[Federal Register Volume 62, Number 199 (Wednesday, October 15, 1997)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 53589-53591]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 97-27297]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[I.D. 100897A]

Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery; Public hearings

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

[[Page 53590]]

ACTION: Notice of public hearings; request for comments.


SUMMARY: The New England Fishery Management Council (Council) will hold 
public hearings to receive comments on Amendment 7 to the Atlantic Sea 
Scallop Fishery Management Plan (FMP). The amendment proposes to allow 
a one-time transfer of days-at-sea (DAS) among vessels holding limited 
access sea scallop permits, and the addition of closed area management 
under the framework adjustment program.

DATES: Written comments should be submitted on or before November 17, 
1997, to the address below. Hearings are scheduled to be held from 
October 24 through November 3, 1997. See SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION for 
dates and times of the hearings.

ADDRESSES: Written comments should be sent to Paul J. Howard, Executive 
Director, New England Fishery Management Council, 5 Broadway, Saugus, 
MA 01906. Clearly mark the outside of the envelope ``Comments on Sea 
Scallop Amendment 7 Public Hearing Document.''
    The hearings will be held in Maine, North Carolina, Virginia, New 
Jersey, and Massachusetts. See SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION for locations 
of the hearings.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Paul J. Howard, Executive Director, 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The purpose of DAS consolidation is to 
lessen the economic impact of expected DAS reductions and other 
measures developed to end the overfishing of scallops. The minimum 
number of days that full-time scallop dredge operations require to 
cover fixed as well as operating costs during a year is called the 
break-even DAS. Under present resource conditions and with no access to 
areas closed for groundfish conservation, the average break-even DAS 
level for a full-time (full-use) vessel greater than 150 gross 
registered tons is estimated to be 183 DAS. Therefore, many full-time 
vessels will not be able to break-even when their DAS allocations are 
reduced to 142 DAS or possibly lower.
    The objective is to help scallop vessels remain economically 
viable. By allowing days to be sold, some boat owners could leave the 
scallop fishery without incurring a complete financial loss, while 
fishermen buying days could add to their allocation and enhance their 
economic opportunities. Reductions in fishing effort and the associated 
reductions in fishing mortality, however, must remain consistent with 
the conservation goals of the FMP and the requirements of the Magnuson-
Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The Council is 
considering several alternative proposals for inclusion in Amendment 7 
to the FMP.
    Amendment 7 also would include closed area management in the list 
of the types of measures which may be implemented through the framework 
adjustment process. The proposed action would allow the Council to use 
closed areas to achieve scallop management objectives. As part of this 
proposal, vessel monitoring systems (VMS) would be required for all 
scallop vessels fishing in or adjacent to closed areas.
    The Council may want to use closed area management for the 
following reasons:
    Access to groundfish closed areas - Although scallop vessels have 
been prohibited from fishing in these closed areas because of their 
potential bycatch of groundfish and potential disruption to groundfish 
spawning, the Council also is considering the impacts of the closed 
areas on the currently overfished scallop resource. Additional 
groundfish management concerns such as habitat will have to be 
addressed before access is permitted.
    Grow-out closed areas - To establish areas to protect small 
scallops for a specified period of time to enhance yield per recruit.
    Seeding closed areas - To establish areas to enhance the scallop 
resource through the seeding of small scallops.
    Spawning protection closed areas - To possibly protect grounds with 
concentrations of large, relatively productive spawners by leaving them 
undisturbed for a period of time.
    In addition to management measures that may be implemented through 
framework adjustment, the Council may consider layover days and 
restrictions on landing in-shell scallops from closed areas.

Fishing Effort Consolidation Management Alternatives

    The proposal identified by the Council as its preferred alternative 
would allow only active DAS to be sold. Active days are the percentage 
of the allocated DAS actually fished by a scallop vessel during the 
period March 1, 1994, through March 1, 1997. A second alternative would 
allow the sale of active DAS as well as latent DAS (those DAS allocated 
to a vessel but not used).
    DAS consolidation include: (1) Transfers limited to active DAS (in 
blocks of 10 DAS), used from March 1994 to March 1997 and averaging the 
two best fishing years, which may be traded only once until February 
28, 2001, with a framework adjustment for suspension/extension of this 
program. (2) Transfer may occur between different scallop limited 
access categories but there will be individual vessel usage limits for 
each category set at 240 DAS for full-time permits, 96 DAS for part-
time permits, and 20 DAS for occasional permits (e.g., double the year-
seven DAS allocation under the Amendment 4 schedule). (3) No 
conservation tax (an automatic percentage reduction in DAS 
transferred). (4)
    Transferred DAS will be adjusted by the ratio of the average 
horsepower of each vessel's horsepower group. The total DAS would be 
adjusted, first by subtracting the DAS from the selling boat, then by 
adding the adjusted DAS of the buying boat. This new total DAS will be 
the baseline for all future percentage allocations of DAS. (5) DAS 
trades are allowed among dredge vessels. (6) DAS trades are allowed 
among net vessels. (7) Dredge vessels are allowed to buy DAS from net 
vessels. (8) Net vessels are not allowed to buy DAS from dredge 
vessels. (9) The number of DAS owned by an individual or an individual 
business entity may be restricted to, from 1 percent to 5 percent of 
the total fleet DAS. (10) Full-time vessels selling part of their DAS 
may sell down to the part-time level at that time and keep their 
limited access scallop permits. However, below the part-time level they 
will be required to relinquish their limited access scallop permits. 
These vessels may be used as replacement vessels, however, in the 
scallop and other regulated fisheries. (11) Part-time and occasional 
vessels may sell any and all of their DAS without relinquishing any 
scallop permits.

Closed Area Alternatives

    The types of measures the Council can currently implement or modify 
as framework adjustments to manage scallops are: DAS changes, shell 
height restrictions, off-loading windows (time periods during which 
scallops may be landed), effort monitoring, data reporting, trip 
limits, gear restrictions, permitting restrictions, crew limits, small 
mesh line, onboard observers, and any other measure currently included 
in the FMP.

Public Hearings

    The dates, times, and locations of the hearings are scheduled as 

[[Page 53591]]

    1. October 24, 1997, 1 p.m.--Holiday Inn, U.S. Route 1 and 3, 
Ellsworth, ME, telephone: 207-667-9341;
    2. October 27, 1997, 6:30 p.m.--Department of Environmental and 
Natural Resources, 943 Washington Square Mall, Washington, NC, 
telephone: 919-946-6481;
    3. October 30, 1997, 1 p.m.--Holiday Inn, 3900 and Atlantic, 39th 
Street, Virginia Beach, VA, telephone: 757-428-1711;
    4. October 31, 1997, 1 p.m.--Grand Hotel, 1045 Beach Drive, Cape 
May, NJ, telephone: 609-884-5611;
    5. November 3, 1997, 1 p.m.--Seaport Inn, 110 Middle Street, 
Fairhaven, MA, telephone: 508-997-1281.

Special Accommodations

    These hearings are physically accessible to people with 
disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other 
auxiliary aids should be addressed to Paul J. Howard (see ADDRESSES) at 
least 5 days prior to the meeting date.

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

    Dated: October 8, 1997.
Bruce C. Morehead,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 97-27297 Filed 10-14-97; 8:45 am]