Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government
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This amendment affects the part of the New England groundfish fishery known as the small-mesh fishery. The small-mesh fishery is composed of a complex of five stocks of three species of hakes (northern silver hake, southern silver hake, northern red hake, southern red hake, and offshore hake), and the fishery is managed through a series of exemptions from the other provisions of the Northeast (NE) Multispecies Fishery Management Plan (FMP). It is managed separately from the other stocks of groundfish such as cod, haddock, and flounders primarily because it is prosecuted with much smaller mesh and does not generally result in the catch of these other stocks.
The New England Fishery Management Council (Council) initiated Amendment 19 to bring the small-mesh multispecies portion of the FMP into compliance with the annual catch limit (ACL) and accountability measure (AM) requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). However, development of Amendment 19 was delayed, and it was apparent that the amendment would not be submitted until well after the 2011 statutory deadline for implementing mechanisms for establishing ACLs and AMs. To ensure that ACLs and AMs for the small-mesh fishery were implemented closer to the statutory deadline, NOAA initiated, developed, and implemented, with the concurrence of the Council, a Secretarial Amendment (March 30, 2012; 77 FR 19138). The Secretarial Amendment built upon measures already developed by the Council in the initial stages of Amendment 19.
Amendment 19 proposes measures intended to respond to changing conditions in the fishery and opportunities to improve efficiency and accuracy. First, measures are proposed to streamline the specifications setting process, establish new overfishing definitions, and to define the roles and responsibilities of monitoring the fishery on an annual basis. Second, a measure is proposed to require vessels fishing for small-mesh multispecies to submit weekly vessel trip reports. Third, a measure is proposed to modify the total allowable landings (TAL) structure that was implemented through the Secretarial Amendment for the southern stock area. Implementing this measure would result in quarterly TALs in the southern stock area after landings in a given year exceed two-thirds of the TAL. Fourth, a measure is proposed that would increase the incidental possession limit for northern silver hake and southern whiting (silver and offshore hake, combined) that was implemented through the Secretarial Amendment from 1,000 lb (453.6 kg) to 2,000 lb (907.2 kg). The incidental possession limits would be triggered if 90 percent of a stock's TAL is projected to be harvested. Fifth, the amendment proposes to change the post-season AM from a pound-for-pound payback of an ACL overage to a system where the incidental possession limit trigger (i.e., the 90-percent described above) would be reduced by the same percentage by which the ACL was exceeded. For example, if a stock's ACL were exceeded by 5 percent in 2013, then starting in 2015, the incidental possession limit would be triggered when 85 percent of that stock's TAL is projected to be harvested rather than 90 percent. Finally, Amendment 19 proposes two measures dealing with year-round trip limits. For red hake, a measure is proposed that would establish a 5,000-lb (2,268-kg) trip limit for all gear types in all areas. For whiting (silver and offshore hake, combined) in the southern stock area, the trip limit for vessels fishing with mesh that is 3 inches (7.6 cm) or greater would be increased from 30,000 lb (13,607.8 kg) to 40,000 lb (18,143.7 kg). The increase in the whiting possession limit would only be applicable to vessels fishing exclusively in the Southern New England or Mid-Atlantic Exemption Areas.
Public comments on Amendment 19 and its incorporated documents may be submitted through the end of the comment period stated in this notice of availability. A proposed rule to implement Amendment 19 will be published in the
16 U.S.C. 1801