence, no bycatch limits are necessary for these species. All 
four additional bycatch species are allowed under the existing time, 
area, and gear restrictions of the Cultivator Shoal Whiting Fishery 
exemption.
    Finally, this rule adds a prohibition to the regulations to enhance 
enforceability, specifically referring to the exemptions authorized 
under Sec. 648.80.

Classification

    The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA (AA), finds there 
is good cause to waive prior notice and opportunity for comment under 5 
U.S.C. 553(b)(B). Public meetings held by the Council to discuss this 
management measure, as well as consultation with the Council on any 
request for exemption during a public Council meeting, provided full 
prior notice and opportunity for public comment to be made and 
considered, making additional opportunity for public comment 
unnecessary.
    Because this rule relieves a restriction under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(1), 
it is not subject to a delay in effective date.
    This final rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of E.O. 12866.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648

    Fisheries, Fishing, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    Dated: October 9, 1996.
Rolland A. Schmitten,
Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 648 is amended 
as follows:

PART 648--FISHERIES OF THE NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES

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

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

    2. In Sec. 648.14, paragraph (a)(43) is revised to read as follows:


Sec. 648.14  Prohibitions.

    (a) * * *
    (43) Violate any of the provisions of Sec. 648.80(a)(3), (4), (5), 
(8), (9), (b)(3) or (b)(5), or of any exempted fishery authorized by 
the Regional Director. A violation of any of these paragraphs is a 
separate violation.
* * * * *
    3. In Sec. 648.80, paragraphs (a)(4)(i)(A) and (b)(2)(iii) are 
revised, and paragraph (b)(5) is added to read as follows:


Sec. 648.80  Regulated mesh areas and restrictions on gear and methods 
of fishing.

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (4) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) A vessel fishing in the Cultivator Shoal Whiting Fishery 
Exemption Area under this exemption must have a letter of authorization 
issued by the Regional Director on board and may not fish for, possess 
on board, or land any species of fish other than whiting, except for 
the

[[Page 54107]]

following, with the restrictions noted, as allowable bycatch species: 
Longhorn sculpin; squid; butterfish; mackerel; monkfish and monkfish 
parts, dogfish, and red hake--up to 10 percent each, by weight, of all 
other species on board; and American lobster--up to 10 percent by 
weight of all other species on board or 200 lobsters, whichever is 
less.
* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (iii) Other gear and mesh exemptions. The minimum mesh size for any 
trawl net, sink gillnet, Scottish seine, midwater trawl, or purse seine 
in use or available for immediate use, as described under 
Sec. 648.23(b), by a vessel when not fishing under the Northeast 
multispecies DAS program and when fishing in the SNE regulated mesh 
area is specified under the exemptions set forth in paragraphs (b)(3), 
(b)(5), (c), (e), (h), and (i) of this section. Vessels that are not 
fishing in one of these exemption programs, with exempted gear (as 
defined under this part), or under the scallop state waters exemption 
specified in Sec. 648.54, or under a NE multispecies DAS, are 
prohibited from fishing in the SNE regulated mesh area.
* * * * *
    (5) SNE Monkfish Fishery Exemption Area. A trawl vessel may fish in 
the SNE Monkfish Fishery Exemption Area when not under a NE 
multispecies DAS if the vessel complies with the requirements specified 
in paragraph (b)(5)(i) of this section. The SNE Monkfish Fishery 
Exemption Area is defined as the area bounded on the north by a line 
extending eastward along 40 deg.10' N. lat., and bounded on the west by 
the eastern boundary of the Mid-Atlantic Regulated Mesh Area.
    (i) Requirements. (A) A vessel fishing in the SNE Monkfish Fishery 
Exemption Area under this exemption, when not fishing under a NE 
multispecies DAS, may not fish for, possess on board, or land any 
species of fish other than monkfish, except that such vessels may 
retain and land the bycatch species and amounts specified in paragraph 
(b)(3) of this section. Vessels fishing under this exemption may not 
possess regulated species unless fishing under the NE Multispecies DAS 
program.
    (B) All trawl nets must comply with a minimum mesh size of 8 inches 
(20.3 cm) square or diamond mesh applied throughout the codend for at 
least 45 continuous meshes forward of the terminus of the net.
    (C) All nets with a mesh size smaller than the minimum mesh size 
specified in paragraph (b)(5)(i)(B) of this section must be stowed in 
accordance with one of the methods described under Sec. 648.23(b).
    (ii) [Reserved]
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 96-26498 Filed 10-10-96; 4:15 pm]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-F