Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska Groundfish; Limited Access Privilege Programs, 254-258 [E8-31365]

Download as PDF 254 Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 2 / Monday, January 5, 2009 / Proposed Rules price per mt, the harvest guideline for 2009 should provide similar revenue as seen from 2002 through 2007. No significant alternatives to this proposed rule exist that would accomplish the stated objectives of the applicable statutes and which would minimize any significant economic impact of this proposed rule on the affected small entities. The CPS FMP and its implementing regulations require NMFS to set an annual HG for the Pacific sardine fishery based on the harvest formula in the FMP. The harvest formula is applied to the current stock biomass estimate to determine the ABC, from which the HG is then derived. Determining the annual HG merely implements the established procedures of the FMP with the goal of continuing to provide expected net benefits to the nation, regardless of what the specific annual allowable harvest of Pacific sardine is determined to be. There are no reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements required by this proposed rule. Additionally, no other Federal rules duplicate, overlap or conflict with this proposed rule. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: December 29, 2008. John Oliver, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Operations, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. E8–31344 Filed 1–2–09; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–S DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 679 [Docket No. 0809031176–81596–01] RIN 0648–AX25 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska Groundfish; Limited Access Privilege Programs AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. SUMMARY: NMFS proposes regulations implementing Amendment 90 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area and Amendment 78 to the Fishery VerDate Aug<31>2005 13:23 Jan 02, 2009 Jkt 217001 Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska. This proposed regulation would amend the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Amendment 80 Program and the Central Gulf of Alaska Rockfish Program to allow post-delivery transfers of cooperative quota to cover overages. This action is necessary to mitigate potential overages, reduce enforcement costs, and provide for more precise total allowable catch management. This action is intended to promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the Fishery Management Plans, and other applicable law. DATES: Comments must be received no later than February 19, 2009. ADDRESSES: Send comments to Sue Salveson, Assistant Regional Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region, NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian. You may submit comments, identified by ‘‘RIN 0648– AX25,’’ by any one of the following methods: • Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal Web site at http://www.regulations.gov. • Mail: P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802. • Fax: (907) 586–7557. • Hand delivery to the Federal Building: 709 West 9th Street, Room 420A, Juneau, AK. 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 (e.g., name, address) 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 portable document file (pdf) formats only. Copies of Amendments 90 and 78, and the Regulatory Impact Reviews/ Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analyses (RIR/IRFAs) prepared for this action may be obtained from the NMFS Alaska Region at the address above or from the Alaska Region Web site at http:// alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. This proposed action was categorically excluded from the need to prepare an environmental assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act. The Council has submitted Amendments 90 and 78 for review by PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 the Secretary of Commerce, and a Notice of Availability (NOA) of the FMP amendments was published in the Federal Register on December 17, 2008 with comments on the FMP amendments invited through February 17, 2009. All written comments received by February 17, 2009, whether specifically directed to the FMP amendments, this proposed rule, or both, will be considered in the approval or disapproval decision on the FMP amendments. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Glenn Merrill, (907) 586–7228. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The groundfish fisheries in the exclusive economic zone off Alaska are managed under the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (BSAI FMP) and the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA FMP). The FMPs were prepared by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Amendment 80 to the BSAI FMP implemented the Amendment 80 Program. Amendment 68 to the GOA FMP implemented the Central GOA Rockfish Program (Rockfish Program). Regulations implementing Amendment 80 were published on September 14, 2007 (72 FR 52668), and regulations implementing Amendment 68 were published on November 20, 2006 (71 FR 67210). These regulations are located at 50 CFR part 679. Background NMFS issued quota share (QS) under the Amendment 80 Program and the Rockfish Program. Under the Amendment 80 Program, NMFS issued QS to persons based on their qualifying harvest histories using specific trawl catcher/processor vessels in six BSAI non-pollock groundfish fisheries during 1998 through 2004. Under the Rockfish Program, NMFS issued QS to persons based on their qualifying harvest histories using trawl catcher vessels and trawl catcher/processors in several Central GOA (CGOA) rockfish fisheries and associated species that were harvested during those rockfish fisheries during 1996 through 2002. These two programs are commonly known as limited access privilege programs (LAPPs) because the participants in these fisheries may receive exclusive access to fishery resources if specific conditions are met. Each year, the person issued QS may choose to participate in either a fishery cooperative with other QS holders, or to E:\FR\FM\05JAP1.SGM 05JAP1 Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 2 / Monday, January 5, 2009 / Proposed Rules fish in a limited access fishery with all other non-cooperative participants who hold QS. The total amount of QS assigned to all members of a cooperative yields an amount of cooperative quota (CQ), which is a permit that provides an exclusive harvesting privilege for a specific amount of groundfish, in specific fisheries, in a given year. In addition, a cooperative also receives a specific amount of CQ that may be used for the incidental catch of a specific amount crab or halibut. Incidentally caught crab or halibut cannot be retained, processed, or sold, and are commonly called prohibited species catch (PSC). QS holders who choose to participate in the limited access fishery are not assigned an exclusive harvest or PSC use privilege, but can compete for the allocation of groundfish and PSC remaining after CQ has been assigned to all cooperatives. Once a person joins a cooperative or the limited access fishery, they are required to participate in only that cooperative or the limited access fishery for that calendar year. A person who wishes to join a cooperative must designate the IFQ derived from his QS to the cooperative, and the specific vessels that will be fishing for that cooperative prior to the start of the fishing season for that LAPP. For example, persons wishing to participate in an Amendment 80 cooperative must assign their QS and vessels to an Amendment 80 cooperative by November 1 of each year to be eligible to fish in a cooperative for the following calendar year. Once a person assigns his QS or a vessel to a cooperative, he cannot reassign his QS or his vessel to another cooperative or the limited access fishery during that calendar year. The specific groundfish species for which NMFS issues QS, and the PSC species that may be issued CQ if a person joins a cooperative under the Amendment 80 Program and Rockfish Program are shown in Table 1. TABLE 1—GROUNDFISH AND PSC SPECIES THAT MAY YIELD CQ IN THE AMENDMENT 80 PROGRAM AND ROCKFISH PROGRAM Groundfish species for which QS is issued and that can yield CQ PSC species for which CQ can be issued BSAI Amendment 80 Program Aleutian Islands Pacific ocean perch. Atka mackerel ....................... VerDate Aug<31>2005 13:23 Jan 02, 2009 Pacific halibut. Zone 1 Bristol Bay red king crab. Jkt 217001 TABLE 1—GROUNDFISH AND PSC SPECIES THAT MAY YIELD CQ IN THE AMENDMENT 80 PROGRAM AND ROCKFISH PROGRAM—Continued Groundfish species for which QS is issued and that can yield CQ PSC species for which CQ can be issued Flathead sole ......................... Zone 1 Chionoecetes opilio crab. Zone 2C. opilio crab. Zone 1C. bairdi crab. Zone 2C. bairdi crab. Pacific cod ............................. Rock sole .............................. Yellowfin sole ........................ CGOA Rockfish Program Northern rockfish (catcher vessels & catcher/processors). Pacific ocean perch (catcher vessels & catcher/processors). Pelagic shelf rockfish (catcher vessels & catcher/processors). Thornyhead rockfish (catcher vessels & catcher/processors). Trawl sablefish (catcher vessels & catcher/processors). Rougheye rockfish (catcher/ processors only). Shortraker rockfish (catcher/ processors only). Pacific cod (catcher vessels only). Pacific halibut. The mechanisms for joining a cooperative, the process for issuing CQ for groundfish or PSC species, and the monitoring and enforcement provisions necessary to ensure proper accounting of catch under the Amendment 80 and Rockfish Programs are described in detail in the final rules implementing those LAPPs and are not repeated here (see 72 FR 52668, September 14, 2007, for the Amendment 80 Program; and 71 FR 67210, November 20, 2006, for the Rockfish Program). The size of each annual CQ allocation to a cooperative is based on the amount of QS held by the members of the cooperative relative to the total QS pool for a given groundfish fishery. For example, if a cooperative in the Amendment 80 Program was comprised of members holding QS equaling 40 percent of the QS pool in the yellowfin sole fishery, that cooperative would receive CQ to harvest 40 percent of the annual total allowable catch (TAC) of yellowfin sole that is assigned to the Amendment 80 Program. Any catch of groundfish or PSC species that is assigned CQ under the specific LAPP PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 255 (i.e., either the Amendment 80 or Rockfish Program) is debited from a cooperative’s CQ account. The Amendment 80 Program and the Rockfish Program allow cooperatives to transfer their unused CQ between cooperatives. Transfers allow cooperatives to tailor their operations to specific harvesting conditions. All transfers must be approved by NMFS before they become effective. Once a CQ transfer has been approved by NMFS, the CQ account of the transferring cooperative is debited and the CQ account of the receiving cooperative is credited. CQ Overages Under Current System Under existing regulations, a cooperative in either the Amendment 80 Program or the Rockfish Program is prohibited from catching groundfish or PSC on an annual basis that exceeds the amount of CQ that is issued to that cooperative (see § 680.7(n)(7)(i) for the Rockfish Program, and § 680.7(o)(4)(v) for the Amendment 80 Program). This prohibits a cooperative and its members from having a negative CQ balance for a given species, and subsequently receiving transferred CQ after the landing to rectify the negative CQ balance. A transfer of CQ after fish have been landed to rectify a negative CQ balance is commonly known as a postdelivery transfer. If a harvester fishing for a cooperative delivers more groundfish, or catches more PSC, than the amount of CQ that the cooperative has been issued, that harvester and cooperative have violated existing regulations. This is commonly known as an overage. Overages can occur either through deliberate actions, or more commonly through unintentional errors such as miscalculating the weight of catch to be delivered relative to the amount of CQ available. As an example, harvesters operating a catcher vessel in the Rockfish Program may not know the precise weight of a delivery of groundfish, and estimates made onboard the vessel using a sample of average weight may be higher or lower than the actual delivery weight. Similarly, a harvester operating a trawl catcher/ processor under either the Amendment 80 Program or Rockfish Program may not realize that he has harvested more than the amount of CQ assigned to his cooperative for a given groundfish or PSC species until after the catch from a haul has been weighed and the catch composition sampled by an onboard observer. If a harvester is making his or her last fishing trip for a cooperative for the year for a given groundfish or PSC species and no additional CQ is E:\FR\FM\05JAP1.SGM 05JAP1 256 Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 2 / Monday, January 5, 2009 / Proposed Rules available in his or her account, then an overage may occur. However, in most cases harvesters attempt to protect against potential overages by maintaining catch below their CQ holdings, and harvesting and using slightly less than the maximum amount of groundfish or PSC available on their CQ account, resulting in less value for the catch than possible. Overages by cooperatives in the Rockfish Program and Amendment 80 Program are likely to be uncommon. In 2007, the first year under the Rockfish Program, no overages of CQ occurred. Results from 2008, the second year of the Rockfish Program, and the first year of the Amendment 80 Program are pending. Currently, catcher vessel landings of groundfish are offloaded and processed by the facility receiving the delivery. PSC that is caught at sea is sampled, weighed, and returned to the sea by an onboard observer according to specific sampling protocols. The amount of groundfish and PSC CQ used by the vessel is reported once the vessel offloads its catch of groundfish. Catcher/ processor landings are weighed, sampled, and recorded by onboard observers. The results from landings on a catcher/processor are reported to NMFS daily. Once a final weight has been determined, the applicable groundfish or PSC species is debited from the CQ account for the cooperative. Any CQ overage is noted and referred to NOAA Office for Law Enforcement (OLE). Enforcement actions that may occur for a CQ overage would most likely rely on catch accounting records that show the violation. Violations from exceeding an exclusive annual harvest privilege in other LAPPs, such as the BSAI Crab Rationalization Program, and the Halibut and Sablefish IFQ Program are often apparent and not disputed because reliable records of observer sampling and offloads are generated at the time of landings. NMFS expects that similar violations that may occur in the Amendment 80 Program or Rockfish Program also would be apparent because reliable records of catch are kept under these two LAPPs. The amount and type of penalties that may be assessed are within the discretion of NOAA General Counsel. Need for Proposed Action Allowing post-delivery transfers in the Amendment 80 Program and Rockfish Program could mitigate potential overages, reduce enforcement costs, and provide for more precise TAC management and more value from the harvests for participants. Post-delivery VerDate Aug<31>2005 13:23 Jan 02, 2009 Jkt 217001 transfers also would increase flexibility to the fleet and allow more efficient use of resources. As an example, this provision could allow harvesters to make landings for their cooperative and settle up CQ accounts after delivery. The flexibility to complete transfers after delivery reduces the potential that some CQ will remain unharvested if a cooperative is not able to harvest its CQ allocation without the risk of an overage, and minimizes the potential for CQ overages because a CQ account can be balanced after delivery through a transfer from another cooperative with the appropriate amount of CQ. The Proposed Action This action proposes to allow postdelivery transfers to cover overages of CQ. There would be no limit on the size of a post-delivery transfer or on the number of post-delivery transfers a cooperative could undertake, but a vessel that is assigned to that cooperative could not begin a new fishing trip for that cooperative if the CQ account balance was zero or negative for any of the groundfish or PSC species CQ assigned to a cooperative. No cooperative could have a negative balance in an annual CQ account for any groundfish or PSC species after the end of a calendar year. No member of a cooperative would be permitted to use any vessel assigned to that cooperative to begin a new fishing trip for any groundfish CQ species until the overage was accounted for and the CQ balance of the cooperative for all groundfish or PSC species for which CQ is assigned was positive. NMFS proposes to define the term ‘‘fishing trip’’ for purposes of this requirement to provide a clear standard for fishery participants. A fishing trip would be defined as the period beginning when a vessel operator commences harvesting any groundfish species that is assigned CQ under the relevant LAPP and ending when the vessel operator removes any groundfish CQ species whether processed or unprocessed from that vessel. The specific groundfish and PSC species for both LAPPs are listed above in Table 1. The proposed definition of a fishing trip would effectively extend from the first harvest of a groundfish species that is issued CQ in the applicable LAPP until the beginning of a delivery of groundfish from a catcher vessel, or the beginning of offloading of processed groundfish from a catcher/ processor. This definition would ensure that no member of a cooperative could commence fishing for any groundfish species on the cooperative’s CQ permit on any vessel until the CQ accounts of all groundfish and PSC species assigned PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 to that cooperative are positive. This provision is intended to discourage harvesters from continuing to debit groundfish or PSC against their cooperative’s CQ account for numerous fishing trips and run a negative balance without ensuring that adequate unused CQ exists that can be transferred from another cooperative to cover that negative balance. This proposed rule would not modify existing regulations that require that CQ issued to a cooperative can be transferred only among other cooperatives, and that participants in a limited access fishery in either of these two LAPPs may not transfer any unused TAC to cooperatives as CQ. The proposed action would prohibit a cooperative from maintaining a negative balance in its CQ accounts after the end of the calendar year for which that CQ was issued. This prohibition would effectively require that all post-delivery transfers of CQ must be completed by December 31 of each year. Overages that are not covered by December 31 of each year would be subject to a penalty or other enforcement action. This action would be expected to reduce the risk of potential overages because cooperatives would have time to settle up their CQ accounts by the end of the calendar year, rather than potentially exceed a CQ account at the time of landing. Expected Effects of the Proposed Action The RIRs describe in detail the predicted effects of the proposed action on harvesters, processors, communities, management and enforcement, consumers, and the nation (see ADDRESSES). Only the effects of the proposed action on harvesters are described here. Overall, the number of overages at the time of landing may increase slightly under the proposed action, but the risk that an overage would be subject to penalty would decrease. Harvesters are likely to improve efficiency under this alternative through greater flexibility in harvesting. Overages could be covered with postdelivery transfers. Under the status quo, harvesters may be required to wait in port or remain idle on the fishing grounds until a transfer can be processed and a positive CQ balance is available. Under the proposed action, harvesters could finish their fishing trip and settle the balance when back in port. Some production efficiency gains should be realized by allowing harvesters to more precisely harvest the total CQ allocation with fewer uncovered overages. Harvesters also are likely to minimize the number of overage violations, which should be E:\FR\FM\05JAP1.SGM 05JAP1 Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 2 / Monday, January 5, 2009 / Proposed Rules reduced through post-delivery transfers. Based on public testimony received during Council deliberations and NMFS’ review of overage rates in the Rockfish Program and Amendment 80 Program described in the RIR/IRFAs prepared for this proposed action (see ADDRESSES), it is unlikely that harvesters will have excessive overages by unreasonable reliance on the provision for post-delivery transfers. The available data indicate that overages are rare currently, and would likely continue to be in the future. This proposed action would benefit cooperatives and the members of cooperatives fishing under a cooperative’s CQ permit. Recordkeeping and Reporting Requirements The NMFS Restricted Access Management Program (RAM) would continue to oversee share accounts and share usage. At the time of landing, RAM would maintain a record of any overage, but instead of reporting overages to NOAA OLE immediately, RAM would defer reporting until December 31 of the calendar year for which the CQ permit was issued. RAM would use the same process for processing post-delivery intercooperative transfer requests as is currently used to process intercooperative transfers under regulations at § 679.81 for the Rockfish Program, and at § 679.91 for the Amendment 80 Program. Summary of Regulatory Changes This action proposes the following changes to the existing regulatory text at 50 CFR part 679: • Add two new paragraphs to define the term ‘‘fishing trip’’ at § 679.2; • Modify the existing prohibitions at § 679.7(n)(7)(i) for the Rockfish Program and § 679.7(o)(4)(v) for the Amendment 80 Program to clarify that a person cannot begin a fishing trip with a vessel assigned to a Rockfish Program cooperative or Amendment 80 Program cooperative, if that Amendment 80 or Rockfish cooperative does not hold unused CQ for all species for which CQ is assigned; and • Add prohibitions at § 679.7(n)(7)(vi) for the Rockfish Program and § 679.7(o)(4)(vi) for the Amendment 80 Program to prohibit a person from having a negative balance in a CQ account for any species after the end of the calendar year for which that CQ permit was issued. Classification The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, has determined that VerDate Aug<31>2005 13:23 Jan 02, 2009 Jkt 217001 this proposed rule is consistent with Amendments 90 and 78, the MagnusonStevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, and other applicable laws, subject to further consideration after public comment. This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. IRFAs were prepared for Amendment 90 and Amendment 78 that describe the impact this proposed rule would have on small entities. Copies of the RIR/ IRFAs prepared for this proposed rule are available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). The RIR/IRFAs prepared for this proposed rule incorporate by reference extensive RIR/IRFAs prepared for Amendment 68 to the GOA FMP that implemented the Rockfish Program, and Amendment 80 to the BSAI FMP that implemented the Amendment 80 Program. The RIR/IRFAs prepared for Amendment 68 and Amendment 80 detailed the impacts of those LAPPs on small entities. These analyses are available from the NMFS Alaska Region, Records Office, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802, e-mail Records.fakr@noaa.gov, and on the Alaska Region Web site at http:// alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. The IRFAs for this proposed action describe the action, why this action is being proposed, the objectives and legal basis for the proposed rule, the type and number of small entities to which the proposed rule would apply, and projected reporting, recordkeeping, and other compliance requirements of the proposed rule. The IRFAs identify any overlapping, duplicative, or conflicting federal rules and describes any significant alternatives to the proposed rule that accomplish the stated objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable statutes, and that would minimize any significant adverse economic impact of the proposed rule on small entities. The description of the proposed action, its purpose, and its legal basis are described in the preamble and are not repeated here. This action directly regulates holders of CQ who might use post-delivery transfers to cover overages. Estimates of the number of small entities holding CQ are based on estimates of gross revenues. Landings data from the most recent season for which data are available are used to make these estimates. In the Rockfish Program, seven cooperatives formed in the first year (2007). Estimates of the number of these cooperatives that are small entities are based on estimates of gross revenues from the most recent year for which complete data are available (2005). Since rockfish prices vary from year to PO 00000 Frm 00022 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 257 year, the gross revenues of participants are difficult to predict. Of the seven cooperatives that received CQ in the first year of the Rockfish Program, five are estimated to be large entities and two are estimated to be small entities. In the Amendment 80 Program, estimates of the number of these cooperatives that are small entities are based on estimates of gross revenues from the most recent year for which complete data are available (2007). In the first year of the Amendment 80 Program (2007), one cooperative formed. This cooperative is estimated to be a large entity. Any cooperative wishing to cover an overage will be required to engage in a transfer of CQ. The required reporting and recordkeeping for a post-delivery transfer would be the same as for any other transfer of CQ. All of the directly regulated individuals would be expected to benefit from this action relative to the status quo alternative because the proposed action would allow greater flexibility and a longer time period over which to account for overages. Holders of CQ would be expected to benefit the most because the proposed action would provide CQ holders greater flexibility to maximize the harvest of their allocation without risking overages. Non-cooperative members would not be expected to benefit from this action because those persons do not receive an exclusive annual harvest privilege. This action would not be expected to have any effect on noncooperative members. Among the three alternatives considered, the proposed action would best minimize potential adverse economic impacts on the directly regulated entities. Under the status quo, no post-delivery transfers would be allowed and small entities would continue to be penalized for overages. A third alternative for both Amendment 78 and Amendment 90 would have allowed post-delivery transfers, but with more limitations and restrictions than the preferred alternative. The preferred alternative gives small entities the most flexibility to account for overages. Allowing post-delivery transfers should reduce the number of overages that result in forfeiture of catch and other penalties. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 679 Alaska, Fisheries, Recordkeeping and Reporting Requirements. E:\FR\FM\05JAP1.SGM 05JAP1 258 Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 2 / Monday, January 5, 2009 / Proposed Rules Dated: December 30, 2008. John Oliver, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Operations, National Marine Fisheries Service. For the reasons set out in the preamble, NMFS proposes to amend 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 is amended to read as follows: Authority: 16 U.S.C. 773 et seq.; 1801 et seq.; 3631 et seq.; Pub. L. 108–199; Pub. L. 108–447; and Pub. L. 109–479. 2. In § 679.2, paragraphs (4) and (5) are added to the term ‘‘Fishing trip’’ to read as follows: § 679.2 Definitions. * * * * Fishing trip means: * * * * * (4) For purposes of 679.7(n)(7), the period beginning when a vessel operator 13:23 Jan 02, 2009 § 679.7 Prohibitions. * * VerDate Aug<31>2005 commences harvesting any Rockfish Program species and ending when the vessel operator offloads or transfers any Rockfish Program species whether processed or unprocessed from that vessel. (5) For purposes of 679.7(o)(4), the period beginning when a vessel operator commences harvesting any Amendment 80 species and ending when the vessel operator offloads or transfers any Amendment 80 species whether processed or unprocessed from that vessel. * * * * * 3. In § 679.7, paragraphs (n)(7)(i) and (o)(4)(v) are revised, and paragraphs (n)(7)(vi) and (o)(4)(vi) are added to read as follows: Jkt 217001 * * * * (n) * * * (7) * * * (i) Begin a fishing trip for any Rockfish Program species with any vessel assigned to a Rockfish cooperative if the total amount of PO 00000 Frm 00023 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 unharvested CQ that is currently held by that Rockfish cooperative is zero or less for any species for which CQ is assigned. * * * * * (vi) Have a negative balance in a CQ account for any species for which CQ is assigned after the end of the calendar year for which a CQ permit was issued. * * * * * (o) * * * (4) * * * (v) Begin a fishing trip for any Amendment 80 species with any vessel assigned to an Amendment 80 cooperative if the total amount of unharvested CQ that is currently held by that Amendment 80 cooperative is zero or less for any species for which CQ is assigned. (vi) Have a negative balance in a CQ account for any species for which CQ is assigned after the end of the calendar year for which a CQ permit was issued. * * * * * [FR Doc. E8–31365 Filed 1–2–09; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\05JAP1.SGM 05JAP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 74, Number 2 (Monday, January 5, 2009)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 254-258]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E8-31365]


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

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 679

[Docket No. 0809031176-81596-01]
RIN 0648-AX25


Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Bering Sea 
and Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska Groundfish; Limited Access 
Privilege Programs

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS proposes regulations implementing Amendment 90 to the 
Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian 
Islands Management Area and Amendment 78 to the Fishery Management Plan 
for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska. This proposed regulation would 
amend the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Amendment 80 Program and the 
Central Gulf of Alaska Rockfish Program to allow post-delivery 
transfers of cooperative quota to cover overages. This action is 
necessary to mitigate potential overages, reduce enforcement costs, and 
provide for more precise total allowable catch management. This action 
is intended to promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens 
Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the Fishery Management Plans, 
and other applicable law.

DATES: Comments must be received no later than February 19, 2009.

ADDRESSES: Send comments to Sue Salveson, Assistant Regional 
Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region, NMFS, 
Attn: Ellen Sebastian. You may submit comments, identified by ``RIN 
0648-AX25,'' by any one of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal Web site at http://
www.regulations.gov.
     Mail: P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802.
     Fax: (907) 586-7557.
     Hand delivery to the Federal Building: 709 West 9th 
Street, Room 420A, Juneau, AK.
    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 (e.g., name, address) 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 portable document file (pdf) formats only.
    Copies of Amendments 90 and 78, and the Regulatory Impact Reviews/
Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analyses (RIR/IRFAs) prepared for this 
action may be obtained from the NMFS Alaska Region at the address above 
or from the Alaska Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. 
This proposed action was categorically excluded from the need to 
prepare an environmental assessment under the National Environmental 
Policy Act.
    The Council has submitted Amendments 90 and 78 for review by the 
Secretary of Commerce, and a Notice of Availability (NOA) of the FMP 
amendments was published in the Federal Register on December 17, 2008 
with comments on the FMP amendments invited through February 17, 2009. 
All written comments received by February 17, 2009, whether 
specifically directed to the FMP amendments, this proposed rule, or 
both, will be considered in the approval or disapproval decision on the 
FMP amendments.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Glenn Merrill, (907) 586-7228.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The groundfish fisheries in the exclusive 
economic zone off Alaska are managed under the Fishery Management Plan 
for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area 
(BSAI FMP) and the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf 
of Alaska (GOA FMP). The FMPs were prepared by the North Pacific 
Fishery Management Council (Council) under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act. Amendment 80 to the BSAI FMP 
implemented the Amendment 80 Program. Amendment 68 to the GOA FMP 
implemented the Central GOA Rockfish Program (Rockfish Program). 
Regulations implementing Amendment 80 were published on September 14, 
2007 (72 FR 52668), and regulations implementing Amendment 68 were 
published on November 20, 2006 (71 FR 67210). These regulations are 
located at 50 CFR part 679.

Background

    NMFS issued quota share (QS) under the Amendment 80 Program and the 
Rockfish Program. Under the Amendment 80 Program, NMFS issued QS to 
persons based on their qualifying harvest histories using specific 
trawl catcher/processor vessels in six BSAI non-pollock groundfish 
fisheries during 1998 through 2004. Under the Rockfish Program, NMFS 
issued QS to persons based on their qualifying harvest histories using 
trawl catcher vessels and trawl catcher/processors in several Central 
GOA (CGOA) rockfish fisheries and associated species that were 
harvested during those rockfish fisheries during 1996 through 2002. 
These two programs are commonly known as limited access privilege 
programs (LAPPs) because the participants in these fisheries may 
receive exclusive access to fishery resources if specific conditions 
are met. Each year, the person issued QS may choose to participate in 
either a fishery cooperative with other QS holders, or to

[[Page 255]]

fish in a limited access fishery with all other non-cooperative 
participants who hold QS. The total amount of QS assigned to all 
members of a cooperative yields an amount of cooperative quota (CQ), 
which is a permit that provides an exclusive harvesting privilege for a 
specific amount of groundfish, in specific fisheries, in a given year. 
In addition, a cooperative also receives a specific amount of CQ that 
may be used for the incidental catch of a specific amount crab or 
halibut. Incidentally caught crab or halibut cannot be retained, 
processed, or sold, and are commonly called prohibited species catch 
(PSC). QS holders who choose to participate in the limited access 
fishery are not assigned an exclusive harvest or PSC use privilege, but 
can compete for the allocation of groundfish and PSC remaining after CQ 
has been assigned to all cooperatives.
    Once a person joins a cooperative or the limited access fishery, 
they are required to participate in only that cooperative or the 
limited access fishery for that calendar year. A person who wishes to 
join a cooperative must designate the IFQ derived from his QS to the 
cooperative, and the specific vessels that will be fishing for that 
cooperative prior to the start of the fishing season for that LAPP. For 
example, persons wishing to participate in an Amendment 80 cooperative 
must assign their QS and vessels to an Amendment 80 cooperative by 
November 1 of each year to be eligible to fish in a cooperative for the 
following calendar year. Once a person assigns his QS or a vessel to a 
cooperative, he cannot reassign his QS or his vessel to another 
cooperative or the limited access fishery during that calendar year.
    The specific groundfish species for which NMFS issues QS, and the 
PSC species that may be issued CQ if a person joins a cooperative under 
the Amendment 80 Program and Rockfish Program are shown in Table 1.

 Table 1--Groundfish and PSC Species That May Yield CQ in the Amendment
                     80 Program and Rockfish Program
------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Groundfish species for which QS is issued  PSC species for which CQ can
           and that can yield CQ                      be issued
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                        BSAI Amendment 80 Program
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Aleutian Islands Pacific ocean perch......  Pacific halibut.
Atka mackerel.............................  Zone 1 Bristol Bay red king
                                             crab.
Flathead sole.............................  Zone 1 Chionoecetes opilio
                                             crab.
Pacific cod...............................  Zone 2C. opilio crab.
Rock sole.................................  Zone 1C. bairdi crab.
Yellowfin sole............................  Zone 2C. bairdi crab.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                          CGOA Rockfish Program
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Northern rockfish (catcher vessels &        Pacific halibut.
 catcher/processors).
Pacific ocean perch (catcher vessels &      ............................
 catcher/processors).
Pelagic shelf rockfish (catcher vessels &   ............................
 catcher/processors).
Thornyhead rockfish (catcher vessels &      ............................
 catcher/processors).
Trawl sablefish (catcher vessels & catcher/ ............................
 processors).
Rougheye rockfish (catcher/processors       ............................
 only).
Shortraker rockfish (catcher/processors     ............................
 only).
Pacific cod (catcher vessels only).         ............................
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The mechanisms for joining a cooperative, the process for issuing 
CQ for groundfish or PSC species, and the monitoring and enforcement 
provisions necessary to ensure proper accounting of catch under the 
Amendment 80 and Rockfish Programs are described in detail in the final 
rules implementing those LAPPs and are not repeated here (see 72 FR 
52668, September 14, 2007, for the Amendment 80 Program; and 71 FR 
67210, November 20, 2006, for the Rockfish Program).
    The size of each annual CQ allocation to a cooperative is based on 
the amount of QS held by the members of the cooperative relative to the 
total QS pool for a given groundfish fishery. For example, if a 
cooperative in the Amendment 80 Program was comprised of members 
holding QS equaling 40 percent of the QS pool in the yellowfin sole 
fishery, that cooperative would receive CQ to harvest 40 percent of the 
annual total allowable catch (TAC) of yellowfin sole that is assigned 
to the Amendment 80 Program. Any catch of groundfish or PSC species 
that is assigned CQ under the specific LAPP (i.e., either the Amendment 
80 or Rockfish Program) is debited from a cooperative's CQ account.
    The Amendment 80 Program and the Rockfish Program allow 
cooperatives to transfer their unused CQ between cooperatives. 
Transfers allow cooperatives to tailor their operations to specific 
harvesting conditions. All transfers must be approved by NMFS before 
they become effective. Once a CQ transfer has been approved by NMFS, 
the CQ account of the transferring cooperative is debited and the CQ 
account of the receiving cooperative is credited.

CQ Overages Under Current System

    Under existing regulations, a cooperative in either the Amendment 
80 Program or the Rockfish Program is prohibited from catching 
groundfish or PSC on an annual basis that exceeds the amount of CQ that 
is issued to that cooperative (see Sec.  680.7(n)(7)(i) for the 
Rockfish Program, and Sec.  680.7(o)(4)(v) for the Amendment 80 
Program). This prohibits a cooperative and its members from having a 
negative CQ balance for a given species, and subsequently receiving 
transferred CQ after the landing to rectify the negative CQ balance. A 
transfer of CQ after fish have been landed to rectify a negative CQ 
balance is commonly known as a post-delivery transfer.
    If a harvester fishing for a cooperative delivers more groundfish, 
or catches more PSC, than the amount of CQ that the cooperative has 
been issued, that harvester and cooperative have violated existing 
regulations. This is commonly known as an overage. Overages can occur 
either through deliberate actions, or more commonly through 
unintentional errors such as miscalculating the weight of catch to be 
delivered relative to the amount of CQ available. As an example, 
harvesters operating a catcher vessel in the Rockfish Program may not 
know the precise weight of a delivery of groundfish, and estimates made 
onboard the vessel using a sample of average weight may be higher or 
lower than the actual delivery weight. Similarly, a harvester operating 
a trawl catcher/processor under either the Amendment 80 Program or 
Rockfish Program may not realize that he has harvested more than the 
amount of CQ assigned to his cooperative for a given groundfish or PSC 
species until after the catch from a haul has been weighed and the 
catch composition sampled by an onboard observer. If a harvester is 
making his or her last fishing trip for a cooperative for the year for 
a given groundfish or PSC species and no additional CQ is

[[Page 256]]

available in his or her account, then an overage may occur. However, in 
most cases harvesters attempt to protect against potential overages by 
maintaining catch below their CQ holdings, and harvesting and using 
slightly less than the maximum amount of groundfish or PSC available on 
their CQ account, resulting in less value for the catch than possible.
    Overages by cooperatives in the Rockfish Program and Amendment 80 
Program are likely to be uncommon. In 2007, the first year under the 
Rockfish Program, no overages of CQ occurred. Results from 2008, the 
second year of the Rockfish Program, and the first year of the 
Amendment 80 Program are pending.
    Currently, catcher vessel landings of groundfish are offloaded and 
processed by the facility receiving the delivery. PSC that is caught at 
sea is sampled, weighed, and returned to the sea by an onboard observer 
according to specific sampling protocols. The amount of groundfish and 
PSC CQ used by the vessel is reported once the vessel offloads its 
catch of groundfish. Catcher/processor landings are weighed, sampled, 
and recorded by onboard observers. The results from landings on a 
catcher/processor are reported to NMFS daily. Once a final weight has 
been determined, the applicable groundfish or PSC species is debited 
from the CQ account for the cooperative. Any CQ overage is noted and 
referred to NOAA Office for Law Enforcement (OLE).
    Enforcement actions that may occur for a CQ overage would most 
likely rely on catch accounting records that show the violation. 
Violations from exceeding an exclusive annual harvest privilege in 
other LAPPs, such as the BSAI Crab Rationalization Program, and the 
Halibut and Sablefish IFQ Program are often apparent and not disputed 
because reliable records of observer sampling and offloads are 
generated at the time of landings. NMFS expects that similar violations 
that may occur in the Amendment 80 Program or Rockfish Program also 
would be apparent because reliable records of catch are kept under 
these two LAPPs. The amount and type of penalties that may be assessed 
are within the discretion of NOAA General Counsel.

Need for Proposed Action

    Allowing post-delivery transfers in the Amendment 80 Program and 
Rockfish Program could mitigate potential overages, reduce enforcement 
costs, and provide for more precise TAC management and more value from 
the harvests for participants. Post-delivery transfers also would 
increase flexibility to the fleet and allow more efficient use of 
resources. As an example, this provision could allow harvesters to make 
landings for their cooperative and settle up CQ accounts after 
delivery. The flexibility to complete transfers after delivery reduces 
the potential that some CQ will remain unharvested if a cooperative is 
not able to harvest its CQ allocation without the risk of an overage, 
and minimizes the potential for CQ overages because a CQ account can be 
balanced after delivery through a transfer from another cooperative 
with the appropriate amount of CQ.

The Proposed Action

    This action proposes to allow post-delivery transfers to cover 
overages of CQ. There would be no limit on the size of a post-delivery 
transfer or on the number of post-delivery transfers a cooperative 
could undertake, but a vessel that is assigned to that cooperative 
could not begin a new fishing trip for that cooperative if the CQ 
account balance was zero or negative for any of the groundfish or PSC 
species CQ assigned to a cooperative. No cooperative could have a 
negative balance in an annual CQ account for any groundfish or PSC 
species after the end of a calendar year.
    No member of a cooperative would be permitted to use any vessel 
assigned to that cooperative to begin a new fishing trip for any 
groundfish CQ species until the overage was accounted for and the CQ 
balance of the cooperative for all groundfish or PSC species for which 
CQ is assigned was positive. NMFS proposes to define the term ``fishing 
trip'' for purposes of this requirement to provide a clear standard for 
fishery participants. A fishing trip would be defined as the period 
beginning when a vessel operator commences harvesting any groundfish 
species that is assigned CQ under the relevant LAPP and ending when the 
vessel operator removes any groundfish CQ species whether processed or 
unprocessed from that vessel. The specific groundfish and PSC species 
for both LAPPs are listed above in Table 1. The proposed definition of 
a fishing trip would effectively extend from the first harvest of a 
groundfish species that is issued CQ in the applicable LAPP until the 
beginning of a delivery of groundfish from a catcher vessel, or the 
beginning of offloading of processed groundfish from a catcher/
processor. This definition would ensure that no member of a cooperative 
could commence fishing for any groundfish species on the cooperative's 
CQ permit on any vessel until the CQ accounts of all groundfish and PSC 
species assigned to that cooperative are positive. This provision is 
intended to discourage harvesters from continuing to debit groundfish 
or PSC against their cooperative's CQ account for numerous fishing 
trips and run a negative balance without ensuring that adequate unused 
CQ exists that can be transferred from another cooperative to cover 
that negative balance. This proposed rule would not modify existing 
regulations that require that CQ issued to a cooperative can be 
transferred only among other cooperatives, and that participants in a 
limited access fishery in either of these two LAPPs may not transfer 
any unused TAC to cooperatives as CQ.
    The proposed action would prohibit a cooperative from maintaining a 
negative balance in its CQ accounts after the end of the calendar year 
for which that CQ was issued. This prohibition would effectively 
require that all post-delivery transfers of CQ must be completed by 
December 31 of each year. Overages that are not covered by December 31 
of each year would be subject to a penalty or other enforcement action. 
This action would be expected to reduce the risk of potential overages 
because cooperatives would have time to settle up their CQ accounts by 
the end of the calendar year, rather than potentially exceed a CQ 
account at the time of landing.

Expected Effects of the Proposed Action

    The RIRs describe in detail the predicted effects of the proposed 
action on harvesters, processors, communities, management and 
enforcement, consumers, and the nation (see ADDRESSES). Only the 
effects of the proposed action on harvesters are described here. 
Overall, the number of overages at the time of landing may increase 
slightly under the proposed action, but the risk that an overage would 
be subject to penalty would decrease.
    Harvesters are likely to improve efficiency under this alternative 
through greater flexibility in harvesting. Overages could be covered 
with post-delivery transfers. Under the status quo, harvesters may be 
required to wait in port or remain idle on the fishing grounds until a 
transfer can be processed and a positive CQ balance is available. Under 
the proposed action, harvesters could finish their fishing trip and 
settle the balance when back in port. Some production efficiency gains 
should be realized by allowing harvesters to more precisely harvest the 
total CQ allocation with fewer uncovered overages. Harvesters also are 
likely to minimize the number of overage violations, which should be

[[Page 257]]

reduced through post-delivery transfers. Based on public testimony 
received during Council deliberations and NMFS' review of overage rates 
in the Rockfish Program and Amendment 80 Program described in the RIR/
IRFAs prepared for this proposed action (see ADDRESSES), it is unlikely 
that harvesters will have excessive overages by unreasonable reliance 
on the provision for post-delivery transfers. The available data 
indicate that overages are rare currently, and would likely continue to 
be in the future. This proposed action would benefit cooperatives and 
the members of cooperatives fishing under a cooperative's CQ permit.

Recordkeeping and Reporting Requirements

    The NMFS Restricted Access Management Program (RAM) would continue 
to oversee share accounts and share usage. At the time of landing, RAM 
would maintain a record of any overage, but instead of reporting 
overages to NOAA OLE immediately, RAM would defer reporting until 
December 31 of the calendar year for which the CQ permit was issued. 
RAM would use the same process for processing post-delivery inter-
cooperative transfer requests as is currently used to process inter-
cooperative transfers under regulations at Sec.  679.81 for the 
Rockfish Program, and at Sec.  679.91 for the Amendment 80 Program.

Summary of Regulatory Changes

    This action proposes the following changes to the existing 
regulatory text at 50 CFR part 679:
     Add two new paragraphs to define the term ``fishing trip'' 
at Sec.  679.2;
     Modify the existing prohibitions at Sec.  679.7(n)(7)(i) 
for the Rockfish Program and Sec.  679.7(o)(4)(v) for the Amendment 80 
Program to clarify that a person cannot begin a fishing trip with a 
vessel assigned to a Rockfish Program cooperative or Amendment 80 
Program cooperative, if that Amendment 80 or Rockfish cooperative does 
not hold unused CQ for all species for which CQ is assigned; and
     Add prohibitions at Sec.  679.7(n)(7)(vi) for the Rockfish 
Program and Sec.  679.7(o)(4)(vi) for the Amendment 80 Program to 
prohibit a person from having a negative balance in a CQ account for 
any species after the end of the calendar year for which that CQ permit 
was issued.

Classification

    The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, has determined 
that this proposed rule is consistent with Amendments 90 and 78, the 
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, and other 
applicable laws, subject to further consideration after public comment.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    IRFAs were prepared for Amendment 90 and Amendment 78 that describe 
the impact this proposed rule would have on small entities. Copies of 
the RIR/IRFAs prepared for this proposed rule are available from NMFS 
(see ADDRESSES). The RIR/IRFAs prepared for this proposed rule 
incorporate by reference extensive RIR/IRFAs prepared for Amendment 68 
to the GOA FMP that implemented the Rockfish Program, and Amendment 80 
to the BSAI FMP that implemented the Amendment 80 Program. The RIR/
IRFAs prepared for Amendment 68 and Amendment 80 detailed the impacts 
of those LAPPs on small entities. These analyses are available from the 
NMFS Alaska Region, Records Office, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802, 
e-mail Records.fakr@noaa.gov, and on the Alaska Region Web site at 
http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov.
    The IRFAs for this proposed action describe the action, why this 
action is being proposed, the objectives and legal basis for the 
proposed rule, the type and number of small entities to which the 
proposed rule would apply, and projected reporting, recordkeeping, and 
other compliance requirements of the proposed rule. The IRFAs identify 
any overlapping, duplicative, or conflicting federal rules and 
describes any significant alternatives to the proposed rule that 
accomplish the stated objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other 
applicable statutes, and that would minimize any significant adverse 
economic impact of the proposed rule on small entities. The description 
of the proposed action, its purpose, and its legal basis are described 
in the preamble and are not repeated here.
    This action directly regulates holders of CQ who might use post-
delivery transfers to cover overages. Estimates of the number of small 
entities holding CQ are based on estimates of gross revenues. Landings 
data from the most recent season for which data are available are used 
to make these estimates. In the Rockfish Program, seven cooperatives 
formed in the first year (2007). Estimates of the number of these 
cooperatives that are small entities are based on estimates of gross 
revenues from the most recent year for which complete data are 
available (2005). Since rockfish prices vary from year to year, the 
gross revenues of participants are difficult to predict. Of the seven 
cooperatives that received CQ in the first year of the Rockfish 
Program, five are estimated to be large entities and two are estimated 
to be small entities. In the Amendment 80 Program, estimates of the 
number of these cooperatives that are small entities are based on 
estimates of gross revenues from the most recent year for which 
complete data are available (2007). In the first year of the Amendment 
80 Program (2007), one cooperative formed. This cooperative is 
estimated to be a large entity.
    Any cooperative wishing to cover an overage will be required to 
engage in a transfer of CQ. The required reporting and recordkeeping 
for a post-delivery transfer would be the same as for any other 
transfer of CQ.
    All of the directly regulated individuals would be expected to 
benefit from this action relative to the status quo alternative because 
the proposed action would allow greater flexibility and a longer time 
period over which to account for overages. Holders of CQ would be 
expected to benefit the most because the proposed action would provide 
CQ holders greater flexibility to maximize the harvest of their 
allocation without risking overages. Non-cooperative members would not 
be expected to benefit from this action because those persons do not 
receive an exclusive annual harvest privilege. This action would not be 
expected to have any effect on non-cooperative members. Among the three 
alternatives considered, the proposed action would best minimize 
potential adverse economic impacts on the directly regulated entities. 
Under the status quo, no post-delivery transfers would be allowed and 
small entities would continue to be penalized for overages. A third 
alternative for both Amendment 78 and Amendment 90 would have allowed 
post-delivery transfers, but with more limitations and restrictions 
than the preferred alternative. The preferred alternative gives small 
entities the most flexibility to account for overages.
    Allowing post-delivery transfers should reduce the number of 
overages that result in forfeiture of catch and other penalties.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 679

    Alaska, Fisheries, Recordkeeping and Reporting Requirements.


[[Page 258]]


    Dated: December 30, 2008.
John Oliver,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Operations, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, NMFS proposes to amend 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 is amended to read as 
follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 773 et seq.; 1801 et seq.; 3631 et seq.; 
Pub. L. 108-199; Pub. L. 108-447; and Pub. L. 109-479.

    2. In Sec.  679.2, paragraphs (4) and (5) are added to the term 
``Fishing trip'' to read as follows:


Sec.  679.2  Definitions.

* * * * *
    Fishing trip means:
* * * * *
    (4) For purposes of 679.7(n)(7), the period beginning when a vessel 
operator commences harvesting any Rockfish Program species and ending 
when the vessel operator offloads or transfers any Rockfish Program 
species whether processed or unprocessed from that vessel.
    (5) For purposes of 679.7(o)(4), the period beginning when a vessel 
operator commences harvesting any Amendment 80 species and ending when 
the vessel operator offloads or transfers any Amendment 80 species 
whether processed or unprocessed from that vessel.
* * * * *
    3. In Sec.  679.7, paragraphs (n)(7)(i) and (o)(4)(v) are revised, 
and paragraphs (n)(7)(vi) and (o)(4)(vi) are added to read as follows:


Sec.  679.7  Prohibitions.

* * * * *
    (n) * * *
    (7) * * *
    (i) Begin a fishing trip for any Rockfish Program species with any 
vessel assigned to a Rockfish cooperative if the total amount of 
unharvested CQ that is currently held by that Rockfish cooperative is 
zero or less for any species for which CQ is assigned.
* * * * *
    (vi) Have a negative balance in a CQ account for any species for 
which CQ is assigned after the end of the calendar year for which a CQ 
permit was issued.
* * * * *
    (o) * * *
    (4) * * *
    (v) Begin a fishing trip for any Amendment 80 species with any 
vessel assigned to an Amendment 80 cooperative if the total amount of 
unharvested CQ that is currently held by that Amendment 80 cooperative 
is zero or less for any species for which CQ is assigned.
    (vi) Have a negative balance in a CQ account for any species for 
which CQ is assigned after the end of the calendar year for which a CQ 
permit was issued.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. E8-31365 Filed 1-2-09; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P