Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Atlantic Herring Fishery; 2006 Specifications, 74285-74288 [05-24079]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 70, No. 240 / Thursday, December 15, 2005 / Proposed Rules plan was being drafted that was expected to provide improved protection for the subspecies. That finding was challenged in Federal District Court in Washington DC, in a suit filed on November 17, 1995, by 8 of the original 10 petitioners, plus 2 additional conservation organizations and 1 additional individual. The Court granted a summary judgment for the plaintiffs on September 25, 1996, holding that we should not have relied on a draft revision of the 1979 Tongass Land Management Plan ‘‘to provide sanctuary for the goshawk,’’ remanded the decision to us, and instructed us to make a listing determination based on the existing Forest Plan, Southwest Center for Biological Diversity v. Babbitt, 939 F. Supp. 2d 49 (D.D.C. 1996). The Court agreed to a deadline of May 31, 1997, to complete this analysis. On May 23, 1997, however, the Forest Service released a new plan, the Tongass Land and Resources Management Plan. We requested and received an extension from the court until August 31, 1997, to review the petitioned action and the status of the subspecies in light of the new plan. On September 4, 1997, we published our new finding that listing of the subspecies under the Act was not warranted (62 FR 46710), confirming our previous determination. This finding was challenged in District Court, and a decision was issued July 20, 1999. The finding was remanded to us, with instructions to provide a more accurate and reliable population estimate, and to consider a 1999 revision of the 1997 Tongass Land and Resources Management Plan. We appealed that decision, prevailed, and the case was remanded back to the District Court, Southwest Center for Biological Diversity v. Babbitt, 215 F. 3d 58 (D.C. Cir. 2000). On July 29, 2002, Magistrate Facciola, of the D.C. District Court, issued his findings and recommendations, Southwest Center for Biological Diversity v. Norton, 2002 WL 1733618 (D.D.C. July 29, 2002). Magistrate Facciola found that: (1) We had fulfilled the requirement of the Act to use the best scientific data available; (2) the ‘‘not warranted’’ determination was due deference; (3) our determination that the Queen Charlotte goshawk would persist in Alaska and certain Canadian islands was not unreasonable; (4) Vancouver Island, which constituted one-third of the subspecies’ geographic range, was a ‘‘significant portion’’ of the subspecies’’ range; and (5) our failure to make a specific finding as to conservation of the subspecies on an island which VerDate Aug<31>2005 14:18 Dec 14, 2005 Jkt 208001 constituted one-third of the subspecies’ geographic range was material omission. On May 24, 2004, Judge Urbina, of the D.C. District Court, issued an order that adopted Magistrate Facciola’s Findings and Recommendations in total, except for the Magistrate’s finding that Vancouver Island constituted a significant portion of the range for Queen Charlotte goshawk. Instead, Judge Urbina directed us, upon remand, to reconsider and explain any determination regarding whether or not Vancouver Island is indeed a significant portion of the range, and assess whether the Queen Charlotte goshawk is endangered or threatened on Vancouver Island. This opening of the public comment period is consistent with Judge Urbina’s order as we are reevaluating the status of the subspecies in relation to Vancouver Island and as a taxon as a whole. Author The primary author of this document is Steve Brockmann, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Juneau Fish and Wildlife Field Office, Juneau, Alaska. Authority: The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 1973 as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). Dated: December 7, 2005. Marshall Jones Jr., Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. [FR Doc. 05–24045 Filed 12–14–05; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–55–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 74285 upcoming year and to provide an opportunity for public comment. The intent of the specifications is to conserve and manage the Atlantic herring resource and provide for a sustainable fishery. DATES: Comments must be received no later than 5 p.m., eastern standard time, on January 17, 2006. ADDRESSES: Copies of supporting documents, including the Environmental Assessment, Regulatory Impact Review, Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (EA/RIR/IRFA), and Essential Fish Habitat Assessment are available from Paul J. Howard, Executive Director, New England Fishery Management Council, 50 Water Street, Mill 2, Newburyport, MA 01950. The EA/RIR/IRFA is also accessible via the Internet at http://www.nero.gov. Written comments on the proposed rule may be sent by any of the following methods: • Mail to Patricia A. Kurkul, Regional Administrator, NMFS, Northeast Regional Office, One Blackburn Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the envelope ‘‘Comments–2006 Herring Specifications’’; • Fax to Patricia A. Kurkul 978–281– 9135; • E-mail to the following address: Herr2006Specs@noaa.gov. Include in the subject line of the e-mail comment the following document identifier: ‘‘Comments–2006 Herring Specifications;’’ or • Electronically through the Federal e-Rulemaking portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Eric Jay Dolin, Fishery Policy Analyst, 978– 281–9259, e-mail at eric.dolin@noaa.gov, fax at 978–281– 9135. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: [Docket No. 051130316–5316–01; I.D. 110905C] Background Regulations implementing the RIN 0648–AT21 Atlantic Herring Fishery Management Plan (FMP) require the New England Fisheries of the Northeastern United Fishery Management Council’s States; Atlantic Herring Fishery; 2006 (Council) Atlantic Herring Plan Specifications Development Team (PDT) to meet at least annually, no later than July each AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries year, with the Atlantic States Marine Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Fisheries Commission’s (Commission) Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Atlantic Herring Plan Review Team Commerce. ACTION: Proposed specifications; request (PRT) to develop and recommend the following specifications for for comments. consideration by the Council’s Atlantic SUMMARY: NMFS proposes specifications Herring Oversight Committee: Allowable biological catch (ABC), for the 2006 Atlantic herring fishery, which are the same as the specifications optimum yield (OY), domestic annual harvest (DAH), domestic annual implemented in 2005. The regulations processing (DAP), total foreign for the Atlantic herring fishery require processing (JVPt), joint venture NMFS to publish specifications for the PO 00000 Frm 00071 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\15DEP1.SGM 15DEP1 74286 Federal Register / Vol. 70, No. 240 / Thursday, December 15, 2005 / Proposed Rules processing (JVP), internal waters processing (IWP), U.S. at-sea processing (USAP), border transfer (BT), total allowable level of foreign fishing (TALFF), and reserve (if any). The PDT and PRT also recommend the total allowable catch (TAC) for each management area and subarea identified in the FMP. As the basis for its recommendations, the PDT reviews available data pertaining to: Commercial and recreational catch; current estimates of fishing mortality; stock status; recent estimates of recruitment; virtual population analysis results and other estimates of stock size; sea sampling and trawl survey data or, if sea sampling data are unavailable, length frequency information from trawl surveys; impact of other fisheries on herring mortality; and any other relevant information. Recommended specifications are presented to the oversight committee and the Council in order to make a recommendation to NMFS. NMFS reviews the Council recommendation, and may modify it if necessary to insure that it is consistent with the criteria in the FMP and other applicable laws. In 2004, the Council proposed specifications that would have set OY at 180,000 mt. It also voted to maintain the 2005 specifications for 2006, unless stock and fishery conditions changed substantially. Upon review of the specifications package submitted by the Council for 2005, NMFS decided that the justification for setting the OY at 180,000 mt was not persuasive, given the recent history of landings in the fishery and concerns about allocating TALFF. As a result, NMFS proposed setting the OY at 150,000 mt, and readjusting the TACs in Areas 2 and 3 to reflect that change. NMFS also did not find the Council’s argument for setting USAP at zero to be persuasive, noting that such an allocation would favor one segment of the U.S. processing sector over another, without any justifiable reasons based on conservation objectives. USAP could also provide an additional outlet for harvesters and, therefore, increase the benefits to the U.S. industry. As a result, NMFS proposed setting USAP at 20,000 mt for 2005. The modified alternative proposed by NMFS was added to and fully analyzed in the 2005 specification package’s EA/RIR/IRFA. That package analyzed and evaluated the environmental, social, and economic impacts of maintaining the same specifications for 2 years. The 2005 specifications assumed that the PDT would update and evaluate stock and fishery information during 2005, and the Council and NMFS might VerDate Aug<31>2005 14:18 Dec 14, 2005 Jkt 208001 determine, based on the review by the Herring PDT, that no adjustments to the specifications were necessary for the 2006 fishing year. The PDT completed a comprehensive review of all herring related stock and fishery data as part of the development of the DSEIS for Amendment 1 to the FMP. It concluded that stock and fishery conditions have remained relatively constant. It found no reason to modify the specifications, as implemented by NMFS for 2005, for 2006. At its September 2005 meeting, the Council agreed and voted to recommend that the 2005 specifications, as implemented by NMFS, be maintained for 2006. Given that there has been no significant change in the herring fishery over the past year, and that the 2005 specifications package fully evaluated the impacts of maintaining the specifications for 2 years, NMFS concurs with the Council’s recommendation. intended to be a temporary and precautionary placeholder for MSY until the next stock assessment for the Atlantic herring stock complex is completed. Because of the importance of ABC as a means of determining the other values in the specifications, it is discussed in the specifications, even though it is not a value that is set by the specification process. The FMP specifies that OY will be less than or equal to ABC minus the expected Canadian catch (C) from the stock complex. The estimate of C that is deducted from ABC will be no more than 20,000 mt for the New Brunswick weir fishery and no more than 10,000 mt for the Georges Bank fishery. With ABC set at 220,000 mt, OY could be less than or equal to 190,000 mt if the maximum catch is assumed for the Canadian herring fishery. The FMP also states that the establishment of OY will include consideration of relevant economic, social, and ecological factors Proposed 2006 Specifications and that, for this reason, OY may be less NMFS proposes the specifications and than ABC C. In addition, the Herring PDT recommended that OY be specified Area TACs contained in the following at a level lower than ABC for biological table. and ecological reasons. As in 2005, OY is proposed to be PROPOSED SPECIFICATIONS AND AREA TACS FOR THE 2006 ATLANTIC specified at 150,000 mt, a level that can be fully harvested by the domestic fleet, HERRING FISHERY thereby precluding the specification of a Proposed Allocation TALFF. This will enable the U.S. Specification Atlantic herring industry to expand and (mt) will yield positive social and economic ABC 220,000. benefits to U.S. harvesters and OY 150,000. processors. DAH 150,000. NMFS proposes setting DAH at DAP 146,000. 150,000 mt. The highest level of JVPt 0. landings in recent years was in 2001, JVP 0. when they reached 121,332 mt. The IWP 0. proposed DAH of 150,000 mt would USAP 20,000 (Areas 2 allow a 23–percent increase in landings and 3 only). as compared to 2001, and reflect fishery BT 4,000. TALFF 0. performance in recent years, while at Reserve 0. the same time giving the fishery an TAC - AREA 1A 60,000 (January 1 opportunity to expand. The proposed May 31, landings Area TACs would remain the same as cannot exceed they were in 2005. These area 6,000). allocations are intended to permit the TAC - Area 1B 10,000. fishery to increase landings above the TAC - Area 2 30,000 (No highest levels achieved in recent years. Reserve). The highest recent landings in Area 2 TAC - Area 3 50,000. were 27,198 mt in 2000; thus, the The proposed measures are discussed allocation would allow the fishery to here briefly. For a complete discussion slightly exceed that level. The highest of the development of and rationale for recent landings in Area 3 were 35,079 the specifications, please refer to the mt in 2001; thus, the allocation would proposed rule for the 2005 allow the fishery to exceed that level by specifications, published January 31, a considerable amount because this is 2005 (70 FR 4808). the area most likely to see expanded An ABC of 220,000 mt is proposed, harvests. consistent with the MSY proxy The regulations, at § 648.200(e), allow recommended in Amendment 1 to the for inseason adjustments of the herring FMP, which is currently being specifications. Thus, if the herring developed. The 220,000 mt proxy fishery during the 2006 fishing year recommended in Amendment 1 is expands more than anticipated, the OY, PO 00000 Frm 00072 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\15DEP1.SGM 15DEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 70, No. 240 / Thursday, December 15, 2005 / Proposed Rules the DAH, the DAP, and the area TACs could be increased to enable the fishery to perform to its fullest potential. Such increases would be constrained by the analysis that the Council included in the specification recommendations. That means that DAH and OY could be increased to a maximum of 180,000 mt, the DAP could be increased to a maximum of 176,000 mt, and the Area 2 TAC and the Area 3 TAC could be increased to 50,000 mt and 60,000 mt, respectively, which are the highest levels that the Council originally recommended and analyzed for each of these measures. Since DAH is proposed to be set at 150,000 mt (of which 4,000 mt would be allocated for BT), DAP is proposed to be specified at 146,000 mt. It is certainly possible, given the capacity of the current harvesting fleet, the potential for market expansion to occur, and the expressed intent (made clear through public testimony) of the U.S. industry to increase its participation in the Atlantic herring fishery, that processors will utilize the recommended DAP. Because the Council’s recommended DAP is sufficient to process the entire DAH (minus the BT), the Council and NMFS propose setting JVP at zero. Future JVP operations would likely compete with U.S. processors for product, which could have a substantial negative impact on domestic facilities in a market-driven fishery. This is consistent with the following relationship, which is specified in the FMP: DAH = DAP + JVPt + BT. NMFS proposes setting USAP at 20,000 mt in Areas 2 and 3 only. USAP could provide an additional outlet for harvesters and, therefore, increase the benefits to the U.S. industry. Classification This action is authorized by 50 CFR part 648 and has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. The Council prepared an IRFA, as required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, which describes the economic impacts this proposed rule, if adopted, would have on small entities. A copy of the IRFA can be obtained from the Council or NMFS (see ADDRESSES) or via the Internet at http://www.nero.noaa.gov. A summary of the analysis follows: Statement of Objective and Need A description of the reasons why this action is being considered, and the objectives of and legal basis for this action, is contained in the preamble to this proposed rule and is not repeated here. VerDate Aug<31>2005 14:18 Dec 14, 2005 Jkt 208001 Description and Estimate of Number of Small Entities to Which the Rule Will Apply During the 2003 fishing year, 154 vessels landed herring, 38 of which averaged more than 2,000 lb (907 kg) of herring per trip. There are no large entities, as defined in section 601 of the RFA, participating in this fishery. Therefore, there are no disproportionate economic impacts between large and small entities. Description of Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other Compliance Requirements This action does not contain any new collection-of-information, reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements. It does not duplicate, overlap, or conflict with any other Federal rules. Minimizing Significant Economic Impacts on Small Entities Impacts were assessed by the Council and NMFS by comparing the proposed measures to the Atlantic herring landings made in 2003. The proposed specifications are not expected to produce a negative economic impact to vessels prosecuting the fishery because it allows for landings levels that are significantly higher than the average landings achieved by the fishery in recent years. The proposed 2006 specifications should allow for incremental growth in the industry, while taking into consideration biological uncertainty. The specification of OY and DAH is proposed to be 150,000 mt for 2006. At this level, there could be an increase of up to 50,000 mt in herring landings, or $7,150,000 in revenues, based on an average price of $143/mt. This could allow individual vessels to increase their profitability under the proposed 2006 specifications, depending on whether or not new vessels enter the fishery (the herring fishery will remain an open-access fishery for the 2006 fishing year). The magnitude of economic impacts related to the 146,000–mt specification of DAP will depend on the shoreside processing sector’s ability to expand markets and increase capacity to handle larger amounts of herring during 2006. The potential loss associated with eliminating the JVPt allocation (20,000 mt for 2003 and 2004) could approximate $2.9 million (based on an average price of $143/mt) if all of the 20,000–mt allocation would have been utilized (10,000 mt for JVP and 10,000 mt for IWP). However, very little of the 10,000–mt JVP allocation was utilized PO 00000 Frm 00073 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 74287 in 2002 and 2003 and, as of August 2004, no JVP activity for herring had occurred during the 2004 fishing year. The Council received no indication that demand for the JVP allocation will increase in 2006. As a result, no substantial economic impacts are expected from reducing the JVP allocation to 0 mt in 2006, as vessels that sold fish in the past to JVP vessels could sell to U.S. processors. The Area 1A and 1B TACs of 60,000 mt and 10,000 mt, respectively, have been unchanged since the 2000 fishery. In 2002 and 2003, the Area 1A TAC for the directed herring fishery was fully utilized and is expected to be fully utilized for the 2006 fishery. Therefore, no change is expected in profitability of vessels from the 2006 Area 1A specification. Since only 4,917 mt of herring were harvested in Area 1B in 2003, the proposed 2006 specification of 10,000 mt should allow for increased economic benefits to individual vessels prosecuting the fishery in this management area. The potential economic gains associated with allocating 20,000 mt for USAP could approximate $2.9 million (based on an average price of $143/mt) if all of the 20,000–mt allocation were utilized in 2006. The Council analyzed four alternatives for OY and the distribution of TACs. One alternative would have retained the specifications implemented during the 2003 and 2004 fishing years, which would have maintained the OY at 180,000 mt. This OY is still roughly 80 percent greater than the average historical landings for this fishery, and therefore that level of OY would not pose a constraint on the fishery. The three other alternatives considered by the Council would set the OY at 150,000 mt. This is still roughly 50 percent greater than the average historical landings for this fishery, and, therefore, that level of OY would not pose a constraint on the fishery. Each of the alternatives that would set the OY at 150,000 mt would establish varying levels for the area TACs. One alternative would have established the following TACs: Area 1A, 60,000 mt; Area 1B, 10,000 mt; Area 2, 20,000 mt; and Area 3, 60,000 mt. The only area TAC that would be lower than 2003/2004 under this option is the Area 2 TAC. The most recent year in which the landings from this area were greater than 20,000 mt (the proposed TAC) was 2000 (27,198 mt). The average landings from 2001 2003 were 14,300 mt, with 2003 landings at 16,079 mt. Under current market conditions, the new TAC may become constraining if the fishery in 2006 is similar to that in 2000. If this E:\FR\FM\15DEP1.SGM 15DEP1 74288 Federal Register / Vol. 70, No. 240 / Thursday, December 15, 2005 / Proposed Rules is the case, then the Area 2 TAC fishing season could end before the end of the year, creating a potential economic constraint on the fishery, especially if vessels are forced to travel farther (increased steaming time) to harvest in Area 3. Another alternative considered would have established the following TACs: Area 1A, 45,000 mt; Area 1B, 10,000 mt; Area 2, 35,000 mt; and Area 3, 60,000 mt. With a 15,000–mt decrease in the combined Area 1 TACs, the economic impact of this option could be relatively large on vessels in the fishery that depend on herring in Area 1A, VerDate Aug<31>2005 14:18 Dec 14, 2005 Jkt 208001 especially if those vessels are not able to move to other areas to obtain fish. Even if vessels could fish in other areas, their operating costs would be increased because of increased steaming time. An Area 2 TAC of 35,000 mt proposed under this alternative should not be constraining, given recent landings history. The final alternative considered would have established the following TACs: Area 1A, 55,000 mt; Area 1B, 5,000 mt; Area 2, 30,000 mt; and Area 3, 60,000 mt. With a 10,000–mt decrease in the combined Area 1 TACs, the impact of this alternative would be very PO 00000 Frm 00074 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 similar to the impact of the prior alternative, although not as severe. An Area 2 TAC of 30,000 mt proposed under this alternative should not be constraining, given recent landings history. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: December 9, 2005. James W. Balsiger, Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 05–24079 Filed 12–14–05; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–S E:\FR\FM\15DEP1.SGM 15DEP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 70, Number 240 (Thursday, December 15, 2005)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 74285-74288]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 05-24079]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 051130316-5316-01; I.D. 110905C]
RIN 0648-AT21


Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Atlantic Herring 
Fishery; 2006 Specifications

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

ACTION: Proposed specifications; request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS proposes specifications for the 2006 Atlantic herring 
fishery, which are the same as the specifications implemented in 2005. 
The regulations for the Atlantic herring fishery require NMFS to 
publish specifications for the upcoming year and to provide an 
opportunity for public comment. The intent of the specifications is to 
conserve and manage the Atlantic herring resource and provide for a 
sustainable fishery.

DATES: Comments must be received no later than 5 p.m., eastern standard 
time, on January 17, 2006.

ADDRESSES: Copies of supporting documents, including the Environmental 
Assessment, Regulatory Impact Review, Initial Regulatory Flexibility 
Analysis (EA/RIR/IRFA), and Essential Fish Habitat Assessment are 
available from Paul J. Howard, Executive Director, New England Fishery 
Management Council, 50 Water Street, Mill 2, Newburyport, MA 01950. The 
EA/RIR/IRFA is also accessible via the Internet at http://www.nero.gov.
    Written comments on the proposed rule may be sent by any of the 
following methods:
     Mail to Patricia A. Kurkul, Regional Administrator, NMFS, 
Northeast Regional Office, One Blackburn Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. 
Mark the outside of the envelope ``Comments-2006 Herring 
Specifications'';
     Fax to Patricia A. Kurkul 978-281-9135;
     E-mail to the following address: Herr2006Specs@noaa.gov. 
Include in the subject line of the e-mail comment the following 
document identifier: ``Comments-2006 Herring Specifications;'' or
     Electronically through the Federal e-Rulemaking portal: 
http://www.regulations.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Eric Jay Dolin, Fishery Policy 
Analyst, 978-281-9259, e-mail at eric.dolin@noaa.gov, fax at 978-281-
9135.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Regulations implementing the Atlantic Herring Fishery Management 
Plan (FMP) require the New England Fishery Management Council's 
(Council) Atlantic Herring Plan Development Team (PDT) to meet at least 
annually, no later than July each year, with the Atlantic States Marine 
Fisheries Commission's (Commission) Atlantic Herring Plan Review Team 
(PRT) to develop and recommend the following specifications for 
consideration by the Council's Atlantic Herring Oversight Committee: 
Allowable biological catch (ABC), optimum yield (OY), domestic annual 
harvest (DAH), domestic annual processing (DAP), total foreign 
processing (JVPt), joint venture

[[Page 74286]]

processing (JVP), internal waters processing (IWP), U.S. at-sea 
processing (USAP), border transfer (BT), total allowable level of 
foreign fishing (TALFF), and reserve (if any). The PDT and PRT also 
recommend the total allowable catch (TAC) for each management area and 
subarea identified in the FMP. As the basis for its recommendations, 
the PDT reviews available data pertaining to: Commercial and 
recreational catch; current estimates of fishing mortality; stock 
status; recent estimates of recruitment; virtual population analysis 
results and other estimates of stock size; sea sampling and trawl 
survey data or, if sea sampling data are unavailable, length frequency 
information from trawl surveys; impact of other fisheries on herring 
mortality; and any other relevant information. Recommended 
specifications are presented to the oversight committee and the Council 
in order to make a recommendation to NMFS. NMFS reviews the Council 
recommendation, and may modify it if necessary to insure that it is 
consistent with the criteria in the FMP and other applicable laws.
    In 2004, the Council proposed specifications that would have set OY 
at 180,000 mt. It also voted to maintain the 2005 specifications for 
2006, unless stock and fishery conditions changed substantially. Upon 
review of the specifications package submitted by the Council for 2005, 
NMFS decided that the justification for setting the OY at 180,000 mt 
was not persuasive, given the recent history of landings in the fishery 
and concerns about allocating TALFF. As a result, NMFS proposed setting 
the OY at 150,000 mt, and readjusting the TACs in Areas 2 and 3 to 
reflect that change. NMFS also did not find the Council's argument for 
setting USAP at zero to be persuasive, noting that such an allocation 
would favor one segment of the U.S. processing sector over another, 
without any justifiable reasons based on conservation objectives. USAP 
could also provide an additional outlet for harvesters and, therefore, 
increase the benefits to the U.S. industry. As a result, NMFS proposed 
setting USAP at 20,000 mt for 2005. The modified alternative proposed 
by NMFS was added to and fully analyzed in the 2005 specification 
package's EA/RIR/IRFA. That package analyzed and evaluated the 
environmental, social, and economic impacts of maintaining the same 
specifications for 2 years. The 2005 specifications assumed that the 
PDT would update and evaluate stock and fishery information during 
2005, and the Council and NMFS might determine, based on the review by 
the Herring PDT, that no adjustments to the specifications were 
necessary for the 2006 fishing year. The PDT completed a comprehensive 
review of all herring related stock and fishery data as part of the 
development of the DSEIS for Amendment 1 to the FMP. It concluded that 
stock and fishery conditions have remained relatively constant. It 
found no reason to modify the specifications, as implemented by NMFS 
for 2005, for 2006. At its September 2005 meeting, the Council agreed 
and voted to recommend that the 2005 specifications, as implemented by 
NMFS, be maintained for 2006. Given that there has been no significant 
change in the herring fishery over the past year, and that the 2005 
specifications package fully evaluated the impacts of maintaining the 
specifications for 2 years, NMFS concurs with the Council's 
recommendation.

Proposed 2006 Specifications

    NMFS proposes the specifications and Area TACs contained in the 
following table.

   Proposed Specifications and Area TACs for the 2006 Atlantic Herring
                                 Fishery
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                     Proposed Allocation
                   Specification                             (mt)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                        ABC                                     220,000
                         OY                                     150,000
                        DAH                                     150,000
                        DAP                                     146,000
                        JVPt                                          0
                        JVP                                           0
                        IWP                                           0
                        USAP                         20,000 (Areas 2 and
                                                                3 only)
                         BT                                       4,000
                       TALFF                                          0
                      Reserve                                         0
                   TAC - AREA 1A                      60,000 (January 1
                                                       May 31, landings
                                                          cannot exceed
                                                                 6,000)
                   TAC - Area 1B                                 10,000
                    TAC - Area 2                     30,000 (No Reserve)
                    TAC - Area 3                                 50,000
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The proposed measures are discussed here briefly. For a complete 
discussion of the development of and rationale for the specifications, 
please refer to the proposed rule for the 2005 specifications, 
published January 31, 2005 (70 FR 4808).
    An ABC of 220,000 mt is proposed, consistent with the MSY proxy 
recommended in Amendment 1 to the FMP, which is currently being 
developed. The 220,000 mt proxy recommended in Amendment 1 is intended 
to be a temporary and precautionary placeholder for MSY until the next 
stock assessment for the Atlantic herring stock complex is completed. 
Because of the importance of ABC as a means of determining the other 
values in the specifications, it is discussed in the specifications, 
even though it is not a value that is set by the specification process.
    The FMP specifies that OY will be less than or equal to ABC minus 
the expected Canadian catch (C) from the stock complex. The estimate of 
C that is deducted from ABC will be no more than 20,000 mt for the New 
Brunswick weir fishery and no more than 10,000 mt for the Georges Bank 
fishery. With ABC set at 220,000 mt, OY could be less than or equal to 
190,000 mt if the maximum catch is assumed for the Canadian herring 
fishery. The FMP also states that the establishment of OY will include 
consideration of relevant economic, social, and ecological factors and 
that, for this reason, OY may be less than ABC C. In addition, the 
Herring PDT recommended that OY be specified at a level lower than ABC 
for biological and ecological reasons.
    As in 2005, OY is proposed to be specified at 150,000 mt, a level 
that can be fully harvested by the domestic fleet, thereby precluding 
the specification of a TALFF. This will enable the U.S. Atlantic 
herring industry to expand and will yield positive social and economic 
benefits to U.S. harvesters and processors.
    NMFS proposes setting DAH at 150,000 mt. The highest level of 
landings in recent years was in 2001, when they reached 121,332 mt. The 
proposed DAH of 150,000 mt would allow a 23-percent increase in 
landings as compared to 2001, and reflect fishery performance in recent 
years, while at the same time giving the fishery an opportunity to 
expand. The proposed Area TACs would remain the same as they were in 
2005. These area allocations are intended to permit the fishery to 
increase landings above the highest levels achieved in recent years. 
The highest recent landings in Area 2 were 27,198 mt in 2000; thus, the 
allocation would allow the fishery to slightly exceed that level. The 
highest recent landings in Area 3 were 35,079 mt in 2001; thus, the 
allocation would allow the fishery to exceed that level by a 
considerable amount because this is the area most likely to see 
expanded harvests.
    The regulations, at Sec.  648.200(e), allow for inseason 
adjustments of the herring specifications. Thus, if the herring fishery 
during the 2006 fishing year expands more than anticipated, the OY,

[[Page 74287]]

the DAH, the DAP, and the area TACs could be increased to enable the 
fishery to perform to its fullest potential. Such increases would be 
constrained by the analysis that the Council included in the 
specification recommendations. That means that DAH and OY could be 
increased to a maximum of 180,000 mt, the DAP could be increased to a 
maximum of 176,000 mt, and the Area 2 TAC and the Area 3 TAC could be 
increased to 50,000 mt and 60,000 mt, respectively, which are the 
highest levels that the Council originally recommended and analyzed for 
each of these measures.
    Since DAH is proposed to be set at 150,000 mt (of which 4,000 mt 
would be allocated for BT), DAP is proposed to be specified at 146,000 
mt. It is certainly possible, given the capacity of the current 
harvesting fleet, the potential for market expansion to occur, and the 
expressed intent (made clear through public testimony) of the U.S. 
industry to increase its participation in the Atlantic herring fishery, 
that processors will utilize the recommended DAP. Because the Council's 
recommended DAP is sufficient to process the entire DAH (minus the BT), 
the Council and NMFS propose setting JVP at zero. Future JVP operations 
would likely compete with U.S. processors for product, which could have 
a substantial negative impact on domestic facilities in a market-driven 
fishery. This is consistent with the following relationship, which is 
specified in the FMP: DAH = DAP + JVPt + BT.
    NMFS proposes setting USAP at 20,000 mt in Areas 2 and 3 only. USAP 
could provide an additional outlet for harvesters and, therefore, 
increase the benefits to the U.S. industry.

Classification

    This action is authorized by 50 CFR part 648 and has been 
determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    The Council prepared an IRFA, as required by section 603 of the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act, which describes the economic impacts this 
proposed rule, if adopted, would have on small entities. A copy of the 
IRFA can be obtained from the Council or NMFS (see ADDRESSES) or via 
the Internet at http://www.nero.noaa.gov. A summary of the analysis 
follows:

Statement of Objective and Need

    A description of the reasons why this action is being considered, 
and the objectives of and legal basis for this action, is contained in 
the preamble to this proposed rule and is not repeated here.

Description and Estimate of Number of Small Entities to Which the Rule 
Will Apply

    During the 2003 fishing year, 154 vessels landed herring, 38 of 
which averaged more than 2,000 lb (907 kg) of herring per trip. There 
are no large entities, as defined in section 601 of the RFA, 
participating in this fishery. Therefore, there are no disproportionate 
economic impacts between large and small entities.

Description of Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other Compliance 
Requirements

    This action does not contain any new collection-of-information, 
reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements. It does not 
duplicate, overlap, or conflict with any other Federal rules.

Minimizing Significant Economic Impacts on Small Entities

    Impacts were assessed by the Council and NMFS by comparing the 
proposed measures to the Atlantic herring landings made in 2003. The 
proposed specifications are not expected to produce a negative economic 
impact to vessels prosecuting the fishery because it allows for 
landings levels that are significantly higher than the average landings 
achieved by the fishery in recent years. The proposed 2006 
specifications should allow for incremental growth in the industry, 
while taking into consideration biological uncertainty.
    The specification of OY and DAH is proposed to be 150,000 mt for 
2006. At this level, there could be an increase of up to 50,000 mt in 
herring landings, or $7,150,000 in revenues, based on an average price 
of $143/mt. This could allow individual vessels to increase their 
profitability under the proposed 2006 specifications, depending on 
whether or not new vessels enter the fishery (the herring fishery will 
remain an open-access fishery for the 2006 fishing year). The magnitude 
of economic impacts related to the 146,000-mt specification of DAP will 
depend on the shoreside processing sector's ability to expand markets 
and increase capacity to handle larger amounts of herring during 2006.
    The potential loss associated with eliminating the JVPt allocation 
(20,000 mt for 2003 and 2004) could approximate $2.9 million (based on 
an average price of $143/mt) if all of the 20,000-mt allocation would 
have been utilized (10,000 mt for JVP and 10,000 mt for IWP). However, 
very little of the 10,000-mt JVP allocation was utilized in 2002 and 
2003 and, as of August 2004, no JVP activity for herring had occurred 
during the 2004 fishing year. The Council received no indication that 
demand for the JVP allocation will increase in 2006. As a result, no 
substantial economic impacts are expected from reducing the JVP 
allocation to 0 mt in 2006, as vessels that sold fish in the past to 
JVP vessels could sell to U.S. processors.
    The Area 1A and 1B TACs of 60,000 mt and 10,000 mt, respectively, 
have been unchanged since the 2000 fishery. In 2002 and 2003, the Area 
1A TAC for the directed herring fishery was fully utilized and is 
expected to be fully utilized for the 2006 fishery. Therefore, no 
change is expected in profitability of vessels from the 2006 Area 1A 
specification. Since only 4,917 mt of herring were harvested in Area 1B 
in 2003, the proposed 2006 specification of 10,000 mt should allow for 
increased economic benefits to individual vessels prosecuting the 
fishery in this management area. The potential economic gains 
associated with allocating 20,000 mt for USAP could approximate $2.9 
million (based on an average price of $143/mt) if all of the 20,000-mt 
allocation were utilized in 2006.
    The Council analyzed four alternatives for OY and the distribution 
of TACs. One alternative would have retained the specifications 
implemented during the 2003 and 2004 fishing years, which would have 
maintained the OY at 180,000 mt. This OY is still roughly 80 percent 
greater than the average historical landings for this fishery, and 
therefore that level of OY would not pose a constraint on the fishery. 
The three other alternatives considered by the Council would set the OY 
at 150,000 mt. This is still roughly 50 percent greater than the 
average historical landings for this fishery, and, therefore, that 
level of OY would not pose a constraint on the fishery. Each of the 
alternatives that would set the OY at 150,000 mt would establish 
varying levels for the area TACs.
    One alternative would have established the following TACs: Area 1A, 
60,000 mt; Area 1B, 10,000 mt; Area 2, 20,000 mt; and Area 3, 60,000 
mt. The only area TAC that would be lower than 2003/2004 under this 
option is the Area 2 TAC. The most recent year in which the landings 
from this area were greater than 20,000 mt (the proposed TAC) was 2000 
(27,198 mt). The average landings from 2001 2003 were 14,300 mt, with 
2003 landings at 16,079 mt. Under current market conditions, the new 
TAC may become constraining if the fishery in 2006 is similar to that 
in 2000. If this

[[Page 74288]]

is the case, then the Area 2 TAC fishing season could end before the 
end of the year, creating a potential economic constraint on the 
fishery, especially if vessels are forced to travel farther (increased 
steaming time) to harvest in Area 3.
    Another alternative considered would have established the following 
TACs: Area 1A, 45,000 mt; Area 1B, 10,000 mt; Area 2, 35,000 mt; and 
Area 3, 60,000 mt. With a 15,000-mt decrease in the combined Area 1 
TACs, the economic impact of this option could be relatively large on 
vessels in the fishery that depend on herring in Area 1A, especially if 
those vessels are not able to move to other areas to obtain fish. Even 
if vessels could fish in other areas, their operating costs would be 
increased because of increased steaming time. An Area 2 TAC of 35,000 
mt proposed under this alternative should not be constraining, given 
recent landings history.
    The final alternative considered would have established the 
following TACs: Area 1A, 55,000 mt; Area 1B, 5,000 mt; Area 2, 30,000 
mt; and Area 3, 60,000 mt. With a 10,000-mt decrease in the combined 
Area 1 TACs, the impact of this alternative would be very similar to 
the impact of the prior alternative, although not as severe. An Area 2 
TAC of 30,000 mt proposed under this alternative should not be 
constraining, given recent landings history.

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

    Dated: December 9, 2005.
James W. Balsiger,
Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National 
Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 05-24079 Filed 12-14-05; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-S