Pacific Halibut Fisheries; Catch Sharing Plan, 8466-8473 [2016-02991]

Download as PDF 8466 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 33 / Friday, February 19, 2016 / Proposed Rules sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender is publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sarah Williams, phone: 206–526–4646, fax: 206–526–6736, or email: sarah.williams@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 300 [Docket No. 160127057–6057–01] RIN 0648–BF60 Pacific Halibut Fisheries; Catch Sharing Plan National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS proposes to approve changes to the Pacific Halibut Catch Sharing Plan (Plan) and codified regulations for the International Pacific Halibut Commission’s (IPHC or Commission) regulatory Area 2A off Washington, Oregon, and California (Area 2A). In addition, NMFS proposes to implement the portions of the Plan and management measures that are not implemented through the IPHC. These measures include the sport fishery allocations and management measures for Area 2A. These actions are intended to conserve Pacific halibut, provide angler opportunity where available, and minimize bycatch of overfished groundfish species. DATES: Comments on the proposed changes to the Plan and the codified regulations, and on the proposed domestic Area 2A Pacific halibut management measures must be received by March 10, 2016. ADDRESSES: Submit your comments, identified by NOAA–NMFS–2015–0166, by either of the following methods: • Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20150166, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Submit written comments to William Stelle, Regional Administrator, West Coast Region, NMFS, 7600 Sand Point Way NE., Seattle, WA 98115– 0070. Instructions: NMFS may not consider comments if they are sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the comment period ends. All comments received are a part of the public record and NMFS will post for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:51 Feb 18, 2016 Jkt 238001 Electronic Access This rule is accessible via the Internet at the Office of the Federal Register Web site at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_ docs/aces/aces140.html. Background information and documents are available at the NMFS West Coast Region Web site at http:// www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/ fisheries/management/pacific_halibut_ management.html and at the Council’s Web site at http://www.pcouncil.org. Background The Northern Pacific Halibut Act (Halibut Act) of 1982, 16 U.S.C. 773– 773K, gives the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) general responsibility for implementing the provisions of the Halibut Convention between the United States and Canada (Halibut Convention) (16 U.S.C. 773c). It requires the Secretary to adopt regulations as may be necessary to carry out the purposes and objectives of the Halibut Convention and the Halibut Act. Section 773c of the Halibut Act also authorizes the regional fishery management councils to develop regulations in addition to, but not in conflict with, regulations of the IPHC to govern the Pacific halibut catch in their corresponding U.S. Convention waters. Each year between 1988 and 1995, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) developed and NMFS implemented a catch sharing plan in accordance with the Halibut Act to allocate the total allowable catch (TAC) of Pacific halibut between treaty Indian and non-Indian harvesters and among non-Indian commercial and sport fisheries in Area 2A. In 1995, NMFS implemented the Pacific Councilrecommended long-term Plan (60 FR 14651, March 20, 1995). Every year since then, minor revisions to the Plan have been made to adjust for the changing needs of the fisheries. For 2016, the Council recommendation includes minor modifications to sport fisheries to better match the needs of the fishery, and updates to the inseason procedures to reflect current practices. The Council also recommended changes to the codified regulations to remove PO 00000 Frm 00046 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 coordinates that are described in groundfish regulations, match the changes to the Plan, and update descriptions of tribal treaty fishing areas. This rule does contain some dates for the sport fisheries based on the 2016 Plan as recommended by the Council because the affected states are holding public meetings to gather public input on final season dates given the final 2A TAC. The states will submit final season dates following their public meetings. Incidental Halibut Retention in the Sablefish Primary Fishery North of Pt. Chehalis, WA The Plan provides that incidental halibut retention in the sablefish primary fishery north of Pt. Chehalis, WA, will be allowed when the Area 2A TAC is greater than 900,000 lb (408.2 mt), provided that a minimum of 10,000 lb (4.5 mt) is available above a Washington recreational TAC of 214,100 lb (97.1 mt). The 2016 TAC of 1,140,000 lb (517 mt) is sufficient to provide for this opportunity; therefore the Council will recommend landing restrictions at its March 2016 meeting. Following this meeting, NMFS will publish the restrictions in the Federal Register. Opportunity for Public Comment Through this proposed rule, NMFS requests public comments on the Pacific Council’s recommended modifications to the Plan and the resulting proposed domestic fishing regulations by March 10, 2016. A 20 day comment period is necessary to allow adequate time for the final rule to be effective by April 1st when the incidental fisheries begin. The States of Washington, Oregon, and California will conduct public workshops in February to obtain input on the sport season dates. Following the proposed rule comment period, NMFS will review public comments and comments from the states, and issue a final rule. Either that final rule or an additional rule will include the IPHC regulations and regulations for the West Coast and Alaska. Proposed Changes to the Plan Each year, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG), and the tribes with treaty fishing rights for halibut consider whether to pursue changes to the Plan to meet the needs of the fishery. In determining whether changes are needed, the state agencies hold public meetings prior to the Council’s September meeting. Subsequently, they recommend changes to the Council at its September meeting. In 2015, fishery managers from all three E:\FR\FM\19FEP1.SGM 19FEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 33 / Friday, February 19, 2016 / Proposed Rules asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS state agencies held public meetings on the Plan prior to the Council’s September meeting. At the September 2015 Council meeting, NMFS, WDFW, and ODFW recommended changes to the Plan and codified regulations. The tribes and CDFW did not recommend changes to the Plan or regulations. The Council voted to solicit public input on all of the changes recommended by the state agencies, several of which were presented in the form of alternatives. WDFW and ODFW subsequently held public workshops on the recommended changes. At its November 13–19, 2015, meeting the Council considered the results of state-sponsored workshops on the recommended changes to the Plan and public input provided at the September and November Council meetings, and made its final recommendations for modifications to the Plan. NMFS proposes to adopt all of the Council’s recommended changes to the Plan as further discussed below. NMFS also proposed to make changes to the codified regulations. Proposed Changes to the Plan 1. In section (b), Allocations, add a statement that all allocations and subquotas are described in net weight. The goal of this change is to clarify that the Plan allocations and subquotas are described in net weight consistent with the IPHC’s use of net weight. 2. In section (d), Treaty Indian Fisheries, modify the description of subarea 2A–1 to account for a recent court order (United States v. Washington, 2:09-sp-00001–RSM (W.D. Wash. Sept. 3, 2015)) regarding boundaries of tribal usual and accustomed fishing grounds; specifically, the western boundary for the Quinault Tribe’s fishing area and the northern boundary of the Quileute Tribe’s fishing area; 3. In section (f)(1)(ii), Washington North Coast subarea, this rule proposes several changes. The changes would modify the opening day in this area from the first Thursday in May to the first Saturday in May with a second opening the following week on Thursday and Saturday and a closure during the third week of May. The goal of this change is to allow for a longer season while giving WDFW time to assess the catch and provide adequate time for public notice of any later reopenings. 4. In section (f)(1)(v), Oregon central coast subarea, this rule proposes several changes to the text to implement several measures. First, there is a change to the Central Coast allocation so that the Oregon sport allocation is divided VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:51 Feb 18, 2016 Jkt 238001 clearly among the Columbia River, Central Coast, and Southern Oregon subareas, instead of allocating to the Columbia River subarea first then dividing the remaining allocation between the Southern Oregon and Central Coast subareas. Second, the Council is added to the list of consulting agencies consistent with inseason procedures. Third, the opening date for the nearshore fishery is changed from July 1 to June 1 to allow for a longer season. 5. In section (f)(1)(vi), Southern Oregon subarea, this rule proposes changes to the allocations for this subarea, as stated above for the Central Coast subarea. The allocation is modified from 4.0 to 3.91 percent of the Oregon sport allocation. Also, incidental retention of sablefish, Pacific cod, and flatfish species in areas closed to fishing targeting groundfish is allowed in this subarea, to make incidental retention rules consistent throughout Oregon. 6. In section (f)(5)(iii)(B), Notice procedures, this rule proposes to remove the Notice to Mariners requirement because these are not used in the halibut fishery. The proposed change to the Plan reflects current practice. 7. In section (f)(6), Sport fishery closure provisions, this rule proposes to modify this section to state that closure determinations made by IPHC are done after consultation with NMFS, Council, and the affected state agencies. The goal of this change is for the Plan to reflect current practice. NMFS proposes to approve the Council’s recommendations and to implement the changes described above. A version of the Plan including these changes can be found at http:// www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/ fisheries/management/pacific_halibut_ management.html. Proposed Changes to the Regulations 1. Modify Tribal fishing area descriptions at § 300.64(i) to account for a recent court order (United States v. Washington, 2:09-sp-00001–RSM (W.D. Wash. Sept. 3, 2015)) regarding boundaries of tribal usual and accustomed fishing grounds; specifically, the western boundary for the Quinault Tribe’s fishing area and the northern boundary of the Quileute Tribe’s fishing area; 2. Remove the coordinates for the 30 fm depth contour at § 300.63(f) and 100 fm depth contour at § 300.63(g) and refer to groundfish regulations at § 660.71 for the 30 fm depth contour and § 660.73 for the 100 fm depth contour. This change is necessary because the halibut and groundfish PO 00000 Frm 00047 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 8467 fisheries use the same coordinates and they should be listed in one location; 3. Update the shoreward boundary of the non-trawl Rockfish Conservation Area listed in § 300.63(e) to the boundary line approximating the 30 fm depth contour. This closed area applies to commercial halibut fishing when retaining incidentally caught groundfish. The shoreward boundary of this closed area was modified through the 2015–2016 groundfish harvest specifications; and 4. Remove Notice to Mariners notice procedures at § 300.63(c)(3)(ii) to match modifications to Plan. Proposed 2016 Sport Fishery Management Measures NMFS also proposes sport fishery management measures, including season dates and bag limits that are necessary to implement the Plan in 2016. The annual domestic management measures are published each year through a final rule. For the 2015 fishing season, the final rule for Area 2A sport fisheries was published on April 1, 2015 (80 FR 17344) and the final rule for the commercial fisheries was published on March 17, 2015 (80 FR 13771) along with the IPHC regulations. Therefore, the section numbers for the commercial fisheries below refer to sections in the March 17 final rule, and the section numbers for the recreational fisheries refer to sections in the April 1 final rule. Where season dates are not indicated, those dates will be provided in the final rule, following consideration of the 2016 TAC and consultation with the states and the public. In Section 8 of the annual domestic management measures published on March 17, 2015, ‘‘Fishing Periods,’’ paragraphs (2), (3), and (4) are proposed to read as follows: (1) * * * (2) Each fishing period in the Area 2A directed fishery shall begin at 0800 hours and terminate at 1800 hours local time on June 22, July 6, July 20, August 3, August 17, August 31, September 14, and September 28, unless the Commission specifies otherwise. (3) Notwithstanding paragraph (7) of section 11, an incidental catch fishery is authorized during the sablefish seasons in Area 2A in accordance with regulations promulgated by NMFS. This fishery will occur between 1200 hours local time on March 19 and 1200 hours local time on November 7. (4) Notwithstanding paragraph (2), and paragraph (7) of section 11, an incidental catch fishery is authorized during salmon troll seasons in Area 2A in accordance with regulations promulgated by NMFS. This fishery will E:\FR\FM\19FEP1.SGM 19FEP1 asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS 8468 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 33 / Friday, February 19, 2016 / Proposed Rules occur between 1200 hours local time on March 19 and 1200 hours local time on November 7. In section 26 of the annual domestic management measures, ‘‘Sport Fishing for Halibut’’ paragraph (8) is proposed to read as follows: (8) * * * (a) The area in Puget Sound and the U.S. waters in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, east of a line extending from 48°17.30′ N. lat., 124°23.70′ W. long. north to 48°24.10′ N. lat., 124°23.70′ W. long., is not managed in-season relative to its quota. This area is managed by setting a season that is projected to result in a catch of 57,393 lb (26.03 mt). (i) The fishing season in eastern Puget Sound (east of 123°49.50′ W. long., Low Point) is (season dates will be inserted when final rule is published). The fishing season in western Puget Sound (west of 123°49.50′ W. long., Low Point) is open (season dates will be inserted when final rule is published). (ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per person. (b) The quota for landings into ports in the area off the north Washington coast, west of the line described in paragraph (2)(a) of section 26 and north of the Queets River (47°31.70′ N. lat.) (North Coast subarea), is 108,030 lb (49 mt). (i) The fishing seasons are: (A) Fishing is open May 7, 12, and 14. Any openings after May 14 will be based on available quota and announced on the NMFS hotline. (B) If sufficient quota remains the fishery will reopen until there is not sufficient quota for another full day of fishing and the area is closed by the Commission. After May 14, any fishery opening will be announced on the NMFS hotline at 800–662–9825. No halibut fishing will be allowed after May 14 unless the date is announced on the NMFS hotline. (ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per person. (iii) Recreational fishing for groundfish and halibut is prohibited within the North Coast Recreational Yelloweye Rockfish Conservation Area (YRCA). It is unlawful for recreational fishing vessels to take and retain, possess, or land halibut taken with recreational gear within the North Coast Recreational YRCA. A vessel fishing with recreational gear in the North Coast Recreational YRCA may not be in possession of any halibut. Recreational vessels may transit through the North Coast Recreational YRCA with or without halibut on board. The North Coast Recreational YRCA is a C-shaped area off the northern Washington coast intended to protect yelloweye rockfish. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:51 Feb 18, 2016 Jkt 238001 The North Coast Recreational YRCA is defined in groundfish regulations at § 660.70(a). (c) The quota for landings into ports in the area between the Queets River, WA (47°31.70′ N. lat.), and Leadbetter Point, WA (46°38.17′ N. lat.)(South Coast subarea), is 42,739 lb (19.39 mt). (i) This subarea is divided between the all-waters fishery (the Washington South coast primary fishery), and the incidental nearshore fishery in the area from 47°31.70′ N. lat. south to 46°58.00′ N. lat. and east of a boundary line approximating the 30 fm depth contour. This area is defined by straight lines connecting all of the following points in the order stated as described by the following coordinates (the Washington South coast, northern nearshore area): (1) 47°31.70′ N. lat, 124°37.03′ W. long; (2) 47°25.67′ N. lat, 124°34.79′ W. long; (3) 47°12.82′ N. lat, 124°29.12′ W. long; (4) 46°58.00′ N. lat, 124°24.24′ W. long. The south coast subarea quota will be allocated as follows: 40,739 lb (18.48 mt) for the primary fishery and 2,000 lb (0.91 mt) for the nearshore fishery. The primary fishery commences on May 1, and continues 2 days a week (Sunday and Tuesday) until May 17. If the primary quota is projected to be obtained sooner than expected, the management closure may occur earlier. Beginning on May 29 the primary fishery will be open at most 2 days per week (Sunday and/or Tuesday) until the quota for the south coast subarea primary fishery is taken and the season is closed by the Commission, or until September 30, whichever is earlier. The fishing season in the nearshore area commences on May 1, and continues 7 days per week. Subsequent to closure of the primary fishery, the nearshore fishery is open 7 days per week, until 42,739 lb (19.39 mt) is projected to be taken by the two fisheries combined and the fishery is closed by the Commission or September 30, whichever is earlier. If the fishery is closed prior to September 30, and there is insufficient quota remaining to reopen the northern nearshore area for another fishing day, then any remaining quota may be transferred in-season to another Washington coastal subarea by NMFS via an update to the recreational halibut hotline. (ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per person. (iii) Seaward of the boundary line approximating the 30-fm depth contour and during days open to the primary fishery, lingcod may be taken, retained PO 00000 Frm 00048 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 and possessed when allowed by groundfish regulations at 50 CFR 660.360, subpart G. (iv) Recreational fishing for groundfish and halibut is prohibited within the South Coast Recreational YRCA and Westport Offshore YRCA. It is unlawful for recreational fishing vessels to take and retain, possess, or land halibut taken with recreational gear within the South Coast Recreational YRCA and Westport Offshore YRCA. A vessel fishing in the South Coast Recreational YRCA and/or Westport Offshore YRCA may not be in possession of any halibut. Recreational vessels may transit through the South Coast Recreational YRCA and Westport Offshore YRCA with or without halibut on board. The South Coast Recreational YRCA and Westport Offshore YRCA are areas off the southern Washington coast established to protect yelloweye rockfish. The South Coast Recreational YRCA is defined at 50 CFR 660.70(d). The Westport Offshore YRCA is defined at 50 CFR 660.70(e). (d) The quota for landings into ports in the area between Leadbetter Point, WA (46°38.17′ N. lat.), and Cape Falcon, OR (45°46.00′ N. lat.) (Columbia River subarea), is 11,009 lb (4.99 mt). (i) This subarea is divided into an alldepth fishery and a nearshore fishery. The nearshore fishery is allocated 500 pounds of the subarea allocation. The nearshore fishery extends from Leadbetter Point (46°38.17′ N. lat., 124°15.88′ W. long.) to the Columbia River (46°16.00′ N. lat., 124°15.88′ W. long.) by connecting the following coordinates in Washington 46°38.17′ N. lat., 124°15.88′ W. long. 46°16.00′ N. lat., 124°15.88′ W. long and connecting to the boundary line approximating the 40 fm (73 m) depth contour in Oregon. The nearshore fishery opens May 2, and continues 3 days per week (Monday– Wednesday) until the nearshore allocation is taken, or September 30, whichever is earlier. The all depth fishing season commences on May 1, and continues 4 days a week (Thursday–Sunday) until 10,509 lb (4.77 mt) are estimated to have been taken and the season is closed by the Commission, or September 30, whichever is earlier. Subsequent to this closure, if there is insufficient quota remaining in the Columbia River subarea for another fishing day, then any remaining quota may be transferred inseason to another Washington and/or Oregon subarea by NMFS via an update to the recreational halibut hotline. Any remaining quota would be transferred to each state in proportion to its contribution. E:\FR\FM\19FEP1.SGM 19FEP1 asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 33 / Friday, February 19, 2016 / Proposed Rules (ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per person. (iii) Pacific Coast groundfish may not be taken and retained, possessed or landed when halibut are on board the vessel, except sablefish, Pacific cod, and flatfish species when allowed by Pacific Coast groundfish regulations, during days open to the all depth fishery only. (iv) Taking, retaining, possessing, or landing halibut on groundfish trips is only allowed in the nearshore area on days not open to all-depth Pacific halibut fisheries. (e) The quota for landings into ports in the area off Oregon between Cape Falcon (45°46.00′ N. lat.) and Humbug Mountain (42°40.50′ N. lat.) (Oregon Central Coast subarea), is 206,410 lb (93.63 mt). (i) The fishing seasons are: (A) The first season (the ‘‘inside 40fm’’ fishery) commences June 1, and continues 7 days a week, in the area shoreward of a boundary line approximating the 40-fm (73-m) depth contour, or until the sub-quota for the central Oregon ‘‘inside 40-fm’’ fishery of 24,769 lb (11.24 mt), or any in-season revised subquota, is estimated to have been taken and the season is closed by the Commission, whichever is earlier. The boundary line approximating the 40-fm (73-m) depth contour between 45°46.00′ N. lat. and 42°40.50′ N. lat. is defined at § 660.71(k). (B) The second season (spring season), which is for the ‘‘all-depth’’ fishery, is open (season dates will be inserted when final rule is published). The allocation to the all-depth fishery is 181,641 lb (82.4 mt). If sufficient unharvested quota remains for additional fishing days, the season will re-open. Notice of the re-opening will be announced on the NMFS hotline (206) 526–6667 or (800) 662–9825. No halibut fishing will be allowed on the reopening dates unless the date is announced on the NMFS hotline. (C) If sufficient unharvested quota remains, the third season (summer season), which is for the ‘‘all-depth’’ fishery, will be open (season dates will be inserted when final rule is published) or until the combined spring season and summer season quotas in the area between Cape Falcon and Humbug Mountain, OR, are estimated to have been taken and the area is closed by the Commission, or October 31, whichever is earlier. NMFS will announce on the NMFS hotline in July whether the fishery will re-open for the summer season in August. No halibut fishing will be allowed in the summer season fishery unless the dates are announced on the NMFS hotline. Additional fishing days may be opened if sufficient quota VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:51 Feb 18, 2016 Jkt 238001 remains after the last day of the first scheduled open period. If, after this date, an amount greater than or equal to 60,000 lb (27.2 mt) remains in the combined all-depth and inside 40-fm (73-m) quota, the fishery may re-open every Friday and Saturday, beginning (insert date of first back up dates) and ending October 31. If after September 7, an amount greater than or equal to 30,000 lb (13.6 mt) remains in the combined all-depth and inside 40-fm (73-m) quota, and the fishery is not already open every Friday and Saturday, the fishery may re-open every Friday and Saturday, beginning September 9 and 10, and ending October 31. After September 4, the bag limit may be increased to two fish of any size per person, per day. NMFS will announce on the NMFS hotline whether the summer all-depth fishery will be open on such additional fishing days, what days the fishery will be open and what the bag limit is. (ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per person, unless otherwise specified. NMFS will announce on the NMFS hotline any bag limit changes. (iii) During days open to all-depth halibut fishing, no Pacific Coast groundfish may be taken and retained, possessed or landed, when halibut are on board the vessel, except sablefish, Pacific cod, and flatfish species, when allowed by Pacific Coast groundfish regulations. (iv) When the all-depth halibut fishery is closed and halibut fishing is permitted only shoreward of a boundary line approximating the 40-fm (73-m) depth contour, halibut possession and retention by vessels operating seaward of a boundary line approximating the 40-fm (73-m) depth contour is prohibited. (v) Recreational fishing for groundfish and halibut is prohibited within the Stonewall Bank YRCA. It is unlawful for recreational fishing vessels to take and retain, possess, or land halibut taken with recreational gear within the Stonewall Bank YRCA. A vessel fishing in the Stonewall Bank YRCA may not possess any halibut. Recreational vessels may transit through the Stonewall Bank YRCA with or without halibut on board. The Stonewall Bank YRCA is an area off central Oregon, near Stonewall Bank, intended to protect yelloweye rockfish. The Stonewall Bank YRCA is defined at § 660.70(f). (f) The quota for landings into ports in the area south of Humbug Mountain, OR (42°40.50′ N. lat.) to the Oregon/ California Border (42°00.00′ N. lat.) (Southern Oregon subarea) is 8,605 lb (3.9 mt). PO 00000 Frm 00049 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 8469 (i) The fishing season commences on May 1, and continues 7 days per week until the subquota is taken, or October 31, whichever is earlier. (ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut per person with no size limit. (iii) No Pacific Coast groundfish may be taken and retained, possessed or landed, except sablefish, Pacific cod, and flatfish species, in areas closed to groundfish, if halibut are on board the vessel. (g) The quota for landings into ports south of the Oregon/California Border (42°00.00′ N. lat.) and along the California coast is 29,640 lb (13.44 mt). (i) The fishing season will be open (season dates will be inserted when final rule is published), or until the subarea quota is estimated to have been taken and the season is closed by the Commission, or October 31, whichever is earlier. NMFS will announce any closure by the Commission on the NMFS hotline (206) 526–6667 or (800) 662–9825. (ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per person. Classification Regulations governing the U.S. fisheries for Pacific halibut are developed by the IPHC, the Pacific Fishery Management Council, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, and the Secretary of Commerce. Section 5 of the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982 (Halibut Act, 16 U.S.C. 773c) provides the Secretary of Commerce with the general responsibility to carry out the Convention between Canada and the United States for the management of Pacific halibut, including the authority to adopt regulations as may be necessary to carry out the purposes and objectives of the Convention and Halibut Act. This proposed rule is consistent with the Secretary of Commerce’s authority under the Halibut Act. This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. The Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), 5 U.S.C. 603 et seq., requires government agencies to assess the effects that regulatory alternatives would have on small entities, including small businesses, and to determine ways to minimize those effects. When an agency proposes regulations, the RFA requires the agency to prepare and make available for public comment an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) that describes the impact on small businesses, non-profit enterprises, local governments, and other small entities. The IRFA is to aid the agency in considering all reasonable regulatory alternatives that would minimize the E:\FR\FM\19FEP1.SGM 19FEP1 8470 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 33 / Friday, February 19, 2016 / Proposed Rules asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS economic impact on affected small entities. After the public comment period, the agency prepares a Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (FRFA) that takes into consideration any new information or public comments. A summary of the IRFA is provided below. The reasons why action by the agency is being considered, the objectives and legal basis for this rule are described above. The main management objective for the Pacific halibut fishery in Area 2A is to manage fisheries to remain within the TAC for Area 2A. Another objective is to allow each commercial, recreational (sport), and tribal fishery to target halibut in the manner that is appropriate to meet both the conservation requirements for species that co-occur with Pacific halibut. A third objective is to meet the needs of fishery participants in particular fisheries and fishing areas. Each year, the states of Washington, Oregon, California, and the treaty tribes that fish for halibut meet with their fishery participants to review halibut management under the Plan. Based on feedback from these meetings and experience from the previous year’s fishing season, the states or the tribes may propose changes to the Plan. Proposed changes to the Plan are intended to remedy any problems encountered during the previous year’s management, problems with other fisheries with overlapping management jurisdiction (i.e., Pacific Coast groundfish), or other anticipated problems. Changes to the Plan The 2A Halibut Catch Sharing Plan, as outlined above, allocates the TAC at various levels. The commercial fishery is further divided into a directed commercial fishery that is allocated 85 percent of the commercial allocation of the Pacific halibut TAC, and the other 15 percent is allocated for incidental catch in the salmon troll fishery. The directed commercial fishery in Area 2A is confined to southern Washington (south of 46°53.30′ N. lat.), Oregon, and California. North of 46°53.30′ N. lat. (Pt. Chehalis), the Plan allows for incidental halibut retention in the sablefish primary fishery when the overall Area 2A halibut TAC is above 900,000 lb (408.2 mt). The Plan also divides the sport fisheries into seven geographic subareas, each with separate allocations, seasons, and bag limits. The non-tribal allocation is divided into four shares. At the first level, there are specific percentage allocations for tribal and non-tribal fisheries. The non-tribal portion is then allocated to commercial VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:51 Feb 18, 2016 Jkt 238001 components and to recreational components. The commercial component is then apportioned into directed, incidental troll, and incidental sablefish fisheries. The recreational portions for Oregon and Washington are furthered apportioned into area subquotas, and these subquotas are further split into seasonal or depth fisheries (nearshore vs all depths). There may be gear restrictions and other management measures established as necessary to minimize the potential of exceeding these allocations. At the September meeting, the Council adopted a range of Plan alternatives for public review. For 2016, the Council adopted two types of changes that are discussed separately below. The first were the routine recreational fishery adjustments to the Plan proposed by the states each year to accommodate the needs of their fisheries. The second were changes to the Plan and codified regulations proposed by NMFS which do not have alternatives, because they are either mandated by a recent court decision or are administrative in nature. At its November meeting, the Council made final Plan change recommendations from the range of alternatives for the recreational fishery adjustments; which is described in detail below. The proposed changes to the Plan are expected to slightly increase fishing opportunities in some areas and at some times and to slightly decrease fishing opportunities in other areas and at other times. The Council’s recommended changes to the Plan modify the opening dates for the sport fisheries in Washington and Oregon with the goal of extending the seasons and increasing opportunity. The change to the tribal Usual &Accustomed (U&A) boundaries is made to comply with a court order, and NMFS has no discretion to do otherwise. Thus this change is not analyzed here. The Council considered changes to the Washington North Coast, Columbia River, Oregon Central Coast, and Southern Oregon subareas: (1) For the Washington North Coast the Council considered two opening dates, the first Thursday in May or the first Saturday in May. The Council recommended and NMFS proposes opening this fishery on the first Saturday in May. This is a minor change that will not reduce overall fishing opportunity in this area. (2) For the Columbia River subarea the Council considered two season structures, status quo (4 days per week Thursday through Sunday) and a seven day a week fishery. The Council recommended the status quo season structure because ODFW did not receive definitive public support for this change and felt it was not necessary at this PO 00000 Frm 00050 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 time; therefore this rule does not propose changes to the Columbia River subarea. (3) For the Oregon Central Coast subarea the Council considered two season allocation alternatives, status quo (12 percent nearshore, 63 percent spring, 25 percent summer) and Alternative 1 (81.75 percent spring and summer combined, 18.25 percent nearshore). The Council recommended the status quo season allocations because ODFW felt given the magnitude of this change more time was needed to allow public input; therefore this rule does not propose any change to the Oregon Central Coast season allocations. (4) For the Oregon Central Coast nearshore fishery the Council considered a change to the season dates: (1) Status quo fishery opens July 1, seven days per week until October 31; (2) fishery opens May 1, seven days per week, until October 31; (3) fishery opens May 1, seven days per week until October 31 or quota attainment, with 25 percent of the nearshore fishery allocation set-aside and available beginning July 1; and (4) fishery opens May 1, seven days per week until October 31 or quota attainment, with 50 percent of the nearshore fishery allocation set-aside and available beginning July 1. The Council recommended and NMFS proposes an alternative that is within the range listed above that would open the fishery on June 1, seven days per week, until October 31. This is a minor change that will not reduce overall fishing opportunity in this area. (5) For the Southern Oregon subarea the Council considered two incidental retention alternatives, status quo (no bottomfish species retention outside of 30 fathoms) and Alternative 1 (allow retention of other species of flatfish, Pacific cod, and sablefish outside 30 fathoms, when fishing for halibut) and an allocation modification from 4 percent to 3.91 percent of the Oregon sport allocation. The Council recommended and NMFS proposes to implement the change to the subarea allocation and Alternative 1 with a slight modification to describe this allowance as allowed when groundfish retention is closed not at a specific depth. The changes to the Southern Oregon incidentally landed species allowances are expected to increase recreational opportunities by turning previously discarded incidental flatfish catch into landed catch. The Small Business Administration defines a ‘‘small’’ harvesting business as one with annual receipts, not in excess of $20.5 million. For related fishprocessing businesses, a small business is one that employs 500 or fewer persons. For wholesale businesses, a small business is one that employs not more than 100 people. For marinas and charter/party boats, a small business is one with annual receipts, not in excess of $7.5 million. This rule directly affects charterboat operations, and participants in the non-treaty directed commercial fishery off the coast of Washington, Oregon, and California. Applying the SBA’s size standard for small businesses, NMFS E:\FR\FM\19FEP1.SGM 19FEP1 asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 33 / Friday, February 19, 2016 / Proposed Rules considers all of the charterboat operations and participants in the nontreaty directed commercial fishery affected by this action as small businesses. Specific data on the economics of halibut charter operations is unavailable. However, in January 2004, the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC) completed a report on the overall West Coast charterboat fleet. In surveying charterboat vessels concerning their operations in 2000, the PSMFC estimated that there were about 315 charterboat vessels in operation off Washington and Oregon. In 2000, IPHC licensed 130 vessels to fish in the halibut sport charter fishery. Comparing the total charterboat fleet to the 130 and 142 IPHC licenses in 2000 and 2007, respectively, approximately 41 to 45 percent of the charterboat fleet could participate in the halibut fishery. The PSMFC has developed preliminary estimates of the annual revenues earned by this fleet and they vary by size class of the vessels and home state. Small charterboat vessels range from 15 to 30 feet and typically carry 5 to 6 passengers. Medium charterboat vessels range from 31 to 49 feet in length and typically carry 19 to 20 passengers. (Neither state has large vessels of greater than 49 feet in their fleet.) Average annual revenues from all types of recreational fishing, whalewatching and other activities ranged from $7,000 for small Oregon vessels to $131,000 for medium Washington vessels. These data confirm that charterboat vessels qualify as small entities under the Regulatory Flexibility Act. This analysis continues the main conclusions developed in previous analyses that charterboats and the non-treaty directed commercial fishing vessels are small businesses. See 77 FR 5477 (Feb 3, 2012) and 76 FR 2876 (Jan 18, 2011). In 2015, 512 vessels were issued IPHC licenses to retain halibut. IPHC issues licenses for: the directed commercial fishery and the incidental fishery in the sablefish primary fishery in Area 2A (22 licenses in 2015); incidental halibut caught in the salmon troll fishery (363 licenses in 2015); and the charterboat fleet (127 licenses in 2013, the most recent year available). No vessel may participate in more than one of these three fisheries per year. These license estimates overstate the number of vessels that participate in the fishery. IPHC estimates that 60 vessels participated in the directed commercial fishery, 100 vessels in the incidental commercial (salmon) fishery, and 13 vessels in the incidental commercial (sablefish) VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:51 Feb 18, 2016 Jkt 238001 fishery. Although recent information on charterboat activity is not available, prior analysis indicated that 60 percent of the IPHC charterboat license holders may be affected by these regulations. Commercial harvest vessels in West Coast fisheries are generally ‘‘small businesses,’’ unless they are associated with a catcher-processor company or affiliated with a large shorebased processing company. Catcher-processors cannot target halibut or keep halibut as bycatch. NOAA is unaware that any ‘‘large’’ seafood processing companies are affiliated with any of the IPHC permit holders. The major effect of halibut management on small entities will be from the Area 2A TAC which is set by the IPHC, an international body. Based on the recommendations of the states, the Council and NMFS are proposing minor changes to the Plan to provide increased recreational and commercial opportunities under the allocations that result from the TAC. There are no large entities involved in the halibut fisheries; therefore, none of these changes will have a disproportionate negative effect on small entities versus large entities. These minor proposed changes to the Plan are not expected to have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. This proposed rule does not contain a collection of information requirement subject to review and approval by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA). There are no projected reporting or recordkeeping requirements associated with this action. There are no relevant Federal rules that may duplicate, overlap, or conflict with this action. Pursuant to Executive Order 13175, the Secretary recognizes the sovereign status and co-manager role of Indian tribes over shared Federal and tribal fishery resources. Section 302(b)(5) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act establishes a seat on the Pacific Council for a representative of an Indian tribe with federally recognized fishing rights from California, Oregon, Washington, or Idaho. The U.S. Government formally recognizes that the 13 Washington Tribes have treaty rights to fish for Pacific halibut. In general terms, the quantification of those rights is 50 percent of the harvestable surplus of Pacific halibut available in the tribes’ usual and accustomed fishing areas (described at 50 CFR 300.64). Each of the treaty tribes has the discretion to administer their fisheries and to PO 00000 Frm 00051 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 8471 establish their own policies to achieve program objectives. Accordingly, tribal allocations and regulations, including the proposed changes to the Plan, have been developed in consultation with the affected tribe(s) and, insofar as possible, with tribal consensus. In 2014, a Biological Opinion (BiOp) was completed for the 2014–2016 Area 2A Pacific Halibut Catch Sharing Plan. The BiOp concluded that the continued implementation of the Plan was not likely to adversely affect southern resident killer whales, leatherback sea turtles, humpback whales, blue whales, fin whales, Guadalupe fur seals, north Pacific right whales, sei whales, sperm whales, and steller sea lions. Further the BiOp concluded that continuing implementation of the Plan was likely to adversely affect but not likely to jeopardize Puget Sound/Georgia basin bocaccio, canary rockfish, and yelloweye rockfish, southern green sturgeon, lower Columbia River Chinook, and Puget Sound Chinook. The BiOp also concluded that the continued implementation of the Plan was not likely to adversely modify critical habitat of southern resident killer whales, leatherback sea turtles, Puget Sound/Georgia basin bocaccio, canary rockfish, and yelloweye rockfish, southern green sturgeon, lower Columbia River Chinook, and Puget Sound Chinook. Because the halibut fishery does not overlap with the critical habitat for the remaining listed species it was determined that, an evaluation of the effects on critical habitat was not applicable. Finally, in a letter dated March 12, 2014, NMFS determined that fishing activities conducted under the Plan would have no effect on eulachon. None of the Council’s recommended changes to the Plan proposed in this rule change the determinations made in the BiOp because they do not result in changes to fishing behavior such that the impacts to listed species is anticipated to change. NMFS is currently conducting informal consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the ongoing implementation of the Catch Sharing Plan and its effects on short-tailed and black-footed albatross, California least tern, marbled murrelet, bull trout, and sea otters. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 300 Administrative practice and procedure, Antarctica, Canada, Exports, Fish, Fisheries, Fishing, Imports, Indians, Labeling, Marine resources, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Russian Federation, Transportation, Treaties, Wildlife. E:\FR\FM\19FEP1.SGM 19FEP1 8472 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 33 / Friday, February 19, 2016 / Proposed Rules Authority: 16 U.S.C. 951 et seq., 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq., 16 U.S.C. 5501 et seq., 16 U.S.C. 2431 et seq., 31 U.S.C. 9701 et seq. Dated: February 9, 2016. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 300, subpart E, is proposed to be amended as follows: § 300.63 Catch sharing plan and domestic management measures in area 2A. * PART 300—INTERNATIONAL FISHERIES REGULATIONS Subpart E—Pacific Halibut Fisheries 1. The authority citation for part 300, subpart E, continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 773–773k. 2. In § 300.61 in alphabetical order, revise the definition of ‘‘Subarea 2A–1’’ to read as follows: ■ § 300.61 are between the Quinault River, WA (47°21.00′ N. lat) and Point Chehalis, WA (46°53.30′ N. lat.), and east of 125°08.50′ W. long.; and all inland marine waters of Washington. * * * * * ■ 3. In § 300.63, revise paragraphs (c)(3)(ii), and (e)(1), and remove paragraphs (f) and (g) to read as follows: Definitions * * * * * Subarea 2A–1 includes all waters off the coast of Washington that are north of the Quinault River, WA (47°21.00′ N. lat) and east of 125°44.00′ W. long; all waters off the coast of Washington that * * * * (c) * * * (3) * * * (ii) Actual notice of inseason management actions will be provided by a telephone hotline administered by the West Coast Region, NMFS, at 206–526– 6667 or 800–662–9825. Since provisions of these regulations may be altered by inseason actions, sport fishers should monitor the telephone hotline for current information for the area in which they are fishing. * * * * * (e) * * * (1) Non-treaty commercial vessels operating in the directed commercial fishery for halibut in Area 2A are required to fish outside of a closed area, known as the Rockfish Conservation Area (RCA), that extends along the coast from the U.S./Canada border south to 40°10′ N. lat. Between the U.S./Canada border and 46°16′ N. lat., the eastern boundary of the RCA, is the shoreline. Between 46°16′ N. lat. and 40°10′ N. lat., the RCA is defined along an eastern boundary by a line approximating the 30-fm (55-m) depth contour. Coordinates for the 30-fm (55-m) boundary are listed at 50 CFR 660.71(e). Between the U.S./Canada border and 40°10′ N. lat., the RCA is defined along a western boundary approximating the 100-fm (183-m) depth contour. Coordinates for the 100-fm (183-m) boundary are listed at 50 CFR 660.73(a). * * * * * ■ 4. In § 300.64, revise paragraph (i) to read as follows: § 300.64 tribes. Fishing by U.S. treaty Indian (i) The following table sets forth the fishing areas of each of the 13 treaty Indian tribes fishing pursuant to this section. Within subarea 2A–1, boundaries of a tribe’s fishing area may be revised as ordered by a Federal Court. Tribe Boundaries HOH .................................................................... The area between 47°54.30′ N. lat. (Quillayute River) and 47°21.00′ N. lat. (Quinault River) and east of 125°44.00′ W. long. Those locations in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound as determined in or in accordance with Final Decision No. 1 and subsequent orders in United States v. Washington, 384 F. Supp. 312 (W.D. Wash., 1974), and particularly at 626 F. Supp. 1486, to be places at which the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe may fish under rights secured by treaties with the United States. Those locations in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound as determined in or in accordance with Final Decision No. 1 and subsequent orders in United States v. Washington, 384 F. Supp. 312 (W.D. Wash., 1974), and particularly at 459 F. Supp. 1049 and 1066 and 626 F. Supp. 1443, to be places at which the Lower Elwha S’Klallam Tribe may fish under rights secured by treaties with the United States. Those locations in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound as determined in or in accordance with Final Decision No. 1 and subsequent orders in United States v. Washington, 384 F. Supp. 312 (W.D. Wash., 1974), and particularly at 384 F. Supp. 360, as modified in Subproceeding No. 89–08 (W.D. Wash., February 13, 1990) (decision and order re: cross-motions for summary judgement), to be places at which the Lummi Tribe may fish under rights secured by treaties with the United States. The area north of 48°02.25′ N. lat. (Norwegian Memorial) and east of 125°44.00′ W. long. Those locations in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound as determined in or in accordance with Final Decision No. 1 and subsequent orders in United States v. Washington, 384 F. Supp. 312 (W.D. Wash. 1974), and particularly at 459 F. Supp. 1049, to be places at which the Nooksack Tribe may fish under rights secured by treaties with the United States. Those locations in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound as determined in or in accordance with Final Decision No. 1 and subsequent orders in United States v. Washington, 384 F. Supp. 312 (W.D. Wash., 1974), and particularly at 626 F. Supp. 1442, to be places at which the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe may fish under rights secured by treaties with the United States. The area between 48°10.00′ N. lat. (Cape Alava) and 47°31.70′ N. lat. (Queets River) and east of 125°44.00′ W. long. The area between 47°40.10′ N. lat. (Destruction Island) and 46°53.30′ N. lat. (Point Chehalis) and east of 125°08.50′ W. long. Those locations in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound as determined in or in accordance with Final Decision No. 1 and subsequent orders in United States v. Washington, 384 F. Supp. 312 (W.D. Wash., 1974), and particularly at 384 F. Supp. 377, to be places at which the Skokomish Tribe may fish under rights secured by treaties with the United States. JAMESTOWN S’KLALLAM ................................ LOWER ELWHA S’KLALLAM ............................ LUMMI ................................................................ MAKAH ............................................................... NOOKSACK ........................................................ asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS PORT GAMBLE S’KLALLAM ............................. QUILEUTE .......................................................... QUINAULT .......................................................... SKOKOMISH ...................................................... VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:51 Feb 18, 2016 Jkt 238001 PO 00000 Frm 00052 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\19FEP1.SGM 19FEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 33 / Friday, February 19, 2016 / Proposed Rules 8473 Tribe Boundaries SUQUAMISH ...................................................... Those locations in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound as determined in or in accordance with Final Decision No. 1 and subsequent orders in United States v. Washington, 384 F. Supp. 312 (W.D. Wash., 1974), and particularly at 459 F. Supp. 1049, to be places at which the Suquamish Tribe may fish under rights secured by treaties with the United States. Those locations in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound as determined in or in accordance with Final Decision No. 1 and subsequent orders in United States v. Washington, 384 F. Supp. 312 (W.D. Wash., 1974), and particularly at 459 F. Supp. 1049, to be places at which the Swinomish Tribe may fish under rights secured by treaties with the United States. Those locations in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound as determined in or in accordance with Final Decision No. 1 and subsequent orders in United States v. Washington, 384 F. Supp. 312 (W.D. Wash., 1974), and particularly at 626 F. Supp. 1531–1532, to be places at which the Tulalip Tribe may fish under rights secured by treaties with the United States. SWINOMISH ....................................................... TULALIP ............................................................. [FR Doc. 2016–02991 Filed 2–18–16; 8:45 am] asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS BILLING CODE 3510–22–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:51 Feb 18, 2016 Jkt 238001 PO 00000 Frm 00053 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 E:\FR\FM\19FEP1.SGM 19FEP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 33 (Friday, February 19, 2016)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 8466-8473]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-02991]



[[Page 8466]]

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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 300

[Docket No. 160127057-6057-01]
RIN 0648-BF60


Pacific Halibut Fisheries; Catch Sharing Plan

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: NMFS proposes to approve changes to the Pacific Halibut Catch 
Sharing Plan (Plan) and codified regulations for the International 
Pacific Halibut Commission's (IPHC or Commission) regulatory Area 2A 
off Washington, Oregon, and California (Area 2A). In addition, NMFS 
proposes to implement the portions of the Plan and management measures 
that are not implemented through the IPHC. These measures include the 
sport fishery allocations and management measures for Area 2A. These 
actions are intended to conserve Pacific halibut, provide angler 
opportunity where available, and minimize bycatch of overfished 
groundfish species.

DATES: Comments on the proposed changes to the Plan and the codified 
regulations, and on the proposed domestic Area 2A Pacific halibut 
management measures must be received by March 10, 2016.

ADDRESSES: Submit your comments, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2015-0166, by 
either of the following methods:
     Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2015-0166, click the ``Comment Now!'' icon, 
complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to William Stelle, Regional 
Administrator, West Coast Region, NMFS, 7600 Sand Point Way NE., 
Seattle, WA 98115-0070.
    Instructions: NMFS may not consider comments if they are sent by 
any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after 
the comment period ends. All comments received are a part of the public 
record and NMFS will post 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 is publicly 
accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ``N/A'' in the 
required fields if you wish to remain anonymous).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sarah Williams, phone: 206-526-4646, 
fax: 206-526-6736, or email: sarah.williams@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Electronic Access

    This rule is accessible via the Internet at the Office of the 
Federal Register Web site at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/aces/aces140.html. Background information and documents are available at the 
NMFS West Coast Region Web site at http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/fisheries/management/pacific_halibut_management.html and at the Council's Web site at http://www.pcouncil.org.

Background

    The Northern Pacific Halibut Act (Halibut Act) of 1982, 16 U.S.C. 
773-773K, gives the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) general 
responsibility for implementing the provisions of the Halibut 
Convention between the United States and Canada (Halibut Convention) 
(16 U.S.C. 773c). It requires the Secretary to adopt regulations as may 
be necessary to carry out the purposes and objectives of the Halibut 
Convention and the Halibut Act. Section 773c of the Halibut Act also 
authorizes the regional fishery management councils to develop 
regulations in addition to, but not in conflict with, regulations of 
the IPHC to govern the Pacific halibut catch in their corresponding 
U.S. Convention waters.
    Each year between 1988 and 1995, the Pacific Fishery Management 
Council (Council) developed and NMFS implemented a catch sharing plan 
in accordance with the Halibut Act to allocate the total allowable 
catch (TAC) of Pacific halibut between treaty Indian and non-Indian 
harvesters and among non-Indian commercial and sport fisheries in Area 
2A. In 1995, NMFS implemented the Pacific Council-recommended long-term 
Plan (60 FR 14651, March 20, 1995). Every year since then, minor 
revisions to the Plan have been made to adjust for the changing needs 
of the fisheries.
    For 2016, the Council recommendation includes minor modifications 
to sport fisheries to better match the needs of the fishery, and 
updates to the inseason procedures to reflect current practices. The 
Council also recommended changes to the codified regulations to remove 
coordinates that are described in groundfish regulations, match the 
changes to the Plan, and update descriptions of tribal treaty fishing 
areas. This rule does contain some dates for the sport fisheries based 
on the 2016 Plan as recommended by the Council because the affected 
states are holding public meetings to gather public input on final 
season dates given the final 2A TAC. The states will submit final 
season dates following their public meetings. Incidental Halibut 
Retention in the Sablefish Primary Fishery North of Pt. Chehalis, WA
    The Plan provides that incidental halibut retention in the 
sablefish primary fishery north of Pt. Chehalis, WA, will be allowed 
when the Area 2A TAC is greater than 900,000 lb (408.2 mt), provided 
that a minimum of 10,000 lb (4.5 mt) is available above a Washington 
recreational TAC of 214,100 lb (97.1 mt). The 2016 TAC of 1,140,000 lb 
(517 mt) is sufficient to provide for this opportunity; therefore the 
Council will recommend landing restrictions at its March 2016 meeting. 
Following this meeting, NMFS will publish the restrictions in the 
Federal Register.

Opportunity for Public Comment

    Through this proposed rule, NMFS requests public comments on the 
Pacific Council's recommended modifications to the Plan and the 
resulting proposed domestic fishing regulations by March 10, 2016. A 20 
day comment period is necessary to allow adequate time for the final 
rule to be effective by April 1st when the incidental fisheries begin. 
The States of Washington, Oregon, and California will conduct public 
workshops in February to obtain input on the sport season dates. 
Following the proposed rule comment period, NMFS will review public 
comments and comments from the states, and issue a final rule. Either 
that final rule or an additional rule will include the IPHC regulations 
and regulations for the West Coast and Alaska.

Proposed Changes to the Plan

    Each year, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), 
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), California Department of 
Fish and Game (CDFG), and the tribes with treaty fishing rights for 
halibut consider whether to pursue changes to the Plan to meet the 
needs of the fishery. In determining whether changes are needed, the 
state agencies hold public meetings prior to the Council's September 
meeting. Subsequently, they recommend changes to the Council at its 
September meeting. In 2015, fishery managers from all three

[[Page 8467]]

state agencies held public meetings on the Plan prior to the Council's 
September meeting. At the September 2015 Council meeting, NMFS, WDFW, 
and ODFW recommended changes to the Plan and codified regulations. The 
tribes and CDFW did not recommend changes to the Plan or regulations. 
The Council voted to solicit public input on all of the changes 
recommended by the state agencies, several of which were presented in 
the form of alternatives. WDFW and ODFW subsequently held public 
workshops on the recommended changes.
    At its November 13-19, 2015, meeting the Council considered the 
results of state-sponsored workshops on the recommended changes to the 
Plan and public input provided at the September and November Council 
meetings, and made its final recommendations for modifications to the 
Plan. NMFS proposes to adopt all of the Council's recommended changes 
to the Plan as further discussed below. NMFS also proposed to make 
changes to the codified regulations.

Proposed Changes to the Plan

    1. In section (b), Allocations, add a statement that all 
allocations and subquotas are described in net weight. The goal of this 
change is to clarify that the Plan allocations and subquotas are 
described in net weight consistent with the IPHC's use of net weight.
    2. In section (d), Treaty Indian Fisheries, modify the description 
of subarea 2A-1 to account for a recent court order (United States v. 
Washington, 2:09-sp-00001-RSM (W.D. Wash. Sept. 3, 2015)) regarding 
boundaries of tribal usual and accustomed fishing grounds; 
specifically, the western boundary for the Quinault Tribe's fishing 
area and the northern boundary of the Quileute Tribe's fishing area;
    3. In section (f)(1)(ii), Washington North Coast subarea, this rule 
proposes several changes. The changes would modify the opening day in 
this area from the first Thursday in May to the first Saturday in May 
with a second opening the following week on Thursday and Saturday and a 
closure during the third week of May. The goal of this change is to 
allow for a longer season while giving WDFW time to assess the catch 
and provide adequate time for public notice of any later reopenings.
    4. In section (f)(1)(v), Oregon central coast subarea, this rule 
proposes several changes to the text to implement several measures. 
First, there is a change to the Central Coast allocation so that the 
Oregon sport allocation is divided clearly among the Columbia River, 
Central Coast, and Southern Oregon subareas, instead of allocating to 
the Columbia River subarea first then dividing the remaining allocation 
between the Southern Oregon and Central Coast subareas. Second, the 
Council is added to the list of consulting agencies consistent with 
inseason procedures. Third, the opening date for the nearshore fishery 
is changed from July 1 to June 1 to allow for a longer season.
    5. In section (f)(1)(vi), Southern Oregon subarea, this rule 
proposes changes to the allocations for this subarea, as stated above 
for the Central Coast subarea. The allocation is modified from 4.0 to 
3.91 percent of the Oregon sport allocation. Also, incidental retention 
of sablefish, Pacific cod, and flatfish species in areas closed to 
fishing targeting groundfish is allowed in this subarea, to make 
incidental retention rules consistent throughout Oregon.
    6. In section (f)(5)(iii)(B), Notice procedures, this rule proposes 
to remove the Notice to Mariners requirement because these are not used 
in the halibut fishery. The proposed change to the Plan reflects 
current practice.
    7. In section (f)(6), Sport fishery closure provisions, this rule 
proposes to modify this section to state that closure determinations 
made by IPHC are done after consultation with NMFS, Council, and the 
affected state agencies. The goal of this change is for the Plan to 
reflect current practice.
    NMFS proposes to approve the Council's recommendations and to 
implement the changes described above. A version of the Plan including 
these changes can be found at http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/fisheries/management/pacific_halibut_management.html.

Proposed Changes to the Regulations

    1. Modify Tribal fishing area descriptions at Sec.  300.64(i) to 
account for a recent court order (United States v. Washington, 2:09-sp-
00001-RSM (W.D. Wash. Sept. 3, 2015)) regarding boundaries of tribal 
usual and accustomed fishing grounds; specifically, the western 
boundary for the Quinault Tribe's fishing area and the northern 
boundary of the Quileute Tribe's fishing area;
    2. Remove the coordinates for the 30 fm depth contour at Sec.  
300.63(f) and 100 fm depth contour at Sec.  300.63(g) and refer to 
groundfish regulations at Sec.  660.71 for the 30 fm depth contour and 
Sec.  660.73 for the 100 fm depth contour. This change is necessary 
because the halibut and groundfish fisheries use the same coordinates 
and they should be listed in one location;
    3. Update the shoreward boundary of the non-trawl Rockfish 
Conservation Area listed in Sec.  300.63(e) to the boundary line 
approximating the 30 fm depth contour. This closed area applies to 
commercial halibut fishing when retaining incidentally caught 
groundfish. The shoreward boundary of this closed area was modified 
through the 2015-2016 groundfish harvest specifications; and
    4. Remove Notice to Mariners notice procedures at Sec.  
300.63(c)(3)(ii) to match modifications to Plan.

Proposed 2016 Sport Fishery Management Measures

    NMFS also proposes sport fishery management measures, including 
season dates and bag limits that are necessary to implement the Plan in 
2016. The annual domestic management measures are published each year 
through a final rule. For the 2015 fishing season, the final rule for 
Area 2A sport fisheries was published on April 1, 2015 (80 FR 17344) 
and the final rule for the commercial fisheries was published on March 
17, 2015 (80 FR 13771) along with the IPHC regulations. Therefore, the 
section numbers for the commercial fisheries below refer to sections in 
the March 17 final rule, and the section numbers for the recreational 
fisheries refer to sections in the April 1 final rule. Where season 
dates are not indicated, those dates will be provided in the final 
rule, following consideration of the 2016 TAC and consultation with the 
states and the public.
    In Section 8 of the annual domestic management measures published 
on March 17, 2015, ``Fishing Periods,'' paragraphs (2), (3), and (4) 
are proposed to read as follows:
    (1) * * *
    (2) Each fishing period in the Area 2A directed fishery shall begin 
at 0800 hours and terminate at 1800 hours local time on June 22, July 
6, July 20, August 3, August 17, August 31, September 14, and September 
28, unless the Commission specifies otherwise.
    (3) Notwithstanding paragraph (7) of section 11, an incidental 
catch fishery is authorized during the sablefish seasons in Area 2A in 
accordance with regulations promulgated by NMFS. This fishery will 
occur between 1200 hours local time on March 19 and 1200 hours local 
time on November 7.
    (4) Notwithstanding paragraph (2), and paragraph (7) of section 11, 
an incidental catch fishery is authorized during salmon troll seasons 
in Area 2A in accordance with regulations promulgated by NMFS. This 
fishery will

[[Page 8468]]

occur between 1200 hours local time on March 19 and 1200 hours local 
time on November 7.
    In section 26 of the annual domestic management measures, ``Sport 
Fishing for Halibut'' paragraph (8) is proposed to read as follows:
    (8) * * *
    (a) The area in Puget Sound and the U.S. waters in the Strait of 
Juan de Fuca, east of a line extending from 48[deg]17.30' N. lat., 
124[deg]23.70' W. long. north to 48[deg]24.10' N. lat., 124[deg]23.70' 
W. long., is not managed in-season relative to its quota. This area is 
managed by setting a season that is projected to result in a catch of 
57,393 lb (26.03 mt).
    (i) The fishing season in eastern Puget Sound (east of 
123[deg]49.50' W. long., Low Point) is (season dates will be inserted 
when final rule is published). The fishing season in western Puget 
Sound (west of 123[deg]49.50' W. long., Low Point) is open (season 
dates will be inserted when final rule is published).
    (ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per 
person.
    (b) The quota for landings into ports in the area off the north 
Washington coast, west of the line described in paragraph (2)(a) of 
section 26 and north of the Queets River (47[deg]31.70' N. lat.) (North 
Coast subarea), is 108,030 lb (49 mt).
    (i) The fishing seasons are:
    (A) Fishing is open May 7, 12, and 14. Any openings after May 14 
will be based on available quota and announced on the NMFS hotline.
    (B) If sufficient quota remains the fishery will reopen until there 
is not sufficient quota for another full day of fishing and the area is 
closed by the Commission. After May 14, any fishery opening will be 
announced on the NMFS hotline at 800-662-9825. No halibut fishing will 
be allowed after May 14 unless the date is announced on the NMFS 
hotline.
    (ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per 
person.
    (iii) Recreational fishing for groundfish and halibut is prohibited 
within the North Coast Recreational Yelloweye Rockfish Conservation 
Area (YRCA). It is unlawful for recreational fishing vessels to take 
and retain, possess, or land halibut taken with recreational gear 
within the North Coast Recreational YRCA. A vessel fishing with 
recreational gear in the North Coast Recreational YRCA may not be in 
possession of any halibut. Recreational vessels may transit through the 
North Coast Recreational YRCA with or without halibut on board. The 
North Coast Recreational YRCA is a C-shaped area off the northern 
Washington coast intended to protect yelloweye rockfish. The North 
Coast Recreational YRCA is defined in groundfish regulations at Sec.  
660.70(a).
    (c) The quota for landings into ports in the area between the 
Queets River, WA (47[deg]31.70' N. lat.), and Leadbetter Point, WA 
(46[deg]38.17' N. lat.)(South Coast subarea), is 42,739 lb (19.39 mt).
    (i) This subarea is divided between the all-waters fishery (the 
Washington South coast primary fishery), and the incidental nearshore 
fishery in the area from 47[deg]31.70' N. lat. south to 46[deg]58.00' 
N. lat. and east of a boundary line approximating the 30 fm depth 
contour. This area is defined by straight lines connecting all of the 
following points in the order stated as described by the following 
coordinates (the Washington South coast, northern nearshore area):
    (1) 47[deg]31.70' N. lat, 124[deg]37.03' W. long;
    (2) 47[deg]25.67' N. lat, 124[deg]34.79' W. long;
    (3) 47[deg]12.82' N. lat, 124[deg]29.12' W. long;
    (4) 46[deg]58.00' N. lat, 124[deg]24.24' W. long.
    The south coast subarea quota will be allocated as follows: 40,739 
lb (18.48 mt) for the primary fishery and 2,000 lb (0.91 mt) for the 
nearshore fishery. The primary fishery commences on May 1, and 
continues 2 days a week (Sunday and Tuesday) until May 17. If the 
primary quota is projected to be obtained sooner than expected, the 
management closure may occur earlier. Beginning on May 29 the primary 
fishery will be open at most 2 days per week (Sunday and/or Tuesday) 
until the quota for the south coast subarea primary fishery is taken 
and the season is closed by the Commission, or until September 30, 
whichever is earlier. The fishing season in the nearshore area 
commences on May 1, and continues 7 days per week. Subsequent to 
closure of the primary fishery, the nearshore fishery is open 7 days 
per week, until 42,739 lb (19.39 mt) is projected to be taken by the 
two fisheries combined and the fishery is closed by the Commission or 
September 30, whichever is earlier. If the fishery is closed prior to 
September 30, and there is insufficient quota remaining to reopen the 
northern nearshore area for another fishing day, then any remaining 
quota may be transferred in-season to another Washington coastal 
subarea by NMFS via an update to the recreational halibut hotline.
    (ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per 
person.
    (iii) Seaward of the boundary line approximating the 30-fm depth 
contour and during days open to the primary fishery, lingcod may be 
taken, retained and possessed when allowed by groundfish regulations at 
50 CFR 660.360, subpart G.
    (iv) Recreational fishing for groundfish and halibut is prohibited 
within the South Coast Recreational YRCA and Westport Offshore YRCA. It 
is unlawful for recreational fishing vessels to take and retain, 
possess, or land halibut taken with recreational gear within the South 
Coast Recreational YRCA and Westport Offshore YRCA. A vessel fishing in 
the South Coast Recreational YRCA and/or Westport Offshore YRCA may not 
be in possession of any halibut. Recreational vessels may transit 
through the South Coast Recreational YRCA and Westport Offshore YRCA 
with or without halibut on board. The South Coast Recreational YRCA and 
Westport Offshore YRCA are areas off the southern Washington coast 
established to protect yelloweye rockfish. The South Coast Recreational 
YRCA is defined at 50 CFR 660.70(d). The Westport Offshore YRCA is 
defined at 50 CFR 660.70(e).
    (d) The quota for landings into ports in the area between 
Leadbetter Point, WA (46[deg]38.17' N. lat.), and Cape Falcon, OR 
(45[deg]46.00' N. lat.) (Columbia River subarea), is 11,009 lb (4.99 
mt).
    (i) This subarea is divided into an all-depth fishery and a 
nearshore fishery. The nearshore fishery is allocated 500 pounds of the 
subarea allocation. The nearshore fishery extends from Leadbetter Point 
(46[deg]38.17' N. lat., 124[deg]15.88' W. long.) to the Columbia River 
(46[deg]16.00' N. lat., 124[deg]15.88' W. long.) by connecting the 
following coordinates in Washington 46[deg]38.17' N. lat., 
124[deg]15.88' W. long. 46[deg]16.00' N. lat., 124[deg]15.88' W. long 
and connecting to the boundary line approximating the 40 fm (73 m) 
depth contour in Oregon. The nearshore fishery opens May 2, and 
continues 3 days per week (Monday-Wednesday) until the nearshore 
allocation is taken, or September 30, whichever is earlier. The all 
depth fishing season commences on May 1, and continues 4 days a week 
(Thursday-Sunday) until 10,509 lb (4.77 mt) are estimated to have been 
taken and the season is closed by the Commission, or September 30, 
whichever is earlier. Subsequent to this closure, if there is 
insufficient quota remaining in the Columbia River subarea for another 
fishing day, then any remaining quota may be transferred inseason to 
another Washington and/or Oregon subarea by NMFS via an update to the 
recreational halibut hotline. Any remaining quota would be transferred 
to each state in proportion to its contribution.

[[Page 8469]]

    (ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per 
person.
    (iii) Pacific Coast groundfish may not be taken and retained, 
possessed or landed when halibut are on board the vessel, except 
sablefish, Pacific cod, and flatfish species when allowed by Pacific 
Coast groundfish regulations, during days open to the all depth fishery 
only.
    (iv) Taking, retaining, possessing, or landing halibut on 
groundfish trips is only allowed in the nearshore area on days not open 
to all-depth Pacific halibut fisheries.
    (e) The quota for landings into ports in the area off Oregon 
between Cape Falcon (45[deg]46.00' N. lat.) and Humbug Mountain 
(42[deg]40.50' N. lat.) (Oregon Central Coast subarea), is 206,410 lb 
(93.63 mt).
    (i) The fishing seasons are:
    (A) The first season (the ``inside 40-fm'' fishery) commences June 
1, and continues 7 days a week, in the area shoreward of a boundary 
line approximating the 40-fm (73-m) depth contour, or until the sub-
quota for the central Oregon ``inside 40-fm'' fishery of 24,769 lb 
(11.24 mt), or any in-season revised subquota, is estimated to have 
been taken and the season is closed by the Commission, whichever is 
earlier. The boundary line approximating the 40-fm (73-m) depth contour 
between 45[deg]46.00' N. lat. and 42[deg]40.50' N. lat. is defined at 
Sec.  660.71(k).
    (B) The second season (spring season), which is for the ``all-
depth'' fishery, is open (season dates will be inserted when final rule 
is published). The allocation to the all-depth fishery is 181,641 lb 
(82.4 mt). If sufficient unharvested quota remains for additional 
fishing days, the season will re-open. Notice of the re-opening will be 
announced on the NMFS hotline (206) 526-6667 or (800) 662-9825. No 
halibut fishing will be allowed on the re-opening dates unless the date 
is announced on the NMFS hotline.
    (C) If sufficient unharvested quota remains, the third season 
(summer season), which is for the ``all-depth'' fishery, will be open 
(season dates will be inserted when final rule is published) or until 
the combined spring season and summer season quotas in the area between 
Cape Falcon and Humbug Mountain, OR, are estimated to have been taken 
and the area is closed by the Commission, or October 31, whichever is 
earlier. NMFS will announce on the NMFS hotline in July whether the 
fishery will re-open for the summer season in August. No halibut 
fishing will be allowed in the summer season fishery unless the dates 
are announced on the NMFS hotline. Additional fishing days may be 
opened if sufficient quota remains after the last day of the first 
scheduled open period. If, after this date, an amount greater than or 
equal to 60,000 lb (27.2 mt) remains in the combined all-depth and 
inside 40-fm (73-m) quota, the fishery may re-open every Friday and 
Saturday, beginning (insert date of first back up dates) and ending 
October 31. If after September 7, an amount greater than or equal to 
30,000 lb (13.6 mt) remains in the combined all-depth and inside 40-fm 
(73-m) quota, and the fishery is not already open every Friday and 
Saturday, the fishery may re-open every Friday and Saturday, beginning 
September 9 and 10, and ending October 31. After September 4, the bag 
limit may be increased to two fish of any size per person, per day. 
NMFS will announce on the NMFS hotline whether the summer all-depth 
fishery will be open on such additional fishing days, what days the 
fishery will be open and what the bag limit is.
    (ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per 
person, unless otherwise specified. NMFS will announce on the NMFS 
hotline any bag limit changes.
    (iii) During days open to all-depth halibut fishing, no Pacific 
Coast groundfish may be taken and retained, possessed or landed, when 
halibut are on board the vessel, except sablefish, Pacific cod, and 
flatfish species, when allowed by Pacific Coast groundfish regulations.
    (iv) When the all-depth halibut fishery is closed and halibut 
fishing is permitted only shoreward of a boundary line approximating 
the 40-fm (73-m) depth contour, halibut possession and retention by 
vessels operating seaward of a boundary line approximating the 40-fm 
(73-m) depth contour is prohibited.
    (v) Recreational fishing for groundfish and halibut is prohibited 
within the Stonewall Bank YRCA. It is unlawful for recreational fishing 
vessels to take and retain, possess, or land halibut taken with 
recreational gear within the Stonewall Bank YRCA. A vessel fishing in 
the Stonewall Bank YRCA may not possess any halibut. Recreational 
vessels may transit through the Stonewall Bank YRCA with or without 
halibut on board. The Stonewall Bank YRCA is an area off central 
Oregon, near Stonewall Bank, intended to protect yelloweye rockfish. 
The Stonewall Bank YRCA is defined at Sec.  660.70(f).
    (f) The quota for landings into ports in the area south of Humbug 
Mountain, OR (42[deg]40.50' N. lat.) to the Oregon/California Border 
(42[deg]00.00' N. lat.) (Southern Oregon subarea) is 8,605 lb (3.9 mt).
    (i) The fishing season commences on May 1, and continues 7 days per 
week until the subquota is taken, or October 31, whichever is earlier.
    (ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut per person with no size 
limit.
    (iii) No Pacific Coast groundfish may be taken and retained, 
possessed or landed, except sablefish, Pacific cod, and flatfish 
species, in areas closed to groundfish, if halibut are on board the 
vessel.
    (g) The quota for landings into ports south of the Oregon/
California Border (42[deg]00.00' N. lat.) and along the California 
coast is 29,640 lb (13.44 mt).
    (i) The fishing season will be open (season dates will be inserted 
when final rule is published), or until the subarea quota is estimated 
to have been taken and the season is closed by the Commission, or 
October 31, whichever is earlier. NMFS will announce any closure by the 
Commission on the NMFS hotline (206) 526-6667 or (800) 662-9825.
    (ii) The daily bag limit is one halibut of any size per day per 
person.
Classification
    Regulations governing the U.S. fisheries for Pacific halibut are 
developed by the IPHC, the Pacific Fishery Management Council, the 
North Pacific Fishery Management Council, and the Secretary of 
Commerce. Section 5 of the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982 
(Halibut Act, 16 U.S.C. 773c) provides the Secretary of Commerce with 
the general responsibility to carry out the Convention between Canada 
and the United States for the management of Pacific halibut, including 
the authority to adopt regulations as may be necessary to carry out the 
purposes and objectives of the Convention and Halibut Act. This 
proposed rule is consistent with the Secretary of Commerce's authority 
under the Halibut Act.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    The Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), 5 U.S.C. 603 et seq., 
requires government agencies to assess the effects that regulatory 
alternatives would have on small entities, including small businesses, 
and to determine ways to minimize those effects. When an agency 
proposes regulations, the RFA requires the agency to prepare and make 
available for public comment an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis 
(IRFA) that describes the impact on small businesses, non-profit 
enterprises, local governments, and other small entities. The IRFA is 
to aid the agency in considering all reasonable regulatory alternatives 
that would minimize the

[[Page 8470]]

economic impact on affected small entities. After the public comment 
period, the agency prepares a Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis 
(FRFA) that takes into consideration any new information or public 
comments. A summary of the IRFA is provided below. The reasons why 
action by the agency is being considered, the objectives and legal 
basis for this rule are described above.
    The main management objective for the Pacific halibut fishery in 
Area 2A is to manage fisheries to remain within the TAC for Area 2A. 
Another objective is to allow each commercial, recreational (sport), 
and tribal fishery to target halibut in the manner that is appropriate 
to meet both the conservation requirements for species that co-occur 
with Pacific halibut. A third objective is to meet the needs of fishery 
participants in particular fisheries and fishing areas.
    Each year, the states of Washington, Oregon, California, and the 
treaty tribes that fish for halibut meet with their fishery 
participants to review halibut management under the Plan. Based on 
feedback from these meetings and experience from the previous year's 
fishing season, the states or the tribes may propose changes to the 
Plan. Proposed changes to the Plan are intended to remedy any problems 
encountered during the previous year's management, problems with other 
fisheries with overlapping management jurisdiction (i.e., Pacific Coast 
groundfish), or other anticipated problems.
Changes to the Plan
    The 2A Halibut Catch Sharing Plan, as outlined above, allocates the 
TAC at various levels. The commercial fishery is further divided into a 
directed commercial fishery that is allocated 85 percent of the 
commercial allocation of the Pacific halibut TAC, and the other 15 
percent is allocated for incidental catch in the salmon troll fishery. 
The directed commercial fishery in Area 2A is confined to southern 
Washington (south of 46[deg]53.30' N. lat.), Oregon, and California. 
North of 46[deg]53.30' N. lat. (Pt. Chehalis), the Plan allows for 
incidental halibut retention in the sablefish primary fishery when the 
overall Area 2A halibut TAC is above 900,000 lb (408.2 mt). The Plan 
also divides the sport fisheries into seven geographic subareas, each 
with separate allocations, seasons, and bag limits. The non-tribal 
allocation is divided into four shares. At the first level, there are 
specific percentage allocations for tribal and non-tribal fisheries. 
The non-tribal portion is then allocated to commercial components and 
to recreational components. The commercial component is then 
apportioned into directed, incidental troll, and incidental sablefish 
fisheries. The recreational portions for Oregon and Washington are 
furthered apportioned into area subquotas, and these subquotas are 
further split into seasonal or depth fisheries (nearshore vs all 
depths). There may be gear restrictions and other management measures 
established as necessary to minimize the potential of exceeding these 
allocations.
    At the September meeting, the Council adopted a range of Plan 
alternatives for public review. For 2016, the Council adopted two types 
of changes that are discussed separately below. The first were the 
routine recreational fishery adjustments to the Plan proposed by the 
states each year to accommodate the needs of their fisheries. The 
second were changes to the Plan and codified regulations proposed by 
NMFS which do not have alternatives, because they are either mandated 
by a recent court decision or are administrative in nature. At its 
November meeting, the Council made final Plan change recommendations 
from the range of alternatives for the recreational fishery 
adjustments; which is described in detail below.
    The proposed changes to the Plan are expected to slightly increase 
fishing opportunities in some areas and at some times and to slightly 
decrease fishing opportunities in other areas and at other times. The 
Council's recommended changes to the Plan modify the opening dates for 
the sport fisheries in Washington and Oregon with the goal of extending 
the seasons and increasing opportunity. The change to the tribal Usual 
&Accustomed (U&A) boundaries is made to comply with a court order, and 
NMFS has no discretion to do otherwise. Thus this change is not 
analyzed here. The Council considered changes to the Washington North 
Coast, Columbia River, Oregon Central Coast, and Southern Oregon 
subareas:

    (1) For the Washington North Coast the Council considered two 
opening dates, the first Thursday in May or the first Saturday in 
May. The Council recommended and NMFS proposes opening this fishery 
on the first Saturday in May. This is a minor change that will not 
reduce overall fishing opportunity in this area.
    (2) For the Columbia River subarea the Council considered two 
season structures, status quo (4 days per week Thursday through 
Sunday) and a seven day a week fishery. The Council recommended the 
status quo season structure because ODFW did not receive definitive 
public support for this change and felt it was not necessary at this 
time; therefore this rule does not propose changes to the Columbia 
River subarea.
    (3) For the Oregon Central Coast subarea the Council considered 
two season allocation alternatives, status quo (12 percent 
nearshore, 63 percent spring, 25 percent summer) and Alternative 1 
(81.75 percent spring and summer combined, 18.25 percent nearshore). 
The Council recommended the status quo season allocations because 
ODFW felt given the magnitude of this change more time was needed to 
allow public input; therefore this rule does not propose any change 
to the Oregon Central Coast season allocations.
    (4) For the Oregon Central Coast nearshore fishery the Council 
considered a change to the season dates: (1) Status quo fishery 
opens July 1, seven days per week until October 31; (2) fishery 
opens May 1, seven days per week, until October 31; (3) fishery 
opens May 1, seven days per week until October 31 or quota 
attainment, with 25 percent of the nearshore fishery allocation set-
aside and available beginning July 1; and (4) fishery opens May 1, 
seven days per week until October 31 or quota attainment, with 50 
percent of the nearshore fishery allocation set-aside and available 
beginning July 1. The Council recommended and NMFS proposes an 
alternative that is within the range listed above that would open 
the fishery on June 1, seven days per week, until October 31. This 
is a minor change that will not reduce overall fishing opportunity 
in this area.
    (5) For the Southern Oregon subarea the Council considered two 
incidental retention alternatives, status quo (no bottomfish species 
retention outside of 30 fathoms) and Alternative 1 (allow retention 
of other species of flatfish, Pacific cod, and sablefish outside 30 
fathoms, when fishing for halibut) and an allocation modification 
from 4 percent to 3.91 percent of the Oregon sport allocation. The 
Council recommended and NMFS proposes to implement the change to the 
subarea allocation and Alternative 1 with a slight modification to 
describe this allowance as allowed when groundfish retention is 
closed not at a specific depth. The changes to the Southern Oregon 
incidentally landed species allowances are expected to increase 
recreational opportunities by turning previously discarded 
incidental flatfish catch into landed catch.

    The Small Business Administration defines a ``small'' harvesting 
business as one with annual receipts, not in excess of $20.5 million. 
For related fishprocessing businesses, a small business is one that 
employs 500 or fewer persons. For wholesale businesses, a small 
business is one that employs not more than 100 people. For marinas and 
charter/party boats, a small business is one with annual receipts, not 
in excess of $7.5 million. This rule directly affects charterboat 
operations, and participants in the non-treaty directed commercial 
fishery off the coast of Washington, Oregon, and California. Applying 
the SBA's size standard for small businesses, NMFS

[[Page 8471]]

considers all of the charterboat operations and participants in the 
non-treaty directed commercial fishery affected by this action as small 
businesses.
    Specific data on the economics of halibut charter operations is 
unavailable. However, in January 2004, the Pacific States Marine 
Fisheries Commission (PSMFC) completed a report on the overall West 
Coast charterboat fleet. In surveying charterboat vessels concerning 
their operations in 2000, the PSMFC estimated that there were about 315 
charterboat vessels in operation off Washington and Oregon. In 2000, 
IPHC licensed 130 vessels to fish in the halibut sport charter fishery. 
Comparing the total charterboat fleet to the 130 and 142 IPHC licenses 
in 2000 and 2007, respectively, approximately 41 to 45 percent of the 
charterboat fleet could participate in the halibut fishery. The PSMFC 
has developed preliminary estimates of the annual revenues earned by 
this fleet and they vary by size class of the vessels and home state. 
Small charterboat vessels range from 15 to 30 feet and typically carry 
5 to 6 passengers. Medium charterboat vessels range from 31 to 49 feet 
in length and typically carry 19 to 20 passengers. (Neither state has 
large vessels of greater than 49 feet in their fleet.) Average annual 
revenues from all types of recreational fishing, whalewatching and 
other activities ranged from $7,000 for small Oregon vessels to 
$131,000 for medium Washington vessels. These data confirm that 
charterboat vessels qualify as small entities under the Regulatory 
Flexibility Act. This analysis continues the main conclusions developed 
in previous analyses that charterboats and the non-treaty directed 
commercial fishing vessels are small businesses. See 77 FR 5477 (Feb 3, 
2012) and 76 FR 2876 (Jan 18, 2011). In 2015, 512 vessels were issued 
IPHC licenses to retain halibut. IPHC issues licenses for: the directed 
commercial fishery and the incidental fishery in the sablefish primary 
fishery in Area 2A (22 licenses in 2015); incidental halibut caught in 
the salmon troll fishery (363 licenses in 2015); and the charterboat 
fleet (127 licenses in 2013, the most recent year available). No vessel 
may participate in more than one of these three fisheries per year. 
These license estimates overstate the number of vessels that 
participate in the fishery. IPHC estimates that 60 vessels participated 
in the directed commercial fishery, 100 vessels in the incidental 
commercial (salmon) fishery, and 13 vessels in the incidental 
commercial (sablefish) fishery. Although recent information on 
charterboat activity is not available, prior analysis indicated that 60 
percent of the IPHC charterboat license holders may be affected by 
these regulations.
    Commercial harvest vessels in West Coast fisheries are generally 
``small businesses,'' unless they are associated with a catcher-
processor company or affiliated with a large shorebased processing 
company. Catcher-processors cannot target halibut or keep halibut as 
bycatch. NOAA is unaware that any ``large'' seafood processing 
companies are affiliated with any of the IPHC permit holders.
    The major effect of halibut management on small entities will be 
from the Area 2A TAC which is set by the IPHC, an international body. 
Based on the recommendations of the states, the Council and NMFS are 
proposing minor changes to the Plan to provide increased recreational 
and commercial opportunities under the allocations that result from the 
TAC. There are no large entities involved in the halibut fisheries; 
therefore, none of these changes will have a disproportionate negative 
effect on small entities versus large entities. These minor proposed 
changes to the Plan are not expected to have a significant economic 
impact on a substantial number of small entities.
    This proposed rule does not contain a collection of information 
requirement subject to review and approval by the Office of Management 
and Budget (OMB) under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA).
    There are no projected reporting or recordkeeping requirements 
associated with this action.
    There are no relevant Federal rules that may duplicate, overlap, or 
conflict with this action.
    Pursuant to Executive Order 13175, the Secretary recognizes the 
sovereign status and co-manager role of Indian tribes over shared 
Federal and tribal fishery resources. Section 302(b)(5) of the 
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act establishes a 
seat on the Pacific Council for a representative of an Indian tribe 
with federally recognized fishing rights from California, Oregon, 
Washington, or Idaho.
    The U.S. Government formally recognizes that the 13 Washington 
Tribes have treaty rights to fish for Pacific halibut. In general 
terms, the quantification of those rights is 50 percent of the 
harvestable surplus of Pacific halibut available in the tribes' usual 
and accustomed fishing areas (described at 50 CFR 300.64). Each of the 
treaty tribes has the discretion to administer their fisheries and to 
establish their own policies to achieve program objectives. 
Accordingly, tribal allocations and regulations, including the proposed 
changes to the Plan, have been developed in consultation with the 
affected tribe(s) and, insofar as possible, with tribal consensus.
    In 2014, a Biological Opinion (BiOp) was completed for the 2014-
2016 Area 2A Pacific Halibut Catch Sharing Plan. The BiOp concluded 
that the continued implementation of the Plan was not likely to 
adversely affect southern resident killer whales, leatherback sea 
turtles, humpback whales, blue whales, fin whales, Guadalupe fur seals, 
north Pacific right whales, sei whales, sperm whales, and steller sea 
lions. Further the BiOp concluded that continuing implementation of the 
Plan was likely to adversely affect but not likely to jeopardize Puget 
Sound/Georgia basin bocaccio, canary rockfish, and yelloweye rockfish, 
southern green sturgeon, lower Columbia River Chinook, and Puget Sound 
Chinook. The BiOp also concluded that the continued implementation of 
the Plan was not likely to adversely modify critical habitat of 
southern resident killer whales, leatherback sea turtles, Puget Sound/
Georgia basin bocaccio, canary rockfish, and yelloweye rockfish, 
southern green sturgeon, lower Columbia River Chinook, and Puget Sound 
Chinook. Because the halibut fishery does not overlap with the critical 
habitat for the remaining listed species it was determined that, an 
evaluation of the effects on critical habitat was not applicable. 
Finally, in a letter dated March 12, 2014, NMFS determined that fishing 
activities conducted under the Plan would have no effect on eulachon. 
None of the Council's recommended changes to the Plan proposed in this 
rule change the determinations made in the BiOp because they do not 
result in changes to fishing behavior such that the impacts to listed 
species is anticipated to change. NMFS is currently conducting informal 
consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the 
ongoing implementation of the Catch Sharing Plan and its effects on 
short-tailed and black-footed albatross, California least tern, marbled 
murrelet, bull trout, and sea otters.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 300

    Administrative practice and procedure, Antarctica, Canada, Exports, 
Fish, Fisheries, Fishing, Imports, Indians, Labeling, Marine resources, 
Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Russian Federation, 
Transportation, Treaties, Wildlife.


[[Page 8472]]


    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 951 et seq., 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq., 16 
U.S.C. 5501 et seq., 16 U.S.C. 2431 et seq., 31 U.S.C. 9701 et seq.

    Dated: February 9, 2016.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 300, subpart 
E, is proposed to be amended as follows:

PART 300--INTERNATIONAL FISHERIES REGULATIONS

Subpart E--Pacific Halibut Fisheries

0
1. The authority citation for part 300, subpart E, continues to read as 
follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 773-773k.

0
2. In Sec.  300.61 in alphabetical order, revise the definition of 
``Subarea 2A-1'' to read as follows:


Sec.  300.61  Definitions

* * * * *
    Subarea 2A-1 includes all waters off the coast of Washington that 
are north of the Quinault River, WA (47[deg]21.00' N. lat) and east of 
125[deg]44.00' W. long; all waters off the coast of Washington that are 
between the Quinault River, WA (47[deg]21.00' N. lat) and Point 
Chehalis, WA (46[deg]53.30' N. lat.), and east of 125[deg]08.50' W. 
long.; and all inland marine waters of Washington.
* * * * *
0
3. In Sec.  300.63, revise paragraphs (c)(3)(ii), and (e)(1), and 
remove paragraphs (f) and (g) to read as follows:


Sec.  300.63  Catch sharing plan and domestic management measures in 
area 2A.

* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (3) * * *
    (ii) Actual notice of inseason management actions will be provided 
by a telephone hotline administered by the West Coast Region, NMFS, at 
206-526-6667 or 800-662-9825. Since provisions of these regulations may 
be altered by inseason actions, sport fishers should monitor the 
telephone hotline for current information for the area in which they 
are fishing.
* * * * *
    (e) * * *
    (1) Non-treaty commercial vessels operating in the directed 
commercial fishery for halibut in Area 2A are required to fish outside 
of a closed area, known as the Rockfish Conservation Area (RCA), that 
extends along the coast from the U.S./Canada border south to 40[deg]10' 
N. lat. Between the U.S./Canada border and 46[deg]16' N. lat., the 
eastern boundary of the RCA, is the shoreline. Between 46[deg]16' N. 
lat. and 40[deg]10' N. lat., the RCA is defined along an eastern 
boundary by a line approximating the 30-fm (55-m) depth contour. 
Coordinates for the 30-fm (55-m) boundary are listed at 50 CFR 
660.71(e). Between the U.S./Canada border and 40[deg]10' N. lat., the 
RCA is defined along a western boundary approximating the 100-fm (183-
m) depth contour. Coordinates for the 100-fm (183-m) boundary are 
listed at 50 CFR 660.73(a).
* * * * *
0
4. In Sec.  300.64, revise paragraph (i) to read as follows:


Sec.  300.64  Fishing by U.S. treaty Indian tribes.

    (i) The following table sets forth the fishing areas of each of the 
13 treaty Indian tribes fishing pursuant to this section. Within 
subarea 2A-1, boundaries of a tribe's fishing area may be revised as 
ordered by a Federal Court.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
            Tribe                              Boundaries
------------------------------------------------------------------------
HOH..........................  The area between 47[deg]54.30' N. lat.
                                (Quillayute River) and 47[deg]21.00' N.
                                lat. (Quinault River) and east of
                                125[deg]44.00' W. long.
JAMESTOWN S'KLALLAM..........  Those locations in the Strait of Juan de
                                Fuca and Puget Sound as determined in or
                                in accordance with Final Decision No. 1
                                and subsequent orders in United States
                                v. Washington, 384 F. Supp. 312 (W.D.
                                Wash., 1974), and particularly at 626 F.
                                Supp. 1486, to be places at which the
                                Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe may fish under
                                rights secured by treaties with the
                                United States.
LOWER ELWHA S'KLALLAM........  Those locations in the Strait of Juan de
                                Fuca and Puget Sound as determined in or
                                in accordance with Final Decision No. 1
                                and subsequent orders in United States
                                v. Washington, 384 F. Supp. 312 (W.D.
                                Wash., 1974), and particularly at 459 F.
                                Supp. 1049 and 1066 and 626 F. Supp.
                                1443, to be places at which the Lower
                                Elwha S'Klallam Tribe may fish under
                                rights secured by treaties with the
                                United States.
LUMMI........................  Those locations in the Strait of Juan de
                                Fuca and Puget Sound as determined in or
                                in accordance with Final Decision No. 1
                                and subsequent orders in United States
                                v. Washington, 384 F. Supp. 312 (W.D.
                                Wash., 1974), and particularly at 384 F.
                                Supp. 360, as modified in Subproceeding
                                No. 89-08 (W.D. Wash., February 13,
                                1990) (decision and order re: cross-
                                motions for summary judgement), to be
                                places at which the Lummi Tribe may fish
                                under rights secured by treaties with
                                the United States.
MAKAH........................  The area north of 48[deg]02.25' N. lat.
                                (Norwegian Memorial) and east of
                                125[deg]44.00' W. long.
NOOKSACK.....................  Those locations in the Strait of Juan de
                                Fuca and Puget Sound as determined in or
                                in accordance with Final Decision No. 1
                                and subsequent orders in United States
                                v. Washington, 384 F. Supp. 312 (W.D.
                                Wash. 1974), and particularly at 459 F.
                                Supp. 1049, to be places at which the
                                Nooksack Tribe may fish under rights
                                secured by treaties with the United
                                States.
PORT GAMBLE S'KLALLAM........  Those locations in the Strait of Juan de
                                Fuca and Puget Sound as determined in or
                                in accordance with Final Decision No. 1
                                and subsequent orders in United States
                                v. Washington, 384 F. Supp. 312 (W.D.
                                Wash., 1974), and particularly at 626 F.
                                Supp. 1442, to be places at which the
                                Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe may fish
                                under rights secured by treaties with
                                the United States.
QUILEUTE.....................  The area between 48[deg]10.00' N. lat.
                                (Cape Alava) and 47[deg]31.70' N. lat.
                                (Queets River) and east of
                                125[deg]44.00' W. long.
QUINAULT.....................  The area between 47[deg]40.10' N. lat.
                                (Destruction Island) and 46[deg]53.30'
                                N. lat. (Point Chehalis) and east of
                                125[deg]08.50' W. long.
SKOKOMISH....................  Those locations in the Strait of Juan de
                                Fuca and Puget Sound as determined in or
                                in accordance with Final Decision No. 1
                                and subsequent orders in United States
                                v. Washington, 384 F. Supp. 312 (W.D.
                                Wash., 1974), and particularly at 384 F.
                                Supp. 377, to be places at which the
                                Skokomish Tribe may fish under rights
                                secured by treaties with the United
                                States.

[[Page 8473]]

 
SUQUAMISH....................  Those locations in the Strait of Juan de
                                Fuca and Puget Sound as determined in or
                                in accordance with Final Decision No. 1
                                and subsequent orders in United States
                                v. Washington, 384 F. Supp. 312 (W.D.
                                Wash., 1974), and particularly at 459 F.
                                Supp. 1049, to be places at which the
                                Suquamish Tribe may fish under rights
                                secured by treaties with the United
                                States.
SWINOMISH....................  Those locations in the Strait of Juan de
                                Fuca and Puget Sound as determined in or
                                in accordance with Final Decision No. 1
                                and subsequent orders in United States
                                v. Washington, 384 F. Supp. 312 (W.D.
                                Wash., 1974), and particularly at 459 F.
                                Supp. 1049, to be places at which the
                                Swinomish Tribe may fish under rights
                                secured by treaties with the United
                                States.
TULALIP......................  Those locations in the Strait of Juan de
                                Fuca and Puget Sound as determined in or
                                in accordance with Final Decision No. 1
                                and subsequent orders in United States
                                v. Washington, 384 F. Supp. 312 (W.D.
                                Wash., 1974), and particularly at 626 F.
                                Supp. 1531-1532, to be places at which
                                the Tulalip Tribe may fish under rights
                                secured by treaties with the United
                                States.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

[FR Doc. 2016-02991 Filed 2-18-16; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P