[Federal Register Volume 62, Number 182 (Friday, September 19, 1997)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 49144-49149]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 97-24810]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

15 CFR Part 902

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 970318056-7211-02; I.D. 080497C]
RIN 0648-AJ43


Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast 
Multispecies Fishery; Framework Adjustment 20

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

ACTION: Final rule and correction.

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SUMMARY: NMFS issues this final rule to adopt as final, with minor 
modifications for clarification purposes, the provisions of the interim 
final rule implementing Framework Adjustment 20 to the Northeast 
Multispecies Fishery Management Plan (FMP). The interim final rule 
implemented several management measures necessary to meet the mortality 
reduction goals of the FMP. The intent of this action is to address 
comments submitted in response to the interim final rule. This document 
also corrects the final rule published on March 3, 1997.

DATES: Effective September 18, 1997, except for Sec. 648.14(c)(10) 
which is effective April 2, 1997.

ADDRESSES: Copies of Amendment 7 to the FMP, its regulatory impact 
review (RIR) and the regulatory flexibility analysis contained within 
the RIR, its final supplemental environmental impact statement, and 
Framework Adjustment 20 documents are available on request from Paul J. 
Howard, Executive Director, New England Fishery Management Council, 5 
Broadway, Saugus, MA 01906-1097.
    Comments regarding burden-hour estimates for the collection- of-
information requirement should be sent to Dr. Andrew A. Rosenberg, 
Regional Administrator, Northeast Region, NMFS, 1 Blackburn Drive, 
Gloucester, MA 01930, and the Office of Information and Regulatory 
Affairs, Office of Management and Budget, Washington, DC 20503 (ATTN: 
NOAA Desk Officer).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Susan A. Murphy, Fishery Policy 
Analyst, 508-281-9252.

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 comprehensive set of measures to control 
fishing mortality by controlling fishing effort through days-at-sea 
(DAS) allocations, and rebuild the primary stocks of regulated 
multispecies. Additionally, a framework procedure was established which 
requires the New England Fishery Management Council (Council) to 
annually review the best scientific information available, set target 
total allowable catches for the primary cod, haddock, and yellowtail 
flounder stocks, and recommend management options to achieve the 
objectives of the plan. The following summarizes the measures 
implemented by the interim final rule and adopted as final, with minor 
modifications, by this final rule.
    To address the needed reductions for Gulf of Maine (GOM) cod, the 
interim final rule, which became effective May 1, 1997 (62 FR 15381, 
April 1, 1997, and corrected 62 FR 37154, July 11, 1997), established a 
cod landing limit for vessels fishing on this stock. This landing limit 
is 1,000 lb (453.6 kg) of GOM cod per day, or any part of a day, for 
each of the first 4 days of a trip, and up to 1,500 lb (680.4 kg) of 
GOM cod per day, or any part of a day, in excess of 4 days. To mitigate 
discarding, vessels are allowed to retain cod in excess of the limit, 
provided that they do not call out of the multispecies DAS program 
until total DAS per trip correspond to the total allowable weight of 
cod off-loaded per trip, and if, upon entering port, they report their 
hailed weight of cod on board under a separate call-in system. Vessels 
operating south of 42 deg.00' N. lat. for a minimum of 30 days are 
exempt from the cod landing limit if they obtain and keep a NMFS-issued 
exemption certificate on board the vessel.
    The interim final rule also implemented a 1997 fishing year measure 
that increases the landing limit of haddock, beginning September 1, 
1997, to 1,000 lb (453.6 kg) per day, to a maximum of 10,000 lb 
(4,536.0 kg) per trip. As a means of ensuring that landings are kept 
below the 1,608 mt target TAC level for Georges Bank (GB) haddock, this 
measure would revert to a 1,000 lb (453.6 kg) per trip possession limit 
when 1,150 mt is projected to be reached. A notification would be 
published in the Federal Register when the 1,000-lb (453.6 kg) trip 
limit is reinstated.
    The interim final rule also implemented a set of additional gillnet 
restrictions requiring most multispecies gillnet vessels to declare 
into either a Day or Trip gillnet category designation.

[[Page 49145]]

Trip gillnet category vessels are required to remove all gillnet gear 
from the water before calling-out of the multispecies DAS program. Day 
gillnet category vessels are limited to no more than 80 roundfish 
gillnets or 160 flatfish gillnets and must mark the gear with NMFS-
authorized tags: Two tags per roundfish gillnet and one tag per 
flatfish gillnet. In addition, Day gillnet category vessels must take a 
total of 120 days out of the multispecies gillnet fishery in no less 
than 7 consecutive-day increments and at least 21 of these days must be 
taken between June 1 and September 30. DAS, for Day gillnet vessels, 
will accrue at 15 hours for each trip between 3 and 15 hours.
    The interim final rule modified two exempted fisheries. The first 
modification allowed unlimited amounts of skate to be retained in the 
current Southern New England (SNE) Monkfish Trawl Exemption Area south 
of 40 deg.10' N. lat. The second modification prohibited the possession 
of monkfish in the Small Mesh Northern Shrimp Fishery Exemption Area 
and increased the allowable limit of silver hake (whiting) from two 
totes to an amount equal to the weight of shrimp on board. In addition, 
the interim rule exempted additional fisheries: A dredge fishery for 
mussels and sea urchins in the current Nantucket Shoals Dogfish Fishery 
Exemption Area and in the SNE Regulated Mesh Area; a seasonal gillnet 
fishery for vessels fishing for monkfish and dogfish in a portion of 
the GOM/GB Regulated Mesh Area; a year-round gillnet fishery for 
vessels fishing for monkfish and skate in a portion of the SNE 
Regulated Mesh Area; and a seasonal gillnet fishery for vessels fishing 
for dogfish in a portion of the SNE Regulated Mesh Area.
    Interested persons were invited to comment on the interim final 
rule during the April 1, 1997, through May 1, 1997, comment period. The 
comments received are addressed below (see Comments and Responses 
section). NMFS issues this final rule to adopt as final, with minor 
modifications, the provisions of the interim final rule implementing 
Framework Adjustment 20 to the FMP. The modifications made are 
administrative in nature and help clarify and enhance enforcement and 
administration of the fishery management program.

Comments and Responses

    Written comments on the interim final rule implementing Framework 
20 were submitted by Cape Ann Gillnetters' Association, Maine 
Gillnetters' Association, Cape Cod Hook Fishermen's Association, Inc., 
and one individual.
    Comment 1: An association reminds NMFS that in the preamble to the 
final rule implementing Amendment 7 to the FMP, NMFS states that 
habitat and selectivity issues could be revisited through a future 
management action, that research has shown mobile gear to have 
observable effects on the ocean bottom, and that the Council has a role 
in relation to habitat issues. Despite these acknowledgments by NMFS, 
the association remarks that habitat and selectivity issues were not 
addressed in Framework 20. The association contends that studies 
involving fishing gear impacts should be considered in development of a 
framework, and adds that this would be the risk averse approach to 
take. Rather than waiting for essential fish habitat guidelines to be 
finalized, the commenter suggests using the information already 
available (and cites several of these sources) to restrict mobile gear 
vessels.
    Response: NMFS acknowledges that observable effects by mobile gear 
have been demonstrated in some areas of the ocean, while little 
discernable effect has been demonstrated in other areas. NMFS has 
recently proposed guidelines to implement the essential fish habitat 
provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act (62 FR 19723, April 23, 1997). 
These guidelines propose that, in determining whether it is practicable 
to minimize an adverse effect from fishing on essential fish habitat, 
Fishery Management Councils should consider three things: Whether and 
to what extent the fishing activity is adversely impacting the marine 
ecosystem; the nature and extent of the adverse effect on essential 
habitat; and whether the benefit to the habitat achieved by minimizing 
the adverse effect justifies the cost to the fishery. The Council 
intends to address habitat issues in the forthcoming amendment to the 
Multispecies FMP that will implement the new essential fish habitat 
requirements.
    Comment 2: Two organizations comment that the cod trip limit 
increase to 1,500 lb (680.4 kg) after the fourth day of a fishing trip 
rewards larger vessels that are able to stay at sea for extended 
periods and is, therefore, biased against small vessels, particularly 
small gillnet vessels that fish in the GOM. The commenters contend that 
this allocation ``is not fair and equitable,'' does not promote 
conservation, and violates national standard 4.
    Response: NMFS disagrees. To reduce fishing mortality on the GOM 
cod stock, the trip limit was set at a level to discourage vessels, 
particularly larger vessels, from targeting cod. Further, the increase 
to 1,500 lb (680.4 kg) after the fourth day was established as an 
incentive for larger vessels to fish offshore trips, offsetting 
steaming and offshore costs while providing an indirect benefit to 
small vessels that fish inshore. Based on this, NMFS determined that 
this measure promotes conservation, is fair and equitable, and does not 
violate national standard 4.
    Comment 3: One individual requests that the cod trip limit be 
rescinded in favor of closed areas. It is the commenter's belief that 
trip limits will not conserve the resource, because the provision 
regulates what a vessel lands and not what a vessel catches. The 
commenter states that area closures are beneficial, because they 
eliminate discarding and cheating, are easily enforceable, and create 
essential fish habitat.
     Response: The cod trip limit and some of the area closure options 
considered were shown to have equivalent conservation effectiveness. 
However, based on public comment raising concerns that closures may 
inequitably affect small sectors of the fishery, closures were 
rejected. The issue of discarding in relationship to the cod trip limit 
was addressed by allowing larger amounts of codfish on trips greater 
than 4 days and by allowing a vessel to land cod in excess of the trip 
limit provided that the vessel does not call out of the DAS program to 
end its trip until total DAS correspond to the total allowable weight 
of cod harvested. Enforcement of area closures is not necessarily 
easier than trip limits, because it requires a sea-based enforcement 
presence.
    Comment 4: One association and one individual comment that 
administration and enforcement of the cod trip limit would be 
difficult.
    Response: Although the cod trip limit does increase NMFS' 
administrative and enforcement burden, the program has been operational 
since May 1, 1997, and NMFS Law Enforcement believes it can monitor 
adherence to the regulations.
    Comment 5: An association comments that the exemption from the cod 
landing limit for vessels fishing south of 42 deg.00' N. lat. is unfair 
to small vessels. The association states that larger vessels are 
``being rewarded and encouraged to further destroy the cod population 
which may or may not depend on both Georges's Bank and the GOM 
simultaneously for its habitat needs.''
    Response: NMFS does not consider this unfair. Although 
inconvenient, smaller vessels wishing to fish on unlimited amounts of 
cod could relocate to a port that is south of 42 deg.00' N. lat.

[[Page 49146]]

The Georges Bank and GOM cod stocks are separate stocks and the effects 
incurred on one stock when fishing on the other are negligible.
    Comment 6: Two associations contend that the gillnet fleet, has 
contributed to effort reduction and that Framework Adjustment 20 is not 
needed. One association contends that these measures were developed by 
the Council based on a ``perceived inequity'' between gillnetters and 
other gear sectors and that there was no real attempt to quantify 
gillnet effort. The association adds that no determination was made 
under Amendment 7 on the proportional effects on gear sectors. The 
other association remarks that NMFS and the Council should implement 
regulations that are fair and equitable, and that are ``based more on 
stock impact by gear type and area.'' One association, referring to a 
document that it previously commented on, contends that gillnet vessels 
are treated unfairly as compared with otter trawl vessels, particularly 
within the 5-22 ton tonnage class. The association states that, 
according to this report, the baseline fleet allocation is far in 
excess of the average number of days fished by the small dragger fleet. 
The association further notes that the report appears to justify this 
excess of days for the smaller fleet by acknowledging that larger 
draggers are likely more responsible for contributing to the fishing 
mortality reduction of the groundfish stocks.
    Response: The fleet baseline allocation established under Amendment 
5 was based on a fleet average. The fact that different tonnage classes 
may be affected unequally by this fleet average has been acknowledged. 
This is an issue that the Council could consider in another action. 
Despite this, NMFS believes that the gillnet effort reduction measures 
implemented under Framework Adjustment 20 are necessary, fair, and 
consistent, to the extent possible, with the reductions imposed on 
other fleet components.
    The Council has been deliberating measures to reduce gillnet effort 
commensurate with the reduction in other fleet since implementation of 
Amendment 7 in July 1996. Rather than analyze each fleet sector and its 
impacts on the resource individually, Amendment 7 strives to implement 
effort reduction, or increases, proportionately across all sectors. The 
Council determined that DAS reductions alone are not sufficient to 
reduce gillnet effort because the gear typically remains in the water, 
fishing while the vessel may be docked and not under a DAS.
    Comment 7: An association questions the Council's Plan Development 
Team's (PDT) reliance on weigh-out data to calculate gillnet effort and 
claims that this data has proven to be unreliable in a previous study 
by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center.
    Response: To calculate a fleet DAS average for gillnet vessels, the 
PDT examined the 1988-1990 NMFS weigh-out observer databases. Based on 
this information, the PDT found that to achieve the 50 percent effort 
reduction goal, gillnet vessels should not fish more than 80 days, or 
very close to the 1997 allocation of 88 DAS. These data are considered 
reliable, because they were collected by NMFS port agent interviews of 
vessel captains or by NMFS observers on board commercial fishing 
vessels.
    Comment 8: A commenter states that net reductions may have many 
beneficial results, including assisting in marine mammal concerns, 
reducing gear conflicts, and reducing fishing effort. However, based on 
a study entitled ``Analysis of the Sink Gillnet Fishery in the Gulf of 
Maine and Adjacent Waters'' (DeAlteris and Lazar), the commenter states 
that 120 is the average number of groundfish nets used. The commenter 
further noted that based on the comments at Council hearings, 100-240 
is the average number of nets used by flatfish fishers.
    Response: The 80/160 net cap was developed by the Council's Gillnet 
subcommittee and based on industry comment. Although the net cap may 
result in a reduction for some segments of the fleet more than others, 
the net cap is justified as a means of limiting uncontrolled growth and 
standardizing gear usage by vessels.
    Comment 9: Two associations remark that the effects of the marine 
mammal reduction efforts on gillnet vessels have not been assessed, 
which is contrary to the national standards and to the Council's 
previous positions under Amendments 5 and 7.
    Response: Framework Adjustment 20 did take into account the effect 
of existing and proposed marine mammal protection measures and 
determined that, on a fleet average, they contributed to a 1 percent 
fishing mortality reduction for the 5 multispecies stocks of cod, 
haddock, and yellowtail flounder.
    Comment 10: Two associations oppose the required minimum blocks of 
time out of the gillnet fishery. One association states that this will 
affect the way gillnet fishers operate and will impose an economic 
hardship on this fishery. The association suggests that NMFS require 
time out of the gillnet fishery on a daily basis and not in 7-day 
minimum blocks. The association further asserts that any enforcement 
concerns should be alleviated by the net tagging requirement and 
questions why daily removal of gillnet gear would be any more difficult 
to enforce than for Trip Category gillnet vessels.
    The other association contends there is no scientific basis for 
requiring Day Category gillnet vessels to declare 21 days out of the 
gillnet fishery during the summer months and recommends elimination of 
this measure. The association notes that this sets a precedent for 
reducing fishing effort on a gear sector based on seasonal 
productivity, and may violate the national standard of fairness and 
equity. The association states that many affected small gillnet 
vessels, particularly vessels in the Northeast, fish primarily for 
flatfish during this time of year and are unlikely to be responsible 
for high catches of cod. Consequently, the association remarks, this 
measure will have little conservation value. The association further 
states that other fisheries are not available to the fleet during this 
time, essentially creating 21 days of down time and placing an undue 
economic burden on the inshore gillnet fleet.
    Response: The 7-day minimum block enhances enforceability by 
providing a disincentive for vessels to leave their gear in the water 
when not under a DAS. A daily time-out system would be unadminsterable 
and ineffective since it would be taken in the normal course of fishing 
operations as a day off. Day gillnet vessels wishing to remove their 
gear and fish under the Trip Category rules have the option to select 
that category.
    The purpose of the June through September period is to ensure the 
effectiveness of the timeout provision; there would be little 
conservation benefit if most vessels declared their 120 days out during 
the winter months when most gillnetters are not fishing. This seasonal 
restriction is necessary for the overall effort reduction plan to 
reduce, not only cod, but multispecies fishing mortality, including 
flatfish, by 50 percent.
    NMFS disagrees that there are no opportunities to fish during the 
21-day period out of the multispecies fishery during June through 
September. During this time, vessels may continue to fish for 
groundfish with gear other than gillnet gear, or fish in any of the 
exempted fisheries currently allowed.
    Comment 11: One association claims that the cod trip limit, 
developed after the gillnet effort reduction measures, eliminates the 
need for the 21-day

[[Page 49147]]

summer block out of the gillnet fishery. The association explains that 
gillnet vessels are limited by how much cod they can take and, further, 
are unable to fish in the cod exemption area by virtue of their limited 
capacity.
    Response: As mentioned in the previous comment, gillnet effort 
reduction measures under Framework Adjustment 20 were implemented to 
reduce multispecies gillnet effort on a level comparable to all other 
gear sectors. The cod trip limit is a separate measure developed under 
this framework to reduce fishing mortality on the GOM cod stock and 
applies equally across all gear sectors.
    Comment 12: An association suggests that a reduction of ``soak 
time'' (i.e., the time gillnet gear is fishing in the water) should 
replace the measure that counts any trip between 3 to 15 hours as 15 
hours for Day gillnet vessels and asserts that this would alleviate a 
regulatory burden by eliminating the need for vessels to report their 
gear fished when calling the DAS program to start a trip. The 
association contends that the 15-hour measure is unnecessary and places 
an undue burden on small vessels, while providing no positive effect on 
conservation. Additionally, the association notes that the method of 
counting DAS for Day gillnet vessels encourages unsafe fishing 
practices and is, therefore, contrary to the National Standards. The 
association states that the 3-hour window, by which a vessel could 
abort a trip and not be counted for a 15-hour trip, does not fully 
address changing weather conditions. The association contends that 
vessels, which may run into bad weather after one and half hours from 
port, are encouraged to remain fishing since they would otherwise 
forfeit a full day and suggest that DAS should be calculated hourly for 
all vessels.
    Response: The 15-hour provision was developed to further calibrate 
gillnet DAS to the DAS of vessels using gear that either remains 
attached to a vessel or is tended at all times by a vessel. NMFS 
disagrees with the statement that this measure promotes unsafe fishing 
practices. The 3-hour window was set based on public comment that 3 
hours was an adequate amount of time needed to abort a trip due to 
inclement weather or vessel breakdowns.
    Comment 13: An association questions how days are counted for 
gillnet vessels fishing with hook gear, or for draggers fishing with 
gillnet gear.
    Response: When fishing with gear other than gillnet gear, DAS are 
counted as actual time to the nearest minute.
    Comment 14: An association contends that the net tagging 
requirement adds another financial burden to the small boat sector. The 
association states that the gillnet tags are expensive and further 
states that, should a vessel require replacement tags, the time needed 
to clear a check for the cost of the replacements renders the vessel 
unable to fish its untagged gear. The association states that these 
tags need to be removable or a fisher is locked into fishing with one 
mesh size.
    Response: NMFS kept costs in mind when seeking a tag distributer. 
The cost for vessel owners for the maximum number of tags mailed 
directly to their respective places of business is less than $60.00. 
For an additional $2.00, a ``quick'' replacement option is provided. 
Under this option, NMFS will hold a supply of tags at the Northeast 
Regional Office to be issued immediately upon request. All tags are 
removable and reusable. A vessel owner must order a new series of tags 
at the start of each fishing year.
    Comment 15: One association comments that, should a vessel become 
disabled, there is no provision in Framework Adjustment 20 that would 
allow another vessel to tend or retrieve its gillnets.
    Response: Infrequent occurrences such as the one cited by the 
commenter are not always appropriate for regulatory action and can 
better be addressed through the enforcement and administrative 
procedures of the agency.

Changes in the Final Rule From the Final Interim Rule

    As described above, this rule makes modifications to the final 
interim rule primarily to help clarify and enhance enforcement and 
administration of the fishery management program. In addition, a 
redesignation is made to correct codified text. These changes are 
listed below in the order that they appear in the regulations.
    In Sec. 648.2, definitions for ``non-exempt gillnet fishery'' and 
``non-exempt species'' are added.
    In Sec. 648.14, paragraph (c)(9) is revised and made more explicit 
by changing the phrase ``NE multispecies fishery'' to ``NE multispecies 
DAS program.''
    In Sec. 648.14, paragraph (c)(11) published at 62 FR 9377 on March 
3, 1997, is redesignated as (c)(10) to correct an inadvertent error in 
paragraph designation.
    In Sec. 648.14, paragraphs (c)(20) and (c)(21) are added to enhance 
enforcement of the provisions in Sec. 648.86(b)(1)(ii)(B) and 
Sec. 648.82(k)(1)(iv), respectively.
    In Sec. 648.80, paragraphs (a)(2)(iii) and (b)(2)(iii) are revised 
to include the small vessel exemption, defined under Sec. 648.82(b)(3); 
this was an inadvertent omission in the previous regulations.
    In Sec. 648.80, paragraphs (a)(11) and (b)(8) are revised to 
explain the method by which mussel dredge gear is measured.
    In Sec. 648.82, paragraph (g) is revised by replacing the words 
``regulated NE multispecies fishery'' with the words ``NE multispecies 
DAS program'' and to clarify that a vessel may not fish for, possess, 
or land any species of fish, unless exempt, when taking its required 
20-day spawning block out of the NE multispecies DAS program.
    In Sec. 648.82, paragraph (h) is clarified by replacing the words 
``NE multispecies fishery'' with the words ``NE multispecies DAS 
program,'' and to reflect that a Day gillnet category vessel must 
declare its 120 days out of the non-exempt gillnet fishery by using the 
notification requirements specified in Sec. 648.10.
    In Sec. 648.82, paragraph (k)(1)(ii) is revised to clarify that a 
vessel is required to tag its gillnet gear only when participating 
under a NE multispecies DAS.
    In Sec. 648.82, paragraph (k)(1)(iv)(A) is revised by replacing the 
words ``multispecies gillnet fishery'' with the words ``non-exempt 
gillnet fishery'' to reflect that a vessel may not fish with gillnet 
gear, unless exempt, when declared out of the gillnet fishery.
    Under NOAA Administrative Order 205-11, 7.01, dated
    December 17, 1990, the Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere 
has delegated to the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA (AA), 
the authority to sign material for publication in the Federal Register.

Classification

    The Administrator, Northeast Region, NMFS, determined that 
Framework 20 is necessary for the conservation and management of the NE 
multispecies fishery and that it is consistent with the Magnuson-
Stevens Act and other applicable laws.
    This rule adopts as final, with minor modifications, the provisions 
of Framework Adjustment 20 previously implemented by the interim final 
rule. As there were no significant changes made to the interim final 
rule and no requirement to promulgate a proposed rule, no regulatory 
flexibility analysis was done. Nevertheless, this action does not 
significantly increase the impact beyond the scope of impact on small 
entities already analyzed, discussed and described in Amendments 5 and 
7 to the FMP.
    Notice and opportunity for public comment was provided before and 
after

[[Page 49148]]

publishing the interim final rule that this rule adopts as final. 
Therefore, the AA, under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B), finds for good cause that 
additional prior notice and opportunity for public comment is 
unnecessary. Because regulations implemented by this final rule are 
currently in effect and because the public is already knowledgeable of 
these provisions, the AA, under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3), finds for good 
cause that delaying for 30 days the effectiveness of this rule as 
unnecessary.
    This final rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of E.O. 12866.
    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 PRA, unless that collection of information displays 
a currently valid OMB control number.
    This final rule contains seven collection-of-information 
requirements which were new collections implemented under the interim 
final rule. Emergency approval under the Paperwork Reduction Act for 
collection of this information under the interim rule was provided by 
the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), under OMB Control Number 
0648-0202. A follow-up submission of this collection-of-information 
requirement has been approved by OMB, under the same control number. 
The estimated response times are as follows:
    1. Declaration into the Trip or Day Gillnet vessel category and 
request for initial gillnet tags will require written declaration (5 
minutes/response).
    2. Request for additional tags will require written declaration (2 
minutes/response).
    3. Notification of lost tags and request for replacement tags will 
require written response (2 minutes/response).
    4. Attachment of tags to gillnet gear will require additional 
burden (1 minute/response).
    5. Declaration of 120 days out of the gillnet fishery in minimum 
blocks of 7 days will require vessel notification (3 minutes/response).
    6. Reporting of cod catch on board or off-loaded for vessels 
fishing north of 42 deg.00' N. lat. will require vessel notification (3 
minutes/response).
    7. Declaration that a vessel will fish south of 42 deg.00' N. lat. 
while fishing under a NE multispecies DAS will require vessel 
notification (2 minutes/per response).
    This final rule also restates preexisting information requirements 
that had been approved by OMB under the PRA and that are needed for the 
implementation of Framework Adjustment 20. These preexisting 
information requirements were approved under OMB control number 0648-
0202. Their estimated response times are as follows:
    1. Requirement to provide a vendor installation receipt with a 
permit application if the applicant opts to use a VTS (2 minutes/
response).
    2. Call-in requirement for vessels under a DAS upon return to port 
(2 minutes/response).
    3. Call-in requirement for vessels subject to the spawning season 
restriction (2 minutes/response).
    The estimated response time includes the time needed for reviewing 
instructions, searching existing data sources, gathering and 
maintaining the data needed, and completing and reviewing the 
collection-of-information. Send comments regarding any of these burden 
estimates or any other aspect of the collection-of-information to NMFS 
and to OMB (see ADDRESSES).

List of Subjects

    15 CFR Part 902
    Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    50 CFR Part 648
    Fisheries, Fishing, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    Dated: September 12, 1997.
David L. Evans,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
    For the reasons set out in the preamble, the interim final rule 
amending 15 CFR part 902 and 50 CFR part 648, which was published at 62 
FR 15381 on April 1, 1997, and a correction document amending 50 CFR 
part 648, which was published at 62 FR 37154 on July 11, 1997, are 
adopted as a final rule with the following changes:

50 CFR CHAPTER VI

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. 648.2, definitions for ``Non-exempt gillnet fishery'' 
and ``Non-exempt species'' are added, in alphabetical order, to read as 
follows:


Sec. 648.2  Definitions.

* * * * *
    Non-exempt gillnet fishery means a fishery which uses gillnet gear 
capable of catching multispecies.
    Non-exempt species means species of fish not included under the 
GOM/GB and SNE Regulated Mesh Area exempted fisheries, as specified in 
Sec. 648.80(a)(3), (a)(4), (a)(8) through (13), (b)(3)(i) and (ii), 
(b)(5) through (8), and (d), (e), (h), and (i).
* * * * *
    3. In Sec. 648.14, paragraph (c)(9) is revised, paragraph (c)(11) 
published at 62 FR 9377 on March 3, 1997, is corrected by redesignating 
it as (c)(10), and paragraphs (c)(20) and (21) are added to read as 
follows:


Sec. 648.14  Prohibitions.

* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (9) Fail to declare, and be, out of the NE multispecies DAS program 
as required by Sec. 648.82(g), using the procedure described under 
Sec. 648.82(h), as applicable.
* * * * *
    (20) Fail to comply with the provisions of the cod hail weight 
notification specifications specified in Sec. 648.86(b)(1)(ii)(B).
    (21) Fail to declare, and be, out of the non-exempt gillnet fishery 
as required by Sec. 648.82(k)(1)(iv), using the procedure described 
under Sec. 648.82(h), as applicable.
* * * * *
    4. In Sec. 648.80, paragraphs (a)(2)(iii), (a)(11), (b)(2)(iii) and 
(b)(8) are revised to read as follows:


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

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (iii) Other restrictions and exemptions. Vessels are prohibited 
from fishing in the GOM/GB Regulated Mesh Area except if fishing with 
exempted gear (as defined under this part) or under the exemptions 
specified in paragraphs (a)(3), (a)(4), (a)(6), (a)(8) through (13), 
(d), (e), (h), and (i) of this section, if fishing under a NE 
multispecies DAS, if fishing under the small vessel exemption specified 
in Sec. 648.82((b)(3), if fishing under the scallop state waters 
exemptions specified in Sec. 648.54 and (a)(10) of this section, or if 
fishing pursuant to a NE multispecies open access Charter/Party or 
Handgear permit. Any gear on a vessel, or used by a vessel, in this 
area must be authorized under one of these exemptions or must be stowed 
as specified in Sec. 648.81(e).
* * * * *
    (11) Nantucket Shoals Mussel and Sea Urchin Dredge Exemption Area. 
A vessel may fish with a dredge in the Nantucket Shoals Mussel and Sea 
Urchin Dredge Exemption Area,

[[Page 49149]]

provided that any dredge on board the vessel does not exceed 8 ft (2.44 
m) measured at the widest point in the bail of the dredge, and the 
vessel does not fish for, harvest, possess, or land any species of fish 
other than mussels and sea urchins. The area coordinates of the 
Nantucket Shoals Mussel and Sea Urchin Dredge Exemption Area are the 
same coordinates as those of the Nantucket Shoals Dogfish Fishery 
Exemption Area specified under paragraph (a)(9) of this section.
* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (iii) Other restrictions and exemptions. Vessels are prohibited 
from fishing in the SNE Regulated Mesh Area except if fishing with 
exempted gear (as defined under this part) or under the exemptions 
specified in paragraphs (b)(3), (b)(5) through (8), (c), (e), (h), and 
(i) of this section, if fishing under a NE multispecies DAS, if fishing 
under the small vessel exemption specified in Sec. 648.82(b)(3), if 
fishing under the scallop state waters exemption specified in 
Sec. 648.54, or if fishing pursuant to a NE multispecies open access 
Charter/Party or Handgear permit. Any gear on a vessel, or used by a 
vessel, in this area must be authorized under one of these exemptions 
or must be stowed as specified in Sec. 648.81(e).
* * * * *
    (8) SNE Mussel and Sea Urchin Dredge Exemption. A vessel may fish 
with a dredge in the SNE Regulated Mesh Area, provided that any dredge 
on board the vessel does not exceed 8 ft (2.44 m) measured at the 
widest point in the bail of the dredge, and the vessel does not fish 
for, harvest, possess, or land any species of fish other than mussels 
and sea urchins.
* * * * *
    5. In Sec. 648.82, paragraphs (g), (h), (k)(1)(ii), and 
(k)(1)(iv)(A) are revised to read as follows:


Sec. 648.82  Effort-control program for limited access vessels.

* * * * *
    (g) Spawning season restrictions. A vessel issued a valid Small 
Vessel permit under paragraph (b)(3) of this section may not fish for, 
possess, or land regulated species from March 1 through March 20 of 
each year. Any other vessel issued a limited access multispecies permit 
must declare out and be out of the NE multispecies DAS program, as 
described in paragraph (b) of this section, for a 20-day period between 
March 1 and May 31 of each calendar year using the notification 
requirements specified in Sec. 648.10. A vessel fishing under a Day 
gillnet category designation is prohibited from fishing with gillnet 
gear capable of catching multispecies during its declared 20-day 
spawning block, unless the vessel is fishing in an exempted fishery as 
described in Sec. 648.80. If a vessel owner has not declared and been 
out for a 20-day period between March 1 and May 31 of each calendar 
year on or before May 12 of each year, the vessel is prohibited from 
fishing for, possessing or landing any regulated species or non-exempt 
species during the period May 12 through May 31, inclusive. If a vessel 
has taken a spawning season 20-day block out of the NE multispecies DAS 
program during May 1996, it is not required to take a 20-day block out 
of the NE multispecies DAS program in 1997. Beginning January 1, 1998, 
any such vessel must comply with the spawning season restriction 
specified in this part.
    (h) Declaring DAS and blocks of time out. A vessel's owner or 
authorized representative shall notify the Regional Administrator of a 
vessel's participation in the DAS program, declaration of its 120 days 
out of the non-exempt gillnet fishery if designated as a Day gillnet 
category vessel, and declaration of its 20-day period out of the NE 
multispecies DAS program, using the notification requirements specified 
in Sec. 648.10.
* * * * *
    (k) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (ii) Tagging requirements. Beginning June 1, 1997, when under a NE 
multispecies DAS, all groundfish gillnets fished, hauled, possessed, or 
deployed must have two tags per net, with one tag secured to each 
bridle of every net within a string of nets and all flatfish gillnets 
fished, hauled, possessed, or deployed must have one tag per net, with 
one tag secured to every other bridle of every net within a string of 
nets. Tags must be obtained as described in Sec. 648.4(c)(2)(iii) and 
vessels must have on board written confirmation issued by the Regional 
Administrator, indicating that the vessel is a Day gillnet vessel. The 
vessel operator must produce all net tags upon request by an authorized 
officer.
* * * * *
    (iv) * * *
    (A) During each fishing year, vessels must declare, and take, a 
total of 120 days out of the non-exempt gillnet fishery. Each period of 
time declared and taken must be a minimum of 7 consecutive days. At 
least 21 days of this time must be taken between June 1 and September 
30 of each fishing year. The spawning season time out period required 
by Sec. 648.82(g) will be credited toward the 120 days time out of the 
non-exempt gillnet fishery. If a vessel owner has not declared and 
taken, any or all of the remaining periods of time required by the last 
possible date to meet these requirements, the vessel is prohibited from 
fishing for, possessing, or landing regulated multispecies or non-
exempt species harvested with gillnet gear, and from having gillnet 
gear on board the vessel that is not stowed in accordance with 
Sec. 648.81(e)(4), while fishing under a multispecies DAS, from that 
date through the end of the period between June 1 and September 30, or 
through the end of the fishing year, as applicable.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 97-24810 Filed 9-18-97; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-F