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2013 and 2014 bluefish specifications, environmental assessment, and initial regulatory flexibility analysis
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    "This bluefish specifications document was prepared by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) under consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The document's purpose is to present a range of alternative management measures for the U.S. Atlantic bluefish fishery in 2013 and 2014 along with a characterization of the environmental impacts of each of those alternatives. For each specification year, three of the alternatives (referred to as quota-setting alternatives) consist of restrictions on overall landings by the commercial and recreational fisheries for bluefish and are needed to prevent those fisheries from overfishing the bluefish stock. Two additional annual alternatives (referred to as RSA alternatives) address the allowance for some landings (up to 3 percent of the total) to be set aside for research. All of the management measures under consideration would be limited to the 2013 and 2014 calendar years. This document was developed in accordance with a number of applicable laws and statutes that are described in Section 8.0 (see the Table of Contents to locate document sections). A comparison of the action alternatives (e.g., Alternatives 1 and 2 for each specification year) relative to 'no action' (i.e., Alternative 3) is a requirement under the implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), however, 'no action' would be a failure to make effort to prevent overfishing, which is inconsistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA). Therefore, 'no action', in this document, is actually a status quo or baseline alternative that would extend existing 2012 quota-setting measures into the 2013 and 2014 fishing years. According to the Bluefish FMP as modified through Amendment 3 (MAFMC 2011), management measures can be specified for the bluefish fishery for up to five years. The decision by the Council to specify two-year management measures for bluefish was based on a desire to provide for longer-term planning by stakeholders, and also reduce administrative burdens associated with annual specifications. Limiting the specifications timeframe to two years instead of the allowable five was an SSC decision based on the expectation of a new benchmark stock assessment for bluefish in 2014 that will serve the basis for ABC recommendations in 2015. Among the quota-setting alternatives, Alternatives 1 and 2 is expected to result in neutral to positive impacts to the bluefish resource in either year (see Box ES-1 for landings limits and impacts). Alternatives 1 and 2, which would decrease overall landings compared to the status quo alternative, the bluefish stock is expected to increase anyway; and Alternative 1 is consistent with the recommendations of the Council's Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC). Alternative 2 has the same overall landings as Alternative 1 (Box ES-1), but allocates more of those landings to the recreational fishery and is also expected to result in neutral to positive impacts on bluefish. Alternative 3 (status quo/no action) has slightly lower overall landings than Alternatives 1 and 2 (Box ES-1) and is expected to have neutral to positive biological impacts overall on bluefish. Alternative 3 may be more restrictive than necessary given the advice of the SSC. Depending upon whether fishing effort increases or decreases these three alternatives are expected to have effects on habitat and EFH, as well as ESA-listed and MMPA-protected resources that range from neutral to slightly positive (Box ES-1). Additionally, compared to the status quo, Alternatives 1, 2, and 3 propose larger, smaller, and equivalent commercial quotas, respectively, and are, therefore, associated with positive, negative, and neutral social and economic impacts for the commercial fishery, respectively"--Executive Summary (page ii-iii).
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