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Rule

Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast Multispecies Fishery; Georges Bank Cod Trimester Total Allowable Catch Area Closure and Possession and Trip Limit Reductions for the Common Pool Fishery

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Start Preamble

AGENCY:

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

ACTION:

Temporary rule; area closure and inseason adjustment.

SUMMARY:

This action closes the Georges Bank Cod Trimester Total Allowable Catch Area to Northeast multispecies common pool vessels and adjusts the Georges Bank cod possession and trip limit for common pool vessels for the remainder of Trimester 2, through December 31, 2016. The common pool fishery is projected to catch 90 percent of its Trimester 2 quota for Georges Bank cod. The closure and possession and trip limit reductions are intended to prevent an overage of the common pool's quota for this stock.

DATES:

This action is effective November 15, 2016, through December 31, 2016.

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Liz Sullivan, Fishery Management Specialist, (978) 282-8493.

End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Federal regulations at 50 CFR 648.82(n)(2)(ii) require the Regional Administrator to close a common pool Trimester Total Allowable Catch (TAC) Area for a stock when 90 percent of the Trimester TAC is projected to be caught. The closure applies to all common pool vessels fishing with gear capable of catching that stock for the remainder of the trimester.

As of November 5, 2016, the common pool fishery has caught approximately 87 percent of the Trimester 2 TAC (4.2 mt) for Georges Bank (GB) cod. We Start Printed Page 81699project that 90 percent of the Trimester 2 TAC was caught by November 7.

Effective November 15, 2016, the GB Cod Trimester TAC Area is closed for the remainder of Trimester 2, through December 31, 2016, to all common pool vessels fishing with trawl gear, sink gillnet gear, and longline/hook gear. The GB Cod Trimester TAC Area consists of statistical areas 521, 522, 525, and 561. The area reopens at the beginning of Trimester 3 on January 1, 2017.

The intent of the trimester TAC area closure is to close the area where 90 percent of the catch of the stock has occurred. However, data indicate that common pool vessels have caught approximately 35 percent of the total catch in Trimester 2 from outside the statistical areas that will be affected by the closure described above. Federal regulations at § 648.86(o) authorize the Regional Administrator to adjust the possession and trip limits for common pool vessels to prevent the overharvest or underharvest of the common pool quotas. Therefore, the possession and trip limits for GB cod, are reduced as shown in Table 1, effective November 15, 2016, through December 31, 2016. This is intended to prevent the common pool from exceeding its sub-annual catch limit, but still allow for landing incidental catch of GB cod in areas not affected by the closure.

On January 1, 2017, common pool possession and trip limits for GB cod will return to the initial limits set by Framework Adjustment 55 to the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan (FMP).

Table 1—Reduced Common Pool Possession and Trip Limits for GB Cod

PermitInitial 2016 limitsReduced limits
A DAS * (outside of the Eastern U.S./Canada Area)500 lb per DAS up to 2,500 lb per trip25 lb per DAS up to 50 lb per trip.
A DAS (Eastern U.S./Canada Area)100 lb per DAS up to 500 lb per trip25 lb per DAS up to 50 lb per trip.
A DAS (Special Access Programs)1,000 lb per trip50 lb per trip.
Handgear A300 lb per trip25 lb per trip.
Handgear B25 lb per trip25 lb per trip (unchanged).
Regular B DAS Program100 lb per DAS up to 1,000 lb per trip25 lb per DAS up to 50 lb per trip.
* Day-at-sea (DAS).

If a vessel declared its trip through the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) or the interactive voice response system, and crossed the VMS demarcation line prior to November 15, 2016, it may complete its trip within the Trimester TAC Area. Additionally, such vessels are not subject to the new possession and trip limits for that trip. A vessel that has set gillnet gear prior to November 15, 2016, may complete its trip by hauling such gear.

Any overage of the Trimester 1 or 2 TACs must be deducted from the Trimester 3 TAC. Any uncaught portion of the Trimester 1 and Trimester 2 TACs is carried over into the next trimester. If the common pool fishery exceeds its sub-ACL for the 2016 fishing year, the overage must be deducted from the common pool's sub-ACL for fishing year 2017. However, any uncaught portion of the common pool's sub-ACL may not be carried over into the following fishing year.

Weekly quota monitoring reports for the common pool fishery are on our Web site at: http://www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov/​ro/​fso/​MultiMonReports.htm. We will continue to monitor common pool catch through vessel trip reports, dealer-reported landings, VMS catch reports, and other available information, and, if necessary, we will make additional adjustments to common pool management measures.

Classification

This action is required by 50 CFR part 648 and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.

The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, finds good cause pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) and 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3) to waive prior notice and the opportunity for public comment and the 30-day delayed effectiveness period because it would be impracticable and contrary to the public interest.

Regulations require the Regional Administrator to close a trimester TAC area to the common pool fishery when 90 percent of the Trimester TAC for a stock has been caught. Updated catch information only recently became available indicating that the common pool fishery caught 90 percent of its Trimester 2 TAC for GB cod by November 7, 2016. The time necessary to provide for prior notice and comment, and a 30-day delay in effectiveness, prevents the immediate closure of the GB Cod Trimester 2 TAC Area and reduction of the common pool's GB cod possession and trip limits. Delaying the effective date of a closure and possession and trip limit reduction increases the likelihood that the common pool fishery will exceed its quota of GB cod to the detriment of this stock, which could undermine management objectives of the Northeast Multispecies FMP.

Additionally, an overage of the common pool quota could cause negative economic impacts to the common pool fishery as a result of overage paybacks in a future trimester or fishing year.

Start Authority

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

End Authority Start Signature

Dated: November 15, 2016.

Emily H. Menashes,

Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service.

End Signature End Supplemental Information

[FR Doc. 2016-27826 Filed 11-15-16; 4:15 pm]

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