Skip to Content

Proposed Rule

Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology Omnibus Amendment

Document Details

Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

Enhanced Content

Relevant information about this document from Regulations.gov provides additional context. This information is not part of the official Federal Register document.

Published Document

This document has been published in the Federal Register. Use the PDF linked in the document sidebar for the official electronic format.

Start Preamble

AGENCY:

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

ACTION:

Proposed rule; request for comments.

SUMMARY:

NMFS proposes regulations to implement the Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology Omnibus Amendment developed by the Mid-Atlantic and New England Fishery Management Councils. This amendment was developed, in part, to respond to a remand by the U.S. District of Columbia Court of Appeals decision in Oceana v. Locke. The amendment also adds various measures to improve and expand on the Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology previously in place. The proposed measures include: A new prioritization process for allocation of observers if agency funding is insufficient; bycatch reporting and monitoring mechanisms; analytical techniques and allocation of at-sea fisheries observers; a performance standard; a review and reporting process; framework adjustment and annual specifications provisions; and provisions for industry-funded observers and observer set-aside programs. In addition to responding to the DC Court of Appeals remand, this action is necessary to re-establish and improve the Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology for all 13 Greater Atlantic Region Fishery Management Plans, as required under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, after the previous methodology was vacated by the 2011 Court order.

DATES:

Comments must be received on or before February 20, 2015.

ADDRESSES:

You may submit comments, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2014-0114, by any one of the following methods:

  • Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/​Start Printed Page 2899#!docketDetail;​D=​NOAA-NMFS-2014-0114, click the “Comment Now!” icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
  • Mail: John K. Bullard, Regional Administrator, NMFS, Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the envelope: “Comments on SBRM Proposed Rule.”

Instructions: All comments received are part of the public record and will generally be posted to www.regulations.gov without change. All Personal Identifying Information (for example, name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential business information or otherwise sensitive or protected information.

NMFS will accept anonymous comments. Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted via Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only.

Copies of the Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology (SBRM) Omnibus Amendment, and of the draft Environmental Assessment and preliminary Regulatory Impact Review (EA/RIR), are available from the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 800 North State Street, Suite 201, Dover, DE 19901; and from the New England Fishery Management Council, 50 Water Street, Mill 2, Newburyport, MA 01950. The SBRM Omnibus Amendment and draft EA/RIR is also accessible via the Internet at: www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov.

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Douglas Potts, Fishery Policy Analyst, 978-281-9341.

End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

Section 303(a)(11) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) requires that all Fishery Management Plans (FMPs) “establish a standardized reporting methodology to assess the amount and type of bycatch occurring in the fishery.” In 2004, several conservation organizations challenged the approval of two major FMP amendments in the Region: Northeast Multispecies Amendment 13 in Oceana v. Evans, 2005 WL 555416 (D.D.C. 2005) and Atlantic Sea Scallops Amendment 10 in Oceana v. Evans, 389, F. Supp. 2d 4 (D.D.C. 2005). In ruling on these suits, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that the FMPs did not clearly establish an SBRM in the FMPs themselves as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and remanded the amendments back to the agency to fully develop and establish SBRMs as part of these FMPs. In particular, the Court found that the amendments (1) failed to fully evaluate reporting methodologies to assess bycatch, (2) did not mandate an SBRM in the FMPs, and (3) failed to respond to potentially important scientific evidence. In response, the New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils decided to establish SBRMs in all 13 of the FMPS under their jurisdiction and they worked closely with us to develop, adopt, and implement these SBRMs in an omnibus FMP amendment.

The final rule to implement the SBRM Omnibus Amendment was published in the Federal Register on January 28, 2008 (73 FR 4736). Following implementation of the SBRM amendment, Oceana, Inc., a conservation organization, challenged the legality of the several aspects of the SBRM, including the broad discretion given to the agency in how to prioritize the allocation of observers when there are insufficient funds to support the full allocation of observers estimated to be required to meet the SBRM performance standard. The U.S. District Court found in favor of the Government on all counts including the prioritization process (Oceana v. Locke, 725 F. Supp. 2d 46 (D.D.C. 2010)). Plaintiff appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The Court of Appeals ruled that the agency did not “establish” an SBRM in the FMPs because of the wide discretion the agency had in determining how to allocate observers under the prioritization process (Oceana v. Locke, 670 F. 3d 1238 (D.C.C. 2011)). The Court of Appeals found that the prioritization process “grants the Fisheries Service substantial discretion both to invoke and to make allocations according to a non-standardized procedure,” when unforeseen circumstances are present, most notably lack of agency funds, that do not allow the full allocation of observers estimated to be required to meet the SBRM performance standard. Because of this broad discretion to vary from the SBRM requirements concerning observer allocations, the Appellate Court found that the agency did not actually “establish” a standardized methodology as required under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Based on this finding, the Appellate Court invalidated the SBRM Omnibus Amendment and remanded it to NOAA to address the prioritization process. On December 29, 2011, we published a rule in the Federal Register (76 FR 81844) removing all regulations implemented by the January 28, 2008, SBRM final rule.

To address the remand, the Councils, in coordination with us, initiated a revised SBRM amendment to build upon the substantial work previously completed to develop the SBRM and to address the discretion allowed regarding the prioritization process when agency funds are limited. This amendment, adopted by the New England and Mid-Atlantic Councils in April 2014, covers 13 FMPs, 40 managed species, and 14 types of fishing gear. The purpose of the amendment is to: Address the Appellate Court's remand by minimizing the discretion allowed in prioritizing allocation of observers when there are insufficient funds; explain the methods and processes by which bycatch is currently monitored and assessed for fisheries in the region; determine whether these methods and processes need to be modified and/or supplemented; establish standards of precision for bycatch estimation for these fisheries; and, thereby, document the SBRM established for all fisheries managed through the FMPs of the Greater Atlantic Region.

To address these purposes, the SBRM Omnibus Amendment would establish an SBRM comprised of seven elements: (1) The methods by which data and information on discards are collected and obtained; (2) the methods by which the data obtained through the mechanisms identified in element 1 are analyzed and utilized to determine the appropriate allocation of at-sea observers; (3) a performance measure by which the effectiveness of the SBRM can be measured, tracked, and utilized to effectively allocate the appropriate number of observer sea days; (4) a process to provide the Councils with periodic reports on discards occurring in fisheries they manage and on the effectiveness of the SBRM; (5) a measure to enable the Councils to make changes to the SBRM through framework adjustments and/or annual specification packages rather than full FMP amendments; (6) a non-discretionary method to determine the available funding for at-sea observers and a formulaic process for prioritizing at-sea observer coverage allocations to match available funding; and (7) measures to implement consistent, cross-cutting observer service provider approval and certification procedures and to enable the Councils to implement either a requirement for industry-funded observers or an observer set-aside program through a framework adjustment rather than an FMP Start Printed Page 2900amendment. This action proposes to require NMFS comply with the provisions of the SBRM Omnibus Amendment, which would be incorporated by reference in the applicable regulations. Copies of the amendment are available to the public as described in the ADDRESSES section of this proposed rule.

Bycatch Reporting and Monitoring Mechanisms

This amendment proposes to maintain the existing methods by which data and information on discards occurring in Greater Atlantic Region fisheries is collected and obtained. The SBRM would employ sampling designs developed to minimize bias to the maximum extent practicable. The Northeast Fisheries Observer Program (NEFOP) would serve as the primary mechanism to obtain data on discards in all Greater Atlantic Region commercial fisheries managed under one or more of the regional FMPs. All regional FMPs would continue to require vessels permitted to participate in Federal fisheries to carry an at-sea observer upon request. All data obtained by the NEFOP under this SBRM would be collected according to the techniques and protocols established and detailed in the Fisheries Observer Program Manual and the Biological Sampling Manual. Data collected by the NEFOP would include, but not be limited to, the following items: Vessel name; date/time sailed; date/time landed; steam time; crew size; home port; port landed; dealer name; fishing vessel trip report (FVTR) serial number; gear type(s) used; number/amount of gear; number of hauls; weather; location of each haul (beginning and ending latitude and longitude); species caught; disposition (kept/discarded); reason for discards; and weight of catch. These data would be collected on all species of biological organisms caught by the fishing vessel and brought on board, including species managed under the regional FMPs or afforded protection under the Endangered Species Act or Marine Mammal Protection Act, but also including species of non-managed fish, invertebrates, and marine plants. To obtain information on discards occurring in recreational fisheries subject to a Greater Atlantic FMP, the SBRM would fully incorporate, to the extent practicable and appropriate for the Region, all surveys and data collection mechanisms implemented by NMFS and affected states as part of the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP).

Analytical Techniques and Allocation of At-Sea Fisheries Observers

This amendment proposes to maintain the existing methods by which the data obtained through the mechanisms included above would be analyzed and utilized to determine the appropriate allocation of at-sea observers across the subject fishing modes, including all managed species and all relevant fishing gear types in the Greater Atlantic Region. At-sea fisheries observers would, to the maximum extent possible and subject to available resources, be allocated and assigned to fishing vessels according to the procedures established through the amendment. All appropriate filters identified in the amendment would be applied to the results of the analysis to determine the observer coverage levels needed to achieve the objectives of the SBRM.

SBRM Performance Standard

The amendment proposes to ensure that the data collected under the SBRM are sufficient to produce a coefficient of variation (CV) of the discard estimate of no more than 30 percent, in order to ensure that the effectiveness of the SBRM can be measured, tracked, and utilized to effectively allocate the appropriate number of observer sea days. Each year, the Regional Administrator and the Science and Research Director would, subject to available resources, allocate at-sea observer coverage to the applicable fisheries of the Greater Atlantic Region sufficient to achieve a level of precision (measured as the CV) no greater than 30 percent for each applicable species and/or species group, subject to the use of the filters noted above.

SBRM Review and Reporting Process

The amendment proposes to require us to prepare an annual report for the Councils on discards occurring in Greater Atlantic Region fisheries, and to work with the Councils to develop a report every 3 years that evaluates the effectiveness of the SBRM. Once each year, the Science and Research Director would present to the Councils a report on catch and discards occurring in fisheries in the Region, as reported to the NEFOP by at-sea fisheries observers. This annual discard report would include summaries of the trips observed by fishing modes active in the relevant time period, funding issues and other related issues and developments, and projections of coverage across fisheries for the upcoming time period. More detailed information would be provided in tables and figures that address: The number of scheduled observer trips and sea days that were accomplished for each fishing mode and quarter, as well as the number of trips and sea days of industry activity; the kept weight from unobserved quarters and statistical areas summarized by fishing mode; the amount kept and estimated discards of each species by fishing mode; and the relationship between sample size and precision for relevant fishing modes. The specific elements of the discard report may change over time to better meet the needs of the Councils. Every 3 years, the Regional Administrator and the Science and Research Director would appoint appropriate staff to work with staff appointed by the executive directors of the Councils to obtain and review available data on discards and to prepare a report assessing the effectiveness of the SBRM. This report would include: (1) A review of the recent levels of observer coverage in each applicable fishing mode; (2) a review of recent observed encounters with each species in each fishery (or by gear type for turtles), and a summary of observed discards by weight; (3) a review of the CV of the discard information collected for each fishery; (4) a review of recent estimates of the total amount of discards associated with each fishing mode (these estimates may differ from estimates generated and used in stock assessments, as different methods and stratification may be used in each case); (5) an evaluation of the effectiveness of the SBRM at meeting the performance standard for each fishery; (6) a description of the methods used to calculate the reported CVs and to determine observer coverage levels, if the methods used are different from those described and evaluated in this amendment; (7) an updated assessment of potential sources of bias in the sampling program and analyses of accuracy; and (8) an evaluation of the implications of the discard information collected under the SBRM if a fishery did not achieve its performance standard.

Framework Adjustment and/or Annual Specification Provisions

The amendment proposes measures to enable the Councils to make changes to certain elements of the SBRM through framework adjustments and/or annual specification packages rather than full FMP amendments. Framework adjustments and annual specification packages would provide for an efficient process to modify aspects of the SBRM if the appropriate Council determines that a change to the SBRM is warranted and needed to address a contemporary management or scientific issue in a Start Printed Page 2901particular FMP. Such changes to the SBRM may include modifications to the CV-based performance standard, the means by which discard data are collected/obtained in the fishery, the stratification (modes) used as the basis for SBRM-related analyses, the process for prioritizing observer sea-day allocations, and reporting on discards or the performance of the SBRM. Such changes may also include the establishment of a requirement for industry-funded observers and/or observer set-aside provisions.

Prioritization Process

The amendment proposes to identify the funds that will be made available annually for SBRM, and how to prioritize the available observer sea-days if the funding is insufficient to fully implement the SBRM across all fishing modes. This measure is intended to limit the discretion the agency has in determining when funds are insufficient and how to reallocate observers under insufficient funding scenarios to address the concerns raised by the Court of Appeals in Oceana v. Locke. Under the new prioritization process, the amount of money available for the SBRM will be the funding allocated to the Region under four specific historically-appropriated observer funding lines (less deductions for management and administrative costs). Of these, the funds made available by Congressional appropriation through the Northeast Fisheries Observers funding line must be dedicated to fund the proposed SBRM. In fiscal years 2011-2014, the Northeast Fisheries Observers funding line made up 53 percent to 59 percent of all observer funds for the Greater Atlantic Region under these four funding lines. Amounts from the other three funding lines are allocated among the fisheries in the five NMFS regions, including the Greater Atlantic Region, to meet observer program needs nationwide. The total amount of the funds allocated for the Greater Atlantic Region from these three funding lines will constitute the remainder of the available SBRM funds. In fiscal year 2014, the amount appropriated under the Northeast Fisheries Observers funding line was $ 6.6 million, and another $ 5.9 million was made available for fisheries in the Greater Atlantic region under the other three funding lines. Funding in fiscal year 2015 for the Greater Atlantic Region under the other three funding lines is expected to be consistent with past allocations of these funds. If the available funding is insufficient to fully fund the SBRM to meet the performance standard, the amendment proposes non-discretionary formulaic processes for prioritizing how the available observer sea-days would be allocated to the various fishing modes to maximize the effectiveness of bycatch reporting and bycatch determinations.

Industry-Funded Observers and Observer Set-Aside Program Provisions

The amendment proposes to implement consistent, cross-cutting observer service provider approval and certification procedures and measures to enable the Councils to implement either a requirement for industry-funded observers and/or an observer set-aside program through a framework adjustment, rather than an FMP amendment.

Corrections and Clarifications

This action also proposes minor modifications to the regulations under authority granted the Secretary under section 305(d) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act to ensure that FMPs are implemented as intended and consistent with the requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. This action proposes to correct the list of framework provisions under the Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog FMP at § 648.79(a)(1) to also include, “the overfishing definition (both the threshold and target levels).” This text was inadvertently removed from the regulations by the final rule to implement annual catch limits and accountability measures for fisheries managed by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (76 FR 60606, September 29, 2011). The regulations at § 648.11(h)(5)(vii) would be revised to remove reference to the requirement that observer service providers must submit raw data within 72 hours. The final rule to implement Framework 19 to the Atlantic Sea Scallop FMP (73 FR 30790, May 29, 2008) incorrectly stated the time an observer service provider has to provide raw data collected by an observer to NMFS, and this correction better reflects the Council's intent for that action.

This action also proposes to implement a consistent deadline for payment of industry-funded observers in the scallop fishery. Currently, there is not a specific due date for payment of industry-funded observers following an observed trip. We are proposing a deadline of 45 days after the end of an observed fishing trip as a due date for payment for all industry-funded observer services rendered in the scallop fishery. We are seeking comments from the fishing industry on this proposed rule specific to the appropriate time period for payment of industry-funded observers.

Pursuant to section 303(c) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Mid-Atlantic and New England Fishery Management Councils have deemed the proposed regulations, with the exception of those noted above as proposed under the Secretary's authority at section 305(d), to be necessary and appropriate for the purpose of implementing the SBRM Omnibus Amendment.

Classification

Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is consistent with the SBRM Omnibus Amendment, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, subject to further consideration after public comment.

A notice of availability of the Draft EA/RIR, which analyzed the impacts of all the measures under consideration in the SBRM Omnibus Amendment, was published at 79 FR 74056, December 15, 2014.

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 proposed rule would modify the regulations at 50 CFR part 648 to require that additional information be prepared by NMFS and provided to the Mid-Atlantic and New England Fishery Management Councils, and authorize said Councils to modify certain elements of the SBRM through the use of framework adjustments and/or annual specifications rather than full FMP amendments. The SBRM Omnibus Amendment establishes a comprehensive methodology that NMFS must follow in determining the appropriate allocations of at-sea fisheries observers and in collecting and analyzing bycatch information in the subject fisheries consistent with a remand by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in Oceana v. Locke and the Magnuson-Stevens Act. As such, this proposed rule only addresses a limited number of administrative aspects of the proposed SBRM. These administrative changes are intended to ensure that high quality data are available for use in stock assessments and in management decisions, consistent with section 303(a)(11), National Standards 1 and 2 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and the Start Printed Page 2902decision in Oceana v. Locke. This proposed rule would not directly impose any new burdens or impacts on any small entities, as all affected entities are already subject to the observer requirements stipulated at § 648.11. While this action proposes measures that would enable the Councils to develop industry-funded observer programs and observer set-aside provisions, the potential economic impacts would be evaluated in conjunction with any future proposed actions. Because this action will not impose any burdens or have any direct impacts on any small entities, it will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. As a result, an initial regulatory flexibility analysis is not required and none has been prepared.

Start List of Subjects

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648

  • Fisheries
  • Fishing
  • Reporting and recordkeeping requirements
End List of Subjects Start Signature

Dated: January 15, 2015.

Samuel D. Rauch III,

Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service.

End Signature

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

Start Part

PART 648—FISHERIES OF THE NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES

End Part Start Amendment Part

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

End Amendment Part Start Authority

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

End Authority Start Amendment Part

2. In § 648.11, add paragraph (g)(5)(iii) and revise paragraphs (h) and (i) to read as follows:

End Amendment Part
At-sea sea sampler/observer coverage.
* * * * *

(g) * * *

(5) * * *

(iii) Owners of scallop vessels shall pay observer service providers for observer services within 45 days of the end of a fishing trip on which an observer deployed.

* * * * *

(h) Observer service provider approval and responsibilities—(1) General. An entity seeking to provide observer services must apply for and obtain approval from NMFS following submission of a complete application. A list of approved observer service providers shall be distributed to vessel owners and shall be posted on the NMFS/NEFOP Web site at: www.nefsc.noaa.gov/​femad/​fsb/​.

(2) [Reserved]

(3) Contents of application. An application to become an approved observer service provider shall contain the following:

(i) Identification of the management, organizational structure, and ownership structure of the applicant's business, including identification by name and general function of all controlling management interests in the company, including but not limited to owners, board members, officers, authorized agents, and staff. If the applicant is a corporation, the articles of incorporation must be provided. If the applicant is a partnership, the partnership agreement must be provided.

(ii) The permanent mailing address, phone and fax numbers where the owner(s) can be contacted for official correspondence, and the current physical location, business mailing address, business telephone and fax numbers, and business email address for each office.

(iii) A statement, signed under penalty of perjury, from each owner or owners, board members, and officers, if a corporation, that they are free from a conflict of interest as described under paragraph (h)(6) of this section.

(iv) A statement, signed under penalty of perjury, from each owner or owners, board members, and officers, if a corporation, describing any criminal conviction(s), Federal contract(s) they have had and the performance rating they received on the contracts, and previous decertification action(s) while working as an observer or observer service provider.

(v) A description of any prior experience the applicant may have in placing individuals in remote field and/or marine work environments. This includes, but is not limited to, recruiting, hiring, deployment, and personnel administration.

(vi) A description of the applicant's ability to carry out the responsibilities and duties of a fishery observer services provider as set out under paragraph (h)(5) of this section, and the arrangements to be used.

(vii) Evidence of holding adequate insurance to cover injury, liability, and accidental death for observers during their period of employment (including during training). Workers' Compensation and Maritime Employer's Liability insurance must be provided to cover the observer, vessel owner, and observer provider. The minimum coverage required is $5 million. Observer service providers shall provide copies of the insurance policies to observers to display to the vessel owner, operator, or vessel manager, when requested.

(viii) Proof that its observers, whether contracted or employed by the service provider, are compensated with salaries that meet or exceed the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) guidelines for observers. Observers shall be compensated as Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) non-exempt employees. Observer providers shall provide any other benefits and personnel services in accordance with the terms of each observer's contract or employment status.

(ix) The names of its fully equipped, NMFS/NEFOP certified, observers on staff or a list of its training candidates (with resumes) and a request for an appropriate NMFS/NEFOP Observer Training class. The NEFOP training has a minimum class size of eight individuals, which may be split among multiple vendors requesting training. Requests for training classes with fewer than eight individuals will be delayed until further requests make up the full training class size.

(x) An Emergency Action Plan (EAP) describing its response to an “at sea” emergency with an observer, including, but not limited to, personal injury, death, harassment, or intimidation.

(4) Application evaluation. (i) NMFS shall review and evaluate each application submitted under paragraph (h)(3) of this section. Issuance of approval as an observer provider shall be based on completeness of the application, and a determination by NMFS of the applicant's ability to perform the duties and responsibilities of a fishery observer service provider, as demonstrated in the application information. A decision to approve or deny an application shall be made by NMFS within 15 business days of receipt of the application by NMFS.

(ii) If NMFS approves the application, the observer service provider's name will be added to the list of approved observer service providers found on the NMFS/NEFOP Web site specified in paragraph (h)(1) of this section, and in any outreach information to the industry. Approved observer service providers shall be notified in writing and provided with any information pertinent to its participation in the fishery observer program.

(iii) An application shall be denied if NMFS determines that the information provided in the application is not complete or the evaluation criteria are not met. NMFS shall notify the applicant in writing of any deficiencies in the application or information submitted in support of the application. An applicant who receives a denial of his or her application may present additional information to rectify the deficiencies specified in the written Start Printed Page 2903denial, provided such information is submitted to NMFS within 30 days of the applicant's receipt of the denial notification from NMFS. In the absence of additional information, and after 30 days from an applicant's receipt of a denial, an observer provider is required to resubmit an application containing all of the information required under the application process specified in paragraph (h)(3) of this section to be re-considered for being added to the list of approved observer service providers.

(5) Responsibilities of observer service providers. (i) An observer service provider must provide observers certified by NMFS/NEFOP pursuant to paragraph (i) of this section for deployment in a fishery when contacted and contracted by the owner, operator, or vessel manager of a fishing vessel, unless the observer service provider refuses to deploy an observer on a requesting vessel for any of the reasons specified at paragraph (h)(5)(viii) of this section.

(ii) An observer service provider must provide to each of its observers:

(A) All necessary transportation, including arrangements and logistics, of observers to the initial location of deployment, to all subsequent vessel assignments, and to any debriefing locations, if necessary;

(B) Lodging, per diem, and any other services necessary for observers assigned to a fishing vessel or to attend an appropriate NMFS/NEFOP observer training class;

(C) The required observer equipment, in accordance with equipment requirements listed on the NMFS/NEFOP Web site specified in paragraph (h)(1) of this section, prior to any deployment and/or prior to NMFS observer certification training; and

(D) Individually assigned communication equipment, in working order, such as a mobile phone, for all necessary communication. An observer service provider may alternatively compensate observers for the use of the observer's personal mobile phone, or other device, for communications made in support of, or necessary for, the observer's duties.

(iii) Observer deployment logistics. Each approved observer service provider must assign an available certified observer to a vessel upon request. Each approved observer service provider must be accessible 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, to enable an owner, operator, or manager of a vessel to secure observer coverage when requested. The telephone system must be monitored a minimum of four times daily to ensure rapid response to industry requests. Observer service providers approved under paragraph (h) of this section are required to report observer deployments to NMFS daily for the purpose of determining whether the predetermined coverage levels are being achieved in the appropriate fishery.

(iv) Observer deployment limitations. (A) A candidate observer's first four deployments and the resulting data shall be immediately edited and approved after each trip by NMFS/NEFOP prior to any further deployments by that observer. If data quality is considered acceptable, the observer would be certified.

(B) Unless alternative arrangements are approved by NMFS, an observer provider must not deploy any observer on the same vessel for more than two consecutive multi-day trips, and not more than twice in any given month for multi-day deployments.

(v) Communications with observers. An observer service provider must have an employee responsible for observer activities on call 24 hours a day to handle emergencies involving observers or problems concerning observer logistics, whenever observers are at sea, stationed shoreside, in transit, or in port awaiting vessel assignment.

(vi) Observer training requirements. The following information must be submitted to NMFS/NEFOP at least 7 days prior to the beginning of the proposed training class: A list of observer candidates; observer candidate resumes; and a statement signed by the candidate, under penalty of perjury, that discloses the candidate's criminal convictions, if any. All observer trainees must complete a basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation/first aid course prior to the end of a NMFS/NEFOP Observer Training class. NMFS may reject a candidate for training if the candidate does not meet the minimum qualification requirements as outlined by NMFS/NEFOP minimum eligibility standards for observers as described on the NMFS/NEFOP Web site.

(vii) Reports—(A) Observer deployment reports. The observer service provider must report to NMFS/NEFOP when, where, to whom, and to what fishery (including Open Area or Access Area for sea scallop trips) an observer has been deployed, within 24 hours of the observer's departure. The observer service provider must ensure that the observer reports back to NMFS its Observer Contract (OBSCON) data, as described in the certified observer training, within 24 hours of landing. OBSCON data are to be submitted electronically or by other means specified by NMFS. The observer service provider shall provide the raw (unedited) data collected by the observer to NMFS within 4 business days of the trip landing.

(B) Safety refusals. The observer service provider must report to NMFS any trip that has been refused due to safety issues, e.g., failure to hold a valid USCG Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Examination Decal or to meet the safety requirements of the observer's pre-trip vessel safety checklist, within 24 hours of the refusal.

(C) Biological samples. The observer service provider must ensure that biological samples, including whole marine mammals, sea turtles, and sea birds, are stored/handled properly and transported to NMFS within 7 days of landing.

(D) Observer debriefing. The observer service provider must ensure that the observer remains available to NMFS, either in-person or via phone, at NMFS' discretion, including NMFS Office for Law Enforcement, for debriefing for at least 2 weeks following any observed trip. If requested by NMFS, an observer that is at sea during the 2-week period must contact NMFS upon his or her return.

(E) Observer availability report. The observer service provider must report to NMFS any occurrence of inability to respond to an industry request for observer coverage due to the lack of available observers by 5 p.m., Eastern Time, of any day on which the provider is unable to respond to an industry request for observer coverage.

(F) Other reports. The observer service provider must report possible observer harassment, discrimination, concerns about vessel safety or marine casualty, or observer illness or injury; and any information, allegations, or reports regarding observer conflict of interest or breach of the standards of behavior, to NMFS/NEFOP within 24 hours of the event or within 24 hours of learning of the event.

(G) Observer status report. The observer service provider must provide NMFS/NEFOP with an updated list of contact information for all observers that includes the observer identification number, observer's name, mailing address, email address, phone numbers, homeports or fisheries/trip types assigned, and must include whether or not the observer is “in service,” indicating when the observer has requested leave and/or is not currently working for an industry funded program.

(H) Vessel contract. The observer service provider must submit to NMFS/NEFOP, if requested, a copy of each type of signed and valid contract (including all attachments, appendices, addendums, and exhibits incorporated Start Printed Page 2904into the contract) between the observer provider and those entities requiring observer services.

(I) Observer contract. The observer service provider must submit to NMFS/NEFOP, if requested, a copy of each type of signed and valid contract (including all attachments, appendices, addendums, and exhibits incorporated into the contract) between the observer provider and specific observers.

(J) Additional information. The observer service provider must submit to NMFS/NEFOP, if requested, copies of any information developed and/or used by the observer provider and distributed to vessels, such as informational pamphlets, payment notification, description of observer duties, etc.

(viii) Refusal to deploy an observer. (A) An observer service provider may refuse to deploy an observer on a requesting fishing vessel if the observer service provider does not have an available observer within 48 hours of receiving a request for an observer from a vessel.

(B) An observer service provider may refuse to deploy an observer on a requesting fishing vessel if the observer service provider has determined that the requesting vessel is inadequate or unsafe pursuant to the reasons described at § 600.746.

(C) The observer service provider may refuse to deploy an observer on a fishing vessel that is otherwise eligible to carry an observer for any other reason, including failure to pay for previous observer deployments, provided the observer service provider has received prior written confirmation from NMFS authorizing such refusal.

(6) Limitations on conflict of interest. An observer service provider:

(i) Must not have a direct or indirect interest in a fishery managed under Federal regulations, including, but not limited to, a fishing vessel, fish dealer, fishery advocacy group, and/or fishery research;

(ii) Must assign observers without regard to any preference by representatives of vessels other than when an observer will be deployed; and

(iii) Must not solicit or accept, directly or indirectly, any gratuity, gift, favor, entertainment, loan, or anything of monetary value from anyone who conducts fishing or fishing related activities that are regulated by NMFS, or who has interests that may be substantially affected by the performance or nonperformance of the official duties of observer providers.

(7) Removal of observer service provider from the list of approved observer service providers. An observer service provider that fails to meet the requirements, conditions, and responsibilities specified in paragraphs (h)(5) and (6) of this section shall be notified by NMFS, in writing, that it is subject to removal from the list of approved observer service providers. Such notification shall specify the reasons for the pending removal. An observer service provider that has received notification that it is subject to removal from the list of approved observer service providers may submit written information to rebut the reasons for removal from the list. Such rebuttal must be submitted within 30 days of notification received by the observer service provider that the observer service provider is subject to removal and must be accompanied by written evidence rebutting the basis for removal. NMFS shall review information rebutting the pending removal and shall notify the observer service provider within 15 days of receipt of the rebuttal whether or not the removal is warranted. If no response to a pending removal is received by NMFS, the observer service provider shall be automatically removed from the list of approved observer service providers. The decision to remove the observer service provider from the list, either after reviewing a rebuttal, or if no rebuttal is submitted, shall be the final decision of NMFS and the Department of Commerce. Removal from the list of approved observer service providers does not necessarily prevent such observer service provider from obtaining an approval in the future if a new application is submitted that demonstrates that the reasons for removal are remedied. Certified observers under contract with an observer service provider that has been removed from the list of approved service providers must complete their assigned duties for any fishing trips on which the observers are deployed at the time the observer service provider is removed from the list of approved observer service providers. An observer service provider removed from the list of approved observer service providers is responsible for providing NMFS with the information required in paragraph (h)(5)(vii) of this section following completion of the trip. NMFS may consider, but is not limited to, the following in determining if an observer service provider may remain on the list of approved observer service providers:

(i) Failure to meet the requirements, conditions, and responsibilities of observer service providers specified in paragraphs (h)(5) and (6) of this section;

(ii) Evidence of conflict of interest as defined under paragraph (h)(6) of this section;

(iii) Evidence of criminal convictions related to:

(A) Embezzlement, theft, forgery, bribery, falsification or destruction of records, making false statements, or receiving stolen property; or

(B) The commission of any other crimes of dishonesty, as defined by state law or Federal law, that would seriously and directly affect the fitness of an applicant in providing observer services under this section;

(iv) Unsatisfactory performance ratings on any Federal contracts held by the applicant; and

(v) Evidence of any history of decertification as either an observer or observer provider.

(i) Observer certification. (1) To be certified, employees or sub-contractors operating as observers for observer service providers approved under paragraph (h) of this section must meet NMFS National Minimum Eligibility Standards for observers. NMFS National Minimum Eligibility Standards are available at the National Observer Program Web site: www.nmfs.noaa.gov/​op/​pds/​categories/​science_​and_​technology.html.

(2) Observer training. In order to be deployed on any fishing vessel, a candidate observer must have passed an appropriate NMFS/NEFOP Observer Training course. If a candidate fails training, the candidate shall be notified in writing on or before the last day of training. The notification will indicate the reasons the candidate failed the training. Observer training shall include an observer training trip, as part of the observer's training, aboard a fishing vessel with a trainer. A candidate observer's first four deployments and the resulting data shall be immediately edited and approved after each trip by NMFS/NEFOP, prior to any further deployments by that observer. If data quality is considered acceptable, the observer would be certified.

(3) Observer requirements. All observers must:

(i) Have a valid NMFS/NEFOP fisheries observer certification pursuant to paragraph (i)(1) of this section;

(ii) Be physically and mentally capable of carrying out the responsibilities of an observer on board fishing vessels, pursuant to standards established by NMFS. Such standards are available from NMFS/NEFOP Web site specified in paragraph (h)(1) of this section and shall be provided to each approved observer service provider;

(iii) Have successfully completed all NMFS-required training and briefings for observers before deployment, pursuant to paragraph (i)(2) of this section; andStart Printed Page 2905

(iv) Hold a current Red Cross (or equivalence) CPR/First Aid certification.

(v) Accurately record their sampling data, write complete reports, and report accurately any observations relevant to conservation of marine resources or their environment.

(4) Probation and decertification. NMFS may review observer certifications and issue observer certification probation and/or decertification as described in NMFS policy found on the NMFS/NEFOP Web site specified in paragraph (h)(1) of this section.

(5) Issuance of decertification. Upon determination that decertification is warranted under paragraph (i)(4) of this section, NMFS shall issue a written decision to decertify the observer to the observer and approved observer service providers via certified mail at the observer's most current address provided to NMFS. The decision shall identify whether a certification is revoked and shall identify the specific reasons for the action taken. Decertification is effective immediately as of the date of issuance, unless the decertification official notes a compelling reason for maintaining certification for a specified period and under specified conditions. Decertification is the final decision of NMFS and the Department of Commerce and may not be appealed.

* * * * *
Start Amendment Part

3. Add § 648.18 to subpart A to read as follows:

End Amendment Part
Standardized bycatch reporting methodology.

NMFS shall comply with the Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology (SBRM) provisions established in the following fishery management plans by the SBRM Omnibus Amendment, which is incorporated by reference: Atlantic Bluefish; Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish; Atlantic Sea Scallop; Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog; Atlantic Herring; Atlantic Salmon; Deep-Sea Red Crab; Monkfish; Northeast Multispecies; Northeast Skate Complex; Spiny Dogfish; Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass; and Tilefish.

Start Amendment Part

4. In § 648.22, add paragraph (c)(13) to read as follows:

End Amendment Part
Atlantic mackerel, squid, and butterfish specifications.
* * * * *

(c) * * *

(13) Changes, as appropriate, to the SBRM, including the coefficient of variation (CV) based performance standard, the means by which discard data are collected/obtained, fishery stratification, the process for prioritizing observer sea-day allocations, reports, and/or industry-funded observers or observer set aside programs.

* * * * *
Start Amendment Part

5. In § 648.25, revise paragraph (a)(1) to read as follows:

End Amendment Part
Atlantic mackerel, squid, and butterfish framework adjustments to management measures.

(a) * * *

(1) Adjustment process. The MAFMC shall develop and analyze appropriate management actions over the span of at least two MAFMC meetings. The MAFMC must provide the public with advance notice of the availability of the recommendation(s), appropriate justification(s) and economic and biological analyses, and the opportunity to comment on the proposed adjustment(s) at the first meeting and prior to and at the second MAFMC meeting. The MAFMC's recommendations on adjustments or additions to management measures must come from one or more of the following categories: Adjustments within existing ABC control rule levels; adjustments to the existing MAFMC risk policy; introduction of new AMs, including sub-ACTs; minimum fish size; maximum fish size; gear restrictions; gear requirements or prohibitions; permitting restrictions; recreational possession limit; recreational seasons; closed areas; commercial seasons; commercial trip limits; commercial quota system, including commercial quota allocation procedure and possible quota set-asides to mitigate bycatch; recreational harvest limit; annual specification quota setting process; FMP Monitoring Committee composition and process; description and identification of EFH (and fishing gear management measures that impact EFH); description and identification of habitat areas of particular concern; overfishing definition and related thresholds and targets; regional gear restrictions; regional season restrictions (including option to split seasons); restrictions on vessel size (LOA and GRT) or shaft horsepower; changes to the SBRM, including the CV-based performance standard, the means by which discard data are collected/obtained, fishery stratification, the process for prioritizing observer sea-day allocations, reports, and/or industry-funded observers or observer set aside programs; any other management measures currently included in the FMP; set aside quota for scientific research; regional management; process for inseason adjustment to the annual specification; mortality caps for river herring and shad species; time/area management for river herring and shad species; and provisions for river herring and shad incidental catch avoidance program, including adjustments to the mechanism and process for tracking fleet activity, reporting incidental catch events, compiling data, and notifying the fleet of changes to the area(s); the definition/duration of `test tows,' if test tows would be utilized to determine the extent of river herring incidental catch in a particular area(s); the threshold for river herring incidental catch that would trigger the need for vessels to be alerted and move out of the area(s); the distance that vessels would be required to move from the area(s); and the time that vessels would be required to remain out of the area(s). Measures contained within this list that require significant departures from previously contemplated measures or that are otherwise introducing new concepts may require amendment of the FMP instead of a framework adjustment.

* * * * *
Start Amendment Part

6. In § 648.41, revise paragraph (a) to read as follows:

End Amendment Part
Framework specifications.

(a) Within season management action. The New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) may, at any time, initiate action to implement, add to or adjust Atlantic salmon management measures to:

(1) Allow for Atlantic salmon aquaculture projects in the EEZ, provided such an action is consistent with the goals and objectives of the Atlantic Salmon FMP; and

(2) Make changes to the SBRM, including the CV-based performance standard, the means by which discard data are collected/obtained, fishery stratification, the process for prioritizing observer sea-day allocations, reports, and/or industry-funded observers or observer set aside programs.

* * * * *
Start Amendment Part

7. In § 648.55, revise paragraphs (f)(39) and (40) and add paragraph (f)(41) to read as follows:

End Amendment Part
Framework adjustments to management measures.
* * * * *

(f) * * *

(39) Adjusting EFH closed area management boundaries or other associated measures;

(40) Changes to the SBRM, including the CV-based performance standard, the means by which discard data are collected/obtained, fishery stratification, the process for prioritizing observer sea-day allocations, reports, and/or Start Printed Page 2906industry-funded observers or observer set-aside programs; and

(41) Any other management measures currently included in the FMP.

* * * * *
Start Amendment Part

8. In § 648.79, revise paragraph (a)(1) to read as follows:

End Amendment Part
Surfclam and ocean quahog framework adjustments to management measures.

(a) * * *

(1) Adjustment process. The MAFMC shall develop and analyze appropriate management actions over the span of at least two MAFMC meetings. The MAFMC must provide the public with advance notice of the availability of the recommendation(s), appropriate justification(s) and economic and biological analyses, and the opportunity to comment on the proposed adjustment(s) at the first meeting, and prior to and at the second MAFMC meeting. The MAFMC's recommendations on adjustments or additions to management measures must come from one or more of the following categories: Adjustments within existing ABC control rule levels; adjustments to the existing MAFMC risk policy; introduction of new AMs, including sub-ACTs; the overfishing definition (both the threshold and target levels); description and identification of EFH (and fishing gear management measures that impact EFH); habitat areas of particular concern; set-aside quota for scientific research; VMS; OY range; suspension or adjustment of the surfclam minimum size limit; and changes to the SBRM, including the CV-based performance standard, the means by which discard data are collected/obtained, fishery stratification, the process for prioritizing observer sea-day allocations, reports, and/or industry-funded observers or observer set aside programs. Issues that require significant departures from previously contemplated measures or that are otherwise introducing new concepts may require an amendment of the FMP instead of a framework adjustment.

* * * * *
Start Amendment Part

9. In § 648.90, revise paragraphs (a)(2)(i), (a)(2)(iii), (b)(1)(ii), (c)(1)(i), and (c)(1)(ii) to read as follows:

End Amendment Part
NE multispecies assessment, framework procedures and specifications, and flexible area action system.
* * * * *

(a) * * *

(2) Biennial review. (i) The NE multispecies PDT shall meet on or before September 30 every other year, unless otherwise specified in paragraph (a)(3) of this section, under the conditions specified in that paragraph, to perform a review of the fishery, using the most current scientific information available provided primarily from the NEFSC. Data provided by states, ASMFC, the USCG, and other sources may also be considered by the PDT. Based on this review, the PDT will develop ACLs for the upcoming fishing year(s) as described in paragraph (a)(4) of this section and develop options for consideration by the Council if necessary, on any changes, adjustments, or additions to DAS allocations, closed areas, or other measures necessary to rebuild overfished stocks and achieve the FMP goals and objectives, including changes to the SBRM.

* * * * *

(iii) Based on this review, the PDT shall recommend ACLs and develop options necessary to achieve the FMP goals and objectives, which may include a preferred option. The PDT must demonstrate through analyses and documentation that the options they develop are expected to meet the FMP goals and objectives. The PDT may review the performance of different user groups or fleet sectors in developing options. The range of options developed by the PDT may include any of the management measures in the FMP, including, but not limited to: ACLs, which must be based on the projected fishing mortality levels required to meet the goals and objectives outlined in the FMP for the 12 regulated species and ocean pout if able to be determined; identifying and distributing ACLs and other sub-components of the ACLs among various segments of the fishery; AMs; DAS changes; possession limits; gear restrictions; closed areas; permitting restrictions; minimum fish sizes; recreational fishing measures; describing and identifying EFH; fishing gear management measures to protect EFH; designating habitat areas of particular concern within EFH; and changes to the SBRM, including the CV-based performance standard, the means by which discard data are collected/obtained, fishery stratification, the process for prioritizing observer sea-day allocations, reports, and/or industry-funded observers or observer set aside programs. In addition, the following conditions and measures may be adjusted through future framework adjustments: Revisions to DAS measures, including DAS allocations (such as the distribution of DAS among the four categories of DAS), future uses for Category C DAS, and DAS baselines, adjustments for steaming time, etc.; modifications to capacity measures, such as changes to the DAS transfer or DAS leasing measures; calculation of area-specific ACLs, area management boundaries, and adoption of area-specific management measures; sector allocation requirements and specifications, including the establishment of a new sector, the disapproval of an existing sector, the allowable percent of ACL available to a sector through a sector allocation, and the calculation of PSCs; sector administration provisions, including at-sea and dockside monitoring measures; sector reporting requirements; state-operated permit bank administrative provisions; measures to implement the U.S./Canada Resource Sharing Understanding, including any specified TACs (hard or target); changes to administrative measures; additional uses for Regular B DAS; reporting requirements; the GOM Inshore Conservation and Management Stewardship Plan; adjustments to the Handgear A or B permits; gear requirements to improve selectivity, reduce bycatch, and/or reduce impacts of the fishery on EFH; SAP modifications; revisions to the ABC control rule and status determination criteria, including, but not limited to, changes in the target fishing mortality rates, minimum biomass thresholds, numerical estimates of parameter values, and the use of a proxy for biomass may be made either through a biennial adjustment or framework adjustment; changes to the SBRM, including the CV-based performance standard, the means by which discard data are collected/obtained, fishery stratification, the process for prioritizing observer sea-day allocations, reports, and/or industry-funded observers or observer set aside programs; and any other measures currently included in the FMP.

* * * * *

(b) * * *

(1) * * *

(ii) The Whiting PDT, after reviewing the available information on the status of the stock and the fishery, may recommend to the Council any measures necessary to assure that the specifications will not be exceeded; changes to the SBRM, including the CV-based performance standard, the means by which discard data are collected/obtained, fishery stratification, the process for prioritizing observer sea-day allocations, reports, and/or industry-funded observers or observer set aside programs; as well as changes to the appropriate specifications.

* * * * *

(c) * * *

(1) * * *Start Printed Page 2907

(i) After a management action has been initiated, the Council shall develop and analyze appropriate management actions over the span of at least two Council meetings. The Council shall provide the public with advance notice of the availability of both the proposals and the analyses and opportunity to comment on them prior to and at the second Council meeting. The Council's recommendation on adjustments or additions to management measures, other than to address gear conflicts, must come from one or more of the following categories: DAS changes; effort monitoring; data reporting; possession limits; gear restrictions; closed areas; permitting restrictions; crew limits; minimum fish sizes; onboard observers; minimum hook size and hook style; the use of crucifer in the hook-gear fishery; sector requirements; recreational fishing measures; area closures and other appropriate measures to mitigate marine mammal entanglements and interactions; description and identification of EFH; fishing gear management measures to protect EFH; designation of habitat areas of particular concern within EFH; changes to the SBRM, including the CV-based performance standard, the means by which discard data are collected/obtained, fishery stratification, the process for prioritizing observer sea-day allocations, reports, and/or industry-funded observers or observer set aside programs; and any other management measures currently included in the FMP.

(ii) The Council's recommendation on adjustments or additions to management measures pertaining to small-mesh NE multispecies, other than to address gear conflicts, must come from one or more of the following categories: Quotas and appropriate seasonal adjustments for vessels fishing in experimental or exempted fisheries that use small mesh in combination with a separator trawl/grate (if applicable); modifications to separator grate (if applicable) and mesh configurations for fishing for small-mesh NE multispecies; adjustments to whiting stock boundaries for management purposes; adjustments for fisheries exempted from minimum mesh requirements to fish for small-mesh NE multispecies (if applicable); season adjustments; declarations; participation requirements for any of the Gulf of Maine/Georges Bank small-mesh multispecies exemption areas; OFL and ABC values; ACL, TAL, or TAL allocations, including the proportions used to allocate by season or area; small-mesh multispecies possession limits, including in-season AM possession limits; changes to reporting requirements and methods to monitor the fishery; and biological reference points, including selected reference time series, survey strata used to calculate biomass, and the selected survey for status determination; and changes to the SBRM, including the CV-based performance standard, the means by which discard data are collected/obtained, fishery stratification, the process for prioritizing observer sea-day allocations, reports, and/or industry-funded observers or observer set aside programs.

* * * * *
Start Amendment Part

10. In § 648.96, revise paragraph (a)(3)(ii) to read as follows:

End Amendment Part
FMP review, specification, and framework adjustment process.

(a) * * *

(3) * * *

(ii) The range of options developed by the Councils may include any of the management measures in the Monkfish FMP, including, but not limited to: ACTs; closed seasons or closed areas; minimum size limits; mesh size limits; net limits; liver-to-monkfish landings ratios; annual monkfish DAS allocations and monitoring; trip or possession limits; blocks of time out of the fishery; gear restrictions; transferability of permits and permit rights or administration of vessel upgrades, vessel replacement, or permit assignment; measures to minimize the impact of the monkfish fishery on protected species; gear requirements or restrictions that minimize bycatch or bycatch mortality; transferable DAS programs; changes to the SBRM, including the CV-based performance standard, the means by which discard data are collected/obtained, fishery stratification, the process for prioritizing observer sea-day allocations, reports, and/or industry-funded observers or observer set aside programs; changes to the Monkfish Research Set-Aside Program; and other frameworkable measures included in §§ 648.55 and 648.90.

* * * * *
Start Amendment Part

11. In § 648.102, add paragraph (a)(10) to read as follows:

End Amendment Part
Summer flounder specifications.

(a) * * *

(10) Changes, as appropriate, to the SBRM, including the CV-based performance standard, the means by which discard data are collected/obtained, fishery stratification, the process for prioritizing observer sea-day allocations, reports, and/or industry-funded observers or observer set aside programs.

* * * * *
Start Amendment Part

12. In § 648.110, revise paragraph (a)(1) to read as follows:

End Amendment Part
Summer flounder framework adjustments to management measures.

(a) * * *

(1) Adjustment process. The MAFMC shall develop and analyze appropriate management actions over the span of at least two MAFMC meetings. The MAFMC must provide the public with advance notice of the availability of the recommendation(s), appropriate justification(s) and economic and biological analyses, and the opportunity to comment on the proposed adjustment(s) at the first meeting and prior to and at the second MAFMC meeting. The MAFMC's recommendations on adjustments or additions to management measures must come from one or more of the following categories: Adjustments within existing ABC control rule levels; adjustments to the existing MAFMC risk policy; introduction of new AMs, including sub-ACTs; minimum fish size; maximum fish size; gear restrictions; gear requirements or prohibitions; permitting restrictions; recreational possession limit; recreational seasons; closed areas; commercial seasons; commercial trip limits; commercial quota system including commercial quota allocation procedure and possible quota set asides to mitigate bycatch; recreational harvest limit; specification quota setting process; FMP Monitoring Committee composition and process; description and identification of essential fish habitat (and fishing gear management measures that impact EFH); description and identification of habitat areas of particular concern; regional gear restrictions; regional season restrictions (including option to split seasons); restrictions on vessel size (LOA and GRT) or shaft horsepower; operator permits; changes to the SBRM, including the CV-based performance standard, the means by which discard data are collected/obtained, fishery stratification, the process for prioritizing observer sea-day allocations, reports, and/or industry-funded observers or observer set aside programs; any other commercial or recreational management measures; any other management measures currently included in the FMP; and set aside quota for scientific research. Issues that require significant departures from previously contemplated measures or that are otherwise introducing new concepts Start Printed Page 2908may require an amendment of the FMP instead of a framework adjustment.

* * * * *
Start Amendment Part

13. In § 648.122, add paragraph (a)(13) to read as follows:

End Amendment Part
Scup specifications.

(a) * * *

(13) Changes, as appropriate, to the SBRM, including the CV-based performance standard, the means by which discard data are collected/obtained, fishery stratification, the process for prioritizing observer sea-day allocations, reports, and/or industry-funded observers or observer set aside programs.

* * * * *
Start Amendment Part

14. In § 648.130, revise paragraph (a)(1) to read as follows:

End Amendment Part
Scup framework adjustments to management measures.

(a) * * *

(1) Adjustment process. The MAFMC shall develop and analyze appropriate management actions over the span of at least two MAFMC meetings. The MAFMC must provide the public with advance notice of the availability of the recommendation(s), appropriate justification(s) and economic and biological analyses, and the opportunity to comment on the proposed adjustment(s) at the first meeting and prior to and at the second MAFMC meeting. The MAFMC's recommendations on adjustments or additions to management measures must come from one or more of the following categories: Adjustments within existing ABC control rules; adjustments to the existing MAFMC risk policy; introduction of new AMs, including sub-ACTs; minimum fish size; maximum fish size; gear restrictions; gear restricted areas; gear requirements or prohibitions; permitting restrictions; recreational possession limits; recreational seasons; closed areas; commercial seasons; commercial trip limits; commercial quota system including commercial quota allocation procedure and possible quota set asides to mitigate bycatch; recreational harvest limits; annual specification quota setting process; FMP Monitoring Committee composition and process; description and identification of EFH (and fishing gear management measures that impact EFH); description and identification of habitat areas of particular concern; regional gear restrictions; regional season restrictions (including option to split seasons); restrictions on vessel size (LOA and GRT) or shaft horsepower; operator permits; changes to the SBRM, including the CV-based performance standard, the means by which discard data are collected/obtained, fishery stratification, the process for prioritizing observer sea-day allocations, reports, and/or industry-funded observers or observer set aside programs; any other commercial or recreational management measures; any other management measures currently included in the FMP; and set aside quota for scientific research.

* * * * *
Start Amendment Part

15. In § 648.142, add paragraph (a)(12) to read as follows:

End Amendment Part
Black sea bass specifications.

(a) * * *

(12) Changes, as appropriate, to the SBRM, including the CV-based performance standard, the means by which discard data are collected/obtained, fishery stratification, the process for prioritizing observer sea-day allocations, reports, and/or industry-funded observers or observer set aside programs.

* * * * *
Start Amendment Part

16. In § 648.162, add paragraph (a)(9) to read as follows:

End Amendment Part
Bluefish specifications.

(a) * * *

(9) Changes, as appropriate, to the SBRM, including the CV-based performance standard, the means by which discard data are collected/obtained, fishery stratification, the process for prioritizing observer sea-day allocations, reports, and/or industry-funded observers or observer set aside programs; and

* * * * *
Start Amendment Part

17. In § 648.167, revise paragraph (a)(1) to read as follows:

End Amendment Part
Bluefish framework adjustment to management measures.

(a) * * *

(1) Adjustment process. After a management action has been initiated, the MAFMC shall develop and analyze appropriate management actions over the span of at least two MAFMC meetings. The MAFMC shall provide the public with advance notice of the availability of both the proposals and the analysis and the opportunity to comment on them prior to and at the second MAFMC meeting. The MAFMC's recommendation on adjustments or additions to management measures must come from one or more of the following categories: Adjustments within existing ABC control rule levels; adjustments to the existing MAFMC risk policy; introduction of new AMs, including sub-ACTs; minimum fish size; maximum fish size; gear restrictions; gear requirements or prohibitions; permitting restrictions; recreational possession limit; recreational season; closed areas; commercial season; description and identification of EFH; fishing gear management measures to protect EFH; designation of habitat areas of particular concern within EFH; changes to the SBRM, including the CV-based performance standard, the means by which discard data are collected/obtained, fishery stratification, the process for prioritizing observer sea-day allocations, reports, and/or industry-funded observers or observer set aside programs; and any other management measures currently included in the FMP. Measures that require significant departures from previously contemplated measures or that are otherwise introducing new concepts may require an amendment of the FMP instead of a framework adjustment.

* * * * *
Start Amendment Part

18. In § 648.200, revise the introductory text of paragraph (b) to read as follows:

End Amendment Part
Specifications.
* * * * *

(b) Guidelines. As the basis for its recommendations under paragraph (a) of this section, the PDT shall review available data pertaining to: Commercial and recreational catch data; current estimates of fishing mortality; discards; stock status; recent estimates of recruitment; virtual population analysis results and other estimates of stock size; sea sampling and trawl survey data or, if sea sampling data are unavailable, length frequency information from trawl surveys; impact of other fisheries on herring mortality; and any other relevant information. The specifications recommended pursuant to paragraph (a) of this section must be consistent with the following:

* * * * *
Start Amendment Part

19. In § 648.206, add paragraph (b)(29) to read as follows:

End Amendment Part
Framework provisions.
* * * * *

(b) * * *

(29) Changes, as appropriate, to the SBRM, including the CV-based performance standard, the means by which discard data are collected/obtained, fishery stratification, the process for prioritizing observer sea-day allocations, reports, and/or industry-funded observers or observer set aside programs;

* * * * *
Start Amendment Part

20. In § 648.232, add paragraph (a)(6) to read as follows:

End Amendment Part
Spiny dogfish specifications.

(a) * * *Start Printed Page 2909

(6) Changes, as appropriate, to the SBRM, including the CV-based performance standard, the means by which discard data are collected/obtained, fishery stratification, the process for prioritizing observer sea-day allocations, reports, and/or industry-funded observers or observer set aside programs;

* * * * *
Start Amendment Part

21. In § 648.239, revise paragraph (a)(1) to read as follows:

End Amendment Part
Spiny dogfish framework adjustments to management measures.

(a) * * *

(1) Adjustment process. After the Councils initiate a management action, they shall develop and analyze appropriate management actions over the span of at least two Council meetings. The Councils shall provide the public with advance notice of the availability of both the proposals and the analysis for comment prior to, and at, the second Council meeting. The Councils' recommendation on adjustments or additions to management measures must come from one or more of the following categories: Adjustments within existing ABC control rule levels; adjustments to the existing MAFMC risk policy; introduction of new AMs, including sub-ACTs; minimum fish size; maximum fish size; gear requirements, restrictions, or prohibitions (including, but not limited to, mesh size restrictions and net limits); regional gear restrictions; permitting restrictions, and reporting requirements; recreational fishery measures (including possession and size limits and season and area restrictions); commercial season and area restrictions; commercial trip or possession limits; fin weight to spiny dogfish landing weight restrictions; onboard observer requirements; commercial quota system (including commercial quota allocation procedures and possible quota set-asides to mitigate bycatch, conduct scientific research, or for other purposes); recreational harvest limit; annual quota specification process; FMP Monitoring Committee composition and process; description and identification of essential fish habitat; description and identification of habitat areas of particular concern; overfishing definition and related thresholds and targets; regional season restrictions (including option to split seasons); restrictions on vessel size (length and GRT) or shaft horsepower; target quotas; measures to mitigate marine mammal entanglements and interactions; regional management; changes to the SBRM, including the CV-based performance standard, the means by which discard data are collected/obtained, fishery stratification, the process for prioritizing observer sea-day allocations, reports, and/or industry-funded observers or observer set aside programs; any other management measures currently included in the Spiny Dogfish FMP; and measures to regulate aquaculture projects. Measures that require significant departures from previously contemplated measures or that are otherwise introducing new concepts may require an amendment of the FMP instead of a framework adjustment.

* * * * *
Start Amendment Part

22. In § 648.260, revise paragraph (a)(1) to read as follows:

End Amendment Part
Specifications.

(a) * * *

(1) The Red Crab PDT shall meet at least once annually during the intervening years between Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation (SAFE) Reports, described in paragraph (b) of this section, to review the status of the stock and the fishery. Based on such review, the PDT shall provide a report to the Council on any changes or new information about the red crab stock and/or fishery, and it shall recommend whether the specifications for the upcoming year(s) need to be modified. At a minimum, this review shall include a review of at least the following data, if available: Commercial catch data; current estimates of fishing mortality and catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE); discards; stock status; recent estimates of recruitment; virtual population analysis results and other estimates of stock size; sea sampling, port sampling, and survey data or, if sea sampling data are unavailable, length frequency information from port sampling and/or surveys; impact of other fisheries on the mortality of red crabs; and any other relevant information.

* * * * *
Start Amendment Part

23. In § 648.261, revise paragraph (a)(1) to read as follows:

End Amendment Part
Framework adjustment process.

(a) * * *

(1) In response to an annual review of the status of the fishery or the resource by the Red Crab PDT, or at any other time, the Council may recommend adjustments to any of the measures proposed by the Red Crab FMP, including the SBRM. The Red Crab Oversight Committee may request that the Council initiate a framework adjustment. Framework adjustments shall require one initial meeting (the agenda must include notification of the impending proposal for a framework adjustment) and one final Council meeting. After a management action has been initiated, the Council shall develop and analyze appropriate management actions within the scope identified below. The Council may refer the proposed adjustments to the Red Crab Committee for further deliberation and review. Upon receiving the recommendations of the Oversight Committee, the Council shall publish notice of its intent to take action and provide the public with any relevant analyses and opportunity to comment on any possible actions. After receiving public comment, the Council must take action (to approve, modify, disapprove, or table) on the recommendation at the Council meeting following the meeting at which it first received the recommendations. Documentation and analyses for the framework adjustment shall be available at least 2 weeks before the final meeting.

* * * * *
Start Amendment Part

24. In § 648.292, revise paragraph (a) to read as follows:

End Amendment Part
Tilefish specifications.
* * * * *

(a) Annual specification process. The Tilefish Monitoring Committee shall review the ABC recommendation of the SSC, tilefish landings and discards information, and any other relevant available data to determine if the ACL, ACT, or total allowable landings (TAL) requires modification to respond to any changes to the stock's biological reference points or to ensure that the rebuilding schedule is maintained. The Monitoring Committee will consider whether any additional management measures or revisions to existing measures are necessary to ensure that the TAL will not be exceeded, including changes, as appropriate, to the SBRM. Based on that review, the Monitoring Committee will recommend ACL, ACT, and TAL to the Tilefish Committee of the MAFMC. Based on these recommendations and any public comment received, the Tilefish Committee shall recommend to the MAFMC the appropriate ACL, ACT, TAL, and other management measures for a single fishing year or up to 3 years. The MAFMC shall review these recommendations and any public comments received, and recommend to the Regional Administrator, at least 120 days prior to the beginning of the next fishing year, the appropriate ACL, ACT, TAL, the percentage of TAL allocated to research quota, and any management measures to ensure that the TAL will not be exceeded, for the next fishing year, or up to 3 fishing years. The MAFMC's recommendations must include supporting documentation, as Start Printed Page 2910appropriate, concerning the environmental and economic impacts of the recommendations. The Regional Administrator shall review these recommendations, and after such review, NMFS will publish a proposed rule in the Federal Register specifying the annual ACL, ACT, TAL and any management measures to ensure that the TAL will not be exceeded for the upcoming fishing year or years. After considering public comments, NMFS will publish a final rule in the Federal Register to implement the ACL, ACT, TAL and any management measures. The previous year's specifications will remain effective unless revised through the specification process and/or the research quota process described in paragraph (e) of this section. NMFS will issue notification in the Federal Register if the previous year's specifications will not be changed.

* * * * *
Start Amendment Part

25. In § 648.299, add paragraph (a)(1)(xviii) to read as follows:

End Amendment Part
Tilefish framework specifications.

(a) * * *

(1) * * *

(xviii) Changes, as appropriate, to the SBRM, including the CV-based performance standard, the means by which discard data are collected/obtained, fishery stratification, the process for prioritizing observer sea-day allocations, reports, and/or industry-funded observers or observer set aside programs;

* * * * *
Start Amendment Part

26. In § 648.320, revise paragraphs (a)(5)(ii) and (iii) and add paragraph (a)(5)(iv) to read as follows:

End Amendment Part
Skate FMP review and monitoring.

(a) * * *

(5) * * *

(ii) In-season possession limit triggers for the wing and/or bait fisheries;

(iii) Required adjustments to in-season possession limit trigger percentages or the ACL-ACT buffer, based on the accountability measures specified at § 648.323; and

(iv) Changes, as appropriate, to the SBRM, including the CV-based performance standard, the means by which discard data are collected/obtained, fishery stratification, the process for prioritizing observer sea-day allocations, reports, and/or industry-funded observers or observer set aside programs.

* * * * *
Start Amendment Part

27. In § 648.321, revise paragraphs (b)(22) and (23) and add paragraph (b)(24) to read as follows:

End Amendment Part
Framework adjustment process.
* * * * *

(b) * * *

(22) Reduction of the baseline 25-percent ACL-ACT buffer to less than 25 percent;

(23) Changes to catch monitoring procedures; and

(24) Changes, as appropriate, to the SBRM, including the CV-based performance standard, the means by which discard data are collected/obtained, fishery stratification, the process for prioritizing observer sea-day allocations, reports, and/or industry-funded observers or observer set aside programs.

* * * * *
End Supplemental Information

[FR Doc. 2015-00878 Filed 1-20-15; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 3510-22-P