Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Skates Management in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area; Groundfish Annual Catch Limits for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area and Gulf of Alaska, 38454-38455 [2010-16197]

Download as PDF 38454 Federal Register / Vol. 75, No. 127 / Friday, July 2, 2010 / Proposed Rules DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 679 RIN 0648–AY48 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Skates Management in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area; Groundfish Annual Catch Limits for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area and Gulf of Alaska AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notification of availability of fishery management plan amendments; request for comments. mstockstill on DSKH9S0YB1PROD with PROPOSALS SUMMARY: The North Pacific Fishery Management Council submitted Amendments 95 and 96 to the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (BSAI)-as well as Amendment 87 to the FMP for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA)to NMFS for review. If approved, Amendment 95 would move skates from the other species category to the target species category in the FMP for Groundfish of the BSAI. Amendments 96 and 87 would revise the FMPs to meet the National Standard 1 guidelines for annual catch limits and accountability measures. These amendments would move all remaining species groups from the ‘‘other species’’ category to the ‘‘target species’’ category, remove the ‘‘other species’’ category from the FMPs, establish an ecosystem component category, and describe the current practices for groundfish fisheries management in the FMPs, as required by the guidelines. This action is intended to promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the FMPs and other applicable laws. DATES: Comments on Amendments 95, 96, and 87 must be received by August 31, 2010. 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– AY48, by any one of the following methods: • Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:10 Jul 01, 2010 Jkt 220001 Federal eRulemaking Portal 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. No comments will be posted to http://www.regulations.gov for public viewing until after the comment period has closed. Comments will generally be posted without change. All Personal Identifying Information (for example, 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). You may submit attachments to electronic comments in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only. Electronic copies of Amendments 95, 96, and 87 to the FMPs, the Environmental Assessments (EAs), and the Regulatory Impact Review (RIR) prepared for this action are available from the Alaska Region NMFS website at http://www.alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Melanie Brown, 907–586–7228. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) requires that each regional fishery management council submit any fishery management plan amendment it prepares to NMFS for review and approval, disapproval, or partial approval by the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary). The MagnusonStevens Act also requires that NMFS, upon receiving an FMP amendment, immediately publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing that the amendment is available for public review and comment. This notice announces that proposed Amendments 95, 96, and 87 to the FMPs are available for public review and comment. Amendment 95 was unanimously adopted by the Council in October 2009. If approved by the Secretary, this amendment would move the skates group from the ‘‘other species’’ category to the ‘‘target species’’ list in the BSAI, allowing the management of skates as a target species complex or as individual skates species. The FMP currently provides for setting harvest specifications either for a complex of several species or for each individual PO 00000 Frm 00023 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 species within the ‘‘target species’’ group through the stock assessment and Council process, allowing for fishery management of individual species. The FMP currently provides for setting harvest specifications that apply to all species identified in the ‘‘other species’’ category in the aggregate. NMFS trawl survey and catch information show that 15 skate species occur in the BSAI. In the Bering Sea, the most abundant species is the Alaska skate, while in the Aleutian Islands the most abundant species is the whiteblotched skate. Amendments 96 and 87 wereunanimously adopted by the Council in April 2010. If approved by the Secretary, these amendments would revise the FMPs to meet the MagnusonStevens Act requirements to establish annual catch limits (ACLs) and accountability measures (AMs) and conform to the National Standard 1 (NS1) guidelines (74 FR 3178, January 16, 2009). The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006 (MSRA), which was signed into law on January 12, 2007, included new requirements regarding ACLs and AMs, which reinforce existing requirements to prevent overfishing and rebuild fisheries. NMFS revised the NS1 guidelines at 50 CFR 600.310 to integrate these new requirements with existing provisions related to overfishing, rebuilding overfished stocks, and achieving optimum yield. Section 104(a)(10) of the MSRA, codified as section 303(a)(15) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, requires FMPs to establish mechanisms for specifying ACLs, including AMs. The provision states that FMPs shall ‘‘establish a mechanism for specifying annual catch limits in the plan (including a multiyear plan), implementing regulations, or annual specifications, at a level such that overfishing does not occur in the fishery, including measures to ensure accountability.’’ ACLs and AMs are required by fishing year 2011 in fisheries where overfishing is not occurring. None of the Alaska groundfish fisheries have overfishing occurring, and therefore the groundfish ACLs and AMs must be implemented by January 1, 2011. Skate, shark, sculpin, and octopus groups are currently managed as a complex in the ‘‘other species’’ category in the BSAI. In the GOA, shark, sculpin, octopus, and squid groups are currently managed as a complex in the ‘‘other species’’ category. Each year, the overfishing limit (OFL), acceptable biological catch (ABC), and total allowable catch (TAC) are specified for the ‘‘other species’’ category as a whole E:\FR\FM\02JYP1.SGM 02JYP1 mstockstill on DSKH9S0YB1PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 75, No. 127 / Friday, July 2, 2010 / Proposed Rules in each management area. National Standard 1 guidelines require species managed in a stock complex to have similar life histories, but the current ‘‘other species’’ category combines the management of short-lived invertebrates (squids and octopuses) with long-lived fish (sharks and skates). If approved, Amendment 95 would move BSAI skates from the ‘‘other species’’ category to the ‘‘target species’’ category and require annual specification of OFL, ABC, and TAC for the skate group as a whole or for individual skate species. Amendments 96 and 87 would remove the remaining species groups from the ‘‘other species’’ categories in each FMP and place these groups in the ‘‘target species’’ category. The ‘‘other species’’ category would be removed from the FMPs. Managing skates, sculpins, sharks, octopuses, and squids as separate groups or as individual species, each with its own OFL, ABC, ACL, and TAC, would enhance NMFS’ ability to control the harvest of these species groups based on the best available scientific information, and would reduce the potential for overfishing these groups. The susceptibility of skates to fishing pressure has been well documented in the EA for Amendment 95 (see ADDRESSES). While no target fishery has been developed yet for groups currently in the ‘‘other species’’ category, without the proposed amendments, the potential exists for the entire ‘‘other species’’ TAC to be taken as the harvest of a single group. Such a harvest could represent an unsustainable level of fishing mortality for that group, even though the harvest may not exceed the aggregate OFL for all groups in the ‘‘other species’’ category. Amendment 63 to the FMP for Groundfish of the GOA was a similar precautionary measure that removed skates from the ‘‘other species’’ category in response to a rapidly developing directed fishery (69 FR 26313, May 12, 2004). A retrospective analysis in the EA for Amendments 96 and 87 of past shark and octopus harvest compared to the 2010 ABCs and OFLs showed that potential harvests of these species may exceed ABCs and OFLs without NMFS inseason management to control incidental catch (see ADDRESSES). If the TACs for these groups are insufficient to support a directed VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:10 Jul 01, 2010 Jkt 220001 fishery, a vessel’s harvest of sharks and octopuses would be limited to a maximum retainable amount, representing a percentage of the amount of ‘‘target species’’ harvested by that vessel. If closing directed fishing for sharks and octopuses is not sufficient to prevent reaching the ABCs and OFLs for these groups, NMFS inseason management would use observed catch, fish ticket, and vessel monitoring system data to determine the most effective actions to prevent overfishing and minimize adverse economic impacts to fishing communities, to the extent practicable. Controlling incidental harvests of BSAI and GOA octopuses may require temporary closure of areas of high octopus retention to Pacific cod pot gear vessels. If necessary, BSAI and GOA shark incidental harvest would likely be constrained by temporarily restricting harvesting locations for hook-and-line sablefish and Pacific cod fisheries and the trawl pollock fishery. Because BSAI and GOA octopus may be sold, estimated decreased revenue is $110,000 to $155,000 based on the retrospective harvest and inseason management methods. Increased costs may occur if harvest locations are restricted and fishing operations have to travel further to reach alternative fishing grounds, or if they must fish in areas with lower catch-per-unit of effort (and thus incur increased costs of fishing effort to catch the same amount of fish). Decreased revenues may occur if increased travel or fishing time requirements makes it impossible to catch the same amount of fish in the time available. Decreased revenues also may occur if shifts in fishing activity also make it harder to deliver a quality product. Specific changes to the FMPs under Amendments 96 and 87 include: • Identifying ‘‘target species’’ as stocks in the fishery and establishing an ‘‘ecosystem component’’ category that is comprised of stocks that are not in the fishery and would contain ‘‘prohibited species’’ and ‘‘forage fish’’ species; • Moving the species groups managed in the ‘‘other species’’ category to the ‘‘target species’’ category and eliminating the ‘‘other species’’ category; • Removing the ‘‘nonspecified species’’ category; and • Providing housekeeping changes that add text to the FMPs to describe: PO 00000 Frm 00024 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 38455 • Specification of minimum stock size thresholds (MSSTs) or a reasonable proxy; • Measures that are taken if and when a stock drops below MSST; • AMs that are employed to prevent ACLs from being exceeded and those that will be triggered if an ACL is exceeded; • Ecological factors that are considered by the Council in reducing optimum yield from maximum sustainable yield; • How the tier levels for ABC and OFL are based on the scientific knowledge about the stock/complex, the scientific uncertainty in the estimate of OFL, and any other scientific uncertainty; and • How the stock assessments account for all catch. Details on each of these proposed revisions to the FMPs are contained in the EA and its appendix for Amendments 96 and 87 (see ADDRESSES). Public comments are being solicited on proposed Amendments 95, 96, and 87 to the FMPs through the end of the comment period stated (see DATES). NMFS intends to publish in the Federal Register and seek public comment on a proposed rule that partially implements Amendments 95, 96, and 87 following NMFS’s evaluation of the proposed rule under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Public comments on the proposed rule must be received by the end of the comment period on Amendments 95, 96, and 87 in order to be considered in the approval/disapproval decision on these amendments. All comments received by the end of the comment period on Amendments 95, 96, and 87, whether specifically directed to the FMPs or to the proposed rule, will be considered in the approval/disapproval decision on the amendments. To be considered, comments must be received, not just postmarked or otherwise transmitted, by 5 p.m., Alaska time, on the last day of the comment period. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: June 29, 2010. Carrie Selberg, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2010–16197 Filed 7–1–10; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–S E:\FR\FM\02JYP1.SGM 02JYP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 75, Number 127 (Friday, July 2, 2010)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 38454-38455]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2010-16197]



[[Page 38454]]

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

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 679

RIN 0648-AY48


Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Skates 
Management in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area; 
Groundfish Annual Catch Limits for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands 
Management Area and Gulf of Alaska

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

ACTION: Notification of availability of fishery management plan 
amendments; request for comments.

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

SUMMARY:  The North Pacific Fishery Management Council submitted 
Amendments 95 and 96 to the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for 
Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area 
(BSAI)-as well as Amendment 87 to the FMP for Groundfish of the Gulf of 
Alaska (GOA)-to NMFS for review. If approved, Amendment 95 would move 
skates from the other species category to the target species category 
in the FMP for Groundfish of the BSAI. Amendments 96 and 87 would 
revise the FMPs to meet the National Standard 1 guidelines for annual 
catch limits and accountability measures. These amendments would move 
all remaining species groups from the ``other species'' category to the 
``target species'' category, remove the ``other species'' category from 
the FMPs, establish an ecosystem component category, and describe the 
current practices for groundfish fisheries management in the FMPs, as 
required by the guidelines. This action is intended to promote the 
goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and 
Management Act, the FMPs and other applicable laws.

DATES:  Comments on Amendments 95, 96, and 87 must be received by 
August 31, 2010.

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-
AY48, by any one of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal 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. No comments 
will be posted to http://www.regulations.gov for public viewing until 
after the comment period has closed. Comments will generally be posted 
without change. All Personal Identifying Information (for example, 
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). You may submit attachments to 
electronic comments in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF 
file formats only.
    Electronic copies of Amendments 95, 96, and 87 to the FMPs, the 
Environmental Assessments (EAs), and the Regulatory Impact Review (RIR) 
prepared for this action are available from the Alaska Region NMFS 
website at http://www.alaskafisheries.noaa.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:  Melanie Brown, 907-586-7228.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation 
and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) requires that each regional 
fishery management council submit any fishery management plan amendment 
it prepares to NMFS for review and approval, disapproval, or partial 
approval by the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary). The Magnuson-Stevens 
Act also requires that NMFS, upon receiving an FMP amendment, 
immediately publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing that 
the amendment is available for public review and comment. This notice 
announces that proposed Amendments 95, 96, and 87 to the FMPs are 
available for public review and comment.
    Amendment 95 was unanimously adopted by the Council in October 
2009. If approved by the Secretary, this amendment would move the 
skates group from the ``other species'' category to the ``target 
species'' list in the BSAI, allowing the management of skates as a 
target species complex or as individual skates species. The FMP 
currently provides for setting harvest specifications either for a 
complex of several species or for each individual species within the 
``target species'' group through the stock assessment and Council 
process, allowing for fishery management of individual species. The FMP 
currently provides for setting harvest specifications that apply to all 
species identified in the ``other species'' category in the aggregate. 
NMFS trawl survey and catch information show that 15 skate species 
occur in the BSAI. In the Bering Sea, the most abundant species is the 
Alaska skate, while in the Aleutian Islands the most abundant species 
is the whiteblotched skate.
    Amendments 96 and 87 wereunanimously adopted by the Council in 
April 2010. If approved by the Secretary, these amendments would revise 
the FMPs to meet the Magnuson-Stevens Act requirements to establish 
annual catch limits (ACLs) and accountability measures (AMs) and 
conform to the National Standard 1 (NS1) guidelines (74 FR 3178, 
January 16, 2009). The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and 
Management Reauthorization Act of 2006 (MSRA), which was signed into 
law on January 12, 2007, included new requirements regarding ACLs and 
AMs, which reinforce existing requirements to prevent overfishing and 
rebuild fisheries. NMFS revised the NS1 guidelines at 50 CFR 600.310 to 
integrate these new requirements with existing provisions related to 
overfishing, rebuilding overfished stocks, and achieving optimum yield. 
Section 104(a)(10) of the MSRA, codified as section 303(a)(15) of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act, requires FMPs to establish mechanisms for 
specifying ACLs, including AMs. The provision states that FMPs shall 
``establish a mechanism for specifying annual catch limits in the plan 
(including a multiyear plan), implementing regulations, or annual 
specifications, at a level such that overfishing does not occur in the 
fishery, including measures to ensure accountability.'' ACLs and AMs 
are required by fishing year 2011 in fisheries where overfishing is not 
occurring. None of the Alaska groundfish fisheries have overfishing 
occurring, and therefore the groundfish ACLs and AMs must be 
implemented by January 1, 2011.
    Skate, shark, sculpin, and octopus groups are currently managed as 
a complex in the ``other species'' category in the BSAI. In the GOA, 
shark, sculpin, octopus, and squid groups are currently managed as a 
complex in the ``other species'' category. Each year, the overfishing 
limit (OFL), acceptable biological catch (ABC), and total allowable 
catch (TAC) are specified for the ``other species'' category as a whole

[[Page 38455]]

in each management area. National Standard 1 guidelines require species 
managed in a stock complex to have similar life histories, but the 
current ``other species'' category combines the management of short-
lived invertebrates (squids and octopuses) with long-lived fish (sharks 
and skates).
    If approved, Amendment 95 would move BSAI skates from the ``other 
species'' category to the ``target species'' category and require 
annual specification of OFL, ABC, and TAC for the skate group as a 
whole or for individual skate species. Amendments 96 and 87 would 
remove the remaining species groups from the ``other species'' 
categories in each FMP and place these groups in the ``target species'' 
category. The ``other species'' category would be removed from the 
FMPs. Managing skates, sculpins, sharks, octopuses, and squids as 
separate groups or as individual species, each with its own OFL, ABC, 
ACL, and TAC, would enhance NMFS' ability to control the harvest of 
these species groups based on the best available scientific 
information, and would reduce the potential for overfishing these 
groups. The susceptibility of skates to fishing pressure has been well 
documented in the EA for Amendment 95 (see ADDRESSES). While no target 
fishery has been developed yet for groups currently in the ``other 
species'' category, without the proposed amendments, the potential 
exists for the entire ``other species'' TAC to be taken as the harvest 
of a single group. Such a harvest could represent an unsustainable 
level of fishing mortality for that group, even though the harvest may 
not exceed the aggregate OFL for all groups in the ``other species'' 
category. Amendment 63 to the FMP for Groundfish of the GOA was a 
similar precautionary measure that removed skates from the ``other 
species'' category in response to a rapidly developing directed fishery 
(69 FR 26313, May 12, 2004).
    A retrospective analysis in the EA for Amendments 96 and 87 of past 
shark and octopus harvest compared to the 2010 ABCs and OFLs showed 
that potential harvests of these species may exceed ABCs and OFLs 
without NMFS inseason management to control incidental catch (see 
ADDRESSES). If the TACs for these groups are insufficient to support a 
directed fishery, a vessel's harvest of sharks and octopuses would be 
limited to a maximum retainable amount, representing a percentage of 
the amount of ``target species'' harvested by that vessel. If closing 
directed fishing for sharks and octopuses is not sufficient to prevent 
reaching the ABCs and OFLs for these groups, NMFS inseason management 
would use observed catch, fish ticket, and vessel monitoring system 
data to determine the most effective actions to prevent overfishing and 
minimize adverse economic impacts to fishing communities, to the extent 
practicable. Controlling incidental harvests of BSAI and GOA octopuses 
may require temporary closure of areas of high octopus retention to 
Pacific cod pot gear vessels. If necessary, BSAI and GOA shark 
incidental harvest would likely be constrained by temporarily 
restricting harvesting locations for hook-and-line sablefish and 
Pacific cod fisheries and the trawl pollock fishery. Because BSAI and 
GOA octopus may be sold, estimated decreased revenue is $110,000 to 
$155,000 based on the retrospective harvest and inseason management 
methods. Increased costs may occur if harvest locations are restricted 
and fishing operations have to travel further to reach alternative 
fishing grounds, or if they must fish in areas with lower catch-per-
unit of effort (and thus incur increased costs of fishing effort to 
catch the same amount of fish). Decreased revenues may occur if 
increased travel or fishing time requirements makes it impossible to 
catch the same amount of fish in the time available. Decreased revenues 
also may occur if shifts in fishing activity also make it harder to 
deliver a quality product.
    Specific changes to the FMPs under Amendments 96 and 87 include:
     Identifying ``target species'' as stocks in the fishery 
and establishing an ``ecosystem component'' category that is comprised 
of stocks that are not in the fishery and would contain ``prohibited 
species'' and ``forage fish'' species;
     Moving the species groups managed in the ``other species'' 
category to the ``target species'' category and eliminating the ``other 
species'' category;
     Removing the ``nonspecified species'' category; and
     Providing housekeeping changes that add text to the FMPs 
to describe:
     Specification of minimum stock size thresholds (MSSTs) or 
a reasonable proxy;
     Measures that are taken if and when a stock drops below 
MSST;
     AMs that are employed to prevent ACLs from being exceeded 
and those that will be triggered if an ACL is exceeded;
     Ecological factors that are considered by the Council in 
reducing optimum yield from maximum sustainable yield;
     How the tier levels for ABC and OFL are based on the 
scientific knowledge about the stock/complex, the scientific 
uncertainty in the estimate of OFL, and any other scientific 
uncertainty; and
     How the stock assessments account for all catch.
    Details on each of these proposed revisions to the FMPs are 
contained in the EA and its appendix for Amendments 96 and 87 (see 
ADDRESSES).
    Public comments are being solicited on proposed Amendments 95, 96, 
and 87 to the FMPs through the end of the comment period stated (see 
DATES). NMFS intends to publish in the Federal Register and seek public 
comment on a proposed rule that partially implements Amendments 95, 96, 
and 87 following NMFS's evaluation of the proposed rule under the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act. Public comments on the proposed rule must be 
received by the end of the comment period on Amendments 95, 96, and 87 
in order to be considered in the approval/disapproval decision on these 
amendments. All comments received by the end of the comment period on 
Amendments 95, 96, and 87, whether specifically directed to the FMPs or 
to the proposed rule, will be considered in the approval/disapproval 
decision on the amendments. To be considered, comments must be 
received, not just postmarked or otherwise transmitted, by 5 p.m., 
Alaska time, on the last day of the comment period.

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

    Dated: June 29, 2010.
Carrie Selberg,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2010-16197 Filed 7-1-10; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-S