Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Total Allowable Catch Amounts for “Other Species” in the Groundfish Fisheries of the Gulf of Alaska, 69505-69507 [05-22728]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 70, No. 220 / Wednesday, November 16, 2005 / Proposed Rules percent loss in each vessel’s projected revenues. For the preferred alternative under the low harvest guideline case, vessels in the southern subarea fishery stand to lose $50,497 each, a 15.3– percent decrease from the status quo, and under the high harvest guideline case there would be no change in vessel earnings from the status quo. These estimates may understate the actual earnings impacts per vessel since only 61 vessels participated in the southern subarea fishery during 2004. For the 41 vessels that could participate in the northern subarea fishery each would stand to gain $93,173 in ex-vessel revenues over the period under the base case, preferred alternative, a 10.6–percent increase from the status quo alternative. For the preferred alternative under the low harvest guideline case, vessels in the northern subarea fishery gain $114,533 each, a 26.4–percent increase from the status quo, and under the high harvest guideline case there would be no change from the status quo. These estimates may understate the actual earnings impacts per vessel since only 34 vessels recorded landings in the northern subarea fishery during 2004. The Council considered six alternatives to the preferred alternative in addition to the status quo alternative. All alternatives resulted in ex-vessel revenue gains of various magnitudes for the fishery as a whole except the ‘‘No Action’’ alternative in all cases, and alternative 4.b under the low harvest guideline case. Although the proposed alternative did not yield the greatest overall gain, with the least negative impacts to individual vessels from any one region, it was deemed most equitable by industry members when considered relative to the full range of conservation and management objectives constituting optimum yield under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 660 Administrative practice and procedure, American Samoa, Fisheries, Fishing, Guam, Hawaiian Natives, Indians, Northern Mariana Islands, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements. For the reasons set out in the preamble, NMFS proposes to amend 50 CFR part 660 as follows: 12:36 Nov 15, 2005 Jkt 208001 1. The authority citation for part 660 continues to read as follows: Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. 2. In § 660.502, the definition for ‘‘Initial annual harvest guideline’’ is added, in alphabetical order, to read as follows: § 660.502 Definitions. * * * * Initial harvest guideline means a specified numerical harvest objective set at the beginning of the fishing season. * * * * * 3. Section 660.509 is revised to read as follows: § 660.509 Closure of directed fishery. * * * * * (a) When the annual harvest guideline for either Pacific sardine or Pacific mackerel is reached, the directed fishery for Pacific sardine or Pacific mackerel shall be closed until the beginning of the next fishing season as stated in § 660.510 (a) and (b). The Regional Administrator shall announce in the Federal Register the date of closure of the directed fishery for Pacific sardine or Pacific mackerel. Upon such closure, Pacific mackerel may be harvested incidental to the directed fishery for Pacific sardine to the extent permitted by the annual harvest guideline. The Regional Administrator shall announce in the Federal Register the amount of the incidental trip limit, if any, that was recommended by the Council and approved by NMFS. (b) When the allocation and reallocation levels for Pacific sardine in § 660.511 (f)-(h) are reached, the Pacific sardine fishery shall be closed until either it re-opens per the allocation scheme in § 660.511 (g) and (h) or the beginning of the next fishing season as stated in § 660.510 (a). The Regional Administrator shall announce in the Federal Register the date of the closure of the directed fishery for Pacific sardine. 4. In § 660.511 paragraph (f) is revised, and paragraphs (g), and (h) are added to read as follows: § 660.511 Catch restrictions. * * * * (f) On January 1, 35 percent of the initial harvest guideline for Pacific sardine is allocated coastwide within the fishery management area. (g) On July 1, 40 percent of the initial harvest guideline for Pacific sardine plus the remaining unharvested portion of the January 1 allocation in (f) is PO 00000 Frm 00039 Fmt 4702 allocated coastwide within the fishery management area. (h) On September 15, 25 percent of the initial harvest guideline for Pacific sardine plus the remaining unharvested portion of the July 1 allocation is allocated coastwide within the fishery management area. [FR Doc. 05–22729 Filed 11–15–05; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–S DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE * * Dated: November 9, 2005. James W. Balsiger, Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. VerDate Aug<31>2005 PART 660—FISHERIES OFF WEST COAST STATES AND IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 69505 Sfmt 4702 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 679 [I.D. 110805A] RIN 0648–AT92 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Total Allowable Catch Amounts for ‘‘Other Species’’ in the Groundfish Fisheries of the Gulf of Alaska National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments. AGENCY: SUMMARY: The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) has submitted Amendment 69 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (FMP). If approved, Amendment 69 would amend the manner in which the total allowable catch (TAC) for the ‘‘other species’’ complex is annually determined in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). As part of the annual harvest specifications, the Council would recommend a TAC amount for the ‘‘other species’’ complex at a level less than or equal to 5 percent of the sum of the TACs for the remaining groundfish species and complexes in the GOA. This action would allow conservation and management of species within the ‘‘other species’’ category and is intended to promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), the FMP, and other applicable laws. Comments from the public are welcome. DATES: Comments on the amendment must be received on or before January 17, 2006. ADDRESSES: Send comments to Sue Salveson, Assistant Regional Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region, NMFS, Attn: E:\FR\FM\16NOP1.SGM 16NOP1 69506 Federal Register / Vol. 70, No. 220 / Wednesday, November 16, 2005 / Proposed Rules Lori Durall. Comments may be submitted by: • E-mail: 0648–AT92–NOAGOA69@noaa.gov. Include in the subject line the following document identifier: GOA 69 NOA. E-mail comments, with or without attachments, are limited to 5 megabytes. • Webform at the Federal eRulemaking portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments. • Mail: P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802. • Hand delivery: 709 West 9th Street, Room 420A, Juneau, AK. • Fax: 907–586–7557. Copies of Amendment 69 and the Environmental Assessment/Regulatory Impact Review/Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (EA/RIR/IRFA) for the amendment may be obtained from the mailing address specified above or from the Alaska Region NMFS website at www.fakr.noaa.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Tom Pearson, 907–481–1780 or tom.pearson@noaa.gov. The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires that each Regional Fishery Management Council submit any FMP amendment it prepares to NMFS for review and approval, disapproval, or partial approval. The Magnuson-Stevens Act also requires that NMFS, upon receiving an FMP amendment, immediately publish a notice in the Federal Register that the amendment is available for public review and comment. Amendment 69 was unanimously adopted by the Council in June 2005. If approved by NMFS, this amendment would allow the Council, as part of its annual harvest specifications process, to recommend a TAC amount for the ‘‘other species’’ complex at a level less than or equal to 5 percent of the sum of TACs for the remaining groundfish species and complexes in the GOA. This amendment is an interim step to conserve and manage the ‘‘other species’’ resource in the GOA until the Council develops a more comprehensive plan to modify the management of target and non-target species in the GOA. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background on ‘‘Other Species’’ Management The ‘‘other species’’ complex has evolved via a series of amendments to the GOA FMP. Amendment 15 to the FMP was implemented in 1987 (52 FR 7868, March 13, 1987); this amendment continued to define ‘‘other species’’ as species that have ‘‘only slight economic value and are not generally targeted upon, but which are either significant VerDate Aug<31>2005 12:36 Nov 15, 2005 Jkt 208001 components of the ecosystem or have economic potential.’’ The TAC for the ‘‘other species’’ complex was established as 5 percent of the TACs for all target species. At this time the ‘‘other species’’ complex included sculpins, sharks, skates, eulachon, smelts, capelin, and octopi. In 1988, Atka mackerel and squid were added to the complex. In 1992 the entire TAC of ‘‘other species’’ was harvested by GOA vessels targeting a single species, Atka mackerel. Because the Council believed that harvests of Atka mackerel could not be sustained at that level, the Council removed Atka mackerel from the ‘‘other species’’ complex in 1993 so that they could be conserved and managed as a separate target species. In 1998, Amendment 39 defined a forage fish category in the FMP (63 FR 13798, March 23, 1998). Important prey species were included in this category. The forage fish category contains species that were formerly included in the ‘‘other species’’ complex, including species of eulachon, capelin, and smelts. NMFS implemented regulations that prohibited directed fishing on forage fish and established a maximum retainable amount (MRA) of 2 percent. In 2003, conservation concerns were again raised regarding a developing skate fishery. The primary concern was the inability of inseason management to allow for some directed fishing, and still adequately protect skate stocks while these species were within the larger ‘‘other species’’ complex. In 2004, Amendment 63 to the GOA FMP removed skates from the ‘‘other species’’ complex and placed them in a target category (69 FR 26313, May 12, 2004). The ‘‘other species’’ complex currently contains the following species groups: squids, sculpins, sharks, and octopi. As currently configured, the ‘‘other species’’ complex is open to directed fishing after the anticipated amount of incidental catch needs in other directed groundfish fisheries has been subtracted, up to the TAC for the complex. From 1997 to 2002, the TAC for ‘‘other species’’ has ranged from 11,330 mt to 15,570 mt, while the incidental catch of ‘‘other species’’ in other directed groundfish fisheries averaged 2,124 mt. Conservation concerns have developed with the removal of several species over time from the ‘‘other species’’ complex. The primary basis of these concerns is the way the ‘‘other species’’ TAC is calculated. As species (e.g., Atka mackerel and skates) are removed from the ‘‘other species’’ complex and included in the targeted fisheries TACs, the ‘‘other species’’ TAC PO 00000 Frm 00040 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 increases. This means that a larger allowable harvest amount is spread over fewer species groups in the ‘‘other species’’ complex. Additionally, given the configuration of the complex, it is possible to target one member of the complex close to the full complex-level TAC, which inhibits in-season management’s ability to control directed fishing within the complex and raises concerns given the lack of available stock information on most species groups in the complex. If approved, Amendment 69 would allow the Council to recommend a TAC for ‘‘other species’’ at an amount sufficient to meet anticipated incidental catch needs in other directed groundfish fisheries or at a higher level that allows for directed fishing targeting one or more ‘‘other species’’ to develop at a modest, sustainable level. A proposed rule is also expected to be published that would allow for incidental catch management under the proposed amendment. A MRA is established for each groundfish fisheries species, species group, or complex to manage incidental catch. The MRA for ‘‘other species’’ in all directed fisheries is 20 percent, except for arrowtooth flounder which is presently at 0 percent. The MRAs applied to the arrowtooth flounder directed fishery are 5 percent for pollock and Pacific cod, 2 percent for the forage fish category, and 0 percent for all other groundfish. Previously, arrowtooth flounder had been used as a basis for retaining MRA amounts of more valuable groundfish, such as sablefish. Once landed, the arrowtooth flounder was discarded and the incidental catch was retained. With the development of the fishery in recent years, arrowtooth flounder are now targeted for retention and processing. Because arrowtooth flounder catch is more desirable than ‘‘other species,’’ arrowtooth flounder is unlikely to be harvested for the purpose of retaining ‘‘other species’’ incidental catch. Therefore, zero retention of ‘‘other species’’ is not necessary to control incidental harvest of ‘‘other species’’ in the arrowtooth flounder fishery. Some incidental catch of ‘‘other species’’ in the arrowtooth flounder fishery is inevitable. Raising the ‘‘other species’’ MRA from 0 to 20 percent in the arrowtooth flounder fishery would eliminate the requirement to discard all ‘‘other species.’’ Public comments are being solicited on proposed Amendment 69 through the end of the comment period stated (see DATES). A proposed rule that would implement the amendment may be published in the Federal Register for public comment at a later date. Public E:\FR\FM\16NOP1.SGM 16NOP1 Federal Register / Vol. 70, No. 220 / Wednesday, November 16, 2005 / Proposed Rules comments on the proposed rule must be received by the end of the comment period on the amendment in order to be considered in the approval/disapproval decision on the amendment. All comments received by the end of the comment period on the amendment, whether specifically directed to the amendment or to the proposed rule, will VerDate Aug<31>2005 12:36 Nov 15, 2005 Jkt 208001 be considered in the approval/ disapproval decision. Comments received after that date will not be considered in the approval/disapproval decision on the amendment. To be considered, comments must be received not just postmarked or otherwise transmitted by close of business on the last day of the comment period. PO 00000 Frm 00041 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 69507 Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: November 9, 2005. Alan D. Risenhoover, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 05–22728 Filed 11–15–05; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–S E:\FR\FM\16NOP1.SGM 16NOP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 70, Number 220 (Wednesday, November 16, 2005)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 69505-69507]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 05-22728]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 679

[I.D. 110805A]
RIN 0648-AT92


Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Total 
Allowable Catch Amounts for ``Other Species'' in the Groundfish 
Fisheries of the Gulf of Alaska

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

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) has 
submitted Amendment 69 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of 
the Gulf of Alaska (FMP). If approved, Amendment 69 would amend the 
manner in which the total allowable catch (TAC) for the ``other 
species'' complex is annually determined in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). 
As part of the annual harvest specifications, the Council would 
recommend a TAC amount for the ``other species'' complex at a level 
less than or equal to 5 percent of the sum of the TACs for the 
remaining groundfish species and complexes in the GOA. This action 
would allow conservation and management of species within the ``other 
species'' category and is intended to promote the goals and objectives 
of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act 
(Magnuson-Stevens Act), the FMP, and other applicable laws. Comments 
from the public are welcome.

DATES: Comments on the amendment must be received on or before January 
17, 2006.

ADDRESSES: Send comments to Sue Salveson, Assistant Regional 
Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region, NMFS, 
Attn:

[[Page 69506]]

Lori Durall. Comments may be submitted by:
     E-mail: 0648-AT92-NOA-GOA69@noaa.gov. Include in the 
subject line the following document identifier: GOA 69 NOA. E-mail 
comments, with or without attachments, are limited to 5 megabytes.
     Webform at the Federal e-Rulemaking portal: http://
www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
     Mail: P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802.
     Hand delivery: 709 West 9th Street, Room 420A, Juneau, AK.
     Fax: 907-586-7557.
    Copies of Amendment 69 and the Environmental Assessment/Regulatory 
Impact Review/Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (EA/RIR/IRFA) for 
the amendment may be obtained from the mailing address specified above 
or from the Alaska Region NMFS website at www.fakr.noaa.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Tom Pearson, 907-481-1780 or 
tom.pearson@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires that each 
Regional Fishery Management Council submit any FMP amendment it 
prepares to NMFS for review and approval, disapproval, or partial 
approval. The Magnuson-Stevens Act also requires that NMFS, upon 
receiving an FMP amendment, immediately publish a notice in the Federal 
Register that the amendment is available for public review and comment.
    Amendment 69 was unanimously adopted by the Council in June 2005. 
If approved by NMFS, this amendment would allow the Council, as part of 
its annual harvest specifications process, to recommend a TAC amount 
for the ``other species'' complex at a level less than or equal to 5 
percent of the sum of TACs for the remaining groundfish species and 
complexes in the GOA. This amendment is an interim step to conserve and 
manage the ``other species'' resource in the GOA until the Council 
develops a more comprehensive plan to modify the management of target 
and non-target species in the GOA.

Background on ``Other Species'' Management

    The ``other species'' complex has evolved via a series of 
amendments to the GOA FMP. Amendment 15 to the FMP was implemented in 
1987 (52 FR 7868, March 13, 1987); this amendment continued to define 
``other species'' as species that have ``only slight economic value and 
are not generally targeted upon, but which are either significant 
components of the ecosystem or have economic potential.'' The TAC for 
the ``other species'' complex was established as 5 percent of the TACs 
for all target species. At this time the ``other species'' complex 
included sculpins, sharks, skates, eulachon, smelts, capelin, and 
octopi. In 1988, Atka mackerel and squid were added to the complex.
    In 1992 the entire TAC of ``other species'' was harvested by GOA 
vessels targeting a single species, Atka mackerel. Because the Council 
believed that harvests of Atka mackerel could not be sustained at that 
level, the Council removed Atka mackerel from the ``other species'' 
complex in 1993 so that they could be conserved and managed as a 
separate target species.
    In 1998, Amendment 39 defined a forage fish category in the FMP (63 
FR 13798, March 23, 1998). Important prey species were included in this 
category. The forage fish category contains species that were formerly 
included in the ``other species'' complex, including species of 
eulachon, capelin, and smelts. NMFS implemented regulations that 
prohibited directed fishing on forage fish and established a maximum 
retainable amount (MRA) of 2 percent.
    In 2003, conservation concerns were again raised regarding a 
developing skate fishery. The primary concern was the inability of 
inseason management to allow for some directed fishing, and still 
adequately protect skate stocks while these species were within the 
larger ``other species'' complex. In 2004, Amendment 63 to the GOA FMP 
removed skates from the ``other species'' complex and placed them in a 
target category (69 FR 26313, May 12, 2004).
    The ``other species'' complex currently contains the following 
species groups: squids, sculpins, sharks, and octopi. As currently 
configured, the ``other species'' complex is open to directed fishing 
after the anticipated amount of incidental catch needs in other 
directed groundfish fisheries has been subtracted, up to the TAC for 
the complex. From 1997 to 2002, the TAC for ``other species'' has 
ranged from 11,330 mt to 15,570 mt, while the incidental catch of 
``other species'' in other directed groundfish fisheries averaged 2,124 
mt.
    Conservation concerns have developed with the removal of several 
species over time from the ``other species'' complex. The primary basis 
of these concerns is the way the ``other species'' TAC is calculated. 
As species (e.g., Atka mackerel and skates) are removed from the 
``other species'' complex and included in the targeted fisheries TACs, 
the ``other species'' TAC increases. This means that a larger allowable 
harvest amount is spread over fewer species groups in the ``other 
species'' complex. Additionally, given the configuration of the 
complex, it is possible to target one member of the complex close to 
the full complex-level TAC, which inhibits in-season management's 
ability to control directed fishing within the complex and raises 
concerns given the lack of available stock information on most species 
groups in the complex.
    If approved, Amendment 69 would allow the Council to recommend a 
TAC for ``other species'' at an amount sufficient to meet anticipated 
incidental catch needs in other directed groundfish fisheries or at a 
higher level that allows for directed fishing targeting one or more 
``other species'' to develop at a modest, sustainable level.
    A proposed rule is also expected to be published that would allow 
for incidental catch management under the proposed amendment. A MRA is 
established for each groundfish fisheries species, species group, or 
complex to manage incidental catch. The MRA for ``other species'' in 
all directed fisheries is 20 percent, except for arrowtooth flounder 
which is presently at 0 percent. The MRAs applied to the arrowtooth 
flounder directed fishery are 5 percent for pollock and Pacific cod, 2 
percent for the forage fish category, and 0 percent for all other 
groundfish. Previously, arrowtooth flounder had been used as a basis 
for retaining MRA amounts of more valuable groundfish, such as 
sablefish. Once landed, the arrowtooth flounder was discarded and the 
incidental catch was retained. With the development of the fishery in 
recent years, arrowtooth flounder are now targeted for retention and 
processing. Because arrowtooth flounder catch is more desirable than 
``other species,'' arrowtooth flounder is unlikely to be harvested for 
the purpose of retaining ``other species'' incidental catch. Therefore, 
zero retention of ``other species'' is not necessary to control 
incidental harvest of ``other species'' in the arrowtooth flounder 
fishery. Some incidental catch of ``other species'' in the arrowtooth 
flounder fishery is inevitable. Raising the ``other species'' MRA from 
0 to 20 percent in the arrowtooth flounder fishery would eliminate the 
requirement to discard all ``other species.''
    Public comments are being solicited on proposed Amendment 69 
through the end of the comment period stated (see DATES). A proposed 
rule that would implement the amendment may be published in the Federal 
Register for public comment at a later date. Public

[[Page 69507]]

comments on the proposed rule must be received by the end of the 
comment period on the amendment in order to be considered in the 
approval/disapproval decision on the amendment. All comments received 
by the end of the comment period on the amendment, whether specifically 
directed to the amendment or to the proposed rule, will be considered 
in the approval/disapproval decision. Comments received after that date 
will not be considered in the approval/disapproval decision on the 
amendment. To be considered, comments must be received not just 
postmarked or otherwise transmitted by close of business on the last 
day of the comment period.

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

    Dated: November 9, 2005.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 05-22728 Filed 11-15-05; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-S