Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Application for an Exempted Fishing Permit, 72049-72052 [2015-29451]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 222 / Wednesday, November 18, 2015 / Notices DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Proposed Information Collection; Comment Request; Application for Appointment in the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice. AGENCY: The Department of Commerce, as part of its continuing effort to reduce paperwork and respondent burden, invites the general public and other Federal agencies to take this opportunity to comment on proposed and/or continuing information collections, as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995. DATES: Written comments must be submitted on or before January 19, 2016. ADDRESSES: Direct all written comments to Jennifer Jessup, Departmental Paperwork Clearance Officer, Department of Commerce, Room 6616, 14th and Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20230 (or via the Internet at JJessup@doc.gov). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Requests for additional information or copies of the information collection instrument and instructions should be directed to LCDR Madeleine Adler— Chief, NOAA Corps Recruiting, or LT Jeffrey Pereira—NOAA Corps Recruiting Officer; OMAO–CPC–OCMD, 8402 Colesville Road, Suite 500, Silver Spring, MD 20910, ((800)-299–6622), noaacorps.recruiting@noaa.gov SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: I. Abstract This request is for extension of a currently approved information collection. The NOAA Commissioned Corps is the uniformed component of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a bureau of the Department of Commerce. Officers serve under Senate-confirmed appointments and Presidential commissions (33 U.S.C. chapter 17, subchapter 1, sections 853 and 854). The NOAA Corps provides a cadre of professionals trained in engineering, earth sciences, oceanography, meteorology, fisheries science, and other related disciplines, who are dedicated to the service of their country and optimization of NOAA’s missions to ensure the economic and physical well-being of the Nation. NOAA Corps officers serve in assignments throughout NOAA, as well as in each of NOAA’s Line Offices VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:50 Nov 17, 2015 Jkt 238001 (National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service, National Ocean Service, National Weather Service, Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research and Office of Planning, Programming and Integration). Persons wishing to be considered for a NOAA Corps Commission must submit a complete application package, including NOAA Form 56–42, at least three letters of recommendation, and official transcripts. A personal interview must also be conducted. Eligibility requirements include a bachelor’s degree with at least 48 credit hours of science, engineering or other disciplines related to NOAA’s missions (including either calculus or physics), excellent health, normal color vision with uncorrected visual acuity no worse than 20/400 in each eye (correctable to 20/20) and ability to complete 20 years of active duty commissioned service prior to their 62nd birthday. II. Method of Collection Applicants must utilize the E-recruit electronic application process (https:// cpc.omao.noaa.gov/erecruit/login.jsp) and then submit paper forms via mail. An in-person interview is also required. 72049 or other forms of information technology. Comments submitted in response to this notice will be summarized and/or included in the request for OMB approval of this information collection; they also will become a matter of public record. Dated: November 13, 2015. Sarah Brabson, NOAA PRA Clearance Officer. [FR Doc. 2015–29405 Filed 11–17–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–12–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XD294 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Application for an Exempted Fishing Permit National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; receipt of application for exempted fishing permit. AGENCY: SUMMARY: This notice announces receipt III. Data of an exempted fishing permit (EFP) OMB Control Number: 0648–0047. application from the Alaska Seafood Form Number(s): NOAA 56–42 and Cooperative (AKSC). If granted, this NOAA 56–42A. permit would allow up to five AKSCType of Review: Regular submission member Amendment 80 vessels to (extension of a currently approved conduct experimental fishing in two information collection). subareas of the Bering Sea that are Affected Public: Individuals or closed to fishing with trawl gear. Under households. the permit, experimental fishing with Estimated Number of Respondents: non-pelagic trawl gear would be 150. Estimated Time per Response: Written authorized in Reporting Area 516 of Zone 1 that is otherwise closed to all applications, 5 hours; interviews, 90 trawl gear and the Red King Crab minures; references, 15 minutes. Savings Area (RKCSA) that is otherwise Estimated Total Annual Burden closed to non-pelagic trawl gear. The Hours: 1,088. AKSC would collect data on crab Estimated Total Annual Cost to prohibited species catch (PSC) rates Public: $10,875 in recordkeeping, during commercial groundfish fishing recording and travel costs. operations inside the Area 516 seasonal IV. Request for Comments closure, the RKCSA, and adjacent areas Comments are invited on: (a) Whether that are currently open to non-pelagic trawling. The objective of the EFP is to the proposed collection of information evaluate PSC rates and overall catch of is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including target species in the above-mentioned closed areas compared with the areas whether the information shall have currently open to fishing with trawl practical utility; (b) the accuracy of the gear. This experiment has the potential agency’s estimate of the burden to promote the objectives of the (including hours and cost) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery proposed collection of information; (c) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and Conservation and Management Act. clarity of the information to be DATES: Submit comments on this EFP collected; and (d) ways to minimize the application on or before December 15, burden of the collection of information 2015. on respondents, including through the The North Pacific Fishery use of automated collection techniques Management Council (Council) will PO 00000 Frm 00010 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\18NON1.SGM 18NON1 asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 72050 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 222 / Wednesday, November 18, 2015 / Notices consider the EFP application at its meeting to be held December 9, 2015, through December 15, 2015, in Anchorage, AK. ADDRESSES: The Council meeting will be held at the Anchorage Hilton Hotel, 500 W. 3rd Avenue, Anchorage, AK, 99501. The agenda for the Council meeting is available at http:// legistar2.granicus.com/npfmc/meetings/ 2015/12/932_A_North_Pacific_Council_ 15–12–07_Meeting_Agenda.pdf. You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA–NMFS– 2015–0138, by any of the following methods: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA–NMFS–2015– 0138, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Address written comments to Glenn Merrill, Assistant Regional Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian. Mail comments to P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802–1668. 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), 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). Electronic copies of the EFP application and the categorical exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act are available from the Alaska Region, NMFS Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeff Hartman, 907–586–7442. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS manages the domestic groundfish fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area (BSAI) under the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (FMP), which the Council prepared under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Regulations governing the BSAI groundfish fisheries appear at 50 CFR parts 600 and 679. The FMP and the VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:50 Nov 17, 2015 Jkt 238001 implementing regulations, § 600.745(b) and § 679.6, allow the NMFS Regional Administrator to authorize, for limited experimental purposes, fishing that would otherwise be prohibited. Procedures for issuing EFPs are contained in the implementing regulations. Background BSAI groundfish harvests are managed subject to annual limits on groundfish and PSC. Pacific halibut, Pacific herring, Pacific salmon and steelhead, king crab (including red king crab), and Tanner crab are prohibited species under the FMP. Participants in the BSAI non-pelagic trawl fisheries catch PSC incidentally—primarily crab and halibut. The directed red king crab pot fishery is one of the most important shellfish fisheries in the Bering Sea. Current regulations for harvesting red king crab in the crab pot fishery may be found in 50 CFR part 680. Red king crab is also caught incidentally as PSC in Bering Sea groundfish non-pelagic trawl fisheries. PSC (including red king crab) in the non-pelagic trawl fisheries must be minimized to the extent practicable and if caught, immediately returned to the ocean with a minimum of injury. The Council and NMFS have implemented FMP amendments, dating back to the 1980s and 1990s to reduce the amount of red king crab PSC in trawl fisheries, including the BSAI nonpelagic trawl fishery. For example, the Area 516 red king crab seasonal closure for all trawl gear (FMP Amendment 10) was implemented in 1987 (52 FR 8592, March 19, 1987). FMP amendment 37, (61 FR 65985, December 16, 1996) was implemented in 1997, to create the red king crab savings area (RKCSA) along with other measures to conserve concentrations of Bristol Bay red king crab. The management and structure of the non-pelagic trawl fisheries in the Bering Sea have changed since these red king crab closure areas were implemented. In 2007, NMFS implemented Amendment 80 to the FMP (72 FR 52668, September 14, 2007). Amendment 80 established a catch share program to allocate specific non-pelagic groundfish species among specific defined participants (the Amendment 80 sector) and facilitate the formation of Amendment 80 cooperatives among those participants. The Amendment 80 sector is comprised of 19 active vessels in 2015, and is the largest component of the non-pelagic trawl fishery. With the implementation of Amendment 80 to the FMP in 2008, vessels operating in Amendment 80 PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 cooperatives were able to develop tools to reduce incidental catch of crab PSC. Since the implementation of Amendment 80, participants in Amendment 80 cooperatives have reduced the amount of red king crab bycatch through improved fishing practices that are possible now that participants in the Amendment 80 cooperative receive an allocation of specific groundfish species. These exclusive allocations provide opportunities for Amendment 80 cooperative participants to slow or otherwise change their fishing operations to avoid red king crab bycatch. These modified fishing practices are not practicable when vessels are not provided an exclusive harvest allocation and are racing with other vessels to harvest their groundfish as soon as possible. Although Amendment 80 cooperatives have undoubtedly helped to reduce red king crab PSC in the sector’s target fisheries, a combination of closed areas and PSC limits currently regulate red king crab PSC in trawl fisheries, including the Amendment 80 sector. For example, the Area 516 of Zone 1 in the Bering Sea sub area closes annually to all trawl gear, including Amendment 80 vessels from March 15 through June 15, § 679.22(a)(2). Regulations for groundfish fishing in the RKCSA, § 679.22(a)(3), close directed fishing for non-pelagic trawl gear in a portion of the Bering sea subarea defined in Figure 11 to 50 CFR part 679. Non-pelagic trawl gear is used by all Amendment 80 vessels in the Bering Sea. PSC limits for red king crab (§ 679.21(e)(1)(i)) specify the annual PSC allowance of red king crab for all trawl vessels while engaged in directed fishing for groundfish in Zone 1. Approximately 50 percent of the Zone 1 red king crab PSC limit is apportioned to the Amendment 80 sector, and distributed as an allowance of crab to each Amendment 80 cooperative. In 2015, the Zone 1 red king crab PSC allowance for the AKSC is 30,834 animals. The Zone 1 red king crab PSC allowance, allowed the Amendment 80 cooperatives to assign voluntary, vessellevel apportionments of PSC to vessels fishing in Zone 1. With these voluntary apportionments, vessel owners and operators in the sector began to share information about individual vessel PSC rates and avoid areas with high PSC rates for red king crab. The primary result of the improved crab avoidance and management tools is that AKSC and the remaining Amendment 80 sector vessels have consistently stayed well E:\FR\FM\18NON1.SGM 18NON1 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 222 / Wednesday, November 18, 2015 / Notices asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES under the Zone 1 red king crab PSC allowance. While the potential exists for crab PSC allowances and closure areas to constrain allocated catch in some Amendment 80 target fisheries, the Amendment 80 sector continues to actively explore how to further reduce crab PSC while preserving target fishery harvest opportunities. Exempted Fishing Permit Application On October 2, 2015, the AKSC, an Amendment 80 cooperative, submitted an application for an EFP. The EFP would allow up to five AKSC-member Amendment 80 vessels to conduct field tests in two subareas of the Bering Sea that are closed to trawl directed fisheries. Those two subareas are Reporting Area 516 of Zone 1, which is closed to all trawl gear § 679.22(a)(2), and the RKCSA, which is closed to nonpelagic trawl gear under § 679.22(a)(3). If granted, this EFP would allow AKSC to collect data on crab bycatch rates during commercial fishing operations on five groundfish fishing vessels (targeting mostly flatfish) inside the Area 516 seasonal closure, the RKCSA, and adjacent areas that are currently open to non-pelagic trawl gear. The principle objective of the EFP is to evaluate whether flatfish and other groundfish trawling in the abovementioned closed areas under the existing PSC allowance for crab would result in reduced PSC rates for crab or other species, or a change in overall catch of target species compared with the status quo. This data will inform assessment of the effectiveness of these two crab closures. The applicant proposes to begin EFP fishing in early February 2016 and end by mid-May 2016. EFP fishing would begin again in late January 2017 and end by mid-May 2017. The EFP would be in place over two winter/spring seasons to increase the chance that data collections will occur in different environmental conditions that are expected to affect crab and flatfish abundance and location. To ensure data are available for valid comparisons of catch rates inside and outside the closed areas, participating vessels would fish both inside the closed areas and in adjacent areas outside the closed areas (as proportionally as possible) over the course of their Zone 1 rock sole and yellowfin sole fishing each year of the EFP. Adjacent areas against which rates inside the closed areas will be assessed will be selected based on similarities in the general depth and type of substrates that were test trawled in the RKCSA and Area 516 closures. To help ensure differences in bycatch rates reflect VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:50 Nov 17, 2015 Jkt 238001 differences in relative abundance rather than the attributes of trawl gear used, the vessels participating in the EFP will keep their ground gear configuration (e.g. size of trawl net and width of footropes) as consistent as possible inside and outside of the closed areas. Under the EFP, sea samplers would be required for monitoring and data collection. Sea samplers are NMFScertified observers that conduct activities under an EFP rather than normal observer activities on an Amendment 80 vessel. The sea samplers will conduct a census of all crab for all EFP tows inside the red king crab closed areas and in adjacent areas outside the red king crab closed areas. The census data will include a record of size and sex of each individual. Temperature and depth data will be collected by sea samplers for each tow. Sea samplers will also collect fishing operational information such as tow speed and tow length. AKSC will compare catch rates on different EFP vessels when fishing in similar areas to evaluate the degree to which individual differences in a specific vessel are impacting catch rates. To ensure observer sampling duties are undisturbed, expanded crab data collection under the census will be conducted in a manner that is completely separate from current observer sampling protocols. To accomplish this, the crab census will occur after all the catch passes over the vessel’s flow scale and the observer has completed all sampling of unsorted catch for all Bering Sea EFP hauls. The five vessels authorized to participate in this EFP would be required to comply with all the aggregate target species allocations that apply to the rest of the Amendment 80 sector, and would operate under the Amendment 80 crab and halibut PSC allowances available through membership in the AKSC. These allowances will apply to all EFP and non-EFP fishing during the year. Under the EFP, the AKSC and the member EFP vessels would be limited to the amount of aggregate groundfish allocations currently in regulation at 50 CFR part 679. Further, the amount of red king crab PSC accrued by the AKSC and under the EFP would not exceed the AKSC’s 2016 or 2017 red king crab allowance. All other crab limits and halibut mortality limits will continue to apply to the EFP activities, and are subject to review and approval by NMFS. At the end of EFP fishing in 2016, AKSC would be required to submit to NMFS a preliminary report of the EFP results on PSC use inside and outside of PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 72051 the closed areas and by target fishery. At the end of EFP fishing in 2017, a final, comprehensive EFP report would be submitted. The proposed action would exempt participating AKSC vessels from selected 50 CFR part 679 closed areas and PSC handling requirements. Should the Regional Administrator issue a permit based on this EFP application, the conditions of the permit will be designed to minimize PSC, and any potential for biasing estimates of groundfish or PSC. Vessels participating in EFP fishing would be exempt from, at minimum, the following regulations: 1. Closure to directed fishing by trawl gear in Reporting Area 516 of Zone 1 in the Bering Sea Subarea from March 15 through June 15, at § 679.22(a)(2). 2. closure to directed fishing by nonpelagic trawl gear in the RKCSA at § 679.22(a)(3). 3. that the operator of each vessel, after allowing for sampling by an observer, return all prohibited species, or parts thereof, to the sea immediately, with a minimum of injury, regardless of its condition at § 679.21(b)(2)(ii). The EFP would be valid upon issuance in 2016 until either the end of designated EFP fishing in 2017 or until the AKSC Zone 1 red king crab PSC allowance is reached in areas of the BSAI open to directed fishing by the Amendment 80 cooperatives. EFPauthorized fishing activities would not be expected to change the nature or duration of the groundfish fishery, gear used, or the amount or species of fish caught by the Amendment 80 cooperatives. The fieldwork that would be conducted under this EFP is not expected to have a significant impact on the human environment as detailed in the categorical exclusion prepared for this action (see ADDRESSES). In accordance with § 679.6, NMFS has determined that the application warrants further consideration and has forwarded the application to the Council to initiate consultation. The Council is scheduled to consider the EFP application during its December 2015 meeting, which will be held at the Anchorage Hilton Hotel, Anchorage, AK. The EFP application will also be provided to the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee for review at the December Council meeting. The applicant has been invited to appear in support of the application. Public Comments Interested persons may comment on the EFP application at the December 2015 Council meeting during public testimony. Information regarding the E:\FR\FM\18NON1.SGM 18NON1 72052 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 222 / Wednesday, November 18, 2015 / Notices meeting is available at the Council’s Web site at http:// alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/npfmc/ council.htm. Comments also may be submitted directly to NMFS (see ADDRESSES) by the end of the comment period (see DATES). Copies of the application and categorical exclusion are available for review from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: November 13, 2015. Emily H. Menashes, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2015–29451 Filed 11–17–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE Department of the Army [Docket ID: USA–2015–0004] Submission for OMB Review; Comment Request ACTION: Notice. The Department of Defense has submitted to OMB for clearance, the following proposal for collection of information under the provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act. DATES: Consideration will be given to all comments received by December 18, 2015. SUMMARY: FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Fred Licari, 571–372–0493. asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Title, Associated Form and Omb Number: Exchange Official Personnel Folder; Exchange Form 1100–106 ‘‘Identification & Privilege Card Application’’; OMB Control Number: 0702–XXXX. Type of Request: Existing collection in use without an OMB Control Number. Number of Respondents: 2,500. Responses per Respondent: 1. Annual Responses: 2,500. Average Burden per Response: 15 minutes. Annual Burden Hours: 625. Needs and Uses: The information collection requirement is necessary to provide a repository of the records, reports of personnel actions, and the documents and papers required in connection with these actions effected during an employee’s service with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (Exchange). Records provide the basic source of factual data about a person’s employment with the agency and have various uses by the Exchange personnel office, including screening VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:50 Nov 17, 2015 Jkt 238001 qualifications of employees, determining status, eligibility, and employee’s rights and benefits, computing length of service and other information needed to provide personnel services. Affected Public: Individuals or households. Frequency: On occasion. Respondent’s Obligation: Voluntary. OMB Desk Officer: Ms. Jasmeet Seehra. Comments and recommendations on the proposed information collection should be emailed to Ms. Jasmeet Seehra, DoD Desk Officer, at Oira_ submission@omb.eop.gov. Please identify the proposed information collection by DoD Desk Officer and the Docket ID number and title of the information collection. You may also submit comments and recommendations, identified by Docket ID number and title, by the following method: • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments. Instructions: All submissions received must include the agency name, Docket ID number and title for this Federal Register document. The general policy for comments and other submissions from members of the public is to make these submissions available for public viewing on the Internet at http:// www.regulations.gov as they are received without change, including any personal identifiers or contact information. DOD Clearance Officer: Mr. Frederick Licari. Written requests for copies of the information collection proposal should be sent to Mr. Licari at WHS/ESD Directives Division, 4800 Mark Center Drive, East Tower, Suite 02G09, Alexandria, VA 22350–3100. Dated: November 12, 2015. Aaron Siegel, Alternate OSD Federal Register Liaison Officer, Department of Defense. [FR Doc. 2015–29401 Filed 11–17–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 5001–06–P regulations implementing the Government in the Sunshine Act, notice is hereby given of the Board’s closed meeting described below. DATES: 1:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m., December 1, 2015. ADDRESSES: Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, 625 Indiana Avenue NW., Room 425, Washington, DC 20004. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mark Welch, General Manager, Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, 625 Indiana Avenue NW., Suite 700, Washington, DC 20004–2901, (800) 788– 4016. This is a toll-free number. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The meeting will be closed to the public. No participation from the public will be considered during the meeting. Status Closed. During the closed meeting, the Board Members will discuss issues dealing with potential Recommendations to the Secretary of Energy. The Board is invoking the exemption to close a meeting described in 5 U.S.C. 552b(c)(3) and 10 CFR 1704.4(c). The Board has determined that it is necessary to close the meeting since conducting an open meeting is likely to disclose matters that are specifically exempted from disclosure by statute. In this case, the deliberations will pertain to potential Board Recommendations which, under 42 U.S.C. 2286d(b) and (h)(3), may not be made publicly available until after they have been received by the Secretary of Energy or the President, respectively. MATTERS TO BE CONSIDERED: The meeting will proceed in accordance with the closed meeting agenda which is posted on the Board’s public Web site at www.dnfsb.gov. Technical staff may present information to the Board. The Board Members are expected to conduct deliberations regarding potential Recommendations to the Secretary of Energy. Dated: November 13, 2015. Joyce L. Connery, Chairman. [FR Doc. 2015–29497 Filed 11–16–15; 11:15 am] DEFENSE NUCLEAR FACILITIES SAFETY BOARD BILLING CODE 3670–01–P Sunshine Act Notice DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. ACTION: Notice of closed meeting. Notice Expanding an Experiment Under the Experimental Sites Initiative; Federal Student Financial Assistance Programs Under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as Amended AGENCY: Pursuant to the provisions of the Government in the Sunshine Act (5 U.S.C. 552b), and the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board’s (Board) SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Office of Postsecondary Education, Department of Education. AGENCY: E:\FR\FM\18NON1.SGM 18NON1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 222 (Wednesday, November 18, 2015)]
[Notices]
[Pages 72049-72052]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-29451]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XD294


Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Application 
for an Exempted Fishing Permit

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

ACTION: Notice; receipt of application for exempted fishing permit.

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

SUMMARY: This notice announces receipt of an exempted fishing permit 
(EFP) application from the Alaska Seafood Cooperative (AKSC). If 
granted, this permit would allow up to five AKSC-member Amendment 80 
vessels to conduct experimental fishing in two subareas of the Bering 
Sea that are closed to fishing with trawl gear. Under the permit, 
experimental fishing with non-pelagic trawl gear would be authorized in 
Reporting Area 516 of Zone 1 that is otherwise closed to all trawl gear 
and the Red King Crab Savings Area (RKCSA) that is otherwise closed to 
non-pelagic trawl gear. The AKSC would collect data on crab prohibited 
species catch (PSC) rates during commercial groundfish fishing 
operations inside the Area 516 seasonal closure, the RKCSA, and 
adjacent areas that are currently open to non-pelagic trawling. The 
objective of the EFP is to evaluate PSC rates and overall catch of 
target species in the above-mentioned closed areas compared with the 
areas currently open to fishing with trawl gear. This experiment has 
the potential to promote the objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act.

DATES: Submit comments on this EFP application on or before December 
15, 2015.
    The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) will

[[Page 72050]]

consider the EFP application at its meeting to be held December 9, 
2015, through December 15, 2015, in Anchorage, AK.

ADDRESSES: The Council meeting will be held at the Anchorage Hilton 
Hotel, 500 W. 3rd Avenue, Anchorage, AK, 99501. The agenda for the 
Council meeting is available at http://legistar2.granicus.com/npfmc/meetings/2015/12/932_A_North_Pacific_Council_15-12-07_Meeting_Agenda.pdf.
    You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA-NMFS-
2015-0138, by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2015-0138, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Address written comments to Glenn Merrill, Assistant 
Regional Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region 
NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian. Mail comments to P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, 
AK 99802-1668.
    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), 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).
    Electronic copies of the EFP application and the categorical 
exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act are available 
from the Alaska Region, NMFS Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeff Hartman, 907-586-7442.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS manages the domestic groundfish 
fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area (BSAI) 
under the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and 
Aleutian Islands Management Area (FMP), which the Council prepared 
under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. 
Regulations governing the BSAI groundfish fisheries appear at 50 CFR 
parts 600 and 679. The FMP and the implementing regulations, Sec.  
600.745(b) and Sec.  679.6, allow the NMFS Regional Administrator to 
authorize, for limited experimental purposes, fishing that would 
otherwise be prohibited. Procedures for issuing EFPs are contained in 
the implementing regulations.

Background

    BSAI groundfish harvests are managed subject to annual limits on 
groundfish and PSC. Pacific halibut, Pacific herring, Pacific salmon 
and steelhead, king crab (including red king crab), and Tanner crab are 
prohibited species under the FMP. Participants in the BSAI non-pelagic 
trawl fisheries catch PSC incidentally--primarily crab and halibut.
    The directed red king crab pot fishery is one of the most important 
shellfish fisheries in the Bering Sea. Current regulations for 
harvesting red king crab in the crab pot fishery may be found in 50 CFR 
part 680. Red king crab is also caught incidentally as PSC in Bering 
Sea groundfish non-pelagic trawl fisheries. PSC (including red king 
crab) in the non-pelagic trawl fisheries must be minimized to the 
extent practicable and if caught, immediately returned to the ocean 
with a minimum of injury.
    The Council and NMFS have implemented FMP amendments, dating back 
to the 1980s and 1990s to reduce the amount of red king crab PSC in 
trawl fisheries, including the BSAI non-pelagic trawl fishery. For 
example, the Area 516 red king crab seasonal closure for all trawl gear 
(FMP Amendment 10) was implemented in 1987 (52 FR 8592, March 19, 
1987). FMP amendment 37, (61 FR 65985, December 16, 1996) was 
implemented in 1997, to create the red king crab savings area (RKCSA) 
along with other measures to conserve concentrations of Bristol Bay red 
king crab. The management and structure of the non-pelagic trawl 
fisheries in the Bering Sea have changed since these red king crab 
closure areas were implemented. In 2007, NMFS implemented Amendment 80 
to the FMP (72 FR 52668, September 14, 2007). Amendment 80 established 
a catch share program to allocate specific non-pelagic groundfish 
species among specific defined participants (the Amendment 80 sector) 
and facilitate the formation of Amendment 80 cooperatives among those 
participants. The Amendment 80 sector is comprised of 19 active vessels 
in 2015, and is the largest component of the non-pelagic trawl fishery. 
With the implementation of Amendment 80 to the FMP in 2008, vessels 
operating in Amendment 80 cooperatives were able to develop tools to 
reduce incidental catch of crab PSC.
    Since the implementation of Amendment 80, participants in Amendment 
80 cooperatives have reduced the amount of red king crab bycatch 
through improved fishing practices that are possible now that 
participants in the Amendment 80 cooperative receive an allocation of 
specific groundfish species. These exclusive allocations provide 
opportunities for Amendment 80 cooperative participants to slow or 
otherwise change their fishing operations to avoid red king crab 
bycatch. These modified fishing practices are not practicable when 
vessels are not provided an exclusive harvest allocation and are racing 
with other vessels to harvest their groundfish as soon as possible.
    Although Amendment 80 cooperatives have undoubtedly helped to 
reduce red king crab PSC in the sector's target fisheries, a 
combination of closed areas and PSC limits currently regulate red king 
crab PSC in trawl fisheries, including the Amendment 80 sector. For 
example, the Area 516 of Zone 1 in the Bering Sea sub area closes 
annually to all trawl gear, including Amendment 80 vessels from March 
15 through June 15, Sec.  679.22(a)(2).
    Regulations for groundfish fishing in the RKCSA, Sec.  
679.22(a)(3), close directed fishing for non-pelagic trawl gear in a 
portion of the Bering sea subarea defined in Figure 11 to 50 CFR part 
679. Non-pelagic trawl gear is used by all Amendment 80 vessels in the 
Bering Sea.
    PSC limits for red king crab (Sec.  679.21(e)(1)(i)) specify the 
annual PSC allowance of red king crab for all trawl vessels while 
engaged in directed fishing for groundfish in Zone 1. Approximately 50 
percent of the Zone 1 red king crab PSC limit is apportioned to the 
Amendment 80 sector, and distributed as an allowance of crab to each 
Amendment 80 cooperative. In 2015, the Zone 1 red king crab PSC 
allowance for the AKSC is 30,834 animals.
    The Zone 1 red king crab PSC allowance, allowed the Amendment 80 
cooperatives to assign voluntary, vessel-level apportionments of PSC to 
vessels fishing in Zone 1. With these voluntary apportionments, vessel 
owners and operators in the sector began to share information about 
individual vessel PSC rates and avoid areas with high PSC rates for red 
king crab. The primary result of the improved crab avoidance and 
management tools is that AKSC and the remaining Amendment 80 sector 
vessels have consistently stayed well

[[Page 72051]]

under the Zone 1 red king crab PSC allowance. While the potential 
exists for crab PSC allowances and closure areas to constrain allocated 
catch in some Amendment 80 target fisheries, the Amendment 80 sector 
continues to actively explore how to further reduce crab PSC while 
preserving target fishery harvest opportunities.

Exempted Fishing Permit Application

    On October 2, 2015, the AKSC, an Amendment 80 cooperative, 
submitted an application for an EFP. The EFP would allow up to five 
AKSC-member Amendment 80 vessels to conduct field tests in two subareas 
of the Bering Sea that are closed to trawl directed fisheries. Those 
two subareas are Reporting Area 516 of Zone 1, which is closed to all 
trawl gear Sec.  679.22(a)(2), and the RKCSA, which is closed to non-
pelagic trawl gear under Sec.  679.22(a)(3). If granted, this EFP would 
allow AKSC to collect data on crab bycatch rates during commercial 
fishing operations on five groundfish fishing vessels (targeting mostly 
flatfish) inside the Area 516 seasonal closure, the RKCSA, and adjacent 
areas that are currently open to non-pelagic trawl gear. The principle 
objective of the EFP is to evaluate whether flatfish and other 
groundfish trawling in the above-mentioned closed areas under the 
existing PSC allowance for crab would result in reduced PSC rates for 
crab or other species, or a change in overall catch of target species 
compared with the status quo. This data will inform assessment of the 
effectiveness of these two crab closures.
    The applicant proposes to begin EFP fishing in early February 2016 
and end by mid-May 2016. EFP fishing would begin again in late January 
2017 and end by mid-May 2017. The EFP would be in place over two 
winter/spring seasons to increase the chance that data collections will 
occur in different environmental conditions that are expected to affect 
crab and flatfish abundance and location.
    To ensure data are available for valid comparisons of catch rates 
inside and outside the closed areas, participating vessels would fish 
both inside the closed areas and in adjacent areas outside the closed 
areas (as proportionally as possible) over the course of their Zone 1 
rock sole and yellowfin sole fishing each year of the EFP. Adjacent 
areas against which rates inside the closed areas will be assessed will 
be selected based on similarities in the general depth and type of 
substrates that were test trawled in the RKCSA and Area 516 closures. 
To help ensure differences in bycatch rates reflect differences in 
relative abundance rather than the attributes of trawl gear used, the 
vessels participating in the EFP will keep their ground gear 
configuration (e.g. size of trawl net and width of footropes) as 
consistent as possible inside and outside of the closed areas.
    Under the EFP, sea samplers would be required for monitoring and 
data collection. Sea samplers are NMFS-certified observers that conduct 
activities under an EFP rather than normal observer activities on an 
Amendment 80 vessel.
    The sea samplers will conduct a census of all crab for all EFP tows 
inside the red king crab closed areas and in adjacent areas outside the 
red king crab closed areas. The census data will include a record of 
size and sex of each individual. Temperature and depth data will be 
collected by sea samplers for each tow. Sea samplers will also collect 
fishing operational information such as tow speed and tow length. AKSC 
will compare catch rates on different EFP vessels when fishing in 
similar areas to evaluate the degree to which individual differences in 
a specific vessel are impacting catch rates.
    To ensure observer sampling duties are undisturbed, expanded crab 
data collection under the census will be conducted in a manner that is 
completely separate from current observer sampling protocols. To 
accomplish this, the crab census will occur after all the catch passes 
over the vessel's flow scale and the observer has completed all 
sampling of unsorted catch for all Bering Sea EFP hauls.
    The five vessels authorized to participate in this EFP would be 
required to comply with all the aggregate target species allocations 
that apply to the rest of the Amendment 80 sector, and would operate 
under the Amendment 80 crab and halibut PSC allowances available 
through membership in the AKSC. These allowances will apply to all EFP 
and non-EFP fishing during the year.
    Under the EFP, the AKSC and the member EFP vessels would be limited 
to the amount of aggregate groundfish allocations currently in 
regulation at 50 CFR part 679. Further, the amount of red king crab PSC 
accrued by the AKSC and under the EFP would not exceed the AKSC's 2016 
or 2017 red king crab allowance. All other crab limits and halibut 
mortality limits will continue to apply to the EFP activities, and are 
subject to review and approval by NMFS.
    At the end of EFP fishing in 2016, AKSC would be required to submit 
to NMFS a preliminary report of the EFP results on PSC use inside and 
outside of the closed areas and by target fishery. At the end of EFP 
fishing in 2017, a final, comprehensive EFP report would be submitted.
    The proposed action would exempt participating AKSC vessels from 
selected 50 CFR part 679 closed areas and PSC handling requirements. 
Should the Regional Administrator issue a permit based on this EFP 
application, the conditions of the permit will be designed to minimize 
PSC, and any potential for biasing estimates of groundfish or PSC. 
Vessels participating in EFP fishing would be exempt from, at minimum, 
the following regulations:
    1. Closure to directed fishing by trawl gear in Reporting Area 516 
of Zone 1 in the Bering Sea Subarea from March 15 through June 15, at 
Sec.  679.22(a)(2).
    2. closure to directed fishing by non-pelagic trawl gear in the 
RKCSA at Sec.  679.22(a)(3).
    3. that the operator of each vessel, after allowing for sampling by 
an observer, return all prohibited species, or parts thereof, to the 
sea immediately, with a minimum of injury, regardless of its condition 
at Sec.  679.21(b)(2)(ii).
    The EFP would be valid upon issuance in 2016 until either the end 
of designated EFP fishing in 2017 or until the AKSC Zone 1 red king 
crab PSC allowance is reached in areas of the BSAI open to directed 
fishing by the Amendment 80 cooperatives. EFP-authorized fishing 
activities would not be expected to change the nature or duration of 
the groundfish fishery, gear used, or the amount or species of fish 
caught by the Amendment 80 cooperatives.
    The fieldwork that would be conducted under this EFP is not 
expected to have a significant impact on the human environment as 
detailed in the categorical exclusion prepared for this action (see 
ADDRESSES).
    In accordance with Sec.  679.6, NMFS has determined that the 
application warrants further consideration and has forwarded the 
application to the Council to initiate consultation. The Council is 
scheduled to consider the EFP application during its December 2015 
meeting, which will be held at the Anchorage Hilton Hotel, Anchorage, 
AK. The EFP application will also be provided to the Council's 
Scientific and Statistical Committee for review at the December Council 
meeting. The applicant has been invited to appear in support of the 
application.

Public Comments

    Interested persons may comment on the EFP application at the 
December 2015 Council meeting during public testimony. Information 
regarding the

[[Page 72052]]

meeting is available at the Council's Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/npfmc/council.htm. Comments also may be 
submitted directly to NMFS (see ADDRESSES) by the end of the comment 
period (see DATES). Copies of the application and categorical exclusion 
are available for review from NMFS (see ADDRESSES).

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

    Dated: November 13, 2015.
Emily H. Menashes,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2015-29451 Filed 11-17-15; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P