Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands King and Tanner Crabs, 47493-47494 [2011-19945]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 151 / Friday, August 5, 2011 / Rules and Regulations ABC NMFS implemented in the emergency action is consistent with the best scientific information available. The analysis presented in the supplemental EA concludes that increasing the butterfish ABC to 1,811 mt is not expected to have any adverse impact on the butterfish stock when compared to the original 1,500-mt butterfish ABC. erowe on DSKG8SOYB1PROD with RULES Classification NMFS has determined that this rule is consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable law. The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, finds good cause under section 553(b)(B) of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) that it is impracticable and contrary to the public interest to provide for prior notice and opportunity for the public to comment. As more fully explained above, the reasons justifying promulgation of this rule on an emergency basis make solicitation of public comment contrary to the public interest. This action provides the benefit of allowing the Loligo fleet to optimize its harvest, with less concern that the fishery could be closed due to the butterfish mortality cap. The initial emergency action did not allow for prior public comment because the scientific review process and determination could not have been completed any earlier, due to the inherent time constraints associated with the process and the fact that the information on which this action is based became available after 2011 specifications were finalized. For the reason above, the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries finds good cause under section 553(d) of the APA to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness. This emergency rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of E.O. 12866. This rule is exempt from the procedures of the Regulatory Flexibility Act to prepare a regulatory flexibility analysis because the rule is issued without opportunity for prior public comment. The EA prepared for the initial emergency rule analyzed the impacts of the emergency specifications for the duration of a year (Supplemental Environmental Assessment for 2011 Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish Specifications; February 2011). Therefore, the impacts of this emergency action extension have been analyzed, and are within the scope of the Finding of No Significant Impact. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. VerDate Mar<15>2010 14:55 Aug 04, 2011 Jkt 223001 Dated: August 2, 2011. Eric C. Schwaab, Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2011–19924 Filed 8–4–11; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 679 RIN 0648–XA209 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands King and Tanner Crabs National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of agency decision. AGENCY: NMFS announces approval of Amendments 38 and 39 to the Fishery Management Plan for Bering Sea/ Aleutian Islands King and Tanner Crabs (FMP). Amendment 38 establishes a mechanism in the FMP to specify annual catch limits and accountability measures for each crab stock. This action is necessary to account for uncertainty in the overfishing limit and prevent overfishing. Amendment 39 modifies the snow crab rebuilding plan to define the stock as rebuilt the first year the stock biomass is above the level necessary to produce maximum sustainable yield. Amendments 38 and 39 are intended to promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the FMP, and other applicable laws. DATES: The amendment was approved on August 2, 2011. ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of Amendments 38 and 39 and the Environmental Assessment prepared for this action may be obtained from the NMFS Alaska Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Gretchen Harrington, 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 or fishery management plan amendment it prepares to NMFS for review and approval, disapproval, or partial approval by the Secretary of SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00071 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 47493 Commerce. The Magnuson-Stevens Act also requires that NMFS, upon receiving a fishery management plan amendment, immediately publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing that the amendment is available for public review and comment. NMFS published the notice of availability for Amendments 38 and 39 to the FMP on May 4, 2011 (76 FR 25295), with a comment period that ended on July 5, 2011. NMFS received one comment letter. NMFS summarized this letter into two separate comments, and responds to them under Response to Comments, below. NMFS determined that Amendments 38 and 39 to the FMP are consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable laws and approved Amendments 38 and 39 on August 2, 2011. The May 4, 2011, notice of availability (76 FR 25295) contains additional information on this action. No changes to Federal regulations are necessary to implement these FMP amendments. The crab fisheries in the exclusive economic zone of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands are managed under the FMP. The FMP was prepared by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. The FMP establishes a cooperative management regime that defers many aspects of crab fisheries management to the State of Alaska (State) with Federal oversight. State crab fishery management action must be consistent with the FMP, MagnusonStevens Act, and other applicable Federal laws. Annual Catch Limits and Acceptable Biological Catch In October 2010, the Council unanimously recommended Amendments 38 and 39 to the FMP. Amendment 38 establishes a mechanism in the FMP for the Council to specify annual catch limits (ACLs) and accountability measures. Amendment 39 modifies the snow crab rebuilding plan to establish that the stock will be rebuilt when the snow crab biomass is estimated to reach the level necessary to produce maximum sustainable yield. Amendment 38 satisfies requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, as amended in 2007, while maintaining the FMP’s cooperative management regime that relies on State expertise in collecting and analyzing scientific data on crab and in establishing the total allowable catches (TACs). Amendment 38 establishes acceptable biological catch (ABC) control rules in the FMP E:\FR\FM\05AUR1.SGM 05AUR1 47494 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 151 / Friday, August 5, 2011 / Rules and Regulations erowe on DSKG8SOYB1PROD with RULES and sets an ACL for each stock equal to the stock’s ABC. Annually, the ABC control rule will be used to set the maximum ABC for each crab stock below the overfishing level (OFL) set for that stock. This mechanism ensures that, at the maximum ABC, the probability of overfishing is less than 50 percent. Amendment 38 establishes accountability measures to comply with the Magnuson-Stevens Act requirement that FMPs include accountability measures to prevent catch from exceeding ACLs and to correct overages of the ACL if they do occur. Amendment 38 also amends the FMP to establish an optimum yield (OY) range of 0 to less that the OFL catch. This OY range enables the State to determine the appropriate TAC levels below the OFL to prevent overfishing or address other biological concerns that may affect the reproductive potential of a stock but that are not reflected in the OFL itself. The State establishes TACs at levels that maximize harvests, and associated economic and social benefits, when biological and ecological conditions warrant doing so. Amendment 39 modifies the existing snow crab rebuilding plan to redefine when the snow crab stock will be considered ‘‘rebuilt.’’ Under Amendment 39, snow crab will be considered rebuilt when the estimated biomass reaches the level necessary to produce maximum sustainable yield, rather than when estimated biomass reaches such a level for 2 consecutive years, as previously defined. The Scientific and Statistical Committee recommended that a 1-year threshold is appropriate for snow crab based on its confidence in the biomass estimates provided by the approved stock assessment model. An Environmental Assessment was prepared for Amendments 38 and 39 that describes the management background, the purpose and need for action, the management alternatives, and the environmental, social, and economic impacts of the alternatives (see ADDRESSES). VerDate Mar<15>2010 14:55 Aug 04, 2011 Jkt 223001 Response to Comments Comment 1: The commenter supports approval of Amendment 38 but expresses concern over the fact that the burden of implementing accountability measures falls primarily on the State. NMFS should accept some of the responsibility for assisting the State in implementing accountability measures. Response: NMFS agrees that it has the responsibility to implement accountability measures. The accountability measures under Amendment 38 conform to the cooperative management structure of the FMP. Appropriate accountability measures are implemented by the Council, NMFS, and the State according to the respective roles and responsibilities under the FMP. Existing State and Federal accountability measures prevent TACs from being exceeded in crab fisheries and will continue to be used to prevent catch from exceeding ACLs. Federal accountability measures will be implemented during the ABC-setting process as the Council’s Crab Plan Team and the Scientific and Statistical Committee determine the appropriate downward adjustments to the ACL in the fishing year after an ACL has been exceeded. Additionally, given that the State sets the TAC under the FMP, Amendment 38 also includes accountability measures for the State to exercise in the annual TAC-setting process. Under the FMP, the State has some discretion to determine the most appropriate method to account for any catch above the ACL in setting the TAC for the subsequent fishing season. Comment 2: The commenter does not support Amendment 39. The commenter states that it would be premature to declare the snow crab stock as rebuilt the first year the stock biomass is above the level necessary to produce maximum sustainable yield. The commenter suggests postponing the reclassification of the snow crab stock as rebuilt until the stock has proven a 2year trend above the estimated biomass. The commenter states that maintaining PO 00000 Frm 00072 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 9990 the 2-year rebuilding requirement would ensure that the biomass has reached the appropriate level before opening it up to the new challenges it will face under the new classification system. Response: NMFS and the Council adopted the 2-year threshold previously used to define the snow crab stock as rebuilt as a precautionary measure to address the high degree of uncertainty in snow crab biomass estimates at the time the rebuilding plan was approved in 2000. Since then, a stock assessment model has been approved for use in estimating the snow crab biomass and setting the biological reference points. The decision to modify the definition of rebuilt from 2 consecutive annual biomass estimates at or above the level necessary to support maximum sustainable yield to 1 such biomass estimate was based on the confidence of the Crab Plan Team and Scientific and Statistical Committee in the stock assessment model’s ability to accurately estimate snow crab biomass. With the improved accuracy of biomass estimates provided by the approved stock assessment model, the 2-year threshold is no longer necessary. The comment does not identify the new challenges that snow crab will face under the new classification system. Under Amendment 38, once the snow crab stock is rebuilt, the Scientific and Statistical Committee will set the OFL and ABC according to the best available scientific information and the methods established in the FMP. In addition, the State will set the TAC according to the harvest strategy. These measures will prevent overfishing and help to ensure that the snow crab stock biomass remains at or near the level necessary to produce maximum sustainable yield. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: August 2, 2011. Eric C. Schwaab, Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2011–19945 Filed 8–4–11; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\05AUR1.SGM 05AUR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 151 (Friday, August 5, 2011)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 47493-47494]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-19945]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 679

RIN 0648-XA209


Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Bering Sea 
and Aleutian Islands King and Tanner Crabs

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

ACTION: Notice of agency decision.

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SUMMARY: NMFS announces approval of Amendments 38 and 39 to the Fishery 
Management Plan for Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands King and Tanner Crabs 
(FMP). Amendment 38 establishes a mechanism in the FMP to specify 
annual catch limits and accountability measures for each crab stock. 
This action is necessary to account for uncertainty in the overfishing 
limit and prevent overfishing. Amendment 39 modifies the snow crab 
rebuilding plan to define the stock as rebuilt the first year the stock 
biomass is above the level necessary to produce maximum sustainable 
yield. Amendments 38 and 39 are intended to promote the goals and 
objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management 
Act, the FMP, and other applicable laws.

DATES: The amendment was approved on August 2, 2011.

ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of Amendments 38 and 39 and the 
Environmental Assessment prepared for this action may be obtained from 
the NMFS Alaska Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Gretchen Harrington, 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 or 
fishery management plan amendment it prepares to NMFS for review and 
approval, disapproval, or partial approval by the Secretary of 
Commerce. The Magnuson-Stevens Act also requires that NMFS, upon 
receiving a fishery management plan amendment, immediately publish a 
notice in the Federal Register announcing that the amendment is 
available for public review and comment.
    NMFS published the notice of availability for Amendments 38 and 39 
to the FMP on May 4, 2011 (76 FR 25295), with a comment period that 
ended on July 5, 2011. NMFS received one comment letter. NMFS 
summarized this letter into two separate comments, and responds to them 
under Response to Comments, below.
    NMFS determined that Amendments 38 and 39 to the FMP are consistent 
with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable laws and approved 
Amendments 38 and 39 on August 2, 2011. The May 4, 2011, notice of 
availability (76 FR 25295) contains additional information on this 
action. No changes to Federal regulations are necessary to implement 
these FMP amendments.
    The crab fisheries in the exclusive economic zone of the Bering Sea 
and Aleutian Islands are managed under the FMP. The FMP was prepared by 
the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) under the 
authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. The FMP 
establishes a cooperative management regime that defers many aspects of 
crab fisheries management to the State of Alaska (State) with Federal 
oversight. State crab fishery management action must be consistent with 
the FMP, Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable Federal laws.

Annual Catch Limits and Acceptable Biological Catch

    In October 2010, the Council unanimously recommended Amendments 38 
and 39 to the FMP. Amendment 38 establishes a mechanism in the FMP for 
the Council to specify annual catch limits (ACLs) and accountability 
measures. Amendment 39 modifies the snow crab rebuilding plan to 
establish that the stock will be rebuilt when the snow crab biomass is 
estimated to reach the level necessary to produce maximum sustainable 
yield.
    Amendment 38 satisfies requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, as 
amended in 2007, while maintaining the FMP's cooperative management 
regime that relies on State expertise in collecting and analyzing 
scientific data on crab and in establishing the total allowable catches 
(TACs). Amendment 38 establishes acceptable biological catch (ABC) 
control rules in the FMP

[[Page 47494]]

and sets an ACL for each stock equal to the stock's ABC. Annually, the 
ABC control rule will be used to set the maximum ABC for each crab 
stock below the overfishing level (OFL) set for that stock. This 
mechanism ensures that, at the maximum ABC, the probability of 
overfishing is less than 50 percent.
    Amendment 38 establishes accountability measures to comply with the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act requirement that FMPs include accountability 
measures to prevent catch from exceeding ACLs and to correct overages 
of the ACL if they do occur.
    Amendment 38 also amends the FMP to establish an optimum yield (OY) 
range of 0 to less that the OFL catch. This OY range enables the State 
to determine the appropriate TAC levels below the OFL to prevent 
overfishing or address other biological concerns that may affect the 
reproductive potential of a stock but that are not reflected in the OFL 
itself. The State establishes TACs at levels that maximize harvests, 
and associated economic and social benefits, when biological and 
ecological conditions warrant doing so.
    Amendment 39 modifies the existing snow crab rebuilding plan to 
redefine when the snow crab stock will be considered ``rebuilt.'' Under 
Amendment 39, snow crab will be considered rebuilt when the estimated 
biomass reaches the level necessary to produce maximum sustainable 
yield, rather than when estimated biomass reaches such a level for 2 
consecutive years, as previously defined. The Scientific and 
Statistical Committee recommended that a 1-year threshold is 
appropriate for snow crab based on its confidence in the biomass 
estimates provided by the approved stock assessment model.
    An Environmental Assessment was prepared for Amendments 38 and 39 
that describes the management background, the purpose and need for 
action, the management alternatives, and the environmental, social, and 
economic impacts of the alternatives (see ADDRESSES).

Response to Comments

    Comment 1: The commenter supports approval of Amendment 38 but 
expresses concern over the fact that the burden of implementing 
accountability measures falls primarily on the State. NMFS should 
accept some of the responsibility for assisting the State in 
implementing accountability measures.
    Response: NMFS agrees that it has the responsibility to implement 
accountability measures. The accountability measures under Amendment 38 
conform to the cooperative management structure of the FMP. Appropriate 
accountability measures are implemented by the Council, NMFS, and the 
State according to the respective roles and responsibilities under the 
FMP. Existing State and Federal accountability measures prevent TACs 
from being exceeded in crab fisheries and will continue to be used to 
prevent catch from exceeding ACLs. Federal accountability measures will 
be implemented during the ABC-setting process as the Council's Crab 
Plan Team and the Scientific and Statistical Committee determine the 
appropriate downward adjustments to the ACL in the fishing year after 
an ACL has been exceeded. Additionally, given that the State sets the 
TAC under the FMP, Amendment 38 also includes accountability measures 
for the State to exercise in the annual TAC-setting process. Under the 
FMP, the State has some discretion to determine the most appropriate 
method to account for any catch above the ACL in setting the TAC for 
the subsequent fishing season.
    Comment 2: The commenter does not support Amendment 39. The 
commenter states that it would be premature to declare the snow crab 
stock as rebuilt the first year the stock biomass is above the level 
necessary to produce maximum sustainable yield. The commenter suggests 
postponing the reclassification of the snow crab stock as rebuilt until 
the stock has proven a 2-year trend above the estimated biomass. The 
commenter states that maintaining the 2-year rebuilding requirement 
would ensure that the biomass has reached the appropriate level before 
opening it up to the new challenges it will face under the new 
classification system.
    Response: NMFS and the Council adopted the 2-year threshold 
previously used to define the snow crab stock as rebuilt as a 
precautionary measure to address the high degree of uncertainty in snow 
crab biomass estimates at the time the rebuilding plan was approved in 
2000. Since then, a stock assessment model has been approved for use in 
estimating the snow crab biomass and setting the biological reference 
points.
    The decision to modify the definition of rebuilt from 2 consecutive 
annual biomass estimates at or above the level necessary to support 
maximum sustainable yield to 1 such biomass estimate was based on the 
confidence of the Crab Plan Team and Scientific and Statistical 
Committee in the stock assessment model's ability to accurately 
estimate snow crab biomass. With the improved accuracy of biomass 
estimates provided by the approved stock assessment model, the 2-year 
threshold is no longer necessary.
    The comment does not identify the new challenges that snow crab 
will face under the new classification system. Under Amendment 38, once 
the snow crab stock is rebuilt, the Scientific and Statistical 
Committee will set the OFL and ABC according to the best available 
scientific information and the methods established in the FMP. In 
addition, the State will set the TAC according to the harvest strategy. 
These measures will prevent overfishing and help to ensure that the 
snow crab stock biomass remains at or near the level necessary to 
produce maximum sustainable yield.

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

    Dated: August 2, 2011.
Eric C. Schwaab,
Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2011-19945 Filed 8-4-11; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P