Fisheries Off West Coast States; Coastal Pelagic Species Fisheries; Annual Specifications, 41251-41253 [2016-14955]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 122 / Friday, June 24, 2016 / Rules and Regulations Convention Area in the area between 20° N. latitude and 20° S. latitude in 2016 or 2017. The Federal Register notice will be published at least seven days in advance of the start of the period announced in the notice. NMFS will estimate and project the number of FAD sets using vessel logbooks, and/or other information sources that it deems most appropriate and reliable for the purposes of this section; and (iv) In any area of high seas, from January 1 through December 31, 2017. * * * * * (e) Observer coverage. (1) A fishing vessel of the United States may not be used to fish with purse seine gear in the Convention Area without a WCPFC observer on board. This requirement does not apply to fishing trips that meet either of the following conditions: (i) The portion of the fishing trip within the Convention Area takes place entirely within areas under the jurisdiction of a single nation other than the United States; or, (ii) No fishing takes place during the fishing trip in the Convention Area in the area between 20 °N. latitude and 20 °S. latitude. (2) Owners, operators, and crew of fishing vessels subject to paragraph (e)(1) of this section must accommodate WCPFC observers in accordance with the provisions of § 300.215(c). (3) Meeting either of the conditions in paragraphs (e)(1)(i) and (ii) of this section does not exempt a fishing vessel from having to carry and accommodate a WCPFC observer pursuant to § 300.215 or other applicable regulations. 4. In § 300.224, revise paragraph (a) to read as follows: ■ sradovich on DSK3GDR082PROD with RULES § 300.224 Longline fishing restrictions. (a) Establishment of bigeye tuna catch limits. (1) During calendar year 2016 there is a limit of 3,554 metric tons of bigeye tuna that may be captured in the Convention Area by longline gear and retained on board by fishing vessels of the United States. (2) During calendar year 2017 there is a limit of 3,345 metric tons of bigeye tuna that may be captured in the Convention Area by longline gear and retained on board by fishing vessels of the United States. * * * * * [FR Doc. 2016–14967 Filed 6–23–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:19 Jun 23, 2016 Jkt 238001 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 660 [Docket No. 160411325–6535–02] RIN 0648–XE568 Fisheries Off West Coast States; Coastal Pelagic Species Fisheries; Annual Specifications National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: NMFS issues this final rule to implement annual management measures and harvest specifications to establish the allowable catch levels (i.e., annual catch limit (ACL)/harvest guideline (HG)) for the northern subpopulation of Pacific sardine (hereafter, simply Pacific sardine), in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off the Pacific coast for the fishing season of July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017. These specifications were determined according to the Coastal Pelagic Species (CPS) Fishery Management Plan (FMP). This action includes a prohibition on directed nontribal Pacific sardine commercial fishing for Pacific sardine off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California, which is required because the estimated 2016 biomass of Pacific sardine is below the biomass threshold specified in the HG control rule. Under this action, Pacific sardine may still be harvested as part of either the live bait or tribal fishery or as incidental catch in other fisheries; the incidental harvest of Pacific sardine would initially be limited to 40-percent by weight of all fish per trip when caught with other CPS or up to 2 metric tons (mt) when caught with non-CPS. The annual catch limit (ACL) for the 2016–2017 Pacific sardine fishing year is 8,000 mt. This rule is intended to conserve and manage the Pacific sardine stock off the U.S. West Coast. DATES: Effective July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Joshua Lindsay, West Coast Region, NMFS, (562) 980–4034, joshua.lindsay@ noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS manages the Pacific sardine fishery in the U.S. EEZ off the Pacific coast (California, Oregon, and Washington) in accordance with the CPS FMP. Annual specifications published in the Federal SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00081 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 41251 Register establish the allowable harvest levels (i.e., overfishing limit (OFL)/ACL/ HG) for each Pacific sardine fishing year. The purpose of this final rule is to implement these annual catch reference points for the 2016–2017 fishing year. This final rule adopts, without changes, the catch levels and restrictions that NMFS proposed in the rule published on May 26, 2016 (81 FR 33454), including an OFL and an ABC that takes into consideration uncertainty surrounding the current estimate of biomass for Pacific sardine in the U.S. EEZ off the Pacific coast. The FMP and its implementing regulations require NMFS to set these annual catch levels for the Pacific sardine fishery based on the annual specification framework and control rules in the FMP. These control rules include the HG control rule, which, in conjunction with the OFL and ABC rules in the FMP, are used to manage harvest levels for Pacific sardine, in accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. According to the FMP, the quota for the principal commercial fishery is determined using the FMP-specified HG formula. The HG formula in the CPS FMP is HG = [(Biomass¥CUTOFF) * FRACTION * DISTRIBUTION] with the parameters described as follows: 1. Biomass. The estimated stock biomass of Pacific sardine age one and above. For the 2016–2017 management season this is 106,137 mt. 2. CUTOFF. This is the biomass level below which no HG is set. The FMP established this level at 150,000 mt. 3. DISTRIBUTION. The average portion of the Pacific sardine biomass estimated in the EEZ off the Pacific coast. The FMP established this at 87 percent. 4. FRACTION. The temperature-varying harvest fraction is the percentage of the biomass above 150,000 mt that may be harvested. As described above, the Pacific sardine HG control rule, the primary mechanism for setting the annual directed commercial fishery quota, includes a CUTOFF parameter which has been set as a biomass level of 150,000 mt. This amount is subtracted from the annual biomass estimate before calculating the applicable HG for the fishing year. Therefore, because this year’s biomass estimate is below that value, the formula results in an HG of zero and therefore no Pacific sardine are available for the commercial directed fishery during the 2016–2017 fishing season. At the April 2016 Council meeting, the Council’s SSC approved, and the Council adopted, the ‘‘Assessment of E:\FR\FM\24JNR1.SGM 24JNR1 sradovich on DSK3GDR082PROD with RULES 41252 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 122 / Friday, June 24, 2016 / Rules and Regulations the Pacific Sardine Resource in 2016 for U.S.A. Management in 2016–2017’’, completed by NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center and the resulting Pacific sardine biomass estimate of 106,137 mt as the best available science for setting harvest specifications. Based on recommendations from its SSC and other advisory bodies, the Council recommended, and NMFS is implementing, an OFL of 23,085 mt, an ABC of 19,236 mt, and a prohibition on sardine catch unless it is harvested as part of either the live bait or tribal fishery or incidental to other fisheries for the 2016–2017 Pacific sardine fishing year. As additional management measures, the Council also recommended, and NMFS is implementing, an ACL of 8,000 mt and specifying that the incidental catch of Pacific sardine in other CPS fisheries be managed with the following automatic inseason actions to reduce the potential for both targeting and discard of Pacific sardine: • An incidental allowance of 40 percent Pacific sardine per landing by weight in non-treaty CPS fisheries until a total of 2,000 mt of Pacific sardine are landed. • When 2,000 mt are landed, the incidental per-landing allowance would be reduced to 30 percent until a total of 5,000 mt of Pacific sardine have been landed. • When 5,000 mt have been landed, the incidental per-landing allowance would be reduced to 10 percent for the remainder of the 2016–2017 fishing year. Because Pacific sardine is known to comingle with other CPS stocks, these incidental allowances allow for the continued prosecution of these other important CPS fisheries and reduce the potential discard of sardine. Additionally, non-CPS fisheries are allowed to retain up to 2 mt per landing of sardine harvested incidentally. The NMFS West Coast Regional Administrator will publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing the date of attainment of any of the incidental catch levels described above and subsequent changes to allowable incidental catch percentages. Additionally, to ensure that the regulated community is informed of any closure, NMFS will also make announcements through other means available, including fax, email, and mail to fishermen, processors, and state fishery management agencies. As explained in the proposed rule, 800 mt of the ACL are being set aside for tribal harvest use per a request from the Quinault Indian Nation. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:19 Jun 23, 2016 Jkt 238001 Detailed information on the fishery and the stock assessment are found in the report ‘‘Assessment of the Pacific Sardine Resource in 2016 for U.S.A. Management in 2016–2017’’ (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Comment and Response On May 26, 2016, NMFS published a proposed rule for this action and solicited public comments (81 FR 33454), with a public comment period that ended on June 10, 2016. NMFS received one comment letter—explained below—during the comment period. After consideration of the public comment, no changes were made from the proposed rule. For further background information on this action please refer to the preamble of the proposed rule. NMFS summarizes and responds below to the comment letter below. Comment: The commenter expressed support for the prohibition on directed commercial sardine fishing, but is opposed to the proposed ACL level, and requested that NMFS instead set an ACL of no more than 1,000 mt to be divided among the live bait and tribal sectors, and to accommodate limited bycatch. The commenter expressed an opinion that the proposed ACL of 8,000 mt fails to follow the harvest control rule because the FMP states that the harvest rate should be zero when the biomass drops below the CUTOFF. The comment also requested reconsideration of the sardine harvest control rule and other aspects of sardine management, including but not limited to the existing CUTOFF and Minimum Stock Size Threshold values. (These parameters, as well as other changes to the sardine harvest control rule and management mentioned by the commenter are beyond the scope of this rulemaking and will not be addressed below.) Response: First, NMFS notes that the stock assessment for the 2016–2017 fishing year, as with each annual stock assessment, went through a multi-stage review process including being reviewed and discussed by the Council, and the Council’s SSC, CPS management team, and CPS advisory subpanel to ensure that the best available science is utilized when calculating the biomass estimate. This year’s biomass estimate used for the 2016–2017 specifications, along with the resulting OFL and ABC, was endorsed by the Council’s SSC and NMFS as the best available science. Although this biomass estimate is still below the CUTOFF value, triggering the second year of the closure of the PO 00000 Frm 00082 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 primary directed fishery, the estimate is slightly higher than last year’s estimate. NMFS disagrees that the ACL implemented in this rule is not in line with the FMP or that it fails to prevent overfishing or will ‘‘contribute to the continued decline of the sardine population to an overfished condition’’. The ACL should be viewed in the context of the OFL for the northern subpopulation of Pacific Sardine of 23,085 mt and an ABC of 19,236 mt that takes into account scientific uncertainty surrounding the OFL. These reference limits were recommended by the Council based on the control rules in the FMP and were endorsed the Council’s SSC. The commenter does not note disagreement with these levels. By definition, fishing could conceivably occur up to these levels and overfishing would not be occurring and therefore fishing would not be the cause of the stock moving towards an overfished state. An ACL of 8,000 mt is well below both the OFL and ABC, under which incidental catch of sardine will be managed, along with the multiple safeguards in place to keep the catch under that level, the management measures implemented by this rule are more than adequate to prevent exceeding the OFL. In response to the commenter’s opinion that overall harvest rate should be zero when the biomass drops below the 150,000 mt CUTOFF, NMFS notes that the FMP does not forbid incidental, live bait or tribal harvest in this situation. The reference provided by the commenter to of a harvest rate of zero is specific to the primary directed fishery; as explained above, this action sets the directed harvest rate at zero. Although the commenter states that the harvest rate in this situation should be zero, the commenter nevertheless also seems to agree that the FMP allows incidental, live bait, or tribal harvest if the directed harvest is set at zero. The commenter specifically cites the CPS FMP language that allows for live bait harvest when the estimated biomass drops below the CUTOFF. Additionally, although the commenter disagrees with setting the ACL at 8,000 mt because it would allow a harvest rate above zero percent (which the commenter argues would violate the FMP), the commenter supports an ACL of 1,000 mt (implying that the commenter recognizes that the FMP allows a harvest rate above zero percent). Classification Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the NMFS Assistant Administrator has E:\FR\FM\24JNR1.SGM 24JNR1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 122 / Friday, June 24, 2016 / Rules and Regulations determined that this final rule is consistent with the CPS FMP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, and other applicable law. NMFS finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3) to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness for the establishment of these final harvest specifications for the 2016–2017 Pacific sardine fishing season. In accordance with the FMP, this rule was recommended by the Council at its meeting in April 2016, the contents of which were based on the best available new information on the population status of Pacific sardine that became available at that time. Making these final specifications effective on July 1 is necessary for the conservation and management of the Pacific sardine resource. The FMP requires a prohibition on directed fishing for Pacific sardine for the 2016–2017 fishing year because the sardine biomass is below the CUTOFF. The purpose of the CUTOFF in the FMP—and prohibiting directed fishing when the biomass drops below this level—is to protect the stock when biomass is low and provide a buffer of spawning stock that is protected from fishing and available for use in rebuilding the stock. A delay in the effectiveness of this rule for a full 30 days would not allow the implementation of this prohibition prior to the expiration of the closure of the directed fishery on July 1, 2016, which was imposed under the 2015–2016 annual specifications. Delaying the effective date of this rule beyond July 1 would be contrary to the public interest because reducing Pacific sardine biomass beyond the limits set out in this action could decrease the sustainability of the Pacific sardine, as well as cause future harvest limits to be even lower under the harvest control rule, thereby reducing future profits of the fishery. These final specifications are exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration during the proposed rule stage that this action would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The factual basis for the certification was published in the proposed rule and is not repeated here. No comments were received regarding this certification. As a result, a regulatory flexibility analysis was not required and none was prepared. This action does not contain a collection-of-information requirement for purposes of the Paper Reduction Act. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: June 17, 2016. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2016–14955 Filed 6–23–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 679 [Docket No. 150916863–6211–02] RIN 0648–XE694 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Exchange of Flatfish in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Temporary rule; reallocation. AGENCY: NMFS is exchanging unused flathead sole and yellowfin sole Community Development Quota (CDQ) for rock sole CDQ acceptable biological catch (ABC) reserves in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area. This action is necessary to allow the 2016 total allowable catch of rock sole in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area to be harvested. SUMMARY: 41253 Effective June 24, 2016 through December 31, 2016. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Obren Davis, 907–586–7228. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS manages the groundfish fishery in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area (BSAI) according to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (FMP) prepared by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council under authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Regulations governing fishing by U.S. vessels in accordance with the FMP appear at subpart H of 50 CFR part 600 and 50 CFR part 679. The 2016 flathead sole, rock sole, and yellowfin sole CDQ reserves specified in the BSAI are 2,247 mt, 5,710 mt, and 15,808 mt as established by the final 2016 and 2017 harvest specifications for groundfish in the BSAI (81 FR 14773, March 18, 2016), and one flatfish exchange (81 FR 21482, April 12, 2016). The 2016 flathead sole, rock sole, and yellowfin sole CDQ ABC reserves are 4,842 mt, 11,528 mt, and 6,844 mt as established by the final 2016 and 2017 harvest specifications for groundfish in the BSAI (81 FR 14773, March 18, 2016), and one flatfish exchange (81 FR 21482, April 12, 2016). The Yukon Delta Fisheries Development Association has requested that NMFS exchange 15 mt of flathead sole and 35 mt of yellowfin sole CDQ reserves for 50 mt of rock sole CDQ ABC reserve under § 679.31(d). Therefore, in accordance with § 679.31(d), NMFS exchanges 15 mt of flathead sole and 35 mt of yellowfin sole CDQ reserves for 50 mt of rock sole CDQ ABC reserves in the BSAI. This action also decreases and increases the associated total annual catches (TAC) and CDQ ABC reserves by the corresponding amounts. Tables 11 and 13 of the final 2016 and 2017 harvest specifications for groundfish in the BSAI (81 FR 14773, March 18, 2016), as revised by one flatfish exchange (81 FR 21842, April 12, 2016), are revised as follows: DATES: TABLE 11—FINAL 2016 COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT QUOTA (CDQ) RESERVES, INCIDENTAL CATCH AMOUNTS (ICAS), AND AMENDMENT 80 ALLOCATIONS OF THE ALEUTIAN ISLANDS PACIFIC OCEAN PERCH, AND BSAI FLATHEAD SOLE, ROCK SOLE, AND YELLOWFIN SOLE TACS sradovich on DSK3GDR082PROD with RULES [Amounts are in metric tons] Pacific ocean perch Sector Eastern Aleutian district TAC .......................................................... VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:19 Jun 23, 2016 Jkt 238001 7,900 PO 00000 Frm 00083 Central Aleutian district Flathead sole Western Aleutian district 7,000 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 Rock sole Yellowfin sole BSAI BSAI BSAI 9,000 E:\FR\FM\24JNR1.SGM 20,985 24JNR1 56,750 144,365

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 122 (Friday, June 24, 2016)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 41251-41253]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-14955]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 660

[Docket No. 160411325-6535-02]
RIN 0648-XE568


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

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: NMFS issues this final rule to implement annual management 
measures and harvest specifications to establish the allowable catch 
levels (i.e., annual catch limit (ACL)/harvest guideline (HG)) for the 
northern subpopulation of Pacific sardine (hereafter, simply Pacific 
sardine), in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off the Pacific 
coast for the fishing season of July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017. 
These specifications were determined according to the Coastal Pelagic 
Species (CPS) Fishery Management Plan (FMP). This action includes a 
prohibition on directed non-tribal Pacific sardine commercial fishing 
for Pacific sardine off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and 
California, which is required because the estimated 2016 biomass of 
Pacific sardine is below the biomass threshold specified in the HG 
control rule. Under this action, Pacific sardine may still be harvested 
as part of either the live bait or tribal fishery or as incidental 
catch in other fisheries; the incidental harvest of Pacific sardine 
would initially be limited to 40-percent by weight of all fish per trip 
when caught with other CPS or up to 2 metric tons (mt) when caught with 
non-CPS. The annual catch limit (ACL) for the 2016-2017 Pacific sardine 
fishing year is 8,000 mt. This rule is intended to conserve and manage 
the Pacific sardine stock off the U.S. West Coast.

DATES: Effective July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Joshua Lindsay, West Coast Region, 
NMFS, (562) 980-4034, joshua.lindsay@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS manages the Pacific sardine fishery in 
the U.S. EEZ off the Pacific coast (California, Oregon, and Washington) 
in accordance with the CPS FMP. Annual specifications published in the 
Federal Register establish the allowable harvest levels (i.e., 
overfishing limit (OFL)/ACL/HG) for each Pacific sardine fishing year. 
The purpose of this final rule is to implement these annual catch 
reference points for the 2016-2017 fishing year. This final rule 
adopts, without changes, the catch levels and restrictions that NMFS 
proposed in the rule published on May 26, 2016 (81 FR 33454), including 
an OFL and an ABC that takes into consideration uncertainty surrounding 
the current estimate of biomass for Pacific sardine in the U.S. EEZ off 
the Pacific coast.
    The FMP and its implementing regulations require NMFS to set these 
annual catch levels for the Pacific sardine fishery based on the annual 
specification framework and control rules in the FMP. These control 
rules include the HG control rule, which, in conjunction with the OFL 
and ABC rules in the FMP, are used to manage harvest levels for Pacific 
sardine, in accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation 
and Management Act, 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. According to the FMP, the 
quota for the principal commercial fishery is determined using the FMP-
specified HG formula. The HG formula in the CPS FMP is HG = [(Biomass-
CUTOFF) * FRACTION * DISTRIBUTION] with the parameters described as 
follows:

    1. Biomass. The estimated stock biomass of Pacific sardine age 
one and above. For the 2016-2017 management season this is 106,137 
mt.
    2. CUTOFF. This is the biomass level below which no HG is set. 
The FMP established this level at 150,000 mt.
    3. DISTRIBUTION. The average portion of the Pacific sardine 
biomass estimated in the EEZ off the Pacific coast. The FMP 
established this at 87 percent.
    4. FRACTION. The temperature-varying harvest fraction is the 
percentage of the biomass above 150,000 mt that may be harvested.

    As described above, the Pacific sardine HG control rule, the 
primary mechanism for setting the annual directed commercial fishery 
quota, includes a CUTOFF parameter which has been set as a biomass 
level of 150,000 mt. This amount is subtracted from the annual biomass 
estimate before calculating the applicable HG for the fishing year. 
Therefore, because this year's biomass estimate is below that value, 
the formula results in an HG of zero and therefore no Pacific sardine 
are available for the commercial directed fishery during the 2016-2017 
fishing season.
    At the April 2016 Council meeting, the Council's SSC approved, and 
the Council adopted, the ``Assessment of

[[Page 41252]]

the Pacific Sardine Resource in 2016 for U.S.A. Management in 2016-
2017'', completed by NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center and the 
resulting Pacific sardine biomass estimate of 106,137 mt as the best 
available science for setting harvest specifications. Based on 
recommendations from its SSC and other advisory bodies, the Council 
recommended, and NMFS is implementing, an OFL of 23,085 mt, an ABC of 
19,236 mt, and a prohibition on sardine catch unless it is harvested as 
part of either the live bait or tribal fishery or incidental to other 
fisheries for the 2016-2017 Pacific sardine fishing year. As additional 
management measures, the Council also recommended, and NMFS is 
implementing, an ACL of 8,000 mt and specifying that the incidental 
catch of Pacific sardine in other CPS fisheries be managed with the 
following automatic inseason actions to reduce the potential for both 
targeting and discard of Pacific sardine:
     An incidental allowance of 40 percent Pacific sardine per 
landing by weight in non-treaty CPS fisheries until a total of 2,000 mt 
of Pacific sardine are landed.
     When 2,000 mt are landed, the incidental per-landing 
allowance would be reduced to 30 percent until a total of 5,000 mt of 
Pacific sardine have been landed.
     When 5,000 mt have been landed, the incidental per-landing 
allowance would be reduced to 10 percent for the remainder of the 2016-
2017 fishing year.
    Because Pacific sardine is known to comingle with other CPS stocks, 
these incidental allowances allow for the continued prosecution of 
these other important CPS fisheries and reduce the potential discard of 
sardine. Additionally, non-CPS fisheries are allowed to retain up to 2 
mt per landing of sardine harvested incidentally.
    The NMFS West Coast Regional Administrator will publish a notice in 
the Federal Register announcing the date of attainment of any of the 
incidental catch levels described above and subsequent changes to 
allowable incidental catch percentages. Additionally, to ensure that 
the regulated community is informed of any closure, NMFS will also make 
announcements through other means available, including fax, email, and 
mail to fishermen, processors, and state fishery management agencies.
    As explained in the proposed rule, 800 mt of the ACL are being set 
aside for tribal harvest use per a request from the Quinault Indian 
Nation.
    Detailed information on the fishery and the stock assessment are 
found in the report ``Assessment of the Pacific Sardine Resource in 
2016 for U.S.A. Management in 2016-2017'' (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 
CONTACT).

Comment and Response

    On May 26, 2016, NMFS published a proposed rule for this action and 
solicited public comments (81 FR 33454), with a public comment period 
that ended on June 10, 2016. NMFS received one comment letter--
explained below--during the comment period. After consideration of the 
public comment, no changes were made from the proposed rule. For 
further background information on this action please refer to the 
preamble of the proposed rule. NMFS summarizes and responds below to 
the comment letter below.
    Comment: The commenter expressed support for the prohibition on 
directed commercial sardine fishing, but is opposed to the proposed ACL 
level, and requested that NMFS instead set an ACL of no more than 1,000 
mt to be divided among the live bait and tribal sectors, and to 
accommodate limited bycatch. The commenter expressed an opinion that 
the proposed ACL of 8,000 mt fails to follow the harvest control rule 
because the FMP states that the harvest rate should be zero when the 
biomass drops below the CUTOFF.
    The comment also requested reconsideration of the sardine harvest 
control rule and other aspects of sardine management, including but not 
limited to the existing CUTOFF and Minimum Stock Size Threshold values. 
(These parameters, as well as other changes to the sardine harvest 
control rule and management mentioned by the commenter are beyond the 
scope of this rulemaking and will not be addressed below.)
    Response: First, NMFS notes that the stock assessment for the 2016-
2017 fishing year, as with each annual stock assessment, went through a 
multi-stage review process including being reviewed and discussed by 
the Council, and the Council's SSC, CPS management team, and CPS 
advisory subpanel to ensure that the best available science is utilized 
when calculating the biomass estimate. This year's biomass estimate 
used for the 2016-2017 specifications, along with the resulting OFL and 
ABC, was endorsed by the Council's SSC and NMFS as the best available 
science. Although this biomass estimate is still below the CUTOFF 
value, triggering the second year of the closure of the primary 
directed fishery, the estimate is slightly higher than last year's 
estimate.
    NMFS disagrees that the ACL implemented in this rule is not in line 
with the FMP or that it fails to prevent overfishing or will 
``contribute to the continued decline of the sardine population to an 
overfished condition''. The ACL should be viewed in the context of the 
OFL for the northern subpopulation of Pacific Sardine of 23,085 mt and 
an ABC of 19,236 mt that takes into account scientific uncertainty 
surrounding the OFL. These reference limits were recommended by the 
Council based on the control rules in the FMP and were endorsed the 
Council's SSC. The commenter does not note disagreement with these 
levels. By definition, fishing could conceivably occur up to these 
levels and overfishing would not be occurring and therefore fishing 
would not be the cause of the stock moving towards an overfished state. 
An ACL of 8,000 mt is well below both the OFL and ABC, under which 
incidental catch of sardine will be managed, along with the multiple 
safeguards in place to keep the catch under that level, the management 
measures implemented by this rule are more than adequate to prevent 
exceeding the OFL.
    In response to the commenter's opinion that overall harvest rate 
should be zero when the biomass drops below the 150,000 mt CUTOFF, NMFS 
notes that the FMP does not forbid incidental, live bait or tribal 
harvest in this situation. The reference provided by the commenter to 
of a harvest rate of zero is specific to the primary directed fishery; 
as explained above, this action sets the directed harvest rate at zero. 
Although the commenter states that the harvest rate in this situation 
should be zero, the commenter nevertheless also seems to agree that the 
FMP allows incidental, live bait, or tribal harvest if the directed 
harvest is set at zero. The commenter specifically cites the CPS FMP 
language that allows for live bait harvest when the estimated biomass 
drops below the CUTOFF. Additionally, although the commenter disagrees 
with setting the ACL at 8,000 mt because it would allow a harvest rate 
above zero percent (which the commenter argues would violate the FMP), 
the commenter supports an ACL of 1,000 mt (implying that the commenter 
recognizes that the FMP allows a harvest rate above zero percent).

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act, the NMFS Assistant Administrator has

[[Page 41253]]

determined that this final rule is consistent with the CPS FMP, other 
provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management 
Act, and other applicable law.
    NMFS finds good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3) to waive the 30-day 
delay in effectiveness for the establishment of these final harvest 
specifications for the 2016-2017 Pacific sardine fishing season. In 
accordance with the FMP, this rule was recommended by the Council at 
its meeting in April 2016, the contents of which were based on the best 
available new information on the population status of Pacific sardine 
that became available at that time. Making these final specifications 
effective on July 1 is necessary for the conservation and management of 
the Pacific sardine resource. The FMP requires a prohibition on 
directed fishing for Pacific sardine for the 2016-2017 fishing year 
because the sardine biomass is below the CUTOFF. The purpose of the 
CUTOFF in the FMP--and prohibiting directed fishing when the biomass 
drops below this level--is to protect the stock when biomass is low and 
provide a buffer of spawning stock that is protected from fishing and 
available for use in rebuilding the stock. A delay in the effectiveness 
of this rule for a full 30 days would not allow the implementation of 
this prohibition prior to the expiration of the closure of the directed 
fishery on July 1, 2016, which was imposed under the 2015-2016 annual 
specifications.
    Delaying the effective date of this rule beyond July 1 would be 
contrary to the public interest because reducing Pacific sardine 
biomass beyond the limits set out in this action could decrease the 
sustainability of the Pacific sardine, as well as cause future harvest 
limits to be even lower under the harvest control rule, thereby 
reducing future profits of the fishery.
    These final specifications are exempt from review under Executive 
Order 12866.
    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration during the proposed rule stage that this action would 
not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. The factual basis for the certification was published in the 
proposed rule and is not repeated here. No comments were received 
regarding this certification. As a result, a regulatory flexibility 
analysis was not required and none was prepared.
    This action does not contain a collection-of-information 
requirement for purposes of the Paper Reduction Act.

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

    Dated: June 17, 2016.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2016-14955 Filed 6-23-16; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P