Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Revised Management Authority for Dark Rockfish in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area and the Gulf of Alaska, 80307-80312 [E8-31020]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 251 / Wednesday, December 31, 2008 / Rules and Regulations Dated: December 23, 2008. Alan D. Risenhoover, Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. E8–31126 Filed 12–24–08; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 3510–22–S DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 679 [Docket No. 080226310–81584–02] RIN 0648–AU20 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Revised Management Authority for Dark Rockfish in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area and the Gulf of Alaska National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. pwalker on PROD1PC71 with RULES AGENCY: SUMMARY: NMFS issues a final rule that implements Amendment 73 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area and Amendment 77 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (collectively, Amendments 73/77). Amendments 73/77 remove dark rockfish (Sebastes ciliatus) from both fishery management plans (FMPs). The State of Alaska (State) will assume management of dark rockfish catch by State-permitted vessels in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area and the Gulf of Alaska, in addition to its existing authority in State waters. This action is necessary to allow the State to implement more responsive, regionally based management of dark rockfish than is currently possible under the FMPs. This action will improve conservation and management of dark rockfish and promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the FMPs, and other applicable laws. DATES: Effective January 30, 2009. ADDRESSES: Copies of Amendments 73/77 and the Environmental Assessment/Regulatory Impact Review/ Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (EA/RIR/FRFA) prepared for this action are available from the NMFS Alaska Region, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802, or from the Alaska Region NMFS VerDate Aug<31>2005 16:52 Dec 30, 2008 Jkt 217001 Web site at http:// alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/regs/analyses/. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Thomas Pearson, 907–481–1780. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS manages the groundfish fisheries in the exclusive economic zone of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (BSAI) and the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) under the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area and the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (FMPs). The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) prepared the FMPs under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Regulations governing U.S. fisheries and implementing the FMPs appear at 50 CFR parts 600 and 679. Background In April 2007, the Council recommended Amendment 73 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area and Amendment 77 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (Amendments 73/77). Amendments 73/77 would remove dark rockfish (Sebastes ciliatus) from the FMPs. Dark rockfish currently are managed as part of the ‘‘other rockfish’’ complex in the BSAI and as part of the pelagic shelf rockfish (PSR) complex in the GOA. The Council recommended removal of dark rockfish from the FMPs for the following reasons: (1) In 2004, dark rockfish was identified as a separate rockfish species, (2) data in the stock assessments for the PSR complex in the GOA and the ‘‘other rockfish’’ complex in the BSAI are predominantly from dusky rockfish, not dark rockfish, (3) dark rockfish are distributed in nearshore habitats that are not specifically assessed by the NMFS trawl surveys, (4) there is a possibility of overfishing dark rockfish in local areas given the relatively high total allowable catch (TAC) for the PSR and ‘‘other rockfish’’ complexes as a whole, and (5) the removal of dark rockfish from the FMPs will allow the State of Alaska (State) to assume management authority for dark rockfish catch by Statepermitted vessels in Federal waters off Alaska, in addition to its existing authority in State waters and to implement more responsive, regionally based management of dark rockfish than is possible under the FMPs. The State of Alaska has expressed its intent to assume management of dark rockfish PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 80307 after NMFS provides them with the authority to do so. Detailed information on the management background and need for action is in the preamble to the proposed rule (73 FR 55010, September 24, 2008). A Notice of Availability (NOA) of the FMP amendments was published in the Federal Register on September 17, 2008 (73 FR 53816). Comments on both the proposed rule and NOA were invited through November 17, 2008. One comment was received and is described and responded to below. Amendments 73/77 to the FMPs were approved by the Secretary of Commerce on December 15, 2008. Comments and Responses NMFS received one comment. The comment did not indicate whether it was in response to the notice of availability for Amendments 73/77 or the proposed rule. Comment 1: The commenter opposed turning over management of dark rockfish to the State of Alaska because of his or her general concerns about the State’s management of all natural resources under its authority. The commenter also expressed general opposition to NMFS’s management of fishery resources off Alaska. Response: NMFS disagrees with the commenter that management of dark rockfish should not be turned over to the State. In addition to the reasons described above that the Council recommended removal of dark rockfish from the FMPs, the State also has demonstrated its ability to manage rockfish species previously removed from the FMPs for similar reasons. Black rockfish was removed from the FMPs and management was turned over to the State in 1998. Some of the management measures that the State has implemented for black rockfish in the GOA include development of a fishery management plan specifically addressing black rockfish and management measures designed to prevent localized depletion of black rockfish. These management measures include smaller area guideline harvest levels, lower total guideline harvest levels compared to what the total allowable catch would have been under the Federal FMPs, and lower maximum retainable amounts than would have been in effect under Federal regulations. The State also has undertaken research to assess the status of black rockfish stocks in the GOA that the Federal government likely would not have been able to do if it had retained management of black rockfish. NMFS and the Council expect the State to manage dark E:\FR\FM\31DER1.SGM 31DER1 80308 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 251 / Wednesday, December 31, 2008 / Rules and Regulations rockfish in a similar manner once it has the authority to do so. Therefore, no change was made to the final rule as a result of this comment. pwalker on PROD1PC71 with RULES Regulatory Amendments This final rule revises the definition of ‘‘rockfish’’ at § 679.2 to exclude dark rockfish in both the GOA and BSAI. The definition for ‘‘other rockfish’’ is amended to add a reference to Table 11 to part 679 because the quota category for ‘‘other rockfish’’ exists in both the BSAI and GOA and is referred to in the maximum retainable amounts tables for both areas (Tables 10 and 11). In addition, the definition of ‘‘other red rockfish’’ is removed from § 679.2 because this rockfish quota category no longer exists and the term is not used anywhere else in 50 CFR part 679. The final rule also corrects the Latin name of dusky rockfish (Sebastes variabilis), species code 172, in Table 2a to part 679, and adds dark rockfish (Sebastes ciliatus), species code 173, to the non-FMP species listed in Table 2d to part 679. In Table 10 to part 679 (Gulf of Alaska Retainable Percentages), footnote 5 is revised to correct the Latin name for dusky rockfish (Sebastes variabilis). Footnote 8 is revised to remove reference to Sebastes and Sebastolobus and to refer to the definition of ‘‘rockfish’’ at § 679.2. This final rule also makes minor editorial revisions to Table 10 to part 679. In note 1, the species code for ‘‘shortraker/rougheye (171)’’ is removed because NMFS no longer has a species code associated with the combination of shortraker and rougheye rockfish Table 2a to part 679. Shortraker rockfish and rougheye rockfish have separate species codes. Note 10 lists the species included in the aggregated forage fish category. The word ‘‘families’’ in the parentheses following the term ‘‘Aggregated forage fish’’ is replaced with the word ‘‘taxa’’ because all species of the order Euphausiacea (krill) also are included in the list of aggregated forage fish. The word ‘‘taxa’’ refers to more general groupings of similar organisms and includes taxonomic families and orders. In Table 11 to part 679 (BSAI Retainable Percentages), footnotes 3 and 6 are revised to remove references to Sebastes and Sebastolobus and to refer to the definition of ‘‘rockfish’’ at § 679.2. This revision excludes dark rockfish from these rockfish categories in the BSAI because dark rockfish are excluded from the definition of rockfish at § 679.2. VerDate Aug<31>2005 16:52 Dec 30, 2008 Jkt 217001 Changes From the Proposed Rule In the proposed rule, NMFS mistakenly included revisions to the retainable percentages in Table 10 to part 679 for selected groundfish species using arrowtooth flounder as a basis species. The proposed rule did not specifically propose these revisions in the preamble. These revisions were recommended by the Council in a separate action and were published in a separate proposed rule on November 25, 2008 (73 FR 71592). Revisions related to the retainable percentages using arrowtooth flounder as a basis species should not have been included in the proposed rule for Amendments 73/77. Therefore, this final rule does not implement revisions to the retainable percentages in Table 10 for deep-water flatfish, rex sole, flathead sole, shallowwater flatfish, sablefish, aggregated rockfish, Atka mackerel, and skates using arrowtooth flounder as a basis species. The retainable percentages for these species using arrowtooth flounder as a basis species remain at 0 percent in this final rule, which reflects current regulations at 50 CFR part 679. This final rule also incorporates revisions that were made to Tables 2a, 2d, 10, and 11 to part 679 in a separate final rule that implemented a variety of recordkeeping and reporting regulatory amendments (73 FR 76136; December 15, 2008). The revision to the hyphenation of the words ‘‘shallowwater’’ and ‘‘deep-water’’ in Table 10 to part 679 was included in the proposed rule for Amendments 73/77, but since this revision was made in the final rule described above that implemented recordkeeping and reporting revisions, changing the hyphenation of these terms no longer needs to be implemented through this final rule for Amendments 73/77. Classification The Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS, determined that Amendments 73/77 are necessary for the conservation and management of the groundfish fisheries in the BSAI and GOA, and that these FMP amendments and the regulatory amendments to implement them are consistent with the MagnusonStevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and other applicable laws. This final rule has been determined to be not significant for the purposes of Executive Order 12866. A final regulatory flexibility analysis (FRFA) was prepared. The FRFA incorporates the initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA), and provides a summary of the analyses completed to PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 support the action. A copy of this analysis is available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). No comments were received on the IRFA. The numbers of small entities that may be directly regulated by this action have been estimated using information on gross revenues and American Fisheries Act affiliation in 2006, and information on participation in the GOA Rockfish Program and on corporate ownership of vessel fleets from 2007 and 2008. In 2006, one year immediately preceding the Council action recommending the removal of dark rockfish from the FMPs, there were 81 small catcher vessels that made landings of pelagic shelf rockfish from the GOA, taken as either targeted or incidental catch fish. No small catcher-processors made such landings. The 81 small catcher vessels included 74 that used hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear, and seven that used pelagic or non-pelagic trawl gear. The 81 small catcher vessels averaged about $400,000 in gross exvessel revenues from all sources. In 2006, one small catcher/processor and 36 small catcher vessels made incidental catch landings of pelagic shelf rockfish in the BSAI. All together, 35 vessels used hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear, and two used trawl gear. The 37 small vessels averaged about $1.4 million in gross revenues from all sources. This regulation does not impose new recordkeeping and reporting requirements on the regulated small entities. Two alternatives are analyzed in this document: Alternative 1—No Action, continue managing dark rockfish within the larger PSR complex in the GOA, and within the ‘‘other rockfish’’ complex in the BSAI; and Alternative 2—Preferred Alternative, remove dark rockfish from the GOA groundfish FMP and BSAI groundfish FMP, and defer management of this species, in both State and Federal waters, to the State of Alaska. The preferred alternative may have adverse impacts on operations targeting pelagic shelf rockfish in the Central GOA and in the West Yakutat District. NMFS does not expect the action to have adverse impacts on operations targeting rockfish in the Southeast Outside and Western regions of the GOA, or in the BSAI (targeting does not appear to be significant in the Southeast Outside or BSAI). NMFS does not expect the action to have adverse impacts on operations taking dark rockfish as incidental catch. In the Central GOA, most of the adverse impact would fall on participants in the GOA Rockfish Program. Because of the E:\FR\FM\31DER1.SGM 31DER1 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 251 / Wednesday, December 31, 2008 / Rules and Regulations pwalker on PROD1PC71 with RULES affiliations these operations have through the quota management and allocation features of the Rockfish Program, NMFS does not believe these operations can be considered small entities for the purpose of the RFA. However, it is possible that they would experience some adverse impact as described in the Regulatory Impact Review. The primary alternative considered here, Alternative 1—No Action, would not have these adverse impacts, but would not remove dark rockfish from the FMPs and, thus, does not accomplish the stated objective for the action. The Council also considered an additional alternative to the proposed action that was not carried forward for analysis. This alternative was to transfer management authority of dark rockfish to the State of Alaska while retaining the species under the Federal FMPs. Demersal shelf rockfish in Southeast Alaska is under a similarly delegated management program with the State of Alaska. A similar alternative was considered and rejected for black rockfish and blue rockfish under Amendment 46 to the GOA FMP. This alternative was not carried forward for dark rockfish because (1) State personnel would be required to comply with additional Federal management processes that may not be consistent with State procedures; (2) the State would need to meet both State and Federal requirements, which often prescribe different time-frames for management actions (e.g., notice, public meetings, and reports); and (3) the State did not believe it could meet the costly assessment requirements for managing a nearshore species, mandated under a Federal management plan. Small Entity Compliance Guide Section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 states that, for each rule or group of related rules for which an agency is required to prepare a FRFA, the agency shall publish one or more guides to assist small entities in complying with the rule, and shall designate such publications as ‘‘small entity compliance guides.’’ The agency shall explain the actions that a small entity is required to take to comply with a rule or group of rules. The preamble to the proposed rule and this final rule fully explain the regulatory amendments that will be implemented to remove dark rockfish from the FMPs. The proposed rule, final rule, and regulations governing the groundfish fisheries off Alaska are the best source of information about how to comply with Amendments 73/77 and, therefore, VerDate Aug<31>2005 16:52 Dec 30, 2008 Jkt 217001 collectively they represent the small entity compliance guide for this final rule. These documents are available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES) and from the NMFS Alaska Region’s Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. The State of Alaska will assume management of dark rockfish in the BSAI and GOA when this final rule becomes effective and all Statepermitted vessels will be required to comply with State of Alaska laws and regulations governing the catch of dark rockfish. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 679 Alaska, Fisheries. Dated: December 22, 2008. Samuel D. Rauch, III., Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. For the reasons set out in the preamble, NMFS amends 50 CFR part 679 as follows: ■ PART 679—FISHERIES OF THE EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONE OFF ALASKA 1. The authority citation for 50 CFR part 679 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 773 et seq., 1801 et seq., 3631 et seq.; Pub. L. 108–447. 2. In § 679.2, remove the definition for ‘‘Other red rockfish’’ and revise the definitions for ‘‘Other rockfish’’ and ‘‘Rockfish’’ to read as follows: ■ § 679.2 Definitions. * * * * * Other rockfish (see Tables 10 and 11 to this part pursuant to § 679.20(c); see also ‘‘rockfish’’ in this section.) * * * * * Rockfish means: (1) For the Gulf of Alaska: Any species of the genera Sebastes or Sebastolobus except Sebastes ciliatus (dark rockfish); Sebastes melanops (black rockfish); and Sebastes mystinus (blue rockfish). (2) For the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area: Any species of the genera Sebastes or Sebastolobus except Sebastes ciliatus (dark rockfish). * * * * * ■ 3. Table 2a to part 679 is revised to read as follows: TABLE 2a TO PART 679—SPECIES CODES: FMP GROUNDFISH Species description Code Atka mackerel (greenling) .................. Flatfish, miscellaneous (flatfish species without separate codes) .......... PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 193 120 80309 TABLE 2a TO PART 679—SPECIES CODES: FMP GROUNDFISH—Continued Species description FLOUNDER: Alaska plaice ................................... Arrowtooth and/or Kamchatka ........ Starry ............................................... Octopus, North Pacific ........................ Pacific cod .......................................... Pollock ................................................ ROCKFISH: Aurora (Sebastes aurora) ............... Black (BSAI) (S. melanops) ............ Blackgill (S. melanostomus) ........... Blue (BSAI) (S. mystinus) ............... Bocaccio (S. paucispinis) ................ Canary (S. pinniger) ........................ Chilipepper (S. goodei) ................... China (S. nebulosus) ...................... Copper (S. caurinus) ....................... Darkblotched (S. crameri) ............... Dusky (S. variabilis) ........................ Greenstriped (S. elongatus) ............ Harlequin (S. variegatus) ................ Northern (S. polyspinis) .................. Pacific ocean perch (S. alutus) ....... Pygmy (S. wilsoni) .......................... Quillback (S. maliger) ..................... Redbanded (S. babcocki) ............... Redstripe (S. proriger) .................... Rosethorn (S. helvomaculatus) ...... Rougheye (S. aleutianus) ............... Sharpchin (S. zacentrus) ................ Shortbelly (S. jordani) ..................... Shortraker (S. borealis) ................... Silvergray (S. brevispinis) ............... Splitnose (S. diploproa) .................. Stripetail (S. saxicola) ..................... Thornyhead (all Sebastolobus species) ............................................. Tiger (S. nigrocinctus) ..................... Vermilion (S. miniatus) .................... Widow (S. entomelas) ..................... Yelloweye (S. ruberrimus) .............. Yellowmouth (S. reedi) ................... Yellowtail (S. flavidus) ..................... Sablefish (blackcod) ........................... Sculpins .............................................. SHARKS: Other (if salmon, spiny dogfish or Pacific sleeper shark—use specific species code) ....................... Pacific sleeper ................................. Salmon ............................................ Spiny dogfish .................................. SKATES: Big ................................................... Longnose ........................................ Other (If longnose or big skate— use specific species code) .......... SOLE: Butter ............................................... Dover ............................................... English ............................................ Flathead .......................................... Petrale ............................................. Rex .................................................. Rock ................................................ Sand ................................................ Yellowfin .......................................... Squid, majestic ................................... Turbot, Greenland .............................. E:\FR\FM\31DER1.SGM 31DER1 Code 133 121 129 870 110 270 185 142 177 167 137 146 178 149 138 159 172 135 176 136 141 179 147 153 158 150 151 166 181 152 157 182 183 143 148 184 156 145 175 155 710 160 689 692 690 691 702 701 700 126 124 128 122 131 125 123 132 127 875 134 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 251 / Wednesday, December 31, 2008 / Rules and Regulations 4. Table 2d to part 679 is revised to read as follows: ■ TABLE 2d TO PART 679—SPECIES CODES: NON-FMP SPECIES—Continued TABLE 2d TO PART 679—SPECIES CODES: NON-FMP SPECIES Species description Species description Code GENERAL USE pwalker on PROD1PC71 with RULES Arctic char (anadromous) ................... Bering flounder (Hippoglossoides robustus) ......................................... Dolly varden (anadromous) ................ Eels or eel-like fish ............................. Eel, wolf .............................................. GREENLING: Kelp ................................................. Rock ................................................ Whitespot ........................................ Grenadier, giant .................................. Grenadier (rattail) ............................... Jellyfish (unspecified) ......................... Lamprey, Pacific ................................. Lingcod ............................................... Lumpsucker ........................................ Pacific flatnose ................................... Pacific hagfish .................................... Pacific hake ........................................ VerDate Aug<31>2005 16:52 Dec 30, 2008 Jkt 217001 521 116 531 210 217 194 191 192 214 213 625 600 130 216 260 212 112 Code Pacific lamprey ................................... Pacific saury ....................................... Pacific tomcod .................................... Poacher (Family Agonidae) ................ Prowfish .............................................. Ratfish ................................................. Rockfish, black (GOA) ........................ Rockfish, blue (GOA) ......................... Rockfish, dark ..................................... Sardine, Pacific (pilchard) .................. Sea cucumber, red ............................. Shad ................................................... Skilfish ................................................ Snailfish, general (genus Liparis and genus Careproctus) ........................ Sturgeon, general ............................... Wrymouths .......................................... SHELLFISH Abalone, northern (pinto) .................... CLAMS: Arctic surf ........................................ Cockle ............................................. Eastern softshell ............................. PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4725 TABLE 2d TO PART 679—SPECIES CODES: NON-FMP SPECIES—Continued 600 220 250 219 215 714 142 167 173 170 895 180 715 218 680 211 Species description Pacific geoduck ............................... Pacific littleneck .............................. Pacific razor .................................... Washington butter ........................... Coral ................................................... Mussel, blue ....................................... Oyster, Pacific .................................... Scallop, weathervane ......................... Scallop, pink (or calico) ...................... SHRIMP: Coonstripe ....................................... Humpy ............................................. Northern (pink) ................................ Sidestripe ........................................ Spot ................................................. Snails .................................................. Urchin, green sea ............................... Urchin, red sea ................................... Code 815 840 830 810 899 855 880 850 851 964 963 961 962 965 890 893 892 860 812 820 842 5. Tables 10 and 11 to part 679 are revised to read as follows: ■ BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\31DER1.SGM 31DER1 ER31DE08.014</GPH> 80310 ER31DE08.016</GPH> 80311 VerDate Aug<31>2005 16:52 Dec 30, 2008 Jkt 217001 PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4725 E:\FR\FM\31DER1.SGM 31DER1 ER31DE08.015</GPH> pwalker on PROD1PC71 with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 251 / Wednesday, December 31, 2008 / Rules and Regulations 80312 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 251 / Wednesday, December 31, 2008 / Rules and Regulations [FR Doc. E8–31020 Filed 12–30–08; 8:45 am] VerDate Aug<31>2005 16:52 Dec 30, 2008 Jkt 217001 PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 E:\FR\FM\31DER1.SGM 31DER1 ER31DE08.017</GPH> pwalker on PROD1PC71 with RULES BILLING CODE 3510–22–C

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 73, Number 251 (Wednesday, December 31, 2008)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 80307-80312]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E8-31020]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 679

[Docket No. 080226310-81584-02]
RIN 0648-AU20


Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Revised 
Management Authority for Dark Rockfish in the Bering Sea and Aleutian 
Islands Management Area and the Gulf of Alaska

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS issues a final rule that implements Amendment 73 to the 
Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian 
Islands Management Area and Amendment 77 to the Fishery Management Plan 
for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (collectively, Amendments 73/77). 
Amendments 73/77 remove dark rockfish (Sebastes ciliatus) from both 
fishery management plans (FMPs). The State of Alaska (State) will 
assume management of dark rockfish catch by State-permitted vessels in 
the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area and the Gulf of 
Alaska, in addition to its existing authority in State waters. This 
action is necessary to allow the State to implement more responsive, 
regionally based management of dark rockfish than is currently possible 
under the FMPs. This action will improve conservation and management of 
dark rockfish and promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-
Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the FMPs, and other 
applicable laws.

DATES: Effective January 30, 2009.

ADDRESSES: Copies of Amendments 73/77 and the Environmental Assessment/
Regulatory Impact Review/Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (EA/RIR/
FRFA) prepared for this action are available from the NMFS Alaska 
Region, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802, or from the Alaska Region 
NMFS Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/regs/analyses/.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Thomas Pearson, 907-481-1780.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS manages the groundfish fisheries in the 
exclusive economic zone of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands 
Management Area (BSAI) and the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) under the Fishery 
Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands 
Management Area and the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the 
Gulf of Alaska (FMPs). The North Pacific Fishery Management Council 
(Council) prepared the FMPs under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens 
Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), 16 
U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Regulations governing U.S. fisheries and 
implementing the FMPs appear at 50 CFR parts 600 and 679.

Background

    In April 2007, the Council recommended Amendment 73 to the Fishery 
Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands 
Management Area and Amendment 77 to the Fishery Management Plan for 
Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (Amendments 73/77). Amendments 73/77 
would remove dark rockfish (Sebastes ciliatus) from the FMPs. Dark 
rockfish currently are managed as part of the ``other rockfish'' 
complex in the BSAI and as part of the pelagic shelf rockfish (PSR) 
complex in the GOA. The Council recommended removal of dark rockfish 
from the FMPs for the following reasons: (1) In 2004, dark rockfish was 
identified as a separate rockfish species, (2) data in the stock 
assessments for the PSR complex in the GOA and the ``other rockfish'' 
complex in the BSAI are predominantly from dusky rockfish, not dark 
rockfish, (3) dark rockfish are distributed in nearshore habitats that 
are not specifically assessed by the NMFS trawl surveys, (4) there is a 
possibility of overfishing dark rockfish in local areas given the 
relatively high total allowable catch (TAC) for the PSR and ``other 
rockfish'' complexes as a whole, and (5) the removal of dark rockfish 
from the FMPs will allow the State of Alaska (State) to assume 
management authority for dark rockfish catch by State-permitted vessels 
in Federal waters off Alaska, in addition to its existing authority in 
State waters and to implement more responsive, regionally based 
management of dark rockfish than is possible under the FMPs. The State 
of Alaska has expressed its intent to assume management of dark 
rockfish after NMFS provides them with the authority to do so.
    Detailed information on the management background and need for 
action is in the preamble to the proposed rule (73 FR 55010, September 
24, 2008). A Notice of Availability (NOA) of the FMP amendments was 
published in the Federal Register on September 17, 2008 (73 FR 53816). 
Comments on both the proposed rule and NOA were invited through 
November 17, 2008. One comment was received and is described and 
responded to below. Amendments 73/77 to the FMPs were approved by the 
Secretary of Commerce on December 15, 2008.

Comments and Responses

    NMFS received one comment. The comment did not indicate whether it 
was in response to the notice of availability for Amendments 73/77 or 
the proposed rule.
    Comment 1: The commenter opposed turning over management of dark 
rockfish to the State of Alaska because of his or her general concerns 
about the State's management of all natural resources under its 
authority. The commenter also expressed general opposition to NMFS's 
management of fishery resources off Alaska.
    Response: NMFS disagrees with the commenter that management of dark 
rockfish should not be turned over to the State. In addition to the 
reasons described above that the Council recommended removal of dark 
rockfish from the FMPs, the State also has demonstrated its ability to 
manage rockfish species previously removed from the FMPs for similar 
reasons. Black rockfish was removed from the FMPs and management was 
turned over to the State in 1998. Some of the management measures that 
the State has implemented for black rockfish in the GOA include 
development of a fishery management plan specifically addressing black 
rockfish and management measures designed to prevent localized 
depletion of black rockfish. These management measures include smaller 
area guideline harvest levels, lower total guideline harvest levels 
compared to what the total allowable catch would have been under the 
Federal FMPs, and lower maximum retainable amounts than would have been 
in effect under Federal regulations. The State also has undertaken 
research to assess the status of black rockfish stocks in the GOA that 
the Federal government likely would not have been able to do if it had 
retained management of black rockfish. NMFS and the Council expect the 
State to manage dark

[[Page 80308]]

rockfish in a similar manner once it has the authority to do so. 
Therefore, no change was made to the final rule as a result of this 
comment.

Regulatory Amendments

    This final rule revises the definition of ``rockfish'' at Sec.  
679.2 to exclude dark rockfish in both the GOA and BSAI. The definition 
for ``other rockfish'' is amended to add a reference to Table 11 to 
part 679 because the quota category for ``other rockfish'' exists in 
both the BSAI and GOA and is referred to in the maximum retainable 
amounts tables for both areas (Tables 10 and 11). In addition, the 
definition of ``other red rockfish'' is removed from Sec.  679.2 
because this rockfish quota category no longer exists and the term is 
not used anywhere else in 50 CFR part 679.
    The final rule also corrects the Latin name of dusky rockfish 
(Sebastes variabilis), species code 172, in Table 2a to part 679, and 
adds dark rockfish (Sebastes ciliatus), species code 173, to the non-
FMP species listed in Table 2d to part 679.
    In Table 10 to part 679 (Gulf of Alaska Retainable Percentages), 
footnote 5 is revised to correct the Latin name for dusky rockfish 
(Sebastes variabilis). Footnote 8 is revised to remove reference to 
Sebastes and Sebastolobus and to refer to the definition of 
``rockfish'' at Sec.  679.2.
    This final rule also makes minor editorial revisions to Table 10 to 
part 679. In note 1, the species code for ``shortraker/rougheye (171)'' 
is removed because NMFS no longer has a species code associated with 
the combination of shortraker and rougheye rockfish Table 2a to part 
679. Shortraker rockfish and rougheye rockfish have separate species 
codes. Note 10 lists the species included in the aggregated forage fish 
category. The word ``families'' in the parentheses following the term 
``Aggregated forage fish'' is replaced with the word ``taxa'' because 
all species of the order Euphausiacea (krill) also are included in the 
list of aggregated forage fish. The word ``taxa'' refers to more 
general groupings of similar organisms and includes taxonomic families 
and orders.
    In Table 11 to part 679 (BSAI Retainable Percentages), footnotes 3 
and 6 are revised to remove references to Sebastes and Sebastolobus and 
to refer to the definition of ``rockfish'' at Sec.  679.2. This 
revision excludes dark rockfish from these rockfish categories in the 
BSAI because dark rockfish are excluded from the definition of rockfish 
at Sec.  679.2.

Changes From the Proposed Rule

    In the proposed rule, NMFS mistakenly included revisions to the 
retainable percentages in Table 10 to part 679 for selected groundfish 
species using arrowtooth flounder as a basis species. The proposed rule 
did not specifically propose these revisions in the preamble. These 
revisions were recommended by the Council in a separate action and were 
published in a separate proposed rule on November 25, 2008 (73 FR 
71592). Revisions related to the retainable percentages using 
arrowtooth flounder as a basis species should not have been included in 
the proposed rule for Amendments 73/77. Therefore, this final rule does 
not implement revisions to the retainable percentages in Table 10 for 
deep-water flatfish, rex sole, flathead sole, shallow-water flatfish, 
sablefish, aggregated rockfish, Atka mackerel, and skates using 
arrowtooth flounder as a basis species. The retainable percentages for 
these species using arrowtooth flounder as a basis species remain at 0 
percent in this final rule, which reflects current regulations at 50 
CFR part 679.
    This final rule also incorporates revisions that were made to 
Tables 2a, 2d, 10, and 11 to part 679 in a separate final rule that 
implemented a variety of recordkeeping and reporting regulatory 
amendments (73 FR 76136; December 15, 2008). The revision to the 
hyphenation of the words ``shallow-water'' and ``deep-water'' in Table 
10 to part 679 was included in the proposed rule for Amendments 73/77, 
but since this revision was made in the final rule described above that 
implemented recordkeeping and reporting revisions, changing the 
hyphenation of these terms no longer needs to be implemented through 
this final rule for Amendments 73/77.

Classification

    The Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS, determined that Amendments 
73/77 are necessary for the conservation and management of the 
groundfish fisheries in the BSAI and GOA, and that these FMP amendments 
and the regulatory amendments to implement them are consistent with the 
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and other 
applicable laws.
    This final rule has been determined to be not significant for the 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    A final regulatory flexibility analysis (FRFA) was prepared. The 
FRFA incorporates the initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA), 
and provides a summary of the analyses completed to support the action. 
A copy of this analysis is available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). No 
comments were received on the IRFA.
    The numbers of small entities that may be directly regulated by 
this action have been estimated using information on gross revenues and 
American Fisheries Act affiliation in 2006, and information on 
participation in the GOA Rockfish Program and on corporate ownership of 
vessel fleets from 2007 and 2008.
    In 2006, one year immediately preceding the Council action 
recommending the removal of dark rockfish from the FMPs, there were 81 
small catcher vessels that made landings of pelagic shelf rockfish from 
the GOA, taken as either targeted or incidental catch fish. No small 
catcher-processors made such landings. The 81 small catcher vessels 
included 74 that used hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear, and seven that 
used pelagic or non-pelagic trawl gear. The 81 small catcher vessels 
averaged about $400,000 in gross ex-vessel revenues from all sources.
    In 2006, one small catcher/processor and 36 small catcher vessels 
made incidental catch landings of pelagic shelf rockfish in the BSAI. 
All together, 35 vessels used hook-and-line, pot, or jig gear, and two 
used trawl gear. The 37 small vessels averaged about $1.4 million in 
gross revenues from all sources.
    This regulation does not impose new recordkeeping and reporting 
requirements on the regulated small entities.
    Two alternatives are analyzed in this document: Alternative 1--No 
Action, continue managing dark rockfish within the larger PSR complex 
in the GOA, and within the ``other rockfish'' complex in the BSAI; and 
Alternative 2--Preferred Alternative, remove dark rockfish from the GOA 
groundfish FMP and BSAI groundfish FMP, and defer management of this 
species, in both State and Federal waters, to the State of Alaska.
    The preferred alternative may have adverse impacts on operations 
targeting pelagic shelf rockfish in the Central GOA and in the West 
Yakutat District. NMFS does not expect the action to have adverse 
impacts on operations targeting rockfish in the Southeast Outside and 
Western regions of the GOA, or in the BSAI (targeting does not appear 
to be significant in the Southeast Outside or BSAI). NMFS does not 
expect the action to have adverse impacts on operations taking dark 
rockfish as incidental catch. In the Central GOA, most of the adverse 
impact would fall on participants in the GOA Rockfish Program. Because 
of the

[[Page 80309]]

affiliations these operations have through the quota management and 
allocation features of the Rockfish Program, NMFS does not believe 
these operations can be considered small entities for the purpose of 
the RFA. However, it is possible that they would experience some 
adverse impact as described in the Regulatory Impact Review. The 
primary alternative considered here, Alternative 1--No Action, would 
not have these adverse impacts, but would not remove dark rockfish from 
the FMPs and, thus, does not accomplish the stated objective for the 
action.
    The Council also considered an additional alternative to the 
proposed action that was not carried forward for analysis. This 
alternative was to transfer management authority of dark rockfish to 
the State of Alaska while retaining the species under the Federal FMPs. 
Demersal shelf rockfish in Southeast Alaska is under a similarly 
delegated management program with the State of Alaska. A similar 
alternative was considered and rejected for black rockfish and blue 
rockfish under Amendment 46 to the GOA FMP. This alternative was not 
carried forward for dark rockfish because (1) State personnel would be 
required to comply with additional Federal management processes that 
may not be consistent with State procedures; (2) the State would need 
to meet both State and Federal requirements, which often prescribe 
different time-frames for management actions (e.g., notice, public 
meetings, and reports); and (3) the State did not believe it could meet 
the costly assessment requirements for managing a nearshore species, 
mandated under a Federal management plan.

Small Entity Compliance Guide

    Section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness 
Act of 1996 states that, for each rule or group of related rules for 
which an agency is required to prepare a FRFA, the agency shall publish 
one or more guides to assist small entities in complying with the rule, 
and shall designate such publications as ``small entity compliance 
guides.'' The agency shall explain the actions that a small entity is 
required to take to comply with a rule or group of rules. The preamble 
to the proposed rule and this final rule fully explain the regulatory 
amendments that will be implemented to remove dark rockfish from the 
FMPs. The proposed rule, final rule, and regulations governing the 
groundfish fisheries off Alaska are the best source of information 
about how to comply with Amendments 73/77 and, therefore, collectively 
they represent the small entity compliance guide for this final rule. 
These documents are available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES) and from the 
NMFS Alaska Region's Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. The 
State of Alaska will assume management of dark rockfish in the BSAI and 
GOA when this final rule becomes effective and all State-permitted 
vessels will be required to comply with State of Alaska laws and 
regulations governing the catch of dark rockfish.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 679

    Alaska, Fisheries.

    Dated: December 22, 2008.
Samuel D. Rauch, III.,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

0
For the reasons set out in the preamble, NMFS amends 50 CFR part 679 as 
follows:

PART 679--FISHERIES OF THE EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONE OFF ALASKA

0
1. The authority citation for 50 CFR part 679 continues to read as 
follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 773 et seq., 1801 et seq., 3631 et seq.; 
Pub. L. 108-447.


0
2. In Sec.  679.2, remove the definition for ``Other red rockfish'' and 
revise the definitions for ``Other rockfish'' and ``Rockfish'' to read 
as follows:


Sec.  679.2  Definitions.

* * * * *
    Other rockfish (see Tables 10 and 11 to this part pursuant to Sec.  
679.20(c); see also ``rockfish'' in this section.)
* * * * *
    Rockfish means:
    (1) For the Gulf of Alaska: Any species of the genera Sebastes or 
Sebastolobus except Sebastes ciliatus (dark rockfish); Sebastes 
melanops (black rockfish); and Sebastes mystinus (blue rockfish).
    (2) For the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area: Any 
species of the genera Sebastes or Sebastolobus except Sebastes ciliatus 
(dark rockfish).
* * * * *

0
3. Table 2a to part 679 is revised to read as follows:

           Table 2a to Part 679--Species Codes: FMP Groundfish
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                       Species description                         Code
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Atka mackerel (greenling).......................................     193
Flatfish, miscellaneous (flatfish species without separate           120
 codes).........................................................
FLOUNDER:
  Alaska plaice.................................................     133
  Arrowtooth and/or Kamchatka...................................     121
  Starry........................................................     129
Octopus, North Pacific..........................................     870
Pacific cod.....................................................     110
Pollock.........................................................     270
ROCKFISH:
  Aurora (Sebastes aurora)......................................     185
  Black (BSAI) (S. melanops)....................................     142
  Blackgill (S. melanostomus)...................................     177
  Blue (BSAI) (S. mystinus).....................................     167
  Bocaccio (S. paucispinis).....................................     137
  Canary (S. pinniger)..........................................     146
  Chilipepper (S. goodei).......................................     178
  China (S. nebulosus)..........................................     149
  Copper (S. caurinus)..........................................     138
  Darkblotched (S. crameri).....................................     159
  Dusky (S. variabilis).........................................     172
  Greenstriped (S. elongatus)...................................     135
  Harlequin (S. variegatus).....................................     176
  Northern (S. polyspinis)......................................     136
  Pacific ocean perch (S. alutus)...............................     141
  Pygmy (S. wilsoni)............................................     179
  Quillback (S. maliger)........................................     147
  Redbanded (S. babcocki).......................................     153
  Redstripe (S. proriger).......................................     158
  Rosethorn (S. helvomaculatus).................................     150
  Rougheye (S. aleutianus)......................................     151
  Sharpchin (S. zacentrus)......................................     166
  Shortbelly (S. jordani).......................................     181
  Shortraker (S. borealis)......................................     152
  Silvergray (S. brevispinis)...................................     157
  Splitnose (S. diploproa)......................................     182
  Stripetail (S. saxicola)......................................     183
  Thornyhead (all Sebastolobus species).........................     143
  Tiger (S. nigrocinctus).......................................     148
  Vermilion (S. miniatus).......................................     184
  Widow (S. entomelas)..........................................     156
  Yelloweye (S. ruberrimus).....................................     145
  Yellowmouth (S. reedi)........................................     175
  Yellowtail (S. flavidus)......................................     155
Sablefish (blackcod)............................................     710
Sculpins........................................................     160
SHARKS:
  Other (if salmon, spiny dogfish or Pacific sleeper shark--use      689
   specific species code).......................................
  Pacific sleeper...............................................     692
  Salmon........................................................     690
  Spiny dogfish.................................................     691
SKATES:
  Big...........................................................     702
  Longnose......................................................     701
  Other (If longnose or big skate--use specific species code)...     700
SOLE:
  Butter........................................................     126
  Dover.........................................................     124
  English.......................................................     128
  Flathead......................................................     122
  Petrale.......................................................     131
  Rex...........................................................     125
  Rock..........................................................     123
  Sand..........................................................     132
  Yellowfin.....................................................     127
Squid, majestic.................................................     875
Turbot, Greenland...............................................     134
------------------------------------------------------------------------


[[Page 80310]]


0
4. Table 2d to part 679 is revised to read as follows:

          Table 2d to Part 679--Species Codes: Non-FMP Species
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                       Species description                         Code
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                               GENERAL USE
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Arctic char (anadromous)........................................     521
Bering flounder (Hippoglossoides robustus)......................     116
Dolly varden (anadromous).......................................     531
Eels or eel-like fish...........................................     210
Eel, wolf.......................................................     217
GREENLING:
  Kelp..........................................................     194
  Rock..........................................................     191
  Whitespot.....................................................     192
Grenadier, giant................................................     214
Grenadier (rattail).............................................     213
Jellyfish (unspecified).........................................     625
Lamprey, Pacific................................................     600
Lingcod.........................................................     130
Lumpsucker......................................................     216
Pacific flatnose................................................     260
Pacific hagfish.................................................     212
Pacific hake....................................................     112
Pacific lamprey.................................................     600
Pacific saury...................................................     220
Pacific tomcod..................................................     250
Poacher (Family Agonidae).......................................     219
Prowfish........................................................     215
Ratfish.........................................................     714
Rockfish, black (GOA)...........................................     142
Rockfish, blue (GOA)............................................     167
Rockfish, dark..................................................     173
Sardine, Pacific (pilchard).....................................     170
Sea cucumber, red...............................................     895
Shad............................................................     180
Skilfish........................................................     715
Snailfish, general (genus Liparis and genus Careproctus)........     218
Sturgeon, general...............................................     680
Wrymouths.......................................................     211
 
                            SHELLFISH
 
Abalone, northern (pinto).......................................     860
CLAMS:
  Arctic surf...................................................     812
  Cockle........................................................     820
  Eastern softshell.............................................     842
  Pacific geoduck...............................................     815
  Pacific littleneck............................................     840
  Pacific razor.................................................     830
  Washington butter.............................................     810
Coral...........................................................     899
Mussel, blue....................................................     855
Oyster, Pacific.................................................     880
Scallop, weathervane............................................     850
Scallop, pink (or calico).......................................     851
SHRIMP:
  Coonstripe....................................................     964
  Humpy.........................................................     963
  Northern (pink)...............................................     961
  Sidestripe....................................................     962
  Spot..........................................................     965
Snails..........................................................     890
Urchin, green sea...............................................     893
Urchin, red sea.................................................     892
------------------------------------------------------------------------


0
5. Tables 10 and 11 to part 679 are revised to read as follows:
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