2013 Recreational Management Measures for Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass

Recreational Management Measures for the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fisheries; Fishing Year 2013NMFS proposes management measures for the 2013 summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass recreational fisheries. This rule also proposes to implement an increase in the 2013 and 2014 black sea bass specifications, consistent with a new acceptable biological catch recommendation. The implementing regulations for these fisheries require NMFS to publish recreational measures for the fishing year and to provide an opportunity for public comment. The intent of these measures is to prevent overfishing of the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass resources. For species specific measures please scroll down. 

Comments must be received by 5 p.m. local time, on May 14, 2013.

  Proposed 2013 Recreational Management Measures

 NMFS is proposing the following measures that would apply in the 


 Federal waters of the EEZ and to all federally permitted party/charter 

vessels with applicable summer flounder, scup, or black sea bass 

permits regardless of where they fish for the 2013 recreational summer 

flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries. For summer flounder, use 

of state-by-state conservation equivalency measures, which are the 

status quo measures; for scup, a 10-inch (25.4-cm) minimum fish size, a 

30-fish per person possession limit, and an open season of January 1 

through December 31; and, for black sea bass, a 12.5-inch (31.8-cm) 

minimum fish size, a 20-fish per person possession limit for open 

seasons of May 19 through October 14 and November 1 through December 

31. NMFS may implement more restrictive black sea bass measures, as 

recommended by the Council (i.e., a 12.5-inch (31.8-cm) minimum fish 

size, a 10-fish per person possession limit and an open season of June 

1-September 5), for Federal waters if the Commission is unable to 

develop and implement state-waters measures that, when paired with the 

Council's recommended measures, provide the necessary conservation to 

ensure the 2013 recreational harvest limit will not be exceeded. More 

detail on these proposed measures is provided in the following 


Summer Flounder Recreational Management Measures

NMFS proposes to implement the use of conservation equivalency to 

manage the 2013 summer flounder recreational fishery. The 2013 

recreational harvest limit for summer flounder is 7.63 million lb 

(3,459 mt), as published in the final rule implementing the 2013 

specifications (December 31, 2012; 77 FR 76942). Projected landings for 

2012 are approximately 6.92 million lb (3,139 mt), well below the 2013 

recreational harvest limit, therefore, no reduction in landings is 

needed. As a result, the Council and Commission have recommended the 

use of conservation equivalency to manage the 2013 summer flounder 

recreational fishery.

    NMFS implemented Framework Adjustment 2 to the FMP on July 29, 2001 

(66 FR 36208), to permit the use of conservation equivalency to manage 

the recreational summer flounder fishery. Conservation equivalency 

allows each state to establish its own recreational management measures 

(possession limits, minimum fish size, and fishing seasons) to achieve 

its state harvest limit partitioned by the Commission from the 

coastwide recreational harvest limit, as long as the combined effect of 

all of the states' management measures achieves the same level of 

conservation as would Federal coastwide measures.

    The Council and Board annually recommend that either state- or 

region-specific recreational measures be developed (conservation 

equivalency) or coastwide management measures be implemented to ensure 

that the recreational harvest limit will not be exceeded. Even when the 

Council and Board recommend conservation equivalency, the Council must 

specify a set of coastwide measures that would apply if conservation 

equivalency is not approved for use in Federal waters.

    When conservation equivalency is recommended, and following 

confirmation that the proposed state measures developed through the 

Commission's technical and policy review processes achieve conservation 

equivalency, NMFS may waive the permit condition found at Sec.  

648.4(b), which requires Federal permit holders to comply with the more 

restrictive management measures when state and Federal measures differ. 

In such a situation, federally permitted summer flounder charter/party 

permit holders and individuals fishing for summer flounder in the EEZ 

would then be subject to the recreational fishing measures implemented 

by the state in which they land summer flounder, rather than the 

coastwide measures.

    In addition, the Council and the Board must recommend precautionary 

default measures when recommending conservation equivalency. The 

Commission would require adoption of the precautionary default measures 

by any state that either does not submit a summer flounder management 

proposal to the Commission's Summer Flounder Technical Committee, or 

that submits measures that would exceed the Commission-specified 

harvest limit for that state.

    Much of the conservation equivalency measures development process 

happens at both the Commission and individual state level. The 

selection of appropriate data and analytic techniques for technical 

review of potential state conservation equivalent measures and the 

process by which the Commission evaluates and recommends proposed 

conservation equivalent measures is wholly a function of the Commission 

and its individual member states. Individuals seeking information 

regarding the process to develop specific state measure or the 

Commission process for technical evaluation of proposed measures should 

contact the marine fisheries agency in the state of interest, the 

Commission, or both.

    This year, the Commission has proposed an addendum to its Summer 

Flounder FMP to implement 2013 recreational fishing rules for summer 

flounder similar to those from 2012, partly to minimize the reductions 

facing two states (New York and New Jersey) and partly to allow for a 

different distribution of fishing opportunities in the 2013 season. The 

proposed approach is intended to allow states to capitalize on harvest 

opportunities that would be foregone by states that choose not to fully 

utilize their 2013 harvest target. Specifically, the addendum proposes 

a mechanism to allow states access to the summer flounder recreational 

harvest limit that is projected to not be harvested in 2013. The 

addendum responds to an unintended consequence of using conservation 

equivalency to stay within the annually established coastwide 

recreational harvest limit for summer flounder, and to respond to the 

changes in the fishery since the 1998 state landings targets were 

established. More information on this proposed addendum is available 

from the Commission (www.asmfc.org).

    Once states select their final 2013 summer flounder management 

measures through their respective development, analytical, and review 

processes and submit them to the Commission, the Commission will 

conduct further review and evaluation of the state-submitted proposals, 

ultimately notifying NMFS as to which individual state proposals have 

been approved or disapproved. NMFS has no overarching authority in

the development of state or Commission management measures, but is an 

equal participant along with all the member states in the review 

process. NMFS retains the final authority either to approve or to 

disapprove the use of conservation equivalency in place of the 

coastwide measures in Federal waters, and will publish its 

determination as a final rule in the Federal Register to establish the 

2013 recreational measures for these fisheries.

    States that do not submit conservation equivalency proposals, or 

whose proposals are disapproved by the Commission, will be required by 

the Commission to adopt the precautionary default measures. In the case 

of states that are initially assigned precautionary default measures, 

but subsequently receive Commission approval of revised state measures, 

NMFS will publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing a waiver 

of the permit condition at Sec.  648.4(b).

    The 2013 precautionary default measures recommended by the Council 

and Board are for a 20.0-inch (50.8-cm) minimum fish size, a possession 

limit of two fish, and an open season of May 1 through September 30, 


    In this action, NMFS proposes to implement conservation equivalency 

with a precautionary default backstop, as previously outlined, for 

states that either fail to submit conservation equivalent measures or 

whose measures are not approved by the Commission. NMFS proposes the 

alternative of coastwide measures, as previously described, for use if 

conservation equivalency is not approved in the final rule. The 

coastwide measures would be waived if conservation equivalency is 

approved in the final rule.

Scup Recreational Management Measures

NMFS is proposing to implement the Council and Commission's 

recommended scup recreational management measures for 2013 in Federal 

waters. The 2013 scup recreational harvest limit is 7.55 million lb 

(3,425 mt), as published in final rule (December 31, 2012; 77 FR 

76942). Estimated 2012 scup recreational landings are 4.06 million lb 

(1,842 mt), well below the 2013 recreational harvest limit, therefore, 

no reduction in landings is needed. The Council and Commission's 

recommended measures for the 2013 scup recreational fishery are for a 

10-in (25.4-cm) minimum fish size, a 30-fish per person possession 

limit, and an open season of January 1 through December 31. These 

measures are intended to promote an increase in recreational scup 

fishing in order to achieve the recreational harvest limit.

Black Sea Bass Recreational Management Measures

NMFS is proposing to implement the Council's recommended 

recreational management measures to reduce landings for black sea bass. 

The proposed 2013 black sea bass recreational harvest limit is 2.26 

million lb (1,025 mt). The 2012 recreational harvest limit was 1.32 

million lb (599 mt), and the projected 2012 recreational landings were 

2.99 million lb (1,356 mt). The projected 2012 landings are above the 

2012 recreational harvest limit and both the previously established and 

the proposed recreational harvest limit for 2013. The Council and the 

Commission, therefore, will need to establish management measures to 

reduce landings in 2013 to a level below the 2013 recreational harvest 

limit. The majority of the recreational black sea bass fishery occurs 

in state waters. As such, the Commission agreed to make more 

significant changes to the state-waters measures to ensure the 2013 

recreational harvest limit is not exceeded.

    In light of the Commission's effort to make changes to the state-

water measures, the Council recommended a 12.5-inch (31.8-cm) minimum 

fish size and 20-fish possession limit for an open season of May 19-

October 14 and November 1-December 31, and NMFS proposes to implement 

these recommended measures. However, if the Commission is unable to 

implement measures that would constrain landings in state waters 

sufficiently, NMFS may implement the Council's recommended measures 

designed to achieve the full necessary reduction in landings in Federal 

waters: A 12.5-inch (31.8-cm) minimum fish size; a 10-fish possession 

limit; and an open season of June 1-September 5. In comparison, the 

2012 recreational harvest measures for black sea bass were a 12.5-inch 

(31.8-cm) minimum size, a 15-fish possession limit for an open season 

of January 1-February 29, and a 12.5-inch (31.8-cm) minimum fish size 

and 25-fish possession limit for open seasons of May 19-October 14 and 

November 1-December 31.

    The decision to implement the Council's recommended measures for 

Federal waters will be contingent on the as of yet to be completed 

analyses and recommendation from the Commission, and any such decision 

would be reflected in the final rule published in the Federal Register.


ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified NOAA-

NMFS-2013-0060, by any of the following methods:

     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 

comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 

www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0060, click the 

``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 

attach your comments.

     Fax: (978) 281-9135, Attn: Comments on 2013 Proposed 

Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Recreational Measures, NOAA-


     Mail and Hand Delivery: John K. Bullard, Regional 

Administrator, NMFS, Northeast Regional Office, 55 Great Republic 

Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the envelope: 

``Comments on 2013 FSB Recreational Measures.''

    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 

address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 

may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the 

public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 

www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 

information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 

information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 

by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous 

comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 

anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in 

Microsoft Word, Excel, or Adobe PDF file formats only.

    Copies of the Supplemental Environmental Assessment and Initial 

Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (SEA/IRFA) and other supporting 

documents for the recreational harvest measures are available from Dr. 

Christopher M. Moore, Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery 

Management Council, Suite 201, 800 N. State Street, Dover, DE 19901. 

The recreational harvest measures document is also accessible via the 

Internet at: http://www.nero.noaa.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Moira Kelly, Fishery Policy Analyst, (978) 281-9218.

 General Background

    The summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries are managed 

cooperatively under the provisions of the Summer Flounder, Scup, and 

Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan (FMP) developed by the Mid-

Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) and the Atlantic States 

Marine Fisheries Commission (Commission), in consultation with the New 

England and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils. The management 

units specified in the FMP include summer flounder (Paralichthys 

dentatus) in U.S. waters of the Atlantic Ocean from the southern border 

of North Carolina (NC) northward to the U.S./Canada border, and scup 

(Stenotomus chrysops) and black sea bass (Centropristis striata) in 

U.S. waters of the Atlantic Ocean from 35 E. 13.3' N. lat. (the 

latitude of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Buxton, NC) northward to the U.S./Canada border.

    The Council prepared the FMP under the authority of the Magnuson-

Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), 

16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Regulations implementing the FMP appear at 50 

CFR part 648, subparts A (general provisions), G (summer flounder), H 

(scup), and I (black sea bass). General regulations governing fisheries 

of the Northeastern U.S. also appear at 50 CFR part 648. States manage 

these three species within 3 nautical miles (4.83 km) of their coasts, 

under the Commission's plan for summer flounder, scup, and black sea 

bass. The applicable species-specific Federal regulations govern 

vessels and individual fishermen fishing in Federal waters of the 

exclusive economic zone (EEZ), as well as vessels possessing a summer 

flounder, scup, or black sea bass Federal charter/party vessel permit, 

regardless of where they fish.

Recreational Management Measures Background

     The Council process for devising recreational management measures 

to recommend to NMFS for rulemaking is generically described in the 

following section. All meetings are open to the public and the 

materials utilized during such meetings, as well as any documents 

created to summarize the meeting results, are public information and 

typically posted on the Council's Web site (www.mafmc.org) or are 

available from the Council by request. Extensive background on the 2013 

recreational management measures recommendation process is therefore 

not repeated in this preamble.

    The FMP established monitoring committees for the three fisheries, 

consisting of representatives from the Commission, the Council, state 

marine fishery agency representatives from MA to NC, and NMFS. The 

FMP's implementing regulations require the monitoring committees to 

review scientific and other relevant information annually and to 

recommend management measures necessary to constrain landings within 

the recreational harvest limits established for the summer flounder, 

scup, and black sea bass fisheries for the upcoming fishing year. The 

FMP limits the choices for the types of measures to minimum fish size, 

possession limit, and fishing season.

    The Council's Demersal Species Committee and the Commission's 

Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Management Board (Board) then 

consider the monitoring committees' recommendations and any public 

comment in making their recommendations to the Council and the 

Commission, respectively. The Council reviews the recommendations of 

the Demersal Species Committee, makes its own recommendations, and 

forwards them to NMFS for review. The Commission similarly adopts 

recommendations for the states. NMFS is required to review the 

Council's recommendations to ensure that they are consistent with the 

targets specified for each species in the FMP and all applicable laws 

and Executive Orders before ultimately implementing measures for 

Federal waters.