Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Western Alaska Community Development Quota Program, 3374-3376 [2016-01034]

Download as PDF 3374 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 13 / Thursday, January 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules Public Comments DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE We will accept written comments and information during this reopened comment period on our proposal to remove the scarlet-chested parakeet (Neophema splendida) and the turquoise parakeet (Neophema pulchella) from the List. We will consider information and recommendations from all interested parties. We intend that any final action resulting from the proposal be as accurate as possible and based on the best available scientific and commercial data. If you submit a comment via http:// www.regulations.gov, your entire comment—including any personal identifying information—will be posted on the Web site. We will post all hardcopy comments on http:// www.regulations.gov as well. If you submit a hardcopy comment that includes personal identifying information, you may request at the top of your document that we withhold this information from public review. However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting documentation we used in preparing the proposed listing, will be available for public inspection on http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS–HQ–ES–2015–0176, or by appointment, during normal business hours at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Falls Church, VA (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Authors The primary authors of this notice are staff members in the Ecological Services Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Falls Church, VA. Authority The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) Dated: January 8, 2016. Stephen Guertin, Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. jstallworth on DSK7TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS [FR Doc. 2016–01142 Filed 1–20–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4333–55–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:09 Jan 20, 2016 Jkt 238001 50 CFR Part 679 RIN 0648–BF05 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Western Alaska Community Development Quota Program National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of availability of fishery management plan amendment; request for comments. AGENCY: The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) has submitted Amendment 109 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (FMP) to the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) for review. If approved, Amendment 109 would amend the FMP to support increased participation in local small-scale groundfish fisheries managed under the Western Alaska Community Development Quota (CDQ) Program. Specifically, Amendment 109 would amend the description of observer coverage requirements in the FMP to allow catcher vessels less than or equal to 46 feet (ft) (14.0 meters (m)) length overall (LOA) using hook-andline gear to be placed in the partial observer coverage category when groundfish CDQ fishing. In addition, Amendment 109 would exempt operators of registered catcher vessels greater than 32 ft (9.8 m) LOA and less than or equal to 46 ft LOA using hookand-line gear from the requirement to obtain and carry a License Limitation Program (LLP) license when conducting groundfish CDQ fishing. Amendment 109 also would update descriptive information about the CDQ Program in the FMP and make several editorial revisions. The objective of Amendment 109 is to facilitate increased participation by residents of CDQ communities in the groundfish CDQ fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (BSAI), and to support economic development in western Alaska. This action would benefit the six CDQ groups and the operators of local small hook-and-line catcher vessels that the CDQ groups authorize to participate in the groundfish CDQ fisheries by reducing the costs of participating in those fisheries. SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00034 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Submit comments on or before March 21, 2016. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA– NMFS–2015–0060, by any of the following methods: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20150060, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Submit 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 Regulatory Impact Review/Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis/Environmental Assessment prepared for this action (collectively the ‘‘Analysis’’) are available from http:// www.regulations.gov or from the NMFS Alaska Region Web site at http:// alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sally Bibb, 907–586–7389. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery and Conservation Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) in section 304(a) requires that each regional fishery management council submit an amendment to a fishery management plan for review and approval, disapproval, or partial approval by the Secretary. The Magnuson-Stevens Act in section 304(a) also requires that the Secretary, upon receiving an amendment to a fishery management plan, immediately publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing that the amendment is available for public review and comment. The Council has submitted Amendment 109 to the Secretary for review. This notice announces that proposed Amendment 109 to the FMP is DATES: E:\FR\FM\21JAP1.SGM 21JAP1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 13 / Thursday, January 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules jstallworth on DSK7TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS available for public review and comment. Amendment 109 to the FMP was adopted by the Council in February 2015. The objective of Amendment 109 is to facilitate increased participation by residents of CDQ communities in the groundfish CDQ fisheries in the BSAI, thereby supporting economic development in western Alaska. This action would benefit the six CDQ groups and the operators of local small hookand-line catcher vessels that the CDQ groups authorize to participate in the groundfish CDQ fisheries by reducing the costs of participating in those fisheries. If approved by the Secretary, Amendment 109 would amend Section 3.2.4.1 of the FMP to revise the description of observer coverage requirements to allow catcher vessels less than or equal to 46 ft LOA using hook-and-line gear to be placed in the partial observer coverage category when groundfish CDQ fishing, and make several editorial revisions. The editorial revisions to Section 3.2.4.1 would replace the terms ‘‘<100% observer coverage’’ and ‘‘≥100% observer coverage’’ with the more accurate terms ‘‘partial observer coverage category’’ and ‘‘full observer coverage category,’’ and correct capitalization and grammatical errors. In addition, Amendment 109 would amend Section 3.3.1 of the FMP to add registered catcher vessels greater than 32 ft LOA and less than or equal to 46 ft LOA using hook-and-line gear when groundfish CDQ fishing to the list of exemptions from the LLP license requirements. Amendment 109 also would update descriptive information about the CDQ Program in Section 4.5.4 of the FMP, and make other miscellaneous revisions to the FMP consistent with these amendments. Background The CDQ Program is an economic development program associated with federally managed fisheries in the BSAI. The purpose of the CDQ Program is to provide western Alaska communities with the opportunity to participate and invest in BSAI fisheries, to support economic development in western Alaska, to alleviate poverty and provide economic and social benefits for residents of western Alaska, and to achieve sustainable and diversified local economies in western Alaska. Regulations establishing the CDQ Program were first implemented in 1992. Congress amended the MagnusonStevens Act in 1996 through the Sustainable Fisheries Act (Public Law 104–297) to include specific provisions governing the CDQ Program. VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:09 Jan 20, 2016 Jkt 238001 The CDQ Program also is a catch share program that allocates a portion of the BSAI total allowable catch limits for specific target crab and groundfish species, a portion of the commercial catch limits for halibut assigned by the International Pacific Halibut Commission, and portions of certain prohibited species catch (PSC) limits to the CDQ Program, referred to as prohibited species quota (PSQ). These amounts are then further allocated among the six CDQ groups as allocations that may be transferred among the CDQ groups (with the exception of Chinook salmon PSQ, which may be transferred to other authorized American Fisheries Act entities). The primary focus of Amendment 109 is on the halibut CDQ allocations, the Pacific cod CDQ allocations, and allocations of the halibut PSQ needed to support the Pacific cod CDQ fisheries. There are 65 communities eligible to participate in the CDQ Program. Each community is represented by one of the six CDQ groups. The 65 eligible communities and the CDQ groups are identified in the Magnuson-Stevens Act at section 305(i)(1)(D) and in Table 7 to 50 CFR part 679. CDQ groups use the revenue derived from the harvest of their fisheries allocations as a basis for funding economic development activities and for providing employment opportunities. The successful harvest of CDQ Program allocations is integral to achieving the goals of the CDQ Program and the community development plans of each CDQ group. One of the most effective ways the CDQ groups provide benefits to residents of their CDQ communities is to use the CDQ allocations to create local small-scale commercial fisheries. For purposes of this notice, ‘‘local small-scale’’ means CDQ fisheries prosecuted by catcher vessels that are less than or equal to 46 ft LOA, using hook-and-line gear, and homeported or operated from CDQ communities. These local small-scale CDQ fisheries provide opportunities for residents of the CDQ communities to earn income from the sale of the commercially harvested fish. In October 2013, the Council received a proposal from the representatives of all six of the CDQ groups to revise certain Federal regulations that restrict the ability of fishermen in CDQ communities to harvest allocations of Pacific cod CDQ with small hook-andline catcher vessels. In particular, representatives for the CDQ groups identified full observer coverage and LLP license requirements as limitations on the ability of CDQ community fishermen to retain Pacific cod CDQ PO 00000 Frm 00035 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 3375 when participating in the halibut CDQ fisheries or to develop separate local small-scale directed fisheries for Pacific cod CDQ. In addition, the representatives reported that recent declines in halibut CDQ allocations could prevent the CDQ Program from meeting its economic development objectives, and the ability to develop a local small-scale Pacific cod CDQ fishery would help to offset the lost halibut harvesting and processing opportunities in the CDQ communities. The Council considered the CDQ groups’ proposal and examined several alternative ways to implement it, ultimately adopting its preferred alternative in February 2015. The Council’s preferred alternative would 1) place catcher vessels less than or equal to 46 ft LOA using hook-and-line gear in the partial observer coverage category when they are groundfish CDQ fishing; 2) exempt operators of registered catcher vessels greater than 32 ft LOA and less than or equal to 46 ft LOA using hookand-line gear from the requirement to obtain and carry an LLP license when groundfish CDQ fishing (catcher vessels less than or equal to 32 ft LOA already are exempt from the LLP requirements in the BSAI); 3) allow halibut caught by operators of catcher vessels less than or equal to 46 ft LOA using hook-and-line gear when groundfish CDQ fishing to accrue as either halibut CDQ, halibut individual fishing quota, or halibut PSC, on a trip-by-trip basis; and 4) implement new in-season management and catch accounting procedures to properly account for the harvest of groundfish and halibut and the accrual of halibut PSC by operators of catcher vessels less than or equal to 46 ft LOA using hookand-line gear when halibut or groundfish CDQ fishing. The Council’s proposed revisions to the observer coverage and LLP license requirements require both an FMP amendment (Amendment 109) and regulatory amendments to regulations implementing the FMP at 50 CFR part 679. The remaining elements of the Council’s preferred alternative require only regulatory amendments for implementation. The forthcoming proposed rule to implement Amendment 109 and the regulatory amendments recommended by the Council also would revise regulations at 50 CFR part 679 to make miscellaneous editorial revisions to 50 CFR part 679. All of the proposed changes to the regulations will be described in detail in the proposed rule. The Council’s preferred alternative is intended to provide a regulatory structure for the harvest of groundfish CDQ that provides opportunities for the E:\FR\FM\21JAP1.SGM 21JAP1 3376 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 13 / Thursday, January 21, 2016 / Proposed Rules small catcher vessels that fish on behalf of a CDQ group to retain additional Pacific cod and other groundfish in the halibut CDQ fishery, or to develop separate Pacific cod or other groundfish CDQ fisheries without triggering LLP and full observer coverage requirements. The Council’s preferred alternative also is intended to provide additional fishing opportunities to small catcher vessel operators in CDQ communities who have had reduced harvest opportunities due to lower halibut abundance and the resulting lower CDQ allocations, and to provide the regulatory flexibility necessary for the CDQ groups to develop diversified local small-scale halibut and groundfish fisheries. The following provides additional information on the two main provisions of Amendment 109. jstallworth on DSK7TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Observer Coverage Amendment 109 would place hookand-line catcher vessels less than or equal to 46 ft LOA that are groundfish CDQ fishing in the partial observer coverage category. This proposed change would remove a significant financial and operational barrier to further development of the small vessel groundfish CDQ fisheries. In making this recommendation, the Council recognized that it is likely that few CDQ small vessels would be required to carry an observer under the existing partial observer coverage deployment strategy and deployment rates for vessels within the partial observer coverage category. To establish effective catch accounting for hook-and-line catcher vessels less than or equal to 46 ft LOA that are VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:09 Jan 20, 2016 Jkt 238001 groundfish CDQ fishing, the Council recommended that NMFS modify its catch accounting procedures and use estimates of halibut PSC and other atsea discards for these small vessels based on the best available observer data collected from observed vessels. These recommended revisions are described in more detail in the Analysis and the forthcoming proposed rule for Amendment 109. LLP Exemption The Council determined that a new LLP exemption for registered hook-andline catcher vessels greater than 32 ft LOA and less than or equal to 46 ft LOA when groundfish CDQ fishing was necessary to encourage the retention and sale of groundfish CDQ in the halibut fisheries and to encourage the development of directed fisheries for groundfish CDQ by vessel operators delivering catch to processors located in CDQ communities. Exemption from the LLP would remove a barrier created by the limited number of LLP licenses available for small hook-and-line catcher vessels fishing on behalf of a CDQ group. The Council determined that this limited exemption to the LLP license requirements would not undermine the objectives of the LLP because it would apply only to registered small catcher vessels when groundfish CDQ fishing. Because the CDQ groups receive specific harvest allocations, the Council determined that providing a limited exemption to registered catcher vessels greater than 32 ft LOA and less than or equal to 46 ft LOA when groundfish CDQ fishing PO 00000 Frm 00036 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 would not result in increased harvests overall in the BSAI groundfish fisheries, or contribute to a ‘‘race for fish’’ among fishery participants. NMFS is soliciting public comments on proposed Amendment 109 through the end of the comment period (see DATES). NMFS intends to publish in the Federal Register and seek public comment on a proposed rule that would implement Amendment 109, following NMFS’ evaluation of the proposed rule under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Public comments on the proposed rule must be received by the end of the comment period on Amendment 109 to be considered in the approval/ disapproval decision on Amendment 109. NMFS will consider all comments received by the end of the comment period on Amendment 109, whether specifically directed to the FMP amendment or the proposed rule, in the approval/disapproval decision on Amendment 109. Comments received after that date may not be considered in the approval/disapproval decision on Amendment 109. To be certain of consideration, comments must be received, not just postmarked or otherwise transmitted, by the last day of the comment period. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: January 14, 2016. Emily H. Menashes, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2016–01034 Filed 1–20–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\21JAP1.SGM 21JAP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 13 (Thursday, January 21, 2016)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 3374-3376]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-01034]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 679

RIN 0648-BF05


Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Western 
Alaska Community Development Quota Program

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

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

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

SUMMARY: The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) has 
submitted Amendment 109 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish 
of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (FMP) to the 
Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) for review. If approved, Amendment 
109 would amend the FMP to support increased participation in local 
small-scale groundfish fisheries managed under the Western Alaska 
Community Development Quota (CDQ) Program. Specifically, Amendment 109 
would amend the description of observer coverage requirements in the 
FMP to allow catcher vessels less than or equal to 46 feet (ft) (14.0 
meters (m)) length overall (LOA) using hook-and-line gear to be placed 
in the partial observer coverage category when groundfish CDQ fishing. 
In addition, Amendment 109 would exempt operators of registered catcher 
vessels greater than 32 ft (9.8 m) LOA and less than or equal to 46 ft 
LOA using hook-and-line gear from the requirement to obtain and carry a 
License Limitation Program (LLP) license when conducting groundfish CDQ 
fishing. Amendment 109 also would update descriptive information about 
the CDQ Program in the FMP and make several editorial revisions. The 
objective of Amendment 109 is to facilitate increased participation by 
residents of CDQ communities in the groundfish CDQ fisheries in the 
Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (BSAI), and to support 
economic development in western Alaska. This action would benefit the 
six CDQ groups and the operators of local small hook-and-line catcher 
vessels that the CDQ groups authorize to participate in the groundfish 
CDQ fisheries by reducing the costs of participating in those 
fisheries.

DATES: Submit comments on or before March 21, 2016.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NMFS-2015-0060, by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2015-0060, click the ``Comment Now!'' icon, 
complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit 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 Regulatory Impact Review/Initial 
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis/Environmental Assessment prepared for 
this action (collectively the ``Analysis'') are available from http://www.regulations.gov or from the NMFS Alaska Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sally Bibb, 907-586-7389.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery and 
Conservation Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) in section 304(a) requires that 
each regional fishery management council submit an amendment to a 
fishery management plan for review and approval, disapproval, or 
partial approval by the Secretary. The Magnuson-Stevens Act in section 
304(a) also requires that the Secretary, upon receiving an amendment to 
a fishery management plan, immediately publish a notice in the Federal 
Register announcing that the amendment is available for public review 
and comment. The Council has submitted Amendment 109 to the Secretary 
for review. This notice announces that proposed Amendment 109 to the 
FMP is

[[Page 3375]]

available for public review and comment.
    Amendment 109 to the FMP was adopted by the Council in February 
2015. The objective of Amendment 109 is to facilitate increased 
participation by residents of CDQ communities in the groundfish CDQ 
fisheries in the BSAI, thereby supporting economic development in 
western Alaska. This action would benefit the six CDQ groups and the 
operators of local small hook-and-line catcher vessels that the CDQ 
groups authorize to participate in the groundfish CDQ fisheries by 
reducing the costs of participating in those fisheries.
    If approved by the Secretary, Amendment 109 would amend Section 
3.2.4.1 of the FMP to revise the description of observer coverage 
requirements to allow catcher vessels less than or equal to 46 ft LOA 
using hook-and-line gear to be placed in the partial observer coverage 
category when groundfish CDQ fishing, and make several editorial 
revisions. The editorial revisions to Section 3.2.4.1 would replace the 
terms ``<100% observer coverage'' and ``>=100% observer coverage'' with 
the more accurate terms ``partial observer coverage category'' and 
``full observer coverage category,'' and correct capitalization and 
grammatical errors. In addition, Amendment 109 would amend Section 
3.3.1 of the FMP to add registered catcher vessels greater than 32 ft 
LOA and less than or equal to 46 ft LOA using hook-and-line gear when 
groundfish CDQ fishing to the list of exemptions from the LLP license 
requirements. Amendment 109 also would update descriptive information 
about the CDQ Program in Section 4.5.4 of the FMP, and make other 
miscellaneous revisions to the FMP consistent with these amendments.

Background

    The CDQ Program is an economic development program associated with 
federally managed fisheries in the BSAI. The purpose of the CDQ Program 
is to provide western Alaska communities with the opportunity to 
participate and invest in BSAI fisheries, to support economic 
development in western Alaska, to alleviate poverty and provide 
economic and social benefits for residents of western Alaska, and to 
achieve sustainable and diversified local economies in western Alaska. 
Regulations establishing the CDQ Program were first implemented in 
1992. Congress amended the Magnuson-Stevens Act in 1996 through the 
Sustainable Fisheries Act (Public Law 104-297) to include specific 
provisions governing the CDQ Program.
    The CDQ Program also is a catch share program that allocates a 
portion of the BSAI total allowable catch limits for specific target 
crab and groundfish species, a portion of the commercial catch limits 
for halibut assigned by the International Pacific Halibut Commission, 
and portions of certain prohibited species catch (PSC) limits to the 
CDQ Program, referred to as prohibited species quota (PSQ). These 
amounts are then further allocated among the six CDQ groups as 
allocations that may be transferred among the CDQ groups (with the 
exception of Chinook salmon PSQ, which may be transferred to other 
authorized American Fisheries Act entities). The primary focus of 
Amendment 109 is on the halibut CDQ allocations, the Pacific cod CDQ 
allocations, and allocations of the halibut PSQ needed to support the 
Pacific cod CDQ fisheries.
    There are 65 communities eligible to participate in the CDQ 
Program. Each community is represented by one of the six CDQ groups. 
The 65 eligible communities and the CDQ groups are identified in the 
Magnuson-Stevens Act at section 305(i)(1)(D) and in Table 7 to 50 CFR 
part 679. CDQ groups use the revenue derived from the harvest of their 
fisheries allocations as a basis for funding economic development 
activities and for providing employment opportunities. The successful 
harvest of CDQ Program allocations is integral to achieving the goals 
of the CDQ Program and the community development plans of each CDQ 
group. One of the most effective ways the CDQ groups provide benefits 
to residents of their CDQ communities is to use the CDQ allocations to 
create local small-scale commercial fisheries. For purposes of this 
notice, ``local small-scale'' means CDQ fisheries prosecuted by catcher 
vessels that are less than or equal to 46 ft LOA, using hook-and-line 
gear, and homeported or operated from CDQ communities. These local 
small-scale CDQ fisheries provide opportunities for residents of the 
CDQ communities to earn income from the sale of the commercially 
harvested fish.
    In October 2013, the Council received a proposal from the 
representatives of all six of the CDQ groups to revise certain Federal 
regulations that restrict the ability of fishermen in CDQ communities 
to harvest allocations of Pacific cod CDQ with small hook-and-line 
catcher vessels. In particular, representatives for the CDQ groups 
identified full observer coverage and LLP license requirements as 
limitations on the ability of CDQ community fishermen to retain Pacific 
cod CDQ when participating in the halibut CDQ fisheries or to develop 
separate local small-scale directed fisheries for Pacific cod CDQ. In 
addition, the representatives reported that recent declines in halibut 
CDQ allocations could prevent the CDQ Program from meeting its economic 
development objectives, and the ability to develop a local small-scale 
Pacific cod CDQ fishery would help to offset the lost halibut 
harvesting and processing opportunities in the CDQ communities.
    The Council considered the CDQ groups' proposal and examined 
several alternative ways to implement it, ultimately adopting its 
preferred alternative in February 2015. The Council's preferred 
alternative would 1) place catcher vessels less than or equal to 46 ft 
LOA using hook-and-line gear in the partial observer coverage category 
when they are groundfish CDQ fishing; 2) exempt operators of registered 
catcher vessels greater than 32 ft LOA and less than or equal to 46 ft 
LOA using hook-and-line gear from the requirement to obtain and carry 
an LLP license when groundfish CDQ fishing (catcher vessels less than 
or equal to 32 ft LOA already are exempt from the LLP requirements in 
the BSAI); 3) allow halibut caught by operators of catcher vessels less 
than or equal to 46 ft LOA using hook-and-line gear when groundfish CDQ 
fishing to accrue as either halibut CDQ, halibut individual fishing 
quota, or halibut PSC, on a trip-by-trip basis; and 4) implement new 
in-season management and catch accounting procedures to properly 
account for the harvest of groundfish and halibut and the accrual of 
halibut PSC by operators of catcher vessels less than or equal to 46 ft 
LOA using hook-and-line gear when halibut or groundfish CDQ fishing.
    The Council's proposed revisions to the observer coverage and LLP 
license requirements require both an FMP amendment (Amendment 109) and 
regulatory amendments to regulations implementing the FMP at 50 CFR 
part 679. The remaining elements of the Council's preferred alternative 
require only regulatory amendments for implementation. The forthcoming 
proposed rule to implement Amendment 109 and the regulatory amendments 
recommended by the Council also would revise regulations at 50 CFR part 
679 to make miscellaneous editorial revisions to 50 CFR part 679. All 
of the proposed changes to the regulations will be described in detail 
in the proposed rule.
    The Council's preferred alternative is intended to provide a 
regulatory structure for the harvest of groundfish CDQ that provides 
opportunities for the

[[Page 3376]]

small catcher vessels that fish on behalf of a CDQ group to retain 
additional Pacific cod and other groundfish in the halibut CDQ fishery, 
or to develop separate Pacific cod or other groundfish CDQ fisheries 
without triggering LLP and full observer coverage requirements. The 
Council's preferred alternative also is intended to provide additional 
fishing opportunities to small catcher vessel operators in CDQ 
communities who have had reduced harvest opportunities due to lower 
halibut abundance and the resulting lower CDQ allocations, and to 
provide the regulatory flexibility necessary for the CDQ groups to 
develop diversified local small-scale halibut and groundfish fisheries. 
The following provides additional information on the two main 
provisions of Amendment 109.

Observer Coverage

    Amendment 109 would place hook-and-line catcher vessels less than 
or equal to 46 ft LOA that are groundfish CDQ fishing in the partial 
observer coverage category. This proposed change would remove a 
significant financial and operational barrier to further development of 
the small vessel groundfish CDQ fisheries. In making this 
recommendation, the Council recognized that it is likely that few CDQ 
small vessels would be required to carry an observer under the existing 
partial observer coverage deployment strategy and deployment rates for 
vessels within the partial observer coverage category. To establish 
effective catch accounting for hook-and-line catcher vessels less than 
or equal to 46 ft LOA that are groundfish CDQ fishing, the Council 
recommended that NMFS modify its catch accounting procedures and use 
estimates of halibut PSC and other at-sea discards for these small 
vessels based on the best available observer data collected from 
observed vessels. These recommended revisions are described in more 
detail in the Analysis and the forthcoming proposed rule for Amendment 
109.

LLP Exemption

    The Council determined that a new LLP exemption for registered 
hook-and-line catcher vessels greater than 32 ft LOA and less than or 
equal to 46 ft LOA when groundfish CDQ fishing was necessary to 
encourage the retention and sale of groundfish CDQ in the halibut 
fisheries and to encourage the development of directed fisheries for 
groundfish CDQ by vessel operators delivering catch to processors 
located in CDQ communities. Exemption from the LLP would remove a 
barrier created by the limited number of LLP licenses available for 
small hook-and-line catcher vessels fishing on behalf of a CDQ group. 
The Council determined that this limited exemption to the LLP license 
requirements would not undermine the objectives of the LLP because it 
would apply only to registered small catcher vessels when groundfish 
CDQ fishing. Because the CDQ groups receive specific harvest 
allocations, the Council determined that providing a limited exemption 
to registered catcher vessels greater than 32 ft LOA and less than or 
equal to 46 ft LOA when groundfish CDQ fishing would not result in 
increased harvests overall in the BSAI groundfish fisheries, or 
contribute to a ``race for fish'' among fishery participants.
    NMFS is soliciting public comments on proposed Amendment 109 
through the end of the comment period (see DATES). NMFS intends to 
publish in the Federal Register and seek public comment on a proposed 
rule that would implement Amendment 109, following NMFS' evaluation of 
the proposed rule under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Public comments on 
the proposed rule must be received by the end of the comment period on 
Amendment 109 to be considered in the approval/disapproval decision on 
Amendment 109. NMFS will consider all comments received by the end of 
the comment period on Amendment 109, whether specifically directed to 
the FMP amendment or the proposed rule, in the approval/disapproval 
decision on Amendment 109. Comments received after that date may not be 
considered in the approval/disapproval decision on Amendment 109. To be 
certain of consideration, comments must be received, not just 
postmarked or otherwise transmitted, by the last day of the comment 
period.

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

    Dated: January 14, 2016.
Emily H. Menashes,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2016-01034 Filed 1-20-16; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P