Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Chinook Salmon Bycatch Management in the Gulf of Alaska Pollock Fishery; Amendment 93, 72384-72386 [2011-30267]

Download as PDF 72384 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 226 / Wednesday, November 23, 2011 / Proposed Rules Atlantic shark catch share program, announced the availability of a white paper describing design elements of catch share programs in general and issues specific to the Atlantic shark fisheries, and requested public comment on the implementation of catch shares in the Atlantic shark fisheries. In the NOI, the end of the comment period was announced as March 1, 2012. However, due to the timing of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the March 2012 HMS Advisory Panel meeting, NMFS is extending the comment period to provide additional opportunity for the five Fishery Management Councils, the Atlantic and Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commissions, and other interested parties to comment on the NOI. Therefore, the comment period for the NOI has been extended to 5 p.m. on March 31, 2012. Request for Comments Five workshops will be held (see Table 1 for meeting dates, times, and locations) to provide the opportunity for public comment on potential catch share design elements for the Atlantic shark fisheries. These comments will be used to assist in the development of Amendment 6 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP. Specifically, NMFS is interested in obtaining feedback on issues, including, but not limited to: Eligibility (directed and/or incidental permit holders), specification of the resource unit (species and regions to include), initial allocation (based on catch history and/ or other means), and catch share management. NMFS has prepared a white paper that provides more detail concerning some of the potential design elements for catch share programs and provides the public with additional information regarding issues in the Atlantic shark fisheries. Information related to catch shares for the Atlantic shark fisheries is available on the HMS Management Division Web site (https:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/sharks/ catchshares.htm). Comments received on this action will assist NMFS in determining the options for rulemaking to conserve and manage shark resources and fisheries, consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP. TABLE 1—DATES, TIMES, AND LOCATIONS OF THE FIVE SCOPING WORKSHOPS Date Time December 6, 2011 ...... December 13, 2011 .... January 12, 2012 ........ January 31, 2012 ........ February 16, 2012 ...... 5–8 5–8 6–9 6–9 5–8 p.m. p.m. p.m. p.m. p.m. Meeting locations ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... In addition to the five scoping workshops, NMFS has requested time on the agendas of the upcoming Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, New England, Mid-Atlantic, and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils, as well as the Atlantic and Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commissions during the public comment period. NMFS also expects to share the comments received to date regarding catch shares for the Atlantic shark fisheries at the March 2012 HMS Advisory Panel meeting. The dates and location of the AP meeting will be announced in a future Federal Register notice. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: November 18, 2011. Steven Thur, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2011–30276 Filed 11–22–11; 8:45 am] mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS BILLING CODE 3510–22–P VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:29 Nov 22, 2011 Jkt 226001 Address Cocoa Beach Library .................... Gulf Beaches Public Library ......... Barnegat Branch Library ............... Belle Chasse Auditorium .............. Manteo Town Hall ......................... 550 N. Brevard Ave., Cocoa Beach, FL 32931. 200 Municipal Dr., Madeira Beach, FL 33708. 112 Burr St., Barnegat, NJ 08005. 8398 Highway 23, Belle Chasse, LA 70037. 407 Budleigh St., Manteo, NC 27954. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 679 RIN 0648–BB24 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Chinook Salmon Bycatch Management in the Gulf of Alaska Pollock Fishery; Amendment 93 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of availability of fishery management plan amendment; request for comments. AGENCY: The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has submitted Amendment 93 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (FMP). Amendment 93, if approved, would establish separate prohibited species catch (PSC) limits in the Central and Western Regulatory Areas of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) for Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha). NMFS would close the directed pollock fishery in those areas if the applicable limit is reached. This action also would require full retention of salmon in the Central and Western GOA pollock fisheries until an observer SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00054 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 is provided the opportunity to count the number of salmon and to collect scientific data or biological samples from the salmon. This action is necessary to minimize Chinook salmon bycatch in the GOA pollock fishery to the extent practicable while preserving the potential for the full harvest of pollock total allowable catch within PSC limits. Amendment 93 is intended to promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the FMP, and other applicable laws. Comments on the amendment must be received on or before January 23, 2012. DATES: Send comments to Glenn Merrill, Assistant Regional Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region, NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian. You may submit comments, identified by FDMS Docket Number NOAA–NMFS–2011–0156, by any one of the following methods: • Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal https:// www.regulations.gov. To submit comments via the e-Rulemaking Portal, first click the ‘‘submit a comment’’ icon, then enter [NOAA–NMFS–2011–0156] in the keyword search. Locate the document you wish to comment on from the resulting list and click on the ADDRESSES: E:\FR\FM\23NOP1.SGM 23NOP1 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 226 / Wednesday, November 23, 2011 / Proposed Rules ‘‘Submit a Comment’’ icon on the right of that line. • Mail: Submit written comments to 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. Comments must be submitted by one of the above methods to ensure that the comments are received, documented, and considered by NMFS. Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered. All comments received are a part of the public record. 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 the Environmental Assessment/Regulatory Impact Review/Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (EA/RIR/IRFA) prepared for this action may be obtained from https://www.regulations.gov or from the Alaska Region Web site at https:// alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mary Grady, (907) 586–7228. 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. 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. This notice announces that proposed Amendment 93 to the FMP is available for public review and comment. The groundfish fisheries in the exclusive economic zone of the GOA are managed under the FMP. The FMP was prepared by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) under the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA). mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:29 Nov 22, 2011 Jkt 226001 Amendment 93 would apply only to the management of the pollock fishery (Theragra chalcogramma) in the Central and Western Reporting Areas of the GOA. The Central and Western GOA Reporting Areas, defined at § 679.2 and in Figure 3 to 50 CFR part 679, include the Central and Western Regulatory Areas (Statistical Areas 610, 620, and 630) and the adjacent State of Alaska (State) waters. The fisheries affected by this action would include the GOA State parallel fisheries for pollock that take place in State waters around Kodiak Island, in the Chignik Area, and along the South Alaska Peninsula. Pollock harvests in these parallel fisheries occur in State waters and are typically opened and closed concurrently with Federal fisheries. The harvest by vessel operators participating in either the State parallel or Federal fisheries are deducted from the Federal total allowable catch (TAC) and PSC would be deducted from applicable PSC limits at the time the harvest is reported. Harvest of Chinook salmon from vessels in the pollock parallel fisheries in State waters of the GOA will be deducted from the applicable PSC limit because coordinated State and Federal fisheries management provides consistent management for both groundfish and prohibited fish species that are distributed across State and Federal boundaries. Coordinated State and Federal fisheries management is desirable because the pollock fishery in parallel waters operate in both State and Federal waters and can cross the State and Federal boundary during a single haul. This management provides consistency to prevent confusion and eliminate loopholes that may occur under different requirements between State and Federal waters. Under parallel fisheries management the State and Federal fisheries are able to synchronize their seasons, which provides consistent time and area catch and management data for both groundfish and PSC limits. The EA/RIR/IRFA indicates that a substantial portion of the pollock TAC in these areas is taken in State waters, at least in some years. Counting Chinook salmon PSC from State waters towards attainment of the Chinook salmon PSC limit would promote the effectiveness of the Federal PSC limits to protect Chinook salmon stocks as well as the interests of Chinook salmon users. Applying this action to the parallel fisheries in years of high Chinook salmon PSC catch could prevent the fleet from diverting effort into State waters to avoid reaching the PSC limit, and could effectively limit or reduce Chinook salmon PSC. The Council recommended inclusion of the PO 00000 Frm 00055 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 72385 State parallel fisheries in this action because only by counting Chinook salmon PSC landed in State waters against the Chinook salmon PSC limits that apply in the EEZ can NMFS, the State, and the Council avoid an undesirable displacement of fishery effort into State waters to avoid accrual of Chinook salmon PSC, a shift that could actually have the effect of increasing Chinook salmon PSC. Under the proposed FMP amendment and proposed rule, Chinook salmon PSC in State waters would count against the limits. When a limit is reached, NMFS will close Federal waters. The limit and the possibility of closure should create an incentive for the fleet to fish in areas with lower Chinook salmon PSC rates. In addition, the State has indicated that it will close the parallel fishery if and when a Federal closure occurs, which will limit Chinook PSC throughout the Western and Central GOA reporting areas. If approved, Amendment 93 would establish PSC limits in the Central and Western GOA pollock fisheries. The annual PSC limit for the pollock fishery in the Central Reporting Area would be 18,316 Chinook salmon. The annual PSC limit for the pollock fishery in the Western Reporting Area would be 6,684 Chinook salmon. If the applicable Chinook salmon PSC limit for the respective regulatory area is reached, NMFS would close the directed pollock fishery in the respective regulatory area. The State would continue to manage the closures of the pollock fishery in State waters. The principal objective of Chinook salmon bycatch management in the GOA pollock fishery is to minimize Chinook salmon bycatch to the extent practicable, while enabling the pollock harvest to contribute substantially towards the attainment of optimum yield in the groundfish fishery on an ongoing basis. Minimizing Chinook salmon bycatch while achieving optimum yield is necessary to maintain a healthy marine ecosystem, ensure long-term conservation and abundance of Chinook salmon, provide maximum benefit to fishermen and communities that depend on Chinook salmon and pollock resources, and comply with the MSA and other applicable Federal law. In developing Amendment 93, the Council considered consistency with the Magnuson-Stevens Act’s 10 National Standards. The Council designed Amendment 93 to balance the competing demands of the National Standards. Specifically, the Council recognized the need to balance and be consistent with both National Standard 9 and National Standard 1. National E:\FR\FM\23NOP1.SGM 23NOP1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS 72386 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 226 / Wednesday, November 23, 2011 / Proposed Rules Standard 9 requires that conservation and management measures shall, to the extent practicable, minimize bycatch. National Standard 1 requires that conservation and management measures shall prevent overfishing while achieving, on a continuing basis, the optimum yield from each fishery for the U.S. fishing industry. The harvest of pollock in the Central and Western GOA contributes to the attainment of optimum yield in the GOA groundfish fishery; however, the ability to harvest the entire pollock TAC in any given year is not determinative of whether the GOA groundfish fishery achieves optimum yield on an ongoing basis. Providing the opportunity for the pollock fleet to harvest its TAC is one aspect of achieving optimum yield in the long term. The Council also considered the importance of equity among user groups in recommending Amendment 93. In addition to providing a fair and equitable apportionment of the total GOA-wide PSC limit between the Central and Western GOA pollock fisheries, the Council also considered the needs of Chinook salmon users. The Council noted that the Chinook salmon resource is of value to many stakeholders, including, but not limited to, commercial, recreational, and cultural user groups; and it is a resource that is currently fully utilized. By recommending a PSC limit that reduces Chinook salmon bycatch, the Council also has considered the needs of these other user groups and has recommended measures to promote their access to the Chinook salmon resource. Under Amendment 93, the Chinook salmon PSC limits are based on the Council’s recommended GOA-wide goal of limiting Chinook salmon bycatch to no more than 25,000 salmon in the Central and Western GOA pollock fisheries. The Council noted that the pollock fishery accounts for approximately 75 percent of Chinook salmon PSC in the GOA groundfish fisheries based on the Chinook salmon bycatch levels from 2001 to 2010. At final action, the Council selected a GOA-wide Chinook salmon PSC limit of 25,000 salmon, having previously considered a GOA-wide limit of 22,500 Chinook salmon. The Council apportioned the selected GOA-wide Chinook salmon PSC limit between the Central and Western GOA on the basis of annual Chinook salmon PSC levels and pollock harvests in each area, set at an equal ratio during 2001 to 2010 excluding 2007 and 2010, with an adjustment intended to prevent either area from bearing a disproportionate share of the economic impact of the PSC VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:29 Nov 22, 2011 Jkt 226001 limit. To apportion the 25,000 Chinook salmon PSC limit, the Council recommended a PSC limit for the Western GOA PSC that reflects the output of this formula, applied to a total GOA-wide PSC limit of 22,500 Chinook salmon, with no adjustment. The Council recommended a PSC limit for the Central GOA that reflects the output of this formula, applied to a GOA-wide PSC limit of 22,500 Chinook salmon, adjusted to allow for an additional 2,500 Chinook salmon. The Council recommended this increase to the Central GOA Chinook salmon PSC limit to enable a greater proportion of the overall pollock TAC to be harvested from the GOA and to more evenly balance the economic impacts to fishery participants in the Central GOA and fishery participants in the Western GOA. The analysis indicated that a Chinook salmon PSC limit in the Central GOA, based strictly on historic catch in the two areas with no adjustment, would have resulted in larger amounts of foregone pollock harvest by the pollock fishery in the Central GOA historically than the amount of pollock harvest that would have been foregone by the pollock fishery in the Western GOA under the corresponding limit in the Western GOA. The adjustment would likely reduce the amount of foregone pollock harvest in the Central GOA and the GOA as a whole. The adjustment would likely increase the total benefits realized from the harvest of the pollock resource and contribute toward the achievement of optimum yield from the GOA groundfish fishery as a whole, consistent with National Standard 1. The EA/RIR/IRFA indicates that under this action, the Central and Western GOA pollock fisheries should be able to harvest the full pollock TAC in each area based on the lower, longterm (17 year) average bycatch rate, although they would be unable to harvest the full TAC based on the recent (8 year), higher average bycatch rate. The Council intends to maintain a constraint on the fleet as an incentive to reduce bycatch while still allowing for optimum yield from the groundfish fishery. If Amendment 93 is approved, it is the Council’s expectation that the PSC limits recommended in this action would be implemented in mid-2012. If Amendment 93 is approved and PSC limits are implemented in mid-2012, reduced PSC limits would apply in 2012, and these reduced PSC limits would apply for the C and D seasons only (August 25 through November 1). The Council recommended the PSC limits for the 2012 C and D seasons at PO 00000 Frm 00056 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 the levels of 8,929 Chinook salmon in the GOA Central Reporting Area and 5,598 Chinook salmon in the GOA Western Reporting Area. If the Secretary approves the program, but NMFS cannot implement it before August 25, 2012, NMFS would implement it at the beginning of the next full fishing year (2013). If approved, Amendment 93 would also require temporary retention of all salmon intercepted in the Central and Western GOA pollock fisheries until an observer is provided the opportunity to count the number of salmon and to collect scientific data or biological samples from the salmon. The Amendment would not allow the sale or personal use of retained salmon. The FMP would defer to regulations to describe the specific requirements for retaining salmon. The proposed rule for this action would establish the requirements for retaining and handling intercepted salmon species in the GOA pollock fisheries in order to allow observers to count and sample salmon to obtain scientific information before the salmon must be discarded or donated to the Prohibited Species Donation Program. NMFS is soliciting public comments on proposed Amendment 93 through the end of the comment period (see DATES). NMFS intends to publish in the Federal Register and seek public comment on a proposed rule that would implement Amendment 93 following NMFS’ 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 Amendment 93 to be considered in the approval/ disapproval decision on Amendment 93. NMFS will consider all comments received by the end of the comment period on Amendment 93, whether specifically directed to the FMP Amendment or the proposed rule, in the FMP Amendment approval/disapproval decision. NMFS will not consider comments received after that date in the approval/ disapproval decision on the Amendment. To be considered, comments must be received, not just postmarked or otherwise transmitted, by the close of business on the last day of the comment period. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: November 17, 2011. Steven Thur, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2011–30267 Filed 11–22–11; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\23NOP1.SGM 23NOP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 226 (Wednesday, November 23, 2011)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 72384-72386]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-30267]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 679

RIN 0648-BB24


Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Chinook 
Salmon Bycatch Management in the Gulf of Alaska Pollock Fishery; 
Amendment 93

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

ACTION: Notice of availability of fishery management plan amendment; 
request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has submitted 
Amendment 93 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf 
of Alaska (FMP). Amendment 93, if approved, would establish separate 
prohibited species catch (PSC) limits in the Central and Western 
Regulatory Areas of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) for Chinook salmon 
(Oncorhynchus tshawytscha). NMFS would close the directed pollock 
fishery in those areas if the applicable limit is reached. This action 
also would require full retention of salmon in the Central and Western 
GOA pollock fisheries until an observer is provided the opportunity to 
count the number of salmon and to collect scientific data or biological 
samples from the salmon. This action is necessary to minimize Chinook 
salmon bycatch in the GOA pollock fishery to the extent practicable 
while preserving the potential for the full harvest of pollock total 
allowable catch within PSC limits. Amendment 93 is intended to promote 
the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation 
and Management Act, the FMP, and other applicable laws.

DATES: Comments on the amendment must be received on or before January 
23, 2012.

ADDRESSES: Send comments to Glenn Merrill, Assistant Regional 
Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region, NMFS, 
Attn: Ellen Sebastian. You may submit comments, identified by FDMS 
Docket Number NOAA-NMFS-2011-0156, by any one of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal https://www.regulations.gov. 
To submit comments via the e-Rulemaking Portal, first click the 
``submit a comment'' icon, then enter [NOAA-NMFS-2011-0156] in the 
keyword search. Locate the document you wish to comment on from the 
resulting list and click on the

[[Page 72385]]

``Submit a Comment'' icon on the right of that line.
     Mail: Submit written comments to 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.
    Comments must be submitted by one of the above methods to ensure 
that the comments are received, documented, and considered by NMFS. 
Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, 
or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered.
    All comments received are a part of the public record. 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 the Environmental Assessment/Regulatory Impact 
Review/Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (EA/RIR/IRFA) prepared 
for this action may be obtained from https://www.regulations.gov or from 
the Alaska Region Web site at https://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mary Grady, (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. 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. This notice 
announces that proposed Amendment 93 to the FMP is available for public 
review and comment.
    The groundfish fisheries in the exclusive economic zone of the GOA 
are managed under the FMP. The FMP was prepared by the North Pacific 
Fishery Management Council (Council) under the Magnuson-Stevens Act 
(MSA). Amendment 93 would apply only to the management of the pollock 
fishery (Theragra chalcogramma) in the Central and Western Reporting 
Areas of the GOA. The Central and Western GOA Reporting Areas, defined 
at Sec.  679.2 and in Figure 3 to 50 CFR part 679, include the Central 
and Western Regulatory Areas (Statistical Areas 610, 620, and 630) and 
the adjacent State of Alaska (State) waters. The fisheries affected by 
this action would include the GOA State parallel fisheries for pollock 
that take place in State waters around Kodiak Island, in the Chignik 
Area, and along the South Alaska Peninsula. Pollock harvests in these 
parallel fisheries occur in State waters and are typically opened and 
closed concurrently with Federal fisheries. The harvest by vessel 
operators participating in either the State parallel or Federal 
fisheries are deducted from the Federal total allowable catch (TAC) and 
PSC would be deducted from applicable PSC limits at the time the 
harvest is reported.
    Harvest of Chinook salmon from vessels in the pollock parallel 
fisheries in State waters of the GOA will be deducted from the 
applicable PSC limit because coordinated State and Federal fisheries 
management provides consistent management for both groundfish and 
prohibited fish species that are distributed across State and Federal 
boundaries. Coordinated State and Federal fisheries management is 
desirable because the pollock fishery in parallel waters operate in 
both State and Federal waters and can cross the State and Federal 
boundary during a single haul. This management provides consistency to 
prevent confusion and eliminate loopholes that may occur under 
different requirements between State and Federal waters. Under parallel 
fisheries management the State and Federal fisheries are able to 
synchronize their seasons, which provides consistent time and area 
catch and management data for both groundfish and PSC limits.
    The EA/RIR/IRFA indicates that a substantial portion of the pollock 
TAC in these areas is taken in State waters, at least in some years. 
Counting Chinook salmon PSC from State waters towards attainment of the 
Chinook salmon PSC limit would promote the effectiveness of the Federal 
PSC limits to protect Chinook salmon stocks as well as the interests of 
Chinook salmon users. Applying this action to the parallel fisheries in 
years of high Chinook salmon PSC catch could prevent the fleet from 
diverting effort into State waters to avoid reaching the PSC limit, and 
could effectively limit or reduce Chinook salmon PSC. The Council 
recommended inclusion of the State parallel fisheries in this action 
because only by counting Chinook salmon PSC landed in State waters 
against the Chinook salmon PSC limits that apply in the EEZ can NMFS, 
the State, and the Council avoid an undesirable displacement of fishery 
effort into State waters to avoid accrual of Chinook salmon PSC, a 
shift that could actually have the effect of increasing Chinook salmon 
PSC. Under the proposed FMP amendment and proposed rule, Chinook salmon 
PSC in State waters would count against the limits. When a limit is 
reached, NMFS will close Federal waters. The limit and the possibility 
of closure should create an incentive for the fleet to fish in areas 
with lower Chinook salmon PSC rates. In addition, the State has 
indicated that it will close the parallel fishery if and when a Federal 
closure occurs, which will limit Chinook PSC throughout the Western and 
Central GOA reporting areas.
    If approved, Amendment 93 would establish PSC limits in the Central 
and Western GOA pollock fisheries. The annual PSC limit for the pollock 
fishery in the Central Reporting Area would be 18,316 Chinook salmon. 
The annual PSC limit for the pollock fishery in the Western Reporting 
Area would be 6,684 Chinook salmon. If the applicable Chinook salmon 
PSC limit for the respective regulatory area is reached, NMFS would 
close the directed pollock fishery in the respective regulatory area. 
The State would continue to manage the closures of the pollock fishery 
in State waters.
    The principal objective of Chinook salmon bycatch management in the 
GOA pollock fishery is to minimize Chinook salmon bycatch to the extent 
practicable, while enabling the pollock harvest to contribute 
substantially towards the attainment of optimum yield in the groundfish 
fishery on an ongoing basis. Minimizing Chinook salmon bycatch while 
achieving optimum yield is necessary to maintain a healthy marine 
ecosystem, ensure long-term conservation and abundance of Chinook 
salmon, provide maximum benefit to fishermen and communities that 
depend on Chinook salmon and pollock resources, and comply with the MSA 
and other applicable Federal law.
    In developing Amendment 93, the Council considered consistency with 
the Magnuson-Stevens Act's 10 National Standards. The Council designed 
Amendment 93 to balance the competing demands of the National 
Standards. Specifically, the Council recognized the need to balance and 
be consistent with both National Standard 9 and National Standard 1. 
National

[[Page 72386]]

Standard 9 requires that conservation and management measures shall, to 
the extent practicable, minimize bycatch. National Standard 1 requires 
that conservation and management measures shall prevent overfishing 
while achieving, on a continuing basis, the optimum yield from each 
fishery for the U.S. fishing industry. The harvest of pollock in the 
Central and Western GOA contributes to the attainment of optimum yield 
in the GOA groundfish fishery; however, the ability to harvest the 
entire pollock TAC in any given year is not determinative of whether 
the GOA groundfish fishery achieves optimum yield on an ongoing basis. 
Providing the opportunity for the pollock fleet to harvest its TAC is 
one aspect of achieving optimum yield in the long term.
    The Council also considered the importance of equity among user 
groups in recommending Amendment 93. In addition to providing a fair 
and equitable apportionment of the total GOA-wide PSC limit between the 
Central and Western GOA pollock fisheries, the Council also considered 
the needs of Chinook salmon users. The Council noted that the Chinook 
salmon resource is of value to many stakeholders, including, but not 
limited to, commercial, recreational, and cultural user groups; and it 
is a resource that is currently fully utilized. By recommending a PSC 
limit that reduces Chinook salmon bycatch, the Council also has 
considered the needs of these other user groups and has recommended 
measures to promote their access to the Chinook salmon resource.
    Under Amendment 93, the Chinook salmon PSC limits are based on the 
Council's recommended GOA-wide goal of limiting Chinook salmon bycatch 
to no more than 25,000 salmon in the Central and Western GOA pollock 
fisheries. The Council noted that the pollock fishery accounts for 
approximately 75 percent of Chinook salmon PSC in the GOA groundfish 
fisheries based on the Chinook salmon bycatch levels from 2001 to 2010. 
At final action, the Council selected a GOA-wide Chinook salmon PSC 
limit of 25,000 salmon, having previously considered a GOA-wide limit 
of 22,500 Chinook salmon. The Council apportioned the selected GOA-wide 
Chinook salmon PSC limit between the Central and Western GOA on the 
basis of annual Chinook salmon PSC levels and pollock harvests in each 
area, set at an equal ratio during 2001 to 2010 excluding 2007 and 
2010, with an adjustment intended to prevent either area from bearing a 
disproportionate share of the economic impact of the PSC limit. To 
apportion the 25,000 Chinook salmon PSC limit, the Council recommended 
a PSC limit for the Western GOA PSC that reflects the output of this 
formula, applied to a total GOA-wide PSC limit of 22,500 Chinook 
salmon, with no adjustment. The Council recommended a PSC limit for the 
Central GOA that reflects the output of this formula, applied to a GOA-
wide PSC limit of 22,500 Chinook salmon, adjusted to allow for an 
additional 2,500 Chinook salmon. The Council recommended this increase 
to the Central GOA Chinook salmon PSC limit to enable a greater 
proportion of the overall pollock TAC to be harvested from the GOA and 
to more evenly balance the economic impacts to fishery participants in 
the Central GOA and fishery participants in the Western GOA. The 
analysis indicated that a Chinook salmon PSC limit in the Central GOA, 
based strictly on historic catch in the two areas with no adjustment, 
would have resulted in larger amounts of foregone pollock harvest by 
the pollock fishery in the Central GOA historically than the amount of 
pollock harvest that would have been foregone by the pollock fishery in 
the Western GOA under the corresponding limit in the Western GOA. The 
adjustment would likely reduce the amount of foregone pollock harvest 
in the Central GOA and the GOA as a whole. The adjustment would likely 
increase the total benefits realized from the harvest of the pollock 
resource and contribute toward the achievement of optimum yield from 
the GOA groundfish fishery as a whole, consistent with National 
Standard 1.
    The EA/RIR/IRFA indicates that under this action, the Central and 
Western GOA pollock fisheries should be able to harvest the full 
pollock TAC in each area based on the lower, long-term (17 year) 
average bycatch rate, although they would be unable to harvest the full 
TAC based on the recent (8 year), higher average bycatch rate. The 
Council intends to maintain a constraint on the fleet as an incentive 
to reduce bycatch while still allowing for optimum yield from the 
groundfish fishery.
    If Amendment 93 is approved, it is the Council's expectation that 
the PSC limits recommended in this action would be implemented in mid-
2012. If Amendment 93 is approved and PSC limits are implemented in 
mid-2012, reduced PSC limits would apply in 2012, and these reduced PSC 
limits would apply for the C and D seasons only (August 25 through 
November 1). The Council recommended the PSC limits for the 2012 C and 
D seasons at the levels of 8,929 Chinook salmon in the GOA Central 
Reporting Area and 5,598 Chinook salmon in the GOA Western Reporting 
Area. If the Secretary approves the program, but NMFS cannot implement 
it before August 25, 2012, NMFS would implement it at the beginning of 
the next full fishing year (2013).
    If approved, Amendment 93 would also require temporary retention of 
all salmon intercepted in the Central and Western GOA pollock fisheries 
until an observer is provided the opportunity to count the number of 
salmon and to collect scientific data or biological samples from the 
salmon. The Amendment would not allow the sale or personal use of 
retained salmon. The FMP would defer to regulations to describe the 
specific requirements for retaining salmon. The proposed rule for this 
action would establish the requirements for retaining and handling 
intercepted salmon species in the GOA pollock fisheries in order to 
allow observers to count and sample salmon to obtain scientific 
information before the salmon must be discarded or donated to the 
Prohibited Species Donation Program.
    NMFS is soliciting public comments on proposed Amendment 93 through 
the end of the comment period (see DATES). NMFS intends to publish in 
the Federal Register and seek public comment on a proposed rule that 
would implement Amendment 93 following NMFS' 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 Amendment 93 
to be considered in the approval/disapproval decision on Amendment 93. 
NMFS will consider all comments received by the end of the comment 
period on Amendment 93, whether specifically directed to the FMP 
Amendment or the proposed rule, in the FMP Amendment approval/
disapproval decision.
    NMFS will not consider comments received after that date in the 
approval/disapproval decision on the Amendment. To be considered, 
comments must be received, not just postmarked or otherwise 
transmitted, by the close of business on the last day of the comment 
period.

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

    Dated: November 17, 2011.
Steven Thur,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2011-30267 Filed 11-22-11; 8:45 am]
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