Fisheries Off West Coast States; Coastal Pelagic Species Fisheries; Annual Specifications, 29296-29298 [2015-12321]

Download as PDF 29296 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 98 / Thursday, May 21, 2015 / Proposed Rules signature, address, telephone number, if any, and the association, institution, or business affiliation, if any, of the petitioner. If a petition is withdrawn, the Secretary may, at his or her discretion, discontinue action on the petition finding, even if the Secretary has already made a positive 90-day finding. Dated: May 15, 2015. Michael J. Bean, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. Dated: May 13, 2015. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2015–12316 Filed 5–20–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–55–P; 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 660 [Docket No. 150428405–5405–01] RIN 0648–XD927 Fisheries Off West Coast States; Coastal Pelagic Species Fisheries; Annual Specifications National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule. AGENCY: NMFS proposes to implement annual management measures and harvest specifications to establish the allowable catch levels (i.e. annual catch limit (ACL)/harvest guideline (HG)) for the northern subpopulation of Pacific sardine (hereafter, simply Pacific sardine), in the U.S. exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off the Pacific coast for the fishing season of July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2016. This rule is proposed according to the Coastal Pelagic Species (CPS) Fishery Management Plan (FMP). The proposed would include a prohibition on directed non-tribal Pacific sardine commercial fishing for Pacific sardine off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California, which is required because the estimated 2015 biomass of Pacific sardine has dropped below the cutoff threshold in the HG control rule. Under the proposed action Pacific sardine may still be harvested as part of either the live bait or tribal fishery or incidental to other fisheries; the incidental harvest of Pacific sardine would initially be tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:21 May 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 limited to 40-percent by weight of all fish per trip when caught with other CPS or up to 2 metric tons (mt) when caught with non-CPS. The proposed annual catch limit (ACL) for 2015–2016 Pacific sardine fishing year is 7,000 mt. This proposed rule is intended to conserve and manage the Pacific sardine stock off the U.S. West Coast. DATES: Comments must be received by June 5, 2015. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document identified by NOAA– NMFS–2015–0064 by any of the following methods: • Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20150064, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Submit written comments to William W. Stelle, Jr., Regional Administrator, West Coast Region, NMFS, 7600 Sand Point Way NE., Seattle, WA 98115–0070; Attn: Joshua Lindsay. • Instructions: 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 by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/ A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Copies of the report ‘‘Assessment of Pacific Sardine Resource in 2015 for U.S.A. Management in 2015–2016’’ may be obtained from the West Coast Regional Office (see ADDRESSES). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Joshua Lindsay, West Coast Region, NMFS, (562) 980–4034. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: During public meetings each year, the estimated biomass for Pacific sardine is presented to the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s (Council) CPS Management Team (Team), the Council’s CPS Advisory Subpanel (Subpanel) and the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC), and the biomass and the status of the fishery are reviewed and discussed. The biomass estimate is then presented to the Council along with the calculated overfishing limit (OFL), available biological catch (ABC), PO 00000 Frm 00073 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 and HG, along with recommendations and comments from the Team, Subpanel, and SSC. Following review by the Council and after hearing public comment, the Council adopts a biomass estimate and makes its catch level recommendations to NMFS. NMFS manages the Pacific sardine fishery in the U.S. EEZ off the Pacific coast (California, Oregon, and Washington) in accordance with the FMP. Annual specifications published in the Federal Register establish the allowable harvest levels (i.e. OFL/ACL/HG) for each Pacific sardine fishing year. The purpose of this proposed rule is to implement these annual catch reference points for 2015–2016, including the OFL and an ABC that takes into consideration uncertainty surrounding the current estimate of biomass for Pacific sardine in the U.S. EEZ off the Pacific coast. The FMP and its implementing regulations require NMFS to set these annual catch levels for the Pacific sardine fishery based on the annual specification framework and control rules in the FMP. These control rules include the HG control rule, which in conjunction with the OFL and ABC rules in the FMP, are used to manage harvest levels for Pacific sardine, in accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. According to the FMP, the quota for the principle commercial fishery is determined using the FMP-specified harvest guideline (HG) formula. The HG formula in the CPS FMP is HG = [(Biomass ¥ CUTOFF) * FRACTION * DISTRIBUTION] with the parameters described as follows: 1. Biomass. The estimated stock biomass of Pacific sardine age one and above. For the 2015–2016 management season this is 96,688 mt. 2. CUTOFF. This is the biomass level below which no HG is set. The FMP established this level at 150,000 mt. 3. DISTRIBUTION. The average portion of the Pacific sardine biomass estimated in the EEZ off the Pacific coast is 87 percent. 4. FRACTION. The temperaturevarying harvest fraction is the percentage of the biomass above 150,000 mt that may be harvested. As described above, the Pacific sardine HG control rule, the primary mechanism for setting the annual directed commercial fishery quota, includes a CUTOFF parameter which has been set as a biomass amount of 150,000 mt. This amount is subtracted from the annual biomass estimate before calculating the applicable HG for the fishing year. Therefore, because this year’s biomass estimate is below that E:\FR\FM\21MYP1.SGM 21MYP1 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 98 / Thursday, May 21, 2015 / Proposed Rules value, the formula results in an HG of zero and therefore no Pacific sardine are available for the commercial directed fishery during the 2015–2016 fishing season. At the April 2015 Council meeting, the Council adopted the ‘‘Assessment of the Pacific Sardine Resource in 2015 for U.S.A. Management in 2015–2016’’ completed by NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center and the resulting Pacific sardine biomass estimate of 96,688 mt. Based on recommendations from its SSC and other advisory bodies, the Council recommended and NMFS is proposing, an OFL of 13,227 mt, an ABC of 12,074 mt, and a prohibition on sardine catch unless it is harvested as part of either the live bait or tribal fishery or incidental to other fisheries for the 2015–2016 Pacific sardine fishing year. As additional conservation measures, the Council also recommended and NMFS is proposing an ACL of 7,000 mt and an annual catch target (ACT) of 4,000 mt under which the incidental catch of Pacific sardine in other CPS fisheries would be managed. Incidental catch under the ACT would also be subject to the following management controls to reduce targeting and potential discard of Pacific sardine: (1) A 40 percent by weight incidental catch rate when Pacific sardine are landed with other CPS until a total of 1,500 mt of Pacific sardine are landed, (2) after 1,500 mt have been caught the allowance would be reduced to 30 percent, and (3) when 4,000 mt is reached the incidental per landing allowance would be reduced to 5 percent for the remainder of the 2015– 2016 fishing year. Additionally, the council adopted a 2 mt incidental per landing allowance in non-CPS fisheries. Because Pacific sardine is known to comingle with other CPS stocks, these incidental allowances were adopted to allow for the continued prosecution of these other important CPS fisheries and reduce the potential discard of sardine. The NMFS West Coast Regional Administrator would publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing the date of attainment of any of the incidental catch levels described above and subsequent changes to allowable incidental catch percentages. Additionally, to ensure the regulated community is informed of any closure, NMFS will also make announcements through other means available, including fax, email, and mail to fishermen, processors, and state fishery management agencies. In the previous 3 fishing years the Quinault Indian Nation requested, and NMFS approved, set-asides for the VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:21 May 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 exclusive right to harvest Pacific sardine in the Quinault Usual and Accustomed Fishing Area off the coast of Washington State, pursuant to the 1856 Treaty of Olympia (Treaty with the Quinault). For the 2015–2016 fishing season the Quinault Indian Nation has requested that NMFS provide a set-aside of 1,000 mt (3,000 mt less than was requested and approved in 2014–2015) and NMFS is considering the request. Detailed information on the fishery and the stock assessment are found in the report ‘‘Assessment of the Pacific Sardine Resource in 2015 for U.S.A. Management in 2015–2016’’ (see ADDRESSES). Classification Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is consistent with the CPS FMP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, and other applicable law, subject to further consideration after public comment. These proposed specifications are exempt from review under Executive Order 12866 because they contain no implementing regulations. An Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) was prepared, as required by section 3 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 603. The IRFA describes the economic impact this proposed rule, if adopted, would have on small entities. A description of the action, why it is being considered, and the legal basis for this action are contained at the beginning of this section in the preamble and in the SUMMARY section of the preamble. The results of the analysis are stated below. For copies of the IRFA, and instructions on how to send comments on the IRFA, please see the ADDRESSES section above. On June 12, 2014, the Small Business Administration (SBA) issued an interim final rule revising the small business size standards for several industries effective July 14, 2014 (79 FR 33467). The rule increased the size standard for Finfish Fishing from $19.0 to 20.5 million, Shellfish Fishing from $5.0 to 5.5 million, and Other Marine Fishing from $7.0 to 7.5 million. 78 FR 33656, 33660, 33666 (See Table 1). NMFS conducted its analysis for this action in light of the new size standards. The purpose of this proposed rule is to conserve the Pacific sardine stock by preventing overfishing, so that directed fishing may occur in future years. This is accomplished by implementing the 2015–2016 annual specifications for PO 00000 Frm 00074 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 29297 Pacific sardine in the U.S. EEZ off the Pacific coast. The small entities that would be affected by the proposed action are the vessels that fish for Pacific sardine as part of the West Coast CPS small purse seine fleet. As stated above, the U.S. Small Business Administration now defines small businesses engaged in finfish fishing as those vessels with annual revenues of $20.5 million or less. Under the former, lower standards, all entities subject to this action in previous years were considered small entities, and under the new standards they continue to be considered small. In 2014, there were approximately 81 vessels permitted to operate in the directed sardine fishery component of the CPS fishery off the U.S. West Coast; 58 vessels in the Federal CPS limited entry fishery off California (south of 39 N. lat.), and a combined 23 vessels in Oregon and Washington’s state Pacific sardine fisheries. The average annual per vessel revenue in 2014 for the West Coast CPS finfish fleet was well below $20.5 million; therefore, all of these vessels therefore are considered small businesses under the RFA. Because each affected vessel is a small business, this proposed rule has an equal effect on all of these small entities and therefore will impact a substantial number of these small entities in the same manner. Therefore, this rule would not create disproportionate costs between small and large vessels/businesses. For the 2014–2015 fishing year, approximately 22,076 mt were available for harvest by the directed non-tribal commercial fishery (this includes 2,500 rolled over from the tribal set aside). Approximately 19,440 mt (approximately 3,378 mt in California and 16,023 mt in Oregon and Washington) of this allocation was harvested during the 2014–2015 fishing season, for an estimated ex-vessel value of $8.8 million. The CPS FMP and its implementing regulations require NMFS to annually set an OFL, ABC, ACL and HG or ACT for the Pacific sardine fishery based on the specified harvest control rules in the FMP applied to the current stock biomass estimate for that year. The derived annual HG or ACT is the level typically used to manage the principle commercial sardine fishery and is the harvest level typically used by NMFS for profitability analysis each year. As stated above, the FMP dictates that when the estimated biomass drops below a certain level (150,000 mt) that there is no HG. Therefore, purposes of profitability analysis, this action is essentially proposing that an HG of zero for the 2015–2016 Pacific sardine E:\FR\FM\21MYP1.SGM 21MYP1 29298 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 98 / Thursday, May 21, 2015 / Proposed Rules tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS fishing season (July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015). As there is no directed fishing for the 2015–2016 fishing year, the proposed rule will decrease small entities’ potential profitability compared to last season. However, revenue derived from harvesting Pacific sardine is typically only one source of fishing revenue for a majority of the vessels that harvest Pacific sardine; as a result, the economic impact to the fleet from the proposed action cannot be viewed in isolation. From year to year, depending on market conditions and availability of fish, most CPS/sardine vessels supplement their income by harvesting other species. Many vessels in California also harvest anchovy, mackerel, and in particular squid, making Pacific sardine only one component of a multi-species CPS fishery. For example, market squid have been readily available to the fishery in California over the last three years with total annual ex-vessel revenue averaging approximately $66 million over that time, compared to an annual average exvessel from sardine of $16 million over that same time period. Additionally, some sardine vessels that operate off of Oregon and Washington also fish for salmon in Alaska or squid in California during times of the year when sardine are not available. The purpose of the VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:21 May 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 proposed incidental allowances under this action are to ensure the vessels impacted by this sardine action can still access these other profitable fisheries while still limited the harvest of sardine. These vessels typically rely on multiple species for profitability because abundance of sardine, like the other CPS stocks, is highly associated with ocean conditions and different times of the year, and therefore are harvested at various times and areas throughout the year. Because each species responds to ocean conditions in its own way, not all CPS stocks are likely to be abundant at the same time; therefore, as abundance levels and markets fluctuate, it has necessitated that the CPS fishery as a whole rely on a group of species for its annual revenues. Therefore, although there will a reduction in sardine revenue for the small entities affected by this proposed action as compared to the previous season, it is difficult to predict exactly how this reduction will impact overall annual revenue for the fleet. No significant alternatives to this proposed rule exist that would accomplish the stated objectives of the applicable statutes and which would minimize any significant economic impact of this proposed rule on the PO 00000 Frm 00075 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 affected small entities. The CPS FMP and its implementing regulations require NMFS to calculate annual harvest levels by applying the harvest control rule formulas to the current stock biomass estimate. Therefore, if the estimated biomass decreases or increases from one year to the next, so do the applicable quotas. Determining the annual harvest levels merely implements the established procedures of the FMP with the goal of continuing to provide expected net benefits to the nation, regardless of what the specific annual allowable harvest of Pacific sardine is determined to be. There are no reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements required by this proposed rule. Additionally, no other Federal rules duplicate, overlap or conflict with this proposed rule. This action does not contain a collection-of-information requirement for purposes of the Paper Reduction Act. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: May 14, 2015. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2015–12321 Filed 5–20–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\21MYP1.SGM 21MYP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 98 (Thursday, May 21, 2015)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 29296-29298]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-12321]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 660

[Docket No. 150428405-5405-01]
RIN 0648-XD927


Fisheries Off West Coast States; Coastal Pelagic Species 
Fisheries; Annual Specifications

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

ACTION: Proposed rule.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS proposes to implement annual management measures and 
harvest specifications to establish the allowable catch levels (i.e. 
annual catch limit (ACL)/harvest guideline (HG)) for the northern 
subpopulation of Pacific sardine (hereafter, simply Pacific sardine), 
in the U.S. exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off the Pacific coast for the 
fishing season of July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2016. This rule is 
proposed according to the Coastal Pelagic Species (CPS) Fishery 
Management Plan (FMP). The proposed would include a prohibition on 
directed non-tribal Pacific sardine commercial fishing for Pacific 
sardine off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California, which is 
required because the estimated 2015 biomass of Pacific sardine has 
dropped below the cutoff threshold in the HG control rule. Under the 
proposed action Pacific sardine may still be harvested as part of 
either the live bait or tribal fishery or incidental to other 
fisheries; the incidental harvest of Pacific sardine would initially be 
limited to 40-percent by weight of all fish per trip when caught with 
other CPS or up to 2 metric tons (mt) when caught with non-CPS. The 
proposed annual catch limit (ACL) for 2015-2016 Pacific sardine fishing 
year is 7,000 mt. This proposed rule is intended to conserve and manage 
the Pacific sardine stock off the U.S. West Coast.

DATES: Comments must be received by June 5, 2015.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document identified by NOAA-
NMFS-2015-0064 by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2015-0064, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to William W. Stelle, Jr., 
Regional Administrator, West Coast Region, NMFS, 7600 Sand Point Way 
NE., Seattle, WA 98115-0070; Attn: Joshua Lindsay.
     Instructions: 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 by NMFS. All comments received are a part 
of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous).
    Copies of the report ``Assessment of Pacific Sardine Resource in 
2015 for U.S.A. Management in 2015-2016'' may be obtained from the West 
Coast Regional Office (see ADDRESSES).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Joshua Lindsay, West Coast Region, 
NMFS, (562) 980-4034.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: During public meetings each year, the 
estimated biomass for Pacific sardine is presented to the Pacific 
Fishery Management Council's (Council) CPS Management Team (Team), the 
Council's CPS Advisory Subpanel (Subpanel) and the Council's Scientific 
and Statistical Committee (SSC), and the biomass and the status of the 
fishery are reviewed and discussed. The biomass estimate is then 
presented to the Council along with the calculated overfishing limit 
(OFL), available biological catch (ABC), and HG, along with 
recommendations and comments from the Team, Subpanel, and SSC. 
Following review by the Council and after hearing public comment, the 
Council adopts a biomass estimate and makes its catch level 
recommendations to NMFS. NMFS manages the Pacific sardine fishery in 
the U.S. EEZ off the Pacific coast (California, Oregon, and Washington) 
in accordance with the FMP. Annual specifications published in the 
Federal Register establish the allowable harvest levels (i.e. OFL/ACL/
HG) for each Pacific sardine fishing year. The purpose of this proposed 
rule is to implement these annual catch reference points for 2015-2016, 
including the OFL and an ABC that takes into consideration uncertainty 
surrounding the current estimate of biomass for Pacific sardine in the 
U.S. EEZ off the Pacific coast. The FMP and its implementing 
regulations require NMFS to set these annual catch levels for the 
Pacific sardine fishery based on the annual specification framework and 
control rules in the FMP. These control rules include the HG control 
rule, which in conjunction with the OFL and ABC rules in the FMP, are 
used to manage harvest levels for Pacific sardine, in accordance with 
the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, 16 U.S.C. 
1801 et seq. According to the FMP, the quota for the principle 
commercial fishery is determined using the FMP-specified harvest 
guideline (HG) formula. The HG formula in the CPS FMP is HG = [(Biomass 
- CUTOFF) * FRACTION * DISTRIBUTION] with the parameters described as 
follows:
    1. Biomass. The estimated stock biomass of Pacific sardine age one 
and above. For the 2015-2016 management season this is 96,688 mt.
    2. CUTOFF. This is the biomass level below which no HG is set. The 
FMP established this level at 150,000 mt.
    3. DISTRIBUTION. The average portion of the Pacific sardine biomass 
estimated in the EEZ off the Pacific coast is 87 percent.
    4. FRACTION. The temperature-varying harvest fraction is the 
percentage of the biomass above 150,000 mt that may be harvested.
    As described above, the Pacific sardine HG control rule, the 
primary mechanism for setting the annual directed commercial fishery 
quota, includes a CUTOFF parameter which has been set as a biomass 
amount of 150,000 mt. This amount is subtracted from the annual biomass 
estimate before calculating the applicable HG for the fishing year. 
Therefore, because this year's biomass estimate is below that

[[Page 29297]]

value, the formula results in an HG of zero and therefore no Pacific 
sardine are available for the commercial directed fishery during the 
2015-2016 fishing season.
    At the April 2015 Council meeting, the Council adopted the 
``Assessment of the Pacific Sardine Resource in 2015 for U.S.A. 
Management in 2015-2016'' completed by NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science 
Center and the resulting Pacific sardine biomass estimate of 96,688 mt. 
Based on recommendations from its SSC and other advisory bodies, the 
Council recommended and NMFS is proposing, an OFL of 13,227 mt, an ABC 
of 12,074 mt, and a prohibition on sardine catch unless it is harvested 
as part of either the live bait or tribal fishery or incidental to 
other fisheries for the 2015-2016 Pacific sardine fishing year. As 
additional conservation measures, the Council also recommended and NMFS 
is proposing an ACL of 7,000 mt and an annual catch target (ACT) of 
4,000 mt under which the incidental catch of Pacific sardine in other 
CPS fisheries would be managed. Incidental catch under the ACT would 
also be subject to the following management controls to reduce 
targeting and potential discard of Pacific sardine: (1) A 40 percent by 
weight incidental catch rate when Pacific sardine are landed with other 
CPS until a total of 1,500 mt of Pacific sardine are landed, (2) after 
1,500 mt have been caught the allowance would be reduced to 30 percent, 
and (3) when 4,000 mt is reached the incidental per landing allowance 
would be reduced to 5 percent for the remainder of the 2015-2016 
fishing year. Additionally, the council adopted a 2 mt incidental per 
landing allowance in non-CPS fisheries. Because Pacific sardine is 
known to comingle with other CPS stocks, these incidental allowances 
were adopted to allow for the continued prosecution of these other 
important CPS fisheries and reduce the potential discard of sardine.
    The NMFS West Coast Regional Administrator would publish a notice 
in the Federal Register announcing the date of attainment of any of the 
incidental catch levels described above and subsequent changes to 
allowable incidental catch percentages. Additionally, to ensure the 
regulated community is informed of any closure, NMFS will also make 
announcements through other means available, including fax, email, and 
mail to fishermen, processors, and state fishery management agencies.
    In the previous 3 fishing years the Quinault Indian Nation 
requested, and NMFS approved, set-asides for the exclusive right to 
harvest Pacific sardine in the Quinault Usual and Accustomed Fishing 
Area off the coast of Washington State, pursuant to the 1856 Treaty of 
Olympia (Treaty with the Quinault). For the 2015-2016 fishing season 
the Quinault Indian Nation has requested that NMFS provide a set-aside 
of 1,000 mt (3,000 mt less than was requested and approved in 2014-
2015) and NMFS is considering the request.
    Detailed information on the fishery and the stock assessment are 
found in the report ``Assessment of the Pacific Sardine Resource in 
2015 for U.S.A. Management in 2015-2016'' (see ADDRESSES).

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act, the NMFS Assistant Administrator has 
determined that this proposed rule is consistent with the CPS FMP, 
other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and 
Management Act, and other applicable law, subject to further 
consideration after public comment.
    These proposed specifications are exempt from review under 
Executive Order 12866 because they contain no implementing regulations.
    An Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) was prepared, as 
required by section 3 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 603. 
The IRFA describes the economic impact this proposed rule, if adopted, 
would have on small entities. A description of the action, why it is 
being considered, and the legal basis for this action are contained at 
the beginning of this section in the preamble and in the SUMMARY 
section of the preamble. The results of the analysis are stated below. 
For copies of the IRFA, and instructions on how to send comments on the 
IRFA, please see the ADDRESSES section above.
    On June 12, 2014, the Small Business Administration (SBA) issued an 
interim final rule revising the small business size standards for 
several industries effective July 14, 2014 (79 FR 33467). The rule 
increased the size standard for Finfish Fishing from $19.0 to 20.5 
million, Shellfish Fishing from $5.0 to 5.5 million, and Other Marine 
Fishing from $7.0 to 7.5 million. 78 FR 33656, 33660, 33666 (See Table 
1). NMFS conducted its analysis for this action in light of the new 
size standards.
    The purpose of this proposed rule is to conserve the Pacific 
sardine stock by preventing overfishing, so that directed fishing may 
occur in future years. This is accomplished by implementing the 2015-
2016 annual specifications for Pacific sardine in the U.S. EEZ off the 
Pacific coast. The small entities that would be affected by the 
proposed action are the vessels that fish for Pacific sardine as part 
of the West Coast CPS small purse seine fleet. As stated above, the 
U.S. Small Business Administration now defines small businesses engaged 
in finfish fishing as those vessels with annual revenues of $20.5 
million or less. Under the former, lower standards, all entities 
subject to this action in previous years were considered small 
entities, and under the new standards they continue to be considered 
small. In 2014, there were approximately 81 vessels permitted to 
operate in the directed sardine fishery component of the CPS fishery 
off the U.S. West Coast; 58 vessels in the Federal CPS limited entry 
fishery off California (south of 39 N. lat.), and a combined 23 vessels 
in Oregon and Washington's state Pacific sardine fisheries. The average 
annual per vessel revenue in 2014 for the West Coast CPS finfish fleet 
was well below $20.5 million; therefore, all of these vessels therefore 
are considered small businesses under the RFA. Because each affected 
vessel is a small business, this proposed rule has an equal effect on 
all of these small entities and therefore will impact a substantial 
number of these small entities in the same manner. Therefore, this rule 
would not create disproportionate costs between small and large 
vessels/businesses.
    For the 2014-2015 fishing year, approximately 22,076 mt were 
available for harvest by the directed non-tribal commercial fishery 
(this includes 2,500 rolled over from the tribal set aside). 
Approximately 19,440 mt (approximately 3,378 mt in California and 
16,023 mt in Oregon and Washington) of this allocation was harvested 
during the 2014-2015 fishing season, for an estimated ex-vessel value 
of $8.8 million.
    The CPS FMP and its implementing regulations require NMFS to 
annually set an OFL, ABC, ACL and HG or ACT for the Pacific sardine 
fishery based on the specified harvest control rules in the FMP applied 
to the current stock biomass estimate for that year. The derived annual 
HG or ACT is the level typically used to manage the principle 
commercial sardine fishery and is the harvest level typically used by 
NMFS for profitability analysis each year. As stated above, the FMP 
dictates that when the estimated biomass drops below a certain level 
(150,000 mt) that there is no HG. Therefore, purposes of profitability 
analysis, this action is essentially proposing that an HG of zero for 
the 2015-2016 Pacific sardine

[[Page 29298]]

fishing season (July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015). As there is no 
directed fishing for the 2015-2016 fishing year, the proposed rule will 
decrease small entities' potential profitability compared to last 
season.
    However, revenue derived from harvesting Pacific sardine is 
typically only one source of fishing revenue for a majority of the 
vessels that harvest Pacific sardine; as a result, the economic impact 
to the fleet from the proposed action cannot be viewed in isolation. 
From year to year, depending on market conditions and availability of 
fish, most CPS/sardine vessels supplement their income by harvesting 
other species. Many vessels in California also harvest anchovy, 
mackerel, and in particular squid, making Pacific sardine only one 
component of a multi-species CPS fishery. For example, market squid 
have been readily available to the fishery in California over the last 
three years with total annual ex-vessel revenue averaging approximately 
$66 million over that time, compared to an annual average ex-vessel 
from sardine of $16 million over that same time period. Additionally, 
some sardine vessels that operate off of Oregon and Washington also 
fish for salmon in Alaska or squid in California during times of the 
year when sardine are not available. The purpose of the proposed 
incidental allowances under this action are to ensure the vessels 
impacted by this sardine action can still access these other profitable 
fisheries while still limited the harvest of sardine.
    These vessels typically rely on multiple species for profitability 
because abundance of sardine, like the other CPS stocks, is highly 
associated with ocean conditions and different times of the year, and 
therefore are harvested at various times and areas throughout the year. 
Because each species responds to ocean conditions in its own way, not 
all CPS stocks are likely to be abundant at the same time; therefore, 
as abundance levels and markets fluctuate, it has necessitated that the 
CPS fishery as a whole rely on a group of species for its annual 
revenues. Therefore, although there will a reduction in sardine revenue 
for the small entities affected by this proposed action as compared to 
the previous season, it is difficult to predict exactly how this 
reduction will impact overall annual revenue for the fleet.
    No significant alternatives to this proposed rule exist that would 
accomplish the stated objectives of the applicable statutes and which 
would minimize any significant economic impact of this proposed rule on 
the affected small entities. The CPS FMP and its implementing 
regulations require NMFS to calculate annual harvest levels by applying 
the harvest control rule formulas to the current stock biomass 
estimate. Therefore, if the estimated biomass decreases or increases 
from one year to the next, so do the applicable quotas. Determining the 
annual harvest levels merely implements the established procedures of 
the FMP with the goal of continuing to provide expected net benefits to 
the nation, regardless of what the specific annual allowable harvest of 
Pacific sardine is determined to be.
    There are no reporting, record-keeping, or other compliance 
requirements required by this proposed rule. Additionally, no other 
Federal rules duplicate, overlap or conflict with this proposed rule.
    This action does not contain a collection-of-information 
requirement for purposes of the Paper Reduction Act.

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

    Dated: May 14, 2015.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2015-12321 Filed 5-20-15; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P