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Title 50Chapter VIPart 648 → Subpart E


Title 50: Wildlife and Fisheries
PART 648—FISHERIES OF THE NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES


Subpart E—Management Measures for the Atlantic Surf Clam and Ocean Quahog Fisheries


Contents
§648.70   Surfclam and ocean quahog Annual Catch Limit (ACL).
§648.71   Surfclam and ocean quahog Annual Catch Targets (ACT).
§648.72   Surfclam and ocean quahog specifications.
§648.73   Surfclam and ocean quahog Accountability Measures.
§648.74   Individual Transferable Quota (ITQ) Program.
§648.75   Shucking at sea and minimum surfclam size.
§648.76   Closed areas.
§648.77   Cage identification.
§648.78   Maine mahogany quahog zone.
§648.79   Surfclam and ocean quahog framework adjustments to management measures.

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§648.70   Surfclam and ocean quahog Annual Catch Limit (ACL).

(a) The MAFMC staff shall recommend to the MAFMC ACLs for the surfclam and ocean quahog fisheries, which shall be equal to the ABCs recommended by the SSC.

(1) Sectors. The surfclam and ocean quahog ACLs will be established consistent with the guidelines contained in the Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog FMP. The ACL for ocean quahog will then be allocated to the Maine and non-Maine components of the fishery according to the allocation guidelines of the Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog FMP as specified in §648.78(b).

(2) Periodicity. The surfclam and ocean quahog ACLs may be established on an annual basis for up to 3 years at a time, dependent on whether the SSC provides single or multiple year ABC recommendations.

(b) Performance review. The MAFMC staff shall conduct a detailed review of the fishery performance relative to the ACLs at least every 5 years.

(1) If the surfclam or the ocean quahog ACL is exceeded with a frequency greater than 25 percent (i.e., more than once in 4 years or any 2 consecutive years), the MAFMC staff will review fishery performance information and make recommendations to the MAFMC for changes in measures intended to ensure the ACL is not exceeded as frequently.

(2) The MAFMC may specify more frequent or more specific ACL performance review criteria as part of a stock rebuilding plan following a determination that a stock has become overfished.

(3) Performance reviews shall not substitute for annual reviews that occur to ascertain if prior year ACLs have been exceeded, but may be conducted in conjunction with such reviews.

[76 FR 60622, Sept. 29, 2011]

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§648.71   Surfclam and ocean quahog Annual Catch Targets (ACT).

(a) The MAFMC staff shall identify and review the relevant sources of management uncertainty to recommend ACTs to the MAFMC as part of the surfclam and ocean quahog specification process. The MAFMC staff recommendations shall identify the specific sources of management uncertainty that were considered, technical approaches to mitigating these sources of uncertainty, and any additional relevant information considered in the ACT recommendation process.

(1) Sectors. The surfclam ACT and the sum of the Maine and non-Maine ocean quahog ACTs shall be less than or equal to the ACL for the corresponding stock. The MAFMC staff shall recommend any reduction in catch necessary to address management uncertainty, consistent with paragraph (a) of this section.

(2) Periodicity. ACTs may be established on an annual basis for up to 3 years at a time, dependent on whether the SSC provides single or multiple year ABC recommendations.

(b) Performance review. The MAFMC staff shall conduct a detailed review of fishery performance relative to ACTs in conjunction with any ACL performance review, as outlined in §648.70(b)(1) through (3).

[76 FR 60622, Sept. 29, 2011]

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§648.72   Surfclam and ocean quahog specifications.

(a) Establishing catch quotas. The amount of surfclams or ocean quahogs that may be caught annually by fishing vessels subject to these regulations will be specified for up to a 3-year period by the Regional Administrator. Specifications of the annual quotas will be accomplished in the final year of the quota period, unless the quotas are modified in the interim pursuant to paragraph (b) of this section.

(1) Quota reports. On an annual basis, MAFMC staff will produce and provide to the MAFMC an Atlantic surfclam and ocean quahog annual quota recommendation paper based on the ABC recommendation of the SSC, the latest available stock assessment report prepared by NMFS, data reported by harvesters and processors, and other relevant data, as well as the information contained in paragraphs (a)(1)(i) through (vi) of this section. Based on that report, and at least once prior to August 15 of the year in which a multi-year annual quota specification expires, the MAFMC, following an opportunity for public comment, will recommend to the Regional Administrator annual quotas and estimates of DAH and DAP for up to a 3-year period. In selecting the annual quotas, the MAFMC shall consider the current stock assessments, catch reports, and other relevant information concerning:

(i) Exploitable and spawning biomass relative to the quotas.

(ii) Fishing mortality rates relative to the quotas.

(iii) Magnitude of incoming recruitment.

(iv) Projected effort and corresponding catches.

(v) Geographical distribution of the catch relative to the geographical distribution of the resource.

(vi) Status of areas previously closed to surfclam fishing that are to be opened during the year and areas likely to be closed to fishing during the year.

(2) Public review. Based on the recommendation of the MAFMC, the Regional Administrator shall publish proposed surfclam and ocean quahog quotas in the Federal Register. The Regional Administrator shall consider public comments received, determine the appropriate annual quotas, and publish the annual quotas in the Federal Register. The quota shall be set at that amount that is most consistent with the objectives of the Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog FMP. The Regional Administrator may set quotas at quantities different from the MAFMC's recommendations only if he/she can demonstrate that the MAFMC's recommendations violate the national standards of the Magnuson-Stevens Act or the objectives of the Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog FMP or other applicable law.

(b) Interim quota modifications. Based upon information presented in the quota reports described in paragraph (a)(1) of this section, the MAFMC may recommend to the Regional Administrator a modification to the annual quotas that have been specified for a 3-year period and any estimate of DAH or DAP made in conjunction with such specifications within the ranges specified in paragraph (a)(1) of this section. Based upon the MAFMC's recommendation, the Regional Administrator may propose surfclam and or ocean quahog quotas that differ from the annual quotas specified for the current 3-year period. Such modification shall be in effect for a period of up to 3 years, unless further modified. Any interim modification shall follow the same procedures for establishing the annual quotas that are specified for up to a 3-year period.

(c) Annual quotas. The annual quotas for surfclams and ocean quahogs will remain effective unless revised pursuant to this section. At the end of a multiyear quota period, NMFS will issue notification in the Federal Register if the previous year's specifications will not be changed.

[76 FR 60622, Sept. 29, 2011, as amended at 81 FR 38972, June 15, 2016]

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§648.73   Surfclam and ocean quahog Accountability Measures.

(a) Commercial ITQ fishery. (1) If the ACL for surfclam or ocean quahog is exceeded, and the overage can be attributed to one or more ITQ allocation holders, the full amount of the overage will be deducted from the appropriate ITQ allocation in the following fishing year.

(2) Any amount of an ACL overage that cannot be otherwise attributed to an ITQ allocation holder will be deducted from the appropriate ACL in the following fishing year.

(b) Maine mahogany quahog fishery. If the ocean quahog ACL is exceeded, and the Maine mahogany quahog fishery is responsible for the overage, than the Maine fishery ACT shall be reduced in the following year by an amount equal to the ACL overage.

[76 FR 60623, Sept. 29, 2011]

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§648.74   Individual Transferable Quota (ITQ) Program.

(a) Annual individual allocations. Each fishing year, the Regional Administrator shall determine the initial annual allocation of surfclams and ocean quahogs for the next fishing year for each ITQ permit holder holding ITQ quota share pursuant to the requirements of this section. For each species, the initial allocation for the next fishing year is calculated by multiplying the quota share percentage held by each ITQ permit holder as of the last day of the previous fishing year in which quota shareholders are permitted to permanently transfer quota share percentage pursuant to paragraph (b) of this section (i.e., October 15 of every year), by the quota specified by the Regional Administrator pursuant to §648.72. The total number of bushels of annual allocation shall be divided by 32 to determine the appropriate number of cage tags to be issued or acquired under §648.77. Amounts of annual allocation of 0.5 cages or smaller created by this division shall be rounded downward to the nearest whole number, and amounts of annual allocation greater than 0.5 cages created by this division shall be rounded upward to the nearest whole number, so that annual allocations are specified in whole cages.

(1) Surfclam and ocean quahog ITQ permits. Surfclam and ocean quahog ITQ allocations shall be issued in the form of annual ITQ permits. The ITQ permit shall specify the quota share percentage held by the ITQ permit holder and the annual allocation in cages and cage tags for each species.

(i) Eligibility. In order to be eligible to hold a surfclam or ocean quahog ITQ permit, an individual must be eligible to own a documented vessel under the terms of 46 U.S.C. 12103(b).

(ii) Application—(A) General. Applicants for a surfclam or ocean quahog ITQ permit under this section must submit a completed ITQ permit application and a completed ITQ ownership form on the appropriate forms obtained from NMFS. The ITQ permit application and ITQ ownership form must be filled out completely and signed by the applicant. The Regional Administrator will notify the applicant of any deficiency in the application.

(B) Renewal applications. Applications to renew a surfclam or ocean quahog ITQ permit must be received by November 1 to be processed in time for permits to be issued by December 15, as specified in paragraph (a)(1)(iii) of this section. Renewal applications received after this date may not be approved, and a new permit may not be issued before the start of the next fishing year. An ITQ permit holder must renew his/her ITQ permit(s) on an annual basis by submitting an application and an ownership form for such permit prior to the end of the fishing year for which the permit is required. Failure to renew a surfclam or ocean quahog ITQ permit in any fishing year will result in any surfclam or ocean quahog ITQ quota share held by that ITQ permit holder to be considered abandoned and relinquished as specified in paragraph (a)(1)(ix) of this section.

(C) Lenders Holding ITQ Quota Share as Collateral. A bank or other lender that holds ITQ quota share as collateral on a loan may be allowed to provide less detailed information on the ITQ ownership form under the following conditions.

(1) The lender certifies that the ITQ quota share is held solely as collateral on a loan and the lender does not exert any control over the use of the annual allocation of cage tags.

(2) The lender identifies the borrower, and the borrower maintains a valid ITQ permit including all required ownership information.

(3) The lender may only transfer quota share or cage tags to the identified borrower. The borrower could then transfer the quota share or cage tags to another party, if desired.

(iii) Issuance. Except as provided in subpart D of 15 CFR part 904, and provided an application for such permit is submitted by November 1, as specified in paragraph (a)(1)(ii)(B) of this section, NMFS shall issue annual ITQ permits on or before December 15, to allow allocation owners to purchase cage tags from a vendor specified by the Regional Administrator pursuant to §648.77(b).

(iv) Duration. An ITQ permit is valid through December 31 of each fishing year unless it is suspended, modified, or revoked pursuant to 15 CFR part 904, or revised due to a transfer of all or part of the ITQ quota share or cage tag allocation under paragraph (b) of this section.

(v) Alteration. An ITQ permit that is altered, erased, or mutilated is invalid.

(vi) Replacement. The Regional Administrator may issue a replacement permit upon written application of the annual ITQ permit holder.

(vii) Transfer. The annual ITQ permit is valid only for the person to whom it is issued. All or part of the ITQ quota share or the cage tag allocation specified in the ITQ permit may be transferred in accordance with paragraph (b) of this section.

(viii) Fee. The Regional Administrator may, after publication of a fee notification in the Federal Register, charge a permit fee before issuance of the permit to recover administrative expenses. Failure to pay the fee will preclude issuance of the permit.

(ix) Abandonment or voluntary relinquishment. Any ITQ permit that is voluntarily relinquished to the Regional Administrator, or deemed to have been voluntarily relinquished for failure to renew in accordance with paragraph (a)(1)(ii) of this section, shall not be reissued or renewed in a subsequent year, except as specified in paragraph (a)(1)(x) of this section.

(x) Transitional grace period. A surfclam or ocean quahog quota share holder who does not submit a complete application for an ITQ permit before the end of the 2016 fishing year, may be granted a grace period of up to one year to complete the initial application process, and be issued an ITQ permit, before the quota share is considered permanently relinquished. If an individual is issued a 2016 ITQ permit, but fails to renew that ITQ permit before the end of the 2017 fishing year, the Regional Administrator may allow a grace period until no later than July 1, 2018, to complete the renewal process and retain the permit. A permit holder may not be issued cage tags or transfer quota share until a valid ITQ permit is issued. Failure to complete the ITQ permit application or renewal process, and be issued a valid ITQ permit before the end of such a grace period would result in the ITQ permit and any associated ITQ quota share being permanently forfeit.

(2) [Reserved]

(b) Transfers—(1) Quota share percentage. Subject to the approval of the Regional Administrator, part or all of a quota share percentage may be transferred in the year in which the transfer is made, to any person or entity with a valid ITQ permit under paragraph (a) of this section. Approval of a transfer by the Regional Administrator and for a new ITQ permit reflecting that transfer may be requested by submitting a written application for approval of the transfer and for issuance of a new ITQ permit to the Regional Administrator at least 10 days before the date on which the applicant desires the transfer to be effective, in the form of a completed transfer form supplied by the Regional Administrator. The transfer is not effective until the new holder receives a new or revised ITQ permit from the Regional Administrator reflecting the new quota share percentage. An application for transfer may not be made between October 15 and December 31 of each year.

(2) Cage tags. Cage tags issued pursuant to §648.77 may be transferred at any time, and in any amount subject to the restrictions and procedure specified in paragraph (b)(1) of this section; provided that application for such cage tag transfers may be made at any time before December 10 of each year. The transfer is effective upon the receipt by the transferee of written authorization from the Regional Administrator.

(3) Denial of ITQ transfer application. The Regional Administrator may reject an application to transfer surfclam or ocean quahog ITQ quota share or cage tags for the following reasons: The application is incomplete; the transferor or transferee does not possess a valid surfclam or ocean quahog ITQ permit for the appropriate species; the transfer is not allowed under paragraph (a)(1)(ii)(C)(3) of this section; the transferor's or transferee's surfclam or ocean quahog ITQ permit has been sanctioned pursuant to an enforcement proceeding under 15 CFR part 904; or any other failure to meet the requirements of this subpart. Upon denial of an application to transfer ITQ allocation, the Regional Administrator shall send a letter to the applicant describing the reason(s) for the denial. The decision by the Regional Administrator is the final decision of the Department of Commerce; there is no opportunity for an administrative appeal.

(c) ITQ cost recovery—(1) General. The cost recovery program collects fees of up to three percent of the ex-vessel value of surfclams or ocean quahogs harvested under the ITQ program in accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Act. NMFS collects these fees to recover the actual costs directly related to the management, data collection, and enforcement of the surfclam and ocean quahog ITQ program.

(2) Fee responsibility. If you are an ITQ permit holder who holds ITQ quota share and receives an annual allocation pursuant to paragraph (a) of this section, you shall incur a cost recovery fee, based on all landings of surfclams or ocean quahogs authorized under your initial annual allocation of cage tags. You are responsible for paying the fee assessed by NMFS, even if the landings are made by another ITQ permit holder (i.e., if you transfer cage tags to another individual who subsequently uses those tags to land clams). If you permanently transfer your quota share, you are still responsible for any fee that results from your initial annual allocation of cage tags even if the landings are made after the quota share is permanently transferred.

(3) Fee basis. NMFS will establish the fee percentages and corresponding per-tag fees for both the surfclam and ocean quahog ITQ fisheries each year. The fee percentages cannot exceed three percent of the ex-vessel value of surfclams and ocean quahogs harvested under the ITQ fisheries pursuant to section 304(d)(2)(B) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

(i) Calculating fee percentage. In the first quarter of each calendar year, NMFS will calculate the fee percentages for both the surfclam and ocean quahog ITQ fisheries based on information from the previous year. NMFS will use the following equation to annually determine the fee percentages: Fee percentage = the lower of 3 percent or (DPC/V) × 100, where:

(A) “DPC,” or direct program costs, are the actual incremental costs for the previous fiscal year directly related to the management, data collection, and enforcement of the ITQ program. “Actual incremental costs” mean those costs that would not have been incurred but for the existence of the ITQ program. If the amount of fees collected by NMFS is greater or lesser than the actual incremental costs incurred, the DPC will be adjusted accordingly for calculation of the fee percentage in the following year.

(B) “V” is the total ex-vessel value from the previous calendar year attributable to the ITQ fishery.

(ii) Calculating per-tag fee. To facilitate fee collection, NMFS will convert the annual fee percentages into per-tag fees for both the surfclam and ocean quahog ITQ fisheries. NMFS will use the following equation to determine each per-tag fee: Per-Tag Fee = (Fee Percentage × V)/T, where:

(A) “T” is the number of cage tags used, pursuant to §648.77, to land shellfish in the ITQ fishery in the previous calendar year.

(B) “Fee percentage” and “V” are defined in paragraph (c)(3)(i) of this section.

(C) The per-tag fee is rounded down so that it is expressed in whole cents.

(iii) Publication. During the first quarter of each calendar year, NMFS will announce the fee percentage and per-tag fee for the surfclam and ocean quahog ITQ fisheries, and publish this information on the Regional Office Web site (www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov).

(4) Calculating individual fees. If you are responsible for a cost recovery fee under paragraph (c)(2) of this section, the fee amount is the number of ITQ cage tags you were initially allocated at the start of the fishing year that were subsequently used to land shellfish multiplied by the relevant per-tag fee, as described in paragraph (c)(3)(ii) of this section. If no tags from your initial allocation are used to land clams you will not incur a fee.

(5) Fee payment and collection. NMFS will send you a bill each year for any applicable ITQ cost recovery fee.

(i) Payment due date. You must submit payment within 30 days of the date of the bill.

(ii) Payment method. You may pay your bill electronically using a credit card or direct Automated Clearing House withdrawal from a designated checking account through the Federal web portal, www.pay.gov, or another internet site designated by the Regional Administrator. Instructions for electronic payment will be included with your bill and are available on the payment Web site. Alternatively, payment by check may be authorized by the Regional Administrator if he/she determines that electronic payment is not practicable.

(6) Payment compliance. If you do not submit full payment by the due date, NMFS will notify you in writing via an initial administrative determination (IAD) letter.

(i) IAD. In the IAD, NMFS will:

(A) Describe the past-due fee;

(B) Describe any applicable interest charges that may apply;

(C) Provide you 30 days to either pay the specified amount or submit an appeal; and

(D) Include instructions for submitting an appeal.

(ii) Appeals. If you wish to appeal the IAD, your appeal must:

(A) Be in writing;

(B) Allege credible facts or circumstances;

(C) Include any relevant information or documentation to support your appeal; and

(D) Be received by NMFS no later than 30 calendar days after the date on the IAD. If the last day of the time period is a Saturday, Sunday, or Federal holiday, the time period will extend to the close of the business on the next business day. Your appeal must be mailed or hand delivered to the address specified in the IAD.

(iii) Final decision—(A) Final decision on your appeal. If you appeal an IAD, the Regional Administrator shall appoint an appeals officer. After determining there is sufficient information and that all procedural requirements have been met, the appeals officer will review the record and issue a recommendation on your appeal to the Regional Administrator, which shall be advisory only. The recommendation must be based solely on the record. Upon receiving the findings and recommendation, the Regional Administrator, acting on behalf of the Secretary of Commerce, will issue a written decision on your appeal which is the final decision of the Department of Commerce.

(B) Final decision if you do not appeal. If you do not appeal the IAD within 30 calendar days, NMFS will notify you via a final decision letter. The final decision will be from the Regional Administrator and is the final decision of the Department of Commerce.

(C) If the final decision determines that you are out of compliance. (1) The Regional Administrator may, at any time thereafter, disapprove any application to transfer quota share or cage tags under §648.74(b), and prohibit issuance of the surfclam or ocean quahog ITQ permit for subsequent years, until the outstanding balance is paid in full.

(2) The final decision will require full payment within 30 calendar days.

(3) If full payment is not received within 30 calendar days of issuance of the final decision, NMFS may refer the matter to the appropriate authorities for the purposes of collection or enforcement.

(7) Annual report. NMFS will publish annually a report on the status of the ITQ cost recovery program. The report will provide details of the costs incurred by NMFS for the management, data collection, and enforcement of the surfclam and ocean quahog ITQ program, and other relevant information at the discretion of the Regional Administrator.

[80 FR 42751, July 20, 2015, as amended at 81 FR 38973, June 15, 2016

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§648.75   Shucking at sea and minimum surfclam size.

(a) Shucking at sea—(1) Observers. (i) The Regional Administrator may allow the shucking of surfclams or ocean quahogs at sea if he/she determines that an observer carried aboard the vessel can measure accurately the total amount of surfclams and ocean quahogs harvested in the shell prior to shucking.

(ii) Any vessel owner may apply in writing to the Regional Administrator to shuck surfclams or ocean quahogs at sea. The application shall specify: Name and address of the applicant; permit number of the vessel; method of calculating the amount of surfclams or ocean quahogs harvested in the shell; vessel dimensions and accommodations; and length of fishing trip.

(iii) The Regional Administrator shall provide an observer to any vessel owner whose application is approved. The owner shall pay all reasonable expenses of carrying the observer on board the vessel.

(iv) Any observer shall certify at the end of each trip the amount of surfclams or ocean quahogs harvested in the shell by the vessel. Such certification shall be made by the observer's signature on the daily fishing log required by §648.7.

(2) Conversion factor. (i) Based on the recommendation of the MAFMC, the Regional Administrator may allow shucking at sea of surfclams or ocean quahogs, with or without an observer, if he/she determines a conversion factor for shucked meats to calculate accurately the amount of surfclams or ocean quahogs harvested in the shell.

(ii) The Regional Administrator shall publish notification in the Federal Register specifying a conversion factor, together with the data used in its calculation, for a 30-day comment period. After consideration of the public comments and any other relevant data, the Regional Administrator may publish final notification in the Federal Register specifying the conversion factor.

(iii) If the Regional Administrator makes the determination specified in paragraph (a)(2)(i) of this section, he/she may authorize the vessel owner to shuck surfclams or ocean quahogs at sea. Such authorization shall be in writing and be carried aboard the vessel.

(b) Minimum surfclam size—(1) Minimum length. The minimum length for surfclams is 4.75 inches (12.065 cm).

(2) Determination of compliance. No more than 50 surfclams in any cage may be less than 4.75 inches (12.065 cm) in length. If more than 50 surfclams in any inspected cage of surfclams are less than 4.75 inches (12.065 cm) in length, all cages landed by the same vessel from the same trip are deemed to be in violation of the minimum size restriction.

(3) Suspension. Upon the recommendation of the MAFMC, the Regional Administrator may suspend annually, by publication in the Federal Register, the minimum shell-length standard, unless discard, catch, and survey data indicate that 30 percent of the surfclams are smaller than 4.75 inches (12.065 cm) and the overall reduced shell length is not attributable to beds where the growth of individual surfclams has been reduced because of density dependent factors.

(4) Measurement. Length is measured at the longest dimension of the surfclam shell.

[76 FR 60623, Sept. 29, 2011, as amended at 81 FR 38974, June 15, 2016]

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§648.76   Closed areas.

(a) Areas closed because of environmental degradation. Certain areas are closed to all surfclam and ocean quahog fishing because of adverse environmental conditions. These areas will remain closed until the Regional Administrator determines that the adverse environmental conditions no longer exist. If additional areas are identified by the Regional Administrator as being contaminated by the introduction or presence of hazardous materials or pollutants, they may be closed by the Regional Administrator in accordance with paragraph (c) of this section. The areas closed are:

(1) Boston Foul Ground. The waste disposal site known as the “Boston Foul Ground” and located at 42°2536 N. lat., 70°3500 W. long., with a radius of 1 nm (1.852 km) in every direction from that point.

(2) New York Bight. The polluted area and waste disposal site known as the “New York Bight” and located at 40°2504 N. lat., 73°4238 W. long., and with a radius of 6 nm (9.66 km) in every direction from that point, extending further northwestward, westward and southwestward between a line from a point on the arc at 40°3100 N. lat., 73°4338 W. long., directly northward toward Atlantic Beach Light in New York to the limit of the state territorial waters of New York; and a line from the point on the arc at 40°1948 N. lat., 73°4542 W. long., to a point at the limit of the state territorial waters of New Jersey at 40°1400 N. lat., 73°5542 W. long.

(3) 106 Dumpsite. The toxic industrial site known as the “106 Dumpsite” and located between 38°4000 and 39°0000 N. lat., and between 72°0000 and 72°3000 W. long.

(4) Georges Bank. The paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) contaminated area, which is located on Georges Bank, and is located east of 69° W. long., and south of 42°20 N. lat. is closed to the harvest of surfclams and ocean quahogs. A portion of the Georges Bank Closed Area is open to harvest surfclams and ocean quahogs provided the vessel complies with the requirements specified in paragraph (a)(4)(i) of this section. The open portion of the Georges Bank Closed Area is defined by straight lines connecting the following points in the order stated:

Open Portion of the Georges Bank Closed Area

PointN. LatitudeW. Longitude
142°0068°50
242°0067°20
341°0067°20
441°0067°10
540°4067°10
640°4068°30
741°3068°30
841°3068°50
142°0068°50

(i) Requirements for Vessels Fishing in the Open Portion of the Georges Bank Closed Area. A vessel may fish in the open portion of the Georges Bank Closed Area as specified in this paragraph (a)(4), provided it complies with the following terms and conditions:

(A) A valid letter of authorization issued by the Regional Administrator must be onboard the vessel; and

(B) The vessel must adhere to the terms and conditions of the PSP testing protocol as adopted into the National Shellfish Sanitation Program by the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference. All surfclams and ocean quahogs harvested from the area must be handled in accordance with the terms and conditions of the protocol from the first point of harvest through completion of testing and release by the State Shellfish Control Authority as required by the PSP testing protocol; and

(C) Prior to leaving port at the start of a fishing trip, the vessel's owner or operator must declare its intent to fish in the area through the vessel's vessel monitoring system.

(ii) [Reserved]

(b) Areas closed because of small surfclams. Areas may be closed because they contain small surfclams.

(1) Closure. The Regional Administrator may close an area to surfclams and ocean quahog fishing if he/she determines, based on logbook entries, processors' reports, survey cruises, or other information, that the area contains surfclams of which:

(i) Sixty percent or more are smaller than 4.5 inches (11.43 cm); and

(ii) Not more than 15 percent are larger than 5.5 inches (13.97 cm) in size.

(2) Reopening. The Regional Administrator may reopen areas or parts of areas closed under paragraph (b)(1) of this section if he/she determines, based on survey cruises or other information, that:

(i) The average length of the dominant (in terms of weight) size class in the area to be reopened is equal to or greater than 4.75 inches (12.065 cm); or

(ii) The yield or rate of growth of the dominant shell-length class in the area to be reopened would be significantly enhanced through selective, controlled, or limited harvest of surfclams in the area.

(c) Procedure. (1) The Regional Administrator may hold a public hearing on the proposed closure or reopening of any area under paragraph (a) or (b) of this section. The Regional Administrator shall publish notification in the Federal Register of any proposed area closure or reopening, including any restrictions on harvest in a reopened area. Comments on the proposed closure or reopening must be submitted to the Regional Administrator within 30 days after publication. The Regional Administrator shall consider all comments and publish the final notification of closure or reopening, and any restrictions on harvest, in the Federal Register. Any adjustment to harvest restrictions in a reopened area shall be made by notification in the Federal Register. The Regional Administrator shall send notice of any action under this paragraph (c)(1) to each surfclam and ocean quahog processor and to each surfclam and ocean quahog permit holder.

(2) If the Regional Administrator determines, as the result of testing by state, Federal, or private entities, that a closure of an area under paragraph (a) of this section is necessary to prevent any adverse effects fishing may have on the public health, he/she may close the area for 60 days by publication of notification in the Federal Register, without prior comment or public hearing. If an extension of the 60-day closure period is necessary to protect the public health, the hearing and notice requirements of paragraph (c)(1) of this section shall be followed.

(d) Areas closed due to the presence of paralytic shellfish poisoning toxin—(1) Maine mahogany quahog zone. The Maine mahogany quahog zone is closed to fishing for ocean quahogs except in those areas of the zone that are tested by the State of Maine and deemed to be within the requirements of the National Shellfish Sanitation Program and adopted by the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference as acceptable limits for the toxin responsible for PSP. Harvesting is allowed in such areas during the periods specified by the Maine Department of Marine Resources during which quahogs are safe for human consumption. For information regarding these areas contact the State of Maine Division of Marine Resources.

(2) [Reserved]

[76 FR 60624, Sept. 29, 2011, as amended at 77 FR 75063, Dec. 19, 2012; 81 FR 38974, June 15, 2016]

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§648.77   Cage identification.

Except as provided in §648.78, the following cage identification requirements apply to all vessels issued a Federal fishing permit for surfclams and ocean quahogs:

(a) Tagging. Before offloading, all cages that contain surfclams or ocean quahogs must be tagged with tags acquired annually under provisions of paragraph (b) of this section. A tag must be fixed on or as near as possible to the upper crossbar of the cage. A tag is required for every 60 ft3 (1,700 L) of cage volume, or portion thereof. A tag or tags must not be removed until the cage is emptied by the processor, at which time the processor must promptly remove and retain the tag(s) for 60 days beyond the end of the calendar year, unless otherwise directed by authorized law enforcement agents.

(b) Issuance. The Regional Administrator will issue a supply of tags to each individual allocation owner qualifying for an allocation under §648.74 prior to the beginning of each fishing year, or he/she may specify, in the Federal Register, a vendor from whom the tags shall be purchased. The number of tags will be based on the owner's initial allocation as specified in §648.74(a). Each tag represents 32 bu (1,700 L) of allocation.

(c) Expiration. Tags will expire at the end of the fishing year for which they are issued, or if rendered null and void in accordance with 15 CFR part 904.

(d) Return. Tags that have been rendered null and void must be returned to the Regional Administrator, if possible.

(e) Loss. Loss or theft of tags must be reported by the owner, numerically identifying the tags to the Regional Administrator by telephone as soon as the loss or theft is discovered and in writing within 24 hours. Thereafter, the reported tags shall no longer be valid for use under this part.

(f) Replacement. Lost or stolen tags may be replaced by the Regional Administrator if proper notice of the loss is provided by the person to whom the tags were issued. Replacement tags may be purchased from the Regional Administrator or a vendor with a written authorization from the Regional Administrator.

(g) Transfer. See §648.74(b)(2).

(h) Presumptions. Surfclams and ocean quahogs found in cages without a valid state tag are deemed to have been harvested in the EEZ and to be part of an individual's allocation, unless the individual demonstrates that he/she has surrendered his/her Federal vessel permit issued under §648.4(a)(4) and conducted fishing operations exclusively within waters under the jurisdiction of any state. Surfclams and ocean quahogs in cages with a Federal tag or tags, issued and still valid pursuant to this section, affixed thereto are deemed to have been harvested by the individual allocation holder to whom the tags were issued under the provisions of §648.77(b) or transferred under the provisions of §648.74(b).

[76 FR 60625, Sept. 29, 2011]

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§648.78   Maine mahogany quahog zone.

(a) Landing requirements. (1) A vessel issued a valid Maine mahogany quahog permit pursuant to §648.4(a)(4)(i), and fishing for or possessing ocean quahogs within the Maine mahogany quahog zone, must land its catch in the State of Maine.

(2) A vessel fishing under an individual allocation permit, regardless of whether it has a Maine mahogany quahog permit, fishing for or possessing ocean quahogs within the zone, may land its catch in the State of Maine, or, consistent with applicable state law in any other state that utilizes food safety-based procedures including sampling and analyzing for PSP toxin consistent with those food safety-based procedures used by the State of Maine for such purpose, and must comply with all requirements in §§648.74 and 648.77. Documentation required by the state and other laws and regulations applicable to food safety-based procedures must be made available by federally permitted dealers for inspection by NMFS.

(b) ACT monitoring and closures—(1) Catch quota. (i) The ACT for harvest of mahogany quahogs from within the Maine mahogany quahog zone is 100,000 Maine bu (35,239 hL). The ACL may be revised annually within the range of 17,000 and 100,000 Maine bu (5,991 and 35,239 hL) following the procedures set forth in §§648.72 and 648.73, if applicable.

(ii) All mahogany quahogs landed for sale in Maine by vessels issued a Maine mahogany quahog permit and not fishing for an individual allocation of ocean quahogs under §648.74 shall be applied against the Maine mahogany quahog ACT, regardless of where the mahogany quahogs are harvested.

(iii) All mahogany quahogs landed by vessels fishing in the Maine mahogany quahog zone for an individual allocation of quahogs under §648.74 will be counted against the ocean quahog allocation for which the vessel is fishing.

(iv) The Regional Administrator will monitor the ACT based on dealer reports and other available information, and shall determine the date when the ACT will be harvested. NMFS shall publish notification in the Federal Register advising the public that, effective upon a specific date, the Maine mahogany quahog quota has been harvested, and notifying vessel and dealer permit holders that no Maine mahogany quahog quota is available for the remainder of the year.

(2) Maine Mahogany Quahog Advisory Panel. The MAFMC shall establish a Maine Mahogany Quahog Advisory Panel consisting of representatives of harvesters, dealers, and the Maine Department of Marine Resources. The Advisory Panel shall make recommendations, through the Surfclam and Ocean Quahog Committee of the MAFMC, regarding revisions to the annual quota and other management measures.

[76 FR 60625, Sept. 29, 2011]

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§648.79   Surfclam and ocean quahog framework adjustments to management measures.

(a) Within season management action. The MAFMC may, at any time, initiate action to add or adjust management measures within the Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog FMP if it finds that action is necessary to meet or be consistent with the goals and objectives of the plan.

(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; 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; and suspension or adjustment of the surfclam minimum size limit. 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.

(2) MAFMC recommendation. After developing management actions and receiving public testimony, the MAFMC shall make a recommendation to the Regional Administrator. The MAFMC's recommendation must include supporting rationale, if management measures are recommended, an analysis of impacts, and a recommendation to the Regional Administrator on whether to issue the management measures as a final rule. If the MAFMC recommends that the management measures should be issued as a final rule, it must consider at least the following factors, and provide support and analysis for each factor considered:

(i) Whether the availability of data on which the recommended management measures are based allows for adequate time to publish a proposed rule, and whether the regulations would have to be in place for an entire harvest/fishing season.

(ii) Whether there has been adequate notice and opportunity for participation by the public and members of the affected industry in the development of recommended management measures.

(iii) Whether there is an immediate need to protect the resource.

(iv) Whether there will be a continuing evaluation of management measures adopted following their implementation as a final rule.

(3) NMFS action. If the MAFMC's recommendation includes adjustments or additions to management measures and after reviewing the MAFMC's recommendation and supporting information:

(i) If NMFS concurs with the MAFMC's recommended management measures and determines that the recommended management measures should be issued as a final rule based on the factors specified in paragraph (a)(2) of this section, the measures will be issued as a final rule in the Federal Register.

(ii) If NMFS concurs with the MAFMC's recommended management measures and determines that the recommended management measures should be published first as a proposed rule, the measures will be published as a proposed rule in the Federal Register. After additional public comment, if NMFS concurs with the MAFMC recommendation, the measures will be published as a final rule in the Federal Register.

(iii) If NMFS does not concur, the MAFMC will be notified in writing of the reasons for the non-concurrence.

(4) Emergency actions. Nothing in this section is meant to derogate from the authority of the Secretary to take emergency action under section 305(e) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

(b) [Reserved]

[76 FR 60625, Sept. 29, 2011, as amended at 76 FR 81848, Dec. 29, 2011; 80 FR 37194, June 30, 2015; 81 FR 38974, June 15, 2016]

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