[Federal Register Volume 83, Number 38 (Monday, February 26, 2018)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 8236-8238]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2018-03828]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 170919912-8142-01]
RIN 0648-BH26


Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Scup Fishery; 
Framework Adjustment 10

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: NMFS proposes modifications to the commercial scup quota 
periods, as recommended by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council. 
The proposed change would move the month of October from the Summer 
Period to the Winter II Period. This rule is intended to increase 
fishing opportunities by allowing for more scup to be landed by 
extending the Winter II Period when possession limits are higher.

DATES: Comments must be received by 5 p.m. local time, on March 13, 
2018.

ADDRESSES: An environmental assessment (EA) was prepared for this 
action and describes the proposed measures and other considered 
alternatives, and provides an analysis of the impacts of the proposed 
measures and alternatives. Copies of the Scup Commercial Quota Period 
Modification Framework, including the EA, are available on request from 
Dr. Christopher M. Moore, Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery 
Management Council, Suite 201, 800 North State Street, Dover, DE 19901. 
These documents are also accessible via the internet at http://www.mafmc.org/s/Scup_quota_period_framework_draftEA_Nov2017.pdf.
    You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA-NMFS-
2018-0001, by either of the following methods:
    Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via 
the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal.
    1. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2018-0001,
    2. Click the ``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, 
and
    3. Enter or attach your comments.
--OR--
    Mail: Submit written comments to Michael Pentony, Regional 
Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, 55 Great Republic 
Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the envelope, 
``Comments on the Proposed Rule to Modify the Scup Commercial Quota 
Periods.''
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Emily Gilbert, Fishery Policy Analyst, 
(978) 281-9244.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

General Background

    Scup (Stenotomus chrysops) is managed jointly by the Mid-Atlantic 
Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries 
Commission through the Summer Flounder, Scup, Black Sea Bass Fishery 
Management Plan (FMP). The management unit specified in the FMP for 
scup is 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. The scup stock is not overfished and it is not 
experiencing overfishing.
    Currently, the scup commercial quota is broken into three periods: 
Winter I (January 1 through April 30) receives 45.11 percent of the 
annual quota; Summer (May 1 through October 31) receives 38.95 percent; 
and Winter II (November 1 through December 31) receives an initial 
15.94 percent with any unused Winter I quota rolled over into Winter 
II. Federal trip limits are imposed during the two Winter Periods; 
states impose landing restrictions during the Summer Period. The 
Council established these quota periods in 1997 to recognize that there 
are two commercial fishing fleets (62 FR 27978; May 22, 1997). Larger 
vessels harvest scup offshore during the winter months and smaller 
vessels harvest scup inshore during the summer. Without the quota 
periods and Federal trip limits, the larger vessels would be able to 
fish the full annual quota early in the year, leaving no quota for the 
smaller inshore fleet.
    The scup stock was declared rebuilt in 2009 based on the findings 
of a stock assessment. The commercial scup quota nearly doubled between 
2010 and 2011. From 2011 to 2016, commercial scup landings have been 20 
to 47 percent below the annual commercial quota. Stakeholders have 
stated that the more restrictive possession limits during the Summer 
Period, compared to the Winter I and II Periods, have prevented 
fishermen from landing high volumes of scup when they are available. 
This limits the ability of the fishery to achieve the annual commercial 
quota and results in forgone yield.

Proposed Action

    In order to address these limits on the ability of the fishery to 
achieve the annual commercial quota, this action would move the month 
of October from the Summer Period to the Winter II Period (Table 1). 
This action would facilitate more landings at higher possession limits 
during longer periods of time. This change would be effective for 
October 2018 and is expected to have positive socioeconomic impacts 
compared to maintaining the status quo quota periods.
    This action only considers a change to the seasons of the three 
quota periods. It is not changing the possession limits or the amount 
of quota allocated annually to each period.

[[Page 8237]]



                                 Table 1--Proposed Commercial Quota Period Dates
                             [Percent shares and possession limits remain unchanged]
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                                                                            Federal possession limits (per trip)
           Quota period              Percent share          Dates         --------------------------------------
                                                                                     lb                 kg
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Winter I..........................           45.11  January 1-April 30...  50,000...............          22,680
Summer............................           38.95  May 1-September 30...  N/A..................             N/A
Winter II.........................           15.94  October 1-December 31  12,000 (initial).....           5,443
                                   ----------------                                              ---------------
    Total.........................           100.0  N/A..................  N/A..................             N/A
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Council has reviewed the proposed rule regulations as drafted 
by NMFS and deemed them to be necessary and appropriate as specified in 
section 303(c) of the MSA.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is 
consistent with the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass FMP, 
other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, 
subject to further consideration after public comment.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration that this proposed rule, if adopted, would not have a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.
    The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council conducted an evaluation 
of the potential socioeconomic impacts of the proposed measures in 
conjunction with an environmental assessment. According to the 
commercial ownership database, 526 affiliate firms were issued scup 
permits during the 2014-2016 period, with 517 of those business 
affiliates categorized as small businesses and nine categorized as 
large businesses. Scup represented approximately 1.2 percent of the 
average receipts of the small entities considered and less than 1 
percent of the average receipts of the large entities considered over 
this time period. This action does not affect the for-hire recreational 
fishery.
    Analyses conducted in support of this action indicate that 
modifications to the commercial quota periods will result in higher 
scup landings and increased revenues when compared to current 
conditions by increasing the scup possession limit during the month of 
October. As such, this action is expected to increase potential fishing 
opportunities available to small commercial fishing entities. Because 
this rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial 
number of small entities, an initial regulatory flexibility analysis is 
not required and none has been prepared.
    There are no new reporting or recordkeeping requirements contained 
in any of the alternatives considered for this action.

    Dated: February 21, 2018.
Samuel D. Rauch, III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 648 is 
proposed to be amended as follows:

PART 648--FISHERIES OF THE NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES

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

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

0
2. In Sec.  648.122, paragraph (c)(1) is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  648.122  Scup specifications.

* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (1) The annual commercial quota will be allocated into three 
periods, based on the following percentages:

------------------------------------------------------------------------
                            Period                              Percent
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Winter I--January-April......................................      45.11
Summer--May-September........................................      38.95
Winter II--October-December..................................      15.94
------------------------------------------------------------------------

* * * * *
0
3. In Sec.  648.123, paragraph (a)(2)(ii) is revised to read as 
follows:


Sec.  648.123   Scup accountability measures.

    (a) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (ii) For the Winter I and Summer quota periods, landings in excess 
of the allocation will be deducted from the appropriate quota period 
for the following year in the final rule that establishes the annual 
quota. The overage deduction will be based on landings for the current 
year through September 30 and on landings for the previous calendar 
year that were not included when the overage deduction was made in the 
final rule that established the period quotas for the current year. If 
the Regional Administrator determines during the fishing year that any 
part of an overage deduction was based on erroneous landings data that 
were in excess of actual landings for the period concerned, he/she will 
restore the overage that was deducted in error to the appropriate quota 
allocation. The Regional Administrator will publish notification in the 
Federal Register announcing the restoration.
* * * * *
0
4. In Sec.  648.125, paragraphs (a)(1) and (a)(5) are revised to read 
as follows:


Sec.  648.125   Scup gear restrictions.

    (a) * * *
    (1) Minimum mesh size. No owner or operator of an otter trawl 
vessel that is issued a scup moratorium permit may possess more than 
1,000 lb (454 kg) of scup from October 1 through April 30, or more than 
200 lb (91 kg) of scup from May 1 through September 30, unless fishing 
with nets that have a minimum mesh size of 5.0-inch (12.7-cm) diamond 
mesh, applied throughout the codend for at least 75 continuous meshes 
forward of the terminus of the net, and all other nets are stowed and 
not available for immediate use as defined in Sec.  648.2.
* * * * *
    (5) Stowage of nets. The owner or operator of an otter trawl vessel 
retaining 1,000 lb (454 kg) or more of scup from October 1 through 
April 30, or 200 lb (90.7 kg) or more of scup from May 1 through 
September 30, and subject to the minimum mesh requirements in paragraph 
(a)(1) of this section, and the owner or operator of a midwater trawl 
or other trawl vessel subject to the minimum size requirement in Sec.  
648.126, may not have available for immediate use any net, or any piece 
of net, not meeting the minimum mesh size requirement, or

[[Page 8238]]

mesh that is rigged in a manner that is inconsistent with the minimum 
mesh size. A net that is stowed and not available for immediate use as 
defined in Sec.  648.2, and that can be shown not to have been in 
recent use, is considered to be not available for immediate use.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2018-03828 Filed 2-23-18; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P