Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone off Alaska; Application for an Exempted Fishing Permit, 44389-44391 [2017-20186]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 183 / Friday, September 22, 2017 / Notices been notified of the Council’s intent to take final action to address the emergency. The public also should be aware that the meeting will be recorded. Consistent with 16 U.S.C. 1852, a copy of the recording is available upon request. Special Accommodations This meeting is physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to Thomas A. Nies, Executive Director, at (978) 465–0492, at least 5 days prior to the meeting date. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: September 19, 2017. Tracey L. Thompson, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2017–20236 Filed 9–21–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XF703 Fisheries of the South Atlantic; South Atlantic Fishery Management Council; Public Meetings National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of a public meeting of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s (Council) Information & Education Advisory Panel (AP). AGENCY: The Council’s Information and Education AP will meet to address outreach efforts and communication needs. See SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION. DATES: The Information and Education AP meeting will be held Tuesday, October 10, 2017, from 1:30 p.m. until 5 p.m. and from 9 a.m. until 12 p.m. on Wednesday, October 11, 2017. ADDRESSES: Meeting address: The meeting will be held at the Hilton Garden, 5265 International Boulevard, North Charleston, SC 29418. Council address: South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 4055 Faber Place Drive, Suite 201, N. Charleston, SC 29405. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kim Iverson, Public Information Officer, South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 4055 Faber Place Drive, Suite 201, N. Charleston, SC 29405; phone 843/571–4366 or toll free 866/SAFMC– SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:11 Sep 21, 2017 Jkt 241001 10; FAX 843/769–4520; email: kim.iverson@safmc.net. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Information and Education AP will review and provide recommendations on the Council’s transition to a new fishing regulations mobile application and the development of the Council’s online Fishermen’s Forum. The AP will also receive presentations and have the opportunity to provide recommendations on the Council’s recreational reporting projects, specifically the MyFishCount Recreational Reporting Project, the ForHire Electronic Reporting Outreach Project, and the use of iAngler for possible recreational reporting opportunities. Additionally, the AP will receive program updates from the Council’s Citizen Science Program and the Marine Resource Education Program. Although other non-emergency issues not on the agenda may come before this group for discussion, those issues may not be the subject of formal action during this meeting. Actions will be restricted to those issues specifically listed in this notice and any issues arising after publication of this notice that require emergency action under Section 305(c) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, provided the public has been notified of the Council’s intent to take final action to address the emergency. Special Accommodations This meeting is accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for auxiliary aids should be directed to the SAFMC office (see ADDRESSES) at least 5 business days prior to the meeting. Note: The times and sequence specified in this agenda are subject to change. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: September 19, 2017. Tracey L. Thompson, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2017–20237 Filed 9–21–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XF681 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone off Alaska; Application for an Exempted Fishing Permit National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and AGENCY: PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 44389 Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; receipt of application for exempted fishing permit. This notice announces receipt of an exempted fishing permit (EFP) application from the International Halibut Commission (IPHC). If granted, this EFP would allow crew members on a selected hook-and-line vessel targeting Pacific cod in the western Aleutian Islands in winter to collect biological samples from incidentally caught halibut and release those fish back to the water in a timely manner to increase survivability. Biological samples collected would include a fork length measurement and a small tissue sample from the caudal fin for genetic analysis. A NMFS-trained fishery observer would assign a viability category for each sampled halibut as per existing IPHC/ NMFS protocols. The objective of the EFP application is to confirm or reject results of a previous genetic stock structure study which indicated that Pacific halibut in the western Aleutian Islands are genetically distinct from the remainder of the eastern Pacific population. This experiment has the potential to promote the objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and the Northern Pacific Halibut Act. DATES: Comments on this EFP application must be submitted to NMFS on or before October 10, 2017. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) will consider the application at its meeting from October 2, 2017, through October 10, 2017, in Anchorage, AK. ADDRESSES: The Council meeting will be held at the Anchorage Hilton Hotel, 500 W 3rd Ave, Anchorage, AK 99501. The agenda for the Council meeting is available at http://www.npfmc.org. You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA–NMFS– 2017–0114, by any of the following methods: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20170114, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Submit written comments to Glenn Merrill, Assistant Regional Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian. Mail comments to P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802–1668. Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\22SEN1.SGM 22SEN1 44390 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 183 / Friday, September 22, 2017 / Notices individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address) submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Electronic copies of the EFP application and the basis for a categorical exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act are available from the Alaska Region, NMFS Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Brandee Gerke, 907–586–7228. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS manages the domestic groundfish fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area (BSAI) under the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (FMP), which the Council prepared under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Regulations governing the BSAI groundfish fisheries appear at 50 CFR parts 600 and 679. The FMP and the implementing regulations at § 600.745(b) and § 679.6 allow the NMFS Regional Administrator to authorize, for limited experimental purposes, fishing that would otherwise be prohibited. Procedures for issuing EFPs are contained in the implementing regulations. The IPHC and NMFS manage fishing for Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) through regulations established under the authority of the Convention between the United States and Canada for the Preservation of the Halibut Fishery of the Northern Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea (Convention) and the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982. The IPHC promulgates regulations pursuant to the Convention. The IPHC’s regulations are subject to approval by the Secretary of State with concurrence from the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary). Background The International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) has a long history of studying population structure in Pacific halibut, including a population genetics research program that was initiated in the late 1990s. Population genetics research is conducted to resolve stock components from one another and to identify barriers to gene flow that may VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:11 Sep 21, 2017 Jkt 241001 (1) Limit the mixing of halibut among regions, (2) Warrant different halibut fishery management actions or strategies among regions, or (3) Suggest changes in the spatial structure of the numerical halibut stock assessment model. In 2016, a population genetic analysis was completed (Drinan et al., 2016 Journal of Fish Biology 89:2571–2594) using halibut tissue samples that had been collected from 10 sampling locations across the eastern Pacific Ocean: From British Columbia in the south; to Pribilof Canyon in the north; and westward into the Aleutian Islands region at Adak Island, Petrel Bank, and Attu Island. The Drinan et al. (2016) analysis is the most extensive population genetic analysis of the eastern Pacific halibut stock to-date. The results suggest that significant stock structure exists within the managed range; in particular, that halibut residing in the western Aleutian Islands are genetically distinct from the remainder of the eastern Pacific population. Of greatest potential importance to management is the implication that a boundary of significant stock segregation may bisect a single IPHC regulatory area: i.e., Area 4B, with significantly different population components residing on either side of Amchitka Pass. However, these results may be called into question due to a weakness in the underlying sampling design: Whereas the majority of study locations were surveyed in mid-winter, Attu Island and Petrel Bank (i.e., the two sites found to be genetically distinct) were sampled during the IPHC’s summer setline survey. Ultimately, genetic population structure is established via the formation and maintenance of spatially segregated spawning populations. In the case of Pacific halibut, spawning occurs in midwinter following the migration of the spawning stock from its summer feeding grounds to potentially distant spawning grounds. As such, summercollected samples from any given location may be composed of individuals from multiple spawning groups that co-mingle on common feeding grounds. Although it is highly unlikely that such a process could result in the generation of spuriously significant genetic stock structure where none exists, best practices mandate that the results be re-tested using samples from the western Aleutian Islands that are collected during the winter spawning period. The Aleutian Islands winter hookand-line fishery for Pacific cod provides a platform of opportunity to collect Pacific halibut length data and accompanying tissue samples from the PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 western Aleutian Islands. Small numbers of halibut are caught as bycatch incidental to the Aleutian Islands Pacific cod hook-and-line fishery which would allow for the collection of biological samples that meet requirements of a supplementary genetic analysis to confirm or reject the results from the previous study. Proposed Action On August 31, 2017, the IPHC submitted an application for an EFP for 2018 to collect biological samples from incidentally caught halibut on a select hook-and-line vessel targeting Pacific cod in the western Aleutian Islands in winter and release those fish back to the water in a timely manner to increase survivability. The objective of the proposed 2018 EFP is to provide samples for genetic analyses that would be expected to confirm or reject conclusions about Pacific halibut spawning stock structure in the western Aleutian Islands inferred by data collected in summer by sampling during the winter halibut spawning period. This project would allow crew to collect biological samples of incidentally caught halibut and return the fish to sea, alive. The EFP would allow crew on board the selected vessel to measure fork length of approximately 20 to 30 incidentally caught halibut and collect a small tissue sample from the caudal fin of each sampled fish. Sampled halibut would be released back to the water after a NMFS-trained fishery observer conducted a viability assessment for each sampled halibut using existing IPHC protocols. The applicant proposes to conduct sampling on a single vessel in the hookand-line catcher/processor sector during the ‘‘A’’ season fishery for Pacific cod between January 1, 2018 and March 31, 2018 west of 180° W longitude (i.e., in NMFS Statistical Areas 542 and 543). The participating vessel would be selected on a voluntary basis and would carry a NMFS-trained fishery observer as required by regulation. The applicant’s proposed sampling protocol would consist of: (a) Bringing an incidentally-caught halibut aboard the vessel to be sampled; (b) releasing the halibut from the hook using an approved Careful Release technique (i.e., either by hook twisting or cutting the gangion near the hook); (c) measuring and recording the halibut’s forklength; (d) collecting a small (approximately one-quarter inch) tissue sample from the caudal fin; (e) assigning the halibut to a viability category as per existing IPHC/NMFS protocols; and (f) E:\FR\FM\22SEN1.SGM 22SEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 183 / Friday, September 22, 2017 / Notices returning the halibut to the water without further delay. All stages of the sampling process with the exception of (e), above, would be conducted by a member of the fishing vessel’s crew. Viability assignments would be conducted by the NMFStrained fishery observer on the vessel. The sampling process is expected to require less than 2 minutes and have no impact on the probability of survival of the sampled fish. The sampling protocol outlined above is quicker and less obtrusive than any of the protocols used by the IPHC for halibut tag-and-release that have been shown to yield excellent survival of the handled individuals. Halibut is a prohibited species in the groundfish fishery, requiring immediate return to the sea with a minimum of injury. This proposed action would exempt the participating vessel from the requirement to return all prohibited species, or parts thereof, to the sea immediately, with a minimum of injury, regardless of its condition at § 679.21(b)(2)(ii). Under the EFP, the participating vessel would be limited to its groundfish allocations under the 2018 harvest specifications. No additional target or prohibited species catch (PSC) amounts beyond those authorized through regulation would be needed for this EFP; all groundfish catch will accrue against the Pacific cod sector’s catch and PSC allowances. EFPauthorized fishing activities would not be expected to change the nature or duration of the Pacific cod hook-andline fishery or the amount or species of fish caught by the participating vessel. In 2018, the IPHC would be required to submit to NMFS a report of the EFP results after EFP experimental fishing has ended in 2018. The report would include: The number of halibut sampled and their recorded lengths. The fieldwork that would be conducted under this EFP is not expected to have a significant impact on the human environment as detailed in the categorical exclusion prepared for this action (see ADDRESSES). In accordance with § 679.6, NMFS has determined that the application warrants further consideration and has forwarded the application to the Council to initiate consultation. The Council is scheduled to consider the EFP application during its October 2017 meeting, which will be held in Anchorage, AK. The EFP application will also be provided to the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee for review at the October Council meeting. The applicant has been invited to appear in support of the application. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:11 Sep 21, 2017 Jkt 241001 Public Comments Interested persons may comment on the application at the October 2017 Council meeting during public testimony or until October 10, 2017. Information regarding the meeting is available at the Council’s Web site at http://www.npfmc.org. Copies of the application and categorical exclusion are available for review from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). Comments also may be submitted directly to NMFS (see ADDRESSES) by the end of the comment period (see DATES). Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: September 18, 2017. Emily H. Menashes, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2017–20186 Filed 9–21–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE Patent and Trademark Office [Docket No. PTO–P–2017–0038] Grant of Interim Extension of the Term of U.S. Patent No. 6,100,082; OCSTM Lung System United States Patent and Trademark Office, Commerce. ACTION: Notice of interim patent term extension. AGENCY: The United States Patent and Trademark Office has issued an order granting a one-year interim extension of the term of U.S. Patent No. 6,100,082. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mary C. Till by telephone at (571) 272– 7755; by mail marked to her attention and addressed to the Commissioner for Patents, Mail Stop Hatch-Waxman PTE, P.O. Box 1450, Alexandria, VA 22313– 1450; by fax marked to her attention at (571) 273–7755; or by email to Mary.Till@uspto.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Section 156 of Title 35, United States Code, generally provides that the term of a patent may be extended for a period of up to five years if the patent claims a product, or a method of making or using a product, that has been subject to certain defined regulatory review, and that the patent may be extended for interim periods of up to one year if the regulatory review is anticipated to extend beyond the expiration date of the patent. On September 6, 2017, TransMedics, Inc, an exclusive licensee of the patent owner of record, the Department of Veterans Affairs, timely filed an SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 44391 application under 35 U.S.C. 156(d)(5) for an interim extension of the term of U.S. Patent No. 6,100,082. The patent claims the medical device product, the OCS Lung System. The application for patent term extension indicates that a Premarket Approval Application (PMA) P160013 was submitted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on April 28, 2016. Review of the patent term extension application indicates that, except for permission to market or use the product commercially, the subject patent would be eligible for an extension of the patent term under 35 U.S.C. 156, and that the patent should be extended for one year as required by 35 U.S.C. 156(d)(5)(B). Because the regulatory review period will continue beyond the original expiration date of the patent, September 23, 2017, interim extension of the patent term under 35 U.S.C. 156(d)(5) is appropriate. An interim extension under 35 U.S.C. 156(d)(5) of the term of U.S. Patent No. 6,100,082 is granted for a period of one year from the original expiration date of the patent. Dated: September 14, 2017. Robert Bahr, Deputy Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy, United States Patent and Trademark Office. [FR Doc. 2017–20272 Filed 9–21–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–16–P COMMITTEE FOR PURCHASE FROM PEOPLE WHO ARE BLIND OR SEVERELY DISABLED Procurement List; Proposed Additions and Deletions Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled. ACTION: Proposed addition to and deletions from the Procurement List. AGENCY: The Committee is proposing to add a service to the Procurement List that will be furnished by nonprofit agencies employing persons who are blind or have other severe disabilities, and deletes products and services previously furnished by such agencies. DATES: Comments must be received on or before October 22, 2017. ADDRESSES: Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled, 1401 S. Clark Street, Suite 715, Arlington, Virginia 22202–4149. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For further information or to submit comments contact: Amy B. Jensen, Telephone: (703) 603–7740, Fax: (703) SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\22SEN1.SGM 22SEN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 183 (Friday, September 22, 2017)]
[Notices]
[Pages 44389-44391]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-20186]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XF681


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

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

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

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

SUMMARY: This notice announces receipt of an exempted fishing permit 
(EFP) application from the International Halibut Commission (IPHC). If 
granted, this EFP would allow crew members on a selected hook-and-line 
vessel targeting Pacific cod in the western Aleutian Islands in winter 
to collect biological samples from incidentally caught halibut and 
release those fish back to the water in a timely manner to increase 
survivability. Biological samples collected would include a fork length 
measurement and a small tissue sample from the caudal fin for genetic 
analysis. A NMFS-trained fishery observer would assign a viability 
category for each sampled halibut as per existing IPHC/NMFS protocols. 
The objective of the EFP application is to confirm or reject results of 
a previous genetic stock structure study which indicated that Pacific 
halibut in the western Aleutian Islands are genetically distinct from 
the remainder of the eastern Pacific population. This experiment has 
the potential to promote the objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and Management Act and the Northern Pacific Halibut Act.

DATES: Comments on this EFP application must be submitted to NMFS on or 
before October 10, 2017. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council 
(Council) will consider the application at its meeting from October 2, 
2017, through October 10, 2017, in Anchorage, AK.

ADDRESSES: The Council meeting will be held at the Anchorage Hilton 
Hotel, 500 W 3rd Ave, Anchorage, AK 99501. The agenda for the Council 
meeting is available at http://www.npfmc.org. You may submit comments 
on this document, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2017-0114, by any of the 
following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2017-0114, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Glenn Merrill, Assistant 
Regional Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region 
NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian. Mail comments to P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, 
AK 99802-1668.
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or

[[Page 44390]]

individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be 
considered. All comments received are a part of the public record and 
will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov 
without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, 
address) submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly 
accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ``N/A'' in the 
required fields if you wish to remain anonymous).
    Electronic copies of the EFP application and the basis for a 
categorical exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act are 
available from the Alaska Region, NMFS Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Brandee Gerke, 907-586-7228.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS manages the domestic groundfish 
fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area (BSAI) 
under the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and 
Aleutian Islands Management Area (FMP), which the Council prepared 
under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. 
Regulations governing the BSAI groundfish fisheries appear at 50 CFR 
parts 600 and 679. The FMP and the implementing regulations at Sec.  
600.745(b) and Sec.  679.6 allow the NMFS Regional Administrator to 
authorize, for limited experimental purposes, fishing that would 
otherwise be prohibited. Procedures for issuing EFPs are contained in 
the implementing regulations.
    The IPHC and NMFS manage fishing for Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus 
stenolepis) through regulations established under the authority of the 
Convention between the United States and Canada for the Preservation of 
the Halibut Fishery of the Northern Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea 
(Convention) and the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982. The IPHC 
promulgates regulations pursuant to the Convention. The IPHC's 
regulations are subject to approval by the Secretary of State with 
concurrence from the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary).

Background

    The International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) has a long 
history of studying population structure in Pacific halibut, including 
a population genetics research program that was initiated in the late 
1990s. Population genetics research is conducted to resolve stock 
components from one another and to identify barriers to gene flow that 
may (1) Limit the mixing of halibut among regions, (2) Warrant 
different halibut fishery management actions or strategies among 
regions, or (3) Suggest changes in the spatial structure of the 
numerical halibut stock assessment model. In 2016, a population genetic 
analysis was completed (Drinan et al., 2016 Journal of Fish Biology 
89:2571-2594) using halibut tissue samples that had been collected from 
10 sampling locations across the eastern Pacific Ocean: From British 
Columbia in the south; to Pribilof Canyon in the north; and westward 
into the Aleutian Islands region at Adak Island, Petrel Bank, and Attu 
Island. The Drinan et al. (2016) analysis is the most extensive 
population genetic analysis of the eastern Pacific halibut stock to-
date. The results suggest that significant stock structure exists 
within the managed range; in particular, that halibut residing in the 
western Aleutian Islands are genetically distinct from the remainder of 
the eastern Pacific population. Of greatest potential importance to 
management is the implication that a boundary of significant stock 
segregation may bisect a single IPHC regulatory area: i.e., Area 4B, 
with significantly different population components residing on either 
side of Amchitka Pass.
    However, these results may be called into question due to a 
weakness in the underlying sampling design: Whereas the majority of 
study locations were surveyed in mid-winter, Attu Island and Petrel 
Bank (i.e., the two sites found to be genetically distinct) were 
sampled during the IPHC's summer setline survey. Ultimately, genetic 
population structure is established via the formation and maintenance 
of spatially segregated spawning populations. In the case of Pacific 
halibut, spawning occurs in midwinter following the migration of the 
spawning stock from its summer feeding grounds to potentially distant 
spawning grounds. As such, summer-collected samples from any given 
location may be composed of individuals from multiple spawning groups 
that co-mingle on common feeding grounds. Although it is highly 
unlikely that such a process could result in the generation of 
spuriously significant genetic stock structure where none exists, best 
practices mandate that the results be re-tested using samples from the 
western Aleutian Islands that are collected during the winter spawning 
period.
    The Aleutian Islands winter hook-and-line fishery for Pacific cod 
provides a platform of opportunity to collect Pacific halibut length 
data and accompanying tissue samples from the western Aleutian Islands. 
Small numbers of halibut are caught as bycatch incidental to the 
Aleutian Islands Pacific cod hook-and-line fishery which would allow 
for the collection of biological samples that meet requirements of a 
supplementary genetic analysis to confirm or reject the results from 
the previous study.

Proposed Action

    On August 31, 2017, the IPHC submitted an application for an EFP 
for 2018 to collect biological samples from incidentally caught halibut 
on a select hook-and-line vessel targeting Pacific cod in the western 
Aleutian Islands in winter and release those fish back to the water in 
a timely manner to increase survivability. The objective of the 
proposed 2018 EFP is to provide samples for genetic analyses that would 
be expected to confirm or reject conclusions about Pacific halibut 
spawning stock structure in the western Aleutian Islands inferred by 
data collected in summer by sampling during the winter halibut spawning 
period. This project would allow crew to collect biological samples of 
incidentally caught halibut and return the fish to sea, alive.
    The EFP would allow crew on board the selected vessel to measure 
fork length of approximately 20 to 30 incidentally caught halibut and 
collect a small tissue sample from the caudal fin of each sampled fish. 
Sampled halibut would be released back to the water after a NMFS-
trained fishery observer conducted a viability assessment for each 
sampled halibut using existing IPHC protocols.
    The applicant proposes to conduct sampling on a single vessel in 
the hook-and-line catcher/processor sector during the ``A'' season 
fishery for Pacific cod between January 1, 2018 and March 31, 2018 west 
of 180[deg] W longitude (i.e., in NMFS Statistical Areas 542 and 543). 
The participating vessel would be selected on a voluntary basis and 
would carry a NMFS-trained fishery observer as required by regulation.
    The applicant's proposed sampling protocol would consist of: (a) 
Bringing an incidentally-caught halibut aboard the vessel to be 
sampled; (b) releasing the halibut from the hook using an approved 
Careful Release technique (i.e., either by hook twisting or cutting the 
gangion near the hook); (c) measuring and recording the halibut's 
forklength; (d) collecting a small (approximately one-quarter inch) 
tissue sample from the caudal fin; (e) assigning the halibut to a 
viability category as per existing IPHC/NMFS protocols; and (f)

[[Page 44391]]

returning the halibut to the water without further delay.
    All stages of the sampling process with the exception of (e), 
above, would be conducted by a member of the fishing vessel's crew. 
Viability assignments would be conducted by the NMFS-trained fishery 
observer on the vessel. The sampling process is expected to require 
less than 2 minutes and have no impact on the probability of survival 
of the sampled fish. The sampling protocol outlined above is quicker 
and less obtrusive than any of the protocols used by the IPHC for 
halibut tag-and-release that have been shown to yield excellent 
survival of the handled individuals.
    Halibut is a prohibited species in the groundfish fishery, 
requiring immediate return to the sea with a minimum of injury. This 
proposed action would exempt the participating vessel from the 
requirement to return all prohibited species, or parts thereof, to the 
sea immediately, with a minimum of injury, regardless of its condition 
at Sec.  679.21(b)(2)(ii). Under the EFP, the participating vessel 
would be limited to its groundfish allocations under the 2018 harvest 
specifications. No additional target or prohibited species catch (PSC) 
amounts beyond those authorized through regulation would be needed for 
this EFP; all groundfish catch will accrue against the Pacific cod 
sector's catch and PSC allowances. EFP-authorized fishing activities 
would not be expected to change the nature or duration of the Pacific 
cod hook-and-line fishery or the amount or species of fish caught by 
the participating vessel.
    In 2018, the IPHC would be required to submit to NMFS a report of 
the EFP results after EFP experimental fishing has ended in 2018. The 
report would include: The number of halibut sampled and their recorded 
lengths.
    The fieldwork that would be conducted under this EFP is not 
expected to have a significant impact on the human environment as 
detailed in the categorical exclusion prepared for this action (see 
ADDRESSES).
    In accordance with Sec.  679.6, NMFS has determined that the 
application warrants further consideration and has forwarded the 
application to the Council to initiate consultation. The Council is 
scheduled to consider the EFP application during its October 2017 
meeting, which will be held in Anchorage, AK. The EFP application will 
also be provided to the Council's Scientific and Statistical Committee 
for review at the October Council meeting. The applicant has been 
invited to appear in support of the application.

Public Comments

    Interested persons may comment on the application at the October 
2017 Council meeting during public testimony or until October 10, 2017. 
Information regarding the meeting is available at the Council's Web 
site at http://www.npfmc.org. Copies of the application and categorical 
exclusion are available for review from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). Comments 
also may be submitted directly to NMFS (see ADDRESSES) by the end of 
the comment period (see DATES).

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

    Dated: September 18, 2017.
Emily H. Menashes,
Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2017-20186 Filed 9-21-17; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P