81 FR 47152 - Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Amendment 19 to the Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery Management Plan

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Federal Register Volume 81, Issue 139 (July 20, 2016)

Page Range47152-47154
FR Document2016-17158

The New England Fishery Management Council has submitted to NMFS Amendment 19 to the Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery Management Plan which proposes to incorporate a specifications process into the Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery Management Plan and to change the start of the fishing year from March 1 to April 1. The ability to develop specifications to set annual or biennial allocations would allow for a more timely process for setting annual allocations than currently possible with framework adjustments. By adjusting the start of the scallop fishing year from March 1 to April 1, NMFS would be able to implement simple specification actions at the start of the fishing year on a more consistent basis. NMFS requests public comments on whether NMFS should approve this amendment and the draft Environmental Assessment incorporated in the amendment.

Federal Register, Volume 81 Issue 139 (Wednesday, July 20, 2016)
[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 139 (Wednesday, July 20, 2016)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 47152-47154]
From the Federal Register Online  [www.thefederalregister.org]
[FR Doc No: 2016-17158]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

RIN 0648-BF72


Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act 
Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Amendment 19 
to the Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery Management Plan

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

ACTION: Notice of availability of fishery management plan amendment; 
request for comments.

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SUMMARY: The New England Fishery Management Council has submitted to 
NMFS Amendment 19 to the Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery Management Plan 
which proposes to incorporate a specifications process into the 
Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery Management Plan and to change the start of 
the fishing year from March 1 to April 1. The ability to develop 
specifications to set annual or biennial allocations would allow for a 
more timely process for setting annual allocations than currently 
possible with framework adjustments. By adjusting the start of the 
scallop fishing year from March 1 to April 1, NMFS would be able to 
implement simple specification actions at the start of the fishing year 
on a more consistent basis. NMFS requests public comments on whether 
NMFS should approve this amendment and the draft Environmental 
Assessment incorporated in the amendment.

[[Page 47153]]


DATES: Comments must be received on or before September 19, 2016.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2016-0028, 
by any one 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-2016-0028,
    2. Click the ``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields.
    3. Enter or attach your comments.
    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 a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, 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).
    Copies of Amendment 19 to the Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery 
Management Plan (Amendment 19), and of the draft Environmental 
Assessment (EA) and Regulatory Impact Review, are available from the 
Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, 55 Great Republic Drive, 
Gloucester, MA 01930. The EA/RIR is also accessible via the Internet 
at: www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation 
and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) requires that each Regional 
Fishery Management Council submit any Fishery Management Plan (FMP) 
amendment it prepares to NMFS for review and approval, disapproval, or 
partial approval. The Magnuson-Stevens Act also requires that NMFS, 
upon receiving an FMP amendment, immediately publish notification in 
the Federal Register that the amendment is available for public review 
and comment. The New England Fishery Management Council approved 
Amendment 19, which would authorize the Council to develop 
specifications to set annual or biennial allocations and change the 
start of the scallop fishing year from March 1 to April 1. The Council 
submitted its final version of Amendment 19 to NMFS for review on June 
16, 2016. NMFS has declared a transmittal date of July 14, 2016. The 
Council has reviewed the Amendment 19 proposed rule regulations as 
drafted by NMFS and deemed them to be necessary and appropriate as 
specified in section 303(c) of the MSA. If approved by NMFS, this 
amendment would simplify the specifications-setting process and enable 
scallop allocations to be implemented closer to the scallop fishing 
year.

Background

    The scallop fishery's management unit ranges from the shorelines of 
Maine through North Carolina to the outer boundary of the Exclusive 
Economic Zone. The Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery Management Plan (FMP), 
established in 1982, includes a number of amendments and framework 
adjustments that have revised and refined the fishery's management. The 
Council has had to rely on the framework adjustment process to set 
scallop fishery measures, often referred to as specifications, that 
occur annually or biennially. Typically, these specifications include 
annual catch limits, days-at-sea (DAS), rotational area management, 
possession limits, access area trip allocations, individual fishing 
quota (IFQ) allocations, and allocations for vessels with Northern Gulf 
of Maine permits. These framework adjustments often include other 
management measures and are often implemented 2 to 3 months after the 
March 1 start of the scallop fishing year (March 1 through February 28/
29).
    Amendment 4 to the Scallop FMP (59 FR 2757, January 19, 1994), was 
a major shift in scallop fishery management. It established a limited 
access permit and effort control program and the new permits and effort 
control became effective on March 1, 1994. Framework Adjustment 1 (59 
FR 36720, July 19, 1994) formally adopted March1 as the start of the 
scallop fishing year. There was no biological or economic rationale 
originally for selecting this date as the start of the fishing year: 
Framework 1 codified the March 1 Amendment 4 effective date as the 
start of the fishing year so that allocations for 1994 spanned a 12-
month period in order to ensure a reduction in fishing effort the first 
year of the DAS effort-control program. This fishing year has remained 
in place since that time, even though specifications have become 
increasingly more complicated with the development of the scallop 
access area rotation program in 2004 and IFQ fishery in 2010.
    In the last 16 years following Framework 11, there have been 12 
actions that set annual scallop specifications. Four of those actions 
set specifications for 2 years, which ensured that the second year's 
specifications for each of those actions were implemented on March 1. 
Aside from these biennial frameworks, we have only been able to set 
specifications by March 1 on two occasions, both involving special 
circumstances (i.e., the proposed rule was waived for one framework 
action and Council took final action 2 months earlier than usual for 
the other action).
    Typically, the Council begins developing a specifications-setting 
framework in June. Scallop biomass estimates are provided through 
scallop surveys conducted by NMFS and other research institutions in 
the spring and summer. These estimates are not generally available for 
consideration until the early fall, at which point the Scallop Plan 
Development Team (PDT) develops and analyzes fishery allocation 
alternatives for Council consideration. In order to incorporate the 
most recent available scallop survey information into these 
alternatives, which has proved essential in setting appropriate access 
area catch levels, the Council has been taking final action in November 
and NMFS has typically implemented allocations in May or June.
    In 2013, the Council began developing specifications on an annual 
basis via frameworks at the request of the industry to avoid biennial 
specifications that resulted in the second year specifications being 
out of sync with what the most recent annual surveys indicate could be 
harvested in a given area. However, this meant that the annual 
specifications were likely to be late every year due to availability of 
relevant data. To address this problem, the Council has been specifying 
``default'' specifications for the year after annual specifications are 
set to fill the gap between the end of the fishing year and the setting 
of new specifications for the next fishing year. Implementing these 
``default'' specifications every year is an administrative burden to 
NMFS staff and can result in complex inseason changes in fishery 
specifications. In addition, default specifications lead to confusion 
and uncertainty for the fleet, as well as potentially negative impacts 
on the resource and fishery if effort shifts into areas or seasons that 
are less desirable as a result of delayed measures.
    The Council initiated Amendment 19 to develop an alternative to the 
framework adjustment process to

[[Page 47154]]

implement specifications closer to the start of the scallop fishing 
year. To address these timing issues while still supporting the current 
timeline for integrating the best available science in to the 
management process, Amendment 19 proposes to:
     Establish a specifications process so that allocations 
would not be tied only to actions that tend to have longer timelines 
(e.g., frameworks or amendments); and
     Adjust the scallop fishing year to April 1 through March 
31.
    Adding the ability to adjust allocations through a specifications 
setting process would produce some time-savings because the Council 
would not be required to discuss measures over the course of two 
Council meetings, as is required under the framework adjustment 
process. However, it would not guarantee allocations would be in place 
by March 1 of each year. As a result, the Council is recommending that 
the fishing year be changed to April 1 through March 31. Pushing the 
fishing year back one month would increase the likelihood that NMFS 
would be able to implement simple specifications actions at the start 
of the scallop fishing year on a more consistent basis, avoiding the 
need to implement default measures. Amendment 19 would also adjust the 
scallop permit year so that it continues to match the official fishing 
year (i.e., scallop permits would need to be renewed by April 1 of each 
year).
    In addition, NMFS and Council staff discussed other, non-regulatory 
streamlining initiatives that will result in time-savings in 
implementing final allocations. These include preparing a decision 
draft of an EA immediately following the Council's final action on a 
framework and publishing a proposed rule prior to NMFS' formal review 
of the EA. These measures will assist in implementing simple, non-
controversial specifications actions on a quicker timeline than typical 
frameworks.
    We are soliciting public comments on Amendment 19 and its 
incorporated documents through the end of the comment period stated in 
this notice of availability. A proposed rule that would implement 
Amendment 19 will be published in the Federal Register for additional 
public comment. NMFS will evaluate the proposed rule under the 
procedures of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Public comments on the proposed 
rule must be received by the end of the comment period provided in this 
notice of availability to be considered in the approval/disapproval 
decision on Amendment 19. All comments received by close of business on 
September 19, 2016, whether specifically directed to Amendment 19 or 
the proposed rule, will be considered in the approval/disapproval 
decision on the amendment.
    Comments received after that date will not be considered in the 
decision to approve or disapprove Amendment 19, including those 
postmarked or otherwise transmitted, but not received by NMFS, by the 
last day of the comment period.

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

    Dated: July 15, 2016.
Emily H. Menashes,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2016-17158 Filed 7-19-16; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P


81_FR_47291
Current View
CategoryRegulatory Information
CollectionFederal Register
sudoc ClassAE 2.7:
GS 4.107:
AE 2.106:
PublisherOffice of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration
SectionProposed Rules
ActionNotice of availability of fishery management plan amendment; request for comments.
DatesComments must be received on or before September 19, 2016.
ContactEmily Gilbert, Fishery Policy Analyst, 978-281-9244.
FR Citation81 FR 47152 
RIN Number0648-BF72

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