Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Revise Maximum Retainable Amounts of Groundfish Using Arrowtooth Flounder as a Basis Species in the Gulf of Alaska, 13348-13354 [E9-6892]

Download as PDF 13348 Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 58 / Friday, March 27, 2009 / Rules and Regulations (Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Program No. 93.778, Medical Assistance Program) (TAL) is listed as 4, 170 mt. In the third column, the commercial quota is listed at 3,123 mt, and the recreational harvest limit is listed as 965 mt. The corrected values for these scup specification values are as follows: The 2009 proposed TAC is 5,307 mt, the final rule TAC is 7,049 mt, the final rule TAL is 5,071 mt, the commercial quota is 3,798 mt, and the recreational harvest limit is 1,173 mt. The black sea bass commercial quota in the first column of page 35 is listed as 1,043 mt. The corrected value for the commercial quota is 495 mt. Dated: March 20, 2009. Charlene Frizzera, Acting Administrator, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Approved: March 24, 2009. Charles E. Johnson, Acting Secretary. [FR Doc. E9–6907 Filed 3–24–09; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 4120–01–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 090311306–9309–01] RIN 0648–XN88 Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fisheries; 2009 Scup and Black Sea Bass Specifications; Correction sroberts on PROD1PC70 with RULES AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule; correction. SUMMARY: On January 2, 2009, NMFS published in the Federal Register a final rule containing final specifications for the 2009 scup and black sea bass fisheries. On six occasions in the preamble text of that rule, the English system of measurement in pounds for various iterations of the scup and black sea bass specifications were incorrectly converted into metric system of measurement equivalents. This document corrects those values to insure that the metric values are consistent with the 2009 specifications. DATES: Effective March 27, 2009, through December 31, 2009. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Michael Ruccio, Fishery Policy Analyst, (978) 281–9104. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The final rule, including final quota specifications (i.e., commercial quota and recreational harvest limit) for the 2009 summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries was published in the Federal Register on January 2, 2009 (74 FR 29). On page 32, in the first column, the proposed scup Total Allowable Catch (TAC) is listed as 5,339 metric tons (mt), the TAC implemented by the final rule in the second column is listed as 5,796 mt, and the Total Allowable Landings VerDate Nov<24>2008 15:28 Mar 26, 2009 Jkt 217001 Classification Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B), the Assistant Administrator finds good cause to waive prior notice and opportunity for additional public comment for this action because any delay of this action would be contrary to the public interest. As explained above, this rule corrects various metric values for the 2009 scup TAC, TAL, commercial quota, and recreational harvest limit and black sea bass commercial quota that had already been published in the Federal Register. In the final specifications rule published January 2, 2009 (74 FR 29), the various quota iterations were correctly listed in the English system of measurement. These values were inadvertently converted to the metric system utilizing the incorrect conversion factor and thus, the metric values listed in the final specifications rule are not correct or equal to the English system values. To delay this correction notice would cause confusion over the aforementioned available 2009 scup and black sea bass harvest levels because of the disparity between the English system of measurement, in pounds, and the metric expression of those same values, in metric tons that were incorrectly converted in the original specifications that published January 2, 2009 (74 FR 29). Moreover, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(d), the Assistant Administrator finds good cause to waive the 30-day delay in effective date for the reasons given above. Delaying the rule for 30 days may negatively impact fishermen accustomed to referring to the metric system of measurement because the values for the aforementioned harvest levels were incorrectly converted from the English system of measurement in the final specifications. The immediate publication of the correct information will rectify any confusion on the matter of what the metric expression of the 2009 scup and black sea bass harvest levels should be. Because prior notice and opportunity for public comment are not required for PO 00000 Frm 00036 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 this rule by 5 U.S.C. 553, or any other law, the analytical requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 601 et seq., are inapplicable. This final rule is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. Correction Accordingly, the final rule FR Doc. E8–31236, published on January 2, 2009 (74 FR 29), is corrected as follows: 1. On page 32: a. In the first column, in the last paragraph, in the seventh line, ‘‘(5, 339– mt) scup Total Allowable Catch’’ is corrected to read ‘‘(5,307- mt) , scup Total Allowable Catch’’ and in the second column, in the last paragraph, in the second line, ‘‘(5,796–mt) scup TAC’’ is corrected to read ‘‘(7,049 -mt) scup TAC’’, and in the third line, ‘‘(4,170–mt) scup TAL.’’is corrected to read ‘‘(5,071mt) scup TAL’’. b. In the third column, in the seventh line, ‘‘commercial quota of 8,373,848 lb (3,123 mt) is corrected to read ‘‘commercial quota of 8,373,848 lb (3,798 mt) and in the eighth and ninth lines, ‘‘recreational harvest limit of 2,585,952 lb (965 mt).’’ is corrected to read ‘‘recreational harvest limit of 2,585,952 lb (1, 173 mt).’’ 2. On page 35, in the first column, in the fourth line, ‘‘(1,048–mt) black sea bass TAL.’’ is corrected to read ‘‘(495– mt) black sea bass TAL.’’ Dated: March 23, 2009 Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator For Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. E9–6898 Filed 3–26–09; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–S DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 679 [Docket No. 080103016–9316–02] RIN 0648–AW40 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Revise Maximum Retainable Amounts of Groundfish Using Arrowtooth Flounder as a Basis Species in the Gulf of Alaska AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. SUMMARY: NMFS issues a regulation to revise the maximum retainable amounts E:\FR\FM\27MRR1.SGM 27MRR1 Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 58 / Friday, March 27, 2009 / Rules and Regulations sroberts on PROD1PC70 with RULES (MRAs) of groundfish using arrowtooth flounder as a basis species in the Gulf of Alaska. This action increases the MRAs from 0 percent to 20 percent for deep–water flatfish, rex sole, flathead sole, shallow–water flatfish, Atka mackerel, and skates; from 0 percent to 5 percent for aggregated rockfish; and from 0 percent to 1 percent for sablefish. The intended effect of this action is to reduce regulatory discards of otherwise marketable groundfish in the arrowtooth flounder fishery. This action is intended to promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson–Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska, and other applicable law. DATES: Effective March 27, 2009. ADDRESSES: Copies of the Environmental Assessment/Regulatory Impact Review/Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (EA/RIR/FRFA) prepared for this action are available from the Alaska Region website at http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/ sustainablefisheries.htm. Printed copies may be obtained from the Alaska Region NMFS, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802, Attn: Ellen Sebastian. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Tom Pearson, 907–481–1780. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background NMFS manages the groundfish fisheries in the exclusive economic zone in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) under the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (FMP). The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) prepared the FMP 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 FMP appear at 50 CFR parts 600 and 679. Regulations at § 679.20(e) establish maximum retainable amount (MRA) percentages for groundfish species and species groups. These MRA percentages establish the amount of a species closed to directed fishing that may be retained onboard a vessel, relative to the amounts of other groundfish open to directed fishing retained onboard the vessel. MRA percentages serve as a management tool to slow down the rate of harvest and reduce the incentive for targeting a species closed to directed fishing. MRAs also allow for retention of incidentally caught species instead of requiring regulatory discards of species closed to directed fishing. MRA percentages do not reflect a natural VerDate Nov<24>2008 15:28 Mar 26, 2009 Jkt 217001 incidental catch rate, but rather, reflect a balance between the recognized need to slow harvest rates, minimize the potential for discards, and, in some cases, provide an increased opportunity to harvest available total allowable catch (TAC) through limited targeting activity. In October 2006, the Council received a proposal from industry to increase the MRAs for several groundfish species using arrowtooth flounder as a basis species because arrowtooth flounder is now a viable target fishery. Effort by the trawl fleet to improve retention of groundfish species is constrained by the current MRAs. In addition, to support the increased catch of arrowtooth flounder, the annual TAC for arrowtooth flounder was increased from 5,000 mt to 8,000 mt in the Western GOA in 2001 and has remained at that level since then. The arrowtooth flounder TAC was increased from 25,000 mt to 30,000 mt in the Central GOA in 2007 and remained at that level in 2008. Total catch of arrowtooth flounder in the GOA, including both directed fishing and incidental catch in other groundfish fisheries, has increased from 16,247 mt in 1997 to 25,340 mt in 2007. Over the same period the retention of arrowtooth flounder in all trawl fisheries has increased from 18 percent to 58 percent of the total catch of arrowtooth flounder in the GOA, an indication of a growing market for arrowtooth flounder. In the 2006 directed arrowtooth flounder fishery in the GOA, 82 percent of arrowtooth flounder catch was retained. The Council took final action in October 2007, and selected the industry’s proposal as its preferred alternative. This final rule revises the GOA Retainable Percentages listed in Table 10 to part 679 to increase the MRAs for selected groundfish species using arrowtooth flounder as a basis species. The MRAs for deep–water flatfish, rex sole, flathead sole, shallow– water flatfish, Atka mackerel, and skates is increased from 0 percent to 20 percent; the MRA for aggregated rockfish is increased from 0 percent to 5 percent; and the MRA for sablefish is increased from 0 percent to 1 percent. The MRAs for pollock, Pacific cod, (other species,( and forage fish using arrowtooth flounder as a basis species are unchanged. The Environmental Assessment prepared for this action concluded that the proposed increase of the MRAs for selected species of groundfish using arrowtooth flounder as a basis species would not affect any groundfish stock or any other component of the physical or biological environment. Under this final rule, the MRAs for groundfish in the arrowtooth flounder fishery are PO 00000 Frm 00037 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 13349 increased from current levels and greater amounts of groundfish closed to directed fishing may be retained in the arrowtooth flounder fishery instead of discarded. However, even though the amounts of groundfish retained in the arrowtooth flounder fishery could increase, total removals of each species would still be within the TAC levels for each species and would be further constrained by halibut PSC limitations that often close directed fishing for groundfish by vessels using trawl gear. The impacts of the harvest strategies and resulting TAC amounts were analyzed in the 2007 Alaska Groundfish Harvest Final Specifications Environmental Impact Statement available at http://www.fakr.noaa.gov. Further information on the background of this final rule may be found in the proposed rule for this action (73 FR 71592 November 25, 2008). Comments on the proposed rule were invited and accepted through December 26, 2008. Response to Comments NMFS received two letters of comment on the proposed rule. One in opposition to the proposed rule from a private citizen and one in support of the proposed rule from the Alaska Groundfish Data Bank. A summary of those comments and NMFS’s responses follow. Comment 1: The commenter opposed any increase in the amount of fish allowed to be caught. Response: Revising the MRAs in the GOA arrowtooth flounder fishery does not increase the total amount of any groundfish species that may be harvested in the GOA groundfish fisheries. Those catch limits are established through the annual specifications process and remain the limit on total catch. This regulatory amendment allows greater retention of species caught incidentally in the GOA arrowtooth flounder fishery and is intended to reduce regulatory discards and increase utilization of groundfish species already caught. All catch of groundfish or prohibited species in the arrowtooth flounder fishery that is reported or estimated to be caught using observer data will be subtracted from the total allowable catch for those species and fisheries will be closed by NMFS once those limits are reached. Comment 2: The processor and shoreside trawl members of the Alaska Groundfish Data Bank support this proposed rule to revise the maximum retainable amounts in the GOA arrowtooth flounder fishery. Response: NMFS acknowledges the comment and its support for this action. This final rule revises the MRAs for E:\FR\FM\27MRR1.SGM 27MRR1 13350 Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 58 / Friday, March 27, 2009 / Rules and Regulations sroberts on PROD1PC70 with RULES groundfish in the GOA arrowtooth flounder fishery as described in the proposed rule. This final rule revises § 679.20(f)(2) to remove the prohibition that arrowtooth flounder not be used as a basis species to calculate retainable amounts of other groundfish species. This final rule reflects revisions to Table 10 that have occurred since the proposed rule’s publication in the Federal Register. Table 10 was revised by a final rule that implemented a variety of recordkeeping and reporting regulatory amendments (73 FR 76136; December 15, 2008) and a final rule that implemented Amendments 73/77 to revise the management authority for dark rockfish in the BSAI and GOA (73 FR 80307, December 31, 2008). Classification Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson–Stevens Act, the NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this final rule is consistent with the FMP, other provisions of the Magnuson–Stevens 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). The need for and objectives of this action are described in the background section of this final rule. No comments were received on the IRFA or on the economic effects of the rule. The Small Business Administration has defined all fish–harvesting or hatchery businesses that are independently owned and operated, not dominant in their field of operation, and have annual receipts less than $4.0 million as small businesses. In addition, seafood processors with 500 employees or fewer, wholesale industry members with 100 employees or fewer, not–for– profit–enterprises, and government jurisdictions with a population of 50,000 or less are considered small entities. NMFS has determined that a ‘‘substantial number’’ of small entities would generally be 20 percent of the total universe of small entities affected by the regulation. A regulation would have a ‘‘significant negative impact’’ on these small entities if it reduced annual gross revenues by more than 5 percent, increased total costs of production by more than 5 percent or resulted in compliance costs for small entities by at least 10 percent compared with VerDate Nov<24>2008 15:28 Mar 26, 2009 Jkt 217001 compliance costs as a percent of sales for large entities. The FRFA estimated that 18 trawl catcher vessels participating in the arrowtooth flounder fishery qualify as ‘‘small entities’’ for purposes of the Regulatory Flexibility Act. None of the catcher/processors participating in the arrowtooth flounder fishery qualify as small entities. Three alternatives were analyzed for their impact. Alternative 1, the status quo or no action alternative, would leave the MRAs for groundfish in the arrowtooth flounder fishery unchanged from current levels, and would continue to require fishermen to discard otherwise marketable groundfish. Alternative 2, the Council(s preferred alternative brought forward as a proposal from the industry, would increase the MRAs for some species of groundfish in the arrowtooth flounder fishery in order to reduce discards of otherwise marketable fish without raising allocation concerns with respect to pollock, Pacific cod, rockfish, and sablefish. Alternative 3, developed by NMFS and Council staff, would increase the MRAs for groundfish species caught in the arrowtooth flounder fishery to levels estimated to cover incidental catch of these species. Under Alternative 3 the MRAs for deep–water flatfish (5 percent), rex sole (10 percent), flathead sole (15 percent), shallow– water flatfish (5 percent), Atka mackerel (5 percent), and skates (10 percent) would be lower than the 20 percent proposed under Alternative 2. Alternatives 2 and 3 would provide an opportunity to retain additional, economically valuable groundfish species in the arrowtooth flounder directed fishery. This would be beneficial to the affected small entities. The benefits to small entities under Alternative 2, the preferred alternative, would be slightly greater than under Alternative 3. No negative impacts on small entities are associated with either Alternative 2 or 3. This regulation does not impose new recordkeeping and reporting requirements on the regulated small entities. 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 PO 00000 Frm 00038 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 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 increase the MRAs for selected groundfish species in the GOA arrowtooth flounder fishery. The proposed rule, final rule, and regulations governing the groundfish fisheries off Alaska, particularly Table 10 to 50 CFR part 679, are the best source of information about how to comply with these revised MRAs 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 website at http:// alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. The revised version of Table 10 to 50 CFR also is published at the end of this final rule. The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, finds good cause to waive the 30-day delay in the effective date of this action under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3). Revisions to the maximum retainable amounts of selected groundfish in the GOA arrowtooth flounder fishery relieve a restriction on fishermen participating in this fishery, and would not place any restriction on other components of the fishery. This action will allow increased retention of selected species of groundfish closed to directed fishing in the arrowtooth flounder fishery in the GOA which would otherwise be required by regulation. This final rule contains no additional collection–of–information requirements subject to review and approval by OMB under the Paperwork Reduction Act. The analysis did not reveal any Federal rules that duplicate, overlap, or conflict with the final action. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 679 Alaska, Fisheries. Dated: March 24, 2009. Samuel D. Rauch III Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 679 is amended as follows: ■ PART 679—FISHERIES OF THE EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONE OFF ALASKA 1. The authority citation for 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. E:\FR\FM\27MRR1.SGM 27MRR1 Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 58 / Friday, March 27, 2009 / Rules and Regulations 2. In § 679.20 the first sentence of paragraph (f)(2) is revised to read as follows: ■ § 679.20 sroberts on PROD1PC70 with RULES * * General limitations. * VerDate Nov<24>2008 * (f) * * * (2) Retainable amounts. Any groundfish species for which directed fishing is closed may not be used to * 15:28 Mar 26, 2009 calculate retainable amounts of other groundfish species. * * * * * * * * ■ 3. Table 10 to 50 CFR part 679 is revised to read as follows: BILLING CODE 3510–22–S Jkt 217001 PO 00000 Frm 00039 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 13351 E:\FR\FM\27MRR1.SGM 27MRR1 VerDate Nov<24>2008 Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 58 / Friday, March 27, 2009 / Rules and Regulations 15:28 Mar 26, 2009 Jkt 217001 PO 00000 Frm 00040 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4725 E:\FR\FM\27MRR1.SGM 27MRR1 ER27mr09.411</GPH> sroberts on PROD1PC70 with RULES 13352 VerDate Nov<24>2008 15:28 Mar 26, 2009 Jkt 217001 PO 00000 Frm 00041 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4725 E:\FR\FM\27MRR1.SGM 27MRR1 13353 ER27mr09.412</GPH> sroberts on PROD1PC70 with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 58 / Friday, March 27, 2009 / Rules and Regulations Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 58 / Friday, March 27, 2009 / Rules and Regulations [FR Doc. E9–6892 Filed 3–26–09; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–C VerDate Nov<24>2008 15:28 Mar 26, 2009 Jkt 217001 PO 00000 Frm 00042 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 E:\FR\FM\27MRR1.SGM 27MRR1 ER27mr09.413</GPH> sroberts on PROD1PC70 with RULES 13354

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 74, Number 58 (Friday, March 27, 2009)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 13348-13354]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E9-6892]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 679

[Docket No. 080103016-9316-02]
RIN 0648-AW40


Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Revise 
Maximum Retainable Amounts of Groundfish Using Arrowtooth Flounder as a 
Basis Species in the Gulf of Alaska

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS issues a regulation to revise the maximum retainable 
amounts

[[Page 13349]]

(MRAs) of groundfish using arrowtooth flounder as a basis species in 
the Gulf of Alaska. This action increases the MRAs from 0 percent to 20 
percent for deep-water flatfish, rex sole, flathead sole, shallow-water 
flatfish, Atka mackerel, and skates; from 0 percent to 5 percent for 
aggregated rockfish; and from 0 percent to 1 percent for sablefish. The 
intended effect of this action is to reduce regulatory discards of 
otherwise marketable groundfish in the arrowtooth flounder fishery. 
This action is intended to promote the goals and objectives of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the Fishery 
Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska, and other 
applicable law.

DATES: Effective March 27, 2009.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the Environmental Assessment/Regulatory Impact 
Review/Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (EA/RIR/FRFA) prepared for 
this action are available from the Alaska Region website at http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/sustainablefisheries.htm. Printed copies may be 
obtained from the Alaska Region NMFS, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802, 
Attn: Ellen Sebastian.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    NMFS manages the groundfish fisheries in the exclusive economic 
zone in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) under the Fishery Management Plan for 
Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (FMP). The North Pacific Fishery 
Management Council (Council) prepared the FMP 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 FMP appear at 50 CFR parts 600 and 679.
    Regulations at Sec.  679.20(e) establish maximum retainable amount 
(MRA) percentages for groundfish species and species groups. These MRA 
percentages establish the amount of a species closed to directed 
fishing that may be retained onboard a vessel, relative to the amounts 
of other groundfish open to directed fishing retained onboard the 
vessel. MRA percentages serve as a management tool to slow down the 
rate of harvest and reduce the incentive for targeting a species closed 
to directed fishing. MRAs also allow for retention of incidentally 
caught species instead of requiring regulatory discards of species 
closed to directed fishing. MRA percentages do not reflect a natural 
incidental catch rate, but rather, reflect a balance between the 
recognized need to slow harvest rates, minimize the potential for 
discards, and, in some cases, provide an increased opportunity to 
harvest available total allowable catch (TAC) through limited targeting 
activity.
    In October 2006, the Council received a proposal from industry to 
increase the MRAs for several groundfish species using arrowtooth 
flounder as a basis species because arrowtooth flounder is now a viable 
target fishery. Effort by the trawl fleet to improve retention of 
groundfish species is constrained by the current MRAs. In addition, to 
support the increased catch of arrowtooth flounder, the annual TAC for 
arrowtooth flounder was increased from 5,000 mt to 8,000 mt in the 
Western GOA in 2001 and has remained at that level since then. The 
arrowtooth flounder TAC was increased from 25,000 mt to 30,000 mt in 
the Central GOA in 2007 and remained at that level in 2008. Total catch 
of arrowtooth flounder in the GOA, including both directed fishing and 
incidental catch in other groundfish fisheries, has increased from 
16,247 mt in 1997 to 25,340 mt in 2007. Over the same period the 
retention of arrowtooth flounder in all trawl fisheries has increased 
from 18 percent to 58 percent of the total catch of arrowtooth flounder 
in the GOA, an indication of a growing market for arrowtooth flounder. 
In the 2006 directed arrowtooth flounder fishery in the GOA, 82 percent 
of arrowtooth flounder catch was retained.
    The Council took final action in October 2007, and selected the 
industry's proposal as its preferred alternative. This final rule 
revises the GOA Retainable Percentages listed in Table 10 to part 679 
to increase the MRAs for selected groundfish species using arrowtooth 
flounder as a basis species. The MRAs for deep-water flatfish, rex 
sole, flathead sole, shallow-water flatfish, Atka mackerel, and skates 
is increased from 0 percent to 20 percent; the MRA for aggregated 
rockfish is increased from 0 percent to 5 percent; and the MRA for 
sablefish is increased from 0 percent to 1 percent. The MRAs for 
pollock, Pacific cod, (other species,( and forage fish using arrowtooth 
flounder as a basis species are unchanged.
    The Environmental Assessment prepared for this action concluded 
that the proposed increase of the MRAs for selected species of 
groundfish using arrowtooth flounder as a basis species would not 
affect any groundfish stock or any other component of the physical or 
biological environment. Under this final rule, the MRAs for groundfish 
in the arrowtooth flounder fishery are increased from current levels 
and greater amounts of groundfish closed to directed fishing may be 
retained in the arrowtooth flounder fishery instead of discarded. 
However, even though the amounts of groundfish retained in the 
arrowtooth flounder fishery could increase, total removals of each 
species would still be within the TAC levels for each species and would 
be further constrained by halibut PSC limitations that often close 
directed fishing for groundfish by vessels using trawl gear. The 
impacts of the harvest strategies and resulting TAC amounts were 
analyzed in the 2007 Alaska Groundfish Harvest Final Specifications 
Environmental Impact Statement available at http://www.fakr.noaa.gov. 
Further information on the background of this final rule may be found 
in the proposed rule for this action (73 FR 71592 November 25, 2008). 
Comments on the proposed rule were invited and accepted through 
December 26, 2008.

Response to Comments

    NMFS received two letters of comment on the proposed rule. One in 
opposition to the proposed rule from a private citizen and one in 
support of the proposed rule from the Alaska Groundfish Data Bank. A 
summary of those comments and NMFS's responses follow.
    Comment 1: The commenter opposed any increase in the amount of fish 
allowed to be caught.
    Response: Revising the MRAs in the GOA arrowtooth flounder fishery 
does not increase the total amount of any groundfish species that may 
be harvested in the GOA groundfish fisheries. Those catch limits are 
established through the annual specifications process and remain the 
limit on total catch. This regulatory amendment allows greater 
retention of species caught incidentally in the GOA arrowtooth flounder 
fishery and is intended to reduce regulatory discards and increase 
utilization of groundfish species already caught. All catch of 
groundfish or prohibited species in the arrowtooth flounder fishery 
that is reported or estimated to be caught using observer data will be 
subtracted from the total allowable catch for those species and 
fisheries will be closed by NMFS once those limits are reached.
    Comment 2: The processor and shoreside trawl members of the Alaska 
Groundfish Data Bank support this proposed rule to revise the maximum 
retainable amounts in the GOA arrowtooth flounder fishery.
    Response: NMFS acknowledges the comment and its support for this 
action. This final rule revises the MRAs for

[[Page 13350]]

groundfish in the GOA arrowtooth flounder fishery as described in the 
proposed rule.
    This final rule revises Sec.  679.20(f)(2) to remove the 
prohibition that arrowtooth flounder not be used as a basis species to 
calculate retainable amounts of other groundfish species.
    This final rule reflects revisions to Table 10 that have occurred 
since the proposed rule's publication in the Federal Register. Table 10 
was revised by a final rule that implemented a variety of recordkeeping 
and reporting regulatory amendments (73 FR 76136; December 15, 2008) 
and a final rule that implemented Amendments 73/77 to revise the 
management authority for dark rockfish in the BSAI and GOA (73 FR 
80307, December 31, 2008).

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this final rule is 
consistent with the FMP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens 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). The 
need for and objectives of this action are described in the background 
section of this final rule. No comments were received on the IRFA or on 
the economic effects of the rule.
    The Small Business Administration has defined all fish-harvesting 
or hatchery businesses that are independently owned and operated, not 
dominant in their field of operation, and have annual receipts less 
than $4.0 million as small businesses. In addition, seafood processors 
with 500 employees or fewer, wholesale industry members with 100 
employees or fewer, not-for-profit-enterprises, and government 
jurisdictions with a population of 50,000 or less are considered small 
entities. NMFS has determined that a ``substantial number'' of small 
entities would generally be 20 percent of the total universe of small 
entities affected by the regulation. A regulation would have a 
``significant negative impact'' on these small entities if it reduced 
annual gross revenues by more than 5 percent, increased total costs of 
production by more than 5 percent or resulted in compliance costs for 
small entities by at least 10 percent compared with compliance costs as 
a percent of sales for large entities.
    The FRFA estimated that 18 trawl catcher vessels participating in 
the arrowtooth flounder fishery qualify as ``small entities'' for 
purposes of the Regulatory Flexibility Act. None of the catcher/
processors participating in the arrowtooth flounder fishery qualify as 
small entities.
    Three alternatives were analyzed for their impact. Alternative 1, 
the status quo or no action alternative, would leave the MRAs for 
groundfish in the arrowtooth flounder fishery unchanged from current 
levels, and would continue to require fishermen to discard otherwise 
marketable groundfish. Alternative 2, the Council(s preferred 
alternative brought forward as a proposal from the industry, would 
increase the MRAs for some species of groundfish in the arrowtooth 
flounder fishery in order to reduce discards of otherwise marketable 
fish without raising allocation concerns with respect to pollock, 
Pacific cod, rockfish, and sablefish. Alternative 3, developed by NMFS 
and Council staff, would increase the MRAs for groundfish species 
caught in the arrowtooth flounder fishery to levels estimated to cover 
incidental catch of these species. Under Alternative 3 the MRAs for 
deep-water flatfish (5 percent), rex sole (10 percent), flathead sole 
(15 percent), shallow-water flatfish (5 percent), Atka mackerel (5 
percent), and skates (10 percent) would be lower than the 20 percent 
proposed under Alternative 2. Alternatives 2 and 3 would provide an 
opportunity to retain additional, economically valuable groundfish 
species in the arrowtooth flounder directed fishery. This would be 
beneficial to the affected small entities. The benefits to small 
entities under Alternative 2, the preferred alternative, would be 
slightly greater than under Alternative 3. No negative impacts on small 
entities are associated with either Alternative 2 or 3.
    This regulation does not impose new recordkeeping and reporting 
requirements on the regulated small entities.

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 increase the MRAs 
for selected groundfish species in the GOA arrowtooth flounder fishery. 
The proposed rule, final rule, and regulations governing the groundfish 
fisheries off Alaska, particularly Table 10 to 50 CFR part 679, are the 
best source of information about how to comply with these revised MRAs 
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 website at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. The revised version of Table 10 to 50 CFR 
also is published at the end of this final rule.
    The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, finds good cause 
to waive the 30-day delay in the effective date of this action under 5 
U.S.C. 553(d)(3). Revisions to the maximum retainable amounts of 
selected groundfish in the GOA arrowtooth flounder fishery relieve a 
restriction on fishermen participating in this fishery, and would not 
place any restriction on other components of the fishery. This action 
will allow increased retention of selected species of groundfish closed 
to directed fishing in the arrowtooth flounder fishery in the GOA which 
would otherwise be required by regulation.
    This final rule contains no additional collection-of-information 
requirements subject to review and approval by OMB under the Paperwork 
Reduction Act.
    The analysis did not reveal any Federal rules that duplicate, 
overlap, or conflict with the final action.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 679

    Alaska, Fisheries.

    Dated: March 24, 2009.
Samuel D. Rauch III
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

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

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

0
1. The authority citation for 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.

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2. In Sec.  679.20 the first sentence of paragraph (f)(2) is revised to 
read as follows:


Sec.  679.20  General limitations.

* * * * *
    (f) * * *
    (2) Retainable amounts. Any groundfish species for which directed 
fishing is closed may not be used to calculate retainable amounts of 
other groundfish species. * * *
* * * * *

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3. Table 10 to 50 CFR part 679 is revised to read as follows:
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[FR Doc. E9-6892 Filed 3-26-09; 8:45 am]
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