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This final rule creates a 1999 seasonal Georges Bank Sea Scallop Exemption Area (Exemption Area) in and adjacent to Closed Area II and includes the following primary measures for vessels fishing in the Exemption Area:

A possession limit of up to 10,000 lb (4,536.0 kg) of scallop meats per trip; a maximum of three trips for full and part-time vessels and a maximum of one trip for occasional vessels; an automatic minimum deduction of 10 days-at-sea (DAS) for each trip; a minimum mesh twine-top of 10 inches (25.40 cm); a total allowable catch (TAC) of yellowtail flounder of 387 metric tons (mt); and an increase in the regulated species possession limit from 300 lb (136.1 kg) to 500 lb (226.8 kg), among other measures. In addition, this rule implements a minimum mesh twine top of 8 inches (20.32 cm) for vessels under a scallop DAS when fishing outside the Exemption Area. The primary intent of this action is to provide scallop vessels with a short-term strategy to access Closed Area II without compromising multispecies rebuilding or habitat protection, while the New England Fishery Management Council (Council) develops an amendment that would implement a sea scallop area rotational management plan.

NMFS issues this final rule to implement measures contained in Framework Adjustment 11 to the Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery Management Plan (FMP) and Framework Adjustment 29 to the Northeast Multispecies FMP.

Final Rule