Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Application for an Exempted Fishing Permit, 67103-67105 [E6-19530]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 223 / Monday, November 20, 2006 / Notices warehouse, for consumption, on or after April 16, 2004. See 70 FR at 51014. We correct and amend our Amended Final Determination with the following language: We will instruct CBP to collect cash deposits of estimated countervailing duties in the percentage of 2.45 percent ad valorem of the f.o.b. invoice price on all shipments of subject merchandise from ILVA/ILT entered or withdrawn from warehouse, for consumption, on or after the publication date of this notice in the Federal Register. This notice is published pursuant to sections 705(d) and 777(i) of the Act. Dated: November 9, 2006. David M. Spooner, Assistant Secretary for Import Administration. [FR Doc. E6–19597 Filed 11–17–06; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–DS–S DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [I.D. 111406F] Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Application for an Exempted Fishing Permit National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; receipt of an application for an exempted fishing permit. sroberts on PROD1PC70 with NOTICES AGENCY: SUMMARY: This notice announces receipt of an application for an exempted fishing permit (EFP) from the American Fisheries Act (AFA) Catcher Vessel Intercooperative, and the Pollock Conservation Cooperative. If granted, the EFP would allow the applicants to use a salmon bycatch reduction intracooperative agreement (ICA) in the 2007 Bering Sea pollock fishery, and be exempt from closures of the salmon savings areas. This project is intended to promote the objectives of the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (FMP) and National Standard 9 of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). ADDRESSES: Copies of the EFP application and the environmental assessment (EA) are available by writing to the Alaska Region, NMFS, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802, Attn: Ellen Walsh. The application and EA are also VerDate Aug<31>2005 17:10 Nov 17, 2006 Jkt 211001 available from the Alaska Region, NMFS website at http://www.fakr.noaa.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jason Anderson, 907–586–7228 or jason.anderson@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS manages the domestic groundfish fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) under the FMP. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) prepared the FMP under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Regulations governing the groundfish fisheries of the BSAI appear at 50 CFR parts 600 and 679. The FMP and the implementing regulations at §§ 679.6 and 600.745(b) authorize issuance of EFPs to allow fishing that would be otherwise prohibited. Procedures for issuing EFPs are contained in the implementing regulations. NMFS received an EFP application from the AFA Catcher Vessel Intercooperative and the Pollock Conservation Cooperative (hereafter referred to as ‘‘applicants’’) on October 19, 2006. The primary objective of the proposed EFP is to test the feasibility of an ICA designed to avoid salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea pollock fishery. The applicants developed the feasibility study in cooperation with NMFS scientists at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC). The project will provide information needed by the Council and NMFS to inform decision making on subsequent salmon bycatch reduction management actions. Specifically, the project will assess the feasibility of using an ICA to share salmon bycatch information among pollock fishery participants, determine areas of high salmon bycatch, and monitor vessels= ability to meet the operational guidelines of the ICA to avoid these areas in a manner that is not allowed under current regulations. Background Pacific salmon are caught incidentally in the BSAI trawl fisheries. Of the five species of Pacific salmon, Chinook salmon (Onchorynchus tshawytscha) and chum salmon (O. keta) are most often incidentally caught in the pollock fishery. Pacific salmon are placed into two categories for purposes of salmon bycatch management: Chinook and nonChinook. The non-Chinook category is comprised of chum, sockeye (O. nerka), pink (O. gorbuscha), and coho (O. kisutch) salmon. However, from 2001 through 2006, chum salmon represented about 99 percent of non-Chinook salmon harvested incidentally in the pollock trawl fisheries. For purposes of this notice, all non-Chinook salmon are referred to as chum salmon. PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 67103 To address Chinook salmon bycatch concerns, the Council adopted several management measures designed to reduce overall Chinook salmon bycatch in the BSAI trawl fisheries. In 1995, the Council adopted and NMFS approved Amendment 21b to the FMP. Based on historic information on salmon bycatch, Amendment 21b established a Chinook salmon savings area (60 FR 31215, November 29, 1995). Under Amendment 21b, the Chinook salmon savings area closed to trawl gear when the incidental catch of Chinook salmon in BSAI trawl fisheries reached 48,000 fish. Amendment 58 to the FMP revised the Chinook salmon savings area measures (65 FR 60587, October 12, 2000). Amendment 58 reduced the Chinook salmon bycatch limit from 48,000 fish to 29,000 fish, mandated year-round accounting of Chinook bycatch in the directed pollock fishery, revised the boundaries of the Chinook salmon savings area closure, and implemented new closure dates. The timing of the closure depends on when the limit is reached as follows: (1) Before April 15, the area closes immediately through April 15. After April 15, the area re-opens, but closes again from September 1 through December 31. (2) Between April 15 and September 1, the area would close from September 1 through the end of the year. (3) After September 1, the area closes immediately through the end of the year. The Chinook salmon savings area was further modified under Amendment 82 to the FMP (70 FR 9856, March 1, 2005). Amendment 82 established a separate Aleutian Islands subarea bycatch limit that when reached, would close the existing Chinook salmon savings area located in that subarea (Area 1). The Chinook salmon savings area in the Bering Sea subarea remained unchanged, but was designated as Area 2 of the Chinook salmon savings area (Figure 8 to 50 CFR part 679). The Council also adopted a time-area closure designed to reduce overall chum salmon bycatch in the BSAI trawl fisheries. In 1995, Amendment 35 to the FMP established the chum salmon savings area (60 FR 34904, July 5, 1995). This area is closed to all trawling from August 1 through August 31 of each year. Additionally, if 42,000 nonChinook salmon are caught in the Catcher Vessel Operational Area during the period August 15 through October 14, the area remains closed for the remainder of the calendar year. Western Alaska Community Development Quota (CDQ) groups receive, along with allocations of E:\FR\FM\20NON1.SGM 20NON1 sroberts on PROD1PC70 with NOTICES 67104 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 223 / Monday, November 20, 2006 / Notices groundfish CDQ, individual allocations of Chinook and non-Chinook annual bycatch amounts. Vessels directed fishing for CDQ pollock are not subject to the chum and Chinook salmon savings area closures that apply to the non-CDQ pollock fisheries. Rather, vessels participating in directed CDQ pollock fisheries on behalf of individual CDQ groups are subject to groupspecific closures only after they exceed a given CDQ group’s chum or Chinook salmon bycatch limit. Thus, individual CDQ groups are subject to salmon savings area closures based on their respective catch of chum or Chinook salmon while directed fishing for CDQ pollock. The Chinook and chum salmon savings areas were adopted based on historic observed salmon bycatch rates and were designed to avoid high spatial and temporal levels of salmon bycatch. From 1990 through 2001, BSAI salmon bycatch averaged 37,819 Chinook and 69,332 chum annually. Recently, however, salmon bycatch numbers have increased substantially. In 2003, 54,911 Chinook salmon and 197,091 chum salmon were taken incidentally in the trawl fisheries. In 2004, salmon bycatch further increased to 62,493 Chinook and 465,650 chum salmon. Bycatch amounts remained high in 2005 and totaled 67,541 Chinook and 116,999 chum salmon. High bycatch amounts continued in 2006 with 74,120 Chinook and 317,375 chum salmon taken incidentally by September 23, 2006. Since establishment of the chum salmon savings area in 1995, the bycatch of nonChinook salmon triggered closures in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006. In February 2005, the Council initiated an Environmental Assessment/ Regulatory Impact Review/Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis to explore alternatives to the current salmon bycatch measures. Spatial and temporal comparisons of non-CDQ vessels fishing outside the salmon savings areas with CDQ vessels fishing inside the salmon savings areas indicated that bycatch rates were much higher outside the savings areas. In October 2005, the Council recommended Amendment 84 to the FMP. Amendment 84 would exempt non-CDQ and CDQ pollock vessels participating in a salmon bycatch reduction ICA from closures of the Chinook and chum salmon savings areas in the Bering Sea and enable the pollock fleet to utilize its internal cooperative structure to communicate amongst themselves and reduce salmon bycatch. Because the chum salmon savings area closes by regulation on August 1 of every year (§ 679.22(a)(10)) and this VerDate Aug<31>2005 17:10 Nov 17, 2006 Jkt 211001 closure was expected to exacerbate the high salmon bycatch the pollock fleet has experienced in recent years, the Council stressed the importance of implementing Amendment 84 by August 1, 2006. The Council also asked for an annual report from participants in the salmon bycatch reduction ICA on how effective the agreement appears to be at reducing salmon bycatch, although regulations would not require reporting to the Council. The intent of the Council is to assess the effectiveness of the ICA in coordinating voluntary salmon bycatch reduction efforts by participants in the Bering Sea pollock fisheries. During the development of a draft proposed rule to implement Amendment 84, NOAA General Council, Alaska Region (GCAK) determined that specific ICA provisions must be incorporated into regulations for compliance with the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and National Standard 9. These provisions include requirements for: (1) The initial salmon bycatch base rate that vessels’ salmon bycatch rates will be compared against; (2) Inseason adjustments to the initial salmon bycatch base rate; (3) Cooperative tier assignments and inseason adjustments to those assignments; (4) Closure notices and area closure requirements based on tier assignment; (5) Internal ICA enforcement provisions; and (6) Inseason data sharing provisions among the pollock harvesting cooperatives and western Alaska subsistence salmon user groups. These provisions are described in detail in the EA prepared for this action (see ADDRESSES) and are generally described below. Industry is concerned that incorporating components of the salmon bycatch reduction ICA into regulation would reduce their operational flexibility and ability to respond to inseason changes in salmon distribution, abundance, and bycatch levels. In June 2006, NMFS and GCAK met with members of the pollock fleet and western Alaska subsistance user groups to describe these issues and begin working towards resolving these concerns. To address the immediate need of implementing a program to enable vessels to reduce their salmon bycatch during directed fishing for pollock, and to explore whether promulgating regulations that include components of the salmon bycatch reduction ICA would be unworkable for the fleet, the applicants were granted an EFP for the PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 time period August 2, 2006, through November 1, 2006. The 2006 EFP exempted CDQ and non-CDQ pollock vessels operating under a salmon bycatch reduction ICA from closures of the salmon savings areas. The EFP allowed the participants to conduct operations under the salmon bycatch reduction EFP during the ‘‘B’’ season. Under the conditions of the 2006 EFP, the applicants are scheduled to present initial and final results at the December 2006 and February 2007 Council meetings, respectively. Preliminary indications are that salmon bycatch was reduced under the EFP, although it is not known whether these reductions are due to decreases or movements in overall salmon biomass. On October 16, 2006, NMFS received an EFP application that would continue to evaluate the goals described in the 2006 EFP. However, because chum salmon is the predominant bycatch problem during the ‘‘B’’ season, and Chinook salmon bycatch is the predominant bycatch problem during the ‘‘A’’ season, the applicants expect to be able to evaluate these goals relative to Chinook salmon bycatch in the early part of 2007. The EFP is also expected to provide a basis for potential future changes to the ICA to decrease salmon bycatch. Pending implementation of Amendment 84, this information could also provide the basis for rulemaking to adjust ICA provisions that would be established in regulations. Description of Salmon Bycatch Reduction ICA and Associated EFP The salmon bycatch reduction ICA is intended to reduce salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea pollock fisheries. The ICA would be incorporated into existing cooperative agreements among participants in the AFA fishery and include CDQ groups and western Alaska community organizations as well as AFA cooperatives. Parties to the ICA include the following AFA cooperatives: Pollock Conservation Cooperative, the High Seas Catchers Cooperative, the Mothership Fleet Cooperative, the Inshore Cooperatives (Akutan Catcher Vessel Association, Arctic Enterprise Association, Northern Victor Fleet Cooperative, Peter Pan Fleet Cooperative, Unalaska Fleet Cooperative, UniSea Fleet Cooperative, and Westward Fleet Cooperative) and all six CDQ groups. Additionally, two western Alaskan groups who have an interest in the sustainability of salmon resources would be parties in the ICA. All these groups have participated in meetings to develop the ICA and have a compliance responsibility in the agreement. E:\FR\FM\20NON1.SGM 20NON1 sroberts on PROD1PC70 with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 223 / Monday, November 20, 2006 / Notices The purpose of the ICA is to use realtime salmon bycatch information to avoid unacceptably high incidental catch rates of chum and Chinook salmon. The ICA is a private, contractual agreement among the parties. All parties to the ICA have agreed to abide by all tenants of the contract and the structure of the ICA and to retain the services of a private contractor to gather and analyze data, monitor the fleet, and report necessary bycatch information to the parties of the ICA. The ICA requires that the bycatch rate of a participating cooperative be compared to a pre-determined bycatch rate (base rate). All ICA provisions for fleet bycatch avoidance behavior, closures, and enforcement are based on the ratio of the cooperative’s actual salmon bycatch rate to the base rate. An ICA cooperative is assigned to one of three tiers based on its salmon bycatch rate relative to the base rate. Higher tiers correspond to higher salmon bycatch rates. Tier assignments determine access privileges to specific areas. A cooperative assigned to a high tier is restricted from fishing in a relatively larger geographic area to avoid unacceptably high salmon bycatch areas. A cooperative assigned to a low tier based on fishing behavior that results in relatively low salmon bycatch rates is granted access to a wider range of fishing areas. The private contractor tracks salmon bycatch rates for each cooperative. A participating cooperative is assigned to a tier each week based on its salmon bycatch rate for the previous week. Thus, vessels have incentives to avoid fishing behavior that results in high salmon bycatch rates. Any of the parties to the ICA may bring suit against another party for breaching the contract. A vessel that enters an area closed to it based on its tier assignment may be assessed a monetary penalty. The ICA contains a penalty schedule for violating these closures. The project would begin January 20, 2007, and continue until November 1, 2007. Fishing would occur in the Bering Sea subarea during the normal fishing seasons described in regulation at § 679.23. Fishing would occur within the annual specified prohibited species catch limits and total allowable catch for pollock. No additional fish would be allocated for fishing under this EFP. Exemptions to regulations granted under the EFP would apply to all directed Bering Sea pollock fisheries, including participants in the CDQ program who participate in the ICA. The proposed EFP exempts vessels listed in the application from chum and VerDate Aug<31>2005 17:10 Nov 17, 2006 Jkt 211001 Chinook salmon savings area closures. These exemptions are necessary to allow the permit holder to effectively test the feasibility the ICA to reduce salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea. As noted above, the analysis prepared for this action indicates that some geographic areas may present additional opportunities to reduce salmon bycatch, but are otherwise closed to fishing during certain times of the year. The EFP would exempt the applicant from fishing closures related to salmon bycatch implemented under §§ 679.21 and 679.22. Additionally, vessels listed on the application would be exempt from salmon bycatch related prohibitions against fishing described in § 679.7(c)(2). Vessels would still be subject to all other requirements described in 50 CFR part 679, including monitoring and observer coverage requirements described in §§ 679.28 and 679.50. The applicant would be required to report to NMFS and the Council at the December 2007 amd February 2008 meetings the findings of this study. Findings will include how well the project met the goals and objectives described above, and the number of violations of the ICA, the nature of those violations, and the penalty imposed, if any, against the violating entity. In accordance with § 600.745(b) and § 679.6, NMFS has determined that the proposal warrants consideration and has initiated consultation with the Council. The Council will consider the EFP application during its meeting in Anchorage, Alaska from December 4–12, 2006. The applicants have been invited to appear in support of the application. Interested persons may comment on the application at the Council meeting during public testimony. Information regarding the December 2006 Council meeting is available at the Council’s website at http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/ npfmc/council.htm. Copies of the application and EA are available for review from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: November 15, 2006. James P. Burgess, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. E6–19530 Filed 11–17–06; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–S PO 00000 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [Docket No. 051017270–5339–02; I.D. 093005B] Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog Fishery; 2007 Fishing Quotas for Atlantic Surfclams and Ocean Quahogs National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. AGENCY: ACTION: Notice. SUMMARY: NMFS is announcing that the quotas for the Atlantic surfclam and ocean quahog fisheries for 2007 remain status quo. Regulations governing these fisheries require NMFS to notify the public of the allowable harvest levels for Atlantic surfclams and ocean quahogs from the Exclusive Economic Zone in the Federal Register if the previous year’s quota specifications remain unchanged. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Tobey Curtis, Fishery Management Specialist, 978–281–9273. The Fishery Management Plan for the Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog Fisheries (FMP) requires that NMFS issue notification in the Federal Register of the upcoming year’s quota, even in cases where the quota remains unchanged from the previous year. At its June 2006 meeting, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council voted that no action be taken to change the quota specifications for Atlantic surfclams and ocean quahogs for the 2007 fishing year (January 1 through December 31, 2007), and recommended maintaining the 2005 and 2006 quota levels of 3.4 million bu (181 million L) for Atlantic surfclams, 5.333 million bu (284 million L) for ocean quahogs, and 100,000 Maine bu (3.524 million L) for Maine ocean quahogs, as announced in the Federal Register on December 28, 2005 (70 FR 76715). SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: November 15, 2006. James P. Burgess, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. E6–19586 Filed 11–17–06; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–S Frm 00013 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 67105 E:\FR\FM\20NON1.SGM 20NON1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 71, Number 223 (Monday, November 20, 2006)]
[Notices]
[Pages 67103-67105]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E6-19530]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

[I.D. 111406F]


Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Application 
for an Exempted Fishing Permit

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

ACTION: Notice; receipt of an application for an exempted fishing 
permit.

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SUMMARY: This notice announces receipt of an application for an 
exempted fishing permit (EFP) from the American Fisheries Act (AFA) 
Catcher Vessel Intercooperative, and the Pollock Conservation 
Cooperative. If granted, the EFP would allow the applicants to use a 
salmon bycatch reduction intra-cooperative agreement (ICA) in the 2007 
Bering Sea pollock fishery, and be exempt from closures of the salmon 
savings areas. This project is intended to promote the objectives of 
the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and 
Aleutian Islands Management Area (FMP) and National Standard 9 of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-
Stevens Act).

ADDRESSES: Copies of the EFP application and the environmental 
assessment (EA) are available by writing to the Alaska Region, NMFS, 
P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802, Attn: Ellen Walsh. The application 
and EA are also available from the Alaska Region, NMFS website at 
http://www.fakr.noaa.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jason Anderson, 907-586-7228 or 
jason.anderson@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS manages the domestic groundfish 
fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) under the FMP. 
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) prepared the FMP 
under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Regulations governing the groundfish 
fisheries of the BSAI appear at 50 CFR parts 600 and 679. The FMP and 
the implementing regulations at Sec. Sec.  679.6 and 600.745(b) 
authorize issuance of EFPs to allow fishing that would be otherwise 
prohibited. Procedures for issuing EFPs are contained in the 
implementing regulations.
    NMFS received an EFP application from the AFA Catcher Vessel 
Intercooperative and the Pollock Conservation Cooperative (hereafter 
referred to as ``applicants'') on October 19, 2006. The primary 
objective of the proposed EFP is to test the feasibility of an ICA 
designed to avoid salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea pollock fishery. The 
applicants developed the feasibility study in cooperation with NMFS 
scientists at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC). The project 
will provide information needed by the Council and NMFS to inform 
decision making on subsequent salmon bycatch reduction management 
actions. Specifically, the project will assess the feasibility of using 
an ICA to share salmon bycatch information among pollock fishery 
participants, determine areas of high salmon bycatch, and monitor 
vessels= ability to meet the operational guidelines of the ICA to avoid 
these areas in a manner that is not allowed under current regulations.

Background

    Pacific salmon are caught incidentally in the BSAI trawl fisheries. 
Of the five species of Pacific salmon, Chinook salmon (Onchorynchus 
tshawytscha) and chum salmon (O. keta) are most often incidentally 
caught in the pollock fishery. Pacific salmon are placed into two 
categories for purposes of salmon bycatch management: Chinook and non-
Chinook. The non-Chinook category is comprised of chum, sockeye (O. 
nerka), pink (O. gorbuscha), and coho (O. kisutch) salmon. However, 
from 2001 through 2006, chum salmon represented about 99 percent of 
non-Chinook salmon harvested incidentally in the pollock trawl 
fisheries. For purposes of this notice, all non-Chinook salmon are 
referred to as chum salmon.
    To address Chinook salmon bycatch concerns, the Council adopted 
several management measures designed to reduce overall Chinook salmon 
bycatch in the BSAI trawl fisheries. In 1995, the Council adopted and 
NMFS approved Amendment 21b to the FMP. Based on historic information 
on salmon bycatch, Amendment 21b established a Chinook salmon savings 
area (60 FR 31215, November 29, 1995). Under Amendment 21b, the Chinook 
salmon savings area closed to trawl gear when the incidental catch of 
Chinook salmon in BSAI trawl fisheries reached 48,000 fish. Amendment 
58 to the FMP revised the Chinook salmon savings area measures (65 FR 
60587, October 12, 2000). Amendment 58 reduced the Chinook salmon 
bycatch limit from 48,000 fish to 29,000 fish, mandated year-round 
accounting of Chinook bycatch in the directed pollock fishery, revised 
the boundaries of the Chinook salmon savings area closure, and 
implemented new closure dates. The timing of the closure depends on 
when the limit is reached as follows:
    (1) Before April 15, the area closes immediately through April 15. 
After April 15, the area re-opens, but closes again from September 1 
through December 31.
    (2) Between April 15 and September 1, the area would close from 
September 1 through the end of the year.
    (3) After September 1, the area closes immediately through the end 
of the year.
    The Chinook salmon savings area was further modified under 
Amendment 82 to the FMP (70 FR 9856, March 1, 2005). Amendment 82 
established a separate Aleutian Islands subarea bycatch limit that when 
reached, would close the existing Chinook salmon savings area located 
in that subarea (Area 1). The Chinook salmon savings area in the Bering 
Sea subarea remained unchanged, but was designated as Area 2 of the 
Chinook salmon savings area (Figure 8 to 50 CFR part 679).
    The Council also adopted a time-area closure designed to reduce 
overall chum salmon bycatch in the BSAI trawl fisheries. In 1995, 
Amendment 35 to the FMP established the chum salmon savings area (60 FR 
34904, July 5, 1995). This area is closed to all trawling from August 1 
through August 31 of each year. Additionally, if 42,000 non-Chinook 
salmon are caught in the Catcher Vessel Operational Area during the 
period August 15 through October 14, the area remains closed for the 
remainder of the calendar year.
    Western Alaska Community Development Quota (CDQ) groups receive, 
along with allocations of

[[Page 67104]]

groundfish CDQ, individual allocations of Chinook and non-Chinook 
annual bycatch amounts. Vessels directed fishing for CDQ pollock are 
not subject to the chum and Chinook salmon savings area closures that 
apply to the non-CDQ pollock fisheries. Rather, vessels participating 
in directed CDQ pollock fisheries on behalf of individual CDQ groups 
are subject to group-specific closures only after they exceed a given 
CDQ group's chum or Chinook salmon bycatch limit. Thus, individual CDQ 
groups are subject to salmon savings area closures based on their 
respective catch of chum or Chinook salmon while directed fishing for 
CDQ pollock.
    The Chinook and chum salmon savings areas were adopted based on 
historic observed salmon bycatch rates and were designed to avoid high 
spatial and temporal levels of salmon bycatch. From 1990 through 2001, 
BSAI salmon bycatch averaged 37,819 Chinook and 69,332 chum annually. 
Recently, however, salmon bycatch numbers have increased substantially. 
In 2003, 54,911 Chinook salmon and 197,091 chum salmon were taken 
incidentally in the trawl fisheries. In 2004, salmon bycatch further 
increased to 62,493 Chinook and 465,650 chum salmon. Bycatch amounts 
remained high in 2005 and totaled 67,541 Chinook and 116,999 chum 
salmon. High bycatch amounts continued in 2006 with 74,120 Chinook and 
317,375 chum salmon taken incidentally by September 23, 2006. Since 
establishment of the chum salmon savings area in 1995, the bycatch of 
non-Chinook salmon triggered closures in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 
2006.
    In February 2005, the Council initiated an Environmental 
Assessment/Regulatory Impact Review/Initial Regulatory Flexibility 
Analysis to explore alternatives to the current salmon bycatch 
measures. Spatial and temporal comparisons of non-CDQ vessels fishing 
outside the salmon savings areas with CDQ vessels fishing inside the 
salmon savings areas indicated that bycatch rates were much higher 
outside the savings areas.
    In October 2005, the Council recommended Amendment 84 to the FMP. 
Amendment 84 would exempt non-CDQ and CDQ pollock vessels participating 
in a salmon bycatch reduction ICA from closures of the Chinook and chum 
salmon savings areas in the Bering Sea and enable the pollock fleet to 
utilize its internal cooperative structure to communicate amongst 
themselves and reduce salmon bycatch. Because the chum salmon savings 
area closes by regulation on August 1 of every year (Sec.  
679.22(a)(10)) and this closure was expected to exacerbate the high 
salmon bycatch the pollock fleet has experienced in recent years, the 
Council stressed the importance of implementing Amendment 84 by August 
1, 2006. The Council also asked for an annual report from participants 
in the salmon bycatch reduction ICA on how effective the agreement 
appears to be at reducing salmon bycatch, although regulations would 
not require reporting to the Council. The intent of the Council is to 
assess the effectiveness of the ICA in coordinating voluntary salmon 
bycatch reduction efforts by participants in the Bering Sea pollock 
fisheries.
    During the development of a draft proposed rule to implement 
Amendment 84, NOAA General Council, Alaska Region (GCAK) determined 
that specific ICA provisions must be incorporated into regulations for 
compliance with the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and National 
Standard 9. These provisions include requirements for:
    (1) The initial salmon bycatch base rate that vessels' salmon 
bycatch rates will be compared against;
    (2) Inseason adjustments to the initial salmon bycatch base rate;
    (3) Cooperative tier assignments and inseason adjustments to those 
assignments;
    (4) Closure notices and area closure requirements based on tier 
assignment;
    (5) Internal ICA enforcement provisions; and
    (6) Inseason data sharing provisions among the pollock harvesting 
cooperatives and western Alaska subsistence salmon user groups.
These provisions are described in detail in the EA prepared for this 
action (see ADDRESSES) and are generally described below.
    Industry is concerned that incorporating components of the salmon 
bycatch reduction ICA into regulation would reduce their operational 
flexibility and ability to respond to inseason changes in salmon 
distribution, abundance, and bycatch levels. In June 2006, NMFS and 
GCAK met with members of the pollock fleet and western Alaska 
subsistance user groups to describe these issues and begin working 
towards resolving these concerns.
    To address the immediate need of implementing a program to enable 
vessels to reduce their salmon bycatch during directed fishing for 
pollock, and to explore whether promulgating regulations that include 
components of the salmon bycatch reduction ICA would be unworkable for 
the fleet, the applicants were granted an EFP for the time period 
August 2, 2006, through November 1, 2006.
    The 2006 EFP exempted CDQ and non-CDQ pollock vessels operating 
under a salmon bycatch reduction ICA from closures of the salmon 
savings areas. The EFP allowed the participants to conduct operations 
under the salmon bycatch reduction EFP during the ``B'' season. Under 
the conditions of the 2006 EFP, the applicants are scheduled to present 
initial and final results at the December 2006 and February 2007 
Council meetings, respectively. Preliminary indications are that salmon 
bycatch was reduced under the EFP, although it is not known whether 
these reductions are due to decreases or movements in overall salmon 
biomass.
    On October 16, 2006, NMFS received an EFP application that would 
continue to evaluate the goals described in the 2006 EFP. However, 
because chum salmon is the predominant bycatch problem during the ``B'' 
season, and Chinook salmon bycatch is the predominant bycatch problem 
during the ``A'' season, the applicants expect to be able to evaluate 
these goals relative to Chinook salmon bycatch in the early part of 
2007. The EFP is also expected to provide a basis for potential future 
changes to the ICA to decrease salmon bycatch. Pending implementation 
of Amendment 84, this information could also provide the basis for 
rulemaking to adjust ICA provisions that would be established in 
regulations.

Description of Salmon Bycatch Reduction ICA and Associated EFP

    The salmon bycatch reduction ICA is intended to reduce salmon 
bycatch in the Bering Sea pollock fisheries. The ICA would be 
incorporated into existing cooperative agreements among participants in 
the AFA fishery and include CDQ groups and western Alaska community 
organizations as well as AFA cooperatives. Parties to the ICA include 
the following AFA cooperatives: Pollock Conservation Cooperative, the 
High Seas Catchers Cooperative, the Mothership Fleet Cooperative, the 
Inshore Cooperatives (Akutan Catcher Vessel Association, Arctic 
Enterprise Association, Northern Victor Fleet Cooperative, Peter Pan 
Fleet Cooperative, Unalaska Fleet Cooperative, UniSea Fleet 
Cooperative, and Westward Fleet Cooperative) and all six CDQ groups. 
Additionally, two western Alaskan groups who have an interest in the 
sustainability of salmon resources would be parties in the ICA. All 
these groups have participated in meetings to develop the ICA and have 
a compliance responsibility in the agreement.

[[Page 67105]]

    The purpose of the ICA is to use real-time salmon bycatch 
information to avoid unacceptably high incidental catch rates of chum 
and Chinook salmon. The ICA is a private, contractual agreement among 
the parties. All parties to the ICA have agreed to abide by all tenants 
of the contract and the structure of the ICA and to retain the services 
of a private contractor to gather and analyze data, monitor the fleet, 
and report necessary bycatch information to the parties of the ICA.
    The ICA requires that the bycatch rate of a participating 
cooperative be compared to a pre-determined bycatch rate (base rate). 
All ICA provisions for fleet bycatch avoidance behavior, closures, and 
enforcement are based on the ratio of the cooperative's actual salmon 
bycatch rate to the base rate.
    An ICA cooperative is assigned to one of three tiers based on its 
salmon bycatch rate relative to the base rate. Higher tiers correspond 
to higher salmon bycatch rates. Tier assignments determine access 
privileges to specific areas. A cooperative assigned to a high tier is 
restricted from fishing in a relatively larger geographic area to avoid 
unacceptably high salmon bycatch areas. A cooperative assigned to a low 
tier based on fishing behavior that results in relatively low salmon 
bycatch rates is granted access to a wider range of fishing areas. The 
private contractor tracks salmon bycatch rates for each cooperative. A 
participating cooperative is assigned to a tier each week based on its 
salmon bycatch rate for the previous week. Thus, vessels have 
incentives to avoid fishing behavior that results in high salmon 
bycatch rates.
    Any of the parties to the ICA may bring suit against another party 
for breaching the contract. A vessel that enters an area closed to it 
based on its tier assignment may be assessed a monetary penalty. The 
ICA contains a penalty schedule for violating these closures.
    The project would begin January 20, 2007, and continue until 
November 1, 2007. Fishing would occur in the Bering Sea subarea during 
the normal fishing seasons described in regulation at Sec.  679.23. 
Fishing would occur within the annual specified prohibited species 
catch limits and total allowable catch for pollock. No additional fish 
would be allocated for fishing under this EFP. Exemptions to 
regulations granted under the EFP would apply to all directed Bering 
Sea pollock fisheries, including participants in the CDQ program who 
participate in the ICA.
    The proposed EFP exempts vessels listed in the application from 
chum and Chinook salmon savings area closures. These exemptions are 
necessary to allow the permit holder to effectively test the 
feasibility the ICA to reduce salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea. As 
noted above, the analysis prepared for this action indicates that some 
geographic areas may present additional opportunities to reduce salmon 
bycatch, but are otherwise closed to fishing during certain times of 
the year. The EFP would exempt the applicant from fishing closures 
related to salmon bycatch implemented under Sec. Sec.  679.21 and 
679.22. Additionally, vessels listed on the application would be exempt 
from salmon bycatch related prohibitions against fishing described in 
Sec.  679.7(c)(2). Vessels would still be subject to all other 
requirements described in 50 CFR part 679, including monitoring and 
observer coverage requirements described in Sec. Sec.  679.28 and 
679.50.
    The applicant would be required to report to NMFS and the Council 
at the December 2007 amd February 2008 meetings the findings of this 
study. Findings will include how well the project met the goals and 
objectives described above, and the number of violations of the ICA, 
the nature of those violations, and the penalty imposed, if any, 
against the violating entity.
    In accordance with Sec.  600.745(b) and Sec.  679.6, NMFS has 
determined that the proposal warrants consideration and has initiated 
consultation with the Council. The Council will consider the EFP 
application during its meeting in Anchorage, Alaska from December 4-12, 
2006. The applicants have been invited to appear in support of the 
application. Interested persons may comment on the application at the 
Council meeting during public testimony. Information regarding the 
December 2006 Council meeting is available at the Council's website at 
http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/npfmc/council.htm.
    Copies of the application and EA are available for review from NMFS 
(see ADDRESSES).

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

    Dated: November 15, 2006.
James P. Burgess,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. E6-19530 Filed 11-17-06; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-S