Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; Fisheries Off West Coast States; Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery; Biennial Specifications and Management Measures; Inseason Adjustments, 60642-60656 [E8-24368]

Download as PDF 60642 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 199 / Tuesday, October 14, 2008 / Rules and Regulations restrictions) their gear from a DAM zone once one is approved. Thus, NMFS makes this action effective 2 days after the date of publication of this document in the Federal Register. NMFS will also endeavor to provide notice of this action to fishermen through other means upon issuance of the rule by the AA, thereby providing approximately 3 additional days of notice while the Office of the Federal Register processes the document for publication. NMFS determined that the regulations establishing the DAM program and actions such as this one taken pursuant to those regulations are consistent to the maximum extent practicable with the enforceable policies of the approved coastal management program of the U.S. Atlantic coastal states. This determination was submitted for review by the responsible state agencies under section 307 of the Coastal Zone Management Act. Following state review of the regulations creating the DAM program, no state disagreed with NMFS’ conclusion that the DAM program is consistent to the maximum extent practicable with the enforceable policies of the approved coastal management program for that state. The DAM program under which NMFS is taking this action contains policies with federalism implications warranting preparation of a federalism assessment under Executive Order 13132. Accordingly, in October 2001 and March 2003, the Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental and Legislative Affairs, Department of Commerce, provided notice of the DAM program and its amendments to the appropriate elected officials in states to be affected by actions taken pursuant to the DAM program. Federalism issues raised by state officials were addressed in the final rules implementing the DAM program. A copy of the federalism Summary Impact Statement for the final rules is available upon request (ADDRESSES). The rule implementing the DAM program has been determined to be not significant under Executive Order 12866. ebenthall on PROD1PC60 with RULES Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq. and 50 CFR 229.32(g)(3) Dated: October 7, 2008. James W. Balsiger, Acting Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. E8–24272 Filed 10–8–08; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 3510–22–S VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:35 Oct 10, 2008 Jkt 217001 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 660 [Docket No. 060824226–6322–02] RIN 0648–AX30 Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; Fisheries Off West Coast States; Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery; Biennial Specifications and Management Measures; Inseason Adjustments National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule; inseason adjustments to groundfish management measures; request for comments. AGENCY: SUMMARY: This final rule announces inseason changes to management measures in the Pacific Coast groundfish fisheries including: trip limit adjustments; the reopening of the Pacific whiting primary seasons for the shore-based, catcher/processor, and mothership sectors; bycatch limit increases; and modifications to the trawl Rockfish Conservation Areas. These routine actions, are authorized by the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan (FMP), and are intended to allow fisheries to access more abundant groundfish stocks while protecting overfished and depleted stocks. DATES: Effective 0001 hours (local time) October 10, 2008. Comments on this action must be received no later than October 29, 2008. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by RIN 0648–AX30 by any of the following methods: • Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal http:// www.regulations.gov. • Fax: 206–526–6736, Attn: Becky Renko. • Mail: D. Robert Lohn, Administrator, Northwest Region, NMFS, Attn: Becky Renko, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115–0070. Instructions: All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted to http:// www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (for example, name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive or PO 00000 Frm 00034 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 protected information. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter N/ A in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only. Copies of additional reports referred to in this document may also be obtained from the Pacific Fishery Management Council(Council). Copies of the Record of Decision (ROD), final regulatory flexibility analysis (FRFA), and the Small Entity Compliance Guide are available from D. Robert Lohn, Administrator, Northwest Region (Regional Administrator), NMFS, 7600 Sand Point Way, NE, Seattle, WA 98115–0070. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Becky Renko (Northwest Region, NMFS) 206–526–6110. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Electronic Access: This final rule is accessible via the Internet at the Office of the Federal Register’s Website at http:// www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/. Background information and documents are available at the Council’s website at http://www.pcouncil.org/. Background The Pacific Coast Groundfish FMP and its implementing regulations at title 50 in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), part 660, subpart G, regulate fishing for over 90 species of groundfish off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California. Groundfish specifications and management measures are developed by the Council and are implemented by NMFS. A proposed rule to implement the 2007 2008 specifications and management measures for the Pacific Coast groundfish fishery and Amendment 16 4 of the FMP was published on September 29, 2006 (71 FR 57764). The final rule to implement the 2007 2008 specifications and management measures for the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery was published on December 29, 2006 (71 FR 78638). These specifications and management measures are codified in 50 CFR part 660, subpart G. The final rule was subsequently amended on: March 20, 2007 (72 FR 13043); April 18, 2007 (72 FR 19390); July 5, 2007 (72 FR 36617); August 3, 2007 (72 FR 43193); September 18, 2007 (72 FR 53165); October 4, 2007 (72 FR 56664); December 4, 2007 (72 FR 68097); December 18, 2007 (72 FR 71583); April 18, 2008 (73 FR 21057), and July 24, 2008 (73 FR 43139). Inseason adjustments to the current groundfish management measures were E:\FR\FM\14OCR1.SGM 14OCR1 ebenthall on PROD1PC60 with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 199 / Tuesday, October 14, 2008 / Rules and Regulations recommended by the Council in consultation with the Pacific Coast Treaty Indian Tribes and the States of Washington, Oregon, and California, at the Council’s September 10 14, 2008, meeting in Boise, Idaho. The Pacific Council recommended the following adjustments to current groundfish management measures in response to updated fishery information: (1) increase the 2008 canary rockfish and widow rockfish bycatch limits for the non-tribal sectors of the whiting fishery; (2) reopen the 2008 non-tribal whiting primary season for the catcher/ processor, mothership, and shore-based sectors; (3) move the shoreward boundary of the trawl Rockfish Conservation Area (RCA) north of 40°10.00’ north latitude from 60–fm (110–m) to 75–fm (137–m), with the exception of the areas north of Cape Alava (48°10.00’ north latitude) and between Cape Arago (4°20.83’ north latitude) and Humbug mountain (42°40.50’ north latitude); (4) coastwide, increase large footrope (and small footrope in the north) trawl trip limits for petrale sole and Dover sole for period 6; (5) increase small footrope chilipepper rockfish limits in the south; (6) increase the weekly and monthly cumulative limits for sablefish in the limited entry fixed gear daily trip limit fishery north of 36°00.00’ north latitude; (7) increase shelf rockfish limits for open access gears south of Point Conception (34°27.00’ north latitude) and, (8) take action to close the recreational fisheries off the State of California in the North and North Central management areas. Catch of canary rockfish by scientific research vessels and catch in the limited entry trawl fisheries has been lower than was projected earlier in 2008. Scientific research catch projections made at the beginning of the year indicated that 5.5 mt of canary rockfish would be taken as scientific research catch in 2008, with 5.2 mt estimated to be taken in the Northwest Fishery Science Center’s bottom trawl survey. To prevent an overfished species optimum yield (OY) from being exceeded, the amount projected to be taken during scientific research activities is not available to the groundfish fisheries until the activities are completed or near completion. NMFS and the Council have a better estimate of what is actually taken and the remainder can be released to the fishery. When the Council considered inseason measures at its September 2008 meeting, the Northwest Fishery Science Center’s bottom trawl survey was nearing completion and had passed VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:35 Oct 10, 2008 Jkt 217001 most of the locations where previous surveys had encountered an abundance of canary rockfish. Updated projections from the bottom trawl survey (data through September 10, 2008) indicated that less than 2.6 mt of canary rockfish would be taken in the Northwest Fishery Science Center’s bottom trawl survey in 2008. When combined with catch projections from other scientific research work, the revised projection for scientific research catch of canary rockfish is 2.9 mt. The revised projection is 2.6 mt less than the earlier projection. Because catch projections early in the year use historical data to project effort, they are revised as the fishing year progresses and current-year data becomes available. Actual catch records indicate that trawl effort in areas shoreward of the trawl RCA north of 40°10.00’ north latitude has been lower than projected. Implementation of a 60– fm (110–m) shoreward boundary in much of this area was intended to reduce incidental catch of canary rockfish, but may have discouraged more effort in the north than had been expected. Effort reductions may also be the result of vessels shifting to other trawl opportunities such as pink shrimp. Catch projections for canary rockfish are in part based on a historical understanding of fishing effort. Fishing effort reductions resulted in less canary rockfish being taken than had been projected earlier in the year. Updated projections indicate that if no inseason adjustment were made, 3.5 mt of canary rockfish would be unharvested at the end of 2008 due to lower than projected commercial and scientific research catch. Given the availability of canary rockfish, the Council considered inseason adjustments to bycatch limits, trip limits, and RCA restrictions for the Pacific whiting primary season fisheries, and the limited entry bottom trawl fishery. Pacific Whiting Fishery Bycatch limits have been used to restrict the catch of overfished species, particularly canary, darkblotched and widow rockfish, in the non-tribal Pacific whiting fisheries. With bycatch limits, the industry has the opportunity to harvest a larger Pacific whiting OY, providing the incidental catch of overfished species does not exceed the adopted bycatch limits. If a bycatch limit is reached, all non-tribal sectors of the whiting fishery are closed. For 2008, the following bycatch limits were specified for the non-tribal Pacific whiting sectors: 275 mt for widow PO 00000 Frm 00035 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 60643 rockfish, 4.7 mt for canary rockfish, and 40 mt for darkblotched rockfish. The 2008 Pacific whiting primary seasons were closed for the catcher/ processor, mothership and shore-based sectors on August 19, 2008 (September 17, 2008; 73 FR 53763) when catch estimates indicated that the 4.7 mt bycatch limit for canary rockfish had been reached. When the fisheries were closed the shore-based sector had taken only 35.5 percent of its Pacific whiting allocation, the catcher/processor sector had taken 62.3 percent of its allocation, and the mothership sector had taken 84.0 percent of its allocation. At its September meeting, the Council considered increasing the canary and widow rockfish bycatch limits and reopening of the non-tribal sectors of the Pacific whiting fishery. Following discussion and public testimony, the Council recommended increasing the widow rockfish bycatch limit by 12 metric tons (from 275 mt to 287 mt) and increasing the canary rockfish bycatch limit by 2 metric tons (from 4.7 mt to 6.7 mt). With the Canary rockfish bycatch limit the Council recommended that the limit be raised by 1.7 mt (to 6.4 mt) upon reopening of the fishery then increase by 0.3 mt (to 6.7 mt) two weeks following the re-opening, but no later than October 26, 2008. The Council considered the incremental increase of canary rockfish bycatch limits as a conservation measure. Historical data indicates that bycatch rates tend to be higher at the start of the Pacific whiting fisheries. As the fishery reopens, fishers will need to locate harvestable aggregations of Pacific whiting while minimizing the incidental catch of canary and widow rockfish. Increasing the bycatch limit two weeks after the fishery re-opens, when the incidental catch rates are expected to be lower, is expected to allow a greater proportion of the Pacific whiting allocations to be harvested. In addition, the Council expressed concern about stopping the fishery before a bycatch limit is exceeded so as not to exceed a rebuilding based OY. Increasing the bycatch limit after two weeks would provide a buffer while catch data were gathered and fishing patterns are established and understood. A 0.3 mt buffer at start-up would provide managers with an increased degree of certainty that fishery can be closed without going over the bycatch limit. When the Council considered possible reopening dates, it indicated that reopening the fishery as quickly as possible would be beneficial to the fishery participants because the aggregations of whiting begin to move E:\FR\FM\14OCR1.SGM 14OCR1 ebenthall on PROD1PC60 with RULES 60644 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 199 / Tuesday, October 14, 2008 / Rules and Regulations into deeper waters and disperse later in the year, and may result in increased bycatch rates for non-whiting species, and; because late autumn weather is more dangerous for smaller vessels. During Council discussion, the Council recognized the need to consider the tracking and monitoring of catch, particularly of overfished species, when reopening the fisheries. In 2008, a maximized retention and monitoring program was managed under federally managed exempted fishing permits (EFP). Most vessels in the shorebased sector operated under EFPs which allowed the sorting of groundfish catch to be delayed and catch in excess of cumulative trip limits and prohibited species catch retained until offloading. Retaining unsorted catch is otherwise prohibited by regulations at 50 CFR 660.306(a)(10) and 50 CFR 660.306(a)(2). EFPs were also issued to approximately 15 first receivers to allow first receivers to possess more than a single cumulative limit of a particular species, per vessel, per applicable cumulative limit period. The possession of catch in excess of the cumulative limits is otherwise prohibited by regulations at 50 CFR 660.306(a)(10). Any vessel fishing under an EFP, has been required to have and use an electronic monitoring system (EMS). The EMS is a video monitoring system that allows for the integrity of maximized catch retention requirements to be maintained. First receiver’s that accept unsorted Pacific whiting catch from vessels fishing under an EFP have been required to procure the service of a NMFS certified catch monitor to oversee the sorting, weighing, and recordkeeping process, as well as to gather information on incidentally caught salmon. Catch monitors are necessary to verify the accuracy of electronic fish ticket data used to manage the Pacific whiting shoreside fishery such that inaccurate or delayed information does not result in any fishery specifications (bycatch limits, species allocations, OYs, and biological opinion thresholds) being exceeded. Because of the need for accurate monitoring of bycatch limits to provide the data NMFS needs to monitor the fishery and close in time to keep within the bycatch limits, NMFS has determined that adequate time is needed to hire, train and deploy catch monitors. In addition, time is needed to hire and train observers for the catcher/ processor and mothership sectors, to reissue EFPs and to conduct onsite inspections of new first receivers. NMFS has determined that the earliest date that the fisheries can be reopened with adequate monitoring is October 12, VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:35 Oct 10, 2008 Jkt 217001 2008. Therefore, this notice announces: the reopening of the fishery at 0001 hours on October 12, 2008; an increase in the bycatch limit for widow to 287 mt effective on October 12, 2008; an increase in the canary rockfish bycatch limit to 6.4 mt on October 12, 2008; and an increase in the canary rockfish bycatch limit to 6.7 effective October 26, 2008. Limited Entry Bottom Trawl North of 40°10.00’ North Latitude Updated catch projections based on landing data through August 30, 2008, indicate that the catch of several target species north of 40°10.00’ north latitude are lower than previously projected. Because trawl opportunity in the north has been severely constrained by measures to rebuild overfished species, the Council indicated that there was a need to allow the fishers an opportunity to fish. Because catch projections early in the year use historical data to project effort, they are revised as the fishing year progresses and current year data becomes available. When compared to projections available at the Council’s June 2008 meeting, the catch of several target species, including Dover sole, arrowtooth flounder, petrale sole and other flatfish was lower than expected. Because the catch of target species and overfished species has been lower than expected, the Council considered liberalizing the RCA boundaries in the north and increasing target species trip limits. Two different approaches for modifying the RCA boundaries were considered. The first approach considered reopening the areas shoreward of the trawl RCA north of Cape Alava (48°10.00’ north latitude) and between Cape Arago (43°20.83’ north latitude) and Humbug mountain (42°40.50’ north latitude) to 60–fm (110–m) beginning October 1 (or as early as possible) through the end of the year. The second approach considered the possibility of shifting the shoreward boundary of the RCA in the north to 75– fm (137–m) while leaving the area north of Cape Alava and the area between Cape Arago and Humbug mountain closed beginning October 1 (or as early as possible) through the end of the year. After consideration of the availability of canary rockfish and the bycatch implications of the different approaches, the Council recommended that the shoreward boundary of the trawl RCA be moved from 60–fm (110 m) to 75–fm (137 m) in areas north of 40°deg;10.00’ north latitude as early as possible, but the areas north of Cape Alava and between Cape Arago and Humbug mountain remain closed. The Council identified concerns about the incidental PO 00000 Frm 00036 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 canary rockfish catch relative to the limited benefit of opening closed areas north of Cape Alava and between Cape Arago and Humbug mountain. The Council also recommended increasing the petrale sole limit in the north for vessels using large and small footrope trawl gear from 30,000 lbs (13.6 mt) per two months to 45,000 lbs (20.41 mt) per two months in period 6, and increasing Dover sole in the north for vessels using large and small footrope trawl gear from 80,000 lbs (36.3 mt) per two months to 90,000 lbs (40.8 mt) per two months in period 6. Limited Entry Trawl South of 40°deg;10.00’ North Latitude The Council considered increasing the petrale sole, Dover sole, and chilipepper rockfish trip limits in the area south of 40°10.00’ north latitude. West Coast Groundfish Observer program data, provided by the NMFS Northwest Fishery Science Center, identified a larger than expected chilipepper rockfish discard rate for small footrope trawl gear in the area south of 40°10.00’ north latitude. Rates were particularly high in the areas shoreward of the RCA. Because chilipepper rockfish co-occur with bocaccio and to a lesser degree with cowcod, targeting of chilipepper rockfish has been constrained. Industry participants requested that the Council consider increasing the small footrope trawl gear trip limit to allow the landing of incidentally caught chilipepper rockfish. After consideration of the potential impacts on bocaccio and cowcod projected to result from a modest increase in the trip limit, the Council recommended increasing the chilipepper rockfish limit for small footrope trawl gear in the south from 2,000 lbs (0.9 mt) per two months to 5,000 lbs (2.3 mt) per two months in period 6. Because the catch of several target species and overfished species has been lower than expected, the Council considered increasing trip limits for petrale sole and Dover sole. The Council recommended increasing petrale sole south of 40°10.00’ north latitude from 50,000 lbs (22.6 mt) per two months to 65,000 lbs (29.5 mt) per two months in period 6, and increasing the Dover sole from 80,000 lbs (36.3 mt) per two months to 90,000 lbs (40.8 mt) per two months in period 6. Limited Entry Fixed Gear North of 36° North Latitude The Council recommended increasing the daily limit in the limited entry fixed gear sablefish daily trip limit (DTL) fishery north of 36° north latitude in E:\FR\FM\14OCR1.SGM 14OCR1 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 199 / Tuesday, October 14, 2008 / Rules and Regulations ebenthall on PROD1PC60 with RULES June from 300–lbs (0.14–mt) per day to 500–lbs (0.23–mt) per day, which became effective August 1. Though limited, data indicates that catch in the DTL fishery is less than the allocation, and has been substantially less than the allocation in recent years. Using historical participation and catch information, the potential increase in the weekly and bimonthly limit for period 6 was evaluated. Because the catches would remain within the limited entry DTL allocation if the 2– month DTL limit were raised from 5,000–lbs (2.3–mt) to 6,500–lbs (2.9–mt) in period 6, the Council recommended raising the DTL limit north of 36 north latitude. The higher limit is expected to increase fishing opportunity without exceeding the allocation. The Council also recommended raising the corresponding weekly limit from 1,000 lb (0.5 mt) per week to 1,500 lb (0.7 mt) per week in period 6. Open Access South of 34°27’ North Latitude The Council considered an increase in the shelf rockfish trip limits south of Point Conception (34°27’ north latitude) from 750–lb (0.3–mt) 2 months to 1,000–lb (0.5–mt) 2 months because fishing effort has been lower than projected. Data through June 30, 2008, indicates that the shelf rockfish landings are approximately 25 percent lower than in previous years and well below the OY. Higher fuel costs and vessel monitoring system requirements may have contributed to the reduction in effort. In recent years, shelf rockfish trip limits have been substantially reduced over historical levels to reduce the catch of overfished species found on the continental shelf. A variety of information was examined to understand potential impacts of increasing shelf rockfish trip limits. Observer data south of Point Conception indicated low overfished species bycatch, however only limited data were available. An analysis prepared by California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) indicated that the proposed trip limits change is likely to result in a 6.1 percent increase in the projected catch of shelf rockfish and would not be expected to result in the bocaccio or widow rockfish OYs being exceeded. The Council considered potential effort shifts as a result of higher trip limits south of Point Conception, but did not find evidence that the modest increase would create an economic incentive that is likely to result in an effort shift from the north. After public comment and discussion, the Council recommended increasing the shelf rockfish trip limit VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:35 Oct 10, 2008 Jkt 217001 south of 34°27’ north latitude to 1,000– lbs (0.5–mt) per two months in period 6. California Recreational Fishery Data available through August 10, 2008, indicated that the California harvest guideline for yelloweye rockfish was projected to be exceeded, therefore, CDFG took action to close the recreational fishery in the North and North Central Regions on September 2, 2008. As a result of the recreational closure, the California recreational fishery is projected to stay within their harvest guidelines for overfished species. CDFG requested and the Council recommended that NMFS Take conforming federal action to close the California recreational fishery in the North and North Central Management Area north of Point Arena. Classification These actions are taken under the authority of 50 CFR 660.370(c) and are exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. These actions are authorized by the Pacific Coast groundfish FMP and its implementing regulations, and are based on the most recent data available. The aggregate data, upon which these actions are based, are available for public inspection at the Office of the Administrator, Northwest Region, NMFS, (see ADDRESSES) during business hours. For the following reasons, NMFS finds good cause to waive prior public notice and comment on the revisions to the 2008 groundfish management measures under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) because notice and comment would be impracticable and contrary to the public interest. Also for the same reasons, NMFS finds good cause to waive part of the 30 day delay in effectiveness pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(1) and 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3). The data upon which these recommendations were based was provided to the Council and the Council made its recommendations at its September 8–12, 2008, meeting in Boise, Idaho. There was not sufficient time after that meeting to draft this notice and undergo proposed and final rulemaking before these actions need to be in effect. For the actions to be implemented in this notice, affording the time necessary for prior notice and opportunity for public comment would be impractical and contrary to the public interest because it would prevent the Agency from managing fisheries using the best available science to approach without exceeding the OYs for Federally managed species. The PO 00000 Frm 00037 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 60645 inseason adjustments to management measures in this document affect commercial groundfish fisheries off Washington, Oregon, and California. Changes to the non-tribal whiting canary rockfish bycatch limit must be implemented and the non-tribal fishery must be reopened as soon as possible, to relieve a restriction and allow fishermen the opportunity to harvest the remainder of the 2008 Pacific whiting OY. It would be contrary to the public interest to wait to implement these changes until after public notice and comment. Reopening the fishery as quickly as possible would be beneficial to the fishery participants because the aggregations of whiting begin to move into deeper waters and disperse later in the year, and this movement may result in increased bycatch rates for nonwhiting species, and; because late autumn weather is more dangerous for smaller vessels. Taking the time to do provide notice and comment would eliminate the opportunity for many if not all vessels to participate in the fishery. The whiting fishery contributes a large amount of revenue to the coastal communities of Washington and Oregon. Leaving 101,694–mt (43.7 percent) of the whiting OY unharvested would sacrifice millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs for fishermen and coastal communities. Projected effects of reopening the nontribal whiting fishery and increasing the non-tribal Pacific whiting widow and canary rockfish bycatch limits are within projected mortality for overfished species and other groundfish species. Failing to take these actions in a timely manner would result in unnecessary restriction of fisheries that are important to coastal communities and is therefore contrary to the public interest. The adjustments to management measures in this document affect: limited entry commercial trawl and fixed gear fisheries off Washington, Oregon, and California and open access fisheries off California in the area south of 34°27’ North latitude, and recreational fisheries off northern California. Adjustments to management measures must be implemented in a timely manner, by October 1, 2008, or as soon as possible afterward to allow: fishers an opportunity to harvest higher trip limits for species where the catch is tracking behind the projected catch levels for 2008; and to assure that recreational fishing in areas closed by CDFG or adjacent federal waters do not result in an overfished species OY being exceeded. Changes to the cumulative limits in the limited entry trawl fishery, limited E:\FR\FM\14OCR1.SGM 14OCR1 60646 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 199 / Tuesday, October 14, 2008 / Rules and Regulations entry fixed gear fishery and the open access fishery are needed to relieve a restriction by allowing fishermen increased opportunities to harvest available healthy stocks. Increased opportunities to harvest available healthy stocks while not exceeding the OYs for overfished species meets the objective of the Pacific Coast Groundfish FMP to allow fisheries to approach, but not exceed, OYs. It would be contrary to the public interest to wait to implement these changes until after public notice and comment, because making this regulatory change by October 1, or as soon as possible after, relieves a regulatory restriction for fisheries that are important to coastal communities. Without these inseason measures, there is an increased risk of causing economic harm to fishing communities. Delaying these changes would keep management measures in place that are not based on the best available science and would impair achievement of one of the Pacific Coast Groundfish FMP objectives of providing for year-round harvest opportunities or extending fishing opportunities as long as practicable during the fishing year. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 660 Fisheries, Fishing, Indians. Dated: October 6, 2008. Emily H. Menashes, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. For the reasons set out in this preamble, 50 CFR part 660 is amended as follows: ■ PART 660—FISHERIES OFF WEST COAST STATES 1. The authority citation for part 660 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. 2. In § 660.373 paragraphs (b)(1)(iii) and (b)(4) are revised to read as follows: ebenthall on PROD1PC60 with RULES ■ VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:35 Oct 10, 2008 Jkt 217001 § 660.373 Pacific whiting (whiting) fishery management. * * * * * (b) * * * (1) * * * (iii) Primary whiting seasons. After the start of a primary season for a sector of the whiting fishery, the season remains open for that sector until the quota is taken or a bycatch limit is reached and the fishery season for that sector is closed by NMFS. The primary seasons for the whiting fishery are as follows: (A) Catcher/processor sector - May 15 to August 19, 2008; reopening on October 12, 2008. (B) Mothership sector - May 15 to August 19, 2008; reopening on October 12, 2008. (C) Shore-based sector (1) June 15 to August 19, 2008 and reopening on October 12, 2008 north of 42° N. lat.; April 1 to May 21, 2008, June 15 to August 19, 2008 and reopening on October 12, 2008 between 42°-40°30’ N. lat. (2) South of 40°30’ N. lat. the primary season is April 15 to May 21, 2008, June 15 to August 19, 2008 and reopening on October 12, 2008. * * * * * (4) Bycatch limits in the whiting fishery. The bycatch limits for the whiting fishery may be used inseason to close a sector or sectors of the whiting fishery to achieve the rebuilding of an overfished or depleted stock, under routine management measure authority at § 660.370(c)(1)(ii). These limits are routine management measures under § 660.370(c) and, as such, may be adjusted inseason or may have new species added to the list of those with bycatch limits. The whiting fishery bycatch limits for the sectors identified in § 660.323(a) are: 6.4 mt of canary rockfish on October 12, 2008; 6.7 mt of canary rockfish on October 26, 2008; PO 00000 Frm 00038 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 287 mt of widow rockfish; and 40 mt of darkblotched rockfish. * * * * * ■ 3. In § 660.384 paragraphs (c)(3)(i)(A)(1)and (2) are revised to read as follows: § 660.384 Recreational fishery management measures. * * * * * (c)* * * (3)* * * (i) * * * (A) * * * (1) Between 42° N. lat. (California/ Oregon border) and 40°10.00’ N. lat. (North Region), recreational fishing for all groundfish (except ‘‘other flatfish’’ as specified in paragraph (c)(3)(iv) of this section) is prohibited seaward of the 20 fm (37 m) depth contour along the mainland coast and along islands and offshore seamounts from May 1 through October 13, 2008; and is closed entirely from January 1 through April 30, and October 14, 2008 through December 31, 2008 (i.e., prohibited seaward of the shoreline). (2) Between 40°10’ N. lat. and 37°11’ N. lat. (North Central Region), recreational fishing for all groundfish (except ‘‘other flatfish’’ as specified in paragraph (c)(3)(iv) of this section) is prohibited seaward of the 20 fm (37 m) depth contour along the mainland coast and along islands and offshore seamounts from June 1 through October 13, 2008; and is closed entirely from January 1 through May 31, and October 14, 2008 through December 31, 2008 (i.e., prohibited seaward of the shoreline). Closures around the Farallon Islands (see paragraph (c)(3)(i)(C) of this section) and Cordell Banks (see paragraph (c)(3)(i)(D) of this section) also apply in this area. * * * * * ■ 4. Tables 3 (North), 3 (South), 4 (North), 4 (South), and 5 (South) to part 660 subpart G are revised to read as follows: E:\FR\FM\14OCR1.SGM 14OCR1 VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:35 Oct 10, 2008 Jkt 217001 PO 00000 Frm 00039 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4725 E:\FR\FM\14OCR1.SGM 14OCR1 60647 ER14OC08.042</GPH> ebenthall on PROD1PC60 with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 199 / Tuesday, October 14, 2008 / Rules and Regulations VerDate Aug<31>2005 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 199 / Tuesday, October 14, 2008 / Rules and Regulations 15:35 Oct 10, 2008 Jkt 217001 PO 00000 Frm 00040 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4725 E:\FR\FM\14OCR1.SGM 14OCR1 ER14OC08.043</GPH> ebenthall on PROD1PC60 with RULES 60648 VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:35 Oct 10, 2008 Jkt 217001 PO 00000 Frm 00041 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4725 E:\FR\FM\14OCR1.SGM 14OCR1 60649 ER14OC08.044</GPH> ebenthall on PROD1PC60 with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 199 / Tuesday, October 14, 2008 / Rules and Regulations VerDate Aug<31>2005 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 199 / Tuesday, October 14, 2008 / Rules and Regulations 15:35 Oct 10, 2008 Jkt 217001 PO 00000 Frm 00042 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4725 E:\FR\FM\14OCR1.SGM 14OCR1 ER14OC08.045</GPH> ebenthall on PROD1PC60 with RULES 60650 VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:35 Oct 10, 2008 Jkt 217001 PO 00000 Frm 00043 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4725 E:\FR\FM\14OCR1.SGM 14OCR1 60651 ER14OC08.046</GPH> ebenthall on PROD1PC60 with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 199 / Tuesday, October 14, 2008 / Rules and Regulations VerDate Aug<31>2005 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 199 / Tuesday, October 14, 2008 / Rules and Regulations 15:35 Oct 10, 2008 Jkt 217001 PO 00000 Frm 00044 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4725 E:\FR\FM\14OCR1.SGM 14OCR1 ER14OC08.047</GPH> ebenthall on PROD1PC60 with RULES 60652 VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:35 Oct 10, 2008 Jkt 217001 PO 00000 Frm 00045 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4725 E:\FR\FM\14OCR1.SGM 14OCR1 60653 ER14OC08.048</GPH> ebenthall on PROD1PC60 with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 199 / Tuesday, October 14, 2008 / Rules and Regulations VerDate Aug<31>2005 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 199 / Tuesday, October 14, 2008 / Rules and Regulations 15:35 Oct 10, 2008 Jkt 217001 PO 00000 Frm 00046 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4725 E:\FR\FM\14OCR1.SGM 14OCR1 ER14OC08.049</GPH> ebenthall on PROD1PC60 with RULES 60654 VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:35 Oct 10, 2008 Jkt 217001 PO 00000 Frm 00047 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4725 E:\FR\FM\14OCR1.SGM 14OCR1 60655 ER14OC08.050</GPH> ebenthall on PROD1PC60 with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 199 / Tuesday, October 14, 2008 / Rules and Regulations 60656 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 199 / Tuesday, October 14, 2008 / Rules and Regulations [FR Doc. E8–24368 Filed 10–10–08; 8:45 am] VerDate Aug<31>2005 15:35 Oct 10, 2008 Jkt 217001 PO 00000 Frm 00048 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 E:\FR\FM\14OCR1.SGM 14OCR1 ER14OC08.051</GPH> ebenthall on PROD1PC60 with RULES BILLING CODE 3510–22–S

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 73, Number 199 (Tuesday, October 14, 2008)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 60642-60656]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E8-24368]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 660

[Docket No. 060824226-6322-02]
RIN 0648-AX30


Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; Fisheries Off West Coast States; 
Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery; Biennial Specifications and 
Management Measures; Inseason Adjustments

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

ACTION: Final rule; inseason adjustments to groundfish management 
measures; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: This final rule announces inseason changes to management 
measures in the Pacific Coast groundfish fisheries including: trip 
limit adjustments; the reopening of the Pacific whiting primary seasons 
for the shore-based, catcher/processor, and mothership sectors; bycatch 
limit increases; and modifications to the trawl Rockfish Conservation 
Areas. These routine actions, are authorized by the Pacific Coast 
Groundfish Fishery Management Plan (FMP), and are intended to allow 
fisheries to access more abundant groundfish stocks while protecting 
overfished and depleted stocks.

DATES: Effective 0001 hours (local time) October 10, 2008. Comments on 
this action must be received no later than October 29, 2008.

ADDRESSES:  You may submit comments, identified by RIN 0648-AX30 by any 
of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal http://www.regulations.gov.
     Fax: 206-526-6736, Attn: Becky Renko.
     Mail: D. Robert Lohn, Administrator, Northwest Region, 
NMFS, Attn: Becky Renko, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115-
0070.
    Instructions: All comments received are a part of the public record 
and will generally be posted to http://www.regulations.gov without 
change. All personal identifying information (for example, name, 
address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly 
accessible. Do not submit confidential business information, or 
otherwise sensitive or protected information. NMFS will accept 
anonymous comments (enter N/A in the required fields if you wish to 
remain anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted 
in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only.
    Copies of additional reports referred to in this document may also 
be obtained from the Pacific Fishery Management Council(Council). 
Copies of the Record of Decision (ROD), final regulatory flexibility 
analysis (FRFA), and the Small Entity Compliance Guide are available 
from D. Robert Lohn, Administrator, Northwest Region (Regional 
Administrator), NMFS, 7600 Sand Point Way, NE, Seattle, WA 98115-0070.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Becky Renko (Northwest Region, NMFS) 
206-526-6110.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Electronic Access: This final rule is 
accessible via the Internet at the Office of the Federal Register's 
Website at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/. Background 
information and documents are available at the Council's website at 
http://www.pcouncil.org/.

Background

    The Pacific Coast Groundfish FMP and its implementing regulations 
at title 50 in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), part 660, subpart 
G, regulate fishing for over 90 species of groundfish off the coasts of 
Washington, Oregon, and California. Groundfish specifications and 
management measures are developed by the Council and are implemented by 
NMFS. A proposed rule to implement the 2007 2008 specifications and 
management measures for the Pacific Coast groundfish fishery and 
Amendment 16 4 of the FMP was published on September 29, 2006 (71 FR 
57764). The final rule to implement the 2007 2008 specifications and 
management measures for the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery was 
published on December 29, 2006 (71 FR 78638). These specifications and 
management measures are codified in 50 CFR part 660, subpart G. The 
final rule was subsequently amended on: March 20, 2007 (72 FR 13043); 
April 18, 2007 (72 FR 19390); July 5, 2007 (72 FR 36617); August 3, 
2007 (72 FR 43193); September 18, 2007 (72 FR 53165); October 4, 2007 
(72 FR 56664); December 4, 2007 (72 FR 68097); December 18, 2007 (72 FR 
71583); April 18, 2008 (73 FR 21057), and July 24, 2008 (73 FR 43139).
    Inseason adjustments to the current groundfish management measures 
were

[[Page 60643]]

recommended by the Council in consultation with the Pacific Coast 
Treaty Indian Tribes and the States of Washington, Oregon, and 
California, at the Council's September 10 14, 2008, meeting in Boise, 
Idaho. The Pacific Council recommended the following adjustments to 
current groundfish management measures in response to updated fishery 
information: (1) increase the 2008 canary rockfish and widow rockfish 
bycatch limits for the non-tribal sectors of the whiting fishery; (2) 
reopen the 2008 non-tribal whiting primary season for the catcher/
processor, mothership, and shore-based sectors; (3) move the shoreward 
boundary of the trawl Rockfish Conservation Area (RCA) north of 
40[deg]10.00' north latitude from 60-fm (110-m) to 75-fm (137-m), with 
the exception of the areas north of Cape Alava (48[deg]10.00' north 
latitude) and between Cape Arago (4[deg]20.83' north latitude) and 
Humbug mountain (42[deg]40.50' north latitude); (4) coastwide, increase 
large footrope (and small footrope in the north) trawl trip limits for 
petrale sole and Dover sole for period 6; (5) increase small footrope 
chilipepper rockfish limits in the south; (6) increase the weekly and 
monthly cumulative limits for sablefish in the limited entry fixed gear 
daily trip limit fishery north of 36[deg]00.00' north latitude; (7) 
increase shelf rockfish limits for open access gears south of Point 
Conception (34[deg]27.00' north latitude) and, (8) take action to close 
the recreational fisheries off the State of California in the North and 
North Central management areas.
    Catch of canary rockfish by scientific research vessels and catch 
in the limited entry trawl fisheries has been lower than was projected 
earlier in 2008. Scientific research catch projections made at the 
beginning of the year indicated that 5.5 mt of canary rockfish would be 
taken as scientific research catch in 2008, with 5.2 mt estimated to be 
taken in the Northwest Fishery Science Center's bottom trawl survey. To 
prevent an overfished species optimum yield (OY) from being exceeded, 
the amount projected to be taken during scientific research activities 
is not available to the groundfish fisheries until the activities are 
completed or near completion. NMFS and the Council have a better 
estimate of what is actually taken and the remainder can be released to 
the fishery.
    When the Council considered inseason measures at its September 2008 
meeting, the Northwest Fishery Science Center's bottom trawl survey was 
nearing completion and had passed most of the locations where previous 
surveys had encountered an abundance of canary rockfish. Updated 
projections from the bottom trawl survey (data through September 10, 
2008) indicated that less than 2.6 mt of canary rockfish would be taken 
in the Northwest Fishery Science Center's bottom trawl survey in 2008. 
When combined with catch projections from other scientific research 
work, the revised projection for scientific research catch of canary 
rockfish is 2.9 mt. The revised projection is 2.6 mt less than the 
earlier projection.
    Because catch projections early in the year use historical data to 
project effort, they are revised as the fishing year progresses and 
current-year data becomes available. Actual catch records indicate that 
trawl effort in areas shoreward of the trawl RCA north of 40[deg]10.00' 
north latitude has been lower than projected. Implementation of a 60-fm 
(110-m) shoreward boundary in much of this area was intended to reduce 
incidental catch of canary rockfish, but may have discouraged more 
effort in the north than had been expected. Effort reductions may also 
be the result of vessels shifting to other trawl opportunities such as 
pink shrimp.
    Catch projections for canary rockfish are in part based on a 
historical understanding of fishing effort. Fishing effort reductions 
resulted in less canary rockfish being taken than had been projected 
earlier in the year. Updated projections indicate that if no inseason 
adjustment were made, 3.5 mt of canary rockfish would be unharvested at 
the end of 2008 due to lower than projected commercial and scientific 
research catch. Given the availability of canary rockfish, the Council 
considered inseason adjustments to bycatch limits, trip limits, and RCA 
restrictions for the Pacific whiting primary season fisheries, and the 
limited entry bottom trawl fishery.

Pacific Whiting Fishery

    Bycatch limits have been used to restrict the catch of overfished 
species, particularly canary, darkblotched and widow rockfish, in the 
non-tribal Pacific whiting fisheries. With bycatch limits, the industry 
has the opportunity to harvest a larger Pacific whiting OY, providing 
the incidental catch of overfished species does not exceed the adopted 
bycatch limits. If a bycatch limit is reached, all non-tribal sectors 
of the whiting fishery are closed. For 2008, the following bycatch 
limits were specified for the non-tribal Pacific whiting sectors: 275 
mt for widow rockfish, 4.7 mt for canary rockfish, and 40 mt for 
darkblotched rockfish.
    The 2008 Pacific whiting primary seasons were closed for the 
catcher/processor, mothership and shore-based sectors on August 19, 
2008 (September 17, 2008; 73 FR 53763) when catch estimates indicated 
that the 4.7 mt bycatch limit for canary rockfish had been reached. 
When the fisheries were closed the shore-based sector had taken only 
35.5 percent of its Pacific whiting allocation, the catcher/processor 
sector had taken 62.3 percent of its allocation, and the mothership 
sector had taken 84.0 percent of its allocation.
    At its September meeting, the Council considered increasing the 
canary and widow rockfish bycatch limits and re-opening of the non-
tribal sectors of the Pacific whiting fishery. Following discussion and 
public testimony, the Council recommended increasing the widow rockfish 
bycatch limit by 12 metric tons (from 275 mt to 287 mt) and increasing 
the canary rockfish bycatch limit by 2 metric tons (from 4.7 mt to 6.7 
mt). With the Canary rockfish bycatch limit the Council recommended 
that the limit be raised by 1.7 mt (to 6.4 mt) upon reopening of the 
fishery then increase by 0.3 mt (to 6.7 mt) two weeks following the re-
opening, but no later than October 26, 2008.
    The Council considered the incremental increase of canary rockfish 
bycatch limits as a conservation measure. Historical data indicates 
that bycatch rates tend to be higher at the start of the Pacific 
whiting fisheries. As the fishery reopens, fishers will need to locate 
harvestable aggregations of Pacific whiting while minimizing the 
incidental catch of canary and widow rockfish. Increasing the bycatch 
limit two weeks after the fishery re-opens, when the incidental catch 
rates are expected to be lower, is expected to allow a greater 
proportion of the Pacific whiting allocations to be harvested. In 
addition, the Council expressed concern about stopping the fishery 
before a bycatch limit is exceeded so as not to exceed a rebuilding 
based OY. Increasing the bycatch limit after two weeks would provide a 
buffer while catch data were gathered and fishing patterns are 
established and understood. A 0.3 mt buffer at start-up would provide 
managers with an increased degree of certainty that fishery can be 
closed without going over the bycatch limit.
    When the Council considered possible reopening dates, it indicated 
that reopening the fishery as quickly as possible would be beneficial 
to the fishery participants because the aggregations of whiting begin 
to move

[[Page 60644]]

into deeper waters and disperse later in the year, and may result in 
increased bycatch rates for non-whiting species, and; because late 
autumn weather is more dangerous for smaller vessels. During Council 
discussion, the Council recognized the need to consider the tracking 
and monitoring of catch, particularly of overfished species, when 
reopening the fisheries.
    In 2008, a maximized retention and monitoring program was managed 
under federally managed exempted fishing permits (EFP). Most vessels in 
the shore-based sector operated under EFPs which allowed the sorting of 
groundfish catch to be delayed and catch in excess of cumulative trip 
limits and prohibited species catch retained until offloading. 
Retaining unsorted catch is otherwise prohibited by regulations at 50 
CFR 660.306(a)(10) and 50 CFR 660.306(a)(2). EFPs were also issued to 
approximately 15 first receivers to allow first receivers to possess 
more than a single cumulative limit of a particular species, per 
vessel, per applicable cumulative limit period. The possession of catch 
in excess of the cumulative limits is otherwise prohibited by 
regulations at 50 CFR 660.306(a)(10).
    Any vessel fishing under an EFP, has been required to have and use 
an electronic monitoring system (EMS). The EMS is a video monitoring 
system that allows for the integrity of maximized catch retention 
requirements to be maintained. First receiver's that accept unsorted 
Pacific whiting catch from vessels fishing under an EFP have been 
required to procure the service of a NMFS certified catch monitor to 
oversee the sorting, weighing, and recordkeeping process, as well as to 
gather information on incidentally caught salmon. Catch monitors are 
necessary to verify the accuracy of electronic fish ticket data used to 
manage the Pacific whiting shoreside fishery such that inaccurate or 
delayed information does not result in any fishery specifications 
(bycatch limits, species allocations, OYs, and biological opinion 
thresholds) being exceeded.
    Because of the need for accurate monitoring of bycatch limits to 
provide the data NMFS needs to monitor the fishery and close in time to 
keep within the bycatch limits, NMFS has determined that adequate time 
is needed to hire, train and deploy catch monitors. In addition, time 
is needed to hire and train observers for the catcher/processor and 
mothership sectors, to reissue EFPs and to conduct onsite inspections 
of new first receivers. NMFS has determined that the earliest date that 
the fisheries can be reopened with adequate monitoring is October 12, 
2008. Therefore, this notice announces: the reopening of the fishery at 
0001 hours on October 12, 2008; an increase in the bycatch limit for 
widow to 287 mt effective on October 12, 2008; an increase in the 
canary rockfish bycatch limit to 6.4 mt on October 12, 2008; and an 
increase in the canary rockfish bycatch limit to 6.7 effective October 
26, 2008.

Limited Entry Bottom Trawl North of 40[deg]10.00' North Latitude

    Updated catch projections based on landing data through August 30, 
2008, indicate that the catch of several target species north of 
40[deg]10.00' north latitude are lower than previously projected. 
Because trawl opportunity in the north has been severely constrained by 
measures to rebuild overfished species, the Council indicated that 
there was a need to allow the fishers an opportunity to fish. Because 
catch projections early in the year use historical data to project 
effort, they are revised as the fishing year progresses and current 
year data becomes available. When compared to projections available at 
the Council's June 2008 meeting, the catch of several target species, 
including Dover sole, arrowtooth flounder, petrale sole and other 
flatfish was lower than expected.
    Because the catch of target species and overfished species has been 
lower than expected, the Council considered liberalizing the RCA 
boundaries in the north and increasing target species trip limits. Two 
different approaches for modifying the RCA boundaries were considered. 
The first approach considered reopening the areas shoreward of the 
trawl RCA north of Cape Alava (48[deg]10.00' north latitude) and 
between Cape Arago (43[deg]20.83' north latitude) and Humbug mountain 
(42[deg]40.50' north latitude) to 60-fm (110-m) beginning October 1 (or 
as early as possible) through the end of the year. The second approach 
considered the possibility of shifting the shoreward boundary of the 
RCA in the north to 75-fm (137-m) while leaving the area north of Cape 
Alava and the area between Cape Arago and Humbug mountain closed 
beginning October 1 (or as early as possible) through the end of the 
year. After consideration of the availability of canary rockfish and 
the bycatch implications of the different approaches, the Council 
recommended that the shoreward boundary of the trawl RCA be moved from 
60-fm (110 m) to 75-fm (137 m) in areas north of 40[deg]deg;10.00' 
north latitude as early as possible, but the areas north of Cape Alava 
and between Cape Arago and Humbug mountain remain closed. The Council 
identified concerns about the incidental canary rockfish catch relative 
to the limited benefit of opening closed areas north of Cape Alava and 
between Cape Arago and Humbug mountain. The Council also recommended 
increasing the petrale sole limit in the north for vessels using large 
and small footrope trawl gear from 30,000 lbs (13.6 mt) per two months 
to 45,000 lbs (20.41 mt) per two months in period 6, and increasing 
Dover sole in the north for vessels using large and small footrope 
trawl gear from 80,000 lbs (36.3 mt) per two months to 90,000 lbs (40.8 
mt) per two months in period 6.

Limited Entry Trawl South of 40[deg]deg;10.00' North Latitude

    The Council considered increasing the petrale sole, Dover sole, and 
chilipepper rockfish trip limits in the area south of 40[deg]10.00' 
north latitude. West Coast Groundfish Observer program data, provided 
by the NMFS Northwest Fishery Science Center, identified a larger than 
expected chilipepper rockfish discard rate for small footrope trawl 
gear in the area south of 40[deg]10.00' north latitude. Rates were 
particularly high in the areas shoreward of the RCA. Because 
chilipepper rockfish co-occur with bocaccio and to a lesser degree with 
cowcod, targeting of chilipepper rockfish has been constrained. 
Industry participants requested that the Council consider increasing 
the small footrope trawl gear trip limit to allow the landing of 
incidentally caught chilipepper rockfish. After consideration of the 
potential impacts on bocaccio and cowcod projected to result from a 
modest increase in the trip limit, the Council recommended increasing 
the chilipepper rockfish limit for small footrope trawl gear in the 
south from 2,000 lbs (0.9 mt) per two months to 5,000 lbs (2.3 mt) per 
two months in period 6.
    Because the catch of several target species and overfished species 
has been lower than expected, the Council considered increasing trip 
limits for petrale sole and Dover sole. The Council recommended 
increasing petrale sole south of 40[deg]10.00' north latitude from 
50,000 lbs (22.6 mt) per two months to 65,000 lbs (29.5 mt) per two 
months in period 6, and increasing the Dover sole from 80,000 lbs (36.3 
mt) per two months to 90,000 lbs (40.8 mt) per two months in period 6.

Limited Entry Fixed Gear North of 36[deg] North Latitude

    The Council recommended increasing the daily limit in the limited 
entry fixed gear sablefish daily trip limit (DTL) fishery north of 
36[deg] north latitude in

[[Page 60645]]

June from 300-lbs (0.14-mt) per day to 500-lbs (0.23-mt) per day, which 
became effective August 1. Though limited, data indicates that catch in 
the DTL fishery is less than the allocation, and has been substantially 
less than the allocation in recent years. Using historical 
participation and catch information, the potential increase in the 
weekly and bimonthly limit for period 6 was evaluated. Because the 
catches would remain within the limited entry DTL allocation if the 2-
month DTL limit were raised from 5,000-lbs (2.3-mt) to 6,500-lbs (2.9-
mt) in period 6, the Council recommended raising the DTL limit north of 
36 north latitude. The higher limit is expected to increase fishing 
opportunity without exceeding the allocation. The Council also 
recommended raising the corresponding weekly limit from 1,000 lb (0.5 
mt) per week to 1,500 lb (0.7 mt) per week in period 6.

Open Access South of 34[deg]27' North Latitude

    The Council considered an increase in the shelf rockfish trip 
limits south of Point Conception (34[deg]27' north latitude) from 750-
lb (0.3-mt) 2 months to 1,000-lb (0.5-mt) 2 months because fishing 
effort has been lower than projected. Data through June 30, 2008, 
indicates that the shelf rockfish landings are approximately 25 percent 
lower than in previous years and well below the OY. Higher fuel costs 
and vessel monitoring system requirements may have contributed to the 
reduction in effort.
    In recent years, shelf rockfish trip limits have been substantially 
reduced over historical levels to reduce the catch of overfished 
species found on the continental shelf. A variety of information was 
examined to understand potential impacts of increasing shelf rockfish 
trip limits. Observer data south of Point Conception indicated low 
overfished species bycatch, however only limited data were available. 
An analysis prepared by California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) 
indicated that the proposed trip limits change is likely to result in a 
6.1 percent increase in the projected catch of shelf rockfish and would 
not be expected to result in the bocaccio or widow rockfish OYs being 
exceeded. The Council considered potential effort shifts as a result of 
higher trip limits south of Point Conception, but did not find evidence 
that the modest increase would create an economic incentive that is 
likely to result in an effort shift from the north. After public 
comment and discussion, the Council recommended increasing the shelf 
rockfish trip limit south of 34[deg]27' north latitude to 1,000-lbs 
(0.5-mt) per two months in period 6.

California Recreational Fishery

    Data available through August 10, 2008, indicated that the 
California harvest guideline for yelloweye rockfish was projected to be 
exceeded, therefore, CDFG took action to close the recreational fishery 
in the North and North Central Regions on September 2, 2008. As a 
result of the recreational closure, the California recreational fishery 
is projected to stay within their harvest guidelines for overfished 
species. CDFG requested and the Council recommended that NMFS Take 
conforming federal action to close the California recreational fishery 
in the North and North Central Management Area north of Point Arena.

Classification

    These actions are taken under the authority of 50 CFR 660.370(c) 
and are exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.
    These actions are authorized by the Pacific Coast groundfish FMP 
and its implementing regulations, and are based on the most recent data 
available. The aggregate data, upon which these actions are based, are 
available for public inspection at the Office of the Administrator, 
Northwest Region, NMFS, (see ADDRESSES) during business hours.
    For the following reasons, NMFS finds good cause to waive prior 
public notice and comment on the revisions to the 2008 groundfish 
management measures under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) because notice and comment 
would be impracticable and contrary to the public interest. Also for 
the same reasons, NMFS finds good cause to waive part of the 30 day 
delay in effectiveness pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(1) and 5 U.S.C. 
553(d)(3).
    The data upon which these recommendations were based was provided 
to the Council and the Council made its recommendations at its 
September 8-12, 2008, meeting in Boise, Idaho. There was not sufficient 
time after that meeting to draft this notice and undergo proposed and 
final rulemaking before these actions need to be in effect. For the 
actions to be implemented in this notice, affording the time necessary 
for prior notice and opportunity for public comment would be 
impractical and contrary to the public interest because it would 
prevent the Agency from managing fisheries using the best available 
science to approach without exceeding the OYs for Federally managed 
species. The inseason adjustments to management measures in this 
document affect commercial groundfish fisheries off Washington, Oregon, 
and California.
    Changes to the non-tribal whiting canary rockfish bycatch limit 
must be implemented and the non-tribal fishery must be reopened as soon 
as possible, to relieve a restriction and allow fishermen the 
opportunity to harvest the remainder of the 2008 Pacific whiting OY. It 
would be contrary to the public interest to wait to implement these 
changes until after public notice and comment. Reopening the fishery as 
quickly as possible would be beneficial to the fishery participants 
because the aggregations of whiting begin to move into deeper waters 
and disperse later in the year, and this movement may result in 
increased bycatch rates for non-whiting species, and; because late 
autumn weather is more dangerous for smaller vessels. Taking the time 
to do provide notice and comment would eliminate the opportunity for 
many if not all vessels to participate in the fishery. The whiting 
fishery contributes a large amount of revenue to the coastal 
communities of Washington and Oregon. Leaving 101,694-mt (43.7 percent) 
of the whiting OY unharvested would sacrifice millions of dollars and 
hundreds of jobs for fishermen and coastal communities.
    Projected effects of reopening the nontribal whiting fishery and 
increasing the non-tribal Pacific whiting widow and canary rockfish 
bycatch limits are within projected mortality for overfished species 
and other groundfish species. Failing to take these actions in a timely 
manner would result in unnecessary restriction of fisheries that are 
important to coastal communities and is therefore contrary to the 
public interest.
    The adjustments to management measures in this document affect: 
limited entry commercial trawl and fixed gear fisheries off Washington, 
Oregon, and California and open access fisheries off California in the 
area south of 34[deg]27' North latitude, and recreational fisheries off 
northern California. Adjustments to management measures must be 
implemented in a timely manner, by October 1, 2008, or as soon as 
possible afterward to allow: fishers an opportunity to harvest higher 
trip limits for species where the catch is tracking behind the 
projected catch levels for 2008; and to assure that recreational 
fishing in areas closed by CDFG or adjacent federal waters do not 
result in an overfished species OY being exceeded.
    Changes to the cumulative limits in the limited entry trawl 
fishery, limited

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entry fixed gear fishery and the open access fishery are needed to 
relieve a restriction by allowing fishermen increased opportunities to 
harvest available healthy stocks. Increased opportunities to harvest 
available healthy stocks while not exceeding the OYs for overfished 
species meets the objective of the Pacific Coast Groundfish FMP to 
allow fisheries to approach, but not exceed, OYs. It would be contrary 
to the public interest to wait to implement these changes until after 
public notice and comment, because making this regulatory change by 
October 1, or as soon as possible after, relieves a regulatory 
restriction for fisheries that are important to coastal communities. 
Without these inseason measures, there is an increased risk of causing 
economic harm to fishing communities. Delaying these changes would keep 
management measures in place that are not based on the best available 
science and would impair achievement of one of the Pacific Coast 
Groundfish FMP objectives of providing for year-round harvest 
opportunities or extending fishing opportunities as long as practicable 
during the fishing year.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 660

    Fisheries, Fishing, Indians.

    Dated: October 6, 2008.
Emily H. Menashes,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

0
For the reasons set out in this preamble, 50 CFR part 660 is amended as 
follows:

PART 660--FISHERIES OFF WEST COAST STATES

0
1. The authority citation for part 660 continues to read as follows:

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

0
2. In Sec.  660.373 paragraphs (b)(1)(iii) and (b)(4) are revised to 
read as follows:


Sec.  660.373  Pacific whiting (whiting) fishery management.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (iii) Primary whiting seasons. After the start of a primary season 
for a sector of the whiting fishery, the season remains open for that 
sector until the quota is taken or a bycatch limit is reached and the 
fishery season for that sector is closed by NMFS. The primary seasons 
for the whiting fishery are as follows:
    (A) Catcher/processor sector - May 15 to August 19, 2008; reopening 
on October 12, 2008.
    (B) Mothership sector - May 15 to August 19, 2008; reopening on 
October 12, 2008.
    (C) Shore-based sector
    (1) June 15 to August 19, 2008 and reopening on October 12, 2008 
north of 42[deg] N. lat.; April 1 to May 21, 2008, June 15 to August 
19, 2008 and reopening on October 12, 2008 between 42[deg]-40[deg]30' 
N. lat.
    (2) South of 40[deg]30' N. lat. the primary season is April 15 to 
May 21, 2008, June 15 to August 19, 2008 and reopening on October 12, 
2008.
* * * * *
    (4) Bycatch limits in the whiting fishery. The bycatch limits for 
the whiting fishery may be used inseason to close a sector or sectors 
of the whiting fishery to achieve the rebuilding of an overfished or 
depleted stock, under routine management measure authority at Sec.  
660.370(c)(1)(ii). These limits are routine management measures under 
Sec.  660.370(c) and, as such, may be adjusted inseason or may have new 
species added to the list of those with bycatch limits. The whiting 
fishery bycatch limits for the sectors identified in Sec.  660.323(a) 
are: 6.4 mt of canary rockfish on October 12, 2008; 6.7 mt of canary 
rockfish on October 26, 2008; 287 mt of widow rockfish; and 40 mt of 
darkblotched rockfish.
* * * * *

0
3. In Sec.  660.384 paragraphs (c)(3)(i)(A)(1)and (2) are revised to 
read as follows:


Sec.  660.384  Recreational fishery management measures.

* * * * *
    (c)* * *
    (3)* * *
    (i) * * *
    (A) * * *
    (1) Between 42[deg] N. lat. (California/Oregon border) and 
40[deg]10.00' N. lat. (North Region), recreational fishing for all 
groundfish (except ``other flatfish'' as specified in paragraph 
(c)(3)(iv) of this section) is prohibited seaward of the 20 fm (37 m) 
depth contour along the mainland coast and along islands and offshore 
seamounts from May 1 through October 13, 2008; and is closed entirely 
from January 1 through April 30, and October 14, 2008 through December 
31, 2008 (i.e., prohibited seaward of the shoreline).
    (2) Between 40[deg]10' N. lat. and 37[deg]11' N. lat. (North 
Central Region), recreational fishing for all groundfish (except 
``other flatfish'' as specified in paragraph (c)(3)(iv) of this 
section) is prohibited seaward of the 20 fm (37 m) depth contour along 
the mainland coast and along islands and offshore seamounts from June 1 
through October 13, 2008; and is closed entirely from January 1 through 
May 31, and October 14, 2008 through December 31, 2008 (i.e., 
prohibited seaward of the shoreline). Closures around the Farallon 
Islands (see paragraph (c)(3)(i)(C) of this section) and Cordell Banks 
(see paragraph (c)(3)(i)(D) of this section) also apply in this area.
* * * * *

0
4. Tables 3 (North), 3 (South), 4 (North), 4 (South), and 5 (South) to 
part 660 subpart G are revised to read as follows:

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[FR Doc. E8-24368 Filed 10-10-08; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-S