Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Skate Management in the Groundfish Fisheries of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands; Groundfish Annual Catch Limits for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area and Gulf of Alaska, 61639-61642 [2010-25202]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 75, No. 193 / Wednesday, October 6, 2010 / Rules and Regulations AGENCY: Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the FMPs, and other applicable laws. DATES: Effective November 5, 2010. ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of Amendments 95 and 96 to the FMP for Groundfish of the BSAI, Amendment 87 to the FMP for Groundfish of the GOA, the Environmental Assessments (EAs), and the Regulatory Impact Review (RIR) prepared for this action are available from NMFS Alaska Region, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802 or from the Alaska Region NMFS Web site at http://www.alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/ regs/summary.htm. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Melanie Brown, 907–586–7228. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The groundfish fisheries in the exclusive economic zone of the BSAI and GOA are managed under the FMPs. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) prepared the FMPs under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Regulations implementing the FMPs appear at 50 CFR part 679. General regulations governing U.S. fisheries also appear at 50 CFR part 600. NMFS issues a final rule to implement Amendments 95 and 96 to the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (BSAI) and Amendment 87 to the FMP for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA), (collectively referred to as ‘‘the FMPs’’). Amendment 95 moves skates from the ‘‘other species’’ category to the ‘‘target species’’ category in the FMP. Amendments 96 and 87 revise the FMPs to meet the National Standard 1 guidelines for annual catch limits and accountability measures. These amendments move all remaining species groups from the ‘‘other species’’ category to the ‘‘target species’’ category, remove the ‘‘other species’’ and ‘‘non-specified species’’ categories 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. The final rule removes references to the ‘‘other species’’ category for purposes of the harvest specifications and adds skate species to the reporting codes for the BSAI groundfish fisheries. This action is intended to promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Background Amendment 95 was unanimously adopted by the Council in October 2009. This amendment moves skates from the ‘‘other species’’ category to the ‘‘target species’’ list in the BSAI FMP, allowing the management of skates as a target species complex or as individual skate species. NMFS trawl survey and catch information shows that 15 skate species occur in the BSAI. In the Bering Sea subarea, the most abundant species is the Alaska skate, while the most abundant species in the Aleutian Islands subarea is the whiteblotched skate. Individual species of skate could be listed under the skate complex in the ‘‘target species’’ list during the harvest specifications process to allow NMFS to separately manage harvest of these individual species. The Council unanimously adopted Amendments 96 and 87 in April 2010. These amendments 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 This action is required by § 679.20 and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: September 30, 2010. Carrie Selberg, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2010–25162 Filed 10–1–10; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 679 [Docket No. 0912231441–0465–03] RIN 0648–AY48 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Skate Management in the Groundfish Fisheries of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands; Groundfish Annual Catch Limits for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area and Gulf of Alaska National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. WReier-Aviles on DSKGBLS3C1PROD with RULES SUMMARY: VerDate Mar<15>2010 15:06 Oct 05, 2010 Jkt 223001 PO 00000 Frm 00051 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 61639 reinforce existing requirements to prevent overfishing and rebuild fisheries. The proposed rule for this action presents background on the NS1, MSRA requirements for ACLs and AMs, and harvest management of groundfish species (75 FR 41424, July 16, 2010). The Council submitted Amendments 87, 95, and 96 for review by the Secretary of Commerce, and a notice of availability of the amendments was published in the Federal Register on July 2, 2010 (75 FR 38454), with comments on the amendments invited through August 31, 2010. The comments on the proposed rule were invited through August 30, 2010. The Secretary of Commerce approved the amendments to the FMPs on September 22, 2010. Regulatory Amendments This final rule revises definitions for ‘‘groundfish,’’ ‘‘license limitation groundfish,’’ and ‘‘target species,’’ in § 679.2, to remove reference to the ‘‘other species’’ category. Removing the term ‘‘other species category’’ from these definitions reduces confusion related to target species and the harvest specifications, as Amendments 96 and 87 remove the ‘‘other species’’ category from the FMPs for purposes of the harvest specifications, and leave only ‘‘target species’’ as a category for which NMFS must establish harvest specifications. This final rule revises the definition for ‘‘other species’’ to allow the continued management of BSAI and GOA sharks, sculpins, and octopuses, and GOA squids as a group for purposes of prohibited species catch under § 679.21 and maximum retainable amounts specified in Tables 10 and 11 to part 679. This final rule revises § 679.20 by removing the term ‘‘other species category’’ in paragraphs related to harvest limits, reserves, harvest specifications, and fishery closures. This revision ensures the regulations for harvest specifications and ‘‘target species’’ management are consistent with Amendments 96 and 87, which remove ‘‘other species’’ from the FMP for purposes of harvest specifications and inseason management. This final rule revises § 679.25 to remove the ‘‘other species’’ category from the paragraph related to reopening an area to achieve total allowable catch (TAC) for a target species. This revision ensures the regulations are consistent with removing ‘‘other species’’ from the FMP for purposes of target species management. This final rule revises Table 2a to part 679 by adding whiteblotched, Alaska, and Aleutian skates, as well as the scientific names for individual skate E:\FR\FM\06OCR1.SGM 06OCR1 61640 Federal Register / Vol. 75, No. 193 / Wednesday, October 6, 2010 / Rules and Regulations species. Adding these individual skate species and the scientific names facilitates the reporting of individual skate species taken during groundfish harvest and provides more detailed information regarding skate harvests for stock assessments and fisheries management. This revision ensures the regulations are consistent with Amendment 95, providing the speciesspecific information to support managing skates as a target species group or as individual target species. WReier-Aviles on DSKGBLS3C1PROD with RULES Comments and Responses NMFS received two letters of comment, which included four distinct comments, in response to proposed Amendment 87 to the GOA FMP and Amendments 95 and 96 to the BSAI FMP (75 FR 41424, July 16, 2010). These letters were from organizations representing trawl catcher/processors targeting groundfish in the BSAI and GOA. NMFS made no changes to the final rule from the proposed rule. The comments are summarized and responded to below. Comment 1: The dissolution of the ‘‘other species’’ category into its major taxonomic complexes and management of those species complexes under Tier 6 would result in the overfishing limits (OFLs) and acceptable biological catch limits (ABCs) being frequently reached and cause the closure of other directed fisheries. These closures would provide no additional benefit to these species complexes. Response: The OFLs and ABCs are established annually by harvest specifications (75 FR 11778 and 75 FR 11749, March 12, 2010). Under this final action, the OFLs and TACs for the complexes currently managed under the ‘‘other species’’ category could be set at a level that may be reached during the fishing year. As described in Section 1.5.2.1 in the EA for Amendments 96 and 87, NMFS will take initial inseason management measures necessary to prevent exceeding the TACs of these complexes, such as closing the complex to directed fishing. NMFS may implement large scale fisheries closures to prevent the OFL from being exceeded if other actions would not adequately limit fishing mortality. A Tier 6 OFL is based on the average historical catch over a period of years and is used for stocks that do not have enough biomass information to be managed at Tier 5 or higher. In the absence of enough information to manage stocks at Tier 5 or higher information level, a Tier 6 OFL represents a reasonable means of preventing overfishing. Section 1.5.2.1 of the EA for Amendments 96 and 87 VerDate Mar<15>2010 15:06 Oct 05, 2010 Jkt 223001 describe the tier system for setting ABCs and OFLs (see ADDRESSES). NMFS and the Council recognize the concern that setting OFLs based on historical catch may result in fisheries restrictions that otherwise would not be used if the OFL could be set based on the stock’s biomass. Even though it is not based on stock abundance, a Tier 6 OFL is intended to meet NMFS’s legal obligation to prevent overfishing. It is necessary to break out the complexes from the ‘‘other species’’ category to ensure that the TACs and ACLs for these complexes can prevent overfishing. The Council sponsored a workshop on July 8, 2010, to address the issues associated with, and alternatives to, Tier 6 management. The Tier 6 workshop report was discussed at the September 2010 Groundfish Plan Team meeting and is scheduled for discussion by the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) in October 2010. The Tier 6 workshop report, Plan Team, and SSC minutes are available from the Council at http://alaskafisheries.noaa. gov/npfmc/default.htm. One alternative previously adopted for a Tier 6 stock (squid and octopus in the GOA) was to set the OFL at the maximum catch of the stock over a set period of years. The Council has expressed an interest in developing FMP amendments to address these concerns. NMFS will determine the appropriate management measures to take to prevent reaching the OFL, including the consideration of closing other directed fisheries, if necessary. The types of management options that NMFS may use inseason to prevent overfishing are described in Section 1.5.2.1 of the EA for Amendments 96 and 87 (see ADDRESSES). The type of action to prevent overfishing may depend on the species, fisheries, and locations. Comment 2: NMFS inseason managers have the flexibility to gather fleet catch information in real time, and identify discrete areas of high incidental catch. This could result in fine scale closures for individual sectors, and avoid the unneeded potentially catastrophic economical effects associated with large area, fleet-wide closures. The Bering Sea fleet is rationalized and is managed under a cooperative system capable of assisting NMFS in fleet communication, data distribution, and implementing voluntary management measures to avoid large scale fleet or area closures. NMFS is encouraged to use its management flexibility to avoid large fleet shutdowns. Response: As described in the EA for this action, NMFS does intend to use small scale area and gear closures, as well as other inseason management PO 00000 Frm 00052 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 measures short of large scale closures, to avoid OFL and ABC overages when possible. NMFS intends to work with the industry to achieve these goals and notes that cooperatives engaged in voluntary actions can be of great assistance. Comment 3: It is unclear what action NMFS can or will take when the harvest of one of the other species groups (sharks, skates, sculpins, octopus, or squid) approaches overfishing. Response: See the response to Comment 2. NMFS has the ability to implement inseason localized area and gear closures to prevent the ABCs from being reached, and the industry has demonstrated the ability to voluntarily avoid fishing in areas of high incidental catch (e.g., avoiding squid in the 2006 BSAI pollock fishery). The EA prepared for this action discusses in detail possible actions NMFS could undertake to avoid overfishing of these stocks. The EA/RIR for this action is available from NMFS (See ADDRESSES). Comment 4: This action has been rushed with no time to request additional information such as fisheries impacts and did not attempt to quantify the potential cost to commercial fisheries. This information is necessary to make a considered decision. The action should be disapproved in favor of the status quo. Response: This action must be implemented in 2011 to comply with the provisions mandated by the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The EA/RIR prepared for this action considers the impacts on fisheries and potential costs to the industry, using the best information available on the economic impacts of this action. This analysis was available to the public during the public comment period and Secretarial review of the proposed amendments. The EA/ RIR for this action is available from NMFS (See ADDRESSES). As noted in the response to Comment 1, the Council has expressed an interest in considering FMP amendments (e.g., moving squid from target species to the ecosystem component species) to address some of the issues raised in the consideration of this action. Classification The Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS, determined that the FMP Amendments 87, 95, and 96 are necessary for the conservation and management of the groundfish fisheries and that they are consistent with 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. E:\FR\FM\06OCR1.SGM 06OCR1 Federal Register / Vol. 75, No. 193 / Wednesday, October 6, 2010 / Rules and Regulations The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration during the proposed rule stage that this action would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The factual basis for the certification was published in the proposed rule and is not repeated here. No comments were received regarding this certification. As a result, a regulatory flexibility analysis was not required and none was prepared. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 679 Alaska, Fisheries, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements. Dated: October 1, 2010. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. For 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. 2. In § 679.2, revise paragraph (2) of the definition for ‘‘Groundfish’’, and the definitions of ‘‘License limitation groundfish’’, ‘‘Other species’’, and ‘‘Target species’’ to read as follows: ■ § 679.2 Definitions. WReier-Aviles on DSKGBLS3C1PROD with RULES * * * * * Groundfish * * * * * * * * (2) Target species specified annually pursuant to § 679.20(a)(2) (See also the definitions for: License limitation groundfish; CDQ species; and IR/IU species of this section). * * * * * License limitation groundfish means target species specified annually pursuant to § 679.20(a)(2), except that demersal shelf rockfish east of 140° W. longitude, sablefish managed under the IFQ program, and pollock allocated to the Aleutian Islands directed pollock fishery and harvested by vessels 60 feet (18.3 m) LOA or less, are not considered license limitation groundfish. * * * * * Other species is a category of target species for the purpose of MRA and PSC management that consists of groundfish species in each management area. These target species are managed as an other species group and identified in Tables VerDate Mar<15>2010 15:06 Oct 05, 2010 Jkt 223001 10 and 11 to this part pursuant to § 679.20(e). * * * * * Target species are those species or species groups for which a TAC is specified pursuant to § 679.20(a)(2). * * * * * ■ 3. In § 679.20, revise paragraphs (a)(1)(i) introductory text, (a)(2), (a)(3) introductory text, (a)(3(i), (b)(1)(i), (b)(2) introductory text, (c)(1)(iii), (c)(1)(iv), (c)(3)(ii), (c)(3)(iii), (d)(1)(i), (d)(1)(iii)(B), and (d)(2) to read as follows: § 679.20 General limitations. (a) * * * (1) * * * (i) BSAI and GOA. The OY for BSAI and GOA target species is a range or specific amount that can be harvested consistently with this part, plus the amounts of ‘‘nonspecified species’’ taken incidentally to the harvest of target species. The species categories are defined in Table 1 of the specifications as provided in paragraph (c) of this section. * * * * * (2) TAC. NMFS, after consultation with the Council, will specify and apportion the annual TAC and reserves for each calendar year among the GOA and BSAI target species. TACs in the target species category may be split or combined for purposes of establishing new TACs with apportionments thereof under paragraph (c) of this section. The sum of the TACs so specified must be within the OY range specified in paragraph (a)(1) of this section. (3) Annual TAC determination. The annual determinations of TAC for each target species and the reapportionment of reserves may be adjusted, based upon a review of the following: (i) Biological condition of groundfish stocks. Resource assessment documents prepared annually for the Council that provide information on historical catch trend; updated estimates of the MSY of the groundfish complex and its component species groups; assessments of the stock condition of each target species; assessments of the multispecies and ecosystem impacts of harvesting the groundfish complex at current levels, given the assessed condition of stocks, including consideration of rebuilding depressed stocks; and alternative harvesting strategies and related effects on the component species group. * * * * * (b) * * * (1) * * * (i) Nonspecified reserve. Fifteen percent of the BSAI TAC for each target species, except pollock, the hook-andline and pot gear allocation for PO 00000 Frm 00053 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 61641 sablefish, and the Amendment 80 species, which includes Pacific cod, is automatically placed in the nonspecified reserve before allocation to any sector. The remaining 85 percent of each TAC is apportioned to the initial TAC for each target species that contributed to the nonspecified reserve. The nonspecified reserve is not designated by species or species group. Any amount of the nonspecified reserve may be apportioned to target species that contributed to the nonspecified reserve, provided that such apportionments are consistent with paragraph (a)(3) of this section and do not result in overfishing of a target species. * * * * * (2) GOA. Initial reserves are established for pollock, Pacific cod, flatfish, squids, octopuses, sharks, and sculpins, which are equal to 20 percent of the TACs for these species or species groups. * * * * * (c) * * * (1) * * * (iii) GOA. The proposed specifications will specify for up to two fishing years the annual TAC for each target species and apportionments thereof, halibut prohibited species catch amounts, and seasonal allowances of pollock and Pacific cod. (iv) BSAI. The proposed specifications will specify for up to two fishing years the annual TAC for each target species and apportionments thereof, PSQ reserves and prohibited species catch allowances, seasonal allowances of pollock, Pacific cod, and Atka mackerel TAC (including pollock, Pacific cod, and Atka mackerel CDQ), and CDQ reserve amounts. * * * * * (3) * * * (ii) GOA. The final specifications will specify for up to two fishing years the annual TAC for each target species and apportionments thereof, halibut prohibited species catch amounts, and seasonal allowances of pollock and Pacific cod. (iii) BSAI. The final specifications will specify for up to two fishing years the annual TAC for each target species and apportionments thereof, PSQ reserves and prohibited species catch allowances, seasonal allowances of pollock (including pollock, Pacific cod, and Atka mackerel CDQ), and CDQ reserve amounts. * * * * * (d) * * * (1) * * * (i) General. If the Regional Administrator determines that any E:\FR\FM\06OCR1.SGM 06OCR1 61642 Federal Register / Vol. 75, No. 193 / Wednesday, October 6, 2010 / Rules and Regulations allocation or apportionment of a target species specified under paragraph (c) of this section has been or will be reached, the Regional Administrator may establish a directed fishing allowance for that species or species group. * * * * * (iii) * * * (B) Retention of incidental species. Except as described in § 679.20(e)(3)(iii), if directed fishing for a target species or species group is prohibited, a vessel may not retain that incidental species in an amount that exceeds the maximum retainable amount, as calculated under paragraphs (e) and (f) of this section, at any time during a fishing trip. * * * * * (2) Groundfish as prohibited species closure. When the Regional Administrator determines that the TAC of any target species specified under paragraph (c) of this section, or the share of any TAC assigned to any type of gear, has been or will be achieved prior to the end of a year, NMFS will publish notification in the Federal Register requiring that target species be treated in the same manner as a prohibited species, as described under § 679.21(b), for the remainder of the year. * * * * * ■ 4. In § 679.25, revise paragraph (a)(2)(iii)(D) to read as follows: § 679.25 Inseason adjustments. (a) * * * (2) * * * (iii) * * * (D) Reopening of a management area or season to achieve the TAC or gear share of a TAC for any of the target species. * * * * * ■ 5. Revise Table 2a to part 679 to read as follows: TABLE 2A TO PART 679—SPECIES CODES: FMP GROUNDFISH WReier-Aviles on DSKGBLS3C1PROD with RULES Species description Code Atka mackerel (greenling) .................. Flatfish, miscellaneous (flatfish species without separate codes) .......... Flounder: Alaska plaice ................................... Arrowtooth and/or Kamchatka ........ Starry ............................................... Octopus, North Pacific ........................ Pacific cod .......................................... Pollock ................................................ Rockfish: Aurora (Sebastes aurora) ............... Black (BSAI) (S. melanops) ............ Blackgill (S. melanostomus) ........... Blue (BSAI) (S. mystinus) ............... Bocaccio (S. paucispinis) ................ VerDate Mar<15>2010 15:06 Oct 05, 2010 Jkt 223001 193 120 133 121 129 870 110 270 185 142 177 167 137 TABLE 2A TO PART 679—SPECIES DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE CODES: FMP GROUNDFISH—ContinNational Oceanic and Atmospheric ued Administration Species description Code Canary (S. pinniger) ........................ Chilipepper (S. goodei) ................... China (S. nebulosus) ...................... Copper (S. caurinus) ....................... Darkblotched (S. crameri) ............... Dusky (S. variabilis) ........................ Greenstriped (S. elongatus) ............ Harlequin (S. variegatus) ................ Northern (S. polyspinis) .................. Pacific Ocean Perch (S. alutus) ..... Pygmy (S. wilsoni) .......................... Quillback (S. maliger) ..................... Redbanded (S. babcocki) ............... Redstripe (S. proriger) .................... Rosethorn (S. helvomaculatus) ...... Rougheye (S. aleutianus) ............... Sharpchin (S. zacentrus) ................ Shortbelly (S. jordani) ..................... Shortraker (S. borealis) ................... Silvergray (S. brevispinis) ............... Splitnose (S. diploproa) .................. Stripetail (S. saxicola) ..................... Thornyhead (all Sebastolobus species) ............................................. Tiger (S. nigrocinctus) ..................... Vermilion (S. miniatus) .................... Widow (S. entomelas) ..................... Yelloweye (S. ruberrimus) .............. Yellowmouth (S. reedi) ................... Yellowtail (S. flavidus) ..................... Sablefish (blackcod) ........................... Sculpins .............................................. Sharks: Other (if salmon, spiny dogfish or Pacific sleeper shark—use specific species code) ....................... Pacific sleeper ................................. Salmon ............................................ Spiny dogfish .................................. Skates: Whiteblotched (Bathyraja maculata) Aleutian (B. aleutica) ....................... Alaska (B. parmifera) ...................... Big (Raja binoculata) ...................... Longnose (R. rhina) ........................ Other (if Whiteblotched, Aleutian, Alaska, Big, or Longnose—use specific species code listed above) .......................................... Sole: Butter ............................................... Dover ............................................... English ............................................ Flathead .......................................... Petrale ............................................. Rex .................................................. Rock ................................................ Sand ................................................ Yellowfin .......................................... Squid, majestic ................................... Turbot, Greenland .............................. [FR Doc. 2010–25202 Filed 10–5–10; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3310–22–P PO 00000 Frm 00054 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 146 178 149 138 159 172 135 176 136 141 179 147 153 158 150 151 166 181 152 157 182 183 143 148 184 156 145 175 155 710 160 689 692 690 691 705 704 703 702 701 700 126 124 128 122 131 125 123 132 127 875 134 50 CFR Part 679 [Docket No. 0911031392–0457–02] RIN 0648–AY34 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Modified Nonpelagic Trawl Gear and Habitat Conservation in the Bering Sea Subarea National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: NMFS hereby issues a final rule that implements Amendment 94 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (FMP). Amendment 94 requires participants using nonpelagic trawl gear in the directed fishery for flatfish in the Bering Sea subarea to modify the trawl gear to raise portions of the gear off the ocean bottom. Amendment 94 also changes the boundaries of the Northern Bering Sea Research Area to establish the Modified Gear Trawl Zone (MGTZ) and to expand the Saint Matthew Island Habitat Conservation Area. Nonpelagic trawl gear also is required to be modified to raise portions of the gear off the ocean bottom if used in any directed fishery for groundfish in the MGTZ. This action is necessary to reduce potential adverse effects of nonpelagic trawl gear on bottom habitat, to protect additional blue king crab habitat near St. Matthew Island, and to allow for efficient flatfish harvest as the distribution of flatfish in the Bering Sea changes. This action is intended to promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the FMP, and other applicable laws. DATES: Effective January 20, 2011. ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of Amendment 94, maps of the action area, the Environmental Assessment/ Regulatory Impact Review/Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (EA/ RIR/IRFA), and Environmental Assessment/Regulatory Impact Review/ Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (EA/RIR/FRFA) prepared for this action may be obtained from NMFS Alaska Region, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802, or from the Alaska Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Melanie Brown, 907–586–7228. SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\06OCR1.SGM 06OCR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 75, Number 193 (Wednesday, October 6, 2010)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 61639-61642]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2010-25202]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 679

[Docket No. 0912231441-0465-03]
RIN 0648-AY48


Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Skate 
Management in the Groundfish Fisheries of the Bering Sea and Aleutian 
Islands; 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: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: NMFS issues a final rule to implement Amendments 95 and 96 to 
the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and 
Aleutian Islands Management Area (BSAI) and Amendment 87 to the FMP for 
Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA), (collectively referred to as 
``the FMPs''). Amendment 95 moves skates from the ``other species'' 
category to the ``target species'' category in the FMP. Amendments 96 
and 87 revise the FMPs to meet the National Standard 1 guidelines for 
annual catch limits and accountability measures. These amendments move 
all remaining species groups from the ``other species'' category to the 
``target species'' category, remove the ``other species'' and ``non-
specified species'' categories 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. The 
final rule removes references to the ``other species'' category for 
purposes of the harvest specifications and adds skate species to the 
reporting codes for the BSAI groundfish fisheries. 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: Effective November 5, 2010.

ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of Amendments 95 and 96 to the FMP for 
Groundfish of the BSAI, Amendment 87 to the FMP for Groundfish of the 
GOA, the Environmental Assessments (EAs), and the Regulatory Impact 
Review (RIR) prepared for this action are available from NMFS Alaska 
Region, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802 or from the Alaska Region NMFS 
Web site at http://www.alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/regs/summary.htm.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The groundfish fisheries in the exclusive 
economic zone of the BSAI and GOA are managed under the FMPs. The North 
Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) prepared the FMPs under 
the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and 
Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. 
Regulations implementing the FMPs appear at 50 CFR part 679. General 
regulations governing U.S. fisheries also appear at 50 CFR part 600.

Background

    Amendment 95 was unanimously adopted by the Council in October 
2009. This amendment moves skates from the ``other species'' category 
to the ``target species'' list in the BSAI FMP, allowing the management 
of skates as a target species complex or as individual skate species. 
NMFS trawl survey and catch information shows that 15 skate species 
occur in the BSAI. In the Bering Sea subarea, the most abundant species 
is the Alaska skate, while the most abundant species in the Aleutian 
Islands subarea is the whiteblotched skate. Individual species of skate 
could be listed under the skate complex in the ``target species'' list 
during the harvest specifications process to allow NMFS to separately 
manage harvest of these individual species.
    The Council unanimously adopted Amendments 96 and 87 in April 2010. 
These amendments 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. The proposed rule for this 
action presents background on the NS1, MSRA requirements for ACLs and 
AMs, and harvest management of groundfish species (75 FR 41424, July 
16, 2010).
    The Council submitted Amendments 87, 95, and 96 for review by the 
Secretary of Commerce, and a notice of availability of the amendments 
was published in the Federal Register on July 2, 2010 (75 FR 38454), 
with comments on the amendments invited through August 31, 2010. The 
comments on the proposed rule were invited through August 30, 2010. The 
Secretary of Commerce approved the amendments to the FMPs on September 
22, 2010.

Regulatory Amendments

    This final rule revises definitions for ``groundfish,'' ``license 
limitation groundfish,'' and ``target species,'' in Sec.  679.2, to 
remove reference to the ``other species'' category. Removing the term 
``other species category'' from these definitions reduces confusion 
related to target species and the harvest specifications, as Amendments 
96 and 87 remove the ``other species'' category from the FMPs for 
purposes of the harvest specifications, and leave only ``target 
species'' as a category for which NMFS must establish harvest 
specifications. This final rule revises the definition for ``other 
species'' to allow the continued management of BSAI and GOA sharks, 
sculpins, and octopuses, and GOA squids as a group for purposes of 
prohibited species catch under Sec.  679.21 and maximum retainable 
amounts specified in Tables 10 and 11 to part 679.
    This final rule revises Sec.  679.20 by removing the term ``other 
species category'' in paragraphs related to harvest limits, reserves, 
harvest specifications, and fishery closures. This revision ensures the 
regulations for harvest specifications and ``target species'' 
management are consistent with Amendments 96 and 87, which remove 
``other species'' from the FMP for purposes of harvest specifications 
and inseason management.
    This final rule revises Sec.  679.25 to remove the ``other 
species'' category from the paragraph related to reopening an area to 
achieve total allowable catch (TAC) for a target species. This revision 
ensures the regulations are consistent with removing ``other species'' 
from the FMP for purposes of target species management.
    This final rule revises Table 2a to part 679 by adding 
whiteblotched, Alaska, and Aleutian skates, as well as the scientific 
names for individual skate

[[Page 61640]]

species. Adding these individual skate species and the scientific names 
facilitates the reporting of individual skate species taken during 
groundfish harvest and provides more detailed information regarding 
skate harvests for stock assessments and fisheries management. This 
revision ensures the regulations are consistent with Amendment 95, 
providing the species-specific information to support managing skates 
as a target species group or as individual target species.

Comments and Responses

    NMFS received two letters of comment, which included four distinct 
comments, in response to proposed Amendment 87 to the GOA FMP and 
Amendments 95 and 96 to the BSAI FMP (75 FR 41424, July 16, 2010). 
These letters were from organizations representing trawl catcher/
processors targeting groundfish in the BSAI and GOA. NMFS made no 
changes to the final rule from the proposed rule. The comments are 
summarized and responded to below.
    Comment 1: The dissolution of the ``other species'' category into 
its major taxonomic complexes and management of those species complexes 
under Tier 6 would result in the overfishing limits (OFLs) and 
acceptable biological catch limits (ABCs) being frequently reached and 
cause the closure of other directed fisheries. These closures would 
provide no additional benefit to these species complexes.
    Response: The OFLs and ABCs are established annually by harvest 
specifications (75 FR 11778 and 75 FR 11749, March 12, 2010). Under 
this final action, the OFLs and TACs for the complexes currently 
managed under the ``other species'' category could be set at a level 
that may be reached during the fishing year. As described in Section 
1.5.2.1 in the EA for Amendments 96 and 87, NMFS will take initial 
inseason management measures necessary to prevent exceeding the TACs of 
these complexes, such as closing the complex to directed fishing. NMFS 
may implement large scale fisheries closures to prevent the OFL from 
being exceeded if other actions would not adequately limit fishing 
mortality. A Tier 6 OFL is based on the average historical catch over a 
period of years and is used for stocks that do not have enough biomass 
information to be managed at Tier 5 or higher. In the absence of enough 
information to manage stocks at Tier 5 or higher information level, a 
Tier 6 OFL represents a reasonable means of preventing overfishing. 
Section 1.5.2.1 of the EA for Amendments 96 and 87 describe the tier 
system for setting ABCs and OFLs (see ADDRESSES).
    NMFS and the Council recognize the concern that setting OFLs based 
on historical catch may result in fisheries restrictions that otherwise 
would not be used if the OFL could be set based on the stock's biomass. 
Even though it is not based on stock abundance, a Tier 6 OFL is 
intended to meet NMFS's legal obligation to prevent overfishing. It is 
necessary to break out the complexes from the ``other species'' 
category to ensure that the TACs and ACLs for these complexes can 
prevent overfishing. The Council sponsored a workshop on July 8, 2010, 
to address the issues associated with, and alternatives to, Tier 6 
management. The Tier 6 workshop report was discussed at the September 
2010 Groundfish Plan Team meeting and is scheduled for discussion by 
the Council's Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) in October 
2010. The Tier 6 workshop report, Plan Team, and SSC minutes are 
available from the Council at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/npfmc/default.htm. One alternative previously adopted for a Tier 6 stock 
(squid and octopus in the GOA) was to set the OFL at the maximum catch 
of the stock over a set period of years. The Council has expressed an 
interest in developing FMP amendments to address these concerns. NMFS 
will determine the appropriate management measures to take to prevent 
reaching the OFL, including the consideration of closing other directed 
fisheries, if necessary. The types of management options that NMFS may 
use inseason to prevent overfishing are described in Section 1.5.2.1 of 
the EA for Amendments 96 and 87 (see ADDRESSES). The type of action to 
prevent overfishing may depend on the species, fisheries, and 
locations.
    Comment 2: NMFS inseason managers have the flexibility to gather 
fleet catch information in real time, and identify discrete areas of 
high incidental catch. This could result in fine scale closures for 
individual sectors, and avoid the unneeded potentially catastrophic 
economical effects associated with large area, fleet-wide closures. The 
Bering Sea fleet is rationalized and is managed under a cooperative 
system capable of assisting NMFS in fleet communication, data 
distribution, and implementing voluntary management measures to avoid 
large scale fleet or area closures. NMFS is encouraged to use its 
management flexibility to avoid large fleet shutdowns.
    Response: As described in the EA for this action, NMFS does intend 
to use small scale area and gear closures, as well as other inseason 
management measures short of large scale closures, to avoid OFL and ABC 
overages when possible. NMFS intends to work with the industry to 
achieve these goals and notes that cooperatives engaged in voluntary 
actions can be of great assistance.
    Comment 3: It is unclear what action NMFS can or will take when the 
harvest of one of the other species groups (sharks, skates, sculpins, 
octopus, or squid) approaches overfishing.
    Response: See the response to Comment 2. NMFS has the ability to 
implement inseason localized area and gear closures to prevent the ABCs 
from being reached, and the industry has demonstrated the ability to 
voluntarily avoid fishing in areas of high incidental catch (e.g., 
avoiding squid in the 2006 BSAI pollock fishery). The EA prepared for 
this action discusses in detail possible actions NMFS could undertake 
to avoid overfishing of these stocks. The EA/RIR for this action is 
available from NMFS (See ADDRESSES).
    Comment 4: This action has been rushed with no time to request 
additional information such as fisheries impacts and did not attempt to 
quantify the potential cost to commercial fisheries. This information 
is necessary to make a considered decision. The action should be 
disapproved in favor of the status quo.
    Response: This action must be implemented in 2011 to comply with 
the provisions mandated by the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The EA/RIR 
prepared for this action considers the impacts on fisheries and 
potential costs to the industry, using the best information available 
on the economic impacts of this action. This analysis was available to 
the public during the public comment period and Secretarial review of 
the proposed amendments. The EA/RIR for this action is available from 
NMFS (See ADDRESSES). As noted in the response to Comment 1, the 
Council has expressed an interest in considering FMP amendments (e.g., 
moving squid from target species to the ecosystem component species) to 
address some of the issues raised in the consideration of this action.

Classification

    The Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS, determined that the FMP 
Amendments 87, 95, and 96 are necessary for the conservation and 
management of the groundfish fisheries and that they are consistent 
with 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.

[[Page 61641]]

    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration during the proposed rule stage that this action would 
not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. The factual basis for the certification was published in the 
proposed rule and is not repeated here. No comments were received 
regarding this certification. As a result, a regulatory flexibility 
analysis was not required and none was prepared.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 679

    Alaska, Fisheries, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    Dated: October 1, 2010.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

0
For 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.


0
2. In Sec.  679.2, revise paragraph (2) of the definition for 
``Groundfish'', and the definitions of ``License limitation 
groundfish'', ``Other species'', and ``Target species'' to read as 
follows:


Sec.  679.2  Definitions.

* * * * *
    Groundfish * * *
* * * * *
    (2) Target species specified annually pursuant to Sec.  
679.20(a)(2) (See also the definitions for: License limitation 
groundfish; CDQ species; and IR/IU species of this section).
* * * * *
    License limitation groundfish means target species specified 
annually pursuant to Sec.  679.20(a)(2), except that demersal shelf 
rockfish east of 140[deg] W. longitude, sablefish managed under the IFQ 
program, and pollock allocated to the Aleutian Islands directed pollock 
fishery and harvested by vessels 60 feet (18.3 m) LOA or less, are not 
considered license limitation groundfish.
* * * * *
    Other species is a category of target species for the purpose of 
MRA and PSC management that consists of groundfish species in each 
management area. These target species are managed as an other species 
group and identified in Tables 10 and 11 to this part pursuant to Sec.  
679.20(e).
* * * * *
    Target species are those species or species groups for which a TAC 
is specified pursuant to Sec.  679.20(a)(2).
* * * * *

0
3. In Sec.  679.20, revise paragraphs (a)(1)(i) introductory text, 
(a)(2), (a)(3) introductory text, (a)(3(i), (b)(1)(i), (b)(2) 
introductory text, (c)(1)(iii), (c)(1)(iv), (c)(3)(ii), (c)(3)(iii), 
(d)(1)(i), (d)(1)(iii)(B), and (d)(2) to read as follows:
    Sec.  679.20 General limitations.
    (a) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (i) BSAI and GOA. The OY for BSAI and GOA target species is a range 
or specific amount that can be harvested consistently with this part, 
plus the amounts of ``nonspecified species'' taken incidentally to the 
harvest of target species. The species categories are defined in Table 
1 of the specifications as provided in paragraph (c) of this section.
* * * * *
    (2) TAC. NMFS, after consultation with the Council, will specify 
and apportion the annual TAC and reserves for each calendar year among 
the GOA and BSAI target species. TACs in the target species category 
may be split or combined for purposes of establishing new TACs with 
apportionments thereof under paragraph (c) of this section. The sum of 
the TACs so specified must be within the OY range specified in 
paragraph (a)(1) of this section.
    (3) Annual TAC determination. The annual determinations of TAC for 
each target species and the reapportionment of reserves may be 
adjusted, based upon a review of the following:
    (i) Biological condition of groundfish stocks. Resource assessment 
documents prepared annually for the Council that provide information on 
historical catch trend; updated estimates of the MSY of the groundfish 
complex and its component species groups; assessments of the stock 
condition of each target species; assessments of the multispecies and 
ecosystem impacts of harvesting the groundfish complex at current 
levels, given the assessed condition of stocks, including consideration 
of rebuilding depressed stocks; and alternative harvesting strategies 
and related effects on the component species group.
* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (i) Nonspecified reserve. Fifteen percent of the BSAI TAC for each 
target species, except pollock, the hook-and-line and pot gear 
allocation for sablefish, and the Amendment 80 species, which includes 
Pacific cod, is automatically placed in the nonspecified reserve before 
allocation to any sector. The remaining 85 percent of each TAC is 
apportioned to the initial TAC for each target species that contributed 
to the nonspecified reserve. The nonspecified reserve is not designated 
by species or species group. Any amount of the nonspecified reserve may 
be apportioned to target species that contributed to the nonspecified 
reserve, provided that such apportionments are consistent with 
paragraph (a)(3) of this section and do not result in overfishing of a 
target species.
* * * * *
    (2) GOA. Initial reserves are established for pollock, Pacific cod, 
flatfish, squids, octopuses, sharks, and sculpins, which are equal to 
20 percent of the TACs for these species or species groups.
* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (iii) GOA. The proposed specifications will specify for up to two 
fishing years the annual TAC for each target species and apportionments 
thereof, halibut prohibited species catch amounts, and seasonal 
allowances of pollock and Pacific cod.
    (iv) BSAI. The proposed specifications will specify for up to two 
fishing years the annual TAC for each target species and apportionments 
thereof, PSQ reserves and prohibited species catch allowances, seasonal 
allowances of pollock, Pacific cod, and Atka mackerel TAC (including 
pollock, Pacific cod, and Atka mackerel CDQ), and CDQ reserve amounts.
* * * * *
    (3) * * *
    (ii) GOA. The final specifications will specify for up to two 
fishing years the annual TAC for each target species and apportionments 
thereof, halibut prohibited species catch amounts, and seasonal 
allowances of pollock and Pacific cod.
    (iii) BSAI. The final specifications will specify for up to two 
fishing years the annual TAC for each target species and apportionments 
thereof, PSQ reserves and prohibited species catch allowances, seasonal 
allowances of pollock (including pollock, Pacific cod, and Atka 
mackerel CDQ), and CDQ reserve amounts.
* * * * *
    (d) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (i) General. If the Regional Administrator determines that any

[[Page 61642]]

allocation or apportionment of a target species specified under 
paragraph (c) of this section has been or will be reached, the Regional 
Administrator may establish a directed fishing allowance for that 
species or species group.
* * * * *
    (iii) * * *
    (B) Retention of incidental species. Except as described in Sec.  
679.20(e)(3)(iii), if directed fishing for a target species or species 
group is prohibited, a vessel may not retain that incidental species in 
an amount that exceeds the maximum retainable amount, as calculated 
under paragraphs (e) and (f) of this section, at any time during a 
fishing trip.
* * * * *
    (2) Groundfish as prohibited species closure. When the Regional 
Administrator determines that the TAC of any target species specified 
under paragraph (c) of this section, or the share of any TAC assigned 
to any type of gear, has been or will be achieved prior to the end of a 
year, NMFS will publish notification in the Federal Register requiring 
that target species be treated in the same manner as a prohibited 
species, as described under Sec.  679.21(b), for the remainder of the 
year.
* * * * *

0
4. In Sec.  679.25, revise paragraph (a)(2)(iii)(D) to read as follows:


Sec.  679.25  Inseason adjustments.

    (a) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (iii) * * *
    (D) Reopening of a management area or season to achieve the TAC or 
gear share of a TAC for any of the target species.
* * * * *

0
5. Revise Table 2a to part 679 to read as follows:

           Table 2a to Part 679--Species Codes: FMP Groundfish
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                       Species description                         Code
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Atka mackerel (greenling).......................................     193
Flatfish, miscellaneous (flatfish species without separate           120
 codes).........................................................
Flounder:
  Alaska plaice.................................................     133
  Arrowtooth and/or Kamchatka...................................     121
  Starry........................................................     129
Octopus, North Pacific..........................................     870
Pacific cod.....................................................     110
Pollock.........................................................     270
Rockfish:
  Aurora (Sebastes aurora)......................................     185
  Black (BSAI) (S. melanops)....................................     142
  Blackgill (S. melanostomus)...................................     177
  Blue (BSAI) (S. mystinus).....................................     167
  Bocaccio (S. paucispinis).....................................     137
  Canary (S. pinniger)..........................................     146
  Chilipepper (S. goodei).......................................     178
  China (S. nebulosus)..........................................     149
  Copper (S. caurinus)..........................................     138
  Darkblotched (S. crameri).....................................     159
  Dusky (S. variabilis).........................................     172
  Greenstriped (S. elongatus)...................................     135
  Harlequin (S. variegatus).....................................     176
  Northern (S. polyspinis)......................................     136
  Pacific Ocean Perch (S. alutus)...............................     141
  Pygmy (S. wilsoni)............................................     179
  Quillback (S. maliger)........................................     147
  Redbanded (S. babcocki).......................................     153
  Redstripe (S. proriger).......................................     158
  Rosethorn (S. helvomaculatus).................................     150
  Rougheye (S. aleutianus)......................................     151
  Sharpchin (S. zacentrus)......................................     166
  Shortbelly (S. jordani).......................................     181
  Shortraker (S. borealis)......................................     152
  Silvergray (S. brevispinis)...................................     157
  Splitnose (S. diploproa)......................................     182
  Stripetail (S. saxicola)......................................     183
  Thornyhead (all Sebastolobus species).........................     143
  Tiger (S. nigrocinctus).......................................     148
  Vermilion (S. miniatus).......................................     184
  Widow (S. entomelas)..........................................     156
  Yelloweye (S. ruberrimus).....................................     145
  Yellowmouth (S. reedi)........................................     175
  Yellowtail (S. flavidus)......................................     155
Sablefish (blackcod)............................................     710
Sculpins........................................................     160
Sharks:
  Other (if salmon, spiny dogfish or Pacific sleeper shark--use      689
   specific species code).......................................
  Pacific sleeper...............................................     692
  Salmon........................................................     690
  Spiny dogfish.................................................     691
Skates:
  Whiteblotched (Bathyraja maculata)............................     705
  Aleutian (B. aleutica)........................................     704
  Alaska (B. parmifera).........................................     703
  Big (Raja binoculata).........................................     702
  Longnose (R. rhina)...........................................     701
  Other (if Whiteblotched, Aleutian, Alaska, Big, or Longnose--      700
   use specific species code listed above)......................
Sole:
  Butter........................................................     126
  Dover.........................................................     124
  English.......................................................     128
  Flathead......................................................     122
  Petrale.......................................................     131
  Rex...........................................................     125
  Rock..........................................................     123
  Sand..........................................................     132
  Yellowfin.....................................................     127
Squid, majestic.................................................     875
Turbot, Greenland...............................................     134
------------------------------------------------------------------------

[FR Doc. 2010-25202 Filed 10-5-10; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3310-22-P