Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Skates Management in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area; Habitat Areas of Particular Concern, 1378-1379 [2015-00170]

Download as PDF rljohnson on DSK3VPTVN1PROD with RULES 1378 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 6 / Friday, January 9, 2015 / Rules and Regulations or surrogate may rescind the request for revocation. If VA suspects that the safety of the eligible veteran is at risk, then VA may suspend the caregiver’s responsibilities, and remove the eligible veteran from the home if requested by the eligible veteran, or take other appropriate action to ensure the welfare of the eligible veteran, prior to making a formal revocation. (4) Caregiver benefits will continue for 30 days after the date of revocation, and VA will, if requested by the Family Caregiver, assist the individual with transitioning to alternative health care coverage and mental health services, unless one of the following is true: (i) VA determines that the Family Caregiver committed fraud or abused or neglected the eligible veteran, in which case benefits will terminate immediately. (ii) If the revoked individual was the Primary Family Caregiver, and another Primary Family Caregiver is designated within 30 days after the date of revocation, in which case benefits for the revoked Primary Family Caregiver will terminate the day before the date the new Primary Family Caregiver is designated. (iii) If another individual is designated to be a Family Caregiver within 30 days after the date of revocation, such that there are three Family Caregivers assigned to the eligible veteran, in which case benefits for the revoked Family Caregiver will terminate the day before the date the new Family Caregiver is designated. (iv) The revoked individual had been living with the eligible veteran and moves out, or the revoked individual abandons or terminates his or her relationship with the eligible veteran, in which case benefits will terminate immediately. (c) Revocation by VA. VA may immediately revoke the designation of a Family Caregiver if the eligible veteran or individual designated as a Family Caregiver no longer meets the requirements of this part, or if VA makes the clinical determination that having the Family Caregiver is no longer in the best interest of the eligible veteran. VA will, if requested by the Family Caregiver, assist him or her in transitioning to alternative health care coverage and mental health services. If revocation is due to improvement in the eligible veteran’s condition, death, or permanent institutionalization, the Family Caregiver will continue to receive caregiver benefits for 90 days, unless any of the conditions described in paragraphs (b)(4)(i) through (iv) of this section apply, in which case benefits will terminate as specified. In VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:52 Jan 08, 2015 Jkt 235001 addition, bereavement counseling may be available under 38 U.S.C. 1783. If VA suspects that the safety of the eligible veteran is at risk, then VA may suspend the caregiver’s responsibilities, and remove the eligible veteran from the home if requested by the eligible veteran or take other appropriate action to ensure the welfare of the eligible veteran, prior to making a formal revocation. [FR Doc. 2015–00071 Filed 1–8–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 8320–01–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 679 RIN 0648–XD287 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Skates Management in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area; Habitat Areas of Particular Concern National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of Agency decision. AGENCY: The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announces the approval of Amendment 104 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (FMP). Amendment 104 to the FMP designates six areas of skate egg concentration as Habitat Areas of Particular Concern (HAPC). The HAPC designations for the six areas of skate egg concentration in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (BSAI) are intended to highlight the importance of this essential fish habitat for conservation. This action promotes 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 January 5, 2015. ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of Amendment 104 to the FMP and the Environmental Assessment (EA) prepared for this action are available from the Alaska Region NMFS Web site at http://www.alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/ analyses/default.htm. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Seanbob Kelly, 907–271–5195. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00050 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) requires that each regional fishery management council submit proposed amendments to a fishery management plan to NMFS for review and approval, disapproval, or partial approval by the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary). The MagnusonStevens Act also requires that, upon receiving a fishery management plan amendment, NMFS immediately publish in the Federal Register a notice that the amendment is available for public review and comment. The Notice of Availability for Amendment 104 was published in the Federal Register on October 8, 2014 (79 FR 60802), with a 60-day comment period that ended on December 8, 2014. NMFS received three comment letters that contained five substantive comments during the public comment period on the Notice of Availability for Amendment 104. No changes were made in response to these comments. NMFS summarized and responded to these comments under Comment and Responses, below. NMFS determined that Amendment 104 to the FMP is consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable laws, and the Secretary approved Amendment 104 on January 5, 2015. The October 8, 2014, Notice of Availability contains additional information on this action. No changes to Federal regulations are necessary to implement Amendment 104. HAPC are geographic sites that fall within the distribution of essential fish habitat (EFH) for federally-managed species. HAPC are areas of special importance that may require additional protection from the adverse effects of fishing. EFH provisions provide a means for the Council to identify HAPC (50 CFR 600.815(a)(8)) in fishery management plans based on the rarity of the habitat type and at least one or more of the following considerations: the importance of the ecological function provided by the habitat; the extent to which the habitat is sensitive to humaninduced environmental disturbance or degradation; and whether, and to what extent, development activities are, or will be, stressing the habitat type. The designation of HAPC does not require the implementation of regulations to limit fishing within HAPC unless such measures are determined to be necessary. EFH provisions require that a Council and NMFS act to prevent, mitigate, or minimize any adverse effects from fishing, to the extent practicable, if there is evidence that a fishing activity adversely affects EFH in a manner that is more than minimal and not temporary in nature (50 CFR E:\FR\FM\09JAR1.SGM 09JAR1 rljohnson on DSK3VPTVN1PROD with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 6 / Friday, January 9, 2015 / Rules and Regulations 600.815(a)(2)(ii)). Because HAPC is a type of EFH, these regulatory provisions also apply to HAPC. Amendment 104 to the FMP was unanimously adopted by the Council in February 2013. Amendment 104 designates as HAPC six areas in the eastern Bering Sea where relatively high concentrations of skate eggs occur for several skate species (family Rajidae). Amendment 104 amends (1) Section 4.2.3.2 of the FMP to add six areas of skate egg concentration as HAPC, and (2) Appendix B of the FMP to include coordinates and maps that designate these HAPC. Amendment 104 adds Section 3.5.2.4.2 to the FMP to note that fishing activities are not restricted within these HAPC. The Council and NMFS determined that these six areas met the definition of HAPC because they are rare and provide an important ecological function. These areas encompass approximately 82 square nautical miles of habitat, or less than 0.1 percent of the total area of the BSAI. These areas are discrete sites near the shelf/slope break with unique abiotic features (e.g., substrate composition) that serve as important spawning and embryonic development areas for skate species. At each of these six areas, scientists repeatedly observed a relatively high occurrence of skate egg cases during stock assessment surveys and from fishery observer samples collected from vessels deploying fishing gear that contacted the sea floor (e.g., non-pelagic trawl gear). The best available scientific information does not indicate that human-induced degradation (e.g., adverse effects from fishing or non-fishing) is occurring. Because human-induced degradation from fishing or other activities is not observed currently, the Council did not consider this HAPC designation criterion as having been met. The Council recommended Amendment 104 to the FMP to designate the six areas of skate egg concentrations that meet the Council’s HAPC criteria. The Council also determined that designating these areas as HAPC would provide additional focus for the review of and consultation on proposed and existing activities (e.g., drilling, laying cables, seismic exploration, fishing) within these HAPC. An EA was prepared for Amendment 104 that describes the six areas of skate egg concentration, the fishery VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:52 Jan 08, 2015 Jkt 235001 management background, the purpose and need for the action, the management alternatives evaluated to address this action, and the environmental, social, and economic impacts of the alternatives (see ADDRESSES). Comments and Responses During the public comment period for the Notice of Availability for Amendment 104, NMFS received three comment letters from three unique members of the public that contained five substantive comments. No changes to the amendment text were needed in response to the public comments. NMFS’ responses to these comments are presented below. Comment 1: One commenter expressed support for this action. Response: NMFS acknowledges this comment. Comment 2: One commenter expressed a general discontent with fisheries management. Response: NMFS acknowledges this comment and notes that it is outside of the scope of Amendment 104. Comment 3: Fishing should be banned in the six HAPC because NMFS is unable to prevent fishermen from exceeding allocations or illegally participating in the groundfish fisheries. Response: NMFS disagrees. Before adopting Amendment 104, the Council considered an alternative (Alternative 3) that would have limited fishing within the proposed HAPC. The Council did not recommend regulations to limit fishing as part of this action because there is no evidence of adverse effects from fishing on skate populations within these HAPC that would need to be addressed through regulation. For example, the types of fishing gear used in the six HAPC have a minimal and temporary impact on skate habitat, and fishing effort is limited or does not occur in four of the six HAPC. Therefore, continued commercial fishing at the current rate and intensity is not likely to alter the capacity of EFH within these HAPC to support healthy populations of skates over the long term, as noted in Section 3.5.2 of the EA prepared for this action (See ADDRESSES). No new information exists that indicates that fishing activities are adversely affecting skate egg deposition and embryonic development within these HAPC. NMFS will continue monitoring fishing activities within these six HAPC. PO 00000 Frm 00051 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 9990 1379 NMFS monitors these HAPC by analyzing data collected through existing data sources such as stock assessment surveys and fishery observers. This monitoring will inform the Council and NMFS when there are major changes in fishing effort or other potential impacts to skate habitat within these HAPC. If through monitoring, NMFS and the Council learn that skate recruitment or overall biomass of a skate species has changed due to fishing impacts within these HAPC, the Council could recommend and NMFS could implement action to restrict fishing activities within these HAPC to protect the skate stocks dependent on the six HAPC established by this action. Comment 4: Skates are important to the marine ecosystem. The six HAPC must be monitored for non-fishing impacts like abiotic changes in the environment. Response: NMFS agrees. As noted in the response to comment 3, NMFS will continue to monitor the utility of these sites for skate spawning and embryonic development. This includes further study of the relationship between the biotic and abiotic habitat features of the sites and site selection for skate egg deposition. Incorporating the research and monitoring of skate species into the Council’s annual research priority list will provide additional research focus on these HAPC. This research is intended to improve the understanding of skate populations, the importance of areas of skate egg concentration, and skate ecology and habitat. Comment 5: The commonly accepted scientific term used for the HAPC areas designated under Amendment 104 is ‘‘skate nurseries.’’ We recommend that NMFS clarify that the ‘‘areas of skate egg concentrations’’ designated as HAPC are equivalent to ‘‘skate nursery’’ sites. Response: NMFS agrees and notes that Section 2.4.4 of the EA prepared for this action (See ADDRESSES) acknowledges that the term ‘‘areas of skate egg concentrations’’ is synonymous with the term ‘‘skate nurseries’’. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: January 5, 2015. Eileen Sobeck, Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2015–00170 Filed 1–8–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\09JAR1.SGM 09JAR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 6 (Friday, January 9, 2015)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 1378-1379]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-00170]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 679

RIN 0648-XD287


Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Skates 
Management in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area; 
Habitat Areas of Particular Concern

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

ACTION: Notice of Agency decision.

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SUMMARY: The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announces the 
approval of Amendment 104 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish 
of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (FMP). Amendment 
104 to the FMP designates six areas of skate egg concentration as 
Habitat Areas of Particular Concern (HAPC). The HAPC designations for 
the six areas of skate egg concentration in the Bering Sea and Aleutian 
Islands Management Area (BSAI) are intended to highlight the importance 
of this essential fish habitat for conservation. This action promotes 
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 January 5, 2015.

ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of Amendment 104 to the FMP and the 
Environmental Assessment (EA) prepared for this action are available 
from the Alaska Region NMFS Web site at http://www.alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/analyses/default.htm.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Seanbob Kelly, 907-271-5195.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation 
and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) requires that each regional 
fishery management council submit proposed amendments to a fishery 
management plan to NMFS for review and approval, disapproval, or 
partial approval by the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary). The 
Magnuson-Stevens Act also requires that, upon receiving a fishery 
management plan amendment, NMFS immediately publish in the Federal 
Register a notice that the amendment is available for public review and 
comment.
    The Notice of Availability for Amendment 104 was published in the 
Federal Register on October 8, 2014 (79 FR 60802), with a 60-day 
comment period that ended on December 8, 2014. NMFS received three 
comment letters that contained five substantive comments during the 
public comment period on the Notice of Availability for Amendment 104. 
No changes were made in response to these comments. NMFS summarized and 
responded to these comments under Comment and Responses, below.
    NMFS determined that Amendment 104 to the FMP is consistent with 
the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable laws, and the Secretary 
approved Amendment 104 on January 5, 2015. The October 8, 2014, Notice 
of Availability contains additional information on this action. No 
changes to Federal regulations are necessary to implement Amendment 
104.
    HAPC are geographic sites that fall within the distribution of 
essential fish habitat (EFH) for federally-managed species. HAPC are 
areas of special importance that may require additional protection from 
the adverse effects of fishing. EFH provisions provide a means for the 
Council to identify HAPC (50 CFR 600.815(a)(8)) in fishery management 
plans based on the rarity of the habitat type and at least one or more 
of the following considerations: the importance of the ecological 
function provided by the habitat; the extent to which the habitat is 
sensitive to human-induced environmental disturbance or degradation; 
and whether, and to what extent, development activities are, or will 
be, stressing the habitat type. The designation of HAPC does not 
require the implementation of regulations to limit fishing within HAPC 
unless such measures are determined to be necessary. EFH provisions 
require that a Council and NMFS act to prevent, mitigate, or minimize 
any adverse effects from fishing, to the extent practicable, if there 
is evidence that a fishing activity adversely affects EFH in a manner 
that is more than minimal and not temporary in nature (50 CFR

[[Page 1379]]

600.815(a)(2)(ii)). Because HAPC is a type of EFH, these regulatory 
provisions also apply to HAPC.
    Amendment 104 to the FMP was unanimously adopted by the Council in 
February 2013. Amendment 104 designates as HAPC six areas in the 
eastern Bering Sea where relatively high concentrations of skate eggs 
occur for several skate species (family Rajidae). Amendment 104 amends 
(1) Section 4.2.3.2 of the FMP to add six areas of skate egg 
concentration as HAPC, and (2) Appendix B of the FMP to include 
coordinates and maps that designate these HAPC. Amendment 104 adds 
Section 3.5.2.4.2 to the FMP to note that fishing activities are not 
restricted within these HAPC.
    The Council and NMFS determined that these six areas met the 
definition of HAPC because they are rare and provide an important 
ecological function. These areas encompass approximately 82 square 
nautical miles of habitat, or less than 0.1 percent of the total area 
of the BSAI. These areas are discrete sites near the shelf/slope break 
with unique abiotic features (e.g., substrate composition) that serve 
as important spawning and embryonic development areas for skate 
species. At each of these six areas, scientists repeatedly observed a 
relatively high occurrence of skate egg cases during stock assessment 
surveys and from fishery observer samples collected from vessels 
deploying fishing gear that contacted the sea floor (e.g., non-pelagic 
trawl gear). The best available scientific information does not 
indicate that human-induced degradation (e.g., adverse effects from 
fishing or non-fishing) is occurring. Because human-induced degradation 
from fishing or other activities is not observed currently, the Council 
did not consider this HAPC designation criterion as having been met.
    The Council recommended Amendment 104 to the FMP to designate the 
six areas of skate egg concentrations that meet the Council's HAPC 
criteria. The Council also determined that designating these areas as 
HAPC would provide additional focus for the review of and consultation 
on proposed and existing activities (e.g., drilling, laying cables, 
seismic exploration, fishing) within these HAPC.
    An EA was prepared for Amendment 104 that describes the six areas 
of skate egg concentration, the fishery management background, the 
purpose and need for the action, the management alternatives evaluated 
to address this action, and the environmental, social, and economic 
impacts of the alternatives (see ADDRESSES).

Comments and Responses

    During the public comment period for the Notice of Availability for 
Amendment 104, NMFS received three comment letters from three unique 
members of the public that contained five substantive comments. No 
changes to the amendment text were needed in response to the public 
comments. NMFS' responses to these comments are presented below.
    Comment 1: One commenter expressed support for this action.
    Response: NMFS acknowledges this comment.
    Comment 2: One commenter expressed a general discontent with 
fisheries management.
    Response: NMFS acknowledges this comment and notes that it is 
outside of the scope of Amendment 104.
    Comment 3: Fishing should be banned in the six HAPC because NMFS is 
unable to prevent fishermen from exceeding allocations or illegally 
participating in the groundfish fisheries.
    Response: NMFS disagrees. Before adopting Amendment 104, the 
Council considered an alternative (Alternative 3) that would have 
limited fishing within the proposed HAPC. The Council did not recommend 
regulations to limit fishing as part of this action because there is no 
evidence of adverse effects from fishing on skate populations within 
these HAPC that would need to be addressed through regulation. For 
example, the types of fishing gear used in the six HAPC have a minimal 
and temporary impact on skate habitat, and fishing effort is limited or 
does not occur in four of the six HAPC. Therefore, continued commercial 
fishing at the current rate and intensity is not likely to alter the 
capacity of EFH within these HAPC to support healthy populations of 
skates over the long term, as noted in Section 3.5.2 of the EA prepared 
for this action (See ADDRESSES). No new information exists that 
indicates that fishing activities are adversely affecting skate egg 
deposition and embryonic development within these HAPC.
    NMFS will continue monitoring fishing activities within these six 
HAPC. NMFS monitors these HAPC by analyzing data collected through 
existing data sources such as stock assessment surveys and fishery 
observers. This monitoring will inform the Council and NMFS when there 
are major changes in fishing effort or other potential impacts to skate 
habitat within these HAPC. If through monitoring, NMFS and the Council 
learn that skate recruitment or overall biomass of a skate species has 
changed due to fishing impacts within these HAPC, the Council could 
recommend and NMFS could implement action to restrict fishing 
activities within these HAPC to protect the skate stocks dependent on 
the six HAPC established by this action.
    Comment 4: Skates are important to the marine ecosystem. The six 
HAPC must be monitored for non-fishing impacts like abiotic changes in 
the environment.
    Response: NMFS agrees. As noted in the response to comment 3, NMFS 
will continue to monitor the utility of these sites for skate spawning 
and embryonic development. This includes further study of the 
relationship between the biotic and abiotic habitat features of the 
sites and site selection for skate egg deposition. Incorporating the 
research and monitoring of skate species into the Council's annual 
research priority list will provide additional research focus on these 
HAPC. This research is intended to improve the understanding of skate 
populations, the importance of areas of skate egg concentration, and 
skate ecology and habitat.
    Comment 5: The commonly accepted scientific term used for the HAPC 
areas designated under Amendment 104 is ``skate nurseries.'' We 
recommend that NMFS clarify that the ``areas of skate egg 
concentrations'' designated as HAPC are equivalent to ``skate nursery'' 
sites.
    Response: NMFS agrees and notes that Section 2.4.4 of the EA 
prepared for this action (See ADDRESSES) acknowledges that the term 
``areas of skate egg concentrations'' is synonymous with the term 
``skate nurseries''.

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

    Dated: January 5, 2015.
Eileen Sobeck,
Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2015-00170 Filed 1-8-15; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P